Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What are the chances?


I entered a give-away and actually won these lovely handmade soaps from Rain, NYC.
Our Daily Green: Rain Africa: created for living (product review & giveaway)


As you can see, each artisan signs their work and I can't wait to use these lovely soaps.
In fact, I'm going to put these in my guest bath 
so friends and family will be able to pamper themselves as well.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

My friend's recent post about Rain Africa's beauty products and their business profile made me think back to my visit a few years ago to South Africa.

Truly I had never imagined it to be a country of such incredible diversity.  Humid tropics to the east, mountainous areas that almost rival the Alps, stunning coastal regions, rolling hills covered in vineyards....but the people, their smiles and easygoing nature are what I remember the most...and sadly, the incredible poverty of the cities. Most people just want to have the opportunity to work.

Hout Bay is a small fishing village south of Cape Town.  Jill Heyes, a transplanted Brit, witnessed the poverty and sense of hopelessness in the surrounding area. Understanding the people's desire to work, she along with the help of a local decoupage artist Christine Sadler, were able to turn used tea bags into works of art. Now Jill, known as the t-bag lady, runs a company employing local women and men all involved in a labor of love.

"An environment that has thrived on determination, co-operation, give and take, support and friendship, has created in reality confidence, pride, responsibility and perseverance where it previously didn’t exist. Lives have been picked up and nurtured, each one an asset and contribution to the success of T-Bag Designs today.  As each tea – leaf is crucial to a perfect brew, so each individual at Original T-Bag Deisigns is indispensable to a business that has become a family."

Time didn't allow me and my family to actually tour their workshop, but I purchased many of their products as gifts to bring back to the States.

They make the most unique Christmas ornaments as well as wall plaques, note cards, etc.

If you are interested in purchasing any of their items, and helping this community, check out their website:


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Did I mention you can also make ramp vinegar?
The small little bit of pink near the neck of the ramp creates the loveliest pale pink vinegar.

Enjoy ramp vinegar in 
salad dressings, 
over grits (the yummiest yet), 
sprinkled over hot german potato salad...
the list can be endless.

Splendid Fare's RampItUp Vinegar is ready
contact us for ordering!

Ramps can be added to any mustard..but our Sweet & Hot is the best!

It's Ramp Season...Y'all!

...........and I am doing a happy dance!

I really look forward to spring for many reasons. 
Longer days...Warmer weather...And...ramps!

One of the first greens to pop their little leaves up, ramps have been a source of sustenance for years for people in the southern mountains of Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia and lucky for me...Ohio!  A cross somewhere between garlic and spring onions (scallions), ramps have their own taste..so much so that nothing else really tastes like a ramp.  

I crave them.

Ramps were well known in all the mountains communities but have, in the past few years, been "found out" by chefs on both coasts and in between. They are now, seemingly, everywhere.  So much so, that our national parks and forests have banned the harvesting of ramps.  So I have my own little patch I've been nurturing for years. Just enough to keep me in ramp butter all year long.  I dole it out in the most parsimonious way...if I like you, you just might get a taste!

Ramps come out of the ground with dirt clinging to their roots and little papery bits protecting the lovely white bulb.  And that means cleaning, cleaning and more cleaning.

One of my most favorite ways to eat ramps is with potatoes. Fried potatoes and ramps is just about heaven.  Add some eggs, and here comes breakfast, lunch and/or dinner!

I will share with you my pictorial recipe for making a quick, easy and delicious meal

Fry up a mess of potatoes and add chopped ramps. 
For one person 1 large potato and 5 ramps, including both the green and white parts.

Add 2 scrambled eggs to the pan and let set over low heat.

                      Allow the eggs to set into large curds and then scramble it all together
until it looks like 



Our Daily Green: Rain Africa: created for living (product review & giveaway)

Our Daily Green: Rain Africa: created for living (product review & giveaway)

Visiting my BIL's relatives in Africa, I can say how much these small businesses are vital to pulling people out of poverty. So many people live desperate lives and companies like this one are a win/win. Allowing people the dignity of honest work and creating such lovely, organic products. I'm in

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Can you tell it's been a busy year? I don't know how this blog fell by the wayside, but it did.  And what's really sad is, I love doing this.  It soothes my need to do something creative other than cooking!!!  So I promise to keep you all enthralled on a more regular basis.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to create a feeling of well-being and for those of you in the frozen North craving comfort food, I present the ultimate in winter comfort food:


This is pretty much all you need to create a delicious paprikash.  I normally use bone in chicken thighs, however I was making this for a picky person who only eats boneless chicken breasts.  Know that you will have a greater depth of chickeney-ness if you use bone-in, dark meat..and of course, you can remove the skin if you are concerned with the fat content.  
Do not throw out your chicken skin.See schmaltz comment below.

 Start with a good amount of onions, the more the better. In fact, I like almost equal parts of onion and chicken.  I use whatever oil I have on hand...hopefully schmaltz. That wonderful fat that is rendered from chicken skin.  So if you decide to purchase skin-on chicken pieces, remove the fat and place it in a skillet. Slowly, slowly, SLOWLY over very low heat, take that chicken skin and render all the fat out of it. It is truly the original "Liquid Gold". 
Use this as the fat to cook the onions down until they look like this.
While your onions are slowing cooking, start to season your chicken.  I use kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and the best Hungarian Paprika I can purchase.  Please do not buy the large jar for .99 at the discount store for this recipe.  The flavor comes from the paprika.  I also use some smoked paprika just because I like it.  I'm not sure you can actually use too much paprika.  Start with what you think is right and then double it!

