December 22, 2010

Cooking Fail

So, I like to think I am a pretty good cook.  I can't make red wine foam or a mise en bouche of sweet corn chowder with thyme bubbles, or even a simple apple gelée with black olive powder (yes, these are all things I ate just last week at Marigold Kitchen.  I will write about it later).  But I can make a damn good loaf of bread, pot of chili or chocolate cake.  However, sometimes I absolutely BOTCH whatever I am making and last night was one of those occurrences.  So I thought to myself, what other dishes have I completely ruined?
This picture will make sense in a bit...

1.  Salmon Cakes
I still say that these weren't that bad, but other reliable sources would adamantly argue otherwise.  When Evan and I had just started dating, I decided to try something new! and experiment! and not follow any recipes or even look into any sort of directions! An attempt at the salmon version of crab cakes, one of my favorite things in the world to eat, I ended up making strange pinkish crunchyish mushyish patties that made my entire apartment smell like an outdoor fish market in the summer.  Poor Evan, in what I believe to be early relationship lies to avoid confrontation, forced a smile on his face and said things like "they're not that bad" and "I can really taste the salmon" but I think he only took one bite.  If you were to ask him now, he would truthfully tell you they were disgusting. They all got thrown in the trash- outside.

2. Key Lime Pie
Ok.  Let me start by saying I make an awesome Key Lime Pie, and make one for almost every holiday at the request of my family members.  And it's always perfect and beautiful and brings happiness to all who taste it.  Except for two Thanksgivings ago, when I again decided not to use the recipe (I should probably learn my lesson by now...) because "I've made this pie like a THOUSAND times mom, I don't NEED the recipe! I am a master pastry chef!"  I used three times the amount of lime juice that was needed.  Now, this might not sound like a lot, until I tell you that was nearly the entire bottle of juice concentrate.  And it is SOUR.  I'm not a scientist, but I know that chemistry things happen, and don't happen, when measurements are off.  And clearly something was off because as I was mixing the ingredients I was thinking hmm this is really runny.  This is really odd looking.  So, what did I do? I added more sugar.  And then another egg.  And suddenly I was out of control and started throwing whatever I could find into that pie.  Typically, it bakes for a short while to set, but I had that pie in the oven for like, 2 hours and it just remained a runny liquid mess in the (now soggy) shell.  A guest we had staying for the holiday with us, bless his heart and soul, tasted it and his face twisted and contorted in a way that only happens when ingesting pure lime juice.  He looked at me and said through pursed lips "mmmm".  What a liar!  I am a prideful person and so I looked at him and was like "oh, I love sour! I have a refined palate and intense flavors are so good and I bet it would taste great on ice cream" and then I tasted it and began cursing myself for not following the recipe.  It went in the trash.

3.  Savory Bread Pudding
So, this brings us to the coup d'etat.  Last night, I wanted to clear out the fridge, which means the ingredients I used were not exactly... fresh.  I wanted to make dinner for me and my roommate, and she had two full loaves of old bread.  I was inspired by this recipe from the NYT about what to do with stale bread which I have made and loved in the past, but decided to take a few artistic liberties this time.  I added spinach, I added an entire can of crushed tomatoes, I used extra eggs, I used the gross old white bread.  But I was feeling pretty good about it!  Amos Lee blasting in the background, I was sautéing the spinach with garlic and some (wrinkly old) tomatoes, toasting the bread in the oven to give it more "texture", and so on and so on.  For about an hour we waited while this seemingly tasty dish cooked away, but it wasn't really looking any different.  Finally I had had enough! and pulled it out of the oven only to discover the top and bottom were burnt, but the middle was still oh-so-mushy since the egg was still RAW.  We scraped, cut, peeled and sorted out the "edible" bits  and sloppily plopped a serving in each of our bowls.  Even topped with loads of Parmesan cheese we barely made it past the first bite.  Spongy, squishy, crunchy, doughy... we sent that thing straight down the disposal and ordered sushi.

