Food & Travel

Life without feta

Back in the good old days when my husband was a normal American male, feta cheese was pretty much something we’d find sprinkled on salads in trendy restaurants along with a few black olive slices. It was a nice enough experience, but we really didn't give it much thought.

Now, Eric has what I’d call a severe feta fetish and eats it with everything from gumbo to sauerkraut. He once tried crumbling it on top of tapioca pudding, until, of course, I threatened to leave him. He’s hopelessly addicted and I am currently lobbying to have all feta farmers post a warning on their product: “Life without feta may cause severe irritability, feelings of inadequacy and even death by withdrawal.” 

It all started a few years back when Eric met Gus, the Greek guy who owns Mediterranean Foods at the West Side Market on West 25th Street.

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Volume 3, Issue 6, Posted 9:45 AM, 03.22.2011

Three men and a Guinness

To feel the true heart of Ireland, I believe one must go to a country pub in a village you’ve never heard of and have a conversation and a Guinness with an old guy in a tweed cap. Fortunately for me, every country pub I visited in Ireland automatically came with an average of three tweedy guys sitting at the bar, like part of the décor. I spoke to many, but selected three to write about. Not because they were extraordinary in any way, they were just, well, really Irish.


As it was, we were sitting in a pub in the highest village in Ireland (Roundwood, County Wicklow) having a pint when we met Joe Mulligan. He had neat white hair under a worn tweed cap, a weathered face made younger by sky blue eyes and rough, square hands. He was dressed in a shrunken wool suit with forearms exposed, and sported an ancient faded tie. I’m pretty sure it was the same suit his mother made him buy in case of funerals when he was young.

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Volume 3, Issue 5, Posted 10:13 AM, 03.08.2011

Company's coming! Breakfast ideas

Company’s coming! Company’s coming! And you know what that means, don’t you? It means that out-of-town visitors will descend upon your home like crows, and stay for several days. Or, in some cases, several millennia.

It also means that: A.) you can no longer walk around the house in your underwear; B.) you can no longer beat the kids; and C.) you can no longer have Oreos and coffee for breakfast. You need to serve a half-way decent breakfast at least once before they leave.

There are three kinds of overnight guests: 1.) The kind that remind you a lot of Nurse Ratched and make you think about tying chum around your waist and jumping into the Great Barrier Reef; 2.) The kind that track tar in the moment they arrive, take 45-minute showers, wouldn’t know a dishwasher if they were sitting on one, and have the personality of a tumbleweed; and 3.) The kind that are so much fun to have around that, for a fleeting moment, you actually think about asking them to stay one more night (but quickly regain sanity).

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Volume 3, Issue 3, Posted 12:19 PM, 02.04.2011

Please pass the cholesterol

I’ve been trying to be a real good girl: taking the skin off my chicken and the fat off my meat. Eating lentils and legumes, grains and grapefruit. Using skim-milk, fat-free mayonnaise and only the whites of my eggs. Avoiding at all costs Alfredo sauce, French fries and most of all, Fiddle Faddle. 

I’ve learned that pasta is poison, ribs are a sin, butter is pretty much illegal and bacon causes instant death. Dessert of any kind is out of the question except on your birthday. Coffee’s bad. Popcorn’s bad. Pizza’s bad. And if you’re caught with a Fry Baby, it’s ten-to-life.

In fact, I’ve been so good that the last big treat I afforded myself was back in ‘06. I remember I had three of Pop’s Old Fashioned Fat-Free Cholesterol-Free Sugar-Free Sodium-Free Carbohydrate-Free Calorie-Free MSG-Free Artificially-Flavored Extra-Fancy Nacho Chips El Supremo Grande, enriched with Riboflavin. They were delicious.

And I’ve been thinking...I NEED CHOLESTEROL!

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Volume 3, Issue 2, Posted 2:36 PM, 01.21.2011

It's party time!

If you are planning any get-togethers for the upcoming holidays, you might want to try a new appetizer recipe. I have some that I have used for years, gathered from neighbors. Here are two I have used often, because they are always enjoyed:

    •    3 C zucchini, thinly sliced horizontally (4 small)
    •    1 C Bisquick
    •    1/2 C chopped onion
    •    1/2 C Parmesan cheese

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Volume 2, Issue 24, Posted 6:11 PM, 11.28.2010

Thanksgiving Recipes

Last year I made many items for a Thanksgiving dinner a week early and froze them. Then, the day before Thanksgiving, we packed up a cooler and drove down to visit our daughter in Tennessee. The meal was almost complete, just a few things to make and heat up the next day. It was such a wonderful meal and so stress-free. On Thursday, we were able to go out and do some sightseeing before coming home to a wonderful meal of turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, vegetables, cranberry sauce and salad!

The turkey, gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce were made ahead, turkey sliced and frozen separately.  Before the meal, we made the mashed potatoes, vegetables and salad. Every thing tasted like it was made that day. It was such an easy and delicious way to enjoy Thanksgiving with family. With a store-bought pie, we were not missing anything!

