Yumna Jawad: Feel Good Foodie

          Spoiled by her mom’s cooking and too tired to cook herself after working all day Yumna Jawad decided after getting married to change all that. Calling her mom—there was no Facetime back then–Jawad would have her stay on the phone and tell her step by step how to make a meal. It took just two weeks and from there Jawad, who moved to Kalamazoo, and now lives in Grand Rapids, used her new skills not only to cook for her family but as a springboard to creating Feel Good Foodie, her healthy, quick, and creative food blog. She also keeps an active Instagram account with three million followers.

          I came across her blog when researching healthy recipes since I’ve moved on during the pandemic from trying all those dessert recipes I’ve been clipping and saving for years and was very impressed. Besides recipes, she also offers nutritional information, substitutions, how to videos, how long does it take to make the recipe and links to similar recipes. So I emailed Jawad and she responded within ten minutes even though it was late at night but then judging by how often she updates her blog, she may not sleep much if at all.

          It turns out that she worked in Branding and Research & Marketing for consumer packaged foods and the retail food industry and eight years ago began sharing recipes on her Instagram account. She now has over two million followers which is pretty amazing. I have like 2000. Her blog has 400,000 visitors a month. So I asked her why she thought she was so successful.

          “When I first started sharing recipes on social media, my photos were all taken on an iPhone and it was always the meals I made that day for myself or my family,” she says. “The food wasn’t styled or edited, but it was easy and approachable. I think it resonated with a lot of people seeking ways to eat healthier that was attainable and easy-to-manage. And when others tried recreating my recipes, they had similar results without ‘Pinterest fails’. That encouraged them to try more and share more, which I believe helped me establish credibility in my brand and recipes. And all of that was before I even knew that I was even building a health and wellness brand.”

The Flavors of the World

           Jawad has an international background that adds to the creativity of her recipes. She was born in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo and also lived in Sierra Leone until age 11. When Civil War broke out there, the family moved to Dearborn, Michigan. After marrying, she and her husband, a cardiologist, moved several times as well before ending up in Kalamazoo and now Grand Rapids  She first learned to cook traditional Lebanese food but now has exponentially expanded her repertoire but there’s often a Middle East/Mediterranean aspect to her recipes because of their focus on vegetables and healthy ingredients.

          Her culinary inspirations, besides her mother include Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa fame.      

          “While not all of Ina’s recipes are low calories/low fat, I love her realness, approachability, and passion for cooking,” says Jawad. “She inspires me to be who I am and allow that passion to come through with my recipes without any fluff.”

          Curtis Stone is also another food idol because, she says, he is all about eating unprocessed and unpackaged foods as much as possible, which is actually healthier and cheaper.

          “This is something that I focus so much on with my wholesome home-cooked meals,” she says.

          And because, as the mother of two children, she likes meals that are quick to prepare, she’s a fan of Rachel Ray.

          “Rachel rally popularized the idea of 30 minute meals that made home cooking so accessible for so many people; and that is directly in line with my thinking,” says Jawad.

          Currently she adds three recipes a week to her blog—meals she’s been making for her family since she learned to cook 12 years ago. Some are inspired by tradition, others by watching cooking shows, reading food magazines, and following social media and focuses on new approaches creating healthy wholesome meals.

          “This includes, for example, trends like quinoa crust breadsticks, or cauliflower pizza or sweet potato toast,” says Jawad. “I keep up with the latest trends and test new ideas myself and then add my own twist to them, usually by making the prep easier or by swapping some ingredients to personalize the recipe.”

Recipe Data Base

          She’s also adding to the recipe data base on her blog.

          For those who wonder how to incorporate new foods into their kitchen repertoire, she has some tips. When she used to discover new produce at farmers’ markets, she’d ask the grower for suggestions. Now, Jawad uses the vegetables or fruits in a way that makes it more connected to what  she knows.

          “I recommend experimenting with it in a way that you normally eat other similar foods,” she says. “For instance, since rutabaga is a root vegetable, I would prepare it similar in a similar way to other root vegetables by roasting it because I know I would naturally enjoy that more than steaming it. I would also recommend trying something new in smaller quantities and having others to share it with. It makes the process more enjoyable to try a new ingredient or recipe with other taste testers. When it comes to kids, the same advice applies. But also, I strongly recommend having kids help in the purchase and preparation of ingredients. It gets them more excited about what they make because they feel more invested in the process. When all else fails, mask it in a smoothie or blended soup.”

The following recipes are courtesy of Yumna Jawad.

Chicken Lemon Orzo Soup

  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 onion diced
  • 3 large carrots peeled, halved lengthwise and finely sliced
  • 3 celery stalks small diced
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon butter or olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 3/4 cup orzo pasta
  • 1/8 teaspoon turmeric optional
  • Juice of 1-2 lemons to taste
  • Fresh parsley

Place chicken and scraps from the outer layers and end of the onions, carrots, and celery along with a couple bay leaves in a large stock pot. Add bay leaves and 8-10 cups water and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until chicken is fork-tender, about 30 minutes.

Remove chicken and shred; then strain the chicken broth using a fine-mesh sieve and discard the vegetable scraps and bay leave

Heat oil in the same pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onions, carrots, celery, garlic and cook until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in the shredded chicken, orzo, rosemary, and turmeric (if using). Then return the broth to the stockpot and bring a boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer until the orzo is cooked, about 20 minutes.

Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with fresh parsley or mint, if desired.

Air Fryer Sweet Potato Fries

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes peeled
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  • Preheat the air fryer to 380°F. Peel the sweet potatoes, then slice each potato into even 1/4 inch thick sticks.

Place the sweet potatoes in a large mixing bowl, and toss with olive oil, salt, garlic powder, paprika and black pepper.

Cook in 2 or 3 batches, depending on the size of your basket without overcrowding the pan until they’re crispy. I recommend 12 minutes, turning halfway. This may vary based on your air fryer.

Serve immediately with your favorite dipping sauce

Quinoa Patties

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ red onion finely chopped
  • ½ cup mozzarella cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • Water as needed add moisture
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

For the Avocado Yogurt Dip

  • 2 tablespoons cilantro chopped
  • ½ cup yogurt
  • ½ avocado extra ripe
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine quinoa, eggs, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in onions, cheese, garlic, and cilantro. Add the breadcrumbs, stir, and let sit for a few minutes so the crumbs can absorb some of the moisture. Feel free to add water if the mixture feels too dry. Form the mixture into 6-8 patties.

Frying Instructions:Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Place add quinoa on the heated pan, making sure not to overcrowd the pan and cook until the patties are golden color, about 7 – 10 per side minutes.

Baking Instructions:Place the quinoa patties on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the oil on top of the patties. Bake in a preheated oven at 400°F for 15 minutes, until golden.

To make the avocado yogurt sauce, whisk together the cilantro, avocado and yogurt. Season with salt and pepper and serve with the cooked quinoa patties.

 Notes

Storage: Store any leftovers in an airtight container. They will last up to 5 days in the fridge.

Freezing Instructions: You can also freeze the patties before or after cooking them.

  • To freeze them prior to cooking, lay them on a flat baking dish in the freezer for at least 4 hours. When frozen, place them in an airtight bag. Thaw in the fridge overnight and cook per instructions.
  • To freeze them after cooking, simply store them in an airtight bag after they’ve cooled. To re-heat, thaw in the fridge overnight and bake in a 350°F oven until heated through.

Substitutes: For best results, follow the recipe as is. However here are some common substitutes that would work well in this recipe.

  • Instead of eggs, you can use a flax eggs. For each regular egg, use 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed + 3 tablespoons water.
  • Any type of shredded cheese can be used in place of mozzarella.
  • If you prefer not to use breadcrumbs, you can use a gluten-free flour like almond flour or oat flour, or you can also use panko breadcrumbs.

“Satisfy your sweet tooth with a plant-based treat in under 10 minutes,” Jawad says about the following recipe. “3-ingredient chia pudding is the perfect pick-me-up. High in fiber, protein, and healthy fats, this recipe is as good for you as it tastes.”

3-Ingredient Chia Pudding

  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • ½ cup almond milk or milk of choice
  • 1 teaspoon honey or other sweetener
  • Strawberries, blueberries, or other fruit

Pour all ingredients into a Mason jar and mix well. Let sit for a few minutes and then stir again until it is smooth and there’s no clumping.

Cover the jar and store in the refrigerator for at least two hours.

When you’re ready to eat, top with your favorite fruit and serve.

Northern Exposure: Soft Adventure Under the Aurora

It’s time to go adventuring with Off the Map Travel’s Reconnect under the Aurora—the ultimate soft adventure Arctic Northern Lights glamping experience for families and friends.

Designed for one group traveling together to ensure safety and social distancing, the Reconnect under the Aurora experience in Sweden is a bucket list adventure taking place in the land of the Northern Lights.  

 Created for families with children four years and older, the luxury four-night program starts with a flight into Lulea Airport and then transferring for a snowmobile safari through the majestic countryside and across a frozen river to Aurora Safari Camp. Here the luxurious accommodations begin with a stay in a new aurora lavvu, a traditional tepee used by the nomadic Sami people. Each 325-square-foot lavvu has room for up to four guests and is winterized with a large “aurora window” which delivers awe-inspiring views of the Northern Lights. The lavvu also features wood and automatic fuel burners to keep guests cozy during their stay. 

