Foodies, Bloggers & Brands Create Magical 2015 Food and Wine Conference

Family Foodie and me

Family Foodie and me

Prologue:  In July 2011, I was talking with a woman about social media at a networking event when I asked, “Are you @FamilyFoodie?” Her eyes flew open wide and she replied, “Yes! How did you know?” I answered, “I don’t know (because her Twitter image was a chef’s hat then), but I follow you.” Her eyes got even bigger and she asked, “You DO?” I replied, “Yes, you have like 7K Twitter followers!” (She was a local Tampa Twitter rock star imho.) She said, “I know.” “So what are you doing here?” I asked. She looked at me quizzically. Later I remarked, “Think you’ve found your next thing with Family Foodie.” No truer words were spoken. In 2011 she started familyfoodie.com. In 2012, she created an army of bloggers ready to work with food brands to bring families back around the #SundaySupper dinner table via SundaySupperMovement.com. In 2013, she launched her very first Food and Wine Conference. That is tremendous growth (and hard work!) in a very short time, especially while raising four kids. Missed the first #FWCon while moving back home. Missed last year because of other commitments, too, but really wanted to go after seeing all the food in my Facebook newsfeed! So July 17-19, I went, I saw, I Instagrammed/Facebooked/Tweeted, I ate, I learned and I grew!

What is the Food and Wine Conference? To quote the website: “The Food and Wine Conference brings together bloggers, small business owners, winemakers, chefs, PR professionals, traditional media, new media, authors and brands.” For what? To talk about (and eat!) food & wine, to discuss what they’re doing and how they’re doing it, to create road maps for success, and ultimately to work together in win-win scenarios. It’s a beautiful thing.

View from my room at the Rosen Shingle Creek resort

View from my room at the Rosen Shingle Creek resort

Speaking of beautiful, Rosen Shingle Creek Resort is that and much more. Have you ever heard if you’re doing the right thing everything will just serendipitously fall into place? One day Isabel and her best friend Lou Anne went there for lunch, they met Mr. Harris Rosen, and a beautiful business relationship was born. It is a stunningly gorgeous conference center and resort, with top-notch chefs, and it’s an absolutely perfect setting for #FWCon! Their customer service is excellent.

Here’s a fun Good Day Orlando video taken Friday morning before the conference, which shows just a few of the goodies we experienced over the weekend.

The food. The wine. Bring an eating buddy! You just can’t eat it all, and it is *ALL SO GOOD!* One thing I learned: Get your food first, talk later. I spent too much time talking Friday night and missed yummy things I wanted to try!

Saturday was jammed packed. The opening Keynote: “Everything is Subject to Change” was about how life and careers are a journey where one thing definitely leads to another, especially in retrospective. Think of your own and you’ll connect the dots between people and places and how one leads to the next.

If you think bloggers are just “little women who love food and want a part-time job” then the session with Liz Latham from Hoosier Homemade and Stephanie Parker from Plain Chicken might change your mind. Liz and her husband both quit their FT corporate jobs to work the blog, which fully supports their family. Liz and Stephanie discussed the need to create a LLC for your blog, work with lawyers to trademark your logo, use Quickbooks, and covered all financial aspects of running a successful blogging business.

Lunch was sponsored by Wisconsin Cheese and Idaho Potato: *POUTINE* in four different varieties!! Here’s when I discovered I needed an eating buddy. #FirstWorldFoodieProblem: I want to try everything, can’t eat three lunches, and hate wasting food!

Kale & Spinach Poutine in Mushroom Gravy with Three Cheese Sauce

Kale & Spinach Poutine in Mushroom Gravy with Three Cheese Sauce

My two favorite sessions after lunch were panels. The first was brands discussing working with bloggers. The brand reps really impressed me with their honesty: “Please don’t send me a pitch telling me how great your blog aligns with our Beef brand, but then I can’t find one blog post with beef in the recipe, but do find “I hate hamburger” in your ‘About’ section.” (News flash: Hamburger is beef!)  They were as down-to-earth as the bloggers, and very real about their connection to their product, their audience, and their bloggers. I learned not all brands are created equal when it comes to bloggers: Some use them as an extension of their marketing team, others use them sparingly. It’s all about finding ones that best fits you and your blog.

