BBOnline Member SINCE 1997

Carolina Bed & Breakfast

177 Cumberland Avenue, Asheville, North Carolina 28801
Innkeeper(s): James and Susan Murray

Cooking with Susan! A Series of Cooking Classes at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast 25 Nov 2016, 6:00 am

Cooking with Susan! A Series of Cooking Classes at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast

I am really delighted to announce that we will be offering a series of cooking classes at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast this winter.  Cooking with Susan: Lessons and Recipes from a Life Abroad takes place on select Wednesdays and Thursdays in January and March 2017. Each week offers a different series of foods to be explored with our guests along with a copy of my cookbook (of course) as well as a dining discount at nearby Chiesa Italian Restaurant.  All of the recipes we will be making can be found in my cookbook, Our Family Table.

I am really excited about this.  Even though winter in Asheville is not very severe, the town slows down and most of the tourists chose to come in other months.  Typically we use the time to repaint, repair and deep clean.  But I have often thought it would be a great time to do some special events here in the inn, cooking classes being one of them!  With our large kitchen island, there is room for everyone to see and take part.  I am limiting the guests in the inn to only those who are also taking part in the cooking classes so that the group will be small and have similar interests. Although the rooms are double occupancy so if you want to bring a friend or a spouse who does not want to take part in the classes you certainly can.  In addition to the cooking class, you will have lots of free time to explore Asheville and all it has to offer.

Even if you can’t come to the class, I hope you will buy a copy of my book.  The recipes are great for a family or for entertaining.  In keeping with our cooking at the inn, they are seasonal and use lots of fresh ingredients but not at all scary.  You can see sample recipes and order it on the Carolina Bed & Breakfast website by clicking here

Making Murray Cookies on the Island at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast

COOKING WITH SUSAN

Join us this winter for a fun filled cooking series featuring recipes from my new cookbook, OUR FAMILY TABLE: LESSONS AND RECIPES FROM A LIFE ABROAD.  Each month guests will prepare recipes from a different chapter of the book, ranging from breakfast to dessert and in-between.

Package includes

  • Two night stay at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast (breakfast, evening reception and dessert included)
  • A three hour cooking lesson (Please see below for description of each month’s lesson)
  • A dining discount of 10% off your dinner at Chiesa Italian Restaurant
  • An autographed copy of OUR FAMILY TABLE: RECIPES AND LESSONS FROM A LIFE ABROAD

PACKAGE PRICE: $350 plus tax  (Cottage $370 plus tax) Double Occupancy

PLEASE CALL 828-254-3608 TO RESERVE YOUR SPOT NOW

January 25-26th:  Breakfast from around the world

          Blackberries in Sweet Basil Syrup with Vanilla Mascarpone Cream

          Yogurt Panna Cotta with Fresh Fruit Coulis

          Butternut Squash Quiche

         Mango Upside Down Bread Pudding

March 1-2nd : Desserts and Cookies        

            Whoopie Pies with Homemade Marshmallow Fluff Icing

            Lemon Rosemary Shortbread Cookies

            Mojito Cupcake with Candied Mint Leaf

            Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

March 15-16th:  Canapes and Hors D’oeurves

            Zucchini Cups

            Smoked Salmon Tartare

            Shrimp Cerviche

            “Instant Appetizers: Using what’s in your Fridge”

(MENUS DEPEND ON AVAILABLE PRODUCE AND MAY BE CHANGED IF NEEDED)

 

Day One:

4-7PM Check in at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast

5:30-7PM  Meet the other participants at our Evening Reception

Dinner at your leisure.  Explore downtown Asheville or enjoy a short stroll to nearby Chiesa Italian Restaurant

Day Two:

8:30-9AM Breakfast at your convenience

11AM-2PM Join me in the kitchen to a cooking lesson preparing dishes for the remainder of your stay

5:30-7PM  Evening Reception

Dinner at your leisure as above.

Day Three:

8:30-9:30 Breakfast at your convenience

11AM Check-out

 

 

 

Quick and Easy Appetizers From the Carolina Bed & Breakfast 10 Nov 2016, 5:00 am

A Selection of Quick and Easy Appetizers at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast

Guests at our Asheville Inn, the Carolina Bed & Breakfast, often ask me how I come up with all of the different canapes and hors d’oeuvres we serve every night.  And I admit it is sometimes difficult not to repeat ourselves when guests stay for a week or more.  But over time, James, Sara and I have come up with some tricks in creating quick and easy appetizers. These are things that almost everyone can do with not too much fuss.  It requires just a little bit of imagination and a normally stocked refrigerator and pantry.  (Disclaimer:  if you are someone who never cooks or eats at home, these tricks probably won’t work for you!)

