Saturday, October 31, 2009

Candy Corn Fudge, Trix and Treats

Happy Halloween boys and ghouls! Here's a fun recipe I found in my recipe box. It's a Halloween mystery of where it came from but it was pretty darn tasty!

For another fun dessert to serve on this spooky holiday, try some Trix and Treats. Begin to make Rice Crispy Treats (the recipe is on back of the cereal box) but replace 1 cup of Rice Crispies with 1 cup of Trix cereal and add 2 drops each of red and yellow food coloring (to get orange of course) to the melted marshmallow/butter mixture. This is the perfect day to play with your food, all in the spirit (or spirits) of good fun!

Candy Corn Fudge

1 (12-ounce) package vanilla or white chocolate chips, melted
2 (16-ounce) containers vanilla frosting
1 (10-ounce) package butterscotch flavored chips, melted
1/8 teaspoon or more yellow food coloring, divided use
1/8 teaspoon or more red food coloring
Candy corn

Line a 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan with foil or wax paper, leaving a couple inches of overhang on each end; butter foil.

In a large bowl, combine melted vanilla chips and half the frosting; mix well. Spread 1/3 of mixture in prepared pan.

Melt butterscotch chips. Combine melted butterscotch chips and remaining frosting in another large bowl; mix well. Add enough yellow and red food coloring to turn mixture orange. Stir until well blended. Spread orange mixture over white layer in pan.
If remaining white mixture has hardened, heat in microwave until just melted and smooth, stirring occasionally. Add enough yellow food coloring to turn mixture yellow; stir until well blended. Spread over orange layer in pan. Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm.

Use foil/wax paper to lift fudge from pan. Turn white side up and carefully peel off foil. Cut into pieces. Press a candy corn into the center of each piece. Store in the refrigerator.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Apple Butter and Ham Roll-Ups

This sounds like an odd combination of ingredients but it works out so beautifully! As roll-ups they make delicious appetizers or a pretty lunch presentation. If you don't want to hassle with rolling them out, try these same ingredients cooked like a pannini or grilled cheese style.

Apple Butter and Ham Roll-Ups

9 Slices white bread, crusts removed
3 Tbsp butter, at room temperature
3 Tablespoons cream cheese, softened
3 Tbsp apple butter
9 Slices ham (thinly sliced)
9 Slices cheddar cheese (thinly sliced)

With a rolling pin, flatten each piece of bread as much as possible.
Spread one side of each piece with about a teaspoon of butter. On the other side spread a teaspoon of cream cheese and top that with a teaspoon of apple butter. Top the apple butter with a slice of ham then a slice of cheddar. Roll up, jelly-roll style, with the buttered side out and secure each roll with toothpicks. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake at 450 degrees until lightly browned 10-12 minutes.

Cool for 3 to 5 minutes. Slice each roll crosswise into 4 pieces. Serve warm.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Monterey Chicken

This is a recipe I found recently on AOL Food. Despite the intricate instructions, it was easy to make and turned out really delicious when I made it last week. Even my husband, the picky eater, loved it. I served it with garlic-Parmesan red potatoes (roasted) and a Ceasar salad (which my husband did not eat) and the combo was excellent. This chicken would make a tasty and decadent sandwich as well, especially if you added a couple of pieces of bacon and spread some ranch dressing on a toasted bun!

Monterey Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 pound), trimmed of fat
4 slices Monterey Jack cheese (2 ounces)
2 egg whites
1/3 cup seasoned (Italian-style) breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped, fresh parsley (or 1 tablespoon dried parsley)
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Lemon wedges for garnish

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place a chicken breast, skinned-side down, on a cutting board. Keeping the blade of a sharp knife parallel to the board, make a horizontal slit along the thinner, long edge of the breast, cutting nearly through to the opposite side. Open the breast so it forms two flaps, hinged at the center. Place a slice of cheese on one flap, leaving a 1/2-inch border at the edge. Press remaining flap down firmly over the cheese and set aside. Repeat with the remaining breasts.

2. Lightly beat egg whites with a fork in a medium bowl. Mix breadcrumbs, Parmesan, parsley, salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Holding a stuffed breast together firmly, dip it in the egg whites and then roll in the breadcrumbs. Repeat with the remaining breasts.

3. Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the stuffed breasts and cook until browned on one side, about 2 minutes. Turn the breasts over and place the skillet in the oven.

4. Bake the chicken until no longer pink in the center, about 20 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pumpkin Donuts

My love for pumpkin is well documented on this blog (as evidenced by this site's namesake). The further into Autumn we get, the more intense my passion becomes. You will be seeing more and more pumpkin recipes in the upcoming days and weeks ahead, so stock up!

I tweaked this recipe a little to better fit my tastes from a Holiday Baking magazine and I think it's better than the original! Perfect for any morning but even more appropriate on Halloween or even Thanksgiving morning, these donuts will start the day off sweetly!

My Tips: In place of a donut cutter, you can use a small round glass or can dipped in flour, and a bottle cap/lid to cut out the holes (the lid to a bottle of syrup works well). When flipping over the donuts while frying, I usually use chopsticks. They're free from most Asian restaurants and I always grab a couple for making donuts! They're sturdy, long and pointed, perfect for placing inside donut ring and turning over. The end of a wooden spoon works well also but never use plastic utensils when working with hot oil. For removing the donuts and transferring onto paper towels I use a large, slotted spoon so I can shake off excess oil. If you've never fried donuts before or it's been a while, start off with a batch of 1 or 2, that way you know what color to look for and you gain your bearings without ruining too many, then you can work your way up to batches of 3.

Pumpkin Donuts

2 Tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup pumpkin (canned)
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
Cinnamon sugar

In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking powder, salt, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon and baking soda. Mix until well combined. Beat in pumpkin, buttermilk, egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Stir in flour with a heavy spoon until incorporated. Cover tightly and chill at least 3 hours or overnight.

Roll out dough on a floured surface into 1/2 inch thickness. Using a donut cutter or a small, round glass dipped in flour, cut out donuts and donut holes. Re-roll dough and add additional flour as needed.

In a large pot or deep fryer, heat vegetable oil to 375 degrees. In small batches gently drop each donut (and donut holes) into oil and fry for 2-3 minutes or until lightly golden, flipping over once. Carefully remove donuts and drain on a paper towel. Once excess oil is drained off, dredge each donut in cinnamon sugar (1/2 cup sugar tossed with 1 tablespoon cinnamon).

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Turmeric Rice

Lately I've been playing around with spices that had previously been a mystery to me. I go to the grocery store and stand in front of shelves filled with tiny glass jars, filled with herbs and spices and I wonder what they are all used for. These orange, red and yellow powders seem so exotic and oddly enticing. I begin to imagine myself creating dishes with flavor combinations that have never been tried before. I think of the savory, foreign aromas that will rise out of my pots and pans and can't wait to get home and try out a new and innovative concoction.

I semi-randomly pick up a couple of those little jars that I know very little about and race home, plotting my meal all the way. In my kitchen I dice and slice, steam and baste throwing in dashes of this and pinches of that. Soon those spicy aromas I imagined begin to fill the air...choking me. Instead of the exotic scents I had dreamt of, my kitchen is filled with what I can only imagine the banks of the Ganges on laundry day must smell like. While wondering if horrible smells can cause cancer of the nostril, I try to take a bite to see if the dish tastes better than it smells but I'm never able to bring the fork close enough to my mouth whithout gagging from the scent wafting towards me. I begin to think the only way to rid my home of the smell is to burn it down, but then the fumes would just infiltrate the entire neighborhood! I dump out the dish with my fleeting dreams of culinary greatness.

Over time the offending aroma fades and I start all over again. Every once in a while something really terrific comes from my mad-scientist like experiments with spices, like this Turmeric Rice recipe. This aroma won't have your neighbors begging for your eviction but rather begging for an invitation!

