Monday, December 29, 2008

Notes On A Party

Saturday night at chez nous saw several scenes of conviviality and cheer at our annual Hanukah bash, but now I am experiencing a gentle bout of post-party depression. You know, the feelings of let-down and loss that directly follow a fete for which you've spent hours, days, and weeks in detailed preparation. It's those zillion little details that make a party feel like like a grand old time. The varied appetizer and hors d'oeuvre menu that I "conceived" went through many edits and modifications, but I stuck to my golden rule of cocktail party fare: "thou shalt forsake all cutlery". The party's theme was "winterrific", and Mother Nature graciously complied by dumping 6-8 inches of snow on us all a few days prior. The drinks menu were suitably girlicious, all served up in to-be-expected martini glasses, even the gents got into the mood and sipped the Pink Flamingo's and Winterbreezes.
So I planned, and coordinated, brainstormed, deliberated, imagined and then actualized. I poured, stirred, measured, chopped, sauteed, baked, cooked. I have the cuts and the burns that will serve as Hanukah Party '08 souvenirs, as well as a pound of fake snow, a dozen tree branches spray painted white, and a bucket full of dreidels. And then it was the party. In my version of 1960's Party Hostess, I wore a tres mod LBD and black go-go boots, I spun into a controlled frenzy of plating, reheating, and arranging. The nibbles and bits came out in waves throughout the evening, it was a success on a purely logistical level. And then it was over. And I was overwhelmed by the amount of disarray that was left after a 4 hour party, we're still trying to set it straight after 2 days! It all seems just a little anti-climactic. So here I am, trying to figure out if it's all worth it. I think it is, because it makes the Holiday season special and exciting. It gives people something to look forward to. And, it's an opportunity to try out a bunch of new and interesting recipes and then foist them onto my nearest and dearest, who for these few days seem to have abandoned all their healthful regimes and skinny schemes.

Party Menu:
Pizza Dip- well recieved slow cooker hot dip.
Cheddar-Cranberry Cheeseball - unnecessary, will not repeat.
Goat Cheese Terrine: my party standard, always deccimated by party's end.
Pomodori al Forno: first introduced to the book club in Sept., appreciated both occasions- none left both times.
Asiago Cheese Dip- recieved several enthusiastic endorsements for this crock pot hot dip, that had like a dozen complicated ingredients (reconstituted mushrooms etc.)
Horseradish Gouda Dip: I love horseradish so I decided to include this, but it was unnecessary though moderately consumed.
German Dip: It had me at the caraway seeds.
Baked Brie with marmalade and pecans- always a winner.

Cheese Straws: a standard that can be frozen for months before or after.
Honey Mustard-Gruyere Palmiers: I find these addictive.
Gougeres: An homage to my Francophilism

Tarts/hors d'oeuvres
Balsamic Shallot & Goat Cheese: Y.U.M. I will definitely do this again. My favorite dish of the night.
Tomato Gruyere: ehhh...OK, nothing to cry over.
Savory Mushroom & Goat Cheese: Gone in like 20 minutes
Tomato Onion Tart: More of a quiche and a bit of a yawn.
Artichoke, Roasted Pepper, Goat Cheese Pizza Galette: If it's pizza it's good.
Pear & Blue Cheese Tart: Interesting and pretty well recieved among the more adventurous.
Onion Bhajees: I made two batches of this fried Indian savory treat...sooo good, I only managed to snag one, before they were gone. Definitely a repeat.

Pecan Praline Fondue: Decadent
Lemon Meringue Fondue: delicious with cheesecake bites or mini meringues.
Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies: a scrumptious chocolate cookie for grown-ups
Peanut BUtter Cup Chunk Bars: what could be bad?
Coconut Chocolate Chunk Blondies: I have a lot of these leftover.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Feeding The Junkster

Do you ever throw caution to the wind and simply say "Screw it!" to healthful and sensible eating? Do you ever give in to the greedy little junkster that resides hungrily inside you, and order the hot fudge sundae with extra hot fudge? The Pizza with extra cheese, the burger with the works. I do, especially at this time of the year. Between marathon chocolate-making and the usual baking and then my blowout Hanukah bash where I give myself permission to make every over-the-top-ridiculously-extravagant recipe that has captured my fancy during the year, moderation is not even in my vocabulary.
Dinner tonight had the potential for being healthy and sensible, I started out with 2 lbs. of fresh sole. But as I was pondering my sole, I was derailed by the greedy little junkster and decided that I would crush a bag of potato chips (reduced fat in my defense) and melt a little butter and make "fish in chips".

Fish in Chips
Crush 2 c. potato chips in food processor to preferred consistency, add 1 tsp. garlic powder- mix. Melt 2-3 tbsp. butter/marg. Coat 4-6 fish fillets in melted butter, cover in crushed chip mixture. Place in oven at 375F, and bake until fish cooked through and the chips are slightly golden.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

7 Random Facts

A few weeks ago I was tagged by Lisa at, and like everyone else on the planet at this time of year I've been so flat out busy, it's taken me until now to respond. Hmmmm let's see 7 random things about me....

1. Last night I had the strangest dream, oh boy.... It involved my 3rd grade teacher the Chrysler Building and a whole lotta tomatoes????
2. If I could only eat only one thing for the rest of my life it would probably be pizza- topped to the hilt with all the good stuff
3. I have an irrational aversion to raisins
4. If I could only rescue 1 item from my house in the case of a fire (excluding people of course) it would have to be my band new kick-ass Frye boots
5. If I could invite 3 famous dead people to my dinner table they would be: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, and Frank Sinatra
6. I cannot watch "It's a Wonderful Life" without matter how many times I've seen it- the part where the waterworks begins is when he opens the book Clarence gives him and it says "No man is a failure so long as he has friends..." , and then when Harry toasts George by saying " To George Bailey, the richest man in Bedford Falls..." I'm a goner- a complete blubbering sentimental mess.
7. The last thing I bought was pretzel rods and lots of them....1200 to be exact (I covered them in chocolate and other goodies for a gift basket order).

Thursday, November 27, 2008


I get very sentimental and irony-free on Thanksgiving. I say uncool things like: I'm so grateful for everything little thing in my life. And I'm thankful for living in a country that is made up of such generous and wonderful people. Not being a natural born American, Thanksgiving was something I came to later than sooner, but I have embraced it with the zeal of a convert.
I don't get those people who harrumph about the Holidays, especially Thanksgiving. What's not to like? It's a uniting national holiday that cuts across religious divisions and political orientation. It celebrates the bounty that is in our lives, and asks us to examine the little (and big) blessings that fill our days and often go unnoticed and unappreciated. And there's some really good eating involved- sounds like a winner to me!

Cranberry Chutney
In a med. saucepan combine 1 c. water and 3/4 c. sugar, bring to a boil. Add 2 c. fresh cranberries, 2 cored, peeled, and diced apples, 3/4 c. apple cider vinegar, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. ginger, 1/4 tsp. ground cloves, mix and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 15 minutes. Serve at room temperature.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Final Fond Farewell

So I now have proof that we are indeed in the throes of a nasty recession. Forget the graphs, mindnumbing stats, and the stuffed shirt's frantic proclamations on the evening news- my favorite local cafe is closing! A cafe that has been in this area longer than I have. I loved going to this place- it was where I snatched up a few moments of luxury and indulgence, in the middle of the day, after drop off- before pick-up. Sometimes I'd hide behind a book or a magazine, savoring the solitude and freedom over a sandwich. Often times, I'd play the lady-who-lunches routine with a friend or two. We'd trade news and the inevitable kiddie-tales over a couple of crunchilicious salads.
The food was solidly pleasing, the menu was nothing if not reliable. I knew it by heart, as it never changed. I had the 3-4 dishes that I rotated between: If I was in breakfast mode I'd always get the egg-white omelette #3 (sundried toms, cheese, and fresh basil), I turned to the tuna sandwich when I craved protein. My most frequent request was #5- a hearts of romaine salad made stupendous by crisp apple slices, pungent blue cheese crumbles, balsamic sesame vinaigrette, and the spiced cashews were the salad's piece de resistance. When I was feeling downright extravagant I'd get the melted brie and apple sandwich.
This afternoon as a final farewell I met a couple of friends for lunch at our nearly departed cafe. I had my good ol' #5. We tried to identify an alternate locale- I really hope that Burger King isn't our only option after this economic twister wreaks it's full damage.

#5 Salad- as deconstructed by me
Dressing: pour about 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar, 3-4 tbsp. (to taste) honey, and 1/4 c. toasted sesame oil into a jar or cruet-shake well.
Spiced Nuts: In med. sized bowl mix 2-3 tbsp. maple syrup, 1 tbsp. firmly packed brown sugar, a nice pinch of cayenne, a sprinkling of salt, dash of cinnamon. Add 1 c. pecans or walnuts or cashews, mix until maple syrup concoction coats the nuts/ Place on a baking sheet in one layer. Put in oven at 375F- for about 10-15 mins. Cool.

