Sipping & Sunsets

Jeff and I just returned from a fun weekend at the beach with friends.  I wasn’t feeling too well beginning on Wednesday of last week; so it was touch-and-go as to whether we were going to make it.  But I decided I could just as easily be sick at the beach as I could at home; so we set off on our adventure on Friday afternoon!

Jeff and I left the house at approximately 2:30 pm and had a nice, leisurely drive through PA Amish country and mushroom country and through Delaware on our way to Rehoboth.  The sunset on Friday evening was SPECTACULAR!!!! The colors were so vivid and every time I looked out he car window, the scene had changed in a dramatic way.  It was a wonderful start to our weekend.

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Our first meal was a winner!  Lu made ribs and hot sausage on the grill, along with a salad, a mixed potato gratin and sautéed veggies. Mmm mmm mmm!  The leftover sausages were a thread woven through the remaining meals and snacks of the weekend!  Based upon how quickly Jeff and Mark were snoring, I have to reiterate that the meal was a winner!!!!

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On Saturday morning Jeff and I and Lu and Mark went for a long walk on the beach.  We strolled through the sand – sometimes in pairs or groups, sometimes alone – thinking and talking and gazing in amazement at God’s handiwork.  Of course, we saw many dogs enjoying their time in the surf, chasing balls and greeting strangers.  I’m always happy to see doggy faces when we travel….I don’t miss mine quite so much when I can scratch behind the ears of someone else’s canine friend!

After the beach we dropped Lu off at our home base, picked up Kara (Mark and Lu’s daughter) and took a quick trip to The Fractured Prune for donuts-to-go in honor of our friend Jackson.  Holy Moly.  What a selection of donuts!  And what a fun place!

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After we returned from the Fractured Prune we straggled upstairs for showers, had a yummy lunch and then ventured out for a beautiful drive to Dogfish Head Brewery…..our ultimate destination was the tasting room!  We enjoyed the scenery on the way to DFH – the bright sun seemed to illuminate the colorful leaves from within and it made the greens greener and the blues bluer…….

The DFH campus is quite interesting.  The buildings are industrial, but beautiful in their own eco-friendly way.  There is a wood-fired “lunchbox” offering interesting food for sale (since we had eaten lunch, we didn’t sample any food, but it smelled incredible).  Perhaps the most unusual aspect of the campus is the metal treehouse, in which DFH employees are reported to have meetings.

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Jeff and I were lucky to be travelling with experienced tasters – Lu and Mark knew their way around the tasting room and kept us on track!  We each sampled four offerings – Jeff and Mark sampled four beers.  Lu and I each sampled three beers and the birch beer, which was excellent and the favorite for both Lu and I!  I kept asking, “does anyone taste rosemary in this birch beer?” and sure enough, when Jeff asked about it, we found that there is, in fact, rosemary in the birch beer.  It is a wonderful addition and adds a layer of flavor you don’t get in a typical soda. Mmm mmm mmm!

Of course, we snapped many pics while we were there – Jeff even tried out the Panavision option on his new phone!  And after we were done sampling our beers and sodas, we took a quick trip through the store.  The lone purchase….a beer glass.

Jeff’s pics:

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Upon our return to our home base, we scattered a bit.  Jeff and Mark headed out to buy cigars and a few grocery items.  Lu and her daughter, Kara, did some outlet shopping.  And I went to my happy place – the kitchen.  Saturday night was my night to make dinner so I spent some relaxing time in the kitchen prepping chicken cutlets like my grandmother used to make and a kale salad with roasted red beets, crumbled feta, spiced cashews and a spicy peanut vinaigrette.  I also slid a butternut squash lasagna that I had assembled prior to the trip into the oven to heat.

While I was cooking, Jeff and Mark returned from their adventure and headed to the back porch with cigars and a full growler of DFH Raison D’Etre to watch the sunset and solve the world’s problems.  It was nice to hear the murmur of conversation through the back door and to catch a faint whiff of smoke while I was cooking.

The timing was perfect.  I had just finished cooking, had everything warming in the oven (except the salad, of course), had the table set and had poured myself a glass of wine when Mark spied Lu and Kara pulling up to our home away from home.

We enjoyed a yummy dinner, lots of laughs, and some vintage television.  While watching t.v. my cold (or whatever this is) started to catch up with me and my eyelids became heavier and heavier.  I’m pretty sure I was in bed by 8:00 pm.  Yep, I AM getting old.

Sunday included Lu’s yummy pancakes and sausage, shopping for the girls, a trip to the beach for the guys, a quick lunch and clean up of our digs.  Then we hit the road for home.  On the way, we enjoyed ANOTHER pretty ride – clear skies and vibrant fall colors make for great travel!

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Happily, my cold didn’t slow me down too much and we had a wonderful weekend with great friends!

What did you do this weekend?

Eat, Drink & Be Joyful!

I’ve been very lucky over the last year to be able to share my thoughts about cooking, eating and entertaining via this blog. I’ve gone on a few rants, disclosed some personal things about myself and given you a TASTE of what it’s like to live in my world.

So it’s only fitting that I spent the last few days eating, drinking and being joyful. And the best part is I have the pictures to prove it!

On Saturday I had the rare opportunity to go on a date with my husband! Although we have no children, we don’t schedule time to be alone together as often as we should. In fact, my friend Alicia and I have discussed that when you’re married with no kids it may be more important to be intentional about spending time alone with your spouse. You see, us MNK’s (married-no-kids) often take for granted that we’ll have time TOMORROW to be alone with our spouses….but then all the other obligations get in the way. I’m sure if you have kids, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Yeah? Well try adding kids to the mix!” And I’m sure that is a difficulty….but most of the people I know who have kids make family time a priority. What’s hard to remember is that the spouses in MNK relationships ARE one another’s family.

But anyway – that was a diversion I wasn’t planning to take! My point was to express my gratitude to spend nearly a full day alone with Jeff with the sole intention of being together!

Eat Divider

I worked at the Kitchen Shoppe in the morning, but Jeff picked me up promptly at noon 12:30. (I <3 U, Honey).  Our first stop was lunch – and it was a good thing because we were both famished by the time we reached the restaurant.  We decided on Momma Spriggs in Carlisle – (1) because it is close to the KS, but also because (2) I’ve been wanting to give it another try ever since I went there with two of my co-workers for lunch.

When I went with my co-workers there was a dessert in the case that was calling my name, but that I didn’t try.  It was called Chocolate Joe Cheesecake.  Unfortunately, when Jeff and I went on Saturday, they didn’t have THAT dessert.  Fortunately (for everything except my thighs), they had others!

