Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Moving day

I've decided to try a new location for my blog. breadwinecheese can now be found at  thank you all for following here and hope to see you at my new digs.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Over the river, through the woods, on my couch

I never liked Thanksgiving very much when I was younger.  Truth be told, it's still not one of my favorite holidays.  Although in recent years I have come to greatly appreciate windy days on the parade route (when all the floats run amok) and a pro football game (not a fan of college) in front of the fire.  Usually we head on over to Jerry's cousin's for a huge dinner with his family, kids underfoot, jug wine flowing freely, and football in the family room downstairs. This year it's just us and the boys at home and I get to cook.  This pleases me greatly.

We used to wake up at o'dark-thirty when I was a kid, to get the massive turkey in the oven and the stuffing underway.  I was allowed to sleep a little later than my parents but would always awaken to the smell of frying onions, celery, and Bob Evans (down on the farm) breakfast sausage.  The stuffing would be pretty much finished when I came down, and we'd fry up great batches of it to have alongside scrambled eggs and toast.  It was a massive breakfast, as we wouldn't eat until the turkey dinner was served.  There was always a huge platter of veggies and devilled eggs, and a large bowl of screaming neon-pink pickled eggs and beets.  Then there was the turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, canned green beans, buttered mushrooms and onions in sour cream, corn, rye bread and butter, and that wonderful canned jellied cranberry sauce.

Dessert was, of course, pie.  And plenty of it.  Pumpkin, coconut custard, apple, and lemon meringue, with vats of Cool Whip for topping.  I used to hide the lemon meringue as it was my favorite back then.  Every year, people would look for it and--every year--it would never be found until later, when everyone left, and I got it all to myself.  I would also have it for breakfast the next day as sugary fortification for the great Black Friday shopping trip downtown.

This year is all me.  I've got two very nice turkey breast halves, one of which will be stuffed with sweet Italian sausage, the other with hot.  Just slide the raw sausage meat between the skin and breast, wrap it around, and plonk it in the oven.  Juicy porky turkey goodness.  There will be the canned cranberry sauce as well as a fresh one made with wine and walnuts.  Or I might make a cranberry relish that my friend Rachel makes every year.  No mushrooms but there will be stuffing made with apples, onions, celery, and chestnuts (which I have to remember to pick up today), and almost an entire box of Bell's Seasoning.  Corn, pop biscuits (the Pillsbury out of the can), and I'm going to make that green bean casserole.  I've always wanted to  and this year I'm going in.

There will be a pumpkin pie for dessert, as Jerry loves pumpkin pie, but no Cool Whip.  I'm going to make a bigass cheesecake, Nigella's London cheesecake to be exact, with a salted caramel sauce.  All of us love cheesecake and two desserts makes everyone happy.  There will be wine, of course, and a small platter of radishes, celery, and carrots with ranch dip because we actually like that.

And that's Thanksgiving this year.  I don't think anything else is needed, except a very large stack of wood and some very nice wine.  Which I have to remember to pick up today, along with the chestnuts.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cake Truffles and Cake Pops | Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice

Cake Truffles and Cake Pops | Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice

This Sunday is my birthday and, as many of you know, I would run over a basket of kittens for pie. Which means that I always have apple pie for my birthday cake. I've narrowed down a few new recipes this year and will make my final decision on Friday so I can get the damn thing started and enjoy it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, you name it. However, the boys don't share my sick passion for pie and usually just eat the filling. And I don't think the bourbon ice cream I'm planning is child-friendly. So I think I may make a batch of these for their treat. And any chance I get to bust out the Hallowe'en jimmies, well, I am so there. And I can use my Hallowe'en cupcake liners, too. Win-win for everyone.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

cupcake mafia: Recipe Review: Pumpkin Chai Cookies

I'm not quite sure what the protocol is for clicking on the "Blog This!" button on a post on someone else's site; however, this recipe sounded so good that I wanted to share.  I haven't made these as of yet (I just haven't had time this week) but I am hoping to get to them this weekend.  If anyone beats me to them, please let me know.  They sound amazing.

cupcake mafia: Recipe Review: Pumpkin Chai Cookies: "Photo Courtesy of Patty Van Dorin I have been trying to come up with the perfect cookie to send to loved ones during late summer time but..."

