Solving Your Wine Buying Confusion, Thanksgiving Wine Suggestions, and Gabe’s Thanksgiving Menu

Episode 002

Do you second guess yourself when buying wine?  I do.  On a scale of 1-10, I am about a five when it comes to my comfort level in buying wine at a store or in a restaurant.  Howard Riedel is here to calm your nerves (and mine) about wine buying.  He is wine expert, has a 30 year career as a marketing consultant  to  the retail wine industry, and a he’s part-time public radio broadcaster.
Howard Riedel’s Wine Recommendations for Thanksgiving:
(Note: These are NOT affiliate links)

Also, I tell you about what I am making for Thanksgiving this year, including the recipe for my grandmother’s stuffing.

If you are looking for Thanksgiving tips, tricks, and recipes, I recommend Serious Eats.

Kitchen Knives Selection, Upping Your Pie Game, and This is the First Episode!

Episode 001– This is the first episode!

Arguably one of the most important things in your kitchen will be the knives that you will use.  During my interview with The Kitchen Knife Guru,  Nate Ouderkirk discusses the selection and proper care of your kitchen knives.  He also gives some great specific recommendations for knives.  He’s helped thousands figure out what’s best, and he will help you out too!

Ken Haedrich is the author of 15 cookbooks including my absolute favorite book related to pie baking– it’s called  Pie.  Pie has 300 recipes and is over 600 pages long. He shares  his secrets of making great pies.  During the interview he discusses the pumpkin cheesecake pie that he developed in honor of his son.   More information about Ken’s cooking classes and other tips and pie recipes at The Pie Academy.

You’ll hear my thoughts on the launch of my first episode.

I decided to hold off a week because of Election Day.  See my blog post about how we might come together to settle our difference after such a divisive election.   Included in that blog post is a mention about Election Cake from Greg Patent’s Baking in America.  Here is a feature that was heard on NPR about that cookbook that includes the recipe for Election Cake.

When starting the idea for this podcast, I had grandiose plans to provide this great resource for Thanksgiving.   That may come next year.  However, here is the most comprehensive one that I have come across that is both informative and entertaining.  It is from Serious Eats.

Thanks to Amy, Joe, Cliff Ravenscraft, Pat Flynn, Dave Jackson, and everyone else who has been very supportive to me.  This is a labor of love and it took me a very long time to get to the point of having a first episode.

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Happy Veterans Day!

To all have served, Happy Veterans Day.

413Here is a photo of me when I was a lean, mean fighting machine.  I served seven years proudly in the military.

I have always loved food.  However, I really loved food when I was in the service because it reminded me of home.

The Guys and Food podcast is coming soon.  However, perhaps you didn’t know that your’s truly was featured in a podcast related to food and the military. It’s true!  Listen to this episode of one of my favorite podcasts called The Sporkful.




Let’s Settle our Political Differences at the Table

“On this Election Day, I offer your attention to something that people of all political persuasions could probably agree on—the healing power of food.”


Certainly, this has been the most contentious election in memory.  Clinton v. Trump will be one for the record books for sure.  Never have I seen such discord in a presidential election; interestingly, I seem to say that every four years.

That doesn’t mean this level of rancor never existed.  Remember, the entire South left the Union after Lincoln was elected.  Our history is full of examples of times when our civil discourse was much less civil during elections. So we should put things in perspective.

On this Election Day, I offer your attention to something that people of all political persuasions could probably agree on—the healing power of food.  First, regardless if it is “right” or not, eating comfort food physiologically makes you feel better.  The chemical reactions produce endorphins (or something like that) and Boom! You feel better.  Food makes you feel better emotionally too.  Bread and butter or grandma’s lasagna take you back to another time and can be the equivalent of a nurturing hug when you really need it.  If you decide you will celebrate (or drown your sorrows) in a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia,  a box of Entenmanns’s Chocolate Chip Iced Cake, or a rib eye steak the size of your head, I am not going to judge.  I firmly and unabashedly approve of the message that there is a palliative effect to eating.  Go for it.

