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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Something Sweet at "Sweet"

2 years ago, you probably couldn't remember the last time you ate a cupcake, let alone buy one at a bakery.   Now there's a cupcake shop in every neighborhood.  I avoided them for so long, and I honestly didn't see why people were so obsessed....

Then... today we were swept off our feet by the chalkboard signing calling our name with "Buy 1 get one free" at Sweet in Hoboken!  Expecting to be a limit of how many you buy to get one free, we asked how many we could get, and the nice lady behind the counter said "as many as you like! ..so if you want 6, you get 6 free!"  Mr P took that literally, even though we don't need 12 cupcakes.  I at least talked him down to 12 mini cakes, instead of the regular size.



We each ate 1 cupcake, and I had "fluffer nutter!" ...a vanilla cupcake with peanut butter and marshmallow fluff.  The peanut butter tasted exactly like the peanut butter filling in nutter butters!!  We asked the man if we could buy just some frosting, but he said no, so my guess is that Mr P will be back too too often...

Our friend had a mocha cupcake, chocolate cake with mocha frosting with a chocolate-covered expresso bean on top!



Mr P had dark chocolate with marshmallow fluff, yum!



A delightful way to end the afternoon stroll through Hoboken :D

Thank you, Sweet!  We will definitely be back...



Toodles.
J&H

The Best Part of Waking Up...

....is not Folger's in my cup... or Starbucks, or Dunkin' Donuts, or any other mass-produced coffee for that matter.  It's 44 North.  And it's roasted by my friend!  It's fresh, it's rich, and it's just plain delicious.

I know I've mentioned this coffee before, and you're probably thinking 'It's just coffee..'  But it's not just coffee.  When you have good coffee, you just know.



I'm posting because this morning it really hit me how good it is to wake up with no obligations, no places to go, no errands to get done, just relax.  But when you get to relax in surroundings that make you feel good, it's even better.  My whole coffee routine is nostalgic, and has stories, I picture every person's face in my head that makes making coffee feel good.  I remember the fun weekend when Mels took the first step in her coffee roasting adventure by buying her roaster in New Jersey.  I remember the faces of each potter who hand-crafted each of my one of a kind mugs, and I remember the times I bought them or received them.  It's just nice.



Sure, we have oodles of Ikea, Target, and mass-produced things in our apartment.  But when we can, we buy local, support small businesses, or buy things that will tell a story, make us remember someone, or remember fun times.


...if we can find a way to turn a a simple task such as just brewing our Sunday morning coffee better, again it makes it just nice :D

Toodles.
J&H


For more information:

44 North Coffee:
http://44northcoffee.com/


Mugs:

Brandon Knott:  http://itsknottpottery.com/
Columbus Arts Festival:
Washington DC Eastern Market:  http://www.easternmarket-dc.org/default.asp?ContentID=1
Columbus Arts Festival:  http://columbusartsfestival.org/
Hoboken Arts and Music Festival:  http://www.hobokennj.org/departments/human-services/cultural-affairs/arts-music-festival/

Saturday, July 30, 2011

As Seen On Tv: Bolognese

I think everyone has watched The Food Network at some point (some watch more than others, some watch everyday, not naming names).  Mr P and I were deciding what to make as our major weeknight dinner for the week, and one of our faves, Ina Garten (i.e. Barefoot Contessa) was making 'Weeknight Bolognese,' one of our favorite pasta sauces.  Though we didn't end up using her recipe, it did inspire us to make some the long way by just 'throwing it in the pot,' meaning the crockpot, or slow-cooker!  

I always thought that a crockpot was one of those things you register for when you get married and become more 'domestic,' however I've had one since college, because it's the easiest way to make something that usually requires long baking or long simmering on the stove, but you don't have to keep such a close eye on it!  If you set it on a low temperature, you can start cooking your meal in the morning, and have it ready by the time you get home from work or from school.  You can make soups, casseroles, pot roast, stews, curries, lots of simple but delicious dishes.

