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Goodbye My Bad Ass Gentle Giant

Daddy joined mom right before the holidays and the world is less without him.  The first time I remember my daddy (I come from a blended family) I was 6, and sent to spend the night with him at his house to play with my soon to be new brother Gerry.  I hardly knew this man but immediately he felt safe and kind.  At 6 years old what stood out to me was dinner – and how unlike in my house, Gerry was not made to eat his peas if he didn’t want to!  I was jealous.  That soon changed, as under mom’s roof we all belonged to the “clean plate club” whether we considered “the plate” edible or not.

A quiet man with a dry sense of humor, daddy (now on my birth certificate via adoption) was a great provider and source of stability.  He and mom did have their rows though, and you could always tell when, if the silence was deafening and Wendy’s came home in a bag for dinner.  Daddy’s humor did NOT extend to practical jokes (when performed on HIM) as mom soon found out when, their first April Fools Day together, she made pancakes with cardboard in the middle of them.  Bless her heart she thought that was going to be so funny, and I believe I witnessed daddy’s long gray face for the first time that day … this was a face that over the years we all knew to quietly back away from…few and far between, but when he blew, he BLEW!  One time, mom was “on strike” and was not at home for dinner, so I thought I might help and make hamburgers.   Daddy loves beef – I’ll make him feel good, right?!?  I quickly learned, when daddy threw the burgers across the room, that he doesn’t like creativity in his mix.  No onion, garlic, worchestershire, etc., – as the years wore on and my culinary skills developed, I had to be careful not to get too fancy on daddy’s “meat and potato” mentality.  A rare steak with the blood poured over the baked potato, and he’s in heaven, thank you very much!  Later in life daddy would develop an interest in cooking; we shared bread recipes and I was able to give him a few cooking tools that helped.  Yay!  Christmas solved!

With four kids in the house and daddy being a Navy man, special times with him were few and far between.   A couple of special “daddy/daughter” outings stand out in my mind when mom was sick and they had tickets to see, wait for it, how old are you??, Fred Waring, and another time Roger Williams (does the song “Autumn Leaves” ring a bell?)  I was seven years old, and I got to wear mom’s MINK STOLE! which I have in my closet right now, waiting for my brilliance to figure out a way to update it.  Any thoughts?  While I don’t buy real fur now, I see no reason not to repurpose this for sentimental reasons.
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Another daddy/daughter adventure was learning to drive.  I will be forever grateful that I learned on daddy’s Datsun 4 speed pickup truck.  Now, there’s not a vehicle on the road I couldn’t drive (though some might argue how safely).  Over a 3 month period I was getting lifeguard certification and the trips to and from the pool put daddy and me in the car, him extremely patient and kind every time I ripped his gears apart, and always ready to drop into Burger King for my favorite, The Whaler.  This is when I became the “Burger Queen”.  To this day I declare my sovereignty whenever I bestow the BK with my presence (every couple of years or so on a road trip) by demanding a crown, and announcing to whomever will listen that I “AM THE BURGER QUEEN!”  Gordon just adores it when I do this.  Not.  Remember those teenage years when you could not eat ENOUGH and none of it showed up on you anywhere?!?  Ahh…sweet memories…

We weren’t rich and most celebrations were spent at Red Lobster, but occasionally, VERY occasionally, we went to mom and dad’s favorite spot, the Elite Epicurean.  Now closed, this Greek white tablecloth restaurant was where I was introduced to tyropita, a greek cheese pastry.  Tyropita became one of the great loves of my life (go figure – it’s cheesy FOOD).  On Lula’s menu now is a derivation I have created from the more popular and well known Spanakopita, and I call it Spanyropita!!  Healthier than Tyropita, but cheesier than Spanakopita, it is the best of both worlds.

Daddy and I didn’t have much in common; his talents lay in his handiwork – he built furniture for our house, a harpsichord for my mom, and even a small replica OF our house in the back yard to house my mother’s music studio and his shop – this all from the foundation to the roof.  People were constantly in awe of his talents.

My talents lay in the arts – piano, singing, dance – and my first discovery of a Tuna Melt happened when daddy drove me 3.5 hours to Atlanta for a piano audition (it was the audition that landed me in Cincinnati on scholarship to CCM!).  I couldn’t eat BEFORE the audition – too nervous – but I was ravenous after, and prior to hitting the 3.5 hour trail home we ate in the Rich’s Dept. Store restaurant.  I have been a fan ever since of the Tuna Melt.  Naturally, Lula’s makes a better one than anyone else because of our fantastic Tuna Tapenade salad and our use of high quality cheddar!

