Friday, March 27, 2015

The School of Essential Ingredients, Book Club Selection

“Have you read the Book? Book Club” February’s selection was “The School of Essential Ingredients” by Erica Bauermeister. 
joy cover 
The Siberian Express was ravaging the eastern part of the country and as the temperature continued to drop and layers of ice were hiding in plain sight on every roadway in Charlotte, NC I was snuggled in reading  “The School of Essential Ingredients” by Erica Bauermeister.   

Erica, the author writes with a whimsical flare that captures your interest the minute you dip into the book and radiates such warmth, it wraps itself around you like a favorite sweater on a chilly day.

The book was a National Bestseller, published in 2009 and this was Elaine’s selection this year and was recommended to Elaine by our local librarian at the Waxhaw, NC library. Thank you Elaine and Ms. Librarian!

I have to say, I loved loved loved this book! Elaine thought our group would enjoy it and she was so, right we all did.
Erica’s writing captured my attention from the first page as I stepped off the pages of the book into Lillian’s restaurant, imagining all the scents and delicious dishes that would be prepared in her kitchen. The same goes for when I walked into Ann’s home, I thought it was like walking into Lillian’s restaurant, a home filled with warmth, the smell of garlic and is that lasagna in the oven? Yes, one of my favorite dishes! 


Ann's Lasagna and Field Greens Salad
After our discussion I realized that the book reflected so much of what our book club is about. Some of us in the book club enjoy cooking more than others, but we all share a love for a great read, good food, laughing and just enjoying each others company.

Ann served fresh bruschetta; toasted French bread topped with chopped tomatoes tossed with garlic, olive oil and basil, which kick started our taste buds and the evening. Ann prepared a delicious and savory Lasagna; ground beef with red sauce, ricotta, mozzarella, Italian herbs and a surprise ingredient, a pinch of cinnamon, it was a layered delight! Here is a link for a recipe similar to how I make my lasagna and Ann’s was very much like this with a pinch of cinnamon!  As we caught up and shared news, Rose had the most amazing and wonderful story to share, she found her Dad! After years of never knowing where he was they finally connected. How could we top this discussion?

As we gathered around Ann’s table it was a special night for another reason, Ann’s home caught fire last year and if you have ever lost anything to a fire you really understand that the only thing that really matters is that you and your family are safe. Stuff is just stuff, as Don Henley sings But you don't see no hearses with luggage racks” from his song “Gimmie what cha got”.

The writing in the book is described by many as lyrical and the ladies agreed that book was beautifully written. Some of us were drawn in by the in-depth description on preparing the food, others not so much but we all agreed that it was a great book.

We all shared stories of our own kitchen experiences growing up and it was apparent that each of our own childhood environments’s influenced how we look at food. Food for many is simply about survival; however when fresh food is available and prepared by someone with great care a person can begin to appreciate why some of us love to cook and learn to enjoy foods they never liked in the past. And nothing compares to just picked organic veggies, however I will say that some frozen vegetables which are properly packaged will do until the fields warm and start producing fresh vegetables.

My Mom is a great cook, however I remember her Brussels sprouts growing up, not so tasty sorry mom I don’t think you had access to fresh Brussels sprouts…Took me years to try them again and only when our son Jake prepared them with a little garlic and butter. Oh and yes they were just picked organic Brussels sprouts.

I think all of us at book club share the same philosophy as Lillian and Erica, that a recipe is just a suggestion. Follow this link for Lillian’s recipes. And there is always such joy when you stumble across a new author that you fall in love with. Here is another link to Erica’s favorite reads.
If you don’t like to cook I still recommend this book, you might just start a love affair with cooking or learn to appreciate freshly prepared meals. 

Thank you for stopping by. Just cook something, experiment, try new things, it’s ok to make mistakes, if you’re not making mistakes your not trying new things. 

In The Lost Art of Mixing Erica continues the story of several of the characters in “The School of Essential Ingredients” .  

