28 September 2012

a toll is a toll, and a roll is a roll

The other day, this conversation occurred between me and my honey -

Food Robin Hood!?!  I don't know if I should take offense to that or be flattered because Robin Hood was pretty rad.  Sure, I might take home some leftovers from work, a sandwich here and there, nobody wants to see it go to waste!  It's part of my charming frugality.  Thanks to me, neither of us has had to buy lunch for nearly a month.  And buying lunch every day can be super expensive so when you think about it, that's a lot of money we've saved up.  Money that we can spend on a fabulous vacation (more on that to come!)  Still, I thought calling me a food Robin Hood was a bit extreme; I hate to say it, but it's more like freeganism or dumpster diving if you think about.  Though when I thought about a little more, neither of those sound any better so I suppose I could deal with being a Robin Hood.  In fact, I think it's kind of awesome... and when I emptied out my bag of goodies last night, I realized that, maybe it was kind of true!

"we never rob. we just sort of borrow a bit from those who can afford it."

23 September 2012

matryoshkas in midwood

As many of you are well aware, the grocery store is pretty much my most favorite place in the entire world. And the only thing I love more than a grocery store is a foreign grocery store. For this reason (and many, many more) New York is the greatest city in the world. All you need to travel to a far off destination is subway fare, a bike, or a good pair of walking shoes. Today was my first day as the Sunday storyteller at a branch of the Brooklyn Public Library in a neighborhood of my borough that I've never been to - Midwood. Down towards the bottom of the borough, Midwood is a bit like Brighton Beach with it's predominantly Russian and Jewish population. So you can imagine my delight when I realized that I had arrived early enough to pop my head into the local supermarket. It's called Meat Heaven. That name is not an exaggeration. They have so much cool stuff in there! But since I didn't have a ton of time, I could only choose one souvenir; I will, after all, be back every week for the next two months. So I picked out the sweetest, most culturally appropriate item I could find - this chocolate bar. How cute! If I had had more time and if I weren't on my bike I may have come home with an entire shopping bag filled with foreign goodies. Here's hoping for a rainy Sunday before my time at this branch is up!

By the way, kiddos... this is my first attempt at mobile blogging. The delirious kitchen has entered the 21st century! What do we think?

14 September 2012

now this seems more appropriate

Was today not a beautiful and almost perfect day?  Warm enough to wear sandals but cool enough to need a little sweater.  It was an absolutely ideal transition day, the kind that makes you think Summer is really laying out the welcome mat for Fall.  Since I'm still trying to kick this under-the-weather feeling that I've been having, I'm making sure to drink a lot of hot tea and oj and water, but mostly hot tea (hot whiskey tea would be even better but I have to work.)  And as you may remember from the other day, I sometimes need a little more kick than plain old tea.  And since today was a much more seasonally appropriate day, I decided to opt for one of my favorite seasonal beverages - a spicy, peppery chai.  Since this was an extra special treat (I don't often get more than one fancy beverage a week,) I wasn't about to settle for any old chai.  No no no, it had to be the best chai.  A quick search through a few trusted internerd sources and I found the perfect place - OST Cafe.  Just a few blocks, and a lovely walk from the library, this is the perfect East Village cafe.  And the advise of my fellow food bloggers was absolutely right!  This may be the best chai latte in all of NYC.  Made with real black tea, the combination of creamy, barely sweetened milk with the layered flavors of anise, cinnamon and cloves was oh so balanced and rich.  It was the perfect cuppa for a perfect day... and it was extra swirly, fancypants!  

11 September 2012

too soon?

I walked out of the house this morning in a plain old, ordinary outfit that I believed to be perfectly reasonable for an early September school day - a belted cotton dress, sandals, and a lightweight cardigan.  Very library appropriate.  But by the time I had hopped on my bike and riden around the corner and into the breeze, I was regretting not wearing tights and a parka.  Is summer really over?  Do I need to start wearing a jacket and stop strapping on my sandals?  Oh no!  All my fall clothes are in storage at my parents house... what's a girl to do?

Well, since I was already late I just ended up peddling extra hard to work and by the time I got to my fourth graders I was warm and flushed and slightly out of breath.  But that only lasted a few hours until my next venture into the out of doors; a dreaded trip to Macy's.  After spending an hour in the tie department (what's so bad about paisley and pink?), then trying on more styles of skinny bootcut jeans than I knew existed, then finding out that they no longer carry either of my makeup brands at Sephora (what have I, what have I, what have I done to deserve this?), and all in this blistering cold 75 degrees and sunny weather, I decided that I was due for a treat.  Once I had come to that decision, and took notice of what corner I was on, I knew exactly what I had to do.