My other favorite panel was Eat.Travel.Blog.Business, which was a panel of travel bloggers. Sounds heavenly, right? To travel about, eat, stay at beautiful places, post and write about it? It’s a lot more work than you think and not really just lounging by the pool with a cool drink! Ann Tran, who was a part of the social media panel, recently tweeted “How to Make $150K as a Travel Blogger” which drives the point home that blogging can be “a real job.”

After a very fun live rendition of “The Price is Right” with Saucy Queen Michele Northrup, we had a bit of time before dinner.

Hess Collection wines served with Certified Angus Beef meal

Hess Collection wines served with Certified Angus Beef dinner

Saturday night dinner sponsored by Hess Collection wines & Certified Angus Beef

Saturday night dinner sponsored by Hess Collection wines & Certified Angus Beef

Ah, dinner. Nothing says you’re about to dine well like multiple wine glasses lined up at your place setting!  After food all day (most of it not shown here), we sat down to a family style dinner of Certified Angus Beef with roasted garlic, asparagus, collards, fingerling potatoes and the most heavenly whipped sweet potatoes. Here’s a photo of my first plate. (Yep, you read that right!) Later, I just spread the roasted garlic like butter on top of the beef. #PleaseSirCanIHaveMore While I enjoyed all three of the Hess Collection wines, the Hess Treo really stood out and was scrumptious with the beef. #YesPlease [Wait, is there a job where you get paid to be a professional eater? I may have that one covered hands down!] I didn’t have room for dessert, so enjoyed watching folks do the Idaho Potato Spuds singing game while being taped, which was hysterical fun. But when the blogger I roomed with told me Rosen had made the top two winning recipes from the Dixie Crystals blogging contest for dessert and I missed Tiramisu, one would think I hadn’t eaten all day! I was truly sad. #FirstWorldFoodieProblems

Cabot & Hess Pairing

Cabot & Hess Pairing

Sunday was at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management, right next to their resort. The sessions were like classes, where you picked from four for any given time period. The problem? Some sessions I wanted to go to three of the four!  I ended up in the Cheese & Wine Pairing sponsored by Cabot and Hess Collections. Thought I already knew a lot about cheese; I was wrong. Did you know cheese is graded in some of the same terms as wine is (acidity, fruitiness, etc.)? And that different cheeses with different wines can make one or the other taste really bad? I learned that and a lot more.

Beef ... It's What's For Dinner!

Beef … It’s What’s For Dinner!

My other favorite session on Sunday was sponsored by Certified Angus Beef, where we saw a live demo with Chef Michael Ollier and got some great advice on preparing beef. #1 tip: Do not cut meat while cooking to see if it’s done! Use a meat thermometer to reach the desired state of doneness (130 before resting for medium rare).  Another great tip is to sear both sides quickly to seal in juices, and then finish cooking slowly.

Live Cooking Demo

Live Cooking Demo

I loved my three days at the 2015 Food and Wine Conference! Why? Because I saw people sharing best business practices, learning a great deal about food and wine, and celebrating their entrepreneurship, regardless of where they are in the journey. Learned I really need to up my photography game if I ever want to make money from a blog!  What a lot of people don’t realize about blogging is you have to know and do everything: from web technology/platforms, to social media, to marketing, finances & accounting, and everything in between. If you want to learn how, and talk to people who are doing it, then plan to attend the 2016 Food and Wine Conference because you will meet them, and they will share their secret recipes! I met some truly wonderful people at #FWCon … Foodies are great people!!

Isabel asked, “What was your favorite quote from #FWCon?” Both of mine came from @SaucyQueen: After “Johnny” told every Price Is Right winner what they won, Michele added, “And a bottle of hot sauce!” (Did I mention I love me some hot sauce?)  She also said, “The best advice I can give you is if you have a good idea, ‘Don’t Hesitate!'” Sound advice for life! Bon Appetit 🙂

My Facebook Food And Wine Conference Photo Album.

The complete 2015 schedule.


FlameStone Grill Chile Olive Oil Dinner

My friend Isabel, aka @familyfoodie, called recently to say the Chile Olive Oil Council contacted her about hosting a dinner party at a restaurant of her choice featuring their olive oils where she could invite some foodies.  I was quite honored to be invited to this awesome dinner party for twenty at the FlameStone Grill on August 30.  FlameStone Corporate Chef Eric Lackey designed a special menu to showcase the Chile Extra Virgin Olive Oils in each dish!  Here are Chef Eric and Isabel before the dinner, along with the #ChileFresh menu.

