Finally,2016 Musing Awards!

 

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Tonna Crudo-tuna,cucumber,pickled fennel, fried capers, anchovy aioli

For me, 2016 pretty much sucked. I won’t bore you with all the specifics, but let’s just say if it wasn’t for my obsession with musing about eating and boozing, my guess is I would’ve withdrawn from all human interaction shortly after November 8th! That being said, I did manage to discover some wonderful culinary products and impressive restaurants throughout 2016 that deserve recognition as recipients of the 2nd Annual Musing Awards.

And the Musee goes to………

Favorite newly discovered Food and Beverage:

Savory- Eat Smart Beets and Greens Salad Kit. I’ve never been a fan of bagged salads. I tend to think I can taste the plastic bag on the lettuce. Thankfully, that doesn’t hold true for salads made of sturdier (and healthier) greens such as kale or brussels sprouts. I truly have enjoyed all the  Eat Smart Salad Kits I’ve tried with Beets and Greens being my favorite (and the one that’s out of stock most often).

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This one is good too w/ Poppy Seed Dressing.

Sweet-Betty Crocker Limited Edition Salted Caramel Cookie MixOkay, okay I realize this winner isn’t exactly all the way “prepared” but they sure make baking easy and delicious! Literally just add an egg and butter (REAL UNSALTED BUTTER) for sweet and salty home-baked heaven! If you care to, add my secret ingredient….1/2 tsp Almond Extract. 016000451025

Beverage- Cheribundi Cherry JuiceI’m not gonna lie, this stuff is pretty pricey but I find the flavor delicious! Maybe it’s just label persuasion, but I swear if I drink four 8oz servings through the week my joints actually do feel better as the product implies. I tend to purchase the “lite” version when available.20170103_164730633_ios

Favorite “new to me” Chef- Neal McTighe . I had the pleasure of meeting Neal at a community outreach program at Dickinson College that I was invited to by a dear friend who’s an alum. My friend and I had no idea what to expect from this particular event that was called “Italy in a Jar”, but what the heck it was free and appeared to involve food! Once seated with a glass of Italian Wine and a few nibbles provided by the Dickinson staff we got  to meet and hear the story behind the creator and founder of Nello’s Sauces, a red hot Italian Pasta Sauce Company that’s beginning to appear in shelves all over the place such as Wholefoods, Kroger, Harris Teeter, etc. Even the mail-order meal company, Plated, has begun to provide Nello’s Sauce with their dinner kits. Neal’s rise from Dickinson college student with limited Italian language skills, to teacher of Italian, to Pasta Sauce Chef extraordinaire is not only interesting (“click” on his name above to get to Nello’s website and read all about it) but inspiring too as it is a stunning example of someone pursuing their passion. After the talk, we all gathered into the college kitchen where Neal gave us sauce making tips (do you know the best canned tomatoes to use?) and prepared a huge pot of Pasta with Nello’s Marinara Sauce. I went home with a jar Nello’s sauce laced with lavender which was scrumptious! Ironically, Nello’s Sauce isn’t found near Dickinson College as of yet (closest in probably Wholefoods towards Philly?) but I have my fingers crossed.

Favorite “new to me” Winery- Grace Estate Winery . Like so many other things in 2016, I didn’t get to as many wineries (VA mostly) as I’d would’ve liked or usually do throughout a year. I’m awfully glad my two favorite girls and I were able to get to Grace Estate! Tasting Room-great, Wines-tasty, Outdoor seating and views-lovely. Don’t miss this one when you’re in the Charlottesville area. Look at my blog post from Nov 2016 for more photos of some Charlottesville area wineries visited this past year.20161016_195521473_ios

Favorite “new to me” Restaurant-Cosima, Baltimore MD I loved this place! Baltimore really has some gems and Cosima is at the top of my list. Look at my post from September 2016 titled “Charmed, I’m Sure” for further details on this and a few other places I discovered in the Charm City this past year.

