dear marion…

Dear Marion,

Again, here I am.  Staring at your house from my kitchen window.  I am struck by how quickly the past ten years have flown by.  No longer do I wait for your lights to go out at night, knowing that meant you had safely gone to bed.  No longer do I watch you at your porch door, or bring you a plate of dinner.  Now the memory of your sweet crackling voice saying “oh Julia” lingers behind, a treasure in my memory.  Ten years ago there you were, apron tied around your waist and broom in your hand.

Now the brown paint is a fresh new color, and thinking about it floods my mind with a mixture of emotions.  Overall, it reminds me change can be hard, but the results can be unexpectedly beautiful.  It’s a reminder of the fragility of life, and makes my heart feel a little heavy missing you.  I know it’s human nature, but why is change so hard sometimes?  Why are the things we can’t see things that scare us?  Isn’t that what faith is?

Someone else will be living there soon, new memories to be made and new life amongst the walls inside.  The cycle of life, to be appreciated, enjoyed, and above all not taken for granted.

So here’s to a happy new year to all my readers, customers, family and friends. Enjoy the best of food and life, and fresh changes of the new year.

muddle me over…

another edition of Moose Mixology,

as seen on Dashing through Winston-Salem this week…

It has come to my attention that in the few posts I have done through Moose Mixology, as well as my regular blog posts, I mention muddling a lot.  It has also been pointed out to me that I might be muddling the minds of some readers who aren’t sure what this technique is all about.  So allow me to elaborate on this simple concept that might make you feel like a professional bartender.  Even if muddling doesn’t take you to the Tom Cruise tossing bottles over your shoulder level, it will at least turn a plain Vodka tonic into a Raspberry & Herb infused Vodka Tonic, if nothing else.  Your cocktail hour might never be the same.

Muddling a drink simply means smashing an ingredient to extract the flavor, and or color.  For the sake of this simple explanation, let’s use mint as our ingredient.  You place the mint in the bottom of a thick glass and use a muddler to bruise it, to really smash it up and release the oils and flavor of the mint.  You will smell it, and if someone walks into the room and smells it too, you will know you have done it enough to move on to the next step in your cocktail.


Some of you are probably wondering what does a muddler even look like?  A traditional muddler looks like a wooden stick, a small baseball bat to be honest.  Commonly made of wood, one end is skinnier than the other end, and the larger end usually has a rounded area.  The larger round end you use to smash ingredients in the bottom of your glass, the skinny end can be used for stirring.  When you smash an ingredient like mint, you are releasing the flavor of the oils into the glass.  When you muddle a berry, such as a raspberry, you release little pods of flavor, and color.  Some muddlers are more modern and sleek, and some muddlers have teeth that can be used for heavier or bulky ingredients, such as berries.  While it can be fun to have different types once you really get into it, it is not necessary.  You can muddle your drinks with a wooden kitchen spoon if you need, or want to!

Depending on my ingredients, I will sometimes strain my cocktail before pouring into a glass to enjoy.  This will be your choice, and will largely be based on the content of what you are muddling.  Think of a mojito, one of the most popular muddled drinks, you often are served a mojito with the mint all throughout the glass, and sometimes it is strained and the mint then used as a garnish.  Personal preference, time and the number of cocktails you have made and enjoyed already will most often dictate what you do.

Most importantly, muddling allows you to play, to get creative in the kitchen, to use what you have in your garden or what you bought at the farmers market and aren’t sure what to do with!  Yes, there are lots of recipes out there to research and try, but make up your own drinks and have fun….I love doing this!  The other week I made the most fabulous Muddled Mulberry Margarita, super simple.  Using fresh mulberries my kids had picked at their grandmother’s, I muddled the berries with lime in a glass, making a lime mulberry syrup.  (See how simple that is, just sounds like it took a lot of time.)  I juiced two whole limes into that, then added tequila and triple sec at their proper proportions.  Because of the seeds in the mulberries, I did strain this mixture into a shaker, then mixed up one of the most clean and delicious tasting cocktails I’ve enjoyed in a while.  It wasn’t the maker, but the fresh, local flavors that allowed me to indulge, to sip, to savor the best of food and life in my glass.  For those of you who want a little hand holding, click on this link for a Mojito or Raspberry Smash recipe, or this link for a Hudson Lemonade or Black & Blue.  As with anything these days, there are limitless numbers of recipes out there just a click away.

