Friday, September 2, 2011

Fridays, Feasting with Friends- Featuring Jen Gardner

"One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends."~Laurie Colwin 'Home Cooking'

Jen Gardner

For today's Fridays, Feasting with Friends I am thrilled to introduce you to an amazing blogger Jen Gardner.  She is a woman who, if you haven't already put your house up for sale and picked your future home here in the beautiful CLE, will encourage you to do so after spending some time on her blog Why CLE?.  She was born and raised here in Cleveland, Ohio and although she has moved away many times she always comes back.  By choice, not chance..... and has often encountered the same question- "Why Cleveland?".  In Jen's words:
This blog will attempt to answer two questions – “Why Cleveland?” and “WhyCleveland?”  The first question is the good stuff – the amazing, noteworthy people and places that make Cleveland, well, Cleveland.  Not just touristy spots, not just the things all of us could list sitting here, but the real heart and soul of the city – the stuff that makes us want to live here, raise our families here, and defend the city to those who would knock it.
The second question looks at what could be better – the stuff that makes us shake our heads at the fact that our town can sometimes be its own worst enemy.  Because I think we can all admit that Cleveland has its share of that stuff, too.
My hope is that, through this adventure, you’ll find a better answer next time someone asks you, “Why Cleveland?”  Or maybe it’ll stop you from asking the question of someone else…
I have also been born and raised here in Cleveland, and goodness I love this place!  I too moved away for some time and a few short years later, found myself back in my hometown.  And yet I find myself truly inspired while reading her blog.  She makes me proud of my town and proud I made the decision to move back here to raise my family.  I am excited to see so many parts of my CLE that is even new to me- rediscovering your hometown is always a good thing.  Thank you Jen for your honesty and also your passion in our beautiful home.

What is your favorite thing to cook?
Without a doubt, Thanksgiving dinner! I started making my family’s entire Thanksgiving dinner about 5 years ago and I love it. All the dishes are so traditional and when I get the timing coordinated and a great meal on the table, that’s such a fantastic feeling. The year my mom told me my great-grandma’s pumpkin pie tasted just like she always remembered it, I knew I had a good thing going.

How about your least favorite thing to cook?
Pasta. I know…how basic, right?! But I feel like I can never get it to be done exactly how I want it. Although I do make a mean spaghetti sauce, so I flub my way through for the sake of that.

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out?
So many favorites: Lolita, Greenhouse Tavern, Grovewood Tavern, and Dante are my main go-to places. I have been dying to try L’Albatros. It’s the only Zack Bruell restaurant I haven’t been to!

Music and food go together so beautifully. You are hosting a dinner party, what would be on your playlist?
Chances are a lot of classics: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin. Hearing that kind of music is one of my favorite things about dining in Little Italy.

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth?
My mom’s roast beef with mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes, and cooked carrots. I know that sounds shockingly simple, but for most of my growing up, that was my pick for birthday or special occasion dinners. It’s the ultimate comfort food for me. For dessert, chocolate molten cake with Jeni’s salted caramel ice cream.

What are you currently reading?
“Tender is the Night” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, which is my book club’s monthly selection. Also finishing up “Bossypants” by Tina Fey, which was last month’s book club selection (I’m a little behind).

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget?
My slow cooker (is that a gadget?). If you need a smaller gadget, my ice cream scoop that’s shaped like a cow (it’s funny and I love ice cream).

Do you have a signature go-to dish?
Probably lasagna. I don’t know how my grandma, my mom, and I (3 good Polish and Czech girls) managed to come up with a good lasagna recipe, but it works.

What is your favorite thing about the Cleveland area?
So, so many things…the people, the culture, the food scene, the lake, the sports teams, the eternal optimism.

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you cook it today?
The roast beef answer from above is my favorite childhood meal. I don’t know that I’ve ever made it myself, but I definitely can still get mom to make it.

Top 3 Movies of all time?
The Sound of Music, Pretty Woman, The Princess Bride

What was your happiest moment in life?
To date, when my fiance proposed. I honestly felt (and feel) like the most blessed and lucky person in the world. But, I’m pretty sure there are even more happiest moments to come!

Where do you do your grocery shopping?
Giant Eagle (most convenient), Heinen’s, The West Side Market (not nearly as much as I should)

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
Ice cream! Really, I’ll take anything sweet, but I will never, ever turn down ice cream and will usually go out of my way to “just happen to pass” an ice cream shop on the way home.

Can you tell me about what you are most proud of?
My relationships with my fiance, family, and friends. When I look at the amazing people in my life, I know that I’ve accomplished something in being able to cultivate and maintain these connections.

Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year?
One major one: cook at home more often. We are so busy and go out to eat so much that I feel like I under-utilize my kitchen. Carving out more nights per week to have dinner in (and inviting people over to share in that) is culinary priority #1 for me.
One word that best describes you is: Happy.

this picture should seriously be the cover of a love story.  Perfect, true love.  

And now can you share a favorite recipe of yours?:

Chicken Pairisian 
(I have no idea where this came from)

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
All-purpose flour
1 cup white wine
½ cup water
1 ½ cups sliced mushrooms

Wash chicken breasts and pat dry.
Place flour and few dashes of paprika into a ziploc bag.
Dredge chicken breasts in flour and paprika mixture.

Place chicken breasts in saute pan.
Brown on each side.
Remove chicken from pan.

Add water, wine, and mushrooms to pan.
Heat until boiling.

Reduce heat.
Return chicken to pan.
Cover and cook for 30 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly cooked.

Serve with spaghetti with olive oil or twice-baked potatoes.

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