The bolognese we made was simple, quick to throw together, we started cooking it before we went to bed on Sunday, and it was ready for lunches in the morning!  If you are not familiar with it, it's basically a red pasta sauce with base ingredients of ground beef and tomato paste, instead of crushed tomatoes like marinara sauce.  I didn't follow all what it took to make it, I just know it was really good, but Mr P sent me the recipe in his own words in an email during the week:



Bolognese

2-1/2lbs ground beef
16oz of red wine
6oz tomato paste
2 tsp. salt
1 tbls black pepper
2 bay leaves
3 tomatoes chopped large
3 garlic cloves sliced in half
Water

Noodles
Salt
Pasta water

Sear ground beef.  Drain fat.  Place in crockpot with other ingredients and stir.  Add water to just fill over the beef.  Low for 6-8 hours, (top of beef might looked burnt) see if more water needs to be added (most likely will) to almost cover beef.  Taste to see if more salt will be needed (should taste a little on the salty side) Stir and wait for another 6-8 hours.  Add a little more water to help the Bolognese become saucy, not too much water though. 

Boil then salt the water and cook noodles to al dente reserving some of the pasta liquid (follow directions on box for dry pasta but reduce cooking time by 1-2 minutes).  Combine a few tbls of sauce with al dente noodles of your choice and mix with a spoonful of pasta liquid.  Place in bowl, add another ladle of Bolognese over the noodles and finish with grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano.  

Boom!


....no, it doesn't go 'boom' when you're done... YOU say 'Boom!' (hands go up air like making an explosion) when you serve this delicacy to your guests as if it's magic.... or at least that's what I get sometimes when Mr P knows he just nailed a difficult dish, and that's what I imagine he was trying to portray when "Boom!" is part of his recipe :P


A few side notes from me:


- Buy your hard cheeses (parmesan, pecorino romano, etc) in block (not grated or shredded), keep them in the freezer, and don't be scared of the sticker price, it will last... forever...  Then just grate it as you need it, it's easy to grate when it's frozen, so you can just take it out, grate some, put it back.  Our pecorino romano has lasted for many many months because we keep it in the freezer.


- If you think you added too much water, don't sweat it, just let it cook a little longer and it will get thicker again.


- If you don't have a crockpot and you are thinking about getting one, get the BIG size... it will come in handy because you can always cook smaller portions the big pot, but you can't cook big portions in the small pot.  You should make big portions anyways, because you can probably freeze whatever you're making if you don't think you can eat it all.


Enjoy!  We certainly did :D


Toodles,
J&H

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Follow-up: Asian Chicken Noodle Salad

We thrive on leftovers in our kitchen., whether it's heating up soup from the night before, pulling out the big container of tuna or chicken salad to eat again, or just using something for the second (or third or fourth or fifth) meal.  Remember a week ago when I posted about Asian Chicken Noodle Salad?  ...and remember I told you the dressing intentionally makes a lot so you can use it later for salads?  Today I had it on a salad!  ...and it was oh so good. 

Most of the time, eating a salad for lunch is just blah unless you put all kinds of unhealthy (read: delicious) things on it, like handfuls of cheese, nuts, croutons, yum.  Using this dressing though made a salad that I actually wanted more of, even though I didn't put any of those 'delicious' things on it.... just some shredded poached chicken, chopped green peppers, and mesclun greens... and dressing of course.

The dressing has sort of a creaminess to it, but it's still runny like a vinaigrette so that when you pour it over your lunch container, you can put the lid back on and make your quiet office loud by shaking it up!  Every bit of my salad today had dressing on it.  If you're like me, normally you save the best for last and eat all the greens first (like eating all the brown parts of Lucky Charms first and saving huge spoonfuls of marshmallows for last!  ..but the adult, trying-to-eat-healthy version)  But having this dressing made the leafy greens actually good!

Of course the dressing isn't for everyone, but if you like peanut butter and soy sauce, you will probably like it  :D

Keep me posted if you try it!

