Archive for February, 2009

You Can’t Eat These Flowers!

February 28, 2009

But they’re absolutely adorable!  JF alerted me to this and I love it!  It’s part of Martha Stewert’s collection with 1-800-Flowers.  I swear, that Martha, she taunts me!

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A Date Night with Jamie

February 28, 2009

Capt. and I decided to make Friday night a stay-at-home date night and I excitedly decided that I would crack open my new cookbook and make one of his recipes for winter.  The cookbook is based solely on Jamie Oliver’s home garden, and is split up with seasonal recipes.  Although Maryland’s seasons are quite different than the seasons that Jamie experiences in England, some of the items do match up.  As it’s so cold in Maryland right now, nothing is really in season.

The great thing about cooking from Jamie Oliver’s recipes, is that everything is generally healthy.  Jamie has a great passion for healthy eating and spreads the word by being a very vocal advocate against the use of processed foods in school lunches and other school meals.

I decided that we would make a roasted white fish and leek recipe, mainly because I know Capt. prefers white and milder tasting fish (I’ll eat any kind, I love seafood!) and because I’ve never had leeks and wanted to try something new.

Some parts of the recipe gives exact measurements and some did not.  I ended up putting way too my olive oil in the marinade and on the pan, which made the meal as a whole very oily.  I would definitely use less next time and not drizzle any leftover over the the food before sticking it into the oven.  Also, we couldn’t find baby leeks in the grocery store, so we grabbed the smallest leak we could find.  It ended up being not enough and was fairly skimpy.  I would advise getting a decent amount since the leeks do get shrink up a bit as they cook.  If your Capt. has a big appetite, I would roast some potatoes up with the meal too.

Overall, I found the meal to be very tasty, the leeks were delicious, and the fish was nice and moist.

Roasted White Fish and Leeks
Jamie at Home

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Serves 4

16 baby leeks washed and trimmed
4x200gm fillets of white fish *
1 large lemon cut into 8 thin wedges
4 sprigs of rosemary
8 rashers of smoked streaky bacon

for the marinade
a couple of sprigs each of rosemary thyme and bay leaves.
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
juice of 1/2 a lemon

Preheat the oven to 200.c/400.f/gas6 and place a baking tray in the oven to warm up

To make the marinade bash up the thyme rosemary and bay leaves with the salt in a pestle and mortar until the salt has turned green. Pour in two glugs of olive oil, a pinch of pepper and the lemon juice and give it a stir.
Parboil** the leeks in salted water for about three minutes. Drain in a colander and let them steam dry.

Put the fish, lemon, rosemary sprigs and leeks into a bowl. Pour in the marinade and toss to cover everything.
Place the fish into the preheated tray.

Scoop the lemon rosemary leeks and marinade out of the bowl and place over and around the fish and roast in the oven for approx. 15 -20mins until the fish is just cooked and the bacon is crisp.

Pile up on a plate and serve.

* Capt. and I used Chilean Sea Bass.  If you want to eat seasonally, Baltimore Sun recently had an article about how Rockfish is in season in the winter time.

** For those of you who, like us, don’t know what parboiling is, it’s blanching.  Blanching is a great technique to use when cooking veggies, since it helps to maintain the vegetable’s color and crispness.  Leeks turn a beautiful bright green when cooked.

Happy Weekend!

February 27, 2009

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“On a stop light green means go, red means stop and yellow means slow down, but on a banana it’s just the opposite. Green means hold on, yellow means go ahead, and red means, ‘where the fuck did you get that banana at?'”

Mitch Hedberg

Holy Sweet Tequila!

February 27, 2009

I bet that got your attention!  I’m actually not writing about tequila, but a great product that comes from the tequila plant!  It’s called Agave Syrup, have you heard of it?

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I actually had never heard of Agave Syrup until I started following Heidi Swanson’s recipes.  Heidi occasionally uses Agave Syrup as a sugar alternative on her blog, 101 Cookbooks, and in her book, Super Natural Cooking.

