Friday, December 18, 2009

Planning Our Wedding

So I know I haven't blogged at all recently, it isn't like I have readers chomping at the bit though for my words of wisdom, but besides being in the holiday season and working for a restaurant corporation (crazy time of year) I have been planning my wedding. I know that Weddings are supposed to be the thing that every girl dreams about since childhood and have it planned in their heads to a tee, but for me I never really thought about my wedding at all. I had no vision in my mind of what it would be like. I had been living happily for 7 years with my boyfriend when he finally asked me to marry him, I was of course ecstastic, but completely overwhelmed. I would be happy with just eloping in Vegas honestly, but I knew our families would really want something more, especially since we have moved so far away from most of them. So Christian and I sat down and thought about what really expressed us and the happiest moments in our relationship together. We are not the kind of people who like to do the same things as everyone else, we like to be different and unique. So we instantly thought of having the wedding in Jamaica. But not some Sandal's all-inclusive, just show up kind of wedding. Christian's family has a villa down there and it seemed like there was no place better to have the wedding. We had spent many wonderful times down there over our relationship. However, I refuse to use a wedding planner and doing everything yourself for a wedding on foreign soil can be extremely tedious. Yet, we managed to make a lot of connections and get a lot of things done. But you will have to stay tuned to see how and if it all works out.... If anyone is thinking of doing this themselves, please feel free to contact me for any information, I would love to share what I have learned.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Heart Warming Meal that I give thanks for

I love Thanksgiving and all of the foods that go along with it, but sometimes enough is enough. So this weekend my fiancee made us a traditional "Pho", a Vietnamese noodle soup, to sort of bring our bodies back to life after the bloated feelings from all of the pecan pie, turkey, and stuffing. He made everything from scratch after visiting a local Asian grocery in Sioux City and it was just as good as any restaurants I have ever had.



5 pounds beef knuckle, with meat
2 pounds beef oxtail
1 white (daikon) radish, sliced
2 onions, chopped
2 ounces whole star anise pods
1/2 cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 slice fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 1/2 pounds dried flat rice noodles
1/2 pound frozen beef sirloin or Chicken (we used chicken in this one)


sriracha hot pepper sauce
hoisin sauce
thinly sliced onion
chopped fresh cilantro
bean sprouts (mung beans)
sweet Thai basil
thinly sliced green onion
limes, quartered


1.Place the beef knuckle in a very large (9 quart or more) pot. Season with salt, and fill pot with 2 gallons of water. Bring to a boil, and cook for about 2 hours.
2.Skim fat from the surface of the soup, and add the oxtail, radish and onions. Tie the anise pods, cinnamon stick, cloves, peppercorns and ginger in a cheesecloth or place in a spice bag; add to the soup. Stir in sugar, salt and fish sauce. Simmer over medium-low heat for at least 4 more hours (the longer, the better). At the end of cooking, taste, and add salt as needed. Strain broth, and return to the pot to keep at a simmer. Discard spices and bones. Reserve meat from the beef knuckle for other uses if desired.
3.Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Soak the rice noodles in water for about 20 minutes, then cook in boiling water until soft, but not mushy, about 5 minutes. Slice the frozen beef paper thin. The meat must be thin enough to cook instantly.
4.Place some noodles into each bowl, and top with a few raw beef slices. Ladle boiling broth over the beef and noodles in the bowl. Serve with hoisin sauce and sriracha sauce on the side. Set onion, cilantro, bean sprouts, basil, green onions, and lime out at the table for individuals to add toppings to their liking.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Free HOG ROAST and Barbecue for Orange City, IA

If you live in Orange City, Iowa or anywhere in its surrounding areas than you are truly blessed, because tomorrow night four local businesses are putting on a FREE Hog Roast for the entire city in honor of their long standing business in the area and the fact that October is National Pork Month. If you don't already know, Sioux County puts out some of the most and best pork products in the world, and you can have them for free tomorrow night. If the weather is nice it will be held at Windmill Park and if it rains then it will be at Town Hall.

Blue Mountain Smokehouse Grill is making the hogs tasty and also providing all of the sides and fixins. So come and see us tomorrow night for some food and fun.

