Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Not my Mother's Kitchen: A Book Review with Recipe

Shortly after I moved into the new house, I received a package from Cam of Culinary Adventures with Camilla.  I opened the package and found the book Not my Mother's Kitchen by Rob Chirico.  I sent Cam a private message asking if I had won this book from Foodies Read to which we both belong.  Cam responded saying that when she had reviewed the book on Foodies Read, I had mentioned that it sounded interesting, so she sent it to me.  That is just the kind of person Cam is and I was blessed to get to meet her in person last week when I was in California.

Image result for not my mother's kitchen 

Cam gave the narrative of this book 1 star out of 5 while giving the recipes 4.5 stars out of 5.  While I didn't dislike the narrative as much as Cam, I wouldn't rate it much higher. You can find Cam's complete review here.  My main problem with Chirico's story is that he gives the impression that because his mother did not enjoy cooking and being in the kitchen, that he holds her in disdain.  Chirico does not seem to be able to embrace the fact that we are all built differently, with different tastes, likes, dislikes and attitudes.  

I could easily say, as Chirico did, that my mother was not much of a cook.  But that would be only part of my mother's story.  You see, by the time I came along, my mother had already been married for 21 years and had spent 17 of those years raising my brothers.  Now, if you were to ask my brothers, they remember Mom as a wonderful cook and a woman who spent a lot of time in the kitchen.

I was born in 1958, during the advent of Campbell's soup casseroles and frozen dinners.  My mother was working outside of the home and took great advantage of being released from the kitchen by using all the new, prepared foods that were available.  Mom would still cook occasionally but for the most part we had quick meals made using all the modern convenience foods.

My sister was born 6 years after me.  Her childhood food memories are mostly of eating out at restaurants.  My parents financial situation was much more comfortable than before and they enjoyed going out and being served instead of serving.

All this as just some background as to why Chirico's story struck a nerve with me.  He made his mother seem very one dimensional and left you feeling that he felt that, somehow, his mother should have shown her love for him through food regardless of the other ways she showed him her love and concern.

I had also just finished reading Stir by Jessica Fechtor, who in a complete 180 from Chirico, talked of how she felt the love and warmth of her grandmother through food even though she could never remember her grandmother cooking anything.  Fechtor learned from her grandmother that buying and providing the very best that she could was how she showed her love and affection to her family.

In Not my Mother's Kitchen, Chirico states he had never had garden fresh vegetables while growing up.  I was lucky enough that my parents had a garden and summers were filled with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.  One thing that Chirico and I did have in common, however, was that certain vegetables were never even thought of or looked at in our house.  The only greens I can remember as a child was spinach and that came from a can.  My mom, like many of her generation served us canned veggies at every meal.  The were mushy and flavorless and I thought that was what vegetables tasted like until I got out on my own, started cooking and experimenting and discovered that while I had thought I hated vegetables (except for tomatoes, cukes and peppers) I actually loved them....they just hadn't been cooked properly for my taste.

The recipe I chose to showcase from this book is Sauteed Tuscan Kale with Toasted Pine Nuts.  One of the things with which I do agree with Chirico is that food is best simply prepared to allow it's natural goodness to shine.  This was a perfect recipe to bring out the earthy, bright flavors of the kale.

As a gentle slap to Chirico I put in a clove of garlic minced instead of a measurement.  This drives him crazy because garlic cloves come in all different sizes....I am of the mind that if you are cooking this dish, you know exactly how much garlic you like and will pick the size of clove accordingly.

Sauteed Kale with Toasted Pine Nuts
slightly adapted from Not My Mother's Kitchen by Rob Chirico

1 bunch Tuscan (flat leaf) Kale
3 T. pine nuts, toasted
2 T. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch of crushed red pepper
drizzle of Balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Stem the kale and wash the leaves shaking them to remove most but not all of the water clinging to the leaves.  Cut the leaves into ribbons.  Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over med high heat.  Add the garlic and crushed red pepper, cook and stir for a moment or two until fragrant and lightly browned.  Add the kale and stir to coat with the olive oil mixture.  Reduce the heat to low, cover and let cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until kale is tender.  Uncover, raise  heat to med high and allow any liquid to evaporate.  Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar while still on heat and toss to coat. Season with additional salt and pepper if desired and turn into a serving bowl topped with the toasted pine nuts.  Print Recipe

Monday, January 16, 2017

Warming Up Mid Winter....

