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Oktoberfest inspired meal

My little town just wrapped up their annual Oktoberfest celebration this past weekend. It’s the one thing in fall that people look forward to most, outside of football.

While not a fully German Oktoberfest, it definitely is a Ohio German-Catholic Oktoberfest. Plenty of beer (domestic, served in half gallon jugs), brats and tenderloins to go around. And Ohio State football on a large screen. Oompah bands play polkas throughout the fest, and there are plenty of fellow in lederhosen. Of course, there are typical small-town fest activities: Little Miss Oktoberfest, A Walk Through History, 10k run, arts & crafts and a parade. But it’s mostly an excuse to visit with friends, drink beer, and grab a bite.

It’s also an excuse for me to try German food. I’ve had some here and there in the past. I’m surprised I haven’t had more. I had a grandmother who came over on the boat. She wanted to be American, so all I remember that was close to “traditional” was ox tail soup. Which I’m sure I hated as a young girl. Now, I occasionally get a hankering to dabble in my heritage, usually around this time of year. There’s something about German food that screams ‘Fall” to me. It could be all that schnitzel, spaetzle, stews and cabbage. Hearty food.

This time around I opted for a non-traditional snack with traditional flavors, and an easy German stew. Both are super easy. Heck, the first one doesn’t even require measuring!

Pickled Beets & Goat Cheese on Rye Toast

  • Sliced rye bread, toasted lightly (1-2 slices per person)
  • Soft goat cheese (about 1/2 Tbsp per slice)
  • Pickled beets, sliced (enough to cover bread)

Spread goat cheese on the toast, and top with slices of beet. (I feel silly even typing instructions, this is so easy…but tasty!)

note: I made my own pickled beets using caraway, mustard and dill seeds as the spice blend.


adapted from

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic,chopped
  • 1/4 lb bacon, chopped
  • 2 lb stew beef, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 2 Tbsp bacon fat, or butter
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 4 c beef broth
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 Tbsp dried marjoram
  •  salt & pepper to taste
  • egg noodles, or spaetzle

In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat fat or butter until melted. Add beef in small batches  and brown on all sides, but not cooked through. Set aside. In the same pot, add bacon, onion, red pepper and garlic, and saute until they begin to brown, about 10 min. Return beef to pot add sprinkle with paprika. Whisk in the tomato paste until thoroughly blended. Add enough broth just to cover and bring to a boil, stirring the whole time. Add the rest of the broth a little at a time, bringing it to a boil each time. Reduce heat and simmer about 1 1/2 hour. In the last 15 minutes of cooking, add marjoram, and salt and pepper to taste. Spoon over egg noddles (buttered, if you like) or spaetzle.

Hoist a mug of beer and enjoy!


Vive la France!

If Mexico is a postcard of memories for me, then France is the stuff of dreams.

I’ve already professed my love of Mexico and it’s food, but it’s France that I turn to most. Not specifically all things French, but the ways of France. I’m not a true Francophile in that sense. I don’t need a house in Provence or an apartment in Paris. I follow the rhythms and flows. Hard to explain. Nothing is that much of a crisis that a well-timed shrug or a glass of wine can’t solve. Fresh food, in season, is the way to eat. Butter is OK. Cheese makes an amazing finish to a meal. Looking put together, even if just running into the quickie-mart, is a sign of respect (for yourself, mostly). Choose your passions, and stick to your guns, even if it is for a certain sporting team or a way to cook chicken.

I follow the Tour de France, and honor Bastille Day (both, I usually keep to myself). I like French food, but mostly the country or bistro style of cooking. I like French wines. Who doesn’t? I enjoy the vintage fashions of Dior and Givenchy. French cinema, however, is…meh. France is my dream vacation. Too bad the closest I’ll get is probably Quebec.

The more I write on this little ol’ blog, the more I want to share my memories. I’ve been lucky enough to experience a lot of things. A lot of those experiences are recalled by food. It’s the best scrapbook, making a meal and being able to share. Even if those memories are watching a bunch of cyclists race around France while drinking rose and eating pan bagnat.

