This week I unzip in Venice, a city shrouded in mystery and the perfect setting for romance. Venice is also the birthplace of one of the world's great cocktails - the Bellini. Read on, friends...
A cautionary tale about the dangers - and wonders - of Tequila
Ice skating, Tinder dating, and hilarious holiday hijinks in Sin City.
An ode to the timeless classic that is a perfect Martini.
Tickling Your Spring Fancy and Tasting the Unique Gins of Maine
Almost every family has one – the meal that is all things to all family members. It’s comfort and celebration, joy and solace, the meal that you want when you’ve been far away, or when your heart is broken, or when you just want to settle in.
Though some may lament Labor Day as the unofficial end of summer, it happens to be one of my favorite times of year – a lovely three-day respite and a gateway to fall.
If you ask me, we are officially entering the most exquisite 8 weeks of the year on the coast of Maine. For most families, school is back in session or about to begin. Summer’s loosey goosey, free form agenda for the past few months, gets corralled as order is restored to even the most chaotic schedules. Parking in downtown Portland is easier, reservations to our favorite restaurants are more readily available. The natives are breathing just a little easier.
And the weather. Who wouldn’t fall in love with Maine when the days are warm, breezy and dry and the nights are cool and clear? Autumn is just beginning to whisper its secrets in your ear as you sleep. Perfect sleeping weather; the phrase was invented for this time of year.
The garden seems to be working overtime for us to get our money’s worth with tomatoes, squashes, tomatillos, peppers, and all kinds of gorgeous flowers. And the bees are working as hard as their wingless gardening counterparts.
At my house, Labor Day calls for a lobster bake, you know all the traditional fixings – steamed lobster and steamers with drawn butter, fresh corn and tomatoes, potatoes. What could be better?
We always cook extra lobsters so there is enough meat for lobster rolls the next day. Nothing could be simpler than a genuine Maine lobster roll. Only two ingredients are absolutely necessary – lobster and a roll.
For authenticity, the lobster must be fresh and the roll must be New England style, the kind that has no crust on the bottom and the top. The best rolls are smeared with butter on the outside, toasted golden brown and delivered to the table still warm.
Some people like their lobster mixed with melted butter, some with a dollop of mayonnaise, some say naked lobster meat is best. Served with potato chips and a cold beer and you are in heaven – Maine style.
For dessert, there’s only one way to go and that’s with an authentic, homemade Whoopie Pie (see below for recipe!). These chocolatey, marshmallowy confections are a Maine tradition and the recipe that follows has been passed down for five generations of Mainahs.
You can thank me after you’ve recovered from your Made-in-Maine food coma!
It would have been almost impossible to think of a better situation, personally and professionally. Last Thursday I traveled from Portland, Maine across the country to Portland, Oregon. I was headed to the International Food Bloggers Conference, which promised to be a learning and networking experience like no other. Better still, I was there representing the 1200 farm family owners of Cabot Creamery, an IFBC sponsor.
Before things got officially underway, on Thursday evening there was a book party and welcoming get-together at the storied Mother’s Bistro & Bar where early bird attendees sampled delectable local fare and some of the most inventive cocktails I’ve ever encountered.
On the way to the party at Mother’s, I took time to explore downtown Portlandia. This is one seriously cool town, and I only scratched the surface. I really need to go back. Soon.
Friday’s agenda included an opening lunch sponsored by another great farmer-owned cooperative Organic Valley, followed by a schedule of sessions and workshops for 200+ food bloggers of every stripe and level of experience.
On Friday night there was a Gourmet Fair and de facto Swagapalooza (the sponsors were very generous with goodies for the swag bags), with tasting stations to satisfy virtually any culinary inclination. I brought five different Cabot cheddars to sample, including Cabot Clothbound, aged in the Cellars at Jasper Hill. By happy coincidence we were close to the Mionetto Prosecco station and discovered just how great the pairing of quality Italian bubbles and aged cheddar can be.
There is magic that happens when you get a group of like-minded people together to connect with each other and luminaries in their field. The sponsors added sparkle to the proceedings, expanding our knowledge of tools, food, wine and spirits, and resources. There were iconic brands like Wusthof knives, OXO innovative kitchen product and Analon cookware, food brands like USA Pears, Made in Nature dried fruits and Nutive. You can check out the list of other outstanding sponsors here.
Held in one of the great food-centric cities in the country, Portland greeted the far-flung food bloggers with open arms and a vast array of local comestibles and drinks from all over Oregon. The variety, creativity, and genuine joy for the food had us all reaching for keyboards and cameras in a desperate attempt to capture in words and pictures that which should, by rights, be tasted and savored. There’s already been chatter among us about next year…in Seattle!
Having people over for Sunday brunch is just about my favorite way to entertain. It’s easy and if you plan properly, you can get a lot of the work done before hand and enjoy your guests. My go-to brunch dish is this Make-Ahead Brunch Strata. I adapted my recipe from one I found Cabot’s website. It has served me well for years.
The beauty of this dish is its versatility. You can use just about anything handy for the base – stale bread, frozen waffles, frozen hash brown potatoes (thaw and dry first), croutons – whatever strikes your fancy. The same is true for the filling. An all-vegetable version is delicious, as is all meat – bacon, sausage, ground turkey, Canadian bacon. Give it a south-of-the-border twist by adding salsa and chorizo, or a hint of Italy with sun-dried tomatoes and pancetta. Let your imagination go wild.
The other thing I love for brunch can also be made ahead of time, are these crowd-pleasing Cheddar & Sage Corn Muffins which I make in mini muffin tins. Just the right size for a party.
