October 14, 2010

Olive Oil + Oranges = Yumcake.

While working in the background for a foodie magazine recently, I came upon a chef who came upon a recipe. I made said recipe and gave my notes to the editor in time for her to do her magic and publish it. Editor, being the precise beings they are, also made the cake, and that version was photographed for the spread in the magazine. Although wounded mildly that I would not be asked to make it again for the fancy photographer and food stylists, I still got busy in the kitchen, because the cake tasted so darned good! My time spent uncovered a few issues with the method, but when a chef is not reading his recipe to you (over the phone, no less) but telling it to you from memory, allowances must be made. What follows is as dictated to me by Chef Luis' Zambrano of Viva in the Berkshires. (It was published in DinnerWhere Magazine 2010).

Seville Orange Cake VIVA
A golden orange scented, moist cake.
-please add ingredients in order
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup orange juice
2 Tbsp. orange zest
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder

Orange Syrup
Make while cake is baking. To be poured after cake is baked.
2 tsp. orange liqueur (Gran Gala Orange liqueur)
5 Tbsp. butter
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
Bring to boil till slightly thick, pour in cake pan while cake is warm

Set oven 350, Butter and flour a bundt pan. In a metal bowl beat eggs till thick and light in color. Slowly add sugar, then add juice, zest, oil. Mix flour, baking powder, add to wet, beat carefully. Pour in pan, bake 45 min. till tester comes out clean. Cool slightly, dust w/ confectioners sugar.Then add orange syrup.

The first time I made the cake, I made and I used the syrup, but no confectioners'. The second time, I did not make syrup, just dusted. I don't see how you can do both, except in the case of dusting the very moment the dessert goes to table. The cake is so moist & the syrup so wet, the confectioners' is wasted.
I'll stop nitpicking and suggest you enjoy this confection using best quality olive oil and be sure to find Seville oranges. Gran Gala is a less expensive and highly acceptable version of Gran Marnier. Cointreau would also work, in my experience. My editors' photograph of the cake never made it to the page.

September 6, 2010

You Be The Judge

Here's the recipe entered into the County Bounty Culinary Cook-off at the Columbia County Fair today, September 6, 2010. I did not place or win. Let me know what you think.

Coriander Spiced Chicken with Heirloom Tomatoes, Red Onion, & Whole Wheat Linguine
Serves 6
Chef's Note: Organic produce is recommended. The tomatoes, onions,
and fresh coriander are sourced at The Farm at Miller's Crossing, Claverack,
NY. The cheese was made at Sprout Creek Farm in Poughkeepsie, NY via
the Chatham Real Food Market. The poultry was raised at North Wind Farm,
Tivoli, NY via The Berry Farm in Chatham. The chive blossoms are from the
chef's private victory garden in Chatham.

Ingredient List:
2 teaspoons whole coriander seed
1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoons red chile flakes (or more if you like it hot)
4 pounds mixed heirloom tomatoes, chopped bite-size
1 medium red onion, chopped medium
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for rubbing on chicken
3/4 cup grated Ouray cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 pound whole wheat linguine
2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander leaves
6 stems edible chive blossoms

1.) Toast the coriander in a dry skillet, let cool, and mix with the pepper, salt, and chile flakes. Grind in a spice mill (there will be about 1 Tablespoon ground spices) and set aside.
2.) In large bowl, gently mix the tomatoes, onion, oil, 1/2-cup cheese, and 1/2 of the spice mixture. Add salt to taste.
3.) Set a barbecue grill to medium-high and place a large stockpot of salted water on high heat on the stovetop (or a side burner on the grill); bring water to a boil.
4.) Trim the chicken breasts and place between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Pound with a meat mallet to 1/2-inch thickness. Lightly oil the chicken and place on a platter. Sprinkle both sides liberally with the remaining spice mixture.
5.) Grill the chicken, turning after 4-5 minutes. Grill until cooked through and no longer pink inside, about 3-4 minutes more. Place the chicken on a platter, tent with foil, and set aside.
7.) Meanwhile, put the pasta in the boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain in a colander. Add the hot pasta to the tomatoes in the bowl and toss gently but thoroughly.
8.) Divide the pasta and tomatoes between 6 plates, spooning the extra juices from the bottom of the bowl over the pasta. Cut the chicken into slices, or bite-sized pieces, as preferred. Divide the cut chicken over the plated pasta. Sprinkle each dish with chopped coriander and the individual tiny white chive flowers. Serve, with the remaining cheese to pass.

August 29, 2010

There's A First Tme for Everything

At 50 years of age, I am entering my first cooking contest. Yes, "it's about time", some have said. Yes, I am certainly prepared, and yes, I am a nervous wreck! I've always fantasized about entering recipe contests, but lost all nerve long before I could fill out an entry form. This year, The Columbia County Fair is holding it's second annual County Bounty Culinary Cookoff. The premise is very simple and there are only two prizes to be awarded: $500 and $1000. I have to submit my written recipe in advance, using and citing as much locally sourced product as possible. Then, on the last day of the Fair, I deliver 8 plated portions of my submission to the judges, and about 2 hours later the winners are declared. I am a imaginative recipe reader. That is to say, when I read a recipe, I can taste it without preparing anything. I have read about cooks who have this approach to cooking, and because I enjoy the work of cooking and have hundreds of cookbooks, not to mention "recipe world" at my fingertips on the web, I do follow recipes when I get busy in the kitchen. When company comes for dinner, instead of putting a trusted favorite on the table, I try something new. It's for ME that I do this: I want to be surprised by a recipe I read which intrigues me. Hopefully, my guests will like it too. I have never worried abut the outcome and never been disappointed.
So fast forward to last Wednesday. Husband works nights, so I make his "dinner" at noon. He eats a small portion then, and brings a regular portion to the railroad for later. We are heavily submerged in tomatoes and other fresh organic local produce right now. My refrigerator & counters are literally overflowing. Rather than search my database by ingredient for something to cook Wednesday, I simply looked around the kitchen. I had chicken breasts, red onions, whole wheat linguine (a pantry staple) and 6 pounds of tomatoes. I also had a new spice-grinder filled with what was labeled "Moroccan Seasoning". It contains cracked coriander seed, cracked black peppercorns, flaked red pepper & sea salt. I diced a couple pounds of mixed heirloom tomatoes, put them in a bowl with diced red onion & ground a lot of the seasoning on top. Tossed it, added olive oil, lots of grated Pecorino, tossed again and set it aside. I trimmed & pounded a couple chicken breasts, oiled & sprinkled them with the same seasoning & fired up the grill. Next, I set the water to boil for the pasta, cook the chicken, set it aside. When the linguine was done, I drained it & dumped it on the tomatoes, tossing very gently. Plated this, topped with sliced/diced chicken, a dash more cheese, sprinkling of fresh chopped coriander leaf & a few white chive blossoms from my garden.
It was well received at home. A neighbor had been nudging me to enter the Fair contest. It occurred to me rather suddenly that this recipe might be a good entry. I dashed a portion of it off to the neighbor's house for a second opinion. "Yes" they pronounced simultaneously. All that was left to do was source the ingredients from my local markets & farm sands, buy a fresh batch of spices and do another trial of the recipe. I decided to make a custom blend of the same Moroccan spices but using toasted coriander seed & grinding it in my spice mill with the peppercorns, red pepper flakes & Kosher salt. The aroma was intoxicating!
Fate's pendulum has been set in motion. I have seven more days to sweat about this, including making it at least one more time. If Lady Luck has any weight, I'm in good shape, as the recipe got a wink and a nod from her royal highness Ruth Reichel. The former Editor in Chief of Gourmet Magazine, and restaurant reviewer to The NY Times & The 'Left Coast' Times came into the shop where I work today. I could not help myself, so I blurted out my plans, and she patiently, kindly listened; appeared to be interested, even! Ruth said it sounded delicious, and "Good Luck" as she went out the door. Perhaps since it's my very first time doing this a little extra luck will be on my side.

Ps. It's called Coriander Spiced Chicken with Heirloom Tomatoes, Red Onion and Whole Wheat Linguine.

