Best of 2008

Here are some of my favorite posts from 2008. I hope everyone has a happy, healthy, safe and food filled 2009! Happy New Year!

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Imam Bayildi

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Pap’s Swiss Chard and Potatoes

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Lebanesesque Cauliflower and Bruschetta di Roma

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Nutella-Date Pudding Cupcakes

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Yogi Times Feature (3 recipes in one)

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Midsummer Night’s Dream Dinner

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Bread Rant
(If you liked this one, you’ll like my “Happy Meat” rant too).

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Pomodori e Riso

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The Importance of Eating Locally

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Holiday Cookies for Pets

and one for good measure…

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Three Sister’s Casserole

Our Christmas

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This year we had a nice Christmas holiday with my family down in Ocala, FL. After hosting our own festivities to celebrate the Winter Solstice, we were pretty cooked out, so it was nice to go down to mom’ s and be her sous chef for the holidays.

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On Christmas Eve we enjoyed dinner al fresco. Keeping with the season we made pork chops with a pomegranate-balsamic vinegar glaze, baked sweet potatoes with pecan-cinnamon butter and brussel sprouts with bacon, mustard and vinegar.

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For dessert was orange cookies and cuccidata (fig cookies) washed down with rummy egg nog.

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A plate of cookies, clementines and eggnog were also left out for Santa ….:)

The next day Christmas day, we started the day with cranberry scones and mimosas. Later we had a Floridian Christmas at my cousin Melanie’s house. We had our feast outdoors, and it was so hot that her husband actually had to put up sheets to block the sun and rig up some fans. Unfortunately the dish I decided to contribute to our holiday pot-luck was Rømmegrøt, a Norwegian sour cream porridge that is a holiday favorite this time of year. it is traditionally served in one of these beautiful carved wooden bowls.

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(I borrowed the photo from this website)

It is traditionally served sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, and butterfat as an evening meal with dried meat and flat bread. Rømmegrøt is certainly hearty fare and was a little too rich for the Florida heat. But since living in Norway I have come to look forward to this special treat every year. I have tried several different recipes in the past, but I used one from The Son’s of Norway this year and I think it was one of the best ones yet.

On the buffet there was ham, turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, roasted potatoes, Greek style green beans (my mom’s contribution), scalloped potatoes, pasta salad, soups as well as other things I am probably forgetting. Dessert was awesome as well – chocolate fondue, my cousin Mel’s homemade pumpkin cheesecake with a maple glaze and pecans. There was also cookies and cupcakes. I am sorry I didn’t take many pictures. I guess we were too busy eating and talking! It certainly was a feast and fun to spend a casual day with family.

I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday with your family! We are still visiting with my mom. See you all in the New Year! :)

Winter Solstice Cocktail Party

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(Me, my cousin Michelle, Erin, Sunshine and Brenna)

I always love celebrating the seasonal changes at the solstices. It is a way for me to stay connected to the natural cycles and the seasons especially now that I am living in Florida and we don’t have as many stark seasonal changes as we did when we lived in New England. We have made some good friends here in Saint Augustine over the past year and I really wanted to give thanks for new friendships and old by hosting a gathering on the Winter Solstice which is historically a time to celebrate new beginnings, since it is a day to mark the lengthening of the days and shorter nights.

Winter is also citrus season here in Florida, and so I recently got a load of delicious Meyer lemons to make limoncello at the farmers market. I started the limoncello about 2 weeks ago and it is still steeping, but once I removed the rinds from the lemons, there were all these lemons that I needed to do something with. So I started thinking ahead and towards this party.

Lemons are yellow and their taste is bright which I felt corresponded nicely with the holiday we were celebrating – the coming of the sun.

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So I focused my menu on lemons and made Limoncello Cupcakes filled with fresh lemon curd and topped with creamy limoncello icing. We also served some signature drinks called “Sunshine in a Cup” made with lemon basil and lemon lavender syrups.

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There was Gløgg, a Nordic spiced wine that is traditionally served during this time of year, Eggnog with rum and Panettone which is a common cake served in Italy during the holiday season. We also had roasted chestnuts, and a cheese plate. People also brought treats like spinach dip with olive bread, white bean dip with pita chips, spiced gingerbread brownies, tapenade and of course lots of wine. We had a great time with our friends and I think it would be great to make this a yearly tradition.
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December 19, 2008 – Finest Foodies Friday

Finest Foodies Friday

Well this will be the final FFF of 2008. I am going to skip doing FFF next week, December 26th, as due to the holiday I doubt there will be much web traffic, and I don’t want anyone to miss their moment in the sun :)

I want to take this moment to thank everyone who has been featured in FFF this past year. Your blogs are what makes this community so wonderful. Keep up the good work! If you would like to see who was featured this year, please click this link and this one .

