Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Shop Local - Fun All Over Town

I'm so glad to have even MORE super cool events happening in the CLE this weekend and beyond giving us lots of opportunities to support the local community and have fun.  

Each offer a unique experience, gives you an excuse to explore our diverse neighborhoods and get your Local Shopping on while you are at it!

1. Candy Cane Cruise
This first one is totally new to me and it sounds like a blast!  Basically people cruise the streets in convertibles and shops offer all kinds of treats. It takes place in the Collinwood /Waterloo Arts district this Friday from 5pm until whenever you decide to leave.  You can find them on Twitter:
Lots of good eats in the area too.  Some of my favorites are the Grovewood Tavern and Bistro on 185th.

2. Arts Collinwood Holiday Art Sale
The following weekend 12/9-12/11 you can head back to Collinwood for their early bird shopping special.  All you need to do is join for $10 and you get appetizers, wine and first dibs on all the cool artsy stuff for sale.  

And for all you Mommies and Daddies out there - they offer free child care on Saturday and Sunday from 12-4! Can't beat that!

3. Holiday at the Beach
On the west side, you'll find a seasonal market set up through the month of December.  You can find them at 19300 Detroit Rd in Rocky River.  BONUS: if you check in on Foursquare while you are there, they will donate $1.00 to Toys for Tots! There's a long list of local establishments for when you get hungry and thirsty including BeardensRocky River Brewing CoSweet Melissa'sTartine, and the Rocky River Wine Bar.

4. Kickstarter
If you would rather not buy a present but invest in the community instead, you can help locate businesses get funding on this site.  You can search by community or by category.  A seasonally appropriate one I found is Tree Huggers.You can invest in making setting up your real tree less painful.

5. Buy NEO for the Holidays
This event starts tomorrow and combines many of my favorites all in one!  It's a pop-up.  They are repurposing an abandoned Borders.  You support local business. And you help the Solon City schools because a portion of the proceeds goes directly to them.  It's taking place at the Uptown Solon Shopping Center on Kruse Dr. If you stop by on Saturday between 11 and 1, 96.5 Kiss FM will be there giving away prizes too. Local eateries include Harvest KitchenJimmy Daddonas Italian restaurant (the garlic bread balls are killer,) the Rusty Bucket for better than average bar food, Imperial WokPanini's, and for a sweet treat Mitchell's Ice Cream.  Take advantage of their amazing seasonal favorites like Great Lakes Christmas Ale Gingersnap, Pumpkin Spice and Peppermint Stick.
6. Little Italy Art Walk Check out my post about this perennial favorite.

7. Cleveland Handmade Market Here you can directly support the artists.  There are two events scheduled - one this Saturday @ the Wooltex/Tower Press Building from 10-6 and a last minute event on 12/17 @ Lake Erie Building in Lakewood from 10-6. 

8. Chanel High School Craft Fair - It's the annual holiday craft fair held at Chanel High School on Northfield Rd. in Bedford.  It's this Saturday from 9-3.

9. Chef's Widow - My Favorite Things Giveaway
LOVE this super cool giveaway! The Chef's Widow is playing Santa for one lucky winner. Check out her post for more local shopping opportunities and to enter the contest.

Happy Shopping!

Shop Local - Little Italy Art Walk

Now that Thanksgiving (and all the leftovers!) are done, holiday shopping is kicking into high gear. Cleveland has so many great locally owned shopping destinations! One of my favorite places is Little Italy - not only for the food - but also for the quaint local shops and art galleries. This weekend is the annual Winter Art Walk. If you haven't been to Mamma Santa's in awhile, it's worth a stop. They remodeled the right half of the restaurant and it's looking great! Plus if it has Santa in the name, it's gotta be perfect for a Christmas shopping feast.

Or if you haven't been to Washington Place Bisto, this might be the perfect time to check it out. You can get a soup, sandwich and salad for $11.50 at lunch.

Lots of great shops and restaurants to choose from. One of my Must Do's when I'm in Little Italy is to get a cannoli. You can even have your own Taste Off and see if you prefer Corbo's or Presti's.