Canapes are the easiest type of appetizer to make on the fly.  The technical definition of a canape is a piece of bread, pastry or cracker topped with a savory spread which is held with the fingers and can usually be eaten in one bite.  At the Carolina we expand that a bit to include other bases than just bread and to incorporate more than just spreads.  But the premise is the same:  a small, single bite of finger food.  I often tell people that this is my favorite form of cooking because it’s just a bite!  And if someone doesn’t like one bite, chances are they will like one of the other ones.

So let’s start at the beginning with the base.

You look in your cupboard and all you have are some stale crackers from your last dinner party when you served cheese and crackers. Don’t worry, you have other options.  You can turn to bread, (especially if you are like me and keep some in your freezer)  but there is more than just bread.   Edible bases can include cucumber slices, slices of sweet peppers, hollowed out cherry tomatoes, lettuce leaves and roasted potato slices just for starters.  Apples slices can also be a great base.  Dried fruits like apricots are another option.  It’s pretty much up to you.  Edible bases are not the only options.  Small spoons can hold fruits or vegetables with dip or creamy sauces.  Shot glasses are great for cold soups and ceviche. Toothpicks can be used as small skewers.  Look around and experiment!

A small frying pan holds Medjool Dates Sauteed in Olive Oil and finished with Kosher Salt

Now that you’ve chosen a base you need something to put on top of it.

Step one:  look in your refrigerator.  What do you see?  In mine, I see cheese, condiments, left overs from previous meals and lunch meats and spreads and salad fixings.   Granted, I live at my B&B so I probably have a wider range of items but I am willing to bet that most of you have at least some of these items listed here in your home.

Step two:  put them together.  Top cheese with jams or relishes, wrap vegetables in cheese or salami.  Peppers and small tomatoes can hold hummus or soft cheese. I know I mentioned leftovers in my list, which may strike you as odd but it’s not really.  Pulled Pork or BBQ chicken pieces can be served on mini biscuits.  Leftover fish can be pared with mayonnaise (add a little lemon zest for zing).  And if you have some rare steak leftover (like that’s going to happen!), spread a toasted slice of baguette or thick cut bread with mayonnaise and horseradish (or wasabi) and top with a thin slice of beef.

Step three:  make it pretty.  Here is where you raise the bar.  Sprinkle some chopped parsley over the top of your canapes.  Dice some tomato, or pimento and use for garnish.  If you have fresh herbs, this is always a good option.  Pickles are good as are chutneys and other relishes.

Spring Radishes on thin white bread with sweet butter and Hawaiian sea salt

Most of all don’t be afraid to experiment!

Throw something together and give it a taste.  Start with classic pairings and then vary an ingredient or flavor.  Remember, it’s just one bite!

If you like these ideas and are interested in some more, my recently published cookbook, Our Family Table: Recipes & Lessons from a Life Abroad includes a chapter of canapes and hors d’oeurves served at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast.  You can purchase it by following this link:  OUR FAMILY TABLE

Happy Party!

 

 

 

My New Cookbook is Published! Our Family Table: Recipes & Lessons from a Life Abroad 24 Oct 2016, 12:00 pm

Carolina Bed and Breakfast Cookbook

Front Cover

Those of you who follow this blog may remember my post of December 30, 2015 in which I made one of my New Year’s resolutions: to publish my new cookbook.  At the time I thought I would self-publish a little book of recipes for hors d’oeurves and sweets.  But my friends had bigger plans for me and Our Family Table: Recipes & Lessons from a Life Abroad  is result!

For those of you who want to skip right to the book, you can see some excerpts and recipes on our website and follow the links to pre-order (shipping December 1).  If you are of a more patient type, you can read on to find out a little about how this all came about.

My previous experience with online publishing had all been in the capacity of fund-raisers.  Generally the books were spiral bound with few pictures and a hodge-podge of recipes badly formatted on the page.  I knew I wanted something better than that but was unable to find it online.  So I got together with Debbie Maugans, editor and publisher of Farmer & Chef South.  Farmer & Chef South is a beautifully written and photographed book compiling recipes from restaurants ( and B&Bs) in Asheville.  She was very excited by my ideas and before I knew it, I had an editor, a book designer, a publicist and a food photographer.  So all I needed to do was to come up with enough recipes to fill a book!

Food photographer is an important part of any cookbook!

Out went the original idea of “Cupcakes and Canapes”.  I added in recipes for breakfast, main dishes and a chapter of sauces, jams, and pickles. But the book needed a theme.  It needed a reason to be written and to be read.  Debbie and my publicist, Susan Dosier (DK Communications Group) helped me figure out my “point of view” and my authority (this was hard as I am not always sure I have any authority).  We dug  into my background and looked at the foods I cook and came up with two things.

