I got asked to create a meal for a luncheon meeting and had a super fun time planning and creating the menu. Whenever I am dreaming up food combinations I call up my favorite sounding board. My favorite sounding board is named Ellen. Ellen just happens to be my favorite mother. My mom is awesome! My mother appreciates how I think out of the box when it comes to flavor combinations and never want my food to be "typical," "predictable," or "boring." She also never thinks I'm crazy when I come up with sandwich combinations like you will soon read about. My mom knows me well and also has a great sense of style. I think food, any food, can and should be stylish and attractive as well as tasty; even just a business lunch, maybe especially a business lunch. There are no rules in cooking; a cook can get as creative as they like. She helps me fine tune my ideas...
I went into my yard and was excited to see my kale and herbs were doing great and that there were still a few nasturtiums about just waiting to be put into a salad! I used the herbs in a fresh herby dressing and julienned the kale to toss in with the organic lettuces. Dish one done. I wanted to offer at least two different types of sandwiches so I made a lemon and tarragon chicken salad which I served on fresh, homemade brioche bread and julienned pineapple sage. Dish two done. For the second sandwich mushrooms came to mind along with lavash. Lavash is about as different from a buttery brioche as you can get. Lavash is firm yet soft and slightly chewy yet tender enough to not rip out your front teeth when you eat it. I spread it with a feta and cream cheese mixture and topped that with mushrooms I sautéed in olive oil and slow roasted garden heirloom yellow cherry tomatoes. I let the mixture cook down until most all the liquid was absorbed. For a bit of crunch, I julienned and then sautéed two types of salami and then cooked it on medium-high heat until it was crispy. Super savory and yummy! (Thank you sounding board-mom!) For dessert I made two organic apple tarts; one with pastry cream and one French-Style.
The problem with my brilliant idea is I knew I needed to make my own lavash. I have never made lavash. Cut to me searching the internet for a good, basic lavash recipe. Cut to me not finding a good, basic recipe. Cut to me, you guessed it, making a good, basic lavash recipe up. Sound good? Well, yes. What is the problem? I decided to do ALL this, in the morning, before heading out to my day job and in-between my morning workout and bringing our daughter to school. I find I function well against time pressure. My brain kicks into overdrive and cylinders that are usually dormant fire. How does this relate to lavash you must be thinking? Dah!!!! I came up with a brilliant way to save time and energy. Lavash must be rolled very thinly. This takes time. Time I did not have; so, a solution came to mind. Use my pasta maker to roll out the lavash! Brilliant right! I know! You're welcome! (I am easily impressed with myself...)
No really, use your inexpensive countertop pasta maker to roll out the lavash dough. For a sandwich it was perfect! I hope you decide to give the lavash recipe on my recipe page a try and use my time-saving tip. I know, I know, just go to the grocery store and buy the lavash but then you'd miss out on an opportunity to use your pasta maker... You decide. Lavash or not lavash.
Decaf or Regular?
Most mornings I follow a routine.
Every morning I wake up, reach over, grab my phone, check my emails and various social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram...gosh my life is public!
Next I limp to the bathroom to brush my teeth and wish to heck arthritis was not a bad friend.
I let Lollipop out for her morning inspection of every place she has ever gone potty... Yell at her repeatedly to "GO POTTY!!!!" Curse under my breath I have a dog.... Change my mind about the under the breath curses because when I see her wagging tail and smiling face my heart melts. Dog owners know what I am talking about here.
Then it is time to head into the kitchen and longingly gaze at my coffee pot... This takes a minute. Coffee comes after my morning workout and each day I wish to heck I was just born NOT needing to workout for the rest of my life.
I do my morning workout. (Obviously the above wish was not granted.)
I finally get my cup of coffee. The older I get, the longer this seems...
I drive our daughter to school and ready myself for a great day.
What I have failed to mention here is that in between these activities, there is a LOT of nagging happening. I wake up nearly one hour before our daughter so I have time to curse the alarm and procrastinate before my morning workout. I am a very talented procrastinator. It is impressive. I can find at least 30 things that MUST be done before I workout; maybe 33! Somehow I honestly think I will get them done in time to squeeze in a workout. Each day I plan my workout for the next day. Each day I do the 30-33 things BEFORE the planned workout and each day I am shocked to discover time ticks away at warp speed!
