Category Archives: Occasions


As the rest of you are toiling away in the kitchen, taking or giving orders and wondering why every year it takes so much brainpower to figure out turkey math, I’ll be cooking…nothing. I’m not that happy about it. To me, a proper Thanksgiving involves an element of chaos. This from the second youngest of 12 grandchildren, whose clan always gathered en masse for Thanksgiving; that is, except for the rare occasion when Thanksgiving coincided with a powder day, in which case Thanksgiving was a do-over at Howard Johnsons on the drive home from the mountains Sunday. As I grew into personhood and became a ski racer, Thanksgiving was always an away game, taking place wherever we were training for the start of the season.  

Perhaps that is why, to me, Thanksgiving is less sacred than rogue. I love taking on too many cooking projects, making old favorites, enjoying the satisfaction of new recipes that are surprisingly good (Knock-Out Vegan Pumpkin Pie), and suffering the consequences of epic fails (pretzels that could break your teeth). Ideally, there’s a little bit of all that going on, and nobody really remembers the food anyway because of the chaos and the company.

With the kids gone on their own ski racing journeys, our Thanksgivings have become very small affairs. This year, my culinary responsibilities come down to making a mustard dill sauce for smoked salmon. This task takes all of three ingredients and five minutes, if you are a slow chopper.

It’s is a solid recipe, from one of my few remaining cookbooks, The Silver Palate Cookbook. I have the 1982 edition, with “Thys” penciled in my Mom’s handwriting on the inside cover. As the stains throughout attest, this baby has lived on the front lines for many a Thanksgiving.

Here is the recipe in its entirety, though I’ll be making ¼ recipe which will still be too much:

Dill Mustard Sauce

from the Silver Palate Cookbook

  • 1 cup sweet mustard (the really sweet honey ham stuff)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ½ cup chopped fresh dill

Mix all ingredients together. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

And that, my friends, is all am making for Thanksgiving; but it just feels wrong, so I’ll bring something else for sure. Bringing an unassigned dish to a small Thanksgiving, however, can be tricky. You don’t want to boss a new dish on everyone when the pressure is on to try it and enjoy it; or steal the host’s mojo by creating a direct competitor to a favorite dish.

It has to be something that can be easily served as a complement, and/or politely stored away for another occasion. If you happen to be in this situation, here are a few suggestions:

You’ll never go wrong with nuts, especially at the holidays. Honey thyme walnuts go well with any cheese spread, and anything from the Bring It nut anthology can stand alone. The app table can always use some substantial Everyone Crackers that accommodate most all special diets, except sesame allergies.

A jar of chili crisp will add a little sass to the turkey without stealing any cranberry thunder (they’re definitely different food groups). Homemade granola is a good call, especially if you are staying over. Press the Easy button with Tahini Granola (sorry again sesame allergy peeps), or super healthy Seed Bark Granola or my current fave Judson’s Crispy Granola from Martha’s Vineyard Magazine.

If you can’t cook, you also can’t come empty-handed. (Huge bonus points for anyone with vintage miniature Pilgrim candles btw). You’re never going to go wrong with flowers, a bag of good coffee, a box of chocolates or a bottle of something fun. Might I suggest Ancho Reyes, which can spice up any margarita or Bloody Mary, either of which may come in handy when the family’s been together for a few days.

That’s all I’ve got for now, because I must go chop my handful of dill and rest. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

For the host who has everything, rice krispy  turkey legs are just the thing.

Double Down Derby Day Guacamole

Some days we have difficult choices. Saturday will be one such day. Do you wear a fine hat and celebrate the first Saturday in May according to Kentucky tradition, or do you scarf down some tacos and join the Cinco de Mayo party?

Or, do you do the sensible thing and celebrate both? Well duh! I do not normally do this, but I am posting two untried recipes. Whyyyyyy? Because it’s important! Because it’s Kentucky Derby Day and Cinco de Mayo AND its almost summer. That means it’s high time to get your guac on.

