“Art Enables Us to Find Ourselves and Lose Ourselves at the Same Time”

….that’s what Thomas Merton, writer of more than 70 books on spirituality, told us. And it has been my experience too!

I do not consider myself an artist in the traditional sense of the word – I’m not a skilled painter and I certainly cannot draw to save my life.  But I absolutely consider myself an artist in a non-traditional sense.  My favorite art medium is food.  I love playing with food and presenting food in new and beautiful ways.  And I love taking photographs.  And, even though I’m not a skilled painter, I love working with watercolors and I enjoy my attempts at drawing (even if I’m not always satisfied with the outcome).  For me, art is about the journey….not the destination.

Why am I writing about this today?  Because I’ve been blessed with a unique opportunity to lead a session at a women’s retreat this Saturday – the topic – Praying in Color (Bible Journaling/Art Worship/Active Prayer).  I am not an expert on the subject, but I have a passion for it and I love introducing people to new ways of developing their relationship with God. And today I’m making my final preparations.  I’m packing my supplies and notes and examples (such as they are) and all the while I’m talking with God – asking for His guidance, His wisdom, His agenda.

And in packing my things I’ve realized there just isn’t enough time to cover the subject and there are only so many handouts I can give people before they get overwhelmed.  So I thought I’d use the blog as a place to link to some tools I think are important not only for praying in color, but for spending time with God in general.  This is not an exhaustive list of links, but a jumping off point.


One tool I’ve learned to rely on for prayer is The Feelings Wheel, which was developed by Dr. Gloria Wilcox.  Some of you out there are very in touch with your feelings, and for you this tool may seem unnecessary.  But others of us have learned to ignore our feelings and have spent so many years doing so that the idea of identifying a feeling is as difficult as learning to speak a foreign language.  Often we are asked how we feel about something and we respond with what we THINK about it rather than how we FEEL about it because owning or expressing our feelings to others (and sometimes to ourselves) can be scary.

The feelings wheel can help us get more specific about vague feelings, can help us trace the root of our feelings and can help us look at opposites on the wheel and realize that perhaps we’re mad because we’re feeling powerless, etc.

I would urge you to research The Feelings Wheel and use it when you’re trying to identify your emotions.


I’m a vvvvveeeeerrrrryyyyy literal person and sometimes I need help to discern what a particular scripture is about and or what God is speaking to me through a scripture.  A tool that helps me distill the meaning of what I’m reading when I read my Bible is the Scripture Diagramming Worksheet.  Once I am able to get to the heart of a scripture, I have an easier time visualizing how I want to journal about it.  Visit Pink Paper Peppermints for more information!


I wish I knew to whom to attribute this work, however I received this one page worksheet in a class I took and there is no information on its origin.  But, even without the appropriate attribution I think it’s important to include this helpful information.  Because many of us are not confident in our ability to discern the voice of God, we can dismiss important messages from Him.  Over the years, this worksheet has helped remind me how to decipher the messages that I hear.

Hearing the Voice of God


Again, this is not an exhaustive list, but rather some of my favorite sources of inspiration.

Dots & Dust.  Angeline’s site includes a Bible Journaling section, great examples, monthly freebies, links to free facebook live classes, great techniques and more.

Illustrated Faith.  Shanna Noel is a name widely recognized in the Bible Journaling world.  Her site is chock full of ideas, examples, techniques, tools, freebies, information and inspiration.

PitterAndGlink.  Bethany’s site has a whole section about Bible Journaling – including lovely examples, free printables, reviews of supplies, and much more!


Lifeway.  I’d encourage you to visit Lifeway either online or in person (there’s a store in Harrisburg) for all kinds of Christian resources including, but not limited to Bible Journaling supplies.  However, they do have a lovely selection of journaling Bibles, coloring Bibles, bible journaling devotionals, etc.

Pinterest, Instagram and Other Social Media Visit lots of different sites for inspiration.  You’ll find styles and ideas and techniques you never imagined!

Lyrics.com – I love using song lyrics in my illustrations, but I like to make sure I have them right – there’s nothing more embarrassing than singing (or illustrating) the wrong words to a song!  No Patty, the lyrics to Deep Purple’s famous 70s song are not “Slow Cousin Walter,” but rather “Smoke on the Water!”

Biblestudytools.com is one of many tools out there to help you find scriptures in multiple translations and commentaries on scriptures as well. Often I need to read more than one version of a scripture to fully comprehend the meaning of it.  And just as often, I like to read a scholar’s take on the scripture too to help me see things I might otherwise have missed.

Blue Letter Bible is another tool I like to help study scriptures.  Blue Letter Bible “was established in the mid1990’s, at the beginning of the technological revolution.” The “blue letter” in the title refers to web links you click to learn more information!

There are many more tools and resources available, but these are just a few that I use when illustrating scriptures, praying in color, worshiping through art, journaling the bible and/or actively praying!

I’d encourage you to PLAY with different techniques when you spend time with God.  Sometimes moving your hands while creating art (or other parts of your body while hiking or running, etc.)  stills your mind in a way that sitting still and listening intently cannot.  If you’re anything like me, when you sit still your mind races a million miles a minute and you have trouble focusing on anything.   So get out your crayons, sit with God and color outside the lines!

Matthew 18:1-4
“About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”  Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them.  Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.  So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Flying First Class

Ok, admit it, the title got your attention, right?  I have a confession to make….I’ve not flown first class…but I do want to tell you about my upcoming classes at The Kitchen Shoppe & Cooking School and needed a clever way to catch your attention!

So, now that I’ve admitted to scamming you [please forgive me], I’ll get to it!

If you want to see a list of all the Fall 2017 and Winter 2018 cooking classes at KS, this will help!  If you want a brief idea of what I’m teaching, read on.  For a list of my current and past classes, this link will take you there.

My first class of the semester on September 12th is BRING A FRIEND TO ITALY and is a great value because it’s two for the price of one.  The description and menu are as follows:

Hate to fly but want to experience great Italian food? This class is your answer – and you get to bring a friend along too!Join me as I prepares a wonderful menu of quintessentially Italian foods.
  • Formaggio in Crosta (Gorgonzola Cheese in Puff Pastry)
  • Scrippelle in Brodo (Crepes in Broth)
  • Insalata di Funghi Tiepida (Warm Mushroom Salad)
  • Pollo Arrosto al Rosmarino e Arancia (Roast Chicken w/Rosemary & Orange)
  • Rigatoni con Cavolfiori e Uvetta (Rigatoni w Cauliflower& Golden Raisins)
  • Torta di Noci al Caffè (Walnut & Coffee Cake)

For more information and/or to register for Bring a Friend to Italy.

Next up are two classes on the same day – October 14th –  and these are great for anyone wanting to learn more about the Big Green Egg!  I’m teaching these with my boss, Dan.

First, BIG GREEN EGG 101:

Join us for the first class in our newoutdoor kitchen & showroomand we’ll
teach you the basics of the Big GreenEgg. Known as the “Ultimate Cooking
Experience” the Big Green Egg (BGE) is THE choice for a single appliance that
grills, smokes and bakes. In the 101class we will answer your questions and
guide you through everything you need to know to get started using your BGE.
Come hungry – there is plenty to sample for even the heartiest of appetites. Class
fee credited toward the purchase of specially priced, seasoned Big Green Eggs
and 10% off all accessories the day of the event only. Hurry, class size is limited.
Rain or shine!
  • Red Chile Scallops
  • Grown Up PB&J Chicken Satay
  • Pulled Pork 3 Ways
  • Wood-Fired Pizza
  • The Fabulous Four Seared New York Strip Steak
  • Grilled Pineapple w/ Gooey Nutella & Vanilla Ice Cream

For more information and/or to register for Big Green Egg 101.

Then, BIG GREEN EGG 201:

Join us for this class in our new outdoor kitchen & showroom and we’ll teach you some more in-depth techniques for using the Big Green Egg. Known as the “Ultimate Cooking Experience” the Big Green Egg (BGE) is THE choice for a single appliance that grills, smokes and bakes. In the 201 class we will share advanced cooking techniques and tips for taking maximum advantage of the BGE – for example: how to reverse sear and how to get your BGE from 0° to 600°F in 5 minutes. Come hungry – there is plenty to sample for even the heartiest of appetites. Class fee credited toward the purchase of specially priced, seasoned Big Green Eggs and 10% off all accessories the day of the event only. Hurry, class size is limited. Rain or shine!

  • Wood-Fired Pizza from Start to Finish w/ Dough Demonstration
  • Cedar-Wrapped Scallops w/ Orange Beurre Blanc
  • Dizzy Dry-Brined Chicken Breast
  • Thai Fresh Tuna Burger w/ Wasabi Mayo
  • Reverse Seared New York Strip Steak
  • Kahlua Chocolate Brownies a la Mode

For more information and/or to register for Big Green Egg 201.

Also in October – on the 18th – is an apple-inspired lunch and learn entitled DON’T SIT UNDER THE APPLE TREE LUNCH & LEARN.

Don’t sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me. I’ll share with you the perfect fall menu that celebrates the season’s most distinguished fruit.

  • Tangy Apple Cranberry Salad w/ Citrus Dressing and Chia Seeds
  • Creamy Maple Apple Soup
  • Honeycrisp Apple & Smoked Chicken Quesadilla w/ Bacon
  • Caramel Apple Tart w/ Cinnamon Whipped Cream

For more information and/or to register for Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree.

I don’t have any classes on the schedule for November and December because I’ll be working a lot in the retail section; however never fear.  If you need a Groff fix, Jeff (my handsome hubby) will help you out.  He and Dan will be leading a CRAFT BEER TOUR on November 4th. It should be a great day of travel, tasting and talk!

If you think only of Tony Soprano, going ‘down the shore,’ and Bruce Springsteen when someone mentions New Jersey, you’re missing out on another great thing from Jersey….craft beers! Join Jeff Groff, craft beer aficionado and your emcee for the day, and explore some of the breweries that put NJ on the map as a craft beer player. Leave your cares behind and bring a cooler and a friend for a fun day of beer talk and, more importantly, beer tasting.


  • Flying Fish Brewing Company
  • Eight & Sand Beer Co.
  • 2SP Brewing Company


  • Full hot breakfast
  • Transportation
  • Guided Tour(s)
  • Packed Lunch
  • Bus Driver Gratuity

This is an all-day event where tastings are not included. In consideration of the time restrictions and expediency, the $20 tasting fee must be paid before departure. We reserve the right to change the itinerary for reasons outside of our control; see website for changes.

For more information and/or to register for the Craft Beer Tour.

I pick back up with Jeff in January 2018  when we will be co-teaching a couples class.  COOKING BAREFOOT WITH JEFFERY is our spin on recipes from Ina Garten’s latest cookbook ‘Cooking for Jeffrey.’  Not only are the recipes delish, but the class includes a wine tasting as well.

Jeff and I are back in the kitchen and this time we’re sharing our twist on recipes from Ina Garten’s latest book Cooking for Jeffrey. Additionally we’re pairing some of our favorite wines with each course. This class will celebrate food, wine and teamwork!

  • Creamy Asparagus & Fennel Soup
  • Maple-Roasted Carrot Salad
  • Seared NY Strip Steak w/ Mustard & Maitakes
  • Roasted Vine Tomatoes
  • Root Vegetable Gratin
  • Vanilla Cream Cheese Pound Cake w/ Red Wine Macerated Berries

For more information and/or to register for Cooking Barefoot with JeffERy w/ 4-Wine Flight.

Finally, I finish the semester with another fun lunch and learn on February 20th.  This class – TACO TUESDAY LUNCH & LEARN – was inspired by my recent (or maybe long-time) obsession with Mexican food in general and tacos specifically.

It doesn’t have to be Tuesday to make tacos; but since it is, why not?!? This class will show you that tacos can be much more interesting than you ever imagined…and they can even be for dessert!

