Heirloom Meals: Savoring Yesterday's Traditions Today

Wednesday June 10, 2015

Heirloom Meals Recipe Project

Preserving your family food memories into a tangible legacy for future generations. 

  • Do you feel too busy to record and preserve your family’s stories and recipes?
  • Do you keep telling yourself “I’ll do this someday?”
  • Do you have that nagging feeling that if you keep waiting, these precious stories may never be captured?

Through the Heirloom Meals Recipe Project I will guide you in an easy and structured way, and give you the support and accountability necessary to bring your pens and your pots together to produce your heirloom family cookbook.

Because the reality is "someday" may never come!

Putting pen to paper and writing about family food memories is a lofty goal.  Many would rather do laundry than sit down and write.  A blank page is intimidating!
How many times have you looked at your recipe box/folder/binder you created OR the one you inherited, and longed to have them in one place to SHARE?
What about those recipes that aren’t written down – how do you preserve those intuitive concoctions that take you back to your childhood table?

The Heirloom Meals Recipe Project is an 8-week program designed to help you write your family food history, organize your recipes and result in YOUR Heirloom Meals Recipe Book.


Unlike most online options, our program and template has ample space for your narrative story, recipes, family photos and scans of stained recipe cards.  While recipes are wonderful, it’s the stories that give them their full flavor.

In the workshop, I will guide you through the process of writing your family food narrative, headnotes for your recipes, and collecting all the supporting photos that will result in a treasured book to share with your family. Think of me as your Edible Legacy Coach!

Each week, I will email you a workbook with writing prompts and other exercises.  We will have an hour-long live call.  We will have a private facebook page to build community, post our progress and share our stories.

The goal is to chronicle your family food history.  Your written story will emerge as a result of responding to the prompts. We will ultimately combine that with your recipes with headnotes, and photos, and build it into your very own hard copy Heirloom Family Cookbook.

The workshop is designed to produce an end-product.  It provides that accountability we all crave to keep a project like this on track, and to get finished!!

The Details

  • 8 Modules
  • Live one-hour coaching calls with replays 
  • Homework each week
  • Access to me via email
  • 2 – 15-minute one-on-one coaching calls
  • No fussing with designing content – just upload and leave the rest to us
  • Approximately 4 weeks after you send in your final materials, you will receive one, hardcover, color Heirloom Family Recipe Book and a PDF (Additional copies available at an additional fee)
  • Each Class is Limited to 8 participants
  • Price $999 - payment plans offered!
  • Class One Starts on September 10, 2015 Noon-1 PM Eastern Time. Click here for more information and to sign up!
  • Class Two Starts on October 5, 2015 Noon -1 PM Eastern Time. Click here for more information and to sign up!
  • Class Three Starts on November 23, 2015
  • I can design a group or family class - call me at 413-298-0173 or e-mail me for details.
  • Private Facebook community

Module One: Let’s start at the beginning

Module Two: A Sense of place

Module Three: The story is the thing

Module Four: It’s all about feelings

Module Five: It’s all about the food

Module Six: Concoctions into Recipes

Module Seven: Headnotes

Module Eight: Putting it all together



It has been said that because so much of our lives today are documented in technology that we chance to loose our history and stories in these devices.  Carole Murko has offered a gift of leading us through the writing of our families’ food history and memories so that they are not lost and can be passed down for generations to come.  She takes you on a beautiful, emotional, supportive and loved filled journey that is a gift unto itself.  With her warm and creative guidance you create together a memoir that you never realized was inside of you waiting to be shared with those you love.   This is a gift to give to yourself, to a friend, to family.  Everyone should experience this journey with Carole Murko. 

