Sunday, December 14, 2014

Virginia is Beautiful!

Hello everyone! I haven't stopped blogging. I have been busy traveling. So now it is time to catch you up. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We observed most of our Thanksgiving traditions except for the Turkey Gumbo on Saturday. This year the turkey carcass and the leftover turkey went in the freezer. Instead I went on a wonderful trip with my "favorite person in the world". We left for Virginia the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Destination Massanutten Resort located in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. We arrived in Charlottesville as the sun was going down. We shopped for a few necessities and drove in the dark to the resort. It was a winding, twisted, snow dusted drive through the woods and up the mountain. It wasn't until morning that we could see where we would call home for the week. It was so beautiful! Just look at our view from our balcony.

We planned a lot of day trips ending up here every night. I would totally recommend this method of vacationing. We had so much fun and really enjoyed going back to our "home away from home" each night. We went to the Walton's Museum in Schuyler first. I picked up a cookbook of the real Mary Ellen's recipes as a souvenir.

The next day we went to Luray Caverns, a Antique Car and Carriage Museum and then drove south along Skyline Drive back to the resort. One of the nicest caverns I have ever visited. Just beautiful as was the drive along the top of the mountain range. Beautiful!

Mirror Lake only 18" deep

Day three was a freezing rain day so we did not drive to far from the resort. We went to Elkton and had an amazing lobster roll and lobster chowder at Lobsta Rollin'. Might have been the best lobster I have had. Delicious!

The next day we went to a cooking demonstration on the resort. We had a wonderful meal of Duck breast and Autumn Squash, NY Strip with a Green Peppercorn Sauce and Bananas Foster. The instructors demonstrated the technique first then served us each course. The take away I LOVE pan sauces made with heavy cream. After filling our bellies we rolled to the car and went to a Brethren Mennonite Heritage Museum.

The kitchen in the Mennonite home
Day five we drove to Washington DC. We took the metro in and tried to see as much as we could in a day. Turns out that is not much. Our old bodies don't move that fast. We went to the Natural History Museum, the National Archives, the National Mall, and the Capital Building. We were actually there the day they were to light the National Christmas Tree. We did not get to attend that event. You have to get the tickets by lottery in advance.

The first thing we saw at the Natural History Museum

That night we drove to Fort Meade, Maryland to stay the night then on to tour the base and a stop in Baltimore for a Diners, Drive-ins and Dives pick before returning to the resort. Jimmy's Famous Seafood was definitely not a dive. It was a nice restaurant. We had an oyster sampler, shrimp bisque and sandwiches featuring their crab cakes. I really enjoyed the oyster sampler. I have never had the opportunity to taste two different oysters side by side. You really can taste a huge difference. The blue point oysters taste briny like the sea. YUM! The Chesapeake oysters were more meaty or oyster tasting. 

Our last day we left the resort and went back to Charlottesville were we saw Monticello, had Midday Fare at the Ordinary at Michie Tavern and a drive by of the University of Virginia. I loved this day. I loved touring Monticello. I had studied it at least twice in school and it was so special to me to finally be there. We both loved our meal at the Ordinary. Great fried chicken, gravy, soup and other colonial fare. I bought another cookbook there as a souvenir. I can't wait to try the recipes. I think I will try the vegetable soup first.

This was an amazing trip. I would go back to Virginia any time. It may have been the first place I could see myself moving to for an extended stay. So beautiful! I recommend you plan a trip there as soon as you can. You will not regret it.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Recipe Review: Tahini Salad

Recently I discovered Tahini Salad. I had it as a side at Pita De' Novo. It was so good! It is very similar to Shepherd's Salad but instead of feta it is dressed with a tahini dressing. I really like the nutty, creamy dressing with the fresh cucumber, tomato and herbs. Well after having this new experience I started looking for recipes. I found one at Ziyad Brothers. I followed this recipe as close as possible. I did have to use garlic powder because I had used all my fresh in another recipe. I was a little skeptical about adding warm water to the dressing, so I waited to add it last. I just knew it would water down the tahini. Well let me tell you when I put the tahini into the lemon juice it was like a science experiment went off. It got really thick and almost fluffy as I stirred. So weird? But when you add the warm water it was the consistency of dressing. I searched to see if this was normal and yes others report the reaction too. So don't be surprised. You can use it as a party trick on your friends. Tahini Salad is not only delicious but entertaining as well. I hope your give it a try.

