Monthly Archives: December 2014


Happy Holidays (and last post of 2014)

Happy Holidays to you and yours! This will be my last post of 2014. We’re out of town for the holidays, spending a few days with my husband’s mother and squeezing in a quick trip to Vegas (a little perk of being an empty nester!). So I’m baking like mad even though I’ve caught the cruddy cold that’s going around. I’ve got a batch of these layer bars in the oven, using up my last jar of strawberry-rhubarb-ginger jam. I went nuts with home-roasted pumpkin, baking off some scones (a riff on this recipe, reducing the buttermilk and adding 1/2 cup pumpkin puree), a classic pumpkin bread jazzed up with some fresh cranberries (pictured next to the booze bottle below), and a batch of pumpkin yeast rolls from the King Arthur website.

One of our treats at the holidays is to order cheese from the Trappist Monks at Gethsemani Farms. They offer four varieties of their semi-soft cheese — our favorite is the Aged (aka “stinky cheese”). They make a pretty nice fruitcake, too. We love the cheese with crackers and salami, or in a grilled cheese sandwich. It’s available year-round, but it’s a holiday tradition for us.

So my last cocktail recipe of the year is **barely** a cocktail. At the end of the day nursing a cold, after a zillion cups of hot herbal tea, you really are sick of the fruity crap. But an iced cocktail is just NOT what the doctor ordered — you already have the chills! But a gentle hot toddy, well, that’s practically medicinal, right?

SAMSUNGHot Apple Toddy
Serves 1

Smidgen of butter
3 tablespoons Evan Williams Apple Orchard
Hot water
Cinnamon stick (optional)

Put the butter and liqueur in the bottom of a mug. Add hot water. Stir until butter melts. Garnish with a cinnamon stick if desired.



Eating SW Florida

The CGP and I were in Florida around Thanksgiving (yeah, this post is nearly a month overdue). We “needed” to attend the annual homeowner’s meeting for our condo down there, so we turned it into a week+ vacation. I don’t usually cook much when we are down there. We have coffee and pastry/yogurt at home for breakfast, and then eat either lunch OR dinner out. The other meal might be light sandwiches or restaurant leftovers. Because we leave no foodstuffs behind when we depart, it can be a challenge to make sure we don’t throw away alot at the end. So breakfast on the last day **might** be ice cream. Just saying.

Our absolute favorite restaurant in Tampa is the Columbia Restaurant, with its Spanish/Cuban cuisine — we always go to the landmark original site in Ybor City. We literally pass the exit as we leave the airport for our condo. So more often than not, we do stop there for a late lunch right after we land. Everything we have ever tried is just top-notch. Ropa Vieja is my personal favorite. Their classic Arroz con Pollo (a special on our most recent visit) is just the best. The Cuban sandwiches are very very well-made. One year, we stopped in on Christmas Eve and got to try this amazing sour-orange roast pork loin that I think is made just for the holiday dinners. Sangria, mojitos, and pisco sours (pictured below) will NOT disappoint. And if you are so inclined, the hand-rolled cigars in the gift shop next door are pretty special, too. Reservations are recommended, unless it’s 3:30p and you’ve just rolled off the plane. Try to plan dinner around one of the Flamenco dance shows, if you can.


Last year with visiting friends, I stumbled on a bayfront bar in a marina in Englewood called Zeke’s. Strong drinks and fried seafood, pretty much as expected, but they served a smoked fish dip that blew my skirt up! I chatted with the chef briefly, and the fish he uses changes daily based on what’s available, but he was personally smoking it and then assembling the dip. So I was thrilled to find that Zeke’s has recently expanded into a standalone restaurant, Zeke’s Uptown Bar & Grill. The fish dip still available, as good as before. The Crayfish Potato Nachos were like the best bar appetizer ever. And a really well-done New England Clam Chowder. I’ll be honest — I don’t think we even ordered an entree because the appetizers were generously sized for sharing — the tuna carpaccio was equally delish. I am looking forward to a repeat visit next time we’re down.

One of our Manasota Key traditions is to split the Fisherman’s Feast (haddock, shrimp, scallops, and ipswich clams) at Flounder’s Restaurant and Tiki Bar. Why split? So we can save room for deep-fried coconut cheesecake with mango sauce. Lots of fun tropical drinks to try — make sure someone is pre-designated to drive, as they pack a punch. We ate a traditional Thanksgiving turkey meal there this year — excellent food with live music and the palm trees waving (it was about 70F that day).



