Tuesday, February 25, 2014

New York, New York...it's a wonderful town!

There's nothing like a girls trip to recharge you. As mothers, and wives it feels so liberating to go off with good friends and let go of day to day responsibilities. I love traveling with my family more than anything but there is a unique joy in traveling with friends in that I don't feel as responsible for their safety or happiness on a moment by moment basis (yes, I am a worrier by nature).

I went on such a trip this weekend to NYC and we had a blast! We didn't see a lot of the usual tourist sites ...did an excellent food tour of Chelsea Market, enjoyed great wine and bar food at Ardesia in Hell's Kitchen, walked the Brooklyn Bridge, wandered and snacked our way through a Saturday farmers market in Brooklyn, explored Prospect Slope, had a perfect pre-theater meal at Pescadeux, saw the off Broadway show Buyers and Cellar, sang our lungs out and enjoyed the people watching at Marie's Crisis piano bar in the West Village and had breakfast at Sarabeth's on Central Park before we left on Sunday! There were so many laughs along the way.

We've traveled together as a group before but it's been many years since our last trip(we all became neighbors over twenty years ago). But this time we injected new blood adding another of our neighborhood group and the daughter, Mad, of one of us who now works in New York and lives in Brooklyn. It was a perfect group and we loved having Mad with us and she seemed to enjoy hanging with us and seeing our "non-Mom" sides.

It was a beautiful weekend, weather-wise, and with the lousy winter we've been having, it was a joy to walk in the temperate sunshine! The bright blue sky was the perfect backdrop for the views from the Brooklyn Bridge, with the new World Trade Tower piercing the skyline at the base and a view of Lady Liberty off one side.

The food tour was from www.foodsofny.com and was the Chelsea Market/Meatpacking District tour. Our guide was Curt Upton. It was a wonderful experience. Curt was funny, engaging and a true foodie, giving out tips, and recipes along the way. He is starting a website shortly and has a bunch of YouTube recipe videos. The tour started in the Chelsea Market, which was originally the Nabisco factory where Oreos were invented. They moved out in the 50's and the site went to the dogs for years. Then in the late 90's it was bought and refurbished as a great market with a ton of food purveyors filling it's ground floor. The upper floors are the headquarters and studios of the Food Network which also uses the market to film from.

Our tour went from 2 to 5pm and we ate our way through the afternoon....great local cheese from Lucy's Whey, plus an inventive and yummy grilled cheese, doughnuts, sea-salt caramels, artichoke crostada from Buon Italia, biscuit with jams from Sarabeth's test kitchen (which was where they filmed the scene of Meryl Streep baking in her "shop" for Steve Martin in "It's Complicated"), oxtail ragu on penne in the Meatpacking area and even more! Fortunately we figured we'd be fairly full and didn't make dinner plans that night, going to Ardesia, a wine bar, for light snacks and delicious food.

This is my second trip to NYC in 2014. Being from Philly, it's easy to hop a train and get there quickly. There is so much to explore and see. I'd love to be able to go up once a month or a quarter and keep exploring different aspects of the city. Time and budget being the limiting factors at the moment!

And as I mentioned in my Paris post, I love exploring the same place with different people. The variations of interest always puts a different spin on the trip, making each one a unique experience.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Organization plus Coconut Meringue Recipe!

The other day I wanted to make something that I had posted the recipe of in this blog and realized it would be a lot easier to find the recipes if I made an index. So that's what I did today...if you look at the top bar of the blog you'll see a "Recipe Index" page, where I've organized the recipes under broad categories (Happy Hour, Dinner Time and Desserts) and within each category they are listed by the LIOT method (Last In On Top). If you click on the recipe name you'll be taken directly to the blog post that contains the recipe.

We entertained this weekend and I made a wonderful Beef Bourguinon, which I started on Thursday when we were snowed in. For dessert I made a burnt caramel pudding with Coconut Meringues on the side since I had leftover egg whites from the pudding. The meringue recipe is another one of my mom's. It is so easy. This time in addition to the plain coconut meringues, I also dipped some in semisweet chocolate that I had melted. My husband said it tasted like a airy mounds bar! So here you go:

Kate's Coconut Meringues:

  • 2 egg whites
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2/3 cup sugar (extra fine if you have it)
  • 1 1/3 cup sweetener shredded coconut
  1. Beat the egg whites, salt & vanilla till soft peaks form.
  2. Gradually add the sugar, beating till stiff.
  3. Fold in the coconut.
  4. Drop by rounded teaspoon onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or silpat.
  5. Bake in 325 degree oven for 20 minutes. Then turn the oven off and leave the cookies in the oven for at least one hour.
  6. Store in a tightly sealed container.
If you want to dip in chocolate, melt half a bag of semisweet bits in a small bowl and gently dip the cooled meringues in the chocolate. Let the covered meringues cool on the counter until the chocolate is hard (you can put them in the frig for a few minutes if you want to speed it up).

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Ice Storm Cometh...

