RSS Feed

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tell Me Lies, Tell Me Sweet Little Lies




With apologies to Fleetwood Mac, I return to the topic of cooking to please others. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I'm pretty much comfortable cooking for Keith and Keith only. My goal is to be more comfortable cooking for others. Let me clarify, though, what I mean by "pretty much" comfortable.
If I cook something for Keith, he's thankfully, at least in retrospect, very honest with me. I can say this with certainty. However, if he compliments my cooking, I'm not altogether convinced he means it. I'm so filled with self-doubt about my cooking that despite my KNOWING that he is speaking truthfully, I will convince myself he's stretching the truth to make me feel better. He will say,' That's really good." about a particular dish and I will quiz him beyond that assurance relentlessly. How positively neurotic of me. I have found that I am not alone there.
My friend and co-worker Ginny is just like me in this respect. She made a German Chocolate cake and no matter how many times her main squeeze tried to convince her the cake was good, she had a hard time believing it. She brought the remainder of the cake to work and we tried it. It was very good. I can tell she's still not convinced though. I understand. I wouldn't be either.

I will become more confident though. Tonight's dinner of tilapia in a chile pepper sauce with couscous and salad was just passable though. Nothing earth-shattering. That's the point, though....it doesn't always have to be.
Read a great article in KC magazine by the always entertaining David Wayne Reed. He has also made the desire to be a better cook be known. His line of declaration is classic:
I will be a better cook. And I will make you taste my success.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Nostalgiaville


Blue Freeze Pops and Chicko Stix at Dink Snively's concession stand at the public pool. Sprees, Charleston Chews and Milk Shake bars at Doug Dale's corner store. A heaping pile of Chicken and Biscuits at the Hi-Way Grille. My mom's warm, fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. I have a wealth of childhood food memories; too numerous to mention in one post. Lately, though, it seems like the trip through Nostalgiaville has gotten more vivid.
My job at Barnes at Noble has brought me in touch with my childhood more than once lately. First came the book featuring Wacky Packages. I kid you not when I say I thought I imagined these at one point. No one else seemed to know what I was referring to when I brought these up. Wacky Packages were stickers of mildly irreverent spoofs of some existing product. Food was quite often the target but they certainly tackled other targets as well. They also included a rectangular piece of gum that was so hard it could be registered as a deadly weapon. Done in the spirit of Mad Magazine in the early 70's, I could not get enough. I covered my school notebooks with these awesome stickers much to my Mom's chagrin.
This week, The Elf on the Shelf book and figurine were brought out as a sales item. I don't remember a book but Mom had several of the figurines when I was a kid. She would tell me that they were watching to see if I was good for Santa and they would pop in different locations every day. The idea of them being Santa's watchmen fell away and the true joy always came with trying to find their new hiding places every day. Mom would know how to truly engage me by telling me they may have a food treat with them. Indeed, soon I was finding them with fresh-baked cookies, Mom's homemade peanut butter fudge or a candy cane.

I recently came across some vintage clips of old cartoons on YouTube. Josie and the Pussycats, Archies and a truly Golden Oldie that I also thought I imagined called Groovy Ghoulies. Seeing these clips was like coming across Wacky Packages and the Elf on the Shelf...an instant, visceral feeling of deep Deja Vu. I'm back in my pajamas, sitting on the floor with a bowl of Count Chocula watching the 'toons.
Nostalgiaville. Comfort food for the heart and mind.
Check out the following link for some vintage Josie and the Pussycats Saturday morning action:

Monday, September 28, 2009

White Beans Can't Jump








So I tried to make a Tuscan White Bean Dip to take to work today. It had lots of ingredients I love like cumin, fresh lime and some beautiful fresh cilantro. It also had fresh garlic of which I somehow got carried away with. I have read and reread that recipe but I screwed something up because the garlic overpowered everything. I was sweating garlic for hours and the kitchen still reeked of it when Keith got home. Now I love me some garlic but this was crazy garlicky. Back to the drawing board...
My friend and co-worker Melisa did come through with some groovy grub, though. Her hubby Auggie (aka August Wilhelm Sprung-best name ever) made some righteous hummus and even made the wonderful pita bread that accompanied it. I then got to try some of his pesto pasta..also terrific. These two need to have their own culinary operation- STAT.
Random thoughts-
I love when the grocery spots and other foodie operations start decorating for fall and Halloween-like this pumpkin patch at Hen House.
I've also become a big fan of Shatto milk...it's a locally made product and some of the freshest tasting milk around. You gotta love ice cold milk from a glass bottle. I'm not a big milk drinker....but this might turn me into one.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Heirloom Sunday Dinner




