The Naptime Chef to sign her new cookbook at JmcLaughlin's Westport, Connecticut store!


Friends, I am happy to say that my friend Kelsey Banfield will be at JmcLaughlin in Westport on Thursday (March 29th) evening signing copies of her new cookbook, The Naptime Chef. The book is filled with mouth-watering recipes for meals that can be created in a short amount of time. Kelsey doesn't cut corners and uses natural, healthy products. Whether your children are young and napping, or older with busy and chaotic schedules, this book offers solutions to the home cook with a limited means of time to prepare healthy and delicious family meals. With recipes like Pesto Goat Cheese-Stuffed Chicken Breasts, Meatballs for Choir Boys, Pizza with Artichokes, Caramelized Shallots and Ricotta, Caprese Salad with Balsamic Syrup and Asparagus with Feta Vinaigrette I assure you your family dinners will bear no resemblance to fast food and yet you will spend minimal time in your kitchen and more time at the table! Please visit The Daily Basics for my full review.

And while you're at the store why don't you take some time to poke around...

Do you see it?
on the table below!
that's the bag I'm positively DYING for!

Isn't she a vision?

And she suits me so well!
It's like we're meant to be?
Aren't we?
Don't you think?
Hey, my Birthday's coming up... June 1st!

Meanwhile... you can peruse all the other wonderful goodies!

all photos courtesy The Entertaining House

Please stop by on Thursday. 

I'll be there for sure!



Cookbook update...

We're on! We're moving forward with a vengeance. We are not going to self publish but are going to look for a nationally acclaimed publishing house. Our aim to publish a coffee table book filled with easy to use, family friendly recipes. I have a very definite vision of our finished product. It seems we have some very big names and talent that can help us. I can't divulge any of this yet. The man behind Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution has been behind our school kitchen for the past three years. We now have a proven track record that schools can have sustainable, local and seasonal menus. Not only do our children eat healthier, but our school saves a lot of money as a result.

We have a lot of work and a long road ahead of us. I am so excited to be leading this project. I have faith and hope. In fact I know in my heart that this will be successful. Our recipes will come from the school's chef, parents, local restaurants and celebrity -- chefs and non-chefs. Our next move is to really define what the cookbook will be and our demographic. 

Today I learned that 60,000 cookbooks are sold annually. 80% of these sales are from word of mouth. A marketing and PR campaign is crucial to the promotion and success of a cookbook. A cookbook will only make money. The average person owns 15 cookbooks. Serious collectors have upwards of 100. Most people buy a cookbook based on 1 single recipe. Many people have a cookbook and  never cooked a recipe from it.

We'll act locally and impact globally!

Eye Candy: Cookbooks

How natural it is to move on from guest books to cook books. I love cookbooks and have since I can remember. I love the look of the photographs of the mouth watering recipes on the glossy pages. I love reading the lists of ingredients, then about what happens when the ingredients come together. When I go home to Newport I still take out my mother's cookbooks and read them cover to cover. I used to do this when I visited my grandmother as well.

It really seems fitting that I should be working on the cookbook project with Chef Peter. My grandmother had hoped that we would collaborate on a cookbook. She planned on writing the recipes and she wanted me to handle the illustrations. (This was long before I fell in love with photography.) We were going to do this. Only it never happened. Seven years ago La Jolie Grandmere passed away in Beverly Hills, far, far away from the manor house, her home of more than 20 years in the bucolic Oxford suburb of Great Haseley. Sadly this was one of her dreams that never came true. As much as I miss her to this day... as painful as her loss still is... I know that I am so blessed to have so much of what she left behind. I look around and my home is filled with so many of her wonderful possessions. In the living room I have her Steinway grand piano. The piano that Leonard Bernstein danced on (after too much drink) when he performed with the Rochester Philharmonic... In the dining room I have her silver place settings and her silver tea and coffee service. In the front entry way I have some of the old home decorating magazines, in which her homes were featured, proudly on display. I have photos and artwork still in moving boxes in the basement. (I know! I know... we've been here nearly 2 years!) I have a large framed photograph of her home in Umbria framed in the office. In my bedroom I have letters and the wonderful stories she wrote for me that are being incorporated into the memoir. In the family room I have her cookbooks neatly sitting upon the shelves next to the armoire. My cookbooks are on one side and hers are on the other.

