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Archive for the ‘Food is Love’ Category

I’ve been back at work for almost 4 months and to be honest, the transition from all day baking to all day meetings has taken more willpower than I could have ever imagined.

The bright side you ask? It’s quite simple…it’s all of you.

Weekly, if not daily, I am asked about the blog and what I’ve been cooking up lately. The friendships I’ve made and the bonds I’ve strengthened through the food I’ve dished up are life changing and irreplaceable. The experience has changed my perspective, my love and my waistline, but I’m so glad it did.

One of the many food moments I had coming back to work was with Jan, one of my first interviews on the blog. She told me how her young daughter is suddenly insisting that any holiday is a good time for them to bake cookies together and then give them away to others. It touched me so much that to hear this mother/daughter food connects us experience in the middle of my work day. The next day I showed up to find these at my desk…

Yes, my friends, closure is a sweet, sweet thing.

Thank you so much for all your stories, your support and your hungry bellies. Without you, none of this would have been possible.

 

 

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Day 5: Liverpool

Yeah,  we love the Beatles. My husband and I have a special love for Paul in particular, as does our good friend Kendra. On our recent visit to see Kendra in Northern England we stopped over in Liverpool for a true Beatles experience. (Yes, we did ride on the Magical Mystery Tour Bus, just in case you were wondering).

George Harrison’s childhood home

Paul McCartney’s childhood home

The lobby ceiling at the Hard Days Night Hotel.

The sheet music rustled with any breeze.

Photos of the Beatles hang up the long and winding staircase

Our room. Hi John.

Kendra’s room. Hello Paul.

How is the food related you ask?

Perhaps it was the Strawberry Fields we saw?

Or the incredible Italian dinner in what was promised to be a “lively” restaurant? (There was a singing waiter who kissed the ladies, I’m not kidding-  it was indeed elegant and lively).

Salmon Stuffed Ravioli

Scallops on the half shell

Linguine with basil and tomato sauce

But truly, it was the Beatles inspired drinks at the Hard Days Night Hotel that took the cake.

Our last night together after days of experiencing English food culture, we sat in the bar, listened to the Beatles, and simply enjoyed each others company. I had “Honey Can’t Buy Me Love” and Kendra had “All You need is Love.”

Then we traded drinks for a sip.

When food and love mix and mingle, that’s the happiest feeling of all. It’s true- the love you take is equal to the love you make, or bake in my case.

Thank you Kendra!

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Day 2: Leeds

That night we visited Leed, a large city in between York and Shipley. We decided to catch a movie and dinner. We ended up dining at one of my favorite chef’s restaurants. I love Jamie Oliver. If you’ve never heard of Jamie you have to check out The Food Revolution that aired last year in America. Jamie worked hard to overhaul the school food system in England and has now set his sights on America. He’s a great defender of food that’s good and good for you, with a lot of respect for the plants and animals that provide it. 

Mushroom ravioli (mushrooms picked by Jamie’s friend Mike, I’m not kidding).

My favorite dessert, if not single best item I ate on the entire trip came from Jamie’s restaurant. It was  caramel ice cream with crushed honey comb on the top. Oh food Gods, I can’t thank you enough!

My sweetheart John has a strong sweet tooth, so despite having dessert at he restaurant he also had to get popcorn at the movie theater. Get ready for this people, here is a million-trillion-dollar idea: in England they have Kettle Korn at the movie theater. Yes, you read that right, Kettle Korn. They call it sweet corn, but it’s basically the same thing.

As your official food ambassador between our two nations I am happy to say “Brilliant!”

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Day 2: York

We decided to visit the ancient viking city of York. It’s a wonderful tourist town with a cathedral, a castle tower and a “scented” Viking ride/museum (Viking smells like wet fur by the way, not a real shocker, I know). We saw viking bones, viking shoes, and another tourist or two.

But the main reason we were in York was to have afternoon tea at Betty’s, a popular tea spot in the area. Kendra drinks Betty’s tea every morning and there’s a good reason for that — it’s very strong and very tasty. Betty’s is so popular that they have two locations in less than a mile of each other. Even with two spots we had to wait in line. There happened to some military in town that day. We ended up having tea time next to a burly British military man and another solider (not who I was expecting to have tea with!)

My mother loves to have tea parties and so do I. This was my first official English Tea in England and I was out of my skin excited about it. Kendra had to show me the English way of doing things.

We ate our towers of treats rather quickly. My favorite item, the egg salad sandwiches that had butter spread on them. God Bless the English and their love of putting butter on pretty much anything. I’m never eating egg salad without it again, cholesterol be damned.

My tower of tea. I ate it all.

John isn’t much of a tea drinker so he ordered ginger beer and a rarebit. We joke about this sandwich a lot because there’s an old comic that uses the sandwich as it’s punch line. This was our first time trying this melty-cheesy-herby-delight and it was yummy. Warmer and richer than a normal grilled cheese and of course, there were chips.

The last thing I had to eat at Betty’s was one of their own creations called the Fat Rascal.

