Humor, Reflections

On women, kindness and humor

On women, kindness and humor

I was on an airplane for a business trip recently and a woman sat down next to me.  She said hello and we started talking about her daughter, her job, my job and then women in the business world in general.

She was clearly driven, successful and at the top of her chosen profession.  And yet… and yet…  the more we spoke, the more she started to reveal the layers of difficulty she faced in moving through the workforce.  A female boss harassed her while pregnant and whispered, among other comments (while no one was around) “You are so fat!  You better lose that weight fast if you want to survive here.”    She then describing her current boss and CEO’s ability to calmly listen to difficult situations, discuss the root cause of problems and turn around her company in a single year.  She described the drive for profitability and performance this boss expected, but more than that, she described the CEO’s kindness and generosity in developing employees and fostering their growth.

The stark contrast in “boss” styles struck me.  I love competition.  In fact, I thrive under pressure and deadlines.  I am not afraid of confrontation or conflict.  Even so, I firmly believe that in the midst of intense competition, it is vital that women managing other women do not verbally shred each other apart.  I believe that there is room and a need for kindness and a good sense of humor, especially among women in the business world!

On blogs there are oh so glamorous photos showing the most beautiful, the most wonderful and perfect photos of every moment of every life.  Life is messy.  Here are a few snapshots of the less than perfect, but really great moments of the past few weeks:

I took a business call late in the evening, only to say, “CAN I PLEASE CALL YOU RIGHT BACK?” because of this…  Fortunately, this person had a sense of humor.  His daughter was simultaneously throwing a tantrum:

Keeping it Real     www.morewinelesswhines.com

Keeping it Real

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Ahh, yes.. This was an attempt at a New Year’s photo.   I have shown this image to friends before, but I think it encompasses a valiant effort:

Blaney Family New Years Photo 2015     www.morewinelesswhines.com

Blaney Family New Years Photo 2015

What to do with a hyper puppy while getting ready for work in the morning?   Teach her to drink from the bathtub faucet?  Bad parenting!

Good use of time: teach puppy to drink from faucet    www.morewinelesswhines.com

Good use of time: teach puppy to drink from faucet

 

Have a great weekend!  I’ll be back next week with some good eats!

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Cooking

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter      www.morewinelesswhines.com

Assembling Ingredients for Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter

This weekend, we were in the middle of the first real snowstorm in Chicago’s 2014-2015 winter season!  So far, we have received about 19″ of snow.  Yesterday and again this morning, my husband and I went outside to finish shoveling the driveway and sidewalks.  The snow is the heavy, “packing” kind,  perfect for kids wanting to make snowmen and forts, but really irritating for adults trying to clear footpaths!  Stella was jumping around like a kangaroo in the snow!  This was before it got too deep for her.  After a few more hours, we ended up clearing a path in the backyard so she could walk without having the snow reach up past her   fluffy tail!

Stella Bear Braving Chicago's Big Winter Snow       www.morewinelesswhines.com

Stella Bear Braving Chicago’s Big Winter Snow

When we got inside from shoveling, I wanted something quick, simple and a lot like buttered noodles.  I made this ridiculously simple dish that does not even need a recipe once you make it a few times.   I put 1/2 a box of orzo in a pot of salted, boiling water.  I drained the orzo and made my butter-olive oil blend fancy by flavoring it with lemon peel and sliced garlic cloves.  Then, I stirred in some lemon juice, Romano cheese and parsley to finish the dish.  Easy!

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter    www.morewinelesswhines.com

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter     www.morewinelesswhines.com

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter      www.morewinelesswhines.com

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter

serves 2

1 c. orzo
2 T. unsalted butter
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 2″ lemon peel
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
1/4 c. parsley, minced
1/3 c. Romano cheese + extra for serving
sea salt & pepper to taste

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add Orzo. Cook according to package directions until ‘al dente.’ You are better off undercooking the orzo at this point. Drain into a colander and transfer to a medium glass or heat-safe bowl*. Return pot to medium heat. Melt butter in pan and add olive oil. Gently place the sliced garlic and lemon peel in the butter/oil and stir a little bit. BE CAREFUL! Let bubble until garlic just barely starts to turn golden, ~30-60 seconds.  (It will go from golden to burned quickly) Remove garlic and lemon peel from pan with slotted spoon. Let cool on a plate before discarding.