She was a fabulous cook. Despite the fact that she ate like a bird she truly loved to eat and appreciated great, high quality food. Her cookbooks lived on her kitchen shelves. I say they lived as opposed to rested, because her cookbooks never rested. They were pulled off and put back on. Off and on. The pages of these books are well worn. Notes line the sides and, scribbled handwritten notes cover some of the original recipes. Like me she was a tinkerer. Most often she changed and doctored many recipes. I love the fact that she covered all he cookbooks so that they would look better on the shelves. They were all covered in white paper, and the names written in green across the spines. I've had fun perusing all the recipes. Some are dated, like tomato aspic, and some, like the Iceberg Wedge with Stilton, are making a come-back. She cooked many things. Her recipes and interests reflected where her homes were. In Cannes, her cooking was traditional French. In England she encouraged her guests to try the country's traditional dishes, "Spotted Dick," "Bubble and Squeak" and "Steak and Kidney Pie." In Italy, when we were not dining out, the produce all came from her gardens. We had plenty of pasta and plenty of fish. This is how I ate as a child. I ate what my grandparents ate when I was with them, and when at home I ate what my parents ate. When I went out to dinner my grandmother would always comment on the large chef. "He must make wonderful food," she would explain. "A good chef is a fat chef. You want a chef who loves what he creates." She had a point. These days this may not be so true. Many top chefs are also television celebrities and hit the gym to maintain their fit physiques.

Because La Jolie Grandmere lived across the Pond and because we could not see each other as often as we would like, we wrote many letters. She was a much better letter writer than I. The light blue Air Mail envelopes were always a delight to receive. As I grew older the subject matter changed as well. Often she would write about a party she had hosted or been to. And this would always be followed by an elegant description of the food she had sampled. She could have been a food writer. The way she described these meals was nothing less than inspiring... and often left you feeling very hungry!

There was no such thing as "kid food" in my family. This is not to say I never had peanut butter and jelly. (I often did for breakfast!) But my meals were more grown up and I suppose my tastes were too. I ate foods from many countries throughout my childhood. I was no stranger to Indian, Asian, and Middle Eastern cuisine. My parents often brought me out to dinner to wonderful French restaurants such as Cafe Un, Deux, Trois and La Grenouille. I would never think of ordering a hamburger or macaroni and cheese or such. I loved mussels, clams and escargot! I really did think that frogs legs tasted like chicken! I was not afraid to try anything. The only thing I disliked about dining in French restaurants was the fact that I had to order my food in French, s'il vous plait. And let me tell you I thought this to be tellement embarrassant!  

At home, we had family dinners every night. If I was in play clothes (having changed out of my uniform after school) I had to put on something "presentable." We ate meat on occasion but not terribly often. My mother cooked a lot of chicken and fish. She also made a lot of casseroles that she could store in the freezer and pull out as needed. As a busy career woman she often did her cooking on the weekends so she could come home and play with me a little bit after school. We were not a meat and potatoes family. We had couscous, long grain rice, whole wheat French bread. We followed a healthy diet without realizing it. My mother too was a fabulous cook.

The only thing I did not like about mealtime was that I had to drink a glass of milk every night. I hated milk. Hated it. I still do unless it is in cereal or coffee. We had this charcoal grey shag rug in the dining room. It was a gorgeous room with a high ceiling painted in a light shade of grey, lavender walls, and this shaggy rug that tied the room together. One day, completely unable to swallow the icky white stuff in my glass I thought of ways in which I could make it disappear. I thought about tossing it into the plants but worried that the milk would somehow kill them. I needed someplace, someplace... So I started tossing it right into the rug. I did this one night. No one ever suspected. And then I did it over and over again. How was I able to do this? Well, I was not permitted to leave the table unless I had finished my milk. I certainly was not about to drink it at dinner so I had to make sure my parents were out of eye-shot. There was a long, narrow pantry with shelves, cabinets, and a wet bar that separated the dining room from the kitchen. As soon as I knew they were safely in the kitchen, I had certain auditory cues, I emptied my glass on to the floor. I have no idea how long I was able to pull this off. I want to say a year, maybe even more. Eventually I was found out. The rug was later tossed. And the good news, I was no longer required to drink milk with my dinner!

