Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Year: New Blog

2010 is rapidly approaching, and although I am not a complete believer in New Year's resolutions (seriously do people ever keep them past the second week in January?), I think it is important to set goals. Aside from getting a job after college, I am going to take some inspiration from the movie Julie and Julia(a recent Christmas gift from my parents who know me too well), and write a more focused blog. No, I'm not going to copy the premise of that movie and no, I'm not going to stop writing about my bread, cheese and wine revelations. This year, I am going to be brave and attempt to master new culinary skills. I want to make souffle, fillet a fish, de-bone a duck, make sushi and attempt to create my own sauces. Honestly you never know until you try, and you learn from your mistakes so why not take risks? I'm still a student, so it is hard to focus my life around food, but I am going to explore at least one new dish each week until graduation in May, and grow from there. For consistency's sake I will publish my attempts on Sundays, and if I have any additional thoughts or foodie experiences I'll provide those sparingly in separate blogs through out the week. I think this is a realistic goal. I'm committing.

Game On,


Monday, December 28, 2009

No Fuss Appetizers

HOLIDAY PARTIES!!! WOOH! Good food, good company and lots of fancy holiday cocktail cheer! It should be a relaxing and enjoyable time to get together with those you love, but often the unsung host gets lost in translation, catering to everyone's needs and doing last minute prep work in the kitchen. It's a sad thing when you spend lots of time and effort and can't enjoy the fruits of your labor. From my little bit of experience this season I have picked up a few tips for hosting parties so you can make your cake AND eat it too.

1. PLAN AHEAD: Sit down at least a few weeks in advance and make a game plan. What you are planning to make, what you are planning to do with the venue, when you are going grocery shopping, what you need to pick up, when to start preparations and a 'day of' schedule. Make things in advance! This will save you time and stress.

2. GO EASY: On the appetizers, plan things that are simple. It is always nice to have something to nibble at with cocktails and drinks, but there is no need to go above and beyond. The real star of the party should be the main course, so allocate your time and resources to that.

3. DON'T GO IT ALONE: Ask for help! Yes it is your party, and you want to be the all-star-host, but you don't have to do it all alone. Have guests bring side dishes or mini desserts. Also, don't neglect store bought quick-fixes. Add your own special touches and no one will know that it wasn't from scratch.

My appetizer picks:
--Spiced Nuts: So easy to make and impressive. I like cinnamon sugar roasted almonds: beat an egg white, toss almonds to coat, add cinnamon sugar and mix, spread out on a baking sheet and place in the oven at 250 for 45 minutes (stirring half way through the baking process).
--Crudites and Dip: Mixed [eppers, broccoli, carrots and celery provide a colorful and light appetizer. I like to serve them on a platter around a bowl of hummus. It is a light and crunchy bite that is no-fuss and no mess.
--Cheese: Have three or four cheese and cracker combinations. Make sure to take the cheese out of the fridge an hour or so before to come to room temperature. A cheese board never fails to satisfy and having a variety looks like you spent time on it. Add some dried fruits and grapes as garnish.
--Dips: There are so many pre-made dips that are perfect for parties. Have two or three bowls with a variety of dips (put small spoons in the dish so people don't create a mess ) and surround with blue, red and yellow corn chips. It looks fantastic!
--Crab Cakes: It is always nice to have some sort of fish on an appetizer spread. Shrimp is easy, but dull and overdone. If you are going to go above and beyond on one appetizer make crab cakes. You can make them in advance and they only take about 10 minutes on broil in the oven to finish. They can sit out for a long time and are little bites of flavor.

Party On,


My Holiday Plea: No More Cookies!!...please?

Okay, okay. December 28, 2009 marks the day that the holiday hustle and bustle has finally ceased. I returned home 8 days ago, and after a day of much needed sleep-deprivation recuperation, I was glued to my kitchen. Baking is my therapy and the holidays provide a perfect canvas for me to be...well, therapeutic.

There are a million holiday cookies out this time of year which can be overwhelming. I like to experiment with cookies that I have never attempted before, but still want to make something pleasing and palatable for my family. Where to start...where to start? My action plan this year was to steal my mom's 2009 holiday cookie magazine, and pick three or four interesting and delectable recipes. Well...three or four ended up being seven and I made dog treats to make it an even eight. It was a three day process that left my hands destroyed from dish washing and my body tired, full and overly sugared...but it was worth it. My repertoire now includes peanut butter chocolate toffee bars, pumpkin pecan spice cookies, holiday biscotti, chocolate cherry ginger cookies, triple chocolate ganache cookies, peppermint meringues, apricot amaretto cookies and of course peanut butter dog biscuits.

Naturally I had to sample them all (minus the dog treats but the smell of peanut butter did force me to eat a few spoonfuls from the jar)and after much internal debate I think the biscotti were by far my favorite. They were flavored with both rum and vanilla extract with a faint taste of citrus from a piece of finely shredded orange peel incorporated into the batter. I added buttery pistachios, tart dried cranberries and cherries and sweet dried apricots. The flavor combination was sensational. The baking process for biscotti tends to be long and tedious but leaves you with a crunchy but not break-your-tooth hard cookie. A perfect light and satisfying breakfast or after dinner treat that will leave you with a smile on your face and a (festive)song in your heart.

Now that my cookie baking rampage/therapy has ended, time for bigger and better things. My New Year's resolution: be fearless. This year I want to venture out and make dishes I have never attempted. The only way to learn how to make a recipe perfect is to try, try and try again. I hope by the end of the year to bone a duck (I just watched the movie Julie and Julia...inspirational for a "servantless American cook.").

Happy Holidays and Bon Appetit,


Thursday, December 10, 2009

I'm Cheating on Finger Lakes Wines!

With all of the herbaceous, highly seasoned, salty foods that I have been eating this winter, I have formed a soft spot in my heart for the 2008 Simi Valley Chardonnay. It is extremely buttery and provides a sweetness reminiscent of apples, pears and citrus. A lot of herb roasted turkeys (think Thanksgiving!), chickens, pork, even root vegetables are paired with dressings of orange zest, sauteed apples etc to contrast the savory flavors without overwhelming them. It comes as no surprise that this wine would accompany the food of the season. It is aged for 6 months in 25% new oak, and the flavor difference from the unoaked Finger Lakes Chardonnays that I am accustomed to, is enormous. I enjoy unokaed Chardonnay with grilled foods and fish in the summer, however; the slow cooked, braised, brined, baked, broiled, roasted foods of the winter need something a bit less crisp, and more luscious like the Simi Valley Chardonnay. So the next time you...lets say...herb roast a chicken, butternut squash and brussel sprouts, think Simi.


