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Friday, September 28, 2007

So Fast..... So Easy.....So Good!

Today was the hectic end to a hectic week. I rose at 6:00 a.m., got my daughter off to school and my husband off to work. I grabbed my coffee and put the finishing touches on my post about madeleines while I ran a few loads of laundry. Then, I popped into my office for a few hours to get some work done. I did my banking, picked up said daughter from school, ran some errands, stopped at the Asian market to pick up the ingredients to make Jaden's Jap Chae noodles tomorrow and....... Well, you get the picture. I was pooped!

I could see the handwriting on the wall as I was blearily wheeling my cart down the aisles of my local supermarket, trying to think of a protein to serve with my leftover fideos, (courtesy of Deb from Smitten Kitchen). The sea scallops at the seafood counter looked pretty nice. They would fit the bill.

Once home, I microwaved the fideos (sorry Deb!), tossed together a quick salad and turned my attention to the scallops. This recipe was so easy, it is almost embarrassing to write it down. It took all of ten minutes to prepare. But, you know what? It was really good! The smoked paprika added that little something extra to make this dish sing. Sometimes a recipe doesn't have to be complicated to be a winner. So, here it Smoky Seared Sea Scallops (try saying THAT three times fast!).

Smoky Seared Sea Scallops

1 lb. "dry" sea scallops*
3 tbsp butter
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 scallions, chopped

Melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium high heat.
Sprinkle the salt, pepper and smoked paprika on both sides of the scallops.
Heat to high and place the scallops in the pan.
Sear until brown and carmelized on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side.
Cover and cook about 1 minute more to make sure the scallops are cooked through.
Remove scallops to a serving platter.
Saute the scallions for about a minute. Pour scallions over scallops.
Serve and enjoy!

*Many times sea scallops are soaked in water and preservatives to make them last longer and increase their weight, sometimes by as much as much as 25%. This also dilutes their flavor. Dry sea scallops are not treated with any additives and are not soaked in water. They are better. Period.

Mes Madeleines

I love Paris! I really, really do. I had been dying to go there for as long as I could remember. Last Summer, after almost twenty years of begging, whining and cajoling, I finally talked my husband into making the trip. I mean, it's not as if we never traveled. We've been cruising in the Caribbean, skiing in the Rockies, soaking up local color in Santa Fe and Taos and a lot of other interesting places in between. We've even been to Europe.....twice. But, never Paris - until last summer, that is.

I spent many months planning our trip. I figured that everything had better be perfect in case it took me another twenty years to get back there! I bought every guide book I could find, including Fodor's and Frommer's, to name a few. I combed the Internet for travel and French culture sites. I spent hours upon hours on Trip Advisor reading hotel and restaurant reviews. I even bought a subscription to Bonjour Paris, so that I would be "in the know". Well, our trip was all I ever dreamed of, and more! It will definitely be the topic of a future post. Not only was my passion for Paris reaffirmed, but lo and behold, my husband's love affair with the City of Lights was born. A welcome phenomenon to be sure.

Of course, one of the best ways to experience Paris is to eat your way through it, which is exactly what we did. We sampled the fois gras and pommes frites of every cafe, bistro and restaurant we stepped into, and were intrigued by how deliciously different they all were. Ditto for the sublimely delicate macarons in a rainbow of colors displayed at every patisserie. We devoured buckets full of les moules, greedily sopping up every ounce of broth with bits of crusty baguettes. And, don't even let me get started on the mind-numbingly marvelous chocolates!

One evening, as we strolled along the Seine in the 6th, with our gooey, Nutella-filled crepes in hand, I had a little mental chat with myself. I resolved that, when we returned home, I would do my best to keep a little Paris in our lives.

Once back on native soil, one of the first things I did was pick up some really great French cookbooks. I bought Patricia Well's The Paris Cookbook and Simply French, as well as Dorie Greenspan's little gem, Paris Sweets. The dizzying array of mouth-watering choices on those pages was exciting, but a bit intimidating. I decided to start small. I needed a recipe that wasn't too complicated, but still whispered "Paris" in my ear. I chose madeleines, specifically the madeleines from Paris Sweets. I loved the idea of baking madeleines not only because they are so quintessentially French, but also because my daughter's name is Madeleine. I also loved it because of the Proust connection. In his novel, Remembrance of Things Past, the narrator of the story has an almost out of body experience upon tasting one of these buttery, shell-shaped morsels.

