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?

 

Take the Long Way Home

Yesterday, after an appointment with my orthopedic doc, I decided to take the long way home.  On my way to the doctor’s office, I took the most expedient route – the one that would get me to my appointment on time.  And I’m glad I did.  But I had nowhere to be until the evening so I meandered home.

My route took me not on the highway, which was my route TO my appointment; but rather it took me through small towns and through the countryside.  What a nice trip it was!

We (me included) are often in such a hurry to get everywhere we are going because our lives are overfilled and overscheduled and overeverything’d.  And in our frantic rush to get places we miss a lot. We don’t stop to look at the sights. And we often don’t leave enough margin to be kind.  We’re frequently in such a hurry that we can’t even take the time to let someone in front of us at a stoplight – at least I am usually in that much of a hurry.

But yesterday it was different.

Not only did I enjoy my ride home, but I also drove past a small-town post office and was able to buy the stamps that have been on my list!  I can’t tell you the last time I went into the post office.  It’s been months, perhaps near a year.  And let me tell you, it was fun to go into the small town post office that I chose.  The woman behind the counter was pleasant – yes, you heard me pleasant.  And she had clearly worked there for a long time because she was able to address the majority of customers by name.

Pondering my trip home yesterday, I realize I took the road less traveled, at least less traveled by me.  And it reminded me of Robert Frost poem The Road Not Taken.

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no steps had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence;

Two roads diverged in a wood; and I –

I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference.

 

Now, my roads yesterday did not diverge in a yellow wood.  They diverged in the bustling Millersville area – near 283 and 741.  But it doesn’t really matter where your roads diverge.

My roads diverged over two years ago – looking back nearly between sanity and insanity – with respect to work and my life’s calling and passion and direction.  I had to choose between following what “society” told me was the right choice and following God’s direction.

I am glad to say I took the one less travelled by….It HAS made all the difference.

The Evolution of MEmmMmmMmm: A Soliloquy

For the last month(ish) I’ve been reluctant to write….not because there is something to hide or nothing to share, not because I’ve lost my passion for writing or cooking, eating, or entertaining, not because, WELL, not because a lot of things.  But I couldn’t really put my finger on the because.  And this morning it hit me…..I’ve been censoring myself.  I haven’t been holding back on what I’ve shared or been less-than-honest in my opinions, but by sharing only “my journey through life with a passion for cooking, eating and entertaining,” I’ve only shared a small part of who I am.  I am passionate about much more than cooking, eating and entertaining; but I heeded the advice of blogging experts about having a narrow focus for your blog, when my instinct was to share much more.  Today I realized, it’s my blog (I know, some of you are probably thinking, ‘duh!’)!

So in the coming year, I am going to focus on much more than just food – for some of you, that alone may be reason to stop reading.  I will miss you.  For others, it will be a reason to read more, to comment and participate, to offer suggestions! For you, I will do my best.

Throughout my life I have been blessed with the opportunity to try many different things.  I’ve had a lot of jobs over the years – some full-time and some part-time, some I’ve loved and some I’ve hated, some for a LLLOOONNNGGG stretch and others for just a season.  But I have learned so much as a result of all of the jobs I’ve done and I hope that as I journey through my life I take the best of what I’ve learned along the way and continue to apply it.

When I think back over all those jobs I realize that my experience is a unique one…as is yours and each other person’s.  And when I think about how blessed I am to come into contact with so many people, whether virtually or face-to-face, I am grateful for the unique perspectives each person brings and for all I can learn from each of them.  And I am hopeful that I have something to offer in return – whether a monumental thing to share or a little nugget.

I am grateful too that I have TRIED over the years not to define myself by what I do. Sometimes I have been better at it than others.  I know there are people out there who feel so strongly tied to what they do that they can declare “I AM A ________,” and know that they are.  They are that one thing, whether they are at work or not. I admire those people, but I have never felt that strongly that I WAS what I was doing. Oh, and ugh, if I’m being honest I have to say that sometimes I have gotten caught up in the “you are what you make” mentality and have wrongly judged my value or worth by the amount of my paycheck.  But now, for the first time, I feel like I am in my “sweet spot.”  That I am doing what I was made to do. And it IS really sweet.

And if you ask me what I do, it’s hard to answer because I am doing many different things.  And maybe, for me, that was the point all along.  Maybe I wasn’t built to be just ONE thing.  Maybe I was meant to find a place where I could bring all my passions together and do a little of each.  Perhaps, my life was meant to be a recipe.  A cup of this, a teaspoon of that, 2 ounces here, a pinch there.  I hope those of you who don’t fit into the mold of “find something you want to do for the rest of your life and do it” will find comfort in this notion.  That you can find an opportunity that allows you to use the creative and the analytical in you.  That you can work on the web one day and make canapés for 40 the next!

