of food and recipes

Yes, I am a foodie. I love most everything about food... fresh and well prepared. 

Award for Best breakfast recipes : University of Georgia
Award for Best Gourmet breakfasts: Arrington's Bed and Breakfast Journal
Kentuchky B&B Association President's Award for Cookbook: Room At the Table

"Operatic Divas and Naked Irishman offers a hilarious birds-eye view behind the Victorian curtains... with mouth-watering recipes woven through-out." (Katharine Hollister, ed. Beatdom Books)

My new book, Operatic Divas and Naked Irishmen is filled with delicious recipes. There is a different one at the end of each chapter. For example, Grand Marnier French Toast,  Kim's Lemon
Cheesecake, and Green Salad with Mango, Chicken, and Goat Cheese.

When I was running my inn, the Aleksander House (named after my grandson) in Louisville KY,  I did all of the cooking for the first twelve years or so, then most of it until the last two years when I hired a chef because I couldn't make it around the kitchen very well with advanced arthritis. I developed recipes, tested them on unsuspecting guests, and co-wrote a successful coffee-table cookbook.

Kids will love this and eat their vegetables too.....
Prep Time: 35 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total time: 1 hour

Servings: 4-6
1/2 pound (8 ounces) elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons butter or coconut oil
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
2 cups milk
1 can butternut squash purée (or 1/2 medium butternut squash, cooked and mashed)
1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped (optional)
salt and pepper
2 cups shredded cheese (use any kind/variety)
1/4 cup breadcrumbs

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
3. Melt coconut oil or butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
4. Once melted, stir in flour and nutmeg and continue stirring for a few minutes.
5. Add in milk, turning heat to high and bringing to a boil while constantly stirring. Continue to boil until sauce has thickened.
6. Set heat to low and gently stir in the butternut squash purée.
7. Add in the rosemary and then take the skillet off the heat.
8. Combine sauce with cooked pasta. Season with salt and pepper.
9. Grease a bread pan or casserole dish. Pour half of the noodles into the pan. Sprinkle half of the shredded cheese over the noodles. Add the remaining noodles and top with the rest of the cheese. Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top.

10. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Sprinkle more rosemary or parsley on top to garnish. Serve warm.

In Louisville, just outside the kitchen door of my inn,  there were 8 huge pots sitting on the floor of the deck and 5 window boxes hanging over the railing. Although they contained some Geraniums and Petunias, they were mostly filled with herbs: Basil, Dill, Thyme, Tarragon, Rosemary and mint. And, if you looked a little closer, you could see chives, oregano, parsley and sage. 

Aleksander House deck

I don't know if my penchant for herbs comes from the fact that my great, great grandmother, a Cherokee Indian, was an herb doctor, or because I have a well developed palate. But, I do know they make food taste more flavorful.

Eggs, for instance, take on a special gourmet taste when Dill, Basil, Chives, or Thyme is added. And tomato sauces love Basil or Oregano. Fish is definitely enhanced with Dill and if you haven't tried little red potatoes baked in butter and rosemary, or carrots sauteed in butter, brown sugar and Tarragon you're really missing something.



(Excerpt from: Operatic Divas and Naked Irishmen: A Memoir)

     When I first opened my bed and breakfast, I made everything from scratch including granola, muffins and cinnamon rolls. I even whipped my own fresh cream and made my own jams and jellies. I had pretty much always been a food snob and wouldn’t eat anything out of a can except tuna fish. I preferred to make my own soups and sauces and I was always very big on fresh fruits and vegetables, and meat and fish from a meat market. I even preferred to use fresh herbs from the pots on my back porch and grind my own coffee beans.

     I guess I was influenced by my mother and grandmother. Even though we lived in Detroit, a fairly large city, I grew up during the second world war and we had an extensive Victory garden in our back yard. What we didn’t grow ourselves, my parents bought at fruit and vegetable stands which dotted the dusty country roads of Michigan. I remember taking long, leisurely drives and returning home with huge baskets of tomatoes, apples, and luscious purple grapes.