Turmeric Rice

4-6 sliced green onions (about 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups white or Basmati rice
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup green peas (fresh, frozen and thawed or canned and drained)
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

Cook onion in butter for 3 minutes. Add rice and saute with onions for about 5 minutes or until lightly toasted. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer approximately 15 minutes (omit this step if using Minute rice). Remove from heat. Cover and let stand 10 minutes.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Maple Monday-Baked Maple Chicken

As a huge fan of maple syrup, I'm always adding it to something that doesn't need it or using it in place of something else. I guess you could call it my "not-so secret ingredient". In fact it's become so ubiquitous in my house that my husband is often surprised to find out certain dishes of mine DON'T have maple in them! This chicken recipe is just one of the many, many maple dishes I make on regular basis.

In this recipe the lemon juice and cayenne help to cut the sweetness of the syrup without overwhelming it.

Baked Maple Chicken

2-3 lbs boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup Pure Maple Syrup
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1 medium onion, sliced

Place chicken pieces in a greased 9x13 baking dish. Mix all other ingredients except onion and pour evenly over chicken. Arrange onion slices over chicken breasts and cover dish with foil. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, uncover and continue cooking an additional 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through, basting occasionally.

Click HERE for a printable version of this recipe

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Powdered Sugar Glaze

Powdered Sugar Glaze

1 cup Powdered Sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 tablespoons milk

In a medium bowl combine powdered sugar with vanilla and milk, 1 tablespoon at a time. Blend until smooth.

Cake Mix Pinwheels

Thank you all who read through all my posts last week. I did my best to keep each post in tone with this blog and connect them with food. Since we basically did eat our way up the coast, that wasn't too hard to do. I know they were a bit long-winded and were filled with enough editing mistakes to make my former English teachers cringe but they are what they are. Because of all your patience at my self indulgence you deserve a cookie, or at least a cookie recipe!

I took a recipe for cake-mix cookies and used the technique of a pinwheel cookie recipe to come up with this tasty and cute variation. For Halloween you can tint half of the yellow dough with 2 drops of yellow food coloring and 1 drop of red to create orange and black (brown) pinwheels.

Cake Mix Pinwheels

1/2 cup shortening
1/3 cup butter, softened
2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
1 package Marble Cake Mix
1 tablespoon butter, softened
Decorative sugar crystals (optional)

Combine shortening, 1/3 cup butter, egg yolks and extract in a large bowl. Blend well and add in cake mix (not the cocoa packet yet). Beat ingredients together.
Divide dough in half. Add cocoa packet and 1 tablespoon butter to half of the dough. Knead until cocoa is fully incorporated.

Roll out yellow dough between two pieces of wax paper into about a 12x18 rectangle.
Repeat with chocolate dough. Remove top pieces of wax paper from each and place one rectangle on top of the other. Remove the remaining wax paper and roll the dough up like a jelly-roll. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Cut the dough into slices an 1/8 of an inch thick and place slices on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 9-11 minutes. Cool 3 minutes before removing and sprinkle with decorative sugar if desired.

Friday, October 23, 2009

My Trip-Anchor Bar Buffalo Wings

We said Au revoir to Montreal early in the morning on Saturday and began trekking South through Quebec and Ontario. About a half an hour before we hit the US border we decided to stop for lunch at a Canadian fast food chain called Harvey's. Their hamburgers were served with Canadian Cheddar and after they were prepared they ask what toppings you would like on it. The choices included standards like lettuce, tomatoes and pickles (albeit the long, flat, stacker variety) to more interesting fare like banana peppers and hot sauce. They also offered a delightful combination of French Fries and onion rings that they called "Frings". For fast food it was a pretty decent meal.

As we drove into Buffalo I tried to repress the thought that this was the last day of our trip and that we would be heading home the next day. Our vacation went by so quickly and Dad and I enjoyed it so much, it just didn't seem right that the journey was already coming to an end. The more I thought about it, the more depressed I became. We still had Niagara to look forward to though and I had to push all of that remorse aside so I wouldn't miss out on what we had left.

We saw the mist of the great falls about a mile away. It rose off the lake like it was trying to escape. We pulled into the tiny village nearby and tried to find a place to park, eventually settling on one of two spots in a hotel parking lot that WASN'T labeled as "hotel parking only". Following the signs that pointed to Niagara Falls, Dad and I began walking. After about a quarter of a mile we came upon a bridge with a rushing stream below and stood and took pictures of the fury of water. I noticed a sign ahead that read "Niagara Falls Parking" with an arrow pointing the direction we were heading. As we peered around the bend in the road, we noticed lots and lots of roadway. Dad told me to wait where I was and he sprinted back to get the car and pick me up. He came and got me and we followed all of that roadway a good half of a mile to Goat Island and a large parking lot. Happy that we decided to drive instead of walk, we parked as close as we could to the park entrance.

Whomever planned Niagara National Park, should make movies or write books. The park was laid out in a way that built up great anticipation to see the falls for a good distance before you actually ever reach them. We wound our way around statues, gift shops and restaurants. Listening to the ever louder sounds of water crashing upon water. We passed over foot bridges with expansive views of the lake,the city and of trees that just blocked the view of great waterfalls themselves. Then the landscape opened up to reveal giant sheets of water flowing down with such force, you're left breathless at first glance.

To say that Niagara Falls was beautiful or amazing would be the same type of understatement as saying it was just water. My first and most frequent thought upon seeing them was of just how powerful nature is. I couldn't help but to be in awe of the raw magnitude and ancient beauty of those crashing falls. The Grand Canyon is a wondrous sight to behold but to the viewer appears stagnant. The foliage we saw in Vermont was jaw-dropping and and view of wonder but again it's still. The Canyon and the trees are landscapes, like paintings. Niagara Falls is all movement. It's sight, sound, feel, smell and by extension, taste. This was Nature (with a capital "N") in motion. The foliage in Vermont brought a tear to my eye for it's beauty, Niagara made me want to drop to my knees.

After soaking (pun absolutely intended) in the scenery for a while, Dad and I purchased tickets to "Cave of the Winds". They issued us ponchos, sandals and bags to hold the shoes we came with. We were then led into a large locker room type area filled with benches. With care and a little trepidation, we changed into the sandals, pulled on our plastic ponchos and prepared for the expedition. A manned elevator took us down several stories and let us out into a long and narrow cave which led to a deck that was almost level with the lake's surface. We followed walkways, gang-planks, landings and wooden staircases that brought us closer and closer to Bridal Veil Falls. We were able to see them from nearly every angle and height. All of that was essentially just a buildup though for the real show. At the highest point of the decks was a large landing, dangerously close to the falls themselves. Every 10 seconds or so large gushes of water would split off the side of Niagara and splash the landing, covering all onlookers in it's staggering waves. Dad walked off to the side to videotape me trying to keep my balance while bathing in waters of Niagara. I felt an exhilaration like nothing ever before and I finally understood the type of rush that sky-divers or bungee jumpers must feel.

Once we dried off (as much as possible) we headed back to the car and drove back into Buffalo. We knew we wanted to eat at The Anchor Bar, the birthplace of the Buffalo Wing (or "Hot Wing" as they call it in Buffalo). I walked in to a restaurant that was crowded like no other I've ever seen before. Dad was parking the car so I went to add our name to the list. The person in charge of taking and calling out names was a barrel-chested fellow with the kind of fiery attitude usually reserved for mobsters and mechanics. When I asked how long the wait would be he replied "Lady, it could 20 minutes or an hour and 20 minutes. How am I supposed to know?". I wasn't sure whether to be insulted or amused at the gruff man who was essentially a caricature out of a Scorsese movie. Dad came in and was as confused and intrigued by the establishment as I was. We waited for over half and hour before deciding to place a to-go order. Dad ordered the classic hot wings and I ordered pizza sticks. The order was ready in about 20 minutes and we headed out with our food. Next door to the Anchor Bar was a Wendy's, so we picked up a couple of drinks from there and ate our meal in the car at the Wendy's parking lot. My pizza sticks weren't too bad, they were basically bread sticks filled with Mozzarella and pepperoni and had a marinara dipping sauce. I usually don't like hot wings but after trying a couple of Dad's wings from Anchor Bar, I changed my mind. They had a kick but were not overly spicy and the sauce was glazed on and dripping wet like most hot wings. They also didn't taste nearly as heavy with vinegar as others I had previously tasted. Simply put, they were awesome.

