It's official! I'm a finalist for Best Of Blogs, "Best Cooking or Recipe Weblog". I want to thank everyone who nominated me. The voting begins on January 1st & ends on January 14th. My competition is really tough. There are some amazing cooks/bakers on the internet. You can go & vote(for me please) at, http://www.blogmechanics.com/bob/
My family has been eating lentil soup on New Years' Day for as long as I can remember. I was told to eat it so that my family would make more money in the new year than in the previous one. I thought it was just some weird Italian superstition, but I found out that Brazilian & Spaniards also believe in it.
When I lived in Rhode Island my entire family & I used to go to my Aunt Chickie's house for her soup on New Year's Day. For some reason, my family believed that her soup would ensure even more wealth than my Mom's or Momma's would. Our family was so large that everyone came in & ate in shifts. We had soup, fresh Italian bread & water & that's it. Everyone & I mean everyone had to eat at least three spoonfuls of lentils. I think that's some Catholic thing, representing the Holy Trinity. Aunt Chickie's real name is Frances. She's no taller than 4ft 8in. even in her gold high heeled slippers. She has always had short blonde, fuzzy, hair & a cute little laugh, so I guess that's how she got her nickname.
I continue the tradition today in NYC. On the morning of New Year's Day, I'll throw some lentils, diced carrots & celery, barley, salt & pepper in a crock pot for about 4-5 hours. I'm passing this family secret on to all of you. Everyone deserves more prosperity in 2005. Well, not all the mega billionaries, but, all the rest of us. Hey, don't stress about making it homemade. Progresso makes a great lentil soup. Just heat it up & add some fresh grated parmesan cheese & enjoy!
I realized that as soon as I updated my blog, I lost the recipe archive & the new quote of the month. How frustrating!!! What's going on Matt? Can you fix it?!? Sorry for the technical difficulties my blog is experiencing.
My cousin Matt got my recipe archive up & running. He told me that I can update it myself which I'm excited about. I'm just so happy that all the recipes are in one place. Who has time to search back through all the months just to find the Margarita Pie? I'm also working on my shop. I'm going to have My Life With Garlic merchandise & crafts that I make too. I was totally inspired by Giao & Jes' stuff(check them out under my link section). Hey, I'm very interested in "Gifty". I would love to exchange presents with other crafters. I may already be too late for round 2 but how can I sign up for round 3? I would love any feed back you have on the subject.
I just got home a couple of hours ago. I'm exhausted. It's hard lugging back all of Christmas gifts. My cousin Lea & I also went to Target & stocked up on wrapping paper, bows, & lots of other holiday stuff. We couldn't pass it up cause it was 50% off! I really had to rely on the kindness of NYC strangers to help me carry my overstuffed suitcase & Target shopping bags up & down the subway stairs. Tom left R.I. on Sunday & went to Virginia to go see his family. I didn't go with him because I have to work tomorrow & I wanted to spend some extra time with my new nephew. He's the cutest baby ever! I still have some shopping to do. Tom & I decided to exchange gifts on New Year's Day, so I'm going to hit the big sales. We'll probably be able to get twice as many presents for the same amount of money(that's my goal anyway). Here's some pictures of my weekend.
The Stuffed Calamari
The Xmas Eve rush is over. I must admit I was a little crazed. At one point Tom & my Mom were considering slipping something into my drink to calm me down. I think everything went well. The food was good & everyone chipped in to help. The feast of the seven fishes was a success. Someone asked me where "feast of 7 fishes" originated, so here's what I found out. Many people believe that it represents the 7 sacraments or that God created the world in 7 days. My superstitious Italian friends believe that it's all about the good luck that the number 7 brings. There isn't one correct answer, so it's open to interpretation.
I want to wish everyone out there a Merry Xmas. I'm so glad that I started this site because I've been in contact with many amazing & talented people. Thank you all for your support!
Tom & I are headed to Rhode Island today. We are taking a bus & then renting a car once we get to Providence. It was too outrageous to rent a car from NYC, something like $325.. for four days. The average NYC dweller doesn't own a car since the insurance is high & parking is a drag(expensive, too). Tom has done the math & figured out that it's cheaper for us to rent a car about 40 times a year, which we never do, than to own one. It's times like this that I really want one & don't care about the money or inconvenience. I'm not looking forward to dragging all of my Xmas gifts 5 blocks to the subway, down 3 flights of stairs & through the subway station to the bus depot. I hoping that I can get one soon & write it off as a business expense. Hmmmm, I smell a New Year resolution, well maybe not an actual resolution, but a goal. I will definitely be posting (hopefully some funny family pics) over the holiday.
