Allspice Chronicles

Entertain like a Queen, Think Lean and Live Green! A personal collection of recipes,anecdotes,and good old fashioned advice…

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Top Ten Ideas for a “Kinder and Gentler” Childrens’ Party

By Danica Waters

 

Today marks the beginning of Birthday Season at my house.  As strange as it may sound, my three children were born exactly two weeks apart beginning in mid July.  While they’re all much older now, and their idea of what makes a party memorable is far, far away from the rousing game of Pin-The-Tail-On-Tigger, I find myself looking back wistfully upon the days of decorations and party themes, goodie bags and games.

 

And then reality kicks in and I remember what those parties were really like.  Ah, yes.  The gift dilemmas, the meltdowns, the jealousy, and that helpless, nasty feeling you get when your child comes crying to you after having been told that her goodie-bags weren’t as good as the ones at another, more “popular” friend’s party last week.

 

And then I shudder when I think about all the wasted money and paper and dyes and plastic party favors and party hats and plates and utensils… the list goes on and on.

If I had little kids, how would I do it differently?  Smarter?  “Kinder and gentler”?

 

After doing a little light reading into the world of the modern childrens’ party, I came away flooded with environmentally and socially friendly ideas.  Here’s my Top Ten Ideas for a “Kinder and Gentler” Childrens’ Party:

 

1.  E-Mail Your InvitationsSave the paper and send your party invitations via email.  Check out www.evite.com – with tons of hip, colorful and hilarious designs to choose from, evite.com makes it super-easy to create and send the perfect invitation, and for busy moms and dads to RSVP right from their in-box!

 

2.  Skip the Birthday CardOn your invitation, kindly ask that guests forego the birthday card.  Instead, provide a special birthday “scrapbook” that guests can sign and personalize with multi-colored markers or gel-pens (try a decorated Composition notebook or art pad).  For little bitsies, a “signature” could be something as simple as creating a handprint from tempera paint; older kids might enjoy embellishing their messages with stickers or glitter pens.

 

Or, for zero-impact, have older, more computer-literate guests create a personalized message using different font styles and colors in either a simple Word Document or a more sophisticated Power-Point slide.  Images from the birthday party can be easily inserted into the presentation for a completely paper-free and easy-to share (and easy to store!) virtual scrapbook.

 

3.  Focus on the activity, not the stuff.  If you added up all the money you’d spend on party decorations, favors, and the like, chances are you could take that same amount and do something really cool, like bring a few choice friends to a planetarium or a local museum, or even support local talent and hire a puppeteer.

 

4.  Make an heirloom birthday tableclothRather than invest in (and throw away) lots of vinyl, plastic, or even paper party tablecloths, make your own heirloom party cloth.  Using something as simple as an old sheet, choose a special color dye and go to town!  Embellish with patchwork, fabric paints, beads and sequins to create a one-of-a-kind cloth for all your family’s birthday bashes.

 

5. Ban the paper napkins!  For a fun assortment of party napkins, keep an eye out at all your favorite home stores for cloth napkins on sale.  Chances are you’ll find some super-fun colors and prints you can use (and re-use) for years to come.

 

6.  Keep food finger-friendlyEliminate the need for lots of plates and utensils by basing your party fare on finger-friendly foods.  Miniature tacos/taquitos, fresh fruit sections, and wild and colorful veggies (pick up some purple carrots and some brocco-flower at your local farmer’s market!) make for a fun and festive party menu.  Finish it off with a tower teeming with succulent cupcakes and your guests will be thrilled!

 

7.  Eliminate the juice-boxBuy re-useable stainless steel water bottles in bright colors, and have kids label theirs with an adhesive sticker-style label or tag affixed with ribbon or yarn.  Kids can take them home as a party-favor afterwards.

 

Fill a large beverage dispenser or thermos with homemade lemonade, juice, water, or milk.  Label the contents per the party theme:  “Poly-Juice Potion”, “Fairy Juice”, “Gas Tank”, “Zombie Water”, etc.  Add to the fun by setting out a few dishes filled with colored sugar (think Pixie Stix), and call it “Fairy Dust” that kids can sprinkle into their beverage.  Or, for a more healthful alternative, set out small dishes of sliced berries or fresh mint that they can add to their drink to customize their personal concoction.

 

8.  Never underestimate the attraction of a large refrigerator box.  Though you might have to make special arrangements to get your hands on one, the refrigerator box is possibly the cheapest and easiest party activity EVER.  Kids will turn them into forts, skyscrapers, giant caves… several large boxes in a back yard will become play cities that will provide hours of fun.