Helping Hands Craft Fair

So I told someone back home that I did a craft fair this past weekend and they instantly told me that I was becoming such a "midwesterner." Which at first I took a slight offense to, I will always be a New Orleans girl, but yes I have picked up a few things from the Midwest and an affinity to craft is one of them. I have been making my own jewelry and beads for a while but needed to recoup some of the expenses that I have put into my hobby and thus the Midwest Craft show, which actually proved to be a lot of fun and I am looking forward to the next one. My friend Mary, from the Yellow Door Paperie and Wendy, who does beautiful stuff, my favorite is her recycled sweater bags, they are so cute, were also there and we hope to do our own craft show soon, something a little bit more hip, but for now we will stick to the Midwest circuit and let everyone know that we may not be from the Midwest, but we can craft up a storm, and it ain't nothin that your momma was makin. These were a couple of the things that sold.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


So even though I would like to not admit it (only because it means we are closer to winter), Fall has arrived. I believe it may have even froze last night. However, last year was my first real experience with a true Fall/Autumn season and I have to say it was wonderful. There is a briskness in the air, the leaves are golden and on the ground, the sound of football games are in the background, and the smell of baked goods is usually coming from my house. I had gone on pretty much a hiatus from baking over the summer, but I have bounced back with my first fall recipe. I have always wanted to make challah bread, because I love its light yet dense buttery flavor and when I came upon this recipe in the new Martha Stewart Living magazine, I had to commit. It does take a bit of time, but it is so worth it... We managed to not eat it all last night, and hope to make bread pudding with the leftovers.

Apple-Honey Challah

Apples and honey, Rosh Hashanah's symbols of a sweet new year, are perfect additions to a loaf of challah.

Makes one 9-inch round loaf.

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter or nondairy margarine, plus more for bowl, pan, and plastic
3 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour, plus more for surface
3/4 cup warm water (100 degrees)
2/3 cup honey
2 large eggs plus 3 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (from one 1/4-ounce envelope)
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 1/2 tart green apples, preferably Granny Smith, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 1 3/4 cups)


1.Butter a large bowl, and melt 4 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat; let cool. Combine 2 tablespoons melted butter, the flour, water, 1/3 cup honey, the eggs and yolks, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Mix until dough forms. Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and knead until smooth, about 10 minutes.
2.Transfer dough to buttered bowl, and brush with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Cover with plastic. Let rise in a warm place until dough almost doubles in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.
3.Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Pat into an 8 1/2-by-14-inch rectangle. Top with apples; knead to incorporate. Return to bowl. Brush with remaining tablespoon melted butter; cover. Let rise again in a warm place until dough almost doubles in volume, about 1 hour more.
4.Preheat oven to 375 degrees, with rack in lowest position. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan. Roll dough into a rope (about 24 inches) on a floured surface. Coil into a circle, and transfer to pan. Butter plastic wrap, and cover dough. Let rise again until dough almost doubles in volume, about 45 minutes more.
5.Heat remaining 4 tablespoons butter and 1/3 cup honey in a saucepan over medium-low heat until butter melts. Brush dough with half the honey-butter. Bake until golden brown and firm, about 35 minutes.
6.Brush challah with the remaining honey-butter. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Turn out loaf from pan, and let cool.


Friday, September 25, 2009

An Art Adventure

This weekend Native American artists from across the Northern Plains will gather in Sioux Falls, South Dakota to hold one of the largest Art Markets representing their culture and heritage. For more information you can visit their website, I will be there on Saturday, and will report back about how it was and hopefully my many great findings. Regardless it should be and interesting excursion away from the homefront.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Black and White Crackle Cookies

Recently I was going to make a dessert for a friend of mines birthday, and she requested that I make these chocolate cookies that I had given her in the past from David Lebovitz's book "Room for Dessert". Lebovitz is like the guru of anything sweet so there are many great recipes for all kinds of desserts in his book, but the most acclaimed one that I have made thus far has to be the recipe for these black and white cookies. These are not the traditional New York style black and white cookies, but they are black and white nonetheless. They look beautiful and taste even better, many of my friends say they should come with a warning label, because literally once you pop you can't stop.

It's a Beautiful Day

It was a Beautiful Labor Day weekend here in Orange City and Christian, Roux, and myself tried to make the most of it. We went to the lake in Yankton, SD, we went to a movie, and we barbecued with some friends and had a bonfire, but my favorite part about our weekend, was this walk. I give thanks for everyday that we get to live on this earth, and these moments amongst nature with the ones that I love are so special, though simple, they mean so much. This area also holds a special place in our hearts, because along this trail is where Christian and I got engaged, with Roux in tow. It is refreshing to be able to visit this place that holds such a wonderful memory in our lives.

