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31 October 2011

no tricks, just treats!

solving crime on crutches
Happy Halloween kiddos!  I hope you all had a fabulously spooky day filled with candy and creepiness.  Today, while dressed as Nancy Drew and the (Fall Down the) Hidden Staircase, I bribed the kids in the library to be quiet with trick or treat candy.  It didn't work but it was ok because I they all seemed so psyched for the holiday that a little excess noise wasn't too big an issue.  In a bit, I'll be doing a quick costume change and whipping up a batch of icing to top off some spooktacular cupcakes I baked for tonight's party.  Imagine an itty bitty jack-o-lantern filled with chocolate, coated in a spicy, creamy icing and topped off with a sweet and chewy candy - that's what my double chocolate pumpkin cupcakes are!  I'll have them to share at the Halloween festivities taking place at K&M tonight so put on your best costume and come out to enjoy some great bands, good music, strong brews and tasty treats with me and the gang!

double chocolate toil & trouble cupcakes
ingredients
1 can pumpkin (15 oz)
1 c heavy cream
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 c cake flour (not self rising)
2/3 c cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick (1/2 c) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 c packed brown sugar
3 eggs
1 c mini chocolate chips
directions
what's scary is having to ice all these suckers...
 thanks for the help isabelle!
1. Preheat the oven to 350 and line cupcake tins, a lot of cupcake tins (this makes about 50 mini cupcakes!)  In the bowl of your mixer, blend butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin, cream and vinegar.  In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda & powder, and salt.  Alternately add the dry and wet mixes to the butter and sugar on a medium speed.  Fold in mini chocolate chips.
3. Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 the way with batter.  Bake for 10-15 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.  Ice with pumpkin spice cream cheese icing (recipe follows) and garnish with candy corn.


pumpkin spice cream cheese icing
ingredients
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp cloves
1 1/2 c confectioners sugar
16 oz cream cheese
orange food coloring
directions
1. Blend all ingredients in the bowl of your mixer on a medium speed until light and fluffy.  Chill until ready to use.


Kind of makes you want to come out and party with me just so you can indulge in the treats, doesn't it? Well, if you're lucky, you might just get your very own batch of deliriously delicious baked goodies from me... if you enter the costume contest!  Have you submitted your best Halloween look yet?  I can't wait to see what y'all come up with!  Happy Spooky Spooky Day!

30 October 2011

muenster mash & the happy 100 giveaway!

Hey there kiddies!  Are y'all ready for my big huge ginormous news?  Well, chill out because I may have misled you a bit.  It's really only big news if you can't count or if you didn't expect me to follow through with this whole blogging bit.  Nevertheless, without any further ado, here it is - this is my 100th blog post!!!  Ok, so I know this may not be as exciting to you as it is to me and sensing that, I've decided to share the awesomeness of my accomplishment by hosting a giveaway!  See, now you're excited.  But this isn't just any old giveaway, no siree.  It's a Halloween costume contest!  So here's what you need to do to enter -

First, join my blog!  On the right hand side of the blog is a little button that says "Join This Site."  Click it and become a fan club member - you don't need to be a fellow blogger, you just need an email address and it's 2011, so you better have one of those.  I want to see your lovely, smiling faces every time I head to delirious kitchen!  Next, submit a picture of you in your super amazing Halloween costume along with a brief description (in case I can't figure it out myself) to me [jillian.matos@gmail.com] with the subject line "dk halloween giveaway".  Make sure it's this year's costume and not one from when you were little... no sucking up to my love of cutiepies playing dress up!  Also, make sure it's not too scandalous since the top three will be featured on an upcoming post.  Plus, my mom reads this and she doesn't need to see you all hussied up as a sexy watermelon or something like that.  The winner will receive a copy of my Super Spooky Halloween Megamix perfect for next year's Halloween bash and a batch of cookies with a handwritten recipe!  That's right, no matter where you live, I will ship you some seasonal cookies straight from the delirious kitchen (unless you live kinda near me; then I'll just drop them off to you because I'm poor and shipping cookies is probably pricy.)  Second and Third place will also receive prizes, they just won't be as awesome as the grand prize!  All submissions must be received by November 5th and the winners will be announced on Sunday, November 6th.

How will the winners be chosen, you ask.  I will be the sole judge of your costume awesomeness.  And trust me, I know a thing or two about putting together an amazeballs trick or treat ensemble.  Want proof?  Check out this killer figure skating costume I whipped up in 20 minutes last year -

will you be the next gold metal champion?

I hope that you're all as excited about this as I am.  What better announcement than a super awesome giveaway in honor of my 100th blog entry?!  (Y'all better not have thought I was announcing anything else today... if so, bite your tongue!)  Alright, enough of that.  Let's head back to the kitchen -

Last night, me and my gal pals battled the elements and headed to an epic Halloween shindig!  Because of how amazeballs this party was, I didn't get out of bed until 2:30 this afternoon.  Knowing full well that after hobbling around running errands, finishing up my costume, and making treats for tomorrow, I would not be in the mood to whip up anything fancy for supper.  So I decided to make what any reasonable lazy gal would make in this situation - a casserole!  I started with a trip to the Polish deli to pick up some smoked kielbasa.  I live in Greenpoint, a primarily Polish neighborhood so I'm privy to a lot of really great and inexpensive Polish cuisine.  Unfortunately, I don't speak a lick of Polish and the gals behind the counter at my favorite spot don't speak much English.  I think I got smoked kielbasa, but I really can't promise you that that's what I used... all I know is that it's smoked and was made of pork.  For my veggies I wanted to use kale but couldn't find any at the produce shop.  Instead I picked up some collared greens and what I believe are turnip greens though, to tell you the truth, I have no idea what they really are.  It's ok because I still plan on cooking them up somehow this week.  Yay for experimental mystery meals!  Tossed with potatoes and covered with cheese, this was a quick and hearty meal that's perfect for a chilly, lazy evening.  Plus, with all those mystery ingredients it was appropriately Halloweenie!


muenster mash
ingredients
1 1/2 - 2 bunches collard greens, rinsed & chopped
1/2 medium onion, chopped
4 medium potatoes, diced
3 c smoked kielbasa, sliced
2 1/2 c grated muenster cheese
dash of mustard powder
2 tsp grainy mustard
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp minced garlic
salt & pepper to taste
4 c chicken broth
directions
1. Bring chicken broth plus 2 c water to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Cook potatoes in boiling water until tender, but not completely cooked.  Drain and set aside, reserving 1/2 c liquid.
2. Warm sliced kielbasa in a large skillet on a medium flame.  Add garlic, onion, mustard and greens continuing to cook until greens are tender.  Toss kielbasa and greens mix with the potatoes, liquid and spices in a large oven-safe dish.
3. Top with grated muenster cheese and bake at 350 until the cheese is melted, gooey and slightly browned.  Top with extra grated cheese and dig in.