Toodles.
J&H

Philly, without the cheesesteak

A recent trip to Philly was filled with good friends, good dancing, good food, HOT temperatures, a good run... but NO cheesesteak!  I've been there enough times that I'm over the that "I'm in Philly so I need to eat a Philly cheesesteak."  ....because the truth is, though the cheesesteak is very very delicious, Philly has so many other great restaurants with great food.

The weekend started off with Mr. P and I hitting the road before dinner time, and eating cold leftover Asian Chicken Noodle Salad on the way.  That night we went to the most awesome dance party EVER! (well, except that it was outside and the temperature didn't go below 90 degrees all night). Moshulu (HUGE old sail boat docked at Penn's Landing) was hosting a night of BBG KKR by DJ Dee Jay.... which meant only music by Birtney Beyonce Gaga Ke$ha Katy and Rhianna!!  ....so much dancing... and I was in such awe of the guys there.  Never in my lift have I seen so many (straight) guys know the words to those songs!!! 

The rest of the weekend was spent with a long, deathly hot run, followed by relaxing and eating, lots of eating!  My good friend Michelle introduced us to a restaurant bar in Philly called The Prohibition Taproom.  She advised us the fried green beans blah blah blah... I was convinced that I needed them when I heard "fried green beans"!!  They only have a few things that stay on their menu, but their daily specials are what's best.  We ALL ordered from the daily menu (so you might as well not even look at their menu online, just trust me, it's good.) 



Knowing that my fried green beans were going to be greasy (but oh so good), I ordered the vegan sandwich with side salad.  Expecting my sandwich to be blah, I was unexcited for what was to come.  Instead, however, it was probably the best meatless sandwich I've ever had!  I think I'll start trying to make it at home!  It was hummus, tomatoes, cucumbers, pickled onions, and hummus on sourdough bread.  So simple, right?  I think it was the sourdough bread.  When it gets cooler outside and Mr. P starts making homemade bread again, I'm going to convince him to make sourdough... yum!  ...and the pickled onions... yum!  The looked like they had been pickled in red wine vinegar, I hope that was it, because I'm gonna try to make them!

Mr. P ordered a hamburger with brie.  I think it was nostalgic for him (ok well it was nostalgic for me, and I was happy he ordered it!)  The first time he made burgers for me, he stuffed them with brie.  Who does that??   ...his burger also had bacon, and his side was fries.  Now how come he's losing weight again when he gets to eat like that?  Stupid boys and their stupid metabolisms!



Sunday we filled with Dim Sum in Chinatown and my not-so-new favorite treat, froyo! 



It's delicious, light, and a great go-to treat, because I always get the same... Original Tart (or euro-tart, or plain, or whatever said place wants to call it) with coconut (preferably toasted) and rainbow sprinkles (not chocolate, tried it, ew)....



Mr. P usually doesn't like froyo, but since we "dragged" him outside and made him walk miles in the heat, it was a refreshing treat!  Peanut butter froyo and coffee froyo with crushed oreos for him...



Thanks for everyone for a great weekend!

Toodles.
J&H

...and p.s. I lied... Mr P had a cheesesteak... he's an eating machine I tell ya!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Asian Chicken Noodle Salad (and the importance of using a cooking thermometer!)

Mr. P is by far a better cook than myself and most people I know, and anyone who has had his food will surely agree.  But lately, mostly because of the heat wave, I've been cooking a lot more!   ...or at least throwing something together edible enough to eat.  Most of the time our dinner conversations begin with me saying "Wow, babe, this is sooo good!" because Mr. P's cooking is really really good.  But it's nothing new.  Maybe it's a new recipe, or a new food, but the fact that he can cook so well and put a 5-star meal on the table, it's absolutely no surprise.  However when it's he who says "Wow, babe, this is sooo good!" I feel like a million bucks! 

So, today I'm posting from one of those meals...



