Happy Thanksgiving!

I know that not all of you that are reading this post celebrate Thanksgiving, but I’m hoping that all of you give thanks.

I believe that gratitude is one on the most important aspects of our lives…and I believe that if we are thankful for what we have, we will receive more good things for which to be thankful.

Today, at our house, we will have a very traditional Thanksgiving dinner that will include Aunt Mary’s green beans, Granddad’s salad and Dana’s special cranberry sauce.  Our taste buds will revel in these traditional flavors and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Before dinner, we go around our table and acknowledge what we are thankful for…you know that my family and friends will be on my list, but YOU will be on my list as well.   Thank you for taking the time to read my blog with its recipes and ramblings and as we begin the holiday season, I’d like to wish you a Happy, Merry celebration of your tradition in the coming weeks!

Thank you!

 

 

 

 

My Visit to the 2011 International Food Blogger Conference – Santa Monica

I now know why they call it LaLa! Yes, as soon as the plane touched down and the flight attendant announced that our luggage would arrive on carousel B (for Botox) I knew that I wasn’t in Chicago anymore.

I flew to southern California for the International Food Blogger Conference in Santa Monica, but before it started, I had the opportunity to tour the area with a dear friend. The first spot she took me to was Palisades Park overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

It was a bright, clear day and we could see up the coast all the way to Malibu. She brought her pups along and they had a great time greeting other dogs and chasing squirrels (which I learned was a favorite activity). All of the dog owners seemed so friendly and would chat with one another while the pups enjoyed a good sniff. Pretty normal right? Except that a fellow blogger overheard a conversation between one dog owner to another in which one owner offered the other his dog’s calling card. Maybe it’s a novel way to get a date? Have to say though, I’ve never met a dog in Chicago with their own calling card.

Next, we drove to Montana Avenue where I spied cute, little boutiques and cafes. To my amazement, the dry cleaner and the corner coffee shop had valet parking! You won’t find that in Chicago, either.

We parked and started walking and I admired how perfect the grass was….oh wait, it’s not really grass….it’s astroturf…no wonder it looked so perfect! Again, another difference between southern California and Chicago.

On Friday afternoon the conference started. I’m not going to show you too many of pics of folks standing on the stage gesturing at the screen, but I will show a few.

Linda Miller Nicholson, Salty Seattle, was part of the panel along with Dianne Jacob, Will Write for Food, Robin Goldstein, Blind Taste, and Barnaby Dorfman, Foodista.com, who spoke about blogging our values.

Here’s a picture of Linda showing us even though she IS salty, she’s salty with a heart. She spearheaded the book, Nudie Foodies to benefit the victims of the tsunami in Japan. Shown pictured is Irvin Lin, Eat the Love, who said that he smelled of milk for days after this shoot…but his skin was really soft!

Recognize this guy? He’s so darn charming and I’m not just saying that because I know him! I heard, “Susie…Susie”, as Matt Armendariz, of the much loved blog, Matt Bites, jumped down off the stage and came over to greet me. We had known each other through Facebook and Twitter and now had a chance to meet in person. That’s one of the best things about these conferences…you get to meet your online friends face to face.

Matt was there to teach us about food photography for blogs and he also brought along food styling tips from Adam Pearson, who couldn’t be there in person, but was in spirit and pictures.

Another online friend is Nicole, Pinch My Salt, who I also got to meet. She brought her famous sour dough starter so that I (and many others) can participate in Doughvember…can’t wait to get started and share my adventures baking that treat!

I do want to thank all of the speakers and sponsors for the conference. Even though I couldn’t attend every session (sometimes you had to decide between 2) or taste every dish, I so appreciate that you helped so many to enjoy the conference even more!

I heard so many speakers that were informative and inspiring; here are a few more pics. I loved the intelligent and humorous stories by author Kathleen Flinn, and the honesty of Olga Massov, Sassy Radish,  who both spoke about food writing.

Kathleen Flinn was then joined by Lisa Ekus of The Lisa Ekus Group, and Silvana Nardone, who enlightened us about taking your blog to book which was both aspirational and inspirational.

Food trucks were on the menu for lunch.

Another great treat of the conference was making new friends…here I am with my newest friend Julee, My Happy Life by the Bay, enjoying lunch.

What to wear to a food truck lunch? Christian Louboutins, of course, if you are Linda Miller Nicholson,  known for her high style and even higher heels!

