Are you ready for a quick and easy meal featuring fresh, sustainable seafood bursting with the tang and spice of lemongrass and basil? While we are at it let’s keep it clean, healthy and appealing for those on special diets like keto, paleo, gluten-free and pescatarian. Say “hello” to my Asian-inspired roasted sesame crusted cod…
A boatload of zucchini is never a problem around here as we enjoy it so many ways. You can find one of my favorite recipes here for funfetti zucchini bread, but today we are going with an Italian spin on the loaf. It was a challenge to get Italian style zucchini bread right.
Inspired and intrigued by Deb Wise’s recipe for a Tuscan Pignoli Orange Zucchini Bread on myrecipes.com I immediately went to work to change it.
At first glance, I loved her use of almond and semolina flours, but then I noticed 2 teaspoons of baking soda plus 1 of baking powder. A red flag went up. I hate the metallic bitterness of unreacted baking soda in quick breads and muffins. I just did not think there was enough acidity in the recipe to balance out the baking soda and allow it to do its job. In addition, I also noted an overload of oil and sugar in the ingredient list. This conjured up an overly sweet and greasy loaf image. I find most quick breads don’t ever suffer from a reduction in the oil and the sugar in the recipe. In my mind it feels so much healthier, too.
In my first attempt, I reduced the baking soda form 2 teaspoons to 1 1/2 teaspoons plus I added 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. Next, I reduced the sugar by 1/4 cup and the oil by 1/3 cup. I did not use the nuts (too expensive an ingredient to experiment with), but kept everything else the same. The result is the loaf pictured above. It was greasy and tasted slightly metallic. It was sweet enough, so I opted out of the icing. Did you notice it is slightly sunken in? That is the result of too much leavening. I knew it needed further refinement.
The next loaf required a dramatic decrease in baking soda (from 2 teaspoons to 1), oil (from 1 cup to 1/2 cup) and sugar (1 1/4 cups to 3/4 cup) and the addition of 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and the results were deliciously amazing. First, the aroma is super nutty and the flavor is bright with citrus and just a touch of sweetness. The texture is perfectly light without any greasy feel. Bonus points for a perfect rise without sinking. My husband described it as “fresher tasting”.Print
Inspiration from Tuscany for this moist lemony zucchini bread
- Category: quick breads
- Method: baking
Keywords: Italian, Tuscany, zucchini, semolina, breakfast, brunch, bread
I am fresh out of grief lessons, but don’t want to give up on blogging. From time to time, I hope you enjoy the recipes shared here. You can see more of what I do on instagram @goodgriefcook
What better way to celebrate a life than with a TEDx talk and a buttermilk spice birthday cake
There is no better way to step outside one’s comfort zone than to give a TEDx talk. This is public speaking, “ideas worth spreading”, on steroids as there is no podium, a time constraint and using notes is not recommended. It takes courage and a village of support to get it done. As thankful and as proud as I can possibly be for successfully completing a TEDx talk at Furman University, I’m still going to lament the fact that I failed to convey one critical thought even though no one knew what I forgot to say. It’s about that CHOPPED competition. I really want you all to know this:
“What’s most remarkable about my CHOPPED experience is not that I won $10,000.00, but that the victory is the result of the pure love energy of my son.”
Happy birthday William. It’s your day tomorrow. I can’t think of a better gift to give you than this TEDx video. I am ever so proud to be your mom.
If you watch the video I suggest enlarging the screen, so you can get a better look at the power point photos. I think seeing the photos as you listen is critical to better understanding the story.
A grateful shout-out to all those who read my blog, but especially today to Patrice, Betty, Krista and Marcie who inspire me to remain positive. And to the student team of Furman University led by Jacob Lollis there are no words, but love for all your hard work in coordinating such an extraordinary event. Thank you for your gracious hospitality and celebrating William’s life with me.
It would not be a celebration without cake. This Buttermilk Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Buttercream comes from Jana Roerick’s book, The Little Island Bake Shop. The warm spices only get more intense as the cake sits, so make it a day or two in advance. I baked mine in 2 8-inch round pans and then deliberately sliced them horizontally in an uneven fashion because I was feeling off kilter.
Imperfect is not considered professional, but I think it is so much more interesting. I also added 4 ounces of softened cream cheese at the end of the mixing of the buttercream. The tang of the cream cheese balances out the sweetness of the frosting. I also prefer my cakes naked around the sides. And here is a neat trick. Enjoy a slice or two before your guests arrive and then embellish the inside. No one will know! It gives a whole new meaning to have your cake and eat it, too.
Friends first competitors second
One of the big advantages of being a competitive home cook is the meeting of like-minded people. In my recipe contest travels I have been fortunate to make friends all over the country. My competitors inspire me nearly every day with their creativity not only as winning cooks, but also as parents, craftsmen and entrepreneurs. Their ability to juggle family life, full time jobs and their desires to extend themselves even further in finding their passion is remarkable. Today, I just feel lucky to know so many kind and generous ladies and gents some of which I have never even met face to face.
Let me tell you about the award-winning cook and Etsy shop owner Shannon Imlay. Shannon and I are FB friends. I believe I first came to know and admire her in an online cooking group better known as The Real Women of Philadelphia. I will never forget my first impression when seeing her online profile photo and saying, “WOW”. Shannon is strikingly lovely. She is also an extremely talented party hostess and certified floral designer all the while taking care of a special needs son on her own. She is impressive.
Shannon has had her share of grief, but truly maintains a positive outlook on life. Her generosity of spirit never ceases to amaze me. Recently, she kindly sent me a most glamorous and decadent giftbox filled with products from her Etsy shop, Shannon’s Romantic Life.
I could not wait to try both of her hot chocolate mixes inspired by the romantic-comedy movie Chocolat (thus the spelling of her products). Made from just a few high quality and organic ingredients her sipping chocolate is like none other I have tasted. Rich and creamy this is a luscious dark chocolate blend with just the right amount of sweetness. The Spicy Kiss version has a touch of chipotle chili which adds a smokey subtle burn in the back of the throat which was thoroughly enjoyed. All you have to do to make this decadent drink is add milk, whisk and bring to a boil.
If you need a gift (Easter & Mother’s Day) or a reason to spoil yourself then check out Shannon”s Romantic Life on Etsy. Everything in Shannon’s shop is crafted with love, kindness and the highest quality ingredients. She is also very happy to customize any order.