Eric kicked off the evening describing the differences in the Chile Extra Virgin Olive Oils (EVOO) and how the courses would be presented with different Chilean wines provided to accompany his meal.  There was a tasting table set up with little bottles (also at our place settings that we got to take home with us:), bread, and apples to cleanse the palate.  Many have been to a wine tasting, but few have been to an olive oil tasting!  They’re remarkably similar!  The lighter EVOO has a very fresh, vibrant taste with a hint of apple that I detected before reading the literature.  The Chile EVOOs are truly lovely!

The first starter was Black Pepper Tomato Pretzel Bread with White Anchovies Aioli.  Quite frankly, I would have eaten the aioli by itself with a spoon if it’d been served alone!  Or as Kerry, the Yum and Yummer food blogger sitting next to me said, “He needs to bottle this and sell it!”  Kerry has since tweeted me he’s made it his mission to crack the code on this very delicious aioli; I’m looking forward to it!

Next were the remaining Starters:  Olive Tapenade (made in a traditional molcajete) with Chilean EVOO rubbed Crostinis, a Fresh Tomato Tart and an Heirloom Yellow Tomato Caprese Salad.  My first introduction to tapenade was when I lived in Bellingham, WA, in a brewery/restaurant inside an old warehouse where they would serve their homemade tapenade along with homemade microbrews at the bar.  I wanted to go there just for the amazing tapenade!  I’d never found one as good until Eric’s; it was delightful!  The Fresh Tomato Tart was light, almost sweet and went perfectly with the Riesling presented.  The Yellow Tomato Caprese Salad was yummy too (I may have taken some of the fresh rosemary from the tart and put it on the tomato salad too … foodies, we love to improvise!).  The tomato salad was impressive because Eric made the cheese himself! All of the starters were luscious, but my favorites from this grouping were the aioli and the tapenade.  Kerry, who was in business before traveling to Europe to take cooking classes in Spain and Italy, said, “He seriously needs to bottle that aioli and tapenade.”  You know when a foodie says that it’s something amazing!

The first entrée served was Agave Soaked Chicken with Red Wine Bermuda Onions and Pan Seared Purple Potatoes with a Burnt Sugar Olive Oil Dust.  This tasty dish was a savory combination of sweet onion, moist chicken and olive oil potatoes.  It was paired with a smoky, dusky, Pinot Noir (or so I thought), which was perfect.  I later found out it was a basic Chilean Red Table wine, but it was really excellent with this dish!

Next up was what I’d been waiting all day for:  Polenta Crusted Chilean Sea Bass with Toasted Pepita and EVOO drizzle.  This dish was as heavenly as I’d imagined!  It was light, sweet, moist and served on a bed of arugula, which balanced the fish beautifully.  I absolutely loved the sea bass!

By the time the next dish came, I was getting full (tried not to eat everything; only half, but was only half successful at that;).  The last two entrees were served together: a Goat Cheese & Arugula Stuffed Piadina and Portabella and Goat Cheese with a Porcini & White Truffle Cappallacci.  What I fell in love with here was the Goat Cheese on top of the Cappallacci … it was to die for!  I ate all of that just because of the goat cheese, which I later found out from Chef Eric was whipped with spices including cayenne and garlic.  It was YUM-O!

When desserts came, I was full ~ but that didn’t deter me!  The desserts were:  EVOO Cake with Candied Tangerines & Pecans, EVOO & Sea Salt Brownies with Peanut Butter Dust and Caramelized Marshmallow, and an EVOO Almond Cookie with Whipped Cream & Raspberry.  The cake was very light; almost like Angel Food and the tangerine and pecans complemented it quite nicely.  After two bites I moved on to the brownie, which I’d also been waiting for all day.  It did not disappoint!  The ‘Peanut Butter dust’ was amazing, the brownie rich and moist and the marshmallow a surprisingly good addition.  I didn’t eat it all so I could try the cookie, which was way better than I’d thought it’d be!  After eating all of this outstanding food, an almond cookie is an almond cookie, right?  Not in this case; it was really delicious and the whipped cream with it was perfection.

