Tell-All Tuesday: What Does a Blogger Do?

Today, I am sitting here drinking day-old coffee, reheated, and munching on ginger cookies. The coffee is still better than anything I can get at most restaurants. The ginger cookies are part of my baking marathon from Sunday and Monday.

That doesn’t answer what a blogger does. Mainly because every blogger is a little bit different. It’s the same as in the news business. Every reporter has his or her own routine. I knew one reporter who had to wipe off his desk, line all his pens and pencils up in order, and then begin to write. Another kept apples lined up on his desk, and ate his way through them during the day. I used to smoke. It would take at least 1 cigarette before I could start a story, and then I would smoke my way through half a pack to finish it. When smoking was banned, I was afraid I’d never be able to write a story again.

I could. And I did. I developed other writing tics. I would walk around a lot. Sometimes I played loud dance music in my earbuds, while bouncing on a chair ball at my desk. I had a drawer filled with chocolates.

When I left the corporate world, I set up a desk at home. It’s a dedicated writing space. I live in a two-bedroom condo with a teen daughter, so there’s not a lot of spare room. I could have put my spot in the basement, but I need natural light and a window to work. My desk is a lot neater now, mainly because it is visible from just about every part of the condo, except the bedrooms. I still like to walk around a lot. I try not to have the TV on, but sometimes I like the company.

Even though I write about food and travel, I don’t watch the Food Network or the Travel channel. I used to love the Food Network, but the transformation into competitive cooking doesn’t feed my soul. I will sometimes tune into Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) because I would like to be her. Although not really. Marriage and I don’t agree. I’m not a Hamptons kind of girl. I could never figure out the coded language of the super wealthy, whether it was cocktail conversation or wearing the right sandals. I’ve been called refreshing, which I did figure out was code for she doesn’t fit in.

But I do like her recipes. They work, unlike Martha Stewart’s, which I always have trouble with. I’m working my way through a fourth revision of a muffin recipe of hers that I SOOOO want to work. It will. Although I will be sporting a muffin top until I get it right and can stop eating the rejects.

But I’m still not answering what a blogger does.

We share. Sometimes we share personal stories of parenting, recipes, dating, vacations, fashion, beauty, etc. These are like online diaries. Some write for money, blogging about products or services. Some mix the two, ideally telling you that they are writing about this particular mascara or retirement planning community because they are compensated for it. That’s usually when you see the “sponsored” label.

For those who aren’t paid to push a product, like me, blogging is like “Living Out Loud,” to borrow from a book title by Anna Quindlen. In the ancient pre-Internet days, newspapers picked certain people to write about particular topics. They are columnists. And their audience was the typical newspaper reader. Women were assigned, primarily, to the LifeStyle sections until Quindlen came around.  She won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1992 for her New York Times column, Public and Private.

The difference is bloggers have no built-in audience, like a newspaper has with its subscribers. So we sit at our desks, or on our couches, or in our beds, and write into space. Then we push publish. Sometimes we get comments. Sometimes not.

So, to answer the question of what is a blogger, the answer is we are writers. Like most writers, we fall into different categories: cooking, self-help, memoir, sports, etc. Some of us are more successful than others financially. Some of us are better than others.

But none of us have to rely on a white middle-aged guy in a corner office deciding whether we have something to say. Anyone with an e-mail account and some basic Web skills can become a blogger. Ultimately, it’s the readers/followers who decide if we have something to say.

I joined a group recently of women entrepreneurs. We meet every week in small groups, and twice a month in a larger group. We are the Black Diamond Divas, part of the Coffee Club Divas started and run by Heidi Parr-Kerner. I have accountability partners now – women to talk to. I asked them to give me some feedback. One of the suggestions was to try adding themes to my writing. So Sunday is Sunday Suppers now. Tuesday will be a Tell-All day, to give you more about the person and motivation behind this blog. I am working on an idea for the third blog of the week, but don’t have it down yet. All will have a recipe.

