Co-host with the most

This past edition of Beef Jerky Time was pretty exciting because I had a guest host, DJ Foxfire, formerly of Discophilia back when there was a radio free brattleboro. We had so much fun! I feel like I'm a more outgoing and sociable DJ when there's someone to talk with. We discussed pressing issues such as Komodo dragons, Lady Gaga and The Breakfast Club. And Foxfire brought some tunes to share and mix it up from what I usually play. Thanks for stopping by, lady!

The first "real" farmer's market of the year starts on Saturday and I'm resolved to a) go there rain or shine and b) take some photos to start a farmer's market series about New England produce and what to do with it (good idea ACB!). I call it the "real" farmer's market but there's another one put on by Post Oil Solutions that has been meeting all winter long. But this is the summer version, a big ritual for locals and attraction for tourists. So please check back throughout the season for farmer's market photos and finds. (I've been inspired by all the great citrus posts over the winter from California blogs...)

Here's the playlist from my Foxfire show: 4*29*09
  • Tonight's Today: Jack Peñate
  • Charito Va: Radio Malanga
  • Deadbeat Summer: Neon Indian
  • Caring is Creepy: The Shins
  • Lisztomania: Phoenix*
  • Coulibaly: Amadou & Mariam
  • [Indian techno thing we couldn't find a name for]
  • Happy Up Here: Röyskopp
  • Shake Your Groove Thing: Peaches & Herb
  • Just Dance: Lady Gaga
  • Body Movin': Beastie Boys

*I loved this song before I saw this unofficial youtube mashup,
now I love it even more.

What I Did On My Spring Vacation

I'm on vacation this week! My plans were to stay home and get some long-neglected chores done. Also I've been saving up to do some shopping. The week has been flying by--here's a quick photo essay on the highlights so far. Does this seem like an exciting week to you? Because it is to me!!

Monday--Shopping day. My main goal was to buy a wallet. My secondary goal was to go shoe-shopping for some red flats. I scored on the first but failed miserably to even find shoes worthy of trying on. I went to about 8 different shoe stores and outlets. Zip. In the end I didn't buy very much (which is fine!) but here are some of my favorite purchases from Monday.

Western-style red wallet, Ladyhawke CD, cop/Maverick sunglasses

Tuesday was Basement Day. Our basement is... a bit messy. It needs HELP. Unfortunately, most of the help needed requires input from all family members, but I did my best with my own stuff. A large part of this project was going through my many boxes of books and weeding out ones I really don't want to see again.

Piles of unwanted (miswanted? dewanted?) books

On the third day of my vacation, Wednesday, I made a pilgrimage to Target to pick up some Useful Household Items. I got a clear plastic case for my beloved iPod. I also got this nifty closet organizer. (Note: No good shoes at Target either.)

This would be a lot more impressive if
I'd taken a "before" picture.

Today, Thursday, I made a trip to the hardware store for painting and sanding supplies. I have a number of household projects that involve good old elbow grease. One project is to prime and paint the ceiling and upper walls in the 3 rooms where we had sheetrock replaced back in... the first week of March. While listening to Ladyhawke twice in a row, I got the primer on. I also learned that a cheap angled foam brush is just as effective for "edging in" as a special "edging in" tool. (I purchased the latter this morning and threw it aside in favor of the former, which was just sitting around in the basement.) Here's one corner showing primer that I'll be painting blue and white at some point in the future.

Look at that fantastic "edging in"!

I only have one official vacation day left... then it becomes the weekend which doesn't really count. On my docket for tomorrow is to help a friend with some website text and to maybe possibly get a haircut. It's possible more painting will get done. Friday is my oyster. May you enjoy yours!

Speaking of lots of Ladyhawke, here are playlists from the last 2 editions of Beef Jerky Time

4*15*09 show

4*21*09 show--with some poems for National Poetry Month
  • My Delirium: Ladyhawke
  • Shampoo: Elvis Perkins in Dearland
  • Happiness, written and read by John Ciardi
  • Up to Our Necks: Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3
  • Love Get Out of My Way: Milke
  • Chandelier Searchlight: Deerhoof
  • Monet Refuses the Operation, written and read by Lisel Mueller
  • I'm Losing Myself: Brazilian Girls f. David Byrne
  • Beef Jerky: John Lennon
  • Polar Opposites: Modest Mouse
  • Why I Write Such Good Songs: Kleenex Girl Wonder
  • Saturdays: Cut Copy
  • So & So Reclining On Her Couch, written and read by Wallace Stevens
  • French Grass: hollAnd

Weekend Herb Blogging #179 Roundup

It's been an honor and a lot of fun to host Weekend Herb Blogging this week (April 13-19, 2009). This is my first try at hosting an event like this and I appreciate the talent and creativity of all who contacted me with their fabulous recipes. Thank you!

