Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bon Année

Bon Année from Paris. By some crazy bit of luck, the dinner reservation we had tonight ended up being in the 7th (where the Eiffel Tower resides) and not in the 5th, as I had thought. And not just anywhere in the 7th, but two blocks from The Lady herself. And when we found ourselves walking out of the restaurant at 10 minutes to midnight, it was pretty easy to figure out where we were heading.

Check out the (for some reason now audio-free) video above, as the clock strikes twelve, the fireworks go off and The Lady turns from blue (her color during France's EU presidency, which ended at midnight) to her regular golden white-ish hue.

Happy New Year!

Long live the Queen

While it's snowing in Cambridge, NY, it's blowing here in Baltimore. Sixty mile an hour winds are predicted with temperatures in the 20's... too cold for going to fireworks so we are spending a cozy evening by the fire. Each of us chose a favorite food to bring in so we are having quite an eclectic dinner... ribs from The Corner Stable (best in Baltimore), crab cakes, Three Cheese Pizza, and for Gabe wings from Cluck-U in Towson. Then I made this flourless chocolate cake. It's a favorite Julia Child's recipe called Reine de Saba. The almonds on the side didn't work too well though... should have used crushed almonds to dust the sides. But the chocolate buttercream icing will be to die for. We are topping it all off with sparkling juice in honor of Gabe's eight months of sobriety. A much better New Year's than one year ago for sure. I echo Debra in wishing all of you a very happy, peaceful, and joy filled new year.

New Year's Eve Day in Cambridge, NY

", do, do, do out my back door!"

Last year, 20-inches of snow fell on New Year's Eve and it looks like this year may top that. I'm loving the snowfall but not the shoveling. It's winter in Cambridge, NY an we always love a good snow. I've got the cross-country skis waxed and ready and the snow shoes are geared-up. If you're going to live in snow country, you may as well learn to love it and get out and play.

Happy New Year to Noah and Sarah in Paris; Chuck, Gretchen, Stacy and Brian in the San Francisco area; Robin, Greg and Gabe in Baltimore; and all the folks that enjoy life, where ever you live.

Sunday, December 28, 2008



Friday, December 26, 2008

The Most Awesome Christmas Lights Ever

Noah shot these Christmas lights over in the Marais on Christmas Night. Well, technically it was very early on Boxing Day (2 am or so). Please ignore the silly drunk people at the end and focus on the awesome lights in the beginning.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day in Paris, Continued

Just a few scenes from our Christmas Day in Paris. Above is the first shot of the morning, taken at the cafe while we drank un express on rue Montorgueil. Everyone was running to the bakery for their daily baguette(s). We'd grabbed one at the very end of the day before from Eric Kayser. His natural leavening made for a bread that was still fresh and tasty for this evening's meal.
After our cafe trek, we came home for the impromptu variation on Noah's family tradition for breakfast - bagels and lox. Here it was lox and a baguette with a fresh chevre from the local fromagerie. Have I told you about the five kinds of cheese in our fridge right now? Yum. There's the fresh chevre, a bleu, a Vacherin, a Brin d'Amour and another goat cheese that is delicious. We're kind of in heaven.

After breakfast we took a nice three hour walk around Paris, including a stop at the ice skating rink in front of the Mairie in the 4th. We didn't go skating, but it looked like a blast.
Down at the rink there were a bunch of street vendors selling roasted chestnuts and I had to have some. They were good, but I think it was more the ambience - a crisp Christmas day - than the quality of the roasting that made them so good.
From there we headed over to the Ile de la Cite and the Ile St.-Louis. This tree was in front of Notre Dame, amidst the frenzy of tourists and rush of "ladies in long skirts" aka local con artists. A quick trip through the gardens provided a much less frenzied view of the church - a view I prefer anyway. We wandered a bit further, over to Ile St.-Louis and through its beautifully decorated streets before heading back up the Marais and over to the 2nd.

It was time to prepare dinner, as our friend Chris was coming to eat with us. He too decided to ditch Los Angeles in favor of a more traditionally weathered Christmas spot. We put together a fine dinner, despite a total lack of skills when it came to starting/lighting/using the oven and burners in our rental. The menu: Cote de Beouf, Brussels sprouts with lardons, salad, cheese and this beauty:
Okay, the picture does not do it justice - it's a Bouche de Noël from Gerard Mulot over in the Marais. Dark chocolate, with caramelized almonds, it was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.

