Monday, December 23, 2013

Home For The Holidays


Although I am happy in my new state of Florida - hey, more opportunities for picnicking! - Connecticut will always be "home" for me. Having lived here almost my entire life, and having my three daughters, son-in-laws and grandchildren here makes for pretty strong ties. So, to all my Connecticut contacts, Happy Holidays, and may 2014 bring you peace, love and joy.

This recipe for Cider Wassail has been a favorite at our family Christmas party for many years. Once you taste it, I guarantee it will become a favorite for you as well.

Cider Wassail (serves 10-15)

4 cups fresh apple cider
1/4 - 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup dark rum
2 tablespoons brandy
2 tablespoons apple brandy
1 tablespoon orange liqueur
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon allspice
pinch salt
1 rounded teaspoon frozen orange juice concentrate
whipped cream

* Bring cider to a boil.
* Add sugar and stir until dissolved. remove from heat.
* Stir in rum, brandy, apple brandy, orange liquor, spices and salt. Stir in orange juice.
* Heat over medium heat, stirring, for two minutes.
* Pour into cups. (My favorite are the short clear glass cups with handles, although hot paper cups work just as good.)
* Top with a dollop (or more) whipped cream, and if desired, a stick of cinnamon.

I have noticed through the years that this recipe is very forgiving. If I don't have one of the ingredients, I can substitute with something similar, or just leave it out. And, it's always delicious.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Loosen Up - Lighten Up Day

Yes, a day has been reserved in our calendar to Loosen Up - Lighten Up.* I guess some of us could benefit from a day when we don't take things so seriously and even get out and have a little fun. Maybe go on a picnic?

Here is a recipe for unique Deviled Eggs, great not only for picnics, but potlucks, or any occasion. It's from my book Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket 3rd Edition:

Deviled Crab Stuffed Eggs
   (courtesy of Star Mader)

6 large to jumbo boiled eggs
1/2 - 2/3 cup crabmeat (or imitation crabmeat)
1-3 teaspoons sweet red pepper, finely diced
1-3 teaspoons chives or scallions, finely diced
1/4-1 teaspoon sea salt
dash black pepper
dash cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon tarragon
1/2-1 teaspoon parsley, finely chopped
1/2-1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4-1/2 cup mayonnaise

Optional: 1/2-1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, paprika, chives

*  Boil eggs and cool. Peel and cut in half. Poke out yoke into a medium size bowl and put whites on a serving platter.
*  In food processor (with the puree blade on) or mixer, finely process 1/2 cup of the crabmeat. Add to egg yolks. Mash together until smooth. Add red pepper, chives, sea salt, black and cayenne pepper, tarragon, parsley, and lemon juice. Mix well. Add mustard and mayonnaise. Mix well.
*  Put a 1/2 inch piece of the remaining 1/4 cup of crabmeat into the egg white and stuff with the egg yoke mixture. Use a teaspoon to stuff, or pipe mix into whites using a pastry bag.
*  Top with paprika and chives.


* Found on

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Farmington Valley Arts Center

Head over to the Farmington Valley Arts Center on October 5, 2013 to celebrate the first Authors' Meet and Greet Day. From 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on the beautiful park-like grounds of the Center, twenty-five Connecticut authors will be displaying dozens of published books in a variety of genres.

Featured speaker, Margaret Greenberg, author of Profit from the Positive, and other speakers, Melissa Croghan, author of The Tracking Heart, Jan Mann, author of Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic, Chuck Miceli, Author of Amanda's Room, Eileen Kaplan, author of The Breast Medicine, and authors of Just Ordinary Moms, will entertain you with the richness of their stories. In addition, nineteen additional authors will be ready to greet you and talk with you about their special books.

While at the Arts Center, be sure to stop and visit the artists in their open studios, and check out all the new offerings, including a Juried Art Show.

For more information, visit

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Check out Updated Information Page on Website Plus New Recipe Idea

Check out the Updated Page on my website,

I just posted new information to six day trips in Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket since publishing the 3rd Edition in the spring of 2012. The goal of keeping the information in my book up to date is that thousands of people who rely on the information printed may be spared disappointment to arrive at a destination only to find changes.

Since it is difficult to keep up with 42 places throughout Connecticut, if any readers find significant changes during their travels, please let me know at and I will share the information on this updated website page. Thanks.

Summer Picnic Recipe from Cruising Connecticut: Fresh Fruit Kabobs There is not much to say about my fruit kabobs. They are so easy and quick it hardly pays to print a how-to recipe. But, what if you created a fun alternative to this refreshing summer treat.

For example, Instead of fruit kabobs, place your choice of cut-up fruit in a bowl and set out with a container each of vanilla and strawberry flavored yogurt. Add small bowls with a choice of toppings, such as granola cereal, chopped walnuts, banana chips, yogurt raisins, shredded coconut, Craisins and honey graham cracker sticks.