January 29, 2010

A Sharp Tale of Dicey Consequence

When one's favorite of all favorites knife disappears, a chef's kitchen world gets blurry. Nothing is in it's place, long-established food prep rhythms are interrupted, and dire consequences can ensue. Shortly thereafter, when all the inquisitions prove useless, a pair of new gadgets make an entrance. It's a total surprise: husband has purchased another brand (egad!) of pairing knife to replace the missing Henkels Four Star, and has also brought home a famous brand "mini chopper" to lessen the blow. How can he not know that I am loyal to one brand of knives and one brand alone, and only rarely delegate the very largest pureeing, chopping or slicing tasks to my trusty 12-cup Cuisinart? How can he not also know that food prep is my mediation, my relaxation, and my nirvana before later sitting at table to enjoy "the fruits"?
The answer is simple, my friends: he does not cook. Over one month after the offending weapon arrived I finally broke down and unsheathed it. Pretty sharp, decent weight, good feel in my hand. And the mini food chopping gadget has also finally been christened. Ugh. I repeat, big jobs get processed in the Cuisinart but only if I'm in a hurry. I like to cook. Chopping & dicing are at the top of the list of pleasant prep tasks. Now where's that gift receipt?

January 24, 2010

You never really miss something til you can't have it

We have had a very particular food diet imposed on our household. It's a one-for-all deal. Two of us don't need to be on it, but it's just plain unfair to the afflicted to be slurping down one's favorite whatever while the other looks on in hungry frustration. What's on the menu is white breads, white rice, potatoes; all without seasonings or fats of any kind. White meat chicken and plain fish fillets. Cheerio's, corn flakes, rice chex. Soy milk. That's about it. No fruit or vegetables. Mind you it's just for 3 weeks. It surely speeds up my prep and cooking times in the kitchen. There's really nothing to do. No sauces to simmer, no herbs to snip, onions to chop, no garlic to mince, The big whisk has been hanging sadly unused. I love my whisks (I have 4, all different sizes). I love going into the kitchen long before dinnertime and going through the mise en place process. Everything gets prepped, measured, placed in it's own little dish and set by the stove in order of use. The entree' is cleaned, trimmed, cut-to-order, and returned to the refrigerator. Pots, saute' pans & roasters are pulled out of hiding. Finally I check the clock so I know what gets started first, make myself a Manhattan or a cosmopolitan and go watch the evening news.
Clearly, I am missing this ritual. I noticed yesterday that the giant bottle of favorite olive oil I automatically purchased because I was almost out is yet unopened. Ack! I haven't used a drop in two weeks. Will I loose my taste for it? For butter and s&p, for garlic and heavy cream in a pan sauce? We are slowly reintroducing foods on the "maybe" list. Canned carrots, vinegar, applesauce, jam, and jelly. Bleech. Not much to work with. While the ailing family member may be feeling a bit better, my palate is in serious withdrawal and I am chomping at the bit (pun intended) to return to my favorite hobby: cooking. I might start dipping the ends of white bread loaves in my delicious olive oil when no-one is around. Yum!

January 28, 2009

The Moose is Dead

Most certainly a common sign of an uncommon economy, small business and large are closing their doors. It seems to be happening every where you look, tune in, or converse. I am now a victim. The Chocolate Moose has closed it's doors, ergo I am unemployed. All of the candy has been bought at a discount, the furnishings are almost all sold off at rock-bottom prices, and the kitchen will be "on the market" this weekend for a steal. Dismantling it was the most bittersweet task of all. Pun intended. Shelves of nuts, jars of confectioners sugar, drawers of dipping tools. The tubs of garnishes for chocolates are coming to my home to roost. I made them a new nest last night in my fancy kitchen. Probably the most satisfying part of "cooking" for me is the final garnishing and plating. We eat with our eyes first, other senses second. I love to spend a few extra minutes making what I have prepared look interesting. I don't worry as much about how it tastes (good recipes & technique remove that doubt) but I do take the time to make sure food looks good. Since winters' snows are still upon us, I'll be making some special sweets at home for a while longer.
Creams_Truffles_platter.JPGLong live the Moose.

November 7, 2008

CSA? What's that?

As I visited with local farmers, flour millers (Wade's Mill) and vintners (Rockbridge) outside Lexington, Virginia last July, I was surprised that they did not know what a CSA was. You can read about the concept of Community Supported Agriculture here. I have been a member of a csa, The Farm at Miller's Crossing, for 10 years. My recipes are passed out to all of the shareholders, or members, during the 5 month growing season which exists here in the Hudson Valley. That is to help the members use all of the goodies in the weekly share. For example, arugula has a very long growing season, so it appears repeatedly in our harvest. After the first one or two pounds of it, some folks get tired of preparing it the same way, perhaps the only way they know. This is where I come in. I provide four or five recipes with each harvest that are closely matched to the produce in the weekly share. All year long I collect and develop recipes towards this end. I have about 25 that use arugula. Kohlrabi anyone?
I have a dozen ideas on how to get that unusual root on your dinner table. And now they are on the web, as well. Go see here.

We are planning to celebrate the great feast of Thanksgiving in Lexington this year. Yes, I am running away from home for yet another Holiday. I think that's just fine. I am bring some people, my favorite kitchen knives, local organic produce and root veggies from the Farm, and of course, a slew of recipes. That's what a CSA is.

October 28, 2007

Chocolate is like Clay

It just tastes alot better! You can make practically anything using chocolate. Suzanne proves that fact to me time after time. Just look at this masterpiece:


The haunted house is made of dark chocolate and nearly two feet tall. The Chocolate Moose created this for a special Halloween party order. I wonder if anybody ate it?

August 17, 2007

A Fine Chef in her Own Right

Boy was I tongue-tied this afternoon when TV celebrity chef Sara Moulton from Gourmet Magazine stepped up to the candy counter at The Chocolate Moose. I usually can't bear to admit I recognize television personalities to their faces. I get very embarrassed and can't think of a single original thing to say. But Sara appeared so laid back and normal, I had no trouble admitting I was a fan and was a bit nervous. She ended up having some coffee and picking out a small box of truffles and our most popular chocolate dipped dried fruit to take home. I hope she likes them and comes back for more. Sara said she's about to go to a new network and is excited for a change in venue. She also complained about the demise of what she called "educational" cooking shows. I agree with her 100 percent. There are so many zany cooking shows on tv right now, I would have to watch the screen 24 hours a day to see them all. And who can possibly try that many recipes in one lifetime? I'd rather let a pro like Sara Moulton help me perfect the skills I already have with the recipe collection I know and love.

August 4, 2007

whats for to eat?

That's his usual query. It means he's hungry. I'm used to it; our 15th anniversary is coming in a month, and we spent another 5 years together before then. As we spend our last night at the beach on Topsail Island, dinner was not my problem this night. We ate out. Now I have to choose what to throw out from the cupboards and refrigerator tomorrow morning before we begin our 16 hour road trip home. It will be punctuated by a stay in very lovely Fredericksburg, Virginia. But we cant take any perishable prisoners. I do not like throwing out food at all. I would really like to see these vacation communities collaborate with the local churches and food banks to set up food drop off stations on the roadsides as people swarm off these densely inhabited rental property islands each weekend. But how do such good thoughts become realized? I don't know where to start. Instead, I pass on my goodies to the neighbors whom I feel would appreciate them without insult. that's the best contribution I can make at the end of a peaceful well fed vacation.
Here's a sunset beach photo I took yesterday:southview.JPG

February 9, 2007

Valentine Chocolate

It's THAT time of year. I have been over at The Chocolate Moose making valentine sweets for what seems like days now. The perks of the job far outweigh the fact that I now outweigh the shadow of my former self. That's not really funny. But I do get to taste whatever I please, or pleases me. And I have managed to maintain my dress size, for what it's worth, in the year I've been hanging around all that chocolate.

120Pyramids.JPG Here's a photo I took of about 120 Aztec Pyramids on a huge baking sheet. It's a signature treat we make that consists of our dark chocolate blended with cayenne pepper and cinnamon, then poured by hand into pyramid molds. We wrap them individually in foil. They were my first love.Pyramids2.JPGThis is how they look in the shop. We can't keep them in stock.

