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~Barbarians At The Table~

March 6, 2021

Paris Sweets-Great Desserts From the City’s Best Pastry Shops by Dorie Greenspan (Clarkson Potter)

When I think of Paris, a few things naturally come to mind. The Eiffel Tower, phenomenal art work, gardens galore and of course, a seat at an outdoor cafe sipping a cappuccino while engaging in some serious people watching.  However, Paris wouldn’t be the same without ALL of the yummy pastries begging to be boxed up and eaten by those who dare look their way.

“For anyone who loves pastry, Paris is the center of the universe.  Not only can you find a patisserie or boulangerie on every street, but the odds are tremendously in your favor that you’ll find a good, perhaps great, pastry or bread shop, and that it will turn up just when you most need a buttery croissant or a bittersweet chocolate cookie.  Like sidewalk cafes, street-corner kiosks, and every famous monument from the Eiffel Tower to Sacre-Coeur, patisseries are part of what makes food lovers, bon vivants, and romantics cherish Paris.”

My husband and I went to Paris 22 years ago.  We were young and in love and oh so eager to soak up all that this city of lights had to offer.  Before we left on our much anticipated trip, my mother-in-law gifted me  a signed copy of Paris Sweets-Great Desserts From the City’s Best Pastry Shops by Dorie Greenspan.  Just in case you are wondering, Dorie Greenspan is a James Beard Award-winning author of Everyday Dorie and Dorie’s Cookies and a columnist for New York Times Magazine. I fell deeply in love with her book.  It is not only a guide to some of Paris’ most decadent treats, but also a tribute to some of the most admirable Paris Patisseries. I devoured each page of this scrumptious book over and over again before our trip.  I could not wait to visit all of these pastry shops and indulge in all of Paris’ sweetest treats.   

My Signed copy of Paris Sweets

Greenspan’s book will transport you directly to Paris.  Her book consists of six main sections…

  • Cookies Big and Little, Buttery, Crunchy, Tender and Crisp
  • Simple Cakes for Snacks, Suppers, and “Le Gouter”
  • Tarts for Teatime or Anytime
  • Pastries and Small Treats for Occasions Simple and Swell
  • Grand Gateaux for Fetes and Feasts 
  • Base Recipes

Paris Sweets has some of the most incredible recipes adapted from Paris’ most treasured pastry shops.  Greenspan writes all about these sweet shops offering her readers their history, origins of the various goodies and the importance of using simple and high quality ingredients (think butter, fleur de sel, chocolate, etc.).  This book is one to bake from and also one to read and cherish by the fire.  From tarts, to meringues, to the most luxurious chocolate in the world, Greenspan has the Paris “treat” scene covered. With recipes that are completely manageable, even a baking rookie can take them on.  

I have baked from this book more times than I can remember. Today, I am sharing with you two recipes that my 15 year old son and I made together that pleased all of the barbarians at my table.  The first recipe we made was Grandmother’s Creamy Chocolate Cake/Gateau au Chocolat Grand-Mere adapted from La Maison Du Chocolat.  The Maison Du Chocolat in Paris was one of my first stops that I actually remember from 20+ years ago.  Though I can’t recall what we ordered, I will never forget the glorious smell of chocolate that filled the chilly air.  This small chocolate shop was founded by the late Master Chocolatier, Robert Linxe, and decades later, La Maison Du Chocolat has boutiques all over the world.  In all honesty, this cake is very similar to a flourless chocolate torte, except this recipe includes ¼ cup of flour.  Five ingredients is all you need to make this rich and lavish cake.  This dessert can be served alone in all of its elegance or can be dusted in some powdered sugar to give it a glow.  Of course ice cream and whipped cream are never a bad idea either.  The cake was a five star hit with zero complaints.  The nice thing about this dessert is that it can be served casually after dinner or it can truly put on the ritz at a swanky dinner party.  

Sifting the flour into the batter is a game changer!
Different shaped cake pans are always fun to use!

Classic Madeleines are ALWAYS a good idea.  These light and airy cookies are perfect with a hot cup of tea mid afternoon.  And let me just tell you this…these gems have massive roots.  The love of these cookies dates back to the early eighteenth century and have been popular ever since.  Greenspan’s recipe is adapted from Patisserie Lerch (which to my understanding is now closed).  With just seven ingredients, this recipe was easy-breezy to make.  My only warning is to read it through one full time for planning purposes. Once the cookie dough is made, it does need to be refrigerated for a minimum of  three hours to develop its “crown”.  Another recommendation is to use a nonstick madeleine pan for the quintessential shell-shape they are known for.  We made the Classic Madeleine, which has the loveliest hint of lemon to it.  Greenspan offers a Honey or an Earl Grey variation as well.

Madeleines in the making!

Our cookies came out awesome.  The shape was perfect and the texture was light and spongy. They are pretty amazing on their own, but I would pair them with an ice cold glass of milk or a piping hot mug of tea. Even your pickiest eater will adore these.  

How fabulous is this?

Greenspan’s book is an oldie but goodie and a STAPLE on my cookbook shelf.  If sweet treats from Paris fill your dreams at night, this needs to be a part of your life.  Next up for me is the Whole-Lemon Tart and Coffee Eclairs….how good is that!!!!!!

Cheers to making a delicious mess in our kitchens!

Kelly

Click on the book pic to purchase!

~Barbarians At The Table~

The Lost Kitchen by Erin French

February 23, 2021

The Lost Kitchen:  Recipes And The Good Life Found In Freedom, Maine by Erin French (Clarkson Potter)

I have lived in Maine for almost 15 years now. One of the greatest things about this “Vacationland” is Mother Nature’s gift of having all four seasons. Leaf peeping in the fall, skiing in the winter, mud season in the spring and outdoor shenanigans in the summer, make Maine an absolute wonderland. Because Maine’s natural food supply is based on the different seasons, so are our kitchen menus.  Think pumpkins in the fall, stews in the winter, ramps and fiddleheads in the spring and of course, the quintessential lobster in the summer.  Erin French is the owner and chef of the critically acclaimed restaurant, 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐋𝐨𝐬𝐭 𝐊𝐢𝐭𝐜𝐡𝐞𝐧. Not only is The Lost Kitchen nestled in the small rural town of Freedom, Maine, but it was also named a 𝘛𝘐𝘔𝘌 world dining destination. Not too shabby! In The Lost Kitchen cookbook, French takes her readers though each of the four seasons, one bite at a time. Using the simplest of ingredients, French’s cookbook is a delicious treasure that belongs on every home cooks’ shelf… no matter where they live.  

