Archive for the ‘ Food ’ Category

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?


It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila @ Book Journey. Want a good book to read? Stop by and see what’s new in the world of literature!

This weekend was busier than usual with me running around to see family, drop my girlfriend off before the crack of dawn at the start of her MS City to Shore bike ride, and meeting her at the finish line in Ocean City, NJ. She finished the ride with flying colors and chatted the rest of the day about how wonderful the volunteers and her experience were. Fortunately, the predicted rain held off and she finished in six hours which included stopping at every rest stop along the route. It was great to switch roles as I supported her athletic endeavors as she always does for mine. And she finally understood the glow that accompanies the aftermath of such a physical undertaking. It made me want to join her next time! πŸ™‚

In other news – Happy Banned Books Week! I’ll be posting on Twenty Boy Summer this Wednesday in conjunction with Book Journey’s Banned Book celebration. Be sure to tune in on Wednesday as I’ll have a special giveaway to celebrate the freedom of reading! πŸ˜€

Here’s what I’ve been reading this week:

Β  How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gates Gill – I’m listening to this memoir on CD (not read by the author) and am really enjoying it. It’s a little too happy-sunshine for me, but Gill has a great perspective on lessons he learned later in life. Fired from an affluent job he held the majority of his life, Gill finds himself floundering for a new purpose. That’s when he is found by Crystal, a Starbucks manager who takes a chance on Gill that changes his life for the better. This memoir is definitely worth reading as it provides a great illustration on how sometimes we may be distracted by things that are fleeting instead of finding happiness in the moments of life.

 

 

Β  In the Small Kitchen by Cara Eisenpress and Phoebe Lapine – Another fun cookbook with great illustrations. The authors provide their life experience in the form of recipes that reflect a good range of dietary options, budgets, and fanfare. Plus, the colorful anecdotes make it a fun read as well!

 

 

 

 

Β  Every Thing On It by Shel Silverstein – A compilation of Silverstein’s poems and illustrations published posthumusly by his family. Growing up with the whimsical books of Silverstein, I had to pick up a copy, eager to read more of his works. Perfect to read anytime. πŸ™‚

 

 

 

 

That’s all she wrote…er, read. Tune in Wednesday for more fun, reading, and entertainment! πŸ™‚

Whoopie! Pies

Β  Fall is here (according to me) and that can only mean one thing – pumpkin recipes! πŸ˜€

I love anything pumpkin and I while I love making my favorites from years past, I also enjoy discovering new ways to add pumpkin to my recipe repertoire. I was working at the library when I stumbled upon a new book all about making whoopie pies. While I wasn’t a big fan of the chocolate, white-cream filled ones of my youth, the pictures gracing the cover looked so appealing I just had to check it out.

The book was dedicated to whoopie pies of all kinds including a tasty looking pumpkin cream cheese filled whoopie. Yay!!! My girlfriend and I were invited to a friend’s house for Sunday football and I decided to make the pumpkin whoopies then take them over for some taste testing. They were a huge success! I’ve been asked for a repeat soon as well as orders for several other flavors after posting my success story on facebook. πŸ™‚

Here’s the recipe, but I recommend getting the book too as it is chock-filled with other tasty whoopie treats. Enjoy! πŸ™‚

Pumpkin Whoopies

Β  (My notations in italics)

1/2 c (1 stick) butter, softened

1 c light brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 extra large egg

2 1/3 c all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground allspice or nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cloves

pinch of salt

1 c canned or fresh pumpkin puree

2 tbsp buttermilk (I used regular)

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper (or spray with cooking spray like olive oil – worked great and didn’t change the taste).

2. Put the butter, sugar, and vanilla extract in an electric mixer bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in egg.

3. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves and salt into the bowl and stir together. Add the pumpkin and milk and stir until combined.

4. Drop by the heaping tablespoon 3 inches apart on the baking sheets. (These should be about the same size so you can match equal halves together later and look like the back of a turtle shell – smooth and round.)

5. Bake for about 10-12 minutes (make sure to check because less is more). Transfer to wire rack and let cool.

6. When the whoopies are cold, match equal whoopie halves and spread cream cheese filling in between (I used a palette knife like you would ice a cake with and it was very easy). Press together and enjoy!

Cream Cheese Filling

1/2 c regular cream cheese

5 tbsp butter, softened

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

4 1/2 c confectioner’s sugar (I just added this until it was the taste/consistency I liked – not nearly the amount called for…)

1. Put the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla extract in a large bowl and beat together with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy.

