Gifts for your Thanksgiving Hosts

This is the second year in a row that I will not be cooking a Thanksgiving Day meal. I’ve cooked them as long as I can remember as an adult. Usually it was just for two people, one year we hosted some vegans. I made a tofurkey from scratch! This year I will be sharing my holiday with 2 sets of my dearest friends. I know, I’m a lucky girl. One will be a big extended family gathering where I am in charge of bourbon based entertainment. The second will be a small gathering at my dear friend’s (one of which is my boss) where they’re going to feed me goose for crying out loud!! That’s a lot to live up to. Perhaps I should dust off the tutu and wear it to dinner? I have always been one to dress for my dinner.

Since I am not cooking I want to pose this question to you, dear reader…what should I bring as a gift? I don’t like bringing wine because not everyone drinks wine. I was thinking of a gift that may be a consumable but will last more than an evening or two. Perhaps some nice olive oil, nice spices?

What say you? What do you bring when you are a guest (assuming you do not have side dish duties)?

Here’s hoping your Thanksgiving holiday leaves you stuffed and surrounded by the warmth of your real or surrogate families.

Taste of the World Benefit at the Newport Aquarium

Below I have a press release from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for a wonderful event next month. Fear not readers, we have a special surprise. One lucky reader will get a free pair of tickets to this event!!  Yes this is my first giveaway!

All you need do is leave me a comment with your favorite aquarium animal and I will select a winner on 10/24/2013 and contact you via email of your winning entry. Seems easy enough right? Name an animal then see amazing animals, eat delicious food and sample fantastic drinks for a good cause. Tickets will arrive via USPS so when I email of your winning entry please reply with your name and address. If you do not respond with name and address by 10/25/2013 I will move on to the next winner.

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The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Announces 10th Anniversary of Popular Taste of the World Event

Cincinnati, OH  -  The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is pleased to announce that the 10th annual Taste of the World, presented by The Party Source and held at The Newport Aquarium is set for Saturday, November 9, 2013.

The committee, led by chairs Ruthie Keefe and Fred Wahl, are busy planning and preparing a night of wonderful food and beverage for LLS supporters and local “foodies” to enjoy once again this year.

Taste of the World is presented each year by The Party Source, who solicit their many beverage distributors to bring their best wines, beers, and a variety of spirits for guests to taste.  Local restaurants will satisfy guests with samplings of some of their most popular dishes

General Admission tickets are $100 each, and an exclusive, Top Shelf experience can be yours for a ticket price of $150.  Chef David Cook and Master Mixologist Molly Wellman will delight guests in the Top Shelf room, which is sponsored by the McLaughlin Group and will also feature a sampling of drinks for a more refined palate, as well as a lounge-style atmosphere away from the crowds downstairs.

Roughly 700 people mingle about the aquarium each year, tasting the many offerings of food and beverage.  Campaign Manager Ashley Rahe is excited about what is in store for this year, and the 10th Anniversary of the event.  “Having witnessed first hand the last 6 years of the event, I’m thrilled to see what this committee can accomplish, making this anniversary event the best yet!”

The consensus from past attendees, as always, is an overwhelming desire to attend again in 2013.  Many guests are planning their tenth consecutive appearance this year, some bringing friends by the busloads.  “I’ve spoken to at least three different ‘group leaders,’ who are renting a van or bus and filling it with friends and neighbors to enjoy a taste, or two, for themselves,” Rahe shared.    

Event sponsors already on-board include the McLaughlin Group, TAS Foundation, BlueSky Creative, Oncology Hematology Care, Fifth Third Bank, and many more.

For tickets or more information, visit http://soh.taste.llsevent.org, or call 513-698-2429.  For more information on how to support The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, or to find help after a blood cancer diagnosis, please call 513-698-2424 or visit us online at www.lls.org/soh.

About The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society ®  (LLS) is the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer. The LLS mission: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world and provides free information and support services.  

The Tri-State Chapter of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society encompasses a geographic area of 26 counties serving Greater Cincinnati, Southeastern Indiana, Northern Kentucky, Dayton and the Miami Valley as well as southeastern Ohio.

Founded in 1949 and headquartered in White Plains, NY, LLS has chapters throughout the United States and Canada. To learn more, visit http://www.LLS.org or contact the Information Resource Center at (800) 955-4572, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET. http://www.lls.org.