Monday, August 31, 2009

My New Favorite Recipe Website

So, you have always used King Arthur's flour for all of your baking and cooking needs, but did you know that they have their own website? And that, that website has a section for recipes, and that they all sound delicious. I have my eye on the coffee cakes, but I am not sure what to try first. Let me know if there is anything that you have tried and is a "must-make".

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My trip to Minneapolis

Recently I traveled to Minneapolis, Minnesota for the first time to meet my mom for a girls weekend of shopping, dining, talking , and city exploration. I did not realize how close I was to this big city, right under a four hour drive. This was both my mom and I's first times to one of the Twin Cities and I have to say I thouroughly enjoyed it. Minneapolis has everything that all of the great big cities have, but they still retain their midwest character.

On our first day, Mom and I took to the streets and to the skyways that line downtown and Explored Nicollet Mall. This area is not really a mall, but a street or promenade if you will, that is lined with shops, restaurants, and businesses.

During the beatiful summer days that we were there, people were outside everywhere, dining, drinking and enjoying the long awaited beautiful weather. From May 1 - Oct. 31 on every Thursday, there is a Farmers Market along Nicollet Mall. Much of the produce sold is homegrown and organic. You can buy fresh vegetables, fruits, flowers and meats.

We explored and shopped for a bit and stopped for dinner at a fabulous french restaurant, called Vincent a Restaurant.

Everything was delicous here, but I must say the appetizer that I had of the Veal Sweetbreads with a sweet corn risotto and tomato butter sauce, was one of the best things I have ever had. It was a great dinner to end a wonderful day.

The next day we had to conquer consumer heaven and shop at the Mall of America. So we geared up for it by having an awesome breakfast at a local diner, called Key's cafe. There are evidently a few locations in Minneapolis, but we were at the one downtown. I shied away from the larger than life Cinnamon Rolls, which looked heavenly, and had a supberb veggie omelet with freshly squeezed o.j. and a smile, which was delightfully unexpected for diners.
The Mall of America is a task that needs some planning if you want to get it all done in one day, but if you map out your points of interest and stick to the track, never getting wrapped up into the inside playworld that is every child's fantasy and every parent's nightmare, you will be fine. So "sticking to the track" we shoppped for hours and hours, and seven hours later we emerged from the Mall of America unscathed and with some new clothes. Of course Nordstrom's shoe and makeup department were my favorites, but I also discovered this store called, The Afternoon, that is full to the brim with amazing cards and gifts for every person in your life and they have a website, so I can shop them from home. If you have any energy left, which I didn't, there is also an IKEA across the street from the Mall. That night we went back to Nicollet, because it was such a beautiful evening and dined Al fresco at Zelo, a modern italian restaurant with a passion for Art.

It was splendid and everything on the menu reflects what Mineapolis is becoming known for, which is a healthy and more natural and organic approach to farm fresh foods.
Minneapolis, was also hosting three Art Festivals on the weekend we were there, so we made it Uptown to also check out the festivities and see a favorite artist of mine, Dolan Geiman
The next day we ventured out a bit and went to the city of Edina. Minneapolis has so many unique little cities amongst the city, and Edina is one of them. At the neighborhood surrounding the intersection of 50th and France are many quaint shops, restaurants, boutiques, coffee shops, etc... that have a cool historic and unique vibe about them, but also very urban and hip. There was the best cooking store there called, The Cooks of Crocus Hill. I bought the awesome crocs for making French Onion soup there that I always wanted, but the greatest thing about this store was that it was a venue for crop sharing and a drop off point for local farms. You could order free heritage turkeys, specialty french tri-color chickens, wild boar, and the list goes on, not to mention the produce. They also hold a cooking class here once a week.

We ended our trip with dramatic contrast. First cocktails at the new and completely modern Cosmos, at the Graves 601 Hotel and then Dinner at Oceanaire, and old school staple that has fish flown in fresh daily, that feels like something remeniscent of the "the good old days."

It was truly a wonderful time and I had a great time catching up with my mom, which for me was the best part of the trip, but I also fell in love with Minneapolis. On the way home I even stopped by two roadside famer's markets and picked up some of the delicious produce and jarred creations that Minnesota had to offer, but I'll still take the cold here, at least it's a few degrees warmer.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Tomatoes... the possibilities are endless

My garden has been popping lately with all kinds of things, but my favorite vegetable of the bounty is tomatoes. I love tomatoes and used to eagerly look forward to the Creole Tomato season in New Orleans, but there are many kinds of wonderful tomatoes out there, and many ways to use them in cooking. So more recently I have been trying to invent my own recipes, using my new favorite book called, The Flavor Bible.