After the hangover of celebration (or mourning), we have to decide as a country what to do next.  We simply can’t all move to Canada, nor can we take up arms in insurrection.  That’s not what we do.  Everyone who voted loves their country and wants to us to be better tomorrow than we are today.  We simply have different views on how to get there.  In the coming days, weeks, months, and years, we have to figure out how we are going to do that.  Every other time, we have managed, somehow, to come together.  We have to do that again.  There is no alternative.

A Modest Proposal

In a recent interview for the soon-to-be-released Guys and Food podcast, I spoke with Ken Haedrich.  He is a cookbook author and an authority on pie.  He described pie as more than a combination of ingredients encased in a crust.  It’s a food that brings people together.

“You set a pie out on the table with a diverse crowd group of people and all of the other differences sort of melt away.  It doesn’t matter what your political persuasion is or your religion, or anything like that.  All of sudden it’s ‘pie’ and everybody loves one another.”

So if you and your brother-in-law disagreed on who the next president should be or you were unfriended on Facebook by someone who thought your candidate was not the best fit, take a breath and invite them over for some pie.  The mere act of sharing that dessert can start healing your relationships and by extension, our country.

If pie is not your thing (I will judge you on this character flaw) and you want to bake something that is delicious and historically appropriate, I offer this recipe for Election Cake.Election Cake

Election Cake has a long history in our country, having been served traditionally on, you guessed it, Election Day and other large gatherings.  It is very similar to panettone in that it’s a sweet yeast bread stuffed with dried fruit.  In this recipe, I used equal parts golden raisins, dried blueberries, dried cranberries, and citron.  It’s also fortified with brandy and Madeira wine with more than a huge whiff of nutmeg.  It is very tasty when toasted with a slather of unsalted butter.  Give it a whirl!  The recipe I used was from Greg Patent’s Baking in America.  Here is a feature that was heard on NPR about that cookbook that includes the recipe for Election Cake.  Note that, with three different risings of about two hours each(not including baking time) this takes a good part of the day to bake.

Note:  While you’re sharing it with someone who didn’t vote for your candidate, try not to discuss political emails or the size of a particular candidate’s hands.

Wednesday Baking with Joe

PizzaOver the summer break, in an effort to enjoy a bonding experience and to keep my son off of the damn Xbox, we established a routine of baking on Wednesdays.  It started initially as bread baking but quickly expanded to crackers, donuts, and other baked goods.

Why Baking?

Why not baking?  First, Joe loves bread and butter as many kids (and adults) do.  Getting him to cook things that he likes is easier than say having him scale and gut a whole fish  There was no objection from me by adding dessert to the repertoire either. Triglycerides aside, I like desserts and so does my son.  So if we are going to be in the kitchen, let it be making things we mutually enjoy.

Baking was also good choice because the assembly of ingredients is easier.  Spooning cups of flour and teaspoons of cinnamon requires less interaction with knives than cooking.  So too, there was less open flame involved, though we would eventually get there when we took a foray into donut land.

100 Great BreadsKing Arthur Flour Baker's Companion

How it worked

Joe drove the bus on the things that we baked.  He perused my many cookbooks and selected which recipe he found interesting.  Primarily, we baked from The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion and Paul Hollywood’s 100 Great Breads.  My son’s job was to assemble the ingredients and to portion them.  Then, we would go over the recipes, resolve any questions, and start a bakin’.

The Challenges

My son is ten years old and has the attention span commensurate with that age so another thing to watch out for was to putting the ingredients in the correct bowl at the correct time.  Baking is more of a science, and I have learned the hard way that this matters. Also, little things such as putting the salt on top of the yeast may kill the yeast’s desire to make the bubbles necessary.