 

Large boxes make for great stage and backdrop surfaces, as well.  Nothing gets kids going faster than the idea of putting on a variety show.

 

The best part?  It all breaks down into a recyclable pile easily removed by the weekly recycling truck.

 

9.  Bypass the Great Gift Dilemma and eliminate wrapping paper in the process!

Avoid collecting unwanted or duplicate gifts and the embarrassment that accompanies them by shifting the focus of your party towards having everyone work together to make the world a better place.  Here’s some ideas:

 

Donate gently-used toys and clothes to children in need.  Decorate a large box (or have the kids do it!) to hold donated items brought in lieu of birthday gifts.  Then get on with the party!

 

Make a Giving Tree.  Create a large cardboard “tree”, and instruct guests to bring one-dollar bills (in whatever amount is comfortable for their budget) in lieu of gifts.  Using paper clips, poke a small hole in each dollar bill and “attach” to the tree to make ‘leaves’.  The cash can either be donated to a charity of choice, or it can be given to the birthday boy/girl to buy something really special.  Be sure to emphasize your positive impact on the planet by eliminating packaging and gift wrap, as well!

 

Throw an EchoAge party and have the proceeds go to a cause of your choice!  www.echoage.com is an outstanding resource that makes it easy for your child to choose a charity of his/her choice.  “Keeping an eye and ear on your ECHOage Party is easy and inspirational: you will be able to organize your entire party, from guests to child allergies, important parent contact information to online payments. The ECHOage Tracker provides you with everything you need to keep your party organized, safe and fun.

Once all of your guests have responded and contributed online, ECHOage sends you the funds that have been collected so that you can choose ONE GIFT for your child to cherish from all his/her friends. ECHOage makes the payment to the charity you have chosen for you, and you receive an official tax receipt.”  Check them out here.

10.  Don’t forget the party hats!

Oh, heavens.  If this little video series by party hat expert Ginny Larson doesn’t get your creative juices flowing, I don’t know what will.  Imagine hosting a “fashion show” party where guests construct fabulous frocks and hats from newsprint and paper bags, or jewelry from cut-up paper towel rings and the like…  mmmm-hmmmmm….  Sounds like the making of some historic – and hysterical – Kodak Moments, for sure.  Here’s the how-to:

http://www.ehow.com/videos-on_129_make-party-hats.html

Posted July 18th, 2011.

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The Spontaneous Picnic-Lovers’ List of Essentials

by Danica Waters

Picnics are, in my humble opinion, truly one of the most fabulous ways to dine.  Be it a sunrise affair before a great day of hiking, a traditional noontime spread, or a romantic evening celebration under the stars, eating outdoors is sheer bliss.  But spontaneity is an art form, and in order to avoid the potential mayhem and the inconvenience of having forgotten something, I’ve found that successful picnics are a heck of a lot easier to pull off when you have an “essentials pack” ready to go at all times.

 

While well-appointed English-style picnic baskets are not only beautiful and practical in that they already have plates, cups, utensils and such, I ended up abandoning mine because it never accommodated enough people.  Instead, I use a large backpack that I keep at the ready so I can grab it and go anywhere, anytime; it’s filled with all the non-perishable basics so all I have to worry about is the food.

 

Here’s what I have in mine:

 

The Spontaneous Picnic-Lovers’ List of Essentials

 

In a large backpack, beach bag, or other reuseable sack, place the following:

 

* Large Cotton Tablecloth

* Wet Wipes

* Non-Breakable Cups / Wine Glasses

* Small Citronella Candle or Citronella Incense

* Small Ziplock Sandwich Bag With Travel-Sized Salt & Pepper and other condiments (you know all those little unused packages of ketchup and hot sauce?  Save them!)

* Several grocery bags for trash removal / recycling

 

* Large Gallon-Sized Resealable (Ziplock) Freezer Bag with:

__ Plates

__ Eating Utensils

__ Napkins (Paper or Cloth)

 

* Large Gallon-Sized Resealable (Ziplock) Freezer Bag with:

__Small Cutting Board

__ Small Sharp Knife (In Protective Sheath or Wrapped In a Small Towel)

__ Cheese Plane

__ Bottle Opener

__ Can Opener

__ Corkscrew

__ A Couple of Dish Towels

__ Lighter or Matches

__ Tablecloth Clips (optional)

__ Chip Clip or Two

__ Toothpicks

__ Small Flashlight

__ Several Pre-Cut Pieces of Tin Foil, Folded Up

 

* Large Gallon-Sized Resealable (Ziplock) Freezer Bag with:

__ Benadryl

__ Bandaids

__ Antibiotic Ointment

__ Tweezers

__ Aspirin/Acetaminophen/Ibuprofen

__ Travel tissues

__ Dental Floss

__ Sunscreen

__ Bug Spray

 

BTW:  If you missed it, you can read The Allspice Chronicles’ post about the Best Natural Bug Repellents here.

