Posts tagged with Miscellaneous:

Soft Pretzels

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A week ago we were invited to our friends’ home for Sunday brunch.

When we are together the conversation always seems to come back to food in one way or another.

On one occasion my husband and I had shared with them our love of pretzels, especially warm soft pretzels.

Growing up in  Pennsylvania Dutch Country, pretzels quickly become a staple of one’s diet.  Good pretzels, we are talking about here… whether hard or soft, Bavarian or beer, in the form of rods, sticks, or nuggets, you cannot roam around this area very long without realizing you are in pretzel country.

Here is a little of what Wikipedia has to say about the subject…

In the late 18th century, southern German and Swiss German immigrants introduced the pretzel to North America. The immigrants became known as the Pennsylvania Dutch, and in time, many handmade pretzel bakeries populated the central Pennsylvania countryside, and the pretzel’s popularity spread.[30]

In the 20th century, soft pretzels became popular in other regions of the United States. Cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York became renowned for their soft pretzels.[31][32] The key to success was the introduction of the new mass production methods of the industrialized age, which increased the availability and quantity, and the opening up of multiple points of distribution at schools, convenience and grocery stores, and entertainment venues such as movie theaters, arenas, concert halls, and sport stadiums. Prior to that, street vendors used to sell pretzels on street corners in wooden glass-enclosed cases.[33]

In particular, the S-shaped soft pretzel, often served with brown mustard, became iconic in Philadelphia and was established as a part of Philadelphia’s cuisine for snacking at school, work, or home, and considered by most to be a quick meal. The average Philadelphian today consumes about twelve times as many pretzels as the national average.[34]

Pennsylvania today is the center of American pretzel production for both the hard crispy and the soft bread types of pretzels.[31]Southeastern Pennsylvania, with its large population of German background, is considered the birthplace of the American pretzel industry, and many pretzel bakers are still located in the area. Pennsylvania produces 80% of the nation’s pretzels.[35]

The annual United States pretzel industry is worth over $550 million.[36] The average American consumes about 1.5 pounds (0.7 kg) of pretzels per year.[37]

To this day my husband and I have vivid memories of running out of elementary school when the dismissal bell rang and getting in line to buy a hot soft pretzel from the “pretzel man’s wagon”.

So when we moved to San Luis Obispo we were disheartened to see the dearth of good pretzels here on the central coast.

Here most stores seem to carry one, maybe two brands, where in the past  we had been accustomed to practically a full aisle of pretzels.

Hot, handmade soft pretzels are still available in much of the area where we grew up…some baking and selling from their home kitchens.

So when our invitation to brunch included an opportunity for me to help the hostess make soft pretzels from scratch as a precursor to brunch I was excited. 

This was also the recipe that won her a first prize ribbon in the Mid-County Fair here on the central coast a year or so ago!

It was a lot of fun…she had the dough ready to go when we arrived, so I helped her divide the dough into balls for each pretzel…

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Then we shaped  them, (and we definitely gave them a home made look)…

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We dropped them into the boiling water…

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and baked them (some sprinkled with salt and some with onion bits)…

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It didn’t take long once they were out of the oven to smother them in some good brown mustard and eat them along with a glass of local champagne. 

Now that is a delicious combo I’m pretty certain the Pennsylvania Dutch have not tried !  But they should!

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Here’s the recipe…

Homemade Soft Pretzels (Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2007)

Ingredients

1 and 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 package active dry yeast

22 ounces all-purpose flour, approx 4 and 1/2 cups

2 ounces unsalted butter, melted

vegetable oil, for pan

10 cups water

2/3 cup baking soda

1 large egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon water

pretzel salt

Directions

Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. 

Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam.

Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined.

Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4-5 minutes.

Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil.

Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50- 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. 

Line 2 half sheet pans with parchment paper, and lightly brush with the vegetable oil.  Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-qt  saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces.

Roll out each piece of dough into a 24 inch rope. 

Make a u-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the u in order to form the shape of a pretzel.

Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, one by one, for 30 seconds.

Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula.

Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt.

Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12-14 minutes.

Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Grilled Salmon Dinner

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For the past couple weeks my brother, sister-in-law and niece who live in New York have been visiting the west coast. 

They began their vacation in LA where they were able to connect with various extended  family members including my older son and his girlfriend among others. 

After successfully accomplishing this no small feat which entailed covering a lot of ground around greater Los Angeles, they headed up the coast to spend several days in Big Sur, before heading back down the coast to visit us in San Luis Obispo for six days.

Along their way from LA they stopped by for a quick tour of our new home and a short walk to one of our favorite places for lunch here.