  1. My cooking and feelings about food come from a lifetime of cooking “off the grid”.  My mother rarely used processed or convenience foods and my experiences living in Europe and Asia prior to global markets were similarly based in fresh local ingredients.  Moving from Europe to Asia and back again I was forced to explore cuisines and foods, incorporating them into my cooking. This was solidified when I returned to the United States and bought the Carolina Bed & Breakfast, our Asheville Inn.  Here I cook every day and the repetition of techniques coupled with changing seasons and my imagination has created my own style of cooking.
  2. I am, above all else, a home cook.  I cook because I love to do it.  I have no pretensions to being a “chef”.  My training was in my mother’s kitchen,  in my own kitchen and in the kitchens of friends.  I have no fear of experimentation and I love to try out new recipes. And I want to share that passion.  The benefits of home cooking are huge!  You will be eating better, sharing good times in the kitchen and at the table and exploring a new world of flavor.  So throughout Our Family Table I have included small tips and bits of knowledge which I picked up along the way.  Nothing earth-shattering, just simple things which will hopefully be of some help to you.

So that’s it.  I hope you will head on over to our website and find out more about the inside of the book.  You can pre-order now and I will ship the books by December 1.  After the books have arrived it will also be available on Amazon!

VISIT MY WEBSITE FOR MORE INFORMATION AND TO ORDER YOUR COPY OF

OUR FAMILY TABLE: RECIPES & LESSONS FROM A LIFE ABROAD

Back Cover

 

 

Quilts, Feral Pigs and the Blue Ridge Mountains 11 Oct 2016, 6:28 am

Quilts, Feral Pigs and the Blue Ridge Mountains

It was a perfect Fall day as we pulled out of the Carolina Bed & Breakfast in Asheville, NC heading towards Leicester and the Sandy Mush Valley nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The warm sun shone down from a cerulean blue sky while the brisk breeze kept the day October cool.  We were taking advantage of a visit from my brother and his wife to try out the Fall Farms and Artisan Tour as our guests experience it. I have been there a number of times and had a role in creating the tour but have never actually done it. We had our picnic lunches in tow and I had made appointments for us with the artists Peggy, my sister-in-law, wanted to see.

I love the drive to Sandy Mush Valley and was happy to see the pleased and surprised look on my family’s faces as the route suddenly changed from an ugly two lane strip of used car lots and empty shops to a single lane road with the beautiful green fields and surrounding mountains just starting to show the colors of Autumn.  I always feel like it is a bit of a magical transition.

Our first stop was Addison Farms Vineyard where we would eat our picnic lunch and enjoy a wine tasting.  The vineyard was crowded with other guests, some from our B&B and some from other Asheville Bed & Breakfast Association Inns.  Because of the chill wind we chose to sit on the steps in the sunshine looking out at the grape vines instead of on the shaded porch.  We munched on sandwiches while discussing the lifespan of a grape vines. (It’s about 30 years as we learned inside) then returned inside for the tasting where we were offered samples of white pinot grigio, a number of reds and a port dessert wine.  I have to be honest, this is North Carolina, not the Napa Valley, and the wines reflect this.  Nevertheless it is a great experience and a good way to start the tour.

Enjoying a picnic in the sun at Addison Farms Vineyard

Moving on, our first stop was at the art studio of Christine Heild, (Sky Dance Artworks).  Christine is an accomplished artist who uses a variety of styles and media. I was taken by some of her still lives and chose a small acrylic painting of cherries.  Peggy also purchased something (and that’s all I am going to say about that as it may appear as a gift to someone!).  And James talked at

My purchase!

length with Christine’s husband about the solar panels on the house, the experience of living in the mountains in relative isolation (Where do you shop?), and their lives overseas in Norway.  This is what makes this tour so special:  not only do you get to see some truly good art but also you get to meet the artists, see their work shops and learn about their lives and inspirations.

Some of the artwork of Christine Heild

Next we visited Matt Jones at his potter’s workshop.  I had met Matt before and seen his work elsewhere but had not been to his workshop in the valley.  Matt is a nationally recognized artist who, in his own words, says ” my work is grounded in the Carolina traditions that go back 150 years, but I feel quite free to incorporate a modern sensibility and ideas from other cultures”.  He has built a large wood-fired kiln because, as he told us, using wood gives his pottery the same feel and look as traditional pottery from earlier centuries before kilns were fired by gas or electricity. But while his methods are traditional, his work incorporates modern design and topicality.  One of our favorite pieces was a large urn which had just been bought by the Asheville Art Museum.  He is a tall, gentle man with a real passion for his art and proof that artist can survive and thrive in Western North Carolina!

