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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Do you Dress up for Family?

We dress up for work and special occasions, but most of us prefer I think to dress for comfort.  Is your dining room table your special occasion table?  Platters and serving dishes for holidays and family events only?  

For the most part I place the evening's offerings into serving bowls or onto plates.  It is actually more rare for me to leave a pot on the stove with a spoon in it and say, "help yourself."  Is it because of the way I grew up?  Is it habit now and just how I think dinner should be?

Recently I bought a simple, plain white rectangular serving platter and it has become my new favorite table accessory.  

One Sunday dinner was roast chicken with broccolini:

Another Sunday dinner was a pot roast with onions served with asparagus:

What's your system?  Do you serve from the stove?  Make plates?  Eat from a take out container or go out for diner?  How do you feel Fed Well?  For me, happiness was found with a reduced/discounted price $5.00 platter.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Breakfast for Good Causes

Is any meal really safe from blogging?  Why would it be?

Breakfast with the lady friends...always fun.  Breakfast with the lady friends, the Mr. and one of the lady friend's man and to benefit the local volunteer fire department = win/win.  PLUS an opportunity to buy chances - Bonus!

All hands are on deck at this local fundraising event.  Volunteers prepare and serve the food and the Boy Scouts also join in and help clear and set tables.  Plenty of activity.

In the middle of it all we talk about one friend who will be beginning a new chapter. After 34 years of working in one place, she will be starting over and though it was not her idea, it will likely be an exciting and probably more lucrative venture.

The food is served family style and simply placed in the middle of our large round table.  We pass the plates to each other then condiments.  

Funny thing, we can even compare notes on local fire company pancake breakfasts.  While this particular fire house has a room dedicated to holding parties and events like this, I have to give my local fire company the edge for food and variety.  My fire company offers three types of pancakes; blueberry, plain and chocolate chip as well as made to order omelettes, and POTATOES although it is served buffet style.

I have to say, it's the feeling of being Fed Well in the company of good friends, not the location or even the actual food that matters most.  I realized after I posted a group picture of us on Facebook that a dear friend was left out who returned to the area last year after moving out of state for a few years.  Trust me, she will be first on the invite list for the next fun breakfast!  Thank you to all the volunteer fire department members, Ladies Auxiliaries and ambulance corps.  Cheers and hoping you find yourself Fed Well.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Scallops in Garlic Cream Sauce

Sometimes I just have a craving and make up the rest as I go along.  I wanted scallops.  The fish counter was jammed and so I did buy frozen.  In the moment, it really doesn't matter.  While grocery shopping I didn't have a particular recipe in mind but knew I would at least need lemon, parsley and garlic.

I know, they are just the baby sea scallops instead of the monster bay scallops, but I am fine with it.  The trick for me is getting a hard sear on frozen anything and yes, the pan is a little crowded.  My solution, as the juices collect, I strain everything over a bowl and reserve the juices until I am able to crisp the edges of the scallops.  I season with salt, pepper, and Old Bay.

I coat the scallops with flour and let it go for a few minutes in the hot pan before adding the reserved juice back, chopped garlic and parsley, some butter and half/half.  One minute the sauce was still runny so I mixed a pat of butter with flour then dropped it in.  As soon as it melted, the liquids had become creamy and smooth.

I served it over thin spaghetti and though it is not the Mr.'s favorite, he did appreciate the execution of the dish.  I will be enjoying some flavorful left-overs this week at work.  Having all four of us together for dinner was enough to leave me feeling Fed Well.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A VW Adventure & Lunch at the Phoenix Cafe

A Friday afternoon adventure, the Mr. and I had a mission in an area (Somerville, NJ) we had never been before and we were hungry.  We happened upon a quaint street lined with businesses, parked and hoped for the best.  We walked into the Phoenix Cafe  (Google Plus Info on Phoenix Cafe) and hoped for the best.

We were seated quickly and given menus.  I almost always try to order from the special listing when eating someplace new or for the first time.  I have secret theories I am not willing to share for fear someone in the restaurant business will shoot them down with truth.

Once our orders are placed we have a chance to really take in the decor.  While some may find the backs of colored paper placemats are not exactly modern art, they are a certain statement and we can appreciate it.  To me, they say, "We love to take our children here.  The food is good and not too expensive."  It also says of the manager/owner, "We enjoy our customers and appreciate them more than fancy artwork.  We want our diners to be comfortable and return."

