because what is life without good food?

Awards

A-Z Health Challenge: Reflections & Summary

I survived the A-Z Health Challenge

About a month ago, The Fountain of Health for Plant Happy People (a blog I follow on facebook) asked me if I would like to participate in an A-Z Health Challenge. Each day on facebook would feature a letter and you would choose something with that letter and talk about the health benefits of that thing. Everyone participating would visit each others’ pages and we would learn a lot and make new friends.

It started out easy enough. I picked avocado, found an article about the health benefits of Avocado and shared a couple of my avocado recipes. The next day was basil, and then cilantro, and … somewhere around C or D is for Dill it occurred to me to ask my foodie friends to share their recipes that matched the theme of the day.

“E is for Egg” day turned out to be a huge extravaganza of egg recipes and thus began the party. Every day I would wake up, post the theme of the day, and then the recipes would start flooding in. Everyone (food bloggers and visitors alike) was so enjoying the alphabet challenge, eagerly waiting to see what the next day’s theme would be. My friend Russ sent me a picture of some egg cups he made and that was the most popular “recipe” of the whole challenge with 299 shares of the photo and a couple hundred more shares from my shared post.

My friend Russ' Egg Cups

I started a Pinterest board to collect all the articles and recipes, but it wasn’t long before I could no longer keep up with all the posts. A few of my friends volunteered to help with the pinning: Bobbi from Bobbi’s Kozy Kitchen, Michele from La Belle Cuisine and Sonali from The Foodie Physician.

I could really write 26 summary posts for this challenge: one for each day, and tell you what I learned that day and share a few recipes from each, but even then I couldn’t list all the wonderful recipes and fun that was shared.

My favorite day was the “U is for Unprocessed” day. It was one of the hardest letters to think of. Becca from It’s Yummilicious suggested “Unprocessed” and that theme sounded perfect to me! We had such a huge variety of home-cooked, whole food recipes that day. The “biggest hit” on Unprocessed Day I think was Fountain Avenue Kitchen’s Baked Egg Avocados.

Baked Egg Avocados from Fountain Avenue Kitchen

The Daily Health Benefit Themes

Here are all the daily themes, with a link to their health benefit articles. I know I had an article for Italian food, but apparently I didn’t pin it. I want to thank everyone who participated … I can’t list everyone here … but thank you so much for joining in on the fun.

Visit the A-Z Health Challenge Pinterest board to see all (or rather, most of …) the wonderful recipes!

If I were to do this again, I think I would like to do this one day a week, rather than a new letter every day. It would just be more manageable and I would then have time to comment and share on all the wonderful things everyone shared, and still have a life.


Blogger Inspiration ~ Sunshine Award

Sunshine Award

If you have been reading my posts this week, you might have seen my little rant about facebook and how all of us food bloggers who met on facebook and depend on it to keep in touch are feeling rather torn apart right now.

Right after that, I got an award from one of my facebook foodie friends … and then another one … and then one more. Isn’t it funny how  right when you need a little cheering up, your friends just seem to know? I want to sincerely thank Krista at Everyday Mom’s Meals, Bobbie at Bobbi’s Kozy Kitchen and Lisa at Lisa’s Dinnertime Dish for the award, but more importantly for your friendship.

The Sunshine Blog award is an award given to bloggers by other bloggers. It is given to “bloggers who are positive and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere”.

How the Sunshine Award Works

Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them. Answer 10 questions about yourself. Select 10 of your favorite bloggers, link their blogs to your post and let them know they have been awarded the Sunshine Award! Don’t forget to copy and paste the award on your blog!

Thank you to Krista, Bobbi, and Lisa

Thank you to each of you who gave me this award. I feel so honored and special.

  • Krista, Everyday Mom’s Meals: your energetic spirit and the way you share and lift up everyone around you is amazing. Thank you so much for this award and for all that you do.
  • Bobbi, Bobbi’s Kozy Kitchen: You are so sweet and full of sunshine. Your posts always make me smile. Thank you for introducing me to so many fun foods and for this special sunshine award. It just suits your personality so well!
  • Lisa, Lisa’s Dinnertime Dish: I love how thorough you are, taking photos of every step of every recipe. I admire you because I just can’t get that many good photos! I love your fresh approach to cooking and look forward to seeing your posts. Thank you for giving me this award.

Ten Questions About Me

1) Your favorite color? PURPLE!

2) Favorite animal? I like a lot of animals, but I think I would have to say cats. We have three pet cats. Let me introduce you to them …

Ginka is our black cat and he is my constant companion. He hangs out all day on the chair next to me while I work, he nudges me, rubs his face in my hair, kisses me, nibbles on me, sleeps right next to me. He panics at loud noises.

