Posts filed under ‘Food’

Blackberries without Hands

When the Bucket List Meme circulated Facebook, I did have one item to add to the checklist.

“Picking and eating wild blackberries on a hot summer day”

They are tasty. They are refreshing. And when you have really earned them– when you are hot and tired and saturated in sweat– surprise blackberries can actually alter the buoyancy of one’s soul.

I was so focused on looking for mushrooms during the Keffer Oak hike, that I totally forgot about the best part of hiking in August. Unfortunately by the time we encountered the blackberries on the trail, Tony Airaghi and I had (perhaps irresponsibly) handled nearly a dozen different types of mushrooms. We couldn’t possibly use our tainted hands. Did that mean we had to be deprived of one of life’s simplest and most fulfilling pleasures?

Sinking Creek Mountain - Eating Blackberries without Hands
Tony Finds a Way to Eat Blackberries

Nope! : )

August 31, 2009 at 1:00 pm 2 comments

Week of Produce

Saturday July 25th, I had a great day at Elizabeth City’s Downtown Waterfront Market. I acquired a bounty of fresh, healthy produce and carried it back to my home on Hunter Street. I was feeling pretty darn pleased with myself. I was going to ingest all these delicious nutrients and I was supporting local growers at the same time.

It wasn’t until I plopped my purchases onto the kitchen counter that I realized, “Huh. We have six days to eat all this before we leave for the beach.”

And that we did. In the past week, the following items were ingested:

Chunky Vegetable Chili
1 onion
2 green peppers
1 starship squash

Eggplant Parmesan
1 eggplant
1 bunch of scallions

Tomato Caprese
3 tomatoes
fresh basil
fresh oregano

5 peaches
5 bananas
1 tub blueberries
1 nectarine

Fresh Carrot Apple Juice
2 pounds carrots
2 apples

Side Dishes
6 ears of corn
1 batch of asparagus

Blackberry Cobbler
1 tub blackberries

Of course, we did have some help from the neighborhood kids… They assisted with the eating and the prep!

Elizabeth City - Tykee Smiles with Corn on the Cob
Tykee Eats Corn on the Cob

Elizabeth City - Jasiya, Qualik and Tykee Prep Asparagus
Jasiya, Qualik and Tykee Prep Asparagus

Elizabeth City - Tykee Snags More Asparagus
Ryan Cooks Blackened Tuna Steaks… While Tykee Helps Himself to Asparagus

It was such a delicious and fulfilling week. Perhaps I should start off every week with what seems to be “too much produce”.

August 2, 2009 at 11:17 pm 3 comments

Real German Cuisine Challenge: Krabbenragout

My first, Christina, at An American Expat in Deutschland has been running a Real German Cuisine Challenge with her readers. It took me about two months, but I’ve done one of the recipes!

The dish I made was from the Krabbenragout Challenge (Full Recipe from Amiexpat). It features shrimp and spargel– aka white asparagus. I’ve been eyeing the recipe for a while and today was the day! Farm Fresh was carrying white asparagus and I had some leftover cream from a dish last week.

When I’m prepping vegetables, I tend to do it outside (See Fun with Brussel Sprouts from June 2007). It gives me some extra time outside with the dogs. Today was no exception– the asparagus and the shrimp were peeled outside. Jimmie, Henry and Stench were on hand.

Krabbenragout - Peeling Shrimp with Henry
Peeling Shrimp with Henry (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Krabbenragout - Peeling Shrimp with Jimmie
Peeling Shrimp with Jimmie (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Krabbenragout - Lazy Stench
Stench Relaxes on the Porch (Photo by Ryan Somma)

I didn’t take many pictures of the dish preparation. My kitchen is no where near as pristine as the other participants. Here is one photo that strategically frames out the mess. : )

Krabbenragout - Marinating Shrimp, Draining Spargel
Shrimp Marinating, Spargel Draining

Like Christina and Yelli from 50% of my DNA, I substituted the white pepper from the recipe with black pepper. Instead of rice, we served the dish with some multicolored pasta. I also added mushrooms to the sauce when I added the shrimp, the spargel and the peas. Mushrooms are a fixture is almost everything we make. They are especially good in Sloppy Joes and Chili. They were great in the Krabbenragout as well.

