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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Catch Up Dinner at the Mountain View

Lady Friends.
I used to think it was hard to have a lot of female friends, but with time, age, experience and the cruel lessons of life, I am learning they are the most important.

Please don't misunderstand, this is not about having a vast number of women that sit on a shelf like a collection.  This is about interacting, learning, sharing points of view, listening, laughing and having a real relationship.  A relationship that may flow fast and furious over the rough spots, maintain a calm and steady stream or suffer from drought until the rain falls again.  A relationship, a friendship, is about what each person brings to it, takes from it and feeds it.  Ah, feeding...that is something I am more comfortable sharing about.

To start, a creamy and satisfying turkey and rice soup.  The calendar may say August, but some nights simply cry out for the comfort of soup and when catching up with someone you haven't seen in quite some time, the gentle reassurance of soup is calming and familiar.


An appetizer for a main course is a favorite of mine for two reasons; I can't always finish the large portion of an entree (and I'd rather leave a little room for a sweet finish) and it seems to generally work out to be a smidge cheaper in the long run even with the addition of a dessert.  The mussels in a creamy butter sauce are succulent, meaty and tender.  A gentle squeeze of the lemon juice gives just enough zing to the rich dish.


Yes, I even eat the greens on the plate.  I don't like unnecessary garnish but love when it serves a flavorful purpose.


Catching up unfolds slowly and naturally like a content toddler from a nap.  Stretching and blinking to life, the topics of conversation range from books to travel, family, and relationships.  I listen attentively to both what is said and the details that I am allowed to fill in on my own.  In some ways I want to capture the descriptions, what made us laugh, and what made us each pause and allow the other's pain to really penetrate the soul.  Joy and sorrow - a classic pairing.

For dessert another classic, but with a twist.  Warmed apple pie with walnuts, vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and caramel sauce.  Oh, my. 


I know my stomach has reached its limit but my tongue argues, "But it is so delicious!  We can't stop now!"

More stories, the meal comes to an end, we hug good-bye and I still have words left swirling in my soul, waiting to settle.  Lady friends ensure you are Fed Well.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Pine Bush Farmers Market & The PERFECT Tomato Sandwich

Shopping at the Farmers Market.  Should one bring a list?  Well, I think it's best to simply walk through and browse every stand for what is fresh and design the week's menu from the ripe offerings.

After all, what doesn't pair beautifully with corn?


Take a moment to enjoy the surroundings as well.  Pine Bush also offers free musical entertainment to enhance the experience and really make you feel like you are part of a community event rather than just shopping.  Although shopping for food, to me, is far more exciting than being trapped in a mall with crazed back-to-school frenzied families.

The colors, the smells, the feel of freshness...


and wondering what can I create with those ingredients?  How can they best be prepared?


For me, I even enjoy the displays - more so than a commercial retail window.

It is the "Tomato Me Crazy" event and these jewels are simply begging to be bought.



Ribbony edges on vibrant greens can make one block out any worries about Fall styles.  Who cares if hem lines for skirts will be long or short?


The classic squash and zucchini...

At home, I have 6 - 8 ripe tomatoes of my own that I can't wait to pair with... well, now, my perfect tomato sandwich is quite simple - a smear of mayonnaise that will mix with the fruit juices to create a drippy pink sauce, a sprinkle of salt and a dash of pepper, today's only question is what the vehicle will be.  I select a half dozen rolls from Herman's Erie House stand - 3 herb and 3 classic.  I confess, I would have settled for squishy white bread as well, but the crusty rolls were quite superior.  Freshly and locally Fed Well.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bacon Turkey Avocado Wheat Wrap - ah, but with...


So, not an official website for the diner, but it's something...

Joined by 3 co-workers, we decide on the Airmont Diner.  I LOVE diners!  Breakfast at all hours, maybe a cup of soup and a slice of pie, whatever you want, however you want it.  And, diners always have menus the size of a novel, serving sizes that would make Fred Flintstone happy and a fabulous array of characters for customers.  Today was no exception.

We were greeted by a highly excited host who led us to a booth near gentlemen thoroughly discussing politics and though one Republican and one Democrat each felt free to share their views, one happened to be a little louder than the other.  I worried one of my table mates might just shout out, "Keep the government away from my vagina and out of my uterus!"  Yikes.