We had a wonderful time last night up in Northern Michigan, warming up with good wine, good food and good friends.  It may have been cold outside but inside we were bathed in the warmth of a beautiful wine tasting dinner hosted by The Springbrook Inn, located in Prudenville, Michigan. Springbrook Inn is owned by the lovely Kathy Grover and is home to the East Bay Grill ran by Chef, Cole Morison.  Together, they put on 6 wine tasting dinners each year.  Chef Morison supplies the menu to his wine purveyors and they pair each course with a wonderful wine which is then available for purchase by the guests.

This is the second wine tasting that we have attended at Springbrook Inn.  When we walked in we felt as though we had entered a Winter Wonderland. The dinner is limited to two long tables of guests, each who received a menu of the courses with the wines with which they would be paired at their assigned seats.

We started the evening with cocktails, toasting the New Year and family and friends both near and far. The cocktail hour is precisely one hour, after which Chef Cole Morison came out and introduced the first course, a Winter Vegetable Bisque that was garnished with a square of puff pastry and sprinkled with some gingered garlic.  This dish was paired with a Domaine Laroque Cab Franc from Southwest France.  The sommelier explained that while it is unusual to start a tasting with a red wine he felt that this was the perfect match for the bisque. I could not have agreed more.  On the nose; spice, berries and earth.  On the palate: Silky with medium body, very dry.  It brought out the earthiness of the winter vegetables and was sweetened slightly by the candied ginger.

The second course was a lovely pasta with an orange saffron sauce topped with a perfectly cooked shrimp and scallop.  This was paired with a Chardonnay from Jam Cellars out of Napa Valley.  This is a buttery Chard..you can almost smell the butter...it is smooth and creamy, very full bodied.  This wine was perfect with the salty sweetness of the dish.

The entree  was Veal Scallopini over a White Bean Puree paired with an Italian Chianti Classico from D'Albola.  I felt the White Bean Puree was the star of this plate. Not that I didn't enjoy the Veal but the puree was smooth, earthy and continued that feeling of warmth that pervaded my evening.  The pairing was nice as the wine was also very earthy, smelling of "dirt" and tasting of cedar and figs.  It was dry and soft with a bit of sourness that caught my attention.

Our dinner was finished with a Tiramisu that was served with another Italian wine.  This one, a sparkling Prosecco Brut from Mionetto was a light, fruity wine that is made from 100% Glera grapes that are harvested in late September.  

It was an exceptional evening and I am excited to attend upcoming wine tasting dinners at this wonderful Inn.  You can follow Springbrook Inn's facebook page to keep informed of these and other events taking place.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

A New Wine for A New Year

Our friend, David, over at Cooking Chat has invited us to try and share a New Wine for a New Year. So I did and I am.  And so did many more of us who belong to this fun little group we call Wine Pairing Weekend.   I will be linking to all the others at the end of this post, so stop by and learn of some new, wonderful wines to try in 2017.

I also belong to a group called The French Winophiles.  This month we are discovering the Savoie region and I wasn't having any luck finding wines from that area in my part of the Country.  I had a trip planned to California that was starting in San Francisco.  My friends, Martin of Enofylz Wine Blog and LM of binNotes, both recommended I go to K&L Wine Merchants while in San Francisco.

I went into the store and was immediately helped by wonderful staff who finally turned me over to John who helped me not only find the wines from the Savoie region of France but also set me up with a nice bottle to give my cousin's daughter who was providing a room for us while we were in San Francisco.  John also said one of his favorite wines in the store right now was Valravn from Banshee Wines.  John told me that this wine is hand made locally on a very small scale and that their store was lucky enough to get some.  John went on to tell me that Banshee Winery was trying to showcase the Zinfandel grape and that they, in his opinion, had nailed it.  He convinced me so I bought a bottle and took it with me to my brother's house.

We got up early the next morning and drove south.  When we got to my brother's and settled in, his wife, Mary, took us to the Madonna Inn for lunch after which we went into San Luis Obispo for shopping.  When we got home, Mary put together a counter full of goodies.  We had brie cheese with blackberry jam, fresh fruit, veggies and sausage platters and I opened up the wine.  

I thought the wine was lovely.  It was smooth and much lighter than most zinfandels I have had.  It had a slight peppery finish to it, which I loved.  Good wine, Good food, Good company. Time spent with family....how much more perfect can life be?