Daddy also loved boats and we always had one.  We spent hours/days on the Mahvelous Mahgie (named after, you guessed it – my mother) – a 3 decked “cabin cruiser” docked at Lake Murray for the better part of my childhood and young adulthood.  Late in high school daddy converted it to a deep sea fishing boat and we dined on Wahoo quite a bit (look it up!).  Wahoo could be so “steaky” that we frequently had it with tomato sauce!  Later, daddy would discover a passion for sailing, and he traded in the Mahvelous Mahgie for the Shoo Fly, and spent literally the rest of his days winning or placing in regattas.  While I loved sailing, some of my fondest memories are of anchoring near our favorite Lake Murray beaches, swimming and splashing all day, and Dinty Moore Stew or Chef Boyardee Beefaroni being slapped out of a can into a cup for lunch.

Much later, when daddy’s brother died, daddy inherited his Harley Davidson motorcycle, and though my mother was worried about safety issues, daddy did develop a love for riding.  When my brother moved back to be near him in his old age, my crazy father got back on a new Harley and joined the local “gang” (of do-gooders who ride for charity) and became the revered and loved oldest member of “Harley Haven”.  He kept passing out though, so we convinced him that a trike would be best from now on.  Yes, Harley Davidson makes trikes.  Yes, they sound as obnoxious as the 2 wheeled version. 🙂
So who do we have here – a tall, quiet man, an excellent provider and confidant who races sailboats, bakes bread, builds furniture and rides motorcycles (all well into his eighties I might add)?  A bad ass gentle giant, that’s who.  My daddy.

 

A Note From Chef Lori

Don’t forget to check out Lula’s recipe for Winter Greens Lasagna in the latest issue of Edible Ohio Valley!

Click here to visit our website!

Cloves – From Cigarettes to Spice Cake!

OK folks, back to “winter” spices…though the clove is also a fantastic home remedy for toothaches all year long…did you know dentists used to prescribe sucking on a whole clove to alleviate toothaches?  Oil of clove is a numbing agent.  Cloves are also extremely popular in cigarettes … but DON’T!! 🙂  You can get cloves ground ( a little dab’ll do ya – enough clove in your spice cake and you’ll FEEL the numbing!!), or you can get cloves whole.

This is another spice that you could be put to death for in the mid 1600’s – planting OR trading cloves was a capital offense, and cloves are also a critical ingredient in French cuisine – you can’t make a stock without studding a whole onion with cloves and throwing it in!!

Here’s the most fun fact of all … back in the day when people didn’t bathe very often and STANK, cloves were a favorite ingredient in pomander balls (the usually metal balls with holes that one stuffed with aromatics and hung from their belt (men) or dangled from their wrist (women) to hide the ODOR…  ahhh… the things you learn when armchair traveling with Lula…for more tips, tidbits and fun on a weekly basis you can sign up HERE.

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When’s The Last Time you VISITED Your City?!

Sometimes guests coming in from out of town are the BEST incentive to help us delight in our hometowns – a reason to act like a tourist and experience what others experience from your city…and this just happened to me when my brother and sister in law came with their XXX-hole Welsh Corgie Ace (their words not mine!) and their two friends from North Carolina. Ace and His Royal Hinee The Crown Prince Floyd Wong the Pug got on famously.  My brother is a tennis nut (former pro!) and he and his friend Junior delighted themselves with the Western-Southern Open in Mason.  While they frolicked in the sun and heat, the ladies played in our own special way.  The real FUN began when I had 2 days to plan fun girl stuff with a taste of our city.  Susan loves museums and shopping so we did both: day one, Donna Salyer’s Fabulous Furs!!  They weren’t open but graciously flung wide the doors when I banged and banged…we got our very own private shopping spree!!!  If you haven’t been…this is a shopper’s paradise.  Stuff not only for your body but for your home. Many holiday gifts were bought! We worked up quite an appetite so we headed over to Coppins in Hotel Covington  – all of the food is delicious here but I am ALWAYS excited about their Buffalo Cauliflower Sandwich (and I love meat!), and their biscuit passed muster from the peach-skin squad.  We then perused the artifacts from Coppins Department store and spent a little money in the gift shop. First, I thought…FOOD.  (Of course.)  I could have rustled up something fancy for their first night in, but instead I went old school.  They are all from the deep south so I dove down “deep” – with smoked pork and brisket, my 6-Cheese Mac, Spicy Maytag Slaw, and Watermelon-Feta Salad.  Of COURSE it was the best meal they had of their stay (THIS is a smiley face).