Back at the hotel we finished our last night of the trip by packing and organizing all of our belongings. We had a acquired a fair amount of new items along the way and they all needed a place of their own. We wrapped, tucked, folded and packed everything away and crossed our fingers that everything would survive the journey home.

Early on Sunday, in the blackness of the pre-dawn morning we headed out to the Rochester airport. The first leg of flight was into Chicago O'Hare where we had a spectacular view of the city flying in. Dad and I were both hungry by the time we got there and since we had a little under 2 hours to kill before our connection we decided to get lunch there. The smell of Chicago deep dish pizza filled the gates and terminals of the airport so I knew what I was having. We found a little Italian style walk up restaurant and I saw a personal pan, pepperoni and sausage pizza that called out to me. Dad also noticed they had hot Italian Beef sandwiches dipped in their own juices, which are a favorite of both of us. For the last time on the trip we both split what we had ordered with the other and enjoyed a delicious lunch there in the American Airlines terminal.

We made it home just fine as did all our luggage and belongings. I had been fighting back tears most of the trip home, I managed until I got back to my house and was alone before I lost that battle. It was a strange and short cry that packed a lot of emotion. I cried for the grief of our trip's end. I cried for the joy and happiness the trip had brought me. And I cried at how lucky I was to have the kind of Dad that other people only dream about. This was a trip of a lifetime for me, I enjoyed it more than any trip to Disney World I ever took or ever will. It was the kind of journey that I will look back on in another 30 years and my smile will be wistful and my eyes will have a dreamy far off look that will let people know that I'm in a car with my Daddy in Vermont, singing along with Lindsay Buckingham and falling in love with the trees.

Anchor Bar Buffalo Wings

36 chicken wing pieces (one wing makes 2 pieces - the "flat" and the "drum")
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons Frank's Louisiana hot sauce
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
celery sticks
blue cheese dressing

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. If necessary, cut whole wings into two pieces. In a bowl toss the wings with the oil, and salt. Place into a large plastic shopping bag, and add the flour. Shake to coat evenly. Remove wings from the bag, shaking off excess flour, and spread out evenly on oiled foil-lined baking pan(s). Do not crowd.

Bake for about 20 minutes, turn the wings over, and cook another 20 minutes, or until the wings are cooked through and browned. While the wings are baking, mix all the ingredients for the sauce in a pan, and over low heat bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and then turn off. After the wings are cooked, transfer to a large mixing bowl. Pour the sauce over the hot wings and toss with a spoon or spatula to completely coat. Reduce oven temperature to 350 and return wings to oven for 5-10 minutes to glaze.

These are usually served with celery sticks and blue cheese dressing on the side.


Our sneak preview of Niagara

Horseshoe Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

Dad of the Mist


More Niagara

Rushing Rapids

Dad at Chicago O'Hare Airport

Video of a just a little piece of Niagara

Coincidentally on this day in 1901, 63-year-old Michigan school teacher Annie Edson Taylor was the first person to go over the Falls in a barrel as a publicity stunt; she survived, bleeding, but virtually unharmed. Soon after exiting the barrel, she said, "No one should ever try that again."

My Trip-Poutine

Part of the package at our Inn in Vermont was a free breakfast at Mrs. Pickwicks, the hotel restaurant. Walking into the dining area we found it deserted and quiet. After a minute or two we were greeted by a friendly waitress who seated us at a large table near the window. We both ordered eggs and griddle pancakes. Dad also ordered bacon and hot tea and I had maple sausage and iced tea. The sausage was delicious with a subtle maple flavor that complemented without overwhelming the sausage flavor and a natural casing that had a hearty snap when bitten into. The pancakes were cooked perfectly, slightly crispy on the outside and warm and cakey inside. We poured warm Vermont maple syrup over them and entered a heaven that's only accessible in New England.

After breakfast we strolled around downtown Stowe and took pictures of it's story-book church and the town Meeting House. We also visited the Stowe Mercantile, an adorable country store that just made me smile. Before leaving the area we had a couple of more stops to make and returned to Cold Hollow Cider Mill and were delighted to actually get to see them make cider. They laid down large pallets covered in mesh, covered them in what appeared to be some type of lint-free cloth, then piped apple pulp on top with large hoses. They then folded the cloth over the top and capped it off with another pallet and started the process over again. Once about 10 of these pallets were assembled into a stack they put them on a machine that pressed a large weight down on the stack and squeezed every ounce of juice from the apple pulp contained within. We watched this process for a few moments while sampling the cider, which was like a liquid apple with a clean, crisp taste. While maneuvering around a tour group of seniors we picked up a few food items that represented Vermont to take home. Maple BBQ sauce, pumpkin butter, maple spread, apple cider jelly, apple butter, maple candy, apple cider donuts and of course Pure Vermont Maple Syrup. Our last stop in the Stowe and Waterbury area was at Green Mountain Coffee Visitors Center and Cafe. It was nestled in an old train station behind a public park. It turned out to be part museum and part coffee house, with that rich coffee aroma filling every inch of the building. Dad and I found the perfect way to round out our morning was with a large cup filled with a Pumpkin Spice Maple Steamer, pumpkin spice flavored coffee with a shot of maple syrup topped with steamed milk. It was an amazing treat on a cool Autumn morning.

We headed North out of town up towards Burlington where we stopped to view the serene Lake Champlain and Adirondacks. Dad and I both wanted to get out and take pictures but couldn't find a place to park that didn't charge, since we only planned on getting out for a couple of minutes we didn't want to drop any money on parking. Dad eventually saw some spots in an empty parking lot. We pulled in and quickly realized it was a police station! Instead of driving away in fear of being ticketed by a building full of police officers, I snapped pictures of Dad jokingly bent over the hood of the car with his hands behind his back. Luckily some Burlington Barney Fife didn't run out and yell at us. Being a couple of smart-alecs can potentially be dangerous!

We finally did manage to snap some pictures of the lake we came to see, had lunch and drove north across the border. When we first entered Canada it certainly didn't feel like we were in another country. It just seemed like any other area of the North East, that is until we reached an actual town. The signs were all in French, not French and English but just French. What little of the language I did know seemed terribly insignificant as we whizzed by storefronts and traffic signs. An hour or so later we passed over the Saint Lawrence River and entered the city of Montreal. We had no real idea where we were going but we were looking for the Notre-Dame Basilica. Between the foreign signs and the blustery, rainy day it was no easy feat. When we did finally came upon the cathedral, we realized yet again there was nowhere to park and settled for taking a few hasty pictures out of the car window. We weren't exactly sure what to do next so we pulled over and whipped out a tour guide and map of the city. Dad found out that we were near an underground mall and that sounded just right for a rainy day in a walking city. The Complexe Desjardins is just a tiny fragment of what is part of the largest underground structure in the world. In fact Montreal's subterranean complex is known as the "underground city", complete with malls, museums, banks, grocery stores, hotels and more. Not to mention the Metro train line.
We were amazed to find an IGA grocery store in this particular mall. Since Dad used to work as a butcher in an IGA in Illinois we had to visit. Dad and I strolled around the supermarket and the mall and listened to the beautiful Francophone sounds being spoken all around us. Dad even exchanged some US money for Canadian dollars so we could purchase a few things.

We decided dinner in the food court would be just fine with us for the night and we looked around trying to decipher the French menus. Dad settled on an Asian restaurant and I knew what I was having before ever arriving in the country, Poutine. I had heard about poutine for some time before our trip and knowing it's virtually impossible to find on a menu in the states, I knew I had to try it. Poutine is the "official dish" of Quebec and made up of basic ingredients, though if prepared correctly it can be elevated to haute cuisine. In it's simplest form poutine is french fried potatoes, topped with a brown gravy and cheese curds. After nervously ordering my dish in English while throwing in some basic French for the cashier's benefit (Bonjour! Ca Va? Merci!), I carried my tray of poutine with a half a club sandwich and a Pepsi (they serve mainly Pepsi and 7/Up instead of Coke and Sprite there) to a table where Dad was waiting for me. The dish tasted exactly as I hoped it would. Rich, deep and comforting.
Before heading out to our hotel we stopped in a news-stand and purchased a "Canadian" candy bar for each of us, my mom and sisters, my brother-in-law and my husband, as well as a couple of bags of Canada's famous Old Dutch Ketchup chips. We ended the night back in the hotel watching a movie (Revolutionary Road)on DVD and prepared for the last leg of our amazing journey.