One of the best sessions for me was Rand Fishkin,  SEOmoz, and Barnaby Dorfman, talking to us about marketing our brand.

Michelle McClendon, Gwendolyn Alley, and Michael Wangbickler instructed us about pairing food and wine in order to incorporate wine into our blog…and yes, we HAD to drink a bit of wine for this one!

Saturday night we enjoyed a wonderful dinner prepared by Chef Michael Moore. He’s a funny, talented chef transplanted to LA from England via Australia. Recently diagnosed with diabetes and heart issues he has just published his new book, Blood Sugar. I hope that the recipe for that delicious salad he prepared is in it.

The last session that I attended was about monetizing with Barnaby Dorfman, Melissa Lanz, and Andie Mitchell. Wow, I was so inspired by all of them and I can’t wait for Andie to come out with her two new books. She’s 26 and on the road to fulfilling her dreams…look out Oprah!

Time to get back in my friend’s car for more of my tour of this incredible, fantasy filled town. We curved along Mulholland Drive and stopped to see the valleys and incredible homes….oh, who lives there? Really?

Touring Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive, you have to wonder about the glamorous lifestyles of the folks who live there.

How many of these people lead those “reality show” lives? Probably a lot of them are just like us…or at least I’d like to think so.

As the sun was setting, I headed back to Chicago where my dear husband surprised me by making a homemade Sunday Supper even though I arrived close to midnight…thanks sweetie, that meant so much!

Luck of the Irish

Our Irish Rose

A little Leprechaun skipped into my inbox this week bringing with him a special pot o’ gold.  What…you don’t believe in such things?

Really, there in my inbox was a note asking if I would give permission for a few of my heirloom photographs to be used in a new book about the Irish in Cincinnati, my hometown.

The author found me through a recent blog post about my mother growing up in an area of Cincinnati called O’Bryonville (which was mostly an Irish community at that time).  Interestingly, it was a post that I really felt compelled to write that led him to me.  Life really does work in mysterious ways!

I’m going to be writing down some of my family stories for him as background for the pictures.  I don’t know what he will use, but I know that it will be fun remembering these stories.  I thought it also would be fun sharing some of them with you as well.   I’m looking forward to telling you a bit of our Irish history and giving you some updated recipes from my mother’s kitchen.

I can’t tell you how proud she would be that our family will be a part of the story of the Irish in America.

Old World Mushroom Soup with Caraway Recipe – A Walk in the Woods

I love going to farmer’s markets and I also love visiting the farms where the fruit and vegetables are grown.  Sometimes though, what I buy at the farmer’s market does not come from a field, sometimes it comes from a forest and I find that very intriguing because this  food is harvested by foraging.

My interest in foraging was peaked because not long ago at the far end of our local market was a small booth set up with just one item for sale….mushrooms.  They were a type I had not seen before and I was intrigued, so I went over to investigate.  Behind the booth was a white haired, elderly, man who in another month might pass for St. Nick if you added a beard…he even had a very slight old world accent,  as if he had come to this country when he was a young man.

We started talking and I found out that the mushrooms he was selling were called honey mushrooms and that they were fairly rare and very prized.  I asked if he would have any next week and he said that he never knew what he was going to find in the woods and that it varied week to week.

I like the sound of that…walking in the woods and looking for your dinner…so much so that the next week I decided to look for myself…I wasn’t going to take any mushrooms that I found, because honestly, I don’t know enough about whether or not they are poisonous and many species of mushrooms are poisonous.  I just wanted to walk in the woods and see if I could be more observant than I had been in the past.  How many times had I walked by a potential dinner and not even known it.

At first I didn’t see anything, but I kept walking and discovered that on many of the fallen trees were some type of mushrooms.  I started taking some of the pictures that I am sharing with you just so you can see how beautiful they are.  I had walked past these trees many times and I had not seen the mushrooms.  How much do we pass that we really don’t observe?  I discovered that by looking for them, I found them and they were there all along, I’d just never taken the time to really look.

Turkey Tail Mushrooms

These leaves will be with us just a few more days.

I do want to share with you an important WARNING, don’t hunt for mushrooms unless you are with an expert, MANY types are poisonous. To learn more, I recommend that you join a mushroom club and study field guides of mushrooms (but some species of mushrooms are hard to identify, even for the experts).

I’m just going to leave foraging to the pros, but it was wonderful to take this walk in the woods.