We LOVED the final dish. Very, very tasty.

Krabbenragout - Ryan with Final Dish
Ryan with the Final Dish

In our household, we typically end up feeding neighborhood kids whether we intend to or not. Tonight, when six year old Tykee showed an interest I let him have a small portion. He loved it as well– which actually is not surprising. He and his older brother have both demonstrated a fondness for steamed green asparagus and none of the children have exhibited an aversion to mushrooms. Tykee very much enjoyed the meal.

Krabbenragout - Tykee Looks Up From Dish
Tykee and German Cuisine

“Those aspears are good,” he concluded.

It took me a moment, but I realized he was talking about the asparagus.

Tykee enjoyed the meal so much, that I had to exercise a skill I have learned with Sloppy Joes and Tacos.

Declining requests for more. : )

July 1, 2009 at 9:49 pm 9 comments

Cookie Decorating 2008

As I’ve mentioned in previous years, my family has a tradition of making and decorating Christmas cookies the day after Thanksgiving. This year may have been the year my mother has been waiting for. Instead of bloody amputees, BEOTCH Christmas trees or the army of butts we saw in 2007, we actually had an impressive inventory of “nice” cookies. Pretty butterflies, unicorns and ice cream cone cookies outnumbered the typical designs.

This year’s cookies featured butterflies instead of butts!

More pleasantly themed cookies

But, of course, we did have some unique appearances sneak in- DNA, Hydrogen Atoms, geek bunnies, monsters and a Kurt Cobain Cookie.

Monster Bunny, DNA, Hydrogen Atom

Kurt Cobain Cookie– with cigarette!

I tried to make an AT Logo and an American Chestnut Leaf, but both of those ventures didn’t come out well, particular the leaf. When it cooked, the cookie expanded and all my great American Chestnut teeth plumped up and rounded out.  So after the oven had its way, I was left with a Chestnut Oak Leaf instead.

Meh. An attempt at an AT Christmas Cookie

2008 was one of our more heavily attended cookie decoratings. This year we had Aaron, Meagan, Jay, Jacqueline, Mom, myself, Carolyn, Ryan Somma, Kipp, Stacy, Louise, Jenn (the bridesmaid I got to escort!), Christina and I think our youngest attendee to date– Oliver!

Stacy, Christina and Louise cut cookies

Meagan, Ryan, Mom, Me, Christina, Stacy, Louise (Photo by ae) – Note if you look at the large version, you can see I have icing on my face!

Louise, Stacy, Kipp decorating cookies

My brother prepares to decorate…by wearing latex gloves!

The youngest attendee – Oliver (shortly before Sunny stole his cookie)

As always, I enjoyed our annual cookie decorating event and I particularly enjoyed ingesting our lovely handiwork.

Additional Pictures
My Cookie Decorating Pictures
Aaron’s Cookie Decorating Pictures

December 7, 2008 at 8:28 pm 4 comments

One Ziplock Bag Meals: Tomato Caprese

Today on Stacy’s blog he links to an article that shares some “one-pot meals” for under $10. Since I’ve been living very minimally the last few months with almost everything I own (including all my pots, pans, plates and bowls) in storage, I was able to provide Stacy with a “one-ziplock bag” meal!

Supper made entirely in a ziplock bag

It’s tomato caprese (tomatoes with mozzarella cheese). Ryan Somma taught me the recipe and I’ve been eating it for supper pretty regularly since August. In fact, I had it last night (ask Matt)!

Ziplock Tomato Caprese

1 package of cherry or grape tomatoes
Mozzarella cheese
Olive Oil

1) Rinse tomatoes and if necessary, cut cheese into bite-size chunks
2) Put tomatoes and cheese in ziplock baggie. I try to make relatively equal proportions of cheese and tomatoes
3) Pour in some olive oil (amount is your preference- I like enough to coat everything with just a little leftover at the bottom)
4) Salt and sprinkle oregano to taste
5) Seal bag and mix all ingredients together
6) EAT!!!!

