BlogDay 2007

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Meta

Blog Day 2007

Today is Blog Day – each year on August 31st, bloggers will post recommendations of 5 new blogs. Since this is a food blog, I’ll stick with that theme. Here are 5 blogs that I read that you may or may not have heard of, that rock my world.

1. Aidan Brooks: Trainee Chef
Aidan is an intelligent, eloquent, talented 19-year old young man from the UK, who has just graduated from culinary school and is about to embark on his first professional position. He has an incredible amount of culinary knowledge for his age, and I read regularly to see just what brilliant idea he has come up with next. I have no doubt that he can achieve all of his dreams to be a top-ranked chef.

2. La Mia Cucina
Lisa is a fellow Ohioan, and the reason I read her blog regularly is because of her willingness to try anything, even going way outside of her comfort zone, and the exhuberance with which she’ll do it. Her excitement is infectious, her entries are humorous at times (especially her not so successful efforts in the kitchen), and on top of that, she’s just a really nice person.

3. CorumBlog
Sus is a German blogger (who blogs mostly in German) with similar food sensibilities to my own. She makes many of the same dishes as my Oma did, and has been an incredible help in me trying to recreate the recipes I remember from my youth. My understanding of written German is a bit iffy, but I put her entries through Babelfish so that I may understand them.

4. vegalicous
I’m not a vegetarian, much less vegan, but these three people could convince even the most hardcore carnivore to give these vegan recipes a try. I often find most mainstream vegan recipes lacking something, but not these. Check this blog out even if meat is your thing, you may be surprised.

5. (tie) Restaurant Widow and Bitchin’ in the Kitchen with Rosie
Lisa and Rosie are my local foodie partners in crime. Get us together in a restaurant and we’ll chat the place up for hours. They’re great people in person, but their blogs also have much to offer. Rosie inspires my comfort food side, whether it’s blogging about her Christmas cookie baking sessions or her chili recipe, while Lisa, a waitress here in Columbus, challenges me to try foods and recipes I’ve never tried before. Plus, Lisa’s as much into local eating as I am.

Too bad I’m limited to just five. I have 2,000+ feeds in my RSS reader, and everyone of them is awesome for some reason. I just wish I had time (and space) to tell everyone why.

Technorati Tag: BlogDay2007

Call For Suggestions

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Life, Travel

I’m going to be going on a spontaneous road trip with a friend to help her pick some stuff up from her home in Cape Coral, Florida, and am looking for suggestions for places to stop and eat along the way. Here are some of the cities we’ll be going through on the trip (if we go the Mapquest route):

Huntington, WV
Charleston, WV
Wyethville, VA
Kannapolis, NC
Charlotte, NC
Columbia, SC
Savannah, GA
Jacksonville, FL
Gainesville, FL
Ocala, FL
Tampa, FL
St. Petersburg, FL
Bradenton, FL
Sarasota, FL
Port Charlotte, FL
Fort Myers, FL

Type of cuisine or price range isn’t important – what I’m looking for are non-chain local gems, places that have local specialties (for instance, BBQ in NC), places that you would either go yourself or bring out of town visitors to. We’re leaving Sunday. :) I can’t wait to hear your suggestions.

Outside Inspiration

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Food Porn, Recipes

A lot of the dishes I’ve made over the past couple of days have been inspired by posts by other food bloggers. There’s such a wide pool of cooking talent out there, and who am I to argue with the stellar results of others?

I absolutely drooled when I saw this Muffuletta post at Hedonia, and I was dying to try it on my own. I pretty much stuck with her his recipe, but used ciabatta rolls instead of ciabatta bread (which I couldn’t find anywhere not already sliced), used olive tapenade on bottom, and balsamic vinegar on top, and filled it with (from bottom up) mozzarella cheese, sweet sopressata, mortadella, provolone cheese, proscuitto, and sweet capicola. Absolutely delicious.

muffaletta

I bought a bunch of Italian Prune Plums the other day at North Market Produce, with the idea of making this Plum Tart from Cook.Craft.Enjoy in mind. It turned out wonderfully – the only differences I might make if I made it again is to add more plums and also maybe a bit more butter and bit less flour in the crumb mix. Also, I’d sprinkle some sugar and cinnamon directly on the plums before topping them with the crumbs.

plumtart

I have lots more recipes to try, keep an eye out in the future for the fruits of my labor. :)

Preserving Our Sanity

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Eating Local, Farmer's Market, Produce

If Paul and I don’t see another tomato until next summer, it won’t be too soon.

canning

This weekend was spent processing 60 pounds of tomatoes into 5 1/2 quarts of spaghetti sauce, 4 pints of pizza sauce, and 5 pints of salsa. The bulk of the work was done by my wonderful husband, who stayed up until 5am Sunday morning peeling, seeding, and squeezing the juice out of the tomatoes.