Complementing all of this awesome food, were interesting foodies including Jeff Houck, CarlosEats, a lot of great food, wine bloggers (apologies for not listing everyone) and social media peeps.  @SaucyQueen, who makes spicy sauces brought us each a bottle of her Garlic Goodness!  Thanks Michelle:)  Here’s a great Storify post from @_KimRandall with tweets from the event!  Sincere thanks to the Chile Olive Oil Council for putting on this fabulous dinner and sending us home with samples of their liquid gold, Isabel for inviting me, and FlameStone for their outrageous creations!  FlameStone, please add the aioli, tapenade and whipped goat cheese to your menu … maybe as an appetizer that comes with bread and crudités?  Also, the polenta crusted sea bass, brownie and almond cookie could all become menu favorites!

This incredible dining experience reminded me that while I love to cook, a chef I’m not.  But a good food lover I’ll forever be! 😉


Dine Tampa Bay Food Spotting at AQUA

Dine Tampa Bay at AQUA

My friend Isabel, aka @FamilyFoodie, called me the other day, “Ron and the boys will be at football practice and I was invited to AQUA for an event Wednesday night.  Would you like to come with me?”  I immediately accepted, no questions asked, because I know Isabel has become a local foodie blogging celebrity with her @FamilyFoodie 14K Twitter followers and her worldwide #SundaySuppers!  Yesterday The Tampa Bay Times did a beautiful article on her.  Her mission is to bring families back around the dinner table with home cooking.  So I was very happy to attend Dine Tampa Bay‘s Food Spotting Eat Up (#FSEatUp for you Twitter fans:) at AQUA at The Westin with her last night!

I’ve been to The Westin and AQUA before; for a Luxury Marketing Council event last year and WITI Central FL‘s Job Shop 4 Geek Girls in May.  I already knew how beautiful the facility is, how attentive the staff are and how yummy the food is, but last night confirmed it again!

COCKTAILS

We started our evening off with the AQUApolitan martini, which is berry infused vodka and other yummy things.  I liked it!

APPETIZERS

First up was their delicious Wagyu Beef Carpaccio.  This version included blue cheese and it was rich, flavorful and I ate more than one:)

Next was the outstanding Salmon Avocado Roll with basil emulsion on top.  This sushi was one of @CarlosEats favorites! I may have tried more than one myself;-) The basil emulsion was amazing.

Then we sampled the Jumbo Gulf Coast Shrimp, which were firm, succulent and flavorful.  Again, I may have had two of these!

The awesome crab bites were next, which were based on their Jumbo Blue Crab Cakes.  As you can see from the photo, they were another big hit!!  I lost count on these; food circled the room several times!

It was hard for me to pick a favorite because I really liked all the hors d’oeuvre, but the Spicy Tuna Roll was truly a morsel of yummy goodness!

Besides the beautiful venue and awesome food, I met Jeff Houck, food writer for Tampa Tribune, and Carlos Hernandez, a USF student studying business, who blogs and tweets about food in Tampa Bay as CarlosEats.  It was really a great time! (Jeff is in the background talking in the photo below and Carlos is in the foreground, with a Flirtini in his hand.  I may have had one of those too:)

Dine Tampa Bay runs from August 3rd through August 17th with over 130 restaurants offering prix fixe menus.  AQUA’s looks yummy and I’ve gotten hungry again just writing this!

If you’re looking for a location with beautiful views and great food for a special event or wedding, consider The Westin.  Here are some of the amazing views from the roof!

Thanks to Ron and the boys for coaching and playing football, so I could attend Dine Tampa Bay’s #FSEatUp at AQUA with my wonderful friend Isabel!


Breakfast Smoothie of Champions

I recently tired of switching between hard-boiled eggs, Greek yogurt and oatmeal for breakfast.  Some fresh pineapple had screamed ‘Buy me!’ on a Costco trip, so I decided to blend up a pineapple yogurt smoothie.  It was yummy:)  Made it like that for a couple of days until I thought, “Some ginger would be awesome in here!”  Long story short, this smoothie has blossomed over the past month or so and I absolutely love it!  It’s become a part of my morning routine before or after my walk.  It’s so simple:  pineapple, ginger, parsley, spinach and yogurt.  Just 5 ingredients, but together it tastes divine and my body loves it!

Pineapple – either fresh (peeled & chunked) or canned in juice.  Just switched to canned because fresh gets a bit grody about day 5.