After dinner we headed out, back over to the Marais for a drink. What turned into many drinks. Hence this post going up at all hours, after a night of boozing. But damn, it was fun.

A Doggie Christmas

Even Cassie and Cole got into the spirit although Cole was terrified of the flash on the camera and kept hiding behind the couch... thus more pictures of Cassie then Cole.

We enjoyed our stockings and of course the Judao-christian
tradition of bagels and lox for Xmass breakfast... then it was
off to the gifts under the tree... Greg wrapped up a big box to look like a fed ex delivery and filled it with doggie treats for the pups... they thought they were in heaven. Everyone had a wonderful Christmas and got just what they hoped for... Greg will be very busy building the next World War II fleet (you don't call planes a fleet, do you?) and I will be reading for several months... Debra will be cooking stock and middle Eastern delights in her new Tagine and Stockpot. Gabe has lots of music and books to amuse himself with. We here in Finksburg hope you all are having a wonderful time. More posts after dinner...

Dickens Village... A Church Family Tradition

What the Dickens... this year we added to our collection. This scene is all about the neighborhood... it hosts Scrooge's house, Marley's place and of course the village ice rink with the coffee sellers. Central to all is the Conservatory... definitely one of our favorites. The setting up is more than half the fun and takes a few days but we are getting more and more adventurous and this fall I plan on taking a class on how to display and build more areas to show off the collection.

This year we added a lot to our retail village with the addition of the shipbuilders house and the choclatier complete with the horse drawn wagon for delivery. Of course there is the gin cart too and the two gentlemen (I use the word loose ly) who have had a bit too much ale at the inn.
The villages which are lit up at night add so much atmosphere to the living an d dining room. It's one of the things I love most about decorating the house. One day you can all fight over who inherits these treasures... for now just enjoy from afar!

Joyeaux Noël a Paris!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night... er, day.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Scenes from Paris

We arrived in Paris yesterday afternoon, minus a wallet (mine, which I left at home after re-arranging a bunch of stuff in my purse last minute) but on time and with all our luggage! Trust me, this is a rare feat for Noah and I when it comes to our foreign travels. We checked into our apartment in the 2nd arrondissement and then set out for a quick tour of the neighborhood. We chose the 2nd because on our last trip we fell in love with the local market street, rue Montorgueil (pictured above). It's mostly pedestrian and full of patisseries, fromageries, boucheres and marchand de vin.
One look in the window of all the patisseries and I knew we had to get ourselves a traditional bouche de noel (aka yule log, only so, so much swankier) for Christmas dinner. So this afternoon (day 2) we took a trip over to the 3rd, to one of David Lebovitz's recommended patisseries - Gerard Mulot. We bought the Feuille d'Automne, a dark chocolate and carmelized almond delight.
And since it's Christmas, we had to have a tree! I bought a tiny, plastic one at Urban Outfitters and stashed it in my suitcase as a surprise for Noah, along with a string of multi-colored lights. The mini-tree (oh yeah, it's classy and plastic and white) sits on our living room table, the lights are strung up on the flower box outside our windows.
And tonight, we took the metro over to our most favoritest restaurant in the world. Literally. Hiramatsu is a Michelin starred French restaurant that was established by a famous Japanese chef. The food there is full of French flavors, but with a deft (and light) Japanese hand. We had dinner there in May 2006 during our honeymoon and it was #1 on the list for this visit. We were not disappointed - the Delices Gastronomique (chef's tasting menu) was superb. The highlights this time included a safron risotto in a bouillabaisse with pan fried cod. The fish was perfectly cooked and the flavors of the risotto and the bouillabaisse were brilliant. Our other favorite was a perfectly cooked young duckling breast served over chantrelles cooked in a foie gras cream with black truffles as an accent. Decadent and dreamy. The desserts (one used as a palate cleanser, a combination of frozen and granita'd citrus fruits) were equally as stunning and will probably have my lactose intolerant self paying at some point tonight for my sins. It was worth it!

The picture above was taken during the metro trip home. It's an advertisement for Orangina, which they sell in vending machines at most stops. It cracked me up and creeped me out in equal parts.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Perfect Christmas Treat for the Neighbors!

Thanks to the folks at Cooking Light, here's an alternative to Christmas cookies. It's simple to make and tastes amazing. Best of all, it's low calorie and only 3 Weight Watcher points per slice.


