Soups On!

Today I am having trouble sitting here and writing. It is beautiful outside and the weather is calling me. I have had a cold for a couple of days so I am trying to take it easy and give myself a chance to recuperate. I haven’t had a head cold in years and this is really annoying! I have been on a roll, eating healthy, and exercising. Yoga everyday which is definitely helping the mobility in my shoulder. As I said before, I have been taking back some control in my life and getting on with it! I was really feeling wonderful and then this…a head cold! Runny nose, watery eyes, headache, sneezing, sniffling, whining. Yes whining! Why now when I have so much to do? Funny. Is there ever really a good time to have a cold?  All I can say is this needs to hurry up and get on outta here so I can get back to my plans!

This is the time of year for soup. I love soup. It is so warm and comforting. I am going to make a huge pot of French onion soup, one of my favorites. And everyone knows a good hot bowl of soup is good for what ails ya! I just found a recipe that uses five different kinds of onions, scallions, shallots, yellow, red, and leeks. I make my soup with a beef broth and a little pinch of cloves. I remember one time, when I had a cold, I made this soup and when I was chopping all the onions my eyes started watering, my nose started running, loosening up all the congestion in my head. Not a pretty sight but afterwards my cold was gone! Onions have many healing properties. I am hoping this works again! Ta ta for now I have to go get chopping!

Recipe

1 lb mixed onions

¼ cup butter

2 pints beef stock

2 twigs of fennel

1 clove

salt and pepper

1 tsp sugar

provolone for topping

splash of brandy

Slice onions, cook in butter in a large cast iron pan until transparent. Bring stock to boil and pour over the onions. Add fennel, clove and seasoning. Lower heat and simmer 30 minutes. Carmelize sugar in a long handled spoon by holding it over heat until it melts and turns a lovely golden brown, stir into soup. Remove soup from heat. Add brandy. Serve with a nice toasty french bread. If you have oven safe crocks, put the toasted slice of bread in the bowl, ladle in soup, then put a slice of provolone cheese on top. Put the bowls on a cookie sheet and place under the broiler for just a few minutes until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown. To your good health, enjoy!!!

 

Easter Enjoyment

I am definitely getting better. Some days I feel like I’m back to my old self. Some days, when I do too much, I get all achy and crappy feeling again but generally I am making progress. We had a wonderful Easter. I cooked Friday and Saturday. I made Greek Easter bread and potato salad, and baked beans, and ambrosia, and we had a Honey Baked ham, deviled eggs, green bean casserole, and spiced apples. Not to mention a little spring cleaning and shopping. Too much food for sure. I am grateful to be able to have so much, we will be eating leftovers for days! Every year we say we will cut down on the menu but everyone seems to have their favorites so we can never narrow it down. The guys pitched in to help and I was thoroughly enjoying myself. I couldn’t have done this a few weeks ago! I was on my feet a lot. My thighs still get tingly and burn if I stand up too long and I did. So the next day I knew I would have to take it easy. But thats alright I’m just happy to be able to be cooking again.

Good friends and good conversation. At this time in my life one of the things I find myself enjoying the most is getting together with good friends and sharing a meal. It brings me such joy to be able to connect with others and share a laugh or two. When I was not feeling well I couldn’t participate in the kitchen (or anything else for that matter) as much as I would have liked but Easter (a time of renewal and new beginnings) gave me the opportunity to get back in the kitchen and start kicking butt! Feeding people great food is very rewarding. Eating is such a basic human need. I guess this is why almost every celebration is based around food.

I have really come to realize how important the people in my life are to me. I have so much fun with them. I absolutely love adventurous eaters, nothing crazy but people that are willing to try new things. I have so much fun introducing someone to a new delicious food. It’s crazy to me that some people are so set in their ways, they never want to try anything new, thats no fun! I am learning, more and more, that it really is the people that come into your life that make it interesting. Even if just for a brief encounter you may be enlightened or inspired by new thoughts and perceptions. In this crazy, rushed world we live in take the time, put down your phone and interact with someone. You just might be amazed!  Even just a genuine,” Hello, how are you?” can make all the difference in the world to someone. Thank goodness that through all my chemotherapy and treatments my tastes are still the same, yea! I am ready for new foods, new friends, and new adventures! To be able to actually participate in life again is such a blessing!