Keith's gardening skills brought us a bounty for dinner tonight. Potatoes from the garden were oven-roasted with olive oil, salt, fresh ground pepper and Paula's Sweet Italian Herb. Keith's tomatoes were vividly colored heirlooms named pineapples. We threw them on the grill after some olive oil, salt and pepper. We served them with a hickory-apple store-bought roast chicken. The whole dinner was so fresh and flavorful. One last taste of summer at the beginning of fall.

Plaza Art Fair '09






























The weather was warm and welcoming for the 78th Annual Art Fair at the Country Club Plaza in Midtown KC. A long-standing tradition must-see, the event spans the weekend. Artists, sculptors and vendors travel here from all over offering intriguing, eye-popping creations. Around 30 area restaurants set up incredibly elaborate booths serving everything from duck confit to chicken satay. It's always a great event.

We did lunch at McCormick and Schmicks, a Plaza favorite. We started out with Shrimp Remoulade. I used to love this dish at Etchings, my first restaurant job. The shrimp is done in a spicy and creamy Cajun sauce. Keith had fish and chips, which he liked and I had Bananas Foster French Toast. That french toast was drizzled in a caramel rum sauce that I could have bathed in.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Vintage Wedding
















The nuptials of Lindsey and Richard have come and gone and all was thankfully flawless. Lindsey was a positively breathtaking bride, the weather was perfect and the day was filled with contented laughter and tears. Lindsey designed the vintage look of the ceremony and reception. The dinner was a duet plate of Grilled Chicken with Asiago Cream Sauce and Shrimp Scampi with Roasted Red Potatoes and Asian Style vegetables.
Funniest moment occurred when the bridal party was alarmed to see a cop with handcuffs and a gun walking the lobby. I had to explain it was an actor with the Murder Mystery party in the other ballroom.
So psyched to see a classy groom's cake that wasn't a guitar, sports logo or hunting rifle!
Lindsay and Richard, may the rest of your life be as much of a blast as your wedding was. Cheers!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Whodunnit?

So it may look as if I've suddenly changed themes to CSI:My Life, but rest assured it's all an act. The pic of the unfortunate gentleman in the bathtub is from our Murder Mystery Weekend last year. He is actually an actor who was a lot of fun to work with. Tonight was the kick-off of this year's Murder Mystery Weekend. The pic of the Petit Fours were taken at the hors d'ouerves table for tonight's Opening Reception.
The weekend plays out as follows: Everyone gathers on Friday night for the Opening Reception where they meet their host. During the reception, a "murder" occurs and soon a detective is brought in. The guests have all witnessed the act and have the rest of the weekend to solve the crime. Everyone gathers at breakfast, lunch and dinner on Saturday in the same ballroom where they nosh on great food while comparing notes, going over clues and identifying suspects. Several surprises occur and possibly even more murders. The rest of the day they are on their own and generally combing the hallways looking for clues. At Sunday Brunch, everyone gathers one last time to offer their final solutions to the crime. Prizes are awarded to the winners. It's great fun, full of laughs and gasps and always very popular. Last year, I got to stretch the acting muscles and played a "victim". I got to truly ham it up at a table with guests after being "poisoned". After several moments of dreadful overacting on my part, I dropped dead where I was promptly dragged out of the room. The detective had to cover for me as I so winded from my over-the-top performance it was obvious I was still breathing! Daniel Day Lewis, I'm not.

We also hosted the rehearsal dinner for one of our favorite soon-to-be-weds...Lindsay and Richard. Their dinners included two of my favorite Elms dishes...Picasso Salmon and Asiago Chicken. More on the actual nuptials tomorrow....