For a list of all our books click here “Have you read the Book? Book Club”. Cheers! Kary~ 



Friday, March 20, 2015

Kitchen Update and Favorite Kitchen Products~


Over the years I have developed a great relationship with my kitchen and the products that I use, yes I said relationship! My daughter Brenda and I were laughing about how she was so excited when she purchased her first really good vacuum, a sure sign of growing up. And of course the lay-out of the kitchen is important as well.
Updated Kitchen
New Cabinet ~Replaced built-in desk



Updated Kitchen 
Original Kitchen
Hubby Doug and I have upgraded our kitchens in our last five homes. In May 2012 we upgraded our current home; in the kitchen we replaced all the cabinet doors with new doors, hardware and new drawer boxes with soft close rails. And had the cabinet modified for the farm house sink. I have had just about every type of kitchen sink and with all the cooking I do I just love the large farm house sink. We also replaced the not very useful and ugly built-in desk with a cabinet we found at Nadeau, furniture with a soul, which was a perfect fit! The kitchen is really large and there was plenty of room for an island and we found the perfect island at Nadeau, furniture with a soul. It was about four inches too tall for us so my handy hubby Doug sawed off the bottom, perfect fit for us and no wobble!

We had the carpet and linoleum removed and replaced with bamboo flooring throughout the house. My hubby placed an ad on Craig’s list “free carpet and hardware, if you remove and haul away”. The carpet was in good condition and we had a gentleman and his sons remove it, they were planning to use it in a family play room. It is a lot of work to remove carpet and flooring and to think I told Doug we could do this.

Original Kitchen
Whether it is the perfect kitchen, a great vacuum cleaner or products that make cleaning, chopping, simmering, baking, roasting, slow cooking easier we all have our favorite products.

I like simple, easy to clean kitchen products and since I am always trying to encourage you to “Cook Something”, I thought I would share a few of the items in my kitchen that I love to use. Starting with a fantastic set of knifes, a good set really does make chopping, dicing and slicing food easier. About fifteen years ago my husband purchased Chefs Choice Trizor Professional 10X knifes for me, I love them! We use to have the mobile knife sharpener visit our home and sharpen our knifes. The owner showed Doug how to sharpen knifes and now Doug does the sharpening.

Off to grill salmon or I should say Doug will be grilling!  Have you updated your Kitchen? 

Just cook something! Cheers! Kary~

Chefs Choice Trizor Professional 10X knifes I found a number of sites where you can purchase these, here is one link.


Oster 4093-008 5-Cup Glass Jar 2-Speed Beehive I use this for blending soups: Broccoli Soup  Chicken Soup Tomato Soup , pesto and pretty much everything that I need to blend.

Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 7-1/4-Quart Round French Oven ~ Great for cooking Beouf-Bourguignon, Corned Beef, Chili, Spaghetti Sauce and just about anything!

Low and Slow cooks Gumbo in the Crock Pot, Cajun Chili with Chicken, and so much more ~ Crock-Pot  Cook Travel Serve 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker, I have used this one as well, Crock-Pot Programmable Cook and Carry Oval Slow Cooker, click to purchase my favorite slow cooker!

Misto Fill half the bottle with your favorite Oil, pump and spray. No more purchasing of Pam and filling up our landfills with spray bottles. A must have for every kitchen.
Simply Calphalon Nonstick 7-qt. Dutch oven.

 “Karen Squires is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.” Any items you order are the same price as if you ordered directly from Amazon, any fees earned help to pay for the cost of maintaining my website. Your support is really appreciated Thank you! Kary ~ 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Cooking Adventures~Where would you go and what would you cook?

My hubby and I love to travel and what we really enjoy is meeting the locals. We have traveled across the pond where they speak the Queens English, a Scottish Brogue, Gaelic, Italian, German and French.
Last year we had a once in a life time adventure traveling to the Galapagos  in Ecuador, where no translator was required to communicate with all the critters. We have been fortunate to have traveled to the Caribbean, Mexico, Puerto Rico, South and Central America as well as North to Canada and Alaska.
St Andrews New Brunswick Canada
Nova Scotia 


 One of our favorite cities is New Orleans where any number of dialects can be heard, from Cajun, Creole, French or plain ole Southern, no matter what the accent or dialect half the fun is trying to communicate. And it goes without saying that Doug and are always interested in the ingredients and how a meal is prepared. 

So where would I go, so many choices. My first thought is Italy because I have a passion for Italian food, I mean who doesn’t? Several years ago Doug and I spent six days in Venice where we explored every alley way, getting lost in the twisting turning streets that are Venice. We visited museum after museum, churches, had fun trying to speak Italian and got to know some of the local vendors and shop owners. There was a lovely market around the corner from our hotel that sold slices of the most amazing chocolate cake. We stayed at a locally owned hotel that served breakfast from 7am to 10 am, period no exceptions, so no cooking for me.

