Monday, December 10, 2012

Sammich

It's happened lately that I am always dying for a sandwich. Any kind, really. As long as there's bread and spread, whatever else winds up in there is usually satisfying.



Back in my beginning days in food service, I made my fair share of sandwiches. I always took pride in them- a good sandwich is priceless, especially when packaged well and to the customer's specifications. If they say no onions, you better not put onions on there. That's sacrilege. You should never screw up a sandwich order.

A sandwich is the sustenance of choice for busy professionals, casual day-off lunch goers, strung-out all-nighters. Simple to assemble and relatively affordable to produce and purchase, sandwiches win in my book. They win big.

One of my favorite sandwiches is one my mom always made when she and my dad were going to a concert with friends (a tradition my sisters and I quickly adopted). She called it the "Limo Sandwich" ... a high rolling stack of Italian meats and cheeses that could only be consumed safely in the privacy of a chauffeured vehicle.  Because it's that good- borderline sinful. Though pretty damn easy to make.

You'll need the following:

1) Olive tapenade
2) A large round or oval bread loaf- one that can be hollowed out, with a stiff crust
3) A variety of meats ... I recommend:
Hot Capicola
Procuitto
Genoa Salami
Mortadella
Honey Ham
4) Also ... cheese:
Provolone is a must. The rest is up to you. Maybe one other type.
5) Some aluminum foil
6) A heavy book ... perhaps a few phone books on top of each other. Whatever is available.

To assemble, cut off the top of the bread loaf and hollow out the inside leaving enough of the bread to allow for a good bite- a half inch or so. Save the top of the bread. You'll need it. As for the innards? Make croutons or feed it to the birds.

Once the bread is hollow, smear top and base with olive tapenade- a good, even layer. I consider spread to be the mortar in my wall against hunger. Be sure there's enough so everything sticks- that means getting the sides, too. Every square inch. Then, begin your layers. I recommend two or three meat, one cheese, and following that pattern until the whole bread loaf is full. I mean, heavy full. You'll need a few pounds of everything to finish the job. It's well worth it.

When the project is layered, cap the sandwich and wrap that sucker in foil. Top the whole thing with that heavy book and let it sit for a spell, say an hour or so, in the fridge. Once compressed, slice it as one would a cake. The layers look beautiful and it's interesting to eat. I like pairing it with crudites. Because with all that meat and cheese you'll need some veggies to feel okay about yourself. Well, I do anyway.

I know the holidays are creeping closer ... all the stress that comes with them follows close behind. Don't beat yourself up. There's no point in letting a holiday get the best of you. When in doubt, offer sandwiches to guests. I don't think they'll complain. Some might even rejoice.

Wishing you a winter comparable to a good sandwich- packed with all the good stuff that leaves you full. xo
 









Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wanting it all

Oh, sweet holidays.

Hair-pulling, anxiety-inducing, sleep-stealing holidays.

What's the worst gift you've ever been given? You know what, nevermind. Let's not focus on the worst of the gentle white season. Let's focus on the best parts.

Namely, the food.



Food gifts are a great idea for the foodie friends and family in your life. They can be creative and heartwarming. And really who doesn't love a sweet or savory treat they didn't have to make? Mark and I like to throw together baskets of goodies for family and friends ... primarily because baking a few loaves of bread and adding some glitz is an easy way to not spend a ton of money on hostess gifts this time of year. Here are some ways you can throw some deliciousness together:

Herbal Olive Oils- Choose herbs of your choice and allow them to marinate in a lighter extra virgin olive oil for at least a week. You can buy this stuff in large tin cans for under $15 at the right stores. Makes enough to drown an army. Strain oil and put into decorative bottles with a new, clean sprig of the herbs used.

Flavored Vinegars- From herbs and spices, to fruits and citrus, vinegar is a fantastic canvas for your culinary creativity. Sage and citrus vinegar? No problem. Cranberry and warm spices? Nailed it. You can find tons of recipes for flavored vinegar online, so do some exploring or just follow your instincts. Be sure to strain the vinegar after a few weeks, pour into decorative bottles, and garnish with fresh ingredients.

Bread- We like throwing together a few loaves of sourdough, but whole wheat or traditional white are always awesome. If you can bake, give some bread a whirl. Those holiday party hosts don't want to worry about making breakfast the following morning. Give them something tasty to toast when pancakes are too ambitious. Quick breads are a great option if allowing dough to rise just taxes your imagination. Banana, pumpkin, cranberry, the options are vast this time of year and most you can buy by the box. I won't tell anyone you took a short cut. I promise.

Shmears- Jams, jellies, spreads .. most of these keep in the fridge for a while, so they pack longevity. Berry jams and jellies have enough pectin in them to make preserving as easy as a pot of boiling water. Apple sauces and butters can be processed easily, too. Cranberry relish and sauces are acidic enough to last for a week or two without processing at all, though that always helps.

Delightful extras- Cheeses, honeys, cured meats, local delights ... find your local fine food provider and find a few affordable add-ons. Have a lot of herbs from your garden? Bundle them with twine for an added flavor boost to future meals. For all you local readers, we suggest hitting up Butter's Fine Food and Wine for fancy extras to gifts like this.

We like to hit up a local craft store for clearance deals on baskets and pretty fabric- one year we lined the baskets with flour-sack towels. Those always come in handy. You can find affordable glass bottles and jars at just about any kitchen store or department stores that have home-goods sections (like Marshalls, TJ Maxx, or Home Goods). If you're looking for the super different, try a thrift store like Salvation Army or Goodwill. They have a bit of glass available, just run it through the hottest cycle your dishwasher has. After you have the containers and your idea of things, get to cooking!

If all of this just sounds like a lot of work to you, or if you're worried your efforts won't match your ultimate goals, there is an answer.

This is the man behind the movement.



Food forward friends, rejoice! This incredible gifting service takes all the stress out of gifting and puts fun back in it's place. The process is incredibly simple, too. You can even sign in through Facebook to make shopping for your friends even easier!

So, you pick your gift recipient and how much you would like to spend on their gift. You then answer a series of interesting questions based around the recipient's personality. After calculating all the information, you're given an incredible list of unique and interesting items to create a custom catalog out of. You pick the items your friend gets to choose from. You also choose the cover to their custom catalog and can personalize it with a message on the inside cover.