We last saw them a year and a half ago when we went back east for a cousin’s wedding, and in all this time we have been talking about our new house and this new hometown of San Luis Obispo, sometimes ad nauseum, I’m sure.

So all that talk turned into a reality as they stepped over the threshold to see our beautiful new home.  It was such a good feeling to have them here!

After they pulled away to continue on to Big Sur (where they would meet up with our younger son and his girlfriend for an afternoon) we were thrilled to have my now  23 year old niece stay with us for a few days. 

For many years when she was younger she would spend a week with us in the summer in Maryland.  So having her here now was just icing on the cake.

I planned a relaxing dinner at home the evening they returned from Big Sur. 

While we enjoyed many fantastic meals out at local restaurants,  I was eager to serve a few home cooked meals as well.  Here is the menu…

For starters we  had  some appetizers on the deck… a Caprese platter with some beautiful local heirloom tomatoes…

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and a platter of melon and prosciutto de Parma…

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 My husband grilled fresh wild sockeye salmon fillets. 

The salmon was simply prepared with extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, freshly cracked pepper, a bit of chopped fresh dill, and a squeeze of lemon juice. 

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As long as the grill was hot we grilled an assortment of summer squash with peppers…

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and a platter of assorted new potatoes, all tossed with some olive oil, salt and pepper…

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And some homemade tzatziki on the side for dipping with any or all of the above.

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A green salad with a Blood Orange Vinaigrette completed the meal.

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Except of course for that Sour Cherry Pie I had promised my brother.

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We had a fun packed week, and still found time to relax, and just hang out. 

We showed them around our neighborhood and walked  our very walkable downtown.

We impressed them with our Mediterranean micro-climate.

We went to the vineyards, the beaches, and the farmer’s market.

We went hiking (got a little lost, but found our way),  and enjoyed delicious meals at many of the marvelous farm to table restaurants that surround us.

We love our home, and we love our new hometown, but being able to share it all with our family is what really makes it feel like home. 

We will be looking forward to our other family members and friends  coming to visit us as time goes by, and repeat visits from all.

Through the entire process of our move I continued to tell myself that although change is hard at times change is good, and I do believe that.

 But with my brother’s visit this past week i am reminded that some things never change, and that is a very good thing.

 

A Dinner with Mozart

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Last week we were fortunate to attend what has become an annual event in San Luis Obispo, The Festival Mozaic.  What began as 3 concerts over a weekend 44 years ago has grown to encompass 22 events over a 10 day span during the month of July.

An array of very talented musicians have come to the Central Coast to participate in this unique and special musical event, performing in various venues throughout the area.

Read More

Memorial Day Weekend with Friends Grillin’ and Chillin’ (New York Strip Steaks and Salad)

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Friends of ours from LA spent Memorial Day Weekend with us.  I have known her since we were kids living in St. Louis.  She and I have mutual cousins in common…their dad was her mom’s brother while their mom was my dad’s sister…got that?????

No matter…the important thing is that through the years of my sister and I  visiting our cousins while she and her sister were visiting their cousins we became close friends.

She and I were the same age and our sisters were  the same age setting the stage for a friendly foursome.

When my family moved from St. Louis to Pennsylvania my sister and I continued to visit them each summer by train for several weeks throughout much of our teenage years.

Fast forward many years of not seeing each other, and miraculously we find ourselves now living in the central coast of California while she and her husband have been living for years in Los Angeles…we reconnected when my older son moved to LA to begin his career 17 years ago, getting together whenever we visited.

What we didn’t know then is that we would actually be living here one day with just a 3 hour drive between us! 

Well, maybe not 3 hours on a holiday weekend, but we won’t get into that! Hopefully, the grilled Tuscan  brick chicken and glazed fudge cake awaiting them made up for that!!!

We crammed a lot into 3 days, not the least of which evolved around what else, but eating!

We were so busy that I kept forgetting to snap photos so the best I could rustle up is the photo above of  these luscious New York Strip steaks my husband grilled one evening for dinner, and the salad that accompanied  them.

The 1 and 1/2 inch steaks were perfectly seared on the outside, yet rosy pink in the middle.

He tried  a new technique  which had to do with getting the gas grill super hot, and initially turning them very often, about 1 and 1/2 minutes per side with the grill closed until they formed that nice crust you can see in the photo above.

Then with the grill lid open he continued cooking and  and turning them until the internal temp reached about 120 degrees.  Covered lightly with foil and let to rest for about 15 minutes they reached an internal temp of about 135 to 140 degrees.  Perfection!

On Saturday  morning we stopped by the Central Coast Succulent and Cactus Society’s annual show which was being held in a large community center in downtown San Luis Obispo.