When the Weather Outside Is Frightful...Eat Food that is Delightful

I can't believe that it has been over two months since my last post...THANKS COLLEGE FOR GETTING IN MY BLOGGING WAY! I just finished my last class of the semester so I thought it was an appropriate time to take a study break and rekindle my love for this blog. This is not enough space to write about my food experiences over the past few months, not to mention the most important holiday of the year, Thanksgiving, so I think I'm just going to start from scratch (after all the best tasting things are the ones made from scratch!!).

Upstate New York is finally seeing some traditional December weather, filled with high winds and snow, and I have to say it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. The scenery along with the constant bombardment of holiday songs on every radio station/Starbucks/store that I enter is making me start to think of the most important part of the season...holiday cookies. Every culture and family has their traditional and favorite cookie. Of course gingerbread cookies are the face of the season but there are also butter cookies, linzer cookies, Mexican wedding cookies, fruit cookies, nut cookies, cut outs OH MY! The list goes on and on. Which got me thinking, what is my favorite cookie? It is a question that I had to ponder long and hard about. I have a sweet tooth so every cookie is amazing to me (good thing I get to sample a large variety this time of year!!!).

I'm not sure if it is my all time favorite cookie, but my memories of the holidays, cookie exchanges and cozying up on cold days with warm tea, surround my mom's raspberry thumb print cookies. The dough itself is made from scratch and has a nice crisp texture of a butter cookie, without being too hard. After the dough is formed she would make little balls and roll them in egg white and cover it with finely crushed walnut pieces. If that doesn't sound heavenly enough, she would leave a thumb print in the middle and when it was almost done baking fill the centers with a good quality raspberry preserves and put it back in the oven to finish crisping. They are perfect with any warm beverage and completely satisfying. My holiday season wouldn't be complete without them.

Get in the kitchen with your loved ones and cook up a batch of memories!

Happy Holidays,


Monday, October 12, 2009

Foodie Memories: Chili Recipe

Everyone has a particular food that triggers memories of a certain time or place in their life. Growing up every Halloween my mom would make a slow cooker chili. The house smelled fantastic! A culmination of chili powder, cumin, onions, peppers, tomatoes, beef and beans...OH MY! It was always cold and dark on those nights and an overflowing bowl of chili topped with melted cheddar cheese and a glass of apple cider was the perfect start to prepare my brother and me for the bitter air. This dish sums up October for me. It gives warmth, love and memories that can never be replaced. Now that I am living on my own, I requested this recipe from my mom. I finally made it one of the first days that it fell below 40 degrees this season. The aromas were the same and made me feel safe and secure. In hopes that it might provide some comfort to you this fall, I want to share the recipe with you:

Mary's Chili Recipe

1-1 1/2 lbs. ground beef ( I use 95% Lean)
1-2 onions (Diced)
1 green pepper (Chopped)
1 TBS cumin
2 TBS chili power
1/2 tsp. cayenne powder (season to taste)
1 TBS hot sauce (Frank's or Tabasco)
1 32 oz. can chopped tomatoes with liquid
1 jar of salsa
1 15 oz. can black beans
1 15 oz. can of great northern (white cannelloni) beans
1 15 oz. can of butter beans (lima beans)
1 large can of light red kidney beans (32oz?)
1 large can of dark red kidney beans
1 cup of beer or wine
Olive oil
Crock pot
Shredded Monterrey Jack or Cheddar Cheese or Taco Seasoned Cheese

Add small amount of oil oil to grease a frying pan add beef, cumin, cayenne and chili power. Brown beef. Add onions and pepper. Cook for a few minutes until soft. Drain any grease from pan. Place in the bottom of a crock pot.

Drain beans in a colander to remove liquid. Run water over beans. Drain. Add to crock pot.

Add tomatoes with liquid to crock pot. Add beer or wine. Add hot sauce. Season to taste.

Cook on low 6-8 hours or on medium 2-4 hours.

Before serving check seasonings, you could add more hot sauce or beer/wine if more liquid is needed. Chili is a recipe that can be altered to the cook's preferences for mild or hot seasonings, Cumin is key. You could increase the amount for a more savory flavoring.

Ladle into bowls, top with shredded cheese. Serve with green and red hot sauce.

--Straight from my mom's email!

Love The Power of Food,


Love Me Some Concord

Concord grapes are in season and popping up everywhere from seasonal items incorporated into grocery store products to center pieces on fall harvest menus. It is a fantastic pair for all the flavors of Autumn. Concord grapes have an intense grape flavor, both sweet and tart. They tend to be the best grape source for juices and jams. Recently, I have enjoyed these grapes in a few unusual fashions: pureed into a pie filling, as an ice cream and a sauce over fish and roasted butternut squash.

When it comes to ice cream, I tend to stay away from the "premium" fruity flavored ones. To me, there is not a better base than the indulgent flavors of vanilla or chocolate. I've seen everything from orange ice cream to blueberry ice cream, and they all fail to live up to the traditional vanilla and chocolate. I made an exception for a hand crafted Concord grape ice cream. It was so unusual that I just HAD to try it. The flavor combination reminded me of grape soda topped with a creamy vanilla ice cream (not that I've ever had a grape soda float...gross.). The Concord grape gave the cream a potent flavor and was well bound in the smooth texture and consistency of the iced cream. It was full bodied and had a luxurious mouth feel.

Grape pie is not a particularly unusual product, but I had never tried it before. I was in love. The strong flavor and jelly-like consistency of the grape puree was a well suited filling for buttery flaky pie crust. If you think about it, grape jelly is a magnificent pair for buttery biscuits and croissants so it was no surprise that it would be a perfect match for a pie. It was a dessert worthy of any fall menu.

The most surprising flavor combination of the three items I tried was the Concord grape sauce, served over seared halibut and puree of roasted butternut squash. The fish was phenomenally cooked; light, moist and flaky. The butternut squash was roasted and pureed giving it a nice consistency, texture and sweetness. The Concord grape sauce really pulled the dish together. It gave an added flavor to the fish and the tartness of the grape was exhibited through the sweetness of the butternut squash. It was such a fantastic combination that I wanted to savor...the last bite came all too quickly.

If you haven't tried this grape, you are in for a treat.



Thursday, October 1, 2009

Fall Favorites

Now that it is October and officially Autumn, the time has come for me to trade in my crisp fresh produce and grilled meats of summer for warm, hearty oven/stove-top crafted meals. There is nothing better than coming home from a long, chilly day to a house filled with the warmth and aromas of a strategically planned meal that you know will satisfy your mind, body and soul. Dinner to me is always the most special meal of the day. It is thoughtful, rich and seemingly time intensive. In a busy world it is hard to put the same effort into preparing elaborate breakfasts and lunches. Cereal, milk and fruit for breakfast, and a sandwich for lunch...repeat. BORING!