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Simple Minds

I spend a great deal of time on Twitter, ranting about opposing football teams, sharing photos of clouds and food, and uttering nonsense just to garner myself some attention. My need for attention is so great that I have joined the Blog Her Food '10 Pity Party. What the hell is it, exactly? I'd like to say that I'm fully aware of that in which I am participating, however, there appears to be an official drink and a badge (which is displayed over yonder) and, being that I am a slut for cake and drink and shiny things I thought why the hell not? I've always wanted to live vicariously through a John Hughes movie (I am lying. Oh, how I am ever lying.) and this seems like the ideal opportunity. However, I would like for someone a bit less mental than Ally Sheedy to portray me. Because she's wack. Oh, I know. Deborah Gibson. Now that would be worth bringing back zombie John Hughes for one more film. And, after "Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus" I'm sure she'll take the role.

(Apparently, it's an online pity party for people who aren't going to BlogHer Food 2010. And there are oodles of prizes. Which makes it all the more worthwhile. Join us. One of us, one of us, one of us...)

So, that's pretty much it. I made soup today, a very nice buttersquash with cumin, garam masala, and coconut milk (even though it was 87 degrees out today) and a rather lavish chocolate peanut butter cake for Jandar's birthday. Which I realize now I never blogged about. Hm. I did pay attention to him on Twitter, though, and fed him well and plied him with wine and bourbon and champagne so I'm betting I'm forgiven.

That's all I've got. For now. The chittlins are back in school full-time starting tomorrow and I get a bit of quiet computer time to myself to properly compose posts. Which is good. For me, at least. For those of you who read me, well, you're really the judges.

Take care!

Thursday, August 12, 2010


I've made bagels before but I had to share this with you:

True bagel success. Using the recipe for water bagels from King Arthur flour I made some this morning.  I don't believe I'll be using my old recipes again.  This particular batch used a product called non-diastatic malt powder and I followed the recipe on the package, which differs only from the online version in that the latter calls for instant malted milk powder.  This may alter the results but, judging by the rave reviews, you'll be pleased either way.

These don't taste exactly like deli bagels and this may have something to do with my letting them rise for 20 minutes before they were boiled.  I like a dense, chewy bagel when eating with cream cheese or lox or other toppings; however, the majority of these will be turned into eggwiches and I wanted something a bit more bready.

These are awesome.  They are easy to make, don't take up as much time as you'd think, and the end result is well worth the effort.  I am beyond thrilled with these and would love to hear if anyone else gives them a try.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Way to guilt-trip the kiddies, clown

I have seen commercials recently, marketed specifically at children, encouraging them to purchase McDonald's Happy Meals because, if they do, a portion of the price will be donated to Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Now work with me here, please.

I don't care that McDonald's offers Happy Meals.  I don't care that they offer toy incentives to purchase one. This is not an issue with me.  What I do take offense to is playing on the emotions of kids, trying to convince them to ask mom or dad to buy them a crap meal in order to "help" other kids.  Do you see my problem with this?

I have heard nothing but good things about the Ronald McDonald Houses.  I personally feel that any organization that helps kids and their families during a very trying time is right on track and should be applauded for their efforts.  However, McDonald's is not good food.  It is not food that any child should be subjected to.  It has no redeeming factor whatsoever and to pretend otherwise is just plain wrong.  To make a child feel that he is doing something worthy by purchasing a Happy Meal takes away some of the good that the charity does.  It tarnishes its own image.  The message could easily be interpreted as "Rot yourself stupid, it's all for a worthy cause."  As parents, we know what we should be eating.  Occasionally, we fall off the wagon and go on a craptastic binge.  But then we (hopefully) dust ourselves off the following morning and return to a sensible way of eating.  We also know what we should be feeding our kids.  And it should not be McDonald's.  Yes, I know, it's often simply a treat, a reward for being good at the dentist or for passing math.  But the specific notion that only good can come of purchasing a Happy Meal?  That is shameful.  And McDonald's should know better.

There are other ways to support the Ronald McDonald houses.  Volunteer.  Deposit spare change in the boxes at the drive-thru or next to the register.  Write a check.  Let's not buy into the "eat crap, help a kid" message.  We're all better than that.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Magazine Review: Jamie

I've always been a fan of Jamie Oliver, owning four cookbooks and two of his DVD series The Naked Chef and Jamie at Home.  Allow me to highly recommend the latter for winding down after a very stressful day.  Watching him and Brian, his gardener, putz about, discussing bugs and greens and the weather, then watching what Jamie does with his fresh ingredients all make for a very soothing presentation.

But I'm here to review Jamie's magazine, Jamie, which I've noticed before at my local bookstore but never purchased until the other day, when I was way early to pick up my boys from school and wanted something to read in the car with my coffee.  I have the May/June 2010 issue.