Tahini Salad
Serves 8


2 English cucumbers, diced
4 tomatoes, diced
1 bunch green onions, sliced
1/3 tsp. garlic powder
3/4 cup Tahini sauce
1/2 cup Lemon juice
1/2 cup water, warm
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1 bunch Parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped


Dice cucumbers, tomatoes, and green onions and mix together in bowl. In a small bowl, mix together garlic powder, Tahini sauce, lemon juice, warm water and olive oil. Pour over cucumber mixture and mix well. Sprinkle with mint leaves and parsley, stir well. Serve chilled.

Linking to:
Ms. enPlace: See Ya in the Gumbo

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Men’s Club Coleslaw

My Dad has been a member of the Men's Club at church for many years. These special men from the church plan fundraising activities to do projects around the church. Most of the time the money is for materials and they provide the hard work and talent it takes to make the improvements. One of the fundraisers is an annual Chicken Char-broil. They start days in advance with prep work and then Sunday after church they sell plates with half a char-broiled chicken, dirty rice, coleslaw and a roll. I have always asked Dad how do they make the coleslaw? Can you get the recipe? See my family really doesn't have a coleslaw recipe to call it's own. So I would love to use the Men's Club recipe as our tradition. Dad says that he is usually doing other tasks but they make tubs of it at a time so he does not know the proportions. He said they use Miracle Whip, Wishbone Italian Dressing, sugar and garlic paste. They like to use the cross-cut cabbage because it is easier to get into the foam cups they serve it in. Well I have tried a number of times to make a small batch and failed. But I think I have finally got something delicious this time. This is not the official recipe of the Men's Club. It is my version. It has great garlic flavor which is unique in coleslaw. It is not too sweet, just right. I love how savory and how easy it is to prepare. I still hope to get the secret recipe one day. I just may have to volunteer to stir the tub in order to get it. In the meantime I am happy to use this as my recipe whenever coleslaw is in order. I hope you enjoy it too.

Men’s Club Coleslaw
Serves 6 to 8


1/2 cup Miracle Whip Salad Dressing
3 Tbsp. Wishbone Italian Dressing
3 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 clove garlic, grated
16 oz. coleslaw mix (cross-cut if available)


Combine all ingredients except coleslaw mix in the bottom of a large salad bowl. Stir until combined well and sugar has dissolved. Stir in coleslaw mix until well covered with dressing. Served chilled.

Linking to:
Ms. enPlace: See Ya in the Gumbo

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thai Turkey Spaghetti Squash

I mentioned in the past that I have been experimenting with turning my Pork Noodle Salad recipe into a spaghetti squash dish. Well I have made it several times and I think I have settle on the final recipe. My struggles have been with the dressing and seasoning of the squash strands. I wanted them to have flavor but not be swimming in the dressing. I tried to use less dressing but then the squash was bland. The trick is to make the squash first, dress it with the dressing and set aside while everything else is prepared. That way the flavor has time to absorb into the squash. Then when serving try to drain as much of the dressing out as possible. It is delicious! I have made it with both turkey and pork, both are great. The meat has a spicy lightly sweet sauce. I love the combination of the hoisin and garlic chili paste in the sauce. This dish has all the flavor and texture of the original dish. In this case the spaghetti squash is a great substitute for rice noodles. I love all the fresh Thai garnishes too. You just can't beat the cilantro and onions with the savory, spicy, sweet, and tart flavors.

Thai Turkey Spaghetti Squash
Yield: 4 servings


1 spaghetti squash
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. lime juice
2 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
1/2 cup red onion, sliced
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
1 tsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
1/2 tsp. garlic, minced
1 tsp. fish sauce
2 tsp. garlic chili paste
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 lb. lean ground turkey (or pork)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup peanuts, chopped


To prepare spaghetti squash: Cut squash in half. Scoop out seeds and discard. Place cut side down in a microwave safe dish, add 1/4 cup of water and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave for 8 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes (You may have to do each half separately, I do). When squash is cool enough to handle, pull the squash into spaghetti like threads.

In a small bowl prepare the dressing, combine the 1/4 cup vinegar and next 4 ingredients (through fish sauce) pour over squash strands toss well. Top with some of the red onion, green onions and cilantro, toss again and set aside.