Before we bake this most unusual elderberry honeycomb cream pie…
It’s that time of year when I look forward to getting my hands into the dirt. Seed and garden catalogs pile up on the coffee table with dog-eared pages and the outdoor thermometer is the first thing I check upon rising every morning. I long for the final frost of the season and dream of a healthy, productive garden.
A flock of red wing black birds took a break in the backyard today. It’s exciting to see the promise of spring in this way. The bluebirds are very busy making nests and it’s clear among the deer herd who will be giving birth in a couple of months. With snow still on the ground it is hard to imagine that there will be flowers blooming any time soon, but sure as the day is long, the bees will come and pollinate it all. It helps that I don’t use any chemicals in my yard. The bees and the butterflies flourish. We all benefit.
This pie is inspired by a recipe I saw in a book written by my all time favorite baker, Rose Levy Beranbaum. If I had a girl crush it would be on her. One of the first cookbooks I ever owned was her Cake Bible and I still treasure that book today. Rose’s version of this Bavarian cream pie naturally highlights honey, but I chose to change it up a bit with some blueberry elderberry preserves and elderflower syrup from Norm’s Farms. A baked cookie crust holds all the buzz worthy goodness. Isn’t it amazing what one can do with bubble wrap!Print
1 (9-inch) shortbread or graham cracker crust)
½ cup Norm’s Farms Blueberry Elderberry Preserves
4 egg yolks plus 1 egg white
1/3 cup plus ½ cup Norm’s Farms Elderflower Syrup
2 ¼ teaspoons plain gelatin
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/8 teaspoon lemon juice
½ cup heavy cream
Edible candy bees, optional (I piped mine with melted dark chocolate)
1 (9-inch circle) bubble wrap with small size bubbles
- If not using a store-bought crust, prepare, bake and cool homemade cookie crust.
- Spread preserves over bottom of crust.
- In small saucepan, whisk egg yolks, 1/3 cup elderflower syrup, gelatin and salt.
- In microwave safe measure, heat milk to just a simmer.
- Whisking constantly, very gradually add hot milk to egg yolk mixture until fully blended.
- Place saucepan over medium heat. Whisking constantly bring mixture just to a simmer. Do not boil. It should be slightly thickened.
- Strain custard through a sieve into a small metal bowl. To speed chilling, place bowl in another bowl of ice water; set aside.
- Meanwhile, in another small bowl, beat egg white and lemon juice to stiff peaks.
- Using same beaters, in another bowl, beat heavy cream to soft peaks.
- Stir elderflower mixture until it is cool and thick enough to slightly mound when small amount is dropped from spoon. Fold in egg white and whipped cream. Pour into pie crust; smooth top.
- Press bubble wrap, bubble side down, over cream filling. Freeze at least 3 hours or as long as overnight.
- In small saucepan, bring remaining ½ cup of elderflower syrup to a low boil. Simmer syrup until reduced and just turns a shade darker amber color. Let cool slightly, but still fluid.
- Carefully remove bubble wrap from frozen pie. Drizzle syrup over pie. Place pie in refrigerator to thaw at least 1 hour before serving. Garnish as desired.
- Category: dessert
- Method: stove top
Keywords: elderberry, pie, honey comb, custard, Norm’s Farm
<3 Happy Spring <3
Today, I could not help but want to repost this old Valentine’s day blog. It truly is one of my fondest memories of William. Thinking back on that visit with him always makes me smile. He was the master of fun surprises.
I continue to be inspired by his amazing brave and caring energy which brings me to this weekend’s TEDx talk. Truth be told I wasn’t exactly sure what a TEDx talk was when I accepted the invitation. I just knew it would be one more way to celebrate Will’s life, so of course I said, “yes”.
Little did I know that being invited to do a TEDx talk is kind of a big deal. Little did I know just how terrified I would be as I prepared for it. In between panic attacks over the last several weeks I prepared 7 pages of my thoughts. Too much I fretted, so whittled it down to 4. I attempted to memorize a speech. Practice, practice, practice. It felt like I was jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. It felt all wrong.
Several supportive friends suggested, “just speak from your heart”. I am taking their advice and feeling less anxious. To just simply speak from the heart feels right.
To further ease my anxiety I thought it a good idea to bake cookies for all 300 people in the TEDx audience. Baking cookies is much more therapeutic than public speaking. Just sayin’. In addition, to bringing the original Sweet William’s Inspired and Spirited Chocolate Chip Cookie I’ve added a Salted Chocolate Whiskey Shortbread because I wanted a heart shaped cookie.
The cookie dough for the shortbread contains no salt, so don’t hesitate to generously top each cookie with a good sprinkle of finishing salt. I highly recommend The Spice & Tea Exchange Chocolate Sea Salt for its sweet smokey flavor.Print
Spirited with whiskey these are full of flavor.
Salted Chocolate Whiskey Shortbread
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon whiskey (Jack Daniel’s recommended)
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate
Chocolate Sea Salt or your favorite finishing salt
- In large bowl, beat butter and sugar for 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. On low speed, add egg, vanilla and whisky; blend well.
- Gradually add flour until fully incorporated.
- Stir in chocolate.
- Dump dough out onto some plastic wrap. Gather it up into a flat disk. Wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Heat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
- On a silicone mat or lightly floured surface roll dough to 1/8-1/4-inch thickness. Cut out desired shapes with cookie cutters. Re-roll dough scraps as needed to cut out more cookies.
- Place cookies on baking sheets. Sprinkle generously with finishing salt. Gently press salt into cookie with your fingertips.
- Bake for 10 to 12 minutes for 1 1/2-inch size cookies or until edges brown. Cool.
I made about 200 cookies with a small heart shaped cutter.
- Category: cookies
- Method: baking
On this Valentine’s Day I hope you are surrounded by those you love most. <3
Bring on these so good high rise banana muffins.
It’s that time of year that I like to clean out my cupboards, pantry and freezer. I pride myself on keeping my baking and cooking equipment organized, but by the end of 2018 everything seemed to be in a tangle.
Inspired by 3 over-ripe bananas discovered in the depths of my freezer it was time to use them up along with a bunch of random paper cupcake liners and near empty containers of spices and extracts. Baking some warm healthy muffins would help me clean things out. And bonus…we get delicious muffins for breakfast.
