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On the Trail With the Amazing Gourmet Girls

by Martha Esersky Lorden



When Gail Kearns, Lindsey Moran, and Denise Woolery go camping, they dine in style– and so can you. Now with an innovative cookbook by the Gourmet Girls, you can leave the hotdog-on-a-stick approach to campfire cuisine in the ashes and embrace fine dining al fresco with 140 fabulous recipes offered by these temptresses in a tent.

While the cooking technology featured in these recipes includes cast iron skillets, dutch ovens, and grills, there is no chuck wagon or cowboy cuisine here. The Gourmet Girls have raised the bar, adapting campfire recipes for the gourmet palate.


Denise Woolery (executive chef),  Lindsay Moran (writer/illustrator), Gail Kearns (editor)

Using techniques that go beyond the backyard barbecue, the GGs are inspired by gourmet classics like coq au vin, escargot, or scallops on the half shell with a buttery Bernaise sauce. There’s tagine-braised lamb shanks with quince and a filet mignon dressed in a reduction of red wine. And how about a breakfast of eggs Benedict or French toast made with brioche smeared with mascarpone, swimming in a buttery, brown sugar peach sauce?

Pretentious, you say?  Not in the least. These ladies accomplish all this with wooden spoons, cast iron, and fire, right?  Okay– they want you to bring a bottle opener for the wine as well as whisks, zesters, and milk frothers. But as avid foodies with sophisticated tastes as well as a love of hiking and the outdoors, the women who developed and contributed these recipes take their culinary adventures and celebrations seriously. So you’ll find a dozen creative and quite festive cocktails along with many ooh-la-la appetizers from these campers-who-cook.

Many recipes are inspired  by the Cali cuisine that focuses on vegetarian or paleo-friendly options. There are several sections devoted specifically to this fare: Vegetarian Vittles, Savvy Salads, Very Veggie, and Groovy Grains. Forget the canned baked beans!  Opt instead for grilled brussels sprouts roasted in maple syrup, a medley of grilled market vegetables topped with romesco sauce, or quinoa with cauliflower and walnuts.

Cast Iron Ratatouille prepared over hot coals

There are riffs on burgers, grilled sandwiches, tacos and wraps; curries, chili, and ribs, too. Over 20 sauces will dress up any dish, and for the sweet finish, there are plenty desserts such as strawberry shortcake, lemon ricotta crepes, chocolate fondue, and campfire cobblers. The desserts go way beyond, but include, those iconic and gooey marshmallow, graham cracker and chocolate s’mores which are revisited in a number of creative twists.

These gals don’t mess around in this guide to dining in the great outdoors. Serious camping requires serious gear, and the GGs cookbook provides excellent lists and guidelines for setting up a well-equipped traveling kitchen and campsite. Packing and preparation are achieved by creating bins. There’s advice on the best tools for fire-building, ways to store ingredients away from heat and moisture, what’s needed  for clean up, and more. The Tips and Tricks section explains efficient cooler use, options for heat sources, and cooking methods along with a chart on how to achieve proper cooking temperatures using a dutch oven. Echoes from that  old  Boy Scout motto  “Be prepared” resound; their sage advice is based on years of experience and plenty of scorched marshmallows.

So, the next time you prepare for a camping trip, you just might want to swap out those acrid citronella candles for some tapers and an elegant candelabra. With the Gourmet Girls’ cookbook as your trail guide, you will be on your way to a fine dining outdoor adventure.DSC00006.JPG

Gail Kearns and Denise Woolery at a recent book signing at We Olive in Ventura 

The GGs are currently taking their book on the road to wineries, gift shops, and bookstores in the Santa Barbara area. There will be cooking demos, so don’t miss a chance to sample appetizers and talk recipes. You can also catch them in late April at the SB Business Expo . Then they’ll be getting their grill on in LA in June. They also have plans to pitch a summer campsite in Oregon.

To buy a copy  of The Gourmet Girls Co Camping cookbook please visit https://www.gourmetgirlsonfire.com/shop/.



