Monthly Archives: May 2011

liquid lovelies….

Here are my top 5 picks for beverages to accompany America’s favorite summer pastime: The Cookout.

Magic Hat # 9

A fruity beer with notes of apricot, this beer pairs well with…well just about anything. It also, conveniently now comes in cans, so you can enjoy just about anywhere. The caps on all of Magic Hat beers come with witty sayings, comments and advice.  This brewing company is based in Vermont, and you can’t find their products everywhere, but they do ship!

Classic, good old fashioned Lemonade

And no, I am not talking about store bought. I am talking fresh squeezed, made with your own two hands Lemonade.  Its easy, and well worth the time spent.


1 3/4 cups white sugar

8 cups water

1 1/2 cups lemon juice


In a small saucepan, combine sugar and 1 cup water. Bring to boil and stir to dissolve sugar. Allow to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until chilled.

Remove seeds from lemon juice, but leave pulp. In pitcher, stir together chilled syrup, lemon juice and remaining 7 cups water.

Serve over ice.

Long Island Tea

LIT packs a big punch, so a little goes a long way, depending on the company your in that is. This is my go to drink when I get the chance to have drinks with friends, and is super refreshing on a hot summer day. Check out this recipe from Food Network

Sun Tea

Sun tea has much deeper flavors than traditionally brewed tea. I think this is due to its long “brew” process. It so very easy to make, and can be made in every tea flavor imaginable. Just pick your favorite and follow these easy instructions:

Fill a glass pitcher, or container of choice, with water. I use a gallon pitcher and use 8 tea bags. Adjust tea bags according to size of container used. Tightly cover container. (I use plastic wrap). Set pitcher outside in the morning. The tea needs to be in full sun for at least 6 hours to get full flavor, but this also depends on how strong you like your tea. (Test after a few hours if you prefer your tea mild). Once brewed to liking, remove tea bags, and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve over ice.

Mint Julep

Similar to a Mojito, this southern classic is a lovely, refreshing treat to the senses. Again, Food Network has a fantastic recipe.

So there it is, my top picks for summer thirst quenchers. I would love to hear some of your favorites.

Have a safe and wonderful holiday weekend!


Posted by on pmpFri, 27 May 2011 17:24:17 +000024Friday 4 , 2011 in Recipes


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Russian Vegetable Pie

When I was first introduced (about 16 years ago)  to this amazingly flavorful pie, I refused to try it. I thought it sounded awful. Obviously I did not have the same refined culinary tastes I have today. When I finally gave in, and tried a small bite, I ended up eating 2 pieces and had the leftovers the following day. It has since become one of my favorite dishes. The combination of all the herbs, cabbage, onions and mushrooms burst with aromatic goodness. I love the delicate flakiness of the cream cheese crust. I will be making it this weekend, but wanted to post the recipe today since I won’t have time when I make it. (Sadly I have no picture of the pie to accompany the recipe, but will post one as soon as I can).

This savory pie will not disappoint.


4 eggs


1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon white sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons butter

4 ounces cream cheese, softened


2 tablespoons butter

1 onion, chopped

1 small head cabbage, shredded

1/8 teaspoon dried marjoram

1/8 teaspoon dried tarragon

1/4 teaspoon dried basil leaves

salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon butter

8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring water to a boil and immediately remove from heat. Cover and let eggs stand in hot water for 15 minutes. Remove from hot water, cool, peel and slice.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in cream cheese until mixture forms a ball. Roll out 2/3 of the pastry and line a 9 inch pie dish. Roll out the remaining pastry and make a circle large enough to cover the dish. (I roll this out on plastic wrap, to make storing in fridge easier). Put it away to chill.

In a large skillet, melt about 2 tablespoons butter. Add the onion and cabbage and saute for several minutes, stirring constantly. Season with marjoram, tarragon, and basil, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is wilted and the onions are soft. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add another tablespoon of butter to the pan and saute the mushrooms lightly for about 5 to 6 minutes, stirring constantly.