  • Carrot & Goat Cheese Taco w/ Red Beet Tortilla
  • Pork Carnitas Tacos w/ Salsa Verde Marmalade
  • “Quickle” – Quick Pickled Veggies
  • Bittersweet Chocolate Dessert Taco

For more information and/or to register for Taco Tuesday Lunch & Learn.

Come on out to the Kitchen Shoppe & Cooking School for one of my classes – while we may not be flying, we’ll definitely go first class!!!!

What I’ve Been Doing Lately…

Oh my goodness…..the last several weeks have been a whirlwind!  I’ve wanted to post so many times; however each time I wanted to write, it was about the surprise party I was planning for Jeff. And, of course, writing about it on the blog sort of ruins the element of surprise!

This year was a big birthday for Jeff – in fact, it was the Big Five-Oh! As in OhmygoodnesshowcanIbeturning50!?!  Although this birthday didn’t seem to hit him as hard as his 30th, he was still a bit mopey…throwing out phrases like, “this is my last shower (cup of coffee, work day, etc.) in my 40’s.”

As hard as this birthday was for him, it was hard on me too!  Just about every single sentence I spoke to him from January 15th through March 4th was a lie!  While that may sound easy [and to some it IS easy], it was pretty difficult for me.  I don’t know which was harder – thinking of the lies or remembering the lies!

And in the midst of the planning were Valentine’s Day (which isn’t that big a deal to us, but has to be acknowledged nonetheless), his actual birthday, class prep, a party for a friend, cooking for a bridal shower my niece Ashley was throwing for a friend [which happened to be the same day of the party], my regular schedule, and – oh yeah, just for fun – another kidney stone!!!  Additionally, I was trying to throw this party with 40 guests without raising suspicion that I was spending money – not easy to pull off when Jeff enters all the financial transactions into the computer!  If nothing else, I thrive on stress….

I’d like to say I took tons of pictures of the food; but that would be a lie.  I took pics of the party set up but by the time the party got underway, I was too involved in trying to surprise Jeff and hostessing.  Incidentally, the surprise part was a bit of a flop; but the party itself was a lot of fun!

Jeff’s good friend, Craig (you might remember him from my Something’s Brewing post) brewed two commemorative beers for the occasion and put together a killer playlist (which he and Jeff refer to as a mix-tape – those of you in my age bracket will giggle at this terminology)!  Having Craig take charge of beer and music was a huge help. That allowed me to focus on food and decorations.  So, I thought about what kind of food (1) goes well with beer; (2) can be prepared ahead and secretly transported to another location; (3) feeds a crowd and (4) is on Jeff’s list of favorite foods (or at least near the favorites list).

Chili bar was the obvious choice.  I decided to make my Chilly Weather Sirloin Chili (with ground beef instead of sirloin cubes as a time saver). After choosing the main food, the rest pretty much fell into place.  Rice, Fritos, Ranch Oyster Crackers (thanks, Ron), toppings (such as cheddar, pepper-jack, scallions, sour cream, and cilantro), a big salad [and not just any salad – MIMI’s SALAD], buttermilk cornbread with Honey-Cinnamon-Cayenne Butter, and for dessert – Jeff’s favorite – his mom’s chocolate cake with peanut butter icing and some s’mores bark for good measure.  Obviously, I needed to add some other beverages – wine for the non-beer drinkers, “middle of the road” beer for the less adventurous beer drinkers, bottled water and soda rounded out the beverage options.

Then came the theme – since it was a chili bar, I found some great printables on Pinterest and took it from there.  I designed the invitation and then created a burlap table banner to “match” the invite.  I also borrowed a previously used table banner reading ‘Aged to Perfection,’ which loosely related to the beer theme.  I wrapped “silverware” in brown bags and tied it with bakery twine, made some 50-related signs that I displayed in beer bottles and copied old photos of Jeff onto velum and wrapped clear candle holders with the velum for fun table decorations.  I used six-pack carriers as Frito “bowls” around the room, I put chalkboard stickers on wine and beer cups so people could personalize them and got paper plates and napkins to match the theme.  Throw in some bandanas and a Chili Bar sign and voila – a party.

Deciding where to have it was another challenge – it’s quite a complex undertaking to throw a surprise party for 40 people where the guest of honor lives!!!  I didn’t even try that.  A few places came to mind, but the clubhouse in my parent’s neighborhood was a great landing-place from a surprise perspective.  The challenge; however, was getting everything there without Jeff knowing.  For several weeks before the party I carted things from our house to my parent’s house – and I mean lots of things.  My parent’s living room was gradually getting smaller due to the pile of ‘party stuff’ I was making.

The day before the party, I prepped the food for the surprise and most of the food for the bridal shower (see above) – with help from a friend, thanks Tammy!  The day of, I had to get up early and head to my mom’s house to finalize the shower food and meet my niece for the food hand-off.  After that, Mimi and I set up the room and prepped the remaining food for Jeff’s party.  In the afternoon I raced home to get ready (there was barely time for a shower and some primping) and then met my sister to start carrying the pile from my parent’s living room to the party venue – thanks Laura!

We met up with Craig (my beer & music hero) and Chris (his lovely wife who was such a big help throughout the party). Then Laura and I raced back to my parent’s house to change our clothes in the living room – laughing and somewhat out of breath.  Then Laura went back to the party venue to greet guests while I waited for Jeff to arrive for our “night out to celebrate his birthday.”  On the way out the door, my mom asked if we could help her by delivering her food to a block party (yes, this was part of the lie to get Jeff to the party).  Jeff [carrying some the of food for his own party] and I walked through the door of the clubhouse and were about 5 feet from the door to the room in which the party was being held when he looked over at me and asked, “do you want me to ACT surprised?”

In that split second I thought about the ramifications of murdering him, but decided that 40 witnesses were too many so I did my best not to strangle him and proceeded to enjoy time with our friends and family.  Although the surprise was not a success, the party was.

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And, as it turns out, so was the bridal shower Ashley hosted.  For that I made Cornmeal Cheddar Scones (my friend Tammy’s recipe), Caramel Macchiato Scones, individual omelets in ham cups and fruit skewers with orange vinaigrette.

As I mentioned, in the midst of all this craziness I was also preparing for some classes. The first class – Perfectly Provencal.  The foods and wines were a yummy tribute to the Provencal region of France.  The menu:

  • Double-Baked Cheese Soufflé w/ Parmesan Cream
  • Grated Baby Beet Salad
  • Seared Halibut w/ Spicy Mussel Aioli
  • Luxe French Potatoes w/ Lavender
  • Tian Provencal
  • Blood Orange Sponge Cake

The second class – Bring a Friend to Spain.  The foods for this were from all different regions of Spain. The menu:

  • Coca (Pizza) w/ Candied Red Peppers
  • Festive Frisee w/ Pears & Honeyed Lardon
  • Comforting Chicken in Almond & Saffron Sauce
  • Smokey Spiced Spanish Potatoes
  • Asparagus w/ Tangerine Vinaigrette & Pistachio Dust
  • Quesada Pasiega (Spanish Catabrian Cheesecake)

Perhaps my favorite event of recent weeks was the Doljanchi for our twin great-niece and great-nephew.  The doljanchi is the elaborate Korean first birthday celebration with a very interesting ritual – the doljabi.  In addition to the doljabi were tables and tables of delicious Korean foods and unmatched hospitality from Justin’s family.  We had a wonderful time and best of all I didn’t have to make anything, carry anything or keep anything a secret!!!!  I was able to be a guest and enjoy a beautiful celebration of two very cool little people who have stolen my heart!

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I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t somewhat tired from the flurry of activity over the last several weeks.  However, reviewing it all has reminded me how truly lucky I am.  I have a great husband (who is older than me), family and friends who are quick to ask “what can I do” when I say I’m throwing a party (AND THEY MEAN IT), three beautiful littles who bring joy and hope for the future to our family, and so many people with whom Jeff and I can enjoy life…one bite at a time!

Friendship, Food & Farmers’ Markets

One of my first posts was about how food connects and over the last few weeks I’ve had evidence of it!

Last week I received a text message from my friend Tracee which got me thinking about writing this post.   Her text began, “Holy early good morning!!  Sorry to message you so early but…”  OK, let’s stop here and analyze the beginning of her message – she completely understands that for me 7:48 am (her time) and/or 9:48 am my time is early!!!  She was off to a great start!  The message continued, “I am at this awesome produce market in Ft Worth Texas and I thought of you…”  Now some friends would think of you when they hear your favorite song, or watch your favorite t.v. show, or see you favorite flower; but a good friend knows – and understands that – you have a passion for produce markets and thinks of you when she’s looking at fresh fruits and veggies!  She went on to write, “…need anything you can not find in pa?”  A seriously great, true friend would travel from Texas to Pennsylvania with produce in tow if you asked!!!!

I replied to her, “Happy Friday!  You know me well….I love a good produce market!  I’m good [meaning I don’t need you to bring anything back] but send some pics!”

Her reply? “OK will do.  Great stuff!  I knew you appreciate interesting ingredients.”  She then proceeded to send me 14 pics – with captions!  You gotta love a friend like that!

The following is a slide show of Tracee’s pics (some with captions) with her permission to share!

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This text exchange also got me to thinking of a recent trip I took with a different friend (no, I’m not bragging / yes, I am blessed) to Roots Country Market & Auction.  I’ve written about my friend Tammy in previous posts (in fact, one of her delicious recipes made one of my “Best Thing I’ve Eaten All Week” posts).  Tammy is another friend that falls into both the “friend that gets me” and “true friend” categories.  She’s a gem.  In my mind, I equate Tammy with Lisa Douglas (Eva Gabor) [the glamorous Hungarian wife of Oliver Wendell Douglas (Eddie Albert)] who is dragged unwillingly from an upscale Manhattan penthouse apartment and the city life she adores to a ramshackle farm.  You see, Tammy is a beautiful, put-together woman who at first glance seems like she might not be tough enough for life on a farm; but if you think that of her, you’d be underestimating her strength – both physical and mental.  In fact, she now lives on a farmette and raises chickens.  Anyway….as usual, I digress.

Tammy and I travel well together and enjoy the same kinds of experiences.  So when she suggested a trip to Roots Market on our most recent day together, I was fully on board.  And I was armed with a restaurant to introduce her to.  We left around 8:30 (early for me and late for Tammy) and started at Roots Market.  I’m so glad Tammy drove and knew exactly how to get to Roots.  You see, she and her hubby frequent the auction to purchase produce for “the girls.”

We zig-zagged our way through the market looking at fresh produce, baked goods, fresh meats, etc.  We plotted our purchases and had to backtrack to a few stands once we’d made our way through the whole market.  But, we’re not just about produce markets.

When we left Roots we headed for downtown Lancaster and shopped at some cute boutiques, home stores, and an olive oil tasting room. We looked at shoes, clothes, jewelry, home items, soaps, lotions, hats (lots of cute hats), coffee, tea, etc.  In doing so, we worked up an appetite.

Being married to Jeff has prepared me well to have a restaurant in my hip pocket for nearly every occasion!  On this day the restaurant was Hunger-N-Thirst Craft Beer and Provisions. I made a quick stop in the bottle shop to see if I could get any HopSlam for Jeff (alas, I could not), we made a pit stop and then made our way to the dining room.  We each ordered a glass of wine (red for Tammy  / white for me), we shared the shrimp cocktail appetizer and ordered our entrees.  For Tammy, the BLT Panino.  For me, Veggie Panino.  The shrimp cocktail was not your mama’s shrimp cocktail!    It is described on the menu as “Chilled Horseradish Dusted Shrimp / Herb Puree / Pickled Vegetables / Crostini / Tomato Jam” and it was D’lish!  I didn’t taste Tammy’s panino, but mine was an odd choice for me.  I typically would not order a veggie sandwich at a restaurant.  I would eat one at home, but would typically find many other things on a restaurant menu that appealed to me.  In this case, however, the combination of “Sweet Potato / Kale / Red Onion / Smoked Provolone / Maple-Sage Aioli” was too interesting to resist.  And it was quite yummy!!!