Divide chopped hearts of romaine leaves onto salad plates, place granny smith slices on top of romaine, scatter a handful of crumbled blue cheese, feta, or goat cheese over salad. Then sprinkle spiced nuts over, douse with the balsamic sesame vinaigrette.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Answer Is Soup

Does your life ever feel like a maelstrom of activities, chores, responsibilities? Maybe that's the definition of life? A tumultuous, disordered, whirlwind of people, events, and commitments. And at the end of the day, if you're very good and a little bit lucky, you get a delicious bowl of hot soup to savor, and unwind over.
This is my kitchen sink soup, I just throw a bunch of things in it, let it simmer for a while, and then enjoy.

Kitchen Sink Soup

Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a saucepan, add 1 chopped yellow onion, saute until soft and translucent. Add 1 qt. veg. or chicken stock, 1 chopped red pepper, 1 can of cannellini beans, 2 cans of fire roasted diced tomatoes, 1 tsp. oregano, 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley, salt and pepper. Raise heat to high, until soup begins to boil. Lower to low, cover, and let simmer for 20 mins. Add a handful or two of small shaped pasta. Cook until pasta is ready.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Cheese 'n Crackers Soup

I'm trying to get the recipes right for this article I'm writing on winter soups that would appeal to the kidfolk. I came up with 2 cutesy-cute ideas: Cheese & Crackers Soup and Spaghetti 'n Meatball Soup. I promised my editor that the recipes would be great- tried, tested, and truly tasty- and that the piece would be print-worthy in about a week. My road to hell is paved not so much in good intentions, but really, a distorted sense of time.
For the past couple of days I tried a few cheddar cheese recipes that were just OK- definitely not great, there was a bitter aftertaste probably due to the copious amount of sharp cheddar. The kiddles are my mini-guineas and they were totally underwhelmed.
This evening experimentation produced a better result- smoother, milder, more kid-friendly. A word of warning: this soup is not for the lactose intolerant and although I used low-fat dairy products it's definitely on the richer end of the spectrum.
Tomorrow night: the Spaghetti 'n Meatball Soup trials begin....

Cheese & Crackers Soup
Melt 3 tbsp. butter over med. heat in a pot, add 1 c. chopped red pepper and stir until pepper softens. Add 1/2 c. flour and mix in until peppers are coated. Pour 2 c. heated milk (I used 2%) and 2 c. heated veg. or chicken stock. Stir until creamy and smooth. Add 1 1/2 c. shredded cheddar and 1 c. shredded mozzarella. Stir until melted in. If necessary thin with stock or milk. To serve: crumble a few saltines (or your favorite type of cracker) on top and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hashing It Out

Here's another one to add to the breakfast-for-dinner annals. It's a bit involved and hardly zip one-two-three, like the blueberry buttermilk pancakes I made for dinner last night-but I'm on a bit of a kick you see, turning our days upside-down, inside-out- adding a little topsy-turviness to our daily routines. Nowadays the kiddles are half expecting to be greeted at the breakfast table with a steak, a slice of birthday cake in their lunchboxes, and every kind of breakfast dish for dinner. Last night was pancakes, tonight- salmon hash, tomorrow night perhaps I'll go basic with a bowl of homemade granola? This is just another one of my spurious phases- I trot down these random paths every once in a while- when I need to create a diversion, rather tame (and lame), when I think of all the other truly naughty things I can be doing.

This recipe is adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine

Dilled Sour Cream: stir into one c. sour cream 1 tbsp. chopped fresh dill, a dash of salt, a few good grinds of pepper and a squirt or two of lemon juice. Set aside.
Salmon Hash: in skillet heat 2 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. veg oil- once butter melts add 1 lb. potato dice or shred ( I used Simply Potatoes hash browns for ease). Coat in butter mixture and cook until potatoes start to turn tender and brown around the edges. Continue to turn over cook for about 5 mins until uniformly soft. Then stir in 1 c. of diced red onion- and pat mixture down with spatula. Cook until onion is soft and translucent. In a small bowl mix 1 tbsp dijon mustard with 3 tbsp. half and half and generous grinds of pepper. Scrape up the hash mixture and stir in the mustard mixture. Continue cooking and scraping up the hash, tamping it down with the spatula every so often. Then mix in 1 lb. flaked cooked salmon fillet, 2-3 tbsp. of snipped chives and 1 tbsp. dill and a few dashed of tobasco sauce- cook until heated through. Serve hot, topped with a nice dollop of dilled sour cream and a sprinking of capers.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Chicken Fantastico

At last, the chicken recipe I've been looking for since getting hitched. Everyone knows that each good home cook worth his/her kosher salt, has a good roasted chicken recipe in their repertoire. I finally found mine. And I've definitely been getting my dollars worth out of it- as well as a few rounds of praise.

Chicken Fantastico
Mix 1 tbsp. onion powder, 1 tbsp. garlic powder, 1 tsp. salt, 1 1/2 tsp. oregano, 1 tsp. paprika with 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil. Brush chicken pullet pieces evenly with olive oil mixture. Place uncovered in 375F oven on rack 6-8" from top for about 1 hr., cover with foil and leave in for another hour.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Party Hearty

Chez nous has been party central over the past few days. Kiddlette's birthday party on Sunday kicked it all off. It was a convivial scene, between the uproarious antics of Rogow the amazing clown/magician, the Tinkerbelle themed decorations, and the menu dictated by all of Kiddlette's favorite things: freshly made grilled cheese sandwiches, a pound cake topped with whipped cream frosting, and cups of yummy hot chocolate. Kiddlette was thrilled by the mound of presents she recieved, not so thrilled by my decree that she may only open one a day...
By the party's end the house looked like a trashed Disney float- sagging streamers, deflated balloons, shredded Tinkerbelle tableware. A sure sign of a rollicking good party among the Pre-K set.
As soon as the last goody bag was dispensed, I headed straight back into the kitchen and began preparations for last night's Italian themed dinner. My friend C. was on the guest list, and the inspiration behind the menu. A few weeks ago we were to meet for dinner, I suggested Italian, she dismissed the idea saying that "there's no good Italian around here". I stuck my nose in Lidia Bastianich's fine Italian cookbook, and didn't resurface until I devised an appropriate menu. I started with a rich and flavorful tomato bread soup, moved on to a simple chicken cacciatore that comprised of just 4 ingredients: san marzano plum tomatoes, chicken cut in 8ths, olive oil, and fresh fragrant rosemary- simply good. I also made a meat ragu sauce that was just fantastico! It utilized 2 cups of red wine, and reconstituted porcini mushrooms, it percolated on the stove for hours and filled the house with a hearty and robust aroma. Served with hefty rigatoni pasta- I half expected the table to burst into a round O Sole Mio. Dessert was where I departed from the theme and probably shouldn't have. I baked a chocolate chip cookie pie that just wouldn't set, not sure why... I wasn't going to serve it, but was cajoled into bringing it out- it was like eating warm cookie dough, which I'm not bananas about, but our guests seemed to enjoy.
Today I made a chocolate cake that almost made me cry. Not because it was beautiful to behold, although it certainly wasn't an eyesore. It was chocolate cake that you could wrap your soul around. Deep, dark, chocolate flavor, moist texture, there's nowhere to go but Happy when you're savoring this cake. And the ease of this recipe takes you from Happy to Relieved.

Beat together chocolate cake mix, 1 package chocolate instant pudding mix, 4 eggs, 1 8oz. conainer sour cream, 1/2 c. vegetable oil, 1/2 c. water, and 1 tbsp. vanilla extract. Stir in 1 package of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Pour into greased bundt pan. Bake in 350F oven for about an hour, or until it passes the toothpick test.
Chocolate Glaze: mix 1/2 c. sugar, 1/4 c. milk, and 3 tbsp. butter in saucepan on med. heat. Stirring constantly, bring to boil and boil for a minute. Take off stove. Stir in 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1 tsp. vanilla extract until chips are melted and glaze is smooth and glossy. Pour glaze over cooled cake.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Cure

I need chocolate. I need it like I need oxygen. I need it or else I will fade. It is my lifeline, my manna, my saviour. O Chocolate! How I do love thee. Every so often I am struck by an extreme bout of Chocolate Fever, I'll go on a bender where the only things that pass my lips are chocolate in nature and flavor. I am in the bittersweet grip of one of these rages. One half -box of truffles later, I decided I had to get pro-active and concoct my own cure. A be-all-and-end-all of chocolate comfort cravings. Death by chocolate, indeed.

Nutella-Mascarpone Stuffed Chocolate Bread Pudding w. Peanut Butter Sauce
Cut up a large challah into bite sized cubes. Place in large bowl. In med. sized bowl whisk 8 eggs and 1 c. chocolate milk and 1 tsp. vanilla extract. Pour egg mixture over challah cubes, stir so bread is covered in mixture. In another bowl (this recipe requires a lot of glassware-it's worth it) mix together 1 c. nutella and 1 8 oz. container mascarpone cheese. In a casserole dish, cover bottom with half the soaked challah cubes. Then spread nutella-mascarpone mixture over challah layer. Top nutella-mascarpone layer with the rest of challah cubes. Place in fridge for a few hours or overnight. Bring to room temperature and then place in 375F oven for about 30 mins.