I love this mix of old school feel and decor with a fairly modern menu.  The business people are in and out.  The Mr. feels they are a sure sign of a good meal to come.  If the local folks want to eat here when they have a choice of many eateries, it must be decent.

The Mr. orders Manhattan Clam Chowder and though my meal also came with a soup, I just knew I did not have the room for a heavy lunch today.  We had a mission to accomplish.  I did try his though and it was classic in taste and the photo really represents the flavor.  The potatoes were tender, the clams easy to find and the broth had depth (but a pinch too much salt).

For my meal, the "Baby Leaf Salad" which I imagined to be about 25% in size to the platter I was presented.  I could have served this platter as an appetizer for my hungry (and manly appetite) family.  The steak was not only plentiful, it was of a far better quality than I hoped for, nicely seasoned and tender.  The mozzarella was creamy, the tomatoes tasted fresh as did the greens, roasted red peppers and mushrooms were supporting stars of the dish.  My only minor complaint was the amount of dressing.  As readers may know, I prefer my salad naked and should have asked for it with dressing on the side.  My own error.

Readers may also remember I often tease the Mr. about being a chicken man. He almost ALWAYS orders chicken - in wraps, parmesan, marsala, grilled, in salad.  He does enjoy the occasional French Dip sandwich though and that was today's choice:

I did not try his sandwich as I had plenty of beef on my own plate, but who can ever resist fresh, golden, and crisp fries?  Not this blogger!

We walk back to the car and I am surprised to see a man dressed as a Lady Liberty.  He holds a sign that simply says, "Income Taxes."  I assume he is representing a preparer or accountant, but who can really say?

The sidewalks are cute and clean.

Time to head off to our destination.  Time for Cinderella to have a new coach.

This morning I looked into the garage to be sure it is still there.  I am feeling lucky and Fed Well.

Phoenix Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Pepper Steak, Icy Sidewalks and Work

My older son and the Mr. may not work in the same exact field, but they do have overlapping experiences in the workplace.  I am often surprised when one tells a story from their day and the other can mirror the experience or has something to share in the same theme.

Today, one talked about an employee being written up for not completely clearing a sidewalk.  It was reported because someone fell and was hurt. 

The "come back" story was regarding a non-employee of sorts falling on an icy patch of sidewalk and then an attempt to sue.

I often have nothing to contribute during these conversations unless I would have known someone that had fallen on an icy sidewalk or brought a lawsuit against a business for alleged negligence.  Instead, I chewed my tender steak.

The simplest of recipes required the best ingredients.  I only used green bell peppers, some onion and a beautiful (on sale) sirloin cut of beef with a stir fry sauce for this pepper steak I served over white rice.

Sometimes after the simplest of meals, I wonder, how did I get here?  Yesterday I was a young bride then mother and now I am a parent of adults (well, at least one step in adulthood).  I feel Fed Well and hope they look back on the time when we all lived under one roof and also felt Fed Well.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Garnishing Plates

Mondays can be difficult.  To help ease the pain of a stressful Monday morning, two of us decide to go out to lunch and talk it over.  We decide Chinese food will help take the edge off.  Normally we are greeted by a trio of friendly, smiling female faces, but today everything is different.  All of the staff are male wearing neckties and some of the art work is different.  What happened in a week?  Or is it because we save going out for an end of the week treat?  We are a bit suspicious.

The tables are set with chop sticks.  The menu is now a hard bound book instead of the laminated two sided list of specials.  I've had a morning that needs to shared, discussed and dissected.  Do I have time to choose a meal?  The old faithfuls are still available and so minimal concentration on food is required.

The General's Tofu arrives for my friend and yes, it is different in appearance.  The plate is beautiful and we immediately notice the fancy and colorful flower.  Jewelry for the dish.  Is it necessary?  I also don't understand the sprig of parsley.  I want to ask for a baggie to take it home and use it in a dish - not really, but why is it there? 

Though my minimalist plate is not wearing any jewels, it is quite colorful, the vegetables are crisp and bright with a deep, rich sauce I know will be a perfect coating for the brown rice.

We begin to talk about temper tantrums in the work place when the other employees from our work place arrive.  Though Journey is performing one of their greatest power ballads in the background, we worry it is not enough to mask our conversation and so instead we talk about our families.