It doesn't end there, either. Catalogs are shipped to you, or directly to the giftee, wrapped in Japanese rice paper and sealed in handsome and sturdy envelope. The whole presentation is really impressive and the end result is something that really warms a person's heart.

But don't take my word for it, try it for yourself.  How does this apply to food? That's part of the information process and the food gifts through this site will blow your mind.

Airmailed truffles? Yeah, they have that.
Incredible knife sets? Of course.
Collapsing, portable grills. Hand made rare wood cutting boards and serving dishes. Fine china. Exotic teas. Beautiful wines. Imported olive oils.

Need I go on? No, you should just check it out for yourself. It's so worth it and you'll be hooked from the start. I promise. There is so much more than just food related gifts, too. Fine art, artisan jewelry and

This just in, Wantful now allows users to buy their products directly from them. Why not spoil yourself while you're shopping for that in-law that always seems to have everything they need?

In the end, the holidays always remind us of how good we can have it. Surrounded by family and friends, and most of the time a bountiful table, it is easy to be reminded of how beautiful our world is.

May your table and the love in your life always be full and delicious. xo

Friday, November 16, 2012

Plenty of fish- not all worth eating.

So ... I'm in love with Sander's Fish Market. They have a "fish truck" that travels around the state, making frequent stops in the Concord area, including the Summer and Winter Farmers' Markets in town.

Every Friday they hang out in the parking lot of the Everette Arena, from 10am to 4pm. Talk about having a direct line to the freshest catch in the area! I placed an order for a party of 10 coming up this weekend and there it was waiting for me, tucked nicely in a fish-tub and looking stunningly fresh and friendly.

Photo taken from Wikipedia "Cod" page.

I have a lot of clients that struggle with fish. Some hate eating it- many won't venture to try it at all- while still others love it but struggle with new ways to keep fish interesting. I hear ya'. I love fish. Huge fan. Wish we ate more of it. What I tend to struggle with is knowing which fish available to me is the one worth eating.

Don't worry. There are ways to get around this mental block.

Courtesy of Monterey Bay Aquarium


The Monterey Bay Aquarium comes to the rescue. I've been preaching this Seafood Watch Guide for years. In fact, I've given a lot of the printed ones away. That was, until they came up with a phone app. The genius lies in having specific guides for different areas of the country. It really is a gem and worth keeping around if you're the food buyer in the family.

So, you have the tools. You found the fish. It's T minus 2 hours until dinner time and you don't feel like just squeezing lemon over the damn thing again.

What to do?

Well, what kind of fish is it? Cod? Hake? Perch? Salmon? Swordfish? Tuna?

Consider the texture of your fish before going further. Steak fish handles grilling and pan searing incredibly well. Their tougher textures lend themselves to a bit more abuse than their weaker counterparts.

Salmon? My favorite way to eat that stuff is straight up raw. It melts like butter in your mouth. When cooking it, I try to cook it just shy of done, to retain that fatty texture as much as possible. Slather it with mustard (dijon or heavy grain). Trust me.

White fish is as blank as an artist's untouched canvas. My personal favorite is to pair any white fish with tomatoes and white wine. Garlic, capers, olives, all of these help, too. Remember, white fish takes all of a few minutes to cook through. I like to check in five minute increments, using a fork at the center of a fillet and gently twisting in either direction. When the flesh budges and starts to flake, you're done. STOP THE COOKING PROCESS RIGHT THERE!

When in doubt, give poaching a shot. Putting a crust on fish is awesome, too. Like, ground almonds, some bread crumbs, garlic, butter, herbs, mixed to a paste. Shmear that on there and bake for a bit, broiling the top if you want it crisper.

All I ask is that you give fish a shot. It's well worth it for supporting our local fishing companies, for encouraging the preservation of native species and protection of their habitats. For the Omega 3s and the delightful variety fish can bring to your diet.

Don't be shy, cast your line and see what you catch.

I think that's a delightful metaphor for more than just eating. xo

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

What we've got: Part Deux




And what haven't we got this time of year? We've got storms, cold weather, holidays fast approaching. It's enough to induce vomiting.

Here's hoping these next few tips can help you avoid Seasonal Affective Disorder in the coming months.

Problem #3: Storms. All manner of them.

New Hampshire is a delightful mix of self-reliance and Yankee-ingenuity. We can do it ourselves, thankyouverymuch. Until the power goes out. For two weeks straight. Now, let's just say most everything in your home is run on electricity (including your range and oven). Such is the case where I live. By week two, you've already eaten what you can from the dying refrigerator and are staring down the non-perishables because let's face it, eating at a restaurant isn't an option 14 days in a row. Here is one recipe that our family eats even with the lights on, and all of it is shelf stable.

White Bean Pantry Salad

One 14 oz can Cannellini Beans, drained and rinsed
One 8 oz can Tuna or Salmon, drained
1/2 or 1/4 red onion, diced
1 tsp tarragon

1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbs White Wine vinegar -or- Lemon juice
4 Tbs Olive Oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
Pinch of sugar

So, all of the salad components can survive out of a fridge and this requires no heating or other prep outside of dropping stuff in a bowl and mixing it. Combine the first 4 ingredients and stir gently. Then, combine the following ingredients in a separate bowl- this is your dressing. Combine everything and enjoy. I recommend finishing all of this- if your fridge is down, there's no saving the leftovers.

Problem #4: Baby. It's cold outside. Like, wicked cold.

Single digit temperatures are not far away. With this setback we are faced with interesting personal obstacles. We crave fat and carbohydrates- an ancestral drive that hearkens back to our cave-dwelling days when an extra layer of fat made the winter easier to survive. Can we have our comfort food and not gain the Winter 15 at the same time? Maybe. Here are a few tricks for holiday foods that help keep some calories at bay ...

Mashed Potatoes: Use chicken stock instead of milk or cream (butter really is a must, though). Then, add lots of seasoning- garlic, chives, etc.

Cranberry Sauce: I can find no fault with this, assuming the stuff doesn't come from a can and doesn't contain stiffing amounts of sugar. Lots of vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin E ... you can learn more here: Nutritiondata.com.

Green Bean Casserole: Skip the soup. A basic white sauce with fresh ingredients and low fat milk will get you where you want to go. Add mushrooms, herbs, and love. Crispy onions can be welcomed with open arms, so long as the Campbells company isn't part of your recipe.