There are many things I love about brisk Autumn weather - scarves, old-fashioned hats, leather gloves, boots, knee-high socks, pie, not being afraid to turn on the oven, leaves, train rides, and of course, seasonal beverages.  Usually I lean towards spicier drinks like a peppery cinnamon chai or a crisp and tart cider, but today was different.  I was feeling crummy and my brain was addled from the stress of shopping despite my super shopping skills, so I chose the only warm beverage that could cure my chilliness and my mopeyness... a thick and creamy hot chocolate from City Bakery.  I'm pretty sure I've raved about their hot chocolate before and if I haven't, you'll be hearing plenty in the next few months.  Their hot chocolate is like melted ice cream; it's so thick and creamy and heavy and dark and delicious. 

As I sipped at my sinful snack I wandered up a block to peruse the selection at Idlewild Books, fueling my already wanderlusty mind with dreams of my own personal Roman holiday.  And as I strolled through Union Square and back to the hallowed halls of the library, I thought to myself 'Is it too soon for this?'  Well, is it?  Have I fast forwarded through Indian Summer and Autumn only to land in a Winter wonderland that makes me dream of melting snow and Spring blossoms?  I prefer to think that I've just given myself a little preview of the coming attractions.  A taste of whats to come, a wake up call for my seasonal senses and just the kick I needed to get out of my frigid funk and back into the swing of things.  My minds is racing with all the exciting things I have planned for the fall.  Stay posted, kids.  This kitchen bitch is back!

07 September 2012

happy first day of school!

When I was growing up (that's not to say that I'm a grown-up,) I lived in a house of many traditions.  We celebrated a lot, were big fans of themed anything, and loved a good family dinner.  Pretty much every night brought the four of us to the table for supper together no matter if it was fish sticks and fries or homemade mac 'n cheese with ham and stewed tomatoes.  But one of my favorite celebrated occasions and one of my favorite meals was always our back to school supper - a bit pot of spaghetti and meatballs.  To this day, the smell of a huge pot of spiced and seasoned tomato sauce is one of my favorites.  It brings back a flood of memories of me and my kid sis doing out homework at the kitchen table, of my mom at the stove stirring a massive pot of delicious, the anticipation of meeting new friends and getting to know new teachers, and the stress of trying to pick out the perfect outfit for the start of a brand new year, a brand new grade!

Well, for me, none of that ever went away.  After high school came college, and then grad school, some substitute teaching and then I landed where I am today.  In a school.  As a school librarian.  And I love it!  Not just because it's pretty much the best job ever (which it is,) but also because it means that I get to keep the tradition of back to school supper alive!  This year, it worked out absolutely perfectly.

A few weeks back, I had a streak of crummy days that left me craving something warm and comforting despite the 90+ degree weather with monsoon-like rain.  After a very wet bike ride to pick up all the ingredients, I was able to whip up a marvelous meal for me and the dude-man.  Then, just a few days before school started up again, he got that very same craving.  Well boy was he in luck!  I broke out the frozen leftovers, added some fresh ingredients, tossed it all with fresh, curly spaghetti (I like the long, curly pasta noodles because it looks like my hair,) and some spicy sausage from Graham Ave. Meats and the tradition continued.  Not only did it continue, but it spread to a new family.  Honey's brother is taking classes again this semester and, though our first days did not match up on the calendar, I invited him over to relish in the new school year with us!  It was delicious and perfect and the best way to energize for the next day's new batch of kiddies.

Thank goodness I had all the carb-tastic energy stored up because this year's group of kiddies is a doozy!  But they're also smart, brilliant and amazing and I can't wait to work with them all and get book clubs started again and help them prepare for the great world beyond... college.  But no matter how many batches of students I watch graduate, I will continue to have a first day of school and a traditional back to school supper.  And what makes this longstanding tradition even better is the fact that what started out as my mom's tomato sauce recipe has now become completely my own.  Each year brings a little twist or an extra pinch of ingredients that make it hearty and wholesome and all mine!  That's truly one of my favorite things about traditions, how they naturally evolve.  Good luck learning about that in any of your classes, kids!

just like mom's but even better homemade tomato sauce
ingredients (the measurements are loose, everything is pretty much all to taste)
1 large can pureed tomatoes
1 tiny can tomato paste
1 small can diced tomatoes
6 - 12 fresh campari or roma tomatoes, diced and seeded
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
2 - 3 roasted red peppers, diced (optional)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 bay leaf
dash of very course salt
healthy heaps of black pepper and crushed red pepper
fresh parsley, finely chopped
lots of oregano
loads of fresh basil
1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot and let simmer for hours.  If you're making meatballs, pan fry them first to maintain the shape and then let them finish off cooking in the sauce - it makes both the sauce and the meatballs taste that much better!