Archive for February, 2009

Eat more cheese and save a farm!!!
February 25, 2009

Eat more cheese, darn it!!

Eat more cheese, darn it!!

You may have noticed story in the Baltimore Sun this morning…about how many Maryland dairy farmers are on the edge of going under, because the price of milk has plummeted drastically…because of the combination of  several global events. Now I know what you’re thinking…hey, I like the the fact that milk is cheaper….buzz off ! And while I get that, I think you’ll agree, the idea of family dairy farms going out of business, and families selling off entire herds and the land they’re on for yet more development is odious. It is to me anyway.

Chapel’s Country Creamery  in Easton, is one such farm…the Foster family (Eric and Holly and their four children) are hanging on to their farm, by their fingernails. They had to sell two cows to slaughter already, and more may need to go. One bright spot for the Foster’s is Holly Foster’s brilliant idea to make artisan cheese…so one-tenth of their milk heads to Pennsylvania…because you can make raw milk cheese there…and the milk contains no antibiotics, no chemicals…just lovely fresh milk.  They oversee the process from start to finish. Until I read the story, I had forgotten I bought some of Holly’s cheese at the St. Michael’s  Food and Wine Festival last year….they sell their cheeses there, and at various farmer’s markets, and some stores, and some restaurants who are part of the local food movement (you can find where online or order online at the link above)….and let me tell you, the Chapelle Cave Aged Cheese was “udderly” delicious. Sorry.

So how about it? Make a difference in someone’s life today, and do yourself a favor at the same time. You and I can’t do diddly about the price of milk, but we can buy cheese from the farm. And help out a Maryland family when they could use it. And save a beautiful farm from more houses dotting the bucolic landscape of the Eastern Shore. And eat some fabulous cheese. Put some in that mac and cheese recipe I gave you last week. Moo.

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Brownbag 911!!(And free coffee)
February 24, 2009

 

My mac & cheese(Smore brownies in back)!

My mac & cheese(S'more brownies in back)!

 

I’m so glad some of you tried the mac & cheese recipe over the weekend…this review in from Sandy: 

Tried that mac and cheese this weekend. It was oh so very creamy! I liked it but it was a bit sharp for my familiy’s taste. I think next time I will swap out a bag (or 2) of the sharp cheddar with regular cheddar. But the consistency was lovely and it was even better the second day for leftovers. Be prepared and mix in a big bowl because this makes alot! Thanks for the recipe.” 

  

She’s right…it makes a gi-normous dish of mac & cheese….But I digress….the lovely Jennifer(my sons fiance) who sent the Mac and Cheese recipe to me, along with the “Osculator” for running an Oscar pool, sent me a brown bag 911 email today….her company recently  moved from Manhattan, where she lives, to New Jersey…to save money on rent, naturally. And while Jen is very grateful to have a job, you also have to acknowledge a loss…and the challenges involved…and move on….here’s part of what she wrote:  

 

 “ I have gone from an office to a cubicle, and the only places to grab lunch are Subway and Au Bon Pain!  Dont worry, I did not write you to depress you, I wrote you because I need help.  I need lunch packing ideas that are healthy and recession worthy. XOXO

Jenny in Jersey” 

Reporter Tim Tootens brown bag luinch-so healthy!

Reporter Tim Tooten's brown bag luinch-so healthy!

That girl is funny….and be honest…if you head over to Subway every day, you’ll easily spend $40-$50 bucks a week! Since Jen is really learning  her way around a kitchen…she and my son cook most nights, why not plan ahead? So I put it to readers….any ideas on delicious, healthy, and recession worthy brown bag ideas to carry from home? I’ll go first: Here’s mine….  

Whenever I find red peppers on sale(every few weeks or so they can be found for $1.99 a pound, sometimes only $.99!)…I buy lots and roast them in the oven. How? Wash and core the peppers, cut them into quarters. Toss with olive oil and salt, place a single layer on cookie sheet, bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. Sometimes I flip them over and give them another 5-10 minutes…they should have a little charing on the edges. You can freeze them or just store in frig. They elevate any sandwich to gourmet category. And on cheesy scrambled eggs(also a cheap great dinner)? Fugeddaboudit.  