The man in the Hawaiian shirt and the lady with the very large, very round glasses who raced in and parked her walker partially blocking our exit, and though they were not together, both caught my eye.

After quite a bit of menu review we are ready to order.  One western omelet, two eggplant wraps and one special wrap - bacon, turkey and avocado.  While the eggplant wraps were not a success, I was beyond happy with the special.  How can bacon ever be wrong?  And my favorite side at a diner (sometimes even with eggs) - crispy, salty, french fries.  Oh, heaven!


Diners are classic venues in which to be Fed Well and strongly supported by coworkers everywhere!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Birthday Series Continues - Tacos & Margaritas

A newish tradition is selecting an adult beverage to compliment holiday or celebratory meals.  My sister did a wonderful job hosting, planning and preparing with our mother a fabulous Birthday dinner for me complete with strawberry margaritas. 


I was able to watch her new margarita machine at work.  How fancy!  Ice is loaded into the top which is then crushed just so before dropping into the pitcher with mix and tequila.  Press a button, wait, pour and sip!



For those who have met me, I am quite a light-weight when it comes to alcohol consumption.  I limit myself to only 2 of my favorite cocktail, the Cosmopolitan, and even then I sometimes have a hang over.

For my Birthday dinner - 3, yes three, strawberry margaritas.  My son was my designated driver.



A lovely pitcher of iced tea was also on hand!


To start the munching, 2 different chips served with either a warm dip or salsa (or both if you like).


For the main event, a lovely taco buffet with warm hard and soft shells, lettuce,


cheese,


flavored beef, fresh tomatoes, sour cream, and more salsa.


My favorite way to indulge is to simply toss everything together on a plate as a salad. 


Once the table was cleared, a traditional ice cream cake, the kind with mystery blue goo and chocolate crumbles between layers was customized with hard sugar decorations.  What could be sweeter? 


Rounding out the festivities were a colorful bouquet from my favorite 9 and 11 year old nephews, tulip paper wrapped gifts and a golden gift bag.  Love.


Following tradition, a song, lit candles that were blown out with a wish in my heart.


It was a beautiful birthday.  I am Fed Well by my lovely sister and our family.  I feel pretty fabulous for 45!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Birthday Series Part I: Dual Birthday Lunch at Work with a Side of Co-Worker 25th Anniversary

Birthdays in the workplace - so many things can go wrong.  In the past in my department people's feelings have been hurt if their birthday falls on a weekend or somehow isn't acknowledged in exactly the same fashion as everyone else.  Yes, seriously.

So to alleviate the pain, we have implemented this year a sort of self-serve celebration responsibility.  If it is your birthday, you decide how and when to celebrate.  If you want to bring in a snack, great.  Some people have brought in bagels and other's a store bought cake.  It is all lovely.

A co-worker and I happen to have the days of our birth separated by only 24 hours and so I suggested we combine financial resources and offer a pizza party.  Here is a look at the results:

Classic Sausage


Black Olive

Mushroom

and my absolute favorite, plain cheese!

Two managers seemed to disappear immediately after eating and though we thought it a little strange, we reasoned they may have a meeting to go to or other work related need to be away from our fascinating lunch.  (Conversation covered favorite birthdays and most obscure pets - winners are the woman who skydived to celebrate 50 and those who have or want to own pigs as pets.)

The ladies returned a short while later bearing gifts of ice cream bars to celebrate one woman's 25th anniversary with the company.  25 years!  She typically does not enjoy being the center of attention and so while you may think frozen treat a bit cheap or lack luster, really it is about customizing the level of party to meet that of the desires of the honoree.


None of us complained as we happily ate the decadent and unexpected surprise!

And for those who chose to eat healthier (and for those who were too full from pizza to even consider an ice cream - though I can't imagine it) - a heart shaped dish of cherries!

Happy Birthday to Debi and I.  For me, the partying has just begun...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sunday Dinner with Zuchinni Tots

Zuchinni gifts from my sister's garden turn into wonderful food treats.  This time, a recipe from Pinterest that had to be modified due to limited ingredients on hand and will need some tweeking for the future.  But here is how the adventure began:

Using one of my favorite kitchen tools...


