Category Archives: Kara Ahearn

A New Foodie Has Joined the Family

Owen and His Sweet Potatoes

Owen and His Sweet Potatoes

For the first six months of a baby’s life many things are complicated and stressful for new parents. One thing that is not is food. Babies at this age are either drinking breast milk (free and readily available, at least for most mothers) or formula (not free, but definitely available). So while we are stressing over disrupted sleeping patterns, bowel movements or lack thereof, people constantly telling you your baby is teething and many more issues we never saw coming before baby, we did not have to fret over what to feed baby Owen. I just whipped out a boob or a bottle and he was happy. That all changed on Aug. 20, 2011 – or the day my son became a foodie.

The Baby Bullet Containers

Baby Bullet Filled with My Son's First Meal

In preparation for this day, my mother bought us the Baby Bullet. It’s  a food processor and container system specifically for grinding and storing baby food.It’s been a great investment for us. I mean it’s basically a food processor with matching freezer containers. So if you are low on the cash, it’s not a must have. But if you plan on making your baby’s food and you have an extra $60, go for it!

Since I love food so much, I had a dilemma when choosing his first food. Many people still do the rice cereal first. But after much research, I decided to go with something that packed more of a nutritional punch and actually had some flavor – sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes also happen to be one of the safest foods to give to babies – in terms of food allergies.

So the day before he ate his  first real food, I went to the store with my sister Kara and her fiance Eric, who were visiting from Florida. And we picked out his sweet potato and then I baked it.  It took a lot of effort for me not to add a bunch of cinnamon and other spices. It seemed so uneventful for something so drastically life altering.

And so the day dawned, when my son would join the foodie ranks of our family.

Owen Being Seated for His First Food Experience

Owen Being Seated for His First Food Experience

There was much fanfare that accompanied this event. It was as if there was a royal wedding going on in our dining room and the press did not want to miss a single minute of the event.

The Press Capturing the Event

The Press Capturing the Event

And so we all sat and watched Owen take his first spoonful of sweet potatoes.

Owen's First Bite

Owen's First Bite

I do not know what we were expecting. He seemed mostly just mystified by what it was. All in all, he did pretty good.  Despite grimacing at every bite,  he ate the whole container.  And by the whole container, I mean what did not end up on his onesie or his face.

Messy and Mystified about Food

Messy and Mystified about Food

Since his sweet potato feeding he has eaten peas, bananas, rice cereal, peaches, apples, squash, potatoes, brown rice, green beans, avocado and butternut squash. He has loved it all and eaten for the most part with gusto. He looks a lot less confused at dinner time. We are proud to have another foodie join the family!

St. Pauli N’awlins aka my foodie adventures in New Orleans while pregnant

Here's what I got to drink!

Here's what I got to drink!

We recently took a family vacation to New Orleans. We all got hotels right in the French Quarter. Normally, this would be pretty awesome. But normally I am not pregnant. And let me tell you all this –  New Orleans is not the city for pregnant people. At 5 p.m. when most people are getting off of work and just hitting the bars, most of New Orleans is passed out puking in the streets from drinking all day long. Also, New Orleans is crowded and humid! I took about three baths a day to just rinse the sweat off. Despite all this I love New Orleans. It’s a city with a personality, a smell and a sound. But does it have a taste??? While most people automatically say Cajun, New Orleans has a very innovative and at times sophisticated palate these days.

Not really sure what this is!!!

Not really sure what this is!!!

Delicious Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

Delicious Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

That being said our first stop on the New Orleans road trip was a stop at Bourbon Street Cafe in Jennings, Louisiana – a casino/truck stop/Cajun restaurant.  This place might have been the culinary highlight of our trip. It just goes to show you that sometimes the best stuff comes in the most surprising packages. The gumbo was amazing – big chunks of flavorful, dark meat chicken and loads of smoked sausage. On the side were rice and a very tasty potato salad.

Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet Potato Fries

Shrimp Po Boy

Shrimp Po Boy

We also ordered a shrimp po boy which came with a side of sweet potato fries. Both were very good, but it can be hard to mess up fried foods. I would recommend this place just for the gumbo alone!

Once we arrived in New Orleans we had dinner reservations at a highly recommended restaurant called Jacques-Imo’s Cafe. I thought the restaurant had a lot of character and about 3/4 of the table loved their meal. I unfortunately was a part of that 1/4 that did not.

Super Yummy Garlic Corn Muffins

Super Yummy Garlic Corn Muffins

It started off great with a complimentary plate of their delicious garlic, corn muffins. You could feel the butter on your hands – pretty awesome. For me it started going down hill with the salad.