Pan bagnat & Le Village blood orange-ade

So, in keeping with the last few posts (about memories and experiences), I’ve decided to share some French goodies. Memories in the making for me, new experiences for you.

Pan Bagnat

adapted from Susan Spungen’s Recipes


  • 1 large clove garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste
  • 3 oil-cured olives, pitted
  • pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 6 Tbsp olive oil


  • 1 crusty French baguette
  • 1-2 roasted peppers
  • 1/2 c halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 can (6oz) light tuna, drained
  • 1/2 c oil-cured black olives, pitted and torn in half
  • 2 hard-cooked eggs, sliced
  • freshly ground black pepper

Make the vinaigrette by combining all the ingredients in a mini food processor or blender. Blend well, about 30 seconds, and set aside. This can be made several days in advance, and refrigerated.

Slice baguette lengthwise, toward the bottom third of the loaf and hollow out the top half. Spoon about two thirds of the vinaigrette on both side of the baguette. Layer the ingredients on the open baguette starting with the roasted pepper, followed by the tomatoes, onion, tuna, olives, then eggs. Drizzle remaining vinaigrette over the top. Sprinkle with pepper.

Close the baguette and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Place in under a heavy cutting board and weigh it down with heavy pots for 1 hour. Slice and serve.

note: feel free to add greens or basil to the sandwich. This is the way I like it.

Onion tart & spinach salad with bacon


Free-Form Onion Tarts

adapted from


  • 3/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 c whole wheat flour
  • 6 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 5 Tbsp ice water


  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 lb sweet onions, thinly sliced
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 Tbsp creme fraiche (I used Greek yogurt and it worked just fine)
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp milk
  • blue cheese, crumbled (optional)

In a bowl, whisk the flour with the salt. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Drizzle the water over the flour and stir gently just until incorporated; gently press to form a dough. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.

In a skillet, melt the butter. Add the onions and thyme and cook over moderately high heat, until softened, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to moderately low and cook, until the onions are golden, 20 minutes longer. Remove from the heat and discard the thyme. Stir in the crème fraîche (or yogurt) and season with salt and pepper. Let cool.

Set a pizza stone on the bottom of the oven or position a rack on the lowest rung and preheat the oven to 375°. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide dough into quarters. On a floured work surface, roll out each quarter into a 6-inch round and transfer to the baking sheet. Spread the onions on the round, leaving a 1 -inch border. Fold the edge of the dough up and over the filling and brush the edge with the egg wash.

Free-form Onion Tart

Bake the tart on the stone or on the bottom shelf for about 20 minutes, until the  of the crust is browned. Transfer the tarts to a rack and let cool slightly. Top tarts with blue cheese crumbles (if using).

Serve with a a simple salad of greens topped with a simple vinaigrette.

Chicken Adobo Tacos, and a confession.

Ford Island

OK. I have a confession to make. I lived in Hawai’i for almost 3 years…and hated it. Well, not completely, but mostly. The reasons are too numerous to list here, but I will tell you that the tropical heat and humidity topped the list. There were a few things I miss about the place. Ford Island, where I lived. For those of you who know your history, that is the site of the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941. I love that era, so walking among American history every day was a privilege and a thrill. I was a 5 minute walk from the USS Arizona and USS Missouri. I could still make out the strafe marks on the runway made by Japanese bullets. I worked in a building that suffered slight shrapnel damage from a bomb. I was also a short drive from many other historical site on the island. A little Territorial Airwaves and I could almost imagine being there…

Strafe marks from 1941

As you can imagine, I also miss some of the food. I will occasionally make myself the parts of plate lunches I miss: loco moco, chicken katsu, or teri beef. Piled on a scoop of rice, all that’s missing is mac salad. And what about haupia, Dixie’s pineapple sour cream pie, or mochi ice cream? Oh, what I would do for a Leonard’s malasada! And I miss Filipino food. Pancit, lumpia, adobo. Ubiquitous when one thinks of Filipino food, but for a reason. The stuff is good. I used to be a Navy wife, so I lived and worked around a lot of Filipinos. I could get my fill any time a gathering took place.