I can't wait to see all of your costume contest entries!  If you're in Brooklyn tomorrow night, join me and my besties for an evening of mischievous hijinks and tasty treats at K&M in Williamsburg.  Happy Halloween dear readers... and Happy 100th Posting to me!

29 October 2011

breakfast in the pumpkin patch

Halloweekend has officially begun!  While costumes galore and spiked ciders took over the borough last night, this morning Brooklyn was met with a blustery cold front of snow, ice and thunderstorms.  It's like October decided to dress up as January for Halloween.  Why tread through all that mess for brunch when you can make a completely satisfactory breakfast at home?  Especially when there's so much to do before all the costume parties tonight and all the trick or treat prep that needs to get done.

So, I decided to whip up a little wake-me-up snackypoo for me and the roomie to keep us warm and fill our bellies so we'd be ready to play some crazy dress up tonight!  A quick glance over the cupboard revealed a lonely can of pumpkin leftover from last Thanksgiving and a peek in the fridge reminded me that there were still a few glasses of cider from last week's ciderfest.  Obviously that meant I had to make some warm spiced cider and pumpkin pancakes while listening to my amazing Halloween megamix!  Obviously.  I love a good pancake for breakfast so long as they don't just sit like stones in the bottom of my belly.  These spicy pancakes have a nice lightness thanks to the vinegar and using apple cider vinegar enhances the seasonal flavor.

pumpkin pancakes
mr. punkinhead approved
ingredients
1 1/2 c milk
1 egg
1 c canned pumpkin
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 c flour
3 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
pinch of salt
directions
1. Mix milk, egg, pumpkin, oil & vinegar until combined in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl combine all dry ingredients.  Mix wet and dry ingredients together just to blend and get rid of clumps.  
2. Pour batter onto a greased and heated skillet.  Cook completely on both sides.  Serve with maple syrup or honey.


Lovely readers, I know you wish you could have joined me for this homemade brunch and trust me when I say that I wish my kitchen were big enough to hold you all.  But you can recreate this breakfast experience on your own, megamix and all if you stay tuned!  Make sure you're following the blog - you don't need to be a fellow blogger to do this, you just need an email address.  Click on the little sidebar and join in the club!  You're all winners in my heart, but one of might get to be a real life winner so keep reading.  You better have an awesome costume!!!

28 October 2011

like the icing on a cake

A cake is not a cake without icing... well, I suppose there are exceptions but they're never as delicious as their fluffy, buttery, whipped creamy covered counterparts.  And like an icing-less cake, I sometimes feel a little less-than when I leave the house without putting my face on and spritzing my 'do.  By this I really just mean a swipe of lipstick, a pinch of the cheeks, a swoop of mascara and a pat of concealer under my eyes (thanks to my dad's side of the family for the perpetual dark circles down there!)  I've never been to great at creating dramatic eyes or a dewy glow so I usually just keep it natural.  As for the coif, it's a giant mess of almost unmanagable curls that I am forever trying to get bigger and more dramatic (don't forget, I'm from NJ.)  And I realized a little bit ago that I really haven't changed y hair at all since it went curly in 8th grade!  Sure I've mixed up the color a bit (blue highlights, faker than fake red, a nightmarish attempt at blonde) but the style has remained the same.  Maybe because of that I've been feeling a little blah about my look lately, not feeling glam enough.

So when my roomie invited me to join her and some of her gal pals for a Mary Kay facial party I said heck yeah!  A little pampering with the ladies was exactly what I needed.  And then when I found a gal who needed a hair model for a cut and color I again said heck to the yes.  That is an ordinary Thursday turned into Lady J's day of fancy!  A subtle dye job and a drastic cut and blowout kicked off my day and out me in a giddy and girly mood despite the crummy weather and frizz-inducing drizzle.  Later that night, amongst miracle creams and glam tools, I indulged in a few glasses of sparkly pink wine with a few equally bubbly and amazing ladies for the girliest evening I've had in a long time.  It was wonderful so, thank you ladies for a much needed makeover!

I went from this - 


to this - 

feelin foxy on my one leg.

* P.S. Keep an eye on the blog because I'm making a pretty big announcement tomorrow... I hope your Halloween costumes are ready, hint hint!

26 October 2011

in a dark, spooky forest

On a dark and stormy night, deep in the forest with only the light of the moon to guide me I found... the perfect cupcake.  I've been racking my brain the past few days trying to come up with some spooky, scary Halloween recipes that don't necessarily use pumpkin (but a few do so prepare yourself!)  I've also been meaning to drop off a batch of goodies to my in-patient PTs since I can kinda sorta walk these days.  And one of my favorite cakes in the world is a Black Forest cake and believe it or not, I've never made one.  With all these thoughts running through my brain, I decided that my best bet would be to combine them all into Deep in the Dark Black Forest Cupcakes (made especially for my super amazing physical therapists!)