Mulberry Margarita

Mulberry Margarita

Once upon a time cocktails were clean and simple, and mixologists were something you found in a lab and not a bar.  But in the mixology world, muddling has become quite the trend in the past couple of years.  So don’t muddle a rebuttal, try it tonight!

jammin’ salmon…

If you went to the Reynolda Farmers Market early Friday, you might have been able to get a jar of Tomato Jam while it lasted. For those of you that did not, I will be making it again as I continue perfecting my recipe…as I am quite taken by this new condiment.

Describing this tomato jam isn’t fair to it. It is one of those items that is best tasted on the tongue rather than heard in words. Slow simmered for three hours, the tomatoes develop a deep and complex flavor and color. The first thing that teases your taste buds is the sweetness from the brown sugar, then you might notice a hint of lemon and spice. Then, like a fine wine, you are left with a tame spiciness to finish it off.

What is it that has me so taken? Like a new book, outfit, or needlepoint canvas, I think it is something familiar yet something new. Just old fashioned fun. Or perhaps my nerdy food side comes shining through. Either way, it has me jammin’ to a new flavor profile this week and I am thrilled about it.

I haven’t had time to sample it on many different things yet, but I can taste the yumminess of it over sliced grilled chicken, or on top of goat cheese or Brie with a nice glass of Cabernet, and it would make one the finest grilled cheeses I can imagine slathered between nice cheese and fine bread, with a surprising layer of sweet and spicy. I will leave you with a recipe idea I did make yesterday, which I called Jammin’ Salmon, and yes I did think the name was quite catchy. It is a simple and simply delicious dish.

I hope to see you soon. Until then, enjoy the best of food and life.

Jammin’ Salmon, serves 2

2 skin on salmon fillets
Olive oil
One lemon
Salt and pepper
4 oz jar of Julia’s Tomato Jam

1- Preheat oven to 375. Lightly drizzle olive oil in bottom of a covered baking dish or small casserole.
2- Place salmon fillets in covered baking dish, skin side down, and season with salt and pepper.
3- Squeeze juice of lemon over salmon to your liking.
4- Top each filet with a spoonful of tomato jam, cover and bake for 20 minutes or until cooked to your liking. 5- Remove salmon to serving plates and smother with remaining tomato jam on top.
6- Enjoy with family and friends, at a table, no tv, with nice music and sides!

ingredient of the week…


On our way home from the beach the other week we stopped at a fabulous produce stand we enjoy in the summer when crops are coming in heavy.  I loaded up like a kid in a candy store with a $100 bill!  Tomatoes, squash, eggplant, cucumbers, peas, blueberries, Sandhill peaches, watermelon, potatoes and more!  Last night we reaped the rewards of our stop with our first dinner using produce this week:  Sautéed Turkey Cutlets with Herbs de Provence (a cherished gift straight from France), with Summer Squash and Tomatoes lightly sautéed in pan juices & sprinkled with salt, and a side of crowder peas I shelled then cooked in a little bouillon, with a fabulous piece of burrata right in the middle.  Heaven on a plate.

As much as I love the summer produce, I realize most of you are very familiar with those ingredients.  What I want to share with you is the last little item mentioned, burrata.  It is a fabulous ingredient to pair with many summer dishes and in case you aren’t familiar with it you might want to put it on your summer grocery list.  Burrata is an Italian cheese.  The outside is fresh mozzarella, with a creamy center that is a mixture of mozzarella and cream.  When cut into, it is very soft and decadent.  Better yet, you can purchase it at  Trader Joe’s for under $5 and I have found it to be consistently delicious.

burrata on plate

Oh burrata, how do I use thee?  Let me count the ways…

~Simply cut open, sprinkled with a good salt.  I love Maldon Sea Salts, and Southern Home & Kitchen at Thruway sells a great line of exotic salts by the Salt Sisters.  My favorites are the black ash salt and the merlot salt, go check them out and choose!

~Burrata Caprese Salad, just a little different than what you are used to.  Fresh sliced tomatoes and basil with burrata is simply wonderful.  You say tomato, I say tomato… with burrata!

~Burrata with Balsamic Vinegar and chopped shallots.  I am slightly addicted to the 18 year aged Balsamic Vinegar from Green Gate Olive Oils.  This Balsamic is great as mentioned above and makes an incredible dressing, too.

~Summer tomato sauce with pasta and burrata.  This summer tomato sauce is so easy anyone can make it, and it’s not even cooked unless you want to give it a quick sautee with your pasta.  I think I will need to devote a short blog to making this summer sauce separately, stay tuned.

I think you get the idea, but use the burrata creatively.  Last night we didn’t have a starch with dinner, so the burrata was a nice addition to a very un-Italian meal.  I hope you will be inspired to check it out, let me know how it goes, and enjoy!