Thursday, July 30, 2009

Peaches and Cherries and Corn, Oh My!

Well, it's that time of year. My husband brought home the first Jersey peaches of the year from the farmer's market. Although I haven't eaten one yet, it's here on my desk, being all beautiful and aromatic. I did just plow through about a half a pound of cherries, having the purple fingers and tongue to prove it. Peaches and cherries are my favorite fruits, and I could probably eat them until something bad happened to my digestive system.

And the corn. Along with the peaches, my husband (did I mention how much I love this guy?) brought home four lovely ears of corn. Simply steamed and buttered, they were absolutely delectable. First of many, many, many ears of corn I will consume this summer. Ditto on the digestive system.

I should note that along with the corn, we had spare ribs slow cooked in the crock pot all day. Fall off the bone goodness! It tastes more like pulled pork, but (at least according to my rules) you can eat it with your fingers. Plus, my darling husband made a lovely salad with the last of this week's produce from our Community Supported Garden (CSG) at Genesis Farms. Pickup of new veggies is tomorrow! I'm really looking forward to it, now that we're in the full swing of summer. Maybe more peaches?!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

How About Those Travels?

I just realized today that while the title of this blog includes the phrase "World Travels", that I rarely discuss the traveling aspect. Maybe just in passing, or more often, not at all.

This year already, I've been to Ogden UT, Norfolk VA, Richmond VA, West Point NY, Hunt Valley MD, Shenandoah NP (VA), and Las Vegas NV. All but one of those trips was for business, and most of those were two day trips (so no sightseeing, fabulous outings, or even great dinners). But the trip to Utah was a little different.

It was a business trip during the week. But, starting on Friday, a bunch of my co-workers, other friends, and even my wonderful husband rented a house outside of Heber City (I think there were 16 of us altogether). The purpose: SKI TRIP! Here's the awful truth - up to this point, I had never skied anywhere but New Jersey and Pennsylvania. I know, it's horrible. And worse yet, my own brother lives in Colorado and I have never visited him during ski season (and in Colorado, that's like 6 months of the year). Okay, so I was a powder virgin. But, whilst in Utah, we skied at The Canyons and then at Park City Resort. Oh, boy. Those slopes were MADE for me. I was perfectly happy to get off the lift onto a blue trail and just ski down for as long as it took. Rest stops were disguised as photo ops. No huge challenges, just good snow, beautiful views, and the best part: no lift lines! Sadly, now I am spoiled. But it was great!

My next business trip may involve a side trip to an amusement park known around the world for its roller coasters...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

It Was Bound to Happen

Since I think of every meal as an opportunity to eat something great, there are plenty of chances to be disappointed! Depending on my expectations, the range of disappointment varies considerably. So, last night, wonderful husband and I decided to try a new "BBQ" place that had just opened up near our house. Texas Smoke BBQ, in Rockaway (Hibernia, really), features "Texas style" smoked meats. It is strictly takeout, nicely decorated, and obviously new. There was some confusion about what should be in each order, who was refilling the quickly depleting pulled pork, etc, but all very understandable for a new place. We only waited about 10 minutes, so it was pretty quick.

We ordered the meat platter, which includes pulled pork, brisket, chicken, and two ribs. It came with two sides, we chose baked beans and cole slaw. We also ordered a half rack of "St. Louis Cut" ribs, which came with one side. We chose potato salad for that one. Altogether, it was about $30, which was more than I expected, but not ridiculous. We also got to choose our own barbecue sauce from mild, spicy or hot. We got one of each. So, on to the important stuff - the food. The ribs were outstanding. Moist and smoky with a wonderful crusty exterior. I could have eaten a whole rack. The brisket was good, too. Not as moist, but very tasty and smoky. The chicken was okay, nothing really special. The pulled pork was not very good at all - it was greasy, and didn't have much flavor. This surprised me, because pork is pretty easy to do. The sauces were tasty. We agreed that the spicy was the best of the three - not too hot, with lots of flavor. What was really disappointing was the sides! Both the potato salad and the cole slaw were bland, colorless versions with nothing to recommend them. The beans were okay, but certainly didn't make up for the salads. And the servings were pretty small, I think she said 4 ounces each. I realize this is a BBQ joint, not a salad bar, but how hard is it to make (or buy) some decent cole slaw?

