Think Spring….Rolls

The day after an epic fail by weather forecasters is a great day to talk spring….spring rolls that is!

On Monday night our friends Ben and Christa invited us to their house for dinner. Since I had spent all day Sunday and Monday, and would be spending all day Tuesday, at the 2013 Home Builders Show helping Ben in his booth, I didn’t have much time to cook.  AND especially because we always have a great time when we get together with Ben and Christa, we replied with a resounding, ‘yes!’

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Marriage is Not a 50/50 Proposition – Neither is Brunch!

Breakfast 022013

This morning as I was eating my yummy breakfast parfait, I was mulling over the idea of gratitude and all the things for which I am grateful.  I wish I could say I start every day that way, but if I told you I do it would be a lie.  Not that I am not grateful every day, but most mornings begin with me in a somewhat grumpy mood – especially if you catch me before coffee. I am not a “morning person.”

One of the things that came first to mind this morning when I was thinking about gratitude was that Jeff made breakfast (actually it was more like brunch) for me on Sunday morning. And this act of kindness was completely unexpected!

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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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Eating My Words….After Eating Some Seriously Amazing Food

Sometimes the most unappetizing thing to eat is your own words!  Especially when you are not shy to share your opinions – like me.  So today, instead of breakfast, I AM eating my own words…fortunately I have a nice cup of coffee to wash them down – thanks, honey!

For quite a while I have been saying that I don’t believe we have any REALLY good restaurants in Central, PA.  That is not to say that there never have been…..some of you may remember The Empire in Carlisle or Brian Kent’s in Hershey….and it is also not to say that there aren’t current restaurants where you can get a good dish (dare I say even a great one), or good service, or nice atmosphere.  The problem I find is that these things rarely come all at the same time in Central PA.

So when I am asked about my favorite restaurant or where I like to eat, I usually preface my answer with something like, “If you don’t mind traveling…..”.  Or, my answer is that I prefer to cook at home.

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Rosemary Olive Oil Cake

The Finished Product w BrushstrokeJeff and I are having some friends over for dinner this evening.  It will be a very casual dinner as I try out some recipes for one of the cooking classes I’ll be teaching at the Kitchen Shoppe in the spring.

I am excited for this new journey and have been learning so much along the way.  Each iteration of a recipe teaches me about the effects of all kinds of things – a change in spices, different cooking times, higher or lower temperatures, fresher ingredients – on the end result.  It has been a fun process and I am thankful for the support of my family and friends – those people who are willing to eat not only the successes, but the failures as well!!!

For dessert tonight, we’ll be having Rosemary Olive Oil Cake.  Some people find the idea of baking with olive oil quite strange; frankly I feel sorry for those folks because they are missing out on some amazing moisture and flavor!

I thought I’d show you the process of making this cake.

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Food Journal

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

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

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

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I Get By With a Little Help from My Friends…..

…..and family!

Good Friday Morning (possibly afternoon by the time this finally gets published)! The sky is blue, the clouds are puffy and I’m feeling good! On Wednesday I had outpatient surgery and I cannot tell you how completely blessed I feel by the people who offered prayers and support – both emotional and physical.

The surgery I had is fairly routine and aside from what is probably typical apprehension about any surgery, I was not particularly worried.  Even so, it was so comforting to know that there were so many friends and family members praying for me and Jeff.  The phone calls and text messages and email messages you sent (and continue to send) were (are) greatly appreciated.  A kind word from a friend or just knowing that someone is thinking of you goes a long, long way!

We appreciate all the offers we had for meals – more than we could possibly have ever accepted!  How fortunate we are to know so many generous, thoughtful people.  The two meals we received – from my mom & dad and from our friends Alicia & Jason – will last us a long while, as it’s just the two of us most nights! And not only were the meals abundant, they were both downright comforting!

Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes

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Busy Day and Great News

I am catering a party for some friends on Saturday night and have been working on shopping, food prep, tablescape (you know how this word makes me nervous), etc.  And I’ve had some great help!

I finished all the grocery shopping I could do in advance on Tuesday.  And if you’ve been reading you know I set up a schedule for myself working backwards from Saturday.  I am happy to say we (my mom and I – she is fantastic help with catering jobs) are ahead of schedule – but I try not to jinx myself with that kind of thinking!

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Di Bruno Brothers in Camp Hill

I am so happy I could turn cartwheels!  Today is a day for celebration if you are a foodie in Central PA!  I was in the Camp Hill location of Giant today and I witnessed for myself what I had heard to be true – Di Bruno Brothers, the best cheese shop and specialty foods market I have ever shopped (and which I have previously posted about), is opening a location inside the Camp Hill Giant.  And that’s not all….