Who isn’t in the market for simple and mouth watering recipes?  There is a time and place for convenience meals (frozen meatballs and jarred sauce anyone). But it does feel extra satisfying to step it up just a wee bit more on some nights, especially given my family’s love of food and eating all things fabulous. 

French’s stunning cookbook is divided up into the four seasons.  Each season has its own lineup of Firsts, Mains and Sweets and includes delightful commentary on small town living, French’s childhood memories and where your food is actually coming from.  Cooking with what is in season truly disentangles the notion of complicated cooking.  If you are using what is fresh and available in your kitchen, all will be well in your culinary creations. AND…if you are a lover of a glorious cocktail from time to time, you are in luck.  French has a bunch of Divine adult drinks for winter, spring, summer and fall.  Cheers to that thirst quenching section of the book!  

Dad’s Meatloaf ingredients prepped and ready to go!

Because it is winter here in Maine, I dove right into the recipes of this chilly season to start.  For me, meatloaf and mashed potatoes are the ultimate comfort food in the dead of winter.   In all honesty, meatloaf is one of those dishes that I “freestyle” all the time.  Ground meat, an egg, some breadcrumbs and a bunch of random veggies and spices smothered in ketchup usually does the trick in my house.  I was of course eager to try French’s Dad’s Meatloaf  immediately.  It had a fraction of the ingredients that I use when I am “throwing ” together my version of this classic dish, so I wondered if it would really be that much better.  I’ll come right out and tell you that it was WAY better than anything I have concocted in the past and I am here to tell you why.   French’s recipe has basic ingredients that pretty much anyone can find in their local grocery store.  The quality of the ingredients and my attitude towards using them was the game changer for me.  For example, instead of buying pre-shredded cheese, I took the time to select a block of cheese from the case then enjoyed the process of shredding it myself.  I also bought the fresh sourdough bread and diced it up wicked fine for my breadcrumbs in lieu of the canister of breadcrumbs that’s been sitting on the shelf for weeks on end.  I used the whole milk in effort to not skimp on the fat and I twisted my pepper mill the full eight times just like French instructed.  Lastly, French calls for mixing in some brown sugar and a bit of dijon mustard to our Heinz ketchup to add a little pizazz to this magical loaf. All of these small steps turned this uncomplicated recipe into a five star palette pleaser!

Dad’s Meatloaf in the making!

I always serve my meatloaf with mashed potatoes.  It’s an obvious pairing I never think twice about.  However, I shook things up a bit in my kitchen and served French’s meatloaf with her Parsnip Puree.  At first glance, this pureed root vegetable looked like the smoothest mashed potatoes I’ve ever seen.  My husband and boys were literally drooling over their plated dinner.  Parsnips, heavy cream, butter and salt turned this side dish into something quite decadent.  A piece of the meatloaf with a dab of this sweet and creamy creation nestled on my fork was absolute heaven in my mouth and my husband was in full agreement.   My teens and tween however were surprisingly not fans, which I still can’t understand.  As the adults savored each bite and continued to share enthusiasm for this scrumptious recipe, our boys carried on about how much better mashed potatoes would be with this award winning meatloaf (which they did gobble up), and begged us to stop talking about how “velvety” the parsnips were in our mouths.  My advice to readers is to ignore my kids and make the parsnips…you will have no regrets!   

Parsnip Puree~Heaven in Your Mouth

What I really found quite soothing in French’s book is her DIY activities embedded between all of her tasty recipes.  How to tap your maple tree for sticky and sweet syrup, to making your own cloth napkins, French had me inspired to live more of a simple life using all the beauty that is around me.  One thing I grow in my garden in the summer months is lavender.  I plant a plethora of this soothing plant all around my chicken coop for its beauty and ability to mask any undesirable smells.  When dried, lavender can be used to make scented sachets for your drawers, air fresheners, teas (if edible) and homemade beauty products.  French recommends mixing dried up lavender with baking soda for the ultimate kitchen sink cleaner.  Because it’s the middle of the winter here in Maine and all my gorgeous lavender plants are a thing of the past, I decided to grab myself some store bought dried lavender and make myself a chemical free kitchen sink scrub with the baking soda I had in my baking cupboard.  My white mini kitchen sink and main farmhouse sink never looked better after using this simple mash-up.  And let me tell you how splendid this cleaning process smelled!!!!!  I am now looking forward to putting all my home grown lavender to good use this summer!  

Lavender Sink Scrub

I plan on using French’s impressive cookbook more and more with each season.  Spring is right around the corner and I am dreaming of earthy salads, tender asparagus and some juicy lamb to fill my plate.  Bon Appetite!

If you are obsessed as I am with Erin French and her unbelievable restaurant, The Lost Kitchen, be sure to pre-order her upcoming memoir, Finding Freedom (Celadon Books ) ASAP!

~Barbarians At The Table~

February 10, 2021

Quick and Delicious:  100 Recipes to cook in 30 minutes or Less by Gordon Ramsay (Grand Central Publishing)

Farfalle with Brown Butter, Peas, and Sage

Gordon Ramsay is an absolute hit in our house.  Let’s face it, my boys LOVE watching this guy have outbursts on his television shows while the “F” word rolls off his tongue like it’s nobody’s business. Putting that aside, there is no denying that his recipes and cookbooks are phenomenal. Today I am sharing his latest creation, Quick and Delicious:  100 Recipes to cook in 30 minutes or Less.  This book served my family quite a few easy and delectable meals.  Even better, recipes in this book take under 30 minutes to prepare.  Something I can whip together in 30 minutes without compromising ingredients or taste is what I am always in the market for. This man is officially speaking my love language. 

Prepping my ingredients. A well sharpened knife is key.