Enjoy!  And Carpe Diem!

 

 

Posted July 11th, 2011.

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Handy-Dandy, All-Purpose, Built-From-Experience Camping Checklist

by Danica Waters

I am dying to go camping.  I keep seeing all these Facebook posts about friends’ excursions to the great wild blue yonder, and I am on a mission to find myself waking up in the middle of nowhere, somewhere, soon

To make my camping craving even worse,  I ran across an old checklist I’d put together with some photos of a super-memorable camping trip we’d taken years ago.  Oh, yes, we’d had fun.  We were miles and miles away from anywhere in the Colorado high country.   But this particular excursion became indelibly etched in our memories because, just as we were finished packing up and getting ready to leave for home, an unnamed member of our party managed to drop the car keys –  in the pit toilet.

No, we didn’t go in after them.  Oh-so-thankfully, we had a second set.

I started thinking that, with so many of my friends just now starting to camp out with their little ones, it might be very nice of me to share my thoughts and experiences – and recipes – on the subject.  Therefore, I have compiled a Handy-Dandy, All-Purpose, Built-From-Experience Camping Checklist.  In addition to many things you may or may not have already thought of, you will conveniently find “___Extra Set of Keys”.  I gotcha’.

Believe it or not, I really am a minimalist.  And this is the minimalists’ encyclopedia-length list for camping with kids. With great packing skills, it condenses down into next-to-nothing.  I promise.  And if I’ve left anything off, for heaven’s sake, leave a comment!

 

Handy-Dandy, All-Purpose, Built-From-Experience Camping Checklist

The basics:

__ Tent

__ Ground cloth or tarp

__ Stakes – and extras for shade tarps and other things!

__ Hammer or axe for pounding stakes

__ Extra tarp for shade or rain shelter

__ Mat for outside the tent (bamboo beach mat works really well!)

__ Mat for inside the tent (old bathmat or rug)

__ Small battery-operated fan for tent (suspend it from the ceiling, if you can!)

__ Small flashlight w/ corded handle that can be suspended from the ceiling of the tent for easy access (use a small bungee cable to hang the flashlight)

 

__ Clothesline (two are better than one…)

__ Small bag of clothespins

__ Small broom and dustpan

__ Several old cleaning towels (mud management)

__ Duct tape

 

__ Sleeping bag(s) w/ sheet already placed inside

__ Pillow(s) with extra pillowcase on top (it’s gonna’ get dirty)

__ Air mattress/sleeping pad/ cot/ etc.

__ Air pump

__ Repair kit for air mattress

__ Old throw blankets to wrap up in around the campfire

__ Any special toy your child can’t sleep without.  (Leaving this behind on either end of your trip = misery)

 

__ Large jug for utility water

__ Drinking water (Lots!  It’s better to have too much!)

__ Coolers

__ Thermos / water bottles

__ Special bag of ice for drinks

 

__ Cookstove with fuel/propane + extra!

__ Matches or a really good lighter

__ Firewood (no, it’s not good to take it from the campground)

__ Fire starters/ newspaper

 

__ Propane lanterns (2 – 3, depending on the size of your site)

__ Extra propane

__ Extra mantles

__ Flashlights, large and small

__ Extra batteries for flashlights

__ Folding table (if out in the wild… most sites will have picnic tables)

__ Folding camp chairs

__ Citronella candles / etc.

 

__ Tablecloth

__ Eating utensils/ plates/ cups/ bowls

__ Napkins in Gallon Freezer Bag

 

__ Small cutting board

__ Pot Holders/ Oven Mitts

__ Cooking pots and pans

__ Cooking utensils:  Spatula, Knives, Spoons, Tongs, Grill Fork, Vegetable Peeler

__ Can Opener / Bottle Opener / Corkscrew

__ Coffee Pot & Filters

__ Box of Gallon-Sized Resealable freezer bags for food storage and everything else known to man

__ Trash bags / plastic grocery bags

__ Heavy-Duty tin foil

 

