Saturday, December 20, 2008

Another Pause from Food: In Memory of Paul Hawthorne

I recently broke from food blogging to point you to that wonderful video. Now I've got a much sadder pause to ask you to take.

Over the course of the last six months my cousin-in-law, Paul Hawthorne, one of those rare guys you find who are beyond belief kind, funny, good and creative--he was a photographer, a funny guy, a good husband and a wonderful new father to Max, age 4 and Lucas, age 6 months...he was diagnosed with amyloidosis, a rare disease in which the body makes extra protein that the body cannot handle.

He went straight into aggressive treatment. My cousin Amy started blogging to help us--friends, family, coworkers--get our minds around what treatment meant for Paul, how he was doing, how the fight was going. A more positive outlook would have been hard to find.

Amy is a great creative soul herself, and her writing about this awful fight was funny, touching, poignant and personal. She kept us all hopeful, pulling for Paul, and the comments back to her posts were often funny--funny enough that I guess I checked into her blog, Getting Paul Healthy, nearly every day. We were all upbeat.

Photographer friends have organized a fundraising photography effort, The Photographer Project (I encourage any NYC area photographers to check it out and get involved), which will raise funds for the family--originally to offset costs of medical treatments and having Paul out of work, but now the funds will be for the family without Paul.

This morning, Paul's heart gave out. I don't know any details. Only this. His organs were really affected by the proteins, and a lot of damage had already been done when he was finally diagnosed.

I can do so little to make a difference from so far away. But if I can make some people aware of the disease, if maybe the next time you see a chance to donate to an amyloidosis cause you pull out a dollar or if you'd like to take part in The Photographer Project, you'll show up at Brian's studio, or maybe if you one day get to meet Amy or Max or Lucas Hawthorne and you can say, "I heard what a great person your dad was...," maybe that's just a little bit of what I can do.

In the meantime, please keep Amy, Max and Lucas in your hearts. They'll need that. And it's a lot.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Overview of Amyloidosis
Paul Hawthorne's Cheering Group
Getting Paul Healthy: Read here about Amy and Paul's experience, and check out the wonderful photos. The post about a Paul-i-day Party, a post that left me so hopeful (he was cooking again! What a great sign!) finishes with a photo of him jumping on the red carpet before he was diagnosed--I hope he's jumping like that now, wherever he is.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Roasted Brussels Sprouts. I kid you not.

Well, I had dinner the other night at Michael's Genuine Food and Drink, a fabulous restaurant in Miami's Design District--the Design District is the place I send people when they ask where they should eat in Miami. It's a funky neighborhood filled with fabulous design shops I cannot afford and beautiful people. Dressed from those fabulous shops.

I digress.

We were in the capable hands of Chef Michael Schwartz himself (he also hosted the farm-to-table Dinner in Paradise), and we let him recommend what to choose for the meal. I'll blog the whole meal shortly, but for now, I have to wax rhapsodic about the roasted Brussels sprouts. Frankly, I have not jumped on the sprout bandwagon these past few years. I know I was supposed to be rediscovering this lowly veg, but ...well, I wasn't sold.

And then these came out. Oven roasted with pancetta for tenderness and sweetness. The bitterness faded to barely a bite. Smoky from the roasting...yum. I thought: I've found my new favorite vegetable.

So tonight, getting home late, I decided I had to have roasted Brussels sprouts. I trimmed them, popped them into a 400 degree oven with some chopped bacon and walked away...for nearly an hour. (Actually, I forgot about them. I started checking email, writing a blog know how you get lost online.)...I pulled them from the oven and they were perfect: perfectly seasoned, perfectly soft, perfectly sweet...Bacon goes a long way here, and maybe I was zealous (Chef Schwartz said not to be shy with the bacon...I took him at his word)...but really..these are gooo-00d.

The whole meal was about simple goodness--and for all I know, Schwartz gives his a touch of vinegar or a squeeze of lemon...I'll work on the flourishes some other time. For now, I got me a new favorite veggie. Roasted Brussels sprouts.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

L is for Limoncello, Part 2

Well, because I am impatient, the recipe I picked had me soaking the peel for only 7 days, then adding the simple syrup.

I soaked the peels for about 10 days (ooh, the patience)--the vodka was truly yellow. I am thinking it MUST taste of lemon. So today, I went for the alchemy part--where it would turn that milky yellow color of limoncello.

This is so easy it's criminal. BUT. Mine didn't turn milky. What?! Why?
The only thing I can think is that the recipe used Everclear (the nice name for grain alcohol) and I used the vodka...It tastes great, so I may pass out a bottle or two this Christmas. But I also plan to go get Everclear and make another batch. Just because I want that cloudy look.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

L is for Limoncello Part 1: It begins

Cliches do, indeed come to mind...when life gives you lemons and all that...but I went looking for these lemons because I decided I simply MUST do limoncello.