Here’s a link to events for the spring and summer 2017 tour: https://www.gourmetgirlsonfire.com/our-spring-summer-book-tour/

Please check the link for updates for future book signing events.

  • April 15, 2017 • 1-3 p.m. @ We Olive • 294 E Main Street #B, Ventura, CA 93001
  • April 29, 2017 • 8 a.m.-2 p.m. @ 2017 Santa Barbara Business Expo • Fess Parker’s Doubletree Hotel, 633 E. Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara, CA
  • June 3, 2017 • 12-2 p.m. @ The Garden Market • 3811 Santa Claus Ln, Carpinteria, CA 93013
  • June 10, 2017 • 12-2 p.m. @ Buttonwood Winery • 1500 Alamo Pintado Road, Solvang CA 93463
  • June 17, 2017 • 11 a.m.-3 p.m. @ Adventure 16 • 11161 W. Pico Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90064
  • August 19 & 20, 2017 • 12-8 p.m. @ Dancin Vineyards • 4477 South Stage Road, Medford, OR 97501


Buttonwood Farm and Winery in the San Ynez Valley hosted authors Gail Kearns and Denise Woolery for a book signing with sample appetizers.

Good Books for Cooks: Going Solo for Supper


Solo Suppers: Simple Delicious Meals to Cook for Yourself

by Joyce Goldstein, photos by Judi Swinks, Chronicle Books, $19.95 (155p)

Book Review by Martha Esersky Lorden

America has the highest rate of single-person households in the world, so it is no surprise that an interest in healthy “cooking for one” is on the rise. Nearly 28 percent of Americans are living alone, and for many, preparing home-cooked meals is not a high priority. Options like dining out alone, tossing packaged foods into the microwave, or bringing home fast food take-out meals on a regular basis can, however, become an expensive and less-than-healthy choice for singles. Yet, many find sitting down to a home-cooked meal alone an unlikely and inconvenient scenario.Solo-Suppers-Goldstein-Joyce-9780811836203

As food-conscious folks address the challenges posed by the single lifestyle, a number of new cookbooks specifically designed to promote the benefits and ease of cooking solo are growing in popularity. Cooking for yourself, they explain, is satisfying, enjoyable, and if done thoughtfully, avoids waste, time, and expense.

In fact, living alone has its culinary advantages. It means that one does not have to cook for another person or cater to another’s tastes and food preferences. Also, the single’s kitchen presents an opportunity to creatively indulge in whatever meals one desires, where the cook is free to experiment and even to use the very same spoon to stir as to taste.

Joyce Goldstein’s Solo Suppers: Simple Delicious Meals to Cook For Yourselfis an excellent cookbook that presents the art of “one-shot dinners” as comforting “creative challenges.” The seventy recipes, formulated for one serving, present well-balanced repasts based on fresh produce, herbs, and good cuts of protein. Full of hints to facilitate shopping and ease of preparation, the cookbook also outlines cupboard and condiment basics and guidelines for turning any leftovers into “new creations.”

The recipes in Solo Suppers are uncomplicated, but they are not gimmicky, shortcut meals for the busy single professional. Each dish is a composed, comforting meal designed to yield a mindful dining experience in the solitude of one’s home. They are sophisticated creations that produce a single meal based on mood or the season. Relaxing in preparation and offering a healthy indulgence, dishes celebrate the Zen of dining solo.

Goldstein loves the versatility of sauces which she believes are “key to making food exciting.” Her pomegranate marinade, Romesco sauce, tangy mango chutney, and citrus-y prune sauce brighten up poultry, fish, noodles, or meat. Recipes for savory soups feature beans with shellfish, Persian style meatballs, lentils, various greens, and Asian-inspired noodle broths.

Pasta dishes like Orecchiette with Broccoli and Chickpeas or Rigatoni with Eggplant, Meatballs, and Tomato Sauce are satisfying and inexpensive dinners for one. Goldstein loves healthy comfort foods like Polenta with Spinach and Peas along with dressed-up versions of macaroni and cheese. Several salad recipes featuring Goldstein’s passion for tart and refreshing vinaigrettes work well as both starters and main dishes. Elegant fare for one includes soufflés, Greek-style lamb steaks, and even a lobster dinner. Cheese and fruit desserts, a number of puddings, and a Spanish-inspired pain perdu with fresh berries are fine finishes for solo suppers.

