Amy Artisan

Family | Travel | Craft | Life | Books

Month: May 2008

A Winning Menu…

In keeping with the metaphor of life being a full plate, my plate has been rather full the last few weeks – I’ve mentally written many blog entries – hopefully they will make their way to the site in the next couple of weeks.

In the meantime, thanks to everyone who submitted your favorite comfort foods and associated stories – it was fun to read through each memory. Collectively you created quite a comfort food menu – with more than enough macaroni and cheese for everyone to enjoy a big serving!

The following gals will be receiving a copy of Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs:

  • Deborah – Poppyseed chicken! It’s a yummy, not-very-good-for-you chicken casserole that my mom used to bring to church potluck suppers. It makes me think of my family and the church that I grew up in. I always serve it with sweet tea and southern style green beans on the side. It makes me feel like I’m back in small town Mississippi – life slows down and we can have a nice visit at the dinner table. Ooh, and my summer comfort food is lemon icebox pie. It’s really easy to make, but I still only make it once or twice a summer. It’s cool and refreshing, and reminds me of hot, humid summer days back home. Lemon icebox pie just looks pretty, too, and it makes me think of Southern women.
  • Casey – I love apple pie! My grandma made the best pie from scratch and whenever I was sick, she’d send my grandpa over with a pie for me! Some kids got popsicles, I got pies. I still love apple pie but I can’t eat the frozen kind from the supermarket. Sometimes I get those but I’m always disappointed. It has to have the taste of homemade. My aunt’s pies are second best only to my grandma’s but she lives a state away. I guess I should start making them myself!
  • Kris – My comfort food is “Grammy’s Bread” which is similar to babka. It is my paternal grandmother’s recipe. Over the last couple of years, I have become the one in my family to carry on her tradition of baking it. It is my favorite comfort food because tasting it brings a flood of memories of my dear Grammy each time. The act of making it, though I never made it with Grammy, reminds me of my connections to my roots and brings more memories.
  • Cynthia – I do love tea; there is something comforting on a cold and rainy day about a good cuppa tea. I also love brown rice with a bit of oil and some frozen green peas (my husband and son would say green peas are my comfort food – they always seem to soothe my nausea) when I am feeling nauseated or under the weather, which happens a lot. My other favourite comfort food is popcorn. Not too much butter but just a big bowl of traditionally made on the stove popcorn. Love the crunch and the taste.
  • Marilyn – In all seasons, my favorite comfort food is homemade soup. It can be a very fancy recipe or just a “clean out the refrigerator” kind…doesn’t matter…just warms me all over…body and soul.


Earlier in May, Kate was in town for Comfort Food book events on two evenings. The first evening a portion of my bookclub joined me for the reading & signing – at that gathering it seemed like everyone came with at least one other member of their bookclub. After the event, Kate & I hung out in the bookstore cafe for a bit catching up on life. The second evening, I met up with a friend for dinner and then we joined in the event at an independent bookstore. Both evenings were filled with great questions and conversations.

In the last month I’ve been cooking a bit more (something that I enjoy doing) and now that I’ve got the grill in rotation again I’m having a lot of fun. In the next couple of months I hope to share some of my kitchen & grillin’ adventures with you. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with my plate from a few weeks ago – the first grill meal of the summer that was definitely a comfort food plate…

Santa Maria Tri-Tip

A Weekend for Joy(ce)

I have several things I want to blog about, including getting up to date with my ABCs (err, H & I) but for now I’m jumping straight to J.


J is for JOYCE (aka Artisan Mom)

I remember when I was learning to read I made the connection that within my Mom’s name was Joy. Even at a young age I knew how appropriate that was – Mom has always brought joy to everything that she does.

This weekend she had a ‘big’ birthday. It was made even better because the whole Artisan Family was together here in Chicago to celebrate Mom. It has been several years since the four of us were all together here in Chicago – most of our family celebrations have been home in the ‘Ville. This weekend we were greatful for some wonderful respite care for Grandma that allowed for a Chicago birthday celebration for Mom.

Given the state of air travel these days, unfortunately it wasn’t that much of a surprise that their flight was about 3 hours late arriving on Thursday evening – it was almost midnight when we got to my house, so our planned Thai takeout dinner would end up being Friday lunch. The Chicago weather was perfect spring – sunny, blue skies, and lots of green grass & trees accented with lilacs and other spring blooms. We didn’t have many plans for the weekend – we just gave Mom some “dress code guidelines” for Friday & Saturday reservations. We did a little bit of shopping, a little bit of driving, a little bit of relaxing with books & a favorite musical on DVD, and a lot of just enjoying being together. On Friday evening we had reservations for dinner at A Mano – it was fun to order several things off the menu & share amongst us all; of course we saved room to enjoy their delicious gelato for dessert.