December 20, 2010

Philly Brunches

If you haven't figured it out yet, I love food.  And lucky for me, Philadelphia has an endless supply of really great restaurants just waiting for me to discover.  The hardest thing about being a starving broke graduate student is that I can't eat at every restaurant I want, though I suppose in the long run it is a good lesson in self control...

While I love going out for dinner, I have to admit I have a weakness for brunch.  Who came up with this brilliant idea? I have barely scratched the surface of Philadelphia's brunch scene, but I figured I'd share the few I've been to, as well as one I am planning to go to.  Suggestions of where to go? Let me know!

1. Rx- 45th and Spruce
Location, location, location!  Rx is 2 blocks from my apartment, and so, jumps automatically to the top of my list.  They recently changed ownership, which was disappointing, because they removed the antique apothecary cabinets to make space for like, 2 more tables.  Now the walls are kind of BORING, but whatever Rx, I'll work on forgiving you.  They've also taken those awesome metal coffee mugs out of rotation (temporarily, I've been told) which somehow made their coffee just so much better.  Ok, I realize it sounds like I don't like the place, but I really do.  The brioche french toast with berry compote is super yummy, and the huevos rancheros are always a big hit.

2. Fitzwater Cafe- 728 South 7th Street
Some girlfriends and I happened on this cafe accidentally, and I have been back 3 times since.  The menu is simple and the space is small (though they do have parking spots!) but they have banana Nutella french toast.  Common. It's the perfect pre-fabric row shopping cafe.  (Don't know what fabric row is? Ask me. I love it.)  I've had toast and eggs and been extremely pleased, and I've also had french toast with fresh berries, which were wonderful. 

3.  Sabrina's Cafe-  910 Christian Street OR 1802 Callowhill Street
Ok, the wait is horrendous.  BUT OH SO WORTH IT!  Both locations are fantastic. That is all.

4.  Honey's Sit 'N Eat Restaurant- 800 North 4th Street
I've only been to Honey's once, and it was super super good.  However, it is in the Northern Liberties which I typically try to avoid seeing as I am not an extreme hipster and get tired of seeing guys wearing skinny jeans and glasses without lenses.  Quite honestly I lose my appetite when I can count the change in a guy's pocket.  However, if for some reason you find yourself in Hipsterville, the food at Honey's was great, and the portions were huge.  I had the whole wheat pancakes which are made with granola and berries (can you tell I like berries in my bready breakfast foods?) and I loved it.

5. Crêperie Beau Monde- 6th and Bainbridge
I have not been to Beau Monde for brunch, I ADMIT IT, so why is it on my brunch list? Because I bet it would be a great brunch place, ok? I've been here a few times for dinner or dessert and as snotty as this will sound, their crêpes are as good as ones I've had in France.  Don't believe me?  Maybe if I list some of their options you will: Bacon, mushrooms and French blue cheese with poached eggs (in a crêpe), Smoked salmon, artichoke hearts and Bernaise sauce (in a CREPE), Scrambled eggs, blueberries and maple syrup (IN A CREPE?!). So yeah, you get the idea. 

December 15, 2010

9500 Liberty

I am very blessed to have friends that at interested, informed and passionate about a broad range of issues, and who are eager to be educated and be socially aware members of society.  I'm lucky because they inspire me, encourage me to look into topics I normally wouldn't and sometimes, like on Monday, give me tickets to wonderful events!

We went to see a screening of the documentary "9500 Liberty" at WHYY and while I could go on and on about it, I'll resist so the film can speak for itself.   It documented a community in Virginia which passed a law allowing police to use "probable cause" to question residents, aka the prominent Latino population, about their citizenship (sound familiar, Arizona?).  The law (and the racial undertones) ended up hurting the community in a multitude of ways.  It was interesting to see the people in that community become so blinded by fear (of change, of difference, of Salsa music) that they lost sight of reality. Even more, it was strange to think about how it is a situation that could unfold in any community in the US.  Anyways, the moral of the story is you should see the film.  It will be showing on WHYY on January 13th!

ps. I tried to change the screen shot of the video because I think it looks kind of creepy with that guy's face, but could not, so I apologize for the unflattering picture staring at you while you read this post. 

