Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Its Award Time Here At GATAB!

Phew! That was one seriously busy holiday weekend!  The temps were up in the 90's with humidity to match, but I swore that after the long frigid Winter we had, I was NOT going to complain about the heat this Summer... Mr B and I did make some headway around here in our slightly late Summer preparations, so it was good all around.  OK.... Let's move on to some happy, happy news, shall we?

Yay! I've been given the very lovely "Good Blogger ~ Pay It Forward Award", by one of my bestest blog buddies, The Frisky Virgin!  I'm so thrilled that she chose me as one of the people she wanted to pass this on to!

If you don't already know FV, you really must go and pay her a visit. She's a sweet southern chick with a mighty sassy streak and she's a devoted (and I mean devoted) sports fan when it comes to all of her home state's teams! She's an accomplished slayer of all myths about single girls and she rocks it every time.

Her blog is warm, funny and smart, but is also serious and socially conscious when the circumstances call for it. This Texas truly gal has a heart as big as the state she hails from! So stop by and say Hey! to my BBF Frisky, real soon. I promise... You'll be so glad you did!
So.... On to the hard part. As much as I love receiving them, I'm always a little anxious when I'm given a blog award.  As with all awards, there are rules that come with them:

1) Name the Blogger who gave you the award. (see top of post)

2) Link to their blog. (also, see top of post)

3) Pay it forward to 5 Bloggers.

OK... So, number 3 is the part that tends to make me a little anxious. I have such a hard time deciding who to pass them on to. Not because I can't think of anyone who is deserving... Quite the contrary, actually. I have many dear friends here in the blogosphere, and it can be extremely difficult to choose just a few to pass an award on to....  That being said, my friend Frisky handled it so well that I'm going to steal her approach. (I don't think she'll mind) So, here's the deal. I've chosen 5 great blog friends that I'm listing here, but because I love you all so very much, I'm respectfully putting this award out there for everyone!

The 5 bloggers that I'm passing this on to... (in alphabetical order by their first name)

Cheri at  Cheri Quite Contrary

Liza at   Middle Passages

Mary at Food Floozie

Shawn at  The Beckers

Sue at   Aeracura ~ A Blossoming Life

Please take a few minutes to pop in and visit these 5 lovely ladies when you get a chance.  They're some of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet and they've all been super-duper blog friends to me.  Let them know I sent ya!  Using my name might not win you a big fancy prize, but it will win you some fantastic new friends! I guarantee it! :~)

Mrs B

Friday, May 27, 2011

Seasonal Food Friday - Week Five

Hello friends!  Welcome to the fifth installment of Seasonal Food Friday! Got a bit of a late start today. I've been a bit under the weather the past few days, but I'm doing a little better today. This week I'm featuring Grilled Veggies! Grilling veggies is a great way to work with the bountiful offerings of this summer's Farmer's Markets. They can be fantastic side or even main dishes for those hot nights of summer when you don't want to be bogged down by a heavy meal.
One of my good blog friends mentioned last week that she wasn't much of a meat eater and asked if I had any recipes along those lines. Well, it got me thinking about the fact that I do tend to be a bit heavy on the carnivorous side when it comes to the recipes I post, and frankly, it's not like the hubbers and I eat meat dishes 7 days a week. So, after this brief video from Kraft Foods, I'll give you some basic ideas for a couple of delicious and satisfying meat free Summer meals.

I'm giving an extra special shout out this week to Holly, from A Life-Size Catholic Blog who was my inspiration for this weeks Seasonal Food Friday recipes! I hope Holly (and of course everyone else) enjoys them!

So.... On to the recipes!

Grilled Vegetable Flatbread Pizza
You can make your own flatbread dough or purchase your favorite flatbread from your local bakery or grocery store.  If you've never done it before, making your own Flatbread is not as difficult as you might think. Once these are made these or you've purchased your favorite store brand, it's a snap to put these pizzas together.

