Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Memories of My Sister's Baking - and she's still at it!

This is from yesterday's SeriousEats.com and I thought the photo was adorable and had to share it all with you. My sister made Russian Teacakes...and we often get on the phone and share with each other what holiday treats we're making each year and it is a rare Christmas indeed that I don't make these...maybe I'll try them in another shape with some little additions to make them just this cute.

Mexican wedding cakes, snowballs, kourambiedes, Armenian sugar cookies, Viennese crescents, sand tarts, Russian teacakes—as varied as this international sampler of cookies may sound, they really do amount to basically the same thing: a buttery, usually nutty, melt-in-your mouth treat, liberally coated with confectioners' sugar.

But my favorite variation? Moldy Mice Cookies, a buttery pecan cookie smothered in confectioners' sugar, which to the best of my knowledge first cropped up under this name in a 1950 Junior League cookbook entitled Charleston Receipts.

So what's with the name?

I have two theories: first, if you squint really hard at the cookies, they sort of resemble tiny mice covered with mold. Second (my favored theory), it's a clever deterrent technique employed by bakers who want to hoard the cookies for themselves. I wouldn't blame them: these rich, tender cookies are simply delectable.

Moldy Mice Cookies
- makes about 3 dozen cookies -
Adapted from Charleston Receipts.

1 tablespoon superfine sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup flour, sifted
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
sifted confectioners' sugar for coating, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Note: I've actually revised the original recipe a bit, adjusting the temperature from the suggested 425°F for 15 minutes to 350°F for 17-19 minutes; I found that this yielded a softer, more delicate cookie.

2. Beat sugar and butter until it becomes fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix until incorporated. Combine nuts and flour; mix well then add it to the butter mix little by little, until incorporated (don't overmix!).

3. Shape dough by hand into little oval-shaped nuggets about the size of your thumb. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden around the edges. Let cool on sheet for about 2 minutes then transfer to a rack to cool for about 30 minutes. Dust with confectioners' sugar. If not served immediately, then dust the cookies in more confectioners' sugar and tap off excess directly before serving.

About the author: Jessie Oleson is a Seattle-based writer, illustrator, and cake anthropologist who runs Cakespy, an award-winning dessert website.

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Tags: A Cookie a Day 2009, Cakespy, cookies, desserts, holiday sweets, nuts, pecans

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Not my Grandmom's Eggnog

My friend Maria and her husband Bob made some eggnog the other day and she dropped me off a mason jar, telling me to shake it well.

Since I had fallen earlier in the day from ice on our concrete steps out back, I didn't have the thick, sweet and highly potent dessert drink till two days later when I wasn't taking any medication for the back pain I had.

Well, we each had a glass last night and WOW!!! Talk about a lovely nog! A bit boozy and a lot eggy, but just right in all aspects...not too much of either.

If I had known you were coming I'd have baked a cake - but not like this!


Although I really don't bake well, I am amazed at the talents of others who seem to be quite adept at it.

I must say, I make a killer biscotti and baked some off this weekend. I was going to a party on Saturday and made up a plate for the host to give with a bottle of red wine.

Today, I was complimented on the tasty morsels! I'm passing on the cookies this year and making more biscotti! I'll post pictures that Joanne took later!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hmmmm, a bit yeasty, don't you think?

From the blog http//goodfoodonkcrw.com

Monday, November 9, 2009

Thanksgiving Prep Time

This is my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. Well, you could say it is the day after the big T-day that's my favorite. I LOVE LEFTOVERS! It's just that simple.

This will be year number two that Joanne's Mom hasn't been with us. She passed on back in January of 2008 and of course holiday time is the time we all miss her most.

I truly miss her for the cooking she did for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Not a fantastic cook, she had some great dishes she made and over the years Joanne and I have been together, I have tried to replicate her food and for some things, I do pretty well. Others I've never tried.

She used to make an Italian Wedding Soup that we just called it, "The Soup." She made it with those tiny meatballs, escarole and an incredible chicken broth that was out of this world. A sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and viola! Dinner in a bowl, but just the start of the holiday meal.

Even as a vegetarian, I was unable to resist - I picked out the meatballs and as much of the chicken as I could. I've never even tried making this wonderful concoction. The woman could have made a fortune on this stuff and it was clearly what the doctor orders when you're sick! It would take to the addition of tortellini or little pastina, but hers was basic and fantastic as it was.

I'm considering trying to make it.

Another dish she made for the holidays was a simple sliced zucchini sauteed in tomato sauce. I have no idea where this came from in the history of the family, I just know I loved it every Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter and the holiday just wouldn't be the same without it.

Not sure if I'll make it or not.

Neither of her daughters do much cooking. Not that they can't, they prefer not to, mostly, so neither ever made an attempt to find out how she made these dishes that we all really enjoyed every year. Too bad...now we have to fend for ourselves.

In some ways that's an interesting way to learn, I guess. I know the basics of how to make a chicken soup and little meatballs...and how to saute zucchini in the electric frying pan, but its the little subtleties she added that I may not know and have to work out by tasting and practice.

I've learned to make her tomato salad and do that well, but it took quite a few tries, so maybe I'll have to make a practice run or two before I get 'The Soup' just right. Or make it well enough to just call my own.

As the token vegetarian, I make all the sides. Mashed potatoes are my big contribution as Tyler loves them...nice to have someone just jones for something you make and know they appreciate it. Basically, I have that job because his dad, Pat, who I taught to cook, uses no salt. Nada, nothing, zilch, nope...not even to season the water for pasta. So, potatoes without salt? A travesty for us all!

In the course of the meal, I provide the starches - making both mashed potatoes and some sort of sweet potato dish. I also try to provide something greenish of sorts, ala the zucchini saute or a broccoli casserole and possibly carrots or peas with pearl onions. Sometimes I'll do creamed onions as a nice change. Sometimes even a great, simple fall salad like spinach, romaine and arugula with red onions, chopped, dried apricots and some cashews in a Caesar dressing is nice, too.

From Rachel Ray, I have found a great idea and the past two or three years, I've made them and they continue to be a big hit: Stuffin' Muffins! Make whatever type of stuffing you normally make and put into muffin tins (greased of course) and bake! Everyone loves that little crunchy top and they all get some. Serve with or without gravy and it is really delish!

Oh, and don't forget the cranberry stuff...either you like the canned stuff and who doesn't? Or you go for the gusto and make your own. Here's a fantastic recipe for Susan Stamberg's or rather Mama Stamberg's cranberry relish...try it!

Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish

This relish has a tangy taste that cuts through and perks up the turkey and gravy. It's also good on next-day turkey sandwiches and with roast beef.


2 cups whole raw cranberries, washed
1 small onion
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons horseradish from a jar ("red is a bit milder than white")

Grind the raw berries and onion together. ("I use an old-fashioned meat grinder," says Stamberg. "I'm sure there's a setting on the food processor that will give you a chunky grind ? not a puree.")

Add everything else and mix.

Put in a plastic container and freeze.

Early Thanksgiving morning, move it from freezer to refrigerator compartment to thaw. ("It should still have some little icy slivers left.")

The relish will be thick, creamy and shocking pink. ("OK, Pepto Bismol pink.")

Makes 1 1/2 pints.


Garlicky Cranberry Chutney
Susan Stamberg calls this recipe "my truly favorite cranberry side dish." It's from Madhur Jaffrey's cookbook East/West Menus for Family and Friends (Harper & Row, 1987).


1-inch piece fresh ginger
3 cloves finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons sugar
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1-pound can cranberry sauce with berries
1/2 teaspoon salt (or less)
ground black pepper

Cut ginger into paper-thin slices, stack them together and cut into really thin slivers.

Combine ginger, garlic, vinegar, sugar and cayenne in a small pot. Bring to a simmer, simmer on medium flame about 15 minutes or until there are about four tablespoons of liquid left.

Add can of cranberry sauce, salt and pepper. Mix and bring to a simmer. Lumps are OK. Simmer on a gentle heat for about 10 minutes.

Cool, store and refrigerate. ("It will keep for several days, if you don't finish it all after first taste!")

Monday, November 2, 2009

Talk, Talk, Talk and all the talk is about food!

You have to check out some topics on Serious Eats. I love the idea of posting food questions or queries on here and seeing what others come up with...


Sunday, November 1, 2009


Typically, I don't post on weekends, and I try and stay on the topic of food in this blog, but as fate would have it...I have to pass along this info regarding my friend Bryan's shop.

Bryan started a modern general store about four years ago in the historic village of Springtown, called Almanac. The shop is an eclectic mix of some of most out of the ordinary and delightful giftware I've ever seen. About two years ago, he broke into a small room in the old building he rents and put in a small "food or gourmet" section - so in reality, I'm staying on topic here - and offers his shoppers the opportunity to purchase items you may have to travel quite a ways to find.