December 13, 2010

pumpkin muffins

Sunday evenings are when I typically tap into my domestic goddess side and find myself cleaning, painting my nails, sewing, and of course, baking.  Last night was no different, and as I looked in the fridge for food that needed to be used up, I discovered pumpkin puree, eggs, and oddly, leftover steel cut oatmeal from the morning that I just couldn't get myself to throw out.  So, I read a few recipes (hello Smitten Kitchen! My favorite recipe site!), then didn't really follow any of them, and made some very yummy pumpkin muffins! I'm a big fan of throwing in all that extra stuff you need to use up, or things to make it feel a little healthier, hence the flax, wheat germ and oats. If you don't add all of these extra dry ingredients, omit some of the pumpkin so they don't turn out mushy or overly moist.

Somewhat healthy pumpkin muffins

 Preheat oven to 350, put paper liners in your muffin tin

I forgot to take a picture, so I drew you one instead!
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup already cooked steel cut oats 
A handful of ground flax seed
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs

1 teaspoonish all spice
1 teaspoonish nutmeg
1/2 teaspoonsh ginger 
1 teaspoonish cinnamon, I probably added way more than that
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Wisk together the pumpkin, eggs, sugar, spices, oil and baking soda until smooth.  Add the flour, wheat germ, oats, flax and baking powder until just mixed. Spoon into the tins, and fill each one up about 2/3 full.  Sprinkle the tops with cinnamon sugar and bake about 25 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.  Let cool for about 5 minutes in the pan and then move to a cooling rack. 

December 8, 2010

The Great Impasta

About 5 years ago, during a family vacation to Maine, we happened upon a great little Italian restaurant named The Great Impasta.  Our time there included two memorable things; 1. my dad forgetting the word for lasagna (yes, it was really funny, and I guess you had to be there) and 2. I had my first taste of Pasta Foriana.  I remember tasting it and thinking simultaneously "this is one of the best things I've ever eaten" and "I could make it better."  Apparently a dish that originated outside of Naples, Foriana is a Lenten meal, and is made with anchovies.  Although I do love anchovies, I didn't have any around last night when making this dish.  My other changes were using basil pesto, instead of parsley, adding cranberries, corn, lemon and red pepper flakes.  Plus lots of extra garlic and fresh Parmesan cheese, obviously.  As with all things I cook, the measurements are relative.  If you really love cranberries, add extra.  If you hate cheese (I don't actually think this is possible), then don't put as much. 

The Great Impasta Foriana 

Fresh pesto (I used one full bunch of fresh basil, 1 clove of garlic, olive oil.  Made about 1/3 cup)
2ish tbls of olive oil
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup toasted, cut up walnuts
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup green raisins
1/4 cup sweet white corn
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
Parmesan cheese, lots
red pepper flakes
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice
s&p to taste
pasta, cooked al dente- I used whole wheat Serpentini Rigate, but would probably use a ribbon noodle next time, like spaghetti

Start cooking your pasta in salted water.

In a large skillet, on low heat, toast the pine nuts and chopped walnuts for about a minute, until you can smell them.  Add the olive oil and the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.   Add the cranberries, raisins, pesto and add a ladle's worth of pasta water (with all it's magical thickening ability) to the pan.  Keep the heat low, and just let it sizzle away.  The berries and raisins will start to plump up- add more pasta water if needed.  You don't want it to turn soupy, but it shouldn't be dry in the pan.  When your pasta is about done cooking, add the corn to the skillet, as well as red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and lemon juice.  Rinse and drain the pasta, and pour the mixture over the hot noodles and toss.  Top with Parmesan cheese!

December 6, 2010


Holy crap, I was born in the 1900's.