If you've ever made those old college stand-bys, "English Muffin Pizzas", then you've already got a bit of experience! LOL Plus, it's a great activity to share with the kiddies! To start out, I'll give you the "finished" pizza recipe and then I'll give you the recipe for the flatbread itself.  These pizzas can be baked in your oven, or cooked on your grill!
  • 1 Naan Recipe or 2 Lg Store bought Flatbreads
  • 3-4 Cups **Assorted Grilled Vegetables
  • 12-16 oz of Crumbled Goat Cheese, Crumbled Feta or Shredded Mozzarella or Jack Cheese
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Small bunches of Basil. Thyme, Oregano or a favorite herb, chopped or torn into small pieces
** Assorted Grilled Vegetables:  My favorites for grilling are Red and Green Bell Peppers, Zucchini, Yellow Summer Squash, Portabello Mushrooms, Red Onion, Eggplant, (the smaller Japanese style is fantastic!) and I even grill up my tomatoes.  I use the Roma or Plum Style Tomatoes because they are firm, have fewer seeds and less water content. Just slice them lengthwise and lay them on some paper towels to drain for about 30 minutes before brushing them with your marinade. They are soooo delicious!

Make/Grill your flatbreads ahead of time and set them aside, or purchase them at the store. After grilling your Vegetables, drizzle them with a little olive oil and set aside. You can grill up your veggies up to 2 days ahead. Just cover and refrigerate until you're ready to use them.

Using any or all of the ingredients above, layer your toppings on the pre-baked flatbreads (I recommend finishing with the cheese on top) and either pop them onto your grill and cook over a medium heat with the lid on OR, in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 10-12 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the Vegetables and Flatbread are heated through.
Let them rest for about 4 or 5 minutes before cutting them into squares and serving.  You can add so many different vegetables or fresh herbs that the possible combinations are endless! Be creative!  Let the kids pick their favorite toppings and add them to the Flatbreads themselves before cooking.
*** Flatbread recipe follows at the end of this post.


Grilled Vegetable Pasta (served either hot or chilled as a salad - You can't go wrong!)
  • 1 Lb of your favorite Pasta (Radiatori, Gamelli, Fusilli, and Farfalle work great)
  • 2 Cups Assorted Grilled Vegetables, chopped coarsely
  • 1/4 Cup Red or White Wine Vinegar
  • 1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbls Chopped Fresh Herbs or 2-3 Tsp Dried Italian Seasoning
  • 8 oz Cubed Cheese, such as Monterey Jack, Mozzarella, Fontina, or Crumbled Feta
  • 1/2 Cup Black Olives, pitted & sliced OR any other Olives like Kalamata, Nicoise or Jumbo Green
  • 2 Tbls Capers, rinsed and drained
Cook and drain your pasta. (see package instructions) Drizzle the hot pasta with a couple of teaspoons of Light Olive Oil or Vegetable Oil to keep it from sticking together as it cools. Put it in a large mixing bowl and set it aside. In a small bowl or jar with a tight lid, mix your Olive Oil, Vinegar and Herbs and add a few pinches of Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Black Pepper to taste. (for a really fresh summery taste, you can replace 1/2 of the vinegar with fresh squeezed lemon juice)

Toss your Grilled Vegetables in with your Pasta, along with the Olives and Capers. (these are optional - if you or the kiddos don't care for either one or both, just leave them out) If you're making this several hours ahead of time to serve as a cold Pasta Salad, cover and refrigerate without your Dressing or your Cheese until about 15 minutes before serving. If you're serving it right away (either hot or at room temperature

Naan (Flatbread)
(courtesy of allrecipes.com)
  •  1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/8 cup white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (optional)
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes, until frothy. Stir in sugar, milk, egg, salt, and enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead for 6 to 8 minutes on a lightly floured surface, or until smooth. Place dough in a well oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside to rise. Let it rise 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in volume.
Punch down dough, and knead in garlic. Pinch off small handfuls of dough about the size of a golf ball. Roll into balls, and place on a tray. Cover with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
During the second rising, preheat grill to high heat.
At grill side, roll one ball of dough out into a thin circle. Lightly oil grill. Place dough on grill, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until puffy and lightly browned. Brush uncooked side with butter, and turn over. Brush cooked side with butter, and cook until browned, another 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from grill, and continue the process until all the naan has been prepared.


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I'm linking up this week with:

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cantina Mexican Restaurant ~ Saratoga NY

Hubby and I had some errands to run late Monday afternoon, the last of which took us into beautiful downtown Saratoga Springs. It was about 6:00 PM by the time we finished our running around and we were both seriously in need of some good grub. It isn't difficult to find excellent food in Saratoga. This lovely city has an abundance of restaurants to choose from, whether you're in the mood for a casual burger and fries or  a five course gourmet meal. Given this plethora of dining choices, it always takes a certain amount of deliberation for Mr B and I to decide just where to go.

