Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pasta with Roasted Pepper Tomato Sauce

Back to regular life. Back to crummy weather. Back to schedules, school lunches, and carpool. Back to chore charts. Back to Shop Rite and shopping lists. Back to our little cozy corner of the world, and the dishes it inspires. Although, "inspire" might be an overly fanciful term when applied to last night's dinner. I took stock of the pantry and this dish followed. It was either this or cereal.

Pasta with Roasted Pepper Tomato Sauce
Prepare your pasta of choice (I used whole wheat spaghetti). In a skillet heat 2 tbsp. olive oil add 1 chopped red onion and 2 minced garlic cloves. Stir until tender. Add 3 chopped up roasted red peppers. Cook for another few minutes. Add 1 can of diced roasted tomatoes, a pinch of salt and a pinch of oregano. Simmer for several minutes then mix in 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar. Serve sauce over prepared pasta, garnish with grated parmesan cheese.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Sunny Citrus Mint Salad Sacrifice

Another magnificent day in Southern California. This weather is inspirational. I woke up early and wheeled stroller-bound kiddle to the market. While standing before an altar of vividly fragrant lemons and limes I decided to make a luscious fruit salad tossed in a refreshing citrus mint dressing. It'll be my sacrifice to the sun gods who rule so beneficently over Southern California. The fruits used in the salad are at a perfect ripeness (mango, strawberry, kiwi) each bringing their own flavors and textures. This fruit salad is alive with sunshine goodness, sounds like an ad for juice, but it's really true.

Sunny Citrus Mint Fruit Salad
Cut up 2 punnets of strawberries, 2 peeled mangoes, and 6 peeled kiwi fruits to your desired dice. Place in bowl.
In mini food processor bowl zest 1 lime and 1 lemon, squeeze juice of lemon, add 2-4 tbsp. orange juice or grapefruit juice, 1 tbsp. sugar, and a hanful of chopped mint leaves. Pulse until mint is minced up. Pour and toss over fruit. Store in refrigerator for at least an hour or until ready to serve.
PS (7/17/09): instead of sugar 2 tbsp. honey works just as nicely.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Matzah Munching Blues

I got the matzah munching blues. This bread of our affliction is causing me some friction. I get outta bed wishin' for some bread, hopin' for some flavor and a bite to really savor. Instead I'm eatin' matzah, wonderin' whatza (hell) to put atop 'nother slice.
Today I made some black olive tapenade. I used chopped walnuts and roasted a head of garlic for some interesting flavors. It definitely kicks up my usual matzah cream cheese sandwich, but would be even be better on a crusty baguette (oh for a baguette....).

Black Olive Tapenade
Pit 1 - 11/2 c. of brine cured black olives, place in food processor bowl, add 1/4 c. chopped parsley, 2-3 tbsp. chopped walnuts and 1/2 head of oven roasted garlic. Pulse until semi-smooth ( to a subtly coarse texture). Add salt and pepper, and lemon juice if desired.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

L.A. State of Mind

Los Angeles. L.A. I've always felt a little out of place in this sparkly and sunstruck town. Part of it has to do with my theory (and I know it's hardly original) that most people fall into two categories: Los Angeles People and New York People. And ever since I got my first black turtleneck at the age of 10, I've considered myself a New York Person. A misplaced New York Person.
Over the years, I've come to appreciate Los Angeles. For starters the weather is spectacular, especially to someone coming out of a cold, gray, and dreary east coast winter. Pure sunshine is a magnificent thing, all the more so when it's free of humidity. In Los Angeles the mornings begin with a slight briskness in the air, warming up to a pleasant, no-jacket- required temperature by midday, and then cooling down to a ever so subtle nippy evening air.
The flora that this weather nurtures is also quite spectacular. The iconic palm trees goes without saying, but also the roses that grow in lush abundance in people's gardens are almost unbelievable. These garden variety roses which are more splendid from one front yard to the next, are gorgeous in their hues (lavender, pink, peach, ivory, red) and fullness.
And the people that this California environment grows are also a testament to the benefits of a sunfilled life. There is definitely much more of a relaxed and laid back vibe out here, which is reflected in the clothing style. Jeans and tanks and flip flops are pretty much a uniform over here. People wear their clothes with such a relaxed and casual flair that it's making me want to ditch my usual hobo-boho layers and adopt the laidback LA look.
But here's the problem: Los Angeles' biggest industry is Hollywood. Hollywood specializes in make-believe. The images Hollywood spoonfeeds us are that of perfect bodies and flawless faces. Nowhere is this message taken more to heart than in the motherland. There is definitely an LA look. For women it's a variation on the Jennifer Aniston: long straight sun streaked hair; a complexion that can range from sunkissed to baked cookie brown; thin and toned body; and big boobs.
The curious and (I think) crazy thing is that even women who gave birth 6 weeks prior, look like this. Mom's with their coupla kids at the Coffee Bean look like runway models! And even the post-menopause set look like tightfaced and tightbodied psuedo-chicks. Since arriving in LA, I'm getting good at deciphering between a good facelift and a not-so-good one. And an unmoving browline is always a dead giveaway for botox.
Who can live with this constant and almost subliminal pressure? How do you raise normal, down-to-earth children in this environment? How do you feel good about yourself when you're having a fat day, or a fat month, or a fat year?
Hollywood is the Queen of Lala land, and if you aren't an appreciative subject you might feel a little out of the realm. But I guess, you can always stop and smell the spectacular roses.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Mom's Passover Apple Cake