For starters--and it may sound odd to discuss this--I absolutely love the tactile sensation of reading this magazine. It's not printed on glossy paper, with that subtle whisper of flipping pages.  Rather, this has the wonderful texture of a good-quality paperback book, a little rough and very pleasant to flip through.  I don't know the technical name for this paper stock but it really makes the photos of the food pop; because they're not shiny, they look like what you yourself may have just placed on the table.  It also brings a nice edge to the colorful illustrations that accompany some of the articles such as "Cool Beans" in the "Get Growing" section and a most excellent essay titled "Plate Politics."

The features are standard, including wine and travel, and the cover story is Jamie's visit to Stockholm's Rosendals garden.  What I was very pleased to find were a section for kids called "Little Chefs" and a "Monthly Menu" that was loaded with gorgeous ideas for both food and drink that were easy and would not break the budget.  True to form, all of the recipes throughout were just that, which should instill confidence in anyone who picks up a copy.  For those of you who may worry about the vanity element: no, there are not pictures of Jamie and his family splashed all over the place, making it appear as if you are looking through a photo album rather than a cooking mag.  So you're safe there. Finally, there was a very sweet tribute to Rose Gray, the woman who trained Jamie at the River Cafe.  She died in February of this year and the tribute pulled together reminiscences from friends and those she influenced over the years for a lovely memorial to a woman who lived a rather extraordinary life.

I really liked this issue.  I'm still working my way through it, it's that dense.  In fact, I more than likely will tote this around in my handbag because I think it can withstand the abuse.  Will I subscribe to it?  No, because my store carries it and it's less expensive for me to buy it myself (it's printed in the UK). However, if they did stop carrying it, I would consider shelling out the $80, especially if future issues are of the same quality.  If you'd like, you can get a brief view online here.

And there you have it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Chow and Chatter on Blog Talk Radio

Tune in to listen to my friend Rebecca Subbiah from Chow and Chatter on Blog Talk Radio.  Enjoy!

Listen to internet radio with Chow and Chatter on Blog Talk Radio

Friday, June 4, 2010

This looks promising

I was in Newtown today and noticed this:

I like this idea. The sign wasn't there last week and I did see some workmen shuffling around inside so I'll track its progress. I won't be back in Newtown until after July 4th but that should be enough time for the store to make some headway.

I'm really liking the possibility of fresh flavored vinegars like tarragon or raspberry (especially as berries are in season now); or maybe some nice garlic/basil/rosemary or chili-infused olive oils. Those would definitely be a treat. But I'll tamp down my excitement and remain only intrigued by the possibilities.

And the dent this could put in my wallet.

What's in your cellar?

I love salt.  My preference these days is for Maldon sea salt, the chef's darling, a gorgeously flaky substance that adds real pizazz to a finished dish.  And it's sparkly and pretty so what's not to love?  I have a salt pig by the stove full of a Mediterranean fine sea salt that I use for my pasta water and as a cooking ingredient.  It's relatively inexpensive compared with the Maldon, which, in my eye, is akin to finishing a dish with an exquisite olive oil.  And, apparently, I'm contributing to the demise of my loved ones.

The hot topic in food these days is how to "fix" the American diet.  With obesity on the rise across the board (not just in children) it is now time again to pick an ingredient and beat it to death and find some way to regulate it until something else comes along to take its place.  The villain these days is salt. Table salt, curing salt, sea salt, the American diet is apparently busting at the seams with salt.  This of course is contributing to high blood pressure, hypertension, you name it.  So let's regulate it.  Let's take personal responsibility away from people and tell them how to eat.  You know, like we did when we made everything low-fat  Look how much good that did!

Yeah, look how much good that did.  America only got fatter.

And why is this?  Not because the food is loaded with salt or fat or sugar or secret ingredient #5.  It is because the mind-set of so many people is, it tastes good, I want more, I'm going to eat more, and you're not going to stop me.  And there, in my opinion, lies the problem.  The same problem I always find in these "let's tell people what to do" arguments.  Laziness and lack of personal responsibility. Anyone of average intelligence can read a label and think, yeah, that's a wee bit salty, and put it back on the shelf.  That same person could just as easily choose to live off those foods and develop some serious health issues.  And see a doctor.  And be told to go on a low-sodium diet.  And either ignore the doctor and suffer or listen and learn and live.