After driving around town for about fifteen minutes, we finally agreed on Mexican food. Yay! Well, then came the second part of the decision making process....  which of the Mexican restaurants around Saratoga to choose??? Since we were in the right block of Broadway, and there was an available parking spot not too far from the front door, (it looked like it was going to start pouring any minute) we chose Cantina Mexican Restaurant.  We'd been there once before, sometime in late summer last year, and we both recalled being happy with the choice at the time.

***I did not have my camera with me this time out, so the photos are from Google Images. The photo for the Chicken Enchiladas Verdes and the Chips and Salsa are actually from Cantina and look just like the items that we were served. The photo of the Chili Rellenos however, is the closest I could get (from GI) to what the actual dish looked like. The main difference is that the rice and black beans that show on the enchilada plate are missing, and on his Rellenos plate there was also side of shredded cabbage. There are question marks after the prices because I don't remember exactly what we paid that night, but I know they were slightly higher than the prices listed on their current on-line menu.

I ordered the Chicken Enchiladas Verde ($15.95?)

I have to say that this meal rocked! The two crispy flour tortilla wrapped enchiladas were filled with a perfectly seasoned, not too spicy "Pulled Chicken" and topped with a generous amount of their Salsa Verde and tangy Cojita Cheese. Underneath, was an outstanding sauce that I believe the menu said was a Jalapeno Crema. I am not one for really spicy hot food of any kind, and although there was a definite hit of heat as I finished my first bite, it was tempered quite nicely by the Crema. The rice was well seasoned, but a little dry. The beans however, were a pleasant surprise. I"ve always been a fan of the more traditional "refried" pinto beans that you usually get at most Mexican restaurants, and I was a tad skeptical when I saw "black bean puree" on the menu. So, I decided to give them a taste before trying the rest of the food and much to my delighted surprise, they were really quite delicious.

Mr B ordered the Chili Rellenos ($12.95?)

According to Mr B, the roasted Pablano filled with beef, tomatoes and cheese was one of the better versions of Chili Rellenos that he's had. Now, if you knew Mr B and his obsession with this classic Mexican dish, you'd realize what a compliment that is.  I can pretty much guarantee you that 9 out of every 10 visits to any Mexican restaurant, he'll order the Chili Rellenos. The other 10% of the time, the restaurant we're eating at doesn't have them on the menu. Neither one of us could figure out why there was a pile of unadorned shredded cabbage included with the other sides that he got, but he scarfed it down along with the rest of the meal and had a totally empty plate sitting in front of him when he was finished. He was also impressed with the array of hot sauces that Cantina provides on each table, especially the Cholula with Lime.
Overall, the food was very good, the service was decent and the place is well decorated and clean. That being said, we'd give it 4 out of 5 stars. The Chips and Salsa that were brought to the table after we were seated, were nothing outstanding. I did like the fact that the chips were made from flour tortillas instead of the usual corn, but they were a bit too thick and I got the impression that they'd been sitting under a heat lamp for the better part of the day.  They did come in a cute little spiral thingy, so I suppose that get's them a bit of a bonus point. LOL

The salsa was obviously made in-house, but Mr B was disappointed that it was little more than chopped tomatoes, onions and some cilantro. It was "chunky" with only a tiny bit of the juices from the vegetables in the bottom of the bowl, which I don't mind that much, but Mr B prefers salsa to be more of a blend of chopped ingredients and "saucy" liquid. He also would have preferred that it had more heat. (I swear, the man has an asbestos tongue!) We were both too full for dessert and didn't even look at the menu to see what they had to offer, so I can't say one way or another if any of it was good or bad.

Living in the Capital District Area of upstate NY has several advantages, and one of them is the close proximity to cities and towns like Saratoga Springs and Lake George. (just to name a couple) From Albany you can be in either of these lovely places in one hour or less.  It really is beautiful country up this way.  So.... If you ever have the chance to make a trip to this region, I can highly recommend it. You won't regret it!

***This is an unsolicited review. All opinions are mine or that of my family or friends. I/we were not compensated for this post in any way.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Lake George NY Spring 2011
Normally there would be about 2+ feet of posts showing under this dock. The heavy snow from Winter and the frequent rain this Spring have raised the water level in Lake George higher than it's been in decades... At least during my lifetime.

I'm linking up this week with:

hosted by Java at Never Growing Old

Monday, May 23, 2011

Too Much Of A Good Thing?

