Category Archives: Uncategorized

Sundays at 4 (or, a rememberance of days gone by)

August 23, 2012

Tonight I uncovered something in my home that I haven’t seen in months. It had been so long since I had seen it, that I wasn’t sure it was still there, in fact.  In true archaeological fashion, I unearthed….

… My dining room table.

And it got me thinking about days gone by, just in general, but also in my own personal life.  When did the dining room table become the “catch all” spot?  How did I let this occur…and more importantly, how do I prevent it from happening again.  Now, I know what you’re thinking…is it really that big of a deal?  And for that, I will simply say YES.  So much can be learned, shared, debated, and put to rest around the dinner table.  You just don’t get that same feeling while eating your dinner in front of the television- I’m sorry, but you just don’t.  And it makes me sad to realize that these glorious pieces of furniture may become “something you have” rather than something you use…a true piece of archaeology for future sociologists to analyze.  As I uncovered my table, I whispered an almost silent apology to it, and made a vow to do better… to treat it better and with the respect that my dear table deserves, because YES, it is that big of a deal.

Here’s a little bit about my dining room table.  In my current house, it is the only table for us to eat at.  We do  not have a breakfast nook, a “bar”, an island, or an eat in kitchen.  We have a dining table, and an exquisite one at that.  The table has been passed down from family member to family member and was originally my great grandmother’s.  It’s huge.  Wide, rounded, and sturdy (not to mention heavy as hell).  Her seats creak and groan, the legs of the table are a little more wobbly now than they were originally, and she certainly shows her age.  Usually, I keep her covered with an extra wide table cloth (she’s a big girl!), but when I don’t- It’s magic.. because you see, this table…this place of gathering the family… it can tell stories. 

There are water glass rings, and scratches- marks from dishes that were too hot, (I’ve left a few marks of my own), dings and knicks… this table is close to 100 years old, at my best guess…I may be wrong on that, but she’s old.  Sometimes, people ask me why I don’t just sand it down and refinish it.  I could never.  It would erase her stories and her character, and to me, that is worth so much more than a perfect looking table.  It’s part of it’s beauty- being able to sit here at the same table that so many of my family members have sat at, and wonder, just a little bit, about who left that mark.  What were they eating on the night they left that water ring?  Which move put that little ding in the the one corner?  I try and picture my family gathered at this table with friends, enjoying a night of food, laughter, and love.  Much like we use to gather at my grandma Buffy’s table.

Every Sunday of my childhood, for probably the first 12 years, we went to Buffy’s for dinner.  Sundays at 4 were a special time.  And though I can’t recall what she cooked on any given Sunday.  (I assume a roast, but honestly, I can not recall for the life of me.)  I can remember the faces, the clinks and clatters, and the general buzz about the kitchen and dining room on those Sundays.  Sometimes there’d be 6 of us, sometimes 10, and my favorites, the Sundays where almost everyone was home… and we’d try to fit 15 to 20 of us all around the table.  There’d always be rolls, and salad… and Buffy would always sit at Pappap’s side and lead Grace.  Someone would say “Hit it, Pat” and off she’d go.  Ultimately, Pappap would make “monkey” faces at me while she did, I’d stifle a giggle, and mum would nudge me under the table.  Grace would end and daddy would start singing “Sing it overrrrrr…”  and the clink and clank of forks and knives would commence.  There we would sit, eat, and catch up on the week with one another until finally the food was cleared, coffee was poured, and the Russell Stover’s candy box made its’ appearance.  They were the happiest times of my life.

And so, as I stood in front of my dear dining room table tonight, finally unearthed, and in all of her glory… I had to wonder- will my children and grandchildren get to experience this?  Will they look back years later with the same fondness that I do for these times at the table?  I hope so, and plan to make every attempt to continue the tradition of Sundays at 4.

Until next time…
Happy Eating,
J

1 Minute Mug Cake

August 20, 2012

Hey there… do you have a minute?
Oh, you do??   Great- then you have time for this tasty mug cake!!

Go ahead, go get your mug… I’ll wait.

Ready?

Crack 1 egg into your mug and beat it.
Add 4 tbsp powdered sugar and 3 tbsp cocoa powder.  Stir.
Pop in the microwave for 60 seconds… then give it another 60 seconds before devouring…noone likes a burnt mouth from chocolate cake.

As variations, you can add a caramel (think milkmaids) to the mix before heating in microwave for a chocolate caramel cake…

You can add a hint of peppermint, or andes candies for a “grasshopper” cake

Tonight I topped ours off with Boysenberry Syrup- delicious.

And as always… icecream is a good way to go!