Ginka

This is my son’s cat Jupiter. He’s a fuzzy butt–yes, that’s his nickname. He talks a lot and loves to have his fuzzy fat belly rubbed.
Jupie

And this is my daughter’s cat Mouse, the huntress. She brings us lots of interesting “presents”. She is the most liquid cat I’ve ever met; when she relaxes, her entire body goes completely limp.
Mouse

3) Favorite number? Seven.

4) Favorite drink? Beer, deep dark beer. The thicker the better, like this Wake Up Call Coffee Porter from the Grand Teton Brewing Company. Oh I love wine too, both white and red, a nice Malbec or Pinot Grigio. I also love chai; that’s my morning beverage. :)

Grand Teton Wake Up Call Coffee Porter

5) Facebook or Twitter? Facebook, but I’m a little upset with facebook lately.

6) Good movie or good book? If I am alone a good book, but love a good movie with family and friends.

7) My passion? DUH! Cooking. I love creating healthy foods that taste delicious.

8) Giving or getting presents? Giving. Totally. I love to give presents and see the joy in their eyes when they open it. But if someone gives me a lovely bowl or placemat, a pretty plate or a fork, that is a treasure to me.

9) What is your favorite day of the year? Do I have to pick just one? I love them all. Every season has its own joy … I love the spring for the awakening of the world after the winter’s “sleep”, the flowers, the berries and asparagus. I love summer for playing at the lake, freedom from school schedules, camping, music festivals, watermelon and salads and fresh foods from the garden. I love fall for the warm colors, the chill of the evenings, pumpkins, hot tea, harvest time, Thanksgiving and Halloween. I love winter for the quiet white solitude, the beauty of the bare tree limbs against the sky or covered with ice crystals, sledding, hot soups and baking fresh bread.

10) Favorite flowers? Lilacs … they are PURPLE … and I’ve loved them since I was a child when we had this huge lilac bush in our back yard. But I also love lilies … and roses. Roses are so romantic. Especially double delight tea roses. They smell so wonderful.

Lilacs

Ten Bloggers who Inspire Me

And now I get to award this sunshine award to ten other bloggers who inspire me. It’s not easy picking just ten because I am very blessed to have SO many people who inspire me everyday, but here goes … every one of these ten people is so special to me.  I hope you will go visit their blogs, follow them on facebook and pinterest and twitter because they are all beautiful talented people who inspire and teach me new things every day.

  1. Melissa at ChinDeep: Melissa taught me how to grill pizza and she is fully responsible for the edible flower craze I’ve been on lately.
  2. Ally at Ally’s Kitchen: Ally is a ray of sunshine. I love her Bohemian style, her upbeat attitude, her joie de vive. She is the queen of creativity in the kitchen.
  3. Ann at the Fountain Avenue Kitchen: Ann is such a sweetheart, my namesake, and a dear friend. I am grateful for her friendship and love seeing everything she creates because she cooks a lot like me: making deliciously healthy food.
  4. Sherron at Simply Gourmet: Sherron is a multi-talented woman, an amazing cook and incredibly talented photographer, a gourmet who wants to live in a treehouse. Hey, I want to live in a treehouse!
  5. Mia at Mia’s Domain: what can I say about Mia except she is a genius in the kitchen? I love all her recipes, her photos are stunning. She’s so talented. I adore her.
  6. Sawsan at Chef in Disguise: Sawsan is adventurous, fearless, creative in the kitchen. She makes things that I have never dreamed of making and inspires me to try new things. Of course she is an incredible cook and takes beautiful, beautiful photos as well.
  7. Christie at Zestuous: Christie is an Army wife, an expert cook and she is so good at upcycling … I love seeing old things repurposed and Christie has no qualms about picking up the power tools and creating an outdoor kitchen buffet table out of old doors. And she makes such elegant party foods. Oh how I love little bites!
  8. Brianne at Cupcakes & Kale Chips:  Brianne and I are surely salad sisters. I love how she takes an idea of mine and expands on it, opening a door of possibilities I didn’t even know was there.
  9. Sonali at The Foodie Physician: Sonali is a doctor AND a foodie. She is concerned about nutrition and health, and yet all of her recipes are mouthwatering. She has a wonderful cook once, eat twice philosophy. I just love her and I wish there were more doctors like her in the world.
  10. Heather at Basilmomma: A Busy Mom that Likes to Cook: Heather is my basil sister. I love her recipes and admire her adventurous spirit … she even has her own online radio show now! How cool is that?

Blogger Awards and Thank You’s

Rain lilies

A while ago The Pocket Farmer awarded me the Versatile Blogger award. And then yesterday Melissa at ChinDeep awarded me the Kreativ Blogger Award … and then Home Heart “Tagged me” in a question/answer sort of game. Thank you my sweet friends! I feel so honored …

versatile blogger awardI am not so good at remembering to do these things so I’m going to attempt to do them all in one post. Bear with me here …

The RULES for the Versatile Blogger Award

  1. Add the award to your blog.
  2. Thank the blogger who gave it to you.
  3. Mention 7 random things about yourself. (see below)
  4. List the rules.
  5. Award to 15 bloggers.
  6. Inform each of those 15 by leaving a comment on their blog.