Our “big” surprise was Saturday afternoon – all Mom knew was that we had 4:30 PM reservations & we were dressing up a bit more. As we headed downtown, Mom was just glad that we were all together & didn’t seem to have a clue where we were going. It wasn’t until we turned the corner and pulled up in front of The Peninsula Chicago that Mom realized we were going to enjoy afternoon tea at my favorite tea spot. As we enjoyed all of the delicious treats on the menu we recalled the lovely afternoon tea we enjoyed in Bermuda 9 years ago this month. This “quick pic” at the end of the afternoon definitely captures the fun of the weekend.

And to celebrate a milestone birthday for a Mom who has done so much for so many I had a secret knit on the needles in the last month: “A Hug for Mom” – a simple shawl using yarn that I picked up last summer.

The Details – Pattern: Simple Yet Effective Shawl; Yarn: Brooks Farm Yarn Limited Edition III a wool and silk blend in a medium/steel blue, 2 skeins; Needles; Size 10; Modifications: Since Mom’s birthday is the 17th I had the garter stitch section at 17 ridges; the edge of the shawl had 2 stitches & then the yarn over to increase.   When I bought this yarn last summer I had a specific pattern in mind; however, as I started with the yarn and pattern it was obvious that they weren’t a match – same with the 2nd pattern. Truly, the third time was a charm by going with a simple pattern that I had knit before – the simple stitches allowed the yarn to really come to life.

The weekend trip may have been quick; however, it was wonderful to celebrate the JOY that is Mom!

A Full Plate: Comfort Food

Have you ever thought about your life being a full plate? Family, friends, work, hobbies, travels, life experiences and more – all are arranged on your plate. Sometimes they are arranged in a way that is comforting and satisfying; other times they are arranged in ways that seem to be overflowing and not enjoyable.

Earlier this spring I had the opportunity to read the advanced copy of Kate Jacob’s newest book, Comfort Food. In Kate’s first novel, she created a knitting shop and community that invited you to bring your knitting project and join them as they knit through all that life dealt. With Comfort Food, Kate brings you behind the scenes of the celebrity chef/food television world and lets you sample from a menu of tasty food, family drama, friendships and work relationships, and more.

The story centers on Augusta “Gus” Simpson – a celebrity chef and host of Cooking with Gusto! As she nears 50 she is faced with “a full plate” of change and turmoil. Where previously her life was plated in a way that each food didn’t touch she is suddenly presented with “a full plate” where someone has taken a fork & swirled all the parts together. Throughout the course of several months, Gus navigates through the reality of being viewed as an aging network star who must compete with “the next new thing” in a younger, exotic chef; establishing adult based relationships with her 2 twentysomething daughters; discovering plans for the future are no longer stable.

As I curled up with the book and a mug of coffee, I was quickly pulled into world of Gus and her family and friends and felt as if I was invited into Gus’s world whether at the breakfast table with her neighbor (who had a ‘secret’ past) or around the kitchen island where everyone was gathered for taping her show. When I finished the book on a Sunday evening I felt the story was very satisfying and left a pleasant taste in my mouth – much like a well seasoned meal.

The book is released this week and Kate begins a book tour to support it. Additionally, if you are interested, she will call into your book club to discuss Comfort Food or The Friday Night Knitting Club. In February, my book club (of non-knitters) had a delightful evening discussing FNKC with Kate; our May meeting will be hearing her read at a local book store and we look forward to having her discuss Comfort Food in the future.

Thanks to Kate’s publisher, I have several copies of Comfort Food and some other treats to give away. Instead of giving them all away at once, I am going to have a few contests in the next couple of weeks. Let’s get the first contest started…between now and May 21st leave a comment on this post with: 1) a favorite comfort food & 2) the reason/story behind why that food brings you comfort. I’ll put all of the comments in a mixing bowl & select 5 to receive a copy of Comfort Food.

Comfort food comes in all flavors…Sometimes it’s the fried egg sandwich that your Dad would make on Sunday evenings…Sometimes it’s your Mom’s chicken & rice salad that is a sign spring is here…Sometimes it’s a frappe that reminds of you of travels with your sister & friends…Sometimes it is homemade egg custard when you are ill…What is your comfort food?

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