Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Resolve


I can not believe 2010 is over.  It seems like it went by in a flash.  I have had more than a few major life changes this year, which is to be expected I suppose given that it is the last year of my 20's.  New baby. New book. New blog.

As each New Year approaches we all have the opportunity to set intentions for the year ahead.  Intentions to change for the better.  Many people poo poo New Year's resolutions, but for me they are essential small term goals that if met will only make me better off.

I may not stay the course all year to meet my resolutions, but like any great procrastinator I usually try to pull it together at the end.  Last year one of my and Chef's major resolutions was to loose weight.  I think this is a resolution that many of us make every year.  This year we actually made a life change in September and made it happen.  I have lost all my baby weight since The Sprout's birth in March, and then some...totaling 50 lbs, and Chef has lost 40 lbs and is still dropping.  We set our minds to it, stayed the course with the occasional holiday binge, but managed to keep our resolve.
One of the key ways to follow through on a resolution is to create a path or a system to stay on track.  This may sound crazy, but for us, the simple act of weighing ourselves everyday...even on days after we had been naughty, was enough to create a lifestyle of mindful weight loss.  It is hard to loose weight if you do not monitor how much you weigh!  This little realization has changed our lives so much for the better.  It takes 5 seconds once a day to do, a small change in our daily routines resulting in a big time life change.

Now that my physical well being is on the right track, I think this year I will focus on my mental health.  Recently, I have created a new life skill for myself that allows me the freedom to have a good day even when all aspects of the day point to hell.  When I feel stressed to the max, I simply stop what I am doing, take 10 deep breaths and say "It is never too late to start the day over.  I am letting go and beginning this day again."  Sometimes I have to do this five minutes into my morning, or sometimes at 9 pm at night, doesn't matter when... this mantra works. There is something about approaching life with a clean slate, existentialist as it may sound, that makes for happier living.  Carefree, so to speak.

We are having Hoppin' John for dinner tomorrow night...tonight I think a bubbly bottle of Veuve Cliquot gifted to us this holiday season will do just right.

Happy New Year...best of luck to you and your loved ones in 2011...and thank you so much for being here every week.  Cheers!





Thursday, December 23, 2010


Two pounds of tuna. 7 whole trout. 20 fillets of wahoo...and a sumatra in an orange tree!   We are swimming in fresh caught fish and citrus this holiday week thanks to dear friends and fishermen.  One of the definite perks of coastal living.  It is a lifestyle I far too often take for granted.

For example, I write this post sitting in a T-shirt on a porch in 70 degree weather in late December. Jealous?  Don't be.  There is something to be said about a roaring fire on a white Christmas.  Oh, but I am grateful.    

Grateful is a such a humble word that is easily said, but how often to do we truly feel grateful?  It is so easy to get wrapped up in what we can't afford during the holidays.  So easy to take for granted all that we have.  It seems this time of year people complain about being stressed, and for what reason?  What is the reason for the season?  

The winter solstice.  Which this year coincided with a full lunar eclipse...the first time in over 300 years.   It is the day of the year when there is the least amount of sunlight, and darkness reigns.  The original pagan holiday that celebrated the solstice was called The Day of the Unconquered Sun.   After the solstice, the sun returns and days once again grow longer. The winter solstice occured on December 25th on the Roman calendar adopted by Julius Ceasar, but by today's calendar, which is a little shorter, the solstice is usually on December 21st.

The Bible never specifies the actual date of Jesus's birth, and it was orginally celebrated on many different days by various sects of Christians, but most honored Jesus's birthday on January 6th, Three Kings Day.  It was moved to the 25th of December sometime in between 350 and 360 AD in order to reign in the Sun worshipers under the rule of the Christian empire.  

Some of the other gods throughout history that share the 25th as a birthday include:  Mithras (who celebrated a virgin birth on this day long before Jesus), Bacchus, Adonis, Krishna, Indra, and Osiris...just to name a few.  The winter solstice is a popular birthday amongst deities.  The gifts under the Christmas tree, mistletoe, and yule log...anything evergreen...were honored on December 25th originally to celebrate the death and resurrection of the God Osiris, also known as Nimrod. 

The winter solstice has always been celebrated throughout the millenia by feast and fire, and Christmas is no different.  Whether it be the Sun God, or the Son of God people have celebrated December 25th to show their gratitude for the perseverance of light through darkness.

This year my younger brother will be joining us for the holiday.  It is the first time I will have seen him since his return from Afganistan in September, and for that I am deeply grateful.  I can't wait to toast a big fat glass of Bordeaux to him and then sink my teeth into a perfectly cooked standing rib roast.