13.5 ounces all purpose flour (about 3.5 cups)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1.5 cups low-fat buttermilk
Cooking spray (Pam Baking works great)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Weight or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; stir with a whisk.
3. Combine sugar, butter and vanilla in a large bowl; beat with mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture and buttermilk to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
4. Spoon batter into 5 (5-3/4 x 3- 1/4 inch)pans, coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center coms out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes on a wire rack. Remove from pans. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Yield: 5 loaves, 6 servings/loaf.

You can also prepare cakes in two (8 x 4-inch) loaf pans. Bake for one hour or until done.

Serving size: 1 slice

Calories : 144
Fat: 5.1g
Protein: 2.2g
Carb: 22.3g
Fiber: 0.3g

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Menu For Hope 5

I'm sure many of you have already heard about Chez Pim's Menu For Hope, a raffle that food bloggers around the world help put on to raise funds for charity. But just in case you haven't, or if you still haven't donated, here's the scoop:

This year's raffle is to benefit the World Food Program's school lunch initiative in Lesotho, Africa. Last year they helped the WFP set up this program that benefits kids in one of the poorest parts of Africa, while also helping local farmers - all of the food is bought locally.

For every $10 donated, you get a raffle ticket which can be applied to any of the multitude of donated gifts from bloggers around the world. You can get wine dinners, kitchen appliances, personal guided tours, not to mention the plethora of food and wine gift packages put together by people who actually love food (and wine). You can see a master list of prizes here.

It's a worthy cause, it's tax deductible and it comes with the chance to win some amazing prizes. So if you've got an extra $10 (or more), head on over and check it out.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

10 Days Before Christmas

Living just 5 miles from the Vermont border , winter comes early to Cambridge, NY. We almost alwyas have a white Christmas, but this year we're having an Ice Christmas. 1.5 inches coated the area on Friday as temperatures dropped into the single digits. I'm sure it sounds awful to all the Californians, but the ice and light combine to make a magical kingdom outside my office door.

This apple tree is the waiting area of the miriad of birds that come to my various feeders. All the usual suspects are in attendance, black capped chickadees, titmouse, cardinals, nuthatches, finches (purple and house) but nothing can match the wonder and variety of woodpeckers that stop by.

One of the visiting woodpeckers is this male downy. He usually comes in the morning and afternoon. In between, a hairy woodpecker, northern flicker, and on occasion a redheaded stop in. The large pileated stays away, but I hear his pecking in the woods.

Bird watching entertains both me and my two cats. After local skiing and being able to snow shoeing right out my back door, watching the birds is one of the reasons I love living in Cambridge (especially in the winter).

What sort of wildlife roams in your neck of the woods?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

O Christmas Cookie, O Christmas Cookie

There are about a million cookies you can make for Christmas every year and most years I think my mom tried to make them all. It was pretty great, especially for my sugar deprived sister and I. Yeah, we had one of those health conscious moms who try and convince you that carob and chocolate are TOTALLY the same thing. Other sugar restraints in our childhood included a ban on sugar cereals (anything more than 6g of sugar per serving), bubble gum ice cream and soda 99.6% of the time. Today, I appreciate mom's efforts to not turn us into obese children. But when your best friend has a Nutella sandwich on white bread for lunch every day and you have tuna, well... you get what I'm saying.

So the holidays were those rare times we knew we'd be getting some sugar in our lives. Every year we'd comb through the recipes and convince mom she should make some if not all of the following: gingerbread persons (mom is also a feminist), nutmeg logs, sugar cookies with flavored icing, candy cane cookies, lebchuken, rum balls and the cookies you find here today - Crescent Cookies.
These guys are fairly traditional. I've seen them on food blogs, food tv, in food magazines and in the recipe cards of several friends. They're sometimes called Russian Tea Cookies or Mexican Wedding Cookies, in their many variations. You'll often see them in a round shape, but mom always made them into crescents, hence the name. The recipe was passed down to her from my father's aunt and originated with my great grandmother. So these babies have history. So much so that they were included in the cookbook I made for family members as a Christmas gift last year.

They're quick, not super sweet and don't require a period of refrigeration. Perfect for all you busy bakers out there. And while they may not scream "Christmas!!!" the way gingerbread does, they'll quickly find a place in your holiday baking repetoire. I guarantee it.