We skipped the scallion pancake so I feel quite entitled to have some pistachio ice cream.  The sweet treat is creamy and perfect for taming my own childish reaction to workplace stressors and my friend points out I can use the memory during the day if I need to calm down.  I can sit at my desk, close my eyes, inhale, exhale deeply and chant, "pistachio, pistachio, pistachio." 

Fed Well, calmed and laughing we return to work.  I still think about the flower and parsley.  What are your thoughts about garnishes?

Jade Bistro on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 18, 2013

Big Box Stores and Lunch

Changes are coming this year.  A definite domino effect will be happening in our lives and in our home.  The one aspect I can share right now is a bathroom (or two or three) remodel is going to occur.  Our main floor 1/2 bath is due for an upgrade and since this is such a small space, every detail will matter 10x more.  We begin by looking at tile in the big box home store.  This one is pretty high on the list for the bottom half of the wall and then a border.

But, what do you do on the floor if you use this tile?

We are considering something like the top center.  We are also going to keep looking.  Maybe a chocolate Pergo?

In the meantime, a rare occasion - the entire family is together for lunch and so we continue with convenience and go to a chain restaurant. Two of five order unsweetened iced tea and we are all happy to see the server brought the glasses filled and this cute little pitcher of more unsweetened iced tea.  So smart!  So thoughtful!  If we ordered soda, what would Mayor Bloomberg of NYC say?  Would it have been illegal?  Well, since we aren't in the big city it doesn't matter.

We all order or are entitled to the salad bar with our meals.  I love the apple salad.

As always, I avoid dressing on my regular salad.  We all comment and laugh about the extreme firmness and crunch of the croutons.

I can overhear a little girl (I think she was less than five years old by the squeak in her voice) was saying, "Nana, did I make a healthy choice for lunch?  Is it healthier than (name withheld to protect the innocent)?"  How funny - no matter what, children are born to be at least mildly competitive with their sibling and I think I simply fell in love with the idea this little Princess was concerned if she made a healthier lunch choice than her sister.  

I was later able to see her and she was a walking doll in a dress filled with sequins, long shiny blonde hair and bright blue eyes.  Adorable!

When our lunch plates arrived, I spontaneously created a new family blog procedure I hope becomes tradition.  I photographed my meal and the Mr. but then passed my phone to the rest of the family at the table and asked them to shoot their own plates.  I thought it would be interesting to see their perspective.

My fish tacos.  I was surprised at the amount of spice and was grateful I had asked for the sauce on the side.  I thought the little taco stand was simply the cutest.

The Mr. does sometimes read the blog and he was also aware I would be cooking chicken for dinner.  Not sure which bit of information influenced him more, but he switched things up and ordered a New Orleans Gumbo.  It looks a bit familiar - I make a dish in the same family, but not really a gumbo just in the style of gumbo.  I like to create dishes with no names but based on recipes.

It was warm, but in a way, I don't think it was as seasoned as the fish.  

Our younger son opted for a shrimp pasta dish and here is his photo after I cropped the image.

His portion was large enough that he split it in half to ensure he could bring the left-overs to work for lunch the next day.

Next up, my older son's girlfriend.  The two of them had a recent date and she had a bad burger experience and so she tried to wipe out the memory with this one.  The first photo is untouched and the second is after a bit of editing.  Does the cropping and tweeking matter?

I just like the cleaner, uncluttered look of just the plate.  What do you think?

Older son's quesadilla.  I worried it wasn't enough food, but after the salad bar he seemed fine.  Again, the first photo is his and the second had a bit of electronic assistance.

We spent three meals together that day.  A breakfast of french toast, some of them made with raisin bread, our big chain lunch and then I closed with chicken cutlets, rice, string beans, bruschetta with toasted Italian bread, and a tossed salad.  A close knit day of being Fed Well together.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Date Night

I have been cultivating a closer friendship with a woman I have known for years by sending and receiving cryptic text messages and having dinner together.  We laugh and laugh, share from the gut and I think she thinks my choices in food are questionable.  In support of her point of view, I have had fried frogs legs and now a mussels in garlic cream sauce appetizer as my entree.  Although she does give me a few points for introducing her to Cosmopolitan's.

