I got this recipe from Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch years ago, and he gave me permission to reprint it.  I’ve eaten a lot of stuffed grape leaves in my day, and these are by far the best in the world.  I think this is Robert’s grandmother’s recipe.

1/2 cup finely minced onion
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound ground lean lamb or beef
1 cup long grain rice – uncooked
2 medium tomatoes – peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 cups water, clear chicken stock, or rich meat stock
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint
1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Approximately 36 grape leaves I use an 8 oz. jar of brined leaves, drain & rinse them

In a skillet, gently saute the onion in the olive oil over medium-low heat until tender but not brown. Remove the onion & cooking oil. Set aside.

Add the ground meat to the pan and cook, crumbling with a fork, until the meat has lost its pink color. Strain the meat through a sieve and discard the fat. Now return the meat to the pan along with the onion.

Stir in the rice to coat the rice thoroughly with the juices. Add the tomatoes and 1/4 cup of the water or stock. Cook for about 10 minutes or just until the rice has absorbed the juices in the pan. Stir in the allspice, dill, mint, parsley, salt and pepper.

Stuff the grape leaves and arrange in a heavy kettle or wide, shallow saucepan. Add remaining water or stock just to cover the grape leaves. Pour lemon juice over all. Set a plate over the leaves, cover the pan and simmer for 35 minutes or until the rice is thoroughly cooked.

1 cup plain yogurt
2 cloves garlic – finely chopped
salt, to taste
Mix the ingredients well and serve as a sauce with the stuffed grape leaves.

It sounds a little labor-intensive. Once you get the hang of it, this is really quite easy. If you don’t know how to stuff a grape leaf, looky here for pictures of the process What’s Cooking America.


1st Year University Student ~ Lesson Learned #2

My son has a very good friend who enrolled in UC-Santa Cruz two years ago.  He’s incredibly smart, and in an incredibly hard science major.

During the spring semester that just ended, he took two courses very high on the intensity level.  The boy made a D in both classes, which made his GPA plunge to under 3.0.  Bottom line?  The school won’t let him enroll in the fall semester.  He received scholarship money and federal aid for the spring semester.  He has to pay all that money back.

Lesson learned?  Listen to your counselor.  Don’t load up any more intensive courses per semester than the counselor advises.

I’ve know this kid since he and my son were in 3rd grade.  So, I have no problem speaking to him like I am his mother.

My mother advice?

#1:  Back off the parties (UC-Santa Cruz is notorious for parties.  Big time.  Clothing optional.)

#2:  Do not live with your girlfriend any longer.  Get an apartment with all guys.

I’ll get back to history food blogging one of these days.  Right now, I’m consumed with moving my son, then moving myself.  Hang in there with me!

University Kid ~ 1st Year Away From Home ~ Lesson #1

My son learned some important lessons in life last week.  We drove 7 hours from Los Angeles to UC Berkeley for orientation.  Then we spent 3 days looking for his first apartment.  He had 3 roomies lined up (none of whom were with us).  I can’t tell you how many apartments we looked at, that everyone could afford.

I knew it was going to be tricky:  I would have to put down the deposit.  We would have to fax the applications to the roomies.  They would have to fax their applications back immediately.

We finally found an apartment everybody could afford.  It was late in the day, so I couldn’t get the paperwork from the rental company until the next day.  We checked out of the hotel the next morning, drove over to the rental office with deposit check in hand.  The door was locked.  I called the office.  Sheepishly, the agent I had been working with told me that, when he assured me the apartment, another agent had already leased it and had not plugged it into the system yet.

I got steamed, but understand how something like this can happen.  My young son did not understand, and went thermonuclear.  He was also getting very sick.  We drove the 7 hours back home (there was absolutely nothing else I could find that everybody could afford).  My thinking is:  We go home.  Kid goes to the doctor.  Something new will be listed.  I can jettison the roommates (who are now become big pains) and find something just for him.  These were my goals:  Get my kid to the doctor, and get a place for HIM to live.

Here’s the funny thing:  I told him that things happen for a reason.  Told him that we would probably find something even better.  Told him that life is what happens when you’re making other plans (thank you John Lennon), and you just have to take a deep breath and go to Plan B.  He would have none of it.  I’m a clueless, naive woman!  (A 20 year old speaking to a 55 year old mother.)

Got him home, to the doctor, plunked him in bed.  New rentals came online.  Drove back to Berkeley by myself.

LO AND BEHOLD:  Clueless, 55 year old mother was right!