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We were too full for dessert and Tammy had to hit the road to make it home in time for a class so we got back on the road after lunch.  But the day of adventuring was wonderful.  A time to REconnect, REfuel and RElax!

So next time you’re thinking about a friend, head to a farmers market and send them some pics or, even better, take them along!

And a special thanks to all my friends who “GET” me!

And because they’re so darn cute – here a pic of TyDy connecting over food earlier today!!!



Two for One – Restaurant & Recipe Review: Tania’s Mexican Restaurant and Cantaloupe-Ginger Agua Fresca

Over the last several years I’ve developed a deep appreciation for Mexican food.  I love the complex, but fresh flavors.  I welcome the contrasts in textures between smooth and creamy (like mole or guacamole) and crisp and salty (like a crisped tortilla, flaky from a little oil and heat). Oh how this comforting food makes me almost sigh, ‘mmm mmm mmm,’ while I’m eating it!

This past Saturday Jeff and I took one of our weekend afternoon rides for produce.  We pick a direction and roam back roads in search of small produce stands with deliciously fresh offerings.  Sometimes we go with no plan in mind and see where the wind takes us; but Saturday Jeff had a little nugget in his hip pocket – Tania’s Mexican Restaurant & Store at 2180 Carlisle Road in Aspers.

In the midst of shopping for fresh corn, green beans, tomatoes (to tide us over until the ones in our garden ripen), cantaloupe, etc. we stopped for a late lunch – that turned into linner or dunch.

Although neither Jeff nor I speaks much Spanish and none of the staff we encountered spoke much English, we managed to order everything we wanted and then some.  Having never had horchata (a traditional Mexican drink made with rice, vanilla and cinnamon) before, Jeff suggested ordering one to share.  It was a good call!  The horchata was like the best rice pudding in liquid form.  And it reminded me a little of chai, which I love.  Being on the sweeter side, we saved it for “dessert” and drank it in the car after we left Tania’s.

While we decided what to order, a basket of warm chips and a dish of thin, tomato-ey, flavorful salsa was delivered to our table.  We nibbled on the chips dipped in yummy goodness as we perused the menu.  Jeff ordered 1 green chicken tamale, beef tacos and a side of guacamole.  I ordered the spicy pork & pineapple tacos and a side of Mexican rice.  Of course, we shared it all and were in heaven as we ate.

I like tamales, but Jeff LLLLLOOOOOVVVVVEEEEESSSSS tamales so I only had a small bite.  It was comfort food in a perfect little package.  Each order of tacos included three 4 1/2″ tacos so I took one of Jeff’s tacos and he took one of mine.  I put some of the spicy red sauce that came with the tacos on the beef taco and it was delicious.  The sauce gave it a nice heat and although there wasn’t a lot of complexity to the beef/onion mixture it was really good.  The flavors were strong and clean and homey.  My spicy pork & pineapple tacos were much more complex in flavor.  The spicy (but not too spicy) rub on the pork was a nice contrast to the sweetness of the pineapple.  It was like a taste explosion in my mouth and I really appreciated that the meat in both the beef and pork tacos was cut small enough that you didn’t have the awkward slide of filling onto your chin or down the front of your shirt when you bite into them!

The sides were just as good as the main event.  The guacamole was simple, fresh and creamy, yet it had just the right amount of chunky avocado pieces to make it texturally interesting.  And the rice – oh, the rice!!!!!  You may remember that Jeff isn’t the hugest rice fan – having tasted his attempts at making rice, I understand why!  While he is an excellent cook in so many areas, rice is not his forte.  However, rice making is the forte of whoever makes the Mexican rice at Tania’s!!!!  When you first look at it you may be tempted to think it is going to be dry and boring – but do not rely on this deceptive first impression or you will miss something wonderful.  So wonderful, in fact, that I know in the coming weeks I will wake up in the middle of the night craving the rice.  The grains were moist but not soggy, perfectly separate from one another.  Clearly the grains were not simply cooked in water – there was a great flavor of something lovingly toasted and cooked with chicken broth and/or tomatoes.  And dotting – but not overpowering – the perfectly done rice were garlic, onions, peas and carrots.

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It was an exceptional meal followed by a trip through the aisles of the attached store.  We made our purchases and were shocked at how low the prices of our lunch and grocery items were.  It was a phenomenal value and I would highly recommend it.

Now for the recipe.  On Thursday Jeff and I went to the library for a rare trip where we could spend time between the shelves picking out books and DVD’s without rushing.  Normally we stop at the library on the way to or from somewhere else and just run in for what we need or drop our books in the outdoor book return.  But, I was able to look at books in a leisurely manner and checked out three cookbooks (I know, it’s an addiction – “Hi, my  name is Janice and I’m a cookbookaholic!”).

In preparation for an upcoming Mexican meal, I borrowed the book “tacolicious” by Sara Deseran.  Although my menu is set, I thought I’d get some inspiration from this book and I was not wrong.  One thing caught my attention immediately – Cantaloupe-Ginger Agua Fresca.  While on our produce mission on Saturday we found some perfectly ripe cantaloupes so on Sunday I made the agua fresca.

It was scrumptious!  And it was super simple to make. I had ginger in the freezer (as I always do), sugar in the baking cabinet and a lemon in the fridge.  The hardest parts (which were not at all hard) were cutting the cantaloupe and defrosting the ginger.  Once that was done it all came together in a matter of minutes.  The only change I made to the recipe was to cut the amount of sugar so that the agua fresca would taste more like the perfectly ripe cantaloupe and less like sugar.


It was a home run! Bright and fresh and a beautiful color. And I am so glad I didn’t put the full amount of sugar in it or it would have been too sweet for my taste.  I will definitely make it again, perhaps trying a little more ginger in it the next time.

I’d give both the restaurant and the recipe (revised to include less sugar) 5 m’s out of 5.

mexican mmm


Philadelphia in 36 Hours or Less

I cannot believe it’s Saturday already.  I’ve been wanting to write this post all week, but I’ve had a busy one so I’m just getting around to telling you about the trip Jeff and I took to Philly last weekend.  We went to celebrate my birthday (happy birthday to me – several days late) and to visit our still-really-new niece and nephew (congratulations to Vanessa & Justin on the birth of Tyson & Dylan).

Our journey began on Sunday morning after I finished making a lovely French country pate.  We hit the road at about 10 am and were making our first stop in Philly for lunch.  Jeff has been wanting to try a restaurant called South Philly Barbacoa and, since he never steers me wrong when it comes to food, I happily agreed to go.  Jeff read about South Philly Barbacoa in the May 2016 issue of Bon Appetit.  Adam Rapoport wrote about his recent trip to Philadelphia in an article entitled 32 Hours in Philly

SPB Storefront

We were pretty lucky finding a parking place only 1 block from the restaurant.  The restaurant is located in an area with all on-street parking so finding a space can be hit or miss.  The address for South Philly Barbacoa is 1703 S 11th Street, Philadelphia.  As we walked up to the restaurant, I knew from the whimsical exterior that I’d love it.

And I wasn’t wrong.  The restaurant is bright and cheery, but doesn’t have enough tables for the demand so we had to wait.  I’m not sure if ordering is always done at the counter or if we ordered that way because we happened to be waiting by the counter; but either way, standing near the counter built great anticipation for our taste buds and allowed us to peek at what was going on in the back.  Orders were being filled, tortillas were being made and there was much bustling of the staff.

We each ordered two small pork & lamb tacos and we added some condiments at the counter before proceeding to a finally-available table.  When we sat down, we got a glass of delicious a pineapple juice to share.  After snapping a few photos, we dug into our tacos.  As I was eating the first one, I was thinking that if I could only use one word to describe them, it would be delicious…no, it would be heavenly…..no, it would be comforting…..Clearly, they cannot be described with just one word.

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As I took the first bite of the second taco, I realized that there is a single word that could describe them……and that word it……..”holycrapthat’sspicy!”  I believe it was the pickled onion/pepper condiment that was the culprit.  I had just a bit of the condiment on the first taco and significantly more on the second one. After just one bite of that second taco I was sweating, trying to catch my breath and, to quote Cam from Modern Family after he tells Gloria he can spice her under the table any day, “I feel like I ate the sun!”  Even though it took a considerable amount of time for my tongue to return to normal size and to stop throbbing, I really did love the food at South Philly Barbacoa and will definitely give it another try!  I barely tasted the sweet tamale that Jeff ordered, so next time I’ll eat that before I burn off all my taste buds!

After lunch we wandered through the Italian Market – stopping at some of our favorite IMG_4048shops and enjoying one another’s company.  From there we headed to the hotel for check-in, which we were disappointed to learn would be delayed by at least an hour.  So we ran (ok, walked) a few errands – Jeff wanted to stop at The Art of Shaving to get some shaving cream and I needed to do an exchange of MAC lipstick at Macy’s. Then we went for a drink at the hotel bar.  Finally, after Jeff calling the front desk twice, we were able to check into our room with just enough time to shower and get dressed for dinner.

JamoneraSince it was technically my birthday celebration I was able to choose the restaurant.  (This is not a complaint, simply a fact – it usually has to be my birthday for me to get to choose the restaurant)  Initially I picked Barbuzzo (my favorite in Philly); but then I decided to really branch out and try one of their sister restaurants – Jamonera.  Being a Sunday evening, we were able to select their Sunday Tapas Tasting Menu.

If I’m being honest, after the first two dishes arrived, both Jeff and I were skeptical about whether the tapas tasting would fill us; however by the sixth dish we were slowing down and still expecting 4 more dishes.  The following is a list of what was offered for Tapas Tasting on our visit:

  • Charcuteria – cantimpalo chorizo, pickles, baguette
  • Grilled Ramps – salboxtada, spring onions, grilled bread
  • Manchego & Marconas – membrillo, marinated sheep’s milk cheese, pimenton
  • Scallop Crudo – pickled rhubarb, orange, Thai chilies, baby fennel, housemade lavash cracker
  • Cherry & Jamon Ensalada – housemade maraschino cherries, jamon Serrano, arugula, basil miticrema, marcona almonds
  • Papas Fritas – smoked garlic aioli, brava salt, housemade sherry vinegar hot sauce
  • Cantimpalo Tortilla – potato and egg omelet, mustard aioli mesclun greens
  • Crispy Calasparra Rice – sugar snap peas, manchego cheese, pickled mushrooms
  • Almejas – grilled Manilla clams, chistorra chorizo, saffon broth, local greens, parsley-almond picada, pickled ramps, grilled bread
  • Grilled Gulf Shrimp – gallega spice, castelvetrano olive puree, grilled plums, haricot vert, lemon

Wow!  What a menu.  The flavor combinations were unexpected, interesting and delicious.  In my opinion, the best dish of the night was the Crispy Calasparra Rice with pickled mushrooms – true comfort food.

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The service was attentive, but not intrusive. And a special thanks to our The Companyserver for running across the street in the rain for my favorite dessert – it’s a birthday tradition. The cocktails hit the spot. But the company – oh, the company was the best part!!!

Monday morning we got up early for room service coffee followed by a steamy walk in the city – can you say humid?  We persevered through the sticky streets, got a little exercise, snapped a few photos and found a cute spot for take-out breakfast.  I still cannot believe I was able to convince Jeff to order food from P.S.&Co., a vegan and gluten-free coffee-house/bakery.  P.S.&Co.’s website explains that they “aim to provide the cleanest, most delicious food that helps you feel incredible.  Our chef-driven menu is healthy in blueprint and decadent in taste.  No multisyllabic additives or peculiar preservatives.  We hope you’ll find our delicious, plant-strong food and beverages as a gateway to feeling and living your best life.”