I think I am going to start a new tradition this holiday.  I am going to light a candle in honor of gratitude, to shed a little light on the true meaning of the holiday.  Like ancient people, we need to celebrate light more...sunlight, the light within us...heck I am grateful as hell for electricity!  We take so much for granted as Americans, and we all should take a moment this holiday and remember not what we want for Christmas, but what we already have.

   

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What would Jesus do?



This is the culmination of an entire year of pickles.  15 jars to be exact. As we finished each jar of half sours I cleaned and stowed the jar away for the sole purpose of refilling it with some sort of delectable for the holidays.  I love glass jars.  There is just something so authentic about them don't you think?  Tupperware just doesn't hold the same feeling of substance.

Every year we give edibles for the holidays.  This is a simple gift, relatively inexpensive, and folks seem to really enjoy them.  Roasted tomatoes, chocolate truffles, homemade ice cream sundae fixings, are some of the yummy treats of years past.  Food, good food, is a gift I venture to say all people enjoy.

Speaking of good food, check out this spread....


Now that is a full spread if there ever was such a thing.  Lil' Bit, The Sprout, Gan Gan and I went to have tea with Santa at a particularly swanky resort here on the island.  The incredible feast of little petifores, mini sandwiches, scones, chocolates, and desserts galore was a low calorie dieters nightmare, but a dream come true for my toddler.  

It was the girls' first time sitting on Santa's lap for a picture, and they both kept it together pretty well.  The Sprout almost lost it, but the photographer started to jump and frolic about throwing toys in the air.  The sight of a grown man in a suit hopping and shrieking shocked her into a half smile for the photo.

As we waited for Santa and Mrs. Claus to read A Night Before Christmas I looked out over the feast of gorgeous handcrafted delicacies and I thought to myself...what are they going to do with all of this beautiful food now that the guests are done.  I asked a member of the staff and she said with head lowered "We have to throw it away.  Company policy.  Sometimes we can take a little "to go" box home."


The woman was obviously ashamed to admit it.  Having come from a small country in Central America, I can only imagine how she felt as she dumped all that food into the garbage every weekend from Thanksgiving until Christmas.  It is a terrible waste, but the real tragedy is that it was such beautiful food.  Food that when you sit in front of it you feel as if you are in the presence of something special, a piece of art.  Food that leaves you awestruck because it is specifically crafted to be absolutely splendid in every sense of the word.  Food that changes your perception about food.

It says a lot about a culture that throws away huge quantities of food in order to protect certain private interests, while millions of its own people are suffering food insecurity.  It is blows the mind.  Just thinking about all those little petifores piled up in a black garbage bag is sickening.  

I wonder if they would let me come with my pickle jars and fill them to the brim.  They would probably have me arrested.  They would drag me out of the resort in handcuffs in true Christmas form.  I am not a Christian, but I do believe the teachings of Jesus to be about generosity, charity, and peace.  Over the next few weeks as we gear up to celebrate his birth story we should really take a hard look at our own culture and ourselves and think about what we can do to better emulate his life's work.  

Really, what would Jesus do?






Thursday, December 9, 2010

No Walls For The Small Giveaway



Today is the day!  My kid's book is so close to becoming an Amazon Best Seller!  It has been unbelievable all the support....I am so blessed it is overwhelming.  We are doing a big push to put us over the top, and I need your help!

We all have a kid in our lives that could use a good book right...or maybe know someone with a kid? And we are all scrambling to get our shopping done over the next few weeks...so why not kill two birds with one stone?

If you purchase a copy of No Walls For The Small ($12.99) today, December 9th, at Amazon.com you will be given $300 worth of Etsy.com coupons!  The giveaway is designed to provide a little something for everyone.  Some of the gifts available from the partnering Etsy.com shops include:

  • Artisan wooden house wares
  • Eco-friendly kids stuff and knitwear
  • Fabulous, and affordable abstract paintings
  • Gorgeous handcrafted jewelry and metalwork

Not a bad deal right?  The best thing about this event is that 5% of the profits from the sale of the book will go to the Fresh Air Fund, an not-for-profit organization dedicated to giving inner city kids a chance to spend their summers outdoors.

You can check out what is going on here: www.nowallsforthesmall.com
It is so easy, no hassle at all.  Just click on the link.

This is a word of mouth giveaway!  Do you know some one, friends or family that may be interested in this event?  Pass this email announcement along to everyone you know...or just folks with kids and maybe by some small miracle we will make the Amazon Best Seller List today!  If you have a Facebook page, or are a Tweeter...please spread the word! 

Thanks so much and Happy Holidays!