The beginning of Ramsay’s cookbook basically sets you up for success. Equipment lists, shortcuts to flavor, and time-saving ingredients (hello pre-cut veggies from the grocery store…..I love you so) are briefly touched upon before he dives into the actual recipes.  His book is then divided up into your basic cooking categories.  Soups and Salads, Fish, Meat, Poultry, Grains, etc.  You get the idea.  I will put it out there from the start that some (not all) of his recipes may seem off the beaten path for the basic home cook, but do not let that intimidate you.  Remember…we are all trying to shake things up and get inspired in the kitchen here. Ramsay’s instructions are crystal clear and his recipes are easy to follow along with as long as you have all the ingredients. 

Double Lemon Chicken.

One of our favorite dishes from this cookbook was the Double Lemon Chicken.  Chicken thighs, lemon, soy sauce, runny honey and a bunch of herbs and spices made this rustic dish feel uber fancy.  I served this with a big loaf of crusty bread and Ramsay’s Green Beans with Tarragon and Pine Nuts.  I’m not lying when I say that this pleased all five of us and was labeled “A Write Down” by the kids.  Such a lovely Sunday dinner that did not require any of us being in the kitchen for hours.  Even better, we had leftovers that made for a tasty lunch for some of us, making this a budget friendly WIN!

Green Beans with Tarragon and Pine Nuts

So I am a huge soup fan.  I personally can make soup my main course with no issues.  My husband and boys, not so much.  They enjoy a bowl of soup, but as a side dish.  I made Ramsay’s Spiced Squash and Lentil Soup as a dinner side dish/potential lunch option.  Butternut squash, red lentils, curry powder, coconut cream and a  bunch of other basic ingredients simmered then were pureed into a smooth, velvety consistency. 

Spiced Squash and Lentil Soup

My husband and I really enjoyed this.  We loved how the coconut cream balanced out the spice and the lentils were a hearty addition making this more of a “ meal” soup for me than a side dish.  All three boys ate the soup which is always a plus, but it wasn’t their favorite.  They typically eat butternut squash soup with no problem and they are not afraid of spicy food.  I think the earthiness of the lentils may have thrown them for a loop.  Still a great soup in my opinion.

Another quick and easy slam dunker was the Farfalle with Brown Butter, Peas, and Sage. With just a handful or so of ingredients, this pasta dish is quick to make and a major step up from your run of the mill buttered noodles with parmesan and peas.  The trick to making this simple, yet elegant dish amazing all comes down to the butter. Heating butter in a pan until in turns a golden brown may seem easy, but one second too long in the pan can basically ruin the whole dish.  I burned my first attempt.  Ramsay’s is very clear about when you should remove the butter from the heat.  When you begin to smell a subtle nutty flavor, remove it immediately from the heat. I personally blew it on that during my first round.  I did not smell anything out of the ordinary and removed the butter from the heat source when it had a very light brown color.  So that was wrong.  Even though I removed the heat, the pan was still hot and quickly turned that golden brown into BLACK.  Not a good sign.  For my second attempt, I took it off the minute I saw the color slightly changing.  PERFECTION my friends.  After that…the dish came together in minutes and was the ultimate crowd pleaser.  I paired this with a big old salad and some trusty crusty bread and this crew was in heaven.  

All in all, Ramsay’s new cookbook is working well for our family.  Up next I am hoping to make the Baked Halibut with Borlotti Beans and Tomatoes for dinner and surprising these Barbarians with some Tiramisu Pots for dessert. 

Cheers To Making a Delicious Mess in Our Kitchens!

Kelly

Click on the book pic below to purchase!

Guest Writer ~ Ellie Alexander

Foodie Edition

 

June 17, 2020

Dear Book Lovers!

Happy Guest Writer Wednesday! I hope you are hungry today because Guest Writer Ellie Alexander is talking to Mr. Hemingway about the importance of truly listening, passing down recipes from generation to generation, and memories made in the kitchen with those you love. Ellie is the queen of writing cozy mysteries. She wrote The Rose City Mysteries (Kensington Books) about a budding floral artist and the Pacific Northwest Mysteries (Kesington Books) about an aspiring journalist under the name Kate Dyer-Seeley. She also wrote The Sloan Krause Mysteries (St. Martin’s Press) set in the Bavarian-themed paradise of Leavenworth, Washington, and The Bakeshop Mystery Series (St. Martin’s Press), which not only includes murder but fabulous recipes too 🤗🤗. Both of those series were penned under Ellie Alexander. When Ellie isn’t writing, you can find her in her kitchen whipping up something delicious to eat or on a nearby hiking trail, burning off all the wonderful sweets she bakes. I hope you enjoy her letter to Mr. H. I know I did!

❤️❤️❤️

Kelly

P.S. Be sure to check out Ellie’s website for all her books, recipes and more.

_____________________________

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Of the many things one could glean from your writing, I think the most important gift you taught me is summed up in this oh-so-wise quote: “I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”

There is no greater gift than listening. It’s in the silence and the leaning in that we learn, connect, and begin to gain understanding. 

Listening for me began in the kitchen. The kitchen was a place of happy laughter and banter, whirring mixers, and storytelling. The kitchen was a space for gathering and lingering. While the living room and dining room might have had more seating and comfortable resting spots, the kitchen always took center stage. That was thanks in large part to my mom’s belief in buttercream and her ability to listen. While she slathered homemade chocolate cakes with copious amounts of fluffy buttercream, she would ask leading questions, and hold the space for me to be heard. She imparted her wisdom during baking sessions where she taught me to knead pie crust, cutout sugar cookies, and fold egg whites for the perfect soufflé. 

Her baking style mirrored her personality—easy going and infused with fun. Her cakes were often lopsided. They might not be Pinterest or Instagram-worthy today, but they tasted divine and they were handcrafted with love. The cookbooks of my youth were Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book and Hershey’s 1934 Cookbook, both passed on from her mother. Now they reside on my kitchen counter, splotched with stains from the generation of bakers who came before me. The gift of these cookbooks is so much more than recipes for chocolate cream pie, jam thumbprints, wagon wheels, or coconut lemon bars. Although, those classic gems still find their way into my baking routine. But, the well-worn pages of my mother’s cookbooks serve as a reminder that food is a love language. The important conversations and the everyday conversations take place in the kitchen.

There’s a slowness about spending an afternoon pressing dainty spritz. I didn’t fully understand the magnitude of that magic until after my mother and grandmother died. I’m living their legacy every day. We think of legacies as something grandiose, but I’ve discovered that the most lasting memories come in the form of sweet little packages—my grandmother’s Parker House Rolls, my mom’s almond raspberry shortbread. The women who formed me live on with each cracked egg and stick of butter. 