“The newly upgraded lavvu accommodations are not only warm, inviting and beautifully furnished, but they also all face north to get the best views of the Northern Lights,” says Jonny Cooper, founder of Off the Map Travel, the designer and exclusive provider of the experience.  “The large, clear Northern Lights panel in the side of the lavvu brings an immersive connection with the wilderness and the Arctic culture meaning you’ll never miss a second when searching for the Aurora.”

The second part of the experience features a stay in a log cabin at Arctic Retreat deep in the sub-Arctic woods. Other Instagram worth parts of the holiday include interacting with reindeer, dog sledding, a sled ride, a sauna experience frozen into the lake and more snowmobiling.  

Children aged 4-eleven are entertained by an expert Sami guide who teaches traditional survival skills such as how to make Gáhkko bread over a campfire. Older children have the opportunity to learn how to ice fish as well as how to stay safe and dry in the Arctic winter climate. 

Reconnect Under the Aurora is a chance to unwind, be together as a family in a totally immersive experience unlike any other.

The five- day, four-night, “Reconnect under the Aurora” package is available until March 2022 and is offered exclusively by Off the Map Travel. Priced from $9145 per person and based on six people with total exclusivity for all activities. The package includes all meals, transfers, two nights in an Aurora lavvu, two nights in a luxurious private cabin at the Arctic Retreat, and more. Flights are additional.  

Eight Historic Hotels for Those Who Love History and Travel

Knowing how much I love historic architecture and enjoy immersing myself in the grandeurs of centuries past, Sara Martin sent me a list of resorts and hotels dating back a century or more. All are in the U.S. except for one in St. Croix. But because it is located in the U.S. Virgin Islands passports are not required for American citizens. Whether you’re looking for a warm weather, winter, an urban or country stay all are relatively easy places to get to by plane or car. So take this step back into history and have a wonderful time.

The Buccaneer Beach and Golf Resort, Trademark Collection by Wyndham in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

Back in 1653, Charles Martel, a Knight of Malta, constructed the first building on the eastern end of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. After the Denmark purchased St. Croix 80 years later, a sugar mill and home were built on the estate. Later the land was used for growing cotton and raising cattle. In 1922, the Armstrong family took over the property and continued raising cattle until when, in December 1947 they built and opened an 11-room inn. Now the Buccaneer Beach and Golf Resort, Trademark Collection by Wyndham remains in the Armstrong family and is today considered one of the Caribbean’s finest resorts.

Don’t expect to find a lot of cows mooing around now days. Instead of hay bales, the Buccaneer boasts 131 elegant guest rooms, three restaurants, three beaches, two pools, a water sports center, a full-service spa, a 24-hour fitness center, an 18-hole golf course, eight tennis courts, and more. Committed to remaining an individually owned and operated resort, the Buccaneer recently partnered with the Trademark Collection by Wyndham. Located just a short drive to Christiansted, the capital of St. Croix.

Because the Buccaneer is located in the U.S. Virgin Islands no passport is required for U.S. citizens.

The Otesaga Resort Hotel

Located in Cooperstown, New York, The Otesaga Resort Hotel, which opened in 1909 has been the crown jewel of this lovely town nicknamed “America’s Most Perfect Village.” Commissioned by the Clark family, who still owns the hotel today, The Otesaga was a very model of what was state-of-the-art back then featuring such luxuries the many Americans didn’t have in their own home like a telephone in every guest room, individually controlled central heating, and a refrigerator cooled with 30 tons of ice.

Maintaining its old-world aura of charm and grace while evolving with time, The Otesaga today features 132 luxurious guest rooms, including 26 suites, spread among a diverse collection of accommodations. A sampling of all there is to see and do at The Otesaga includes golfing at the resort’s highly rated Leatherstocking Golf Course, swimming at the outdoor heated pool, rejuvenating services at Hawkeye Spa, playing tennis at the two all-weather courts, fishing in Otsego Lake using equipment provided by the resort, and more. Guests can also enjoy a rich diversity of dining options at the resort including The Hawkeye Bar & Grill, which serves comfort foods and delicious cocktails.

Though formerly a seasonal hotel, closing in October, The Otesaga is now open year round.

HOTEL DUPONT in Wilmington, Delaware

In the early 1900s, the growth of the DuPont Company and the need for hotel and entertainment venues lead the company’s president and secretary-treasurer to commission the development of HOTEL DUPONT. The building, which originally served as the headquarters for the DuPont Company, was the first skyscraper in Wilmington. When it opened in 1913, the luxurious European-inspired hotel featured 150 guest rooms and served as a financial and social epicenter for Wilmington’s elite. A 1918 expansion brought such additions as 118 more guest rooms, a “Gold Ballroom,” and a theater that is today known as the Playhouse on Rodney Square. Throughout the years, the iconic hotel has undergone renovations true to its original roots but with all the amenities expected by discerning travelers. A prime example is the reimagining of the legendary Green Room, originally serving as a venerable gathering place for politicians, business leaders and the occasional celebrity, after a recent remodel, it now is known as Le Cavalier at The Green Room, a French brasserie with a relaxing and inviting vibe.

Inn at Montchanin Village & Spa in Montchanin, Delaware

The Inn at Montchanin Village & Spa, located in the beautiful Brandywine Valley and at one time part of the Winterthur Estate. Its name is a homage to Alexandria de Montchanin, grandmother of Henry Francis du Pont who founded the DuPont Company. One of the few villages or what were also known as company towns still remaining, thee village was where those laborers working the DuPont mills lived. Comprised of 11 restored buildings dating back to 1799, the Inn’s 28 guest rooms and suites today blend historic charm with luxury and modern comforts. Furnished with period and reproduction furniture and marble baths, several of the rooms include cozy fireplaces and many offer beautifully landscaped private courtyards. The property also features a spa, a restaurant housed in a renovated blacksmith shop, and a private “Crow’s Nest” dining room for up to 40 guests.

Hotel Gunter in Frostburg, Maryland

Hotel Gunter, located along Historic Route 40 in the heart of Frostburg’s growing Arts and Entertainment District, was originally named Hotel Gladstone when it opened in 1897 on the National Road, America’s first federally funded highway. The name changed in 1903 when William Gunter bought the property and embarked upon a 20-year, $35,000 renovation adding such enhancements using electricity instead of gas lamps with electricity. Other improvements meant adding a dining room that sat 175, and when Prohibition loomed, a speakeasy in the basement bar. A savvy businessman Gunter added a jail cell—but not for regular guests. Instead, it was a place for federal agents transporting prisoners to house their charges and enjoy a wonderful stay themselves. T Marhe jail cell is still there but now it’s just a place for the guests to explore. As a nod to its past, the speakeasy was restored though there no longer is cockfighting as there was one hundred years earlier. Amenities also include cozy rooms and event banquet facilities. Hotel Gunter also shares space with Toasted Goat Winery and Route 40 Brewing and Distilling Company.

Town Hill Bed & Breakfast in Little Orleans, Maryland

Sitting atop Town Hill Mountain and surrounded by the 44,000-acre Green Ridge State Forest in Allegany County, “The Mountain Side of Maryland,” Town Hill Bed & Breakfast was originally built as a fruit stand in 1916. By 1920, it had become the first tourist hotel in Maryland offering accommodations to those traveling by machine as automobiles were commonly called at the time. Up until then, car gypsies as they were sometimes called, when ready to get off the road, would stop at a farmer’s house and inquire if they could camp on their property. The prices were typically right–$5 might get you a spare room in the house and a homecooked breakfast by the farmer’s wife. Camping was even cheaper.

Like the Hotel Gunter, Town Hill Bed & Breakfast is on the historic National Road. It’s also near the C&O Canal National Park, a perfect place for cyclists and hikers traveling along the historic canal’s towpath. The Inn retain much of its original woodwork and furnishings loving preserved during its many renovations. Today, the 101-year-old Inn offers such amenities as 27 guest rooms, a 65-seat dining room where their legendary breakfasts are served, campfire area and easily accessible hiking trails. Another plus is the overlook with its panorama view of three states and seven counties.

Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa

The Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa in Mobile, Alabama

The site of the Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa dates to the beginning of the 19th century when it served as the headquarters of General Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812. The first hotel to debut here was the Franklin House in 1825. In 1829, new hoteliers opened the Waverly Hotel on the site, before the Battle Brothers – James, John and Samuel – constructed their own hotel here in 1852. After operating as an independent hotel for more than a century, the proprietors sold the company in 1958 and is now one of Marriott International’s prestigious Renaissance Hotels brand. The Battle House has 238 sleeping rooms, including 31 luxury suites; a 10,000 square-foot European spa with eight treatment rooms; a state-of-the-art fitness center; and a rooftop pool. Unique dining experiences include The Trellis Room, which serves family-style Italian cuisine at dinner; Joe Cain Café, which serves soups, sandwiches, pizza and salads; and Royal Street Tavern, featuring a menu of appetizer favorites.

