Paladini Potpie

Adventures within The Crust!

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Jello Rainbows

Why do I keep a box of food coloring in our bathroom medicine cabinet? My grandkids, (and their parents before them) love it when I plop a couple of drops into their bathtub and they get to swirl the colors around.

The simple pleasures!

img_0814So a few months ago my grandkids and I took this water coloring a step further. I got three glasses of water and let them drop colors in, and stir. img_0820We made a glass of red, a glass of blue and a glass of yellow. Then I let them pour certain colors together into other glasses to make green, purple and orange.

They seriously thought it was magic!

14670806_1450516938297813_1984779776334946488_nAnd then last week we made a “rainbow” on a plate. We placed Skittles all around the edge of a flat white plate and poured enough water to just touch the candy – then we watched the colors mingle and cover the plate. Again they were delighted!

So just thinking of how much fun we’ve been having with colors I thought about making a jello rainbow. It took several hours, but it was fun for all of us.5

This is how we did it:

3 three-ounce boxes of Jello. Red, yellow and blue.

3 ziplock bags

3 clear containers, straight-sided to make and serve the rainbow in.

3 big measuring cups to mix the Jello.

7 glasses to mix the rainbow colors of liquid jello.


I put the Jello powder into ziplock bags so I could cut off the corner and the kids could pour slowly and carefully, with less mess.

Caleb, our youngest grandson, is two. I jokingly call him “Me Too” because that is his current favourite phrase. He wants to be in on everything his big brother and sister are doing.  2It was a little nerve-racking to have a two-year-old stirring jello into boiling water. That’s why I chose a four-cup measuring cup for the one cup of hot water. Less chance of splashing.

1Caleb poured yellow Jello from the cut corner of his ziplock bag, and stirred it with a plastic chop stick. Nathan chose red and Audrey chose blue.

So we had three big measuring cups, each with one cup of liquid jello.

After the jello was dissolved they each added a cup of cold water.

So we ended up with 6 cups of liquid Jello in three containers. Primary colors – red, yellow and blue.

I reminded them of how we had mixed the colored water a couple of weeks ago to make new colors. And then we looked at a book about rainbows to see how many colors there are, and what order they are in.

The seven are, of course, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

3We got seven drinking glasses and mixed and stirred, and stirred and mixed a quarter cup at a time. We had quite a discussion about the difference between indigo and violet. Purple was easy: blue mixed with red. Finally we decided that indigo is bluish purple and violet is reddish purple. Not very scientific, but it worked for the under-six crowd. And it worked for Grandee.

I had found three heavy glass containers at the dollar store. (Don’t you love the dollar store!?) I think they are actually candle holders, but they worked great for our purpose. They hold about 2 cups each, and are heavy enough that they probably wouldn’t break if little hands dropped them. What I liked best is that the sides are straight up, so the colors would be evenly distributed.

First came red. I used the quarter cup measure and let each of the kids pour it into the bottom of their glass container. Then we put them into the fridge for half an hour to set. We left the remaining six glasses of liquid jello on the counter so they would stay liquid.

2I set a timer and we went about our day. Each time the timer rang, we came into the kitchen to add the next color to the rainbows. We added about ¼ cup of new color each time, in rainbow order.

At room temperature the added jello didn’t melt the jello that had already set in the dishes. It just made a nice flat layer. As the day went on the refrigerated jello set up more quickly, so the progress went faster. By the time we got to the purples, the new layer was setting in 15 minutes.

3The kids were so excited to show their parents, and then to take them home for dessert.

Golden memories at the end of the rainbow!4



Cauliflower Pizza


1820 – Eighteen hundred, and twenty PIZZAS! I figure that’s how many I’ve made in the last 30 years. Conservatively. Every Thursday has been Paladini Pizza Night as long as John and I have been married, so I’ve made at least a pizza a week for all those years – and that’s not counting the hundreds of pizzas I made before that when I worked at Circus Pizza 40 years ago.

CaptureI’ve seen some changes in the pizza world. We’ve gone beyond mama’s traditional pizza. Now we have pesto, barbecue sauce, and ranch dressing…bacon, chicken and garlic…pineapple, fresh tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, zucchini, and broccoli… My daughter even sprinkles whole kernel corn on hers.

So what could be new under the Italian-American sun?


That’s Italian for Cauliflower.

Cauliflower crust pizza!

Since I have reached “middle age” and begun keeping company with my Fitbit and Fitness Pal, I’ve been trying to find loopholes in my cooking to cut calories and improve nutrition, but still taste delicious.  And this cauliflower pizza fits the bill!


Wash and dry and chop 1 large head of cauliflower.IMG_2054

Put it in your blender to rice it. (Someone told me that Trader Joe’s sells packages of riced cauliflower if you want to save yourself the trouble of grinding it.)