We just created a new flavor truffle: raspberry. We made them in heart-shaped molds and I wrapped them in pink foil yesterday. They look really nice tumbled into a champagne glass. (I bought a case last year for the shop). Nice marketing idea. They taste really good, too. Well, it's time to make the chocolate...gotta go open the shop.

December 26, 2006

Moose Lodge Photos

Now that the exhibition is over in NYC, I finally have the time to post some of the photos I took. Making the Gingerbread house was lots of fun, but it preceded an incredibly busy time at The Chocolate Moose. I had no idea so many people spent so much money on candy for Christmas. There literally weren't enough hours in the day to keep up with the demand. Pity that.

So here are some more photos:

mooselodge%20006.jpg -->this is the base of the entire project, partially covered in royal icing, plus the pond.

mooselodge%20013.jpg -->the walls are up, the roof looks like it won't cave in...

mooselodge%20021.jpg -->Detail of the roof: I later painted it with food-grade shellac and sprinkled sparkling sugar crystals on it. We were told that got allot of attention at the exhibition.

Continue reading "Moose Lodge Photos" »

December 7, 2006

Chelsea Market

Whew! Just got back from the day trip to Manhattan. We safely delivered the Gingerbread creation to Chlesea market for the fund raising event. Read about it here. After checking out a few of the other entries we went walking about the neighborhood and had time for a delicious Indian lunch plus a bit of obligatory shopping. Very smooth sailing, although my feet do hurt and I am assuredly overstimulated! I have always liked the sights and sounds of the City. I will be going through the photos tomrrow and posting asap. Here's a teaser that I took last night as we finished decorating the Lodge...mooselodge%2030small.jpg

December 2, 2006

Gingerbread, et al

Tomorrow the official gingerbread that will construct the frames of the Moose Lodge for the Chocolate Moose's entry in the NYC gingerbread contest will be baked. Then Suzanne and I are off on a frenzied schedule to put the creation together. It is being delivered to Chelsea Market this Thursday. Yikes!!! (We hope to take some time out to have lunch and visit the FoodTV studios and more that are housed there.

In preparation for the satisfying and (satisfyingly) tedious work involved, I have started making the frame for a graham cracker candy house at my home this evening. The tween and I have traditionally made one every year, and this will certainly get my juices flowing for the much more detailed work I will be doing for Suzanne's masterpiece. We use a cardboard frame at my house, whereas Suzannes' will be wood, and I don't prefer to bother with gingerbread, so graham crackers cut to fit are my perfect solution. This year the Tween is full of ideas, so I hope to be the better mother who lets her run with those. "Good luck with that", I tell myself!!!

Stay tuned for photos...

November 25, 2006

Thanksgiving Menu

Before I put the whole Thanksgiving feast to rest I thought I'd post the menu we enjoyed this year. It was perfectly executed and everything went together quite well, including Mr. H's wine choices. Sadly, do you think we could get our hands on an actual camera to immortalize the groaning table before we tore into it? This house holds no less than five, but the best we (all) could do was capture the setting in our (3) cellphones. There oughta' be a law! I will not embarrass myself by trying to post one of those images (ick!)

Thanksgiving 2006 Menu

If you would like to see any of the available recipes, please ask.

Cave Aged Emmenthaler
Sage Derby Cheese
Red Grapes
Hot Baked Clam Spread & Crackers

Berger's Smokehouse Smoked Turkey & a half City Ham
Classic Mashed Potatoes
Mini Sweet Potato Pies
Corn & Wild Rice Pudding
B's Favorite Braised Bok Choy & Spinach
Ginger Glazed Carrot Coins
Sage, Sausage & Apple Dressing
Turkey Gravy
Cranberry Clementine Relish
Gherkin/Kalamata olive/celery/carrot tray
Boston Lettuce with Apple Mustard Dressing
Fiorello's Dinner Rolls
Keller's Butter Turkey
Emeril's Bourbon-Chocolate Pecan Pie
Organic Pumpkin Pie
Homemade Pumpkin Ice Cream
Chocolate Dipped Orange Peel

Wines: 2004 Eroica Riesling
2005 Edna Valley Pinot Noir

November 5, 2006


I have yet another correction to post. The gingerbread house contest Suzanne is entering is being held at Chelsea Market, not Javits. The registration paperwork came through with ensuing details. The event is officially titled: The 4th Annual Gingerbread Homes for Animals, New York City 2006. Info can be found here. However, it does not appear that their site has been updated with the 2006 event info as of this posting; 2005 is still online. We were very interested in viewing some of the previous gingerbread house entries to get some idea of how the competition might stack up for this year. Suzanne has agreed to let me blog the creation of the Moose's entry, so stay tuned...

November 1, 2006

Gingerbread Moose

One of the things I like to do with my time is cook. Another is eat chocolate. Yet a third would be talking to people. This comes together nicely when I go to The Chocolate Moose in town to "work". It's really quite odd, calling it work. I don't get paid, not in the monetary sense, but I can eat whatever I please, and I do bring home the "factory seconds" for my family to enjoy.

Suzanne, the owner and chief inspiration for all things good and sweet that are found in the long antique confection cases, is entering a gingerbread contest. The edible artwork will be on display during December in the Jacob Javits Convention Center in NYC. (I remember meeting the man as a child.) I am pleased (and very excited) to announce that I will be assisting in the creation of the Moose's entry. I may even drive down next month to deliver it! We could be famous!!!

Back to reality. I have decided that I will chronicle the creation of the creation. See it all here, real soon.

August 25, 2006

Faso Sighting

A short drive to Hudson this evening brought us to the doorstep of yet another new eatery, Ca' Mea. We had heard good things. Too bad, it was mediocre at best. Nice environment, if a bit cold, and servers a'plenty, but unimaginative dishes to read about. Well, I thought, pure Italian food need not be fancy, so I expected to be impressed by what I tasted. Not so. As dissapointing was the wine-by-the-glass offerings, whch were not listed on the menu and about which the server had very little information besides varietal. They were average; and we tried four of the 6 available: 2 white, 2 red. The highlight of the evening was the loud crash from across the room. All eyes zoom in on John Faso, the GOP gubernatorial candidate in this year's election, as he timidly brushes glass from his place-setting and covertly checks his necktie for wine stains. The atrocious thing was that it took any server (remember I said there were plenty? and the room is not large...) about 5 minutes to get to the table to rectify the situation. Most diners (and obviously the House) had no idea who he and his wife were. Hubby says Ca' Mea will be shut down in a month. I say sooner based on the food. The only downside to that is that they have a neat website for naught...

July 25, 2006

fruit that flies has no wings

Every year they return. Every year I have them "done in". And every year I publish the secret recipe so you can take charge of your kitchen fruit, too. I'm talking about fruit flies. I have heard some pretty amazing things about these tiny little buggers, but I don't really care. I just want them gone. So here's what I do, and it works. Fill a small shallow dish (1/2 cup maybe) with about 1 tablespoon red wine or plain vinegar. If using vinegar, I add a big pinch brown sugar. Add one drop dishwashing detergent. Swirl to blend and set it out someplace where you won't forget it. A windowsill near the peaches is good. You should see results within hours, or the next morning. The flies go in for a drink and get stuck because the soap coats their wings, or drowns them, or something like that. We caught hundreds last week at the Moose. I used white vinegar, brown sugar, and oxy type dish detergent. I set out 4 bowls. They preferred one much more than the others, but we had immediate success. Good luck. Now you've found something useful to do with the last bit of wine in your bottle.

July 12, 2006

BBQ anything

I recently stumbled upon a really neat set of recipes for great bbq. It requires a bbq flavored brine or marinade, a dry rub, and a sauce. I make the brine/marinade and I keep it in a big jug in the back of the fridge. Then I dump some on top of whatever meat I want to grill THE NEXT DAY in a zip bag, seal the bag, and stuff it back in the fridge. I turn it every so often. When I use the dry rub, it goes on right before putting the meat on the prepared grill. Throw out the marinade, pat the meat dry, and rub-a-dub-dub. A bbq sauce is used for passing and pouring at the table. I have finally given up on covering meat in bbq sauce and then grilling it to a black crispy terrible crust, all in the name of laziness and ignorance. You choose your favorite bottled (or homemade) bbq sauce at the table.This recipe is great either way!