Today’s is about ginger. (Writer trick – tying this back to the lede paragraph). I’m a ginger fiend. I like it in teas, cookies, kombucha, cookies, and cake. The pickled ginger that comes with sushi is among the many reasons I order it. If you don’t eat yours, I might not be polite enough to ask before nabbing it with my chopsticks.

I love this time of year when I have every reason to make gingerbread cakes. My daughter isn’t as big a fan, but she does love cream cheese frosting. So I combined the two, along with some spiced pears   that I had in the fridge from another blog post last month.

I’ve included the recipe I made for ginger cake from Fine Cooking.  But, in all honesty, I love the King Arthur Flour Gingerbread Cake and Cookie mix, which is on sale right now. Plus, spend there is a promotion if you spend $50 , you get shipping for $3.95 (normally $10 or more).

Happy baking

XOXOXO

Marnie

Marnie@MarnieMeadMedia.com

Print Recipe
Ginger Cake Trifle
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Passive Time 1 hour or overnight
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Passive Time 1 hour or overnight
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8-inch square cake pan, or line with aluminum foil or parchment (have a small overhang) that is coated in cooking spray. If you line the pan, then you can just pull the cake out once it is baked and cooled.
  2. Whisk flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, cloves, and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed using an electric mixer (hand or stand) until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add both sugars and beat on medium speed until well combined. With mixer on low speed, add molasses. Slowly add one-third of dry ingredients and combine until just mixed. Add one-third of the buttermilk and mix to combine. Repeat until you have used all the dry ingredients and the buttermilk. Do not over beat. Scape into baking pan.
  4. Bake in center of oven until a toothpick comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let the cake cool completely in the pan. Remove from pan and cut into small cubes.
  5. In the meantime make the Cream Cheese Whipped Cream by whipping the cream cheese in a small bowl until soft and fluffy.
  6. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer (stand or hand) to whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Scrape in the cream cheese and continue whipping on high speed until it forms stiff peaks. Beat in the sugar and vanilla. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  7. I had some spiced pears, http://meadballs.com/recipe/fall-pairs-well-with-pears/, in the fridge and used these as well. Or you can add some leftover cranberry sauce.
  8. To assemble, put a cube of cake in the bottom of a glass or cover the bottom of a trifle dish with gingerbread cubes. Put a dollop or two of Cream Cheese Whipped Cream in the glass, or cover cake with dollops in trifle dish. If you desire, add a layer of spiced pear or some cranberry, then repeat until you are at the top of your glass serving dish.
  9. This will make 4 to 8 servings, depending on the size of your glass. I used very large red wine glasses, so it made 4, with leftovers.
Recipe Notes

NOTE: I used 1 tablespoon gingerbread spice mixture instead of the ginger, cinnamon, cloves.

Adapted from theKitchn.com and FineCooking.com

To make the spiced pears, peel pears, cut in half and core. Place into a pot that has come to a simmer with:

Cook for about 10 minutes, or until soft but not falling apart. Remove from syrup, reserving it. Slice or dice pears you are using. Any you are not can be stored in a glass jar with the syrup.

 

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Taste-Testing Weekend for Sweetie Pie

One thing has always been a constant in my life through high school, college, new job in a different city, marriage, motherhood, illness, divorce, and the sale of the family-owned business – my passion for baking. No matter how crazy, hectic, bad, good, or in between, I have found peace in the kitchen with flour, water, yeast, sugar, and butter. Sometimes, it was just flour, water, and yeast. Oftentimes, it was more ingredients, such aimg_0029-1s fresh or dried fruits, cinnamon, and nuts.

My earliest memory is of making pies, although I’m sure I learned to make cookies first. My neighbor in Warren, Mrs. Levinson, was my teacher. I’ve carried her lessons through today: measure first, but rely on touch, and be patient. You can’t hurry dough. If you try, it doesn’t taste very good. Now you have wasted both money and time on a poor outcome.