Pour flavored butter/olive oil over the orzo. Stir in lemon juice, parsley and Romano cheese. Season to taste with sea and freshly ground black pepper.  Enjoy!

 

*Note: You can keep the cooked orzo in the colander and just stir it into the saucepan once the butter/oil has been flavored and the garlic/lemon peel is removed. I do this to minimize dirty dishes. The problem is the orzo can stick to the hot sides of the pan if you do not stir vigorously and immediately. The choice is yours.

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter    www.morewinelesswhines.com

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter      www.morewinelesswhines.com

Orzo with Lemon Garlic Butter

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Bricco Panetteria in Boston's North End "Little Italy www.morewinelesswhines.com
Cooking, Travel

Boston’s North End: Italian American Mecca

Bricco Panetteria in Boston's North End "Little Italy www.morewinelesswhines.com

Bricco Panetteria in Boston’s North End “Little Italy

The greatest cities in the United States boast melting pots of cultures, which evolved from wave after wave of immigrants calling US soil their new home.  What do I think is the best part about these melting pots?  The food (and people, too)!   In Boston, there is a concentrated area of Italian Americans that would be called “Little Italy” in other cities, but is known in Boston as the “North End.”  There are tiny little shops, many of which have been passed on from generation to generation, all along the narrow, winding streets of the North End.

I was fortunate to spend the coldest winter day in Boston walking and eating my way through Boston’s Italian American mecca with my husband, his family and close family friends on Michele Topor’s Boston Food Tour.

We started our tour at a Panetteria, or small bread bakery.  There was a tiny little alleyway, which led to a single door, which led down a narrow staircase, to the panetteria counter!  We all purchased a loaf of bread – our bread of choice had prosciutto inside!

Bricco Panetteria in Boston's North End "Little Italy     www.morewinelesswhines.com

Bricco Panetteria in Boston’s North End “Little Italy

We then made our way to Bricco Salumeria and Pasta Shop, where we sampled olives, balsamic vinegar, saba, olive oils, prosciutto, and cheeses.

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Bricco Salumeria and Pasta Shop, Boston's North End    www.morewinelesswhines.com

Bricco Salumeria and Pasta Shop, Boston’s North End

We made our way through the winding streets to an authentic Italian pastry shop, Maria’s Pastry Shop.  It was old school Italian, with the best cannoli I have ever had (and, Father, Son & Holy Spirit, I am not even a big cannoli fan)!  Please note, if you ever want to experience good cannoli, with a crunchy fried dough shell and a sweet cream or ricotta filling, you better go somewhere where they fill the shells to order!  I didn’t photograph them, but Maria makes incredible marzipan, sfogliatelle and lobster tails (the pastries, not the crustaceans).

Maria's Pastry Shop, Boston's North End      www.morewinelesswhines.com

Maria’s Pastry Shop, Boston’s North End

Maria's Pastry Shop, Boston's North End    www.morewinelesswhines.com

Maria’s Pastry Shop, Boston’s North End

Maria's Pastry Shop, Boston's North End      www.morewinelesswhines.com

Maria’s Pastry Shop, Boston’s North End

We enjoyed the sights, smells and tastes inside of Monica’s Mercato and Salumeria.  The shop is family owned, as Monica’s son told us during our visit while he pointed to photos of his mother that adorned the walls.  “My mother taught me everything I know about cooking and food.  I started my first food shop/restaurant when I was 16 and just kept working from there to where I am now.”  My husband commented that if he lived in Boston’s North End, he would eat an Italian sub a day, every day, from Monica’s.  There is also a really compact Mercato featuring pizza downstairs, which is also where they make all the bread for the upstairs Mercato (Notice the wall made out of wine corks in the background.  Wouldn’t that be a fun endeavor to take on with friends?  “Ok, team, now this is going to be hard work, but we need to drink a few hundred bottles of wine this year so I can start the wine cork wall.  Ready, set, go!”)