Make the marinade:

  • 2qts. apple juice
  • 1c Worcestershire
  • 1c orange juice
  • 1c brown sugar
  • 1/2c olive oil
  • 1/2c lemon juice
  • 2tbsp. hot sauce
  • 1/2c apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2c salt
  • Put it all in a pot, bring to a boil, whisk a couple times, let cool & store in a jug in your fridge. That's the marinade. You will pour it on the meat you choose, cover (or seal if using a zip bag) and chill for a few hours or overnight. We had it with chicken legs that were soaked in it for 2 days and the meat almost fell off the bones. Try it with something you like to grill and see what you think.

    Continue reading "BBQ anything" »

    July 10, 2006

    in the news

    I have arrived. So-to-speak. has just published a press release affirming, or announcing my technology foray with them. I have been doing much of the same sort of computer tech work I did for the school: workstation repairs & upgrades, and such, but the new brain drain for me has been the learning of html. (More about that in another entry...) I also sell our web hosting. you know, blogs, websites & such. This multi-tiered arrangement is keeping me quite busy at times, and also gives me room for family or kitchen time, at other points when I need it.

    Really, for me, this last stretch of 20 months has tossed many hurdles in my way (death of my mother/best friend, death of my favourite Aunt, death of my mother-in-law, and, most recently, inconcievable murder of a co-worker from the school where I worked for 5 years, Carolyn Lynch. This one's for you, Kristy. ugh. Here are three links to local news reports. I'm still in shock about this. NIMBY).

    I am all about finding a balance these days, (maybe to keep from just falling right over!!!) and the chocolate feeds one need while the computers feed another. I think I could like this! So I am able to "work for chocolate" at The Chocolate Moose occasionally just for fun while thinking very hard about the computer stuff. I am looking forward to getting that Moose website all shined up and sparkling very soon. All in all, this seems like some sort of workable balance, and it's stacking up as a great summer, especially since the real summer weather has arrived alongside me!

    June 21, 2006

    spring garden photos

    There are some tasty things sprouting in my spring garden this year. Asparagus (this first ever stalk was about as thin as string licorice! I ate it anyway!)

    in_ dandelion's_shadow.JPG

    Norwegian fingerling potatoes, sweet potatoes, rainbow carrots, Jefferson's lima beans are just a few.

    If I ever get finished weeding the veggie bed


    we'll have some fine bell peppers & lettuces, too.

    Notice the tiny brown mushrooms behind the early garlic? They popped up where the rabbit-keeper errantly decided to drop some rabbit droppings when cleaning out the cage in the late fall. I wouldn't want to cook with these..


    Spring sun, what little we had, also brought out some of my favorite flowering plants: The trillium was probably hauled up from the pond by the previous owners of the property, although I can hardly imagine them taking such a risk... I like it best when ithe tips begin to turn shades of pink to lavender.


    and this unusual purple lilly of the valley. We have the white kind all over, but this one lingers at the rear of the veggie bed.


    We planted this variety of smoke treee the first year we lived here. I can't wait to see how it twists and turns, but I'll have to.

    smoke_tree.JPGIn the fall it's leaves show all shades of oranges through deep purple. Beauty.

    These violets fill in under the hosta which edge the front path.

    violet_edging.JPGMy brother used to give his highschool sweetie bouquets of them, a' la Professor Higgins & Liza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. They played the leads in that musical in high school.

    This ajuga is way out back


    but something I borrowed from a neighbor. I like it's tidiness and early color.

    And this hosta, shown here when it was just straightening up,

    giant_hosta_early.JPGare now absoutely enourmous. Anybody want divisions?

    April 30, 2006

    hens sitting or sitting "ducks"?

    Cornish game hens are tasty and simple to prepare, and the end result offers each diner all of their favorite parts; no bickering over who gets the drumsticks, etc. I have a simple Spring menu I put together yesterday for company tonight.

    Pear & blue cheese tarts, cheese assortment

    Herbed & grilled rock cornIsh game hens

    Spring rice pilaf with vidalia onion & peas

    Asparagus with lemon

    Strawberry rhubarb crisp with vanilla ice cream

    I was going to make triple chocolate cookies. But decided those would just be for me, and I don't need two desserts in one evening, even if I did not have dessert last night. (here's the lowdown on that: We went to Lakeville Ct. for an impromptu dinner alone Saturday night, and ate at a charming, comfortable roadside restaruant called The Woodlands. The meal was great, drinks were better, and the manager/barkeep/card shark put a thrill in the finale of the evening. (We got card tricks instead of dessert, plus we really needed to step out before it got dark to take a nice walk and enjoy a cigar.)

    Back to tonight's meal. I have some photos of the hens: they looked odd sitting, draining after I rinsed them, on a kitchen towel, so I took a shot of that DrainHens.JPG , plus pictures of how I split poultry. Make sure the surface is stable, your heavy kife is sharp, and use a sawing motion, and pounding with the heel of your hand, hacking. The rib bones are quite small and will eventually yield. firstSplit.JPG Take care not to cut through the other side. I turn the hens over, spread them until I hear one of the sides of the breastbone crack, then I go ahead and cut through the other side of the spine. CutOutSpine.JPG You don't have to remove the whole thing, but I do; I just like to finish the job. splitHen.JPG I put those bones in a water-filled stockpot with whatever gizzards I had last put in the freezer for stock-making. This will go into the pilaf pot instead of water. The split chickens go in a zip bag (in this case, a few bags, with oil, wine, herbs, s&p already measured, shaken and added). hensMarinate.JPG I put them in the refrig for the afternoon; turn every now and then.

    I'll go out and work in the yard for awhile (I have another 15 corms of asparagus to plant this week), but not before prepping the pilaf: measure out the ingredients, cut the onion, do the mise en place, put the pot I'll cook it in on the stove. Later on, turn the hens, start to layout the plates & table setting. I still have to make the crisp, but I want it to be very warm when it comes to table, so although I can cut the fruit and measure the topping out now, I actually will wait until 30 minutes before we sit for dinner, during appetizers in the livingroom, to put it together, & put it in the oven. If it comes out right about when I get the hens off the grill, I think the vanilla ice cream will melt very nicely on top at dessert!

    April 22, 2006

    insulting the first first lady?

    The master showed me his budding asparagus plot a few days ago. I could hardly hold myself back from snapping off a tender little stalk and eating it right there on the spot. The dogs would have been pretty excited to see me in their daddy's dirt! I hope he didn't notice my drooling...That experience should have prodded me into digging the garden bed at home for my own asparagus. It was scheduled to arrive very soon from Burpee. I have coveted home-grown asparagus for a very long time. This January, I finally decided to order it.

    I bet you can guess what happened next...the box from Burpee came yesterday and I have not turned a single spadeful of dirt! Now I have to go out in the drizzle to see if I can prepare a half-a$$ed place to plant it! What a looser. I have had plenty of time to get this ready, in fact, I should have done it in the fall so the proper fertalizers and ph adjustments could have been made. No, not me, I garden by luck and luck alone.

    So in a few minutes I am going to put on my digging clothes, to ruin my Easter manicure, and see if I can make some sort of home to plant the rootstock. Martha Washington deserves better than this.

    April 17, 2006

    hematoma, hamstring & city ham

    To prepare for Easter, I had three tasks on the top of my list: put in the window screens, order shoes to match my Easter dress, and order the Easter ham. Well, putting in the screens was not so hard. But it did become painful. In our 145 year old little Colonial house, the windows are original drip-glass. There are very ugly aluminum storm windows outside the wooden sashes. To put in the screens, up goes the window, up goes the lower storm sash, in goes the screen, click-click and you're done. Painless, right? Well not always.