Peanut Butter Sauce
In a saucepan over med. heat combine 1/2 c. peanut butter, 1/2 c. heavy cream, 2 tbsp. corn syrup, 1/4 c. brown sugar. Stir until smooth. Serve warm.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Phoning It In

I'm almost positive that I'm not unique in the feeling that my life revolves around my family's belly. If not cooking a meal, I'm at the market getting ingredients for their next feeding. When not preparing lunchboxes, I'm rationing out treats. Holidays, birthdays, sundry special occasions all need to be catered. Usually I dig it. Usually it's a labor of love. Usually it's just what I do.
This weekend was unusual. And that's when take-out is a beautiful thing. This lack of inspiration also coincides with a missing camera. Hopefully both will return soon.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Birthday #35

Well the birthday has been and gone, and so has the accompanying existential crisis. I know that I'm not the first person to ever hit 35, but Damn! how did it happen so fast? And how did it happen to me? Inside I still feel like I'm 16, although Hubbabubba always says 12 is more accurate, but those stray gray hairs are now being joined by a whole bunch of buddies, it's not as easy for Mommy to be Mommy after a late night of merriment, and I think I need glasses. The worst part of "maturing" is the realization that I will not live forever. Of course I always knew this in my head, but now I know it in my heart. So I better get a move on, and start doing all the things I want to do, and have been pushing off for when I "grow up".
Hubbabubba brought me one step closer to finally learning French with the Rosetta Stone language program as a birthday present. My birthday dinner at David Burke and Donatella in NYC, was another thing that I had been wanting to do for a while. And even though it completely burnt our budget to a crisp, it was well worth it. The space is gorgeous and bright and whimsical. The atmosphere was upscale, yet not in a snobby New York City Foodista kind of way. The room was at full capacity but it felt convivial rather than crowded. And the food...It deserves it's own paragraph.
I started with a tomato and burrata salad, and let me tell you the tri-colored tomatoes and creamy fresh burrata cheese rocked hard in it's kicky vinaigrette. I then had the cod which was served with corn kernels dressed in a herby type dressing. The fish was great, but with the corn it was like a miracle in my mouth; small explosions of crunchy sweetness. Deep breath, Rachel.... We ordered a bunch of sides; the asparagus with the truffle emulsion was most memorable, but the green beans tempura were pretty awesome too. I consider dessert "me " time, so you know I wasn't skipping anything despite my full belly, which was tightly corseted into my sexy 1950's halter dress (it was my birthday). Their famous dessert is a cheesecake lollipop tree, which I dutifully ordered. It was whimsical, beautiful, mmmmmm-ness, which I already am planning on copying next time I have a big party (probably holiday time). Little balls of cheesecake dunked in chocolate covered in various toppings - sign me up.
One of the great things about being part of a couple is that with a little planning and coordination, you can usually try everything you're interested in on the menu. Hubbabubba is always a great orderer, so I really had a wonderful cross section of the menu. I had fun. And have decided my developing wrinkles aren't wrinkles just laugh lines.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Hopeful Honey Cake

Not to sound like Chicken Little, but goshdarnit! The sky is falling! It is a gray and gloomy day, and the rain has soaked the bottom of my jeans. The national news is as ominous as the weather. And tomorrow is my birthday. Being a Celebrationist this should be cause for...celebration, but I'm having a bout of the gettin' old blues. I am trying to scrounge for some sweet hope. Monday is Rosh Hashannah, jewish new year, and with a new year comes fresh starts and blank slates. Perhaps this will be the year I master French, learn to cook Indian food, have at least a dozen adventures with the kiddles, and at least one romantic weekend with Hubbabubba. Who knows all that a new year can hold?
So now I think a Honey Cake is definitely in order. This is not my grandmother's well-worn recipe, it's based on an old Dutch recipe I discovered somewhere along the way. It is earthy and sweet and spicy and contains all the hope I feel for a happy new year.

Honey Cake
1 c. firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 c. room-temp Earl Grey tea
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 c. orange blossom honey
2 eggs
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4-1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 2 loaf pans. Mix all the ingredients together well. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 35-40 mins, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

you like me, you really like me....

diamond_award.png (image)

I started keeping this blog in February. Being a lifelong "diarist" I feel like I really found a great medium. It's a way for me to write about my life and times through food. Being a mom, a chocolatier, and an ardent Celebrationist, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen.
Upon venturing out into the great blogosphere, I encountered truly a brave new world, with so much talent and ability. It's almost overwhelming. My humble little blog is just that, it's a way for me to record my days and the dishes that ensue, basically it captures the flavor of my life. So when Alexa from awarded me with this, I was totally flattered and super-grateful.
Alexa is so talented in so many ways. Her food is always impeccable and adventurous and her photography is crystalline and beautiful. And that she checks out my blog is a huge compliment!

So without further ado- I will set about to pass along this award to other bloggers who I think are fab. Spreading the love- that's what it's all about, right? Man! She is prolific and tireless and uber-talented. Half the time I'm stopping myself from licking the monitor her food looks that good. Lisa's posts are sheer pleasure to read. I love her experimentation. Love how much she loves chocolate. I love her recreation of recipes from old cookbooks. I love her pictures. Love it all. HILARIOUS! I am always entertained whenever I check out this blog, and the fact that her food is amazing- makes her a true force. Always a fun visit. Katie's creations are inspirational. From her posts you really get the picture of a well rounded person. She's like this at 14, I can only imagine how unstoppable she will be as she gets older. Because I have a soft spot for mid twentieth century Americana, and because she recreates those recipes so well, and faithfully, and with a nice touch of humor.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cookie Comforts

What in the world is going on? Every time I switch on the TV or radio the news goes from bad to badder. Worse case scenarios are now realities. It all just makes me want to shove my head under my pillow, curl up, and sleep it all off. So I do the next best thing- bake cookies- sweet, warm, homey cookies. Cookies that are soft and chewy and taste of a mellow autumn day. Cookies that are as comforting as a cup of cinnamon tea, and will go perfectly with that cup.

Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies
Preheat oven to 350F. In mixing bowl beat 1 1/2 c. packed brown sugar and 1 c. butter until fluffy. Mix in 1 tsp. maple extract and 2 eggs until well blended. Beat in 2 c. flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, and 1 tsp. cinnamon. Scraping bowl until well combined. Stir in 2 1/2 c. oats. Drop dough onto cookie sheets by the heaping tablespoonful. Bake for 15 mins. or until light golden brown.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Good 'n Ugly Blueberry Scones

Yesterday I picked up a carton of beautiful juicy blueberries from my local farm market. Visions of those scrumptuous drop scones that I thoroughly enjoyed during my morning coffee breaks in Lake Placid skipped merrily through my mind. Oh, I had such good intentions. I would combine half a block of cream cheese with the butter crumbs for creaminess, 1 tsp. of cinnamon for a little earthiness....I scooped the batter onto the baking sheet, and with a loving glance anticipated the new best friend my morning coffee would surely have.
Twenty minutes later I was forced to greet my blueberry drop scone...pancakes. Oh the dissappointment, and the chagrin. These scones look like something only a baker could love. They taste pretty good. But with food, especially baked goods, appearance matters.
Well at least I have another recipe for my fantasy cookbook inspired by advertisements from my youth. "Good 'n Ugly Blueberry Scones" based on the "So good 'n ugly!" commercial for Fruit Bars ("Look so ugly gonna make you shout, taste so yummy gonna knock you out..." lines that would make Shakespeare proud...).

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sweet 'n Spicy Nut

Excuse me as I indulge a dusty memory for a moment: When I was in school I took a semester of Playwriting. The culmination of the course was the production of a completed script. My script was titled: "Hannah of the Salted Variety", it was basically a thinly veiled "account" of my life and times in a small liberal arts new england college and the angst that ensued. Hardly a masterpiece, rather self indulgent, sometimes amusing, on the whole a bit of a bore.
The high point of the script (and I mean that literally) is an argument Hannah and her male roommate have, he claiming that all women are "nuts" and the difference is that some are plain, some are honey roasted, and others are salted....Hannah being of the salted variety.
Why I bring this up now? Tonight I'm making a salad utilizing slices of juicy ripe pears, a tangy pomegranate vinaigrette, and I thought a batch of sweet 'n spicy walnuts would go wonderfully.
These walnuts have just a hint of the heat cayenne pepper endows. They are sweetened by maple syrup and brown sugar, kicked up by a pinch of cinnamon, and for just a suggestion of saltiness a pinch of salt.
I'm thinking sequel. Hannah 15 years on, a few kids, living the bourgeois dream. "Hannah of the Sweet 'n Spicy Variety"?