For more information about blood cancer, visit http://www.LLS.org or call the Society’s Information Resource Center (IRC), a call center staffed by master’s level social workers, nurses and health educators who provide information, support and resources to patients and their families and caregivers. IRC information specialists are available at (800) 955-4572, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET.

Question: Memories

Question for you, dear reader. What food do you seldom or never make but
when you see it, smell it or taste it has a definite memory?

For me there are a few. I won’t go over all of them. First one I can
remember is meatloaf. It’s the first thing I learned to make as a child.
It’s one of those meals that regions or down to the family itself has their
own way of making it. I’ve had it with gravy, with ketchup glaze or plain.
I’ve had it with crackers, breadcrumbs or even oatmeal. I’ve had just beef
or a mixture of various residents of the barnyard including chicken, veal,
pork, lamb, venison. Ok, he’s not from the barnyard but you get my point.

My first meatloaf was a dry porous thing. It would be very sad looking in a
sheet cake pan (mistake #1) with just ketchup on top (mistake #2). I have
since made what is in my mind, my favorite meatloaf. The Barnyard Meatloaf.
It is nothing too fancy or complex. It’s 1/3 pork, 1/3 sirloin and 1/3 lamb.
I use Italian bread crumbs, eggs various spices and I make a ketchup brown
sugar glaze for the top. I use my KitchenAid mixer to combine everything
which gives it this very fine texture. Almost like the lamb slices in a gyro
sandwich. Sometimes I will make gravy out of the drippings. It just depends.
I often use fresh or grated garlic and onion. I don’t like an overly chunky
quality to my meatloaf. I roast mine in the oven inside a bread loaf pan
which ensures a nice crispy top and moist center with lots of drippings to
make gravy out of or to just maintain moisture while serving.

But any meatloaf be it the fancier one from Local 127 or some sad dried out
thing at a friends house makes me think of the first meatloaf I made as a
child. My parents really could have given me something simpler to make when
I was 8 but that’s another story for another time.

So what is your smell memory?

Revelations: Seafood

1. New Orleans to Go – Shrimp Po Boy with Glaze
2. La Poste Eatery – Scallops with egg and gorgonzola, hot bacon vinaigrette, wilted greens
3. Scallop BLT’s with lamb bacon and herb de provence mayo (my house)
4. John-Robert at Pigall’s – Black Cod with red wine reduction and bleu cheese sauce (RIP Pigall’s)
5. Please – Monkfish with celeriac, spruce and maitake
6. Bayou Fish House – Fish tacos, oysters or fish specials
7. Alligator Soul – Shrimp and Grits (Savannah, GA)
8. State Line Restaurant – Cod Log
9. Zula – Funghi Mussels
10. True Food Kitchen Miso Sake glazed cod (Newport Beach, CA)

Movie Recasts of the Future: Big Trouble in Little China

Yep. This is what I decided to do with my time. A favorite movie between kindred spirits. Ann and I decided this movie is too good not to re-share with the masses. We have lovingly crafted a remade cast for you. Next time you watch the original, please imagine these people in their respective roles and laugh.

Jack Burton: Chris Pine/Channing Tatum
Gracie Law: Kaley Cuoco
Wang: Lanny Joon
Meow: Zhang Ziyi
Lo Pan: BD Wong
Egg Shen: George Takei
Margo: Greta Gerwig/Emma Stone
Eddie: Randall Park
Madam: Kimora Lee Simons
Lightning: John Cho
Thunder: Masi Oka
Rain: Nicki Minaj

Title Song: Maroon 5

Staying Alive

My favorite season is here. Sweaters and hot drinks. I find more reasons to be outside since it’s not so hot out. Wearing a cardigan everywhere is not so absurd as it is in July, which also do. It’s also my favorite culinary season. Soup weather! Soup is one of my favorite meals and always has been. I have expanded this year from my standard of Chicken and Dumplings to (as authentic as I can make) ramen, and I am going to attempt a kim chee soup hopefully soon. The soup I am going to talk about here is my best friend’s favorite. Italian Stracciatella soup. I make this for her at different times of the year. She will eat it cold in the summertime and pretty much any time I make it. I have made this soup at the cusp of fall for about half as long as our friendship. This may be the only food that she can recall eating during the horrible beginning of 2009 when her whole life changed. Ann’s husband passed away very suddenly January 2009.
 