Anyway, the reason I wake up before our daughter is to avoid the nagging. As I illustrated above, my mornings do not always go as planned. True procrastination requires time. Time I am committed to giving. IF you're going to do something, do it properly! That said, once I do finally begin my workout I would like to complete my workout. Here is where the conflict begins. Our younger daughter is in high school now and she is a member of the band. High school begins at 7:30am which means leaving home at 7:05am (IF we wish to avoid traffic which, dah, we do.) On days she has band practice, she needs to be at school BY 7:00am which means we have to leave BY 6:45am. Simple enough right? WRONG!!!! In our daughter's lovely head, it is imperative to begin the nagging process well before the designated departure time to ensure the designated departure time happens precisely at the designated time. NOT two minutes before OR (God forbid) two minutes after! This needs to be clearly understood.
The translation of the above is this; at approximately 6:30am each day, our daughter transforms into Popcorn. Popcorn is the old fashioned telephone number we used to call when I was little to find out what time it was, precisely. Popcorn said, and I quote. "The time is 6:30 am. Exactly." We used to use it set watches after power outages and to nag our parents about being late. Frankly, I thought it was cool. (This was WAY before Smart Phones people so give me a break!) Now that you have an understanding, here is a typical way my morning goes:
Daughter: 'Mom! It's 6:30!'
Mother: No response.
Daughter: "MOM! Did you hear me? It's 6:30... I mean 6:31!"
Mother: 'Okay." (trying to sound both pleasant and patient so as to avoid an argument)
Daughter: 'Mom? It's 6:33 and we have to leave at 6:45 remember?'
Mother: No response.
Daughter: 'MOM! Did you hear me?'
Mother: 'Yes." (still trying to sound pleasant but failing)
Daughter: Audible sighs and tromping
Daughter: "I'm putting my shoes on!" followed by more tromping about...
Mother: 'Did you make my coffee?"
Daughter: Loud sounds of tromping and dropping what sounds like a backpack followed by stomping into the kitchen and sighs that are now groans.
Mother: "Well? I didn't think so. Why don't you put energy into being proactive instead of nagging? You KNOW I need coffee to make it up the street to school'...
You get the picture right? I bet there are many of you whose mornings have a similar flavor. I have omitted the part about her getting in the car and sitting there in the dark garage while I frantically hunt down car keys and add cream and sugar to my coffee.
A sign of real love is when I leave the coffee and drive her... This is a rarity.
I got to thinking about coffee and regular versus decaffeinated coffee. Isn't the reason we drink coffee for the caffeine? How silly to drink decaffeinated coffee? I thought I would include here a simple guide to making proper coffee. Don't serve me that watery stuff that looks (and tastes) more like tea. I want coffee strong enough to give a water buffalo palpitations! After the morning I've had? I deserve it!
Proper Coffee (1 serving to put hair on your chest and a spring in your step)
1 generous tablespoon of dark roast coffee
6 ounces fresh, clean water
Place each where it goes in your coffee pot and enough.
Who's in charge?
I have been a professional cooking instructor for several years and during this time I have seen and heard it all. I have seen students nearly chop off fingers and taught people who never in their lives touched or smelled let alone cooked with fresh herbs. I see students wearing flip flops to work in a professional kitchen and become astounded at the thought such footwear is dangerous. I have had people get angry with me when I insist they wash their hands after blowing their nose! I am NOT kidding about the last one either. I have even been the horrified witness of a person getting hair torn out in a freak electric mixer incident! The most prevalent thing I see however is the way students in a kitchen feel like they are not in charge.
Have you ever felt like someone is watching over your shoulder when you cook? Have you ever felt self-conscience when you're alone in your own kitchen? Now, magnify that by 100 and you're on to how a great majority of people feel when cooking. Why is this? Even I fall victim to it. A lot of us cook like we are being watched. I think it's because we get caught up in the fake world of picture perfect television food. Food that NEVER needs the faintest touch of additional salt, NEVER sticks or burns and is ALWAYS gorgeous. People feel badly about themselves and their cooking ability and feel like their cooking is 'not good enough'! See? NOT in control! Most people, I find, DO NOT control their cooking but rather let the cooking control them. Cooking should be fun and cooking should be comfortable. The way we stand to clean, prepare and cook our food matters and is important. Keeping our equipment maintained is important ad well. Have you ever noticed when you're chopping your shoulders are in your ears? A slow and persistent ache sets in you may not even notice because it is slow and persistent. Maybe your hands begin to hurt too. Good tips for a novice are: When cooking, 1. pull your stomach in, 2. pull your shoulders back, 3. hold the knife correctly, 4. position the cutting board to an angle you like. Follow these tips and I bet the aches and pains stop or never begin in the first place. Additionally, 5.be organized and 6. be clean. Also, 7. Read a recipe through to its end and 8. gather ingredients and equipment you need before beginning and finally, 9. have a plan. Nine easy to follow tips to becoming a better and in charge home chef.