I have to admit, I don’t think I would have ever tried Agave Syrup without Heidi’s recommendation.  But, also my high usage of Splenda — about 3 packs a day — made me decide that I need to alternate it with a more natural sweetner than sugar (I try to avoid sugar as much as possible, not easy when you love sweets).  I really love using honey, but have always been curious about Agave.

Here’s a little overview of the health benefits of the plant:

Especially in the last century, the western diet has become increasingly dominated by refined sweeteners such as granulated sugar and corn syrup. The problem with these substances is their high glycemic index and glycemic load – both measures of the relative impact that foods have on our blood sugar. Foods that raise blood sugar quickly trigger the release of the hormone insulin. Excessive releases of insulin and, more specifically, chronically high blood sugar and insulin levels are linked to Metabolic Syndrome (also called Syndrome X), which is a complex of health disorders. Associated ailments include insulin resistance and type II diabetes, abdominal weight gain and obesity, problems with blood lipids (raised triglycerides and cholesterol) and high blood pressure.

One of the most health-promoting properties of agave nectar is its favorable glycemic profile. Its sweetness comes primarily from a complex form of fructose called inulin. Fructose is the sugar that occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables. The carbohydrate in agave nectar has a low glycemic index, which provides sweetness without the unpleasant “sugar rush” and unhealthful blood sugar spike caused by many other sugars. Agave nectar is a delicious natural sweetener that can be used moderately – by dieters, some diabetics, and health conscious cooks – to replace high-glycemic and refined sugars.

So, when Capt. and I were shopping at Wegman’s the other night and stumbled upon Agave I decided to try it out.  I stirred it into a cup of tea and ta-da! It’s sweet!  It’s somewhat flavorless, not like honey, which has a distinct flavor.  The Agave I purchased (pictured above) comes in liquid form, similiar to honey but much more runny. 

For those who bake, the Agave Website recommends has measurements for substituting it with regular sweetners.  I actually want to bake or at least make something sweet so I can test it out! 

If you have, let me know what you think!

Oh, and I came home and showed off my Agave Syrup to my dad, who quickly snacked it from my hand and took a swig of it.  It was very gentleman-like.

A Very Late Valentine

February 26, 2009

My friend, JF, LOVES to bake.  As you all know, I hate baking but love sweets, which makes her a very good friend to have.

She once worked to indulge my smore fiaxtion by baking me smore cupcakes, and she frequently has baked goods lying around her apartment.  For the sake of my waistline, I try to avoid her apartment but sometimes you just can’t!

For those of you who are slightly jealous of me having a baker for a friend, you can pretend to be her friend too by visiting her blog.  She baked great Valentine’s Day cupcakes and cookies, of which I didn’t get until this past Friday, which might not make her that great of a friend after all . . .

Here’s the recipe to one of the treats I got to enjoy, you can see the other ones on her blog.  I very much enjoy raspberry – which I am not sure that she knows, but it was a very lucky guess – so these were particularly up my alley.

White Chocolate Raspberry Cookies

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Ingredients:12 oz. white chocolate chips
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
seedless raspberry jam
1/2 tsp. shortening1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet. Set aside. In a heavy small saucepan melt 4 ounces of the white chocolate chips over low heat, stirring constantly. Cool.

 

Directions:

 

2. In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer about 30 seconds or until softened. Add the sugar, baking soda, and salt. Beat until combined. Beat in eggs and melted white chocolate chips until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour with a wooden spoon. Stir in the 4 more ounces of white chocolate chips.

3. Drop dough from a rounded teaspoon 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 7 to 9 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned around edges. Cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute. Transfer cookies to wire racks. Cool completely.

4. Melt the raspberry jam in a small saucepan over low heat. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon of jam atop each cookie. In a heavy, small saucepan combine the 3 ounces white baking bar and shortening. Melt over low heat, stirring constantly. Drizzle each cookie with some of the melted mixture. If necessary, refrigerate cookies about 15 minutes or until chocolate mixture is firm.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.
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Eat a Pancake!