Sweet 'n Spicy Nuts
Grease a baking sheet and preheat oven to 325F. Combine in bowl 1 c. walnuts/pecans , 2 tbsp. maple syrup, 1 tbsp. packed brown sugar, pinch of salt, generous pinch of cayenne pepper, and a dash of cinnamon. Mix until nuts coated. Spread on baking sheet- place in oven bake for .about 15 minutes until golden and bubbling.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Book Club Eats

Last night it was my turn to host book club. I'm always excited when it's at chez moi. It had been a while since we all got together due to our respective summer schedules, and last night seemed to be just what we all needed; no kids, no partners, yes chocolate and yes wine.
One of my favorite things to do when hosting a party or event is to put together the menu. I haul out my cookbooks and foodie mags and go through them in bed while listening to my ipod trying to get ideas. This is my way to rewind and relax-everyone's got their something-right?
I wanted the menu for this gathering of wonderful yet slightly stressed-out women to be, of course, delicious but also a little decadent and luxurious. Kind of like a back-to-school celebration.
In last month's Bon Appetit I came across two recipes that I knew would be great as hors d'oeuvres along with the ubiquitous cheese platter. A slow roasted tomato creation called Pomodori al Forno and Wild Mushroom Crostini. The Pomodori was outstanding and worth the slow-roastin' effort. The recipe called for ripe plum tomatoes, but I used ripe tomatoes on the vine instead, with soft goat cheese it was flavor exuberance. The mushrooms were also delicious but subtle, more like a supporting actor to the star, which was a Meyerberg goat's milk cheese with garlic and chive used as a base. I made a vinaigrette that I mixed into the mushrooms for additional flavor. I don't know if I'll include the vinaigrette next time- maybe let the mushooms sing alone.
The pasta Aglio Ollio was appreciated along with a simple mixed leaf salad dressed in a simple herb vinaigrette (that I also used for the mushrooms). But dessert was when the healing began. Inspired by of our family trip to Vermont I baked a Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Pound Cake with Maple Espresso Glaze (Bon Appetit 10/07) and served my treasure trove of Vermont chocolate. We discussed the book (The Divide by Nicholas Evans), our lives, ate, drank, and were very merry - pretty good for a school night.

Pomodori Al Forno

Heat oven to 250F. Pour 1/2 c. olive oil into a glass baking dish. Slice up 2 lbs. of ripe tomatoes (4-5) that are halved lengthwise and seeded. Arrange tomato slices in dish. Drizzle with another 1/2 c. olive oil. Sprinkle with approx 1 tsp. dried oregano and 1 tsp. sugar and 1/2 tsp. salt. Bake for 1 hr. Turn tomatoes over and bake for another hour. Layer tomatoes in a bowl scattering 2 minced garlic cloves and 2 tsp. minced Italian parsley over. Pour reserved oil from baking dish over tomatoes. Let stand at room temp. until ready to serve.

Wild Mushroom Topping

Melt 3 tbsp butter in large skillet. Add 12oz. sliced wild mushrooms (I used oyster and shiitake) and 2 tsp. fresh thyme. Saute until browned. Serve at room temp.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Blintz Toast Casserole

With apologies to Alexa, the super-gracious talent behind Artsy-Foodie (, I decided to go with a blintz french toast casserole for this morning's brunch. I was tinkering with the idea of going chocolate, but ultimately convenience triumphed. Casserole French Toast can be assembled the night before and popped in the oven 45 minutes prior to your guests arrival. Definitely a boon when you only have an hour before the people arrive and the house is in usual weekend state of disarray. There is much I have to learn in life, but one lesson I have mastered is to have the food prepared before the guests arrive. Or at least in the oven. I've had parties where I spent half the time in the kitchen making fresh panini's or sizzling potato latkes. And it's really no fun and no fair to miss your own party.
This recipe combines the idea of a cheese blintz with french toast, talk about fusion food. I used half a teaspoon of orange oil in the cheese filling, next time I'll use vanilla. The cherry sauce was slightly tart- which I loved, but Hubbabubba suggested a tad more sugar (a tsp. more perhaps?).

Blintz Toast Casserole
Soak about 12 good sized slices of challah bread in a a mix of 7 eggs, 1 c. milk or half and half (if you want to be really indulgent), 1/2 c. maple syrup. In the meantime in a medium bowl combine 1 c. ricotta cheese, 1 c. cream cheese, 1 c. sour cream, 1/2 c. powdered sugar, 1/2 tsp. orange essence (it makes me feel better to say I used lowfat cheeses). Cover bottom of casserole pan with a layer of egg soaked challah. Spread cheese filling over challah and top with rest of challah slices. Refrigerate overnight.
Cherry Sauce: Empty a thawed package of pitted sweet dark cherries into saucepan with 1/2 c. water and 1 tsp. almond extract and a few teaspoons of sugar. Heat until boiling and then let simmer for 10-15 mins. until syrupy.
Next morning place in 350F oven until challah turns golden.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

For me, one of the best things about taking a trip is coming home. That's not to say that the trip wasn't wonderful- it was. But home is pretty close to heaven after a dusty week on the road- camping and hiking and exploring with kiddles and hubbabubba.
The Adirondacks region of New York is where this adventure begins. Up on top of Whiteface Mountain we saw an inspirational 360 degree view. Hiking along the river at Ausable Chasm wasn't too shabby either. The Wild Center was great as well, with interactive exhibits that had the kids riveted. Camping in the evening was high on the kiddles list of fun things- especially at campfire time, which came complete with cuisine de camp- franks and beans, and roasted marshmallows for dessert. We were told repeatedly how lucky we were with the weather, as it had been quite a soggy summer. And we were lucky- the days were just great, not too hot, nice 'n dry, and gloriously bright. The sunshine was gentle and joy-inducing.
Over the weekend we treated ourselves to a stay in an authentic and rustic Inn- right in the heart of Lake Placid, a town that hosted the winter olympics twice ('32 & '80). The restaurant fare was decent and filling, although none too earthshattering. I did make one delicious discovery in Lake Placid and that was at the Bluesberry Bakery. Every morning I began my day with a fresh baked scone or a muffin or a chocolate croissant. All were scrumptious-though my favorite was the blackberry scone, stuffed with fat juicy fresh blackberries which were picked at the height of the season. It was as good as a fresh baked drop scone gets.
Every morning I would stroll Munch down to the Adirondack chairs set right at the shore of the lake, toting my decaf and yummy baked item, and sit with him and watch the ducks on the lake and the kayaks and canoes glide by. I don't get more mellow and serene than I was there.
Truth is I needed those morning coffee breaks with Munch by the Lake to restore my patience and perspective. Camping with the kiddles was definitely fun- but also challenging and exhausting. Hubbabubba and I felt like 24 hr. caregivers working side by side, so while it wasn't really much of a romantic getaway- it was a bonding experience.
After we had thoroughly explored the Adirondacks, we moved onto Vermont. I lovermont. Partially because I love New England, but also because it's such a cool state- with so much to offer the nature enthusiast as well as the food lover.
Burlington was the site for one of the best restaurant meals I've ever enjoyed. Smokejack's on Church Street. Thankfully, hubbabubba and I had the good luck to stumble upon this absolute gem. The space is clean and light-filled and casually elegant. We were greeted at the table by a basket of warm cinnamon mini muffins, which the kiddles (and let's be real, I) promptly devoured. I ordered Munch a bowl of potato soup, fortunately for me he was too enamored with the muffins to give the soup any time. Wow! it was so good, made with locally grown potatoes and half-pint scallions- creamy and seasoned just right. It left my mouth feeling the slightest hint of heat. This was the beginning of a beautiful meal.
Hubbabubba ordered a seared yellowfin tuna salad that was bright green and tangy and fresh. I convinced big boy kiddle to order the savory grilled bread and roasted garlic sandwich- made with locally made carambozola cheese and olives. He was not dissappointed, and the few bites I negotiated were a grilled cheese lovers dream come true. Kiddlette's Mac 'n Cheese with caramelized onions and crunchy crust, makes me want to be a better cook. Bliss. Joy. Revelation. My french toast made with thick slices of Red Hen Bakery bread and embellished with maple mascarpone whipped cream and Vermont maple syrup (duh)- sent my tastebuds into jubilant rapture. Smokejack's was good American comfort food, made with the finest locally made and grown ingredients, in a bold and flavorful manner. We left the restaurant happy- that's what a great meal at a reasonable price does-right?
Still chasing the sugar buzz, I prompted us all onto the Ben&Jerry's Factory tour in Waterbury, which ended in good-sized samples of Imagine Whirled Peace ice cream for all. I've always had a healthy appeciation for Ben & Jerry's good stuff- they really did change the way people viewed ice cream and their mission is admirable. It's something I'd like to do with my fledgling chocolate business- fresh ingredients, natural flavors, fun concepts all mixed in to make a yummy socially conscious dessert.
Speaking of chocolates (which I do a lot of), I conducted a brief chocolate tour during our stay in Vermont. A visit to Lake Champlain Chocolates in Burlington kicked it off. Again, they utilize locally produced ingredients to magnificent ends. Their dark chocolate bar is what I grope for in my monthly bout of chocolate fever. In Stowe I purchased a few things from Laughing Moon Chocolates- which I haven't sampled yet, but will defintely report back with the results. That's if my little chocolate gnome and sweets fairy don't get to it first.
We camped along the LaMoille River at a really beautiful campsite. Hubbabubba was psyched to be able to fish just feet from out tent. I was psyched that we were camping on grass instead of the dirt (I did laundry twice during this trip- we all got so grimy so quick). Our campsite was just outside a small town called Morrisville. We had lunch one day in town at a cute little eatery called the Bee's Knees. The place is done up in campus cafe chic: Funky eclectic decor, mismatching furniture, local artist's work on the wall, folk music playing on the sound system, hairy legs and all, good and cheap food. Again the kids had mac 'n cheese- made with local cheddar- very tasty. I had a spicy udon noodle salad- made with thick slabs of silken tofu, a variety of locally grown greens, scallions, crunchy red peppers, udon noodles all doused in a spicy and peanutty sauce. Good stuff. Hubbabubba had the Damn Good Vegetarian sandwich, and said it deserved it's title. He also ordered a bottle of Blueberry Pop from a local soft drink company. So awesome in it's blueberry effervescence- we ordered 2 more for the road.
Alas, all good things must come to an end- who said that? Shakespeare? Hemingway? or anyone arriving at the end of a great meal? On the way back home- we stopped at the Norman Rockwell Museum for some good solid Americana, as if we needed more. I know my Art History professors from days of yore would scoff, but there's something so simple and corny- yet true about his illustrations. Kinda warms your heart, especially after a week of camping and family togetherness.
Now we're home. Big boy kiddle started his first day of Kindergarten by getting on a yellow school bus this morning. I cried as I walked back to the house. The trip was a great end to our summer, but now I need a vacation.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Blackberry Cobbler & Beethoven

