Fireworks!

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Ice-cream with Strawberry Sauce and Fresh Blueberries

I am sitting at my new home in what I call my “Lady Parlor” (Lauren dubbed it this) or office/art space.  Haha!  I love it.  My desk faces a large window overlooking my front yard where Knockout Roses, herbs, and plants galore flourish.  It is so inspirational.  Last night we had a good summer shower, so this morning is quite fresh and green.

This weekend is July 4th!  Memories of family vacations abound.  Most all July 4th vacations include some type of water fun, fireworks, lobster rolls, corn-on-th-cob, watermelon, and home-made ice-cream. This weekend our family will head to Lake Jackson to join my childhood friend and her family.  There is nothing sweeter than joining up with old friends that you know so well and don’t get to see very often.  The bond seems to be just as strong as 20 years ago.  I feel absolutely rejuvenated after these rendezvous.  I don’t always give myself permission to take off with my girlfriends so we have to make the kids think it is their idea.  It’s a win-win!

One thing that I need for this weekend get-away is simplicity.  A little less fireworks if you know what I mean…  Now that the move is complete and work is rocking and rolling, I want a simple summer vacation to feel, well, lazy.  I am seeing a lot of lovely work on instagram for the 4th festivities.  But, it looks like too much work for me.  So, to make things a bit more calm, I have prepared a simple Strawberry Sauce to pour over some Vanilla Ice-cream (Lemon Sorbet would be good too) with fresh blueberries to top.  Now, that seems easy enough and I’m pretty sure the kiddos (and adults) will feel pretty special with this red, white and blue treat!  But, most importantly, I can relax and enjoy it too.  😉

 

Simple Strawberry Sauce

Ingredients

1 Pint Fresh Organic Strawberries

1 Cup Sugar

1/3-1/2 Cup water

Directions

I began by blending my washed and trimmed strawberries in the blender.  I then mixed the strawberry puree, sugar and water in a sauce pan.  I did not strain my strawberries but you could.  I personally think it adds a little more fiber and again, I am looking for the simple road.  Simmer this on very low heat until it begins to thicken, about 30 minutes.  But, don’t burn it.  Let your sauce cool then refrigerate it until you are ready to pour over your ice-cream.  This sauce is great over pan-cakes the following morning too!

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Summer Time Ice-cream Break!

Next blog we are going crazy and making ice-cream to go with our Strawberry Sauce.  So, stay tuned… Have a fantastic 4th of July and I hope you too are having a wonderful time with your friends and family.  OR, at least being lazy!  Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

Wrapping Things Up

Lasagna

Lasagna

Here we are coming to the close of another year.  It has been another eventful one.  There is no lack of excitement going on over in this neck of the woods.  It hasn’t been easy but there isn’t one thing I would change if I could.  Not one.  Well, maybe just one.

I am not a person of complacency.  Thankfully I live in America and what a great foundation for a good life.  Wherever we live, we would still strive for happiness.  But, everyone’s definition of happy is different.  The glass half empty comes to mind.  When my older girls where younger I had a terrible fear of death.  I would have anxiety over flying, the girls choking, or what would happen if I left them with a sitter.  Something shifted inside me that lead me to understand that life is short.  Death is something we will all experience and no avoiding it in our heads is going to make it not happen when our time comes.  I can’t tell you what exactly happened to me to make that shift.  But I am not afraid of living or dying anymore.  And I do believe that the two go hand in hand.

That being said, you may not like what I have to say.  My words may seem volatile, or irrational, maybe funny, always exciting, lovingly truthful, with a touch of crazy, sometimes sad, but it will always be human.  It will be my human emotion through this journey of personal triumphs and failures.  But it is my journey.  It is my journey of growing and thriving as a business owner and a single mom of three beautiful girls.  It doesn’t define me as a good/bad person, a good/bad chef, or a good/bad mother.  It is an experience.  I know that some of you think of me as a strong woman who has always got it together, but I do not.  Through experience I have come to redefine my definition of confidence.  To me, it isn’t being 100% sure of a decision.  Confidence, to me, is making the best decision despite what could be the outcome- all while feeling good about the person looking at me in the mirror.   It is feeling good about myself, even if the outcome is not perfect.  However, I now have an editor, so ultimately she can be blamed when things go really south.  Readers-blame her.  There is no doubt I can throw a fabulous party and cook a damn good meal.  But there is so much more that goes with it.  Maybe one of you can learn from my personal successes or failures.  I may not be perfect in what I am doing personally, but I will always take risks to make things unique and wonderful. This is evident with G&H.   That is what I hope my blogging does for you-gives you confidence and courage.  If you are just 1 person or if you are 101 people.  Writing is my therapy.  I want to write it out and share with you the things that I do right or learn there may a better way.  And I do this, always, one meal at a time.

