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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Meatless Monday Salad

Easter break means a trip to visit my parents in Florida. We’ve been heading to Indian Rocks Beach, on the Gulf Coast, since my daughter was 3 or 4 – or about a decade.

It’s always like hitting the reset button. The changing colors of the water and sky; family connections; sun; even rain. It all adds up to recharging of batteries.

It’s also a great time to reset my taste buds as well. While I have great anticipation for the bounty that will come starting in late June – I’m get stuck in a rut when it comes to food after months of seeing the same items in the grocery store visit after visit.

But in Florida, the strawberry season is just starting the close. Fresh local citrus is still available. Fish is on every menu, and in the grocery store. I see the recipes my mother has posted on her refrigerator, and stacked on my father’s desk.

I’m surrounded by inspiration.

The very act of taking a trip, of seeing things in a different (literally) light, recharges my synapses. They start firing again.

This happens whenever I have a change of scenery – and why doctors suggest taking walks outside. The very act of getting out of a rut can help change how your brain thinks. This is why I walk the dog on different routes. If I see the same thing every day, even the act of taking the walk becomes routine. Although when it’s 20 degrees outside, it is hard to find the inspiration to walk a new route.

Today – the day after Easter – as I look at the colorful hard-cooked eggs, I am seeing something different. Instead of dreading them in egg salad, I am inspired to make a blueberry and spinach salad.

This is because of what my mother clipped out of People magazine and put on the fridge. I get People, but totally missed the salad. She saw the magazine with a different eye, and, as a result, we enjoyed a delightful salad that I’m sharing today.

If you want to use strawberries instead of blueberries, go ahead. Don’t like nuts – skip them. Or try roasted pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds. The crunch is nice. You can add shrimp, chicken, or salmon if you need more protein. Do try the dressing. It is delightful.

This is what I leave you with today – a salad for a meatless Monday. It’s a snap to make. Use whatever time you save to take a walk. It’s beautiful out there.

XOXOXO

marnie

marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Spinach, Blueberry, Avocado, and Cucumber Salad
Instructions
  1. Whisk together honey, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk in lemon juice. Slowly add in olive oil in a steady stream. Whisk constantly until mixture is thick. Taste. Adjust salt and pepper as needed.
  2. In a large bowl, toss spinach, blueberries and cucumber. Drizzle dressing over the salad. Toss to combine. Top with avocado, hard-cooked egg slices, and nuts
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Best Lunch Deal in Town

Every year I look forward to getting the invitation from North East resident and former Erie Times-News editor Jennifer Smith to go with her to the lunch offerings from the culinary students at Mercyhurst University’s North East campus.

On certain Wednesday and Fridays (details below) during March and April the students prepare a three-course lunch ($9) and serve it either on campus or at Lake View Country Club in North East.  Getting the meal from concept to table is part of the graduation requirements of the two-year culinary program at North East.

The program attracts students from ages 20 to 45 and graduates a dozen or more per year. From North East, the graduates head off to hospitality jobs throughout Erie and surrounding areas.

Serving the public will give students exposure to all that comes with a restaurant — including menu planning, staffing, budgeting and working with the public.

I headed out on Wednesday this week to Lake View Country Club (my first visit there) to sample the Taste of Winter menu by Brent Nusom. The meal opened with a roasted beet salad with goat cheese and candied walnuts; followed by beer-braised venison with rice and asparagus spears; and concluding with a chocolate bead pudding with homemade vanilla ice cream and caramelized bananas.

Nusom, like all the chefs in the lunch program, table hopped with his guests. He explained that he chose venison because his brothers are hunters, although he is not, and he knew they would be asking for ways to prepare it.

Overall, the setting and meal were delightful. Customers are asked to give feedback on cards for the chef and wait staff. This is part of the learning experience.  Many of these students wind up in local restaurants and hotels, so you can have a real impact on the Erie hospitality industry by just having lunch.

What a great way to spend a Wednesday or Friday lunch time.

 

Lunches with Mercyhurst North East
Either Mercyhurst North East or Lake View Country Club
Wednesdays or Fridays
March 29, April 5, 7, 12, and 21
Seating begins at 11:30 a.m.; lunch is served at noon. Reservations (required), 814-725-6333.
Menus: http://northeast.mercyhurst.edu/sites/northeast.mercyhurst.edu/files/uploads/%3Cem%3EEdit%20Simple%3C/em%3E%20For%20the%20Public%20/mne_spring17-menu.pdf
Lunches are $9 per person, including tax.

In case you ever want to make your own beet salad, here’s a simple way to roast beets.

Print Recipe
Roasted Beets
The beauty of these beets is you don't have to peel. Just wash, remove the green tops and save for another recipe, rub with oil and roast. When they have cooled, just take a paper towel and rub the outside of the beet to remove the skin.
Course lunch
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings
Ingredients
Course lunch
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Coat beets lightly with oil.
  3. Wrap beets in aluminum foil, place on a baking sheet, and roast in the oven until cooked through, about 45 to 60 minutes depending on the size.
  4. Remove from the oven, let cool for about 10 minutes. Use a paper towel to rub off the skin. Then slice or cube. Or put in a baggie in the fridge and cut when ready to use.
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Spring Closet Cleaning

Spring cleaning consumed the past two weekends. The warm weather is partly to blame. My daughter shares the rest.