Scene: Exterior shot. A family consisting of a mother, father, grandmother and 3 small children lounge comfortably on, and around. a well-worn duvet. The late august weather is gentle and warm, the slightest breeze ripples through the air. Before the family is an array of picnic food (salmon cakes, mini quiches, tomato mozzarella salad, and for dessert- blackberry peach cobbler). The adults sit on the grass shaded by a leafy tree sampling and enjoying the fare. Around them is a number of other picnicking groups, each involved in their own versions of repose and relaxation. Before long the children are climbing up the branches of the surrounding trees. Everyone is listening to strains of Beethoven's 9th Symphony that plays somewhere in the near distance.

Yesterday was a picture perfect day, one of a dozen or so in my life. The weather was idyllic, the music was sublime, and I was with the exact people I'd want to share these perfect moments with. In fact, they are what ultimately made it perfect. As the official caterer of these kind of events, as well as daily life, I packed a cooler with light yet full flavored goodies, that added to the beautiful scene, as food can often do.
Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is a piece of music that is just so brilliant. It runs the whole range of emotions- crescendoing in the exultant choral "Song of Joy". It was a real thrill for me to hear this piece live. And the bucolic New England setting of Tanglewood was literally a breath of fresh and free air.
This cobbler recipe posted below was good and juicy and the biscuit-like topping provides a nice crumbly texture in opposition to the soft and gooey fruit. I would recommend mixing 3/4 -1 c. of sugar with the blackberries and peaches. I scrimped by only using 1/2 c. - and it was a little too tart.

Blackberry Peach Cobbler
In medium bowl stir together 1 c. sliced peaches and 2 c. blackberries with Bold1/2 c. sugar (increase if you want a sweeter cobbler) and 1/2 vanilla bean scraped of it's seeds. Let stand for about 20 mins. until a syrup forms. In the meantime make batter by mixing 1 1/4 c. flour, 1/3 c. sugar, 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 c. cold butter cut into pieces, until batter resembles coarse crumbs. Add 1/2 c. buttermilk and 1 tsp. vanilla, mix until smooth batter results. Spread fruit in a baking dish. Drop spoonfuls of batter on top. Bake in 375F oven until batter browns.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Taste Travel

...And that's another thing I really love about cooking/baking, the opportunity for taste-travel. Today I was wistfully recalling my time in San Diego. When I was in college my family lived in this beautiful city, and I would spend most of my summer and winter breaks there. Now that I am a veteran on the East Coast, I really appreciate Sun Diego. Everything about it seems magical to me now, the perfect weather, the gorgeous beaches, the friendly folk, and the fresh and authentic mexican food. My brothers and I would order these incredible fish tacos at the local mexican joint and gobble them down muy rapido.
Tonight's dinner is an homage to my San Diego days long gone- not only was it seemingly a million years ago and a million miles away, it was a whole attitude galaxy away. I love the East Coast, the autumns here are second to none. And the fact that New York City is a major part of the region, is reason alone to live here. Not to mention other great gems like: Philadelphia and Boston, as well as quaint New England villages that are really old and historied by New World standards. The East Coast is a great place to live, but there's something wonderful about California that you just can't get here. Maybe it's the weather, maybe it's the beautiful pacific ocean, the people just seem happier and more relaxed out there. The food is delicious- it's as simple as a grilled piece of fish in corn tortilla with some mexican flavored spices and herbs(cumin, chili, lime, garlic, salt, cilantro), cool and creamy salad for a crunch, and fresh sliced avocado to finish it off. Mmmmm.
Tomorrow I'll think about going to Tanglewood this weekend and I'll be conjuring up a juicy berry pie or cobbler. Or better yet: brie and apple sandwiches- apple season is nearly upon us! I love apples- which is probably a big reason why I like living around here.

Quick & Simple Fish Taco's
prepare 1-2 lbs. of firm fleshed white fish (I used tilapia) in a sheet of heavy duty foil, rub both sides of fish with taco seasoning (cumin, chili, garlic , salt, lime, cilantro). Seal foil into packets. Heat up grill. Place packets on grill- for about 10-15 mins. or when fish flakes easily.
In a bowl mix 1 c. sour cream, 2-3 tbsp ranch dressing, and 1/2 c. chopped green chilis, with shredded cabbage and 5-6 chopped scallions.
Serving suggestion: Cut fish into chunks, and place in a fresh corn tortilla and top with salad and slices of ripe avocado. Fold. Enjoy. OK.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Rice Crispy Treats In Heaven

Rice Crispy Treats. Wonderful, buttery, sweet, chewy. Marshmallows, butter, vanilla extract, rice crispies. Simple square American homespun joy. I am racked with junkfood guilt, but I just love 'em. You can legitimize them by using baking quality butter, expensive "artisan" marshmallows the kind you get at Williams Sonoma or hail!hail! Whole Foods, and interesting natural flavor extracts or essences (almond, vanilla, orange). But there's something so simple and good about the yummy, slumber party, back-of-the-box standard.
I think heaven is a huge, light-filled candy store/bakery, a good sized display is devoted to these rice crispy treats, they're next to the tollhouse chocolate chip cookies.

Rice Crispy Treats
Melt 3-4 tbsp. butter in a saucepan add packet of marshmallows. Mix vigorously until thick and fluffy, add 1 tsp. vanilla extract (or whichever you prefer). Remove from heat, mix in 3-4 c. rice crispy cereal. With a spatula sprayed with baking spray, tamp down rice crispy fluff into pan.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The World's Best Tofu Recipe

I've found the world's best tofu recipe and I just want to shout it from the rooftops, tell everyone I know. Whole Foods was where we first forked, I ordered it for lunch one day thinking hmmm...looks good, sounds interesting and exotic and a little less than wholesome -if you know what I mean. I was gone at first bite. "Pan Fried Sesame Tofu" had me at first bite. I got home and promptly Googled this tasty morsel. I've made it over and over again, and have always been satisfied with the results. Dinner tonight was over in like 10 minutes- everyone just devoured this dish. I made some adaptations but it's essentially the same recipe on the whole foods website. Use two blocks of tofu, you won't have any regrets, or leftovers.

Pan Fried Sesame Tofu

Wrap 2 blocks of extra-firm tofu in paper towels, place on cutting boards, weigh it down with another cutting board or baking sheet and a heavy pot to squeeze out liquid. Set aside for about 20-30 mins. In the meantime, put 1/2 c. honey, 4-5 tbsp. tamari, 3 tbsp. finely chopped ginger, 3-4 tbsp. toasted sesame oil, 4 cloves finely chopped garlic, and a few good dashes of hot pepper sauce into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cover and keep warm.
Cut tofu into cubes. Dust well with cornstarch. Heat enough oil to fry these tofu squares well- until golden brown. Trim and cut 1 bunch of green onions and cut into 1" pieces. Throw onion pieces into pan until they soften slightly. Transfer cooked tofu and green onions into bowl and toss with the warm sauce. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Goes great on a bed of basmati, jasmine, or brown rice.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Fruit From The Tree of Wisdom

You know you're getting old when you start spouting crotchety sayings like "youth is wasted on the young", but I guess you need a little wisdom in you to realize how true this trite little sentence is. When I went to college in the early to mid 90's I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, hell, I barely knew how to write a check. College for me was like an all-you-can-eat slacker buffet. I chose triple helpings of sleeping in, staying up late, time frittering, junk food consumption. I majored in subjects I found interesting, art history and english, but made no effort to prepare myself for the job market after graduation. My attitude belonged to a billionaire's daughter- except neither Mom nor Dad were billionaires (however they were enormously patient and generous). I was just going to figure it out as I went along. As long as I was doing it in NYC, it was God's work. It probably is not shocking that I had 30 different jobs in the 6 years after graduation. Back then I guess my main aspiration was to live in New York, and my many different jobs just supported my
habit(ation). Most of my jobs sucked. The best part of working at all these places is that I met a lot of different types.
I didn't discover the Joy of Cooking until I got engaged. My mom is a great cook, and I pretty much stayed out of the kitchen- you know what they say about too many cooks.. So maybe I would've done things differently if I knew then what I know now. Or maybe it just took me a while to figure it out and I got a great education in art history, english lit, and New York City in the meantime. I waver between these two views.
Finally I've clued into what I like to do and how I need to do it. I like to cook/bake and I like to write. I hate working in an office, I cannot keep office hours, and I don't do well with enforced order and bosses. I'm starting to translate this all into something, with my small homemade chocolate business, and with my various forays into food writing; this blog, and articles I submit for a parenting newspaper.
To coincide with the back-to-school edition, inspired by something I saw somewhere, I whipped up a batch of these Applicious Cupcakes. I was pretty charmed with the results, despite the amount of red food dye I had to use to make the frosting red. The cupcake recipe itself is semi-wholesome, so I hope it makes up for the sugary food dyed frosting. It's to celebrate going back to school. School where you're supposed to learn how little you know, but seldom do-until it's too late, but really it's never too late.