Crescent Cookies
recipe from Great Grandmother Kucserka

1/2 lb butter (2 sticks)
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. water
2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. chopped pecans (I substituted walnuts because we had several bags of them in the freezer. You can also use almonds or hazelnuts. You can chop by hand or use a food processor.)

Cream the butter; blend in sugar, vanilla and water. Sift together flour and salt; stir into butter mixture. Add nuts and mix thoroughly. Use portions about the size of a walnut, roll into crescent shape. Bake at 325 degrees farenheit for about 20 minutes. While warm, roll in or sprinkle with powedered sugar.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Persimmon Drying - Hachiya

We are drying persimmons this year from Gretchen and Chuck's Tree. We watched a TV show about it and got super inspired. Also we have been looking into it online for a while. Here is what we did,

1) Cut hachiya persimmons from tree when they are still hard, but have turned orange in color. Keep the T shape of the stem, for the hanging phase.

2) Peeled the persimmons

3) Attached strings around the T's

4) Hang them to dry.

5) 1st - Five days in the sun (take inside if it is very moist out or raining). We have had fog at night, so are bringing them in.

6) 2nd - 2 weeks or so, massage each persimmon for about 30 seconds. This helps bring out the natural sugars. If it feels like a water balloon about to pop, then skip massaging those ones for a day or so.

7) 3rd - 2 -6 weeks - Allow them to finish drying indoors

8) Should look like a crystalized shrunken version of itself in the end.

9) Eat and enjoy, be careful of any inside seeds when eating. I think there is one bigger one.

So, this is the first time we have tried this. We built a rack with wheels so we can put then in and out of our garage. Chuck and Gretchen are trying this too, but under the eves of the roof on the house. It will be interesting to see how this all come out in the end. It is an old Japanese tradition to dry persimmons this way. Cool thing to do with all that beautiful fruit that is so hard to eat all up once they go off.

Stacy and Brian

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Dried Figs and a Champagne Cocktail

You know when you just have one of those days? A day where you solve a problem, then have a curve ball thrown into the mix, forcing you to re-solve it. Over and over again. Yeah, it was one of those days for me. All I wanted to do was go home and eat my left over salad and sandwich from lunch (Noah's got a work dinner tonight) and have a glass of wine. White, preferably.

But all that was in the fridge was a bottle of champagne left over from Thanksgiving. Well, why the hell not? And if you're going to go, go whole hog and make a champagne cocktail, dammit. I love the tres sophisticated cocktail. It was great, but it got even better when I pulled out a couple of dried figs for dessert.

This summer, figs became the fruit I lusted after. Last summer it was apricots, but this year the fig harvest just seemed to be exceptional and I could not get enough of them. The second flush (each tree delivers two crops, one in late July-ish and the other in late September-ish) was worth the wait, smaller and sweeter and just plain more full-flavored than the first. And man was I sad to see them go. But the dried figs that my favorite figuer sells (yeah, I made that word up) are a good winter substitute.

If you need a little pick me up, try this petite dessert out. Okay, sue me, we're leaving for Paris in less than three weeks and oui just can't wait. Hehehehe.

Champagne Cocktail
by ?
1 glass champagne, chilled
1 sugar cube

Douse the sugar cube in bitters, drop it into and empty champagne glass and fill with champagne!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Post-Post Thanksgiving Leftovers

Oh Thanksgiving, I'm already plotting your return next year. What will I do differently? Well, I'll definitely do less broth and a drier bread in the Artichoke Parmesan Sourdough Stuffing. We'll probably add another veggie, as there was far too much starch on the table this year. Oh yeah, and I won't lose my wedding rings. That would be nice.

But the traditional smoked turkey? That's coming back. Because two days later, I still can't get enough. I've had straight up cold turkey, sandwiches, salads, you name it. But this turkey salad sandwich created by Noah really takes the cake, er, sandwich.

Turkey Salad Sandwich
by Noah

3-5 c. Thanksgiving turkey, cold
a third of a small jar of mayonnaise
3 shallots, finely chopped
2-3 tbsp. Dijon mustard
Havarti cheese (optional, I opted out)
bread or rolls

Mix all but the last five ingredients in a bowl. Cut the bread or roll to desired sandwich size and scoop as much of the turkey salad onto it as you desire. Top with tomato, spinach, cheese and as many slices of bacon as you feel comfortable eating only two days after the gorge-fest known as Thanksgiving (in my case one slice, in Noah's it was two).

