North East’s Peaceful Retreat

Before I start this article, let me say that I am totally and unabashedly biased. I absolutely love going to Sandy Cove Ministries in North East, MD. It’s a Christian retreat that offers an opportunity for people to enjoy the sights of Maryland’s beautiful peninsula. The property offers three square meals in buffet style. Most importantly, Sandy Cove Ministries is a place where connecting with Jesus is the ultimate goal.

In between connecting there are activities galore to partake in such as kayaking, canoeing, zip lining, camping, finding a quiet place to study or read the word of God. There is even a prayer room. If you love vegging out…just claim one of the many Adirondack chairs overlooking the beautiful piers and water. And if you want to attend a Sandy Cove event, see their calendar.

Grab your family! Make it a girls or a guys weekend or go by yourself! Here’s another great perk! If you are in the military, Sandy Cove offers a program called Operation Oasis for those who have been recently deployed. For more information, about Operation Oasis, visit the Sandy Cove Ministries website.

Maryland’s Smith Island Cake

(Photo Credit: Flickr)

It’s the official cake of Maryland and it’s a beaut! The Smith Island cake is a multi-layered cake, which ranges between six to ten thin layers frosted in between. A well-made Smith Island cake has pencil thin layers that are executed flawlessly.

Thin layers of cake used in the making of a Smith Island cake. (Photo Credit: Smith Island Baking Company Facebook page)

The original version of Smith Island cake has a chocolate buttercream frosting. During the 1800’s when this dessert was sent out with the watermen, it was frosted with fudge to increase the longevity of the dessert. Now there are many different variations of the Smith Island cake like red velvet, double chocolate, vanilla buttercream and many others.

Smith Island cake is named after Smith Island, Maryland, an island on the Chesapeake Bay that is only accessible by boat. If you don’t happen to have a boat on hand, never fear, there is a a ferry that departs from Crisfield, Maryland. Although the cake is made in other places in Maryland, the most popular place to get the Smith Island cake is on Smith Island at the Smith Island Baking Company.

If you are feeling like your chances of getting a slice of Smith Island cake is highly improbable, don’t count yourself out yet. The renowned bakery delivers nationwide. If you would like to make a Smith Island cake, see the ingredients and recipe below.

Cake Ingredients

2 cups sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, chunked
5 eggs
3 cups unbleached flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
1 cup evaporated milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup water

View the frosting ingredients and the full Smith Island Cake recipe on the Maryland Office of Tourism website.

When Harry Met Sally over Paprikash

Sometimes I’m good at looking up an unfamiliar word when I hear it, but other times not so much. When I heard the word “paprikash” in the scene from When Harry met Sally—you know the conversation about too much pepper in the Paprikash—I just took it as a funny conversation and just let it lie. (I know all of you When Harry met Sally fans probably caught that reference.) So when I was looking up foods from different cultures, I settled on Hungary. That’s when I ran into paprikash. I will admit, it took a minute or two to funnel through the useless trivia in my mind to remember where I first heard the word. And imagine my nerdy surprise to connect the dots after all these years.

Paprikash comes from the Hungarian word for paprika. The dish can be cooked as a stew or sauce but some of the principle ingredients include meat, onions, sour cream, Hungarian peppers are also used, and most importantly, don’t spare the paprika. No, really! You know how you just dash it over your deviled eggs and then set in the cabinet for another few months? That’s not how they use it in Hungary. It’s their national spice and there are eight grades of Hungarian paprika.

A true Paprikash will get its red color from the abundance of fresh paprika but often times in America, tomatoes or tomato paste is used. Chicken is the most popular of the Hungarian paprikash recipes. In many cases, the chicken is quartered and served with Nokedli, which is similar to German spaetzle.

Photo Credit Wikipedia

Paprikash is also served as beef, veal and vegan options as well. So whatever you do, stick with the peppery paprikash, you can partake in the pecan pie later. I had to throw in just one more When Harry Met Sally reference to justify the name of the article.

See the video below for a quick recipe for chicken paprikash from Hungarian food writer and author of the Budapest Bites, ZSofia Mautner.

Fun Fact

Another movie reference to paprikash can be found in Captain America: Civil War. It happens when Vision makes paprikash for Wanda to lift her spirits.

The Restaurant Dessert Menu Dilemma

First things first, I’m not complaining. Many restaurants do a great job with their menu offerings. Some are niche, some are all things to all people. Whatever’s clever! However, so much of what’s offered on dessert menus are not clever. It’s often downright trite. And I wonder why your basic neighborhood, and chain restaurants for that matter, don’t up their game with a different assortment of desserts.