Now the idea was to do limoncello for Christmas, but of course, once I went looking at recipes, I realized three weeks are hardly enough for limoncello. But since I had 32 lemons...well, you get the picture.

So this short entry--there will be more--is the beginning.

It's really quite simple...Everclear (heh. You might call it grain alcohol) was not so easy for me to find, although it's not like I shop for it that often. With time an issue (after all, it was important for me to get my nails done for Nevis), I went with the vodka other recipes used. I used this limoncello recipe, but there are tons of recipes out there--all close to each other. You choose your Googled poison.

The only other thing you need for the first step? Lemons. I peeled them carefully, making sure to get JUST peel, not pith, which would make it bitter. So I stood, watching what? Hmm. Last Wednesday..I must have had Top Chef on the TV. Peeling carefully took some time.

Then? Well, then the vodka goes into a big container followed by all those delicious smelling peels...sunshine in a bottle, right? Seal. Place in a cool, dark place. Shake now and then. According to the recipe, I could add the sugar now (7 days later) and drink...Hmm. Maybe I will. Other batches sit forever (45 days followed by 45 days). It has turned a lovely shade of yellow, sitting in that cupboard forgotten except for me to give it a little shake here and there.

And then again? Maybe I won't. But I will let you know! Practicing making limoncello could become a new favorite pastime.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A moment away from food, please...

I cooked, clean, set up, cleaned up food too much in the past two days...So when my brother, Rick, sent me this youtube clip, I listened to it once. Then again. Then again. And now, when something has made me crabby, I listen again, just for the smile it gives me. I promise to learn how to embed video if I can on blogger, but until then, click here:

Stand By Me: International

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm not cooking, believe it or not. Only three people in the house and it just doesn't feel right--I need to cook for at least 20. So I bought picnic fixings, I'm going to pack it up and we're driving North while Ian (Son #2) drives South--we'll meet up at Clearwater Beach for hikes on the beach, a picnic (even if it's brisk...that's nothing for us northerners) and some all around relaxing. Big plans to finally visit Tarpon Springs and eat some great Greek food.

Happy Thanksgiving, readers. I'm thankful for each one of you that checks in here.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My Video!

Okay, blogoshpere, go watch my Apalachicola Seafood Festival video at and click on "I liked it."
It's from the Apalachicola Seafood Festival...ate a fair few oysters that day

click the link above or right here:

Barb's Seafood Festival Video

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Serendipitous Life of Bees

I saw Secret Life of Bees recently (back off! I loved the book and the movie was good, too)...but afterwards, my friend and I took our daughters for a drink (wine for us, lemonade for them)--they were done before we were, and we sent them outside. When we found them, they were bent over this little gem: a honey bee hive in the wild--mind you, I live in densely populated South Florida.. The industrious bees were making honey in the well of what I think is a water meter.

Just kinda cool, right? Gives me hope.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

La Beaujolais Nouveau est arrive!!!!

Yes, it IS November. Drinking some Beaujolais Nouveau takes me back 20 years to NYC where I first discovered--and embraced--this tradition.

Third Thursday in November?
12:01 a.m.?
Crack open the Beaujolais Nouveau 2008 and let's have a party.

This year I did something a little different--I escorted the "first" case of Georges DeBouef BN 2008 to Casa Casuarina (former home of Gianni Versace in South Beach) on the back of a Harley in a Biker Brigade. It was for a good cause (City Harvest, City Meals on Wheels and Share Our Strength all benefited), and it was great fun. Whenever I get to spend a fun day like this, I remember what a great crowd and what great fun chefs are (I have momentary lapses of wanting to be back in the kitchen, but I lie down, drink more Beaujolais and it passes) and that sometimes you need to pause in the madness, raise a glass and just enjoy your company. Here's a shot of everyone anticipating that first pour:We had loads of fun, I got to celebrate my first Harley Davidson ride behind handsome, talented
chef Beto DiCarlo of Cafe Ragazzi in Surfside, and I got loads of photos. I almost won a cute little mini-bike (almost: my name was in the pot--we all almost won...only one person DID)...and I got to see inside the gates of the fabulous Casa Casuarina.

I'll close now, because it's my BIRTHDAY. I will share that I am 49. I try not to bug about it. In my head, I am that 25 y.o. drinking Beaujolais Nouveau with her lost friends (Claudia, Rich, Ray, Sharon, Marianne, Andy and oh-so-many others) in NYC til all hours of the night...ordering the first bottles of BN to drink with steak and pommes frites and arguing with the manager over the price of the bottle! (Remember that, Ray? I do!)...Sigh. Time does march on, doesn't it?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Avenue Sea, Apalachicola, Florida

I posted earlier about my great good fortune in going to Apalachicola last weekend. The area is stunning, set along the northern Gulf Coast of Florida, just where the coastline takes a 90-degree turn and heads west and becomes part of Florida's Panhandle.