The Flavor Bible lists by alphabet every naturally found food that exists and gives you flavor pairings, great combinations, and even certain great recipes from top chefs, on what compliments the certain food. I have been using this now "religiously" when cooking anything and have come up with some great recipes. Recently, I cooked with Kohlrabi for the first time and came up with a gratin that was out of this world. But with my tomatoes I experimented some and came up with this creation:

Baked Green Tomato Napoleans with Spicy Tabasco Remoulade Sauce

I have not gotten to the part of actually writing down the recipes as I make them, so that will have to be my next goal, but I did coat the Tomatoes in Grape Seed oil, salt, and pepper, and then dredged them through a mixture of Panko, parmesan cheese, and fresh basil. I then broiled them until they were crispy. For the layering of the napolean, I used herbed goat cheese- (whatever herbs were available in my garden) and mixed them with goat cheese, then layered that with between three tomatoes and broiled that some more. The remoulade is really where I lost track of what was put in it, sorry. If you have any interesting tomato recipe suggestions, please send them to me. Thanks and happy cooking.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

My Tales of the Cocktail...New Orleans

While Christian will be in our hometown this week attending the Tales of the Cocktail conference, "learning and studying" of course all that liquor has to offer. I thought that I would do my own Tales of the Cocktail list of all of my favorite spots to get great drinks in New Orleans. This is not for all of you visiting bartenders who'll sit and critique base liquors for hours on end while forcing the frail bartender at the Absinthe House to whip up 30 Absinthe Frappes for you and your ilk (@ 3am; hotshot)...this is for the people who just know how to enjoy a good drink...compiled over my 10+ years of liquid indulgence.

I would not recommend doing this all in one day, unless your tolerance is ready for it, but two or three days would suffice

First, hop on up to the The Carousel Bar at the Monteleone Hotel in the French Quarter where famous drinkers such as Ernest Hemmingway imbibed at, amongst many other infamous people, and order The Goody.

The Goody is an original cocktail invented at the Carousel Bar and includes dark rum, light rum, orgeat (almond syrup), pineapple juice, and orange juice. What better way to get your daily vitamins. Now perhaps riding a carousel bar that makes one rotation every thirty minutes, might not seem like the thing to do whilst drinking but trust me it is worth it. I have riden it countless times and never gotten sick and it provides this great carnival-esque ambience.

The next cocktail on the essential list can be found at the Napolean House. The Napolean House is a great spot that has been around for over 200 years, and still holds the mysticism of being stuck in a more relaxed and refined time. I love going here for the great atmoshpere, a wonderful Muffaletta, and of course for the famed Pimm's Cup.

I will never forget trying my first Pimm's Cup, because I truly thought I would not like it, but after one pleasantly refreshing sip amidst the humid New Orleans summer, I was hooked. The classic Pimm's Cup contains a gin based liquor called, Pimm's, lemonade, lemon-lime soda, and of course (the refreshing part) cucumber. These are so easy going down, so be careful and eat a little or a lot so you can continue the tour.

The next bar that is a must on everyone's list is Pat O'Brien's. Located in the french quarter and renowned for it's super drink, the Hurricane, Pat O'Brien's is a New Orleans establishment that will never perish. However, since all of the Hurricanes are now made from a powdery mix I am not going to include them on my cocktail tour, but another remarkable drink that Pat O's makes, that they even took off of the menu because it makes the bartenders cringe, is the Pousse Cafe. This is on my list because it is a beautiful layered shot that noone besides the tenders at Pat O's seem to be able to replicate. Placed in the sun, this shot looks like a rainbow mixture of goodness. What makes this drink work is knowing the specific gravities of the liquors that are in it and carefully pouring them over a spoon to allow the layers to set up.

Drinking a pousse at Pat's.

The next stop on the cocktail tour would have to be the Ritz Carlton Hotel. It may seem a bit stodgy to be going to the Ritz for drinks, but if you are looking for the best in cocktails then you have to go to the Library Lounge at the Ritz Carlton and pay a visit to Chris McMillian. Chris can mix any drink to its absolute pefection, but if there is one drink that you want done perfectly and absolutely can not have it any other way, than it is a Ramos Gin Fizz and world renowned bartender, mixologist, and all around cocktail genius, Chris McMillian has to make it. When done correctly this is the lightest sweetest and most enjoyable libation I have ever tasted, and I usually don't like Gin that much. The basic recipe calls for one-and-a-half ounces gin, a tablespoon simple syrup, two ounces half-and-half, one egg white, a dash of vanilla extract, a half-an-ounce of orange flower water and a splash of lemon-lime soda. However, the magic happens once you shake it and shake it vigorously you must.

