Football Sunday

We are well into football season and I am thinking about tailgates. Though I am not much of a spectator sports fan, I would love to spend an afternoon eating delicious, warming food, sipping a glass of wine, and watching a football game. Truth be told, I could probably skip the game and be happy! But either way, before the chill of winter sets in I am going to spend as much time outdoors as possible. And tailgating is much more fun than raking leaves.

tailgate

Ready for the Tailgate Party!

Most of the parties I attend have a few coolers of beer and maybe a bottle or two of wine. But if your tailgate is this well stocked, you will be set for drinks. Then you just have to figure out what to eat. I took a poll of my nearest and dearest to see what is favored and it seems to be anything meaty and grilled. My son and his college buddies go for chili nachos, sandwiches and chips, while the adults wanted grilled sausages, ribs and steak. I am partial to bowls of chili and sliders. Since you are standing and eating, I think food that can be devoured in two bites is perfect.  If you are ambitious, you can bring along a grill or a small fire pit for cooking and for hand warming. I have just designed a little portable Fancy Fire Pit, so whether you do tailgates or beach parties, they are perfect!

Happy Fall! Joy

 

A Bowl of Pasta

I know there are lots of people out there who shun pasta. They are gluten-free, or have a gluten sensitivity, or just plain avoid the stuff in the name of weight control. But I, for one, adore a delicious bowl of pasta and I’ll take it any and every way. Let me just say at the outset that I am not a skinny girl, never have been, and maybe this love affair is the reason. What is a few extra pounds when you can eat Spaghetti alla Vongole, Rigatoni alla Bolognese, or the simplest of all, Spaghetti Olio Aglio (pasta with olive oil and garlic)? The current favorite in our family is something my son came up with and we call it, obviously enough, Sam’s pasta. It is simple and satisfying. Gently cook 4-5 chopped cloves of garlic over low heat in copious extra virgin olive oil for a minute or two. Dump this over a pound of cooked spaghetti and add in fistfuls of chopped parsley, basil and chives. Yum!

Yes, pasta is easy and cheap, but there is also the one bowl wonderfulness of it. If you sautee or roast up vegetables, you don’t need a salad and though I will admit to sometimes serving bread to clean up any last bits of sauce from the bowl, that is strictly carb excess. I recently foraged in my garden (okay, my one tomato plant), pantry and fridge and in less than a half hour, I had a bowl pasta with vegetables and herbs that was fresh and delicious.

Vegetables, garlic and fresh herbs make for a delicious pasta sauce

Vegetables, garlic and fresh herbs make for a delicious pasta sauce

It this hasn’t already convinced you to start the water boiling, there is also the portability. Spoon your creation into a generous, deep bowl and take it outside to enjoy in front of the fire or the sunset.  A  bowl of penne with the last of the summer vegetables sounds like a perfect meal to me, and I will be enjoying mine with a glass of wine and a fire in front of my Fancy Fire Pit.

I can’t wait for dinner! Joy

 

Minestrone for Marcella

Though it is forecast to be quite warm and summery this week, I looked at the vegetables in my fridge and decided it is a good day for Minestrone soup. Perhaps this was precipitated by the sad news that Marcella Hazan, the queen of Italian cooking, died yesterday. The soup that I make, and have been making for 20 years, is based on her recipe.

Marcella's Minestrone

Marcella’s Minestrone

When I was pregnant with my first child, 21 years ago (yikes!!), I had the incredible good luck, que fortuna, to move to Milan, Italy for my husband’s job. We arrived in Italy with our dog, a few suitcases, my chef’s knives and a copy of Marcella’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. I figured that this was the only reference I would need to navigate the food markets and learn to make delicious Italian food. And indeed, in the three years we spent in Italy, in addition to having two children and learning to speak the language, I learned to think about food like an Italian and cook it too. My babies gnawed on a thick rind of Parmesan cheese instead of teething biscuits and Spaghetti Carbonara is still always requested on birthdays and special occasions.