And here is the best part about this meal! It is so easy and convenient that you can do this hiking or camping!!! This meal made an appearance at Assateague this past summer.

P.S. If you do have the luxury of pots and pans and you like Thai food, keep an eye on Christina’s blog! She just started a series of Thai Cooking Lesson videos!

October 17, 2008 at 1:04 pm 9 comments

Week of New Tastes

Last weekend a few friends of mine went on a backpacking trip with no food. They aimed to eat only what they could forage, to take advantage of the tastes and bounty the great forests of the Shenandoah Mountains had to offer. Their menu was vastly different than the usual restaurant offerings, so they got to experience a variety of new tastes.

This week, I also got to try some new tastes. But I got to do it from the comfort of my own home (which by the way is For Sale!!!), with ready access to Food Lion to supplement my diet AND unlike one of my friends, I would not end up getting dreadfully ill from bad crabapples.

This week, I tasted the products of two different types of trees that were growing locally.

Chinese Chestnut
Sunday, I met a crew at Catawba’s famous The Home Place for Brunch. For those of you who don’t know, The Home Place is incredibly popular and there is usually a lengthy queue for a table. While we waited, I wandered the grounds and found a Chinese Chestnut growing, surrounded by tons of fallen burrs. I grabbed a few and a leaf, mostly for my continued education about the American Chestnut.

But then… those chestnuts sat in my car and looked delicious. So I decided to eat one. It turns out it is quite easy! You crack the shell a little and stick it in the microwave to heat it up.

Educational material….that I would eventually eat.

OMG! It is DELICIOUS!!!!!! And what boggles my mind– the American Chestnut is supposed to taste even better! #@*&^%!!! How is that even possible?!?!

That one chestnut was SO delicious that the next day, I walked my dogs and just happened to mosey by another Chinese Chestnut tree I spied on Givens Road. I had every intent on snagging another chestnut to devour. Alas, the squirrels beat me to it.

So Plan B. That one chestnut was SO delicious that the next day, I groped underneath the passenger seat of my car (my very very very messy car) because I believed I had another chestnut that rolled underneath it. I was right! I found it. Muahaha.

If you haven’t heard of a pawpaw, then I needed to work better on selling the Passion for Pawpaws Roanoke Times article in my Links for 2008-10-08 post. My bad.

Quick synopsis about pawpaws- They are the U.S.’s largest edible native fruit. But because they have a short shelf-life, they were never cultivated, so we don’t hear about them. That doesn’t mean they aren’t great– they were one of George Washington’s favorite desserts! That’s right– if the Father of Our Country did the Mosiac Meme, tile #9 may very well look like:

Part of George Washington’s Mosaic Meme? (Photo by Vicki’s Pics)

I had already heard a couple of great things about pawpaws, but the Roanoke Times article sealed the deal. I needed to eat one and since they were fruiting now, I needed one STAT.

I sent out a flurry of emails and even a Twitter inquiry, looking for pawpaws. My search did not look promising. Over the years I have built up a lot of solid contacts of outdoorsy folks. And yet, half the people replied, “What’s a pawpaw?” and then the other half told *me* to get *them* one.

I did web searches. I stopped by the Blacksburg Farmer’s Market. I did more web searches. All to no avail.

And then……

Craig’s List!

Someone was selling them on Craig’s List…and not too far from my house!!! Four for a Dollar! Four! A Dollar! I ran over there in the rain, deposited my dollar and grabbed four of them. I was pretty full from supper, so I let the fruit sit on my counter overnight.

I woke up the next morning to my entire house smelling like decadent pawpaw. They are very fragrant! With the exception of checking email and posting to Facebook (about pawpaws), the first thing I did that morning was scurry downstairs and eat a pawpaw.