Asian Chicken Noodle Salad with Ginger-Peanut Dressing
(modification via: Serious Eats)

Ingredients:

Chicken:
3 chicken breasts (or about 1.5lbs)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Salad:
16 ounces soba noodles (or spaghetti)
2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced into bite-sized pieces
1 bunch of scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
1/2 cup unsalted dry-roasted peanuts
1 bunch fresh cilantro, rough chopped
2 tablespoon sesame seeds

Dressing:
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup peanut oil
2 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
4 small garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoon sugar
(see Note 1 below)

Equipment Needed:
Stove
Oven
Food Processor (or blender)

Directions:

 Chicken:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with foil, rub the chicken breasts with veggie oil, and lay on baking sheet.  Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (both sides)
  3. When the oven is preheated, place baking sheet in the oven until the chicken is done.  Chicken breasts come in all different sizes and thicknesses, so use a cooking thermometer  (see Note 2 at end) and take out when thermometer reads 170 degrees.
  4. Let cool on cutting board. Cube or shred chicken breasts, whichever you prefer.
Noodles:
  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil.
  2. Cook soba or spaghetti as per instructions on the package.
  3. Drain when cooked, and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking (and so the spaghetti doesn't stick!)
Dressing:
  1. Roughly chop garlic and ginger, and put in food processor.
  2. Add rest of dressing ingredients to food processor.  Turn on until dressing is very smooth with no bits of ginger, garlic, or peanut butter. (If you can't find peanut oil or sesame oil, use vegetable oil and add more peanut butter.  We didn't have peanut oil, so we added equal amount of veggie oil and added more peanut butter to taste).
Combine all ingredients except dressing.  Add dressing to taste and toss so that dressing covers all pasta.  Garnish with any extra peanuts, cilantro, and/or sesame seeds and serve :D

Notes:
  1. Dressing makes a lot.  Use as needed.  This recipe is actually a double batch of dressing, because we figured we're already going through the hassle of making the dressing, we might as well make enough to use on regular salads later, right?
  2. Having a cooking thermometer is such an essential tool in our kitchen.  It drives me nuts when recipes call for certain meats to be baked at a certain temperature for a certain time, because every pork chop, chicken breast, turkey, etc. is a different size and shape.  If you want your meat to be done and not too done, I highly recommend you use a cooking thermometer.  Ours is a digital one with a pointed end that you stick into the center of the meat, and has a cord that goes to the digital readout outside of the oven.  Most cookbooks have temperatures at which meat is "done", but you can also find it with a quick google search if you are not sure.
  3. Changes for the next time we make this:  We will add more veggies, and we might try using a rotisserie chicken so our apartment doesn't get super hot and so we can have better shredded chicken. 
  4. The dressing by itself tastes pretty salty, but since we didn't boil our noodles, in salt water, it tasted much less salty once mixed in with the rest of the salad.
Because this recipe was eaten as a "cold" noodle dish, it made great leftovers!  No heating up required :D

Toodles.
J&H

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Step Away from the Kitchen

Though our home is often times centered around the kitchen, sometimes it's nice just to get out and actually see the wonderful place we live.  Even though people sometimes criticize Hoboken for being a 'bubble', full of yuppies that took over the city, I still love, LOVE, living here.  Hoboken in itself has many things to offer, but we're also at the "center of the world", as many New York City dwellers proclaim. 

Most of you have experienced this awful heat wave going through the US.  For those of you with central air, it simply means you stay inside more and your electric bill gets high.  For those of us with window units, it often means suffering inside as well as out.  Mr. P and I have set some priorities for how we spend our loot, and getting another AC, or just a better one than the one that came with our rental apartment, is not on the list, not this year anyways.  We have too many weddings, too many people to see, and now that we're halfway through this dreadfully hot summer, we can certainly last the rest.  For us though, 'suffering' doesn't just mean 'suffering' through the heat and having a hot apartment even when the AC is on, it means 'suffering' in the kitchen.  With an ancient (and I mean ancient) gas range, turning it on is literally like turning on a fireplace, maybe worse.  Needless to say, we have limited its use when the temperatures are above 85, and that's been everyday as long as I can think back.  We have gotten creative with our cuisine, utilizing the crock pot, eating salads and sandwiches, and making food that lasts when we actually do use the stove or oven. 