lady gaga as the evil witch in hansel & gretel (from Vogue Italia)
I know I know, the Black Forest is really just a regular old forest in Germany but it sure sounds creepy; like the kind of woodland that Hansel and Gretel got lost in, where you might stumble across the home of a wicked witch, or the scene of a camping trip gone horrible wrong!  Spoooooky.  And there really isn't anything scary or intimidating about the recipe - it's just a basic chocolate cake with a splash of cherry brandy, cherry filling and a whipped cream icing.  I guess it's really just the namesake that makes it sound Halloween appropriate but don't worry, I found a way to make it even scarier.  How?  By using boxed cake mix and canned cherry pie filling, dun dun dun!  Yes, I totally cheated but I was exhausted and happened to have a box of chocolate cake mix on the shelf from that time it was super on sale at the Key Foods.  Besides, it was Devil's Food Cake mix so... don't give me a hard time, I already feel like a horrible cheater!  Not that it really matters because I totally added my own little spin on the usual directions by using a cherry moonshine (think West Virginia Werewolves to keep up the creepiness) instead of the usual Black Forest required cherry brandy making it a devilish black forest.  And my filling was a combination of cherry pie filling and scary dark black cherry preserves.  I guess I could have dyed the whipped cream an eerie blood red with some food coloring but I just thought of that now so it's a wash; next time.  They were delicious and brought smiles to my PTs so it was all worth it... until everyone realizes that they were really made with POISON! [insert evil cacklehere]  Just kidding!  Happy Halloweek everyone!

deep in the dark black forest cupcakes
ingredients
1 box devil's food cake mix
3 eggs
1 c water
1/3 c cherry moonshine (or brandy if you can't get your hands on the moonshine)
1/2 c vegetable oil
1 can cherry pie filling
1/4 c black cherry preseves
2 c heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp confectioners sugar
splash of vanilla
directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350 and line 2 cupcake tins.  In a large bowl, prepare cake mix according to directions (mix, eggs, oil & water) subbing out 1/3 c water for the cherry moonshine.  Fill the cupcake liners a little more than halfway with the batter.  Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Remove to a cooling rack and let cool completely.
2. When the cupcakes have cooled, core them by cutting out a small hole nearly to the bottom but not all the way down.  Make sure to keep the tops of the cake pieces you've cut out, but you can snack on the insides!  In a small bowl mix together the cherry pie filling and the cherry preserves.  Scoop about a teaspoon amount of the cherry mix into each hollowed out cupcake trying to make it more cherries than goopy stuff (you know, the gelatinous stuff around the cherries?) and cap it off with the reserved cupcake tops.
3. In the bowl of your mixer, whip together the heavy cream, confectioners sugar and vanilla (and maybe food coloring if you want) until you have fluffy and delicious whipped cream.  Generously ice the cupcakes with the whipped cream. Garnish with some dark chocolate shavings and a cherry!

25 October 2011

revuesday - Il Passatore

I'm not quite sure how it's possible that I haven't yet reviewed this spot being that it is one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants... actually, I know the exact reason - because it's been far too long since I've been there!  When I first moved to Brooklyn, my neck of the woods was very limited in it's culinary offerings.  Other than a couple of local haunts (which I also need to revisit because they were pretty awesome,) I had to venture further north to get more diverse grub.  And so I would make the long and arduous journey north all the way to the Graham stop on the L train, across from the White Castle and around the corner from the gas station to Il Passatore.

Though the location may not be truly authentic or glamorous, the rustic and simple Italian cuisine is always amazing.  The menu is pretty standard consisting of handmade pastas in just enough sauce and fresh herbs, beautiful cuts of meat and fish, and simply lovely salads.  The specials are seasonal takes on traditional Italian fare and are highly recommended with a glass or bottle of wine and enjoyed in a cozy nook of the dim dining space or the romantically bucolic backyard, both of which can make you forget the corner of Bushwick you're actually sitting in.

i love beets!
Unfortunately for me, my most recent visit took place on a slightly chilly day preventing me from enjoying the back patio and it was with my mom, not some dreamy date (no offense Lizzie B.)  Not that it mattered because we were so pleased with the plates we were served that nothing could have ruined this perfect meal.  Me and my mom must have pondered over the menu for nearly 30 minutes before finally deciding that the entrees all sounded so good that we'd just have to split one as an appetizer and then each order another one and switch plates halfway through.  So that's exactly what we did.  To start we shared the Ravioli di Rapette e Ricotta, a light pasta stuffed with chopped beets and fresh ricotta in a buttery scallion sauce.  We are both currently involved in a bit of a love affair with beets and this dish made us fall even further in love with the purple roots.  They were the perfect blend of creamy and sweet and we all know how much I enjoy something seasonal like this.  After we sopped up every last bit of onion-y sauce with the flaky focaccia, we were served our perfectly portioned entrees.  * (This is something that I really love about Il Passatore - they really do serve you exactly the right amount; enough to share a few bites with your fellow diners but still leave you feeling completely satisfied but never stuffed, a great accomplishment with sauce-laden pasta dishes.  My other favorite thing is that the prices are incredibly reasonable and that's really important for a broken broke gal like myself!) *  Mom was served a plate of Tagliatelle al Ragu e Piselli, fresh, long thick pasta with a meat sauce and fresh baby peas dusted with grated parmesan.  Meanwhile, one of the evening's specials was placed in front of me - herb braised rabbit over creamy polenta.  It was hard to make the plate switch because we were both so pleased with our own choices but after trying both, I'm not really sure which one was more to die for!


On previous visits I've indulged in a good chunk of the regular menu selections by trying something different every time (which can be difficult when I remember how good my meal was the last time around,) and I think that any selection off the dinner menu is one that you'll be happy with your choice. I am particularly fond of the arugula salad with pears and parmesan followed by the pappardelle with lamb ragu.  And you can't leave without coffee and dessert!  Really.  Most restaurants try to sell you on a digestif and a bit of sweet to round out your meal and usually I pass because it's either not worth it (in price, flavor or calories) or I'm too full from over indulging during my main course.  But at Il Passatore I always have room for dessert because their vanilla bean pannacotta with seasonal fruits (pears and apples on this visit) is amazeballs!  I believe that I made a pretty delicious pannacotta back on Bastille Day but it truly pales in comparison to the lovely little creamy mold they serve up here.  A couple of years ago my friends took me to Il Passatore for my birthday and made sure I got the last serving of pannacotta they had for the night knowing that if I hadn't gotten it, my birthday would have been ruined!  Not really ruined but it definitely wouldn't have been as sweet!