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My first priority was a coffee – cold-brewed with filbert nut milk.  Then we got down to selecting breakfast.  I ordered coconut yogurt and a nut & seed bar.  Jeff ordered a breakfast sandwich and a brownie.  We walked back to the hotel to enjoy our breakfast and shower before driving to West Chester to see Vanessa, Justin and the babies.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to tell you that I put sugar in my coffee (insert gasp here!).  I tried to go without, but that’s a habit that will be VERY hard (if not impossible) for me to break. Other than the coffee needing sugar, the rest of our purchases were delicious.  The coconut yogurt was not actually yogurt but a fauxgurt made from coconut and it was really yummy.  The seed and nut bar was quite tasty, if a little crumbly.  Jeff’s breakfast sandwich (on gluten-free bread) was really yummy and I have to admit that even the bread was good.  And the brownie – although not quite the texture of a typical brownie – hit the chocolate spot!

Shortly after breakfast, Jeff posted the following to his Facebook page – “Breaking news……I just ate a gluten free, vegan breakfast AND I actually lived to tell about it. I don’t see this being a trend, but baby steps are important. Now, onward to find a steak for lunch.”  He did not, in fact, have a steak for lunch!

Excited to See the Pak PackAfter a quick shower and repack, we were excited to get on the road to see the twinies.  There is truly something soothing about holding babies! And with twins it’s “two babies, no waiting!”  After ooh’ing and ahh’ing over Dylan & Tyson and switching who held whom, Justin returned from a morning of golf and we were all out the door for ‘dunch,’ or was it ‘linner?’

Jeff and I offered to bring food to the Pak pack, but they were all ready to get out of the house.  So we loaded into two cars and drove the short distance to Iron Hill Brewery.  We had a nice, quiet meal and then took a drive to see the not-too-distant-future home of the Pak pack.

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Finally, with full bellies and temporarily satisfied baby-holding-desires, we began the journey home.  All in all it was a wonderful, if short, trip to Philadelphia.  We ate some wonderful food, got our city-fix and spent time with one another and the Philly-pham.  Less than 36 hours later we were back at home!

Food for Thought

A special note of thanks to the wonderful women – especially Gretchen – at the Rudy Gelnett Memorial Library Food for Thought Cookbook Club for making me feel so welcome last night!

gelnett library


I spent the evening celebrating one of my favorite cookbooksThe Silver Palette by Sheila Lukins & Julee Rosso – and learning about a new-to-me cookbook – Mary Berry’s Baking Bible.  I got a new appreciation for the recipes in an old favorite cookbook and learned about a too-well-hidden English gem known as traybake.

The ladies of the Food for Thought Cookbook Club get together every-other month to celebrate a different cookbook.  Each person makes a recipe from the featured book and they share a time of fellowship and have a lively exchange of tips and hints for each of the recipes being enjoyed that evening.  At the end of the evening, they make their selection for the next (or next few) book(s).  The books, of course, are available at the library!

Next month’s book for the Food for Thought Cookbook Club offers a picnic theme and in November, they’ll be celebrating my favorite cookbook author and food personality, Ina Garten, for the release of her new book Cooking for Jeffrey.

Although I had just a few moments after the group disbanded to peek into the library, I was able to see that it is an absolutely beautiful space with lots of natural light and a large, welcoming children’s library.  In addition to the cookbook club, the library offers many other activities including a fundraiser in December called Tree Fest where Christmas trees are decorated based on children’s books and the community votes for their favorite tree.

If you ever find yourself in Selinsgrove, PA – take a few minutes to explore the library – although it may not fill your belly, this library (like all libraries) offers much food for thought!!!!

Something’s Brewing…..

No, it’s not a witch’s brew….although there ARE those who would insist that if I am involved in the process it IS a witch’s brew!!!  It’s actually a pumpkin beer.

Now, I must confess right off the bat that I’m not much of a beer person.  I like a cold one every now and then – especially a Sam Adams Cherry Wheat on a hot summer day after cutting the grass – but I am by no means a microbrew, craft beer or even a mainstream beer aficionado.  However, I always jump at the chance to learn something new and I love kitchen (or in this case part kitchen, mostly garage) experiments!

So when my handsome husband, Jeff, and his friend Craig invited me to participate in the process of their latest beer creation, I grabbed my camera and went along for the ride!  In this experiment, Craig is the beer Batman and Jeff is Robin.  So what does that make me?  Perhaps Batgirl-twice-removed!?! A sidekick, but not the one everyone knows and certainly not one with Batman’s powers.

Anyway, enough of the comic metaphors…..let’s get to it.

This all started when Jeff told me Craig had asked him about what spices to use for a pumpkin beer.  Of course, asked for my two cents, I put in about $1.99 (i.e., more than anyone wanted).  I went on a rant (I know you find this difficult to believe) about how I thought pumpkin beers should taste like something other than pumpkin pie and how everyone uses cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, etc.  and how Craig and Jeff should do something different.

My mind went to star anise, fennel, pink peppercorns……ultimately to Chinese Five Spice.  And someone’s mind – I think Jeff’s – went to cooking the pumpkin on the Big Green Egg (BGE) to impart a bit of smokiness.  So began the experiment….

On Friday, September 25th, Craig came to our house for dinner, BGE pumpkin cooking and spice tasting.  We had Jeff’s beef stew for dinner, decided on a spice combination, rubbed the spices on the raw pumpkin and put it on the BGE to roast.  While the pumpkin was roasting, Jeff and Craig hung out on the back porch sipping beers and swapping stories.  I cleaned up the kitchen from dinner, ran out to Bombay Bazaar for more spices (which we would use the next day during the brewing process) and made up some additional Chinese Five Spice powder (or in our case really 6 spice powder because I like to add a little ginger to mine).

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The next day we met at Craig’s house to begin the brewing process and my small-batch beer education.  Craig did his best to brew with Jeff’s and my assistance (sometimes help from someone else – especially someone who knows nothing about what you’re doing AND asks about 6.2 million questions – isn’t really help at all, but Craig was incredibly gracious), explaining all the steps in the process.

What follows is by no means a complete narrative about brewing.  It is a few of the snippets I managed to record while Craig talked and brewed – so if anything is missing (and I KNOW it is) it’s entirely my fault and not Craig’s lack of knowledge!

Step 1 – MASHING

We began by heating the strike water to 167 degrees F and pouring it into the mash tun (the vessel in which the grains are soaked).  We added the grains (a process called ‘doughing in’) and then they soaked for approximately 90 minutes to extract the sugars.  The temperature of the water is important – too low a temperature extracts more fermentable sugar resulting in a higher alcohol content / too high a temperature extracts less fermentable sugar resulting in a beer with a lower alcohol content with a sweeter taste. Just for reference, we started with approximately 14 1/2 pounds of grains and about 4 1/2 gallons of water.

During the 90 minutes Craig told me a lot about the process and showed me the equipment we would be using, which he and Jeff cleaned in preparation for the upcoming steps.  There was also much talk about beer, rock music and other guy things I didn’t really follow but that seemed to amuse Craig and Jeff very much!

The Rules of Brewing According to Craig


“Rule number one: Sanitation is key

Rule number two: If you’re brewing beer you should be drinking beer

Rule number three: Keep detailed notes on each batch”

Some of the equipment and terminology:

  • Throughout the entire brewing process, we took gravity readings – which help you determine the amount of sugar in the brew, which affects the alcohol content of the finished product.  To take the readings we used a portable refractometer.
  • Car Boys – to me this sounds like the male version of diner waitresses who wore roller skates and served you car-side….but not so.  Car boys are fancy glass jugs in which beer is fermented.
  • The sugar liquid that is extracted from the grains during mashing (step 1) is known as WORT.

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This process is difficult to explain if you’ve never seen it, but once you have it makes sense.  The liquid is repeatedly siphoned out of the mash tun and then SSSSSLLLLLOOOOOWWWWWLLLLLYYYYY poured (or sprinkled) back over the grains until the liquid finally runs clear.  The process can take a half an hour or more to get right and it’s one of those “you know it when you see it” kind of things.  To simplify – perhaps overly so – the point is to compact the grains in the mash tun so that they create a natural filter through which the liquid is repeatedly passed until it runs clear (no more cloudiness or grains in the siphoned liquid), ultimately extracting the fermentable sugars. If I understood Craig correctly, VORLAUFING is the siphoning and sprinkling, SPARGING is the entire process of filtering the wort.

Craig’s Musings on Beer-Making


“Some brewers say, “We don’t make beer. We make sugar-water and yeast makes beer.”  I say, “We’re making beer.””

Vorlaufing & Sparging

Vorlaufing & Sparging

Step 3 – BOILING

According to Craig, most beers are boiled between 60 and 90 minutes.  We boiled ours for 70 minutes – why?  Because Craig said so (BCSS).  Also BCSS a few minutes into the boiling we added our roasted, spiced pumpkin and some hops.

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After the wort boiled for 70 minutes, we then used a long spoon to create a whirlpool.  When the wort was moving, we added the spices (at “flame out”) and let it sit for approximately 20 minutes to allow the spices to infuse into the mixture.  According to Craig, this will give the beer not only a good flavor, but a good aroma as well.




Just reading the name of this step makes it sound a bit boring, however it was anything but.  We got to see the THERMINATOR in action – not it’s not an Arnold Schwarzenegger thing.  The therminator is a small piece of equipment through which the wort is passed on its way into the fermenter- the purpose of passing the liquid through the therminator is to quickly bring the temperature of the wort down to 65 degrees F.

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This step sounds a lot more impressive than it is.  Boiling the wort forces most of the oxygen out of the solution.Aeration gets introduces oxygen – which is needed for the yeast to properly do its job – back into the wort.  I thought there would be a fancy piece of equipment to perform this part of the process, but it was good old-fashioned muscle – to quote my friend Scott Woolman’s engineer neighbor, “what we need here is brute force.”  Craig and Jeff simply took turns shaking the fermenter.  Although it was unimpressive in the scheme of the brewing process, it did look like a good workout!




After the wort was aerated, Craig added English ale yeast and we moved the operation from the garage to the basement, where there were previous batches of beer fermenting.


The airlock allows carbon dioxide to escape during fermentation and it keeps oxygen, bacteria and wild yeast from getting into the fermenter.

Air Lock

Air Lock


So we get through all the steps of the process.  The fermenter is transported to the basement.  The airlock is put in place.  And then Craig says, “Now we wait.”  What?  Wait. Wait?  I KNEW there would be waiting involved, but I wasn’t ready for the process to be over so abruptly.  But there is not other choice except to wait 6 weeks to see if our experiment was a success.

Wai ai ai ting is the Hardest Part

Wai ai ai ting is the Hardest Part

So I am waiting…..I wish I could say I am patiently waiting, but that would be a lie.  Sometimes I forget all about our pumpkin beer and then, like a bolt of lightning, a thought of the beer hits me and I get antsy all over again.  I need a conclusion for this post……as the psychologists and psychiatrists and therapists will tell you, I need closure.  Stay tuned……..

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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like….Fall

Every year I vow to decorate our house for the seasons and every year I am rushing around at the last minute (the 30th of October for Halloween, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and the 23rd of December for Christmas) putting up the same old decorations.  But not this year.

This year I was hell-bent on decorating for fall…..here it is only October 4th (Happy Birthday to my sweet friend Denny) and I’ve already got pumpkins on the porch and, as of a few moments ago, a new wreath on the door.  I made a burlap wreath – thanks youtube – and embellished it with some pretty ribbon, a few sprigs of orange berry garland and a cute little chalkboard.

happy fall wreath

The project took me about 30 – 45 minutes to complete (a little more if you factor in the time to drive to Michael’s twice) and was quite easy once I got the hang of it.  I even bought some extra ribbon to festoon the house and/or to use on my Thanksgiving table.

What’s next?  I’m not quite sure……I’ll think it over this evening while I’m eating dinner.  “What’s for dinner?”, you ask.  Coffee-Rubbed Filet of Beef and Brussels Sprouts with Coffee-Molasses Gastrique.  With that in mind, I’ve got to run……it’s 7:01 and I’ve got things to do!