Here are the New Wines being shared today

Please join the conversation about new wine and food pairings to go with it! Our live #winePW Twitter Chat will take place today, January 14, at 11 a.m. Eastern Time. Just tune into the #winePW hashtag between 11 and noon ET that day. Check out past and upcoming Wine Pairing Weekend events here.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Heading Home and the Weekly Menu

TGIF? I am torn as to how true that is today.  On one hand, I am leaving my brother and his family after a too short visit.  On the other hand, we are heading back north to San Francisco and on the way are stopping to have lunch with my friend, Cam, of Culinary Adventures with Camilla, whom I am very excited to meet in person.  We are also spending the afternoon at the Monterey Aquarium followed by dinner with my cousin at The Stinking Rose,  So this Friday is filled with lots of emotions and feelings.

Last night, Larry and Mary took us to The Range for our farewell dinner.  I have been wanting to go here each year since they opened but life always had other plans during my visits.  This time they made sure it happened and it was a lovely and fun experience.

Tomorrow, I get to see Frank again!  Woohoooo.....I really hate being apart from him.  Our flight is early, 6 am, and we have to drop off the rental car so that means we will be on the way to the airport around 3 am.  Ugh.

When we get home, life isn't returning to normal though.  Sunday morning, after Mass, we will be heading north to our friends, Bob and Cathy, to join them for another wine tasting dinner at Springbrook Inn.

I am getting ready right now to join my niece, Natasha for our final walk and talk of the trip, but wanted to jot down my Weekly Menu real quick before I'm off the computer for the day.

Life returns to normal on Tuesday.  Please stop by to learn about the remainder of this trip, the wine tasting dinner and the coming week.  See you soon.

Dinner downtown after landing

Wine tasting dinner

Dinner on the way home

Chicken Cacciatore over Pasta

Pork Tenderloin
Mashed Potatoes
Glazed Carrots

Chicken Piccata
Lemon Basil Fettuccine
Steamed Green Beans

Poached Fish
Steamed Rice
Roasted Beet Salad

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Poached Apple-Pears #CooktheBooks

This month's Cook the Books is brought to us by Deb of Kahakai Kitchen.  Deb chose the autobiographical account of Jessica Fechtor's struggle back to normalcy after an aneurysm burst in her brain.  Jessica calls her story "Stir; My Broken Brain and the Meals that Brought Me Home".

I read this story while en route to California to spend time with my brother and his family.  I am currently here, accompanied by my niece, Jen, her daughter, Lili and my niece, Danielle.  I was touched by this story of a strong, young woman who was, by all standards, very healthy.  Especially as I watched Lili and Danielle on this trip, both so young and vibrant and just starting their adult lives.  I watch them making plans for work and college, full of hope and promise....and I think how quickly life can change.  I think of Jessica, one minute running on a treadmill and the next minute being rushed to the hospital and being told how miraculous it is that she is still alive.

This story also resonated with me because Jessica writes of her journey back to health.  She writes of the support of her husband, family and friends and how she could not have become whole again without them.  She talks of finding solace and peace in the kitchen and in the enjoyment of food in general.  She talks of blogging about her food and how it allows her to just be her....sharing herself and her life without sharing her broken brain.

Many years ago, I too suffered from a "broken brain".  Mine was not a physical break like Jessica's but a mental break that left me just as weak, scared and vulnerable as Jessica portrayed in her story.  I, too found my solace in the kitchen.  The kitchen has always been my happy place...the place to which I run when the world overwhelms me.  I, too, could not have gotten through my experience without the constant love and support from my husband, family and friends.  I, too, found relief in blogging where you only share those parts of your life that you are ready to share and where you find healing in the written word.  

I loved Jessica's story.  I admired here strength and positivity.  I cheered her on during her struggles. I felt the warmth of her relationships with those who love her.  I was comforted by her memories and her recipes. I laughed with her, I cried with her and I celebrated with her.  I was reminded to never take life for granted because you never know what tomorrow....or the next 5 minutes...may bring.

I decided to make poached fruit for dessert last night when I made dinner for all of my California family.  My brother's sons and their families all live in the same little town on adjoining properties.  I express love by providing food...it is what I do....so whenever I am here I try to make at least one meal for us to all share together.  I found this baking pan in my sister in law's cupboard.  It was perfect for the dessert inspired by Jessica's book that was filled with Faith, Hope and Love.  It was perfect for a meal shared by family who provides me with Faith, Hope and Love.

This recipe is very loosely based on Jessica's recipe for Baked Apricots with Cardamom Pistachios. Apricots are not in season right now but while at the store I spied some Apple-Pears.  I was very excited.  As a child, we had an apple-pear tree in our yard.  I thought it was an anomaly.  I have never seen apple-pears anywhere else in my life.  I knew, for sure, that I was buying this fruit that contained so many childhood memories.  My sister in law did not have any cardamom or pistachios but she did have cinnamon and almonds which were perfect with the apple-pears.