Due to some odd circumstances with his landlord and a new tenant, he is being forced to leave before he anticipated in mid-2010. He is now in the midst of selling his wares at a discounted rate and I wanted to let you know of his sale.

It will be sad to see Bryan leave Springtown and before I get too teary-eyed about it, I am happy for him and his future. He's moving onto something positive and I'm sure will do well with his new venture. I wish him well and many hugs to sustain him through the transformation from retailer to yoga teacher for those with special needs!

Check out his postcard for details on his final sale! GREAT HOLIDAY SHOPPING, FOLKS!!!

Friday, October 30, 2009


You have to see this! Oh, and its safe for the kids!


Update on My Baking Ability - I REALLY SUCK AT IT!

My sister was coming for a visit with my nephew and his wife and their three daughters, all under four! He was moving from GA to Maine where he grew up and my sister and her husband flew down to help drive them up. A stop at my house was in order for a one night-quickie sleep over visit! It was fun, crazy and loud as my family often is. I was in heaven!

So, before they came, I decided to make some quiche for their departure morning...easy to slip in the oven and bake off in the AM and some cornbread and ham (they are meat eaters, so I obliged) and for dinner the night they arrived it was TAKE OUT! These guys love coming here and having hoagies and cheese steaks. Something they can't get at home that are this good.

So, the weekend before I decided to make an applesauce cake and a Jewish Apple Cake.

The latter I'll write further on at another time, but as for the applesauce cake, it is a perennial favorite of mine and comes from an old Betty Crocker book that asks you to place everything in one bowl. Just the kind of baking I like!

There I was on a Sunday afternoon, making soups and salad needed a payment to my friend was helping me with a computer connection problem. His wife was chatting with me and I finished up the batter and poured it in the pan, slipped it in the oven and thought the batter to be a bit thick, but baked it anyway.

About 30 minutes in, I took a peek. Something didn't look right. It wasn't rising up and glistening like it usually does. Kinda sunken in the center. It smelled great with all that cinnamon and cloves, nutmeg and vanilla wafting out of the oven.

I pulled it out after using the toothpick method and set it on a rack. I turned to the left and there's a whole jar of applesauce I never opened!

You got it! I forgot the applesauce in the applesauce cake! How lame is that? What a goober!!!

The pigs and chickens had it as a treat and I have to say, they are my biggest baking fans!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Baking and Caking Horrors...

I suck at baking. No, really I do! I can't measure well and I don't follow directions very well, so those qualities do not make a good or even adequate baker.

I do, however, want to learn and will be focusing more on this in 2010. I have to give myself challenges once in a while.

In the meantime, I watch baking. You know, The Food Network has tons of shows where people get in front of cameras and bake stunning examples of cakes, tarts, tortes, bread, pies, galettes, merengues, sweet rolls and the like.

I think my favorite show on that channel is Ace of Cakes. Not that they show you much baking, but they show these wonderful cakes and the process by which they make them. That's the part that facinates me. All the quirky, technical details they work out to make things like stadiums, The Stanley Cup, an giant replica of an Old Bay seasoning can and the planet Jupiter. BTW, I love the cast of characters!

Well, seems there's a woman out there with a blog called Cake Wrecks that is just hilarious! I've included the NYTimes link to a story about her and her blog link as well.



Wish me luck...making a Jewish Apple Cake and Applesauce Cake this weekend for the family's visit! I may just post some pix here!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Another Important Article from the NYTimes

This time it's about foodborne illness and worth a read. The link within the article is very interesting too, about the ground beef...all the more reason for my decision to be vegetarian!


Sister Stuff

My sister is one of the best cooks I know and a woman who can bake anyone under the table with her delicious homemade goodies at holiday time. There are some signature dishes she makes that when we get together, she has to make them for me.

Kath is in Maine and I am in Pennsylvania, so we don’t get together as often as we ought or want to, considering we are the only siblings in our family of deceased parents. We share a father and have different mothers. She looks exactly like her mother (who died before Kath was a year old) and I look just like mine. We both have our father’s sense of humor, which seemed to help us survive some very difficult times over the years.

Mom and Dad married when Kath was about 8 years old, so there’s quite a difference in age, but you’d never, ever know it.

My mother wasn’t terrifically enthusiastic about cooking, but her mother was and took my sister under her wing and showed her some tricks. Along with her high school home economics classes (yup, we’re so old we can remember them) and Grandmom, she turned into quite the capable cook.

Kath has quite the repertoire of dishes…let me see if I can list them here…

Spaghetti – made with homemade tomato gravy
Jewish Apple Cake
Creamed Cabbage
Beer Bread
Baked Beans
Thumbprint cookies
Kilbasa and Sauerkraut
Conga Bars
Fried Chicken
Meatball sandwiches
Chicken Salad
Fried Cabbage and Noodles
Macaroni Salad
Potato Salad
Broccoli Casserole
Did I mention Jewish Apple Cake?
Cheese cake --- she could go into business and retire in a year with this recipe!
Russian Tea Cakes
Apple Pie
Summer Squash Casserole
Meat pies
Lobster rolls

She is always making something when I call or just made something in the past week for someone’s birthday party, baby or bridal shower or someone’s funeral. Kath loves to cook and bake for others.

Food is not only part of our culture as a people, but for many of us, it’s a display of love and affection for those around us. Do something nice for me and I’ll cook you dinner to show my appreciation. Holidays are the times to be with loved ones and food is just one way of expressing love. I don’t bring lots of food to a gathering to show off my talents. I bring it to share what I love with those I love. My sister is the same way and how I appreciate getting together with her!

As a cook myself, it is hard to not cook for her when we visit one another, but she wants to make the meals…starting with breakfast and while we’re eating that, she’s planning what to have for lunch or if we’re going out that day, we’ll eat out, so we discuss the items we need for dinner. I have to slow her down, but with her energy it can be hard. When she’s on the prowl for something yummy, there’s no stopping her.

I often think I’d like to go into business with her and open a small breakfast/lunch place up in Maine. She’s a hard worker and takes an almost severe sense of pride in her cooking and baking talents. We could clean up, that’s for sure! Her with the cooking and baking, I with my marketing experience and my restaurant/cooking background, we could have a grand time and really enjoy being with one another.

I just know Maine would be so much the better for it!

Monday, October 5, 2009

American Food

Joanne and I were talking a couple weeks ago and she is working with someone who is here on an educational exchange from Germany and she and her coworkers are trying to get her to try some American food.

I started thinking...what's really American? Aren't we the melting pot? Or referred to as the Salad Bowl of the world with all sorts of cultures adding to our culinary repertoire?

I thought of course of two so-called American favorites - Apple Pie and Hot Dogs, but we're talking about a woman from Germany...she has bratwurst and struedel...how can ours be any more original for her since they've both derived from the German cuisine.

So, here's my project to those of you who are reading this...what is American Food? Can you give me some ideas?

Fig Season is Here!

I love watermelon and it truly is my favorite 'affordable' fruit that I can enjoy for a long time starting in late spring and through the summer. So, what's this have to do with figs, you ask?

Figs are an indulgence for me. First, I have to find somewhere to purchase them that they aren't all mushy, over weepy and moldy. That's a big challenge as my local grocery store's produce folks get few in, as I suspect they aren't a big seller here on the East Coast and they tend to be handled by many people who don't know what they are nor understand their fragility.

So, when I can find them at a produce dealer that treats them well they are somewhat pricey and I can often only afford about 2-3 of the precious fruits, leaving me with little to indulge in a recipe other than maybe some goat cheese or with some good ice cream.

I found this link from the Serious Eats Newsletter and thought maybe, just maybe I'll indulge a bit more and make something special...so I'm passing it along...


Take a read and tell me what you think!

The Chili Tasting Contest that Wasn't

I do lots of volunteer work for our township committees here in Springfield Township, Bucks County and for the most part, its fun and a great learning experience. One of the things I take part in is our Community Day, of which I chair the committee. I’ve finally decompressed from this year’s event and can write a bit more for the blog now that the autumn season is upon us!

This is an enormous undertaking and although it can have its ups and downs, my committee is absolutely superb. I’ve been on other committees, volunteered at other non-profits, but this group of folks is a dream to work with. There has never been a truer example of teamwork than I am experiencing with this group of six others that work with me.

One of our goals is to give back to the community. We collect food for a local pantry, held a silent auction of about 35 items and had our police department take time in a dunk tank, all for charity.

Since I’m vegetarian and wanted the Springtown Volunteer Fire Company who does our food for the event to have something for those of us that don’t eat meat…I offered my Famous Vegetarian Chili. It sold like gangbusters and sold out…I now offer it every year as the alternative for the former carnivores who need some other option. The Fire Company gets the money, vegetarians who are typically forgotten get to eat something really yummy and even some die hard carnivores take a bowl for lunch and we all win.

