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Archive for August, 2010

When John and I pulled up to the suburban acreage nicknamed, “The Land” I could see Melissa and Megan milling about the garden in the fading sunlight.

As apartment/condo dwellers, they don’t really have dirt to call their own, so all spring and summer they’ve helped create a massive garden on another friend’s property.

Being novice gardeners, they’ve gotten their hands dirty together, weeded on carpet squares and learned the lessons of growing food during a hard season. This experience didn’t just grow veggies, but memories and friendship too.

When I interview people I try to put into practice what I preach and bring them an act of food-ness. Typically, I make something from one of their recipes  and/or bring food related to topic of the interview.

So here are Megan and Melissa’s Recipes and pictures from their gardening experience!

* While we took a tour of The Land, we snacked on Kale Chips: (note kale plant in pic!)

These were so tasty and easy to make. Try some!

Kale Chips:
1 bunch kale
1 teaspoon or so olive oil
A pinch or so of salt  (or garlic salt, onion salt, etc.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Tear or cut the leaves away from the thick stems, and tear the leaves into bite-size pieces. Wash and thoroughly dry the leaves. Put the kale in a large bowl, drizzle it with the olive oil, and sprinkle it with the salt. Toss the leaves until they are fully coated. (Have fun!!) 🙂

Lay the leaves out on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake until the leaves are crisp but not burnt, 10 to 15 minutes, checking every 5 minutes or so.  You can take the crisp ones out and keep baking the ones that aren’t ready. Sprinkle on more salt or flavoring if needed.

* This yummy Tomato Cucumber Salad reflects the veggies of their labor and is delicious!

Tomato Cucumber Salad
tomatoes
cucumber
red onion (if you like it)
olive oil
herbs

Chop equal amounts of tomatoes and cucumbers into bite-sized pieces.  Add in some chopped up red onion, if you like the taste of it.  Sprinkle the veggies with olive oil and your favorite herb(s) and lightly toss.  For more substance, throw in garbanzo beans or another type of bean that you like.

* When we left Megan picked Roma tomatoes for us. I couldn’t help but smile –

Food and kindness really do connect us all.

Do you grow your own food? Do you share that experience with someone else?

Tell me all about it!

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Time: 7:30

Table: Kitchen

Who Gathered:

* John

* Stephanie

* Josh

The Menu:

* Hot Glazed Whole Grain Temph

* Garlic Fried Rice

* Salad (no tomatoes or cauliflower for John and Josh)

* Garlic Buttered Grilled Corn on the Cob

* White Wine

* 400 pound Monkey Beer

* Diet Coke

Dessert:

* Happy Chocolate Chip Cookies (with rainbow sprinkles)

* Peanut Butter Brownies

* Milk in mugs

Dining Topics:

* Opinions and theories about the movie Inception

* Opinions about the movie Scott Pilgrim VS the World

* Review of Steph and John’s recent Wizard World Comic Book Con. Experience – (too crowded)

* Review of weekend events

* Stephanie talks them into watching an episode of Bored to Death

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Time frame:

11:30AM start

2:00PM finish

Who:

Stephanie

Mom

Lynley

Aunt Linda

Aunt Trish

Pre-Mood:

Doubters in the ranks (“We are going to get sick if we eat that much sugar.”), but optimism prevailed (“Oh, it will be fun. We’ll share cupcakes and eat a lunch at Dragon Inn. Trust me it will be ok.”)

Plan:

After some convincing, I talked them into one bakery before lunch and one after (with some shopping in-between) in an easy designated area – Downtown Overland Park

First Bakery:

Sugarmama’s

(Cupcakes we bought here were mini sized. They were divided evenly into 5 pieces…or so we thought).

Cupcakes & Votes

Oreo  1

Dreamsicle  4

(with a candied orange slice on top)

S’more

White Chocolate Raspberry

Commentary:

* Stephanie is shocked they bought so many…

* It is determined that water would be nice to cleanse the palette.

* Mini size is liked by all.

Second Bakery:

Clock Tower Bakery

(Two big cupcakes, divided up “evenly”)

Cupcakes & Votes

Red Velvet  2

Peanut Butter Chocolate  3

Commentary:

* Momentary confusion over extra pieces. “Who didn’t try a piece?” “Who wants seconds?”

* You really need more than two cupcakes to make a clear decision.

* The frosting and the baker are exceptionally nice.

* Linda gives them a thumbs-up for real silverware.

*We must go to three places, like the cupcakes, how can you make a real decision with just two?

Third Bakery:

Dolce

(Mini cupcakes are ignored, we buy 3 big ones.)

Cupcakes & Votes

Vanilla Cream  2

Pecan Praline  2

Double Chocolate  1

Commentary:

* Someone at the table is a sucker for sprinkles.

* Glitter frosting is enchanting.

* Linda gives another thumbs-up for real silverware and doggie treats

* We finally figure out mom’s “trick” of cutting 6 pieces instead of 5, so someone can have extra…she is so sneaky.

