Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Food in Manhattan

I was fortunate enough to spend the day with my cousin last Friday in New York City. Now, I should specify that she's my husband's cousin, but after nearly 22 years of marriage the word 'in-law' doesn't come up too often anymore.

Chris being the astute woman that she is realized a long while ago that I needed a break from the madness of the past 2 years and invited me to come for the day and see the sights. I didn't realize it meant 'almost every sight in Manhattan', but I didn't mind the race one bit. I think she let me know about halfway through the day that most people referred to a day trip with Chris as bootcamp. They're not wrong. Here is a map of everywhere we went so you can get an idea of how far I was dragged (wink).

As much of a taskmaster as she is, I had a great time and saw more than I've ever seen at any other time. I hadn't been to The City for nearly 21 years, so I was way overdue! Here's our day in photos. I had my old camera with me for safety reasons so some of the pictures aren't as good as they could be. Click on links for more info on any of the places we went to.

The minute I got off the bus at PABT, Chris whisked me off to the subway and led me to the Chelsea Market, showing me The High Line on the way. We had coffee at Chelsea and then it was a sound-barrier-breaking taxi ride to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Annex for a great show and very cool museum. Any Lennon fans (like me) must get there for the Yoko-created John Lennon limited engagement exhibit. Beautiful.


The Chelsea Market and the elevator that leads to the Food Network offices.

Next we were off to stores like UNIQLO, CB2 and Dean & Deluca to see the shopping side of Manhattan. After that it was another wild ride where we landed for lunch at Blue Ribbon Sushi. Now, I'm not a seasoned sushi eater, but I started my sushi-eating career at a very fine local establishment, biasing my taste buds for any sushi that wasn't top-notch. I then went downhill consuming store-made sushi that just isn't anywhere near the same as the very fresh kind.

After hitting up Blue Ribbon with Chris, I'm not sure I'll ever want to have sushi anywhere else. The nori was still fresh and pliable, the rice precisely vinegared and the fish? The fish was so fresh I've never had anything quite so tender. We had several rolls between us: Spicy Tuna & Tempura Flakes With Cucumber inside out and California rolls with Yellowtail and Salmon. Perfect in every way. Not only was the food fabulous, but the wait staff was beyond helpful, the decor simple but beautiful and the bathrooms immaculate. If you're getting to Manhattan anytime soon, you must stop in and order some of the best sushi around.


The front of Blue Ribbon - unmarked, it looks more like 'the secret society of sushi'

Shortly after our sushi we were off to FAO Schwarz. Every time I've been to NYC I've missed my chance to see FAO because of long lines. We totally lucked out and got in very quickly. I wished the kids had been there to see it all, but I made sure to take lots of photos for them and it was just as fun as I always thought it would be.

The FAO doorman.


We ran across the way to see The Plaza and gape at the impossibly rich folks having tea and being waited on hand and foot by men attired in tails and very shiny shoes. I thought it was rather droll and Chris and I got to giggling about the extravagance of it all. We trotted past the very famous Oak Room and back out into the chill to head to Dylan's Candy Bar.


The Plaza - I'm pretty sure Eloise is waving from the window.

Dylan's Candy Bar is another place I took lots of photos. Chris picked up candy bars for all the kids (including dad!) and I stared far too much at the array of sweets and bright colors. This is one of those spots you don't want to miss, especially if the kids are with you.

The center of Dylan's - a lollipop tree!

Grand Central Station was the next stop and I was thrilled that there was an O & Co. store there. I ran in, sang a little song of love and bought a bottle of oil that may just have taken a sizeable chunk out of one of the kids' college funds. There's nothing like good olive oil to make one's day. Really. Chris said something about other people liking wine like I like olive oil and she's not very far from the truth.

We stopped at Chris' apartment to rest our legs and then she took me to the coolest place I've ever been to: 230 FIFTH, an exclusive and chic rooftop restaurant with a view of The Empire State Building that just beats all. Check out the Virtual Tour of the rooftop. We checked out the rooftop, but it was too chilly and windy to stay there to dine. Despite the fact that there are blankets and warm robes provided to patrons for their comfort, we opted to sit in the plush dining room and enjoy the view from a warm spot. Chris ordered sliders and fries and they were two of the best 'average' menu items I think I've had in my entire life.