The cozy recipes in Solo Suppers reflect Goldstein’s belief that everyone “deserves a great meal, an excellent glass of wine, and the time to relax and enjoy” your own company. Solo Suppers teaches single cooks how to be their own best guest, but singles who master these delightful recipes may, in time, find that they are more than likely to have additional guests at their table.


Poached Salmon with Mushrooms, Tarragon, and Cream

From Solo Suppers: Simple Delicious Meals to Cook for Yourself

Because salmon is so easy to cook at home, I almost never order it in restaurants. I can poach it in white or red wine and make a sauce by adding some cream to the pan. When I want an elegant salmon supper, however, this is the recipe I return to over and over again. It combines three of my favorite ingredient: fresh tarragon, sautéed mushrooms, and salmon. If I don’t have an open bottle of white wine on hand, I use dry white vermouth, which is shelf stable.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces fresh mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups dry white wine, dry white vermouth, or part wine and part water
1 salmon fillet, about 6 ounces, skinned
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon, plus more for garnish

In a small skillet, melt the butter over high heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they give off some liquid, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the wine into a saucepan large enough to hold the salmon and bring to a simmer. Slip in the salmon, cover the pan, and poach gently over low heat until the salmon tests done (it should appear opaque when pierced with the point of a knife), 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the salmon from the poaching liquid with a slotted skimmer and set aside on a warmed plate; keep warm.

Add the cream and 1 tablespoon tarragon to the poaching liquid and reduce over high heat to a slightly syrupy sauce. Add the mushrooms and warm through. Spoon the sauce over the salmon. Garnish with a bit more tarragon.

© 2003 Joyce Goldstein

Cookbook Review: The Bible on Macaroni and Cheese

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Macaroni and Cheese by Marlena Spieler, photos by Noel Barnhurst (2005)

Chronicle Books (132p)  $16.95

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What I like about Spieler’s book is that she elevates the culinary possibilities of the dish yet keeps it recognizable.  She not only explains the science of  its preparation and the challenges of combining cheese, sauce, and starch,  but she also offers creative and tantalizing versions that maintain the integrity of this now yankee-doodle-dandy classic.  Mac and cheese is more than a kid-friendly casserole– it’s a feast fit for fine dining.  This cookbook is one of the early celebrations of  the ultimate comfort food that contributed to the popular rise of shops and restaurants dedicated to macaroni and cheese.  See the selected recipe below and give it try for yourself. 

Marlena Spieler’s cookbook about macaroni and cheese offers easy, cheesy, and refined variations on this cozy American standard. A simple, inexpensive dish that most kids would happily eat everyday, is amped up in sophisticated yet accessible adaptations that venture far beyond the old boxed and orange-powdered variety.

Spieler’s recipes extol the unpretentious quality of this hearty comfort food.  First described in an English cookbook from the 1790’s, and later popularized in America by Thomas Jefferson, the humble origins of “macaroni pie”  emerge among mid-19th century street vendors in Naples. Spieler’s recipes celebrate the versatility of the dish and extend its potential from street eats to center table.

The endless varieties of combining a toothy pasta, tangy cheese, and creamy sauce make mac and cheese a global experience: “ Aim a dart at your world map and chances are, wherever it lands you will find a cheese and a pasta that will be good when layered and baked together…” says Spieler, who takes cooks on a mac and cheese world tour from Bavaria to Turkey.  From savory to sweet, recipes include a Moroccan-spiced butter and goat cheese version, a Cajun mac and cheese, and apaneer chalan-inspired Indian interpretation.  Cooks can create renditions featuring truffles, artichokes, healthy greens, spring peas, or walnuts.  For a hearty main dish, recipes incorporate turkey, ham, tuna, and lobster.  A lemon-scented Greek pasta pudding and a cinnamon raisin Jewish noodle pudding elevate mac and cheese to a delicate and satisfying dessert.

