Recuperating in Raleigh

I don’t often accompany Jeff when he travels for work…..mostly because his travel is usually to exotic places like Williamsport, Scranton and Wilkes Barre and partly because the timing often doesn’t fit with my schedule.  But this week is an exception.  Jeff’s travel takes him to Raleigh, NC and my schedule allows me to tag along.

I have a list of places to see, coffee-shops to visit, and restaurants to try.  I have 5 books to keep me company and hold my attention.  And I also have a terrible sore throat, a very stuffy head and a low-grade fever.  Ugh…the dreaded summer cold.  Which is also becoming the dreaded “tagging-along-with-Jeff-on-a-work-trip” cold.  You may not remember, but I sure do….the last time I travelled with Jeff for work was to San Antonio, Texas.  I had a list of places to see, books to read, and Mexican & BBQ restaurants to try AND a terrible sore throat, a very stuffy head and a low-grade fever.

We spent most of the day in the car yesterday and arrived at our hotel at approximately 6:30 p.m. – just in time to check in, freshen up and make our 7:30 dinner reservation.  I was feeling pretty crappy by the time we arrived, but the anticipation of our dinner buoyed my spirits. I recently read the list of Bon Appetit’s 50 Best New Restaurants in America 2017 and lo and behold one of the new restaurants was in Raleigh!  After telling Jeff about the list, he called immediately to make a reservation at Brewery Bhavana.

The concept of Brewery Bhavana can sound a bit out there and make you think, “huh?” but having been there and seen it and eaten the food I can tell you, it works.  Brewery Bhavana (bhavana is Sanskrit for ‘cultivating’) bills itself as a brewery, dim sum restaurant, flower shop and bookstore/library. And it is all those things. It is also a welcoming, noisy, visually interesting place to hang out. And oh, the service was terrific!

After we were seated, we were given menus and glasses of water and told our waitress, Alex, would be with us shortly.  And she was. I asked about the wine list, which is a bit confusing as the wines are listed as W1, W2, W3, etc. with hip descriptions rather than being listed by name/vineyard.  Alex asked what kind of wines I liked and said she would bring me a few wines to sample based on what I told her.  Jeff asked about a few of their brews and again Alex offered to bring a few samples before he decided on a full glass.

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Jeff and I had looked at the menu several days before our visit to Brewery Bhavana and were excited to try several things from the “Little Somethings” section of the menu; so before Alex left the table, we put in an order for the Char Siu Bao (steamed buns stuffed with Cantonese BBQ Pork) and waited expectantly for our drinks and our bao.

Rachel (more versed in wines than Alex) delivered my wine samples and told me about each one, why she chose them based on the information I had given Alex and told me which was her favorite. Then she departed, giving me time to taste each one and make a decision.  While I was sampling my wine options, Jeff’s beer – well actually not Jeff’s beer – was delivered.  Before he took a sip, Alex came over quickly and told him he had the wrong beer.  She whisked it away and then efficiently brought him the one he ordered in a 16 oz. glass, rather than the 10 oz. glass he had ordered to make up for the error.  With the beer Alex also brought plates for our bao and a “kicked up” soy sauce.  Then the moment of truth came – our bao was delivered and we were in culinary heaven.  The bao was light and fluffy and warm and comforting and flavorful and ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. Delicious. The Cantonese pork was moist and tender and perfectly spiced. The addition of the kicked up soy sauce was perfect.

When Alex checked in to find out if were enjoying the bao, Jeff placed an order for Scallion Pancakes with oxtail in bone marrow and coconut-soy jam.  We also asked Alex if it was ok that we order in this disjointed way and she told us it was absolutely fine.  Alex left to place our pancake order and then came back at Jeff’s request to tell us more about Brewery Bhavana.  We enjoyed hearing about the dawning of Brewery Bhavana and sipping our drinks.  We enjoyed a little people watching and reading and re-reading the menu and chatting and soaking up the atmosphere.

And then we thoroughly enjoyed the scallion pancakes.  Oh my goodness…..the pancakes were soft with a crisp outside and, when slathered with the oxtail, were savory with a hint of not-quite-sweetness from the coconut-soy jam.  According to Jeff there was a hint of spiciness (but not too much), however I think my cold was slightly inhibiting my taste buds – which makes me absolutely salivate to try Brewery Bhavana again when I am not taste-compromised!!!!

Next up….Peking Duck Egg Rolls with hoisin sauce.  Delish!  Hot and crispy and savory and enhanced by the slight sweetness of the hoisin.  Of course, I am never to leave well-enough alone so I had to mix some hoisin with some of the kicked up soy sauce and it was the PERFECT complement to the egg rolls.

