I didn't cook at all this weekend, except for Saturday's poached eggs. Tom & I ordered in or went out to eat. It was a fabulous treat. The South Beach/Kick the Sugar Diet is going well. It's pretty easy to follow even when dining out. I wasn't craving the foods I can't have until this morning, when I visited Moira's site. The picture of her Cinnamon & Cardamom Buns almost sent me over the edge. I've been waiting for her to post the recipe, but, I'll have to wait another 2 weeks to try it.
O.k. I have to change the subject or I'm might inhale a loaf of bread!
It's almost Oscar time & Tom & I are way behind on our movies. We've only seen The Aviator(liked it) & Eternal Sunshine(loved it), so last night we went to see RAY. I know Jamie Foxx is receiving so much acclaim for his performance, but we were wondering if it was all just hype. Well, it isn't. He's amazing. Never, not even for a split second, did I feel as if I watching anyone other than Ray Charles up there on the screen. I had no idea Ray Charles was such a bad ass!!! I can't get his music out of my head today, which it fine cause his music is so good. We still have to go see Sideways, Finding Neverland & Million Dollar Baby. Lots of movies to see but no popcorn for me!
Williams Sonoma sent me their new catalog for cooks the other day. It's loaded with pots, pans, utensils & gadgets. A person would need a warehouse size kitchen to house all the gadgets in the mag. And I have to say this - I just don't get it. Do you really need to use a separate gadget for every function? Who really needs a meatballer? All that's required are your two hands. There's something nice about meatballs not all being exactly the same size. Variety is good.
One thing really caught my eye - A six cup stainless steel egg poacher. I really have a thing for poached eggs. I could eat them everyday with the yolks, of course. My fondness for them comes from my grandmother, who serves them over toasted Italian bread with butter & fresh tomatoes. About five months ago, I was in Rhode Island visiting my family for a weekend & Momma made me some for breakfast. Up until then, I never really paid attention to how or what she used to create them. I was probably too busy chatting/gossiping with other family members. Well, since I made the decision to learn all of her recipes, I've been watching everything she does in the kitchen like a hawk. She used an old steel poaching pan that cooks three eggs at a time. I asked her how long she's had the pan & she said, "Probably for as long as we've had you." I developed quite a fascination with that thing. I got up early & cooked eggs for my grandparents on my last day there. Later that same day, as I was packing to return to NYC, Momma presented me with her old (well, not too old) egg poacher. At first, I told her I couldn't take it cause she's had it for many years, but she insisted. I have to tell you, I love it & use it all the time. When I saw the new shiny 6 egg poacher in the W.S. catalog my heart leapt out for a minute. Cooking 6 eggs at once would totally rock! But, there's something nice about using the same pan that my grandmother cooked - way too many poached eggs to count- for her family for years. So, I'm not going to get the shiny, new, fancy pan. I'm going to keep the one that Momma passed on to me & hopefully pass it on to my kids. I now realize that the reason her poached eggs were always the best is because they were created with so much love.
The next couple of weeks here in NYC are called restaurant weeks, which basically is a way for the food industry to generate some extra income during their slow months. Restaurants offer a three course price fixed menu ($20.05) for lunch or dinner. Business is booming. And lucky me, I get to work more hours/days in the beloved restaurant biz, at least for the next 9 days, 8 hrs, 480 min...oh, you get the point. I'M TIRED!!
Tuesday night I tried a new recipe that Tom found in the NY Times, cider cured pork chops served with caramelized onions & sauteed spinach. The recipe called for the chops to marinate in a brine for at least 8 hrs(I did 24). The brine consisted of salt, pepper, H2O, & apple cider. I followed everything to the letter & while the chops came out extremely moist & tender, there was one problem - THE SALT. Oh my God were the chops salty! It tasted as though they had been marinating at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean for 4 years. The onions & spinach worked out great, but the pork recipe definitely needs to be modified.