This blogging event is open to anyone around the world who wishes to enter a recipe about cooking with any herb, plant, fruit, vegetable or flower. The rules are that posts must either have an herb or plant ingredient as one of the primary ingredients in the recipe and/or
spotlight one herb or plant ingredient, including information about how to use it. The event was started by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen and is now managed by Haalo from Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once. I have entered a couple times in the past and I just love this event--it is great company to be in and since it's weekly there's always something new to see and learn!
So let's get to the roundup. I'm putting the photo of each item below its description.

From Greece, Ivy at Kopiaste made Moussakas with Mushrooms. She used pleurotus mushrooms that she got at the farmer's market--she learned they are the same as oyster mushrooms. They really do look meaty and delicious. Ivy has a great step-by-step photo series to show how she made this moussakas. (That salad looks great too!)

From Haslett, MI, Katie of Eat This made Eggplant pizza with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. She said it was fun to get creative with eggplant. I love the tall layered look of this pizza. The toppings seem like such a natural combination when seen together like this!

From Sydney, Australia, Anna of Morsels & Musings made Scallops with lentils, pancetta and sage. She describes how sage "delivers an anything but common flavour to your cooking" and has been a medicinal herb for ages. This looks like an incredible marriage of textures and flavors, from a foundation of simple lentils up to divine scallops on top!

From Chicago, IL, Apple Pie, Patis & Pâté made Grilled Chicken with Espelette Pepper. Espelette peppers only come from certain parts of France and are "coarsely ground dried chiles with a brick red hue." They are used in classic Basque dishes. Another fascinating thing about this recipe is that it calls for the fowl to be spatchcocked--or opened out for grilling. That's cool.

From Cleveland, Ohio USA, Yasmeen of Health Nut made Asparagus Souffléed Omelet. Asparagus is just starting to come into season where I am too, so I was really excited to see this gorgeous presentation of it! Yasmeen points out that it is a good source of certain vitamins, and gives tips for choosing and prepping asparagus, too.

From the Philippines, Ela of Everything's Herbed made Tanglad Juice (Lemongrass juice). This recipe looks like a simple yet elegant preparation--and so refreshing to drink!

From Saratoga County, NY USA, Rachel of The Crispy Cook made Risotto with Radicchio and Roasted Garlic. She tells a great story of how a favorite cooking show inspired her. She points out that radicchio not only has a unique bitter flavor, but it's also a visually appealing ingredient. I agree--this looks terrific! (Please note that Rachel will be hosting next week's WHB. More below!)

From Salt Lake City, Utah, this blog event's founder, Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen, made Cilantro-Lovers Perfect Guacamole with Red Onion, Lime, and Chiles. With the spotlight on finely chopped cilantro, this guacamole does look just perfect and mouthwatering. I've got corn chips--wish I could just dip right in!

From Italy, Graziana of Erbe in Cucina made Stuffed Zucchini Flowers. With anchovies and Thai Dragon peppers as other key ingredients, this looks like a special way to use the interesting ingredient of zucchini flowers. As Graziana reminds us, flowers need to be used soon or they will wither!

Bird's eye view at Food and Laughter posts her recipe for Garlicky Baby Spinach Salad. She says she can eat spinach five days a week and explains about the health benefits of spinach as well as its many uses in Indian cuisine. I'm impressed by the "garlicky" part of this recipe too--doesn't this look amazing?

From Melbourne, Australia, Marisa of All Things Sicilian and More explains how to select and peel Fichi d'India, or Prickly Pears. It is good to know that one should use tongs or gloves when handling the fruit because of the tiny spines! Marisa gives step by step instructions for handling and eating these delights.

From Colombo, Sri Lanka, Laurie Ashton Farook of A Canadian in King Parakramabahu’s Court made Cabbage Mallung. She explains that mallung is a Sri Lankan dish combining a vegetable with freshly shredded coconut. I like how she says the coconut can transform cabbage into a "Wow! What Is This? dish." Nice!

Haalo from Cook (Almost) Anything at Least Once (and this blog event's organizer) focuses on broccoli this week with Broccoli Leek and Taleggio Roll. This looks delightfully savory--it makes perfect sense to me to put "stinky" taleggio with broccoli, which has its own strengths, all in a filo roll. I love how Haalo also describes the "wonderful aroma" this makes while baking. Yum!

From Ontario, Canada, Jerry of Jerry's Thoughts, Musings and Rants made Ann's Salmon on a Bed of Lentils. The focus here is on lentils (hooray!). Jerry says his first instinct was to use rice, but that his final choice of lentils made the dish just delicious--and healthy too! He includes a great section on the fabulousness of lentils.

From Valsorda, Italy, Brii from Brii's Blog in English made Rose Vinegar. She says that where she lives, roses are in bloom in April and May and that a particularly perfumed one is perfect for this recipe. I swoon at the scent of roses, so this sounds just incredible. (I also love the story of Brii's day that precedes the recipe!)

From Italy, Cinzia from Cindystar made Asparagus Milanese. I think the simplicity of this preparation would really bring out the best in this spring's asparagus, but it also looks like a very filling meal! I like that it is described as a favorite dish of Julius Caesar.

THANK YOU again to all who took part, and thanks Haalo for organizing! It has been a great experience to "meet" so many inspired cooks and find new blogs to enjoy. If you want to enter, here are the rules for Weekend Herb Blogging from Haalo's site. Next week (April 20-26th) is hosted by Rachel at The Crispy Cook. The "Who's Hosting" page is updated with info on future hosts as well. Cheers and happy cooking and eating!

The cheap and the supercheap

So maybe I mentioned how in love I am with my new iPod nano. It is so cute and sleek. It is easy to use and charge and update. It has games and family photos on it. I am slowly and lovingly crafting the Ultimate Running Mix. I put all my kid's music in one playlist so it's easy to find. And I have rediscovered podcasts.

I first got into podcasts in 2007 with a clunky little mp3 player that has since ceased to communicate with my computer at all. I downloaded a LOT of Manic Mommies and dabbled around with other stuff that seemed interesting based on its iTunes icon. (Note: icons not good indicators of content.) Now that I have the gorgeous iPod interface, it's been a welcome break from audio books to get into podcasts again! Besides Manic Mommies, I of course listen to This American Life, also Scotland's Funny Bits, Behind the Bar Show, and The Splendid Table--"the show for people who love to eat." I am really enjoying this last one and the deep friendly voice of host Lynne Rossetto Kasper solving all our food questions and dilemmas. Apparently this show has been around for ages, but I am only just discovering its joys and the jolly genius of LRK.

So that brings me to food. Turns out that The Splendid Table, in keeping with the times, has a section on their site called "Splendid Cheap Eats." The goal is a panoply of cheap-o recipes that listeners and visitors can use to maybe save some pennies. LRK mentions it on every show, but I never got around to visiting until she described her mouthwatering recipe for 21st Century Mac and Cheese. It sounded so good, I had to try it!

Now for regular visitors, you might remember my Trying to Eat Cheap Series from last November--a series I may pick up again this summer, when I can use fresh produce instead of LENTILS. Eyeballing this mac & cheese recipe, I saw a couple stumbling blocks to my cheap-eating goals. The first is the inclusion of Gruyère cheese. That stuff is just not cheap! I used some American Swiss slices and tore them up into bits as a substitute. Next, "good quality, extra-sharp cheddar" is not very cheap either. However, I think it's an important ingredient taste wise, so I splurged on some Cabot Hunter's Seriously Sharp cheddar. My last issue with this recipe was a purely personal problem--it calls for 12 saltines. I just never eat saltines. But they sounded like a very important ingredient (coated in butter, spread on top, browned, MM!). So I ended up spending $4.39 to get the only size box I could find. That size would be... one pound. My saltine needs are met for the next 3 years!

I whipped up this recipe for dinner a couple nights ago. It was, if not really cheap, really good. Only our smallest family member complained because it was not BRIGHT ORANGE like she thinks all Mac & Cheese should be. (If I make this again, I'll have to investigate using some annatto or something so it looks "normal" to her!) But here's my problem. I had boiled up too much pasta and it didn't fit in my baking dish, so I refrigerated it for some unspecified use. And I bought 8 ounces of cream cheese but only needed 5. Then, I got home a bit later than usual tonight and needed to make dinner pronto for Miss Orange Mac & Cheese. What to do?

I went supercheap.

Here's my emergency recipe. I call it Mac & Cheese with Easter Leftovers.
  • Take several slices of leftover Easter ham. Cut into squares and sauté.
  • Add a generous pat of butter and stir.
  • Add about 1.5 cups of cold whole wheat macaroni.
  • "Crumble" 3 ounces of cream cheese over all. (The Splendid Table uses this verb but it is like crumbling Play-Doh--you tear it into goopy hunks and scatter it, then wash your hands a lot.)
  • Pour in about 1/4 cup of milk.
  • Stir together until heated through, breaking up the cream cheese as you go.
Done. It took me 15 minutes to throw this together and it tasted fabulous. If you don't have Easter ham, some minced slab bacon might do. (I've discovered this recently--all in a hunk, ready to cut, cheaper than slices!) Little One didn't even complain that it wasn't orange. And because it was all made of leftovers that had no real purpose, it was kind of... FREE!

Thanks to Gladys Glover for supporting me in actually trying a Splendid Cheap Eats recipe!

Getting so much better all the time

In the past few weeks this blog has aged 2 years. That's because I finally dug up the old .html files from the previous Blogger edition of this blog, "Writer's block," and added them to the archives of this here version. Writer's block existed from 2002 to 2003 and covers the months when I left my city job and came to the quiet of Vermont. I closed it down sometime in 2003, but obviously couldn't resist the lure of blogging for long! (Blogger deleted my files when I closed my account, but kept my same URL for me. I saved the whole blog using Explorer's handy "scrapbook" feature.) Just a grain of salt warning--I wasn't necessarily thinking of being Safe For Work when I wrote those old entries. I think they are pretty tame though. There's even a recipe or two.

Playlists from recent editions of my fabulous radio show, Beef Jerky Time:

Beef Jerky Time 4*1*09
  • There's a New Sound: Tony Burello
  • 123456789101112 Barbie Dolls: Pizzicato 5
  • Boom Boom: Raffi
  • Sheik of Araby: Spike Jones
  • Panda Riot: Our Hour
  • Escaping the Game Grid: Technicolor
  • That's Not My Name: The Ting Tings
  • Wanna Be Startin' Something: Michael Jackson
  • Hold Music (Max Tundra remix): Architecture in Helsinki
  • In the New Year: The Walkmen
  • Lights Out: Santigold
  • Let Me Know: Róisín Murphy
  • Mirror in the Bathroom: English Beat
Beef Jerky Time 4*8*09
  • Incredible Hulk theme
  • [untitled]: Hot Chip
  • 27,000,000 de Mecs: Lina
  • S.O.S.: Figurine
  • Duality: The Martial Arts
  • Kids: MGMT
  • Wet & Rusting: Menomena
  • My Night with the Prostitute from Marseille: Beirut
  • I Hope I Become a Ghost: Deadly Syndrome
  • Cable TV: Fol Chen
  • The Only Man in Town: Moose
  • Long Way Home: Mike & Ruthy
  • I Knew You Would Go: Aden
  • Warm Tears: Alsace
  • Paris is Burning (Cut Copy remix): Ladyhawke

Happy Easter!

To me, Easter is about the (temporary) permanence of spring, which is indisputable no matter what your religious background. I get really excited about Easter and have been busy planning and shopping for days! I like the renewal and fertility symbolism of the lilies, eggs, bunnies, and, um, chocolates. So I was up at the crack of dawn (or as some would say, 6:50) making coffee cake for my family to start the day off right. It's a sour cream coffee cake, from a recipe my mom has been making my whole life.

After a mellow morning that passed blissfully slow since I got up so early, we invited family over for a "finger food brunch." My idea was to have a bunch of hors d'ouevres and small plates and sit around chatting rather than a more formal sit-down meal. My contribution was mini crabcakes. I found the recipe in the April 2009 bon appetit. They were really fun to make and tasted fantastic. (I even invested in a mini muffin pan.) Definitely will try again for my future appetizer needs. This is the best of a bad series of pictures of them.

Gramma & Grampa brought a yummy ham and Grandmaman brought a nice selection of rustic breads, plus some boucheron, so we could make hearty ham sandwiches. Here's the Easter table (below) before we got started. You can see in the front left I enlisted my trusty whisky glasses to hold our favorite Temeraire dijon mustard plus some cornichons. (Those brown eggs are dyed with onion skins by the way. I need to learn how to do that! They reminded me so much of another happy Easter day with some good friends in Ontario. Love you KvH!)

