How to Host a Simple Family Dinner.

Cross your fingers for a sunshiney afternoon.

Arrange a bouquet of fresh cut flowers in bright colors.

Cook a stick to their bones kind of meal.

(pasta bolognese, a fresh green salad, hot oven baked rolls with butter)

Serve that dessert they never get sick of.

Easter was such a treat this year. It was simple, but indulgent, with weather to compliment the mood. I was so happy to have found endless bouquets of ranunculus when I went to the market to buy flowers on Friday. They are my absolute favorites this time of season, and a great accessory to any table with their deep variety of colors. In an attempt to take the guessing out of the meal, we went with the family favorite. Like I said, want to host a seamless feast, just go with the favorites… sometimes simple is the best policy.

Just of a few of my favorite instagrammys from the day.. @thefreshissue

xoxo

Crumbs & Leftovers.

You can always count on the memories to hang behind while all the other cookie crumbs and crumpled up wrapping paper scamper into the trash.

There is very little like the days after Christmas. Weird feeling right? The tree still twinkles and there could be a few gifts left wrapped up – stragglers for the friends and family you haven’t seen quite yet. But, even as you relax and try to work off (or continue to feed) the food baby, that sad, empty, Christmas is over feeling is still hanging around.

But that’s what the memories are for.

This year, I cooked Christmas Eve dinner for the family. I decided to make everything, from bread to dessert from scratch. That up there? The makings of homemade olive bread. My pregnant lady cravings for olives are definitely to blame for that. 

Two kinds of lasagna. Some steamed vegg. My crispy fried calamari. A fresh arugula and greens salad with beets & pine nuts….. And really bad lighting too… all made their way to the table. 

And what is Christmas eve without Santa’s cookies?

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Where do you feel thankful?

Given the choice between keeping or breaking a tradition – I always stick with keeping it.

Except for one of the most insane Thanksgiving meals I’ve ever had at The Breakers in Palm Beach… like insane, like I had sushi and mashed potatoes on the same plate, and we walked away with freshly baked pumpkin pies to take home …. Thanksgiving is always a comfy cozy home thing.

In the post-divorce era, aka like 6 years ago, Dad and I decided we would create a Thanksgiving our way.

Dad is the savory, I am the sweet, and two years ago, a few days before Turkey day – this guy became chaperone of the whole operation.

Sleeping on the job, as usual.

There are lists and notecards and calendars for preparation all filed away in a little manila folder.

Quite a collection after all these years – but so necessary when it comes to seamless execution. Each day has it’s duties.

At the beginning of last week we ordered almost 45 pounds of Turkeys at the Farmer’s Market. I baked up 8 trays of cornbread, to be dried for stuffing. There was some serious produce shopping – but only for certain goods – potatoes, yams, sage, onions, leeks, peppers, lemons, chestnuts. A big Costco trip. And of course, some baking pantry restocking for me.

Today – 5 days prior to the big 30 person shindig – we prep all of the little things – this an onion and leek casserole.

The homemade apple pear sauce is in the freezer.

4 bowls of Dad’s cranberry and mission fig sauce is chillin.

Along with the vacuum packed sleeves of chestnuts – 15 pounds – which dad cooked and shelled already.

There is also no time to waste getting together what I need to decorate the house and the tables. Ash and I went for a long walk today collect a bunch of my favorite season’s most beautiful attributes. 

.. all of which required some serious bathing when we returned home. ew, bugs.

We also stopped at one of the most beautiful hidden little places. 

The sound of the water gurgling was like an instant chill-pill. 

If you want to check out more of the vision I am going for with this year’s family tradition – check out my Thanksgiving PinBoard

There’s a lot of this (Elle Decor). 

And THIS (Design Sponge).

I also just ordered a big roll of this off of Amazon this morning – to arrive, fingys crossed by Wednesday. 

Wait till you see what it will be used for. 

Eeee. 

Do you have family traditions for Thanksgiving that you love as much as I do? share share. favorite recipes? favorite dishes? 

Homemade Goldfish & Cheez It Crackers.