Now that we have more time on our hands without cooking so much, we've had the chance to get out and see this wonderful place we live.  We recently went to the beach, in Avon-by -the-Sea, NJ.  I'm sure most of you have your own judgements about the "Jersey Shore", based on the MTV show, however "going down the shore" isn't just for 20-something partiers who want to exploit New Jersey's best assets.  People of all ages go, and there are beaches for all types of people.  Avon-by-the-Sea is more of a family-friendly beach, with clean sand, surfers, a boardwalk, children making sandcastles, and plenty of waves for swimming and my favorite, body-surfing!

Before our trip, we packed food to eat for the day.  Considering we left at 6:30am to beat the traffic, we had to pack breakfast and lunch.  Our cooler was filled with fresh fruit, wraps, and LOTS of water.  Since Mr. P is so awesome, he pulled homemade pastrami out of the freezer to make sandwich wraps with pastrami, leftover deli meat, arugula salad mix, cheddar cheese, horseradish sauce, and tortillas (whole wheat wraps for me :P)


With the sauce in the middle, away from the wrap, we folded them up like a burrito and wrapped in tin foil.  This way nothing would spill out, and the wraps wouldn't get soggy from the sauce.

When we got to the beach (around 7:45am), there was nobody there (except the surfers of course, who catch the morning waves before the beach is overcrowded).  It was so peaceful, and nice to be able to relax with the light breeze, sun, and the sound of the crashing waves.  Without anyone else around us, the sounds of the waves and wind sounded like one of those alarm clocks with "nature" sounds to wake you up!  Getting up that early was so worth it.


Soon though, the beach became crowded, and we decided to go back to the car, grab our bikes (thankfully our bikes are foldable, so they fit in my little hatchback Yaris!), and ride around the little beach towns (well, sort of, after 9am you have to pay to get on the beach, and we got 'caught' without paying, so Mr. Police Man told us we had to pay or leave, so we left since we had already been there for 3 hours).  At this time though, it was so crowded and so hot, we were almost ready to leave anyways, so the bikes were a good option!

We strolled up and down Ocean Ave., grabbed some ice cream cones, and were back in Hoboken by 1:30pm!  Not too bad considering usually at that hour on a Saturday we are still in our PJ's, drinking coffee, and watching reruns of Holmes on Homes or other shows on HGTV!

So, cheers to getting out of the kitchen for once, and truly enjoying the outdoors!  ....it helps when there's a beach an hour away ;)

Toodles.
J&H

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Keep It Simple

While waiting on the Thai Red Curry to simmer today, I became impatient and wanted to eat now... but I didn't want to ruin my appetite. So, I turned to one of my favorite snacks... tomatoes with salt and pepper.  That's it.  It's simple, it's delicious.....



Yum....  Makes me want to have a garden sooooo bad.

Toodles.
J&H

Thai Cooking in the Vietnamese/White Household

Sure, we believe that we can make anything in our teeny kitchen, but there are some things that are just not worth the time and effort of putting together, let alone finding the right ingredients.  Thai food and Indian foods are common evils that we buy semi-pre-made.  The curries are made with so many ingredients that are so difficult to find that we buy the pre-packaged pastes.  Lots of people think that making any kind of Asian food just sounds too difficult to make just because they have never tried, but making Thai curry is sooooo easy when you buy curry paste.

One of the great things about buying curry paste is that you can make a meal in no time with whatever "bites" you want (our in our case, whatever was in the fridge and freezer).  You can eat it with just veggies, or you can put in any kind of meat, potatoes, etc.  Just think of making almost like a vegetable soup, except you are using curry instead of chicken stock or vegetable stock.

We are really trying to "clean" out our freezer, because sometimes we get this idea in our heads that we have infinite freezer space and "oh, chicken breast on sale for under $2/lb? lets buy TEN pounds! ....flank steak for $5.99/lb? can we buy it all?"  We also only have one cupboard with no shelves inside to put our canned goods and other processed foods, so we're trying to clean that out too so we can discover hidden delicacies in the back.  So today we made red curry!  It's simple, easy, uses many things we already had, can make a lot, and doesn't take too long on the stove (since it's 90+ degrees outside and turning on the stove is basically like turning on a fireplace in our small apartment).