    The Tween's bed has been arranged yet again into another impossible-to-make-the-bed configuration. How she manages it in an 8x8 room is beyond me. I have come to the conclusion that the goal is not to rearrange for aesthetics, only to produce the result that she cannot make the bed. Ever. So back tot he window. I had to be ON the bed to open the window and try to put in the screen. Only her window has a broken weight, or metal strap that keeps the window open, or in whatever position you choose. We wedge a broom handle in there to open it all the way, and a book gets employed for partially-open configurations. So I hoist up the window, plop in the handle, and begin to slide the clasps inwards on the very bottom of the lower storm. Suddenly the broomstick fell out and the window slammed down on my left wrist, right between the base of my thumb and my watchband. Yeouch! The hematoma was immediate. I have never seen one so large on such a bony bodypart. The odd thing was that it did not hurt too much. I immediatlry removed my watch and iced the wrist. Husband comes home soon after and whines about the threat of spending all night in the emergency room. I took a pass on that trip, and kept up ice and short breaks while trying to get dinner started. (A wee dram o' single malt helped, too.) So far, it's very colorful, winding it's purple way around my entire wrist, into the fingers and towards my thumb. Can't wait for the green and yellow to show up. But I still don't think it's broken.

    That same day the ham arrived. No surprise that I couldn't lift it into the refrigerator... But it's the best ever, from Burger's Smokehouse in California Missouri. I should go on the payroll as a spokesperson, I love this stuff so much. We were gifted a ham in December, and it was love at first bite. Just like the kind Mom used to serve on New Year's Day, and she went all out for that meal, every year. Ham, creamed potatoes, tomato aspic, asparagus, and cold duck. Did you know that sparkling burgundies (or red wines) are back? I find the new ones much more flavorful and sophisticated than the stuff Mom popped the cork on. But the menu never changed. So I ordered a whole semi-boneless spiral sliced city ham from Burger's. I recieved the two halves, brought one to the relatives for dinner, and have one to cook up tonight. YUM!

    The other important item ordered for Eater was the shoes. Always a new pair. These are Cynthia Rowley, over 200 bucks, but only 30 dollars from Another great website I should get paid for talking about. And shoes of that quality are not your usual "two hour shoes", that put your feet in agony by the end of the first two hours you wear them. I wore these all day, from church right through dessert, 12 hours, and on bare feet. But I think that, even though the heels are only barely 2 inches, I pulled a hamstring. I have not been wearing heels much at all. All those lonely pumps in the closet have forgotten me. Or I've forgotten them. But these new Easter shoes were comfortable enough, not to mention pretty and a perfect match to my outfit, that I kept them on all day. Now I think I'm paying for it. Pulled hamstring berhind the right knee. I walked it out twice today, stretched often, and it feels better, but I tell ya' it's been a rough weekend!

    April 9, 2006

    Joy of Mom

    I was looking all over for a recipe. It was one my Mother called "Veal Cassoulet". It was pretty fancy for her style, or the style she ended up displaying for my meat and potatoes Irish father. I used to know it by heart, we always found it easy, and a bit elegant. I really love veal, but you can't tell that it's the meat being used. You could easily substitute pork or chicken.

    This recipe was not in my 4000+ file on the big computer, it was not in the binder of recipes my mom made for my brother and I when we went off to college, but worst of all, it was not in my head. Since she's gone and I'm an orphan now, I feel strong pressure to know these things. I knew enough to buy what I needed at the grocery store, but still, what a dummy! I was worried I could not make it correctly. I was getting panicky and the 'net was not helping one bit. Of all times to be let down by Google, my stalwart friend! As a last ditch effort, I pulled out the three sections of Joy of Cooking from the cabinet. It was closing in on 5:30 and not just the cats were getting restless. Three sections of the book because it was my mother's soft-cover copy, it's spine is broken, and three sections is what I have to work with. No missing pages, mind you, although both the covers are long gone.

    No real cook could be surprised by what I say next: the recipe was in Joy of Cooking. Right there on page whatever. It was not called Veal Cassoulet, it is named under the section of recipes collected by main ingredient (veal) and cooking method (braising) and then called veal with sour cream sauce. I will write it out roughly here:

    1-2 lbs. veal stew meat (I use shoulder and cut as I please)

    1/2-1 chopped onion

    1/2-1lb. sliced mushrooms

    2 tbsp. flour

    1 c. broth

    salt, pepper & nutmeg to taste

    1 c. sour cream

    Lightly brown veal cubes in butter in large skillet. Remove to casserole dish. Saute onion and mushroom well in liquid leftover in skillet. Sprinkle in flour, scrape or whisk 2-3 min., whisk in stock, and juices collected in bottom of casserole. Simmer til thick about 5 min, remove from heat, add salt, pepper, nutmeg. Stir in sour cream. Add to casserole with meat, stir to combine, cover, bake in 300' oven 1 hour. Stir & serve over egg noodles, or your favorite starch.

    Yum yum yum. I forgot how much I loved this one. Wait til Easter dinner is over, I'll rave to you about the ham we are bringing (to the in-laws) from Burger's Smokehouse. We got one gifted to us for the winter holidays, and if I didn't rave about it then, I'll be sure to make up for it next week! Whoo-weee! Plus I'm making an extra flourless chocolate cake; the one that I do for the The Chocolate Moose candy shop on Main Street (Chatham, NY). I think the guests will be happy, or filled with the JOY of eating!

    March 31, 2006

    24 dirty little feet

    About one hour ago I watched 24 reasonably clean feet walk off my porch. They were attached to the legs of twelve 11 year old girls. They were invited afterschool for 6 &1/2 hours of movies & hanging out. Mostly, they jabbered & ate. Yammered & ate. Squawked & ate. I even recall a little shrieking. There were some movies playing, the ones they democratically voted for (your Grandfather would be quite proud, Miss B) but they weren't really watched. Plenty of apples, cheese, crackers, grapes, chips, & juice covered the table, the tablecloth, the floor, corners of mouths, etc. In fact, when we returned from the outdoor yammering, running & shrieking, an invasion of ants some fifty strong had found spilled juice on the new kitchen floor. The cats were outraged, and pointed out the infidels most indignantly. I do prefer them to mice, but still, they had to go.

    In between movies there was a nice game of kickball, which is where the feet got dirty. Most of the shoes came off, deliberately, not during a over-zealous kick, and then the feet ran round the dusty bases. I announced that those dirty feet would not be coming back into my house. And like the dutiful little students they had been (for the previous 5 years), the feet were willingly prepared to be washed. Some looked for the garden hose. Since it was a 70 degree day, that was not an unreasonable idea. However, since it was first and foremost the last day of March in Upstate New York, no garden hose in it's right mind would be caught dead hanging off a faucet out of doors! So then the feet shuffled indoors. Two new bathtubs were filled with half the feet, and there was plenty of warm soapy water, giggling & splashing. Clean feet passed inspections and were allowed to move ahead. Pineapple and ham pizzas were delivered and consumed (tasty - I stole a slice). Sour, fruity, squishy candies were passed around (two pounds of the stuff, I might add) and popcorn was popped, right on the stove, to the amazement of some. Finally, nine o'clock came round and parents arrived. The not-so-dirty little feet slipped back into their shoes, went down the steps, into cars, (six walked), and found their way home. Ahhh, I think I'll go soak my feet.

    March 5, 2006

    mom's memories

    I am a "recipe tester" for the website, put together by chef & author David Leite. His main purpose here (as I see it) is to let accepted testers preview recipes that are in publication, comment on them, and it all gets posted on his site. He is a good reviewer in his own right. I had to wait a year before an opening became available. If I miss a month (the challenge comes by email monthly) I could loose my spot. There are typically three cookbooks up for review each month and they pick three recipes from each to post on the recipe tester page. I can then login to that page, preview the recipes, tell them which I want to prepare and review, and get it all done by the end of the month on a given date. I go back in and post my review into their review format. It's fun to see them all; they open up in wordpad on my machine, and I cheat badly by posting in uppercase! Aren't I evil??? But sometimes there are 25 reviews for one recipe to scroll through. So sue me.