Today, I bring you a banana muffin that actually tastes like bananas. Tip: bake with over-ripe bananas for the very best flavor. Most muffins I have had in the past are loaded with spices, so they taste more like ginger or cinnamon or chai rather than fresh bananas. While this recipe has a touch of spice the banana flavor and aroma really comes through due to the addition of some banana extract. I love this McCormick brand because it truly does enhance the banana flavor without any weird artificial taste.
You will notice that this recipe starts at a high oven temperature of 425F. before dropping down to 350F. The initial high heat is what gives these muffins the high-rise. As for mixing…you know the drill. Mix the dry ingredients with the wet just until moistened, so they bake up tender. Please feel free to toss in any other healthy ingredients you like. I’m a freak for chia seeds, but some toasted nuts could be good for a bit of crunch.Print
Healthy and full of banana flavor these muffins aim to please.
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 over-ripe bananas (frozen and thawed)
2/3 cup light brown sugar
6 tablespoons coconut oil
2 teaspoons banana extract
1 tablespoon chia seeds
- Heat oven 425F. Line muffin tin with paper lines.
- In medium bowl, whisk both flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg; set aside.
- Peel thawed bananas over a large bowl, catching any excess liquid. With electric mixer on low mash up the bananas.
- Add brown sugar, coconut oil, egg, extract and chia seeds; blend well.
- Add dry ingredients and blend at low speed just until moistened and batter is smooth.
- Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake for 5 minutes and then turn down oven to 350F.
- Bake 15 to 17 minutes or until wooden pick comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- Category: quick breads
- Method: baking
Keywords: muffins, breakfast, snack, banana, brunch, healthy
Thankful for a year that brought me more peace than ever. The best news is learning the US Navy has recognized sleep deprivation as a rather big cause of military accidents on ships and across the board has put some rules into place to prevent further tragedy related to lack of sleep. It was early on in my blogging when I first wrote about that issue here.
I also enjoyed some really fun food experiences traveling to Oregon compliments of my Saucy Mama friends then to Alabama for the World Food Championships and most recently to New York City for a holiday baking challenge sponsored by Kellogg’s cereal where I got to hang out with these two.
My next big challenge happens in February and I dare say I will truly be out of my comfort zone. Have you heard of TEDx talks? I’ve been invited to give one at Furman University. The talk is titled, “How to Celebrate a Life A Food Blog”. Never in a million did I think this blog would lead me to the big stage. Surely taking the road less travelled and going public with my grief has allowed William’s light to shine brighter. May it never dim.
Happy New Year and thank you for hanging out with me.
You’ve heard me say it before. When it comes to the holiday season take one day at a time and just put one foot in front of the other. Take your time. Do what you need to do and if you are able to weave your grief into the holiday spirit by all means do so.
If you are a guest among someone who is having a difficult time I encourage you to share some stories about the person who is gone from the table. If they are funny tales then even better. Don’t be afraid that you might make another cry. Those tears are the glue that mend the broken heart. The stories are priceless and allows the grief to be public, to be normal, to not be alone. Your courage to speak out loud is the best gift under the tree. Be the comfort and joy.
Baking brings me comfort and joy. At this time of year it is absolutely a marathon of cookies. So many recipes on this run to Christmas Eve. Some are traditional family favorites like linzer tarts, thumb prints and pressed spritz cookies, but if you know me I have to have some new creative additions, too.
Spritz cookies are the perfect holiday bite. Sweet, crisp and buttery nothing dresses up a cookie tray like these pressed cookies. With a rainbow of colors and sprinkles the fun and festive designs are endless. If you don’t already own a cookie press I highly recommend the Marcato Biscuits Machine as it is so easy to use and every cookie presses out perfectly.
If you must know nutty thumb print cookies are my absolute favorite. The very best recipe comes from Sweet Maria’s Italian Cookie Tray book. I never tinker with her recipe because it truly is the perfect cookie. This year I tried Norm’s Farms elderberry jam with roasted and salted pecans in one batch and almonds and mango fruit spread in the other. Fantastic, melt in your mouth sweet sensations with just enough salty crunch.Print
2 sticks butter, softened
½ cup sugar
2 eggs, separated
2 teaspoons vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
2 cups chopped nuts
¾ cup jelly
- Heat oven 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light. Add egg yolks and vanilla; blend well.
- On low speed, gradually add salt and flour; mix just until soft dough forms.
- Shape into 1-inch balls.
- In small bowl, beat egg whites until fluffy.
- Place nuts in another small bowl.
- Dip dough balls into egg white and then roll in nuts coating well.
- Place on baking sheets two inches apart.
- Using your fingers, press tops of cookie balls to flatten.
- With your finger, make a dent in the center of each cookie.
- Spoon ½ teaspoon of jelly into the dent.
- Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
- Transfer cookies on parchment paper to a rack to cool.
- Store in an airtight container.
- Category: cookies
- Method: baking
Keywords: Christmas cookies, thumbprints, holiday, jelly-filled
Talk about comfort and joy. Invite a child into your kitchen to bake this year. Don’t worry about the potential mess. That is why God invented vacuum cleaners and other assorted cleaning supplies. Oh, what fun……bake some memories.
the power of prayer
Today I want to tell you about a letter I received from my sister in-law Maureen. She has a heart of gold. Maureen has always kept the family close through her letters. She along with my brother in-law raised four strong, generous and successful children and it was through her letters I got to know them well as distance and work did not allow for frequent visits. Her letters continue to be filled with powerful messages about her love of family and strong faith in God.
She writes, “I am a big believer of angels. I seek help from them on a regular basis.” She goes on to say that on July 8thwhen the Thailand boys were trapped in the cave and needed a special rescue team that she called upon my William. Out of all her list of angels he was the only one qualified to help in this situation. He had the military skills, the strength, ability to swim and the compassion to help those in need. “I had never asked anything of Will before. I started crying and then felt this huge warm physical embrace.” Later that day, the first two boys were rescued.”
Maybe it’s a coincidence? Maybe it is just nonsense? But maybe, just maybe, his presence is here just in a different form? Praying to angels is a hopeful practice. As Maureen writes, “I sense them and get strength from them.” Maureen made one more comment about my son that really made my day. In fact, it was something that had never occurred to me. She said, “You made him available.” I’m so very grateful that he is felt in so many places and that his spirit is strong, loving and active.