     My mother did a lot of canning in the basement. And when you walked down the stairs into the cool, dark concrete, you could see what looked like giant cocoons of cheese cloth hanging from the ceiling. Underneath each one was a pail into which thick, purple, syrupy stuff dripped for hours. The mingled smells of plum, grape, and blueberry hung in the air like a sugary veil. She made the most delicious jams and jellies.  I can still taste that wonderful flavor under my tongue, sweet and sour at the same time, making my mouth water like I’d just eaten a fresh lemon.

     Sometimes, the smells changed to the more pungent aroma of vinegar and tomatoes or the sweet comforting fragrance of fall apples as they boiled together in huge metal pots on the stove my daddy moved down stairs and planted against the far wall. Shelves lined the opposite wall, as repositories for the rows of canning jars filled with everything imaginable. Mom lined them all up like soldiers with fat see-through bellies and rubber and metal caps. I’ve never tasted chili sauce and apple sauce like hers again.
     During the war, our Victory garden had everything you can think of growing in it. In the summer, my sister and I gathered lapfuls of plump, ripe cherry and pear tomatoes and sat in the cool green grass of the back yard with a salt shaker eating and laughing. It was then I first developed my obsession with fresh fruits and vegetables ripened in the summer sun.

     Although I’d been a “food snob” most of my life, staying a purest was next to impossible when we became busy at the Inn. I just didn’t have time to make everything from scratch, or to can and make fresh breads and granolas.

     But breakfast at my Inn moved beyond bacon and eggs and I continued to collect recipes and try out interesting gourmet dishes. There was always the aroma of freshly ground and brewed coffee made from the finest European blends with a dash of French Roast, and homemade muffins, waffles, French toast or pancakes.  All four were favorites with my guests, but they especially liked the German baked apple pancakes made with Granny Smith apples.

The Art of Scrambling eggs

I loved making breakfast at my Inn. Most people like scrambled eggs, adults and kids alike. Some like them plain, some with cheese, and some with ketchup or chili sauce. Some even like sauteed mushrooms, tomatoes, or spinach stirred in. Kids usually prefer plain or with cheese. Most don't want cream cheese, or feta, or goat cheese. They want plain ole American or, maybe, mild cheddar. Well, my specialty is scrambled eggs with cream cheese, onion, chives, basil, and dill......my interpretation of Gourmet eggs. They are fabulous! And my guests, except for the kids, loved them. I got a lot of positive feedback.

I think the feedback had to do with more than the flavor and ingredients of the eggs. It is also had to do with the consistency and the appearance. To me, making scrambled eggs correctly is an art. When I was first exploring the best way to prepare them, a fellow innkeeper suggested microwaving them. They did puff up nicely and look appetizing, but they were rather insipid. For some reason, the microwave cooked the flavor out of them. Besides I wanted more control, and the way to get that is with a wrought iron frying pan and a rubber spatula.

There are several things you must and must not do when preparing scrambled eggs. First of all, if you cook for over 4 people, you should mix them in the blender......not too long...you want air in them, but you don't want them to be overly foamy. Secondly, never water them down with milk or even cream. Next, always melt a liberal amount of butter in the pan and have the pan very hot.........not too hot, you don't want the butter to turn brown. Test the pan with a sprinkle of cold water. If it sizzles, add the beaten eggs.

Now, this is one of the most important parts. Start with flame on high, but gradually lower it, as you slowly cook the eggs. Scrambling does not mean swishing the eggs around furiously in circles. The proper motion is a pushing motion...........back and forth slowly, as the eggs begin to coagulate. Be sure you're scraping all the way to the bottom of the pan. Let's say we're cooking for kids, so we're using shredded cheddar cheese. I hate American! Do not add the cheese until the eggs are almost finished. You don't want them too wet or too dry. They should look like little yellow mounds of whipped cream only they will be more firm. As you're finishing up the cheese will be melting, so fold it in carefully.

