Eating My Words….After Eating Some Seriously Amazing Food

Sometimes the most unappetizing thing to eat is your own words!  Especially when you are not shy to share your opinions – like me.  So today, instead of breakfast, I AM eating my own words…fortunately I have a nice cup of coffee to wash them down – thanks, honey!

For quite a while I have been saying that I don’t believe we have any REALLY good restaurants in Central, PA.  That is not to say that there never have been…..some of you may remember The Empire in Carlisle or Brian Kent’s in Hershey….and it is also not to say that there aren’t current restaurants where you can get a good dish (dare I say even a great one), or good service, or nice atmosphere.  The problem I find is that these things rarely come all at the same time in Central PA.

So when I am asked about my favorite restaurant or where I like to eat, I usually preface my answer with something like, “If you don’t mind traveling…..”.  Or, my answer is that I prefer to cook at home.

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Rosemary Olive Oil Cake

The Finished Product w BrushstrokeJeff and I are having some friends over for dinner this evening.  It will be a very casual dinner as I try out some recipes for one of the cooking classes I’ll be teaching at the Kitchen Shoppe in the spring.

I am excited for this new journey and have been learning so much along the way.  Each iteration of a recipe teaches me about the effects of all kinds of things – a change in spices, different cooking times, higher or lower temperatures, fresher ingredients – on the end result.  It has been a fun process and I am thankful for the support of my family and friends – those people who are willing to eat not only the successes, but the failures as well!!!

For dessert tonight, we’ll be having Rosemary Olive Oil Cake.  Some people find the idea of baking with olive oil quite strange; frankly I feel sorry for those folks because they are missing out on some amazing moisture and flavor!

I thought I’d show you the process of making this cake.

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Food Journal

I realized today that even though I’ve only been Blogging about food since September of last year; I’ve been Jlogging about food for a lot longer!

Front Cover w FlowersI’ve spent the majority of the day committing to paper recipes for a class I am teaching in a few weeks; and, as often happens when I am thinking about things I’ve made in the past, I pulled out my food journal.  It will come as no surprise to those of you who have read past posts that I got sidetracked!  My self-diagnosed ADD kicked in AGAIN and with a smile on my face I traveled down memory lane.

My food journal is a beautiful brown-leather covered volume that I swore I would keep in pristine condition – I vowed to only write in it in my best handwriting.  Ahhh, the best laid plans…… A few of the pages began neatly – with legible printing; but over time they have become splattered and spilled upon and you can see some days where my passion for what I was recording overtook my desire to write neatly!  That’s how passion goes….

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Inspiration

You never know where you’ll get your inspiration!

I have read thousands of magazines over the years – probably  half of them cooking magazines.  In fact, in my very first post on the blog – Welcome! – I wrote about my love of cookbooks and magazines.  I wrote about how on my birthday Jeff brings me cooking magazines and a cup of coffee in bed and I am immersed for hours.

This week was NOT my birthday (I am not celebrating them more frequently than I absolutely have to), but I was thrilled to receive a magazine from our friends, Alicia and Jason, while I was “recovering” from some outpatient surgery.  Although we haven’t known each other for very long, they clearly know me quite well.  They made Jeff and I a wonderful dinner and sent along a copy of one of my favorite magazines, La Cucina Italiana.

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A Crackerjack Event

Last week was so much fun….I spent the majority of it preparing for a party I catered for our friends Lowell and Nancy on Saturday evening. They were welcoming some friends from our church into their neighborhood.  Lowell and Nancy are such gracious hosts and some of the most generous people I have ever met – they’re quite inspiring.  So it was my pleasure to cater the party.

We met a few weeks ago to talk about the menu, decor, buffet placement, etc. I then worked out a menu, which Nancy and I tweaked along the way, and last Tuesday I did all the grocery shopping I could do in advance.  On Wednesday food prep began and by Saturday afternoon, Jeff was helping me unload the car at Lowell and Nancy’s beautiful home.  Their house overlooks a lake, which made working in their kitchen a pleasure. The view from the window over the sink is spectacular!

Between 2:30 and 4:00 I got the bar, the dessert table and the appetizer buffet set and then at 4:00 I began putting the finishing touches on the food.

Nancy and Lowell chose a nautical theme and I had great fun coming up with ideas for the bar and buffets. Jeff agreed to tend bar, so I wanted him to have a nice space to work.  I created the bar using a 4 foot table; two vases with sand, rope and shells; a piece of reclaimed wood; and some other decorations including a string of battery-operated lights.  Everyone at the party commented on the bar.

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Be It Ever So Humble…..

We just returned from a fantastic weekend with friends in Newport, Rhode Island.  If you’ve been following, you have read of our adventures and have seen some pics of great food.  The food yesterday was no exception!

We began our day later than usual and with a continental breakfast at the hotel (this was not the good food part, but it wasn’t bad); but once we got in full swing, there was no stopping us!  We left the hotel, bundled up and began the Cliff Walk.  The weather was perfect.  The skies were bright blue and although it was a little windy, the temperature was in the 40’s which made for a great walk!