Even though I could rave all night about this spot, I'm going to stop because I'm already making my mouth water and I've only eaten a couple of cookies today.  Anyone want to take me out to dinner tonight?

24 October 2011

special guest suggestion - Aunt Donna's Apple Cider Chicken

After cooking up a storm at the old homestead a few weeks back, I got an email from Aunt Donna -

So far all your recipes look soooo delicious.  Your thumbprint cookies were to die for, one pound of butter really?  Unfortunately they don't really fit in with my Weight Watchers.  I will take it upon myself to educate you to the wonders of healthier foods.


tasty looking dish, aunt donna... let's see if i can recreate it!

True, a lot of my recipes aren't the healthiest and I do use an awful lot of butter, but I like to eat well and keep my body happy and healthy, too.  So I took Aunt Donna's advice and whipped up her healthy suggestion.  It sounded good enough and I since I'm all about apples at the moment, I gave it a shot.



cider braised chicken with sweet potatoes and sage
ingredients
1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless thighs
2 c fat free reduced sodium chicken broth (ok I cheated. I used regular chicken broth because this sounded wrong to me!)
1 tbs olive oil
1/2 c apple cider (fresh from the green market, as always!)
8 medium shallots
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 clove minced garlic
6 fresh sage leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, cubed
directions
1. Season both sides of chicken with s&p.  Heat oil and brown chicken on both sides; remove from pan and set aside.
2. Add thickly sliced shallots to pan and saute until soft.  Add garlic and cook for another minute.  Add chicken broth, cider, vinegar, sage and thyme to pan, scraping the sides to loosen any stuck-on bits.  Bring to a boil and allow sauce to reduce and slightly thicken.
3. Add chicken and sweet potatoes.  Reduce heat to low, cover and cook about 30 minutes.  One chicken thigh and about 3/4 cup veggies per serving is about 8 WW points served alongside some couscous.


Again, I cheated and definitely ate more than one piece of chicken, but I won't tell you how many servings I gobbled up!  My version was served up with some market fresh brussel sprouts sauteed simply in salt & pepper and toasted hazelnuts... and bacon fat; I just couldn't live without it.  But the meal really was wonderful, flavorful, seasonal and, most importantly, simple!  Just like Aunt Donna promised, "IT WAS DELICIOUS!"  Thank you for the recipe suggestion and please, keep them coming.

22 October 2011

giving starbucks a run for their money

One of my favorite things about the cooling weather is the welcome return of hot, delicious beverages that warm you from the inside out.  I like to imagine watching the changing foliage in Prospect Park and sharing a thermos full of hot chocolate or warm apple cider with someone special.  Unfortunately, I usually dash into the nearest coffee shop to grab one in between jobs.  My favorite seasonal drink, just like it is every year, is the Caramel Apple Spice at Starbucks.  I also love the warm fresh apple cider from the green market, but there's just something about covering it up with whipped cream and caramel sauce that makes it even more delicious.  The only problem is, a medium is pretty pricy so I can only get them every once in awhile and even though I worked at Starbucks after college and know exactly how to make them myself, they never taste the same - they usually taste better.  It doesn't really matter where it comes from or who makes it, I just love the melding of creamy caramel and tart, spiced apple.

Well, one of my kids and I got to talking about our weekend baking projects and she told me that her plan was to make caramel apple spice cookies.  What?!  I've never heard of these and never imagined that my favorite Autumn warm-up bev could be baked into a cookie.  As she was describing the artificial apple cider powder and pre-made caramels that were among the ingredients I thought to myself, 'I bet I could make a better version, just like I do with the drink.'  And with that inspiration, I set about to concocting a variation of apple-y caramel-y goodness that would be fresh and from scratch because face it, everything's better when it's from scratch!

I decided that, rather than a stuffed cookie, I'd make a sandwich cookie because I thought it would be pretty tough to wrap homemade cookie dough around liquid caramel.  With delicious Red Jacket Orchards Apple Cider from the green market, I made an apple spiced cookie and put my second batch of caramel in between them (I always mess up on the first batch of caramel.)  Well, they came out wonderfully and I'm proud to say that they capture the flavor of a grande Caramel Apple Spice to the tee.  The perfect cookie to enjoy with a warm drink and a special someone - me and Isabelle already ate  more than we should have!  So we're bringing the rest to Victoria because sharing is caring.

caramel apple cider cookies
ingredients
1/2 c shortening
1 egg
1 c light brown sugar
1/3 c dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 c or cider
2 1/4 c flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
* caramel sauce
directions
1. Cream together shortening and sugar until light and fluffy.  On a medium speed, blend in vanilla and cider, then add egg.  In a separate bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients.
2. Add the dry mix to the wet ingredients in the mixer on a low speed, one cup at a time.  Let batter chill for at least one hour.
3. Spoon out tiny balls of dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes or until the edges start to brown.  Let cool completely before spooning the caramel in between two cookies, about a teaspoon each.
* To make the caramel sauce, use the recipe from the salted caramel brownies I made back in July, just don't add the salt!  Or do, it might be a tasty twist on the traditional.


Next time I might try to make the cookies smaller, almost button sized so that they are an even more petit treat.  Also, I wanted to put a tiny apple wedge on top of each cookie which could be added when they're almost done baking, but I didn't have any apples... guess I need to hit up the market this week.

21 October 2011

jimmy fallon effing cares about me

A few years ago I was at one of my usual haunts on a Friday evening, chatting with the bartenders and the regular crowd like I did every week.  And just like every week, my happiness lasted beyond the designated hours and it was suddenly past midnight!  Has this ever happened to you?  Of course it has, but how about this - I headed towards the door to chat with my pal who's busy checking ids.  I didn't realize that he was midchat with some other dude when I accidentally interrupted their convo, leading said other dude to give me the meanest, evil eye kind of look EVER.  It was the kind of glare that says 'who do you think you are interrupting my extremely important intoxicated conversation, lady? Because I'm really important.'  I just wanted to be like soooory dude, it was an innocent mistake, but he wasn't having it and he left shortly after.  Well Jimmy Fallon, you missed a super fun night because me and my pals know how to party!  That's right, the guy with the glare was totally Jimmy Fallon and he was snobby to me... uncool.