Aside from the concerns of open flames and sharp knives associated with the kitchen, there were other safety issues.  One of my family’s nicknames for me is Captain Caution, for good reason.  It is the standard operating procedure for me to think of all the things that could go wrong and think of the contingencies should those things occur.  I’m a stocky, bald, Jason Bourne without the sex appeal of Matt Damon.  I admit to this and try to make sure that Joe’s exuberances were balanced with thoughtful concern for safety.  For example, when handling hot pans, we use oven mitts or dry dishtowels.  I gently point out that perhaps it would be wiser to unplug the mixer before licking the beater.

A benefit of this process is that I learned to trust my boy more as the weeks passed.  He learned a healthy respect for the things that might happen, and I found myself not jumping in (as much) to head off any potential danger.  I overcame my fear and need to control things, and he gained more confidence in the kitchen.  In fact, on a non-baking project day, Joe asked if he could bake chocolate chip cookies entirely by himself.  I allowed this with the exception of turning on the oven.

Other Benefits

Anytime I get to interact with my son that doesn’t involve me telling him to brush his teeth or to pick up after himself is generally a good thing.  We both love to learn things and it was extra fun to share the discovery with him as opposed to telling him about it.  Also, my heart warmed as he delivered a sample for his mom to taste. He beamed at her satisfaction.  You can’t manufacture that enthusiasm.

The project was both fun AND educational.  We learned about history as we discussed the origins of some older bread recipe names and why some ingredients might have been used instead of others.  We learned the science of yeast and why some things  needed kneading while others did not; we enjoyed the word play of “needing kneading” too! We engaged actively in math.  For example, in Hollywood’s book we  had to mathematically adjust the amount of dried yeast because his recipes called for fresh yeast.

Now with school well underway with homework, music lessons, and other extracurricular activities, we’ve talked about switching things from Wednesdays to Saturdays.  That hasn’t happened yet.  I hope it does because I had a lot of fun.

I think Joe did too.

Here is the list of the things we baked during the summer with the appropriate Facebook posts that accompanied them:

Week 1

White Bread

White Bread

Week 2

They call it Batch Bread.  A very old British recipe from Georgian times. It has sugar and butter in it!


Week 3

They call it Naan.  It’s cooked on cast iron because there is no traditional brick oven as used in India.  The dough was sticky which accounts for its less than symmetrical shape. I will say we were going for the rustic look.


Week 4.

So far we’ve done breads from Paul Hollywood’s 100 Great Breads including white bread, naan, and something called Batch Bread.

This week my boy decided that he wanted pizza AND garlic bread made from scratch as part of the project.

The ciabatta is from Hollywood’s book and was used for the garlic bread.

The pizza dough is from the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion Cookbook.


Week 5

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread.  This type of bread is not a yeast bread recipe that Joseph and I have been making heretofore.  This is bejeweled with walnuts and chocolate chips and makes a nice addition to breakfast.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

Week 6

As is his wont, Joseph chose to shake things up and bake cheese crackers this week instead of bread.  I think next week, he indicated he wants to go back to bread.

Cheese Crackers

Week 7

Last week, we did cheddar crackers, but it is back to bread this week! Joe and I made an English bread called farl. It is a butter enriched bread also known as “oven bottom,” because it was traditionally baked at the bottom of the oven. Imagine that?!  It is from Paul Hollywood’s 100 Great Breads.

FarlWeek 8

While we’ve been doing mostly breads, Joe wanted to make chocolate donuts with chocolate glaze from the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion.

DonutsWeek 9

Today, Joe and I made bagels! Especially timely since our bagel shop down the block closed about a week and a half ago.

We dig into them for breakfast tomorrow but I am already thinking on next time taking a stab at sesame seed bagels and (dare I mention) bialys!

BagelsWeek 10

Due to a shift in priorities, baking bread has broadened to baking in general.  Today, Joe and I made Chocolate Éclairs! I would have made more pastry cream but otherwise I think it was a success for a first try!Eclairs

Week 11


Today, Joe and I made Orange Cranberry Scones. Delightfully light and not too sweet, these will be great for breakfast tomorrow.