Apalachicola is where David Carrier and his wife, Ryanne (I will edit this post with quotes: I've got connections and will catch him on the phone soon), decided to settle after exploring the culinary world--including time at French Laundry in Yountville, CA. All I can say is lucky Apalachicola for having such wonderfully skilled people running Avenue Sea at the Gibson Inn AND lucky David and Ryanne for finding Apalachicola.
We got to Avenue Sea after a long day at the Florida Seafood Festival. I ate a lot of oysters shucked by some of the best shuckers anywhere. Some I ate with more finesse than others. I'll just say I hope the less finessed don't make the tape (I was taping for the dining blog. Hi, Missy, Hi, Tim, Hi, Steve!)

But after we wrapped, I was sunkissed and windblown and tired. The restaurant happily changed our reservation to very early (we still had a half our to drive to our hotel stay at Port Inn)...Which worked--because those oysters I ate? That was ALL I ate during the day.

We decided for every course--appetizer of oysters (call me crazy) with cauliflower puree, curry jelly, citrus and a touch of pepper was irresistible. The puree was silken-I ate every oyster. I followed that with a risotto topped with scamorza cheese--and I finished with a grouper wrapped in bacon with ham jus...spectacular. Ian..hmm. He had rib eye as his third course. He had pork as his first..oh, I remember. Butternut squash soup as his starter. Perfect for the fall day we had enjoyed. And he put up with me making him wait for the first bite until I snapped a few photos.

One of the things that was so enjoyable was the pace of our meal. Granted we were super early, but still, the idea is to enjoy the time you have with your dinner companions, time to enjoy the flavors Carrier has put together with such care. Avenue Sea even quotes Ben Franklin on the menu--I believe this is the one: Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.

It does us good to remember that. On a regular basis. Benjamin Franklin was brilliant, wasn't he? And he sure knew how to love life. This is Ian behind the lovely (everything was lovely) coffee set. He knows how to love life, too.Ryanne is responsible for desserts. I'll go on record as not being a regular fan of desserts. Too often they disappoint. I went for the Milk Chocolate Caramel Tart in chocolate crust with..well, with heaven. Is that too much? Really. First off, braVA to Ryanne for going with milk chocolate. I love bittersweet with the rest of the sophisticates, but milk chocolate is comfort. And this was pure comfort, a wonderful, warm way to end the meal.

Honestly? I can't wait to get back to Apalachicola to spend more time and see more of the town...and to eat more of the Carriers' food.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

That header photo..

(Edited because I changed my header photo, but I leave this oyster shot here because it is one of my Best. Photos. Ever.)

Cheryl of 5 Second Rule, another food blog, commented on the photo--so I want to brag a little because I took that AWESOME shot but I also want to give credit to Chef Clay Conley of Mandarin Oriental's Azul here in Miami. This was an amuse bouche paired with a Pommery Champagne.

I'll go out on a limb here and say the pairing was genius.

The oyster was tiny (my oyster shucking days are ancient history, although I shucked gazillions at Union Square Cafe--I no longer can identify oysters on sight...which are tiny? I want to say Kumamoto) and topped with a sliver of cucumber, a touch of creme fraiche, caviar and chives. There was briny sweetness of oyster, the crunch and fresh taste of the cucumber, the smooth creaminess of the cream and then that little crunch and saltiness of the caviar and ever-so-slight bite of chive. All at once. Chef Conley gave me a reason to make this killer photo.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Visit Me More at

Okay, kids...just another plug for myself...I may have said so earlier, but I'm blogging a lot at as the Dining Expert (I am an expert at eating...heh. Imagine that). Please go have a look and visit often. Soon videos of yours truly should be up--i did the Paradise Farms video on October 1, although it hasn't gone live yet, and tomorrow I'm driving The. Entire. Length. Of. Florida. to get to Apalachicola where the Seafood Festival is happening--Tomorrow is The Blessing of The Fleet, and on Saturday there will be a race (not surprise there), a parade, an oyster shucking contest, an oyster eating contest (Apalachicola oysters are world class, world famous and this is their home...) oyster COOKING contest...entertainment...and I'll be on camera interviewing people: organizers, visitors, shuckers, eaters and cookers. Phew.

Then. THEN I get to have dinner with my wonderful son Ian at The Gibson Inn's Avenue Sea, run by David Carrier and his wife, Ryanne. David put in quality time--before settling in scenic Apalachicola for the good life--at The French Laundry. So think of me and the wonderful meal I'll be having Saturday evening.

Ah! On the way up The. Entire. Length. Of. Florida. I will also get to see other fabulous son, Sam, for dinner at The Yearling, the restaurant inspired by Florida Author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' descriptions of food and dishes from her life in Cross Creek.

