A far off adventure and the desire to return

American cemetery in Normandy

The Cathedral in Reims, France

To get to this post has taken as much time as it took me to travel to Europe, but I finally made it on both counts.  For someone who likes to travel, it sure took me a long time to see the countries of some of my ancestors.  My passport has some new stamps in it and I have explored 5 new countries.  Our entire family went on our daughters class trip.  It was a World War II tour starting in Munich, Germany and ending in London, England.  In between were stops in Luxembourg, Belgium and France visiting battle sites, memorials and American cemeteries.  It was a whirlwind adventure in 10 days time.

Bullion, Belgium
Big Ben, London England

I was asked a question at dinner the other night if I could go back to anyplace I have visited again, where would that be.  I have thought about that a lot.  We do like to revisit places we have been.  Probably one reason is that we had such a good time there before we would love to “redo” that trip again.  Not the same way, new experiences, but we know where everything is.  So I answered this question with a stop we made on our recent trip to Europe….LONDON!  Our trip was fantastic, we got to see a lot of historic places, but didn’t get the quality time they deserve.  Munich was very cool to see, but just one small area, Bavaria.  Luxembourg was a quick drive through and worth a trip back.  Bastogne Belgium was quaint and worth a trip back too. 

 Now Paris would be my second place I want to go back to.  It was very beautiful but there was not enough time to soak in the Parisan ambience like sitting on the sidewalks sipping French wine.  It was London that capture my attention and desire to see more.  Was it because I could understand then residents?  Was it because we quickly breezed through churches and buildings that require time to fully appreciate them?  Probably.  London will be my first stop on a multi day two city visit, someday.

Baravia, Germany – The Fairytale castle
My family home…..lol


My other passion

From time to time I will deviate away from the cooking and talk about my other passion….Travel!

I started this as a separate page, but it wasn’t working out the way I wanted. So I guess you will have to bear with me a read a little on my love of travel.

I love to travel!  As a young kid my family would travel up and down the East Coast.  Not so much as a big family because of the age difference between me, the youngest,  and my oldest brother which is almost 16 years.  My next oldest sibling is my other brother who is 15 years older, then I have 2 sisters who are 14 and 9 years older.   So my earliest memories are traveling with my older sisters.

Probably the last family trip we took was over 40 some years ago when we headed to Florida for vacation.  Mom, Dad and my two older sisters in the Ford LTD station wagon.  Destination Tampa Florida and possibly a stop at the brand new amusement park, Disney World! I remember sleeping in the back of the station wagon, behind the back seat and in front of the luggage back there.  We traveled with a Trip-tik from AAA.  We started our trip at night a few days before Christmas after having dinner at a friends house and we made our first stop the next day in Orangeburg  S.C. That was after we stopped at South of the Border.

 I remember that I got the game sorry as a Christmas gift.  My sisters and I played it in the hotel room.  From Orangeburg South Carolina to Tampa the next day. We stayed one night in a hotel downtown before moving to the Hawaiian Village.   I remember eating at a Sambo’s and playing in the hotel rooms.  My mom says I was amazed that the bathroom had a telephone in it. 

I fondly remember sitting by the pool – they had two pools and we referred to them as the “Hot Pool and the Cool Pool”, we ate at the waffle house and enjoyed our time away.  For my parents it was a much needed rest.  They had the diner at this time and when you own a diner you are up early in the morning and get to bed late at night.  The one good things was they didn’t have far to go because we lived right above it. 
We never made it to Disney World.  We didn’t have hotel reservations made and the park had just opened.  The closet we could get was Gainesville where we spent another night before our trip back north. 
Travel brings great memories, brings family together and increases your knowledge.  We travel with our kids and it has been a great education for them.  They have been on the road since they were babies.  Aruba, Bahama’s, San Francisco, Arizona, Florida, Maryland, US Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Hawaii and even a cruise.  In just over a month we take our first trip to Europe.
So with travel comes adventures, new foods and new inspirations.    Looking forward to writing about our trips!  