While we were perusing the menu, I told Jeff about the Hot Roast Beef Sandwich that one of my co-workers ordered on our previous visit.  It intrigued him enough to order it – and by the looks of his plate shortly after it was put in front of him, I’d say it was an excellent choice!

Hot Roast Beef Sandwich

No More Hot Roast Beef Sandwich

I ordered the Johnny Appleseed Burger and French fries.  The Johnny Appleseed is described as a burger with “cheddar cheese, bacon, sautéed apples and red onion served on grilled wheatberry bread.”  What is not in the description is that the burger is delicious. I ordered mine medium rare and it was cooked to juicy perfection and was adorned with wonderful flavors from all the toppings.

Johnny Appleseed Burger

Because I knew we wanted to try dessert, I only ate half my burger.  I wish I had had as much restraint with the fries, but they were so good I couldn’t stop!

While Jeff and I pondered our dessert choices, I recapped a conversation I had with my LHA buddies (thanks for a nice dinner David, Kim & Andrew) the other night about sharing food.  I really wasn’t trying to discourage our sharing a dessert, but it worked out that way.  Jeff ordered the Peanut Butter Pie with Chocolate Ganache and I ordered the Oreo Explosion Cheesecake.

Now I have written before about how disappointing it can be to go to a restaurant and see desserts that you think are going to be great only to order them and find that they are ordinary.  I can assure you that that was not the case at Momma Spriggs.  The desserts were FANTASTIC!  Jeff’s pie was so rich I am surprised he was able to eat it all – but he took one for the team.

Peanut Butter Pie

After just one bite of my cheesecake I knew I’d be taking some of it home.  I was soooo good, but there was no way I was going to be able to finish it and still walk out the door.  So, with a little assistance from Jeff, I ate half the piece of cheesecake.  We split the rest for dessert the next evening.

Oreo Explosion Cheesecake

After we finished our lunch, I decided to snap a few pictures inside Momma Spriggs to give you an idea of what to expect when you go, which I would highly recommend.

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Momma Spriggs has a bit of a diner feel to it, but the décor is much nicer than diner décor.  The colors are relaxing and welcoming and there is a decorated feel. A word about the service.  On my first visit, my co-workers and I waited (what was IMHO) too long to be acknowledged and seated, but on Saturday we were greeted immediately and shown to our table by a nice young man.  Interestingly, during the first visit, the table service was better than on Saturday – but that is not to say Saturday’s service was bad.  I have my fingers crossed that on my next visit I will have good service all the way around!!!!

Drink Divider

After we left Momma Spriggs, Jeff and I headed out to explore Southern Cumberland County and Adams County by car.  Our objective for the day was simply to meander and take some pictures.  And that we certainly did.  It was relaxing to drive and talk and see the beautiful autumn leaves.  And what a nice surprise it was to stumble across Reid’s Orchard & Winery, which we did quite by accident.  After choosing a direction at a crossroads, Jeff decided to turn around and find the vineyard for which we had seen a sign.

I am glad he did because we had a lovely experience at Reid’s talking with Samantha and with Clair, sampling some good wines (which surprised me for PA wines because I admit I have had a somewhat old bias about PA wines all being sweet fruit wines) and hard ciders, and exploring the beautiful property.  We learned a bit about the orchard itself, talked with Samantha about the hard cider making process, had our questions answered about the label art on the wine bottles,  discussed food and wine pairing, and were even able to sample a fruit we had never tried before – arctic kiwi – and a surprisingly delicious blueberry wine that was not at all the sweet fruit wine I expected.

Roaming the property was my favorite part of the Reid’s experience.  It was relaxing to stroll through the rows of grape vines and apple trees.  The smells were interesting – highlighted by fresh autumn air mixed with sweet, fermenting fruit.

I hope the pictures below pique your curiosity!  I would highly recommend visiting Reid’s in the fall; but I’ll also tell you that Clair shared with us that in warmer months Reid’s offers live music on the weekends.  Sometimes there is catered food available, but you can always bring a picnic basket filled with your own goodies.  And wines are available by the bottle and by the glass.  The seating area is lovely with picturesque views.  I can guarantee Jeff and I – and perhaps some friends – will be checking out Reid’s on a weekend when the weather warms!

The majority of the photos below were taken at Reid’s Orchard & Winery, but some are from surrounding farms and orchards and restaurants.  Enjoy!

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Be Joyful Divider

That brings me to today.  As some of you know, I’ve been trying to listen to God’s prompting to “Wait!  Just Wait!”  Some days this is easier than others – especially for someone as “D” as me.  As driven, task-oriented, and impatient.  But I’ve found a lot of joy in the waiting – especially this morning.

I got to work a few minutes before 8:00, which was the time we set to start prepping for classes this morning.  When I pulled into the parking lot at the Kitchen Shoppe, there were NO cars in the parking lot.  I cannot tell you how unusual this is.

But when I looked toward the Le Tort Spring, which runs behind the shop, I knew the empty parking lot was a gift from God and a wonderful reminder of the beauty that can be found in waiting!  I had a peaceful few minutes to walk along the spring and take some pictures.  I wish everyone could begin their day like that!  It was a time to relax, breathe, center and focus.  And to take in the wonder of God!

For those of you who wonder, THIS is why I try to always have my camera with me!

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So as I reflect on the last year of blogging, on the events of the last few days and even on the few moments of solitude I enjoyed this morning – I am reminded to EAT, DRINK & especially to BE JOYFUL!

I received no compensation for either the review of Momma Spriggs or of Reid’s  Orchard & Winery.  The ideas expressed are strictly my own based upon my experience.

Lately

Since I haven’t posted in a while – until yesterday when I posted about my technology fast – I’ve missed out on sharing so much here.  Rather than try to recap in detail, I’ll share some photos with a little bit of detail to catch you up on what I’ve been doing!

One Saturday afternoon Jeff and I went out for a drive.  When the light was just right – during the golden hour – I snapped some photos.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed my afternoon spent with Jeff…..

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While prepping for a bus trip at the Kitchen Shoppe, we made a Blueberry Stuffed French Toast Casserole for the group’s sendoff breakfast.  It looked so good that I made it at home for Jeff and I.  It was delicious!!!

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On October 4th, I taught a class at the Kitchen Shoppe entitled ‘Apple Harvest.’  The class was a lot of fun for me and the food turned out wonderfully.  One of the things I made was a Roasted Mushroom Soup with Apple Cider Stock.  While I was testing the recipe, I made a great deal of the apple cider stock and was thinking about what I could make with the stock besides the soup.  One idea that came to mind was Butternut Squash, Sausage and Sage Risotto.  As it turned out, Jeff and I were given some butternut squash from a friend’s garden, so I made the risotto. The recipe needs a little tweaking – it was a little too sweet for my taste – but it was pretty darn good for a first try!!!