Kreativ Blogger AwardThe Rules for the Kreativ Blogger Award

  1. List 10 random facts about yourself
  2. Give the award to 6 other bloggers

So that means hmm … 17 random facts and 21 bloggers get an award? Or can I just do 10 random facts and 7 of them get to do double duty? Let’s see how many random facts I can come up with here …

17 Random Facts about Me

  1. I work from home, on my table. Because my office is too small. I like the open-ness of my living area and being close to the kitchen and being able to see out the window.
  2. We have 3 cats.
  3. My daughter’s cat’s name is Mouse.
  4. I often have two cats “working” with me … on a chair on each side of me.
  5. I tried to grow a pineapple and it’s not working so well.
  6. We have way too many books in our house.
  7. My son drinks about a gallon of milk per day. He uses very large glassware. Do you know how hard it is to find glasses that hold 1/2 gallon of liquid? I had to resort to beer steins.
  8. Both my kids are taller than me. My son is over a foot taller … sigh.
  9. My black cat’s name is Ginka. He was named after a cat in a children’s book: Dorrie the little witch’s cat Gink.
  10. Ginka used to be a great hunter, and now he’s afraid to go outside.
  11. I love to sing. Music and the sounds of things are very important to me.
  12. I listen to a cat’s meow before I adopt it. I want cats with sweet voices.
  13. I drink five or more cups of chai tea every day.
  14. I love nice glassware. In fact, I just decided I’m switching out all the “ordinary” glassware in the house with glasses that “sing” (with finds from the thrift store).
  15. I am a total daddy’s girl. Always have been.
  16. I am very into yoga. I go three times a week now. It makes me feel strong, young, at peace and beautiful.
  17. My very favorite thing to do after yoga? Have a glass of wine.
Whew! I did it! I deserve a cookie, don’t you think? or two? with ice cream … mmm …
Ice cream sandwiches with Peach Banana Coconut Ice Cream

Oh wait, the game of Tag …

Oh and then there is the game of tag! I was posed 11 questions to answer and then I’m supposed to tag 11 other bloggers to answer 11 other questions. I think I’m running out of steam here … can I just answer the questions?

  1. If  you could have been born during any other time, when would it be? Hmm, probably during the Renaissance? I love Ren Fests.
  2. What are your five favorite CD’s? Gosh, I have all my music on my phone now … so can I just list some of my favorite artists? Melissa Etheridge, Vienna Teng, Gary Moore, Colbie Caillat, Queen, Journey, and AC/DC.
  3. What Muppet best describes you? Hmm Gonzo because he’s short and purple? No, probably the Swedish Chef because I love to have fun in the kitchen.
  4. What is your favorite genre and medium? of books? Science Fiction/Fantasy.
  5. If you could be an animal, which would you choose? Probably a cat of some kind.
  6. Who is your celebrity look-alike? I forgot her name …
  7. Describe yourself in six words or less. My daughter says this: “Awesome epic food blogger mom” … I think I’ll keep that description.
  8. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I would like to be neater. I hate how my house is so messy …
  9. Where is your favorite vacation spot? Europe. Or any National Park with Mountains. Beaches are good too.
  10. If you were given a year off with pay, what would you do? Travel.
  11. If you were on a deserted island, list three essentials you’d want to have with you. A good boat with a working motor and a lot of gas!  … and my kids.

Okay now it’s my turn to award some other bloggers! Here we go … let’s do the Versatile Blogger one first.

versatile blogger award

The Versatile Blogger awards go to … (drumroll please!)

  1. cupcakeluv
  2. NoodleonthatFoodRevolution
  3. La Belle Cuisine
  4. Ally’s Kitchen
  5. Mia’s Domain
  6. Carrie’s Experimental Kitchen
  7. A Little Bit Crunchy A Little Bit Rock and Roll
  8. Healthy Diet Habits
  9. Lauren Kelly Nutritionist
  10. Cupcakes & Kale Chips
  11. Mesa de Vida
  12. Knead to Cook
  13. My Crowded Kitchen
  14. Rock Star Dad
  15. In Danny’s Kitchen

Kreativ Blogger Award

And Now … for the Kreativ Blogger Awards! These go to …

  1. Isabelle at Home
  2. Linda’s Italian Table
  3. A Bachelor and His Grill
  4. Lisa’s Dinnertime Dish
  5. Bia’s Rich and Sweet
  6. Simply Gourmet Photography

Okay, I hope you don’t mind if I quit there … I’ve got to run off to yoga now … have a great night my friends!


