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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Empty Bowls

Last Sunday, The Community Arts Center in Wallingford, PA and the Potter’s Guild hosted their annual Empty Bowls Lunch. Empty Bowls is an international grassroots movement started in 1990 to help organizations raise money and awareness to fight hunger. This is how it works….each year Arts Center faculty, student artists – including the children – and Potter’s Guild members create 500 or so hand-made ceramic soup bowls that guests will eagerly fill with delicious soup choices donated by area chefs. For ten bucks, guests select a lovingly crafted, hand-made ceramic bowl and share a simple meal of soup and bread with friends, family and new friends, previously strangers. I sat with a lovely couple who lives right across the street from the Center and we had a delightful conversation about the event, our children and the gorgeous weather, that I’m sure, contributed to the fantastic turnout. The event’s proceeds benefit food programs in Philadelphia and Chester, PA.

We had dinner at the foodie’s house this past Tuesday and she made the most delicious Savory Chickpea Cakes (I would say that I have ever tasted, but I never had a chickpea cake, so I was both hesitant and intrigued)…I’m so glad that my apprehension to try these beauties – packed with onions, garlic, rosemary, eggs, lemon, breadcrumbs and sesame seeds – did not develop into obstinacy because these were a indeed a treat to the buds (I mention this tentative thing only because I have not always been the most adventurous sort, but I am becoming more audacious as the years move along…I can assure you, however, that I won’t be jumping out of a plane or walking down the aisle again any time soon….). She served them with a homemade tomato jam that is similar to ketchup, but much more textured and flavorful, roasted sweet potatoes, and broccoli. We also had a salad of mixed greens, grapes, pine nuts and blue cheese and cookies for dessert. I post a link to the recipe for the chickpea cakes below and on the “Recipes and Tips” page.

Savory Chickpea Cakes

I continued knitting the side of my sweater and foodie the side of hers and I post a photo of her progress.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Coconut Curry Chicken

Ladies and gentlemen, I am happy to report -- drum roll please – that we have a knitted back to the sweater I am attempting to make! And, as a bonus (or perhaps SHOCK), it looks like the back template provided in the pattern.






I am super-excited about this because this is the first true garment (unless hats and scarves count) that I have ever knitted and, while it is not perfect (the yarn, fortunately, is a very forgiving yarn), it will indeed be a lovingly made, wearable sweater. I am anxious to make and assemble the rest of the pieces. Stay tuned. I promise you will see a post with a completed sweater before the beginning of next baseball season! The pattern is posted on the Knitting Projects page (which is admittedly, a bit scant, but perhaps, with the cooler weather, we will have more projects to post).

This past Tuesday was my turn to cook and I made Coconut Curry Chicken. This is a great dish that mixes the sweet of the coconut and onions with the savory of curry and basil. I modified the following version from a Weight Watchers cookbook.

Coconut Curry Chicken
2 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
1 ½ cup thinly sliced onion (I like to use the sweet Vidalia variety)
2 cups of fresh basil leaves (from my potted garden, I might add!)
2 (or maybe five) garlic cloves, minced
3 teaspoons curry powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1 lb of boneless chicken breast, cut into strips
1 cup of light coconut milk

Directions
Heat half the oil in a large pan. Sauté the onion for 1-2 minutes, add the basil and sauté for 2 additional minutes. Remove the mixture and set aside. Add the second teaspoon of oil to the pan and add the garlic, sauté for 30 seconds, then add the curry, salt, red pepper flakes and quickly sauté, about 1 minute. Add the chicken breasts and sauté for 3-5 minutes. Add the coconut milk and onion/basil mixture and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

I served this with brown rice (basmati rice or cappelini work nicely as well), thin green beans, and a salad. We had ginger snaps and Trader Joe’s pumpkin ice cream for dessert (yum)….a very cozy evening…no knitting just delightful conversation!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Give a sweet hoot!

I found these completely adorable cupcakes on KitchenDaily.com and I just had to share them with you! Enjoy!

To make your own Owl Cupcakes, you'll need the following:
12 chocolate or vanilla cupcakes baked in brown paper liners
1 can (16 ounces) chocolate frosting
1/4 cup vanilla frosting
1 1/2 cups almond slices
24 chocolate covered pretzel rounds
12 round chocolate cookies
24 black candy covered chocolates
2 tablespoons chocolate jimmies
12 banana-shaped candies

Easy decorating steps:
1. Spoon 1/4 cup of the chocolate frosting into a resealable plastic bag. Spoon the vanilla frosting into a resealable bag.