She also had a bottle of Ancient  Peaks Roussanne in the refrigerator.  Ancient Peaks is a winery located right in their little town.  The grapes are grown on the Santa Margarita Ranch that surrounds the town.  Santa Margarita Ranch is a working ranch that not only grows grapes but also raises beef. They hold many events on the ranch and have ziplining tours that Jen, Lili, Danielle and I are going on tomorrow, weather permitting.  I can't wait.  

This is what Wikipedia has to say about Roussanne wine "Wines made from Roussanne are characterized by their intense aromatics which can include notes of herbal tea.[1] In its youth it shows more floral, herbal and fruit notes, such as pear, which become more nutty as the wine ages."

I knew this would be a perfect wine in which to poach my pears using the oven baked technique given by Jessica in her recipe.  

In actuality, using that technique was the only part of the recipe I did use but I would have never made this lovely dessert without the inspiration of the recipe.  This was a perfect dessert to serve to my family, filled with memories and love.  I made 2 baking pans for 16 servings.  The recipe below is for one 9x13" baking pan equalling 8 servings.  You can use any size baking pan you would like for the amount you wish to make.  You can use any fruit that you and yours enjoy.  You can use any white wine that you have on hand, any nuts that you prefer or no nuts at all.  I used brown sugar for my sweetener, Jessica used vanilla sugar, you could easily use honey, agave or maple syrup. Jessica used cardamom, I used cinnamon, you can use any spice that would complement the fruit you choose. Have fun, be creative and lose yourself and your problems in the kitchen.  

Submissions for this session of Cook the Books are not due for another 20 days.  This book is a quick read and I think you will enjoy it.  Why not pick it up at your local library and share with us a recipe that it inspires in you?  You will find Deb's invitation right here that will explain exactly how to join in the fun.

This book is also my first Foodies Read of 2017.  I will be sharing this post over at Heather's blog Based on a True Story. You can see what others are reading this month here.

Poached Apple-Pears
inspired by Stir

4 Apple-Pears
1 c. white wine (I used Roussanne)
1/2 c. brown sugar
Sliced Almonds 
Ice Cream for serving, if desired

Cut the Apple-Pears in half and remove the core and seeds.  Pour the wine into a 9x13" baking pan and place the fruit, peel side down into the wine.  Sprinkle the fruit with the brown sugar, desired amount of almond slices and a sprinkling of cinnamon.  Place in a preheated 350* oven for 50-60 minutes, until the fruit is easily pierced with a fork but still maintains it's shape.  Place each Apple-Pear onto a serving dish or bowl.  Top with Ice Cream, if desired.  Drizzle with the caramelized wine from the bottom of the pan.  Print Recipe

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Brain Booster Pancakes for #BreadBakers

Our host, Pavani, of Cook's Hideout, invited all of the Bread Bakers to make a "healthy" bread.  She left it up to the individual baker to decide what constituted a healthy bread.

As you are reading this post, I am on vacation visiting my brother and his family in California. I almost didn't participate this month because between the holidays and getting ready for vacation I wasn't sure I could fit in a bread making day as well.  Last Thursday, I was taking care of my Little Angel Face and decided to give her breakfast for lunch.  Grampy cooked up some bacon and I found this recipe for Brain Booster Pancakes at SuperHealthyKids.com.  Score!!!  I love when I can kill two birds with one stone and I really love that pancakes are considered a bread recipe.

These were quick to put together.  They are not a fluffy pancake but they are creamy tasting....not moist and not dense but still tasting creamy...I don't know how else to describe them.  They were very good and very filling and Melody LOVED them.

And so did Grampy.

And so will you!!

Brain Booster Pancakes
slightly adapted from SuperHealthyKids.com

1 1/4 c. almond milk
1 3/4 c. old fashioned oats
1/4 c. ground flaxseed
1 banana
1 T. honey
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 1/2 t. baking powder
2 eggs
1 T. coconut oil

Place almond milk, oats, flaxseed, banana, honey, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, eggs and coconut oil in a heavy duty blender.  Blend until oats are ground and mixture is well combined.