The view from our cushy spot.


The view from the window.



Chris and I - the camera was winding down for the day at this point - everything was blurry.

Once we were finished with dinner it was time for me to head home. I was full and happy and my legs hurt like crazy, but I have to say it was a wonderfully memorable day for me. Chris, thank you so much for an awesome day and New York, you still have it goin' on and always will.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Delicious Holiday Books and Gifts

Each year my thoughts about Holiday gift-giving turn inevitably to food. Here are a few ideas for this year that fill the bill no matter what you'd like to give. From edible gifts that are a bit more expensive to homemade budget gifts to delectable books. Enjoy!


For a scrumptious countdown to the holidays, the chocolate lover on your list will love the Fannie May truffle assortment gift box ($17.99-$25.99) from Fannie May fine chocolates. The 16- or 25-piece assortment features a variety of Fannie May treats to indulge in, including Classic, French Vanilla, White Russian and Orange Royale flavors, all tucked inside a gift-ready holiday box. For more information, visit http://www.fanniemay.com/.
*Who doesn't love truffles? Fannie May is one that we like a lot here.



For a new twist on a festive favorite, Cheryl & Co. will introduce Buttercream Frosted Brownies ($28.95 - $65.95) just in time for the holidays. Home of the famous Buttercream Frosted Cookies, the Buttercream Frosted Brownies collection will feature hot fudge brownies, fudge brownies and peanut butter brownies. For more information, visit http://www.cherylandco.com/.
*Those brownies are dangerous! We loved ours and I highly recommend them.




For a gift that truly “pops,” The Popcorn Factory offers Big Snow design tins ($24.99$39.99). Available with The Popcorn Factory’s traditional three-way combo of robust cheese, butter and caramel corn, these tins are a classic gift that keeps on giving – in two-, three-and-a-half- or six-and-a-half gallon sizes. Tins can be personalized with a photo or message label on top. For more information, visit http://www.thepopcornfactory.com/.
*Popcorn from The Popcorn Factory is a favorite here; always fresh, crisp and delicious.


Thanks to Jamie Plaxco of MWWGroup for information and samples.
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This holiday season give the gift of food with creative home made gifts that are as eye catching as delicious! Tasteofhome.com has the Top 25 gifts that require simple ingredients but will have your friends and family talking until next year’s holiday season!

A few of the ideas offered:

Gingerbread Cookies

Get the kids in the kitchen to decorate a tried and true favorite. Decorative ginger bread cookies are simple, easy and fun for the whole family to get involved!



Cinnamon Hot Chocolate Mix Recipe

Give a gift for on the go with packaged hot chocolate! Mix cocoa powder, dry powder, creamer and cinnamon for some spice to give it a twist. Top with marshmallows in each individual package and send with a mug, perfect for the holiday season.



Peppermint Lollipops

Design your own festive lollipop for friends and family for a special gift. With just simple ingredients-peppermint oil, sugar, water, corn syrup and food coloring you can get creative in the kitchen with simple peppermint pops, great for after dinner treat!


Homemade Snow Globe

Get creative with a snow globe from home as a gift, layered sugar cookies with fluffy meringue topped with edible treats friends and family will sure to be impressed!


For these recipes and more like them visit http://www.tasteofhome.com/foodgifts.


Thanks to Anjali Saxena of Krupp Kommunications for information and images.

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Chocolate: A Love Story by Max Brenner, Illustrations by Yonatan Factor

Chocolate is a substance that transcends borders, boundaries and emotions. The mere mention brings a twinkle to the eye and a quickening of the pulse. Max Brenner knows this and shares his intense love for chocolate in this funky, eclectic and beautiful book. The illistrations themselves are worth the purchase, and the recipes are to-die-for. A perfect gift for the chocolate lover or art lover in your life.




Thanks to Anna Balasi of Hachette Book Group for information and book copy.


Elizabeth David's Christmas, edited by Jill Norman, illustrations by Mary Ross



Throughout her distinguished career, Elizabeth David wrote and collected many articles about Christmas food. She put together a file of these articles, recipes, and notes, and even wrote an introduction, intending to publish them as a book. It never appeared, and after her death in 1992, her literary executor
Jill Norman found the box with all this material. She put them together as Elizabeth intended, and we now have her "Christmas" edited for the American reader, handsomely illustrated and ready to guide us through this daunting festive season with good food and high spirits – and our humor intact.

Beautifully written, this new edition contains around 150 recipes
together with a selection of David's own articles, plus other writings that over the years she found interesting and helpful. Feeding friends and family for Christmas can be stressful, and this book is intended to help busy cooks plan ahead and enjoy Christmas as much as their guests. The classicsare all here: turkey (of course), but also goose; stuffings; sauces; mince pies; and Christmas puddings. For the armchair cook, the text also provides information as well as
diversion: here are the actual traditions of Christmas's past, as well as descriptions of the yuletide in other countries. In other words, a feast for mind, chef, and table.


I've been hanging on to my copy for over a year. SO entranced with it that I couldn't put it down and hardly able to find words to adequately describe it, I wanted to be sure and share it before Christmastime this year. For anyone who is a fan of Elizabeth David, a Christmas cookbook may almost seem absurd for her as she was happiest alone for that day, but this book is all her, written in as relaxed and comfortable a way as anything else she penned, with recipe done in a style that only Elizabeth David was able to deliver. A MUST read for any cook and a wonderful gift for the Ellizabeth David fan.

Thanks to Daniel Pritchard of David R. Godine, Publisher for information and book copy.


Nigella Christmas by Nigella Lawson

I don't even have this book yet, but I'm putting it here as part of my Christmas list! I think every book that Nigella has written is a must-have for anyone interested in cooking, from beginner to full-fledged chef. I have no doubt at all that this book is as wonderful as all of her others.



Friday, November 20, 2009

Cookbook Review: Cookin' with Coolio, 5 Star Meals at a 1 Star Price



I can take a cow out of Compton and make it taste better than Kobe beef at your favorite steakhouse. There's only one thing I've been doing longer than rapping: cooking. People don't know this about Coolio. I was making thirty-minute meals when I was ten years old and I haven't ever looked back. I'm the ghetto Martha Stewart, the black Rachael Ray. I am the kitchen pimp who won't hesitate to fillet Bobby Flay or send my posse after Emeril Lagasse.

What? Isn't Coolio a rapper? Yes, he is. My kids can attest to that fact. What they didn't know (and neither did I) was that he is also a quite talented cook. We have a large family in common (he has 6 kids, I have 7) and we both came from a not-so-well-to-do background of family cooks who knew how to make something from nothing and do it well.

His new book, Cookin' with Coolio, 5 Star Meals at a 1 Star Price, (Atria Books) can be brash and abrasive at times with some language that garners it an 'R' rating, but if you read between the lines, it becomes obvious that Coolio is not only talented behind the mic, but behind the stove, as well. His method is sound and his recipes ROCK.

There's nothing overly fancy here, just good food, prepared well and as fresh as possible. Mix in a double-dose of humor with a real passion for food and cooking and you have Cookin' with Coolio. This is a man who feels about food the way I do, there's no reason for budget to be a cause for lackluster or tasteless food.

Each recipe has notes from his Assistant Chef Jarez that help to make the most of the dish. Pay close attention to the beginning of the book - Coolio helps you set up your kitchen and pantry (ahem, 'Pimptry') in the most efficient way with everything you'll need. This book is created for the beginner with a limited budget, but the recipes aren't dumbed-down and certainly don't seem like budget food at all - 5 stars at a 1 star price is right on the money.

You need a sense of humor to read this, though - and if you do, you'll be laughing so hard you'll fall off your chair. My husband never, ever reads cookbooks, but I caught him checking this one out and chuckling the whole time. I got started reading and couldn't stop - each page is hysterical, but so dead-on as far as cooking goes that I was honestly shocked.

I think the best part about this book is that it speaks to a whole new bunch of folks and bringing the art and love of cooking to them is just awesome. I commend Coolio for reaching out to and teaching the average guy how to cook.

Here's a recipe that's being shared freely, but if you get your hands on this book, make sure to also try the Soul Rolls, Kung Fu Chicken, Coolio's Meatless Grilla and Finger-Lickin'-Rib-Stickin'-Fall-off-the-Bone-and-into-Your-Mouth-Chicken just for starters.

Fresh Pickin' Raspberry Chicken

How long it takes: only 10 minutes to prep, and 25 minutes to cook
How much it makes: 4 people can chow down on this

What you need:

1 cup fresh raspberries
4 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
4 chicken breast halves (or wings, legs and thighs if you want)
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 medium white onion
1 yellow chile pepper
½ cup sunflower oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Self-rising flour
Large Ziploc bag

What to do with it:

1. First, its time to make your homemade raspberry sauce. In a small pot, pour in the raspberries, sugar and salt. Put this over a low flame.

2. Add about 2 tablespoons of water just before it starts to simmer and bring it to a simmer. Let it all reduce down a bit, about 5 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to crush up some of the raspberries and bring it all together. This is the coagulation we been talking about. When this really starts to bubble, take the pot off the heat and put it to the side.

3. Take your chicken breasts (or whatever) and massage them a little a bit before tossing them into a bowl. Pour in your balsamic vinegar. Let those luscious breasts sit and soak in the vinegar like a model in a bathhouse.

4. Take that onion and chop that bitch right up.

5. That yellow chile pepper of yours? Chop that bad boy up as well.

6. In a large-ass skillet, pour in the sunflower oil over high heat, along with your minced garlic, your chopped chile pepper, and your onion.

7. Let it all sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take in that amazing scent.

8. While you’re sautéing, take a large Ziploc bag and fill it up with some self-rising flour. Take them wonderful chicken breasts out and toss them into the bag, making sure they get fully and evenly coated with the flour.

9. Now, toss the chicken breasts into your simmering pan, lower the heat to medium, and let it cook for 10 minutes on each side. Givin’ them sexy breast an even tan.

10. Once that’s all done, place your chicken on a nice clean platter. Remember that raspberry sauce you made? Hell, yeah, you better! Drizzle that all over the place and let them chickens know that its time to get saucy. Serve it up!

Get your copy of Cookin' with Coolio: 5 Star Meals at a 1 Star Price at Amazon and make sure to stop by his official website: http://www.coolio.com/

Check out A Thousand Soups for another Coolio recipe.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ann Clark Cookie Cutters


With the Holidays fast approaching cookie making is at an all-time high. If you want cookie cutters that are sturdy, cut cleanly and have more variety than any other, you want Ann Clark Cookie Cutters.

Ann Clark started small, at a Philadelphia trade show, and is now one of the most well-known cookie cutter makers in the country. In fact, I pass by one of the Ann Clark Ltd. racks when I shop at Wegmans and I have to stop, each and every time, to look at them or add to my collection. Not only are these cookie cutters still made here in the USA - in Vermont - they are some of the cutest and most varied designs I have ever seen. Each cookie cutter comes with a tag that was designed and created by Ann Clark herself.

I have 3 cookie cutters that I received to review and each cut cleanly, held shape, cleaned up easily and the kids loved helping me use them. We used the cookie recipe that came with the cutters and it was so good that my kids asked me to make a second batch - right away!



Here's the recipe:

Sugar Cookie Recipe

Ingredients:

1 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cup sifted flour

Directions:

Cream together: 1 cup butter 2/3 cup sugar
Beat in: 1 egg
Add: 1 Teaspoon vanilla 1/2 Teaspoon salt 2 1/2 cups sifted flour
Mix until all ingredients are well blended. Chill dough 3-4 hours before rolling Preheat oven to 350. Roll out 1/4" thick and cut. Bake about 8-10 minutes or until barely colored. Remove from cookie sheets and cool on wire racks. Cookies can be frosted and decorated or eaten just plain. Enjoy!


There are traditional tin cutters, copper cutters, entire sets, contemporary designs and so much more! You can find Ann Clark cookie cutters and more at the company website, www.annclarkcookiecutters.com and you can also read Ann's blog at Make More Cookies - now run off to check it all out and tell them the 'other Anne' sent you!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Where's the Beef?

...or chicken, or cupcakes or anything for that matter? I know I'm slacking off here, but I have a valid explanation for it. I don't mean to ever leave my readers hanging high and dry, but my dear hard drive crashed a few weeks ago and I've been too busy to attempt a retrieval of any information from it.

I have a brand new shiny double-sized hard drive and double RAM, but it won't take the place of the many photos and writings I had stored on the other that hadn't been backed-up. Once all those lovely photos were gone (it happened so quickly there wasn't even time to back-up) I lost a bit of my desire to repeat any of what I had already done, and so my dear blog has been forsaken. I will attempt retrieval in the next week or so, and if I ever do get it all back, you'll be inundated with deliciousness, I promise!

I have reviews to post, and while I count on them myself when making purchases, I don't know of anyone who wants to read nothing but review after review, and as I have no new material for my personal blog, here it is ... sad and lonely.

I have a plethora of new posts at Family.com and they can all be found in my sidebar to the right along with any posts I've done at A Thousand Soups, my soup blog. In fact, there is a brand new page done for me at Family.com (http://family.go.com/food/pkg-low-cost-recipes-from-a-real-mom/#)- go check that out ASAP! Fear not, I'll be back in the swing of things shortly ... until then, grab a cup of something warm and check out the 4 years of yummy archives I have.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Natural Brew Sodas


I don't drink soft drinks as a rule, but once in a while I'll give in and have one that's off the beaten track. I'm not overly fond of cola and the lemon-lime type don't usually do it for me, either. Mostly, it's just too sweet, too fizzy and lacking in any real depth of flavor - and I can't see loading up with completely empty calories in such a lackluster way.

That being said, when it comes to fall and winter holidays, I usually concede and purchase ginger ale or root beer. I like that they aren't so sweet and the flavor is different than the standard sodas. So, when I was offered a full round of Natural Brew, I opted to check them out, knowing that our annual harvest party was in the near future.

I served them up with our fare of pumpkin-everything and pork products galore and the kids, my husband and I all really ejoyed them. This isn't your usual cola, and it isn't even the usual for root beer and ginger ale, these are robust in flavor and very different than all the other ginger ales, root beers, colas and creme sodas I've ever had.

These drinks fit in with my way of thinking - they're hand-crafted in small batches (think micro-brewing), and they're also produced with natural ingredients, using no artificial colors, flavors or additives. WOW!

These are really worth a try, I absolutely love their Draft Root Beer and the Outrageous Ginger Ale? Oh, not only does it taste like it's got the freshest just-grated ginger in it, when I wasn't feeling so good last week, it was just the ticket to settle my tummy. The kids loved it all, too and they can be picky, even when it comes to sodas.

Natural Brew comes in six delicious flavors:

Draft Root Beer – Brewed the old-fashioned way using only the finest ingredients from nature for a classic flavor. No need for anything else.

Outrageous Ginger Ale – We start with the zestiest ginger and add a splash of sweetness to create the brisk zing of our Outrageous Ginger Ale.

Vanilla Crème Soda – A soothing blend of the finest vanilla beans makes this classic a favorite for easy sipping.

Lemon Lime – Refreshing and bold, this lively mix of tart lemon and sweet lime will brighten your day.

Concord Grape – Reminiscent of childhood days, this authentic grape flavor will take you back to the soda fountain, summer time and baseball games.

Natural Brew handcrafted sodas are sold in 4-packs and available nationwide at natural food stores, the natural section of your local grocery and other select vendors for $5.49 per 4-pack.