The rest is really moderation. www.Eatingwell.com has a fantastic crop of comfort foods done right. You don't miss the fattening parts. They have a great test kitchen, if I can say so. I refer to them often when I'm craving a comforting dish, but I want a healthier way of going about it.

As for that Seasonal Affective Disorder- it's a real thing. Us New Englanders are chronic sufferers. Here's what Web MD has to say about it. I like to think that bringing some sunshine into your diet would help to keep a lot of these symptoms at bay. This year, I'm seeking out buying a case of oranges from Florida. The local middle school used to sell them, but they have since ceased. So, I went out into the interwebs and found a few places that might work. Here's hoping they help you, too:

Amazon.com - you can get anything here.
Hale Groves - lots of nice gifty things here.
Countryside Citrus - cute site, lots of variety.

I Googled "oranges by the case" and these are the best options I came up with, though many more exist. If you know of any better ones, please let us know in the comments section.

I've gone on long enough for my second installment. Expect more soon.

I hope this cold weather finds you wide-eyed and childlike. May the season give you nothing but love and excitement. xo





Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What we've got: First installment.



What we've got, is a whole lot.

I mean it. When it comes to our work and family lives we all have a lot on our plates. I wanted to take a minute to touch on some tactics that might make tackling life a bit easier for you ... well, as far as food goes. I can't help you with much else. All of these issues are similar to those I encounter with my clients. Most of these solutions require your time. If you don't have any of that to spare, I'm happy to come in and help finish the job.

Problem #1: Babies.

Okay, babies aren't a problem. They're wonderful! But, they require a ton of attention, energy, and care. New moms: I see your panic. If this is your first baby, I can imagine all the stress that goes in to raising your first being. Lots of moms end up relying on store-bought baby food. It certainly cuts down on time, but it can get really expensive. Plus, do you really know where that food was prepared and exactly what goes into it?

Why not make your own? There are only a few rules to remember:

*Always serve food no warmer than body temperature.
*Avoid nitrate carrying foods until after 3 months of age: beets, carrots, green beans, squash, and spinach for example.
*If you're worried about nitrates, buy frozen vegetables and fruits first.
   **When in doubt, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics for resources (www.aap.org) or www.foodsafety.gov is a great spot to learn how to keep you and your baby safe when it comes to food.
*Cook food until it is soft.
*Never sweeten baby food. Babies are sweet enough.
*Don't be afraid to use spices! This will help you deal with picky eaters later in life. Trust me. They can handle it. Just avoid the really hot stuff ... like hot sauces and habinaro peppers. That just seems like a bad idea anyway. You're the one that has to deal with diapers.

If you have a food processor, you're already ahead of the game! Though small blenders like The Magic Bullet work well. If you want to go all fancy, you can buy legit baby food makers in a lot of places. They have handy storage stuff, freezer kits, it's a sweet deal. If you're expecting, why not register for one? Then, when kiddo is grown up, pass it along to a friend.

Problem #2: The Fussy Eater

I'm really throwing down the hammer, huh? Kids are great, it's picky eaters we have trouble with. You just want them to eat right! And they won't do it!

Chicken nuggets are not a bastion of nutrition. So, how do we conquer the dinner table? Hide stuff ... reinvent the usual favorites ... oh, there are ways.

Usually if a child doesn't like something, it means they don't like the texture of it. Think of it ... they love the crunchy, creamy, smooth stuff ... not the grainy, chunky, different stuff. That's how most of us adults are, too. So, if you want to create a meal your kids will at least try, work on the texture of things first. There are countless resources for mothers with picky kids. An organization I love, Cooking Matters, is a great resource for healthy recipes that kids will gravitate toward. It's their job to get kids to be excited about nutrition and they are very good at what they do. For example:

Do your kids love chicken fingers? This is a great recipe to get them to enjoy them without turning to the processed stuff:

Cooking Matters Baked Flaked Chicken

You will need:
Chicken tenderloins
Corn Flakes
Eggs
Flour
Garlic powder
Salt and Pepper
Paprika
Canola Oil spray (like Pam or the generic brand)

Okay, first pound those corn flakes into corn crumbs- I like putting them in a big ziplock and smashing them with my fists. It's a lot of fun. Then, set up your assembly line: a bowl/deep dish of flour (seasoned with garlic powder, s & p, and paprika), then a bowl of egg wash, then a bowl of the corn crumbs.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with some canola oil. Send the tenderloins down the line, first in the flour, then in the egg, then the crumbs, and arrange them on the baking sheet. When they're all set up, do one more spray of canola oil over the top, then bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.

Bam. You have a new family favorite that tastes crispy without frying!

I could go on and on- and I will- but this is a fairly long read for now. I'll be working on another installment for the end of this week. Do you have a food problem you want addressed? Add it to the comments section and I'll see what kind of magic I can work!

Thanks for reading. May all your food frustrations turn in to lessons on how to enjoy life. xo


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A bit eggie

Mark and I got two new birds at the Deerfield Fair this past weekend. We couldn't help ourselves. Of our original 7, only 3 remain, and only two of those lay eggs. We needed to bring in new recruits. I've given them show names, like the others, but have affectionately started referring to them as Thing 1 and Thing 2.

Behold, Dilma Rousseff and Angela Merkel. They join Benazir Bhutto, Eva Perone, and Christiane Amanpour. Thing 1 was originally Maya Angelou (a favorite woman of mine), but her name wasn't in keeping with our line up. Maybe next time.

So, these ladies are Anconas. That means they're great layers ... a breeder told me they're black Leghorns. I don't really know what that means.

What I do know is they'll produce anywhere from 200 to 300 eggs per year. That's at least 1 per day from each of them. Our Americana and our Chantecler have both been giving us an egg a day for two weeks now. Looks like we're in egg heaven!

Now, what to do with all the eggs? Egg sandwiches are a morning favorite, as is brunch for breakfast. The roommates made this killer dish the other night with poached eggs on top!


Poached eggs aren't easy for a cooking novice. They take patience and the willingness to screw up a few times during the learning process. But once mastered, ohmahgoodness there is little that is better than a runny yolk.

How does one poach an egg? It's pretty simple:

Bring a pot of water to a boil, then lower the heat to a dull simmer.
Some folks add vinegar to the water. There's a legend out there that this helps the egg coagulate when dropped in the pot. I don't know if this is true or not, but I will say I've never poached eggs without it. I've only used just a dollop, never more than a few tablespoons worth.