In New York you tend to run into famous folks pretty regularly and you're supposed to pretend that they're just normal people walking down the street; you kind of have to ignore them.  But every once in awhile you actually get to interact with them and it can (usually) be pretty awesome.  This was not one of those times and Mr. Fallon, you owe me a beer as an apology for being standoffish to me that night.  For a long time I've felt that until that happens, I'm going to remain mad at Jimmy Fallon.

Now that I've filled y'all in on the history me and Jimmy share, you'll understand why I got such a kick out of a story Tina Fey told about him in her book, Bossypants.  The entire book is super hilarious and it totally made me bust out laughing on the bus a few times, leading to some weird looks from my fellow passengers.  Go read it, you won't regret it.  But anyways, one scene in particular involves Mr. Fallon and the lovely Ms. Amy Poehler (though I can't be certain that she's lovely since I've never had a bar encounter with her, I imagine she would be pretty awesome.)  The passage goes a little something like this (read this in Tina Fey's awesomely snarky voice) - 

"Amy was in the middle of some ... nonsense ... and she did something vulgar as a joke. I can't remember what it was exactly, except it was dirty and loud and 'unladylike.'

Jimmy Fallon, who was arguably the star of the show at the time, turned to her and in a faux-squeamish voice said, 'Stop that! It's not cute! I don't like it.'

Amy dropped what she was doing, went black in the eyes for a second and wheeled around on him. 'I don't f**king care if you like it.' Jimmy was visibly startled. Amy went right back to enjoying her ridiculous bit. (I should make it clear that Jimmy and Amy are very good friends and there was never any real beef between them. Insert penis joke here.)"

My saying this might be a few years late, but guess what Jimmy - I don't effing care what you think either!  He however, seems to care just a little about how I feel and what I think.  Fast forward to my current quest for calcium and the resulting ice cream binge.  I think Jimmy Fallon must have known that I was still holding a bit of a grudge against him after all this time and he wanted to make it up to me.  So I imagine that's why he helped a couple of dudes up in Vermont develop an amazing new ice cream flavor called Late Night Snack.  Sweet and salty just how I like it, this Ben and Jerry's flavor is made up of chocolate covered potato chip clusters and a salted caramel swirl all jam packed in rich vanilla bean ice cream.  Plus, it's Fair Trade.  And it's awesome and I love it and I could probably eat an entire pint in one sitting.  

Though it's not the apology beer I was holding out for, the ice cream is a pretty good start, so Jimmy, you're kind of forgiven.  I won't forget your sassy eyed look that night but I guess we can kind of be friends since you created this ice cream especially for me.  I only wish it was a little more obvious to the rest of the frozen dairy loving world that this dessert was made specifically with me in mind.  Ok man, you're officially off my uncool list... but it'll take a change in the ice cream name if you want to make it onto the cool list.

19 October 2011

it's like buttah

Over the past month and a half that I've been laid up, I've been super spoiled.  I've eaten out, ordered in, splurged on snacks, taken cabs, slept in and watched a lot of cable tv.  I don't have cable at home and don't think I'll ever get it because I'd probably just end up wasting days on end watching rerun marathons of America's Next Top Model on Bravo and VH1.  Yeah, I'm that snobby gal that thinks most television programming is garbage... until I get sucked in.  Other than silly competitive reality shows though, the only other cable I find myself watching incessantly these days is the endless supply of food and cooking shows.  There are way more awesome shows related to food than I ever remember there being when I last had cable!  I have a feeling I'm going to go through some sort of withdrawal when I get back to my tin foil covered antennae at home.  

But I don't have to leave it all behind, no no no.  All of these tv personality chefs are brilliant marketing wizards, too.  Most of them choose to slap their names on cookware and bakeware or fancy-ish food items at the grocery store.  But one Southern belle has gone a different route, signing off on some kitchen inspired beauty products.  Yup, I'm talking about butter queen Paula Deen and her butter flavored lip balm!  She may not be my favorite of all the channel chefs but boy is this lady genius.  Who wouldn't want their lips buttery soft, especially with the chilly months ahead?  It's not for sale at her online store yet but I'm hoping to get my hands on some because I really want to try it out... anyone want to roadtrip down to Savannah with me and ask her about it?

18 October 2011

revuesday - Avra

If a quick and casual falafal lunch is what you're in the mood for, stick to the street vendors.  If a fancypants afternoon of beautiful, fresh Greek food is more your thing, then Avra will be right up your alley.  I joined my aunt for a lovely little nosh at this midtown restaurant last week.  Though it was much fancier than I'm used to (I've never dined among so many well-dressed suits in my life making me feel quite underdressed in my single Ked sneaker and J. Crew hand-me-downs,) I definitely saw the appeal in the experience.  Because that's exactly what it was - a dining experience.  While we stuck with a few simple shared plates, other tables were enjoying literal feasts in the middle of the afternoon.   The beautiful selection of whole, fresh fish could be perused prior to being sent off to the grill to be returned to your table charred to perfection.  For those who like it raw, shellfish was brought out shucked for indulgence.  The sides looked fresh and generous, suited for sharing like most menu items.

tzatziki, hummus, melitzanosalata & skordalia
Though tempted by those tastes of the Mediterranean, we stuck to a lighter Aegean fare with fresh, tender calamari, a sampling of traditional spreads on pitas, and the most beautiful Greek salad with fresh feta and heirloom tomatoes, a perfectly satisfying midday meal that really worked out my mouth with all the fresh flavors... but make sure you come prepared with gum because holy garlicky goodness!  Mmm and the olives and radishes provided the perfect balance of spice and salt to round out the beautiful spread.  I almost always forget how much I love radishes until they're put in front of me and then the love affair begins all over again!

Avra is a ginormous and unlikely splurge for a part-time gal like myself, but it was a welcome indulgence with a generous dining companion.  I'd love to say that I'd certainly be back there to indulge in the to-die-for salad and specialties of the sea, but I think I'd be fibbing to my loyal audience; maybe one of these days for a very very very special occasion but not any time soon.  It's how the other half dines and I liked it... but not enough to trade in my $2.50 falafal pita!