Fort Condé Inn in Mobile, Alabama

MBCVB Facebook Banner shots – Thanksgiving Season

The Forte Condé Inn, the second-largest house, built in 1836, was an elegant mansion but time isn’t always kind and the hotel fell into disrepair before being expertly restored in 2010. Now the Inn, alongside nine other restored historic properties that are part of Fort Condé Village. Located in the heart of downtown Mobile, Forte Condé Inn is among the city’s most historic landmarks. A four-star boutique hotel, guests can immerse themselves into the unique charms of its past but have the most modern of amenities. Featuring dozens of one-of-a-kind accommodations in the village with its cobblestone streets lined with century oaks, and verandahs lit by gas lanterns. The inn, known for its legendary breakfasts that pay homage to the many cultures and cuisines in Mobile, recently opened Bistro St. Emanuel.

Check It out: The Top Ten Winter Experiences in Fairbanks, Alaska

Winter takes center stage for five full months in Fairbanks, Alaska, and offers a plethora of extraordinary things to do says my friend Jerry Evans, who goes on to list what to do when visiting. Mush a team of huskies? Check. Snowshoe through a winter wonderland? Check. Scan the skies for the aurora? Check. The list goes on. Fairbanks is like a trip inside a snow globe, so finding spectacular outdoor winter experiences is as easy as one, two, three!

Chase the Lights of the Aurora Borealis

@Sherman Hogue

Fairbanks is one of the best places on the planet to view the northern lights and this awe-inspiring activity tops everyone’s to-do list. We invite you to witness the magic and knock northern lights viewing off your bucket list.

@Sherman Hogue

Be spirited away by the captivating light of the aurora borealis while you partake in a multitude of other spectacular winter activities.                                                                                                                 

Hang with Reindeer

Fairbanks has plenty of ways to engage with Saint Nick’s furry friends including walking with these majestic critters through the boreal forest or seeing them in various locations near Fairbanks. You can even pay to visit them in nearby North Pole “where the spirit of Christmas lives year-round.” 

Fish a Frozen Lake

@Kevin Yokum

Drill down into clear lake ice, which can be up to four feet thick, craft the hole, drop your line, and presto! It’s dinnertime! Your fishing guide will help you catch chinook or coho salmon, arctic char, or rainbow trout. Some outfitters will even cook your freshly caught fish for you in a warm and comfortable ice hut on the frozen lake.

Explore the Inside of a Glacier

Yes, you heard that right…go inside a glacier. The Castner Glacier to be specific. Just a 2.5-hour pristine ride from Fairbanks, this amazing glacier cave will blow your mind. It does require a short hike (2.6 miles round trip) and a modicum of common sense…but the bragging rights are off the charts.

Snowmobile Through the Wilds

Riding a snowmobile, or “snowmachine” as it is most often referred to in Alaska, is one of the easiest ways to get into the spectacular snowy wilds surrounding Fairbanks. Get a local guide to outfit you, show you the ropes and experience the full-throttle rush for yourself.

Watch Artists Create Sculptures of Ice

SONY DSC

In Fairbanks, ice art is not only remarkable but commonplace during winter months with sculptures found all around town. Visitors can watch incredible artworks emerge from huge blocks of ice as sculptors work with chain saws and specialized ice carving tools.

Ice art peaks in February and March with two large ice events that include giant ice sculptures, ice mazes, ice slides and much more.

@Sherman Hogue

Journey Atop the Snow

Get off the beaten path and view amazing winter vistas with an invigorating jaunt via snowshoes. Or hit the miles and miles of world-class trails on a pair of cross-country skis. Take in the pristine wilderness and embrace the winter days, when the striking silver-blue sky is often embellished with alpenglow sunsets and sunrises, sundogs, or sparkling snowflakes.                                           

Soak in a Natural Hot Spring

Have a rejuvenating soak in a natural outdoor hot spring at the end of an adventure-filled day. At Chena Hot Springs Resort, you can relish the crisp winter air and the swirling northern lights above while your hair freezes in wild and wonderful ways. Let the healing, mineral-rich spring water relax your body and warm your soul.

Take a Roadtrip to the Arctic Circle or Denali National Park

The Arctic Circle and Denali National Park are two iconic destinations easily accessible from Fairbanks. The Arctic Circle is 195 miles (315 Km) north of Fairbanks and Denali is 120 miles (193 Km) to the south. Both of these majestic places are reached via inspirational drives through extraordinary winter landscapes.

Mush a Team of Huskies

@Sherman Hogue

Alaska’s sled dogs will champion the trail and win your heart…and getting into the backcountry by accessing Alaska’s state sport – dog mushing – has never been easier. You can book a 30-minute jaunt, a half-day mushing school or a legendary journey with these four-legged athletes.

@Sherman Hogue

Dog mushing is an exhilarating and soulful way to connect to the area’s pristine natural world.     

Make a List and Check It Twice                                        

@Sherman Hogue

Use this top ten list to plan an unforgettable winter expedition to the dazzling land of ice and snow. For more information check out ExploreFairbanks.com. To order our free 2021-22 Fairbanks Winter Guide and the companion piece, the 2022 Fairbanks Visitors Guide, contact Explore Fairbanks at 1-800-327-5774 or (907) 456-5774 or write to Explore Fairbanks, 101 Dunkel St, Suite 111, Fairbanks, AK 99701-4806. View or order both guides online at ExploreFairbanks.com.

Celebrate the Holidays in Chicago, Winter 2021

I love Chicago no matter the time of year, but this time of year with all the holiday lights and decorations, the streets and trees dusted with snow, it all takes on such a magical glow. That’s why I was happy when my friend Katie Papadopoulos of Choose Chicago sent me a list–and it’s a long one–of all the special ways to enjoy the city this season.

Visit the traditional Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza (celebrating its 25th anniversary this year) for a mug of glühwein and that perfect handcrafted gift. Lace up your skates and zip around The Peninsula Sky Rink (the only hotel skating rink in Chicago) followed by a traditional Holiday Afternoon Tea in The Lobby beneath the 20 foot Christmas tree. Marvel at the thousands of twinkling lights on display at ZooLights and Illumination at The Morton Arboretum or the dozens of festively decorated trees at the MSI’s Christmas Around the World display.  Or head over to Navy Pier’s new “Light Up the Lake, an indoor, temperature controlled experience featuring large-scale light-sculpture displays, a regulation-size Alpine ice rink, authentic holiday beer garden, kiddie train rides, Santa’s Village and gift market and other family-friendly events. Winterland at Gallagher Way will extend its festivities beyond the holiday season with ice bumper cars, skating lessons and curling lessons running through January/February 2022 and the popular Maggie Daley Ice Skating Ribbon will return with a fun new collaboration with the blockbuster art experience Immersive Van Gogh, projecting visuals of sunflowers and starry night brush strokes onto the ice. 

Come find out why Chicago was once again designated by Conde Nast Traveler’s readers as the Best Big City in the U.S. in 2021, for the fifth year in a row and check out what’s new in Chicago this holiday season! 

Visit the below links for more information regarding: 

Holiday Attractions & Programming

Attractions:

The holiday season kicks off in Chicago on November 20 with the BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, returning  for the annual Tree-Lighting Parade down North Michigan Avenue with Grand Marshals Mickey and Minnie Mouse from Walt Disney World® Resorts in Florida. The event-filled day begins at 11:00 AM. starting at Lights Festival Lane (401 North Michigan Avenue) with a festive thoroughfare of booths and family activities, including photos with Santa Claus. The parade of fabulous floats, giant helium balloons, exciting marching bands, celebrities, musical performances, Santa Claus, and more begin at 5:30 PM., helping illuminate the more than 200 trees along The Magnificent Mile. 

The City of Chicago’s 108th Christmas Tree lighting in Millennium Park will return November 19, 2021 and shine through the holiday season until January 9, 2022. The festivities begin with a pre-show by DJ Selah Say (5:30-6:00 PM), performances by Mariachi Herencia de Mexico, the cast of Chicago Opera Theater, a youth dance ensemble from the Kenwood School of Ballet and special guests Dreezy Claus and Sister Claus (6:00-6:30 PM), the tree-lighting and fireworks (6:30 PM) and a post-lighting concert featuring  DJ Selah Say, Cirque du Soleil, Chicago Soul Spectacular and singer-songwriter Brian McKnight (6:35-7:45 PM).

Bring the holiday season onto the waters of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan with a series of brunch, lunch and dinner cruises from City Cruises by Hornblower celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Prices range from $60 – $300 and include 2-3 hours of buffet or plated dinner service, spectacular views of the city skyline and local landmarks, onboard entertainment, festive decor, open bar for select cruises or the ability to upgrade your drink menu with creative cocktails, wine and beer. 

The Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light Exhibits return to the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) from November 17, 2021-January 3, 2022, an annual tradition that began in 1942 with a single tree and now has expanded to feature a four-story, floor-to-dome Grand Tree, surrounded by a forest of more than 50 trees and displays decorated by volunteers to represent the holiday traditions from cultures around the globe. This year, MSI is celebrating the golden age of travel with themed décor and a spotlight on the Pioneer Zephyr train and Take Flight’s 727, which have been newly reimagined. Entrance to the exhibits is included in the regular cost of entry with museum admission ($21.95 for anyone Age 12+, $12.95 for any child 3-11) but those who wish to take a picture with Santa in his photo studio inside the Holiday Store must buy a special timed-entry ticket. 

Christkindlmarket, the beloved annual holiday tradition returns for its 25th season this year in Daley Plaza (November 19-December 24, 2021). Modeled after the 16th century holiday markets in Germany, this Christmas bazaar is a hub for traditional German fare, delightfully warm beverages, charming musical performances and charming holiday vibes that the entire family can enjoy. Enjoy a mug of glühwein (traditional hot spiced wine), snack on  currywurst, schnitzel and pretzels and shop for the perfect handmade gift. Another Christkindlmarket will take place at Wrigleyville (November 19-December 31, 2021).

Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park is thrilled to announce a new winter experience, Fairmont Lodge, debuting for its inaugural winter season starting November 20-February 2022. Completely transforming the hotel’s lounge, Fairmont Lodge celebrates the winter season with cozy décor, fire pits, festive programming, overnight packages and more.  Chef William Schultz completes the experience with a seasonal menu of wintery-themed bites like Sweet and Savory Fondue and S’mores, Oaxaca Spiced Short Ribs and more. Signature hand-crafted cocktails include a Flaming Eggnog made tableside and Oh So Delish Hot Chocolate, both served in a Lodge-themed collector cup. Cozy up to one of Fairmont Lodge’s nine indoor fire pit tables (every Wednesday-Sunday), enjoy weekly Thursday Happy Hours in December and check the calendar for special events. 

The ninth annual Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum returns as a walking experience from November 20, 2021 – January 2, 2022. Visitors can explore 50 acres of the Arboretum’s majestic trees during this one-of-a-kind spectacle of color, light, and sound, and see returning favorites and surprising new sights, including a special Human+Nature display and an experience featuring 150 colorful lanterns. Along the one-mile, paved walking path filled with festive music and lighting effects that highlight the beauty of trees in winter, guests can warm up by a crackling fire and roast marshmallows for s’mores, or stop in one of the concession tents for a snack and beverage. Advance purchase is recommended as many nights will sell out.

  • IllumiBrew returns for two nights (November 18 and 19), a special event where an ages 21+ crowd can sample seasonal beers, ciders, and meads from popular Chicagoland breweries stationed along the Illumination trail; each tasting ticket includes fifteen 3 oz beer samples and a souvenir light up tasting glass. 

Navy Pier’s “Light Up the Lake will open on November 26, 2021 and run through January 2, 2022. This indoor, temperature controlled experience will feature large-scale light-sculpture displays (more than 600,000 twinkling lights), a regulation-size Alpine ice rink, authentic holiday beer garden, kiddie train rides, Santa’s Village and gift market and other family-friendly events. Every ticket also comes with a free ride on the Centennial Wheel. Light Up the Lake will also offer sit-down dining with holiday-themed eats, signature cocktails, and seasonal brews.

Santa Baby Bar, opening November 17, 2021, returns for the holiday season with a multi-room, multi-level, over-the-top Christmas experience. All guests must reserve online, for no more than six people, and all tables are limited to no more than ninety minute intervals. 

Returning for its ninth season, The Peninsula Sky Rink (2,100 sq ft) is the only hotel skating rink in Chicago, located above Chicago’s bustling Michigan Avenue. Surrounded by Chicago’s skyscrapers and twinkling lights, the rink is tucked into a pine tree winter wonderland and bathed in festive music and snowflake lighting. The skating rink’s outdoor menu features a selection of hot beverages and snacks including hot chocolate, hot cider, and other treats, and is available for groups to rent or for private events. All monies collected include skate rental ($20 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under) and are donated to Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and Hephzibah Children’s Association.

Winterland at Gallagher Way (November 19, 2021 – February 20, 2022)  will include a ceremonial tree lighting (November 29, 2021), ice skating on an 8,000 square-foot ice rink,Santa’s Workshop, wreath making workshops (December 4-5, 2021), holiday movie screenings (Thursdays in December 2021) and special programming at Hotel Zachary (weekends in November-December, 2021). New to this year’s transformation will be a special celebration of Hanukkah (December 5, 2021), ice bumper cars and skating lessons (January 2022) and curling lessons (February 2022). 

The popular Winter Wonderland returns to The Godfrey Hotel’s I|O Rooftop Lounge. The heated, clear-dome igloos on the rooftop’s outdoor portico will make guests feel like they are in their own personal snow globe. Order a hot cocktail and s’mores to roast over the outdoor firepits and enjoy winter in Chicago under the city lights. 

  • Minimum required to reserve one of the smaller (6-person) igloos is one bottle while the minimum for a larger igloo is $500. Due to extremely high demand igloos are only available for a two-hour window and fully close by 11PM (8PM on Sundays). 

ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago’s favorite holiday tradition, is back and better than ever (from November 19, 2021-January 2, 2022) with a new Pepper Family Wildlife Center at the heart of the zoo, a new holiday lights experience on the Main Mall, and an exciting new light show on the South Lawn. Also new this year: sensory-friendly visit times and an impressive 18-foot holiday tree sure to inspire festive oohs and aahs. Tickets are $5 per person (free admission on Mondays and Tuesdays).

Holiday Meals:

Guests at The Peninsula Chicago can enjoy Holiday Afternoon Tea in The Lobby beneath the 20-foot Christmas tree; the menu features a traditional English tea menu, including a variety of finger sandwiches, fruit and plain scones with house made preserves, Devonshire clotted cream, seasonal pastries with choux, chocolate, and winter fruit creations. (Vegan and gluten-free options are available). Festive Afternoon Tea is offered through January 9, 2022.

  • Guests at The Peninsula Chicago can celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (December 24-25, 2021) with a Christmas Eve prix-fixe dinner in The Lobby featuring Wagyu, Maine Lobster, Scallops and Peking Duck followed by a lush dessert buffet. A trio band will provide the entertainment and dinner is priced at $205 per person, with an option to add wine pairings for $65 per person. Or they can join for brunch in The Lobby on Christmas Day with an American four-course menu featuring à la carte options combined with buffet items served from a carving, seafood, cheese and charcuterie station and a decadent dessert buffet. A string quartet will provide the entertainment as well as a balloon artist and magician to entertain children. Brunch seatings (10:00 AM to 5:00PM) are priced at $275 per adult, $75 per child (five to 12 years).
  • Ring in 2022, Peninsula-style at The Lobby’s New Year’s Eve Gala (December 31, 2021), where a five-course prix-fixe dinner and dancing will be accompanied by a live band. The 21+ event is black tie optional and is priced at $205 per person with an additional $95 for wine pairings. Z Bar will also be ringing in 2022 with a ticketed soirée starting at 8:00 pm with an open bar, abundant passed hors d’oeuvres, DJ-ed entertainment and a Champagne toast at midnight. The party concludes at 1:00 am. Tickets for this 21+ event are $195 per person, excluding tax and gratuity. 

The Langham Chicago’s Holiday Afternoon Tea will return in partnership with Veuve Clicquot from November 17, 2021-January 9, 2022, where delicate pastries and savory petite sandwiches will be joined by Langham’s proprietary tea blends, seasonally-inspired treats and a special course from Veuve Clicquot.

© 2018 Galdones Photography
  • Travelle at The Langham will serve a Christmas Eve Entrée Special (priced at $82 per person) on December 24, 2021 from 5:00-10:00 PM; the menu will include a truffled chicken “pot pie” for two adorned with herb-roasted chicken, truffled confit thighs, black trumpets, and Caroline ruby sweet potatoes.
  • On December 25, 2021 Travelle will serve a Christmas Day Brunch (11:00AM – 3:00PM) with a variety of breakfast favorites, omelets made to order, artisanal cheese and cured meats, exquisite sushi and seafood options, and heavenly pastries. (The buffet is $195 per adult and $60 for children 5-12 years of age, and prepayment and reservations are required through the Travelle Tock.)
  • Or there is a six course Christmas Day Prix Fixe Dinner ($165 per adult) from 5:00-10:00 PM featuring a Royal Kaluga Caviar Amuse, Beet Root Panna Cotta Salad and Wild Mushroom Risotto appetizer, followed by a Roasted Prime Filet entrée and dessert service of Mont Blanc and Petit fours by Chef Nitin.
  • Ring in the New Year at Travelle at The Langham with a New Year’s Eve Prix Fixe Dinner on December 31, 2021 (5:00-10:00 PM) with a seven-course prix fixe menu featuring dishes including Nantucket Bay Scallop Ceviche, Hudson Valley Foie Gras appetizer, and Grilled Australian Wagyu NY Strip. To finish off a magnificent dining experience, guests can enjoy an indulgent dessert with Intermezzo featuring lemon with Grand Marnier and an extravagant Chocolate Experience with Manjari mousse, praline cremeux, and hazelnut ice cream. A splendid wine collection will also be available à la carte. Reservations must be made in advance through the Travelle Tock and prepayment is required at $190 per adult.