A picture of my sister and me in the 1900's
I had this realization last week while sitting in class listening to a presentation.  "Here I have data from the mid 1900's to 2005.  And now, let's look specifically at 1985." Shit. I was born in 1985.  Nineteen hundred and eighty five! My future children will look at me wide eyed when they find out and say "you are OLD. You were born LAST MILLENNIUM!" Has anyone else had this thought? It's like thinking about people born in the 1800's! I'm having a strange sort of existential crisis over this.  Everything about me now feels outdated and old fashioned.  I now picture myself running alongside Dr. Quinn and Sully (yeah, remember them?) which is maybe a stretch since I think they were set in the late 1800's. But whatever, you're missing the point. Back in the 1900's when I was a kid, I thought in the 2000's I would be flying around on a hovercraft or eating all my meals in pill form.  Probably while wearing a white space suit.  And I thought this whole futuristic lifestyle would set in around, oh I don't know, 2001! I don't even have a chip in my head that plays the radio into my brain yet.  So now, not only do I feel like an antique, I feel cheated by the world for not producing the technological advancements that I had expected by the time I turned 25. 

December 2, 2010

for me, thank you

If anyone (wink wink Evan) is looking for the perfect gift to give me for Christmas, here it is.  It's a beautiful painting by Holly Farrell and it's only $3600.  Thanks in advance, it is kind of you to buy me something so nice!

December 1, 2010

RIP Crock Pot

Last night I discovered that the lid to my beloved crock pot had broken.  It's ugly and old, brown and mustard yellow, but I loved that thing.  My mom gave it to me, after using it for years and years.  You see, it was given to her when she got married, in 1979.  It even had an insert so you could make crock pot bread! My mom used to make a loaf for my dad when he went on camping trips.  I grew up peeking through the glass lid to her unbelievably good corn bread stuffing at Thanksgiving.  And it has served me well the years that I used it.  Yesterday, I had planned on making a slow cook chili, but obviously had to change it to a not so slow cooked, on the stove rendition.  If you're using a crock pot, you can basically throw all the ingredients in and leave it.  Every time I make this chili it's a little different, but it is definitely my favorite! Feel free to change amounts/add things/omit things.  You really can't go wrong with this one. It would be delicious with left over turkey, or chicken!

Non Crock Pot White Bean Chili

Olive oil
Garlic! as much as you want.  I used 3 cloves
1 large onion, chopped
2 green peppers, chopped
White beans: I used 1 can of Cannellni, 1 can of Great Northern, 1 can of Navy and a cup of dried lentils
1 bag of sweet white corn
4 cups Veggie broth (I use Rapunzel Vegan Bouillon Cubes and water)
Cumin, to taste
Cayenne pepper, if you wish
S&P, to taste
Fresh Cilantro

In the large pot, sauté (side note, did you know sauté is French for "jump"? Make those veggies jump in the pan!) on medium heat the onions and add the green peppers with the Olive Oil until they start to soften.  Don't overdo it or your peppers will get mushy by the end.  When they are about ready, add the garlic, either chopped or squished through a garlic press.  You never want to add the garlic at the beginning, since it burns easily.  It only needs about 30 seconds in the pan.
Rinse the beans and add to the pot along with broth, add extra water if needed to cover the ingredients.  Lower the temperature to low, and cover the pot.  Be careful not to let the soup get to a rolling boil or you will risk breaking the bean skins and that can create a slimy texture.  Near the end, add the spices, salt and pepper (there is a lot of information out there about when to add salt and or acids to beans.  I'm privy to waiting until the end to add spices for canned beans.  Dry beans are a whole different beast) and the corn.  Let simmer for a few minutes longer.  Dish out, and top with, what else, fresh cilantro!

November 29, 2010

happy monday

Mondays suck. 

That being said, something fun you can do to make Monday suck less is to Google your name.  Unless you have a name like Hilary, in which case all that comes up are pictures of Hilary Duff on the red carpet, and Google so menacingly asking "did you mean Hillary Clinton? Showing results for Hillary Clinton".  Duff and Clinton, you have ruined the Google your name game for me.  But, Urban Dictionary?  Totally made me laugh.

November 24, 2010

my dreams are crazy.

A while back, I decided to keep a dream journal.