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Demon Seeds of Spaghetti Squash


Tonight was our first experience working with spaghetti squash. I was home from work before Keith so I got things started. I cut the squash in half and began removing the seeds on the inside. I soon regarded the squash seeds as the work of the devil. Everytime I thought I was done I would suddenly find more. I was suddenly cursing them even more. Out, demon seeds, out! I was about to start throwing holy water but it finally seemed as if they were all out once and for all.
I seasoned the inside with olive oil, salt and pepper and placed them cut side down on an aluminum-foiled pan and popped them in the oven at 450 degrees. The next part will truly reveal my ineptitude in the kitchen. After the squash had baked about 10 minutes, I started doubting what the recipe meant by "flesh side down". Is that the inside or the outer skin? I actually took it out of the oven and turned it over and put it back in. Keith came home and confirmed I was right the first time. No real harm done other than a couple of char marks on the outside skin. I took the squash back out and flipped it again. All told, it was in around 35 minutes. I took it out and let it cool while heating some marinara. We ate a couple of salads in the meantime.
Returning to the squash, we took a fork to scrape out the insides which had the consistency of really thin pasta. We mixed it in with the marinara and it was ready. Topped with parmesan, we dove in. The squash was delicious. It tasted like a really fine pasta. Our friend Annette told us it was a great choice for her as it was gluten-free and that it was tasty with alfredo sauce as well.
Oh, and when we were scraping the squash? Keith says, " There's still seeds in here." Bah. Demon seeds, anyway.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mama P and Cake Wrecks

The staff at Barnes and Noble has been in stitches over this hilarious book we've come across called Cake Wrecks with the cover at right. The book is written by Jen Yates and subtitled
" Professional Cakes Gone Horribly Wrong". The cakes she features in this book have to be seen to be believed. My personal favorite is the one that reads: Good Luck, Christ! Can you imagine?

The brownies featured below are anything but a wreck. They are in fact chewy, moist bundles of chocolatey lovin' otherwise known as Sherry Polito's brownies. Sherry is our Community Relations Manager at the store. She is also a feisty Italian Mama who is an absolute force of nature. If someone she loved was in need, this woman would move heaven and earth to help them. Her loving Italian Buddhist motherly ways are evenly matched by a fiery temper that can leave you breathless. Sherry's political rants are legendary. She's also an awesome cook. The staff and B&N have a long, happy history with those marvelous brownies.

Mama P, you are one of a kind. Which is probably best, because I'm not sure we could survive two of you.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Paula and Pumpkins

As for the aforementioned pumpkin cheesecake served at our Barnes and Noble cafe, here it be....We get our cheesecakes from Cheesecake factory and well, it's a little slice of heaven. I do love me some pumpkin. In addition to cheesecake, I love pumpkin pie, pumpkin tarts, pumpkin bread...ok, I'm sliding into Bubba from Forrest Gump territory(fried shrimp, boiled shrimp....). But I digress...

I made an interesting observation today. I compared Barbara Walters with Paula Deen. Now, I'm sure many people would squirm at the idea of making any comparisons between this pioneer of broadcasting with the Queen of Southern Cooking. This week, Ms. Walters was awarded a legend award from ABC News. She has complained about it for two days because she believes the "legend" recognition ages her. Today, Paula was on the View and told Barbara that she reminded her of her mother and her Aunt Peggy, who were two classy women. Ms. Walters curled her upper lip in a look of disgust at the lovely compliment. I suppose Ms. Walters felt Paula's compliment aged her, same as the award. In the meantime, Paula had of course, brought an entire buffet of food to which the rest of the ladies dove into. Mika ( I will not even try to spell her last name ) today's guest host who's originally from the Joe Scarborough show must have been missing some meals cuz she tore into that food with some serious gusto. Ms. Walters, on the other hand, sat prim and still and unmoved and questioned Paula on the accusations that she's fattening the nation. Paula, on the other hand, was cackling and whooping it up(with Whoopi !)with a food item in each hand and nearly flashing her nether regions to the audience in a dress TWICE and clearly having the time of her life as she always does...If she had won a big award or even gotten paid a lovely compliment she probably would have cried tears of joy and gratitude at both.

I am a huge fan of both women.....but it's clear to me who the truly happy, serene and gracious one of the two is. One of the most endearing qualities of Paula Deen is her unending gratitude to her family, God and her customers and fans for everything she has. Go on, girl.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bookworms, Bruni and Blowing Eggs






