Happy Thanksgiving 2013!

I realized when I wrote my Thanksgiving post for 2014 that I didn’t post one for 2013. I wondered why that was so until I remembered that I was sick that year and wasn’t really in food mode. However, I do want to document that meal because it was a rare and special one that we shared with family and friends, including our friend, JO who is no longer with us.  :(  He is greatly missed.

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I have a lot to be thankful for but it’s been difficult for me to feel grateful because I feel so sick.  The timing is especially bad since I love food holidays and not being able to eat is pretty depressing.  This year, our friend JL, graced us with her presence at our Thanksgiving table.  I am grateful for good friends.  :)

Are we ready to eat?

Are we ready to eat?

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My mom and my sister shelled a couple of pounds of fresh pecans for pecan pie

Thanksgiving table

Thanksgiving table with a lovely table runner that L. and E. got us from Peru

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JL brought Brussels sprouts, done 2 ways: With lemon and without

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My Dad’s cranberry salad (he added cilantro this year!)

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After dinner cheese plate

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(right) I made Irish oat cakes to accompany the cheese so I was really happy with that!

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E.’s apple pie

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Apple pie a la mode

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E.’s pecan pie, recipe from Big Kevin (aka New Orleans chef, Kevin Belton)

In addition to having the privilege of JL’s presence at our Thanksgiving table, we shared our post-Thanksgiving table with another friend, JO, who hails from New Orleans.  He was very interested in E.’s apple and pecan pies, especially the pecan pie, since it was made from Big Kevin’s recipe.  He gave both pies a big thumbs-up, especially the pecan pie, which he said reminded him of home.  :)  We were very honored that he graced our post-Thanksgiving table and left us with memories that we will always cherish.

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Thanksgiving treat

Thanksgiving gift (cranberry banana bread) from JL.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Bon appetit!

New taco salad

I live on salads during the summer because it’s too hot to cook.  I’m also always on the lookout for something new.

I remember taco salads being very popular when I was a kid but I don’t see them much anymore.  The best part of the taco salad was the big edible fried tortilla bowl … but let’s not forget the lettuce greens, guacamole, sour cream, cheese, taco meat, and salsa too.  ;)  I was recently inspired to bring the concept of the taco salad back to our table after catering a taco bar lunch for 80 people and because D. often orders the California Bowl at Rubio’s (a plastic bowl containing rice, black beans, guacamole, salsa, lettuce, and a choice of protein: chicken, shrimp, or fish).  It’s such an easy concept–I can’t believe I didn’t think of making my own to-go lunch version!  It’s so versatile that I can have a different version everyday: Make it vegan, carb-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, or with meat, there’s a version for every mood and diet!  Move over Rubio’s, here comes something leaner (and better)!  ;)

My version of the California Bowl starts with this:

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Henni’s taco seasoning

(adapted from Alton Brown’s Taco Potion #19)

2 Tbsp. chili powder
2 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 1/2 tsp. hot smoked paprika or paprika
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. chipotle pepper powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. oregano

Mix together and store in an airtight container up to 1 month.

To use, add 1 cup chopped onion, 1 Tbsp. taco seasoning, and 1/2 to 1 tsp. kosher salt (or to taste) to one pound of protein (e.g., beans, tofu, mushrooms, ground beef, ground turkey, chicken breast, etc.) when cooking.

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Henni’s California bowl
(inspired by D.’s cravings)

Recreating this California bowl (the new taco salad) for lunch to-go requires 2 containers (one small and one big) but it’s well worth the effort.  This can be prepared the night before.