Once the veggies are pulsed to perfection, add an egg, bread crumbs, salt and pepper.  The recipe advised onion and cheese - either cheddar or parmesan.  I had no onion or cheddar and would rather skip using stinky cheese.


The use of a mini-muffin pan was recommended in a 400 degree oven for 15 - 18 minutes for perfect tots.

I also prepared fresh beans in a bit of olive oil with garlic.


Simple grilled pork cutlets bathed in a honey mustard marinade.

Simply chopped tomatoes - I love to use them in place of a sauce or as a simple side with salt and pepper.

 

Here's how my finished plate looked.

Cubed watermelon to finish the meal.


Yes, it was a Sunday dinner for the 3 of us.  We dine on the back deck and talk about the bear sighting in the yard just a few days earlier, the week ahead, returning to the college classroom, and the activities of the weekend.

I decide the tots should be crisper and yes, I missed the onion.  Next time, small scoops will be portioned on a cookie tray with a longer cooking time and maybe a minute of broiling time to ensure a crisper crunch.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Talking it Over - Eggs Over Easy

Love having breakfast meetings with friends!  Cheaper than dinner, easier to chat than over cocktails with music blaring in the background and certainly feeds the soul as well.  I was quite early since I had an errand to run first and it took quite a bit less time than expected.

To kill some time I had an adolescent photo shoot with myself in the car.  I will spare you the visual proof.  Just know that I skipped the duck lips pose but took some with and without my glasses and feel they look exactly like what they were - me killing time.  So I turned to photograph the building instead.



The breakfast club is reunited and I am learning I am more than sick of talking about myself.  I am in an unexpected place in my life that truly feels like a darkened tunnel, but I am tired and weary.  I welcome the news of my friends and their lives from work to children and everything in between.

Somehow we all decided on eggs.  One scrambled with bacon...



two scrambled...


and two over easy!


My eggs are wonderfully runny and I find great pleasure in dipping my whole wheat toast corners into the yolk pool.  I also love swirling bits of potatoes, peppers and onion through the rich yellow egg centers.

Yes, more coffee and yes, more tea.  We are far from finishing our stories, thoughts, pieces of advice and asking questions for more details.  Maybe we will go to a park or for a walk - next time.  For now, I am tired.  I am emotionally and physically done. 

I look forward to a strong recovery.  I embrace all the meals I share with those I love and who love me.  I gain a bit of momentum with each healing hour spent with friends and family.  We hug goodbye and I realize how far I have already come (I used to HATE hugs) and feel the joy of once more being Fed Well.

Friday, August 10, 2012

24th Birthday Bash Menu: Pulled Pork and Brownies

One of the birthday gifts in our house is being able to choose the menu for your celebration dinner.  For me, as cook, this is one of my favorite ways to show my love for the birthday person in my life.  Having a love for preparing food makes it a win-win for me.

This year, Ken requested pulled pork so to begin, I salt and pepper the pork and cook it low and slow in my magical red pot (a classic Dutch oven).

Hours of cooking later, the meat is allowed to cool before it is pulled with 2 forks on the cutting board.  My preference is to simply eat the meat dry mixed in with some well seasoned rice.


However, the birthday request is for sandwiches and so the pork is slowly simmered in a mixture of his favorite sauce (Sweet Baby Ray's) with a few splashes of chicken broth to loosen things up a bit.


In addition to a tossed salad, a huge pot of sweet corn on the cob is served.

Though many stories were told and shared, I may always remember learning that when my brother-in-law was growing up he used his mother's cruet set to play Priest.  So original and unexpected!

After dinner my sons played catch outside for a little while with their young cousins while the kitchen was cleaned up and the birthday brownies were prepared (cut up) for serving and a few candles were strategically placed in Ken's.  An original rendition of Happy Birthday was sung, complete with musical instrument impersonations, and once the wish was made and flames blown out, the brownies were served with a choice of mint chocolate chip or vanilla ice cream.

Which do you think the birthday guy chose?

Fed Well, he seemed to have a more than 24 reasons to be happy and celebrate.