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HOTEL HAPPENINGS & PROGRAM PROMOTIONS – JULY 2020

A second chance at new life for the Springmaid Pier in Myrtle Beach, SC. This was how she looked in 1953 when first erected. Look below for the newly rebuilt pier.

The most difficult job I have ever had as a writer is to get the first sentence written. That one simple idea encapsulates my path for where the remainder will follow. It’s like taking a journey, with one foot in front of the other, but until you take that first step, you will only idle in place and never move forward. So it is today, as I begin this next post.

Globally, we are still entrenched in Covid-19 or in the aftermath for those nations fortunate enough to have had strong leaders and the backbone to do what was strictly necessary to flatten that darned curve. Many of us though, are still seeing deaths soaring, jobs and businesses being lost (perhaps permanently), and entire industries having to reinvent themselves (and we thought online sales were outshining brick & mortar stores before Covid). My first attempts to begin this post all seemed too depressing, sad, and without hope. It is not what I want to convey.

HOTEL HAPPENINGS & PROGRAM PROMOTIONS – JUNE 2020

Journey Mexico and friends have been raising money to feed families.

Life as we knew it pre-COVID 19 is starting to reappear as far as travel, hotels, restaurants, gyms, hair salons etc go. As this blog is globally read, it makes no sense to tell you which places are reopen or will soon. What is of more value, is what they are doing to assure your safety as much is humanly possible, such as how the majority of theme parks worldwide will check temperatures at the entrance and anyone with a temperature of 100.4 or higher will be denied entry (as well as their family). As you all may be aware, how to safely reopen differs from city to city, state to state, and country to country. For instance, I just heard from a woman that a particular airline is not requiring masks for staff or travelers and that people were packed in to all seats (thanks to fewer flights). I have seen pictures of businesses, including restaurants, not requiring masks or social distancing. What do you think? Is that something we should discuss?

COOKING FROM LOVE: SPINACH (OR BROCCOLI) QUICHE

Finished spinach quiche.

In my household, real men (meaning my husband, Russ) not only eat quiche, but enjoy it.

My favorite quiche recipe came from my sister, Debbie. Although I have made it exactly as she gave it to me the first time, I have never made it the same way twice ever since, not because I don’t adore her original recipe, but because I use whatever cheeses I happen to have available. I don’t exactly follow original suggestions for amounts of cheese either, usually putting at least a half-cut more… just because. Although I usually use fresh spinach because that’s what I know what Russ will eat, Debbie’s recipe also includes broccoli as an alternative.

Occasionally I add some cooked, crumbled bacon, but have also added al dente diced asparagus and/or ham. My cheese assortments have been swiss, gruyere, muenster, boursin, feta, ricotta, cheddar, or a mixture of Italian cheeses. The result is that each time, the texture and taste are different. The dish lends itself to improvisation.

COOKING FROM LOVE: QUICKIE ITALIAN CHICKEN WITH PASTA AND BROILED CAPRESE TOMATOES

Finished meal of chicken and pasta, broiled tomato caprese.

Fixing a meal quickly can be done, but it is not my preference.

Today was just one of those days when groceries were being delivered sooner than expected and I had about 45 minutes to prepare a meal of my husband Russ’ choosing. Shortcuts were necessary. So, I didn’t take notes on quantities in order to give you precise amounts. I used what I had available, and with ingredients I knew he’d eat.

But before I tell how I made it, I need to vent. If anyone ever asks me about what I disliked intensely during the months of Coronvirus fears, other than the expected answers such as socializing and getting my hair done, I would say it’s being so concerned about keeping my husband and I safe, that I didn’t do my own grocery shopping. I am one of those rare (apparently, as my friends have noted to me) people who enjoy grocery shopping. If the watermelon isn’t the right color, the cantelope mushy, or the romaine lettuce spines are ribbed in pink, I am not buying them. I’d do without first. I’m just as choosy about meats, poultry, or cheeses.

HOTEL HAPPENINGS & PROGRAM PROMOTIONS – MAY 2020

Russ, wearing mask made by Theresa Mulconry.

I look for the joy every day. Some days it’s as easy as putting on my favorite oldies station and diving into making a scrumptious dinner or dessert. Some days it becomes the moments when I read about selfless volunteers, or kids chalking rainbows onto sidewalks, New Yorkers clapping for hospital staff during shift changes, and sometimes it is by watching entertainers perform from their living rooms or on their driveway while neighbors dance or just listen.

Until the world is at a stage where COVID-19 isn’t ravaging bodies or depriving those who shelter-in-place of their ability to earn a paycheck, visiting with friends, eating out, or even getting our hair done, then I will continue dedicating my Hotel Happenings & Program Promotions column to some of the positive news I am sent or see for myself. There are many news outlets that share “good news” stories of bravery and random acts of kindness, so I won’t repeat those.

