Sunday, December 25, 2005

New Blogs

Check out Accidental Vegan and Recipe Collector, both new food blogs from friends that I think people will find very interesting.

Christmas Eve traditions

Growing up, we would go to our grandfather's house or to Vince and Mary's home after Christmas Eve service. There would be fish. Lots and lots of fish. Octopus, squid, shrimp, fish in many forms, just lots of seafood. We would be there until the wee hours of the morning. The kids would run around. The adult women would talk and the men would play poker with the coolest cards I'd ever seen. I loved my uncles' Italian card decks, they just fascinated me.

Now that I host Christmas Eve, I no longer do just fish dishes. But I always try to give at least a nod to the traditions I was raised with. With that in mind, this year I made cioppino, to go with the beef tenderloin, goose and all of the side dishes.

The measurements are all pretty much approximate. I didn't really measure much.

1/4 c oil (more or less, I never measure)
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1/3 c chopped fresh parsley (again, more or less)
5 cloves garlic, minced

Heat oil in large pot. Sautee onion, pepper, parsley and garlic about 5 minutes.

2 - 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
1 - 15 oz can tomato sauce
12 oz dry red wine
1 bay leaf
1 Tbl dried oregano

Bring to boil and then cover. Simmer 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, add:

12 littleneck clams, scrubbed and cleaned
2 lbs mussels, scrubbed and cleaned
1 1/2 lbs small shrimp (50 ct per pound), peeled and deveined
1/2 lb haddock, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 lb tilapia, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 lb orange roughy, cut into bite sized pieces
3/4 lb bay scallops

Bring to boil. Cover and simmer another 20 minutes, until clams and mussels are open and shrimp is opaque.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thanksgiving Sides

Mom asked me to bring something 'different' to dinner tomorrow. Now, different for her isn't exactly what I consider different. My husband laughed when I told him, since he seemed to be sure that whatever I would consider different would go uneaten by the rest of my family.

He's probably right.

So, in an effort to be a little different, but not too much, I decided on two simple recipes. Corn pudding and a spinach/brown rice casserole. The corn pudding was ridiculously simple (and, I think, ridiculously sweet), and it used canned creamed corn and whole kernel corn. A couple cans of each, some milk, some flour, eggs and sugar and it was done.

The spinach and brown rice casserole took a little more work only because of the steps involved. And because shredding two pounds of fresh spinach can be a bear of a task! Getting all of that to cook down was pretty funny. All I kept thinking of was the shavings we used to use in the rabbit's cage.

I used a recipe from The New Moosewood Cookbook and changed it a bit. I used the four eggs the recipe originally called for and left out the optional prepared mustard.

It seems like a lot when you're first mixing everything together, but it really isn't:

The press pot was for the coffee I realized I desperately needed and isn't something that goes into the casserole, just into me!

I'm not the neatest person when I cook, obviously. If you do make Ms. Katzen's Spinach-Rice Casserole, be sure to use the biggest bowls you have.

It did all come together very nicely and the sunflower seeds on top make for a pretty accent.

Once everything was ready, into the oven it went for 35 minutes. It smelled wonderful as it cooked, making my stomach rumble, reminding me that oh, yeah – lunch is a good idea.

But first, there were dishes to do:

I'm sure I used more than was really necessary. Still learning how to streamline what I do in the kitchen.

And here is the finished product, sitting next to the corn pudding. I'll rewarm both items very gently tomorrow before tucking them into an insulated bag for the drive over to my parents' home.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Dear Alton:

Yes, real Italians do, too, simmer their meatballs in 'red sauce' (or gravy, as I grew up calling it). What we never did in my family was waste time with the searing or baking, we let the flavors meld together in the pot.

Please watch with the generalizations. Thank you.

A First Generation Sicilian-American fan

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Hooray for fall!

I can tell fall is coming - I mean, beyond the fact that it's been raining for 2 days and nights now and it shows no signs of stopping and we've been told to keep an eye on the Little Conestoga. Ick. Flooding.

Anyhow, how do I know fall is coming? I want to cook. Bake. Chop things. Simmer things. The house right now smells of curry and apples and pumpkin and soon, I'll add a roast to the olfactory sensations.

Dinner tonight: apple-butternut squash soup, roast with carrots and potatoes and a crustless pumpkin pie. Beef is defrosting now for a hearty stew tomorrow, to be served, I think, in acorn squash halves. That really depends, though, on what time we get back from the baby's baptism.