I woke up Wednesday morning to the sound of a loud bang…something hitting our side of the house or the roof. It was 7:15 and we still had power. Dave decided that it would be a good idea to turn up the heat while we had it, as we normally keep our house quite cool.
Looking through the windows into the yard, there were lots of tree limbs down all and in the neighbors as well. As I let Jasmine, our dog out, I could hear the cracking of more limbs breaking. I looked to the side where the noise that woke me up emanated and saw that a huge branch had come down, breaking just near our electric and gas meters and a portion now piercing down through our 10 foot tall holly bush. 
The Japanese maple and every other tree were covered with a quarter inch of ice.
Before I went to sleep, I made sure my phone and computer were fully charged. We had a nice hot breakfast of oatmeal and I took some frozen homemade soup out of the freezer, figuring that I could heat it on the gas stove if we lost power.
My yoga class was cancelled…no power. My mother-in-law called to let us know…no power, she was heading to a friend with a generator. Then at 9am, as I was working on my Paris page of the blog…no power! The house went silent. It is amazing how much ambient noise is in the house that we are unaware of from the electrical devices, until it's gone. The house is silent.
 I looked into the back yard and saw another tree casualty. This time a blue spruce whose top was bending a bit like a Dr. Suess tree a few minutes before, has toppled over. This was one of my favorites. My dad always loved blue spruces and this always reminded me of him…both gone now.
At 10, we decided we should take showers while the water was still hot…a quick shared shower…fun! As I looked at the top of the holly tree from our bedroom window I spied a much larger branch from the same tree that must have fallen within the last hour and is blocking our neighbor's driveway.
What to do when there is no power?
  • Read a book…read half of Fathers & Sons, a Russian classic that Bobby read in high school.
  • Worked on Paint shop on my charged computer, playing with photos from our vacation.
  • Clean out some cabinets and my desk…while hubby made a major dent in the office!
  • Polished some silver…Billy's baby mug and other odds and ends
  • Made notes for the blog and took photos of yard 
  • Pulled stuff out of frig and made a frig out of snow on the deck in an attempt to save some of the food for breakfast
  • Pushed snow off the roof that was leaking through the skylight into kitchen.

I kept checking the trees. In the morning the branches of the white pines looked like a folded umbrella, weighed down by the old snow and the ice. By late afternoon, as the ice feel off, the branches resurrected and lifted up.
We had an early supper while there was still light, thank god for a gas stove…did the dishes in the dusky dark.
We played a backgammon marathon of 11 games by oil lamp light, drinking hot tea to warm our hands.
Checking email on the phone by oil lamp light!
As I took Jasmine out before bed, the cracking of branches had died down to be replaced by the clicking of ice falling from the trees. Jasmine was pelted by ice as she tried to do her business. For once she was quick about it!.
We snuggled under 3 quilts, wearing long johns, turtlenecks and fleece, reading our kindles in bed and going to sleep early! Temperature in the bedroom at 9:30pm was 58 degrees.
I awoke in the night to the a random beeping in the house. As I tried to get back to sleep listening to the white noise of the neighbor's generator, Jasmine started barking...were animals getting into the food on the deck? 
Thursday morning..52 degrees in the bedroom. The power is still off and Peco's estimate for being restored is Sunday at 11pm!

Resolution! After 32 hours without power, it finally came back at 5:30 Thursday evening. We spent the day in West Chester borough where there was power. Thanks to Roots Cafe, Dia Doce and Teca for their power, wifi and hospitality!

Monday, February 3, 2014

The weather outside is frightful...

Another winter wonderland...it's 11:30am and we already have over five inches of snow! It's the really heavy stuff, that looks beautiful but destroys the limbs of the trees. Hopefully the power lines will stay in tact. No more waxing poetic about the beauty of the snow...enough already! Something is out of kilter; California is running out of drinking water from the drought and we've had record amounts of snow in Philadelphia. Rather than going into a rant about climate change, as I try to stay away from divisive issues (like science!), I'll offer up a recipe I invented this past week.
I am an inveterate leftover hoarder. I hate to throw away food. I especially get a sense of satisfaction when I can repurpose food and turn it into something new. I made some baked apples from an Eating Well recipe,  http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/baked_apples_with_dried_fruits_walnuts.html and had leftover filling (the dried fruits & walnuts). It's been in my fridge for several weeks and I kept thinking I should do something with it. I also still have some apples from the growers market in the basement frig, so viola, I've created "Sauteed Apples"! It's a really simple, relatively light recipe, that uses stuff that is probably in your house. Just the thing to pull together in a snow storm and eat in front of the fire.

Sauteed Apples, Serves 2

1T butter
1.5 med apples sliced thin
1 oz Apple Jack (or cider, or Calvados, or brandy)
Squirt of honey, 1 T or so
Dried fruit & walnut mix from Eating Well recipe "baked apples with Dried Fruit & Walnuts", see above link, or just chop up some walnuts, mix with cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon rind and some chopped dried cranberries.

  1. Melt butter in 10" non stick skillet over medium heat.
  2. Added thinly sliced apples and sauté in the butter until tender and lightly browned
  3. Add Apple Jack and cook, stirring constantly as it is absorbed into apples. Turn heat down to low.
  4. Add squirt of honey to taste plus shakes of cinnamon. 
  5. Add a few tablespoons of the dried fruit & walnut topping to the apples in the pan and stir so that the crumbs are well distributed.
  6. Serve in small bowls....add vanilla ice cream if desired though not needed; it's delicious without. Would also be good mixed with greek yogurt.