Mmmm – it’s Memorial Day weekend!

Erie blooms in May. Not that it doesn’t have its moment in other months. But it seems that after har-umphing through February, March, and April, the community finally starts to shed the gray skies and attitude and come to life again.

Don’t get me wrong, nothing wrong with hunkering down through snow, sleet, and dismal rain. We all need a rest in order to burst forth with renewed energy.

An example of this is my schedule in the past week. Last Friday, May 19, I was handing out cherry cheesecake parfaits at Gallery Night hosted by the Erie Art Museum. I was hanging out in the basement with filmmaker Tom Weber, who was screening his new film about Erie, and entrepreneur and caterer Tammy Lyn Fox, who is planning to transform the former Greg’s Place in the basement into a kitchen incubator for those starting out in the food business – from bakers to spice makers.

The basement started filling at 7 p.m. and steamed in until the last cheesecake disappeared just before 10 p.m.

Down Home Days, sponsored by Karen Duran of Duran’s Farm Fresh Foods in Waterford, kicked off Saturday with the Chef’s Cast Iron Challenge. Eight teams volunteered to cook mystery ingredients over an outdoor fire in several categories (fruit, protein, etc.). The mystery ingredients were revealed hours before they need to present dishes to judges. I was one of the judges in the fruit category, where the secret ingredient was dates. These teams were outstanding, coming up with dishes such as chocolate baklava, jerked chicken and dates, stuffed pork chops, scones (mmmmm), and three separate dishes from the Lucky Charms.  Swine Dining, with the superb pork chops, won overall.

On Monday, I headed down to Meadville to meet with Chauteau Christine owner Christine Yamrick, who left her newspaper job to follow her heart with her divine retail space in Meadville and Indiana, Pa. There’s something for just about everyone here – from gifts, to beautiful bags, to clothing, to jewelry. Think preppy meets bling. And more. Christine will be a vendor at the wonderful Barber National Institute Ladies Only Luncheon in November. The lunch is a major fundraiser for BNI, which helps so many special needs children in our community (including my own).

I rejoined Fox on Tuesday for the Mercy Center for Women’s Purse and Pearl luncheon at the Bayfront Convention Center. Fox, who owns Taste of Zion catering, was selling her lovely compound butters. Trust me, her Mediterranean and Garlic Parmesan are to die for (I’m a savory person on this front), along with her new Thai Curry (red). But if you are a pancake, scone, or English muffin fan – she has plenty of options, such as orange cranberry, cinnamon, maple pecan, etc. All kinds of entrepreneurial women were selling before the luncheon, such as Park Lane’s Valerie Weaver (aka the mall’s fashionista on the local news), Simply Scarves Janet Kassir, Studio Z’s Sue Zimmerman, and so many more.

On Wednesday, I was meeting with the lovely Keegan, from South One, and Luke, from A. Caplan Co. Keegan is a kitchen designer with extreme talent, having transformed my parents’ kitchen from dull to breathtaking with a giant lake view. Anyone who loves to cook knows about Caplan in Waterford, but many not know they also work in conjunction with South One on kitchen work. These two talented individuals are helping me with the kitchen planning for Meadballs, my dinner delivery service that will start this summer.

Later Wednesday, the snowbirds (aka my parents, M&D – Mike and Del or Mom and Dad) returned. So winter is officially over.

Thursday I was in Urbaniak Brothers, the butcher shop with the best meats, to stock up for the Memorial Day weekend. You can’t go wrong with anything there, but I have kale growing so some hot Italian sausage was just the ticket for a quick dinner. All I did was grab 2 handfuls of kale, 2 cloves of garlic, a half pound of sausage, some olive oil, and some cooked pasta. I had made macaroni salad earlier in the week, and instead of tossing the water out, I cooked what was left of some shells. Once drained, I refrigerated until I needed them.

The Russian Troika Festival starts this afternoon at the Church of the Nativity Community Center, 109 German Street, and runs through Sunday at 9 p.m.

Happy Memorial Day weekend. Let the summer begin!

XOXOXO

Marnie

Marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Kale and Sausage Pasta
This is one of those recipes that you can play with. Add more kale, substitute chard, or spinach. I used hot Italian sausage, but you can use any kind you like.
Course dinner
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course dinner
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a large pot of salted water, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. See note below about cooking kale with pasta if it is older or tougher.
  2. In a large nonstick skillet (large enough to hold the pasta), add olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. Then add garlic and saute for about 1 minutes. Add sausage (casings removed) and crumble with your spatula. Cook until no longer pink. If you kale is young, add now and cook for about 2 minutes. Then stir in pasta (or pasta and blanched kale) and stir to combine over heat. Remove from heat and serve.
Recipe Notes

If you are using a more mature kale leaf: I drop the kale into the boiling water with the pasta during the last 3 minutes of cooking. Then drain with the pasta and stir the whole mess in with the sausage and garlic and olive oil.