This? This is my work. I am one lucky dining expert.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Photos From Paradise

The salad course...greens, eggs, tomatoes, flowers. Who needs anything else?

Squash blossoms with and crispy and melty and yummy

Gabriele welcomes us to Dinner In Paradise before the tour

Jim Denevan talks about Outstanding in the Field
Leah from Outstanding in the Field gets to work..
A board listing all the local contributors for the October 1 Dinner in Paradise
Flowers at the Farm...

Dinner in Paradise...

I was lucky enough to attend a Dinner in Paradise at Paradise Farms in Homestead, FL, just about 45 minutes from my home. These are truly farm-to-table dinners. Gabriele Marewski invites local chefs to her farm to create meals using what she is growing in her fields, which might be anything from greens to edible flowers to jack fruit to avocados, as well as other local--and she means local, as in barely miles from her farm--ingredients.

At the October 1 Dinner in Paradise, I got to sample Michael Schwartz's food (Schwartz is the truly gifted chef at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink in Miami's Design District. If you come to Miami, you must go there.) and be a part of a very special evening.

The other host of the event was Outstanding in the Field, a company that exists just to travel from place to place and sponsor dinners like this one--they have hosted dinners in sea caves, farm fields, museums in Florence, Italy...Jim Denevan, the founder, pretty much sees any spot as a potential venue for an event. He's a big proponent, like Gabriele and Michael, of eating locally, eating organic. (He's also a spectacular artist. See

We started by gathering just past the entrance to the farm for a glass of crisp, cool white wine and calabaza blossoms stuffed with locally made fresh mozzarella. The flowers were lightly battered and fried then passed with parsley sauce. Schwartz's touch was perfect. The flowers were crispy, then oozing with filling and the parsley added a bright lemony taste.

Gabriele then led the diners on a tour of the farm, which she's owned for nine years. It was an overgrown avocado orchard when she took it over. Now she grows a host of organic fruits, vegetables, greens and edible flowers, all for delivery to local chefs. As she walked and talked, she had us reaching up to taste a cotton candy berry, snapping off citronella leaves to wrap around wrists and to wear as necklaces to ward off any mozzies and reaching down to crumble an herb leaf in our fingers so we could inhale heavenly scents.

Arriving back at the gazebo we pick up plates (Outstanding in the Field's tradition is to have people bring their own plates, which creates a truly unique table setting at each and every event) and find chairs.

This is a good group. The people coming to these dinners appreciate all that these farmers and chefs are doing. As each course comes--family style, passed on plates nearly too heavy to lift--we take the time to taste and discuss..The salad is a heaping mountain of greens on top of heirloom tomatoes (Michael Schwartz loves his tomatoes) and farm-fresh organic eggs from Bee Heaven farm (remember my eggs from this post?), topped with a colorful palette of edible flowers from Paradise Farms and passed with an herb vinaigrette (that I'm going to try and get Michael to share with me...that recipe was just incredible...hmm. Am I overusing that word? Too bad.)

Next came yellow jack fish, lightly sauteed and served with a roasted garlic aioli, which played nicely against the sweet flavor of the fish. That was passed with something called malabar spinach and eggplant caponata. The spinach might just get an entry all its own--I thought "Okay, sauteed spinach, fine." What I got when I tasted it was a sweet green flavor with a certain ...oh, I'm going to use the word "toothsome-ness" that really took me by surprise. In the end, I couldn't get enough of it and will be watching for it in local farmers' markets. The eggplant was also from Bee Heaven.

Dessert came in two phases. First a plate of fresh-made ricotta cheese with walnuts and honeycomb and slices of lemon crunch (I think that was the full name) jack fruit. A first for me. But allow me to digress about the honey, because this was not just any honey. The honey comes from Miguel Bode, who got up and spoke modestly about the honey--he talked about "his bees" and how it was just a hobby. Miguel? That was no hobby--that was divine inspiration. I have never ever ever tasted honey like that. In fact, I was doing a video for VISITFLORIDA that night, and they have me on camera tasting the honey--the look of shock and awe when I put that honeycomb into my mouth? I'm not sure it will make the final video (because really, how does one spit out a wad of honeycomb with any aplomb on camera?), but if it does, you will see me falling in love with something. Honey. Your honey, Miguel.

Oh, and I can't forget the wine! Not in the least because I think the owners of Schnebly Redland's Winery, Denisse and Peter Schnebly, the little I've met of them, personify what I love about this crowd of food-loving, life-loving people. They are open, enthusiastic and not to be stopped. To listen to Peter Schnebly talk about getting the winery up and running is to listen to passion for his work--his life. They are proud of their wines, their fruits and their work in Homestead.