I am a wing it kind of guac maker. As a Californian that is my birthright. That said, you can always improve. These two new takes on guac are both from Mexican food jefe Roberto Santibañez by way of Food52.  The first is unique in approach but features totally classic ingredients. It hits all the must haves and nothing more: lime, cilantro, jalapeño, onion are all pulverized FIRST then added to avocados. As Santibañez says, “There is a very important textural thing to guacamole — we never really mush up the avocado.” I knew I liked this guy. I really felt the love though when I read about his second creation, which is totally wacky. It involves a splash of tequila (he had me there), apples (hello New England) and pecans (a nod to the America south and more weirdness). My awesome neighbor just came back from Georgia bearing two bags of pecans that she harvested and shelled herself. Fate. Kismet. Weird guacamole.

Anyway, here are the recipes. I will be making and testing them both on Saturday, celebrating both occasions of course.  If you do the same please tell me what you think and we can discuss. Whatever you choose to celebrate, have a fantabulous weekend!

P.S. Post time is 6:12. For the worst odds and the best name I’m taking Patrona Margarita, with 50-1.

Numero Uno:

Roberto Santibañez Classic Guacamole

Adapted slightly from Truly Mexican (Wiley, 2011)

Makes: about 1 3/4 cups

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped white onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh serrano or jalapeno chile, including seeds, or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or 1/4 teaspoon fine salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, divided
  • 1 large or 2 small ripe Mexican Hass avocados, halved and pitted
  • A squeeze of lime, if desired
  1. Mash the onion, chile, salt (the coarseness of kosher salt helps you make the paste), and half of the cilantro to a paste in a molcajete or other mortar. You can also mince and mash the ingredients together on a cutting board with a large knife or a fork, and then transfer the paste to a bowl.
  2. Score the flesh in the avocado halves in a crosshatch pattern (not through the skin) with a knife and then scoop it with a spoon into the mortar or bowl. Toss well (it should be like salad properly dressed in vinaigrette), then add the rest of the cilantro and mash very coarsely with a pestle or a fork. Season to taste with lime juice (if you’d like) and additional chile and salt.
  3. Guac Uno, as made beautiful on Food52

Numero Dos:

Roberto Santibañez’ Guacamole with Tequila & Apples

Author Notes: Roberto says:” The apple needs to be sweet and crunchy (not Granny Smith-tart) and diced not too fine, to contrast just vocally enough with the guac’s salty heat and richness. The pecans should be tossed in butter after toasting, not before, so you get fresh, unbrowned butter flavor, too. Adapted slightly from Truly Mexican (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011).

Makes: 2 cups
For the apples & pecans

  • 1 large crisp, sweet apple, such as Gala or Macintosh, peeled, cored, and finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon silver (blanco) tequila
  • 1 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 cup pecan halves, sliced crosswise or coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine salt, or 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)

For the guacamole

  • 1 fresh serrano or jalapeño chile, stemmed
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped white onion
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt, or 1/2 teaspoon fine salt (or to taste)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro, divided
  • 1 large or 2 small ripe Mexican Hass avocados, halved and pitted
  1. Toss the apple with the tequila and lime juice in a bowl and let the mixture stand for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. Heat the oven or toaster oven to 350° F. Spread the pecans on a small baking pan and bake until golden and fragrant, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the butter to the pan and toss to melt the butter and coat the pecans. Sprinkle with salt, tossing to coat.
  3. Heat a comal, griddle, or heavy skillet over medium-low heat and roast the chile, turning it over with tongs once or twice, until tender, blistered all over, and blackened in spots, 10 to 15 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, remove the skin from the chile (you might have to use a paring knife).
  4. Mash the chile, onion, salt (the coarseness of the kosher salt will help you make the paste), and 2 tablespoons of the cilantro to a paste in a molcajete or other mortar. You can also mince and mash the ingredients together on a cutting board with a large knife, and then transfer the paste to a bowl.
  5. Score the flesh in the avocado halves in a crosshatch pattern (not through the skin) with a knife and then scoop it with the spoon into the mortar or bowl. Toss well, mashing the avocado coarsely with a pestle or fork, taking care to keep the avocado chunky.
  6. Gently stir in the apple mixture and most of the pecans just until it holds together. Garnish with the remaining pecans and cilantro. Serve right away with tortilla chips.



Aquafaba Mayo: Magic for the Leftover Feast

Let the sandwich building begin!