We commemorated the Israelites leaving the land of Egypt, by leaving our land of responsibility, bills, and daily life for the sunny and starry climes of Los Angeles. My mom & dad live in LA and it's always nice to go for a visit. We all decided to convene at my folks for Passover '08, and by all I mean me, hubbabubba, kiddles and my three grown-up little brothers. It's interesting and fun when we all get together. Everyone comes with their strong personalities in tow, and after four glasses of wine, the conversation is always animated and loud. My mother went all out as usual, and basically cooked her way through an entire Passover Recipebook. There were a lot of traditional faves; she made an excellent matzo ball soup that was perfectly seasoned and wonderfully garlicky. The matzoballs were just the right texture and density- not too hard and heavy but not so light and fluffy either. Her apple cake was delicious and sigh-worthy in it's sheer yumminess. She also sets a gorgeous and colorful table, that makes the food taste even better. My mom is great.
I'm really trying to get into her kitchen and do some cooking for the final days of the holiday, but she wants me to "relax"- doesn't she know that cooking is relaxing, taking care of the kiddles is not. I've decided that the key to enjoying Passover cuisine and it's main component, Matzah, is to buy, make, or prepare different spreads, dips, and toppings that you can flavor a board of the stuff with. I'm in the midst of planning out my spreads, loving this yummy mummy apple cake all along the way.

Mom's Passover Apple Cake
Cream 1 c. margarine and 1 1/2 c. sugar. Then add 6 eggs 1 at a time, ensuring each one is mixed in before adding the next. Beat until the mixture is thick. Add 2 c. of cake meal and 2 tbsp. potato starch. Beat until smooth. Peel and cut into slices 3 lbs. of Granny Smith apples, place in seperate bowlsqueeze half a lemon over the cut apples. Add 3/4 c. of sugar mixed with 2 tsp. cinnamon, reserving 1-2 tbsp, toss sugar mixture into apple slices. Pour apples into a greased rectangular baking pan, Spread the batter on top. Sprinkle top with the reserved 1 tbsp cinnamon sugar. Bake at 350F for about an hour or until top crust is set.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Read All About It: Hot & Cheesey French Onion Dip

Last night the ladies of the book (group) gathered for our monthly meeting. We were discussing a book that I didn't even read, but no matter- we usually spend around 10 minutes on the prescribed book and the next 170 enjoying some good old fashioned girl talk, focusing mainly on children, chocolate and shoes. We drink wine and the host of the evening provides some grub. I always try to bring something, and it's usually dessert, but last night I decided to flip things around and make a warm dip to start things off. I am glad to report that we librophiles were really digging (into) the dip. Eating this dip is like reading a real page turner, feet up, in front of a fire: complete comfort and total enjoyment.
Hopefully next month's read will grab me from the get-go, as a typical member of Generation ADD I need to be sucked in immediately or else forget it. There's just too much to read to waste time on boring literature- like a thick 'n juicy cookbook with plenty of color pics, or my latest thing: non fiction about the Tudor period, or the stack of glossy mags on my nighttable. As a former English Lit major I did my time on the dreary important works. Now I get to read for taste not just nutrition.