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Ragu Di Cinghiale- slow cooked wild boar, fennel sausage, pancette in tomato sauce over polenta

Just Plain Delicious- Zunzi’s, Savannah GA I blogged about my trip to Savannah in July (“Oh, Savannah”) which provided details of my culinary experiences. Zunzi’s was without a doubt the “funnest” food I had. Truly coming out of a hole in the wall, you stand in line to order absolutely delicious South African (and a few other countries) concoctions. The “Oliver’s Lunch” shown below really is just plain delicious! Take a look at their website. You can order some of their sauces and Zunzi gear.

Oliver’s Lunch at Nunzi’s. The best!

Favorite “new to me” recipe-Chicken Tagine with Lemon and Olives . I guess I must’ve cut this out of a Cooking Light magazine in 2007 but didn’t get around to making it until this past year. I made up for lost time though, because I bet I’ve made this succulent dish at least a dozen times in the past 12 months. It’s that good. Atypically for me, I follow this recipe to a tee except for the cilantro- I never add the Cilantro. Originally I thought 1 hour seemed to be a heck of a long time to simmer chicken thighs but they turn out perfect after a long, slow simmer. Please note that this is a Cooking Light recipe so it won’t infringe on any New Year’s resolution.20170113_172146093_ios

Life Time Achievement Award-Shrimp Spread. The LTAA this year has to go to the family Shrimp Spread recipe featured in my blog post “History, It’s in the Making” April 2016 and dedicated to my dad who passed away last February. I can now say that this recipe has gotten my family through the best of times and worst of times. It’s been served at countless parties and holidays to include this year at Thanksgiving and Christmas. My mom also made it for my Dad’s Military Honors Ceremony and following Reception as a tribute and sweet remembrance of a great husband, father, Officer and gentleman.

So there you have it- the Musing Awards for 2016. Please be so kind as to “click” on a few of the websites I have highlighted. I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts on any of the award recipients and would be honored if you’d pass this post to anyone you think might be interested.

I truly hope 2017 brings you all happiness, peace and a multitude of culinary adventures. Next up for me is the Culinary Immersion Weekend at the Omni Bedford Springs!

“They say I need to be seasoned; they say I need to be stewed. They say, ‘We need to boil all the hope out of him — like us — and then he’ll be ready’.”- Barack Obama while campaigning in 2008

A Food Frolic

A Lettuce Centerpiece confirmed we were having a Springtime Brunch indeed

A Lettuce Centerpiece confirmed we were having a Springtime Brunch indeed

Last weekend my adult children (I call them the DC Contingent) came from our Nation’s Capital to partake in what I dubbed as our “Spring Frolic Weekend”. We kicked everything off on Friday evening by meeting in the booming (not) town of Biglerville PA. It is there that you’ll find a gem of a restaurant called Fidler and Company Craft Kitchen (http://www.fidlerandcompany.com). My kids have been raised at my hand so needless to say they, too, have Foodie-like tendencies and fortunately Fidler’s fit the bill for our reunion. I’ve been there once before for brunch and dinner. The past dinner experience, while delicious, was somewhat disappointing in that I was told AFTER I ordered the Pork Belly and Kimchi Pizza that they were out of dough. I had tried thwarting the same situation this time by providing a veiled threat in my email reservation request ……”you better have pizza dough this time”. Unbelievably, one of the first snippets of information our server gave us when we settled  at our table is that they were out of pizza dough! Did I just hear that? Fortunately and not a second too soon one of the Fidler brothers (Dan, I believe) came over to greet us and told me he had held back enough dough to make two pizzas for us. Saints be Praised! We ordered the Pork and Kimchi Pizza that I was cheated out of last time and in a stroke of good fortune we were able to enjoy the special pizza of the evening……..thinly sliced beets, sautéed spinach (or maybe arugula, I forget), goat cheese and horseradish cream-yum! More appetizers followed as my son (credited with the photo below) and daughter both ordered the impressive and tasty Steak Tartar. The presentation was outstanding as the server lifted a glass filled with smoke from the steak and quail egg once the plate was placed. My Entrée was the Duck Salad which was fabulous, while my husband ordered the Swordfish Special that was delightfully prepared.

