G-ma Rainie’s Swiss Steak

This should have posted yesterday, but I’ve been distracted by a friend in need for the past few days, so I apologize for the delay.

Both sides of my family have a Swiss Steak recipe and one is COMPLETELY different from the other, so I’m going to share both with you. You get one today, and one next Friday (if I can get Umi to write the damn thing down for me or dictate…whatever).

G-ma Rainie’s Swiss Steak


1 boneless chuck beef roast (or roast beast, as I like to call it)

4 – 6 cups crushed tomatoes (canned or homemade)

1 cup diced onions, sliced carrots, and diced celery (optional)

After searing* and seasoning the roast beast with salt and pepper, put it in a Dutch oven (or slow cooker/crock pot).


Add the tomatoes, onions, carrots, and celery (each are optional – I don’t like cooked carrots), and add desired spices.


Cover and simmer for about an hour or so until beef is tender. Check seasoning and add more salt and pepper if so desired. Experiment with other seasonings as well. I added garlic powder and Italian seasonings this time around. Next time, I’ll likely experiment with a few others.

Now, the timing is based on using a Dutch oven. I used a slow cooker (or crock pot) and cooked it over several hours on a low setting while I slept all day. If you have a lot of experience using a crock pot, you’ll know what setting to cook it and for how long.

Instead of using diced celery and onion, I used celery salt and onion powder. Also, when I use salt and pepper, I use the kind you have to grind. Sea salt is much better than regular salt.

My g-ma Rainie always served this dish over mashed potatoes. It’s quite tasty! I have it next to the mashed potatoes.


Vive bene, spesso l’amore, di risata molto!

(live well, love much, and laugh often)

* Don’t know what “searing” is? What I’m telling you to do there is brown all sides of the roast before placing it in the Dutch oven or crock pot.


Grandma’s Pot Pie

Today’s recipe comes from my late g-ma Ethel. She also called it meat ‘n’ potato pie. Why? Because that’s pretty much what’s in it. You can add carrots or whatever, but I like it this way.

Pot Pie Crust

4 cups flour

1 cup shortening

2 teaspoons salt

Enough water to mix*

Combine ingredients in a bowl until dough is formed. Knead the dough in bowl or on counter (preferably flour-covered). Split dough in half, place one back in the bowl and roll out the other until it is large enough to fit in a 2-quart casserole dish. Line the dish with the dough and roll out the other one for the top.

Note: if you don’t have a lot of room in your kitchen (like me these days), you can buy one of those Pillsbury ready-made crusts. It’s not really the same, but it works.


Pot Pie

Cut potatoes and cooked roast into small pieces (like for a stew), place in pot and fill with water, then bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add flour to make gravy. Amount is to thickness desired.

Once potatoes are soft, pour into dough-lined casserole dish until full, and top with the other rolled out dough. Be certain to cut slits (at least 3 or 4) into the top so it can breathe (I know that sounds weird).

Bake at 400˚ for 50 to 60 minutes, depending on your oven.


~ cut in half for a smaller pot pie ~

* About ¼ cup water


Vive bene, spesso l’amore, di risata molto!

(live well, love much, and laugh often!)

What I Need

Most of you know, especially if you follow me on Twitter or are a Facebook friend, the kind of week and a half I’ve had. My paternal grandmother passed away on June 11th, two days before my birthday, and I spent my birthday at the mortuary and cemetery planning g-ma’s services with my uncle, as well as taking Umi, my mother, to the ER. During the course of this, I was awake for 35 hours–from 3pm June 12th to 2am June 14th. On the bright side, I can officially say that I was awake for my ENTIRE day of birth. How many of you can claim that? I thought not.

Anyway, Umi stayed in the hospital until Thursday when I brought her home. Friday morning, we held the services for g-ma and I was gone for most of the day because after the service, we had a luncheon. What? We’re Italian. We eat after any event. Friday night, while I was over at g-ma’s for a BBQ (yes, more food), Umi called and I had to take her to the ER again. She’s still at the hospital, though they’ve moved her out of ICU. Congestive heart failure or something like that. Although, her texts the other night were hilarious. My mother has a strange sense of humor, even when she’s sick and in pain. It’s no wonder where I get it from. The whole of my family, meaning both sides, has a very macabre sense of humor anyway, and I’ll explain that in another post.