Kaki sent me this extremely cool video featured on Tim Ferriss's blog. I can't wait to try the "peeling" without peeling. Click on the link above and check it out. Tim Ferriss is the author of the extraordinarily popular book, The Four-Hour Workweek.
Perfect way to segue into my second job....I also work at Barnes and Noble. I am a lifelong bookworm and have a great passion for the written word. I have had my nose firmly planted between the pages for as long as I can remember. All of my friends in grade school would bring some elaborate toy they had received for Show and Tell and I would bring a book. They would look bored or dubious when I started to present it but soon I would have them all enthralled. It was clear I was a future bookseller.
And indeed, in 2001 I joined the ranks of Barnes and Noble in Washington, DC where I lived at the time. I started as a Cafe Manager due to my Food and Beverage background. I began my training at the Georgetown store which was slammed busy open to close seven days a week. I was put through Starbucks barista training. This training was truly in depth at the time because we were taught on more traditional espresso machines and not the push-button wonders of today. We were taught proper tamping and how to pour the perfect cup of espresso. Despite my lack of fondness for coffee, I have always loved the aroma of freshly ground coffee and espresso beans. I quickly became an effective barista and could sling some lattes just like I used to sling drinks as a bartender. I was trained by the lovely Sherilyn and the witty Tim in the managing of our popular cafes. I had barely gotten through a few weeks of training when I found out the Georgetown store would be hosting First Lady Laura Bush, the White House Press Corp, and assorted Secret Service agents. Mrs. Bush would be reading for children with the world looking on. Wow, what an intro to the job!!
Eight years later, I am still employed with them and still look forward to the new releases every week. Lately, I've been focusing on cookbooks and food writing to read. My latest is Born Round by Frank Bruni. I loved the book. Bruni is a New York Times food critic who details his own twisted relationship with food. I can so relate. I highly recommend it.
I'll talk about B&N food offerings a little later...like the fact that it's time for pumpkin cheesecake..yes!!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Lazy Sunday


It was a beautifully lazy Sunday today of catching up with friends, e-mails, Food Network and some comfort cooking. We started out the morning with a staple we hadn't had in awhile. Going with whatever ingredients we had on hand, we made scrambled eggs with black beans, Italian five-cheese blend and salsa. We used a tangy salsa called Poppa's which Keith found at the Excelsior Springs farmer's market. Last time I did scrambled eggs I burnt them. Seriously. These were much better, to say the least.

We went on our Sunday grocery shopping trip and were intrigued to discover the Buittoni pasta kiosks that Keith is pictured operating at the top of the page. They give you a quick, interactive way to get some recipe ideas. Sure, it's promotional but it's quite effective as well.

Dinner was a hearty pot of chili to officially welcome autumn as that cooler air heads our way. Chili will always be a warm and comforting favorite of mine. The first chili I ever ate would be my Dad's, which was simple but good. Kristy's mother Mary Alice made a big pot of chili with grilled cheese sandwiches every football Friday night. My friend Christina gave me the enviable job of judging Chili Cook-Offs in downtown Charleston, WV. I first learned about adding cheese and sour cream from visiting the classic Skyline Chili in Cincinnati, OH. My friend Kaki introduced me to adding Frito's and also returned chili to its football association by always cooking up a heaping pot of spicy goodness for every WVU or Steelers game.

Our chili was largely made by Keith in this instance and pictured at left. Serious yum. I enjoyed Keith's helpful hint in making chili. He said, "Towards the end of making the chili, I start to get nervous of how it will turn out, so I throw a lot more chili powder in." Ha!! His instincts must have been right on the money as it was delicious. Autumn, you may begin.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Butter Massages, Legs Akimble and Wonder Weddings

As I was getting ready for work, I was watching a couple of old episodes of The French Chef starring the one and only Julia Child on PBS. I remember watching them when I was much younger and of course, the film Julie and Julia peaked my interest again. That woman is an absolute classic. I wouldn't typically think of watching someone clean a chicken or hack a giant fish head fun but Man, she does everything with such relish! Talk about passionate! As Julia prepared the chicken for roasting, she gave it a "butter massage" and oh, did she manhandle that bird. It was the very definition of food porn. As she is massaging, she cries, " Oh, don't let the legs and wings go akimble!" I had no idea what she meant, but I cracked up!

The pics on this page are from today's weddings at the Elms. The stunning florals are from Changing Seasons florists and the owner-designer is a hoot. He had wedding tales that made my jaw drop. The outdoor hors d'ouerves area was poolside on the East patio of our Regent ballroom. Among the appetizers were our Southwestern Chicken Salad Cups which I love so much I have a difficult time to staying away from them. The chocolate covered strawberries was a treat we took to Bianca's bridal suite. Two weddings, nearly 500 plated meals and all was flawless for both events. It was a long but terrific day.

