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but let’s just say if it wasn’t for my obsession with musing about eating and boozing, my guess is I would’ve withdrawn from all human interaction shortly after November 8th!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

History, It’s in the Making (or It’s all about the Shrimp Spread)

The Easter Tablescape this year

The Easter Tablescape this year

As an Army Brat, an Officer’s daughter no less, one of my Mom’s jobs as so many other Officer’s wives was to entertain. We had lots of Cocktail Parties, Sit-Down Dinners, Luncheons and Teas at our home wherever we were stationed. That being said, I became interested at a young age in the art of entertaining. I also picked up one of my Mom’s habits that has defined me in oh so many ways! You see, just as my mother before me, with each and every social ocassion I host, I produce an “Index Card” that not only lists what I served, but what I liked, what I didn’t, who was invited and what notable occurances happened before, during or sometimes after. They became a historical record of sorts that through the years has served as a  remembrance for me of days gone by. I can tell you for instance that I made Chicken with Bell Pepper and Onion Confit (Bon Appetit September 2001 Issue) for my Mom’s  birthday dinner 3 days after the Attacks of 9/11. It is documented that my son had Hardee’s Chicken for four birthdays in a row (ages 3-6), yet by the time he turned 12 his tastes had become so refined that I prepared Pepper-Seared Tenderloin w/Horseradish Cream. According to my index card that same sweet boy used the “F” word in front of his grandparents at my Dad’s 80th Birthday (hopefully the Sausage Ratatouille I made buffered the shock). My index cards fit perfectly in a sweet pastel basket where 35 years of entertaining is recorded. I’ll admit, I’ve missed an ocassion or two here or there and some cards lack detail compared to others. By and large though, the cards tell a lot about my family’s past.

A few statistics:

I have 204 recorded occasions. ( I know this is where you that know me are trying to tally how many parties you were invited to!)

I’ve hosted 18 Ladies Luncheons and Teas. The first one was the luncheon I had for my Bridesmaids in April of 1981 where I served my sure to be famous Ham and Egg Roulade which I have never made again! According to the card though, it was delicious and appeared in “Home Entertaining” magazine.

40 parties were Christmas parties (yes, some years I’ve had more than one) and remarkably I’ve had several Labor Day get togethers.

Of those Christmas/Holiday Parties, I served Shrimp Spread 22 times not to mention the countless other times as well. This brings me to the other portion of this post….

 

The ever faithful Shrimp Spread. This time made by my 88 year-old Mom just the other day.

The ever faithful Shrimp Spread. This time made by my 88 year-old Mom just the other day.

The Shrimp Spread

Apparently not all families serve “our” Shrimp Spread as a matter of routine. I know for a fact that it became a family staple for us in 1969 when my Dad was stationed in Fort Sill Oklahoma. The “Guided Missle Department Cookbook” was a collection of recipes contributed by the wives and was housed in a two-ringed binder with a bright red cover and is where this coveted appetizer first appeared. Somehow my mom is no longer is in possession of this publication, but no matter as the glorious Shrimp Spread recipe has been rewritten, shared and republished many times over.  When friends come over for repeat visits they immediately look for the Shrimp Spread. Who knew canned shrimp (always use the tiny or broken, mushed up!) could be the base for shellfish heaven? I’ve shared the recipes more times than I can count and the recipe now appears in several local Cookbooks either submitted by me or a friend I shared it with. Amazingly, I poured through 60 Shrimp Dip/Spreads on the “AllRecipes” website and not a one was precisely the same as “ours”.

I’m not gonna lie, as I’ve written before, I don’t make ANY recipe exactly as written. In this case when I double the recipe (and I always double the recipe!) I adjust some of the ingredients upward (hint, hint you can always use a bit more egg). I use green onion and I truly believe fresh parsley is a must although I know one particularly picky friend of mine who loves this stuff uses onion powder and dried parsley.

Well used recipe card as you can see

Well used recipe card as you can see

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In my other life as a Contract Negotiator, we were constantly reminded that “documentation is key”. I strongly believe this is the case in our personal lives as well. Be it through writings, photographs, recordings, momentos or simply memories engraved in our minds, holding on to those experiences one way or another gives us a sense of family, friendship and belonging.

This blog post is dedicated to my dad who passed away on February 5 2016. A true Officer and Gentleman who shared my passion for collecting memories and experiencing life through his tastebuds. You will be forever missed.

The table is set at my Dad's beloved "Vintage"

The table is set at my Dad’s beloved “Vintage”

 

 

 

A Fond Farewell

The "Southern Picnic" themed table at my retirement celebration

The “Southern Picnic” themed table at my retirement celebration

A co-worker asked if the Retirement Reception that was organized in my honor was blog worthy. At the time, I didn’t know how to respond because I knew she was speaking about the quality of the food that had been prepared. Since my foodie tendencies are well known throughout my department at a very  service oriented Navy facility that day in and day out does an outstanding job of supporting our war fighters at sea, the” party planners” for this event had paid particular attention to food quality and décor. As I came home after experiencing such a truly lovely outpouring of affection I knew I indeed needed to include this extraordinary event in my blog. The food was outstanding but that is not the point of this blog post. The fact that a wonderful group of co workers went out of their way to give me a retirement sendoff  with every nuance of my personality considered is what makes the occasion “blog worthy” (for you, Andrea).

Just part of the tablescape at my retirement reception

Just part of the tablescape at my retirement reception

The Glorious Cupcakes served at my retirement reception at work

The Glorious Cupcakes served at my retirement reception at work

Not to be out done, my sweet daughter with help from the rest of the family had planned a big retirement bash at Vintage (read my post “Thanksgiving at Vintage” to learn more about this magical place) where long time friends and close co-workers were invited to celebrate MY “Independence Day”.  As the guest of honor, I contributed very little to the affair only making the family Shrimp Spread and a couple of other bites to pass. The rest of the menu was squarely the responsibility of my incredibly talented girl. The Party should’ve been covered by our favorite magazine, Southern Living! From Ham Biscuits and Chicken Tenders with Alabama White Sauce to Market Potato Salad and Gazebo Room Pasta Salad, from Pimento Cheese and Mommy and Mamie’s Cheese Ball, from Spiked Blackberry Basil Lemonade to Troeg’s Sunshine Pils and everything in between……….this get together was fantastic!

The cake , fruit and candy bar at my Independence Day celebration

The cake , fruit and candy bar at my Independence Day celebration

Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate- Alan D. Wolfelt

Thanks ever so Jen, Jill, Nikki, Andrea, Jason, Amy and Kay.

I love you all- Mamie, Austin, Pat, Jamie, Mom and Dad, Rick, Laura, Cloey (Nick of course too) and Hailey.