In the midst of all these family emergencies, I did the final edit on my new book Nemesis. We finally got it out the door Monday and it should be available now on the Running Ink Press website.

And as I hop all over the damn place, from mortuary to cemetery to hospital to chapel to hospital to *breathe* home, a cavalcade of text messages, DMs, Facebook messages, emails, etc. have come through over the past several days, all asking the same question–What do you need?

It’s a good question, and I wish I could answer it, but the truth is, I don’t know what I need aside from my mother getting better. I’ve commanded that she’s not allowed to die for at least a year. She’d better listen to me. But she’s scared. She said so Sunday night when I visited. And considering that my maternal grandfather shot me a message Saturday night during a palm reading, I understand because I’m scared too. He said to me, through my aunt the psychic, “You’re strong enough for this, for what’s coming.”

Yeah, kinda creepy, right? Actually, I know exactly why he said that. Earlier in the day, as I sat on my computer doing some final quick touches on my book, I broke down in tears out of the blue, and said, “I can’t do this.” I know I can, that I’m strong enough to get through whatever comes my way. I mean, shit, I’ve been to hell and back several times over the years. But sometimes I have that moment of weakness, where it feels like everything’s going to fall apart. And since it wasn’t so long ago that my life actually did fall apart, it kind of ups the ante on the moments of weakness and when they hit. Truly, that moment really is a moment in time, it’s a few seconds and then I’m fine.

So, really, what I need right now is to just breathe, to make sure Moon gets attention because she doesn’t know where my mom is or why she’s gone right now, to continue doing the things I need to do over at my grandmother’s house for my aunt, and to tell you to go buy my fucking book, Nemesis. 😉

Fair enough? Thought so.

The Last One

My last grandparent died on Saturday morning around five o’clock. You’ve seen me talk about her a lot. I call her G-ma. She’s the only grandparent I had left since 2003 when my other grandmother (on Umi’s side) passed away. She died on grandpa’s birthday, August 31st. Before her, grandpa died in February 1995, two months before my wedding. And 36 years ago, my paternal grandfather died. I was six, so I don’t have a lot of memories of him, but to this day, when I walk in that house, I can tell you exactly where his chair and table were, and how his pipes were laid out on that table. Every once in a while, I smell cherry blend tobacco. That’s how I know he’s visiting me. G-ma is with him once again.

Grandma Rainie was a strong woman. I mean, like you have no idea the amount of strength this woman had and the shit she carried on her shoulders. I think I got some of that from her because I always say I carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. Just don’t let something happen to my mom and I’ll be fine.  Rainie was a gentle spirit, blessed with a strong faith, wonderful sense of humor and a fierce love of her family. She made friends readily and in great abundance. During World War II while g-pa Dan served our country, she was on the home front building planes in Goodyear. She was a wing girl. She was active for many years with the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars Auxiliary. She was also a retiree from Arizona State University.

Grandma Rainie was preceded in death by not only her husband, my g-pa Dan, but also my father Michael, who passed away last November, the day after Thanksgiving. She is survived by her daughter Danna Jo and her son Tony, and sister Olene. Grandma Rainie leaves nine grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, four great-great-grandchildren, and two grandpuppies. She also had many beloved nieces and nephews.

I have now reached the point in my life where I have no grandparents, and Umi and myself just aren’t getting any younger. But I do still have some family around who care, who let me cry on their shoulders, who support me emotionally and spiritually, and who cook for me when I need it, like yesterday.

So…hugs and love to my family. G-ma Rainie may be gone, but we’ve all been blessed with loving memories of her, and now she’s with g-pa.

Yorkshire Pudding

This recipe is an old one, passed down to me by my maternal grandmother, passed to her by who knows in my ancestral line. G-ma Ethel always made this when she’d slow-cook a roast, and it’s a family favorite. It is, however, quite greasy, so we didn’t have it often.

This is a fairly simple recipe.


Yorkshire Pudding



1 cup milk

1 cup flour

½ teas salt

2 eggs, well beaten with milk

Speck of pepper (sorry, this is how my g-ma measured)

11 x 7 x 1 ½ pan

Grease the pan (with shortening) and pre-heat oven to 450˚. Sift flour and salt together. Gradually stir in milk and egg mixture. Beat with egg beater (or whisk) until smooth. Pour into pan. Bake 25 to 30 minutes.