I am a bit of a breakfast freak. It is the most important meal of the day and why not start your day off right? I always set my alarm to allow myself enough time to get ready and have a real breakfast (breakfast bars...no thank you). In the summer months I tend to alter between cereal with sliced bananas and blueberries and yogurt with fresh fruit and vanilla almond granola. Refreshing, crisp options for warm mornings. In the fall I want something more soul soothing and weather appropriate. Oatmeal is my go to breakfast food. I love buying the Wessex Oatmeal and adding all of my own goodies to it. I will never be plain brown-sugar or pre-packaged oatmeal girl. My favorite add-ins are sliced bananas (heated with the cereal)and walnuts, dried cranberries, almonds, big juicy raisins, dried cherries and pecans. YUM. Can you think of anything better than hot, creamy cereal sweetened by dried fruit and has a hearty crunch of nuts? Me either. Every once and a while I crave something that is still hearty and rich but not a heated meal. My solution: Greek yogurt and fruit/nut granola with bananas/frozen fruit. Greek yogurt is thicker than traditional yogurt and packed with protein. In the summer I enjoy the crispness of Bear Naked Vanilla Almond granola with fresh fruit and plain yogurt, but in the fall I want something heartier and baked. Bear Naked Fruit and Nut granola does the trick. It has pecans, almonds, walnuts, cranberries, raisins and dried cherries. (all of my favorites no wonder I like it).

Having a variety of breakfast mix-in on hand will keep you interested and satisfied through the bitter mornings of the fall.

Stock Up,


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Feta Obsessed? Which is best?

Lets face it, feta is quickly becoming the new cheddar. During the summer months it is especially apparent that we are becoming a feta obsessed nation, from the mounds of featured recipes that incorporate feta in everything from salad to dessert. But like cheddar (and all cheeses for that manner) there are many varieties of styles/brands of feta and picking the right one can be hard. There is the French feta, Greek feta, Israeli feta, crumbles, blocks....OH MY! Don't feel overwhelmed, after much trial and error I am confident that I have officially found the perfect one and am here to share it with you.

The best feta: barrel aged. I am a cheese fanatic, so when I find a good one it sends me through a series of emotions. When I first tried Mr. Vikos barrel aged feta, I nearly cried. It is extremely flavorful and has a firm but not tough texture. It is also the perfect feta for baking or making a warm dish because of the way it is aged. I had been searching for a good feta for so long and up until this day was consistently let down. The week prior to my feta enlightenment, my roommate and I made a "Greek Style" meal of lemon parsley pasta with a light olive oil dressing, shrimp, kalamata olives, tomatoes, red peppers, onions, artichokes and spinach and were planing on finishing it off with feta cheese to melt in the steaming dish. We chose a French feta, and what a mistake that was. It was creamy and lacked flavor. As my roommate put it, "it tastes like fresh milk". I wanted a pungent hearty cheese to complete the dish and was left completely dissatisfied because of that one missing element.

Barrel aged feta tends to be a bit pricier than the average feta you find in the grocery stores (why I continue to spend my minimal college income on food...I will never know) but it is completely worth it. Go big or go home!

Do Your Own Taste Test,


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Quick, Easy and Delicious? Sounds Good to Me.

As my work load and commitments increase, I find myself struggling to find time to make my favorite "home-cooked-meals". My roommate and I have been cooking as much as possible because the thought of another salad or sandwich for dinner leads to a melancholy air in our quaint apartment. Luckily, we share the same love and attitude about food, recognizing the importance of a good meal. In our desperate search, we found a recipe for a "Black Bean Butternut Squash Chili", PERFECT for the fall. We discovered it in her Bon Appetite cook book (unabridged dictionary sized), and were excited to find a simple recipe that seemed like a fresh take on the traditional chili. We served the chili in over sized mugs with toasted sourdough baguette pieces for dunking. It was hearty, and soul soothing: a meal that could make all of your daily stresses disappear. Needless to say after clean up we found ourselves full and comfortable, wrapped up in blankets on our couch. What a perfect end to a long day.

The recipe is found on epicurious.com:

Wine Pairing: This spicy yet semi-sweet (form the butternut squash) meal is perfect with a dry Gewurztraminer. It calms the heat and provides a nice balance.

Try it out! I promise it will not let you down.

Savor The Fall,


Friday, September 4, 2009

Crock Pot Season Is Among Us!!

The start of my senior year of college has been filled with flurries of articles, and reunions with friends that I have not seen in months. It has kept me away from my blog for a few days, but things are starting to become more normal and I have many foodie thoughts to share(beware!)! The first thought I am going to share: I LOVE THE FALL! The air is crisp, the leaves are brilliant shades of red, orange and yellow and the food...comforting and warm. I am a sucker for warm hearty meals on cold days. My favorite warm meals are crock pot dinners. Whoever decided to create a machine that you can put a variety of ingredients in for 7 hours and magically transforms them into the most scrumptious meal you've ever eaten, should be given an award. I love the flavors that culminate when you place a variety of sweet vegetables and meat in one pot for an extended amount of time. Carrots, tomatoes and onions bring out the best in beef and a simple potato can make the meal so hearty and rich. It is the perfect no-hassle (and healthy) dinner to warm you on those dark, cool fall nights.

I have been looking through some food for fall 2009 magazines and they are all featuring warming comfort foods. It is only September but it is starting to get dark earlier and the chill has already started to sink in. I'm looking forward to making some soul warming meals and pairing them with good bread and wine. This weekend the bakery is featuring their new fall bread "Apple Cider Golden Raisin Bread"...oh the endless possibilities.

Bring on the squash, apples and root vegetables!!!!


Monday, August 24, 2009

Swiss Chard: A Must Try

How I have managed to go 21 years without trying Swiss Chard... the world may never know. As I mentioned before this green intrigued me and was on the top of my "must try" list. The leaves are broad and look stunning on their colorful stalks. The striking yellow, orange, pink and red of Rainbow Chard look too beautiful to eat. I found a bunch of Swiss Chard with a red (almost a purple wine color)stem at my local grocery store and decided to give it a try. It was extremely easy to prepare, looked gorgeous on my plate, tasted great and to top it all off, it is good for you! How could you go wrong? It is high in vitamin K (1 cup= 306% of your daily value!) which promotes bone health, vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium and iron.