Parsley – a handful, washed

Ginger – an inch chunk or so, peeled

Spinach – organic, washed, a couple of handfuls

Greek Yogurt – plain, 0% fat, 3 large spoonfuls

Blend the first four ingredients, then add in the yogurt and blend one more time.  If you click on each ingredient above, you’ll link to their health benefits.  What you’ll find is the first four are all anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer foods, with a ton of other nutritional benefits.  The yogurt provides the protein.  I estimate this smoothie is about 300 calories; 1 cup of the yogurt is 140 and a cup of pineapple is 160.  A cup of Greek yogurt provides 24 grams of protein.  Perfect for breakfast!  If you’re doing intense training, you could add some protein powder too.

Quite a while ago I bought Cook Right 4 Your Type, a cookbook based on the best foods for each blood type.  My blood is B positive, which I know from giving blood.  The above ingredients are listed under the highly beneficial category for B blood types.  I’m a moderate health freak; have generally eaten very healthy my whole life, but I’ve also been known to wolf down a burger or a plate of nachos.  And I’m not a saint; I drink alcohol.  And I would never tell a woman not to eat chocolate around that time of the month; please eat the chocolate!  I subscribe to the ‘everything in moderation’ rule.  Or like Weight Watchers, if you eat right most of the time, you can have an extravagant meal or day (or weekend) and then go back to your normal routine and still maintain a healthy weight.

What’s better than making something that tastes delicious that you know is awesome for you?  Aspirin and prescription drugs have only been around for a little over a hundred years.  Before that, people used food, plants and spices to cure themselves.  I’d rather drink my smoothie than take an aspirin daily, which is hard on the stomach, or ibuprofen, which is hard on the liver, etc.  Food is a drug that can heal your body; as the saying goes, “You are what you eat!”  So here’s to your very good health.  Or as the French say, “à votre santé!”

Do you have an awesome smoothie recipe?  Please share it!


My Family’s Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday since I was a kid.  Maybe it’s because my birthday always falls near it.  Maybe it’s because from kindergarten through college we had vacation.  Maybe it’s because it’s just about family, food and giving thanks.  I’ve always done my best to have Thanksgiving week off from everything just to spend time with family and friends.

When I lived on the West Coast, I would fly home in time to cook with my sister Marci the Wednesday night before.  At first it was just my sister, her BFF Jill and me.  But over the years our Wednesday night cooking parties grew; especially after my sister and her husband moved into their new neighborhood.  Then it became a couple’s party as well as a cooking event, with lots of drinking and talking; a Thanksgiving Eve party.  Pizza and wings, lots of wine and beer and cooking.  My brother-in-law has been known to make shots after the cooking is done too:)

The day/night before Thanksgiving:  Marci makes a myriad of pies during the day and peels potatoes.  At night we make butternut squash, cube the bread for stuffing, chop & sauté onions & celery in butter and poultry seasoning so the stuffing is ready to mix together in the morning.  More desserts; Marci and Jill usually make Caramel Apple Cheesecakes too.  And whatever else is on the agenda for that year or didn’t get done earlier.  My family has an excel spreadsheet for Thanksgiving; it’s serious business:)

This year I was lucky enough to be home and our entire family (in Rochester) was at my sister’s house for Thanksgiving Eve as well as Jill’s family; it was quite the crew!  We prepped the Brussel sprouts too.  Our  mom has a Brussel sprout dish she makes that everyone loves, but she was out-of-state so my brother made them (recipe below).  Coming from 7 kids, our immediate family’s Thanksgiving is around 16 – 18 people, but this year was only 13.  We always cook for an army, because there’s a tradition of sending everyone home with leftovers.  Seriously.

On Thanksgiving we eat around 3 p.m.; sit down, say grace and then everyone makes their own plate.  This year we made the mistake of saying grace in the kitchen before everything was completely ready to go and like Pavlov’s dogs, everyone dug in anyway.  My sister, our hostess, wasn’t pleased and may have made a comment about vultures complete with expletives.  But, hey, it’s Thanksgiving!  Here’s a picture of some of us and the island full of food (not including stuff by/on the stove):

After we eat dinner, pack up food, and clean up the kitchen, then we do desserts after 6 p.m.   Here’s a photo of Marci with her chocolate cream, cherry, pumpkin and banana cream pies, along with an eclair cake and caramel apple cheesecake she made.  Our sister Marlene added pumpkin bread pudding to the mix.  Yes, after turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, butternut squash, brussel sprouts, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, cranberry and rolls.  This year Marci also made creamed onions, which our mom used to make when we were kids and I love.  I know everyone loves food, but our family really loves food!