Last year, one of our fire police who is now on my committee with her husband (also a fire police & fire fighter) mentioned she had always wanted to do a chili contest to raise funds for the fire company. After some discussion, we decided upon something a bit less elaborate than a chili cook-off, since the contestants would have to make their own chili at such an event and we didn’t have the staff/volunteers to run that.

We came up with a Chili Tasting Contest. Not bad…they’d bring their slow cookers with chili already heated and needing to be plugged into electric. That was the tricky part…we could only accommodate 20 pots on the electric at this facility where we hold our event. We would have it judged and then sell the bowls for $1 each for the benefit of the fire company who was already selling food for our event out of the kitchen at the facility.

Well, the day before the big event, my one committee member who is our ‘electrical wizard’ and was an electrical engineer in a former life before retiring had two huge electric panels he set up in anticipation of a windfall of slow cookers.

I stopped at the Dollar Store and purchased half a dozen ladles, spoons, bowls and even a bottle of Pepto Bismol for the event.

The big day came and we were ready for the onslaught with chili registrations, rules and judging forms.

One pot of the Anything Goes variety showed up. Yup, you heard it right. One, lonely pot of chili.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about one pot. I’m not complaining at all. We were happy with that one pot of what I hear was a delicious, hearty, chili from a local epicurean who made his own Adobo sauce for it. It was this single contestant I felt bad for. And the local fire company for whom we wished to support with the proceeds.

Pat Bowersock, a great friend and fellow foodie won’t mind me mentioning his name here as he’s been featured in the local newspapers for his cooking and other food-related topics brought the chili and said he had worked for a couple weeks on the different aspects of this recipe.

As a transplant to Arizona, Pat learned to make authentic Southwest chili using the regional spices and herbs found there. He later brought them back home with him to Pennsylvania to replicate the flavors of the land where chili and deep, robust, spicy flavors have been present for centuries.

Well, of course Pat was the only winner of the Chili Tasting Contest, despite the fact that there was no formal judging and our member who had the idea had organized some donations for the contestants and judges thought Pat ought to get something for his efforts. She unveiled a basket of spices and herbs she had put together from The Larder in Doylestown. His eyes lit up and he swooped in to see what was there and now his pantry is full!

So, the Chili Tasting Contest that Wasn’t turned out pretty good for Pat. The Fire Company sold his next to mine and he offered an idea for next year, chili dogs! Wonder if I can talk him into it?

Monday, September 21, 2009

It's a Delicious Way to Cheat on a Blog Post

As many of you may know, I'm the Chairperson of our township's Community Day Committee and the BIG event is this coming Saturday - 9/26 from 10-4 at Silver Creek Athletic Association on Route 212 in downtown Springtown in Upper Bucks County! (nothing like blatant promotion here, huh?) Come out and visit us if you can...check out http://www.springfieldbucks.org/ for more info on their Downloads page on the menu on the left on their homepage!

So, I'm a teensy bit preoccupied, and thought I'd share this with you...it's from Serious Eats at http://www.seriouseats.com/ and they are fabulous...if you like food, this is a great website!
Thought you'd all appreciate at one pot meal as much as I do!

Dinner Tonight: Baked Ziti
Posted by Nick Kindelsperger, September 16, 2009 at 4:00 PM

"The end result is not quite the fantastic cheesy gut-bomb so commonly associated with baked ziti."

[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

I cannot recall the last time I ate baked ziti but know for a fact I never would have attempted the classic dish if not for finding this recipe in The Best Skillet Recipes from the editors of Cooks Illustrated. I don't think they have ever steered me wrong.
As a pasta lover, I make it often but usually indulge in simple preparations where the sauce acts mostly in the supporting role to the pasta. But baked ziti is all about the abundant combination of sauce, pasta, and cheese. It's heavy, filling, and meant to be an indulgence. I wondered whether Cooks Illustrated would elevate this classic or just embrace the excess. Luckily they go for the former.
The great thing about this recipe is that, as the cookbook advertises, everything happens in one pot. So the pasta literally cooks in the sauce, sucking up as much of the tomato flavor as it can possibly manage. Relatively light on the cheese, this substitutes a bit of heavy cream, which oddly makes the whole dish feel light. The end result is not quite the fantastic cheesy gut-bomb so commonly associated with baked ziti, but that's probably for the best. Still satisfying and creamy classic, this baked ziti is slightly more refined and definitely less greasy.

Baked Ziti
- serves 4 -Adapted from The Best Skillet Recipes.

1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

6 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper

3 cups water

12 ounces ziti

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 ounce Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

4 ounces mozzarella, shredded

1. Preheat the oven to 475°F. Meanwhile, pour the whole can of tomatoes into a blender or food processor. Process until the tomatoes are roughly chopped, not pureed.

2. Pour the oil into a large oven-safe skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flake and cook for about 1 minute, or until fragrant. Dump in the chopped tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Pour in the water, stir, and then add the pasta. Turn the heat back up to medium-high. Cook until the pasta is tender, about 15 minutes.

4. Add the cream, Parmesan, and basil. Stir well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Then sprinkle the mozzarella on top. Place skillet in the oven and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and slightly browned.

Friday, September 11, 2009

My Friends Are Creative Cooks! A Successful Tomato Party

We had a wonderful Tomato Harvest Party and people are still talking about it! Nice weather, nice crowd of friends, great food. Couldn't ask for more!

Here's a lowdown on the food:

Ravioli in a no-cook tomato sauce
Veggie Lasagna
Tomato Pie
Edemame Hummus
Salsa-Cream Cheese dip
Tomato Salad
Cucumber & Tomato Salad with Onions in Sour Cream
Deviled Eggs with Sundried Tomatoes
Two kinds of Gazpacho
Burgers and dogs
and for dessert...
Green Tomato Cake - this was very similar to zucchini bread and had a substantial amount of chopped green tomatoes - excellent!!!
Tomato/Lemon Cake - made in a tube pan with tomato and lemon juice - very good
Red Tomato Upside-down Cake - tomatoes in place of the pineapple
Chocolate Tomato Cake - tomato juice used for liquid -

This was amazing food and I'm sure I missed something! Next year we'll have to do something with like cucumbers or corn. Tomatoes seemed a bit too easy!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I Can't Believe What They're Saying About Froot Loops! Can You?

I came across this article in the NYTimes today about the new food labeling program and how they are crucifying my favorite cereal of all time!


If I'm completely honest, I have to admit, Froot Loops have forever been one of my weaknesses. Captain Crunch with Crunchberries, too. I liked to eat all the Captain Crunch, then load up my spoon with the crunchberries. Wow! What a sugar-fix! Same thing with Lucky Charms...eat all the marshmallows at one time as they squeak against your teeth.

I, like many in my generation who grew up in the late 1960's through the mid 1970's have dined on sugar laden cereals and loved them!

Froot Loops, Sugar, er, uh...Honey Crisp (name change later on), Captain Crunch; plain or with Crunchberries, Lucky Charms, Cocoa Puffs and Coco Krispies, Quisp (remember that one?) Corn Pops, Trix and a myriad of colorful boxes and over-processed foodstuffs were the mainstay of the breakfast table and late night snacks most of my life.

Ok, I understand they are over processed and over priced in what the product delivers if you compare it to say, a healthy bowl of granola, some low fat yogurt and fruit. Even some eggs and bacon pack more of a nutritional punch than a bowl of Froot Loops or Captain Crunch, but what about the toy in the bottom of the box? What about reading that box while swishing that cereal around in in the milk?

There is a whole generation out there that grew up doing that. Sitting at the table in your flannel pajamas with the feet in them, swinging your legs back and forth, reading the box you just opened and then pouring out the box into a huge bowl to find the toy!

I'm guessing that in moderation, these aren't too bad for you. I mean, what's the serving size? 1 1/4 cups or something? I have never stuck to that. In fact, if I'm honest here, I could eat a good half box or more for dinner!

Just like ice cream, I don't keep much of these cereals on hand anymore. Too much sugar (I know they aren't healthy, but damn they are yummy!) and if they are around I'll eat them. I don't need no damn check mark! Just a big yeller box marked Cheerios these days to help keep that cholesterol down!

Food labels are such jokes till you get down to the nitty gritty of the nutrition section. And now, once again, bigwigs in the food industry are doing something to boost sales. Does anyone remember when cholesterol was a big deal? It was a peanut butter label that caught my eye with, "A Cholesterol Free Food."

Huh? Really? Wow, that makes it so much better! Oh wait...cholesterol only comes from animal derived products. So what's that about? Money...sales...same ol, same ol...just like now...trying to boost the bucks and convince the American public that its a better choice than some...

