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Food Stories

Food Stories

Favorite Food Memories

Memories, what would we do without them?

Some of my favorite moments are served around a table. What on earth is more enjoyable than sitting around a table with friends or family sharing a fabulous meal. Nothing, in my opinion. It doesn’t even have to be a fabulous gourmet meal but could be something as simple as a bowl of ice cream and some homemade cookies. Hey, they don’t even have to be homemade.

This picture was from a little cafe in Tuscany where we went several mornings for breakfast. No one spoke English, and this one kind little lady took it upon herself to get us a table and proceeded to show us some of the pastries. They were wonderful, the people and the pastries. — Unforgettable experience.

Some of my unforgettable moments of food are: my birthday dinner at Brennans’ Chef’s table which is in the kitchen, sitting outside a cafe in Bruges having a bucket of mussels, and sitting at my parents table with a big platter of fried catfish piled so high it looked like it would topple at any moment. I’ll never forget dinner in the cellar at Botin (the oldest restaurant in the world in Madrid) or a simple plate of cheese and meats sitting on our son’s deck in Chicago.

Also, top of the list would have to be any meal my son, Paul (chef Paul now) has ever prepared for us. He puts so much heart and soul into everything he cooks.

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Cake/ Food Stories


Can you teach an old dog new tricks?

Now don’t take me wrong, I’m not saying I’m an old dog or anything like that.  I think I may still have a few new tricks in me.

Lately, it seems like I tend to get obsessed with things. For instance, cooking for the blog, trying to make my camera take better food pictures, and taking computer classes at the Apple store.  Now I’ve started a miniature fairy garden and ordered my first house for it and now I’m trying to figure out how to make a miniature pond and table and patio for the fairy garden.

Now if that isn’t enough, three weeks ago, I started cake decorating classes at Hobby Lobby and then turned around and signed up for fondant and gum paste classes the following day. I must have been nuts at the time.

I’ve been catering for 20 years and one thing I have always wanted to know how to do was to decorate a pretty cake and hey, why not learn to make fondant covered cakes and flowers at the same time.

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Cake/ Food Stories

De-railed Thomas the Train Cake

How sagging frosting became the hit of the party.

Most people would have been in tears when they opened their refrigerator and saw all the frosting drooping off the sides of their cake. BUT, not me.

My son Paul was making a Thomas the Train birthday cake for my grandson’s 2nd birthday. It was a beautiful 3 layer perfectly level chiffon cake and I have to say it was totally my fault the French buttercream did not turn out. I miscalculated the butter; 24 oz. is NOT 3 sticks of butter, but 6.

So, here’s what happened. When we saw the cake sagging. I laughed and said “this looks like a train wreck”. Since little Milo loves the part of Thomas The Train when the train wrecks, my son took his black frosting and besides the Happy Birthday, he made a train track and had it continue off the side of the cake. And then we used some of the Thomas the Train car pieces and stuck them in the side and bottom of the cake like they had just driven off the side of the cake. I have to say it was ingenious and saved the day.

Milo looks happy with his cake even though the train de-railed.

Looks like mom might be explaining that Thomas fell off the cake. Oh, whatever, it still tasted wonderful.

I definitely owned up to my mistake and the kids and adults all loved the cake and cupcakes.

Moral of the story — don’t let minor derailments spoil the party. After all, kids just want something sweet, they don’t care what it looks like.

Food Stories

Gastronomic Tour de New Orleans

This appetizer was from Lilette and it was a White Truffle Parmigiano Toast with Wild Mushrooms, marrow and veal glaze.  We ordered two orders and shared. Very rich and amazingly delicious.

Have you ever been just SICK of eating?

Have you ever been just sick of eating and you could not possibly take another bite of food and then you wake up the next day, still in New Orleans, and  you know that you just can’t pass up that next wonderful meal in a city that your have been told has the most wonderful food in the world?

Recently, I went on a mother/daughter trip to New Orleans with my daughter, my twin sister and her son. We had a fantastic time together as we always do and all this food and drink was such a temptation for 4 days.

Roasted Muscovy duck breast with Tuscan kale, butternut squash, sage and satsuma coriander jus. Now how could that not delight your taste buds.

We planned this trip for months and had a huge list of “must eat at” restaurants from friends. We double booked some nights knowing that we were going to have to cancel one of those reservations because we could not possibly eat 6 meals a day.

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Food Stories

My Kind of Hardware Store

I was whining all week until we found our way back to this store.

(More from our trip to Spain.)