Now if you're doing the cream cheese version, start out the same way. Sprinkle on the herbs, as the eggs begin to coagulate, then add 3 or 4 large dabs of Philadelphia cream cheese with chives and onions. Place the cheese in different places around the pan, so it will be easier to work in and distribute. If you're eggs finish before your family or guests are ready to eat, you may leave them in the hot pan and cover with tin foil until ready to serve. Don't finish them completely, if they will be sitting in the pan a while, as they will get hard. You want them firm, but not hard or, on the other hand, not wet and runny. Serve your eggs with ham, bacon or sausage and hot buttered toast or croissants.

Do Not let them get cold. Cold scrambled eggs are terrible!

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Sweet Potato Shoestrings

We bake our shoestring potatoes instead of deep-frying them because after a certain age your tummy
starts to protest too much fat. But don't worry. These fries are still crispy and delicious (compliments of Karina's Kitchen).

1 sweet potato per person
Light olive oil or organic canola oil, as needed
ground cumin,
black pepper,
red pepper,
For serving:Sea saltChampagne or rice vinegar

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into long thin shoestrings. Toss them into a bowl and drizzle with light olive oil; stirring lightly to coat.Generously season them.

My seasoning mix is equal shakes of: cumin, thyme and black pepper; and a little bit of hot red pepper and cinnamon.

Throw them on a baking sheet. Spread evenly- in one layer, if possible.Bake in the upper portion of your oven for about 20 to 30 minutes- until they are tender and sizzling and crispy around the edges.

Season with sea salt immediately. (Adding salt after they roast keeps them crisper.) Serve with a sprinkle of champagne vinegar (at the table) or scarf them down plain.

Good Food
Timothy's was an eccentric eatery, opened by Tim Barnes in the early 1980s,  in Louisville, KY. They served continental style food and frequently displayed a "now sauteing" neon sign in the front window. Although I wasn't introduced to it until I moved there over 20 years ago, I still remember going there with friends to savor  their awesome "White Chili".

In March of 1991, Bon Appetite did an article on Timothy's and published the White Chili recipe. I was ecstatic when I found it and have been making it ever since. When Tim died in the late 1990s, the restaurant closed

White Chile: 6 servings

2-3 8 oz. cans Great Northern Beans
2 LB chicken breasts
1 ½ tsp. oregano
1TBL Olive oil
¼tsp grnd cloves
2 med Onions, chopped
¼ tsp Cayenne
4 Garlic cloves, minced
6 C. Chicken stock or broth
8 oz. Chopped mild green chilies
2tsp. Ground cumin
3 C. Monterrey Jack; grated
1/2 C. Sherry
Garnishes: Salsa, Chopped fresh cilantro, Sour Cream

Saute chicken in heavy large saucepan. until just tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, cool, remove skin, & cut into cubes. Heat oil in same pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute until translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir in garlic, then chilies, cumin, oregano, cloves, and cayenne pepper and saute 2 minutes. Add beans and stock and bring to boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 1/2 hour. Add chicken and 1 cup cheese to chili and stir until cheese melts. Continue to simmer for another 1/2 hour. Add sherry 5 minutes before finished cooking. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle chili into bowls. Serve with remaining cheese, sour cream, salsa and cilantro. (recipe edited by Aleksander House)

Signature Dish
This is a fabulous dish, great for breakfast or dessert and soooo delicious. My guests loved it. Serve it with Creme Fresh or just enjoy it in its own wine sauce
Pears in white Zinfandel

Serves: 8

Pears in white Zinfandel
8 pears
2 C White Zinfindel
2 TBL lemon juice
1 C sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla
Creme Fraiche
mint leaves

Peel pears and then core from the bottom up, leaving the stems intact. Set aside. In a deep saucepan, combine wine, lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon, lemon zest, and vanilla extract. Bring to a boil. Add the pears with stems up, and scoop spoonfuls of liquid over them. Simmer until pears are tender, 10 to 20 minutes. Remove pears and place in individual serving dishes. Strain liquid and boil until reduced by half. Pour wine sauce over pears and let cool. Serve with crème fraîche on the side and garnish with mint leaves.