Cook the riced cauliflower in the microwave until it is very soft.


Mash out the juice. I usually start early enough in the day so it can drain in a colander, and then I can press it till it is almost dry.


(I gave this recipe to my brother, Brian, and he put the cooked cauliflower into his juicer then threw away the juice and kept the remaining fiber. Way easier, but I don’t have a juicer.)


When the mashed cauliflower is cool or lukewarm, mix in 1 teaspoon of salt and two eggs.


Spoon it onto parchment paper on a pizza cooking screen,  and shape it into a circle like a pizza crust.

Bake for about 20 minutes at 400° until the bottom is starting to brown. If you want, you can remove it from the parchment paper and put it directly on your pizza screen.


Brush the top with pesto, or the pizza sauce of your choice.

Sprinkle with cheese, and top with toppings of your choice.

Bake again at 400° until cheese is well melted and veggies are cooked (usually about 15 minutes)



Brian, who worked at Circus Pizza with me, says this is the best pizza he has ever eaten. If I am completely honest, I have to say I still prefer my regular French bread crust pizza. But this is a wonderfully guilt-free and healthy alternative! It’s here to stay in the Paladini Kitchen.


The Oscar Swan

Oscar Swan was an investment banker in Chicago at the turn of the century. He and his family enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, which included a gracious country home, built in 1902. Mr. and Mrs. Swan, along with their little daughter, Betty Jean, often escaped the oppressive heat and humidity of the city, and spent long weeks at this country home about 50 miles west of Chicago. Betty Jean enjoyed the county life so much that eventually her parents decided to leave Chicago, and make Geneva their permanent home.

John and I had the opportunity to spend five days with the Swans recently – or at least with their memories. The Swan home is now The Oscar Swan Country Inn on State Street in Geneva.

IMG_1115.JPGIt’s a surprising little patch of country right on the busy highway next to a strip mall…dry cleaners, nail salons, and restaurants. “Drive slow after you pass Walgreen’s,” our friend had warned us, “or you’ll miss it!” And we almost did. After the strip mall we came to an area of grass and woods which thickened to almost a wall of greenery. Then it gave way to a long tree tunnel, marked by a small sign, a profusion of orange daylilies, and a lamp post.

I felt like we were traveling back through time. The gravel driveway with its white board fence opened to some of the loveliest grounds I have ever seen. And the house looked like something out of Downton Abbey or an Austen novel.IMG_1131.JPG

I know my mouth was hanging open as we wandered through the big house to find our room that first night. I quickly modified my mental assessment of the house. Inside, it was not so much like Downton Abbey, as it was like Bleakhouse. Charles Dickens could have been describing The Oscar Swan Inn when he said, “It was one of those delightfully irregular houses where you go up and down steps out of one room into another, and where you come upon more rooms when you think you have seen all there are, and where there is a bountiful provision IMG_1735.JPGof little halls and passages, and where you find still older cottage rooms in unexpected places with lattice windows and green growth pressing through them. Mine, which we entered first, was of this kind, with an up-and-down roof that had more corners in it than I ever counted afterwards.”

As for John and me, our room was actually a suite – “The Twin Room Suite” according to the brass plate on the door. We followed a little passageway off the main hall, made a sharp turn, went down three steps, and came to the door of our sitting room. IMG_1740.JPGWe later discovered that if we turned right instead of left at the sitting room door, we would come to a flight of stairs leading to the kitchen. It made us wonder if The Twin Room Suite had been the servants’ quarters back in the days of the Swan family. What fun!

But our quarters could not have been more unservantlike! Elegant chairs, a writing desk, and a credenza with a few books and a slim understated TV. (Which we did not touch – too much else to see!)

IMG_1742.JPGAcross the sitting room was another short hall. Turn to the left and there was a door to an exterior walkway that went along the roofline of the house, IMG_1754.JPGand took us to an outside staircase going down to the back lawns. Turn to the right and there were two beautiful bedrooms, and a lovely old bathroom with a wonderfully deep tub.

IMG_1797I felt like I was in the best antique shop ever! The place was filled (not cluttered) with cute, beautiful and interesting pictures, knick-knacks and lamps – all so comfortable and touchable!

IMG_1818.JPGAlthough everything I have described was old and antique-y, there were a few exceptions. Our suite had its own air conditioning control; so the weather was lovely when we came in from the ninety-five degrees of heat, and fifty per cent humidity that made the grounds flourish like a greenhouse. And there was nothing old and antique-y about the linens. They were glorious! The sheets were many thread count and wonderfully crisp and clean, the beds were soft but firm, and every day brought a new supply of fresh thick white towels.

