Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Beware the Recipe Chain!

Here it is, a few weeks before the big holiday season, and in pops an email about a Recipe Exchange from the mother of one of my best friends. Now, I don't know if was before my 2nd cup of caffeine, or after a particularly satisfying breakfast that made my brain complacent, but at the time this seemed like a mighty fine idea to follow the instructions and send a recipe exchange request to 20 of my friends. After all, I need to go to holiday parties, and I might just end up with the killer savory ricotta fritters as an appetizer or bring a tasty Apple Cinnamon Crostada to the brunch. When I heard recipe exchange, this is what was pouring into the inbox in my brain.

My first recipe that arrived was painfully simple, and seemingly includes an illegal amount of sodium, and was probably a favorite of every kitchen in Main Street USA circa 1961:

OK, as it was the first one, I did not make any judgements. I am also fairly positive that for a million dollars, I cannot identify what CHUCK ROAST is when I go to the grocery aisle with all the meat in it. (they really should have pictures of what the stuff looks like cooked so I can ID it). It sounds like a big piece, versus the wavy meat they call hamburger.

The second recipe pops in, with an attachment, and the email reads:

I do not like clams, and I did not open this email.

Still, I was not officially discouraged, after all, I've gotten 2 out of many many amazing recipes to come my way, come on Number 3!

Later that evening, all hell breaks loose when I get this one. I even threw up a little in my mouth while reading it.

I am a veritable well of optomism when it comes to food, so I will be waiting patiently for other fantastic treat instructions to arrive. My goal is to actually read something I would consider making, versus making me lose my appetite. My neighbor's mom always made ambrosia in that huge glass footed bowl, it was great when you were under ten years old.

The hard thing for me is that the only food I have ever made is not one I read about in an email, but one I sampled at a party, freaked out, and begged for the recipe. I am publicly admitting that these recipes in this exchange have a very low chance of ever seeing the light of my oven. At least they see the glory of cyberspace as they are posted here for all to read. If anyone wants the clam recipe, please say so - however, I'd recommend reading Poor Girl Gourmet (the blog or the book) by Amy McCoy for actual real yummy food on a budget. Bon Appetit!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Dinner and a Cup of Coffee? What Were They Thinking?

I was just sitting down to a post-lunch cup of tea and thinking about the movies from that era of Hollywood when people would belly up to the counter and order lunch or dinner with a cup of coffee. Growing up as an offspring of that culture, I never thought much about it... it was in so many movies, plus parents and seniors would still eat meals and drink coffee. As a 40-something adult, I shudder to think of sipping a coffee alongside a ham sandwich, or tipping the java down the gullet next to my spaghetti dinner and salad. On the flip-side, a diner breakfast is not complete without sipping coffee all the way through. Why has drinking coffee during other meals fallen out of favor and habit among subsequent generations such as mine?

Health: we have learned over time that something like water is a better alternative to drink with or after a meal. Here's an article from Raw Food Explained that discusses the impact of different types of foods and liquids in conjunction with each other, some wreaking havoc and blocking the proper ingestion of important nutrients.

Glam: perhaps drinking coffee with meals is falling off the hip charts, like smoking in the movies used to be. I found this neat blog about the history of everything to do with restaurant-ing, if you are a fan check it out. I'm also currently reading Appetite for America by Stephen Fried, about how businessman Fred Harvey invented the chain restaurant business, the chain hotel business, and the chain bookstore business all while building the nation's growing railroad system. I can imagine riding the rails for hours across the midwest, hot and arid, smoke and dust, stopping at this snappy clean eating establishment and eating meals only found in fancy restaurants in Chicago or New York. Harvey exclusively used Boston area Chase and Sanborn coffee. I bet you I'd be drinking coffee with my salmon after that rail tour.

I'd love anyone who does drink coffee with non-breakfast meals to tell me why, what is the allure?

A Cup of Coffee, a Sandwich, and You (1925)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ommm, no, more like Ummmm....