This dish is a basic brown/beef gravy ladled on top of fries and cheese curds. If you can't find cheese curds locally (or don't want to go looking for them, though I suggest you make the effort) crumbled fresh mozzarella or Farmer's cheese will also work. You can also use store bought fries and/or gravy, but fresh and homemade always tastes better.


2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups beef stock
Freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into fries
1/2 pound fresh cheese curd (or mozzarella or Farmer's cheese)

Peel the potatoes and cut fries, 4 inches by 1/2-inch. Soak the potatoes in ice water for about 30 minutes. Remove and drain well. Let dry completely.

While fries are drying, in a saucepan, over medium heat, combine the butter and flour. Stir until incorporated. Cook for 5 minutes for a medium roux. Stir in the stock. Season with salt and pepper. Bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue cooking for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and keep warm.
Fry the potatoes in hot oil until golden brown (5 minutes for a deep fry, about 15minutes for a pan fry). Remove and drain on paper towels. Season with salt and pepper.
To serve, mound half the fries into serving bowl, crumble half of the cheese curds on top, add remaining fries then crumble the remaining curds. Top off the dish by ladling hot gravy over the entire dish.

General Store in Stowe, Vermont

Stowe Meeting House

The "Perfect" little Church in Stowe

Dad at Burlington Police Station "Hand-cuffed"

Lake Champlain

Notre-Dame Basilica, from passenger seat out of driver's side window

Dad and his Canadian Money

Dad at IGA

Thursday, October 22, 2009

My Trip-Easy Maple Fudge

At the last minute, before leaving the Boston area I persuaded Dad to take a little side trip to The Yankee Candle Flagship store in South Deerfield, Massachusetts. I had read about it online in the weeks leading up to the trip and it just sounded so interesting that I had to mention it. Only adding an hour to the total drive, Dad agreed.

We pulled up to a massive red-sided store, not exactly sure what to expect. Once inside we discovered an area that looked like an old country store, full of baking mixes, toys, home accents and so much more. This room led to another room which led to another, etc. The store seemed to go on forever, each room with it's own theme. There was a room filled with items representing New England, a room full of gifts, toys and treats for pets, a room filled with handbags and purses, one with bed and bath linens, one with cooking supplies, one with candy, one with toys and so on. Of course in the center of the store was a large, bright and airy room packed with candles of every variety, scent, size and shape. There was even an area to make your own candles and make wax molds of your hands. But the main attraction for Dad and I was a cavernous area in the back of the building that contained every imaginable type of Christmas ornament and decoration. It was truly a winter wonderland that went on and on. One large area was dedicated to Christmas Villages, another to German decorations, another had decorative carousels and nutcrackers, and ornaments were arranged in neatly organized displays in every corner. In one section it was decorated like a castle, complete with a moat and drawbridge. It was even "snowing"! If we weren't on a time constraint, I think both Dad and I could have spent hours there (on top of the hour and a half we actually did spend). For lunch we bypassed their sit-down restaurant in favor of the Mrs. Claus Cafe and had a couple of delicious German style hot-dogs. As we ate, we eyeballed a kiosk of home made fudge, a Popcornopolis stand and another candy station where they were hand-dipping caramel apples. Knowing that we couldn't walk away without an ounce of chocolate, we opted for large marshmallows on a stick dipped in chocolate and rolled in candy. For an impromptu visit I think we enjoyed this pit-stop as much as anything!

Not long after crossing the Vermont border something magical happened. The trees along the highway became a majestic palette of gold, red, and orange. For the entire trip we admired the beauty of the changing trees, spots of vibrant color dappled the landscape. The trees in Vermont were different somehow. It wasn't a smattering of color but every tree looked hand painted in the most glorious of Autumn's graces. We had seen pictures of New England foliage, we had witnessed first hand the Autumn trees in the Ozarks but nothing comes close to those Beech trees, Red Oaks and Maples of Vermont in person. This may sound overly dramatic and it probably is though we drove mouths agape the way up to Stowe and Waterbury. Dad and I both hung our arms out to window to videotape the landscape and I snapped pictures through the windshield. We even pulled over a couple of times to get a closer look at what already had our full attention.

We pulled into Ben and Jerry's with no time to spare. The tour was brief and bright and included lots of short films detailing the history of the company and the production process. We were able to see the ice cream being packed from large windows above the work floor, though the videos enabled us to see the process of ice cream manufacturing from start to finish. The highlight of the tour is the end when they hand you a decent size sample of the finished product, the day we were there it was Cookies and Sweet Cream. Yum!

Next we headed down the street about a half a mile to a Cabot Cheese Outlet. Their showroom included a large table with about 20 cheeses and (yes!) more samples. They had everything from Sage to Chipotle and Sun-Dried Tomato to Chile Lime Cheddars. There wasn't a bad one in the bunch, but unfortunately we had no way to keep the cheese cold for the duration of our trip and we sadly had to leave empty handed.

Having only a half an hour before closing we drove across the street to Cold Hollow Cider Mill hoping to watch them make cider. Sadly, they were done for the day and instead we picked up a few goodies at there large general store, tasted more than our fair share of cider and headed out to Stowe.

We pulled up to Ye Olde England Inn and Dad ran inside to check us in. Upon returning to the car Dad informed me that the governor of Vermont was dining in the restaurant, Mrs. Pickwicks inside. As we lugged our suitcases, duffles and various other forms of bags inside, we took a peek inside the restaurant and spied a group of men in suits dining at what must have been the best table of the house. We never figured out which one was the governor but we knew we saw him!

The Inn was decorated and designed to resemble an English lodge, complete with fireplace, creaky wooden stairs and darkly wooded beams overhead. Our room was fairly large in size with a beautiful view of the woods behind the building. My sister J. and her husband K. had stayed at this very location (not the room, but the Inn itself) a few months prior to us. Knowing we would be visiting in October they decided to hide 3 notes for us on the upper guest levels. Quickly after unloading our luggage we set out to find these notes. The first one we found quickly, it was tucked behind an enormous mirror on a landing between the second and third floors. It was placed by K. and told us to enjoy our trip. Exhilarated by this find we began searching for the other two to no avail. We decided we needed to eat and would resume our quest later.

For dinner we decided to dine at the Trapp Family Lounge at the Trapp Family Lodge, a ski resort owned and operated by the Von Trapp family of The Sound of Music fame. In the dark of night we took our rental car through twists and turns up a two lane road that lead us right to the lodge, situated at the base of mountain. Being pitch black with nary a street lamp, we never did get a totally accurate view of the establishment but from what we could tell it was the picturesque, Bavarian retreat you would expect. The interior reflected the Black Forest motiff as well. The restaurant and bar had a pianist playing standards, jazz and the occasional Vince Guaraldi number. The menu was brief though what was on it sounded sumptuous and rich. Since we were both divided and both divided between the same two items, we decided to each order a dish and split both. We shared the Bavarian classic Weinerschnitzel and Spatzle with a Ligonberry sauce and Austrian Bratwurst and Knackwurst with sauteed Red Potatoes. Being on vacation and wanting to indulge, we topped off the meal with a shared piece of Black Forest Cake. Everything was amazing and absolutely worth the trip.

We returned to our Inn and decided to keep looking for those notes left for us by my sister and brother-in-law. We quietly walked up a level to the third floor that they stayed on and began lifting up pictures, running our hands along EXIT signs and lamps. Just as we were about to give up, I reached up to touch the top of a security light and felt something. I pulled down a small piece of paper and written on it in nearly illegible handwriting was the message "If you find this, you smell". I knew it was meant for us.

I have many recipes for maple fudge, some my own and some I've found in various cookbooks or online. This is one of mine and I choose it for it's simplicity. It's also reminiscent of maple candy, which is one of my favorite treats!