The wine: Schwartz paired mango wine with this course, and it was a match that made each bite compelement the other. There was fruit, there was that orange-y, tropical, lemony taste of mango. What a dessert course.

But we weren't done.

Scharffen Berger chocolates went around with jellies made by the pastry chef from Michael's Genuine--she added cookies, nut crunch with fleur de sel (I went straight for that). We wound down the night with Michael's call to "Eat Local!," with Gabriele thanking everyone, with me seeking out Michael, Jim, Gabriele, Margie from Bee Heaven and so many others to say thanks and give hugs all around (this is South Florida. We kiss hello, we kiss good-bye). I had an hour ride home, which gave me time to reflect on the evening. I hope I'm a more frequent visitor to the Redland area. I'm thinking of giving Gabriele a call and to see if she'll let me volunteer some time on the farm (volunteers live on the farm and work 30 hours a week. That wouldn't really suit Bryn or my clients, but I think I could find one day a week to escape to where people are so in touch with the earth beneath their feet.)

Everyone should be so lucky to enjoy a Dinner in Paradise--or a dinner Outstanding in The Field, at any rate--at least one time. (Make reservations right online; act fast, they sell out quickly.) And if you can't come to South Florida for this, find out from your local farms if they are hosting any farm to table dinners--It's a trend--a fortunate trend--that's making its way around the country.

Eat Local! And watch my dining blog at for the video of my visit. I hope they photoshopped me down to a size 4! KIDDING. (Size 8 will be fine.)

I'll be posting photos separately because there are so many I want up here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Michy's and Miami Spice

Michy's is a place here in Miami that has gotten fabulous buzz over the last couple of years. And shame on me for not getting there earlier, but finally some good stuff came together and I was able to get there with Gary...and four other women. Lucky Gary, that's all I have to say. But he didn't flinch--because, after all, food was involved...and not just any food, Michy's food.

We are lucky to have "Miami Spice" going on right now. At Michy's that means a three course meal for $36, truly a deal in this year of rising food prices. We got to choose from three appetizers (pork belly, beet salad or carpaccio), three entrees (cobia, papardelle carbonara or veal scaloppine) and three desserts (chocolate panna cotta, cobber or red velvet cake). Among the six of us, we got tastes of all appetizers, two entrees (no one went for the cobia) and all the desserts. Plus the early arrivers ordered rock lobster ravioli (incredible) and the table shared the polenta ("Haunting," according to Laura, who took the lead in getting us together) with some bacon, rosemary and an egg cracked right into's that photo. We dug in a bit too quickly, but I got a photo of the end. Which about sums it up. Yum.I tackled the pork belly with kohlrabi slaw (yes, they spelled it wrong on the menu...sorry. Had to say it. But every menu needs an editor. Michy's isn't unique)...absolutely the best I've ever had. The slaw was a great balance to the very rich piece of pork belly. And while it's just this little square, that is more than enough...

Most of us got the pappardelle with St. Andre Cheese, roasted tomatoes (I think they were roasted grape tomatoes. Whatever, they were perfect) and Kentucky ham instead of prosciutto. It was rich. The pasta was just right...And I wish I could say I left a bite or two, but...I can't.

I got cobbler with a delicious scoop of ice cream. I believe mine was all peach--Michy's uses the best of what's in season for the cobbler. The chocolate panna cotta was beautifully done, not so much gelatin that you could detect it and the chocolate giving the whole thing a beautifully velvety texture. The red velvet cake lived up to its reputation: dark red, moist cake, creamy cheesecake frosting sprinkled with red sugar crystals, which gave just the right touch of crunch to each bite. It's all served with a shot of ice cold milk: adorable.

It was a wonderful night. I don't recall such great service, either, in a long time. Professional, unobtrusive and a team effort. Michy's really takes care of its guests. As the night went on, the crowd just swelled, with plenty of people waiting at the bar for tables--and it looked like it would go on well into the night. A great welcoming atmosphere, with some dressed to the nines and others in jeans and crocs...and everyone welcome.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

What $25 can do...

If any of you followed up on my Lori Hall Steele post and did, indeed donate at the website, I wanted to pass on the news that I got today. Her mortgage is taken care of. She can stay in her house and focus on getting better. All those $5, $10, $15 checks? The $25 and more from those of you who were able?

You did that. YOU did it.

Thanks on Lori's behalf.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Eggs, Beautiful Eggs.

Some days are just great, aren't they? Yesterday was one of those days. I had the great good fortune of visiting Margie at Bee Heaven Farm. Margie has been doing organic farming for a while now--her farm is peaceful, beautiful...did I mention peaceful?

At any rate, I wanted to know about her eggs. She has a big flock of hens, a few roosters (who continuously make themselves known, just as you might imagine they would. That peaceful is a certain kind of peaceful punctuated by the cockadoodle-dos of roosters) and lots of fruit plants.