COOKING FROM LOVE: CHICKEN POT PIE

Finished chicken pot pie. You can see it’s chock full of chicken and veggies.

Chicken pot pie is like a warm blanket fresh from the dryer on a blustery day that your mom wraps around you to quiet the chilled air. Chicken pot pie is comforting love, and yet, I can’t recall the last time I personally cooked it. I’ve had enough bad versions in restaurants — the dough wasn’t cooked through or there was a scarcity of filling amid a soupy, flavorless broth –so I knew what I didn’t want it to be. What I did want is to appeal to my husband Russ’ preference for a denser stuffing, and in these days of not being able to do a spur-of-moment run to the grocery store, I had to use what I had available.

Not everyone will have the time or ingredients I have, so as I go, I will share possible substitutions. If you’ve read my cooking blogs, you know I don’t measure, but I made a point of taking notes as I went to give you a close approximation. As always, adjust to your taste.

COOKING FROM LOVE: SPANISH-STYLED CHICKEN, RICE AND BLACK BEAN DINNER (and an ITALIAN WHITE WINE)

Spanish (dark yellow) rice with chicken and a side of black beans (2)

Cooking for a picky husband is always challenging, especially during COVID-19 when I am doing my best to work with ingredients still in my pantry/freezer/refrigerator. He’s a Midwestern born-and-raised meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, but in trying to restrain his desire for red meat, I try to mix in chicken dishes, and to expand his tastes with international flavors. With all this is mind, my meal for the day was a Spanish-styled chicken, doctored black beans from a can, and Spanish yellow rice. (Reminder: I don’t measure, but will try to give you an idea of what I do.)

HOTEL HAPPENINGS & PROGRAM PROMOTIONS – APRIL 2020

Animal Rescue Relief in Atlantic City checks out donations from Caesars Entertainment

COVID19 has overtaken our lives. Hotels, restaurants, theme parks have closed. More industry jobs than I can count are lost, temporarily or permanently. Each day my email box is loaded with stories of facts and gloom, but there is also hope for our future. There are charming and funny parody songs, stories of heroes on the front lines, whether a grocery store or an understaffed, overworked, undersupplied hospital. We all know the little things in life (finding toilet paper, eggs, and sanitizer) have become priorities, while balancing suddenly having to be a parent, a remote worker, teacher, and guardian of safety protocols even when errant family members or friends choose to dismiss concerns as needless or hype.

COOKING FROM LOVE: Moroccan Couscous with Mixed Veggies

Mixed veggies atop couscous.

I heard quickly from some of you that the bacon or some of the other items in my Mediterranean-styled Green Beans aren’t on your diets, but at least some of you have already shared ways to make substitutions or eliminate any items that won’t work for your individual health plan. Great! That is exactly the right thing to do.

But because I know many of you are veggie-lovers comme-moi, here is an easy dish I made today. My sweet hubby had to have two teeth extracted on an emergency basis yesterday, so I am pampering him with soft foods and dishes just to keep him happy. What that means, is that I can prepare dishes for myself about which he might not otherwise be overly enthusiastic.

Moroccan couscous, an easy and quick side dish.

Russ does love this Moroccan couscous, and I can occasionally sauté some chopped veggies into it or turn it into a salad side, but this combo was designed for me.

The couscous can be purchased at most grocery stores. I always have some on hand. The veggies I stocked up on during my last (and now infrequent during shelter-in-place restrictions) grocery run. You can use any, or all, of my suggestions, and don’t hesitate to embellish with your own spices.

COOKING FROM LOVE: Intro & Mediterranean-Styled Green Beans

I didn’t know we were poor. I just knew that growing up in a multi-household of amazing cooks (and bakers) that there were two rules: you never know who may show up famished, so be able to stretch your meal, and never let anyone leave hungry.

Sometimes I’d walk into my grandma’s Coney Island, NY kitchen where she and my Aunt Fanny would be stirring big pots of chicken matzoh ball soup or layering a black-and-white speckled enamelware roasting pan with stuffed cabbage, just in case unexpected relatives and friends happened to pop in… and they always did. The women in my family didn’t just cook. They cooked from love with limited budgets and unlimited imagination.

From the time my dad’s sister, Aunt Golda, guided me through making my own apple pie tart at the age of five, I have always baked and cooked. I have cookbooks, but mostly I just cook with what ingredients are on hand. I visualize the ingredients melding together, and then set about making that materialize. Between the sumptuous Eastern European dishes created by my mom’s and dad’s families, and later the exotic influences imprinted upon my mom as we lived and travelled internationally, I grew up experiencing the “throw a bit of this, a dash of that, smell, taste and be sure there is color” philosophy. When my mom returned to work, I was 11 and responsible for choosing what I would cook and then making the family meals.