Tag: inspiration

61 DEGREES, people! I walked outside this morning wearing boots on my feet and a smile on my face. The fact that this weather is upon us now–instead of making us wait until mid-November–is refreshing; everyone I came in contact with today was in a great mood. So, with much excitement–and a slight chill in the air–I can finally talk about fall and pumpkins! This is my favorite time of year: pumpkin-spiced goodies abound, cool weather, comfort food, and always a cozy blanket nearby; I typically find myself cooking and baking more than ever. Unfortunately, experimenting in the kitchen is on the back-burner for now…our busy weeks have left me little time for writing or cooking. New, fun, fall recipes will be coming down the pike, but, for now, I must resort to my first ever throwback: pumpkin bread.

Inspiration

Growing up in Pittsburgh, strawberries were a big treat in the summer. Their season was short, but when it hit, I would gorge myself– a small bowl of sugar always sat alongside my berries for lots of double-dipping. When I was ten, we moved to Florida and I noticed something strange: strawberries peaked in the middle of winter here. Florida winter is hardly winter at all, and apparently, it is the perfect weather for growing strawberries. Now, at the peak of summer, berries from California are in season: two strawberry seasons each year? Yes, please…

As the seasons wind down—whether it be in March for the Florida crop or in July from the other coast—the prices begins to fall: a container of organic strawberries will only cost $3.00, instead of $7.00. I usually ride out those last few pints with the 3-S’s: smoothies, shakes, and shortcakes. This year I wanted my berries to last long past their departure at the market; the best way to prepare fresh produce for the long haul is jam.

Inspiration

Tomatillo-avocado salsa–or vegetarian ceviche–all begins with these…

I think tomatillos are one of the coolest items in the produce aisle. They look just like baby green tomatoes, but their papery husks tell a different tale–they are not even related to tomatoes at all, but members of the gooseberry family. Acidic like their red lookalike, but not nearly as juicy, tomatillos can wake up the flavor of a dish with their vibrant personality. Since today is Cinco de Mayo, I am going to use these guys for the perfect accompaniment for my tacos and tortilla chips: tomatillo salsa.

Inspiration

The traditional Merck coffee cake updated with seasonal blueberries…

Last year my aunt gifted me a recipe card, penned by my late grandmother. The slightly stained index card was beginning to show its age: once white, now yellowing, its blue ink now bleeding through to the other side. The exceptional penmanship on this card was a rarity; my Grandma was known for having practically illegible handwriting–a consequence of the Catholic nuns trying to “fix” her left-handedness by forcing her to write with her right hand. While I was well-schooled in deciphering her hieroglyphics, it was always a surprise to see something legible come from her hand. The recipe is for Merk’s Coffee Cake.

Inspiration

On our recent trip to New Orleans, we discovered the locals’ weekly Monday tradition of Red Beans and Rice. My version is a nicely spiced, hearty bowl of beans, sausage and just enough rice on the side to round it all out.

My latest post for the St. Petersburg Foodies website has all the details on the history behind the tradition and how you can make this dish at home; to read more, click here.

Publications

Pesto, three ways (left to right): pea shoots, sunflower seeds and walnuts (food processor); oven roasted tomato and hazelnuts (food processor); mixed greens, cilantro and almonds (blender).

Pesto was never on my radar. I was always a red sauce kind of girl…until I found a recipe for lemon spaghetti. With those two in my life, my pasta didn’t need any other options. I wasn’t completely ignorant: I had tried pesto a couple of times before, but only at restaurants; and honestly, while I like basil, I didn’t really enjoy an entire meal of it.

The one time I did venture out to buy pesto from the grocery store, I was not expecting what I found. Inside the container was an unemulisified mingling of dark green–nearly black–basil suspended in a layer of oil. That hallmark intense, kelly green color of homemade pesto was missing—it did not look appetizing. Despite its questionable appearance, I had to taste it; not surprisingly, the flavor was lackluster at best and the oiliness was overwhelming—I can’t believe I actually ate it. This solidified the case that pesto need not be in my repertoire.

Once I started my blog, daily food research brought me to videos all over social media about making fresh pesto. Not only did it look super simple to make, but the classic basil/pine nut duo no longer seemed to be the default combination: kale, spinach, parsley, and various nuts and seeds were taking center stage. All of those options opened a creative door for me; it was time to break out the Cuisinart.

Inspiration

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Hibiscus flower, aka roselle, aka Florida cranberry…

Fifteen years ago, my husband, Ed, and I toasted the start of our life together. Our glasses–and thirty others–were filled with Banfi’s Rosa Regale sparkling red; the color not only matched my wine-colored calla lilies, but also, as those glasses were raised, served to offset the stark white walls of the museum where we held our reception.

After putting dishes away the other day, I pulled down two of those infamous champagne glasses and gently clinked them together to reminisce. As I listened to the sound of the crystal reverberating, it made me think of my son, Everett, and what he would be drinking as Ed and I toasted our anniversary this week–he always feels left out when we have a grown-up drink. (Typically, as a consolation, we allow him to have something special and bubbly along with us: root beer and ginger beer are his favorites.) I set the glasses down and noticed that sitting right in front of me was the bowl full of Florida cranberries that I picked up at the market the day before. The cogs started turning…

My brain is always veering off from one tangent to the next: it’s pretty much how I function. So, follow me, won’t you, as I take you along my thought path from our wedding champagne memory through to my latest creation: hibiscus syrup.

Inspiration

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Green rhubarb pies. It’s one of the fond food memories I have from living in Pittsburgh as a kid. My friend’s mom would pay a visit to her garden and later resurface with a sweet-tart pie that made me pucker with every bite. Since rhubarb was a foreign ingredient in my family’s kitchen, her green pies were all I knew. It wasn’t until I was in my late twenties before I discovered that rhubarb is most commonly red. About five years ago, I introduced that red rhubarb into my kitchen.

Inspiration

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Peanuts and Berbere: the two signature flavors in peanut stew.

I noticed during today’s weekly grocery trip that the landscape of the produce section is changing. Squash and apples and citrus were more abundant than usual. Summer berries are in scant supply. Potato bins were filled to the gills with russet, red, yellow and sweet potatoes. Fall is approaching; I wish the Florida weather would follow suit.

Old habits die hard; therefore, my first dish of the fall season is always my butternut squash soup. I feel inclined to go a different direction this year. Don’t worry, you’ll still want to cozy up and eat it in a big bowl while on the couch. The only difference is that I’m reaching across the globe for this fall’s inspiration: African peanut stew.

Inspiration

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Mouth-watering soup made with leftover lemon brown butter cauliflower pureed with a bit of veg stock; topped with pine nuts, smoked paprika and a drizzle of olive oil.

Leftovers and I are not friends. I’ve given them multiple chances, but we just don’t click. Sure, the food is fun the first time around, but by the next day, they just become a nuisance. Besides hanging around–and stinking up–my fridge, leftovers take up precious space for other things like produce and all of the craft beer that we never seem to have enough room for. Despite my best attempts at being friendly, I typically end up showing them the door–of the trashcan. Every once in a while, I will come across a leftover that is extra special and feel the need to keep it around for one extra meal. I need to be more accommodating to my fridge-dwelling acquaintances; I want us to be friends. The only way that’s going to happen is if I disguise them as something else. Something new. Something different.

Inspiration