Gina M. Brown
Recipes By Gina M. Brown
My husband’s favorite meal out is breakfast, so what could be more romantic than a Valentine’s Day breakfast at Cottage Cafe? A gigantic, wonderfully tacky heart made of candies, fake roses and doilies greeted you in their vestibule. It was a local custom to have your photo taken in front of the heart, and they would display a photo montage of various customers posing with the heart. The photos would also flash on a continuous loop at each booth. Such a fun ode to love!
I have always loved Easter eggs with dioramas. My Christmas equivalent is vintage ornaments with a depressed starburst. You just know that something fun is happening in there! The same is true for a cream puff! This panel is a combination of an Aunt’s love for and my fond memories of Hawaii, Grandma’s use of botanicals for holiday and everyday decorating (now taken over by my sister), and the whole family’s taste for pineapple.
I “know” that this dessert is traditionally made with chocolate cake, but that is not my favorite flavor. Because I prefer caramel, butterscotch, peanut butter, etc., that is how I chose to illustrate my cake.
I folded the origami animals, but credit for their designs goes to origami_fun.com, maryannfraser.com, and Pucca’sArron from diy.afmsg.net for the owls; Perry Bailey and Frantisek Grebenicek for the squirrels; and Ching-YunHung, Fumiaki Shingu, and one unknown (sorry!) for the deer.
This recipe is another oldie but goodie, I think from an aunt who loved pistachios. Back in the day when Mom entertained frequently, this cake could be quickly put together from what were her pantry staples. The only trick is to use the largest Cool Whip you can find, both to ensure that the frosting isn’t grainy and to have enough for filling and topping. I’ve also served this cake for Easter because the color works so well for that occasion, too.
This recipe has been a family staple since my mom received it as a newlywed from her landlady and friend. It’s also versatile: my sister likes it best without the cherries, while my husband prefers it with mixed fresh fruit. The panel is inspired by my grandma, who never decorated for the holidays the same way twice, but whose favorite color was plaid!
When I was growing up, Mom always decorated for Christmas with deep royal blue ornaments, silver garland, brass horn ornaments and flocked greenery. So beautiful, Mom! I thought this dessert would be a fitting tribute to her glamorous decor. The recipe for the meringue base for the pavlova is from Sallysbakingaddiction.com.
When Dad had a new deck built at the farm, we celebrated with a picnic! If you ignore all the chores associated with farm life, Dad had an idyllic life: fresh vegetables every day (that he started from seed - I can still smell the dirt baking from sterilizing), a cutting garden that he actually used (I "could" pick my flowers any time I want to!), and the best view (first the pond, then the sheep pen and beyond to the gardens and fruit trees). In fact, other than this inaugural day, we tried to never sit with our back to the yard. Dad was also the first person I know who mixed herbs with his annuals, so a supply of parsley, etc. was always available to add to your plate. You simply had to know that the ornamental peppers were just that! And, we started every meal with a toast to the farm: Via Via!
The event happened just as illustrated; however, it should be noted that it was all our fault! Zinger was accustomed to receiving some kibble at 9:30 p.m. every day for his acid reflux. That particular day, we ate very late and missed his usual treat. In typical Zinger fashion, he decided to quietly help himself to the barest of essentials, just to stay alive! And poor Officer Mike and Spike, who were wrongly denied the chance to steal their own tortillas (not that they would do so)!
Buddy Bear is a very special rescue dog who led a rich and varied life before joining our family. For example, I knew that he had once been a gardener the first time he helped me with transplanting. I dug a hole in the back yard, went to the front yard to retrieve a plant, and when I returned to the back yard, I found him sitting in the hole, holding up the sides so they wouldn't collapse. In our free time, he and I compose text for what I hope will be a forthcoming book titled "Buddy Bear's Career Guide For The Undecided".
Meanwhile, his Grammy reminded me about Buddy Bear's picnic in her house, which is illustrated here and which has become a much-loved part of his guide to outdoor life. But, geez, I thought Grammies were supposed to forgive AND forget!
