Friday, May 30, 2008

Summer Colors

I went to the Whole Foods today after my run, which was a bad idea. All I needed was Hoisin Sauce (for homemade BBQ sauce,) some peppers (for black bean salad,) and some pears (for sangria,) I left with a smorgasbourg of fresh fruit. It's THAT time of year, and I couldn't be more happy.

THIS time of year, means the re-introduction of "Mommy Plates" at lunch. You probably have no idea what a "Mommy Plate" is, because it's something I recently made up the name for. In my mothers household, as the fresh fruit comes into season, a common lunch is a fruit plate with Wasa and cheese.

I call this a "Mommy Plate" because recently I mentioned to my mother how much I enjoyed them and credited her with their creation. She corrected me and explained that her mother, Mor-Mor, should be credited with they creation because she used to serve them to my mother as a child.

In any case, they are all kinds of fresh fruit and vegetables with some kind of bread or cracker with cheese melted on it. There could not be a more perfect salad, and THIS time of year when I am working from home, I always make them for lunch.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Purple Potato Eater!

It was a one-eyed, one-horned, flyin' purple people eater
One-eyed, one-horned, flyin' purple people eater
A one-eyed, one-horned, flyin' purple people eater
Sure looks strange to me!

I can't help myself, the entire time we were making dinner on Memorial Day, I kept singing about the Flying, Purple, Potato Eater, because we had PURPLE potatoes!

Aren't they beautiful?

JRs definitely thought they looked strange, but I had seen a recipe for fork crushed purple potatoes on Smitten Kitchen that I thought was gorgeous. When I saw them at the grocery store, I had to get a couple.

Since it was Memorial Day, we did our civic duty and grilled (as if you could stop us). We had been wanted to try some grilled potatoes, so we used these. I cut them in half, rubber them with some olive oil and salt & pepper, and threw them on for 20 minutes.

They were nice and crunchy, and such a cool color when you cut into them. Next time I would add some grill seasoning for a little more flavor, but they were a neat summer way to do up some flying purple potatoes.

On a side note, my lettuce seemed to be bouncing back this morning. The mesclun and butter crunch are looking good. The red sails are a little more beat down, but they had most of the water so they might just need a little more drying out.

Since God laughed at me for thinking my lettuce was beautiful, I wanted to see if he would help me out this weekend. JR and I are hosting 13 people for a house warming party. The plan is to BBQ and hang out on the patio and the weather forecast is NOT looking good. If we could arrange for sun on Saturday, I am okay with rain the rest of next week!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

We had a Monsoon in Boston!

God laughed at me yesterday. I wrote the post about my beautiful beautiful lettuce, and then it rained like a monsoon in the afternoon and DESTROYED MY LETTUCE!

Before I started spooning out all the water I did think to take a photo, it was pretty dark so I am not sure you can see the damage - just in case I added arrows and captions (ohhh fun!)

The whole container was sloppy soupy mud. I guess one down side of the self watering container is when it gets over watered (or flooded by a monsoon) there is no way for the excess water to run off. It needs a hole in the bottom that you can un-plug when there it rains too much. I know that would defeat the purpose of saving all the glorious dirt nutrients, but floating lettuce plants is not the look I was going for.

Today I spent the day dragging the container around to the sunny spots so it could dry out. I think we might be ok. The plants are no longer in nice lines, they are kind of crunched together in one corner. I also added in some more dirt to help sop up the water and replace what I dumped out yesterday. I also cut a nice bowl full of the big leaves for dinner tonight. If everything else rots at least we got two salads from it!

The good news is, God must be reading my blog.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sweet Lettuce!

I kicked off the Memorial Day weekend by working from home on Friday. It was sunny and warm outside, so on a conference call at noon, I was wandering around my patio enjoying all the green. I decided that some of my lettuce was ready for the picking and thought a salad sounded great. I grabbed some scissors and figured I would just get some of the mesclun, and then couldn't stop myself from picking a nice variety!

Isn't it beautiful!?! I contemplated waiting and sharing it with JR, but I just kept picking at it and snacking on it through my call. I finally decided he could wait for the next salad, and added some sliced shallots and dried cherries. It was wonderful! It didn't even need dressing. The lettuce had so much flavor and was so tender. Like nothing I have ever bought at the store.

