Friday, June 23, 2006

Vacation - All I Ever Wanted

It’s been sooo difficult to stay at work this past week, but my vacation has come. I’m physically tired from removing shrubs the size of small houses and mentally gaga from snipping five bazillion spent flowers.

A break from posting will be nice, too. I’ve been a little burned out lately. Hopefully I’ll eat lots of yummy food and take pics of interesting eats while overseas.

I’m off to New York, London, Edinburgh, and Isle of Skye. I’ll be back mid-July. Yee haw, a real vacation!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Key Lime Bars

My boyfriend needed a PO box because he was going away for a while – job, not jail. I suggested that he save his money and have his mail forwarded to my house. I told him I’d be able to open important letters if need be, but I had ulterior motives. I really just wanted his subscription to Cook’s Illustrated.

Cook’s Illustrated approaches recipes scientifically. They test all sorts of ingredients, methods and tools in order to come up with what they think is the best possible recipe. While most of the dishes are meat based, they usually throw in a few desserts or a vegetable side. Also, don’t miss their great tips on the best tools and store bought foods.

My birthday cake came from Cook’s Illustrated and it was awesome. Last week I tried Key Lime Bars from the current issue. I like things tart and almost added more zest than called for, but restrained myself and actually followed the recipe. It was tart to my liking, and to die for!

~I could eat sweetend condensed milk with a spoon. I love it so.~

Key Lime Bars
adapted from Cook's Illustrated

5 ounces animal crackers
3 tablespoons brown sugar
pinch of salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

5 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon minced lime zest
pinch of salt
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 large egg yolk
½ cup fresh lime juice

¾ cup toasted shredded coconut

  • Preheat oven to 350° and adjust oven rack to middle position.
  • Line 8x8 inch baking pan with tin foil, leaving overhang that can be used as handles to lift the bars from the pan. Spray foil with non-stick spray.
  • Pulse animal crackers in a food processor until finely crumbled. Add sugar and salt and pulse. Add butter and pulse until combined. Press crumbs firmly into bottom of baking pan. Bake until golden, 18-20 minutes. Cool.
  • Stir cream cheese, lime zest, and salt in a bowl until softened and combined. Add sweetened condensed milk and whisk until incorporated and lumps are gone. Whisk in egg yolk. Gently whisk in lime juice.
  • Poor filling into crust and smooth surface. Bake 15-20 minutes or until set and edges start to pull away slightly from the sides of the pan. Cool 1-1 ½ hours. Cover with tin foil and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  • Loosen edges and lift bars from the pan. Cut into squares and garnish with toasted coconut.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Amazon Grocery

You can now buy non-perishable foods online at Amazon Grocery!

No driving to the suburbs for the primo stores, no waiting in long lines, and…free shipping! What’s not to love?

Oh…everything is sold in bulk packaging.

This is great for those of you that visit Sam’s Club and Costco. You can stock your huge walk-in pantry so that those cute little leeches at home don’t suck you dry in two hours.

Large quantities of non-perishable food also come in handy when locking the doors of the compound to write your manifesto. I can’t wait for that 72 pack of Kool-Aid that I ordered to arrive!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Wilmington Italian Festival

Just to compare Philly to Wilmington - the city I live in - I dropped by Wilmington’s Little Italy to check out their Italian Festival. It’s much quainter and has more of a neighborhood vibe. I also got to see the beautiful St. Anthony’s church, which I’ve never seen since it’s on a one-way street going the opposite way I normally drive through Little Italy.

And...I’m thrilled to report that I’m still hot in the eyes of prepubescent teenage boys. One tried to pick me up using his Spanish language skills. He threw me there for a bit. I was expecting to be picked up by some old man speaking Italian.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Summer + Fresh Vegetables = Farmer's Markets

Corn Photo by justinhenry
Just by chance my mom calls me yesterday and mentions her local farmer’s market. She has been visiting to pester the Master Gardener volunteers in hopes of being accepted into their training program. Then we start talking about her youth and farmer’s markets. I love being older and capable of having conversations with my parents.

My mom is the daughter of a farmer from South Carolina. As a little girl in the early 1950’she picked corn, tomatoes, butterbeans and other vegetables in the early morning and loaded up the truck to head for the open-air farmer’s market on the weekend. Her older brother drove her, dropped her off, and picked her up at the end of the day. She then picked vegetables until sundown in preparation for the market again. She was paid good money - $20 a day! She put this in perspective by adding that she made 90¢ an hour when she was working in college.

I have fond and vivid memories of shelling many butter beans with my mother. Fresh beans are so good. I miss them. I should take the time to shell some.