This one of my Aunt Maria's recipes. She is the Christmas Cookie Queen. I remember when I was young my mom & other aunts all making their specialties & then getting together for a cookie swap. Well, now Auntie Maria bakes all the cookies for the entire family! Each household gets their own large tray that's full of many different varieties. I have no idea how many she bakes. It's got to be well over three hundred. So, here's to you Auntie Maria, it wouldn't be Christmas without your cookie trays. This is an easy recipe that requires very little prep time.
1/2 cup butter
1 14oz can of Eagle sweetened condensed milk
6oz bag of chocolate chips
1 & 1/2 cup of grain crackers (finely chopped)
3/4 oz of coconut
1 cup walnuts (chopped)
9x13 baking or casserole dish
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
*Place butter in baking/casserole dish & put in the oven until melted.
*Sprinkle grain cracker over the butter.
*Add chocolate chips as next layer.
*Top it off with chopped walnuts.
*Slowly pour condensed milk over all the entire mixture.
*Bake for thirty minutes.
*Let cool entirely before cutting into small squares.
***It looks as though the Fingerpaint Gingerbread Man is the worst Xmas cookie of 2004. I'm sure my Mom is proud of me. All those years at art school really paid off.
Tonight I'm finishing up my laundry, baking, wrapping & packing. What I really want to do is sleep for about 4 days. I'm exhausted!!! I have been working many long hours in restaurant hell & my body is aching. I really hope & pray that this is my last year in the dreaded restaurant biz. I'm getting ready to go be with my family in R.I. for Christmas. I will be perfecting the feast of the seven fishes (is that a word?) recipes for Xmas Eve. Tom wants to film the prepping, cooking & family madness. My family is getting pretty comfortable around the camera. They barely notice it's there.
*It looks as though the Fingerpaint Gingerbread Man is winning the Worst Cookie Contest. I'll wait one more day before I officially declare a winner.
Tonight Tom & I continued our annual tradition of decorating sugar cookies. It seems as though every year the finished product gets weirder & weirder. Tom went with a Costa Rican theme, creating everything from monkeys to baby turtles. My cookies mostly looked like aliens. Our goal is not to make perfectly decorated Xmas wonders in the traditional sense. It is to see which cookie creation can make us laugh the loudest & hardest. This year we are going to share our artwork with you & let you be the judge. Which creation gets your vote for the worst Xmas cookie of the year?
This is the easiest cookie recipe of all time. There are only two ingredients & they are store bought. Enjoy them!
one pkg of chocolate cookie dough
one pkg of reese's peanut butter cups(miniatures)
one box of mini baking cups
* Separate baking cups
* Unwrap the foil & remove paper from reese's peanut butter minis
* Using a teaspoon, place cookie dough into the baking cups. Do not over stuff. Leave some room at the top of the cup.
* Place baking cups with cookie dough on baking sheet.
* Follow baking instructions on the cookie dough package.
* When removed from the oven, immediately press a reese's peanut butter cup into the center of each cookie.
* Let cool before eating.
I'm going to do a little Xmas cookie baking this year. Last year, I made over two hundred of those buggers from scratch for Tom's family. I was so over cookies that I couldn't even look at one for an entire month (Oh the horror!!). This time around I'm only making the easy recipes, so nothing is going to be from scratch (again, oh the horror!!). I'm making magic cookie bars, chocolate chip reeses & decorated sugar cookies. The sugar cookies are a tradition Tom & I have. We drink a little wine, get out our cookie cutters, frosting & food coloring & the party begins. We get creative mixing the food coloring, so the end product doesn't really look too Xmasy. I'd say our cookies look very psychedelic, a la Jerry Garcia. I will share my recipes with you over the next few days because everyone should have yummy, fabulously easy cookie recipes.
Last night at work we were closed for a private event. It was some financial company's Xmas party & they were kind of lame. They hired a great live band & were not really dancing. By 11:30, with 3 more hours to go, there was only about 70 people left & we were bored out of our minds, so a few of my co-workers & I went up to the second floor (which was empty) & got our groove on. Tao-Motion was born. We began with three people, but, within an hour there were 10 of us bustin' our moves. We were not just free-styling, we had some choreographed numbers as well. Surprisingly, our somewhat stuffy management staff, did not tell us to stop. Instead, they were our audience. I have never had so much fun at work! Getting paid to dance like a fool rocks!!