Again, not looking to complain but seriously there is only so much apple crisp, fudge brownie with vanilla ice cream, apple pie a la mode, carrot cake or cheesecake one girl can stand. I would love to see something lively, fresh and new on a restaurant dessert menu. I would love to have something I can be excited about for that after-the-meal coffee and dessert conversation with friends. Here’s the other thing, I don’t want to have to dine at a $50 per plate restaurant for a better dessert option to be open to me.

Photo Credit: Engin Akyurt, (Pixabay)

Did I mention I’m not complaining? Just sort of thinking out loud. You understand. It’s a dilemma; nonetheless, my head is not so far up in the clouds that I don’t realize that there are reasons for these decisions.

Maybe, I’m an anomaly. Maybe customers are just fine with their choices; therefore, there’s no need to make any changes or dump much needed funds for the sake of creativity or trying something new. Mais non, mes chéries, I don’t give myself that much credit. There are millions upon millions of people who enjoy a good dessert and a good portion adopt the name “foodie” so I’m sure this comes all the way down to finances.

The restaurant business is hard enough as it is without your demanding customer wanting you to satiate their out of the ordinary dessert cravings. In fact, a 2015 Washington Post article by Roberto Ferdman stated, “There are many problems with dessert, but it all starts with one pretty simple truth: The restaurant industry is a place of razor thin margins, and dessert tends to offer one of the thinnest.”

So what’s the solution? Who knows? After all, nobody wants to place more burdens on overburdened restaurants. Some restaurants may decide more dessert choices could be a game-changer. A 2019 article by The Fork titled 10 Desserts Ideas to to Add to Your Menu, gives some great ideas.

Perhaps, for those who really want to enjoy a bonafide taste of extraordinary, a more direct approach is needed. You could skip the dessert menu for the more extensive options found at your local bakery. It might help spread the wealth when it comes to the bottom line.

A good local bakery will have more sweet treasures than you could dream of. Just think of the tarts, the tortes, the macarons, the eclairs, the cupcakes, the struedel, the streusel and so much more.

Photo Credit: Photo of bakery by Sony Ilce (Pixabay)

Of course, you can’t bring your own dessert to a restaurant but if you plan ahead, you can do coffee and dessert from the comfort of your own home and even invite your friends. I don’t know about you but I’m thinking this could work out for everyone.

Rhubarb Fool

Rhubarb fool served with Ginger Crisps (Photo by Alfrescorub, Flickr)

Don’t you love when you find those desserts that are just so simple? Easy peasy…simple as 1, 2, 3. Well, rest assured, this rhubarb fool is one of those desserts. For those of us who are slightly less adept at knowing all the culinary terms, a “fool” is an classic English dessert traditionally made by folding cooked pureed fruit into sweet custard. Modern versions of the dessert often use whipped cream.

Okay, I think it’s time to address the pink elephant in the room. Why the heck is it called a fool? Well, we look to the French for this explanation. The word comes from the French word “fouler” which means to crush or press. It’s a perfect reference to the fruit used in this dessert.

So the rhubarb fool is just one variation of the dessert. Did you know that there is a type of gooseberry called “careless,” which means there is a dessert called the “careless fool.” (Shout-out to the the Lovefood blog for that cool tidbit.)

Rhubarb is a perennial vegetable often used in many desserts. image from Flickr.
Strawberry and rhubarb fool (Photo by Scout Magazine, Flickr)

You can use most any fruit when preparing a fool. Rhubarb, of course, is a vegetable, but it is commonly used in recipes with fruit, especially strawberries because it brings balance to the sweetness. Check out Taste of Home’s Rhubarb fool with strawberries recipe, if you’d like to try the strawberry/rhubarb combination. However, for a straight rhubarb fool recipe, see the ingredients below.

Rhubarb Fool Ingredients

4 oz rhubarb 115g
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp orange juice
¼ cup heavy cream 60ml
2 tbsp Greek yogurt plain – full fat or low fat as you prefer

For the recipe instructions for this rhubarb fool, go to Caroline’s Cooking.

Season 2 Teaser: The Food That Built America

We already told you that “You Should Be Watching: The Food That Built America.” If you haven’t heeded the instructions, you still have a little more time before season 2 of the popular History Channel series hits the tube on Sunday, February 14 at 9 p.m.