You can also use a muffin pan, like in this photo.



Vive bene, spesso l’amore, di risata molto!

(live well, love much, and laugh often)


It’s been an unexpectedly emotionally draining day.

My grandmother is in a nursing home right now. She’s been back and forth between there and the hospital ever since she fell and broke her knee early January. This was the first time I’d been able to visit her in the home, having seen her at the hospital once. She’s jumped back and forth so many times, I’ve had to ask where she was before going to visit or call. At one point, she was somewhere in Chandler and I just couldn’t drive out that far at the time. Right now, she’s off the Loop 101 on the border of Mesa/Tempe/Chandler. I have to say I’m less than impressed with the place. In fact, I’m downright disgusted.

Today, her words were muffled, mumbled phrases I could only understand half of as I strained to listen while she spoke. I did catch the sorrow, though. It nearly killed me. She’s losing her will to live.

“Why is God punishing me?” was one question in the midst of several similar phrases. “I must have done something awful.”

“He’s not punishing you, grandma. You haven’t done anything awful,” I tried to reassure while holding her hand. But how do you tell a woman who’s lying there, unable to move, who’s in pain, who can’t yet go home because she hasn’t done her physical therapy, that God isn’t punishing her?

“It feels like He is,” she said.

I’m pretty damn certain it does because I’ve felt that before. I understand the pain she’s in, both physically and spiritually.

“Trials and tribulations, grandma,” I said. “It’s just a part of life.”

God isn’t punishing her. Life is the bitch that punishes. She’s the one who takes away your dignity in your final moments. I don’t quite understand the reason for it, but it’s like we have this final stage of pain and humiliation to pass through before we can move forward. I don’t want my grandmother to die like this, in this hellhole as the last of her humanity is stripped from her by morons who don’t give a fuck about her because she’s just another patient in a room.

My grandfather, who’s been gone for 35 years, wouldn’t want her end to be like this either, and neither would my father, who passed away the day after Thanksgiving last year. They’re both watching over her right now.

I tried not to let her see my tears because the whole visit was causing a flashback of when my maternal grandmother passed away in 2003. It was the nursing home’s fault. They killed her.

Apparently this home has almost killed my grandmother twice now. We’d like to not give them a third chance.

I called my uncle as soon as Umi and I left. He’s in Oklahoma, and I wanted him to hear the perspective of someone who isn’t trying to keep her in a home, who isn’t trying to gain anything from her being there, and who is not one fucking bit happy that she’s there and being treated the way she is!

By 3 p.m., no one from physical therapy had been by to see her yet, and she doesn’t even get PT on the weekend. When she asks about it, they reply with “well, we have twenty-six patients.” Excuse me? She’s one of your twenty-six goddamn patients. They get her out of bed, put her in a chair, and leave her there for a couple of hours. Tell me exactly how this is therapy. I know she needs to sit up periodically, but seriously? What. The. Fuck? Is she being a stubborn patient?

G-ma also has asthma and the a/c unit in her room has a dirty filter, so she’s having trouble breathing even though she’s on oxygen.

I asked Unca T if there was any way possible to have home care for her. We’re looking into it, but right now she needs 24/7 care. We don’t see how that’s possible. Tuesday or Wednesday I’m going back to the nursing home to speak with a few people. Cousin S may be all peachy fucking keen with putting her parents in a home, but I’m not down with that for g-ma after seeing her today. She needs to be in her home, with her things, where people who care about her are before the nursing home kills her. The insurance should completely cover home care. The decision, of course, belongs to my aunt and uncle, her children, and as her granddaughter, I’m standing by them and whatever decision they make.

And if I have to get in someone’s face and scream at the top of my lungs, so help me God, I will. My voice will not be silent in this family. It was for too many years.

She’s the only grandparent I have left, and I will not allow her to be treated like this or to die like this!

Maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe I’m not. On the off chance I’m not, I need to investigate the matter. My aunt can’t be there physically and my uncle is in another state. No one outside of cousin S and my stepmother have really visited her.

Excuse me while I adjust the weight already on my shoulders. I need to make room for one of my most important things in the world–my g-ma.

Pray for my sanity and pray for my g-ma. We’ll both need it.