In the big container, add any or all of the following, in this order (basically, add all wet ingredients to the bottom of your container and build delicate ingredients on top.  This way, the greens don’t get soggy):

Large container (salad)

Sour cream or plain yogurt
Diced tomatoes
Corn kernels (frozen, canned, or fresh)
Diced green bell peppers
Chopped lettuce, spinach, and/or cabbage
Diced avocado or prepared guacamole
Sliced olives
Chopped red onion
Shredded cheese
Chopped cilantro
Lime wedge (optional)

Small container (rice and protein)

Your choice of rice (white, brown, plain, flavored, etc.)
Your choice of beans (black beans, refried beans, chickpeas, etc.)Your choice of protein seasoned with taco seasoning (recipe above) (chicken, ground turkey, ground beef, tofu)

You will heat up the small container of rice and protein at work.  If you are using something like grilled chicken, you can add it to the salad container if you prefer to eat it cold.  Add the heated rice and beans/protein to your salad.  Mix the salad to incorporate the wet ingredients at the bottom of your container, watch the cheese melt into your rice, and enjoy!  Add a squeeze of lime, if you like!  For a treat, pack some tortilla chips to go with your salad.

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Bon appetit!

Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July!  Hope you had a nice BBQ and celebrated with fireworks, family, and friends.

Fattoush salad with kale

Fattoush salad with kale

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Grilled potatoes seasoned with merquen

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Grilled sweet corn (white corn with blue kernels, heirloom variety?–from a co-worker’s garden)


Grilled mini trumpet mushrooms and green bell peppers

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Korean style spicy baby back ribs

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Teriyaki chicken wings

Bon appetit!

The May garden 2015

As I walked through the May garden this morning, a song from nursery school popped into my head.  See if you can guess the song …















I can sing a rainbow,” was the inspiration for this post.  The song pops into my head every once in awhile, always at the oddest times, and always when I see an actual rainbow, but I realized I didn’t know anything about its origins.  Did kids in other schools learn the song too?  Do kids still learn the song today?  I looked it up and was surprised to learn not only was it very popular in the UK during the 60s and 70s but there are many more lyrics to the song.  I only ever learned the first few lines and always thought it was just a nursery rhyme!  :)

“Red and Yellow and Pink and Green,
Purple and Orange and Blue.
I can sing a rainbow
sing a rainbow
You can sing a rainbow too …”

And in case you were wondering how we got such colors in our garden, this is how it happened:  ;)

20150220_165656 (Small)I  hope that everyone has a rainbow in their May garden too!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Welcome to our 9th annual Feast of all potatoes!  For the first time in the history of the Feast of all potatoes, I am sharing the feast with you *on* St. Patrick’s Day (a feat that will probably never be repeated)!

This year, our Feast of all potatoes was extra special because we had to travel all the way to Belgium in order to make it happen!

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Lasne, outside Brussels

When JL and L moved to Belgium last year, we were very sad because in addition to being our good friends, we also sowed and shared certain traditions together over the past 15 years that had become an integral part of our weekend ritual, which we miss very much.  Good traditions need to be kept alive so last month we traveled to Belgium to see our friends and to honor one of our favorite culinary traditions, the Feast of all potatoes!

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Feast of all potatoes 2015

Also, for the first time in the history of the Feast, Iron Chefs JL and Henni had to share Kitchen Stadium!  It was an unprecedented scene in Kitchen Stadium with 4 sous chefs (including knife-wielding 9 yr. old), potato peels flying everywhere, pots and pans sizzling away on all the stove burners, kitchen appliances being deployed in other parts of the house, and hungry pheasants in the backyard knocking on the windows!

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No, these guys were not on the menu!

By popular demand, I. and E. requested boxty potato pancakes.  The pancake batter involves liquefying the potatoes but due to electrical challenges, we did not have access to a food processor or a high power blender.  As a result, things got tense in Kitchen Stadium and I was ready to throw in the towel when Sous chef L. came up an ingenious idea to finely grate the potatoes before subjecting them to a handheld immersion blender.  Good thinking, L.!  :)

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These pancakes were a labor of love, requiring the assistance of 4 cooks!

As our tradition dictates, we enjoyed the pancakes with smoked salmon.  Happy birthday, L.! ;)

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In Europe, there are some cool kitchen gadgets that we don’t have, such as an electric soup maker. The closest thing I could find here was the Soyajoy G4 Soy Milk Maker and Soup Maker.  I might have to get me one of these toys!  To make this potato leek soup, Sous chef L. put water, chopped potatoes, and sliced leeks into something that looked like an electric kettle with built-in chopping blades.  She turned on the “kettle” and the soup cooked and blended itself in about a 1/2 hour!  Note: It took longer to render the pancetta and fry the leek toppings for the soup!