Hot & Cheesey French Onion Dip:
Preheat oven to 425F. In a med. bowl mix 1 15oz. container ricotta, 1 c. sour cream, 1/2 c. grated parmesan and one envelope of french onion soup mix. Spoon ricotta mixture into a oven proof glass dish (I used a pyrex pie plate), Cover top with with 1 c. shredded mozzarella and 1/4 c. parmesan. Place in oven and cook until cheese melts and turns golden.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Nothing Says Sorry Like Chocolate Peanut Butter Chunk Pancakes

I was a bit of a cranky crabapple today. The kiddles had to endure a few of my flash tantrums. I ended up feeling like the wicked wench of wood lane, so as a way of saying sorry as only sweets can, I made them chocolate peanut butter chunk pancakes for dinner. I adapted the recipe from the peanut butter lovers website. Peanut Butter definitely deserves a devotional website, seeing that the quickest and easiest way to bliss is a simple spoonful away. That's the best way to enjoy the stuff- straight from the jar. The peanut butter in these pancakes is pretty subtle, it's the chocolate that hits you first, but the PB provides a nice creamy ending. The Kiddles loved them, and served up with some sliced bananas, I was somewhat redeemed.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chunk Pancakes
Mix in bowl 3/4 c. white flour and 3/4 c. wheat flour (you can use all white if you prefer, I just wanted to make these pancakes remotely healthy), 1 tbsp. powdered sugar and 2tsp. baking powder. In separate bowl mix 1 c. milk, 1 egg , 1/3 c. peanut butter. Add PB mixture to the flour mixture and mix until incorporated but still lumpy, Add chocolate chips/chunks. In a hot skillet, melt 1 tbsp. butter, spoon batter into pan. When edges begin to brown and bubble flip over. Repeat. Serve plain, with syrup, or if you want to go for broke- with chocolate syrup.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Now Back to our Regularly Scheduled Dinner

Lately, I've been rather lax in my home cooking endeavors. I've been heavily relying on a rotation Dr. Praeger's fish sticks, veggie nuggets, tuna melts, and mac 'n cheese. The kiddles couldn't care less, in fact, they actually do a little dance of joy- when I proclaim it mac 'n cheese night. They never do any type of dance or gyration when I declare veggie burrito night, or quiche night.
Last night I interrupted my regularly scheduled program, and made pizza quesadillas. I have to say they were pretty good. The ratings from my very own Nielsen family (the Schmeilsenbergs) agree. Everyone had seconds. But really what's not to like? Pizza sauce-good. Melty mozzarella cheese- good. sausage soy crumbles- potentially gross, but actually really yummy when combined with the sauce, cheese, and kalamata olive rings into a warm, gooey pizza sandwich. The ratings were so encouraging that I think I'll make a batch to go along with regularly scheduled mac 'n cheese night.

Pizza Quesadillas
Combine in a saucepan over med. heat one bag of soy sausage crumbles (I like Morningstar Farms, but that's just me) with a jar of pasta or pizza sauce -or if you're really ambitious, your own homemade tomato sauce. Stir until bubbling, then remove from heat. Open a bag of shredded mozzarella (I used lowfat) and a package of white or wheat flour tortillas. Spoon the saucy soy sausage mixture onto half of a tortilla, sprinkle cheese over, and then scatter some olive rings or roasted pepper strips or whatever pizza topping grabs your fancy. Fold over tortilla to cover filling. Place in a skillet sprayed with cooking spray tamp down with spatula and brown on both sides until the filling is melted and outside is sufficiently toasty. Remove from skillet and cut into triangles. Serve warm.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Curd is the Word

Monday is gray. Monday is slow. Monday is bland. Monday is the day of the week equivalent to cold oatmeal. Friday is a fire roasted red pepper. Sunday is a full glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. Thursday is a fragrant, saucy, and herbaceous pizza. Monday is cold oatmeal.
I want more citrus sunday in my lumpy monday. Something tart, and sunny, and brilliant. Something lemon-y. Lemons are the perfect cure to the monday blahh blues. To begin with lemons are bright yellow. Their scent is instantly invigorating. And they make your tastebuds sit up and take notice.
This particular monday is calling out for lemon curd. I am formulating elaborate plans that involve lemon curd and a variety of baked goods. Tomorrow morning, my homemade lemon curd is going to make my store bought blueberry muffin sing out scrumptiously "Eat me! I'm fresh and tart and berry berry delicious!" Tonight I will be mixing up lovin' spoonfuls of lemon curd with with french vanilla ice cream and fresh strawberries, as a farewell-to-monday treat.

Lemon Curd a la Monday
In a stainless steel or pyrex mixing bowl whisk together 3 eggs, 1/3 c. fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons), 3/4 c. granulated sugar. Place bowl over saucepan of boiling water and stir constantly for about 10 minutes, until curd coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and immediately strain to get rid of any lumps. Add the rind of a lemon and 4 tbsp room temp. butter cut into pieces to the lemon curd. Mix until smooth. The curd will continue to thicken as it cools. Cover with plastic wrap and keep in fridge.