I'm not perfect.  I just know how and what to cook because I care about what we eat and I want us to stay healthy.  And I always have Goldfish on hand because I have two kids.  It's called survival.  How hard is it to read a label, really?  If your doctor tells you to lay off the salt, read the damn label. Prepare a meal from scratch.  See a nutritionist if you don't want to do it by yourself.  An R.D. can follow your eating habits, help you narrow down what you should and shouldn't be eating, and plan menus for you. Can't get much easier than that.  Stay away from the drive-thru.  Have hot dogs or some really good salami once a week instead of every day. Seriously, where is the difficulty in this?

My other question is why is it the responsibility of the food companies to fix the American diet? Nola sent me an excellent article from the Times that you can read here.  It's long and will take some time to get through but it's one of the best I've read thus far, and far more coherent than what I've presented here.  It's also fascinating from a scientific and industry perspective.

The path to better health starts in the kitchen.  With real food, prepared properly, eaten with joy.  Ideally, there will be pie.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cookbook Review: 5 Spices, 50 Dishes

5 Spices, 50 Dishes:  Simple Indian Recipes Using Five Common Spices, by Ruta Kahate

Ruta Kahate's 5 Spices, 50 Dishes is a fun, non-intimidating introduction to cooking simplified Indian cuisine at home.  True to its title, each recipe uses one or a combination of five common spices easily found in any grocery store:  coriander seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, ground cayenne, and ground turmeric.  The first section of the book includes a description of each spice, one essential technique for Indian cooking (tadka), advice on choosing chiles, making ginger and garlic pastes, whole vs. ground spices, cooking oil, cilantro, salt, and coconut milk.  There is also a page with menu ideas.  It's a sparse yet very thorough introduction and enough information to get anyone cooking in no time.

The author herself, a native of India, has the chops to pull this all together.  She ran her own cooking school, worked as a food consultant, and led culinary tours of India.  According to her web site she is also building a destination culinary school in the coastal state of Goa.  A lifetime of experience translates into recipes such as Spicy Eggplant with Tomatoes, Punjabi Red Beans, New Bride Chicken Curry, even a Basic Chai, all made accessible with familiar ingredients and basic cooking instructions.  No special kitchen skills or equipment are needed.

The sections are broken down into Vegetables, Dals, Beef and Lamb, Chicken and Eggs, Seafood, Salads and Raitas, Rice and Bread, Sweets, and A Perfect Cup of Chai.  There is an index and a helpful conversion table in the back.

Visually, this is a stunning book.  Although not each recipe has a photo of the finished dish (and this is a turn-off for many cooks) those that are included are clean and colorful, without frills or superfluous garnishing.  It's a paperback, and a sturdy one at that, bound to withstand countless trips from the bookshelf to the kitchen.

While this is not a vegetarian book, it offers an excellent selection of dishes for people who don't eat meat.  The Black-Eyed Peas in a Spicy Goan Curry is an absolutely delicious dish that is also suitable for vegans, and other dishes involving meat can easily be made with tofu, vegetables, or beans.  There are enough options so no-one has to feel left out.

What's not included in this book are the traditional curries found at Indian buffet restaurants, in the frozen food section, or in jars on the supermarket shelves.  No Rogan Josh, no Butter Chicken, no Vindaloo.  These are definitely lighter recipes, and a nice change from heavily sauced dishes.

My personal experience with this book has been quite successful.  I have made the Spicy Eggplant with Tomatoes, Railway Potatoes, Everyday Yellow Dal, Black-Eyed Peas in a Spicy Goan Curry, Punjabi Red Beans, and others.  I find this to be an essential volume to fall back on when I want something, I'm not quite sure what, but I want it fast, I want it to taste good, and I don't want it to be pasta.

I can easily recommend this book for anyone who wants to get a little something different on the table for family, for guests, or even for oneself.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Lazy Post

Yes, I know, my god, why is she posting more pictures about that damn garden of hers? Because I'm rather pleased with how it's managed through my utter neglect. I water them, yes but I did put everything out a bit earlier than I should and by all rights everything should be dead. Some, like the cilantro, parsley, and strawberry, are showing obvious side-effects from the cold nights but I think they'll bounce back. The chard and the rocket I'm going to move to big pots this weekend and I gave my sage and lavender both a permanent spot and they're doing very well. And my mustard greens are exploding.

This was supposed to be a completely different dish but, as people have asked me what corvina fish looks like, well, here it is, all gussied up with a light dusting of flour and pan-fried in a little oil and butter. The rice is a recipe I took from the back of a bag of basmati, pulau rice, and it's the easiest thing in the world to make, very tasty, and makes a wonderful breakfast the next day. The fish is mild, to me a cross between tilapia and cod, relatively inexpensive, and very delicious.