Weddings can be such a tricky business. My cohort Lacee and I are adamant with our brides when we coordinate these weddings that they MUST start on time. The reason for this is largely based on the food. We always want our food to come out hot and fresh and when both events are plated it is absolutely vital. Sometimes, though, there are last-minute snafus or just a bride who needs an extra moment or two to just absorb that first step down the aisle. We get that, absolutely. In the back of my mind, though.....arrrghhhhh....the FOOD!! It usually works out though. That's just the nature of the beast...er...bride.
So a toast to our two bridal couples...may they live out their lives with unbridled happiness.

CHEERS!!!!!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Roller Derby Rehearsal and Helen's Oktoberfest

,

The images on this post stem from my job in sales with the Elms Resort and Spa. I work in the Wedding Department in particular. The above image is from tonight's rehearsal dinner featuring an Italian buffet. The wedding couple is one we've enjoyed working with, for sure. Bianca, the bride is a member of the Black Eyed Peas, one of KC's roller derby teams and her hubby is Brian, one of the local policemen. Their wedding tomorrow is sure to be a blast. The other pic is a case of a Chilean cabernet that our second wedding tomorrow will be enjoying. I've worked with weddings in one capacity or the other for quite a few years. It's practically a recession-proof industry and one that is never boring. I've worked with many a wedding menu, ranging from elaborate to simple. I'll continue to highlight some wedding features in the future, specifically the food.

Oktoberfest kicks off this weekend which kicks off two particular memories. The first involves the first restaurant I ever worked in. Etchings in Morgantown, WV was a fine-dining restaurant I will write more about later. We hosted an annual Oktoberfest buffet with performances by a German Oompah Band. The second memory was many years later when Keith and I were heading home to the Atlanta from a camping trip with friends in the Georgia Mountains. We stumbled upon what we came to find out was one of the premier Oktoberfest events in the U.S. Helen, Georgia is modeled after an actual German village and they were in the throes of their incredible Oktoberfest celebration. A stout German beer and some amazing Weiner Schnitzel later and we were on our way. Happy Oktoberfest!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Aunt Bonnie and Miss Patti

I spoke with my Aunt Bonnie this morning. Bonnie has had her physical challenges over the past several years but her spirit is still very strong. She was, of course, more concerned about others, including my parents, than herself. I spoke with her about a growing desire I've been having to put together a family cookbook to preserve cherished recipes and create a family history through food. Aunt Bonnie would be greatly featured in one such book on the strength of her chicken noodles alone. I call them Bonnie's Magic Noodles. As a kid, I would scope out those noodles at any family get-together first and foremost. They were like a bowl of little delicious security blankets; the ultimate comfort food. They have shown up much to my joy throughout my life from reunions to funerals. I would love to have any recipes she would share with me. My Aunt Bonnie is a family and city treasure.

The dish in the photo was the result of my return to cooking tonight. I made Superb 7-Spice Chicken with curried rice and Asian-style vegetables from Patti Labelle's Lite Cuisine cookbook. It turned out really well. The dish called for some spices I hadn't worked with before such as Chinese Five-Spice which has an enticing aroma. Despite the fact that I read and reread the recipe four times, I failed to notice that when it said turn the chicken over it was followed with bake 30 more minutes. I apparently thought after turning it over, it would cook lickety-split and be ready. Luckily, I caught it right before I nearly took the dish out of the oven a half-hour early. Latest lesson learned....read EVERY word of the recipe. Yeesh.

Now, Miss Patti and I had a close encounter a few years back. Keith and I were staying at the Marriott Marquis in New York City. We were meeting colleagues in Chelsea for dinner and were taking the elevator down to hail a cab. The elevator stopped on one of the floors and a gentleman in a headset asked us to hold the elevator for some folks who were on their way. Several minutes ticked by and Keith's patience was wearing thin because he was HUNGRY and Moses, part the Red Sea cuz Keith's comin' to dinner. Several painfully hip types boarded the car and we were informed that we were still waiting for two more. Finally, two smallish African-American women stepped on and turned their backs to us and we descended to the lobby. On the way down, I heard one of the women say to the other, "Honey, you need to come over some time. Miss Patti will cook for you." I peered at them closer and my heart went up in my throat. It was Patti LaBelle and Mary J. Blige. Myriad emotions rolled across my face but I couldn't utter a word. The only move I could make was to repeatedly tug on Keith's shirt sleeve which only served to annoy him more as he had no idea who they were and did I mention he was hungry?! Keith drug me out of the elevator and said, "What!!!" I managed to sputter out the women's identities to his shock. Turns out they were there to perform at a Grammy benefit honoring Bono, for the love of God. I wasn't right again for weeks later.