Nan

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dragonfly Woodwrights



Tomorrow is a big day for me.  My partner in rhyme, Ryan Ford and I launch our No Walls For The Small Amazon Bestseller Giveaway.  Neither one of us have ever done anything like this before, but so far so good. The idea is that if buy our book ($12.99) from Amazon.com tomorrow you will get a variety of Etsy.com shop coupons valuing up to $300!  Go to our website www.nowallsforthesmall.com and in 3 easy steps you will have a killer kid's book, lots of freebies from some great artists, and all the while donating to a kid's charity. 

Anywho, if it was not for this giveaway I never would have had the pleasure of working with a woman who is a carpenter, boat builder, mother, and underwater shark photographer.  A real renaissance woman if you ask me.  The cutting board pictured above is just a little sample from her Etsy.com shop Dragonfly Woodwrights.  May I introduce Margery Bradshaw, a Queen of all trades.


 
1.  How did you get into carpentry? What inspired you to start Dragonfly Woodwrights?
The easy answer is I blame it on my mother.  She was always doing something artistic from ceramics, toll painting, stain glass, wood working, etc. We would do it all at the kitchen table. We would stay up all night making art. She ran the Wood Shop at the Newport Naval Base, Newport, RI.  I went to the University's of Rhode Island from 1993-1996 for Art, and got my BFA in Photography. In 2004 I was working for United Airlines at TF Green Airport here in RI. I wan unhappy and needed a change. So I applied and was accepted into the International Yacht Restoration School in Newport, RI. And I was hooked on wood again. I started building boats. 
Then last January 2010 I was laid off from boat building and started an after school woodworking program at my youngest son's, Xavier,  school, Quest Montessori School in Exeter, RI. We built a 21 foot strip kayak. I made some cutting boards for the school raffle and they were well received and some of the parents started asking where they could buy them.  Dragonfly WoodWrights was born.

The name Dragonfly comes from my oldest son, Zackarie, we watched the movie Dragonfly which is about a mother and child's connection, since then he always gives me gifts of Dragonfly's so the the name was very easy to come up with. My boys are my inspiration.

2.  Wood comes from living things.  Is there anything you have learned from working with a medium that has a life of its own?
Yes, that even after its been cut down and turned in to a form of art it still moves. What I mean is the wood will move as the weather changes, it will "cup" or "wrop" as the weather changes. Its fun to watch.

3.  Aside from your gorgeous housewares on your Etsy.com site, you are also a wooden boat builder.  As a woman you are a pioneer in that field.  What has your journey been like carving your path in a male dominated field?
Its been wonderful. I've worked in a few shops were I've been the only women. You have to have thick skin at times and remember your in a man's world, but for the most part everyone has been amazing. I've been able to come up with some unique solutions to problems that the guys never thought of.

4.  What advice do you have for people who are purchasing a piece of woodwork?  What characteristics make for good quality craftsmanship?  Or should I say craftswomanship?
If possible look at it, feel it. You can tell a lot of the quality by the way it feels. If a board is laminated together and you can feel were each piece starts and ends, I would stay away from that board. But if you run your hand over it and it feels like one board, you know its of the highest quality.  Creativity and determination make for amazing craftwomenship. You need to be able to see what a piece can look like while its still in the rough.

5.  You have two sons, one of which is an Army serviceman and just returned home from Iraq.  What is his favorite dish that you cook?  Could you share the recipe with us?
My Auntie Pattie Klienfelter's Homemade Mac and Cheese
Ingredients:
  1 box of large shells
  1 1lb of white Land O Lakes American Cheese
  2 Cups of Whole Milk
  2 Table spoons of corn starch
  1 cup of water
Directions:
1.  Cook the shells as normal and set aside
2.  Cut the cheese in to small squares
3.  In a large pot pour 2 cups of whole milk and warm over a medium heat.  
4.  Stir continuously while adding the squares of cheese.  
5. Once all the cheese is melted, take the two table spoons of corn starch and add them to the 1 cup of water, stir until full mixed then add to the milk and cheese sauce. 
6.  Stir until it boils and thickens up. Then remove from the heat and pour over the shells. Cover with foil and put in the oven on 400 degrees. 
Zackarie likes when there is a nice brown crust on the top!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hanukkah, Peace


There is no rest for the holiday weary.  Not that I am holiday weary yet, it just seems that since Hanukkah is early this year, started yesterday actually, that there is little breathing room between the last feast day and the next.   Not that I am complaining, who doesn't like to feast?

Someone on a low calorie diet that is who, namely Chef and I.  We are both loosing weight like mad, but it makes the holiday season somewhat torturous.  We indulge when indulgence is due, take last Thursday for example.  But Hanukkah is an 8 day holiday, and what is traditionally eaten?  Fried Food.