I was at Whole Foods and they have a pretty stellar tea selection. Today's choice was HEAVENLY LEMON TULSI from Honest Tea. It's a caffeine free tea, and I'm usually hurting myself with the amount of caffeine I drink, so I figured I'd give it a whirl. I did not read the back of the bottle till I started to drink it, and started wondering what herb farm fell into my bottle. Looking at the small print, Tulsi means "Holy Basil", and the clever folks at Honest Tea put a quick disclaimer on the back that says "Basil in tea? Don't worry..." with a long explanation that it's not really basil, yadda yadda, likening it to meditation (hence the Ommm reference).

My personal tea preference is a good strong black tea with lemon, so this does not fit that bill. Every so often, I'm up for a more herb-based tea, which is usually a 50/50 herb to tea taste. This tea does taste nice, but it's quite aromatic and not strong enough in the tea camp for my taste.

That note aside, for those who are into herbal teas, it is somewhat refreshing. I was hoping for a go-to caffeine-free tea option, but I'll pass.

On the flip side, I did start drinking Sweet Leaf Tea last week. I was at CVS on the 101 degree day and ran to the fridge section to find something good for my hour long ride home in my husband's jeep without AC. Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was because I left work early, but boy, this tea went down fast and joyously. It had a nice hefty tea flavor with a hint of sweet that was fantastic.

Earlier this week on a Whole Foods salad run, I grabbed another bottle and, not finding the ORIGINAL flavor pictured here, found a blue label that was LEMON. Also good. I do like the Original best so far, and they had many other flavors to try. I used to drink Lori's Lemon Honest Tea the most, but I dare say that Sweet Leaf has bumped Honest Tea out of my top spot. There are lots of Iced Tea's out there, which is YOUR favorite?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tis the Season for Homemade Ice Cream Sandwiches

This past weekend my family was running a few errands and just so happened that my other half had to do an estimate across the street from my co-blogger Brian's house. My daughter and I knocked on Brian's door and lo and behold, Brian was home with his youngest, and he was making guacamole. The guacamole was stellar, but that's not why I'm writing today. Brian unveiled a recent masterpiece, homemade ice cream sandwiches!

I'm a HUGE fan of ice cream sandwiches. The sandwich cookie part and the ice cream have this nice rhythm as you eat them - the ice cream melts, so you clean up the edges, the cookie starts to sculpt and bend to the ice cream, it's a delicate dance that's different everytime. Sometimes you end up with the ice cream thinned out and the cookie intact, or you eat it proportionately down into a small square, which is fun too. Ice cream sandwich flavors are always worth trying, like mint or coffee, although the traditional vanilla is king.

I'm penning this post so that Brian will be urged to share his recipe, since it was lovely and this batch was quite svelte. I believe next time he was going to stuff more homemade vanilla bean ice cream into it. Aside from myself, we had junior taste testers from the Grossman and Morton Test Kitchen on hand, as you can see here, they are both studying and enjoying the homemade ice cream sandwiches.

I'll be making peppermint ice cream later, and depending on when Brian posts his recipe, I might end up with peppermint ice cream sandwiches.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

IKEA FOOD Big Breakfast

I've eaten lunch at IKEA before, I like that little shrimp bread slice thing they have, I feel very swedish and svelte eating it. This past week I had the opportunity to have breakfast there while I was killing time waiting for my colleague to join so we could pick up some hipster accessories for the office.

I was there tray in hand browsing the menu when the very east coast velocity woman behind the counter kept saying "can I help you can I help you can I help you". There was only one person behind me, her badgering was more suited to the dinner line on Black Friday in New York City than a weekday at Stoughton Mass. The clear front runners were the Lingonberry (is this a made up fruit, like furniture people who use their salesman's last name because it's Italian and sounds upscale?) pancakes and the Big Breakfast. As pancakes make me hungry about an hour after eating them, I opted for the latter - the fully stocked plate of eggs, homefries, bacon and french toast sticks.

