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Monday, October 29, 2012

Hunker Down for Hurricane Sandy

In the face of the arrival of Hurricane Sandy I prepare.  As with the time of arrival of any guest nearing, I start to really step into high gear.  Yes, I have grocery shopped, have buckets of water for toilet flushing in the bathroom, gas for the generator, candles at the ready and just took a shower.  The cell phone is charging, so is the lap top.  The patio furniture has been put away and the Weather Channel is on in the background. 

My place of employment is closed, my husband works for a business that never sleeps and though we may feel otherwise, the safety of inmates and staff require him to be at work.  Our older son works for a private college and is likely ensuring the grounds are as well tended as possible for Sandy makes landfall.  

However, my younger son is also at work.  He works in retail.  He works at the only mall in the area.  My doctor's office called to reschedule my appointment for later today (nothing wrong, just a routine physical) but the mall, well, that remains open.  

PLEASE do not support mass retail by shopping during a weather event.  PLEASE support the safety of retail employees by staying home and if you must shop, go online.

Back to preparing for Sandy...I first peeked into the refrigerator.

All of those white rectangular dishes are left-overs.  Excess parts of dinners and meals, sort of like the unwanted children's gifts on the Island of Misfit Toys...


What to do?  Inventory the canned goods too...

The stove/oven are electric.  Bake some potatoes that will then be scooped of their guts, mixed with cheese and re-baked.  Strip down and chop up chicken to create:

  a fabulous chicken salad and

a wonderful chicken noodle soup in my magical red pot.

A bit of rain has begun.  The wind quiets then gusts.  Leaves swirling and I worry for the safety of my family, my friends and neighbors, first responders and honestly, can't wait for Sandy to leave before she has even arrived.  Stay safe and Fed Well.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Grown ups eat Hash Browns

As part of a particular generation, many may believe childhood included certain foods:  hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, tater tots, fishsticks and maybe hash browns.

Mostly, I didn't really eat any of those things.

Sometimes, while grocery shopping with my husband, he would share food memories of his youth that I simply could not understand.  He used to eat fishsticks.  I'd had actual fish but my mother wasn't a big fan of real or packaged fish of any kind.

When my sons were young they did like things like chicken wings and nuggets as sort of childhood foods, but surprised many with their love for shrimp, fried calamari and steak. It wasn't until I was a mom that I would even consider PB & J on white bread, but I have learned to love it once in awhile.  I have also modified the ingredients for a grown up version to include blueberry jam and peanut butter on a nice grainy bread.

My culinary upbringing included a lot of meat and potato based meals, pasta and lunches were typically sandwiches including cold cuts.  Ok, I did and still do love french fries and fast food hamburgers.

A few years ago when I turned 40 I had my first hash browns and tater tots.  You know what?  They weren't so bad and not really what I thought they would taste like based on their appearance.

Luckily, when our work cafeteria does not offer small red potatoes with breakfast now I can be sort of satisfied with hash browns.

A few childhood favorites would likely make me sick now like Strawberry Quik or bowls of rice with butter.  Some are simply no longer available like Quisp cereal.  What childhood favorites leave you feeling Fed Well?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Veggie Lo Mein with Fettuccine Noodles?

The cafeteria at work like any other food preparation establishment has good days and bad, popular selections and duds, and every once in awhile will try an experimental dish to see where it falls.  

Our chef claims to take suggestions but I'm a bit skeptical in believing he really reads or attempts all of them.  However, when the vegetarians speak, someone tends to listen and so to answer one of their requests he formulated vegetable lo mein and so we gave it a try.

It smelled very much like soy sauce and certainly tasted of it but the "lo mein" was actually fettuccine.  An acceptable substitute in this situation.  The vegetables were fairly fresh and included carrots, celery, broccoli, peppers and I think a trace of onion and mushrooms.  I was worried they were going to look like they came right out of the containers for the salad bar but they appeared freshly chopped.

Lunch conversation topics?  Celebrity gossip of course!  Is Jessica Biel boring?  Can you name a Jessica Biel movie that you have seen and enjoyed?  We came up with "The Illusionist," but I had forgotten she was in it so I'm not sure it counts.  Is 6.5 million dollars as a wedding budget in Italy a bit excessive?  And clearly, my friend's camera phone is far better than my CrackBerry's.

Overall, switching it up once in awhile helps keep you Fed Well!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Participating in Hudson Valley Restaurant Week allows me to dine in places I normally wouldn't, sample new foods and shamelessly take photos of the experience.  