Also I would like to welcome all of our new Foodie Blogroll members, and thank those that have been around for a while for your support. I also want to wish Happy Holidays to all of my faithful readers. Thanks so much for sticking around and joining me by reading about this crazy bloggers life!

As always here is what the FFF is all about. Finest Foodies Friday! FFF is a weekly Friday post featuring favorites from The Foodie Blogroll! We do this so we can share in the rich diversity of what The Foodie Blogroll has to offer by featuring some of our favorites and yours!
What is the Foodie Blogroll? It is the first and fastest growing free membership blogroll for food bloggers and has become a wonderful community (2800 strong) to share ideas about all things food related.

The only requirement to be featured here on FFF is to be a member of The Foodie Blogroll and be displaying The Foodie Blogroll widget on your blog. If you are not yet a member, but you have a food blog and would like to join us, please click here!

If you have a favorite foodblog on The Foodie Blogroll, that you would like to be featured here on FFF, please join us over on The Leftover Queen/Foodie Blogroll Forum, and post your favorite Foodie Blogroll foodblogs here.

Rosie Bakes a “Peace” Of Cake
Rosie’s blog is perfect for this time of year, as it is primarily a baking blog and there are some wonderful holiday recipes being featured at this time, like my favorite Panettone. She also has lots of great ideas for edible gifts. So please, if you need inspiration this time of year or fun ideas, Rosie’s is the place to be!

Alexandra’s Kitchen
If you want to check out some beautiful food photography, this is one blog to check out. Hello, food porn. Not only are the photos well done, but the pictures are artfully created. Also, I should mention the food and recipes… It all looks so good!

The Knead For Bread
This is another great baking resource. Not only does everything look delicious (the photos are beautiful) but there are so many interesting takes on classic recipes, like pretzels twisted into the shape of snowflakes and scone cookies. Perfect for holiday inspiration!

The Silk Road Gourmet

This is a blog that focuses on recipes of countries that make up the Silk Road. What I love about this blog is that through the holiday season there are posts that feature how the holidays are spent in some areas that make up the Silk Road, as well as adaptations of traditional dinners (like Thanksgiving) with a twist.

The Joy of The Joy of Cooking
Jessica is cooking her way through the best cookbook of all time!
If you are looking for classic recipes, this is the place to be. Jessica has made it her goal to cook and try recipes from The Joy Of Cooking cookbook and share her experiences with all of us. She is also getting married soon, so go wish her the best!

That’s it for this week! I hope you enjoyed this week’s FFF. Remember, if you would like to see a blog featured here, who is part of the FBR please visit the forum and nominate them. I NEED NOMINATIONS!!!!!!

Also we all love to know how people came to find our blogs, so please visit all of our featured bloggers today and don’t forget to tell them that you found them via Finest Foodies Friday!

Pub Grub: Fish n’ Chips, and other fried goodies…

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Recently we were in the mood for some pub grub. I guess it has something to do with the cooler weather settling in, but we were looking for something tasty for movie night, and we had an Irish movie, The Secret of Roan Inish and really good beer, Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout and Post Road’s Pumpkin Ale. So fish n’ chips just seemed so appropriate!

If you have never seen The Secret of Roan Inish. I highly recommend it. It is one of my favorite films, a beautiful tale based on the Orkney Islands myth of Selkies, people who can transform themselves into seals.

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The legend goes anyone who steals and hides the skin of the Selkie, when it has shed its skin, while in human form, they can keep the Selkie from being able to resume their seal form. So there are lots of stories of men stealing the skin of a female Selkie so that he can wed her, etc. But the Selkies always long to return to the sea. One of the most hauntingly beautiful songs I have ever heard, Sealwoman/Yundah by Irish singer, Mary McLaughlin is also about a Selkie. But, I digress….

Anyway, to make the fish n’ chips, I remembered that my good friend, Judy, from No Fear Entertaining had recently made beer battered squash blossoms, and so I decided to use her beer batter for our cod loins (does anyone know why they call them loins? Last time I looked, cod don’t have legs….).