Versatile Blogger Award & Prosciutto-Wrapped Turkey

on a bed of greens with Kiwi, Pomegranate, and a Sweet Balsamic Habanero Mustard Drizzle

Prosciutto-wrapped Turkey Breast with Kiwi & Pomegranate

This was simultaneously a long, hard week for me and a wonderfully blessed week. I am blessed with so many talented foodie friends who are such beautiful people. Four times this week I was awarded the Versatile Blogger Award.

Last Wednesday the blow to my heart that I had been fearing would come, came. As much as I told myself I was prepared for it, I wasn’t. This man I had been seeing, I let myself fall too hard. From the start I knew this wasn’t the time for this relationship. But I had made a wish and he was the one that answered. We both needed each other right then and there. And so I let it happen. And it was wonderful. Every moment I spent with him was like a taste of heaven … I know I will be okay without him, but right now my heart is torn in two. And my body tells me to eat, but I don’t even want to. I force myself to nibble at things just to make the hunger go away. If you know me at all, you know that’s not like me. I still visited my foodie friends on facebook, but my heart wasn’t in it. I couldn’t cook. I couldn’t blog.  All I could do was share past recipes, past memories.

Versatile blogger awardMy family and friends were there for me in so many ways. My circle of foodie friends was there to comfort me too. This circle is so much more than just a bunch of people who share recipes. They are just phenomenal giving people and I am so blessed to be included in this circle. All these beautiful people I’ve never met in person were there for me. They are my angels.

This award came to me from these four beautiful bloggers.

  1. ChinDeep: an author, an artist, photographer and talented cook, I feel so honored to know Melissa. When I page through her hand-drawn book, I am just stunned by the beautiful artwork, not to mention the creative, wonderful ideas.
  2. Lisa’s Dinnertime Dish: Lisa is a sweetheart and a fantastic cook. I love the step-by-step photos she includes on every single post. Her blog is gorgeous and the foods she shares are SO yummy.
  3. Everyday Mom’s Meals: Krista is not your everyday mom at all! She is an awesome cook, but also a cheerleader of food bloggers, a sweet, fun person that just makes you smile.
  4. movita beaucoup: Movita has such a fun, refreshing sense of humor. Her words make me laugh, but all of her posts contain such beautiful amazing foods. If you don’t know Movita, you really need to meet her (and congratulate her, because she’s going to baking school!)

Now the rules of this award state that I have to pass it on to five other versatile bloggers. Since I was awarded it 4 times, I guess that means you get to meet 20 of my friends, and yet this is only a small fraction of all the beautiful people I have met through my blog.

So the awards go to these talented bloggers. Each and every one of them is so special to me.

  1. Silvia’s Cucina
  2. A Little Bit Crunchy A Little Bit Rock & Roll
  3. Linda’s Italian Table
  4. Ally’s Kitchen
  5. Basilmomma
  1. Simply Gourmet Photography
  2. Zestuous
  3. The Foodie Physician
  4. Chef in Disguise
  5. Recipes for my Boys
  1. She Eats Pork & Fishes
  2. Full Belly Sisters
  3. Serious Food for the Soul
  4. Celebrating Home with Karie Engels
  5. Sunday at the Giacomettis
  1. Cooking with Mel
  2. Lark’s Country Heart
  3. The Tastetress
  4. Bobbi’s Kozy Kitchen
  5. Mia’s Domain

Now, would you like to see the recipe? I didn’t want to cook, but after hardly eating anything on Thursday, I really needed to eat. So I dressed up some of my leftovers. It turned out SO pretty … and it was simple to make.

on a bed of greens with Kiwi, Pomegranate, and a Sweet Baslamic Habanero Mustard Drizzle

Prosciutto-Wrapped Turkey on a bed of greens with Kiwi, Pomegranate, and a Sweet Balsamic Habanero Mustard Drizzle

  1. Take a hunk of cooked turkey (or a cooked chicken breast) and wrap it with thin slices of prosciutto.
  2. Top with slices of cheese. I used Romano & Parmesan, but I think Gouda or Provolone would be better because they’re meltier.
  3. Broil the meat in a toaster oven (or regular oven) until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
  4. Lay the meat on a bed of greens and sprinkle with chunks of kiwi and pomegranate seeds, then drizzle with the vinaigrette.

Sweet Balsamic Habanero Mustard Vinaigrette

  • 1 Tablespoon habanero pepper jelly (or other hot pepper jelly)
  • 1 Tablespoon spicy brown mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon light mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric

Whisk all ingredients together.

This recipe was shared at Fit & Fabulous FridaysWeekend Potluck, Totally Tasty TuesdaysCast Party Wednesdays and Newlyweds Recipe Linky.


Yellow Watermelon Basil Sorbet & the Versatile Blogger Award

verstile-blogger-awardLast week was an incredible week … I was awarded the Versatile Blogger award FOUR times! I am so grateful to have such awesome foodie friends.