The Ramos Gin Fizz

If you want more history about this classic New Orleans cocktail than I suggest you visit Chris and let him tell you, because as the fourth generation of bartenders in his family and a native New Orleanian who has worked in the finest establishments, he will have the best tale of that cocktail and many others.

There is nothing more classic New Orleans than going to the next spot, which has just reopened its doors after Hurricane Katrina, for its signature drink. The Sazerac, can only be had at the Sazerac Lounge in the old, but new again, Roosevelt Hotel. According to the Atlantic, "The trinity of Sazerac ingredients survived Hurricane Katrina: Herbsaint liqueur, Peychaud’s Bitters, and Sazerac 18 Year Old Rye Whiskey. All are owned by the Sazerac Company, headquartered in New Orleans in a building that itself survived the storm."

I have memories of going here with my family over Christmas every year when it was the Fairmont and looking at the lavish decorations and as I got older trying my first sazerac. You have to love when a bar dedicates its name to one drink, because you know they have to do it well, and well they do.

The Next drink is not orginial to New Orleans, but in my opinion they know how to make it like they invented it. However, it is a toss up on where to get the best one. The Bloody Mary is a classic drink legened to cure any hangover and there are two places in New Orleans where I love to have them. Ralph's On The Park, a Brennan's family restaurant, has one of the most acclaimed Bloody's in the city and has the view to match. Located on City Park Avenue across from City Park itself, you can see the southern seersucker clad men and women brunching with their delectable Bloody Mary's with the wondeful spicy cayanne spiked rim and of course the pickled salad that must be included, don't exlude the okra and green beans - they make it.

The other place to get the best Bloody Mary is quite a different scene, but comparable nonetheless. Getting a bloody mary at the Superdome on sunday at a Saint's game is a joy on its own whether or not the Saint's win or lose. They are perfectly spicy and have all of the fancy accoutrements and served usually from your same friendly bar attendant everytime. I guess people here just know what they like and a good Bloody Mary is a must on Sundays, so you chose where you'd like to have one.

This next cocktail is more about where you are enjoying it than the cocktail itself, but my fondest sophisticated cocktail moments came from sitting on the front porch of The Columns Hotel and experiencing my first Martini, gin style of course. (There are a lot of first time Gin moments in here- which I guess I really do like) The Columns is my favorite place to meet for drinks around happy hour and watch New Orleans in it's glory.

It makes the notion of why cocktails and New Orleans go so well together, like a breath of fresh air.

The next drink is the most luxurious drink on the list and a great way to end an evening before hitting the hay. The Brandy Alexander at Gallatoire's is not only an amazing drink, but the most wonderful way to end a meal at one of the most fantastic restaurants in the world.

So after you have wined and dined for hours over amazing food, conversation, and service, end your meal the right way with a Brandy Alexander. Oh and don't exclude dessert, just make it the after dessert dessert. The Brandy Alexander includes chocolate liqueur, brandy, and ice cream or cream.

For my last entry a tear is kind of welling up in my eye, because I have to say RIP to Nick's Bar on Tulane Avenue in New Orleans who I believe have still not reopened after Hurricane Katrina. Nick's is the kind of establishment that can only be referred to as a dive, but it was the kind of dive that you would see people from all walks of life in. The kind of establishment that makes any New Orleanian feel at home and where they just might remember your name. The most amazing thing about Nick's (clearly not the decor if you ever were there) was the gigantic hand painted bar menu that hung above patrons, taunting them with funnily named drinks that you just had to try. Yes, Nick's was not known for the classier cocktails but more for the ones with lots of liquor to get you messed up quicker. So here is a RIP moment to all the Pink Lemonade's (doesn't that sound so innocent) and 1-800-F**k Me up's that my friends and I drank over the years. Nick's you and your amazing drink menu will truly be missed.