“She sent out for one of those short, plump little cakes called petites madeleines, which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrim's shell. And soon, mechanically, weary after a dull day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate than a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place…at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory…”

--Remembrance of Things Past, Volume 1: Swann's Way

I picked up a madeleine pan at Williams-Sonoma. Then, armed with a block of Celles sur Belle butter from Whole Foods, I created a memory. I used Dorie's recipe from Paris Sweets. The recipe was pretty straightforward and the result was magnifique! The madeleines were buttery and slightly lemony. They were moist and cake-like, but not crumbly. They were scrumptious.

All I can say is, that Proust really knew what he was talking about!

Here is my Madeleine, at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

Classic Madeleines
Adapted from Paris Sweets

3/4 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. double-acting baking powder
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 c. sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Sift together the flour and baking powder. In a mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar together at medium-high speed until they thicken and lighten in color, about 2-4 minutes.

Beat in the lemon zest and vanilla. With a large rubber spatula, gently fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the melted butter. Cover the batter with plastic wrap, pressing it against the surface to create an airtight seal. Chill for at least 3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. If your madeleine pan is not nonstick, generously butter it and dust with flour. Set the pan on a baking sheet for easy transportability. Spoon the batter into the molds, filling them almost to the top. Don't worry about smoothing the batter. It will even out as it bakes.

In the center rack of the oven, bake large madeleines for 11-13 minutes, and small ones for 8-10 minutes, or until they are puffed and golden and spring back when touched.

Remove the cookies by either rapping the pan against the counter or gently running a butter knife around the edges of the cookies. Cool on a cooling rack.

Serve warm or at room temperature.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Going for the "Go To" Meals

I feel it's safe to say that most of us lead pretty busy lives. Balancing our daily work schedules and family responsibilities is no easy task. I find that, after a long day of working, running errands and shuttling kids around, there doesn't seem to be much time to spend in the kitchen, whipping up a gourmet meal. Sometimes, I'll plan ahead and prepare a few things on the weekend that I can just heat up during the week. I'll be honest, though, I have better things to do with my weekends than spend the whole time in the kitchen. I live in Florida for heaven's sake!

Fortunately, I have developed an arsenal of what I like to call my "Go To" meals. "Go To" meals are dishes with a relatively short ingredient list that can be prepared in about an hour or less. They are the recipes that I "go to" when I am short on the time and/or energy to do much else. Now, I'm not talking about slapping a boring old chicken breast on the Griddler and microwaving some pre-packaged mac-n-cheese, (although, my husband loves that stuff). Anyone can do that, but who would want to? No...I'm talking about cuisine here. My "Go To" meals may not always be super-fancy, but they are always tasty, nutritious and creative.

My "Go To" meals originate from many sources. Some, I have invented myself. Others, have come from the good folks at the Food Network, cookbooks and magazines, the Internet, friends and of course, my fellow bloggers (who are my greatest inspiration). The great thing about these dishes, aside from being quick and easy, is that you can tinker with them and make them a little different each time you prepare them.

I've decided to make "Go To" meals a regular feature on this blog. Every Tuesday I will post a recipe for a different "Go To" meal. If any of you have recipes that fit this criteria, and are willing to share, I would love to hear from you. I'll gladly post some of them here. Hopefully, these "Go To" meals will help make your lives a tiny bit easier.

The recipe I have chose for this first installment is Apricot Glazed Chicken with Dried Plums and Sage, from the Food Network show, Good Deal with Dave Lieberman. I love this dish! It is both sweet and savory, and definitely sticky and gooey. I've tweaked it a bit to shorten the cooking time, by substituting boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of bone-in parts. The end result is still delicious. I like to serve this with cous cous and a tossed salad. The cous cous takes no time at all to prepare and really works well with the chicken. I make it with chicken broth and add a little diced, sauteed onion and some yellow raisins.

Apricot Glazed Chicken with Dried Plums and Sage
Adapted from Good Deal with Dave Lieberman

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 (12-ounce) jar apricot preserves
15 medium dried plums, pitted
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar
3 pinches salt
20 grinds black pepper
10 cloves garlic, peeled
20 to 30 sage leaves

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Trim any extra fat from the chicken pieces and transfer them to a large roasting pan.

Mix the rest of the ingredients together in a bowl.

Toss together with the chicken until it is evenly coated with the sauce.

Roast, uncovered, until the chicken pieces are browned and the chicken is cooked through, about 25 to 30 minutes.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Mamma Mia............That's a Spicy Meatball!