A few months ago, as a result of being a past Hudson Valley Restaurant week blogger, I won a gift certificate to Polpettina in Eastchester and finally made the journey to check it out.

Not used to limited parking, we did drive around the block before finding a spot on a side street, but after quite a car ride we were more than fine walking a bit to the restaurant.

We were greeted as soon as we cleared the door in a friendly and casual manner that made sitting at the bar/counter perfectly fine. The Mr. immediately orders a soda, but I need a few minutes to decide.  

When his soda was brought over, we both talked about how we love the glass bottle Coke for nostalgic reasons.  Remembering the old soda machines with a glass door that opened and a spot to remove bottle caps on the side.

Although I am not really a beer drinker I am fascinated by the draft pour in front of us.

I also love the window behind us.  Something about this place, some level of indescribable comfort and cool.

To my left is a soda and beer display that while was likely intended to be practical is also visually pleasing.

I finally decide on a glass of Pinot Grigio and the little glasses are cute and lend themselves to a feeling of authenticity.  I am thinking of Godfather and Goodfellas sitting at little cafe tables drinking wine from "jelly" glasses.

Though we know we are not going to order pizza I admire the condiment bowls.

We are asked if this is our first visit to Polpettina and when we confess our newness, almost the entire menu is explained to us.  Polpettina we are told means "little meatballs" and though we learn they are the specialty of the house we decide on the clams and mussels to start and are not disappointed in any way.

The order arrives with a basket of bread and we are each given a dish to serve ourselves from the generous bowl of steaming fish.  It is so ridiculously good I forget to be insulted when I was told that pasta e fagioli is a soup (I wondered if I looked like I'd just landed here from another planet - who doesn't know what pasta e fagioli is????)

The remaining sauce and goodies from the clams and mussels were sopped up with the bread.  And though my husband was a little put off by the fries arriving ahead of the sandwich, I was quite happy to dip some of the truffle fries into the pool of seafood liquor.

The fries, by the way, were absolutely perfect.  Crisp.  Flavorful.  And the little tin was Parmesan cheese on the side - I just can't get into Parmesan - sorry.

His chicken sandwich was divine.  Pesto, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and tender chicken on a fresh baked roll with those amazing truffle fries...what more could one person ask for in a dinner?

By the way, another couple sat on my husband's right and I never heard them speak a single word.  Was the food that good?  Did they really run out of things to say to each other?  They seemed about our age maybe a little older so anywhere from 45 - 55.  Dinner conversation is too important to me - even if it is about the food, the restaurant, the weather - I have to keep talking.

My dinner was a heaping plate of pappardelle (according to Wikipedia the translation is "to gobble up" which I promptly did) pasta with a robust and hearty Bolognese sauce with beef, veal and pork.  

If I could have pasta 4 - 5 times per week I would be in heaven.  What is it about carbs that truly make me feel warm and fuzzy inside?

It was our first official date in a long time.  We are finding our way back from a few months separation and hoping to rebuild a bit better, a bit stronger, sort of the $6 million dollar marriage if you will.  Well, a toast to couples everywhere who are staying in, growing strong and deciding to feel Fed Well together.

Polpettina Homestyle Pizza Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Mandatory Cosmopolitan

When I told my younger son I was meeting a good friend for dinner and a Cosmopolitan, he said, "Of course you are.  Some people, like Dad, order the same meal, you order the same drink."

Am I too predictable or just a woman who knows what she likes?  Does it matter?

 When I ordered it, my friend thought it sounded good and ordered one as well.  Unfortunately, she didn't share my enthusiasm and though it was fabulous of her to give me her rejected cocktail, I would have needed a designated driver in order to enjoy a second drink.  

I barely glanced at the menu once I saw my favorite lobster ravioli appetizer which I order as an entree.

The ravioli are pan fried and served with an amazing garlic and cream sauce with tomatoes and scallions. 

My friend and dinner companion orders the Greek Salad.

We talk and talk and talk and talk.  Our simple dinners are long gone and we share points of view, snippets of our own lives and thoughts about friendships and male/female relationships.  Can half of a couple comfortably go out to dinner with a couple when their partner/mate is unavailable?  Should they?  Is some degree of jealousy part of every relationship?  When is it unhealthy?  What constitutes crossing the line?  Is it offensive when a few questions asked by a spouse about any contact with the opposite sex sounds accusatory in tone?  Vacations, get-aways, spontaneity and strict schedules are also debated.  These are just some of the topics we bounce off of each other and we are not shy about sharing our opinions.

We share stories of experiences either with coworkers or friends in sort of a "can you believe this happened" manner.  Tales of marriages after brief periods of dating and divorce after decades of marriage are mixed among shared disbelief about the behaviors of bosses and business owners.

