Happy 4th Bloggiversary and A Fruit Company Giveaway!

January 17, 2013 in Contests and Carnivals and Roundups

Our First Collaboration

Our First Collaboration. Donna & Anne en route to promote “101 Things To Do With Tofu” at the International Tofu Festival in Los Angeles, circa 2007

Hard to believe that it was just over 4 years ago, in October 2008, that we attended a BlogHer convention in Boston, with my 6 month old baby in tow. We had absolutely zero clue what we were doing, other than the fact that we had enjoyed collaborating on our first little cookbook and wanted to start a food blog.  A few months later, we launched Fab Frugal Food, which through the course of a few more conferences, eventually evolved into Apron Strings. To say we’ve learned a lot in the process is a massive understatement. When we first started, we didn’t even include pictures with every post. Can you even imagine?

Rewinding even further: in the first year after Donna and I first reconnected, checking the mailbox was always a big event. So much was exchanged  in those early months, nearly every week seemed to bring a new surprise my way. One day I’d get a thick envelope filled with copies of old photographs, and would spend hours marveling at the novelty of seeing my resemblance in others. Another delivery brought a few favorite childhood toys that she had never gotten to pass down to me. Then, one of the most memorable parcels arrived: a huge, fairly hefty box of cherries.

True confession time – I had never really liked cherries much before. I associated them with the freakishly bright maraschino cherries, a flavor (and color) I found unappealing, and I think I had only tasted the real thing once or twice, probably a sad out-of-season representative of its kind. But I was thrilled to try a food that Donna herself had sent me – and from a place that was literally minutes away from her home. Somehow this made me feel even more connected to her.

I sat in my Middletown, Connecticut apartment and made an evening of pitting the cherries, something I had never done before – and savoring samples of them as I went. Cherries were a whole new experience, the taste and texture seemed freshly magical and meaningful. I decided to take it a step further, and set out to make my first from-scratch cherry pie. I must say, though it wasn’t much to look at (my baking skills are limited even now, and were all the more limited 13+ years ago), the flavor was spectacular.

Other orchard offerings were to follow, pears and apples in particular, and I made ample use of each and every one of them. If only I had known that blogging would become the wave of the future, I’d have snapped some pictures of the tarts tatin, almond frangipanes, and other creations that resulted, but alas, Instagram was not yet available.

What a long, strange, wonderful trip it’s been. We think this calls for a giveaway.

Though we love giving away big gun items like Blendtecs and Kitchen Aids (and surely will again in the future), this time we thought we’d switch it up a little, with something a little more personal. For each of the four years we’ve been blogging, we’re giving away a huge box of glorious Hood River orchard fruit and other savory treats, courtesy of The Fruit Company, the same place from which Donna sent me those cherries, pears and apples.

Behold the Northwest Gourmet Basket Grand Prize:

FC northwest-gourmet

Northwest Gourmet basket for that “Northwest State of Mind”

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Putting Up: Kicking off The Main Canning Season with a Giveaway! Plus: Garlic Pepper Jelly

August 24, 2012 in Contests and Carnivals and Roundups

Just comment to get a chance to win a copy of “Putting Up”!

For the first time EVER, my very own modest little garden is actually coming along. Seasoned pros would probably have to stifle a laugh at my progress, but for me, it’s a victory! Put that together with the bounty that has been flowing off the tables in farmer’s markets, and it all adds up to one thing: CANNING. I love that a culinary art with such a rich history has been undergoing a renaissance for a while now. I first tried my hand at this just two years ago, and have been looking forward to jumping back in again.

Since there are a number of great books on the topic, I thought I’d poke around Powell’s and pick one up. I came across a copy of “Putting Up: a Year-Round  Guide to Canning in the Southern Tradition” by Stephen Dowdney, leafed through it and loved what I saw, then flipped it over- lo and behold, it’s a Gibbs Smith publication. Gibbs Smith just happens to be the publisher that put out our first joint effort, “101 Things To Do With Tofu”,  as well as a variety of Donna’s other cookbooks.

Though late summer is prime canning time, I also love the concept of canning throughout the year, and this book is the perfect introduction. I’m  really looking forward to making so many of these recipes, from jams to chutneys to pickles. It’s the pepper jelly that really intrigued me first, though.