En. Yoy.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Feast from the East

Here is a sample of the Kissel family Thanksgiving buffet before we all dug in and destroyed the beautiful dishes. It was scrumshiss to the last drop... turkey, stuffing (two types; oyster and plain), company carrots(thanks to Jen and Ben), home made mac and cheese (thanks to Amanda and Scott), green beans (thanks to Robin), corn pudding with a kick (thanks to Kathe), sweet potatoes, smashed potatoes (thanks to Debra)...Dinner for 18 is a major effort but well worth the work to have everyone together. We're about to sit down to dessert so I'm signing off and hoping your feast is going as well as ours...Miss you all more than you can ever know...Love,Mom & Auntie D

Turkey Day...Early Morning...Los Angeles

Not to be outdone by Robin, Deb and the gang, here are some pics from Turkey Day LA. This is the strawberry rhubarb pie for tonight (mom's recipe, to follow) that I made Tuesday night. 'Cause I'm on top of it like that.
Isn't it pretty in close up? It's my favorite pie in the world (Pumpkin? Pass). They only had rhubarb a few times at the Farmers Market this year, so I snatched some up and froze it when I saw it, in preparation for this day. Literally today, as I knew I wanted a strawberry rhubarb pie on Thanksgiving the minute last year's dinner ended. Yeah, man, it's that good.
And this is our smoker, smoking away on the turkey, a 20 lb. beast that we barely squeezed into the tiny barrel. Trust me, I had words with the lady when I picked it up yesterday at the Santa Monica Farmers Market (I'd ordered a 16 lb. one). Luckily it fit, otherwise our smoked turkey would have come in two pieces.

My dad's made smoked turkey for Thanksgiving for as long as I can remember, it's the only way I can eat turkey today (and my mom and sister have promised to post pics from their T-Day smoking extravaganza as well). We brine ours, using Alton Brown's recipe which is crazy easy and really good. So not only is it moist due to smoking and brining, but it's got a nice sweetness to it as well. Anyway, when I married Noah I made him take over the smoking duties for our Thanksgivings down in LA. He's pretty darn good at it, too.

And did I mention we've both been up since 5:20 am working on the turkey, starting the Almost No Knead Bread, and, of course, putting up this post. We'll try and check in throughout the day, so y'all can see what we're up to.

The Stupid Swiss Cuts Onions...

Hey, are those Onion Goggles you're wearing???

Thanksgiving Greetings from Cincinnati

We are gathered together in Cincinnati to enjoy a family Thanksgiving. Andres has come from Switzerland, Debra from New York State, the Kissels of Cincinnati and the Kushners (Amanda's family) from Cleveland. Here are some pictures from the morning preparations to show how we are getting ready for the holiday. Larry, aka The Pieman of Cinci, outdid himself this year as you will notice in the pictures. The chocolate cake (recipe to follow) is absolutely to die for and there are two kinds of pumpkin pie, a killer apple pie with little apple pie babies, and mince meat pie as well. There is also a picture of the Stupid Swiss cutting up the onions wearing the famous "onion goggles". Hope you are all enjoying a wonderful holiday... send pictures so we can all share.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Back Story on Haricots Verts...

Every year we travel to lovely Cincinnati to have Thanksgiving with the Kissel clan and about 5 years ago I made an old family favorite... green beans provencale a la Julia...  they were an immediate hit with everyone and became the dish I was required to make every year... the more the better (we double it and make a whole lot).  So about three years ago I was making my dish and after they simmered for the 8-10 minutes I picked up the large skillet Kathe had me use and the handle broke off and the beans spilled all over the kitchen floor.  After the 5 second rule was invoked we saved only a small portion of the dish.  As a result Kathe bought a very high end All Clad deep dish skillet for me and I loved it so much I added one to my own kitchen.  Now we never worry about spilling the beans!!!!

Haricots Verts a la Provencale

Haricots Verts A La Provencale

For 6 – 8 Servings

2 Cups thinly sliced onions

½ cup olive oil

A large enamel or other skillet large enough to hold everything

4-6 large firm ripe tomatoes (or you can very successfully use Delmonte canned tomatoes in oregano and balsamic vinegar… reserve the liquid and drain)

2-4 cloves mashed garlic

A medium herb bouquet (parsley, bay leaf, thyme, cloves(only 2)tied in cheesecloth or you can use the standard Simon and Garfinkle herbs (for those of you not up on your sixties folk that would be Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme!)

