Friday, July 30, 2010

Beach Blanket Birthday!

So, this past week was my birthday and, as is my tradition during my birthday week, we go on vacation (I feel so lucky to have a summer birthday!). One year we went to Puerto Rico, which was absolutely fabulous (I will never forget the bioluminescent bay), but most years we go to the shore, Ocean City or Cape May, NJ. This year, we went to the beach...Delaware’s Rehoboth Beach. For those of you unfamiliar with the distinction, I will explain…in Jersey, it’s the Shore, in Delaware it’s the Beach, and in Maryland it’s the Ocean…I don’t know what it is in California, probably the surf or something groovy like that. Being a Philly girl and we have always gone to the shore, so that’s what it will remain to me, regardless of the location. Whatever the moniker, sitting on the beach and watching the world go by – including dolphins – is pure heaven. The multicolored mix of umbrellas, the crash of the waves, the chatter of families, and the laughter of happy children all affirm that yes, we are on vacation and, at least for the next seven or so days, we don’t have a care in the world….unless a seagull shits on our heads or steals our lunch. I know for a fact that seagulls like PB&J!

On Sunday, we watched a storm roll in from the north, and although it was windy, very wet, and a bit scary, it was amazing and I share “before and after” photos with you.
We had lots of visitors…my sister, my cousin and his wife from Maryland’s Eastern Shore, daughter’s boyfriend, and little daughter’s little friends (little daughter had to leave early with sister to attend Drum Major Academy). The architect and the foodie also visited and, on my birthday, foodie made a fabulous dinner…Sautéed Shrimp with Lemon Basil Pasta. This was a variation on a recipe she shared with us from The Pioneer Woman featuring grilled chicken.
15-20 shrimp, grilled or sautéed
1 lb of penne pasta, cooked al dente
½ stick butter
3 whole lemons, juices
¾ heavy cream
¼ cups half & half
1 ½ cups grated parmesan cheese
20 whole basil leaves chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook pasta, reserving 1 cup of hot pasta water after you drain…set pasta aside in a colander. In the same pot, melt butter over medium heat. Squeeze in the juice of 3 lemons, whisk together. Pour in cream and half & half, whisk until hot. Dump in cheese and wish until melted. Add basil and salt and pepper. Check consistency, adding some of the hot pasta water to loosen the sauce if too thick. Pour pasta and sauce in a large serving bowl, toss, add the shrimp (or grilled chicken, sautéed scallops will work too!) and serve.

After dinner, we went to the boardwalk and rode the bumper cars, took a parachute ride (just a little boardwalk ride in case anyone from BCBS is reading this) and visited a haunted house….it was a delightful birthday…for me and foodie, whose birthday is the day after mine! A great week down the shore and I'm looking forward to a fabulous year!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"Blue Q, Now I’m No Longer Alone”

While sauntering around a Washington DC souvenir shop during my Cherry Blossom Festival trip, from across the store, I spotted a delectable tote that required further scrutiny. Now, dear readers, this was not a tote with one of our forefathers featured in a fancy wool coat with brass buttons, a white wig and leggings (how could they wear all that paraphernalia on hot days like we are having now, I ask you…was it not as hot back then?), this bag featured our First Lady on a swing in a fabulous red dress (my favorite color) wearing pumps and pearls (BoNuS!)…very June Cleaver…Beav would be proud. Needless to say, I paid the required coin and that bag promptly came home (or is it came home promtly?) with me…you may have noticed it in my “Shoebie” post. The bag is made of recycled materials, and since I’m trying to be conservation-minded, I was intrigued and decided to do some research on the company….what I found was a treasure trove of creativity, color, cleverness, and all around awsomeness (also not a word, I know, but once again, humor me) perfect for toting your groceries, knitting projects, or as I used it, as a beach bag!

The company that made this terrific tote, Blue Q, was started by two brothers in the late 80’s. It is located in Pittsfield, Massachusetts and the work force of disabled and non-disabled individuals create their amazing products from 95% recycled, post consumer material. 1% of the sale of Blue Q bags and stainless steel water bottles support The Nature Conservancy which works to conserve and protect ecologically important lands and waters. Blue Q's website explains that they do not have traditional “bricks and mortar” stores, but, clicking on their charming webventory (you’re not “in” a store so inventory did not seem right) will be more enjoyable than a visit to any mall, even with a sale, plus coupons, and a really good pretzel. In addition to tote bags, they sell tin banks, crazy-named teas, magnets, stickers, temporary tattoos, t-shirts, and a bunch of other fun stuff. My bag is called "Mighty Michelle" and they offer other complete lines of bits and pieces with titles such as "Boss Lady" "La-La Land" and "Dirty Girl." Check out Blue Q and send me a photo if you make a purchase and I'll post it! Besides Mrs. Obama, I share my recent acquisitions…they are gifts…shhhhh, it's a secret!