Stop in to Little Italy Wines for a nice selection of wines and craft beers. They also have lots of wine themed decor, bottle openers and the like that would make any wine lover on your holiday gift list happy.  Grab a bottle to go and some cheese and you have a party in the making. They are known for stocking an unusual but super tasty variety that recently went through a name change.  Here's the info from their email blast:


Our beloved Cheese, BellaVitano, has a NEW NAME. It is now called: MontAmore. According to Sartori, the manufacturer, there is another cheese in their catalogue with the same name, so they changed, "this" BellaVitano to MontAmore. 

One of the complaints that plague Little Italy is the parking. You'll be happy to know that valet parking is available for the Art Walk.

For a chance to win a stupendous shopping extravaganza celebrating our very own 216, check out the Chef's Widow blog here.  She get's a little Oprah and is giving away all kinds of goodies to one lucky shopper.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Harvest Stew

After running around all weekend and not being home for days, I was at home Sunday recuperating from a fun packed long weekend. All the fabulous food from Thanksgiving and wedding events had me itching to whip up something at home. Since the weather changed from summer-like to winter in about a minute, I thought a hearty stew would be perfect.

I decided to make one of my favorites, a unusual stew containing pork, butternut squash and root vegetables. It was a great way to use up my last Fresh Fork CSA goodies. It's super simple and can easily be changed up to use what you have in your fridge.

Harvest Stew

2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 lbs boneless pork, cut into 1 1/2" cubes
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 large butternut squash, cubed
2 sweet potatoes, cubed
2 white potatoes, cubed
2 stalks celery, sliced
4 carrots, sliced into 2 inch chunks
2 sweet apples, unpeeled and cubed
1 jalepeno pepper, diced
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
1 can black beans, drained
8 c. low sodium chicken stock
8 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 cocktail peanuts
handful of kale, spinach or other greens, chopped


1/4 t rosemary, crushed
1/2 t sage
1 bay leaf
1/4 t ground ginger
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t celery seeds
1 t aleppo pepper


Combine seasonings in small bowl and stir well. Toss with cubed pork. Heat olive oil in heavy pot or dutch oven. Add onions and pork cubes and saute until slightly browned. Deglaze pot with a little of the chicken stock and stir in veggies, beans, apples and garlic. Cook over medium low heat until meat is tender, approximately 30-40 minutes. Garnish with chopped peanuts.

The squash cooks down and thickens the broth. Instead of the squash, you can add a small can of pumpkin puree. 

While the spices seem like an unlikely match, they combine to create a slightly sweet broth with a lot of flavor. This recipe is really forgiving and you can be flexible with what you add. Switch beans or leave them out all together. If I have green onions, I normally throw some of those in too. Parsnips are another good addition. I like to add farro or quinoa too.
I served this with beer bread but corn bread or a crusty Italian loaf goes well with it too. It tastes even better the next day. Enjoy!

** Updated May 2017**

It Was a Weekend to Remember

So I hope everyone had a fabulous Thanksgiving weekend! Mine was one of the craziest and most fun I can remember having in a long time. We started out on Turkey Eve heading to my favorite Cambodian restaurant, Mekong River. Got my usual obsession Red Tom Kha Kai soup and Mekong String Beans and I was in heaven! Also tried a sake bomb for the first time. This reminded me of the college years and perfecting the Flaming Dr. Pepper...

Wisely, I only did two because I didn't want to negatively impact my ability to eat to excess on my very favorite holiday of the year - Thanksgiving!  This year there were over 40 people!  Aunt Nina made 15 pounds of mashed potatoes and that didn't include the several pounds of sour cream, butter, cream cheese and eggs she includes in the decadent side dish.  
Friday was Erin and Ante's rehearsal dinner at the Pine Ridge Country Club. The food was great (they even managed to make tasty cavatelli) and I discovered a refreshing new cocktail -  a mixture of vodka and cranberry and orange juices. There was a really fun sounding wedding going on upstairs that got everyone even more in the mood for the next day's wedding. Surprisingly, they had some sort of team mascot (some sort of cat - I think a tiger) in attendance and we were all trying to figure out a way to sneak upstairs and join their party.