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Last week I went out to lunch with two of my co-workers to Momma Spriggs in Carlisle.  Stay tuned for a review, but for now….enjoy the pics!

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I made a stop at One Good Woman in Camp Hill to buy a gift for a friend and was inspired by some of the quotes on the chalkboards…

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I found a recipe for Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownies on facebook and made them to take to dinner last Friday evening.  To be honest, they need some work.  In my opinion, the concept is good, but the outcome could have been significantly better!   The caramel was too runny, the pretzels should have been broken into pieces to make the brownies easier to cut and unless you eat them right away the pretzels soak up the moisture from the brownies and become soggy, and there wasn’t enough brownie batter to cover the pretzels so I had to make more.  But….I will work on improving them!!!

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One of the best things that I’ve done in a while was take a trip to Rehoboth with some girlfriends.  Although the weather was terrible, we had a terrific time laughing, eating, drinking, relaxing and  hangin’ out.  I love my girls!!!!  I am looking forward to a return trip to Rehoboth in less than two weeks – hopefully the weather will be better and I’ll get to spend some time on the beach.  And I’m hoping for a trip to Dogfish Head too!!!!

So, that’s what I’ve been up to for the last several weeks.

What’s been going on with you?

 

Cool Rain and Warm Cider

Saying Saturday afternoon was rainy is like saying George Clooney is cute – an utterly obvious understatement!!!  But we didn’t let the rain get us down.  Jeff and I spent the day running errands and while we were in the car hustling from one stop to the next, our friend Ben called to ask if we wanted to come over and learn to make apple cider.  Hello?  Of course we do!

In April, I wrote a little bit about Ben in a post entitled Serving Together in Love.  In that post, I wrote:

“You probably know someone who would do anything for anybody just because they needed help, right?  Well I do.  His name is Ben.  He’s “the guy” that everyone knows.  You know what I mean….he’s the guy in the phrase, “I know a guy with a truck.” Or, “I know a guy who delivers tanbark.” Or, “I know a guy who will come to your house and plant a tree in the dark.”” 

Well, he’s also THE GUY with the cider press!!!  The press was built by Ben’s grandfather and has been modified by several family  members as it has been handed down.  On Saturday Jeff and I were fortunate to see the press in action, spend time learning about the cider-making process, and hang out with Ben and Christa – and their sweet puppy, Paxton.

Paxton

Is he adorable, or what?  He’s sooooooo cute and such a pup!  He’s got sharp little teeth, he’s unquenchably curious, and he tugs at your heart-strings with just a look!  But I digress (as I usually do when there’s a puppy involved)!!!!

Anyway, when we arrived at Ben and Christa’s house, it was raining so hard I thought it might be monsoon season….but alas, I was wrong.  We sprinted from our car into the garage to find the welcoming smell of warm apple cider and to see Ben and Christa in action.  There was a large plastic tarp on the garage floor and in the center of it was THE PRESS.  Off to one side were hundreds of apples awaiting their fate.  And in the turkey fryer/cabbage cooker/cider boiler was a batch of cider bubbling away (thus the yummy aroma)!

Ben showed us a cycle of the process and then – like a surgical instructor taking seriously his charge to see one, do one, teach one – he put us to work!  With his help, we fed apples into the spinning blades and watched as they were extracted into the basket.  Then Ben put the lid on the basket and Jeff took a spin (ha ha – pun intended) at pressing.  After pouring the pressed cider through the strainer and into the boiler, we repeated the process with me pressing, until we had fed all the apples through the press and all the cider poured through the strainer and into the boiler.  Like any good process, then it was time to wait.  You know the part where you kick back, goof off and take a little rest!

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Fortunately, before we arrived, Ben and Christa had been working tirelessly so there was some cider that had already been cooled that was ready to bottle.  And drink.  We sipped our cider and watched Ben bottle the cooled cider.

Ready for Dispensing

Fruits of Our Labor

We did not leave empty-handed.  We got some cider to take home to drink and some cider to make into Apple Cider Caramel (See recipe below) for ourselves and for Ben and Christa.  We also left with two gigantic sweet potatoes, a watermelon, and various other things from Ben and Christa’s garden.

So although the day was cold and rainy and I was freezing by the time we got into the car, our bellies were warmed by the cider and our hearts were warmed by time spent learning something new from and spending time catching up with good friends!!!

Apple Cider “Caramel”

Meal type Condiment, Dessert
This recipe was a happy accident. I envision it being excellent over vanilla ice cream, perhaps drizzled over a bagel with cream cheese or over oven roasted sweet potato fries. The possibilities are endless!!!! Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Apple Cider
  • 1 pinch Kosher Salt
  • 1 pinch Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Brown Sugar (divided)

Note

mmm mmm mmm blog at www.cookeatentertain.com

Directions

1. Put cider, salt, pepper and 1 Tbsp of brown sugar in a heavy bottom saucepan, stir well and bring to a boil.
2. Lower heat to medium low (low if you have a particularly hot burner) and reduce to 1 cup.
3. Add the remaining 1 Tbsp of brown sugar, increase heat. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and reduce to 1/3 cup.

MmmMmmMmmushrooms – Part II

Sorry to make you wait for Part II of MmmMmmMmmushrooms.  To recap MmmMmmMmmushrooms – Part I, Jeff and I and our friend, Ron, and our niece, Vanessa, attended the 28th Annual Mushroom Festival in Kennett Square, PA this past Saturday.   Up to this point in the adventure, we’d made our journey from the Harrisburg area to Kennett Square, figured out a plan to meet up with Vanessa, successfully rendezvoused, and begun tasting food.  So far we’d tried arepas and Roasted Mushroom and Gorgonzola Hummus.

After a brief stroll through The Market at Liberty Place on State Street we cooled down a bit and worked off the Roasted Mushroom and Gorgonzola Hummus we had shared.  We continued to wind our way through the crowds and to look at the offerings in each booth.  As you might imagine, we saw many interesting mushrooms along the way.

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Just before we reached the entrance to the mushroom exhibit, we stumbled across a booth offering Mushroom Mac & Cheese…..how can you resist that?  You can’t 0r at least we could not!  We shared one order with four forks and while we were eating there was no shortage of ‘mmm’s’ and ‘oh’s’…..it was terrific – it was hands-down my favorite food of the day.  The mushrooms were easily detectable – earthy and warm and the mac and cheese was creamy and salty with a crispy, crunchy topping.

Mushroom Mac & Cheese

Mushroom Mac and Cheese

We made light work of the mac and cheese and headed for the mushroom exhibit, where we learned about the substrate or growing medium for mushrooms.  We saw and learned about different varieties of mushrooms and, of course, had some laughs and took some great pics!