Pottery with a modern theme in a traditional style

Our last stop was to see the quilts of Laurie Brown.  Laurie lives at the end of a long, long dirt drive with a beautiful view of the mountains.  When we arrived we found her in the process of finishing a quilt by sewing in the quilted design of over the pieced together fabric.  It was fascinating watching the machine, carefully guided by Laurie, as it laid down the stitches.  And this was where we learned about feral pigs.  Apparently they are a huge problem in the mountains around her.  Pigs which have escaped from farms become feral in as little as three weeks.  They begin to grow hair and tusks and become aggressive.  They also breed at a great rate with two litters a year of six or more piglets.  They forage in the woods, eating almost anything and leaving a trail of destruction in the forest undergrowth.  You can see how this can get out of hand pretty quickly.  We didn’t see any pigs while we were there but Laurie told us at least 35 had been killed in the area this year!

Watching the quilting machine

Leaving the valley you finish the circuit on a long winding road with magnificent views of the valley and the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.  It was a wonderful day with lots to look at and many interesting people to visit with.  Just one of my favorite things to do in Asheville, North Carolina!

The Best of British Cooking 26 Sep 2016, 1:23 pm

It’s a long walk from one side of the UK to the other, lots of time to eat!

For those of you who don’t already know it, James and I recently took a break from our jobs as innkeepers at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast in Asheville, North Carolina, and traveled to the UK to hike across the width of England on Wainwright’s Coast to Coast trail.  More than 200 miles took us from the west coast of Northern England to the east coast, staying overnight in small B&B’s in often tiny villages.  And along the way, paradoxically enough, we discovered some of the Best of British Cooking.

Fine food is often searched for in high end restaurants in big cities, and certainly England has plenty of these. But this was not the world of Ottolenghi and Gordon Ramsey. Nor is it the England of Happy Eater Road stops and McDonald’s in fake Tudor houses.   Many of the villages we passed through were no more than a small collection of houses, some doubling as bed and breakfasts, a small shop and a pub.  They are surrounded by fields and farms, sheep and cattle, and hedges heavy with sun-ripened sweet blackberries.  Supermarkets are a distant drive away and we often passed small stands loaded with eggs and produce which could be taken and the money deposited in an “honesty box”.

James and I ate three meals a day, breakfast, lunch and dinner, the same way the people around us were eating.  Breakfast was cooked to order for us at the bed and breakfast.  When we left we received a packed lunch, also made by the innkeeper.  And dinner was, most nights, at the local pub.  A few times, when no pub was to be had, the innkeeper also made us dinner.  It was plain fare but it was fresh. Pastries were homemade, meats and gravies stewed in the kitchen and very little processed food crossed our plates.  Recipes and dishes were time honored and classic.  It was an intimate view of the diets and cooking of Northern England.

So what did we eat?

Breakfast always included the option of a Full English Breakfast.  This consisted two eggs (fried, poached or scrambled), bacon and sausage, grilled tomato and grilled mushrooms, toast,  and baked beans and/or blood pudding. Now mind, you didn’t have to have all of that.  You could pick and choose the items you liked. I would often pare it right down to a poached egg on toast.  One observation:  these people know how to cook eggs.  In 26 days there was only one instance of a less than perfectly fried or  poached egg. But as you can imagine, eggs every day can get a little much after a while so there was also the option of the classic British sandwich, the Bacon Butty.  This is a fried back bacon sandwich served on buttered toast. Sounds hearty and it was but it was also delicious. Sausage sandwiches were also available.  We were always asked if we wanted a “sauce” to go with our breakfast.  Much as I was tempted to ask for hollandaise sauce, I know they meant ketchup or HP Brown sauce (a cross between a more vinegary ketchup and A-1 Steak Sauce).  Nothing sweet like french toast or pancakes was ever offered.

A Full English Breakfast was always available

I was delighted when given the choices for our first packed lunch.  Having lived in England for 7 years I already had a fondness for the Cheese and Pickle Sandwich.  The cheese should be a good English cheddar and the pickle will be Branston Pickle.This is not an American style dill or sweet pickle.  It is almost a relish or chutney made of a variety of diced vegetables in a thick and vinegary tomato based sauce.  The Ploughman’s Lunch served at many pubs consists of a chunk of cheese, a piece of good bread and Branston Pickle.  This sandwich is the to-go version.  Other sandwich options included ham (on bread with butter) and “salad” which was lettuce, tomato and cucumber on buttered bread. One of the more interesting options we were given was a cheese and carrot sandwich.

Best of all was when we got meat pies!

Sometimes the meat pies were homemade…

A meat pie is just what it sounds like, meat in one form or other encased in pastry to form a small hand-held pie.  Our pies ranged from elegant to home-made.  The homemade pie consisted of minced lamb, boiled potatoes and carrots and gravy.  The elegant pie was bought from a pie shop and was a small tart fill with a type of pork country-style pate and topped with cranberries.

Sometimes the pork pies came from a shop. But they were always delicious!