Pepper jelly has a touch of personal history in it for me – though it’s a longstanding tradition in some areas, I had never tasted or even heard of it until my biological dad sent me a jar of pepper jelly from my birthplace, Tucson, not long after we first met more than a decade ago. Tasting something so unique and savory from my literal homeland was a revelation, and a favorite flavor combination ever since. Of course, my first foray into “Putting Up” just had to be a pepper jelly, and this version did not disappoint!

Author Stephen Dowdney says of it:

I first made the garlic pepper jelly for lamb chops – sweet and meat are a favorite secret of mine although I disclose it in book II, Putting Up More. I have a website with an embedded blog that has added recipes and helpful canning hints. With the economy the way it is going canning is coming into its own once again and this time there are as many guys as dolls!

I liked the book so much that after giving the original copy as a gift AND getting another one for myself, I decided that we really ought to do a giveaway. Thanks to our publishing company, we got some copies right away, and are ready to pass some along to you!

So, to enter, tell us: what’s YOUR favorite thing to can? Or, alternately, a canning tip, or a favorite canned item to eat if you’re purely an appreciator. We’ll pick 5 winners at random from the comments. (Please make sure you include a working email when you post your comment so we can contact you and get your address!) You’ve got a full week and a holiday weekend to enter as many times as you like – keep it up through Labor Day and we’ll announce the five winners that week.

And without further ado, now for the recipe.  Read the rest of this entry →

Mother’s Day Giveaway

May 13, 2012 in Contests and Carnivals and Roundups

Adoptive mother Faith, adoptee Anne, and birthmom Donna. (This is before the time digital cameras become commonplace; forgive the scratchy authenticity.)

 

Mother’s Day, as you might imagine, is a pretty big deal around here.  First, because the very heart of this blog is the family connections we nurture through food; and second, speaking for myself, is because I am doubly blessed to have had TWO mothers who are loving, generous and generally amazing people.  And of course, I became a mother myself  just four years ago.

Can you guess how we’re celebrating? Let us give you a subtle hint:

90th Anniversary KitchenAid Mixer
Oh Yes. This baby could be yours.

That’s right. Once again, we’re doing a fabulous giveaway. Starting now, winner to be announced on Monday May 28! We’re going all out with a number of ways you can enter. Just click through HERE  to be dazzled by the prize you can win (I’m sure you haven’t guessed it yet). You’ll just have to promise us one thing if you win: use it to make a recipe from your family and share it here with us!

For a couple of years now, we have been sharing our mother-daughter stories and family recipes. Now, It’s your turn. We want to hear from you about how you learned to cook from your Mom. About how your Mom inspired you. About how you as a Mom cook for your family. About your favorite Mom food tips. About any other Mom figure in your life who nourished you. You can leave one comment every day with a “Mom” theme –  click through on the link above to see other ways to enter to win!

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

- Anne & Donna

Blue Ribbon Cheesecake: The Recipe That Started It All. Is Cooking in Our DNA?

May 8, 2011 in Desserts

Our mother-daughter reunion. With cheesecake.

Square Cheesecake 2

Donna’s Blue Ribbon Cheesecake – Shared After Our Reunion in 1999

“We wouldn’t be family if we didn’t exchange recipes, would we?”

Rewind to 1998. Not that long, in the grand scheme of things. The idea of even sharing a meal with my biological mother – let alone cooking with her, side by side, exchanging pointers and laughing, casual as can be – was a fantasy pipe dream. It seemed as farfetched as winning the lottery or marrying John Cusack. No sense bemoaning it, that was just the way my life turned out. I had plenty of other things to be thankful for, including a loving adoptive family.

Within a year, everything changed.

Most people my age remember exactly what they were doing on momentus days. July 20, 1969 – Americans first walked on the moon. November 22, 1963 – JFK was shot. Terrorists attack America – September 11, 2001. I am blessed to have another day as if it were yesterday: October 24, 1999, the day that I saw my 27-year-old daughter for the first time in 27 years.

It was, as you might guess, an overwhelming experience. I fell in love with Anne the minute I laid eyes on her at the airport. I was flooded with pure joy, and I in turn wanted to flood Anne with love and warmth and acceptance and with me. An unexpected impulse came to me: SHARE RECIPES. And not just any old recipes: The good ones, the Blue-Ribbon Ones, and Yes! the cheesecake recipe.