I think it was when we were taking our cab ride from he$$ that I saw this little store. First, the cab ride was something like out of the movies. We had taken a plane from Barcelona to Sevilla and upon arriving there we had to catch the last bus out for the day and believe me it was the last bus because by the time we reach the end of the line the driver yelled “get off”. From there we had to get 4 cabs for the twelve of us. None of the cab drivers knew where they were going because this little hotel “Amadeus” was in this very narrow alley tucked in the middle of the city. Amadeus was a wonderful little hotel that was within walking distance of everything.

The little streets were so narrow around the hotel that if a car came you had to jump on this little curb (not sidewalk), pull your stomach in, not breathe, and just say a little prayer that the side mirrors did not knock you off on your butt. We had some close calls but really got use to the sound of a scooter or car coming so we knew to jump out of the way.

Back to the hardware store. On taking the cab ride into Seville I remember seeing a store with paella pans in the window. Now, I have a paella pan but I wanted some miniature ones to use to serve tapas in. So, for the four days we were in Seville, we searched and searched for this little place until the last day we happened up on it, BUT it was 2:00 and they were closed for siesta. Seems like all the stores close between 2-5 or 6:00 for siesta. Guess it is just too hot for people to shop so everyone goes home. We took that as an opportunity to walk back to the hotel, shower, nap a little and then head back out to make my purchases.

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Appetizers/ ColdApp/ Food Stories

Tapas, Tapas, Everywhere!

We had wonderful, delicious, unusual, yummy tapas everywhere in Spain.

Tapas are small plates of food served along with drinks. I have read that originally in Spain, tapas were served as a cover for a glass of wine so flies and other objects did not get into the glass. That may be a myth, but it makes perfect sense. In the beginning the tapas plate probably contained olives and cheese and peppers but tapas have evolved into something you could enjoy for breakfast, lunch or a whole dinner. In a tapas bar you just keep ordering small plates until you are full which is so much better than to order some huge dinner and then try to consume the whole thing since you paid for it and all of us, of a certain age, remember the “clean your plate” comments from our mothers because of all the starving kids in the world.

This was one of my first tapas to try after getting back. We tried so many different kinds of olives stuffed with all kinds of different things. These are just extra large pitted green olives that I stuffed with strips of Serrano ham. And, I absolutely love my mini paella pans I found. I have 5″ and 3″ pans.

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Food Stories

A day at the farmer’s market.

Buying local and fresh is always the best!

Ya know, there is just something about going to a farmer’s market that feels so good. I think I get that feeling because I know I am getting fresh and locally grown food by people who really care about what you are eating.

Years ago, we use to get excited just seeing a farm stand along the highway. We always knew their produce would be the freshest available in the area.

I just finished a book, Summer House, and loved reading about this girl’s farm stand, how all the locals at Nantucket would stop to buy her flower bunches for $70+ and about all her organically grown produce. Reminded me of how excited I get when I go to a Farmer’s Market. I’m looking forward to going to the Boqueria market in Barcelona in September while we are there. The first mention of this market dates back to 1217. I understand from a friend that I will see fruits and vegetables that I have never seen before.  Believe me, I will have camera in hand.

This past spring we were in Chicago visiting our son and daughter-in-law (baby boy arrived YESTERDAY!) and one day we went to the Green City Market in Lincoln Park. It was too early for a lot of the summer vegetables like tomatoes, squash etc. but talk about a variety of vendors! There were people selling homemade crackers, cheese (and even cheese curds), micro greens, veal, tongue, BRAINS, fried donuts, potatoes, PURPLE asparagus, onions, flowers. I love seeing people take their dogs on these outings and there’s always a dish of  water out for the dogs so they have something to drink.

Every Time we go to Austin to visit our other son, his wife and their baby and our daughter we always make a trip to the Barton Creek Farmer’s Market knowing that our dinner that night will be fresh off the farm. We  were there over July 4th weekend. Things for sale that day included, squash blossoms, meats (we bought pork cube steak), butter, breads, corn, flowers, honey, all kinds of peppers, cupcakes (of course we had to have some of those). There were several music groups that entertained during the day.

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Entree/ Food Stories/ Game

The Tortoise and The Hare

Slow but steady did not win their race this day!

We all have heard the story about the tortoise and the hare and how the turtle was slow but steady and won the race. Neither one was very lucky the day my dad caught this turtle and rabbit.