The average home cook, especially a novice one, has terrible posture and equipment placement. Sometimes they stand with their hips jutting out at a disco angle with one foot out to the side and the other facing the counter. Sometimes the angle of the board is to blame or the way the knife is held. Perhaps the knife is dull which makes cutting properly both more difficult and less safe.
To hold a knife properly and comfortably, here is what you do:
Pick up the knife with your index finger and thumb pinching the blade at the point where it is closest to the handle.
Keep your remaining three fingers out of the way.
The handle should rest on the padded, softie part of your hand; not the boney center bit.
Try it and I think you will notice an improvement.
I recommend using zucchini squash to practice knife skills because it's not too soft and not too hard.
Many older people and people with arthritis end up giving up cooking altogether because of pain. Try the above tips if pain is preventing you from preparing food. I hope they help. Cooking can be such a source of joy and is a great way to show someone you care. Take back your kitchen! How? Be mindful in the kitchen. Mindful of your body and your equipment. Be careful and clean. Be the boss in your kitchen and take charge!
Tomato Soldiers make a last stand.
Summer is quickly fading. I am not quite sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, I am sick to death of bugs. Bugs in the house. Bugs at the office. Bugs in the garden. The bugs are mean and hungry - an exceptionally lethal combination of temperaments. Just putting our dog Lollipop out to do her business is like offering these mean bugs a smorgasbord! I skittishly venture outside and offer myself up to the flying, biting little jerks. I stupidly believe I have a right to be in my own garden. What am I thinking? Here is the order of happenings:
1. I set a toe outside the sunroom.
2. I present a leg.
3. I offer the rest of me as if to say 'Dark meat or white?'
The whole experience leaves me...
4. frustrated, angry, itching and in general, glad the cold weather is around the corner!
That said, as much as I am "ready" for the cold weather, I am also decidedly NOT ready for the cold weather. I know what is coming...Wind so cold it will drive a chill through your bones so fierce it will last for days. A day that looks clear and sunny but is below zero and everything is covered in black ice. Nights beyond pitch black.
I have noticed since we moved to the East, I get this anxious feeling about winter coming. I enjoy sweaters and bundling and soup and mulled wine as much as the next person but I'm not really big on the aches and pains that accompany the cold so it's a mixed reaction. On the one hand, in-between summer and winter is fall. Fall is the universe's way of rewarding us for surviving August. Fall here in Pennsylvania is breathtaking. Ok, getting a bit off track here. Where was I? Oh, yes! Winter. My objective of harvesting is to prolong summer. I can prolong summer through my cooking, freezing, preserving and drying of my harvest get it? I can bring a bit of late summer to January. Bugs be damned! It doesn't make me itch any less but it's a comfort to know the bites that come with the harvest are worth it.
My mood lately is not the best. We have not had a proper rain for days and days, weeks really, and this affects me. As I offer sustenance to the flying jerks on my way to the garden, obviously unhappy about being part of the 'circle of life,' I curse and frantically fan the bugs away (to no avail) and come to a full stop as I realize... my tomatoes are ready and there are TONS of them! Tomatoes come at the end of summer as if to say 'Get us while we're hot!' Tomatoes are the last real fruits of summer. The sun-kissed and colorful little soldiers are sweet yet tangy, versatile and reliable. Have I mentioned bountiful? Tomatoes offer so many options to the home cook; here are just a few suggestions.
I enjoy Roasted Tomato Soup which is so simple. Here is how to make it:
Cut your tomatoes in half and place in a baking dish. Splash on some olive oil and season with salt and pepper if you wish. Roast the tomatoes until the skins shrivel and the tomato juice is bubbly; about 30-45 minutes at 375 degrees; depending on the size of the tomatoes. Now, very carefully (super hot stuff) dump the entire thing into a food processor or blender and blitz until smooth. Season and serve. (You may wish to strain the soup for seeds and skins and you can thin it with broth or cream.) Sounds yummy right? It is! It's good hot or cold too. Roasted Tomato Soup is like an ode to summer because it's really best with garden or farmer's market tomatoes. It will work with any type too.
