I spent my formative years in Syracuse and Albany, New York, with a small detour to a very small town way upstate (this is my shout out to Lowville, NY). We don't discuss the short stay in Utica. I went to college at (now) Binghamton University, and to law school at Syracuse University (go Orange!), and worked for a financial planning company called Ayco for 25 years. I retired a year after Ayco was purchased by a public company.
I have been married to Bob since 1988, and we have three grown children: my stepdaughter Lauren, my daughter Lindsay, and my stepson Patrick. Most importantly, Bob and I have one, perfect, granddaughter, Lauren's daughter Eloise.
Bob and I divide our time between Chicago, Colorado, and California. I am a passionate fan of (most) Chicago sports teams, with some residual fondness for the NY Giants and Yankees, particularly when the Chicago teams are really bad (and you know who you are, Cubbies).
The story of the genesis of All Toasty can be found on my blog (Finding My Passion.) My hope with this website is that you will find everything you need to host memorable parties with beautiful tables and wonderful food.
I love everything connected with cooking: finding recipes, planning meals and menus, grocery shopping, and, of course, the actual cooking. I even, in a perverse sort of way, enjoy cleaning up the kitchen. I have spent years buying cookbooks and reading cooking magazines, and now have literally thousands of recipes filed by category, most of which I have not yet made, but many of which I have. I do have to admit that I am not a dessert person, so I haven’t made many desserts over the years, but I have lots of recipes that I can share.
Like many people my age, I grew up eating “American” food—which meant meat, potatoes, and a vegetable (carrots, corn, green beans, all canned). Italian food was exotic in those days. My food horizons have expanded considerably since then, but probably not quite as much as the rest of you, which is where my younger partners will come in. I am willing to try pretty much anything, and especially enjoy trying new produce and different ways of preparing more familiar fruits and vegetables.
My taste in dinnerware and table settings is fairly traditional, although I do like many of the more contemporary designs that use square or rectangular shapes. Most of all, I love color—deep, saturated colors—and I love designing tables that make maximum use of those colors, either as a consistent theme, or as a splash of color with a more neutral palette. I don’t really do pastels, although I will make an exception for spring events.
Equipping a Kitchen from Scratch
I should start by saying that I am not one of those people who can make anything with just a frying pan, a wooden spoon, and a spatula. In fact, I am Williams-Sonoma’s dream customer—if they tell me I need a specialty pan to make something, I buy it. (And let me tell you that you can live without an asparagus pot.) But I decided to be frugal in starting my California kitchen, and just buy the essentials.
The first meal I cooked, within 24 hours of walking into the house for the first time (Bob bought the house without me—long story), was Thanksgiving dinner. Since, due to popular demand, the Thanksgiving menu never changes at my house, this was not as daunting a task as it might have been. And it gave me my starting point: a large roasting pan with a rack. Ideally, you would have both a large and a small roasting pan, but if you can have only one, go with the large. Next, a small (1.5 quart) and a medium (3 quart) saucepan; 8- and 10-inch frying pans, both regular and nonstick; a Dutch oven (5.5 quart is a good size); a 12-inch straight-sided sauté pan; and a large multi-pot, which you can use as a stockpot, a pasta pot, or a steamer. Add two jellyroll pans, and even I could make almost anything.
My last point is that you should buy the best cookware that you can afford—good pots and pans will last you a lifetime. My cookware of choice is a subject for another day.
Finding My Passion
Once I got the idea, I talked about it to my sister-in-law, Pam, my step-daughter, Lauren, and my daughter, Lindsay, for two reasons. First, I enjoy them all tremendously, and thought it would be fun to work with them. Second, they all have strong skill sets in different areas, and we all complement one another. And we are all passionate about All Toasty, as it has evolved, and will continue to evolve.