¾ cup liquid (juice from the tomatoes plus water)

Salt and pepper to taste

3 lbs beans


¼ cup chopped parsley or mixture of green herbs (basil, savory, tarragon, parsley)

Cook the onions slowly in the olive oil until they are tender and translucent

Add tomatoes, garlic and herbs + liquid and salt and pepper ; cook 30 minutes then remove bouquet

While the tomatoes are cooking blanch the beans in 7-8 quarts of boiling salted water but drain them 3-4 minutes before they are tender. If you cook them ahead of time plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking so they don’t get soft. Toss them in the pan with the onions and tomatoes. Cover and simmer slowly for about 8 minutes. If any liquid remains cook it off. Toss in green herbs and serve.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Guilt Free Pumpkin Pie

I'm a Weight Watcher and holidays scare me, but I've found a great way to beat the calorie blues for this Thanksgiving. Hungry Girl, cookbook and website, has lots of options for the holidays. Here's one I've tries that really passes the muster. So Thank you Hungry Girl, all credit goes to you for making Thanksgiving a sweet thing...

No one loves pumpkin as much as Hungry Girl does -- the fat orange fruit (yes, it's technically a fruit 'cuz it has seeds!) and HG have been BFFs forever. So it was inevitable that a fantastic pumpkin pie swap would come from the HG kitchen. Well, here it is. Grab a can of pumpkin and your trusty box of Fiber One, and get busy! We present to you HG's Too-Good-To-Deny Pumpkin Pie...

Photos from Hungry Girl


For Crust
2 cups Fiber One bran cereal (original)
1/4 cup light whipped butter or light buttery spread (like Brummel & Brown); melted & mixed with 1 oz. water
3 tbsp. Splenda No Calorie Sweetener, granulated
1 tsp. cinnamon

For Filling
One 15-oz. can pure pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
One 12-oz. can evaporated fat-free milk
3/4 cup Splenda No Calorie Sweetener, granulated
1/2 cup fat-free liquid egg substitute (like Egg Beaters)
1/4 cup sugar-free maple syrup
1 tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt
Optional Topping: Fat Free Reddi-wip

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a blender or food processor, grind Fiber One to a breadcrumb-like consistency. Combine crumbs with all other crust ingredients. Stir until mixed well. In an oven-safe 9-inch pie dish sprayed lightly with nonstick spray, evenly distribute mixture, using your hands or a flat utensil to firmly press and form the crust. Press it into the edges and up along the sides of the dish. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients for the filling. Mix well. Pour mixture into pie crust. (Filling may be taller than the crust -- trust us, this is okay!) Bake pie in the oven for 45 minutes, and then remove it and allow to cool. Chill in the fridge for several hours (for best results, chill overnight). Cut into 8 slices, and if you like, top with Reddi-wip before serving! MAKES 8 SERVINGS

Serving Size: 1 slice
Calories: 133
Fat: 3g
Sodium: 236mg
Carbs: 28g
Fiber: 9g
Sugars: 8g
Protein: 6g

POINTS® value 2*

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cake with A-Plum

I made this cake a few weeks back in the throes of my "We're going to Paris for Christmas, so let's eat French food" fit. It's from Ina Garten's Barefoot in Paris cookbook. I'm not usually into those Food Network AM ladies (Giada, Rachel, Ina, etc...), but this book has proved to be a solid source of good, easy, French (sometimes French-lite) recipes. And since we had a ton of end of the season plums, this seemed like a good recipe to use them in. I mean, who doesn't like cake?
As per usual, I tweaked the recipe a bit - subbing these Emerald plums for the purple "prunes" Ina asks for, as well as cutting them into slices and making this cool spiral pattern v. her idea of just halving them. This seemed like a prettier, not to mention more fork-friendly, way to go.
This is the end result. Noah and I had a few slices warm out of the oven and shared the rest with our friends a few days later at an Election Night party (told you this post was overdue). Everyone voted "yes" on Prop Plum Cake.

Oh yes, the fruit part seems to invite many, many variations. Ina suggests pears as an alternative. I think apples, persimmons and cherries would also be lovely. And I'm seriously considering a cranberry version for Thanksgiving.