They have other stuff on the menu, like sandwiches, chili, and cornbread. If we go back (if they can stay in business), I would definitely get the ribs again, and I would like to try the chili. But I won't be in a big hurry to go back. There are lots of other places to try first! And after being spoiled by the BBQ down in Virginia, I know there's better BBQ out there! But, in case you want to try it, here's the info: Texas Smoke BBQ, 435 Green Pond Road, Rockaway NJ. Their website is, where you can find their menu and all the awards they've won. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Time Flies?

Listen, I know I've been neglecting my blog, but I had no idea that four months had passed since my last post. When a blogger doesn't post for four months, do people think "wow, she must be busy", or "I wonder if she disappeared off the face of the earth", or do they just think "loser". I'm afraid I know the answer to that!

So, to get back on track, here's a brief flashback of the last four months. I made some more bread, some of which I donated to my in-laws as a house warming gift. That was a bit nerve-wracking, because my father-in-law is only the world's most prolific and talented bread maker ever, at least until he retired from bread-making. And, although the oatmeal bread was a bit flat (baker's error), both that and the honey-wheat tasted great. Phew. As a bonus, since they were moving into a much smaller place, they graciously gave me all their bread making ingredients (literally pounds and pounds of flours, mixes, grains, etc.), but also a bread machine! I was leery of the bread machine, but finally broke it out just the other day. My conclusion: fast, EASY, and quite good. It was a double-cheat, because not only did I use the bread machine, I used a packaged mix too. I don't care - I was just in it for the bread!

My wonderful husband and I went on vacation in April to Shenandoah National Park, where we did lots of hiking, and lots of eating. Some of the food was quite good (barbeque), and some of it was simply amazing. That would be the Tapas restauarant "Mas" in Charlottesville. We were blown away. It's a good thing, because we waited over an hour for a table. Apparently, there was some Slow Food oyster tasting event going on, and people were really taking their time (maybe becasue it was slow food!). The restaurant did ply us with plenty of free oysters, so that made the wait bearable. It was a west coast oyster vs. east coast oyster battle, and honestly, I thought the west coast oysters were better. I would have eaten a dozen of either variety, but I just preferred the ones from the west coast. If you're ever in Charlottesville, don't miss this place. Everything we ate was delicious. The bacon-wrapped dates were to-die-for. The shrimp was fantastic. The duck was sublime. I think you get the idea! We also ate at a Thai restaurant in Harrisonburg that was very good. The waitress made fun of us because we didn't leave a scrap of food on the plates. Almost everyone else had leftovers. Hey - we had been working hard all week, hiking all over Shenandoah - we were hungry!

On the homefront, we haven't been cooking much. Any excuse will do. Lots of veggie burgers, hot dogs, Chinese food (delivered), and the occasional homemade pizza. We did join a new Community Supported Garden, and got our first load of veggies last week, so maybe that will compel us to be a little more creative. We did manage to pull off a home cooked meal for Mother's Day, sort of a Mexican fiesta - flank steak, quesadillas, pulled pork, rice, and a corn and black bean salad. And a big thanks to my Mom for bringing those fabulous shrimp, and dessert. My mom makes it look so easy!

Last week, I was in Las Vegas for a business conference, and am a little disappointed to report that the food was nothing to crow about. One night, we went to "The Buffet" at The Bellagio, and they had all my favorites - King crab legs, Snow crab legs, sushi, shrimp, etc., but the quality was only so-so. I guess it's all about the quantity (and I was okay with that!). I wanted to try Bobby Flay's restaurant, but didn't get there. We did attend a reception one night that was catered by a Mexican restaurant in Henderson, and that was fantastic. Some of the best guacamole I've ever had!