I've never been one of those people who remembers their dreams in great detail, in fact I typically forget them the moment I open my eyes.  It sounded fun, and I was told that in committing to the practice of writing down my dreams, I would have bigger! better! more vivid! memorable! dreams.  Awesome!

Little did I know that my brain would take this little experiment to a whole new level.

At first, I would rack my brain as soon as I woke up trying to remember any little detail from my dreams the night before.  Slowly, I was able to wake groggily in the middle of the night to write down the dream I had.  But then.  THEN I started writing IN MY SLEEP.  Which is amazing.  And is way more entertaining!  Now, I often wake up and excitedly open my dream journal to find barely legible descriptions of the most random stuff ever.  My longer entries, which I will probably share with you later, are almost always about food. Sometimes I can barely read what I scratched out on the page.  For example:

"Step by step making an egg sandwich, & a soup."

And I don't remember writing it, let alone having the dream.  

Here are some other gems:

"In a forest jumping to the tops of trees!  Then, in a store picking out neck ties."

"Slow motion bumper cars through a tunnel."

"Sonya Sotamayor!!!!!!"

"Side by side escalators.  I'm on one and there are tropical fish on the other."

"Dead bird in my purse."

"Worms in my sleeves!! Something about fig newtons."

"Ordered a HUGE bowl of guacamole!  Random man sat with us and was eating it all very quickly and making me extremely ANGRY!"



A friend of mine introduced me to this super weird, unbelievably random and hilarious blog yesterday... and I am shamed (cough not at all shamed) to admit that I have not gotten any work done and have had to stifle laughter for fear of someone walking by and noticing me laughing while alone in my office.  The spaghatta nodle stuff is almost more than I can handle!

November 17, 2010

ode to summer?

I just found this rant I wrote during the Summer, how fitting now that Winter is setting in...

Basil at my community garden
Certain people were apparently created with super human resistance to heat and humidity. Perhaps there is a genetic explanation behind those who sit all winter pining after temperatures over 90 combined with an unreasonably high amount of moisture in the air (how is it that 100% humidity does not equal rain?).  They happily walk along the pavement (which, mind you, is distorted and waving in the distance as the heat rises off of it), sleep with the windows open in the middle of July and stand over grills all summer. I can tell you right now, I am not one of those people.  Maybe I have more sweat glands than most, because a walk from home to work in the summer will leave me drenched, red in the face and practically dehydrated.

November 15, 2010


One of the things I have learned in my oh-so-many years of life, is that little indulgences are extremely important. And an indulgence I can't seem to live without? Lattes.  I hate to admit it, but I have become quite the coffee snob. I can taste when coffee has been sitting for too long, was made with bad beans or if the grind is off. Drip coffee just doesn't cut it for me anymore (except in emergency situations).  I adore La Colombe (a local coffee roaster and café) and between you and me, chose it to supply the beans for the café I started here at work for purely selfish reasons.  On weekdays, I visit our small café, and always order a double shot of espresso with a splash of milk.  But when Friday comes, it's time for a treat! I walk over to Capogiro (speaking of indulgences...) because dammit, they make a good latte.  An even specialer/more special/specialist treat?  Heading downtown with my two best friends (hey girls!) to the 19th street La Colombe for a latte AND an almond croissant.  Life is good, no?

Ain't it pretty? A picture of a latte at the 19th street La Colombe Café that I did not take.

November 12, 2010


A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to see Ingrid Michaelson live at the World Cafe Free at Noon show.  She was so entertaining and I kept thinking "oh man she is so much cooler than me" like a total nerd.  Her new album is amazing- she's really evolved since her first- and I've been listening to it nonstop since it came out.  I'm a total sucker for upbeat music that just makes me feel happy.  Plus she plays the ukulele.  Awesome.