So there it is. A list of fantastic cocktails comprised by a local with accompanied memories to match. I hope you have enjoyed my Tail of New Orlean's Cocktails and that it inspires you to try them all, at least the one's that still exist. Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans yet? Just wait till you can't get that fantastic cocktail in your town.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Passion for Beads

I have always loved jewelry and the idea of decorating myself with accessories, which only naturally brought me to the discovery of beading and making beaded jewelry. I blogged in the past about a five part documentary series called World on a String, that I found to be fascinating on so many levels, because it really brought history, world cultures, art, and beading all together in one forum that gave it a much more rich meaning to me than ever before. My intrigue has been growing ever since and I have purchased (some in person, but mostly via internet) beads now from villages and towns all around the world: from China, Africa, the Philippines, Europe, and America. It is truly amazing what is being done with beads now adays and how important they are to so many people. So to further my understanding of the Art I am currently working on setting up a Lampworking studio, for making and creating my own beads. It is a beautiful art form, that is laced with mysticism. Why for so long, dating back to neanderthal man with bone and natural beads, have people adorned themselves with beads? So as I go through my trials and tribulations I will try and keep you all updated and hopefully I will be able to create some wonderful things, like these below.

Wined, Dined, and Swined this weekend in Des Moines

So this weekend we headed to Des Moines's Swine Fest. We packed up the car, truck, and trailor with six petite smoked suckling pigs, a smoker, bbq pit, chopping table, and all of our other ingredients and accoutrement's and headed to the self proclaimed greatest city in Iowa for a little cooking and fun. Swine fest is held at the Iowa Culinary Institute in Ankeny, Iowa, just 10 miles north of Des Moines and is a beautiful campus set right on a local lake. Everyone there was so pleasant and helpful, it hardly seemed like work at all, the wine drinking did help that too. We served smoked petite suckling pigs atop Jamaican festival cakes, topped with a banana chutney and a cilantro and green onion drizzle. The crowds seemed to like it, considering we did not stop serving food the entire time. Above is a picture from desmoine's where you can see me frying the festival cakes and Christian behind me serving up some swine. All in all it was a great experience (Iowa wines are much better than I expected) and we got to explore a little of Des Moines on Sunday, where I would highly recommend going to the original Miller High Life Lounge, fantastic dive bar decor that made me miss my old haunts of home.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Swine Fest... Where Cork Meets Pork... and I can't wait.

If you live in the midwest and don't have plans this weekend, maybe you might like to consider attending Swine Fest in Des Moines. The premier event where only ten Iowa restaurants and the best Iowa wineries put out a spread that represents two of the best things the midwest has going for them, great Pork and an immergent group of great wine makers. The midwest seems to just be catching on to the fact that they can grow about anything so you may not have heard of many of these wines yet, but just wait. I will personally be at the fest this weekend (working the Blue Mountain tent) and hope to meet and talk with lots of midwesterners about two of my favorite things, wine and food. If you are interested check out the website for swine fest to get more information about the location and what will be offered. Hope to see you there. Salut

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Answer to What's for Dinner

Recently my friend Mary, from the Yellow Door Paperie, asked me to submit a recipe for her new weekly post, "Dinnertime Again.'

I really like the idea, because I get to view recipes from other people with differing tastes and also learn a little something about the chef. If you would like to contribute a recipe you can click on this link to the yellow door paperie and view the details. Otherwise, just enjoy the recipes.

Monday, June 8, 2009

I'm A Winner

It's official. In the first Annual Blue Mountain Rhubarb festival, yours truly swept second place in two of the four categories, (I only entered two). In the savory dish competition I presented my pork and rhubarb egg rolls with rhubarb sweet and sour sauce. I really think the sauce was the winner. However, my favorite of the two categories was my drink. I am very proud to present to you winning recipe for

Strawberry-Rhubarb Ginger Lime-Aid


1 cup Strawberries
2 cups rhubarb stems- -peeled
1/2 cup and 4 tbs raw sugar- separated
5 limes
Ginger Ale


Juice in a juicer the strawberries and the peeled rhubarb stems. Pour the juices into a pot and add the sugar, bring to a boil and let reduce to more than half, at least until the liquid can coat the back of a spoon. Let cool and set aside. Next make the lime-aid by first creating a simple syrup by combining a 1/2 cup of sugar to 1/2 cup plus two tbs. of water in a pot and heating until the sugar dissolves in the water. After that transfer the simple syrup to a pitcher and add the lime juice to it. Next fill the pitcher with 6 cups of water and stir the mixture.