This isn't our cellar. It's far to bright and cheery to be ours...
I was thinking long and hard this weekend abut all the "stuff" we have hanging around in this 150 year old house of ours. Much of it was here when we got here in 1997 and of course we brought all of our own stuff with us. Then you add in everything we've purchased, created or been gifted over the past 14 years, and I have to admit that we've got  A. LOT. OF. STUFF.  Oh, so that you don't think we just barged in on the previous owner one fine day and decided to stay, I suppose I'd better explain:

Friday, May 20, 2011

Seasonal Food Friday - Week Four Lamb

Welcome to the fourth installment of Seasonal Food Friday!

Technically, I'm covering two seasonal foods this week. Spring Peas and Lamb. If you've been hanging around here for a while and know me pretty well, you're already aware that I have a bit of a problem doing short posts. ;~) I guess it's partly because not only do I love to cook; I love to help people learn about food and about how to cook it. Plain and simple.  OK... Let's be honest here. It's mainly because I just don't know how to keep my big mouth shut for very long! Hard to believe I was a very shy quiet child, isn't it? Totally true. I really was. (Mmm Hmm.... I can see you all shaking your heads in disbelief and hear you murmuring Tsk, Tsk as you read that)

Oh well. Let's get on with the good stuff, shall we? This weeks recipes are: Grilled Boneless Leg of Lamb with Mediterranean Plum Sauce, and as a super "Spring-y" side dish to go along with it, Fresh Spring Peas with Shallot Butter. Hmmm... I don't even really like peas, and my mouth is watering a little. I guess it's just a Pavlovian response to the Shallot Butter!

First things first...

The Marinade and The Lamb
  • 1 Cup Plain Yogurt
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 5-6 Cloves Garlic, chopped coarsley
  • 2 Tbls Fresh Oregano Leaves or 1Tbls Dried Oregano
  • 1 Tbls Fresh or Dried Rosemary, chopped a bit
  • 2 Tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1 Tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 5-6 Lb Leg of Lamb, boned, butterflied and tied

Have your butcher remove the bone, butterfly and tie the Lamb. (if they don't already have it that way in the case) And for Heaven's sake, don't let him/her trim off all of the fat. You really need about 3/4 to 1 inch of fat to keep the meat flavorful and tender.

Mix the first 7 ingredients by hand in a bowl or you can throw them in a food processor or chopper whole. Place the lamb in a large zip-top bag and pour/spoon the marinade into the bag, smooshing (technical cooking term there) the meat around in order to coat it completely with the marinade. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or up to overnight. (Take it out of the fridge about 30 minutes before grilling to bring it to room temperature)

Remove the meat from the bag and wipe off as much of the marinade as possible with some paper towels.  Season it liberally with salt and pepper.  Prepare your grill so that you have a space to place the Lamb over indirect heat. (if you have questions about how to do this, click here.) Oil the grill grates to prevent sticking.  Cook the Lamb for 45 to 50 minutes for medium, turning occasionally.  For a perfect "medium" an instant read meat thermometer poked into the thickest part of the meat should read 130 - 135 degrees Fahrenheit.  Remove the Lamb to a platter and cover it with foil to allow it to rest for 10-15 minutes before carving. The internal temp will rise anywhere from 5 to 10 degrees while resting.

Mary's (Famous) Mediterranean Plum Sauce
  • 3 14-15oz Cans of Whole Plums in Syrup
  • 1 Tbls Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tbls Worcestershire Sauce
  • 4 Large Garlic Cloves, minced or pressed
  • 1 Tsp (heaping) Dried Oregano
  • 1 Tsp (heaping) Dried Basil
  • 1 Tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Open the cans of plums and drain the syrup into a medium saucepan. Over a mixing bowl, take 1 Plum at a time and squish (that's another one of those technical cooking terms) it gently, but firmly in your hand. This will release the pulp/meat of the Plum into the bowl, leaving the skin and pit behind in your hand. Discard these.  It's a bit messy, but you will not regret the effort.  This sauce is amazing on Lamb, but is also awesome on other grilled or roasted meats like Chicken and Pork. (and it's fat free!!)

Add the pulp from all 3 cans of Plums to the syrup in the saucepan and then add the rest of the ingredients, stirring well to combine them. Cook the mixture over medium to medium high heat for 25 to 30 minutes, or until reduced by about half and thickened. (if it gets so thick that it's becoming like a paste, add a little chicken broth or water to thin it out)  Just make sure to stir it frequently during cooking and reheating so that it doesn't stick to the bottom or burn. This incredible Plum Sauce can be made ahead of time and reheated just before serving.

