General, Product Reviews

Limoncello Love 🍋

It all started in 2011 when my (now) husband Chris and I took at trip to Walt Disney World. We’re both super into food and drinks and he and I aimlessly spent our first real trip together wandering around the Epcot Food & Wine Festival, tasting and sipping our days away. One night, we stopped to kill some time in Epcot’s Italy Pavilion before dinner, and that’s where it happened. Chris went into this little bar/wine spot and emerged with two shot glasses of a neon yellow-looking icy cold beverage. “It’s limoncello”, he said, “you’ll like it” (because I’m known to gravitate toward sweet and citrusy flavors). Well I did, and every year since then, we stop at that spot and now buy 4 shots (2 each!) and sip away as if we’re really in Italy.

A few years ago, we started buying bottles during each trip to bring home with us – we’re “Disney people” and typically go once a year. It was pricey at Epcot, but we had grown to love it so much, that we didn’t want to wait for our next trip to have it again, since we couldn’t find it locally until recently. Well, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, our trip that was scheduled for 2020 has now been rescheduled for 2022, but more importantly, WE RAN OUT OF OUR BELOVED LIMONCELLO! And to make matters worse, (another ‘due to the pandemic’ thing), the local wine shop we’ve been relying on lately has been unable to get it for us. Enter actor/writer/foodie Stanley Tucci…

Stanley Tucci starred in a wonderful documentary series on CNN called Searching for Italy. If you haven’t seen it, here’s a link to watch on Apple TV. If you don’t have Apple TV, I’m pretty sure you can find it through your cable’s On Demand feature on CNN.

In each episode, Stanley brought you to different regions – from the tiniest of towns to the sprawling cities, focusing on the food and history of each area. One that caught our eye was the episode featuring the Amalfi Coast. During that episode, he visited a limoncello producer that we literally paused and rewound and watched over and over to try and see the label on the bottle. We finally got it and started Googling. We came up with La Valle dei Mulini, an iconic brand from Italy that identifies the products of the historic Aceto Family, five generations of PGI Amalfi Coast Lemon farmers. Since 1825 they have preserved this passion keeping intact the craftsmanship handed down over time and using only the organic-certified lemons that they grow, harvest and select on their own. From producer to consumer, their products are authentic Amalfi.

We ordered a few bottles (how bad could it be, am I right?), and got our order confirmation. We were definitely a little nervous about ordering from outside the country, but we gave it a shot and waited for a tracking number. We checked email almost every day (impatient much??), and didn’t see one, but were happily surprised a couple of short weeks later to find a box at our door FROM ITALY!

We unwrapped and immediately put a bottle in the freezer to chill it up. The colder it gets, the more syrupy it becomes and it goes down smooth! There is definitely a different taste compared to what we’ve become used to – this is just the right amount of sweet and tart with bright citrus flavor, which I imagine can only happen if you get the good stuff direct from the source. So everyone, say a quick prayer for my husband, who will now be ordering limoncello from Italy a few times a year 😂

Next stop, making a plan to take that trip to Italy to drink this under the lemon trees! I found the perfect spot…

Photo Credit: Amazing Architecture – @Archi_Mondo Twitter

General

My Year with Anosmia

an·os·mi·a / aˈnäzmēə, aˈnäsmēə / noun MEDICINE

  1. the loss of the sense of smell, either total or partial. It may be caused by head injury, infection, or blockage of the nose.

It took me a year to talk about this on here, but I figured it might shed some light as to why I haven’t completely dived in to sharing my fabulous recipes as I originally wanted to. While most of the world was smack in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, I decided to spice things up a bit.

On June 28, 2020, I had an accident. One that was incredibly preventable and in retrospect, one of those “what was I thinking” moments as an almost 48 year old person. I was outside with my teenager who had just gotten a new skateboard (yep, it’s exactly what you think happened). I was telling her stories of how in my younger days, I (kind of) skated and was able to do (easy) tricks, etc. I thought it would be a great idea to hop on and at least show her how to balance, and roll around – nothing fancy. Putting on a helmet didn’t even cross my mind since I was being “careful” and not doing anything fast/scary/risky. Or so I thought.

To make a really long and traumatic story short, I fell. And I fell hard. After a CT scan and x-ray at the emergency room, I was diagnosed with a bad concussion and a closed fracture of the occipital bone – which is that bone in the back of your head, just above your neck and apparently a hard one to actually break (so HUGE SHOUT OUT to that low bun I decided to wear in my hair that day that softened the blow and protected me). The headache was incredible. I was dizzy, nauseated, off-balance, all of the typical concussion “things” but I feel like I felt them times ten after having pretty easily recovered from a very mild concussion the year before (and a cooking related one! – a roasting pan fell from a shelf onto my head). Anyway, on the way home, we stopped to pick up McDonald’s since we had missed dinner earlier and despite everything that was going on – I was starving. I was handed a bag of fries and chicken nuggets and I noticed something weird right after my first bite. My Mickey D’s was super salty (way more than usual). I kept eating just to eat ‘something’ to mesh with all the Tylenol in my stomach, and chalked it up to the fact that I was crying heavily for the last few hours, and as a result, my nose was really congested (it was almost like when you’re sick, and things don’t taste right), so I let it go for the night.