Here are two recipes to make your day a little easier:

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Volume 2, Issue 23, Posted 2:12 PM, 11.13.2010

Farmers Market at Crocker Park through November 20

There’s still plenty to see – and taste – at the North Union Farmers Market at Crocker Park on Saturdays! Since April, the market has been a destination for local, sustainable food, but the 2010 market season is still going strong! 

Are you planning a Thanksgiving meal? The farmers market is the perfect place to start. A local, pasture-raised turkey from one of our farms will make your meal wholesome and delicious. Tea Hill Farm and Covered Bridge Farm are taking turkey orders at the market each week. 


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Volume 2, Issue 22, Posted 1:09 PM, 10.29.2010

Costa Rica trip gives local student volunteers ‘the best time of our lives’

The day starts with a walk along the beach, pallid sun reflecting off of pools filled with scuttling crustaceans and fish caught in the changing tides. As morning progresses, a trek through a national park reveals chirruping frogs with clear skin and monkeys scouring branches for fruit. An hour of zip-lining through the treetops presents a sunlit vista of forested country and rolling grasslands. In the afternoon, kayaking along mangrove shores yields sights of painted crabs and glimmering snakes. When darkness falls, a nighttime hike exposes thousands of salamanders, amphibians, and yellow-eyed caimans sulking in the shadows of the river.

These scenes are all examples of what student volunteers, called Naturalist Assistants or NAs, at Lake Erie Nature and Science Center experienced on a journey through Costa Rica earlier this summer. Nine days of hiking, kayaking, and exploring the landscape from the Pacific to the Caribbean yielded hundreds of extraordinary wildlife encounters, in a country where holding a toucan or viewing nine-foot crocodiles in the wild are extraordinarily typical experiences.

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Volume 2, Issue 17, Posted 1:04 PM, 08.20.2010

Try this for Labor Day!

I tried the following recipe for the first time last weekend. Everybody loved it, very creamy and full of flavor. It went together quickly and easily. I used white potatoes, white wine vinegar, Grey Poupon mustard and left out the pickle juice and chopped pickles. I plan on making this again, so maybe I'll try them next time.

Adapted From:

4 1/2 pounds red-skinned or white-skinned  potatoes

1/3 cup canola oil
1/4 cup vinegar (cider, white wine or rice vinegars would work nicely)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

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Volume 2, Issue 17, Posted 11:12 AM, 08.16.2010

The most important thing to pack for international travel

A small mountain village in Ecuador. There were a dozen young boys in the dirt street, playing baseball with a stick and a rock. I opened my backpack and started tossing out Cleveland Indians baseballs. The shock, the grins, the gratitude, were priceless. 

A fancy restaurant in Paris (Le Coupe-Chou). It was close to Halloween, now being celebrated in France. Our waiter was exceptional, not only for his service, but for his charm and dry sense of humor. I gave him a cleverly embroidered Halloween dish towel with English words. It was as though we handed him a gold brick. We saw him the next day on the street and he took us to a small café and bought us a brandy. 

To me, the most important thing you can take on an international trip is gifts for good people you meet along the way. Here are some other suggestions:

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Volume 2, Issue 10, Posted 12:43 PM, 05.14.2010

The Irish potato famine is over!

When you travel in Ireland today, it is truly difficult to imagine the horrific potato famine that occurred in the 1800’s. The Irish people were poor and looked to the potato for their main source of vitamins, minerals, proteins and carbohydrates. They ate them for breakfast, lunch and dinner; sometimes with a little cabbage or fish on the side. 

In 1845, a fungus started killing off the plants, and the wind spread the blight countrywide. Everyone thought it would go away soon and things would return to normal. But the blight lasted six years, killing more than a million people, and forcing another million to flee to the United States to begin a new life. 

Fast forward to my Ireland trip with family; roaming the countryside, scouring ancient castle ruins and staying in remote bed and breakfasts. The breakfast part always consisted of the traditional fried eggs, fried sausage, fried bacon and fried potatoes.

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Volume 2, Issue 4, Posted 10:27 AM, 02.18.2010

Chicken soup for the bowl

When things have hit an all-time low – like when you were forced to fire one of your gardeners; when you found out your husband was cheating (on his diet); when the artist that was going to do your screening room in trompe l’oeil broke her hand; when your best friend bought an outfit just like yours except for the color and pattern; when your power went out for nearly ten full minutes right when you were watching "The Real Housewives of Orange County"; when you found out they discontinued your favorite nail polish color; when you suddenly ran out of Bounce just as the laundress arrived – there’s nothing like a steaming bowl of the most comforting and well-loved soup in the world. Okay, I’ve changed it just a little. But I think you’ll like it. 
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Volume 2, Issue 2, Posted 1:20 PM, 01.12.2010

Bay Village restaurant gives good taste to small town

Vento La Trattoria’s cozy atmosphere has invited customers in to dine since the restaurant’s opening in July. Tiramisu and cheesecake greet customers from the case at the front. The smell of fresh herbs from the kitchen entices patrons to stay for an entrée before trying one of the tempting desserts.