Thai Red Curry

Ingredients:
6 tbsp. red curry paste
2 cans coconut milk
(if you find that you need more "sauce", add 1 can of coconut milk per 3 tbsp. curry paste)
1 lb. flank steak, thinly sliced
1 medium red onion, roughly chopped
1 cup sugar snap peas, cut in half
1 cup green peas
1 red pepper
2 heads broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces, stalks sliced so that more of the inside shows instead of the tough outer layer

Optional:
1 tbsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 thai chili
salt, to taste







Heat up a 6-quart dutch oven over high heat (or other deep pan or wok).  Once hot, add curry paste and stir will wooden spoon until fragrant.  



Add coconut milk and stir until completely combined, then bring to a boil.  



Add fish sauce and vinegar (if you want).  Add beef, onion, snap peas, green peas, brocoli, and thai chili.  Stir and bring to a boil, then take down to a simmer and cover.  Let simmer for about 20 minutes (or until the beef is cooked and the veggies are to your desired texture).  Add salt to taste, and serve over rice. (I chose to eat without rice this time... saving a few calories :P  it's basically like a soup anyways)



We used beef, green peas, and onions, because we had them in the fridge and freezer already, however literally any kind of meat is good with curry, and we wanted more greens, so we went to the bodega down the street and picked up the snap peas and broccoli to be more healthy :P  

The "sauce" can be made just with curry paste and coconut milk, but we wanted to add the "optional" ingredients just because we had them and knew they would add a little depth to the dish.  You should be able to find coconut milk in most grocery stores for around $1.00-1.50.  I think the Thai food brand called "Thai Kitchen" sells both coconut milk and curry paste, though we found both for pretty cheap at the local Asian grocery store.

If you haven't tried making Thai food, I encourage you to try this recipe!  You will be surprised how fast and easy it is to just throw it all together.  Maybe you won't be tempted to spend double or triple your money on Thai take-out the net time you get that craving!

Toodles.
J&H

p.s.  if you dare to put in the Thai chili, make sure you KNOW where it's at the the pot!  In the midst of typing this post I accidentally bit into it!!  it was hotter than anything I've ever eaten... my face was dripping sweat, my eyes were pouring tears, and my nose was so runny!!  ahhhh!!! Mucho thanks to Mr. P for saving the day with some water and rice to sooth my burning mouth (he had to improvise since we ran out of milk).

Lesson learned, I suppose.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Cheesecake" for breakfast

Do you ever accidentally make something that tastes like heaven? ...and you feel like the things you put together to make it aren't supposed to taste this good?  This was the case with my breakfast this morning.

Yesterday I think my eyes were bigger than my stomach, because I think I packed my entire kitchen to take for breakfast at work.  So, today I had leftover breakfast in the fridge from yesterday.  I had what I thought was going to be a mediocre (at best) breakfast that turned out to be something so good that I couldn't stand not sharing!



I put 1 serving of vanilla Greek yogurt at the bottom of one of those awesome take out containers you get from Chinese take-out, then a thin layer of rhubarb jam, then covered with a generous layer of Grape Nuts (I swear I'm only 24, even though my tastebuds might suggest that I'm 75).....






Hesitant that it was going to be a soggy gross mess when I ate this a day late, I ate a scoop of it and was very pleasantly surprised that it was almost like eating cheesecake for breakfast!  The Greek yogurt gave the thick, creamy texture of cheesecake, with the rhubarb jam being the fruit topping, and the half soggy half crunchy Grape Nuts being the (upside down) crumbly crust!  It honestly tasted too good to be breakfast food, and I almost felt guilty for eating something that seemed like dessert for breakfast.