Debby Edwards, Chicago, IL


Carole takes you on a journey through all five of your senses as she guides you through the delicious and colorful food memories of your childhood and family. She taps you into the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of the food and traditions that weave our family memories into the tapestry of our lives. She takes you on a journey that will leave your mouth watering and your heart swelling with the memories of your cherished family traditions and recipes. While doing this project, I had the unexpected pleasure of connecting my children to the grandparents and great grandparents they never met. We combed through family photos, old cookbooks and scribbled on index cards, while we shared memories about the people and events we’d almost forgotten. I loved doing this with my parents. We laughed, we cried! We shared our favorite memories and spend hours one night talking about holiday dinners and our favorite dishes. What a fantastical journey through our family memories. I was reminded of the simple pleasures and the power of creating a meal and sharing it with those you love. I was reminded how powerful it is to bring the people you love together to share a meal and a life-long experience. Thank you Carole for creating the Heirloom Cookbook project and giving my family a treasure to be shared for generations to come! This was such a freakin’ blast! I loved it! My family loved! Thank you for reminding me how much I loved my grandfather’s past fagioli. I hadn’t made it in years, and it was such a pleasure to taste it and feel the love of this cherished recipe come back to life.

Laura Rothschild, San Diego, CA


The Heirloom Meals Recipe Project has been amazing on so many levels.  Carole has organized the weekly sessions in such a way to get us thinking on a big scale about our memories, then working down to a personal, intimate portrait of individuals and their favorite recipes.  

From the outset, Carole encourages her participants to consider all the influences that made them the cook, the foodie, the teacher they are today - through reflections on our most beloved childhood food memories, the marvelous old kitchens of our grandmothers and mothers, the stories we share during the fellowship of family mealtime (or informal gatherings with friends), and the anecdotes about our most beloved recipes.  The process has reintroduced us to many 'old friends' in the kitchen (both beloved family recipes and new discoveries), sparked conversations with family about their memories of cooking together and sharing meals, and above all, produced a collection of favorite recipes and stories that will surely become our go-to book for our favorite recipes.  

Through this process, I've not only reconnected with many, many 'old friends' in my kitchen, I have also captured the stories that gently cocoon those friends, warming my heart throughout the years and bringing joy to so many gatherings.  I've also learned that it's great fun to write about food - not only critiques, but the back-story, the genesis, and the emotional connection.  And I'm fairly good at it!!  What an utter pleasure it's been to share this journey with women who have equally great stories to share, all the while encouraging each other, asking questions, and having more memories stirred up!

Amy Holich Moscaritolo, Northampton, MA


Under Carole Murko's thoughtful, sensitive guidance, I was able to complete a project I've been meaning to do since my Grandmother passed away in 1992: put together a family keepsake of cherished recipes that might otherwise have been lost, a unique and invaluable gift, that will last for generations.

Stephanie Ann Smith, Gainsville, FL


If you get the chance to do Heirloom Meals, do it!  You will not believe how much fun it is to recall all the loved ones of your past, journey back to your childhood recalling the foods you grew up loving, and interacting throughout the whole program with wonderful women experiencing the same process.  Carole has a joyful manner for introducing each step in the progression of the book development and a meaningful way of guiding you and your memory back to the tastes and all the senses of earlier times.  The book you will create will be a treasure for your children and grandchildren.

I am so grateful I have had the opportunity to make this journey with Carole.

Nona Thompson, Hallowell,Maine


Through Carole's prompts for memory and writing exercises, I realized the richness of the memories I hold around food and family! Tables and tableaux I had not thought about for years! The heirloom meals project wraps your family recipes with love and reminds you of what to hold dear. Ending up with a family cookbook is the treasure that results!

Laura Tiberi, Westerfield, OH

Saturday August 29, 2015

Carole's Cookbook Picks:
A Suitcase and a Spatula by Tori Haschka

A Suitcase and a Spatula: Recipes and Stories from Around the World


Though we can’t all pack our bags and head off to Paris when a hankering for French culture arises, it is within our ability to be transported by a single bite of a flaky and light, buttery croissant. Or how about Raspberry Croissant Pudding? This is exactly what food and travel writer Tori Haschka wants to give her readers in A Suitcase and a Spatula. Her recipes make even the most far-off travel destinations accessible, all through the sense of taste.

Haschka believes, just as I do, that our palates have a direct connection to our memories and imaginations. Highlighting the ingredients and flavors exclusive to the destination, Haschka uses her recipes to carve out and put on display the region’s cultural landscape. Peppers spiced with the heat of a red chili in Baked Moroccan Eggs evokes the warmth of the coast of Agadir, while the distinctive bitterness of the liqueur in her recipe for Sardines with Campari, Peach and Fennel raises images of enjoying a Spritz or Bellini in a Venetian Bar. The dish itself is pictured plated simply atop a white dish, allowing its brightness of color and flavor to take focus among vintage china plates stacked to the side.

