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FERRAGOSTO 2016: New Orleans

4 Apr

I only just barely qualify as a Millennial (and even then only because the state of Pennsylvania wouldn’t change my birth certificate so I could refute that title forevermore), so while I don’t have the “if it’s not on Instagram, it didn’t happen” mindset, I do suffer from “if it’s not on your blog, you’ll never recall it” syndrome. Being on the border of  today’s annoying younguns means that I’ll be old pretty much by tomorrow– so although the 9th annual FERRAGOSTO, happened 8 months ago, we’re talking about it now before JetSet and I reach the age where we can’t remember whether or not we brushed our teeth in the morning.

And this is truly one year not to forget: for years, JetSet and I have debated inviting others to our bizarre, tradition-driven little jaunts, and this year we finally found just the right beta tester–none other than the beloved DonQuixoteKef! Since you will see him only in the same teeshirt and cargo shorts from here on out, here’s what he looks like when he’s not in his trademarked travelwear:


Alright then, on to it: wouldn’t be FERRAGOSTO if the shenanigans didn’t start off right off the bat. Immediately upon landing in the Big Easy, we had to find an urgent care that was still open because I had fallen while running in DC that morning, went to work all day, and then decided that our first order of business in New Orleans would be seeking out someone to stitch me up. As one does.

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Seven sutures later (3 internal, 4 external, for the curious among us), we were on Frenchman Street, where the beignets were frying and the brass bands were playing:

After eating more fried food than was healthy, we strolled the French Quarter, which was made infinitely better when we realized we could get our craft cocktails to go. Feeling the itis and the time change, we decided to call it an early night. We headed back to our beautiful and well-located AirBnB, but not before one more stop at our soon-to-be favorite take out bar, The Franklin. This is when I realized that I had become the third-wheel on my own vacation.


Toasting the age old question: why ARE there so many songs about rainbows?

The next morning, JetSet took off an a hot, humid, long run and DonQuixoteKef and I took a pilgrimage to find the brick memorializing his grandfather at the World War II Museum  Along the way, we made the obligatory stop at Cafe du Monde, enjoyed the beautiful architecture, and popped into the Lafayette Cemetery. The great news about wandering around a new place with DonQuixoteKef is that he stops to read all the plaques, and then generously summarizes the interesting parts for you. That’s service with a smile, people.



Just before lunch, we caught up with JetSet post-run and set off across the Mighty Mississippi to the 15th Ward, Algiers.



We poked about, ate lunch at the super sweet Tout de Suite Cafe, and headed back across the river. We were having a great walk along the river, when a torrential downpour came out of nowhere and we had to go all Esmeralda and claim sanctuary in the St Louis Cathedral.

…but first, we took a selfie.


We walked between raindrops, NOLA style–which is to say we followed the awnings from bar to bar. This was the perfect time to be in a group of three, as at any given stop only two of us really felt like a beverage so we could keep the afternoon under control by alternating drinking and seltzering without anyone feeling left out. And to think, just ten years ago I was partnered with DonQuixoteKef so he could help me finish off the second 40 taping our hands together, and now we needed each other for the sobriety triangle. #ReallyNotMillennials

After witnessing a strange Porsche Parade complete with police escort (no, really…) we continued our rainy walk through Louis Armstrong Park and into the Treme.


We swung by the storied Kermit’s Treme Mother in Law Lounge, where we instantly killed the vibe a few regulars had going at 4pm on a Saturday afternoon.


On the upside, we did learn a ton about a the eponymous New Orleans Jazz legend, thanks to the 30For30 style documentary they had playing on loop.

Finally, we stopped by St. Augustine Catholic Church, which houses the Tomb of the Unknown Slave.