Now I am in western Ohio. Not a huge Filipino population around here. Not much of anything around here. So I finally broke down and decided to make one of my Filipino favorites: chicken adobo. Chicken adobo is vinegary, sweet and salty. It’s often braised in a simple marinade and served over rice. I have no rice. So I made tacos. A bit of a twist on the classic, but with that same taste I remember. I think I hear a slack-key in the distance…

Chicken Adobo Tacos

adapted from

  • 2 lb chicken pieces (I used thighs)
  • 1 head garlic, coarsely chopped (yep, the whole thing)
  • 1/4 c soy sauce
  • 1/2 c vinegar
  • 1 c water
  • 1 c chicken broth
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Cabbage slaw (technique below)
  • 6 in. flour tortillas

Put vinegar, soy sauce, water, broth, pepper and bay leaves in a heavy bottom pot. Cover and cook on low for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute the garlic until just brown and, with a slotted spoon, remove to pot of marinade.  In the same skillet, turn the heat to medium-high and brown the chicken pieces, 5 minutes on each side. Stir the brown sugar into the pot of marinade. Place chicken pieces in the pot and simmer, partly covered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes. Set chicken aside to cool. Strain the solids out of the sauce and discard.

Meanwhile, make a simple cabbage slaw: toss 1/4 head of finely shredded cabbage with 5-6 shredded radishes and 3 sliced scallions. Sprinkle in 1 tsp sugar. Toss with 2 Tbsp rice vinegar and just enough mayonnaise to hold together.


Shred chicken meat and place in a bowl with just enough sauce to moisten. (I boiled the sauce a little to reduce it.) Place about 1/4 c each chicken and slaw in the center of a warmed tortilla. Turn on some vintage hula music and enjoy.

Mango Chili Lime Margarita (for one)

I had a mango about to go, sitting in the fridge. I needed to do something quickly. I had thought, briefly, about some sort of mango salad, but I didn’t have any compatible ingredients on hand. Then I thought “margarita!” Why not? It’s hot and humid out today. What better thing to make on a hot evening than a icy, tropical-inspired margarita.

A quick, refreshing drink awaits.

I didn’t want to make a plain mango margarita, so I took the idea of a popular Mexican  street food – mango slices with chili and lime juice – and thought it would make a perfect drink. It’s refreshing and slightly exotic.

Mango chili lime margarita

This recipe makes one, but feel free to double it.

Mango Chili Lime Margarita

  • Juice and zest from 1 lime
  • 1/4 c simple syrup
  • 1 1/4 c frozen mango
  • 1 oz tequila
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • Ice cubes, if necessary

Combine salt, chili powder and half lime zest on a small plate. Moisten rim of a glass with lime juice. (I used a spent lime half.) Rub rim in chili-salt-lime mixture. Set aside.

Put mango, lime juice and simple syrup in a blender. Blend until smooth. If it is too liquidy, or not icy enough, add ice cubes. Add remaining chili salt and blend until just combined. Pour into prepared glass. Enjoy.

Highlights from a vacation

I recently returned from a well-deserved vacation to Rhode Island. Now, most people don’t immediately think of Rhode Island when making vacation plans. I didn’t either…until I visited the state some years back. My first trip there was meeting up with my (now ex) husband on a business trip. It was late October, and so conveniently coincided with that year’s late color. Of course, being out of season, all the touristy places were closed. No matter. It was beautiful-both the trees and the coast. And we ate well.

The next time I visited was during the summer season. Understandable, it was packed. Newport is where people go “to summer.” Again, I ate well. And it was still beautiful…even though I practically had to park in Massachusetts.