Cliff View

We meandered from Memorial Avenue to The Breakers and back.  Unfortunately, the entire Cliff Walk isn’t open due to some storm damage from Sandy.  We missed what we affectionately refer to as Rice Krispie Beach and we missed our favorite part – walking over the boulders that make up the far end of the “trail.”  We heard from a shop owner (but did not confirm) that it will take approximately $8 million to make the necessary repairs.

Pesce

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S.A.T.U.R.D.A.Y. Night

Yesterday was a wonderful day. To recap, we found a new spot for breakfast because our favorite spot, The Franklin Spa, is closed until February 1st.  The original plan was to do the Cliff Walk yesterday; however it was very cold and windy. So we put it off. Instead we walked around town and shopped and had some drinks and shopped and had some drinks.

We got hungry around 2:30, but didn’t want to eat too much because we were going to see some friends from church who moved to Newport last year and we were having dinner with them.  So we decided on bloody Marys and soup at the Brick Alley Pub in downtown Newport.

The wait was long, but that did not deter us.  We ordered 6 bloody Marys and settled in for our 45 minute wait. Fortunately, a bar table became available and we decided to have our soup shoulder to shoulder.  While we waited we looked at all the interesting things on the walls and, of course, talked and laughed and laughed and talked.

My Kind of Six Pack

My Kind of Six Pack

Words to Live By

Words to Live By (see center)

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Hope & Soap

Saturday night was full of fun and laughter.  We spent it with 3 couples from church enjoying a meal, playing games and competing in a cookie bake-off.  Don and Rena invited everyone over for the evening and came up with the idea of the cookie bake-off.  Don and Rena provided the main course, each couple contributed a side dish and each person brought a batch of home-made cookies.

Jeff and I plotted and planned throughout the week and didn’t tell each other until Saturday morning what kind of cookies we each were baking.  I decided on Lavender Shortbread Hearts with Lemon Filling and Jeff made Triple Chocolate Pistachio.  We engaged in the kitchen ballet while making our cookies and trying to stay out of one another’s way.

After arriving at Don and Rena’s house, we ate dinner and talked.  Somehow the subject “To Which Click Did You Belong in High School” came up.  We had fun telling stories about our younger selves and learning more than a little about one another!

After dinner Don explained the judging.  Continue reading

Market Value

Another successful day of farmers marketing yesterday.  Mimi (my mom) and I departed her house at approximately 9:00 am (only an hour later than our designated departure time, which for us is not bad at all) and hopped on the PA Turnpike for an hour-ish ride to Reading.  Our destination – The Fairgrounds Farmers Market.

I did a little research (no, I did not simply throw a dart at the map) early in the week about PA farmers markets and the Fairgrounds Market sounded interesting.  Someone commented on yelp that it is, “not the prettiest or the most eclectic, but for quality of food, it’s the best.”  That review had me expecting a dumpy place – and while it certainly wasn’t as aesthetically pleasing as Lancaster’s Central Market or the Ardmore Farmers Market, it was decent-looking.  It seemed clean and was well laid out with wide aisles and good lighting.

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It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas – Friday

Ooohhhhh, what a fun and productive day we had yesterday!

My friend Holly, who has a Costco membership, was gracious enough to accompany me and my Mom, Mimi, there so that we could buy some things for our Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve.

The day began at my house at 9:00 am……my mom met me there for a quick bowl of savory oatmeal and a cup-a-joe.  Next we met Holly at her house at 10:00 and the day was officially under way.

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It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas – Thursday

My lunch with Ashley (my beautiful niece) and Mimi (my mom) got off to a slow start……I was at the appointed meeting place – Pizza Grill – at 11:30 a.m..  At 11:56 I texted to Jeff the following, “I should have known better than to make Ashley and Mimi responsible for getting one another here. What was I thinking? It’s like the blOnd leading the blind!”  LOL!!!!

When they finally arrived, we had a good laugh about our less-than-smooth execution of a plan!  And then we had a great lunch!  We ordered a sun-dried Tomato and Feta Salad, a Crab Pizza on whole wheat, and a cup of Seafood Soup.  Everyone was sooooo hungry, but once we ate we were all quite satisfied with our choices and were fortified for an afternoon of cookie baking.

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Fall Dessert

Dessert was so fresh and delicious tonight I just had to share!  After a long walk with Jeff I couldn’t bring myself to eat something too rich, but we were craving something sweet; so I made caramel apple parfaits.  And I must say they were scrumptious and beautiful!

I diced some honey crisp apples and used them as the base.  I drizzled them with Apple Cider Caramel (see recipe below) and sprinkled on a few pepitas.  Then I topped  the apple base with a generous dollop of plain Greek yogurt, which I also drizzled with Apple Cider Caramel and sprinkled with pepitas.  Finally I topped the whole thing with half a Sawgrass Apple Cider Cookie.  If I do say so myself, “mmm mmm mmm!!!”