Saturday was the big day and what a gorgeous day it was! Who would have thought we would have 60+ degrees and sunshine in late November! Over 400 people celebrated the marriage of Ante and Erin! It was my first Croatian wedding and I was super happy that the tradition of bringing homemade pastries carried over from the bridal shower. There were two huge tables overflowing with all sorts of sweets. Another tradition is to do a shot of homemade plum brandy called slivovitz. STRONG but not too bad. I learned how to say Cheers in Croation -  Nazdravlje!(Naz-dra-vlee) The bride was gorgeous and the ceremony was beautiful.  
Everyone danced the night away and visited the photo booth a few times...
Sunday finally was a day of rest and relaxation.  And cooking!  

Stay tuned for a hearty fall stew perfect for the cooler weather.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Wordless Weds for Turkey Eve

Black Friday Deal for NEO Food Tours

I keep hearing Christmas music on the radio and seeing people with their yards decorated and lights on so I guess that once this weekend is over, it will officially be full speed ahead toward Christmas.   Everyone seems to be talking about Black Friday and all the deals they plan to get for the holiday season.  I don't personally hit the stores on Black Friday but I still like a good deal.  And I'm going to pass this one on to you.  

Here's a chance to scoop up a discount for NEO Food Tours! It's a Black Friday deal you can take advantage of from the comfort of your homes. 

Just use promo code BLACKFRIDAY_6011 between now and 11/29  and receive 10% off the price!

And here's some additional info on the tours:
In addition to showcasing the neighborhood's restaurants on our Ohio City and Cleveland Heights Holiday Hops, we'll also be making stops at some of the area's locally-owned retailers. With food and drink at every stop, guests will be able to eat, drink and be merry while getting some holiday shopping done.

Highlights include:
On the Dec. 1st tour of Ohio City, enjoy a unique pop-up dining experience in Room Service, presented by SOHO Kitchen & Bar. Other stops will include food and drinks at Campbell’s Sweets Factory, Bar Cento, Salty Not Sweet, Dragonfly, Something Different, and BonBon Pastry & Cafe.
Cleveland Heights Mayor Ed Kelley will join us as our special guest tourguide of the Cedar Lee District on Dec. 8th. The Heights Art Gallery, Abrash Gallerie, Lopez on Lee, Taste, Revive, The Wine Spot, and SweetieFry will be featured on the tour.
In between stops, learn about the history, architecture, and development of the districts, while exploring such points of interests as the homeplace of Ohio City's once vibrant Pearl Street Market, originally created in 1840.

Here's the full scoop:

NEO Food Tours Features Local Retailers and Restaurants in Ohio City and Cleveland Heights Holiday Hops
CLEVELAND, Nov. 8, 2011 – Ohio City and Cleveland Heights are making the season merry and bright with holiday tours of local retailers and restaurants. Presented by NEO Food Tours, these guided walking tours allow attendees to do some holiday shopping while exploring the neighborhood and enjoying festive food and drinks.
The Ohio City Holiday Hop will feature Campbell’s Sweets FactoryBar CentoRoom ServiceSOHO Kitchen & Bar,Salty Not SweetDragonflySomething Different, andBonBon Pastry & Cafe. Ohio City has grown as an exciting shopping and dining destination over the past few years – building on the popularity of the neighborhood’s culinary cornerstones. On Dec. 1 from 6-9:30pm, guests will discover Ohio City’s hidden gems while learning about the neighborhood’s storied past.
Ohio City Incorporated’s Director of Marketing and Development, Virginia Houston, has been very excited to see the growth in the neighborhood. “Crop Bistro, Market Garden Brewery and Campbell’s Popcorn shop have opened up next to longtime neighborhood establishments such as Great Lakes Brewing Company and the Flying Fig,” said Houston. “Ohio City remains one of the most complete and connected neighborhoods in Cleveland.”
The Cleveland Heights Holiday Hop on Dec. 8 will include stops at Heights Art Gallery,Abrash GallerieLopez on LeeTasteReviveThe Wine Spot, and SweetieFry. Special Guest – Cleveland Heights Mayor Ed Kelley – will lead attendees from 6:30-10pm on a guided walking tour of Cedar Lee’s popular retailers and restaurants. The Cleveland Heights and Ohio City tours will feature food and drink at each stop.
Kelley Robinson, Director of Cedar Lee Special Improvement District, is eager to show off “Restaurant Row” during the Cleveland Heights Holiday Hop. “Lee Road has endless dining options to please any palate, is home to the regionally-recognized Cedar Lee Theatre, offers unique retail destinations as well as everyday essential services,” Robinson commented. “From artisan breads, to hand-dipped chocolates…guests will enjoy the Main Street vibe and quality customer service offered by these dedicated local businesses.”
Tickets for both tours can be purchased at
Early bird tickets cost $85; general admission is $95. $5 from each ticket sold for the Cleveland Heights and Ohio City Holiday Hops will be donated to the Heights Emergency Food Center and Ohio City Incorporated, respectively. Tickets are all inclusive.
NEO Food Tours is a Northeast Ohio-based organization dedicated to spreading the gospel of the region’s dynamic culinary industry as a viable and sustainable economic engine.  Founded in Spring 2011 and headquartered in Cleveland, we are a majority-women-owned small business.  Through a wide variety of guided food tours and events, we achieve our mission of engaging and promoting the relationship between Northeast Ohio’s neighborhoods and restaurants.  Connect with NEO Food Tours on Twitter @NEOFoodTours and like NEO Food Tours on Facebook.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