I know, seafood of all varieties are not for everyone.  I hate to admit to her that I have even had escargot (and liked it).  To keep things balanced, I also ordered a side of french fries.

My friend, almost predictable, ordered the Eggplant Tower appetizer.  I have had this myself on more than one occasion and I have to say, it's a winner and tastes even better than it looks. However, that melty, gooey, cheesyness is fairly well represented.

We laugh and laugh through dinner, about her recent life experiences and I have to admit, it was great to see her light up.  This is a woman who says what is on her mind and appropriateness be damned.  I love it!

I really do not have room for dessert, but to keep our table and the conversation going, we share a slice of cheesecake.

We have agreed our next dinner will be at my house and I can't help but wonder if she has had a second date since I saw her last.  Girlfriends, no matter what our age, always keep a woman Fed Well.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Lunch on the Edge

Each of our paths has smooth and bumpy road with stretches of both magnificent and wondrous views as well as darkness and scary storms.  Part of the positive outlook is in noticing we are not all in the same position at the same time and so we can listen to one another during the hard parts and talk each other through to the other side.  Even if we are feeling surrounded by gray and storm clouds, sometimes someone simply has a tougher journey.  Sharing a meal and either listening to them or chatting about other things to take their mind off of the serious bits can help everyone feel Fed Well.

A group of us went out for a Mexican lunch.  

A sizzling platter of what may have been a vegetable fajita (I'm not quite sure since it was ordered in Spanish and I wasn't really paying attention)...

One in the group has two children who were both recently in separate car accidents.  A fairly serious one involving a hospital stay and a less serious one that has its own set of complications.  And so just when a person thinks it really can't get any worse, it begins to rain and the family dog is sick and generating hundreds of dollars worth of medical bills on top of the medical and legal bills resulting from the accidents.  

Deep breath.  Smile.  Talk of movies, conspiracy theories, turning left overs into an omelette and a little venting about work related situations along with more chips for the guacamole and we start to feel a few rays of sunshine on our faces.  I hope the one of us who needs it the most can feel the positive energy we try to send and that it is felt until they come back to the next smooth stretch of the journey.

Friday, March 15, 2013

To Go Orders - A Mixed Review

After a long day at work and mostly through the work week, sometimes a family opts for take out.  Ordering from the specialized take out menu from a local restaurant is a nice substitute for pizza and we really do try to limit fast food from the burger places whether double arch or royalty (even though you will see burgers and fries here)

For my older son, the Cowboy Burger above was ordered without bacon.  I thought it strange at first, but he explained he loves bacon, just not on burgers.  Fair enough.  For him the key is preparing the burger a fairly red medium-rare.  Mission accomplished.

Ah, sweet potato fries. Where were you for the first half of my life?  I am so happy to have found you.  I like them in all versions; thin, fat, wavy, doesn't matter.  Lovely.

My regular/standard burger was fabulous as well.  I prefer steaks medium-rare, but burgers, I like more on the well side.  A toasted bun was a nice touch.

Younger son decided on the crispy chicken Cesar salad.  Greens were fresh and clean and he was quite happy with his choice.

Here is the less than stellar aspect for the Mr.  A mixed Italian combo hero.  The ingredients in and of themselves were tasty, the disappointing aspect for him was the amount of bread to meat ratio.  It appeared to be a substantial amount of bread but the thickness was more like a chain made deli sandwich.  

Wasn't sure about naming the restaurant.  Would you?  Overly critical review of the sandwich?

Sunday Dinner

Piggybacking on the post Sunday are for Low and Slow, I seem to be establishing a winter weekend trend. I prepared another huge lump of beef in my magical red dutch oven and served it on a platter with garlic asparagus.  The meat was fall apart soft, the onions were also tender and sweet.  What is on the menu for this Sunday?  Maybe it is time to switch things up?  Or, perhaps don't mess with a good thing?

Hoping you are Fed Well this weekend and always.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Barnaby's Steak House in New Paltz, NY

Going out to dinner may not be considered a hobby, but honestly, it is one of my favorite things to do.  I am not a fan of clothes shopping, I am not really familiar with designers, I do have other hobbies like reading, writing and photography, but the best part about going out to dinner is I can combine many loves.  I am with someone I care about, I bring my cell phone which of course has a built in camera, I enjoy the food, the atmosphere and later blog about the experience.  Restaurant week is the cherry on top!  I am doubly motivated to try a new restaurant while my wallet appreciates the price.