Baby Mushrooms Pushing through the SubstrateBABY MUSHROOMS PUSHING THROUGH THE SUBSTRATE

Many MushroomsMANY, MORE MATURE MUSHROOMS IN THE SUBSTRATE

More Mature Mushrooms in the SubstrateCLOSER SHOT OF MORE MATURE MUSHROOMS

ShiitakesSHITAKES

Shitake mushrooms are the most popular in Asia.  They look like little parasols and, in my opinion, have a somewhat spongy texture in your mouth.

PomPom Lion's Mane MushroomsPOM POM LION’S MANE

The Pom Pom Lion’s Mane mushrooms were so interesting to look at and to touch.  They were quite soft and furry.  We were not able to eat these at the festival (at least that I saw) and I’ve never tried one, but my research tells me they have a chewy texture and taste faintly of seafood.

Oyster Mushrooms OYSTER MUSHROOMS

Oyster mushrooms are dove-gray in color and they have a delicate flavor.  I recently used them – along with some other types of mushrooms, in a Roasted Mushroom Soup with Apple Cider Stock, which was heavenly.

We also saw two other colors of oyster mushrooms – yellow and pink.  They were beautiful!

Yellow Oyster MushroomsYELLOW OYSTER MUSHROOMS

We saw portabellos and criminis and porcinis, oh my!  And of course, we saw white button mushrooms – called agaricus – which is the most poupular mushroom consumed in the US.  But we also saw my favorite mushrooms – maitakis or hen of the woods mushrooms, which I had for the first time several months ago and have been using ever since.

Maitakis are typically found at the base of oak trees, but can be found at the base of other trees – like maple or elm – as well.  They have many names in addition to maitake or hen of the woods.  In Japan they are known as “dancing mushrooms” and the Italians refer to them as ‘signorinas’.  They are also referred to as ‘sheep’s head’ or ‘cloud’ mushrooms.  I have had and made these mushrooms simply pan-fried in butter with salt and pepper and they are delicious.

Mmmy Favorite Mmmaitakes or Hen of the WoodsMMMAITIAKE MUSHROOMS

MaitakeMORE MMMAITAKIE MUSHROOMS

I’ll be honest with you, it was quite warm under the exhibit tent; so although we were learning under there, we were also happy to exit!  When we left the tent, we were right at the booth where you order mushrooms to take home with you.  The set up they have is quite convenient.  You can order and pay for your mushrooms inside the festival at any time (for us it was great to do it just after we had learned about all the different varieties), but you don’t have to pick them up until you are on your way out – and conveniently, the pick-up location is right near the exit!  We decided to bring home some enokis, some maitakes and a large box of portabellos, which we shared with Ron.

All that learning about mushrooms made us hungry for another nibble – fried mushrooms….but we glammed it up some by ordering crispy portabello “fingers”.  They were quite crisp and very meaty tasting.  I really enjoyed the horseradish sauce with which they were served – it was a nice complement to the mild mushrooms.

Crispy Portabellos

An Order of Crispy Portabellos

We continued to explore the festival.  We tried on some hats, which made us giggle! And we had worked up a thirst, so we set about finding something to quench it.  A homemade soda sounded terrific, until we found out that in order to get the soda you had to buy a mug for either $12, $15 or $20.  Now I have been known to splurge on food before, but I was appalled by the idea of a $12 soda, let alone a $20 one.  So we opted to share a lemonade – $5 with $2.50 refills!

Our final treat of the festival was ice cream….according to Jeff, “There’s always room for ice cream.  It just melts around everything else.” And truthfully, as I mentioned earlier, we each only had one or two bites of each thing we ordered, so it really was a nice way to have lunch.  We had time and a nice walk in between our “courses”.  Jeff and Nessa and I shared the Cream of Mushroom Ice Cream and Ron opted for Strawberry.  While the Cream of Mushroom Ice Cream was good, it didn’t taste mushroomy.  It was like vanilla ice cream without as much sugar as usual and with a few brown flecks in it.

Cream of Mushroom Ice Cream

Although some of us had hoped to take a mushroom farm tour, we were newbies at this festival and didn’t realize you need to buy your tickets in advance.  So by the time we said goodbye to Vanessa (who opted for a nap instead of a farm tour) and got to the ticket booth, they were sold out of tours for the day.  Oh well, it wasn’t meant to be.

But since we were not ready to call it a day and head home, we decided to journey around Lancaster County on the way home.  We wound through back roads and passed farms and farm stands and we bought some apples, pears, peaches and other goodies.  The following are a few of my photos from after the festival.

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With Ron’s permission, I am also sharing a few of his photos from the day.  He loves snapping pics as much as I do – so we always have fun with our cameras when we are together.

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Our final stop of the day was Iron Hill Brewery for a quick dinner.  I know you’re probably thinking, “How could you possibly eat again after all that fair food?”  But it really wasn’t that much food when you divide it by four people and we worked up an appetite traversing the countryside!  I had a salmon wrap and I cannot even remember what Jeff or Ron ordered, but my food was good – not great – but perhaps that was because I was comparing it to all the yummy dishes we’d sampled earlier in the day.  The only photo I managed to snap at the restaurant was of our drinks – maybe I was more thirsty than hungry!

Lots of Drinks

All in all, it was a fun and educational day that  hopefully will become a tradition.  We had no trouble parking or navigating the festival so next year should be even easier. We know now that we should pre-order our farm tour tickets.   We already have the 29th Annual Mushroom Festival on our calendars for 2014!  I’d love to run into you there!!!!

What’s your favorite mushroom recipe or dish?

MmmMmmMmmushrooms – Part I

I am sitting back, eating a delicious BLT&P (bacon, lettuce, tomato and parmesan – oh yeah!) that Jeff made for lunch and reflecting on the day we had yesterday.  Before I tell you about yesterday; I have to share some photos of the sandwich with you!

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The BLT&P was messy and flavorful – just the way I LOVE a sandwich!!!

Anyway, back to yesterday.  Jeff and I and our friend Ron (wish his wife, Leslie, could have joined us) took a road trip to Kennett Square, PA for the 28th Annual Mushroom Festival.  We had no idea what to expect, having never been there; but the three of us are always up for an adventure and can always regroup and go to plan B if necessary.  Fortunately, however, it wasn’t necessary!

The first (of two) glitch of the day was when we came to a complete standstill while we were traveling on Route 283.  We never did determine what the hold-up was, but we sat at a standstill for about 20 – 30 minutes.  Always one to find the silver lining, during that time I learned about a new-to-me app, Waze. Waze is an app that allows drivers to share real-time traffic information to help one another.  Of course, you have to use the app BEFORE you’re sitting in a parking lot on the highway!!!