Spieler advises cooks to get to know the flavor and melting quality of cheese.  She provides full descriptions of ten categories of cheese as well as artisanal sources. High on her list are cheddar, gouda, Swiss, and fontina.  The classic Béchamel sauce, that creamy unifier, is given its own page. Spieler also encourages the use of ricotta, goat cheese, mascarpone, and egg-based custards as yielding equally superb cream sauces.  Over  31 types of pasta are identified along with hints on how to properly select and prepare pasta for success.  Cooks can choose from speedy stove top or baked versions, whose layered approach makes for bubbling crusty toppings and excellent leftovers.

Marlena Spieler thoroughly explores macaroni and cheese “as a concept.” In the process, she invites the mac and cheese lover to think outside of the (blue) box by putting a delightful and creative twist on the comfort food of our youth.     —MELorden


Cicatelli with Pumpkin and Sage 

For a root vegetable inspired mac and cheese, try this quick winter squash-based  stove top version.  Chunks of herbed, buttery squash and a sturdy al dente pasta are united by a silky sauce of fontina and creme fraiche.

(4 servings)

from Marlena Spieler’s Macaroni & Cheese

• 1 pound pumpkin, hubbard, or butternut squash, peeled or  kabocha  (unpeeled, if  desired), cut into bite-size pieces (about 3/4 inch)

• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter or extra-virgin olive oil

• 8 to 10 young flavorful sage leaves, thinly sliced

• 6 cloves garlic, chopped

• 8 ounces cicatelli, malloreddus, gemelli, or another chewy pasta

• 3 to 5 tablespoons crème fraiche, or as desired

• 6 ounces fontina or another white flavorful cheese, shredded

• 4 to 6 tablespoons freshly grated aged Asiago or Parmesan

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

• 4 ounces prosciutto or Serrano ham, cut into strips or diced

Here is a classic combination of earthy, sweet pumpkin or hubbard, kabocha, or butternut squash ; bitter, herbaceous sage; chewy pasta; and rich cheese. While pumpkin and hubbard and winter squash need to be peeled, the dark green peel on kabocha may be eaten. The cicatelli are like fat closed shells, a bit like the Sardinian malloreddus pasta. If you can’t locate either of them, gemelli– “twin” pasta lengths twisting around each other– are delish. A shredding of prosciutto or jamon serranoadds a salty, refined edge.

LightIy sauté the pumpkin in tablespoons of the butter or oil over medium-low heat until it browns lightly in spots and become, tender, but not mushy. About halfway through the cooking time, add half the sage and garlic. Set aside.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of rapidly boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and save about 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid.

Toss the hot pasta with the hot sautéed pumpkin, and spoon in the crème fraiche and half the cheese.

Toss together over a medium-low heat on the stove with a few spoonfuls of the cooking liquid.

Add the rest of the cheese, toss with the pasta, then toss in the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, sage, and garlic.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately, sprinkled with the prosciutto.

Kit Wohl’s Cookbook Series

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Celebrate New Orleans Cuisine with Kit Wohl’s Cookbook Series
Classic New Orleans

A truly wonderful and informative cookbook series featuring classic New Orleans dishes from the finest of the city’s restaurants and chefs is authored by Kit Wohl, photographer, artist, and food writer.  In six stunning books, she celebrates the best of the best known dishes from The Big Easy. Your mouth will water when you take this insider’s tour of New Orleans’ culture of cuisine. The shimmering photography, rich narrative, and recipes are sure to inspire any home cook.

wohl book gumbos copy

How Wohl got the great chefs of the city to spill the secrets of their famous cuisine is a mystery.  Just in time for Mardi Gras, with these books by your side, you will be able to prepare New Orleans Brunches, Appetizers, Gumbos and Soups, Seafood, and Desserts.