November 9, 2010

6 things I love right now

I tend to get mildly obsessed with are my latest obsessions

1.  Pequea Yogurt, strawberry or raspberry
I think it is pronounced "peck-wah" but honestly I don't really care how it is said because all I want to do is keep shoveling it into my mouth.  We all know that I am an ice cream fiend (example: "Dr. Hilary's Ice Cream Diet"- my 1 week, post wisdom tooth removal diet which consisted of literally 99% ice cream AND a 5 pound weight loss... book coming soon) and I sometimes SKIP ice cream after dinner to have a heaping bowl of this stuff.  I could go on about all the other reasons to love it- small local farm that produces it, happy grass fed Jersey cows- but most importantly, it is just delish.

When school picks up, I don't get to read much for fun.  So when I find a book that I can't put down (or books: Hello Harry Potter ENTIRE series this Summer) I get really excited.  I checked out "The Help" last week at the Free Library since there seems to be a lot of buzz about it.  On the planes to Orlando, I couldn't put it down, and actually got SAD when the pilot said we were about to land! I raced through it, and finished it on the flight back to Philadelphia.  It reminded me a bit of the "Poisonwood Bible" with multiple female narrators all telling the same story.  Trust me, it is worth reading.

This site has sucked up many hours of my life lately- and inspired me to tap into my creative side.  It has also caused me to spend (way too much) time perusing craigslist for furniture to be refurbished.  It's a good thing I have roommates or else my house would be filled floor to ceiling with fixer uppers... The before and after photos are my favorite.

I am not much of a scent person- I hate almost all candles, I don't like soaps, shampoos or lotions that smell. Just walking by a Yankee Candle store makes me want to run away. Or vomit.  Needless to say, I do not typically wear perfume.  But Demeter's Gin & Tonic is amazing! I can't find it in retail shops anymore (it used to be sold in Anthropologie) so I have to use it very sparingly.  However,  I recently fell back in love with it and have been wearing it every day.  When the air starts getting colder, a spritz of this stuff brings on a wave of crisp refreshing summer! Demeter has so many different fragrances, some are really strange (Celery? Dirt? FUNERAL HOME?) but some are spot on and absolutely perfectly fresh. 

I realize this is a bit ridiculous and childish, but I 'needed' a holder for my toothbrush, and this one has made me so incredibly happy!  What is better than having a little hippo stuck to your mirror hugging your toothbrush and keeping it safe?

OK, so I haven't actually been here yet, but that doesn't mean I don't love it.  I have spent a lot of time looking at the site (let's call it online window shopping) and I know I could easily spend a ton of money there.

November 2, 2010

soup season!

This week I was introduced to the term "T.A.A." which stands for "Tiny Ass Apartment".  I don't particularly live in a tiny apartment (we have 5 bedrooms and 2 baths), so I think "T.A.K." is much more appropriate for my situation.  Our TINY ASS KITCHEN looks big because there is a table and chairs and room to walk around.  But look closer.  The oven is painfully small; a cookie sheet cannot fit sideways in it, and when placed lengthwise the oven door cannot shut all the way.  There is about 2 square feet of counter space, one 6 inch wide drawer and the dishwasher has to be used for storage.  We make it work, and I think professional organizers would be somewhat impressed at the ways in which we cram 3 people's kitchen belongings into such a tight space.

I tell you about my kitchen mostly for pity.  And also so that one day, when I have a large kitchen with 4 sinks, 2 islands and 3 ovens (ok, that might be a bit much) we can all look back and laugh about my T.A.K.  However, last night I made my first soup of the season and the size of my kitchen did not matter, as I was able to do everything on that 2 foot stretch of counter before throwing it into the big pot.  Which is one of the many reasons I absolutely LOVE soup.  And may I just say, last night's concoction was really. freaking. good. Evan looked at me at one point and said "I CAN'T EAT IT FAST ENOUGH!"

I got the recipe from 101 Cookbooks (a fantastic blog, by the way, especially for those of us on the vegetarian train) but I messed with it a bit. It is not a quick soup, as split peas take a while to soften up, but it was worth the wait- not to mention the strong curry smell wafting through the house was pretty wonderful!