My cookbook collection has expanded over the years, but I treasure my Betty Crocker and Hershey’s cookbooks the most, especially as my teenage son has started his own journey into baking. We blast Pentatonix as he tackles lemon tarts with Swiss meringue. Now it’s my turn to listen. I ask him leading questions, I lean into the silence, giving him space to speak when he’s ready. I understand the significance of baking together. This time we have in the kitchen is fleeting. Soon he’ll be off to college and stocking his own cupboards with vanilla bean paste and cornmeal. But, that’s okay because we’re continuing the tradition, I’m passing on family stories, and learning his one snickerdoodle at a time. As for the cookbooks, they’ll be waiting for him when he’s ready. 

Wishing you many leisurely days spent listening.

~Ellie 

Click on the updated versions of Ellie’s favorite cookbooks to purchase.

Click on Ellie’s book below to purchase the first book in her Bakeshop Mystery Series!

Guest Writer ~ Cathy Barrow

Foodie Edition

 

June 12, 2020

Dear Book Lovers,

Its Foodie time over here on Dear Mr. Hemingway, and today I am literally drooling over Guest Writer~Cathy Barrow’s letter to Mr. H. Trout with a buttery crust, scrumptious pancakes, roast chicken, and a cookbook that reads like a memoir are front and center on the menu today. Let me tell you a little bit about Cathy. She is the author of three fabulous books, When Pies Fly (Grand Central Publishing), Pies Squared (Grand Central Publishing), and Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry (W.W. Norton & Company). She is a writer, teacher, recipe developer, knitter, traveler, and a ponderer (oh how I love to ponder). I truly want to spend time with her. Don’t you? Cathy’s letter to Mr. H. completely won me over. It’s thoughtful, clever, and absolutely delicious!

Enjoy my dear friends!

❤️❤️❤️

Kelly

P.S. Cathy is at work on her 4th book, BAGELS, SCHMEARS, AND A NICE PIECE OF FISH, (Chronicle, February 2022). Check her out here.

____________________________

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

I’ve read cookbooks almost as long as I’ve read your work. Every cookbook was an adventure story to me, although it isn’t cookbooks that I relate to Ernest Hemingway. Instead, it’s my mother’s Trout Hemingway, for which she was famous. It’s not that my Old Man had any relationship with The Sea, but still, Mom wrapped boneless trout, head on, with two slices of smoked bacon. Then she dipped the entire fish into milk and crushed crackers (Ritz or Saltines.) From there, the trout went into a hot pan with plenty of oil and a little butter for flavor. The fat would splatter and snap and the bacon crisped with the skin of the fish. It was ready fast – no more than a few minutes – and soon we were sitting around the picnic table in the backyard with fish and corn on the cob and my mother, ever the English teacher, would tell us what a rogue you were, Mr. H.

I’ve always loved a novel and The Sun Also Rises is one of my favorites, although when the sun rises here, I am more likely to turn to Marion Cunningham’s excellent The Breakfast Book, a classic with such precise and perfect recipes that I can let it fall open to any page and just make whatever appears before my eyes. Buttermilk Pancakes are a house favorite, but the granola bread is a sure winner, too. Her headnotes are clean and clear. I think you would appreciate her sensible words.

Your books, Mr. H, have such a rugged sense of nature woven into every word. For that reason, surely, you would appreciate the sensibility of Amanda Hesser’s The Cook and The Gardener, a cookbook that feels like a memoir, with recipes that tell the story of her relationship with a cantankerous French gardener, and how his sense of the natural world informed her creativity in kitchen. It’s a beautiful book and I cooked every recipe in it one spring, summer, and fall. Now, reliably, I return for the recipe for a currant and gooseberry tart. The berries rest atop a rich eggy custard in a sweet short crust. It’s a spectacular summer beauty for Whom all The Bells will Toll.

When the Snows of Kilimanjaro are falling, I count on Zuni Cafe to fill my kitchen with heady rich scents. Surely Judy Rodgers’ roast chicken with croutons and greens would be a meal you would appreciate, Ernest. It’s rich and robust and layered with textures and juicy bites.

If I had to choose, vis a vis cookbooks, whether To Have or Have Not, I would always choose Have. Perhaps you, too, would choose to have one of mine? I’ve published a primer on preserving, Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry, and two books on pie, Pie Squared and When Pies Fly. I think you might enjoy the Cowboy Beef Stew Slab Pie or the Turkey Piccadillo Empanadas.

For now, I’ll say Farewell as I’m going To use these Arms for rolling out a pie crust instead of typing a letter to you,

All the best,

Cathy Barrow

Click on the books below to purchase

When Pies Fly book cover

Guest Writer ~ Nikki Marie

Foodie Edition

June 10, 2020

Dear Book Lovers,

Happy Guest Writer Wednesday! I am delighted to introduce you to today’s Foodie Guest…Nikki Marie. Nikki is the creator of the popular food blog, Chasing The Seasons and the author of the delicious and ever so stunning cookbook, Simple, Elegant Pasta Dinners (Page Street Publishing). Nikki lives in Northern New Jersey (fellow Jersey Girl) where the seasons are fabulous and the farms are abundant. Not only does Nikki develop all of her recipes, but she also styles and photographs all of her pictures for her blog (beyond impressive). I am giving you fair warning…Nikki’s passion for food is infectious. She loves celebrating her love of family and friends with incredible meals. She is a huge supporter of local agriculture and cooking with the freshest and cleanest ingredients possible. Nikki is no stranger in the press either. She has been featured in Publishers Weekly, Pittsburgh Post -Gazette, The Washington Post, Manhattan Book Review and Crate & Barrel...just to name a few. Nikki is a big fan of properly French-pressed coffee, 1940’s style and music, a good book that she can’t put down, period dramas, rainy days, history, and October.  Last but not least, her literary crush is none other than the charming Mr. Darcy! I hope you enjoy Nikki’s letter to Mr. H. It is a delicious one!