As I was doing my shopping, I looked toward the back to see two guys setting up the new Di Bruno Brothers section and I saw a familiar face.  Jeff and I go to Philly a good bit and nearly every time we do we visit the Di Brunos location in the Italian Market.  We always hope to be waited on by Hunter. Although all the staff are knowledgable and friendly, Hunter is our favorite.  Over the years he has steered us to try many wonderful offerings.

I got to chatting with Hunter and his co-worker, Scott, and found out that Hunter will be working in the Camp Hill location four days a week.  Trust me, this is big news.  If you want to talk to someone who knows cheese, Hunter is your man.

The grand opening is on Thursday….guess where I will be!

Be It Ever So Humble…..

We just returned from a fantastic weekend with friends in Newport, Rhode Island.  If you’ve been following, you have read of our adventures and have seen some pics of great food.  The food yesterday was no exception!

We began our day later than usual and with a continental breakfast at the hotel (this was not the good food part, but it wasn’t bad); but once we got in full swing, there was no stopping us!  We left the hotel, bundled up and began the Cliff Walk.  The weather was perfect.  The skies were bright blue and although it was a little windy, the temperature was in the 40’s which made for a great walk!

Cliff View

We meandered from Memorial Avenue to The Breakers and back.  Unfortunately, the entire Cliff Walk isn’t open due to some storm damage from Sandy.  We missed what we affectionately refer to as Rice Krispie Beach and we missed our favorite part – walking over the boulders that make up the far end of the “trail.”  We heard from a shop owner (but did not confirm) that it will take approximately $8 million to make the necessary repairs.

Pesce

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S.A.T.U.R.D.A.Y. Night

Yesterday was a wonderful day. To recap, we found a new spot for breakfast because our favorite spot, The Franklin Spa, is closed until February 1st.  The original plan was to do the Cliff Walk yesterday; however it was very cold and windy. So we put it off. Instead we walked around town and shopped and had some drinks and shopped and had some drinks.

We got hungry around 2:30, but didn’t want to eat too much because we were going to see some friends from church who moved to Newport last year and we were having dinner with them.  So we decided on bloody Marys and soup at the Brick Alley Pub in downtown Newport.

The wait was long, but that did not deter us.  We ordered 6 bloody Marys and settled in for our 45 minute wait. Fortunately, a bar table became available and we decided to have our soup shoulder to shoulder.  While we waited we looked at all the interesting things on the walls and, of course, talked and laughed and laughed and talked.

My Kind of Six Pack

My Kind of Six Pack

Words to Live By

Words to Live By (see center)

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Good? Morning…..Yes Indeed

The morning got off to a rocky start. We were all a little sluggish and then when we finally got moving and walked in the ccc-cold to our favorite breakfast spot, we were greeted by a sign that read, “Gone Fishing.  See you on February 1st.” Ohhhhhhh noooooooooooooooo!$*&!

Dejected, we walked back to our “hotel” to regroup.  Never fear, Jeff is here!  He not only has a list of back-up restaurants, he also will talk to anyone and has no qualms about asking a bazillion questions.  I love that about him.  He used this superpower to get a recommendation for an alternate breakfast spot – the Corner Cafe.

With much trepidation, we got in the car and headed to this new restaurant.  Fortunately we were not even a little disappointed! Our first decision was juice.  They had amazing combinations.  Jenny and I shared a Vitamin C Booster and it was d-lish! It was made from orange, cranberry, red raspberry and grape juices. Mmm mmm mmm!

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Salvation

I’m not sure if our souls were saved from sin or if we were led to sin; but dinner tonight at The Salvation Cafe was heavenly!

It’s not that rare to go to a restaurant and have one really good dish on the table. However in my experience it is exceedingly rare to have every dish at the table be exceptional, but that is exactly what the chef at The Salvation Cafe was able to produce this evening.

We ordered a pitcher of red sangria and three amazing appetizers to share:

  • Mussels in green curry coconut sauce with Thai basil.
  • Crispy Calamari with sweet and spicy vinaigrette and wasabi cream.
  • Quattro Formaggi with whole grain crostini.

Mussells CalamariQuattro Formaggi Appetizer

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Generations

I received a text message from my younger niece, Ashley, last night.  It read, “hey!  wanted to tell you I just made my first banana bread! but I used oatmeal flour and added white chocolate chips! :)”

I am happy as a clam (funny phrase, isn’t it) that Ashley texted me her news.  Having no children of my own, I am immensely grateful for my relationship with my nieces and nephews.  They are my link to the next generation and generations to come.  They keep me as hip as I possibly can be and they are the reason I keep up with technology!  Texting has kept me in contact with my nieces throughout their college careers and I can glimpse into their lives and the life of my older nephew on Facebook (no, I don’t consider it stalking)!