Enjoy!
J

Bridal Party Kit

August 1, 2012

10 DAYS remain ’til the big day, and I am a busy bee!!

Today I am putting together my girls’ survival kits.  I got them each a Vera Bradley “Knot Just a Clutch” bag in Very Berry Paisley.  (They also have totes)

Anyway, here’s what it looks like:

I like this clutch because it is a good size, has a zipper in the back, and has an optional strap that can attach or detach inside.  It stays shut because there are strong magnets.  All in all- lovely.  This picture doesn’t do it justice, and doesn’t show the true colors of it… it has some greens, some pinks, a raspberry color, and then dark chocolate brown.  Heaven.  (My girls are wearing chocolate brown cocktail dresses with raspberry colored shoes.)

Then I went about filling them.  Here is my list of what I am including:

Colgate Wisps
5 Hour Energy
Dr. Scholl’s Rub Relief
Tide To Go
Travel size Secret deodorant
Travel Pack of Tissues
Mini Nail Files (I got mine at 5 below for $1)
Travel Size Hairspray
Burt’s Bees Lip Balm (pack of 4 was $8, and there was a coupon)
Mini Altoids
A Penny

Then I wrote a poem to go with it.  Feel free to steal- it wasn’t hard to come up with!

Just a way to share my thanks,
For everything you do…
I’ve made this kit, for tomorrow,

To help to see you through!

There’s a pack of Wisps for your smile,
to keep it fresh and bright;
A dose of 5 hour energy
So you can dance all night!

You’ll also find relief
If your feet begin to ache
And a mini Tide To Go
For any spill that you might make.

I’ve left a little Secret
to keep those pits so dry,

And tissues for your eyes,
Just in case you cry!

There are tiny little files,
if a nail of yours should break;

And a bottle of some hairspray
To hold through all the pictures we’ll take!

There’s lip balm and some mints
to help preserve your kiss…
And finally a penny,

to make a special wish.

I couldn’t ever do this,
without you by my side.
You’re a truly precious friend,

and I’m such a lucky bride.


Thanks for sharing in the joy of the big day!

And that’s it!  All put together, it looks like this…

Can’t wait to give them to my girls! (Oh, and I got a clutch for myself too… don’t worry!)

Until Next Time,
J

A happy little breakfast treat…

August 1, 2012

Woah- Sounded like Bob Ross there for a minute with “Happy Little Trees”.  Sorry about that- rest assured, although my hair is big, it is NOT Bob Ross big, and I am not making anything close to trees.

These are, however, deliciously tasty and easy.  Today I give you variations on the OH SO POPULAR, Pinterest Pumpkin Muffins.  (See here- http://www.sprinklebakes.com/2009/11/healthy-2-ingredient-pumpkin-spice.html)

Alright, so here we go!  Spray a muffin tin down with cooking spray- I like my square muffin tin- something about them just looks fancier, but hey, use what you got!  Then go ahead and set your oven to 350, and if you are me… get that first cup of coffee and your mixing bowl.

Literally- 2 ingredients.  A lot of the versions of this recipe don’t specify what kind of cake mix, so I will just tell you through my trials and tribulations with making this as tasty as possible, USE THE SPICE CAKE MIX.  I’ve done chocolate, I’ve done yellow, I’ve done angel food (which turned out REALLY wrong) – use the spice cake mix.

Alright so you dump your boxed spice cake- DRY- into a bowl. Then you dump 1 15 oz of canned pumpkin in, and you stir like hell.  If you want to avoid dry little lumps, I recommend dumping 1/2 the pumpkin, then half the cake mix, STIR LIKE HELL, and lather, rinse, repeat with the second half of both the pumpkin and the cake mix.  When it’s good and mixed, it will be really thick and kind of sticky- thats why we sprayed the tin, my friend… make it easy on yourself and spray your big spoon before you scoop these into the muffin tins- helps the batter slide off easier! Pop them in @ 350 for 22 minutes. 

That’s it- thats all you do. 

While I’m waiting and my house is filling with the glorious aroma of spice and pumpkin, I usually think about how I want to top these bad boys.  Here are 3 favorites:

1) Cream cheese frosting and chopped walnuts.
     1- 8 oz package of cream cheese
     1/4 cup butter, room temp. (soft)
     A spash of vanilla
      1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Cream the cream cheese and butter, add in the vanilla and gradually add the sugar…  pretty easy. Then slather onto the muffins- there’s no point in piping it because the muffins wont have a smooth surface. Top w/ chopped walnuts- gorgeous.

2) Sprinkle w/ confectioners’ sugar- UM hello, easy.  If you dont have one of those sprinkling containers, a small sifter/ collapsible strainer  works just as well. (Hey- a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do)

3) Glaze- as shown in the picture!
   
