Family Recipe Friday – Dora’s Rice Patties (Polpette di Riso?)

On our recent trip to Sicily for a family wedding, I got to spend some time in the kitchen with the groom’s mother, Dora. They are cousins to my husband. I’ve been having fun trying out the recipes here at home! If you missed it, the first recipe was for Fava Beans. In the photo below you can see the fava beans served with some rice patties.

I offered to help Dora in the kitchen and hopefully learn from her. While “we” cooked, I took some pictures – hoping to have a photo recipe for later, then posted the photos on Facebook with instructions accompanying the photos. I think it worked pretty well. I may have missed a few directions here and there, but they are replicable, and certainly better than relying on my poor memory.

Cousin Stella says they use the word “polpette” for these – even though the shape is not round like a meatball – so let’s call them Polpette di Riso (and hope that makes sense, because I don’t speak any Italian or Sicilian!). Dora’s mother made these for her when she was a child and she made them for her kids. Just something simple to use up leftovers – comfort food. It reminded me of the potato patties my mom and grandmother made to use up leftover mashed potatoes.

Stir 3-4 eggs into leftover rice – about 3 cups of rice, give or take. Maybe the proportion is something like one egg per cup of rice? I used leftover brown rice. Not exactly the same, but that’s what I had leftover.

Add salt to taste, and a few raisins and pine nuts. I don’t know if we can get the little package of pine nut and raisin mix in the U. S. The raisins were a really small variety. Again, I made substitutions. I didn’t have pine nuts, so I chopped a few almonds.

Add some bread crumbs, grated Sicilian cheese (I think Dora used Ricotta Salata), and some small pieces of fresh mozzarella. You want a consistency that is wet, but will hold together.

Shape into a ball/patty on a table spoon and cook in hot olive oil. (mine)

(Dora’s)

Turn to brown both sides.

Here are mine draining on paper towels.

They were yummy!

We were very lucky that Dora insisted on sending some Ricotta Salata home with us! She had a vacuum sealer and we put the vacuum sealed cheese in a suitcase and off we went! The cheese was made by someone she knows in Mezzojuso. It was good while it lasted. Unfortunately, not long enough!

Dora’s Rice Patties/Polpette di Riso

3-4 cups leftover cooked rice
2-4 eggs
salt to taste
tablespoon or more chopped pine nuts and small raisins
grated Ricotta Salata
small pieces fresh mozzarella
bread crumbs

Mix together all ingredients. You want a wet consistency that will hold together fairly well when shaped into a ball on a spoon; begin with a couple of eggs to your rice. If it is very dry, add another egg. You will be adding breadcrumbs and cheese, so adjust until you have a wet consistency that holds together pretty well when you shape into a ball onto a table spoon or small serving spoon. Slide the rice patty off spoon into hot olive oil. Brown; turn to brown other side. Drain off excess oil with paper towel.

A Visit to the Capitol – Past and Present

One Friday morning in July, I paid a visit to the state Capitol. There were some important bills being heard in committee that day, so my friend M F and I headed out to do our civic duty and register our opinions. 

After completing our task, we walked around a bit to reminisce. We both worked at the Capitol years ago, but not at the same time.

Portraits of all the former governors of Texas hang in the rotunda. I stopped for a photo with my favorite former governor and asked Ann to haunt the building as needed during this “special” session. 😉

Many years ago, I worked during an interim for Senator Lindon Williams (R-Houston). My father-in-law helped me obtain this much-needed job and I was thankful to have it. I’m trying to remember the exact chain of events… I think I first worked at a preschool during the year between college and graduate school. If that is correct, I must have worked for the Senator during the summer after my first year of grad school. Since it was a part-time job, it’s possible I continued to work into the fall.

Since I worked during the interim, there was not a lot of excitement. I mostly did filing and answered phones and worked on mailings. Sometimes there was nothing for me to do except be a warm body in case the phone rang or someone came by the office, so I think I even did a little crafting. I have a vague memory of two specific Christmas decorations and being in that office. Maybe I just brought in some of the Christmas crafting I was working on to show the Administrative Assistant. I no longer remember.

The walls of the lowest level of the Capitol are hung with “class” photos of former members of the legislature. Below, Senator Williams is pictured right there above my hand.

M F worked for Senator Farabee – fourth from the bottom right above Senator Williams. On his left is Senator Lloyd Doggett. When we eventually joined the church we now attend, I remember that he and his family sat up in the left side balcony of the church. Lloyd Doggett is now a U.S. Representative from Texas. He recently held a town hall meeting in our church Family Life Center. I served as a hospitality representative from the church to assist those in attendance. Getting to sit in on the town hall was a nice benefit.

