Monday, December 30, 2013

Pizza Reigns at the Palace

Can you believe it?  Another holiday season has flown by.  Family members have all gone home, and I must admit, our house does seem a bit lonely.  But after hosting two family parties and making two turkey dinners, a Christmas brunch, and several potluck items, I am feeling the need to relax and take a break from our kitchen.
  

 


I am feeling the need for pizza.  Don’t tell me you didn’t have the same urge the day after Christmas…..
 

 
 
After a day of running errands, my husband and I decided to carry out our favorite local pizza from J & G Pizza Palace, located in the heart of downtown Sylvania, Ohio. 

The Palace, also known for its Greek food and gyros, has been in operation for decades with décor that has remained unchanged since its opening - I’m guessing in the 70’s. 
 

 
 

Calling it a Palace is a complete oxymoron as the restaurant is tiny and usually packed with regulars waiting in its crowded vestibule.   Sometimes we get lucky and score the one and only bench by the front window – a great place to hold hands and share a glass of Greek wine. 


Sitting in this cozy nook gives us the feeling that we are in a big city – something about the lights reflecting in the windows.
 

 
 
Now, let’s get to the pizza.  Having lived and visited cities out East where pizza became pizza, I have to say that J & G has truly something special in its recipe.  The crust is thin and crunchy, the sauce is tangy and not too sweet, and the cheese is added in slices.   And I love the unique way they cut the pie into little squares.
 

 
 
Have I mentioned the Greek salad yet?  A must have pairing with your pizza.  It’s drizzled with an olive oil and vinegar dressing with lots of oregano and spices.  And it is topped with huge chunks of feta cheese.  HUGE!
 

 
 
It is time that I say goodbye for our carry out pizza awaits. 

 

 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Twas the Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house;

 



Everyone was stirring, even the mouse;
 

 
 
 
The garland was hung by the chimney with care,
 

 
 
In hopes that St. Nicolas soon would be there;
 

 
 
The ladies in their gowns and men in their best,
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
Just settled down for their holiday fest.
 

 
 
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
 
 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Holiday Preparations

Yesterday, my friend Gina and I were discussing how much we love decorating for Christmas and pulling all of the details together on those last few days leading up to it.


 
 
We were also laughing about how when we were young we thought our moms were crazy ladies at this time of year.  



 


All of that running around and yelling, "Don't make a mess.  I just cleaned that!"  We didn't understand what the big deal was all about.  Everything looked nice to us. 

 

 


But... as it turns out, they weren't crazy at all.  They were just trying to make the holiday special for their families, and they worked really hard to make it perfect and memorable.

 




And then we laughed harder and realized we have become those crazy ladies. 

 



So, here’s to all of the moms and crazy ladies out there.  Happy preparations!

 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Manor of Tradition

I love this time of year.  I enjoy everything about it – cozy evenings in front of the fireplace, cooking and baking, making and wrapping gifts, walking the dog on snowy evenings - all of it.

The entrance to the beautiful Manor House

As busy as pre-Christmas days can be, it’s nice to take some time out from the hustle and bustle to attend some great area events. 

We are fortunate in that our community does holiday events really well – the Thanksgiving parade, the lights at the zoo, and the ballet’s Nutcracker are just a few.

Silver and white themed tree in the living room

Last weekend my Mom and I revisited one of our community’s oldest traditions – the holiday home tour at The Manor House. 


The festive dining room with some very special guests

The Manor House, one of the area’s most iconic homes, once served as the family estate to the Robert Stranahan family.  For the past 38 years, its scenic estate buildings, horse stables and grounds have served as a community park for all to enjoy. 

Clara's bedroom 

Thanks to the many volunteers who deck its halls each year, The Manor House is a magical sight and a beloved tradition. 
 

The romantic sitting room


What favorite traditions will you observe this holiday season?



A Manor of Pride
 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

All is Merry and Bright

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

I also hope you got some beauty sleep because somehow… magically… overnight, it became Christmas.  

 
 
Can you believe it? 

Yesterday was the 4th of July, right?
 

 
 
I decided to forgo the Black Friday weekend festivities to focus on holiday decorations. 
 