And we also made a batch of peach-raspberry jam and also some strawberry-blueberry jam (just used what we had – about 1 1/2 quarts of strawberries, 1 pint of blueberries, and sweetened to taste and added pectin) as well. Whew!

Thankfully, the harvest season is nearing its end (from a canning perspective, at least) – all that we have left this year to can is some apples in about a month or so.

Not to say that he and I both haven’t put in hour after hour slaving in the kitchen, over a hot stove, during the hottest part of the year. It’s been hard work, really hard work – and I have a greater respect for our ancestors who used to do this as a matter of course rather than as a hobby. And sometimes I wonder if it is all worth it.

But come January, when there’s nothing growing, and even the winter squash is a bit long in the tooth – cracking open that jar of strawberry jam or jar of spaghetti sauce will transport me right back to August, and the scent of it will both remind me of the perfection of summer and also give me something to look forward to in the months ahead. I keep reminding my husband of this when we’re up to our elbows in tomato juices, but hopefully come winter, it will truly sink in and help motivate him to do it all over again next year (no more tomatoes, honey – I promise!).

One Local Summer 2007 – Week 9

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Eating Local, Farmer's Market, Food Blogging Event, Food Porn, Produce, Recipes

I can’t believe that there’s only a few weeks of One Local Summer left! This week’s edition was an afterthought, really. I basically did a local breakfast, and didn’t think to take a picture of the main part of it – scrambled 2Silos eggs, potatoes and onions from the farmer’s market fried in a bit of oil, non-local grits with local butter, salt and pepper, some bacon from Bluescreek Farms Meats. But I did remember to take a pic of a new recipe using mostly local ingredients – which features the raspberries and strawberries I bought yesterday, along with some peaches and blueberries from earlier this summer that I had previously frozen (presumably for smoothies). We had this fruit soup last week at the bed and breakast, and it’s cool, refreshing, and brings out the best of summer fruits. Next time around, I’m thinking of trying a different type of fruit concentrate just to experiment with flavors.

fruitsoup

Summer Fruit Soup
adapted from Taste of Home magazine

1/2 c sugar
3 tbsp quick-cooking tapioca
2 1/2 c water, divided
1 can (6 oz) frozen orange juice concentrate
1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
1 cup fresh or frozen sliced peaches, thawed and cut into bite-size pieces
1/4 c. red raspberries
1/4 c. blueberries
1 medium ripe bananas, sliced

Combine sugar, tapioca and 1 1/2 c water in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes or until thickened and clear. Remove from heat.

Stir in orange juice concentrate and rest of the water. Continue stirring until the orange juice concentrate is thawed. Stir in strawberries, peaches, blueberries, and raspberries. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.

When ready to serve, add bananas.

Farm Fresh and Local Produce – 8/25/07

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Eating Local, Farmer's Market, Food Porn, North Market, Produce

Happily, I’m back in Ohio this weekend, able to hit my own local farmer’s market to fill up a mostly empty (of produce, anyway) refrigerator. We got a fairly early start this morning, waking up to already hot and muggy weather, and were at Worthington before it opened at 9, with two things in particular in mind – tomatoes for canning and strawberries. We found the strawberries (probably the last of the season) right off at Crum’s, and grabbed two quarts.

082507strawberries

I was also able to get a whole bushel of canning tomatoes for $12, which I plan on processing later today with Paul. I’m a little confused about canning tomatoes, though – since they are fairly low-acid, they say to be safest, you should process tomato/spaghetti sauce in a pressure canner, which I do have – or I can just make a huge batch of Sunday Gravy, with whatever balance of tomatoes/veggies/meat I want, and freeze it. What would you folks do in my position?

At Wish Well Farms, we bought green peppers and some eggplant, because I have plans to make moussaka for freezing later this week. Elsewhere, for eating (rather than processing), I got a quart of assorted heirloom tomatoes for $3.

082507heirloom

I got a great deal on sqash and poblanos at Wegman’s. $1 each for spaghetti squash, which I plan on using to make one of Paul’s favorite dishes, and also $1 each for butternut squash, which I’ll use to make Brown Sugar Squash Pie like we had last Thanksgiving. Yeah, I know it’s a little early for squash pie, but I usually start getting the cravings for fall stuff like apple cider and squash around the end of August, so we’re right on target. ;). Also at Wegman’s, I got 10 poblano peppers for $1, which will come in handy when making salsa and chili today.