The Texas Capitol has been remodeled since the time of our employment, but M F and I wandered around, looking for the familiar. M F pointed out that many original features of the building remain although functions have changed. An etched window above a door still identifies the Treasury Office, for example, even though that office is no longer in the building. Even the hinges on the doors are beautiful and detailed. M F has a framed rubbing of one.

It was nice walking around the Capitol with a friend who once worked there and is also a history buff. She didn’t mind at all that I wanted to walk around the grounds on this very hot day to see the newest monument – The Texas African American History Memorial. It traces the history of African Americans in Texas from the 1500s to the present. M F could name several of the figures without reading the plaques! Impressive! My knowledge of Texas history is limited. I didn’t arrive in Texas until I was a junior in high school, so I never studied Texas history.

The center of the monument depicts Juneteenth in Texas: June 19, 1865 – when African Americans in Texas received the news of the end of slavery.

The monument was unveiled November 19, 2016. It is really quite impressive and moving – especially recognizing that black slave labor was integral in building the Capitol building that sits behind this monument. It is unfortunate that a “White Lives Matter” protest was also scheduled on the Capitol grounds the morning of the unveiling (the group insisted it was a coincidence) and there was also a counter protest to the protest. 🙁

We were getting really hot, so I didn’t take the time for a photo of the back side. This video provides some compelling close ups and a view of the back.

It was also my first time to view the  Tejano Monument. It didn’t draw me in emotionally in the same way as the African American History Memorial, but it is well done. I especially like the setting of the statues on the native granite boulders.

I posted some of these photos from my day to Facebook and several friends chimed in. One friend said her great-grandfather’s photo also hangs in the lower level where I stood by the Senator’s photograph. Another friend worked for Lloyd Doggett. Another friend said her aunt was friends with Lindon Williams and she remembered talking to him. She thinks her aunt tried to get him to fix a speeding ticket for her, but it didn’t happen. She paid her ticket herself. I felt like we were playing a game of 7 degrees of Lindon Williams!

I haven’t spent much time at the Capitol since I worked there – just a couple of tours with out-of-town friends or a school field trip. This year, however, I have had occasion to visit several times.

1/16 -MLK Jr. March. 1/21- Women’s March.

     

1/31- Standing as a Peaceful Observer to protect Muslim neighbors on Muslim Capitol Day.  2/25 – No Ban, No Wall rally. And there have been a couple more.

  

I am thankful to live where I have easy access to my state government and can participate in a variety of ways in the democratic process and the vibrant life of this community.

We have a beautiful Capitol filled with history. It is well worth a tour and a celebration of the diversity that makes Texas, Texas.

Family Recipe Friday – Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies and a Day of Mom Memories

My mom passed away the end of August 2015, so we are coming up on the anniversary of that. She had Alzheimer’s. It stole her memories and, in the end, it stole her very breath.

Mom’s 87th birthday would have been a few weeks ago – July 7th.

I never quite know what to do on her birthday with no phone call to make, no card to send, no present to buy.

Last year, one of the things I did was go to the store for two of her favorite treats – a Pepsi and some ice cream – and enjoyed them in memory of her.

This year, I made an extra effort to think about Mom as I went through my day – and to maybe do some things the way she would do them. Here’s how my day went.

I’ll eventually get to the cookie recipe! I promise!

You can skip to the end if you prefer. Because I’m telling the whole story of my day!

As I got ready for the day, I knew Mom would make her bed. She made her bed every day. And I intended to make mine! But, I was the first one up to let the dogs out, and I just never got it done. Not like Mom

First on the day’s agenda was a Weight Watchers meeting. Mom never had an issue with her weight until she was at least my age and probably older. This is my third (I think) round of participating in Weight Watchers. Mom joined TOPS (Take Off Pound Sensibly) when she decided she needed to do something about her weight. TOPS became an important social group for her. She made friends with the other members. They attended her funeral. They were close! I’m not so connected with the other WW folks. Kinda like Mom

Next stop was the oncology office to take port pillows to the infusion room. I was so happy to run into Adrian! He sat at the check-in desk while I was in active treatment. Adrian knew who I was by the third time I walked in the door and always greeted me by name (before I signed in!) and with a warm smile. He made coming to the oncology office feel like I was welcomed into a good place. He has since been promoted to a behind-the-scenes job, so other patients aren’t getting the “treatment” I received. Anyway, I saw him and got to thank him and tell him how important that was to me.