There we saw an amazing display of countless award winning plants…

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From there we headed north to the Paso Robles Artsfest. 

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Here’s some info on the event…

The Paso Robles Festival of the Arts has changed its name and is effectively “upping its game” for 2014 with a list of new features designed with art lovers and county visitors in mind. Now dubbed “Paso Artsfest,” the largest free art event in San Luis Obispo County has a week’s worth of activities planned for artists, visitors and county residents in addition to the much-beloved main event that takes place the Saturday of every Memorial Day weekend in the Paso Robles downtown City Park. “With all of the fantastic press Paso Robles has been getting lately, this is the perfect time for our art festival to reach out to potential visitors who appreciate wine, food, art and beautiful scenery,” states Barbara Partridge, Paso Artsfest chairwoman. “We know that people are coming here on vacation for Memorial Day weekend, we are offering them the opportunity to make the arts part of their experience in a much bigger way than ever before.

 The day features an Outdoor Fine Art Show & Sale, a Wet Painting Sale & Auction, hands-on interactive art experiences all over the park, exciting musical guests, dance performances and a full day’s worth of entertaining and artistic surprises. This event is free to the public.

When it was time for lunch we ate at a lovely Parisian bistro that had been recommended to me that was across the street called Bistro Laurent.

where we dined on “Croque Monsieur and Frites” on the charming patio.

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That evening we dined again at what is quickly becoming one of our favorite Italian restarurants in downtown SLO,  Buona Tavola, specializing in Northern Italian cuisine.

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Each meal begins with their complementary olive tapenade and delicious homemade bread!  You can even buy it there or at the local farmer’s markets.

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or their house-made salami and sausages are also available…

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On Sunday my girlfriend and I walked off some of that wonderful bread and gelato from the night before and went walking on some of the spectacular trails that surround San Luis Obispo, while my husband took her husband in search of a running trail,  and later a couple of slices of pizza, and a ballgame on tv.

Here are some great photos and info I found online for the trails we walked..Moonstone Beach Boardwalk

The city of Cambria is located on Highway One at the north end of San Luis Obispo County, and has earned the nickname “Gateway to the Big Sur Coast.” Like that stunning area to the north, Cambria has its own beautiful waterfront. Explore sandy beaches and rocky tide pools on a 2.85-mile round trip hike down Moonstone Beach Boardwalk, crossing a pristine beach that is preserved by Hearst San Simeon State Park. There is only 40 feet of elevation change over the level and easy trail, so you are free to set out in flip-flops or tennis shoes. Explore tide pools or walk across the sand on Moonstone Beach to add variety to this beautiful oceanfront stroll.

You can start the boardwalk from free parking areas at either end (or in the middle). To discover the ocean views, start from the south end of the trail, just off Highway One near the beginning of Moonstone Beach Drive. Hike northwest beneath pines along Santa Rosa Creek. After 0.2 miles, you will spot a pool of water at the mouth of the creek, separated from the ocean by a line of sand. The wooden boardwalk progresses alongside the estuary where you can spot ducks and snowy egrets.

Moonstone Beach Boardwalk

Moonstone Beach Boardwalk

Moonstone Beach Boardwalk

Moonstone Beach Boardwalk
Seals at the tide pools

Moonstone Beach Boardwalk

Moonstone Beach Boardwalk

While hiking Moonstone Beach Boardwalk, you will pass several side access trail, but the main route is obvious. There are benches along the way where you can linger to admire the scenery. The boardwalk runs parallel to Moonstone Beach Drive, which is lined on the inland side by restaurants and hotels.

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Harmony Headlands State Park is located 2.6 miles south of Harmony, along the west side of Highway One in the beautiful coastal area of Central California.  This area has a Mediterranean climate consisting of warm dry summers and cool wet winters.  Its proximity to the ocean also results in thick coastal fogs which help to moderate the temperatures.  The constant winds and salt spray result in vegetation tolerant of these conditions. The flat coastal terraces, valleys and steep coastal bluffs are predominately home to grasslands and coastal scrub containing plants such as a San Luis Obispo morning glory, California buttercup, yarrow and lupine.  In the spring, flowering grasses can be seen in profusion.
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This area contains diverse and unique habitats supporting rare, endangered and sensitive plant and animal species.  Along the rocky outcrops, lichen, ferns and Indian paintbrush are scattered throughout the grasslands.  In the fresh water habitats of wetlands, riparian corridors and ponds, willows, rushes and cattails can be seen.  Along the intertidal areas, sea mammals can be seen and heard.  Overhead seabirds and shorebirds soar.  Making their way through their grassland homes, California ground squirrels, brush rabbits, skunks, coyote, mule deer and raccoons are among the residents.