Private experiences with Santa, dinner packages and private events offered by Swissôtel Chicago for the 2021 holiday season include: 

  • Holiday Tradition Package: Stop by Santa’s Presidential Pad with up  to 15 guests to visit the man of the season and overindulge in unlimited Swiss hot cocoa, champagne and holiday treats including Candied Orange SnoBall Cookies, Reindeer Chow, Eggnog Truffles and more. The experience also includes cookie decorating, crafts with Make to Celebrate, face painting and letter writing, complete with a visit to Santa’s Post Office. $50 of  the total price will be donated to SOS Children’s Villages Illinois. Available to book every Saturday and Sunday for $600/hour from December 4 – December 19, 2021; 10:00 AM-5:00 PM.
  • Family Dinner Package: Gather with six or more loved ones for an over-the-top holiday dinner in  the Santa Suite, Duplex Suite, Vitality Suite or Chef’s Table Virtual Suite. Enjoy a 4-course  holiday-inspired menu by Chef Dan McGee, with menu items including Roast Chicken with red  cabbage, spätzle, raclette cheese, chicken jus, Pomegranate Braised Lamb Shanks with a  pomegranate bordelaise, Chocolate Peppermint Cake and more. Holiday crafts are available  upon request. Dinners are available to book daily beginning November 20-December 26, 2021 at $150 per adult and $50 per child.  
  • VIP Reception in Santa Suite: Whether it’s a  corporate holiday party or family reunion, the Santa Suite can fit up to 50 people for private  events beginning November 20-December 26, 2021. Work with the events team to curate an  experience with festive cocktails and a menu featuring Chilled Potato Soup & Caviar Shooter,  Smoked Duck Breast Marmalade, Curry Chicken Salad Sliders, Pecan & Roasted White Chocolate Tarts and more.  

Hotel Packages:

© 2018 Galdones Photography

A series of Yuletide specials this holiday season at The Langham Chicago (available November 19, 2021 – January, 2, 2022) include Oh Christmas Tree (including luxurious one-bedroom suite accommodations with a decorated Christmas tree in-room, deconstructed champagne cocktails inspired by the season; and bespoke cheese and charcuterie; rates beginning at $1,100) and Dive into the Season (including lavish guest room accommodations, $100 food and beverage credit for poolside snacks and beverages, two hours of exclusive access to Chuan Spa’s indoor pool and holiday-themed floats; rates begin at $825.

© 2018 Galdones Photography
  • Or splurge on A Signature Christmas in a 2,400 sq. ft. suite with floor-to-ceiling windows featuring panoramic views of Chicago, a four-course, in-residence dinner prepared by Executive Chef Damion Henry, in-suite dining entertainment, Club Lounge access and a custom-designed holiday tree set in the parlor. (Rates start at $13,525.)

At The Peninsula Chicago, holiday packages like the Holly Jolly Family Holiday Package and Merry and Bright Couple’s Holiday Package include such amenities as an in-room holiday tree or Menorah, holiday welcome amenity or bottle of wine/Champagne upon arrival, access to library of holiday themed movies, books and games for the kids or a $100 gift card to the nearby Neiman Marcus Michigan Avenue store, daily Peninsula breakfast and daily valet parking. Rates start at $1,250, packages available from November 26-December 31, 2021.

  • For six days, The Peninsula Chicago is offering special pricing for a Cyber sale commencing Thanksgiving Day (November 25, 2021) through Travel Tuesday (November 30, 2021) for 20% off rooms and suites on stays from December 1, 2021 – April 30, 2022. and special pricing on gift cards. The offers will only be available on the hotel’s website, or by calling the hotel directly.

For the eighth consecutive year, Swissôtel Chicagos Presidential Suite will be transformed into Santa’s home-away-from-the-Pole for the holiday season, welcoming Chicagoans and visitors alike. The Santa Suite offers sweeping views of the city, and is filled with 17 Christmas trees, festive decor, games and holiday craft kits for the kids, cookie decorating stations, “Letter to Santa” packs, and more. Book the Holiday Penthouse Hideaway (starting November 20 through December 26, 2021, from $1,500 per night). 

  • For a slightly more competitive price-point, consider a stay in an Elf Decorated Holiday Room featuring a Christmas tree and holiday room decor as well as a complimentary holiday amenity (Rates begin at $329 per night.)

Theatrical Performances:

A&A Ballet’s “The Art Deco Nutcracker” set in 1920s America and featuring Tchaikovsky’s beloved score, will play at the Athenaeum Theater on December 4, 2021. 

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, a must-see Chicago holiday tradition now in its fifth decade and enjoyed by nearly two million theatergoers, is back playing at Goodman’s Albert Theatre, from November 20 – December 31, 2021.

A Christmas Symphony Tour, a new Christmas tradition by the world’s biggest-selling soprano and GRAMMY® Award-nominated artist, Sarah Brightman, will play at the Auditorium Theatre on December 10, 2021.

“Home Alone” in Concert with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the beloved holiday favorite will return to the big screen at Symphony Center; John Williams’ delightful, Academy Award-nominated score will be performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Riccardi Muti, from November 26-28, 2021.

Leslie Odom, Jr.’s The Christmas Tour brings the GRAMMY®- and Tony®-Award Winning vocalist, songwriter, author and actor to Chicago for a one-night holiday season concert at the CIBC Theatre on December 4, 2021. 

Christopher Wheeldon’s reimagined classic The Nutcracker follows young Marie and the Nutcracker Prince on a Christmas Eve journey through the 1893 World’s Fair; this annual holiday tradition celebrating the magic of the season and the rich cultural heritage of Chicago returns to the Joffrey Ballet from December 4-26, 2021. 

“’Twas the Night Before…” by Cirque du Soleil i is the exhilarating spin on the beloved Christmas classic as only Cirque du Soleil can imagine a vibrant acrobatic spectacle about the joy of sharing and friendship at the The Chicago Theatre, playing from November 26-December 5, 2021

Chocolate Tofu Pudding Pots and Pizza Mummies: Two Great Last Minute Halloween Treats

     Looking for a last minute Halloween treat that’s not only yummy, but healthy to counteract all that Candy Corn, caramel corn, and other candies we’re going to overeat?  We’ve got good news for you. Catherine McCord has you covered. McCord, founder of Weelicious, a website created as a motivating guide combining her own experiences in creating healthy and delicious meals with fact-based research on children and food.

     McCord, the author of Weelcious: One Family. One Meal featuring 140 original “fast, fresh and easy” recipes and Weelicious Lunches: Think Outside the Lunchbox, takes one of her childhood favorite desserts—pudding cups and recreates it into Chocolate Tofu Pudding Cups served in small clay flowerpots for a perfect Halloween treat. And honestly, it’s so good, no one will realize that it’s healthy.

     Chocolate Tofu Pudding Cups

  • 14-ounce package soft silken tofu (McCord suggests House Foods soft silken or Mori-Nu firm silken)
  • 1/3 cup pure cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup agave nectar (feel free to use a little more if you want it sweeter)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 24 chocolate wafers (McCord likes using Famous Chocolate Wafers)
  •  Gummy Worms (Okay, it’s candy so we’re open to suggestions for a wholesome substitute that people would want to eat. But until then, either skip the Gummies and lose the great visual presentation or just focus on how healthy tofu is for you,)
  • 4 small clay flowerpots

Place the first 4 ingredients in a food processor and blend to combine.

Scrape down the sides of the food processor. Blend again to make sure everything is incorporated.

Place 4 whole chocolate wafers in the bottom of the clay pots so none of the pudding goes through the hole at the bottom of the pots.

Divide the chocolate tofu pudding between the 4 pots.

Place the remaining 20 wafers in a Ziploc bag and using a rolling pin, crush into small pieces resembling dirt.

Sprinkle the crushed wafers on top of the pots and then place the gummy worms in the pots.

Serve.

Pizza Mummies

  • 2 English muffins, cut in half
  • 8 teaspoons pizza sauce
  • 2 mozzarella cheese sticks
  • 3 green olives with pimentos

Preheat oven to 400℉.

Place the English muffin halves on a baking sheet and bake for  5 minutes.

Remove muffins from oven and spread 2 teaspoons of the pizza sauce onto each English muffin half.

Peel the mozzarella sticks into strings and decoratively arrange them on top of each English muffin. Slice the green olives into 1/4 inch thick rings and place them on top of the cheese to create eyes.

Bake mummies for 3 more minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

Cloud Gate (aka The Bean) Now Helps Visitors Explore Chicago

The Tale of The Bean

Located in Chicago’s Millennium Park, Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate, a 110-ton elliptical sculpture made of brilliantly polished stainless-steel plates, now does more than just reflect the Chicago skyline and clouds above and the perfect Instagram backdrop for selfies on the ground. The sculpture, nicknamed The Bean because of its shape, now is also an AI powered chat bot capable of answering questions about the city.

It all began when Covid hit and the constant stream of visitors stopped. The Bean, which is decidedly not good at knitting or baking bread, became focused on moving beyond being the most beautiful gigantic drop of mercury-looking statuary–though we must say it did a great job at that. Eager to be a vital part of the visitor experience, The Bean worked hard at becoming a digital communicator—wanting to interact with the millions of visitors who come to Millennium Park each year.  

When my fans come back, thought The Bean, I want to be ready. There were a few bad moments particularly when The Bean learned about other non-Bean art and culture for humans to enjoy in the city. This was a tough realization at first and The Bean did have an existential crisis but thankfully it was quickly dealt with after a few counseling sessions. Another glitch was that The Bean learned more than The Bean really wanted to know about intense fan rivalry between the Cubs and the Sox and how it splits the city into two regions: North of The Bean and South of The Bean. Being wise, The Bean refuses to say which team it likes best and denies reports that it was seen in Wrigleyville wearing a Cubs hat.

“We were surprised, and quite frankly, a little alarmed, when The Bean came to us and asked if we would be open to this new idea, after all we did not know The Bean had become sentient,” said Scott Stewart, Executive Director of Millennium Park Foundation. “However, after talking with Choose Chicago, we realized that our friend, The Bean, could be a great help to all of the visitors to Chicago so we are happy to be part of this project.”