This has been our Thanksgiving tradition for the past couple of decades.  Why do I love it?  The tradition of cooking and eating all that great food?  Yes, but also just to be together and be grateful; to give thanks we’re still here and together … despite whatever challenges life throws our way.  Marci, who with her husband Frank has hosted our family’s Thanksgiving for the past decade, declared Thanksgiving night that she wasn’t doing it next year!  She and her family are going on a cruise.  But what I know about “Sarge in Charge” is after a year off, she’ll be back at it; she likes making those pies way too much to give it up altogether! ❤

Mom’s Brussel Sprouts

Brussel sprouts (based on number of people you’re serving; we use 8 lbs for Thanksgiving.  Yes, 8 lbs:)

fresh minced garlic

butter

Italian bread crumbs

Grated Romano / Parmesan Cheese

Wash & trim sprouts and boil until soft.  Mom boils, my brother steams & I’ve microwaved, but for this dish boiling really does work best.  Drain (keep broth for a vegetable stock).  Add butter and fresh minced garlic and stir.  Stir in bread crumbs and grated cheese.  You can make the night before if you want and reheat; Mom always makes them that day and brings her big pot over to my sister’s.  They rock and, believe it or not, are always the first to go when everyone is there.

Butternut Squash

squash

butter

salt & pepper

I love this squash; it’s my favorite.  Used to do the work of peeling it, but the oil in it discolors my hands and makes my skin tight.  The easiest way to prepare is to wash, cut off the ends, cut in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and place cut side down on a baking tray.  Add water until 1/2″ up on the squash, bake at 350 for an hour or until a fork inserts easily.  Once cooled a bit, scoop squash into a large glass bowl.  Using a hand mixer, beat with butter, salt & pepper.  Can be microwaved or reheated in oven the next day.  Sounds incredibly plain, but is really incredibly yummy!

I thank God for my big family (3 sisters and 3 brothers), our abundant Thanksgivings and all the blessings we do have, in spite of life’s challenges!


Pasta & Broccoli for World Pasta Day:)

This morning @familyfoodie tweeted today is World Pasta Day!  I didn’t know a day to celebrate pasta even existed, but the minute I saw her tweet thought, ‘Time to make and blog my pasta & broccoli!’

Pasta & broccoli and I run deep.  Originally got the recipe from a guy I dated in my twenties. (Thanks Joe!)  A food court restaurant at Midtown Mall in Rochester had the best P&B; often ate for lunch when I worked downtown in the early ’90’s.  What made it so good was the pepper; still haven’t been able to reproduce that recipe exactly.  They used *a lot* of olive oil and pepper; maybe it was pepper infused oil?  What’s funny is I don’t remember the name of the place, the mall doesn’t exist anymore (being turned into a corp HQ), but I can still see that tray of pasta & broccoli in my mind!  Oh yes, the human connection to food is intense:)  Although I make a number of pasta dishes, this is my go-to pasta.  While discussing the healthiest diet with my chiropractor a few years ago, he said, “Karen, protein, vegetables & fruit; that’s it. Nothing white!” and my immediate response was, “Dr. Hack, I’m not giving up my pasta & broccoli!” (PSA: Live in Rochester, NY and need a chiropractor? Dr. Kenneth Hack is the best! He’s been my go-to chiro for a long time too:)  So anyway, here’s the recipe:

1 lb. Bowtie, Penne or Rotini pasta

1 lb. washed, cut & trimmed broccoli florets

1 can Swanson’s chicken broth

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

3 – 5 cloves garlic

8 oz package of sliced mushrooms

Red pepper flakes

Fresh ground pepper

1 can cannellini beans (optional)

Grated parmesan/romano cheese

Put water on to boil pasta.  Wash & trim broccoli (I buy Costco’s 3 lb bag of broccoli florets & use 1/3 bag).  Microwave the broccoli and chicken broth in 2 qt covered dish for 5 mins; do this for the last 5 mins pasta is cooking. Drain pasta into colander. Reduce heat. Coat the bottom of pasta pot w/ EVOO and add sliced mushrooms.  Mince 3 – 5 large cloves of fresh garlic into pot, add in red pepper flakes, fresh ground pepper and stir. (If adding beans, drain and add to pot now.) Sautee until mushrooms are soft. Turn off heat. Add broccoli, chicken broth and pasta. Stir and serve in pasta bowls with grated cheese.  I like a nice Pinot Grigio or Semillon Chardonnay with this dish.  Buon Appetito:)