Yum. The work and the stress are over. All that remains are the leftovers. Well Hallelujah to that! The Holy Grail of the Leftover Kingdom is the turkey sandwich. It can be a straight up turkey affair, a turkey salad mixture or an elaborate layering of turkey, stuffing and cranberry. Any way you slice it, however, an essential element for many of us is the dollop of mayo.

Alas, mayo can turn an otherwise healthy meal into an irresponsible feeling indulgence. That is, until you discover aquafaba mayo. We’ve dabbled in aquafaba here before, and in the sheer wackiness of using the liquid from a can of chickpeas as an egg substitute. I mean, who knew?  This iteration tastes great, and can be made even more delicious by blending in fresh herbs or by cutting it with ABC Summer Sauce

But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Baby steps…first, make this heart-healthy mayo if you’re feeling experimental or impressing the Vegans in your midst. You can roast the chickpeas or use them in party time hummus for your weekend festivities. Then, start enjoying those leftovers—even this Vegan pumpkin pie— with a little extra glow in your halo. Happy Black Friday all. I hope you’re enjoying it in whatever way makes you smile!

Aquafaba Mayonnaise


  • 115-ounce can of chickpeas
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon fine salt
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • ¾ cup sunflower oil *

*Safflower and other neutral oils work also, but avoid using olive oil. It gives it a weird taste.


  1. Drain the chickpeas, reserving the bean liquid. Save chickpeas for another use. Measure out 1/4 cup of the bean liquid (aquafaba) in a large glass measuring cup. Add vinegar, salt, sugar, lemon juice and dry mustard.
  2. Using an immersion blender (or a really good regular blender), mix until combined. With the blender running, very slowly drizzle in the oil in a thin stream. It should take 4 to 5 minutes to add all of the oil. The mixture will emulsify and thicken.

A Hopeful Toast to the Triple Crown


Get ready to giddyup! Silky trousers will help.

Get ready to giddyup! Silky trousers will help.

Tonight may be the night that we have a Triple Crown winner for the first time since 1978. (To put that in context, we took a break from Happy Days, the $6 Million Man and a whole lot of Bee Gees music to watch that particular Derby). We came agonizingly close last year with California Chrome, and got a fine drink out of the deal, but no real satisfaction. This could be it people—don’t be caught without a proper cocktail, mocktail or working television for the occasion.

Shockingly (to some of us) the Belmont does not have an official cocktail. The Kentucky Derby of course has the Mint Julep, the Preakness the Black-eyed Susan, a recipe that has been altered but whose name has remained the same. The current version (now that Finlandia is a sponsor) involves vodka, St. Germain liqueur, pineapple juice, orange juice and a squeeze of fresh lime.

Why no Belmont drink? It’s not for lack of trying. In 1975 race the marketing crew made a run at an official drink with the Big Apple—some combo of fruit juice, an apple liqueur and rum. That was supplanted by the overly fussy White Carnation—a combination of vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice, soda water and cream, named after the blanket of carnations in which the winning Belmont Stakes horse is draped.

In 1997 the Belmont Breeze made the scene, but one look at the ingredient list bangs the gong: bourbon or rye whiskey, sherry, lemon juice, orange juice, pimento bitters, fresh mint and orange zest. Really? Pimento bitters? Sherry? Headache anyone?

In 2011 the breeze was replaced with the Belmont Jewel a “more fan friendly ” combination of bourbon, lemonade and pomegranate juice over ice. Sounds easy enough. I’m game for that.

Here’s the recipe for the Jewel. I have to say I appreciate its simplicity:

Belmont Jewel


  • 1.5 ounces of bourbon (the race track recommends Knob Creek, but use what you like)
  • 2 ounces of lemonade
  • 1 ounce of pomegranate juice


Combine ingredients and shake that all together with ice. Pour into a rocks glass and garnish with a cherry or lemon.

Pictured above is another fine drink, which is fully appropriate for this occasion. The Whiskey Peach Smash has elements of drinks associated with all three races: Mint in honor of the Derby; yellowness to honor Preakness’s Black-eyed Susan; peach to acknowledge the Belmont’s White Carnation; lemon for a taste of both the Belmont Breeze and the Belmont Jewel; and of course Bourbon to honor the fact that it’s a horse race after all.