Apple Cider “Caramel”

Meal type Condiment, Dessert
This recipe was a happy accident. I envision it being excellent over vanilla ice cream, perhaps drizzled over a bagel with cream cheese or over oven roasted sweet potato fries. The possibilities are endless!!!! Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Apple Cider
  • 1 pinch Kosher Salt
  • 1 pinch Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Brown Sugar (divided)

Note

mmm mmm mmm blog at www.cookeatentertain.com

Directions

1. Put cider, salt, pepper and 1 Tbsp of brown sugar in a heavy bottom saucepan, stir well and bring to a boil.
2. Lower heat to medium low (low if you have a particularly hot burner) and reduce to 1 cup.
3. Add the remaining 1 Tbsp of brown sugar, increase heat. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and reduce to 1/3 cup.

A Beautiful Day for……..

The question of the day for Jeff and I yesterday was, “Do we stay home and clean the house OR do we head to Kings Gap for a hike?”  Considering the holidays are coming up, which means more entertaining than usual, the WHAT WE SHOULD DO was obvious; however it’s been a while since we had a weekend day together and the weather was perfect……so we opted for Kings Gap.

We enjoyed each others’ company on the winding ride to the top of the mountain.  And when we got there we proceeded to the mansion terrace to catch the view during the day….the last time we were there, it was pitch black and the view was non-existent.  We were amazed at how far we could see – not only is the overlook perfect, but the sky was crystal clear!

After a few minutes and several pictures on the terrace, we set off for the garden.  Although this isn’t the best time of year for looking at all the herbs and native PA plants, we still had fun wandering through the space, pointing interesting things out to one another and talking.  A few minutes into our time at Kings Gap, Jeff’s cell phone rang.  It was our friend Ben.  If you’ve been reading lately, you’ll remember he is a landscaper.  We were semi-expecting a call from him – he knew we were thinking about a trip to Kings Gap and had a landscaping job he in the area wanted us to see.  So after a few more minutes in the garden, we got back in the car and descended the mountain…talking about our bucket lists on the way to meet Ben at the local General Store.

Ben took us on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride over hill and dale to the house of a wonderful couple for whom he is doing some absolutely incredible landscape and hardscape work.  We got to see the fruits of Ben’s labor in an ideal setting.  There were all kinds of tiered stone walls, a huge patio, a built-in grill that blends in beautifully with all the hardscape, and a fire pit area with several boulders for seating. Although it’s not completely finished, it is well on the way and gave Jeff and I many ideas for the blank canvas that is our back yard!  While there we also had the undeniable privilege of meeting Gretzky, a sweet, lovable, beautiful golden retriever.  He enjoyed many pats and scratches while we talked and got to know Barb and Bill.  We are so appreciative that they let us interrupt their day to gawk and drool over their backyard!

Next stop – lunch.  Ben suggested a place he likes to go when he’s working in the area and it did not disappoint.  Caffe 101 is in Boiling Springs in a newly remodeled brick building with charming back courtyard seating and a bright, cheery indoor dining area.  You order at the counter and serve yourself drinks.  The staff brings your order to the table.

Ben was glad they had the sandwich he was craving – a barbeque chicken sandwich with apple and cheddar.

 

 

 

He also ordered cream of crab soup that he said was mostly crab meat and which he indicated he will definitely order again. It looked great and was served with a crisp, seeded flatbread.

 

 

 

Jeff ordered a Rachel, which he ate in record time – as usual, I didn’t have a chance to ask for a bite.  But when I asked how it was he said it was very good!

 

 

 

And I ordered a turkey, bacon and avocado sandwich that was very good.  Fortunately for Jeff I couldn’t finish it and he got to try my sandwich.  The food at Caffe 101 was very fresh, nicely presented, and quite tasty.  The only thing that will keep us from going back soon is that it’s a bit out of our way.  But I am sure we will return when we have another day that’s not jam packed!  If for no other reason than to have a cup of coffee, which smelled excellent and to try a dessert.  They had pretty cupcakes that were decorated with generous amounts of icing and other tempting sweet treats!

From Caffe 101 we followed Ben to his house to pick out another tree for our backyard.  We looked at his garden, his inventory of trees, and we heard about some of his plans for next year (or the next several years).  AND, the highlight of the visit was meeting the newest member of the family – his new backhoe.  I can’t wait to have a chance to drive it!

We had a lot of fun spending the day with one another and with Ben.  So I was glad that I had started dinner in the morning – so that I could invite Ben and his lovely wife, Christa – who was travelling for her nephew’s birthday party, to dinner.  They accepted our invitation and we parted ways.  Christa was heading back from her trip, Ben went to work on a job, and Jeff and I  headed for home to finish dinner and at least vacuum the house.

Tune in later for a full description of dinner, a sneak peek into my rookie mistake, and to hear more about cooking, eating and entertaining, which when done with and for friends is soul satisfying!!!!

A New Cookie Recipe

Earlier this week our good friend Ben stopped by to plant a tree in our yard – yes, I told you, he is a good friend and he also owns a landscaping business – and while he was here he said had a question for me.  The question was related to the Apple Cider Caramel recipe I posted in early October.