I've got several new cookbooks to brag about, too. Several being an understatement: two came in the mail already and I'm waiting on two more. Amazon Marketplace can be addictive.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Early Days Yet

I've been told by some that I've planted my garden too soon and that I may not get a good crop because of the wonky weather we've been having (days of endless heat and sunshine and then a plunge into the low 50s); however, things are looking good thus far. It's a bit smaller than last year--I think--even though I have 21 pepper plants, in part because I thought the pots I was buying had four in each; turns out they had nine. So I've got nine each jalapeno and sweet bell pepper plants so I should end up with something by the time all is grown and done. The other three plants are two hot cherry and one serrano chili. I'm also trying white eggplant, strawberries, chard, and tarragon just because I've never grown them before and I'm curious to see what happens. I will say that I checked on the chard this morning and it's exploded; I just have to get pics. It's a blend called "le bizarre" from the Franchi Italian seed collection and it is supposed to grow yellow, red, and purple varieties. Should be fun.



Peppers and tomatoes on side patio, that small red pot is full of fennel seeds.

Bottom row, left to right: mustard greens, cherry peps, yellow grape tomatoes; on table: oregano, chard, cilantro (bottom); sage (middle); parsley, eggplant (top); strawberries, upper right corner. The empty pots are basils and tarragon, with the serrano chili plant in the middle.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Of Local Interest

If you're in the Bucks County, PA area and have nothing to do on Wednesday, May 19th, there may still be some spaces available for this class:

Eat Global, Go Local Cooking
Bucks County is fertile ground for locally grown free-range and/or organic poultry and eggs; pasture-raised and hormone- and antibiotic-free beef, pork, and lamb; and artisanal cheeses, yogurt, and ice cream. Prepare a Bucks County farm-to-table dinner, including some unusual vegetables like fava beans and fennel. We’ll discuss where to purchase local foods and how to store them to retain nutrients and
flavor. Fee: $20 (Plus $20 fee to instructor for food) Course: RCULI 4067 Sec C80
Wed., May 19, 7-9 pm | Instructor: Diana Cercone, Food and Travel Writer

I'm not a locavore by any stretch of the imagination; however, it's hard to pin down everything available in this area as so many places aren't online and advertise simply by word-of-mouth. And I'd really like to know where the cheesemakers are! While I find it rather funny that fava beans and fennel are considered unusual(!), it sounds like a good way to find out who's who and what may be worth a drive.

Call 215-968-8409 and just follow the instructions to register. I think it will be forty bucks well spent.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


In today's New York Daily News, there is an article about a New York state assemblyman, Felix Ortiz, who wants to ban salt in all New York restaurants.

Yes, I said salt. You can read the article here: NY Salt Ban. In short:

"No owner or operator of a restaurant shall use salt in any form in the preparation of any food," the bill reads.

Ortiz reckons that his bill is designed to save lives; I reckon it's yet another way to take personal responsibility away from people. Thirty years ago, when my parents were stretching their food budget, they always included vegetables with meals, and fruit was readily available for snacking. This does not mean that Tastykakes, potato chips, and Hamburger Helper were not on standby, but they were the exceptions and not for daily consumption.

Fast forward to today, when there is a plethora of nutritional information available. There are healthy cooking shows, a huge selection of healthy cookbooks, and every news show has at least one doctor or R.D. with his/her own healthy eating segment. And yet we are a fat nation, struggling with diabetes, heart disease, and now, hypertension. And what do people do? Blame the environment around them:

"I live too close to McDonald's."

"I don't know/have time to cook healthy meals."

"I can't afford to eat fresh food."

I call bravo sierra on all of this. In today's information age, there is no excuse except laziness. It is all too easy to drop ten bucks on cheeseburgers and fries and then complain when jeans are too tight or the children are out of breath just getting out of bed in the morning. Every family knows that too much of anything is bad, whether it is fat, sugar, or, in this case, salt. But telling the government that it is okay for them to make these decisions, that it is okay for them to take away personal responsibility is wrong. I know that the grinder and fries I had last night would mean extra time on the weight bench today; however, it pleases me that I had the choice to make the call and tip the delivery man for bringing me a hot meal, and I enjoyed every bite. Too much salt? Maybe. But I didn't cook the meal; if I wanted something salt-free I could have easily poached a chicken breast and had a bowl of lettuce and flashed back to my days as a dietary aide in a nursing home, trying to convince people that a salt-free diet was "really tasty!" Ugh.

