Monday, September 30, 2013

Greetings . . . and then some!

Hi, everyone! I have some exciting personal news that I've been dying to tell you. I really wanted to share it with you when it first happened about a month ago, but I decided to wait for all the newness to settle first.

It now feels like the time is I'd love to finally let you in on my little secret: I recently accepted a new position. 

It's part-time (which is perfect for me). It's creative beyond belief. And it's with one of the best companies to work for. Anywhere. Drum roll, please...

I now work for American Greetings.

Yep, I'm a Marketing Editor with their Interactive Group. I work with an incredibly talented group of content marketing writers, designers, social media gurus, coders, and programmers. We work on everything having to do with the marketing of,,, and If you haven't already visited these awesome greeting card and social expression sites, please do so. Asap. (Sorry, I just couldn't resist that last shameless plug.)

My new job is fun. It's exciting. And it feels so right.

My new home away from home (which is still a work-in-progress)

My new nameplate
One of the building's many light-filled atriums

I work at the company's world headquarters, which has a beyond-marvelous central area called the Town Square (see below). There's a Starbucks on one side, chairs and tables in the middle (for mingling, meeting, and brainstorming!), and a company card store/gift shop on the other side.

Photo: Columbus College of Art & Design

One day, I approached the store's manager about carrying my book, and she was thrilled to stock it for company employees. Here's what the new display looks like:

Which brings me to my parting thought:

Why not consider offering my book as a company holiday gift this year? 

If not for a company you own or work for, then for a company of a friend or family member.

Last year, a number of business owners -- both large and small -- bought my book to give to their employees as a thank-you gift for the holiday season. They included doctors, dentists, accountants, gourmet shops, insurance companies, and more.

This book makes a really great gift because, let's admit it, everyone loves food. And everyone's proud of our great city. And yes, everyone is also really interested/curious/nosy to find out -- and be able to duplicate -- what Cleveland's best chefs prepare for their own last-minute guests in one hour or less.

If interested, just get in touch with me. I'd be happy to have the books personally autographed for your recipients and to offer you a free gift with every purchase. (Click here for more info on my mini-whisk giveaways.)

The holidays will seriously be here before you know it. They really will. Why not be prepared for once?

'Til next time, greetings to all!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Movies Under the Stars

Now that fall is officially here, there are seriously less and less events we can host outdoors. Pool parties? Too cold. Picnics? Not enough ants (hahaha). But a backyard cinema night (with lots of blankets and popcorn)? Now THAT'S got great possibilities -- and sounds like tons of fun, doesn't it?!

All photos: Laura Dent

1  The very first thing you have to do is find/beg/borrow/buy a projector. (There's even a reasonably priced one at Brookstone that's actually pocket sized! Click here for more details.) Have a power source -- and plenty of extension cords -- nearby.

2 The next thing you have to do is set up a screen. A plain white sheet on a clothesline or against a fence (or garage wall) will work just as well. Hook everything up and test it before your guests arrive.

 3 Now you gotta pick a movie. And as anyone knows, it all depends on your audience. Kids? Be sure to stick with a G-rated one to be on the safe side. (Believe me, there are plenty of great ones. Think The Secret Garden and The Red Balloon -- the last one being one of my kids' all-time favorites.) Tweens? Go for PG. (Think The Parent Trap and The Goonies.) Teenagers? Keep them captivated with a popular PG-13 plotline. (Think Dazed and Confused.) And adults? Try a popular, all-time classic. (Think Life Is Beautiful or James Bond or even Downton Abbey for a multi-series.)

4 Be sure to provide plenty of seating, warm blankets, pillows, and drinks (hot toddies, hot cider, or hot chocolate to name just a few). A couple candles wouldn't hurt either.

5 Last, but certainly, not least is the popcorn. In fact, what would a movie be without popcorn? And your choices here are many, my friends. Go for the classic plain or buttered (FYI, Orville Redenbacher can't be beat). But then there are also many gourmet options. Just for you, here are three awesome recipes (all adapted from Julie Pointer and Jen Vitale):

Recipe #1: Maple Rosemary Popcorn
Scant cup of popcorn kernels
Olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Fine sea salt, to taste
Nutritional yeast, to taste
Chopped fresh rosemary, to taste
Generous drizzle-full of real maple syrup

Recipe #2: Cinnamon Sugar Popcorn
Scant cup of popcorn kernels
Olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (Additional butter if desired for a more decadent treat)
Several generous heapings of cinnamon
Sugar to taste 

Recipe #3: Smoky Paprika Popcorn
Scant cup of popcorn kernels
Olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Paprika, to taste
Fine sea salt, to taste
Nutritional yeast, to taste

Method for all three
  1. In a large pot, add enough high-heat oil to cover the entire bottom in a thin layer. Add the two tablespoons of butter. Add popcorn kernels and give the pot a little shake to coat the kernels.
  2. Place lid on pot. Allow kernels to pop, giving the pot a shake periodically to ensure that the popcorn does not burn.
  3. Once the popping has slowed down to an almost stop, remove pot from heat.
  4. Pour popcorn into serving bowl; immediately add other ingredients to taste (in Jen’s opinion, the more nutritional yeast, the better). Taste again. If it needs a little more spice or salt, add it.
  5. Mix well before serving. Enjoy!
Serves 4

6 Now just sit back and enjoy the movie, folks!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Gather 'Round, Everyone

Last night I attended a really awesome release party at Luxe. I was invited by the publishers of Edible Cleveland because I wrote an article for them about the fabulous Gatherings Kitchen in Lakewood run by the truly uber-talented Ruth Kostadinov. My article is featured in the new fall issue on page 10. [If you live in the Cleveland area, be sure to pick up your own free copy at any one of these convenient locations.]