Three Rules come with this award:

  1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you the award.
  2. Share 7 things about yourself
  3. Send it along to 15 other Bloggers and let them know you have awarded them!

First a GREAT BIG HAPPY THANK YOU!

Thank you to my sweet sweet foodie friends for this award:
  1. Lisa’s Dinnertime Dish
  2. Serious Food for the Soul
  3. Newlyweds Blog
  4. A Healthy Jalapeno

As a special thank you, I made some delicious Yellow Watermelon Basil Sorbet! (made with yellow watermelon … and a bit of tequila) I SO wish we could all sit down and have some together.

Boozy Basil Watermelon Sorbet

Second, the 7 things about me:

  1. I have a black cat who I think secretly wants to keep me all to himself. He sits right next to me all day every day while I’m working, blogging or facebooking. He’s fat and he’s lazy but he loves me and I love him. Even if he is the stinkiest cat ever.
  2. I have two wonderful children. (Well okay, maybe that’s not such a secret.)
  3. I love trees.
  4. My favorite color is purple.
  5. Both my kids are now taller than me. And they really love that.
  6. My kids and I all do TaeKwonDo.
  7. I sing in a choir. It makes me happy.

And FINALLY: The Winners!

So now I get to honor 15 other awesome bloggers! The most wonderful thing about having a food blog is meeting such wonderful people along the way! Every day I meet more foodies and the whole community is just infused with joy and love and sharing.

I always have a hard time selecting awardees … there are SO many great foodies who deserve it. So yeah, I couldn’t quite stick within the limit (can’t follow a recipe either  …) On this list are great cooks, amazing people, fantastic photographers, and some health and nutrition experts. Eat well, live well, be well, my friends.

  1. The Southern Lady Cooks
  2. The Naptime Chef
  3. Dine & Dish
  4. The Spicy RD
  5. Mother Thyme
  6. Family Fresh Cooking 
  7. The Truffled Pig
  8. DeeDee’s Delights
  9. Linda’s Italian Table
  10. Thyme Square Garden
  11. Happyolks
  12. Reluctant Entertainer
  13. Barefeet in the Kitchen
  14. Debz Delicious Meals
  15. Sunday at the Giacomettis
  16. Yummy Mummy
  17. I Can Cook That

And I know you’ve all been waiting for the recipe for the Sorbet:

Basil Watermelon Sorbet

Basil Watermelon Sorbet

This is sort of a cross between a watermelon tequila slushie and a sorbet–if you want it to be more of a slushie beverage than a sorbet, add more alcohol. If you’re making it for the kiddos, leave out the booze! It’s very refreshing. You could probably substitute stevia or agave or honey for the sugar if you like.

The subtle basil taste with the watermelon is just heaven. I really love the added little bite from the tequila too.

  • 4 c. cubed, seeded watermelon. I used a yellow watermelon from my mom and dad’s garden. Have I mentioned I am a very very lucky girl?
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. water
  • A handful of fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 c. tequila (Add extra watermelon flavor by using watermelon tequila in this recipe! Just fill a jar with watermelon cubes and fill with tequila. Store in the fridge for two weeks. Then use the watermelon and tequila as you like. It keeps in the fridge for a LOOOOONG time and it’s awesome in watermelon margaritas!)
  • 1/8 c. Cointreau

Directions:

  1. Put the watermelon in the blender and blend till the watermelon turns into juice. Strain through a strainer to catch any missed seeds and remove the excess pulp.
  2. In a small pan, boil the sugar and the water till the sugar dissolves. Add the basil and remove from heat, allowing the basil to steep in the syrup for about 5 minutes. Strain the syrup to remove the basil leaves. Cool the syrup before adding to the watermelon juice.
  3. Combine the watermelon juice, the syrup and liquors, then freeze in a ice cream freezer (I have one of those little Cuisinart jobbies and I just love it!) until it’s frozen.
  4. Enjoy immediately or freeze for later. If you make this without the liquor, you’re going to want to eat it right away because it will get too hard in the freezer.

Recipe adapted from Rosemary and the Goat

Basil Watermelon Sorbet

This is part of my series of 31 Days of Warmer Connections. Every day in October, I am blogging about connections through food.

This recipe was shared at Miz Helen’s Full Plate Thursdays.


Connections through Food and the Liebster Awards

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched. They must be felt with the heart. “
~ Helen Keller

I love my foodie friends

My day today started out in the most uncanny manner. At the very same moment that I posted my Rosemary Bread (my planned post for today), Saucy Girl’s Kitchen posted the very same recipe. I know that it occurred at approximately the same time because her automated twitter post happened at the SAME time my automated twitter post went out. I just happened to log into twitter this morning. I have been neglecting my twitter account because I can’t SEE the food, but something told me to get on twitter this morning.

So right then I knew it was going to be a special day of connections through food.

Herbed Quinoa with Turkey, Shrimp, Chick Peas, Cucumber and Feta

And today turned out to be even more amazing than I could have ever imagined!