Sometimes she helps me get dressed. A teen with a keen fashion sense of her own, I run outfit combinations by her from time to time when I’m trying to burst out of my uniform of leggings, tunic sweater and turtleneck. It’s the perfect way to hide the winter calories.

But, come the start of spring, the layers give way to … muffin tops and insecurity when getting dressed. My winter uniform hides a myriad of sins that spring strips away. As a result, I stand in front of not one, but two, closets filled with clothes.

And I have nothing to wear.

So I proclaim.

My daughter got tired of having her head bitten off when she dared say I looked “just fine.”  She politely suggested I call “that lady you interviewed who helps people with their closets.”

She was referring to Marian Taylor, owner of Simple Solutions for Living.

Clearly, I needed a closet intervention.

Marian not only assists the closet impaired like me, she specializes in downsizing. She helps people move into smaller homes (or new homes), especially empty nesters transferring to new digs without kids and seniors moving into assisted living.

If you have a parent moving – she’s the best. She makes the move so easy – and takes the stress off the the children by acting as an impartial arbiter of what stays and what goes. She doesn’t throw anything out unless you want her to, but she does have the tact to inquire just why you are keeping it.

She used this approach with my closet, which was filled with trips down memory lane: the skirt from Greece that I’ve worn once; the dress I bought when I didn’t have anything to wear to a funeral; the pants I bought on sale without trying on. Then there was the stuff that didn’t fit. And the stuff that looked great when I was a brunette, but does’t look so hot now that I’m a blonde.

By rehanging all my clothes – in order or color by category – we also discovered I had quite of few of the same items in the same color – just hanging in two different closets. Did I need 4 black skirts ? No. I don’t. Other people may have a different answer.

She also took the time to show me pairings of clothes. She took a blouse I liked, but had never worn, and matched it with a sweater I already had. I wore it this week. Now, when I head into the closet, I don’t stand there staring. I can see immediate outfit ideas.

Marian has a nifty app that allowed us to total up the charitable value of the clothes headed to the City Mission.

When we finished, she suggested a new organizer from ClosetMaid that would give me twice the space for the shirts and sweaters using a double rod system.

Marian is also a rep for Cabi, a clothing line that makes capsule dressing easy and fun. The colors coordinate from season to season. After cleaning so much black out of my closet, it was time to replace it with navy, which is much more flattering for me.

That was the weekend of Feb. 25. During the week, I ordered the closet organizer for my clothes. And other one for my shoes.

So the following weekend, I installed the closet organizer. It only took about 4 1/2 hours – it would take a pro a lot less. I think I spent an hour trying to find the studs in the closet wall. I spent another hour  to 90 minutes hanging and organizing.

The shoe organizing took another 90 minutes, 45 of which was assembling the new shoe rack. It is designed to hold 50 pair of shoes. Fifty should be plenty. I had to discard about 30 pair of shoes – some I could only wear for an hour or two because they hurt so much. Turns out I have a lot of black shoes.

Again – I’m a blonde now. Blue and beige are better choices.

But the new rule is: One in, one out (preferably two).

All this organizing means dinner hasn’t been particularly organized this week. Fortunately, I subscribe to one of those home meal prep delivery services. I’ve been trying out Hello Fresh (I’ve also tried Plated, Blue Apron, and Home Chef). I’ll write more about these later.

So I had a box with pork chops, sweet potato, and Brussels sprouts. I wasn’t fond of the recipe and directions, so I winged it. In less than 20 minutes, we had dinner. I pan seared the pork chops and finished it with a peach glaze from some peach preserves I had in the fridge. The Brussls sprouts were easy – they just went into a 400 degree oven with olive oil, salt and pepper, for about 10 to 12 minutes.

I hauled the Kitchen Aid out and attached the spiralizer and had sweet potato noodles in minutes. You could blanch them, but I tossed them into a skillet with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar. They could have gone into the oven with the Brussels sprouts if I had been thinking.

Sometimes we all need a hand with the basic tasks of living. Thanks to Marian, getting dressed takes just minutes. And thanks to the various meal services I’ve been trying, I was able to get dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes.

Now, if only those meals arrived already made …

XOXOXO

marnie

marniemead@gmail.com

Print Recipe
Pork Chops with Peach, Whiskey and Mustard Glaze
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Cook Time 15 minutes
Passive Time 5 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Cook Time 15 minutes
Passive Time 5 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  2. Pinch ground black pepper
  3. 1 teaspoons garlic powder<
  4. 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  5. 2 boneless pork chops, about 1/2-inch thick
  6. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  7. 1/4 cup chicken stock
  8. 2 tablespoons peach preserves
  9. 2 tablespoons bourbon or other whiskey
  10. 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  11. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  12. In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika. Season each pork
  13. chop generously on both sides and rub the mixture into the meat.
  14. Heat a nonstick oven-proof skillet on medium high heat. Add the olive oil and the seasoned pork chops. Sear on each
  15. side for 2 minutes to get a nice crust. Remove pork chops from the pan.
  16. Return the pan to medium heat. Add the whiskey and bring to a boil, then add chicken stock and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 2 mintues then stir in peach preserves, and mustard. Whisk to combine. Turn off heat.
  17. Return chops to the pan and turn several times to coat with the peach glaze. Place pan with chops in oven and roast until done, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  18. Let the pork chops rest for 5 minutes before serving, then spoon some of the glaze from the pan over the chops.
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