How I Prepared:
Wash; Strip leaves away from stems and slice into strips; Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet on a Medium high heat; When pan starts becoming hot, add about a teaspoon of garlic to the oil to infuse; add the Swiss Chard and Saute until wilted (about two minutes).

I used tongs to move the chard around the pan, and as the chard wilted, the garlic took on the bold purple color from the veins of the leaves. The contrast of the dark green with the purple was very eye pleasing. The taste of chard is slightly bitter and salty; a perfect canvas for garlic or crushed red pepper. Sauteing the chard gave it a subtle tenderness but it still maintained it's sturdy composition. It was a substantial side dish and a delight to eat. (I served it with fresh coho salmon, pan-seared and finished with a lemon dill butter and flavored basting oil...I know I felt like a chef when I plated it all...I should have taken a picture it looked very professional.)

Wine Pairing: Riesling. The the bitter/salt complex along with the spicy notes in garlic (or red pepper..whatever you choose to prepare it with) need something fruity and clean to refresh your palate.

Explore Your Produce,


Get Inspired!

Lately I have been grocery shopping with an open mind. Instead of having strategically planned meals in mind, I pick one star item and focus everything else around it. My star items, of course, are things I don't normally cook with and HAVE to try. I have made quinoa with sauteed vegetables and roasted salmon, and crusted tilapia with purple potatoes, using my newly gained pan-searing skills to cook the fish. The class that I took on pan-searing caused me to think outside the box when preparing proteins. I usually just throw some salt, pepper and olive oil (sometimes other herbs and lemon) on them and use grilling or roasting methods for a given amount of time. I never thought to gauge the "done-ness" of an item on temperature rather than time or use things such as finishing butters to deglaze the pan and make a extraordinary flavorful sauce. I think it is important to explore new items and methods of cooking. Not only does it expand your cooking repertoire but it helps avoid dinner time doldrums.

My next venture: Swiss Chard.

Have fun with cooking!


I've Got The Blue(s) Cheese

Ah, blue cheese! Crumbled on a salad, shaved on a sandwich or just a good 'ol hunk by itself, there is nothing better than the succulent taste of blue cheese. To me, the best blue cheese has a strong flavor with a creamy finish that leaves you salivating for more. Because of the strong characteristics, blue cheese is often paired with fruit, sweet peppers and tomatoes and nuts. The sweetness of a Riesling really complements the piquant blue cheese.

This week, as I walked in to the bread department I was greeted by a big voice and...a hunk of blue cheese (YAY!). The cheese of choice: Amablu St. Pete's Select. It is America's first cave-aged blue cheese produced by Faribault Dairy Company in Minnesota. It was outstanding. End of discussion. Many of the American made blues I have tried tend to be creamy with little flavor. When I crave blue cheese, I want the powerful good stuff. The flavor of this cheese is strong but not over bearing. It has a creamy texture and a clean finish. This is the type of cheese that you want to pair with simple things, or eat alone. When I first tried this cheese I just wanted a chunk of hearty bread (well...to be more specific I really wanted a German-style malted barley bread) and a huge plate of heirloom tomatoes dressed simply with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The demo lady (I think I need to update my terminology...suggestions welcome.) had the cheese paired with a dense multi-grain with currant bread which was a phenomenal combination. The sweetness of the currants complimented the sharp earthy flavors of the cheese, and the texture of the grains was a perfect contrast to the creaminess of the cheese. Needless to say I was making myself little "sandwiches" and munching on them ALL night. It was one of those perfect food pairings where once you've had a taste, a little voice in the back of your head tells you to go back for more.

Get the Amablu(s),


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Absense Makes My Heart Grow Fonder...For a Finger Lakes Red.

I have been away from my blog for a few days, but have not been idle with my time. In my absence, I earned a certification in the art of pan searing, made another trip along the Seneca Wine Trail, and attended a lecture regarding the anti-aging benefits of red wine at the New York Wine and Culinary Center. Speaking of red wine and the Seneca Wine Trail, Hermann J. Wiemer has amazed me once again (be still my heart).

My newest heart throb: Cabernet Franc Reserve 2007. This wine is the definition of elegance. Upon first glance, the deep ruby color borders a shade of black, and is absolutely stunning. It is a wine that looks like it is meant for royalty. The aroma is sweet, and has distinct plum and berry characteristics. You expect a berry flavoring to coat your mouth as you take in the first sip but your taste buds are in for a pleasant surprise. The initial impression is the sweet and slightly tart sensation that you anticipate from the berries but is quickly overpowered by a subtle smokey flavor. Just when you except a dry finish, the berry flavors reemerge, exciting and pleasing your taste buds. It is a well rounded, luxurious wine.

This wine would pair nicely with a rich chocolate dessert, but my dish of choice was dinner: Sliced Grilled Sirloin over (my version of** see below**) Greek Salad. To me, red wine and red meat are a match made in heaven, so a medium rare sirloin steak was my first choice for this meal. I thought the sweetness of the berry characteristic would play nicely with the saltiness of the feta cheese and olives and the acidity of the tomatoes and lemon in the vinaigrette would balance the smokey undertones. The wine complemented the meal (and vice versa) and I have fallen for another Finger Lakes red. Good thing there are health benefits to drinking red wine and having a Mediterranean diet.

Live Well and Enjoy,

**My version of Greek Salad: 2 cups mixed salad greens, sliced cucumber, sliced tomatoes, Kalamata olives, Greek Feta (crumbled), 1/4 cup chick peas, 1 TBS roasted sunflower seeds, grilled and chopped red pepper, and 2 TBS store bought "Greek Feta Yogurt" dressing.

Friday, August 14, 2009

You Deserve The Best. Buy Local.

I am a farmer's market junkie. I know where all of the small markets are during the week and live for waking up at 6am on Saturday morning to battle over fresh produce. I am friendly with the pasta man, dessert lady, fish monger, granola bakers, yogurt cultivators, produce farmers and wine sellers (I should probably learn their REAL names some day). I love having conversations with all of them and learning the stories behind their food. The granola bakers only use locally produced ingredients, the dessert lady comes from Buffalo and hardly sleeps before coming to the market and the yogurt cultivators make small batches of yogurt so each tastes slightly different. I like the idea of supporting local growers, but to me there is NOTHING better than products tended to with love and devotion. I know my granola bakers spent hours in their small production center creating the perfect concoction and that my produce farmers tend to their crops religiously to ensure they are superb and flavorful. Farm-fresh yogurt has a unique flavor that will never be duplicated by mass produced products and my dessert lady makes things that could never be trumped by generic desserts found in grocery stores.