While visiting my sister a couple of weeks ago, she found a couple of bags of turtle in the freezer that she had gotten from our dad’s last year. So, we decided to have fried turtle.  If you didn’t know it already, turtle has 7 kinds of meat. These are the seven types that I came up with from researching turtle meat — turkey, fish, poultry, veal, pork, duck, mutton. After thawing the turtle she found that my dad had frozen a rabbit in with the turtle. Maybe that was my dad’s way of giving us one last laugh when we thought about him catching turtles on his fishing lines he put out everyday.

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Appetizers/ Food Stories/ HotApp

Roasted Serrano and Jalapenos on our Grill Partner

I Saw this grill at the Austin Food and Wine Festival and knew I had to have it.

We were at the Austin Food and Wine festival back in April this year and one of the vendors was doing sausages on this grill. My husband drug me over to see it and I knew that  we just had to have this for our backyard cookouts.

Over Memorial Day weekend we used this several times. First we did these sausages and peppers. Then we cooked (my son and husband did all the cooking on this) some serranos and jalapenos that we did in a little chicken broth and soy sauce and then roasted them on this grill. Believe it or not I found out how to take the heat out of the jalapenos. The first night we did them we could hardly eat them because they were so hot. Then I tried something I had read online and it worked. (more about that later.)

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Food Stories

Ode to my favorite tool of 2009.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year little Veggie Chopper

‘Twas the night before New Years, when all through the house
Not a utensil was stirring, not even a knife;
The knives were hung by the stove with care,
In hopes that my lady soon would be there;
Everyone was nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of mama’s cooking danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap,
When out of the dishwasher there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the kitchen I flew like a flash,
Tore open the cabinets in a dash,
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature veggie chopper in all it‘s glory,
With a little old blade and a pull cord, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be MY FAVORITE KITCHEN TOOL of ‘09
More rapid than her cousin the knife, her courses they came
And she whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
“Now, chef‘s knife! now, Santoko! now, ulu and paring!
On, chopper! on mandoline! on, salad chopper and slap chopper!
To the top of the dishwasher to the top of the counter
Now chop away! chop away! chop away all!”

I am her favorite kitchen tool for 2009!

A  few pics of her at work.
Onions and peppers in no time. I always thought I didn’t need a tool to do the work of a knife. But, I have changed my mind.



Nuts are a whiz in this little chopper. Pull about 8-10 times and you have minced nuts. And just think of the muscle you are building in your arms.


Mushrooms fresh or canned chop up quick and easy in my favorite little friend.


Black olives are chopped in about 3-4 pulls. So much faster than using a knife.

I promise to try and not talk about this little tool so much this year but thumbs up for my favorite new tool for 2009.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night. And Happy New Year!

Appetizers/ ColdApp/ Food Stories

New American Feast — Tasting Menu

New American Feast — Tasting Menu and a Michie tradition.

Every Thanksgiving for the past eight years or so we have had our “Michie” feast on the day after Thanksgiving.  It’s a good thing that our Thanksgiving menu is pretty traditional because so much work goes into our meal on the Friday following Tday. Here’s our menu for the night with a few picture teasers.  We will be posting some of the recipes over the next few days.

mushroom mosaic terrine

paired with gloria ferrer sonoma brut


lemon basil sorbet palate cleanser


parsnip bisque with crispy pork belly

pared with robledo sauvignon blanc 2006, california


crab, avocado, mango tower

paired with pierre boniface apremont 2008, france


seared yellowfin tuna tostone stack with mexican coke reduction

pineapple, mango, sesame vinaigrette

paired with st. clement, bale lane, 2007 sauvignon blanc, napa valley


fig and port sorbet palate cleanser


chicken fried deer heart, latke, black pepper cream

paired with mo zin, spann vineyard, 2006


duck confit ravioli with port wine and sun-dried cherry sauce

paired with calvet-thunevin cuvee constance, 2005, cotes catalanese


smoked espresso powdered venison tenderloin with chili, chocolate

fresh gulf crab cake and beer blanc sauce

paired with nero d’avola/merlot evoe aziende agricole aollara


madeira-braised veal cheeks with chive cheese grits

paired with bear boat pino noir 2006, russian river valley


gorgonzola dolce latte with asian pear, Tete De Moine, triple cream brie


pumpkin bread and chocolate bread pudding, frozen honey cinnamon custard with cajeta

paired with assorted liquer

(Sherry)  We decide on a theme in advance. It all started with frying the turkey for the first time eight years ago. We had all this oil left over and thought we should do something with it so the next day we had a fish and frog leg fry. The next year we decided to do all oysters. I think we did them seven different ways. In the following years we have done, sushi, Mexican, Italian, French Country, Spanish Tapas and this year we decided on a tasting menu, New American style.