Peppercorn Steak & Caesar Salad

Last Sunday my step-brother Rich sent me a Facebook message, “Eating Caesar salad and wishing it was yours.”  His message was really sweet!  I replied, “& that made me smile! Thanks Rich! ❤ Will blog it soon:)”  He replied, “Hopefully you mean the recipe?”  There are some other blog posts I want to write, but am blogging this tonight because some steak, mushrooms & green peppercorns with Caesar salad sounds awesome! 😀

Had just put some EVOO and mushrooms in a sauté pan when my sister Kim called around 7:30 p.m.  “Are you getting ready to make dinner Kar-Bear?” (I have a younger brother and sister who nicknamed me ‘Kar-Bear’ before Care Bears became famous.  My younger brother still calls me ‘Bear’ and my younger sister calls me ‘Kar.’  The only ones who call me ‘Kar-Bear’ now are my mom and sister right before me.)  “You know me well, Kim … just started.”  “What delectable treat are you making tonight?”  Told her the Rich story and that it was a great night for a steak & salad blog post photo.  (When did food become a photo opp?)

I’ve made Caesar Salad long enough to have variations to share.  The steak, pan-sauteed with green peppercorns, was born post-2003.  Here are the recipes:

Caesar Salad Dressing

1 egg

3 TBsp EVOO

1 TBsp+ fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 – 2 Large Cloves Garlic, minced

1 tsp Dijon Mustard

Anchovy Paste to taste, spiraled to size of quarter for me

Tabasco to taste, 5 -7 good dashes for me

1/4 to 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (if you’re near a Wegmans, use their grated Parmesan/Romano blend)

So back in the day when I’d get heads of Romaine lettuce from the Rochester Public Market, I’d rinse the leaves under running water and stand them up in a dish strainer or on a towel to drain, then I’d make the dressing in a large salad bowl.  Why mention this?  Because today with pre-washed, bagged lettuce, there’s no water clinging to your lettuce leaves.  So whip up the salad dressing above in a large bowl, mixing with a whisk.  If raw egg gives you the heebie-jeebies, then don’t use it.  My family and I have eaten raw egg in this recipe forever without getting Salmonella.  You can use Egg Beaters if you’d like.  But truth be told, lately I just make it with Olive Oil and lemon, etc.  (Today I had two hard-boiled eggs for breakfast; how many eggs does a girl need in one day?)  Either way it’s good!  If you’re using bagged lettuce, you’ll want to add a bit of water to the dressing so it’s not too thick.  Tonight I tried something totally new by adding some of my martini in (see ‘Dirty Martini for Liz’ for recipe); it rocked!  So make dressing.  Add lettuce.  Can also add sliced mushrooms and croutons if desired.  Wait to toss until just before serving because the lettuce wilts quickly.  Serve with freshly ground pepper on top.

Steak with Green Peppercorns

Good cut of steak; tenderloin rocks

EVOO

Mushrooms; regular or Baby Bellas

2 Cloves Minced Garlic

Green Peppercorns in brine

Red wine if you’d like

In sauté pan, add EVOO and mushrooms and begin to cook.  Stir in minced garlic.  Add in 3 to 4 forkfuls of green peppercorns in brine w/out the brine.  Stir often.  Can add in some red wine if you’d like.  Mushrooms should be mostly cooked, i.e. no liquid at all, when you add steak.  Add beef.  Saute/flip until done; I like it medium rare but timing depends on thickness and cut of meat.  Serve with mushrooms and peppercorns on top.  Can probably grill meat if you’d like and sauté mushrooms, garlic & peppercorns separately, but I’ve not yet made it this way.  Bon Appétit!

So I made this while talking on the phone with my sister; we’d been discussing the old Caesar salad way with slight water left on the leaves vs. the lazy, bagged lettuce way when I said, “I’ve just added something I’ve never done before!”  She asked, “Added some of your martini in?”  I laughed; she really does know me very well! ❤  And it was so good it made me wonder why I haven’t been making Caesar salad lately:)