We only visited a very small slice of Italy, so I would love to visit Tuscany or some other village in Italy. What an experience it would be to wander through the local market’s taking in all the sites, sounds and scents, searching for the freshest ingredients and chatting with the locals.


When planning a trip I usually begin by searching the internet first, looking for local lodging and any information about the country. Before I started to write this post I decided to search the web for cooking in Italy and landed on Tuscany Cooking Vacation

The site is lovely, informative and in English. If the website was in Italian I would have looked for a website in English. In my opinion I think having a website translate to a variety of languages would be a definite benefit, specifically when you are advertising a vacation spot.   

I also searched for markets in Italy and came across a number of sites, many in English. If I was in Italy searching the web for a local market the odds are pretty good that the websites would be in Italian. I would spend a few minutes searching for a site in English that already uses Translation software and if I could not find one I would most likely ask a local where they shop. And if they could not provide the information, I would ask a local to translate the website.

I feel most comfortable attempting to speak Spanish, Italian and a little French but other dialects are completely foreign to my ear, so an English translation of a website would be perfect for me.  

Many other countries popped into my mind when I was thinking about this post.  Finland is on my bucket list and is where my Grandmother on my Mom’s side is from. I have fond memories of my Grandmother cooking and speaking to us in Finish. My Mom says her one regret is that she never learned how to speak Finish and neither did I.

Morocco would be another great place to visit, where I imagine that the markets overwhelm the senses with color and the air is filled with the aroma of spices. I am sure it would be a great adventure in cooking and being introduced to exotic new foods would test my palate. My brother loved Moroccan food and worked in a Moroccan restaurant in Palm Springs, California for a number of years, which I was fortunate enough to have eaten at. Delicious and fun!

Also on the list; the Great Barrier Reef, the Amazon River, Bali, an African Safari and our next trip is a Rhine River cruise in 2016, can’t wait for that!

The places I want to visit are endless, so little time, so many cultures and cuisines to experience. If you could go anywhere in the world where would that be?

Fundy Bay Canada
Just cook something! and start planning your next Adventure, I am!  

Cheers! Kary ~
Ireland

Posts about some of our favorites places and recipes: Ireland and Saint Patrick’s Day, Mardi Gras Menu, Cajun Chili, Galapagos Islands
Galapagos Sally Crab
Galapagos Lava Lizard



Clontarf Castle Hotel 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Chicken Soup Egg Drop Optional

Chicken Soup ~ Egg Drop Optional

There is nothing like a warm bowl of chicken soup. And sometimes, as I sip from a bowl of  soup I am transported back to the warmth of my Mom’s kitchen, nibbling on a grilled cheese sandwich made especially for me dripping with yummy cheddar, it’s almost like I can feel my mom’s warmth all around me.  Or maybe its one of those days when you’re feeling a little not like yourself and nothing, I mean nothing but a bowl of chicken soup will do.

Earlier this week as the Siberian cold front was bearing down on us I was again feeling a desire to warm my body and soul with a soothing bowl of chicken soup.
Last time I sent my hubby Doug to the store for chicken soup he returned
empty handed. He told me that after reading the labels on several packages, like the good man that he is and checking the sodium content, sugar etc., surprise surprise the sodium content was from 650mg to over 700 mg  per serving.
Yuck, who needs all that sodium.

 Needless to say I did not find any of this soul warming soup in my pantry, but what I did find was a carton of organic low sodium chicken broth and a carton of organic low sodium vegetable broth. I try to keep my pantry stocked because who wants to pry themselves out of a cozy and yes warm abode to purchase one container chicken broth when you can substitute the vegetable broth for the cicken . Yes I am the queen of substitution!

Since I was set on chicken soup and it had been a really long time since I made chicken broth, I first checked my recipes for chicken or turkey soup. Hmmm I did not have a whole chicken to make fresh stock but I did have chicken tenders in the fridge.

I checked my cookbooks, hmm nothing I could use. Next I booted up the laptop, no I do not have a tablet but would love the new surface pro, if anyone is listening.

My first stop for a recipe was to visit Carrie over at  Delicious Organic, I remembered seeing a post for chicken soup on her website and yep I was right she has a great recipe. It looked like I could adapt her recipe by making a few changes.

Here’s what I had in my pantry and fridge:

1 Quart Organic Low Sodium Chicken Broth – 60 mg of sodium per cup
1 Quart Organic Low Sodium Vegetable Broth- 140 mg of sodium per cup
2 Stalks of celery, chopped ~ You can add a couple more if you desire
1 pound package of Chicken Tenders or 4 Chicken Breasts
            I had a package of Chicken Tenders in the Fridge
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 eggs ~ Optional
Salt and pepper to taste

Diced green onions for garnish is great, however I did not have any when I made this batch.

