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Archive for the ‘appetizers/first courses’ Category

A few months ago, suffering from a terrible bout of jetlag, I decided to sort and rearrange my cookbook collection. I purposely avoided counting them (some things just don’t need to be known) but let’s just say I have a lot. In the course of sorting, I found quite a few I haven’t cracked in years and were happy reintroductions, others left me perplexed as to why I had them and yet others made me laugh out loud. One of the later was The Northern Exposure Cookbook: A Community Cookbook From the Heart of the Alaskan Riviera. I’m sure it was a gift though I don’t recall from who. I loved that 90’s show about small town Cicely, Alaska and all the characters that lived there. Plus DJ Chris Stevens was hot. (When has John Corbett not been hot?) While the DVDs are readily available, the show doesn’t seem to be streaming anywhere. That’s a shame.

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I am extremely prone to jet lag. Back in February, after a particularly long overseas flight, I had the worst bout yet. At one point, a day or two after arriving home, I was wide-awake for a good 36 hours with surprising amounts of energy. It was strange. So I did something I’ve been meaning to do for months – I reorganized all my cookbooks. I have hundreds of cookbooks and over the years, they’d gotten a bit messy. I prefer to organize my cookbooks by subject but they were willy-nilly all over the apartment. The pile next to my coffeetable was taller than the table. It drove me crazy but I hadn’t gotten around to doing anything about it. Now I had the energy so I decided to attack the piles.

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One of those Facebook memories popped up in my timeline recently, reminding me of a Napa Valley trip I took several years ago. Looking out the window at yet another freak April snowstorm, there was no place I would rather be. If ever there was a time to have a Star Trek type transponder, it was in that moment. I was sick of this never ending Midwest winter with it endless grey afternoons. I was bitter.

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Hey! So I’ve been cooking up a storm lately, but nothing really blog worthy. More so, just some old favorites, many that I’ve already posted. With Easter coming up, there are some good things in the archives for your holiday brunches and dinners so let’s recap today.

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Researching the foods of Africa in an effort to learn more about this recently maligned continent, I found so many things that sounded delicious. Too many. One day, I googled “African snacks” curious to see what came up for any of the 54 countries. I immediately perked up at the results which were far better than I had hoped. A litany of amazing things – meat pies, fritters, meat on sticks, and fried dough in all kinds of shapes and sizes and glazes. Among these were a few things with really great names that caught my attention immediately … chin chin, puff puffs and fat cakes. What?!? How much fun do these sound?!? I want to eat them all. Obviously I started with puff puffs. How could I not?

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Despite some missteps, I’ve enjoyed learning more about the food from other parts of the world. After our President said those horrendous words about Haiti, Africa and El Salvador a few weeks ago, I made a few calls to my Senators and Congressman to register my anger and I started looking into food as a means to learn more about these countries. This week it was Haiti. While having some commonalities to other Caribbean nations, Haiti has some unique dishes of its own influenced by its history. It is a Creole cuisine, originating from a blend of several culinary styles that populated the island, namely the French, African, Taíno natives, and Spanish. Another example of how waves of immigration influence our foods. Peppers and herbs are often used for building flavor and dishes tend to be seasoned liberally. Sounds delicious doesn’t it?

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Oh Thanksgiving! I love Thanksgiving. It’s the only holiday that is solely dedicated to eating. How great is that? Secondarily, I would say enjoying time with family is maybe a bit more important and watching a few football games is up there too but no other holiday has such focus on food. It is the best day of the year for that very reason. The menu is fairly set – turkey and stuffing of course and cranberries, mashed potatoes and gravy. From there we’ve got some leeway – sweet potatoes probably, some kind of green vegetable is nice and then probably pumpkin pie for dessert. Anything beyond that is up for discussion but we all pretty much know. Where there is really room to stretch is with the appetizers. With the exception of family traditions, there’s no set ideas here. You need something to start the day, welcome your guests, take the edge off and lay a base for the delights to come. Appetizers.

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