Along with the sandwich (or pie) we would be given a bag of chips, an apple and if we were lucky a piece of cake.  The cake was, as you would expect, British style not American.  Sometimes it was fruitcake, sometimes treacle or ginger cake and on occasion we would receive a slice of flapjack (a sweet oat bar made from oats, butter, brown sugar and golden syrup).  We loved it when we got real cake and liked to eat it when we stopped to share a thermos of hot tea in mid-morning.

The pubs where we ate dinner were often the only dining option in town.  Here we would usually run into a few other hikers as well as a  assortment of local townspeople. Even the smallest town had a pub and on weekends this could be quite busy.  The choices never changed much but a few things were really excellent.  Steak and Ale pie would be counted on to be a good choice with a thick rich gravy and tender meat in a flaky crust.  Lamb shank, if available, would usually be local lamb slow-cooked to fall off the bone,  Gammon Steak (ham) was never something I wanted but was popular with the locals, as were sausages and mashed potatoes and, of course, fried fish.  James claims that the British have perfected the fried onion ring and would often order them along with his chips (french fries).  About the only thing it was hard to get was fresh vegetables or salad.  Side vegetables, when offered, were always over cooked carrots, boiled cauliflower and sometimes broccoli.  A memorable meal was at the local “Chippie” (Fish and Chip Shop) where we had fried cod, fried halloumi cheese, fried onion rings and, of course, fried potatoes.   Our side veg was ketchup!

Fish and chips, onion rings and fried cheese with a side of ketchup

And finally dessert (or pudding).  I never realized that James had not experienced Sticky Toffee Pudding before.  This soft cake served hot with  caramel sauce and custard (or ice cream) was his new favorite and he tried it everywhere from the best restaurant in London to the lunch on Virgin Air.  I believe the final count was eleven different versions.  When that was not available, Eton Mess was on offer: crumbled meringue tossed with whipped cream and strawberry jam.  They tried to sell this to me as a British version of the Australian Pavlova but I’ve had Pavlova made by Aussies and this is not the same!

It all sounds very English and sometimes heavy but in actuality it was often just what was needed after a long day walking up to the moors in all kinds of weather.

But my all time favorite treat was a sweet, ripe, sun-warmed blackberry picked off the bramble as we walked by.  And of all the things I would like try out here at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast it is to create an apple and blackberry topping for our sweet popovers in celebration of the best British pudding of all:  Apple and  Blackberry Crumble.  Yum.

Autumn is blackberry season in the UK.

The Sausage Roll 15 Sep 2016, 8:29 am

Well, my parents are nearing the end of their long hike. The daily updates have been wonderful, mostly recaps on the weather, how they have honed their bog-traversing skills – and lots and lots of talk about food and what they have been eating. When you hike 16 miles in a day, you get to eat whatever you want!

England is not known for the food, but my parents are debunking the “British cooking is awful” myth one meal at a time. I won’t spoil anything because given my mothers love of cooking and food, I’m sure she will want to recap their culinary adventures, however I did think this would be a good opportunity to share with you the recipe for a classic British staple: the sausage roll. This is not a hot dog in a blanket – though that is its American cousin. These are great for parties – you can make them ahead of time and freeze them.

Amazingly, my father had never had one until this trip to England! How that is possible after living in England for 6 years is beyond me. But he’s seen the light, and agrees they are fantastic. So I’m passing on the recipe to you – this is a modified version of Delia Smith’s sausage roll recipe. Delia Smith is the British equivalent of Martha Stewart, without the scandal and jail time. If you’re ever looking for a solid, authentic Brit recipe, start with Delia.

Makes 12 Sausage Rolls

Ingredients:

  • One package of store bought puff pastry
  • 8 oz of pork sausage meat
  • 1 small onion finely chopped
  • 2 rounded tablespoons of chopped sage leaves
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 egg – beaten

 

Method:

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Roll out your puff pastry to (2) 12”x 4” rectangles.

Mix the sausage meat, onion, sage and salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Divide the sausage meet into two and roll each piece out with your hands on a lightly floured surface until they are each 12” long.

Place one roll of sausage meat onto one strip of pastry. Brush the beaten egg along one long edge of the pastry, then fold the pastry over and seal it as carefully as possible. Roll the whole thing over so the sealed edge is underneath and gently roll lightly so the pastry is sealed. Repeat with the second piece of pastry and sausage meat.

Use a sharp knife to cut each roll into six sausage rolls. Cut three V shapes in the top of each roll with scissors and brush with the beaten egg.

Place the rolls on a baking sheet and bake high in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool

Serve hot. I like to eat them with ketchup mixed with a little bit of chili sauce. Delia suggests pickled shallots. You can dress up the sausage mixture if you want to get fancy, the possibilities are endless: chopped apple, parsley, mustard, nutmeg – go crazy!