Moms Day

I always seem to approach Mothers Day with mixed emotions. It’s hard when your Mom is not with you any longer. But then I remember, my Mom is who influenced me the most and she is the reason I am the person that I am today. Wether you want to admit it or not the person that raised you formed most of your early ideals. My Mom and I were very close, oh yes she was crazy, funny, annoying, all those things a mother can be! Of course we had our ups and downs, we all do. I always thought of myself as an independent soul, setting out on new paths and unchartered territories, I thought I was so different and innovative.  But as I get older I am finding out to my great surprise that I am from a long line of very interesting women, my tribe! Unfortunetly there is no one left on my Moms side of the family. I wish I had understood these things earlier, but I guess everything has its own time to reveal itself.

I have recently found out that my Great Grandma, Viola Sherlock, was an amazing women. This was my Moms fathers mother. Now I knew her, but I was very young and she was very old. She and her three sisters were in show business, they used to dance and perform in The Follies. I have found amazing pictures of them in their costumes and one of the sisters had a beautiful white horse that also performed. I found out one of the sisters was an artist and have some of her amazing sketches. Check out the artwork on the menus. Viola was one of the first women to have played tennis at Wimbledon. They used to talk about this little place they had called The Pepper Pot, in Greenwich Village. Well I have come to find out this was quite the place, Viola and her husband Doc owned and ran it. Apparently it was one of the only places at the time, 1929, that got away, most of the time, with selling alcohol during the prohibition. This was a crazy place, it was a jazz dance hall, a party house. Attracting lots of celebrities and sport stars apparently a place to see and be seen! A true center of the bohemian lifestyle of the village back in the day. I have found numerous articles of them being hauled off to jail! For disturbing the peace and what not! The menu was amazing and pretty pricey for the day.

This all is so amazing to me because I am a bit of all of these things, a chef, an artist, a horse trainer! A free spirit! My tribe, my blood! WOW\MOM

image0

image1

 

 

Spring Around Here!

Oh the weather around here has been wonderful! We had a very mild winter, and spring has lasted for what seems like a very long time. Which unfortunately for me, when all this pollen is in the air, I have vertigo. It is a very unsettling feeling. Want to be outside and just don’t want to breathe anymore pollen! But finally I think it has passed! Everything is blooming and looking amazing, just in time for the crazy caterpillars, chewing up everything in sight! Even though these things can be maddening, there is some comfort in it, the lengthening of the days, a familiar season coming around again.IMG_0113

It is always busy here on the farm, but springtime is the busiest! Watering, fertilizing, planting, and weeding. Getting all the mowers and tractors back up and running. Animals shedding, bugs coming! Just when you think you have it all under control and are enjoying the lovely evenings you find out the mosquitos are back! I have this little secret mosquito repellent, I stumbled onto a few years ago. Natures Gate has an organic body lotion that has lemongrass and clary sage in it, it works wonders! I just rub a little on whatever skin is exposed and they won’t bite! No chemicals and smells good too! We even tried it at the drive in last summer, the mosquitos were swarming but we didn’t get one bite!

Last weekend we, went to Crones Cradle Conserve, a wonderful place just north of where we live, it is an ecological preserve and organic farm. They were holding a natural foods and sustainability festival. This is something near and dear to my heart! I really try to incorporate as much local, organic, sustainable food that I can into my cooking. There were 5 guest chefs preparing all kinds of delicious natural and organic foods, most of which were harvested right there on the farm! Such a great idea, we got to sample grass fed beef and free range chicken, lots of beautiful organic produce, prepared in wonderful ways, goat milk cheeses and cheesecake, the blood orange pound cake was divine. The closest thing to Farm to Table we have here. Very inspiring for sure!IMG_0114

The citrus season is wrapping up here and as a final send off, I made a tangerine upside down cake, so moist and delicious. This is one I would definitely make again!

IMG_0107

Yikes!

Wow it has been so long since I posted, not good, I know! I have been so crazy busy! I love blogging I feel so peaceful when I am writing. I have created this blog as a journal of my crazy wonderful life. And I have so much to share! So I am going to try a new approach. Maybe, just maybe I will write a “little bit”more often. Sounds less daunting.

I don’t think there has ever been a time in my life that I have been bored, never. I always have things I don’t seem to have enough time to do! I am passionate about so many things! And I don’t like to do things halfway. So…I know there are people out there that are way busier than me, but…I have a ten acre farm which requires constant care, fixing fences, dragging fields, feeding animals, cleaning animals, watering plants, planting and tending new plants, picking up sticks, working horses, and on and on and on! Oh I do enjoy these things but it takes time and commitment, EVERYDAY, it’s not something you do part time! Brushing and washing dogs, grooming horses, collecting eggs, playing with the rabbit, filling the bird feeders, cleaning cat bowls, changing the water in the fish tank, cleaning water troughs. Wow this is beginning to sound crazy! Not really! Like I said, I do love it. But on top of all this, I am an artist, a chef, a wife, a mother, a riding instructor, and an adventurer! Last week I created and, with some help from the guys, made some Christmas decorations for the farm entrance. Oh! And the week before that I designed and created a new name and sign for the farm! New name, new sign, new beginning!