The next couple of days went by and I was still loaded with congestion and bad headaches. My nose alternated between running and clogged. Having a sinus headache + a back of the head, head injury headache was definitely no fun. After a week of televists with my doctor and my complaining about the headaches and the lack of smell and taste (and a Covid infection ruled out), I was passed on to a great neurosurgeon who took one look at me through the screen and noticed that I had a black eye. I noticed it too, but assumed I had bumped it on the water bottle I was holding when I fell. Not the case. In a nutshell, here’s what happened:

When you hit the back of your head, the brain is forced back then bounces foward, basically smashing into the front of your face, and in my case, causing the black eye and the shearing of my olfactory nerves (those little things you need to smell). I was happy to finally hear that “this happens” and much more often with an injury like mine. The headaches would go away they said, but the Anosmia was another story. No time frame, no ‘cure’, no magic pill. Not what I wanted to hear.

So, what now?

After being told there was nothing to do but wait, I was directed to an ENT for one final opinion. He literally saw me for 15 minutes and handed me a printed sheet about smell training with scented oils and instructions to do regular sinus rinses. I did both of those things diligently for the first three months with little progress. The most smell I got was being able to kind of ‘feel’ a cold sensation in my nose, (but not really smell) peppermint oil. I dove deep into the internet, reading article after article – even 16-page scientific documents – all while trying to just be patient. I read about other people’s experiences with anosmia recovery and it’s hit or miss. But those stories also sparked a whole new level of panic (thanks, internet) – I worried all the time about what I couldn’t smell… what if there was a fire? A gas leak? Did I put deodorant on? Is the raw chicken good? Does the trash need to go out? All of that. It’s unreal how something like scent is so taken for granted. Regardless, I was on a mission to heal myself and had to succumb to relying on the smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms to do their jobs. My husband and daughter are now the sniffers for me when it comes to food, trash, etc…

My takeaway from all of the articles I read had me come up with this supplement “therapy” that I’ve been using for the last few months. Please don’t assume that my list is a cure and always ask your doctor before you start taking anything, but this regimen has been safe for me and the only thing that’s given me any improvement in a year:

– Regular multivitamin + extra vitamin C and D
– 600mg Alpha Lipoic Acid
– MegaRed Advanced 600mg Omega3 Algae Oil
-15-30mg Zinc Picolinate
– I drink a lot of turmeric and ginger tea (anti-inflammatory)
– And today, I’m adding CoQ10 because I started “researching” again, and read some good things about it

The current list of things I CAN smell is:

Oranges, cut grass, my shampoo, Ellia Blended Oils in “Let it Go” and “Fight It” (each definitely smells different), lemons, and most recently garlic and onion (but they kind of smell the same). I’m also getting some smells from things like the Febreeze in the work bathroom, but can’t pinpoint a scent – it just smells sweet. Another point too is that I have not smelled anything gross, so that’s been a huge plus, I guess? I am trying now to focus on smelling everything I can that’s a fresh, not a manufactured scent. So flowers, or any fruit or veggie I cut up, you can bet I’m sticking my nose in them.

What I really miss now are things I loved to smell, like clean laundry from the dryer, brownies baking in the oven, summer, Yankee Candles (!), or my Grandma’s house; and tasting real food. Everything I’ve eaten for the last year has gone from being all about flavor to all about texture. Crunchy, creamy, spicy, salty… I was never one for a lot of spice, but now I add red pepper flakes or Trader Joe’s Bagel Seasoning on just about everything because I can get that little bit of flavor through, which makes me feel like there’s still some hope. Burgers, which I used to love, just taste like metal to me right now. And the big question – CILANTRO – yep, it tastes like soap to me now (it didn’t before)!!

If you’re reading this, and you or someone you know is going through the same thing, just remember that you’re not alone. In my “research”, I found so many posts like this from real people and many have recovered, it just took a lot of time and patience. I’m still suffering with some mild, post-concussion headaches, but the loss of smell is truly one that’s debilitating. I’d also love to compare notes if you’ve gone through this and gotten your smell back – contact me and share your secrets! Meanwhile, I’ll keep cooking my best and sharing my tried-and-true recipes with you!

Art, General

Reintroducing… my Etsy Shop!