Find a store near you that carries Natural Brew, because you will most definitely want to try it for yourself. Here in the Lehigh Valley and surrounding areas you can find it at the following retailers:

Queens Nutritional Products
1450 Pennsylvania Avenue
Allentown, PA
(610)691-6644

Shaffer's Health Center
Fairgrounds Market
Allentown, PA
(610)439-1013

Sign Of The Bear Natural Foods
514 N. Saint Cloud St.
Allentown, PA
(610)439-8575

Grahams Natural Health Source
750 South 25th St
Easton, PA
(610)252-7707

Nature's Way Markets
143 Northampton Street
Easton, PA
(610)253-0940

Healthy Alternatives
7150 Hamilton Blvd
Trexlertown, PA
(610)366-9866

Nature's Garden Limited
4290 Perkiomen Ave
Reading, PA
(610)779-3000

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Cookbook Review: The Un-Constipated Gourmet


It's the thing nobody talks about but everyone suffers from at one time or another; constipation. You may think that topic has no business on a food blog and would be more appropriate for a health or medical blog, but try and remember, what goes in must come out, so starting with the source is one of those 'ounce of prevention' type deals. Yes, it's a funny subject, but fiber plays a very important role in our bodies, and not just for purposes of elimination. Fiber helps to keep cholesterol down, our hearts healthy and can reduce the risk of colon cancer, as well.

The Un-Constipated Gourmet by Danielle Svetcov deals with, in a very funny way, not just the subject of constipation, but the very best way to prevent it: what you're eating. Before you run away thinking this will be nothing short of a few recipes including bran muffins and prune whip, think again. Not only is there more to roughage than that, there's a lot more flavor involved, too.

Presented in a simple way, seven chapters and 125 recipes, each recipe is given a T.P. rating, the higher the score, the more likely you are to be hitting the potty in no time flat. I seem to be a number 8, having chosen recipes with that number more often than not. The recipe for Caldo Verde is shared at A Thousand Soups and the recipe for White Bean Dip with Cilantro is here. Danielle describes this as a Latino version of hummus, and my kids and I couldn't get enough of it. How did it, er ... work? Quite well - that's all I'll say here.

This isn't just a book for the colonically challenged, it's filled with just plain good recipes that you'll want to make anyway.

White Bean Dip with Cilantro
Serves 8 as an appetizer

3 (15 ounce) cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup olive oil (maybe more)
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 garlic cloves
3 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
Salt and pepper, to taste

Process all ingredients in a blender except for 2 tablespoons of cilantro, which are saved for garnish. For added 'go', serve with thick tortilla chips or homemade whole-wheat croutons (essentially thinly sliced, heavily toasted bread, with olive oil and garlic rubbed in).


Get your own copy of The Un-Constipated Gourmet at Powell's Books or Amazon.com.




Sunday, November 01, 2009

Avery & Zazzle Recipe Binder Design Contest

Check this out - and do it NOW - this contest ends November 2, 2009 at 11:59 PM, so get your creative hat on and go submit an entry today! Post a link to your design here and one lucky WINNER will receive their binder FREE!

Here are the particulars:

Prizes:
Grand Prize = $2,000
Second Prize = $500
10 Honorable Mention Prizes = $25 Zazzle Gift Code

How to Enter the Recipe Binder Contest:

  1. Create a Zazzle Account (It’s free!)
  2. Create your Recipe Binder
  3. “Post for Sale” your Recipe Binder with the tag zazzleaveryrecipecontest2009 in the Zazzle Marketplace (learn how to tag your product here)
  4. You’re done, good luck!
Create an Entry | View Entries

Contest entries must be received by November 2, 2009 at 11:59pm PT

Contest Rules:

  1. You may only submit one entry for this Recipe Binder Contest
  2. Entries must be submitted between October 19, 2009 at 9:00 am PT, and November 2, 2009 at 11:59 pm PT, to be eligible.
  3. Entries will be judged on uniqueness of design, overall creativity, and best use of the binder space.
  4. Entering a contest is done by tagging your product with a specific contest related keyword (or “tag”). If you don’t know how to do this, please read the instructions here. You should also leave a comment under the contest announcement with a link to your product to give it more visibility.
  5. Contest is for submissions by residents of the USA only. All other entrants will be excluded from the competition. Read the Official Recipe Binder Contest Rules.