During the summer months, the produce at farmer's markets is unbelievable. I recently have been enjoying blueberries the size of my head (I'm not joking), beautiful and succulent heirloom tomatoes, fresh sweet corn and zucchini that are large enough to feed a small village. Not only are these products superior to those sold in grocery stores, but they are also wallet friendly. Do yourself and community a favor: buy local.

Shop on,

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cheers to Microbreweries!

I have admitted that I am a food snob, clearly I have an affection for wine and today I have to confess, I am a bit pretentious about beer. Why would I drink a Bud Light with my meal when I could have a carefully crafted microbrewery beer? I want to enhance the foods that I am eating with my drink not ruin them. Using good ingredients in a meal makes it taste better, and drinking better wine and beer does the same. If you aren’t drinking the good stuff what is the point?

My favorite microbrewery is the Middle Ages Brewery in Syracuse, New York. From the outside you would never guess that this place was a brewery. There are no signs and the parking area (well, it is a side walk really) is non-existent. You walk in to a little room filled with burly men tasting beers and two fat cats basking in the sun. They have clever labels on their brews and even more clever names. My favorite beer they produce is called the “Wailing Wench”. It is a very flavorful hoppy beer that they deem “full bodied and screaming with hops”. The label features a voluptuous “wench” who appears to be screaming (with hops?). Their seasonal Apricot Ale is also surprisingly good. If you typically don’t like fruit flavor beers, neither do I, but this one is worth the try. The apricot flavor pairs nicely with the ale, enhancing the beer without making it too sweet. Next time you go to the grocery store skip over the 30 racks of Coors and Budweiser and make your way over to the 6 packs of microbrewery beer. Your taste buds will thank you.

Drink up,


Monday, August 10, 2009

HOT OUT OF THE OVEN: Italian Bread

mmm...Can you think of anything more comforting than a warm, freshly baked loaf of Italian bread? Me either. It brings me back to my childhood, when I would come home from swim practice with wet hair on dark winter nights. Anticipating my starvation and chill, my mom was armed with mounds of spaghetti and a steaming loaf of this sauce loving bread. Naturally, I could never wait until dinner was served and would tear through the crusty shell, digging out the stretchy warm interior. My family always knew when I would sneak pieces of bread because I would leave it on the counter completely gutted. Working in a bakery, I have been exposed to many different types of artisan breads from different regions of the world. My mature palate prefers French sourdough and German malted barley breads to the traditional Italian bread. Despite this fact, every time the bakers pull the Italian out of the brick oven my mouth waters, my heart melts and I revert back to my 8-year-old self. When in need of comfort at 6am, Italian bread is the preferred snack of the bakery workers (perhaps tied with warm cheese bread...SO GOOD!). And naturally, we eat it child style: dig out the middle, throw the rest away, and then hide so no one will suspect it was you.

Do we ever really grow up?


Visit The Finger Lakes for Riesling...and Merlot?

As an Upstate New Yorker, I am a proud supporter of Finger Lakes Region wines. Some of the best Riesling, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer wines that I have enjoyed are produced in the Finger Lakes. If you noticed, I only mentioned white wines. The thought of a Finger Lakes red makes me cringe. Every time I do a tasting, I make sure to avoid any red wine they have listed. I constantly wonder why this region would even attempt a Cabernet Franc or Merlot, as they will NEVER compare to the rich, full-bodied Californian version. That is until I visited the Hermann J. Wiemer winery.
Wiemer is one of my favorite, if not my favorite, Finger Lakes winery. Their Rieslings are award winning legends and nothing short of perfection (I'm craving a nice chilled glass just writing about them!).
I made an exception to my very strict "NO FINGER LAKES RED!!" rule, when the sommelier at Wiemer suggested the 2007 Merlot. He described it as, "The kind of wine you want to curl up and watch a movie with." It happened to be a rainy, cold day, so it was hard to deny a wine that carried such a sentiment. I carefully examined the color, drew in the aroma and was ready to taste. To my shock, my palate was delighted to be experiencing such a treat. It was comforting, smooth, and slightly smokey. I was so enamored with this wine that I completely forgot it was raining. The sommelier was right and I was sold. Before you head out to the liquor store I must be the barer of bad news: this wine is not sold in stores. It can be purchased at the winery or online. So next time you visit the Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard, be sure to stock up! I promise you won't be disappointed with this purchase.

GO RED! (...and green...save the earth...yadda-yadda)


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Food Sense: A Complete Mind, Body and Soul Experience

"Ben...Jerry...we need to talk. It's not you, it's me." Don't worry, I could never completely end my relationship with my long time boyfriends; ice cream will always and forever be my favorite food. But for now, I think we are better off being "just friends". Recently, I have been seeing another devilish duo: bread and cheese. The more I saw Mr. Bread and Cheese the more I realized that my relationship with Mr. Ben and Jerry was superficial and based on lust. Bread and Cheese, however; enveloped my heart and soul.

On Wednesday I was having one of those "hum-drum"days. You know, the kind where you look up at the clock and only 5 minutes have passed since the last time you checked. Upon arriving at work, A BIG voice greeted me telling me that I HAD to try her bread and cheese pairing. My mentor, the demo lady, was featuring our seven-grain sourdough with Le Pie d'Angloys (a French wash-rind cheese). She immediately handed me a warm piece of bread that was carefully cradling a generous amount of cheese. The bread has a wonderful hard exterior with nutty sunflower seeds and oats baked on top. The interior is incredibly soft with hints of grains inside the dough that give it a subtle crunch. The cheese is similar to a brie: soft, creamy and rich with a mild flavor. With one bite, my taste buds were singing, my heart was smiling and my soul was soothed. The texture of the silky cheese with the light tang and crunch of the bread was heavenly. I had to step away for a moment just so I could enjoy the experience. It was the type of feeling that you get when you come inside on a cold blustery day and curl up in a blanket with a rich hot chocolate. Your whole being just feels spoiled and magnificent. If I had a glass of good wine and sweatpants, my nirvana would have been complete. Unfortunately, I still had 8.5 hours of work so that dream was impossible, but at least now the slow moving clock didn't seem as bad.

Eat Well,

Is your sandwich sad?