I’ve been a hobby artist all my life. I’ve always loved painting, drawing, and doodling. About 15 years ago, I loaded some work into my Etsy shop, and I’ve been selling my artwork on and off ever since.

In my shop, you’ll find original paintings, mostly watercolors, and mostly florals and plants (because I’m obsessed!). I hope you’ll take a look around and find something you like. I’m currently offering a discount code to anyone that purchases after seeing this – a little blog test of sorts 🙂 – so use code CROCKPOTS at checkout for free shipping on any order, USA addresses only. Expires 12/31/2021.

Original art is a really great way to decorate your space with something that no one else has! I never create or sell prints of my work, so you can rest assured that the art you receive is 100% unique and there will never be another exactly like it.

I also take on commission work (custom orders), so if you have an idea for something you’d like me to paint – message me here with your ideas and pricing. Take a peek at my latest work below, and visit my Etsy shop for the full assortment of available pieces!

General

Tomatoes from… tomatoes!

One of the easiest ways to grow tomatoes is, well, with tomatoes! This fun hack gets started right in a paper or plastic cup, and once your seedlings are nice and tall, transfer them to a pot outside to continue growing!

I did this trick last spring and we got a nice bunch of tomatoes by the end of the summer. Give it a shot and let me know how yours grow!

Step 1: Pick your favorite tomatoes and slice into 1/2 inch thick slices; prepare a cup filled half way with garden soil (I use organic Miracle Grow).
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Step 2: Place tomato slices into soil and press down about 1/4 inch. Cover with about a 1/2 inch of soil and pierce hole in the base of cup to allow for drainage.

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Step 3: Water lightly and cover with plastic wrap. Place in a sunny spot inside or outdoors.
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Photo #1 was taken FOUR DAYS LATER! Photo #2 was taken 8 days after planting!
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Happy Growing! I’ll update as my plants keep growing 🙂

General

Burn Baby Burn!

Ah, the Instant Pot. Love it or hate it, it seems it’s here to stay and I honestly love cooking with mine all the time. But… there are those frustrating BURN moments that I just can’t get past!

Imagine this: You read through all of the recipe steps in advance – it’s got great reviews and you get all excited for your meal at the end of the day. You follow your recipe precisely. And then this happens:

Image-credit-Joe-Lingeman-thekitchn

Thankfully, a BURN error isn’t a regular occurrence for me, but when it happens, I feel as if I’ve failed, because I know that my meal is just never going to be right after that. It’s actually become a joke in our house that if the Instant Pot burns, we order take out! In fact, one night, my daughter wasn’t happy about what was for dinner, so she printed out the BURN warning and stuck it to my pot!

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Don’t be afraid of the burn. The Instant Pot is just protecting itself! 

According to Instant Pot, “The temperature sensor will trigger the Overheat Protection if the inner pot reaches too high a temperature, shut off the heat, and the cooker will display the warning message. Once things cool down enough, the heating element will turn back on and the Instant Pot will try to complete its cooking program. If the temperature gets too hot again, it will trigger the Overheat Protection again.”

I tried making a Pot Roast the other night and the burn came on about 10 minutes into the warm-up. I think my issue was that I added the liquid last instead of first (I still can’t get Instant Pot and Slow Cooker rules straight!). I opened my pot, gave everything a good stir and it functioned normally after that, however my post roast turned out more like overcooked roast beef. The meat was tough and waiting more than an hour just got me out of the mood, but we ate it and it was ok. Not great, but ok. See some tips from Instant Pot below to avoid the burn.

Ways to avoid the burn:

  • Ensure there is enough liquid. The single best way to prevent overheating is to have enough water-based liquid. Without water, the cooker cannot pressurize properly and may overheat. 
  • Ensure the steam release is sealed. Your Instant Pot cannot reach pressure if the steam release is not sealed, but it will continue to heat as the steam escapes. This could lead to overheating. 
  • Ensure the sealing ring is working properly. If the sealing ring is damaged or placed incorrectly steam will escape and prevent pressurization, potentially leading to overheating. 
  • Ensure the float valve is clean and moves freely. Food residue can cause the float valve to stick, which can also allow steam to escape. 
  • Layer ingredients. (THIS WAS MY MISTAKE!) Put liquids into the inner pot first, then add the other ingredients. Do not stir or mix. This helps keep things that might scorch from touching the bottom.

For complete burn details and more tips, visit https://instantpot.com/instant-pots-overheat-burn-protection/.

General

I’m back!

Hello everyone!

I’ve resurrected my blog! I even bought the domain to make it legit.

I’ve been gathering inspiration from my new cooking gadgets for some time now, so I thought, why not? I cook all the time and have a lot of great recipes, reviews and tips to share, so I hope you’ll stick around and follow along. Comments are welcome and encouraged!

Hit the About Me tab to learn more about who I am and what I do, and stay tuned for some great posts!