Archive for the 'food' Category



It’s a three-layer cake, with a complete pie baked into each layer. I swear I am not making this up.[youtube][/youtube]This version is made with premade frozen pies and boxed cake mix. I wonder if it would work with homemade pie and made-from-scratch cake…


Fruit, glorious fruit!

We spent the first half of August in Vermont (more on that later), and a few days after our return we picked up our first fruit CSA share!We joined this CSA (splitting a share with another family–we are alternating weeks) for the first time this year, after hearing friends (and longtime members) rave it about. The orchard owner is someone we see not only at our local grower’s market but also at the Unitarian church we both attend. She’s also an incredibly nice person, and one of those people who truly put their money where their mouth is. Case in point: This past winter, the grower’s market tried a “once a month” market during the cold months (which proved to be a hugh success), and at the January market, which took place just days after the massive earthquake hit Haiti, Lisa had a sign on her stand declaring “100% of the proceeds from today are going to Haiti relief efforts.” Not 10% or 25% or “a portion”–she was donating the whole shebang.My family loves the fruit she grows, none of which are standard (bland) supermarket varieties. She grows seven (SEVEN!) varieties of Asian pears–which get gobbled up almost before we get them home.fruit.jpgHere’s the share for the first week: five Sungold nectarines, five Coral Star peaches, five Summer Blaze apples, three Ichiban Asian pears, and three Delight pears. We picked up this bag yesterday afternoon, and we’ve already put a dent in it. A friend is coming over for dinner tonight, so we have plans to grill the stone fruits–she’s bringing vanilla cream to go with them. Yum…


“If it’s edible, fry it.”

Several months ago, a group of friends started discussing various deep-fried oddities and our mutual love of deep-fried foods. (Me, personally, I think “the deep-fried group” should be on the FDA pyramid, right next to “the cheese group” and “the chocolate group.”) One thing led to another, and before we know it we were planning National Fry Day. Our motto: “If it’s edible, fry it.” Indeed.

One person graciously offered to host the event, which took place last Saturday. The oil was hot at 5 p.m., and although all participants also brought tasty non-fryable fare (e.g., salads, dips) to share and, ideally, make us all feel a little less guilty about the damage we were about to do to our hearts and GI systems, the deep-fried food won the popularity contest hands-down.

There were a few “pedestrian” dishes–that is, the sort of stuff you usually see deep fried, like samosas and sliced potatoes. They were good, but what interested me most were the things that one doesn’t often get to sample in battered and deep-fried form.


The list included:

  • bacon weave stuffed with sausage and cheese
  • fake bacon weave stuffed with fake sausage and cheese (a.k.a., “the facon weave”)
  • olives stuffed with Monterey Jack
  • olives stuffed with habanero cheddar
  • mac and cheese
  • Scotch eggs
  • Scotch eggs without sausage
  • Bacon-wrapped jalapenos
  • Tandoori chicken
  • Twinkies
  • Butterscotch Krimpets (Tastykake is a Philly company)
  • cake icing
  • cake batter
  • Snickers (of course!)

I’ve probably forgotten to mention several things that made their way into one of the deep fryers. I ate so much fried food that I think I slid into a brief food coma and missed some of the action. One thing I didn’t fail to notice was that a surprisingly large portion of the food that got fried was vegetarian friendly…though I suspect that after a trip to a deep fryer, much of this stuff probably wasn’t too friendly to anyone.

I am already starting to draw up a list of new stuff to deep fry. I hope we do another party like this. Maybe not until next summer, though–I think my body needs some time to recover from this one.


Two birthdays

Early May is a busy time around here, with Sylvia’s birthday and my birthday only two days apart. I don’t mind the busy-ness so much, though. May is a great month for a birthday! With so many flowers blooming, it seems like nature shouts “Happy birthday!” to us every year. And the weather is usually cooperative for an outdoor party.


Remember the party garland I made for Sylvia’s birthday last year? About a month later I lent it to my next-door-neighbor for her daughter’s surprise birthday party. A couple of days after the party, my neighbor knocked on my door and sorrowfully announced that she’d lost the garland. (The party had been held at a local church, and she’d put some of her daughter’s friends in charge of hanging the decorations. No one knows what happened to the garland.)

She felt just awful about this, but honestly I wasn’t too upset about it. She offered to make a new one for me, but I decided on a compromise instead: she could do all the cutting. She (happily!) did this while watching the Winter Olympics and gave the pieces to me in plenty of time for sewing them together into a new garland. And this one, at 80+ feet long, is even longer than last year’s 60-foot-long version!


