What I Miss & Perfect Pairs

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Yesterday was William’s 29th birthday. Cheers to my boy. His birth was truly one of the best days of my life. Missing him more than I can express I celebrate him in the best way I can. In the garden planting seeds and in the kitchen creating a few recipes inspired by him he continues to be a bright light in my heart. I’m thankful for my hobbies and my passion to want to learn and try new things. Getting through tough times? It’s all about the distraction. Cooking, baking and gardening do it for me. How do you do it?

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I have been practicing my food photography with a new camera and have already received some very exciting feedback from some recipe/food sponsors. Can’t reveal what that is right now, but it sure made me feel good about trying something new and difficult. These days’ recipe contests require quite a bit of work. I miss the old days when all I had to do was create a recipe, write it down and mail it in. Now, in addition to preparing an original recipe, I am required to be a food stylist, food photographer and a creative writer. My poor husband. He knows he is not allowed to eat anything in the house until I have photographed it…on many a day we eat the food cold.

Probably one of the more wonderful things that have been on my plate lately is teaching two really smart and joyful young ladies, ages 11 & 9 how to cook. Sharing what I know about cooking and baking with the younger generation is quite fun and exciting. We are cooking our way around the globe and just finishing up Mexico with a Mango Tres Leches Cake. I think I was channeling my favorite teachers of Mexican cuisine Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken of Too Hot Tamales. I miss those cooking shows that really taught me and helped build my knowledge in the kitchen.

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Mango Tres Leches “Celebration” Cake is perfect for a birthday or Cinco de Mayo

Are there any famous chefs that you have learned from and would like to meet? Wouldn’t it be great fun to travel  to the 2017 Vegas Uncork’d Expo food & wine event happening next week? Take a look at that celebrity chef schedule. Famous chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Giada de Laurentiis will be preparing their dishes alongside perfectly paired cocktails. There are a few I would love to learn from, but if I could only pick one my heart still belongs to Mary Sue & Susan as they opened up a whole new world of Mexican cuisine and especially cheeses to me.

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queso fresco on scrambled eggs makes a perfect pair

Speaking of cheese and back in my own kitchen I have been working on some new recipes for grilled cheese sandwiches. After a hard day in the garden cooking up something like a grilled cheese and dining out al fresco on the deck is an easy and delicious way to end the day. Heading into the warmer weather we often enjoy a cool glass of rosé wine with a grilled cheese sandwich. It’s a rustic perfect pairing, but who says wine has to be fancy? Rosé matches quite well with just about any cheese and bread. It’s not as elaborate as some famous celebrity chef dishes, but it works.

Cheers!

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Here is one of my winning cheese sandwiches from yesteryear. The salty bacon and olives with the sweetness of fruit, peppery arugula and luscious burrata pairs perfectly with a glass of Rosé.

Burrata & Bacon Ciabatta, Oh My

3 slices thick cut bacon

¼ cup apricot jam

1 (4-inch) ciabatta roll, toasted

2 tablespoons Mezzetta Napa Valley Bistro Homemade Style Basil Pesto

¼ cup arugula leaves

2 Mezzetta Sweet Cherry Peppers, seeded, diced

1-ounce burrata cheese (1/2 of a 2 ounce ball)

1 ripe apricot, sliced

4 pieces Mezzetta Sliced Greek Kalamata Olives, chopped

1-teaspoon balsamic vinegar syrup

Heat oven 400F. Line bottom of broiler pan with foil. Coat both sides of bacon with jam; place on broiler pan rack set over foil-lined bottom. Bake 30 minutes; transfer bacon to a plate. Spread bottom half of roll with pesto. Layer with arugula, cherry peppers, bacon, burrata, apricots and olives. Drizzle with balsamic. Cover with remaining bread slice.

 

 

Fresh From the Gulf

 

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Time to plan the feast of the seven fishes dinner. I love this family tradition and any good excuse to eat lots of fresh seafood. This year I am looking forward to this dinner with a whole new outlook thanks to the hard-working folks down on the Gulf Coast.

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Do you ever really wonder where your seafood comes from? Do you read grocery store labels? Do you ask the restaurant server when, where and who harvested the shrimp or the crab or the oysters before placing your order? If not you should be.

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If you are a lover of the all-you-can-eat buffet I can pretty much guarantee those cheap eats are coming from some foreign land. I much rather eat a higher quality seafood and support the livelihoods of proud American families who work extremely hard to bring a fine product to my table.

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During the World Food Championships 2016 Blogger Summit I had the privilege of traveling to Bayou La Batre, Alabama and touring places like the Murder Point Oyster Farm, the Olympic Shellfish crabmeat processing plant and the Graham Shrimp Company. Fresh from the Gulf of Mexico generation after generation of Alabama families have built their lives on the commercial seafood industry. Share their passion for hand-crafted quality. Don’t let it disappear. Ask for it by name.

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Thank you to the Turquoise Place for the most upscale accommodations and amazing view.

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And to this fine lady who works tirelessly on behalf of us food bloggers. Nice work, Amy.

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Here is a recipe from our holiday table Christmas Eve 2015. Wishing you Peace, Health and Joy and may you be surrounded by those you love most.<3

Roasted Shrimp with Preserved Lemon

Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen

For the Garlic Confit Oil

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

6 large garlic cloves, halved

2 fresh bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme

For the Shrimp

2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined

¼ cup garlic confit oil

3 tablespoons thinly sliced preserved lemon

pinch of sea salt

pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano or marjoram

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro or flat leaf parsley

Make the garlic confit oil: In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the olive oil, garlic, bay leaves and thyme. Cook until the garlic is tender but has not started to brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let the oil cool. Preheat the oven to 400°. On a parchment-lined sheet tray, arrange the shrimp and toss with the garlic confit oil and preserved lemon. Season with salt and red pepper flakes then roast, turning halfway, until the shrimp are cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the oregano and cilantro.

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The View From Will’s Bench

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Greeted by the lovely Joe-Pye Weeds at Lake Elise

It happens every time. That sudden overwhelming sadness. It’s just a sign off the highway that reads “Middlebury”, but it causes my chin to quiver and an ache in my jaw as I try to fight back the feelings. First stop always is Lake Elise to sit on Will’s Bench. It’s been a year.

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My heart is racing and I feel like I can’t breathe. My jaw is killing me by the time I step out of the car. I can’t take it one more minute. No one is here except me, so I let it go. It’s just the way it is and I am surprised, after all this time, I still can’t control it. Maybe that is why I have not been here since last summer. A place I used to call home.

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There is relief in the hot tears and the shade of the trees. There is a whisper in the wind. I tell him how sorry I am for crying. “I miss you so much and if you can see me from whatever world you are in I hope my obvious grief in this moment doesn’t cause you any pain.” Imagine that. Can our deceased loved ones see us grieving and with that do we cause them to suffer even more than they already have in dying? I quickly change the subject and tell him all about the joy of Annabelle and being a grandmother. A text from Caitlin reminds me that William is her guardian angel. Yes, he absolutely is and just like that I am OK.

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left behind by a young boy the bench remains a favorite fishing spot

There is a second bench I must visit. It’s over at the Taft school. As I gaze at the pond I see a handsome young student with a grin a mile wide fading into the water. This time I hold back the tears, but the yearning in my heart to turn back time is very present. No denying it will always be this way year after year after year.

Thanks to everyone who shared some time with me this weekend. I loved seeing each and every one of you. Your simple presence in my life means more than you will ever know. When this oppressive heat lifts I hope you, too, will take in a view from the bench.

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