We met Nina, the landlady when we went downstairs the first morning. She reminded us of Julia Child, and not only because every breakfast she served was fabulous. She was big and loud and friendly, and had that way IMG_1195.JPGof making you feel like you, of all her guests, were somehow special. Each time we came home from one of our excursions she would call out a greeting from the kitchen. Without being pushy she would ask about our day, inviting us to pause and chat for a moment.

IMG_1173.JPGAfter breakfast that first morning, (a lovely and beautifully presented feast) Nina invited us to wander around the house and look in all the guest rooms since there were no other quests at the moment. I was thrilled about that since I had furtively been peeking into the empty rooms, wishing for a longer look. And it’s a good thing we took her up on her offer that morning, because that was, I think, the only moment The Oscar Swan was empty.

IMG_1758Nina gave the illusion of being a bit scattered and absent minded, but over the course of our stay we saw just how sensible and capable she is. While we were staying there we watched her expertly juggle two large weddings, a “Mystery Dinner” a lunch meeting of “The OK Croquet Club”, as well as being very attentive to her “regular” house guests.

So, at Nina’s invitation, we spent the next hour wandering through all the guest rooms of the wonderful old house. It was like a delightful interactive museum. IMG_1835At home in Modesto we enjoy visiting The McHenry Mansion, a grand old house about the same size and age as The Oscar Swan. But at the McHenry Mansion the rooms are cordoned off and you dare not touch a thing. IMG_1746.JPGHere we reveled in touching. Each room is labeled with a small brass name plate: The Oscar Swan Room, The Betty Jean Swan Room, Oscar and Jessie Swan’s Bedroom, etc. This link will take you to the web site, where you can see more details of the Inn and rooms.

IMG_1125.JPGI mentioned how this rambling 6,000 foot house made me think of Dickens’ Bleakhouse. Well, the literary allusions didn’t stop there. The second morning of our stay I looked out the window and was transported to Daphne DuMaurier’s Manderly, where that grand estate was preparing for the mid-summer gala party. In this case The Oscar Swan was preparing for a gala wedding with about 200 guests – gardeners sweeping walks and the setting up of the great tent – although I could watch the preparations from any distance I chose, I still felt like Nina’s special pampered houseguest.

IMG_1391.JPGStill another literary allusion was in store for us. Tramping over the eight acres of lush lawns and gardens a few days later, we discovered Betty Jean’s little playhouse. It was pretty much modeled after the big house. (No wonder Betty Jean talked her parents into abandoning Chicago and moving to the country!) My friend and I ducked our heads and stepped through the little doorway, back 100 years into any little girl’s paradise! IMG_1392Wall paper and small antique furniture, and sweetest of all, a fireplace with roses for flames like the fireplace in George MacDonald’s Princess and the Goblin.

John and I had just about decided that we don’t really care for “Bed and Breakfasts” because when we have a chance to get away, we want to be left alone and not have to make small talk with strangers. This trip may have changed that. There was lots to see in Geneva and the Chicago area, but we could have happily spent every moment of our time right there on the grounds of The Oscar Swan Inn. We were alone as much as we wanted to be, but thoroughly engaged with history and conversation when we felt like it, and relaxed and pampered every moment of our stay.IMG_1188.JPG

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Baseball Brown Rice Salad

Today I made a variation of this salad using white basmati rice. I did not have basil, bell pepper and olives, so I added some chopped toasted almonds along with the diced celery and red onion. And, of course, Vidalia Onion Vinegarette. It was very scrumptious, and my friend asked me to share the recipe. So Shellie, this is for you!

Paladini Potpie

I could have stuck a feather in my hat and called it macaroni… The point is, I didn’t have any macaroni, and feathers get stuck in your teeth.

I had offered to take macaroni salad to a baseball barbecue birthday party the next day. So I used some good old Yankee ingenuity when I spotted a couple of cups of leftover brown rice in the fridge.

Brown Rice Salad!  (Baseball Brown Rice Salad, since we were headed to a baseball birthday party.)

It was delicious! Jim would have been proud!

Here’s how I did it:

2 cups cooked cold rice (I had brown basmati, but I think any kind of long-grain rice would work as well)

cold rice


1 cup finely diced celery

½ cup finely diced red onion

½ cup diced red pepper


1 can of black olives, drained and diced

About 8 fresh basil leaves and 8 fresh…

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Thankfulness ABCs

January 1, 2016. I opened my eyes this morning and lay still. The light seeping through the blinds looked so pretty; and our clean sheets felt so good; and John’s gentle snores made me overflow with love and joy and peace. I lay there for a while thinking and praying. What will the New Year bring? 2015 had a lot of hard stuff. But also many blessings – a lot to be thankful for. I thought about the Thankful List I made a couple of years ago, and I decided that I should start this New Year by making another list. As I was tiptoeing out to my computer to find the ABC Thankfulness template, it occurred to me that I should write a blog about it. Encourage other people to start the year off by focusing on thankfulness. So here I am at my computer, five minutes later, absolutely stunned to see that I already DID write a blog about it. I could gripe about losing my mind and my memory, but instead I will be thankful for a computer to remind me of the things I forget!