Monica's Mercato and Salumeria, Boston's North End     www.morewinelesswhines.com

Monica’s Mercato and Salumeria, Boston’s North End

Monica's Mercato and Salumeria, Boston's North End       www.morewinelesswhines.com

Monica’s Mercato and Salumeria, Boston’s North End

Monica's Mercato, Boston's North End      www.morewinelesswhines.com

Monica’s Mercato, Boston’s North End

At the fresh produce market, I learned the difference between a male and female eggplant.  (Look for the one with a dot on the bottom, not a wide flat line.  The eggplant with the dot is a male and will have less seeds, thus being better for Italian American dishes such as Eggplant Parmesan).  We also visited a wonderful wine and liquor store, an incredible coffee, spice and herb store and learned so much more. This little post does not even scratch the surface on the shops and restaurants that fill the North End.   I hope that some day you will go to the North End yourself and experience the same lovely food tour my family enjoyed!

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Cooking

Orecchiette with Asparagus, Pancetta and Lemon

Orecchiette with Asparagus, Prosciutto and Lemon      www.morewinelesswhines.com

Orecchiette with Asparagus, Prosciutto and Lemon

If you give an Italian American a bowl of pasta, he will want for nothing more.

Years ago my mother made a Cooking Light Recipe that involved pasta (bowties or spirals), asparagus, lemon & pancetta.  I added a few ingredients to the dish over the years, but, like many recipes, we just stopped making it after the change of seasons.  Then, my sister-in-law recently raved about a dish that sounded just like the one my mother used to make, this time by the Barefoot Contessa.  When my husband and I came home from an eight hour car ride and were deciding on “what to do” for dinner, we came to a simple conclusion:  try to recreate the pasta dish from years ago!

Orecchiette with Asparagus, Prosciutto and Lemon       www.morewinelesswhines.com

Orecchiette with Asparagus, Prosciutto and Lemon

Orecchiette with Asparagus, Pancetta  & Lemon

1 box orecchiette (or other small to medium shaped pasta)
1 bunch asparagus, rough ends removed, tender parts cut into 1.5″ pieces
4 oz pancetta, finely chopped
10 oz baby bella mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
2 lemons, juiced
Romano cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add orecchiette to boiling water. Set timer for 4 minutes less than the box instructs to cook the pasta ‘al dente.’ (For example, the De Cecco brand of Orecchiette says to cook the pasta for 11 minutes. I set my timer for 7 minutes.) When the timer goes off, add the asparagus and stir. Continue boiling, 3-4 minutes longer. Drain, reserving up to 1/2 c. of the starchy pasta water.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil. Once hot, add pancetta and sauce until sizzling and starting to crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Use a slotted spoon to remove pancetta to a large serving bowl for the pasta. Add a little more olive oil to the pancetta drippings in the pan if needed and return to medium heat. Add mushrooms to the pan with sea salt & pepper to taste. Sauté 5-6 minutes, or until mushrooms are tender.

Combine the orecchiette, asparagus spears, pancetta, mushrooms, garlic and juice of 2 lemons in a very large bowl. Stir in a drizzle of olive oil, as needed. Add reserved pasta water if pasta seems too dry. Stir in Romano cheese, beginning with 1/4 cup. Taste pasta and add freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste. (Be very careful that you do not add too much salt!)

Serve with freshly grated Romano cheese.

Enjoy!

Orecchiette with Asparagus, Prosciutto and Lemon        www.morewinelesswhines.com

Orecchiette with Asparagus, Prosciutto and Lemon

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Achieving Balance in the New Year: Mushroom Soup with Greens

Mushroom Soup        www.morewinelesswhines.com

Mushroom Soup with Greens

I will be honest with you.  I struggle to find balance  – among work, graduate school and home life – between travel and rest – between my dietetics undergraduate training and my ill-acquired grownup habits.   It is a continual process, one which forces me to look forward and strive to improve each day.  I’ll take the struggle over complacency.