Rented him a new, fully furnished apartment, in a 5 bedroom townhouse, with only male Berkeley students.  For $599 a month, he gets:  a private bedroom with double bed and desk, shared bathroom with 1 guy, secured building, secured parking for car & bicycle, all utilities included, free cable TV, free secured wireless internet, washer & dryer inside the townhouse, step out of the building & take a 5 minute bus ride into campus (free), in a very safe and groovy part of Berkeley.

No walking 3 blocks in an iffy neighborhood to catch the bus.  No hasseling with setting up utility, cable, and internet accounts.  No renting a U-Haul truck, hauling furniture, finding people to help us negotiate into his 3rd floor apartment.  No dealing with 3 roommates.  They can figure out their own deal in this same building.

AT THE END OF THE DAY:  My son apologized to me for the yelling.  My son also told me that I was right about life throwing you a curveball, and how you have to deal with it.  He learned that you can’t deal with those curveballs when you are being scared, angry, emotional. 

I thought he learned that lesson 2 years ago when my husband (his father) suddenly passed away and we had to deal with a lot of things we weren’t planning on.  I hope he has learned it now.

I leased him a single bedroom in a 5 bedroom townhouse at Campanile Court.  Google it.  They tell me they have buildings like this near a lot of universities around the country.

Homeschool to UC Berkeley ~ Update ~ How We Did It

Took my son to Berkeley for orientation on July 8.  It was the most incredible day I’ve experienced in a long time.  We started at 7:30 AM and ended at 6:30 PM.   As homeschoolers, my son and I both went in feeling a little intimidated.  By the end of the day, it was drilled into our heads … if you didn’t deserve to be here, you wouldn’t be here.

There have been a lot of challenges getting from homeschooling to this University.  The first big hurdle was getting over being afraid when I took my son out of public school.  The second big hurdle was giving up a lot of income and making sure I was educating my son properly.  The third big hurdle was forcing Santa Monica College to accept the diploma and transcript my private R-4 California school issued.  (Yes, I had to force them.  Hired an attorney who homeschools his own children.  After one phone call, they shut up and enrolled my son.  He did it for free.)  YES!

Getting into Berkeley was a piece of cake after those were accomplished.  My son had a 3.86 GPA from Santa Monica College, has never been in trouble, and wrote an introductory letter that hit it out of the ballpark.  No, we didn’t go to classes about how to write the letter.  We didn’t hire someone to write the letter for him.  He just poured his heart out about his life and his goals.  He was himself.

At orientation, they told we parents the first two most important things about transferring to Berkeley:  #1 is the college GPA.  #2 is the student’s introductory letter.

If any of you homeschooling parents want more specific detail about how we got here, just let me know.  I’ll be happy to share all the experience & knowledge I have.


Happy Father’s Day ~ Tribute to Fathers & Husbands & Men

Happy Father’s Day to all you Dads out there.

The important roles men play in our society have been under siege for longer than I want to remember.  I cringe every time I see a commercial on TV that shows the man as being inept while showing his wife as being the one with a brain.

I don’t want to go all Dr. Laura on you, but there are certain things that are just the truth:  A mother cannot teach her son how to be a man, just as a father cannot teach his daughter how to be a woman.  In no way am I denigrating the single mothers and fathers who devote themselves to raising their children.  Still, a father can teach his son things that a mother can’t.

One of my favorite family pictures is of my husband and our son shaving.  My husband sat our toddler on the counter next to the bathroom sink, and lathered up his face for the morning shave.  He lathered up our son’s face, too.  They laughed and played with the shaving cream.  Then, my husband gave the boy a razor with no razor blade in it and taught him how to shave.  I don’t shave my face and neck.  I shave my legs and underarms.  Skills our young man didn’t need.

The day we took the training wheels off the little bicycle is another instance.  I would have been hovering, holding onto the bicycle for way too long, not letting the little guy go for it.  My husband whispered something in his ear and told me to stand back.  I did.  What happened was a beautiful thing.  On the third try, he was riding his bike like a pro.  They did the guy high-five stuff.  It was wonderful.

One more story about how fathers can’t take the place of mothers is this:  respect for women (really, for all people).  When the boy was coming into puberty, he decided to challenge me about some house rules, and he went over the top in terms of disrespect.  My husband gave him the “don’t you ever speak to your mother like that again” speech.  And he never did.