Spritzin’ the Sauce

Yeah — I went there. I took an innocent Thanksgiving favorite, leftover cranberry sauce, and turned it into a cocktail. I couldn’t help myself. We had a fair amount left, and it was looking lonely in there, since we’d already eaten the leftover duck, dressing, brussel sprouts, and pecan pie. We’d had a nice sangria earlier in the week, so I wanted something that wasn’t so sweet. I already had orange in the sauce, so it was a natural to turn to an orange liqueur. And the CGP is always up for tequila, so a margarita-inspired cocktail just seemed to turn itself out.

SAMSUNGCranberry Sauce Tequila Spritzer
Serves 1

1 tablespoon leftover whole berry cranberry sauce
1 tablespoon orange liqueur
3 tablespoons silver tequila
2 – 3 ounces San Pellegrino Pomegranate and Orange Soda
Lime (optional, not pictured)

Put the cranberry sauce in the bottom of a sturdy glass. Add the orange liqueur and stir to loosen up the sauce. Add the tequila and stir. Add ice. Top with the Pom and Orange soda, stir gently to combine. You might want a little squirt of lime juice at the end.



I’m “Dining In” on Wednesday, December 3rd

American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences (AAFCS) is the only professional association dedicated to family and consumer sciences students and professionals. You know, that stuff we used to call Home Economics. Stop laughing. “Family and consumer sciences is the comprehensive body of skills, research, and knowledge that helps people make informed decisions about their well being, relationships, and resources to achieve optimal quality of life. The field represents many areas, including human development, personal and family finance, housing and interior design, food science, nutrition, and wellness, textiles and apparel, and consumer issues.” [logo and quote from]

AAFCS was founded by Ellen Swallow Richards, the first woman to graduate from MIT. AAFCS has designated her birthday, December 3rd, as their first annual Family & Consumer Sciences Day. The premise is simple – they just ask that families prepare and eat a healthy meal together on December 3rd.

So that’s what I’m suggesting — dine in tonight. Make a homemade meal. Even if all you do is boil up some (whole wheat) pasta and heat the sauce up in the microwave, be generous with the pre-shredded parm (I do). Maybe pour a glass of wine too? I’m hoping to make gumbo with the duck stock I made over the weekend. A little turkey kielbasa, some shrimp and fish and okra from the freezer — it’s pretty easy to pull together. But yes, we’ll feel like we are Dining In.



Giving Tuesday, December 2, 2014

I’m proud to be a food blogger. An abundance of wholesome, organic, nutritious foodstuff is at my fingertips or a just a quick trip to the grocer away. If I run out of something, whether basic or artisan, I Just Buy More. Food insecurity, a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food [USDA definition], is not part of my daily reality. I live on a nice street in a nice house with nice neighbors in affluent Fairfax County. But get this: last school year, over 50% of the children in my neighborhood’s elementary school were eligible for free or reduced meals. And in an elementary school whose boundary is adjacent to mine, 78% of the children were eligible for free or reduced meals. Food insecurity is likely a daily reality for those children.

Food insecurity is separate from hunger, although hunger is a very real consequence of food insecurity. According to the USDA, households with food insecurity regularly experience some or all of the following:

  • Worry that their food would run out before they got money to buy more.
  • Could not afford to eat balanced meals.
  • Cut the size of meals or skipped meals, or did not eat for a whole day, because there was not enough money for food.
  • Were hungry but did not eat because they could not afford enough food.

The Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB) is the hub for food sourcing, food distribution, and nutrition education in the Washington metro area, serving those struggling with hunger. Through direct service and a network of 500 nonprofit partners, the CAFB distributes 45 million pounds of food annually, half of which is fresh produce. The CAFB service area includes: Washington DC; Montgomery County, MD; Prince George’s County, MD; Fairfax County, VA; Prince William County, VA; Arlington County, VA; and The City of Alexandria, VA. 92 cents of every $1 donated is used for food distribution, transportation, and programs.

For Giving Tuesday, I am launching a food drive at my office to collect non-perishable food donations and I will personally deliver those to CAFB later this month. The Capital Area Food Bank receives over a million pounds of nourishing food throughout the year from food drives like these. By their calculations, 1.2 pounds of food equals one meal, so I asked my colleagues to let that guide their contribution. The CAFB is committed to providing food to our community that is high in fiber, low in salt, and low in sugar. The “Most Wanted” items include:

  • Canned Tuna, Salmon, or Chicken
  • Canned Vegetables (low sodium, no salt added)
  • Canned Fruits (in light syrup or its own juices)
  • Canned or Dry Beans
  • Grains (brown & white rice, pasta, macaroni & cheese)
  • Hot and Cold Cereal (oatmeal, cheerios, corn-flakes, raisin bran)
  • Healthy Snacks (apple sauce cups, raisins, granola bars)
  • Peanut Butter
  • 100% Juice (non-refrigerated, all sizes, including juice boxes)

If you were so moved to make a financial donation, I direct you here: For every $1 donated, the CAFB can provide 2.5 meals!


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