Read the labels, know what's good for you and use common sense and moderation...it's really the only way.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Tomato Harvest Party

So my Tomato Harvest Party from last week had to be rescheduled until this week due to (surprise...surprise...) rain! I've had a busy week and no time to blog, sorry if you have been tuning in and finding nothing but the blight info from last week.

I had this idea to throw this party very early in the season and once I heard about the blight, I had the idea that if I threw the party, we could all just avoid the disease and make it go away or something.

Anyway, all my plants are a mess and I've been fortunate to find some green tomatoes to fry, but haven't had much time for that this week, either. I work as a volunteer for our township and chair our Community Day Committee. The event takes place in 22 days. I'm completely consumed with the details, of which there are many, so I apologize for not keeping up for now.

You may, however see a few yummy tomato dishes on here in the next week or so. Let's see what comes of this party!

In the meantime, here's a really great recipe for a non-tomato inspired gazpacho from Spain
...no, really this sounds great. Give it a look-see!


Thursday, August 27, 2009


Ok, someone clued me into the latest on the late blight on tomatoes now that my plants have acquired it! I have been told and have found the sources of this info, that you shouldn't eat or can/freeze the tomatoes from these plants.

After reading this article:


I agree that you shouldn't can or freeze the fruits off these plants, but eating and cooking fresh right after cutting out the bad parts, as long as they taste good - and so far, mine have - should be safe.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Secret Mushrooms

Joanne, my partner has some interesting friends from all her years as an auctioneer. One of them happens to be a mushroom gatherer. They became friends at the auction house where she often sold him vintage fishing lures, but truly bonded when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and shortly afterwards, his wife was as well.

They chatted about treatments and mental attitudes to fight the fight and gave one another support through the years. He’s a kind and gentle sort of man and very much in love with his wife.

One day about eight years ago or so, she came home carrying a big, brown paper bag and handed it to me and said, “Here you go, cook ‘em up!” She continued on about her friend that harvests wild mushrooms. I became excited and wondered if he’d take me along for a ride and offered to go blind-folded, but Joanne said he did this all in secrecy, so nobody can find his bits fungal gold. Bummer…but, at least I’d have the chance to savor them.

I looked inside, took a whiff of the earthly fragrance and could see there were about five pounds of ecru colored, magnificent chanterelle mushrooms. Now, who does that? Just gives away five pounds of these beauties and what could I to do with them?

Needless to say, dinner plans were changed and mushrooms when into everything for next week. Eggs and cheese with fresh chanterelles, angel hair with garlic, white wine and chanterelles, veggie burgers with goat cheese and chanterelles and who knows what else I did with them.

Just a few weekends ago we had planned to visit a friend’s local antique shop for her one year anniversary. The parking lot to the store sits right next to the street where a small farmers’ market sets up every Saturday morning.

As this was the end of the day, most vendors had left, but there was the Mushroom Guy! Joanne was parking and said she had to go over and see how his wife was doing and give him a hug.

We walked over and no sooner had we hugged and said hello than he handed us a three-pound box of stunning, luscious chanterelles. These were spectacular, bright orange beauties.
After my last experience with a grocery bag full of them, I knew we had to do something. Although we love mushrooms, being inundated with them morning, noon and dinner is more than we could bear with our busy weeks before they changed to mushroom slime. So, we decided to share them with some fellow mushroom fans.

Again, I served them with the eggs and cheese and over pasta with some wine and Romano cheese and a new recipe emerged; a little olive oil, a clove of garlic and a bit of salt and pepper and they went wonderful with the vegetarian tacos we had for dinner!

What's all the Butter Scuttlebutt? She lived to be 91!

Have you heard? Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child has soared to the top of the book lists! For the first time since it was published it will reach number one on the NYTimes bestseller list next week! Amazing how the movie is spurring on cooking and reading!


However, everyone is in an uproar in the blogosphere and mainstream media about the age of Lipitor and pork fat!

You know, Julia and her husband both lived long and rather healthy lives. Its a matter of chemical make up, family history, diet, exercise and just plain luck of the draw on who has high cholesterol or blocked arteries and although food has something to do with it, it isn't the only reason for health problems.

What Julia Child did with Mastering the Art, was make what seemed a mystery to most Americans, accessible and something that could be accomplished in the home kitchen.

Go to Amazon.com or ecookbooks.com and see how many other cookbooks come up under Julia Child's name and you'll see she didn't limit herself to just butter-laden, meat-heavy dishes. She was bound by the French techniques which suited her personality and thinking, but very often diversified to suit the American kitchen and palate.

I have been a vegetarian for the last 20-some years and have always had a huge dislike of any sort of organ meat such as liver or kidneys, sweetbreads or other innards.

I happened to be home one day and tuned into Good Morning America when she was their on-air cook and watched Ms. Child prepare calve's liver with bacon and onions. Watching that three minute segment, her technique was awesome and her description of each step was so understandable and made it sound so delicious, that I know I could have made the dish, had I been so inclined. It was amazing to watch her.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Welcome to Agriculture - Tabora Farms

I really enjoy farm markets and farm stands and a few of them shine here in Bucks County and I must mention them to you. Take a drive, stop by and say hello to the farmers and their helpers and see where your food comes from. These folks have a myriad of wonderful produce, baked goods, juices, cider, jams, jellies and even some gift items for what seems like faraway holiday time.

Tabora Farms is a wonderful little market and farm just outside of Doylestown on Stump Road. A friend of mine who has traveled all over the world moved here from Brooklyn. Never having to drive in the city, using a car to get from point A to point B was a bit new to her and she often got lost. Granted, I wouldn’t know a thing about taking the subway or bus system, so I can identify with her sense of uncertainty. She told me she was driving one day and suddenly drove right into France!

Tabora is located on a road where their farm starts on one side and across the street is a vineyard, then you come upon their store. It is a quaint, whitewashed barn that has been transformed, albeit rustically, into a bakery on one side, a takeaway shop on the other with produce, condiments and gifts in the middle of the space. Oh, and there’s ice cream, too! Glorious flavors in pints to carry out and eat in the parking lot. Not that I’ve ever done that, but it is an idea!

Caleb, who owns Tabora Farms with his wife, has been setting up at the Springtown Farmers’ Market this season. He is a nice fellow with a family rooted in farming. We chatted about the weather and the tomato crisis hitting the Northeast.

“Welcome to agriculture,” he told me when we discussed the recent rain and hail storms to hit our area. “We lost 50,000 bushels of apples in a hail storm last year in just three seconds.”

When a farmer tells you something like that, it makes you think of the work that went into tending those trees all season and the monetary value of the lost apples. How sad.

I don’t plan on being all that political here, but it makes me wonder why only the banks and automakers have gotten a bail-out? Farmers have been taking the financial slap in the face for years, watching their farms, equipment and family homesteads go up for auction due to the supply and demand of the commodities market, weather and other factors.

Anyway, Caleb took a few moments on a recent weekday to chat and tell me that his father owns a farm in New York State where he grows apples as well as other fruits and vegetables. Tabora Farm purchases some of their produce from Caleb’s father and both have learned over the years to diversify with their crops.

“My father plowed over 50 acres of apple trees in the orchard when they moved in to be able to grow other things. If your apples get hit, you can depend on other crops to keep your head above water,” he explained.

Tabora Farms has diversified from just a fruit and vegetable stand over the years by first putting in a bakery with Linzer tortes, buttery Danish and focaccia with asiago cheese and vegetables and selling their own preserved fruits in the form of jams, jellies, conserves, fruit butters and the like. Then they started to do hot and cold takeaway foods such as crab cakes, quinoa salad, roasted vegetables and other entrees and sides.

Having all these items in addition to their heirloom tomatoes, potatoes, fresh beans and other produce purchased from their New York family’s farm insulates Caleb and Tabora from completely depending upon Mother Nature.
As one who loves tomatoes, I shouldn’t share this so I can keep them to myself and get more, but, on the day I visited, there were loads of heirloom tomatoes. I purchased a chocolate, a pineapple and some plums. I know, I know, these don’t sound like tomatoes, but they are wonderful! I can’t say it enough and I feel lucky to have gotten there in time to get some before the late blight took hold.

I also left with a bag of scrumptious pastries. Some almond crescent, apple sticks, maple and streusel Danishes. I stuffed one immediately in my mouth when I got to the car, licking the delicious, sticky residue off my fingers while trying not to touch anything in my friend’s new car! Whoever they have in their bakery is fabulous! Keep up the good work and I’ll be back!