Paladini Potpie

Amanda, Audrey, anise, and Abercrombie T-shirts for a dollar at a yard sale.  This is part of my “A-list” of things I’m thankful for this year.

Thanksgiving Day is a little more than a week away and I’ve been enjoying the posts of many of my friends who are taking part in Facebook’s “ month of gratitude “.

I haven’t been posting regularly in the Month of Gratitude. That’s partly because I somehow missed it until it was well underway. And also because I knew I would get writer’s block trying to think of something “profound” to write in that public arena every single day for a month. 

I went back and forth about it in my mind. So what if it’s not profound? So what if I miss a day?

As a rule I am a thankful person, and I’m usually pretty vocal with my thanks. But I had to…

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Point of Know Return

Welcome Wayne Thompson! Wayne is my cousin, and buddy who used to ride bikes with me at his home in Lexington Kentucky, aBikesnd explore the woods when he came to visit us in Cincinnati. Our lives have gone in many directions over this last 50 years, but it’s nice to be on the same path again. These thoughts of his were inspired by my last post, Both Sides Now.


I find myself having nostalgia attacks more frequently these days, and your post sparked yet another one. Born in 1950, the 70’s were my 20’s. For me, it was a memorable decade marked by a slow drift from, and sudden turn back toward the Christian faith of my childhood. And through it all, for better or worse, pop music was center stage. The 70’s produced iconic bands that influenced me greatly – Kansas, Rock-and-roll1.jpgStyx, Eagles, Queen, Journey, Doobie Brothers, Jackson Browne, etc. In 1977, at the height (or depth) of my years as a Wayward Son, the new Kansas album, “Point of Know Return” Kansas_-_Point_of_Know_Returnbrought goose bumps as I realized nearly every song was about Christ or Christianity. What?! My favorite rock band, Kansas, was secretly an underground Christian group!? My worlds collided. I turned a corner. And I have been sailing toward that point of Know return ever since. Other bands’ songs now took on a Christian perspective for me, like Styx “Show Me the Way” and “Come Sail Away”. Music is a powerful force in our culture – for good or bad. h07-cross_sunset-10We’ve seen Joni’s clouds from both sides now, experienced Stevies’s landslide, cried with Don on that starry starry night, and walked along the road with Dan. But in the end, it’s only Jesus that can rescue us from becoming nothing more than dust in the wind.



Both Sides Now


I heard John singing in the kitchen as he did the dishes.

“I’ve paid my dues. Time after time.  I’ve done my sentence, but committed no crime. And bad mistakes – I’ve made a few. I’ve had my share of sand kicked in my face, but I’ve come through…”

What in the world???

gift wrapWe usually do the dishes together, but tonight I had asked him if he would do them while I finished wrapping the Christmas presents. He had seemed willing – even glad to do them…but now he was singing this unknown song full of angst.  “…it’s been no bed of roses. No pleasure cruise. I consider it a challenge before the whole human race, and I ain’t gonna lose.”

I walked the few steps into the kitchen. “What are you singing?”

QueenJohn grinned and brandished the dishtowel. “We are the champions – my friends. And we’ll keep on fighting till the end. We are the champions. We are the champions. No time for losers…’cause we are the champions of the world!”

Of course I had heard that chorus dozens of times, but I don’t think I ever listened to the verses. I was that very awkward young girl with my nose stuck in a book, sometimes listening to Simon and Garfunkel, or Chad and Jeremy.

Queen_GuinevereBack when John was going to see Queen in concert, the only queens I knew of were Guinevere and Galadriel, and some of their sisters who ruled England.

The dishes finished, John came and sat beside me on floor and pulled out his i-phone.

“Buddy you’re a boy make a big noise

Playing in the street gonna be a big man some day

You got mud on your face You big disgrace

Kickin’ your can all over the place


We will, we will rock you. We will, we will rock you.”

We sat watching Queen, followed by Kansas, Charlie Daniels Band, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

I’ve always told John that when I was younger and he was cooler, I would have been so shy I would have walked across the street to avoid coming in contact with him and his very cool group of friends.

He would not have said anything mean or flirty (I don’t think). He was cool but he was also kind. The point is, he wouldn’t have paid any attention to me.

So John was busy being cool and hanging out, and I was busy being cautious and hiding out. But somehow we met in the middle.

“I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now,

From up and down, and still somehow

It’s cloud illusions I recall.

I really don’t know clouds at all.”

Okay Joni Mitchell, we’ve seen both sides now, and you were right. We really don’t know clouds. But we have learned that God had a bigger plan than either of ours. “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.