Be sure your eggs are cold- right out of the fridge. Break them one at a time into a small bowl, then lightly place them into the water bath.

*DON'T STIR THE WATER! NEVER STIR THE WATER! JUST LET IT SIT THERE!*

When the whites become opaque and the yolk starts to cook, use a slotted spoon to pull the eggs out of the water. It's handy to keep some paper towels in your other hand and drain some of the water off your egg.

Place on pasta, hash, roasted veggies, pizza, hamburgers, anywhere you need protein and nature's perfect sauce: runny yolks!

Turns out you can poach just about anything in just about everything. Tomato juice, stocks, milk ... if it's liquid it can poach. Try poaching your eggs in something new and exciting. Be advised- eggs will change color depending on the poaching liquid. 

Also delightful: meringue. Light, delicate, difficult. For some. Well, for most of us. I can't tell you how many times I've failed to create stiff peaks out of egg whites and sugar, but fear not! There are easy ways to figure out what you're doing wrong. It's never the egg's fault.

Basic Meringue Recipe

Three egg whites
1 tsp cream of tartar or 1 tsp salt
3/4 cup fine grain sugar

Stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer
Big 'ol bowl

First things first: that bowl better be clean. Any grease or residual shmear that might be in the bowl will inhibit the growth of lustrous egg white peaks. I've made this mistake before when making mousse. In a fit of chaotic frenzy I accidentally whipped the cream first, not the eggs. Not thinking, I went seamlessly from one task to the other ... and had to toss a bunch of egg whites, wash the bowl, and start all over.

I'll never make that mistake again.

So, whip your egg whites until they start to foam. That gets a bunch of air in there and a place for sugar to take up residence. Once foamy, up your speed from medium to medium high on your mixer and add in your sugar just a bit at a time. That way the sugar dissolves evenly. I don't have a problem with gritty meringue, but some do. The picky ones. I know you're out there.

An important note: If you mix your egg whites too far, the proteins will start to separate. They will clump together in bunches and start to look dull and listless. If this has happened to you, throw the lot out and start over. Seriously.

Once your peaks are formed, you can stuff a bunch of the meringue into a clean gallon plastic bag and snip a hole in one corner, using it as a piping bag. You can pipe lovely clouds onto a parchment lined sheet and bake these suckers at 200 degrees or so- that way they won't brown.

You can also use this stuff to top a custard pie before it goes in the oven ... I made lemon meringue pie for my mother-in-law's birthday once. I think we all agreed it came out just fine.

You can also add various extracts and food coloring to get those delightful shades proudly advertised by French patisseries downtown. 

Add melted chocolate. Holy moly. Then add cayanne pepper. Mind. Blown.

Here's an awesome mousse recipe for you .. the one I use all the time:

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1 1/4 cups whipping cream
3 egg whites (use the yolks for some other application, like dinner)
tsp vanilla extract
1 cup fine grain sugar

So .. meringue your egg whites using 3/4 cup of the sugar, as listed above. Allow meringue to chill while you then whip 1 cup of the cream, adding the remaining sugar and the vanilla in the process.

Take the chocolate chips and melt them in a microwave safe bowl. It usually takes only a minute, stirring every 30 seconds.

I then temper the hot chocolate with the remaining 1/4 cup of cream. Next up, fold fold fold fold. Fold the chocolate into a quarter of the egg whites. Then fold that into the whipped cream. Then fold in the remaining egg whites.

Spoon into mugs or small bowls. Top with shaved chocolate, berries, guilt, shame.

Just kidding. It isn't *that* bad for you. Is it? It certainly tastes lighter than any other dessert I usually opt for. And that's what matters: how you feel in the end.

I think that's long winded enough for one blog post. Your homework this time is to seek out some local eggs. When in doubt, compare a local, farm fresh, egg to one from a large scale producer. I think you'll see a huge difference in yolk color, size, taste, and overall satisfaction.

Trust me. It's worth the extra money and effort.

May your meals be sunny-side-up moments in your busy life. xo






Thursday, September 20, 2012

Well cultured


Do you know what this is? There's kielbasa in the background, but in the foreground? It may look strange (even disgusting to some), but my friends that gravy smeared pile of fries isn't some stoned college kid's answer to the late-night-snack question. 

It's poutine (pronounced "puts-in" where I come from). This French Canadian delicacy is an amalgam of  French fries, turkey gravy, cheese curds, and sometimes pieces of turkey, though turkey a poutine does not make.


It wasn't until my early twenties that I started to realized that New England, specifically the Northern portions of New Hampshire where my family hails from, actually can claim regional and culturally based cuisine. Like living down the street from the Eiffel Tower ... it is easy to take for granted what is right in front of you. For a long time I took for granted that I had a food culture at all.

That was a perfect segue into what I really wanted to talk about in this post. Not heart attack inducing entrees, but food cultures. 

Now, food culture can be an incredibly broad term. Americans have a food culture that is different from Thailand, France, Spain, Morocco, etc. However, the concept can be used with even more precision. Tennessee's food culture is a far cry from New Hampshire's. And even further, Berlin and Concord can feel alien when examined on a food culture basis. Get into people's homes- eat dinner with them- and you find that the gap gets wider still. Each of us is born into a food culture that shapes not only the food on our future plates, but the significance that food holds in our lives.

It's kind of a big deal.

So ... my food culture. Well, you could probably assume from the beginning of this post that I am French Canadian. My folks were born in Berlin, NH and as with lots of families that originated in and around the Great North Woods, hunting and fishing and all around foraging hold a place at our table. My mother always had a garden when I was little and was adamant that my sisters and I learn to feed ourselves and to feed others. There was always more than enough food on the table and the processed stuff rarely found its way into our cupboards. Food wasn't just for fuel, it was for celebrating; a way to show someone you love them.

With this set of rules there are also recipes woven in to the fabric of who I am today. My mom's Bouliabaisse,  Roasted Beet and Potato Salad, Summer Fresh Caprese, Feel Better Chicken Soup, Morning Hash made with the previous night's leftovers, the perfect egg sandwich, the list goes on and on.