Ice cream is a new thing for Tabora in the last few years and their flavors are distinctly interesting. Using the typical fruit and nut combos, they make rich, delectable concoctions, but it is the odd and unexpected flavors that draw me in. Rosemary, with a slight pink blush and not at all woody or too menthol, it had great mouth feel and a level of flavor that not only touched the tongue, but speed through the olfactory senses as with a swoosh of fragrance that felt like it was from the center of the herb garden.

Lavender ice cream has a very pale color of its namesake and is a fine flavor that is not at all perfume-like as my friend Laura, anticipated. She was surprised and enamored by the richness of the ice cream and subtle flavor the lavender displayed. She expressed her idea that it would have a more black raspberry flavor and the woman who makes the ice cream offered her a taste of that to show her the difference. The contrast was measurable by Laura’s face after the spoon hit her tongue.

I have tried it before and can’t ever explain the taste other than you must try it. I have friends with a lavender farm just around the corner from Tabora Farms and they sell them the food grade flowers to use in their blend of fresh cream and sugar.

Take a ride and visit Tabora Farms and see for yourself, their diverse product line and carry home a meal that’s been made close to home.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Top Farmers' Markets in the US - Do you have a favorite?

Just released from the American Farmland Trust is the list of the top 20 Farmers' Markets in the country. Divided into three catagories - small, medium and large, the markets are varied across the country.

It is interesting to see how Pennsylvania had four markets in the list, with three on the small list and one on the large. Not too shabby, huh?

Do you have a favorite that you visit?

In the next few installments when I get my wireless network enabled or unscrewed up at home, I'll be doing some reviews of local farm stands in my area. I'm still doing research, which in my opinion is the best part. Do you have any I should check out? Post them to my comments section!

I'm all about being a locavore and eating as close to the source as possible, although I do enjoy foods from all over, I think taking into consideration that there are so many sources for great, delicious food right in my own backyard is rather comforting. Now, we just have to keep it that way!

Here's a link to the top 20!


Monday, August 17, 2009

Of Computer Viruses and Tomatoes

We were stung by some computer virus at home over the weekend and are still working it out thanks to a few of my knowledgable friends who know about such things. So, postings are piling up and photos are saved for future reads here...so, keep coming back.

In the meantime, here's a good article by Melissa Clark, one of my favorite writers in the NYTimes. She has a column called A Good Appetite and I highly recommend it. Typically a quick read, she is both an excellend cook (I've saved a few recipes and tried them) and a wonderful writer.


Now, if you read her article, you'll see there's some creativity emerging from kitchens for lack of tomatoes in the Northeastern part of the country. Chefs all over are working on substituting something for tomatoes in their repertoires this August while farmers everywhere here are culling the plants from their fields.

I am so far, one of the lucky ones. I have tomatoes coming out my ears right now...my volunteer plants (those that reseeded themselves from last year) are taking over my garden to the point that I can't even get to the ripened fruits!

This year we've decided to have a Tomato Harvest Party. Our first, ever. So, with the problem with tomatoes, we are hoping that it will work out. The rule is you have to bring your favorite tomato dish and if you find a dessert, you may win a prize for that one! I'll let you know how it goes. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

More Ricotta + A Recipe!

Wish I had a photo of this to share with you, but this past Sunday, before going to see Julie & Julia, I made an egg casserole and used Greek style yogurt and my friend's ricotta cheese in the egg mixture and it was fluffy and rich tasting. This is simple and a great way to start a morning and have for a brunch with friends.


Sunday Morning Egg Casserole

14 small eggs or 10 large eggs

1/2 cup Greek style yogurt

1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese

2 roasted red/yellow/orange peppers cut in strips

12-15 cherry tomatoes cut in half

1 cup shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

Mix eggs, yogurt and ricotta together and pour in a 9" X 13" baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.

Add the roasted peppers. Place shredded cheese on top and place cut cherry tomatoes, cut side up on top of cheese.

Put in 350 degree oven for about 35-45 minutes or until done (check with a knife - place in center and it should come out clean). Let sit for about 5 minutes before cutting.

Options - I have used the same recipe when tomatoes are out of season and added par-cooked potatoes, sauteed onions, zucchini, yellow squash and garlic.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Do You Know Where Your Food Comes From?

I grew up knowing where a lot of my food came from. My dad was a small-scale farmer who raised his own beef, pork, chicken, turkey, ducks and geese. We often came to the dinner table asking, not what was for dinner, but “who was for dinner?”

I know, I know...sounds nasty, but I always named them...all the animals we had, had to have names. I was about 10 then and had just read Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little and The Cricket in Times Square, so what was I to do? These animals were part of my life regardless of how short theirs was, they were my friends and family. It was hard to eat them and how I did it is beyond me, except to say there were some animals that were mainstays and we didn't get rid of them, we had them for a purpose.

Charlotte and Wilbur (see, there's a real influence, huh?) were our pigs that were used for breeding. Momma Cow was the beautiful Angus heifer my father raised from about eight months old and scared the hell out of me. Angus are black and we got her in winter...from all the Ferdinand cartoons, she always looked ready to charge with the steam coming from her nose and her front hooves scratching on the ground. Media influence is a stickler, don't you think?

We had a small garden and put up tomatoes, beans and other vegetables in the freezer for winter. Sometimes it was my job to label things or husk corn or maybe cut it off the cob if I was careful. My mother and grandmother took the task on. My mother, not one fond of cooking wasn’t exactly keen on this ‘back to the earth’ or ‘back to the pioneer days’ as she sometimes called it. But, since it was my father’s dream and it ultimately saved money, especially the animals raised for meat, she went along with it and with gusto.

As an adult, I’m a vegetarian. Not because of seeing so much meat as a child or losing the friends I romped with in the field to my dinner plate, but because of factory farming, over-use of antibiotics and the overall treatment of farm animals for food and lack of laws pertaining to domestic animals and their treatment.

I had to reconcile my childhood eating habits and came to realize that my father took great care of our cattle. He’d purchase a small calf and on many occasions would lose one due to how early they took these little things away from their mothers. He would, however, spend money on antibiotics for acute illnesses and special milk replacement and often called in the vet to check them out.

One young bull he purchased had a broken leg. He must have gotten a bargain at the auction that day. He brought Bozo home and set the leg. And reset it, and set it again. Finally calling in the vet for an X-ray and seeing if there was any way to get him stronger and fix the leg. After months of work and treating him tenderly, he finally was allowed to run and play in the field.

My father took care of his animals. They saw sunshine, had fresh water, good feed and sweet grass to eat. They even had love. He gave them the best life as possible for animals who would eventually be our dinner.

Today, I don’t eat meat, but also don’t criticize anyone who does. It’s all about choices. I don’t preach or get on my soapbox unless you call me on it and truly wish to know why I don’t eat meat. I encourage more vegetable and fruit consumption and try to make great veggie foods that often help convince people that meat doesn’t have to be the centerpiece of a meal.

I do however; enjoy seafood and shellfish, cheese, milk and eggs, which gets me to the point here.
A friend in town has access to a pair of goats her aunt has on her farm and they get milked each day. She makes goat’s milk ricotta and it is wonderful.

The other night I had no plans for it, but did have a spaghetti squash sitting on the counter, so poked a few holes in it and tossed into the microwave for about 30 minutes and went up to my barn to feed my own animals.

Once back from the barn, I had to make an assessment. No tomato sauce in a jar, but I did have diced tomatoes in the can. No mozzarella, but there was some sliced provolone and grated parmesan in the fridge. A little onions and garlic with the tomatoes in a saucepan and a splash of olive oil to start a sauté while I took the spaghetti squash out of its shell and I’d have dinner in a casserole dish in a jiff.

In a separate bowl I combined the ricotta and a couple of my chicken’s little eggs and added that to the spaghetti squash and topped it with the tomatoes and some parmesan cheese. Put it in a casserole dish and lay the sliced provolone on top. Baked at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes and let it rest for about 10 more minutes.

Granted it wasn’t the prettiest of casseroles, but it was really, really tasty. Had an excellent body and held together thanks to the ricotta and the eggs. A day or so later, Joanne and I took it for lunch and those ingredients melded together beautifully and it tasted even better.

Thanks Sylvia and Suzie! Check them out!

Still have some ricotta left and thinking of what to make later this week!

The J&J Movie: A Feast for the Eyes, the Mind and the Soul

I’d see it all over again.

Highly recommend it and suggest you don’t go hungry.

Julie & Julia is an absolutely wonderful, feel-good film, full of humor, heartache and a glimpse of two women, each with high hopes and perseverance to accomplish tasks they set out to fulfill. Both dealt with the ups and downs, each struggled in their own way, but had the support of loving partners to cheer them on and give that boost when needed.

There isn’t a movie out there with Meryl Streep in it that I don’t devour. The woman can play any role and convince me she is the person she’s playing. Using her voice in Julie & Julia, her talent assured me Julia Child was on the screen.