Impressive Steak Tartar after the smoke has been lifted

Impressive Steak Tartar after the smoke has been lifted

We split up among the girls and the boys on Saturday. The girls continued with the Food Frolic theme by lunching at Garryowen Irish Pub (http://garryowenirishpub.net) in Gettysburg. I been to the Pub once or twice for a beer, but this was the first time I had eaten there. I was more than pleased with my Salmon Roulade Salad. The Pub is in an old Civil War era home so the eating areas are broken down into a variety of rooms. The room we ate in was recently opened and very charming in décor. I definitely would go back for lunch or dinner. After lunch we visited our “go to” place near Gettysburg if the weather is halfway decent…. Hauser Estate Winery (http://hauserestate.com). The view from the Tasting Room is beyond compare and the wine is more than drinkable. Since we had just had lunch, we chose not to get cheese with our tasting or glass, but believe me you’ll want to try the Bay Cheddar from Conebella Farm….it’s great! (http://conebellafarm.com)

The dressing served with this salad compliments perfectly. That's crab rolled in the smoked salmon!

The dressing served with this salad compliments perfectly. That’s crab rolled in the smoked salmon!

 

The Main Food Frolic Event occurred on Sunday at Brunch hosted by none other than yours truly. As always, I had spent the better part of the week prior (when I wasn’t at my real job, of course) planning and prepping. What fun I had preparing the Spring Menu and Tablescape! I have to give a shout out to Dave and Rachel who operate the best flower shop ever , The Whimsical Poppy (http://thewhimsicalpoppy.com), for having beautiful Lettuce Planters again this year!

The Menu:

Homemade Corned Beef Hash- a recipe I saved from Southern Living years ago. I roast the Brisket a few days before and then chop with the potatoes and pepper. Believe it or not, a bit of nutmeg makes all the difference.

Oven Roasted Bacon- the best way to cook a lot of bacon in my opinion. Just set raw bacon on a rimmed baking sheet covered with crinkled foil, place in the oven THEN set the temperature for 400* and walk away for about 20 minutes.

My Heavenly Chicken Salad with Lettuce wraps

Deviled Eggs

Spring Vegetables with Warm Vinaigrette – recipe in the April edition Food Network Magazine on page 118

Pimento Cheese in Cucumber Cups- from the new cookbook “Lighten Up Y’all” . This cookbook is really great. I love the photography and the author, Virginia Willis, has done a grand job of slimming down many Southern Comfort Food recipes. (http://virginiawillis.com)

White Cupcakes with Creamy Frosting- No kidding, I made the best cupcakes using Pillsbury Purely Simple White Cake Mix. Without added preservatives and artificial flavorings, this mix creates a cake to rival traditional wedding cakes. Likewise, I tried Duff’s (the Ace of Cakes) canned White Creamy Frosting and had to keep reminding myself I didn’t make it from scratch. Both products can be found at your neighborhood grocery store.

There you have it. By 2:00 pm the DC contingent and my lovely parents were on the way to their homes, my husband settled in to read the Sunday paper and I started the process of cleaning up all the while reminding myself that this is what I love to do.

Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity. ~Voltaire

The 1st Annual Musing Awards

The first Foodie Buddy

The first Foodie Buddy

It’s coming up on a year of blogging. It’s been such a hoot for me and I intend to continue and I hope you’ll stick with me! I’m going to wrap up my first 12 months of blogging by bestowing the much coveted (not) Musing Awards to some of my favorite persons, places and things I experienced for the FIRST time this past year.

The results are in and the “Musee” (patent pending) goes to……..

Favorite Prepared Foods and Beverages:

Savory: Blue Hill Butternut Yogurt-this stuff is the bomb! Currently, the only place around me where it’s available is Wegman’s and it’s a bit pricey but worth every penny. Check out Blue Hill’s website for locations, other fun products and recipes. My own concoction is the yogurt, hot sauce, and almonds…a perfect at the office breakfast yum. http://bluehillyogurt.com

My fav is the Butternut Squash, but there's beet and Sweet Potato at Wegman's as well

My fav is the Butternut Squash, but there’s beet and Sweet Potato at Wegman’s as well

Sweet: Garden Lites Carrot Berry Muffins– found in the freezer in the Organic Foods Section (at Giant at least) these muffins are just a moist 4-bite piece of Carrot Cake only nutritious too. I swear spread some cream cheese on the top and you have dessert! 35 seconds in the microwave from the freezer and you’ll be in guilt free heaven.