Sometimes it gets tricky juggling all of this at once! My daughter is grown, so I don’t have children in the house any more and I have cut way back on riding lessons since the liability insurance has gotten so high. But lately I have been traveling a lot, which I adore! Something I always dreamed of doing but never thought I would actually have the opportunity to do. It is for work, but we do get to play also! As a private chef I am always learning and trying new things in the kitchen. Cooking, for me, is also a creative endeavor! Traveling has given me the ability to search out wonderful restaurants and new food experiences! Traveling has also inspired my artwork, which is a major focus for me right now. I feel I am maturing as an artist, moving in some new directions with my paintings, feeling alive!

Never one to sit still for very long, last week we went hiking on Paynes Prairie and found some amazing places to eat! Now I am not a huge BBQ fan, but we had the best BBQ at a little place called Pearls, a tiny restaurant tucked inside a Marathon gas station in Micanopy, Fl. And a wonderful little place called Mosswood Farm Store, where you can get handmade soaps and candles and what nots, organic coffee and some of the best bread and brownies I’ve had in a long time! Then we spent the rest of the weekend cleaning out the loft above the garage for more studio space, for bigger and better things to come!

Waffle!

image

Ok let me just say I am a very health conscious eater. I always try to eat fresh produce and cook with the healthiest, freshest ingredients I can find. Actually my preferred style of cooking is produce based and healthy. I shop local and love the farm to table and slow food movements. I even grow a lot of my own! I am a cook and I hate going out and paying high prices for something that I can make better myself. I fancy myself as a bit of a foodie, I really enjoy healthy deliciuosly prepared food. Even as a child I almost never ate any fast food. Sure I am human and every so often I crave a little junk food, but for the most part, it is not my thing.

So, and I don’t blame them, my friends think I am crazy when I tell them I love a good breakfast at The Waffle House. Now I know it’s not health food and I know it’s loaded with carbs and high in fat but I really do enjoy eating there sometimes. They do offer some lighter options on the menu. I enjoy a good breakfast but I am not always in the mood to get up and start cooking, and breakfast meals seem to require lots of pans and mess. Unless I have a lot of time on my hands I usually just make something quick. So breakfast is my favorite meal to eat out. My friends say ” oh I can’t believe YOU eat there “and they call it the awful house. But honestly the one near my house is always very clean and you know the food is being cooked right in front of you. You can watch them prepare your meal just for you, nothing heated up in the microwave or left over from last night! Since I have worked in the restaurant industry I enjoy watching how efficiently the staff operates, it is like a little assembly line!  I love a good omlete and hash browns. The atmosphere is always upbeat and friendly, always a warm greeting when you walk in the door, also an interesting place to people watch, and the prices aren’t bad either.

Apparently, I’m not alone there are 2100 locations in 25 states in the United States. Most of the locations are in the southeast where the chain remains a cultural icon. The first one opened on Labor Day weekend in 1955 in Georgia. The “Yellow Sign” soon became a familiar landmark. The juke box plays a variety of Waffle House songs, how many restaurants do you know that have songs written about them? They are open 24 hours a day 365 days a year which inspired urban myths such as “Waffle House doors have no locks.” A unique American phenomenon started as just an idea between two guys to serve “GOOD FOOD FAST.” And just a fun fact, since 1955 they have served over 2,501,866,574 eggs so I certainly can’t be the only one that likes a good Waffle House breakfast!

image

Iron Clad

I just love cooking in my cast iron cookware! I have all kinds, shapes and sizes and I use them almost daily. Mine range in size from a tiny one egger to a big ol Dutch oven.  Cast iron may heat up a little slower but it heats evenly and holds the temp well. You can use it on the stove, in the oven, on a grill, or even under the broiler. My pans have been seasoned well and are almost nonstick!  I usually just add a little olive oil to cook in them.

They require some care but it’s not too difficult. To season them you just coat the entire pan lightly with canola oil, put it on a baking sheet in a 350* oven for 1 hour, let cool in the oven, then rub off the excess oil, done! They are almost indestructible but take care not to drop them on a hard surface which can be tricky because they are heavy! And don’t subject them to rapid temperature changes which can cause them to crack. They don’t really like moisture so keep them dry!