When I go out to eat, I want to savor every bite. I want a chef who knows my meal is properly seasoned before it is placed in front of me. If I feel it needs a bit of tweaking, I want the option to add a little salt or pepper of my own. If I choose to upend an entire shaker of salt on to my lovingly seared ahi tuna well, it's my meal, my health, and my dollar. The key word being "my." I chose the restaurant, the wine, the entree; I don't want the government looking over my shoulder and lecturing me about every bite.

Back off, Big Brother, please. You're violating my personal space.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Something fun and a shiny thing

Courtesy of Maggie, whose blog you really should be following. Go now, I'll wait...

An award, to be passed on to six other bloggers I would like to know more about. But first, my turn in the hot seat.

  1. Where is your cell phone? Somewhere.
  2. Your hair? Dire.
  3. Your mother? Excellent grandmother.
  4. Your father? In the great beyond with a crossword puzzle, a beer, and bigass TV.
  5. Your favourite food? Noodles.
  6. Your dream last night? Involved a log cabin.
  7. Your favourite drink? Beer.
  8. Your dream/goal? To be a proper food blogger.
  9. What room are you in? Computer.
  10. Your hobby? Cooking.
  11. Your fear? Fire.
  12. Where do you want to be in six years? Here.
  13. Where were you last night? Here.
  14. Something that you aren’t? Quiet.
  15. Muffins? Corn.
  16. Wish list item? Handbags.
  17. Where did you grow up? Philadelphia.
  18. Last thing you did? Got the chittlins to sleep.
  19. What are you wearing? Clothes.
  20. Your TV? Travel Channel.
  21. Your pets? Dog, bird.
  22. Friends? Few.
  23. Your life? Good.
  24. Your mood? Relaxed.
  25. Missing someone? See #4.
  26. Vehicle? Simon, my Mitsubishi Lancer.
  27. Something you’re not wearing? Makeup.
  28. Your favourite store? Grocery.
  29. Your favourite colour? Yellow.
  30. When was the last time you laughed? Facebook.
  31. Last time you cried? Last epi of "Spaced."
  32. Your best friend? Separated at birth.
  33. One place that I go to over and over? Altomontes.
  34. One person who emails me regularly? Cousin.
  35. Favourite place to eat? Outdoor barbecue.
I'd like to pass this on to

That's all she wrote.

Friday, February 19, 2010

In the kitchen with Bridget

I was saving this for my 100th entry but, at the rate I'm going, that may be a bit down the road. So here is a recipe by my friend Bridget, whom I've known since time began. We bonded over a love of ethnic cuisine and and a fear of Munchee and would treat ourselves often to veggie lunches on South Street at the hole-in-the-wall Mexican place and South St. Souvlaki. She was also always kind enough to take home quarts of leftover curries and other dishes that I made the night before and shared her recipe for the world-famous Holiday Cheese Ball. Bridget's love of food rivals my own and it pleases me greatly to share this recipe with you.

Barley Chorizo Soup

I recently bought some soy chorizo at Trader Joe’s, because back when I was a meat-eater, I loved chorizo, and thought it was worth trying the veggie version. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with it, but during a cold weather snap here in Philadelphia, got the urge to make a nice, hearty soup.

It turned out so well, I decided to write down the recipe, both for my own purposes, and also to share with anyone who might be interested.


2 T. olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes (reserve the liquid)
1-2 T. cumin
Dash of salt and pepper
1 cup vegetable broth
½ cup wine (red or white)
3 cups water
1 package soy chorizo
½ bunch fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup barley
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained (or other kinds – I had black beans on hand)

In a large stockpot, sauté onions and garlic in olive oil; when the onions are nearly transparent, add drained tomatoes, along with the enough of the reserved liquid to equal 1 cup. Add cumin, salt, and pepper, and let cook for approximately 5 minutes.

Add vegetable broth, wine, and
2 cups of water, and bring to a boil; add chorizo and barley. Stir and then cover the pot and simmer for 45 minutes.

Add beans and parsley, and
1 cup of water,* then cover the pot again and simmer for 20 minutes.

Ladle into bowls, add a dollop of sour cream (if desired), and serve with bread (if you have freshly baked bread, it really adds to the whole experience!).

This makes approximately 6-8 servings, and freezes well.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snownami 2010

I was way too amused by this squirrel.

Around noon it got very dark; the kidney-shaped ice pond is our pool.