OMG! It is DELICIOUS!!!!!! I keep reading that it is like a cross between a bananna and a mango. I would actually describe it as reminiscent of mango crème brûlée. And do you know what my favorite dessert was on the Mosiac Meme? Crème brûlée! I think George Washington may be on to something here.

That one pawpaw was SO delicious that I found myself sucking on the skin just to get as much flavor as was absolutely possible.

First thing in the morning (aka no makeup or shower)- sucking on a pawpaw

Anyway, if you live in the Blacksburg area and want to try some for yourself– you are in luck! Visit 1007 Turner Street. There is a self service fruit stand in the front yard. The owners expect to have pawpaws for two more weeks.

What’s Next?

What my next new tree taste? I gathered up some nuts from Larry’s Shagbark Hickory trees. I’m going to let the nuts dry out a couple of months before cracking into them!

October 11, 2008 at 9:01 pm 10 comments

Pig Pickin’ 2008

Saturday, was Kathleen and Charlie’s annual Pig Pickin’ in Craig County, Virginia. I’ve attended this event a few times over the years– the first being 1998…ten years ago! Time flies!

A lot of my immediate friends who were with me in 1998 have moved away to different locales. For example, Ryan S moved to Maryland. Brian and Jodi are in North Carolina. But looking at the 1998 pictures, I see do someone who made both 1998 and 2008.

Tony Airaghi at 1998 Pig Pickin’

Tony Airaghi at 2008 Pig Pickin’

This event has always been dog friendly, but this year was the very first time I contributed to the pack. Jimmie accompanied me! I was pleased with his attendence. With a few infractions involving interest in the garbage or some of the dead opossums (a staple), he was well behaved. Poor Henry’s back foot is still weak, so I felt it was best to keep him away from all the other dogs and excitement.

Jimmie (on left) playing with some other dogs

Most of the time, Jimmie just chilled around me (those are my feet)

Last year, I got a lot of photos of the pig chopping process. This year, I went ahead and took a short video:

The food has consistently stayed delicious for a decade now and the party is always a fun time. I’ll part with a few more pictures:


Mavis Yawns

I thought Charlie looked especially manly holding his Kahlua White Russian

A brief rainstorm (it did not stop the party)

Roasting marshmallows

Plenty of more pictures from the Pig Pickin’ 2008 are up on my Flickr site.

June 30, 2008 at 11:58 pm 2 comments

Easiest Lent Ever

Well, it turns out Lent 2008 was my easiest Lent ever.  The leap to giving up red meat wasn’t as difficult as I had anticipated and I adjusted well to the text messaging restriction. 

Courtesy of text messaging, 2008 was also one of more amusing Lents.  I allowed myself to read text messages, but I wouldn’t write back.  This opened the door for a series of taunting messages.  When they knew I was on the road Derek, Sean and Larry all found it fit to send messages like this one:

From: Derek
Mar 17, 12:35 pm

Haha you can’t reply 🙂

Meanwhile, one of my old co-workers took a very different approach.  He simply sent text messages to tell me when HE was driving.

From: Mark
Feb 21, 6:44 PM

I’m driving.  🙂

Giving up red meat, on the other hand, has been educational.  It taught me just how effective ad campaigns are.  You have no idea how many people approached me, insisting that pork is white meat.  It’s not!  The National Pork Board can use its slogan all it wants, but nutrition-wise PORK IS RED MEAT.  From the USDA Fact Sheet on Pork:

Why is Pork a “Red” Meat?
Oxygen is delivered to muscles by the red cells in the blood. One of the proteins in meat, myoglobin, holds the oxygen in the muscle. The amount of myoglobin in animal muscles determines the color of meat. Pork is classified a “red” meat because it contains more myoglobin than chicken or fish. When fresh pork is cooked, it becomes lighter in color, but it is still a red meat. Pork is classed as “livestock” along with veal, lamb and beef. All livestock are considered “red meat.”

As far as post-Lent, I’ve sort of had quite a reunion with red meat (including that deceptive pork).  A Pot Roast Burger from Red Robin, Meatball Sub from Substation II, Pork BBQ from Due South and a Victoria Filet with Horseradish Crust from Outback have all been ingested in just this week.  Hopefully, this reunion is brief and I’ll settle down to substantially less red meat.

