For Mother’s Day, Why Not Experiences Instead of Things?

For Mother’s Day, Why Not Experiences Instead of Things?

I wish every day was Mother’s Day. We don’t need an excuse to honor the most special women in our lives, or bask in love ourselves. Moms come in all shapes and sizes… whether they are your Mom, someone else’s mom, a best friend who acts like your mom, a neighbor who’s mom to the whole block……Whatever the case, here is my suggestion for a better Mother’s Day:

Get mom (or persuade your loved ones to get you) an experience rather than a thing. There are so many ways to spend time together. To my mind, doing it over good food and art is the best way to go about it.

This global database of food and wine festivals is worth taking a look at. If you surprise mom with tickets for an event that’s further down the road in 2019, it’ll give you something to look forward to. You’d be amazed at how many foodie fests are happening in your own backyard. My food blog editor just went to a Mixology event in an art museum, where food and alcohol vendors had their best wares laid out around the Picassos.

As for me….I found a really cool event out in Phoenix this spring. Check out the slide show below! I will definitely go to the Nirvana Food and Wine Festival again – and I’d be over the moon (hint, hint, my children) if someone arranged to take me next year as an ahem…Mother’s Day gift???

Food Nirvana happened the last week of April, so for me, it was kindof a belated birthday treat.  Attending was a happy accident. I happened to be staying in the hotel where Food Nirvana was taking place. As part of our reservation, I received complimentary tickets to one of the events. I chose the Rosé Parté, an event housed in the famed Wriggly Mansion overlooking the city of Phoenix on one side and Camelback Mountain on the other. The views were breathtaking, even in 100° plus heat!

The festival featured all types of vendors with tastings of rosé wines and champagne. Local restaurants offered delicacies that included foie gras mousse wrapped in cigarette shaped tortillas, displayed in what appeared to be a garden of grass with edible flowers on the end of each roll.

There were individual deconstructed blood orange cakes, pastries of all shapes and sizes, and a Bloody Mary bar that rivals any I’ve ever seen. The Nirvana version of a charcuterie board was assembled on a gigantic dining table (which had to seat 20 or more) and laden with cheeses, meats and the most gorgeous loaves of bread I’ve ever seen. I tasted the Pâte à Choux, filled with salmon and topped with caviar and the tri-colored beet terrine. Oh, so special!

Yes, I saw celebrity chefs! Robert Irvine is cute, and as well-muscled in person as he is on TV! His dish consisted of a corn husk laid onto a plate, topped with beef short rib, splashed with the sauce and topped with what looked like an avocado cream and crunched tortilla chips.

Foie Gras Mousse with Edible Flowers

Pâte à Choux served on beet, carpaccio style

Blood orange cake with a sweet glaze & lavender ice cream

Nirvana version of a charcuterie board

The most epic Bloody Mar Bar you have ever seen

The pictures say it all. I had a blast and encourage you (with or without your Mom) to attend a food and wine festival if you get a chance. It is a HAPPENING! But, seriously… Mom is really the most special person on Earth, and if you need any food or entertaining advice helping her realize that, I am here. Email me at Jorj@Jorj.com and I will reply before May 12th!

 

A Whimsical Tea Party For Mom…with Grown Up Cake

A Whimsical Tea Party For Mom…with Grown Up Cake

 

I’ve been watching a lot of Downton Abbey in preparation for this blog post, and what I came away with is the very British idea that there’s no right or wrong here, there’s just afternoon tea. This is an excellent time to mix and match flower patterned china and silverware. Be whimsical when you set a table for Mom! Fill an old watering can with pretty, fresh picked flowers or a seasonal bouquet; garnish cold Italian sodas with fresh mint; set out a photo of the two of you together, propped up with a teddy bear or two. When you load up a tiered platter with goodies, it’s acceptable to use boxed ones or store bought cupcakes, so long as there’s at least one thing on the table that your heart and precious time really went into.