February 25, 2009

Many people at my new office are getting excited for Mardi Gras.  There are a lot of Mardi Gras traditions I didn’t know about, like the King Cake (I did NOT win the baby), that are positively delightful.

My favorite new tradition for today was introduced to me by my dear friend, DC, who isn’t even from New Orleans (they’re not the only people who celebrate the days leading up Ash Wednesday).  It’s called Shrove Tuesday, AKA Pancake Tuesday!  My friends and I have interpreted this as being a day where you eat pancakes and drink beer . . . a bit more wholesome than showing your boobies for beads, but just as fun!

I have fond memories of Pancake Tuesday last year.  My friends and I skipped out of work to watch the New York Giants Super Bowl parade and visited a local diner afterwards to indulge.

Much to my surprise, a number of place in the Baltimore area promote today, whether it’s celebrated as Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Tuesday doesn’t really matter.  So much so, that the Baltimore Sun even wrote an article and published a recipe to go along with the celebration!

Here’s the recipe, enjoy!

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Blue Moon Pancakes

(Makes 4 to 6 five-inch pancakes or 12 to 14 silver-dollar pancakes)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

2 eggs

2 to 3 tablespoons vanilla

1 1/2 cups milk

3 tablespoons melted butter

3 tablespoons sugar

Combine all ingredients and stir until lumps are gone. Ladle onto a hot (350 degrees) griddle coated with vegetable oil or clarified butter.

If you would like to add extra ingredients, such as chocolate chips or berries, sprinkle them on the wet side of the pancake now, while the underside cooks.

Look for bubbles on the wet surface (a sign that the air is cooking out of the pancakes), or use a spatula to peek underneath, making sure the pancake is golden brown. Flip and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.

Serve with syrup, whipped cream and more berries or chocolate chips.

Courtesy of Sarah Simington, chef/proprietor of the Blue Moon Cafe in Fells Point

PER PANCAKE (BASED ON 6 LARGE PANCAKES): 255 calories, 7 grams protein, 9 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 34 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 91 milligrams cholesterol, 232 milligrams sodium

PS – I sooo planned on eating pancakes for dinner tonight, but I ended up playing racquetball instead and was not hungry at all afterwards.  I am making up for it by drinking beer.

PPS – Sorry for the light posting this week.  I’m a bit overwhelmed and disoriented, in a good way, from starting a new job.  I’ll be back in the game next week!

Give to the Girl Scouts!

February 21, 2009

Here’s one way that you can give back and eat at the same time!  Make an effort this month go out out and find a local girl scout and buy her cookies! 

USA Today ran a story recently (see below) about how girl scouts are seeing a decline in their cookie sales due to the economy.  I think it’s easy for people to forget that all the money they contribute to the Girl Scouts by buying cookies go to troops for trips, community projects, and scholarships.  The girls need everyone’s help in order to expand their reach in the community.

I am a former girl scout and as I get older and look back, I am very proud to have been involved in an organization whose sole purpose is to strengthen the women of tomorrow.  It’s a program that teaches our girls self esteem, self empowerment, and self relience.  It’s kind of like kicking off feminism early and that is definitely something I, and hopefully you, can get behind.  Too many youg girls today don’t have the resources or don’t utilize the resources that gives them the knowledge and personal strength that the Girl Scouts give.  Please help them!

Visit www.girlscoutcookies.org to get more information about where to find Girl Scout cookies in your area!

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Sales are a little thin for mint and other Girl Scout cookies so far this year.

National numbers are not yet in, but regional Girl Scout councils nationwide are seeing the impact of the down economy, as well as bad winter weather, in declines as large as 19% in pre-order sales, which took place January through early February.

 Pre-order sales— mostly door-to-door and workplace — make up around 70% of cookie sales, council leaders say. Councils are hopeful they will make up for the drop-off with sales at shopping center booths through early spring, says Michelle Tompkins, spokeswoman for the Girl Scouts of the USA.

Among the councils reporting declines:

• Eastern South Carolina Council, near Charleston, shows pre-sales down 19% from 868,386 boxes in 2008 to about 700,000 boxes so far this year, says product sales manager Keisha Frost.