Tuesday night also consisted of lots of cookies being baked. Yes, I still was suffering from insomnia, so instead of tossing & turning in bed, or watching more HGTV, I decided to bake until I couldn't bake no more. I made about 100 cookies & sent them to Tom's office as promised. Tom & his co-workers have been bombarded with work lately, so their 9-10 hour days have increased to 12-15 hrs & weekends. They definitely needed a little pick-me-up & I hope the cookies did the trick. Here's a picture (& not a good one) of the finished product.
It's official. This site has won Best of Blogs Cooking/Recipe Site for 2004. I'm sending out a big THANK YOU to my crafty readers, success team gals, fellow Tao employees, Cranston policemen, powerlifters & bodybuilders in R.I., Tom's co-workers at Dogmatic Inc., Sharon Lommel(Tom's mom) & all her neighbors in Richmond, my Mom & her co-workers, the Australians, my dear friends & my big Italian family!!! I could not have done it without you all! I wish there was a big party for this, so that we could all get dressed up & drink champagne & hobnob with the bigwigs. Well, the Academy Awards are coming up soon (I can dream!).
I also want to take a moment to acknowledge some of the other great sites I discovered through the Bob Awards. Bakerina. (2nd place cooking/recipe blog) is an amazing baker & writer. I'm sure we'll see her soon in Gourmet Magazine. Michele. (2nd place best overall blog) is a very witty gal & her site is lots of fun. ljc fyi. (3rd place craft/knitting site) is so creative & talented. And Tertia. (1st place best new blog) who openly shared her pain & struggles of trying to have a child & currently is sharing the joy of her new twins. Show them some love!!
I've been having such a difficult time falling asleep, lately. It's driving me(&Tom) crazy. I get up in the middle of the night & watch HGTV until the early morning. That channel makes me want to decorate! I did rearrange my living room yesterday. I told Tom we need to move to a bigger place so that apply some of what I learned.
My insomnia may have a little something to do with the way I've been eating lately. Well, I mean since Xmas. I realized this weekend that I've been acting as if it's still the holidays. HELLO! It's almost February. I've been sugar bingeing. Yes, sugar is my vice. I just can't seem to kick the habit. This weekend I bought many ingredients to make cookies for Tom's co-workers. I still haven't baked a thing, but, I have to go out & get more chocolate kisses for the peanut butter blossoms cause I ate them all! So, I'm starting the South Beach diet tomorrow. I only do phase 1 (about 2 weeks) & no sugar is allowed. I'm an all or nothing kind of gal!
I've got a question for all you snow lovers out there. Have you ever made snow ice cream? I mean from actual snow? Mary Ragan, my pilates instructor, told me that she gathered a pot of fresh snow from her balcony & made some. She adds sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, & nutmeg. I guess you can make it with anything. Heavy cream, fresh squeezed lemon juice & lemon rind sounds yummy. Mary's from Texas. TEXAS!! How does she know about this & I, a former New Englander, have never heard of anyone making anything from snow other than balls & men. At least I have something to look forward to the next time we're hit with a blizzard.
It was a cold & snowy weekend which gave me lots of time to get all my crafting stuff together. We ventured out today & it wasn't that bad. We got about 10 inches of snow here. My Mom called this morning & said she was snowed in with at least 2 feet of the stuff & it had not even stopped, yet. I thought she was exaggerating, but New England was really hit hard. It's the perfect time for hot toddy!! I went with the non traditional recipe & really liked it. This is perfect to drink right before bed cause it will knock you out for a while. Yes, I had on a warm fuzzy sweater & solved the fireplace issue, too. Tom has a video of a roaring, crackling fire, so we popped that in. It was just like being at a fabulous ski lodge in Vermont!
HOT TODDY RECIPE (makes 6 servings)
4 cups apple cider
1 cup cranberry juice cocktail
1/2 cup tequila
1/4 cup triple sec or orange-flavored liqueur
1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
5-8 cloves, crushed
lime slices & cinnamon sticks for garnish
- In saucepan heat cider & cranberry juice. Stir in cloves, nutmeg & cinnamon. Heat until hot (do not let boil) & remove from heat.