In my inaugural post, I mentioned my grandmother's Sunday meat sauce. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since. I decided that such a noble dish deserved more than just a passing mention. After all, this sauce (we always called it gravy), was an integral part of our family life when I was growing up. It wasn't so much about the sauce itself (though it was delicious), but what it represented. Family. Security. Love. In today's transient society, so many of the traditions and rituals we followed as kids have fallen by the wayside. Marriages, careers, births, deaths and other life-altering events chip away at them, a little at a time. Before we know it, they are gone. It saddens me to think that my daughter will never have many of these experiences that have formed and shaped me into the person I am. All is not lost, though. I can give her new experiences. I can recreate some traditions. I can make the Sunday sauce!

An Italian woman's Sunday meat sauce is usually her signature dish. Each recipe is as individual and unique as a set of fingerprints. No two are exactly the same. My mother's wasn't exactly like Grandma's, nor is mine exactly like Mom's. While the basic ingredients are somewhat universal, the ratios, proportions and methodology of preparation can be vastly different. Whole tomatoes or crushed? Fresh herbs or dried? Red wine, white wine or no wine? See what I mean? Ever heard the expression "You are what you eat."? Well, the Italian equivalent of that is, "You are your sauce!".

I think that there are two main reasons for this wide disparity. The first is that most Italian home cooks view cooking as as form of self-expression. The character of their food directly relates to how they're feeling while they're cooking it. Feeling feisty? Add more garlic. Feeling angry? Add more hot red pepper flakes. Feeling daring? Grind a bit of cinnamon into the pot. PMS-ing? Don't ask! The second reason is that most Italians cook almost entirely from memory and by instinct. They hardly ever write out their recipes, and the once in a great while that they do, the measurements are usually too cryptic to follow. If you've ever seen one, you know what I mean. A "half a glass" of this and "bunch" of that is not exactly culinary science.

When I was first married, I used to ask my mother and various aunts, cousins and other relatives how to make certain dishes. They were only too willing to share their expertise with me. With paper and pencil (or laptop) in hand, poised to take down every detail, the exchange would go something like this:

Me: Okay, so how much salt/pepper/flour/oil do I add?
Them: Well, you know.....until it's enough.
Me: How do I know when it's enough?
Them: When it looks/feels/smells/tastes right.
Me: Yeah...but how do I know?
Them: You just know.
Me: (whining a little) BUT HOW???
Them: (getting snippy) I don't know! When it looks/feels/smells/tastes right!

Eventually, I just accepted it and learned to go with the flow. The funny thing is, that when I finally freed myself from the confines of the written page, I became a much better cook. Now, when someone asks me for one of my recipes, I often find myself on the other side of the above conversation.

With ingredients in hand, I set out to make my version of the Sunday sauce and post the results for you. I immediately realized that there was a little problem. I didn't have a written recipe for it either! I haven't ever measured out how much of each thing I put in. So, I will attempt to write it down, step-by-step, as I go. Bear with me!

The guts of this, as with any tomato sauce is, of course, the tomatoes. You should use the best quality canned tomatoes that you can find and afford, otherwise, you run the risk of ending up with a bitter and acidic sauce. Not good! In my opinion, San Marzano tomatoes are the best. They have a deep, rich and naturally sweet tomato-ey taste. They are imported from Italy and are named for the region near Naples in which they are grown. You can find them in some supermarkets and in virtually all Italian specialty stores. They are pricey, though, costing upwards of $4.50 a can. What I often do is mix a can or two of San Marzano tomatoes with another good quality brand. You will still get that mellow sweetness you want in your sauce, without the sticker shock. If you can't find San Marzano tomatoes, here is a little trick you can use to sweeten up your sauce. Add a little grated carrot in when you saute your onion and garlic. The natural sugar in the carrot imparts a sweetness to the dish. I always do this anyway.

In order to get the perfect consistency in my sauce, I often combine both whole tomatoes and crushed tomatoes in the mix. My favorite brand of crushed tomatoes is by Cento. They have a product called Passata, which is basically San Marzano tomatoes that have been run through a food mill. They come in tall glass jars instead of cans and they taste like fresh tomatoes. I can only find them at my local Italian specialty store, but depending on where you live, you may be lucky enough to find them at your supermarket. If you do find them - grab them! They really make a difference.

The beauty of this dish is that you can use any variety of meats that you want. The only non-negotiable elements are the meatballs. You have to have meatballs. Since I didn't do much advance planning, I am only using meatballs and Italian sausage this time, but chicken and pork ribs work really well too. If you are lucky enough to find brasciole (or attempt to make your own), you should brown it first, in a separate skillet coated with a little olive oil. I usually bake my meatballs and sausage, rather than frying them. I know that frying is the traditional way, but it is also a lot messier. Once the meats are in the sauce, you really can't tell the difference.

