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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February Fun: Sunday Sauce on Wednesday

I once wrote that February, for me, felt like a month of Wednesdays. Wednesday is a day you just can’t wait to be over because it brings you that much closer to the weekend. Once February is over, I’m that much closer to spring.

I could choose to just hunker down under the covers and wait for the month to pass. Instead I strap on the cleats, rain boots, or snow shoes – depending on the day – and stomp into the rain, wind, snow, sleet, mud, and trudge on.

It’s also a month I like to mix things up a bit. Otherwise, we’re just looking at one gray day after another. Thankfully there are fewer days.

Last year,  I mixed things up a bit. After a lifetime of being a brunette, about 20 of them involving various hair dyes, I wanted to embrace the gray. I knew I was mostly gray to begin with, because my hair coloring sessions were coming alarmingly closer together. I’d wake up, and there would be the tell-tale gray line of demarcation – brown vs gray. If you were taller than my 5-foot-6-inches, it was clear to see.

This was one of those seemed like a good idea at the time moments. I spent hours in a salon having the color stripped out, bleaching, and dyeing. I was using the experience for a story in a women’s publication, talking about the trend to go gray, or “granny hair.”

There are two things at work here, though:

  1. Granny hair looks great when you aren’t a granny. The glowing complexion of youth in contrast to the gray does not make you look old. Gray on gray does.
  2. It is surprisingly difficult to dye your hair a pretty shade of gray.

I was going for a silver that some of my Irish relatives with dark hair have achieved naturally, including my father.

Alas, I could not go gray unnaturally. Or at least an attractive shade of gray. I had various mixes of browns, mud, pinks, and battleship gray. In the end, I became a platinum blonde.

It’s closer to my natural shade than brunette. It requires less maintenance.

Along those lines, I have been mixing up meals. Sometimes we have breakfast for dinner. We tried appetizers for dinner – deviled eggs topped with salmon roe, and avocado toast topped with salmon.

Today we’re having Sunday sauce on Wednesday. Why?

Because Sunday sauce in a slow cooker is perfect for a weeknight meal. Plus, there was plenty to freeze for another night.

What is Sunday sauce? Sometimes it is called Sunday gravy. Essentially it is two or three cuts of meat cooked for a long time with tomatoes. I typically make mine with beef ribs, sausage, and pancetta. Some people use the ribs, sausage, and meatballs. You can serve it over spaghetti, penne, mashed potatoes, tortellini, or polenta.

Whatever day of the week you serve it, I trust you will enjoy it.

XOXOXO

marnie

marniemead@gmail.com

Print Recipe
Slow Cooker Sunday Sauce
If you are going to make this with meatballs, make your own meatballs (or buy frozen) and bake them so they are partially cooked through. Add them during the final 15 to 30 minutes of simmering.
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 8 hours
Servings
people
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 8 hours
Servings
people
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season the beef with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat until browned all over. Transfer the beef to the slow cooker, cover and turn it on to high. Add the sausages to the slow cooker.
  2. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and add the pancetta. Cook until brown and the fat has mostly rendered out, about 5-7 minutes. Add the onion and garlic. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes
  3. Add the red wine and stir to release any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet. . Bring the wine to a boil and cook until reduced by half, about 4 minutes.
  4. Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker and add the thyme, rosemary and water.
  5. Add the tomatoes and their juices and the tomato puree to the slow cooker.
  6. Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours or low on 8 hours.
  7. Transfer the beef to a bowl and remove it from the bone. Shred with 2 forks or with a knife. Return the meat to the cooker (lid off) and simmer the sauce on high for 15 to 30 minutes longer.
  8. Discard the thyme and rosemary sprigs and season the sauce with salt and pepper.
  9. Serve over pasta, mashed potatoes, or polenta with grated pecorino Romano cheese.
Recipe Notes

This recipe is adapted from Food & Wine

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When Game Day is Over: Go Meatless on Monday

Why am I writing about a meatless Monday recipe on a Friday? It’s not because I want the weekend to be over. Heavens no. It’s so you have time to prepare. It’s Super Bowl Sunday, after all, and if all the TV shows and food blogs are to be believed, you are going to have eaten your way through nachos, chicken wings, dips, and chili. And washed it all down with beer.