Call it The Bean Knows All. Want to know where to get your favorite style of pizza? What’s happening in the city? Head to explorewiththebean.com to ask The Bean about anything from neighborhood restaurants to what events are happening next weekend as well as the latest in child-friendly activities, things to do, museum exhibits, and more.

Turning this 66-feet long by 33-feet high sculpture, one of the largest of its kind in the world, into an AI powered chat bot called for team work. A partnership was developed between Choose Chicago and Northwestern University Medill School’s Knight Lab, a diverse, multi-disciplinary and multi-generational community of designers, developers, students, and educators working on experiments designed to push journalism into new spaces says Glenn Eden, Board Chair of Choose Chicago, the official organization responsible for promoting Chicago as a global visitor and meetings destination.

“Our team of students was thrilled to have this opportunity to explore the design questions involved in making a conversational system that works well for visitors to Chicago,” said Joe Germuska, Executive Director of Knight Lab. “And if, in the future, The Bean needs us for new projects, we’re ready to help.”

The Bean Ups Its Game

Now that it’s also an AI powered chat bot, The Bean isn’t going to just sit back and relax. That’s not Bean-like. Instead, it wants to make even more friends and provide more information and so is continuously working to take its knowledge base to the next level. And by the way, The Bean loves when people take photos of it or pose with The Bean for selfies. But though The Bean thrives on attention, its goal is not to be The Bean-all when it comes to Chicago.

Instead, The Bean loves to share all that Chicago has to offer. All you have to do is ask.

Cloud Gate sits upon the AT&T Plaza, which was made possible by a gift from AT&T.

Millennium Park, located in the heart of downtown Chicago, is bordered by Michigan Avenue to the west, Columbus Drive to the east, Randolph Street to the north and Monroe Street to the south.

Photos are courtesy of Choose Chicago and The Chicago Architecture Foundation.

In Goldberry Woods: An Inn and Farm Far Off the Beaten Path But Close to Everything

       Nestled on a peninsular formed where the curve of the Galien River is intersected by a small unnamed creek, Goldberry Woods Bed & Breakfast is definitely off the beaten path even for those who know their way around the backroads of Southwest Michigan.

       “Yet we’re close to Lake Michigan and Red Arrow Highway,” says Julie Haberichter who with her husband Eric own and operate the inn.

       You wouldn’t guess that by looking around at the surrounding woods and lack of traffic sounds. And, of course, that’s part of the charm. Here on 30 acres of woods, old and new orchards, grapevines, and gardens, the Haberichters have re-imagined an old time resort albeit one with all the modern twists—swimming pool, farm-to-table cuisine, kayaks ready to go on the banks of the Galien, walking trails, and cottages and their Innkeeper’s Inn with suites for large groups or individual stays.

       Goldberry Woods is the story of how a couple painstakingly restored a resort that had fallen into disrepair, creating a major destination for those who want to get away from it all.

       But this is also a story about how two engineering majors from the Chicagoland area met in college, discovered they lived just towns apart, married, honeymooned at a B&B that was a working flower farm in Hawaii and decided that quirky inns were the type of places they wanted to stay.

       That is, until, while vacationing in Harbor Country in 2011 they happened upon what had been the River’s Edge B&B in Union Pier and decided that unique places were instead where they wanted to live. By 2012, Julie and Eric had bought the property, restored it and had opened Goldberry Woods B&B.

       A little more explaining is needed here. If you’re like me and are thinking goldberries are some rare, antique type fruit like say lingonberries, marionberries, or gooseberries, you’d be very wrong. It turns out that Goldberry, also known as the River Woman’s Daughter,  was a minor character in Christopher Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, though she never made it into the movie series. An ethereal blonde with a penchant for green velvet gowns, she was from the Withywindle River in the Old Forest and certainly seems as though she’d be at home here surrounded by ripening fruit and veggies.

       It’s obvious that the Haberichters are more familiar with The Lord of the Rings than I am but then Julie also knows someone who learned to speak Elvish, the language of the elves. If that sounds unique, consider this. According to some sources, there are more people now who speak Elvish as it is spoken in The Lord of the Rings movies than Irish.

       Whether that’s true or not, I’m not sure but the name Goldberry does speak to the charm of this place where the Haberichters forage and grow old fashioned foods, plant organic, practice sustainability, and  harvest the eggs from the heirloom chickens, ducks, and quail that at times run free range in Goldberry’s gardens.

       Julie brims with excitement as she takes me on a tour, pointing out the novelty and heritage produce she grows. There are pumpkin eggplants also known as pumpkin-on-a-stick which indeed look like miniature pumpkins, ground cherries which she uses in her Jasmine and lemon tea,  Malabar spinach with its rich glossy oversized leaves, and cucumelons (tiny little veggies that can be eaten straight from the vine) among many others.

Because what’s in season changes quickly as does the weather, there’s always something different or a variation of a favorite at Goldberry Woods.

       “The oatmeal we serve at Goldberry Woods is constantly changing from season to season, served hot or chilled based on the outdoor weather and the availability of seasonal fruit,” says Julie, who shared the summer version of her Chilled Coconut Steel Cut Oatmeal (see below).

       There’s also some serious forging going on.

       “We started looking for as many fun and unusual ways to use the wild plants growing throughout our flower beds and woods as possible,” says Julie. “ We have experimented with dandelions, violets, spruce tips, and sassafras to name a few.”

       While she’s talking, Julie brings out glass jars of jam. I try the spruce tips—made from the new tips of the spruce tree at the beginning of spring. Scooping up a small teaspoon to try, I note a definite evergreen taste, refreshing and somewhat woodsy with just a touch of sweetness. It would work on buttered biscuits, toast or even as sauce for lamb and pork. The violet jam is a deep purple and there’s an assortment of pepper jams such as habanero gold pepper jelly with chopped sweet apricots. Unfortunately, Julie didn’t any have jars of the dandelion jam or the pear lime ginger jelly she makes—it goes fast. But she had a large bushel basket full of colorful peppers which would soon become a sweet and spicy jam.

  August, she told me as we walked into the old growth orchard, was begging her to make a yellow floral jelly from goldenrod flowers. So that was the next chore of many on her list.

       Having learned to determine the edibility of certain mushrooms she forages the safe ones from where they grow in the woods, frying up such fungi as puff balls which she describe as having a custard-like interior. In the spring, there are fiddlehead greens easily available, but Julie has to trade for ramps which though they seem to grow wild every place where there are woods, don’t appear anywhere within Goldberry’s 30 acres.

       Now focused fully on running Goldberry Woods and raising their three daughters, Julie previously worked as a chemical engineer in a food processing plant that used a million gallons of corn syrup per day. Now she teaches classes in how to harvest honey–there are, naturally, bee hives on the property.  If all this sounds like a real divergence from a career in corn syrup and a degree in chemical engineering, Julie started an environmental club in high school and gardened in college.

       Unfortunately, you can’t eat at Goldberry Woods unless you’re an overnight guest. But you can stop and visit as the couple has set up their Goldberry Market in a 1970s trailer.  It’s very cute plus they have an outdoors stand on the property. They also take their produce to the New Buffalo Farmer’s Market which is held on Thursday evenings. As for what to do with the unique produce they sell, there are recipes on their website and Julie will always take the time to give ideas. It’s her passion to share the best of what Southwest Michigan produces.

For more information, visit goldberrywoods.com

The following recipes are courtesy of Goldberry Woods.

Chilled Coconut Steel Cut Oatmeal

Serves 8

  • 2 cups coconut milk (1 can)
  • ½ cup steel cut oats
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • ¼ cup of seeds such as quinoa, chia, flax or amaranth
  • ¼-1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom
  • Drizzle of honey
  • Fresh sliced peaches

Bring coconut milk, 2 cups of water, salt, and the steel cut oats to full boil in an 8-cup microwaveable bowl, approximately 6 minutes.  Do not let the oats boil over as this makes a sticky mess.

Remove bowl to the counter and stir.  Allow the concoction to cool down a bit, stirring occasionally, maybe 30 minutes (this is to keep from heating up your fridge!)  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, add the old fashioned oats, seeds, sugar and spices.

You may need to add more liquid at this time to reach your desired consistency.  We find this recipe to be refreshing and like the oatmeal to be a bit thin.  Adjust sweetness to your taste.

If it’s chilly out, reheat in the microwave.

Here’s the fun part.  Stir in whatever looks good to your taste.  Here are some ideas:

  • Use coconut milk and stir in vanilla, shredded coconut, bananas, honey, dried apricots, almonds….
  • Use apple cider and stir in applesauce, sautéed apples, raisins, nuts, maple syrup, walnuts

Goldberry Woods Egg Rollup

Makes about 8 servings

Egg Mixture

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 12 eggs
  • Salt and pepper

Filling

  • 12 ounces precooked meat and veggies of your choosing (Malabar Spinach, sausage, ham, bacon, asparagus, peppers, greens, mushrooms…..)
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (we usually use a good sharp cheddar and a shredded Monterey Jack that melts well—feta is great, too)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Combine all the Egg Mixture Ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Spread parchment over a 11×17 jelly roll, tucking into the corners.  Pour the egg mixture onto the parchment paper.

Bake the eggs for 15-20 minutes.  Wait until the top sets completely.

Remove the egg roll pan and spread the filling over the eggs evenly.