You know those yogurt commercials where they say they are losing weight by eating "Key Lime Pie" and "Boston Cream Pie" but they are really talking about the flavored yogurt?  That's what I feel like I am preaching to you when I say this was that good.  I know, cheesy, but you just gotta try it!!

(the photos are from tonight when I tried to recreate it, but it's not the same, because it didn't sit overnight yet!  the crunchies are still ALL crunchy, and the yogurt isn't as thick because it was sitting out for a while, but it will be delicious tomorrow morning!)

Toodles.

J&H

Music in the Kitchen

Do you cook at home just because you have to? ...or just because you want to save money? ...or just because you want to eat healthier ...or just because of some other reason other that you just love to cook?

Do you listen to music while you're "slaving away" in the kitchen?  No? Maybe you should try it!  It makes it so relaxing and fun to just turn off the TV and have "background noise" that you actually enjoy instead of the boring old evening news or reality television that you really don't need to watch anyways. 

Mr. P and I most of the time cook with the television off and the music loud.  We usually turn on Pandora so we can find new artists we've never known and can't find on the radio. If we listen to a station that we've had for a while (and given oodles of "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" to the songs we like and dislike), it's a comforting feeling to hear music we know we enjoy.  Either way, it just makes the idea of "slaving away" go away...  Cooking is something we can do together.  And when the television is off, we are tempted to watch it and pay attention to it like a pendulum swinging in front of our eyes, disregarding one another.  We get to have real conversations with each other, and we get to teach each other things about cooking (i.e. Mr. P gives me a cooking lesson every night unless I'm heating up leftovers from the night before).  Plus it gives us a chance to try out our new dance moves from this ad for Skype.

This article from thekitchn.com made me think of my own experiences in the kitchen:

 http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/inspiration/why-you-wont-find-an-mp3-player-in-my-kitchen-151141

....mostly because it really is more fun to do anything in the kitchen when we "blow my speakers up" while jamming to a little Ke$ha (and by Ke$ha I mean her song "Blow") 

What is your favorite music to cook to?

Toodles.
J&H

Sunday, July 10, 2011

I Scream, You Scream...

Check one more thing off the list of things we buy at the grocery store, our first try at making ice cream was a BIG success!

There's a series of articles on thekitchn.com called "Make or Buy?" and the things they post are usually things that are a no-brainer "buy" for the average person, but I always get intrigued by the things that people "make" on a regular basis.  Well, we have now added ice cream to our list of ridiculous things we will "make."  After purchasing the book "Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home" (as well as the ice cream making bowl attachment for the KitchenAid mixer) we made our first vanilla ice cream.  It was simple, easy, and tasted sooo good!  It was creamy, smooth, and like Jeni said at her book-signing, it didn't have that ice-crystal-y texture like most store-bought ice creams.

 The only bad thing about the ice cream that we made was.....




.....we didn't DOUBLE the batch!!

This morning after we woke up, I opened up the fridge to find something for breakfast, I instantly thought of ice cream, grabbed the ice cream out of the freezer, and told Mr. P I was gonna have a spoonful.  He laughed, got off the couch, came toward me, and said "I'm glad you got it out because I wanted some too, but... its.. ice cream... for BREAKFAST!  But it IS that good.."

We finished breakfast with some 44 North Coffee... the way Sunday mornings should be :D

Toodles.
J&H

p.s.  the jam on top is homemade rhubarb jam... the same that was inside the poptarts from my first post!

Friday, July 8, 2011

"Celebrity" Sighting

When I found out that Mr. P was getting emails from Williams Sonoma, I thought our savings would go down the tubes, and our kitchen would begin to get stocked with expensive appliances and oodles of knives.  However, the first purchase of a $130 Shun Nakiri knife was also the last.... until last night.

Last night we had a "celebrity sighting", if you will.  Williams-Sonoma sent an email notifying about a book signing from JENI!  ...from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams!!  So, of course we went, because that Williams-Sonoma location is dangerously close to Mr. P's office, at only 3 short Manhattan blocks away. Ok, ok, she's probably only a celebrity to a select few, but we were still stoked to go.