While trying to improve the foods my family cooks and eats together, I found this unusual Mushroom Soup in Jean-Georges:  Cooking at Home with a Four-Star Chef.    I am constantly on the prowl for a creative spark to jump-start a cooking session – and this cookbook has done wonders for my culinary prowess.  See the Sautéed Chicken with Green Olives and Cilantro + Chive Oil recipes on this blog as evidence.

The soup, along with other recipes in the cookbook, achieves a harmonious balance of colors, textures and flavors.  What better way to usher in the new year?

Mushroom Soup before adding broth      www.morewinelesswhines.com

Mushroom Soup with Greens before adding broth

I started the soup by making a rich mushroom ‘broth’ on a Sunday.  Then, I assembled the actual soup for dinner on a Monday night.  The final brief cooking &  ‘assembly’ went quickly.  It is not until all the ingredients come together at the last minute that you will agree with me and go “ahhhh, this WILL be delicious!”

Ingredients for Mushroom Soup (note, the broth is in the bowl and was made ahead of time)       www.morewinelesswhines.com

Ingredients for Mushroom Soup (note, the broth is in the bowl and was made ahead of time)

Mushroom Soup with Greens
Recipe from cookbook Jean-Georges: Cooking at Home with a Four Star Chef

For the broth:
2 lbs button mushrooms, rinsed & coarsely chopped
4 oz shiitake mushrooms
4 T. unsalted butter
sea salt
4-6 shallots, roughly chopped (~1 c.)
6 garlic cloves, smashed (ok to leave skins on)
4 thyme sprigs

For the final soup:
2 T. minced shallots
1/2 c. fresh or frozen and thawed peas (Optional – I did not use)
2 tsp. walnut or hazelnut oil
2 T. soy sauce
freshly cracked black pepper
1 T. port
2 c. mixed salad greens
2 T. toasted breadcrumbs (I used Panko)

1.  Heat a deep skillet over high heat and add butter, chopped button mushrooms and a tiny bit of sea salt.  When mushrooms release their juices, add shallots (chopped), garlic & thyme.  Cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, 5-10 minutes, or until mushrooms are brown.  Add 6 c. water.  Keep heat at medium-high to high and cook at a steady boil for 30 minutes, until reduced by half.

2.  Pour mixture through a strainer, pressing on mushroom mixture to release all juices.  Keep broth warm.  (Broth can be made up to 2 days ahead of time in a covered container:  Cool broth by putting strained broth on top of an ice pack or nest in a larger bowl filled with ice cubes, then transfer to the refrigerator).

3.  While broth is cooking, place 2 T. butter in a skillet, turn heat to high and add minced shallot and shiitake caps.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes.  (Optional:  If using, add peas and cook for 1 minute at this time).  Turn off the heat and stir in walnut oil and 1 T. soy sauce.

4.  If needed, reheat broth.  Season with remaining 1 T soy sauce, cracked black pepper and port.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

5.  Place greens in individual bowls and spook shiitake mixture over them.  Add bread crumbs.  Pour soup over ingredients in the bowls and serve warm.

Enjoy!

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Prosciutto Cups : A New Year’s Appetizer to Wow the Guests

Prosciutto Cups

Prosciutto Cups

Let me tell you a not-so-secret secret.  Come closer or someone else will hear!  It is really simple to throw a great New Year’s Party.  Don’t try too hard.  Stick to friends, family, appetizers, the best wine and champagne.  Make your food FUN – not stuffy!  There is something tantalizing about any food you can hold in your hand, banishing fork and knife to a dark kitchen drawer, including skewered treats, BACON WRAPPED WATER CHESTNUTS, toothpick appetizers, phyllo pastry cups, lettuce wraps and more.  Ever heard of a little high brow- a little low brow?  What about – a little classy – a little trashy?  These fit the description – Fancy bacon made into a bowl!  Perfect!

The Don cutting the prosciutto into little bites

The Don cutting the prosciutto into little bites

Given this information, is it really surprising that I take such joy in prosciutto cups?  They are simple enough to make.  All you need are some mini muffin tins and prosciutto.  Borrow a few tins from an aunt, friend or neighbor if you don’t own any. It starts with the prosciutto.  Go to an Italian deli or your local deli (if you are lucky).  Have the person behind the counter thinly slice some good prosciutto for you.  You don’t need to go overboard and get the best prosciutto from Italy.  If you buy some of the ‘really good stuff,’ save it for eating raw, wrapping around breadsticks/freshly sliced melon/chicken tenders or served atop pizza.  Get a decent, mid-priced variety.