First on the list this season was Barnaby's Steak House.

Honestly, we don't visit steak houses often since my husband's favorite foods are a short list of chicken dishes with marsala his favorite.  I previewed the special event menu and was happy to see a chicken option so thought Barnaby's would be safe.

I am not a wine lover. I am not a wine hater, but honestly, I have had some pretty fantastic headaches while drinking reds, I prefer sweet whites or actually prosecco or sparking wines/champagne.  I do love Cosmopolitans and many martinis.  I ask our server if the restaurant offers any specialty cocktails and I am brought a separate menu from which I select the Pear Martini.

Happy.  A warm hug can be sipped from a martini glass.

To start, my husband surprises me and orders the lobster bisque.  I would have lost a bet if I predicted his entire order for the evening and this is just the beginning.  My choice for him would have been the bruschetta, but perhaps even he tires of his favorites.

The soup portion is generous and though we did not discuss it, I think he is happy to see his favorite oyster crackers on the side.  Though he hesitated about the corn and tarragon relish, when I asked, he said it was "good."  For the Mr., the translation is something like this, "I am really enjoying this but why expand when a short answer is all you need."

I sample a few spoonfuls and love the balances between sweet, savory and the textures of creamy with the bites of relish.  The tongue has no opportunity to become bored either in flavor or mouth feel.

Not just any fried goat cheese salad will do for Hudson Valley Restaurant Week, but one featuring Sprout Creek Farm fried goat cheese.  The salad is dressed with what was described on the menu as a honey lemon herb vinaigrette, but I know I tasted maple.  Our server confirms I am not culinarily challenged and yes, it is maple.

The cheese has a perfect amount of tang and creaminess.  A challenge I often give myself is to create a perfect bite on each forkful by trying to have each of the elements at once.  The fresh, tart apple, the crisp green, the smooth and hot cheese...

The flow of the meal has a fairly quick rhythm without feeling rushed.  Plates are cleared and it feels like just a few moments until the main course arrives.

For the Mr., another surprise, a Petite Fillet Mignon for the poultry man. The beef is prepared medium-rare as he requested, topped with Gorgonzola and horse radish.  Writer or not, I sometimes struggle to find just the right word to describe something and hate myself when I pick "amazing" or "wonderful" but this steak was soft (not mush, but easy, yielding/plush) with a pure beef taste.  It simply had a perfect flavor and texture.  Amazing.

Though it is not the custom to accompany a topped steak with both Bearnaise or Au Poire sauces, we were offered a sample of both.  I am a dipper and so when the Mr. surrendered a forkful, I would take it and dip in one of either sauces.  If it were my dish, I also would  have dipped my mashed potatoes.  By the way, the beef was served with silky mashed potatoes and velvety creamed spinach.

My dish...ah, my dish.  I love when I hesitate to pronounce full names of dishes and instead rename them to my server.  In this case, I asked for, "The pasta with mushrooms please?"  Actual name, "Tre Funghi Ragu."  Orrechiete pasta with mushrooms, asparagus, and creamy garlic sauce...what doesn't sound perfect about this meal?  The scene stealing star though was the crispy, salty bites of pancetta in between the mouthfuls of toothy pasta.  The basil's perfume rose from the steamy bowl and I simply tore it into bits so I could enjoy the fresh herb as part of the experience.

With experience, I have learned the only way for my stomach's space and desire to eat well can both live peacefully is to sample each course and take home portion's for the next day.  Otherwise I would be full after the appetizer, barely able to sample my main course and not able to even try my dessert.  My strategy has been fairly successful and it is quite satisfying for me to be able to relive the experience the next day though I will admit the reheating process is not quite the same as when it is brought to me from the chef.

The Mr.'s Hudson Valley Apple Strudel:

For me, the Chocolate Lava Cake:

Both were quite delicious and the vanilla ice cream was decadent and creamy.  The Mr. is an apple pie purist but the strudel was satisfying.  Our warm and accommodating server, Alex, did ask Chef Anton to come out front and we thanked him for an "amazing and wonderful" meal.  We have added a new to us restaurant that left us feeling Fed Well during Hudson Valley Restaurant Week.

Barnaby's Steakhouse on Urbanspoon