The simplest salad was just outside my kitchen door – cherry tomatoes in cheery colors – combined with fresh basil, the tomatoes’ neighbor in the garden, and fresh mozzarella. Add a spritz of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil and you have a perfect Caprese salad.
Whether it’s global warming or just a crazy hot few months, my canine-American companions have suffered this summer from the unusual heat here on the coast of Maine. Luckily, we have the ocean at our doorstep and can dip in the cold Atlantic as the temperatures soar.
Sometimes, however, a dog just needs a frozen treat. There are several on the market, but most seem to be exorbitantly expensive. “How hard could it be to make my own?” I thought. So off I went to my trusty Interwebz machine and did the old googly woogly on “frozen dog treats.” Reader, they are abundant.
I read through the first gazillion and found, not at all to my surprise, they’re all VERY similar. Yogurt, peanut butter, fruit (usually bananas), and maybe a dollop of honey. This I could do.
An aside: I’m not sure why I am so much more freaked out and cautious about making food for my dogs than I am about making food for my friends. I feel like I should call the vet to, well, vet whatever it is I’m making. Why is this? Discuss amongst yourselves.
I made the Frozen Puppy Pops™ in about 3 minutes. Then, because I was feeling all kinds of canine creativity coursing through my core, I grabbed a slice of pork tenderloin left over from the previous night’s dinner, chopped it into tiny, Yorkie sized bites and made another batch; this one was savory.
Were these treats successful? Like crack to a junkie, like chardonnay to Kathie Lee & Hoda, like Jello shots to the cast of Jersey Shore. They’re easy, they’re healthy, and as you watch your pup devour them, they’re endlessly entertaining. Dogs eating fro yo – now that’s funny.
An aside: It appears that dogs get ice cream headaches too.
Just watch their little doggie faces.
Follow the link below for the recipe!
Going Primal can be fun…and delicious. Bacon and eggs for breakfast, lots of salads and fresh veggies. Meat! Fish! Chicken! It really isn’t too much of a sacrifice. Until it is.
Because, really, some meals call for that certain special carb. I’ve learned to substitute spaghetti squash for spaghetti – not exactly a fair trade, but it works in a pinch. But let’s face it.
I miss potatoes.
At least I did until I stumbled across a recipe on Pinterest for Mashed Cauliflower. It wasn’t really a recipe, per se, just an observation that mashed or pureed cauliflower is a pretty decent substitute for mashed potatoes.
Reader, they were right.
I tarted mine up a bit, adding Greek yogurt, sharp cheddar and roasted garlic.
Served up next to a flank steak right off the grill and sliced garden tomatoes, this fluffy pile of faux-spuds was Dee. Lish.
Some days my journey to 60 seems like the best kind of adventure, full of challenges and successes, new experiences that enrich my life, people who seem to appear at the behest of a kind a benevolent god who sends me exactly who and what I need, when I need it.
Other times…not so much.
Some days the road to 60 feels like the Bataan Death March, one weary step after another, plodding to a distant and unknowable goal.
The last couple of days have been of the latter variety. But now it’s Friday and there is breathing room on my horizon.
Right now, I’m adjusting to a new/old way of eating. I’ve gone back to following Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint, a system of diet and exercise that is, for me, very effective at maintaining a healthy weight and a good level of fitness.
There’s no denying that when I follow the Blueprint, I look better and I feel better. Still there are things I miss, when I go Primal.
Carbs. I miss carbs. There are very few carbs involved in this healthy eating plan. And carbs have always been my dietary Achilles heel, my downfall, my weakness. For some girls it’s cowboys, for me it’s carbs.
This crazy carb depletion has made me cranky. Very cranky. I needed a healthy way to address my bad mood and I think I found it with these Bacon & Cheddar Deviled Eggs.
And to prove there is serendipity in the universe, I saw my friend Kristin yesterday, and she brought me a dozen fresh eggs, gathered that morning from her chicken coop. How could I not do something fabulous with them?
I’ve taken a classic egg preparation and incorporated what could rightfully be called the Dynamic Duo of food fanatics, young and old. I mean really, who doesn’t like bacon? And cheese? And bacon with cheese? It’s a win/win as far as I’m concerned.
And enough to de-crank my nasty mood.
Here’s the beauty of a deviled egg – it’s a meal-chameleon. Eat it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Any time’s a good time for the Devil!
My daughter has life threatening food allergies. She goes into anaphylactic shock if she has the slightest exposure to any dairy products or eggs. While this makes cooking for her challenging, it also makes for some delicious takes on culinary classics. Take potato salad. I grew up eating, and loving, classic potato salad: boiled potatoes, chopped boiled egg, celery, maybe a little diced onion and pickles, bound together with a mayonnaise dressing.
While American-style potato salad is iconic, it is also calorie dense and can turn lethal at a picnic on a hot summer day. Can you say “food poisoning”?
In creating a potato salad for my daughter that was free of any dairy or eggs, I also found a lighter, healthier version of this family favorite, substituting roasted potatoes for boiled and incorporating vegetables from a summer garden. Tossed with a light olive oil-based vinaigrette not only adds a depth of flavor, it has the advantage of being safe picnic fare on even the hottest summer day.
The great thing about this recipe is how versatile it can be. I love it with fiddleheads and tomatoes early in the summer. You can add zucchini when that bumper crop comes in. My family loves it with fennel and arugula. Let your garden dictate the ingredients and you can’t go wrong.
In which I make an old family favorite.
In which I experiment with a new camera and an old favorite.
In which I grill my way to salad happiness.
In which five talented food bloggers take up a dessert challenge with sweet results.
In which I celebrate a mash-up of spring traditions.
In which I give you my own top ten (plus one) of toasted cheesy goodness.