Along the way at Worthington (I think), I saw this really pretty assortment of different types of eggplant. I love all the different shades of purple in this picture. By this time I had already got eggplant, otherwise I would have picked up some of the graffiti variety.

082507eggplant

The harvest season is at it’s peak. Cabbage and other green stuff as far as the eye can see.

082507cabbage

Also got these cute baby squashes, which will taste quite yummy sauteed as a side.

082507squash

Another noteworthy thing I picked up at Worthington was fresh kidney beans, which I’ll be using in chili later on (which I had already planned on making to use up my back deck and Jersey tomatoes – thank you Rob, for the suggestion). A couple of other things here and there, and it was off to the North Market.

I had planned on stopping quickly at Clintonville, but my normal parking space (by the flower shop) is now a tow-away zone, and it said “no parking” at Auto Zone, too. My arthritic knees, back, and ankles can’t handle the walk from the now “designated” parking spaces, so we ended up skipping out on Clintonville altogether.

Got lots of stuff at the North Market. About 10 lbs. of paste tomatoes for $10, some raspberries, a pound of shiitakes for my spaghetti sauce, some Golden apples for making Apfelkuchen. The Orchard also had these seedless grapes, which I almost got but didn’t.

082507grapes

Inside, I got a cinnamon roll from Omega, a bubble smoothie from Bubbles, a food mill and another Kuhn Rikon knife from North Market Cookware, about 3 lbs of Italian Plums (yum! and here in Ohio!) from North Market Produce, and we tried out that new burrito place across from Firdous (double yum! Tasty tender beef!). And tried the new Sticky Toffee truffle at Pure Imagination (triple yum! but unfortunately I bought the last one). I was happy to hear that both Jeni and Anne Marie had babies since my last visit to the North Market. Congratulations, you two!

Well, off to process and put away all this stuff. I’ll let you guys know what comes of it all.

Vacation Roundup

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Amish, Life, New Jersey, Rant, Travel

As is obvious by now, we made it home on Monday, driving through 8 hours (the trip should have taken 6) of rain, sometimes torrential. My husband is not a good driver in bad weather, so I drove the bulk of the way home, and got in well after dark on Monday night.

But I just wanted to take a couple of minutes to mention a few other things about our trip that don’t warrant their own entry, but that are definitely worth remembering.

On Friday night, after our dinner at Good ‘n Plenty we stayed in a carriage house at The Osceola Mill House, which was very charming and quite rustic. Although a bit uncomfortable due to our size (the stairs were very steep, the bed was a full, etc), it had a lovely view, a nice little kitchen (I’d come here again if I were staying longer), the location was right near where we wanted to be, and the breakfast in the morning was awesome! (especially the Fruit Soup, which I plan to find a recipe for and make this weekend).

We spent early Saturday making our rounds in the Intercourse area, stopping here and there – Paul got some delicious homemade root beer and fudge from an Amish roadside stand, and in addition to our trips to Stoltzfus Meats and Kitchen Kettle Village, we also stopped at the Intercourse Pretzel Factory where we got hard and soft brown buttered pretzels, and the Bird-in-Hand Farmer’s Market, which was so crowded that I only bought some apple cider and got myself a funnel cake. It kind of makes up for missing The Ohio State Fair this year, because I love fair food, and funnel cake is about as fair food as you can get.

Funnel Cake

We had planned to eat lunch in the area, but we were so full from the scrapple, egg and cheese wrap, breakfast at the bed and breakfast, and funnel cake that we decided to head right to New Jersey without stopping to another smorgasbord first.

The trip to New Jersey was pretty uneventful. The navigation system in my car took us on a route that avoided tolls that I was unfamiliar with, and we got stuck in some pretty gnarly traffic on the Surekill Expressway that we would have run into either way. We got into New Jersey around 2:30ish, still too early to check into our hotel. We were going to head over to Jim’s Lunch so Paul could try the burgers, but it completely slipped my mind that Jim’s closes for the summer, so our plans for beefy goodness were thwarted. We still had a bit of time to kill, so we stopped into Haar’s Natural Foods and Gourmet Imports on Delsea Drive, a little store that sells mostly health foods (including a huge selection of gluten free stuff, I was happy to see) but has this deli in the back that sells imported German meats. I used to go here all the time with Oma when I was really young, and the place hasn’t changed a bit in 30-odd years. Amazing. We made a mental note to make a stop here on Monday morning on our way out of town.