My husband's family has added to this familial food culture of mine. Everyone brings something to the table- a meal is meant to be shared and enjoyed together. Grammy's handwritten recipe books are treasured and serve as a road map to a family history's worth of meals. Christmas Cookies, Sugar Pie, Grammy's famous German Chocolate Cake, Baked Haddock, Jello Salad (which my husband and brother-in-law affectionately call "Booger Salad", since it is made with lime flavored jello).

There's a lot of joy in these memories and flavors, but food cultures can create problems for us as well. Unhealthy relationships with food, fostered by personal experiences or the rules we were raised with, can create battles with weight and nutritional deficiencies. Over-eating, under-eating, limited diets, food allergy battles; these can all be side effects of the very same things that bring so much joy to our lives.

I am learning that becoming deeply in touch with my personal food culture allows me to maintain the good points and hopefully move on from the bad ones. It is a constant work in progress.

I think I will give you some homework. Think about your own personal food culture. What value did your parents put on food. What foods were off limits? What foods were celebrated? How have your family's attitudes about food bled into your adult life? Have they affected you positively or negatively?

If anything, this is a great examination into who we are as family members and as individuals. If anything, we gain more insight into who we are ... and that's never a bad thing. 

I would love to hear from you about your favorite aspects of your personal "food culture". Is there a recipe you can't live without? A "food rule" that has helped shape who you are? I would love to learn more.

In the mean time, feast with your family. You'll never regret it. xo

Friday, September 14, 2012

Stuffed to the gills ...

I posted a photo recently of some stuffed eggplant I made. The recipe came out of necessity. Mark harvested all of our large fruit when night temperatures were predicted to dip into the 40s. There are still new eggplants growing and I'm sure I'll be making another batch of this stuff by the end of the month.

Sorry for the photo quality. I just really wanted to eat the damn thing.

Okay. To start:

Boil a big ol' pot full of water, lightly salted. Puncture your eggplants of choice all over with a fork, then dunk them into the pot, allowing them to cook until softened fully. Keep in mind, the eggplants won't want to cooperate and you may have to keep turning them. It's okay, this is good for them- they just don't know it. Allow them to cool before you man-handle them.

In the mean time, boil up a cup of Basmati rice, following package directions. It should only take about 15 minutes. To the rice add the following, in no particular order, using a very large bowl. This makes a lot of stuffing:

1 cup Italian bread crumbs (these are optional, my gluten-free friends, or you can make your own bread crumbs out of a gluten free loaf, well toasted and pulsed in the food processor).
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
1 diced heirloom tomato (that's just what I had on hand, you can use any tomato you want)
2 Tbs chopped basil
2 Tbs chopped parsley
1/4 cup fat free sour cream
1 half onion, diced
3 or 4 garlic cloves, pressed or run over a microplane
S&P to taste (you won't need much salt, with all that cheese and such)

When the eggplants are cool enough to touch, cut them down the middle the long way (keep their green hats on, it helps the small end stay whole) and scoop out the innards with a grapefruit spoon, or score with a sharp knife and then scoop. You can use your hands. That method is what I fall back on most of the time.

When you've gutted the shells, careful not to bust the eggplant skin, dice the eggplant guts and add it to the rice mixture.

Now, stuff that eggplant. I mean, really heap it in there. When all the skins are full, place them in a baking dish with a bunch of tomato sauce in it. I topped each stuffed eggplant with a slice of mozzarella for effect. Bake those suckers at 400 until the sauce underneath them starts to bubble and the cheese on top starts to brown. That's the kind of timing I use when I cook- by sight. Don't be afraid to open the oven door. This isn't  a souffle we're making.

Serve each of the eggies with a bunch of sauce and watch them disappear. These were a huge hit at the table and are a creative way to use up all those purple monsters lurking in your garden. 

Good luck using up your produce, everyone. It's no easy task. When in doubt, spread the love around then tear up your plants and start a winter crop! Our garlic goes in the ground next month. More on that soon.

In the mean time, eat up and pull out those sweaters. Winter, she's a'comin' for us. xo



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A movable feast.



Let's talk about feeding people.

In Hillsborough County, 9% of residents don't know where their next meal is coming from. In Coos County, that number jumps to 12%.

My profession allows me to create menus and healthy meals for my clients. It is exciting and creative and fulfilling. I love what I do. But as I'm doing this job I can't help but think of those that don't have the luxury of planned, healthy meals.

September is Hunger Awareness Month and the New Hampshire Food Bank has been promoting the effort. It is through the Food Bank that I get the opportunity to participate in Cooking Matters, a division of Share Our Strength. I am a culinary volunteer for classes that teach children, adults and families how to cook healthier meals, shop smarter, and enjoy meal time with their families. It is incredibly rewarding and the Cooking Matters staff is full of gifted and passionate people. I am honored to be in their company. I like the "teach a man to fish" concept of providing aid. It is one thing to give someone a meal, but teach them the independence of cooking for themselves and you can change their life completely. It is a skill I took for granted- an education I was blessed with at a young age. I am thrilled to pay it forward.

This is a strange time for the Food Bank. People are sending their kids back to school, taking a break after summer vacations and preparing for the holiday season. The need for food/monetary donations is up, but the influx of any donations is down. We're all just preoccupied. Please consider making a donation to the food bank or simply spreading the word about hunger in our country. We hear of famine across the globe, but it lives in our own back yard.

It doesn't need to.

In other news, I was thrilled to get a call from the Concord Monitor the other night. I had sent out press releases to local media outlets in an effort to extend my reach in the Greater Concord area. I was delighted to get a text message the following afternoon while I was in the middle of a cook date.

"Great write up in the paper!"

I had forgotten all about it. Talk about a fast turn around. I was thrilled when I saw the headline:

Fairy godmother is her business model

I had never thought of it that way, but was I ever thrilled at the comparison! It wasn't long, but I was pleased with the whole article. Some great friends of mine shared it across social media. Here's hoping people read it and get a better understanding of what I do for a living. I get a lot of confused glances when I tell people I'm a "personal chef." They're not sure what to do with a title like that.

I am also expecting a piece in the Hippo Press soon. Back in a past life of mine I was a writer there, so it felt strange to be sending them a press release (and I told them so in my e-mail!). Regardless of that, their food writer Luke Steere gave me a call and we had a long chat about my business and what I love to do- feed people. That piece will have a photo with it, which should be helpful down the road. I know the Hippo has a ton of readers, I hope they are interested in what I do! I am so anxious for the next issue. I will let you know when it hits news stands.