When my older two were much younger I swore to myself that they would not live on a diet of happy meals and hot dogs. As soon as they were able to eat they ate what we did. Junk food was almost non-existent. (I remember being absolutely appalled at babies 6 and 9 and 12 months old nibbling on French fries in restaurants. I remember saying I will never do this.) The first rule I will tell you about parenting is to never say never. However, in this case I stuck to my guns. People used to ask me in amazement how I got my kids to eat that? Truth was it was easy. That, what they were eating was the norm in my house. I pushed the healthy foods, not the junk. Sure my kids like French fries, and yes they get hot dogs on occasion and McDonald's is a treat. They eat fish, and many things most people would say are mature for their palates. My kids love salad. Unfortunately, thanks to peer pressure, they would rather snack on chips than veggie and dip. I try to be creative and serve them foods that are fun, and nutritious. I have never had to sneak vegetables or beans in to brownies or such. I disagree with the cookbooks that suggest this. I think it is important that kids learn about what is good for them and what is not. Vegetables should be seen, not hidden. There are ways to cook them, with garlic, olive oil, salt, etc that can really enhance their flavors. Children like flavor as much as we do.

So when the school brought Peter on board and changed their eating habits, I could not have been happier. And when Peter and I decided to work on a cookbook together I knew this was the right thing for me to do.

But I mustn't lose sight of my current project. I must not get distracted. I will finish this project before starting another one. Of course my memoirs ought to have some of her recipes weaved in, since food and cooking was such an important part of our family. So posthumously, I guess she is working on this project with me.

interrupting our regularly scheduled broadcast for some BIG news!

No! I am not pregnant! I have so been there done that!

But, I am going to embark on a project I have never done before...

Photo taken from 3rd and 4th grade Field Trip in September. The children picked fingerling potatoes from a local farm to be cooked in the school's kitchen for their lunch.

I am going to be writing a cookbook! A few years ago our school drastically changed its dining program. A new chef came on board along with his passion for wholesome, local and organic ingredients. The school got rid of all the fryers and bad for you dishes. "Chef Peter" whipped our kitchen and dining room into shape. Instead of fried wings, Sloppy Joes, greasy burgers and all sorts of mysterious cholesterol-rising dishes he served salmon, yogurt chicken and farm-raised burgers that were grilled, not fried. At first some of the children scoffed at these bizarre dishes. But with a gentle nudge the children enthusiastically tried these good for you gourmet meals. Parents started to show up for lunch with their little ones! Should they, for some reason, not like the hot meal that is served, there is a full salad bar with much to choose from along with fresh, home made bread, or home made "Gator" granola and organic yogurt. Chef Peter has managed to do in our small school what Jamie Oliver is trying to get schools across the country to do. Our children know about seasonal and local fruits and vegetables. A small garden lies on the school grounds. The children are responsible for maintaining it. When possible the ingredients are brought into their kitchen. The school orders its beef from a local cattle farm and produce from a local produce farm. Fruits and veggies are seasonal when possible. Furthermore the school no longer buys pre-packaged goods. No individual, half drunk milk cartons to be tossed. Milk is purchased in bulk from another (fairly) local farm, The Connecticut Cow. Huge amounts of money are saved by doing this. (Do not have precise dollar figures at the moment.) Once a week pizza is served. Chef Peter makes it all from scratch and it is the best damned pizza I have ever had! By making his own pizza, the school saves $400 a month that goes right back into the kitchen budget toward the purchases of local and organic ingredients.

Naturally when the kitchen went healthy there was a bit of resistance. As with everything, change can be hard. But the parents and students who were skeptical are now incredibly pleased. I have been thrilled from day 1 since I have always been aware of ingredients and nutrition.

So Peter and I were chatting in the kitchen yesterday. We have decided to join forces. He's got connections in the food industry and we are hoping for some sponsors and endorsements. We talked about this idea a few years ago, when he first started, and we tried to get a committee together but our idea was a bit ahead of its time. Well, we feel that right now that the time could not be more right!

We'll utilize his cooking recipes, my writing and photography and create our book. The proceeds will go directly back to our small not for profit independent school. Hopefully we'll snag the interest of a few other parents along the way!

Our project will commence this summer. And I could not be more excited!