Memorial Day Favorites

Memorial Day is on Monday and that means summer is here!! Did you know that Memorial Day was called Decoration Day? When I first saw that I pictured a day where we could show off fancy decorations. What if we decorated our homes for Memorial Day like we decorate our homes for Christmas? That would probably look very strange. I learned recently that there is supposed to be a national moment of silence at 3:00PM on Memorial Day. Did you know that? I am sure if you are out at a ball game or national memorial you will notice this. Now that you know maybe you can do this at your family picnic or BBQ.

I am so excited to get my grill on this weekend and since it’s the start of summer that means lots of grilling and picnics to be had in the near future. Here are some recipes to get your summer off to a great start:

BBQ Baby Back Ribs

BBQ Baby Back Ribs

Greek Pasta Salad

Greek Pasta Salad

Pimm’s Cup 

Pimm's Cup

Little Italy Burger 

Little Italy Burger

 Ice Cream Sandwiches

Ice Cream Sandwiches

Have a fun and safe holiday weekend!

 

Griller Sandwich with Roasted Red Pepper Mayo

It’s grilling season!

Sausage and Red Pepper Mayo

I have teamed up with Uncle Charley’s Sausage to show off the awesome grilling potential of their fresh sausage. As we get closer to summer you will want to have a pack of these in the fridge! You can top the grillers with your favorite combos and garnishes. The red pepper mayo is a great compliment to the Italian spices in the sausage. Grilled onions make everything taste better!

Have you started up the grill yet? Better hop to it!

To find other delicious recipes make sure to visit Uncle Charley’s here.

Asian Lettuce Wraps

Summer is fast approaching!

Asian Lettuce Wraps

If you happen to live in Pittsburgh you might think that summer already arrived. It is in the high 80’s – the HIGH 80’s! I can hardly believe it. My closet is not prepared for this shift in temperatures. Just 12 days ago there was snow and ice…I try to forget about that. I am just glad that it is sunny and green outside. The downside – I don’t want to cook dinner in the kitchen, I would rather grill but unfortunately we have to go all the way to my parents house to do that.

Assembly of Lettuce Wraps

Hopefully that is going to change since we are looking for a house!! Eeek, how exciting is that?!?!?! I am doing my best to put all of that HGTV watching to good use but at the same time realizing many things can be fixed with paint or a little elbow grease. I am also under the impression that I can just hire someone to update all the things I don’t like in a house; the hubby keeps bringing me back to earth on that one. Share all of your house hunting tips and stories, I want to know it all!

Bibb Lettuce Head

Anyhow, as I dream about my future home (thanks Pinterest), I must remember that life still goes on and we still live in a tiny apartment and our tiny dog still drives me nuts by running back and forth in that same tiny apartment. I am a huge fan of making easy meals in the summer. Easy and light meals is where it is at this summer. I think I might make it the summer of simple, easy, and delicious.

Lettuce Wrap #2

I might throw some wacky things in every now and then but I think it  has been decided that we are going to have an easy and fun summer! Maybe we’ll even have a summer that involves and easy and fun move in to a new home…given my prior experience with moving I can say that this is less likely to happen haha but…this girl is still dreaming. Make these lettuce wraps when you need something fun and easy!

Asian Lettuce Wraps 
Yields 4 Servings

Ingredients:
1 Package Ground Turkey
2 Tsp. Sesame Oil
2 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp. Fresh Ginger (Grated)
Dash Salt & Pepper
1 Bibb Lettuce Head
1/2 Cup Shredded Carrots (Matchstick carrots are best)
1/2 Red Pepper Sliced
1 Bundle Bean Threads (any type of thin noodle will work)*
Asian Style Sauce (I used a Polynesian sauce)
Sesame Seeds for Topping (optional)

Instructions:
Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add sesame oil to the pan and swirl to coat. Add ground turkey to the pan and brown. Add soy sauce and ground ginger to the pan and stir to combine with the ground turkey. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Assemble lettuce wraps by pulling the individual leaves from the bibb lettuce head and taking care not to tear or rip them. Have your guests assemble the wraps however they see fit and top with their favorite sauce.

These might get messy so have napkins on hand.

*Follow packaging for cooking bean threads or other noodles.

Meyer Lemon Bars

I LOVE LEMONS!

Meyer Lemon Bars

If you read my last post (I know you did), then you might have seen a picture of a delicious Lemon Curd that we had at the Taste Studio. I watched Chef Brust whip together a curd in like 15 minutes. It was really quite impressive especially since he was standing in front of an audience whipping feverishly to make sure that the curd actually set. His hard work paid off because it literally was the most delicious thing ever. It was an excellent spring dessert and I could probably eat it for breakfast too. The sorrel he added was an awesome addition since sorrel has a sour note. The sweet/sour combo was heaven.