Another great and easy option for all those tomatoes is Roasted Tomato Sauce. For the Sauce:
Simply follow the above steps for Roasted Tomato Soup but instead of pureeing, just allow the tomatoes to cool and then freeze them whole. Freezing allows you to have garden tomatoes throughout the coming months. I guarantee it is worth the effort. If you have never frozen your garden tomatoes, you're in for a treat! I use the frozen tomatoes to make meatloaf or I make homemade tomato juice by straining the thawed tomatoes; think Bloody Marys. I will even pull off the skins of the roasted tomatoes, dry the skins out and make a Tomato Salt.
Each one of my tomatoes is precious and nothing is wasted! There are just so many options for tomatoes. I hope you try some of my suggestions but in the meantime, get out outside. Brave the heat and the garden bugs - and harvest! Go and rescue your tomato soldiers! You will be glad you did.
Embrace your failures.
You know when you're cooking and you just know its not going to turn out right but you keep on going in the hope that you're gut feeling is wrong. I don't often fail in the kitchen past the point of no return but when I do I embrace it. A good fail now and then keeps things interesting. Fails can sometimes be the road to new recipes. The path to expertise is paved with failure in one form or another; one recipe attempt at a time. If I fail, I will practice that recipe or technique until I get it right. I will remake the cinnamon roll recipe into donuts again and know how to tweak it to achieve fluffy, pillowy treats. I will WILL the dough to be what I want it to be...just NOT today. I am getting ahead of my story, sorry. Read on.
This morning our ill child, Mia, (who has not eaten much of anything for days) could not be tempted with pancakes, waffles, coffee cake or muffins. What did she want? Donuts. Of course! Mia has been ill since last week but got hit hard this week when her cold decided to party and turn into an ear infection and granulated tonsils. Her slim frame cannot take the not eating thing and she has not been to school much of this week. So, when a sick kid wants donuts. Donuts the sick kid shall get!
Now, I mentioned she has been ill most of this week; most mothers will relate to what that means. That means no hair styling. No getting dressed in clothes you want to be seen in and leg shaving is optional. For me, I am currently living with two out of the three. I will let you guess which two... That said, rather than go to a donut shop (drive through our otherwise) I decided to make Mia donuts. The problem is that once we decided on what she would eat, Mia wanted them 15 minutes ago... In my hurry to create something from nothing, I failed. I decided to make donuts out of a recipe I NEVER once failed at. Honestly NOT ONCE! Not once that is until today of course.
The recipe is an In a Hurry Cinnamon Roll recipe given to me by a neighbor many years ago and it's a no-brainer, or so I thought. What a fiasco! The dough was tough. I should have just started over but remember, sick and thin kid is hungry and nagging me so I forged on. I knew I was in trouble but I am also an optimist and thought they would be ok in the end. I thought I could "will" them to be yummy. The would be donuts could not be willed into doing anything... I cut some of the dough into donut shapes (which went in the bin) and the rest of the dough I made into cinnamon rolls and fried them. Those we ate. Even the glaze I made failed... Despising waste of any kind, the Greek in me looked at the mess and waste and thought 'How can I save this?' The realist in me thought, 'Give up girl!' Mia got and enjoyed her donuts but I still owe her donut shop donuts...I guess I better find a hat and pants.
Capture a toad!
I get asked quite often 'What makes a good cook?' The answer to this question is simple. What makes a good cook is an adventurous spirit. When you break it down, cooking isn't really all that difficult. You get the ingredients. You prepare the ingredients. You heat the ingredients. That's it... Cooking is simple right? WRONG-O! The myriad combinations of ingredients and preparation methods alone will make your head spin and that is not even the adding heat part to the equation. That is why an adventurous spirit is what makes a cook "good."
We currently have many toads living in our yard. There is what I call the "mama" toad. This toad is big and striped and (since there are many varieties of bugs to munch on in our yard) appears quite happy There are also baby toads which are completely adorable and cousin toads too which are medium-sized. Each time I see a toad, which is daily lately, I am happy the ecosystem is our yard is thriving. I just wish they were faster eaters because our bug population is happy too!