Ben makes cider and was kind enough to share some with us.  From the cider he shared I made some apple cider caramel for he and his wife to try, which led to his question.  He asked, “Do you think you can make a molasses-type cookie with the caramel you made?”

Never being one to shy away from a challenge, I replied, “I’ll give it a try and let you know.”  So I did.  Today I delivered a batch to Ben and his crew at a job site.  I am awaiting their assessment, but while I wait I thought I’d share the recipe with you.  As soon as I hear back from him, I’ll let you know his thoughts,.  But for now I can tell you that Jeff has not been at all disappointed that I’ve made multiple batches!

I had the caramel already made, so the work was pretty easy.  I’d recommend you make a batch of the caramel and keep it on hand.  It’s good on plain yogurt, great in the appetizer on the home page of the blog, and I also think it would be great on grilled meats or even over vanilla ice cream….there are so many possibilities.

The recipe for the caramel is:

Apple Cider “Caramel”

Meal type Condiment, Dessert
This recipe was a happy accident. I envision it being excellent over vanilla ice cream, perhaps drizzled over a bagel with cream cheese or over oven roasted sweet potato fries. The possibilities are endless!!!! Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Apple Cider
  • 1 pinch Kosher Salt
  • 1 pinch Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Brown Sugar (divided)

Note

mmm mmm mmm blog at www.cookeatentertain.com

Directions

1. Put cider, salt, pepper and 1 Tbsp of brown sugar in a heavy bottom saucepan, stir well and bring to a boil.
2. Lower heat to medium low (low if you have a particularly hot burner) and reduce to 1 cup.
3. Add the remaining 1 Tbsp of brown sugar, increase heat. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and reduce to 1/3 cup.

Now for the cookies…

Melt 3/4 cup of butter and add it to the bowl of an electric mixer.  Add 1 cup of sugar and 1 egg and mix until smooth.

 

 

Add 1/4 cup of apple cider caramel to the butter mixture.  Mix until smooth.

 

 

 

 

Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and ginger.  Blend into the butter mixture.  Cover and chill for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Using a 2 Tbsp scoop, scoop dough into balls.

Cut each scoop in half and roll between your hands into a ball, working quickly to keep the dough cool. Spread the remaining 1 cup of sugar onto a plate and roll each dough ball into the sugar to completely coat.

Place balls 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets and bake for 8 minutes (time may vary depending on oven), until tops are cracked.  (Photo below taken at approximately 6 minutes into the cooking time).

Cool on wire racks and enjoy!!!!

As I wait for feedback from Ben and his crew, I am mulling over the name for these.  I thought of calling them “Bennies,” but that reminded me of a friend’s dog.  I thought of using Ben’s initials, but then they’d be “BS Cookies” – not too appetizing.  So for now I’ve landed on “Sawgrass Apple Cider Cookies.”  Sawgrass is the name of the street Ben and his crew were working on today when I delivered their samples….stay tuned for a name change….let me know if you have any suggestions, particularly you, Ben!!!!

To learn more about Ben’s business, visit http://www.souderlandscaping.com/!

Sawgrass Apple Cider Cookies

Meal type Dessert

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cups butter (melted)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup apple cider caramel
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup sugar (for coating cookies prior to baking)

Note

mmm mmm mmm at www.cookeatentertain.com

Directions

1. In a medium bowl, mix together the melted butter, 1 c. sugar, and egg until smooth.
2. Add the apple cider caramel and mix until incorporated.
3. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt and spices and mix into the butter mixture.
4. Cover and chill for 1 hour.
Toasting Pepitas
5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
6. Using a 2 Tbsp. scoop, scoop dough into balls.
7. Cut each dough ball in half.
8. Roll the halved dough into balls and then roll each one in the remaining 1 cup sugar.
9. Place cookies 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.
10. Bake for 8 minutes in the preheated oven (time may vary depending on your oven setting) until tops are cracked.
11. Cook on wire rack.

Marketing

I had a whirlwind of a day today, but it sure was fun!  I met my mom and dad at their house at 9:00 this morning and we didn’t stop moving until we got back to their house at 4:30 pm.  We covered a lot of ground, saw a lot of yummy food, and scoped out a new place to visit when we have more time.

Our day started in Hershey with my mom having a bone density scan…from there we began our adventure to the Lancaster County Farmers Market, which incidentally is not in Lancaster County – go figure.  It’s actually in Delaware County on the Main Line in Wayne, PA.  Normally it’s pretty easy to get there, but we were in technology hell today….the ATM machine at the Turnpike rest area at which we stopped was having a meltdown and both my GPS and my parent’s GPS were persnickety as well!!!  But after RECALCULATING several times and using common sense (uncommon, I know) we finally made it.

Although it’s not a big market, there are some very nice stands to capture your attention and tempt your taste buds.  My first stop was at Sugartown Smoked Specialties. The smoked trout spread looked delicious, but I was there for advice and information.  On Sunday I’ll be experimenting with smoking clams (which I have never done) and wanted an expert opinion.  The gentleman at Sugartown pointed me in the right direction. THANKS!