Sylvia wanted to help made decorations, too. So Jan created a skull-and-crossbones stencil that she could place over construction paper and paint with craft paint. When the “pirate flags” were dry, we glued on eye sockets and nose openings cut from black construction paper, then strung the flags on some yarn.*


Jan is an awesome baker, which means that Sylvia gets pretty amazing birthday cakes each year. (Remember last year’s fairy cake?) To match this year’s pirate theme, he created a three-dimensional pirate ship. This is chocolate cake, with reduced-raspberry-jam “glue” in a few places, covered with chocolate buttercream. The cannons are Rollos, the ropes are red licorice, and the cannonballs were Whoppers. We even managed to find gelatin-free gummi-style sea creatures. And the whole thing is sailing on a sea of baked meringue.


My own birthday was a more low-key affair but just as enjoyable. We went out for high tea, then spent the afternoon flying kites in a park. Awesome.

*Red Heart acrylic yarn is pretty vile stuff. Seriously–I think I’d rather knit with boogers than with that stuff. But it is useful to have a skein of it on hand for kid-oriented crafts.


Life update

Reading: Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America’s Soul, by Edward Humes. This book is about the 2005 decision by the school board in Dover, Pennsylvania, to force biology classes to teach about intelligent design and how this decision tore apart a small community and eventually led to a civil lawsuit. I loved this book. It is meticulously researched, mostly even-handed (though it’s clear where the author’s sympathies lie), and engagingly written. Not once did I feel like I was slogging through these 400 pages. While reading this I found myself repeatedly shocked that people could stoop to name-calling, hate-mongering, and fear-fostering supposedly in the name of religious belief. The thought that occurred to me is that such belief must rest on shaky ground indeed for people to feel so threatened by any challenge to them.

Watching: Lost in Austen. Once I convinced myself to suspend my disbelief about some points (e.g., a woman who gets transported from 21st-century London to the world of Pride and Prejudice still has her makeup fully intact every morning when she wakes up in early-19th-century England?), I found this movie to be lots of fun. At first I thought it was going to follow formula: “Oh, she’s messed up something that’s supposed to happen in the book, and now she has to fix it.” But I was pleasantly surprised to see the mess-ups pile on top of each other and get so unwieldy that it seems impossible for her to fix them. Now that’s a challenge! And if you want to know how it all turns out, you’ll have to watch it yourself.

Eating: Homemade spinach pakora. Even Sylvia likes them, which surprises me to no end. She calls them “chewies.”


Resistance is futile

I just found out that something truly wonderful exists in this world: deep-fried cupcakes. This involves two of my favorite food groups (the baked-stuff group and the deep-fried group)–what’s not to like?

I love how that post begins:

First things first. The title of this recipe has probably brought up a serious question, and I’d like to answer it straightaway.

The answer is yes, I am trying to kill you, Paula Deen style.

I am SO making these one day.


Life update

Wow. It seems just yesterday that we returned from our vacation and I wrote the last big post here. Much has happened since then: a new school year has begun, the leaves are starting to turn (the dogwoods are already red; they get their leaves first in the spring and lose them first in the fall), and life continues its unfolding.

A few highlights:

Reading: Do-Over!: In which a forty-eight-year-old father of three returns to kindergarten, summer camp, the prom, and other embarrassments, by Robin Hemley. The first half of this book (with its tales of interactions with little kids) is much funnier–and just generally better–than the second half (which deals with his adolescence and young adulthood), but the entire book is worth reading. I think we all have our own “I wish I could do this over” moments, and it’s reassuring so know that some of life’s most embarrassing moments have an element of universality. And laughing out loud while reading a book–I can’t remember the last time I did that. This one was a fun read.

Watching: Watchmen, which I loved. Was it as good as the book? No, of course not. The book was written to take advantage of the genre, and it’s impossible to translate it perfectly to a screen. That said, this film was clearly a labor a love on the part of the filmmakers, true fans of the book, and is the best realization possible.

Also watching: Ponyo. We are huge fans of Hayao Miyazaki in this house, as evidenced by Jan’s Halloween costume from last year and Sylvia’s plan to dress as Kiki this year. (She already has a plan for next year’s costumes, too: “Daddy will be the big Totoro, Mommy will be the medium Totoro, and I will be the little Totoro!”) Ponyo isn’t his best work, but we still loved it.