Have you written a letter today? Are you thankful and filled with love and gratitude? May those you love most this holiday season surround you, but if not get out your pen and paper and tell them how you feel. It’s the best gift ever. I love you, Maureen.
easy apple butter biscuits
Brush of An Angel’s Wing by Charlie Shedd was gifted to me in 2015. It’s a quick read of miraculous, but true stories of healing, rescues and sweet waves of comforts. The book is as uplifting as having an angel on your shoulder.
While I did not need convincing that God’s messengers do exist I wondered if this book of divine intervention could help or inspire other parents who have lost a child. After such a harrowing experience finally believing my son is an angel among us was a real positive turning point in my own grief experience. Whoosh moments inspire me to celebrate him.
The brush of an angel’s wing eases the torment. It happens at unexpected times and when needed most. The book and its wonderful message needs to be shared. So, here is what I did.
I wrote William’s name on the inside cover with his date of birth and the day he died. I then mailed the book to a friend who had also lost a child with instructions to add her child’s name to the “Angels Among Us” list and then to pass it on after reading. I then forgot all about it until now.
Fast forward to a month or so ago when I received an apology note from a mom who had lost her son last year. She said she was sorry for holding onto the book for so long, but she just could not bring herself to write her son’s name in the cover. Suddenly, I recalled my own first year of numbness, shock and disbelief. I knew exactly what she felt. I still have days when I can’t believe it. Back then I would not have been able to write my son’s name in the book either. Glad I was able to pick myself up and in time you will, too.
Hang On Pain Eases (HOPE)
Have you been apple picking? Have you tried angel biscuits? I suppose they got their name because they are not only made with the typical baking powder, but also leavened with yeast making them rise to heavenly heights. I made some spicy apple butter with all those apples that Annabelle picked adding it to the biscuit mix for some fall flavor. These would be an unexpected pleasure on your Thanksgiving day table and easy to do because the dough is made in advance and can be refrigerated for a day or two.Print
Flaky and Light Biscuits
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
½-teaspoon baking powder
½-teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
½ cup apple butter
½ cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
- In a small bowl, stir yeast in warm water (105- 115F.) to dissolve it; set aside.
- In large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, cardamom, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Cut butter into cubes. Scatter the butter over the flour mixture and cut in with a pastry blender (or rub together with your fingers) until the butter is the size of small peas.
- In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the apple butter and buttermilk. Add the buttermilk mixture and the yeast mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until the ingredients are moistened.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or as long as overnight.
- Heat the oven to 450º F. Line a 9-10-round baking pan with parchment paper.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead 4-5 times. Roll or pat the dough to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Cut the dough with a 2-inch floured cutter using a straight up and down motion; don’t twist the cutter. Cut out as many biscuits as you can.
- Fit as many biscuits in the baking pan as you can with just a slight space between them. You can also put them side-by-side on a baking sheet.
- Gather the remaining dough scraps, then gently roll out the dough again. Cut out the remaining biscuits and place on the baking sheet.
- Brush tops with heavy cream. Sprinkle with sugar.
- Bake biscuits until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes.
- As soon as the biscuits come out of the oven, brush the tops with the melted butter.
- Serve warm with butter and apple butter.
turbinado sugar is also known as Demerara sugar or “sugar in the raw”
- Category: yeast breads
- Method: baking
Keywords: yeast, biscuits, apple, apple butter, breakfast, overnight, brunch
Like a magnet to the North Pole I have been pointed back in this direction. My moral compass has led me to share a few more words in celebration of my son. Post script stories and wisdom are new stories from friends, family and complete strangers who take me by surprise. As they emerge they will be preserved here rather than forgotten. While I thought I had nothing more to share there is a bit of wisdom left.
Mostly, the goal is to share the comfort of angels and assist those struggling in their grief. Hopefully, this blog will encourage mourning. Mourning is publically sharing your grief as opposed to grieving which is taking all your feelings and stuffing them into a container that no one else has access to. As much as you fear those judging you and not accepting you “moving on” my advice is to open up and just let them have it. Go public with your grief.
In the words of my lovely friend Mary Alice who recently lost her husband:
When people ask me how I am my response is, “I’m fine until I’m not”
Could 5 simple words be more courageous and empowering? It’s a right in your face invitation to have a natural conversation about the human capacity to give and receive love. Isn’t that God’s greatest gift? Accept the invitation to chat and you will breathe life back into the broken-hearted.
Please feel free to share your stories and wisdom here, too.
It’s been 2640 days since I lost my son. Over 7 years has gone by in a blink of an eye, but in the last month there has been some kind of change. It’s hard to explain because I don’t exactly understand it myself. I liken it to crossing over some sort of bridge. How does one get to such a crossroad? It certainly isn’t easy and could not have been done without this blog or you celebrating him. And my goodness how you celebrated him…at your weddings, with the birth of your children, at country music concerts, on the lacrosse field, at the beach, at Will’s Bench and in the mountains….from sea to shining sea you all celebrated him. Thank you for all the messages and photos all these years.
So, getting here. It feels like a hopeful place. It’s a destination where William is warm and alive and connected to not just my heart, but yours, too. I see it in my dreams. So many hearts <3. He is safely tucked in. This path over the bridge is one of remembrance of his love, his adventures and loyal spirit. With every step his love of family, friends and country is well preserved. I can see it all now. It’s all right here. The journey certainly doesn’t end, but it does become more quiet and private.
There is a bridge ahead; it’s been beckoning me to cross over. Filled with multiple conflicts it has been difficult to decide which way to go. The bridge appears sturdy and stable, but you know how those old bridges can be. Looks can be deceiving. It’s made of sticks like that Little Pig’s house and we all know how that one ended. Is it safe to say one will make it over? Maybe the best thing is to just stay put, but his favorite poem says, “take that road” and the promise to follow in his light weighs heavy.
Some bridges are harder to cross than others especially if you are grieving. The heights are frightening, the stability is often shaky and with no horizon in sight it’s a panic attack in the making. Bridges can be deceiving, so take your time (however long). Then one day, much to your surprise, there will be a bridge that beckons with hope and peace on the other side. Not like one of those rope type bridges that wobble when one walks over it, but more like a guarded covered bridge. A stable bridge that feels safe. Take the first step and cross over. There’s someone on your shoulder going, too. Remember you are never alone.
So this is it. The end of the very public grief of GoodGriefCook. The blog is not going away. The journey will always be here with the recipes inspired by the places I have been and the people I love. This celebration of life, love and the healing power of food will always be best read from the beginning, but this is the end as we know it. I think I will name this bridge “gratitude”. I love you William and am ever proud to be your mom.