Over the years, I have change the soup recipe a little. I leave out the Parmesan cheese rind (though it gives a delicious creaminess to the soup) and sometimes I skip the potatoes to make it lighter. But I still make it the way Marcella instructs, sauteeing onions, carrots and celery in a little olive oil and adding the vegetables one at a time, cooking them in the oil to caramelize them and give the soup richness and depth of flavor. It goes without saying that a steaming bowl of Minestrone makes a perfect Indian Summer dinner, eaten outdoors on this lovely last day of September. I am going to have mine with a glass of Chianti, sitting in front of my Fancy Fire Pit, and drink to Marcella. I did not know her, but she taught me much about cooking like an Italian and for that I am grateful.

Salute, Joy

 

Back to Work!

It was a long, hot summer, but sadly, it is over and I find myself in September, facing the first day of fall. The children are back in school and I need to get back to writing! I am not sure if anyone actually missed my blog posts but I am back at it, so cry no more. Along with the fun I had this summer, I did quite a bit of work and spent some time in Chicago at a trade show. I took my 20-year old son with me and he was very helpful indeed. He is a great schmoozer and salesman, so trade shows are a natural for him. It was also great to be able to spend some time alone with him, something in very short supply.

Our newest Fancy Fire Pit, Onda, in the boot at IGC

Our newest Fancy Fire Pit, Onda, in the boot at IGC

We rolled out our newest design at the show, the Onda. It was a big hit!  It is a curvy, graceful fire pit which would be gorgeous in any garden. I am making one for my own garden, just in time for the cooler evenings of autumn.  Though my children love to light up the fire pit in the heat of the summer, I prefer these beautiful September evenings for toasting marshmallows and toasting friends around the fire.

I plan to start this week. Happy Fall! Joy

Give Me S’mores!

By now, anyone who is out there reading my blog thinks that either I am outside, lounging in front of my Fancy Fire Pit eating and drinking, or I am inside dreaming up things to eat and drink. This is partly true. I do love to cook and eat. Unfortunately, I have to do other things as well. Exercise for one, so I can eat and drink without too much guilt. And run my business and my household. But given a choice, I might spend an inordinate amount of time planning what to cook, cooking and eating, punctuated by trips to the garden, trips to the grocery store or farm market and trips to the couch to read books. I am hopelessly old-fashioned and still read actual books!

But I digress… what I really wanted to talk about is s’mores.  When you go into business making fire pits, you end up talking about s’mores often and making them even more.  My first summer in business, I came up with a frozen s’more pie. It is delicious and very easy to make.

First, make a graham cracker crumb crust in a pie plate and cover the bottom of the pie with melted milk chocolate. Then give it a rest in the fridge to firm up the chocolate. Then put a generous cup of mini marshmallow on a cookie sheet and run them under the broiler for a few minutes or until they are browned and crisp. Let the marshmallows cool. Soften a pint of vanilla ice cream and fold in the browned marshmallow. Spread this into the pie crust and put it in the freezer until you are ready to serve. Just before serving shave a pile of milk chocolate curls onto the top of the pie and voila, S’more Pie!

It is not quite as “summer at camp” as an actual s’more but it is fun for something different. And if you are committed to the whole toasted marshmallow, melting chocolate thing, take a look at these marshmallow trees a friend bought for me. They make alot of marshmallows at once and they are really beautiful just leaning decoratively against the fire pit!

Roasting with the marshmallow tree.

Roasting with the marshmallow tree.

Waiting for fire..

Waiting for fire..

 

 

 

 

 

 

However you make them, s’mores are one of the great treats of summer. Happy toasting! Joy

Summer Fun

This is going to be the summer of the popsicle. I know, you are thinking “what??”. It is a big statement to make. I mean, they do require major cooking skills and equipment, not! Last summer I tried to make alot of popsicles. I found delicious recipes and made a few kinds. I even perfected a dairy free fudgesicle. But I did not have the best popsicle maker and the little plastic sticks that came with it kept disappearing. So for this summer I invested in a simpler gadget that uses old-fashioned wooden sticks and I am anxiously awaiting its arrival. With this week’s little heat wave, they will be the perfect treat.