Birthday Wishes times 4

It has been awhile since I posted  but we have been very busy.  Hubby and I had a vacation planned with our foodie friends to celebrate a couple of milestone birthdays. (Not mine or Mrs. Foodie, we celebrated that back in March).  Yeah, Hubby and Mr. Foodie celebrated their birthdays in California Wine Country.  Hubby and I spent 6 great and busy days roaming Sonoma and Napa Valley. We tasted some great wine, ate way to much good food, rode bikes through the Valley and ventured out  on Segway’s to a couple of wineries and a cheese factory. That was one of the highlights of our trip!

Prior to us going away Hubby was very, very busy in the kitchen baking – 2 Carrot and Pineapple birthday cakes.  One was for a co-worker of mine for her birthday.  She loves it when hubby is in the kitchen.  The other cake was for my niece’s boyfriend and his birthday.  My niece was our kid sitter and house watcher while we were away.  Her boyfriend was our son’s video game playmate and helped keep an eye on the kids as well.  Thanks to the both for helping us so that we could get away.  His birthday was the same day as hubby’s so we left him a cake, which we had heard that he really liked as well.

Hubby and and our foodie friend didn’t get cakes on their birthday’s.  We had such delicious dinner each night that there was no room for dessert.  But I did buy them little individual ones at the Sunshine Market in St. Helena. A great little gourmet market in the middle of Napa Valley. Hubby got coconut cream and our friend got a red velvet cake.  We enjoyed them on our last night in Sonoma at the inn we were staying at. 

This cake is one of the most requested cakes that he is asked for.  

   Carrot and Pineapple Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting


For the cake:
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 pound carrots, grated
1/2 cup diced fresh pineapple

For the frosting:
3/4 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 pound confectioners’ sugar, sifted
For the decoration:
1/2 cup diced fresh pineapple

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  
Butter 2 (8-inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.

For the cake:
Beat the sugar, oil, and eggs together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light yellow. Add the vanilla. In another bowl, sift together 2 1/2 cups flour, the cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Toss the raisins and walnuts with 1 tablespoon flour. Fold in the carrots and pineapple. Add to the batter and mix well.

Divide the batter equally between the 2 pans. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pans set over a wire rack.

For the frosting:
Mix the cream cheese, butter and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until just combined. Add the sugar and mix until smooth.

Place 1 layer, flat-side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake. Decorate with diced pineapple.

Now, I have to admit….I messed up by not getting a picture once it had baked and frosted.  Hubby was prompting me to get my pictures, but in all of the rush to head out on vacation, I messed up.  But trust me, this is delicious!

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/carrot-and-pineapple-cake-recipe/index.html?oc=linkback

Italian, Southeast Asian, French and the BIG Birthday, Oh My!

New York, New York a helluva town, The Bronx is up and the Battery down!

Wow!  What a weekend in New York.  Our best friends invited us to New York City to Celebrate a BIG Birthday!  For us it was a wine and culinary adventure from Saturday’s Lunch at Osteria Al Doge to Tuesdays lunch back at Eately.  I have so many recipes to share with you, but I wanted to be more timely with this post. Also, my blog doesn’t have to be about the recipes and the dishes we make at home, but also about our culinary adventures outside our little suburban kitchen.

So meet our foodie friends!  Yes, the one with the glass of wine is the birthday girl.  This picture was from Eately, and if you have been to NYC lately haven’t stopped by Eately, shame on you!  What a great place.  It is a market, an Italian food and wine paradise.  Where else can you shop and walk around a gourmet store while drinking a glass of wine.   This was the stop on Sunday and back on Tuesday for lunch and exploring the many food “stands” Eatley has to offer.  The best part of Eatley is the center area where you can either stand up at these tall tables and order wine, cheeses seafood or meats like pancetta, speck, prosciutto or sit down at the bar area to relax and enjoy.  The service is wonderful and attentive.  And a shout out to Sal who got me to try a raw oyster.  (Thanks to the birthday girl as well.)  This place is amazing.  We even went back on Tuesday to purchase fresh pasta, homemade rustic olive bread, fresh meats and seafood plus have lunch before our journey home. .  They have espresso, gelato, chocolate, seafood, cheeses, produce, meats, aisles of pasta, wine, a couple of restaurants, etc…

Our adventure started on Saturday when we all enjoyed a great light lunch at Osteria al Doge on 44th Street.  The weekend continues with a great cocktail hour  at Bemelmans Bar in the Carlye Hotel, then a wonderful dinner at Basso 56 on 56th Street. Our host “Lance” treated us to a show at Caroline’s where he told the comedian  he didn’t work, he was retired.  We explored the many areas of Eately, enjoyed the Birthday Girl’s dinner at the Spice Market in the Meat Packing District on Sunday, had lunch at Balthazar in Soho and a pre-theater dinner at DB Modern on 44th Street on Monday.  Then back to Eately for shopping and our final lunch on Tuesday.