In a large sauce pan bring the Broth to a boil, add the Chicken Tenders and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked. Maybe because it is so cold the chicken seemed to take longer so I let the soup simmer for another 15 minutes, then I removed the cooked chicken with a slotted spoon and shredded the chicken, set aside.  If you want pasta noodles add 1 cup and cook per instructions on the package at this time.

If you are adding the eggs, crack the eggs in a small bowl, whisk then add to the pot and stir, the eggs cook rather quickly, a minute or two. Add the chicken back to the pot and Soups on!

Yes that simple and you will never purchase that dried packaged Chicken Noodle soup again. Makes about 6 servings, maybe four when hubby digs in…

What is your favorite soup?
  
Here’s Carrie’s new cookbook The Grain-Free Family Table  which I have been featuring on my blog . I was selected as a Book Ambassador to review and post on my blog  Cookingwithkary. Check it out!

 Just cook something! Cheers! Kary~



Saturday, February 14, 2015

Recipe for a memory~Happy Valentines Birthday to my Bro...

On February 14 1955 my Mother received the most special Valentines gift she could have ever imagined, my brother Douglas. Or as we called him growing up, Dougie.

Douglas still surfing the waves in Del Mar
However, for the last six years Valentines Day has been a day of mixed emotions for all of my family and Brice. I have two sisters and one brother; we lost our brother in a tragic accident in 2009.

This year on February 14, 2015 my brother would have been 59 years young. My mother always thought that is was an odd twist of fate that her only son was born on Valentines Day. Of course
Douglas loved all the attention!

I am writing about this today for all of you who have mixed emotions about a day that is suppose to celebrate love. If you have lost someone, are happily single or just waiting for your perfect “someone” and feel left out on Valentines Day you might like to know that Valentines Day origins date back to the High Middle Ages, “The Feast of Saint Valenitine” I like the feasting part and who doesn’t like chocolates, however it is a day of feasting from some religions, a fun day for children and a day on the calendar promoted by companies to boost their profits. The up side is that many small businesses that need the infusion of cash get a little boost this time of year and
Who doesn’t love chocolates and gifts professing eternal love!

Having said that, in this 24/7 world that we live in maybe some of us need a special day to slow down, turn off the mobile phone, yes these devices do have an off switch, and make your own special memories.  

I was really fortunate and spoke to my brother only days before he left us and I hold that conversation close to my heart and it helps to soothe my soul. We both shared a love for cooking, dancing and laughing any chance we had.  

As I sit here in front of my laptop with the curser key blinking away at me, I know that I am still not ready to publish all the details of my brother’s death. Have no doubt that my journal is filled with tear stained pages, coherent and some not so coherent thoughts and feelings. In addition to pages filled with memories of life with my brother jotted down like a mad women, so afraid I would forget a memory, and I am still writing them down as they pop into my head.

I know, not a really happy subject for Valentines Day, but the truth is that we all have loved ones we miss so I will sign off with a fun memory.

Setting; Del Mar, California, Del Mar Fair parking lot the summer of 1976, Douglas is driving our van, I am co-driver and we are trying to find a quick way out of the parking lot as the hoards of fair goers are exiting as well. Traffic is backing up and we need to get home before our curfew and no big surprise we are cutting it close.

The back exit we wanted to use is blocked with a saw horse; Douglas stopped the van, glanced over at me and says “Ok time to pull a Lucy and Ethel”. I am thinking oh no what does he have in mind. I quickly found out when he instructed me to jump out, move the saw horse and he would drive the van through.

We looked around, everyone was heading in the other direction, and it did not appear that anyone was paying attention to us so I did as requested by Douglas.

After all this wasn’t a major traffic violation, just a couple of saw horses blocking our way home right? Douglas and I made it home laughing all the way within minutes of our curfew with our driving privileges in tack. The sun, surf and good times awaited...

I believe now more than ever before that every day we should make sure that those we love have no doubt about our love for them. As for today I am spending Valentines Day with our Princess Brenda, her hubby Nate our Grandbabies Avery and Beckett, best Valentines Ever!

Happy V Day everyone and hold all those great memories close to your heart!