The second glitch of the day was at a “quick” coffee/potty stop at McDonald’s.  We ordered our coffees (tea for Ron) and then waited…and waited…and waited…and waited.  You need to know that Jeff is a relatively patient guy.  He rarely complains about a wait and normally gives people the benefit of the doubt.  After about 15 minutes waiting for two iced coffees, I thought his head was going to explode.  He finally complained to a manager and we quickly received our coffees and were headed to the parking lot and back on our way.  Or so we thought…after the first sip of his coffee he declared, “This is really bad.  It doesn’t even taste like coffee.”  So we encouraged him to go back in – of course, we warned him that the next version of the iced coffee might taste a little like spit.

While Ron and I waited, I backed the car out so that Ron could get in (thank you to the person who parked VERY closely to our car) and then we did some laps around the parking lot. Finally Jeff came out and we got back on the road.  Whew….as far as glitches go, we were really lucky!!!!  Again finding the silver lining, had I not taken the driver’s seat, Jeff wouldn’t have gotten on Facebook to see our niece’s status.  Vanessa had just posted, “What a perfect, pretty day! Now what to do with it?!”  Knowing that Kennett Square is not too far from where ‘Nessa lives, Jeff texted her and asked her to meet up with us at the Mushroom Festival and she agreed.  The more the merrier!

So Jeff coordinated the meet-up with Vanessa and I found a place to park.  We paid our admission fees, got our arm bands on and began our mushroom adventure.  While we waited for Vanessa to park and take a shuttle to meet us, Jeff and Ron and I meandered through the festival.  There were many vendors including restaurants, crafters, retail stores, culinary products, clothing and accessories, etc.  And of course, there was a lot of food, many dishes made with mushrooms and some made without mushrooms.  We took many pics while we walked and waited for Vanessa….here are just a few.

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As we strolled from booth to booth, the arepas grabbed our attention. So while we waited for Vanessa’s call, the three of us shared one.  Arepas are a staple food in Venezuela and are thick corn cakes split and filled with cheese.  When they are heated the cheese becomes ooey and gooey and the corn cakes get slightly brown and crisp.  Let me just say, mmm mmm mmm – Venezuelan comfort food!

Arepas

Digging In

One of the best things about hanging out with friends is being able to share food – you can try different things when you’re just having a bite or two of each!

Shortly after the arepa, ‘Nessa called and we headed back to where we had started to meet her.  When at last we met up and introduced Ron and Vanessa and we were all fast friends, we began our festival experience in earnest.  While the arepas were good, they didn’t have mushrooms in them, so we had to get going on our mushroom tasting!  Had to….

Our first mushroom stop was at the stand of a Kennett Square restaurant called Portabellos.

A Place for a Future VisitEverything that the people in front of us in line were ordering smelled and looked wonderful.  It was hard to decide what to order, but we decided to share the Roasted Mushroom and Gorgonzola Hummus.  It turned out to be a good choice. Although it was difficult to detect the gorgonzola, it was still really good and really mushroomy!

Roasted Mushroom & Gorgonzola Hummus

If I had only been going to order ONLY one thing all day, I may have chosen Portabellos’ Portabello Mushroom Cheesesteak Sandwich because it looked fabulous – but, there were too many things to try to fill myself up on only one thing!

The sky was bright blue, the sun was out and although the day started off on the chilly side, after the first hour at the festival I was wishing I hadn’t worn long sleeves and a BLACK long-sleeved top to boot.  But you live and learn!  We continued to look at the stands, stopping to look more closely at things that caught our interest and passing those that did not.  We talked and laughed, sometimes in a group of four and sometimes in pairs.  It was nice to have some time to catch up with Vanessa and find out how things are going with her. We had a brief reprieve from the sun and snapped some more pics when we explored The Market at Liberty Place on State Street.

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I have to get ready for work so please stay tuned for MmmMmmMmmushrooms – Part II detailing the end of our adventure at the 28th Annual Mushroom Festival in Kennett Square, PA.

Kayaking & Life Lessons…

On Saturday Jeff and I went on a 19.5 mile kayak trip with our friends Jenn and Brian.  The four of us have been talking about taking a kayak trip together for almost a year, so it was great when we finally got it on the calendar.  And it was even better when it happened!

You don’t set out to paddle 19.5 miles when you have other things to do….it’s a long, lazy day.  That’s not to say that there isn’t work involved….just ask my arms; but it is to say that can be relaxing, slow-paced and a good time for getting to know one another better.

We met at 9:00 am [ok, truth be told we really met at 9:04:57] on the beautiful campus of Messiah College.  We unloaded our boats and gear from the car, packed our kayaks and headed for the water.  I am used to Jeff and I kayaking alone so I must admit that I was feeling a bit spoiled when Brian carried my load in some situations…a girl could get used to such treatment, but then where will I be when it’s back to just me and Jeff and I have no choice but to carry my half of the load!?!

We were anticipating beautiful weather for our float, but when we began paddling the sky was cloudy and there was a very light rain that actually sounded quite nice as it bounced off the water.  And as the day progressed, the weather gradually improved until the sun was finally shining and the sky was a brilliant blue.

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As we paddled I couldn’t help but think about how our behavioral styles (at least mine and Jeff’s) were demonstrated on the water.  If you know anything about the DiSC behavioral inventory or Gary Smalley’s personality inventory (which assigns an animal to your personality type based upon how you answer questions) or even if you’ve just lived for a while  – you know that we are not all created equal.  Each of us has his/her own personality quirks.

Having taken the Gary Smalley inventory MANY times, I know that I am a LION and Jeff is a GOLDEN RETRIEVER.  And if I didn’t know this prior to Saturday, I could have figured it out based upon our behaviors.  The LION is goal oriented, likes to lead and enjoys challenges so it should come as no surprise that I was out in front most of the day – not because of a need to be first or to “win,” just because that’s where I am most comfortable.  Safe or not, I was ready to plunge headlong into most of the rapids without even assessing the current.  The GOLDEN RETRIEVER looks for security, is great at making friends, and works best in a steady situation so I was not surprised to hear Jeff behind me talking up a storm and watch him going last through most of the rough patches – because that is where he is most comfortable.

Our positions changed throughout the float, but I can tell you that I could feel myself getting frustrated when I was at the back of the pack and I could see a bit of anxiety begin to show around Jeff’s eyes when he was at the front or when he wasn’t sure what was coming next.  I love (but don’t always understand) that we are all wired differently and I find it interesting when you can clearly see the “animals” come out in real-life situations. But, the float was not all about personalities…

Although we see Jenn and Brian often at church, we haven’t had the pleasure of spending a lot of time with them – so the kayaking trip was the perfect day for learning about one another.  Floating along at approximately 3 to 4 mph gives you time to tell stories, ask questions and listen!