For those of you who live in Columbus, I'm sure you are WELL aware of Jeni's Splenid Ice Cream (and make regular appearances like I did when I lived there).  For the rest of you, Jeni's will be the best ice cream you will ever have... guaranteed!  The flavors are sort of exotic as far as ice cream goes, but all are delicious.  My favorite combination is the Cherry Lambic Sorbet with dark chocolate ice cream, because it tastes just like cordial cherries!!! yum.. But Jeni's isn't just ice cream, it's the whole experience.  When you walk near the doors of the shop, you can already smell the sweetness of the ice cream and the handmade sugar cones.  When you walk in you are greeted with a midwestern kindhearted "Hello, welcome to Jeni's" followed by a "would you like to try any flavors?"  ...well of COURSE I'm going to try some!! (maybe all, haha)  At Jeni's, they encourage trying as many flavors as you like, and allow you to take as long as you would like to pick which flavor(s) you would like to buy.  Last night Jeni even said that she's proud of the long lines out the doors of her ice cream shops, because she's happy that people are willing to stand in line for her ice cream, and she knows that the long lines are there because they allow you to take as long as you want choosing a flavor, and trying different flavors (so now I don't have to feel embarassed or guilty waiting on my mother who literally tries every flavor whenever we go, because they encourage it!). 

Last night Jeni did a demonstration on how to make the basic vanilla ice cream, then we got samples, then she mixed in cherry compote and "crumbles", like the good crumbly bits on top of apple crumble, and then we got samples again... The event was held in celebration of her new book, which tells you how to make basically EVERY flavor of her ice cream!  If you have an ice cream maker, her ice cream is very simple to make, considering almost every ingredient is natural.  For her own ice cream, ALL the milk and cream comes from one dairy farm in Ohio with grass-fed dairy cows, and most of the seasonal ingredients come from local farms as well.  Her book talks about her decision to stay local, and last night she talked about how her company will continue to grow side-by-side with her dairy farm.

After spending the whole evening talking about ice cream, we knew there was NO WAY we could leave Williams-Sonoma without buying an ice cream maker.... absolutely not.  The workers at Williams-Sonoma we just fantastic.  They had great advice on which maker to choose, and even gave us advice on which kitchenaid attachments we SHOULDN'T choose (at what retail store do the workers discourage people from buying their items?).  Some of you are probably shaking your head thinking "why on earth would they spend the money buying things at WS that you can buy online for cheaper?"  Well, "here goes the thing" (as Mr. P begins all of his explanations), would you rather save a dollar to have poor service, or would you rather spend a little more to have a better experience and receive great advice?  I'm not simply saying that things that are more expensive are always better,, but in this case it was worth it.  We were ready to walk out of the store with a stand alone maker that was the same price as the kitchenaid mixer attachment, but included a $25 WS gift certificate.  The nice worker talked us out of  getting the stand alone mixer, because we are VERY limited on space in our 350sf apartment, and we really didn't need the $25 anyways (because what would we buy for $25?  ...probably another $130 knife!).

Lastly, while watching the demonstration, we met a girl (from Ohio!) who now writes a dessert blog.  She started it 4 years ago, and has made a career out of it!  She said she's been contacted by the Food Network to possibly (i.e. hopefully!) have a show about different desserts!  I imagine it would be like Guy Fieri's "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives", but for desserts... or non-stop dessert eposides of "The Best Thing I Ever Ate."  ...now that's the life, getting paid to try desserts? yes please!  Her website is posted below, and they travel all around the country, so keep your eyes peeled for a location near you! A delicious treat might be right at your doorstep.

So now the ice-cream-making bowl is wedged into our freezer and will be ready for ice cream on Saturday!  Just in time to have a refreshing treat after our outing at the beach down the shore.   Stay tuned to see how our first batch turns out!

Links you may be interested in:
http://jenisicecreams.com/
http://www.jenisicecreams.com/pages/Retail-Partners.html
http://www.justdessertsnyc.com/
http://www.williams-sonoma.com/

Toodles.
J&H
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