The real FUN began when I had 2 days to plan fun girl stuff with a taste of our city.  Susan loves museums and shopping so we did both: day one, Donna Salyer’s Fabulous Furs!!  They weren’t open but graciously flung wide the doors when I banged and banged…we got our very own private shopping spree!!!  If you haven’t been…this is a shopper’s paradise.  Stuff not only for your body but for your home. Many holiday gifts were bought! We worked up quite an appetite so we headed over to Coppins in Hotel Covington  – all of the food is delicious here but I am ALWAYS excited about their Buffalo Cauliflower Sandwich (and I love meat!), and their biscuit passed muster from the peach-skin squad.  We then perused the artifacts from Coppins Department store and spent a little money in the gift shop.

After fortification, we took the Suspension Bridge over to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center .  I pointed out the Eternal Flame that burns 24/7, lighting the way north – but did you know that crossing the Mason-Dixon line did not ensure safety – the only way to be safe was to make it to Canada?  An escaped slave always had a bounty on his/her head and could be returned if caught.  I was a docent here the first 2 years the Freedom Center was open, and a visit never fails to move me.  Of particular interest this visit was Contemporary Slavery – over 27 Million human beings are currently enslaved across the world.  I learned, among other things, how to purchase a rug that no slave trader would profit from.  We also were treated to an impromptu “Implicit Bias” seminar.  Dinner was so good at home the night before we just came home and did it again!

Day 2 included lunch at one of my all time faves: Jean Robert’s Table on Vine Street.  I’m not going to tell you about their cafeteria lunch because I don’t want everyone crowding in and making it harder for me to get a seat! J  ALWAYS a hit with whomever I drag there, not only for the food but the interesting people you meet!

Then a bit of wandering in OTR – of particular interest this visit was A World of Beads and Elm & Iron .  If you lose your way with sparkly things…A World of Beads is for you – just browse, or take a class in making your own jewelry!  Their unfinished stones are amazing.  Elm and Iron is so much FUN … everytime you walk in you want to decorate your house in a different way!! We couldn’t let a visit from “foreigners” finish up without a nod to our Ohio River – so a cruise on B&B Riverboats was in order.  One critique – PLEASE run the boat all the way down to Coney Island, Riverbend and Belterra!!  Not FAIR!!

Finally, a meal at one of G and my faves: Walt’s Hitching Post.  You really can’t get a better steak in the area, though half of the time I order their fried shrimp – it’s got a kick to it!  A booze hound has GOT to love their bourbon list.  I savor an Angel’s Envy Rye as my dessert every time we go.

If you’re exhausted I understand.  I was too.  Next time I’m taking everyone to a float pod!!

A Note From Chef Lori

We LOVE partying with you over the holdiays…but book fast – Lula only has two hands!! Click here to visit our website!

Butter – Salted or Un?

Sweet Cream Butter  was originally salted for preservation purposes.  It still is, and we have grown to love the flavor of salted butter.  If you pay close attention though, different brands of salted butter taste differently – because every manufacturer adds a different amount of salt.   One will usually get fresher butter if one purchases unsalted butter  as it naturally doesn’t last as long as salted butter – check the expiration dates!  If you want your baked goods recipes to always taste the same, use unsalted butter and add the required salt (a key chemical component in baking by the way).  Unsalted butter will last several months in the freezer.  We at www.lulasforlunch.com unabashadly LOVE animal fat, but if you want a recipe prepared without it, we will lovingly prepare that too!!

Honor Thy Aunts and Uncles!

Honor Thy Aunts and Uncles!

I just returned from a fabu Research & Revivification adventure with girlfriends in Breckenridge Co.  It was wildflower season (Columbine to your left folks) and I felt truly zen working my glutes and calves where “the hills are alive”…but I also expected, as always, to bring back culinary inspiration and a new twist on something I found.  My girlfriends and I went to the grocery store and compromised on food for the condo, but I said I would be eating out more than they as I had to explore the local fare to excite my palate and continue to inspire my peeps.  Just.  Didn’t.  Happen.

