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yes, chef by marcus samuelsson

June 29, 2012

field trip friday

I couldn’t wait to read Marcus Samuelsson’s new memoir.  And, guess what?  He was appearing at Barnes & Noble in New York City on the day of the book’s launch.  Perfect!  I was attending!

As a fan and a follower of Chef Samuelsson’s career, I couldn’t wait to listen to his casual conversation about his life and career with restaurant critic, Ruth Reichl.  Most of my friends know Chef Samuelsson as the winner of  Bravo’s Top Chef Masters in 2010.  No small feat, mind you…but, his career thus far has been far more impressive than one huge victory on Top Chef

He was the youngest chef to receive a three-star rating from The New York Times, and was also named Best Chef in New York City (in 2003) by the James Beard Foundation.  His restaurant in Harlem, The Red Rooster (a culmination of food influences from many countries), has received national acclaim. He also can take credit for creating the Obamas’ first official state dinner.

I arrive at Barnes & Noble early and score a front row seat.  Appearing much younger than his 42 years, Chef Samuelsson has a very humble and calming demeanor that immediately puts everyone at ease.  When Ms. Reichl opens his new book Yes, Chef (written with Veronica Chambers) and reads the first sentence, everyone is intrigued:  “I have never seen a picture of my mother”…

“fantastic food needs a lot of loving hands” – Chef Marcus Samuelsson

Born Kassahum Tsegie in Ethiopia, Chef Samuelsson was adopted by a white, middle-class family in Sweden.  Family was responsible for his early culinary aspirations. He credits his Swedish grandmother for his first cooking lessons and says “learning to smoke salmon with my uncle was good times.”  Listening to him talk about his love for food, it seems evident Chef Samuelsson was a natural in the kitchen.   He confirms my suspicions with comments like: “I think I was born to do this” and “food and flavors have become my first language.”

He talks openly about the life of a struggling chef…not all glamour like food television, but hard work..and he discusses the physical toll it has taken on his body.  When he was a young chef, he would vomit from stress before each shift –perfecting it to a timed nine minutes before returning, unflustered, back to work at his cooking station.

When asked for his restaurant recommendations, Samuelsson started to name some, by cuisine, then hesitated and thoughtfully told the crowd that “you are not gonna ‘get it’ as an experience in a restaurant.  You need to eat in someone’s home.”

A photo of Chef Marcus Samuelsson at the launch of his memoir “Yes, Chef.” He says he will always have a love/hate relationship with France.

Marcus talks about the circumstances of his life without shock value, but with a global perspective that is both admirable and  enlightening.  He tells us “the way we do things here (U.S.) is one way, but not the only way.” And, he speaks of the role of the chef in the global society, inspiring change in the global climate. (see his website for more on this: ).

He has lived a life of multicultural influences that are reflected in his cooking and his global perspective.  After hearing him speak, I am so much more interested in his cooking story for the fact that it helps explain the influence it has had on his life perspective.

Chef Samuelsson on his experience with the television show “Chopped”: “the person that is ‘one’ with the food comes out on top.”

I can’t wait to start reading…I suspect I will devour his book in one sitting…bon appetit!

A copy of Yes, Chef signed by Marcus Samuelsson is the giveaway book selection for August.  To be eligible,  simply ‘like’ my facebook, follow my twitter, or leave a comment on a post during the month of August.

Full details:



diy color-dipped wooden spoons

June 25, 2012

color fun in the kitchen

Would you like to create some fun, color-dipped, wooden spoons for your kitchen?  Here is an easy how-to guide.  I decided to make mine in black.  Now,  I realize black is technically not a color…’way back when’  in color and design class with Ms. Burns,  I learned that black is the absence of color, but…I still call it my favorite ‘color’ and my kitchen happens to be black and white.  Not only will black coordinate with the kitchen, but I love the contrast of it against the wood of the spoon.

A big part of creativity is always just knowing what products or services are available…hard to use a product if you don’t  know it exists!  Once you find a product that is new to you, finding uses for it is the fun part!  With an open mind, you are sure to come up with some interesting results.   That is the case with a product called Plasti Dip.  It is a product that is available in the hardware store and is most often purchased to use on tools.  It provides a rubber coating – usually used to put a grip onto a tool.  I have made quite a few great discoveries walking the aisles of my local Home Depot.  When I found Plasti Dip, all I could think about was jazzing up some wooden spoons!

A photo of black color-dipped wooden spoons created with Plastidip.