__ Dish rag/ Scrubber pad

__ Dish towels

__ Dish pan

__ Dish soap (small bottle – unscented & eco-friendly, please!)

__ Spray bottle filled with full-strength vinegar

__ Paper Towel

__ Wet Wipes

 

__ Maps/directions / GPS

__ Reservation information / confirmation / proof of payment, etc

__ Cash /ID / Credit card / extra quarters

__ Medical Insurance information

__ List of emergency contact numbers

__ List of any medical allergies or special medical instructions

__ Extra set of keys (in case one set falls in a pit toilet…)

__ Road Flares

__ Jumper Cables

__ Fix-A-Flat (or a jack and a spare!)

 

__  Primary 1st Aid Kit with:

__ BANDAIDS!  Big ones.  Small ones.  Lots of medium-sized ones.

__ Anti-biotic ointment (Neosporin or other)

__ Calamine lotion

__ Burn ointment

__ Ace bandages

__ Small bottle of Hydrogen Peroxide

__ Aspirin/ Acetaminophen / Ibuprofen

__ Antacids

__ BENADRYL!  DO NOT LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT!

__ Bee sting kits/ Anti-venom kits

__ Hot/Cold packs

__ Other required medications / supplements / etc.  (Don’t forget your asthma meds!)

__ Tweezers

__ Small scissors

__ Sterile gauze pads

__ Cotton swabs & cotton pads

__ Sterile adhesive tape

__ Note with location of emergency contact & medical insurance information

__ Eye drops

__ Latex gloves

__ Antibacterial soap

__ Splinting materials

__ Solar blanket

 

For longer day-hikes:

__ Solar blanket (these are cheap, lightweight, and definitely worth having!!!)

__ Rain gear

__Whistles (should actually go around everyone’s neck!)

__Water bottles

__ Sunscreen / Chapstick

__ Insect Repellent

__ Snacks

__ Binoculars

__ Camera

__ Cell phone

__ Lightweight towel

__ Extra socks

__ Tissues

__ Small shovel

__ Small 1st Aid Kit (I put it all in a sandwich bag):

__ Bandaids

__ Antibiotic Ointment

__ Sterile Pad

__ Ace Bandage

__ Benadryl!!!

__ Aspirin / Acetaminophen / Ibuprofen

__ Any asthma or other medication

__ List of emergency contact numbers

 

Personal Care Items:

__ Tissues

__ Extra TP (just in case)

__ Feminine products & resealable plastic bag/container for disposal

__ Face cloths & towels (microfiber towels are lightweight and dry super-fast!)

__ Sunscreen

__ Aloe Vera

__ Deodorant

__ Personal care products (eco-friendly!!!)

__ Bug repellent (there’s some great natural, DEET-free stuff out there!)

__ Small sewing kit – include some safety pins!

__ Body wipes for a quick refresher (your fellow campers will thank you for it)

__ Toothpaste & toothbrushes

__ Hairbrush & pony-tail bands

 

Other things to consider:

__ Car-charger for cell phone, other electronics

__ Extra batteries for flashlights, cameras, etc.

__ Campfire grill or BBQ grill

__ Marshmallow or kebab skewers

__ Other camp accessories – there’s millions out there, depending on how crazy you want to get.  (Popcorn poppers, ice-cream makers, pie-irons, fish-grills, you name it!)

 

For The Kids:

__ Coloring books & colored pencils or markers (crayons can melt into nightmares if left in a hot car or tent), pencils

__ A few extra plastic food containers & utensils for making mud pies and things

__ Books

__ Again, any favorite toy or binkie they cannot sleep without.

__ Games, playing cards, balls & mitts, badminton, smashball, lawn bowling, etc.

__ Water Shoes!!!

__ Extra towels.  You cannot have enough dry towels.

__ Journals

__ Disposable camera, or the new kid-friendly digital ones

__ Kid-friendly video camera

__ Drawing pad

__ Elmer’s Glue

__ Comic books or other magazines with short stories, games

__ Extra clothespins & scraps of yarn and fabric, for making clothespin dolls

__ Don’t forget the fixings for S’mores.  Just don’t.  You’ll never hear the end of it.

Posted June 27th, 2011.