I think that about catches me up - I'll try to be better about posting, but no promises. Life has a way of taking over, it seems.

Friday, January 30, 2009

More bread, cheese... no whine!

Since Wednesday was an awful, icy, messy day, I decided to take the day off of work and be a domestic goddess. And goddess I was - but I'm getting ahead of myself.

First up was a new batch of bread to bolster my confidence. Even as a newbie, I've had amazing luck with the bread, and today was no exeption. I tried an oatmeal bread from the Quaker Oats web site: First, you make a wet mixture.

Then, you mix in enough flour to make a stiff dough.

Rise, punch down, rest, form into loaves, rise, and finally, bake those bad boys. They came out looking pretty fine.

And they taste pretty good, too. Phew! Then I was on to the cheese. If you read through my previous post, you can see I had three theories on why the cheese experiment failed the first time. Now I have a fourth. At the end, after you've heated and curdled and mixed, you separate the curds from the whey and put it in the microwave. The directions say to nuke it for about a minute, but if you read further, it says "the cheese must be 135 degrees to stretch". Aha! Turns out, we are so slow taking the curds out of the whey, the cheese cools down significantly. Heating for 1 minute doesn't get the cheese to the proper temperature. Using a thermometer this time, I nuked it until it was hot. And lo and behold, I had cheese! I didn't take any pictures, because I was kind of anxious and excited, but take my word for it. I made two 8 oz balls of creamy white mozzarella cheese, which taste quite heavenly. I think that some homemade pesto (from the freezer), homemade French bread (again, freezer), and a nice lookin' tomato (I know, it's not local) will make a beautiful little meal. I can't wait! (maybe this time I'll remember to take a picture).

To make up for it, here's a picture of my buddy "Patches" enjoying a snack I put out for him.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Bread, Cheese... and whine?

Exciting news here in the house of the newlyweds! We took our Bed, Bath & Beyond gift certificates (wedding gifts), and our 20% off coupon, and we bought the Kitchen Aid Professional 6oo Stand Mixer! Whoohoo! 575 watts of mixing power! The six quart mixing bowl holds enough for 13 dozen cookies, 8 pounds of mashed potatoes, or 8 loaves of bread! Because, after all, it's all about the bread. After one success making honey-wheat bread (by hand), I decided that a mixer would really facilitate the mixing and kneading process. As a bonus, the mixer came with a recipe book with various types of bread (amongst other things).

So, while hubby was brewing up a batch of beef stew in the crock pot (also a wedding gift), I mixed up the ingredients for French Bread. It was pretty exciting, if I do say so myself. As instructed, I added all the ingredients in the pre-warmed mixing bowl, except the last 2 cups of flour. I then added the flour 1/2 cup at a time until the dough came together. What a thing of beauty is a big hunk of bread dough spinning merrily on a dough hook! (it sounds like I've been drinking). Placed into a greased bowl and allowed to languish in a warm oven for an hour, it rose up beautifully, was punched down, split in two, and rolled into lovely loaves. These loaves were then placed on a greased pan, covered with a damp towel, and allowed to rise again for another hour. There was a slight glitch during this process, where I checked on the loaves, and noticed that the towel was sticking. I gently removed the towel, and replaced it with wax paper. BAD IDEA!!! As I found out a little while later, rising dough sticks to wax paper like nobody's business. By the time I got that paper off, my loaves were looking mighty defeated. But, undaunted, I baked them anyway - good thing. They came out looking beautiful (maybe a little misshapen), chewy, and delicious. Just imagine if I hadn't used the wax paper... next time.