- Stir in tequila & liqueur.
- Serve in mugs with lime slices & cinnamon sticks.
I received lots of warm wishes & good advice from you guys out there on beating the winter blues. Tom & I can't go on a vacation for a while, so I'm going to try & create some warmth in our home this weekend. I found some hot toddy recipes & have it narrowed down to three. Two are traditional & the third one is made with tequila & triple sec. I'll test one & then post the recipe. I've got a fuzzy winter sweater, now I just have to figure out the fireplace thing.
I also have another big project that I want to start this weekend - organizing my craft supplies. I have stuff stored all over my apartment. I want to keep it all together, so that I'm not wasting time searching for things when I'm in a creative mood. I've got to begin crafting for my webstore. WHOO HOO WEBSTORE!!!!
The sun has been out the last couple of days for the first time in weeks. Unfortunately, its only 9 degrees outside. I'm beginning to realize that I'm not a winter person. Sure, I like the idea of sitting by a fire in a fuzzy sweater drinking spiked hot toddy(ummmm, I'm going to look for a recipe) but, how often do I actually do that? Not nearly enough! Instead, I bundle myself up so tight, that I can barely turn my head, which makes it difficult to cross city streets. And I walk 5 blocks to the subway, getting caught in at least two wind tunnels along the way. I'm cold & need a sweater when it's in the mid-seventies, so how am I going to survive another NYC winter!?! Yes, I grew up in New England where it snowed constantly in the winter months, but I had two great advantages; my brother & a car. My bro, Stephen, would go out & start my car & wipe away the snow & ice from the windshield. All I had to do was make a mad dash from the house into my heated vehicle. Ahhhh, I had it good. O.k. maybe I'm being a big baby, but, I sooooooo want to be on a warm sandy beach right now, sipping a pina colada. How many more days until summer begins????
Here's an update on my hot chocolate obsession. I swear, you won't have to hear anymore about it, at least not for a while. Tom & I ventured down to Mariebelle's Cafe to see how their hot chocolate compares to Angelina's. We ordered two varieties, milk & dark European style. The milk chocolate didn't even come close, but, the dark one did. It was thick & creamy & slightly less rich than Angelina's. We gorged on chocolate bark & caramel cookies, too. We ate & drank so much chocolate that we got sick, but, if you're going to overindulged in something, why not chocolate? We bought a tin of cocoa, which was a little pricey. I'm still partial to Angelina's divine creation. Tom thinks the fact that we first tasted it in Paris may have a little something to do with it. I'll patiently wait for my care package from Yvonne.
Here's my chili recipe. Keep in mind that you do not need a crockpot to make this. This recipe can also be made with meat, but, I usually make it vegetarian, & trust me, it tastes so good, people think that there's meat in it. If you are going to add meat & cook it on your stove, brown the meat first in a skillet & drain the fat. If adding meat & using a crockpot no browning is necessary.
1 11oz can condensed black beans or bean soup
1 15oz can kidney beans, drain & rinse
1 11oz can beans, drain & rinse(you choose bean variety)
1 16oz can vegetarian beans
1 14oz can chopped tomato in puree
1 15oz can whole kernel corn, drained
1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 TBLS chili powder
1 TBLS dry parsley
1 TBLS dry oregano
1 TBLS dry basil
1 TBLS cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Tabasco to taste depending on how spicy you like it(I use 1/2 tsp)
salt & pepper to taste
*you can also add an envelope of chili mix for extra spices
*For stove top cooking:if chili is too thick add a few cups of water
In crockpot cook on low for 8-9 hours.
On stove, cook on medium heat until bubbling, than lower & simmer until thick & tender. Serve with a dollop of sour cream & shredded cheddar cheese.