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How Does My Spring Garden Grow

The radishes are ready. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this. It’s the small things, I know.

You can hate radishes. That’s OK. I used to hate radishes too. They were either bitter or woody. Or just some sort of afterthought on a salad. Once you grow a vegetable, however, you are invested. I it is no longer the produce department reject. It is YOURS. You  coaxed a seed into a sprout into a radish. In May. When the only thing growing is the grass. The peonies aren’t even open yet.

And yet, there it is. A radish. Perfect in its red, white, and green.

Every year I get excited when I plant a vegetable, it grows, and  I can eat it. Some years, I’ve been so amazed, that I couldn’t bring myself to eat it. It was just so amazingly beautiful.

OK. I’m a vegetable geek. I blame it on 6 months of grey skies, snow, and rain.

Anyway, these little guys are delightful paired with a honeydew melon and cucumber salad.

The cucumbers aren’t mine and neither is the honeydew. The cucumbers are local, however. They are grown at Walker Farms in Edinboro. Honeydew won’t be around here for another couple of months. But the mint and basil are mine.

The recipe is pretty simple. Cut up melon (any kind), cucumber (peeled), and toss with basil and mint. Add radish, if you like. Squeeze some lemon juice on top. Salt and pepper to taste.

My garden currently has cucumbers, potatoes, zucchini, tomatoes, chard, arugula, kale, eggplant, and beets planted. It will be awhile before anything else is ready. Until then, I make do with whats available.

The recipe I’ve included today has been in my “to try” folder for several months. I finally remembered why I had Tater Tots in the freezer and pulled them out. Essentially, the tots are a shortcut to a thick potato pancake, which can be topped with all kinds of ingredients. I made one with salmon and caviar for my daughter. Mine had prosciutto, brie, mustard, and arugula. We could only eat half – consider that fair warning – but the leftovers worked well the next day for breakfast.

Once potatoes are in season, I’ll be adding a similar recipe (no tots, but sliced potatoes cooked until crisp) to the Meadballs menu for delivery in the fall. Until then … See you at the farm stands soon.

Marnie

Marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Tater Tot Waffle with Salmon and Caviar
Instructions
  1. This step is the same for either recipe: Heat an 8-inch waffle iron. Coat waffle iron with cooking spray. Spread 2 cups of the tots on it; sprinkle with salt. Close and cook on medium high until nearly crisp, about 5 minutes. Open the waffle iron and fill in any holes in the waffle with more tots, then close and cook until golden and crispy, 2 to 5 minutes.
  2. Cooking time will depend on heat of waffle iron.
  3. Place on a baking sheet in a 200-degree oven to keep warm.
  4. Repeat with the remaining tots.
  5. Salmon: Top each warm waffle with crème fraîche or sour cream, 3 slices smoked salmon, spoonful caviar, a few small sprigs of dill, capers and a squeeze of lemon juice. Surround with cucumber slices, salted. Repeat for each waffle.
  6. Prosciutto: In a small bowl, toss arugula with lemon juice. In a separate small bowl, mix together mayonnaise and mustard. Spread on top of waffle. Top with 1 ounce of cheese (tear it into 4 bits and divide equally on waffle top. Top with 3 slices of prosciutto. Return to waffle iron and press closed until cheese melts. Remove waffle from iron. Place on plate and top with 1/4 of arugula. Repeat for each waffle.
  7. Adapted from Food&WIne
Recipe Notes

You could, of course, add radishes to either one of these 😉

Adapted from http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/tater-tot-waffles-smoked-salmon-and-caviar

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Do You Want to go to Paris with Me?

In less than a month, my daughter and I will be boarding a plane for Charles de Gaulle airport to spend a week in Paris. This is part birthday trip for me, and part research to plan for a trip next year with Life Can Be A Trip, a travel and tour company in Erie run by Denise Padden and Ginny Rogers.

They were both Erie Day School teachers when the idea to create a travel company, starting by taking middle schoolers without their parents to Europe. Times and terrorism have changed their business plan, which now focuses on trips to Europe with adults.

My first trip with Padden and Rogers was five years ago, when I went with them on one of their last tours with students. We were late comers to the group, so my mother, daughter, and I stayed in an apartment near the Eiffel Tower and joined the tour each morning. It was my third visit to Paris and it was fabulous.

I’ve since gone with them to Greece and Italy, both times as part of a food tour. It combines my passion for understanding all parts of a country – by experiencing all the senses, not just the looking and walking part.

I’ve wanted to add a food tour to Paris as part of their offerings for a couple of years, but bombings and terrorism have kept interest at bay. I know I run more risk of being killed on I-90 every day than a week in Paris, so I’m packing my bags and we’re heading to the City of LIghts next month.