The restaurant mixes a small town appeal with a fresh twist on Old World flavor. The menu offers a wide variety of favorites from Italian bruschetta and pasta to American gourmet soft pretzels. The food is reasonably priced; appetizers are less than 10 dollars and most entrées are below 20 dollars.

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Volume 2, Issue 1, Posted 11:07 PM, 12.10.2009

A nod to nog

What I find rather amusing about the history of eggnog is that in Renaissance Europe, it was a popular holiday tradition and was used to toast to one’s health… at nearly 400 calories per cup, gobs of saturated fat and cholesterol galore. Earlier versions from the 1700’s in upper-class England were laced with sherry, ale and Madeira.

American colonists introduced rum and brandy to the mix. The father of our country, George Washington, was an enthusiastic fan: he laced his with rye whiskey, rum and sherry. All at once. I’ll bet his house was a joyous place to be at Christmastime.

My father loved the tradition – the real thing, laced with bourbon and topped with grated nutmeg (once, my mother came home with some low-fat stuff and he poured it down the drain). The tradition continues in my home, although I’ve played with variations over the years.

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Volume 1, Issue 8, Posted 10:07 AM, 11.30.2009

Rose Hill Recipes: Nancy's Brunch Eggs


[Editor's note: This makes a great Christmas morning (or any weekend morning) breakfast. The dish can be assembled and refrigerated the night before and baked in the morning.]

1 (1 lb.) bag Simply Potatoes, shredded (dairy case)

1 lb. bacon, diced, fried and drained

1 large onion, chopped and lightly fried in bacon grease (may choose to drain)

3 c. shredded Cheddar cheese

8 slightly beaten eggs

1/2 tsp. pepper

Butter a 9"x13" glass pan. Mix eggs, pepper, cheese and potatoes in a large bowl. Add bacon and onions. Mix thoroughly. Pour in greased pan. Bake uncovered at 350 for 40 to 45 minutes (longer if dish was refrigerated overnight), until eggs are set and top is brown. Serve with fresh fruit, coffee cake, etc. 

– Carol Hill

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Volume 1, Issue 8, Posted 11:53 AM, 12.07.2009

I'm thankful for people, parades and potatoes

The Thanksgiving stage is nearly set. People are gathering. My uncles are already arguing politics (my side is winning), my aunts are discussing everyone they know who has had a medical procedure in the last ten years (in full-color detail), my cousins are deep into Scrabble (no, repunt isn’t a word), my nieces and nephews are all offering to walk the dog (and sneak a beer, I’m sure of it), my husband just told his brother to stuff it (he asked if he could help with the bird), the sounds of football are in the background (that’s the sport with the pointy ball), and I’m in the kitchen, with the Macy’s Day Parade on for atmosphere -  thankful for the potatoes which I am about to receive.


6 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks       

3 tablespoons sweet butter, softened 

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Volume 1, Issue 7, Posted 8:40 AM, 11.10.2009

Rose Hill Recipes: Pumpkin butter cheesecake


3 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened

1/2 c. granulated sugar

1/2 c. brown sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

pinch of salt

4 eggs

1/4 c. sour cream

1 Tbsp. cornstarch

1 jar pecan pumpkin butter or regular pumpkin butter

pecans (for garnish)


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Volume 1, Issue 7, Posted 1:41 PM, 11.14.2009

I hate apple pie (but I'll bake one for you)

Once, in a restaurant, I watched a group of friends one by one excitedly order slices of warm, homemade apple pie a la mode from the smiling waitress. When she got to me, I said, “I’ll just have the mode.” 

Lord knows, I am not un-American or anti-motherhood, but if I am going to invest precious calories on something sweet, it certainly isn’t going to be apple pie. Unlike Mark Twain, who, in 1878, lamented how much he missed apple pie while traveling in Europe; or 19th century English novelist Jane Austen, who said, "Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness," I find the stuff terribly dull.

As far back as 14th century England, someone came up with the idea to take a beautiful autumn object d’art, crisp and healthy and delicious on its own, and cook it to death with sugar in a flimsy crust.

Nope, I’ll pass on the pie and choose instead a sliver of chocolate mousse-whipped cream torte cake. Or a creamy crème brulee. Or, heck, a handful of Poppycock. But I am not altogether blind to this American obsession, so for you, Mark Twain, and for the one out of four Americans who prefer apple over any other flavor of pie, I give you two of my pie recipes that I hate the least. 

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Volume 1, Issue 6, Posted 8:31 AM, 10.26.2009

Rose Hill Recipes: BLT Appetizer


1 lb. bacon, fried crisp

1/2 c. mayonnaise

1/2 c. sour cream

1 large tomato, seeded and chopped


French bread

Mix all ingredients together. Serve on rounds of French bread with lettuce leaf on each round.

– D.L. Tadych 

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Volume 1, Issue 6, Posted 11:22 AM, 11.02.2009