Mango-Peach Ice Cream with Strawberry

These are fruity and healthy but you can make them adult with the addition of a little rum or vodka. I saw a recipe for a mango yogurt pop that looked creamy and yummy and is healthy too!  For lazy summer afternoons, they are the perfect food- easy to make, easier to eat and no clean-up required! Once my nifty new pop maker arrives, I will start testing up the recipes.

Stay tuned, Joy

 

Rainy Day Blues

Usually, I love a cool, rainy day in the summer. Mostly because I am a lazy gardener and rain means less work for me. The watering will have been taken care of, thank you very much, and weeding is much easier following a good soaking. But a rainy week with temperatures barely reaching 60 is a little too much of a good thing. I don’t doubt that my trees will have growth rings the size of a tractor tire, but a little heat right about now would be lovely.

garden1

 

garden2

In the absence of heat, I am going to pretend. Tonight, I am going to make myself a tropical cocktail, turn the heat up (I know, it is late June, but I still need it in my house!) and bask. Summer cocktails in my neck of the woods are sailor’s drinks, Dark and Stormys or dark rum and tonic with lots of lime. The latter is not really a sailor’s drink but it is one I love in the summer.  Let’s drink to a hot and steamy summer with a sprinkling of cool rainy days.

Happy Summer! Joy

Sisyphus and laundry

This post has nothing to do with lovely evenings spent around a fire pit or fabulous locations where I would like to place my next fire pit. But it is real and it is my life. My two daughters came home from school last week and my life is the laundry room. I know I should be letting them do it all and staying out of it.  But I am like the mom of the two-year old who can’t stand to let their toddler set the table or make the bed. It is just so much faster to do it myself. The whole project takes a long messy week and would probably take two weeks for them to do it and lots of annoyance on my part so…

pants

I feel like sysyphus. With all three of my children home for the summer, the laundry becomes a constant chore that I have not missed this past year.  I am so happy to have them all home, even with the mess and the tripled grocery bills, but it does take some getting used to.

The next post will be back to interesting food and fun around the fire pit, I promise!

Happy Summer! Joy

 

Shake it up!

When my children were small, I used to make them smoothies for breakfast. It was so simple and healthy, filled with yogurt, milk and fruit. And they loved them. I haven’t pulled out my blender in quite a while, but lately I have seen lots of articles featuring milk shakes and I thought it was time for the blender to have a space on my counter again.  Summer is coming, or so I am told, and I love a dairy free smoothie for my own breakfast, made with silken tofu, soy milk and fruit. And who doesn’t adore a creamy, thick milk shake for an indulgent treat!

I am not one to sip a shake with my meal, but I love it as liquid dessert. Add a shot of something sweet and boozy and you have the perfect treat to enjoy around your Fancy Fire Pit. With that in mind, I whipped up a few adult milk shakes last night.

Getting ready for summer sipping!

Getting ready for summer sipping!

The beauty of milk shakes is the ease of them. Just pile ice cream, ice or milk, depending on how decadent you like your shakes, fruit or chocolate syrup, and a little shot of something, like Kahlua and Irish Cream, in the case of this one. Whir it up and you have something creamy and delicious.

The thermostat outdoors is still hovering in the low 60s, but when summer does actually begin, I will be ready! My fire pit is piled high with wood and my blender is pulled out and primed for action.

Happy Sipping! Joy

Green Acres

Can you tell it was a long winter?  I am not normally this excited to see the grass turn green and start to grow. One of the benefits of travel, even if for pleasure, is that I can always look for new spots to put my Fancy Fire Pits! Just this past weekend, while on a yoga retreat, I found the most lovely spot for a fire pit.

What a perfect spot for a Fancy FIre Pit!

What a perfect spot for a Fancy FIre Pit!

It had all the necessities, endless green lawn, peaceful vibe and fabulous view of the mountains and lake. Since it was at a yoga center, there will be no drinks served around the fire pit other than herbal tea or fruit juice but we can enjoy the beauty all the same.

Happy Spring! Joy