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Potato leek soup with pancetta and fried leeks

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Special croquettes from the local farmer’s market: Parmesan and truffle

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WINNER!  Herbed braised pork chops with sliced potatoes by Chef JL

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After dinner cheese board

As usual, it was a delicious feast and we marveled at how much food we could create for one meal.  But the thanks and accolades go to Iron Chef JL who actually did most of the cooking for this feast.  Thank you JL and L for making this happen for it was a very special feast indeed.  :)

Bon appetit and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Disclaimer: I am a member of Amazon Associates.  This post contains links to Amazon.com and if you click on the link and purchase something, I get a few coins tossed my way.

La ferme du Hameau du Roy

One of the highlights of our visit to Brussels was a bakery in Lasne called La ferme du Hameau du Roy.  I’m so glad I don’t live near this bakery because not only is it dangerous for my waistline but also my self-control–losing either would not be a pretty sight!  Anyway, I am now forcing you to revisit La ferme du Hameau du Roy with me so that you too can feel your waistline expanding and struggle with the urge to eat your computer screen. ;)

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Quiches, tarts, and soups

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Liege waffles, pastries, croissants

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More pastries

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Fruit tarts and galettes

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More fruit tarts

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Is that the beginnings of a mille crepe cake I spy in the back? :)

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Cookies, sweets, and other fun goodies to go.  JL and L later sent us some hard candies and jellies from La ferme du Hameau du Roy.  They were not too sweet and quite addictive.  D. was especially happy.  Thanks JL and L! :)

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We left the bakery with a big bag of goodies!  Shall we take a peek inside the bags?

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Couque au beurre (Belgian croissants)

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Craquelin is a bread eaten in Belgium and the Netherlands.  It’s like a brioche with pearl sugar mixed in the dough. Pearl sugar is special because it doesn’t melt at baking temperatures.  Craquelin is sweet enough to be eaten on its own like a dessert.  It reminds of sweet Asian bakery breads but better!

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Sandwich mou (little soft bread rolls)

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Seigle (Rye)

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Pain au chocolat and tea for breakfast!

Hope you enjoyed the virtual bakery!

Bon appetit!

D. and I spent a week in Italy last month, where we had amazing food experiences and were overwhelmed by the number of gelaterias everywhere.  It seemed there was a gelateria on every street corner, each even more beautiful and inviting than the last.  Gelaterias are so popular that they open early in the morning (some at 8am!) and still serving late in the evening (midnight!).  I thought that Americans ate a lot of ice cream but in Italy, we spied people enjoying gelato all hours of the day (including breakfast) and night, never mind that it was also 35 F degrees out!  Brrr!

In the world of ice creams, gelato is my favorite, mainly because it’s not as heavy as traditional American ice cream, having less sugar and fat.  Gelato is required, by Italian law, to have 3.5% milk fat, and contains more milk than cream, and is served at a warmer temperature so it’s more like a soft-serve ice cream.  By comparison, American ice cream must contain at least 10% milk fat to be considered ice cream, by FDA definition.  In the end, it’s all about preference: Dense, silky gelato?  Or fluffy, creamy traditional ice cream?

This post is dedicated to my family who are all ice cream monsters and were looking forward to these photos. :)  These are not even the best of the best.  There were simply too many gelaterias to conquer, each one more beautiful than the next …

One of a zillion gelaterias in Italy

This shop makes a bold claim!

This shop makes quite a bold claim!  :)

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Click on photo for a bigger view! :)

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Click on photo for a bigger view! :)

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Can you tell, by the reflection in the glass, where this gelateria is?

Do you know where this gelateria is located?

... in the same city as above (Photo by N.)

… in the same city as above (Photo by N.)

Some gelaterias also offered other desserts

Some gelaterias also offered desserts

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… and cookies and pastries too!

While my family is crazy about ice cream, my sweets mission was all about the cannolo (pl. cannoli)!  This one was served at Majer in Venezia.

Yes, I was happy. :)

Yes, I was happy. :)


Cannoli and other vehicles for enjoying gelato

Buon appetito!


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