 It’s basically a cinnamon scone with cherry eyes and almond teeth. I love food with pretend faces, so needless to say, we bonded.

Let me just say this, if you run into me and happen to call me a Fat Rascal I will not be offended, but answer with a hardy “TA” (the northern way of saying thank you).

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Our dear friend Kendra moved to Shipley, a town in northern England,  just over a year ago. She told me something that was hard fathom: England does not have any canned pumpkin (or real edible pumpkins for that matter), thus no pumpkin pie.

I have to admit I was dumbfounded. Pumpkin is so apart of American culture, I just hadn’t considered not being part of everyone’s food world. Around late November, Kendra gets a hankering for pumpkin and  like other American’s living abroad, everyone around her isn’t aware of the most important food holiday of the year. Not only does this make it hard to celebrate Thanksgiving, it makes the need for pumpkin even stonger.

I could barely stand it. I had to remedy this pumpkin pie longing. So I shipped her some pumpkin…

… and eventually jumped on a plane to bake a beloved American Pie in the jolly old U.K.

The Youngs land. Our first tea in England! Manchester Airport

 

The plan: bake two pies so she had one for herself and one to take to work to introduce her British friends to sweet goodness of pumpkin pie. Then the baking began…

Ta-da!

Then everything went horribly wrong…

I want to blame the jet lag, but I can’t. I accidentally wrote down evaporated milk instead of sweet and condensed milk, thus making the worst testing pumpkin pies ever. It was like we cut the top off the beloved vegetable and ate it with a spoon– no sugar added.

Ah, grand plans have a way of biting back sometimes and not all cooking is perfect. I did leave Kendra with extra crust in the freezer, a can of pumpkin and a promise to make her as much pumpkin pie as she can eat the next time we’re together.

Sigh. Here’s to all good baking plans gone bad!

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Once upon a time I was an assistant children’s librarian and before that, in a land far, far away, called Barnes and Noble, I read story times for years and years. So as you can guess, I love to tell kids stories.

During my sabbatical I wanted to give back because I’ve been given so much. One of the ways I decided to do that was to read food inspired picture books to preschoolers at Operation Break Through.

Operation Break Through is a non-for-profit organization that give kids 3 weeks old to 18 years old, who are often homeless or low-income, a safe place to eat, learn and be a kid.

Mr. Adam’s class in the Green Zone became my little listeners. We sang songs, shared hugs and read tale after yummy tale. I wanted to bring them food treats, but that never worked out. To make up for it, I donated books to their classroom and collected food at our Ravioli in The New Year Party for their food pantry. Thank you to all our wonderful friends who contributed! Operation Break Through was very grateful!

Here are just a few of the food stories we read!

The Pigeon finds a hot dog

Big Fat Hen

Hurry, Hurry, Mary Dear

Today is Monday

Market Day

Warthogs in the Kitchen

The Teddy Bear’s Picnic

The little mouse, the red ripe strawberry, and the big hungry bear

Ten Apples on Top

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

I Stink

Orange, Pear, Bear

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Monic’s note said it better than I ever could…

“See, gumbo is a tradition in my family.  Every New Years Day, my mom would fix gumbo.  It was the same every year.  Chip and dip to hold us over until the gumbo was done.  And around noontime or after, she’d announce it was done and we would come running.”

“If the gumbo could talk, it would chronicle all the laughs and stories my family and friends have shared over the years.  It would tell you how many people’s noses ran while eating just one bowl.  It would recant the number of times my dad said “don’t pick out the shrimp from the pot!  Whatever comes up in the spoon is what goes in your bowl.”  And it would marvel at how a simple tradition has kept my family (and friends) connected for so many years.”

Monic’s Modified New Year’s Gumbo recipe:

Mom’s Seafood Gumbo

Time: about 3-1/2 hours

2 pounds raw shrimp, in shells

4 large green onions chopped, tops reserved

4 tablespoons bacon fat

3 tablespoons flour

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

1-1/2 pounds hot Creole sausage sliced into 1-inch chunks

1 pound canned tomatoes

Tabasco, salt and pepper to taste

4 bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1/3 teaspoon basil

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1 pound crabmeat

6 cups chicken stock

Dash file powder

Cooked rice

Peel and de-vein shrimp.  Cut all vegetables and meat.

Make a roux by melting in a heavy pot 4 tablespoons bacon fat.  Blend in 3 tablespoons flour.  Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until a very dark brown.

Add chopped onions, garlic, bell pepper, and celery.  Stir and brown slightly.  Add sausage and tomatoes and chicken stock.  Add Tabasco and up to 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste, bay leaf, thyme and basil.  Let simmer slowly for 1-1/2 to 2 hours.  (Check to add more salt, pepper and cayenne as necessary.)  During last half hour of cooking, add green onions, parsley, crab meat and shrimp.  (Start cooking rice.)  Sprinkle a pinch of file powder over each serving and serve with rice.

Makes at least a dozen servings.

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