Friday, April 4, 2008


Last night we hosted a bit of a pow-wow at our home. People gathered to hear the Chief speak. In order to get the people to come I had to offer them incentives that would make it worth their while. Those incentives came in the form of homebaked desserts. Like a Keebler elf I spent the night before toiling away in my little kitchen, baking a carrot cake, chocolate ganache cake, and a lemon yogurt pound cake. I figured that each cake represented a different sweet pallette, so I couldn't go wrong. Everyone would be happy and lulled into a sugar stupor as they settled in to hear the Chief speak.
In addition to the cakes I made a baked brie that was demolished in a total of 10 minutes. There's something so irresistable about a warm brie oozing forth it's goodness. This easy recipe features marmalade and chopped nuts, so it's also very dessert-like. I offered salty sweet crackers as a scoop, but you can just as easily substitute apple or pear slices.

Baked Brie
Preheat oven to 375F. Place wheel of brie on baking sheet. Combine 3 heaping tbsp. of orange marmalade, 1 tbsp. brown sugar in a saucepan and cook over med. heat, until consistency is somewhat syrupy. Remove from heat, pour marmalade onto brie. Place in oven for 20-25 minutes. Sprinkle with toasted chopped walnuts or pecans.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Philadelphia Story

I took my cure in Philly. After weeks of feeling just...awful, Hubbabubba dearest and I decided to get outta Dodge sans kiddles. I arrived in Philadelphia sneezing and sniveling and left hale and hearty, how's that for a marketing tagline?
Philly is great for so many reasons- it has an old world kind of charm as well as all the amenities of a big city. Art and sculpture and incredible architecture abound, as well as some great shopping and eating. Eating is important when you escape from your real life and give yourself over to a weekend of hedonism and indulgence. We had ice cream sundaes in a soda shoppe that was overwhelming in it's old time authenticity and flavors, it's called the Franklin Fountain (Ben Franklin is a big deal in Philly). Dearest had to wait 20 minutes for the freshly made waffle he ordered to go with the generous scoops of peach and mango ice cream. It was definitely worth it- this was the real deal not some McWaffle Sundae which is zapped into being at a moment's notice.
We "took tea" at our hotel's Mary Cassat Tea Room, and it was perfect. The pianist played "Hatikva" as I sipped caramel pear tea and nibbled on tea sandwiches. I was a little perplexed by that, feeling like Woody Allen in "Annie Hall" ("Wagner, Max, Wagner") but then decided it made the scene all the more perfect. Their currant scones smothered in clotted cream and homemade lemon curd made the world feel like a better place to be in.
The only fly in the soup was the meal we had on saturday night, we went to a fish restaurant Seafood Unlimited near the hotel, which looked cute enough. The waitress was rude in a bitchy way, that made me feel instantly defensive. The meal we ordered was decent, but for the fact that she didn't pay any heed to our specifications- I wanted my tilapia blackened , it was fried. Dearest ordered spinach that never came. Sometimes you just have to chalk it up to (bad) experience.
Right before departing the City of Brotherly Love. After walking to and from the Museum of Art to see a great exhibit of Frida Kahlo (my Nachos Frida are coming soon), we stumbled upon "Mamas Vegetarian Kosher", a cramped spot that had Dearest, a tough critic, raving over their felafel and tahini . I loved the homemade hummos and the wide selection of Israeli fruit juices.
In between the eating we did a lot of walking and sightseeing. I slept through the night uninterrupted. I shopped.
I also conducted a miniature chocolate tour, starting at a stall at the Reading Street Market that sold yummy caramels and even yummier peanut butter buckeyes. Then I moved over to the Metroplitan Bakery stall for a delicious and soft chocolate croissant. I ended at Teuscher Chocolates, which are Swiss, their gianduja chocolates were incredible. Their morsels of bliss came with a good measure of snobbery though. When I mentioned the folksy, down-home candy I purchased from the stall at the Market, M. Chocolat rolled his eyes slightly and deemed "that" chocolate "cute" (quite an insult when delivered by a serious chocolatier).

Re-entry into regular life is proving a little difficult. Cruising the aisles of the local Shop- Rite, isn't much like touring the stalls at the Market in Philly. No one is bringing me my tea in a fine porcelain cup. And I'm the one preparing dinner (without the side of bitchery, thank you very much). Cannot wait to escape again- and find the cure to the common life.