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For Beef-Eaters: The 101 On Selecting – And Cooking – The Perfect Steak

by Danica Waters, photo courtesy of Esquire.com

I remember one romantically snowy winter evening, when I was a really, really little girl, my father took my mother out for a special dinner at a brand-new steakhouse that had just opened to rave reviews in the big city closest to our home.  I still to this day remember my parents excitedly telling friends about how they’d never before eaten a “steak like that”, and how it was aged at special temperatures for days and days and cooked a special way that made the steak “melt like butter in your mouth”.    Afterwards, I remember sitting on the living room floor, contemplating the concept of “aging” meat.  Memories of the slightly green, incredibly nasty uncooked hamburger my mother had to throw away because she forgot to cook it loomed in my head, and I couldn’t fathom why on earth anyone would want to eat something like that.   One thing was certain:  either my parents were crazy or the chefs at that particular restaurant were a whole lot smarter than the rest of us, to render something like  “old” meat to the equivalent of butter.

Years later, I was introduced to the Executive Chef at the Palm Restaurant in San Diego, CA.  He was kind enough to give me a few pointers on the magic and mystique behind selecting and cooking the perfect steak/chop vs. spending your hard-earned money on something that tastes like the equivalent of shoe leather.

Why you want to eat “old” meat:

In a few words:  Enhanced Flavor and Tenderness.  Here’s the real, totally biological “scoop”, folks.  After a steer is slaughtered, rigor mortis causes its muscle fibers  to seize up.  Not so tender.  But the folks at the slaughterhouse figured out that by allowing the meat to sit for a bit, the enzymes that were already present in the muscle cells would start to break down all the connective tissues, automatically  and efficiently tenderizing the meat without any additives.   While the “tenderization” process takes anywhere from 10 – 16 days, the meat actually becomes more flavorful if it’s left to sit another few days after that.  Strange, but true.

The aging process can be achieved in two ways:

“Wet-aging”: After slaughter, the “prime cuts” of meat are sealed in a Cryovac bag for around 21 days; because the bag is airtight and will prevent not only loss of moisture but bacterial growth, the process produces a good result that is, according to a study by the Journal of Food Science, considered better tasting than dry-aged beef or than meat which has not been aged at all.  “Wet-Aged” beef is usually less expensive than dry-aged beef because the aging process can be successfully achieved while the meat is in transport, thus accelerating the timelines of getting the product to market.  Additionally, because it is vacuum-sealed, the juices are intact and most of the original weight is retained due to the ultimate retardation of the evaporation process.

“Dry-aging”: After slaughter, an entire side of beef is hung in open air at temperatures ranging from 30 – 32 degrees F.  Although the aging room is kept at 85% humidity, much of the natural moisture is lost through evaporation.   Beef that is aged this way tends to have a richer, “gamier” flavor because the water content has been so drastically reduced. This process is usually reserved for only the most high-quality,  “USDA Prime” specimens because it is so expensive.  The jury’s still out regarding whether this process renders a flavor that’s worth the additional expense – even among the experts.

During the cooking process, how do you know when the meat is done – and not OVERDONE?

Here’s the legendary “Touch Test” used by the finest restaurants in the world:

Bring your left hand down to your side and let it hang there, “loose” and relaxed.    Take the index finger (your pointer finger) of your right hand and press firmly on the left hand in the area between the thumb and forefinger;  the softness/springiness of the texture there is what a blood-rare steak should feel like if pressed with the same amount of pressure.  Now, if you make a loose fist with your left hand and press in the same area with the same amount of pressure, you should be experiencing what a medium-rare steak should feel like.  Lastly, using the same amount of touch-pressure in the same area once your left hand has been formed into a tight fist, you will experience the feel of a “well-done” steak.  (One Palm Executive Chef likens the “well-done” experience to the spring-back of a trampoline…)

What else do you need to know?

–  World renowned chefs take care to select USDA Prime steaks.  Wet or dry-aged, the better the cut, the better the results.  Note that most supermarket cuts will be aged between 5-7 days vs. the optimal 16 – 21 days for full texture and flavor development.

–  For superior meat, it’s best to go to a small boutique/Kosher butcher, gourmet market, or source your steaks by mail-order.  Be sure to remember the thickness recommended for the specific recipe you wish to try – it will affect the overall cooking time required!

–  Meat should be allowed to rest, uncovered,  at room temperature for 1- 1-1/2 hours prior to cooking.