You also work up an appetite….you didn’t think I’d forget about the food, did you?  We stopped at approximately the half-way point and had a great lunch.  Jenn and Brian brought a variety of beverages and I volunteered to make the food – you know I can’t resist an opportunity to cook for people!

I made the food on Friday and packed it all in containers I thought would withstand a dunk in the water and that were light enough not to sink our kayaks on the way to our lunch spot!  We had quite the buffet when we spread it all out on the picnic table.  Jeff went to Alvaro’s in Harrisburg on his way home from work on Friday to pick up sandwich rolls so that we could make chicken cutlet sandwiches.  I prepped a bunch of things to go on the sandwiches and packed them in small containers so that everyone could assemble his/her own based upon their likes and dislikes.  Our sandwich extras included mayonnaise, balsamic jelly (stay tuned for a post), thin shavings of sharp provolone cheese, arugula with a light lemon vinaigrette dressing, and roasted red peppers with herbs.

We also had chips and citrus marinated mushrooms for the side.  And then, as if that wasn’t enough, I enlisted my mom’s help with dessert (you need a little something sweet when you’re paddling for hours).  She makes some absolutely wonderful chocolate oatmeal brownies and we were fortunate to be the recipients of her baking skills.  When he bit into the brownies, Brian proclaimed, “You can tell some love went into these!”

Not only were the brownies packed in a water-tight container, there was also a note inside – kind of like “fortune brownies” – wishing us a good day of kayaking and letting us know that the brownies with the edges were for me!!!!!  You see, my favorite part of a pan of brownies is the edges – I’d rather eat the edges than the gooey middle part!  And I learned on Saturday that when kayaking on a hot day an oatmeal brownie goes quite nicely with a cold lime beer!

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We spent about an hour total on dry land at lunch time, taking advantage of “the facilities” and following the “old wives tale” advice about not getting in the water for 30 minutes after you eat!!! [Yes, I know it’s for swimming, not kayaking].  With full bellies, we set out for the second half of our float.

Somewhere along the line, Jenn and I got ourselves into a harrowing situation [ok, no one was really at risk, but it sounds so much better than “we got stuck on a rock”].  We were heading for some rapids and rather than leaving a suitable distance between us as we approached as we had become accustomed to doing, the four of us seemed to be upon the rapids at almost the same time.  Jeff went left and cleared the rocks; but I did not and in an instant I saw part of a rock jutting up from the water and knew I wouldn’t have time to correct course.  I got hung up and Jenn, trying not to hit me adjusted course, but not enough to avoid the rocks.  So we were both stuck.

It was clear to me that the only way for me to get “unstuck” was to get out of my boat and pull.  So I did.  Now, if you’ve ever been kayaking you know that when you get out you have to hang on to your boat or the current will take it and you’ll be left walking behind it for the rest of the day!  So I was holding on to my boat and trying to “unstick” Jenn.  The current started spinning my 12-foot boat and I was trying to keep myself upright on the mossy, wet rocks, to hold onto the boat that the water was desperately trying to take from me,  AND to keep Jenn from tipping.

This is where the life lesson comes in…..sometimes you’re so invested in your current situation that you don’t see any other options.  You keep struggling where you are, doing what you’ve been doing (which incidentally is not working really well), and you begin to exhaust yourself.  I could feel myself getting tired, but I didn’t want Jenn to tip and I didn’t want to lose my boat.  I lost sight of the fact that there were other people I could turn to for help.  Although Jeff and Brian were downstream, I didn’t think to look to them for assistance.  Finally they yelled, “let go of your boat.”

Well, for a few seconds that made ABSOLUTELY no sense to me.  But they said, “we’ll get it.”  So I let go of my boat and in that instant, the rushing current didn’t seems so overwhelming.  I was able to get my footing and help Jenn get moving again.  THEN I could worry about getting back to my boat.

Of course, all I was looking at was my immediate surroundings (about 1 foot around me in all directions) and at where my boat was.  So I began trudging forward through deep, rushing water.  But Jeff, being back far enough to see the big picture, guided me to the right where the water was more shallow and the terrain less rocky.  Working together, Brian and Jeff managed to get my boat to me as I walked on more level ground.

Safely back in my boat, I couldn’t help but wonder how many times have I held onto my boat [my plan, my way, my situation] and walked through deep, rushing water because either I thought there was no one there to help me or because I was too proud to ask for help or accept it?  Then I was reminded of how tightly I held onto my former job – not leaving because I couldn’t step back far enough to see that if I just let go of it, I could get out of the rushing current and onto more level ground. I went with the flow because I thought that was what I was supposed to do and I thought it was the only option.

I shouldn’t be surprised at God’s amazing timing, but sometimes I am.  Yesterday’s sermon in church was entitled “Going Against the Flow.”  The main sermon points were:

When I live my life empowered by prayer…

  1. God becomes my anchor against the flow.
  2. I find peace in the turbulence.
  3. I find courage to go against the flow.

WOW!  I love and greatly appreciate it when God provides a smack upside my head.  I know that sounds strange, but you see, subtlety is lost on me.  I am fairly literal and so sometimes I need that extra push.  Standing in the water on Saturday and listening to those who had a wider perspective reminded me that I CAN turn to others for help when the current is raging….I can turn to God and I can turn to those who can see my situation more clearly than I can because I am too close, too scared, too mired in the details, trying too hard to make my way work.

Kayaking is like life…..it doesn’t always turn out the way you expect, it’s more fun when done in fellowship with others, and it can teach you a great deal about yourself and about life!

Where ever you are in your life right now, do you need to let go of the boat?

Monday HaHaHa: The Shed

Did you know that laughter is good for your health?  We’ve all heard that “laughter is the best medicine.”  It’s true.   According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, laugher can:

  • Enhance your intake of oxygen-rich air
  • Stimulate your heart, lungs and muscles
  • Increase the endorphins released by your brain
  • Activate and relieve your stress response
  • Sooth tension
  • Improve your immune system
  • Relieve pain
  • Increase personal satisfaction
  • Improve your mood

With that in mind, I must be one REALLY healthy gal!!! Why?  Because last night I had not only the Monday MmmMmmMmm, but I also had the Monday HaHaHa!

You see, Jeff and I were invited to attend a reunion of team members from the missions trip Jeff went on in May of 2012 to Biloxi, Mississippi.  I was not part of the team; however as a spouse of a team member I was honored to attend and to “eavesdrop” on the reminiscing!