Happy Fall!!!!

Vacation Part 2

I’ll give you a minute to catch up on Part 1 if you need it………….OK, so we arrived in Connecticut via the Cross Sound Ferry , found our car below deck, waited our turn to disembark and set out on the highway for Maine!!!!!

It was so nice to take the ferry…..we could stretch our legs, soak up some sunshine, breathe in the salt air, feel the wind in our faces, and enjoy one another’s company.  The weather was beautiful so we spent the majority of the 80-minute ride on the top deck taking in the sights.  I realized as we rode that taking the ferry levels the playing field of travelers…..how so, you ask?  Well, there’s no first class on the ferry.  Everyone travels at the same speed; everyone’s vehicle, if they brought one, is below deck so there’s no posturing; you all have access to the same concessions with no reservations; and everyone arrives at the same time!  It’s kind of nice.

In addition to enjoying the scenery, I enjoyed people-watching and listening to snip-its of the conversations of other travelers.  There were people who were obviously commuting for work, other vacationers, folks out for a day of fun with their grand kids, a group of folks travelling by motorcycle who were obviously enjoying the time for face-to-face conversation and the common denominator was the everyone looked pretty darn relaxed.  I wish I could travel by ferry more often!

While enjoying the ride, I also had time to slow down and think – without worrying if we were going to miss our next turn or find the right route.  For a while I was mesmerized by the wake behind the boat and realized that memories are like that wake.  When events, good or bad, are directly behind you they’re still obvious – you can almost see them like the distinct pattern in the water the boat has made.  But as time passes and you get further away from the event(s), the edges blur a little – you can still see them in your mind, but the edges become fuzzier and they begin to blur into other past events.  And when you are far enough away, you can no longer see them.  You know you were once there, but the evidence is gone.  I got to thinking how handy that is – especially when the events are not-so-pleasant ones; but the sad thing is it happens with the happiest of memories too.  You know you were there but you can no longer remember all the details and you can no longer see the evidence of them……but in the end, I concluded that it all balances out and that although all memories, happy or sad, fade it doesn’t change the fact that we were there and that the wake of the best memories stays with us, even if we can no longer see it!

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Anyhooo……..not surprisingly, I digress!

Back to the trip….at some point, after driving for a while through Connecticut, I needed a rest stop and we got off the highway.  We drove for a little bit and passed a DSW – you know, the shoe store.  I’m sure it seems strange that I mention a shoe store in the midst of this post; but just that morning before we left the hotel to catch the ferry, Jeff had to say a sad goodbye to his favorite flip flops.  He reluctantly left them in the trash can as we rolled our suitcases out the hotel room door.  Those flip flops had served him well for 3 or 4 years and he was sad not to have them for the duration of trip.  So after we had our potty break, I suggested we go into DSW to look for some replacement flip-flops.  I could only imagine how badly his feet needed to be liberated from the Vans he wore.

The End of the Flip Flops

On our way through the sliding doors into DSW, Jeff looked a bit forelorn, like Eeyore…..but amazingly he found exactly the same brand and style of flip-flops that he’d discarded just hours before!!!  He IS Even Steven! Let me tell you, this NEVER happens to me.  And I’m shocked that after 3 or 4 years he was able to find an exact replacement.  But on the way out the door, Eeyore was gone and there was a big smile on Jeff’s face!  Mission accomplished.


Bladders empty and feet free, we got back on the road determined to make no more stops until we reached the state of Maine.  We were both expectantly awaiting our arrival at the next destination – Red’s Eats in Wiscasset. On our last trip to Maine – for our 10th anniversary back in 2003 – we ate at Red’s on the last day and we vowed that we would return!  And although it took 12 years, we were headed there next!  Our bellies were getting empty and our our excitement was mounting.  You see, Red’s Eats makes THE BEST lobster rolls ever!!!!  I can be a stubborn girl at times, but often I come around to someone else’s way of thinking with enough persuasion.  On this matter you can debate me all you want , but if you think anyone makes a better lobster roll than Red’s Eats you are wrong!  Period.  Case closed.  No more to be said.



OK, maybe a little more to be said about Red’s.  The line is usually long and Day 4 of our trip was no exception.  Below are some photos and tweets from my time in the line!


“Words cannot express how flippin’ excited I am right now….”


“Quivering with excitement….”


“Feeling sorry for the people eating across the street….”


“Considering hurting the people in front of us in line….I’m sure they’re perfectly nice people, but they’re standing between me and my lobster roll….”

We waited patiently….or not so patiently….for our turn.  And when we were just a few people from the front of the line, I went around back to get us a table on the deck.  As I waited for Jeff to arrive with our food, I drooled a little while looking at what other people were eating.  Fried clams, lobster rolls – some with melted butter and some with mayo, fish and chips, crab cakes….the list is endless.  While I peeked around not-so-subtly at other people’s food, it began to drizzle.  But there are umbrellas over the tables so I wasn’t worried.  Jeff came around the corner and asked if I wanted an umbrella from the car, which was parked just up the hill from Red’s. I said, “sure,” and was glad for that decision when the rain picked up a bit.  Just as Jeff arrived with the umbrella, our number was called and the sky opened up and started to dump rain on Wiscasset and on us.  He grabbed our food (which they had lovingly packed in to-go containers even though we had indicated we would eat out back) and we ran for the car.

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We were soaked, but thrilled as we ate.  We shared an order of fried clams and we each got a lobster roll.  O…….M…….G…….we were in heaven.  The fried clams were huge and juicy and sweet……mmm mmm mmm.  But the lobster rolls were the stars of the show.  Each sandwich contains more than one whole lobster that has been cooked with precision and chilled until it is perfection on a buttery, toasted bun.  Then, as if the lobster needs anything more, the lobster rolls are served with either drawn butter or mayo – we got one of each and shared.  There wasn’t much conversation going on in the car as we ate, but there were a few mmm’s and ah’s and yeah’s – what Jeff and his buddies would call “audible eating!”

When we finished our amazing lunch/dinner (linner?), we wiped off our hands and arms, wiped as much of the butter off the center console of the car as possible and pointed the car in the direction of Portland, which would be our home-away-from-home for the next two nights.  We made one quick stop to buy some tiny, flavorful Maine blueberries for our breakfast the next morning and arrived in Portland in no time.

We checked into the hotel and were pleasantly surprised to be upgraded to a suite.  The room was modern and spacious and clean and we were sure it would be a fine home for a few days!  After a bit of unpacking, we decided to stroll around Portland for a while to work off some of the food we had eaten.  After a bit of strolling, we would up at The Thirsty Pig for some beers and WiFi.  I spent some time making notes about the first few days of our trip and downloading pics off my camera while Jeff surfed the web.  It was a mellow end to a mellow day.

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Day 5 – I awoke in our spacious room to the sound of Jeff coming through the door – he went and picked up a Starbucks’ coffee for me….the man knows the way to my heart.  I brushed my teeth, scrounged up some clothes, threw on a hat and we left to explore Portland….it was a No-Makeup Monday, only it was Thursday! We had a great time being out of the car, wandering through shops, gazing out at the water and enjoying our time alone together.  Of course, we had to make a quick stop at Holy Donut to try the donuts Jeff had read about.  Jeff ordered a Cheddar Bacon Donut – yes, you read that right – and I ordered a Sweet Potato Ginger donut, which I ended up sharing with Jeff.  It was delish, but I knew good things were coming later in the day so I didn’t want to eat a whole donut.

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After a few hours, we were a little parched so we stopped at Sebago Brewing Company where Jeff ordered a beer sampler and I ordered a cucumber cooler from the non-alcoholic beverage menu.  The bartender – a smart gal – told me the cucumber cooler is great with a shot of Hendrick’s gin in it.  She explained that Hendrick’s is infused with a bit of rose and cucumber and therefore was a nice complement to the drink.  Well heck, I was on vacation, so how could I refuse?  She was not wrong…..it was delicious.

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After re-hydrating, we wandered the town some more and then began to think about dinner.  We knew we had to wake up early for our kayaking trip the next morning and we didn’t want to be out too late. So we walked back to the hotel where we noshed on some snacks from our cooler, read for a little while, showered and got dressed for dinner.  We strolled through town to The Top of the East (in the Westin Hotel) for a cocktail. Our timing was perfect – the sun was just beginning to set and the view was incredible.  It was a great place to toast 22 years of marriage, which we would be celebrating the next day.  We lingered over our drinks and then decided to find a spot for dinner.

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Not knowing what we’d be in the mood to eat, we didn’t make a reservation, which made finding a spot for dinner a bit challenging.  But we persevered!  We tried a few of our top choices including Fore Street, Eventide, and Honey Paw – all of which had very long waiting lists.  Knowing we needed to be up with the sun, we opted for The East Ender and were not disappointed.  Jeff ordered a cold-smoked burger which was sensational and I order soup and an appetizer.  The soup was not only delicious, it was also a work of art!  It was Chilled Spring Pea Soup with Parmesan & Pickled Red Onion.  Bright green with spots of pickled onion and a floating cloud of parmesan foam – stunning!  I should have known better than to order the appetizer I chose – Maine Mussels with Ginger & Anise.  While it was good, it wasn’t great and I only ordered it because what I really wanted to try was Fore Street’s Wood Oven Roasted Maine Mussels with Garlic Almond Butter. A student in one of my recent classes had recommended Fore Street to me and specifically had recommended the mussels.  I should have held out, which is not to say that we didn’t enjoy our meal at The East Ender.

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As we made our way back to the hotel, we were tired – both from a long day of walking in the sea air, from the cocktails we drank and from our full bellies.   So we hit the hay and dreamed of being in our kayaks on the bay……

A Fun Nite – Paint Nite

If you’re looking for something fun to do in the afternoon (1:00 pm) of Saturday, July 11th – how about a fun time of painting, sipping cocktails, making new friends AND supporting a good cause!!??!!

The proceeds from this Paint “Nite,” which is being held at the Bonny Brook Riding Club, will benefit the PA Breast Cancer Coalition.

For more details, please click here.

“You cannot do a kindness to soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


Valentines Dinner for 2

Because Jeff and I both had to work yesterday, we celebrated Valentine’s Day last Saturday.  We went to see a movie, which we haven’t done in ages and we went out for dinner.

I’ll admit we didn’t pick the most romantic movie ever made – in fact, the movie we chose probably wouldn’t make it into the list of The Top 1,000 Most Romantic Movies Ever; but we both enjoyed it.  We’ve both been wanting to see American Sniper since it was first released, but our schedules kept getting in the way; so finally, as a gesture of love for Valentine’s Day, we finally made it to the theater!

Some of you may want to throw things at me when I write this (so I’m glad I’m safely behind my computer and you are safely behind yours), but I thought the movie was OK.  Don’t get me wrong, I think the real-life story is incredible and the movie certainly made me grateful for all the men and women who are brave enough to do things those of us who are not in the military fortunately don’t even have to think about.  But I thought the movie itself could have been better.  Of course, in order to be better it might have had to be 6 – 8 hours long….but anyway this post isn’t about the movie…….

After the movie, Jeff and I went out for dinner.  Again, romance did not guide our decision.  We decided to try Korealicious in Lemoyne, which was highly recommended to us by family. Korealicious makes both traditional and Korean fusion dishes.

Not having a Korean guide with us and not getting much feedback to our questions from our waitress, we ordered three dishes (some of which we remembered my sister talking about when she told us about her family’s recent visit to Korealicious).

Here’s what we ordered and the menu descriptions:

  • DUK BOKI (Spicy Korean Rice Cakes) – A popular Korean dish made from soft rice cakes, fish cake and sweet red chili sauce.


  • JAJANGMYEON – A noodle dish topped with a thick sauce made of chunjang (a salty black soybean paste), ground pork, chicken and vegetables (zucchini, onions, carrots).


  • BULGOGI – Korean style grilled marinated beef served with rice.