Brief synopsis: Julie Powell – a real person who lived in Queens and worked in an office as an administrative assistant felt her life was drab and pointless. She decided to undertake the task of making every one of Julia Child’s recipes in her book, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Not crazy to take that on, but Powell did so in the course of one year and the book holds 524 recipes. That’s 1.44 recipes every day of the year!

And she blogged about it!

Cooking isn’t difficult for those with some experience, and I have some of that, but I’d be fooling myself if I thought I could accomplish this. What? With Child’s training and practice, I’d be lost before getting started. French cooking isn’t terribly hard - although you must master some major skills and it is time consuming if following Child's instruction.

The movie is interspersed with the story line from Child’s autobiography, “My Life in France,” and jumps back and forth from Child’s 1940’s Paris to the current time-frame with Powell’s story.

I often worry about the hype a movie gets and rarely go see them on opening weekend. I don't usually take the critic's word for it, either good or bad and worry that I'll be disappointed and only the good scenes make it to the commercials.

I had been reading all the articles in the New York Times, hearing the stories on NPR and with my obsession with The Food Network, was seeing trailers for the movie, over and over and over again.

I have to admit, this one was simply delicious! I was wrapped up in it from start to finish and so were my companions who went with me. All three of us were bowled away by the performances of Amy Adams, Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci and Chris Messina.

YOU HAVE TO SEE IT! Take your mother, take your sister, take your best friend. Go and enjoy.

Check it out here - www.julieandjulia.com/

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Good Avocado; a Good Guacamole

I really don’t pick out good avocados. For some reason, they are too hard and taste bitter instead of rich and buttery or they are bruised and battered, leaving them with black spots too numerous to cut away and use the green gems they were meant to be.

When we go to the grocery store and I have Mexican in mind, I have to send Joanne to find the dark green, bumpy fruits. She isn’t a cook by any means, but she can sure pick out the perfect avocado.

This weekend was no exception. She chose three wonderful specimens for a bowl of guacamole I planned on making Saturday.

Plans changed and we had our leftover Chinese from Friday night on Saturday and I had to put off the guacamole till Sunday.

Just one more day made the pear-shaped fruit even more luscious than they’d have been on Saturday.

I could eat avocados right out of the shells with a spoon as if eating a melon. I used restraint as I was opening them and making the mashed dip.

Here’s a recipe…of my own making…very simple:

3 avocados
Juice of ½ lime
1 medium tomato chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
A drop or to taste – Sriracha Sauce - http://www.huyfong.com/frames/index.htm
Salt and pepper to taste

Open avocados and pull flesh out into a bowl. Mash with a fork. Pour in lime juice, chopped tomato, garlic and season with salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Place in a serving bowl and put the avocado pit in the middle to help retard browning and allow to sit about 1-2 hours in fridge before serving.

Note: About the spicy flavor of your guacamole…I’m not a huge fan of spicy heat. Don’t understand why anyone wants that much pain while having so much pleasure eating. I have discovered Huy Fong Foods Sriracha sauce and have found it to add a nice bite and another level of flavor IF YOU ARE CAREFUL with it. You can leave it out, add more or use the spice of your choice, chilies, chili powder, jalapeños, and Scotch bonnets, whatever.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Garden: It Nurtures the Soul as Well as the Body

I grew up with a father who loved the earth. He was a tree surgeon and became a gentleman farmer when I was about nine years old. We had a small farm on a piece of land my family purchased that allowed him to have both his business equipment on location and acreage for a garden and animals for feeding the family.

My father died of a congenital heart disease when I was 12.

What a life I had for the first three years we lived there! With farm animals, a field to play in while learning about the natural world was simply a delight for me. Nothing could be better for a curious kid and the imprint this part of my childhood played on me has proved quite strong.

When I entered high school, the opportunity to go to the local Vo-Tech was given to me and I decided I wanted to go for horticulture/floriculture and learn about being a florist so I could be near flowers and plants for the rest of my life. This department shared a building with the agriculture program and we all became Future Farmers of America.

When the school attempted to put both the horticulture/floriculture and agriculture programs together in my senior year, we all balked. How could we flower girls even attempt to repair a small engine? It wasn’t what we signed up for!

I’m amazed how farming has touched my life these past 30-some years. If only I had been open-minded and fixed that small engine, I’d be more adept at tuning up the tractor and fixing the weed eater when they stop running today.

Thankfully, my love of flowers has endured and my thoughts of farming and farmers have never changed. The work is noble and hard. I know; I’ve been fortunate enough to have done some of it myself as a real job. Today, I’ve been able to garden and bring in some veggies on a small scale to help feed my family, but I always grow some flowers.

When in school, I thought violets were my favorite flower. As I’ve grown, roses were often favored, especially the old style blooms. Peonies give that same look and a vase of them minus the ants have always been wonderful to look at. The scent of lilacs in spring is what heaven must be fragranced with, don’t you think?

However, it is my love of bright, sunny zinnias that really cheer me up in the middle of a hot, humid summer, just before tomato season happens. Mix them with the blooms of the Queen Anne’s lace and garlic chives and a few willowy stems of butterfly bush blooms and a bit of basil and you’ve got one gorgeous flower arrangement.

This year, I planted about eight zinnia plants in my vegetable garden. The variety is cut and come again and wow is that true! I’ve started collecting lab glassware and have several conical shaped beakers that I’ve used as vases and put them on the top of my stove and on a shelf with my cookbooks.

There’s just something about fresh cut flowers from your own garden that is satisfying. They not only give bursts of color, but they also provide nectar and pollen for attracting the bees which in turn help to pollinate the vegetables.

A true reward once the bean picking and cucumber and tomato harvesting is done for the night. Pick a few flowers and put them in a jar of water as a centerpiece for the dinner table makes me smile and helps nurtures the soul just as the beans and tomatoes nurture the body.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Eating by Reading - Cookbook Obsession!

I am a cookbook nut. I have at least a hundred even after weeding some out for our Mother of All Yard Sales last year and it was like ripping pieces of my heart out to negotiate bargains with folks with books I poured over for hours reading.

The next week I was doing the yard sale circuit and picking new used cookbooks up to load on the empty spots on my shelves after reading them.

That’s what I do, you know. I read them. Over and over and over again. I don’t necessarily follow the recipes. I often gain much inspiration, but I enjoy the hints and find out ingredients I may not have the courage to try without doing some research first and this is my first form of action: reading a cookbook from cover to cover. Really. Recipe by recipe, I devour them.

Seems I get this obsession from my grandmother. She was the ultimate cookbook crazed person in my life and really made a hobby of buying many of hers from food labels. She didn’t live with us in a traditional manner, although she had a room of her own at our house. Grandmom lived in the homes of the women for whom she was a live-in caretaker. She came home on Wednesdays and Sundays until she had to retire and move in with us full time.

It was on those Wednesdays and Sundays my family would have to be sure not to place a box of cereal on the table that had an offer for some sort of magical recipe booklet on how to use OatieO’s or something. Campbell’s Soup, a biggie! They continually offered versions of their soup recipe books for $1.95 and 47 labels from cream of chicken, celery or tomato soups.

Since my Grandmom was a baker, she particularly liked the Clabber Girl booklets and Betty Crocker brand tomes. However, that wouldn’t stop her from filling out those tiny order forms for say, Ocean Spray Cranberry cookbooks and purchase seven of them to give away as gifts.

Many of my cookbooks have come from her and she’d put an inscription inside with my whole name, the date and a little kind note.

I have an old Betty Crocker book Grandmom gave me that I simply can’t part with. The spine has deteriorated so badly that all you see is the binding and it has stains and much wear on the hard cover. I used it for making Christmas cookies for many, many years and while I was not a vegetarian, it has a fabulous recipe for Hungarian Goulash that I loved. It is my standby every fall when it’s time to make applesauce cake. It is a single bowl recipe that never fails me and stands up to my limited baking knowledge.
I have an old promotional cookbook she saved from the movie, Gone With the Wind. A piece of cinematic history and the recipes are wonderful!

Today I tend to peruse yard sales and thrift stores for cookbooks and tend to be attracted to those that have some history associated with them or discuss food history or the use of fresh from the garden ingredients – vegetarian, you know – however, the cookbooks don’t have to have all meat free recipes. A true challenge is making the meat recipes vegetarian, but that’s for another blog.

For a few places to check for cookbooks, try these sites:

http://www.jessicasbiscuit.com/ This is for both classic and modern/contemporary cookbooks, and food writing. Thousands and thousands of books here with ethnic, regional and classic books for every cook. Discounts are often deep and one of my first places to go when in search of a particular volume. It is also known as http://www.ecookbooks.com/

For a great site with decent inventory, check out http://www.oldcookbooks.com/. Some are discounted, but most are for collectors looking for that special book.