Andy, one of the team members, and his wife, Maureen, hosted the group.  The reason for the get-together was the debut of the new food network show, The Shed.  The Shed is a BBQ and Blues joint in Ocean Springs, MS and was one of the stops on the missions team’s itinerary during their trip.  In honor of the debut, Andy and Maureen served some rockin’ Q with some sauces from Central PA and from The Shed.

In addition the beef brisket, pulled pork and ribs, they also served macaroni and cheese, chips and dip, and baked beans.  Being an “outsider,” I came with food in hand to earn my place – I made a new coleslaw recipe.

After a great prayer to kick off the evening, we dug into the food.  There’s something great about the atmosphere created when you serve BBQ and beer.  People seem to roll up their sleeves and automatically relax.  The group talked and laughed and ate and ate and ate.  Once you’ve bonded with folks on a missions trip, it seems you’re no longer self-conscious about eating heartily or shy about taking the last of anything!

Before the 10:00 PM kickoff of the shed, we watched the sneak preview aired by food network on Sunday.  Not only was it a great intro to the show, it was really neat for me to watch the group interact and remember the funky place they had been.  The team members recognized folks on the show, talked about what they ate when they visited The Shed, and laughed about the time they shared as though it was just yesterday.

After the sneak preview, there was still time before the kickoff show aired, so Andy broke out his journal from the trip.  Each team member (and even us non team members) who attended last night’s reunion was interested in hearing Andy’s recorded memories.  It was cool for me to learn that Andy is quite sentimental at heart.  He saved pamphlets and menus and other documents from the trip and carefully shared them with the group.  The following are scanned images of The Shed menu Andy saved:

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Of course, those who were not in attendance were remembered as well! Not only were they fondly remembered, but they were also lovingly teased as well – please remember, I wrote ‘LOVINGLY’!  They were not the only ones who were mocked for their eccentricities – those in attendance took their share of ribbing too!

At 10:00, when Andy tuned into the show, a hush fell over the crowd and all eyes were glued to the television set.  We watched the show and had a lot of laughs.  The Shed (the place) seems like a fun place to work and it seems like the family who runs it is living their passion.  The Shed (the show) on food network is kind of like Duck Dynasty, but with a loose focus on food.  I couldn’t help but think it would be great fun to assemble the group every Monday night to watch the show, but real life will prevent that from happening.

Jobs and kids and commitments will get in the way; but for one night the group got to reassemble and remember – and I was honored to have been a part of it. When Jeff returned home from his trip and told me what an amazing group of people he travelled with, I believed him but had no frame of reference.  Since the trip, I’ve gotten to know some of the team members better and had a little better understanding.  But last night, seeing them in action, I got a first-hand look at how well the team had bonded.

Take a look at some photos of the night:

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It’s interesting that I find myself writing about a place I’ve never visited and that makes food I’ve never tasted (well, that’s not EXACTLY true, I DO have a bottle of Shed Sauce in my fridge).  Typically I write reviews about places I HAVE eaten.

I cannot comment on the food, but I can tell you that the group shared a term with me that they coined at The Shed – ‘audible eating.’  Audible eating would probably give Emily Post nightmares if she were still among the living.  Audible eating comes from using no silverware and eating amazing food – it’s the sound of finger-licking and mmm’ing and slurping.  Perhaps it is the sound of utter culinary satisfaction!

And I can also tell you that the group I hung with last night included many “ShedHeds.”  In fact, this group and other groups from Daybreak Church who have been to The Shed have been known to mail-order Shed Sauce.  Fortunately, it’s now available in our area so that’s no longer necessary.

So I can tell you for certain that if I ever find myself in Ocean Springs, MS, I WILL visit The Shed.  And I can tell you for certain that having a Monday HaHaHa does for the soul what having a Monday MmmMmmMmm does for the stomach.  I hope you have a group of folks with whom you can simply laugh – those rich, deep belly-laughs that will improve your health!

Share a laugh with others…what’s your favorite joke?

Happy Birthday Beautiful Girl!

A very quick post to wish my niece, Ashley, a happy birthday and a wonderful year filled with more blessings than she can imagine!

Ash & ChoochI love you, Ash….you are so kind-hearted and strong and smart and beautiful.  You always make me laugh and I am sooooo proud to be your aunt!!!

Beautiful GirlI Hope You Dance!!!!!

You Can’t Win ‘Em All…..or Can You?

Over the weekend my dear friend Holly and I were texting back and forth about how much we miss seeing one another, so we decided to meet for lunch this week.  After a surprisingly short game of dueling datebooks, we landed on Thursday (today).

Since Jeff had invited me to try a new crepe restaurant in Harrisburg for lunch one day this week, I thought I’d combine both dates and hang out with both Jeff and Holly at lunchtime today.  I love it when a plan comes together!

Pointing to JeffWe decided to meet on the early side of the lunch “hour” and it’s a good thing we did.  Au Bon Lieu – on Third Street in Harrisburg – is tiny.  There are only 6 small tables inside and 2 even smaller tables outside.  Jeff and I arrived at about 11:50 and there were only two tables available.  We snagged the one in the window and waited while Holly found a parking place.

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Monday MmmMmmMmm

Is there a better way to spend a Monday night than with sharing some laughs and good conversation with friends over pizza, wings and beer?

A group of us got together at Al’s of Hampden on Valley Road in Enola last night to find out. Al’s Monday Special: 35 cent Wings (1 doz minimum) / 50% off ANY Pizza (4pm-10pm – Dine-In Only) just sweetened the deal!  We met at 6:00(ish) and were off and running (or should I say chewing).  Typically when we go to Al’s we spend a good 15 minutes engrossed in the “what should we order” conversation; but last night it seemed to go much more smoothly.  Of course, we ended up with about 5 numbers on our table and our food came in stages over about a 30 minute period.  The beautiful thing about this group is that once we said a blessing over the food, everyone who had food dug right in and those who didn’t have their food did the talking.  Emily Post may have been offended that we didn’t wait until everyone had their food to begin eating; but no one at our table seemed to mind!

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What I’ve Been Up To

You’ve probably noticed that in the last few weeks I have been posting less frequently than I typically do.  I’m working on establishing a new normal when it comes to my schedule because I’ve accepted a part time job.  You’ve read many mentions of the Kitchen Shoppe in previous posts and until two weeks ago my work there was on a volunteer basis.  But I am happy to report that they have offered me a position that fits with both my schedule and my passion!