Finally, I can't wait any longer and ask for dessert.  A warm slice of apple pie with walnuts and caramel sauce served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.  My friend remains upset no "straight chocolate" dessert is found on the menu.

The dining room has emptied, filled and emptied again in the time we sat in the back corner table.  A party of about a dozen or so women has left and it is time for us to make our way home as well.  

In the parking lot, we hug and bid each other good night.  We will meet again soon and are likely to revisit some of our conversational topics with either new examples to prove our points or maybe a few new experiences entirely will be shared.  These are the evenings I look forward to sharing and know I will be Fed Well.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Switching it up: Two Tacos

In my house, teasing and sarcasm are our second and third languages.  Sometimes it works.  Sometimes it can be painful.  Additionally, my older son has an incredible memory an detail is ever forgotten.

A number of years ago my husband took our sons to Taco Bell for drive thru.  This is not a post about nutritional value, but honest stories about food and the people who are eating it, and so fast food does exist in our world.

When ordering, my husband decided he wanted 2 tacos and in his enthusiasm held up his index and middle fingers to indicate exactly how many tacos he wanted - my sons still laugh about this because to them it was and is hysterical that anyone would offer a visual cue to the drive thru speaker.

Their father hates this story but ironically used to love telling the story of his mother's first experience ordering at Burger King.  She walked right up to the counter and asked for a "whooper" (pronounced like the malted chocolate candy) instead of a Whopper.  Notice a pattern?

Anyway, I also fall into the trap of being stuck on one particular menu item for awhile similar to wearing favorite jeans or repeatedly listening to a favorite song.  Recently, I broke out of the norm and ordered 2 tacos.  Now you can understand why for me, it was quite amusing.

Tacos courtesy of Hacienda De Don Manuel

Laughter and humor also keep me Fed Well.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Lunch at the Field House - Indian Rock

How much really changes from school (elementary - jr.high or high school) to the work place?

Whether entry level or executive, report in at a set time, have meetings (classes), a scheduled lunch time and maybe if you are lucky, a break (recess).  I often count surfing the internet for a bit as my recess.  I work with people, ok maybe just one person, who finds it difficult to play with others in the sandbox for long periods of time.  Once in awhile this coworker acts out and throws their pail, yells at everyone on the playground then storms off.  Do you work with someone like that as well?

On a particularly tough day, it's nice to leave the building for about an hour with someone who understands you and shares common struggles and challenges.  A friend to talk about the strict teacher or aloof boss, the workload and how things are in the outside world.

We head to the Indian Rock plaza and the Field House.

Though we decide to eat inside, cafe style seating is available.

Shelves and racks of pizzas, some on cake stands, others rest on glass.  My friend decides on a fresh slice of Sicilian and

a small side salad.

I am immediately transported to elementary school lunches.  Pizza day was always the best day of the week, not only was the food tolerable, but it was Friday.  A meatless day of celebration that was based in religious observance but as children we only knew we didn't have to come to school the next day!

A soda adds to the splurge-like feeling of the meal.  The sweet treat, though known to be simply awful for me, adds a true sense of fun and lightness.  My nine or ten year old self would have been barely able to contain the feeling of joy at the chance to have soda and pizza!

I order two slices; one veggie with spinach, peppers, onions and mushrooms and the other plain with the ooey, gooey, stretchy mozzarella.  Pizza heaven. Fresh from the oven, one side of the brains screams, "That is exactly the right temperature to cause a horrific burn on the roof of the mouth if the molten cheese or sauce touch it.  Let it sit for a minute."  While the other side smiles, jumps and down and laughs, "Oh my God, pizza.  Eat it. Eat it NOW!"

I fold the slice in half, which is of course mandatory in New York, and I swear the crust is so thin I can see light through it.  I can't wait another second and the smallest drop of sauce falls onto my finger and burns it.  Red skin and all.  I pretend I don't see it or feel it and bring the slice to my mouth.  A hot drop of grease falls out the back and drips onto the paper plate with an audible "plop" sound.  If I were a dog the drool would now be a stream from my lips to the table.  Finally, I take that first cheesy bite and yes, it stings a little, but I am in lunch hour heaven.

We chat (a little about women in binders), we eat and are done with plenty of time before having to return to work.  Of course a walk through the nearby jewelery store finishes things off nicely.  My politically correct friend teaches me about Canadian diamonds and we head back to our desks.  I often remark about the real life experience that contributes to a feeling of being Fed Well and though the pizza itself was fabulous, on this day I am reminded of childhood and the little things that bring joy.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Monday Mother-in-Law Meatloaf with Mashed

Many people can agree on a short list of comfort foods and a common dish among them is likely to be meatloaf.  I also know many people look forward to having a left over slice on a sandwich but I even have an alternative for any remaining meatloaf.