I put up some new tips for the holidays. I included some quick & easy decorating ideas. I'm also going to start posting some holiday recipes, soon. Sorry for the short post, but I'm off to work a double. This basically means I'm working all day & night & will maybe get to sit down for a half hour break in between. Yeaaaaaa, restaurant business!
Yesterday Tony D.(coworker & neighbor) asked me to come over & help him make manicotti for his Xmas dinner. His family's recipe is slightly different than mine. The crepes are the same but they add mozzarella to their ricotta. I'm becoming a pretty good crepe maker, if I do say so myself.
Tony & I also went to Sapori D'Ischia for lunch. It's this Italian deli/restaurant/bar in the middle of a warehouse district in the middle of Queens. It is very old school Italian. The have their own commandments, some of which were hilarious. "Thou shall not serve butter with bread", (only olive oil), "Thou shall not serve lemon peels with espresso." I found out that they supply famed chef Mario Batali with all of his tomatoes & other imported goods for his restaurants. It also a favorite of Bill & Hill Clinton. It just goes to show you that location isn't everything. If you make great food they will come.
Hooray! I got my Xmas cards done this weekend. I took them with me everywhere to get them finished. I did some on the subway, at a diner, even on the toilet (gross but true). We decided against a real tree & I'm not feeling guilty about it. We picked up a 4ft white plastic lighted tree. I added small red glass bulbs & a red aluminum star on the top. It's very post modern & looks awesome at night. It reminds me of those white reindeer with the lights that everyone puts on their lawn. The best part is that it only took 15 minutes to put up & decorate. Stress free. I even took out some of my snowmen & decorated my apartment. I developed quite a thing for them over the years. Speaking of men of snow, check out Jes' site at http//www.sweetpeas.motime.com. She made the cutest snowmen ever. She's very crafty. It's too late to order them for this holiday but, hopefully I'm first in line for next year.
Paul & Jenn Raff welcomed Riley Ewan into the world today at 7:30 p.m. Poor Jenn was in labor for 2 days & they ended up doing a C-section. Riley weighed in at 8lbs, 8 ounces. Mom, baby & Dad are all doing well.
While we are on the subject of babies, my nephew, Robert-Bobby-Li'l B. is also doing well. He now weighs over 6lbs. He's still in premie clothes, but not for long. I really haven't met him yet, since he was in intensive care the last time I was home. Our official met & greet will be at Xmas in R.I. OOO! All this baby talk is making my ovaries ache.
Xmas is here & I'm beginning to feel overwhelmed. Yesterday, I received a bunch of holiday cards in the mail & I realized that I haven't even bought mine yet. I'm sooooooo behind. I asked Tom if we should put up a tree this year & he said it's up to me. We are not even here for Xmas. We spend it with our families in R.I. & V.A., so the poor tree would be so dead by the time we get back. And I'm a bit of a perfectionist so it takes me at least 3 hours to trim my tree. I'm also working so much the next 2 weeks that I will not even get to enjoy the tree. And there's still shopping & baking to be done. I'm trying hard to convince myself. O.k. The truth is I really do not want to put up a tree, but I'm feeling a little guilty about it. I do want to be the next "domestic diva" afterall. D.D.'s all have to put up beautifully decorated trees that are works of art. I bet Martha has decked out her prison cell in her New England Xmas finest. Obviously I need a little help letting myself off the hook. Damn! Is Italian Catholic guilt never ending?
I've totally been stressing about the holidays & I was going to vent this with you all, but, something cool happened at work. Last night, Simon LeBon from Duran Duran came into the restaurant. I have honestly never been so excited to see a famous person before. I wasn't waiting on him, but I was at his table about 50 times. I made any excuse to be there. I helped put his food down, served him drinks, anything to be near him. The people at my own tables were being neglected because I was too busy stalking Mr. LeBon. I honestly felt like a fourteen year old again & Simon wasn't even my favorite band member. John Taylor was. Oh my god! What would I do if J.T. ever came into the restaurant? I'm not sure I could handle the excitement. " Her name is Rio and she dances on the sand.........."