Photos will come soon. Right now, though, I'm content to sit here, sipping my coffee and savoring the scents of the season.

20:14: And here are the photos. I put absolutely no thought into plating the meal, because my husband had just come in from driving close to 10 hours in the pouring rain and he seemed to be a weeeee bit hungry.

Beef, potatoes, carrots and beer bread with a bowl of apple-butternut squash soup:

And we were quite content, even with the splenda in the crustless pumpkin pie.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Tuna salad or wheatberries... not a tough choice!

Today was one of those days where I ended up doing a lot more than I expected. About 12:30, I was in the city when I realized I still had to do my grocery shopping and I had yet to eat more than the three brazil nuts I have every morning for the selenium they contain (it helps stave off seasonal adjustment disorder... but that's another post).

Happily, Central Market was open, so I decided to duck in there and grab something quickly before hitting the supermarket. I did find a small organic produce stand - everything looked lovely, but I didn't stop to look for long, since I had a schedule to keep. Most of the stands were jammed with people on their lunch breaks, so I found a smaller one that was fairly empty. No wonder. The choices were rather limited and, since I didn't feel like wearing tuna salad in the car, I went with the wheat berry, pecan and grape salad.

It was actually quite good, but it could have done without quite so many green onions. They overpowered every other ingredient in there, including cilantro! Bits of red and green peppers were flecked throughout and the grapes added a happy bit of sweetness to it. I'm trying to find a recipe at least somewhat similar to this, but I think I'm going to have to eat a lot of experiments to figure it out. Poor me, right?

Not a bad lunch to grab on the go, though I will admit to eating it mostly at long red lights. I know, I know - not good. But at least I wasn't text messaging!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Tamale Pie

Back to more cooking with the family. My husband loves making tamale pie. He and I tend to putter around in the kitchen together for about an hour or so, preparing it, chopping, dicing, sauteeing and baking. It's always been very enjoyable. Now with Roo's new interest in cooking, we decided to make it a family affair. She did well with everything until the onions, but even then, she chopped through her tears.

Here it is, cooling off after coming out of the oven. We use a roasted corn meal for that dark color and the taste is amazing.

We modify the recipe more than a little, adjusting it to our heat levels. American cookbooks tend to be on the lower end of the heat scale and that just doesn't work for our family. What most consider hot, my husband doesn't even notice.

After years of making this, I think we've gotten the mix down pretty well, but we're still always changing this, that or the other thing. It's never quite the same, and that is part of the fun.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Why isn't it fall yet?

Normally, I love this time of the year. It starts to cool off and I start really getting back into cooking and baking. It was 90 degrees at the faire yesterday - that is NOT baking weather!

However, I have a stash of pumpkins, acorn squash, butternut squash and spaghetti squash all begging to be made into something. Little by little I've been cooking the pumpkin down and preparing it for bread and pies, though I think the one pumpkin will be saved to serve stew in.

Having picked up corned beef the other day, I decided what the heck, let's try this... corned beef, 2 bottles of Harps Lager, some water, green onions, carrots and two sliced up acorn squash, in the crockpot since just before 7 am this morning. It SMELLS good so far. We'll see how it tastes!

Now, if only autumn would hurry up and get here!

edited to add: Well, it sounded like a good idea and everything sure smelled good, but the lager, combined with the acorn squash, made everything far too bitter. It was too strong for the rest of the meal. What a bummer. It sure looked pretty!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Spaghetti and meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs - a mainstay in most homes and certainly in the home I grew up in. Everyone in my family had a slightly different sauce that they used and the meat that sauce contained ranged from cuts of pork and beef to sausages to meatballs.

Tonight, Roo made spaghetti and meatballs. On her own. For the first time.

The meatballs she did make reminded me somewhat of Nonna Angela's, with the soft white bread and the fennel in the sauce.

All in all, I would say she's a success. Dinner was certainly well received and I'm looking forward to her taking a turn now and then and getting a meal on the table without my guidance.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Cottage Pie Cravings

My husband came home from his trip with a craving for a shepherd's pie. Well, I didn't have any lamb defrosted, but what I did have was leftover roast from last night's dinner, so cottage pie it is.