On the website http://www.vintagecookbook.com/ there is a nice variety, but I enjoy this site especially for the Links section that has a section called Cookbooks as History.

Tomato Tidbit

Just heard this on NPR the other day and Diane Roberts is worth a listen, even though you can read the text. I couldn't have said it better!


And check this out...must have missed it last year! I'll be buying this on Jessica's Biscuit!


Monday, July 27, 2009


Did you know July is National Ice Cream Month? What a great month for ice cream! Come to think of it, isn’t any month great for ice cream? In fact, any time of day or night is right for ice cream.

My goal here is to hopefully encourage you to get your fair share of the frozen cream stuff and make these last four and a half days of July, all they were meant to be with a frozen treat!

I am a lover of premium ice cream and not that soft-serve stuff, but in a pinch, I’ll settle the craving with a small vanilla cone.

My first nine years of life were spent living in a development in Hatboro, PA, where all the cute Cape Cod style homes looked like carbon copies of one another. This was a neighborhood full of kids all summer long and the tinkling bells of the Ice Cream Man’s truck was a sound we looked forward to every afternoon. I’m sure you can take a walk down memory lane and recall this if you lived in a suburban sub-division, like I did.

For blocks you could hear his bell ring and the closer he came to our neighborhood, the more panic stricken we became. Seeing that white truck turn the corner, kids all over the neighborhood were jumping out of trees, abandoning games of hide and seek and jumping out of the trendy, Sears above ground swimming pools, leaving streams of water splashing and wet footprints trailing along the sidewalks heading home to mothers being begged for that quarter to buy and ice cream cone or fudgikcle on a stick.

With a cool treat on a hot summer afternoon, neighborhood kids took a break on the curb and were able to relax, regroup and get charged up with just enough sugar and chocolate to keep us running till dinner time.

Just up the street from the local drive-in where they serve the frozen custard and malteds, opened a small batch ice creamery and store. The place is called OWOWCOW…I thought it was an odd name till I said it a few times and found it rolls off the tongue.

Located at the intersection of Routes 412 and 563 where that new traffic light was installed, it sits next to the new hunting and fishing store. A small brick building with a large storefront window.
We stopped by after dinner the other night and OH WOW!!! Brightly lit and colorful, it conveys a playfulness that is associated with kids and ice cream. This place is awesome! They have some interesting flavors such as Tiramisu, Banana, Mango, several varieties of vanilla, Mocha, Pistachio and an almond variety I can’t recall the name.

This ice cream is made in small batches and is of incredible quality. The two scoops I had were Espresso Bean and Tiramisu in a waffle cone. With teensy bites of bean in the Espresso and a smooth, velvety texture on the tongue from the Tiramisu, it was like being in heaven for the 20 minutes or so it took to gobble it down.

If you are in the area, I highly recommend you stop by and have a taste for yourself!

Right now they have an incomplete website, but you can sign up for an update when they finally get it together. Perhaps you’ll hear the bells and find the calling to have a few more scoops this week!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

More Summer Produce

Greetings from Produce Central. My house is just filled with great goodies all season. Although I'm not a huge fan of summer because I don't enjoy the heat and humidity that comes with it, I do like the food the weather brings.

If you religiously listen to National Public Radio like we do, you may have been hearing a series called Farm Fresh Foods. They are almost through with it, but I wanted to share it with you in case you've missed it during your morning frenzy!


Happy reading and eating!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Summer Recipes: Cold Cucumber Soup w/Dill & Mint and Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Salad

Suddenly there were cucumbers everywhere! One little plant survived that late May frost and let me tell you, it is growing and producing fruit faster than most of us can eat. Wishing the stringbeans were doing the same thing, but alas...it's the gamble of the gardener.

So, here's what I did over the weekend. You know that lightbulb that comes over your head and you suddenly feel smart? Yeah, that hardly happens to me, too! Anyway, I thought of a nice cold soup for dinner and with all the cukes I had, it was a simple idea that took little time or ingredients. And was nearly fat-free at that!

Cold Cucumber Soup with Dill & Mint
3-4 Cucumbers, peeled and seeded and cut into chunks
2 cups plain, fat-free yogurt
1/2 to 1 cup fat-free milk
1-2 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup each, fresh dill and fresh mint leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Add cucumbers, garlic and herbs to a food processor and puree.
Pour mixture into a bowl and allow to sit at least one hour...longer if you are busy.
Before serving add yogurt, milk and salt and pepper and whisk well to mix.
To serve, place into bowls and add a tablespoon of crumbled feta to the top.
Serves 4
Remember those tomatoes I spoke about from the farmers' market that cost $5 a pound? Well, I had to do something simple with them so as not to hide flavor. I had purchased a red heirloom called a Paul Robeson and a green called Aunt Ruby - I think. I'm all about tomatoes, especially the heirlooms! With some fresh basil in pots in the back yard and some mozzarella in the refrigerator, here's what I did. Hope you enjoy!
Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Salad
Slice one large tomato into four slices and place on platter
Add one basil leave to the top of tomato
Top with a thick slice of mozzarella cheese
Place a basil leaf on top of cheese
Slice a smaller tomato and size it to fit on top of the last basil leaf
Drizzle over olive oil and sprinkle some coarse salt on top and serve.
Serves 4 as an appetizer or 2 as a salad.

Keeping Cool In the Kitchen?

Ok, I have to say I love Mark Bittman's column, The Minimalist, in the NYTimes and read it every week. He takes a few simple ingredients and creates some delicious meals. Here is one of his classic 101 columns that he tends to do each season which included:

101 Simple Meals
101 Picnic Dishes to make in 20 minutes or less
101 Quick Meals

This time is about Salads:

This ought to help you use what's in your garden or what you pick up at the farm market!


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Eeenie Meenie Miney Mo…To Which Market Will I Go?

Farmers’ Markets have sprung up all over my local area and I have to say, I’m in heaven! There is nothing better than fresh, local food from area farmers you get to know. All three I frequent seem to have a very similar theme whereas they have a musician playing music, some sort of demo taking place and of course the food.

The first market I started frequenting was the Saucon Valley Farmers’ Market in Hellertown. This one takes place on Sunday mornings and has grown tremendously. They started out at a local bank where the parking lot was broken up by the bank in the center. It was disconcerting for shoppers and vendors I’m sure found it difficult. They have moved to a park on Water Street where the vendors are all in two long rows across from one another. It has survived the move to have a packed parking lot each week.

This market is friendly and offers a great place for those with dogs to take them for a Sunday morning walk as long as you follow rules. The honey vendor is a great stop. Right now they are carrying Trauger’s corn and with the honeybee situation, he’s a lucky guy to still have hives producing.

The next is the one in my own community, the Springtown Farmers’ Market held each Wednesday at the Springtown Fire Company parking lot. It is perfect to have a mid-week market, so I don’t purchase too much that I waste the fresh stuff I bought on Sunday. This year’s market – its second - seems to have both grown and stabilized from its paltry few and inconsistent vendors and parking is so much easier.

Vendors here at Springtown’s market include some making take away food, bakeries, handmade soaps, fresh produce and cheese with some free range eggs, chicken and beef farmers. Highly recommended is Tabora Farms with their great take away yummies!

A new market this year in my area is the Linden Hill Farmers’ Market held at a local landscape designer’s property each Friday afternoon. The landscaper purchased a property on Route 611 just south of Route 412 in Ottsville and has transformed a rundown, ramshackle old farm into what is now a charming stretch of property where gardens abound.

This is an amazing market both in what they sell and their prices. Not for the faint of heart or pocketbook, that’s for sure. Top notch all the way and had I not been so desperate for the taste of summer tomatoes, I’d have never spent five dollars a pound the other day for just over 16 ounces of beautiful heirlooms. I justify it by recalling my past job of working on an organic farm. I know its hard, back breaking work and for those folks working fields instead of greenhouses, it’s all dependent upon Mother Nature. Yeah, five dollars is a lot, but not when you think about how labor intensive it is.

Many vendors here come from the central Bucks County area and some have some very interesting items, such as the dried vegetable chips. Green and red pepper chips that come in sweet and hot are a great buy to have with some dip at a gathering. Peaches from several farms including Solebury Orchards were being sold this past Friday with samples from each variety and farm given out.

Here is a listing of the three markets above and hope you’ll find yourself a frequenting them all over the rest of the harvest season!




Chilean Pastel Maize/Corn Pie

This recipe idea comes from my friend Vicky Santebanez who hails from Chile! A translation specialist, Vicky and I met in a writing class in Doylestown about four years ago and became quick friends. Moving out to Colorado about two years ago with her family, we've kept in touch and although she tells me I ought to learn Spanish, I've yet to do so! This was the best I could come up with!