Like…

A well-made cake, yummy berry-loaded parfaits in cute glasses, crustless cucumber sandwiches – something like that. Pink lemonade makes a fine beverage in addition to the teas, as well as a bottle of champagne in case Mom wants to indulge. Keep in mind that green teas pair well with starchy breads and black teas are best with fruit cakes and scones.

I went combing through my most delicate pastry recipes and scones, and what I decided should be the premier recipe at my Mother’s Day Tea is a great big cake! And not just any cake…a Meyer lemon olive oil one, which appears in the sweets chapter of my upcoming book Canvas & Cuisine.  It takes me to my own personal happy place: Sorento, Italy. I remember sitting in an orchard there, glass of wine in hand, watching the sun dip in the blue sky, and breathing the air scented with fresh lemons. Meyer lemons are the closet ones I’ve found to remind me of the rich, fragrant lemons grown there. I can’t speak for your Mom’s own happy place, but she can borrow mine on May 13th!

 

Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Cake

with Thyme

serves a crowd

60 minute cuisine

 

For Cake

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup pastry flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup natural cane sugar

½ cup olive oil

2 large eggs

Juice of 2 Meyer lemons, about ¼ cup

Zest of 2 Meyer lemons, about 1 tablespoon

2 teaspoons chopped, fresh thyme, plus sprigs for garnish

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ cup whole milk

For the glaze:

¾ cup confectioners’ sugar

Juice of 1 medium Meyer lemon, about 2 tablespoons

Preheat the oven to 350°. Coat a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan with vegetable oil spray. Line the pan with parchment paper and spray again. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.

Use an electric mixer to combine the olive oil, eggs, lemon juice, lemon zest, thyme and vanilla until creamy. Mix in ⅓ of the flour, followed by ⅓ of the milk. Continue until all the flour and milk is incorporated into the batter. Pour the batter into the loaf pan. Bake until a tester comes out clean, about 40 to 50 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and cool completely. Remove the cake from the pan and place onto a serving platter

Place the confectioner’s sugar into a small bowl. Whisk in 2 tablespoons lemon juice until smooth. Pour the glaze over the cake. Garnish the platter with fresh lemon slices and thyme sprigs.

 

It’s Taco Tuesday! Wait…what?

It’s Taco Tuesday! Wait…what?

I know what you’re thinking. What does bratwurst have to do with Cinco de Mayo? Well, mi amigos, once you experience the Mexican treatment this German dish gets, you’ll see why it popped into my head as the perfect cookout meal. In honor of Taco Tuesday, I thought I’d shake things up with a recipe that lets me do two things: 1) Use up the veggies in my crisper and 2) debut a recipe that is not exactly Mexican in nature, but a celebration of different world cuisines in one dish. Enjoying a German bratwurst, presented as a colorful Mexican taco, is a very CANVAS & CUISINE-Y Thing to do! I’m talking about my work in progress, a cookbook that my good friend, Sue Fazio inspired with her beautiful oil paintings of food markets around the world.

Our collaborative cookbook features many of Sue’s gorgeous renderings of the ingredients in this “taco” dish – like Napa cabbage, red bell peppers and other scrumptious produce splattered across canvases, depicting yumminess from Spain to Viet Nam. I hope you’ll join my Facebook group, Scrumptious Possibilities to learn more! Just comment here or in my social media feed, and I’ll send you an invite.

Keep in mind: if Mom loves a good brat, you might wanna save this grill marked dinner for Mother’s Day weekend. It’s fun to enjoy poolside!

Grilled Taco Dogs

Serves 4 to 8

30 Minute Cuisine

2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into quarters
1 large red onion, peeled and sliced into ½-inch rounds
1 small head Napa cabbage, cut into quarters
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher sat
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
8 (3-ounce) bratwurst, you can substitute with your favorite artisanal sausage or hot dog
8 flour tortillas
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Lime wedges
Yellow mustard

Heat an outdoor grill (or grill pan) to medium high heat. Brush both sides of the peppers, onion and cabbage with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Grill the veggies until just beginning to char on the edges and soften in the center, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the veggies to a parchment lined baking sheet. Do not overcook. You don’t want mushy veggies on your dog! Drizzle the vinegar over the warm cabbage. This will simulate sauerkraut in the taco.