Post-Mood:

Love all around…

We’re with laughing the girl behind the counter, cheering with the staff of the Dolce (the winning bakery), taking pictures, buying food for others, and planning our next quest…you should come with us! (It will be fine, trust me.)

Have you ever gone on a food quest with someone? Tell me your story and pass on the idea to others!

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A month ago I was thinking in the shower, “What would my last meal be?”

It’s changed over time, but right now it would be this:

Appetizer (because they would have to let you have one): Cinnamon Rolls

Main Course: * Pasta with shrimp and scallops drenched in the sweet nectar of the Gods, a.k.a. Paul Newman’s  Own Vodka Sauce

* Fresh thick homemade bread

* Chianti

(and maybe a salad, but it’s truly optional, seriously)

Dessert: My mom’s chocolate pie (Jell-O pudding in a frozen Pillsbury Crust)

I was born at 7PM at night, so I decided to have my perfect last meal as my first meal of my 34th year. Why not?  When it comes down to it, what else do I truly want to eat? And why the heck don’t we eat that ideal meal more often?

My Aunt Trish also decided to bake an Italian Cheese Cake. It was very rich and very wonderful, so that was an extra, unexpected bonus.

Some scenes and two recipes from my first dinner….

Recipes:

Cinnamon Rolls (sort-of-from-scratch)

Makes 12 – 21 rolls.

Mom’s cinnamon rolls are the best. I do realize that your mom/grandma/aunts/dad’s/ partner’s cinnamon rolls are also the best…that’s just the way the sugar sprinkles.

This is a combination recipe in 2 of ways. One is that I combined my mom’s cinnamon rolls recipe with one from the book Baking by James Peterson. Two, it involves a boxed mix for the roll and homemade filling.

I also made a mistake while making it by mixing the topping and the filling ingredients together. This made for sticky rolls that didn’t need any icing (that’s the way mom makes ‘em, so that’s the way I make ’em).

The parts of her recipe I am writing verbatim because I think they are just so cute and mom.

Roll Ingredients:

Box of Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix (check box for ingredients needed)

Filling Ingredients:

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon grated orange zest

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ cup of butter

¼ teaspoon of salt

1 ½ cups light brown sugar

Mom’s recipe:

Buy a box of hot roll mix at the store. Follow pkg. directions. Roll out dough –

James Peterson recipe- my way:

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, combine all the filling ingredients and stir. When the butter has melted and the mixture is bubbling, turn the heat down to low and continue stirring for about 5 minutes or until the mixture smells like butterscotch.

Mom’s recipe:

Spread the mixture over the dough. Roll up the dough. Slice into rolls. Place rolls in around 2 cake pans (well greased) to rise for 30 minutes. (I sit the pans on racks over bowls of hot water –cover with towels.) Bake at 375 for about 15 mins. Should be slightly browned.

Note: Rise the bread how you need to rise the bread. Mom also recommends setting outside with the bowls of water or a warm window depending on weather. Personally, I turn my oven on 200 for one minute and turn it off, then put the rolls in with steaming pans of boiling water.

Since it happened on my birthday, I should warn you, when these rolls come out of the oven, your neighbor may knock on your front door with a gardening question.

Pasta, Scallops, & Shrimp in Paul Newman’s Own Vodka Sauce

1 serving, but we made 8 out of one jar of sauce…just saying.

Praise the tomato and the Russians for this pasta sauce.

It is my kryptonite and it is hard to find.

More about that another day…here’s the recipe.

Ingredients:

1 jar of Paul Newman’s Own Vodka Sauce (thank you Mr. Newman)

1 or 2 large scallops

6 pieces of shelled pre-cooked shrimp

1 serving of linguine (or other wide noodle to catch all the sauce – not a time for angel hair)

Garlic power

Ground pepper

2 tablespoons of olive oil

* Cut the tails off the shrimp. Sprinkle garlic powder and pepper to your tasted on the shrimp and both sides of the scallops. Rub it in a little.

* In a deep frying pan, pour your oil and turn the burner on medium heat.

* In a pot, start to boil your pasta water. (My water takes forever to boil – story of my life- so I start it early.)

* When your oil is warm, but not too hot, put in your scallops. The rule I follow is to cook them on both sides for 4 minutes.

* At the end of the second 4 minutes add the shrimp for 1 minute.

* Add your pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package.

* Remove your frying pan from the stove and add the pasta sauce.

I’ve learned this the hard way. Heat from the pan can cause it to splatter, so make sure you are in a splatter-safe area.

Ok – this is the deciding moment, how saucy are you? I am at least a cup of sauce when I am making one serving, but do what you like. Make sure there is enough to cover the shrimp and most of the bottom of the pan.

*Turn your heat down on low and let the sauce simmer. The longer it simmers the better it is. I tend to put a lid on and stir it occasionally. You will see the sauce start to separate a little…that’s the good juju happening. Let it be.

* Once your pasta is done, drain it dry and pour it into the vodka sauce and seafood. Stir it around and let it sit for a minute or two. This is generally when I pour my glass of wine.

* When you’re ready, plate it I up with a thick piece of bread…to do you know what with.

(Man, I think I need to make some right now…)

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Time: 8:30

Table: Pillows and sofa (eating in front of the TV)

Who Gathered:

* John

* Stephanie

* Millionaire Playboy, Bruce Wayne

* His ward, Dick Grayson

* Barbara Gordon

* Commissioner Gordon

* Batman

* Robin

* Batgirl

* Lord Fog

* Lady Pea Soup

The menu:

* Pizza Shoppe Queen Size Pizza: half cheese / half garden supreme (with pineapple substituted for artichoke hearts)

* Diet Coke

* Fresca in a can with a straw

* Water

** Pizza Shoppe felt they over cooked our pizza, so they gave us a Prince Cheese for free. Thank you for having such high standards pizza man.

Dessert:

The next Batman episode, Dressed to Kill, featuring Catwoman

Dining Topics:

* Did we already watch The Bloody Tower episode?

* Why would you bother to tie a 3-foot piece of rope to the door of a deadly African beehive in an acre of open space? Answer: Robin will trip over it in broad daylight and proceed to be slowly stung.

* Shaming discussion about how Stephanie wouldn’t be truly sorry if Batgirl died from the poisonous fog pellets.

* The real tower of London looks just like it does on Batman. Seriously, there’s lots and lots of glowing blood everywhere all the time.

* The chain-sawing scene between Batgirl and Batman made us  uncomfortable.

* Yes, we did watch this one already.

Tune in next week- Same Dinner Time, Same Dinner Channel!

Who did you eat dinner with Sunday night?

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I met my mom and my sister at You Say Tomato for my birthday lunch. It’s an eclectic little pie/sandwich restaurant/grocery store very close to where my sister and I work. The mismatched retro tables, green glass coffee mugs, open kitchen and cozy chairs make me feel right at home…and I did mention the pie.

We go up to the counter to order: my lunch (edamame veggie pita) and a piece of blueberry pie with a scope of pineapple mint ice cream (we agree to share the dessert due to later festivities). A 20-something guy is at the cash register. He’s wearing a knitted tomato beanie (all I can think is, “Can I knit that?”) and he says to me, “Do you want the pie and ice cream after the rest of you food is ready?”

I hesitate. I am not a stranger to eating dessert first, so I say, “Well let’s have it before the sandwiches.”

“It’s her birthday,” my mom smiles.

The guy in the tomato beanie grins and shouts back to the rest of the cooking crew, “Hey it’s her birthday! She’s celebrating with us!”

A shout of “Really? Happy Birthday!” comes from somewhere by the oven.

I get all bashful and we sit down to wait for our food. The next thing I know the guy from the cash register is standing next to our table, tomato hat still on is head, big grin on his face and he’s holding a plastic green cake stand with the piece of blueberry pie and ice cream sitting on top of it.

We all cheer and as he sets it down. Then suddenly the top of the cake stand starts to spin, light up and play the happy birthday song.

We shriek and cheer louder. His grin get’s even bigger. At that moment I realize I left all my cameras at home. In this age of constant connections none of us have a way to document this birthday moment. The most perfect demonstration of connecting through food I could have asked for and nada. We thank him profusely and dig into the pie and ice cream, soon forgetting all about the digital world.

After lunch my aunts arrived and my sister and I tell them the story. Here is our reenactment of the light up, spinning, singing birthday pie. Thank you, You Say Tomato.

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From my elementary years all the way through high school, my birthday mornings always started the same. Mom would come into my room with a tray (from her college days at Warrensburg) of pancakes, juice, and sometimes a balloon. Her and my sister would wish me Happy Birthday while I ate breakfast in bed and talked about my big day.

A week before my 34th birthday my mom asked me, “Well what are you doing your birthday morning?” and I went blank. I haven’t had a birthday breakfast in at least 15 years. I decided right then and there to have pancakes in bed.

Now I have to tell you two things: 1) pancakes are one of my favorite foods. It goes with the other “p” favorite foods: pies, pasta, and pots of tea. I am a happier girl if I eat pancakes once a week. 2) John and I have breakfast in bed on Sunday mornings. This something we started when we moved in together 9 years ago, so we already had a tray and are old hands at it. We’ve even had pancakes on Sunday mornings, but I’d never thought to do my birthday breakfast…ever.

My plan was to get up at dawn and greet my new year, then bake fresh bread for my dinner. So during the first dough rise, I cooked up the pancakes. When the griddle sizzled, John came down and we got the tray ready, then I dashed upstairs and climbed back into bed.

I was shocked by how excited I was getting just waiting for him to come through the door, I mean I cooked the pancakes for goodness sakes, but I could hardly keep my legs still. I had no idea that such a simple ritual meant so much love and happiness to me.

He came in the room and shouted, “Happy Birthday!”

That was it. I was 7 again and blissfully happy – lumpy batter and all.

If you had a birthday food ritual as a child, let me just say this…do it.

Trust me, it will be the best present you give yourself all day long.

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