So, I walked into the restaurant. Grabbed a small plate of tapas. And glanced around the room. Suddenly, I spotted a nice-looking couple at the next table. I sat down, introduced myself, and started my usual small talk. Then things took an interesting twist.

This lovely couple, who are advertisers in the magazine, turned out to have a son who just graduated from the Culinary Institute of America. We started talking food...and more food...and even more food. I mentioned that I had attended a class at the CIA not that long ago (see related post here). I also mentioned about my book, and suddenly the gentleman's eyes lit up! You see, he's a realtor and said that he recently saw my book on display in one of his client's kitchens. What a compliment! [Side note: He bought a copy of my book last night for his own self.]

Anyway, to make a long story short, he happened to mention that he's particularly proud of his now-famous chili recipe, which has won quite a number of first-place awards in cook-off contests. I shyly asked if he would mind sharing it with me. He said, "Of course!"

So here you have it, folks. An award-winning chili recipe straight from the man himself: Jeff Young of Young Team Realtors. Just in time for fall.

Courtesy of Jeff Young

1 T dried Mexican oregano                   
1 T paprika
4 T chili powder                            
½  T ground cumin
2 T (2 cubes) beef bullion              
1 T sugar
1 T hot pepper sauce                  
1 T ground coriander    
1 T unsweetened cocoa powder              
½  T hot red pepper flakes        
1 (12-oz) bottle Great Lakes Brewing "Burning River" Ale 
1 (14½-oz) can Hunt’s Diced Tomatoes with Roasted Garlic    
1 c water
1 c chopped onion                                
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 T vegetable oil                          
1 lb beef round, cut into ½-inch cubes                         
½ lb coarse ground lean chuck
½ lb ground pork  
2 T masa harina (golden corn flour) dissolved In ½ c warm water


  1. In a large soup pot, combine oregano, paprika, chili powder, cumin, beef bullion, sugar, hot sauce, coriander, cocoa, pepper flakes, ale, tomatoes, and water. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat.
  2. In a large skillet, sauté the onions and garlic in the oil. Brown the beef cubes, ground chuck, and ground pork. Drain any excess fat. 
  3. Add the meat to the pot. Mix well, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, at a low boil for 1 hour 15 minutes. 
  4. Remove from the heat, stir in the masa harina mixture, and cook for a couple more minutes over low heat.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Smack Dab in the Middle of Peach Season

Is there truly -- truly -- anything sweeter than biting into a ripe, juicy peach at the height of its season? I think not.

That's why one day recently, I decided to dig deep into my collection of recipes and took out (actually, "dusted off" is more like it) an old -- and I mean old -- recipe I had cut out years ago from a magazine. And by old, I mean from 1988!

Anyway, there it was. Exactly what I was looking for: a fresh peach cream tart.

I wanted to make a quick dessert for my husband's uncle, who was visiting us for dinner. And darn, if that tart didn't fit the bill perfectly! Beautiful, ripe peaches were all around me, and I just couldn't resist any more.

So I made the tart. And it was perfect. Not too sweet. Not too complicated. Very pretty. In other words, just right.

Now wipe that drool off your keyboard. And before you have to beg, I am just going to go ahead and share the recipe with you. Hope you love it as much as we did!

Adapted from Cooking Light
Makes 8 servings

3/4 c. cake flour
3 T. butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
2-3 T. ice water
2 c. peeled,sliced fresh peaches (about 1 pound)
1/4 c. sugar, divided
1 T. cornstarch
1/8 t. ground nutmeg
1/2 c. sour cream
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 t. almond extract
Fresh mint sprigs (optional)

  1. Place flour in a large bowl; cut in chilled butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal and is pale yellow (about 3 1/2 minutes). Sprinkle ice water (1 tablespoon at a time) over surface; toss with a  fork until flour is moistened and mixture is crumbly. (Do not form a ball.)
  2. Gently press mixture into a 4-inch circle on heavy-duty plastic wrap; cover with additional heavy-duty plastic wrap and chill 15 minutes.
  3. Roll dough, still covered, to a 10-inch circle; place in freezer 5 minutes or until plastic wrap can easily be removed.
  4. Fit dough into a 9-inch round tart pan, and remove plastic wrap. Prick bottom of pastry with a fork. Chill 15 minutes. Bake at 375 degrees for 18 minutes or until lightly browned; cool completely on a wire rack.
  5. Combine peaches, 2 tablespoons sugar, cornstarch, and nutmeg, tossing gently to coat; set aside.
  6. Combine remaining 2 tablespoon sugar, sour cream, and next 3 ingredients in a small bowl; stir well. Spoon into pastry shell. Arrange peaches over sour cream mixture.
  7. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until set. Garnish with fresh mint springs, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.