Spread the softened cream cheese in the bottom of the pie shell. Arrange the egg slices in a layer over the cheese. Sprinkle them with chopped dill, then cover them with the cabbage mixture. Make a final layer of the sauteed mushrooms and cover with the circle of pastry. Seal and flute the edges of the crust. With a sharp knife, cut a few short slashes through the top crust.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.


Posted by on pmpFri, 27 May 2011 14:32:55 +000032Friday 4 , 2011 in Recipes


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the wind began to switch….

This eastern girl was not prepared for the weather that hit the Midwest this week. We were given a 24 hour heads up on Monday, that Tuesday was going to be a stay glued to your TV, weather alert radio, internet radar (in my case all 3) kind of day. I knew that there is a difference between a tornado watch and a warning.

A watch, being just that. Watch, wait and see what happens. Stay alert, but go about your normal business. In my case that was trying to get things done, but found myself going to the live radar on my computer screen every 5 seconds. Over the course of 3 hours it went from nothing to a major something pretty darn quick. That is when they issued a

A warning means seek shelter. Don’t pass go, go to your nearest shelter immediately.

At this point the storms directly in our path were at least 1 hour away, according to every weather source I had going. We decided to head to the In Laws to check on them. Everyone was good, and did not seem too worried about tornadoes. (I on the other hand was very concerned) A few moments later, two things happened simultaneously that scared the @#!* out of me. Several tornadoes were touching down, one of which was only about 30 minutes away, and heading, at a very rapid speed, right for us. And then I heard them. The tornado sirens. They were loud. They sent chills over my entire body. I had heard them before, but not  like this.

Every weekend at 12:00 pm the sirens are tested, at a low level. Sometimes I don’t even notice when they are going off. This time, I noticed. We decided at this point that we were going to head home, 2 miles away, so we could be close to our neighbor, who kindly offered to share her brand new storm cellar with us, and several other neighbors. I was ready to head in there the minute we got home. The other half of WE (TOHOW) was a hell of a lot calmer than I was, as he grew up dealing with this crazy weather. He did not want to sit in a hot shelter for an hour. Then it started hailing. Hard. The sky took on the color of pea soup, and I looked at him and said well, then you can come when you are ready. He changed his shoes and met us across the street.

We had a radio with us so we could track the storm, and TOHOW had his laptop. Our neighbor who is about 80, did not seem fazed at all by the fast approaching super cell. She calmly sat next to me in the shelter, and did not say a word. I asked her is she was ok about 10 times, but I think I was just trying to reassure myself, because her response was always “Oh yes, I’m fine”. My other neighbor and her husband were there as well. Of course the men were not in the shelter with us yet. They were in the house watching through the big front windows. All of a sudden TOHOW and the other guy came rushing into the garage and got in the shelter. “Its coming, I can’t even see our house” TOWHOW said. And then the noise outside became so loud we could not hear each other. I thought for sure the house was going to be whisked away, and not in the nice orderly fashion like in the Wizard Of Oz.  This lasted about 5 minutes. And then silence. Not a peep. Not a rustle. Just silence. We all looked at each other, and slowly made our way out of the shelter. Opened the garage door to find, sunshine.

Yes the sun was shining in all its glory. Trees were down, the road was littered with branches, and a million leaves. There was hail all over the place. The houses were all still there. The tornadoes had missed us. Unfortunately others were not lucky. Many homes were destroyed. People are missing. People lost their lives. And for this reason, I will never underestimate the weather. Ever. Even if that means  spending an hour or more being hot, sweaty, cramped and claustrophobic.

And right now, I am going to make our sweet,generous,calm neighbor a pie.


Posted by on ampThu, 26 May 2011 11:58:18 +000058Thursday 4 , 2011 in Uncategorized


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Sunday Drive

When I was young my parents used to take my sister and I on Sunday drives. I did not always want to go. I deemed these mini road trips boring. With nothing to do but look at the scenery that passed by, and endure listening to my sister sing, loudly and completely out of tune, because SHE had a Walkman.