I diced the meat, browned some diced onions and a red bell pepper and added the meat. To that, I added the beef broth from last night and some flour to make a nice thick gravy. I topped that with some cut up cooked carrots and broccoli and some shredded cheddar cheese. I made some mashed potatoes with the last of the potatoes, leaving them in their jackets, from last week's trip to the farm and spread that over the top. I mashed them by hand for a more rustic texture, instead of whipping them. So far, so good, see?

I'll cook it for about 20 minutes or so at 400* and see how it turns out.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Blog For Relief

Yes, I've been eating well, but in the wake of what happened along the Gulf Coast, that seems so very trivial. I'll get back to posting tomorrow about goodies from the farm and meals shared with friends and family.

But for now, I would like to ask anyone reading to consider donating to charity. The charity I'm supporting is Second Harvest, but please, send your support to someone who can use it down in the affected area. You can donate by clicking here:

Second Harvest

A listing of charities can also be found on Instapundit, as well as a list of which blogs are supporting which charities.

Another option, one I saw with Howard Tayler, who writes Schlock Mercenary is to donate books for the evacuees, to help stave off the crushing boredom that they will be facing in the months ahead. The address for that is:

2700 Southwest Freeway
Houston, TX 77098

Keep in mind the number of children who have been displaced by this, who really do not understand what is going on.

So, please - open your hearts and donate. Record your donation at Truth Laid Bear, who is keeping track of Blog for Relief donations. A current list can be found here.

Technorati Tags: flood aid, Hurricane Katrina

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Farm Fresh

How I love going to the farm! We have a share at Goodwill at Homefields Farm, a community supported ag program. It's great. Once a week, we go and pick up our share and then bring it home. No worries about fighting pests or rabbits or pulling weeds AND we're doing A Good Thing by supporting the program.

Usually, I try to go on Thursday or Friday, but that just didn't happen this week. I had planned on going yesterday, but instead spent almost 5 hours trying to set up my grandmother's computer. Actually, it was 10 minutes worth of computer set up and nearly 4 1/2 hours worth of figuring out how to rearrange her apartment for it so she wouldn't have a heart attack when she got home. But it was worth it, actually. Normally, we would have picked up potatoes in addition to what you see here (just a sampling and hey, I'm still learning all about this photo thing):

But by the time I got there today, they were nearly out of potatoes. So... I received a really cool Asian eggplant! I have no idea what I'm going to do with it yet, but I'll figure something out.

Today's share was:

  • Sungold cherry tomatoes. These look a little green, but that's on purpose. I snack on them as they are and I love the hint of tartness at this stage.

  • Onions and garlic

  • 3 pounds of carrots

  • Bell peppers

  • Spaghetti squash

  • 6 pounds tomatoes. These will make an awesome sauce.

  • Melon

  • Eggplant
I could have picked more cherry tomatoes, basil, okra, tomatillos, hot peppers and herbs, but it was beginning to rain and I'm still pretty stocked from last week.

My husband is away for the next week or so - now I have to figure out just what to do with all of this!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Blue Pacific

After Roo got her hair done today, we crossed the street to Blue Pacific for sushi, something my daughter has been craving on a regular basis lately. A craving I'm only too happy to oblige when I can. It's certainly better than craving a burger and fries from a fast food place!

It's always quiet there during the lunch hour, especially mid-week. Service has always been prompt and pleasant and today was no exception. We were greeted and seated quickly, right near the sushi bar.

It only took a moment to decide what we were having. I had a sushi sampler that wasn't quite up to their normal standards, but my daughter seemed very happy with her Rainbow Roll, which came with a few assorted sushi pieces and hamachi. See how happy she looks?

You can't see the hamachi because it was on a separate plate, which I found unusual, since she'd ordered it all together. She doesn't bother with anything beyond wasabi, no soy sauce for her, thankyouverymuch!

Now that I've typed this out, I'm feeling hungry and I don't know what to do about dinner. There are these cherry tomatoes that are just begging to be eaten, though.......

Monday, August 22, 2005

And off to Mesa Grill we did go

Ah, what is there to say about Mesa Grill?

Not much, actually.

My brother and his friends had gone to Mesa Grill recently, to celebrate their liberation from Penn State University. He had raved about the rabbit dish there, so we thought we'd give it a try. I mean, really - an American Iron Chef. Had to be decent food, right? Well, decent was really all it was.

We started with squash blossoms and queso fundido. The squash blossoms were a lot of fun to eat, but the queso fundido was inferior to versions I've had of the dish in hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurants. It was good, but not great.