Maybe this Sunday you can take a walk with your family and friends in the fine, fall weather before your Sunday supper.

I asked how the mushroom vendor would prepare the bounty of the forest, and he said that he would make a fine soup.  I thought that sounded very tasty and appropriate for the season.

He suggested using beef stock, fingerling potatoes, carrots and caraway seeds.  He also said that a good substitute for honey mushrooms would be shitake mushrooms, so that is what I am using as an ingredient in this recipe.  I have to tell you, it’s the caraway in this recipe that makes it so special.  I recommend that you use a tea ball to hold the caraway seeds (the kind that you use to put loose tea in) when making this soup…you get all of the flavor… without the seeds.

Make it special, make it Sunday.

Print

Old World Mushroom Soup Recipe

Yield: 6 servings

Prep Time: 10 Minutes

Cook Time: 25 Minutes

Total Time: 35 Minutes

Perfect for a fall after a walk in the woods!

Ingredients:

6 cups beef stock (preferably homemade) chicken or vegetable stock would work as well
1 bunch carrots (approximately 5), peeled and sliced
1 pound fingerling potatoes, washed, slice larger ones in half and leave the little ones whole
3.5 ounce container of shitake mushrooms with stems removed, use whole or sliced
1 teaspoon caraway seeds (place in a tea ball)
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

I made my own beef stock with beef shank. I removed the meat from the bones and added it to the soup, but this is optional. I also strained the broth through cheese cloth for a clearer broth.
In a stock pot bring broth to a boil and add carrots and potatoes and tea ball with caraway seeds, cook for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms to the pot and cook for 15 minutes till carrots and potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.
Add meat (if you care to) and salt and pepper to taste.
Please note: I recommend using shitake mushrooms for this recipe.
Honey mushroom can have a slight toxicity: if you choose to use them in this recipe, please make sure that you cook them for 15 minutes to eliminate any toxic effects. Also, if using honey mushrooms, you need to make sure that they agree with you by eating just a small portion at first.
Serve!

Enjoy!

 

 

Easy, Old Fashioned, Apple Crisp Recipe

I’ll admit it…I’m afraid of pie!  No, not eating it, making it!  No matter how I freeze, chill, and coax everything, it doesn’t turn out to be that perfect pie that I’m striving to achieve.   Can I blame it on the weather?

My Aunt Mary made the BEST pies.  I remember one time that I  was traveling through the south and bought a bushel of fresh South Carolina peaches and drove them straight to her house hoping that she would make pies….and she did…large, lush and lovely peach pies!  I watched her, I swear, but it was many years ago and I don’t remember how she finessed the crust  that she used making those pies.

Someday,  maybe we’ll go through the “pie thing” together.  Till then, I’d like to share with you how I get around the “pie thing”… I make crisps and cobblers!  They’re easy, tasty, homemade AND it takes a whole lot less skill to make something kin to a pie, but a whole lot easier.

I also have to admit that even though I want my Sunday Supper for family and friends to be special, I also want it to be easy too.  That’s what this post is all about…homemade without too much fuss, but lots of flavor.

I got these sweet, little Jonathan apples at our local market from the folks at Nichols Farm and Orchard.  Over the summer I had the pleasure of visiting the farm and seeing the apple magic that they work there.  When another visitor to the farm asked Mr. Nichols what prepared him for farming, he said, “I had I garden and I can read”… I love that comment, it shows that if you have a true passion for what you do, you can achieve great things.

They grow over 166 varieties of apples there along with heritage vegetables of all kinds, which is one on the reasons that their produce is on the menu of so many fine restaurants.

With all of the varieties to pick from, I chose Jonathan because I wanted a small apple perfect for cooking.  When I prepare this recipe I like to use individual ramekins because the smaller apple slices fit better into them than the larger varieties.

Make it special, make it Sunday.

Print

Easy, Old Fashioned Apple Crisp Recipe

Yield: 6 servings

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 - 35 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Tasty, delicious and very easy!

Ingredients:

8 small apples, such as Johnathan (or 4 large apples)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Butter 6 ramekins or 8 inch pie pan.

Wash, peel and cut apples in slices and arrange in ramekins or pie pan.

Stir all the ingredients together (except the butter) in a medium bowl till combined.

Add the butter and work into mixture with a fork.

Top the apple slices with mixture.

Bake for 30 - 35 minutes till golden brown and apples are soft.

Serve warm with ice cream (optional).

Enjoy!