Last night, I put our dog Lollipop out for her pre-bedtime potty and there was mama toad! Lolly was thoroughly intrigued. She got as close as her fraidy-cat nature would allow. She elongated her nose (how do dogs do this?) and stretched her neck at the same time as keeping her torso as far away from mama toad as possible so as to be able to make a quick get away if need be. (All dog owners know what I am talking about here.) It was all I could do to get her to come in. I think Lolly felt she needed to protect us from this strange being. She sniffed and backed away. Sniffed and backed away. This dance kept up for a while. The toad did not move at all. When the toad hopped off, Lolly nearly had a heart attack!
This morning, Lolly kept returning to the grassy area where she last saw the mama toad. Since dogs are obsessive-compulsive by nature, Lolly will probably search for mama toad for many weeks to come. Lolly returns to see what will happen next I think. Will this "thing" move? Will this "thing" scare me some more?" Do Mom and Dad and my sisters need my protection from this "thing." Fear not family! I Lollipop will protect you from this incredibly mysterious "THING!"
Lolly's never-ending excitement over the search for mysterious things and new adventures in a place she explores everyday is really quite interesting. It got me to thinking about how that is what I am like in my kitchen. I return again and again to a place I visit regularly and seek out new combinations of the same ingredients in order to create something new. What makes my combinations so unique and delicious and different than your combinations? My sense of fun and love which can be tasted in my food I think.
When cooking food, my brain, senses and taste buds fire on all cylinders. Something from the garden, a scent in the air, something I read or spices I pass may trigger my need to get cooking and creating. I don't usually have much of a plan and even if I do, I usually cook off course so to speak. I urge you to head outside and capture a metaphorical toad! "Capture" your sense of adventure and fun and bring that into the kitchen! (I DO NOT encourage you to bring a real toad into your kitchen, only the metaphorical one.) Cooking is an opportunity to nuture yourself and people you love. Let that love show and taste in your food! Let your sense of adventure (the toad) roam free in your kitchen. Combine flavors in ways you have not tried before. Apply cooking methods you have never tried before. Use ingredients that are new.
A lot of time is spent in a kitchen so make it the best, fun time it can be. Adventure may be found in your refrigerator and in all your cabinets if you just open your mind and your cooking to it. Have some fun with a side of toad!
Sun rays through a cloudy sky
I have a fun day ahead of me...I am a Principle Judge at a local Apple Festival (we are talking pie tasting- yes, poor me) AND I also get to give a cooking demonstration! I really enjoy giving cooking demonstrations because it is a great opportunity for me to learn. Me to learn? YES! ME to learn. A good cooking demonstrator needs to be able to go with the flow. I for one treat all my appearances the same whether it is a live television appearance or a cooking demonstration in front of a crowd. Whether I am teaching a hands on cooking class in a professional kitchen or a private lesson in someone's home... I have fun, laugh a lot, and encourage attendees to ask questions and to participate. In this way, I learn. I learn about what cooking techniques the average home cook may need to learn more or what ingredients they are interested in using. I learn about how I react in impromptu situations and improve my communication skills. See? I learn a lot. Anyway, a demonstration or class or appearance is a party. Parties are supposed to be fun. So by extension, a demonstration should be too. It is my responsibility to show the attendees a good time.
Today I awoke to a very quiet house with only our dog Lollipop for company; our daughter stayed the night at a friend's house. My usually morning routine is, regretfully, to wake up. (Morning comes way too soon people!) Next I groan and roll over. Groaning is involved because my mind wakes up before my body and my body is not usually very happy about the whole "waking up" thing. While groaning, I fumble about in the half light of dawn for my phone to check the holy trinity. The holy trinity is: email, Facebook and Instagram. After I have wasted a sufficient amount of time on this activity, I push this as long as possible, I groan some more and stumble to the bathroom, arguing with my body the entire distance. After brushing my teeth and such, I head to the living room to put Lolly outside. Lolly groans and stretches herself and immediately begins dancing about telling me to 'Hurry up MOM! I have things to do!'