I gave breakfast a shout out yesterday so now I think it is time to talk lunch. In an effort to save money, more and more people are now packing lunches in their eco-friendly lunch bags (go green!) instead of ordering out of the office or buying from the cafeteria. I work in a grocery store with many ready made meals available, yet most workers opt to bring lunch. If you aren't nuking leftovers from last nights dinner (ew...leftovers...that's a blog for another time) then chances are your lunch consists of some sort of sandwich. Having the same thing for lunch every day is a bore and as I have said before, what you eat can alter your mood, so why not get creative and mix it up a bit? To beat lunch time blues I always use different flavors and textures. As soon as I run out of one style of bread I buy another that I haven't had before. I use different vegetables and a variety of spreads. Why not use the hummus you bought as a dip as a sandwich spread? Layer some red peppers, spinach, even last night's roasted eggplant and sprinkle with feta cheese. Have a sweet tooth? Buy spreadable cheeses like goat cheese or cream cheese, have different styles of jams and preserves on hand, and layer things like sliced fruits, turkey, ham, spinach and sliced almonds on top.

My Favorite Creation: 2 slices pecan raisin sourdough bread, goat cheese, strawberry/apricot preserves (sliced strawberries also optional), fresh torn basil leaves, cucumber and smoked turkey breast. (I like to toast the bread and spread goat cheese on both slices of bread, top with preserves, basil, cucumber and then turkey breast)

Punch Lifeless Lunch Goodbye,

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Listen to Mom: Don't Pass on Breakfast!

Ah Breakfast! This is my absolute favorite meal of the day! I have a gigantic sweet tooth so breakfast is particularly appealing to me but I think it is essential to get the day started off right. Whether it be classes, sports or meetings, mornings are filled with activities that require you to be focused and moving. Without a good breakfast it is hard to sustain your optimum efforts and you are left feeling drowsy and miserable by mid-morning. A balanced breakfast should contain some sort of protein and fiber. Sources of protein can be found in low-fat dairy, nuts, eggs and low-fat meats. Good sources of fiber can be found in whole grains and fruits. The way you start your day sets the tone for the way the rest of your day will be. So set your alarm a little bit earlier and enjoy the peacefulness of the morning with a good breakfast. You will feel happier and be more focused and productive throughout the day. (Not a morning person? Grab a piece of fruit, granola bar and protein shake! There are many portable breakfast foods for all you snoozers out there!)

My Favorite Breakfast: 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt (try low-fat over non-fat yogurts they are more satisfying and have a better texture), 1 large banana halved and sliced (sometimes use a big juicy peach instead!), 1 handful of blueberries, sprinkle of cinnamon and 1/3 cup crunchy nutty granola.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Big news!!! My blog is now mobile! You know what that means, right? All my thoughts will be published for your reading pleasure no matter where life may take me! Try to control your excitement.

Stay Connected,

Perfect Snack for a Foodie

I admit I am a bit of a food snob. I love fresh ingredients and anything that is out of the ordinary. I will never substitute fro-yo for ice cream and refuse to order fast food if I can get the authentic-made-to-order-real-deal. I spend WAY too much of my pay check at the grocery store because I tend to buy what is good, not economical. Eating is an experience, so why would I waste that on sub par foods? I apply this attitude not only to meals, but also snack foods. You have to treat your body right, and lets face it most snack foods are either unhealthy, boring or unsatisfying. I am big on snack bars because I am constantly on the run, but quickly lost interest in unsatisfying granola bars, chalky protein bars and hate the dense texture of the ground up fruit-date-nut bars. After much trial and error I finally stumbled upon the perfect snack: Kind Fruit and Nut Bars. They are gluten-free, all natural and completely satisfying. You feel like you are giving your body a treat as you crunch your way through whole pieces of nuts and sweet dried fruits. My personal favorites are Fruit &Nut Delight and Walnut & Date. I am a nutty girl (possible pun intended?) so Fruit and Nut Delight is my ultimate snacking adventure: whole pieces of Brazil nuts, almonds, peanuts and walnuts fused together by raisins and apricots. How could you go wrong? If you haven't heard of this company I suggest firing up Google and checking them out (as soon as you are up to date on all of my blog entries...naturally).

Snack On,

Monday, August 3, 2009

J'aime Camembert de Normandie

mmm Camembert de Normandie!! Enjoying this cheese makes me feel as if I have France running through my veins. I automatically start believing that French is my first language and have a strong desire for a beret and a glass of wine (how stereotypical of me). Sure, I have had other Camembert type cheeses but real Camembert is a cow's milk cheese that originates from it's birthplace: Normandy, France. Slightly pale yellow in color and soft on the verge of runny, Camembert de Normandie has a pearly appearance that you know upon first glance will coat your mouth with an elegant goodness. It has the luxurious mouth feel that you would expect it to have upon examination: silky, smooth, and soft followed by a rich earthy flavor.The flavor is almost that of a good REAL French Brie. A little bit of Camembert goes a long way. The flavor lingers a bit and makes your heart sing praises to France. I am in awe of this cheese. Grab a good glass of wine, some crusty sourdough baguette and Camembert de Normandie and you will find yourself in the ultimate bliss.

au revoir,

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Kid At Heart: Childhood Favorites All Grown Up

As you grow older your taste buds become more sophisticated, but that does not mean you have to stray from your childhood favorites. For me, nothing screams childhood like the classic PB&J sandwich. I would often alter between strawberry jelly, fluff (remember the fluffernutter?!) and sliced bananas between two slices of white bread smothered in creamy peanut butter. As I got older I traded jelly for preserves, white bread for wheat, creamy peanut butter for crunchy and then eventually upgraded my PB&J sandwiches for turkey and cheese. From time to time I still crave my favorite childhood comfort food, and decided to put a grown up twist on it. I now enjoy a sandwich that consists of an artisan 7-grain sourdough bread, crunchy almond butter and a brandied apricot and strawberry jam. It is a sandwich that is sweet, crunchy and luxurious. There are many nut butters on the market such as cashew butter and macadamia nut butter to give your sandwich a new spin. If you are CRAVING peanut butter, they surly wont compare but they provide a new feel to a classic dish.

Other Childhood Classics With A Twist Advice:

Mac and Cheese--Instead of using all Cheddar add different cheeses. Gruyere melts nicely and adds a nutty verging on sweet flavor to the dish. Herbs, veggies and meats can make this dish into an even more flavorful and hearty meal. Try adding things such as basil, parsley, cherry tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms, pancetta or even lobster!

French Fries and Ketchup-- Try baked potato wedges or better yet, use sweet potatoes! You can pump up the flavor by adding different herbs and spices to the traditional salt and pepper mixture. Instead of ketchup create different flavored aiolis. If you are serving sweet potato wedges honey and maple syrup are also wonderful accompaniments.

Spaghetti and Meatballs--Swap ground beef for ground turkey. Try different pastas such as penne. Pump up the Sauce! Add extra veggies like mushrooms, spinach, even zucchini to pre-made sauce to make it more decedent and flavorful. Top the finished dish with herbs like parsley and basil to add a clean and fresh taste.