Back to my lunch suggestion….roast a whole chicken on the weekend, Jen…you won’t eat it all…take the leftovers off the bone and refrigerate. Your sandwich: on whole wheat bread(you said healthy)…put roasted chicken, provolone cheese(or chevre?), and roasted peppers, with a little dijon mustard. Cheap, delicious, and healthy. Ideas, people, ideas?? And here’s the carrot…the person with the best brown bag lunch idea…(I’ll let Jen decide), will win a $25 Starbucks gift card. No strings attached. I’ll just mail it to you. How’s that for easy coffee?       

 

 

And Jen, let me tell you, working here on tv hill, I know all about having nothing around you….there is nothing here within walking distance…if you want lunch, you either go out and get it or bring it from home, like Tim Tooten. No Starbucks around the corner either. When I think about it…that also probably saves me loads of money!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A Mac & Cheese Osculator Party??
February 20, 2009

Earlier this week, I received the lovely Jennifer’s Excel Rainman newsletter ( which kept her up until the wee hours putting together)…and it has a great idea for your Academy Awards party, if you’re having one, or just a way to play a pool….either way, fun. Plus she sent me a great recipe for mac and cheese you could serve(which I made last night….fabulous)….a recession Oscar party!! It’s down below. Don’t say I never gave you anything .  

Dear Donna,

 

Whether you have seen all of the movies nominated for Best Picture or not… it is more fun to get involved when there are stakes!
 
Help jump start your OSCAR party with The ExcelRainMan OSCulator (Get it? OSCAR + Calculator… OSCulator!).  This tricked out spreadsheet will allow you to host your very own OSCAR Pool… well virtually at least. Send out The ExcelRainMan OSCulator Ballots to your competitive crew and then use the OSCulator to keep track of their selections.  Let our OSCulator do the work of tallying up the results on OSCAR night so you can get back to enjoying the crudite and long-winded accptance speeches!   
 
The ExcelRainMan OSCulator can be downloaded for FREE from the Tips & Tricks section at ExcelRainMan.com.  Instructions are also provided to help you dominate this terrific tool!
 
 
Check out the latest free tips, tricks and goodies from the ExcelRainMan team and improve your spreadsheeting skillz today!!  All goodies (templates) are free for the 1st month after release, after which they will be available for the modest price of $5.00 each.
Thanks,
Jen

 Ok, here’s the recipe for Mike Malin’s mac and Cheese….(as given to me)

3 normal size bags shredded sharp cheddar, 1 bag shredded mozzarella, 1 big container cottage cheese, 1 regular size sour cream, 1 box macaroni, 1 egg(optional)

Pre-heat over to 350 degrees. Cook Macaroni as per instructions and drain. Mix 2 bags of the cheddar, the mozzarella, cottage cheese, sour cream (low cal this dish!), and raw egg, if you use it, then mix macaroni with cheese mix.. put in cassarole and sprinkle the other cheddar over the top (as much as you can)….bake in oven with NO cover for 25-30 minutes. You want the top to be browning….so it has a little crispy top. You know what I mean.

Mike says you really can’t go wrong with this one. Jennifer seconds that thought…I third it!! I thought about suggesting you add some lobster if you’re feeling really flush, but our chief photog just passed by and said, “Hey…that’s just ruining a good lobster, or a good mac and cheese. That’s taking comfort food and making it Phooffy food…” While there is no definition for phooffy food, I catch his drift. Dump the lobster idea. Stick with the mac and cheese.

One Smart Fortune Cookie!!
February 19, 2009

A treasure chest of gourmet fortune cookies!

A treasure chest of gourmet fortune cookies!

Yesterday on Eleven News at Five (and if you weren’t watching, shame…)you might remember a lovely woman named Angela Newman, mother of two cute kids, who had lost her job and thus, her precious health insurance. It’s a bad pickle to be in, especially when you have young children. Lisa Robinson’s story was about how there is help out there (and the new stimulus package will be picking up 65 % of the cost of  Cobra for nine months for those who are out of work)…..and you might have heard Lisa mention that Angela had started a small business, selling gourmet fortune cookies. She kindly brought a few luscious delectables back for me, and now, I pass the favor along to you.

Sweet Fortunes  is the name of Angela’s company…..she got the idea from her Mother’s 60th birthday….everthing was all planned celebrating her Chinese culture (some great family pictures online)…but Angela couldn’t come up with a party favor….so, necessity being the mother of invention….she dipped fortune cookies in chocolate, and boom, everybody wanted to buy some. Hmmmm, if chocolate is good, why not cinnamon apple strudel, or butterscotch, or key lime pie, or orange soda or toasted coconut….you get the scrumptious idea.

Cinnamon apple strudel on top, eggnog below....