Okay, first I needed the wooden spoons.  As I started looking for some in kitchen stores, I found that some individual wooden spoons cost as much as $5 or more.  So, I headed out to HomeGoods and found  a package of eight for $3.99.  I purchased the Plasti Dip at Home Depot, but according to the Plasti Dip website, their products can be purchased at any Ace Hardware store. 

Following the directions on the can was very simple…just dip the spoon into the product as instructed, and let dry.  I used packaging tape to attach twine to the spoons and hung them up on the clothesline.  Aren’t they great?I think pink would look awesome … particularly if you have a pink Cuisinart…or, how about a pale aqua for that beach house?  The pre-made colors available are:   yellow, white, red, clear, blue, and black.   If you prefer to  mix your own (orange, anyone?)  color, this is easy by purchasing the ‘Create Your Own Color Kit.’

Have some fun with this product!  I have plenty more to use to experiment and already have some ideas on how I will use the rest of my Plasti Dip!

To find a store to purchase Plasti Dip, or for more information on the product, visit their website:


making pesto

June 22, 2012

friday field trip

This week, Friday field trip is to a cooking class at Terrain.  And, I have included one of the recipes in this post!

You know how much I love (the newly opened in CT) Terrain…well, I recently noticed a pesto class on their calendar… I was determined to attend!  With a little creative scheduling, I was able to make it happen.

Kelly, one of the Terrain chefs, led the class.  She is a Culinary Institute of America (CIA) graduate and just a lot of fun to be around.  I guess I didn’t really capture any great photos of her… it didn’t help that her Sicilian heritage was kicking in…plenty of hand motions and enthusiasm didn’t bode well for a clear photo!  Believe me, she was adorable…a  huge smile and dressed in her ‘farmer chic’ (Terrain’s dress code) attire.

The ‘students’ soon discovered that pesto is not just about basil, oil, garlic, and pine nuts.  Kelly really opened our eyes to experimenting with different greens and nuts.  It was a lightbulb moment for me to consider using new and different combinations of greens and nuts in pesto rather than relying on the traditional basil and pine nuts.  We were able to taste test all the creations Kelly demonstrated.  I eagerly tried the arugula and sunflower seeds, and LOVED the basil and kale and almonds.

The taste tests were accomplished by spreading the pestos on warm bread…yum!   This is something I never do with pesto.  I use it on pasta, but haven’t ever used it as an appetizer ingredient or as a condiment…where have I been?!

Terrain only uses the freshest of ingredients in their cafe, restaurant, and cooking classes.


A photo of pesto made in a Terrain cooking class.

Kale Toasted Walnut Pesto (makes about 1 cup)

You can make this pesto with plain (raw) walnuts, but toasting them gives them a little extra flavor that can hang with the slightly more intense (and bitter) taste of kale.


  • ½ cup plain/raw walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • About 3 cups chopped kale
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ – 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Heat a frying pan over medium heat.  Add walnuts and stir constantly (or gently shake pan) until toasted, about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and let the walnuts cool.

Pulse garlic clove in food processor until it is chopped finely, about 30 seconds.  Add kale, toasted walnuts and Parmesan cheese and pulse until chopped.  You may have to stop the food processor, open the top, and push the kale down toward the blades.

With the food processor running on low, add olive oil in a steady stream until you get the consistency you want, I went with almost ¾ cup of olive oil.

Season to taste with salt and pepper (we used about 1 ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper).

Kelly also suggested trying the combination of pistachios with spinach.  I can’t wait to try this combo!  Other ingredients  suggested included cilantro, mixed herbs, watercress, parsley, hazelnuts, and pecans.

I left there with a jar of freshly made pesto and feeling much more adventurous about trying new ingredients to add variety to the pesto I make at home.  If  you want to attend a class or other event, check out the Terrain website for the event schedule:

By the way, I stopped and bought a loaf of good bread on the way home ;)


five tips for surviving summer with your college student home

June 21, 2012

Okay, it’s official.  Summer is here.  Many of us empty nesters find the nest is not that empty now that summer has arrived.  Yes, it is a big adjustment.  But, I have some basic survival tips for you to help summer sail along smoothly with your college students back at home.  Here are my top five:

1.  Act blind

You know the bedroom inhabited by your college student?  It does not exist.  You really have to take the ‘see no evil’ route when it comes to the vacationing student’s bedroom…there is no way to survive the summer if you actually open the door and look in.  You can occasionally plead that food and/or dirty clothes are routinely removed, but basically you need to just accept the fact that it will be total chaos in that room.  You can venture in, wearing a hazmat suit, come August; hoping for the best.