On this October 30, 2004, we, the Faith Community of St. Augustine Catholic Church, dedicate this shrine consisting of grave crosses, chains and shackles to the memory of the nameless, faceless, turfless Africans who met an untimely death in Faubourg Treme. The Tomb of the Unknown Slave is commemorated here in this garden plot of St. Augustine Church, the only parish in the United States whose free people of color bought two outer rows of pews exclusively for slaves to use for worship. This St. Augustine/Treme shrine honors all slaves buried throughout the United States and those slaves in particular who lie beneath the ground of Treme in unmarked, unknown graves. There is no doubt that the campus of St. Augustine Church sits astride the blood, sweat, tears and some of the mortal remains of unknown slaves from Africa and local American Indian slaves who either met with fatal treachery, and were therefore buried quickly and secretly, or were buried hastily and at random because of yellow fever and other plagues.

Even now, some Treme locals have childhood memories of salvage/restoration workers unearthing various human bones, sometimes in concentrated areas such as wells. In other words, The Tomb of the Unknown Slave is a constant reminder that we are walking on holy ground. Thus, we cannot consecrate this tomb, because it is already consecrated by many slaves’ inglorious deaths bereft of any acknowledgement, dignity or respect, but ultimately glorious by their blood, sweat, tears, faith, prayers and deep worship of our Creator.

A humbling reminder of the power of taking responsibility for our country’s dark history and the tremendous amount of work left to be done to undo the oppressive systems left in its wake. End rant.

We headed back to home base, took a nap and a shower, then headed to dinner… of course with a stopover to see our friends at the Franklin. For the record, I am generally a woman who drinks about one glass of wine per week… but when I realized I could strut about with my champagne, I was just bubbling over with excitement (har har har). We ate a delicious meal at Peche, then went for cocktails at Arnaud’s French 75.  Anyone keeping track realizes that, by this point, my whopping four drinks in 24 hours had me feeling like a million bucks, so I abstained when JetSet and DonQuixote stopped by Franklin’s for one more roadie.

And yet, somehow, I still participated (instigated?) this late night selfie stick session


which devolved into my brother and I DEMANDING that Don Quixote join, in a ruckus very similar to an entire amphitheater full of fans chanting “one more song!” that didn’t end until the man himself appeared


and finally agreed to “snuggle and selfie” with us


two of these people are related by blood, and one of them is sorry he ever set eyes on the FamiliaKef. You do the math.


And then, like a rockstar who suddenly realizes the groupies he thought were hottie-patotties are actually thirty-something siblings, DonQuixote was gone as quickly as he came.


Suddenly, it was morning, and we decided to be industrious grown ups again. A quick trip to the oddly all-inclusive convenience store down the street for provisions revealed the sign JetSet hopes one day to hang on his office door:


It was our last day in the Big Easy and we were on two missions: get to the Audobon Zoo, and find a muffuletta on the way. We achieved the latter first, which gave DonQuixote just the boost he needed to rebound from the night before and trek across the city, plus all the calories he needed for the next four days of non-travel detox:


Luckily, we were greeted with perfect weather for our final hours, and we managed to squeeze in the Zoo as well as mini-campus tours of Loyola and Tulane, plus an attempted-but-ultimately-barred jaunt through one of New Orleans’ most exclusive gated communities.





We zoomed home on by streetcar, and snapped this lovely shot:


And that, friends, wraps up FERRAGOSTO 2016. No word on where we’ll head this year (or whether DonQuixote’s Stolkholm Syndrome is severe enough to agree to join us again), but as it is the TENTH ANNIVERSARY, we have some exciting possbilities in the mix.

It won’t, however, be Cleveland:


How to Have an Awesome Month in Ten Easy Steps

5 Jan

Everyone else got in their year-in-reviews last week but, per usual, I’m tardy to the party. Since this post is already past its blog-by date, I’ll keep my best of 2014 focused to the final 31 days. Ten steps to an awesome month:

1. Have a sensational best friend who is turning 30 (nb: I think that adjective is gonna stick). Scour Etsy for party favors and make sure there is photo evidence of your respective fiancees enjoying said favors (check out this awesome shop for lots of fun glittery goods and these guys for the perfect cake topper… oh and here, too!).photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 photo 42. Watch your brother live out a lifelong dream. See here for more 13. Rent a private karaoke room for one of your oldest friend’s birthdays. Sing and dance your little hearts out. Bonus points if it’s 34. Set up your Christmas tree. Smother your amazing FianceKef with thanks for arranging to have your mom ship all your childhood ornaments to your house!