Several hours later, no ice pond, no pool.

This is from Saturday, the first storm.

This was about 4pm. It's now just after 7:30 and you can't see either bush.

Poor Remy can barely make it around the yard. I shovelled out the cars twice just to get a head start but let's be real. I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies, tiramisu, an enormous antipasti platter, meatballs, and I'm going to bang out a cauliflower-buttersquash curry tomorrow that I have been jonesing for. I'll weigh 300lbs by the time all is said and done but at least I'll be warm. :-)

I love winter and we're very lucky to have power, food, and plenty of booze. And, as this is a once-in-a-lifetime storm, I'm not going to complain. Granted, it's not a boatload of fun, but it's still very pretty and I'm going to enjoy the beauty before it turns to slush.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Spenser follow-up

I've had some emails asking about the Spenser novels and how they relate to food. I forgot to include this link to the incredibly fun resource for Spenser fans Bullets and Beer. It hasn't been updated in eons, but I go on now and again just for the hell of it. Here, however, is a list of what Spenser cooked in each book from Godwulf up until Cold Service, which I believe was from 2006. The site's author states on the splash page that he hasn't kept up with the site or the series due to other commitments but, with regard to the series at least, I can't really blame him. Whilst the bulk of the Spenser novels are top-notch (if you love well-written, sharp dialogue, these are the books for you), later Spensers are a bit weak and suspension of disbelief is in order. But I digress. Check out the link for a fairly comprehensive view of Spenser as Cook and see if you, like me, are at all inspired to raid the kitchen.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Man with the Golden Gun

For reasons completely unknown to me, I decided yesterday I absolutely had to have Thai food. Nothing too complicated, mind you, as the chittlins were home and they can only be trusted alone for so long. So I rooted through my recipes from my Thai cooking class and tweaked this together. It's a rather simple stir-fry, similar to a Chinese dish, with a few Thai ingredients.

Thai-style Stir Fry with Chicken

(Instead of repeating myself in a most annoying fashion, note that the chicken and veggies are all thinly sliced. And you can obviously use any veggies you want and eliminate the meat.)

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 carrots
1 bell pepper
1 small/medium yellow onion
2 tbsp finely chopped garlic
2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tbsp soy sauce (I used Thai-style thin soy but really, soy sauce is pretty much soy sauce for this dish)
1 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp fish sauce
2 tsp Thai chili paste (more if you like it hot)
1 tsp brown sugar
Sliced scallions

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok (I don't have a wok; my paella-ish pan works well) until screechingly hot. Stand back and add the chicken, trying to get it in one layer so it can be tossed about rather than steaming. After it's no longer pink, toss in the veggies, garlic, and ginger (I add the garlic and ginger now because whenever I add them with the chicken they burn and get all kinds of nasty) and quickly cook for about 3 minutes (you want the chicken thoroughly cooked and the veggies just beyond raw). Add the soy/oyster/fish sauces, the chili paste (if using), and the sugar making sure everything is coated and the sauces are well-blended. Cook for about another 2 minutes. Serve over rice (jasmine, basmati, or regular long-grain, doesn't matter) and sprinkle abundantly with the scallions. Or not. I just love them.

Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Peppah!) might not take a shine to this but I'm betting Bond, James Bond could easily find a nice champagne to go with.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

RIP Robert B. Parker

I am a huge fan of the Spenser novels written by Robert B. Parker. And not just because Spenser is pure of heart. The man can cook. Every book sees him in the kitchen cooking: for himself, for his girlfriend (Susan Silverman), for a damsel in distress. Take, for instance, this passage from the first Spenser novel, The Godwulf Manuscript:

"I put on a pot of rice to cook and got four boneless chicken breasts out of the meat keeper. I cooked them with wine and butter and cream and mushrooms. While they cooked I tossed a salad and made a dressing with lime juice and mint, olive oil, honey, and wine vinegar. There were two bottles of Rhine in the refrigerator for which I'd originally had other plans, but I could buy some more tomorrow."

I want to eat that meal. I can envision it on one of my favorite plates. I'm tasting it now. And there are many others. Hell, even kitchen-phobic Susan makes beet risotto and even goes out of her way to buy a white bowl so it will look pretty.

I love these books. I re-visit them every summer because they are so easy to get lost in. And they make you hungry. They make you want to cook.

We even named our dog Spenser and our cat Pearl (after Spenser's dog; we adopted her to keep Spenser company).