Today, while I was working through some documentation updates with our engineers, Karie, one of my very sweet friends featured my appetizer in her article and THEN two of my dear friends have presented me a very special award!

The Liebster Award

This award is called the Liebster Blog award … which in German means……Liebster (n.) beloved, dear, dearest, love!

Love

Cooking with Mel

Mel was the first to send me this award and her sweet words had me in tears. Mel is a dear foodie friend … we are definitely kindred spirits. I love her posts and her friendship. She is just the dearest person you would ever meet! This is what she said about me:

“The name says it all, right? I feel like Ann needs no explanation, but I’ll give one anyway {because let’s be honest, I never turn away a moment to talk or type}. Ann says she’s an engineer and not a chef? I always roll my eyes at that. She may be a classically trained engineer, but her food is always amazing.  I guess her classical skills really help her engineer delicious looking pictures and wonderful recipes. I mean, go check out her website right now. I almost fell over earlier when I saw that Rosemary Rustic Bread. Seriously. I almost fell off the bar stool. She’s so lovely and I feel so blessed to know her!”

Mel, I feel so blessed to know YOU! And did you know my first cat was named Pippi? So I think it’s so funny that you have a puppy named Pippy!

Bia at Rich and Sweet

Bia was the second one I received this reward from and I love what she says because I feel EXACTLY the same way: “deep in my heart i wish we lived in the same neighborhood and could hang out together every night, enjoying our friendship, good food and good wine! But that’s a dream… and sometimes dreams do come true!!!”

Bia chose me because: “Ann from Sumptuous Spoonfuls, because we think alike, we could hang out in a kitchen all day and knowing what the menu would be, there would be no problems!”

And she’s right! We totally could! Bia I do really wish we could live like your dream! Somehow, someday we will. Perhaps we won’t actually live by each other, but we could at least spend a few days together each year, couldn’t we? Oh my gosh we would eat well.

Liebster Blog Award

The Rules

So with this award there are some rules… First you should thank the person(s) that gave you the award. THANK YOU MEL! THANK YOU Bia! I love you both!

And then you must pass the award on to 5 other blogs you love.

That’s the hard part. Choosing just 5.

First of all, although I really DO want to give all of them this award, I don’t want to duplicate any of the sweet people that Mel and Bia already awarded. It seems to me like the point of this award is to SHARE the love, right?

So what I am asking you to do first, dear reader friend, is go visit Mel and Bia and follow every one of the people they mentioned because they are ALL golden in my book. (click on their names to get to their award posts) Have you done that? Well, have you at least bookmarked those pages so you will return?

Okay, then you may proceed …

The AWARDS!

(In no particular order …)

I have never met any of the people below in person, yet I am proud to call them my dear friends and I love them with all of my heart.

Zestuous

This is how she summarizes her page: “Good food from a well-travelled Army wife”. I spent quite a long time working with military people and I have a fondness for them in my heart. I was immediately captured by her beautiful photographs, but in Zestuous I also found an amazing friend. I know when I see something from Zestuous, it is going to be good. Once she asked what “Zestous” meant to us, and I don’t exactly recall my response, but I remember saying that to me, Zestuous means HER, the wonderful person that shares all these fantastic recipes with us every day. I will just call her “Zestuous” here because the name suits her well, and if you visit her blog, you will most definitely find something you LOVE. I could spend all day on her site and never tire of it. A few things to tempt you: Chopotoes ~ Twice Baked Chorizo Potatoes with a Tomato-Sour Cream AioliFlourless Chocolate Cake with Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce, and Brown Sugar-Chili Bacon.

Brown Sugar Chili Bacon from Zestuous

A Little Bit Crunchy A Little Bit Rock and Roll

Crunchy, as I like to call her, is a unique and beautiful soul. Obviously music is important to her and she weaves in references to music in bits and pieces throughout her site. She is a vegetarian, so I essentially LOVE her food. I eat meat, but only occasionally. While  people attempt to skip meat on Meatless Mondays, I tend to find myself eating meat ONLY on Mondays. And Crunchy loves Micro-brews! Hello! We are definitely food sisters. When I made her Italian Bread Soup and my post on it got featured on another blog, I was horrified. I felt like it should have been Crunchy’s soup featured there! But she wasn’t worried and said simply that “recipes are meant to be shared”–and she is right. That is what we food bloggers live for, right? To have someone make a recipe of ours makes our heart sing. (At least it does for me!) Crunchy’s cooking is both healthy and decadent. I am terribly excited about her Grilled Salad Pizza and the  Provolone White Bean Grilled Panini.