Heat griddle over med high heat.  Pour 1/4 c. batter onto the griddle for each pancake.  Add desired amount of blueberries onto each pancake while the first side cooks.  Let cook until golden brown about 2-3 minutes,flip and cook other side 2-3 minutes more.  Print Recipe


#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our of lovely bread by following our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated after each event on the #BreadBakers home page.
We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send Stacy an email with your blog URL to foodlustpeoplelove@gmail.com.

Monday, January 9, 2017

I could use a little SeaBreeze right now #FoodnFlix

Hi Friends....as you are reading this, I am actually getting a little Sea Breeze.  I am currently visiting my brother and his family in sunny California and, while he doesn't live on the coast, it is a short half hour drive away.

When I was writing this post, however, it was New Year's Day. While it was a balmy 38* F in Michigan, and I live close to the water, I was definitely yearning for some Sea Breezes.  Honestly though, it wasn't the weather that got me thinking about Sea Breezes but our movie selection for this month's Food n Flix.  Sea Breeze, the drink, that is.

Frank and I spent a quiet NYE at home this year, just enjoying each other's company.  We appreciated our time together more this year because the year prior we spent NYE apart taking care of our mothers, both of whom died early in 2016.  We spent time relaxing in the hot tub and visiting and watching the movie French Kiss starring Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline. 

Image result for french kiss movie poster

This movie came out in 1995 when romantic comedies were all the rage and the majority of them starred Meg Ryan.  Everyone loved Meg Ryan.  How could you help but love her?  While this is not one of my favorite romantic comedies starring her (that distinction goes to When Harry met Sally with Sleepless in Seattle a close second) it is still a fun and enjoyable movie.

I actually think we enjoyed the memories of life back in the early 90's as much as the movie itself. The electronics themselves are worth watching this movie.....we have come a long way in 20 years! If you are a youngster (under 40) reading this post and have never seen this movie, let me recap it for you. 

Meg Ryan plays a straight laced, girl next door, history teacher who is leaving an unhappy childhood in the USA to move to Canada where her fiance lives with his gracious and welcoming family.  Her fiance tries unsuccessfully convince Meg's character to go with him on a business trip to France.  She refuses, instead staying back to purchase her dream home so they can start their life and family. When she receives a Dear Joan phone call letting her know that he has fallen in love with another, she swallows her fear and boards a plane.  She is seated next to Kevin Kline, a small time French thief. (He doesn't steal French, he is French). 

Kevin Kline places a stolen necklace in Meg Ryan's carry on and then gets separated from her. Thence begins (is thence a word?) Meg's quest to track down her cheating fiance and Kevin's quest to track down his stolen necklace.  Comedy ensues and, of course, love wins in the end.  It is a fun, feel good movie, if a little bit boring and predictable.

Food 'n Flix

Food n Flix is a fun little group led by Heather of All Roads Lead to the Kitchen.  We all get together each month and watch a film chosen by one of the members.  We then create a dish inspired by the movie and blog about it during the month.  At the end of the month, the member who is hosting (this month it is Heather), does a round-up of all our posts so that we can see what the others thought of the movie and what they were inspired to make.  It is fun and you should join us. Find out how right here.

This was not a "foodie" film, however there was plenty of inspiration for food.  After all, it takes place in France so how much more inspiration do you need.  I had on my list, cheese pizza, fresh veggies, coffee, pastries, ice cream, Canadian food, French food and......what finally won out....Sea Breeze cocktails.  

I took my inspiration from a scene in the movie in which Meg Ryan strides onto the beach, grabs a chaise lounge, orders up a Sea Breeze and confronts her fiance and his ("remember this was before I met you", says Meg Ryan as she takes a sip of her Sea Breeze)  "slutty bitch".

A Sea Breeze, like the movie, is a classic.  It is simply vodka, cranberry and grapefruit juice with a wheel of lime as a garnish.  When Frank was taking this above photo I admonished him to "watch out for Santa".  You see, our puppy had knocked our wine connoisseur Santa off the table and broken his leg.  Frank had glued Santa's leg back on and put him upside down in a glass for it to set.  While I was writing this post, Frank sent me this photo.....

He said Santa was feeling left out.  I cannot begin to tell you how much  I love this guy.....Frank, not Santa.....well I love Santa too but not like I love Frank.  Santa has never made me laugh until tears were running down my legs.

This was a pretty strong drink......Could you tell??

Sea Breeze

2 oz. vodka
5 oz. cranberry juice
1 1/2 oz. grapefruit juice
Lime for garnish

Fill a large glass with ice.  Add the vodka, cranberry juice and grapefruit juice.  Stir to combine. Garnish with a slice of lime and serve.  Print Recipe