–  Meat should be handled as little as possible throughout the cooking process.  Don’t stab it 50 times trying to make sure it’s thoroughly cooked – you’ll end up draining the steak of its juices and absolutely ruin the final product.  Palm Executive Chef Tony Tammero says,  “If I had to choose one piece of advice that will make the biggest difference in results for the home chef, it would be ‘Don’t touch that steak.’  Once it hits the heat, leave it alone until you’re ready to turn it, and do that as gently as you’d pat a baby’s bottom.” (The Palm Restaurant Cookbook)

–  The best chefs keep it simple:  they rub steaks in olive oil, lightly season them and sear them at high temperatures.  They follow this by an essential “resting period’ of at least thirty minutes prior to finishing them – IN THE OVEN.  Yep, folks.  It’s all about temperature.  And FYI. an electric home-broiler does not cut the mustard with the pros;  they’d rather see you pan-sear that steak than render it an anemic version of its formerly lusty self under a home broiler.  Grills, on the other hand (where the heat is coming from below), are fine as long as they are set to HIGH heat.  Please refer to the New York Strip recipe here.

–  Resting time is essential for perfect results, unless, of course, your personal tastes dictate that your meat must be piping-hot when served.  If a steak is cut just after coming off the heat, all the juices will run out, which is fine if that’s the way you like it.  But if you’re after “meltingly tender” meat full of juice and flavor,  “the steaks should rest, uncovered, on a rack so that air can freely circulate around them, for about half the total cooking time.”  Serving the steak on a hot plate will make up for some of the lost heat, but ultimately, the gain in flavor and texture more than makes up for any heat loss.

– The same principles apply to chops, as well.  Follow your recipe to the letter, noting the thickness of the piece of meat being called for.  Leaving chops – or steaks – under the flame for even half a minute too long will ruin them.

(Photo courtesy of Esquire.com)
 
 

Posted June 16th, 2011.

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the Allspice Chronicles

Welcome to theAllspice Chronicles.  This is a collection dedicated to the women who inspired this facet of my creative life:

  • To my Nana, a quietly strong and incredibly resourceful Southern woman, and a fantastic, indulgent cook who taught me that the art of cooking is much, much more than simply following a recipe;
  • To my Mother, a woman who was into “green living” well before it was fashionable, who approached cooking with an eye to budget, nutrition, and ease of preparation, but who also loved to throw enormous celebrations that were the talk of the town for months afterwards;
  • To my Mother In Law, who was the fuel to the flame of my culinary curiosity, who bought me my first subscription to Gourmet Magazine and countless cookbooks (all of which I still own), and whose refined European standards of style and good taste have influenced me to no end;
  • To my dear Friend, the rebellious, free-thinking abstract artist-turned-author who started her adventure in The Village and then turned her attention and energy abroad, who taught me the artistic elegance and simplicity of a platter laden with rustic breads and cheeses, the sultry, heavy sweetness of a glass of good port, and the meaning of the word “nosh”;
  • And finally to my kids:  to my eldest daughter, who, on her own now, has a newfound interest in developing her culinary skills; to my littlest girl who has been in the kitchen with me constantly since birth, and who I confidently enlist to do most of my baking these days; and finally to my son (who definitely isn’t a woman, but is included by default under the “kid” heading), who at the age of 14 makes a damn fine fried egg sandwich.  You’ve been my favorite people to feed.

“I don’t like gourmet cooking, or “this” cooking or “that” cooking.  I like good cooking.”

-James Beard

theAllspice Chronicles is a tried-and-true, personal collection of recipes, anecdotes, and other tidbits collected over nearly 20 years in the kitchen (and counting).  To me, the most fabulous thing about cooking is that it is an ever-evolving challenge. While my diet is now primarily vegetarian, it hasn’t always been so.  Likewise, through the years, my table has entertained people from all walks of life and with all manner of dietary preferences or restrictions.  It is one of my great pleasures to truly delight the palates of all; to me there is nothing more sad or alienating than seeing someone who suffers from food allergies, diabetes or Celiac’s disease unable to partake in what everyone else is having.  That’s why this collection will include options for everyone and I am including all my favorite recipes, past and present, to accommodate the tastes of vegetarian and meat-eaters alike. I have to warn you:  I’m picky when it comes to the taste of food, and I really am impatient with food that tastes like “health food” (i.e. – devoid of flavor).  I am an herb and spice freak.  Be prepared for lots of flavor.

I have always maintained that eating fabulous things does not have to be expensive, nerve-wracking, or even terribly time-consuming; indeed, most of the best recipes in my collection are actually cheap and easy to prepare.  Some are a little more intensive, but all are worth every bit of effort.  I hope you and your guests enjoy them as much as I do.

Posted February 24th, 2011.

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