Today is the first day of Lent – the somber Christian season of prayer, observance and repentance in preparation for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – and I have a confession to make: I associate Lent with food. Here’s why: during Lent, you’re supposed to abstain from enjoying little luxuries and pleasures. Thus, many people of faith vow to fast on different foods like sweets, potato chips, etc. during the entire six week season (even though I swear I was taught that Sunday was an exception ….). Another touchstone of the Lenten season is the practice of fasting from animal products. Though different faiths take this rule to different levels, the general rule that you cannot consume meat on Ash Wednesday, or any Friday.  
As a little girl, meatless Fridays were an excuse for eating some of my favorite foods: tuna fish salad, fried shrimp, grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches, and pizza. Born and raised in a predominantly Catholic area, Lent in Northeastern Pennsylvania goes hand in hand with Church pizza bakes, fish fries, and homemade Polish pierogies in butter and caramelized onions. There’s really nothing like it.
There’s nothing like a Gramercy pizza on a Friday night during Lent (and all year long).
Even on Holy Thursday, my family would take me to visit the seven churches of Pittston in honor of Jesus’s walk up to Mount Calvary, I couldn’t get food off of my mind. Though it was supposed to be a somber event, I was still secretly excited about visiting those churches that passed out freshly baked bread to mark the feast of the Last Supper. I could barely contain the smile on my face when I felt that fresh roll from the National Bakery in my hands at St. Mary’s Assumption Church (R.I.P. St. Mary’s!). So naturally, I’ve grown to associate Lent with food – but my heart was always in the right place, with God, to whom I am sincerely thankful for blessing me and my family with food to eat. 
In honor of Lent, I thought I’d post this easy and healthy recipe for boneless “bites.” I just love boneless chicken bites, my favorite are from the Tipsy Turtle in Jenkins Township. A great alternative to boneless chicken bites and chicken wings for Lent is this meatless recipe that I saw Rachel Ray Show.  It’s SUPER easy and tasty AND healthy! This is def something I will be making again and again. You can eat these on their own or in a salad, as shown below. Just eat them right after roasting, since they’re better hot. 
Hot Honey Garlic Turtle Bites from the Tipsy Turtle.
Roasted cauliflower bites with blue cheese dipping sauce. 
Fairytale Cauliflower Bites and Blue Cheese Ranch Dipper

Adopted from Rachel Ray.
(Serves 2-4)

  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into 1 inch florets
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce

  • For the ranch dipper:
  • 1 cup Greek-style yogurt
  • Juice of 1/2 small lemon
  • 3 tablespoons fresh herbs (such as dill, chives and parsley), chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely grated
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles (optional)
Pre-heat the oven to 450ยบF. Place the cauliflower florets onto a nonstick baking sheet, dress with some EVOO and season with salt. Bake for 25 minutes, or until crispy and caramelized at edges. Remove from the oven, place into a large bowl and toss with the hot sauce. Serve IMMEDIATELY with Ranch Dipper alongside. (They’re not as good when they’re cold and soggy.)

For the Ranch Dipper:
In a small serving bowl, combine the yogurt, lemon juice, herbs and garlic; season with salt and pepper.
Fold in the blue cheese, if using. Serve alongside the for dipping, or use as dressing in a salad like the Tipsy Turtle does in the photo below.

This is one of many “Yum-o!” recipes โ€“ it’s good and good for you. To find out more about Yum-o!, Rachael’s nonprofit organization, visit

Hot Honey Garlic Turtle Bite Salad from the Tipsy Turtle. 

For many American families, Friday night is synonymous with one special dish: PIZZA!!! I love and cherish this family tradition and can be found on most Friday nights feasting on pizza at the Gramercy. Baked in a small pan, a Gramercy pizza is only the size of a dinner plate and is unlike any pizza around.  It can be enjoyed as a meal but is most popular as an appetizer.

The original panned pie is delicious – the cheese melts and browns perfectly, the crust is actually crusty and never soft, and the sauce is the best the in area.  But the toppings are delicious too, and include your choice of peppers, roasted red peppers, onions, sausage, meatballs, hamburger, anchovies, and black olives.  One popular pizza, the fresh tomato pie, is made with Pittston tomatoes straight from my grandfather’s garden and is only available for a limited time.

Gramercy pizza has been a staple of my life.  As a little girl, my eyes and mouth would water in anticipation as I watched my late grandmother roll the dough and my grandfather make the sauce.  My grandmother would give me little samples of dough so I could make my own at home, but it never turned out the same and I usually just ended up ordering one straight from the Gramercy.  When I lived in New York, I would pack frozen Gramercy pizzas to eat in the dorms whenever I wanted a good slice (and whenever I felt homesick.) While my heart is with the original pizza, my signature pizza is usually the white pizza with roasted red peppers and black olives. (Sometimes, I even order anchovies.)  If I was going to the electric chair, this would be my last meal, hands down.  A piece of a Gramercy pizza is the perfect slice, the ultimate fairytale feast!  Here are some photos of my favorite pizzas!

The original slice: a plain Gramercy pizza.
Fresh tomato pie with black olives.

A plain fresh tomato pie slice.

Crumbled sweet sausage, gorzgonzola cheese, carmelized onion and rapinni pizza.

Mushroom pie.

A pizza with green peppers.

My favorite: a white pizza with roasted red peppers and black olives.


It’s the most wonderful time of the year for lovers of all things fall: mums, scarecrows, tractors, haystacks, pumpkins, crunchy leaves, fairytale feasts, and of course, the Bloomsburg Fair! 