I love cookbooks that go beyond simply giving measurements and proportions, ones that surpass a list of ingredients and instructions by including light but thoughtful prose. Doing so intertwines food and experience, showing the former’s deep profundity and effect upon our lives. Haschka applies this in her reflection of Menton in the south of France, where she describes the outpour of beauty in its abundance of flowers and the restorative effects of mussels and rosé, a food and drink combination that became the cure to her flu when she visited. Her headnote for her Mussels, Fennel, and Chickpeas in Pink Wine serves as a precursor for the joy that is to come, stating that “No matter how you were feeling when you started, healthy contentedness comes from this.”

A Suitcase and a Spatula lets you take a vacation from your kitchen, allowing you to experience the food and world beyond your stovetop. Tori Haschka provides you with two invaluable gifts: a life well-traveled and a body well-fed.

Wednesday August 26, 2015

Dale Gillis of Gillis Farms, New Mexico

I will never take an onion for granted again. Although they seem like a commodity – always available in the grocery store, a staple in my kitchen, and with the exception of a few seasonal varietals like Vidalias, they are never out of season. The care and skill needed to provide continuous onion production requires experience of the sort that is only earned from very hard work.

Dale Gillis, owner of Gillis Farms in Arrey, New Mexico schooled me in onion farming.  On his 4000 acres farm he grows onions and chili peppers (referred to as chilis). Only 1000 acres are dedicated to onions as Gillis Farm practices traditional crop rotation. One of the common onion diseases from overplanting is called pink root. To avoid pink root, Dale rotates his onion crop with corn, sudan grass, and alfalfa which all clean the soil, replenish nutrients and keeps his onions disease-free.

For the most part onion farming is labor intensive. Dale’s fields are hand-weeded and harvested. During harvest, Dale employs up to 500 people. The only insecticide used is to combat onion thrips ,which is the major insect pest of the onion.  Weeds are solely managed by hand.

Gillis Farm is in the high desert of New Mexico where winters are mild and summer temperatures average around 100 degrees.  While this sounds harsh, it is ideal climate for onions. Dale claims that wet, damp conditions produce root rot. In fact, at harvest time, Dale likes it hot and dry.

Dale plants 40-48 different varieties of onions, mostly yellow with some whites and reds as well. The varieties are selected to spread the harvest over as long a period as possible to insure continuous production. Dale begins harvesting on May 20th and continues until late August. Onions planted on September 15th, for instance are harvested mid-June.  Dales’ 1000 acres produces 1.2 million 50 pound bags of onions. That’s 60 million pounds!!! Dales’ onions are sold directly to the supermarket chains including Walmart.

Dale proudly holds the mantel of his farming roots. His great grandparents arrived in New Mexico from Germany in 1918 and began the farm, which has been passed down to his grandparents, his parents and now he, and his brother and sister, with the 5th generation coming on strong.  His son and 2 nephews are beginning to work on the farm and absolutely love it. In fact, Dales’ son is getting a degree in Ag Business.

When I asked Dale what this new generation can bring to the farm, he said “a knowledge of computers and technology.”  Dale also emphatically stated that you cannot learn onion farming in college.  He said, “Only experience teaches you to grow.” That experience is what provides the knowledge to see a field of onions that needs zinc or iron, or has thrips.  Experience provides that critical wisdom necessary to successfully grow onions on the scale that he does. Dale’s best advice to future farmers is to do the work. “Without a work ethic, it’s worth nothing. Put your head down and run with the ball.”

When I asked Dale if he ate onions, he chuckled and actually said, “ Not many! Because at harvest time everything smells like an onion – my truck, my bed, my body.” He does, however, eat a fair amount of chilis. His favorite meal is steak with green chilis. He shared that growing up and even now, meals were simple – grilled meat, grilled onions and chilis, with peach cobbler for dessert.  Another favorite was called Green Chili Stew, which was a stew of steak pieces, chilis, potatoes and onions. His mom served it with a flour tortilla.