In South Florida, the planting season is just starting, but the hens, they barely ever quit (although I did learn they don't like to lay when they molt. There. Now you've learned one new fact for the day).

Margie's hens are free-range, although that is not what you might imagine, what with all the alligators and various and sundry predators in the area. You cannot just let the hens wander unless you want them to also disappear as dinner for something else. So there are these clever bottomless pens that get hand-wheeled from patch of fresh grass to patch of fresh grass as needed. The grass, the dirt, the bugs--all organic. The hens peck the grass down to the dirt (I kid you not. We don't need Roundup in this world. We need more hens).

As we left, Margie kindly pressed a 9-pack of fresh eggs into my hands. As far as I was concerned, she was giving us a certain amount of gold. I couldn't wait to wake up for eggs for breakfast this morning.

You know how they say a fresh egg's yolk really "stands up?" They aren't kidding, and I think I've captured that here...

Breakfast. As I left Bee Heaven, Margie assured me she was ruining me for store-bought eggs for good. I assure you, she was right.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Want to feel better about the world? Click below to donate.

Yes, I know this is a food blog--and normally you'd be checking in here to read about my adventures with chocolate malted chunk cookies (or something like that from Dorie)--not to worry, the cookies are coming.

I'm taking just a moment to ask anyone reading to donate $5 (more if you can manage) to a fellow writer, Lori Hall Steele. She has been incapacitated--and unable to work--by ALS. Lou Gehrig's disease. And it all happened in about one year's time. Local fundraisers have been done (she's in Traverse City Michigan) but just last week we got word that she was on the verge of losing her house.

Asking for $5 donations from everyone and anyone has been our way ("We" are all writer friends of hers) of trying to keep her in the house until she gets some resolutions. You can donate instantly on paypal here at Lori Hall Steele Fundraising Blog that's been set up to help. Please read her Washington Post Essay, too, written, I think, before she knew quite what she was in for.

C'mon. $5. A cup of Starbuck's. A pound or two of butter for baking. YOu might be able to find $5 in change in your car if you're like me...Lori can use the change. Click on over.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Yet another Wednesday for Tuesday with Dorie..

I baked last night, I swear I did! This week we did Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate's just that I didn't have even a few words of posting in me..

Maybe it's because I was experimenting with the Million Dollar Cookie, but I kind of didn't go crazy for the peanut butter side of this...But...I've got a mountain of these cookies...
And they taste pretty darn good with a great cup of coffee (next week: cookies with malted milk balls in them!!! Can't wait.)

Sunday, August 31, 2008

August Tomatoes...

Two August pleasures: tomatoes on great white bread with salt. That's a not so guilty pleasure. I like mayo on this sandwich, but I like it even better without the mayo so the tomato juices can infuse the bread with all that flavor.

Grilled Goat Cheese with Applewood Smoked Bacon (Nueske's. I LOVE it.) and August Tomatoes.Guiltier pleasure--and what you make when you think there's nothing in the house for lunch.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Make a million dollar cookie.

Tomorrow is an "end of summer" pot-luck at the Boca Raton Magazine/Florida Table offices...For three weeks, people have asked what I'm bringing...and I felt the pressure. Here I am, the food editor. I wanted to wow people. But I was stuck. What to do, what to do, what to do...

Finally today, someone piped up and said there weren't many desserts on the list. Well, Ina's brownies for gazillions sounded like an easy plan...there are few easier recipes that turn out more goodies than that recipe (Outrageous Brownies). But then, while doing some research for recipes today, I came across mention of the million dollar Pillsbury Bakeoff winner--A peanut butter cookie with a treat inside of it--more gooey peanut butter. Thing is, the winning recipe used refrigerator peanut butter cookies.

Not likely, thank you very much. I ended up reading about the cookies by way of, where they suggested doing it one better with their own peanut butter cookie recipe and the Pillsbury approach. Okay.

So I made Culinate's peanut butter cookie. Made an inside treat of peanut butter and powdered sugar, wrapped it in the cookie dough, rolled it in sugar, peanuts and cinnamon, then baked.

I think my Dorie touch is still working--I only mixed until just blended...the cookies are delicate and delicious with the double whammy of more peanut butter...Hmm. I think maybe I could make this a $1.5 million cookie by adding a chocolate chip or two...or ten.

Link up to those recipes (I made the Outrageous Brownies, too...they are really that easy). You don't have to use Culinate's recipe, use your own favorite, but do try the Pillsbury approach.

One eaten in blog sacrifice. One goes to school with that lucky little girl, Bryn...and JES Publishing gets the remaining treats...Happy end of summer, all..