Although my wine was empty, I didn’t order a second glass because I knew there had to be cold medicine in my future.  Jeff ordered a second beer – Mango Peppercorn (the first was a Passionfruit IPA) and we put in our order for Soup Dumplings (which have the soup on the inside).  We continued to chat and I asked Alex if it would be ok for me to wander around a bit to snap some pics and she told me to feel free to be me!  So I did.

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Our next interaction with Alex was her delivering the bad news that the soup dumplings were sold out (the menu did warn us that there are only a limited number made each day).  Although we were sad, we had a back up plan and decided to see the lack of soup dumplings as an invitation to return!  Instead of the soup dumplings, we ordered the Shrimp & Corn Dumplings.

While we waited we talked about the next few days, I got the lay of the land on a few maps and sadly, I began to fade.  But when the shrimp & corn dumplings were delivered, I rallied.  Although they were our least favorite dish, they were still sooooo good.  They were more like a strudel than a dumpling and they had a warm, creamy filling that had a wonderfully herby hint.

Alex offered us dessert, but we were satisfied with what we had eaten and I was longing for pajamas and a pillow….so we declined. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that the slices of banana cake and coconut cake that passed our table did look yummy. Before leaving we took a quick spin through the “bookstore” and “flower shop.”  And we ended the night with a walk to the car in the cooling night air.

Back at the hotel I fell into bed – happy, just-full-enough and in need of rest!!!  My plans for waking up early this morning were squelched by this summer cold and the desire to sleep late!  So here I sit, just after noon, writing this post and lazily planning the rest of my day.  The weather isn’t looking so great – heavy rain in the forecast – but I’m hoping I have enough time for a long walk before the raindrops begin to fall.  And I’m hoping that whatever I decide on for dinner is half as good as our dinner last night at Brewery Bhavana.  Bon Appetit was correct – it is one of the best new restaurants in America in 2017!  Now I wonder what the other 49 have to offer that can top Brewery Bhavana or, in my opinion, Brewery Bhavan-ahhhhhhhhh!

10 Recipes on My “Must Try” List

It’s no secret that I spend a lot of time poring over magazines, cookbooks, Pinterest, and other websites and blogs looking for recipe inspiration.  I wish I had more time and money to try all the recipes I’ve pinned, bookmarked, tabbed, etc.; but I thought since I don’t have an unlimited supply of either time or money (if you have ideas of how I can accomplish this, let me know) I’d share with you some of the recipes I’d like to try SOMEDAY.

Perhaps if I spent less time looking for recipes and more time making them, I could fit it all in.  But then, oh horror, I might miss something!!!!

Be assured that I will try these recipes ONE DAY and when I do I will write  ‘Recipe Reviews’ and let you know my thoughts, but for now just sit back and drool with me!  Let’s get started…

ONE. I wish I was one of those people who could skip past a recipe with “Cheesy” or “Bacon” in the title, but I am not.  These just sound incredible to me…..

Cheesy Bacon Bombs from www.ohbiteit.com.

TWO. If you’ve been reading for a while, you know I am not afraid of making homemade pie crust (in fact, if anything the filling always scared me more than the crust); but this looks this idea is so yummy and cool I just know I need to give it a try.

Cinnamon Roll Pie Crust from www.taste-for-adventure.tablespoon.com.

THREE. Since we have an abundance (some would say “over-abundance”) of tomatoes in our garden right now, I should make this soon.  The flavor combination sounds delish to me.

Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart with Rosemary and Mascarpone from www.theendlessmeal.com.

FOUR. Another great idea for tomato season that combines my love of shrimp and my love of feta cheese with my current profusion of tomatoes!!!

Roasted Tomatoes with Shrimp and Feta from www.myrecipes.com.

FIVE. I am not typically a casserole gal.  I much prefer my food in separate piles on my plate to it being all in one pile; however this sounds too good to pass up to me.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole from www.recipesweet.net.

SIX. Anything that promises to be a HEALTHY alfredo is worth a try if you ask me!  I cannot imagine it will be as good as regular alfredo, but even if it’s only half as good (and it’s healthy) it’s a win!

Healthy Fettuccine Alfredo from www.pinchofyum.com.

SEVEN. I LOVE chickpeas.  In fact, I must confess, there was a time I was probably addicted to them!  Hummus, yummus!  Fried Ceci, yes pleasi!  And now….

Cilantro Lime Chickpea Salad from www.ohsheglows.com.