The food was delicious, if a bit strange (not in a bad way) to our taste buds because we haven’t eaten a lot of Korean food. Having only one other Korean food experience (at a Korean BBQ called Honey Pig outside of DC), I cannot speak to how the food stacks up to traditional Korean food; but I can tell you we really enjoyed it!  In addition to the food we ordered, we also ordered hot tea and were served a yummy tea that tasted faintly of sesame seeds.


Of course, there were some bowls of yummy little condiments served at the beginning of the meal – pickled radishes, cucumbers and Kimchi.  The duk boki reminded me of gnocchi – although the rice noodles/dumplings were longer than gnocchi, they had the same texture – but of course, the sauce was completely Korean – spicy and delish!  The bulgogi did not disappoint – the beef was tender and the marinade was yummy…a little sweet and very flavorful.  The jajangmyeon was interesting (in a good way)- the noodles were long and chewy and the sauce was tangy and thick.

The décor is simple and there aren’t many tables.  But Korealicious has a kind of funky vibe.

The service, however, was another matter entirely.

In a word, it was terrible.  Our waitress either was too shy to answer our menu questions or she didn’t know how to answer them or she didn’t want to.  In my opinion, when you are serving a type of food that is unfamiliar to many of the people who live in the area in which you are located, you should expect to and be prepared to answer some questions about the food.  In fact, I’d even go so far as to say you should be enthusiastic about what you are offering; however I know we all have different personalities.  But if you work in a restaurant you should have SOME knowledge of the menu and willingness to answer questions.

While this may be a cultural thing, we hoped for some small plates on which to put a little of each dish we ordered rather than reaching across the table and trying to maneuver noodles on chopsticks into our mouths without making a mess.  Because our waitress didn’t check up on us after she delivered our food, Jeff had to go in search of plates and napkins and water.

After our food was plunked onto the table with no explanation as to which dish was which, we didn’t see our waitress at the table again.  EVER.  She was moving about the dining room and working in the kitchen, so she was busy; but she was never to be seen at our table.  No one asked if we needed anything else or if we were enjoying our food.

After we had finished our meal and waited another 40 minutes (during which we were happily talking with one another, but still hoping to leave) we had to ask for to-go containers.  While we were waiting we heard another diner talking with what we assumed from the conversation was one of the owners. The woman we assumed to be an owner was complaining about how busy the restaurant has been.

Now, I know the restaurant business can be a tiring one – both physically and mentally, and that everyone has a bad day; but as a customer I’d prefer not to overhear someone complaining about my business.

Overall, I would give Korealicious 2 M’s our of 5.

2 ms for Korealicious

I’m not sure if they take reservations – I did not see any indication on the website; but if you want to give Korealicious a try, I would recommend either going early or late – not at the dinner rush.  I’d also recommend not sitting too close to the door on a cold night. And don’t go with the expectation of having great service.  Now, if I were rating on the food alone, I’d give Korealicious a much better rating……in fact, you may want to do takeout!!!

As for dinner on February 14th…..that gets 5 M’s out of 5!

5 Ms for Jeffilicious

I got home from work last night and I was tired – a good tired, but tired nonetheless.  I was on my feet from 8 am to 4:30 pm on Thursday, from 9 am to after 10 pm (with a short time to sit and rest my tired dogs) on Friday, and then from 10:30 am to 5:30-ish yesterday.  No, I’m not complaining ….. just telling you how things went down this weekend.  So I was physically tired when I got home last night.  And I was prepared to have a quick shower and head to bed.


But when I walked into the kitchen, I found a plate of pretty little cookies and a note from Jeff (who was working).  I will share the parts of the note that apply to this post…….

“I wanted to make a dinner to have ready for you when you got home, like Ina does for Jeffrey.  I kept whispering, “don’t tell Janice” but no one heard me…here are some instructions to finish:

1. On the bottom shelf of the fridge, there is a beverage that “pops.” Enjoy now or later.

2. Start pasta water (it’s already salted!!!)

3. Cook pasta.  Colander is in sink.

4. Have dessert now or later – your call.

5. Add meatballs to sauce in blue pot (they are in the fridge on the bottom shelf).

6. Heat the red sauce and meatballs.

7. Salad is in a bowl on the bottom shelf of fridge.  It needs to be dressed [the dressing was in a container next to the note].

8. Eat !! “

It just doesn’t get any better than that!  I am the luckiest wife – more blessed than I deserve!!!!  So that you don’t think me cold and heartless, I did take that quick shower, but I waited for Jeff to get home from work before I enjoyed the lovely meal he prepared!  He made Ina Garten’s spaghetti and meatballs and it was fantastic.  The décor was homey, the service impeccable and – best of all – I got to eat dinner in my jammies!!!!

Have I Got News for You

Here I am, smack dab in the middle of my 15 minutes of fame and many of you don’t even know about it!  Ah, fame…..fleeting and fickle!!!

Donna and meCameraman KyleBut seriously….I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with CBS21’s newly-named Device Diva, Donna Kirker Morgan and her talented cameraman (or is it now camera-person or camera operator or some other PC term that I’m not up on), Kyle.  Donna came to The Kitchen Shoppe to test some As Seen on TV gadgets and we had a ball.

We tested the Perfect Bacon Bowl and the Veggetti.

Bacon Bacon Bacon

Bacon Ready to GoVeggie Pasta

Now, I could type paragraphs to tell you about our time together….but today I have the news on my side….I can simply link you to the clip of the Perfect Bacon Bowl spot and you can see for yourself! *If you have trouble with the link, hold down the [CTRL] key and click it again!

When the clip of my time with Donna and the Veggetti (sounds like an odd 80s band) becomes available, I’ll link that too.

Just a quick note of thanks to Donna and Kyle.  At the outset I asked you to be gentle with me and you were.  Thanks to you both I wasn’t a bit nervous. It was simply a fun and unique experience.  For you, I suppose, it was all in a day’s work!

Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar

I had a wonderful lunch today to celebrate my birthday.  Now, those who know me well will be scratching their heads because my birthday is in May.

My dear friend, Tammy – with whom I work – and I have been meaning to get together to celebrate my birthday; but life has come up!!!  When we see each other, it’s often because things at The Kitchen Shoppe are busy and we’re both working.  And she and her hubby are in the process of restoring a home. And I have a new niece.  So, like most of you, we’re busy.

But we finally sync’d our schedules.  Always wanting to eat somewhere new, I was happy when Tammy suggested Harvest, which she recently tried with her daughter.

When we arrived I immediately loved the décor.  One wall is beautiful warm field stone, there is funky lighting with Thomas Edison-style bulbs and pretty accents.  A large table in the front of the restaurant is made private behind interesting art glass panels.  It is a place that makes me feel at home (not that my home has these features).

Of course, we spend the first 15ish minutes catching up; so I’m sure we must have frustrated our waitress a bit – although she didn’t let it show.  She continued to check back with us to see if we were ready to order; but she was not intrusive and she continued to tell us in a warm way to take our time deciding.

I was interested to learn that, like the name implies, Harvest offers a seasonal menu. Right now they’re offering their fall menu.  Beginning December 21st they will offer their winter menu. I was also pleased to learn that all but a handful of their menu items are under 500 calories – a great thing for those who are calorie-conscious.  But, there are also some richer dishes for those who want to splurge a bit.

The menu offers flatbreads that sounded terrific, appetizers, salads, appetizers, and sandwiches – which to my mind are all great lunch options – as well as a myriad of entrees.

The decision about what to order was a difficult one.  We asked the waitress about her favorites and she recommended Edamame 3-Ways, which I’ll have to try on a return trip, and the Spicy Sausage Flatbread without the olives (a girl after my own heart). Tammy and I were also intrigued by the Mediterranean Trio, which includes hummus, babaganoush and something I’ve not heard of previously – Muhamarra.

Thank goodness for iPhones and Google.  I looked up ‘muhamarra’ and learned that it is a hot pepper dip originally from Aleppo, Syria.  This is another thing I will definitely have to try on a return visit!

Although many items were tempting, Tammy and I decided to share the Oven Baked Goat Cheese and each get a bowl of the Butternut Squash Soup.  Our decision was a good one.  The appetizer was described on the menu as:

“Oven Baked Goat Cheese – Almond encrusted, apples, local organic honey, housemade jams and crostini.”


App Close Up (2)

Full App (2)

It was yummy.  The jams were (1) seckle pear and (2) red pepper and ginger.  They were a great accompaniment to the creamy goat cheese.

The soup, was perfect for a 22-degree, windy day!  It was warm and creamy with just a bit of texture from squash that was not over-pureed.  It was topped with local organic honey and toasted pumpkin seeds.  The honey offered a sweetness that was the perfect contrast to the earthy soup.

Soup (2)

The portions were not large, but they were satisfying.  And they allowed room for a little dessert.  And lo and behold, Harvest offers little desserts!  The dessert tray arrived on what reminded me of an artists pallet.  There were many choices – all served in shot glasses – an idea I embraced for an upcoming class – Holiday Appetizers & Desserts in Miniature.  It was nice to eat a dessert from a shot glass to get the idea of how my students will feel in class.  The conclusion – it’s a great way to have what many people say they want after a meal – “just a bite or two!”

Dessert Selection (2)

Tammy ordered the Cinnamon Apple Strudel “shot” and I ordered the White Chocolate Cheesecake “shot.”  And although the desserts were small, the were large enough to share a bite with a friend.

t dessert (2)

j dessert (2)

The best part of the meal was sharing it with a good friend.  To me, good food in bad company doesn’t taste quite as good; but bad food in good company tastes better!  In this instance, I was lucky to have yummy food and wonderful company!

Thanks for lunch, Tammy!  It was a nice change to celebrate my birthday in November!!!

A Day Away Travel

Recently, I had the pleasure of teaching a class for some travel writers from MATPRA, the Mid-Atlantic Public Relations Alliance.  They were visiting central, PA to learn about all it has to offer travelers and they made several stops throughout the area, including the Kitchen Shoppe & Cooking School.

We had a fun morning, of course – I mean what’s more fun to me than cooking, eating, and entertaining? Not much!

For MATPRA’s visit, I made:

Bittersweet Chocolate Cinnamon Buns

Bittersweet Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls with Coffee Cream Glaze


Roasted Tomato, Pesto & Goat Cheese Frittata


Pear Napoleon with Ginger Thyme Pastry Cream

Check out what Mary K. Tilghman from A Day Away Travel wrote about her experience:

Cooking Lessons in Carlisle

Thanks, Mary!  I hope you’ll visit us again at the Kitchen  & Cooking School when you’re in the area!!!!

Devouring D.C.

The rest of our D.C. trip was like a whirlwind….but I can’t resist sharing some of it with you.  I won’t bore you with all the details, partly because I wouldn’t remember them all if I tried!

Wednesday Night:

  1. A movie (The Hundred Foot Journey) at the Angelika Film Center.  Although it was quite expensive – we were there on Date Night so tickets were discounted.  AND, you can get a draft beer and gourmet popcorn to enjoy during the movie! The movie was really good – particularly the cinematography!

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  2. A late dinner at Matchbox, which I would highly recommend.  We had a wonderful waitress from Serbia who, after only 5 years in this country, speaks English much better than some people who have lived here their entire lives.  She was a great server…..attentive, but not overly so.  Friendly, but not overly so.  She made good menu recommendations and was efficient. IMHO, you just can’t ask for more than that!

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  1. Time by the pool and enjoying some of the other hotel amenities.
  2. Leisurely shopping in the Mosaic District.
  3. A glass of wine and a snack at Le Pain Quitodien with a book while I waited for Jeff to return from his meet-and-greet.
  4. A shared entrée at Cyclone Anaya’s – Great salsa.
  5. A stroll around Mosaic.


  1. Time by the pool with a book.
  2. A shared lunch at Red Apron Butchery.

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  3. A stroll around Georgetown.

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  4. A stroll around Bethesda.