What a small amount of effort to surprise and wow family and guests at your next picnic.

Happy picnicking!

Friday, June 21, 2013

It's Picnic Time

For ideas on day trips and picnicing in Connecticut listen to Jan Mann, author of Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket on Chatterbox radio, Saturday, June 22nd at 6:30 pm. The show may be heard on your computer at the following link:

Thursday, April 4, 2013

It's Picnic Time!

My last blog was devoted to an indoor cold-weather recipe for my Connecticut family and friends. But, now that it's spring, it's time to dig the picnic basket out from the bottom of the closet where it's been resting all winter, dust if off, and make sure it is fully stocked and ready to go when you are.

In Florida, my picnic season starts a bit earlier than in Connecticut, although not by much this year. March, my favorite winter month here was marred by cool temperatures and gusty winds.

However, I did manage to sneak in a couple of casual picnics. One was at the drumming circle on Nokomis Beach, a celebration of sunset on Wednesday and Saturday evenings. We arrived a couple of hours early, placed our chairs around the circle, and for the next two hours, enjoyed the sound of drums, the sight of dancers, visiting with friends, and picnicking until the climax of the celebration, the beautiful Florida sunset.

For this picnic, I packed three snack-type food: cream cheese and pepper jelly, hummus, and guacamole. And, a variety of good crackers.

My favorite Guacamole recipe? Mash ripe avocados with a fork. Mix in fresh chopped tomatoes and sweet onion, lemon (or lime juice), and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with your favorite taco chips or crackers.

Another picnic destination was Stump Pass Beach State Park, a peaceful and unhurried beach located in Englewood. The trail is 1.3 miles one way with a view of the ocean on one side and the bay on the others. Plenty of shells wash up on the soft sand, although what fascinates me most is the shell decorated driftwood along the way. A must see!

This picnic was also simple - delicious Curried Chicken Salad with Cashews from my book Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket. Sides were croissants and fresh fruit. If you don't have my book, simply email me and I'll be happy to send you the recipe.

Happy Picnicking!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Jambalaya, a Warm, Feel-Good Recipe for Cold Weather

Wow, almost two months between blogs this time - much too long. As to why, the answer is the same one I use when people ask me why it took close to twenty years to write Cruising Connecticut with a Picnic Basket: Life got in the way.

Although it took a lot to get me to Florida this year, I am now happily enjoying the sunshine as I work on my travel memoir. 

While I am basking in the warm weather, because of my strong ties to Connecticut, I am also aware of the brutually cold weather that has overtaken that state. So, this month's blog is devoted to a recipe from my book that, although it is surely made all over the country during tailgating, is also a warm, feel-good dish for cold weather.

Joe's Jambalaya

Joe Cahn, Commissioner of Tailgating, says “This is my favorite recipe because you
can put just about anything in it. If it walks, crawls, swims or flies, it can be thrown into
Jambalaya. Everything goes into one pot so clean-up’s a breeze."

(12—15 servings)

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
salt and ground black pepper
1 1/2 lbs. sausage cut in 1/4-inch slices
4 cups chopped onions
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped green bell pepper
5 cups chicken stock or water flavored with chicken bouillon
1 tbs. minced garlic
4 cups long grain rice
2 tbsp. Kitchen Bouquet (browning agent)
2 tbsp. seasoning salt
2 cups chopped green onions

* Season chicken with salt and pepper; brown in hot oil in 8 quart Dutch oven or stockpot over medium-high heat.
* Add sausage; cook 5-to-7 minutes.
* Remove chicken and sausage from pan; set aside.
* Add onions, celery, green peppers and garlic; cook, stirring 7-10 minutes or until vegetables begin to wilt.
* Stir in chicken stock, reserved chicken and sausage, seasoning salt and Kitchen Bouquet. Bring to a boil.
* Add rice and return to a boil.
* Cover and reduce heat to simmer.
* Cook 10 minutes; remove cover and quickly turn rice from top to bottom completely.
* Replace cover and cook 15 to 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.
* Stir in green onions.

For brown jambalaya, add 1 heaping tbsp. brown sugar to hot oil and caramelize, or
make a roux, or use Kitchen Bouquet. For red jambalaya, add approximately 1/4 cup
paprika or use 1/2 stock and 1/2 tomato juice or V-8 for your liquid. For seafood
jambalaya, add cooked seafood when rice is cooked.

If using an electric stove, reduce cooking time by 3-4 minutes.

Four Tips:
Use 1 cup of rice for every 2 cups of vegetables (onion, celery, bell pepper.)
Use 1 1/4 cups of liquid for every 1 cup of uncooked rice.
1 cup of uncooked rice will make 3 cups of cooked rice, season accordingly.
Cook jambalaya for a total of 25 to 30 minutes, stirring well after 10 minutes.

Check out Joe's website at: