Wednesday, July 30, 2008
This month's Daring Bakers' Challenge is hosted by Chris of Mele Cotte. Chris chose a Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream by Carol Walter from her book, Great Cakes. You can find the full recipe HERE at Chris's delicious blog.
This one just about wore me out, which means it was a terrific choice for The Daring Bakers! It was absolutely scrumptious. The best part was the leftover praline paste - I put it together with some chocolate chips and a little milk, melted it all together and, voila! - my own version of Nutella! The kids couldn't have been happier with that part.
Please check out the blogroll and see everyone else's wonderful versions of this delicious cake!
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
A couple Thursdays ago a few of the kids and I made our way across town to the Bethlehem Farmers' Market. I haven't been there very often since we moved from the South Side and I was pleased to find that it was still there. The venue has changed, it used to be held in a large parking lot and now is set up at Campus Square at Lehigh University.
I was very happy to find that Suyundalla Farms was still there. They were one of the first vendors at the market and are the only surviving original vendor. Kudos! They still sell some of the finest produce and have branched out into selling fresh lamb products.
Our first stop was their stand and these are a few of their wares:
Beautiful red cherries
We took home everything above, except for the Napa cabbage, and added some of their broccoli and fresh lamb sausages as well.
We stopped by Bechdolt's Orchard stand for fresh honey and then hit up The Flour Shop for a loaf of truly awesome semolina bread.
I could go on about that bread, but I've come to the conclusion that I need to do a full review of this bakery. If you live in the Lehigh Valley and haven't been there yet (the store is located at Macada Plaza - 2980 Linden Street ), you really need to stop by and pick up some baked goods. These guys know their stuff - trust me on that one.
So, here is what we ended up with:
I threw the lamb sausages on the grill with the scapes, sauteed the broccoli and snow peas, sliced the bread, and we had a terrific meal that evening - well worth the just-over-3-mile-walk.
Monday, July 28, 2008
The kids and I just tried out 3 of the 4 flavors of Funky Monkey freeze dried fruit snacks. The consensus was, "Yum!". We had Bananamom, freeze dried banana chips sprinkled with cinnamon; Purple Funk, freeze dried banana chips sprinkled with acai berry; and Carnaval Mix, a mixture of freeze dried banana chips, pineapple, apple, papaya and raisins. We really liked the pineapple - so much so that everyone dug our every piece they could find before eating anything else! There's also Jivealime, freeze dried pineapple and lime juice - we have got to get our hands on that one!
I love that they travel well - we took a package on a walk and the baby loved sitting in her stroller and munching on banana chips. I loved that there are no artificial ingredients at all and no added sugar. They are gluten-free, wheat-free and dairy-free, as well. Best yet is the fact that each ounce provides 3 servings of fruit!
The website is totally cute! There are nutritional facts, a spot to order online and a wallpaper to download. Think you have a great flavor combo? Check out the website and submit your idea. How about a great recipe using Funky Monkey snacks? There's also a page where you can share that.
We liked these a lot and will be buying them often; I'll just have to hide my package from the kids, though.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Now, wouldn't that be fun? A little game based on Where's Waldo?, but with the goal being to figure out where Anthony Bourdain would be each week hosting his No Reservations show. Well, no need to guess, at least for this week. Allow me the pleasure of telling you.
This week (July 28, at 10pm EST) finds Anthony Bourdain and his brother in Uruguay. If you thought the Columbia episode was delicious, wait 'til you see this! ‘Meat the Bourdains’ is all the meat you can stand, and more. Here is a CLIP of the newest episode, and you can find a post about the trip by Anthony's brother, Chris Bourdain, HERE. As always, Tony will be posting about the trip at his blog, HERE.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Make your own avatar or family portrait from personalized avatars; join a group; let everyone know what you're up to moment-by-moment throughout your day; decorate your profile, add stickers or even make some of your own to upload!
Here's the best part - From August 1 to August 31, if you join and become an active member, you'll be eligible for a PRIZE A DAY in the Way To Go! Contest. There are awesome gifts being given including a 4 person tent, a web cam, an iPod, a DeWalt cordless screwdriver, a Bluetooth headset and MORE! Full rules are HERE.
Head on over and check it out for yourself. My profile is HERE, give it a look and you'll get an idea of what's so fun about it all!