Our out-of-state aunt and her five grandchildren visited Dad's farm one summer. As a day trip, the whole troupe came to our fair city. My sister lived in a subdivision with a private beach, so a delightful picnic was had on her beach. We ate a disproportionate variety of yellow foods and sat at a round table, hence the inspiration for this panel. The actual picnic was in the afternoon so that Dad could get back to the farm to put his animals to bed at a decent hour. I'm just pretending that we stayed through sunset. You're never too old for make-believe!
After years of moving, we had finally settled into our permanent home, made more so by getting a puppy! We brought Zinger along to a lakeside tailgate picnic, with the goal of teaching him to swim. Scott threw the ball into the water in vain, because Zinger was only interested in meeting the frogs (and later, turtles), in addition to being somewhat afraid of the water. It was over a year before he finally got the hang of it by watching another dog. After that happy incident, we couldn't keep him out of the water, while he practically shouted "Look at me!" every time he went in.
It was the first year we were married, and I felt so grown up! We packed a picnic and walked to the park, carrying a nifty thing called a picnic ball (which held nested plastic plates and cups), chicken I had made from a new recipe called "Lemon Lime Picnic Chicken", and a wine tote (though we weren't technically old enough!). However, some "helpful" soul had told us to be sure to take Wonder bread for the geese. New Husband started setting up the army blanket while I got out the Wonder bread. As soon as the geese saw the bag, they stampeded towards me, turning me back into a toddler at dad's farm afraid of the geese nipping at my shorts. What could I do but hop onto the top of the picnic table..where I discovered it was a good thing we were eating some distance away, as the whole area was covered in goose poop!
Who doesn't love a picnic...in winter! We packed a fabulous picnic for a trip on the Agawa Canyon Snow Train. The other passengers were noticeably jealous. Dad tried to appease them by offering to share his then-wife's ham roll-ups; however, he wasn't successful in his efforts. When I look at photos from that day, I'm surprised that we were successful in stowing the cooler in the floor space. Who knows where our feet were during the whole trip!
Edible Flower Challenge.
Every time I make a fool, I wonder why I don't make it more often. I love the mix of tangy/sweet fruit with fluffy cream! Speaking of love, this panel is inspired by the old television series "The Dating Game", which I guess dates me (ha!). The recipe is from epicurious.com.
Edible Flower Challenge.
We had both a sedate cat named Daisy and a crazy cat named Mazie. To honor their memory in my garden, I planted crazy daisies. Not only are they pretty (and pretty crazy), they are edible! I found a recipe for spicy daylilies and daisies from ediblewildfood.com, and decided to modify it to only use crazy daisies. They can be used in many ways, including in sandwiches. And since I always try to end a sandwich meal with a pickle, now I can end the meal with a pickled flower instead. No disrespect intended, Daisy and Mazie!
Incidentally, Mazie always liked to "help" me with my many projects, so the stitching for this illustration, real and drawn, was done in her memory.
Edible Food Challenge.
My mother created the most magnificent Easter display on the dining room buffet every year complete with grass, eggs, and all. So, she was less than happy when, instead of referencing her buffet, I mentioned how much I used to love Easter eggs with little dioramas inside. Sorry, mom! I loved your buffet, too! But when I learned that tulip flowers are edible, I thought that they would be a perfect vehicle to house edible dioramas! Hint: Assemble each scene on a cracker topped with a cream cheese spread before carefully inserting the scene into the tulip. Enjoy!
Edible Flower Challenge.
Anise Hyssop was named the 2019 Herb of the Year by the International Herb Association for excellence in all three categories: culinary, decorative and medicinal! I thought we should celebrate this designation with anise hyssop parfaits. Why are there three parfaits in this drawing? Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, of course!
Edible Flowers Challenge.
My dog and I love to sit in our bay window where a honeysuckle vine brushes up against the screen. When we're lucky, a hummingbird comes and drinks from the flowers and, as a thank you, makes cute little "meep meep" noises. So, we got to thinking about the nectar and it seems that you can actually make iced tea from the flowers! Just be careful - the internet is full of cautions about using ONLY the flowers and verifying that no pesticides were used. Also, when possible, confirm that the variety is safe for consumption.
Edible Flower Challenge.
Roses are one of my husband's favorite flowers. I love their scent and believe that the petals taste equally delicious. It must be said, though, that my personality often gravitates more to the thorny aspect of roses!
Beans Around The World.
I was so excited when I first saw a combined soup bowl, because I frequently order two different soups to comprise my meal when dining out. Besides, I prefer duets to solos, pairs skating to singles...and the same is true for flamenco dancing. The dancing eighth notes (on the left) join up with the dancing sixteenth notes (on the upper right) to dance together as a couple. The beans on the rim of the soup bowl are a reference to polka dots, a traditional pattern for flamenco dresses. And the cilantro garnish is a nod to the fan, which adds a beautiful texture while both concealing and revealing.
Beans Around The World.
I've been waiting for an idea that would fit into a rotated format, and this recipe fits the bill! This is a dish that I've made several times, and each time I put in too much cayenne pepper (or perhaps I substituted habanero pepper, but that's another story). Anyway, I always have to go into "remedy" mode by adding peanut butter, sugar, and then doubling (ok, usually tripling) the remaining ingredients to cut the heat. So now I think of those steps as part of the recipe! However, it leaves me with plenty of leftovers to freeze. "Gold in the freezer", says my sister about leftovers.
Beans Around The World.
My aunt lived in Panama for a couple of years in the 1970's. When she returned, she brought back amazing sandstone carvings and molas. As I was looking at Google images of Panama, I realized how much the area changed since she was there. So I decided to draw my interpretation of a modern mola, using various buildings as a backdrop.
The buildings illustrated (yes, I used some artistic license) are: 1) The rooftop ramp is Frank Gehry's Biomuseo; 2) The spice grinder/spewer is the W Hotel Panama; 3) The mandolin slicer/chopper is Central Tower; and 4) The circular slide is F & F Tower. I loved the idea of combining a kitchen with a playground, which is how I think of my kitchen.
Beans Around The World: Italian? Or American?
Nonno (Grandpa) was Italian and he made these beans for my dad, who rarely left his farm (Va Via Farm) in Michigan. So I thought I'd have a little fun with the idea of whether this farm scene could be re-imagined as an Italian scene. Actually, though, dad didn't really have a silo. If he did, he certainly would not have let the roof rust!
The other question of the day is whether Nonno's Bean Blend is wine or hot sauce? You'll only know by trying some, since "No-one says 'no' to Nonno"!
Photo credit goes to Sandra Salamony, who took the photograph from which Nonno's close-up is based. Thanks, Sandra!
Beans Around The World.
My mother-in-law invented this recipe as a way to feed herself and her five children on a tight budget. I confess that I didn't understand it at first, because the only goulash I had eaten was in a red sauce over noodles, whereas this recipe has other starches and has a firmer texture. However, I've come to think of it not only as comfort food, but as a kind of "stone soup" recipe, since I would not have thought to combine those particular ingredients. The stone soup thought led me to the trainyard setting, a place where all kinds of people from different backgrounds gather. It's a total coincidence, yet a happy coincidence, that I submit this illustration on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
For a good while I was cooking from Paul Prudhomme's "Fiery Foods That I Love". He has a recipe for a rolled bread using leftover beans. It wasn't a total success for me as a bread, because the beans were sloppy and thus the bread was hard to slice and store. However, rolls, I think, are a whole other story! Easy to bake, eat, store, and freeze any leftovers.
Because Paul Prudhomme was a Cajun cook from New Orleans, I decided to give this recipe a Mardi Gras flair via the parade (the drum straps are Mardi Gras beads) and colors.
Beans Around The World.
This recipe is for cowboys all around the world! Twice I attended a concert by the Mongolian Throat Singers. Each time I was surprised to discover how familiar the songs were. Turns out they were singing about Mongolian cowboys! I guess all cowboys share a certain culture.
My inspiration for this chili came from a recipe for prairie beans that I thought originated from my great-aunt. However, I have since discovered "her" recipe (also known as pioneer beans or cowboy beans) all over the internet...for good reason, because they are very tasty. I hope you will think my chili is tasty, too.
Beans Around The World.
When I was a teenager, my best friend's father flew to Brazil and returned with a Brazilian good luck charm for my charm bracelet. Since that time, I have enjoyed making and eating Brazilian black beans. And I have been fascinated with certain similar shapes that appear in Brazilian imagery, both natural and man-made. I hope you agree!