The next stand we stopped at was Semaan’s Homemade Specialties to ogle the olives, which is completely strange since I don’t like the way they taste.  I like olive oil and I love the look of olives – they LOOK like something I would love.  And I’ve certainly given them a fair shake…..I try them at least once a year to make sure my taste for them hasn’t changed, but so far….nothing.  But I still think they’re beautiful – particularly these that were marinating with all kinds of herbs and spices!

From there I gawked at the fresh seafood and pre-made foods at Mainline Marketplace. Of everything we saw all day, I rated the jumbo lump crab meat at this stand the most beautiful!!!  I could imagine using this amazing lump crab meat in Jeff’s crab cake recipe OR it would make a fabulous addition to a creamy crab soup OR it would make a delicious lemony cold crab salad…….the possibilities are endless.  I did not buy any because we didn’t have a cooler AND because what you don’t see in this photo is the price behind the garnish – $29.99/lb. A little too rich for my blood today!!!!

The salmon also looked amazing, but again no cooler….. I recently found a recipe for a honey spiced salmon sandwich in which this salmon would be great.  Next time, when the cooler is in the trunk, I’ll be buying some seafood….maybe I can start keeping my spare change in a jar so I can get some crab!!!!

The Ultimate Bake Shop had some gorgeous desserts and baked goods.  Although expensive, the biscotti that looked terrific – packed with delicious ingredients.  The cakes were all beautifully decorated and the descriptions of them sounded tempting.  I do wonder when I see such pristine looking desserts, if they will taste as good as they look.  Perhaps next time I will be “in the market” for desserts and I’ll let you know if the desserts live up to their looks!

We saw some fine-looking produce – in fact, I took pictures of some beets, carrots and cauliflower that I am happy to share.  And I couldn’t resist buying some fresh figs. Just this morning I saw an idea for a flavorful, but health-conscious dessert – fresh figs dipped in dark chocolate.  So how fitting that I be tempted by fresh figs at the market.

After buying the figs, we wandered around a little more, pointing out a few goodies here and there, including some pretty tea towels at The Cottage at The Market and some tasty looking Asian food at Foo To Go.  In fact, the food looked so good at Foo that my mom bought a container of curried rice and one of cold sesame noodles.

After one final trip around the Lancaster County Farmers Market to make sure there wasn’t anything else we needed/wanted, we hopped back into the car and headed to Ardmore.  Our plan was to make stops at the Ardmore Farmers Market at Suburban Square and Trader Joe’s; however we were running short on time so we had to make a decision – farmers market or Trader Joe’s.  Although they are right next to one another, our schedule only allowed for one.

We chose the farmers market, and I am so glad we did. First thing in the door we were greeted by the sight of the most beautiful coral/orange roses at Inspired Blooms.  After taking a few photos, my mom called me over to Ardmore Seafood to look at some of the most amazing colossal shrimp – they were so large I swear I thought to be safe I should address them as “Mr. Shrimp.”  From there we spied the small eggplant for which my mom was on the lookout all day.

And then……Di Bruno Bros. in search of Montgomery’s Farmhouse Cheddar from England.  SUCCESS!  The cost of a pound of this cheese makes the price of the crab meat look like lunch money; but every bite is worth it!  It is described as “a sublime balance between sharp and fruity” and the description couldn’t be more accurate.  I’ve also heard it billed as “quite possibly the best cheddar in the world” and again, I can’t argue. A bit of the Montgomery’s Farmhouse Cheddar and some Clandestin made it into my shopping bag.  The Clandestin is an aged sheep’s milk and cow’s milk cheese from Canada.  It is a soft cheese, like a Brie and is absolutely delicious.  And in addition to the cheeses,  I also had some lively conversation with the “cheese guy.” He was talking with another customer about Grana Padano cheese, which he referred to as “the son of Parmigiano Reggiano.” I asked him why you’d want the “son of” when you have access to the real deal – it was a serious question, I was truly not being a smartalec.    He replied with something to the effect of “Grana Padano is still Ivy League, but it’s Brown, not Harvard” (which may have offended his other customer) and he and I were off to the races on good cheeses vs. lesser cheeses.  I enjoyed the conversation almost as much as the cheese.  I am looking forward to a nice glass of wine, a crusty piece of bread and some bits of the cheeses I purchased today.

After Di Bruno Bros. there was time enough for a very quick spin around the rest of the market – only enough to see what other vendors are there so that when we return we know what we want to see.  Just before getting into the car, I got myself a Kale Shake.  I know, it doesn’t sound great; but I truly believe veggie juices get a bad wrap.  Besides, it wasn’t all veggie juice – it also had lots of whole fruits whizzed up in it.  The kale shake did not disappoint.  It was the color of the inside of a kiwi fruit and tasted like freshness in a cup.

Back in the car, we wound our way through the Main Line back to the Turnpike and headed for home.  We each had a little something to nibble on since we didn’t get a chance to eat lunch.  My dad had a piece of pizza from Pallante’s Pasta Company, my mom had her selections from Foo To Go and I had my kale shake and a little treat my mom surprised me with – an arancini (the literal translation is little orange, the food translation is a risotto and mozzerella ball with onion and flecks of basil – in other words, mmm mmm mmm) from Di Bruno Bros.