Stay Forever Young,

Friday, July 31, 2009


As I mentioned in my lengthy introduction, when demo lady goes away...I come out to play. Every once and a while I substitute when she goes on break but those shifts never exceed 20 minutes. One weekend she decided to take 2 days off and to my astonishment they put ME on the schedule. I would be working an 8.5 hour shift selling bread and cheese. I am a very outgoing person but not considered "loud" by any standard. Demo lady on the other hand has a voice that can project from coast to coast. I had some pretty big shoes to fill. My co-workers told me they didn't believe that I could yell and the cupcake boy (demoing samples of homemade cupcakes across from me...delicious!) was egging me on and yelling for customers to try his product and then come see me for a bread sample. After a half hour, I knew what I had to do...GET LOUD! It was a little awkward at first and I generated a bit scene having a screaming match with cupcake boy, but it was a decision that I was glad I made. I found when you call people over it not only strikes their interest but makes them feel invited and welcomed.

"COME ON OVER AND TRY OUR WONDERFUL BREAD AND CHEESE PAIRING TODAY!!! WE HAVE BUCHERON, A GOAT'S MILK CHEESE FROM FRANCE, PAIRED WITH OUR TRIPLE OLIVE LOAF, BAKED RIGHT HERE IN OUR BEAUTIFUL OVEN!!" After the initial announcement I would proceed to explain the flavor sensation and why the bread and cheese worked together. ("Goats milk cheese tends to have a tangy flavor to it so when you pair it with something like salty/buttery olives it brings out a nice sweetness.") The best phrase I heard all day was "Okay, you SOLD me." It warmed my heart each time I heard it, not because I was doing my job to increase sales, but because I had inspired them to try something new and they liked it just as much as I did.

I only took a 30 minute break for lunch the entire time. I was IN LOVE with educating and talking to the customers. Talking for 8 hours is not an easy task, I was exhausted and my head pounded but at the end of my shift I was on cloud nine. I felt that I had really made a difference and considered my day a success. I think in any sales position it is essential to believe in the product you are selling and be able to express excitement about it. I love bread, I love cheese, I love discovering how flavors interact and I love sharing my knowledge with others. If passion is what leads to a successful career, my summer job may be more influential to my future than my entire college experience. I only hope that I can find a profession that allows me to continue doing what I love after graduation.

Rest your voice and be heard,

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Whole Grain Dijon: Instant Gourmet

If you are tired of having the same old grilled chicken and boiled salmon, it is time to spice it up...literally. I like to think of whole grain Dijon as the "wonder ingredient". If you don't have this staple in your fridge, you should be ashamed of yourself. It works wonders as a coating for chicken and salmon but can also be made into a vinaigrette and pairs extremely well with roasted and mashed potatoes. I like to put it on my turkey sandwiches and into chicken and tuna salad for a little extra crunch and heat. It can make the most boring dish into instant gourmet. Your friends and family will be ohhing and ahhing over your culinary abilities thanks to this one simple ingredient!

My favorite:

For Salmon (1 fillet):
(can be mixed with other things such as herbs, garlic etc)
1 TBS honey
1 TBS Whole Grain Dijon
1TBS Lemon Juice
salt and pepper

mix ingredients together in a dish and coat each side of salmon, place in pre-heated 400 degree oven for 10 min. VOILA.

Do The Dijon Thing,

Inhale. Exhale. Namaste.

Yoga and Pilates: trend or necessity? Typically my work days are spent on my feet running in circles bagging bread (it's a sexy job what can I say?), but every Thursday (and most Wednesdays) I am confined to a desk and a computer for THE ENTIRE DAY. You might think "So what? That is how most people spend their work day?" but I of course am a restless busy bee. I find that on these days my body feels heavy and stiff. I am overcome with aches and pains from sitting in my adjustable office chair. By the time my day is over all I want to do is relax, cook and curl up with a good book, NOT exercise. With my crazy schedule I no longer have time to go to the gym or simply be active. Plus, that requires a whole production and a shower which is additional time that I can not afford to waste. (I don't want to be like that "smelly girl" in your 5th grade gym class.)

With months of doing absolutely no form of physical activity I found that there was a build up of stiffness and soreness. My body ached. I thought it was important to start stretching but if I did it on my own it would be approximately 5 minutes every....once and a while. I went to the sporting goods store searching for stretching tapes and inevitably wound up in the proud display of yoga mats and sports bras in the woman's fitness section. Hm...yoga. I admit in the past I have been to a few classes and always found my mind wandering. Honestly, I thought it was a lot of BS and not worth my time...the lazy-man-workout. Now it has become one of my guilty pleasures. I ended up purchasing a video of 5- 20min routines and what a difference it has made. I can do it in the convenience of my room, it isn't too physically taxing, and definitely releases all my daily stress. At the end of a work day (especially a stressful one) it is important to nourish you mind, body and soul.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Time Has Come

I suppose I should start this blog with an explanation. I never thought I would have a blog (and frankly, I always thought blogs were just a bizarre trend...you know, the grown up version of nano-pets or Pokeman). Recently, I was asked to do a 60 second "Video Application" and post it on YouTube for an internship program that I am applying for. I have never used the video function on my camera and had to teach myself the ins and outs of my computer software and YouTube, but eventually I did it. It was a noble effort to say the least. I had fun doing it and jokingly told my parents I was going to start a video blog. The more I thought about the idea of a blog, the more sincere I became about actually doing it. This summer my life has been so busy that I resorted to once a week emails to close family and friends documenting my various life discoveries and adventures. A written blog is similar to an email just on a much bigger scale. Right?

I looked back at these emails and realized that there was a central theme threaded though out each one: Food. I have always had a passion for food, cooking and entertaining. The day I discovered the Food Network was probably the most exciting day of my life (I'm not a particularly dull person I just get really excited when new opportunities to learn present themselves). I grew up in Upstate New York where local farmer's markets and Wegmans (aka my home away from home) were my playgrounds. The holiday season was always my favorite time of the year because it is composed of my favorite things: cooking with my mom, family gatherings and bountiful amounts of comfort food.

