Archive for August, 2010

Escaping the Zombie Apocolypse…a new kind of crabfeast…
August 31, 2010

Crab Feast Time!!

I told you I was going to my friend Elise’s annual birthday crabfeast….and this year it was a real extravaganza of crabs, great wine, a groaning board of salads and cheeses (and Alabama Caviar of course)….tomatoes featured prominently as one might imagine and good Eastern Shore corn.  It’s always a great time, but the “speakers” made this year really different. 

Marta Quintana of Havana Road...

How better to start than with a demonstration of the easiest paella ever made? I love paella…the classic seafood, sausage, and saffron rice dish… and have made it more than a few times, but let’s be honest, it’s a labor of  love…emphasis on the labor. You need all the ingredients and some time blocked out  to put together a good paella. Marta Quintana of Havana Road Products did it the easy way. Her motto is “Fresca, siempre fresca!” And everything is simply fresh. 

Smarty Pants on TED....

I almost lost my thermodynamic equilibrium when I heard the talk about Escaping the Coming Zombie Apocalypse….from which I took away two things… get thee to a Costco, as you could live for a long time in there-they have everything you need…food, water, camping supplies, clothing…you name it, and key thing to have …baseball bats to protect your turf…and 2. I have to get one of these computers called Sixth Sense that will hang around your neck and PROJECT a dialing pad on your hand to call someone. Here’s a Link to the inventor Pranav Mistry on TED-Ideas Worth Spreading, which if you’ve never heard of  TED, is fascinating in itself(tho you might want to fast forward about 5 minutes in Pranav’s talk-slow at first).

I wish I had more pics for you but I started having a really good time and photographing it kinda escaped me…you know how it is. And I’ve long ago stopped taking tons of pictures on vacation and stuff… because I find if you’re busy photographing something, you’re not really experiencing it. Yes, you  have the physical evidence that it happened, but a camera puts a buffer between you and what you’re seeing and hearing. You’ve gone from participator to observer. But I digress….here’s the Lazy Girl’s Paella recipe below.

3 16 ounce containers Havana Road Rice Ensalada
1 16 ounce container Havana Road Mojo Verde
1 16 ounce container Havana Road Cuban Salsa
1 bottle Chardonnay
1/2 lb clams
1/2 lb mussels
1/2 lb large shrimp peeled and deveined
1/2 lb large scallops
1 8 ounce jar peas–or fresh better
1/2 cup minced roasted red peppers-in a pinch use pimentos
In a deep pan saute the Rice Ensalada with 1/4 Mojo Verde, 1 tsp. paprika and 1 tablespoon Cuban Salsa-when hot , put a lid on it and let it sit.
In a large skillet, add 1 cup Mojo Verde, 2 cups white wine, and add the cleaned clams and mussels–stir and cover with a lid for 5-6 minutes until they open.
Brown the scallops in a small skillet with with 1/4 cup Mojo Verde and 1/2 cup wine. Add the shrimp and cook for 2- 3 minutes until pink. Transfer all the seafood to the skillet with the mussels and clams. Stir 1/2 cup of Havana Road Salsa in gently. Fold in the rice, top with green peas and roasted red peppers. Buen Provecho:)

Doesn't this look delicious...and it was...

Friday 411….
August 27, 2010

I'm eating cereal, on chipmunk watch.

 Did I hear you say IT’S FRIDAY?? That’s right, it is my friends….hollah!! I started the morning on chipmunk watch….I have the cutest little Chip and Dale living in a stone wall by my back porch….at least I think there are two of them. I put out sunflower seeds and when I’m lucky, I can watch them stuff their little cheeks full of seeds, and then scramble off to unload. Extra care has to be taken not to let Muffy out, as she seems to know where they hang their furry little hats. 

Chocolate Caramel Sea Salt Tarts....hello lover.

  Had to make an Atwater’s Bakery run midday, to pick up the most divine chocolate caramel sea salt tarts….I mean seriously, they are to die for. I’m hauling them over to the Eastern Shore tomorrow for a birthday party/crab feast…and while it is a party…there are also speakers!

16 Mile Microbrews..

As in…someone talking about and demonstrating Cuban food,  talk and tasting of 16 Mile Brewery amazing microbrews, someone from the Newseum talking about news and how it affects my life(ok, I may take a break on this one…as I already know the answer)….but sounds like fun, yes? All the while sipping a little wine and eating some appies…what’s not to like? 