You know the story.  Jerusalem was taken by the Syrians, the Jewish holy temple with it, back in 168 B.C.E.  The temple was dedicated to the worship of Zeus, and in his honor they often sacrificed pigs.  The Jews began to resist the invaders.  The resistance began in the village of Modin, where the Syrian High Priest forced the Jewish community to eat pig, which was against their religion because pig was seen as filthy.  One young man , Mattahis refused and fled to the mountains where the Jewish resistance movement grew.  They revolted, came down from the mountains and took back their temple.  In an effort to purify it they lit the menorah, which had a teeny tiny bit of oil.   Back in those days it took 8 days of candle light to purify a space, and the little bit of oil lasted just that long.

The oil was considered a miracle, hence the fried food which surrounds the holiday.  What better way to celebrate oil than to fry dough or potatoes in? Potato latkes are hands down my favorite holiday food, cranberry sauce a close second.  I just had a revelation...latkes and cranberry relish. Sounds like Heaven, if you believe in that sort of thing.

The other 7 nights of Hanukkah we will honor oil and peace with a little drizzle of olive oil over a salad or chicken for the grill.  Olive oil. Olive branch.  Dieting or not, I think we could all do with a little more olive oil in our lives, and peace for that matter. 

We live in a nation that is at war.  2 wars.  Peace is something that should be on everyone's mind this holiday season, don't you think?

Shalom.




Monday, November 22, 2010

ThankFull

Thanksgiving is by far one of the best holidays, topped only by Halloween in my humble opinion.  It is nothing more than a feast of thanks, literally.   In fact in the early days of this nation people had thanksgivings regularly.  It wasn't until 1863 that Thanksgiving was made a national holiday by Abraham Lincoln in a proclamation.

This will be our first Thanksgiving as a family of four, and our first as the hosts of the meal.  Chef has quite a feast planned.  I am making pumpkin pie two ways, pecan bourbon pie, and sweet potato casserole.  He has the rest covered...with a dish or three by Gan Gan.

We are doing a little pumpkin pie experiment.  We are going to cook a pie from a canned pumpkin filling, then we are going to make one from total scratch using a recipe from Chef Nancy Silverton of the famous La Brea Bakery in Los Angeles.  I am putting all bets on Chef Nancy's recipe.  While it calls for canned pumpkin we are going to use roasted pumpkin puree.  It also calls for sweet potato in addition, and yams make everything better if you ask me.

I think we could do with more national days of Thanksgiving.  It might make us a little more thankful for the simple things in life, like real food cooked from scratch...or baby toes and socks with bows if we celebrated thanks more regularly.

We have so much to be thankful for this year.  How about you?  Anything you are particularly thankful for this year?



Friday, November 19, 2010

Chefs' Table



Monday is a night off for most chefs in the business.  Sundays and Mondays.  This past Monday we had a special sort of dinner party.  About 2 months ago Chef had the idea to invite a group of chefs from the region for dinner in the garden. Chef is one of those types of people when he gets an idea in his head he immediately sets to action.  It is a sort of compulsion, which I believe serves people in his trade well.  



The Chefs

Chef Adam Sears of Merge
Chef Sam Efron from Taverna
Chef Tom Gray of Bistro Aix
Chef Jonathan Insetta Orsay and Chew
Chef Thomas Tolxdorf of the Ritz Carlton, Amelia Island
Chef Brian Siebenschuh of Orsay
Chef Karey Raulerson Sottile, executive Sous Chef Orsay
Chef Scott Schwartz of 29 South

Then he got to talking with Tapha Sears, wife of Chef Adam Sears and wine rep for Premiere.  They decided to sponsor the event...which made for amazing juice served.  So there were some wine folks there, and wherever there are wine folks there are usually smiles.



I began work with Shannon our garden virtuoso in order to make sure things were looking spruced.  As Chef talked more about the dinner, the more I wanted to attend.  Then it came to light that many of the wives were coming because many of them were partners in business with their husbands, as well as in life.  Bravo. The Farm/Garden Coordinator was in. 

The Menu

Clam Belly Roll with Meyer Lemon Tartar Sauce
Conner's Farm Mixed Greens with Fried Pig Ears
Heritage Pork Chianti Truffle Sausage with Kale and Homemade Ricotta
Braised Piedmontese Beef Shank on Chestnut Lasagna
Roasted Pears and Figs with Sweet Grass Dairy Cheese, Sweet Wine, and Naked Bee Honey

The meal was provincial and delicious.  We ate family style, passing heaping plates around the table.  We talked shop, and I got to finally meet the mysterious man my husband calls every night.  At 8:45 pm an alarm goes off on Chef's phone, no matter where we are or what we are doing.  He picks up his phone, calls 29 South gets an order then immediately calls a man named Jeremy.  Jeremy is the rep for Inland Seafood.  If Jeremy answers the phone Chef is happy, if he doesn't lets just say Chef is... disgruntled.  I had the pleasure of sitting next to Jeremy during dinner, and it was nice to finally put a face on a phone call.  This is him on the left, and throughout the evening he was receiving calls from all over the region from other chefs placing their nightly orders.