A bit about Dale’s Chilis

New Mexicans are very particular about their chilis. You are either a red or a green chili person.  Dale is a green chili person!

One curious fact about the chilis Dale grows is that 20% of them are grown for color.  Who knew? The chilis grown for color have no heat index. The red is extracted as a powder and is found in cosmetics and even cheese.

The other 80% of the chilis are all dehydrated and sold in small packages. They range on the heat scale from mild to extra hot.

The chili growing offers excellent crop diversification for Gillis Farm. As one might imagine, weather is either a farmer’s friend or foe. Having more than one crop is a hedge against the potential ravages of weather.

When I finished my interview with Dale, I just sat for a few moments. I knew I had spoken to a hard-working, salt-of-the-earth gentleman – of few words, yet quite communicative. His years of hard work, generational knowledge and love of farming produce the onions I have so cavalierly stored in my onion basket. Now when I hold that sphere, I honor it as it exists in all its perfect splendor because of people like Dale Gillis. Thank you Dale!

Enjoy Dale on Heirloom Meals Radio too!

Disclosure: I was compensated by the National Onion Association for this post. All opinions are my own.

Monday August 24, 2015

Ms Murky Mondays:
A Spectrum of Emotions

Dear friends

I know I have been a bit silent over these last few months. 

If I told you I have experienced the gamut of emotions, would you believe me? Well, of course you believe me. Why would I pose the question?

So here’s how I have been rolling….

Happy and Grateful

I spent the first 2 weeks of May at a writers residency program on Martha’s Vineyard. I decided to write a food memoir. Yes. All about ME! It is quite a journey going back in time and recalling scenes of your life. It is very healing and very powerful. I cannot wait to share it with you. Of course it’s a memoir with recipes!!

Anxious and Sad

Hanging over me and our family during the spring and early summer was the knowledge that my dear sweet sister-out-law had stage 4 breast cancer. While I prayed my heart out, held onto OPTIMISM like it was the last ticket out of town, I knew it wasn’t good. We hosted a magical family reunion late May for Madeline. She was radiant, happy, and beautiful. I thought I was witnessing a miracle – that she had turned the corner. The truth of the matter is I was witnessing a miracle. It’s called living every moment. Or bringing the people you love together to share our love for each other.  Or providing the space for lasting memories.

Five weeks later. Madeline passed away. I carried her pain in my body. I sobbed. I walked around like a zombie. I tried to comfort Jim. And then mustered up the energy to have another family reunion. An old-fashioned Irish wake with the casket right here in our home. It was an honor to offer Madeline one last night at Boulderwood. Her send off was beautiful.  It was pure, unadulterated love. Love that emanated from Jim’s heart, my heart and all who loved Madeline. The priest’s eulogy was powerful. He said God is in all of us. I believe that. We meet people that give us what we need at the moment we need it. This is how God works. This is how the universe works.

Madeline handled her illness with such grace. In her last group email, she said it best: “I continue to enjoy life, but will admit it is difficult to think in terms of no timeline.  Although it is not real for any of us, I think we all live with the expectation of another day and old age.  To plan even a few months ahead not knowing what will happen is different to say the least.  Probably a good reminder for all of us to enjoy the days we have and focus on the important stuff.  As you can see, for me the important stuff is family and friends.”

RIP sweet Madeline.


I am alive. Ergo I live. In the midst of the sadness, I launched another dream – The Heirloom Meals Recipe Project – an 8 week online class where I coach the participants to write their family food narrative, collect and or write all their recipes, collect old photos and take new ones and end up with their own hardcover, color heirloom family cookbook. The pilot class was extraordinary.  Here’s one of the testimonials:

It has been said that because so much of our lives today are documented in technology that we chance to loose our history and stories in these devices.  Carole Murko has offered a gift of leading us through the writing of our families’ food history and memories so that they are not lost and can be passed down for generations to come.  She takes you on a beautiful, emotional, supportive and loved filled journey that is a gift unto itself.  With her warm and creative guidance you create together a memoir that you never realized was inside of you waiting to be shared with those you love.   This is a gift to give to yourself, to a friend, to family.  Everyone should experience this journey with Carole Murko. 

Debby Edwards, Chicago, IL

Thank you Debby for that! Your words went right to my heart. Please check out the class. I would love to have you among us!