2. Cut the chocolate cookies in half with a serrated knife to make the owl wings. Cut a small notch from one corner of each semi circle.

3. Spread the top of a cupcake with some of the remaining chocolate frosting and make smooth. Add the chocolate covered pretzels as the eyes in the center of the frosted cupcake. Press the cut cookies, rounded side out, on either side of of the cupcake as the wings. Arrange the almond slices all over the top of the cupcake as feathers. Sprinkle the chest area with the chocolate jimmies.

4. Snip a small corner from the bags with the chocolate and vanilla frosting. Pipe some chocolate frosting into the center of the pretzel eyes and add the black candies. Pipe a dot of white frosting on top of the black candies as the sparkle in the eye. Insert the banana candy as the beak. Repeat with the remaining cupcakes.


My semi-homemade (I bought the cupcakes from Genuardis), slightly modified owls!




Read more: http://www.kitchendaily.com/2010/09/10/owl-cupcakes/#ixzz13BDEuz00

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Friday Night Football

Friday night is high school football night and since my daughter is one of the three Drum Majors for the 400+ piece band, I try to make every game. This week, my architect friends surprised me and joined me in the stands...what a treat! I attach a video of what we enjoy each week...the football team "salutes" the band at the end of each game!

video

It was a little chilly out on Friday night so we decided to go back to the architect's house and grab a bite to eat and something to warm our innards! She made a left-over pasta frittata and, I have got to say, it was dee-lish! What a great way to use left over pasta.

Pasta Frittata 1/4 pound spaghetti, linguine, fettuccine or other pasta... don’t worry about the sauce, it will just add to the flavor!
Salt and pepper to taste
½ stick of butter or 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
6 eggs
1 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese.
Any herbs you want to throw in!
Place butter in a large nonstick ovenproof skillet, and turn heat to medium-high until it stops bubbling. If you are adding any meat, like pancetta, add it, and cook, stirring occasionally until crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. In large bowl, combine pasta with remaining ingredients, along with salt and pepper. Pour the mixture into the skillet, and turn the heat to medium-low. Use a spoon if necessary to even out the top of the frittata. Cook until mixture firms up on bottom, then transfer to oven. Bake at 350° just until top is set, about 10 minutes. Remove, and serve hot or at room temperature. Yield: 4 to 6servings...if your feeling frisky, you can flip the frittata and continue cooking the other side in the same pan...this is what the architect did -- very skillfully, I might add!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Can-Can!

So, I took on a class at the local Co-op, presented by two very knowledgeable and nice ladies, Laura and Margaret, from Wynnorr Farms in Westtown Township, PA, on how to can fruits and vegetables. It was interesting and I enrolled because I have long been curious about the process (and I am always looking for interesting blog topics). The wonderful goodies we grow all summer long can be yummingly preserved by canning so we can feast on them all fall and winter long. Now, I don’t have an orchard in my back yard, unless you count the poison ivy that produces the most beautiful but certainly inedible berries, so I will have to rely on store bought produce when I try this little experiment. I dutifully bought the handy-dandy 7-piece home canning kit and will turn my kitchen into a laboratory and will write about the process, assuming, of course, that I don’t die of botulism. For now, some photos of the peach jelly making process during class:


Before you do anything, boil the water into which you will submerge the jars once filled.

Pick the prettiest fruit

Peel.

Slice

Mash and mix with pectin

Cook, stiring constantly

Fill jars and place in canner. Boil for recommended time.

Remove from canner. Cool. Enjoy.

On Tuesday, we had dinner at the architect's house and she made Tomato and Lentil Dahl with Toasted Almonds....OMG it was good! It was a cross between a stew and a soup...Rachel Ray would call it a stoup! I will post the recipe on the Recipe Page since it's a bit too long to post here. We also had crispy French Bread, a lovely green salad, and lemon squares for dessert. Of course, we had wine...I have not mentioned the wine we drink in a while because I don't want my dear readers to think we have a problem!