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  5. A wonderful dinner at Lebanese Taverna – we’ve eaten at their café in Rockville, but never at the Bethesda restaurant so this was quite a treat.  We arrived at the early end of the dinner hour so we got to see the manager/owner (not sure which) doing his dining room inspection and instructing the wait staff.  It was a treat and somewhat comforting – you’ve got to believe that if there are strict standards in the dining room, then there are probably strict standards in the kitchen too!

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  6. Drive home.
  7. Cupcakes with Mimi & PopPop from Georgetown Cupcakes (in Bethesda, where there was no line – as opposed to Georgetown Cupcakes in Georgetown where the line was around the block).

All in all we had a wonderful time devouring D.C.! Now we have to fast until our upcoming trip to San Antonio!!!

Newport: Days 2 & 3

Yesterday began in the best way possible….with a trip to the Franklin Spa for breakfast.  While it is true I am a sucker for breakfast out, I dream about breakfast from the Franklin Spa.  That’s not just a cliché, it is an absolutely true statement.

I don’t dream about just anything from the Franklin Spa either – I dream very specifically of Blueberry Stuffed French Toast and a side of bacon.  I tried to make myself feel better about ordering it by offering to share with Jeff F.; but he turned me down flat.  Clearly I am still getting over the refusal!

Blueberry Stuffed French Toast

Franklin Spa's New Mugs

Bacon Avocado and Cheese Omelet

Chocolate MilkJeff G. ordered the Boss Hog – an omelet with pulled pork inside; Jeff F. ordered the Blueberry Stuffed French Toast – obviously; and Holly ordered a bacon and cheese omelet, which she amped up with avocado.  Let me tell you quite honestly that the year-long wait was soooo worth it.  I’ve had stuffed French toast at other restaurants, but no one does it like the Franklin Spa!

After our whopping breakfast we did a little shopping and then set out on foot to walk as much of the Cliff Walk as is open.  The weather was perfect for the walk – the skies bright blue and the air breezy and cool.  We enjoyed the scenery and the company – laughing along the way.  When we reached The Breakers, we headed in toward Salve Regina and walked back to our hotel through the neighborhoods off Bellvue Ave.

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Our plan was to get takeout soup from The Brick Alley Pub and enjoy it, along with some homemade Bloody Mary’s, in our suite; but when we returned to the room, housekeeping was working. So we went to the Brick Alley and ate at a small “table” in the bar.  The Lobster Bisque was a wonderfully warm treat after a long walk.

Lobster Bisque

YummyritaRefueled and ready for action, Holly and I did some shopping.  The Jeffs went for a few beers.  Holly and I had fun at Alex and Ani and looked around in some of the shops on Banister’s Wharf and Bowen’s Wharf. When we were done, we met the guys and headed back to the hotel.

After a day in the cool air, we decided a late dinner in was in order.  There was no question from where we’d be ordering.  Anthony’s Seafood is THE place for  lobster rolls.  The prices aren’t for the faint of heart, but the overflowing lobster rolls are worth every penny.  We ate while we watched Mr. Holland’s Opus and drank Bloody Marys.  We wound down the evening with a nice glass of red wine and an 11:00 bedtime.

Lobster Roll

The alarm went off early this morning, which on a normal day would make me sad and a little bit cranky – but this morning made me soooo happy.  Spa Terre at The Viking Hotel was the first stop for me and Holly….and what a stop it was!  On the menu for Holly – a Balinese massage and a mani/pedi – and for me – a Hot Stone Massage and a Signature Facial.  Spa Terre was fan-tastic.  We were pampered – especially by Rebecca and Mary Ann.  After my services, I enjoyed a glass of champagne in the steam room and then showered, enjoyed the Moroccan Oil hair products, and did a little reading.  Although there were no cooking magazines in the waiting area, there were other good reads like Coastal Living, Health, and Marie Claire.  I treated myself to a rich facial moisturizer, which I desperately need after this winter wreaked havoc on my skin.

While Holly and I were being pampered, The Jeff’s visited (or rather re-visited) another sort of spa – the Franklin Spa – for breakfast and did a little exploring.  When Holly and I were appropriately relaxed and buffed and scrubbed the guys picked us up.  Since Holly and I started the day with fruit salad, our bellies were ready for some nourishment. And after spending the morning at the spa we were each craving healthy food.  For the first time ever, we stumped Jeff.  He got that deer-in-the-headlights look on his face as he thumbed through his mental card catalog of Newport restaurants.

We decided on the Atlantic Grille in Middletown where I ordered a wonderful Beachhouse Salad that included spinach, dried cranberries, goat cheese and salmon topped with a refreshing pineapple salsa.  It was the perfect choice after spending the morning in complete bliss.

Lunch was followed by a drive through Middletown to look at houses,a visit to Purgatory Chasm (which Jeff G. discovered this morning while enjoying his morning coffee), a quick trip to Sachuest Point Nature Preserve and our annual visit to the Beach House, a wonderful gift shop, in Middletown, RI.

As I write, I am sipping a coffee from Starbucks and a glass of Falanghina.  A girl’s gotta have a plan – and my plan is to stay awake for dinner with Mark and Tracey AND have a little vacabuzz going on!

Now lest you think this trip is all about snooty hotels, fancy meals and pampering; I thought I would treat you to the soundtrack of the trip.  When I say soundtrack of the trip, I’m not kidding.  At least once an hour one of us busts out a bit of this little ditty and the other three giggle like little girls. This song has been used to try to keep people from going to sleep at night and to attempt to wake others from slumber in the morning. It also provides a glimpse into our insanity.

This one’s for you, Pit!

Enjoy the music and just in case you want to enjoy a little of the trip, here’s the recipe for the bloody mary’s!




Sunday Brunch Bloody Marys

by mmm mmm mmm


    Roasted Tomato Puree

    • 2 to 3 lbs Roma tomatoes, cut into quarters
    • 2 – 3 Tbsp olive oil
    • 1 Tbsp honey
    • Kosher Salt / Pepper

    Bacon Salt

    • 6 slices bacon
    • 1 Tbsp sea salt
    • ½ Tbsp ground black pepper

    Veggie Juice

    • 1 stalk celery
    • 1 small red, yellow or orange pepper
    • 1 Hungarian Pepper
    • ½ jalapeno pepper, seeds removed

    Bloody Marys

    • 1 clove garlic
    • 1 cup roasted tomato puree (above)
    • 1/3 cup veggie juice (above)
    • 1 – 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
    • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
    • Zest and juice of 1 lime
    • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
    • 1 Tbsp prepared horseradish
    • ½ tsp Sriracha
    • 2 oz. vodka


    Roasted Tomato Puree

    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

    2. Place quartered Roma tomatoes on a baking sheet.

    3. Drizzle with olive oil and honey.

    4. Season with kosher salt and pepper.

    5. Roast in preheated oven for approximately 45 to 60 minutes – turning at the 30 minute mark. Pay close attention toward the end of roasting to avoid burning the tomatoes.

    6. Allow the tomatoes to cool.

    7. Process in a food mill to remove seeds and skins.

    Bacon Salt

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

    2. Arrange bacon in a single layer on a baking sheet covered with a Silpat mat.

    3. Bake in preheated oven until VERY crisp – but do not burn.

    4. Allow bacon to cool.

    5. Crumble bacon and place into a food processor or spice/coffee mill. Whir to crumble bacon further, add salt and pepper and whir to create a fine powder.

    Veggie Juice

    1. Cut celery and peppers into approximately 2” pieces and place in the bowl of a food processor or Vitamix.

    2. Whir until the veggies become a thin puree.

    3. Place in a strainer over a bowl and, using a rubber scraper, press the pulp against the strainer and allow the juice to collect in the bowl. You should have approximately 1/3 cup of juice.

    4. Rinse the bowl of the food processor.

    Bloody Marys

    1. With the food processor running, drop the garlic through the feed tube into the spinning blade.

    2. Add the tomato puree, 1/3 cup veggie juice, chopped fresh parsley, Worcestershire sauce, lime zest and juice, lemon juice, horseradish, Sriracha and vodka.

    3. Whir to combine.

    Yield: Approximately 1 ½ cups


    1. Rim the serving classes with lime juice and the bacon salt.

    2. Fill the glasses ¾ full with ice cubes.

    3. Pour drinks over ice, garnish as desired and serve.

    Garnish Ideas

    Celery stalk

    Skewered grape tomatoes

    Jalapeno pepper

    Lemon/Lime Wedge

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    Newport: Day 1

    I woke up this morning, threw open the curtains to a beautiful sunny view of the water, and just felt overwhelmingly blessed!  This is the one weekend of the year I look forward to with unabashed, body-shaking anticipation!

    Let the Games Begin

    This weekend is spent in my happy place – not that imaginary happy place in your head where you go when you need to escape stressful situations – my ACTUAL happy place.  After all these years, I’m still not sure exactly WHY I feel so at peace here, but I do….I feel utterly relaxed and rested here.  Overwhelmingly at home.

    Where am I?  If you have to ask you haven’t been reading long enough…..but I’ll fill you in anyway.  I’m in Newport, Rhode Island.

    Like most things in life, it’s not simply about the destination, it’s also about the journey!  And the journey yesterday was so much fun!

    We departed Harrisburg at about 9:30 and began Leg One of the trip.  This leg seems pretty easy to me because we’re all excited for the day, we’re typically rested, and we have caffeine in hand.  We also know we’re going to have an AMAZING lunch at Super Duper Weenie!

    Despite the fog, we made great time until I took the wrong fork in the road and mistakenly headed toward the Holland Tunnel instead of I-95N.  But, even the detour didn’t dampen our spirits!  We actually enjoyed a foggy ride up the Westside Highway. And eventually we made our way back to I-95.

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    Traffic was less-than-desireable, but we eventually made it to the Black Rock Turnpike exit – the holy grail – the promised land – Super Duper Weenie. And we were HUNGRY when we arrived.  Trust me when I tell you that SDW is worth the wait!

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    Not only are the hot dogs DELISH, but the French fries are amazing and the mustard – stay with me here, I know it’s a condiment – makes my Jeff and my friend Holly shudder.  They LOVE the mustard and breathe and audible sigh of relief when we leave with a pint of it for the road.

    I’ll be honest – Leg Two of the trip drags a bit.  I always mistakenly think Rhode Island is closer to Super Duper Weenie than it is and the food coma begins to take over.  I have a happy belly and the hours of driving begin to take their toll.  But, never fear – 80’s music and off-key singing saved the day!!!  There’s just something laugh-inducing, true belly laugh inducing, about singer loudly and off-key to the music of your childhood.

    We finally made it to Dunkin Donuts just over the Rhode Island border where we traditionally stop for gas and a coffee pick-me-up.  It seemed to take a very long time to get there this year.  And then Leg Three was extremely foggy, which had people driving VERY slowwwwwwwly; but finally – we made it!  We got to Newport around 4:30.  And even though it was raining, we did the official first day visit to the ocean on Ocean Drive.  Ahhhhhh…..it was like coming home……the sound of the ocean calms my soul and inspires a smile and a sigh.

    4 People, 3 Nights Overpacked

    The Wine (Mostly) Bar

    The Hard BarWe checked into the hotel – a new one this year, The Newport Beach Hotel and Suites – and unpacked.  After a glass of wine each for the girls and a glass of Scotch each for the guys, we got ready for dinner at The Salvation Café.

    Sangria & Hydrangeas

    The sangria arrived at our table shortly after we sat down and a great dinner commenced.

    Spicy Mixed Nuts

    Pork Belly PizzaWe shared a Lil Jar of Flavor, which contained Spicy Nuts.  We also shared a Pork Belly Pizza, which had ginger peach jam, pickled onions, pork belly and cheese.  Both appetizers were fantastic, but we expect nothing less from Salvation.  For dinner Jeff F. ordered gumbo (which I am not usually excited about, but which was very good), Jeff G. ordered the Hunters Pie, Holly ordered Filet MIgnon and I ordered the Teriyaki Salmon with Crispy Spinach and Pickled Ginger.  I won the entrée of the night contest.  Mine was absolutely delicious.  It was just what I wanted and all the flavors complemented one another wonderfully.  Jeff F. arranged for dessert in honor of Jeff G.’s birthday so we shared an order of Chocolate Banana Purses, which were the perfect end to a great meal.