Use a towel and the parchment paper to tightly roll up the eggs.  Leave the seam side down and cover the whole rollup with the parchment paper so that it doesn’t dry out.

Return to the oven for 10 more minutes to allow the cheese to melt and the filling to heat up.

Slice into 1 ½ inch slices.

About 8 servings.

Golden Rod Jelly

YIELD: Makes 4 pints

  • 8 cups packed Goldenrod flowers
    4 teaspoons lemon juice
    2 packages pectin powder
    6 cups sugar

Make a goldenrod tea.  Put the flowers in a stainless steel pot and add just enough cool water to cover. Bring to a gentle simmer for 3 minutes.  Turn off the heat and allow the flowers to  steep for at least an hour or overnight in the refrigerator. Strain the flowers through a fine metal sieve.  Gently squeeze excess liquid from the flowers.  Measure 5 cups of liquid.  Add water if necessary.

Place goldenrod tea back into pot and add lemon juice.  Add the pectin, stir, and bring to a boil until pectin is fully dissolved.

Add sugar and bring to a full boil for one minute. Remove from heat and pour into sterile canning jars.  Keep jelly in the fridge for up to one month.

What to do in Union Pier

While visiting Goldberry Woods, take time to stop at St. Julian Winery’s tasting location in Union Pier. St. Julian is the oldest winery in the state. There’s also the Round Barn Tasting Room next door.

Stop at Union Pier Market for a great selection of gourmet goods, beer, and wine. Next door, also on Townline Road, is the Black Currant Bakehouse for made from scratch pastries as well as sandwiches and such distinctive beverages as their Rose Quartz Latte, Chaga Chai, and Honey Lavender Latte. Milda’s Corner Market next to Union Pier Market features foods from over 40 countries and freshly made Lithuanian fare including “Sūreliai” Mini Cheesecake bars, Koluduna (dumplings), and Kugelis.

Head to Townline Beach and then consider dinner at The Grove Restaurant, just off Townline Road and steps from the beach.

For more information on what to do in the area, visit Harbor Country.

The article on Goldberry Woods previously ran in the Herald Palladium.

ZYDECO, GUMBO, AND CAJUN HERITAGE: IT’S ALL PART OF THE CAJUN BAYOU FOOD TRAIL

Follow the Cajun Bayou Food Trail: A REAL Taste of Louisiana Cajun Country

Just 45 minutes from New Orleans, the Cajun Bayou Food Trail is a journey through the heart of Lafourche Parish and the ultimate road trip for those wanting to explore Louisiana’s food scene. Known as the Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou, this region of the state takes its culinary delights so seriously that the name Lafourche is French for the fork. While some will explain, patiently, the term is a geographical reference to a split in the  Mississippi River, we’re thinking that any place with a name synonymous with an eating utensil surely knows its way around a menu.

So grab your car keys and your sunglasses—but you won’t need to bring your own Lafourche as any place on the parish’s Cajun Bayou Food Trail have their own—and hit the road. There are currently 18 restaurants on the trail including the recently added Cinclare Southern Bistro.

“We’re thrilled to be included on the Louisiana Cajun Bayou Food Trail,” says Michael Dalmau, the owner of Cinclare Southern Bistro. “The restaurants that span this historic waterway might be different in what they do and how they do it but know this …. they all do it well. In South Louisiana – and especially up and down the Bayou – feeding and serving friends and family is not only what we do to pass a good time, but it’s how we show our love and support. It’s part of our DNA and that’s why we’re so good at it.”

All the stops on the trail feature authentic food accompanied by the unparalleled Southern hospitality.

According to my friend Mindy Bianca, chefs down this way tell how their favorite recipes feature the finest local ingredients along with a true love of their surroundings and heritage. The latter means treating guests the same as family–well, almost, you don’t have to clean up after dinner like you would at your mom’s. All this makes navigating the Cajun Bayou Food Trail an unparalleled culinary and travel experience.

The lives of the people of Lafourche Parish are fully intertwined with the bodies of water that are accessible throughout the region, most notably Bayou Lafourche, a 100-mile waterway that bisects the parish, and the Gulf of Mexico. Residents of the area view the Bayou and Gulf as their personal pantries, finding seafood and other delicacies within and along their waters. If you live here, you’re most likely not going to get kicked you out of the parish for not knowing how to whip up a tasty gumbo (though we can’t promise that’s true) but fortunately most if not all figure it out from an early age using recipes passed down through the  generations. That’s why those following the trail get to taste dishes authentic traditional foods that are part of the Parish’s gastronomic heritage–prepared and served as they have been for as long as some can remember. But that doesn’t mean some chefs don’t do their own riff with added ingredients or other ways to make them uniquely their own.

Celebrating not only the restaurants and local food purveyors that honor the culinary customs of the region, the parish also hosts six festivals and events dedicated to honoring and preserving its distinctive traditions. Think La Fete Des Vieux Temps in Raceland, Louisiana

Calling it a cultural gumbo, Mindy says that “restaurants lean toward plenty of fresh seafood and run the gamut from mom-and-pop operations to sophisticated dining rooms.

“The unifying element is that whether it’s fried shrimp at Spahr’s, a restaurant that now has three locations and that has been a staple here for more than 50 years, or an elegant and savory alligator-and-andouille sausage cheesecake appetizer at Kincare, which offers craft beverages and a more upscale dining experience in the heart of downtown Thibodaux, your meal is going to be both delicious and memorable.”

Visitors and locals alike are encouraged to pick up a Food Trail passport and map from any of the participating restaurants or download it from this website, then eat their way through the parish. Collect enough passport stamps and you’ll earn your way into a comfy Food Trail T-shirt. Trust us and order one size larger before hitting the trail. In these ever-changing and unpredictable times, requirements for completing a passport have been modified and the Food Trail can now be experienced more “virtually,” meaning that participating Trail restaurants offer curbside service.

For more information about the dining scene in Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou, to download your passport and map, or to check out some pictures and start dreaming of crawfish and crabs, gumbo and gator, please visit http://www.lacajunbayou.com. The local businesses up and down the Bayou are ready to fill up your plate and offer you a lafourche to use.  

Other places to dine include Rose’s Cafe, Holly Marie’s Seafood Market in Raceland, Punch’s Seafood Market in Lockport, Harry’s Poboys in Larose, Politz’s in Thibodeaux, Cher-Aimee’s in Cutoff, and C. Moran’s in Golden Meadow.

What to Do in Lafourche Parish

You can’t eat all the time, right? In between meals check out some or all of the following stops:

Swamp Tours

Described as an otherworldly experience, like time travel into the state’s prehistoric past by  touring Lafourche Parish’s swamplands. Tour options includes the 2 Da Swamp Bayou Tours & Museum trips to Bayou Des Allemands with traditional Cajun music, and museum displays of artifacts Des Allemands’ early years. Airboat Tours by Arthur Matherne, open seasonally, is a high-octane thrill rides on its fleet of airboats. Torres Cajun Swamp Tours’ guides takes visitor the history and ecology of wetlands’ Bayou Boeuf.

 E.D. White Historic Site

The White family was once among the Louisiana’s political elite. Patriarch Edward Douglas White was the state’s governor in the 1830s; his son and namesake became a U.S. Supreme Court Justice in the 1890s. The elder White’s home is now a Louisiana State Museum site and is a step back into the past showcasing the state’s history. Built from cypress in the Creole Plantation style in 1825, White purchased the home, re-imaging it as a Greek Revival mansion. Learn about the White family, the history of both the home’s history along with that of Chitimacha Indians and Cajun settlers, sugar plantation owners and the slaves that worked the fields in service of them by taking a tour of the E.D. White Historic Site in Thibodaux.

Restaurants in Thibodaux

Thibodaux’s restaurants and fresh markets reflect the local culture and cuisine. Top-rated restaurant spots include Fremin’s Restaurant, where you can take in the architecture of Thibodaux’s downtown area. The food is prepared with a view into the kitchen and the duck-and-andouille gumbo is like heaven in a bowl. Head to Off the Hook, a down-home spot with awesome po-boys, fried seafood and more gumbo! And try something different at the Cajun Potato Kitchen, a quirky and casual restaurant serving huge baked potatoes loaded with Cajun toppings. It’s fun and different and popular with the university crowd.  Get a full list of locals’ favorite restaurants.

Bayou Country Children’s Museum

You’d be hard pressed to find another museum in the U.S.—or really anywhere—that’s a Cajun-themed children’s museum. At Bayou Country Children’s Museum in Thibodaux brings together Cajun history, education and fun, making it a great stop for family fun. Here children can play on a full-size sugar harvester, toss beads from a Mardi Gras float, climb aboard a shrimp boat and more.

Center for Traditional Louisiana Boat Building

The wetlands flowing through Southern Louisianna are a distinct part of Lafourche Parish where more than 100 miles of bayou meander throughout the parish. The Center for Traditional Louisiana Boat Building, located in Lockport is the place to learn how traditional Cajun boats were constructed, including their iconic pirogue boats and flat-bottomed vessels known locally as putt-putts that once common in the region’s bayous.

Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center

Part of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve in Thibodaux, the center’s mission is to preserve Cajun tradition and offers such programs as their free Cajun music jam sessions every Monday afternoon, a Cajun-French meetup on Tuesdays, historical Thibodaux walking tours and boat tours of Bayou Lafourche. While there, stop at the Center’s museum store, which has Cajun music recordings, crafts and books for sale.