There’s no real science to this glaze- I usually start with confectioners’ sugar and add in a bit of water until it gets to  the right thickness that I like… sometimes I have to add more sugar, sometimes more water- eventually you get it JUST right.  Then you can spoon, drizzle, or dunk your muffins.  I do a “dunk, twist, swirly flip” – dunk the tops of my muffins, twist for full coverage, swirl the excess off as I flip it back over.   Now- full disclaimer- glazing this way, and in general, is the messiest of the options.   However, it is mighty tasty.

And there you have it!  That’s really it.  If I make these in the morning for breakfast that very day… I usually just hit them with the powdered sugar- it’s quicker.  OR, I keep some canned frosting on hand- just in case I really need the combo of muffin and frosting- it’s nowhere near as good as homemade, but it works in a pinch.

Until next time, Happy Eating!
Jenny

The Chef’s Table

July 24, 2012

Remember that time I had a blog?
Remember that time I abandoned said blog because I became a crazy bride?
Yeh, me too!  Goodness, it’s been quite a while since we had a post. 
BUT rest assured, the skies have opened, I can see the light at the end of the “wedding tunnel”, and a long awaited (you were waiting, weren’t you, loyal readers?) update and post is here! 

A few weeks ago, my beautiful bridesmaids took me out for a bachelorette evening on the town.  These ladies know me well, and we found ourselves at “The Supper Club” in Greensburg at the train station.  To say I was pretty pumped is an understatement- this was suppose to be a GREAT restaurant. BUT- even better, we were sitting at THE CHEF’S TABLE. 

(A word about the chef’s table- The Chef’s Table is an elite table that is located in the kitchen of some restaurants.  It is an honor and privilege to eat at the chef’s table, as you are a guest in that chef’s kitchen and bare witness to all the going’s on in the kitchen. Very cool.)

Anyway, if you ever get the opportunity to sit and have dinner at the chef’s table- do it. Don’t second guess if you really want to eat in the kitchen. DO IT.  It was by far, the coolest culinary experience of my life thus far.  I definitely plan to go again somewhere else- or maybe back to the same place, it was THAT GOOD.
We met Chef Greg Andrews, and he gave us the run down on The Supper Club.  The Super Club is a Farm to Table restaurant, which takes local grown and raised ingredients and incorporates them into their menu.  For that reason, the menu is constantly changing, and you are always guaranteed to get the finest quality foods.  That evening, we would be enjoying a 9 course tasting.  Heaven on earth- I recommend you go hungry!  Everything was exquisite.

While I plan to lay out our menu  from the evening in a few minutes here, I have a larger plan for the upcoming weeks with this blog.  Over the next few weeks (Minus the time I will be on my honeymoon!), I will be recreating these delicious dishes and hopefully simplifying the things that sound intimidating.  A few will be modified and possibly skipped ( I don’t much care for scallops)…but the rest will be here with the How To. 

SO, what are we getting ourselves into? 

Here are the courses, from beginning to end- complete with my commentary. We also had wine- I’ll give some of my favorites that will go well…not QUITE as fancy as the Supper Club, but still quite satisfying!

1- Copper River Salmon Carpaccio with a vanilla oil and blood orange reduction, served as crostini’s w/ arugula. 
I was a bit intimidated by this at first for a few reasons. One, I don’t do carpaccio- I like things cooked. And Two, it’s Salmon…not something I do frequently.   The great thing about the Chef’s Table is that if there’s anything you want prepared a different way, they are happy to oblige- I asked that my salmon be “flash cooked” with a blow torch and was quite pleased with my cooked salmon.  Not to mention the cool show of a blow torch!   Anyway, the Salmon was quite possibly the best fish I’ve ever eaten in my life. Combined with the sweet acidity of the blood orange and arugula- It melted in your mouth.  

2- Grilled Brioche and Goat Cheese Sandwich served with 2 over easy quail eggs, and a banana pepper jelly
I will never eat a regular grilled cheese again. Ever.  My world has distinctly been placed into two periods of time… life before this grilled cheese wonder, and life after.  This is the 1 dish that I am most looking forward to trying to recreate.  I felt like I should have been alone in a dark room with that grilled cheese and quail egg mix, it felt that naughty to sit there and eat something so decadent- and the banana pepper jelly?! WELL… rest assured that when I perfect that little baby, I’m going to can it, and you all will receive some with a note that says “Make the grilled cheese”.   I don’t need “50 Shades of Grey”… just a grilled cheese, and if that’s wrong, then I don’t want to be right.
  Also- you can find quail eggs at Wegman’s!?  WHO KNEW?!





The Wine- For the first 2 courses, we were served a Bonterra Organic Viognier from California.  I have my own favorite Viognier from Bluemont Vineyards here in VA, but I trust you can find your own favorite.  If you’ve never had a Viognier, I highly recommend it.  It’s a great white that has some hints of  honeysuckle and apricot...a bit dry, but a lot now are leaving a hint of residual sugar to balance it out.  Easily my favorite, especially in the summer months.