Go eat some candy, hugs a friend, laugh out loud and enjoy every day…

Hugs, Kary                    


What are your thoughts about Valentines’ Day? 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Mardi Gras Menu~

Yes it is time for Mardi Gras!
BleuBear Ready for Mardi Gras~

Yesterday I pulled out the trusty Crock Pot and all the ingredients for homemade Gumbo with a Butter Roux, my fav!

As many of you know my hubby and I do love New Orleans and I have written about Mardi Gras and posted my favorite Nawlins recipes for several years now.

I have added a couple o new recipes to my Mardi Gras Celebration Menu; Apricot Zingers from Carrie over at Deliciously Organic, Marinated Shrimp from my blog, Grilled Pablano Peppers wrapped in bacon and stuffed with cream cheese: I made these last fall and oh my were they yummy!


King Cake is a pastry style cake decorated with frosting in the colors of Mardi Gras; purple, green and gold. In New Orleans traditionally a small baby Jesus or trinket is inserted in the cake and whoever finds the trinket in their slice of King Cake hosts the next Mardi Gras party or brings the King Cake the next year. I have had the good fortune of finding the baby Jesus two years in a row, hmm is that a set-up?

Gumbo
Now that you have your menu for the Mardi Gras party, music is a must so don’t forget to have a great selection of Jazz, Zydeco and any of your party favorites ready to liven up the festivities. And do not forget the Mardi Gras beads, I usually purchase beads at my local party store, toss them in a bowl as gifts for my guests to wear. 

If you are heading down to Nawlins steer clear of Bourbon Street and enjoy the festivities all over the city and in the parishes.  It is a time for Local Mardi Gras Krewes, who bring you the "Greatest Free Show on Earth". As for me, I will be celebrating Mardi Gras with our grandbabies, maybe one day I will attend Mardi Gras in New Orleans…

Have you ever attended Mardi Gras in New Orleans? What is your favorite New Orleans style recipe?

Just Cook Something! Cheers! Kary~



Monday, February 9, 2015

Grilled Pablano Peppers Cream or Neufchatel Cheese and Bacon

Grilled Peppers stuffed with Cream or Neufchatel Cheese wrapped in Bacon.

Last summer when my sister-in-law Sandy and my niece Skylar were visiting us, Sandy told me about this fantastic appetizer, easy and delicious. San assured me that the cream cheese did not melt into the grill if cooked properly. I could not wait to make these and when they were available at my local farmers market I excitedly purchased 6 Pablano Peppers, how could you not love cream cheese and bacon!

Our good friends Karin and Phil were coming over for dinner and I could not wait for Karin and me to make these.



Easy Prep: 
Rinse the peppers, pat dry, slice in half longwise and remove the seeds. I filled each side with about a tablespoon of Organic Neufchatel Cheese rather than Cream Cheese. Then I wrapped a slice of bacon around the stuffed peppers and secured with a toothpick.

Grill with open side down first, watch closely so they do not burn, flip, continue to 
Grill until the bacon is brown and crisp. Yep that’s it! Easy and Yummy!

I searched on-line for recipes and found several sites; Grilled Jalapeno Peppers over at All Recipes and  Grilled Jalapeno Pepper over at Pioneer Women’s,

I purchased Pablona Peppers at the local farmers market, I prefer the milder taste and they were so beautiful.

Here’s a picture from my container garden last year.

Have you made these grilled peppers yet?

Just Cook Something! Cheers! Kary~

The  Neufchâtel that I purchase does not taste like mushrooms, more like a mild cream cheese: According to WikipediaNeufchâtel is a soft, slightly crumbly, mould-ripened cheese made in the French region of Normandy. One of the oldest cheeses in France, its production is believed to date back to the 6th century. It looks similar to Camembert, with a dry, white, edible rind, but the taste is saltier and sharper. It has the aroma and taste of mushrooms. Unlike other soft-white-rinded cheeses, Neufchâtel has a grainy texture.[1] It is most usually sold in heart shapes but is also produced in other forms, such as logs and boxes. It is typically matured for 8–10 weeks.

In 1872, William Lawrence, a New York dairyman of the township of Chester, created the first American cream cheese as the result of an attempt to create a batch of Neufchâtel.[citation needed] This American Neufchâtel is softer than regular cream cheese due to its approximately 33% lower fat and higher moisture content.[2][3] Due to this reduced fat content, it is found in most grocery stores as a reduced-fat option to cream cheese. In the United States, this Neufchâtel is sometimes called farmers' cheese.[4]