Combine hoisin and next 5 ingredients (through garlic chili paste). Heat oil in a skillet, brown turkey seasoning evenly with salt and black pepper. Add hoisin mixture; continue to cook until well combined. Using a slotted spoon, divide squash into four bowls (or return to the squash shells) and top with turkey mixture. Garnish each bowl with more of the red onion, green onions, cilantro, and peanuts.

Linking to:
Carole's Chatter: Food on Friday - Coriander, chervil & chives
Ms. enPlace: See Ya in the Gumbo

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Smoky 15 Bean Soup

15 bean soup was another meal from my childhood. We usually just followed the directions on the bean bag. We almost always added ham too. It is such a hearty warm soup. I love how the beans cook at different times. The small tender beans like the lentils break down and thicken the broth. Some how I got 15 bean soup on my mind and I just had to make a pot.

Remember I told you about 2 New Trinity Flavors I discovered in Louisiana Cookin' magazine. Well I was inspired to use the Smoky Trinity to add flavor to my 15 Bean Soup. This was the perfect addition. It adds both a smoky flavor and some spicy heat. I made this pot without added salt, I figured the ham is already high in sodium. It was so delicious. I think the chipotle chile powder is responsible for most of the heat. I really liked it, but if you do not like spicy cut back on the amount or leave it out. I decided to add a drizzle of Balsamic vinegar for a garnish. I LOVED IT! It worked so well with the spicy heat, like hot sauce on a plate of red beans and rice. The perfect finishing touch. I will definetly make 15 bean soup the smoky way from here on out.

Smoky 15 Bean Soup
Makes 14 – 16 servings


20 oz. bag 15 Bean Soup beans
1 recipe of Smoky Trinity (recipe below)
14.5 oz. can no salt added diced tomatoes
12 oz. diced ham

Optional garnish for serving:
a splash of balsamic vinegar


Place beans in a large pot with 10 cups of water. Bring to a rapid boil. Reduce heat, cover and continue boiling 1-1/2 hours. Stir occasionally.

After boiling, add remaining ingredients. Simmer covered for 30 – 45 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Smoky Trinity
Makes about 2 cups


1 poblano pepper
1 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. ground chipotle chile pepper
1 tsp. kosher salt (omit if following a low sodium diet)
1/2 tsp. black pepper


Pre-heat grill to medium-high heat for 10 minutes. Place poblano on the grill. Grill for five minutes on each side on medium high heat. Remove and cover with plastic wrap. When poblano is cool enough to touch, peel off the skin. Cut in half from stem to tip, remove seeds, stem and veins. Chop into small dice. Transfer to a small bowl, and add onion, celery, garlic, paprika, chipotle, salt (if using) and black pepper. Use in recipes calling for the trinity (onions, bell pepper and celery).

Linking to:
Ms. enPlace: See Ya in the Gumbo
Love Bakes Good Cakes: The Ultimate Soup Recipe List Linky
Tumbleweed Contessa: What'd You Do This Weekend?
Stone Cottage Adventures: Tuesdays with a Twist
Anyonita Nibbles: #tastytuesdays
Yesterfood: Treasure Box Tuesday
Turnips 2 Tangerines: Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop
Dizzy Busy & Hungry: Wine'd Down Wednesday

Beef and Vegetable Soup from a Soup Bunch

So what exactly is a "Soup Bunch"? That is what I asked when I started looking at this recipe. It calls for a large soup bunch of chopped shallots, cabbage, celery, turnips, carrots, potatoes, and parsley. But how much of each? Mom said they use to sell bundles of veggies at the grocery store ready to chop up for soup hence "Soup Bunch". When I asked what was in the bunch she said, "I really don't remember?" So I started to research the topic on the web. Well no one is in agreement on which vegetables and the amount of each. It appears to be regional and seasonal. I guess that makes sense. But it left me with the question, what to put in our soup.