To all those thick in their grief just continue one step at a time. Celebrate your person and you, too, will find peace.
Who can resist an entire basket of fresh peaches for only $2.00? Not me! Husband immediately ordered up a peach crisp with the rest destined to be cooked into the best spirited peach jam. First order of business is the peeling, pitting and slicing of the fruit. It is a days work, but very worth it. Sadly, peaches don’t peel themselves. To easily peel them they require a quick dip in boiling water and then a plunge into an ice water bath to loosen the skins.
Now raise your hand if you have ever had the drink called a fuzzy navel? It’s a combination of Peachtree schnapps and orange juice. A sweet girly drink, served on the rocks, it was quite a popular libation soooo many decades ago. I happen to have a dusty (“cough cough” a very dusty) bottle of the schnapps in the back of the pantry and thought it just might mix well with the peaches in a jam. Amazing how liquor never goes bad and a spirited recipe comes to life. <3
how to make spirited peach jam
Finally, Jam is pretty easy to make. Basically, all the ingredients into the pot, stirring and boiling until it is done. And it’s done when it passes the jell test. Place a few drops on an ice cold plate, wait about 10 seconds. Tilt the plate and make sure it doesn’t run, but stays in a bead form
Ladle it into sterilized jars and seal. Plunge the sealed jars back into a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Think about how good this will taste come fall and winter. A summer peach pick-me-up.
Properly sealed jars will last for a year in the pantry.Print
Pick some peaches and make some fresh jam
4 pounds fresh peaches, peeled, pitted and chopped (4 ½ cups after prep)
½ cup Peachtree schnapps
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 cups sugar
1 box Sure Jell Fruit Pectin for less sugar needed recipes
In medium saucepan, combine peaches, schnapps and lemon juice. Mix ¼ cup of the sugar with the pectin in a small bowl and then stir into the fruit. Add butter and bring mixture to a full rolling boil on high heat, stirring constantly to avoid scorching on the bottom of the pan. Stir in remaining sugar and return to full rolling boil. Boil 1 minute and then test the jam for jelling. Ladle jam into prepared sterilized jars and seal as directed on Sure Jell instructions.
mixing the pectin with some of the sugar prevents clumping).
- Category: dessert
- Method: canning
Keywords: jam, preserves, peaches, canning, fresh picked
Pick some peaches and and make plenty of jam. Happy 4th of July Week. I hope you are surrounded by those you love most. <3
Get ready for some amazing s’mac and cheese.
Since my Caitlin is a huge mac ‘n cheese fan I decided to feature this recipe today. Further, It brings back memories of a New York city trip we took to track down the restaurant, S’MAC. Served with a side salad this can be a meal or in a smaller portion an unexpected side dish. I recommend a high quality smoked cheese like the Tillamook brand or the smoked gouda from RevittlePrint
Get ready for a smokey bacon mac and cheese cornbread
8 slices applewood smoked bacon, diced
1 ¾ cups (6 oz) elbow macaroni, cooked
1 cup shredded smoked gouda or cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded pepperjack cheese
4 ounces cream cheese, cubed
¼ cup chopped green onions, plus additional for garnish
6 eggs, divided
3 cups milk, divided
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 (7 oz) package Martha White Sweet Yellow Cornbread & Muffin Mix
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
fresh herbs for garnish
- Heat oven 400F.
- Cook bacon in a 10-inch Lodge cast iron skillet until crisp. Transfer bacon to a paper towel lined plate; set aside.
- Drain off all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat from skillet.
- On medium heat, add cooked macaroni, smoked cheese, pepperjack cheese and cream cheese, stirring, until cheese begins to melt.
- Beat 2 eggs, 1 cup milk, ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of black pepper; pour into skillet. Add green onions.
- Cook, stirring, macaroni mixture for 3 to 4 minutes or until cheese is melted and mixture is well blended. Turn off heat.
- Spread macaroni evenly over bottom of skillet.
- Reserve ¼ cup of bacon. Sprinkle remaining bacon evenly over macaroni.
- In a blender, combine remaining 4 eggs, 2 cups of milk, ½ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon black pepper, cornbread mix and smoked paprika; blend until mixture is smooth and well mixed. Immediately pour over macaroni in skillet.
- Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.
- Garnish with remaining bacon, green onions and fresh herbs. Serve from skillet.
- Category: main dish
- Method: stove top/bake
Keywords: skillet, macaroni, comfort food, smoked paprika, cheese, bacon
Better than gold is quality time spent with those you love most.
How does your garden grow?
This week’s walk around the garden featured a few lovely surprises like this Asiatic lily. Multiple blooms on hearty stems peppered across the backyard truly stand out. Orange is the new black for a reason and so worth the dirt under my nails.
Aptly named “goat’s beard” this hearty shrub is a wonderful back drop to those colorful lillies. So worth my aching back.
Low growing dianthus spreads an electric pink carpet along the border. It’s sweet fragrance is just a bonus. So worth me feeling my age.
A shady area allows these astilbe to thrive. These feathery flowers come in many gorgeous colors. So worth the sweat on my brow.
I get pretty excited when the fruit and vegetables show themselves. Please local deer keep away!
Like small jewels these French strawberries are something special. I love them for breakfast or floating in a glass of wine come evening. The best is letting my granddaughter pick them. She pops them right into her mouth. How fun is that?
The rock garden features a bounty of succulents. Interesting shapes and colors and easy to care for “chicks and hens” are quite a contrast to the rest of the garden. They need no help from me to flourish.
Like all good things in the garden the perennials need to restore their root systems. After a bounty of delicious asparagus I must let some stalks mature into ferns. As they replenish themselves the ferns create the most lush green screen along the fence. Those unpicked spears grow about 6 feet tall and later develop eye-popping red berries.
Have a beautiful week. Plant some seeds. Stop and smell the roses. Tell someone you love them.
Get ready for the best strawberry rhubarb pie
Warm, but overcast, yesterday was the perfect day for strawberry picking with my family. Highland Farms in West Chester, PA is the place to go for all sorts of fruit picking throughout the year. The scent of strawberries was in the air as we approached the field.
Do your littles watch the show Daniel Tiger? Annabelle loves the animated Mr. Rodgers version and on one episode Daniel and his friends go “fruit-picking”. My Annabelle could not wait to try it. She ate as much as she picked and was covered in warm strawberry juice by the time we were done. Want to have some fun? Go pick some berries!