Plum Cake "Tatin"
from Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten

6 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temp, plus extra for greasing the dish.
10 to 12 purple "prune" plums, cut in half and pitted (I used 8 or so Emerald plums, cut into 1/8ths)
1 3/4 c. granulated sugar, divided
2 extra large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 c. sour cream (I used 1/3 c. non-fat greek yogurt)
1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest (I used grated grapefruit zest since we were out of lemons)
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
Confectioners' sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 9-inch glass pie dish and arrange the plums in the dish, cut side down (or in a circular pattern of slices, as I did).

Combine 1 c. of the granulated sugar and 1/3 c. water in a small saucepan and cook over high heat until it turns a warm amber color, about 360 degrees on a candy thermometer. Swirl the pan, but don't stir. Pour evenly over the plums.

Meanwhile, cream the 6 tablespoons of butter and the remaining 3/4 cup of granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy. Lower the speed and beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the sour cream, zest and vanilla and mix until combined. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and, with the mixer on low speed, add it to the butter mixture. Mix only until combined.

Pour the cake batter evenly over the plums and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes, then inverth the cake onto a flat plate. If a plum sticks, ease it out and replace it in the design on top of the cake. Serve warm or at temperature, dusted with confectioners' sugar.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gates in the City

A couple of the ironwork gates I pass on my weekly walk to the H-wood Farmers Market every Sunday. I don't think I ever really noticed them (or a lot of other things) until I brought my camera with me one morning a few weeks back.
I especially love these. They're getting me in the mood for France. T-minus 39 days...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Something More Important Than Food

Like the majority of voting Americans last Tuesday I ended the day feeling pretty happy - my guy had won! Change was coming! Hope was on its way! On the west coast the election was called at 8pm and the celebrations commenced.

Except, as the night went on and the numbers started to come in on the CA Propositions, a sense of dread started to settle in amongst many of us. I'm talking, of course, about Prop 8. Perhaps I was naive, but I had really and truly believed at the start of the day that voters in this state (a state I love, a state I have always called home) would make the right choice. The choice to not limit the freedoms of other human beings. Naively I thought that in the midst of this presidential run, a run that seemed impossible even to the most optimistic in our not too distant past, that people would see the obvious parallels when it came to people's civil liberties and MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE.

I was wrong.

There are a million things I could say, but none of them are as eloquent as the argument Keith Olbermann makes. Take six minutes out of your day and watch. Maybe he can change your mind.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Chicken Soup for the Sickie

Yesterday I finally caught the nasty cold that Noah, his mom and stepdad (who visited last weekend) and seemingly most of the world has. And this weird thing happens when a) you have a cold and b) it's cold outside - you start to crave soup. I had Noah bring me home some french onion soup from The Corner (formerly Doughboys) yesterday. It was lovely. And also ginormous, so I got to have some more for lunch today. Sweet.

Later I remembered that I had the leftover bones 'n stuff from a chicken we roasted earlier this week still sitting in the fridge. Time to make stock! And not to, like, toot my own horn or anything, but I totally kicked this stock's ass. I guess for the first time I actually made an effort to not let it boil EVER in the process and the broth that it turned out was so far superior in color and flavor to anything I'd ever stocked before. I ended up eating a ton of it - alone, just stock. That's when you know a stock is good. And also that you are sick.

But plain broth alone does not a dinner make. And when Sherry and I were hiking in Runyon this morning she mentioned this turkey meatball and pasta soup I had made recently. Well, I wasn't really feeling turkey meatballs, but a skinless boneless chicken breast shredded and some noodles, carrots and celery sounded right up my alley.

And what makes a girl feel better than a bowl of soup and a glass of wine? Not much.

Chicken Noodle Soup a la Sarah
by Me, serves 1

2 c. chicken stock, preferably homemade
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 c. shredded chicken
1/3 c. dry pasta (I used these cool ring shaped ones, but orzo or other small noodles would work well, too)
salt and pepper to taste

Heat stock to a simmer. Add in everything else. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook until pasta is tender. Enjoy!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Beouf Bourguignon

You may have heard Noah and I are going to Paris for Christmas and New Years. And we're kinda, sorta getting really freaking excited about it. So much so that we ended up making multiple French/French inspired dishes this weekend. Including a Beouf Bourguignon.