We finally checked in to the hotel, and then went out driving around for a while (I gave him a mini-tour of East Vineland), and ended up at Crown Market for cheesesteaks. I don’t know if it changed ownership since April (I honestly think it did, based on what they said and who was in there when I went in), but the cheesesteak was very underwhelming this time around (spices were way off, a lot less meat and everything else, the bread overwhelmed the meat and cheese, etc), plus they raised the prices. I don’t think we’ll be going there again.

Sunday morning was a bit rainy, and we were bored, so after a tasty breakfast at the Golden Palace Diner (whatever happened to all the diners? They’re hard to find these days), we decided to drive down to the shore. Paul couldn’t decide where he wanted to go (plus everywhere except the Wildwoods and Atlantic City require beach tags now, blech!), so we drove into Wildwood (on the way I passed a ton of roadside farmer’s markets, I really should have stopped at one!), and then made our way up the shore through Stone Harbor, Avalon, and Sea Isle City. We were going to stop at Mike’s for seafood, but I couldn’t find the free parking they advertised, and there wasn’t anywhere else to park either. So we got on the Garden State Parkway and the AC Expressway and made our way over to Crabby’s for lunch.

Let me just rant for a moment. I spent the first 23 years of my life in New Jersey, drove there for at least 6 years, and cannot for the life of me remember drivers being so friggin’ rude as they were this weekend. Aggressive, nasty, belligerent drivers that expect you to break traffic laws left and right for their convenience. Drivers that like to drive 5 feet off your bumper when you’re already 5-10 miles over the speed limit with out of state tags and have cars in the lane to the right of you so you can’t get over at the moment they crawl up on your rear. Cars who weave back and forth fruitlessly when traffic isn’t moving quickly expecting to make headway but instead just making asses of themselves and pissing off everyone in the process. Cars who don’t obey the “yield” signs and get pissed off when you do. Let’s just say my middle finger got a good workout this weekend. And I’m not usually one to shoot the bird. I’m glad to be back on Ohio roads, that’s for sure!

But I digress. We made it back to Vineland, and dinner that night was at Esposito’s Maplewood 3, which was my favorite stop last time around. The food was good, but not as good as it was in April for some reason. But every restaurant is entitled to an off night, and I’ve had more good experiences there than bad.

We got a really good night’s sleep, and on Monday morning, we ran our last few errands (mostly food to bring back to Ohio) – we got subs for later and Conte’s pasta at Giovanni’s Deli, a bunch of Puerto Rican food from Penalvert’s, checked out the new Polish American Deli on the Boulevard by Park Avenue (NJ locals, if you haven’t checked it out yet, please do – it’s worth a stop!) and got some sausage and pierogies to take home, stopped at Haar’s for German deli meats, stopped at the new Shop Rite for some Jersey tomatoes (the craving of which was the impetus for the trip in the first place). One of the places I really wanted to check out but wasn’t able to is The Sweet Life Bakery near Sixth and Landis. Unfortunately, they’re not due to open until Labor Day, so I’ll miss out on the goodies. But if you’re local to the area, make sure to drop in – I really respect what they’re doing to revitalize that area, and they could use all the support and business you can give them. :)

The rest of Monday was a blur of driving. I honestly can’t remember if we stopped to eat. I don’t think we did, actually. All I remember is rain, lightning, and more rain. But we’re home now, the air conditioning is fixed, and life is once again back to normal. And as much as I love travelling, there really is no place like home.

Shepherd’s Pie

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Food Porn, Recipes

Shepherd’s Pie is one of those dishes that is typically made from leftovers, and thrown together as a tasty, hearty cost-saving measure. There are tons of different variations on the dish (for instance, in England, this would be considered “cottage pie”, since it uses beef rather than lamb), usually regional.

Shepherd's Pie

My variation of the dish is very simple. For the base, I make up a batch (or use leftover) of my sloppy joe recipe, sprinkle it with leftover (or frozen if I have no leftover) peas and carrots, and cover it with a batch (or leftover) mashed potatoes. I sprinkle it with sweet paprika, and then bake it for 40 minutes (or until top is lightly browned or a bit crusted). Fantastic fresh out of the oven, and just as good reheated the next day.

Traditional German Plum Cake

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Amish, Ethnic, Food Porn, Oma, Produce, Recipes, Travel

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I was asking for a local source for Damson plums so I could make plum cake? Well, I found them, but where I least expected to!