Applicious Cupcakes
Mix up yellowcake mix, 1 c. apple juice, 1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce, 1/3 c. finely chopped dried apples, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, 1 tsp. apple pie spice, 3 eggs in a big bowl. Lay out 24 cupcake liners in muffin tins. Scoop batter into each liner to fill up 3/4 of the way. Bake until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool.
icing (this is where it gets a little scary): Beat 1 c. butter/marg. until smooth, add 2 c. confectioners sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla extract. Add 2-3 tbsp. milk or non dairy creamer or soy milk to smooth out if necessary. Stir in 1-2 tsp. red food dye paste (there is a natural food dye you can use, I just didn't have time to hunt around for it) until frosting reaches desired shade of red. Frost cupcakes. Then, break 12 pretzel sticks in half. Stick into frosted cupcakes (this is the stem), cut green fruit roll-ups, fruit leather, or sour apple fruit tape into the shape of leaves. Place near the stem. Voila! A totally adorable back-to-school treat!

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Berkshires and Beyond

Yesterday saw us spending another carefree summer's day in the countryside. This time it was the Berkshires, which is an area I particularly appreciate. This gorgeous region always provides a fun time for us. I love the genteel country feel of the towns and villages, with their colonial era clapboard houses and tidy little cottages. I love visiting the local bakery and cafe, scouring the antique shops and used bookstores. Yesterday in Kent, CT- a beautiful, white picket-fenced, New England town- I was sure to visit the local chocolatier. I ordered a couple of different caramels and a truffle or two. The caramels were interesting. One had a light crust of salt on it, it was certainly different, perhaps a little too heavy on the salt. The other caramel had a sprinkling of black sesame, which was so subtle it was completely overwhelmed by the chocolate covered caramel.
Hubbabubba enjoys fishing these parts. The Housatonic River makes for some incredibly verdant scenery. Hubbabubba fished, the kiddles and I took a hike and played along the riverbank. Munch was secured in a pack on my back. Big Boy Kiddle annointed himself trek leader and Kidlette was second-in-command. With a big stick he swashbuckled through the brush, she made me say "thank you, Leader" every time she held a branch aside so I could get by.
My job was the official caterer of our expedition. I filled a cooler with picnic fare. I made a pasta salad that was recieved somewhat tepidly. But, honestly, how could a pasta salad made with wholewheat pasta, spinach, and feta cheese beat fresh-baked peanut butter cookies? Crusty still-warm french baguette...? They took a few perfunctory bites and were like "next?"
The next yummy thing in this case was homemade ice cream that would make Ben and Jerry weep (and I am very fond of both of them). On the way home we stopped at Main Street Sweets in Tarrytown, NY. A line that stretches out the door is usually a surefire way for me to lose my taste for whatever's inside the door- but this place is worth it. They do ice cream very well. Admittedly I was a little dissappointed that the Peachy Peach I ordered wasn't as...peachy as I remembered it, but the kiddle's vanilla and strawberry scoops were just outstanding. Fresh and creamy and pure and everything good about ice cream. A perfectly sweet ending to a perfectly sweet day awwww.....

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Macaroni et Cheeze

Guilty Junk Food Confession #2: I really love Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. I know, I know it's filled to the hilt with ingredients that sound like they belong in science class. I know that a homemade mac 'n cheese recipe that starts off with a nice 'n creamy bechamel sauce is infinitely better- but I guess I have a taste for processed cheese product. Call it Patriotism.
Tonight's offering to the Table godlers is the better-for-you version of homemade mac 'n cheese. But it still has that sharp 'n cheezey appeal. I snuck in some wholewheat elbow macaroni, and used wholegrain breadcrumbs for it's finale. They love it, I do too, honestly I do.

Macaroni et Cheeze
Boil up one lb. (or a box) of elbow macaroni. In the meantime over med. high heat boil 1 c. milk (I used 2%), once boiling add 8oz. of cream cheese (I used reduced fat cream cheese) cut into cubes. Stir until melted into milk, lower heat to med. add between 3-4 c. of shredded cheddar, adding one handful at a time and mixing until melting after each addition. You should have a thick and cheesey sauce after all this stirring, mix in 1 tsp. ground mustard seed and 1 tsp. garlic & herb type seasoning mix (or garlic powder if you prefer). Stir sauce into prepared drained macaroni until macaroni is completely bathed in the cheddar sauce. Place into a baking dish. Combine in a small bowl 1/2 c. breadcrumbs and 2 tbsp. melted butter, and sprinkle top of macaroni and cheese. Bake in a 350F oven for about 15-20 mins.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Munch's Creamed Spinach

Time really flies when you're busy living your normal life. Weeks zoom by filled with a zillion everyday chores and regular activities. But then sometimes it seems as though the day is so long, like there's a lifetime between the breakfast dishes and dinner's left-overs. I guess that's the paradox of family life- days crawl by in the blink of the eye.
This morning I woke up and realized that baby kiddle AKA "Munch" (as in munchkin) is turning one year old in a couple of weeks. How is that possible? How is it that he's starting to walk and talk and display signs of a strong personality already? Less than one year ago he was a drowsy pink newborn who only knew how to cry, poop, suck, and sleep - and now he is a little person who loves mischief and loud wailing and being in the water and playing outside and shaking his head "no". This little gent also has definite ideas about what he will or will not eat. He will spit out any jarred baby food, and much prefers things he can pick up between his stubby little fingers and feed to himself- especially Cheerios. This afternoon I tried out a batch of homemade creamed spinach on him , he took a fair few spoonfuls which made me very happy, but soon returned to his Cheerios. No worries though, Hubbabubba loves spinach and will be only too pleased to have some with his dinner.

Munch's Creamed Spinach
Heat 2 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. sesame oil (oilve oil is fine), saute 1 large chopped shallot and 2 chopped garlic cloves (more if you like it garlicky) until golden brown and fragrant. Add 1 lb. of rinsed spinach leaves, and heat until it wilts. Add 1/4-1/2 c. heavy cream, mix. Pour into a food processor and let it whirl until it reaches your favored consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Hey! You Got Your Smoked Salmon In My Pizza...

Big boy kiddle recently declared: "I like anything with smoked salmon". Kiddlette decreed that every night should be Pizza Night. This afternoon when I was thinking about dinner and their specific requests I started to recall one of my all time fave classic TV commercials- the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups "Hey! You got your chocolate in my Peanut Butter.....". Taking inspiration from this golden oldie I decided on a smoked salmon pizza for dinner tonight. Stay tuned for "I'm a pepper, you're a pepper, he's a pepper..." Stuffed Peppers. There's an idea that's perfect for Slacker X-ers turned home chefs, a cookbook ironically inspired by the TV commercials of our youth.

Smoked Salmon Pizza
Since I'm somewhat of a Slacker X-er when it come's to pizza dough, I rolled out my purchased pizza dough onto a baking sheet and baked until golden. Mix 1 c. sour cream with 1-2 tbsp. of lemon juice (or half a lemon) and 1 tbsp. chopped chives. Spread sour cream mixture over pizza crust, then open 2 x 4oz. packages of sliced smoked salmon and cover entire surface of "pizza". Sprinkle capers over smoked salmon.
Possible additions: fresh dill in sour cream mixture, red onions, black olives, diced tomatoes, caramelized onions as toppings...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Chopped Chicken Salad with PB Vinaigrette

It's pretty darn hot 'round these parts during this time of year. Hot in a way that is totally different than the hot I grew up with in California and Australia. Over there it's more of a dry heat, you feel like you're scorching, rather than sweltering. Over here it's like a warm wet blanket has been placed over the atmosphere, the air is so heavy and dull, nothing will mitigate it other than a cleansing summer storm. Living in this weather feels a lot like spending your summer in a sauna. The positive side to it: What I crave is simple, light, crispy summer salads- anything that comes out of an oven or off a stove just feels too heavy and unappetizing. I throw a whole bunch of fresh veggies into a big bowl, include some leftover proteins (in tonight's salad it was grilled chicken) and come up with an interesting dressing.