Susan's Sunday Meat Sauce (Wow, that has a nice ring to it!)

For the meatballs:

1 lb. ground chuck
1 lb. ground veal
1 medium sweet onion, coarsely grated
1/2 c. flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 c. bread crumbs
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
1 lg. egg, beaten
2 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp salt

For the sauce:

3-4 tbsp olive oil
1 lg onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. shredded carrot
1/2 c. fresh basil leaves, loosely packed
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
2 28 oz cans peeled, whole tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
2 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
1 jar Cento Passata diced tomatoes (optional)
3-4 tbsp tomato paste
1 batch meatballs
6 Italian sausage links
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
salt to taste
1-2 lbs. of the cooked pasta of your choice
parmesan or romano cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all of the meatball ingredients in a large bowl until combined. Do not overhandle or the meatballs will be tough. The mixture should be moist, but hold together. If the mixture appears too wet, add more bread crumbs, a little at a time. If it is too dry, add a little more milk.

Form into balls, about 2 inches in diameter. You should get 18-20 meatballs out of this recipe.

Place meatballs and sausages in a shallow baking sheet and bake until they start to get browned, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Put whole tomatoes into a large bowl. With your (clean) hands, squish and mush them until they are all broken up. Then add the crushed tomatoes to the bowl with them. Set aside.

In a large stock pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil on medium high heat. When the oil is hot, reduce heat to medium and add the onion, carrots and thyme. Saute about 6 minutes or until onion is soft and translucent.
Add the garlic and saute a few minutes more, until it becomes fragrant. Be careful not to burn it.

Add the tomato paste and gently incorporate it into the saute. Let it cook for a minute or two.

Add the tomatoes to the pot and stir, mixing everything together.

Add the red pepper flakes and half of the basil. I usually like to add a little salt at this point as well.

Stir again, cover the pot and wait for the sauce to begin to bubble.

Gently lower the meatballs and sausages into the sauce.
Cover and gently simmer for about 90 minutes, stirring frequently. If the sauce is bubbling too much, you may need to adjust the heat.

Uncover the pot and let the sauce simmer for about 30 minutes more.

Fill another large pot with water and bring to a boil. When the water is boiling cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain

Add the rest of the basil and more salt to taste.

Place the pasta on a large serving platter and ladle the sauce on top. Toss well. Top it off with the meatballs and sausages.

Sprinkle some grated cheese on top.

Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

If Man Cannot Live By Bread Alone, He Never Tried No-Knead Bread!

What self-respecting food blogger could neglect to have a post about Jim Lahey’s famous No-Knead Bread? Well, probably quite a few, but it made a good opening for this post. I first heard about No-Knead Bread shortly after Marc Bittman featured it on the New York Times web site. It sounded interesting. The only kind of bread that I had ever attempted to make before was the kind where you dump all of the ingredients into the bread machine, push a button and out comes a hunk of bread. Frankly, making real, homemade bread scared me! All that kneading and resting and punching and rising was pretty intimidating. I've always considered myself a pretty good cook, but never a successful baker. I was quite content to buy my bread from the bakery, thank you very much.

But then, blog after blog had posts about this No-Knead Bread. Magazine articles were written about it. I saw it on TV. That crusty, chewy No-Knead Bread was everywhere! It had become a phenomenon. I started to feel left out. So, with my culinary reputation (and ego) at stake, I decided to go for it - and am I ever glad I did.