Over the Moon with Happiness

When I talk about Jim, I have referred to him as my husband. Well, because he is my spiritual soul-mate and common-law husband. But truth be told, we are not married. On August 4th, my birthday, he asked me to marry him. I. AM. ENGAGED. WAHOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am like a little girl. Giddy. Elated. Thrilled. I have always wanted to be married. It was part of my little girl and twenty-something dream. Jim’s commitment to me has validated and honored me. I felt an energy shift in my body – at the cellular level. And in perfect heirloom meals style, he gave me his mother’s engagement ring. I will treasure it forever. It is so much more meaningful than some huge showy diamond. I always said that when I found the right man, a Cracker Jack box ring would do.

For whatever reason, this is the time and place in my life I am meant to be married. I get to plan a wedding my way! My parents get to see me marry the love of my life. It is perfect timing.

I will be sharing the wedding journey from designing my own dress to figuring out how to do all the food and be a relaxed and rested bride!! EXCITING!!!

I am blessed. To have a life so full.

Thank you all for being part of it!!



PS No post is complete without a recipe. I am hanging onto summer with dear life. Here’s my signature summer salad recipe!

Saturday August 22, 2015

Carole's Cookbook Picks:
Flour, Too by Joanne Chang

Flour, Too: Indispensable Recipes for the Cafe's Most Loved Sweets & Savories


We all have that favorite spot -- the breakfast place around the corner, the coffee shop up the street, the bakery with the awe-inspiring case of baked goods staring back at you. Joanne Chang’s Flour Bakery + Café in Boston is all of these, but it has established itself beyond sweets and breakfast confections alone. Flour, Too is Chang’s second cookbook, following the success of her first, Flour. Though recipes categorized under “Sweets” and “Desserts” dominate its pages, the cookbook spreads its focus to the savory as well. With recipes like the Classic Split Green Pea with Smoked Ham soup or the Mushroom and Leek Lasagna with Creamy Béchamel, you quickly gain the sense that Chang isn’t trying to overwhelm your sweet tooth, but rather provide you with the comfort and nourishment of food.

You can mimic the most loyal of Flour’s customers and use the book to follow the daily experience of the bakery. Start with a stack of CJ’s Spiced Banana Pancakes, which are perfectly moist and not overly-sweet from the natural flavorings of the fruit and are matched with the underlying smokiness of allspice and black pepper. A drizzle of maple syrup as the accompanying image suggests is all you need to make resisting these fluffy delicacies impossible. You can take the savory route for lunch with an updated American classic -- the Applewood Smoked BLT. Chang complements the salty-sweet bacon with the added pepperiness of the arugula. Dinner can become a more complex affair, beginning with the colorful Heirloom Tomato Salad, stepped up with feta, watermelon, and a delicious Red Wine Vinaigrette. The main dish options include a Slow-Baked Atlantic Salmon with Tabouli, whose inventive cooking method gives the fish, as Chang puts it, “a delicate, buttery texture and flavor.” End the evening just as you began, with a small, two-bite French Macaron. Crisp and light, satisfyingly sweet.

Flour, Too invites us to sample a sugar-specked brioche and instills a desire to test the elasticity of Chang’s focaccia dough. Every page is a representation of the ease and contentment enjoyed in passing the time at one of the Flour locations. Use the book to bring to your kitchen the iconic smells and tastes of the bakery -- a place many people already consider home.

Monday August 17, 2015

Heirloom Meals Recipe Project Launch

What a summer! I promise to write a blog post and share the gamut of experiences that rolled through my life. Suffice it to say, I have been sad, afraid, elated, and now proud. Proud to announce the official launch of the Heirloom Meals Recipe Project. The pilot program exceeded my wildest imagination. We wrote, we shared, we cried, we laughed, we bonded, we created. Our final products are getting their finishing edits and then everyone will have their very own heirloom family cookbook. The program was satisfying on so many levels!!  

Here is the link to everything you need to know. (I am working on creating a new section for workshops but for now the blog post will have to do!!) I hope to see you in the September 10th class or the others I have scheduled.

Also - check out my recent interview with Dale Gillis as a result of working with the National Onion Association!

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