Just had to edit to add I tried them again with a chocoate chip inside. Eh. Not enough chocolate, really, but I couldn't add more without making the cookies bigger than they already are. So next time, I'm going to make the inside (the 1/2 cup powdered sugar combined with 1/2 cup peanut butter) out of Nutella instead!!! Oh YUM. Or should that be yummO?

Grilled Chicken..It's a Barefoot Blogging Day..

Funny enough, I had just finished a note to a food board ( Forum Kitchen) that my best quick chicken dish is pounded chicken marinated in fresh lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and rosemary, this week's Barefoot Blogging recipe.

The Contessa must have heard me, because her Butterflied Chicken has us making a paste of olive oil, lemon juice and zest, garlic, rosemary and salt and pepper...Except Ina rubs this past under the skin of a boneless chicken and grills it...

First the changes: I am the only one who likes dark meat. Nix the whole chicken. Buy three half breasts with ribs and skin--bone THOSE, leaving skin in tact. Rub paste under skin ...and all with sliced lemon and extra rosemary sprigs..."Grill" on my grill pan (please stay tuned for the day I actually purchase a grill. That day is coming SOON.)...

Let's just say Ina scores again. Do I gush too much? Time after time, she's got recipes my family loves. Bryn ate seconds...I had to add this photo--because I actually had bones from the chicken breasts, I put on a pot of chicken stock (back left)..Mashed potatoes on the side...And the coolest grill pan from, of all places, Ikea...that's the rectangle pan with the chicken. I bought it on a whim--being from Ikea, it sure wasn't very expensive...and I find myself using it more and more..Ikea rocks, right?

What a nice dinner. There are a few leftovers...Yum.Go Contessa...let's do more. Let's buy the books. I am so sold.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wednesdays with Dorie

What's that you say? What are Wednesdays with Dorie? Huh. Well, if you must know...Tuesday went by too quickly!

So I did the lazy cook's version of this...really, I didn't have a third layer of ganache in me...And I once again must give a shout out to Amy of Food, Family and Fun--while this dessert is a bit of a show-stopper? It is so easy...Yet again, I'm eased back into the TWD (or WWD) fold...Man, thanks to Dorie, too, for this spectacularly easy impressive dessert...

I happened to have some traditional ganache in my fridge...A whole lot of it I was busy hiding from my daughter so she didn't OD on the stuff. That was quickly softened for the first layer...Easy to blend the raspberries with some good vanilla (not great vanilla, though...just good..Do you know those cheats at these companies are not packing 1/2 gallons of ice cream anymore? Go look. Same price: three pints. I am going to start making my own ice cream all the time now. They cheat.)...I forgot the framboise, which was a disappointment. I try to never pass up the opportunity for more liquor in my day, but oh well...

A final topping of ganache (BTW, about traditional ganache, with cream...I used it because it is what I had...and while I will dig into raw eggs with the best of 'em--homemade mayo being high up on my list of great foods--when I'm feeding small children or strangers (this might go into the magazine offices), I'm a little bit shy about raw egg...I digress..yet again..)

The whole thing went into the freezer overnight, and in the interest of blogging, I had a slice for my, my 10.30 a.m. break (like I needed one!)...And it was good.

Just for fun...the Omnivore's 100

Over on Very Good Taste, check out "Omnivore's 100"--things Jill and Andrew think we should try. Granted it's their list, but the blog is getting people involved by asking them to copy the list to their own blogs and list what they've eaten...

Here's the list, with things I've tried bolded--on my first count I get 73, although I include rabbit when he asks "hare." I think I've had tom yum, but must confirm first...ah, yes--Thai soup...add that to the list. I think I'm up to 74. And there are some things I will probably never try...Horse, for one..Fugu, for, and most certainly not roadkill...There are things I've never heard of: phaal (A super hot curry, hotter than vindaloo, it says.. I love Indian food, but steer clear of super spicy...not likely to have been looking, ever, for this), Kaolin (am I right? Is this clay? Why would that be on a 100 things to eat list???), Baiju (Chinese grain alcohol)...Pocky...oh, Ha. Number 75. Chocolate covered cookie sticks from Japan...sold locally at our World Market. I didn't know those were pocky...

Of the things I haven't tried but most definitely will: Criollo chocolate, a tasting meal at a Michelin three-star restaurant, and poutine, which I can get during the winter here in S. Florida when the French Canadians head south.

Feel free to comment and post the list with your own tastes so far..and check out the original over at Very Good Taste.
1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Contessa Does Pizza

Ah, it's time for Barefoot Blogging--This week we are doing a grilled California pizza...a quick dough, plenty of toppings..and because I don't own a grill (must fix that), I decided to kind of par-bake them on a griddle and finish them in the oven. And yes, I get it that I could have done them entirely in the oven, but that just didn't seem quite in the spirit of things...