And you are going to feel very bloated on Monday.

One way to help with that is to skip the meat on Monday. I’d recommend skipping dairy, too. Which is why this recipe might be just the ticket to feeling better by Tuesday.

This recipe doesn’t require a lot of preparation. But it will require a trip to Wegmans or your fave grocery store unless you have a  stash frozen cauliflower and spinach in your house.  If not, and if you are an introvert like me, then you want to avoid Wegmans on Sunday because that is THE place to be.

I routinely forget this, despite shopping there since the doors opened 20-some years ago. Invariably, I will go in there after taking the dog for a long walk at Asbury Woods. Since wood walkers don’t care what you look like, I typically look like a 50-some-year-old woman who rolled out of bed, brushed her teeth, and put a leash on a 90-pound dog. Sometimes my hair is so bad, I wear a hat.

Of course, that can make things worse. I will take the hat off in Wegmans and have a combination of bed head and hat hair.

It is not pretty.

I keep lipstick and lip gloss in the cup container of my car. So I try to swipe some of that on before I head in to Wegmans. It doesn’t really help. Because now I have bad hair and lipstick. So it’s kinda like a car wreck: You try to look away, but can’t.

Of course, I could take the time and shower and put on makeup. But I’m really just taking a walk in the woods, enjoying nature. I might scare a few squirrels along the way, but that just gives the dog some amusement. This is why I have a dog. He doesn’t care what I look like. He’s just happy I take him for long walks.

So, if you do see me in Wegmans on Sunday morning, please don’t think I’m rude or that I’m avoiding you. OK, I might be avoiding you. But only because I really need to go home and take a shower.

My latest strategy is to go to Wegmans late on Saturday night when all of you are out on date night, or whatever married couples do these days. Then it’s just me and the high college kids with the munchies.

Because you aren’t  burying this dish in loads of cheese – the veggies really need to star. The key is a really good marinara sauce. You can make your own or use a jarred variety. Read the label and pick one without any added sugar. I like Rao’s (expensive, but very tasty), Newman’s Own, Classico Reserva (read the label to make sure you are getting the right Classico). Some others that I haven’t tried are Amy’s and Victorios.

The second secret is to buy frozen riced cauliflower. I bought the already seasoned kind, but that was an accident. Buy the unflavored kind and control your sodium and spices.

This may be made with shells, which you will need to cook, or fresh sheets of pasta, which you don’t. If you are vegan, you will want to buy the dried lasagna noodles and cook them briefly so they are pliable to roll.

Go team! Happy weekend! Feel good about yourself!

XOXOXO

marnie

marniemead@gmail.com

Print Recipe
Vegetarian Lasagna Rollups
This is a vegetarian lasagna that can also be vegan, if you choose to make your own pasta or buy pasta made with no eggs. If you buy the dried pasta sheets or lasagna noodles, you will need to cook them for 3 to 3 minutes in boiling water, drain, and run under cold water, in order to use them in this dish. If you want more of the American lasagna flavor, add some grated Parmesan or mozzarella cheese to the spinach mixture and top with cheese.
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Microwave the spinach and the cauliflower according to the package directions. Drain spinach into a colander to drain and cool.
  2. In a food processor, puree the riced cauliflower with the salt, pepper, garlic powder, and Italian seasonings. Add milk or broth 1 tablespoon at a time, until it has a ricotta-like consistency. Mix in nutmeg and lemon zest.
  3. Spread equal amounts of cauliflower mixture on to each sheet of pasta. Count on 1 to 2 sheets per person, depending on appetite. Top with spinach. Sprinkle with cheese, if desired. Roll up.
  4. I used a slow cooker for this. You can use a 9-inch-by-9-inch or a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan (depends on how many roll ups you made).
  5. Spread some sauce on the bottom of the slower cooker insert or in your pan (about 1/3 of the jar). Place the rolled up pasta seam side down in your pan. Cover with remaining marinara sauce. Cook in slow cooker for 2 hours on low. Or put in a 400-degree oven for about 20 minutes. If you put cheese on top, it should be bubbly and hot.
  6. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes (otherwise they don't hold together). Slice and arrange on plates with some sauce. Sprinkle with cheese (or cheese substitute). You can garnish with some chopped parsley to make the plate pretty.
Recipe Notes