Today it's gray & cold here in NYC & it's suppose to snow. It's the perfect day for chili & hot chocolate! I'm throwing all the ingredients in the slow cooker for the chili & I'll post the recipe later. You don't need to have a crockpot to make the chili. I'm using it today so that Tom & I can go in search of fabulous Angelina-like hot chocolate. Bakerina told me about Mariebelle's in SOHO so that's where we are headed. Their stuff also comes in chocolatey pellet form just like Angelina's. I hope it's good. Keep your fingers crossed!
Yvonne lives 5 hours out of Paris & has offered to pick up the real deal for me next time she's there. I'm willing to wait for it. Thanks, Yvonne!!
I would like to make & perfect my own marshmallows to go with Angelina's chocolate heaven. I found one recipe from Martha & it is very involved & time consuming. Has anyone ever made their own marshmallows from scratch? Can you pass along some tips or advice or even the recipe?
Tom & I discovered some pretty amazing things when we went to Paris a few years ago. Our greatest find was Angelina's Tea Room. They had the prestigious reputation of having the best hot chocolate in the world. Now, at the time I found that hard to believe, since I considered myself a connoisseur of the drink. Tom & I were 100% blown away by the hot chocolate that Angelina's served. It was outrageously good, so thick, rich & smooth. I honestly felt like I'd been duped for so many years & that I finally tasted the real thing. Their stuff had to be what Johnny Depp's character loved so much in the movie Chocolat. So, Tom & I bought a bag of Angelina's goodness to take home with us. This was our 1st mistake- buying only one bag!
When we opened the bag we were surprised because it wasn't a powder. It was little, solid, chocolate, pellets of heaven. The ingredients are so simple; milk, cocoa & sugar. The pellets taste great over vanilla ice cream or even straight out of the bag by the spoonful(Tom doesn't know about that one). We really were conservative with our one bag. We made it last through two winters. Then, this summer, we invited The Raffs over for dinner & they brought us another bag of it!! We were psyched! So we got a little greedy. We began having huge cups of it with Frangelico or Kahula. The last time we had it, we went over the top! We mixed in Frangelico, Kahula, marshmallows & whipped cream. The second bag is totally gone!!! We have at least two months of winter to get through. I can't go back to the other stuff! Tom & I have searched online & the real thing isn't available.
So, is anyone going to Paris anytime soon? How about friends or family? Not only will I pay for a bag(or three)of Angelina's hot chocolate, but, I will bake the most fabulous cookies & send them off to whom ever gets me the stuff. Then you can dunk the cookies in the most amazing hot chocolate in the universe.
The other day, I was walking around the apartment wearing a black velour sweatsuit. Tom glanced at me & said that I looked like a goomba, bambina, Italian, Mafia Princess in the outfit I was wearing. I laughed and said, "Hmmm, if I was in the Mafia, I could have people outed, right?" He gave me this really strange look & said, "OUTED! You mean OFF-ED! Dawn, the Mafia kills people, they don't expose homosexuals by taking them out of the closet!" Just another reason why I wouldn't make a good Mafia Princess!
I tried the braised Chinese chicken recipe last night & the meat came out incredibly moist & tender. Tom wasn't really into the Chinese relish, he doesn't like vinegar with meat or chicken. I, on the other hand, smothered my piece with the stuff. The chicken tasted great on it's own or with the relish, so this recipe is a keeper.
I want to thank Hope Wallace for the beautiful card she sent me. Hope started the Snail Mail program, which is all about sending one another cards & such, the old fashion way. Many of us are addicted to email, but there's something really nice about going to your mailbox & having something in there other than bills. It's especially nice to receive a card with Hope's fab photography on it! I'll soon have a link up to Hope's site if anyone else wants to join.
My friend Caryl told me today that she was surprised that I had not mentioned Brad or Jen's breakup, yet. You all know how I love Brad, but I feel sad about the whole thing. I saw him on Oprah not long ago & he was talking about his wife like he just adored her. He said that he couldn't wait to have kids & he hoped they were girls so he could have little Jens running around. I heard that & thought to myself that he was the sweetest, most perfect guy ever. So, was he just "acting" on Oprah or what?