I did right by your dish tonight, Lady Marmalade. I hope to do right by yours also, Aunt Bonnie.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Roadfoodin' Back to KC

We are happy to be home, you betcha! It was a fine trip fraught with emotions, good and bad. My last post(which was written in a hotel room in Terre Haute, Indiana) highlighted the hometown grub and the memories they sparked with me. Now on to the food on the road...

Much of the time food on the road can be a serious adventure especially when it's late night from some travel mart truck stop. I danced around several aisles last night outside Indy looking for some disgustingly unsuitable late-night treat before settling on some dry Hershey cookies. I managed to escape some seriously terrifying apple fritters(cue the Texas Chainsaw music)..
For genuine suggestions on where to hit the best grubspots I would suggest trying out Michel and Jane Stern's Roadfood books. They have done them all and went on to write lovingly about the journey.

We did score earlier last night on the trip back with a stop at Brio at the Easton Town Centre in Columbus, OH. A beautifully appointed outdoor courtyard in perfect weather was the setting for some terrific Tuscan treats. We had yummy flatbread pizza and comforting BLT paninis. The highlight though was the Bruschetta sampler. Four delectable bruschettas featuring ingredients such as shrimp, fresh mozzarella, spicy beef and gorgonzola......every one was just...yum.

As you can see, I used some birthday money to purchase a Canon PowerShot today. I wish I'd had it in time to photograph that Brio Bruschetta just so I could salivate again. I will, however, be adding many more pics now.....guess I should've warned my friends that I would be waiting until their mouths were full and then..Gotcha!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Taste of The Familiar

Several times a year, I travel back to my hometown of St. Marys, WV to help out my aging parents, Rex and Alberta. This was one such trip and it became an impromptu tour of some true tastes of home...

Friday was my longtime best friend Kristy's birthday. She is the same age as me but never fails to remind me that I am older than she(by two weeks). We celebrated at Kaki and JB's and were also joined for a bit by friends Connie and Stacie. Following hours of great conversation and laughter through tears, Kak brought out some classic local munchies: Mister Bee potato chips and Broughton's Chip and Dip. Both made in the area and both defining flavors of our childhoods and both utterly destroyed within minutes. What a flashback. I will elaborate on all of these folks that I shared that chip and dip with at later dates as I have shared many a food moment with each of them.

Fresh tomatoes and cucumbers with onions soaking in apple cider vinegar have always been a summer staple at my parents home and sure enough the dish was there when I arrived on Saturday. Eating those cukes and maters was like nibbling on summer itself. That dish was at every family reunion, on the dinner table at both of my grandmother's homes and never fails to satisfy, even today. My dad, at nearly ninety, still grew the tomatoes himself but was gifted the other veggies by neighbors as is often done in my old neighborhood.

Sunday, a church supper was held at our old church, the First Baptist Church of St. Marys. I have many a warm and fuzzy memory of church social dinners held in the basement of both the old and new churches. At every one, I immediately went to check out the dessert table to see what I needed to save room for. That prep work, of course, did nothing to deter me from doing some serious damage getting there. I still remember "Aunt" Marie's scalloped potatoes and Hazel Drake's Chicken and Noodles. My parents are no longer able to attend these, but the church sent over some tasty lasagna from Sunday's dinner.

Keith and I tooled around the Sternwheel Festival later on Sunday in Marietta, Ohio and seeing all of the fair food booths(which have gotten seriously elaborate these days) reminded me of childhood favorites. Funnel Cakes(for a $1.00!!) after a hayride through the hills at the Lions Fall Festival at the St.Marys Park. Corn Dogs and Caramel Apples at the Belmont Volunteer Fireman's Carnival(which I would be trying to keep down after too many runs on the Scrambler and the Hustler).

That night, we had a gut-busting Italian meal at longtime local favorite DaVinci's in Williamstown. Truly yummy Fettuccine Alfredo and garlic bread.

My Dad and I went to a traditional end-of-summer trip to the outdoor picnic tables at the Jug in Newport, Ohio. Beautiful day to sit along the serene Ohio River. Dining at the Jug for me has to involve grilled hot dogs with sauce, mustard and onions. The Jug and that riverside location has been the site for many a family and friend get-together.