At the end of the meal we all agreed this is something we need to do regularly.  Northeast Florida is not exactly the epicenter of the culinary arts in this country, but I venture to say we are a diamond in the rough thanks to these people, and it was a pleasure getting to know the folks behind the food.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Puerto Rico



The Sprout has sprouted a chomper.  Lil' Bit is pooping for chocolate. Chef is on a diet...and I thought my head was going to implode yesterday.  Life has been more than full lately, and ever since I stopped nursing my mental state has been far from balanced. 

Yes, I stopped nursing.  I know, I should really nurse for a full year.  The thing is I went to Puerto Rico for 3 days and when I returned The Sprout was so acclimated to the bottle I just didn't see the point in reintroducing the boob for another 4 months, only to wean her again.  And to be honest, and I say this with a twinge of guilt, it has been nice to have my body back to myself.

I went to Puerto Rico in celebration of one of my best girlfriend's 30th birthday.  It was 4 women pushing 30, tons of rum and sun, and a hotel with a casino.

We hiked in the rain forest and went swimming in a waterfall.


We went horseback riding on the beach.


We played craps and slots, but they don't let you take pictures in the casino.

We did a lot of eating.  Here is a run down of some of our more memorable meals. 

We had breakfast at La Bombonera one of the oldest restaurants in Old San Juan, to eat mallorcas and have coffee.  Mallorcas are spanish pastries dusted in powdered sugar.  I had mine with egg, cheese, and bacon sandwiched between it and it was divine. The restaurant  was listed as super authentic, and as an old diner it has a lovely charm.  But Rachel Ray had eaten there on her $40 a Day travel show, and when we walked in they handed us little Food Network cards with her face grinning up at us, which immediately detracted from the ambiance...if you know what I mean.

Another great regional food we tried there was called mofongo.  It is mashed plantains served in a bowl with something on top of them, like pork or beef.  Many times it is served in a soup as well.  If you are ever in Puerto Rico go for the mofongo, if not for the fact that it is fun just to say out loud. Mofongo.

The best meal we had was at Dragonfly.  It is a seafood/latin fusion restaurant and the dinner was extraordinary.  One of the highlights of the meal was the truffle infused tuna tar tar served over a sushi roll.  It was amazing.  The only thing that put a damper on the evening was the real estate lawyer who interrupted our meal to hit on us, and the sad fact that the birthday girl had been stung by a terrible jellyfish just hours before. 

It was tragic.  We were enjoying ourselves during a late afternoon Caribbean swim.  Four tipsy gals bobbing along the beautiful briny sea. When all of a sudden the birthday girl let out a yelp.  She had been stung and tentacles were still trapped in her monokini.  We dashed out of the ocean in immediate crisis mode.  The victim was lead upstairs by one girl, the other grabbed our stuff from the beach, and I set off to the poolside bar for vinegar.

An entire gallon of vinegar later...the most expensive vinegar we have ever purchased at $30 a gallon from room service, mind you, did little to alleviate the burning.  So we all chipped in and tried to drink the pain away.

In the immortal words of Stevie Wonder...that's what friends are for.



On a totally different note, I just launched a new blog in honor of my upcoming kid's book which is going to hit the virtual shelves of Amazon come December 9th...if all goes as planned.  Please, swing by if you get a chance.  http://www.nowallsforthesmall.com/blog.html









Thursday, November 4, 2010

Great Balls of Fire


You see this grill.  Well, it almost burned my face off.  Literally.  It was a normal Tuesday evening.  Chef was at work.  The Sprout had gone to bed.  And Lil' Bit and I were getting ready for dinner. 

I had turned the grill on to warm up for 15 minutes. I traipsed back into the kitchen to season the chicken breasts we would have that evening.  I brought the meat out to cook and the dang thing was no longer lit.  Like a total moron, paying no attention to the fact that the gas had been running at full force under the closed lid, I hit the starter button and WHOOMPH!

A giant fireball came flying out of the grill into my face.  It was like something out of the movie Backdraft.  As fast as the fire engulfed me, it disappeared and I was left there breathless holding my raw chicken breasts.  It took me a moment to realize that I was okay...that in fact my face had not been torched.  My eyebrows were still there.  I stood there and looked into my living room window at my little girl sprawled out on the floor with the dogs and the most terrible though entered my mind.  What if I had caught fire?  My two year old would be the only person home to help me...and would undoubtedly be scarred for life from the experience.