Tom is in LA for the Ocean's 12 movie premiere. I'm totally excited about him meeting Brad Pitt. George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones, & the rest of the cast(minus Julia) are going to be there as well, but my focus is on Brad. Whenever Tom mentions the shoot I say, " Tell Brad I love him. Tell Brad I love him." He got a little annoyed today when I professed my love for Mr. Pitt for like the 400th time. He said, " You never get that excited about me." Which is totally not true. I still get excited to see him, especially if he's been away & comes home with presents. Just kidding, sweetie! Anyway, I don't know why I love Brad. He's not the world's greatest actor or anything. He just fun eye candy.
Today in NYC it was a cold & rainy 35 degrees. I was shopping at FAO Schwarz & was almost trampled by a group of tourist running towards that big keyboard piano thing. It's time to leave monkey world behind & get back into the real world. I struggle to get back into my daily routine everything I go away. I was really in a groove before I left. I was working out, testing recipes, being creative, etc. Now, I just want to lay on my couch, eat Swedish Fish & dream about decorating my Costa Rican bungalow. SNAP OUT OF IT!!
As many of you know, monkeys was one of the reasons Tom & I chose Costa Rica and we were not disappointed. We saw them everyday. On our first morning, we were by the pool & white faced monkeys were directly above us in the trees. Squirrel monkeys came out in droves at sundown. They would swing by the same restaurant every night & wrestle each other on the dining room tables. My favorite encounter was in the national park. We spotted them in the trees & I held out a banana & they came right down. One of them grabbed it right out of my hands! I was being very bad because people are not suppose to feed the monkeys! I want a baby monkey for Xmas!!!
We also encountered other creatures. Small house geckos came into our condo every night. They freaked me out at first, but they eat bugs & mosquitoes, so they're good. Gorgeous butterflies were everywhere, as were humming birds. We saw them up close every morning & we also heard them hum. How cool! Lizards & iguanas were on the beaches. Sloths hung in the tree right by our favorite local restaurant. Coatis (Costa Rican raccoons) also slept in trees. We even got to hold new born sea turtles!
Tom & I met the Costa Rican National Surf Champion, Christian Jimenez, & he offered to teach us. I've never had much of an interest in surfing so, I was planning on watching Tom learn, but he kind of dared me to do it. Well, it wasn't really a dare. Tom said, " It's really hard, so you can just watch." or something to that effect, so I decided to try it. Tom & I were both able to get up a couple of times. It was really fun. I have a whole new respect for surfer dudes cause it takes lots of strength & skill. We also did a canopy tour. Canopying is traveling on suspended cables from platform to platform in the middle of the jungle, ala monkey style. We were traveling between 90 & 120 feet in the air. We also had to repel from the platforms to the ground a few times with a rope. I almost chickened out on the repel part. I was never good on the ropes in gym class, but the fear of being left behind in the jungle was far greater. Tomorrow I'll tell you all about the creatures we saw.
Christian the Surf Champ
Tom & I went to Manual Antonio, Costa Rica. It is located on the Central Pacific coast. We stayed at Villas Nicolas, which I highly recommend. The grounds were beautiful as was our condo. The first thing we saw when we opened our door was the huge, open porch. The floor was covered in red tile & it had a teak roof. In it was a large dining room table & a handmade hammock. The view was breathtaking. The Pacific Ocean was directly in front of us. The jungle was to our right & tropical flowers & palm trees were to our left. I turned to Tom & said, " I love this place!!" We had not even stepped inside, yet. French doors opened to the rest of the condo which was just as impressive as the porch. It had a kitchette & colorful sitting room. Two steps up was the bedroom. I've dabbled in feng shui, so I know that colors & furniture placement can affect your mood. Well, Tom & I instantly felt relaxed & at home. I was totally fantasizing about never returning to our apartment in NYC. Tomorrow I'll tell you about our adventures.
Hi everyone!!! I just got back and I do mean I, me, solo. Tom had a little mishap & had to stay an extra day to visit the US Embassy. He's fine. I mean he didn't get arrested or anything, his backpack was stolen & his passport was in it. OOPS!! He didn't want me to tell anyone. O.K. It's our secret. Those of you who know Tom please don't mention it. I have many stories to share with you, from the location, people, food & of course the monkeys. I tell you all about starting tomorrow. I'm tired & going to bed now. Talk to you soon.