All in all, we had a successful trip.  We made a few purchases, sampled a few really good foods and found a future destination for a day of foodie fun!!!

Happy Birthday, Robbin!

Last night Jeff and I were so fortunate to celebrate our friend Robbin’s birthday with her and her husband, Matt.  We went on an adventure to the Cameron/Masland Mansion at Kings Gap for the Friends of Kings Gap Music on the Mountain – Evening of Jazz.

Perhaps you’ve been to Kings Gap State Park.  For me it was the first trip, but definitely not the last.  I cannot wait to go back for a hike, to view their gardens (which are maintained by Friends of Kings Gap Volunteers and Penn State Master Gardeners in Cumberland County) and/or for a tour of the parts of the mansion we didn’t see this time.

We made our trip in the dark and didn’t get to experience the full beauty of all the park has to offer – Kings Gap State Park boasts a panoramic view of the Cumberland Valley, has 16 hiking trails, many environmental programs, and encompasses over 2,500 acres of forest on South Mountain.  But the drive up to the mansion was incredible.  The four of us agreed that it would be a great setting for a spooky Halloween ride!  The long, winding road to the top of the mountain is thickly wooded and as you drive the dark road you expect to see all kinds of glowing eyes staring at you!

We made it to the top of the mountain unscathed and ready for some great music.  We were warmly greeted and acclimated to the rooms we’d be enjoying for the evening.  There was a bar with several wine and soft drink offerings and a buffet of both savory and sweet offerings. We each ordered a glass of wine and we found a table with a nice view of the “stage” for the evening and easy access to the refreshments.

The music was played by the Steve Rudolph Trio.  If you’ve spent any time at the Hilton in Harrisburg  you may recognize the name.  Steve Rudolph presented live jazz at the Hilton from 1990 through 2012.  Unfortunately, since the hotel was recently sold, it looks like that great tradition will not continue.  The trio was exceptional, playing some ballads and some livelier numbers – most with an introduction from Steve.  I left wondering if all bass players have to make faces in order to play well!!!!

The buffet included many cheeses, fruit, vegetables, some savory appetizers (one of which was cabbage strudel, which was a nostalgic treat for me – my grandmother used to make cabbage strudel a few times a year and when she did it was a big deal), several dessert offerings, and hot beverages.

 

Jeff and I always enjoy spending time with Matt and Robbin – whether it’s at a church event, a baseball game, or an event like last evening in great company in a beautiful setting with terrific music, good food and a glass of wine.  We are honored to have been invited to celebrate with them and are glad to have learned about a great state park to which we will surely return for hiking, kayaking, to explore the gardens and to attend future events.  Perhaps the next trip will be in just a few weeks.

The Friends of Kings Gap offers two dates for Holiday Open House where you can listen to seasonal music, enjoy light refreshments, and take a self-guided tour of the stone “villa” known as the Cameron/Masland Mansion.  The dates are December 2, 2012 and December 9, 2012. So if you’re looking for a new way to begin the holiday season, I’d recommend a trip to the mansion at Kings Gap State Park.

Happy Birthday, Robbin – I think we received the gift!

Serendipity

ser·en·dip·i·ty/ˌserənˈdipitē/

Noun:
The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way: “a fortunate stroke of serendipity”.

On Wednesday evening I was in my office paging through a book entitled, The Cake Bible (those of you who read my post What’s the Difference: Flour? Part 1 will understand why) when another book on the shelf caught my eye – Four-Star Desserts by Emily Luchetti.  Jeff and I are hosting a dinner party on December 1st; so we’ve been planning the menu and other details.  When I saw Four-Star Desserts, I thought I’d browse through it to see if includes any recipes that would be a welcome addition to the dinner party menu; but what I found was even better than the best dessert for December 1st.

I found a recipe for which I’ve been searching for 5 years or more!  When we still lived in our old house, I made a cake that I really liked and wanted to make it again; but I could not for the life of me remember which cookbook it was from.  And when your cookbook collection numbers over 200, it is difficult to just thumb through them all in search of one recipe.  Every now and again, I am reminded of this cake and I look at a few books hoping to find the recipe – always to no avail and great frustration.  In fact, I’m sure I reach for the same books over and over hoping to be successful in my search. What was that definition of insanity again?

But on Wednesday – when I wasn’t looking for the recipe – it just appeared to me, presented as a gift from the cake gods!  So it must be time to make it again!

This is a great cake to make when you are entertaining people who are watching calories.  Of course, it IS cake; so it isn’t a diet dish.  But it is one of those cakes that you don’t have to say, “just a sliver” when it’s being cut!

The recipe says it can be made several days ahead and stored wrapped in plastic at room temperature, but it was best on the first day.  Fortunately it’s so good I don’t think it will last too long!