Cinnamon apple strudel on top, eggnog below....

And so Angela  has several “assortment dozens” , from Child’s Play featuring bubble gum and  ice cream flavors, to Happy Hour Mixers, with Brandy and Irish Cream. I had a couple of the dark chocolate ones last night….yummo! And she can do custom orders for weddings or retirement parties or birthdays, complete with special order fortunes inside….in fact Angela told me, “Custom fortunes are about 80 % of my business!”

What a great idea for a new small business…this is one MBA smartie who is isn’t just counting on good fortune…she’s making it…fortune cookie by fortune cookie. Good luck Angela….

P.S. Angela’s cookies are also available at Eddie’s of Roland Park!!

HEIRLOOM SPARKLERS!!
February 16, 2009

My Moms Austrian crystal earrings....

My Mom's Austrian crystal earrings....

You know, I never properly thanked all of you who wrote when I was in Birmingham, helping my sisters move my Mom into assisted living, so let me do it now….thanks for all the kind thoughts and stories of your own…I enjoyed all of them .

Her move meant yet another downsizing…a big one….which also means finding  new homes for lots and lots of stuff. Including the earrings in the picture. Both my sisters urged them on me, saying, “You take them….you wear jewelry a lot and we don’t!!”….that’s not really true, but anyway,  I ended up with them. And a necklace that goes with them. I made a point to call my Mom this morning to let her know I was wearing them today….she had confided to my sister the other day, “I just don’t know what happened to all my things…”and maybe we were wrong not to do it all in front of her, but we were trying to protect her from the dismantling of her life’s possessions…but perhaps she should have been witness, so she did know where things ended up. But that moment is gone now.

So I did call this morning and let her know I had them on…she said, “Oh, I’m so glad! I remember your Father and I were in Chattanooga Tennessee, and we passed by this shop with Austrian crystal jewelry on sale. I got a necklace and earring set for me and one for Katie Mae  (my paternal grandmother). I don’t know what happened to her earrings, she did wear them sometimes. But I remember buying those…”  And there is a matching necklace, which Mom always liked wearing with a black dress, as it set off the sparkle nicely. I haven’t had a chance to wear it yet, but I will. And my mother knows where at least one more thing is…and perhaps you can see them sparkle on the air tonight at five, and now you know where they come from….see you then!

A Cassoulet Valentine??
February 12, 2009

Wish you could smell the garlic and pork.....ummmmm

Wish you could smell the garlic and pork.....ummmmm

I know what you’re thinking….a  bean cassarole for Valentine’s Day?? Mon dieu, absolutement non!…..but hear me out. A cassoulet is beans, elevated to an art form, really. A seriously luscious, scrumptious, rich, one dish meal, delicioso love letter from France. I made one last Saturday, luckily before illness struck(and thanks to all of you for the nice get well replies…they did make me feel better). My cassoulet, while not the classic version as it did not contain duck, was nonetheless….excellent, and less expensive to make. If  you are looking for a truly classic version of cassoulet, try a variation of one by Julia child….that woman could cook, no doubt.

But basically, you’re talking about white beans like Great Northern or Cannellini(you can use canned beans to make things quicker, but the dish is much less expensive if you cook your own dried beans a day ahead)….pork sausages…I used the spicy D’Artangnan Andouille, which cost more but you could also use Kielbasa, and I believe it would be just as good…the classic version calls for duck confit….(I always dream of making it but never have)…I left it out in my version which I adapted from a Williams Sonoma slow cooker version …theirs was adapted from Chef Thomas Keller of the famous French Laundry Restaurant’s version. As you can see, cassoulet is a much adapted dish, and you can create your own version too, as long as you stick to the basics. The recipe also calls for pork shoulder…a tres’ cheap cut of meat, often less than a buck a pound, that is cooked until it’s so tender it can be cut with a fork. And smokey bacon. And garlic. And chicken broth and bread crumbs. Tomatoes. The classic version uses bread crumbs on top for a crust, mine used crisped slices of French Bread, which was delicious. And I made mine all in one day, but as we only ate, maybe, a fourth of it, and since cassoulet tastes better when it is reheated,….it will resurface this weekend. What to serve with it? Not much really, it is a meal in itself, but I’d  suggest a simple salad with a sharp vinaigrette, perhaps with orange slices? Anything more would be silly. Tell me if you try a cassoulet, or have done so. I just love cassoulet, and you will too.

Juicing semi-petrified Clementines....