From 2003-2006 there was an average of 7,900 fires at residences related to grilling...and 10 deaths.  Across America, 3 out of every 4 households have grills.  So I suppose since there is 307 million Americans and 75% of them have grills, 10 deaths over the course of 3 years is minor statistic.

I love the grill.  There are no dishes involved.  It is sooo easy.  You get to cook outdoors and there is just something that really resonates with me in a primitive way when I cook over a fire.  I will not let its recent explosive outburst deter me.  

Tonight we will eat steak, grilled to perfection.







Friday, October 29, 2010

Trick or Treat

Love Halloween.  Love costumes.  Love sweets.  Love pranks.  Love pumpkins.  Love spooky anything.  October 31st is my favorite holiday.  Last year I delved into the history of the jack-o-lantern. This year I thought I would touch on the heritage of Halloween itself.

There are many different traditions from the past that have contributed to the evolution of Halloween, but for today I am going to focus on the Celtic history.  The word Halloween is derived from the Scottish phrase, All-Hallows-Even.   It is thought that Halloween evolved from the ancient festival of Samuin which honored the end of the long days of summer and the start of the drawn out darkness of winter months.  The Celts thought that the barrier between our world and the Otherworld, or underworld, was lifted on Samuin (pronounced sow-in)...allowing souls of the dead to return to earth.  

Like the Day of the Dead, families would welcome their ancestral spirits into their homes, at least the family members they wanted to spend time with.   People would wear costumes in an effort to disguise themselves as terrifying spirits to ward off the souls of those unsavory relatives and friends we all wish to avoid during the holidays.

They would take stock of their food stores for winter on Samuin and in honor of the upcoming darkness great bonfires were lit in each home, while all other fires were extinguished. Some families...when they were feeling particularly daring...would build two bonfires next to each other and then walk between them, with their livestock as a sort of cleansing ritual.  I wonder what my neighbors would think if I staged a bonfire cleansing ritual in the yard?  Probably wouldn't go over so well.  Chef would probably have me committed.

Trick or treating evolved from a tradition in the Middle Ages called souling.  Impoverished people would go door to door and receive food in exchange for praying for the dead on All Souls Day (Nov. 2).  Trick or treating is actually ritual begging.  If food was not given, then sometimes the poor folk would take wagon wheels or whatever they could find to teach the greedy hoarders a lesson.

So what are my little beggars going to be this year?  Lil' Bit is going to be "Super Girl!"  She had her costume on yesterday and was saddened when she realized that just wearing a cape would not make her fly.  The Sprout is going to be a hotdog...one of the more frightening foods commonly available.  Me...I am wavering between pirate and cat, and Chef said he was going to be a chef, but I told him that doesn't count.   

Dress up. Trick. Treat. Enjoy yourself this weekend!  Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Small Farms, Big Ideas: Naked Bee Honey


Honey and butter on a hot fluffy biscuit.  It is a combination that I venture to say most people on this earth would find comforting and utterly delicious.  Whenever I have brunch at 29 South I order a plate first thing...the perfect appetizer to wash down with a cup of coffee.   What makes this little bread plate exceptional is the local honey.  Naked Bee Honey Farm, owned by artists and artisans Gayle Prevatt and Enzo Torcoletti, make some of the best honey I have ever tasted.  

I feel like we have a lot to learn from bees, yet I find myself nervous whenever I find one around me.  What better way to confront a fear of an unknown than to learn about it...so I thought I would ask Gayle a few questions to gain a little insight into the world of bees..

What sparked you and your husband's interest in beekeeping?  How did you get into the craft?
For many years I had the hobby of finding and planting different and unusual varieties of citrus trees and a few other fruit trees.  I would research each variety to see when it bloomed, bore fruit and its particular characteristics.  The process of discovery is such a pleasure!  After some years, I realized that the trees should be bearing fruit and alas, there was none.  And so began the discovery of the absolute need of bees for the pollination of fruit trees and the subsequent finding of a beekeeper willing to sell me a hive and encourage me along.  That was more than ten years ago.

Is there a season for honey?
The beauty and harmony of nature is truly the most wonderous gift of the universe.  The spring season arrives with the blooming of wild trees  beginning with the swamp maples in December in North Florida.  This is quickly followed by wild fruiting trees such as the mayhaw and plum and then the first cultivated fruit trees, the pears begin to bloom.  Other trees wish to join the party and so festoon themselves with delicate blossoms and spicy scents wafting through the air.  And who can slumber in winter doldrums through all this....not the honeybees!  From the maple blossoms through the palmetto in late May or early June,  they only take a break in February while waiting for the next trees to come out!  Mid summer is hot and often dry like this year, so the honeybees hang out on the back porch and tell tales.  If the August rains come, then there are beautiful fall blossoms of goldenrod, ironweed, spanish needles and a myrad of other wildflowers to help the bees tuck in stores for the winter.  And then it is back to the homefront for them, safe with their golden stores of fuel to see them through the cold until one day in December the scarlet flags of new growth in the woods signals once more the earth and sun desire to transfer their energy in the form of sugary delicious nutrients through the soil up into the tips of the living Maple....