OBA Blog Swap-Christmas Cookie Memories

Today bloggers from all over NE Ohio are guest posting on each other's blogs as a way to meet other bloggers in our community and to introduce you to someone you may enjoy following. As part of today's Ohio Blogging Association's November Blog Swap, I'm thrilled to introduce you to Morgan of Becoming Rooks!  We didn't know each other before this swap and I've really enjoyed reading about her adventures in Japan and how she strives to combine her foodie nature with a healthy lifestyle. To check out all the other participants, you can go to the OBA's Facebook page or head over to Poise In Parma for a full list. Here's Morgan's touching post about a special cookie and the memories it evokes...

Hey readers! 
I am really excited to be participating in the OBA blogger swap and getting to know Crystal and her fabulous blog. In a nod to the super awesome Christmas cookie exchange that Crystal is participating in, we decided to blog about our favorite Christmas cookies. This is actually a really bittersweet topic for me at the moment. My grandmother passed away just a week ago today and it was one of her cookies that was my absolute favorite.
Ever since I was a little girl my gram always made the exact same batch of cookies every Christmas. I think that will be one of the most enduring images that I will hold on to when I think back on her. Old fashioned round metal tins painted with Christmas images; kitchy 1960s Christmas platters; all well taken care of and piled high with cookies. Puffy, round Russian Tea Cakes, with their delicate dusting of powdered sugar and their subtle buttery, nutty, melt-in-your-mouth taste. Delicate kolacky, little squares of pastry folded gently over fruit filling like apricot, raspberry, and lemon.  (I only ever ate the ones filled with ground nut paste, though!) Trees and wreaths in shades of light green and pink, because the red and dark green faded after baking, extruded from a cookie press. The trees were always topped with a few red and green sprinkles and little flower shapes were kissed in the center with a maraschino cherry.

My all time favorites though? They were nothing particularly out of the ordinary. In fact, there’s a good chance your grandmother made them, too. Thumbprints. Also known as Polish Tea Cakes. Not the peanut butter cookie ones so many people make now, but the old fashioned kind. Simple, rolled in nuts. She made both jelly filled and Hershey Kiss filled. The Hershey Kiss ones, those were my favorite. Equal parts savory nuts and sweet chocolate. It was always a little challenging getting the perfect balance of cookie and Kiss without the Kiss completely falling off the cookie, so sometimes I would just pop the whole thing in my mouth in a very unladylike fashion. I liked them so much so that my grandmother made a few dozen and had my parents ship them to me in college. (I was very popular with my floor mates!)

When I graduated from college and got my own place, I went about making my own Christmas cookies. I would pour over books, magazines and websites in search of the perfect cookie. I would craft new creations out of the finest ingredients and taking the utmost care. Those cookies were wonderful, but what I realize now is that it’s not uniqueness or the expensive Madagascar bourbon that makes a cookie great. It’s the love that went into them and the memories that accompany them. This year it will be my turn to carry on my gram’s love and memory as I imprint each cookie and carefully place a Hershey’s Kiss. I only hope they taste half as good. 