Chopped Chicken Salad with PB Vinaigrette
Chop and place in large bowl a head of lettuce (romaine or iceberg are particularly refreshing), 1 red pepper, 1 cuke. Slice bunch of scallions. Add 1 c. peas. Cut grilled chicken breasts into strips, add to salad bowl along with 2-3 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds. Toss with Peanut Butter Vinaigrette.
PBV: In a food processor or blender puree 4 tbsp. smooth peanut butter, juice of 1 lime, 2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar, 1 tbsp. soy sauce, 2 tbsp. sesame oil, several splashes of tabasco sauce, 2 tbsp. water, 1/4 tsp. salt. Add more sesame oil if necessary.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Summer Strawberry Shortcake Trifle

Sometimes you get an itch you can't scratch, a word you can't remember, a craving you can't identify. Lately, I've been wanting something sweet and dessert-like but I was stumped as to what exactly it was. I knew what it wasn't; it wasn't chocolatey, it wasn't frozen, it wasn't crunchy. For a few days I was walking around, living my life, functioning as usual- craving some elusive flavor and taste.
Yesterday I deconstructed this craving down to it's bare elements. I wanted something cool, creamy and vanilla, crumbly and cakey, and fresh and juicy and sweet and fruity. I then came up with a stawberry shortcake trifle. I had my "aha!" moment after the first spoonful. I love the way the cake absorbs the homemade whipped cream and the strawberries impart their ripe juiciness...I just loved this dessert. Next time I'll include some ripe juicy peaches. It's the gorgeous taste of summer.

Strawberry Shortcake Trifle
golden butter cake:Preheat oven to 350F. Combine 1 c. butter, 1 tsp. orange rind, 3 eggs, 1 1/2 c. sugar, 1 tbsp. vanilla extract, 1 1/2 c. self rising flour. Mix well. Pour batter into a well greased pan. Bake for about 45 mins, or until toothpick comes out clean. Set aside and cool.
whipped cream: beat 1 1/2 c. whipping cream, 3 tbsp powdered sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla extract until whipping cream becomes whipped cream.
Slice 2 c. strawberries into bite sized pieces.
Assemble the trifle by cutting cake into 1"-2" cubes, in a trifle bowl place layer of cake cubes, a few generous dollops of whipped cream so that cake cubes are submerged, place strawberry slices on top of whipped cream, repeat until you have no more cake, whipped cream, or strawberries. Place in the fridge long enough to let the cake soak up the whipped cream.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Judeo American Paella

I'm having chocolate for dinner tonight, but for everyone else there'll be paella. My version of paella is completely inauthentic. I don't have the special pan that gives this Spanish dish it's name. I don't use shrimp or any shellfish for that matter. However my recipe does use saffron and paprika, so I guess it's not totally divorced from the Spanish standard. It's the Judeo-American version, complete with southwestern spiced chicken sausages and diced tomatoes from a can. It's good in that real food kind of way- but my three course chocolate dinner will be better in that junk food kind of way (chocolate squares as a starter, chocolate ice cream for the main, and then as a finale some chocolate cake), but no one has to know that- other than you of course....

In a wide shallow saute pan heat 2 tbsp. olive oil. Add chicken sausages sliced into 1 " pieces to pan. Cook until sausages begin to brown. Add 1 chopped onion and 1 finely chopped red, yellow, or orange pepper, cook stirring often until onion is translucent 4-5 mins. Add 3 minced garlic cloves and 1 1/2 c. long grain rice, cook, stirring to coat, for about 2-3 mins. Mix in 1/2 tsp. saffron and 1/2 tsp. paprika, 1 can of diced tomatoes, and 2 1/2 c. chicken broth. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and then cook until rice is tender and most of liquid is absorbed - about 20 mins. Stir in 1 cup of thawed frozen peas. Cook an extra minute. Add a few dashes of hot sauce. Serve.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Step Right Up Chipwiches

I'm not the kind of Mom who will get down on the ground with her kids and imitate barnyard critters. I don't enjoy playing "Chutes & Ladders", never did, even when I was a kid myself. I don't get the point of throwing a ball around-despite the fact that through my early years I lived in the same house as 3 basketball nuts, and now a baseball enthusiast. Hubbabubba claims that if I was Native American my name would be "She Who Does Not Play". Growing up I was a bit of a bookworm, and I never really got into group activities. Perhaps that explains my interest in cooking, baking, and writing?
One of my reasons for having multiple children was so that I wouldn't have to be the one totally responsible for the kid's playlife. Having a sibling/s is so great for so many reasons, the best one being that when you're bored there's always someone to "play" with. Nothing like wiling away a long summer day by enjoying a few rounds of purple nerple, indian burns, and, is it beer or is it pee? Or playing seek and destroy with your older sis' long hoarded chocolate stash.
Today the kiddles wanted me to help them put on a circus. Great idea. So cute. I totally encourage their creativity, but I decided that my contribution to the greatest show on earth would be the chipwiches. Together we made chocolate chip cookies from scratch. And then in order to make the whole process easier, I thawed a carton of french vanilla ice cream until it was soft but not completely runny. Put it in a large ziploc bag, flattened it out until it was about 2 inches thick. Put it back in the freezer to firm up while the cookies cooled and the kiddles practiced their shtick. Once the cookies were cool I cut open the freezer bag and with the rim of a drinking glass, cut out perfect circles and placed them between two cookies.
I thoroughly enjoyed their show. And they thoroughly enjoyed their chipwiches. I didn't have to put on the bozo nose - Everyone's a winner.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Ring-a-DING Barbecue Meatballs

Today is not a good day. I backed my car smack into another car. My car has a nice sized dent in it, her car has a smaller dent-but a dent all the same. I am absolutely dreading telling Hubbabubba. It wouldn't be so bad if this hardly ever happened before- but, shamefully, it has happened a few times. I need to come up with a plan. Anyway you look at it, Hubbabubba will be downright pissed, especially since he spends a good amount of his life instructing me to always check my blindspot, my rear view mirror, as well as looking over my shoulder when pulling out. Yep, I'm in hot water.
Tonight's dinner will have to be good. It will have to involve some sort of animal protein. I don't think I can get away with telling him this latest bit of news over a tofu casserole or soy crumble lasagna. There will have to be meat and some sort of fried side. Before he gets home I'll actually put on some lipstick and dab some perfume behind my ears. Then with a sweet smile I'll serve him hearty meatballs in barbecue sauce with some fried onion rings on the side. I'll ask him how his day was, and listen to his response. I won't complain about anything. He'll enjoy his dinner and then I'll tell him. The best I can hope for is a frustrated Ricky Ricardo "Ohhh Lucy!" response. The worse part of it is that it was actually his car I was borrowing, it was his car I dinged. Maybe I can slip something into the meatballs? I think I have some percocet left over from my last c-section. That might make everything softer and duller. Truth is Hubbbabubba's a good guy and he really loves a good hearty meal so he might just chuckle and retire to the couch thinking: "Oh that Rachel! What a goofy gal..." Probably not- but maybe....

Meatballs in Barbecue Sauce
Place 2 lbs. ground beef in large bowl, add 1 slightly beaten egg, 1 envelope onion soup mix. Mix all ingredients together (I put ziploc bags on my hands, and get manual with my beef), until everything is incorporated. Heat 3 tbsp. vegetable oil in frying pan, roll meat mixture into 2" meatballs. Brown meatball in batches. Place on paper towels to absorb some of the oil.
In a med. sized pot saute 1/2 c. of finely chopped onion in 1 tbsp. veg. oil. When onion is tender add 2 cans of tomato sauce, 2 tbsp. worcestshire sauce, 3 tbsp. cider vinegar, 1 1/2 tsp. dry mustard, salt, and pepper. Add seasonings to taste. Drop browned meatballs in sauce, cover and simmer for 25-30m mins.

Monday, July 7, 2008

To Die For Tomato Brie Salad

You say tomato, and I say tomato brie salad. I'm aware of the recent hullabaloo surrounding li'l red termaters, but sometimes you just gotta walk on the wild side. Especially when that walk lands you directly in Yumsville. It's a damn shame that we can't eat produce nowadays without fearing some sort of scary poisoning. A lot about the state of the world is pretty gut churning and depressing. So I say- just live your life, live it to the hilt. Enjoy what you love- suck out all it's juice as if it was a ripe tomato. You never really know when your number's up, so you might as well overdo it in the meantime. I love a great book, a great meal, good chocolate, good music, New York City, most fresh baked goods, my always entertaining family, a nice day in the country, a beautiful pair of shoes, my time in the kitchen, planning parties, paging through my glossy mags, and writing. This is my short list in no particular order.
This evening's offering is a celebration of some of life's great (and now, most dangerous) pleasures: ripe summer tomatoes, ripe creamy brie, and crisp greens. The bonus is that this is a dish that keeps on giving. Should there be any leftovers, place the brie, and herb and garlic marinated tomatoes between two slices of your most favorite bread- whip out the skillet, and voila! Another of life's great culinary pleasures- Grilled Cheese.