Easy Maple Fudge

2 cups pure maple syrup
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter

In a saucepan bring to a boil maple syrup, cream, and butter.
Boil, uncovered, soft ball stage(236-238 degrees F). Remove from heat and cool until lukewarm, do NOT stir during cool-down. Beat until creamy and pour into greased 8 inch baking pan. Let set/firm up then cut into squares.

Yankee Candle Flagship Store

Pumpkin Display at Ben and Jerry's

Ye Olde England Inn

Vermont Foliage

More from Vermont

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My Trip-Baked Ziti

The morning we arrived in Salem was a dark and rainy one. After pulling into a parking garage near the Salem Visitor's Center, we hopped in the elevator and pushed the button for the ground floor. Instead of going down the elevator started going up to level 4, so again we pressed the button for the ground floor the elevator was now going down, but it stopped on 3, no one was there. Again we pressed the button, back up to 4 the elevator went. Finally it deposited us on the correct level but not without Dad and I making a crack about weird things happening in Salem.

We had a quick breakfast of bagels near the Visitor's Center before starting out on foot, through the sprinkling rain and over the wet puddles, to the Salem Witch Museum. Of course the museum turned out to be closed for another hour. Back towards the Visitor's Center we trudged in our wet shoes so we could wait indoors and out of the rain. Time passed quickly and we eventually made it inside the Witch Museum. Most museums are self guided hallways and large rooms filled with exhibits, relics and artifacts. The Salem Witch Museum begins with the story of the Salem Witch Trials, told through a voice over booming through a dark room while spotlights showcased a variety of mannequin filled dioramas. Once the history lesson concluded we exited to a smaller room with more dioramas while a tour guide explained each one. The tour ended by having us exit through a gift shop like a ride at Disney World.

By the time we exited the museum it had stopped raining, so we decided to walk across town to Nathaniel Hawthorne's "House of Seven Gables", his family home that inspired the book by the same name (one of my favorites from high school). After taking the requisite pictures of the house and wharf behind it we began to visit all of the little candy shops and witchy-poo boutiques that propagated the town. The more we walked and shopped the hungrier we got. Across the street from one of the shops we visited was a restaurant called The Witch's Brew Cafe. We stepped in expecting a touristy tea room type atmosphere or an all natural vegan kind of establishment. In reality it was the type of local New England pub that I thought only existed on television or in the collective memory of a generation gone by. The large, gruff bar-keep voiced his approval at our menu selections of an open-faced roast beef sandwich and a bbq burger with onions and peppers. While we were inside the rain picked up again and gale force winds began tormenting the small sea-side village. All of the signs that hung off of posts and flags flying off buildings looked like they were in a perpetual up-swing. Luckily for us the winds and rain died off just before we finished our meal and we were able to walk out into a relative calm.
Before leaving town we headed over to Pickering Wharf and visited a shop owned by Laurie Cabot, the "Official Witch of Salem". It was an authentic supply shop for witches and Wiccans alike and not a gift store for tourists to pick up bumper stickers or broomstick pens. I told this to Dad before we entered and made sure that he saved his wise-cracks for later!

We made it to Boston by early afternoon and quickly found a trolley service that would drop us off at various locations around the city. Starting at Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market we set off and explored the Old North Church of "One if by land..." fame and Paul Revere's home (after a little searching) near the Little Italy area of Boston. We managed to make it over to the USS Constitution, Old Ironsides, just in time to catch the last trolley of the day for a quick ride about town with some fascinating commentary by the driver. For dinner we decided to head back to Little Italy as we could no longer resist the tempting aromas of oregano and basil that filled the streets. We settled on the smallest trattoria I've ever been in called G'Vannis, where we had amazing baked ziti with meatballs elbow to elbow with the local couple sitting next to us.

Following our meal, we hoofed it back to Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market.There we perused little gift shops, looked at Christmas ornaments and visited the "Cheers" bar where everybody knows your name. On our way back to our hotel in Danvers, we drove by Harvard and poked light-hearted fun at the students walking by and those who obviously weren't and never were Harvard students (us included).

This is my recipe for Baked Ziti, not anywhere near as authentic as what we had Boston, but it's frequently requested by my husband so there must be something to it! I've made it with meatballs before and I've made it without the ricotta but I find this version of it to be a good starting point that you can adjust to your tastes.

Baked Ziti

1 lb ground beef
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 cup tomato sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper
3 cups water
16 ounces ziti noodles
1/2 cup heavy cream
16 oz ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, plus 2 tablespoons
2 cups shredded mozzarella, divided

Brown ground beef in skillet, season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside. Meanwhile, pour the whole can of tomatoes into a blender or food processor. Process until the tomatoes are roughly chopped, not pureed.

Pour the oil into a large skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, basil and oregano and cook for about 1 minute. Pour in the chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour in the water, stir, and then add the pasta. Turn the heat back up to medium-high. Cook until the pasta is tender, about 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl combine ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, 1 beaten egg, and 1/4 cup Parmesean cheese. Set aside

Add the cream and remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan to skillet/ziti mixture. Stir well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in ricotta mixture until well blended. Pour mixture into a lightly greased 13x9 baking dish. Place in oven and cook at 425 for 30 minutes, sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese and continue cooking for 15 minutes or until the cheese has melted and slightly browned.

Me in Salem

Statue of Roger Conant, the founder of Salem

Witch's Brew Cafe

"Bewitched" statue


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My Trip-Guinness Beef Stew

After Philadelphia we found ourselves in Newburgh, New York in the Hudson River Valley. We woke up early that Tuesday and headed to the Neptune Diner for breakfast. This was the type of local joint where the Rotarians and Lyon's Club members meet for brunch once a week, where old men slip into the same booth every morning and order the same thing while they read the paper. We had a delicious breakfast there and drove out of town and towards West Point, the United States Military Academy. The Village of Highland Falls was as cute and quaint a town as any from a Frank Capra movie. Pumpkins were perched on the stoop of each house, wooden signs were posted through town and the local church had a steeple tall enough for the parishioners to climb up it and actually reach heaven. The tour of West Point was much more sentimental than what you would expect from a Military Academy. The guide pointed out trees that were donated, rooms where mothers of cadets slept and the million dollar view of the Hudson. For what seems like such a "Dad" type place, I enjoyed it just as much as he did. Once our tour ended and we perused every nook and cranny of the museum, we were on the road to Rhode Island.

Newport, Rhode Island makes the Hamptons look like Flushing, Queens. Think of the largest, nicest house in your town. Now multiply it by 10 and add a view of the ocean and a butler. That might come close to the type of homes here. Dad and I were looking for one home in particular, The Breakers. This is a 65,000 square foot (that's not a mistake, it actually has sixty-five thousand sq. feet of living space) home built by the Vanderbilts in 1895. The term palatial should be used for nothing but this manor. Once we found the infamous residence, we ohhed and awwed and traipsed through the backyard snapping photographs along the way. Feeling proud of ourselves and happy with the pictures stored in our digital cameras we returned to the rental car and headed out to view other mammoth homes. About a half of a mile down the road we notice a monolith towering above the tree tops and saw a sign on the front gates reading "The Breakers". We gave each other a look as the mutual understanding of what just happened unfolded. The lawn we just walked through, all the photos we took, the ohhs and awws were not for The Breakers, but an impostor...the FAKE Breakers! Well actually we later learned it was Ochre Court, part of Salve Regina University. The real Breakers was even lovelier, if not better guarded then the fake Breakers. It's magnitude and beauty was only heightened by the magnitude and beauty of the Atlantic crashing upon the Cliff Walk behind the regal residence.

We left Newport and the birthplace of the US Gilded Age and traveled to the birthplace of the US, Plymouth, Mass. We arrived there just after dark so our view of "THE" rock wasn't perfect but we can say we did actually view Plymouth Rock. The Mayflower II sat in the harbor, illuminated only by moonlight but that too we can say we saw. Dinner was at a little ocean side restaurant called The Cabby Shack. There we enjoyed cups of Clam Chowder and Guinness Beef Stew, Fish N Chips and a luscious Lobster Roll. We finished out the night by driving on to a hotel in Danvers and readied ourselves for Salem and Boston.