She says this is a traditional dish from her country, so I asked if I could share with you. I'm a vegetarian and may use a product called Quorn which is a product made of mycoprotien, aka - mushrooms, but you'd never know it.

Chilean Corn Pie ------->>>check the photo!

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
5 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup butter
6 large ears fresh corn, husked or highquality frozen
1/2 to 1 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
4 hardboiled eggs, peeled, sliced
1 cup pitted black brinecured olives (such as Alfonso or Kalamata)
1 cup raisins
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Poach chicken in broth until cooked through. Cool in broth. Shred chicken. Save broth for another use. Set aside.
Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and stir until golden brown. Add paprika, cumin and oregano and stir until fragrant. Add shredded chicken and stir well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Using grater, grate corn from cob (WilliamsSonoma sells a special gadget for grating corn right into a bowl). If using canned or frozen corn, pulse in food processor until coarsely pureed. Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add corn, sugar and salt. Gradually stir in enough milk and cook until mixture is slightly thick. Stir in basil.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spoon chicken mixture into 2quart baking dish. Arrange hardboiled eggs, olives and raisins over. Pour corn mixture over, smoothing top to cover filling completely. Sprinkle powdered sugar over top. Bake until crust is golden brown and firm to touch, about 40 minutes. Serve hot.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Garden of Poison?

My brother-in-law put in raised garden beds last year at the property our families share. Since I wound up diagnosed with fibromyalgia about 12 years ago, it has been extremely difficult to garden and I’ve pretty much done my gardens in, getting rid of the plants and turning them back to lawn and haven’t done much in the way of vegetable gardening in years. Just too difficult and painful, but boy, do I miss it!

So, I was excited this year to try my hand at it again and conferred with the family what they wanted and just went out and purchased the plants and seeds, planting beets and lettuce, tomatoes and Swiss chard – which I’m not too crazy about, but the potbelly pigs enjoy it.

My lettuce has bolted, but up until last week we’ve been cutting the wonderful garden greens for salads and I just read this interesting passage in the NYTimes blog called the Starter Garden, by Michael Tortorello this week that provoked some thoughts.


I’m always careful about what I eat and if I’m in doubt, I throw it out!

More on my veggie gardening later.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Summer Corn

July 15, 2009

Ahhhh, summertime…and the living is……delicious!

I love summer food. Nothing like from the garden or farmers’ market fresh, is there? Right now I’m awaiting the first summer tomatoes and bowing to the tomato gods in the great blue sky for a good harvest and I think they are listening by the looks of our garden this year! However, corn is here and so far, it’s simply fabulous!

Corn on the cob was a great thing in the summer when I was growing up. My father, a tree surgeon by trade and a farmer wannabe was the biggest fan of fresh corn on the cob I’ve ever known.

There was a farm stand near us on County Line Road in Hatboro when I was growing up. I believe it was called Sylvestry’s. Anyone ever hear of it? Long before all that development encroached upon the area, it was located along the roadway not far from the Thriftway shopping center. Sitting on the opposite side of the road from the grocery store, it sat in a gravel parking lot with several large farm fields behind the ramshackle store.

The place was a simple wooden structure, large by farm stand standards, that had side panels that lifted off from halfway up the structure to the roof. Whitewashed with a black shingled roof, there was a line of tables all around the perimeter and a maze of freestanding tables in the middle with the cash register and counter in the center.

Visiting the place, you could feel a breeze blow through the open walls and smell the fragrance of fresh peaches waft through the air. Fresh cut gladioulis sat in tall, narrow buckets with their colorful petals fully open from the bottom to the barely exposed color of the top blossoms on the tall stalks.

My mother used to make weekly trips to purchase melons, tomatoes and nectarines, Italian plums and fresh picked green beans, passing up the tired produce at the Thriftway.

But, it was my father who bought the fresh corn. As a tree surgeon, he was a traveling guy and would make a quick stop at Sylvestry’s on his way home from one of his jobs. A friendly guy; my dad was good friends with Mr. Sylvestry and they somehow worked it out that he could go out into the field and pick the corn himself.

He’d bring a baker’s dozen home, warm from the field. Remember how they used to give baker’s dozens back then? A total of 13 in a sack, instead of the usual 12 for things like donuts, bagels and even corn.

To my dad, there was nothing quite like corn picked just moments before cooking. According to his taste buds, it was so much better than if it were picked fresh that very morning and you know what? He’s right.

My mother would cook up a huge pot of corn and whatever else she was making seemed secondary to this fresh, delicious pleasure my dad brought home. He could and often would eat all but the single ears of corn we’d eat in one sitting. With four of us and a baker’s dozen, that left him with ten ears of corn and you never saw a happier man!

LOCAL TIP: Trauger’s Farm Market is a local gem here in the eastern portion of Upper Bucks County. The family has been farming the land between the Delaware Canal and the Delaware River for decades. When I moved here 17 years ago this month, they had a little stand at their farm that was about the size of a postage stamp and closed for the season sometime in the fall. Today, they are open six days a week, year round and offer all sorts of produce, but I love them for the corn they sell each summer, and the melons, oh and the tomatoes! Check them out at: http://www.traugers.com/

COOKING TIP: Typically I boil corn if I just can’t wait to eat it or time is of the essence. But, my favorite cooking method is to roast it on the grill.

Have you ever roasted corn? It is the easiest and tastiest technique. I remove the husks and silk and roll in foil. Soak in cold water, foil and all for about 30 minutes. Place on the grill for about 10-15 minutes over a medium-high heat, turning about every 5 minutes.

The corn will be hot and hold in the foil for about 15-20 minutes while you cook something else to go with it for dinner. I’m not sure why you would, but for some people corn on the cob just isn’t a full meal.

Remove the foil and the corn ought to have some patches of brown (my all time favorite) that gives a nutty, roasted flavor. For some, flavored butter, a squirt of lime or umeboshi paste (Japanese Plum paste) - http://www.edenfoods.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=110180 - are fun, but for me slather some butter over the cob, add some salt and pepper, you have good summer eatin’.

Guess I’ll have to stop by the farmers’ market tonight on the way home!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

This is my first entry into this blog MorselsandMore and I wanted to name it something catchy and different, but something to do with food…not as easy as one might think.

The definition of morsels according to The Free Dictionary (freedictionary.com) is
1. A small piece of food.
2. A tasty delicacy; a tidbit.
3. A small amount; a piece: a morsel of gossip.
4. One that is delightful and extremely pleasing.

Wow! That’s a lot to live up to, don’t you think?

I’m putting myself in the position of supplying you with something food oriented that’s tasty (maybe a recipe or review of a good ingredient or restaurant or website), yet it’s a small amount, - I take that as entries being short and concise, but that’s where the more comes in with the MorselsandMore name! And it all has to be wonderful and super enjoyable.

Ok, I’ll be working my magic here to include all those things. Maybe not all in one entry, but I think I can manage to pique your interest with some of my musings.

I’ll be including my own experiences and with the help of others, recipes, product info and reviews as a home cook, not a professional chef and photos by my partner Joanne Graziano. All photos on this blog will be hers unless otherwise stated and are under copyright.

Cooking and food has been a passion of mine for years. I grew up with an Italian mother who wasn’t enthusiastic about cooking, but what she made was fabulous. Her mother, my maternal grandmother, was the oldest of nine and was born in 1903, so she learned how to cook and bake for a large family and enjoyed it immensely. I, on the other hand didn’t show any interest in cooking until I moved out of the house at 17 and then became a professional cook around 22 years old.

By professional, I mean I learned on the job, not through classes at a college and by cook, I mean, I worked up through the ranks of doing lots of prep work – slicing, dicing, breading, cutting, mixing, piping for a few years before I could move to the stove, grill, fryer or flattop and really cook something.

In the first few years I cooked in professional establishments, I had worked in diners, four-star hotels and pizza joints.

Then, I moved onto nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Now, this is where the real cooking begins. No, don’t snicker. If you can make a person with swallowing difficulties enjoy their chopped or pureed food at each meal, you’ve got a gift. It ain’t easy, let me tell you. I have fed five-star generals, Catholic nuns and monsignors and little blue-haired ladies. You gotta watch those with the blue hair. They let you know what they like and what they don’t, believe me!

By the time I had left cooking as a burned out (think crispy bacon!) cook, I had been managing kitchens for several years and the fun of creative, delicious food construction had moved to someone under me. I was the bean counter, making sure we weren’t going over budget and everyone was washing their hands and holding educational inservices for staff. It was boring.

Best thing about getting out of the cooking biz? Wanting to cook at home again! So, here I am, nearly a decade out of the commercial kitchen and wanting to share the things I’ve learned since I was 22 and started cooking.

So, stay tuned and take a culinary journey with me, won’t you?