I studied the ruins at Chichen Itza during college and so was more than thrilled to visit it in person, back in the day when people were allowed to climb the ruins. This Mayan stepped pyramid, El Castillo, features a serpent at the base of the staircase. Twice a year, the sun casts a shadow of the steps perfectly onto the staircase wall, making the serpent appear to come alive. I decided that if the serpent only "lives" on those two days, he must be hungry! Since the pyramid steps reminded me of a taco holder, I thought I'd feed the serpent tacos. The recipe is based on a pinto bean and squash stew that we ate at a traditional Yucatan dinner as part of our bus ride to the ruins. The serpent won't go hungry on my watch!
I love Cuban music, Cuban dancing and all of the Cuban food that I have tried to date. So, I was more than happy when a Latin American restaurant opened in town, where I first ate black bean cakes. In keeping with the Cuban theme, since I have made savory pies with a toasted rice crust that I think is delicious, I decided to serve the corn salsa in a baked rice rowboat. Just don't ask me to dance the salsa...despite lessons taken at the local college, it isn't pretty!
Beans Around The World.
I first ate cassoulet from a Weight Watchers recipe...then I ate it at a French restaurant nearby. No comparison! This recipe falls somewhere between the two extremes, though hopefully, at the tastier end. However, if I ever discover what makes the authentic restaurant version just a little bit higher up the scale, I promise to update this recipe so we CAN CAN all enjoy it!
To be honest, I've never been to the Kentucky Derby and the last time I watched a race was during the Secretariat era. However, the rocking horse mounted to the rooftop was a family tradition. We named the horse "Fast Eddie", but he proudly displayed a license plate bearing Nonnie's name, so I named Fast Eddie's dream horses in her honor. While each iteration of the horse hopes for just a little bit more, the jockey has thoughts only for a traditional Kentucky Derby buffet.
I traveled to Israel with a group last year. Our breakfasts and dinners were usually served buffet-style in the hotel, so I really looked forward to a more local experience at lunchtime. In Safed, we had a Yemenite wrap that was positively delicious! I was particularly interested in the technique of adding the zatar to the oil in the pan before adding the batter. Mental note: Must Try This. When I got home, I Googled the wrap. Turns out the batter is called "lachuch" and recipes are available. However, without access to the special local cheeses, I'm afraid that any attempt to recreate this dish at home will be disappointing. I guess a return trip to Safed is in order!
I attended a Diwali celebration a few years ago, which culminated in a buffet that was easily 36 feet long, followed by fireworks. We like to pick up Indian food for take-out and then have a buffet at home that is, obviously, on a much smaller scale. I drew the dishes that we tend to order every single time, because they're that good. I recently read about a controversy involving the traditional Diwali fireworks from an environmental perspective. So I chose to show "our" buffet among a rangoli, wherein "our" fireworks are actually flowers with fallen petals.
Mushroom picking in the forest is a favorite outdoor activity in Poland. My grandmother and her sisters loved picking mushrooms here, too. I enjoy hunting for mushrooms but would love it even more if only I could teach my dogs to sniff out the mushrooms, ala truffle pigs. My aunt started making this recipe 30 or 40 years ago. I don't know where the recipe originated. If anyone recognizes it, please share the source!
Grandma frequently made kluski, but not often enough, according to the family! They wanted it for every meal, including Christmas. I used to make it while I was going to college, but I substituted bacon for the pork shoulder. That was when I learned, from my great-aunt, that bacon is cheating! Unfortunately, there are those in the family who haven't fallen for kluski's charms. My husband refers to it as "fish bait". Oh, well, more for me!
My mother recounted her first Christmas with her Italian in-laws as a non-stop party: people always coming over to visit, food always on the table, and drinks always on tap. I imagined an antipasto platter shaped like a wheel that automatically refilled on the way up, which later turned into tire tracks and roads. So I drew the antipasto roads on six of the hills of Rome. The seventh hill is dedicated to the luminarias. At my first Christmas with Nonnie and Nonno, I helped fill the bags for the luminarias and everyone who lived on their hill did the same. When they were all lit on Christmas Eve, I thought I had never seen anything so beautiful!