Whiskey Peach Smash

Note: a barspoon is an inexact measurement, often equated to a teaspoon.

Serves 1 (as if you are alone tonight!)


  • 1 1/2 ounces Bourbon
  • 1 heaping barspoon peach jam
  • 1 barspoon honey
  • 1 fat lemon wedge
  • 4 to 6 mint leaves


Muddle the herbs and lemon wedge, then add the jam, honey, and spirit and stir.

Add ice and shake hard for 5 to 10 seconds, depending on the size of your ice. Strain into a rocks glass over crushed ice. Garnish with more mint.

With booze or without, put on a fancy hat and mix yourself a fun fruity drink to cheer on American Pharoah.



Vail trees

Bringing on the Holidays

I am just reentering the real world after a trip to Vail, CO, where their trees look like this. One day they were just, you know, trees. And the next day we were living in a patriotic LED forest. In addition to designer trees I had three days of life in the VIP tent at the base of the race course, a fantasy world I hope everyone can experience at least once.

Here’s what goes down in the VIP tent:

Pretty women in puffy pink coats pass glasses of champagne filled at the outdoor bar, where Bloody Marys are also mixed to order. Next to the bar juicy burgers are grilled up, nestled into buttered buns and wrapped up so you can grab them if you’re the outdoorsy type. Inside, tables are laden with fruit, cheeses and nuts, fresh baked breads, a Veggie Nirvana of salads, a Carnivorama of roasted beasts, coconutted shrimp, and steamy soups topped with mini grilled cheeses. And then comes the dessert table which is completely off the hook. I never even made it to dessert because another roving server appeared with a tray of whipped cream-topped hot chocolate with vanilla vodka, which sort of ended the lunch conquest.

VIP-tent-2VIP tent-1





I’m not going in to such detail to be mean, but to establish the high bar going in to prime, party intensive, holiday season. If you need some ideas for what to bring to your next soiree, here are just a few ideas from the Bring It! repertoire.

Bringing the cheer:

Cut to the chase and get the party started by bringing a premixed, seasonal cocktail like these ones we had at Thanksgiving. If you are going to be outdoors bring a Thermos of hot cocoa or tea and the hootch to add. Dark rum is a solid go-to for hot drinks and, as noted above, apparently so is vodka. Fixin’s for a big batch of mint chocolate milk will build your snack cred with all ages.

Apps for a crowd?

You can’t go wrong with Sue’s marinated shrimp and artichoke number, or the ever-festive, ridiculously easy Funitella Bruschetta. Below see a basic recipe for the cheddar cheese rounds that make their way into every spiral-bound community cookbook for good reason. (Bonus feature: they can be made with ingredients procured at any mini mart.) Bacon wrapped dates? Yes, have some! And really, putting that fondue pot in a tote bag with a big bag of grated cheese, and firing up some Guinness fondue is always the right thing to do.

DIY Hostess Gifts/Party Fare:

Bottle up some ginger simple syrup that goes in our previously mentioned cocktails, or get creative with help from the full simple syrup tutorial here. Go Mediterranean with a jar of Sicilian Caponata, go healthy with a loaf of Life Bread (thinly slice it and toast it for a tasty snack foundation), sweeten the deal with Salted Caramel Cholliesauce orrrrrrr, get nutty with some sweet and spicy roasted nuts. Oh-so-sophisticated thyme honey walnuts are pure gold on some lusty soft cheese. If you’re shamelessly vying for a quick hit of popularity bust out the Crackle.

Wrapping it all up:

Remember wrap master Boot Camp Bonnie? ‘Tis the season to revisit her tips for packaging brilliance.

You’ve got the week to prep for this weekend’s shenanigans, and a whole lot of joy on the calendar, so let’s do this holiday thing!

Can’t Go Wrong Cheddar Crisps


  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 cup extra-sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (some curry powder is also good if that’s your thing)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Rice Krispies cereal


Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium bowl, mix together the butter, cheese, flour, cayenne and salt until it forms a ball stuck lightly together. (Use your hands or a wooden spoon to fully incorporate all ingredients.) Gently fold the cereal into the dough. Pinch off nickel-size balls and roll tightly between your hands. Place them about an inch apart on an ungreased cookie or baking sheet. When all the balls are rolled, flatten each one with the tines of a fork. Bake 15 minutes.