Thank you, Mr. Parker. You will be sorely missed.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Recipe Swipe Due

By now you all are well aware of my mad love for Rachel Allen. This absolutely fantastic recipe for Chicken Ginger & Cashew Stir Fry with Coconut Noodles is from her book Rachel's Favourite Food at Home. I've seen her prepare it a hundred times on my DVD but finally got off my ass and made it. So good. The best part is that no meat is necessary so it's a wonderful meal for veggies and vegans alike (I actually preferred it without the chicken). It did make quite a bit but I picked at the leftovers and the chittlins actually enjoyed eating the coconut noodles; granted, they called them cheese noodles but hey, they tried something new--and even tried chopsticks--so who am I to burst their bubble. I played with the vegetables I had in my fridge so I can say that it worked very well with fresh broccoli and green peppers. Next time I'd like to try it with eggplant and maybe something green, like bok choy.

Weekend wrap-up, part two

A gorgeous, all-natural sirloin steak from NoneSuch Farm Market. Seriously light years beyond anything you can get at a grocery store.

A big-ass, locally grown Granny Smith picked up at Tanner's. At $.49/lb a flippin' bargain in this neck of the woods. Of course, when you get big-ass apples you make:

Applesauce. Three pounds of chunked Grannies, 1 cup apple cider, simmer until soft, mash by hand with a potato masher. Yum.

You also make Gordon Ramsay's Caramelized Apple Tart. I don't believe this is the proper name; however, it's the tart recipe from his Three Star Cookbook, sans the homemade ice cream and puff pastry crust. I'm not a huge fan of the commercial puff pastry because of the greasiness of the shortening used to make it so I made my own all-butter pie crust. And, may I say, this is fan-freakin'-tastic.

Even better with Tanner's homemade vanilla ice cream.

All so full of yum.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Weekend wrap-up, part one

Broccoli Soup

1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small leek, white & light green parts only, finely sliced
4 tbsp butter
Salt & pepper
Guts from 6 baked potatoes or 3 peeled and diced raw potatoes
1 small head broccoli, stalk trimmed, all finely chopped
3 cups water
1 cup milk

Saute the onion and leek in the butter until soft, seasoning well with salt & pepper. Add the potatoes. If using raw, cook for 5 minutes; if using guts, break up and cook through until softened. Add broccoli and cook for about 10 mins until it's not so raw. Add water, bring to a boil, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add milk, stir, then blitz with an immersion blender until it's a nice puree. Simmer for an additional 10 minutes to blend flavors.

This is a good soup, not one I'd run over a basket of kittens for, but very hearty and healthy, even with the butter (I used 1% milk because that's what we keep in the house). You get about 6-8 servings at least. It's very nice with sourdough rolls on the side for dunking. You can also live dangerously and sprinkle the soup with some nice Pecorino Romano cheese. Yum.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Just because...

Steak & ale pie with buttered cabbage. This is just one of the many meals of my dreams. I seriously cannot understand how people can only eat to live when there are so many dishes like this to be savored.

On a side note...

I'm participating in Recipe Girl's Ten in 10 Challenge. Now, I think you all know by now how very, very much I love food--just like all of you. :-) However, it has been loving me back a little too much and this seemed like a fun thing to do just to remind myself that I need to exercise so those excess cupcakes and steak pies don't become a permanent part of my figure.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Recipe Swipe Uno

I found this recipe for Apricot Chicken and, being as we're having a long cold spell here right now, it seemed the perfect time to try chicken in my crock pot. The end result I think looks really good, and the addition of green beans and sweet potatoes made it an easy, complete meal with very little work.

Unfortunately, I cannot rave about it. If you notice at the beginning of the recipe, Stephanie says that this is so good people will not believe it came from a crock pot. I'm glad I didn't have people over because, truthfully, they would have not been at all surprised. The flavor was light, almost insipid, and the chicken tasted absolutely nothing of the sauce. Now, as I added the green beans during the last 15 mins of cooking, they could not be blamed for sucking flavor out of the sauce or watering it down; nor can the sweet potatoes be at fault. I tasted the sauce on its own and it's just lacking. I can't figure out what I did and I'm more than sure the author's final dish was rave-worthy but this is not one I will be making again.

Oh, and even the chittlins turned up their collective nose. And they love chicken.

However, I can recommend the book this recipe is in, as it's a good read and has nice little snippets of what her friends and family thought of each recipe. There are plenty of really interesting ideas for cooking with the crock pot that make me really glad I've held on to mine for so long. The book doesn't have any photos but the site is loaded for bear so you can easily hop online to take a look at her finished dishes.