It is also therapy to share my recipes.  I get bits and pieces of recipes from everywhere.  I have a library of cookbooks and with the internet, there is no loss of information.  I  love sharing them for you to try them out yourselves.  G&H is here to make it for you when you don’t have the time, but I completely understand wanting to play in the kitchen.  Here is the lasagna recipe that a client ask for a few weeks back.  It is such a lovely compliment to want a recipe!  Thank you-

Ingredients

~1 Lb Sweet or Hot Italian Sausage in casing

~Bulb of Garlic

~4 26 ounce containers of Marzano italian crushed tomatoes

~1 Roasted Fennel (optional)

~Sliced Mushrooms (optional) 8 ounces

~Fresh Mozarella thickly sliced  16oz

~Whole Milk Riccotto 16 ounces

~1 Egg

~1/2 Cup Parmesan (plus more for sprinkling on top)

~1 Package Barilla No Boil Lasagna Noodles

Directions

The sauce is the most important part of this dish.  I learned from some Italian friends the way to make a good tomato sauce.  Simmering it on the stove for a long time is the secret.  It is a weekend type of dish.  Start your sauce on Saturday and let it simmer over night and then put it all together on Sunday.  To make the sauce, brown your sausage and break it up in the casing.  Add all of your bulb of garlic.  I just smash it and peel it.  Next add your containers of crushed tomatoes.  If I have fennel and mushrooms, then I will add them.  If I don’t, then I won’t make a special trip out for them.  When everything is in your stockpot, let this simmer on low for 8 to 12 hours.  The tomato sauce will become this deep red color.  Hold back from eating it now, because you will want to!  Mix your egg, 1/2 cup parmesan and ricotta in a small bowl.  Start with a layer of tomato sauce, then noodles, ricotta, then mozzarella slices.  Do this as long as you have ingredients to layer and room to pile it up.  Your last layer should be the tomato sauce and sprinkle some parmesan over the top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until bubbly hot.  Serve this with an italian loaf and garden salad.  Yum- a perfect Sunday family meal.

Cooking, throwing a party, helping clients to make wonderful memories, having this forum to share feelings and recipes, and celebrating life are all things I enjoy and give me great happiness.  I look forward to sharing many more recipes and experiences with you in 2014!  Here’s to living!

Through Thick and Thin

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Pasta with Pesto and Chicken

My girlfriend called me early Saturday morning.  I knew something was up because she doesn’t usually call on the weekend.  She was crying.  I had never heard her like this.  My heart sank- what was wrong?

Her son had a melt down about doing a Saturday activity.  He didn’t want to go.  The whole family was rushing around to get the son to his boy scout commitment and the daughter to her soccer game.    The temper tantrum had affected the whole family, negatively.

As my friend continued talking and crying, she said “I lost it, I cursed at him”.  I couldn’t help it and I started laughing.  She is one of the best mom’s I know.

She began laughing too.  We as Mothers carry the weight of the world on our shoulders to be perfect even when our little angles are not.  I do not have enough fingers and toes to count the countless mistakes I have made as a mother.  I sometimes feel like I have won the worst mom award.  But, I haven’t.  I make a mistakes, apologize, and my daughters and I learn a good lesson.  We make mistakes, recognize them and move on, trying really hard not to make the same mistakes again.  We are human, with human emotions.

That was the beautiful lesson in this.  They did go to the boy scouts event and they both apologized for their behavior.  The mother to the son and the son to the family.  We are not perfect with our emotions.  And that is the perfect lesson to ourselves and those we love.  We will act certain ways in life.  People may not like it but those that truly love us will continue to love us unconditionally.  I believe, and I know not everyone does, that yelling and getting angry when someone has hurt you is healthy.  What is not healthy is a continual hurt and a continual yell.  I know there is a huge difference.  There is that word again that comes up in my life a lot…balance.