Then on to our next (mis)adventure. Cheese making! This has been in the works for a while, particularly since Christmas, when the hubby bought me the beginner cheese making kit from I had purchased a gallon of organic milk from the food co-op where we get our veggies, and the kit included the citric acid, rennet, and the instructions that we would need to make a pound of mozzarella. Only, it didn't quite happen. I'm not going to do the blow-by-blow here, but suffice to say that while we did achieve separation of curds and whey, it was fleeting at best. What we ended up with was a mooshy mess that was not too appetizing, definitely not mozzarella, and in the garbage. It was sad. And gross.
I'm not totally deterred yet, and I will try to figure out what went wrong. It was one of 3 things: 1) the milk was actually ultra-pasteurized, which does not make good cheese. This is probably unlikely, as it was not labeled as ultra-pasteurized, 2) We didn't add enough rennet to set the curd up properly - we'll add more next time, or 3) we stirred too vigorously, inadvertently breaking up the curd. This is definitely more art than science, folks. The only really sucky thing is that a gallon of milk is not cheap. I feel like asking for my money back! I guess that where the "whine" comes in. We were bummed, but at least we had a nice dinner of homemade beef stew, and fresh crusty bread. Plus those brownies we have stashed in the freezer...

Friday, January 16, 2009


That's me, I'm a slacker. I can't believe it's been a month since my last post. A very busy month, mind you, but that's no excuse.

Anyway, our latest obsession around here is pizza. Homemade pizza, that is. Last spring, while on vacation with my 19 of my husband's extended family members, his sister made pizza. Obviously, it was delicious (or else why would I be writing about it?), but the fun part was the "customization". Each and every person got to decide what they wanted on their quandrant (just a side note, this is easier if you're using a rectangular or square pan). Sauce, cheese, toppings, it was all chosen, applied, and popped into the oven. Fifteen minutes later, voila! Your very own pizza. Luckily, after only 3 months of requests (hey, we're all busy people), we recieved the recipe by e-mail. It's shockingly quick and simple. Ready?

Pizza Dough: (this makes 2 pizzas - we usually cut this in half)

Mix in large bowl:
3 cups flour (we usually mix wheat and all-purpose flour)
1 Tbs salt
1 pkg dry yeast (approx 4 tsp)
2 1/2 cups warm water (note: I mix the yeast into the warm water to dissolve it)
Add 4 cups flour
(again, any combination of flour)
Mix and knead until smooth
(If you have time, you can let this sit for 15-30 min. If you don't have time, go to next step)
Divide in two (if you didn't halve the recipe)
Roll out into shape of pan
Cover with toppings (for planning purposes, we use 8 oz. shredded cheese for each pizza, and about 8 oz of sauce, just eyeball it)
Bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 min

I probably don't need to give you suggestions for toppings, but I will anyway. We've made all-veggie; sausage and onion; sausage, mushroom, onion; pepperoni; and at our peak of creativity, we made a buffalo chicken pizza. That one had buffalo sauce instead of marinara sauce, about 2 oz of blue cheese (in addition to mozzarella), buffalo chicken strips (found in your grocer's freezer), and onions (okay, we ALWAYS put onions on our pizza - sometimes raw and sometimes cooked).

The pizzas seem to get better and better, as we get a feel for how the dough should look, how much of each topping to use, what spices to add, etc. My mom got us a pizza stone for Christmas, but unfortunately, that didn't seem to work too well. We had made the pizza on a peel (that's what those big flat shovel-looking things are called that they use in pizza places), and pre-heated the stone in the oven. But when it came time to put the pizza on the stone, it stuck to the peel. Fifteen minutes later, we finally got it off, making a huge mess in the process, and wrecking the beauty of the veggie pizza. Then, after it was done baking, it stuck to the pizza stone. I'm sure all of this comes down to operator error, but when we have a non-stick pizza pan that makes a beautiful crispy crust... let's just say we'll "stick" to that!

Hopefully, you'll enjoy the pizza as much as we do. It's easy to keep the ingredients on hand, and is actually fun to make (kneading dough is good for stress release!). I think I may try a white pie one of these days...