Also Grampa brought some special, fresh kielbasa. It was delicious and served with horseradish. (I took a picture as fast as I could, but it was already mostly gone by then!)

For drinks we had white wine, and I also bought a prosecco to make Hibiscus Bubbles. I read about this over at Papawow and made the hibiscus extract (basically simple syrup infused with hibiscus flowers for 20 minutes) on Saturday. I think it was a hit! The hibiscus made a nice counterpoint to the sparkling wine. It seemed (and looked) like an herbal kir.

There was also dessert! In keeping with my "mini" theme, Great Aunt C brought small tartlet shells with a custardy lemon filling, and also tiny tartlets with piped chocolate. The combination was so good, I kept going back and forth from the cool soft lemon to the burly richness of chocolate. And fresh berries were a little hint of all the harvest goodness that's coming our way. It all starts today. Enjoy the bounty that is New England from April to October! (Sorry, Ma, couldn't resist stealing your "6 good months" theory!)

The Tap Room, Brattleboro VT

It feels odd trying to write up The Tap Room because it's related to our "local," the Flat Street Brew Pub. (By "local" I mean that Flat Street is our default drinking establishment where we go hang out as often as possible.) So just know that this is a biased review because we love it already.

Anyway, the Flat Street Brew Pub, at 6 Flat Street in Brattleboro, Vermont, opened about 3 years ago. It is a wonderful room with a good vibe. Cool artwork by local artists. Great drinks selection including beers from the Berkshire Brewing Company (Steel Rail Pale Ale is my favorite). And couches. Snagging one of the 2 couches makes me feel like I'm living in the city again--totally VIP. So it happens that the pub has a lower floor that has been generally out of use. It's housed various food and entertainment establishments over the years. It seems like a perfect night-club spot because it's essentially a basement encased in concrete, and thus could really CRANK the music without bothering anybody. But it still feels open, not like a bunker. I like the windows all along the southern wall--one storey below the street. They look right out on the Whetstone Brook making its last dash to the Connecticut River.

Now, the downstairs space has been totally renovated and redone. The bar has moved from one end of the room to the other. A dark hallway was opened up to become part of the main room. And as a former restaurant, The Tap Room has something the upstairs pub lacked--a kitchen. So basically, my favorite bar has expanded and it now includes another bar and a restaurant. We were really excited to get an invite to the "soft opening" last weekend of this refurbished space. Here's the (blurry) space on our first night there, looking toward the bar, after most of the diners had left.

At the soft opening we were invited to pick anything from the menu. They have starters, salads, burgers, entrées, and kid's stuff. The beer list seems a lot longer downstairs than upstairs--nice. I even saw a lambic on there! Given free rein over the menu, we decided to go for burgers, since that's what we would order if we were paying for it ourselves. We also each got one other course. My fellow diner had the house salad--he thought the portion was great (he is a big salad lover, so that means there was a lot!). From my spot it looked like a fine mix of interesting greens plus a side of balsamic vinaigrette. Basic. Good. I went for the shrimp cocktail--like most of my female relatives, I never pass up shrimp. The cocktail sauce was really good, nice and horseradish-y. I was a bit confused by it being served on a chiffonade of lettuce. Don't recall having seen that in a shrimp cocktail before, but it seemed fine. My helpful suggestion: serve the cocktail on a plate so diners have a place to put the shrimp tails.

For my burger, I had the "Texas in Vermont." The menu said it had Texas chili on it and Vermont cheddar cheese. It was pretty good, but when I hear the word "Texas" I expect to be tormented by spicy heat. The chili was fine, but did not pack any punch. Also I am not completely sure that Texas chili is supposed to have beans in it. But bean chili is what I'm used to, so I'm not complaining. This photo is probably a little TOO close up.

My fellow diner had a Cobb Burger, which had bacon, guacamole and bleu cheese on it, except he had them hold the bleu cheese. (Crazy!) He liked it fine, but it seemed like he wanted just a plain burger with nothing fancy on it at all. The menu only had specialty burgers.

Other notes: Fellow diners told us the conch fritters were great. We also heard good things about the lobster ravioli. (There's a mushroom ravioli, too.) Also, the fries at this place are killer. They are not French fries, they're pub fries--super salty, kind of floppy in a great, melting, savory way. We went back to The Tap Room a week later and got 2 baskets of these fries as an appetizer before heading home for dinner. Totally delicious. We're looking forward to a lot of happy evenings here!