Ain't it amazing how one bite of food can actually cause you to travel back in time?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Nibbles

Some assorted musings...

K and I made a slow-cooker beef stroganoff for our co-worker Renee's send-off potluck and it turned out really well. The cooking was a bit of a revelation as I really found myself enjoying the process. The cutting of the meat, ths chopping of the vegetables, the mixing of the spices and that first scent of goodness wafting through the air. This is a positive sign and better yet, it was a hit! I'll add the recipe at the end of this post...

Saturday was a the first new weekend of a busy fall wedding season. One of my jobs is a sales and wedding coordinator for a historic hotel and spa. The Friday wedding was notable in food for these striking cupcakes done as the wedding cake. Saturday's nuptials continued the sweetness theme with a beautiful wedding cake, a candy station and a 9 pm ice cream bar! Those folks must have been on a sugar high for three days. Sunday's wedding became non-existent as the groom called the whole thing off the day before!! That was a first. Let's just say they ended up having a very upscale family reunion...

My unexpected Labor Day Sunday off was spent with Keith's extended family at their campsite at Watkin's Mill. It was a great day o' grub. Breakfast involved hole-in-ones(eggs cooked in the middle of french toast), K's Uncle Dave's famous breakfast potatoes and some killer bacon Keith's dad Ken made. We, along with AJ took Rhonda and family out for a much needed shopping trip after the aforementioned house fire so lunch was out at Tomfooleries. We had some good and saucy buffalo wings followed by a Con Queso Burger that was yum. Dinner back at camp involved Beer Can Chicken, Grandma's Salad (a sweet pasta salad) and corn on the cob. I missed the Labor Day breakfast which featured omelettes and Jill's well-known donut holes.

By the way, my obsession with food blogs and cookbooks has extended to Twitter and it's gettin' ugly....

Slow-Cooker Beef Stroganoff ( as printed in the The Best Slow-Cooker Cookbook Ever by Natalie Haughton)

Ingredients:

2 lbs. beef top round steak, trimmed of fat
1/2 lb. fresh white mushrooms sliced
1 bunch of scallions, chopped
1 medium onion, sliced
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
3/4 cup dry sherry
3/4 cup canned beef broth
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon garlic pepper
1 1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup quick-mixing flour

Directions

1. Cut the beef into thin slices across the grain. Place in a 3 1/2 or 4 quart electric slow cooker. Add the mushrooms, scallions, onion, thyme, sherry, broth, dry mustard and garlic pepper. Mix well.

2. Cover and cook on the low heat setting about 8 hours, or until the beef is tender, stirring once, if possible. Increase the heat setting to high.

3. Mix together the sour cream and flour until thoroughly blended. Stir a little of the hot liquid from the slow cooker into the sour cream mixture; then stir the sour cream mixture into the slow cooker, mixing well. Cover and cook on high 30 to 40 minutes, or until thickened slightly.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Weekend at the Lake

The Lake of the Ozarks was the tranquil setting for a truly beautiful birthday weekend. The cast of characters were Keith's parents, Ken and Helen(who own the lake house), Keith's sister Kim, her husband Dave and their two thoroughly adorable kids, 7-year-old Sierra and 6-year-old Tanner. The weather was clear and beautiful for the entire weekend. Of course, food was central throughout.

The Winges are a truly foodie family. They and several other extended family members host very unique celebrations centered on food every year. I will highlight each one as they happen later in the year. The family doesn't wait until certain celebrations to bring on the awesome grub, though. Kim saw to it by e-mail that I had some favorites involved. They did a fish fry with homemade potato chips and Asian slaw on Friday night. On Saturday, Kim made my favorite Hot Wing Dip (I will include this recipe soon). That night featured Barbequed Chicken, corn on the cob, some terrific tricked-up green beans Keith did and finished off with a store-bought Snicker's cake. Sunday morning Keith cooked a breakfast (with some assistance from me) of scrambled eggs, a Paula Deen bacon recipe (good flavor but too sweet) and toast. Serious yum from beginning to end.

The weekend finished up with the whole clan headed to Jeff City to help Rhonda and family move into their rental home after that horrible fire. And I do mean the whole clan from all over. Loads of food were brought in as we moved all of the furniture in. Clearly, no matter the occasion, the entire family pulls together to help out when one is in need.

That is, as I'm learning all over again, the true definition of family.