17 October 2011

as we near the end of market season

The end of market season is upon us and that makes me just a little bit sad.  Though indoor and outdoor markets run year round in the city, the biggest presence and variety of markets exists from late Spring to early Fall - Market Season.  There exists this great little book that I've considered buying about a dozen times because it details nearly all of these markets from the hidden foodie gems to the giant seasonal produce stops.  Well, whadaya know, not only does Aunt Carolyn have a copy of Markets of New York City, but they also launched a website to guide you through all of the special events occurring on any given weekend!  So I perused my late season options for lower Manhattan and came across two that I had never been to, probably because I rarely leave Brooklyn when the weekend rolls around.  

First stop was the Fulton Stall Market, a small but sweet length of gourmet stands boasting barbeque, sweet treats, teas and coffees, handmade jewelry and my personal favorite, lobster rolls.  I don't normally indulge in lobster rolls because I'm usually really poor but damnit, I have a broken leg and I deserved one this weekend!  Well, at least half of one.  So that's exactly what I got at Lots o' Lobstah!  For those of us on the cheap, they sell buttery toasted rolls jam packed with generous lumps of lightly seasoned lobster in halves and boy are they delicious.  It was the perfect little bite of lunch for a cool Autumn day near the waterfront in downtown Manhattan.  Plus, the ladies dishing it out were super nice and the line wasn't excruciatingly long like so many other lobster roll stands (delicious Luke's Lobster at the market across the street, I'm talking to you!)

After that indulgence, I made the arduously long trek across the street to the New Amsterdam Market.  Significantly larger than FSM, the New Amsterdam Market boasts similar stalls of gourmet foodie goodness alongside fresh produce stands, packaged goodies and yesterday, a hard cider tasting festival. I love a good hard cider, especially enjoyed outside on a perfect Fall day, so I was pretty bummed that it was too crowded for me to feel comfortable on my crutches to enjoy... there's always next year.  But not all was lost because just a few stalls down from the apple-holics was a taste of home.  Yay, it was the Bent Spoon all the way from Princeton, NJ!  Their natural, artisan ice creams and sorbets were one of the best and worst things that ever happened to me during my days in the jerz.  Understandably, I hobbled over to the stall, tried all three flavors and decided on two scoops of cran-crab apple and ginger sorbet, a brilliant palette cleanser that was both sweet and tart.  One of things I love most about the Bent Spoon is their use of local Jersey ingredients so I could be sure that everything I was indulging in was from the Garden State, splurging and supporting both of my homelands!

I'd say it was a pretty wonderful day to conclude a pretty wonderful weekend.  We'll see how many more markets I'll be able to cram in before October ends in a couple of weekends.  Unfortunately, not will conclude with a relaxing reading break and single bottle of hard cider with this panorama to relax with -
happy sunday

15 October 2011

marys & macarons

One of my favorite things about this season, and about living in the city with some pretty awesome friends, is the chance to meet up with folks and enjoy a little afternoon cocktail in the cool, fresh air.  After a bit of Halloween costume shopping (wait til you see my costume, it's going to be amazeballs!) my newly legal gal Paula and I set out to find a Bloody Mary deep in the heart of the Lower East Side... now that I think about it, we probably should have gone straight to Mary Queen of Scots since the breakfast cocktail is named after her, but I didn't think about that until just now so I suppose it's besides the point.  Anyways, Paula and I were wandering around and, maybe it's because my crutches forced us to move a little slower and take notice of our surroundings a bit more, we stumbled upon Bisou Ciao.  Apparently this adorable little macaron shop has existed for over a year but it wasn't until today that we happily discovered it.  The perfect little French confections come in flavors that were so tempting I almost felt inclined to spend the last of my money on a box of five, but instead opted for single belated birthday treats for me and Paula.  So we tossed a sour cherry macaron and a poppy macaron in the bag of Halloween leotards and tights and continued on our quest for daytime drinks, promising to return soon, which we definitely will.    We made our way over to White Slab Palace to enjoy a couple of drinks and a potato pancake slathered in caviar and red onions and sour cream that was almost as good as the original one I used to get at Good World, my once favorite NYC restaurant (RIP Good World.)  And after a bit of a bathroom door snafu, we made a new friend, had another round and concluded the kind of simple and successful Autumn afternoon that really makes me thankful that I live in the place I do.  I hope y'all are enjoying as satisfying a weekend as I am! xo

poppy & sour cherry?! i must recreate these!

14 October 2011

happy happy

Happy Friday kiddos!  Just a quickie as I'm on my way out for a special lady date of dinner and drinks on this fine, drizzly evening.  I had my first beer in about two months while I was out with Isabelle last night.  We enjoyed some improv, a birthday cupcake and a nice, cold IPA.  I had almost forgotten how good a cold beer can taste after a long day of... well, really just sitting around these days but that doesn't make it any less deserved!  This doesn't mean I'm turning my back of the classic cocktails I usually favor.  No, no, no.  Rather, in honor of my recent rediscovery of those hoppy brews and a refreshing cocktail, here's a great list of beer cocktails compiled by the folks at Gothamist.  Anyone up for sharing a sip with me tonight?  I think I just might head down to my old stomping ground, Iggy's.  Let's happy hour, kids!


13 October 2011

bs, bacon, hash & nuts

To thank my folks for a lovely weekend at their place, and for buying all the ingredients for my cooking spree and for taking care of me for the past month and a half and for their 31 year wedding anniversary, I decided to prepare them a feast of a Sunday supper.  I even got the kid sis and her fancy fiance to join us!  It was truly a family affair.  Because I'm me and I love a good theme, I decided that our meal should be traditional and seasonal with a roast chicken being the main attraction.  Unsurprisingly however, it was the sides that stole the show.  Check out our festive fall family dinner -

the menu
roast chicken
wild mushroom & pecan cornbread stuffing
brussel sprout hash with bacon & toasted hazelnuts
spring greens with beets and crumbled goat cheese in a dijon vinaigrette

wild mushroom & pecan cornbread stuffing
ingredients
1 loaf day-old cornbread
1 1/2 c sliced cremini mushrooms (or any variety of mushroom you like)
2/3 c chopped pecans
1/2 tsp sage
1 tsp parsley
fresh ground salt & pepper, to taste
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/4 c chicken stock (or drippings from the chicken roasting in the oven)
directions
1. Tear the stale cornbread into bite-sized pieces tossing in an oven-safe dish with mushrooms, pecans and spices.  This can be set aside until you're ready to bake.
2. When ready to bake, toss with the beaten egg and chicken drippings until moist and well-coated.  Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until the top starts to brown and crisp.