Cut the brats in half lengthwise and brush both sides with the remaining olive oil. Grill until the brats just begin to char, about 3 to 5 minutes. Lay the tortillas on the grill to warm, turning after just a couple of seconds.

Assemble the tacos by placing the tortilla onto a plate. Slice the onions and peppers into strips. Slice the cabbage into thin wedges. Lay one piece of brat onto the taco. Top with slices of vegetables. Sprinkle cilantro over the top and drizzle with a bit of lime juice. Squeeze a bit of mustard over the top and serve!

Special Mother’s Day Brunch Idea & Cookbook Offer!

Special Mother’s Day Brunch Idea & Cookbook Offer!

With Mother’s Day coming up, I perused my very best brunch recipes from my family style cookbook, SUNDAY BEST DISHES. Envisioning a breakfast fit for a queen, I ultimately chose (from so many delicious and syrupy possibilities) BANANAS FOSTER SKILLLET CAKES with…drumroll…cinnamon swirl syrup. This recipe was inspired by a New Orleans classic that features sautéed, caramelized bananas over melting ice cream.

This is a tribute to the original that gets better only if you travel to the Big Easy and eat at the Commanders Palace – home to perhaps the most famous brunch in America. But let’s let Mom sleep in today…The part she’ll love the best is using the extra syrup to dip sweet, crunchy bacon in. But bacon or no bacon, my guess is everyone in the family will want cinnamon swirl syrup – a SUNDAY BEST original – drizzled atop all their future pancakes.

Here’s how to prep the bacon for your Mother’s Day brunch:

Preheat your oven to 350°. Dredge bacon slices in brown sugar. Really pack that sugar onto the bacon. Place each strip onto a rack set into a baking sheet. Cook the bacon for 20 minutes or so, until it is browned and caramelized and yummy. Oh how happy are you!! Oh, by the way, Sunday Best Dishes is the perfect present for the Mom cook in your family. Order your copy from Amazon today and get special pricing.  I’ll send a personalized inscription for your Mom if you email me directly at jorj@jorj.com, subject line: Sign my cookbook!

Bananas Foster Skillet Cakes

with Cinnamon Swirl Syrup

MAKES 4 SERVINGS

Banana Cream

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk

¼ cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons dark molasses

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 whole banana, peeled and slice into rounds

Whisk together cream cheese, condensed milk, buttermilk, molasses and vanilla in a saucepan over medium high heat. Cook until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. Add water to thin the syrup to desired consistency if necessary. Stir in the bananas and keep warm.

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Skillet Cakes

1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

¼ cup granulated sugar

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon table salt

1 ½ cups buttermilk

3 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1 large egg

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 tablespoon canola oil, plus 1 tablespoon butter

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl. Whisk buttermilk, maple syrup, egg and melted butter in a separate bowl. Stir wet ingredient into the dry ingredients.

Heat an electric griddle (or non-stick skillet) over medium heat. Melt together the canola oil and 1 tablespoon butter. Ladle the batter into the pan. Cook until the batter bubbles and the edges begin to crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the skillet cakes and cook on the second side until golden, about 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove to a platter and keep warm in a 200° oven (or warming drawer). Repeat with the remaining batter using additional canola oil and butter as needed.

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Cinnamon Syrup

¾ cup pure maple syrup

¼ cup sweetened condensed milk

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons butter

Whisk the syrup, condensed milk and cinnamon in a saucepan over medium heat until just combined, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and swirl in the butter. Keep warm.

Build the dish by layering a skillet cake topped with a spoonful of banana cream. Continue as high as you dare. Pour cinnamon syrup over the top. Slice into wedges and serve.