My daughter, Roo, was disappointed to find that the venison noted on the website was not available, so she ordered a steak. She was assured by the server that it "wasn't boring." While it wasn't boring, it wasn't a dish that could hold anyone's interest for very long, either. I ordered the pork, which came with an attractive sweet potato tamale that seemed to be missing something spice-wise. LdyMlissa enjoyed the rabbit, from what I understand, and the risotto it was served with. The meals were huge, actually, which many people do consider to be a plus. But I wasn't looking for quantity, I was looking for quality - something different. Something unique.

Roo found something unique in her dessert. On a creme brulee kick, she ordered a peanut butter and chocolate creme brulee that she wouldn't share ;) My chocolate plate was very nicely presented and the hazlenut tres leches with cherry granita LdyMlissa ordered did seem to go over very well.

Maybe we'd been spoiled rotten the night before. Maybe I would not have been so disappointed in Mesa Grill had we not enjoyed ourselves so thoroughly at One if by Land and had our expectations set so high. I'd go back, but maybe just for lunch.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

One if by Land, Two if by Sea

I had been looking forward to dining at One if by Land since LdyMlissa and I had first spoken of it. I love tasting menus. In my experience, they are a wonderful way to get to know the chef's abilities and talents, while tasting a wide variety of menu choices.

OIBL did not disappoint at all. We entered the restaurant, a quiet, nondescript storefront in the middle of the block. At first my daughter wasn't sure - "There's no name!" - but a glance at the menu outside proved to her we were where we wanted to be.

After a long, hot walk (my sense of direction is terrible, I need a compass on my person at all times), the darkened, cool interior of the restaurant was just what we needed. We had made reservations, of course, so we were seated immediately upstairs, overlooking the dining room downstairs. We were offered menus and I am ashamed to say I didn't even glance at mine. We knew what we wanted!

The amouse bouche that arrived, along with our sparkling water and the wine for our first course, was a simple affair of flavored goat cheese on a toast round. Just right for starting one's appetite.

Our first course was a lovely little dish of tuna tartare, foie gras and caramelized pineapple. I believe it was the first time any of us had foie gras. My daughter mistook it for grilled tuna and ate it in one bite, only to find out she was wrong. Foie gras, might I say, does not really impress me! The riesling that accompanied the dish was from the Fingerlakes Region of New York and is one I would like to add to my wine list at home.

The second course was a spice roasted lobster and what a nice little morsel that was. Perfectly seasoned, with tender bits of asparagus on the plate.

The third course could have been a meal all by itself. I'm still surprised Ro finished it! I've never been very thrilled when it comes to clams, but these worked very well with the dish, which was grouper on top of pasta with a clam sauce.

The fourth course was one none of us were very impressed by, however - one stumbling block in an otherwise perfect menu. Rabbit Basteeya is, apparently, shredded rabbit formed into a block and served with an apricot coulis. We were told it was a traditional celebratory Moroccan dish and that "many people" do not care for the mix of meat and fruit. Now, since I tend to cook my meats using cinnamon and fruit, that didn't quite hold. The plain fact was that the apricot coulis was just far too sweet and overpowered the rabbit. The wine that accompanied the course was a very dry red that did go far to help cut the sweetness of the apricot, but not far enough. And, of course, since Ro is only 12, she did not have the assistance of the wine in tempering the flavors of the dish. Again, however, the course itself could have sufficed as an entire meal!

Our entree was very impressive. Roo chose the rack of lamb and that was the only dish I remembered to take a picture of. I snapped a fast one because, well - that flash of light in a dark and intimate restaurant is somewhat jarring. You can see how prettily it was presented here:

LdyMlissa and I chose the beef wellington. The filling around the beef was a touch on the mushy side for me, but the flavors were wonderful.

The entree was followed by an 'exploratore cheese mousse' that was accompanied by a bit of frisee salad. I would have liked to have seen a touch more green on the plate, as the meal was very fish/meat heavy, but the cheese was delightful.

Ah, and then there was dessert. Both Roo and LdyMlissa ordered the chocolate souffle and oh, my. The large souffles were brought to the table where they were punctured and warm chocolate sauce drizzled in. I ordered the chocolate trio, and was just as pleased with my choice, though I do believe the look of sheer pleasure on their faces could not be surpassed. We are talking chocolate here, after all!