Chef Brust Lemon Curd

Meyer lemons are awesome. They are a sweeter lemon, believed to be a hybrid of lemon and mandarin orange. You will see them in the grocery store about this time of year but they will not be there forever. If you want to cook/bake with them you should do so now. For those of you in warm climates (Cali, Texas, Florida) you probably have these growing in your backyard right? The rest of us are not so fortunate. Sidebar: I just heard the news say something about snowflakes and I almost died…ugh, can we not?!?! Anyhow, if you cannot locate a Meyer Lemon you can use lemon and orange

Meyer Lemons

I was lucky to find the bags of Meyer Lemons in my produce section. They must have known I was coming! I grabbed two bags and headed back to the kitchen to make these A-MAZE-ING bars.

Whenever I go to an event and they have lemon bars on the table I am all over it. Does anyone else feel this way? For some reason I never think to make lemon bars because something always makes me think they are very time consuming. I am a silly person, these are not at all hard to make! These would be great at brunch, lunch, dessert, snack time, midnight, tea time…all the times

Lemon Bars #2

If you want to try another lemon treat you can try the Lemon Cloud Pie that I posted last year or this Lemon Blueberry Poundcake.

Meyer Lemon Bars
Adapted from the Biltmore Cookbook

Ingredients:
2 Cups Flour + 2 Tbsp. for Filling
1/4 Cup Sugar + 2 Cups for Filling
1/2 Tsp. Salt
1/2 Cup Butter
2 Tsp. Meyer Lemon Zest
6 Tbsp. Meyer Lemon Juice
6 Eggs Beaten
Powdered Sugar

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9×13 baking dish and set aside. To prepare the crust, combine 2 cups of flour, 1/4 cup sugar, salt and a butter in a bowl. Mix everything together until crumbly, should look like sand. Pour crust in to baking dish, press down and make sure it is level. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes and remove from the oven.

Prepare the filling by combining 2 cups sugar, 2 Tbsp. flour, lemon juice, lemon zest, and eggs in a medium bowl. Mix until well blended. Pour filling over crust and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the filling is set. Let the bars cool before cutting and sprinkling with powdered sugar and serving. Try not to eat them all at once!

Williamsburg, VA: An American Food Destination

I was thinking you might be in need of a vacation so I went ahead and picked one out!

Copper Pots in Colonial Kitchen

Copper Pots in the Governor’s Palace Kitchen

Mom and I spent the last weekend in Williamsburg, Virginia, partaking in a food lover’s journey through Colonial America and modern-day Virginia. My dad had planned the trip as a gift and worked very closely with Colonial Williamsburg (CW) to make sure everything was perfect. Williamsburg is not just an 8th grade class trip destination or the place your parents take you so that you learn about history. After our trip I am convinced that Williamsburg is truly an American Food Destination and arguably the place where it all began!

Mom and I in CW

Mom and I with the Governor’s Palace

CW is a place that holds a good deal of significance to my family. My grandparents loved going there and it was evident in the way they decorated Hollymead and even some of the recipes that my grandmother served her guests. One of the most obvious connections is the peanut soup she had on her menu. Williamsburg (or Virginia in general) is famous for their peanuts and peanut soup along with the salty Virginia ham. When I think about it, my ties to the state of Virginia run very deep. My grandparents settled in Charlottesville because of their love for Williamsburg (it’s about 2 hours away) and the irony of it all is that my father’s ancestors started in Virginia before making their way to Pennsylvania and finally settling in Illinois. I attended The University of Virginia which was fathered by Thomas Jefferson; an alum of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. It is starting to feel like there is no denying the importance Virginia plays in my life and my own history.

Williamsburg Food Goodies

A sample of Williamsburg goodies

Mom and I had so much in our agenda, everything from enjoying traditional Tidewater cuisine to getting a close up look at where some of the culinary magic takes place. There was one experience that really resonated with us. We met up with Melissa Blank from the Historic Foodways team. The Historic Foodways team is responsible for researching and recreating the food of the 18th century. Melissa started out our tour by taking us to see where the meat (ham) was salted and smoked. At first I thought it was just a staging of these things until she unlocked a door, with a giant old key, and immediately the smell of smoke washed over me. Melissa offered the chance to go inside and I was so eager to jump in to the smoking house that I didn’t think about the smell it might leave in my clothing but honestly, it was completely worth it. The Historic Foodways team is not just writing about these dishes and techniques, they are testing them and tasting them.