On a serious note, California Hammonds are up for a BOB Award for Most Inspirational Blog. They are asking people to go to their site today & post a comment to help them raise money for The National Breast Cancer Foundation. They are going to get money for every comment they receive & hope to raise over $1000, so show them some love.
I'm making this tonight for the first time, so, we'll see how it turns out. It sounds fabulous.
1(3-lb)chicken, whole or cut up
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup water
1/2 cup lite soy sauce
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh ginger
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 garlic cloves, crushed
salt & pepper to taste
Chinese Relish Ingredients
1 cup scallions, chopped finely
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
1 Tbsp. rice-wine vinegar or sherry
Salt & pepper to taste
Sesame seeds to garnish
-Place onions in slow cooker; add chicken- if using a whole chicken place breast side down.
-In bowl combine water, soy sauce, ginger, sugar & garlic.
-Pour over chicken & cover & cook on low for 6-7 hours.
-Season with salt & pepper to taste.
-Serve with Chinese relish & garnish with sesame seeds.
I've been reading Maya Angelou's cookbook Hallelujah! Her book has great Southern/Soul food recipes, as well as touching & amusing stories to accompany them. That's exactly what I want in my cookbook; family recipes & family stories & memories to go with the food (though I'm not as eloquent a writer as Maya Angelou).
I've had requests for crockpot recipes(including Jes' moose challenge) so I'll begin posting some tomorrow.
Ms. Angelou included in her book this great quote from her grandmother.
"Sister the world might try to put you on a road that you don't like. First stop and look behind you. If nothing back there makes you want to return, then look ahead. If nothing ahead beckons you enough to keep you going, then you have to step off that road and cut yourself a brand-new path"
I watched the show last night & had mixed feelings about it. I would have loved to have a chance to show off my creative talents but I'm not sure I could deal with all the egos & cattiness. I would have instantly become "The Bitch" of the show the minute my team members came home from a day of shopping with fake flowers for the apple theme centerpiece. I have no idea if the show will be a hit or not because I honestly don't watch reality TV, so let me know what you thought of it.
Here's something ironic. On the show, apples were the week's theme & I made baked apples for dessert last night. They are so simple to make.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Core the apples (do not go all the way through the bottom). In the center of the apple layer 1 TBSP of brown sugar, 1/2 TBSP of butter, 1 TBSP of honey, 1/2 TBSP of cinnamon & top it off with raisins. Place apples in a baking/casserole dish & cook for 20 - 30 minutes(until apples are tender). Garnish with whipped cream. The cooking time will depend on the type of apple that you use. I used Rome apples.
In August of 2004 I was flown to California to audition for a reality show that was called "Searching For The Next Domestic Diva". I met with producers & made craft projects that were judged & while I saw my competition, I was not allowed to speak with any of them. Then I found out that I didn't make the cut down to the final 12 & that the name of the show had been changed to "Finding Martha". When I heard the new title my first reaction was YUCK!!! I found out a few weeks ago through friends who saw the promos that the show is airing as "Wickedly Perfect". YUCK YUCK!!!! IT airs tonight & I took the night off from work so I can see who beat me out. I'm going to make something fabulous for dinner & have a nice glass of wine(or three) & hopefully laugh & be grateful for not making the final cut. Let me know what you think about the show if you watch it (it's on at 8pm in Survivor's time slot).
Last night Tom & I finished watching the Stars Wars Trilogy. I know I've seen Return Of the Jedi at least 5 times, but, I have no memory of it. I kept asking Tom questions like; Are Ewoks good or bad? Does Darth save Luke? He's not going to take off his mask is he? Either I'm getting old or the movie just never made am impression on me.
I didn't really like the new crock pot recipe I made last night. It was an apple curry pork & it was just o.k. I'll test out some more recipes & pass them on when I find a good one.