Winning: A contest, run by Barbara Bretton, who’s both an author and a knitter. The prize: two skeins of Elann’s Silken Kydd (their version of Rowan’s Kidsilk Haze) and a lovely totebag with Barbara’s logos. I’m not sure yet what I’ll do with this yarn, but I think I want to cast on soon, since it’s toasty stuff and I’d love to have something ready for this winter. Thanks, Barbara!

Meeting: Deborah! She was my downstream pal in the last Secret Pal swap I did, two years ago. We’ve kept in touch ever since, and a few days ago we actually got to meet in person! She lives in New York and came to Philadelphia last weekend to run the half marathon (which she totally rocked), and Jan, Sylvia, and I met her and her boyfriend for lunch afterward in Chinatown at our favorite restaurant, New Harmony Vegetarian. We had a great time, and I hope we can get together like this again. She’s planning to run in Philly again next fall, so I’m sure I’ll see her then!

Eating: Peaceable Imperatrix has accomplished the impossible: she’s helped me find a way to like kale. Amazing! I have tried many preparations of this vegetable and really wanted to like it (leafy greens! good for you!) but had not succeeded until yesterday. PI posted a couple of weeks ago about making kale chips, and I thought I’d give them a try. So I picked up some kale at the local growers’ market and chipified them yesterday afternoon. They were delicious (though a bit salty–I have to remember to tone that down next time)! The best part: Sylvia loved them, too. It didn’t hurt, I’m sure, that I introduced them to her as “Jenny Greenteeth Chips.” (She is currently obsessed with Jenny Greenteeth. And pirates.)


Life update

Watching: Bride and Prejudice. Aside from the woefully miscast (as in: he can’t act to save his life, at least not in this role) actor who played Darcy, this was a fun film. Austen meets Bollywood! (With a bit of postcolonial social commentary, even!) What’s not to like? And wow, Sayid can dance!

Reading:The Inheritance of Loss, by Kiran Desai. It won the Man Booker Prize in 2006, and I was originally motivated to read it by the prospect to joining a local Meetup group that’s working its way through the Booker Prizer winners in reverse chronological order. (Scheduling issues will likely prevent me from participating in this group, but I may continue with the reading list on my own.) This is clearly a great book, in its scope, language, themes. It’s very well written, and it had no trouble keeping my interest–I wanted to know what would happen next. But I’m not sure if I like this book. I had a hard time relating to any of the main characters–not because of differences in our life experiences but because I didn’t find any of them likeable.

Traveling: To New York last weekend, to see my brother (who lives in the West Village). We spent most of the day at the very awesome American Museum of Natural History, and I have to admit that some of my favorite parts were the old-school exhibits (even though the scholar and anthropologist in me cringes a bit to see them). Truly, no other museum’s dinosaurs can hold a candle to those at the AMNH (no, not even yours, Smithsonian).

Eating: Cream puffs at Beard Papa’s. (Yes, they are worth the hype.)

Knitting: A shawl. Yes, me–the person who is allergic to lace knitting. I am knitting this one with sportweight yarn, though, and the pattern is simple enough that I haven’t yet cried or tried to claw out my eyes in frustration. So that’s all good.

Laughing my head off: At this blog. Cute Overload has some good moments, but this blog is pure gold nearly every time.


First harvests of the season

p6098668harvestftf.jpgOur garden is doing great! We’ve been picking sugar snap peas for about two weeks now. (Sylvia does most of the picking. And the eating, too—right there in the garden.) Last weekend we picked enough lettuce to make a huge salad for four adults, and yesterday we picked this big pile of spinach* (and accompanying dirt) and more sugar snap peas than Sylvia could eat before it was time to head back inside.

There are still tons of immature pea pods and pea flowers, so I imagine we’ll be enjoying those for another week or so. The small spinach leaves should be pickable next week, we have enough lettuce to feed an entire rabbit warren, and the bean plants are covered with purple flowers. For some reason, our Swiss chard has gone kaput. I think that’s the first time this has ever happened to us—it’s usually a champion grower that weathers the heat well and produces all season long until the first frost. I think I’ll throw a few more seeds in the ground there and give the chard another chance.
*Which of course cooked down to almost nothing.


Easter humor revisited

I posted about funny Easter candy last year, but it still cracks me up. So take a look if you’d like a chuckle, too.

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