If you want to make your own pasta without eggs, follow Mario Batali's recipe here.

My pasta recipe is 1 egg to 1 cup flour, adding water if necessary to finish binding it.

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Craving Green After Holiday Indulgences

Christmas week and the days leading into the new year are all about indulgences. We indulge our family, friends, and ourselves. Retailers count on it … who doesn’t buy a little something for themselves when out or online shopping?

And the food … please. I’ve baked dozens of cookies. And made bags of toffee topped with the best Virginia peanuts I’ve ever eaten. I made stacks of crepes, layered with Nutella, for Christmas morning. The theme for the past month was, “Why not?”

When my daughter, who is 14, asked for 365 T-shirts for Christmas, I thought, “Why not?” Why not, indeed. She was looking for an easy way to get ready for school each morning. Just put on a T-shirt, jeans, high-tops, and head to school. No worries about having worn it yesterday, or the day before.

Why not? Because American Eagle T-shirts cost nearly $30 for a plain, long-sleeved T.

When I mentioned this to a friend, she paused. “I get it,” she said. Instead of 365, she suggested 30. A month of T-shirts.

That was in November. I spent the next month hitting up every sale, both online and in stores, buying soft T-shirts. I hit the Old Navy $4 sale, 50 percent off sales, BOGO sales. On Dec. 21, I counted 24 shirts. By Dec. 23, when I wrapped, I had 28 (I would have had 30, but realized there were two duplicates). By the time Christmas Day was over, she had 37 T-shirts (courtesy of friends and family).

I bought 25 hangers (no, I wasn’t mean enough to wrap them). So each shirt has its own hanger. No more stuffing into drawers. No more “I don’t have anything to wear” (at least for a couple of weeks).

The total cost was about what I paid one year for an iPod.

Now that we are through Christmas, and the New Years is approaching, I am looking to scale back on the indulgences. Back to the budget. The extra Christmas cookies went into the trash when I realized I had eaten nothing for an entire day but cookies and toffee. And I wondered why I was bloated, had no energy, and was passing more gas than is experienced after Super Bowl party.

It’s time to switch gears and get more fruits and veggies into the system. The Utica greens recipe – named for an area of New York where they are popular – isn’t exactly dietetic. But it does make a meal based on greens. It is one of my favorites.

Enjoy your holidays.

XOXOXO

marnie

marnie@marniemeadmedia.com

Print Recipe
Utica Greens
Cuisine American, Italian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
side dish servngs
Ingredients
Cuisine American, Italian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
side dish servngs
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Bring 5-quart stock pot filled with 1 tablespoon sea-salted water to a boil. Add escarole and cook until tender (about 1-2 minutes if using Wegmans chopped escarole; about 5 minutes if yours is tougher). Drain.
  2. Reserve about 2 tablespoons each of breadcrumbs and cheese for topping. Mix remaining breadcrumbs with cheese, oregano and pepper.
  3. In a large ovenproof saute pan, heat butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add cooked greens to pan and stir to combine. Mix in chopped peppers, prosciutto, breadcrumbs/cheese mixture. Top with remaining breadcrumbs and cheese.
  4. Heat oven to broil. Place casserole under broiler for 4 to 6 minutes until brown, checking frequently. Remove from oven and allow to rest about 15 minutes before serving.
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