Fresh picked berries are at their peak of sweetness compared to the more tart berries found in the grocery store, so less sugar is needed for the perfect pie. Make sure your filling is really bubbling (see video below) before you pull it from the oven to insure all the juices gel and don’t leave a soupy mess when the pie is cut. If the crust edge is over-browning then cover it with a pie shield or foil.
Find a pie dough recipe here. It’s my favorite go to recipe and enough for a double crust, so wrap and freeze half of it for another time or just bake two pies.Print
Fresh picked berries are at their peak of sweetness compared to the more tart berries found in the grocery store, so less sugar is needed. Make sure your pie is really bubbling before you pull it from the oven to insure all the juices gel and don’t leave a soupy mess when the pie is cut. If the crust edge is browning too much then cover it with a pie shield or foil.
Pie dough for a single crust pie
2 tablespoons gingersnap crumbs
½ cup all purpose flour
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup old fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons salted butter, cut into cubes
4 cups of fresh picked strawberries, slice large ones in half
2 cups sliced (1/2-inch thick) fresh picked rhubarb
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup sugar
¼ cup all purpose flour
Heat oven to 400F. Line 9-inch pie plate with dough. Trim and flute edge. (Roll out dough scraps and cut shapes for decoration. Sprinkle shapes with sugar, if desired.)
Sprinkle cookie crumbs over bottom of pie shell and chill while preparing topping and filling. For topping: combine all ingredients in a bowl working the butter into the dry ingredients until clumps form. Chill it. For Filling: Place berries and rhubarb in a large bowl. Drizzle with heavy cream, lemon juice and vanilla; gently toss to coat. Add sugar and flour; toss again. Spoon into pie shell. Sprinkle crisp mixture over the top. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until pie is bubbling and crust and topping are golden brown. Let cool to room temperature or serve just slightly warm.
- Category: dessert
- Method: bake
Keywords: strawberry, rhubarb, pie, pastry, sweet
I just love the mushroom blend and the KSQ mushroom cook-off
Sorry to say I have been MIA with the blog. I’ve been super busy with family stuff, some personal projects like my completely overgrown garden and finally, working on our local mushroom festival cook-off. I’m just now taking a breather.
I really wanted to share the Kennett Square Mushroom Festival Cook-off information with all of you who love to cook and compete. This year’s incentive to enter is pretty awesome with sponsors including True Aussie Beef & Lamb, KitchenAid, Challenge Butter and the Mushroom Council. In addition, the prizes are generous and even include golden tickets to compete at the World Food Championships.
The theme of this years cookoff is “the blend” of fresh mushrooms with True Aussie Grassfed beef & lamb. Healthy and full of flavor, this combo can be made into anything from a stuffing to a burger to a taco or even a bolognese sauce.
Finally, for all the details of the contest check out the mushroom festival cook-off link listed above. Good luck. Hope to see you in September in my sweet little town.
Best blend ever
I am reposting today the best French toast muffins because on occasion I need to update winning recipes. This one is from my May 2014 blog post. Betterrecipes.com was the original host of my recipe, but that site now seems to be undergoing changes and the link I had posted to the site is no longer working. I include my original recipe here now for comparison.
Here is the original recipe that won the contest.Print
¼ cup milk
3 eggs, divided
8 slices cinnamon swirl bread, crusts removed, cut into ½-inch cubes
2 cups all purpose flour
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon maple extract
1 stick plus 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, divided
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
- Heat oven 400F. Grease a standard 12-cup muffin tin with no-stick baking spray or line with paper cups.
- In medium bowl, whisk milk and 1 egg until blended. Add bread; stir to coat (this is the French toast topping).
- In medium bowl, mix flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt until combined.
- In another bowl, whisk remaining 2 eggs for 30 seconds. Add sour cream, maple extract and ½ cup of the melted butter; whisk well.
- Pour the wet ingredients over the dry; blend just until the dry ingredients are moistened (do not over mix).
- Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Spoon the French toast topping evenly over the batter; pressing down slightly.
- Bake for 20-22 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
- Invert the muffins onto a wire rack, turn them upright; cool 5 minutes.
- Mix sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Brush remaining melted butter over muffins; sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Serve warm.
- Category: quick breads
- Method: baking
Keywords: French toast, muffins, breakfast, brunch, cinnamon, eggs
Granny’s Grilled Cheese
In the last two years nothing has brought more happiness into my world than these two. As much as I love my grand-daughter the more joy comes from witnessing my very own daughter be a mother. For the girl who never played with dolls or preferred never to babysit and barely made it through the summer as a camp counselor she astonishes me with her love and patience with her baby girl. Her quiet teaching, her ingenuity, her juggling of quality time and her natural instincts are inspiring.
She is the best mom I have ever known and I am so extremely proud to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day.
Never a fan of the yellow single wrapped cheese, my very own mother (aka Granny) made a really great grilled cheese she called “mozzarella en carroza” for me. Using an old box grated she would shred “the expensive” cheese into a giant pile and then pack it between slices of white bread, dip it in egg and fry it in olive oil. I loved it then and still love granny’s grilled cheese now. I make variations on the theme, but Annabelle enjoys the classic and does a pretty good cheese pull. Generations of love made edible.Print
1 cup shredded or thinly sliced mozzarella cheese
4 slices Arnold Country White Buttermilk Bread
1 tablespoon milk
pinch of salt and pepper
olive oil for shallow frying
- Divide cheese between 2 bread slices
- Top each with a second bread slice. Gently press together
- Trim crusts off, if desired
- On a flat plate, lightly beat eggs with milk, salt and pepper
- Dip sandwiches in egg mixture coating both sides well
- Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat.
- Add sandwiches. Cook, turning, until both sides are golden brown and cheese is melted
This week I am happy to make an announcement. My recipe for Applesauce Carrot Cupcakes won third place in the Our Family Garden Applesauce recipe contest. Now, you might not think 3rd place is a big deal, but this contest was such a joy to participate in for so many reasons other than winning.
First of all, this is a real family business headed by a man named Darvin. Everyone including the children are involved in making the best applesauce I have ever tasted. The applesauce, made from a variety of apples, comes unsweetened or with a touch of honey +/or cinnamon. Darvin sent each participating contestant 6 full size jars plus a gift of jam. His is a kind and generous business. I already felt like I won and my recipe testing had not even started, yet.