The server came up to us with a creme brulee, which she placed on the table. "I overheard you ladies talking about how much you liked creme brulee. This is compliments of the chef," she said (or along those lines - it was a few days ago now!). What a fun creme brulee that was, with a flavor like toasted marshmallow, without the mess!

Three hours, many courses and glasses of wine later, we left the restaurant to wander back to our room. I'm planning on returning as soon as I can, with my husband, for a quiet romantic dinner.

(and I'll fix this post as soon as I figure out how to do special characters - missing the accent on a few words here!)

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Bad Food. Great Views.

Those four words sum up our quick trip to Niagara Falls, ON this past week. The views were spectacular - the food? Not so much.

First night: Rainforest Cafe. It was crowded so we went to the bar to get a drink. It took forever to get a dry martini and a Sol from a bartender who called me Babe. From there, to the table. The server was bouncy and happy and it more than made up for the restaurant chain food. Nothing terrible, but nothing that made me go "oooh" and want to have seconds.

The next morning: Breakfast at the Sheraton on the Falls' Penthouse Fallsview Dining Room. Lovely view from our table. Horrible food and even worse service. Ro enjoyed her dippy eggs, but beyond that, it was overpriced breakfast items that could have been done better (and were, the next morning) by Perkins.

Second night: Edgewater's Tap & Grill. Very bland and salty food, but the view more than made up for the food. It was very nice, sitting there, listening to the falls across the road, sipping a glass of wine and just relaxing with my husband and daughter. The picture is a little dark, since it was nearing dark - shortly after this was taken, the lights were focused on the falls. Unfortunately, no photos of that came out well.

Following morning: Perkins. Slow service, but they actually managed to do the eggs hard for me. Yes, I can hear people groaning now, but as my husband put it, I eat eggs like they were medicine. I need protein with my carbs in the morning so I'm not a grumpy person by mid-morning and most breakfast meats are so salty they're just ick, so... eggs it is.

That night: Fast food in a small town somewhere in PA, late, late at night when we realized that there would be no real food between there and home.

We're going back for the view. And maybe to see if we can find real food!

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Using up the bounty

There's one problem with my husband being gone so often during the summer - all of the fresh fruits and vegetables we're getting at the farm need to be either put up or used fairly quickly. Of course, Ro and I have been having a lot of salads. It's a good thing we both like greens!

I've also been craving briny flavors for some reason today. With that in mind, I threw together a salad that is reminiscent of the ones my father would make on Sunday afternoons or for a late night snack. Only, no onions. Not today. Today isn't an onion day for me ;)

Fresh picked golden cherry tomatoes, Greek olives, a cucumber, about an ounce of crumbled feta and a drizzling of balsamic vinegar seems to do the trick today. Fast and fairly healthy for both of us.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Cooking with the Next Generation

I'm such a proud mom.

My daughter has been wanting to learn how to cook something more than just macaroni and cheese from a box. So today she learned how to make tomato sauce (or gravy in the lexicon I grew up with as a NJ Italian princess). Fresh basil, fresh oregano, red pepper, garlic and garden fresh tomatoes all combined with a bit of red wine to make a heavenly scented sauce that I'll reheat tomorrow over a nice, sturdy pasta. It's big and chunky and smells oh, so good.

Oh, and she learned how to uncork a bottle of wine. She's not sure she likes the non-cork corks!

Friday, July 29, 2005

Simple meals

I love simple meals bursting with fresh flavors. After an amazing haul at the farm today, I came home to make a Greek cold cucumber soup. It was a simple matter of blending some cucumbers, chicken stock, garlic, yogurt and fresh dill, which took all of 5 minutes. With that I had a decent feta, Greek olives and Italian bread drizzled with a very fruity extra virgin olive oil. A small glass of wine would have rounded this out nicely, but I have an hour until I have to go to my martial arts class, so that will have to wait.

Now to figure out what to do with all of the vegetables from the farm today - if I can keep myself from eating the still-sun-warmed tomatoes as they are!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Well now, this should be interesting :)

I love to cook. I love to bake. Most of all, I love to eat. After the myriad notes I've sent friends on restaurants and recipes, both good and bad, I figured it might not be a bad idea to keep track of some of that here.

Homemade meals, chain restaurants, mom and pop places, holes in the wall, 4 star experiences: they'll all get their turn eventually!