Juicing semi-petrified Clementines....

Oh, and I had about 8 or 9 Clementine tangerines starting to petrify in a bowl in the living room…While some of them were eaten, the rest now looked like something best avoided…you know what I’m sayin’….I was perilously close to throwing them in the trash or down the disposal, when I thought, maybe the juices inside are still good….so, I juiced them. So sweet…that Clementine juice made two  very fine Clementine vodka martinis.

Tales from the Sofa…..
February 10, 2009

I know exactly what happened, and the moment. Last Friday, I was getting my hair cut, and I remarked (ok bragged)to the stylist, “I haven’t been sick or even had a cold all winter!” Even as the words came out of my mouth, I was thinking, “That is bad luck saying that.” And sure enough, Sunday afternoon, my throat was feeling scratchy, and I was sneezing like crazy. Allergy? Hmmmmm. But Monday morning I got up, and when coffee didn’t taste its usual ambrosial self, I knew something was going on. The only time coffee doesn’t taste fabulous in the morning, is when I’m sick. Plus all my joints were achy, and my throat was sore….back to bed. And today, I was hoping the morning would bring that fabulous feeling of whatever it was having left the premises of my body…know that feeling? I feel good again! But no, more of the same….I’m starting to wonder if I haave some version of the flu…even though I had a flu shot.

So I’m watching inordinate amounts of tv….tried a movie I admittedly ordered from Netflix that has been floating around the house for weeks….(meaning no one wants to watch it)…until now, called Young at Heart, about a group of elderly British people who travel around giving concerts where they cover rock favorites. “They can’t get no… satisfaction.”It isn’t as fascinating as it sounds, but I may give it another try later…it did get good reviews. So now I’m nappping on and off to a dvd of Agathie Christie’s Death on the Nile, starring David Niven and Peter Ustinov,even Bettie Davis!  Anyway, I’ve become glued to the sofa, and Baby Girl is good comppany, not to mention a great foot warmer. I’m hoping to be much better tomorrow….I wanted to tell you about a wonderful French cassoulet I made Saturday when things were better…so good and so cheap to make! Got to go….my hot tea needs sipping.

Phelps Phired….Marijuana or Money??
February 6, 2009

A chastened Michael Phelps, talks to 11 News...

A chastened Michael Phelps, talks to 11 News...

It seemed for a couple of days as if the greatest Olympic Champion of all time might escape  serious repercussions for a serious lapse of judgement, captured for all eternity by a cell phone, no doubt. There he was, 23 year  old Michael Phelps, winner of eight gold medals, taking a hit of weed off a bong. But the chickens are coming home to roost, as my Mother might say….late last night, the Olympic Committee announced they were suspending Phelps for 3 months, which means he won’t get his $1700 monthly training stipend…not that that means a great deal to him…he is a multi-millionaire,  but the 3 month suspension from competeting no doubt hurts. Even more painful,  his first sponsor has announced they are dropping himKellogg’s said at the end of the month, they will no longer need Michael Phelps to smile on front of their cornflakes boxes. That hurts a lot worse, of course, and no doubt his management team is hoping other sponsors like Speedo and Omega watches(who have so far said they would stand by him) won’t follow suit. But here’s the thing….Michael P. made this decision super-easy for Kellogg’s. And maybe…just maybe…dropping him is not as much about his recreational drug use, as it is a financial decision. Let’s say Kellogg’s is feeling the same crunch (financial not Sugar Frosted Flakes), and they, like many companies are looking to reduce their costs. Quick board meeting among top execs….”here’s how you can save some big money”…and wow…done…over…kaput. All it takes is  quick phone call, and Kellogg’s has improved the bottom line.

Which sadly leads me to something that has been rattling around in my brain for a while. This January, employers lopped off 598,000 jobs. As in, over a half a million people lost their paycheck…the worst since 1974. Here’s my question(and sometimes the question is more important than the answer)….how many of those companies laid off people because they had to…and how many fired workers as a kneejerk reaction to the recession…or, even worse,  I find this hard to even put this in print because it horrifies me….how many are cutting people because they will NEVER have a better opportunity. I know. But when your boss says, “Hey I’m really, really sorry to let you go, but it’s the economy, you know? I have no choice.” And you my unhappy friend, have no choice but to believe him or her. It is the perfect downsizing cover. Know what I’m saying? When I have mentioned this wonderful, awful idea to a few people, they look at me shocked, and say(usually), “I never thought about it like that.”