Salad with Worcestershire Sauce

Salad with Worcestershire Sauce

I love salads. I really do. This salad was gross. It was essentially spinach (awesome!) topped with Worcestershire sauce. That was it. I had two bites.

Grouper Imperial

Grouper Imperial

Yummy Lamb Dish

Yummy Lamb Dish

My father and I ordered the grouper. Which he liked. I was disappointed. The description of the grouper did not mention that it was covered in a cream sauce. I really enjoy simple fish dishes, especially with a fish as yummy as grouper. Eric, my sister’s boyfriend ordered a lamb dish with red wine that was fantastic. My husband and sister ordered the soft shell crab special atop friend green tomatoes. They both loved it. My mom ordered an eggplant dish that was sub par, very salty and topped with a too rich cream sauce.

All in all people are going to tell you how great this place is, I say take that with a grain of salt. But give it a try.

Stanley's Awesome Bloody Mary

Stanley's Awesome Bloody Mary

The next morning we all got up to get some beignets at Cafe du Monde. Well, so did everybody else in New Orleans. So we picked a close by brunch place called Stanley, it is also in Jackson Square. I loved Stanley. It was a simple brunch menu, with some nice New Orleans twists.

Mixed Baby Green with a Raspberry Champagne Vinaigrette

Mixed Baby Green with a Raspberry Champagne Vinaigrette

Eggs Benedict Po Boy

Eggs Benedict Po Boy

Eggs Stanley

Eggs Stanley

Eric Lee eating his Big Stanley

Eric Lee eating his Big Stanley

Let’s start with the salad. It tasted like a salad should – healthy, not like a lettuce leaf soaked in sodium water. And the dressing was yummy. I also ordered a plain burger and it was delicious. The table ordered a small order of fries and that was enough, the order was huge. My sister and dad ordered the Eggs Benedict Po boy and it was lovely. I could not eat too much because of the raw egg factor, but they both loved it. And my husband ordered the Eggs Stanley, which had cornmeal-crusted P&J’s Louisiana oysters, poached eggs, Canadian bacon and Creole Hollandaise on a toasted English Muffin. I would also highly recommend this dish. There was actually nothing that I can caution anyone against ordering at Stanley. It was all good.

Nola Brewing Tour!

Nola Brewing Tour!

I am not going to go into this portion too much. Because there was not a lot of food consumed, unless you consider hops a meal. But we were lucky enough to get a private tour of the Nola Brewing Company. And I believe they give tours on the first Fridays of the month. Do yourself a favor, if you are beer lover, make a trip here!

Cochon Sign

Cochon Sign

For Saturday night we celebrated my brother’s 33rd birthday at Cochon a restaurant that specializes in making cuisine out of random pig parts. While I am inspired by their innovation, when you are nine weeks pregnant pig parts don’t sound very appealing. But it was my brother’s choice, so we all went. It was a very large group that included our immediate family, a couple of my brother’s friends and my Aunt Mary and our cousins Anna and Clare. Hence, I will not be going over everyone’s meals. I will pick a few to highlight.

Squash salad with goat cheese and fresh herbs

Squash salad with goat cheese and fresh herbs

Delicious squash blossoms with pickled vegetables

Delicious squash blossoms with pickled vegetables

Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese

Birthday Boy Dessert!

Birthday Boy Dessert!

What’s interesting to me about Cochon is their inspiration appears to be derived from meat, but their vegetables are what really stood out for me. I did have a side of ribs, but to me they were just so-so, nothing special. Also, Chris ordered their signature dish which was their Louisiana cochon with cracklins. Essentially it’s pulled pork. And he found it to be very boring.  But my word, their squash salad and squash blossoms were out of this world. The salad was fresh and summer-y and full of flavor. The squash blossom was delicious itself, but the pickled vegetables on the side were an incredible complement to blossoms.  Another standout was the macaroni and cheese. It was lovely, it had a homemade cheese sauce that was crispy brown on the top and was just perfect.

flamenküche

flamenküche

assiette de charcuterie

assiette de charcuterie

Crawfish Bisque

Crawfish Bisque

Our last night in New Orleans we went to Luke’s. This was my choice and all in all it was pretty good. It was not as good as I thought it would be, but the service was awesome.

My sister started off by ordering a yummy Alsatian appetizer called flamenküche , it’s an onion tarte with bacon, caraway and Emmenthaler cheese.  It wads divine.

Dad ordered the assiette de charcuterie which looked delicious. I could not eat it as it involved various meat spreads, one of the many things pregnant women are deprived of.

And lastly Chris ordered the bisque, which was very good. It was not too salty and had nice chunks of crawfish in it.