In college, I baked bread, pies, and lasagna for co-workers at the student newspaper. When roommates took me home for the Jewish holidays, I learned to bake challah and make kugel. Later, baking cakes for the birthdays of co-workers was one of my ways to give back to a new work family I had in Illinois for five years. I think I enjoyed the joy the cakes brought as much as the recipient. As I traveled in the U.S. and Canada, I used restaurants as inspiration for new dishes. If I didn’t like a dish, I’d try to figure out how to make it better. It’s how I learned the importance of seasoning meats before cooking them, why not to skimp on the quality of goat cheese or feta for a salad (or any ingredient that will be the star of a dish), the importance of real butter in baking. There’s plenty more, but I’ll save those for another time.

I’ve baked my way through breakups, bosses, therapists, and rehab. The boyfriends, bosses, therapists and booze are long gone. My baking pans – dented, blackened, and otherwise loved – are still with me.

I’ve been looking for signs to tell me what to do now that I’m not in the newspaper business anymore. It took conversations with Tammy Lyn Fox (Taste of Zion), Lisa Heidelberg (Dinner is Served by Lisa), Anthony Perino (formerly of Frankie & May), and Heidi Lutz (Juice Jar), to help me to open the door to what my future might be.

Conversations led me to the Erie County Department of Health to sign up for the food safety food management certification. Classes start next week.

By Saturday morning, I had a name: Sweetie Pie, a food truck business to open in 2017. The specialties? Pies, homemade granola parfaits, and cheesecakes served in half-pint mason jars. Also on the menu? Sticky buns, scones, cookies, coffee, and teas. At least that’s the current thought, because next up was to begin an outline of a business plan. A guiding principle will be a focus on local ingredients and a minimal impact on the planet, so compostable cups, napkins, serving ware and, of course, the reusable mason jars.

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Three hours later, I needed a creative break. I opened the cupboards and pulled out the baking pans. Then I pulled my favorite recipes out of the folders (both online and paper).

This  will be a long, and sweet, journey.

Happy baking.

XOXOXO

Marnie

marnie@marniemeadmedia

 

Print Recipe
Sticky Buns
Course breakfast
Cuisine American
Servings
sticky buns
Ingredients
Course breakfast
Cuisine American
Servings
sticky buns
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. You will need 3 (three) 9-inch square pans or 4 round cake pans for this recipe, which makes about 3 dozen rolls.
  2. Dough: Sprinkle yeast over water and whisk to blend. Let sit until yeast is foamy, about 5 minutes. Whisk in beaten eggs.
  3. Heat milk and butter in a saucepan over medium heat on the stove or in a glass bowl in the microwave until butter is melted. Remove from heat.
  4. Combine remaining sugar, flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add milk mixture and incorporate. With mixer running, add proofed yeast. Keep mixer running on medium-high speed, kneading until dough is soft and silky, about 5 minutes.
  5. Grease a medium bowl with some butter (from the wrapper); place dough in bowl. Brush top of dough with melted butter; cover with plastic wrap. If you don't have time to make sticky buns, you can refrigerate the dough overnight and then remove from the refrigerator and continue.
  6. Let dough rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours (or 2 to 2 1/2 hours if dough has been refrigerated).
  7. In the meantime, make the filling and topping.
  8. Filling: In an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and kosher salt until light and fluffy. Set filling aside.
  9. Topping: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread out nuts on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast until fragrant, 10-12 minutes. Let cool completely.
  10. Melt butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar, honey, corn syrup, salt, and orange zest, if using. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer until glaze is golden brown and glossy, 3-4 minutes. Pour into bottoms of prepared pans. Divide nuts evenly among the pans.
  11. When dough has doubled, punch it down and divide into two. Place on floured work surface. Lightly dust top with flour.
  12. Roll out one dough ball on a lightly floured surface into a 10-by-12-inch rectangle about 1/4-inch thick. Place dough so one long side faces you. Spread 1/2 of the cinnamon-sugar mixture over dough, leaving a 1-inch plain border on the side farthest from you.
  13. Beginning with the long edge closest to you, roll dough into a log, tightening as you roll, and patting in ends if they begin to taper. Pinch together the seam where the long side meets the roll to seal. Arrange the log seam side down on the work surface.
  14. Using a large knife, cut the log crosswise into 12 to 15 equal pieces. Lightly flour the knife between slices if the dough is too sticky. Turn the buns cut side up and gently pat the top to flatten slightly. If needed, reshape to form round edges by cupping lightly floured hands around each bun and gently pushing and turning them in a circular motion. Place the buns in prepared pans; space them evenly apart (buns should not touch each other).
  15. Repeat with second ball of dough and filling.
  16. Loosely cover pan with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel.
  17. Let buns rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  18. Arrange a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 350 degrees.
  19. Bake, rotating pan halfway through and tenting with foil if browning too quickly, until buns are golden brown, filling is bubbling, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of buns registers 185 degrees, about 50 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack.
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Squash’s Savory Side

