Hot Broth – The Cure

Winter is here and the cold weather upon us. To combat the sickness all around, Rick and I renew our winter tradition and best resistance to sickness, Hot Broth – the Cure. In fact, one winter, every night as I crossed our threshold, Rick handed me a bowl of Hot Broth, warm fulfilling restorative broth loaded with chili, garlic and additional cold combatant ingredients. I don’t think I caught a cold that season, nor any season as long as we followed our tradition of Hot Broth. This mystical broth combats all that ails us and bolsters our immune system. Hot Broth is a simple formula: broth, chili, acid and alcohol along with greens and garlic. Any broth, chicken, beef or vegetable will do. Our choice of chili abounds, chili oil, chili flakes, fresh Jalapeno, Serrano or Thai and more. The acid can be lemon, lime, vinegar or wine. For greens, our favorites are spinach or Swiss chard however our Mom’s would often include escarole, kale, cabbage or even mustard and collard greens. Don’t forget the garlic, fresh chopped, coarse, minced or whole cloves. Anyway you like it but make certain, there is plenty. And by the way, a good shot of alcohol does it, brandy, bourbon;  however, I’ve not tried vodka or gin.  As a kid, Dad would give us a Hot Toddy, the only resemblance of our tradition. Simply hot milk and a small bit of brandy was his recipe and after drinking it, directions to “Pull those covers up and go to sleep!” Often I would get a rub down with Metholadum before the piles of bed covers were tucked under my chin. So when the winds chill you to the bone and the germs want to overtake your body, cook up some Hot Broth and cure what ails you!

Love and Garlic, Nancy Vajretti celebrating Mom & The Cooking Secrets of the Lazy V!


Christmas Past – Celebrating Traditions

Note from Nancy: If you read my Thanksgiving Blog, you learned that my reason for posting the Blog (and now the Christmas Blog) well after the Holidays has to do with the passing of two parents within a short period of time. Although I wrote these months ago, I felt I had to review, edit and embrace; the sentiments and memories are heartfelt. Now, I am ready to share.

We lost our Dad and our Mom this year, within a month of each other. This would be our first Christmas without them: Dad at the head of the dining room table, gently smiling, taking it all in, proud Father, quietly embracing the family. As for Mom, the spark and sparkler, the hearth and fire; she would have been at the center holding ‘Mom court’—sovereign of family and cooking, without a doubt a magnet. I can’t be sad, not for them. I am accepting of their passing. No doubt they are watching, triumphant that they have accomplished their goal. This year, we were together, celebrating family, food and Holiday traditions. I love our family, an eclectic mix of personalities and preferences.

This brings me to the subject of our Holiday Traditions, the Draw, emerging Traditions, Tasting and our Menu, old and new. Several years ago, Joan and Jim suggested that instead of exchanging gifts, we do a draw. Everyone that participates brings a gift. We draw numbers and select a gift, number one goes first. However, there is one caveat. The next one to retrieve a gift is entitled instead to steal any opened gift. This is when the fun begins. Each year, one or two gifts are popular and as a result will pass from one to other causing roars of laughter and competitive spirit. Some years participants claimed they walked away with duds and others, treasures. After a time, we opted to ‘theme’ the draw gifts. I do not recall the themes we chose, but I do recall a year of uproar. Certain members of our family considered the draw gifts politically incorrect. After all, we had raised generation 3 who did not see the humor in including shotgun shells in the draw (although many of my nephews duck hunt). Others felt it had become frivolous. Others dished it with joke gifts. Finally, we came to the decision to cease the draw and try something new. We submitted our ideas and voted. We voted for a blind tasting of wines. Ouch, a blind tasting? A chance for anonymity, bum wines and lackluster participation, let alone, leave many with no interest because they do not enjoy wine! We participated, but many were not satisfied.

Poignantly, the last Christmas we would be with our parents, two sisters and family were together, however, we missed one sister and her family. This year we were ready.  After twenty-two e-mails, the Draw was redefined!  My sister’s and I decided on a book draw and a tasting. Newly wed Jay has a yen for salami.  Mother-in-law Joan organized ‘The Big Salami’, created an announcement and score card. Father-in-law Jim paired the tasting with crisp pinots and rose’s. We savored nine varieties of salami, local artisan, bay area and even Seattle (the winner!). The tasting was a success. The tradition will continue, the Family Book Draw and Tasting Society.  

As for our meal, we always start with pasta; this year, a winner from my sister, Papparadelli in Smoked Salmon Cream w/Pomegranate ‘caviar’. It was a great start, followed by an apple salad with baked goat cheese encrusted with walnuts. For the entrée, we served rack of lamb, sautéed chard and grilled balsamic portabellas. We always have a fine selection of wines, Cab the wine of choice for this meal. The highlight was a Reserve Far Niente. Mom’s love for dessert lives on with many of us. Can you imagine Cream Puffs specially made by a restaurant on the Pacheco Pass?

We embraced this meal with the legacy of our family, memories, laughter and the Celebration of our Parents who will always be at the center of our Holiday Traditions.  

Love and Garlic, celebrating Lessons, Legacy, Lore & Family Traditions!



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