❤️❤️❤️

Kelly

P.S. If you are looking for a seasonal cocktail that will knock your socks off, check out Nikki’s Strawberry Bourbon Smash. 🍓🍓🍓

__________________________

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

While the world reveres you for your writing, many of us appreciate your insatiable appetite for good food, too.  The way you indelibly wove food and drink into your storylines, it was once written that to read you, is to have a seat at your table.

Much in the way that your father influenced your culinary taste and appreciation, for me, it was my grandmother.  By way of example, I was introduced to the Italian ideology to allow the seasons to direct the meal.  I learned that food is more than a source of nourishment – it is part of our story and another way in which we can express our love, from the inside out.

I think you would agree with me then, if I told you that a good cookbook needs to be something larger than a collection of ingredients and methods.  It needs to have a voice. Like a good novel, it must pull me in and course me onto a journey.  A journey that I can trust will always end at the table.  

While there are many cookbooks I love for this reason, I find I linger the most inside the pages of Mimi Thorisson’s A Kitchen in France.  

With each turn of the page, I traverse through the seasons of Médoc.  By way of an artichoke soufflé or roasted asparagus with chervil, I browse the open-air markets in spring.  In summer, the market is abundant, and I am taken first by the succulent cherries.  I will savor them in a cherry clafoutis I can bake from scratch with hints of orange flower water.  The peaches are ripe and plump, and I know that chilled peaches simmered in white wine will be divine on a steamy August evening.  

In autumn, I find myself in the windy fields, walking across the twisted vines with a pumpkin propped on my hip.  The aroma of chimney smoke hangs heavy in the air.  Back at the chateau, I pull up a chair in the flickering glow of dinner’s candlelight.  The pumpkin has roasted slowly into a fragrantly rich soup.  Mimi presents us with a piping hot dish of potatoes a la Lyonnaise which she refers to as “the little black dress” of side dishes.  A local Bordeaux is set down to breathe.  The night’s feast crackles in the old kitchen fireplace, and conversation erupts about how roasting over dried grapevines creates a palatable distinction.  

I am there with every page I turn.  

The recipes and notes read like passages from a memoir, or perhaps love letters to France.  I think it will remind you of a time when you once lived and loved there.  

Life in Médoc is amplified, and I am left bewitched and inspired in my own kitchen.   

Let us uncork the Bordeaux, Mr. Hemingway, and meet me in A Kitchen in France.

With love,

Nikki

P.S. Remember how you fell under the spell of Italy’s lore during World War I?   How in A Farewell to Arms, Italy itself, was a character?  Well, I have taken our beloved Italian ingredient, pasta, and created 75 seasonally inspired sauces, in my cookbook, Simple, Elegant Pasta Dinners.  I hope you will find it full of satisfying inspiration.

As always, stop by to see me anytime at chasingtheseasons.com.  

Click on the books below to purchase

Guest Writer ~ Suzanne Nelson

Foodie Edition

 

May 27, 2020

Dear Lovely Readers,

I am thrilled to share with you today’s Foodie Guest Writer, Suzanne Nelson. Suzanne is no stranger to the book world. Before settling into her career as a middle grade/young adult author, she worked as a children’s book editor in New York City for eight years. Suzanne is the author to dozens of books. I instantly fell in love with her foodie series for middle graders including Cake Pop Crush, Donut Go Breaking My Heart, Hot Cocoa Hearts, I Only Have Pies For You, Macarons At Midnight, Shake It Off, and Sundae My Prince Will Come. These books are so delicious, that her 2017 hit, You’re Bacon Me Crazy was even made into a Hallmark Original Movie this year 😮! Incorporating foodie fun into books for our next generation to devour is the ultimate treat!

I hope you enjoy Suzanne’s letter to Mr. H. She shares with him her love of A Farewell To Arms, A Cat in the Rain, her grandmother’s recipes and one of her go to cookbooks. Enjoy!

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!

❤️❤️❤️

Kelly

Check out Suzanne with a compilation of her Grandmother’s recipes. 🥰🥰🥰

______________________________

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

My younger, more naïve self of decades past wasn’t particularly fond of your writing. After reading A Farewell to Arms in high school, I felt downright cheated by its tragic ending. I was angry at you for making me uncomfortable. You forced me to think about the unfairness of life, when I only wanted to believe in its goodness and beauty. You might’ve laughed at my adolescent criticism of your “simplistic” style, especially if I’d told you about my own dreams of becoming a published writer. You might’ve bluntly reprimanded, “there is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man.” You might’ve ordered me out of my sheltered existence and into the great wide world, commanding me to live my own truth before I condemned yours. And you would’ve been justified on all accounts. 

The fact is, Mr. Hemingway, I owe you an apology. I misjudged and underappreciated you. Over the years, I’ve grown to better understand you and the many ironies, beauties, and tragedies that accompany life. And I’ve been thinking of you more than usual lately. You see, recently, our world has slowed its pace. The scope of our daily existences has shrunk to the size of our own backyards. Much of what you loved about life—adventuring to far-off places, enjoying the lively and satisfying company of friends, feasting on eclectic cuisines—has come to a screeching halt. In the midst of this unsettling limbo, I searched my bookshelves for solace and stumbled upon your short story, A Cat in the Rain. The story is, of course, about a cat trapped under a café table during a storm—alone, uncomfortable, and afraid to leave for fear of getting wet. What serendipity, to revisit your story during this moment in our human history! How many of our circumstances lately have become like your cat’s!

But even during this surreal and disquieting confinement, I’ve discovered comforts. The frantic, spinning hamster wheel of schedules has relaxed. There is more time for creativity, more time for spontaneous family fun, and more time for cooking and conversation around the table. I have never been more acutely aware of how food connects us. I miss the cheery hum of restaurant conversations, the succor of morning coffee talks with friends, the chaotic, extended family feasts on holidays. But our family still has daily gatherings around our own kitchen table. No matter which corners of the house we each retreat to, eventually, we find one another again around our table. We’re drawn back to that connection, sooner or later, by the inevitable, gravitational pull of food and love.

Although I never had the chance to ask her, I believe my grandmother, Christine Tallman, understood this to be true. She knew the art of food as balm. Her chicken pot pie was a staple in my household growing up. My mom made it whenever we were sick, or on rainy, wintry days when we needed a dose of coziness.