If you are a blogger or someone who is a fan of blogging, check out OBA for upcoming events including a local cookie swap being held at our next meeting on Dec.5th.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Foodies on the Simpsons

Last week I watched the Simpson's for the first time in a long time.  I love the show but have been so busy that I haven't gotten a chance to watch much this season.  But I knew I had to make time for an episode that was sure to be near and dear to my heart - The Food Wife.  I set the DVR in case something came up - I knew I didn't want to miss this one!
This episode follows Marge and the kids as they become foodies and start a food blog called the Three Mouthketeers.  

This of course is something I totally relate to.  While our motivations for starting our blogs differ wildly (Marge wanted to be the Cool Mom and I finally took the plunge to make my love of food public) it's not at all surprising that the episode was particularly funny to me and the other crazy foodies out there. I loved the special appearance by foodie bad boy Anthony Bourdain. And I'm sure there are a lot of folks that can relate to the foodie rap:

We're blogging a food blog...
I'm throwning down mad foodie game, knowing all the chefs' names
Rolling into K-Town, bibimbap bulgogi
The hotties that I chill with are Sriracha and kimchi
House-made terrines, my ducks are always confit
I braise with a billion more BTUs than I need
I cook Thanksgiving turkey in a trash bag, sous vide
A fumatore in Brindisi Fed-Exes me small salami
Don't scoop me gelato unless it's got umami
I'll be Frank like Bruni, ruthless like Reichl
Wiley like Dufresne, and when I take the mic
Rhyme about radicchio, criticize Colicchio
Every pub is gastro, all my beef carpaccio
Throw it in the pho, yo
And don't you call it pho, pho
Talk about broth-squirting dumplings
Dumplings! Dumplings! Dumplings!
We're blogging a food blog...

Homer initially rejects their new found appreciation for fabulous food but finally jumps on the band wagon once he becomes jealous of the attention Marge is getting from the kids.  He ends up at a meth den because Marge gets nervous when he tries to join them for a food event and sends him to the wrong address. The similarities between the restaurant and the meth den are hilarious. 

The Foodie episode obviously pokes fun at the masses that are obsessed with food and the blogosphere.  Their portrayal is intentionally over the top.  I know that some people consider foodies obnoxious food snobs that eat in some fantasy universe where everything is gourmet, locavore and expensive. Others love everything about food but refuse to use the term due to those unsavory connotations it brings to the table.  Even Cleveland's own Iron Chef Michael Symon voiced his strong opinion about the topic on Facebook recently (he hates it!)  I will sometimes use the term because it easily captures in one word my love of all things food.  I don't focus on the negative connotation about it because I differentiate between foodie and food snob (or pompous ass, depending on the situation.) But really, I'm a lover a food who gladly shares that love with anyone who will listen.  I sing the praises of all good food and appreciate a really good hot dog as well as the best of fine dining.

What do you think of the term? Love it?  Hate it?  What would you rather call yourself or the foodies in your life?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Why I Don't Have Any Flowers Left

My family and I are always hungry but we start out sooo cute. Don't be TOO mad at me...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

For the Love of Cookies

I am a cookie monster.

I love cookies!  For me, nothing beats a homemade cookie, hot and fresh out of the oven.  I have a strong preference for chewy cookies but really any cookie will do.  Except those artfully decorated frosted sugar cookies - you can keep those.  Normally those are just little disks of sawdust all decked out to hide the fact that they are dry and taste like crap-o-la.  But, if I ever happen upon some of those that actually taste good, I'll gobble them down happily.  I love eating cookies but I really only bake them at Christmas.  It's too dangerous to have them hot and ready to eat at my house. 

So when I found out from Eat Yourself Skinny about a group of food bloggers that were doing a cookie exchange, I was really excited! It was really simple - you get matched up with 3 other bloggers and each of you make a dozen cookies for each person on your list.  I was drooling already!   But these weren't LOCAL bloggers, and you would have to mail the cookies.  Hmmm. Had to think about that one.  This slightly dampened my enthusiasm because: 

1. Dealing with mailing packages at Christmas sucks. 
2. I wouldn't know where my cookies were coming from.  
3. Would they be good? 

