In the past entries, Ben and I have mentioned our brunch club, where a small group of our friends will meet at a restaurant and catch up on what’s new and old in our lives. We like to try new places and on a couple of rare occasions we’ve gathered at one of our homes to enjoy brunch in. One of those times, I made an “egg bake” that combined several of my favorite foods into wonderful little individual servings. Modify it as you wish, but it’s definitely a tasty treat that is perfect for a brunch of one to one dozen….depending on how many ramekins you have in your kitchen.
When Natasha and I were discussing how we wanted to celebrate Valentine’s Day we both liked the idea of performing random acts of kindness. Why not? Instead of only showing love and affection to each other, we should spread the love. There are many types, love between friends, the love of a parent, and even love shown to a perfect stranger- that is what makes the world go round. Sing it with me now: “All you need is love!”
On a day that traditionally celebrates romantic love, we agreed that we wanted to celebrate all forms and colors of love. But what did that look like? Handing out roses on the street corner? Free kid-sitting for parents without a sitter on date night? Buying dinner for the couple at the next table? Our hearts were in the right place, however, we knew that we wanted something a little more touching.
It wasn’t long before the idea of hug coupons came up (some people find the idea of being hugged by a complete stranger creepy) and with that, a cookie pairing was inevitable. 20 heart shaped sugar cookies with “hug me” pressed into them along with 2 kisses were packaged and tied with care. Our precious cargo was delivered to a community resource center where we knew the visitors could use some extra love. With it, we offered instructions that each package is redeemable for one hug and 2 kisses (one for each check). At that point, the cookie could be eaten or maybe even continued to be circulated for more hugs and kisses!
We knew that these cookies would put a smile in someone’s heart on Valentine’s Day and that was our main goal, but creating from our hearts together was an experience that made this day very special for us. Successful love spreading had been achieved!!
Story,Photo’s, and food styling by Dan Trefz
One of the books that I had the honor of shooting last year was for The Food Network’s Robin Miller. In her latest book, Robin Takes 5, she shows you how to use 5 ingredients to make a healthy meal for you and your family. The book is full of many great, quick and easy recipes- 500 to be exact. I can’t thank her and Andrews McMeel enough for the opportunity to be apart of this project. I hope everyone picks up a copy, and I can’t wait to see Robin’s next book.
I also have to thank my dream team Trina Kahl and Dan Trefz for their amazing food styling on this project. I’ve been fortunate to work with them- each bringing their own talents and enthusiasm to the projects that we’ve worked on since Robin Takes 5. I am also excited to announce that Dan and Trina will be joining Kim and I on the blog sharing their own personal food stories, recipes, and tips, so look forward to the change up in format and addition of these two Foodies.
This past year was a very exciting year for Ben as he had the opportunity to shoot several cookbooks. These books are not small projects. It’s easy to pick up a cookbook and take for granted how much work goes into the production of them- from the writing and editing, to the layout and design, to the styling of props, and the creation of the food, not to mention the lighting and capturing of each image- it’s meticulous work. Ben’s been fortunate to work on these projects with a strong team of artists, editors, creative directors, and wanted to celebrate the success of one these books by giving back by way of food on plate. We hosted a cocktail party at the studio, and Ben created a menu with 8, yes 8 different small plates for everyone to try. The mushroom flatbread was such a hit that we figured, if it’s good enough for our party, we think it might be good enough for yours.
This past fall Ben and I took a long overdue trip/honeymoon/holiday and found ourselves in Spain. It was a weeklong gastronomical adventure tapas hopping from one restaurant to the next. We did our best to eat and try as much food as humanly possible dining on octopus, iberico ham, prosciutto, ham croquettes (FYI, in Spain, the pig reigns supreme), salted cod, fine olive oils, cured tuna, foi gras prepared different ways, paella and the freshest seafood you could imagine. Amazingly, we did not gain the 5-10 lbs that we’d banked on bringing home with us due to all of the walking, sightseeing, and exploring that Barcelona and Valencia had to offer.
We had a recurring trend throughout our meals, and it began the first day at our first official Spanish tapas restaurant. We’d just unloaded our luggage at the flat that we’d rented, and wondered through the Born district in search of a bite to eat. We sat down to a meal of shrimp, tomatoes and goat cheese, foi gras with ginger bread, potato and ham croquettes, and a wonderful tomato bread that became our Spanish staple that we’re sharing with you here.
My dad has a green thumb, and so does Ben’s dad. The fall is the best time to go home to visit the parents in Iowa and score fresh, organic, home grown with love produce which can be anything from peppers, tomatoes, onions, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, to apples. My parents are will grown enough vegetables that will last them through the winter by storing potatoes and onions in a cool dry spot, and freezing chopped peppers that will be ready to go for one of my dad’s homemade pizzas- which you can’t beat. One of our last visits we brought home what seemed like a bushel and a big peck of Yukon potatoes, so we put them to work in pot with some leeks, some sausage, and some other ingredients and came up with a winner that I can guarantee will warm your belly and make your taste buds dance in the cold months to come.
Last weekend, Ben and I had the distinct pleasure of cooking with two up and coming foodies- brother and sister- Jack (10) & Lorelei (5). Jack had expressed an interest in learning how to cook to his parents. In turn, we were contacted to see if we’d be up for the task of cooking a gourmet meal with them, and our answer was an enthusiastic yes. We arrived at the home of Jack & Lo ready to discuss the menu, and Jack knew exactly what he wanted to create- mini beef ravioli. We bulked up the menu with two bruschettas- our take on caprese and another with prosciutto, and for dessert fresh fruit kabobs with romanoff sauce. Jack and Lo proved to be worthy sous chefs in the making kneading and rolling out pasta dough, stirring, tossing, seasoning, and tasting- quality control. The young duo gave Ben and me the best compliment that we’d ever received in the kitchen. Jack said that Ben and I would be “great lunch ladies”- just as good as a James Beard award. We had such a good time and the reviews for the mini beef ravioli received so many thumbs up that we just had to share. So, without further ado.the mini, the beefy, the ravioli.
I had the honor of traveling to Minnesota to go fishing with my father, 3 older brothers, and close friends. It is quite a trek considering that Lake Saganaga borders Canada. The trip provided many highlights and some well deserved down time with friends and family. We had 2 guides and 3 boats that took us The 3rd and final day of fishing I spent on a canoe. Although it was more work, and you end up with a sore back, I think that this is a true way catching these amazing creatures swimming in our beautiful boundary waters.
I brought back some walleye and created a healthy and delicious salad to compliment the fish. This salad can be made with any flaky white fish (assuming that you don’t have access to fresh lake walleye 🙂
We hope that everyone had a great weekend. We did celebrating our good friends’ weddings (Abby + Jason and Tim + Emily), the 4th of July, parents’ anniversary (congrats Judy & Steve to 40+ yrs of wedded bliss), and a sister’s birthday (Kari- happy birfday!), and we topped it all off with a trip to the emergency room. There was an incident in the kitchen, involving a Wustof, a bundle of cilantro and my left index finger. The good news is that the dish was saved and the finger was salvaged- thank you very much Resident, soon to be full-fledged Dr. Rassman. Hopefully you all were able to remain unscathed in your Independence Day festivities. I’m sure that you all had many BBQ’s and cookouts and more of those to come with the remaining month(s) of summer. So with that in mind if you do find yourself as a guest or host and can’t think of something light, summery, salady, and tasty, give this couscous salad a go because it fulfills all of thee above requirements.