To assemble the drink. Get a tumbler or other cocktail glass and fill it with ice. Place 2 tbs of the strawberry-rhubarb syrup in the glass and then fill 3/4 with the lime-aid over that. Finish the drink with a topper of ginger ale and garnish with a strawberry and mint. Super refreshing and delicious. If you want to make this alcoholic, put a shot and a half of vodka in the glass after the syrup and proceed with the rest of the steps. Enjoy.

Uncle C.Q. and Time Couriers are featured on the Writing Porch

My favorite Uncle/ non Uncle C.Q. (Quint) was recently featured on the popular blog the writing porch after he was the recipient of the AmazonClicks Authors’ Choice Award for March 2009. In the interview J. Louise Larson asked C.Q. questions about his book, "Time Couriers", but mostly how he actually goes about writing and implementing his creative process. He gives great advice to emergent authors and also entails some of his favorite reading, which I am sure took some narrowing down. Click on the above link to read the interview in it's entirety and discover a little more about the fascinating and wonderful, C.Q. Scafidi.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Monk's House of Ale, Sioux Falls

I just want to keep my friends and family updated that I do, in fact, do more with my life than work, eat, sleep, and do yoga. Yesterday, Christian and I ventured to Sioux Falls to check out Monk's House of Ale, located at 420 E. 8th Street. Monk's was voted one of the top 100 places to have a beer in the country by Imbibe magazine and it did not disapoint. Besides, having what seems to be an endless supply of beers on tap and in the bottle, they have a great decked patio for enjoying the weather and a cold brew. An added plus, one of the bartenders has the most beautiful Great Danes ever that seems to be a steady patron, providing endless attention for those who love to pet. I tried the Mikkeller IPA in the bottle and I seriously think it is my new favorite beer. Great Find all around.

Bagels, Bagels, and more Bagels

So I know I live in a small town in Northwest Iowa now and have had to give up most, if not all, of the urban luxuries that I was used to, but I didn't think that that would mean giving up some of the simplest comforts. So I obviously knew that I would be giving up eating sushi, crawfish, poboys,crabs, etc... on a regular basis when moving to a small rural town in Iowa (which has been very difficult), but I never imagined that you wouldn't be able to find a good bagel. Now I am no New Yorker, but I love a good bagel and when I am craving a little breakfast with my coffee, that was always what I would get. We do have two coffee shops in town, no Starbucks for 60 miles, but decent coffee shops, however the breakfast items on their menus just have not met the mark. And None of them, not a one, offers bagels, and since our Bakery in town thinks that Doughnuts and cookies are the only things that constitute as a baked good, I have pretty much been out of luck.

So the number one thing that I have learned since I moved here, if you want and miss a comfort from home you are either going to have to make it or create or yourself, because you aren't going to find it around here. This lead me to the great Bagel recipe hunt. I have tried now five different recipes for bagels, endlessly forcing my boyfriend, friends and coworkers to try them and tell me their thoughts. Their consensus- "They are all good"- just was not going to cut it for me. So this last recipe I tried finally met my expectations and I think I have discovered Bagel gold. The Key or the missing link from the rest of the bagel recipes, Barley Malt Syrup. I don't know what it is about the Barley Malt Syrup, but it gives the outside of the bagel the perfect tough chewy crust, but keeps the inside light, dense, and delicious (perfect saltiness too). I am not going to stop making bagels, but I am now going to stop looking for recipes, because I have found the one. Grab some Schmear and try making these for yourself.

Game plan
: The bagels are best when eaten within an hour but are pretty darn good for 2 or 3 days. They’ll keep well in a cotton or paper bag, and will need a quick warming or toasting before being consumed. They also freeze well: Once they’ve cooled completely, slice them and store them in a freezer bag for up to a month.



* 1 1/2 cups tepid water (105°F to 110°F) plus 1 tablespoon for the egg wash
* 1 (1/4-ounce) packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
* 4 cups bread flour
* 2 tablespoons malt syrup
* 2 tablespoons kosher salt
* 4 teaspoons granulated sugar
* 1 large egg white
* Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or coarse salt for topping