Pssst....look at the lovely bowl the salad is in...hand made....at the Arts Center!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Earth Mass

As some of you may know, my youngest daughter is in an a cappella singing group at her high school and last Sunday they were among the glorious voices invited to sing at Earth Mass at Saint John the Divine Church in New York City. The MISSA GAIA or EARTH MASS was composed by Paul Winter in 1980, and each year since 1985 some 5,000 people flock to the Cathedral to participate in the Mass, accompanied by their pets of all varieties, sizes, shapes and smells. The mass concluded with a procession of animals, courtesy of Dawn Animal Sanctuary. As we sat in the pews of this spectacular and vast gothic cathedral, we enjoyed a parade of animals that included a working dog, a camel, a sheep, a llama, a tortoise, a yak, a donkey, a fox and many, many other beautiful beasts. The vocation of St. Francis of Assisi – celebration of the natural world, compassion, and stewardship -- was lovingly represented in this extraordinary commemoration.

video


This past Tuesday we had dinner at the foodie’s house where we devoured Chicken with Pancetta and Olives….it was tasty indeed! Chicken with Pancetta and Olives From Gourmet Magazine Ingredients 2 chickens (about 3 1/2 lb each), backbones cut out and each chicken cut into 12 pieces 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped thyme 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary 1 tablespoon fine sea salt 1/2 to 1 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes 10 garlic cloves, peeled 2 (1/4-inch-thick) slices pancetta, cut into 1-inch pieces 1 cup dry white wine 24 oil-cured black olives Directions • Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in middle. • Toss chicken with oil, thyme, rosemary, sea salt, red-pepper flakes, and 1 tsp pepper, rubbing mixture into chicken. • Arrange chicken, skin side up, in 1 layer in a 17- by 11-inch 4-sided sheet pan. Scatter garlic and pancetta on top and roast until chicken begins to brown, about 20 minutes. Drizzle wine over chicken and roast 8 minutes more. Scatter olives over chicken and roast until skin is golden brown and chicken is cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes more. Let stand 10 minutes. We also has roasted potatoes, artichokes and leeks, a fig and mixed green salad, and tiramisu for dessert.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Bubble, Bubble Pasta Pot!

On Saturday, mother, sister and visited my Italian cousin, Eddie and his wife Pat who have a lovely home on the Maryland shore of the Choptank River, a major tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. Being (1/2) Italian, what would a visit with an Italian cousin be without food…not just any run-of-the-mill food, but homemade bruschetta, AND homemade Italian Wedding soup, AND homemade pasta, AND homemade gravy (for my dear readers who are not Italian, gravy is tomato sauce), AND homemade braciole (thinly sliced meat, Eddie used pork tenderloin, filled with an onion, garlic, breadcrumb and herb paste, tied together, browned in olive oil and cooked in a pot of gravy).

For purposes of this post, I will focus on the process of making homemade pasta. First, a story…Once upon a time, Eddie’s brother, Donny, decided that he wanted to preserve some family recipes, so, all inspired by the likes of Larry King, he set out on a mission to tape his mom and his aunt talking, interview-style. Have you ever been at a table with a collection of Italians…it’s hysterical! There’s a lot of scoffing and yelling going on that, in other families, would lead to extended familial estrangement, but to Italians, this is normal behavior…..and expected. So the taping begins and my aunt gives an instruction, and her sister says, “no it’s not” and my aunt gives another instruction, and her sister says, “no it’s not”….and so on. Needless to say, not much memorializing transpired! However, Eddie did manage to secure the following pasta recipe:

Making the dough…
2 cups of flour
3 eggs
Dash of salt
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Make a well with the flour, add the eggs, salt, and olive oil in the center. Mix the dough from the center incorporating the outside of the well. When fully mixed, let the pasta dough rest for an hour. If you are not ready to make the pasta right away, seal the dough in a plastic zip-lock bag and refrigerate.

Making the pasta…
Eddie used a pasta machine that my dear aunts – Adeline and Millie – gave to Pat as a shower gift 40+ years ago.


Cut the dough into pieces


Run the dough through the flattening roller (don’t know if this is the technical term, but you get the idea) several times on decreasing thicknesses.


Once the dough is nearly paper thin, run it through the cutting device…


Nest the pasta. Let it dry on a drying rack or freeze until ready to use.


When ready to use, boil for a few minutes in salted water and serve with gravy.

Eating the pasta…
Eat. Reminisce. Laugh. I should write a book about the shit interesting things that happen to me and maybe someone will sign me to a movie deal. What?

Seriously, we enjoyed a perfectly delightful day with la mia famiglia.

On the way out I noticed the most adorable cookie jar…Pat’s mom, who got the cookie jar with S&H Green Stamps, passed this naughty little Italian boy down to her. I particularly like his hat...and his bow tie.