    On it's own merit, the website is a nice source for a few upscale recipes and for very good food writing, both of which I really enjoy. On the other hand, his picks are international, ethnic and often quite unusual. This is just fantastic for little old me, (well not so little since my love affair with the Chocolate Moose...) but I have to consider whether going to the trouble is worth it if I am the only tester in my tiny world tackling any tasting. (Say that three times fast with a beignet in your mouth...) I am expected to explicitly review the following: the ingredient list, the preparation instructions, and the final result. I also must advise if I made any substitutions, why, and the result of that. My issue is that I know I cannot put most of the offerings on the table as the main course here. This is dissapointing to me, as I thought our clan had experienced palates, especially the tween. But this has led me to the conclusion that the adventurousness of the eater is specifically relative to the locale of the dining experience. To put it plainly: they want meatloaf and canned peas in upstate NY (population 1950) and will order and eat almost anything when wandering the four star resturants of this continent, as we are prone to do. I think it's reverse discrimination. I desire challenging, stimulating, different foods right here at home, and do not want to wait for a road trip to do so! Bonus: I am prepared and equipped to make it so. (Jean Luc Picard, Star Trek The Next Generation. We met Patrick Stewart in an elevator at our hotel in Boston in 2001, he was wearing a tux and looked extremely dashing, although quite short. Did I tell you I am 5'10"? He's not even close.)

    Tonight's dessert is from the website's testing menu. It is something I was very surprised to see because it is, word for word, the same recipe as one my mother regularly served with fanfare. It is Pineapple Upside Down Cake. It is not difficult at all, but the surprise for me was that this version came from a recipe from Harlem, NY. I really believe in "6 degrees of separation" and this is just one more example. We are all connected. I'll let you know what the family thinks. I know I'll love it, missing my Mom for 19 months right now.

    I am going to post a photo because it looks as perfect as I ever remember it to be.


    March 1, 2006

    P B & free

    Old-fashioned, 25 cent snap traps have been laid. I baited them with peanutbutter last night. HE was told to set them, if you please, right there on the shelves. WE cringed until the doors closed with neither incident nor accident. Expecting the worst, what did I find this morning? Tiny tongue marks in the leftover peanutbutter and lots of mouse poop. I am glad the mice like peanutbutter. I hope they come back to lick the rest of it up. Maybe then the traps will work. sigh.

    February 28, 2006

    escape from NY?

    The mouse got stuck, then unstuck. He got away.

    The racket I heard coming from the kitchen was indeed the mouse. And he was indeed stuck to the glue trap. The plastic base was knocking into the walls of the cabinet while the mouse was scrambling about, attached to the trap by a rear foot. This definately got the attention of Tiggr, who was up on the counter, something he hardly ever does unless he needs to shred the paper towels. Tiggr's paws were leaning against the door, possibly to keep someone from letting the mouse out again. The man of the house was summoned to dispose of the creature. Guess what? He freed it, albeit unintentionally, from the glue, and it escaped near death yet again. I bet that comes as no surprise.

    Now I have to decide if I am going to "bring it up a notch", as Emeril says. It's Fat Tuesday, what would Emeril do? Would he cook up a storm for cajun feasting and share it with the hapless critter? Or might he get down to business, mano a mouso? I've gotta work up a plan C.

    February 27, 2006

    mouse hunt

    The mouse, or members of it's immediate family, has been keeping me very busy. Rather than sitting at my workstation typing and blogging, I have been drawn to the cupboards. I open them in search of mouse sign. I have tried a new approach. I bought the sticky traps. I have put out five, in two areas, three shelves, with a dab of peanut butter on them. I know some of the mice like the peanut butter I have put out to keep them fat since they finished off the Crisco. Oh oh oh..., I hear a scrambling noise from the kitchen. Gotta go!

    February 24, 2006

    raves & saves

    The flourless chocolate cake got rave reviews, and I have been requested to make it every other Thursday to be offered to the public, by the slice, in our local chocolate shop The Chocolate Moose. You can see all the other tasty things they offer at I am bringing them 8 individual double lemon cheesecakes with hazelnut crusts today. They will end up enrobed in hazelnut ganache & packaged to go. Yum! Here's a photo of one (they are 4" around), but it's kinda' naked.doublelemonchscke.JPG

    Pretty soon it will be time for them to make chocolate rabbits for Easter. Easter is when our bunnies were born. They had a fluffy parent and a smooth one. The litter had 2 boys and 2 girls. We ended up with 2 boys, which was ok for about 4 months. But that was because neither the dumb bunnies nor the dumber owners knew for sure which sex they were. By the end of July the dominant male, "Fluffy" was trying to remove shall I say it...boys of his brother, "Smoothy". He was very effective. Of course, Smoothy helped Fluffy out by humping Fluffy ON THE WRONG END! So the "boys" were right within striking range. I witnessed this once after we first noticed blood and a missing patch of skin on Smoothy's left testicle. They had just descended within that week. It all happened so fast. A few days later Fluffy bit the other one. Just about completely severed the blood supply in one bite. Very impressive. I had read up on this, so I was not really surprised. But the tween, who had forgotten her initial squeamishness while waiting to see if they really were both boys, and who had become adept at "checking", got a serious nature lesson. So we whisked them off to the vet, who did a proper job of removing what needed to be removed and saved the day.

    Lest you think the bunnies are vicious, let me assure you, they are simply beautiful dumb bunnies now, and all the tar has been snipped right out of them. Here's another photo, staged by Miss B while the bunnies were still young.lilac rabbits.jpg

    February 17, 2006

    when there's a storm, eat cake

    First lightening & thunder just struck. The kitten is terrified. The older cats don't care, they've seen this all before. It is quite odd having this type of storm, considering it's Feb.17th in Upstate NY. At 11am the skies grew black. Half an hour ago husband called from Selkirk, 35 minutes southwest, to say they had rolling thunder and high winds. It has arrived, but now the speakers on the computer are broadcasting fuzzy static. There's no streaming radio going on, no audio cd in the drive. But it's hissing at me anyway. Maybe it's got something to do with the mouse...

    When I went to the cupboard, yes THE cupboard, to get out the pound of chocolate I needed for a flourless chocolate cake recipe, a shower of little white paper bits came down. The exact size a mouse mouth makes when chewing through a bag to get at it's contents. The pasta flour was the victim, but the little devil did not get through to the plastic bag inside the paper. Lucky me. I think he's longing for the Crisco. There is no evidence that Tiggr has found him (or his accomplices) in the basement, I ask him all the time and he just meows at me. I wish I could speak his cat dialect a bit better. I am counting on the trap to do it's job.

    Here's the recipe for the flourless chocolate cake. I have three, but this is by far the easiest. And it's a giant chocolate fix, especially for those who like bitter. Try it still warm. Texture is hard to describe. I used eggs from my neighbor's yard (con permiso, of course).

    Flourless Chocolate Cake serves 10

    16 oz best quality semisweet chocolate

    10 tbsp unsalted butter

    5 xlg eggs

    Set oven 375°. Line bottom 8-10" springform pan w parchment. Grease inside. Chop choc. Cut up butter. Put both in double boiler, melt, stir lots, til smooth. Remove from heat. Beat eggs & a pinch salt in mixer til tripled in volume, 8-10min. Gently fold choc into egg til complete incorporated. Pour in pan. Bake 20min. Center will be little soft. Remove from oven. Let cool 30+min before cutting. Center may sink a bit as cools. Can refrig up to 2 days (sit at room temp 1hr b4 serving).

    February 15, 2006

    cold in the head, mice in the shortening

    It's been hard to cook much due to a headcold. I can still put the food together to feed the hungry people around here, but it's not the same when you can't or don't want to eat it yourself. I guess I really do cook for myself, I just don't prefer to go to the trouble unless there are other people to enjoy the meal with me. I used to think I mostly liked to cook for others. Must be about pleasing the audience, in addition to "me, me, me...". (Agent Smith in Matrix Reloaded.)