Grilled Salad Pizza from A Little Bit Crunchy A Little Bit Rock and Roll

Food College, PA

Day is a sweetheart with a very mixed repertoire of food. A comment or post from Day always brings a smile to my face. She is the kind of person you can’t help but smile when you think of her. She has  lived in Venezuela, USA, Germany and Mexico, so she has experienced a lot of different cultural cuisines and you can tell that in her posts. She has introduced me to so many foods I never knew existed! I mean she posts German, Indian, Italian, Russian, Thai, Japanese, you could almost pick a country and bet that Day has created something from there. Day shares dishes like Tequeños (Venezuelan cheese sticks), Cajun chicken wraps with mango salsa and plantain chips, and Homemade shrimp and cheese ravioli in garlic sauce.

Homemade Shrimp & Cheese Ravioli with garlic sauce

Journey Kitchen

Kulsum is an amazing cook and artist and she takes phenomenal pictures! She has a big heart and is such a pleasant person to talk to. She sees the world through very special views–seen through her eyes, the ordinary becomes extraordinary. Every single post of hers is a work of art. I really love her posts because they are a mix of Indian and other cuisine. You will Indian dishes like Karahi Chicken - Chicken Curry in Red Gravy with Green Bell Peppers, and then things you might not expect like Blackberry Frozen Yogurt and Nutella Hazelnut Ice cream. I promise you a trip to Journey Kitchen will be most memorable and you will NOT want to leave. Except maybe to go on a virtual tour of her home town.

Nutella Hazelnut Ice cream

Pass the Sushi

When I first “met” Kita on facebook, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be her friend because sushi is one of the few foods I just do NOT like. But it didn’t take me long to get past that with all the wonderful different kinds of food that she shares! Kita and I have things in common and things that just do not jive–like the fact that I hate sushi and she hates cilantro. No, not cilantro! I LOOOOVE cilantro! But there are quite a few things we CAN agree on, like her Peanut Butter Pretzel Cookies (oh my!), her Godiva martini (yes please!) and how she breaks the rules with Macaroni and Cheese.

Breaking the Rules with Macaroni and Cheese

I want to end with a quote from Simple Fare, Fairly Simple. One of my other good foodie friends and I think it is SO true. You cannot feel lonely when you are cooking, even if you are just cooking for yourself. Cooking in itself is sharing.

“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present and the wisdom of cookbook writers.”
~ Laurie Colwin

This is part of my series of 31 Days of Warmer Connections. Every day in October, I am blogging about connections through food.


Making Berry Liqueur and the 7 Things Awards

Mulberry Liqueur

Sawsan, the Chef in Disguise, gave me The Versatile Blogger award!

verstile-blogger-award I am so honored … am I really worthy of that?

Sawsan is one of my favorite food bloggers. Her foods are always so beautiful and delicious. Really, you must go look at her blog — you will be drooling in no time.

The Versatile Blogger award comes with 2 conditions:

  1. Pass it on to other wonderful bloggers
  2. Share 7 things the readers don’t know about you.

Ok, so what haven’t I told you about myself yet? Hmmm …

The Seven Things You (Maybe) Didn’t Know About Me

  1. I used to be a bartender. That was one of the most fun jobs I ever had. I loved it!
  2. I like almost all kinds of food, but I can’t stand sushi. I’ve tried it several times and I just cannot get myself to like sushi.
  3. I don’t like sushi, but I like to fish. I’m not afraid of worms. I like frogs and alligators. I’m a weird girl.
  4. I drink at least 5 cups of chai tea every day and I try to have at least 4 different kinds on hand at all times. The stores don’t always cooperate with me on this endeavor.
  5. I love art. My favorite work of art is Michelangelo’s David. I have seen it in person in Italy and you know what? He has a cute butt.
  6. I carry an emergency chocolate stash in my purse at all times. (Or did you already figure that one out?)
  7. I started this recipe two months ago and have been DYING to share it with you.

Yes, really, I have been waiting for this day for two months. I even wrote up the post two months ago, preparing for this day … here’s the story:

Last year was an incredible raspberry year. We had so many raspberries that I actually got tired of eating them! It takes a LOT of raspberries for ME to get to that point. I love love love raspberries.

I have memories of going to my grandmother’s house when I was little and she would look at me and smile and tell me to go open the fruit drawer in the fridge. She would have the entire drawer filled to the top with raspberries. We would put them in a bowl and pour cream over them, sprinkle sugar on top, and eat them. Back then we really did put cream on everything–we even ate our cereal with half and half! I can’t believe that we did that … now I can’t stand anything thicker than 2% milk!

Okay so now picture me as an adult, with bajillions of raspberries and whatever to do with all of them! I had made baked raspberry things and eaten bowls of raspberries, poured my raspberries over ice cream and in my cereal and even made raspberry syrup. My daughter and I had made raspberry fizzes and raspberry shortcake. And STILL there were raspberries. Beautiful red ones and dark black ones. The thought of letting the beautiful berries go to waste was breaking my heart.

So I made liqueur. Many years back a friend had given me a cookbook called Glorious Liqueurs. I found this recipe in there.