Alabama Caviar...delish and easy...

And then crabs at 6:00. Done and done. This party is thrown by my food loving  friend Elise, who is the creator of the website Chesapeake Foodie-here’s a link…and when you see it you’ll know, I can’t just haul over any old crap. It has to be good, especially if I don’t make it myself. I may also put together some Alabama Caviar-here’s a recipe….black-eyed peas with onions, red peppers, and sweet corn tossed with Italian dressing. It’s really good…not fancy but a real crowd pleaser. So that’s it for me….hope all of you have a lovely weekend… be nice, don’t throw rocks and come home safe, ’cause we miss you!

Aren’t we all missing a bit of our wings?
August 26, 2010

Butterfly that had a narrow escape...from something!

I was out watering the garden this morning, when I spotted this butterfly(an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail…I looked it up!)  on one of my butterfly bushes( they’re not called that for nothing)….and I couldn’t believe my eyes. This beautiful little critter was missing almost half of one of his gorgeous wings, yet was flying around and feeding on the blossoms as if nothing had happened. Obviously, something had…this gorgeous creature had a narrow escape from something…I hope it wasn’t at the paws of my cat Muffy, who I try to keep inside but is very cagey at slipping out around your legs..

This butterfly is also missing a bit of her wings...

 It made me think of many of us(all of us?) who walk around…missing part of our wings in one way or another…lost someone dear to us, going through a divorce(even getting millions of dollars as Elin Nordegren would tell you, doesn’t heal a hole in the heart-though it doesn’t hurt), have a child who’s really sick or really unhappy(as my friend says, you’re only as happy as your least happy child), lost a job, losing your home,  worried about aging parents….the list goes on and on. 

 I doubt you’ll pass anyone today who is totally happy and completely secure…that’s the aura most of us like to transmit…and many of us do it quite well. Yet we all(yes, me too) have that little thorn in our heart about something…a little bit of our wing is missing. Yet my little wounded butterfly does the best it can with what it has….the wing will never magically grow back obviously…but life goes on. The sun is still warm on the butterfly’s wings, and the nectar of the flower still tastes sweet, so life is still good, right? Just a thought for all of us….

Sunday Night Dinners…..
August 23, 2010

Sunday evening dinner...supper as my Mom would say...

I adore Sunday evening dinners….or suppers, as my late Mother would have called them. She rarely used the word dinner…in the south, especially on Sunday, dinner was served around 1:00 after church let out….and later that evening, you had supper. But however you refer to it….I adore the meal. It’s a lovely, informal time to have friends or family over. You can respectably and without comment,  start early…5 or six, no later. After all, people have to get up and go to work the next day(and let’s be honest…secretly want to watch Mad Men and the fabulousness of Don Draper when they get home-or after their guests leave). And my daughter is fond of trip-tropping over to hang out a little on Sunday, get some free food, and do her laundry without having to pay her weight in quarters to the machines at her apartment…you know the drill. We of course, adore seeing her, and figure good food and free laundry is a small price for her company.

Tomato away....

This past Sunday evening, as promised, I made the tomato risotto, complete with roasted tomatoes and garlic, served with some sautéed shrimp on the side and roasted green beans. The risotto wasn’t difficult…or not any more than any risotto is. It does require some attention at the stove, stirring and stirring and stirring as the rice absorbs the wine and then the hot broth….but that’s about it. I don’t really measure the amount I put in…I just keep adding liquid and cooking until the rice is just cooked(not too much!).

The finished result.....dinnertime...

Shrimp sauteing...and I boiled the shells in the broth for flavor...

 One does want a little  protein, and Whole Foods had these lovely wild shrimp, which  I sauteed with some olive oil and spices…simple. Needed something green(besides sprigs of thyme)….roasted green beans filled the bill…you know how I love Roasted Veges of all varities. Loved it all.

Oh, and Saturday night, I made a Vegetable Gratin that I hadn’t prepared in a long time. Only this time I used an OXO Mandoline that my  Mom gave me a couple of years ago. It is definitely a keeper of a gadget to have around…

My OXO mandoline!!

 Here’s the terrible part….it was the first time I ever used it.  It’s shameful, really. Mother always loved buying her “girls”,  things she thought they needed or might want, and I so wish I had used it more while she was alive and told her how much I liked it, but….there it is. Some things can’t be undone. And what a shame from a cooking point of view too…because it created the nicest, most even slices of potato and zucchini I’ve ever seen…several passes and it’s done.