EIGHT. I have written previously about a culinary rut Jeff and I got into for a while….we were relying very heavily on quesadillas for dinner.  They were fast and usually easy – since we used a lot of leftovers.  But had we tried this quesadilla, we probably would not have felt like it was a rut.

Peach and Brie Quesadilla with Honey-Lime Dipping Sauce from www.cookinglight.com.

NINE. Oh, this next one combines three of my favorite things in one dish and makes me think of a salad I had at one of my favorite restaurants, The Salvation Café.  I love the peppery bite of arugula, the luxurious texture of goat cheese, and the earthy taste of beets!!!

Beet, Arugula and Goat Cheese Sandwich from www.bsinthekitchen.com.

TEN. OK.  If I could only eat one food for the rest of my life, I would choose Parmesan cheese.  I love the salty, nutty, butter combination and I truly think it is the world’s most perfect food.  So it’s no surprise that I would add the next recipe to my list of “must try’s.”

Parmesan Pudding with Pea Sauce from www.marthastewart.com.

Well, I cannot promise to stop trolling for recipes, but I can promise that someday I will make the 10 recipes above and let you know how they turn out.  Hmmmm….maybe I should do a “10 recipes in 10 weeks” series.  I’ll give that some thought, just as soon as I put down the latest issue of bon appetite magazine!

Recipe Review: Balsamic Jelly

OK, we all have our weird habits, right?  One of mine is reading magazines while drying my hair upside down.  Since I am a VVVEEERRRYYY impatient person, I need to do something while I’m drying my hair or I will lose interest and spend the day with frizz head.  So to keep myself occupied, I read magazines.

The other day while drying my hair I came across a recipe that sounded really interesting.  I was re-reading the ‘R.S.V.P/ reader’s favorite restaurant recipes’ section of the August 2010 issue of Bon Appetit (I didn’t say I read current magazines) and found a request for the balsamic jelly recipe from BOKA Kitchen + Bar in Seattle and BA’s answer.

BA August 2010

Balsamic jelly? Wow – the many things I could do with balsamic jelly started spinning through my mind – put it on a turkey and brie sandwich, serve it on a cheese platter with a good smokey blue cheese, use it as a topping for a piping hot filet mignon with a slice of goat cheese, use it to thicken a vinaigrette…..and the ideas went on and on.

After I finished drying my hair, putting on my makeup and picking out clothes for the day, I headed for the kitchen and assembled the ingredients.  With just three ingredients this is a simple recipe.  However you do have to leave time (8 hours) for the jelly to chill in the refrigerator so that it sets properly; so plan ahead!

There was one part of the instructions that made me go “huh?” and that is when it instructed me to “stir over medium heat until gelatin dissolves and mixture is hot (do not bring to simmer).”  I had to think about the temperature at which liquids simmer.  So, of course, I went to Google….but I learned that liquids simmer just before they boil, which happens at 212 degrees F at sea level.  I decided to wing it and when the mixture of vinegar and gelatin reached 175 degrees F on my instant read thermometer I removed it from the heat and added the honey.

With the exception of the little research I had to do (which you may have known), it was a very easy recipe and it yielded INCREDIBLE results.  The consistency of the jelly is just what you’d want a jelly to be and there is a nice sharp tang when it hits the back of your tongue.  The balsamic jelly made an excellent condiment for the chicken cutlet sandwiches I prepared for our kayaking trip this past Saturday. And it is equally as nice on a fresh piece of Italian bread with a little butter.

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All in all I’d give this recipe 4 M’s out of 5. Mmmm.

I deducted one M because I thought the instructions could have been more specific to save the average reader the time of researching the temperature of “simmer” and I disagree with the recipe’s claim that it makes 6 servings.  For me the recipe yielded 8 half-pint canning jars of jelly and I seriously doubt you would use even 1/4 of what is in the jar as a serving.  So if you are going to make this recipe, know that – unless you are a giant – it will make significantly more than 6 servings!

What’s your favorite jelly flavor?

Balsamic Jelly from August 2010 Bon Appetit

Ingredients

  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
  • 6 tablespoons honey

Note

Bon Appetit's adaptation of balsamic jelly from BOKA Kitchen + Bar in Seattle.

Can be made 1 week ahead.  Cover and keep chilled.

Directions

1. Pour vinegar into a small saucepan; sprinkle gelatin over. Let stand until gelatin softens, about 10 minutes.
2. Stir over medium heat until gelatin dissolves and mixture is hot (do not bring to a simmer).
3. Remove from heat.
4. Stir in honey.
5. Divide mixture among 6 small ramekins or bowls.
6. Chill until gelatin sets, about 8 hours.