Cool crisps 5 to 10 minutes before removing from the pan to serve. Leftovers may be stored in a tin up to 1 week. Makes about 4 dozen.

Note: Alternatively, you can roll the dough into a long log, wrap it in plastic or waxed paper chill. When ready to make them, slice log into ¼” (or so) rounds and bake as directed above. They’ll take a bit longer so just watch them. The whole make ahead, roll and chill (or freeze if needed) thing comes in handy and the end result looks pretty pro.

Guests Gone Wild


Trader Joes bonanza- Guests Gone Wild

A partial look at a nutty, grainy Trader Joe’s bonanza

Here comes 4th of July and the smokin’ hot heart of summer. If you’re lucky enough to have scored an invitation to the lake or the beach or any other fabulous summer getaway, you’ll be needing some accordingly fabulous host/hostess gifts, both to show your gratitude and for the all important purpose of GETTING INVITED BACK. This is no time to show up empty-handed.

For some good ideas on what to bring, take a look at our Good Giving page, or pick your favorite recipe and bring it along with a related container or decoration that will remind your hosts of what a tremendous time they had with you.

In my mind you can’t really go overboard with non perishable gifts, especially with people who have a houseful. And I used to think I did a pretty good job of overachieving on that score. That was until my sister started swinging by Trader Joe’s before her visits.

Knowing how much I love Trader Joe’s, nutty grainy things, value and weird food in general she now shows up with several bags of Trader Joe’s Bounty. Now I have a stash of farro and pink Himalayan sea salt, grab and go trail mix packets, five kinds of nuts and enough chia seeds to make a petting zoo. Here are just some of the ways this gift is thoughtful:

  • We don’t have a Trader Joes, so these are things I don’t often get my hands on.
  • Most of it is non perishable, so I can use it at my leisure, and my leisure is a big thing in the summer.
  • Most of it is either a healthy pre-made snack or the whole ingredients to make healthy food.
  • Lots of it is ready to serve, so when she showed up the night I was hosting Book Group and I had no plan whatsoever, I was completely rescued.
  • Many of the things are ingredients for recipes she had told me about, or that she knew I wanted to try. (She gave me all the things for my favorite Life Bread, right down to the psylium husks.)
  • Instead of even suggesting that I should be more Paleo and less gluteny she simply stocks my pantry with lots of the Paleo staples that are expensive and hard to find in my neck of the woods, so now I have no excuse for not giving her recipes a whirl. Bonus: we’ll have something to bond about bicoastally.
  • And finally (this is nice in more ways than I can possibly list but I have to stop somewhere), she goes overboard on coconut. I have an unreasonable love for coconut and now I have coconut flour, coconut sugar, coconut milk and even coconut cashews. Actually, those last ones are so good they’re actually mean.

So, that’s one example of a guest gone wild in all the right ways. Another tactic is to bring one special something that is both meaningful and useful, for which I turn the spotlight on my cousin Tierney from California who brought me this all time favorite dishtowel.

California Dreaming on a dishtowel.

California Dreaming on a dishtowel.

This works because:

  • It is pretty
  • It took up little space in her luggage and now in my kitchen
  • It reminds me of my roots in California
  • It will remind me of my cousin every time I use it.
  • I can use it every day.

 So there you have it. Two examples of awesome hostess gifts. If you’re really in a jam you can never go wrong by going to the farmers market and getting a whole lot of whatever is in season, some shmancy sparkling beverages and the most killer ground coffee you can find.

Since I’m working the family angle here, I have to give a shout out to my cousin Danielle, a devoted Bring It! fan who just hosted family and friends at her amazing wedding in Mexico, and posted the best wedding dress picture ever.  It sort of makes me want to renew my vows, underwater, with lots of agave. Congratulations Danielle and Eric and way to make us all want a do-over!

Happily ever after...and wedding dress storage solved!

Happily ever after…and wedding dress storage solved!

 Now go out there and be the best guest on the block this summer!