America’s Wetland Birding Trail

The trail, made up of 22 parishes includes Lafourche which is part of the Grand Isle Loop. The loop includes sections of Louisiana’s best-known barrier island as well as inland birding destinations teeming with shorebirds and seabirds. Download more information about the Grand Isle Loop on the Wetland Birding Trail.

Charter Fishing

Here are both a full list of charter boat companies in the area as well as saltwater fishing in Louisiana.

Bayou Lafourche Folklife and Heritage Museum

Located in a 1910 bank building in Lockport, , enjoy learning about the area’s fascinating history.

Mardi Gras in Lafourche Parish

They really know how to celebrate the two weeks leading up to Mardi Gras Day or as it is also known—Fat Tuesday. Typically there are more than a dozen parades roll through the towns of Golden Meadow, Galliano, Larose, as well as the parish seat of Thibodaux. Learn more about the parade schedules.

Shrimp and Tasso Pasta

Recipe courtesy of Bourgeois Meat Market, a stop on the Cajun Bayou Culinary Trail

1 lb. Bourgeois Tasso

2 lb. shrimp

1 large onion

1 large bell pepper

1 talk of celery

1 can Rotel

1 qt. heavy whipping cream

1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

1 bag bow tie pasta

Boil Bourgeois Tasso in a pot with just a little water until tender.

Add onion, celery, bell pepper, Rotel, and shrimp and smother down.

Add heavy whipping cream and let mixture come to a rolling boil.

Lower fire and add cheese to thicken.

Combine with cooked pasta and serve.

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ROCK SPRINGS CAFE: A TASTE OF THE OLD URBAN WEST

         At one time a stagecoach stop because of its natural springs creating the ideal place for watering horses and passengers as they crossed the Sonoran Desert, Rock Springs, a chunk of land just north of Maricopa County off Interstate-17, is the site of one of Arizona’s oldest restaurants as well as an iconic salute to the old west.

         It started in 1918 when Ben Warner erected a canvas tent and started selling mining equipment for those digging for gold and silver in the Bradshaw Mountain range. One of the mines, the Tip Top, ultimately yielded over $4,000,000 worth of silver. Now a ghost town with some buildings remaining, at one time the population reached 500.

  Ranching was also big and so even though the stagecoach era was ending, Warner soon had gas pumps and a building that functioned as a hardware store and café with hotel rooms on the top floor. Early Silver Screen actress Jean Harlow—known for her platinum hair—stayed so frequently (why we don’t know but it may be because of the still found on the property signifying that despite Prohibition alcohol could be had here as well as water) that the room where she stayed is now a museum. Cowboy movie star Tom Mix was also said to spend the night.

         I-17 was a sheep trial back then and herds of 20,000 sheep were driven up the dirt trail to Flagstaff. The Rock as it was called had the only telephone in the area. The number, if you needed to call, was Yavapai County #93. The post office was housed in the hotel and Warner was the postmaster until it closed in 1955. There were no tanker trucks delivering gas and so Warner brought it in five-gallon cans. Because cars used a lot of water back then, there were canvas bags that could be filled with water to take along for when the radiator went dry.

         “Cars going up the incline which was made of gravel and dirt would stop here to add water to their radiators,” says Augie Perry who owns the Rock Springs Café outside of Black Canyon City.

         Now you can buy all the hardware you want at one of the big box stores in Phoenix, everyone has cell phones, the hotel is closed, and the rooms where people stayed are now used to sell arts and crafts but much of Warner’s original store remains. The original flooring, timber, and staircase remain as does the reputation for traditional American diner food—steak and eggs, chicken fried steak, liver and onions, fried chicken, and grind the meat for the hamburgers and meat loaf they serve. 

 Mrs. Warner made pies and Perry has kept up that tradition as well but on steroids. Rock Springs Café sells about 120,000 handmade pies a year—their busiest times being around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. During the regular non-holiday week, they sell 250 to 350 pies daily and 500 each day of the weekend. The demand was so high that they started shipping pies about six years ago.

Their most popular pie is the Jack Daniels Bourbon Pecan Pie which Sean Penn ordered when he stopped by a few years back. My favorite is the Tennessee Lemon Pie, but for whatever taste, there’s a pie—chocolate silk, lemon meringue, banana cream, mixed berries, you name it. Their cream pies have a signature top to them—beehive cones that twists up and has been lightly given a pass over with a torch for a slight touch of golden brown atop the peaks. The pie business is so good that Perry, who has a long history as a consultant for large restaurant groups and also owns another eatery in Prescott, Arizona, has just renovated the old stone building where the Warners lived into The Pie Box. It had fallen into disrepair but now will sell pies and other pastries and feature seating areas both inside and out. Another plus, instead of crowding the restaurant and gift shop, people can come and get their pies here.

The property—about 60 acres—is private and it’s a free-range place. For Great Lakes people like me, that doesn’t mean much but in Arizona that translates to cows getting to roam free—which they do. Typically, in the morning they come around to drink from the spring. We haven’t heard of any ordering a pie to go but may be that’s next. They usually are gone by afternoon, maybe because they don’t want to be in vicinity when it comes time to make hamburgers. Because there’s a spring here, the gardens are pretty and lush with flowering plants, grass, and leafy trees. A small collection of historic buildings sells Native American art, organic and freshly grown produce, and specialty foods. There’s a wide selection of foods in the gift shop area of the café as well including cactus candies and other cactus goodies. Another room contains a huge Brunswick Bar built in 1856 and other artifacts from its early history.

Rock Springs in the 1920s and 1930s was what Perry describes as being an “urban western” place with a mix of cars and horses. That’s in comparison to Tombstone which was “frontier western”—pretty much just horses.  Whichever you stumble upon, it’s a refreshing reminder of what the west once was like.

Chicken Fried Steak

1 1/2 cups whole milk

2 large eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons seasoned salt

Freshly ground black pepper

3/4 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 pounds cube steak (tenderized round steak that’s been extra tenderized)

Kosher salt

1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil

1 tablespoon butter

Gravy:

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

3 to 4 cups whole milk

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

 Mix the milk with the eggs. In another bowl, flour with the seasoned salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper, paprika and cayenne.

 Sprinkle both sides of each steak with kosher salt and black pepper, then place it in the flour mixture, coating on both sides.  Dip in the milk/egg mixture, again coating each side and then dip on both sides in the flour.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the steaks three at a time making sure not to crowd them until their edges turn golden brown, about 2 minutes each side. Drain on paper towels and cover with another plate or tin foil to keep warm. Repeat with the next batch..

After all the meat is fried, pour off the oil/butter/dredgings into a heatproof bowl. Without cleaning the skillet, return it to the stove over medium-low heat. Add 1/4 cup of the oil back to the skillet and heat.

 Sprinkle the flour evenly over the hot oil. Mix the flour using a flour and stir until it turns a deep golden brown color.

Pour in the milk, whisking constantly. Add the seasoned salt and black pepper to taste and cook, whisking, until the gravy is smooth and thick, 5 to 10 minutes. Be prepared to add more milk if it becomes overly thick.

Jack Daniel’s Pecan Pie

 6 servings

1 cup granulated sugar

4 tbsp melted butter

1/2 cup dark corn syrup

3 large eggs, beaten

1 1/2 cup Pecan halves

2 1/2 tbsp Jack Daniel’s

1-9 inch pie shell, unbaked

Preheat oven at 375.

In a bowl, add sugar, melted butter, Jack Daniel’s and stir well.

Then add dark corn syrup, beaten eggs, pecans and stir well.

Place filling into pie shell. Transfer pie onto cookie sheet and place in oven.

Bake at 375 for 10 minutes. Then lower to 350 and bake for additional 25 minutes or until pie has set.

Tennessee Lemon Pie

3 eggs, separated

Zest of 1 lemon

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup extra-fine sugar, divided

1 9-inch Pure Butter Pie Crust, pre-baked (see recipe below)

In a medium-sized bowl, beat egg yolks for 2 minutes. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and 1/2 cup granulated sugar.

Transfer mixture to a double boiler and cook, stirring constantly, until very thick and a thermometer reads at least 182°F, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and let cool for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, beat egg whites with a hand mixer or stand mixer, until stiff peaks form. Add remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar and beat until just combined.

Fold egg whites into the custard, until just combined. Pour into pre-baked pie crust and then bake for 15 minutes, until pie is set. Top will lightly brown.

Pure Butter Pie Crust

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, preferably unbleached

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, unsalted and very cold

1/4 cup buttermilk or ice cold water

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon extra fine granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place flour in a bowl of an electric mixer and place in freezer along with mixer’s paddle attachment for at least 20 minutes.

Cut butter quickly in small cubes and place in freezer for 15 minutes.

Combine buttermilk with salt, sugar and vanilla extract and place in refrigerator.

Remove cold flour bowl from the freezer and add butter. With paddle attachment mix mixture on medium speed until butter pieces become smaller than peas and mixture feels like coarse meal.

With machine mixing on low speed add buttermilk mixture very fast and mix just until dough forms. Do not overmix. Chill dough in refrigerator for at least one hour.

Roll dough into desired thickness of about 1/8 inch and use for baking pie. Shapes of leaves can be cut out for pies if desired.

For more information about Rock Springs Café, (623) 374-5794; rocksprings.cafe