So, for dinner with my family, I decided to throw some pasta on the stove.  The greatest comfort food in the fall, if you ask me.  I didn’t have a lot in the fridge so, I used what I had – some grape tomatoes, some capers in a jar, some kalamata olives in a jar, left over pesto, and frozen chicken breasts.

I thawed the chicken and sautéed them.  I then added all the other ingredients minus the pesto to the pan and put a lid on it while all the flavors cooked together.  I added cooked penne pasta and the pesto and mixed it all up.

Viola!  Our dinner was served and, we sat at the table this particular night-  all of us, talking about our day, eating our meal, and living one day at a time through thick and thin, loving each other, unconditionally.

Velouté

I am not looking forward to school starting back next week.  In fact, I think I may be a little sad about it.  I just want to hold those little people in my life and keep them from getting older.  Time is flying.  We have had such a wonderful summer together.  I was just reading an article by Debbie Ford.  She was talking about fear, and instead of running from it, one would turn to face it.  For example, if I fear my children growing up too fast and not having as much fun now that school is starting, I will face my fear by adding fun events to our calendar during the school year.  Just because school is starting doesn’t mean the fun has to stop.  It may be a little harder to squeeze it on the calendar but I want to do it.

I wrote about the French Mother Sauce- Béchamel.  Today I am writing about Velouté.

Velouté

I was sounding out this sauce in all the wrong ways with my country southern accent when I first discovered this sauce.  You pronounce it və-lu’te, not ve-loot!!  – which is what I was doing.

For this sauce, you start out with a rueequal parts butter and flour.  Cook it for a few minutes but don’t brown the butter and flour.  Instead of adding milk like in a Bèchamel, you add warm chicken stock.  Mmmm- just delicious.  Add this sauce over pasta, over chicken breasts, or in a puff pastry like the Beggars Purses.  It can also be used as a thickener in soups.

So, as school starts back, so do the seasons of warm soups follow behind.  Cheers to a another wonderful school year!

Béchamel

Béchamel is one of the five mother sauces of French cuisine.  I will write and experiment with each of them.  I am giving myself no time limit though so don’t hold your breath.  There is the Béchamel, Velouté, Espagnole (also known as Brown Sauce), Hollandaise, and Classic Tomato Sauce.

Béchamel

I always make my macaroni and cheese with a Béchamel sauce.  It is so creamy in the middle. The bread/cheese topping is broiled at the end which makes a crunch of goodness.  It is a constant dish with Grits and Honey.

The first time I made Béchamel Sauce, I got a whiff of this wonderful smell as the milk, butter and flour where simmering.  I had to stick my head in the pot.  I wondered, where have I smelled this before??  It was like a wonderful memory from my childhood was dancing up my nose to my brain.  I stuck my head in there again.  What was the memory?  I made this sauce probably 10 more times before it came to me.  My Grandfather, Pawpaw as we called him, was a wonderful southern cook.  He would have my parents, brother and me over for breakfast and he would always have biscuits and gravy.  It was the smell of the gravy that I remembered.  My Grandfather had no idea he was cooking a “mother sauce of french cuisine”  In fact, I hope he isn’t rolling over in his grave.  It is the melted butter, flour, and warm milk.  The smell of Béchamel means many things to me- comfort, safety, warmth, love…  No wonder my macaroni and cheese sells.  That is a lot of ingredients!  And that is exactly why I cook.

I am sitting in bed with Gabby after a long day of work and then I came home to make my macaroni and cheese for 80 people.  I am exhausted but so fulfilled because I love what I do.  All those feelings are in me when I smell the béchamel cooking.  That is what I love to share but sometimes make excuses as to why I am not sharing it.  Hmmm.

Place a stick of butter in a medium to large saucepan and melt it.  Add 6 tablespoons flour and cook, bubbling,  for 3-4 minutes and stir to keep it from sticking  Slowly add 5 cups of vitamin D milk.  Stir constantly and bring to a slow simmer.  Once simmering cook for 5 minutes but don’t let the milk scald (burn) or the sauce is ruined.  Lastly, stick your head in there and smell what memories you can stir up.

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Originally posted at Grits and Honey.