2. Sift in the confectioner’s sugar and beat together until well combined. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days.

Whoopies! by Susanna Tee

Garden State

Β  For some reason New Jersey gets a really bad rap from the rest of the U.S. Not sure how that originated, but I must admit that I definitely have laughed at NJ jokes before. I still think it’s funny that NJ gets mocked, but now I give more of a “hey, NJ really is a great place to live” response.

But one of the things I enjoy most about NJ is that it really is the Garden State. Everywhere I go there are farm stands and fresh “Jersey Fresh” produce. When you’re in NJ you have your pick of any kind of fruit or veggie that strikes your fancy. Most are way better than the shipped in, chemically bland, glossy produce that lines the bins of the local supermarket, so for me it’s like hitting up the candy store and having my pick of whatever flavors I want.

The other day my girlfriend and I stopped at one of our favorite farm stands only to find it closed. Bummed but knowing that there were stands aplenty in the area we drove around until we came to a farm we had passed many times but had never stopped at. (That’s a picture I snapped on the left.) Despite it’s advertisement for produce galore we had never seen anyone working there or any visible produce. But, desperate to find fresh legumes, we drove down the long gravel driveway and parked in front of their barn. Tiny donkeys – including an adorable baby donkey complete with a bedhead – grazed to the left of the barn. When we walked inside the barn our eyes feasted on bins of green peppers and eggplants and onions and corn. Containers of brightly colored tomatoes were stacked on the shelves next to tiny cloves of garlic. Large glass fridges lined one wall and were stocked with fresh jams, tomato sauce, eggs, and greens.

Talk about vegetarian heaven!!!

After we wiped the drool off our chins, we looked around for someone to pay. On an old wooden table stood a jar filled with coins and bills to make change as visitors paid through the honor system. So of course we loaded up with as much as we could carry, paid, and left knowing we had found our Produce Nirvana. πŸ˜€

Braving Brooklyn

  The first time I set foot in Brooklyn was just this past spring when I did the Five Borough Bike Tour. I’d always heard great things about the NYC borough with its cultural treasures, cute shops and eclectic collection of peoples. Though my visit was brief, it left me wanting to go back to see what the fuss of Brooklyn was all about.

Yesterday, my girlfriend and I decided to kick off the three day weekend with a visit to Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Museum of Art participates in the Target sponsored “First Saturdays” where entry is free after 5pm and features a cash bar, music, and other special events. I’d been to a free Saturday event before at the MoMA and it’s wonderful. A community of people coming together to celebrate the arts and mingle with each other.

We decided to plan our day around the museum visit and headed into town early to walk around the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Fortunately, we had a perfect, sunny day to tour the gardens. We meandered through the Japanese Tea Gardens, past rosebushes and ornate fountains with other visitors of like mind. I snapped a bunch of great photos and got to see a huge sculpture made of living roots and vines that reminded me of something out of Star Wars.

After the gardens we ate lunch at a tasty vegan restaurant with a great ambiance called Dao Palate. Our meals were creative without being pretentious and I had the best ginger ale (made with real ginger) I’ve ever tasted. From there we journeyed north to hit up the Brooklyn Brewery to continue our quest to visit as many breweries around the globe that we can. As one of the first microbreweries in the states it became one of the forerunners in a growing trend of breweries around the country and remains as such today. We waded among the hipsters to snag a pint glass and jump on the last tour of the day. While the tour was one of the more interesting with stories of robberies and mafia and eccentric logo designers it was held in a cramped room packed to the gills with people who don’t appreciate personal space. Yikes!

By the time we crossed the brewery off our checklist and wandered around a bit (stumbling upon a hipster hive and barely escaping with our uncool lives), it was past five so we made our way back toward Prospect Heights and the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Apparently first Saturdays are THE event and while we enjoyed our museum tour, we spent most of our time sitting outside on a low wall eating frozen yogurt and people watching. As the sun set, illuminating the sky in a brilliance of color and the lights of Brooklyn twinkled on, we both basked in the beauty of our lovely day in Brooklyn.

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Best Falafel Recipe Ever

Mmmmm….falafel. I love trying different kinds of foods and try to sample different ethnic restaurants whenever I can. So when a new Greek/Mediterranean restaurant opened up close to my home I had to stop by. My favorite item on the menu is by far their falafel sandwich. It’s not only a great example of how falafel should taste, but it is topped with a delicious cilantro yogurt sauce, lettuce and tomato to make it a mighty fine treat.