It took about 17 seconds for me to cast my doubts aside and join.  I'm officially IN and can't wait!  I thought to myself, seriously - if food bloggers are baking homemade cookies - how bad could they be??  It would certainly be worth any hassle mailing the packages.

So now I need to decide what kind of cookies to make!  My traditional cookies that people beg for are pizzelles but they would likely not fare well in the shipping process. And it needs to be something that won't taste stale or be dried out once it arrives. And even though I HATE Christmas related items being out for sale too early, I've started thinking about shopping for the cute packaging that I'll need to make sure the cookies arrive in style.

Much thanks to Lindsay of Love and Olive Oil and Julie of The Little Kitchen for organizing this.  I'm sure that since there are over 400 of us participating, it has to be quite a task!

If you are a cookie monster too, or if you just want to participate, here's how!

The deadline for registering is Nov. 15th.  
The ship deadline is Dec. 5th.  
And your blog deadline is Dec. 12th.  

Click this link to sign up

And when you tweet about it, use the hashtag #fbcookieswap.

Let the baking begin!

And here are the links for the recipe roundups:
Part 1
Part 2

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Christmas Memories: Pizzelles

Christmas Cookie Memories

When I first found out about the Ohio Blogging Association's November Blog Swap, I jumped at the chance to participate!  And I was even more excited when I found out that my swap partner was someone I had not yet met because I love meeting new bloggers.  When trying to come up with a topic, my mind was consumed with cookies.  I'm sure this has to do with the quickly approaching holidays and my participation in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.

As I familiarized myself with Becoming Rooks, I found out through Twitter that Morgan's grandmother was very ill.  Terrible timing for her to worry about blogging when someone so special was being moved to hospice, but she decided to participate even when her Grandma passed away.  We decided to move forward with the cookie theme with a special twist.  In honor of Morgan's Grandma, this post is in honor of all the wonderful grandparents that we love and especially those we have lost.

As a kid, I remember that Christmas was the most magical time of year - the decorations, Christmas songs, mountains of presents, and of course Santa! One of my favorite memories is making cookies with my Grammie. My Mom's Mom was not the traditional grandmother that stayed home and was a housewife. My grandfather left her long before I was born and she was a working woman before it was the norm. She was much more likely to be wearing her red shoes and carrying her matching red purse than to be wearing an apron! She was an excellent cook but didn't really have time to bake on a regular basis. Except at Christmas...

Every year we would make cookies. Not just any cookie, but an Italian specialty that has been passed down for generations - her special anise pizzelles. Anise is a flavor that you either love, or you hate. I have always loved it and would happily gobble up my friends' discarded black jelly beans. While you can make pizzelles in other flavors, for me, the only true pizzelle has a heavy dose of anise mixed in. I love how the whole house would smell like it thanks to the steam created when baking the cookies in the special waffle iron-like pizzelle maker.
I always looked forward to making these delicate cookies with my Grammie! And because they are so time consuming, we would spend a lot of quality time in the kitchen mixing the batter and making the cookies. We would talk about when she was a little girl and how it was growing up as part of a large immigrant family. I was always so fascinated because she was one of nine children and I was an only child. She talked about their huge garden, making countless loaves of bread, and how she always had to wear hand me downs because she was the youngest girl. We would play Italian music on records and she would sing along as she plopped the dough on the pizzelle iron and pressed the cookies two at a time. I was in charge of flipping the cookies on the table so they wouldn't get soggy and stacking them up once they were cool. We both shared the job of Cookie Taster and ate all the rejects that weren't perfect or that broke.
When I was old enough to move out on my own, my Grammie made sure that I had my very own pizzelle iron to take with me. At the time I wondered why she would get me something with such a specialized use when I didn't even have a set of dishes. Now I know that she was making sure the the tradition we always shared would continue to be a part of my life even when I wasn't able to make them with her. As an adult, I've become the official pizzelle maker in my family.  I make them by the hundreds for my tiny family and dearest friends.  

Every year when I unpack the pizzelle iron and unfold the splattered and stained recipe written in her handwriting, my heart floods with love and I'm transported back to those perfect years spent in my Grammie's kitchen surrounded my the scent of anise and my Grammie's love. 
What's your favorite Christmas cookie?