img_4734The change of seasons can be measured by the moon, the landscape (trees turning color), and my furniture. When the sun comes later in the morning and sets earlier in the evening, I spend more time inside. And when I’m inside, I stare at the furniture. And think of ways my home could be more comfortable.

I could spend lazy Sundays reading the New York Times, which I do. But I’m also eyeballing the chair no one sits in, including me. And, instead of contemplating the debate between the two presidential candidates, I am thinking that the leather recliner needs to move to the basement. And I need to call the Erie City Mission to deal with the rest of the rejects that are in the basement.

What I really should be doing is working on a business plan to open a bakery or cafe, but instead I’m procrastinating. If, perhaps, I find the right flow in the house, then, perhaps, the business plan can just be channeled from the universe through my fingers and onto the computer. Failing that, I move furniture. And bake.

I’ve got a few pumpking/squash items yet still to test. I had the most divine pumpkin bread pudding with a maple ice cream in Maine that I am trying to replicate. That recipe will be coming once I finish tasting. But the cooler temps remind me that pumpkin isn’t just for sweets. It can take on savory flavors just as easily as sweet. One of my favorites is to serve chile over roasted sweet potatoes in their jackets or over a pile of roasted and mashed butternut, acorn or pumpkin squash.

The Italians pair pumpkin and sausage, or zucca e salsiccia, with pasta. The faint sweetness of the squash with the Italian sausage is perfectly complementary. It’s a fall favorite around our house. You can make it will canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie) or roast a pie pumpkin, acorn squash, or butternut squash. Or bake all three if you have them courtesy of your CSA, scoop, and stash in a container in the fridge. This way I have plenty of roasted squash on hand for any of my culinary needs because whether I’m baking one or three, it takes the same amount of time and cleanup (very little if you use a nonstick pan or foil).

Mangiamo!!

XOXOXO

Marnie

marnie@marniemeadmedia.com

Print Recipe
Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a heavy-bottomed pot large enough to hold the sauce and the pasta, heat olive oil and add sausage. Saute over medium to medium-high heat until it is browned.
  2. Remove sausage from pan, leaving enough oil in to saute the onion and the garlic. If there is too much grease, just drain until you have about 2 tablespoons again. Add the onion and cook until translucent, then add the garlic, cinnamon, and sage. Cook until fragrant.
  3. Return sausage to the pan of medium heat. Add the chicken stock and stir to get up any of the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. If the stock cooks down too quickly, add additional stock.
  4. Stir in pumpkin puree and cream. Stir until combined. Remove from heat. Taste and adjust seasonings for salt and pepper. This should sit for about 15 minutes to allow the flavors to mingle.
  5. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. With about 2 to 3 minutes left of the pasta cooking time, add the kale to the pot with the boiling water and pasta. Once the pasta is cooked, reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water before draining. Drain pasta.
  6. Return sauce pot to the stove over medium-low heat. Add pasta and stir to combine. If sauce is too thick, add some of the pasta water.
  7. Serve in bowls. Pass cheese and pepper flakes. This will serve 4-6, depending on appetites.
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Maine Trip Brings Local Tastes Home

img_4606Last week I packed my bags and headed north to the land of lobster and L.L. Bean. This is the state my great-grandmother, grandmother, and my mother all spent their summer vacations. As a graduate of a New England college, I am a fan of the fall  – with its bracing walks by the wind-swept sea and evenings in front of a fire.