Heart of a Teacher

I’ve spent the last several days taking it easy after surgery (more later), which for me means doing only half of what I normally do and sneaking things in when Jeff isn’t looking! While I love a good nap as much as the next guy or gal, forced stillness is not my thing.

However, in an effort to follow the doctor’s orders, I have been taking some time to sit still and go through back issues of cooking magazines to note (in my new Recipe Tracking Guide) those recipes I’d like to try in the future.  Having uninterrupted time to look at magazines has been luxurious and I’ve found all kinds of things I skimmed over in the past.  While thumbing through the April 2012 issue of bon appetit, I found an interview that I hadn’t read previously.

The interviewer talked with Keith McNally, restauranteur and owner of Balthazar, NYC.  Mr. McNally’s answer to one of the questions made me laugh out loud – probably because he hit the nail squarely on the head in terms of how I view most celebrity chefs.

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Food Journal

I realized today that even though I’ve only been Blogging about food since September of last year; I’ve been Jlogging about food for a lot longer!

Front Cover w FlowersI’ve spent the majority of the day committing to paper recipes for a class I am teaching in a few weeks; and, as often happens when I am thinking about things I’ve made in the past, I pulled out my food journal.  It will come as no surprise to those of you who have read past posts that I got sidetracked!  My self-diagnosed ADD kicked in AGAIN and with a smile on my face I traveled down memory lane.

My food journal is a beautiful brown-leather covered volume that I swore I would keep in pristine condition – I vowed to only write in it in my best handwriting.  Ahhh, the best laid plans…… A few of the pages began neatly – with legible printing; but over time they have become splattered and spilled upon and you can see some days where my passion for what I was recording overtook my desire to write neatly!  That’s how passion goes….

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Lies, Lies, Lies, Yeah

Well tonight was the last night of the 13-week Bible study I started with some amazing women back in September.  We had a spectacular final evening of fun, food and fellowship with one another.

We also shared what we learned throughout the study. And I must say it was a remarkable journey.  To have a place where you can be completely transparent and find love and support rather than hate and criticism is a truly rare thing.  I appreciate all the women who walked with me and with whom I walked on this road.

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Grateful

I spent the majority of the afternoon sitting in waiting rooms of doctors’ offices in central PA with Jeff, my husband who is not very good at telling me something is wrong until days after it begins!

Apparently he’s been seeing flashes of light in both eyes for “a few weeks” and has had a shadow on his left eye “for a few days.”  Mind you, he drove home most of the way from North Carolina on Saturday.  Of course, when he called his eye doctor today they wanted him to come in right away…enter me.  Fortunately, I was only a few blocks from his office when he called me to ask for a ride so that he wouldn’t have to drive with dilated pupils.

After the initial exam, the regular eye doctor sent Jeff to a retinal specialist across town.  So we got Jeff into his sunglasses, drove ALL THE WAY OVER THE RIVER, and waited for his next appointment.

Why am I writing about this on my food blog?  Well, as I was passing time in the waiting rooms I was reading a book by a friend of ours.  The book is entitled ‘Never Fall Down’ and was written by Patricia (Patty) McCormick.  The book is based on a true story of a boy in Cambodia in the 1970’s who survived the Killing Fields of the Khmer Rouge. Over and over the book details the starvation of the children [and adults] in the camps – how they had so little to eat and scrounged for food – eating dirt and bugs and poisonous spiders and plants and, in some instances, the flesh and organs of recently killed humans.

No, I am not suggesting that we start scrounging for our food.  What I want to do is express my gratitude that I DO NOT HAVE TO.  I live in a country of abundance.  Most of the people I know never go hungry, unless it’s due to poor planning on their own part and even then I don’t think most people in America know what HUNGRY really is.

I am so grateful to God for providing for me and the people I know.  He has provided a terrific spouse, the means to make a good living, a beautiful home, wonderfully generous friends, and enough food for us to cook, eat and even entertain!  I feel so incredibly blessed not to have gone through any of the harrowing experiences that the characters in ‘Never Fall Down’ had to endure or unfortunately were unable to endure.  I’ve never wondered where my family is for extended periods of time, how we’ll survive, IF we’ll survive, or if we’ll be safe.

I am embarrassed to live in a culture that is full of people who have it SO good yet complain so much.  I am certainly not blameless when it comes to complaining that I don’t have enough; however when I look at things in a realistic light, I am fully aware of how richly blessed I have been.