    Although we had big plans to stay up late drinking one or more of the many bottles of wine we brought; the long drive and full belly took over and I waved the white flag of surrender just after 11:00.

    It was a perfect start to what is sure to be a great weekend.  Who can ask for more than a beautiful destination with wonderful friends?  We truly are blessed.

    The ONLY thing missing from this weekend is the Hoeritz’s!  We miss you Jenny & Pit!!!

    I <3 Going Barefoot in February

    Barefoot in February

    I love winter!  There, I said it.

    I know there are many of you who want to throw a huge snowball right in my face – especially on a snowy day like today – and I understand that winter isn’t for everyone.  But for me, I’ll take this weather over 90 degrees and humid ANY DAY!

    But I haven’t lost my mind enough to actually go barefoot in the snow.  When I say [or rather, write], “I <3 Going Barefoot in February,” I am referring to the class I taught on Saturday night at The Kitchen Shoppe & Cooking School.

    We had a wonderful time.  I couldn’t have asked for a better group of attendees (both newbies and experienced), nor could I have asked for better “backup singers.”  I know I write about the “backup singers” a lot, but I am always so grateful for all the help and support they give me.  They make my job a breeze!

    The concept of the class was to put my spin on several recipes written by Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa.  Little did I know, I’d have so many Barefoot aficionados (and a few Barefoot stalkers) in class!  The group was very knowledgeable about Ina and very familiar with her recipes, which made for a fun evening.  We shared our experiences with her recipes, our love of all-things-Ina, our admiration for her house in the Hamptons and even a bit of jealousy for her Hamptons-Manhattan-Paris lifestyle!!!!

    The food turned out wonderfully and all the dishes complemented one another well.  Here’s what we had:

    • Herbal Iced Tea – this is a wonderful concoction I learned to make from Ina’s book, Barefoot Contessa Family Style.  I’ve made this when I’ve catered events and I’ve served it at home.  People always enjoy it and at least one person asks for the recipe each time I make it.  My twist Saturday night was to add some Amaretto liqueur to make it “non-virgin.”  I’ve also made it with Gran Marnier, Calvados and Tuaca – all with yummy results.
    • Rosemary Roasted Cashews – I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this recipe.  I’ve served them at home and made them to give as gifts.  They are addictive.  To complement the hint of orange in the herbal iced tea, I added some orange zest to the spice mixture.  It was a great addition!
    • French Mussel Bisque – the recipe is fantastic “as is,” but it’s even better when you add some bacon and Aleppo pepper.  Mmm mmm mmm!  I haven’t tried this yet, but I’ve also considered smoking the mussels for this soup.
    • Lemon & Garlic Roasted Chicken – all Barefoot Contessa lovers know that Ina often makes roasted chicken for her husband, Jeffrey.  And a whole roasted chicken is one of my favorite meals – in fact, I usually get three meals out of a roasted chicken – the first night usually I serve the chicken as is, the next day I make chicken salad and then, so as not to waste anything, I make chicken soup from the bones and remaining meat.  But, it was impractical to make whole roasters for class.  So I adapted the recipe for bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts and made them in Le Creuset French ovens. They were so moist and flavorful!
    • Potato & Fennel Gratin – This is the recipe I altered the most, but I think the essence of the dish remained.  I added more fennel and more onions.  I also took away some of the heavy cream – I like cream as much as the next French guy, but I found it to be too rich and little too soggy with all the recipe called for.  Finally, I added some breadcrumbs to the top along with the Gruyere cheese.  I loved the result – the potatoes and veggies were soft and creamy and the topping had a bit of a crunch.
    • Oven Roasted Carrots – I combined a few different Barefoot recipes and one of my own to get the end result I enjoyed.  The final product had carrots, shallots, currants, olive oil and spices.  I followed the advice of the “backup singers” and served them a little on the al dente side; although when I make them at home I typically serve them a little softer.  They were yummy.
    • Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes – OK, these are delicious in their own right, but I can’t leave well enough alone so I made them Almond Joy Style. I made the cupcakes mini-sized and I added coconut oil and flaked coconut to the cupcakes, iced them with coconut icing, topped them with a whole almond, and then dipped the icing in the chocolate ganache.  Holy Moly…..rich, but fantastic!

    I hope those who attended had half as much fun as I did.  They were a great group of people.  They asked wonderful questions, shared their own Ina experiences and heartily ate what was served – a cook’s ideal company and a cooking instructor’s dream!

    To tease you, I’m working on recipes for my next class, which is entitled Pasta Perfection.  This pic is of Lemon Goat Cheese Tortellini Salad with Roasted Vegetables. I made the tortellini last night and boiled them as soon as I finished forming them. It just doesn’t get any fresher than that!!!!

    Tortellini Salad

    What’s your favorite Barefoot Contessa recipe?


    Whopping Weekend

    This past weekend was action packed.  There was a lot on the calendar – some work, some play – and all of it was BIG fun!

    My day Saturday began at work making 15 batches of pizza dough – enough to make pizzas for more than 30 people! With the exception of a break for lunch, I worked most of the day Saturday prepping for Hailey’s birthday party and for the Pizza Pizzazz class on Sunday.

    From 4:00 to 6:00 I had the pleasure of helping Hailey – an adorable birthday girl about to turn 7 – and 13 of her friends celebrate.  I taught them how to make pizza and watched them decorate cupcakes and excitedly encourage Hailey during the gift opening.

    Hailey’s mom – Shelly – should be given the creative-mother-of-the-year award! When she arrived, she put a cute little apron and a custom-made chefs hat at each girl’s seat.  She was a savvy shopper and found the aprons in Target’s dollar section.  The chefs hats were paper to which she added stickers to spell each girl’s name and the most amazing flowers made from coffee filters and muffin liners (a Pinterest find (I think this is the right link) according to Shelly).  With permission, I snapped a few pics to share with you.

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    On Sunday I woke up early and got myself ready for Pizza Pizzazz at a leisurely pace.  At approximately 10:15 am, Jeff and I headed for The Kitchen Shoppe & Cooking School.  Yes, you read that right….Jeff came with me….not to sit in class, but to help assemble and cook pizzas while I was demonstrating pizza-making to my students.  Poor Jeff, I frequently draft him for jobs that he never intended to do and 99% of the time he performs his tasks with grace and good humor.  Sunday was one of the 99%!  He worked his tail off at the oven and the Big Green Egg making sure my students had well-cooked pizza to enjoy.

    Not only did Jeff help me, but I also had my “backup singers.”  A group of folks who ensure that classes go off without a hitch.  Without them, my classes would be a wreck.  They read my mind, cover my mis-steps, and provide tons of support and encouragement!!!  And as if that’s not enough, I also had Brandalynn & Theo from Alter Ego Brewing Company with me at the class.  As you may have read in a previous post, they paired their beers with my food, served beer and described their company and each brew to my class.  I hope they had half the fun I did!

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    The pizza combinations – although unusual – were well-received and the beers perfectly complemented each course, including salad and dessert.  Since I didn’t share the combinations with you in my post entitled Great Partnerships, I will do so now in the hopes of stimulating your taste buds and encouraging you to try Alter Ego and/or one of my future classes!

    Here is the lineup:

    • Light & Lemony Fennel Salad paired with Wits End – a Belgian style white ale.
    • Roasted Potato & Goat Cheese Pizza with Rosemary paired with Critical Condition – an amber ale with a hint of caramel flavor.
    • Ballpark Pizza (chili, hotdogs, cheddar, raw onions, and mustard) paired with Cheap Date – an American blond ale.
    • White Pizza with Asparagus & Egg paired with Mahatma – one of a series of IPA’s.
    • Asian Chicken Pizza paired with Mango Habanero – a wonderful beer with a kick made from mango puree and whole Habanero peppers.
    • Espresso Panna Cotta paired with Dolce Vita – a sweet stout with chocolate and hazelnut.

    The class favorite pairings were the Ballpark/Cheap Date and the Asian Chicken/Mango Habanero.  But all the pairings were terrific.  If you ask me, the partnership of Alter Ego’s brews and my food was meant to be!!!!

    Then on Monday there was time for a little play (not that work is too much like work these days)!  Jeff and I drove down to the Rockville/Bethesda, MD area to do a bit of shopping and meet up with our friends Jenny & Tom for lunch.

    We had a wonderful day!  We were in the car by 8:30 am and we reached our destination just after 10:00 am.  We got our shopping errands out of the way just as Tom & Jen drove up.  We hopped (ok, more like hoisted ourselves) into Tom’s new Jeep and set out for lunch at Founding Farmers’ Potomac location.

    We decided to have a leisurely meal, so we started by ordering the popcorn of the day (chocolate chipotle on Monday) and a round of cocktails from their pre-Prohibition style bar.  Our drinks weren’t just mixed, they were lovingly hand-crafted and quite delicious.

    Since Jenny & Tom are like family, we passed our drinks around the table and shared sips here and there.  Here was our drink lineup – one VERY spicy Bloody Mary; one Clementine made with chili-infused Tequila, lime and pineapple juices, and agave nectar; one Pimm’s Cup 10 (this one was for you, Mic) made with Pimm’s No. 1, Curacao, lime juice and ginger beer; and one Farmer’s Fizz made with Gin, elderflower liqueur and Prosecco. Mmm mmm mmm!

    For nibbling while we decided on lunch, we ordered house-made Ciabatta bread with candied corn, mascarpone cheese and charred apple chutney.  OH MY GOODNESS – it was wonderful.

    Finally, to our waitress’ relief, we ordered lunch (which turned out to be lunch and dinner since we ended up being sooooooo full).  Again, we ordered and passed – sharing so we could all taste.  Perhaps ordering 5 entrees for 4 people was overkill, but we all loved leaving with leftovers!

    Here’s what we ordered:

    • Crispy Spatchcock Chicken with Maple Mustard Glaze
    • Yankee Pot Roast
    • Skirt Steak & Enchilada
    • Southern Fried Chicken
    • Poto Mac & Cheese with handmade pasta and seven cheeses

    We enjoyed our meals at a laid-back pace, talking and laughing and catching up.  The food was REALLY good – especially the mac & cheese, which was heavenly – creamy and warm and comforting!!! The drinks were wonderful – particularly, in my opinion, the Pimm’s Cup 10. And it goes without saying [but I’ll “say” it anyway], the company was first-rate!  Any time we have a chance to catch up with friends and build stronger relationships is time well spent!!!!

    Needless to say, after all that food we had NO ROOM FOR DESSERT!  So we asked for the check, which was delivered in a miniature mailbox.  We were instructed to put the outgoing mail flag up on the mailbox when our payment was inside.  Too cute!!!!

    Of course, I took many pics so that I could share the experience with you:

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    Before leaving Tom & Jen’s company, we made two additional stops. One at Fleming’s Ultimate Garage and the other at Penzey’s Spices.  Two very different places, but both fun.  At Fleming’s we looked at vintage cars and each dreamed of our ideal ride – mine is a big boat of a car – you know, a pimp mobile – like a vintage Lincoln Continental!  At Penzey’s we sniffed and smelled our way through the store.  We knew we were done when our noses were itchy and our sneezers were working overtime!

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    Although the weekend was action packed, I feel both relaxed and energized as a result.  Thanks to Hailey’s parents for including me in the fun of her birthday party, to all the students who came to Pizza Pizzazz, to my “backup singers” for all they do, to Jeff for helping with pizzas and for helping me follow my passion, to Theo & Brandalynn from Alter Ego Brewing Company for their brewing & consumptionista expertise, and to Jenny & Tom for a wonderful day together.

    There is no doubt – I am truly blessed!