This stew is inspired by the beef stew I enjoyed at The Cabby Shack in Plymouth. It's a combination of my beef stew and a recipe I found for a Guinness Vegetable Soup in an magazine article years ago. The combination is delicious!

Guinness Beef Stew

1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/4 pounds beef stew meat,(NOT extra-lean)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
6 cups beef broth
1 cup Guinness beer
1 cup red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons butter
3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks (6-9 large potatoes)
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups peeled carrots cut into thin, round disks
Salt and Pepper

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Lightly salt (or use seasoning salt) the beef pieces and add the meat to the pan, working in batches if necessary (be careful to not over crowd the pan) and cook until browned on one side. Turn the pieces over and continue to cook until all sides are browned. Add garlic and saute 2 minutes. Add beef broth, Guinness, red wine, tomato paste, sugar, thyme, cumin, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to a low boil then reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

While the meat and stock simmer, melt the butter in another large pot over medium heat. Add potatoes, onion and carrots. Saute vegetables until golden, about 20 minutes. Set aside until the prepared stew has simmered for one hour.

Add vegetables to beef stew. Continue to simmer for another hour (uncover halfway through). Discard bay leaves. Spoon off any fat and add salt and ground pepper to taste. Serve warm with a nice, crusty bread.

West Point

View of the Hudson River from West Point

The Fake Breakers

The Real Breakers

Dad the Chauffeur

Me on the Cliff Walk

Sunday, October 18, 2009

My Trip-Philly Cheese Steaks

After leaving DC we traveled to George Washington's Mount Vernon along with his grist mill and distillery. During his final year of life, George Washington was the country's leading producer of whisky and one of the foremost millers in Virginia which is a fact that is quite amazing given the modest size of his distillery. Nearby we drove by Frank Lloyd Wright's Pope-Leighey House and snapped a couple of photos before soldiering on towards Gettysburg, PA. Once we arrived at Gettysburg we purchased cds that would take us on a self guided, driving tour of the large area that encompasses the National Park. Dad and I rounded out the day with dinner at Phil's Tavern where we ate a couple of phenomenal hamburgers.

The next day we made a quick stop at Valley Forge where we saw deer grazing in such a manor we at first thought they were part of an "attraction" or placed there somehow as an exhibit. We soon realized that they must of roamed over from the nearby forest. The deer only added to the picturesque beauty of the land there. I quickly fell in love with an area near General Washington's headquarters. I soon found myself wandering through the grassy landscape, picking up acorns, buckeyes and autumnal leaves of red and gold.

By mid-morning we were deep in the heart of Philadelphia. After visiting the Liberty Bell and a brief tour of Independence Hall we decided to hoof it over to South Philly at the intersection of 9th and Passyunk...the home of Geno's Steaks and Pat's King of Steaks. As we passed by the old city hospital, row houses and walk ups, the scenery slowly turned from drab urban, utilitarian to colorful and ethnic. We had entered "Little Italy". The wonderful aroma wafted through the air as we strolled by the Italian open air market, bistros and restaurants, and best of all the delis and groceries. At one little deli called DiBruno Brothers we stopped in to pick up some Soppressata and provolone that would later become our dinner. The amazing smell still taunts me, creating cravings out of the phantom scents of pepperoni and Caprese salad.

Once leaving we continued on down the street until the garish orange glow of Geno's Steaks entered our line of vision. I made my way over to set of tables on the side of the building, away from the bustle near the order window. I sat with my back towards the street while Dad went to order our sandwich. As I was waiting I noticed a large, black SUV with darkly tinted windows and one of the largest men I had even seen guarding it. As a result of spending too much time watching The Sopranos, my first instinct was Mafia. I figured this was some foot-solider waiting for his boss to exit from the back of Geno's where he had surely just performed a shakedown or committed some kind of cheesesteak related felony. A few moments later that back door opened and out stepped a man in a brown bomber jacket with dark, curly hair. He looked like a Craggy-faced Billy Crystal. When a couple at a nearby table scrambled up to him and asked the large man to take their picture I realized the man in the bomber jacket didn't just look like Billy Crystal but it was Mr. Saturday Night himself! Racing for my camera I managed to get one shot of the bodyguard's back as he was snapping a picture for the couple, and another shot of Billy's back as he walked around the car. As the couple who had just shared a photo-op with Mr. Crystal walked by, I gave the smiling woman a look that conveyed "hmmm, pretty cool huh?" and she replied by telling me that they had been waiting since they saw him walk in a half and hour earlier. Dad ambled back towards the table just in time for me to frantically tell him who was inside the black SUV that was driving down the street. The moment passed and it was on to more important

The cheese steak that sat before us was about 8 inches in length and layered with thinly sliced steak, onions and a healthy smattering of cheese-whiz (the traditional cheese of the Philly Cheese steak). Upon first bite the juices dripped down my hand and my mouth was filled with the tender, gooey goodness of the sandwich. I never liked Cheese Whiz alone, but somehow when combined with paper thin ribeye and the Amoroso roll, it is a most splendid concoction. It was a taste you will never get from a cheese steak at Chilis or TGI Fridays, that's for sure. We quickly finished our sandwich and fries, gulped down our Pepsi and Birch Beer and crossed the street to Pat's King of Steaks.

As we waited in line we noticed a sign listing the rules for ordering a sandwich there. These rules tell you to specify if you want your steak "wit" or "wit-out" (onions or no onions) and what type of cheese you want; whiz, provolone, American, or Swiss. The sign also mentions that if you panic and forget how to order, not to worry because you can always go to the back of the line and start over! Since we had our sandwich with whiz at Geno's, we decided on a "wit, provolone" cheese steak at Pat's, which I ended up regretting since I liked the whiz so much. Trying to decide which was better we savored each bite, pontificating on the quality of bread, chopped meat versus sliced, whiz vs. provolone. Eventually we both came to the conclusion that we preferred Geno's over Pat's.

Before leaving South Philly to head back to the touristy, historical district we made one last culinary stop. A little bakery down Passyunk Avenue called Iannelli's called out to us in an almost primal way. We asked them to fill a couple of cannoli shells and took them to go, the place we took them "to go" turned out to be the sidewalk in front of the bakery. In a few swift bites we devoured those little confections from heaven and lamented on their transcendent decadence.

Soon we spotted a taxi and had it take us back to the Historic District where we took a quick tour of the US Mint, walked by Betsy Ross's house (it was closed to tours on that day), visited the old Christ Church and strolled down the adorable Elfreth's Alley. Before leaving Philly for good we had one last destination that we refused to bypass...the "Rocky Steps". After exiting a large round-about we parked in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Since I had no immediate plans to fight Apollo Creed or Mr. T, I told Dad that there was no way I was climbing those things but would be happy to stand at their base and film him jogging up them. He also turned down that daunting prospect and opted instead to take a couple of quick pictures of them.

As we made our way through Monday rush hour in Philadelphia on our way out of town we were graced with a picture perfect parting glance. William Penn's bronze statue atop City Hall stood in the distance as we drove out of Philly and on to our next adventure.

Philly Cheese Steaks

1 pound Rib Eye,sliced very thin (1/8 of inch or less)
1 medium Onion, sliced
1 loaf French or Italian Bread (divided into 3 or 4 portions and sliced down middle)
6 Tablespoons Olive Oil or Soya Oil
Cheese Whiz

In a cast iron skillet or saute pan heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Saute onions until cooked through (or desired doneness). Remove them from pan and set aside. Pour the remaining 3tablespoons of olive oil on medium high heat, place meat in pan and divide into 3 or 4 portions, lying the pieces flat and overlapping to form a shape that will fit nicely in a bun. Flip meat over halfway through cooking (meat will look slightly gray in color). Return the onions (in correlating portions to the amount of meat) back into the pan, resting next to the meat and allow to reheat.

