Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Perfect Sandwich

If I can be honest, can I just say that the whole time I'm trying to run around my neighborhood - all I can think about is what I'll eat when I get home.  I probably shouldn't run around lunchtime. I think my stomach was growling the entire time I was huffing and puffing (a whopping 30 minutes). 

Although, if the rest of my creations are indicative of yesterday - I can't lose.

This is what I concocted in my mind.

And the reality was even better than my imagination.

Here is what I did

I crisped bacon and chopped onions in an iron skillet.  I slathered coarse-grain dijon mustard on half of the sandwich.  

On the other half of the sandwich I layered Boars Head turkey, swiss cheese, and thinly sliced honeycrisp apples.  After I wiped the bacon grease from the skillet, I browned the sandwich on both sides.

The combination, my friends, was ridiculous.  The sweet crunch of the apples, the salty bite of the bacon, and the homey taste of good turkey and melted cheese was divine.  If I had to describe it in one phrase: "fall flavors perfected between two pieces of bread". 

You need to eat this sandwich. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Things I Found in my Attic

1.  A ridiculous amount of boxes.  Empty.  Shoe boxes. A sleeping bag box. A nativity scene box.  At least 30 different boxes.  

2.  nail clippers

3.  quilting supplies - did I tell you, Shay, that I went through a brief quilting phase?

4.  12 Hess trucks.  In the box.

5.  a Jack LaLanne juicer

6.  Thank goodness, I found nothing living up there.  Also, thankfully, there was a complete absence of animal carcasses.  I would have died.  And made Rob finish the job. 

7.  about thirteen broken Christmas ornaments.  Littering the steps. 

8.  95 plastic cups.  (I counted by estimation)

9.  lots and lots of plastic plates, utensils, and bowls

10.  my bread knife

11.  A thermos.  Two lunch coolers.  A radio lunch box.

12.  An old pair of Josh's jeans.  There were 15 sizes too small.  This is no exaggeration - they were a 3T. 

13.  My personal favorite - a mummified goose-neck pumpkin.  At first I thought it was a huge stick of bologna, until further inspection confirmed that it was a pumpkin.  Or used to be. 

14.  My mom thought I'd feel better that this job was finished.  I just feel sweaty. 

Oktoberfest Menu

We're hosting an Oktoberfest party this weekend.  You know, to celebrate Oktober. And other stuff.

I'd like to have German-style foods, but I'm kind of coming up with limited ideas.  I did take a peek at some other menus online, but the ingredients all consist of: potatoes, pork, sausage, and sauerkraut.  And maybe a pretzel or two thrown in.  I like tan food as much as the next guy, but I need some color. 

I'll tell you what I think I'd like to make, but I'd love some additional ideas.  Maybe you've been to an Oktoberfest celebration.  If so, would you tell me what you enjoyed? 

cheesy pierogies
brats with sauerkraut
cole slaw with apples and blue cheese
roasted root vegetables
porchetta sandwiches
apple pie
German chocolate cupcakes -or- sachertorte

I'm expecting an electrician to update our electrical service tomorrow - and he has to be in our attic.  I have this bad habit of throwing things onto the attic steps and then slamming the door shut.  I don't even really know what I'll find today. Any and all suggestions for our party would be appreciated!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Our Friday Night Adventure.

My mom.  She likes clean things. 

When my sister and I floated the idea of using "air bnb" she was concerned.  The basic concept behind air bnb is that homeowners in cities and around the world sublet their homes for a night, a weekend, a week, or a month. 

My sister lives in downtown Philadelphia.  Because her husband was having a houseguest, we decided to find somewhere else to stay.  It was a little difficult to find a hotel, so we decided to try air bnb.  There was one available apartment.  It was a cute studio.  We emailed the owner and she and my sister exchanged keys on Friday afternoon. 

Fast forward to Friday night at 10:30pm.  My brother-in-law took us to the neighborhood where we'd be staying.  My sister directed us and when we'd found #732 we removed our suitcases from the car and went to the front door.  Of 732.  The house was gorgeous.  A completely renovated three story townhouse.  We were secretly patting ourselves on the back. 