Lentil & Split Pea Coconut Curry Soup
1 cup yellow split peas
1 cup red split lentils (masoor dal)
7 cups water
3 medium carrots, cut into small chunks
2 tablespoons fresh peeled and minced ginger
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 tablespoons butter or ghee (or, to be a vegan meal, you could use oil)
8 green onions (scallions), thinly sliced
1/2 cup golden raisins (trust me, they are a key ingredient!)
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1 14-oz can coconut milk
2 teaspoons sea salt
Cayenne pepper, to taste
a ton of cilantro, chopped 

Rinse the peas and lentils until they no longer make murky water. Put them in a large pot with the water, and bring to a boil.  Add 1/4 of the ginger and the carrots, lower to a simmer and cover.  They'll take at least 30 minutes to soften up. 

In a small (dry!) pan, quickly toast the curry powder, but be careful not to burn it.  Just keep it over the heat long enough for it to become very aromatic.  Put the curry in a small bowl and set aside.  In the same pan, over medium heat, melt the butter (or ghee) and add most of the scallions (whatever is left will be for garnish), the rest of the ginger and the raisins.  Sauté for a few minutes, then add the tomato paste.  I ladled in a bit of the water from the simmering lentils and peas to help break up the paste.  Sauté for another minute or two.  
Add the curry to the tomato mixture, mix mix mix, and then (if your peas have softened up) add to the big pot, along with the coconut milk, cayenne pepper and the salt.  Let simmer uncovered for another 15 or 20 minutes.  It thickened up quite a bit during this time- if you like a thinner soup, just add more water.  Top with cilantro.  Unless you are a Cilantrophobe and think it tastes like soap.

For dessert, we had one of my favorite simple treats- plain vanilla ice cream, with a sprinkling of cinnamon, honey and a splash of milk in a mug.  Stir it up, and you have an exotic tasting mini milkshake!

October 31, 2010

Papers and banana bread

This weekend was almost completely dedicated to working on a paper for class.  What better than an easy banana bread recipe for a quick break when writer's block hits?

This turned out amazingly- and you only need a mixing bowl, and a bowl to melt the butter/beat the egg in.  If you don't have bourbon, I'm sure it would be fine without it, but you'd be missing out...

Also, I always eat my banana bread with a little sprinkle of salt on it- try it, it's delicious

3 to 4 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted salted butter
3/4 light brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon bourbon
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1 1/2 cup of flour
Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla and bourbon, then the spices. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered 4×8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 50 minutes to one hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.

(adapted just a bit from Smitten Kitchen)

October 29, 2010

Norway to New York

This past weekend, I was going through old papers and trying desperately to organize my life a bit, when I came across this wonderful story my grandmother sent me a few months before she passed away.  I was lucky enough to get a few stories such as this one from her before she died, as well as a nice collection of beautiful family photos, letters and documents.  My Grandma's mother was Signe (daughter of Olava) who was born after the family arrived in America.  Since yesterday was the Statue of Liberty's 124th birthday, I thought it would be fun to post this! 
"In May, 1891, the eight member Omberg family traveled by train from Fredrickstad Norway, to Kristiania Norway (later named Oslo) and boarded the steamship Thingvalla.  Their possessions were very limited to what could be packed into a single trunk.  The ship carried more than 500 passengers, mainly Scandinavians.  Many Danes and other Europeans were already on the ship, having boarded at Copenhagen.  The trip was very difficult.  The infant, Inga, who had just been born on March 1, 1891, became very ill.  They had already lost 3 children before leaving Norway, Evan who died as an infant in 1882, Johan Kristian who died in 1889, and eleven year old Inga (first Inga) who died in 1890.  The ship's doctor was not reassuring, and Inga showed no signs of movement.  In the evening, the doctor told them Inga was dead.  He began to take her away, but Olava fought to keep her, so that she could hold her one more night.  Before he returned the next morning they detected signs of life.  Inga was NOT dead.  On May 17, there was traditional singing and dancing among the Norwegians on the boat as they celebrated "Syttende Mai" (May Day in Norway).  They could not know the joy in the Omberg hearts over having their baby Inga alive.  Almost all the people came on deck to see the Statue of Liberty.  They docked in New York on May 18, 1891 and were processed through the Barge Office at the south end of Battery Park - people arriving 8 months later would be processed at Ellis Island."