Let the layering begin...don't forget the tomatoes...

Layer the potatoes on the bottom of your oiled pan, drizzle with salt and pepper and olive oil….some spices if you like, then zuchini…drizzle…then sliced tomatoes…drizzle…baked at 350 for 45 minutes or so, uncovered. Simple, but delicious. Bon appetit!

ALL THOSE TOMATOES…what to do, what to do…
August 20, 2010

gorgeous, glorious heirlooms....

I can only imagine what it’s like for those of you who grow more than a couple of tomato plants….you must be knee deep in ‘maters(like my Daddy when I was growing up), and no matter how luscious they are….really, what do you do with them all(besides give me some).  OK, here’s my problem, when I go to the Farmer’s Market, I get greedy. It’s true… I see a sizeable basket full of heirloom tomato “seconds”…in other words, they have a small blemish or bruise of some sort and you can get a bunch for not much money….and I just get all… carried…away.

And seconds are usually tomatoes that need to be used pretty darn soon…if one is bruised, you now officially entering  the racing decay countdown sequence…..5…..4….3….2…..ok, it’s rotten. You catch my drift.

Anyone can roast tomatoes...

So one thing I like to do with tomatoes right off the bat(before the coundown has begun) is roast them. If you’ve never done this, get with the program.  Simple…easy…delicious. My daughter is in love with these…warm from the oven, and placed on a thin slice of  French Bread drizzled with oilive oil….it’s a little bit of heaven. 

Here’s what you do….wash and slice your tomatoes into slices, and put them on oiled piece of aluminum foil on a cookie sheet or baking pan.Drizzle with olive oil and whatever spices you like…basil, oregano, sea salt, pepper…all good. And then put them in the oven at 350 degrees for maybe 45 minutes or so(maybe longer), until they start to carmelize  and shrivel a little…this intensifies their flavor. You can keep them in a jar with more olive oil, or even freeze them until later if you like, and they can be used in countless dishes…soups, pastas, almost anything tastes better if you throw some in, and again on bread…they’re a great appetizer.

Tomato risotto...I'm gonna make it!

And I discovered another recipe that I’m gonna try this weekend that calls for roasted tomatoes….Tomato Risotto.  How good does that sounds? It’s just a basic risotto made with chicken broth and wine, garlic and onion and a little cheese thrown in, but add some roasted tomatoes during the process….and then chop some raw tomatoes, toss with basil and put on the top when you serve it….like the picture….pretty and I’ll bet it’s gonna be fabulous!! Have a great weekend everyone…play nice, don’t throw rocks and come home safe…’cause we miss you!

Ways to get your baby to stop crying….
August 18, 2010

Southwest against slapping babies!!

Ok, here’s what always worked for me to stop a baby from crying….to give the baby a swift slap in the face. No, no, no…that wasn’t it….that would only make the baby cry MORE wouldn’t it??!!  With the whole brouhaha over the Southwest Airlines attendant removing a 13 month old from the arms of a mom who just slapped it in the face…I say, bravo lady. Well done.

And there’s been some controversy over whether the airlines should have called the police to be waiting at the gate for this family….why should they not have? The mother said she was upset because the baby kicked her…I’m sorry..a 13 month? Kicked her? Chances are this baby can’t even walk well yet…much less kick her. Here’s  a better scenario…the baby is unhappy over any number of things…wants down, is hungry, needs to be changed…is tired…could be anything. And what do babies do when they are unhappy? They cry. I know this is frustrating and embarrassing when you are that baby’s parent and you are in a confined space where you know your kid’s noise is bothering other people. Been there, got the t-shirt. But news flash….I’ve never seen a baby stop crying because you hit it….hey, that’s when they really let loose.

Hmmmm...where's that crying baby?

And I think all too often, if any of us had passed by this scene ourselves…we would have winced…I would have, because I don’t believe in spanking, and slapping a child in the face is, in my opinion, child abuse. Pure and simple. Because who knows what a parent who will slap a child… in the face…. in public…will do in the privacy of their home. A home in which that child is at the mercy of  his or her parents. But would we have stopped and said something?  Done something? Or just gone on with our day, hoping things got better for the little one?  I can only hope that this altercation will perhaps make these parents think more carefully about how they treat their kids…and while it’s probably too much to ask for, maybe take some parenting classes? Anger management classes? Bravo Southwest flight attendant…you’re my hero of the day.

