Over the course of the last few days I've had: mulled cider, pumpkin butter, steel cut oatmeal with apples and raisins, turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes, apple pie and a butternut squash and vanilla bean risotto. What I have learned is: I Love fall, and almost all of the typical fall foods. You can have too much of a good thing though. I loved the cider- the oatmeal, the pumpkin butter. Sadly, I just cannot love the butternut squash and vanilla bean risotto. I wanted to so much!! It sounds perfect! And, I had had this in NY with my dear friend Court-- and I liked it there but we had had so so much good food-- that I may have just been on a food high. Now that I've had time to ponder it-- the vanilla doesn't add much in my mind- if anything- it distracts from the risotto and the squash (to my taste anyway). It also is a very expensive ingredient to dislike or even "not love" in something. So next time, I will leave out a little bit of something I love and streamline things a little. In this case, I believe, less will be more. As for the season of fall.... I just can't get enough of that good thing. Tomorrow I will dive right back into fall food joy. There will be a pumpkin spice latte, or a chai, or a salted caramel mocha... maybe some apple pie. Yeah... I can't get enough of autumn. The weather, the food, the time of transition- none of it needs streamlined... I just want MORE of it. As far as seasons go-- it is complete perfection.
I said this would be a blog about friendship as well as food. Well it's time to write a quick little note about that. I have been very blessed over the years to form friendships with some amazing people. Many of them I have met through the three fantastic jobs I've had over the last 15 years. Each one of those jobs has been with people of integrity, passion, and a deep desire to live in a world that is loving and good. From York Eye Associates, to Church of the Apostles, to Lancaster Theological Seminary, I really have been linked to some amazing people in each setting and I am grateful.
So, the best part about living near DC? Hosting our friends as they come to see this amazing city. We explore a new piece of it every time a friend stops by and we feel blessed to have them visit us (messy house and all-- there's a lot of love here). So here are a few quick photos of just SOME of the amazing people in our lives. It certainly isn't everyone who's come to visit, but it's a few of them. And-- I hope if you are in DC and you're one of those people who likes to share a meal with me, my fantastic hubby and my great kids-- (and my amazing ma too!).... that you will (please) come visit. We'll cook for you- or take you out- or just have a blast sitting around goofing off.
Until we are all at the table... with some bread, wine and family...
Ike goes to a great school. We love the Montgomery County School District. Really-- his school is phenomenal. That said: they believe that kids lose too much over summer break (I know this is true). They think that kids should work on their math and reading skill sets over the break (I know they should)... can you feel the big ole' "BUT" coming? Yeah-- they believe our kids should do a huge reading and a huge math packet of homework over the summer. (it's due the first day of school!!) I know this is a good thing-- but dear LORD I needed a break. ok-- so there are lots of fun, and sometimes just odd exercises to do to work on writing and reading. Last week he drew a picture of his favorite restaurant and wrote three reasons why people should eat there. (Got a guess as to the name of said restaurant? Those of you who live in York and Lancaster should have NO trouble guessing). And next week we have to go to the library and read a book that takes place in another country. Then use a Venn diagram to show the similarities and the differences to the United States (this is the Kindergartner's homework-- -I'd hate to see what the 3rd graders are doing!!!!)
Today's suggested assignment was to "create a new cookie. Name it and design a box that will make people want to try it.".
Well-- it's cookies-- and-- Ike's mom is a bit of an over achiever (and now a jobless over achiever) sooooooo...... i think you can imagine how this might spin wildly out of control. We weren't five minutes into this project before I suggested we make the cookies. Then Ike suggested a particular design for the packaging (he wanted a long box to hold several cookies). So he wrote out his cookie plan, which looked like this:
Then we went to Trader Joe's and bought these:
And to Michael's a bought a box or two... and then we came back home and I started to actually make his cookies. He decided everyone needed to suggest several names for the cookie, then he would choose which one he liked best. In the end the choices were= Rolo cookies, Caramel Berry Cookies, Mi Cookies, and Ike's delight. He chose the latter and designed a box that looks like this:
It's still missing the picture he took of the chocolate and strawberry to put on each end, but otherwise- -it's done. And the cookies look like this:
If you haven't guessed from the above "master plan"-- these are a vanilla base dough with rolo's candy (he spelled it roolos) OR in our case, trader joe's dark chocolate covered caramels, and a chocolate covered strawberry on top.