The most difficult part about making this bread was determining when to mix up the dough so that it would be fresh out of the oven in time for our next evening's dinner. Counting backwards on my fingers, I decided that about 10:00 p.m. was just about right. That way, it would be ready to bake by around 4:00 the next afternoon. It took about 2 minutes to find the right bowl, 2 minutes to mix up the 4 ingredients and another 2 minutes to uncrinkle the plastic wrap needed to cover said bowl. Six minutes. That's it. Even less if you, unlike me, are not plastic wrap challenged. All that was left to do was wait........and wait........and wait.
The next day, after dutifully waiting 16 hours, I completed the next steps of the recipe before baking. While my dough was taking its final nap, I searched for an appropriate vessel in which to bake my lovingly nurtured, yeasty mass. I settled on a 5-quart Le Creuset dutch oven. Afraid of melting the knob on the lid, I unscrewed it and plugged the hole with some foil. In the oven it went for 30 minutes to preheat. Then, I closed my eyes, plopped the dough in the pot, covered it, shut the oven door and made the sign of the Cross. Forty-five minutes later, the moment of truth had arrived.
I removed my pot from the oven, turned the loaf out onto the cooling rack, and marveled at what I saw. It was bread, but not just any old bread. It was the most rustically beautiful bread I had ever seen! Heck, I would even wager that it was the most beautiful bread ever baked on the face of the earth! It was round, but not too round. Tall, but not too tall. It was burnished, but not burned. It. was. magnificent! I couldn't believe that I had done this. What a rush! I felt like a 5 year-old who just rode a two-wheeler for the first time. So, here it is, my wonderful No-Knead Bread, in all its crackly, crusty glory...........................
We could hardly wait to cut into that loaf. It was amazingly crispy and chewy all at the same time. The crumb was moist and light, with large, airy holes. It rivaled any other bread I'd ever eaten - anywhere.
Since then, No-Knead Bread has become part of my standard culinary repertoire. I usually make 2 or 3 loaves a week. I even went out and bought a special, cast iron dutch oven just for bread. Empowered by my initial success, I have even tinkered with the original recipe a few times, adding a little whole wheat or rye flower to the mix. Depending on my schedule, I have let it sit for as little as 12 hours and as long as 19 hours, with the same great results. With reckless abandon, I have even added additional ingredients to my bread, such as chopped kalamata olives, herbs and sun-dried tomatoes. (Hmm...I wonder how chocolate would work?) I'm telling you, people - you can't wreck this bread!
Although this recipe is probably among the widely available ones in cyberspace, I am including it below:

Recipe: No-Knead Bread
Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery

Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.


Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Hi. My Name is Susan, and I'm a Blogaholic...

I have been an Internet junkie ever since the day I got my first broadband connection. It amazed me that, with just a few little clicks, I could transport myself across the continents. I could learn about anything I wanted to know. The mating habits of the Black-necked Red Cotinga? Sure, no problem! Cliff Notes on Great Expectations? Absolutely! The latest Britney/Paris/Lindsey debacle? Certainly! An authentic recipe for duck confit? Mais, oui! The sky was the limit...and that was before I'd ever even heard of a blog.
My blog obsession all began a little over two years ago. It was right after that poor, unfortunate Natalee Holloway disappeared off the face of the earth. It seemed like you couldn't turn on the TV or open a newspaper without being bombarded by coverage of the case. I had always been fascinated by true crime cases - probably due to my past life as a lawyer. So, one night, I Googled Natalee... and discovered blogs. After that, nary a day went by when I didn't visit Riehl World View, Scared Monkeys and a host of other crime blogs, each with their own interesting take on the Holloway case, as well as a myriad of others. I was hooked!
It was only a matter of time before I realized that there were millions of bloggers out there in cyberspace, blogging about anything and everything that I could possibly be interested in. From my own little corner of the world, I could have access to it all. From true crime, I graduated to music blogs, beauty and fashion blogs, travel blogs and, dare I say it, food blogs!
Since then, I have been clamoring to start a blog of my own. "Why not?" I asked myself. I'm a pretty good writer. (I've even had a few things published.) I'm a well-rounded individual. I think I'm a pretty interesting person. Then, the doubts set in. What would I write about? What if nobody read my blog? What if people did read my blog and they thought it sucked? What if I'm really not that interesting? What if people left snarky comments on my blog? Could my fragile ego handle that? Round and round I went, until it seemed like I was destined to be a lurker forever. Then, the lights went on and I realized that I wanted to blog for myself - not to please anyone else. I had something to say and it didn't matter if no one else read it, although, that would be nice. So, here it own little slice of the blogoshere.
I chose to write a food blog because cooking (and eating) are two of my greatest passions. Growing up in an Italian family, food was always center stage. No important decision was ever made without a cup of strong espresso and some fresh biscotti to dunk in it. No milestone was ever celebrated without a tray of lasagna and my grandfathers homemade (and delicious) wine. And, no Sunday was ever really Sunday without a huge pot of ragu simmering on my grandmother's stove, brimming with meatballs, sausage, pork skin (yes, pork skin) and brasciole. Oh, how I miss those wonderful times!
I have many interests in my life, but I've realized that food is the fabric that holds families together. The memories of preparing a meal together and then sitting down to enjoy with my own family are my most treasured. Although I am merely a humble home cook, I hope that, through this blog, I can inspire some of you, as I have been inspired, to make some memories of your own.