Fast forward a few more years. Vacation time was needed. Rhode Island was the first thing that came to mind. I have a friend there who graciously put me up for a few days. So, with no further plans than to find a few beers and some sailboats to watch, I set out for R.I.

The weather mostly cooperated and we (my friend and I) took advantage where we could. The first day, we wandered into Newport. I wanted to visit my favorite pub for lunch. The Brick Alley Pub has been in Newport for many years. And while it’s not a pub in the traditional English or Irish way, it’s still a great little bar and restaurant with some amazing food. The last time I was there I had a lobster and scallop pasta with cream sauce that I thought was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Ever. Sadly, it’s no longer on the menu, but I still found a winner. Called the Lobstacado, it’s an open-faced sandwich consisting of a toasted English muffin, mashed avocado, a healthy dose of lobster meat, topped with melted Muenster cheese. With this lovely creation I drank a Magner’s Irish cider. New to me, it was dry and crisp, just the way I like cider.

Side trip: a stop at Coddington Brew Company to sample their Blueberry Blonde Ale, which they serve up with fresh blueberries. Gotta love New England.

Dinner, however was a disappointment. Flo’s Clam Shack offers an all-you-can-eat crab dinner on Thursdays. Flo’s is an institution in Middletown/Newport, having been there since 1936 and surviving multiple hurricanes. We should’ve stuck to the clams. The crab was so waterlogged….blah. The view of Second Beach was amazing, though.

Cliffwalk and the mansions across the water.

Day two: Anthony’s Seafood was up. Originally a wholesale market, Anthony’s now has a small seating area. If you want fresh seafood, this is the place. Lobster, clams, oysters, shrimp, crab…they have it all. After pouring over their menu, I finally gave up and got a lobster roll. How can you go wrong? A traditional New England-style split top bun jam-packed with lobster meat? A squeeze of lemon juice and a side of Newport Storm Rhode Island Blueberry Ale. Smooth and fruity…. While we were there, we picked up some steamers, crab legs and a couple stuffies. Stuffies are a Rhode Island stuffed clam using big quahogs, bread crumbs, chourico and seasoning baked right in the shell. Pass the hot sauce and lemon juice!

Side trip: Greenvale Winery for a tasting. They make some lovely, crisp whites. Perfect for summer. Of course I bought two, a Vidal Blanc and their Skipping stone. Both are crisp, floraly wines but the Skipping Stone is a bit sweeter.

The rest of the afternoon was spent on a little beach, Island Park, down the road from my friend’s house. It was here that I had my first beer and sailboat experience. Newport Storm Amber Ale. An ocean breeze. A good friend.

We then met some of my friend’s friends at the nearby Beach House bar. Laughs over beers.

Sharon & John

Day three: the rain moved in. Lunch consisted of Anthony’s stuffies. Just one is big enough to be filling.

That afternoon I took a side trip to Bristol. It’s a waterfront town between Newport and Providence. It has all the historic charm of Newport without the summer crowd. I tucked into a little pub on the water, Aiden’s, and ordered up some Magner’s. I grazed on their appetizer menu and enjoyed the view of the rainy harbor.

Last day: picture day! The sun was out and there was a slight breeze. Perfect. I had failed to get many pictures the first few days mostly because I let the opportunities pass. This day would be different. We got in the car and did a tour of Aquidneck Island. I got some great harbor shots at Melville Grille, located at New England Boatworks, next to Newport’s Naval base. Here we sat on their patio, me sipping Magner’s Pear cider (awesome! Better than the regular) and enjoying the view. Too bad we ate the rest of our Anthony’s seafood, because the Melville smelled amazing! Next time…

We then meandered a bit longer, ending up at Anthony’s. We split a shrimp cocktail, almost enjoying the cocktail sauce more than the fresh, juicy shrimp. It’s definitely not Heinz. I cannot even describe the taste other than it was tangy, sharp and I think it had cilantro.