Ike's both a genius and a delight-- and so are his cookies.
Here's the recipe if you'd like to give them a go. they are really really delicious with or without the strawberry. :)
The vanilla cookie base is from a fantastic little book called "Milk and Cookies" by Tina Casaceli. Everyone should read it. I changed the ingredients very very slightly, but this is mostly like hers.
2 Cups Old-fashioned rolled oats
2 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chocolate covered caramels
1 Tablespoons cocoa powder OR flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter at room temp.
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs at room temp.
1/2 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Cut chocolate candies into small (chocolate chip size pieces) add cocoa or flour and toss together (these will keep the candies from sticking together.
Preheat oven to 350.
Put oats in a food processor and process until finely ground.
In a large bowl mix together the ground oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In another bowl beat the butter with an electric mixer until it's soft. Then mix butter on medium for 3 or so minutes until light and creamy. With the beater running add the granulated sugar, then the brown sugar beating until light and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time. Beat in the vanilla and when blended slowly beat in the reserved dry mixture. When the dough is mixed, but still streaky, remove from the mixer and by hand, mix in the chocolate candy pieces.
Drop by Tablespoon onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment. Bake for 10 minutes at 350, or until lightly brown.
If you are like Ike and want to make them even fancier-- let them cool and place a chocolate covered strawberry on top. We covered our own by melting Giardelli chocolate chips in the microwave and dipping the strawberries into the chocolate. That boy likes too much of a good thing!!
So-- prosciutto is just wonderful good. I love pancetta (and it's cousin bacon) more, and a really good slice of Serrano ham.... but next in line is the beautiful prosciutto. We made sandwiches earlier this week with some of that good stuff, along with fresh mozzarella, basil, soft bread and some aged balsamic. So so tasty.... but, we had a good deal left over (isaac is practically a vegetarian and max is just 3 and moody). Anyhow- last night Scott reminded me that we still have prosciutto and "it won't last long". (he meant, it will spoil, but I believe, it just won't last long) No love, it won't. It will be used as such:
Take these (the yukon golds that were NOT made into mashed potatoes earlier this week)
add a little salt and some pepper.
Bake at 400 for 30 minutes.
Drop the chopped prosciutto (it's not chopped yet in this picture, but just tear or rough chop it).
around the top and bake for 10 more minutes. Delicious. Scott's right. It won't last long.
So- a week ago, we started weight watchers which means there will be fewer recipes for fried things in the next few months on this blog. We still will eat well because I am determined to create delicious variations of the things we love that I can have for fewer points. So... I give you: Zucchini with Orzo and Feta. We'd had a ww recipe for a version of this- but I've changed it a little to make it my own. And before I give you that recipe--- I am including here a few pictures of what we did yesterday-- a double decker bus tour with a few of our dear friends. I love our city. And our friends. What a great day.
Zucchini with Orzo and Feta
1 Box of Orzo
4 Medium Zucchini cut into small pieces
1 small block or container of Feta cheese
1/2 a sweet onion chopped
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
2-4 Tablespoons of parsley
1 teaspoon oregano
salt and pepper to taste
Cook orzo according to directions on package.
heat olive oil over medium heat. cook onion until softened- add zucchini, oregano, salt and pepper.
Cook zucchini until bright green and softened- toss the zucchini and onions into the cooked orzo-- add parsley and feta and toss well. Enjoy hot or at any temp. It's good cold- at room temp- or whatever...of course, I like it hot. :)
One of our favorite things to do when we lived in Lancaster was to go to Central Market. We'd go around 11 am, and get iced tea or chai from Mean Cup, then we'd go get fresh veggies and chicken or some other protein to grill for our Saturday night dinner from whichever stands had the nicest produce. We'd wander around a little and buy cheese from Weaver's and chat with the "sub ladies". We'd look at the chocolate and the cookies from Wendy Jo's and wish we were eating some. We'd then go buy white and chocolate milk in glass jars from Maplehoff Dairy. And just before we left to walk up to Binn's park-- we'd grab empanadas from the cheesy little family run empanada stand. They were delicious and most likely broke a number of health or sanitation codes, and so- the stand didn't last long, and soon, we could no longer enjoy that very delicious treat. We LOVED those emapanadas. Pork, beef or chicken, they were all delicious.