What types of flowers do your bees enjoy?  
The honeybees I care for enjoy wild persimmon, wild cherry, pear, a variety of citrus, holly, blueberry, palmetto and black gum tupelo in the spring.  In the fall they like spanish needles, ironweed, golden raintree, wild oregano and most of the yellow wildflowers.




Can you describe the process of extracting the honey?
To bring the honey to the table, I gently pull a few frames of honey from the top of the beehive, and bring it to a horizontal box upon which rests a notched device to hold the frame without disturbing the contents.  With a serrated knife, I slip the blade just under the surface of the wax covering the delicious honey and remove it, flip and repeat.  Four such frames are place vertically into a hand cranked vertical stainless steel extractor.  The frames must be spun, stopped and flipped to repeat, then left in place for awhile to drip.  There is a valve at the bottom of the extractor from which to collect this nectar.  I usually place a simple stainless steel strainer under this in a food safe bucket to catch the bits of wax which may come loose.  There! Thats all there is to it!  A beautiful and wholesome harvest of one of nature's marvels!  Before the invention of the centrifucal spinner about a hundred and twenty-five years ago, people would simply eat the honey together with the wax or place the combs into a light cloth and squeeze to extract the honey.  Very time consuming!


How do you keep your bees from mingling with wild bees?
Honeybees are family oriented!  They may enjoy flying out to see what the day has to offer but they don't keep it to themselves, they load up with pollen and nectar and take it home to share with their family members.  Always!  They may pass other bees or share some particularly wonderful flowers while out but they always go home at the end of the day or when they have loaded up with goodies!  Wild bees do this too.  We could learn alot.  p.s.  They've been around this earth a lot longer than us.


Have the bees taught you anything unexpected?
As far as learning new things from the bees, I really do learn new things everyday.  I must be alert and present when around these active creatures and watch them so as to see how to behave that day.  What are they telling me about the weather?  Are they content or is something bothering them?  I have to move at the same speed as they are working or they become irritated.  I must be sure they have enough to eat and a fresh source of water every day.  It really forces me to pay attention to what the day (and the season) is offering.  Before working with honeybees, I didnt realize how all incompassing the seasons really are and how they affect everything that all living things do and how we and other living things feel as the earth and sun turn in relation to the universe.  Anyone who thinks they are not so engaged is fooling themselves and is missing out by not waking up and enjoying active, awake participation.


I couldn't agree with Gayle more!  If you want to learn  more...or sample this lovely honey go to www.moultriecreek.com

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cooking with Italian Grandmothers


Last night at 29 South we joined farm to table restaurants across the country in celebration of the debut of Cooking with Italian Grandmothers by Jessica Theroux.  It is a beautiful book...part travel diary, part photo essay, part cookbook.  Jessica is a chef based out of San Francisco and she was rewarded a grant to travel Italy and collect the recipes of its matriarchs.  I am sure it was a grueling experience...amazing food, gorgeous landscapes, and extraordinary women.  I can't think of a better way to spend a year of one's life.

Grandmothers are the bards of a region's culinary heritage.  It is from them that the traditional foods are passed down through the generations. It was an honor to be apart of this national event.  We sold every book, and took orders for more. It was a wonderful evening...4 courses of traditional Italian dishes, each meticulously paired with a delicious wine is hard to beat.  Chef went above and beyond.  I will let the pictures speak for themselves.  Here are some of the highlights of the meal.  


Antipasto
Proscuitto with Roasted Peaches and Arugula

Crostini with Chicken Livers and Cipollini

Primo
Rigatoni with Spicy Eggplant and Pignoli

Chianti Brased Veal Cheeks on Chestnut Lasagna

Secondo
Hen Braised with Olives on Creamy Polenta
The other choices for the 3rd course were
Roasted Catch on Truffled White Beans
Wild Boar Sausage on Kale and Ricotta

Dolce
Roasted Forelle Pear with Naked Bee Honey and Pecorino

Lemon Crostata with Olive and Truffle Ice Cream

Bravo Chef!




Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sow Seeds


I love the dichotomy of fall.  While certain plants are preparing for winter, a glorious transformation of decay, others are being born from seed.  At the 29 South garden we started our winter seedlings and are looking forward to a great cool weather crop.  I was introduced to an amazing new heirloom seed catalogue, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, and am thrilled with the new varieties of veggies we are going to try this season.
Here is a just a little taste of what we plan to have in our garden:
Dragon Carrots (seeds pictured above)
Turga Parsnips
Lacinato Blue Kale
Veronica Romanesco
Carentan leek
Albino Beet
Val D' Orges Butterhead Lettuce
Morris Heading Collards
French Breakfast Radishes
There is much much more, but I hate to bore you.