2.  Use the urban dictionary

What is a mandime?  This word came up when I was watching an episode of Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory with my kids.  I had no idea what it meant.  There will be plenty you may not understand…with texting, song lyrics, and everyday expressions used by your returning student…the best way to handle it?  Use the urban dictionary.  By going to the website, you will get a good idea of what a specific text or slang expression means without actually having to ask.  Aahh, the beauty of the internet.  Now you don’t have to hear your child exclaim “ooooohh moooom” when you don’t understand something they consider a commonplace term.

#2 tip for surviving summer with your college student: use the urban dictionary

3.  Know your college website

I think most parents are amazed at the lack of information they are able to attain from their college student.  Heck, we only help pay for their education, we don’t need to know about minor things… like,  move-in dates, awards ceremonies, or graduation!  In my experience, this is especially true with sons. Unbelievable amounts of research are performed by the student to find out which spring break location has the largest outdoor bar, but apparently the date of parents’ weekend is a mystery.  If you are a planner (like I am) and really need some information, the fastest and easiest way to get it is to go onto your student’s school website.  If you search ‘academic calendar’ you will be able to get most of the information you will need.  And, if it is graduation year for your child,  most schools even have a special link for graduation information.  You can book your hotel for graduation at the beginning of the year without ever having to rely on your student to provide you with the appropriate date.  Bookmark the school’s website and you will know more of what happens on campus than your student.

4.  Be a texter

If you have a college-aged child, you certainly must know by now that texting is the preferred method of communication.  If you want to be relieved of a lot of worrying…you have to know how to text…even if the only reply you may get to your message is ‘k’, it is often worth the piece of mind to know your child is alive and breathing.

5.  Get some white noise

The fifth, but probably the most important survival tip, is to get yourself some white noise for bedtime…this can be a fan, a tape of ocean sounds, or whatever your preference may be.  The idea is not to hear the comings and goings of the kids.  I am sure you know that the time schedule of the college student really defies nature.  The only way to stay sane and to also get a good night’s sleep is to have some type of noise distraction.  This way, you won’t hear 3am meal preparation or notice the ungodly hour everyone arrives home.  This prevents a ton of unnecessary worry and sleep interruption.

Good luck & happy summer :)


strawberry fields & recipe

June 15, 2012

friday field trip

It’s prime strawberry picking…that’s what the recording said when I called Jones farm to find out if strawberries were still in season.   That’s it then, I decided…I will pick strawberries for my Friday field trip.  Gee, I  can’t even remember the last time I was in a strawberry field.  I took my kids to pick strawberries (more like ‘eating’ strawberries) when they were small…those trips were all about the children having a good time and about providing them with a learning experience.

This time, my trip would be a solitary one.  I headed out to Jones Farm in Shelton, CT, a 400 acre farm run by the fifth and sixth generation members of the Jones family.

Under no pressure to pick any certain quota of strawberries (heck, we have a fridge full),  I spent my time at the farm really enjoying my surroundings…




And, I found a new ‘go to’ recipe for strawberries that is certain to replace the standard shortcake recipe for me – different and delicious.  I have included it here for you…complements of Jones Farm. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

A photo of recipe for Mystere Strawberries



homemade (better than bailey’s) irish cream recipe

June 12, 2012

homemade father’s day gift

A photo of Homemade (better than Bailey’s) Irish Cream recipe packaged in personalized bottles for Father’s Day.

Father’s Day is Sunday!  Do you need an idea for a special homemade gift?  I have an easy and delicious gift you can make.  Homemade Irish Cream!  Packaged in a personal way, I think it makes the perfect gift for your special guy.

In my opinion, this homemade version  tastes better than the popular brand you purchase in the liquor store.  I suspect that is because it uses fresh dairy, rather than the substitute that must be required to ensure a long shelf life for the ‘real’ stuff.

First,  get yourself some bottles – these can be repurposed or purchased.  I found the ones pictured here at the store Homegoods…two I bought empty and one was filled with Italian soda;  but was priced the same as the empty ones.  You may already have something you can use at home…check your cabinets and refrigerator for possibilities, use an old canning jar, or check out the home and craft stores.


To make the gift personal, I selected some old, favorite photographs  to create labels for the front of the bottles.  I love old black and white photos,  and I chose three favorites of my dad and I together to print onto a sheet of labels.  If you only have color photos; no worries.  You can easily turn your color photos into nostalgic looking black and white or sepia prints using your computer or photo software.  (If you don’t know how to do this, send me a message.  Better yet, ask your children…they are certain to know how to accomplish this.)