I started off this summer as a complete mess of a human being. I was finishing my Junior year of college and had no focus or prospects for the future. This is the summer where internships and connections are key. If I planned on attending graduate school than this was the summer to start looking into them and study for the appropriate exams. My friends all seemed to know exactly what they were doing and I felt like a lost soul. I am double majoring in Political Science and Health and Society with a Business Certificate in Marketing. What was I going to do with these degrees? Not a clue. If I pursue a graduate degree I want to make sure it is something that I love and I didn't feel that way about anything I was currently studying. I thought I was intensely interested in politics, and health care reform but could I really see myself having a 9-5 job filing papers and working on legislation? I always loved my marketing classes and working with groups, so this was an industry I knew I wanted to explore. I looked high and low, desperately searching for internships. I didn't care if they were paid I just needed a taste of the marketing industry. I wanted something to scream "YES! THIS IS FOR YOU! YOU HAVE A PURPOSE IN LIFE!" and give me direction for the future. As finals approached I found myself in a commitment to be a Summer Resident Adviser in one of the student buildings in exchange for free housing but did not have a source of income or the internship I desperately wanted. I was scared and my frantic emailing/calling/searching for internships intensified. I emailed companies whether they had job postings or not, contacted friends who had parents with jobs in the area and spoke with every faculty member I could to try to find SOMETHING. Towards the very of the semester I FINALLY got a response from two companies: a grocery store and a specialty foods company.

I emailed the grocery store inquiring about any internship opportunities that they might have. They are one of the greatest companies to work for and as a long time customer, I knew they had an outstanding marketing department. I received an email back a few days later informing me that they did not have any internship positions available. I was sad but still pressed on in my search. A week later a member of the HR team asked me if I would be interested in working in the store. I didn't even consider applying there for a job but I needed money. I had never worked in any sort of food setting (other than the occasional snack-shack substituting when I was a lifeguard and swim instructor) so I felt like it was a great opportunity for me to learn the operations. They had two openings in the prepared food department and the bakery. I though to myself "Oh great!!! I love cookies!! Bakery it is!" I went in for an interview and found that if I got the job it would be in the bread department. I didn't know much about it, but like everything else in my life, I decided to dive in head first and learn all that I could. I was constantly talking to the bakers, trying breads and figuring out how to sell the product to customers.

My first week working was filled with 4:45am alarm clocks, bagging, stocking and slicing bread but little did I know what was in store for me...the weekend. It is the busiest time of the week and I was prepared. The second I got to the store that Saturday I fell in love with the environment I was surrounded by. There were people everywhere and food demonstrations in every department. THIS is what I wanted. I loved the energy and knew that I wanted to stand in the front of the store just like the bread demo lady and inform people about bread and cheese pairings. I just HAD to learn. Every weekend from there on out I decided to be the self-appointed assistant to the demo lady. I would watch her interact with customers and listen to everything she had to say. When she would go on break, I would fill in. When it was slow, I would ask her questions. I was determined. I asked my manager every day about opportunities to learn about the cheese department, which was becoming a growing interest of mine.

Finally, one day I saw a job posting for the "Old World Cheese" department. I was disappointed because typically they want you to work in a department for 6 months before applying to do cross-training and I had hardly been there 3. I decided that even though it might not be possible, it was worth a try. I was able to convince my manager to sign me off and allow me to apply. I was selected for an interview and was fortunate enough to receive an opportunity to learn in that department. I was thrilled! I began reading books to teach myself about the cheeses of the world and was in awe (clearly I didn't have much of a social life this summer but I was so excited to work and learn that it didn't phase me). I would buy small pieces of expensive cheese and dissect all the flavors that I was enjoying. Trying them with breads, wines and double checking the flavor sensations in my guide books. I would volunteer to take baguettes to the cheese department on the weekend and the employees of that department always had something for me to try and knew I would be excited about the products they were promoting. (they always gave me more if it was a goat's milk cheese because it is considerably my favorite.)

One weekend the demo lady took a vacation and to my surprise I, ME, NORA, was on the schedule to fill her position. I was featuring a triple-olive ciabatta loaf and a triple creme cheese. I learned about the products, tasted them and was prepared to go. I have never felt so alive! It might be something so little but I found something that I truly enjoyed. I love food, learning about food, and working with people.

Outside of the grocery store, I was working at the website base of a specialty meats company. I heard about their company very late in the school year through the career center on campus and inquired about their internship on a whim. It sounded right up my ally. They contacted me for an interview at the very end of the year during finals week and I was relieved. Prior to accepting the internship, I thought I had a research position doing something with psychology but it fell through, so at least this was SOMETHING to do over the summer. At my internship (besides filing mounds paperwork) I got to sit in on business meetings, learn about sales and marketing and taste new products! My favorite part was learning about the products they sell online. I was able to taste them and learn about how to check for flavor, how to enhance flavor without over-doing the salt content, and the importance of fat and marbling in meat etc. I also loved seeing the impact that publishing their newsletter or a major holiday would have on sales, and website visitors.

Needless to say I learned a lot this summer and will continue to learn. I decided to keep my job at the grocery store during the school year. I finally feel like my life is taking a step in the right direction. I found that I am more passionate about this industry than I have ever been about politics. I would rather wake up at 4:45am and work an 8.5 hour shift bagging bread and talking to customers than read a book about political theory.

As senior year approaches the question remains: "What will I do after graduation?" I had the day off from work this past weekend (very rare) and read the book My Life In France (not the Julia and Julia blog story, although that would have probably been inspirational for this blog). It added more wood to my already burning fire. I know that I need to do something with the food industry. I want to explore France, learn to cook, write a blog, relate and reach out to people, and learn everything I can about the process that food goes through in order to become an actual product. I bought 4 books on cheese this summer and am still continuing to learn. I want to know EVERYTHING about the animals, geography, processing, rinds etc. This is the attitude I have towards everything in my life.

Ina Garten is another person who inspires me. She is one of my favorite personalities on the Food Network and her food is incredibly easy, fresh and flavorful. I love her grace and her ability to bring people together. I basically want to be her. I read her biography and she started her career in government with no culinary training. She left her job to open a restaurant, The Barefoot Contessa, and things took off from there. This gives me hope.

With Ina and Julia as my role model's I know that anything is possible. I am graduating with a degree in Political Science and Health and Society with a Business Certificate instead of a Culinary Degree but I know that there has to be more out there for me. If I get this excited about a minimum wage paid job that I can hardly support myself on (I tend to spend all of my money on food...I rather spend $4.75 on good bread then $1.99 on commercial and am willing to pay $4 for a couple ounces of cheese so it's my own fault...but I also see this as a learning opportunity.) there MUST be more out there for me.

This will probably be the longest blog entry I will ever have but I think it is important to start an introduction with a little bit (or a lot of bit) of background. You can look forward to the many whims and random occurrences of my life. I tend to do things for myself and am not afraid of rejection or failure. Life is about the lessons you learn, and it is hard to learn if you aren't willing to take risks.

I hope this gave you a taste of the flavor of my life.