So now, rather than being reluctant to write, I am excited.  And although I am busier now than when I began the blog, I’m looking forward to carving out time to share.  I will still focus on “my journey through life with a passion for cooking, eating and entertaining!”  But I will also pepper the blog with posts about “my journey through life with a passion for God, reading, friendship, serving, kayaking, self-improvement, music, laughter, generosity, beauty, nature, art, golddogs, homekeeping (not housekeeping!), photography, crime dramas, writing, cooking shows, travelling, singing loudly & off-key, and anything else that comes to mind.”  That tag line is too long, no?

In the coming months, you will see some changes to the layout of the blog and you can expect me to share about “Enjoying life…one bite at a time!”

Fasting

Ok…so I haven’t written a post for a while.  Why, you ask?  Because I’ve been fasting.  Not in the food sense – although I could certainly stand to do that for a while too – but in the technology sense.  Yes….I do realize that writing about technology fasting is like blogging suicide, but I think it’s important for us all to put down the iStuff and step away from the computer from time to time.

My fast began unintentionally on a trip to the beach with some girlfriends.  We went to Rehoboth and the place we stayed – although it was beautiful and quite well equipped – didn’t have wifi.   At first it seemed like a drag….how would I, possibly the last remaining person without an iPhone – post or instagram about what we were doing?  How would I keep up with what everyone else was doing without Facebook?  But, as the weekend progressed, I became more relaxed about my “connectedness” as I became more connected with my girlfriends!  Funny how that happens…..

When I got home, the first thing I did was reach for a device that would connect me to the internet. That’s when I realized I NEEDED to take some time away.  I have a loving husband and two cute dogs and I was concerned more with connecting with people who weren’t right in front of me.  Ugh…….and so the fast began!

I KNOW I am not alone in this need.  I often sit in the same room and at the same table with people who absolutely cannot function without checking their phones for v-mail and e-mail and text messages.  I have frustratingly sat through lunch looking only at the top of the head of my lunch companion while he/she looked at the phone.  Now I understand that there are people who NEED to be constantly connected.  Those that are saving lives, for example.  But I have a news flash for 90% of you – you are not among those who need to be constantly connected!  This may hurt some people’s’ feelings and I am only a little bit sorry for that, but I find it rude when I have taken the time to actually BE WITH you and you are more engaged with your phone than you are with me!

This frustration makes me awful at returning calls in what most people now deem an appropriate amount of time – i.e., 10 seconds or less! But those of you who know me and love me know that I’ll eventually get back to you and that I mean no disrespect by not being at your beck and call.  It’s just that unless I am expecting an urgent call (and let’s be honest, most of my calls are not urgent), I try my best to focus on those I am with.  Am I perfect at it?  No.  I get distracted.

The fast has been sporadic in that I am checking email once a day so that I’m not completely overwhelmed.  This is another pet peeve of mine – checking your inbox to find that you have 200+ emails and you’ve only been away from your computer for like 17 minutes!  Where do all these stupid emails come from?  I will be unsubscribing from a lot of things when I finally do get back to technology.  The amount of junk I get in my email inbox is crazy!  If I could completely unplug from email, I would….of course, then I’d have to answer my phone.  It’s a catch-22!

I mean, as I’m writing this post I am catching up with an old friend via text message, and that’s a great thing!  And I’m a blogger, so I love the internet for many reasons.  And I think it’s great when I can use my down time to make calls even if I’m not at home.  There are definitely advantages to technology.  And overall they probably outweigh the drawbacks, but I think we need to re-examine etiquette when it comes to technology!!!

True story – I once stood in line at The Gap waiting to pay for something and listened (not willingly) to the woman in front of me talk on her cell phone about her sex life.  I’m not entirely sure the person she was talking to wanted to hear about it, but I am CERTAIN that I did not.  Seriously, the only time you can talk about personal issues is in line at The Gap?  If that’s true then you are entirely too busy and you need to cut some things out of your life – hmmmmmmmm, how about technology?

Sorry for the rant….I didn’t start out to vent, but sometimes you just have to let it out!!!!!

What are your thoughts on technology and etiquette? Am I a dinosaur? What are your thoughts on technology fasts?  Could you do it?  If you already have, tell me about how it went for you!!!!!