I simply printed the photos on a sheet of regular office shipping labels – nothing fancy.  And, because they were black and white, a color printer was not required.  I trimmed the labels and affixed them onto the bottles.  Then, I finished with some ribbon scraps tied onto the necks of the bottles.  Of course, I had to tie a sand dollar to the neck of one of the bottles.   Do you see the one that says ‘I love you?’  I used a piece of scrapbooking paper I bought for 10 cents (this paper is sold by the sheet in any craft store) and used it as a backing for one of the photos; cutting it slightly larger than the size of the photo to create a frame around it.

A photo of homemade Irish Cream in personalized bottles.

Homemade Irish Cream Recipe

3 eggs

1 cup rye whiskey

2 Tablespoons chocolate syrup

2 – 3 teaspoons vanilla

1 pint half & half

1  14oz. can sweetened condensed milk

Blend eggs for 3 minutes.  Add all other ingredients.  Blend 2 minutes more.  Keep refrigerated .  Will keep as long as the expiration date on the half & half…if it lasts that long. 

Use a funnel to fill the bottles .  Your Homemade Irish Cream is ready for giving!  (Or, if your Dad is more the bourbon guy, you might want to try making him one of these:  Bobby Flay’s Vanilla Bean Bourbon Milkshake)

Try pouring a little in your Dad’s brunch time coffee ;)  Remember to save some for yourself!


top ten coolest people i met countdown

June 9, 2012

friday field trip

A photo of Star Jones – #2 on my ‘Cool People I Met’ countdown.

So many exciting people to meet and fun things to do in New York City this past week!  I really couldn’t pin down a Friday field trip, so I decided to do a countdown of the ten coolest people I met on my three day field trip to NYC.  Are you ready?

#10. #9. #8.  Hercules, Mercury, and Minerva

Yup, I am talking about the gods!  Hercules, Mercury, and Minerva are the three gods depicted on the statues surrounding the clock on the facade of Grand Central Station facing 42nd Street.  I actually took some time to look up and notice the clock…it definitely fits in the cool category (I know, I know…these three are not exactly ‘people’, but it’s my list :) ) I can’t believe how many times I have been in and out of Grand Central in my lifetime and have never really taken the time to notice the details on this amazing piece of work.  At the time it was unveiled in 1914, it was considered the largest sculptural group in the world!  Cool!

 #7.  The Hawaiian Airline Dancers

Hawaiian Airlines has staged a little piece of Hawaii on the streets of Manhattan as a part of a promotion to celebrate the start of direct, non-stop flights from New York to Honolulu.  Hula dancers performing to traditional Hawaiian music really set a mood of the tropics, but it is the fragrance of all the real flower leis that just put the whole sensory experience over the top for me!  Like many others passing by, I could not resist stopping to enjoy…and, I put my name in to win a drawing for free flights to Hawaii…aloha!

#6.  Keenan Cahill 

Keenan is an internet celebrity that became famous from lip-syncing popular songs on YouTube.  If you don’t know who he is, you probably don’t know who ‘David going to the Dentist’ is either.  He lipsynced his first YouTube video in 2010 to Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream.  He has had some big name singers (rapper 50 cent for example), join him in his videos.  He lives in Illinois and traveled to New York City this past week to speak at a social media conference, giving advice to a roomful of techies on how to achieve what he was able to at 14 years old.  What is supercool about Keenan?  He put himself out there and did what he really wanted to do, in spite of what anyone else thought or advised.   In the process, he became an internet sensation by combining genuineness, a love for music, and a great sense of humor.  His confidence and spirit get him on my list as #6.  Keep singing Keenan :) !

A photo of internet celebrity Keenan Cahill. #6 on the “Cool People I Met” countdown.

#5.  Ina Garten

With so many celebrity chefs today, Ina stands out as someone that ‘keeps it real’.  Always cooking great food, simply and deliciously prepared, joining Ina (via Food Network) in her home to watch her cook for her husband, Jeffrey, or some of her friends, is always a treat.  As lovely in person as she is on her television show (with a face full of adorable freckles), it was definitely a thrill to meet Ina Garten (who grew up and was married in my home state of Connecticut) and she comes in at #5 on my cool people list.

A photo of Ina Garten – #5 on my ‘Cool People’ countdown.

#4.  Tim Gunn

Always impeccable and oozing with swag, Tim Gunn is #4 on my countdown of cool people I met this week.  He was cool when he mentored young talent on the television show Project Runway (as a former faculty member of Parson the New School for Design) and he remains cool now, in all he does.  You can catch him on daytime television giving “Timterventions” on his show The Revolution.  You got it going on Tim!

A photo Tim Gunn – #4 on the countdown.