We went away for the weekend, and when I checked last night, it looks like we might be due another salad later this week! What fun!

Monday, May 26, 2008


One of the things I loved about living in NY was not having a car. Not only was it financially fantastic, it made so many things in life less stressful. At the same time, when we moved to Boston I was really excited to get a car. I pictured spontaneous weekend road trips, driving through the New England hills with my hair blowing in the wind, and having the luxury of easily carting BIG things around.

We were here 6 weeks and we went out a purchased a beautiful Pacific Blue 2008 Rav 4. She has pep and she looks cool, she got us through snow to NH this winter and was everything I hoped for in a car. I had even gotten to the point, where I forgot that not having a car was pretty sweet, and then...


It just appeared one morning. JR noticed it on his way to work. The rear left fender is all crunched in, we expect from one of our neighbors backing up a little too quickly. They say the first ones the hardest, I hope they are right!

Monday, May 19, 2008


When I picked out which herbs to grow in my garden, I specifically stayed away from the catnip. I did this, because as I have shared, we have a pride of wild house cats that roam around our place causing all kinds of problems.

However, today I was checking out my plants and I realized that some of my lettuce leaves were crushed and stamped into the soil. When I looked a little closer I realized there we CAT TRACKS running though my lettuce! One of the cats got up into the container and walked through my lettuce.

The only question now is if they also decided the planter was also the right size and shape for a litter box??

While you all ponder that, here are some great week 1/week 2 comparative photos. Look at how much my lettuce has grown all ready!

Week 1 - Full Garden

Week 2 - Full Garden

Week 1 - Lettuce

Week 2 - Lettuce

P.S. Don't worry too much, if the cat did pee in my garden, I promise not to serve those pieces to you when you come over for dinner. ;-)

The perfect Gin & Tonic

I can't believe I haven't written about the perfect Gin & Tonic yet! I guess they aren't really food, but in my household they might as well be. Yesterday's post about the Stilton with Lemon made me realize that all my loyal readers would benefit from a lesson on how to make a perfect Gin & Tonic!

I have to credit my Dad with developing this recipe. Towards the end of college I found out I was allergic to beer and wine. I can still drink hard liquor, so as a result I had to go in search of the perfect drink. Dad pulled together my love of all things sour and gin, and came up with this. It has quickly become my standard.

The secret "ingredient" isn't really an ingredient at all. It's the lime squeezer. We have tried a couple different types, but the only one that really works looks like this -

You can buy it on Amazon, and I would highly recommend getting one. Then all you need are limes, gin and tonic. The types of gin and tonic you get are purely preferential. When I am celebrating I like Bombay Sapphire, but on an average evening I will go for something a little less pricey. For tonic, I enjoy the regular stuff better, but on a day to day basis I use diet.

Then the recipe is as follows:

1/3 Fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)
1/3 Gin
1/3 Tonic
3 ice cubes

It's more like a Gimlet with a splash of tonic, than your average G&T, but it's super refreshing, nice and sour and you can really taste the gin. I'm working on converting everyone I know, my in-laws aren't sold yet, but my sister and brother-in-law as well as TC and JW have come over to the sour side!

Cheese, Cheese, what a wonderful fruit!

I spent this weekend in PA visiting my sister and her husband (of 232 Green Street fame). The whole weekend was lovely and included a 1st birthday party, a shopping spree, great Firefighters meatloaf, terrible whole wheat banana & walnut pancakes, building a garden trellis, running in the rain, Skipbo, and a 5 hour delay at the airport on the way home. I can't possibly pick a highlight, but one (and this really shows how well AF and JF know me) was a trip to Ramondo's!

(Note: If you can say Ramondo's! without a cheesy Italian announcer voice, you are definitely more mature than I am!)

Ramondo's is in downtown Phoenixville, PA - which is an adorable little town about 45 minutes outside of Philadelphia. We got there just as a parade was ending and got to see Ronald McDonald!! Which of course got the whole excursion off to the right start.