The eggs in the amusing scoop-shape were fine. The home fries had a fairly good taste to them, but felt like they were cooked in oil then let sit under a warming bulb which dried them out a little. I don't know how that's possible when the cafe was only open 20 minutes when I got there. The french toast sticks were decent, but had that same red heat lamp oil dipped issue.

The bacon. Up till then I've only had one bacon I didn't like - it was too game-y, like you had decided to eat the pig on the side of the road with the gritty tire tracks and all. One bite of IKEA bacon and I almost shook my head like a dog realizing they were being fed a heartworm pill on the sly. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but afterwards realized that the bacon was very thin, a little sweet, and somewhat rubbery and crispy all at once (not sure how this can happen), and realized it had the consistency of eating cooked skin (human or otherwise, haven't eaten people but felt like it would have tasted that way). Needless to say I didn't eat anymore, as people will tell you I have food consistency preferences (I can add "not skin-like" to that list).

IKEA, you get what you pay for, including in the cafeteria. No allen wrench and fun instructions, but the free coffee isn't a bad consolation prize.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Kickstart Summer with 3 Scoops

What's more fun that hanging out with an old friend, our families, and eating ice cream? Not much - except for the thrill of trying some cool flavors and treats. My clan and I went to 3 Scoops in Brighton Mass and met up with blogmate Brian Grossman (that's a picture of us) and his family. By the time we got there (late sorry) there were an array of empty ice cream cups and a mini apple pie being sampled. It was so good, we went home with four of the pies.

Brian gave me some of the background of the place, where the ice cream gets shipped from (one of the original Herrell's guys splintered off and is making amazing stuff himself), but I was more taken with the artwork on the walls. Being a photographer and foodie, I loved the collection of work on the walls, especially the old bathtub in the yard photos and the butterfly "thing" (this is an invitation to go there to see what I'm talking about, but it's on the wall in the photo).

I rolled up my sleeves and got to the ice cream. After difficult consideration of the many inventive flavors, I went with mudpie. It is coffee ice cream, chocolate chunks/chips, oreos, and fudge swirl. Supreme. The other flavors that were engulfed were black raspberry, pistachio, and a sample taste of peanut butter and jelly (yep). The pistachio got high ratings from my super picky husband who said that the ratio of pistachios in the ice cream was perfect (you don't even understand how 5 star a compliment this is), and that they were soft and not crunchy.

Since this was the first weekend in April, there weren't a lot of fruit options available, which is OK by me but I'd imagine that would ebb and flow with the weather/humidity. The one fun treat I saw was this insane ice cream cookie sandwich that another food blogger was eating. In a bout of jealousy, I ambled over to his table and ogled his vanilla ice cream sandwiched between large chocolate chip cookies. This was like Thanksgiving! I think this would be a fantastic dessert if it was half the size, but it is fun to watch some guy eat the whole thing.

Head on over to 3 scoops, you won't be disappointed!

Monday, March 7, 2011

I'm just a Dark Chocolate Peepster for your Love

It's not all that often that I go crazy over a new candy, but I'm in love. I walked into work today and found the candy bowl at the front desk included a rolo-shaped foil wrapped candy called a PEEPSTER. I grabbed two and figured I'd try them after lunch.

The dark chocolate is creamy, and inside the little delightful chocolate barrel is a little glob of marshmallow. The inside marshmallow consistency is borderline Cadbury Creme Egg and Peep. I'm not a big marshmallow fan, but the combination of the ratio of chocolate to the Ka-Pow sweet treat inside is amazing! As soon as I ate one, I wanted to eat one hundred... luckily they're rich enough that you can't.

Peepsters just launched last week, and boy, am I excited. I highly recommend the dark chocolate ones, although they do sell milk chocolate which I'll have to try. I'll be sad when Easter is over, unless I can't fit into my clothes anymore.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Banana Bread to the 9th Power

I've been inspired by a couple yummy desserts I had recently -- Sticky Date Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream and Butterscotch Sauce @ KO Catering and Pies and Bread Pudding, White Chocolate, Banana, Raspberry with Toffee Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream @ The Regal Beagle. They both feature creamy, sweet cold ice cream over a warm, soft, starchy center drenched in a sweet sauce. The contrast of the warm center and sauce delivers everything you love about apple pie a la mode, only substitute the sweet and sour of the apples with sweet and more sweet.