I used three inspirations for this panel:
1) In the mid 1980's, my friend Maria invited me to assist her in preparing her family's holiday tamales. After all these years, I can still smell and taste her pork and garlic filling!
2) In the mid 1990's, my husband and I went to Cancun. Instead of staying on the strip, we opted to shop, dine and stay downtown. We ate dinner at a friendly neighborhood restaurant, had the best tortilla soup with a clear chicken broth base, and were serenaded by musicians.
3) My sister makes a deee-licious Mexican cranberry cosmopolitan!
My aunt and I traveled to Portugal and I totally fell in love with the country! I took an unusual delight in photographing shaped breads in the shop windows (and mourned for the poor crocodile who lost its arm!). As I recall, I always ate chicken for dinner while my aunt always ate sea bass. I'd go back in a heartbeat!
My grandfather was Finnish. I would have liked to feature one of his favorite meals, but he didn't like Finnish food! I remember that when he and Grandma were planning to travel to Finland (they, and others in the family were world travelers), he was SO worried that he wouldn't be able to eat. However, Grandpa did have a sweet tooth. So, I incorporated traditional holiday cookies and mulled wine into this panel. Also, it's my understanding that mistletoe is not a custom in Finland, so for my "sweetheart sphere" I used a ribbon-wrapped, clove-studded orange that is commonly used for holiday decorating.
One day my sister and I came home from school to that overwhelmingly delicious scent of turkey cooking. Mom, however, explained that her friend Ina's oven had broken down. And since Ina had a thawed turkey that HAD to be cooked, Mom baked the turkey as a favor to her. ?!? Who knew Mom had such a sense of humor! She continued to surprise us with turkey off and on, but we didn't fall for the "It's for Ina" trick again. I never did discover her super secret turkey thawing station, though she finally spilled the beans to me last week!
Fave Memory (or, more accurately, based on a memory).
My dad had very strong opinions about food (i.e., is it sweet or is it sour...decide!). But I didn't know that he had equally strong opinions about serving dishes. He HATED my two rabbit tureens that had heads made out of bell peppers, etc. I always thought it would be fun to prepare him a meal of "animals" constructed of other foods. So I drew up these three animals and composed a short poem about each one, as if it was a Halloween potion. Because the poems reference the body parts of the animals, I decided to show the organs of one animal via an "organ x-ray". I do think that Dad would have liked that part, since he was always up for a good pun.
Occasionally Dad would have to work out of town for the weekend. Since he didn't consider pizza a "proper" meal, the first thing that my mom, sister, and I would do is get a pizza from Genii's. Then we'd bake and decorate cupcakes all night long while listening to music (Mom loved disco!) and dancing in the kitchen.
Fave Memory (of my husband and in-laws).
Seriously, I love my mother-in-law. She raised five kids as a single mom while working full time. However, seriously, who believes that their kids LOVE soggy cooked spinach and eggs, dotted with bits of cheese? OK, I would love the cheese and today I would eat the spinach, but not as a child!
It was Thanksgiving at the farm. Since I fancy myself to be a baker, I volunteered to make the pumpkin pie. The meal proceeded nicely, and then came desert and the awful realization that I forgot to add the sugar to the pie filling! Oh, well, the chickens deserved a nice Thanksgiving, too, right? So we gave the pie to the chickens. Despite the fact that they frequently eat raw squash, every single one politely declined their Thanksgiving treat!
You can see that Dad was quite rigid about keeping a tight schedule on the farm! Well, the fun thing about rules is the exception to the rules. Dad's hard and fast rule on the farm was, because it was a working farm, not to get attached to the livestock. Well, somebody forgot to tell that fact to Oscar the turkey. Oscar was persistent and insistent on winning Dad's affection. Before long, the two of them were inseparable, doing chores together and riding together on the Gator. When Oscar finally left this life (as I recall, not due to activities related to the farm), Dad kept a bunch of Oscar's feathers and attached them to the tractor like a hood ornament.
One of my aunts made a wintery fairyland scene out of penguins constructed from hard-boiled eggs and olives for a family gathering. She put the penguins on a mirror and sprinkled fake snow around the "ice". So pretty! But my actual memory extends later into the evening of the festive event. When the extended family would gather, the four adult sisters talked long into the night. As a youngster, I had to scrounge a place to sleep and would conveniently choose the room where the talking occurred. I then pretended to sleep while I eavesdropped on the adult conversation, which usually included a discussion on how they should combine forces and open a catering business. They would map out the entire business plan, including what contribution each person would offer and criticize the meager efforts of existing businesses. What a fun introduction to pipedreams!