Sharing my very best food with Anne was a tangible way of welcoming her to my life, to my family. It was a way of making our connection real. Making her a part of us. Nothing but the best was acceptable; hence, the Blue Ribbon Cheesecake recipe was the first to be shared.

I had always been proud of this recipe. It was the early 1980’s, when everyone was making the easy no-cook Jello-pudding refrigerator version of cheesecake in a graham cracker crust. I took great pride in making a baked Italian cheesecake taught to me by a fabulous Italian cook and neighbor of mine from Italy. I knew it was good, because I had entered it in the county fair and much to my amazement I won a Blue Ribbon in a competition among dozens of cheesecakes. So I knew it was worthy of sharing with Anne.

In making up for lost time between a birth mom and her daughter, there is no time for mediocre things. Only the ultimate, only the best cheesecake would be good enough for Anne. Good enough for Us. And so The Story of Us began.

– Text in italics by Donna

Within a few months we began communicating in earnest, we moved from handwritten letters to long, lingering phone calls to regular emails, getting to know each other little by little, story by story . . . and, eventually, bite by bite. And it was in one of those first emails that our first recipe exchange took place: Donna, writing the opening line of this post, shared the recipe for her cheesecake, which really did win a blue ribbon at a county fair. We connected powerfully, quickly and permanently, partly because of our shared love of cooking.

And now, through the modern miracle of the world wide web, we are privileged to share our journey and this family cheesecake recipe with you.

We’ll tell our stories as we go – not chronologically, for the most part, but over time you’ll get a sense of the whole. One of the things we love about blogging is that it is by its very nature a work in progress. So we”ll share our reunion, and talk about how we started connecting through food together. We’ll also talk about our individual stories, too, our personal histories with food and cooking and all the complexity therein – as well as sharing stuff that’s just plain delicious.

Welcome to our Reunion ~ with cheesecake!

 

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And Our Giveaway Winner is . . . . drumroll please . . . .

March 4, 2011 in Contests and Carnivals and Roundups

With her comment on February 18, 2011, LAUREN is the winner of the Cuisinart food processor!

Here’s her winning comment about cooking with kids:

Involving kids in cooking always seems to be hard at first, but if you break the recipe down, there’s always something for them to do. I have a two year old and she really doesn’t get the whole cooking thing, but she sure loves to “knead” pizza dough, use cookie cutters and bring ingredients to me from the fridge. That last one is really one of the best ways for her to learn her produce {because that’s all she can reach!}

Lauren, a great big THANKS to you for being a Fab Frugal Friend and for your comment. Please email us within the next 3 days at fabfrugalfoodie[at]gmail[dot]com with your mailing address and we’ll get this fabulous little kitchen appliance off to you right away!

Happy Chopping to YOU, Lauren!

TO ALL OUR FAB FRUGAL FRIENDS: CHECK BACK SOON FOR ANOTHER FABULOUS GIVEAWAY!

– Anne and Donna

Another Fab Giveaway! Leave us Your Favorite Tip(s) for Cooking with Kids and Enter to Win a Cusinart Food Processor

February 18, 2011 in Contests and Carnivals and Roundups

DSC_0151

NOTE: THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED AS OF MARCH 3, 2011. PLEASE CHECK BACK SOON FOR OUR NEWEST GIVEAWAY!

 

The time has come for another giveaway!

As mother-daughter co-bloggers, Anne and I are interested in all things family. Especially when combined with cooking. So, we are looking for your favorite tips for cooking with kids. We will do a post featuring our favorite tips when this giveaway is over.

We are giving away a minifood processor by Cuisinart – so handy to have for those small items!

You can earn points to win this fab food processor, a $60 retail value.  There are THREE ways to earn points for this giveaway:

1.  Leave us a tip as a comment to this post about cooking with kids (you can leave up to one tip per day!)

2.  Put a link to this post up on your own blog, and leave a comment telling us you did that.

3.  Tell the world about this giveaway (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and leave a comment telling us you did that.

The Winner will be chosen randomly by random.org two weeks from today on Friday, March 3,2011.

WE are looking forward to seeing all your comments!

Good luck to all our Fab Frugal Friends!

– posted by Donna