brussel sprout hash with bacon & toasted hazelnuts
ingredients
4 c brussel sprouts
1/2 lb thick cut bacon
2/3 c chopped hazelnuts
fresh ground salt & pepper, to taste
directions
1. Clean brussel sprouts and remove the stems.  Chop into strips and toss in an oven-safe dish with s&p.
2. Slice bacon into small strips and cook up in a pan until crispy.  Remove cooked bacon from pan, reserving drippings, and toss with sliced brussel sprouts.  With the flame still on, toss the hazelnuts in the bacon grease until they begin to get brown and toasty.  Toss with brussel sprouts and bacon, grease and all.
3. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes until brussel sprouts are tender and begin to crisp and brown.


I find that the key to a perfect roast chicken, and anything else you ever cook, is butter.  Just keep basting that sucker with butter and juices to give a perfectly brown and crispy skin.  Also, fresh ground salt & pepper and a few cloves of garlic.  Any chicken you don't eat will make for a delicious chicken salad because it's going to be so moist and tender.  But until then, enjoy a perfectly warm and seasonal meal that will satisfy the entire family!  It also makes a great dinner party menu so give it a try and make  sure I get an invite.

festive fall family feast

12 October 2011

not just for jam anymore

I've had a lot of free time on my hands lately.  A lot of free time.  I wish I could say that I've been really productive with this time and that I've gotten a lot of work done or that I've read a bunch of books on my reading list or that I learned a new language or something.  But I haven't done any of that.  Instead, I've been taking advantage of the free cable by gorging on food channels and cooking shows while simultaneously perusing the internet for new foodie blogs to read or recipes to try out.  Not a complete waste of time because when I came across these tiny pies on Serious Eats the other day, I was truly inspired.  How adorable would it be to serve everyone their own little personal pie in a Mason jar?  I love Mason jars and I love pies so it seemed like a totally natural combination.  Plus, I've been itching to make a pie from scratch lately; can you believe I've never done that?  Well I almost did it this weekend.

Since I went a bit nuts baking and cooking up a storm this weekend, my mom convinced me to cheat and take the easy road for my pie crust by buying the already prepared kind from the grocery store.  Though I complained and whined about how wrong it is to cut corners, I'm kind of glad we did because being back in the kitchen the way I was the past few days really wore me out.  And we all know how important the pie crust is to the overall yumminess of the pie, so it would be pretty awful if I ruined the crust because that would ruin the entire pie since it's so itty bity.  So I succumbed to my mom's advice regarding the prepared crust and focused all my energy on the filling.  I've always been a huge fan of apple pies and since it's apple season, what better pie to bake than a warm, cinnamon-y apple pie?  So off we went to pick up a variety of apples because the more the merrier, and we came home with Granny Smith, Honey Crisp and Empire apples.

Now, I have major plans for an ultimate apple pie but the time isn't right for that yet so I had do a little research with an ancient copy of The New McCall's Cook Book for perfect apple pies but it just didn't seem to be what I wanted.  I remember being a kid and walking around the corner to buy those mini French Apple Pies that had plump, sweet raisins in them and how much I loved them.  But I had just made oatmeal raisin cookies the previous night and didn't want to use raisins again so I chose to go with a similar but more seasonal fruit - cranberries!  With my filling planned, I started lining seven Mason jars of various sizes with crust before figuring out that I had run out and wouldn't have any to top the jars with.  No worries because aside from my love of French apple pies, I also have a fondness for the sweet and crumbly topping of a traditional Dutch apple pie.  For something so all-American, this was starting to get awfully international.  But this globetrotting recipe turned out to be a huge hit, even with the biggest apple pie critic I know - my dad.  He loved it and even called me today to tell me that it was even tastier the next day after the ingredients had marinated a bit.  Me and my mom liked it a la mode with the new Sweet Chai Tea ice cream from Haagen Dazs for a little extra kick of Autumnal spice!

mason jar cranapple pies
ingredients
8 c apples, peeled and chopped into small chunks
1 - 1 1/2 c dried cranberries (use as much or as little as you want)
2/3 c sugar
2 tsp fresh ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 c plus 2 tbsp flour
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1/4 butter, room temp
rolled pie crust (homemade or store bought, whatever's easier)
directions
1. Preheat oven to 425.  Line shallow jars (7-10 depending on depth and size) with pie crust up to the lip and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, toss together apples, cranberries, granulated sugar, lemon juice, 2, tbsp flour, 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp nutmeg.    Scoop into lined jars being mindful of any gaps or wholes that might not have any apples; the shape of some jars makes filling them kind of like doing a puzzle.
3. In a separate bowl combine remaining cinnamon and nutmeg with flour and brown sugar, blending with a fork until it it well combined and looks crumbly.  Evenly top each pie with the streusel topping filling the jar to the top.
4. Place all the jars on a baking sheet and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the pie crust starts to look golden brown.  Let cool before serving because the filling will be super hot.  Serve each jar individually, on its own or a la mode with a scoop of chai ice cream and enjoy!