Now, I mentioned earlier I was in a good mood. Most days I am. I have a morning workout and coffee to look forward to after all . I have a day to look forward to... Today, I was in a good mood but sad too, I miss our daughter...Family really brings life to a home... So, when I opened the door for Lollipop, I was a touch down, then I looked up. WOW! What a sky today! I saw a sunrise through a cloudy sky- the kinds of clouds whose shear beauty make you suck in your breath! The type of sunrise that makes you just stand in its glory with your eyes closed... I breathed the sky in and marveled at the play of light behind the clouds. I even spotted a touch of a rainbow! I said a silent "thank you" for getting to be part of such a day. A day that is truly a gift. (I know inspirational mumbo-jumbo can be just that, 'mumbo-jumbo' but it's true. A person gets to greet a day. A person gets to workout and have coffee and kiss a loved one and go to work.)
Yes. The last part too!
Today, I get to give a cooking demonstration of my Apple and Celery Salad. I offer the recipe on my Recipes page. It is a salad I made up, like most of my recipes. It is a happy and fun salad to eat because it is crunchy and tart and just plain yummy. Because I wanted to offer the recipe, I also got one more recipe completed for the cookbook I am writing so I am doubly productive today! Yay! I hope you give the recipe a try but mostly I hope this little ditty has brought a smile to your lips and brought you a bit of happy. Enjoy!
Bake or get spanked.
I have been invited to be a Principle Judge and Demonstrator at a local Apple Festival. Cool right? Well, it is and it's not. It's cool (and flattering) to think I am considered enough of an "expert" about baking and my palate is developed enough that I have been asked to be a judge. A judge is an "official appointed to decide" something. To be a culinary judge is complicated. First, there is the matter of what you will be judging; in this case, pie. Second, there is the matter of the fact that when a person bakes or cooks, they share a bit of themselves with others, so to be the judge of another is no small matter. Lastly, how much a person has to taste by the time they have completed judging. I will not be judging low calorie, fat free or even healthy foods; I will be judging PIE! YOU do the math! I say however, calories shmalories! I am performing a service to the community, on a Sunday, in the heat, so the calories DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT count. Whew! That is one of the three judging responsibilities off my plate so to speak. Now, where was I... OH YES! Judging...
A pie should look like it was made by a human, not a machine. It should be pleasing to the eye yet slightly imperfect. My pies for example fit this description; in fact, they are so imperfect, they look like I meant to make them that way! (This is my story and I am sticking to it!) When the pie is sliced, the crust should crumble yet be firm and melt in the mouth without falling apart. The filling should be juicy enough to make you drool just looking at it yet stable enough to suspend the fruit. If it is a custard-type or cream pie, the pie filling should be luscious and velvety, not gloppy or pasty. Sound complicated? BINGO! That is why it is a contest people!
To cook and bake is to share a bit of yourself with others. (I have written about this concept before.) Just to work up the courage to bring something you baked to a contest is an accomplishment. It's nerve-wracking to watch judges taste and score, taste and score and then re-taste and so on. It's nerve-wracking for me as a judge. I will be choosing winners and losers for goodness sake. I will be saying to one person in the lot, 'Hey, you're the best baker here today.' I will also be letting the others know they are not.
Pie says "home" to me which is why it is such a popular dessert. Pie's origin has been traced back to the Greeks who were the first geniuses to combine flour and water. Personally I think the pie thing was just an accident. I think, one day little Titus was running around the hearth-room, playing tag with his little Greek friends, smacked into the vessel that held the water (his mama had just shlepped up from the river) which knocked into, broke and spilled the vessel that contained the milled grain; thus creating a big mess. Being easily distracted, the friends gathered about the mess they had made and thought, 'that looks like fun" and began to form the mass into balls. Just as they were poised to hurl the balls at each, Mama walked in. Mama saw the mess, contemplated murdering the little dears BUT being a Greek, mama was frugal, so, she thought 'now what?' ALL this is not going to go to waste! (Greeks NEVER throw anything away, even accidental dough balls...) So, Mama gathered up the dough balls and rolled them out flat. Mama chopped some olives and threw them in a bowl. She added feta cheese and an egg. She dumped the olive mixture onto the rolled out dough, cooked it over the fire and viola! The world's first pie! Mama accomplished this while simultaneously spanking the children!
So, wish the entrants luck. No pressure... But, the bar is high! They must bake or get spanked.
There is something about preparing food that unites us. The act of cooking is such an intimate and caring act. I believe love can be tasted in food and so can joy. Food memories run deep. A taste or aroma can spark memories we didn't realize were rooted in us. Food connects us to our ancestors, to moments in time and to places we have travelled. If, for example, the last thing we ate just before we got sick is a cheeseburger with extra cheese and bacon and side a extra-large fries- it might be a while before we choose to consume half a cow AND mix beer and wine...I'm just saying.