I would encourage you, if you too are grateful to NOT know first hand what hungry really is to make a donation to your local food bank.  If you are in central PA, New Hope Ministries and Stop the Violence Ministry are excellent choices, but certainly not the only ones.

I am grateful to Patty for writing this story and for educating me and others about these historic events.  She is such a talented writer of young adult fiction and has met so many fascinating people who share their stories with her and trust her to tell them well.  She does not let them down.  If you get a chance to read this book, I would highly recommend it. One of Patty’s earlier books – Sold – is being made into a movie. In fact, filming began in Nepal just last week.  I haven’t yet had the chance to read that book, but as soon as I take ‘Never Fall Down’ back to the library I will be bringing home ‘Sold.’

The outcome of Jeff’s appointments?  He apparently recently suffered a vitreous hemorrhage in his left eye and shows evidence of one in his right eye from some time ago.  The retinal specialist wants to see him again in three weeks to make sure he has no retinal tearing or detachment as a result of the hemorrhage.  But for now he’s on the mend.

Just one of MANY things for which I am grateful!!!!

No Such Thing As A Little Lie!

As I was pickling some cherry tomatoes early this morning, I got to thinking about the Bible study I began last night with a group of women from my church.  The study is entitled ‘Me, Myself & Lies’ and was written by an inspiringly talented and brave woman named Jennifer Rothschild. There are four women from our church co-leading the study… two of these women I know and have an incredible amount of respect and love for. Two I am looking forward to getting to know better, along with the other members of the group, over the next 13 weeks.

I will do my best to briefly explain the concept here, but please understand these ideas are Jennifer Rothschild’s, not mine – although I suspect and hope that by the end of this study I will have begun to believe her message instead of the lies!

Click here to listen to a little ditty about lies by Dave Barnes.

The focus of the study is the lies we tell ourselves that wound us.  We may have made these lies up ourselves or we may have heard them from others (including Satan or sadly even from people we love) and believed they were true so we started telling them to ourselves.  If you are a woman reading this, you already know what I mean even if you’re not willing to admit it.  [You may know what I mean if you are a man, but I’ve never been a man so I don’t really know for sure].

These lies are things like, “Why did you even try that? You knew you were going to fail.” Or “Don’t bother looking for a bathing suit this season; you’re too fat to look good in one.” Or “You’re not smart enough for that job so don’t even bother applying.” And on and on it goes – where it stops, nobody knows.  And we tell ourselves these things often enough that we start to believe them – I mean really believe them in our souls – and they begin to affect our behavior and even the course of our lives.

Anyway, why am I writing about this on a food blog?  Because I realized this morning over the hot steam of the pickling liquid that perhaps the reason I love cooking and entertaining so much is because I don’t tell myself those destructive lies when I am cooking and entertaining.  I know I am good at these two things.  Please don’t misunderstand me – I am not in any way trying to sound prideful or conceited.  However, I have so much “cooking DNA” in me from generations of amazing cooks and I feel such passion for it that I don’t even question whether I can do it.  If only I could transfer this confidence to other areas of my life and to other areas of yours!

As I looked around the circle of women last night and as I listened to their brief introductions (and mine), I had nothing but compassion for each person in that room. I was uplifted by the notion that I will link arms with these women for a season to bolster one another and to extinguish the lies.

You see, in our culture women can be vicious to other women.  I don’t use the term ‘vicious’ lightly.  I’m not sure where we learn it or when, but somewhere along the line mainstream culture teaches us that it’s ok to say things (even if it’s only in our own heads) like, “Why in the word would she wear that? Doesn’t she own a mirror?” or “If I were in her shoes I’d just leave him” or “If she just disciplined those kids they wouldn’t act like that.”  No wonder we tell ourselves lies!  We say them about others and others say them about us and in our heads the boundaries between truth and lie, acceptable and unacceptable become blurred.

This morning, I am grateful to have a passion into which I can escape.  A place where the lies STOP!  A place where I feel confident and competent.  I encourage you, if you don’t have one, to try so many things that you find that place where you can silence the lies.

And I challenge you to learn to identify the lies you tell yourself so that you change the messages you send in your own head.  And even more, I challenge you to identify those negative things you’re saying (even if only in your head) about others and change them into positive things.  We women have enough challenges in this world (don’t worry men, I’m not about to have a Betty Friedan moment) that we don’t need to put up roadblocks for ourselves and others.  So put your arms around the next woman you see – tell her she’s wonderful and beautiful and that the lies are just that – lies.  Or even better – find a reason to cook for her, eat with her or entertain to serve her!

Click here to learn more about Jennifer Rothschild.