Hey, post a comment and become eligible to win a Blue Q zipper pouch. This stuff is really should really check it out

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Rosemary Shortbread Cookies

Ok, so here’s my idea…..a few months ago, my Foodie cooking companion told me she made Rosemary Shortbread Cookies, and I've been eager to try them ever since. So, using the rosemary from my potted garden, I decided to bake some cookies today (never mind that it was 93° outside). Anyway, I found a nice recipe on, so here goes…I will need:

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
2/3 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons white sugar (to make them fancy afterwards)...I skipped this step.

Between the time I took the picture of the ingredients and I began to make the dough, there was a water main break on my street. What is it with me and external complications when I cook or bake?! I am willing to surrender that the food processor incident was my fault, but I had nothing to do with the water main break…I swear.

Back to cookies…

In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and 2/3 cup of sugar until light and fluffy.

Stir in the flour salt and rosemary until well blended. The dough will be somewhat soft.

Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour....this is important, otherwise the cookie dough will be too soft and it won’t cooperate when you try to roll it out.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes 1 1/2x2 inches in size…..I think I’ll do circles.

Place cookies on parchment paper lined cookie sheets. Sprinkle the remaining sugar over the tops.

Preheat the oven to 375° and bake for 8-12 minutes, or until golden at the edges.

Cool on wire racks, and store in an airtight container at room temperature.

These cookies are delicious....wonderfully savory and not too sweet. Great with a cup of tea!

BTW, the water came back on.
BTW Part II, neighbor, from whom I borrowed the blender and to whom I gave some cookies (it's the least I could do), reports that they are yummy!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Herbs, Herbs, My Kingdom for a Herb

Did you know that the more you snip your favorite herbs, the more they will grow? I have tried for several years to grow herbs in different spots of my yard, but all the “dirt” spots don’t get enough sun. This year, I chose to put my herbs in pots so that I could just place them in my yard’s sunny spots and, as a bonus, not have to worry about weeding around them or accidentally mowing them down. Don’t get me started on lawn mowers…I finally went out and bought a good, old-fashioned push mower and, to be honest, it’s a little more work but it does just as good of a job.

Back to herbs.

Both herbs and spices are used to flavor food and the difference between a herb and spice has been frequently discussed, but there is indeed a difference. Spices are commonly stronger than herbs and mainly come from the roots or seeds of the plant. Common examples of spices are cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, cardamom. When I think of spices, I think baking. Herbs, on the other hand, come from the leaves of the plant and are more often used in cooking (unless you're me and use herbs and spices interchangeably). Examples are thyme, sage, oregano, basil, and rosemary….all of which I have in my garden and I am committed to make something with each this summer. The flavor and aroma of herbs quickly deteriorates after picking, so you should use them as soon after clipping as possible.

Ok, so far I have made pesto (remember the food processor incident) and thyme ice cream (which, btw, I have made one other time since). These aren’t the only things I’ve made using the herbs, but they are the most post-worthy things….and in retrospect, this is a pretty pathetic little list for a person who professes to be a cook (and knitter, but as we know, that’s a story for a different day). To rectify this situation, I am on the hunt for unusual recipes featuring my aromatic additives….stay tuned...I have an idea.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


This past Friday was the Architect’s birthday and her husband treated us to an absolutely amazing dinner at Sycamore in Lansdowne. Just a hop, skip and a jump from Swarthmore east on Baltimore Pike, Sycamore is somewhat of an inconspicuous little treasure in a charming town of tree-lined streets, beautifully restored Victorian homes and a train station designed by legendary Philadelphia architect Frank Furness. The borough of Lansdowne has a lovely park called Sycamore Tree Park, which perhaps inspired the restaurant’s name.

I don’t claim to be a food critic, but I will do my best to describe the delightful atmosphere and delicious meals we enjoyed at Sycamore. First, I always appreciate a simple and nicely designed graphic and Sycamore’s did not disappoint….clean, crisp, and a great font. The tree theme was carried inside where a stunning and ginormous (I know this is not a word, but for purposes of this description, pretend that it is) light fixture crafted out of tree branches, perhaps Sycamore, hung above our table…this visual treat gave us our first clue that our taste buds were about to be equally stimulated.