So--I picked fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil..goat cheese, chaume cheese (couldn't find Italian fontina) and, my fave, I cooked red onions down for my topping.

Once again, I was abandoned by my family (see clams post)...Bryn and I were here, though. Bryn enjoyed a straight up Margherita (with, I forgot, sundried tomatoes), and I did fresh mozz, tomatoes, goat cheese, red onions, and I finished with with fresh basil.

The dough rises quickly--you just have to give it 30 minutes. I rolled it out on parchment and flipped it onto the griddle--because I am beset by shrinkage. I roll dough out and it shrinks back the minute I move it...but here, leaving it to cook with the parchment backing, it held its shape better..I let it brown, then peeled back the paper, flipped it...cooled slightly, topped and baked.

With Gary at the hangar (don't ask), Ian gone, Sam...well, he's been gone a while..I had 8 pizzas and no one to serve 'em to...

So I baked off all the shells, didn't top them...and Bryn's getting homemade pizza for lunch tomorrow. Bet she's the only kid in school with that...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

As promised: Granola Grabbers...

Who is Michelle of Bad Girl Baking? Doesn't matter. I love her. She chose Granola Grabbers from Baking from My Home to Yours for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD). It just so happened that I pretty much had every. single. ingredient. For the week I decide to plunge back into TWD. So here's a shout out to Michelle for that. I know she didn't have me in mind, but...

And to top it off? I felt like supermom making home-baked cookies the day before the first day of school. I AM supermom.

On to the matter at hand and the diversions: my granola had cranberries in it. I had bulgur wheat but not wheat germ...And not quite enough of the Udi's granola, so I finished it with a Kirkland (a.k.a. Costco) cereal...They are baking even as I type, so let's see how all THAT goes.

The cookies went together quickly (thanks again, Bad Girl)--I needed this slide back into the routine, and this made it easy...I rotated the trays just like Dorie thing I've learned from this baking is to NOT OVERMIX. In most of the recipes, Dorie warns against it, and following her advice, most of my "experiments" have turned out so delicate...I digress.

Here the cookies are just out of the oven...
and here they are all ready to be enjoyed...

What's not to love about homemade cookies? Go be a supermom. Make these Granola Grabbers...


It's been a hectic summer. We hosted a German niece-in-law (Hi, Charly!), had a family trip to Colorado (the photo above is me at the Continental Divide. I loved it...), my mom was diagnosed with the big B cancer (she's doing great), which took me to the Pittsburgh area not once, but twice, work picked up...well, you know the drill.

I hope you're still stopping by now and then. I'll be getting back to both Tuesdays with Dorie (if they'll still have me) and to Barefoot Blogging. After all, the troops still need to be fed, right?

I hope you'll also stop by my blog at, where I've been named "Dining Expert." I'm trying to introduce visitors to great dining experiences in Florida, but I don't think I'm getting enough traffic--so please stop by and ask a question--no one has asked ANY questions yet, and I'm getting a complex...

In the meantime, check out the blog about Key Largo there, which is how I recently spent a Sunday...snorkeling and THEN you see, I haven't given up eating...just cooking, apparently.

But school is back in session tomorrow (should have been Monday, but Tropical Storm Fay paid a visit) and hopefully routines will fall back into place...routines that include plenty of cooking. And blogging.

Welcome back.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Beautiful Food

I had to change my header picture...Is summer fruit the most beautiful thing? This (the new photo above) is a white nectarine.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cherry Rhubarb Cobbler

Hey, folks! Long time...I've been traveling, cooking, traveling, working, working, working...But I haven't been forgetting Dorie. In fact, I almost--ALMOST--packed Dorie's Baking book in my suitcase on my trip to Colorado. I didn't, though. I am the super light packer, and I take great pride in that title. And I still packed too much.

At any rate, no TWD got baked last week or the week before last. I can't stand missing, but there you have it.

So tonight, as I was shopping for ingredients for a recipe I was testing for dinner, I put a call in to Ian, son and intrepid baker/chef himself. He got me the ingredient list, and I came home with rhubarb AND cherries.

I got my baby meatloaves with gorgonzola working and turned to the cobbler. If there is one thing I love about a cobbler, it's how easy they go together. In fact, I made the Contessa's Peach Raspberry crisp on the spur of the moment last week. Because I could. And it was good. No, in fact it was killer. That crisp, let me tell you. The brown sugar? Makes all the difference.

Back to our cherry rhubarb. I cooked it for 35 minutes, cooled it a bit and had some. I can't say I was wild about it. My daughter grilled me about the "celery" in the dish--she obviously didn't believe me when I told her the first, second and third times that there wasn't any celery in the dessert. And I have to remember to cook these cobblers to the longer times given...the topping was still gummy. Same thing happened with another cobbler I did.

It's okay, though. I love making dessert for my family. Next week, next recipe. Bring it.