The quaint PA cheese shop became legendary for me when last Christmas, JF (my brother-in-law) stopped in and asked for cheese to compliment a Gin & Tonic. AF and JF had gotten me some fantastic gin for my present (again, how freaking well do they know me? It's almost scary!) Wouldn't you believe it, but the owner took the request very seriously and helped select a wonderful Stilton with Lemon from England. The cheese was perfect paired with my G&T and I spent the holidays enjoying it immensely.

Our stop in there only proved to me that Ramondo's lives up to it's reputation. The shop is pretty much everything I need in life. It is two cases and a small counter. Once case is cheeses from all over the world and the other chocolate truffles - what could possibly be better.

We tried a couple cheeses and ultimately settled on Bica, a blended cow, goat and sheep's milk cheese from Portugal. explains that it has a "distinct flavor, slightly salty because its milk comes from animals that graze on land that sits by the sea." It was a great appetizer with some grapes, crackers and of course, a G&T.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Pizza or....

A couple of Sunday's ago we headed over to our friend's place for pizza and to hang out. When we got there, we sure were happily surprised to find their apartment filled with wonderful non-pizza like smells. It turns out HP had a change of heart and decided to make us a home cooked Bosnian feast!

She had two kinds of sausages on the grill, a casserole called Pita that was all fluffy and cheesy, a great salad and a dip, the name of which I cannot remember, but I know it had eggplant in it and it was delicious. It was a feast and everyone was super excited to try all the great food.

I forced HP into a photo of her with the pita because it was so beautiful and golden brown when it came out of the oven, and because she had been making fun of my "house wife" blog. Hopefully I can get her to share some recipes with me!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Beer & chicken...what could be better?

Last weekend my good friend JB sent me a link to this video on how to make Beer Can Chicken. She was hoping to make it some time this summer, I am not that patient so I invited her and her husband over on Sunday to make it. I kept talking about the recipe at work all week, because I was really excited, and apparently everyone has heard of this but me.

Essentially, you take a chicken and rub it all over with spices. We used the spice rub mix in the video and AB did the rubbing. You then drink down about a quarter of a can of beer, and insert the can between the chickens…legs (no comment).

Then you place the chicken in a heat proof pan on the grill. This video does it over charcoal, we did it over the gas and it worked fine. The only controversy was how to determine if it was done. I pulled out the good ol' Better Homes & Gardens cook book and it said 180 degrees. We left it on for an hour and half and then took its temperature and it was perfect!

Then came the extraction. We weren’t sure how to maneuver this without either dumping out the beer or getting the oven mitts all dirty. This is definitely a job for four. 2 cooks, 1 cheerleader and 1 photographer.

We carved that birdie up and served it with a fantastic meal of Tzatziki Potato salad (a great low fat alternative,) fresh pepper, tomato and basil salad (a la JB,) and cold peach soup (from my Aunt). It was a wonderful summer meal. Too bad it was 50 degrees outside!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Right Way to do French Toast

Mother’s Day was Sunday and we decided to celebrate by hosting a brunch for our mother’s and families. I generally make fancy brunches twice a year and so I have one fantastic frittata recipe which I just use over and over. Of course, seeing that I just made this for JR’s whole family, I couldn’t possibly serve it to them again!

So I went on a hunt for a new, quick and easy, serves lots of people, brunch recipe. It was a lot harder to find than I expected. I found a number of frittata recipes that were basically the same as what I already make, or they had mushrooms in them (eww!) Then my friend ND sent me a link to the Food Network’s Mother’s Day guide and I found the holy grail of brunch recipes – Baked Challah French Toast Casserole with Pecan Praline topping (I hope you are envisioning this with a halo of stars and awe inspiring music playing in the background…)

I could tell from looking at the recipe that it was easy, it would be decadent, and it would serve lots of people. I had no idea HOW easy and delicious it would be.

I spent 10 minutes on Saturday and 10 minutes on Sunday, threw it in the oven and when I pulled it out the angel’s sung (not to mention a couple mothers). If you need to impress people at brunch, make this. If you want to gain 10 lbs, make a double batch like I did and eat it for dessert for the rest of the week.

Baked Challah French Toast Casserole with Pecan Praline

French Toast:
1 loaf Challah bread (18ounces, Whole Foods has a great one)
8 eggs-worth of egg beaters
2 cups half-and-half (I used fat free)
1 cup skim milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash salt

Pecan Praline Topping:
1/2 pound (2 sticks) softened butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1. Slice the Challah into 20 slices, 1-inch each. Arrange slices in a generously buttered 9 by 13-inch flat baking dish in 2 rows, overlapping the slices.

2. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, half-and-half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and beat with a whisk until blended but not too bubbly.

3. Pour mixture over the bread slices, making sure all are covered evenly with the milk-egg mixture. Spoon some of the mixture in between the slices. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

4. The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

5. Make the Pecan Praline topping by mixing all ingredients in a large bowl until creamy.

6. Spread the Pecan Praline topping evenly over the bread and then bake for 40 minutes, until puffed and lightly golden. Serve with maple syrup.

Cha cha cha!

If you have lived in Park Slope you know that it is a hub for Mexican, Latin and South American food. Every other restaurant is a different Latin American country or fusion and we enjoyed tasting them all. JR quickly developed a fondness for Maduros which are sweet friend plantains and are served as a side dish in many different South American countries (in fact, a quick look at Wikipedia reveals that they are “a delicacy in Dominican Republic, Haiti, Guatemala, Ecuador, Honduras, Panama, Peru, Colombia, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Trinidad, Nicaragua and Venezuela.”) We got used to having them at least once a week, which although not healthy was quite enjoyable.

Then we moved to Cambridge, and Cambridge is to Middle East food as Park Slope is to Latin American food (look at everything I retained from my SAT prep course!) There are Indian and Middle Eastern restaurants on ever corner, and while we have been enjoying exploring them, JR was missing his Maduros. So being the dutiful wife that I am, I headed out to hunt down some plantains so I could learn to make them.

In making the first batch, I made what I am sure is a standard rookie North American mistake. I tried to use the plantain when it looked like a banana, nice a yellow without any blemishes or ugly black coloring. What a mistake, the maduros were hard as rocks and not sweet at all. We ended up throwing the whole batch out.

I did some online research and realized a plantain reaches its peak sweetness when it is black and soft. Of course the local Shaws does not carry black, mushy plantains, so this takes some advanced planning. I bought 4 plantains and kept them in my kitchen for 3 weeks while they ripened. At that point they were pretty much completely black and much easier to peel. I heated up some oil, fried those puppies up and within minutes I had some beautiful maduros. It was a super simple recipe, as long as I planned it WAY in advance, and it made my man really happy.

Plátanos Maduros
3-4 ripe plantains (heavily spotted with brown, or completely brown/black)
oil (canola, or olive)

Peel the plantains and diagonally cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices. In a large nonstick skillet heat 1/3 cup oil over moderately high heat until hot. Slowly add the plantains in batches and sauté until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes on each side, adding more oil as necessary. With a spatula or kitchen tongs transfer plantains to paper towels to drain.

Eat immediately.

Should I import worms?

I spent the last week and half working from home for various reasons and that means no blog posts happened! I am in the office today and I plan to more than make up for it! We had a spectacular weekend full of great things to write about.

Saturday was supposed to be a cold, yucky, rainy day – like much of the last month has been. In the early afternoon is started to clear up a bit and I headed out to Mahoney’s the garden store. As I mentioned before, I want to grow some food this year. I was very inspired and planned to grow lettuce, tomatoes, green beans and 12 different herbs and then spring happened. With spring came leaves and our once sunny patio became a beautiful shady patio. So I revised and on Saturday went to look for some good leafy shade loving plants.

I had already purchased 1 large self watering container which I was saving for my lettuce. I planted 12 baby lettuce plants which I hope keep us in greens for much of the summer. These are leaf lettuce plants, not head lettuce, so in theory I can pull the leaves off the outside, and they keep growing more.

I then went to pick out my herbs. I was planning to do a wide variety of different ones but they had such a variety of my old favorites that I couldn’t help myself. I got 3 basil plants (sweet, Genovese and African Blue) 3 mint plants (apple, grapefruit and peppermint) 2 types of parsley (curly and flat leaved) and one thing of chives.

I got home and the sun was out so the went right ahead and planted everything. I am so excited! I can’t wait to have fresh lettuce for all my salads this summer.

The only question is, aren't all gardens supposed to have worms? should I import some to my containers?