Now, I'm going to be a pain in the butt. I'm up for a blog award for best cooking/recipe site. I know it's an honor just to be nominated, but I'd like to win. I'm asking all of my readers, friends & family to vote. It's a quick & easy process. You can link directly from my site by clicking on the BOB Award button & remember your vote does not count until you click on the link in your verification email. You can vote every 24 hours. I've been bugging friends & family so much about this that I'm sure that they think I was nominated in the wrong category. They think I should have received a nod for Biggest Blog Whore! There's something to aim for next year!
Tom & I celebrated our Xmas on New Year's weekend. We ate lentil soup, drank wine & opened presents. We decided to shop for each other after Xmas & what a brilliant idea that was. We made out like BANDITS!!!! I mean, you get so much more for your money shopping after Xmas, that I think this is going to become a new tradition for us. We both were jumping up & down with glee at the site of all of our bargains.
Speaking of traditions, my family has one that seems pretty strange to other people.
On Xmas day, after "Santa" has come & we are done opening our gifts, we watch our holiday movies. Doesn't seem weird yet? Well, in my immediate family those movies must be by or contain three members of our holy trinity- Marty, Bobby & Al. Yes, I'm referring to the three wise talents of Italians, Scorsese, De Niro, & Pacino. The first year Tom came home with me for Xmas we watched A Bronx Tale & Scarface. Last year was Goodfellas & this year we broke tradition slightly by seeing a movie at night. We went to see The Aviator after Xmas dinner. Tom's family watches Charlie Brown Xmas & old home videos. More "traditional"? Yes, but it's kind of weird watching him at 6 years old playing with a G.I. Joe doll.
I'm going to test out some more crock pot recipes today. It took me 10 minutes to dig that pot out of the cabinet, so I guess I should put it to good use. I will definitely post any recipe that turns out fabulous.
This recipe is not just for New Year's Day, it's also perfect for cold winter nights. I use a slow cooker(crock pot) for this recipe. I put it on low heat for 6-7 hours. You can also cook it on your stove top in a large stockpot over medium heat, stirring constantly. Once mixture boils, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Cook until lentils are tender.
1&1/2 cups of dried lentils
6 cups of water
1 cup chopped onion (medium onion)
1 cup chopped green pepper(medium pepper)
1 cup chopped celery(2 medium stalks)
1 cup scraped & chopped carrots(2-3 carrots)
7 garlic cloves(minced)
1/2 cup fresh parsley(chopped)
1 tsp of fresh ginger(grated)
3 bay leaves
1 TBS dried basil
1 TBS dried thyme
1 TBS dried oregano
1/4 tsp of tabasco sauce
2 TBS of soy sauce
1 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
salt & pepper to taste (I use a mixture of sea salt & garlic salt)
-Combine all ingredients in your slow cooker or stockpot. Cook until lentils & veggies are tender. Pull out bay leaves before serving.
I worked last night & Tom was with his family (he comes home today, YEA!), but, I managed to have fun. All of my customers were nice & the money was good. At midnight, Alex, Jeanette(co-workers & friends) & I kissed each other & vowed to work very hard on our dreams, so that we will be out of the restaurant business by the end of 2005! I don't really have New Year's resolutions, just thing that I want to accomplish in the new year. Yes, I guess they kind of are the same thing, but, there's something about calling them resolutions that freaks me out & puts way too much pressure on everything. I will not bore you by listing them all, but here are a few:
-Craft more & begin selling my stuff on my site.
-Open my website shop.
-Learn how to really add to my website by myself(computer stuff is scary to me, but I'll conquer the fear in the upcoming year).
-Spend more time entertaining the friends & family that are dear to me.
-Finish my secret family recipes cookbook!!!
O.k. that's the short list. WOW! That's a lot. I better get working.
Here's my New Year wish to all my family, friends, & blog readers. May your year be filled with laughter, health & love. May you accomplish something that you thought you could not. May you give to those in need. May you allow yourself to dream. And work towards that dream(esp. if it's big & scary) & share your inner most dream with someone who will help you believe that it can come true!