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Hope & Soap

Saturday night was full of fun and laughter.  We spent it with 3 couples from church enjoying a meal, playing games and competing in a cookie bake-off.  Don and Rena invited everyone over for the evening and came up with the idea of the cookie bake-off.  Don and Rena provided the main course, each couple contributed a side dish and each person brought a batch of home-made cookies.

Jeff and I plotted and planned throughout the week and didn’t tell each other until Saturday morning what kind of cookies we each were baking.  I decided on Lavender Shortbread Hearts with Lemon Filling and Jeff made Triple Chocolate Pistachio.  We engaged in the kitchen ballet while making our cookies and trying to stay out of one another’s way.

After arriving at Don and Rena’s house, we ate dinner and talked.  Somehow the subject “To Which Click Did You Belong in High School” came up.  We had fun telling stories about our younger selves and learning more than a little about one another!

After dinner Don explained the judging.  Continue reading

Market Value

Another successful day of farmers marketing yesterday.  Mimi (my mom) and I departed her house at approximately 9:00 am (only an hour later than our designated departure time, which for us is not bad at all) and hopped on the PA Turnpike for an hour-ish ride to Reading.  Our destination – The Fairgrounds Farmers Market.

I did a little research (no, I did not simply throw a dart at the map) early in the week about PA farmers markets and the Fairgrounds Market sounded interesting.  Someone commented on yelp that it is, “not the prettiest or the most eclectic, but for quality of food, it’s the best.”  That review had me expecting a dumpy place – and while it certainly wasn’t as aesthetically pleasing as Lancaster’s Central Market or the Ardmore Farmers Market, it was decent-looking.  It seemed clean and was well laid out with wide aisles and good lighting.

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The Best of Bread!

A 70’s rock band, a colloquialism for money, or a sandwich platform – any way you slice it, it’s delicious!

And it turns out bread is also a great vehicle for getting to know people better! Friday Jeff and I had the pleasure of spending the day at the beautiful home of a great couple – Darrell and Donna – that we know from church.  They invited us to their home to learn Darrell’s techniques for no-knead bread making after hearing me bemoan the fact that I don’t have the best luck baking bread.

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It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas – Friday

Ooohhhhh, what a fun and productive day we had yesterday!

My friend Holly, who has a Costco membership, was gracious enough to accompany me and my Mom, Mimi, there so that we could buy some things for our Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve.

The day began at my house at 9:00 am……my mom met me there for a quick bowl of savory oatmeal and a cup-a-joe.  Next we met Holly at her house at 10:00 and the day was officially under way.

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It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas – Thursday

My lunch with Ashley (my beautiful niece) and Mimi (my mom) got off to a slow start……I was at the appointed meeting place – Pizza Grill – at 11:30 a.m..  At 11:56 I texted to Jeff the following, “I should have known better than to make Ashley and Mimi responsible for getting one another here. What was I thinking? It’s like the blOnd leading the blind!”  LOL!!!!

When they finally arrived, we had a good laugh about our less-than-smooth execution of a plan!  And then we had a great lunch!  We ordered a sun-dried Tomato and Feta Salad, a Crab Pizza on whole wheat, and a cup of Seafood Soup.  Everyone was sooooo hungry, but once we ate we were all quite satisfied with our choices and were fortified for an afternoon of cookie baking.

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Jingle Bells

Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh, what fun it is to ride in….the backseat of a Honda Pilot holding a mug of hot chocolate in your hand, laughing with friends, and peeping at Christmas lights!

Jeff and I had such a fun night with our friends Mark and Lu and their kids last night.  We were invited to their house for a casual dinner before our First Annual Christmas Light Ride.  Lu made three (yes, an overachiever if ever there was one and more energy than anyone I know) kinds of soup and had fixings for sandwiches.  The soups were D’licious!  She made a chick pea soup that you top to taste with fresh cilantro, a warm baked potato and bacon soup that you top to taste with shredded cheese, and a spicy lamb and veggie soup.  All were incredibly warming and homey.  And the sandwich fixings were definitely not your ordinary deli.  There were several kinds of bread including jalapeno cheese bread (mmm mmm mmm), different meats and cheeses, a bevy of condiments and toppings.  What a terrific meal.

And since Jeff and I don’t have kids of our own, it is a nice change of pace to have dinner in a house full of activity and some great sarcastic humor.  It was the funny banter between siblings that you just can’t get anywhere else sprinkled with movie quotes and an obvious love for one another!!!

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