October 28, 2010

for the love of French

I love all things French.  The language, the country, but most of all I LOVE the food.  And I love how the French love their food.  Each meal, snack or drink is meant to be the best.  No skimping, no eating just to eat.  The idea of a fresh local food movement probably doesn't even translate into French, because why wouldn't you be eating the freshest food already?  Why buy produce from anyone other than the farmer down the road?  Why eat day old bread when you can eat a fresh loaf baked today?  I have wonderful memories of the Cazo bread truck (well, actually it was a van) pulling into town early every morning honking it's horn, it's doors opening to an array of unbelievably fresh (and still warm!) baked goods spread out in the back.  And it was just so NORMAL to everyone!  I've never tasted a croissant so perfect, it's buttery flakes melting in my mouth.

On Saturday, two of my best friends and I were able to see a screening of "Kings of Pastry" during the Philadelphia Film Festival.  Sixteen emotional, talented and obsessive French pastry chefs took part in a 3 day "test" of their skills to be titled a "Meilleurs Ouvriers de France" (best craftsman of France).  Nicolas Sarkozy was even there! It's a big deal!  Grown men were crying over spilled pastry!  If you get a chance, I highly recommend the film.  You'll never feel so emotionally connected to sugar again.

KINGS OF PASTRY Theatrical Trailer from Pennebaker Hegedus Films on Vimeo.

October 27, 2010

"A tale of two kitties" or "You might think I am a cat lady"

Mae & Bogey
The last few weeks I have felt like a certifiable cat lady because of the sheer time I have devoted to caring for cats (though I have not gone so far as dressing them up, or having professional pictures taken of them). At the end of August, I adopted a 2 month old kitten (whom I named Mae but often call her Maeby in homage to Arrested Development or just simply Maeby Baby) in hopes of being a good companion for my older cat.  Sadly, Lena fell suddenly ill and had to be put down this past month.  Though it was very sad, the bright side is I was able to adopt Mae's twin brother, Bogart (Bogey for short)! Within hours of being reunited, they remembered one another and are now the best of friends and are always running (terrorizing?) around the house. So let it be known that I love these little critters and think they are quite entertaining, so expect a few pictures now and then.  This does not a cat lady make.   

October 26, 2010

who knew fog was so beautiful?

The Unseen Sea from Simon Christen on Vimeo.

nothing here has any reason

They say journals are good for the soul.  Keeping track of ideas, emotions, events and thoughts about life has overwhelming benefits; it can help one process big questions, reduce stress, stimulate personal growth, bring world peace... yada yada yada.

Those things sound great, but truth be told, I am a complete failure when it comes to the good ol' pen to paper journaling. I have tried time and time again to start (and restart... and restart...) journals.  I've tried to carry notebooks around with me so I can write down that brilliant (wtf was I thinking when I wrote that down?) thought! That inspiring song lyric! That article title I have been meaning to read! But what I end up with is a notebook filled with things like "look up skim milk" or "mail order vs. virtual" or "!!! SO GOOD!!! NYT aeghahdfsh" (that is when I spill coffee on the page and it smudges and the article is lost forever...).  It becomes a mix of personal thoughts, class notes, phone numbers, you name it.  Not to mention I have terrible writing and sometimes simply just cannot read what I wrote.  I have even started the oh-so-cliché New Year's Resolution Journal (which lasted well into the first week of the New Year, thank you).  Despite knowing all the benefits a journal may bring, I just cannot seem to stick to it.  So with many failed attempts behind me, it seems only logical to start an online place for me to dump my thoughts (I can't spill coffee on the internet, so that is a plus).  
There's no "theme" here, just whatever the hell I feel like writing about, sharing, or  throwing out into the world wide web.  In the words of the Jean-Paul Sartre: "I shall write tomor­row of Paris. But why? For no rea­son, because it amuses me. And noth­ing here has any rea­son; it’s all a game".  

Thanks JP, for the title of my new blog.