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After battering the fish, we had more batter and since I had used the last of the oil, we figured waste not want not, and so we started pulling everything out of the fridge that could be battered and fried – like Bubbies bread n’ butter pickles and some leftover rings of onion. As per tradition, we also had oven baked fries (the chips).

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It was a fry festival! Like how I had to add some basil to the dish for the picture? It just looked too monotone without a little color in there!

This was a great dinner and was perfect for the movie and the delicious beer to wash it all down!

Restaurant Review: Fair Hill Inn, Fair Hill, MD

Thank you to everyone for all the wonderful birthday wishes! I had a wonderful day with Roberto and my mom and was able to speak to many loved ones that were not able to be with me. So it was a success! :) This post is about another success – that of a very successful meal out. I hope you enjoy.

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We had a wonderful dining opportunity while we were visiting my Dad and Stepmom over Thanksgiving at the Fair Hill Inn in Elkton, MD. It is not often that I get to enjoy a meal of this caliber, a true work of art, created by people who have a real passion for good food that is local and seasonal. It is like my dream meal come true. Top that with the ambiance of a 1700′s Inn and I am sold. When someone asks me what I “like to do” – this is going to be my answer. You can’t eat like this everyday, but if you get the opportunity, I recommend going for it, as it is a memorable experience and something everyone should do at least a few times in life.

Of course my Dad and Stepmom know how much Roberto and I love food, and so they planned a really nice day for us the Saturday after Thanksgiving that really stimulated all of our senses. They live in Annapolis, MD which is less than 2 hours from where the borders of MD, PA and DE intersect and that area is rural, full of farmland and hills and is a great place to explore.

We spent the morning at Longwood Gardens which is located in Kennet Square, PA. It is a beautiful botanical gardens with many outdoor gardens and exhibits as well as an indoor conservatory which was all decked out in holiday splendor. Here is the mission statement of the Gardens: “Longwood Gardens is dedicated to preserving the spirit and beauty of the early 20th century gardens of Pierre S. du Pont. Longwood is a display garden promoting the art and enjoyment of horticulture for the public, while providing opportunities for research and learning. We are committed to excellence, good management, and fiscal responsibility”.

We spent an enjoyable afternoon at the gardens, but the real highlight of the day trip was to take place a few miles away at the Fair Hill Inn. My stepmom, Kayzie is a wine distributor, in MD. She has been doing this work for a long time and is very knowledgeable and skilled in her trade. So much so, that even when her clients move to another area, they still keep her as their rep. Such is the case with the owners of the Fair Hill Inn, Phil and Venka Pyle.

Everything at the Fair Hill Inn is made from scratch. Not only do they bake their own bread and make their own pastries, but they butcher their own meat and make their own cheeses. Chef Phil Pyle attended Le Cordon Bleu and studied culinary, pastry, bread baking and chocolate. Food really is their passion and the restaurant is a true labor of love. Every month their menu changes so they can base their dishes on what is in season and can be obtained locally. The area surrounding the Fair Hill Inn is rich farmland, and so this is a feasible way for the restaurant to be run. Guests at the restaurant can also chose to order a la carte or they can chose the chef’s 7-course degustation menu.

It was hard to pass up the 7-course menu, but it was only 2 days after Thanksgiving and the day after the Leftover Queen Thanksgiving Leftovers Dinner. So I needed to take it easy. I think we were all feeling the same way, so we decided to order from the a la carte menu. I am glad I didn’t order the 7-course meal, because Chef Pyle had some “in-between” treats in store for us as well.
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Finest Foodies Friday – December 12, 2008

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Well today is my birthday and I can’t think of a better way to start the day than with FFF! :)

As always here is what the FFF is all about. Finest Foodies Friday! FFF is a weekly Friday post featuring favorites from The Foodie Blogroll! We do this so we can share in the rich diversity of what The Foodie Blogroll has to offer by featuring some of our favorites and yours!
What is the Foodie Blogroll? It is the first and fastest growing free membership blogroll for food bloggers and has become a wonderful community (almost 2800 strong) to share ideas about all things food related.

The only requirement to be featured here on FFF is to be a member of The Foodie Blogroll and be displaying The Foodie Blogroll widget on your blog. If you are not yet a member, but you have a food blog and would like to join us, please click here!

If you have a favorite foodblog on The Foodie Blogroll, that you would like to be featured here on FFF, please join us over on The Leftover Queen/Foodie Blogroll Forum, and post your favorite Foodie Blogroll foodblogs here.