I was working overtime on Saturday January 24th and I called Ann to wake her up for work. When she picked up the phone it was with a gasp and exasperated words that I could barely understand. What I could understand was that something was seriously wrong. I left work and went to her house where she was in a panic. David had suffered an embolism in the night and was sitting in the ambulance while they basically were declaring him deceased. This was the first thing that I noticed in the way people process crisis. She didn’t understand why they were still there. She couldn’t understand that there was no rush. There was nothing to be done.
 
We followed the ambulance to the hospital and I took my place in the waiting room while Ann and David’s parents were in consultation. I don’t remember how long I waited. After a while she had calmed down and told me that it was time to go. I took her home and then went back to my house temporarily to pack some clothes. Ann is a very decent human being and expects nothing from her friends. She genuinely believed that if she told me that she’d be fine that I would just go home. I forced my way into her house, cleaned, took care of her cats, cooked for her, made sure she went to bed and got up to take a shower. Someone let our bosses know at work what had happened and that she wouldn’t be in for a while. I don’t remember who.
 
I was still working 2 jobs at the time. I called Fidelity at 6:00 am on Sunday to see if my boss could let me off that day because of all the things that needed to be done and how tired I was. Surprisingly she did not let me take the day off, asked me to come in and with great kindness she let me leave as soon as we were able to let people go home early. This was a privilege reserved usually for the full time staff. She also let me move my days around so that I could attend the funeral. I was not in a great position for time off at work at my other job and was out of personal time. Even more surprisingly my bosses gave me advanced sick leave so that I could stay with Ann. I spent the next week just keeping her ship on course. I made spinach salads, Stracciatella soup and other foods.
 
The funeral came soon enough that week. Bad officiant but otherwise a lovely service. I waited around in the background while she went through the parade of sad relations. I went to David’s parent’s house after the service and ate little and held her hand. I dragged her to Chicago for a vacation in May that she can barely recall. She let me make crazy itineraries and drag her all around town. Chicago is always bittersweet for me. Since then I have seen her make a transformation for a period of time. There was a period that I had cause to really be worried about her but she is back to the girl I met 9 years ago.
 
When you spend this much time with someone you think you really know them. Nobody ever knows anyone as well as they think. I discovered this year that Ann loves tennis, actually talked to me about Wimbledon? Huh?? She has become an excellent cook and I spy always was but never had the opportunity to showcase it. We have a joke that she and I cook better for each other than we do for anyone else. She indulges my stupidity in hat shopping with a lot of begrudged enthusiasm. She never judges me. Ever.
 
I think this is supposed to be about soup…loosely. I think I’m coming around to the point. But basically people show up in your life like little stray balls of light and your duty is a friend is to hold onto them as hard as you can for as long as you can.
 
Italian Stracciatella Soup with magical healing powers
 
4 boxes of chicken broth or stock
4 chicken thighs, cooked and chopped
1 bunch kale, chopped
3 eggs, beaten
1 white onion, minced
Salt and pepper
 
Bring the broth and onion to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. In a bowl, whisk the eggs. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir the broth in a circular motion. Gradually drizzle the egg mixture into the moving broth, stirring gently with a fork to form thin strands of egg, about 1 minute. Stir in the kale and chicken, then season the soup, to taste, with salt and pepper. Consume and put one foot in front of the other.
 
I felt like making this soup this week as I am coming to the end of a really hard period in my life. As you have perhaps noticed, I have not done a lot of blogging this year. I have had a lot going on. I wasn’t really sure I had any interest in continuing with it at all until the past couple weeks. My marriage ended, I filed bankruptcy, I moved, I fell in love again way too soon and it didn’t work out, my house was foreclosed on and I have had an irreparable rift with my mother. It’s been a shitty year! There have been times when I couldn’t get out of bed because I was basically catatonic. I realize now that was my grief period. I just now feel like I am my old self.
 
The thing that kept me from the edge is my friends. Really. I am not someone who is good with a lot of alone time. I find it very isolating and panic inducing. I’m working on it. I contact all of my very good friends at least once a week to check in. When you’re a child you’re not taught how to maintain friendships. You’re taught how to seek out and obtain a mate. Friendship is harder. Friendship takes real effort and the willingness to lay your true self bare in front of another person and hope that they accept you for who you are.
 
I will only ever make this soup for Ann because she loves it so much. Ann is a strong and beautiful person who deserves the world and I show up with soup. Sometimes just soup is enough. I love you, Annie.