photo 3 4a. Wake up to find the first fatality of Christmas, courtesy of your 55. Go out for game-filled night with nearly all your favorite 4

and maybe even buy a fancy frock for an upcoming event!photo 2

6. Rally with some really righteous people, including this Grandma (who is only a shade less stylish than your own.)

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7. Make your first pot roast for your Fiance’s first annual law firm dinner. Worry that it’s not actually done and have no idea if it’s good or not because, you know, you don’t actually eat 4

8. Go home to the beautiful Hudson Valley for another legendary Christmas by MamaKef.

photo 58a. Receive a selfie stick. Proceed to run amok with said device and realize that true Christmas joy can be yours for a mere $8.

photo 1 photo 3 photo 4

I can’t decide whether or not those should get captions… so let’s just say they’re available upon request.

9. Bring your beloved out to what he refers to as a “Townie Bar” and watch him make friends with everyone in the room, even if they graduated from your high school in… 2011. (Optional: have small crisis about the fact that people who graduated from high school in 2011 can drink legally.)

photo 2

10. Celebrate the following Christmas miracles:

spanakopita, which should always be treated as a gift from Godphoto 5

the fact that this Facetime session between MamaKef and GoesDarkKef really and truly did happen
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and the discovery that gluten-free baklava is out there, and it’s ChampagneOnlyKef-approved! photo 1

Finally: ring in a New Year with the most lovable guy around.

photo 4

Raspberry FIG Challah

28 Aug


I said pretty much all there is to say about this amazing weekend yesterday– luckily, now we have some scrum-dilly-icious bread to talk about today!

I found this delicious jam-laced challah idea over at Girl v. Dough. In addition to this amazing recipe, she is a great resource for making bread and I highly suggest you head on over there for some great tips and tricks. I followed her bread instructions exactly but subbed the jam for one without all the sugar–y’all already KNOW I think this FIG jam is the business. (Confused about the mid-sentence caps? recall this). I did a test run two weeks ago and have to admit that even I, Ms. Gluten-Free-Even-Though-I’m-Not-Allergic, ate half a loaf.

This bread is NinjaKef approved, and JetSet suggests smothering it in peanut butter. Though you should be warned that this may result in your looking like this:

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She’s normal. He ain’t. Not a lot more I can say about that.

Since I used someone else’s recipe directly I won’t commit recipe plagiarism–just go right on over here and check it out!

photo 3-7

Paulatimi’s Famous Peanut Butter Cake

21 Jul

Ed Note: I’m off with JetSet in Malaysia. Today the Puts-Martha-to-Shame hostess who is my mother is sharing with us a tried-and-true cake FULL of sugar and gluten… when the gluten-free cat is away, the chock-full-o-sugar mice come out to play. If you need something sweet and healthy, try these creamy yogurt pops,  salted-caramel ice cream cake or any of my favorite almost-healthy snacks.But probably, you should just listen to my mother. ChefKefi, RN

Hi from Walden!!! I’m the MAMAKEF!

I can’t remember when I started making this cake. I have made it for many different people, occasions, and places and it is always GONE.  It is very simple and can be made/eaten while checking the status of your crazy children’s flight path when they go off to God knows where with God knows who.


photo 4

Paulatimi’s Famous Peanut Butter Cake


  • 1 box yellow cake mix (Duncan Hines is the best I’ve used)
  • 1 c water
  • 1/3  c vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs

  • 3⁄4 c (11⁄2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3⁄4 c creamy peanut butter or to taste
  • 1.5 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3.5 c confectioners’ sugar (or to taste)
  • (optional–for a chocolate peanut butter icing) cocoa powder, to taste

  • creamy peanut butter, to taste
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter cups for garnish (I don’t mess with store brand candy) Quarter them if you’re using full size; chop them in half if you’re using the minis.


1. Follow directions for boxed yellow cake mix on package to make two 8-inch round cake layers (Ed note: my momma ain’t here to tell you what you already know.). Let cool. Once cool, flip cake so flat sides are up.