Smoked Ham

Smoked ham hanging in the smokehouse

The smoked hams looked like something you might stumble on in your modern BBQ joint or smokehouse. The technique has not gone away and it just shows how important it is to look at what our ancestors were doing so we know what to do. We were taken in to the Governor’s Palace kitchen where we got to see some of the other dishes they have recreated from the 18th century. We were standing in a kitchen that would have been used in that time, the same kitchen that the Foodways team uses when they are recreating these meals. The kitchen was large and multi-purposed in a way that I want for my own kitchen. A huge hearth fireplace was designed to be used for all manner of cooking from direct to spit cooking. A brick oven was off to the side and the amount of copper pots and pans was impressive. The reason we can cook like they did in Colonial America is because some things have not changed. Ingredients are still very similar and techniques seem to never change. To understand cooking now is to explore the cooking from then. We all know the influence that Native Americans had on our food as did the African slaves. In Colonial Williamsburg, the food experience explores those histories and traditions; bringing them to life in a way that may even surprise us.

Foodways Dishes

An assortment of 18th Century cooking.

Melissa shared with us the challenges of trying to decipher an 18th century recipe. She mentioned that many recipes don’t provide amounts or cooking times. They might not give clear descriptions on how the dish should be presented or served. As she spoke, I immediately thought about my own challenges in trying to recreate my grandmother’s food. Her recipe cards are always filled with holes or short hand that I can’t understand. I am constantly thinking about what would have influenced her at the time and what chefs were trending as to get an idea of what she was inspired by. Listening to Melissa, I found that a very similar process takes place within the Foodways program. They have to test and taste to finally figure out a dish or recipe. Honestly, this sounds like a dream job! You can even try some of the recipes they have deciphered by visiting their blog.

Confections from Colonial Times

18th Century Dessert

Outside of the historical food stories in Williamsburg there is a modern story that weaves beautifully in to the historic narrative. We were treated to a special tasting dinner at the Williamsburg Lodge. The meal was a tribute to the southern tradition with tasty staples like fried green tomatoes, succotash, and of course the use of peanuts! The food was a true Farm-to-Table or Garden-to-Table experience. The chef could tell us the name of every farmer and purveyor who provided all of the food that we were lucky enough to eat. We got to meet with the chef before our meal and even tour the impressive kitchens. We talked about the importance of fresh food and honest cooking. There was no mention of gimmicks or of serving food that could not be found growing within 100 miles of CW. The pantry was not filled with canned ingredients beyond the expected staples and the freezer was mostly ingredients they received fresh and prepped for freezing. The chef echoed a theme that seemed ever-present in Williamsburg, fresh is best and using the bounty around you is always the right approach.

Carolina Grouper with Succotash

Carolina Grouper with Spring Vegetable Succotash

CW is a real working city with gardens and farmers. You will see sheep in pastures and gardens around every corner. Every time I go I have the urge to buy a farm. I have that urge once a month actually. In addition to smoking meats, they brew beer and make chocolate!

One of the many gardens

One of the many gardens in Colonial Williamsburg

The beer, Old Stitch, is malty and delicious and we ended up leaving with several bottles for the boys. You can only buy this beer in Williamsburg so that might reason enough to make a trip! The American Heritage chocolate is a newer addition to their culinary repertoire. They make chocolate in the historical fashion so it is not going to taste like your normal Hershey bar and nor should it. The chocolate was designed for drinking then and having a full bar of chocolate was like having a bar of gold. I was gifted a large block of spicy chocolate waiting to be used so keep an eye out for some colonial dishes using chocolate!

A Sheep with her lambs

I left Williamsburg energized and contemplating my place in the culinary timeline. I realize that it is immensely important to know our beginnings and pay tribute to the chefs that came before us in order to understand who we are today. Williamsburg is doing wonderful things in terms of reminding us that where we started and where we are today are not very different. The food and stories are similar, the experiences are generally the same and undeniably American. As I learned, to understand my future I may need to spend more time getting to know my past. I suggest you do the same!

Pictures I could not fit but you don’t want to miss!

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The Short List

Where we stayed:
Williamsburg Lodge

Places we ate:
Peter Chang – Szechuan Cooking
Old Chickahominy House
Williamsburg Lodge – Traditions Restaurant
The Cheese Shop

Things we did:
Williamsburg Farmers Market
Historic Foodways Tour
The Taste Studio

A huge thanks to following individuals who helped to make our trip amazing; Paul Freiling of Colonial Williamsburg, Chef Travis Brust, Chef Anthony Frank, Chef Sean Gonzalez, and Melissa Blank (Historic Foodways Team).

Disclosure: I received no compensation for this post. The opinions reflected above are my own. If you wish to know more about Colonial Williamsburg you can visit www.history.org.