I can disappointingly (and somehow at the same time gladly) say that the mountains, valleys, and kitchens in and around Breckenridge Co have nothing on our chefs and kitchens in the Ohio River Valley.  We’re all doing brussels sprouts one hundred different ways… and I myself have culinarily explored elk and bison etc. in as much depth as I saw on their menus.  Full disclaimer – Bear, not so much.  Even their trout is no more wondrous than what is prepared here.  So, I was a little down.

On our last night, we went back to Denver for the flight home the next day.  We ate at a recommended local restaurant that was fine, but that’s all.  I remarked, over Linguini con Vongole (yes, nothing more exciting than that on their menu) at my frustration and joked that the best thing I had during the whole trip was J’s family pie crust.  You see, on our FIRST day in Breckenridge we visited with family.  J kept telling us how special they were but…you know…they’re her FAMILY.  85 year old Aunt Ann and 85 year old Uncle Frank greeted us from their 3rd floor deck as we pulled up into their paradise.  I won’t bore you with the fantastic details of our visit/their house/their land, but I WILL tell you that their knowledge of the flora and fauna of their region is OUTSTANDING, and they took us on a hike that will remain in my memory forever.  Switzerland’s wildflowers have NOTHING on Colorado’s!   It was on this hike that I had the best food of my trip (with the exception of Aunt Ann and Uncle Frank’s table).  From Waxberry to Wild Parsley to Wild Roses, I traipsed behind Uncle Frank and let him identify and urge me to “taste!”.  My most delectable bite was Wild Lettuce.  It popped in my mouth and released cool fresh water.

When we returned from our hike, K and I left J to her family for the afternoon and went and did our own thing, promising to return for dinner.  When we did, the octogenarians had put out a spread of fresh veggies, lasagna (J’s mother’s recipe) and a rhubarb & strawberry crisp that they pulled from the YARD that afternoon while we were gone.    I don’t even LIKE dessert but the tart, fresh fruit and the sweet, crisp crust bowled me over.  NOTHING but 2 fruits, a sprinkle of sugar, and the crust recipe I’m so generously giving you here  and it was some of the best food I’ve ever put in my mouth.  Perhaps because it was made with such reverence, appreciation and love for their land and the bounty it bestows if you just honor it.   Look how happy we were!!

A Note From Chef Lori

Labor Day and Rozzi’s famous fireworks are just around the corner…we’d love to party with you!  Whether it’s a picnic or pre “show” appetizers, book now – I only have two hands! 🙂

Click here to visit our website!

 

Pineapple

How do you pick a pineapple in a store?  I always pluck out a center leaf – if it comes out quite easily the pineapple is ripe.  Now that I’ve let the cat out of the bag, though, I guess everyone else will do the same and when I get there, maybe that’s not such a good test anymore!!  So, I’ll smell it at the stem end.  The stronger and sweeter it smells (it should REALLY reek of pineapple), the riper it is.  If you really need a pineapple and they are all giving off only faint smells, buy it and let it sit on the counter for a couple of days till the aroma develops.  Then slice into that juicy bad boy!!  – Lula

Chill Out This Father’s Day!

I grew up in Columbia, South Carolina.  On any given day from the first of May through the end of October Columbia is the Devil’s Armpit – but with record high’s the past few years and 100+ degrees in MAY, my father is spending a lot of time indoors.  Nothing says “Father’s Day” like a big fat juicy steak for daddy – but this year I”m thinking maybe we could chill out with some variations on our traditional meat and potatoes.  How about some Chilled Zucchini Cilantro Soup with Shrimp Garnish, a Black ‘n Bleu Steak Salad and a Loaded Baked Potato Salad to fill you up, and a cooling piece of Strawberry-Pistachio Trifle to end things?  Even if it IS 100 degrees this menu is sure to fill your heart and soul and cool you off!

A Note From Chef Lori

Our kitchen will be closed for Father’s Day as I will be actually VISITING my daddy in the Devil’s Armpit before I head to Atlanta for a training session taping – also called Hell’s Kitchen – LITERALLY!!!  PS…Ain’t this Loaded Baked Potato Salad PURTY?!?

Click here to visit our website!  Lots of different Summer Salads to choose from!