2. Assemble frosting. Using a stand mixer with paddle attachment or handheld mixer and large bowl, beat butter on medium speed until creamy.  Add cream cheese, peanut butter and vanilla; beat until fully mixed. Gradually increase mixer speed to high and continue beating until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of bowl as necessary with spatula. Slowly, add confectioners’ sugar and beating on low speed until well mixed. Turn speed to high until smooth while scraping down sides of bowl, about 2 minutes.

3. Spread flat side of one layer with your favorite peanut butter (I use about 1/3 jar but some people like to pile it on and make it good and creamy). Spread frosting on the flat side of the other half. Stack the cake with the two flat halves together.

4.Frost the top and sides of the cake with frosting. Garnish the cake with Reese’s  peanut cups. Watch of all your guests ask for “just a slice” and then come back for seconds and thirds!!!!

Paulatimi is an award-winning mother, hostess, community member, and Basket Bingo coordinator. When not sunning herself besides the pool, she can be found making hilarious comments on Facebook while ordering from QVC. Tony Danza is a huge fan of hers. She’s pictured here with her favorite Ginger and the chocolate version of the above cake recipe.


JetSet Kef’s Five for Friday Summer Edition

13 Jun

For those following along at home, JetSet Kef is my brother who interlopes as a guest blogger. Previously, he gallavanted around the Middle East and Asia, but a recent move back to New York has his current jet-setting limited to the New Silk Road (aka–the Lower East Side to Morris County, NJ), which he swears is what keeps him from visiting his little sister’s blog more often. Whatever.

ANYWAY– last week I shared five things I’ll be doing this summer; this Friday, we’ve got:

JetSet Kef’s Five for Friday: Five Signs It’s Almost Ferragosto!

I’m writing this from a plane back from a long-weekend jaunt in Mexico, so now that I’m feeling JetSet again (ChefKefi, RN note: JetSet’s got his groove back), let’s talk about what’s happening to indicate that it’s time for me and ChefKef to take a non-romantic honeymoon together very soon:

1. The iTunes is set to Michalis Hatzigiannis on repeat all-day every day at work (yes, even the Christmas album)

2. I start planning the Ferragosto Facebook album. The album has to have a clever name, and only three kinds of pictures are allowed:

The No-Really-This-Isn’t-Our-Honeymoon Picture

321097_828234199875_1449900_nThe Here-We-Are-in-X-Awesome-Place-Enjoying-Really-Good-Food Semi-Selfie

226376_10100177387605625_569192093_nAnd for reasons better left unexplored, The Sea-kayaking Action Shot


3. When I make excel errors at work, the first thing I do is check to see if I made the same excel error I made pre-Mozambique Ferragosto (instead of typing =SUM, I put in =SUMMER).

4. Spinach pie has become the default late-night (and early morning and mid-afternoon) snack.  Except when I want a cheese pie (and in those cases, two snacks never really hurt anyone, right?)

5.  I start investigating options to replace the drivers license I lost for 4 months ago in case we need to drive a Toyotaki somewhere and my sweet sister continues to refuse to drive in the developing world (unless they drive on the left side of the road, then she’ll take the wheel. I don’t pretend to understand, either.).

Only 1 month, 6 days to go!

Rays of Sunshine on a Gloomy Tuesday

29 Apr

Today’s weather does not inspire confidence in Mother Nature’s ability to get it together and bring us some damn spring already!

I’m feeling especially gloomy as a result, so let’s talk about lots of happy things.

First of all, my best friend got engaged this weekend! I was tasked with getting her to the proposal and I am pretty sure a slapstick romantic comedy starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Katie Holmes will be based upon the hijinx and hilarity that ensued. Keys locked in a car, messy meet up points, and getting lost in the garden were key plot points.

photo 1But all’s well that ends well, and I got this hilarious picture out of the deal

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JetSet fulfilled a lifelong dream, snagging 4th row (FOURTH ROW!) tickets to the Mets game over the weekend– PLUS, he snuck in a kiss with Mr. Met!

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Are we feeling lifted yet, Keftanis? Great, let’s talk about meatballs.