• Northeast Ohio Council, near Cleveland, reports pre-sales down about 16%, from 2.5 million to 2.1 million boxes, says Marianne Love, director of business services.

• Nation’s Capital Council, in Northern Virginia, Washington and parts of Maryland, sees 5% fewer pre-sales, down to 3.7 million boxes, says public relations and marketing director Nancy Wood.

• Frontier Council in Las Vegas sales are down 1.3% from 612,792 to 604,524 boxes, says development director Emily Smith.

About two-thirds of the 133 Girl Scout councils nationwide sell cookies from January through March, Tompkins says. The rest sell in the fall. Most proceeds, she says, go to troops and councils to pay for trips, community projects and scholarships.

Love said some leaders are reporting longtime customers purchasing in smaller quantities.

“If a customer was purchasing six to eight boxes, now they’re purchasing three to four,” she says.

Sales aren’t down everywhere. Natalie Martin, director for marketing and communication at the Northeast Texas Council, near Dallas, says that council has seen a 2% increase in pre-sales this year. For the first time in 10 years, headquarters reduced each box size by about one ounce this year because of increased ingredient and transportation costs, says Denise Pesich, vice president of communications for Girl Scouts of the USA. The $3.50 average cost per box has been the same for the past five years, Tompkins says.

Tompkins adds the Girl Scouts haven’t dealt with salmonella-contaminated peanut products because neither of their baking companies, Little Brownie Bakers and ABC Interbake, buys from the peanut plants involved.

Pesich is optimistic booth sales will be strong.

“We’re hopeful right now. The country, when in situations like this, goes back to what’s nostalgic and gives them pleasure,” Pesich says.

Happy Weekend!

February 20, 2009

Adios Texas!  Hell-o Maryland!

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Ode to Ice Cream
by Vada Sultenfuss

I like ice cream a whole lot.
It tastes good when days are hot.
On a cone, or in a dish.
This would be my only wish.
Vanilla, chocolate, or Rocky Road,
Even with pie a la mode.
That’s all I got so far . . .

– My Girl

Everything is Better Dipped in Chocolate

February 20, 2009

My friend, KW, sent me a link to The Crispery, a small New York company dedicated to rice crispy treats. 

The treats The Crispery makes looks absolutely delicious, they are affordable, and since it’s a business that works entirely online, they are also accessible for all!

Here’s what the owner, Vicki Mate, has to say:

In 1995, The Crispery was founded by me…my name is Vicki Mate. Its creation was due to the fact that I was a mom who had a strong passion for marshmallow… yes, marshmallow. Even as a young girl my most favorite desserts were those classic marshmallow crispy treats. Remember the ones you made from the recipe on the back of the breakfast cereal box. Well… my love affair with marshmallow never really ended. It went on and on, through college, graduate school and eventually to the real world. So with my flair for business and a talent in cooking; it was inevitable my mission was to set out to create the most delectable marshmallow crispy bar ever.

My plan was to sell to all those people (both young, old and in between) who shared my same obsession for this extraordinary marshmallow dessert. Then, after about a year of serious experimentation, it was finally created. Simply the most delicious homemade marshmallow crispy bar ever; with a taste that was just unbelievably scrumptious!! Your first bite of our crispy bar took you back to the best part of childhood. The gooey sweetness of the marshmallow and the delectable crunch are perfect all on their own. But I took these crispy bars to another dimension and well beyond!!

I was finally so satisfied with the finished product that I decided it was time to sell and market The Crispery.

As I suspected, my very first sales call was a big success. The owner from a very popular local store loved them so much he purchased them on the spot! Within a very short amount of time, The Crispery was selling in many stores across the country. That’s basically how it all happened.

Now, due to an overwhelming demand from our customers all over the country… The Crispery is expanding from the wholesale world of business into the retail one via Internet. Offering a spectacular line of gift items. These gift items of crispy bars are all handmade, made fresh daily and are customized for all occasions. Please look for our new gift items such as our own line of creamy hot cocoa when ordering The Crispery’s crispy bars for family and friends. Make sure you also treat yourself to a box of your favorites…you won’t want to share. The Crispery ships though out the United States.