Espresso Chocolate Chip Angel Food Cake from Four-Star Desserts by Emily Luchetti

Meal type Dessert

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 1 1/3 cup cake flour (sifted)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cup egg whites (about 12 large eggs)
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon freshley squeezed lemon joice
  • 3/4 cups chocolate chips (coarsely chopped)

Note

Recipe from the book "Four-Star Desserts" by Emily Luchetti

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Sift together the espresso powder, cake flour, and the salt. Set aside.
3. Put the egg whites into the bowl of an electric mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium speed until frothy. Add the cream of tartar. Increase to high speed and slowly pour in the sugar. Continue whipping until the whites are stiff but still shiny, about 3 minutes.
4. Reduce to low speed and add the vanilla extract and lemon juice. Add the reserved flour mixture. When the flour mixture is almost completely incorporated, remove the bowl from the machine and fold in the chocolate chips. Make sure that the chocolate chips are spread throughout the batter and that the flour is evenly mixed into the egg whites. Do not overmix.
5. Pour the batter into a prepared pan and cut through it a few times with a dull knife to break up any air pockets.
6. Bake until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Invert the cake on a rack and let it cool upside down in the pan.
7. Unmold the cake and slice it with a serrated knife.

Hint: To prevent the chocolate chips from sinking to the bottom of the cake, mix the chocolate chips with 1 Tbsp of the flour before adding them to the batter.

If you make this cake, I hope you look back on finding this post as a serendipitous event!!!  Enjoy!

A Labor of Love for My Love

I am lucky to be married to a man who knows how to cook, clean and iron his own shirts.  He’s quite self-sufficient.  In fact, if it weren’t for trouble matching his clothes and folding a fitted sheet, he probably wouldn’t need me at all.

Over the years, we have learned numerous things from one another – not from any formal lessons, but as couples do – simply from being around one another for enough time. For example, I have learned to put the toilet paper roll on the holder the “right way,” the first 15ish steps of troubleshooting my computer before asking him (an IT guy) for help, how to change a ceiling light fixture, and that you can enjoy a Phils game IF you sit in the good seats!  He has learned how to wrap a gift without 1,000 wrinkles and 1,000,000 pieces of tape, that a crock pot (or anything with a cord) is not a gift unless expressly requested by the receiver, that some towels are just for show, and that you don’t have to follow a recipe to the letter for it to turn out well!

From the beginning, we’ve shared household chores in a non-traditional way.  He enjoys coupon clipping and grocery shopping, but has allergies.  So until a few years ago, he did all the grocery shopping and I cut the grass.  When we both worked full-time, he made dinner as often as I did (ok, maybe he still does) and we shared cleaning responsibilities (ok, maybe we still do).  It’s a balance that may make other couples scratch their heads; but it works for us.

With all that said, it’s unusual for Jeff to ask for something.  But when we returned from vacation he began hinting that he’d like me to make a peach pie.  So I put it on my To Do list.  The hinting started getting less subtle, so yesterday – with the last of the peaches – I surprised him with a peach pie.

I must be honest and admit that making pies intimidates me, and not for the reason you may think.  I have no trouble making pie crust.  It doesn’t scare me in the least.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say I’m pretty good at it.  It’s the fruit fillings that get me every time!

In the past, no matter what I’ve tried – flour, cornstarch, tapioca – my fillings have always slid out of the pie with the first cut.  I had some seriously bad pie mojo.  But all that changed on vacation.  We got some really yummy peaches at a farm stand on the way to the OBX so I couldn’t resist attempting to bake a pie.  I googled ‘peach pie’ and looked at several recipes.  I decided on one entitled ‘Peach Pie the Old Fashioned Two-Crust Way’ from allrecipes.com.

The recipe worked like a charm and my bad pie mojo lifted!  I think I learned a few things about my sad pies of the past.  Here’s what I did differently this time:

  • I used room temperature peaches.  In the past I am fairly sure I used fruit from the fridge.  I don’t know exactly why I think this has an impact, but drawing on tidbits I’ve learned over the years, I know many recipes call for room temp ingredients (except when making a good pastry).
  • I mixed the filling about 30 minutes prior to filling the pie, which gave everything a chance to meld, the peaches a chance to juice and the flour a chance to begin absorbing that juice.
  • I waited until it was fully cooled before cutting it.  When I made my pie on vacation I had an easy distraction – the beach.  I made it in the morning and then we headed off for a full day at the beach and the pie had a chance to rest.  Yesterday, I made the pie in the afternoon and then went to my Bible study group and Jeff worked his part-time job – so again, the pie had time to fully cool.

When I got home from church last night, I texted Jeff a picture of the pie and this is how the remainder of the text exchange went:

JEFF: What is that?
ME:     What do you think it is?
JEFF: Pie!!
ME:     it IS pie
JEFF: But what kind
ME:     What do you hope it is?
JEFF: Peach
ME:     Yep
JEFF: !!!
JEFF: Are you sharing?
ME:    The question is are YOU sharing?  I made it for you!
JEFF: I’ll share it with you

As I disclosed earlier, Jeff is very self-sufficient so it is nice to be able to do something for him that makes him happy and is unexpected.  I was amazed at his restraint….he came home from work and did not have a piece of pie.  And he didn’t even have one for breakfast with his morning coffee.  He did, however, cut a “small piece” to take for lunch so that he could have another piece this evening.  It is true what they say, the way to a man’s heart (or at least my man’s heart) is through his stomach!