Remove the onions from the pot and add your seasoned chicken in one layer.  Yes, I know this pot will probably give my family cancer as all the Teflon has come off throughout the years, but this is THE paprikash pot and who am I to defy tradition?  When all the chicken has been browned, remove it to a platter. 

                                                What you will have left is called THE FOND.  
                                    Those crunchy, browned little bits that are bursting with flavor.  
                                                  Do not ever throw this away.  EVER.
                           This is what creates the basis for such delicious, flavorful broths/gravies.  

At this point, slowly add your chicken broth. Yes, canned is okay.  Homemade stock would be ever so much better, but I want you to have this on the table in under an hour.  Scrape up all THE FOND until is becomes one with the chicken stock.  Add your onions and chicken back to the pot and you will have something that looks like this. Use enough chicken broth to just cover the chicken..more than what is shown in this picture.

You can also add some garlic.  I like to add one green, medium-heat, whole  Hungarian pepper. If I don't have that sometimes I add just a pinch of dried, red pepper flakes.  This isn't rocket science. There are probably thousands of variations of paprikash and you have the opportunity to create another one!

Simmer until the chicken is tender..which shouldn't be more than 30 minutes for boneless chicken breasts.

I like to serve the paprikash with Sophie's Choice Spaetzle:

One of the perks of living near a large Hungarian population is being able to purchase ready made spaetzle.  This is almost as good as homemade and I didn't have to make it!

I am thrilled you enjoy your paprikash with sour cream, tomatoes, sour cream, peppers, etc.
That's what makes the world interesting.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thin or Thick Stemmed?  

Which is best?
What do you prefer?

I hear this frequently while I'm shopping, especially when my cart is piled high with the first asparagus of the season.  So I thought I'd check around and put to rest that age old question.  Thinner stems are better (more tender)  than thicker stems.  

So what is the answer???

Thinner is ........just thinner!

The Romans were the first to cultivate asparagus going back some 2000 years.  Its appearance has changed since then from the tall, skinny, narrow stems much like the original wild plants to a fatter, thicker stem preferred since the 1700's.  Asparagus plants are naturally either male or female.  Female plants bear red seeds diverting energy from the stalks into reproduction. The seeds falling to the ground create competition between the mature plants and the young seedlings...SO...the stalks of female asparagus plants are thinner.  

White MALE asparagus
Male plants, on the other hand,  removed from the necessity of producing seeds, bear the best and most flavorful thicker stalks.  They also, apparently watch more TV and drink more beer as they sit around growing larger and thicker.  (What? WHO said THAT? Don't mind my evil twin this being an equal opportunity blog and all.)

Regardless of whether they are thick or thin, asparagus comes in three colors...

1. The luscious green of spring.  

2. The blanched white color prized in Europe for its tenderness and costing a king's ransom. The plants are covered with baskets or soil to reduce exposure to the sun ensuring the white stalks.  
Remember, no chlorophyll = no green! 

                                       3. And a lovely purple color that ends up turning green when cooked.


Here are some hints for picking out the freshest possible bunch of asparagus:
Look for tight, dry tips either fresh green or purplish in hue. 

You do not want tips that have opened and started to flower...
Walk away from that asparagus.

Make sure the stems are firm and full, not shriveled and dry looking.

Now you know how to pick out asparagus and you have a bundle in your cart. Now What?

Snap off the ends of the asparagus. 
They will naturally break at the tenderest point.  
SAVE THE ENDS for soup.  
A Ziploc bag is in my freezer waiting to be filled with more end pieces.  
Waste not, Want not.
My grandmother would be so proud!

Place the asparagus in a large amount of boiling water (think pasta), turn the burner to simmer and cook just until al dente at the most 2 minutes depending on the size of your spears.  Do Not Overcook as asparagus becomes slimy at that point.  Drain and  immediately place into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.  From here you can keep the asparagus (I roll in paper towel and stick in a Ziploc bag to store) ready to use for future use..as in a few days.

What constitutes future use?  
Asparagus can be grilled, oven roasted, or served in any of the following ways:
Make an asparagus and pea risotto.

Steam baby peas and cut up asparagus in lettuce channeling the French method of cooking both.
Cream of asparagus soup
Asparagus omelets, frittatas and quiches
Toasted and buttered bread topped with asparagus and a poached egg..DIVINE for a no brainer dinner!
Steamed and topped with a salsa of cucumbers and herbs
Steamed and topped with hollandaise
Roasted asparagus and baby new potatoes combined with goat cheese and mint
Paired with roasted salmon and topped with hollandaise.
Stir fried with ginger, garlic and a hint of toasted sesame oil.
Paired with luscious sea scallops, puff pastry and orange scented hollandaise.

Are you getting the idea that I love hollandaise sauce?

One of my easiest hors d'oeuvres consists of two ingredients:
Asparagus wrapped in prosciutto.
That's IT.  
You can seriously do this!
This amazing little nosh can be served cold or thrown into a hot oven drizzled with EVOO until crispy.

In this pic, I went hog wild and sprinkle some Asiago cheese over the top.  
You can also drizzle with a good extra virgin olive oil and/or some balsamic vinegar.

It's YOUR turn to share your favorite asparagus recipe.