So I went to Mom's and we made the soup recipe with a huge "Soup Bunch" Mom put together. She had a small bag of carrots, 3 shallots, half a green cabbage, a bag of yellow new potatoes, 2 ribs of celery. 2 turnips and a bunch of parsley. It was delicious! Mom said next time she will use more beef. I said maybe next time we should use a smaller "Soup Bunch". Ha Ha! I mean it made a ton of soup! About sixteen, cup and a half bowls. It was so good, so having leftovers was wonderful. I love that this soup cooks so long. In fact it cooks so long that the onions, cabbage and celery start to breakdown into the broth. It gives the soup a hint of green color. I enjoy the big chunks of vegetables. The corn cob is the prize at the end of the bowl. You will not believe the sweetness the whole corn adds to the soup. Next time I think I will add collards or kale to the soup bunch. Collards were one of the veggies listed in a few of the "Soup Bunches" I read about. I really like the concept of "Soup Bunches". I plan to make many more in the future. Now for a challenge...

Please Share your "Soup Bunch"!

Let's see just how many "Soup Bunch" ideas we can collect. 
What does a "Soup Bunch" mean in your area?
Leave a comment with where you live and what is commonly found 
in a soup bunch there. I look forward to your answers.

Beef and Vegetable Soup
Adapted from: Pots, Pans, and Pioneers III
Makes 16 (1-1/2 cup) bowls


2-3 lb. chuck roast, cut up into 1" pieces
1 (14.5 oz.) can no salt added diced tomatoes (undrained)
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
1 large soup bunch
   - 3 shallots, chopped 
   - 1/2 green cabbage, cut into 1" pieces
   - 2 ribs celery, cut into 1" pieces 
   - 2 turnips, peeled and cut into 1" pieces 
   - 1 small bag carrots, peeled and cut into 1" pieces 
   - 1 bag Yukon gold new potatoes, halved
   - 1 bunch parsleychopped
2 ears of sweet corn, shucked and cut into 1" coins
(14.5 oz.) can no salt added corn (undrained)
(14.5 oz.) can green peas
2 bay leaves
Mrs. Dash Extra Spicy, black pepper to taste
Kosher salt to taste (optional)


Boil meat in water with black pepper. Simmer 1 hour. Add tomatoes, onions, shallots, cabbage, celery and turnips. Simmer 1 hour. Add carrots, potatoes, corn on the cob, corn, peas and parsley. Add bay leaves and seasonings. Taste for seasoning add more salt (if using) and pepper. Simmer until vegetables are tender about 1 more hour.

Linking to:
Ms. enPlace: See Ya in the Gumbo
Love Bakes Good Cakes: The Ultimate Soup Recipe List Linky
Tumbleweed Contessa: What'd You Do This Weekend?
Stone Cottage Adventures: Tuesdays with a Twist
Anyonita Nibbles: #tastytuesdays
Yesterfood: Treasure Box Tuesday
Turnips 2 Tangerines: Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop
Dizzy Busy & Hungry: Wine'd Down Wednesday

Friday, October 31, 2014

Design Can Be Scary

Happy Halloween!

Have you seen the Ashley Furniture commercial yet? Oh my gosh! This made me laugh and smile for hours later. This little girl is getting a scary design lesson. 

I agree this dining room is not attractive at all. But as a designer I get scared by both things that don't match and things that do match. Good design includes repetition of pattern, form, or color and focal points or the unexpected object.

Sometimes matching things or as I say "Matchy Matchy Foo Foo" is just too much. It can be dull or just plain scary. Sometimes it can hide an architectural flaw or make a space appear larger than it really is. A single color can be soothing not boring.

Is this too much? or Is it covering a irregularity in the right wall?

One color is soothing and fresh. But notice 
the texture and pattern created by the variety of tile size.

You need variety in design to create character and individuality. But if everything is different is it distracting or exciting?

 This would be a boring room if all the chairs were the same. 
There differences make this room exciting.

These fabrics do not match. But there is repetition
of color and the scale of the patterns are similar.
I love the merging and alternating of two different chair styles.

Lesson is don't go out and feel you have to get the whole matching suit or collection of a certain line of furniture for good design. You can collect things of interest over time. Don't feel the drapery must match the furniture. It does not have to be the same fabric.

Don't be scared to be an individual. Scary is thinking you have to follow the crowd or that you must do it the way everyone does it. Frightening is conforming to a trend because everyone is doing it. Do use wallpaper if you like it. Don't be discouraged from the purchase because your neighbor said wallpaper is out.

Go out and scare someone with your own personal style and design.

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