But on a positive note, chriggy and ClintJCL may be happy to learn that I’m still not typing away while driving.  I’m aiming for that change to stick!  🙂

March 28, 2008 at 10:51 am 4 comments

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles

These little things have been my contribution to a couple of pot lucks.  Everytime I make them, I have to dig up an old journal entry (I originally got it from a magazine when Sean was having his foot surgery.  I didn’t write it down, but it looks like that magazine is “Taste of Home“).  That requirement ends here!

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 cups all purpose flour (I have also used whole wheat flour with success)
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup minature chocolate chips
1/2 cup walnuts (optional)
~14 ounces milk chocolate (not semi-sweet chocolate) dipping chocolate
~1 ounce baker’s white chocolate (optional)


  1. Cream the butter and brown sugar until fluffy
  2. Add the flour, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla and mix well
  3. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.
  4. Shape into little balls and place them on baking sheets or plates lined with wax paper.  I typically make them slightly larger than bite-size, roughly 1 1/4″ in diameter.
  5. Refrigerate for an hour or until firm.  Sometimes I will pull them out after a half hour and reroll them when they can better retain their shape. 
  6. Melt the milk chocolate coating (I use a double broiler). 
  7. Dip each ball in the coating and place back on wax paper.  A dipping spoon makes this effort a lot easier! 🙂
  8. Refrigerate for 15 minutes until the coating sets.
  9. Place the white chocolate bars into a ziplock bag (ideally near a bottom corner of the bag) and microwave it for 15 seconds.  If I don’t have white chocolate, I use extra milk chocolate for the garnish.
  10. Take scissors and and snip off a tiny, tiny, tiny piece of one of the bottom corners of the zip lock bag (ideally the corner closest to the melted chocolate).  Looky here!  An instant pastry bag!
  11. Drizzle the white chocolate over the truffles.  I’ve found you don’t need many artistic skills for this step– anything tends to look neat.
  12. Place truffles back in the fridge for 5-10 more minutes until the white chocolate sets.

December 18, 2007 at 11:07 am 23 comments

The Goatse Christmas Cookie

This year I got to participate in my family’s Black Friday tradition of decorating Christmas Cookies.  As I’ve mentioned before, the results of our efforts aren’t your usual festive designs.  In past years, we’ve had cookies that read “BEOTCH”, cookies that read “JACKASS” and tons of mangled cookies covered in blood. 

This year started off innocently enough.  Justin Girton, a first timer, was given the honor of cutting out the first cookie.  He took some pause to review and select just the right cutter for the 2007 Kickoff.

The selections Justin got to choose from

It took some time, but Justin finally selected a donkey.  He pushed the cutter into the sugar cookie dough and we were on our way!

Justin cuts the first cookie!  (Photo by Aaron Evans)

It didn’t take long before the uh…creativity… in the room started to flow.  This year, Carolyn brought along a special request from a friend.  He wanted to have a “butt” cookie.  As is a good idea with any design request, this cookie coveter provider a drawing of exactly what he wanted:

You should always draw out the type of cookie you want

And so our team did what we could, producing a number of butts.  I believe Carolyn’s friend would be pleased with some of the results:

Finished project and original specifications (Photo AND cookie by Aaron Evans)

When it came to icing time, we were left with the question, “How does one decorate a butt cookie?”  Welp, it turns out there isn’t one answer.  We had icing tattoos, icing thongs and then some convenient chocolate icing made it easy to… well, make a mess.

Butt cookie with a red icing tattoo.  (Photo AND cookie by Aaron Evans)

A butt cookie with a thin, white thong

A butt cookie decorated with… chocolate icing. (Photo by Aaron Evans)

It is safe to say 2007’s cookie decorating experience was already a little racy.  Well, then someone (who wishes to remain nameless) took it much, much further (Click More to Continue):


November 25, 2007 at 12:06 am 11 comments

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