Inspired by such kindness and the perfect balance of fresh applesauce sweetness I went on to create 12 new recipes. (These days for most contests I only create 1 or 2 recipes at most.) Truth is this applesauce is so good on its own that it’s almost a crime to transform it into something else. However, it did make every recipe I developed taste not only fantastic, but so much healthier to eat. I eliminated sugar and lots of fat without sacrificing any flavor in everything from baked goods to soups to a Korean style BBQ sauce. Win-Win-Win!
The icing on the cake is that one of my recipe photos was chosen to dress the cover of the cookbook Darvin and his family are putting together. I am just thrilled the family liked my food photography and styling, too.
Here is my winning recipe which was a huge hit at Easter dinner. It’s a healthy carrot cake cupcake makeover utilizing a touch of honey for sweetness and some white whole wheat flour for a wholesome boost in nutrition. Try them for Mother’s Day.Print
Winner of the Family Garden applesauce recipe contest
1 cup all purpose flour
1/3-cup white whole wheat flour
1-teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon fine salt
½ cup canola oil
1-teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2/3-cup Our Family Garden Applesauce Touch of Honey
1 1/3 cups finely grated fresh carrots
1 (8 oz) container mascarpone cheese or cream cheese
¼ cup honey
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 14 muffin cups with paper liners.
- In a large bowl, whisk all purpose flour, white whole wheat flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; set aside.
- In another large bowl whisk the eggs until lightly beaten. Add honey, oil and lemon juice; whisk until slightly thickened. Stir in the applesauce and grated carrots.
- Add wet ingredients to dry mixture blending until dry ingredients are moistened and well mixed.
- Evenly fill the muffin cups with the batter.
- Bake about 20 – 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven, place on a wire rack, and let cool completely before frosting.
- For frosting, beat mascarpone, honey and vanilla until well blended. Pipe or spoon the frosting on the top of each cupcake.
- Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate the cupcakes until serving time.
- Category: dessert
- Method: baking
Keywords: applesauce, muffins, mascarpone, carrot cake, honey, snack, cupcakes, frosting
ramping it up time
There is a saying that the month of March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, but I think it better applies to April here in Pennsylvania. Should I mention the chilly weather we’ve all been NOT enjoying? For a very long time it has felt like spring would never come. Finally, that snow and ice of those first few weeks have melted into a sense of calm like a warm spring shower.
By the 4thweek in April there is a noticeable change in the landscape. Clearly, the sun shines brighter, the grass is greener and the warm temperatures beckons one outside to the garden and forest beyond. It’s rejuvenating and ramps up the mood.
Yesssss it is ramping it up time. Ramps, aka, wild leeks are prized by chefs and can be eaten raw or cooked. In addition, they have a mild onion flavor and complement everything from pesto to quiche. I think it’s no happy accident that they are in season at the very same time asparagus is rising from the ground. They really do complement each other in flavor.
If you are fortunate enough to find a lush patch of ramps don’t be greedy. Clip just what you need and leave the rest to rejuvenate the patch for years to come. Take care of the earth and it will take care of you. Last week was Earth Day and many of my neighbors participated in a local clean-up of litter. Why do people litter? Anyway, it brought back a memory of William and I joining forces so many years ago. He was a good keeper of the earth.
Here are a few ways to enjoy the freshness of spring ramp greens.
- Add a few leaves to your favorite pesto mix for another layer of flavor
- Chiffonade a few leaves and add to an omelet
- Saute ramps with garlic and olive oil for a side dish
- Chop and add to risotto
- Delicious raw in slaws and salads (maybe not fruit salad)
Ramp butter is fantastic on top of a burger or basted over a steak. Melt it in pasta with a bit of parmesan and pepper for a heavenly good dinner. Compound butters are super easy to make and pretty much keep forever in the freezer. I’m hoping to make enough to get me through until next season.Print
10 fresh ramp leaves, stems trimmed, roughly chopped
pinch of coarse salt (I use a large grain Celtic sea salt)
½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon champagne honey or Dijon mustard (Saucy Mama brand preferred)
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
Place all ingredients in food processor and let it rip until the ramps are finely chopped and the mixture is a glorious fresh green color. Form into a log in some plastic wrap and store in freezer. I just slice of what I need when I need it
- Category: sauce
Happy heavenly birthday William. The best spirited Boston Cream Pie a way to celebrate you.
#30 It’s Your Day
Your life was cut short too soon, but you lived fuller than most. Further, You cultivated a beautiful diverse garden filled with people far and wide who still love and remember you. They reach out every day, but especially at this time to surround me with the kind of love and appreciation you showed them. Happy birthday my boy. You are loved and missed by so many.
This recipe is adapted from the Joy of Baking. I love this web site for its detailed recipe instructions, weight measurements and videos. Besides angel food cake with strawberries another of William’s favorite desserts was Boston Cream Pie. I fancied this one up with a white chocolate swirl and gave it a touch of Will Keys spirit in the chocolate glaze. Spirited Boston Cream Pie is extra special.
The recipe is designed to make 12 cupcakes, but I chose to make a 6-inch round cake plus 6 cupcakes from the batter. I think William would have eaten the whole cake himself.Print
In addition to the cupcakes I made a 6-inch round cake with the batter
1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
Pastry Cream:2 large (35 grams) egg yolks
3 tablespoons (40 grams) granulated white sugar
2 tablespoons (20 grams) firmly packed cornstarch (corn flour)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup (240 ml) whole (full fat) milk 1/2 tablespoon (6 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 ounces (120 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into pieces
3 tablespoons (42 grams) unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup (or liquid glucose or golden syrup)
1 tablespoon Jack Daniels
White Chocolate Swirl:
2 squares white chocolate
Heat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and lightly butter 12 muffin cups, or spray with a non stick baking vegetable spray. (I did 6 cupcakes and a 6-inch round cake)
In bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until soft (about 1-2 minutes). Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes). Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract. Then, with the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and the milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.Using a level ice-cream scoopful, fill 6 muffin cups with the batter and bake for about 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into a cupcake just comes out clean. Spoon remaining batter into the 6-inch round pan. Bake 30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
Pastry Cream: In a medium-sized heatproof bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar. Add the cornstarch (corn flour) and salt and mix until you have a smooth paste.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the milk just to boiling (the milk starts to foam up.) Remove from heat and slowly pour the milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from curdling (pour through strainer if necessary). Pour the egg mixture back into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. When it boils, keep whisking the mixture for another 30 – 60 seconds or until it becomes thick. Remove from heat and immediately whisk in the butter and vanilla extract. Pour into a clean bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until firm. The pastry cream can be stored for up to 3 days. Whisk or stir before using to get rid of any lumps that may have formed. (I pressed my through a sieve to get it extra smooth and creamy.)