Before you prepare, be warned that this food is up there on the no-nos of first date foods as it has many ingredients that, although delicious, will render your breath more suitable for keeping vampires away than kissing. πŸ˜‰

Here is my favorite Falafel with Cilantro Yogurt recipe:

1 cup plain yogurt

1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 cup chopped onion

5 large garlic cloves, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 15-oz cans garbanzo (aka chickpeas) beans, drained

3 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup all purpose flour

2 tablespoons ground cumin

1 large egg

olive oil

4 warm pita breads with top third cut off

sliced tomatoes & green lettuce (if desired)

Cilantro Yogurt Preparation

Whisk yogurt, 1/2 cup cilantro, 1/4 cup onion, 1 garlic clove, lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne in medium bowl to blend. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Falafel

Blend garbanzo beans, 3 tablespoons flour, cumin, remaining 1/2 cup cilantro, 4 cloves garlic and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne in food processor until almost smooth. Add egg and remaining 3/4 cup onion and blend until onion is finely chopped. Transfer mixture to bowl and shape into four 1/2-inch-thick patties. Turn patties in remaining 1/2 cup flour to coat on both sides.

Pour enough oil into large skillet to coat bottom of pan and heat over medium-high heat. Add patties and cook until crisp and golden, approx. 8 min. each side. Open pita breads; add one falafel patty, sliced tomato and lettuce. Spoon cilantro yogurt mixture inside pita. Enjoy!

Tip: There’s a new restaurant that’s popping up a lot of places called Maoz. It’s vegetarian and specializes in falafel sandwiches. I’ve eaten here a number of times and have enjoyed it very much. It’s kind of a healthy alternative to fast food – Yum! πŸ™‚

Homemade Saltines

One of my goals this year is to cut back on processed foods. This means some of my favs like saltines, graham crackers, pretzels and granola bars need to be removed from my grocery list. Problem is – I love snacking on these foods! Solution? Learn how to make them from scratch myself. πŸ™‚

I’ve been doing some research online to try and find recipes that are not only unprocessed but healthy, easier said than done! Many of the recipes that I’ve found include gobs of butter or shortening or something akin. While I understand that eating foods like butter rather than margarine are better because while they are higher in fat they are not made purely of chemicals and thus are healthier food choices, I still didn’t want to make my favorite snacks with super high fat content either. Dilemma!

But after searching high and low, I have found a recipe that seems to meet my criteria for a healthier snack food. I will continue posting recipes as I find/try them. If you have any favorites, I’d love to hear about them! Enjoy! πŸ™‚

This recipe comes from Just Eat It, a blog dedicated to yummy recipes.

Homemade Saltines

  • Olive oil for brushing pan and dough
  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into bits
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup very cold water
  • 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, or kosher salt

Preheat oven to 375Β°F with racks in upper and lower thirds. Brush 2 large baking sheets generously with oil.

Toast 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper in a dry small skillet (not nonstick) over medium heat, shaking skillet occasionally, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Cool pepper.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon table salt in a bowl (or pulse in a food processor). Add shortening and blend into flour mixture with a pastry blender or your fingertips (or pulse in processor) until most of mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-size lumps. Drizzle evenly with 1/2 cup ice water and gently stir with a fork (or pulse) until incorporated.

Squeeze a small handful: If it doesn’t hold together, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring (or pulsing) until incorporated, then test again.

Divide dough into 2 portions and flatten each into a 3-inch square.

Roll out each square on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pinΒ into a 20- by 8-inch rectangle. Trim edges and sprinkle each sheet with teaspoon toasted pepper. Run rolling pin lightly over dough to embed pepper in pastry. Brush each sheet with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle each with 1/2 teaspoon sea salt.

Cut sheets crosswise with a small sharp knife into 1-inch-wide strips (straight or wavy). Arrange strips evenly spaced in 1 layer on baking sheets and bake, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until golden, 16 to 20 minutes total. Transfer to racks to cool.

Winter Beer

My days of drinking more alcohol than I should are long gone, but my appreciation for good beer continues to grow. After college I moved to Colorado, home of the Rocky Mountains and Coors Brewing Company. Fortunately, it is also home to many other great breweries and that is where I first developed my taste for pretentious beer. I limit my beer consumption to weekends and even then it is a rare occasion when I have more than one an evening so I’m very picky when it comes to my beer selection. Sorry, Bud!