Then the key didn't work.  It would go into the lock and then not turn.  So we called the owner.  She said, "sometimes you have to pull it out, turn it to the left and then try again".  Okay. 

Five minutes later - no luck. 

The worst part was that in the middle of our ordeal, a very inebriated neighbor woman came over to see exactly what we were doing.  Three decently dressed women, suitcases in tow, trying to jam our way into a house. 

my extremely patient brother-in-law

my mom, the criminal in training

So we called the owner back.  Again.  She told us she'd call her neighbor to see if she could buzz us in.  Perfect.  My sister buzzes the call button.  Lights immediately come on in the third floor.  A very sleepy fifty-something woman comes on the line.  My sister explains that we were friends of her first-floor neighbor and can she buzz us in.  The woman very firmly states that no one lives on the first floor.  oh, crap. 

My sister looks at her receipt.  It was #744.  So, we take the walk of shame (waving goodbye to the inebriated neighborhood watchdog) a half of a block further.  All I'll say is that we immediately wanted to return to #732. 

I took a few pictures, but nothing that really captured how we were feeling. 

just take a look at my mom's face - priceless

We lasted about five minutes.  One of us said, "why are we staying here"?  We called a cab and took our ride of shame.  We showed up, back in my sister's apartment.  The houseguest wasn't arriving till the next day.  Thank the Lord. 

I think we'll stick with hotels from now on.  And try to get the room number right. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Girls Weekend in NYC (part one)

Get ready for a lot of pictures!  We had such a fun time together, my mom, sister and I.  We thoroughly enjoyed the Greenwich Village walking food tour.  If you ever have the chance to tour the city and take the food tour - do it!  The price is $47/per person and includes eight tastings and a three-hour tour of the neighborhood.

Later in the week I'll show you the other places we visited.  If you're lucky, I might even tell you about how we tried to break into the wrong apartment on Friday night.

for now.....

Settle in and enjoy the sights of New York City.  Join us on the Greenwich Village Walking food tour. 

pizza at Joey's pizza - my favorite food all day

orange blossom honey on Amy's bread at "o&co"

olive oil display at "o&co"

olive oil on Amy's baugette at "o&co"

Palma - their private kitchen and dining space

cauliflower, currants, and pine nuts
risotto ball

kitchen at Centro vinoteca

stuffed mushroom, fresh artichoke, bacon-wrapped date

peach bellini
oatmeal chocolate chip cookie at Milk and Cookies

olive, cheeses, salami

Murrays cheese shop

ricotta cheesecake at Scali caffe

Stay tuned for korean bbq, a french bistro, a walking path, and a little "b & e".  (that's breaking and entering for those of you who may not be familiar with such terms!). 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What We're Doing this Weekend......

My mom, sister, and I are traveling to New York City!  We're leaving for the city on Saturday morning and we'll be coming home on Sunday morning. 

My sister bought tickets for us to enjoy the Greenwich Village Food Tasting [Walking] Tour. 

We'll be walking to various establishments (a cheese store, pizza shop, Mediterranean restaurant, and bakery) and sampling some of their fares.  Some of these local companies have been in business for more than 100 years. 

My plan is to take lots of pictures and tell you all about it!

My newshound/nervous nellie husband has been reading articles about crime in New York City to me for about a month now.  Last week he recounted an article he'd read about a woman being bitten on the subway by a "raccoon-sized rat".  Um, okay.  It is nice to know he's concerned.  I guess.  :)

We'll be staying here. 

Our plans include lots of walking, even more eating, and enjoying a girls weekend getaway!  See you Monday.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sweet Corn

My mom and I just completed our annual corn project.  Each year we buy dozens of sweet corn.  We husk it, boil it for two minutes and then plunge the ears into ice water.  Once the corn has cooled, we cut it off the cob, measure it into freezer bags and store it in our freezers.  We enjoy sweet corn all year round.  This year we froze 12 dozen ears of corn.  I'm hoping it gets us through the winter! 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Peach Butter

I saw this recipe for peach butter on the smitten kitchen website last week.  I also vowed to make slow-cooked black beans, and Ina's tomato and goat cheese tarts.  The black beans I will not mention because they were disappointing at best. The tarts - well, we just talked about that, remember?