PS.  In case you were wondering, it is incredibly difficult to cut a piece of pie and pour a hot cup of coffee so that you can get some good photos and NOT indulge!

 

I Cannot Tell a Lie – It’s Apple Cider “Caramel”

Oh boy, did I discover something I didn’t know yesterday!  Maybe I am behind the curve and you already know this; but I discovered, quite by accident, that you can make a terrific mock caramel using apple cider!!!

I was working on a new recipe and I wanted to include an apple cider reduction, but I went a bit too far – some of you will not be surprised by this as I often go a bit too far – and ended up with an amazing treat.   I envision it being excellent over vanilla ice cream, perhaps drizzled over a bagel with cream cheese or over oven roasted sweet potato fries.  Or even on grilled pork – a new twist on “Pork Chops and Apple Sauce, Shwell.” The possibilities are endless!!!! Enjoy!

Here’s what I did – I am currently trying to replicate it in larger quantities – as soon as I do, you will be the first to know!

Apple Cider “Caramel”

Meal type Condiment, Dessert
This recipe was a happy accident. I envision it being excellent over vanilla ice cream, perhaps drizzled over a bagel with cream cheese or over oven roasted sweet potato fries. The possibilities are endless!!!! Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Apple Cider
  • 1 pinch Kosher Salt
  • 1 pinch Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Brown Sugar (divided)

Note

mmm mmm mmm blog at www.cookeatentertain.com

Directions

1. Put cider, salt, pepper and 1 Tbsp of brown sugar in a heavy bottom saucepan, stir well and bring to a boil.
2. Lower heat to medium low (low if you have a particularly hot burner) and reduce to 1 cup.
3. Add the remaining 1 Tbsp of brown sugar, increase heat. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and reduce to 1/3 cup.

This was one of those things in life that we refer to as a “happy accident.”  A time when you get something wonderful that you didn’t plan or intend.  When these things happen, I’m glad I can embrace them. Because so often when things don’t turn out like we had planned, we look at the situation as a failure.

I prefer to look at it like Thomas Edison did.  He said, “I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

* If you’ve been following my blog, you may think I have a thing for Thomas Edison.  I assure you, I do not.  I do, however, “collect” quotes.  I find them both inspiring and comforting; so I will share them with you from time to time.

 

Just Peachy

Last week in the Outer Banks was terrific.  I truly can’t remember the last time I was so relaxed.  We let each day unfold like a surprise.  We had no plan, no itinerary, and no stress!

On our way home, just before we crossed from North Carolina into Virginia, we stopped at a roadside produce stand to pick up some late-summer peaches.  And boy are they good!  Jeff and I usually overdose on PA peaches in August; but this summer we just didn’t find any great peaches near home.  Fortunately, North Carolina not only delivered on a great vacation, but on great produce as well.

As a salute to vacation, I decided to bake today; which is funny since our fridge is bare. After scanning the contents, I decided to make a crostata – a rustic Italian tart.  But I wanted to amp it up a little so I added some brandy to the last of the blackberry syrup Jeff used to make a refreshing blackberry gin drink on vacation and I added a little bit of fresh thyme from the garden.

I used the 3/4 cup of blackberry syrup that remained and added to it 6 Tbsp of brandy and 1 Tbsp of chopped fresh thyme.  I cooked it over medium low heat for 15 minutes, whisking frequently, until it reduced and became dark and thick.

While the syrup reduced, I made the dough.  This dough is a very simple recipe with just a few ingredients:

I pulsed the flour, salt, sugar, lemon zest and thyme in a food processor until just combined and then added the cold butter.  I pulsed the food processor until the butter incorporated into the flour mixture and resembled coarse crumbs.  I added the ice water a bit at a time until the dough began to hold together.

Then I turned the dough out onto a board, gathered it together, shaped it into a ball, flattened the ball into a disk, wrapped it in plastic wrap and refrigerated it for approximately 1 hour.

I rolled the cold dough into a rough 12-inch “circle” – remember this is a RUSTIC Italian tart –  and transferred it onto a parchment lined baking sheet.

I then topped the dough with the blackberry, brandy, and thyme reduction – kind of like you top a pizza crust with sauce.

I sliced two ripe, juicy peaches and arranged them on the crostata.  I folded the edges of the crostata toward the center – no need to be precise.  In my opinion, the more rustic looking, the better.

I brushed the crust with egg wash and sprinkled it with some white (I’m not quite sure why they call it white when it is really clear) sanding sugar and baked the crostata in a 400 degree oven for approximately 35 minutes.

The end result is a delightfully mouth-watering treat.

I rewarded myself with a piece of the crostata dusted lightly with powdered sugar and a steaming cup of Jeff’s yummy coffee.  I’d say my day is going to be just peachy!