Winter beers are typically darker in color and have a fuller-body than other seasonal beers. Most often you can find winter beers in the Ale category.

There are many winter brews to choose from, but here are a few of my recommendations this season (not including ones I’ve sampled from local, non-distributing breweries). Click on the links below to find out more about each beer:

1. Troegs Mad Elf Ale

2. Great Divide Hibernation Ale

3.Breckenridge Christmas Ale

4. Weyerbacher Winter Ale

5. Hubworks Abominable Winter Ale

My best suggestion to those just beginning to learn more about beers is to check out these great websites: BeerAdvocate and RateBeer.

Also, visit your local brewery and try a sampler of their beers. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, a well-trained staff will be knowledgeable and happy to answer.

Please drink responsibly!

Cranberry Chutney

Your holiday parties might be over, but I couldn’t resist sharing this easy, yummy recipe with you!

Cranberry Chutney

1 (12oz) bag fresh or frozen cranberries

1 1/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup water

1 large cooking apple, chopped

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground cloves

 

1. In a saucepan, combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. (Cranberries will eventually lose moisture and deflate.) Reduce heat. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until apple is tender and mixture thickens. Cool completely.

2. Store in refrigerator. Serve over cream cheese with crackers or as a garnish for a main dish.

Enjoy! πŸ˜€

Veggie Pot Pie

Pot Pies are perfect to enjoy with a cold beer and a football game.Β  At least, that’s how I enjoy them. πŸ™‚ Even if you aren’t a football fan, but want a delicious recipe that the whole family will love, this recipe is for you!

(Recipe courtesy of allrecipes.com)

 

 

Veggie Pot Pie

* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 1 onion, chopped
* 8 ounces mushrooms
* 1 clove garlic, minced
* 2 large carrots, diced
* 2 potatoes, peeled and diced
* 2 stalks celery, sliced 1/4 inch wide
* 2 cups cauliflower florets
* 1 cup fresh green beans, trimmed and snapped into 1/2 inch pieces
* 3 cups vegetable broth
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt
* 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
* 2 tablespoons cornstarch
* 2 tablespoons soy sauce
* 2 pkg of pastry crust (I use Pillsbury. You can usually find it with things like Pillsbury cinnamon rolls and biscuits)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
2. Heat oil in a large skillet or saucepan. Cook onions, mushrooms, and garlic in oil for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in carrots, potatoes, and celery. Stir in cauliflower, green beans, and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to a simmer. Cook until vegetables are barely tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
3. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch, soy sauce, and 1/4 cup water until cornstarch is completely dissolved. Stir into vegetables, and cook until sauce thickens, about 3 minutes.
4. Roll out 1/2 of the dough to line an 11×7 inch baking dish. Pour the filling into the pastry lined dish. Roll out remaining dough, arrange over the filling, and seal and flute the edges. (You can also get creative and make mini-pot pies in ramkin dishes)
5. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until the crust is brown.

Bon Appetit! πŸ™‚

Scrumptious Pumpkin Chili

It’s that time of year; the days are getting colder and shorter and the air has the smell of snow and fireplaces. It’s a perfect time for another yummy recipe!

This recipe is vegan and oh-so delicious! I first read this recipe while I was on the wonderful blog – Gerbera Daisy Diaries. I was amazed at how easy it was to make. It blends the perfect combination of flavors into a great chili that goes perfectly with a big slice of cornbread. πŸ™‚

Scrumptious Pumpkin Chili

1 cup bulgur wheat

2 tsp olive oil

1 cup each onion and red pepper chopped (I used green pepper as it tastes just as good and is less expensive)

1 pkg chili seasoning

2 1/2 cup water

1 can (28oz) crushed tomatoes (diced tomatoes works just as well)

1 can (15oz) pumpkin (surprisingly, I couldn’t taste the pumpkin in the finished product, so I’ll probably add more next time)

1 medium zucchini, shredded (I opted out of the zucchini as it’s not my fav veggie)

1 can (15.5oz) black beans (I buy these dried and make as needed – cheaper and healthier, although it takes more time)

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1 cup frozen corn

1. Prepare bulgur according to directions on package.

2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a nonstick skillet. Add onion and pepper and saute for five minutes. Add chili seasoning, saute until fragrant.

3. Add water, tomatoes, pumpkin and zucchini and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer ten minutes, stirring occasionally, under veggies are tender.

4. Stir in bulgur, beans and corn, heat through. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro.

Serve and enjoy! πŸ™‚

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