Friday, January 02, 2015

Family Christmas Letter, sent on New Year's Day, 2015

Happy New Year, 2015

Food is our common ground, a universal experience…James Beard
Looking back on 2014, food has been a strong theme for us. Many friends and family have provided us with food, the equipment to make great food, and food recipes that shaped our experiences this year. Finding time to sit down as a family for meals is a priority and has taken many shapes this year as we manage various schedules. If you are in Pittsburgh, let us know, we’d love to share a meal with you!

In March, the whole family made a trip to Orlando, Florida, for one of Catherine’s conferences with Grant and Mark heading on to Dallas for one of Grant’s water polo competitions. Mark arrived in Dallas and made his way to a hospital where they removed his burst appendix. This started a 5 week stay in two hospitals which involved Mark eating almost no food! As part of his recovery, his sisters (who were instrumental in his care) gave him a Vitamix blender. If you don’t have one, put this letter down and get one. This piece of equipment has allowed us to create things from scratch that we never would have imagined. Whether it is smoothies, almond or coconut butter, or tomato bisque (recipe included), we use this blender multiple times a day!

We enjoyed visits with Erik as he took breaks from his studies at Swarthmore College. He has been a good sport about trying all the new things we’ve been creating in the kitchen. Erik was thinking about food this summer in Washington, DC, while he was an intern in the Office of the First Lady. We’ve included one of Michelle Obama’s favorite recipes. He helped with Mrs. Obama’s school lunch initiative and other child health issues. Friends of Mark provided housing for Erik. We really can’t thank them enough! Erik continues his work from a distance with the Loveless Cafe – another great place for food, especially the biscuits and jams!

Mark was hired as the women’s club water polo coach at Carnegie Mellon University. He is still the boys’ varsity swim coach at Grant’s High School, Pittsburgh Obama Academy. He managed another successful Swim and Water Polo Camp for nearly 200 kids with Pittsburgh Public School’s Summer Dreamers. Open, drop-in community water polo for adults and high school swimmers happens at 5pm every Friday at Thelma Lovette YMCA on Centre Ave in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. At a recent AM swim practice, Mark gave a phone interview to the BBC about a swimmer he coached 30+ years ago. Ebooks, apps development and a Kickstarter campaign are on tap for early 2015.

Grant continues to golf, swim and play high-level water polo which sends him to the suburbs and local colleges many evenings each week. One way or another, we all have dinner together whether it is at 4 or 10 pm, and sometimes both! Grant went to the USA Water Polo Junior Olympics with Greenwich Aquatics (CT). He and Catherine had fun spending time with close friends in New York while Grant practiced with that team in July.

This friend is a gourmet cook so Grant got a sense of what it would be like to be an athlete with a private chef!

Catherine continues to help her Mom stay in independent living with frequent visits. A recipe from Mark’s sister, Margie, is one of Barbara’s favorite dinners (recipe included). Barbara is the perfect person to bounce cooking ideas off of and she taught us the trick to great kale salads (recipe included).

We hope you’ve had time over this holiday to share food with loved ones and we wish you the time and space to do more of this in the New Year. Here’s to good health and happiness in 2015!

Mark, Catherine, Erik, and Grant

108 South 12th Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15203;; NUKED other ADDRESS

412-298-3432; 412-xxx-xxxx

Some recipes we thought you might enjoy in 2015!

White House kitchen Garden Cucumber Soup (a recipe from Michelle Obama which she shares in her correspondence)

2 cups almond milk (or scald 2 cups milk w/a handful of slivered almonds; steep 10 minutes, let cool, leave almonds in)

2 large cucumbers; 3 oz Greek yogurt; 2 Tbsp dill, salt, toasted almonds, Greek yogurt, and dill for granish

Peel, seed and coarsely chop the cucumbers. Add cucumbers, almond milk, Greek yogurt, dill and salt to blender and puree until smooth. Serve chilled. Garnish w/toasted almonds, a dollop of Greek yogurt and sprig of dill.

Slow Cooker Creamy Italian Chicken (shared by Margie Guyer, Mark’s sister)

2 lbs boneless , skinless chicken breasts; 1 pkg Good Seasons Italian Dressing Mix; ½ cup water; 1 8 oz pkg cream cheese;
1 can cream of chicken soup (or cream of mushroom soup)

3 cups cooked white, long grain rice (or for a low carb version, put this over spaghetti squash or other vegetables)

Place chicken in crock pot. Mix together Italian dressing mix and water, pour over chicken. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours OR low for 8 hours. Mix together cream cheese and soup in a separate bowl. Remove chicken from the crock pot to a plate. Pour cream cheese/soup mixture into crock pot and mix together with dressing in the bottom. Return chicken to crock pot and mix gently to shred the chicken. Cook on low until heated through. Serve on rice (or spaghetti squash).

Tomato Basil Bisque (from The Joy of Cooking (and Eating) Fat)

1 large onion sliced ¼ inch thick. 6 large or 12 small tomatoes (about 3 cups worth); 10-15 fresh basil leaves; ¼ cup light olive oil; ½ tsp finely ground black pepper; 4 cups chicken broth; 1 cup heavy cream

Put olive oil and onions in a pot and brown over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Cut the tomatoes in half and add them along with the basil leaves and pepper. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes (tomatoes should be soft). Place all of this into a blender for 60 seconds. Rinse the cooking pot, place a large sieve over it, and strain the blended mix though it. Discard any solids. Add the chicken broth to the tomato puree and warm over heat. Take soup off the heat and whisk in the heavy cream.

We really like this Bisque served with Giada De Laurentis’ Parmesan Crackers. Place heaping Tbsps of shredded Parmesan cheese onto parchment paper covered backing sheet. Bake for 5 minutes at 400 degrees. He dips these into the bisque (kind of like grilled cheese and tomato soup without the carbs!)

Kale Salad

Barbara Palmer taught us the trick to great Kale salads. Use scissors to cut the kale away from the stalk and then into small pieces. Drizzle lots of olive oil over the cut up Kale and then scrunch it with your hands (this breaks the stiff veins and is the key to great kale salad – scrunch a lot!). Then add the juice of one lemon and the zest. We like two variations from here: 1) grate parmesan cheese and sprinkle bacon bits over it or 2) add ½ cup of quinoa, feta, and pecans.

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