Also, at the top of any party planner’s list should be Wohl’s newest release in the Classics series– New Orleans Classic Cocktails.  You’ll be craving a tipple of the “spirited recipes”  after viewing eye-popping photos of each haute couture cocktail.  The book is a mixologist’s delight and presents the history of each drink along with the recipe. These books by Wohl are required reading for Mardi Gras 101.


For more about Kit Wohl’s work and latest award winning books see:

Kit Wohl Author’s Biography   and  New Orleans Classic Series (Amazon).

For a great Mardi Gras classic recipe from her New Orleans Classic Gumbos and Soupscookbook click on OTK’s Recipes link under the Featured Columns menu.

Cooking From Comics: In the Kitchen with Disney Characters


nonna papera4

When Walt Disney was building his Disneyland empire in California in 1955, there was a growing fascination with all things Disney in post-war Europe, and particularly in Italy. Topolino, or Mickey Mouse, hit it big in Italy. By the 1960’s, a lively series of  paperback bound comics  emerged and were extremely popular.  The comics paralleled a fascination with American culture that was taking hold. Today, tees and sweatshirts and all manner of clothing are festooned with Topolino imagery, and a good number of grown men and women don this attire enthusiastically.  In Italy, Disney is not just for kids.

I have a large collection of  the Italian Disney comics, and I never fail to return from Italy without at least 3 or 4 new issues.  I am addicted. I learned a lot of my Italian and a multitude of colorful idioms from these illustrated books. And it turns out that many Italians learned a lot about “American” cooking from their Disney-Italian comic book characters.  You can thank Donald Duck and his extended family.


A favorite series featured the adventurous tales of  Uncle Scrooge McDuck (Paperone) along with nephew Donald (Papernik) his three nephews (Qui, Quo, and Qua) and Grandmother Elvira known as Nonna Papera (Grandma Duck).  A rather distorted image of American family life was presented in these comics.  Picnics in the park, gold mining in the Rockies, cowboys wrangling cattle in the west, river rafting down the Mississippi, and trips to outer space were family adventure stories in the comics, all bankrolled by Unca Scrooge himself and in pursuit of some thief who was stealing his treasure chest.


Thank goodness for Nonna Papera.  She kept the boys well-fed, the American way. The Italian comic book artists delighted in depicting her beautiful apple pies cooling on her window sill, and even several adventures involved mysteries around who swiped the cooling pastry. Italians  became fascinated with Nona Papera’s beautifully fluted pies–  and her cookies, sandwiches, and picnic fare, too.


According to Barks’ and Rosa’s Who’s Who In Duckburg, “Grandma Duck is in many ways the head of the Duck-family. She is normally the one who arranges the family’s Christmas celebrations and she’s known as an excellent cook with pies as one of many specialities.”  It was Donald’s grandmother who made American pie popular in Italy.


By 1970, a book of her recipes was published under the title Il Manuale di Nonna Papera (The Cookbook of Grandma Duck).  Many  Italian cooks will tell you today that this collection of recipes was their first cookbook and first venture into cooking.   Most of the recipes are an Italian interpretation of American dishes, but in reality, the recipes remain Italian in spirit. Sandwiches (or panini), a Chip and Dale Popcorn recipe, and lots of cakes and pies are included and are featured alongside traditional Italian sweets, finger foods, and several main dishes. Cleverly named, many recipe titles indicate that these are historical recipes handed down to Nonna Papera from very famous people of the past such as Queen Elizabeth or Christopher Columbus (appropriate personages for the settlement of America).


I’m still reading Disney comic books.  I have recently acquired a reprint of Nonna’s recipe book and have yet to try out these “American” recipes. I am sure if I do, I will no doubt improve not only speaking in Italian but also cooking in Italian.  In time, I might even receive that fine compliment about my cooking from an Italian:  “Pareva la torta di Nonna Papera.” (“That looks just like a cake made by Grandma Duck!”)      –MELorden

NOTE:  Click on the sidebar menu under Recipes for more cooking with Disney!

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For a look at what the current world of Disney is offering in Mickey Mouse and Disney Princess cookbooks, check out these souvenir collections on Amazon:

Available Disney Cookbooks from Amazon.com

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