Moveable Feasts

    A fine spread for between runs, or really any old time.

A fine spread for between runs, or really any old time.

We apologize for the slight delay in Bring It posts, but due to THE FREAKING OLYMPICS, our nighttime blogging hours are seriously limited. Amidst all the TV watching, however, life, and eating, goes on. We are, in fact, at the height of Bring It season with all the shoveling, snowshoeing, skiing, aprés skiing and general warming up from the cold that’s going on here in the heart of the Polar Vortex.

As mentioned in Lunch Deconstructed, prepping and toting the midday meal can take me down. But a fresh new philosophy has come to my rescue. With apologies to past presidents it goes something like this: “Ask not what you can make and bring for lunch. Ask what lunch you can make from what you bring.” Or, more simply, instead of letting lunch prep bring you down, pack all your favorite food into a bag and figure out what to do with it when you get there. This is a win all the way around. First, you minimize chafe in the morning. Second, you have lots of options for picky eaters and changing moods/appetites. Third, aforementioned picky eaters learn the essential life skill of making their own lunches.

Bringing all of the elements and prep tools sounds complicated, but as I learned recently from Bring It master (and fellow ski racer parent) Pennie Rand, it’s not that tough. You just have to have a kit. Hers is a canvas bag stuffed with a Thermos, jars, loaves, cheese, veggies, fruit and little containers of bonus quelque chose as well as cutting boards, cloth napkins, and stylish wooden knives that make her look like a Scandinavian picnic goddess. She’s like the sport version Ina Garten, who knows that part of the fun of a meal is making it a social activity.

At a recent ski race, when Pennie handed my cold, hungry parents a hearty cracker topped with brie and baby spinach (vs. the bag of day old muffins I had grabbed at Shaw’s on the way to the race), they accepted and nearly teared up. When she followed up with a slice of whole grain bread smeared with peanut butter and Nutella, I’m pretty sure they wanted to trade me in.

This past weekend I got a glimpse of real Bring It pros in the ski lodge during Dartmouth Winter Carnival. By 8 am “Carnie” parents were trouping in with plastic storage bins full of food, and assembling an armada of crock pots on cloth-clad tables. Ski lodges, when they turn a blind eye to such large scale picnicking, are a venue more suited to crock pot warmery than crock pot cookery. Things like meatballs, chili’s and stews, are staples.

When lodges forbid profit-stealing crockpots you have to be a bit more creative. One dedicated ski parent stands hot dogs in a wide mouth Thermos then fills it with boiling water. She fills another Thermos with chili and brings a baggie of shredded cheese. At lunchtime each kid fishes out a dog, puts it in a bun from her kit, tops it with chili and cheese then finishes it off with foraged ski lodge condiments.

It is with no particular fondness or pride that I recall the free saltine/ketchup/relish ski lodge condiment sandwiches from my youth. Comparatively the DIY chili dogs would have been quite a feast. But so would some salami and cheese, a few slices of turkey, avocado and salsa wrapped in a tortilla or pretty much anything dipped in Nutella. As winter wears on, get fresh, be creative and for goodness sake invite everyone to the make-your-own-darned lunch party.

Ski lift lunch

Bringing it, extreme version. The chairlift lunch.

The Champagne of Party Tricks

Sabering champagne

Nothing says party time like a bottle of champagne, a saber and yodeling marmots.

Everyone has one somewhere along the way— that aunt, uncle, godparent or family friend who inspires all the fun and naughty stuff we get to do as kids. The one who lets you drive when you’re 12, lets you stay up late watching inappropriate movies, brings you fireworks, etc. For my kids that’s their Auntie Anne. Not to be confused with the woman who sells pretzels in the airport, this Auntie Anne brings cutting edge entertainment, quite literally.

For the past few years she has always shown up with a bottle of champagne. The first time she did this I thought it was sweet that she was marking a casual family reunion as a special champagne-worthy occasion. I soon realized she had ulterior motives. As steward of my children’s vocational training she was going to be sure they knew how to saber a champagne bottle. Not surprisingly, she found two eager students, and we had the first of many fine celebrations.