Friday, July 25, 2008
If you're a parent chances are you've done it; gotten busy and caved in to buy a kiddie meal from the refrigerator or freezer section of your local market. If you've ever read the ingredients panel on those things, you know that there are more preservatives and junk in them than anyone should consume let alone a child.
What if you had a better choice? What if there was a line of kid meals that were actually good for your child? What if you could actually read the entire ingredients panel and know what each ingredient was? Oh, I know, the kids wouldn't like it then, right? Wrong. Now there is 4Real Foods - a brand new line of kids' meals with no artificial colors or flavors, no preservatives and less fat and sodium than other kids' meals.
And you know what? They are really GOOD. We had the Cheese Pizza and Cheesy Pizza Quesadillas. My kids were crazy for these, and they're a tough bunch to please. I tried them myself and was very surprised. They didn't taste like chemicals, they weren't too salty, they were just delicious and so easy to prepare that I can't see not buying them - even when I'm not pressed for time!
4Real Foods is headed up by former Weight Watchers manager Steve Marlowe, real honest-to-goodness nutritionists and a world-renowned chef. If mom isn't making it, who better to feed our kids than this panel of experts?
Check out the website for more info and where to buy. If you're as skeptical as I was about these then you must give them a try.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
So, what is Gardenfork.tv? Well, it's Eric, this guy who describes himself thusly, "I have this eclectic background and know enough to be dangerous about many things. And I have this compelling drive to share with everyone the stuff that swirls through my head, whether the world wants it or not."
He made these great little down-home videos and pitched them to the big guys. They all turned him down (and I know they'll be sorry some day!) so he did his own thing and developed Gardenfork.tv. His videos are not the highly polished type with a host carrying a plastered-on smile and never getting any dirt under his nails. Nope, these are the real deal. Fun, oftentimes funny, informative and made in such a way that you want to run out and get started on a new project or plant a new veggie as soon as the end credits roll.
Wait! It doesn't end there, he's also got The Green House; If it's green, it's there. Forums, groups, videos, blog posts, you name it.
Now, here's one of those videos I'm so fond of. This one is How to Make Rhubarb Sauce (I know the width is "off", but it's still viewable - sorry!):
Now, I know you want to rush off and get you some rhubarb, but hold off long enough to go check out Gardenfork.tv, won't you?
Friday, July 18, 2008
A few weeks ago I got the "good" kind of mail - a package full of goodies from my friend Jodie in Japan. She had told me about a few cookbooks she no longer wanted and let me know she'd be sending them. Well, I'm not one to say "no" to a cookbook and I've had friends send others as well, so I waited excitedly for my package.
When it first showed I thought it looked odd - it was packaged in a bag from the Japanese postal service. Not a box like we'd send from here, but a large shopping type bag, really neat.
The surprise came when I opened the bag and found more than cookbooks! Take a gander at all Jodie packed in there:
Look at all that stuff! Four really great Japanese cookbooks, tons of chopsticks in all sizes, little key chains in all sorts of colors with little panda faces on them, a Hello Kitty play mat and containers, two packages of curry mix, two packages of some other mix (still no clue, I made it and it was awesome, but I don't really know what it is) and two bamboo sushi mats.
The kids were so excited as I unpacked everything and they immediately started picking out key chains and arguing about who would get the Hello Kitty and Thomas chopsticks.
I'll have to start making some things from the cookbooks and sharing the recipes, but for now I'm reading and enjoying all those chopsticks. Thanks, Jodie!
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Every night before bed I water both gardens and look forward to doing it all over again the next day.
I've always been interested in the things we make or grow ourselves. I think growing up in the 70's had something to do with it. Everything we consumed came from somewhere else; a can, a bag, a box or a wrapper. Machines had taken over many jobs that had once been done by hand and crops from all over the world made their way into shiny plastic containers to be picked up, opened and dumped onto a plate.
One of the largest influences in my life was the Little House on the Prairie series of books. I devoured them over and over and stored away all those bits of information on how things were made "old school". Laura Ingalls Wilder did such a fantastic job of capturing and detailing the history of how things were done in the late 1800's and relaying it to her readers that I could probably live somewhere on a prairie or mountainside and not need a whole lot more than those books to help me along.