The Don placing the prosciutto into mini muffin tins

The Don placing the prosciutto into mini muffin tins

Prosciutto Cups

Preheat oven to 375 F.   Spray mini muffin tins with cooking spray.  Cut each prosciutto slice into 3-4 pieces, width wise.  Wrap each piece in the muffin tin to form a cradle or little bowl.  Bake in preheated over for 15 minutes, or until starting to crisp but not burn.

Using a spoon or your hands, remove crisp prosciutto cups and transfer to a serving plate.  Fill with fresh pears, crab, cheddar cheese & chives, etc.  Get creative with your fillings.  I won’t tell you what to do for this one.  Have fun – get fancy and bake an egg in the prosciutto cups if you dare!  Serve immediately.

Happy New Year, friends!  I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous 2015!

Prosciutto Cups with Fresh Pears

Prosciutto Cups with Fresh Pears

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Gardening, Travel

Christmas at the Phipp’s Conservatory in Pittsburgh

If you are ever in Pittsburgh and love flowers, take time to visit Phipp’s Conservatory.  I have visited the conservatory with my husband and his family during multiple seasons over the past few years.  Each visit has been unique.  Several years ago, we toured during a Chihuly glass exhibit. Last fall, we sat through an Indian spice session in the Indian Rain Forest exhibit and then toured the Center for Sustainable Landscapes.  This year, we visited during the winter display featuring decked out Christmas trees, poinsettias galore, a “snowman” wedding made out of air plants (bromeliads) and more!  Enjoy the photos below – don’t ask me the names of all the orchids because I couldn’t tell you!

One of the decorated trees at Phipps Conservatory     www.morewinelesswhines.com

One of the decorated trees at Phipps Conservatory

Norfolk Pine, Paperwhites and Hydrangeas at Phipps Conservatory      www.morewinelesswhines.com

Norfolk Pine, Paperwhites and Hydrangeas at Phipps Conservatory

Beautiful Display at Phipps Conservatory    www.morewinelesswhines.com

Beautiful Display at Phipps Conservatory

Staghorn Ferns + More in a large wire hanging basket at Phipps Conservatory www.morewinelesswhines.com

Staghorn Ferns + More in a large wire hanging basket at Phipps Conservatory

Bridal Bromeliads at Phipps Conservatory    www.morewinelesswhines.com

Bridal Bromeliads at Phipps Conservatory

Succulent Christmas Tree    www.morewinelesswhines.com

Succulent Christmas Tree

Air Plants in all their glory     www.morewinelesswhines.com

Air Plants in all their glory

It'll be a Blue Christmas without you!   www.morewinelesswhines.com

It’ll be a Blue Christmas without you!

Beautiful spin on a classic boxwood garden with a poinsettia twist at Phipps Conservatory   www.morewinelesswhines.com

Beautiful spin on a classic boxwood garden with a poinsettia twist at Phipps Conservatory

www.morewinelesswhines.com www.morewinelesswhines.com www.morewinelesswhines.com www.morewinelesswhines.com www.morewinelesswhines.com www.morewinelesswhines.com www.morewinelesswhines.com www.morewinelesswhines.com

Phipps Conservatory - Poinsettias, Cyclamen, and more!     www.morewinelesswhines.com

Phipps Conservatory – Poinsettias, Cyclamen, and more!

Bromeliad ring bearer at Phipps Conservatory     www.morewinelesswhines.com

Bromeliad ring bearer at Phipps Conservatory

Bromeliad bride with Bouquet at Phipps Conservatory    www.morewinelesswhines.com

Bromeliad bride with Bouquet at Phipps Conservatory

Eco bears at the Phipps Conservatory    www.morewinelesswhines.com

Eco bears at the Phipps Conservatory

A light display meant for nighttime at the Phipps Conservatory     www.morewinelesswhines.com

A light display meant for nighttime at the Phipps Conservatory

 

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