Ravioli of local crabmeat

Ravioli of local crabmeat

The famous Luke burger

The famous Luke burger

Poulet grand mere

Poulet grand mere

Crisp pork belly and clams

Crisp pork belly and clams

For the entrees most of the table ordered the burger. And I had a bite, it was pretty tasty. Apparently Luke is known for it’s burgers, which is a little odd as it’s a fancy French/Alsatian restaurant in a hotel.  For my dinner I ordered the crabmeat ravioli. I was a little disappointed in my dinner. The portions were small and the meal was essentially one-note and bland. Chris ordered the poulet grand mere – an herb roasted local chicken with  bacon and whipped potatoes. This sounded very good to me, but it ended up being VERY salty. So if you are not a salt fan, do not order this dish. My father ordered the pasta with crispy pork belly and clams. He loved it! I had a bit and I thought it was a very nice dish. The pork was cooked perfectly and the fresh pasta was delicious.

For dessert we ordered two portions of the basque vanilla cake with creme fraiche and blueberries. That was a winner! The cake was super moist and the creme fraiche with the blueberries was a great combination.

“gateau basque” vanilla cake

“gateau basque” vanilla cake

In summary, I would say this culinary adventure to New Orleans was a mixed bag. A few of the dishes were impeccable, but overall most of the restaurants themselves did not shine. Let me know if you all have any other New Orleans restaurants you love!

Christmas in the Keys

Christmas Turtles

The closest we got to snowflakes - Christmas Turtles

This year my family tried something a little different for Christmas. Instead of flying home to Tallahassee, we decided to all travel. Our presents were dinners we would cook every night. As you can tell the apple does not fall far from the tree in my family. We love a couple of things immensely – food and travel.

We waffled about where to go; eventually settling on Key West. Then there was lots of confusing emails back and forth about where to stay. Sensing the travel was doomed unless a place was picked quickly we all settled on what seemed like a nice place; a five-bedroom house right on the water in Key Largo. We found it on Craigslist. Here’s a travel tip for you – don’t rent a place on Craigslist. They are not accountable for a community and there are no reviews. Visit a travel rental Web site such as homeaway or VRBO instead. The place was not a complete *&^$ hole. It was pretty close.  Ants marched all over the counter tops and there never seemed to be a stop to their steady stream, the microwave door was held up by duct tape and almost fell on my mother’s foot, there were wires poking out of places that previously held a sound system and the sconces and general design looked a lot like Miami Vice  filmed there. But from the outside, it was beautiful! It was right on the water and we got to visit with manatees and even a huge lizard.

32 Mangrove Lane  mansion

The beautiful exterior

Manny the Manatee

Manny the Manatee

Forget the awful house. I was with family – my mom Janis, my dad Jack, my little sister Kara, her boyfriend Eric, my younger brother John and his wife Ginger. Ginger’s family also spent some time with us as well. Ginger’s mom Janice, Janice’s boyfriend Jeff as well as Ginger’s sister Debbie were all there too. It was definitely some intense family time spent canoeing, deep-sea fishing, diving, sleeping in and mostly eating.  And the highlight of each day were the dinners. Our numbers changed each day. A lot of the family is from Florida so one night there would be nine people, then 11. But each night was filled with the same wonderful conversation, food and ease (mostly fueled by excessive wine and margaritas). Couples were assigned a night to cook. And we spared no expenses. This was our Christmas present to one another.

Kabob Night

Kabob Night - clockwise starting from me, John, Ginger, Janice, Janis, Jack, Eric and Kara

The first night was kind of an open night. So for about an hour everyone argued about what to eat. Finally, Chris and I just told everyone we were making grilled kabobs. Some people complained (you know who you are – mom :), but in the end it was a very succesful meal. I think a certain someone even said it ended up being one of their favorites. Chris and I marinated shrimp, pork and chicken then grilled it up. We also had kabobs with bell peppers, onions and mushrooms. We also made a salad and some cheesy potatoes. Oddly, it was my salad dressing that was a big hit. It’s just a simple french vinaigrette with a small twist.

Kabob up close

John in action

John in action

The next night was by brother John and his wife Ginger’s turn. I think my brother is an excellent chef. Ginger as well. So I was pretty excited about their dinner. They decided to go a very South Florida route and created a grilled seafood dinner with some Cuban touches – plantains, black beans and rice and a yummy tropical fruit chutney. And for dessert they made poached pears in a red wine sauce. It was absolutely yummy.