When this camper was new to us, we decided to pay a visit to my best friend from high school, who lived in "the city". We arrived at the campground, and the host excitedly told us that she had saved "the site with the tree" for us. ?!?!?!? Up to that point, we had only camped in forests, etc., and were shocked to discover that this city campground did, in fact, have only one tree! Well, we settled in nicely, had a wonderful visit with my friend, and I made a hearty Polish stew with apples and sauerkraut for the somewhat chilly day. All was right with the world!
This memory goes back to 1979 when my aunt and uncle were married in northern Michigan during that magical week between Christmas and New Year's. She was beautiful and wore a simple white dress; instead of flowers, her hands were concealed in a white fake fur muff. He was so handsome in a dark green velour tux. I don't remember if there was a cake, but there was a desert table, on which the bride had made a wreath constructed of leaf-shaped cutout cookies. I took the liberty of adding wedding bell cookies.
The first year that I was married, my mother-in-law came for an extended visit over Christmastime. I was so wrapped up in planning the entire visit that I completely forgot to plan a "nice" Christmas meal. When we woke up, she innocently asked me what I had planned. Oops! So we spent the day making peanut butter balls, and for dinner, we had my old stand-by, spaghetti and meatballs. She was a great sport! Spaghetti and meatballs remains one of her favorite meals (whew!). Love you, Nancy!
Fave Memory (actually two)!
1. When I was little, our Italian grandparents came to visit for a week every August. Each time, Nonnie brought a HUGE tin filled with biscotti and pizzelles. Because this annual treat was just so special, we all individually snuck into the tin to steal "just one". And yet we were collectively surprised when the HUGE tin was empty after only a couple of days!
2. As a youngster, dad was served soup with every meal. We regularly make the cappalletti at holidays, but the pasta fagioli somehow fell by the wayside. My sister painstakingly recreated all of the nuances of Nonnie's recipe. I rarely saw strong emotion from my dad, but he was simply overcome when he tasted my sister's soup, exclaiming that he never thought he'd taste that flavor again. Good work, Sister!
Our pets have always been our muses, but it was my sister who suggested that we make Zinger (older Golden Retriever) and Officer Mike (Mini Schnauzer) cutout cookies, though our dog pack has grown since that day. For the outlines, we used both the "trace around an image" strategy as well as the "fashion a permanent cookie cutter from hardware" method. Each method worked equally well. But our biggest discovery was that black frosting is quite inedible - yuck!
This drawing began as a somewhat darker panel to the tune of "Celery Stalks At Midnight". However, it morphed into a musing about the "hidden" geometry of corn, i.e. 1) how the geometry of the corn stalk might change over the course of a growing season and 2) the infinite possibilities of the geometry of the corn maze. Perhaps there's another panel for the celery at some future date!
One of Mom's many famous deserts was her individual Baked Alaskas. She usually made them with French Vanilla ice cream (Dad's favorite), but I thought it would be fun to pair the pineapple and coconut with raspberry ice cream instead.
Well, I thought I was done drawing panels for this challenge...until my husband went fishing with his friend. The fishing buddy caught a salmon and brought over some cut pieces of fish for my husband to smoke. I now attribute the inspiration for two panels to my husband. Thanks, Scott!
Since Officer Mike (Mini Schnauzer) was a puppy, he wanted to do everything that his cousin Zinger (Golden Retriever) did. That included swimming in Nonno's (Grandpa) pond along with the resident turtle and the many beautiful koi. What a brave boy!
This panel was inspired by an obscure sentence I read many years ago, in which a mother stated her expectation that every day her child was to bring home a tale of a new discovery from the great outdoors. In my version, the child had to wait until night-time in the forest to be honored with this rarely-witnessed event!
Super Food Entry.
I dedicate this submission to my father, Farmer Gene, who loved both growing vegetables and opera. He never lost his inner twelve year old and looked forward to a great guffaw over a pun...the cornier, the better!