For appetizers, we devoured a cheese plate, that included drunken raisins, fresh fruit, honey and croutes. We also had a fresh baby arugula salad with strawberries, cucumbers, goat Feta, with a lemon chive vinaigrette, and a dish called Pasta Ai Funghi with sautéed organic mushrooms, fettuccine, Mascarpone cheese, and lemon zest.

We ordered a variety of entrees including seared sea scallops served with potatoes, spring greens (local, of course) and black trumpet mushroom sauce, a Flat Iron Steak garnished with chive butter (herbed butters are delicious and very easy to make, btw), and the most succulent ribs served over mashed potatoes and topped with watermelon…yum! Birthday girl had a tasty Golden Tilefish dish. Golden Tilefish is a firm, extra lean, white meat fish with a mild flavor, similar to Tilapia.

The experience continued through dessert and we happily inhaled a Raspberry Crème Brûlée, a Banoffee Tart made with dulce de leche, whipped cream and banana chips, and a decadent chocolate cake. Pure heaven.

Sycamore is a BYOB (our favorite kind of restaurant) and we blissfully imbibed a few bottles of wine including a very smooth Spanish red, 2004 Lan Rioja Reserva… “silky texture with expressive flavors of black plum, violet, licorice and smoke”…

An all around enjoyable experience indeed!

Thursday, July 8, 2010


I thought it would be fun to research vintage knitting patterns, recipes and cooking utensils….so I am on a quest to acquire the same and share my most interesting finds with you.

So, I’ll start with this pattern for an absolutely lovely collar stole from the 1950’s that I found at First of all, don’t you just love that word…stole, it’s so fancy! Today we would use wrap, shawl, or scarf, but, stole just evokes the glitz of a big Hollywood production with glamorous movie stars in their elegant dresses and flawless coifs. Sometimes, I watch those old movies and think it would be fun if Hollywood would make such elaborate productions again, but then I think of all the wonderful animation we enjoy today and I am once again content…

Back to the point.

I am not going to even imply that I will knit this stole (anytime soon)…Lord knows the few inches of rows I call a sweater-in-the-making would organize a mutiny if I dared to even suggest starting another project. To avoid the possibility of physical injury, I will just present the same for other more disciplined knitters to consider as a project.

The Collar Stole
21 inches x 68 inches
Materials Required:
22 oz. Dk. Violet or any color of your choice
1 pr. knitting needles No. 7
Gauge: 9 sts = 1 1/2 inches; 10 rows = 1 1/2 inches
Cast on 123 stitches (sts), work in pattern as follows:
• 1st Row: Knit (K) 3, *Purl (P) 3, K 3, repeat from * across row.
• 2nd Row: K 3, K 3 together (tog), * P 3, K 3 tog, repeat from * across row ending with K 3.
• 3rd Row: * K 3, yarn over (y o), slip (sl) the next st as if to P, repeat from * across row ending with K 3.
• 4th Row: K 3, * insert needle through next st and y o and K 1, y o, K 1 in same st, sl both y o and st off needle (3 sts made), P 3, repeat from * across row, ending last repeat with K 3.
• 5th Row: K 3, * P 3, K 3, Repeat from * across row.
• 6th Row: K 6, P 3, * K 3, P 3, repeat from * across row ending with K 6.
• 7th Row: K 3, P 3, * K 3 tog, P 3, repeat from * across row, ending with K 3.
• 8th Row: K 6, * y o, sl 1, K 3, repeat from * across row ending last repeat with K 6.
• 9th Row: K 3, P 3, * insert needle through next st and y o, K 1, y o, K 1 in same st, drop both y o and st off needle, P 3, repeat from * across row ending with K 3.
• 10th Row: Same as 6th row.
• 11th Row: Same as 5th row.
• Repeat from 2nd through 11th row until stole measures 66 inches from beginning ending with 5th row of pattern, bind off in pattern. Block to measurement.
• Collar: Cast on 141 sts, K 3, * P 3, K 3, repeat from * across row. Repeat from 2nd through 11th row same as on stole 5 times.
• Next 5 rows: K across each row. Bind off. This is outside edge of collar. Fold collar in half and place a pin at inside edge. Fold stole in half and place a pin. Sew collar to stole matching pins.

I think this is a beautiful pattern which is why I chose to post it. If you are an industrious sort and decide to knit this, send me a picture of your finished product and I will post it!