This area also provides a home for the endangered California red-legged frog and the southwestern pond turtle.  Many sensitive species also reside here including brown pelicans, double-crested cormorants and white-tailed kites.

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Harmony Headlands State Park features a two-mile long Headlands Trail that departs from the parking lot and provides breathtaking ocean views west to the marine terrace grasslands.  Nature lovers, hikers, photographers, artists and bird watchers will all find this walk a rewarding and memorable experience.

Note:  We actually didn’t make it to the ocean this time. We were close when we met up with a couple of hikers who were on their way back, and told us to be careful of the snake that had crossed their path.  With that news, we looked at each other, and  both agreed it was getting late and we will finish the trail next time!  Yikes!!!

After breakfast the next morning at Louisa’s, a great diner type place walking distance from our home, our friends packed up and headed back to LA, but not before picking up a tri-tip sandwch to go for the trip back!

After all, one can’t visit San Luis Obispo, and not have tri-tip!   

Pecorino Romano from Fromagerie Sophie

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The past couple of weeks we have found ourselves up to our ears in unpacking since having moved into our new home in San Luis Obispo’s downtown on November 24th. 
It is a labor of love seeing for the first time in a long time so many of our possessions.  Uncovering  my dishes, utensils, cookware, small appliances, vases, flower pots, etc. is like being reunited with an old friend after a long separation.
Our new kitchen has a hard act to follow since as you know I loved my former remodeled kitchen dearly.
Leaving it was equivalent to leaving a very old friend with whom I spent countless hours happily cooking, baking and creating. 
So now I have another beautiful kitchen, a bit larger and a different layout with high ceilings and  lots of windows (which I love) in a totally different setting. 
It will take some time I’m sure for us to become as good friends, but with each dish I prepare I know I will be one step closer.
Two days ago I cooked Ina’s Real Meatballs and Spaghetti, a favorite recipe.
I realized I didn’t have any Pecorino Romano ( which goes into the meatballs as well as freshly grated on top of the sauce ) just abut the same time that my husband phoned on his way home to see if I needed anything.
Coincidentally he was just checking out a new little cheese shop in our wonderful downtown.  It was my lucky day!  He brought me home some delicious imported Pecroino Romano from Fromagerie Sophie which only opened a couple of weeks ago.
We stopped by yesterday on our way back from the Thursday evening Farmer’s Market and I got a chance to check out Sophie’s cheese shop myself.  I told them that I loved the Pecorino Romano and that I am in the neighborhood and they will be seeing a lot more of me!

On Our Way

Just a quick update from my son’s computer in LA.  Since mine is on the moving van it will be some time til I can get back to my regular blogging, especially since we will be in a hotel for awhile until our house is ready for us.

With help from my tech guy I hope to get some posts out through the next weeks (months?…hope not). 

Anyway, we arrived in LA last evening, have spent the night with our son, and are getting ready to rent a car and drive to San Luis Obispo… but this time there is no return flight…

To say this whole process seems surreal would be a major understatement.   It is still hard to get our heads around the fact that we are actually moving to our new life on the west coast as excited as we are.

Our flight was great…it turns out that flying on the fourth of July is not only a great way to get a reduced fare, the airports are not busy, and everything runs pretty smoothly.

With my husband’s recent surgery just a month ago this was even more important as he needed a wheelchair to get from check in to the gate, but the service was extraordinary.

The real surprise came when we were bumped up to first class because my husband’s  headset jack was broken!  As it turns out the plane was full, but we were the only ones in first class.  As my younger brother said,  that is a very good omen for the days ahead!

Food, Flora, and Father’s Day

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Yesterday was the final Father’s Day celebrated in our home of 25 years. 

We have had countless celebrations over these years in our backyard (for years we grilled on the grass until we had our patio built). 

From everyday barbeques to Bar-Mitzvah celebrations we have so many memories of good times in what to us has become a little bit of paradise that we developed over our time in this home.

From a new home without so much as a a stick in the backyard we created this with a lot of hard work and perseverance…a work in progress that was truly a labor of love.

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Each Spring I would look forward to planting pots on the patio, but always something different than the year before…here are just a few from previous years…

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This year I had to rely on my perennials since there was no time to plant with us moving by the end of June.  In fact, I’ve been gradually giving my perennial pots away to family and friends…parting gifts that are hard to part with, but knowing they will be in good hands makes it easier.

So with my husband still recovering from his surgery, and in the midst of my packing I really wanted to have one last cookout for Father’s Day. 

The weather turned out to be perfect for eating outside (a rarity in our area in the summer),  family and friends turned out for the day, and we enjoyed a really great summer meal.