As with most of my posts, I like to end with a good recipe or two. So, why break tradition?? Our family runs around a bit crazy in the mornings and the earliest of us need a fast way to get breakfast in. The answer was a combined effort between myself and my sister Melissa:

Egg Cups.

Lightly grease a muffin tin and add to the cups any vegetables you desire. These had a bunch of Swiss Chard and Shallots in them. Leave enough room to crack one egg into each cup on top of the veggies. Sprinkle with cheese and bake at 350 for 10 to 15 minutes, maybe 20, minding the doneness of the yolk. I like a runny yolk, so I went with a few less minutes and finished with a quick blast under the broiler. Garnish with Sriracha. Because it belongs at breakfast. Even on cereal.

Besides that, we've been inundated with peaches at our house. My favorite start in the morning is plain yogurt with sliced peach, crushed walnuts and a bit of honey. It's an energy boost! Our favorite peach dessert this year has become a welcomed favorite by many of my clients- several request it over and over again. I can't take credit for it. The folks at Bon Appetit Magazine gave me this gem- and when I say it is incredibly easy, I mean it. God bless and easy dessert that even a cook (not a baker) can master pretty quickly.

Nevermind the "Blueberry" in the title, this recipe will work with any fruit you throw at it. I like mixing peach and blueberry when the season is at a crossroads.



Blueberry Drop Biscuit Cobbler (copied and pasted for your convenience)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups plus 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" pieces
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp. crème fraîche or sour cream
  • 6 cups fresh blueberries (about 2 lb.)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 375°. Whisk 1 1/2 cups flour, 3 Tbsp. sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add butter; using your fingertips, incorporate until only pea-size lumps remain. Gently mix in crème fraîche. Knead in bowl until a biscuit-like dough forms, 5–7 turns (overmixing will make dough tough).
  • Combine remaining 1 cup sugar, remaining 3 Tbsp. flour, berries, juice, and zest in a large bowl. Toss to coat. Pour into an 8x8x2" glass baking dish or divide among six 6-oz. ramekins. Tear biscuit topping into quarter-size crumbles; scatter over berries.
  • Bake cobbler until juices are thick and bubbling and topping is cooked through and deep golden brown, 20–25 minutes for ramekins or 45–50 minutes for baking dish. Let cool for at least 1 hour.


Read More http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/quick-recipes/2012/08/blueberry-drop-biscuit-cobbler#ixzz26AKC2U4j



That about covers it for now. What a great summer I was blessed with. I hope you feel the same about yours. Now, it's time to toast to changing leaves, heartier fare, and layered clothing.

This New Hampshire native wishes you all the best that Autumn has to offer. xo

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Augustus

This month usually throws me for a loop. Outside of my sister's looming wedding there are birthdays, bridal showers, anniversaries, bachelorette parties, weddings. With lots of celebration comes lots of indulgence. As a person who cooks for a living, it's difficult to keep the ol' girlish figure. It takes discipline and I don't have a ton of that virtue lying around. Thank god we live in a society that values a "boot-strap" philosophy. There's plenty of assistance for the do-it-yourself-er, and I'm a fan of getting help when it's needed.

So, being an American- one who, as my nutritionist would say, is "lit-up" by food- it behooves me to be proactive in my approach to health and my weight in the future (ie, after children, which is an eventual and inevitable thing). I've struggled to maintain my weight my whole life, and the struggle continues. Nay, it continues to get more difficult. I exercise regularly ... about five to six times a week ... I eat good foods, maintain a healthy diet for the most part ... but there is this trigger in my brain that overwhelms my gut signals when it comes to delicious food. When that happens, I'm more likely to finish a platter of food for 20 people than I am to stop when I'm actually full.

It's a problem. But, I'm working on it.

Seems the whole house has gone health-crazy, trying desperately to not make a trip to Beech Hill Farm and Ice Cream Barn trip before the clock strikes 8 pm. We're big ice cream fans around here. We try not to have it in the house at all.

In the midst of all this dogged running, crunching, squatting, lunging madness, I've found some pretty awesome and healthy recipes. Now, when it comes to eating healthy the key is to make food as easy as possible. Anything that requires too much trouble is out the window. That's why I fell in love with this little concoction right here:

Eggplant coins. It's a riff on a recipe I found on Pinterest, called Eggplant pizza.

Mark Bittman wrote that he used to say he never invented a recipe in his whole life ... but lately he's backtracking on that statement. To read a great piece by him recently, click here. So that said, the inspiration was there and I just took it to a different place.

I love photographing my cutting boards. They are usually scattered and my mise en place is never really "en place" ... ya' dig?

Most of the ingredients for this came from our humble home garden. We are slowly pulling heirloom tomatoes from the vines, but it feels like hundreds of pounds of them are sitting there all green and lovely, refusing to move. Dammit. Get some color already. The eggplants, on the other hand, are always ready to party.

So I sliced them into coins about a centimeter thick, lined them up on a baking sheet, brushed them with olive oil, then baked them at 400 for about 20 minutes.

In the meantime I sauteed the chopped tomatoes in olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and a bit of left over canned "tomato sauce" I had sitting in the fridge that needed to be used before it went fuzzy.

When the "coins" were done, I topped them with tomato paste, my simmered tomatoes, parmesan cheese, and added basil in the last five minutes of cooking. I think the thing cooked for a total of 30 or 32 minutes. I ate them until I was over-full.

Banh Mi knock offs have been a regular in the house, too. With two dozen cucumbers picked on average a day, I need to figure out ways to use them. They're covered by pickled carrots and red onion here, but trust me- they make an impact.

Banh Mi sauce is what gives this whole shin dig a little spring in its step (and its name). I like using the following ingredients for pretty consistent results:

0% Greek Yogurt
Maybe some sour cream? If you have it.
Cilantro. Lots.
Fish sauce. A good splash.
Lime juice. SO tasty.
Sriracha. Enough to give you a rosy glow.

Mix that together and set some aside as a dip, shmear, whatever. Toss your protein in the rest and grill up for one satisfying meal. I love to add cabbage, slices of cucumber made by using a peeler, and lots of zippy pickled carrot and onion.

That could be eaten as a salad, a wrap, on a baguette, in a panini on your trusty George Foreman Grill, you name it.