    I served bacon-wrapped filet mignon Monday night. Pan seared, including the edges, and finished in the oven, topped with a round of lemon-herb butter. Nobody liked it. (Well, I did; there's me again....) When I was young, my mother served it that way every time, and we ate it about once a month. It was considered too lean a cut of meat, so it needed the extra fat from the bacon AND the butter. Although mom didn't flavor her buutter, she always put pats of butter on top of cooked red meat, particularly steak. Funny how that's too rich for our tastes now. (well, not for me.)

    Last night was pork chops with a well-researched crunchy coating. The trick was using melba toast. I found a recipe where they had tried different things (a' la Shake & Bake) to get a nice crispy coating. Crush melba toasts with some other seasonings, but first use mayonnaise to get it to adhere to the chops. Slather on a small bit of the mayo, then press on the topping, then cook in a hot oven. Put the chops on a raised metal rack over a roasting pan. Then the heat gets all around, because they don't sit in the fat as it renders, getting the bottom soggy. They turned out great, & I can imagine using different seasonings to flavor the crumbs, or buying the different flavored melba rounds. I saw about 6 different varieties on the shelf.

    We are now sharing our pantry staples with some mice. I found their leavings yesterday, and had to throw out all of my favorite, hard-to-find staples. Like brown, and pink lentils. They are hard to get! Dried beans form last years' garden had to go. The most popular item over in the baking cupboard was sticks of Crisco. You could see all the little teeth marks. (I don't like that stuff, but it's neccessary for proper pie crust.) I guess that feast kept them out ot the cocoa, block chocolate (that would have meant immediate war...) and pasta flour. Going to get traps today. That oughta get little Hobo worked up. The other cats have been through this many times. Usually they are our early mouse warning system. When one of them begins sitting in front of a cabinet or corner, for hours at a time, just staring, it's due to mouse scent. But since this generation of mice are in the uppermost cupboards in the new kitchen, the old fatcats can't get a whiff. I am surprised the cats have not heard the scatching and scurrying. Maybe they are a new breed of stealth mice. Too bad, they'll soon be dead mice. Natural mouse genetic engineering hits a dead end at my house.

    February 11, 2006

    snowed out?

    For Valentine's celebrating, we always go out to a special restaurant. Many times it's someplace new. This is the case tonight. With the snowstorm approaching, we are heading out into it's path. To Litchfield County, Ct. They say it's snobby, they say it's very good. They say you can see & be seen. While that part's at the bottom of my list, I'm also not too keen on the snobby part. Very good food is what has my interst. Plus, if we get snowed in, (or out-of-town, if you will) we will have to find someplace to spend the night. Considering the location, that might be as much fun as the meal itself!

    The West Street Grill is the destination. As of right now, says 4-8 inches of snow. Radar shows the first band of precip moving more east than northeast, over Philly at the moment. Who knows what we'll get, but I expect a very good meal and some romantic surprises as well. What's more romantic than being snowed in on Valentie's weekend after a special dinner with your sweetie?

    February 8, 2006


    If I'm gonna continue to eat like I do, especially the hand made chocolates that I'm helping a friend make to fill the cases in her shop, I better get back in the game. Running is a wonderful physical activity. But it hurts. At least for the first few weeks when you have not done it in a few years. I remember the pain, but it seems worse on an older body. I go out in the dusk hours so nobody can see me. Really. I get dinner all set (remember mise en place?) and then hit the pavement. My legs feel absolutely fabulous, they want to go and go and go. It's my heart that slows me down, and once it gets back into a comfortable rhythym, the burning lungs really linger. Ouch. Pray for me. I want to stick it out.

    February 6, 2006

    chile in a bowl?

    We went to a Chili Bowl party yesterday. I was not actually invited, the tween was, and she dragged me along because, let's face it, I have a car and can drive it. During the process of confirming event details, I got myself invited. Or perhaps I was challenged to attend.

    You see, this family has a party every SuperBowl, and before the game they have a chili contest. What began as a casual mention of that fact by the host turned into a challenge for me. So I added some ingredients to the already prepared shopping list for Saturday (we had some delicacies of our own to humor us through the "big" game) and got down to business.

    My recipe had no peppers (the sweet kind), mostly beef (sirloin tip), water, tomatoes, onion, garlic, chipotles in adobo, & freshly ground ancho powder. That kind of heat comes on fast, but quits early. So if you like the heat on your tongue, but nowhere else, ancho chile is perfect. Oh, I can't forget the secret ingredient...chocolate! Balances out the smoked chipotle chile really well.

    Little did I know that of the 12 chilis brought to the bash, only one other had any heat to speak of. Unfortunatley for the other tasters/judges, my offering, aplty named Ancho Avalanche, was placed first in the layout of crockpots & stockpots. Most people needed some time, raw veggies, and cold beer to recover. The teenaged boys appeared to be it's biggest fans. After watching them play some punishing touch football outside for a while, I can see why.

    Sometime today I will find out who got the most votes. We had to leave the party to go home to watch the game, and two new chili entries had just arrived, so the voting likely continued on through the first quarter of the football game. I guess the original chili bowl plans included tasting from 4 pm on, with the votes being tallied and announced at halftime. It was very clear to me, however, that my chili got the most comments - due to the heat -, but that does not mean I'll get to bring home the trophy. It was very large and I don't know where I would have put it. I suspect one of the many sweet and simple varieties took the prize. But it was alot of fun tasting a dozen different cooks' renderings of that good ol' winter standard.

    January 31, 2006

    really tasty medallions

    The pork medallions were so very tasty. And yes, the grill came out to play willingly. (Heck, it was 60 degrees yesterday, but right now it's snowing.)

    After slicing the pork tenderloin, my favorite cut, about 3/4" thick, I pounded them to about 1/4" thickness. They got thown in to a bowl that was 1/4 filled with olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, rosemary, smashed garlic. Then they sat while I prepped the veggies, started the rice, waited for the grill to heat up. The pork cooked up pretty fast, and they made delicious tidbitds for a late morning snack the next day.

    The furnace man came last week and did his cleaning thing. In the mail yesterday was a suspicious-looking letter form the company. Thankfully, the amount due column showed a big fat ZERO. But I was anxuios for a moment. He said we were running at 81%. I guess that's good for a 10 year old system. Not that it's been on very much this year. We have hardly been able to enjoy the new woodstove. If it's over 25 degrees outside, the heat from the stove blasts us out of the rooms. But colder than that, it's a joy to have, and extremely efficient. The kitties like it too. I'm still waiting for the smell of singed whiskers from Hobo. I'm not sure she's all that bright when her curiosity takes over...

    Here's a photo of her getting into the printer. She comes running whenever she hears it going. It really fascinates does it DO that.JPG

    January 28, 2006

    really is the best

    The crockpot mac 'n cheese recipe really is the best. I used a 4cheese blend (Mexican style) which was onhand for Taco night. I think it's much more forgiving in terms of which cheeses you can use as compared to the classic method. And there's no worry about that grainy-floury texture you sometimes get if the white sauce won't absorb all the milkfat from the cheeses, or you mess up the butter-to-flour ratio, or turn your head away for a moment and that's the moment the roux gets too dark. This is much less scientific. Sometimes my brain needs a night off, although I still want to cook every day. Leftovers were devoured at lunchtime today.

    Going for a Pierre Franey Pork Medallion recipe at dinner, I hope the weather lets me get the grill out. They should cook up in just a few minutes. Now I must find something to do with broccoli, and all the leftover sides from the tacos: chopped tomato, black olive, shredded romaine, diced red pepper, sliced scallion. I am searching the 4000+ handcreated recipe database I have. I'll start with broccoli, under veggie sides. There's about 30 I have saved there so far. None of those include the cold salads, like marinated veggie plates, or green salads either. So I'll do a search in that veggie sides folder using some of the keywords, looking in the text files, not the filename, and using my ingredient list. If there's any good ideas out there, bring em on!

    January 26, 2006

    mac 'n cheeze the ez way

    Ooooh, this is a keeper! I have the easiest way to make macaroni & cheese, it's a crockpot cheat! Don't get me wrong, I can do the delicate white sauce, hand-shredded cheddar (+ 2 other types: my Mother always said to use 3 cheeses) thing with the best of them. But this result is so classic, I am getting excited just thinking about it.