Last we left our food visionaries, we were introduced to the stories of Milton Hershey, the Kelloggs brothers, C.W. Post, Post’s daughter, Marjorie Merriwether Post, and Colonel Sanders, among others. The season was so well received and had its audience so deeply enthralled that the History Channel upped their show count by 15 more episodes.

Click here to check out the season 2 teaser and find out who they will highlight this time.

Food and Beverage Trade Show in Dubai for February 2021

Will they? Won’t they? Do they? Don’t they? Don’t even sweat it! It’s all been decided, and the answer is…they will. The Dubai World Trade Centre, in the United Arab Emirates, is the stage for Gulfood Live-in-Person, an annual global food and beverage trade show happening this February 21 -25.

The world’s most influential people in global food and business will make their way to partake in a deep-dive food and beverage event. Sugar and spice and everything nice would pretty much describe the types of culinary dishes being whipped up and the food technology being offered from the ballers and SME’s in the industry.

The event is an all out exhibition complete with a three-day Innovation Summit, which will discuss everything from food security, sustainability and functional food. The trade show will also have food competitions as well as opportunities to network with those responsible for the coming food trends.

The Dubai World Trade Centre adheres to all guidelines for safety and precautions during the time of this global pandemic. Find out more details about the Gulfood Live In-Person trade show and how you can register to attend to this exciting event at

Asian Kebab and Hot Pot

Asian Kebab and Hot Pot’s is set up to enjoy the hot pot experience with friends and family (Photo Credit: Monica Johnson).

So this is a thing? Why didn’t anybody tell me these hot pot places were a thing? I came into Asian Kebab and Hot Pot in Lutherville, MD (just north of Towson, MD) because I had been eyeing it for a while. I really didn’t know what I was walking into but I was delightfully surprised.

Now before, we even talk about the hot pots, let’s talk about the kebabs. You can make your own kebabs here! You choose your fixings, place them on skewers and have at it. There are special areas for you to grill your kebabs.

The hot pot experience is a fantastic way to share a communal cooking and eating experience with friends. You’re actually sitting at a table equipped with burners so you and your party can cook up your hot pot.

The restaurant will start by giving your party a pot with your choice of broth/soup base. You also get a bunch of options for your dipping ingredients. The Asian Kebab and Hot Pot’s menu of dipping ingredients include: sliced lamb, Chinese cabbage, sliced beef, chicken gizzards, tofu, cattle tripe, mushrooms, shrimp (head-on) and a whole lot more. And the final portion of this fun-filled adventure is dipping your freshly cooked dipping ingredients from the hot pot into your choice of sauces.

Want to know more about the hot pot experience? Thrillist has an excellent article called Everything You Need to Know to Master Hot Pot.

Other Offerings

Asian Kebab and Hot Pot also has other offerings. As I looked over the restaurant’s take-away menu, the host, a pretty informative young man, must have thought I was hesitant because before long he gently offered, “We have an American menu.” I laughed to myself because I know he must offer that a lot when people see items like Sautéed Bullfrog in Chili Sauce on the menu. But I’m down buddy! Bring on the authenticity…I can handle this.

Chilly Pot Fish from Asian Kebab and Hot Pot. A combination of fish fillets, broccoli, and spicy peppers. (Photo Credit Monica Johnson)

I settled on the Chilly Pot Fish and it was excellent. The combination of fish fillets, broccoli and spicy peppers served with rice was definitely hot and spicy. However, it was not the over the top, cough up your guts, “Give me a Kleenex…I need to wipe my nose and my forehead!” brand of hot. It was tempered so you could really taste the flavor of each bite.

For more information about the restaurant or a menu, go to the Asian Kebab & Hot Pot website.

Pho Love T-shirt available on TheCoolCultureCook on Etsy.

TheCoolCultureCook is a fun foodie apparel line from Multi Cultural Cooking Network. This Pho Love t-shirt is now available on TheCoolCultureCook Etsy Page.

Step Up Your Vegetable Game: Fiddleheads

Fiddleheads from Lake Meyer Park, IA (Photo Credit: Larry Reis, Flickr)

There are some vegetables that are standard for me. If you looked in my fridge on a given day there would probably be cabbage, spinach, broccoli, maybe green beans or asparagus. However, sometimes you just want to step off the page a little. Shake things up! When you do, there is a world of vegetables you can explore. Today, let’s focus on fiddleheads.