What I find the most beautiful about fall is the air and the light.  You know what it is like...the first time each year you feel fall in the air.  It practically happens overnight. You wake up one morning, step outside and everything seems a bit warmer in color, but the air is cool and crisp.  Each breath you take of fall air has a certain freshness about it...a certain clarity that washes away the haze of summer.

This is a fall in which we all have planted a seed of life change.  Lil' Bit has begun ballet lessons, which has taken cuteness to an entirely new level.  She loves to dance, and it is wonderful to watch her confidence bloom as she traipses around in her tutu.  The Sprout is crawling, and mobility has given her a new sense of adventure, much to my dismay, and she is also exploring her palette as she tries new foods. Chef has recently joined the abbreviated world of Twitter delving into all it has to offer, and I have self published my first kids' book with my dear friend and artist Ryan Ford.  It will be available this holiday season on Amazon and I will be sure to keep you posted on our launch date.

With every end there is a beginning.  Fall is a season that embodies the best of both.  Happy Fall!

Good Life Quest # 12 / Plant a Seed

Fall is a wonderful time to knock out the one thing you promised yourself you would get done this year that you just haven't made the time for...clean out that closet or start taking long walks everyday.  Whatever it may be, take a nice deep breath, clear your head and plant your seed.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Total Recall





Last week, around 9 pm, I received a text from my friend, neighbor, and fellow mommy Janalle.  "In case you are using formula, certain Simulac has been recalled."  


I had just started giving The Sprout a bottle of formula a day just 2 weeks before in preparation for a trip to Puerto Rico in October.  I wanted her to get used to the formula in the bottle before going out of town, and organic Simulac was the brand I decided to go with.  Within minutes of receiving that text I was online typing in the product number of the formula.  

I thought to myself..."Surely their organic product is not contaminated..." but alas, I was wrong.  In big red letters the website told me that their organic formula had been recalled and that I needed to discontinue use immediately.  My heart sank. I felt sick to my stomach.  Guilt swept over me.  My poor baby had been drinking something that could have made her ill. I felt like a failure in a small way.

A factory in Michigan that made the formula had been infested with beetles and 5 million containers of formula were being recalled because they had bug parts and larvae in them, which when ingested could irritate an infants GI track.  It is a mother's nightmare to know that they had been giving their child something that could harm them.  Nightmare.

How does a factory that produces food for infants become infested with beetles?  How the hell did 5 million containers of formula hit the shelves before this infestation was even noticed?  What the hell does this say about the FDA and government health inspectors?  You would think that corporations feeding our nations most vulnerable citizens would be held to a far higher standard.

I began to think about the employee that found the infestation.  It must have been a terrifying experience, because for there to be enough bugs to contaminate such a huge number of products there must have been millions of bugs crawling all over that factory.

I thought this week I would make a list of all the food recalls that have occured in the USA this year alone.  Then I started to research and realized that for me to list all the food that has been recalled within the past 8 months would take me ages.  It is shocking.  There are recalls of food here in the USA every week it seems.  I will list a few just to give you an idea:

8/7/2120: Valley Meat recalls approx. 1 million lbs of frozen ground beef patties and bulk ground beef products for possible E. coli contamination.


7/20/2010: Perdue Farms recalls approx. 91,872 lbs of frozen chicken nugget products that may contain foreign materials. (what the hell does that mean?  Are they riddled with Italian leather or something? You would be surprised how may recalls I found have to do with "foreign materials" in our food.)


6/18/2010:  Campbell Soup Supply Company is recalling 15 million lbs of SpaghettiOs with Meatballs due to under-processing CLASS 1 RECALL, HEALTH RISK HIGH


5/15/2010: Sampco Inc is recalling 87,000 lbs of beef due to animal drug contaminant - a deworming drug called Ivermectin


Do you notice a trend?  Almost all of the recalls have to do with meat.  What is most shocking to me is how under reported this information is...I mean 15 million lbs of SpaghettiO's with meatballs...a class 1 recall. Didn't hear a word about it...and it is a food marketed to children.


This just validates how as a nation we need to support our local farmers, people who cherish the food they raise and grow, rather than buying our food from heartless factory farms.  Join the Slow Food Movement, hit up your farmers markets, buy local.  


If you want to know more about recalls check out http://www.fsis.usda.gov/fsis_recalls/open_federal_cases/index.asp
or if you just want to freak yourself out next time you are looking at the rows of raw meat at the grocery store the weekly recall updates will surely do the trick.