We’ll never know really, until maybe years and years and years down the road, when some people reveal with a guilty conscience, that they cleared out some deadwood, unproductive workers,  someone they didn’t like, or fired 100 people  just to save a few bucks…. people they could have kept. And you don’t look like Scrooge!! But you just made the economy so much worse. I hope I’m wrong, but I fear I’m not. And Michael Phelps is not exempt from this kind of thing…just better able to take the blow than most.

You can watch our exclusive interview raw footage, Michael Phelps with WBAL reporter Kate Amara…right here.

FABULATION….A FABLE WHOSE TIME HAS COME
February 5, 2009

She wont need those Jimmy Choos anymore...

She won't need those Jimmy Choo's anymore...

Ever heard of a fabulation? Me either…..but a fabulation is a fable that reveals some moral truth…that “chronicles a journey in which the expected is expected”. And Fabulation, or the Re-education of Undine, now playing at Center Stage, is journey that many Americans are already on themselves, one they did not foresee. I doubt author Lynn Nottage could have foreseen the meltdown of the economy when this play was commissioned in 2003, and the much traveled road of downward mobility that many are experiencing today when she wrote Fabulation, but wow, does it hit the mark in 2009.

Undine is a strong, extremely successful African American woman who has disowned her lower working class family from Brooklyn…changed her name, hasn’t seen them in years, and doesn’t want to. It is only a fall from grace and her big bank account that puts her on a path where she has no other choice but than return to them. Funny, profane (I hope the f-bomb doesn’t bother you), and with a fabulous cast and staging….you really get your money’s worth  from this play. Great and inventive staging….I just loved it…and watch for actress Lizan Mitchell who plays the a junkie Grandma and an inmate in jail….hilarious…and touching. She has the sad little spidery movements of someone elderly, nailed.

Tickets start at $15….weeknights anyway, and while that is more than a movie….it is money well spent.

And if you’re looking for an inexpensive, good place to grab a bite to eat beforehand…well, home is cheapest, but if you’re going out….you can try Iggie’s Pizza, just up Calvert Street. My favorite pizza  is the Alice…pesto, goat cheese and fresh tomatoes…omigod it’s soooo good. They have a great spinach salad too, and Mac and cheese…and the place is byob. Big moneysaver. Iggie’s is pretty much self service…no tipping, but they have a jar where money is donated to the charity of the month…this month it’s  CASA…a group that protects children who are not safe living with their families.

Fabulous Fabulation and fabulous pizza….what’s not to like?

Reclaiming My Zen……
February 3, 2009

Can you hear the trickling water??

Can you hear the trickling water??

Ooooohhmmmmmmmm…..come on, say it with me lotus blossom, eyes closed….oooohhhmmmmmmmm. Well, it’s a start.  You know, at the beginning of this new year, with the economy in the crapper, and everyone a little anxious, and nervous, and…well…a little crabby it must be said, I realized I need to reclaim my zen. Get back that little peaceful feeling inside that no matter what, all is well. Or at least ok…pretty much ok. I realized that for sure after reading a reply to my post about the Superbowl and CNBC’s Maria Bartelomo giving us bad news during SuperBowl coverage…normally a happy occasion, to which I took exception.  One person who clearly needs some zen had a serious lashout…..and bless Courtney for taking up for me. She wrote “Whoa…sounds like someone is having a bad day.” So, clearly I, AND OTHERS WHO WRITE IN ALL CAPS need a soothing dose of  living in harmony.

Anyway, I’ve been trying reclaim my zen by getting back to yoga, at a new studio I found in Mt. Washington called Ojas….I really like it. Ojas(which also has other locations) has a real zen vibe….very pretty,  smells really good like you’re having aromatherapy just walking in, and they don’t do hot yoga, which I intensely dislike(sorry, I just don’t like it). Ojas also has mat pilates classes  and for those truly inspired they also offer The Reformer.

Ummmm....let the goodness blossom....

Ummmm....let the goodness blossom....

And massage and facials….none of which  have I tried….but the classes have been great,  I adore their lovely bathrooms, and after class you can make yourself a free cup of delicious Yogi teaummm, a nice cup of hot tea after yoga(love the Sweet Mexican Chili) is soooo soothing.  And their prices are right… important today… in fact you can take two introductory classes of mat pilates or yoga for just 10 bucks. Good deal.

Calm, comfort, relaxation, zen….say it with me now lotus blossom…Oooohhmmmmmmmmmmm……