The idea to head to Maine wasn’t mine originally. My beau has fond memories of summers with his family in Maine and points north. This was an opportunity for him to relive those childhood escapes with an adult spin. I researched and settled on the Beachmere Inn in Ogunquit, Maine, for its waterfront vista, fireplaces, and access to the Marginal Way, a 1-mile path gifted to Ogunquit in 1925 that runs between Ogunquit and Perkins Cove.

The weather gifted us with a mix of sun, rain and wind. We were able to take a swim, walk the Marginal Way, visit two lighthouses and eat lobster rolls and/or chowder every day. We were not able to whale watch due to winds out of the northeast at 20 mph on our designated trip day. No matter, we did get to Freeport to see the home of L.L. Bean (and quite a few other outlets),

We plotted out, using Trip Advisor, Yelp, and various food websites, the top lobster roll locations in our part of Maine, which extended from Kittery up to Freeport. We never had a bad lobster roll, starting with Bob’s Clam Hut in Kittery (our first), to the Lobster Shack in Perkins Cove, to Bite Into Maine in Cape Elizabeth. To me, the most interesting was Bite Into Main because it was:

1. A food truck and not a restaurant and

2. It was located in a park overlooking the Portland Head Light, a still-operating lighthouse that dates to 1791. Plus they had pumpkin whoopie pies, a delicious variation on the chocolate whoopie pie and a wonderfully Maine thing.

 

Maine is not all lobster rolls, although that would not be a bad thing. We enjoyed much fine dining along the way, as well. By far the favorite was Joshua’s Restaurant in Wells, Maine. The restaurant, located in a 230-year-old Colonial home (with newer additions), is owned by Chef Joshua Mather together with his parents, Mort and Barbara. Chef Mather gives credit to his parents, who were self-described “back-to-the-landers” whose income was derived from selling organic vegetables from the family’s 1-acre garden and a home-baking business.

Those principals guide Chef Mather today, whose restaurant is 6 miles from his family’s farm, which is today a certified organic farm that supplies the restaurant with eggs, vegetables, herbs, pears and apples. The seasonal menu is outstanding from the beet salad with spinach and goat cheese right down to the maple walnut pie with homemade maple ice cream for dessert. My beau enjoyed a heavenly appetizer of beef tenderloin skewered with rosemary and grilled and lobster pie.

Returning home again, refreshed and exhausted at the same time, I was inspired by the local sourcing. I adapted a recipe I saw in YouTube. I had apples from Post Apples CSA; along with onions from Hunter Farms CSA; a bone-in pork loin roast from McDonald’s Meat 10445 Ridge Road, Girard, local honey, purchased at Urbaniak Brothers in Erie, but also at Hunter Farms; and cinnamon. This would be good with roasted potatoes.

Hope you enjoy

 

XOXOXO

Marnie

marnie@marniemeadmedia.com

Print Recipe
Pork Loin Roast with Apples and Onions
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Rub salt and pepper all over the pork roast. Cut slices into the top of the fat cap, about 2 inches deep and about 1 to 1 1/2 inches apart. In a large skillet over medium high heat (or use your Ninja slow cooker on the stovetop setting), sear the exterior of the pork.
  2. Place pork into a slow cooker with the fat cap facing upward. Insert apple slices into cuts into the pork. Add onions around the bottom of the pork roast. Sprinkle with cinnamon and drizzle honey on top. Cover and cook for 3 hours on low.
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