Newport Winery was right up the road, so we decided to stop and have a tasting. Newport Winery has a whole range of wines, from sweet dessert whites to big peppery reds. I tasted three whites and two reds before settling on two to purchase. I picked their velvety Merlot, and their Rising Tide a slightly dry white.

After a good long rest, it was time for my last meal in Rhode Island. We picked Scampi’s, a seafood restaurant with an Italian lean located near Island Park beach. I feasted. Appetizer was a bacon-wrapped bay scallops. Following that, I enjoyed a simple green salad topped with Saratoga Blue Cheese dressing. I want to find this cheese. The main course was lobster ravioli topped with a lobster bisque-style sauce and garnished with chopped tail meat. The pasta was fresh, as was the lobster. There was just enough sauce so the raviolis weren’t swimming. I didn’t need dessert after that. That meal was amazing. As we were eating, a storm rolled in. Luckily, we had a great view of the water. Such a beautiful sight.

Another Rhode Island vacation has come to a close. I can’t wait to go back… (I might actually take pictures of the food next time!)

Moving and Mexico

I recently moved from one apartment to another. While I did get a bigger kitchen, at least by square footage, I lost counter space and cupboards. It’s still a tiny kitchen, but I can still cook. In fact, the kitchen was the first room I unpacked. All of my dishes and pans are put in their place. All my spices and dry goods are set. The cookbooks take up several two-foot stacks against the wall. The rest of the apartment is mostly in boxes. I hate moving. I live among boxes for a long time until the new place “speaks” to me. I just don’t know where I want things until I live in a space for a while.

One box that did get unpacked was the collection of travel memoirs. You know, the Under the Tuscan Sun, Year in Provence-type books, and one called On Mexican Time. It’s a languid postcard from Mexico by Tony Cohan. There are no recipes or funny stories of locals, but a beautiful read none the less. It makes me long for Mexico.

I’ve been to Mexico just a couple of times. One time was a day/evening trip to Tijuana just to wander the streets, eating 3-for-a-dollar tacos and drinking Mexican Pepsi. The other trip was a 10-day excursion to Puerto Vallarta, for a honeymoon (for an ill-fated marriage).  That trip was spent mostly on Bahia Banderas at Juan’s beach shack, drinking Sol and eating whatever he caught that day. There was occasional forays into town, and brief sightings of whales.

What do I remember most from my trips to Mexico so long ago? Tortillas and the warmth of the Mexican people.

I have a soft spot in my heart for Mexico. I go through phases of food, but often go back to the simplicity of Border and coastal Mexican food. Re-reading On Mexican Time came at the right time. Making some sort of meal to put in tortillas is about as easy as it gets, and since I’d just moved…  I ended up trying homemade flour tortillas, re-fried beans and rice. I found a simple recipe -no lard!- for tortillas in my trusty Border Cookbook by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison. And surprisingly, a good recipe for beans in Better Homes and Gardens Mexican (2012). Some good, fairly authentic recipes in that magazine.

My very loved Border Cookbook

The flour tortillas came out quite tasty, but I needed to added a bit of salt to the beans. I’ve been eating everything in the tortillas all week. Give them a try for this weekend.

Texas Flour Tortillas

from The Border Cookbook

2 c all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp vegetable oil

3/4 c lukewarm milk or water

Sift together flour, salt and baking soda into a large bowl. Pour in the oil and mix with your fingertips to combine. Add the milk or water, working the liquid into the dough until a sticky ball forms.

Dust a counter with flour and knead the dough vigorously for 1 minute. The mixture should be “earlobe” soft and no longer sticky. Let the dough rest, covered with a damp cloth, for about 15 minutes. Divide the dough into 8 balls, and cover again with damp cloth, for about 15-30 minutes. (At this point the dough can be refrigerated for up to 4 hours. Bring the dough to room temperature before proceeding.)