And now (drum roll please!) the Peas!

Fresh Peas are probably the only peas that I'll eat. Growing up, Mama loved them and because she was a very impatient woman, they were always from a can. (shiver) They were usually whatever brand was on sale at the time, so the quality and taste differed from one time to the next. No matter how you sliced it, they were just not my cup of tea.  I was that kid who dropped them on the floor for the dog, spit them out clandestinely into my napkin or shoved them under the bits of potatoes or meat that I deliberately left on my plate to cover them up.

Trust me.... "Pea night" was the only time that I willingly and without provocation, scraped the plates into the garbage after dinner, so that my secret wouldn't be discovered. But, once again, I digress. This part is as simple as it gets and it can be done ahead of time. The peas can be covered and refrigerated until ready to saute. (OK... I know you're going to ask, Sooooo yes, if you really must, you can substitute frozen peas in this recipe BUT, never canned!!)

Spring Peas With Shallot Butter
  • 4 Cups Fresh Peas, shelled (or frozen)
  • 4 Tbls Unsalted Butter
  • 1 Large or 2 Medium Shallots, minced
  • 1 Tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper
First, bring 5 or 6 quarts of liberally salted water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the raw peas and cook for no more than 3 minutes.  While the water is coming to the boil, prepare an ice bath in a large bowl. (Ice cubes, water and salt) When the peas are done, drain and immediately put them in the ice water to stop the cooking process and help retain their bright green color. Remove them from the ice bath and begin the next step. If you're not going to use them right away, cover them and refrigerate until ready to saute.

In a medium skillet, melt the 4 Tbls of unsalted butter until it's just starting to get foamy. Add the Shallots and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, until just beginning to soften. Add in the blanched Peas and saute for another 2 to 3 minutes.  Pour into a serving dish and enjoy with your Lamb!


I usually serve Couscous with this meal.  The Couscous is just as quick to prepare as the Peas and can be served hot or at room temperature. I use boiling Chicken Stock to reconstitute mine and often add fresh chopped Herbs and sometimes roasted veggies like Asparagus, Onions, Bell Pepper, Zucchini or Summer Squash. Just toss it all with a bit of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper and a splash of a good aged Balsamic Vinegar or fresh Lemon Juice. The leftovers make an excellent cold salad for lunch the next day!

Today I'm linking up with:

hosted by Java @ Never Growing Old

                hosted by
Mama To 3 Blessings and
Home Grown Families


       hosted by
The Adventures of J-Man and
MillerBug and My Saving Game

hosted by Designs By Gollum (click here to go to this blog)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Easy Tarragon Chicken

When our daughter was younger and Mr B and I were both working full time, this super simple chicken dish was a life saver for me. On busy weeknights, especially when school sports and little league came into the picture, I could whip this whole dinner up in about a 35 to 40 minutes, complete with some Rice Pilaf and some fresh Green Beans or steamed Broccoli.

If you make it a point to keep certain ingredients in the house, weeknight meals can be a breeze to prepare.  Even now that we're empty nesters, I always have chicken breasts in the freezer and my pantry is always stocked with rice and pastas, beef, vegetable and chicken broth/stock and of course Dry Vermouth. Why the vermouth? Well, because it's the ultimate substitute for white wine in any recipe that calls for it. It's basically a fortified wine, which means it has a long shelf life and doesn't need to be refrigerated after opening.

I usually buy Martini & Rossi or Noilly Prat brand. They're good quality and both retail for about ten bucks (or less) a bottle. Oh, and please don't use the "cooking wines" that you find in the condiment aisle at the grocery store.  They have huge amounts of sodium as well as other preservatives in them and they just don't taste as good as the real deal.

So, on with the recipe.....