#3.  Roble Ali

This hot, young chef is currently starring in the show Chef Roble & Co. where he and his team cater events for big name clients and celebrities in NYC.  But, that is not why he receives #3 on my ‘cool’ countdown of the week.  He attains this honor for judging the Teen Battle Chef LIVE in Harlem last Wednesday night.  Teen Battle Chef is a program where young people learn to cook and explore culinary careers, nutrition, food systems and gardening education, while ‘battling’ obesity and chronic disease.  Chef Roble helped confirm to the students that it is ‘cool’ to be interested in preparing and eating healthy food.

#2.  Star Jones

Star Jones also gets on my cool list for supporting the Teen Battle Chef event in Harlem.  She served as the emcee for the evening and did an amazing job of conveying the importance of eating right by speaking candidly about her own personal story of being overweight (over 300 lbs.) and requiring open heart surgery.  Kudos to Star for using her personal story and her no-nonsense demeanor to help inspire others, while lighting up the evening with her sense of humor and sparkling personality.

Photo of Star Jones at Teen Battle Chef in Harlem – #2 on my ‘Cool People I Met’ countdown.

I am blessed with some really great friends…one of them works in health and wellness and invited me to attend Teen Battle Chef that was being held in Harlem this past week, sponsored by her employer, Emblem Health.  I had never before spent any time in Harlem and hadn’t heard about the event I was attending, but it seemed to contain all the ingredients I love:  celebrity chefs, education, and the chance to meet new people.  I was in!  I  managed to negotiate my way to Harlem (thanks sweet, young girl from the performing arts high school that I met on the subway) and find my destination.

#1.  Harlem students participating in Teen Battle Chef.

There is no question that the coolest of the cool I met this week were definitely the students that participated in the Teen Battle Chef in Harlem (I couldn’t pick just one) and they came in as  #1 in my countdown.  What a fun night I had with them all!  I was lucky to get the chance to sample the creations in the appetizer category and the students were eager to explain the nutritional value of each ingredient.  (Send me an email if you would like me to send you the recipe for my favorite – “Carribbean Salsa”.)

Every person that helped create and implement this program (an extra-curricular activity at school) and competition is #1 in my book…this includes Lynn Fredicks (founder of FamilyCook Productions), Former First Lady of New York State Michelle Paige Paterson (sparking the idea for bringing the program to Harlem), and all those that supported it – including Former Governor of New York, David Paterson and celebrity chefs Walter Hinds and Marcus Samuelsson.  Bon appetit!

A photo of #1 on my ‘Cool People I Met’ countdown – the Harlem students committed to learning about healthy eating.

Congratulations to the students of Harlem for their committment to help their friends and family make healthier food choices to prevent unhealthy weight and associated diseases!  Super cool!

Hope you enjoyed the Top Ten Coolest People I Met Countdown for this week’s Friday field trip!



book giveaway winner for may!

June 3, 2012

state of wonder by anne patchett

May’s free book giveaway is State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.  Ann was in Connecticut this past month and I had the pleasure to meet her when I attended one of her appearances with one of my bookgroups.

May’s winner of the free autographed signed book is Lauren P. who blogs on The Well Crafted Home.  Congratulations Lauren!  I know you will love the book!

For more details on entering to win next month’s book, 22 Brittania Road, click here:

Her are some photos of Ann from the appearance I attended.

Ann Patchett, the author of eight novels, including “Bel Canto” and “Run”

Ann, now a bookstore owner as well as an author, speaks to a packed house of over 400 in Connecticut.

Next month’s giveaway book:

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signs of summer…castles in the sand

June 2, 2012

friday field trip

sand castles in CT

It has been a really crazy week and I can’t believe I even have time to post, but I couldn’t let a Friday go by without a Friday field trip!  Here in Connecticut, we have been having some really hot weather…I think we had a day with a record breaking temperature…it really is starting to feel like summer :)

What better way to start gearing up for summer than to attend a sandcastle competition?  So, I decided to attend a local competition and post some photos to help get you into the summer spirit.  No better way to feel happy about the beach….except maybe to listen to the Beach Boys… or watch an episode of Sand Masters.

Here are my two favorites…


How about this ‘dude?’  Gotta love him :) Look at the hair!

Has anyone else out there discovered the show Sand Masters on the Travel channel?  I am enthralled with the show.   There are people out there that call themselves master sand sculptors and basically make a living out of creating things in the sand.  Sand Masters showcases these professionals.  If you live in an area that is hard-pressed for a sandcastle competition and my pictures aren’t enough…try checking out the show…you can watch it on the Travel channel or on line…here is a taste:

Hope you enjoyed Field Trip Friday…and a little taste of summer from here in Connecticut :)