My husband rose to the occasion and even managed to man the grill, cooking the brick chicken and hot dogs and Italian sausage to perfection…image

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There was corn on the cob…with all the toppings…

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and I made Ina Garten’s Greek Panzanella Salad , a terrific salad to serve that can be prepared ahead , dressed 30  minutes before serving, and served at room temperature.

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For dessert I made the  Strawberries and Cream Spectacular Cake and my best friend brought fabulous homemade  brownies.

And  by the end of the day we had one more memory to tuck away and take with us to California. 

Chantilcleer Gardens

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I mentioned on a recent post that my sister, cousins from St. Louis and I visited Chanticleer Gardens in Wayne, PA several weeks ago. 

This estate began as the country retreat of Adolph Rosengarten, Sr. and his wife Christine, and dates back to the early 1900’s.

The photo above gives you a glimpse of what the 48 acres of  Chanticleer has to offer.

An excerpt from the brochure says it best…

Chanticleer has been called the most romantic, imaginative, and exciting public garden in America.  The garden is a study of textures and forms, where foliage trumps flowers, the gardeners lead the design, and even the drinking fountains are sculptural,  It is a garden of pleasure and learning, relaxing yet filled with ideas to take home.

Here is just a sampling of some of the photos from our wonderful day spent at this miraculous garden retreat.

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If you get the opportunity you must visit this enchanting place.  What makes it stand out among so many public gardens is the fact that they have made an extraordinary effort to keep it from being commercialized in any way, and have succeeded.

As you walk the paths of the various gardens you feel as if you are visiting a friend’s home and gardens.  If you have questions about the many plants there are numerous gardeners available to answer them.

This pretty much sums up the experience they hope it will be…

Sit and enjoy the views.  Relax, read, converse, meditate.  Feel the sun on your back and the grass beneath your feet as you listen to the birds and enjoy the scents of the garden.

Valentine’s Day Dinner for my Sweetheart

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This is the dessert that ended our Valentine’s dinner this evening. 

Nothing too fancy,  just a few of my husband’s favorites…homemade rich chocolatey brownies cut into heart shapes, sharing the plate with pure vanilla ice cream blanketed with fresh ripe macerated strawberries.

Dinner was a mixed green salad, steamed lobster tails with drawn butter, pan seared T-Bone Steak, and baked potatoes all washed down with a delicious Cabernet Sauvignon.


Happy Valentine’s Day!

Jazzed Up Peas, Lemon, and Pearl Onions

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Over a month ago Southern Living Magazine contacted me for confirmation to print a recipe of mine in their February issue!

I was shocked, wondering what recipe they were interested in, and how it happened that they found it, and me!  Here’s the story…

About a year ago I submitted the recipe for Jazzed Up Peas, Lemon, and Pearl Onions pictured above to the Food 52 site, an online community of cooks. 

Turns out Southern Living saw it recently and liked it, and tried to find me to let me know they wanted to run it in their February issue.

I found this out one day as I was shopping for groceries and my son called with the news that Southern Living had e-mailed him that they were trying to locate me.

Apparently my son is a lot easier to locate than me!  In googling Dinner At Sheila’s they found him because on the second anniversary of my blog he was kind enough to post on his personal blog the following.

Dinner at Sheila’s

August 2, 2012

A few years ago I told my Mom that I thought she’d enjoy having a blog to share her amazing cooking skills and recipes with the world. She thought I was insane, but after a few months she agreed to give it a shot.

She quickly became obsessed with it, and just celebrated the two-year anniversary of blogging at Dinner at Sheilas which is quite an accomplishment.

As somebody who’s actually had Dinner at Sheilas for his entire life, I can tell you that her cooking is every bit as delicious as it looks. If you’re remotely interested in cooking (or eating), I highly recommend that you go check it out.

And if you like what you see, go like her Facebook page – it’ll make her day.

So my son gave  SL my email, and they contacted me, and I was more than thrilled to give them approval to run my recipe.  And yesterday I found the Feb issue on the stands…

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In it on page 16 there is a Community Cookbook Feature with the following caption…

A TASTE OF WHO AND WHAT GOT THE HIGHEST RAVES IN THE SOUTHERN LIVING TEST KITCHEN.                                                        
                          THIS MONTH:  COLORFUL WINTER SIDES

And I am one of three lucky cooks whose recipe is featured. 

Here is the link to the recipe for  Jazzed Up Peas, Lemon and Pearl Onions!

Thanks to my son for being so sweet to write that post, and thanks to Southern Living for persevering!

And one more thing …I will be adding my e-mail to my blog!!!!