White Chocolate – the Impersonator

Dessert White Chocolate Cheesecake

White chocolate isn’t chocolate according to our government.  Thats right – there are different definitions of chocolate all over the world.  In OUR little corner of the world, the US, chocolate is only “real” when it contains only cocoa butter as its fat (except for up to 5% dairy butter to aid in emulsification).  White “chocolate” contains vegetable fat, milk solids, sugar, and vanilla.  Some of the finer labels contain some cocoa butter, but no cocoa solids at all.

The good news?  White chocolate sets faster than dark.  White chocolate also remains soft at room temperature.  This makes it ideal for cakes and buttercreams.  Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering uses white chocolate in some of our desserts – like our White Chocolate Cheesecake.  In what recipe do YOU use white chocolate?  Let us know at http://www.lulasforlunch.com/blog !

Happy Mother’s Day! Memories of Mom and Food

Happy Mother’s Day to all of my maternal peeps – whether your charge has a tail, or fur, or is destined to become President – I’ll just bet memories of YOU contain a bunch of food.  On this, the 2nd mother’s day for me without my mom, I’d like to remember mom’s WEIRD relationship with food, which she mostly didn’t even like, except, well, potato sticks.  Remember potato sticks that came (come) in a can?  They can still be found in strange corners of strange stores…this was more often than not mom’s lunch – at 11:30 sharp, she sat at the kitchen table with her Tab and the can of sticks.  Not surprising, since she ate dirt as a child!  Sticks and dirt – no wonder she didn’t like to eat!  If you know where to source Potato Sticks let me know – I love them too (in moderation, of course!).

Mom thought some things just tasted better if you stole them. Let me be clear: my mother did NOT consider it stealing.  She was “performing a service” – the pears were obviously going to rot and the pecans were going to get stolen by the squirrels.   My poor brother and sister (somehow I escaped this embarrassment) were hauled each summer and fall to farms that ran alongside the road with their pecan and pear trees hanging heavy, and spent the day picking, plucking, hiding and dodging.  These pears, along with all of the other vegetables that were grown in our garden, were put up for use all winter long (which in SC lasts less than 4 months – the rest of the year the garden yielded).  I never really cared for pear sauce, but it adorned the oatmeal I truly hated many mornings before school. Yum.  Not.  Never did I taste a canned vegetable until I went away to college.  Even our okra (yuck) was frozen.  To this day one can attend Irmo SC’s Annual Okra Strut.

More momentous for me was The Chitlin Strut – held annually (still) in Salley SC.  Man, we South Carolinians know how to party.  Salley has (had?) fabulous clothing outlets so the 1 hour drive was filled with anticipation for me as a teenager.  The chitlins did not fill me at all, ever.

Speaking of offal, my mother had a (let’s put this kindly) mischievous streak.   Once when in Italy, we were with a small group of 7 and dinner was cafeteria style.  Items were labeled and one tray, labeled “Trippa” looked enticing to American eyes as it was laced with a fabulous marinara and provolone.  Our companion was on mother’s last nerve so she elbowed me and winked, while (let’s call her Debra) oohed and aahed over the “Trippa” and asked mom what it was.  Mother said “Tripe!  It’s beef! It’s delicious!  Try some!”  So Debra did.  I didn’t know what the joke was as I had yet to be introduced to offal of any kind other than the cow’s liver that my grandfather loved, my grandmother served, and made something else for me and herself.    Turns out Debra thoroughly enjoyed the tripe until she was finished and my mother made sure to finish the explanation.  Tripe is the stomach lining of the cow, and sometimes sheep.

Mom did love two things edible: fish and vegetables.  We had a boat and daddy fluctuated between salt water and fresh water fish – almost always caught by daddy.   A consequence of this was fish for breakfast.  Not really so unusual down south – but most everybody I tell think it’s weird.  To this day I eat fish for breakfast sometimes.  Yum (for real this time!).   Mom also loved shellfish – she loved to crab and did not mind (too much) the picking of the crabs, mostly because daddy was such a big help, which is a messy business.  Every time we went near the beach we would haul back fresh shrimp and cleaning them mom DID mind.  She would place newspapers on the floor between our breakfast room and the den where she could see the TV and watch her “stories”, and sit there and cuss (she was a champion) while she shelled and deveined what seemed like ENDLESS shrimp.

Thanks for allowing me this trip down mom’s food memory lane.  It was fun! Click here to visit our website and check out our Mother’s Day Menu!