Because you need to get out and practice this well before New Year’s Eve, I’m jumping right and giving you the instructions (as well as a most informative video link), knowing full well that Auntie Anne will chime in, correct what’s wrong and contribute more tips from her vast experience.

Watch this Champagne sabering video first and then:

1. Grab your saber if you are a pirate, or a solid butcher’s knife if not. (I am not mentioning a sabering pimp ring, because if you have one of those, clearly you will not be reading this tutorial.) Have some glasses at the ready, and a few towels if you are indoors.

2. Grab your bubbly. The experts claim you must super-chill the bottle of champagne (38-40°F, tops) to “calm” the bubbly and perhaps make the neck more brittle. No doubt the experts are right, but just pop it in the freezer for a bit and you’re good to go.  Remove the foil wrapper and little wire cage.

3. Grasp the bottle with authority, by the base (purists you go ahead and put your thumb in the punt, the dent in the bottom of the bottle). Point it away from any onlookers (this is key). Hold it at a 30 to 45-degree angle, as if you are holding a Roman candle (that your aunt also brought).

4. Locate one of the two vertical seams running up the side of the bottle to the lip (or, annulus if you must know). The bottle will break the most cleanly there, so that’s where you want to aim your saber stroke.

5. Making sure you have an audience, hold the knife flat against the bottle, blunt edge toward the top and sharp edge facing you. Run your saber or knife slowly back along the seam toward your body. (Take a few practice strokes to assure your motion keeps the blade flat against the bottle). Then, exuding rakish confidence, quickly and firmly thrust it back up the seam toward the bottle’s tip, striking the lip with no mercy while making sure the leading edge of the saber stays down and in toward the crook of the lip. As with every athletic/heroic maneuver, follow through is key.

6. Enjoy…both the adulation and the champagne. If you’ve succeeded, the cork (avec annulus) will fly off the end of the bottle. Any rogue shards will be long gone as well, unless you do this indoors, in which case you’ll want to break out the Swiffer.

Note that French bottles can be especially tough, and may take a try or two. So, as ever, be patient with the French and you will be amply rewarded.

Major note: Clearly there are all kinds of hazards involved with this pursuit, with reported consequences ranging from minor cuts to a shattered $3,000 bottle of cognac across the room. My best advice is to try this first outdoors, AWAY FROM PETS AND SMALL  CHILDREN. (Ahem all you aunties). Disclaimers aside, it’s darned fun and yes, Anne, you are our hero!

Dutch Oven Enchiladas


You can really eat anything when you are camping as long as you don’t have to carry it in a backpack (wait until I get to my dehydrated chicken stew for what to carry in a backpack!).  When we camp, we bring our Dutch Oven (DO) everywhere we go – on raft trips, back country ski trips, and camping from our car.  I cook all sorts of dinners, cakes, breads, and desserts in it. I brown meat, sauté sausage and bacon, and fry fish in it.  I keep pancakes, garlic bread, and anything else warm in it.  The DO is used at ninety percent of my meals and I never stop finding new ways to use it.  And, the bonus, you just wipe it out to clean it (that is my favorite part!).  Below is a recipe for DO enchiladas, but remember, anything is possible. Just think of it as an oven in the woods!


2 cans enchilada sauce
6 tortillas
1 bag rice and beans
1 can black olives
1 bag shredded jack or cheddar cheese


Cook rice and beans according to package.
Wipe inside of DO with oil.
Place a light coating of enchilada sauce on the bottom of the DO.
Place one tortilla in the bottom of the DO.  Top with rice and beans, olives, and cheese. Top with enchilada sauce, repeat process until DO is full.
Cook at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes (read your DO instructions to know how to cook at 350 – I generally use 10 coals on bottom and 12 on top).
Let cool for 5 mins, cut, serve

Top with avocado and cilantro if available at Chez Camp Site.

Pre-cooked enchiladas

Pre-cooked enchiladasch

Dutch Oven at 350 degrees

Dutch Oven at 350 degrees

Bring It!

Normally I would cook the rice and beans from scratch and not buy the prepackaged cheese, but when camping, you want to make it as easy as possible so pre-packaged/shredded is the way to go.  Also, there are plenty of good recipes for enchilada sauce, but again, canned works great when camping.