Grandma was only nineteen when she married my grandfather. In 1941, she left the bustling town she’d grown up in to move to a potato farm in rural Pennsylvania, where she quickly learned the trials and travails of running a farmstead. She had eight children over the span of two decades, juggling a never-ending stream of household and farm chores with parenting. My grandfather—an ebulliently talkative man—constantly invited employees, customers, friends and fellow farmers to their table. On any given day, Grandma never knew how many extra mouths she might have to feed. The farm table had two long benches made for elbow-to-elbow, sardines-in-a-can style dining. The table was loud and boisterous, often with laughter but also with passionate arguing. Grandma’s kitchen was the sun around which the household orbited. 

I often wonder how my grandmother felt about the life she chose. She passed away when I was eight, so I never had the chance to know her as a grown woman. I was never able to ask her if she felt fulfilled as an individual, a wife, and a mother. I wonder if, at times, she felt like your cat, confined by her times or her roles. My grandfather held the purse strings as well as the car keys in their marriage. Grandpa tried to teach Grandma how to drive only one time. When he began with an in-depth lecture on engine parts, the lesson failed. So, Grandma didn’t get her driver’s license until she was fifty-six years old. There were many places she longed to visit, but she rarely travelled beyond Pennsylvania. Geographically, her world was small, but her influence on those who knew her was wide and all-encompassing. She loved and was loved deeply. She opened her home to so many, inviting them to her table for comfort and company. And her cooking brought many other “cats” in from the rain. 

Decades after her passing, some of the women in my family compiled my grandma’s recipes into a cookbook, Christine Tallman’s Cookbook, Written in Her Own Hand. The recipes sit beside photos of her throughout her life. On the book’s pages, I see a lovely, petite woman on her wedding day, a school girl laughing with friends, a young mother holding her firstborn, and a grandmother cuddling her grandchildren. The recipes give me a taste of her love. The photos are clues to a life I’ll never fully know, but can sense the joy in my grandma’s smiles.

It is ironic that so much of my own writing centers on food, when I’ve never had a true passion for cooking. I’ve suffered my share of cooking calamities through the years, but I keep trying. Second to my grandma’s cookbook, my favorite cookbook is Betty Crocker’s Cookbook: Everything You Need to Know to Cook from Scratch, now in its twelfth edition. It’s a staple in my kitchen, because it gives wonderful, basic information for cooking amateurs like myself, plus tried-and-true recipes that I’m relatively confident I can’t ruin. Given my lack of talent in the kitchen, you may wonder, Mr. Hemingway, why I’m drawn to write about food. The truth is, I write less about food itself and more about what food gives us. Food offers us comfort. It delights us with infinite flavors and textures. It inspires us to gather around tables with family and friends, to share, to laugh, to fight, to talk, and, most of all, to love. Perhaps like my grandma, I sense that when we have a mealtime table to congregate around, we’re no longer solitary cats trapped in the rain.

Thank you, Mr. Hemingway, for giving your water-logged cat a happy ending. By bringing your cat in from the rain at the end of your story, you offer hope amidst sadness. Your cat finds shelter, safety, and warmth. May we all find the same as we re-enter the world in the coming months. And, in the meantime, may we find it with delicious meals around our own tables. 

Yours with humble gratitude,

Suzanne Nelson

PS. If you want to read about how one mysterious, one-of-a-kind food helps to restore the faith of an orphan, an elephant, and a dying town during the Dust Bowl, check out my middle-grade novel, A Tale Magnolious. For more fictional foodie fun for middle-graders, check out my line of Scholastic foodie books, including the upcoming Pumpkin Spice Up Your Life, which arrives in bookstores in September 2020.

Click here to check out Suzanne’s Website!

Click on the book pics below to purchase

Guest Writer~Kate Shaffer

Foodie Edition

May 20, 2020

Dear Book Friends,

Happy Guest Writer Wednesday. I am thrilled to share with you this week’s Foodie. Kate Shaffer, Owner and founder of Black Dinah Chocolatiers, is typically all about the chocolate. Today however, she is talking all things picnic related to Mr. Hemingway. Before we get to that, let me tell you a little more about Kate. In addition to owning two chocolate shops in Maine, she is the author of two books, Chocolate For Beginners and Desserted. She has appeared multiple times in Martha Stewart Living Magazine, Gourmet Magazine and Good Life Magazine. She has won countless awards, including Top ten Chocolatiers in North America, The Good Food Award, Food & Wine Magazine’s Top 25 Cookbooks, and many many more. You can find Kate’s recipes on her Black Dinah Chocolatier Blog, Zest Maine and in her yummy cookbooks. I hope you enjoy her delicious letter to Mr. H. When an outdoor picnic sounds like a five star dining experience, I am all in.

Happy Reading & Happy Cooking!

❤️❤️❤️

Kelly

P.S. Be sure to subscribe to Kate’s newsletter. She will be hosting a Father’s Day Giveaway with one of her favorite Maine Based Mystery authors.

______________________________

Dear Mr. H.,

It’s been a while, and I’m sorry for that. I’ve been busy, and you’ve been dead, and frankly, our correspondence while I was in high school kinda killed the romance for me.

It wasn’t you. It was me.

Anyway, let’s not rehash the past. The plain truth is, at this moment in time, there isn’t much I wouldn’t do to be sharing a coffee, croissant, and lively banter with you at Place de la Contrescarpe; or discussing anything but the daily news over the bouillabaisse Marseillaise at Café du Dôme. From here, it seems an escape from the grim, stale reality of the day to day, sheltered in my tiny apartment, seeing not much else other than the well-worn route to and from work.

Recently a line you wrote famously in The Old Man and the Sea came to me as I was feeling a little sorry for myself: “Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is.”

Indeed.

It is spring in Maine! The birds are singing, the bees are buzzing, there are fresh lettuces, ramps, and fiddleheads in the farmers’ markets! The grass is finally green again, and the sky is blue more often than it is grey. It is perfect weather to be outside! And because it is Maine there is a rock, a patch of grass, a soft bed of moss beneath a towering maple tree that waits for me in solitary welcome, far from the Portland crowds. A place to lay a blanket and a book, and unpack a well thought-out picnic.

Mr. H, I love eating outside! Outside, salads are crisper, fruit is sweeter, bread is fresher, butter is buttery-er. There is nothing like a fresh, steaming cup of coffee next to a morning campfire. Just as no indoor “grill pan” can replicate the clean, crisp char on a perfect T-bone from an outdoor charcoal-fired Weber.