This is my life - I read a recipe and then obsess over it.  I plan it in my head, dream about how it will taste, and count down the minutes until I can create.  Everyone has their thing - this is mine. 

Anyway - back to the peach butter.  I've never even tasted peach butter.  But when I saw an english muffin slathered with it, I could think of nothing else. 

Even though the recipe promised a quick cooking time, I found that I needed to cook mine way longer.  I doubled the recipe and probably tripled the cooking time.  I'll give you the smitten kitchen recipe and you can see what you think.  I utilized her measurements and tools to determine when the peach butter has reached the consistency it should have. 

We really love it.  We've enjoyed it on english muffins, peanut butter sandwiches (makes the perfect packed school lunch), and on plain yogurt. 

This is the time of year when you can buy seconds of peaches for a great price.  I think I pay $3.95 for a 1/2 peck.  This is neither a time-consuming task nor complicated.  Make some today and surprise your family with an english muffin slathered with peach butter for breakfast tomorrow!

Peach Butter (courtesy of smitten kitchen)

Yield: 4 cups
4 pounds (1.8 kilograms) peaches
1 cup (237 ml) water
2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
Juice of one lemon
Without a food mill: Cut a small “x” in the bottom of each peach. Dip each into a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds, and then into a bowl of cold water for a minute. The peels should slide right off. [If you have a food mill, skip the peeling step and I'll tell you where to use it in a moment.]
Halve your peaches and remove the pits, then cut each half into quarters (i.e. 8 chunks from each peach). Place peach chunks and water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Simmer until peaches are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure they cook evenly. If you have a food mill, run them through it to puree them and remove the skins. If you don’t have a food mill — i.e. you already peeled your peaches — you can puree in a food processor, blender or with an immersion blender. I like my peach butter very smooth, but feel free to leave any amount of texture you prefer.
Return the peaches to the large pot, add the sugar and lemon juice and bring the mixture to a good strong simmer/gentle boil, cooking them at this level for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally in the beginning and more often near the end, as it thickens up and the fruit masses risk scorching on the bottom of the pot.
There are several methods to test for doneness: You can drizzle a ribbon of sauce across the surface; when that ribbon holds its shape before dissolve into the pot, it is done. Some people use cold or frozen plates; dollop a spoonful in the middle of one and if no water forms a ring around it in a couple minutes, it is done. Others use a spoon; if the butter remains rounded on a spoon for two minutes, it is done. You can also check the pot itself; the butter is usually done when a wooden spoon leaves a clear train when scraped across the bottom.
Let peach butter cool, keep it in an airtight container in the fridge. It should be good for at least two weeks.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Can I be president.....

of the Ina Garten fan club? 

Every recipe I've ever made from her tv show or from her cookbooks have been spot on.  They have all been delicious.  I love the simplicity - great flavors, few ingredients, and quality product. 

Last night we had her tomato tarts.  I didn't feel like going to the grocery store for chevre, so I used fresh mozzarella. 

Tomato and Goat Cheese Tarts (recipe courtesy of Ina Garten)
1 package puff pastry, defrosted
4 cups thinly sliced sweet onions (2 large onions)
3 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slices
olive oil
kosher salt and ground black pepper
3 T dry white wine
2 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
4 T grated parmesan
4 ounces chevre
1 large tomato, cut into 4 lateral slices
3 T julienned basil leaves
2 ounces shaved parmesan (I used the shredded from before)

1.  Using a small bowl for an outline - cut circles in puff pastry with a sharp knife.  Place circles on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Score a 1/4 inch wide border around each pastry circle.  Prick the pastry inside the score lines with the tines of a fork.  Sprinkle a tablespoon of grated parmesan on each round, staying inside the border.  Put the cookie sheet in the refrigerator until ready to use.
2.  Heat three tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic.  Saute for 15-20 minutes, until the onions are limp and there is almost no moisture.  Add salt, pepper, thyme and white wine.  Cook for another ten minutes until the onions are lightly browned. 
3.  Place one-quarter of the onion mixture on each circle, staying within the scored edge.  Crumble one ounce of the goat cheese on top of the onions.  Place a slice of tomato in the center of each tart.  Brush the tomato lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with basil, salt and pepper.  Scatter more parmesan on top.
4.  Bake at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. 