I would not trade those Sundays for the world.

And now that I am a mother, I love packing up the kids for a Sunday (or any day) drive adventure. They are usually happy to go, because they never know what we will see or where we will end up.

This past Sunday we decided to head east, since there was a massive storm system building,(the other half of We has a weather obsession)  with some of the most intense cloud formations I have ever seen. We did not know at the time that we were seeing the same storm front that was hitting Joplin MO with an intense F-4 tornado.


Posted by on pmpMon, 23 May 2011 13:32:18 +000032Monday 4 , 2011 in Uncategorized


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Dim Sum and then some…

Asia or Bust part 2

On the menu today: Pork Dumplings and Ginger – Curry Sweet Potato Fries.

My new  bamboo steamer cooked the dumplings perfectly. I researched how to get the best results when making dumplings, and the one consistent piece of advice I found, was that I should line the steamer with something. This “something” could be any number of things from damp tea towels to banana leaves. I decided to use parchment.

I found a website that sells steamer liners, and basically all they are is parchment circles with a lot of little holes to allow steam through.  Using a wooden skewer, I was able to achieve proper “air flow”. The liners worked really well, and made cleaning the steamer so simple. I highly recommend using them.

What a great way to end our “tour” of Asia!

 Pork Dumplings


14 ounces ground pork
2 scallions, chopped
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry or orange juice – a great sherry substitute
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1 egg white, lightly beaten
4  teaspoons cornstarch
24 wonton skins


     Place the ground pork, scallions, soy sauce, sherry or juice, sesame oil, sugar and beaten egg white in a large mixing bowl and mix until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Stir in the cornstarch, mixing until thoroughly incorporated with the other ingredients.

Spread out the wonton skins on work surface. Place a spoonful of pork mixture in the center of each wonton skin and lightly brush edges with water.

Bring sides of skins together in the center of the filling, pinching firmly together (it’ll look like a little purse).

Line  steamer with parchment and arrange wontons inside.

Cover and steam for 5-7 minutes, until dim sum are cooked through.
Serve immediately.

Dipping Sauce

Makes about 1 cup

2 tablespoons Spicy Sambal 

1/2 cup rice wine vinegar

1/2 cup soy sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

In a small bowl combine the sambal, vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Mix until well combined.

Ginger – Curry Sweet Potato Fries


2 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed and unpeeled

1/3 cup canola oil

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon garam masala

2 teaspoons ginger powder

2 scallions, green and white parts, thinly sliced

Kosher salt and pepper to taste


Trim 1/4 inch from the ends of each potato, then shave the sides to make rough rectangular shapes. Cut the potatoes lengthwise into 1/2 – inch-wide slices. Stack the slices and cut into 1/2 -inch – wide fries.

In a large bowl, combine the oils, masala, ginger and scallions. Add the potatoes, season with salt and pepper, and toss well.

Place heavy sheet pan in the oven and heat to 400 degrees. Remove pan, dump fries onto it, and using a spatula, seperate the potatoes. (The potatoes should sizzle when they touch the pan, if they don’t, remove them from the pan, return it to the oven, and continue to heat it for a few minutes. Then return potatoes to pan)

Bake the potatoes until golden brown, 10 -15 mins. Checking periodically to make sure the potatoes are not browning to quickly.

Turn the potatoes and cook an additional 10-15 mins. until crisp outside, soft inside.

And here you have the 4 – year – olds version of an Asian dinner :


Posted by on pmpFri, 20 May 2011 21:21:40 +000021Friday 4 , 2011 in Culinary trek around the globe, Recipes


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Asia or bust…

(a culinary trek around the globe with a 4 year old foodie)

This week’s culinary travel pick was….Asia. Yes, I know there are many places within Asia that we could have explored, but when a 4 year old is doing the selecting, we get what we get.