Mrs B's Easy Tarragon Chicken
  • 4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, well trimmed (you can use boneless thighs instead, if you prefer)
  • 2 Large Shallots, chopped (1/2 of a small red onion can be substituted)
  • 1 - 2 Tbls Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Tbls Butter
  • 2 Tbls Fresh Tarragon Leaves, chopped or 1 Tbls Dried Tarragon Leaves
  • 1/2 Cup Chicken Broth/Stock
  • 1/2 Cup Dry Vermouth or Dry White Wine
  • Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper

Heat Oil and Butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Season the Chicken on both sides with Salt and Pepper. When the butter and oil are just beginning to sizzle, add the Chicken to the pan, making sure not to crowd the pieces too much. Cook them for about 5 - 7 minutes on each side until they're light golden brown and firm to the touch. (if your chicken breasts are quite thick, you can pound them slightly so that they'll cook more quickly and evenly)

Remove the Chicken to a plate and cover it with foil to keep warm. I usually put it in a warm (250 to 300 degrees) oven.  Add the Shallots to the pan and saute them until they are just softened a bit. Add the Vermouth, scraping up any brown bits from the pan and bring it to a simmer. Once the Vermouth is reduced slightly, add the Chicken Broth and Tarragon and bring it back to a simmer. Add the Chicken and any accumulated juices from the plate back into the pan and loosely cover it with foil or a lid. Cook for another 4 or 5 minutes, checking and turning the Chicken once or twice to coat it in the sauce.

While the chicken is cooking you'll have plenty of time to prepare your rice/pasta and vegetable of choice. If you're watching you're carb intake, just fix a big tossed salad or make extra vegetables. When everything is done, remove the Chicken to a platter and spoon or pour sauce over. Serve and enjoy!

Live Well, Eat Well!

~Mrs B

Monday, May 16, 2011

Living Your Passion

When we went out to dinner on Mother's Day, we had a fantastic server at the restaurant that we went to. I started thinking that he must really love his job to be that cheerful and upbeat. The more I thought about it, the more it made me think about my own past and the path that my life almost took. It really got me wondering whether I'm truly living my passion. I guess I should start by providing a little backstory.

When I was in my junior year of high school, I had the opportunity to graduate early (I had all of my credits) and begin classes at the CIA that coming Fall.  No... not the CIA, as in Central Intelligence Agency.  I'm talking about the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park NY.  It's one of the most prestigious culinary schools in the world and has produced more award winnings chefs and culinary professionals than I could possibly have time to list here.  For information about the school and what they offer click here.

There was just one problem...  My parents, who had initially been on board with the idea, did a little research and gave it some further thought and decided that the life of a chef was no life for their little girl.  Now, keep in mind that it was the late 70's and the term "celebrity chef" didn't even exist. The industry was also dominated by men (which is changing now) and most female chefs were lucky to obtain positions as line cooks and pastry chefs. Don't get me wrong.... It's not that there's anything at all wrong with either of those titles, but it's grueling work and to my folks at that time, it spelled out a pretty bleak future for their darling daughter. So, why didn't I just take the bull by the horns and go anyway? Well...

1) The tuition at the time was quite high, even by today's standards.
2) There were few (if any) scholarships or grants for culinary schools back then.
3) The waiting list was very long and getting longer each year.
4) I was not a "trust fund baby".

Suffice it to say, these facts meant that I had little choice but to continue on with my senior year and start thinking about a different career path for myself.

Anthony (Tony) Bourdain - CIA graduate

Cat Cora - CIA graduate

Sara Moulton - CIA graduate

Do I have any regrets?  No. You see, if I had accomplished what I'd set out to do back then, my life would have been completely different. I wouldn't be who and where I am today and in spite of all of  the ups and downs that life throws at us, I love my little family and my life as it is today, and I wouldn't trade either one for all the noteriety or money in the world.  Besides, I still get to cook all the time. It's just that my "customers" happen to be my close friends and family. I'll take that instead, any day, gladly and gratefully. 

I'm still intrigued by the food industry though, and follow the careers of several chefs, both famous and not as well known. My wonderful hubby shares my love of cooking and food and we've worked side by side feeding the people we love for many happy years. How could I ever regret that?  I may have taken a very different path in my life, but I believe wholeheartedly that the truth is, I am living my passion.

So, now that I've shared a little bit more about who I am and how I got to this point in my life, I thought I'd share something I felt was inspirational, no matter what your particular passion might be. As I was surfing around some of my favorite food and restaurant sites, I ran across the (here) following video.  It truly shows what the industry means to the people who work in it, thrive from it and love it passionately. It also shows that it's a sector of the American business community that is flourishing, in spite of the state of the economy. Better still, it's about inspirational people who are truly living their passions...

Have you ever worked in the restaurant industry?  Or... Are you currently a part of it?  Is there something else in life that you're doing that you're truly passionate about? I'd love to hear your stories.

Live Well, Eat Well!

~Mrs B

Saturday, May 14, 2011

An Award? For Me?

Happy Saturday everyone!