All of this was lying around. I absolutely recommend finding any used summer issues of Bon Appetit, Food and Wine, Cooking Light ... their recipes are good all summer and many of these savvy publications get the fact that we're all too busy to make a creme anglaise or some other ridiculous culinary feat at 5:30 at night with a hungry family as an audience. It aint happenin'. By some stroke of consumer polling, they figured out we would prefer if they would just KISS.

Keep it simple, sister.

That's more like it. 

May all of your bikini wishes and ice cream dreams come true. xo




Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Post pizza satisfaction.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard people categorize pizza alongside sex.

"Even the bad kind is good," I hear them say.

As untrue as this may be, pizza has had an iron-clad grip on my heart for going on 3 decades. Raise your hand if you feel the same.

That's a good show of hands.

Pizza, flatbreads, pies, no matter their form these guys are the easy dinner kings- giving freedom to kitchens everywhere when the weekend is finally here and let's face it: we don't want to cook for real, but we sure as hell can't bring ourselves to deal with take-out.

There's never a bad time to pick up a few new pizza ideas. This Friday the family put together three summer favorites to pair with loads of red wine and a fire out back built in the half-an-oil-drum we buried as a fire pit. It looks a lot prettier than it sounds. I swear.

Yankee ingenuity is a powerful thing, folks. That is also where our evolution of pizza comes from.

I choose wines solely on their labels. A vineyard's smart marketing is truly their gain when it comes to this drinker. 
It helps that I love chickens. ::cluck cluck::

Stoic with Red.

I took the easy route and bought pre-made pizza dough ... the kind you have to knead yourself, not the pre-baked. I've been so busy lately that it's been a while since I made my own dough.

Don't judge me.

Anyways ... the first Friday night pizza I put together was: Eggplant.

We have these fancy Japanese eggplants in the garden this year, all long and thin and funny.


They're coming along faster than their shorter, fatter counterparts. I sauteed them with garlic, olive oil, white wine, some cherry tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper. once everything was soft and "saucy", I layered the mixture over tomato sauce and then topped it with shredded mozzarella. It was pretty awesome on a whole wheat crust.

There she is, pre-baking time. Very excited about how it came out. The leftovers were even better! After a day in the fridge, this pie was super flavorful!


Next up was the summer squash white pizza. The base was olive oil and garlic, just smeared all over the top. Then I layered thinly sliced summer and zucchini squash, topped it with thyme, goat cheese, salt and pepper. This one was the overall favorite of the night. Who knew?



And there's dinner. The chip in the plate gives the shot character. We only use the good plates for company.

Melissa threw together a caramelized onion and chicken sausage pizza with mozzarella on a multigrain crust. In the long run, huge pizza success. The moral of the story? Get creative. Pizza is just bread with a bunch of stuff on it. That stuff can be anything. Go the garden, see what's ready to eat, and wing it.

Remember ... even the bad ones are good. Right?

Happy eating! xo



Sunday, July 15, 2012

Dinner is served.

I wanted to take a moment to reflect on value.

I'm not talking about money, necessarily. I'm talking about real "value." What is a sunset worth? The sea? Losing an admiral amount of weight? Seeing your favorite band from the front row of a huge auditorium?

How about an easy meal with your closest friends and family?

I have some fantastic clients in this line of work- from as far North as Lebanon to as far South as Hollis. One of my favorite tasks for these splendid folks is giving them the freedom to play host.

For some of us there is nothing more stressful than trying to entertain a room full of people AND trying to make them all dinner at the same time.

Then think of the dishes.


That's an herb and garlic crusted 6LB beef tenderloin to feed 12 people. Do you want to man-handle that kind of meet with a kitchen full of people?

I didn't think so.

I just wanted to drive home the value of having a dinner party surrounded by friends and family. One where you can drink as much wine as you want because if you get drunk, the food won't suffer.

I don't drink while I work. The food is great. Trust me. I cook with a smile and it shows.

So the next time a momentous occasion is on the horizon and all you want to do is celebrate- call me. I can make sure that you actually do just that: celebrate. Forget sweating in that dress/suit you paid a lot for because the apron and the oven don't care how long it took you to get dressed.

Forever Feasting to the rescue. Your holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and foodie-friend meals will never be the same.

And that's a good thing.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Here's gluten at you, kid.

We should talk about the should haves ... not about the can't haves. As a nutritionist told my husband and I recently, "We're looking for progress, not perfection."

I thought that was brilliant. It gave me chills.

Then I had ice cream cake.

The truth of the matter is, food is powerful stuff. We take for granted all that it can do for and against us. I find myself shaking a fist at the ice cream that has crept its way into our freezer (I didn't buy it, I swear). I can't help but salivate for loaves of bread with gobs of spread (butter, jam, makes no difference). It takes will power to avoid those things we know are not so good for us. Our brain wants them so badly, but our body's cells cry out in anguish ... I have a feeling that's where eater's remorse comes from. I experience that pretty frequently.

I find this to be a really lovely shot of mussels at Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier.
Plus, mussels are gluten free. I'm addicted to them.


And then there are the folks who have been told, either by a doctor, nurse or surgeon, "You have a ___ allergy." Insert whichever one suits your situation.

Then, imagine that after you've been given this diagnosis you realize that everything you've eaten in the past week contained that allergen. It is so embedded into your life that you have no idea how to get rid of all of it at once. What would you eat?!

We don't all go through it, but a lot of us do. I'm here to tell you that there is no end to the pleasure of good food. A lot of our problems arise from processed foods. Put a whole-foods spin on things and you'll feel like a new (wo)man. Do a lot of label reading. If you can't pronounce it, don't eat it. Scratch that: if a five-year-old can't pronounce it, don't eat it.

I have lots of clients who have to avoid gluten in particular. I have my own theories on the exploding population of people with gluten sensitivities and ciliac disease ... theories that involve GMO wheat and maniacal corporations viewing our heads like giant wallets ... but I digress.

Living gluten free, dairy free, garlic free (yes, I know people with garlic sensitivities) might not be easy at first, but it is possible. If you feel like you're in over your head, perhaps it's time to call a nutritionist and a personal chef? Talk about a weight off your shoulders (and your middle ... hehe!). Our job is to make sure you stay healthy, but also that you can still find joy in your meals every day.

If you aren't excited about every single meal or snack that comes into your life, you need to make some adjustments.

Maybe the following lines of text could help you find new meals you may not have thought of before?