Grouper, Scallops and stone crab and side dishes

Grouper, scallops and stone crab and side dishes

Poached pears in wine sauce

Poached pears in wine sauce

The next night was out turn. It was kind of hard to beat  John and Ginger, but Chris and I tried our hardest. We also wanted to use a lot of seafood. But we opted for an Italian feel to the meal. We made a really simple pasta dish with just diced tomatoes, garlic and wine; and we poached shrimp, scallops and lobster in butter then skewered it in between basil and then grilled it. If I must say so myself it was outstanding. My mother who hates seafood said the lobster was her favorite (haha John and Ginger and Kara and Eric ).  Now that I am done rubbing that in I will discuss our dessert choice. We opted for a simple dessert since our dinner was kind of labor intensive. We made a blueberry and strawberry shortcake. It was pretty yummy, but very simple.

Pasta, salad and seafood

Pasta, salad and seafood

 Blue Heaven in Key West

Blue Heaven in Key West

One night we decide to take a night off from cooking and we all piled into a car and drove the two and a half hours to Key West. Key West is ok. It’s pretty touristy and is very crowded. But there is one saving grace – one of my favorite restaurants, Blue Heaven. Chris and I ordered the jerk chicken and it was awesome. Please, do yourself a favor and if you go to Key West go to this restaurant. It’s a great slice of simple and tasty food that is not touristy.

Jerk Chicken

Jerk Chicken

The best key lime pie in Key West

The best key lime pie in Key West

The next night was Christmas Eve and we have a tradition in our family that we eat Polish food. It’s kind of weird, I know. My mom is part Polish, but that’s not even why we eat it. My parent’s first real date was Christmas eve and according to legend it was supposed to be a party. But the only one who showed up was dad. Well that night my mom made her Polish Christmas eve. And my dad was hooked. So in celebration of the date that ensured my brother, sister and I were born we eat kielbasa, sauerkraut, potato pancakes and apple sauce. Unfortunately, this year I forgot to take pictures. But let me assure you it was as yummy as ever. My parents actually picked up some fresh kielbasa in Miami. It was heavenly.

Nugent Family Magic Pancake

Nugent Family Magic Pancake

For Christmas morning, we somehow were in charge of cooking again. But we had an ace up our sleeves. Chris has a family recipe that is pretty awesome. It’s called a “Magic Pancake”, but basically it’s a Swedish Pancake. It’s lovely because it’s not too sweet, but not too savory either. The finishing touch is some powdered sugar and a spritz of lemon juice. We also pitted some cherries and made a lovely cherry glaze with some port and sugar.

Christmas Burgers - A New Tradition!

Christmas Burgers - A New Tradition!

You might think at this point we would be so tired of eating. You would be right. Well, we were at least tired of cooking elaborate meals anyway. So when it came time for my sister and her boyfriend to cook we were ready for some good, old-fashioned burgers. And boy were they awesome. They stuffed them with all kinds of goodies – blue cheese, jalapenos, bacon and much more. For sides we ate grilled corn and oven roasted potatoes. For dessert my mom made a tres leches cake.

Tres Leches Cake

Tres Leches Cake

In the end, I am a little mixed about the travelling Christmas experiment. It was so much fun to be with my family in one house for a whole week. But because of the weather and lack of presents it just did not feel like Christmas. But I will tell you the meals and conversation at the end of the day were presents enough.

Below are some more photos from the trip. And a recipe!

Kara, me, Eric and Dad Deep Sea Fishing

Kara, me, Eric and Dad Deep Sea Fishing

I Caught a Fish!

I Caught a Fish!

Kara and Ginger Decorating Christmas Cookies with Disgust

Kara and Ginger Decorating Christmas Cookies Apparently in a Way My Sister Does Not Like

Much Better!

Much Better!

Magic Pancake Recipe (not the Nugent recipe, but very similar)

3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) butter
1/2 cup (2 ounces)  Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
small pinch of nutmeg
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (4 ounces) milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) freshly squeezed lemon juice (juice of half a juicy lemon)
2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce) confectioners’ sugar

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Melt the butter in an 11″ straight-sided skillet, or a 12″ skillet with straight or sloping sides. Make sure whatever you use is oven-proof. Or melt the butter, and pour it into a 10″ square pan, or 12″ round deep-dish pizza pan. Yes, the size of the pan matters. Too small, it’ll overflow. Too large, it won’t puff as high. Try to find a pan or oven-proof skillet whose square-inch cooking surface is about 100 square inches.

Whisk together the flour, salt, nutmeg, sugar, milk, vanilla, lemon oil, and eggs till fairly smooth.

Pour the batter into the pan. Bake the pancake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until it’s very puffy and golden, with deeper brown patches. Remove it from the oven, and sprinkle with the lemon juice, then the sugar. Cut in squares, and serve immediately, garnished with fresh berries, if desired.
Yield: 4 generous servings.