I attribute my undying love for goldfish to the amount of babysitting I have done in my life. Do you know many times my hands have dug into the same aluminum lined paper bags that tiny germy drooly little hands just found their way out of? Zillions. All I need is a handful and that serves as my fix for the day. There has never been a time, not a diet I have been on, not a promise I could ever make to myself to stay away from them, that has ever kept me from having my handful when the opportunity is made available. In college, when I was feeling naughty, they were the first thing I picked up late night from the convenience store. Most recently, at one of my dreaded stops into Walmart to get a few boxes of too wonderfully priced to say no to Softasilk flour, I picked up the little mini milk carton of the fishies staring at me in the check aisle and treated myself to an afternoon snack that smiles back …. although my smile was totally bigger that day.

I guess you could call it a problem, but I call it a love affair. So when I saw the recipe for Whole Wheat Goldfish crackers on Smitten Kitchen’s website that day in March, I knew I had found my new best friend.

Her recipe calls for whole wheat flour….I couldn’t see myself taking that short cut. If I’m going to do it, I am going to do it right. That’s my motto in life. I also did a careful study of said paper and aluminum bags and tried to figure out what the seasoning was that would make my attempt at these fish even more exact.

Can you keep a secret better than the little ones in my life? Smitten Kitchen missed out on a bit of important flavor.

Dry Cultured Buttermilk… You can find it here, or at your local Whole Foods or Supermarket baking aisle.

Click to Print!

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Apple Slice Sandwiches.

Happy Sunday to my readers! East Coasters … How gorgeous has this fall weekend been? I have been doing a lot of work around the apartment, switching my wardrobe’s seasons, etc with all of our windows wide open. Picture perfect weather. The neighbors have wind chimes, and this weekend they have been making the most beautiful music. Couldn’t ask for a better smile maker!

So I think in all my chit chat about how much I love Fall I have neglected one of my absolute favorite excitements of the season. APPLES. I know we can get them all year round, but it’s just not the same. Those meeealllyy soft summer apples, blehhck! In the Fall, it is perfectly normal for me to enjoy at least an apple a day. I bring them with me on my afternoon errands, or sometimes I will start the day with one sprinkled with cinnamon. And for Thanksgiving, an extravaganza in my home worthy of Bon Appetit coverage, I adore making my favorite Apple Pie. And Dad, he makes homemade apple pear sauce (oh em gee).

And then there is my mama who introduced me to a new way to enjoy apples last weekend. Only my mother would come up with this kind of Apple creation. Her creativity in the kitchen is something I hope I grow to have. ….Introducing Apple Slice Sandwiches. My new go-to apple and ____ (fill in the blank) butter combo. Whether it’s peanut butter, sunflower butter, almond butter, these are fun snacks you can take on the go or enjoy for a snack or dessert. 

You need a sharp knife or a mandoline to make sure that you can cut your apples into thin enough slices. This is my new little guy, Michael Graves at Target. I love it, very versatile and has all the blades you need.

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How To: The Despicable Me Minions.

So, my life feels like a never ending to do list. Every day … non stop. It is all wonderful fun and fabulous things (with an occasional faux mental breakdown here and there) but it’s A LOT. I know there are days when we all feel this way, but for me personally, there is nothing I love more than peacefully spending the day working on something in the kitchen.

Last weekend, it was these little dudes.

Despicable Me Minion cookies to take over to the little munchkins that I babysit for. They are obsessed with the movie, like most little ones their age (1, 3, 6) …. and then there is me, obsessed – at clearly a much less acceptable age.

Let me first thank my amazing inspiration for this idea, Jacquie from Sweet Jac and Lill. When I saw the photos of the ones she had made, I knew it wouldn’t be very long until I had made them too.

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Wrap your arms around yourself!

Does anyone know the secret to being able to live by the phrase, “all things in moderation”?

As I write this post tonight, I do it with that icky feeling in my stomach caused today by a combination of  many things. For one I did not consume any actual meal to speak of. I spent the day in the bakery deal with a mass of issues causing me to run around like the world was ending and any food I saw had to be eaten. And oh, let’s not forget the out of whack hormones, ridiculous lack of sleep, unquenchable food cravings….. all translated into, bad.long.day.

If I hadn’t been so helplessly exhausted I would have cooked a healthy dinner tonight.

Something quick and easy like a lettuce wrap is always an awesome option for anyone that feels my pain after a day like this. You can get protein from your meat/beans/nuts, veggies from the obvious, and a little carbs from rice noodles. Wrap up one, two, or three in a head of iceberg and what you have is a cheap dinner that leaves you full and satiated.