Last year, I tried out these meatballs, which people liked but didn’t die for. JetSet and I were on a mission to find breadless meatballs and wound up with these guys, which have dried apricot in them! Seems like meat worth losing a life over, right?

IMG_0121 - CopyWe followed this recipe with the exception of a few spice subs (reflected below).   Sarah’s paleo recipes are awesome, and you should head over and enjoy more!

Lamb Keftedes with Apricot


  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 0.5  lb pound ground beef
  • 2 TBS minced chives
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 0.25 c chopped dill
  • 1 egg, room temp
  • 2 TBS mint (I used fresh)
  • 1 TBS rosemary
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1.5  tsp cumin
  • 1 TBS cinnamon
  • 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • 12 dried apricots, chopped
  • 8  kalamata olives, chopped


1. Preheat oven to 450. Mix everything together.

2. Form into meatballs of desired size.

3.  Bake for about 15 minutes, or until cooked through. If you aren’t using one of those slotted meatball pans, roll once for even cooking.

Greek Easter 2014: Part II

23 Apr

Previously, on Cooking Up Kefi…

JetSet and I were at Grandpa Joe’s house, and the situation was this:

The kitchen was a disaster

IMG_0110My brother and I were getting into all kinds of nose-picking-selfie shenanigans

IMG_0115the Mets were losing, and Grandpa Joe was napping. So… it was pretty much business as usual.           IMG_0120 Somehow, all of this pulled itself together and some Easter miracles occured. Namely:

the spanakopita (recipe later this week), which is always the very first thing we make,

IMG_0117some new lamb keftedes WITH DRIED APRICOTS (recipe also coming this week),

IMG_0121 - Copythe gluten-free picnic pie that was so good I ate it with my non-driving hand the whole way home,

IMG_0122JetSet’s painstaking, time consuming labor of love: eggplant keftedes-cum-casserole,

IMG_0119gluten-free/sugar-free koulourakia,

IMG_0124tsoureki that didn’t quite make it through MixMonster Kef’s crash course + eggs made by my Godmother,

2014-04-20 13.17.47the beet salad to end all beet salads (and finally pictured half-way decently here!),

2014-04-20 13.17.53Francesca’s Orange-Dijon potatoes,

2014-04-20 13.36.15

and Paulatimi’s Five-Ingredient Wonder.2014-04-20 12.58.50

Not bad for two days work, eh?

MamaKef put the finishing touches on her salad

2014-04-20 13.03.34while JetSet poured us mugs of wine.

2014-04-20 13.42.01And then ANOTHER Easter miracle happened– my Aunt said that JetSet “always looks like Justin Timberlake.” Indeed, he has risen.


2014-04-19 17.58.08  IMG_0130Okay so baklava is pretty much always good–it’s flaky dough painted with butter and butter and butter (and then some more butter) and layered with sugar, spices and nuts. How is it possible to improve on such a good thing?

2014-04-20 14.38.52Well, if you use this awesome, creamy honey and finally heed the advice of every Greek on the face of the planet, your results will improve. What advice, you ask? The hot-to-cold principle, which states that if you have hot baklava you must have cold syrup, or vice versa. We did cold syrup to hot baklava (instead of hot syrup AND hot baklava) and the results were stupendous.

How good, you ask?

In case that testimonial isn’t good enough for you, my phenomenal Grandma Rita put it best:

2014-04-20 14.59.52“That’s baklava so good you have to eat the crumbs off your boob!” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: just TRY and tell me your grandma is better than mine. You’re fighting a losing battle there.

We had a stupendous meal full of the two major food groups: laughs and carbs. Grandma Rita made stuffed peppers (very sadly not pictured here) and Aunt Tina supplied the hardboiled eggs. A GREAT time was had by all.

No family gathering is complete with out a selfie– Ellen, you and Lupita have nothing on us!

IMG_0132 - CopySadly, the weekend had to end and I had to leave the la-la land of my family’s loving glow.

JetSet and I took one last photo (this one remiss of spinach and flour) and then I headed off into the sunset.

IMG_0134 - Copy

This is a record-setting post, so I’ll cut it off here– I had the most delightful weekend with my family. Our Greekness is so very, very much your weakness.

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