Fifteen years ago, I discovered that author Jeremy Jackson shared my love of outdoor dining when I stumbled upon his sweet, simple cookbook Good Day for a Picnic. In it, Jeremy not only introduces us to “simple food that travels well”; but chronicles the history of picnicking (and how it is, in fact, different than simply “eating outside”), makes suggestions for simple picnic gear (an old blanket, a ukulele, your dog), and shares some perfect places to have a picnic (an orchard, a small airport, the lawn behind the state capitol).

He can be downright philosophical about it, and I can again picture lively debate among your Dômiers about what exactly defines a picnic.

And yet, he retains a joie de vivre about it all that is completely antithetical to the world-weary art of your Lost Generation. And this is what I love about this book. It sparks joy, imagination, and encourages us to plan and create for the simple pleasure of eating outside. “Think of what you can do with what there is.”

And the food! Jeremy gives us recipes for a global collection of portable delicacies such as Gougères with Fontina and Chives, Poached Salmon with Tomato and Basil Vinaigrette, Cornish Beef Pasties, and Sesame Noodles. There are drinks galore, classics such as a Pimm’s cocktail and several variations on lemonade; as well as weird things like a vinegar-based beverage from the Middle East called Sekanjabin (which is delicious and shockingly thirst-quenching). And, of course, dessert: Apple Cider Tartlets, Little Chocolate Cookies, Plum Tart Painted Purple.

“Now is no time to think of what you do not have.” These days, we can’t just skip off to the outdoor cafes of Paris or Istanbul; and we can’t plan the grand summer fêtes we’ve looked forward to all winter. But we can enjoy a pretty, well-planned meal outside, and bask in the good company of the birds and the trees and the sky.

Thanks for the counsel, Mr. H. I wonder what other good advice is lurking in those books of yours. I plan to find out at my next picnic.

With warmth,

Kate

P.S. Be sure to check out my own cookbooks, Chocolate For Beginners and Desserted. Hope to see you at the store one day!

Click on the book pics below to purchase!

Guest Writer ~ Julia Mueller

Foodie Edition

 

May 13, 2020

Dear Book Friends,

Today’s Guest Foodie Writer is in my opinion..a food and wellness guru! Julia Mueller, creator of the extremely popular food blog, The Roasted Root, makes delicious food that is actually good for you! Julia’s recipes are nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory and are primarily centered around vegetables and meat. Her approach to cooking is far from a “one size fits all” approach. Listening to your body and feeding it what it needs is totally her jam. Whether you follow a vegetarian, vegan, keto, paleo, or gluten-free diet, Julia has you covered. There is no shortage of recipes when you visit The Roasted Root. Julia’s blog is bubbling over with healthy meals to make any time of day. I must confess…I am a frequent user of her recipes and her blog has successfully planned many of my weekly meals! Julia’s greatness doesn’t stop there though. In addition to her popular food blog, she is the author of three very successful cookbooks…Paleo Power Bowls (one of my favorites), Delicious Probiotic Drinks, and The Quintessential Kale Cookbook. Not too shabby. Anyone who is looking to cater to their dietary needs without compromising the deliciousness of what they are eating needs to check out this gem of a foodie! I hope you enjoy Julia’s letter to Mr. H. It’s a tasty one!

❤️❤️❤️

Kelly

P.S. You must try Julia’s Teriyaki Turkey and Vegetable Skillet. It is absolutely fabulous!

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Some of my fondest childhood memories involve me sitting on the kitchen counter stealing bites of butter and sips of Diet Pepsi while “helping” my mom bake up some form of deliciousness. Bread, cookies, cakes, bars, rolls…anything made with leavening agents is my mother’s specialty! While my parents cooking was never anything to write home about, my mom put a lot of love into baking for our family. 

It is because of those calm afternoons baking with my mom, when there was nothing to care about, nowhere to be, nothing to do but combine flour, butter, sugar, and magic that I have always been inspired to create in the kitchen. You could say these experiences engendered the respect for both precision and freedom in the kitchen right into my soul.

I’ve been writing my food blog, The Roasted Root for almost ten years, and have written three cookbooks. I have learned there is beauty in keeping cooking and baking simple using minimal ingredients and keeping the prep time low, such that the process remains approachable and stress-free. I like keeping it simple, fresh, and nutritious, thereby maximizing both efficiency and palatability. 

I remember the first time I met another food blogger. I didn’t know what to expect, as I felt I was about to encounter a celebrity – someone about whose success I could only dream. Sitting down to lunch at a local restaurant with Natalie Perry was a life-altering for me. Here was a completely down-to-earth human who is an expert mom, home chef and food blogger, who has a balanced perspective on life and is an all-around great human and fun person with whom to spend time.

Natalie and I met the very first year I began blogging and have been friends ever since. We share the love of creating whole food recipes using clean ingredients, an addiction to cheese, and the resistance to following mainstream trends. By now you can probably guess that Natalie’s cookbooks are my absolute favorite. 

Both Natalie’s cookbooks, The Big Book of Paleo Slow Cooking and The Big Book of Paleo Pressure Cooking are my go-to resources when I’m low on inspiration and desiring a delicious home-cooked meal that can be prepared easily any night of the week. In essence, when I’m sick of my own cooking, I turn to Natalie. 

When pressed to divulge my favorite between the two, I would have to go with The Big Book of Paleo Pressure Cooking. As reluctant as I was to evolve from my slow cooker, there is just no denying the convenience of the pressure cooker! Recipes in both books are equally magnificent, but I simply use my pressure cooker more often than my slow cooker. The upside to having to choose between slow cooking and pressure cooking is Natalie has converted the recipes in both books to use either one!

The Big Book of Paleo Pressure Cooking includes 150 recipes for everyday dinners as well as entertaining for guests. The book is broken into dish type and meat type. Within the dinner section, you’ll find recipes for poultry, beef, pork and lamb, and seafood. There is also a section on vegetable side dishes and even a section on dessert! There is a chapter for Pantry Essentials, which is awesome for those who are new to cooking, the paleo diet, and/or the pressure cooker. 

I love that Natalie uses all sorts of seasonal ingredients, making it a super useful resource for pressure cooking any time of year. Anyone who enjoys a home-cooked meal will love this cookbook!