I am working with a wonderful team of people.  They are happy doing what they’re doing, which is quite a change from my former job.  The people are warm and genuine and share my passion for cooking.  I am helping to prep food for classes and helping execute classes in whatever capacity is necessary – washing dishes, serving and clearing, assisting the chefs, etc.  The work is more physically demanding than my cushy desk job was and although I am tired at the end of the day, I feel a sense of accomplishment as I “review the game tape” on my drive home.  It is also helping me be better prepared for the classes I am teaching, which is an added bonus.

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Serving Together in Love

Panera Coffee and CookieIn a twist of scheduling fate, I have a few free hours this morning so I am sitting at Panera Bread enjoying a cup of coffee and an oatmeal raisin cookie and reflecting on my weekend.  Friday I taught a lunch and learn at the Kitchen Shoppe in Carlisle for a group of professional women – it was great fun. I taught the ladies how to make pasta by hand, then I did a demo of a quick cook tomato sauce, an Italian flag salad, and some chocolate ricotta mousse with red wine macerated raspberries and cinnamon whipped cream….mmm mmm mmm.  As much fun as Friday was, Saturday was truly a memorable day.

Any time you can show up at a friend’s house while they are still in their jammies and do something for them that makes their eyes well up with tears is a day well spent!  And that’s just the kind of day I, and a group of good friends, had on Saturday.

You probably know someone who would do anything for anybody just because they needed help, right?  Well I do.  His name is Ben.  He’s “the guy” that everyone knows.  You know what I mean….he’s the guy in the phrase, “I know a guy with a truck.” Or, “I know a guy who delivers tanbark.” Or, “I know a guy who will come to your house and plant a tree in the dark.”  He has an incredibly generous spirit and, fortunately, an understanding wife!

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A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with the First Step

As I revealed in an earlier post, I have begun a new journey.  On Sunday I taught my first cooking class at the Kitchen Shoppe & Cooking School in Carlisle, PA and I had a great time doing it!

First, let me say a HEARTY THANK YOU to the wonderful women at the Kitchen Shoppe.  They have encouraged and supported and guided me throughout the process and they celebrated with me before, during and after class on Sunday.  I consider myself seriously lucky to be a part of their team!  The photo below includes only a few of those women!!!

Ann Me Sue Barb Mo TiffanyAlso, thank you to my friends and family who have supported me as I’ve begun this journey, especially to my husband, Jeff.  And thank you to those friends who have come over to eat one or several iterations of the same meal!!!!  YOU ROCK!  It sounds like a good job, but not all iterations turn out as well as others!

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Lavender Steamer

Lately I’ve been trying to give up coffee…or at least to decrease the amount I drink.  It’s not so much the caffeine (although the older I get the more caffeine affects me in a negative way); but rather it’s that (as I have confessed previously) I use coffee as a cream and sugar delivery system!

So, what’s a girl who loves a warm beverage – especially late-afternoon – to do?  Well, a lavender steamer is one option.

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Investing in the Future

Over the years Jeff and I  have made our share of financial mistakes and learned our share of financial lessons.  To quote my friend Andy, for a while Jeff and I were a “financial train wreck.”  But in 2001 we decided to do something about it.  Since then we have paid off all our debt, except our mortgage, and have done what we can to help others either become debt free or start off on a firm financial footing in their marriages.  Neither of us has a formal education in finances; but earning a degree from the School of Hard Knocks sure teaches you A LOT!!!

Today we spent the day with two great couples who will be married in the next few months. We shared our story with them, looked at what the Bible says about handling finances, and hopefully taught them some practical tools for paying off debt and living debt-free.

We also ate well!  You know I love a good opportunity to cook for other people and today provided one!  So yesterday I spent the majority of the day shopping and preparing food.  I was in my element.

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Souper Bowl MMXIII

Souper Bowl MMXIIIJeff and I and a group of our friends have changed Super Bowl Sunday into Souper Bowl Saturday!  At least we did this past Saturday evening.  No players were injured and the lights didn’t go out, but there was some trash talk!

Veggie & Ricotta Frittata

On this dreary, gray, drizzly morning (almost afternoon), I am reflecting on our competition over a wonderful veggie and ricotta frittata.  Just thinking about all the soups is making me feeI a little warmer.  But I am longing for another cup of coffee, so hang on a moment please…….

OK, I’m back and caffeine is once again flowing through my system. Ahhhhhh!

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A Peek at Pasta

Ravioli with Brown Butter and SageThe week that straddled February and March brought with it more pasta making than I’ve done in the last year.  And I am somewhat ashamed.  You see, my grandmother made pasta quite frequently – to her it was not an occasion, but rather a chore that happened along with many others on any given day.

And between the demonization of carbohydrates and gluten and the availability of good, imported pastas, I’ve either shied away from eating pasta for fear of being shunned or I’ve used dried pasta when I do make it.

But I’m getting back to my roots – and of course putting my twist on things.

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Chocolate Covered February

Last Saturday I spent part of the day at the Hotel Hershey with some fellow bloggers at one the MANY Chocolate Covered February events being offered in Hershey.  We met in the lobby and then wended our way through the hotel to one of the ballrooms for a cooking demonstration by Chef Garde Manger, Mario Oliverio.

Chefe Garde Manger Mario Oliverio

Chef Mario demonstrated several components for the group, including:

  • Chocolate Pecans
  • Dried Cherry & Chive Vinaigrette
  • Salad of Frisee and Arugula with Apple, Dried Cherry & Chive Vinaigrette, and Chocolate Pecans
  • Cocoa Spiced Braised Lamb with Pickled Red Onion on Fried Wonton

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A Crackerjack Event

Last week was so much fun….I spent the majority of it preparing for a party I catered for our friends Lowell and Nancy on Saturday evening. They were welcoming some friends from our church into their neighborhood.  Lowell and Nancy are such gracious hosts and some of the most generous people I have ever met – they’re quite inspiring.  So it was my pleasure to cater the party.

We met a few weeks ago to talk about the menu, decor, buffet placement, etc. I then worked out a menu, which Nancy and I tweaked along the way, and last Tuesday I did all the grocery shopping I could do in advance.  On Wednesday food prep began and by Saturday afternoon, Jeff was helping me unload the car at Lowell and Nancy’s beautiful home.  Their house overlooks a lake, which made working in their kitchen a pleasure. The view from the window over the sink is spectacular!

Between 2:30 and 4:00 I got the bar, the dessert table and the appetizer buffet set and then at 4:00 I began putting the finishing touches on the food.

Nancy and Lowell chose a nautical theme and I had great fun coming up with ideas for the bar and buffets. Jeff agreed to tend bar, so I wanted him to have a nice space to work.  I created the bar using a 4 foot table; two vases with sand, rope and shells; a piece of reclaimed wood; and some other decorations including a string of battery-operated lights.  Everyone at the party commented on the bar.

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