Damson Plums

I found them at Kauffman’s Fruit Farm and Market in Bird-In-Hand, PA. I was hoping to get some peaches, maybe a little apple cider, but these beauties just hopped out at me. My eyes went wide, I pulled on Paul’s sleeve and pointed and said “Look!” – his eyes followed, and he asked, “Damsons?” – I told him, “If not, they’re close enough!” – Needless to say, we left the store with 3 quarts of these puppies.

Come to find out that they are Italian Prune Plums, a European plum which is smaller and tarter than the sweeter Japanese plums we’re used to. These aren’t meant for eating out of hand, but are wonderful in cakes and in jam. I also found out that the season is just starting (I got some of the very first harvest), so you may see these in our local farmer’s markets – keep an eye out.

Either way, the plums wouldn’t keep until the weekend, so once we got home, Paul and I did an unusual midweek baking/jam making session. We worked on the cake together – he with the yeast dough, and I with the the plums, and made this wonderful Traditional German Plum Cake (Zwetschgenkuchen) that is just like my Oma’s was, right down to the slightly sweet yeast crust. This recipe is definitely a keeper – the crust holds up well to the juicy plums. We’re even going to try to replicate Oma’s Apfelkuchen based on this recipe.

German Plum Cake

I overestimated the amount of plums we’d need (we would have been fine with 2 quarts), so we had tons left over, and we made a batch of Damson Plum Jam that tastes wondeful, but is a little runnier than I like because it was made without pectin and Paul assumed it was done when it hit the gel point and took it off a bit prematurely. Either way, it will be great drizzled over fresh biscuits, or used as the base of a plum sauce.

Homemade Damson Plum Jam

I hope I see these locally in the weeks to come, because there are still so many other plum recipes I’d love to try. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

South Jersey Edition: Crabby’s

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Food Porn, New Jersey, Restaurant Review, Travel

Part of our trip took us to New Jersey over the weekend. We figured that there was not much to do in Lancaster County on Sunday (as it is the day off for the Amish, and virutally everything in town is closed), so why not head over to Jersey to indulge in a few favorites and go to the shore and get some good fresh seafood.

If you ask around, everyone has a very strong opinion on where to go for the best crabs in South Jersey. I heard a lot of differing opinions – Mike’s in Sea Isle, The Lobster House in Cape May, but the one name that kept on coming up over and over again was Crabby’s on Rte. 50 in Belcoville near Mays Landing. You would think that a seafood restaurant would be located right on the water – this one isn’t; it’s located in the middle of nowhere in the Pine Barrens. It doesn’t look like much on the outside, hell it doesn’t look like much more than a dive bar on the inside (with a bunch of picnic tables and a few regular tables around a huge bar), but I think that just adds to the atomosphere and the anticipation of what’s to come. If they don’t focus on decor, that must mean the food is really good, right?

We were welcomed like old friends (with a hearty “glad to see you”) by a woman whose bubbly personality and heart was as big as her hair. We were seated at a little table by the window, and huge pieces of brown paper were put in front of us on the table. We were there for one thing and one thing only: crabs. We started with a bowl of he-crab soup (which didn’t photograph well, unfortunately), a creamy sherry-based bisque with chunks of blue-claw crab. Down to business. I got the crab sampler ($33.95), which had a little bit of everything – blue claw, king crab legs, dungeness, and snow crab. It was presented in a huge pile that made me wonder how I’d even begin to eat this much:

Crab Sampler froM Crabby's

The thing about crabs (and eating them out of the shell) is that it is hard work. The amount of effort you put into cracking the shell to bits to get out a little nugget of crabby goodness is almost (note I say *almost*) not worth it. So I spent the next couple of hours tearing my fingers to shreds on the sharp shell to liberate as much crabby goodness as humanly possible. I got full about halfway through (though the seasoning, their own blend, was awesome!), and just started putting my crab bits on top of my husbands linguine for later consumption. I figured it was better to do that there than in the hotel room. Two hours later, were were on our way, after one hell of an experience. But if you’re going to eat fresh crabs, cracking them yourself is the only way to go.

They routinely offer specials – the one that was active on the Sunday afternoon we went was all you can eat Blue Claws for $29.99. Considering it took me nearly 2 hours to make my way through the items I had, I so wouldn’t have gotten my money’s worth unless I was planning to stay there half the night. But other, more expert crab eaters were chowing down with wild abandon.

I’d prefer it if they had more sides (I would have killed for some corn on the cob), but they do what they do very well. If you go, dress casual, be ready to leave smelling like crab, come ready to drink some beer, and have a good time. They won’t settle for anything less.

If you’d like to go: Crabby’s, 1413 Route 50, Belcoville, NJ, 609.625.2722

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