 
 
This year, it’s a mix of natural and traditional for me.  I’m crazy about burlap…. and so is the rest of the world from what I see out there. 
    

 
 
With fresh greens, fruits and pinecones, I’m going a little less sparkly and a little earthier – a little cozier and a little calmer.
 

 
 
Because we all know that there won’t be too much calm for any of us this month.
 

 
 
So here’s to you in finding your calm this holiday season. 
 
Happy decorating!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

It's all in the Details

As I ponder over the final details, I have to keep reminding myself that by 10 a.m. on Friday, it will all be over.  The company will be on their way home, the kitchen will be clean, and I will have had at least a few decent hours of sleep. 




But still, I can’t help wondering how I’m going to organize the sea of food on the buffet, if there will be enough table space for everyone, if the new dressing recipe will turn out, what to do with the dog and cat.
I’m no stranger to hosting holiday events for my husband’s large family.  While the task may seem daunting at times, I take comfort in knowing that I've pulled this off before.   So for now, I will focus on the small things that make the day special.
Before I know it, Friday morning will be here just in time to break out the Christmas decorations. 
Happy Thanksgiving!
 


Spiced Nuts
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 large egg white
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
2 cups walnut halves
Preheat oven to 325°.  Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly butter it.  In a small bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, salt and pepper.
 

In a medium bowl, whisk egg white until frothy.  Add sugar mixture and whisk.  Whisk in orange zest.  Add walnuts and stir until coated.  Spread on baking sheet in an even layer.  Bake and stir every 10 minutes to loosen, until golden about 25 minutes.


 
Cranberry Apple Relish
¾ orange juice
¾ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash ground cloves
1 12-ounce package cranberries
1 large apple, peeled and cored
In a saucepan combine orange juice, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.  Cook and stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves.  Add cranberries and apples.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook and stir for 3 or 4 minutes until cranberries pop.  Chill and serve.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

For the Birds

It’s hard for me to admit this, especially at my age.  I should be good at this by now, with many years of experience under my belt.  But the truth is, I avoid it at all costs.  I even snuck past it last year by hosting a brunch instead of making a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. 

You see, I have this phobia – a deathly fear of cooking a turkey. 

Up the front steps
 
Can you blame me though?  When you’re the one in charge of the turkey, there is tremendous pressure.  Pressure to perform.  It’s got to be great, or everyone’s Thanksgiving will be ruined…. 

Well, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but it would be disappointing none the less. 

I have tried, really.  Every year I say to myself, “This will be the year that I prepare a full turkey.”  And then, I chicken out.  No pun intended. 

Sadly, this year will be no different.  I am going to host Thanksgiving dinner for our family. I just won’t be the one cooking the bird.   
 

Our Thanksgiving table
 
I’m sticking with what I am good at – the decorations, the tablescape, and the scrumptious side dishes.  And that, I can handle.  

I wish you and your family a blessed Thanksgiving Day.
 
Happy Thanksgiving!



 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Chopped!

I was absolutely terrified.  I thought my husband would never speak to me again.   It was as if someone had just rang the bell for the start of the Food Network's Chopped challenge.  Not exactly our idea of a relaxing vacation cooking class.


Sharp knives and hot pots were swirling all around us, and participants were already forming alliances with each other.  "We'll take the pork.  You take the chicken. Go!"

I didn't understand what the rush was all about.  Perhaps the romanticism of reality cooking shows had overtaken their emotions.  We had plenty of time - at least three hours to create four different fillings for tacos.

The term too many cooks in the kitchen came to mind.  Quickly I shouted, "I'll take the veggie dish."  Good thing because my husband had already started working on it with Patty, the rock climber, from San Diego.



I dove into my role and began chopping an onion for the tomatillo and avocado salsa.  The kitchen at the Santa Fe School of Cooking was rocking.  Others seemed undaunted by the frenzy, but perhaps I am just used to cooking in my own kitchen.

After completing the salsa and taking a deep breath, we began our next culinary creation - potato, poblano chile and spinach taco filling.  It's sinfully rich as it is finished with heavy cream and Fontina cheese. Get the recipes below.