So we haven't had empanadas in close to a year, and last week, I couldn't take it anymore and decided to try to make them myself. They weren't the same, but they were TOTALLY DELICIOUS!
Here's an approximation of the recipe:
The Dough Recipe from About.com
3 cups flour (plus a little more for kneading)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold water
1 egg white
1 teaspoon vinegar
3 tablespoons shortening
1. In a bowl, beat the water, egg, egg white and vinegar together. Set aside.
2. In a separate bowl, mix together the 3 cups of flour and salt.
3. Cut the shortening into the flour mix with a pastry blender or two butter knives. Make a well in the center of the flour mix and pour the liquid ingredients from the first bowl into the center.
4. Mix the wet and dry ingredients with a fork until it becomes stiff.
5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead it just until all the flour is incorporated and the dough is smooth.
6. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, but never more than 24 hours.
Tip: If you want to keep the dough longer than 24 hours, you can freeze it.
Servings: Makes approximately 10 six-inch empanadas.
Filling is slightly adapted from a recipe on Epicurious.com
Cook onion in olive oil in a heavy medium skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until softened. Add garlic, cumin, and oregano and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in beef and cook, breaking up lumps with a fork, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes.
Add raisins ( I chopped these very finely- Scott would suggest you leave them out entirely)
olives, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and tomatoes with reserved juice, then cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced but mixture is still moist, about 5 minutes. Spread on a plate to cool.
Preheat oven to 200°F with rack in middle.
Lay a large sheet of plastic wrap on a dampened work surface (to help keep plastic in place), then roll out an empanada disk on plastic wrap to measure about 6 inches. Place 3 tablespoons meat mixture on disk and top with cheese if you like it. Moisten edges of disk with water and fold over to form a semicircle, then crimp with a fork. Make more empanadas in same manner.
Heat vegetable oil in a deep 12-inch skillet over medium heat until it registers 360°F on thermometer. Fry empanadas, 2 or 3 at a time, turning once, until crisp and golden, 4 to 6 minutes per batch.
Transfer to a shallow baking pan and keep warm in oven. Return oil to 360°F between batches.
So, over a year ago, I promised my friend Alyssa that I would give her our pasta with white bean sauce recipe. I am just now getting that checked off my to do list. This comes originally from a cookbook Scott and I were given when we got married called the "Family Circle Cookbook, New Tastes for New Times." It's now probably more like old tastes for past times, but we still go to that cookbook an awful lot and have found lots of winners. This particular pasta we've made the most often, and it is always a hit. It's also quick, and could be made lowfat (if you use less cheese) Hope that you have a chance to try it and love it as much as we do.
Ingredients: 1/2 box or a little more of pasta--
(we prefer penne or farfalle, but there are lots of good choices, pick your favorite kind.)
White Bean Sauce Ingredients: 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
2 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
1 cup of baby carrots, thinly sliced
1 or 16 oz. can of white beans
1 - 11/2 Cups of Chicken Broth
1 teaspoon leaf sage crumbled
(we've also used ground sage in a pinch)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2-4 Tablespoons of lemon juice (we love lemon, so we add extra)
1/2- 1 Cup of grated Parmesan (the original calls for 1/2 cup - we use a whole cup)
3 Tablespoons chopped parsley
cook pasta according to package directions.
Meanwhile: heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat... add garlic and cook for about a minute (don't let it burn!) Add carrots- cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add beans, broth, sage and salt-- cook 5 minutes mashing about 1/4-1/3 of the beans against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon (this is what makes the sauce creamy- but without using cream or milk!)
Add lemon juice and cook 2 minutes. Add Parmesan and parsley-- drain pasta and add to skillet-- toss with sauce. so so good!!
Two kids, Married to my best friend, have great people in my life. I am a Teacher and Program Director(cult leader really). And in my free time I am a Poet, a Preacher (crazy liberal variety), a Potter and a happy woman overall.