Some of the best times of my life and most treasured memories center around food- the making of it as well as the consuming of it. Memories of visiting my grandmother and her having gigantic jars of my favorite Greek cookies, Koulabiethes, JUST for me! She would sit me down, pour me a glass of milk and say "Eat as much as you would Honey. I made these for you." I would happily and greedily oblige. I felt so loved and so special. Gram would force my grandfather to turn off the radio and she would turn off the television and focus solely on me as though everything I had to say was the most important news she was about to hear...
Both sets of my great grandparents were restaurant owners and amazing cooks. Like most amazing cooks, they did not cook with recipes or ever write anything down. Their homes in San Francisco, California were hubs of activity containing many children and neighbors alike and the tastes of those home-cooked delicacies they served are in my mother's tastebuds. She and I bake together to create recipes to save those delicacies for our family. I treasure the times spent with my mother developing Greek food recipes based upon her "taste memories" only. We bake, she tastes, we adjust and so on until we developed and perfected recipes; making lasting taste memories of our own. My grandfather was the oldest of eight and slept head to toe in a bed with two of his brothers. Since my great grandfather died young, Gramps worked many jobs all his life and there was a constant struggle to put food on the table but oh what food! What I wouldn't give to work along side any of my great grandparents as they rolled paper thin homemade phyllo dough or hand-rolled dolmades served with a rich lemon sauce or savored a tomato-based pastisio or baklava as its syrupy goodness dripped down your chin.
Sounds pretty fantastic right? Did I get you craving Greek food yet? Have I made you wish you were Greek? Well, ALL food memories are not precious memories. I can never bring myself to eat carrot soup since I can only think of how disgusting it tastes when coming out the wrong way... One time, many years ago, I accidentally gave my best friend and husband food poisoning. I know what you're thinking, YES, I accidentally gave may husband food poisoning (we were not even married then so I had no reason to poison him!) We are talking more than 20 years ago people and my friend has never and I mean NEVER let me live it down... Our code for the experience is 'Cat Hair and Rice Omelette." All the foods she is allergic to in one go. Eggs, rice and cat. Kind of a three birds with one stone sort of deal. But, we laugh. We laugh EVERY time! Food memories are powerful. Powerful and enduring as caring and love and friendship.
Girls Days Out
I adore being a parent. I adore our two beautiful daughters, Alyssa and Amelia. Getting to watch them grow into lovely and strong young women is a privilege. Being a parent has many fringe benefits and bonuses. Bonuses you ask? I consider sharing special times together bonuses of parenting. For example, Mia came along with me recently when I was a featured chef at a local television station. We dressed the set for a picnic. We unpacked and "stuffed" up the place and had an absolute blast doing it too! Mia reached Olympian levels of eye rolling as I went all "Martha" on the set. When we got home, we watched way too much television over popcorn, cupcakes and cheesy snacks.
The same weekend as the the television appearance, I was also a featured demonstrator at The Great Allentown Fair. This is my third year as a demonstrator and I really enjoy the spontaneity of live demonstrations. The first year I demoed at the Fair, I brought brave audience members on stage with me and invited them to try their hand at making crepes. This year, I brought a precious and precocious little girl on stage and had her supervise the butter as it browned for my Pasta with Brown Butter and Fresh Herbs (see my Recipes page) and then had her proclaim "Mary Grube is a genius!" By this time, Mia was on stage with me and busily rooting around in the herbs we brought for the rosemary which never did appear. I got to make Mia blush and practice her eye rolling again.
Another highlight of the our weekend was when I got the audience and stand up and do a voodoo dance over the pot of water that through much threatening would NOT come to a boil let along stay at the boil. After the fifth time of coming to the boil and then not boiling, I had my unsuspecting and by this time, giggling audience, stand up and do, I must say, an excellent voodoo dance, which eventually worked its magic and brought the pot to a full and sustained boil. Once again, Mia was blushing and eye rolling but also having fun along with us. In the end, the food got cooked, the audience got fed and I got polite applause.
After the demonstration we strolled the fair for pizza by the slice, soft serve ice cream, followed our noses to the petting zoo's self-serve animal chow we used to feed emus, saw magic and dog shows and watched pigs race. We made memories and all in all, had a fantastic girls days out!
Avid home cook and passionate instructor