This may sound like a long recipe.  It's not.  Once you've worked with the puff pastry, you'll be addicted.  It is totally fool-proof.  If you have all of your ingredients assembled (including the browned onions), you can have these tarts in the oven in less than 10 minutes.  These would make a perfect first course for a dinner party.  You could make them mini-sized and serve them at a cocktail party(using cherry tomatoes).  

We loved them.  The only problem we encountered was the need for more.  I'll probably double or triple the recipe next time.  I will probably make them again in the next week, this time using the chevre.  I feel the need to eat as many local tomatoes as I possibly can. 

We enjoyed ours for dinner with roasted kabocha squash and lentil soup. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Dear School Secretary,

You are kind of not nice. 

I wish you knew my son, you'd think he was a great kid.  Yes, I know he's forgetful.  I am, too. 

You give me a hard time every time I drop something off for him.  I realize you're busy with your job. 

I understand that by eighth grade, he should not forget something he needs for school.  I don't need you to tell me. 

Just so you know, I will continue to serve and love my son.  I wish you felt the same about the students in your school. 

If he forgets something again, I will be bringing that item to him.  He is a great kid.  Honest, hardworking, kind, and respectful.  If he forgets his lunch money, I will not be teaching him a lesson by letting him go hungry.  If he finishes a project early, but gets the due date wrong, I will bring him that project. 

Till we meet again,

an enabling parent.  

Friday, September 2, 2011

Favourite Thing Friday

I'm linking up with Mrs. P today at Quilting in my Pyjamas.

Today my favourite thing is Apple.  Not the fruit.

About four months ago, our nine year old decided she was going to work to earn an Apple iPod touch.  She saved all of her money from her birthday, report cards, and earned enough money to buy one two weeks ago. 

Two nights ago her little sister decided to carry the ipod into her so it could be charged overnight.  Five hysterical minutes later we deduced that Emma dropped the iPod upside down and the screen shattered.  Both of our little girls were heartbroken.  The older one for the loss of something she had worked so hard for.  The younger one because she hurt her sister.  I didn't know who to console first. 

Kate very magnanimously told Emma (through many, many tears) that she didn't blame her and that she knew she didn't try it. 

I immediately tried to call Apple - their business hours were over.  I tried to plug in the serial number and see what the warranty covered.  No dice.  Then, I did a google search, "how to fix your ipod touch screen".  The results yielded a thread on the apple discussion forum.  Some of the commenters suggested going to the Apple store where they will fix the screen for $99. 

We had a plan.  And Apple totally exceeded our expectations.  Expecting to pay the $99, Rob took the shattered iPod into the store....... and they gave him a brand new iPod touch. 

Hats off to you, Apple - you made two little girls very happy.  You've also made some new customers for life! 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Gyro Bowls

without the bowl. 

You might remember these taco bowls.

Tonight we had gyro bowls - but, all of our bowls were dirty, so......

I layered lettuce, cooked rice, ground lamb (sauteed with cumin, pepper, garlic powder, and kosher salt), crumbled feta, diced tomatoes, and tzatziki (fage yogurt with chopped oregano, seeded cucumber, and kosher salt).  On the side we had roasted kabocha squash. 

The verdict - totally delicious!  I loved it.  The kids and Rob liked it.  I'll be making this again. 

On a much cuter note - if you squint real hard you can picture 9 years from now - Emma will be driving Jacob somewhere.  Probably a sports practice!  How cute are they?