If you want warm bread (I suggest not toasting it, but simply warming it) heat your oven on 200 degrees for 5 minutes and then turn off. Place bread halves in oven (on a cookie sheet) for 3-5 minutes.
Warm the Cheese Whiz in the microwave (about 30 seconds for every 1/2 a cup), stirring halfway through.
Pick up meat with a spatula and deposit on the roll. Using a butter knife, spread Cheese Whiz next to the meat.

Push the meat on one side of the roll and lay onions next to it, not on top of it. You should get meat, toppings and cheese in every bite.

Deer at Valley Forge


Independence Hall

Billy Crystal walking away

"Leave the gun..."

The "Rocky Steps"

My Trip-Washington Nilla Cherry Pudding

Several years ago I was at my parents house and in semi-seriousness announced to my dad that for my 30th birthday I wanted to take a trip with him. I said that I wanted to take a driving tour of the Northeast, visiting battlegrounds, historic sites, eat in local diners and pubs and all the other things that my husband, mom and/or sisters wouldn't ever want to do. He placated me and said "OK" and kind of laughed it off as another one of my flights of fancy.

2 weeks ago he made good on his answer of "OK" and off we jetted to Washington DC as the first stop of our 10 day journey. As our plane was descending on DC we flew over the Potomac River, past the Capitol building, amazingly close to the Washington Monument and over the reflecting pond. With my mouth agape at the beauty of our nation's capitol at dusk, I knew before we even touched ground in DC that my trip could end there and I would be happy. Lucky for me it was only just beginning.

Once we acquired our rental car, we drove straight into the heart of DC. We pulled over to take pictures of the Washington Monument aglow against the night sky. Eventually we parked and traipsed past the Reagan Building over to the White House. Now you may think that viewing the White House at night with iron bars and a vast lawn between us would be a little anti-climatic. It was anything but. With few other tourists around and powerful lights illuminating the facade of the manor, it was amazing. I stood there thinking of all the men and women who resided in those hallowed halls, of all the meetings, negotiations and deals that took place there and was awe-struck by the history and magnitude of that simple, white house.

The night wore on and we enjoyed a wonderful meal in Virgina at Mike's American Grill and retired to our hotel. The next morning bright and early we took the Metro to Arlington National Cemetery. We passed by somber, white markers with names long forgotten and some that are surely still fresh in the minds of their families. We stood before John F. Kennedy's eternal flame and visited the grave of his brother Bobby. His life may not of ended on as tragic a note as any of his brothers, but Edward Kennedy's plot was perhaps even more stirring because of the newness of it. There wasn't even any grass on it yet, just a mound of dirt covered by a mesh-like tarp. We headed over to the Tomb of the Unknown Solider and watched the Tomb Guard walk his paces.

Later in the morning we made our way back to the Metro and into the city. We took pictures of the Supreme Court, walked the shelves at the Library of Congress and stood beneath the Capitol Rotunda. We visited The Smithsonian Musuems of Natural Science and American History, where we saw the Hope Diamond, Julia Child's Kitchen and Archie Bunker's chair. We toured the National Mall and stared up again at the Washington Memorial, climbed the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and wandered along the Reflecting Pool. We visited the WWII Memorial, the Korean War Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall,which most unexpectedly made my eyes water as I viewed the names of fallen soldiers etched in granite. We saw more significant and historical buildings than I can list here.

With both of us tired and hungry we hopped on the Metro for the last time and returned to Virgina where we had dinner at an East coast Italian chain called Bertuccis. I fell asleep that night thinking of the grand landmarks I just witnessed and looking forward to the other grand landmarks I would see in the days ahead.

This week I will be posting recipes inspired by the places my Dad and I visited and the dishes we ate on our trip. This dessert is in honor of the cherry trees (fruited or not) that line DC and of course the notorious fable of little George Washington cutting down the cherry tree. Enjoy.

Washington Nilla Cherry Pudding

2 small packages instant vanilla pudding
4 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
43 Nilla Wafers
2 1/2 cups sweet cherries, pitted and halved
2 cups Cool Whip
Additional Nilla Wafers and Northwest sweet cherries, for garnish

Prepare pudding according to package directions using milk and adding almond extract. Spoon 1/2 cup pudding in bottom of 2-quart serving bowl. Top with 8 wafers, a generous layer of cherries and 2/3 cup pudding. Stand 10 wafers around outside edge of dish. Continue layering 11 wafers, cherries, 2/3 cup pudding, 14 wafers, cherries and remaining pudding. Cover, refrigerate 3 hours or overnight. To serve, spread whipped topping over pudding; garnish with additional wafers and cherries if desired.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Tootsie Rolls

I'm not sure where I originally got this recipe from but it's been in my recipe box for some time now. Making home made candy is always a fun weekend project!

Tootsie Rolls

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 1/2 tablespoons shortening
4 teaspoons cocoa
2 tablespoons evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Combine sugar, corn syrup, shortening, and cocoa in a medium saucepan over medium/high heat.
Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, and simmer candy until temperature comes to 275 degrees on a candy thermometer.
Remove pan from heat.
When bubbling stops, add condensed milk and beat in pan with electric mixer for about 30 seconds.
Add vanilla, then continue to beat candy until it begins to firm up and you can no longer beat it.
Pour candy out onto wax paper.
When cool, divide candy into several portions and roll into long ropes that are approximately 1/2 inch thick.
Use a sharp knife to slice candy into 1 1/8-inch-long portions.
Arrange the candy on a plate and let it sit out overnight so that it firms up.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Salsa Pasta Salad

I made this for lunch one day after staring longingly into the pantry and finding nothing suitable. It was light, fresh and lovely tasting. If your tastes are so inclined I'm sure you could add black olives, chopped cilantro, pepper-jack cheese or black beans.

Salsa Pasta Salad

2 cups cooked and cooled pasta (rotini, ziti, etc)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup prepared salsa
1 medium avocado, diced
Juice of 1 lime

Toss cooked pasta with olive oil, coating evenly, then toss with salsa. Gently add in chopped avocado. Squeeze the juice of 1 lime over top of pasta and serve chilled.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cran-Apple Maple Phyllo Dessert

This is actually a Martha Stewart recipe but it's delicious and feels like something I would come up with!

Cran-Apple Maple Phyllo

4 sheets phyllo dough (each 17 by 12 inches), thawed if frozen
1 stick unsalted butter, melted, plus more for baking sheet
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
5 tablespoons pure maple syrup, plus more for serving
4 to 5 apples, (Gala or Fuji) cored, halved and cut into 1/4-inch thick wedges
1 1/2 cups (5 1/4 ounces) fresh cranberries
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven 400 degrees. Brush a baking sheet with butter. Lay 1 phyllo sheet on the baking sheet, brush with some of the butter, and sprinkle with some of the cinnamon. Repeat layering with remaining phyllo sheets. Bake until crisp and golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Remove from oven, and brush top gently with 2 tablespoons maple syrup. Place a row of apple wedges along one short side, with rounded edges facing out. Make a second row of apples next to the first row, overlapping the rows slightly and staggering the wedges so that the rounded edges of the second row fall in between the rounded edges of the first row. Cut wedges as needed to fill gaps at ends of each row. Scatter cranberries over top. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons of the remaining butter and remaining 3 tablespoons maple syrup, and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake until apples are just cooked and cranberries have softened, about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Before serving, whisk cream until soft peaks form. Cut tart into squares. Drizzle with maple syrup, and serve with whipped cream on the side.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tomato Chicken, Indian Style

Don't be fooled by the number of ingredients, this dish is very easy to prepare.

Tomato Chicken, Indian Style

1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon brown mustard
2 teaspoons olive oil
3-4 boneless chicken breasts, sliced
2 cups crushed tomatoes (can used fresh chopped or canned)
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, rough chopped

Place onion, garlic and mustard into olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté until onions are soft, about 3 minutes.
Add remaining ingredients, reserving about 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro for a garnish. Cover and simmer 25 minutes, or until chicken pieces are tender and cooked through and flavors are blended.
Top with remaining cilantro. Serve chicken and sauce over rice.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cake Mix Double Chocolate Cookies

So easy to make. So easy to eat!