I received a comment yesterday from the lovely Yenta Mary at one of my favorite blogs, Food Floozie, saying (much to my delight and surprise!) that she had given me an award!  The Versatile Blogger Award to be specific! I'm very flattered and honored that she thought of me when she was deciding who to pass it on to.

The Food Floozie blog is a virtual smorgasbord of delicious recipes, all perfectly seasoned with Mary's wisdom and wit. Along with posts about her life and her teenage son, she shares her thoughts on cooking and dining  from all points of the culinary spectrum and a vast array of cultures. She's a sassy single mom and a lover of all things food! Mary cares deeply about people and gives straight from the heart. So, stop over and say hello to Yenta Mary at the Food Floozie when you get the chance. You'll be so glad you did!  Thanks Mary!

Now for the rules:
  1. Leave a comment thanking the person who gave you the award and link back to them. 
  2. Tell seven things about yourself.
  3. Award 15 recently discovered new bloggers.
1. Check!
2. OK, I can do that!
3. Now, this is the hard part... As much as I love and appreciate it when I'm given an award, (I was blessed to have received many at my previous blog) time can be scarce in my "offline life"  and that leaves a small window of opportunity for me to spend time here. Frankly, I think every blogger deserves to receive an award just for authentically putting themselves out there into the blogosphere, but due to the limited time that I have and as the lovely lady who passed this on to me also chose, I'll be passing it on to 5 instead of 15.

Seven Things About Me:

1) I'm adopted. I have one older brother, also adopted. Our wonderful parents are no longer here with us and the two of us have a bit of a strained relationship, but we're working on it as best as we can. 

2) Mr B and I were blessed with two beautiful daughters. One is here with us and one is waiting for us in Heaven. Our eldest is 26 and our youngest would have been 11 this year. You never get over the loss of a child, but you get through your life in the best way that you can. With our faith our families and our friends, we grieve and we heal a little bit every day.  

3) I do not eat "fish" fish.  I love shellfish, (even raw oysters!) but anything with scales and gills is out of the question. I think I had some kind of childhood trauma or some kind of run-in with bones. I wish that I liked it though, because Mr B loves it. For the record, I do cook it for him. I just make chicken for myself. 

4) I know very few details about my biological history, but one thing I do know is that I am 100% Irish. I'm actually technically "first generation American". Let's just say that I was "planted" in Ireland and "bloomed" here in the U.S.  'nuff said. 

5) I have hyperextended knees. It's an odd thing where the joints in the knees (or elbows, fingers, etc.) extend beyond their "normal" extension. As an example, when I stand straight my knees bend back a few inches instead of locking in a straight-up position. It does cause back problems as you get older (which I have more than my fair share of) but on the up side, I'm told we make better swimmers and excellent ballerinas! LOL It's usually caused by an injury during one's life, but some people are born with it. I am one of those people. 

6) I have an almost obsessive crush on a dead man.  Maybe I should explain.... I love, love, love Cary Grant. I think he was the most elegant, handsome, charming man in the world. (ahem, uh, next to Mr B of course) He possessed the kind of class that transcends time. I've seen every movie he's ever made and just about every documentary or biography ever filmed about him. Can I just say, Swoooooooon! 

7) Aside from my own little home, my favorite place to be is Ogunquit Maine. Mr B and I have been going there for almost 30 years (geeze, that number doesn't seem possible, but it is) and I spent many a Summer vacation there with my parents, growing up. I can say with a good degree of certainty that I will never, ever get tired of it. We do travel to lots of other places too, but I'm pretty sure that I'd go through some major withdrawal if we missed our trip to Ogunquit each Fall. (If you happen to drop by here during the month of September, you'll see what I mean)

OK.... That being said, it's time to pass this award on to (5) other "newly discovered" blogs. Not that any of these blogs are "new" to the blogosphere, but they're all pretty new to me. Each one of them has something unique and special that makes their blog more than worthy of a follow. Please stop by and say hello to each of them when you have a little spare time and I'm sure you'll agree!  Here they are: (in no particular order)

Here's a little something for everyone!  Have a fabulous weekend!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Seasonal Food Friday - Week Three

Hello and Welcome to the 3rd installment of Seasonal Food Friday!  The guest of honor this week is Berries!  Strawberries, Raspberries, Blueberries, Blackberries.... All kinds of ripe luscious fruit from the vine or shrub. Berries of all shapes and colors are said to be quite good for you. They're supposed to be full of antioxidants, however no studies have been completed in the US or Europe that prove this theory definitively. I'm sure that no matter what any future studies might say, people will continue to eat and thoroughly enjoy berries because well.... they just taste good!