(Alexis)  This year we had 10 courses, 10 people, 10 bottles of wine.  Everyone comes up with their own recipes for the event in advance.  Paul oversees the entire menu and if you’re lucky he will cook your course for you too.  Just kidding.  But it is a life saver when he looks at your recipe and clues you in to the fact that you really need to start parts of your recipe 24-48 hours in advance.   Thanks to him I had some awesome duck confit already prepared for me when I went to make my ravioli on Friday.

(Sherry)  We have so much fun cooking and laughing and consuming a lot of wine together.  Everyone really gets into their dish, preparing and plating for presentation. We decided this year that everyone should present their dish when serving their course and explain how they prepared it and what wine they were serving with it. That was a lot of fun.

(Alexis) I think I had an advantage of being towards the end of the meal, when I was a little loosened up by the wine and more than ready for some “public speaking.”

(Sherry) We had 2 oz. pours on all our wines and by the end of the night I think we calculated that everyone drank a bottle of wine a piece.  This is not including what my daughter-in-law coined “intermission” wines in case someone wanted more wine while waiting for the next course.

My dish was the only one that flopped. It was tasty but the terrine, even with 24 sheets of gelatin, did not set up like it was suppose to. The veal cheeks came from Chicago and other ingredients came from Austin and Houston.  I made two trips to an Asian market to get the pork belly. We have already been talking about the next feast when we are all together and we’ve decided it will be a “locavore” theme.   We will have to cook only seasonal ingredients within 50-100 miles of where we live. So that will be Chicago, Austin, and Houston. This will be a challenge.

(Alexis) I’d like to add to the local part that the ingredients should also be organic, natural, grass-fed, free range, etc..

Stay tuned for more recipes and photos of some of the highlights from the tasting menu!

Appetizers/ ColdApp/ Food Stories

Sushi Challenge

Doesn’t that look like a real dragon?

The November 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was brought to you by Audax of Audax Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen. They chose sushi as the challenge.

Sushi (寿司 or 鮨 or 鮓) is much appreciated for its delicate taste and exquisite appearance. Sushi actually means vinegar-ed rice, which is the essential ingredient in every sushi recipe. Sushi is simple and cheap to make at home, needs no special equipment and is an excellent way to use left overs.

Although sushi in various forms has been around for fourteen centuries, the modern version was invented in Japan in the 1800’s where a ‘hand-formed’ sliced fresh fish and vinegar-ed rice ball was eaten as a snack food. Nowadays, sushi is made with various seafood, meats and vegetables, raw and cooked.

I belong to site and each month there is a cooking challenge and baking challenge. November’s cook’s challenge was to make sushi.

I have a confession to make. Last week our Friday night friends were out of town so I told my husband about a new sushi place we have in town. He asked me if I had been there before and I said “yes, for lunch this week”. What I didn’t tell him was that this would be my third time to eat there that week. I wanted to sit at the bar and watch them make the sushi this time so I could get ready for this challenge. That really helped. Now, if I can just get the rice right.

I won’t be posting a recipe here because if you really want to make sushi I would just google how to make the sushi rice and watch several sushi making YouTube videos.  That’s what I did. By the time I had watched about 6 videos I thought I would be able to do it — and I (we) did.

For this challenges we were suppose to make a dragon roll, spiral roll and nigri sushi. I was looking in the produce section for all our ingredients and saw a star fruit and had the idea to use this for his fins, scales or whatever it is a dragon is suppose to have on his back.

Here are a few pictures of what we made last night.


This was a spicy tuna crunch roll. We put chopped up tuna, sriracha hot chilli sauce, some of the crunchies I fished out of the pan from doing tempura shrimp.


This was my least favorite. I didn’t care for the fake crab legs. I think next time I would do shrimp and tuna.

I prepped all of our fillings earlier that day. I cut up cucumber, scallions, red bell pepper, avocado, tempura shrimp, spicy tuna mixture, spicy mayo, made some sweet soy and did some green beans in tempura for an appetizer.


A plate of our night’s work. This ginger was some I bought. I did try making pickled ginger this week and didn’t like the results. I think you really need “young” ginger to make the recipe because mine was tough and string.


This is my dragon roll. I used a star fruit sliced very thin and inserted it between pieces of sushi to look like fins. Of course, I’ve never seen a “real” dragon so I don’t know if they have fins or scales but I think he turned out pretty cute. I used my aspic cutters and cut shapes from a fresh beet to use as a plate garnish.

I will be watching some sushi rice making videos the next time I do sushi.

どうぞめしあがれ  (enjoy your meal)

Hope you are up to this challenge one day soon.