My mother-in-law was the first to teach me that you can "stuff" a meatloaf by simply dividing the meat mixture in half, placing one half in the shape of a loaf or in a pan then adding the "stuffing" - in this case a fine mozzarella cheese then cover with the remaining half of the meat mixture.   Woah.  Really, what could be better or easier?  The loaf may be topped with tomato sauce if desired.  But think about it, you can adapt this technique to any combination of fillings and toppings and that is the beauty of cooking.  Once your eyes are opened to an alternative preparation, your own creativity can kick in and customizing begins.

To compliment this particular Monday Night Meatloaf, simple fresh green beans with a little olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.

I know my mother-in-law would not have appreciated the crispy finish we prefer.  In fact, we joke that she would have likely sent the beans back for more cooking and softening if she received them in a diner or restaurant.

Although the tomato sauce would compliment the cheesy goodness of the meatloaf, I do prepare a quick Knorr brown gravy to go with, what else...

Yukon Gold mashed potatoes.  Yes, also a bit of garlic and the photo of the masher is to verify the authenticity of the freshly mashed potatoes!

Plated - it may not be fancy but it is the kind of meal that feels like it hugs you.  It is culinary assurance that yes, everything is going to be alright and tomorrow the sun will rise again.

After all, we need tomorrow to enjoy the leftovers.  About that, take one slice of meatloaf per person on Tuesday (or Wednesday if you need a break) and cube it in individual dishes, cover with another layer of cheese and sauce, heat and serve with pasta.  Yummy and the additional layer of comfort food will leave you feeling Fed Well!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sunday Morning Pancakes - Blueberries Optional

Though the saying is something like, "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach," I believe having someone who cares about you prepare you food is a fabulous way to express your feelings.

I would love to say this culinary adventure was all about me, it wasn't.  However, it did morph just enough to include me.

A father, sort of steered in the direction of cooking pancakes for his 24 year old son, "like the old days" stood in the kitchen and prepared breakfast.  He successfully flipped a platter of plain and then specially prepared a pair of blueberry, for me.

In the meantime, our son warmed the syrup and although I used to place the jug in a simmering pot of water, tossing it in the microwave for a few seconds does in fact get the job done.

The glory days of fatherhood are behind him and the journey is leaning more and more each day toward an empty nest.  We were recently derailed entirely from our adventure and are now trying to figure it all out once more.  In the meantime I truly enjoyed the memories and continue to look to the future to see if we will indeed be together and Fed Well.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Special Order Cupcakes

Celebrate life.
Celebrate the good times.
Congratulate people on their accomplishments.

Seems simple enough.  Sometimes we are caught in the trap of our own life, our own problems, our own struggles and think we don't have the time or the energy or the money or whatever to give a wink and a nod to someone else.

A woman I met at work and has elevated from "coworker" to friend has bought her own home.

Isn't that amazing?

She happens to love cupcakes and hugs.  Some who know me really well know I struggle with hugs, but I thought I could surely give cupcakes.  After calling two closed bakeries and one that was charging almost $4 per gourmet cupcake I ended up calling my local grocery store bakery department.

It took a little negotiating and understanding to explain what I was looking for and finally we agreed on, "18 cupcakes - mix the flavors and frostings and please make them look pretty for a party."

These are what I picked up:

Mission accomplished I'd say.

They were delicious and my friend was surprised!

She is currently taking the week off to make her home clean, freshly painted and move in.  
Congratulations to everyone who has something to celebrate.
Thank you to the people who ensure they are recognized and Fed Well.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Lobster Pier

A birthday dinner with my estranged husband, his mother and our sons.  Of course seafood is the answer for us.  

We have been spending time together but are in a kind of relationship-no-mans-land.  We are unsure of what our comfort zone is but we seem to want to be together.  How do you celebrate something as simple as a birthday?  Well, I put together a goody bag gift including his fav cookies, coffee, candies, a magazine, and a few small items found in the local grocery store.  Personal without being overwhelming.

At the restaurant we know the salad bar will have something for everyone from peel your own shrimp to traditional salad components.  Unfortunately we found the iceberg lettuce to be quite brown. The bruschetta was zesty and full of flavor.  Additionally, two family members were not at all disappointed by the Manhattan Clam Chowder.

