Breakfast is my favorite meal

I’ve never considered myself a big fan of the Bed and Breakfast experience.  Paying money to stay in someone else’s house, with (potentially) someone else’s pets that might make me sneeze, eating food directly from someone’s kitchen… the thought of it kind of weirded me out.  Why would I do that when I could stay in a standardized hotel, one maybe even with a pool?

Well, I’ve given it a try a couple of times now.  The first time was in the Irish countryside near Killarney and the Ring of Kerry.  That place was hard to beat, complete with Irish rain, tea, and owner John’s Irish brogue.  Short of an Irish B&B, I didn’t have plans to try another.

That being said, there is something romantic about staying in a B&B in the nearby Finger Lakes of upstate New York in autumn, with the leaves in full color.  I wanted to try an overnight without the stress of a big trip, to see if it would be possible to travel with food allergies and have a good time.  We stayed at the 1897 Beekman House in Dundee, NY, just off Seneca Lake.  I talked with the owner Chuck earlier in the week to discuss my complicated food situation with him, and he told me he might just plan to make the blueberry-stuffed French toast.  Yummmm.  A trained chef, I trusted that this home-made breakfast would be safe, and it turned out to be as delicious as it was safe.

My boyfriend, “A,” and I arrived on Friday night to the quietest town I have ever seen.  We explored the 1897 house with its several parlors, took a short walk (mostly to hear the leaves crunch and explore the one-block town), and settled in for the evening.  The next morning, we walked down the grand staircase bleary-eyed and looking forward to our breakfast.  I had seen the menu and faltered on the rum-caramelized pineapple (rum sometimes uses unsafe spices).  After a whispered conversation with “A,” I decided to say something.  Hesitantly, I spoke up to Gerry, clenching my hands with the nerves of a potentially awkward conversation.

“Gerry, I noticed that the menu says the pineapple is caramelized with rum.”

“Oh, yes, it’s delicious!”

“Well, I actually often stay away from rum, just because it sometimes has spices.  If you don’t mind, I think I’ll pass on the pineapple course.”

“Oh, well let me tell Chuck.  I think this rum is okay, but if you’re not comfortable, we can whip something else up…”

“I’m fine to just keep enjoying my cranberry-orange scones with honey butter, so don’t even worry about making something else!  Thank you so much.”

Gerry went back into the kitchen, and quickly Chuck appeared (in his chef’s coat) through the swinging door, holding the rum.  We repeated the conversation, and I assured them that I didn’t mind enjoying the (fabulous) home-made scones and tropical fruit smoothie with my coffee.  (Mind you, this is all before the main course of blueberry stuffed French toast had even arrived!).  They accepted my statement with ease and retreated back to the kitchen.

Minutes later Gerry came through holding two plates – one with the caramelized pineapple rum for “A,” and one with a fresh slice of pineapple for me.  The scoop of lime coconut sorbet sat clean in the middle of the pineapple, surrounded by thin slices of strawberry.  With a moment’s notice, they had found a way to accommodate my needs – and all without making me uncomfortable or feel at fault for my food allergies.  We finished the breakfast with the blueberry-stuffed French toast, our own stomachs stuffed to the brim with breakfast.

“A” and I then set out for the nearby craft market and to hike Watkins Glen.  Our bellies were full, my nerves over breakfast were easing, and the experience of Chuck and Gerry’s B&B set our adventure off on the right foot.

I knew that we would be home for dinner, and having only one real meal to worry about allowed me to enjoy the rest of the day.  Traveling by B&B allowed me to be a part of a mini-travel (and culinary) adventure, with the safety of trusted Chef Chuck’s home-made breakfast leading the day.

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Nancy’s Apple Crisp

It’s apple season!  I love the changing seasons, and in upstate New York, the changing leaves and dipping temperatures make for a truly beautiful fall season.  With crunching leaves comes great responsibility… that is, responsibility to take advantages of the produce of the season.  Namely, apples.

Here is Nancy’s Apple Crisp recipe:

Set the oven to 375.  Peel, core and slice up five to seven large apples.  (Nancy recommends using different kinds of apples in order to add to the overall taste and texture).  Place the apples in a baking dish and squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the apples, and mix together.

Combine and mix with a fork (until “crumbly”):

1/2 cup softened butter

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

(**Johanna addition: 1 teaspoon vanilla)

Pour the mixture on top of the apples and bake for about an hour, until the topping is browned and the juice is bubbly.

Thanks, Nancy!  YUM.

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*Note: this recipe originates from the Joy of Cooking’s apple crisp recipe, changed for personal taste.

Rombauer, I. S., & Becker, M. R. (1975). Joy of cooking. Simon and Schuster.

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Cooking Frenzy

I’ve noticed I have a new habit.  After traveling and witnessing all the foods that I either a) can’t eat or b) can eat but with a very high level of stress, I return home and get the itch to cook.  I go to the grocery store full of ideas and pick up ingredients for this, for that, and oh I could use this to make a new batch of that!

I return home and proceed to enter a cooking frenzy.  After a summer full of wedding celebrations and nearly half the weekends spent away, I have just been waiting to have more than a minute at home so that I could start mixing, baking and cooking.

I stocked up, and I made balsamic cheddar quinoa with fall apples, I made twice-baked potatoes, and I made bacon.  I made pasta sauce and filled four mason jars.  I filled up the fridge.

No room for even a salad, the Tupperware overwhelmed the shelf space.  Anyone else looking inside might have balked, incredulous at the Tupperware that had multiplied on the fridge shelves overnight.  I, on the other hand, smiled.  I had made it, I had filled the fridge, and I would eat it.  With maybe a little bit of help from “A”.  I turned from the open fridge door back to the cookbook under my elbows, dreams of home-made empanadas floating through my head.

Two days later, the weekend struck and I made maple-bacon biscuits to use the rest of the bacon.  I made quiche.  I went to the store and bought the ingredients for my vegetarian lasagna.  I made pickles.  The fridge was stocked, the freezer was filling up, and my stomach was happy.  I can always rest a little easier knowing I have some “safe” emergency meals in the freezer.  Most people might keep a frozen pizza or ready-to-microwave meal.  I keep leftover veggie lasagna, home-made meatballs and personal tangy barbeque sauce.

I’ve done this several times now, entering a bit of a cooking frenzy in the days after travel.  I think I like to overcompensate for all the foods I missed and couldn’t eat while away.  I respond to the billboards on the highway in defiance, saying, “Fine, I can’t eat this now, but I can darn well make it – and make it better – when I get home.”  I get home, and I not only need to fill my fridge and my stomach, but the hole in my food-heart that grew in the time I spent away.

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Filed under Cooking, Personal