The 156th Annual Bloomsburg Fair is taking place this week in Columbia County, Pennsylvania. The first fair was held in 1855 after Dr. John Taggart visited a county fair in upstate New York and brought the idea home to Columbia County.  Five other gentleman then got together and decided to hold an agricultural fair if they could find enough people to exhibit fruits, vegetables and other products found on a farm.  After personally searching for exhibitors, the men organized a one day event and the first fair was held.  Admission cost a mere ten cents per person and the fair garnered a whopping thousand visitors the first year alone. The event gradually increased in size and by 1892, the event was operating for a full five days.

Now, over a hundred years later, the Fair still draws thousands of people from all over the country in any weather conditions.  Originally held late October of each year, the fair is now traditionally held in September, the third Monday after Labor Day. The fair will take place this year from Saturday, September 25th through Saturday, October 2nd.  Over 75,000 people attended on opening day alone and my guess is that 99% of these individuals had something to eat there.

The Bloomsburg Fair is like a huge playground for food lovers, interweaving different ethnic foods from around the globe with signature Pennsylvania specialties. Caramel candy apples, pumpkin rolls, apple and peach dumplings, hearty soups, hot apple cider, church sponsored barbecue dinners, beef brisket sandwiches from hundreds of vendors are all sold at the festival.  Here are some highlights of noteworthy fairytale feasts that can be found at the festival: 

We’ll start with the cheesesteaks. Yes, cheesesteaks are a dime a dozen all over Eastern and Central Pennsylvania and at the Bloomsburg Fair.  But Vince’s Steaks have the longest lines at the fair for good reason – their cheesesteaks are amazing. And unlike in Philly, you’re allowed to ask for peppers or marinara sauce and other toppinon your steak sandwiches here.

The fish and chips were really delicious. The meal was wrapped in newspaper – such an authentic, lovely touch to compliment the food. The fish was not too oily and was perfectly done. With little sprinkle of salt and vinegar and a drizzle of lemon juice, the flaky fish and the roasted potatoes were absolute perfection.  In fact, this was the freshest bite I had at the fair. Loved it!

Another favorite Fair treat is the Grotto Pizza. Grotto Pizza is a chain restaurant with locations in Northeastern Pennsylvania and Delaware. While I can technically have this pizza anytime, it’s just too hard to say no to that gooey cheese and sweet sauce so I had to have it. Other people must feel the same way, because the Grotto stand is always crowded every year. And for $2.50 for this single tiny slice of pizza, it better be good! 

You can’t visit the Bloomsburg Fair without having some Old Fashioned Birch Beer poured from a barrel! 
The Fair features hundreds of different vendors selling food items, home goods, and more.  I came across this little stand selling an asortment of gourmet dips and instantly fell in love.  There was a sample of each dip displayed in its own wicker basket cooling container ($33). The dips (3 packets for $14) are 100% natural, containing no preservatives. They’re really just dried spice mixes that you can add to cream cheese, mayonaise, sour cream, greek yogurt, etc.  (And yes, you can substitute fat free yogurt, etc. to make the dips healthy!) I took home the Excellent Crab, Irish Cheddar & Ale, and Rockin’ Ranch. To visit the website and try these delicious dips for yourself, click here.

The Bloomsburg Fair offers plenty of soup options to warm up the soul.  One stand that I enjoy is Nana’s Nook, which serves homemade New England Clam Chowder, Maryland Crab Soup and Cheddar Ale.  If you want to try a sample, just ask and they are more than happy to help you.

Another option for soup is the “pot pie” stand.  In Pennsylvania Dutch cooking, what they label “pot pies” are really delicious cups of a broth based soup with vegetables, ham or chicken, and homemade pieces of pasta that are similar to dumplings.  

One of my longtime standing favorite stands at the Fair is the Baked Potato stand. They do sell complete dinners there, but all I have eyes for are the baked potatoes there. You can order one with your choice of toppings.  This one was served with cheese, broccoli and bacon bits.

One of the most prominent offerings at the fair are the many ham/beef dinner stands which serve up hundreds of blue plate like dinner specials and sandwiches.    


Anyone from Pennsylvania knows that one of best fall desserts to have is a Pumpkin Roll. I literally die for Pumpkin Rolls – and will blog about them at some point this season. If you are at the fair, you have to try the Pumpkin Roll ($8.75) from the Pennsylvania Dutch Stand near the Grandstand.

You can’t go to the Bloomsburg Fair without getting an apple dumpling. These little bundles of joy are admittedly the main reason why I keep coming here every year. The marriage between autumn and apples is most beautifully exemplified in this distinct dish. 

Lastly, if by some miracle you’re still hungry as you’re leaving the fair or you need a little something to bring home, stop by the apple stand near Gate 3. It’s easy to spot – it’s a booth literally carved into the shape of an apple.  You can get cider, lemonade and other gluttonous fair-essential treats like fried oreo cookies and or the famous fried apple rings. 

Yes, there are other things to do at the fair besides eat – like see the agricultural exhibits that showcase the biggest and best produce and baked goods from the county and beyond.  Since I was a little girl, my favorite part of the fair (besides the apple dumplings) has always been seeing the “great pumpkin” (think Charlie Brown) exhibits on display. I just love them and used to think they were the pumpkins that were used to make Cinderella style carriages. They still haven’t lost their magic.

There are still TWO more days to visit the fair this year! Here is some important info to know if you go:

Admission gates are open daily from 7 AM to 9 PM.

Admission is $5.00 per person, with free daily admission for children 12 years old and under.

High school students are admitted free of charge on Friday October 1st.

Parking is $5.00 per car, including free tram/bus service to and from the parking lot and admission gate.

Enjoy! ๐Ÿ™‚