You may not like this part, but we had guns while my son was growing up.  Guns were in a locked closet.  Ammo was in a different locked closet.  It made me nervous.  So, when the boy was in 4th grade, he took him to a shooting range and taught him how to use a gun.  He got kicked in the cheek by a powerful gun, knocked on his behind by another powerful gun.  He GOT IT about guns.  Aside from the fact that he had no access to the gun closet or the ammo closet, I’m glad my husband did that.  Our boy was no longer curious, it was no longer the forbidden fruit.  I would never have done that, and I was scared the whole time they were out there shooting “stuff.”

My husband had a massive heart attack and passed away on our bed when our son was 17.  We watched it happen, while the EMT men were trying to save his life.  That was about 3 years ago.

I’m glad my son had 17 years with a father who was devoted to him.  I’m grateful for the lessons he learned that only a father could teach him.  My son still has devoted uncles.  They are always ready to talk with my son, always ready to be a surrogate father to my son.  It is not the same as my son having his own father, but it’s a pretty close second.

Now, on to my own father.

My dad is a Veteran of WWII.  He and my Mother raised my brother to be a fine man.  We did a lot of things together as a family.  Still, there are certain things between my Father and my brother that are just between them.  Personally, I think “guy stuff” is good.

My earliest remembrances of my Father:  Rubber-banding our feet together while he taught me how to dance (Glenn Miller album), teaching me how to swim, helping me get over my fears and do a perfect jack-knive from the high board in the town’s swimming pool, helping me learn my multiplication tables and how to tell time (in the kitchen, after dinner), helping us bury our beloved little dog in the back yard.  I am blessed to call him my Father.

Speaking of which:  My Father passed away in 2003.  My Husband passed away in 2007.  I’m glad my son spent many years with both of these fine men, a wonderful Father and a wonderful Grandfather.  My son also has uncles, with whom he is close, who were raised by fine men who were fathers.

My husband was a grilling king.  His favorite thing was a strip steak.  He would do a little olive oil, some salt & pepper, sometimes a little garlic powder, and then grill them.  It’s pretty easy to grill a good steak to medium rare.

My Daddy’s favorite thing to make was Caesar Salad.  If you want the recipe, leave a message or email me.  I’ll send you the recipe and a little Caesar Salad history.


Census Workers ~ Irritating Follow-Up Visits



I was one of the “lucky” ones to receive the long-form census.  I filled it out, answering only the questions I believe are required by the United States Constitution:  number of people living here and our ages.  I don’t think the question asking for your race is mandated; however, being annoyed with politicians, I answered the race question.  My race?  HUMAN.

Census follow-up workers have come to my apartment door five times.  Here’s the history of their visits:

VISIT #1:  Very nice, shy, young woman.  Told her I had sent it in.  She said it probably just hadn’t gone through the system yet, and thanked me for my time.

VISIT#2:  Man, looked like mid 30’s.  Told him that I had sent in my form.  He started out nice … well, it might have gotten lost in the mail, you don’t want to lose benefits for your district, blah blah blah.  Told him I would not fill the form out twice.  He said he would be back.  Told him that I would give him the same answer.

VISIT#3:  Same guy from Visit #2.  Told him, again, that I had filled out the long-form and sent it in.  He said there was no such thing as a long form.  How stupid are these people?  At the time, my son was conducting a study group for college finals.  Both the census guy and the 4 young men in the study group could see each other and hear each other.  When this guy got vocally rude with me, they all stood up and asked:  “Debbie, do you need some help here?”  The census worker left immediately.  I asked him how he got into my building.  He told me that he wasn’t required to answer that question.  (Since then, I’ve read that apartment buildings are required to let census workers in.  My apartment manager told me that no request from the Census Bureau has been made.)

VISIT#4:  Nice young girl from Visit #1 showed up with her supervisor.  Told them the same thing:  I am NOT answering the census twice.  If the Post Office or the Census Bureau can’t get their act together, not my problem.  Told them that, if I answer the census twice, it contributes to more gerrymandering of districts.  The SUPERVISOR told me she did not know what gerrymandering means.  Again:  how stupid are these people?  The nice young girl started backing off and was totally deer in the headlights.  By the way, I asked:  How did you get into my building?  Miss Supervisor told me that was none of my business, looked to the young girl and told her she didn’t have to answer my question.