I wanted to make sure I knew what the asterisks in the pattern meant, so I searched and Wikipedia tells me that they indicate a section of the instructions that will be repeated.
For example, with the instruction below:
K2, *P1, K1* repeat 2 times, P1, K2
You will actually be doing this:
K2, P1, K1, P1, K1, P1, K1, P1, K2 (the bolded stitches are the ones from inside the asterisks)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Happy 5th of July!

I often wondered about the origin of the word picnic. reports that it is derived from the French word, piquenique, which means an outing with food. At French piqueniques, attendees would all bring their favorite food to the outdoor party, just like the picnics we enjoy today…so now I know and so do you!

There were many “Block Party Picnics” around town yesterday. These are much-anticipated events and a tradition in Swarthmore...the Borough allows the residents to close the street that hosts the venue and we all bring our favorite food. There is also a parade every year where kids decorate their bikes and proudly pedal for first place and the volunteer fire fighters offer tours of the town on their gleaming red engines.
Every year, the volunteer fire fighters stage a little "fire hazard" show and some years the productions are more dramatic than others. I remember one year our blazing buddies recreated a scene about the dangers of smoking in can imagine the havoc that followed.

For the cookout I attended yesterday, I made a salad called “Crunchy Slaw” that a co-worker of mine spotted in the April 2010 edition of Redbook Magazine and shared with me.

1 Bag of cole slaw mix
8 green onions
½ cup sliced almonds
½ cup sesame seeds
¼ cup butter
2 packages of ramen noodles (use only the noodles), crushed
I also added some chopped fresh broccoli

2 tablespoons of sugar
½ cup of vegetable oil
3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of pepper

In a small sauce pan, brown the almonds and the sesame seeds in the butter. Combine this mixture with the cole slaw, broccoli, green onions, and noodles. Pour the dressing over the salad mix and refrigerate until ready to eat. This salad is very good…the almonds and noodles give it a very satisfying little crunch not enjoyed in traditional cole slaw!

Funny 4th of July trivia proving that our Forefathers were not only architects of freedom, but funny as well:
“There, I guess King George will be able to read that.”

John Hancock said after signing the Declaration of Independence!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Pesto, Changeo!

Has this ever happened to you….you plan to make something for which you require a certain cooking tool and you proceed to look for the utensil, or pot or some other item to assist you in the preparation and you can’t find it? The conversation (with yourself) that follows goes something like this….”I could have sworn I had a __________(fill in the blank)…I remember using it when I prepared that Saute De Boeuf A La Parisienne that everyone liked back in 1992.” Your prep plans quickly go to hell in a hand basket because the proper tool does not exist. Such was the case on Tuesday….now I’m not talking about a whisk, or a juicer, or maybe even a fancy grill pan, I’m talking about a food processor…who misplaces or believes they have and really does not have a food processor, I ask you? Apparently, me, and further, I did not follow my own advice and put “check to see if you really have a food processor” on my “To Do” list.

A detail.

It was my turn to cook and I decided to make Pesto using the basil from my garden. After discovering I had NO FOOD PROCESSOR, I moved on to Plan B…the blender. Well, imagine my surprise when my BLENDER didn’t work. At this point, I thought I was being “punked” and despite being totally faklempt, I composed myself and trotted over to my neighbor’s house to borrow a blender, which thankfully they had and were not using at the time. All the while, I had a pork tenderloin (that was marinated in apple juice, rosemary and thyme, both from my garden) on the grill, hoping it didn’t become the next victim of a cooking catastrophe.

I took pictures of the required ingredients, but the events described above left me so twitterpatted, that I forget to take pictures during the prep-process…so I will describe what I did. The recipe I used is from the Barefoot Contessa – Back to Basics cookbook:
I placed ¼ cup of walnuts and ¼ of pine nuts and 3 tablespoons of garlic in the blender and processed it for 30 seconds. Next, I added 5 cups of fresh basil leaves, salt and pepper and 1 ¼ cups of extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice and processed until the pesto was finely purèed. I added 1 cup of Parmesan cheese and purèed for 30 seconds more. Meanwhile, I prepared some fresh linguine to toss with the Pesto and rescued the pork tenderloin from the grill. We also had a wonderful salad with hibiscus flowers, a very nice bottle of Smoking Loon Cabernet Sauvignon, and homemade coconut-lime sorbet for dessert. What could have been a disaster, actually turned out to be a very good meal and, as usual, an enjoyable evening!