So, a toast to Nigella Dionne and her Big Birthday Celebration!  We are so glad we were a part of it. And to my wonderful husband, anytime you want to meet me at Gaby’s for a late night cocktail, I’m in!


It’s Soup Time!

Roasted Tomato Soup!  Doesn’t that sound delicious?  Luck for me I had all of the right ingredients on hand to whip this up for lunch today.  OK, with the exception of fresh basil.  No one knew I used dried basil, so I guess it was a success. 

My darling daughter had requested tomato soup earlier in the week.  I have a few recipes that I like.  One is an old one from a cook book called “The Old-time Brand Name Cookbook” and the other is from Michael Chiarello’s show that used to be on Food Network called Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello.  Love that show and love his recipes.  We actually met him a few years ago when my handsome hubby and I and our foodie friends made a trip out to Napa and Sonoma.  We made it a point to eat at his restaurant in Yountville called Bottega.  Very surprised to see him there and we even got our picture with him.   

October 2010








Michael Chiarello’s Homemade Tomato Soup


1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 stalk celery, diced
1 small carrot, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves or 1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 cup heavy cream, optional


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Strain the chopped canned tomatoes, reserving the juices, and spread onto a baking sheet, season with salt and pepper, to taste, drizzle with 1/4 cup of the olive oil and roast until caramelized, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat remaining olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the celery, carrot, onion and garlic, cook until softened, about 10 minutes.

Add the roasted chopped canned tomatoes, reserved tomato juices, chicken broth, bay leaf and butter. Simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Add basil and cream, if using. Puree with a hand held immersion blender until smooth.
Soup and serve.  This makes about 4 servings!

Who Knew?

Who knew the wineries in Canada would be so beautiful and have some really nice wines?  Call me a wine snob, but I only thought NYS and California could produce such good wines in North America. 

Picture taken at Jackson Triggs Winery during our private tour

We went up to Niagara on the Lake for the weekend with our very close friends (High School Sweethearts on Left, Me and my Valley Boy on right).  This is something we have done for the last 21 years- take a wine trip together every fall.  It was a bit earlier this year because of the kids schedules and trying to find someone to keep an eye on them for the weekend.  Plus, our High School Sweethearts are heading to Italy in September for their 25th Wedding Anniversary Trip.  (We get to babysit their dog, Brady!)

We arrived in Niagara and heading straight to Jackson Triggs for our tasting appointment.  Had a wonderful tour with Sheba and tasted several wines throught the time there.  After the visit we heading to our Inn, The Harbour House Hotel.  Great location off the main street and very quiet.  Your room includes breakfast and a wine and cheese reception each afternoon.

Late that afternoon we explored this quaint little village and had a wonderful meal at Epicurean.  I had a lovely Caesar Salad and veal bolognese.  I followed the menu suggestion and had a merlot 2007 from Pillitteri Estate.  This was a shock to our friends because I always have a white wine.  Valley Boy and I ended our meal with a piece of pecan pie.

Our Saturday adventure started at 9:30 following breakfast at the Inn.  We rented bicycles to ride along the wine trail.  This is something new for hubby and me, but we were game.  We headed first to the local farmers market and picked up a loaf of olive bread and fresh cheese curds while our friends picked up pickled asparagus, asparagus chips and other assorted goodies.  Then off on our bikes again to stop at a few wineries.  We each picked up a bottle of wine at Inniskillan for our lunch and around 1 p.m. we stopped along the trail for a picnic. 

One of the highlights was a Steakhouse Onion cheese from Yancey’s Fancy!  Delicious!  We have to get more of this!  Bread, Cheese, Asparagus, wine and great friends! Music played from the ipod I brought along and the sunny was shining and nice a warm. It was a wonderful picnic lunch.
We estimated that we rode for about 20 miles, but later found out that it was more like 12 once our friends mapped out the rpute we took.  I like the 20 mile estimate myself.  What a great trip.