Marvelously delicious with no effort

Beverage: American Harvest Vodka- When I’m not drinking tea, I’m drinking wine. When I’m not drinking wine, I’m drinking Vodka (I think in that order…sometimes I forget). A mid=priced Vodka this Organic-American made Vodka has a wonderfully crisp, clean flavor that in my opinion stands up to being “dirtied” or sipped straight (very chilled of course).

http://americanharvestspirit.com/

Favorite “New to Me” Chef: Chef David Schmidt of Enchantment Resort in Sedona Arizona- I mentioned Chef Schmidt in my post “Northern Neck Paradise”. I met him while vacationing this summer and became enchanted…..with the chef and the resort where he is the executive chef. Check out the website to learn about the Resort and David Schmidt (Chef also has a facebook and twitter page). http://www.enchantmentresort.com/

As a side note, I made the Granola Recipe on the resort website as Christmas gifts to my Office employees at my real job this year.

Granola Gifts for my Office. Double the recipe made 20 bags!

Granola Gifts for my Office. Double the recipe made 20 bags!

Favorite “New to Me” Winery:first ever tie. First Colony Winery, Charlottesville VA and Old House Vineyards, Culpeper VA. I go to lots of wineries, especially in Virginia. Out of a dozen or so that were new to me this year, these two stand out as favorites-great venues, good wines and personable staff! I truly find something to like at every winery I go to (sometimes it just the Corgi!), but at times I find a winery that has it all…go to these two when in VA. http://www.firstcolonywinery.com and http://www.oldhousevineyards.com

 

Marigolds used keep pests away from the grapes at Old House Vineyards

Marigolds used keep pests away from the grapes at Old House Vineyards

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Thatched Roof of First Colony

The Thatched Roof of First Colony

 

 

 

Favorite “New to Me” Restaurants:

Upscale to the Max- Te at the Inn at Leola Village-If you happen to be in the Lancaster PA area and you want to indulge in an award winning meal go to Te. Matter of fact, stay over night in the lovely accommodations available at the Inn at Leola Village. Our meal at Te was exquisite and I hope to go again sometime soon! http://www.theinnatleolavillage.com

In the Windy City- The Purple Pig-this was tough. I realize we didn’t even scratch the surface of all the fabulous restaurants in Chicago and literally ALL of the places we went to had merit. The Pig though has a certain flair that I found interesting, comforting and just darn tasty. It’s not everywhere you can order bones filled with fat and consider it delicious….you can at The Purple Pig!

Roasted Bone Marrow was just one of the exciting choices at the Purple Pig

Roasted Bone Marrow was just one of the exciting choices at the Purple Pig

Just Plain Delicious-Restaurant Sidney (Willoughby Run in Gettysburg or the Original in East Berlin PA)- Love, Love, Love my Sidney. Great Food, relaxing atmosphere at both locations and a Chef and servers who try to please. http://restaurantsidney.com/#!/main

Classic Sidney Pate

Classic Sidney Pate

Favorite “New to Me” recipe to me- Easy Cioppino- the recipe is found in a previous post titled “Easy Peasy”. I swear, I must try 100 different recipes each year (have I mentioned that I love to cook?). This particular recipe is very easy, very delicious and quite healthy.

This is my adaptation of the recipe found Better Homes and Garden Special Interest Publication "30-Minute Dinners"

This is my adaptation of the recipe found Better Homes and Garden Special Interest Publication “30-Minute Dinners”

Life Time Achievement Award: Gazebo Room Salad Dressing-This is a no-brainer for the first award of this kind. Please refer to the previous post titled “Location, Location, Location”. GRSD is a must-have for all household that are lucky enough to live in a State that stocks the dressing at local grocers.