How about some recipes and pretty pretty pictures?

This here is from a girls weekend with my foodie friends from college. Chicken on the grill with that simple Lemon Anything vinaigrette I wrote about a few posts back. We threw some asparagus on the grill, too. And then the grill lit on fire- like, engulfed in flames. We had to turn the propane off and back away slowly. Thank goodness the chicken was cooked all the way through.

Gluten and dairy free turkey burgers! I used brass fennel, garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil and an egg. Usually I would recommend adding some bread crumbs to the mixture to add girth, but it really isn't all that necessary. These were dynamite. Turn them into meat balls and douse them with marinara and you have the makings of a great Italian meal. We put these together during a romantic week away. 

Fennel Turkey Burgers:

1 LB ground turkey (93-7 works really well)
2 Tbs fresh chopped fennel fronds
2 minced cloves of garlic
1 Tbs olive oil
1 medium egg
S & P ... about a tsp each

Form into four equal sized patties and allow to chill for a few minutes. Grill on high heat until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees or more.

The next night we did Puttanesca Haddock with Green Beans:

1 1/2 LB haddock fillet
2 cans (14 oz) of diced tomatoes in juice
2 minced cloves of garlic
3 Tbs olive oil, divided
1 or two anchovies, depending on how you like it
1/2 cup kalamata olives
1 Tbs capers
2 Tbs fresh chopped basil
1 LB washed and snapped green beans
S & P to taste

Start fish in a 400 degree oven, dressed with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook until opaque in the center. Meanwhile, start one Tbs of oil in a pan over medium heat. Add garlic and anchovy and allow to cook until anchovy is liquefied into the mixture. Add tomatoes and allow to heat through. Next add olives and capers. Allow sauce to simmer until slightly reduced and saucy. Toss all that basil in just before serving. Blanch green beans in hot, salted water until bright green, then rinse with cold water to stop cooking. Toss with remaining oil, salt and pepper.

Arrange on plates with beans first, then sauce, then serving of fish, then more sauce. This meal should feed four people, but it fed Mark and I just fine with some left over to give to a friend who lived nearby.

 The following night was baked sweet potatoes with maple sugar and butter, grilled corn, and sirloin steak with a my newly invented and brilliantly dubbed: Up-North Guiness Sauce. BAMF!

Up-North Guiness Sauce
This is powerful stuff flavor wise. It can be devious on its own, but slather it on some Porterhouse and you have heaven on a plate.

1/2 bottle traditional Guiness (a bit more if you enjoy more of a beer taste) 
3 Tbs maple syrup
3 Tbs unsalted butter
S & P to taste

Throw all of that into a pan and allow to simmer on low heat until reduced significantly. Spoon over anything that once had a face.

I put this together and used the ratios strictly by accident and I was beyond thrilled with the results. It will be a repeat offender in my kitchen from here on out.

These are Chocolate Cherry Heirloom Tomatoes. They're producing fruit the fastest in our garden. Very excited to watch them change color!

I've been told I need to stop eating so much cheese. But with a place like Butter's Fine Food and Wine just a stone's throw away, that might not be possible. I'll give up ice cream instead. Maybe.

Now *that* is a healthy looking grill. It all came together for Melissa's next birthday dinner (one that fell on her actual birthday- well done, sister).

So, I had found this recipe on an epicurious app and made it for some clients. I liked it so much it was what I decided to bring to the party. Too bad I wasn't bright enough to take a picture of it with the sauce. Just imagine it's beauty for me.

Grilled Shrimp with Tzatziki Sauce and Greens

1 LB large/jumbo shrimp
1 cup diced cucumber
1 cup Greek style yogurt (I used Cabot)
2 Tbs lemon juice
2 Tbs chopped dill
2 Tbs minced shallot
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
5 oz mixed greens, or lettuce right out of the garden (my preferred option)
1 Tbs olive oil
S & P (lots of it)

Skewer your shrimp, dress them with olive oil, salt and pepper and grill them for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side- you know ... until they're done.

In a bowl mix the next five ingredients together and season generously with salt and pepper. Allow the mixture to chill for a bit.

Lay your shrimps on a bed of lettuce and sprinkle them with the feta. Serve with LOTS of the sauce. Be sure to make extra sauce because you'll want the leftovers to put on everything. That stuff could make a gym sock taste amazing.

I've been long winded enough for this post. I'm glad you lasted through the whole thing! Thanks for reading!

And remember, no matter what adversity your gut may face there is always a way to appease the gastric gods. Don't hesitate to ask for advice, find an awesome food blog to follow (*ahem!*), and try new things!

Now ... I have a bone to pick with the remaining ice cream in the freezer. I'm going to give it a piece of my mind. 

xo

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Ginger Spiced Summer

Ginger beer is one of my favorite things on earth.

Soda (Pop, Fizz) is something I steer clear of altogether. Commercially sold soft drinks are full of garbage we don't need and our bodies DO NOT want.

If it can take blood off of a highway and the rust off of a car bumper, I don't want it in my belly.

What the soft drink companies don't want you to know is how simple making this stuff really is.

Water + Sugar + Flavor + Bubbles = Bliss

For Podunk Fest (Melody and Matt's new annual festivus for the rest of us), I decided to bring the elements for one of my favorite cocktails, the Dark & Stormy.

Here is the process from beginning to end:



A rough chop through about 2 cups worth of ginger root.


Add half a vanilla bean and a few solid strips of lemon peel.

Then boil that son-of-a-gun in 6 cups of water. When the ginger is cooked through, add 4 cups of sugar.

Chilled and standing in the morning sunlight.

Well dressed and ready to party.


Now, in order to turn this sugar combination into fizzy lifting drink, we need to add club soda. In addition to that, some spiced rum helps a lot.  
Podunk Fest was an incredible time. Here is how the rest of the evening went. A big thanks to Melody and Matt for hosting everyone. Well done, you two.

A few delighted smiles. Now, where's the food?

Matt had the great idea to provide this crowd with a crawfish bake. This was the secret to success.

Glorious crawfish. Loads of them.

They're so purty.

Say hello to my little friend.

That's a hungry crowd.

That's a dog.


Our lovely host, enjoying local strawberries.

Mom's famous raspberry lemonade with a splash of ginger syrup. Delicious!


May all of your celebrations with friends and family be the stuff of vibrant and loving memories. xo