This is the time of year for refreshing, sweet berry desserts to be eaten on warm nights in the garden or on the front porch swing.  In my mind, that conjures up Shortcakes, Buckles and Cobblers!  Oh yeah, I almost forgot... muffins and breads too!

Are you drooling yet?  I know I am!  I've been daydreaming lately about Strawberry Shortcake and if the weather cooperates for a little grilling this weekend, we might just have a few people over for dinner and have shortcake for dessert! I think I know a certain uncle who'd be more than happy to partake in this luscious summer treat! So, it kinda goes without saying that this weeks recipe is for Strawberry Shortcake!

I generally make one large shortcake and put the juicy berries and whipped cream either on the top or if the mood strikes me, I'll split it in half and put the berries and cream in the middle. Mama almost always made a single shortcake instead of individual biscuits. It's a real time saver when you don't feel like scooping out one biscuit at a time and want that still warm "from the oven" goodness.  There is such a difference between a warm sweet shortcake and cold biscuits made in advance. Some of you might be surprised to hear this from me, but I actually use a boxed biscuit mix to make my shortcake. It's fast and easy and this is definitely a case where the pre-made mix is just as good as any scratch version I've made.

Mrs B's Strawberry Shortcake
(this shortcake can be made in the same manner with all kinds of berries - it's up to you!)

The Strawberries

  • 2 Quarts of Fresh Strawberries, sliced or quartered
  • 1 Cup Granulated Sugar (I know... sounds like quite a bit, but it's for a lot of berries)
  • 3 or 4 Tbls of Grand Marnier or other Orange flavored liquor (optional)

After rinsing them under cold water, slice or chop the strawberries and put them in a mixing bowl. Add the sugar (and the liquor if you're using it) and stir them well.  Cover and set them aside, either on the counter or in the fridge for at least 1 hour, stirring from time to time to mix everything well and bring out as much juice as possible.

The Shortcake

  • 4 & 2/3 Cups Bisquick (or other baking mix)
  • 1 & 1/3 Cup of Milk
  • 1/4 Cup (generous) Granulated Sugar
  • 6 Tbls Butter, melted
  • Extra butter and sugar the top of the shortcake

Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees. Mix the first four ingredients with a sturdy wooden spoon or the paddle attachment in a stand mixer, until combined.  Gently pat the dough out into a 9 inch round, non-stick cake pan and bake it for about 15 to 17 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (there can be a few dry crumbs but not any "wet" or uncooked dough)  About 5 minutes after it comes out of the oven, spread the top with a bit of room temperature butter and sprinkle it with a dusting of granulated sugar. Allow about another 5 to 7 minutes before cutting it. (it will still be nice and warm)

The Whipped Cream

  • 1 Pint Heavy or Whipping Cream, very well chilled
  • 5 or 6 Tbls Granulated Sugar, depending on taste

Pour cream into a very cold (preferably stainless steel) bowl and using a hand mixer or on a stand mixer, beat on medium high speed until it starts to thicken. (I put my bowl and beaters into the freezer until the moment I'm ready to use them) Stop the mixer or slow it down and add the sugar, gradually. Continue to mix it until you get soft peaks, but not any further or you'll end up with butter. Not such a bad thing if that's what you're going for, but it's not as good as whipped cream is on shortcake! Well.... I guess that depends on who you're talking to! LOL


Once the shortcake has cooled slightly, you can either slice it right from the pan and serve it with the berries and whipped cream on the side for everyone to make their own, OR if you have dinner guests and want to be a little fancier, you can do it this way: Turn the shortcake out onto a pretty plate and using a sharp or serrated knife, slice it in half horizontally.  Spoon a generous portion of the strawberries and their juices on the bottom half and then spoon an equally generous amount of the whipped cream on top of them.  Gently and carefully place the top half of the cake over the fillings and serve it whole at the table with any extra berries and cream on the side in pretty bowls.

I have plenty of recipes for Bettys, Cobblers, Buckles, Breads and Muffins that I'll be posting in the coming months. Lot's of them use berries and many use summer "stone" fruits like peaches and plums. If you decide to give this shortcake a try, I'd love to have you stop back and let me know if you liked it!

Live Well, Eat Well!

~Mrs B

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