Fresh vegetables are one of the reasons that summer is so great. If you’re eating fresh, locally grown vegetables, don’t add too many seasonings to them. They don’t need it. Salt and pepper should be fine.

Butter Beans
Boil fresh butter beans 10 to 20 minutes in water seasoned with salt and pepper.
(Mom added a little hunk of fatback, but who does that anymore?)

Farmer's Market Guide

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

My Weekend In Amish Country

I’m back from a four-day wedding / family weekend – neither of them mine. The events were held out in Lancaster, PA, otherwise known as “Amish Country."

Those horse and buggies are scary. I know someone that had his car totaled by a spooked horse. The Amish are pleasant, but stinky due to not bathing daily and wearing clothes made from synthetic fibers.

Amish food sucks! It’s bland and generally overcooked. Don’t be lured by the quintessential Amish dessert, Shoo Fly Pie. This is a molasses pie that’s nothing to write home about. Have a bite to say you’ve “done it” and dump it in the trash. Don’t be fooled by the Whoopee Pies, either. Unless, of course, you like to eat a fist full of marshmallow fluff and vegetable shortening between deviled food cake.

Those Pennsylvania Dutch also brought you the soft pretzel. You can thank some woman from PA for bringing Auntie Anne’s to a mall near you. The soft pretzel is snack crack of PA.

Pennsylvania has a lot of old markets in large buildings. I’m not sure why. Where I grew up we had open markets where farmers just drove their trucks up. My guess is that it’s cold here half the year, so they set up shop inside. Anyhow, this is the Central Market in Lancaster and some of their wares.

The dog wasn't for sale, but dressed to match the building and truck. Smart dog!

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Cute Food

From the Department of So Cute You Just Want To Eat It come plush toys from My Paper Crane.

I think these toys are the cutest things. I got my boyfriend the moldy bread plush for Chrismahaunakwanzika in hopes that it would remind him to throw out the expired items in his fridge and avoid certain death from food poisoning. It didn’t work, but he got a cute toy out of it. (He's still alive.)

I’m crushing on the cinnamon roll. You can actually unroll it a bit like a real cinnamon roll. I just can’t bring myself to buy stuffed toys for myself. I’m an adult and am trying very hard to avoid collections and clutter, but, damn, I want one.

In Philly these can be purchased at Art Star Gallery. Else where, you can purchase from her site or ask if her wares are sold in your area.

Friday, June 2, 2006

How Not To Make A Reuben

I love me a Reuben sandwich. It’s really the sauerkraut that I crave. Cabbage rocks! And sour (saur) cabbage (kraut) makes hotdogs and sandwiches sing… krautrock? I’m also a BIG fan of sauces on sandwiches. The thousand island-type or Russian dressing on a Reuben appeals to my sweet and sour tooth.

I like to order Reuben’s when I’m at delis or restaurants that don’t have vegetarian options. I just order the sandwich without the corned beef. What I get is loads of warm sauerkraut smothered with melted Swiss cheese between toasted rye bread slathered with dressing.

Even better is a Reuben with tempeh! Hold up, hold up! Not always.

Take the Reuben that I ordered for the Natural Goodness Market in Center City Philly the other day. Natural Goodness is a small health food market with a kitchen that serves sandwiches and hot foods. I had only ten minutes on the parking meter, so stopped in to grab a sandwich to go. I chose the Reuben with tempeh.

Um, what are the ingredients in a Reuben?

Corned beef – We’re substituting tempeh. The tempeh was straight up out of the package – not seasoned, cooked, or warm.

Sauerkraut – Usually lots of it, but not in this case. My hankering for sauerkraut was not even tickled.

Thousand Island-type dressing – A sauce should say something, pop in your mouth. Their sauce was weak.

Swiss Cheese – Absent! Not no nothin’!

Rye Bread – Seven grain bread? I’m sure they use it for every sandwich on the board. That’s cheap. And it wasn't toasted.

Extras? – No, tomatoes, sprouts, and lettuce don’t come with Reuben’s, but, since you gave it to me, do you think I could get something besides the rib of the lettuce and the top of the tomato?

The person who made my sandwich obviously didn’t care one iota about a Reuben, or food in general. Just because you’re a health food store doesn’t mean you can get away with such things. Food should taste good and somewhat represent what you advertise.

It’s 2006! Meals at health food stores were bland and nasty 10 to 15 years ago. You’ve got competition now. Compete!

Natural Goodness Market and Cafe
2000 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Phone: 215-977-7749
Mon-Fri. 9a.m.-7p.m., Sat.10a.m-6p.m., Sun.-closed