Blackberry genius…..and Chicken Tagine!
August 17, 2010

Oh, Blackberry. If only I understood you.

I’ve been part of the Blackberry crowd(soooo elite) for some time now…my daughter was totally convinced I needed one, and purchased the Blackberry Curve for my birthday. And she is a certified Blackberry genius….no matter what I need or am having trouble with(the time is wrong, the font is too little, how do I find out what calls I’ve made, etc.), she can steer me in the right direction.

11 News Lisa Robinson and I have the same model BB I think…she came to me a few days ago asking a question I had wondered about too. A feature I loved on my last cell phone was that there was a list of missed calls…on my Curve, that doesn’t seem to exist. Lisa was ranting about the same thing…”Why isn’t there a list of the calls you’ve missed? That’s important! I need to be able to see that!”  So, I dutifully texted my BB guru, and put the question to her….where are the missed calls? Surely they exist somewhere in that little box of technology. But how to access them?

She texted back….”When you push the little green phone for your list of calls…if there’s an x by the call…it’s a missed call.” She refrained from adding…”get it together, dumbo“….which I appreciate. It’s one of the few problems I’ve encountered for which the fix isn’t pulling the battery and hard starting the BB….like when I lost internet service for a week. Not cool.

So Lisa and I look at the call list and sure enough…there by each call that I didn’t get…was a teeny tiny red x. It’s just that we need a magnifying glass to see it. So I then found out how to increase my font size a little…and problem solved.

My version of Chicken Tagine....

Oh, and for you foodies… I made something amazing for dinner last night. I was inspired by a Moroccan chicken tagine(here’s a link for a recipe) I had at a friend’s house Saturday night, so I created my own.  Since I don’t own an actual tagine clay pot like the one in the picture(which supposedly it absorbs  the spice flavors over time and eventually almost self-spices the dish), I suppose mine is a tagine wannabe…..but it was still delicious.

A REAL tagine...

One of the ingredients I had on hand to make it kinda special was saffron…which I really love and while it is the most expensive spice in the world, a pinch goes a long way. The other is a jar of preserved lemons I had made months ago, and were languishing in the back of the fridge. Preserved lemons are simply lemons that have been sliced and preserved in salt and their own juices….super simple to do if you find lemons inexpensively…but it takes of few weeks of curing before they’re ready for use.

Buy some lemons, and preserve away!

  Here’s a recipe, if you want to make them….simple, and they store in the fridge for months. You’ll find they are fabulous is many middle eastern dishes….even chicken sautéed with olives, capers and garlic become special when you add preserved lemons. Mine would have been even better had it had longer to simmer, to allow the chickpeas to absorb the  flavors, but I wanted to eat by 8:30, sooooooo….dinnertime prevailed. Enjoy!

Get your Groupon, on…The Art of the Deal
August 13, 2010


Chopper ride anyone?? Do it for less....

Ok, here’s something I should have shared with you before…I feel bad now. Some of you are no doubt, already members of  Groupon-here’s a link… offers  a new sweet deal every day, where if enough people buy it…the deal is ooooonnnnn. Like today’s offer(which is unusual, I must say) which is for a 15 minute helicopter tour of the Baltimore Harbor from Baltimore Helicopter Services, ..the price is usually over $500…but with the Groupon it is $146. That’s not a bad deal…and would make a fab gift.

More often,  Groupon crushes it in the  restaurant category…I bought two Groupons for the Dogwood Restaurant in Hampden when it was offered a couple of months ago, a $40 coupon for $20. That’s a no-brainer…IF you patronize or want to try that restaurant. Most recently for $20, I bought a $45 coupon for Restaurant Sabor off Padonia Road….never been there, but it’s byob(you know how I love that)…and the Latin  menu look kickin’. 

Sweet treats for everyone...half price!!

 I’ve also Grouponed a dozen cupcakes at Charm City Cupcakes($15 for 30 value-yummy), dinner at Blue Agave in Fells Point($15 for $30 value-hello, margarita)….and I could have bought six lessons for pole dancing($22 for $49 value),though I didn’t. Really.  But 900 others did. And over 3,500 Groupon maniacs bought half price tickets to the Baltimore Zoo….hey, if you’re gonna go, why not do it at half price? And there have been kayak excursions, deep hair conditioning treatments, and even 18 holes of golf on Groupon.