This recipe takes months, so you will need the first 2 ingredients now, and the rest much later. The anticipation will kill you, but you get to visit your liqueur while it is ‘cooking’ and anticipate the lovely flavors you will savor later.

I am trying this with mulberries this year. Last year was the year of the raspberries … this year it was mulberries. I started this batch at the beginning of July and now it is FINALLY September!!!

Mulberry Liqueur

Raspberry Liqueur

Recipe from New Country Fare: Glorious Liqueurs. 150 Recipes for Spirited Desserts, Drinks and Gifts of Food. (If you are under 21, please skip this recipe.)

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 c. ripe clean raspberries (or other berries … I’m trying mulberries this year, but I think you could use just about any kind of berries)
  • 2 cups (roughly) of brandy
  • 3/4 c. water
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1 T. grated lemon zest

Directions:

  1. Lightly crush 2 c of the berries with a fork or potato masher; place in a quart-size canning jar. Pour in enough brandy to completely cover the berries. Add equal portions of the remaining berries and brandy to reach the top of the jar’s lip. Make sure all of the berries are covered by the brandy. Tightly cap the jar and wipe the outside clean.
  2. Put the jar of berries and liqueur in a dark, cool place. I don’t bother with labeling the date on the jar, but if you were making several liqueurs you might want to put a date on it so you remember when you need to do the next step.
  3. Every 2 weeks, visit your liqueur and give it a good shake to distribute the flavors.
  4. After 2 months, gently pour the contents of your jar through a strainer or sieve; discard the residue. Follow this by 2 strainings through slightly dampened cheesecloth. For further clarity, pour the strained mixture through a large clean coffee filter placed inside a funnel. You will want to loosely cover the contents with plastic wrap or other cover since it might take several hours to strain through.
  5. Make a simple syrup by mixing the sugar, water, and lemon zest in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over med-high heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Funnel the strained brandy into a glass bottle, then funnel in the sugar syrup through a strainer to remove the lemon zest. Cover tightly. Shake to blend the flavors.
  6. Now the recipe says to let it mature at room temperature for at least a month, but I am sure I drank some right away.

It is lovely at room temperature straight, over ice cream or fruit desserts , I have even used it in baked goods and someday I want to try it in ice cream.

The Versatile Blogger Awards!

verstile-blogger-awardNO I didn’t forget about the other part of the award! I am really excited to share this award with some of my amazing foodie friends. Since this is a week of sevens and a 7 things award, I think I need to award this to 7 amazing food bloggers. I hope you visit their blogs and follow them on facebook and/or twitter and I really really hope you love them as much as I do.

  1. Celebrating Home with Karie Engels: Karie has great taste! She is always sharing the most amazing recipes and decorating ideas for your home. I follow Karie on facebook and twitter and I swear I retweet more of her ideas and recipes than anybody else’s! I really can’t recall a post of hers that I didn’t like.
  2. What’s for Dinner? Ally’s Kitchen: Ally is the sweetheart of the foodie world. She visits everyone and spreads foodie love and has the best things to say about everyone. Not to mention her bohemian creations … Ally will inspire you with her beautiful and unique foods, her spunky smile and her sense of humor. When we have a virtual party, Ally brings the vino.
  3. Simply Gourmet Photography: Sherron’s food photography is phenomenal. You will want to eat everything you see of hers. I do! And for those of you who are eating gluten free, this will definitely be one of your go-to sites because it’s ALL gluten free. I really really love her post on enchilada sauce and the reason I like it has nothing to do with the recipe or the photos.
  4. And Then, I Ate It: She started the blog as a gift to her daughter, so her daughter would have good recipes when she went off to college. I love her recipes and her sense of humor. I am SO glad she came back to facebook because I missed her …
  5. Basilmomma: a busy mom that likes to cook: In case you haven’t noticed, I love basil. I think Heather and I are also kindred spirits, perhaps because of the basil, perhaps because she’s a mom, but whatever the reason I just love her! How can you not love someone who makes potato blue cheese soup? (Yes, I love blue cheese too …)
  6. A Little Bit Crunchy A Little Bit Rock and Roll: The name was what initially drew me in, but I really really love the photography, the food, and the honesty and heart in her posts. She says of herself: “I am a vegetarian and I also love meat.” I love that!
  7. Mia’s Domain: Mia is one of those “real” people who makes “real” food that you just love. I love her photography, her recipes, her stories, her style. You will love her too. I know it.
  8. Chocolate and Carrots: Caroline is just awesome. Her food photography is a work of art. I can’t wait to try the Pumpkin Granola. And about a bajillion other things on her site.

I know I said I would list 7 and then I couldn’t help myself! I named 8. Let me tell you, it was very hard to narrow it down to 8!

Here’s to you my Versatile Blogger friends!

Mulberry Liqueur


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