The Mr. enjoys crab and since it is not soft shell season, he switches over to my side and we each have the New England Shore Dinner special which includes a split lobster, clams, mussels, corn on the cob and potato.

Funny enough, when it came time for our plates to be cleared, the Mr. and I both left our boiled potatoes untouched but had pretty much cleaned our plates of everything else.  It was sweet, succulent, fresh, and simply fabulous.

One son ordered the Sea Food Possillippo and while the phone on my camera really does not offer a great representation, I can assure you it was enough food for a hungry 19 year old to have 2 meals, weighed a ton and the discarded shells quickly filled a bowl on the table.

Our sons left before dessert, but when the birthday celebrant order the deep fried cheesecake, his mother and I sang a quick and hushed version of "Happy Birthday to You."  The dessert was unlike any I'd ever had and though it was a generous portion, I only had maybe 2 forkfuls because I was absolutely stuffed to the gills.

3 dates in a row.  What does it mean?

One thing I know for sure, I have been literally Fed Well for the last 3 days and am quite spoiled by not having to prepare my own food.  On the other hand, I miss my kitchen, cooking and sharing meals with the ones I care about...all of them.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Villa Borghese Wedding Dinner

The perfect cocktail hour, for me, is really a blend of elements from buffet foods, plated foods, tables with chairs, a selection of drinks, space and loved ones.  A family wedding at Villa Borghese offered all of the above.  I sat near or with some of the most important people in my life and we talked about the foods we selected and ate.  Loved the Italian sliced meats, cheeses, and a number of the passed hot hoers deouvres from cocktail wienies to one of my favorites, a plate of jumbo shrimp cocktail for those of us at the table to share.  To drink - a crisp, clean, vodka with 7 up.

Many hugs and kisses.  Families reuniting and those who thought my husband and I had called it quits were celebrating our prospective reunion.  We are quiet and reserved as we continue our journey.

The cocktail hour ends and we move to one of the ball rooms.  The bridal party makes a stunning and entertaining entrance with Tebow poses, the switching of attire by a bridesmaid and usher, and other hilarious wedding day tricks.  The first dance, the maid of honor toast and the light hearted toast from the best man.  Grace was given by a dear Aunt and the next round of eating and celebrating begins.

I thoroughly enjoyed the penne's sauce, but thought perhaps the pasta was a bit too firm for my taste.

A salad came and went as we hugged in a slow moving circle on the dance floor.  Yes, our wedding song was played and we danced.

Dancing, dancing, and a bit more drink.  One of my favorite champagnes, Verdi Spumante, was served for the toast and I enjoy a second glass :)

The main course arrives and I wish for a steak knife...

My husband ordered the chicken...

We love the family wedding.  The joy of the newlyweds, the well wishers, the dancers, the families and friends, but the evening comes to an end with a bit of tension.  Perhaps like over eating, we have pushed our time together to the waist band breaking point.  We may have done too much too soon and can not enjoy whether or not we have been Fed Well....

to be continued

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

La Vera Cucina Rehearsal Dinner

The night before a family wedding the family and the bridal party gather for a meal at La Vera Cucina in Monroe.  The large group is broken into segments and even the future bride and groom are separated so they may sit with their prospective "sides" one last time.
A favorite starter for this large family is an anti-pasta platter with a blend of salty meats, peppers, olives and creamy cheeses drizzled with balsamic.  Please pass the platter again and again.

A second starter included perfectly golden fried calamari followed by a hearty bowl of chicken tortellini soup.

We are offered dinner choices of Veal Parmigiana, Chicken Francaise or salmon.

Is it odd to be served mashed potatoes with veal parmigiana?  Is it odd to be at a wedding rehearsal dinner with your estranged spouse?  We were recently heading for a divorce and have since put that plan on hold as we see if that is the right decision or if staying together and working things out makes more sense.

Generally, I don't eat veal for a number of reasons so I enjoyed the moist, succulent and flavorful chicken. 

At one point during the meal I noticed a man at the bar.  He is the owner of the catering hall we recently held our 25th wedding anniversary vow renewal.  We exchanged pleasantries and I thought about how mysterious the universe really is and the signals we receive.  

The main course was followed by a choice of either Tiramisu or Strawberry Shortcake.  I enjoyed the cake with fresh strawberries and a cup of tea.  I especially enjoyed spending time with the side of the family I have received as a result of my marriage.  It was loud, crowded, fun and full of laughter and stories.  

Later in the evening my husband and I saw the owner of the catering hall a  second time and he said, "It's good to see you two."  Indeed.  We are still deciding if we will be Fed Well together.