You can store cooled sausage rolls in the freezer. Just defrost them for an hour at room temperature and warm them in a hot oven for 5 minutes.

The Real Begining of the Carolina Bed and Breakfast – Guest Post 7 Sep 2016, 7:09 am

Followers of this blog and The Carolina Bed & Breakfast’s social media accounts may have already seen that James and Susan aren’t here this week. For those of you who are not regular readers or just stumbled upon this post – I encourage you to put this blog on your bookmark list. As you’ll quickly figure out (no doubt this post will help you on your way) The Carolina Bed & Breakfast isn’t your run-of-the-mill business blog.

For all of you who don’t know where James and Susan are (from this point forward I shall just refer to them as my parents), they are currently walking across (yes ACROSS) England for the next month. While they are gone they have entrusted their inn to their incredible innkeeper Sara, and they have handed over their blog (for whatever insane reason) to me, their daughter Sarah, and they told me I can write about whatever I want to write about! Which I think is incredibly risky given my history of blog posts – but hey, like I said – this isn’t your run-of-the-mill blog.

So I get to be your guest blogger for the next month. I have no idea what you, or I am in for – but I guess we’ll find out.

My family lived in England for about six years from when I was six until I was twelve. We had British accents, we went to British schools, we loved “Top of the Pops” and The Spice Girls (who didn’t?) and Branson Pickle sandwiches (who did?). We thoroughly loved living there (can you tell I’m writing this blog post in my British accent?).

Anyway, my family is one of many traditions. I think we add a new tradition every time my family gets together or has a holiday. I often joke that in 30 years we’re just going to be one very long walking anecdote with so many traditions that we don’t do anything else.

We have added a fairly new family tradition that I am a big fan of. Any time anyone goes on a trip they have to write the whole family a daily summary of their trip via email. Think of it as a longer (and much faster) form of the postcard. AND if two people are on the trip then they switch off days – which makes it a delight to read, because you get someone else’s perspective.

My favorite part of my day right now is waking up in the morning, making my self a cup of tea, and sitting down to read about the adventure my parents had the day before.

Before they started on their epic walk my parents had a couple of days in our old stomping grounds to visit our old house, and our old pub, and our old school. They also had the opportunity to meet up with some of our (I won’t call them old) friends.

I had been struggling with what to start this guest blogging venture out with, and their update came as a gift.

I’ll just start at the beginning – and sit tight this is a long story….

Growing up overseas you learn very quickly that your family is your “tribe”. When you pick up and move they are going to be the only faces you know in your new home. It is always nerve-wracking (there’s another Brit-ism for you) when you are a new person in a new place, and especially so when you are in a new country and you are a kid.

We had moved to England from Hong Kong, which is quite a culture shock. BUT we were lucky enough to have moved not only with our family, but with two other families that had lived in Hong Kong with us and were our closest friends. This was sheer luck, it wasn’t planned, I have no idea how it happened, but suddenly our tribe of 5 was a tribe of 16!!

The Godfrey’s and the Millers. My extended family until I was twelve, they were such a massive part of my life in so many ways.

So fast forward to Murray expedition 2016 and my parents met up with Godfrey’s and Millers. We got a picture text of my parents at dinner with the Millers, and it inspired this blog post.

When my parents announced to me 8 years ago that they were opening a bed and breakfast I was a little confused and a little concerned. Confused because it didn’t sound like there was anything fun involved in running a bed and breakfast and this was their retirement plan (aren’t you supposed to play golf or something?) and concerned because….there doesn’t sound like anything fun involved in running a bed and breakfast. And I’ve pretty much stayed confused for the last 8 years, I’m just not concerned anymore.

BUT! When this picture of the Millers and my parents at dinner showed up on my phone, I had what Oprah would call an “Ah-Hah” moment. Because my parents had essentially been running a bed and breakfast MANY years before they were officially running one.

Now we’re going to rewind…..

There are not words to write here about how lucky I am to have been given the family that I have. There are so so so many happy memories that I have, that I’m sure one day it will make a very obnoxious and ridiculous memoire. Some of my favorite memories are the summers spent in England with the Godfrey’s and the Miller’s. I use the term “Summer” loosely to indicate how endless the days felt and the absence of having to go to school, but there really isn’t “summer” in England so it could have been any time of the year.

The Murray’s and the Godfrey’s and the Miller’s ran a rolling kid’s bed and breakfast. It worked like this. Someone (let’s say the Godfrey’s) would decide to have everyone over for a day of food, and drinking (if you were a parent) and general merriment. We would play board games, sometimes the parents would play board games without us, there were epic Nintendo battles, and climbing of trees, and shooting of bee-bee guns (that never worked out well) and forts built. The parents would sit outside and talk and enjoy the sun, and we would destroy the house and make trouble. At the end of a very long day and late at night as our parents got ready to leave we would beg, BEG them “Can we stay the night!? Please, please, pleeeeeeeeeeeeeze!?” And our parents would look at the Godfrey’s who would say “Ok.” And we’d all jump up and down and cram 12 little bodies into 4 beds and be up all night telling stories.