Chocolate Glaze: Melt the chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat, stir in the Jack Daniels, and let cool until it thickens slightly (to pouring consistency). Melt the white chocolate.
Assemble: Place the pastry cream in a piping bag fitted with a 1/2 inch (1 cm) plain tip. Fill each cupcake with the pastry cream by inserting the pastry tip into the top of each cupcake and squeezing just until you start to see cracks in the top of the cupcake. Then pour about 1-2 tablespoons of the chocolate glaze onto the center of each cupcake, letting it drip down the sides. Drizzle with some melted white chocolate and swirl with the end of a toothpick. Let the cupcakes sit at room temperature for an hour or two, or until the chocolate glaze dries. The cupcakes can then be covered and stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Bring to room temperature before serving. (I zapped a cold cupcake for 15 seconds in the microwave and it was heavenly)
For the cake: slice it in half horizontally and place bottom half on serving plate. Top with remaining pastry cream. Place second cake layer on top. Spoon remaining glaze and white chocolate over the top; swirl it.Makes 12 cupcakes or a 6-inch cake and 6 cupcakes
This recipe makes 12 cupcakes or 6 cupcakes plus 1 (6-inch) round cake
- Category: dessert
- Method: baking
Keywords: Boston cream pie, cupcakes, vanilla, Jack Daniels, pastry cream
Continuing to move through this month with some Good Grief activities to take my mind off things I invited my husband to join me in taking a food judges’ class sponsored by the Steak Cookoff Association. Bill is my chief taste tester and having him always support my cooking adventures and antics with enthusiasm has been a blessing. Driving 2 1/2 hours to the western part of the state would take us through Harrisburg which sparked a brilliant thought to visit an on-line cheese shop known as Revittle.
Revittle came to my attention through a “Best of” Philadelphia Magazine food piece. The article highlighted the best pizza in America made with a Pennsylvania sourced gouda cheese and a cheesesteak made “wit” another local farmer’s cheese. Always looking to try the best of anything in and around here I learned these artisan cheeses are only available through Revittle whose address just happens to be Harrisburg. I was hoping they had a brick and mortar store where I could sample and buy.
An email exchange with the owner, Mark Zimmerman, revealed no physical store, but he enthusiastically invited Bill and I to his beautiful office in an old historic building on the river to sample some cheese and cured meats along with his business partner, Tim Pianka. While all the bites were quite delicious, Shepherd’s Delight was hands-down my favorite. How could one not love a cheese whose shepherd grazes his sheep only on the youngest grass? What a labor of love herding the animals from acre to acre seeking that green sweetness. Well aged, salty and sweet the Tomme style cheese is totally addicting.
Food people are the most welcoming generous kind. Bill and I quickly felt at home with Mark and Tim as they relayed the story of how Revittle came about. Each bite of their delicious products included interesting tid-bits of their close-knit relationships with local farmers and chefs. Sharing with us was a real gift.
“Revittle was started on the principle of working with the best artisanal producers. Let us introduce you to the families who take pride in the quality of their products. Together, we put healthy, regionally produced foods and wines on your table.”
Cheese boards and charcuterie seem all the rage these days. Whether offered as an appetizer or a dessert who doesn’t love an array of farm fresh goodness accompanied by sweet and tangy condiments and crispy crackers? Arranging a cheese board is an art I have yet to master, but that won’t stop me from enjoying the delightful contrasts in tastes and textures and layers of flavors offered from local farmers.
As luck would have it Bill and I were invited to Revittle. Mark and Tim not only, have award winning Pennsylvania farm cheeses, but also charcutiere/ cured meats. I have nothing, but gratitude for our chance meeting. Check out Revittle on their web site to see their array of locally sourced and might I add reasonably priced products.
I’m just here to tell you about great products from really nice people.
oops forgot to mention….if anyone wants to buy and share that 11 pound Gigi brand whole prosciutto…I am in!
Peeling back the layers
It was mid-March 2011 when I last spent time with William. Who knew it would be my last real conversation and final hug good-bye? And so it begins this time of year when I feel like I can’t catch my breath. It’s an uncontrollable anxiety that just won’t go away. Sleep escapes me often waking in the middle of the night with tears in my eyes. “Just breathe” is my mantra. This, too, shall pass, but when? It’s been 7 years. How many more layers are there to this grief thing?
Truth is that I am just a little frustrated with myself. Why does working through grief take so long to resolve? I know the answer. There is no end to it, but I want there to be. It’s difficult wanting something one knows can never be achieved. Acceptance will come. Just breathe.
Need a food analogy? Recently, I saw a lovely oil painting of an onion. Quite detailed in shades of black and brown I wanted to reach in and peel away some of its dried, fragile outer skin. In its darkness, I knew peeling back the layers would bring tears, but also that aromatic freshness that makes cooking with onions so delicious, so delightful and well, healing. It’s the same with every onion. It’s never going to be different, but there are ways to deal with it. How do YOU do it?
There are lots of tips on how to slice an onion without crying. Chilling it and not cutting through the root don’t work for me. Wearing glasses offer zero protection from the noxious fumes, but blowing the fumes away from my cutting board with a small tabletop fan works like a charm. Try it. No more tears. You are welcome.
Now, if onion is to be eaten raw in a recipe like a salsa I suggest soaking chopped onion in cold water to rinse away some of the pungent juice for a milder flavor.
Grief is like the biggest most pungent onion in the garden. Peeling back each layer brings on tears. It’s painful, but healing. It’s never going to be different, but there are ways to deal with it. How do you get through your day?
My son was killed on April 16th. His birthday is April 22. It’s a rough week for a lot of people. I want to dedicate this blog post to my friends Carol & Bev. They are how I feel God’s presence. They hold me up when I can’t hold myself. These ladies struggle along with me, so they jump in the car and make the long trip. They bring food and wine and laughter. They let me be me and it is such a relief. May you all have a Carol & Bev in your life. <3
And a special shout-out to Patrice, Debbie, Wendy and Irene. Friends who remember and continue to celebrate him through me.
If you care to leave a comment today make it a happy thought, a joke or a fun William story….or even your favorite cooking with onion tips.