Cake Mix Double Chocolate Cookies

1 box Devils food cake mix
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Combine first 3 ingredients and mix. Stir in chocolate chips. Spoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Let cool for 3 minutes and store in an air-tight container.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Roasted Pepper and Tapenade Slices

I'm normally not a fan of olives but all put together this dish is really good. You can buy prepared tapenade in the deli or produce section of most grocery stores, Cantare is a good brand. You can also find roasted bell peppers already prepared if you don't want to roast your own,near tomato sauces or salsas, the only brand I can recall is Delallo.
Click Here for instructions on roasting your own bell peppers.
Click Here for a recipe for home made olive tapenade

Roasted Pepper and Tapenade Slices

1 can (8 oz) refrigerated crescent rolls
1/2 cup marinara sauce
1/2 cup Montery Jack cheese
3 tablespoons bleu cheese
1/4 cup olive tapenade, prepared
1/2 cup roasted red bell peppers, cut into thin strips

Unroll crescent roll dough and break into 8 triangles on an un-greased baking sheet. Cut Layer each triangle with marinara suace, cheeses, tapenade and roasted bell peppers. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until edges are golden.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Peanut Butter Pretzel Chicken

This sounds so strange but it's actually pretty darn good! I came up with this idea a couple of years ago and it took a while to come up with the right proportions. It's based on a recipe for peanut butter chicken and a recipe for pretzel crusted chicken, I just combined the two and it works!

Peanut Butter Pretzel Chicken

2 lbs chicken tenders
3/4 cup peanut butter, creamy
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon curry powder
4 cups pretzels, crushed

In a large bowl combine peanut butter, broth, milk, curry powder and cayenne pepper. Dip chicken tenders into peanut putter mixture then into crushed pretzels. Place chicken in a glass baking dish and bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Blueberry Dessert Pizza

You can easily substitute any flavor pie filling, jam or preserves for this sweet dessert pizza.

Blueberry Dessert Pizza


1 cup flour
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted

Combine flour and powdered sugar in mixing bowl. Add melted butter and mix until well blended. Pat dough in a 14 inch pizza pan or small cookie sheet (lightly greased). Bake 350 degrees or until lightly brown. Let cool.


1 8oz package cream cheese
1 small can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 can blueberry pie filling

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese with sweetened condensed milk and vanilla. Spread evenly over the cooled crust. Top with blueberry filling. Chill for 1 hour then cut into slices and serve.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Sausage Cheese Puffs

This is a pretty common appetizer. The cheese puffs are warm, savory, easy to eat and tasty. The perfect party food.

Sausage Cheese Puffs

1 lb breakfast style sausage
2 cups Baking Mix
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup water

Thouroughly combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Shape into 1 inch balls and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is a recipe from my mom that is oh-so good!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 sticks of butter
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups oats
1 cup chocolate chips

Cream together butter, brown sugar, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Add in flour and baking soda. Stir in oats and chocolate chips until well combined. Drop dough by the spoonfuls on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sour Cream Sauce

Sour Cream sauce is a Tex-Mex staple. Often served with chicken enchiladas, this delicate sauce even tastes great on beef burritos (or any other type I imagine). You can make this as spicy or as mild as you want by altering the amount of green chilies and/or adding red pepper or dried chipotle powder.

Sour Cream Sauce

1/4 cup flour
2 cup chicken broth
1 cup sour cream
1 (4 oz.) can diced green chilies (with juice)

In saucepan, melt butter, blend in flour, add chicken broth, and cook until mixture thickens and bubbles. Stir in sour cream and green chilies. Cook until heated through, but DO NOT BOIL. Pour sauce over enchiladas or burritos and bake at 425 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Coconut Chicken Tenders With Apricot Dipping Sauce

If you like coconut, then you will love these. You can also use the same recipe using 1 1/2 lbs of peeled shrimp.

Coconut Chicken Tenders With Apricot Dipping Sauce

3 lb. chicken tenders
1 1/2 cup flaked coconut, loosely packed
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 eggs, beaten
4 tablespoon butter, melted

Mix together coconut,salt, curry, bread crumbs. Pour butter in bottom of baking dish. Dip chicken, one piece at a time, in eggs and roll in coconut mixture.
Arrange skin side down in pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Turn chicken pieces and continue baking 25 minutes more. Serve with Apricot Dipping Sauce (recipe below)

Apricot Dipping Sauce

2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
1 tablespoon apricot preserves

Mix the sweet chili sauce and apricot preserves.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Hot Chocolate Devil's Food Cake

Dark, Decadent, Delicious!

Hot Chocolate Devil's Food Cake

1 box devil's food chocolate cake mix
2 cups milk
1 1/4 cups water
2 package (3.9 oz. each) Chocolate Instant Pudding
1/3 cup sugar

Prepare cake batter as directed on package. Pour into greased 13x9-inch baking dish and set aside.

Pour milk and water into large bowl. Add pudding mixes and sugar. Whisk until blended. Pour over batter.

Place baking dish on baking sheet (to catch any sauce that bubbles over sides of dish). Bake 55 minutes to 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center of cake layer comes out clean. Cool 20 min. (Sauce will thicken slightly as it cools). Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Lasagna Roll Ups

A different twist on the classic dish.

Lasagna Roll Ups

1 box lasagna noodles
32 oz. spaghetti sauce
1/2 lb. Italian sausage
1 lb ground beef
1/4 cup onions, chopped
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon basil (or 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning)
1/4 teaspoon red/cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups Mozzarella cheese
12 oz. ricotta
1 egg, beaten
Grated Parmesan cheese and/or additional Mozzarella as desired

Boil lasagna noodles as directed on package. Drain and rinse under cold water and set aside.
In large skillet, brown sausage (which has been removed from casing) and ground beef with onion over medium heat and drain grease. Stir in bread crumbs, basil, cayenne,salt,pepper,and Mozzarella cheese. Remove from heat.
In a large bowl mix together ricotta with egg until well combined and set aside.

Spread 2 cups (half) spaghetti sauce over bottom of 13 x 9 baking dish. Cut each lasagna noodle in half crosswise; spread about 2-3 tablespoons of meat mixture evenly on each half and top with a tablespoon of Ricotta mixture. Roll up from shorter side and place seam side down in pan. Pour remaining sauce over top.

Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Remove foil and sprinkle with Parmesan or additional Mozzarella cheese as desired and continue to bake until melted (5-10 minutes).

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Apple Brown Sugar Cookies

Apple Brown Sugar Cookies

1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
1 cup apples, peeled and diced

Cream eggs, shortening, vanilla and brown sugar together. Slowly add in flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice and salt and mix well. Gently stir in diced apples. Drop dough by spoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Pork Chops with Pear Sauce

Nothing brings out the flavor of pork chops better than a little bit of sweetness!

Pork Chops with Pear Sauce

3 pears, peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 cup apple cider
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 boneless pork chops

In a medium saucepan mix pears, brown sugar, butter, lemon juice, apple cider, and cinnamon. Bring to boil and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until pears are soft. Using an immersion blender or food processor, blend sauce until smooth.

Season pork chops with salt, pepper, garlic powder and sage. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and sear pork chops on each side (about 2 minutes per side). Transfer pork chops to glass baking dish and top with pear sauce. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Italian Sausage Soup

I came up with this recipe after falling in love with a Zuppa Toscana soup at a restaurant. This soup is creamy, chunky, flavorful and everything else that makes a good soup a great meal!

Italian Sasuage Soup

1 1/2 cups spicy Italian sausage links, chopped
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
3/4 cup. onions, diced
6 slices bacon
1 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 cups kale leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons chicken broth
4 cups. water
1/3 cup. heavy cream

Slice sausage links onto a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. When done, cut in half length-wise, then cut at an angle into 1/2 inch slices.

Place onions and bacon in a large saucepan and cook over medium heat until onions are almost translucent and bacon is crispy. Remove bacon and crumble. Add garlic to the onions and cook an additional 1 minute. Add chicken broth, water, and potatoes, simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add crumbled bacon, sausage, kale and cream. Simmer an additional 10 minutes, garnish with grated parmesan if desired. Serve with bread sticks or garlic bread.
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