Dust a counter with flour again and roll out each ball into a circle approximately 1/4 inch thick. *this was far too thick for me. I rolled them to about 1/8 inch and they were still too thick. Obviously, the thickness is up to you. These will be irregular shaped. If you want a perfectly round tortilla, feel free to cut into a circle. To avoid toughening the dough. try not to re-roll it.

No fancy gadgets needed

Heat a dry griddle or heavy skillet over high. Cook the tortillas 30 seconds on each side, or until the dough looks dry and slightly wrinkled and a few brown speckled form on both surfaces.

Almost done…

Keep warm in a cloth lined basket, or reserve for future use.

Re-fried Beans

adapted from Better Homes and Gardens ‘Mexican’ (magazine)

8 oz dried pinto beans (1 1/4 cups) (I used a combination of pinto and white beans. It’s what I had)

8 c water

1/2 tsp salt

2 Tbsp bacon drippings or olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

Rinse beans. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven combine beans and 4 cups of the water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 1 hour. (Or place beans in water in pan. Cover and let soak in a cool place overnight.) Drain and rinse beans.

In the same sauce pan, combine beans, 4 cups fresh water, and the salt. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until beans are very tender. Drain beans, reserving liquid.

Mash away

In a heavy large skillet heat bacon drippings. Stir in garlic. Add beans; mash thoroughly with a potato masher. Stir in enough of the cooking liquid (about 1/4 cup) to make a paste-like mixture. Cook, uncovered, over low heat for 8-10 minutes, or until mixture is thick, stirring often.*I added more salt because the beans were too bland for my taste.

Homemade re-fried beans…that taste good!

I served the beans and tortillas with a side of quick “Mexican” rice. That is, cooked riced with onions, salsa and spices. Leftover tortillas and beans make a great grab-n-go breakfast with the addition of some cheese, salsa and eggs. This style of tortilla would also make a good substitute for flat breads in a variety of Middle Eastern dishes. Heck, use them to make quick, individual pizzas. The possibilities are endless…

Kale with White Beans & Sausage

I have a confession. I’m a new convert to kale. I thought it would be tough and bitter. Then I tried it for the first time, about a year ago. Wow. Cooked, it’s earthy and toothsome. It tastes good and good for you. Who wouldn’t like that? (Side note: kale chips are awesome)

Might I suggest a large skillet?

Recently, I found myself in the grocery, wondering what to buy for the week when I saw purple kale. I’d only ever tried the Tuscan variety. The curly purple kale just looked cool. I bought it without having any idea what to make.

Really. Folding in the beans is difficult in a medium skillet

I’ve been reading up on Rhode Island and Massachusetts lately because I’m looking to move that way some day. While I’m doing my research, I keep thinking of the food they have out there. Boston has their Irish, of course. Both Boston and Providence have descent size Italian-American communities. But southern Mass. and eastern Rhode Island is also home to a large Portuguese population. I don’t know a whole lot about Portuguese food, but I do know about caldo verde, kale soup.

Thankfully, kale wilts

Kale soup! But I’m tired of soup. So I searched around the internet and came across a couple kale and white bean sautes. Yum! I mostly used one from Emeril Lagasse, but I did tweak it a bit.

Kale with White Beans & Sausage

adapted from Emeril’s Sauteed Tuscan Kale with White Beans

  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 bunch kale (about 1 lb), rinsed and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 lb sausage, chopped (I used a local kielbasa from my grocer)
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 15oz can white beans, drained and rinsed

Saute the sausage until it’s just cooked through. With a slotted spoon, remove to a paper towel. Add olive oil to the pan, enough to total about 2 Tbsp with the fat rendered from sausage. Add garlic, bay leaf and crushed red pepper. Saute just until garlic becomes fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add kale and onion, and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle lemon juice over kale and stir. Fold in the white beans and reserved sausage, cover and cook until kale is wilted and cooked through, 15-20 minutes.

A nice filling, not-too-heavy, meal for a chilly early Spring night.