Once I was older and discovered how easy it was to grow things in a garden or a pot or make things like soap, I dove headlong into creating. I even made dresses for my girls completely by hand without the aid of a sewing machine. They weren't simple A-line togs, they had beautiful puffed sleeves and lined bodices. It took forever and surely contributed to my carpal tunnel, but I had to do it.
I feel the same way about my garden and the thrill each day as I see it progress is unequaled by anything else (except the creation of 7 kids - I had to overdo on that, too).
This is what my garden was "doing" this morning:
Saturday, July 12, 2008
|Stuffed and Fried Squash Blossoms|
I've been growing zucchini for several years now and I never really took the time to pay enough attention to determine which flowers were male and which were female. As a result I've missed out on many a fine dish of fried blossoms.
This year I went out and took photos as the buds, and then flowers, were growing and figured it out. Now I'm going to pass on this wealth of info to you - aren't you happy to have found my blog?
The male flowers are attached to longer and thin stems. It was fairly easy to figure this out once I took into account the fact that none of those stems was sturdy enough to support a growing zucchini. Then I found the zucchini that were growing and not only are the female flowers smaller, they are attached directly to the tip of the growing zucchini, which grow from the base of the plant.
So, there you have it. Leave the girls behind and pick the boys as soon as they open. Rinse them off, make sure there are no bugs inside and remove the stamens. Now they're ready to be used.
I mixed up a bowl of 4 ounces goat cheese with chives and 4 ounces cream cheese along with a tablespoon of snipped chive from the garden. I filled a decorating bag fitted with a large star tip with the goat cheese mixture and then piped it into the blossoms.
I closed up the petals and dipped into a loose batter before frying in a half inch of hot oil for several minutes on each side until golden brown.
Drain well and try to eat just one!
Thursday, July 10, 2008
I was afforded the small luxury yesterday of stopping by a local farmers' market, Elias Market at 3131 Linden St. Bethlehem (Phone: (610) 867-8111). I've driven by many times and used to shop there often when it was Pichel's Farm Market. I'm not sure why I haven't been in since it changed hands, but I made a point of turning in instead of driving by this time.
I'm very glad that I did. Elias Market (I believe it's in the same family as Elias Farm Market in Allentown) is one of those stores I'll be frequenting from now on. I was on the lookout for hazelnuts and, having had no luck finding them, I decided to check at Elias. Elias is owned by a Middle Eastern family and sells one of the largest selections of Middle Eastern foodstuffs anywhere in the Valley.
I was wide-eyed at the varieties of falafel (there's one brand at my usual store), the cans packed with stuffed grape leaves and the many, many bags of seeds, nuts and grains available. I found those hazelnuts at a very good price and dried chick peas and sesame seeds to boot. I'm not talking those small cellophane bags stapled with headers, covered in dust and overpriced - I mean large plastic bags, overfilled with fresh legumes and seeds and priced just right. I also purchased a bucket of falafel mix. I had to stop myself from overbuying since I had really only gone in with one thing in mind and had already overdone it without even canvasing a quarter of the store.
I had already picked up peaches and seedless grapes (99 cents a pound!) before I got through the doors of the store. They draw you in with all that lovely and affordable produce out front. It really isn't my fault.
Anyway, once I headed toward the checkout I caught the rest of the produce inside and had to see it. On the way to the produce, however, there were stacks of large whole wheat pitas and I had to have a package. Then I saw a basketful of beautiful tiny plums labeled simply, "Local Plums". They were gorgeous in that basket with tiny little leaves poking out of the mounds of large marble-sized fruit. I had to have them.
As I picked them out I told Katie, who was shopping with me, "We'll make a tart with these. I'll mix up a lovely almond crust and cut them in half. Then we place them upside down all over the crust and bake it. It'll be beautiful; you'll see." She just nodded her head and smiled, grabbing as many little plums as she could fit in her small hands.
When we passed the apricots, which were perfectly dainty, but still larger than the plums, she asked if we could buy some. I told her they would be perfect in that tart with the plums and she loaded up a bag with them.
Then, I saw plantains, and with everyone so enamoured with those tostones I made, I picked up 4 and then headed to the meat counter to see if I could find chorizo. They didn't have chorizo, so I asked for the next-best and often used replacement, pepperoni. There were plastic containers filled with pre-cut pepperoni, but I wanted some I could cut myself. The sweetest older man ever waited on me and instead of telling me, "That's all we have", like I would have heard at any other store, he promptly reached under the counter and pulled out two lovely and rustic looking sticks of pepperoni for me. He and the other woman behind the counter were two of the nicest workers you could ever come across.