How perfectly adorable are these?!  Beyond a sweet and delicious dessert for the people you love, I can think of a few other uses for these little cuties.  Wouldn't they make wonderful place holders or seat markers at a dinner party?  You could put each guest's name on the lids (oh yeah, make sure you don't overstuff the jars so that you can put the lids on them for storage,) and put them at everyone's assigned seats.  You could freeze them before baking them and give them as gifts around the holidays, or give them fully baked as a hostess gift the next time someone invites you to a dinner party.  You might want to be careful when giving them as hostess gifts though because that gal might ask you to bring dessert to her next dinner party, so you'd better be prepared.  Or how about favors for a wedding or a shower?  They could be seasonal and local for the time and place of the event - cherry or strawberry rhubarb in the Spring, berries or peaches for Summer, pumpkin or pecan for Winter.  I can just imagine an idyllic Autumn wedding on a rustic orchard with teeny tiny apple pies in Mason jars as favors!  Almost makes me want to get married all over again... almost.  The jars don't necessarily have to be stuffed with pie either.  How about a cobbler or just the filling for future pie preparedness?  The possibilities are endless, always adorably sweet and sure to be a big hit with all the recipients.  What ideas do you have, readers?  How would you make this perfectly personal recipe your own?  How do you plan on dishing it out?  Let me know, I love hearing from you.

11 October 2011

revuesday - Orchard St. Taqueria

With the growing population of taquerias and Mexican food dives, the Lower East Side is beginning to look like Southern California... not that I've been to SoCal, but it's just on top of Mexico so I imagine there are a lot of taco stands and Mexican eateries.  But seriously, there are new spots opening so frequently that there seems to be a taco joint on every corner.  With this many options it can be tough to choose where to eat lunch and make sure you get something tasty.  I've hit up a few of the more established spots like San Loco or El Sombrero but was eager to try something new.  And since my lunch dates were Alex, Kevin and Aunt Patty, I knew I had my chance since they love Mexican grub!

We headed straight up Orchard Street to the relatively new Orchard Street Taqueria since the threat of epic rain storms scared the heck out of me and my broken leg.  If you can look beyond the kind of goofy rock & roll decor and the Saturday Night Fever screenings, the tight restaurant and wrapping bar are a great place for an inexpensive meal or a few cocktails and a bite with friends.  I don't remember who got what, I just know that I took bites of everything and it was all delicious.  The steak in the bistec quesadilla was lean and tender and though the chicken flautas were a bit dry, they were perfect when topped with the spicy guacamole.  I'm not normally a fan of saucy enchiladas, but the red sauce had a touch of mole that contrasted so nicely with the creaminess of the cheese that I might actually order these on my own.  The carnitas tostada was so loaded with flavorful shredded pork that I almost wasn't able to eat the barbacoa taco that I had my heart set on.  But I suffered through my full belly, thank goodness because the gamey chunks of juicy lamb topped with spicy salsa and queso fresco was my favorite part of the meal.  Washed down with a sweet and tart hibiscus tea, the mixed Mexican meal  left me feeling so satisfied that I had to pass up a dessert order of flan which is rare for me since I lovelovelove flan!


But fear not my little sweet tooths, I still got my dessert.  After crutching along for a few blocks and chatting with the boys about their new school year I felt that I had burned enough calories and made room in my belly for a little sugar.  And since it was revealed to me that the dudes had never enjoyed a doughnut from the Doughnut Plant, I knew exactly where we needed to go!  Classic glazed for the guys, carrot cake for Aunt Patty and pistachio for yours truly.  They were immediately sold on the awesomeness of that Lower East Side fried dough and finished the sticky sweet rings before we made it back to the apartment - which we entered just as the rain started coming down.

doughnut converts

All in all, it was a perfect pre-stormy weather meal with some of my favorite people.  I will definitely head back to the Taqueria for drinks and food once my leg is healed for a little foodie fiesta!  And I might just head over for a doughnut right now.

10 October 2011

squash the casbah

I love squashes.  Really really love squashes.  And not just Summer squashes, but their warmer sweeter Autumn relatives too.  I'm pretty sure my love of the many colorful, tasty varieties led to a few squash overdoses last fall.  But these year I'm determined to mix it up a little and not just load them up with butter and brown sugar (although that's extremely delicious and I'll be eating a lot of that as well.)  In order to help my brain get crackin on some new squash recipes, I turned to the one lady I knew would be able to help out - Martha Stewart.  My gal Martha has an entire slideshow on her website all about squashes and pumpkins!

While perusing her simple and inventive recipes, I came across these Moroccan style stuffed acorn squashes and decided that they were right up my alley.  But since I haven't been cooking lately I wanted to make it easy on myself by cheating and using the jar of already prepared Moroccan spices that I have at home.  Unfortunately, when my mom and I swung by my apartment to pick up some things before heading off to New Jersey we grabbed everything but the spices.  And since the internet back in KP is extraordinarily slow, I had to utilize my creative genius to create my own version of the recipe.  No worries though because it was a complete success!  I originally planned on serving it up as a vegetarian meal but since my dad would be dining with us, I had to make it a little meaty if I wanted to convince him to taste it (he's a little hesitant about foreign spices.)  Once he saw it though, he decided to try it and guess what... he totally loved it!  I'm determined to take him out to try Indian food next.  Oh yeah, Aunt Donna really enjoyed it, too!  It's healthy, hearty and wonderfully seasonal; a perfect main course or feast-worthy side dish.

moroccan stuffed squash
ingredients
2 acorn squash
1 box couscous
1 tbsp olive oil
pinch of saffron threads
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp coriander
fresh ground salt & pepper to taste
1/4 tsp fresh ground cinnamon
fresh ground nutmeg to taste
1 lb ground lamb
directions
1. Preheat oven to 350.  Halve squash and scoop out all the innards.  Bake squash for about 45 minutes or until nearly tender, flipping them halfway through.  When ready, cut out the majority of the squash out of the shell but leaving some for looks and setting the shells aside.  From what's been removed, cut into small chunks and toss into a bowl.
2. Prepare couscous according to box directions with saffron and olive oil.  Toss spices together in a small dish.  In a hot skillet, brown the lamb with half of the spice mixture.  When lamb and couscous are ready, toss with squash pieces and remaining spices and some of the lamb drippings.
3. Spoon the mix into the squash halves and bake for about 15 minutes on a baking sheet with a shallow amount of water.  Serve and enjoy.


You'll probably have a good amount of stuffing leftover, we did at least.  So what to do with all that leftover goodness?  We put it into portabella mushroom caps and enjoyed another stuffed veggie but it would also be tasty on a bed of fresh spinach or just on it's own.  Have any other ideas?  I'd love to hear what everyone else would do with seasonally spiced stuffing so share your ideas gang!