The next day the plan would begin early before the adults woke up. Do you think our parents would let us play here another day? Do you think your parents would!? We’d ambush them over breakfast and they would say “You have to ask your parents” and we’d get our plan together about how, and what we were going to say on the phone “We’re having so much fun mummy, and we don’t want to leave, do you think it would be ok, can we please, pleeeeeeeeeeze stay another day??”. In hindsight I can’t imagine that this was anything but a home run for Mom and Dad who had an entire extra day AND night to themselves.

So we’d stay another day. And hatch a plan in the middle of the night to see if we could convince our parents to have this make-shift summer camp/kids bed and breakfast continue at someone else’s house the next day. And we were always over-joyed when our parents said yes. Though, let’s face it, they were really just taking one for the team and paying the Godfrey’s back for letting us stay at and destroy their house for two or three days.

Those memories are some of my happiest. And I think I tell this story often, though it may be a product of how happy I felt, maybe it wasn’t as epic as I remember it, maybe my sisters have different memories, but it all came back again when my mom sent that picture over. None of them look older, they look just the same, I love them just the same. And that was when I realized, that a bed and breakfast had always been in the cards for my parents, because they had given us one long ago.

Xoxo

Sarah

Beer, Food and Asheville: The Sierra Nevada Brewery hits a Home Run 3 Aug 2016, 5:00 am

Front shot of the Sierra Nevada Brewery in Asheville NC showing copper kettles through the windows

Sierra Nevada Brewery

Asheville, it’s a beer city, it’s a foodie town, it’s a music town, it’s a mountain town.  Our city is so many things! And just when we thought we had it all figured out, someone comes along and surprises us.  After hearing great reviews from our guests, last week James and I took a drive out from our downtown Asheville B&B to the recently opened Sierra Nevada Brewery.

Located just past the Asheville Airport, about 20 minutes from the Carolina Bed & Breakfast, the Sierra Nevada  Brewery is reached by means of a long meandering driveway which takes you past hops growing in the fields and remnants of different time when brewing beer was much less automated.  It is a lovely entrance, and sets the tone for the experience awaiting you.  James and I were not coming for a tour (although everyone tells me we must try one), we were taking Abby, our daughter, out to dinner and trying out a new restaurant at the same time.

A long row of Beer Taps to choose from!

Through the front windows of the brewery we could see giant copper kettles glowing in the light (hmmm, yes, need to take the tour) but our destination was the Taproom to the left.  We were amazed at how busy it was for a Monday evening!  We hadn’t thought to make reservations but we able to buy a flight of beer at the bar and then took it outside on the veranda to enjoy. The idea was to try the beers in the flight and then you will know which beer to buy.  The sun was setting over the hills, the air was a comfortable temperature, families sat around the tables and played corn-hole.  Behind us a large truck was being filled with spent grain. We did not mind at all waiting a short half-hour for a table.

Once seated inside,we were intrigued by the menu.  At the Sierra Nevada Brewery they  have a wide variety of small plates intended to be shared so that guests can enjoy a variety of beer and food pairings.  It was at the same time elegant and fun.  Not at all your usual taproom fare!

We started by sharing a plate of Duck Fat Fries, a plate of Lamb Tartare and a plate of two types of Spring Peas, Asparagus and Radish over a Goat Cheese and Black Garlic sauce. Each was delicious!  Then James finished with a Burger, I had the Chicken Fried Quail and Abby went for a Mason Jar Salad.  Everything was great.  The service was attentive and the entire experience a pleasure.  We all agreed that this would be a good spot to bring someone new to Asheville to see something a bit outside of the normal areas.

Spring Peas, Asparagus and Radish with Goat Cheese

Definitely worth the visit!

Completely Nuts Bar: A Recipe for Nuts.com 18 Jul 2016, 9:00 am

Last week I heard a recipe contest being held by  Nuts.com  asking people to create a snack using at least four of their products.  Since it gave me a chance to take a break from working on my cookbook, (Our Family Table: Lessons and Recipes from a Life Abroad, due out October 2016) I thought “Why not?”

Then I got the list of ingredients from which I needed to use and I thought “This  is completely nuts!“.