3- Salad of butter lettuce, heirloom cherry tomatoes, roasted golden beets, with a roasted garlic buttermilk dressing.  I love a light salad, and I especially am fond of cherry tomatoes.  Just something about them.  This was lovely with both red and yellow cherry tomatoes- YELLOW?! you say… yes, yellow.  They DO sell them at the store, and most definitely at your farm stand- I recommend them,  They have a slightly different taste than the reds.  I like them in a good caprese as well.


4- Seared Scallops over a barley risotto with basil oil, and grilled asparagus. Well, I’ve already admitted that I’m not a huge scallops girl, but as far as scallops go… divine.  I tasted it and was pretty impressed!  Definitely better than any I had tasted before.   I will speak about and attempt to recreate the risotto with grilled asparagus.  A risotto is a touchy dish, and barley is a different approach to it.  It had a more nutty and earthy quality to it which I found pleasing with the grilled asparagus.

The Wine-  For the 3rd and 4th courses, we had a San Huberto Malbec Rose from Argentina.
Beats me- pick your favorite rose!

5- White Peach Bellini Sorbet… a sorbet with a hint of fizz to it. How can you not love that?



6-
Roasted Heritage Farm Chicken Breast with Smoked Thigh Hash, Yellow beans, and thyme pan gravy
Chicken 2 ways has to be among my favorite experiences… I am definitely my mother’s daughter, and her love of chicken has been passed on to me. You end up getting the best of both worlds… the juiciness and heartiness of the breast meat, and then the rich flavors and fat content of the dark thigh.  Top that off with the pan gravy, and you in for a treat… One I will definitely recreate, and possibly serve up to company.

7- Grilled Friendship Farms Hanger Steak with anson mills grits, morel mushrooms, and zinfandel demi glaze- I’ll be honest, by this time I was feeling rather full, so I only had a bite of this tender, flavorful steak.  A Hanger Steak is a cut from around the diaphram area of the steer.  It doesn’t do much work, and therefore is pretty stinkin’ tender.  As a sidenote- I am not a grits girl… If I were to recreate this (if I could FIND a hanger steak… I’ll probably substitute a skirt steak).. anyway, if I were to recreate it, I’d probably make a potato hash of some sorts, or possibly a garlic mashed potato. We’ll see what strikes me.


The wine for 6 and 7 was a Sileni Pinot Noir from New Zealand- As far as reds go,  Pinot Noir is known for it’s versatility.  It’s lighter bodied, which for me, makes it less harsh… with hints of plum and almost earthiness.  I don’t have a particular Pinot Noir that I gravitate to more than others, mostly because I enjoy a Norton, which has similar flavor profiles, at least I think… Same plum and cherry hints but a bit fuller bodied.- Bull Run Winery has one that I’ve become a recent fan of, and at Bluemont it’s known as “The Pig”…. truth be told, Bull Run’s wins that battle. At any rate, a good Norton makes me feel like having a steak by the fireplace- warm and fuzzy.  Another option if you feel like grabbing a bottle of red from the grocery store- Big House, house red.  Not sure what kind it is… but it’s tasty.


Lastly, we had dessert in courses 8 and 9.
8- Black Raspberry Crisp with creme fraiche and local honey icecream… This came to us served warm and the creme fraiche just oozed into the black raspberries.  Again, I’m my mother’s daughter through and though…as she loved black raspberries…There’s something about a crisp that is unpretentious and almost endearing.  It’s as though it’s something you’d make your dearest friend, just because.  It’s that every day desert…I’d certainly eat this one any day!!9- Chocolate Tasting Trio… a chocolate passion fruit macaroon, an ancho-milk chocolate mousse, and a rosemary-dark chocolate flourless cake.
Looking at these combinations, you wouldn’t think initially that they work… but THEY WORK.  The ingredients and pairings, although different, really bring out the flavors of each type of chocolate.  Passion fruit brings a bit of freshness into the mix, and I loved the ancho- chocolate mix in the mousse.  It gives a nice heat that almost transports you to South America.  Lastly, the Rosemary dark chocolate cake- earthy.  Another unlikely combination for chocolate that we didn’t see here?? BACON. I kid you not! 
The wine for dessert was a Zinfandel Port from Amador County, CA.  It was alright, but not a favorite for me…I’d have probably just gone w/ coffee.  😉 

Talk about a night of food, huh?  We were STUFFED by the time we headed home!
Next… bringing it all home.

Until then..Happy Eating!
J

Remember that time…

May 3, 2012

Remember that time I started a blog, then got a crazy busy life and abandoned it??
YEP, me too!  Hi blog world- I’m coming back and I promise to share more than ever.
That crazy To Do list spun out of control on me, and hence, I disappeared for a while.

Until later,
Jenny