Me adding the finishing touches

Others in the group made Hot and Smoky Shrimp, Pork al Pastor and Chicken al Carbon. All of which turned out quite tasty.  Toward the end of class, we got a chance to make our own flour and corn tortillas. Feeling adventurous I grabbed the spatula and took command over the tortilla griddle imitating a cook in a Mexican Taqueria.

Learning how to make tortillas

Despite all of the chaos around us, we realized we were having a really good time with some fun folks from all over the country.

It was a good day after all with delicious food, but don't count on me to audition for Chopped any time soon.
 
 
Fresh Tomatillo and Avocado Salsa
 
Tomatillo and Avocado Salsa

1 dozen tomatillos, soaked in warm water and husked
(We roasted ours for more flavor)
1 medium white onion, diced
2 garlic cloves
2 or 3 fresh Serrano chiles, minced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 large ripe avocado, cubed
Juice from 2 or 3 limes
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste (We used honey instead to cut the acidity from the limes)
Extra virgin olive oil to taste

Quarter the tomatillos and place in the work bowl of a food processor.  Pulse to a course puree. Place the tomatillos, onion, garlic, chilies and cilantro in a bowl and stir to combine.  Add the avocado.  Season with lime juice, salt, sugar and drizzles of olive oil.  Let stand 20 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

Potato, Poblano Chile and Spinach Tacos
 
Potato, Poblano Chile and Spinach Tacos
 
4 or 5 red or white potatoes
1 large white onion, diced
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2 bunches fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano or marjoram
4 fresh Poblano chiles, roasted, seeded, peeled and cut into quarter-inch strips
1 cup heavy cream or Mexican cream
1 cup grated Fontina cheese
Salt to taste
Corn tortillas

Peel potatoes and dice.  Cook in boiling water until potatoes are soft but not falling apart, about 10 to 12 minutes.
 
Heat oil in a medium-hot skillet.  Lightly brown onions.  Add garlic and potatoes and cook for 2 minutes more.  Add spinach a handful at a time, stirring with tongs to wilt.  When greens are wilted, add herbs, chiles and cream.
 
Cook on low boil, stirring constantly, until liquid is reduced by a third.  Stir in cheese and continue cooking until smooth and thick.  Add salt if needed.
 
Place in a serving dish along with a basket  of warm, corn tortillas. 

  

Monday, October 28, 2013

Put a Little Zing in Your Day

No visit to Ann Arbor would be complete without lunch at world famous Zingerman’s Delicatessen.  Don’t misunderstand me, great food is abundant all over Ann Arbor, but nothing else compares to the deli’s character and its wonderful artisan-crafted breads and cheeses. 
 

Zingerman's Delicatessen in Ann Arbor, Michigan


Established in 1982, Zingerman’s has grown from a traditional Jewish deli with great sandwiches to an Ann Arbor institution.
 

The deli and fresh bread counters inside Zingerman's 


Located in the historic Kerrytown District near the Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market, Zingerman’s is actually a  community of businesses including:  Zingerman’s Roadhouse which serves “really good American food;” Zingerman’s Creamery with high-quality handmade cheese; and Zingerman’s Bakehouse where all of the deli’s breads, cakes and cookies are made. 
 

My favorite - the Georgia Reuben


With all of this deliciousness available, it makes it hard to settle on one sandwich. 

The menu goes on and on with whole pages of options dedicated to each meat choice – corned beef, pastrami, turkey, chicken, pork and beef. 
 

Extra seating and coffee are available literally Next Door

Your sandwich experience also includes your choice of a new or old pickle. 
 
Choosing a new one gets you crunchy and cucumbery... 
 
An old one gets you traditional and garlicky... 
 
Pickle lovers will enjoy either version.
 

Just part of the cheese selection


While waiting for your sandwich to be built, browse the selection of fine vinegars and oils, sample the breads and cheeses, and grab yourself a pie or cookie to go.  You may even get lucky and score a Magic Brownie sample. 

So, next time you are in Ann Arbor, be sure to visit Zingerman’s and put a little Zing in your day and your belly.


Zingerman's signature artistic style
   
Hey Dad - have you ever had a pie from Zingerman's?  I've heard they are really good!