 … You give your veggies a hug in their wrap, and your body gets one too! (I couldn’t resist the imagery… sorry 🙂 )

This week I kept the wraps completely vegetarian. 

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When in life you achieve a goal, you celebrate with pasta.

Yesterday was cause to finally cook the pasta I splurged on last month while perusing the aisles of DiBruno Brothers. I never buy speciality pasta for that exact reason… there always has to be some sort of occasion or reason to let these handcrafted, fancifully packaged pastas see their best friend, boiling water. You spend an arm and a leg on some varieties and then they just sit there, like the prince of the pasta shelf waiting for the perfect moment to shine. Well, my Farro Fettucine finally had its 15 minutes of fame as yesterday I really had something to celebrate.
Recently I have fallen in love with the spin bike, something you would not have caught me saying a year ago. It intimated me, it hurt my booty, and truthfully, I was always convinced I was going about it incorrectly. As with everything else in my life, practice makes perfect, and yesterday I finally accomplished the goal I set for myself …. 26.2 miles in under 60 minutes.

My legs were like a blur in the reflection from the window next to me and once I knew I had the finish line in sight, it was one of the best feelings in the world. A marathon plus close to 300 flights of stairs, I clearly earned my R&R for the rest of the night, and for some reason I was also craving a giant bowl of good job pasta.

Passed Down: 5 Great Kitchen Tips from the Old World.

We are a people that is constantly editing. We cut and paste, we drag and drop, and we delete and save. If something is bad, there are multiple forums to hem and haw about it. If something is great, word of mouth could be enough to make it extraordinary. If we want to forget something, that is easier said than done, but it is done, every day.

But what about how we save something. We write it down, sure, but we also enlist the beauty and power of practice.

The most worthy traditions of the past are saved through action. Each day I spend in the kitchen I act out so many wonderful and incredibly useful pieces of advice that my Great Aunt Tita brought with her from the Middle East to America, from her childhood, relatives, and housekeepers and from their families and and their youth. For this, I will forever be a better cook, and I will always have a connection to my family and where I came from. Share in them with me… and continue the action of saving something precious.

5 Old World Tips for a New World Kitchen

  1. To remedy a burn on your finger …. as soon as you feel it happen …. quickly put the burn area right onto one of your ear lobes and the stinging will vanish!
  2. To prevent yourself from crying when you chop your onions ….. make sure that the sun is behind your back as you chop! No tears.
  3. To save an accidently burned pot or pan …. fill the damaged dish full with water mixed with baking soda and allow it to simmer on a low fire. The pot will slowly be saved!
  4. To remove the smell of onion and garlic from your finger tips …. after the prep is done, rub your fingers on a metal spoon. No more reminders of the day’s meal left behind on your hands.
  5. To keep your dishes hygienic …. Never clean a dish that had raw meat, fish, or eggs with hot water … always rinse them first with cold water to remove the residue, otherwise it will cook the ingredients on to the dish.. leaving germs and smells.

 

Have other great kitchen tips from your family that you want to add? Comment and let me know! or tweet me @gradtogourmet

 

The Proof is in the Pie.

Considering that the food world has become inundated with blogs, a lot of time is spent trying to discern the loveable from the not so subscribable.

There are a variety of great ways to prove how legit a blogger is…. from gauging the amount of comments that you find on a post, prevalence of advertisements, engaging visual set up, or evidence of published cookbooks. Opportunities for bloggers to look impressive to an audience are seemingly limitless. There is no doubt though, that out of all of those options, a blog must be visually appealing. A person only gives a site, or a face, or a post a matter of seconds, so if you don’t catch an eye, or if it is impossible to navigate through content, chances are viewers won’t return.

And even if you pass the first impression test, you aren’t necessarily in the clear…What can end a relationship with a favorite foodie? A bad recipe.

Last week I linked GtoG to a post for Potato Chip Chocolate Pie from Culinary Concotions by Peabody.

I loved Ms. Peabody’s witty approach to the food world… how she combines humor with her appreciation for food. It’s fresh and there was an immediate connection … not to mention she had a lot of loyal fans.

But what really got me hooked, was this creative recipe. Salty and Sweet done in a way I had never considered.

So what did I do? I tested it.

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