It is recommended when cleaning to just sprinkle with coarse salt and rub clean with paper towels. I do wash mine with a soapy sponge and water and I promptly dry them and they don’t seem to mind a bit. If I have some stubborn stuck on stuff I put a little water in the pan and heat it up on the stove then I take my silicone spatula and a few gentle rubs gets it all off! Dry immediately. Don’t scour or put them in the dishwasher or you will remove all that lovely seasoning! I think they get better with age. And I have been told that cooking in them adds small amounts of iron into your diet a necessary mineral!

If taken care of properly you can hand them down through generations! And another perk…they  are heavy so if you can’t find your weights you could always grab one of them to tighten up those pesky triceps!

March Mischief!

Before

Before

March and it’s madness is in the air! We have pollen everywhere! Just when the weather is awesome and you want to be outside biking, hiking, gardening, etc. perfect temps and everything greening up and blossoming out! Overnight the oak pollen and caterpillars seem to have taken over. Yikes they are everywhere! On door knobs and gates on bikes and lawn chairs. Be careful what you touch and where you sit! March is usually dry for us and unusually windy which only makes matters worse! Doesn’t matter what color car you have this month it will be coated in a lovely yellowish green powder! Not to mention everything and anything else you might leave outside!

So I thought it might be a good idea to spend a little time inside. I decided to cook up a batch of corned beef and cabbage and bake a lovely cake to bring to my daughters house later on in the evening. I had just picked up the latest BHG and found a recipe I wanted to try by Beth Kirby, it was a dark chocolate cake with fresh strawberry buttercream. Strawberries are in season and so yummy right now, and chocolate…well that’s always in season! So, I spent the afternoon whipping up this wonderful cake. Now I am not a huge cake fan, I normally prefer to just lick the spoon, but this cake was really delicious, the moistest chocolate cake and I just loved the fresh strawberry buttercream! It took some time but I would definitely make this cake again!

So we are getting ready to head out and I set the cake down on the kitchen table, it was pretty heavy so I was gonna get one of the guys to carry it to the car. I went outside to put a few other things in the car. I wasn’t outside 5 minutes. I came back in to get it and, my dog and long time kitchen helper, MacKenzie had very delicately helped herself to a small portion of it! Oh noooo! She has never ever done anything like this before! All I can do is laugh! Apparently she has a sweet tooth and knows a good cake when she sees (smells)one!

As I mentioned earlier, it seems that March has a mischievousness about it inside and out!

Chocolate is not good for dogs but she seems to be fine, except now she has a new nickname…Cake Eater! I will just have to be more careful in the future of where I put things.

After

After

My kitchen helper and cake eater, MacKenzie!

My kitchen helper and cake eater, MacKenzie!

Get Fresh!

image

I am totally in love with the movement towards eating healthfully, locally, and sustainably. I enjoy using fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables. You can transform everyday meals into seasonal celebrations! Cooking, for me, is a creative adventure! I grow some of my own fruits and vegetables and I have quiet an extensive herb garden. But making great finds as you forage at farmers markets, supermarkets, and roadside stands is all part of the adventure. The amazing colors and textures, tastes, and smells engage all of your senses! It is like a scavenger hunt as you search for purple heirloom tomatoes or the perfectly ripe avocado. You can even receive weekly boxes of handpicked produce from your local Community Supported Agricultural Programs or Co-op which is so much fun because you never know what kind of wonderful new things you will find to expand your culinary sense of adventure!

My cooking is produce based, so I start my meal planning around what fabulous, flavorful foods I can find. I am very fortunate in that within a few miles of my kitchen I can pick my own strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries. Right across the street is a wonderful little farm, Delightful Acres, that sells free roam chicken and duck eggs, raw jersey cow and goat milk, and they make amazing farmers cheese, delish!  About a mile down is an organic produce farm, Fernandos, where you can find all things produce, he even grows wheat grass. Fernando actually picks and washes the lettuce as you buy it. Can’t get any fresher than that! A little further up the road is Pasture Prime and they offer grass fed Wagyu beef and grass fed pork. These things may cost a little more, bu t if you have never tasted a grape picked right off the vine or a farm fresh egg where the yolks are huge and a beautiful bright orange, you are missing out! I am so grateful for these little treasures!

I am passionate about making a positive social and environmental impact while creating and eating deliciously healthy foods!