The recipe is from "Glorious Stew" by Dorothy Ivens, a cookbook I fondly remember on my mom's book shelves when I was growing up. She gave me a copy a few Christmases ago and I've wanted to make something from it forever. I finally got it together this weekend, just in time for a moderate temperature drop that made it feel quite fall-ish (for LA, which meant mid-70s).
And wow, A+ Ms. Ivens. Yes, of course, I tweaked the recipe a little, but it's simple (really, I promise) and tasty and we're still (happily) eating the copious leftovers.
Beouf Bourguignon
"Glorious Stew" by Dorothy Ivens

3 lbs. boned shoulder or chuck fillet of beef in 2 inch cubes (or beef stewing meat, which is what we got)
2 slices bacon, diced
2 tbsp. olive oil, more if needed
4-5 tbsp. butter, more if needed
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 c. cognac (optional)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp. salt
6-8 grinds pepper
1/2 tsp. thyme
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp. finely chopped parsely (I left it out)
2 c. dry red Burgundy, warmed (okay, admission, we used a cheap Bordeaux, which I guess technically makes it Beouf Bordeaux)
1-2 c. beef broth, warmed, more if needed
1 lb. mushrooms
24 small white onions (pearl)
3 carrots, chopped into chunks similar in size to mushrooms (not in the recipe, I just wanted 'em)

Turn oven to 450 degrees. Pull out a 3-4 quart casserole dish.

Dry meat thoroughly so it browns properly. In a skillet, cook the bacon in the hot oil and 2 tbsp. butter. When it is lightly browned, remove it with a slotted spoon to a heavy, lidded flameproof casserole. In the same skillet, brown the beef carefully on all sides, a few pieces at a time, removing them to the casserole as they are done. Turn on flame very low under the casserole.

Sprinkle the flour on the meat, toss gently and cook until four is absorbed. Place the casserole uncovered in the oven. Cook for 5 minutes, then toss the meat and cook 5 minutes more. This is to sear the meat thoroughly.

Return the casserole to the top of the stove and turn the oven down to 325 degrees. In a saucepan, warm the Cognac (if using) and ignite it with a match. Pour it, flaming, into the casserole, standing well back and shaking the casserole for a few seconds. Stop the flame by putting hte lid on for a moment. *Note - This is not considered to be part of the traditional Burgundian recipe, but more of a Parisian flourish added in restaurants there. I emitted it, due to a lack of cognac or acceptable substitute.

Mash the garlic with the salt. Remove the casserole lid and add all the seasonings (thyme, bay leaf, pepper and parsley). Pour the warmed wine and add enough warmed stock to barely cover the meat. Bring it all to a simmer on top of the stove. Cover casserole and place in oven, turning it down to 300 degrees. Cook for about 1 1/2 hours, or until meat is nearly tender. Check during cooking to make sure the liquid has not boiled away. Add hot water or more stock if needed. Degrease the dish once or twice by tipping pot and skimming off fat. Check seasoning.

Now for the vegetables. If mushrooms are larger than an inch or so in diameter, slice into halves or quarters. Peel onions and make a small cross in root to prevent them from separating (if using pearl onions, the easiest way to peel is by placing them in boiling water for 3 minutes and then peeling, a la tomatoes or peaches). Cut carrots into comprable chunks to onions and mushrooms.

Lightly saute the onions, carrots and mushrooms together in butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add to stew (when you hit the 1 1/2 hour in point). Cook for 30-45 minutes longer or until meat and vegetables are tender.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween, Part One

We went to a real, old fashioned pumpkin patch up in Ventura a few weekends back, during Abby's "Beach House Birthday Weekend". It was fab, a movie-perfect rural experience. They had a Pumpkin Chucker, people. I didn't pay the $5 to chuck one of the orange lovelies, but I did watch several of the squash grenades launched by others. I think I might have Noah build one of those things in our backyard...
There were several dozen varieties of pumpkins, squash and gourds for sale. We got one of the cool Ghost Pumpkins and this crazy thing called a Speckled Swan Gourd. Jealous?
Anyway, it all got me in the Halloween mood way early. And now it's almost, finally here. The kids in the neighborhood helped me set up the porch with all kinds of decorations today. Tomorrow night we're gonna be lame and not go out and party and instead stay home and pass out way too much candy to all the kids. Haven't decided whether or not to carve some of the pumpkins we have or not. Hmm... Guess you'll find out tomorrow.

Architectural Pic of the Day

Another in the neighborhood wanderings series. About seven blocks from our place. This is the detailing at the top of a lovely, brick apartment building.