1. Place 1 1/2 cups of the tepid water in a bowl and dissolve the yeast completely; set aside. Combine flour, malt syrup, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Add yeast mixture, scraping any undissolved yeast out of the bowl with a spatula.
2. Mix on low until most of the loose flour has been worked into the dough and the dough looks shredded, about 2 minutes. Increase the speed to medium low and continue mixing until the dough is stiff, smooth, and elastic, about 8 to 9 minutes more. (If the dough gets stuck on the hook or splits into 2 pieces, stop the machine, scrape off the hook, and mash the dough back into the bottom of the bowl.) The dough should be dry, not tacky or sticky, and somewhat stiff.
3. Shape the dough into a ball, place it in a large oiled bowl, and turn it to coat in oil. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let the dough rise in a warm place, until it is noticeably puffy and springs back when you poke it, about 20 minutes. (The dough will not double in size.)
4. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 425°F and arrange the rack in the middle. Fill a large, wide, shallow pan (about 3 to 6 quarts) with water, bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium low and let simmer. Cover until you’re ready to boil the bagels. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper greased with oil or cooking spray. Place a metal rack inside of a second baking sheet and set aside.
5. Turn the risen dough out onto a dry surface. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces, about 3 ounces each. (While you work, keep the dough you’re not handling covered with a damp towel to prevent drying.) Roll each piece into a 9-inch-long rope, lightly moisten the ends with water, overlap the ends by about 1 inch, and press to join so you’ve created a bagel. As necessary, widen the hole in the middle so it is approximately the size of a quarter. Cover the shaped bagels with a damp towel and let rest 10 minutes.
6. After resting, stretch the dough to retain the quarter-size hole (the dough will have risen a bit) and boil the bagels 3 or 4 at a time, making sure they have room to bob around. Cook for about 30 seconds on each side until the bagels have a shriveled look, then remove to the baking sheet with the rack in it. Adjust heat as necessary so the water stays at a simmer.
7. Whisk together the remaining 1 tablespoon water and the egg white until evenly combined. Brush the egg wash all over the bagels, then sprinkle as desired with poppy seeds, sesame seeds, or coarse salt. Arrange the bagels on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper about 1 inch apart and bake. Rotate the pan after 15 minutes and bake until the bagels are a deep caramel color and have formed a crust on the bottom and top, about 10 minutes more. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes so the interiors finish cooking and the crusts form a chewy exterior.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Spring has kept me busy

Spring/ Summer is finally here in Northwest Iowa and I have been reveling in its glory. The winter was long, but it becomes a faded memory once everything becomes coming to life again around here, and that is more than a metaphor for these parts. Some days it feels like you can watch everything around you regain color and vigor and it seems as if things are growing literally right before your eyes. It is a truly amazing time of the year. Below are a few picture of some of the tulips from around town during the annual Tulip Festival.

Since last year was my first Summer in Iowa, I did not know the protocol for planting your average home garden, but I was determined to find out. I was quickly indoctrinated to the fact that the Iowa green thumb seems to be a coveted secret amongst the local horticulturalists, because no one wanted to give me any information (however I saw that they all had their seedlings started and an obvious plan in mind). So last year my garden was pretty much a wash, but this year I payed real close attention to what everyone was doing. And as you can see by my garlic chives below, that my garden is looking none to shabby.

Chives, green onions, garlic, red onions, tomatoes (diff. varieties), eggplants, peppers, lettuce, basil, cilantro, parsley, dill, thyme, rosemary, hops, and lavender- and possibly a few others.

Roux even got in on helping to plant the indoor herbs.

With our crop and what our friends and family have grown we should be eating pretty well this summer. I have already and will be cooking so much with the abundance of farm fresh produce that we will be receiving over the next few months. Some of you may have heard last year about my neighbor that grows zucchini that are bigger than baseball bats and brings them over by the bucket full. Well it seems that all of the produce around here are on some kind of steroids, even the organic stuff, but it is beautiful and delicious Below are the asparagus spears (as long and as thick as drum sticks) that Christian's brother grew on his farm this year, which are also currently being served at the Blue Mountain restaurant along with all of the other fresh produce.

I have been trying a lot of new recipes, but mainly I just like putting asparagus on the grill with olive oil, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar and then when they come off the heat douse them with some shaved parm reg. Delicioso.

There are many great facets to life in Northwest Iowa when everything thaws out, and one is that it feels like you are part of one big co-op. My neighbor is growing zucchini, my friend has chickens who regularly lay eggs, my soon to be brother in law has rhubarb, apples, asparagus, and so much more, and our two best friends raise hogs and cattle (I literally have half of a cow in my freezer). I definitely love food and I really ate great in New Orleans, but it is nice to now have that real farm to table connection and relationship with my food. Look out for some rhubarb recipes to come, I am entering a local Rhubarb cooking competition. Oh yeah... Thai Rhubarb glazed chicken wings?