The Daily Spud
This is a true Irish blog, where Aoife shows you that Irish cooking is beautiful, fresh and delicious. Afterall, Ireland is the “Spiritual Home of the potato”. Lately there is plenty of baking to get you in the mood for holiday spirit!


Away With The Fairycakes

Hayley‘s blog follows her culinary triumphs and disasters in the kitchen. Although I can say by checking out all the delicious offerings on her blog, that is is more in the way of triumphs! She has always loved cooking and is greatly inspired by Nigella Lawson. This is where she shares her kitchen experiments.

The Culinary Chase
Heather is a Canadian living in Bangkok with her family. This is her blog where she discovers food from around the world, prepares it at home and her built in critics weigh in on what they think. I am always impressed and intrigued by expat families and this blog is certainly a good read!

The Lay Gastronomer
This blog is authored by a recent college grad living in Hong Kong. Their food philosophy is one that I can agree with: “For me, food is all about 3 forms of experience: sensual, emotional, and intellectual… I am also passionately interested in exploring the ways in which food influences, and is influenced by, the larger culture, as I firmly believe that our approach to food says something important about who we are”. I am right there with you!

Superfinefeline: Gastronomic Ruminations
This blog is full of beautiful photos that make you hungry just looking at them. The author is a caffeine addicted food lover who blogs from Singapore and so there is always something interesting to read about. I am sure you will agree!

That’s it for this week! I hope you enjoyed this week’s FFF. Remember, if you would like to see a blog featured here, who is part of the FBR please visit the forum and nominate them. I NEED NOMINATIONS!!!!!!

Also we all love to know how people came to find our blogs, so please visit all of our featured bloggers today and don’t forget to tell them that you found them via Finest Foodies Friday!

Foodie Friends and Good Food: Present Moment Cafe

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Friends and food seem to go hand and hand, don’t they? At least that is true if you are a foodie. Roberto and I had the opportunity to spend a lovely evening last month with Ingar from Taste Memory and her husband Bill at The Present Moment Cafe here in Saint Augustine, FL. We had already been there once before and really enjoyed it. So when Ingar suggested it, we were all for it.

Present Moment is a Raw, Vegan, Livefood, Gourmet Restaurant that is certainly something to experience. I have often talked about my fascination with the raw food movement here on my blog. It is not a lifestyle that I can fully embrace, but I do believe that it is extremely creative and can be very delicious, and I welcome to opportunity to enjoy these types of dishes, whenever possible.

We went on a Friday night, so it was fairly crowded by the time we arrived. The moment you enter the restaurant, you just get a good feeling. The place is relaxed, yet elegant at the same time. Clean, yet cozy. Ingar had made reservations earlier in the week which landed us prime real estate seating- the table at the window which has two comfy couches on either side of the table, instead of chairs (you can see the spot on the front page of the restaurant’s website). Score.

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On Ingar’s recommendation we all started out with the Maki rolls. Each roll was full of crunchy vegetables and creamy avocado and it was a great way to get our appetites rolling. Ingar enjoyed a coconut water with her food, while, Roberto, Bill and I all sipped on organic beers by Samuel Smith.

Next were the main meals. Roberto decided to get lasagna. If there is lasagna on the menu, it is a sure bet for him. His lasagna “noodles” were fashioned from thin strips of zucchini. The “cheese” was made from nuts, macadamia nut, I believe and it was served with tomato sauce and a nice side salad. He enjoyed it.

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I went for the Indian style Samosas (Ingar got the same thing!). The wrappers were created from dehydrated coconut and the inside was filled with curried vegetables and lentils and served with a delicious yogurt drizzle. They were really excellent. I think Bill got the Pad Thai. It was a huge portion and looked delicious and crunchy.

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In a place like this it is difficult to say no to dessert, because it is guilt free. I am not a huge fan of “chocolate”, but when it comes to pure cacao, that is a whole other story and it is hard for me to say no. I got a delicious pure cacao flourless chocolate cake and Roberto went for a scoop of dairy free cashew ice cream. It was a perfect end to the meal. We had such a great time that we didn’t want to leave once the meal was over. So we were lucky when a live band started playing. The musicians were playing music from the African nation of Guinea, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Much of the beats sounded reminiscent of Reggae and for a time Roberto and I felt like we were on vacation. It was so relaxing.

Thanks Ingar and Bill for a great evening!