So this is the part when you ask, “Seriously, is that really the name?” Well, I would ask that question too, but just look at them! The name really does fit when you think about the very top of a fiddle/violin, which has a scroll like shape. Fiddleheads are the tightly coiled tips of ferns. They are most widely found in the United States in the northern plain states, the north east coast and throughout most of Canada.

The vegetable is considered a delicacy partially because it is harvested very close to the ground before the fern’s frond has uncoiled. In addition to the fact that fiddleheads must be foraged, the vegetable is only available in the spring months…typically from mid-April through May.

Nutritional Value and Flavor
Photo Credit: Diane Cordell, Flickr

Looking for more Omega-3 in your diet? Here’s some! Fiddleheads also have omega-6 fatty acids, iron and it very rich in fiber. The flavor of fiddleheads is often described as an asparagus flavor but with hints of nuttiness. It is also likened to wild spinach. You may be able to find fiddleheads at your local farmer’s market but it’s not widely available so do your research. If your grocer has a wild food section, you may be able to find it there.

Fiddleheads are best when consumed quickly. For some context to how quickly… we’re talking within a day. The shelf-life is short, for sure, so it won’t be long before the vibrant green coils turn to brown. So remember…cook it quickly.

Ways to Cook Fiddleheads

Before you cook fiddleheads, make sure you have rinsed them thoroughly so you don’t have any dirt or grittiness when it’s time to eat. Raw fiddleheads carry a toxin called shikimic acid; therefore you want to make sure that you are not eating it raw. You also don’t want to eat fiddleheads in very large portions. Eating raw or in large portions may upset your stomach.

There are multiple ways you can cook fiddleheads. They only need to be lightly cooked, and you can steam, boil, pickle, stir-fry or simply sauté in butter. The world is your fiddlehead!

Photo Credit: Flickr

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Simple Kid-Friendly Valentine’s Day Recipe: Nutella Mousse

Nutella Mousee (Photo Credit: Flic
Flikr, Naomi Robinson))

Children want to celebrate their loved-ones by giving gifts on their level of ability, and what could be easier than a two-ingredient Nutella mousse? Let them show their Valentine’s Day love to mom, dad, auntie, uncle, grandma, or grandpa with an easy dessert.

There are a variety of ways to make Nutella mousse, but a two-ingredients recipe is a great starter, especially for children. Plus, they will have a ball picking out toppings for the mousse once completed. It’s fun on top of fun.

Getting Started

The first ingredient for the Nutella Mousse is Nutella, right? Nope, that was a “Gotcha!” question. It is actually pouring cream/heavy whipping cream. If you go with Jennifer Cheung’s recipe on Kidspot Kitchen recipe, you use 2 cups of cream then whip, whip and whip some more until it’s light and fluffy.

Next, grab that jar of Nutella and measure 1 cup. Add the Nutella and fold it in until it’s thoroughly combined. At this point, let it chill for 6 hours then serve. You can top with raspberries, strawberries or the garnish of your choice.

Servings: 4

On the recipe, there are a few slight differences. Use 1 and 1/2 cups of heavy cream and a 1/2 cup of Nutella. The recipe instructions are very similar; however, in this iteration it is topped with a Ferrero Rocher and toasted hazelnuts. This recipe also encourages you to serve it immediately.

Servings: 4

Here’s one more recipe by The Cooking Foodie. It’s still two ingredients.

Fun Fact #1

Here’s a little history about the very popular chocolate hazelnut spread, Nutella. First of all, it has an Italian heritage and just like we have a lineage so does Nutella. So, if Nutella had a family tree, it might start with gianduja.

Gianduja is sold as a paste and in blocks too.
(Photo Credit: Flickr)

Gianduja dates all the way back to Napolean’s reign in the early 1800’s. In fact, the blocking of British products entering European ports, under French control caused Turin chocolatier, Michele Prochet to start mixing his strained supply of cocoa with hazelnut. Yet again, necessity is the mother of invention and the chocolate and hazelnut paste was born.

Advancing our way through the Nutella family tree, Italian chocolatier, Pietro Ferrero introduced Supercrema gianduja in his bakery in Alba in 1951. This modified version was more of a spread and it was much creamier than the original gianduja.

Still sticking to the 1900’s, it was Ferrero’s son, Michele that further modified the Supercrema gianduja and renamed it Nutella. The spread was an instant success and was sold throughout Europe and now worldwide.

Fun Fact #2

Pietro Ferrero is the founder of the Ferrero Group, the company that makes those delicious chocolate hazelnut bites, Ferrero Rocher.