Brie & Tomato Salad
Cut 2 ripe tomatoes into 1/2" inch slices. Place tomato slices in a shallow dish or platter, add 2 tbsp. olive oil, 2 minced garlic cloves, a splash or two of red wine vinegar, 2 chopped basil leaves and a tsp. fresh oregano (use the fresh herbs you prefer). Let marinate for at least two hours.
Place lettuce greens on a large serving platter, lay out brie cut into bite sized slices between marinated tomato slices. Garnish with cured olives, if you wish. Serve with lightly toasted sliced crusty bread of choice.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Hooray! Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps

I think that my foray to the Fancy Food Show had it's intended effect- I'm back in the kitchen. Giddy Up! A few weeks ago I had these amazing vegetarian lettuce wraps at a restaurant called Stir Crazy, and since then I've been craving this dish. The lettuce wraps I made last night for dinner were a combination of a bunch of recipes I found on the internet, along with a few personal improvisations. The reviews from the peanut gallery were favorable, so I'll certainly be making these again. I made a dipping sauce to go along with the wraps but you can probably do better with a purchased hoisin sauce or another of the myriad asian flavored sauces available at the market. Yeehaw! Life is spicy and tasty once again!

Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps
sauce: 2 tsp. soy sauce, 2 tsp. sugar, 2 tsp. rice vinegar, a few dashes hot sauce. ( as with recipe in general, Increase/decrease measurements to taste)
In 2 tsp. sesame oil fry 1 container of cubed firm tofu until golden. Place tofu on paper towels and let cool. Meanwhile finely chop 4-5 green onions, mince 2 large garlic cloves and 1 tsp fresh ginger. Chop to pea size: 8 oz. mushrooms, 1/2 c. water chestnuts, 1 c. shredded carrots, 1 c. shredded cabbage. When tofu has cooled somewhat chop tofu to pea sized pieces. Add some more sesame oil to frying pan, place all of the veggies and tofu in and mix together. Pour sauce over and fold everything together and cook until vegetables are sufficiently heated through. Separate and wash individual leaves of an iceberg lettuce and spoon tofu veggie mixture into the center, fold over (like you would a burrito), enjoy!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Dispatch From the Field: Fancy Food Show '08

I was Alice in Funderland yesterday at the Fancy Food Show. The Javits Center was a labyrinth of delicious offerings, every turn brought another delight, another discovery, another delicacy. Stall after stall revealed a food universe that is dynamic and diverse. But even better than the generous samplings that I most certainly indulged in, were the people behind the products. These were real life everyday people who transformed their passions into businesses. There was the guy who was working his corporate-world job, and would make these peanut butter balls every Christmas for the company fundraiser, he eventually decided it was what he wanted to do, quit his job, and now the world is a slighly sweeter and nuttier place because of Jer's Handmade Chocolates. Another feelgood fable of following your bliss is Mary Keehn of Cypress Grove Chevre. She lives up in Northern California on a farm and had a bunch of goats which made a lot of milk. So she decided that when life gives you goat's milk you of course make goat cheese. Great idea, right? Well maybe not so much in 1983- when goat cheese probably sounded like a scary concept to most. She perservered, and now her Humboldt Fog is my cheese of choice when visiting the cheese stall at Philly's Reading Terminal Market (and believe me there are a lot of beautiful cheeses out there).
I am inspired by these people and their stories. I believe that it is dreamers like them that make the world go around, and a better place to be in. They had a dream and in order to make it happen they didn't sleep. They had to work really really hard, and are still working really really hard, but most of them seem to really love it.
The amount and diversity of food I ingested yesterday is noteworthy. I must've tried at least 25 different chocolates (boo hoo for me, right?), and 35 different cheeses. I had an incredible light and flaky and flavorful french pastry pizza from Olive Street Table (I'm thinking of trying this at home-keep you posted on that). Beautiful English butter biscuits that were so simple and so good. A brownie from the Fat Witch bakery that I'm still mooning over. A juicysweet apricot from Melissa's organic. Fat, juicy and piquant blue cheese olives...mmmm good! Some Tortuga Rum Cake that was almost as yummy as a rummy Johnny Depp in Pirates (almost)... To wash it all down I was loving the mint water, coming to a supermarket near you! What a brilliant yet simple idea, water lightly infused with refreshing mint. Genius all around, I tell ya!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Ho Hum Spaghetti Bolognese

Almost every home cook I know has a few fall back dishes that they make when they just can't be bothered to pull out all the bells and whistles, but want the meal to be reliably good. It's these tried and true standards that they return to time and again, when the latest culinary explorations have grown tired and the grocery bills become burdensome.
So here's my true confession: lately I've been feeling less than inspired and under-excited about my time in the kitchen. Tomorrow I'm going to the City to visit the Fancy Food Show, which I'm hoping will recharge me. I need some inspiration- and fast, because while an old standard like spaghetti bolognese is a good crowd pleaser, it's not a fun or "sexy" recipe. It's solid and reliable, like your highschool lab partner was. Not daring and thrilling (a super spicy curry perhaps?), like the moody musician you drooled over.

Spaghetti Bolognese
Heat 1-2 tbsp. veg. oil in skillet add 3 minced garlic cloves, saute until light golden color. Brown 1 lb. ground beef in skillet and then add sliced mushrooms (or not -if you don't dig mushrooms), Empty 2 14 oz. cans of fire roasted diced tomatoes, 2 tbsp. tomato paste, and 1 tsp. oregano. Simmer, covered, on low for 25-30 mins. Boil up pasta of choice. Add to Bolognese sauce.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Class is in Session in NYC

Our day in the City went off with nary a hitch. We presented ourselves with arms open wide and were embraced by all the wonderful and magical things that the City contains. The Met is vast and fantastical, and while we only lasted an hour and a half, we went to an ancient Egyptian temple, got several good looks at George Washington, witnessed the original dot art, saw a starry night, waterlilies, and about a dozen ballerinas.
After the Met we proceeded to an old neighborhood fave of mine- from BC days (before children)- Alice's Tea Cup. Cute little restaurant that got so popular that they opened 2 more outposts around the City. The menu could be described as tea-time gourmet, and the ambiance is just charming. The theme is Alice in Wonderland, hence: Alice's Tea Cup. All this being said, the last two visits with the kiddles were less than spectacular. The wait for a lunch table was no less than 45 mins. for both visits. The service was less than friendly the first time, and sort-of friendly yesterday. I've often wondered why being a waitperson at even a semi-hot spot, endows you with some sort of superior, snotty, snarkiness? A cooler-than-thou air that makes me just want to fling my invariably overpriced food in their faces.
The food at Alice's was pretty good, Big boy kiddle ordered a smoked salmon tea sandwich that was made fresh and flavorful with thin slices of beautiful melt-in-your-mouth Nova, and lemon rind spiked butter on black bread. I had a very good tuna sandwich made with coarse mustard and cornichon pickles. My watercress and pear salad on the other hand left something to be desired, namely-good flavor. It goes without saying that it was pretty expensive for tea fare- which when you think about it, is just sandwiches and scones. But the worst part by far, was that I purchased several ounces of rather expensive loose Japanese Sencha green tea as a little prezzie for Hubbabubba (he loves the stuff) and he couldn't drink it. It was old, stale, dry, and aroma-less. No more, I guess I'll just have to hang those sweet BC memories of Alice's Tea Cup out to dry.
Determined not to spend another dime or minute at Alice's, we walked 3 blocks south to Magnolia Bakery for dessert. Now this was an experience I'm eager to repeat. The bakery, one of a couple, is a lovely, clean, airy place filled with the sweet smells of baked-on-the-premises cakes, cupcakes, and cookies. Cream lace curtains frame the windows, white tile makes the place feel cool and clean, and the service is quick and friendly. I chose 3 cookies (choc chip, peanut butter, and sugar) each priced at a nostalgic 50c. The kiddles each chose a cupcake which was palm friendly, and not baked-goods-on-steroids proportioned which seems to be in vogue nowadays. I was almost seduced by a slice of coconut layer cake, that looked so gorgeous and white and fluffy and moist, but I held back- in retrospect while sipping my coffee this morn I wish I wasn't so self-denying. I'll be back.
From there we went on to our next NYC adventure- the subway. I love the subway for being the quickest and cheapest way to get around town, as well as for being an important stage for the non-stop theater that is New York City. The kiddles were thrilled by the whole experience. My li'l hicks from the sticks were jumping up and down in a very non-New York manner. They made eye contact, they talked to the strangers sitting next to them, they were real life children.
Next stop? The Zoo at Central Park. What a great little zoo, completely manageable, and entertaining with two humongous polar bears that treated the kids to an in-water wrestling match, a crew of monkeys that were judiciously grooming each other on the rocks, quite a few fat slithering snakes, just to name a few of things that caught our attention.
The final chapter of our New York Adventure took place at Dylan's Candy Bar. The first thing that comes to mind is "Oy Vey". There were so many choices I didnt know where to start, the impressive gummy selection (mini, small, medium, and mega gummy bears), the English chocolate shelf, the marshmallow novelty section (marshmallow kabobs, marshmallow popsicles...), the technicolor jelly bean canisters, the "nostalgia" candy bars cornucopia....Choices, decisions, dilemmas. There were several really nice touches that made this candy emporium truly memorable. The plexiglas stairs that led to the three different levels contained all sorts of colorful candies, and totally dazzled the kids. On flat screens throughout the store the old candy commercials of my youth played...remember "sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't"? Or how about "you got your chocolate in my peanut butter..."? While waiting to pay for my overpriced candy I got to watch both of these chestnuts.
So, while their education is far from complete I'd say they got a few crucial lessons in NYC. And a it was a good refresher course for me.