I do a lot of baking at our Asheville Inn, the Carolina Bed & Breakfast.  In addition to the muffins, cookies and breads which are standard fare in the B&B industry, we  like to put a small treat in our guests’ rooms while they are out at dinner.  These range from mini-cupcakes to tiny tarts to small bar cookies and more.  So I decided to do a take on a pecan pie bar using lots of different nuts and a light batter to bind it instead of the traditional brown sugar and dark syrup and spice combination.  I chose some of the more elegant nuts on the list for this and took a step outside of the box in adding Green Tea Matcha Powder to the base layer.  And finally, as a bonus item,  I used almond flour to replace the flour I use in the batter.  Then I took a leap of faith and put in our guests’ rooms.

Homerun!  The plates came back empty and a couple of people asked me about them before they left today.  In my book, that’s success!

So here you go, Completely Nuts using Green Matcha Powder, Pistachios, Macadamia Nuts, Hazelnuts and, as an added bonus item, Almond Flour.

COMPLETELY NUTS BAR

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Grease or line an 8X8 baking pan

1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar

Pulse base ingredients together until it resembles green sand

2 tbsp Green Tea Matcha Powder
2 cups flour

Place butter, sugar, green tea powder and flour in the bowl of a food processor and pulse together until it looks like green sand.  Pour into the prepared pan, using your hands to pat it evenly into place, and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until starting to brown around the edges.

While the base is cooking, prepare the filling.

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup milk
1 tbsp Almond Flour
2/3 cup Pistachio Nuts, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup Hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup Macadamia Nuts, coarsely chopped

Place the melted butter together with the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and blend together until light and fluffy. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time.  Add the salt, vanilla, lemon juice and milk

Ready to go in the oven!

and mix until smooth.  Add the nuts and almond flour and stir together. Pour over the pre-cooked base and cook for 30-35 minutes until  set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely before cutting into bars.

Makes 16 bars.

COMPLETELY NUTS BAR!

 

 

Making the Most of Summer Fruits 13 Jul 2016, 6:00 am

Summer Fruits Made Elegant

One of the fun things about eating seasonally is enjoying the abundance of fruit in the summer.  Yesterday James and I were able to choose between cherries, cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew, blackberries, raspberries and peaches for lunch.   Operating our Bed & Breakfast in Asheville NC means more food than most in our refrigerator. Of course, your fridge probably doesn’t have such a wide variety of summer fruits in it all at once!

With so much to choose from, why bother dressing the fruit up?  And I get this.  I love the “grab and go” quality of a beautiful bowl of fruit.  But sometimes it’s nice to do a little bit more.  So here are two wonderful and easy-to-make sauces which you can use to give your summer fruit a special flare!

Both of these recipes use Mascarpone Cheese as a base.  Mascarpone is an Italian triple-cream cheese which is made, like many cheeses, through the introduction of a bacterial cultural to the cream. When you add sugar and liquids to Mascarpone, the culture is re-awakened resulting in a sauce which will thicken as it sits. This doesn’t mean you can’t make your sauce ahead. but it does mean  that if you do make it ahead you should make less than you  need as you will probably need to thin it down before serving.

You can serve these sauces on top of your summer fruits and berries as is, or you can take advantage of the natural affinity of these fruits to pair with the fresh herbs which are also so abundant just now.  One of the best ways to do this is to make an infusion, a sort of herbal sweet tea, and toss the fruits gently in it either just before serving or the night before.

RASPBERRIES WITH LEMON MASCARPONE CREAM

½ cup fresh berries per person
1 half cup lemon curd (commercial or home made)
2 tbsp mascarpone
1 tbsp heavy cream

Arrange the raspberries in a pretty glass or bowl.

Whisk together the lemon curd and mascarpone until it is smooth.  Thin with heavy cream to a thick cream.  Place a large dollop on top of the raspberries.

The process used to make the sweet basil syrup in this next recipe can be adapted to other herbs and combinations.  Try it with fresh mint (and a little ginger) or lemon-thyme .

Fresh Blackberries in Sweet Basil Syrup with Vanilla Mascarpone Cream

BLACKBERRIES IN SWEET BASIL SYRUP with MASCARPONE VANILLA CREAM

 For the Mascarpone Vanilla Cream:

2 tbs Mascarpone (room temp)
¼ cup heavy cream
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla

For the Syrup:

1 cup sugar
½ cup water
½ cup semi-sweet wine
½ vanilla bean (or ½ tsp vanilla extract)
1 cup tightly packed Basil leaves
Juice of one lemon

Combine sugar, water and wine in a saucepan. Add the vanilla bean (or extract). Bring to a boil.  Remove from the heat and stir in the basil and lemon juice.  Cool to room temperature.  Strain.

2 pints blackberries

Marinate blackberries in the sweet basil syrup at least 8 hours or up to two days.  The longer they soak the more flavour they will pick up from the basil.  Serve with a little sauce, topped with a dollop of Mascarpone Vanilla Cream (thin with cream if needed) .

Look for these recipes and more in my cookbook, Our Family Table: Lessons and Recipes from a Life Overseas, available in October 2016!