They have a place on their site for businesses to find out more about being part of Groupon…I would guess it exposes you to a whole new “groupon” of customers, that might not know you exist.  I’m a fan, so the only question is…where to go tonight. Dogwood for those fabulous short ribs? Maybe…..but it’s Friday, babyno one can take that away. Have a great weekend, play nice, don’t throw rocks and come home safe….’cause we miss you!

Take that, Whole Foods…and, a Day in D.C.
August 11, 2010

Delish...and a a Wolfgang Puck restaurant??

OK, it’s been one of those busy weeks where I said, “Holy expletive, it’s already Thursday and I haven’t blogged and there’-so-much-I-want-to-say-how-do-I-get-it-all-in-one-post?”  I won’t try to do that as you might be incredibly bored, but I will cover a couple of things, both food related(apologies to those of you who aren’t interested in food-I feel so sorry for you).

Let’s begin with brunch last weekend, at Wolfgang’s Puck’s restaurant in D.C., The Source. First the look of the place…gorgeous, as you might imagine…multi level, very contemporary and sleek….all big windows and great light. We ordered some Bloody Mary’s (the Shanghai with Szechuan chili paste for those who like it hotter and the classic for those who like things a bit more tame) and a Pear Bellini for me….pear puree with champagne…drinks were $8 each which you may know is not bad for D.C.  The menu had lunch and brunch choices…from a hamburger to omelets….and salads.

Tuna good...

 They have a 3 course which I would have loved to do, but everyone else said, “Oh, no, I can’t eat that much”…..losers. Pleasant surprise for Donna….four unbelieveably good spicy tuna tartar in crunchy little tuille wraps came compliments of the chef, as did tiny espresso cups of cold gazpacho. Nice start, Wolfie. I get my appetizer anyway, so there. And the dim sum platter was luscious. Oh, and it’s located in the Newseum in D.C…..which is an interactive museum that covers the history of news gathering..gobs of video as you can imagine from every big story ever covered, and you can even play reporter and put together a news story. Oh, and you can get in for $7 if you eat at The Source.

Great street bistro sign....

 That seemed like work to me( I get to do that all the time), so we traveled on to street sale, where stores had stuff out on the sidewalk on sale. Great day in D.C., which I don’t do nearly often enough.

OK, next…..let me say up front about this next  item is that I love Whole Foods…big fan, and I shop there a couple of times a week. And one thing I will buy there every single week is their Adobe Black Bean Soup. Seriously, the stuff is addictive, and it provides me an easy, meatless dinner one night every week. I just slice a little avocado and tomato over the top, maybe sour cream….and dinner is good to go.

Donna's Black Bean Soup...take that.

Only over the summer, this soup has disappeared from Whole Foods. Vanished. At first I thought it was just all bought , but after weeks of the same, I asked what was going on. The response…”Maybe it will be back in the fall but it’s off the summer menu.” Whaaaahhhh?? My reply, “You mean to tell me split pea and ham(which they had-puhleeze) is more summery than Black Bean soup? I don’t think so.” The guy shrugged and said he’d pass along the comment, but….the soup has never come back.

 So this week, I broke down and decided to make my own. And I’m not lying when I tell you mine is better than theirs….I was shocked, but it’s true.

Roasted adobo peppers and tomatoes....

Here’s what I did after reading a few recipes….

drained a couple of cans of black beans(but not rinsed)– sautéed some onion and garlic, along with a few slices of  ready cooked bacon– threw in a few small heirloom tomatoes on the verge of decay–cooked it all down for a few minutes–added the beans and some chicken broth to thin it….pureed about 3/4 of the mixture– added salt and pepper. But here are the 3 things I think put it over the top

Piment D'Espelette, from France

 I added some chopped adobe peppers I had roasted over the weekend(also racing decay) which added a nice smokey touch, and two new spices I had just received in the mail as you can’t find them easily….smoked Spanish paprika and Piment d’Espelette…a special pepper raised in the Basque country in France. I got both these two from an online company called My Spice Sage.  What they added is hard for me to describe, but the depth and layers and layers of flavor were just fabulous. Whole Foods….watch out…I might start my own Black Bean label. Oh, and with every order at My Spice Sage, they send a free package of the hottest spice in the world….Bhut Jolokia Pepper Powder….it rings in at over 1,000,000 Scoville heat units…what ever that means. I’ll try to find out for all of us, but in the meantime I’m sending it to my son, who travels with tobasco….loves the hot stuff.