I don’t think mom ever visited an oncologist’s office and I know she never made port pillows, but she did have her own ways of doing for others and they often involved crafts. And she always made people feel welcome. Kinda like Mom

I needed to buy a skein of yarn to finish up the Welcome Blanket I was making, so I went to the craft store. Now, Mom loved a good craft store, so I took my time there. I got the yarn I needed and picked up another yarn I possibly did not need. I bought a book of crochet baby blanket patterns because our church has started a ministry of making knit or crochet blankets for every baby born to church members and having a reception once a year and giving them to the parents. Mom would have been all over that, I’m pretty sure, so I really had to buy that book.

I took a stroll down the cake decorating aisle for Mom. She decorated cakes for lots of people and causes – including my wedding cake. I tried to find something to buy that I needed, but nothing called my name. If there had been a Wilton 2017 Yearbook, I would have bought it, but there were none.

I looked at the schedule of craft classes. Mom frequently attended Saturday morning craft classes at her local craft store and then used what she learned to decorate her home, make gifts, make crafts with her grandkids, or use as crafts for her Sunday School class kids. No classes for me, but it was another way to remember her. Quite a bit like Mom

A trip to the grocery story this year was not for Pepsi and ice cream, but for the ingredients for Mom’s meatloaf and for mashed potatoes. And so we ate “Mom” food for dinner. Oh – and I bought chocolate chips – in case I had time to bake cookies. Like Mom

See? We are getting closer to the recipe. It really is coming.

I checked my email when I got home. In my inbox I found that my church desperately needed volunteers for Vacation Bible School and needed volunteers to prepare food and to host homeless families at the church during the upcoming week. I knew Mom would definitely volunteer for VBS and I knew she and dad would also sign up to prepare food – and maybe even to stay the night. So …  I knew I should volunteer for something!! It took me a few days to sign up, but I did end up helping at VBS every day – something I hadn’t done since my kids were little. Half like Mom

Someone needed my attention and time slipped away, so I never got around to the cookies on Mom’s birthday. I decided to extend the “Mom Memory Birthday” into the weekend and made the cookies on Saturday.

I have absolutely no control when it comes to cookies. I knew I might possibly eat every one – and this recipe makes a lot of cookies. So, as I baked, and tasted dough, and ate cookies, I tried to think like Mom and decide who needed these cookies much more than I did. That afternoon, I took some to the kids next door, a friend who had just returned home after surgery at M.D. Anderson, a friend whose dad had recently passed away, and a good friend who has done a lot for me and happened to have her three granddaughters at her house.

I still had cookies! I ate more cookies! I couldn’t even count the WW points! What to do?

I bagged up the rest and took two bags to church with me on Sunday morning and decided I would give them to whomever seemed “right” for my mission. One bag went to a young man who falls within the age range of people Mom would have taught in Sunday School (they were almost all boys). Mom was known for making an extra big chocolate chip cookie (not this recipe) for her Sunday School kids for their birthdays. The other bag went to a couple about the same age as my parents – contemporaries who I am sure would have been friends if they had known each other. Like Mom

I was a little awkward (sometimes really awkward!) when I gave away the cookies because I wanted to say something about my mom and I wasn’t sure how to put it. The poor teenagers next door heard me say, “My mom would have been a much better neighbor than I am.” It’s a true statement, but they must have thought that sentiment very strange! By the end of the cookie giving, I was saying, “These are from my mom and me.”

Oh – And I figured out that since I couldn’t give a present to Mom on her birthday, I could give a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association.

I was surprised to realize that I had not already shared the recipe here! Mom made these cookies often when we were growing up. I’m not absolutely positively sure – but when I think of learning to bake, I think of these cookies – of being in the kitchen with mom, measuring and sifting and mixing … learning to pack brown sugar. I think making these cookies with Mom may have been my first real lesson in cookie baking. Thanks Mom! I love cookies!

Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups shortening                 4 cups flour
2 cups brown sugar              4 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup sugar                           1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs                                   1 large package chocolate chips
2 teaspoons vanilla

Cream together the shortening and sugars. Add eggs, one at a time – beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and the dry ingredients which have been sifted together. Lastly add chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoonful onto a greased cookie sheet. (I don’t do that anymore! Yay for parchment paper!) Bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes. (I like mine a little under baked.)

Pour a glass of cold milk and enjoy!