The Crispery has been continuously growing for over a decade now. I still love and enjoy this business as much (if not more) as I did when I first started it. Just remember…The Crispery is always evolving, creating and growing in so many amazing directions. We look forward to you continuing the journey with us being such loyal and dedicated customers that you have been all these years.

If I had to choose what rice crispy I would want, it would probably the drizzled mini-marshmallows or the chocolate dipped, or at $2.95 each, I could get them both!

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Just guess which one this is!

Valentine’s Day Re-Cap Finale!

February 19, 2009

We finished off a Valentine’s Day weekend at Woodberry Kitchen, which is outside of Hampden, Baltimore in an area called Clipper Mill.

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Clipper Mill itself appears to be a new up and coming area of Baltimore and it’s well on its way.  We hope to go back in the daytime and check it out because the building surrounding Woodberry Kitchen were very hip, deconstructed, yet modern.

Before heading out, I looked online to see if I could find any reviews of where we had chosen to eat, just to see what people were saying about it.  Surprisingly enough, there wasn’t much, which in retrospect, I think is such a disappointment. Woodberry Kitchen proved itself to be a place that should be shared with people.

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Woodberry’s main draw is that it focuses on using seasonal and organic food from local farms.  The food that you eat is only the best that you can get from the Chesapeake Bay region, farms that Woodberry is happy to share with you on their menu and on their website.  Capt. and I are very supportive of these intiatives and are happy to eat at places that help to support local agriculture.

The decor of Woodberry fit in with the whole feel of the Clipper Mill area.  I think Capt. described it perfectly when he said that Woodberry was one of the nicest casual places you could go.  There was lots of wood, exposed brick, dimmed lighting, and waitresses dressed kind of like milk maids.  When you go, you’ll completely understand.  It was cozy, romantic, and unpretentious.

We started with the melting cheeses, which were a slab of melted cheddar cheese and a slab of goat cheese served with bread and crackers.  There wasn’t anything quite impressive about this appetizer and we wish that we had gotten a little more creative in our choice, but it was tasty nonetheless.

For our entree, Capt. order a grilled rockfish that was served with a leek sauce and turnips.  I chose a cider-brined pork loin served with a buckwheat crepe, cooked apples, and cabbage, which on the plate appeared as a apple and cabbage turnover.

We ended up trading dishes because Capt. realized that he doesn’t care for stronger tasting fish.  After trading, we both enjoyed and savored every bite.  The food had a fresh and strong flavor that popped with every bite.  Everything worked perfectly together and there was no weak point to either meal.

 The crepe with the cabbage and apples was one of the highlights.  It was definitely something that I would love to be able re-create but know that it wouldn’t taste nearly as good.

We saved room for dessert.  Capt. ordered a dark chocolate souffle-like tart that was served with orange ice cream and I ordered a creme brulee with cranberries.  Let me just say that the chocolate dessert made up for the disappointing brownie we had had the night before.  It was spectacular and he was happy.  I personally love creme brulee and enjoyed the pop of flavor that came with each fresh cranberry that I bit into.

We walked away agreeing that Woodberry offered one of the best meals we’ve had out in a very long time.  We plan on going back in the summertime when they offer outdoor seating and most likely a completely different menu.

Here are the farms that Woodberry Kitchen has a partnership with:

Our Growers include One Straw Farm, Reid’s Orchard, Black Rock Orchard, Trickling Springs Creamery, Springfield Farm, Tuscarora Organic Growers, Woolsey Farm, Richfield Farm, McCarthy Farm, Roseda Farm, Truck Patch Farm, Martin Farm, Gunpowder Trading Co., Fig Leaf Farm, and Fountain Farm.

Fresh seafood is from Rappahannock River Oysters, Marvesta Shrimp Farm, Walton Seafood, Prime Seafood and Gaylord Clark at Two Oceans Seafood.