We started our “travels” with a trip to the Asian District. There is a market there that is out of this world. Every time we go there I feel like an Andrew Zimmern roadie. The place is packed floor to ceiling with foreign delights and freakiness. Which only ads to the charm. You can select your own live fish which will then be beheaded right before your eyes, (we usually steer clear of this section). On our latest visit we found an item labeled “Ground Cucumber” – a giant, brown earth grub. Cucumber? Hmmm. The fresh produce is amazing, with so many choices at reasonable costs, it is hard to leave without some exotic perishable.

I bought a new bamboo steamer (for only $8.99) and ingredients to make fresh dim sum, peanut noodles, and array of other “staples” to have on hand. I am most excited to use the steamer. Dim Sum is one of my all time favorites.

We then went to the library and took out some books about Asia, and Kiki’s Delivery Service, a movie by Hayao Miyazaki  

One of the books we took out was The Runaway Wok: A Chinese New Year Tale by Ying Chang Compestine which after reading, Isaac said “Wow mommy, that was a good book, I thought it was going to be lame”. Lame? Where did he pick up THAT word? At least he used it in the right context.

An astonishing fact about Asia: the majority of Muslims reside in South Asia instead of Middle East, which is essentially known for its Muslim population.

I did not know this. Did you?

The first thing we made was Sesame Peanut Noodles.


16 oz noodles (you can use spaghetti, linguine, or fresh wheat flour noodles – really any noodle of choice) I used fresh wheat flour noodles:

1 bunch of green onions

2 Tablespoons sesame oil

1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

3 garlic cloves minced

2/3 cup all natural no sugar added peanut butter

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup hot water

1 Tablespoon cider vinegar (or white wine vinegar)

1 teaspoon white sugar


Cook pasta according to directions on package.

Meanwhile, combine oil and onions in a skillet. Saute over medium heat until tender. Add ginger and garlic, cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes.

Mix in peanut butter, soy sauce, water, vinegar and  sugar. Remove from heat.

Toss noodles with sauce, and serve either hot or cold.


O shokuji o o tanoshimi kudasai


Posted by on pmpWed, 18 May 2011 19:58:33 +000058Wednesday 4 , 2011 in Culinary trek around the globe, Recipes


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the cookie project…

A good friend of mine is determined to crack the recipe of a “secret” chocolate chip cookie that a friend of hers, who will not give up the recipe, makes. (This rubbed me the wrong way, since I think sharing recipes is a wonderful thing).

The Cookie Project is my attempt at recreating the cookie in question for my friend. I will make a batch of cookies a week until I get it right. I will be victorious! (and if not, at least my trial and error will be tasty)

The SC (secret cookie) has me stumped. I have sampled it, and although I am usually pretty good at naming ingredients, there is something that I can’t quite figure out. I have scoured the web in search of unique cookie recipes and so far have found about a dozen. The recipes range from classic to blondie.

I started with a recipe I found on

These are not the SC, but they are worth making. They have the texture and taste of a blondie but in cookie form.

Blondie Chocolate Chip Cookies


1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup pecans or walnuts
1 cup milk chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

 Cream 1/2 cup of the butter, sugar, and salt together. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each. Beat until light and fluffy.

  In a medium microwave-safe bowl, melt the second 1/2 cup of butter in the microwave until it is mostly melted, about 45 seconds at high power. Stir in the brown sugar to make a thick syrup. Stir in the vanilla extract.

  Measure the flour by spooning it into the measuring cups. (If you scoop the flour from the bag, it will be packed and you will have too much flour.) Mix in the baking soda so that it is dispersed.

Beat the brown sugar mixture into the creamed sugar mixture. Add the flour mixture in two or three additions mixing only until combined. Add the chocolate chips and nuts.

Drop rounded spoonfuls or ice cream scoop (my preference) of dough on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for nine to eleven (rotating pan halfway through cooking time). Remove the cookies to a wire rack to cool.


Posted by on pmpWed, 18 May 2011 17:07:41 +000007Wednesday 4 , 2011 in Recipes, The Cookie Project


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