I’ll be checking out food tours, especially cooking schools and walking tours around Le Marais, in the hopes that I can return in 2018 with a group from Erie. If interested, please e-mail me or comment on this blog. You can also visit, Life Can Be A Trip’s Facebook page. My daughter and I will have a de-lightful time. And I hope you will consider making this trip of a lifetime with me next year.

If Paris isn’t your ideal spot, then consider Sicily. Since we had such a fantastic time in the Chianti region outside Florence, it’s time to head south. We have a fabulous guide lined up and are in the planning stages for May 2018 – that’s just a year away. All of the regions of Italy are fantastic, but Sicily is a special spot. The largest island off the boot of Italy, the residents consider themselves more Sicilian than Italian. It has been in the hands of the Greeks, Germans, Arabs, Normans, Spaniards, and independent. Even after Italian unification, Sicily remained independent of Mussolini during World War II.

Because it is a volcanic island, the region is rich in citrus, tomatoes, almonds, grapes (wine), and pistachios.

This will be one very fun trip.

If you aren’t in to cooking (and not everyone is), you just need to be into eating. We learn and visit many farms, and spend parts of the day with cooking lessons to cook a large meal most days (sometimes lunch, sometimes dinner).

Food is a fabulous way to understand culture and meet new people, even if you don’t speak the language. Because the language of food, and adventure, is universal.

To get ready, I’m cooking up some simple recipes that transport me to Paris with little effort. For my daughter, that means crepes. In her mind, there is only one type, those filled with Nutella. For me, it’s a mesclun salad (le salade) with bacon (lardons) and a poached egg (oeuf). It’s simple, but oh so delicious – made more so when you are sitting in a bistro people watching.

Bonne journee

Marnie

marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Do You Want to go to Paris with Me?
Cuisine French
Servings
Cuisine French
Servings
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Tips on Being a Domestic Goddess

Tuesdays are the day I embrace my inner domestic goddess. Embrace might be too generous a word. So too would be domestic goddess.

Tuesdays are really a drudgery day. The day when I vacuum. Mop the floors. Dust. Etc. Once a month, I try to iron. Sometimes I throw some real domestic goddess activities into the mix, such as stitching up a new chair cushion, complete with cording. Or play around with vegetarian recipe that doesn’t rely on fat and sugar for flavor.

Heavens, I’d make a great wife.

Right … Did that once. Wasn’t all that great at it. The whole women can have it all – work, mother, take care of the house, wife – just didn’t pan out. For me, too many balls kept getting dropped. Panic attacks popped up unexpectedly. I pretty much felt like a failure at everything.

Start your day with a walk to appreciate all of nature’s beauty. It somehow makes cleaning up the mud tracked in by the dog a little better.

That’s in the past. I made a few changes along the way. Still a mother. My work is a, well, work in progress. No longer a wife.

Alas, the take care of the house piece remains. It’s a much smaller house, a condo with half the square footage of my prior residence. The wonderful Dawn, friend and house cleaner extraordinaire, retired. Because I am developing a business instead of working full time, I clean now.

One adult, one teen girl, and one large dog all contribute to the clutter, mud, spills, and dust that manage to settle into the space each week.

Why Tuesday? Because I’ve tried Saturdays – and that just ruined the weekend. Over the past year, I’ve settled into Tuesdays, in part because if I don’t get it done, there’s always Wednesday or Thursday, or next week.

So today, a Tuesday, I am sharing 5 goddess tips:

  1. Don’t drink too much coffee before you clean the toilets. Nothing worse than getting a toilet all nice and clean, complete with blue bowl, and then you have to pee in it.
  2. If you are looking to entertain yourself and have pets, try some lemon Pledge on the dust mop on the wood floors. Then I let in the dog, an 85-pound mixed breed, who slides from front door straight to the back, complete with mud path, which is so much easier to wipe up courtesy of that Pledge shine.
  3. Keep a microfiber cloth and bathroom cleaner in the shower. Kills two birds with one stone if you can wipe down the bath after you shower.
  4. Magic Erasers are a gift to the domestic goddess. They clean white sinks like nobody’s business, not to mention finger marks on doors and walls.
  5. I’m all for the environment, but a glug or two of bleach in the toilet about an hour before you clean it makes all the difference in the world.
    Bonus tip: Send your kid over to the neighbor’s house after school so you can bask in the cleanliness for an hour or so.

Oh, and don’t expect dinner tonight. I just cleaned the kitchen.

However, there is some leftover Cowboy Caviar (bean salad) in the fridge from yesterday. The goddess is going to surrender her toilet wand and kick back with some well-deserved Netflix.

Ta-ta

Marnie

Marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Day of the Domestic Goddess
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, stevia, lemon and lime juices, cider vinegar, chili powder, and salt. Add tomatoes, black-eyed peas, beans, corn, red onion, and bell peppers. Stir to combine. Stir in cilantro. Cover and chill at least 1 hour or overnight to blend flavors. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
  2. Let sit at least an hour before serving.
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