VISIT #5:  The nice young girl and her supervisor’s supervisor show up.  There is another study group going on in my house.  I told this “super supervisor” the same thing:  I am not going to complete the census two times.  The super supervisor is writing things down on a census form on her clipboard.  I stepped out from my apartment to look at it.  She was writing things down, like my first name (which she heard from the kids studying in my house).  She was trying to fill out a census form for me based on what she could see and hear from my apartment.  I shouldn’t have done this, but got really incensed and took the form out of her clipboard.  I apologized for that, but told her she could not fill out a census form based on what she could see from the door of my apartment.

I asked the super supervisor how she got into my apartment building.  She admitted that she stood at the front door, and when a resident opened the front door, she scooted in.

She told me that her supervisor would be back.  So, the supervisor’s supervisor’s supervisor is going to come to my apartment.  OH, I am so scared!

Don’t know if the super “scary” big-dog supervisor will show up.  My answer will be the same:  I answered the census form, mailed it on time, and will not answer it again.  If you don’t like it, fine me.  I’ll see you in court.

Here is something else that really bugs me:  I’m paying the nice young girl at least $17 an hour.  From reports I’ve read, people like the young girl in Visit #1 are being hired, fired, rehired to skew the employment rate upwards for political purposes.  I wonder what I’m paying her supervisor, her supervisor’s supervisor, and the next supervisor to come.



Visit #6 just occurred.  The census worker was a young man, looked like he was in his late 20’s.  Told him the same thing:  I’m not answering the census twice.  Again, he told me I would be costing my district federal funds if I’m not counted.  Again, I told him that I will not be counted twice and therefore giving my district more funds and more representatives in Congress.

I was told the super duper supervisor was going to be my next visit!

Anyway, I watched him after he left my apartment door.  He started knocking on my neighbors’ doors.  I asked him if was trying to get census information about me from my neighbors.  He said that was exactly what he was doing.  He actually laughed at me.

From now on, I am going to video any visits from census follow-up workers.

Visit #7:  This time, no resident was available to open the front door of the building and allow the census worker to sneak in.  The worker sounded like a young man, and called me on the intercom.  For the 7th time, I told him that I will  NOT fill out the census twice.  He asked me to let him in so he could educate me.  He actually was very polite.  Still, I’m not answering the census twice.  He asked, “Won’t you at least tell me how many people live here.”  You know what my answer was.

Memorial Day ~ Men and Women ~ Honor Them All

Not going to a party today.  Spent this morning watching some videos and reading personal accounts from families who lost loved ones.  My deep thanks to all who have lost their lives so that I and future generations may live free.  My prayers for comfort to their families.

A lot of men and women in my family, and in my late husband’s family, served the United States proudly.  Thankfully, none of them were killed in war.  They came home from war, raised families, and contributed mightily to these United States.  They were the salt of the earth.  All but one have passed away.

My great great grandfather fought in the Civil War for the Union Army as a member of the Cavalry.

My grandfather fought in Europe during World War I, in the Army.  One of his legs was injured so badly that the doctors wanted to amputate his right leg.  He told them no.  He also told them that, if he woke up without a leg, he would shoot all of them.  He woke up with a leg.  He walked with one stiff leg for the rest of his life.

My Father, and both of his brothers, fought in the Pacific Theatre during World War II, for the Coast Guard & Navy.  My Father started out riding a horse and patrolling the coast of Florida.  Soon, all 3 of them wound up in the Pacific for most of  World War II.  They were involved in the reconstruction of Japan.  They sent a set of dishes to their mother (my grandmother) while rebuilding Japan.   My grandmother gave that set of dishes to me when I got married.  I cherish that set of china to this day, but only bring it out on Christmas.

My father-in-law also served in the Army, World War II.  He was the engineer and mechanic that kept the tanks rolling when they bogged down in northern Africa.  Among other things.  He was a genius, with a high school education.  My dear father-in-law came home to work for the “Skunk Works” at Lockheed and helped develop the SR71.

Let’s talk about the ladies.  My mother was basically Rosie the Riveter.  My mother-in-law did office work at the Port of Los Angeles.  Both women, who were very young at the time, stepped up to the plate.  I think most young people during that time stepped up to the plate.

There you have it.  None of them died in battle.  All of them served.  Only one remains:  my mother-in-law.  She is 85.

My father passed away a few years ago.  He always loved life, especially after what he saw during war.  Daddy’s favorite thing was to get his kids and grandkids over, grill some steaks or burgers, and make Caesar Salad.

I’ll give you the recipe for Caesar Salad tomorrow.

Again, to all who have made the ultimate sacrifice, from the Revolutionary War to today … THANK YOU.