Here's how Idid it:
  1. Cut a slice of my mom's banana bread recipe (or any banana bread recipe you have) in thirds and arrange the pieces on the bottom of a bowl.
  2. Cover with about two tablespoons of butterscotch sauce (recipe)
  3. Microwave about 20-30 seconds on high. Spoon the sauce over the banana bread to soak it.
  4. Cover it with a healthy scoop of vanilla ice cream (recipe)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ritz's Attempt at a Dessert Cracker

One of my co-workers (the lovely and talented Dana) is a major strange food supplier in my network of foodies. Dana brought the Ritz Fudge crackers in, with wonderous tales of trying them many years ago when they were limited edition covered in dark chocolate. They even have a facebook presence designed to generate buzz to bring back the fudge covered crackers.

I was pretty dubious at the start, figuring the butter would conflict with the chocolate, as others thought it would be a complement (sweet/salty). There was talk about "fudge" not being real chocolate. The tasting began.

The first taste that came through was of course the milk chocolate, a good taste. The 2nd sensation was the buttery flavor which (ironically) competed with the cracker texture. I wanted the cracker texture I guess to be more like a cookie (slightly vanilla/bland or shortbread) rather than a bright-orange-mega-Dorito-esque-level maximum butter punch. I could overlook all of those things if it weren't for the final chapter - the coating of waxy fat stuff on my teeth. You know what I'm talking about, that wax sheen that covers your teeth so that water beads off of them. Maybe it's a cavity preventative measure, maybe it's just cheap chocolate.

I'll pretty much eat anything covered in chocolate laying about, but one of these is enough for me. If anyone else has eaten them and has an opinion, please share, I WANT to like them.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Cake Pops, Oh Boy!

One of our clients sent us a box of Valentine treats today from Candy's Cake Pops. Great packaging, colorful, and laden with these mysterious delights. There's a little card that explains that the color on the bottom of the stick refers to the cake flavor inside. I swiftly tried the cherry chip Cake Pop (new!), and boy, was that good. It was enrobed in dark chocolate, and the delicate balance between chocolate, cake, and portion size was fantastic. Beats cupcakes hands down in mess factor. Give these guys a call and order a box today, you will NOT be disappointed!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Snow = eat bread and drink milk NOW

During a storm, I wonder what percentage of people actually run out to the store to buy milk and bread specifically, and what remaining number laugh hysterically and wonder why those two items are the law for people to fend off snowbound hunger. I would guess it's a solid 62 to 38 in favor of the panic attack purchase.

My mother told me on Monday that she went out and got milk and bread before the Tuesday through Wednesday storm. My mother lives alone, and actually manages to drink a gallon of milk every few days. This makes sense.

I know in my house, it takes my husband and I seven to ten days to drink one half gallon of 1% organic milk, and my toddler a half gallon of whole milk about 5 days. Have we ever been snowbound for more than 5 days? OK, the blizzard of '78 aside, no such luck.

As an adult on the occasions where I find myself wandering the food store the eve of A BIG STORM, I tend to go for more of the comfort foods or ingredients to make them with. I shop like it's the weather superbowl - special occasion snacks like tortilla chips and salsa plus the basic food group standards. Sure, there might be the occasional box of HoHo's that slip into the cart (since those last about 19 years, just in case), but there are such a finite amount of combinations I can make with bread. I have to eat sandwiches for lunch all the time, and sure, when your electric is out [your milk spoils] but PB&J is king. However, if I have a working kitchen it's omelettes or french toast or macaroni and cheese, hell, even brussell sprouts. Cooking in a snowstorm is our modern day survival instinct. Since tomorrow will be a downright mess, I will be baking muffins from scratch.

How about you? Are you a Milk and Bread Soldier tried and true (if so, defend yourself), or are you staring at the empty milk display at the store saying, "uh DUH"?