Many thanks for having me here, folks! I hope you enjoy Natalie’s book as much as I do!

With love,

Julia Mueller

The Roasted Root

P.S In addition to Natalie’s cookbooks, take a peek at some of mine as well. Paleo Power Bowls, Delicious Probiotic Drinks, and The Quintessential Kale Cookbook.

Guest Writer ~ Natalie Slater

Foodie Edition

 

Natalie Slater, Foodie Author

May 6, 2020

Dear Book Lovers,

Happy Wednesday and Happy Guest Writer Day! As you may already know, we are in the middle of the Foodie Edition series. I can’t wait for you to meet today’s guest writer…Natalie Slater. First, let me back up a minute. My youngest son had a sleepover at his good friend’s house last fall (also one of my BFFs sons). He came home the next day raving about how my girlfriend Molly, made him these awesome Chocolate Waffles for breakfast. I asked her for the recipe and she sent me the link to Natalie Slater’s website, Bake and Destroy. Not only did I find the waffle recipe there, I found a ton of other delicious and fun things to make including this fabulous Edamame Beans & Toast recipe. I started following Natalie and all her work. I was thrilled to have found a new and inspiring VEGAN foodie to follow. A few things to note about Natalie is that not only is she an animal lover, cookbook author, recipe developer and The Marketing Director for the vegan food brand, Upton’s Natural, she also has appeared on The Food Network and The Cooking Channel😮😮😮. How awesome is that? I hope you enjoy her letter to Mr. H. I am not going to lie…..it had me drooling for Italian food!

Happy Reading & Happy Cooking!

🖤🖤🖤

Kelly

P.S. The percentage of vegetarians, vegan, and other semi-vegetarianism categories was estimated to be around 8% in 2018. According to an article in WTVOX, the number of vegans grew in the United Staled from 4 million in 2014 to 20 million in 2018. CNBC reported that in 2019, London was named the most vegan-friendly city!🖤🖤🖤

_________________

Dear Mr. Hemingway, 

When you were writing A Farewell to Arms could you ever have imagined that one day people would study your love of Italy, trying to dissect which part of it – the food, the landscapes, the women – inspired so many of your works? In fact, I just read an article by Silvia Ammary, professor of American literature and writing at John Cabot University, focused solely on your “knowledge and respect for Italian cuisine,” citing example after example from your short stories and novels. 

As a third-generation Italian-American with roots, like you, in Illinois, I too spend much of my time romanticizing food. When I was a little girl, my grandma Sharon Rigazio, daughter of Italian immigrants Defendente Petitti and Gianna Sampo, was famous for her spaghetti. I should add that at 84 years old, now retired in Florida, she is still famous for her spaghetti. Back then, though, my grandpa would bring men home from work with him just to try it – and they always left begging for the recipe for their wives. She shared it willingly, knowing that the ingredients were nothing special – it was the patience, and love, that went into slow-cooking the sauce all day, and her use of spaghettini, spaghetti’s skinnier cousin, that gave her pasta its magic. 

My grandma loves me fiercely, always has, and a bowl of her spaghetti for me is what spinach is for Popeye. And so, I’m drawn to Italian people and Italian food. My first job when I moved to Chicago was in an Italian bakery, where my boss, Letizia, fretted over the fact that I was vegan and sent me home with containers of penne in carrot sauce so I wouldn’t starve. 

Every year around Father’s Day my parents would make the hour drive from Joliet to Chicago to meet me in Little Italy for the Festa Pasta Vino. I’d eat Italian ice while everyone else filled up on stuffed artichokes and wine. I honestly can’t remember how it happened – if there was a cooking demo, or if my mom and I just wandered over to the author’s table, but somehow, I went home once a year with a spiral-bound, self-published cookbook called Recipes My Nonna Taught Me.  The author is simply “Francena” and she listed her AOL email address somewhere on one of the back pages. It features blurry copies of family photos, illustrations by Chuck Lawson, and just the right amount of “so-and-so can’t get enough of this dish” to make me smile and think of my grandma. 

My mother was thrilled to find dishes like Onion Sandwiches listed inside. A simple sandwich made from sliced onion, mayonnaise, tomato, and parsley that she used to eat with my great-grandpa Teno. These are not Italian restaurant recipes, these are, as the title suggests, recipes your grandma would teach you – and aren’t those the best kind? I skipped over things like Breaded Veal and gravitated instead toward the Baked Ziti, which I could make pretty easily with vegan mozzarella shreds and seasoned tofu instead of ricotta. 

It quickly became one of my husband’s favorite dishes, so I sent an email to Francena to thank her, and to let her know how I’d been veganizing so many of her Nonna’s recipes. Her reply was very sweet – she seemed tickled at the thought of an Italian vegan and told me her Nonna would be amazed at how many people bought the book, and how they made her recipes their own. 

I’d be lying if I said Francena’s nostalgic style didn’t influence me when I wrote my own cookbook, Bake and Destroy: Good Food for Bad Vegans a few years later. I even included my grandma’s spaghetti sauce recipe, which no one will ever make exactly right, but they seem to enjoy it anyway. 

And now, when I get emails from people who love my recipes, or who tell me how they’ve tweaked them to suit their own dietary needs or preferences, I think of Francena and hope that I made her feel as good when I emailed her. 

I did some internet snooping and discovered that Francena is still selling her cookbook at Italian festivals all over the country. Most recently she ran an ad in the Italian Times, a newsletter for Milwaukee’s Italian community, offering two copies for $16 (or one for $10) along with instructions on how to mail order or email her. If you’re the granddaughter of a great Italian cook, you might want to pick it up. But, if you’re hoping for vegan Italian without thinking up your own substitutes, you might want to try Chloe Coscarelli’s Vegan Italian Kitchen instead. 

I wonder what you would think of an Italian vegan, Mr. Hemmingway! I know you were a meat and potatoes kind of a guy… but I bet I could win you over with my famous Vegan Baked Ziti. 

Cordialmente,

Natalie Slater 

P.S. Be sure to check out my cookbook, Bake and Destroy: Good Food for Bad Vegans (Page Street Publishing) and Upton’s Naturals!

Click on the book pics below to purchase

Bake and Destroy book cover
Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen cookbook cover

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