    Put a couple cups cooked pasta in the pot, add a beaten egg, 2c cheddar, 1 can evaporated milk, s&p, a bit of butter. Stir it up, put 1 more c cheese on top, cover, cook 3+ hours on lo. That's it!

    We're having it tonight, & I'm gonna try doubling the recipe.That's because I plan to eat most of it myself. Can you say "comfort food?" I sure can!

    January 25, 2006

    the chicken gets crocked

    Hoping to find a good recipe to use the underused crockpot my father gave me when I was pregnant, I stumbled upon a chicken dish. I looked too simple. Drop some chicken breasts, dusted with s&p, in the bottom. Add 1 cup "wild rice mix" (this was ambiguous to me), about 2 cups water mixed with the juice of a lemon, and 8 smashed cloves of garlic. Set to low for 8 hours.

    I did all this, and as it got going, the house filled with quite a garlicy fragarance. I thought it a bit scary. I gave it a taste about 6 hours in. Yes, very garlicky, but the chicken was meltingly tender. The rice, on the other hand, was mush. Not to worry! I used the chicken in two other recipes calling for cooked chicken breasts and found it to be the best garlic-infused poached chicken I have ever had. Maybe I should start calling myself the accidental cook?

    January 22, 2006

    tasty treats

    Went to one of Hudson's new places last night: Swoon Kitchen Bar. Best part? I went away satisfied, yet wanting more. Not too full. That's nice. The service was fine, if stiff, saw three families from town, and prices are as moderate as they say. It was a nice meal. I was told by my dining mate that the salmon from The Berry Farm prepared at home (which is usually weekly) is much better than what was on the plate last night, and that's too bad. My pappardelle with shiitake & goat cheese was nice. More on that later. I had a wonderful French "chablis" that I am trying to track down to have at home. It was the special. We really got a kick out of the wine shop directly across the steet. Will have to go there again. Picked up something red from Portugal. yum.

    January 20, 2006


    A friend stopped by to chat about some website-related things going on where she works. Got alot of tips while she was here for things she thinks her email program can do (it can) and how to do it right (she can). She even took notes. But when she was looking at the new kitchen, she commented that she has the same oven. I told her how much I dislke that fact that it never looks clean, and that the cleanser they tell you to use is no better than warn soapy water and lots of elbow grease. She says "razorblades." "Really?" I replied. Who knew? Is it in the usermanual? look here to see.

    Personally, I feel that if I have to get out a lethal weapon to clean up my stovetop every time I use it (which is daily) I have got a problem. Does anybody have a better idea? I know they are selling a ton of these glass cooktops. They cook really well, but look lousy afterward. Help.

    January 19, 2006

    Speaking of salmon...

    Entry 4
    Salmon bought for last night being prepared & served tonight (nobody was here to eat it but me, I don’t cook for me).
    Roast fillet (lemon juice, s&p only) with a stir fry (no big saucing efforts go with it, I am curious to see how this comes together). Oh yes, winter is back, what were we thinking? And rain, and wind, and...hail?
    Salmon was very tender, Berry Farm organic has not let us down yet, but I found the stir fry to be strong. I reheated the last couple nights’ veggies (fresh green beans, froz pea/carrot mix) for the crowd, fearing they would balk at the stir fry. Everybody ate the green salad this time with fresh balsamic herb vinaigrette. Go figure. I put out a fresh green salad 4x week & it sits untouched 3 of those nights.
    I think the problem with the stir fry was my adding to the written recipe with ½ a sliced watermelon radish that’s been around for a while. It lent a funky flavor, albeit GORGEOUS color, to the whole. I’m beginning to prefer the salmon roasted in the oven, when I can’t get through the snow to the grill, rather than cooked in the skillet. And that’s because the grease on the cooktop plus the fumes that linger all through the house are not that appealing the next morning. Don't get me wrong, I adore all kinds of fish & seafood. But even with the new exhaust fan over the new cooktop, there’s still an odor. And I am really aggravated by the difficulty getting the tempered glass cooktop clean and keeping it that way. I love how it cooks, hate how it looks.

    Ps. guy coming to “service the furnace” today. Yeah, right.

    Next: glass cleaner & razorblades?

    January 17, 2006

    The cream puff pot pie experience

    Entry 3:
    Let’s hear about the pot pie.
    The final results…yummy

    The actual recipe is a simple concept. Use leftover diced turkey, mix it up with some sautéed veggies, make a cream sauce, and put it in the middle of a pastry-lined pie plate. But what differed here was that the pastry was not your usual pate brisee or choux or even the stuff you get in the freezer or refrigerated section of the grocery store. It is a cream puff pastry. And there is no top.
    I had not tried this in years, but, as I said before, my Mother made it often for company & I devoured it, whether it had custard or crab inside, sweet or savory. So it was a little challenge, or test, for me to see if I could do it. You make it while the filling sits waiting, so you could actually make the filling at any time and bring it out when you are ready to put the final product together. I also see that you could use anything, really, in place of the turkey, other meats, seafood (shrimp or LOBSTER!), or even pump up the veggies and omit meat altogether.
    Water & butter, basically, are melted in a heavy saucepan. Then you add flour, stir tons, off the heat, with a wooden spoon, then add eggs, 1 at a time, stirring madly in between, and by the time your arm aches alot, it's done. You press it into the piepan, but push it out to the sides, making a blank space in the middle. This is where your warm filling goes. Shove it in the oven, and watch the puffing! You have to make slits in the sides at the end of baking for the steam to escape, keep it in the oven a bit longer, or it will fall at the table.
    I found it yummy, child was entertained by its appearance, and "I don't like puffy egg things" guy was slicing off bits and eating them when I wasn’t looking. So it was a hit and I'll make it again. I will try all veggie in the spring - fresh peas, spring onion & baby carrots- and most definitely something with seafood. Salmon perhaps if not shellfish.
    BTW the kitten was all over my feet & crying for this when I was at the counter making the cream sauce. I suppose she smelled the turkey, the other fat cats have taught her all about poultry. I'll try to post my first photo of her "reviewing" a recipe on the computer.

    Next: speaking of salmon...

    this recipe smells goodtiny.JPG

    January 16, 2006

    Mise En Place

    Here’s my primer on mise en place:
    Early in the day I get out my ingredients while consulting the recipe (let's say I'm making a dinner). If it's something that needs to remain chilled, I check to be sure it's on hand, fresh, in the correct quantities, move it to the front of the refrigerator, separate out 2 eggs from the rest, etc. Next, I take out the pots, pans, measuring devices I’ll need, sort of stack them by the stove, then I go about my business for the next few hours. Knowing that some advance work has been done makes the act of actually COOKING the meal (and the rest of day) more pleasurable.
    Let's take this concept further: before lunch chop, mince and measure things like: onion, garlic, flour, s&p, herbs, spices, and set them out in little dishes near your food prep area. You might be able to combine the garlic & onion in the same small bowl because the recipe calls for them to added to the skillet at the same time. (I have been to garage sales for sets of 1/2 cup glass ramekins; 2 cup steel bowls - the kind used by a bartender for drink garnishes. I now have stacks of them that are for mise en place.)
    The goal is to have your ingredients on hand right where you need them, already measured out. This method requires less time in the kitchen when you are actually cooking the meal. If you are entertaining, or it's a really big or complicated dinner, you'll have more time for your guests during the "coctail hour", and you have taken huge steps at organizing your overall meal prep process.
    You might recognize this as what you see on TV cooking shows. Even though the famous chefs have somebody to do all of their prep work for them, pretend you are the sous chef doing your own morning kitchen work. When you return to the kitchen in your fresh apron in the evening, you are now the Chef de Cuisine and everything is in it’s place, ready for you to work your magic!
    Whether it's a stir fry prepared in a matter of minutes (you really do need those ingredients on hand and ready to throw in the wok) or a baking project, mise in place is the way to go.
    Translation: everything in it’s place. Lots of French words have been gobbled up into the common English language, and the food/cooking arena is no exception.

    next: so what about that pot pie?