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Unlike the Oscars, winners don’t go home with gift bags. Instead, I’ve tried to supply contact info when possible so do me a favor and click on a couple of sites that interest you. It’ll show the winners you care and I get a kick out of seeing the number of “clicks” I get on my stats page (anonymous of course)

It’s been a fun year. I look forward to testing out next year’s winners for the next 12 months…stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A “Sweet” Heart Supper

“This year, Valentine’s Day was a celebration of the heart in the truest sense. With bypass surgery behind and my husband’s continued speedy recovery, I was in the perfect position to go all in with the meal prep.

The table is set at Hodge Podge Lodge

The table is set at Hodge Podge Lodge

“Cooking is at once child’s play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love”- Craig Claiborne

The lady’s cocktail for the evening was a French 75 with a welcome twist…..made with Vodka instead Gin. Fresh squeezed lemon juice is a must as far as I’m concerned and only the tiniest bit of superfine sugar. I used Prosecco as the bubbly but Cava works just as well.

I love my French 75 Cocktail

I love my French 75 Cocktail

The Salad I chose to make is called Italian Salad. Recipe can be found at one of my favorite sites: http://fandw.me/1A0v840.

So easy and very delicious

So easy and very delicious

The Main Course: Filet Mignon with Peppercorn-Mustard Sauce (p 29 of “Special Edition: The Best of Cooking Light” published in 2000), Poached Mahi-Mahi with Lemon-Herb Sauce (p 34 of “Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2012”) on a bed of Jasmine Rice and Haricot Vert.

The published fish recipe calls for Halibut. The Mahi-Mahi worked just as well...I've tried both.

The published fish recipe calls for Halibut. The Mahi-Mahi worked just as well…I’ve tried both.

The Dessert: A Sampler from the local bakery with a Red Velvet Whoopie Pie as the highlight.

No credit to me here. I just did the plating.

No credit to me here. I just did the plating.

The first anniversary of “Musing about Eating and Boozing” is fast approaching in April. I appreciate all your support these past months and look forward to taking the blog back on the road once Spring is in the air. I’d love it if you’d browse through my previous posts and I’d be especially interested in feedback. If you’re interested in short snippets about food and a sundry of other things please visit my facebook page “Mygro Tips” once in a while.   Ta-Ta for now.

 

If You Can’t Eat the Dish You Love, Love the Dish You Make!

Chicken Vegetable Soup ala Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2009

Chicken Vegetable Soup ala Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2009

My family has been struck with Heart Disease which has necessitated a rather slight change in meal prep for me. Typically, sodium has not been a nutrition factoid that I’ve dwelled on when choosing recipes to try or adapt, but that changed after bypass surgery for my love became a reality. Being relegated as a caregiver for the week or two after surgery was nothing new for me and the idea of having all day to make meals was almost exciting. I love to cook (have I said that before?)! With a new focus on low sodium, I set out on my familiar exercise of pouring through Cooking Light Annual Recipe Cookbooks to find the perfect recipe. As usual CL did not disappoint. I found perfection in nutrition, taste and presentation. Behold….Chicken Vegetable Soup from Cooking Light 2009 page 27.
Simmered a whole chicken skinned myself then cut in half

Simmered a whole chicken skinned myself then cut in half


I say the key was the addition of parsnip and turnip.

I say the key was the addition of parsnip and turnip.


This recipe is readily available on line. In order to get a beautifully clear broth, cook the noodles separately and add to the bowl when serving.

“Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all”-Harriet van Horne

Thanksgiving at Vintage

The stone fireplace in the Great Room at Vintage

The stone fireplace in the Great Room at Vintage


This year marked thirty-three straight years of enjoying my Thanksgiving feast at Vintage and I can’t imagine a more lovely place to spend a holiday that is wholly based on preparing a meal to share with family and friends as a way to give thanks and count our blessings. Although Vintage is my parents home that wasn’t purchased until I had already graduated from college, I like to think I was instrumental in persuading (actually it was full out coercion) my folks to see this beautiful piece of property as the perfect place to spend their retirement years and to hold our most momentous family occasions.
The Thanksgiving guests at Vintage have changed through the years but four of us have remained constant…my mom and dad, my husband (only fiancé the 1st year) and I. We’ve had as many as 12 around the table, but this year it was limited to the four of us and our daughter and son. Regardless of the numbers of attendees, the menu planning remains the same with very little deviation- my dad takes care of the turkey, my mom decorates the table and does the stuffing and makes the family shrimp spread recipe while I scour through all my Cookbooks and Magazines to come up with sundry recipes I want to try. My daughter has taken over the Mashed Potato prep and this year made two fabulous desserts. Get a load of this……

While the menu may be extensive, for me it’s a perfect testament of my many blessings to share the fruits of the effort with my family who have always appreciated and supported (and in many ways inherited) my culinary obsession. Likewise, the warm and welcoming atmosphere maintained by my mom and dad that Vintage holds enables us to put our significant areas of concern aside for just one day of the year. I truly hope you all have a “Vintage” in your life as well.
Sherry Creamed Mushrooms, Pimento Cheese Creamed Spinach, Asparagus with Crispy Pancetta and Apple Cider Glazed Root Vegetables adorn the Sideboard.

Sherry Creamed Mushrooms, Pimento Cheese Creamed Spinach, Asparagus with Crispy Pancetta and Apple Cider Glazed Root Vegetables adorn the Sideboard.


5 Stars are awarded to the Pimento Cheese Creamed Spinach, the Apple Cider Glazed Root Vegetables, the Salted-Butter Apple Galette and Marbled Gingersnap Pumpkin Tart (both desserts made lovingly by my daughter). The Sherry Creamed Mushrooms have always been to die for and “our” Shrimp Spread is legendary.
The Great Room of Vintage

The Great Room of Vintage

“Food, in the end, in our tradition, is something holy. It’s not about nutrients and calories. It’s about sharing. It’s about honesty. It’s about identity.”- Louise Fresco

Pizza with a Princess

Recipe for Smoked Chicken Pizza as it appears in Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publication: 30-Minute Dinners

Recipe for Smoked Chicken Pizza as it appears in Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publication: 30-Minute Dinners


Ingredients gathered to adapt the Smoked Chicken Recipe

Ingredients gathered to adapt the Smoked Chicken Recipe

Dear readers this post will be my first ever to not only promote a recipe and a food product or two, but to introduce a fabulous cooking piece that has me giddy! Any gal my age may remember the “Princess House” parties our moms or grandmas had bringing friends and family together to purchase crystal glasses and vases that were only used once a year or more often given as wedding gifts. The Princess House Company has endured, but let me tell you, fancy crystal is only a sliver of the type of products they now peddle. Still only available through home parties or direct order from your consultant, Princess House offers fabulous cookware that fits my “Foodie without Big Bucks” lifestyle perfectly.http://princesshouse.com
A few nights ago I adapted the above recipe to fit my need-for-speed, taste and most importantly my desire to use my “Ultimate Grill, Bake and Serve Stone” recently purchased from my dear friend and personal PH Consultant (thanks C!). This stone is as versatile as it gets….grill (gas or charcoal), bake, broil, chill or freeze…..it does it all. This night, after getting my ingredients together, every step of preparation was done on the stone atop my gas grill as shown in the pics below:


Besides using the grill, changes to the recipe for me included use of a deli-roasted chicken, one large whole wheat pizza crust and probably more like a 1 1/2 cups of smoked mozzarella. The smokiness of the cheese is what gave this pizza a rich and unique flavor. I substituted iceberg lettuce and my own tomatoes for the arugula because my guy likes the crunch of a fresh iceberg (no matter that it’s nutritional value is nil) and besides my edible landscaping is paying off in tomatoes and other veggies currently. As one might guess if you’ve read my previous post, I drizzled Gazebo Room Salad Dressing on the whole darn thing in lieu of plain old EVOO……yum.http://gazeboroom.com

Finished Product

Finished Product