We grabbed a seedless watermelon on our way out and I couldn't keep my eyes on my purchases - there was still so much to see there and I know for certain that I'll be back very soon.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Sunday, July 06, 2008
Check out the video HERE to see what this season has in store - and tune in tonight, Monday July 7th at 10 p.m. ET.
If you've never watched No Reservations, my only question would be, "Why not?" Anthony Bourdain does travel the only way it really matters; as it pertains to cuisine. Any culture is best revealed in its food, and Mr. Bourdain dives right in with his unmatched style and unfettered wit. He may be raunchy and downright eyebrow raising at times, but that's what makes this show one that can't be missed.
Make sure you're tuned in tonight - I know I will be.
Saturday, July 05, 2008
|Tostones with chorizo, cilantro and lime juice|
I live in an area that has a heavy Hispanic influence, and as such I've had the opportunity to try many foods that I may never have had a chance to shop for much less eat.
Plantains are one of those plentiful-around-here foods, but I'd never cooked with them. After the final episodes of season four on Top Chef, I finally decided to give them a whirl. On the next-to-last episode of Top Chef, the chefs were given the task of coming up with frituras (or fried snacks) using plantains. I watched with interest and a bit of excitement, storing away the many uses they conjured up for the green banana look-alike.
One thing that two of the chefs did was to make tostones. They are, simply put, fried green plantain. I was intrigued, so I did a little reading about tostones and then went shopping to make my own version of an appetizer tostone.
What I found when I was reading were several recipes calling for dipping the plantains in salted water between fryings (they are fried twice), but I also found many Puerto Rican cooks debunking that notion. I decided to go with the cooks' idea and keep from the risk of having oil popping everywhere once the water-dipped plantain hit the hot pan. The result was fantabulous.
Tostones with Chorizo, Cilantro and Lime
Makes 24 appetizers
2 large green plantains
12 oz. chorizo
1 bunch fresh cilantro
several tablespoons fresh lime juice
salt to taste
oil for frying
Slit plantain skins and peel. Cut each plantain into 1 inch chunks - diagonally if you like - about 12 for each plantain. Heat oil over medium-high heat and fry each slice of plantain until lightly browned. Remove from oil and drain well.
Place each plantain between waxed paper or parchment and press down with a saucer until slices are 1/4 inch thick. You can also use a tostonera, a special press made just for tostones Put each slice back into the oil and fry on both sides until golden brown. Remove to paper toweling to drain well. Salt immediately.
When all tostones are fried, slice chorizo into 24 thin rounds and fry in the same oil until just lightly brown. Drain well.
Top each tostone with a cilantro leaf, a slice of chorizo and drizzle with lime juice.
Friday, July 04, 2008
Thanks, to all of my loyal readers and to everyone stopping by. Comments today are very much appreciated! If you've been lurking, pop in and say, "hello"!
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
I'm no farmer Brown, and yet I've managed to grow my own vegetables and herbs in a very small plot for 5 years (non-consecutive). I've done it completely organically, as well, and I am of the mind that anyone can achieve the same.
I don't get bumper crops, but I do get enough to extend our food stores for several months in the summer, and that's good enough for me. Everyone should grow some type of food whether it's in a container, the ground or hydroponically. If we all did it, there would be quite an impact on our not-so-happy-at-the-moment earth.
So, here's what is going on in my backyard:
Lovely mint. It grows all by itself with very little need for me at all. I make the most killer Mint Pesto from this and dunk it in almost everything I drink.
Remember those week-old bean plants? Look at them now! Flowers galore means beans galore.
Our lettuce is all eaten up - by us! It made a delicious salad. The radishes didn't fare so well. I hadn't turned over the ground deep enough and they didn't get very big. Live and learn; I'll definitely try them again next year.
Now, stop sitting in front of that computer and go out and grow something!
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Today is my Ian's birthday, he is 4! He shares his birthday with my grandma, she would have been 100 today. We'll celebrate for her with extra cake. His cake and a snippet of him with his favorite gift are HERE.
I lost a step-brother on Sunday evening. He lost his fight with leukemia at 51 years old. His wife and two young-adult daughters are devastated as is my step-father. Steve was one of the truly good guys in the world and he dearly loved his family.