"The people who give you their food give you their heart" - Cesar Chavez

Friday, February 10, 2012

Rum Balls

The best excuse for mixing alcohol with chocolate.
 My gorgeous friend, Angelica, arranged a Mexican themed party bus to celebrate her quarter century! We all met at my house before hand for tapas and drinks. I decided to make rum balls to take on the bus. Easy to eat, and less potential for spillage than trying to take actual mixed drinks. There's something wonderfully American kitsch about rum balls. Maybe it's that they show up at graduation, 4th of July, Superbowl, Christmas and other such parties. Or it could be that their central ingredient is vanilla wafers? Regardless,  I love rum balls and plan on making new variations of these for many more fun events to come. 
Rum Balls

1 12ounce package of vanilla wafers, crushed
1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup rum
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/8 cup powdered sugar, for dusting

1. Turn on some feel good, dance party music and make yourself a mixed drink.
2. In a bowl combine the crushed vanilla wafers, chopped nuts, 3/4 cup powdered sugar, and cocoa.
3. Mix in the rum and corn syrup
4. Shape dough into one inch balls and roll in confectioners sugar. (I find that it is easier to chill the dough for an hour or two before shaping into balls)
5. Store in an airtight container for 2-3 days to let the flavor develop (aka increasing potency)
 Here's the beautiful birthday diva, Angelica in blue!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

NY Restaurant Review: The Northern Spy

I've been missing NYC a lot lately - so I decided to revive some restaurant reviews that I never got around to posting. Last time I was in the big apple was September 2011. It was a brief trip, but so sweet and definitely pulled on my heart strings some. The people, the energy, the chaos, the food - I love it all. I think I'll have to make arrangements to visit more frequently. Pictured above are two lovely women that in many ways, helped shape my love for the city. Wonderful friends from college, Yasemin is on the left and Katie Plat is on the right. You may recognize Katie from her oatmeal pie, knishes, and many more features! Yasemin has appeared in Saustown and the amazing Corner Bistro! On the Friday evening of my visit we went to the Northern Spy, a restaurant in the East Village, that I had walked by frequently but  never made it inside while I was living in NYC. After waiting for just over an hour (sigh...eating out in NYC!) we were seated for a delicious meal and yes...well worth the wait! If there is one thing I had to say about The Northern Spy, it's that each dish really does melt in your mouth.  The restaurant takes their ingredients seriously, the majority are all locally sourced with 'footnotes' throughout the menu sharing the origin of each ingredient. 

Here we go - for a starter we had pickled eggs with a house made aioli and pickled onions for garnish.
 Fun fact about pickled eggs: They are the most popular/frequently purchased snack at gas stations in the North East.

Warm, fluffy, flat bread with caramelized red onion.
A farmstead cheese board with fruit compote and a baguette. The fruit compote on the bottom right is made of pickled green grapes - delicious contrast to the cheeses!
Next we had crispy potato gnocchi with brown butter and sage. These melt in your mouth.
 Glazed baby carrots with brown sugar and parsley...also melts in your mouth.
 Divine Kale salad with delicata squash, cheddar, almonds and pecorino.
 Farro and egg with rye, sunchokes and cured lamb belly.
We actually didn't order dessert, but the folks sitting next to us did and it looked lovely, so I asked to take a picture. Not sure what this is...
This restaurant is best for sharing small plates, so go with adventurous / sharing eaters!

The Northern Spy
511 East 12th Street
New York, NY

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Food for Thought

Beautiful song by the beautiful Ray LaMontagne

 'our hearts are strong, and our hearts are kind'

Thank you Verve...

'Cause it's a bitter sweet symphony, this life
Try to make ends meet, you're a slave to money then you die
I'll take you down the only road I've ever been down
You know the one with all the places where all the veins meet

Monday, February 6, 2012

Mango Date Banana Yogurt Smoothie

Smoothies are hard to mess up. Delicious, refreshing, colorful, and each one takes on a completely unique, desired texture and taste. This combination I'm particularly proud of, while it is really think and better had with a spoon - it's delicious and nutritious....(sounds like a Margarine add!)

Mango Data Banana Yogurt Smoothie

Frozen mango chunks
Dates, pitted
Banana - very ripe
Plain yogurt, Fage is best

I think you know what to do here ;)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Bacon + Vacation = Bacation

My friend currently lives on a gorgeous piece of land in the country side of Petaluma. I had a mini vacation last Saturday at his place, that included bacon, I'll call it a 'Bacation' (bacon + vacation).  Admittedly, I've been slow to jump on the bacon band wagon, it's no secret that my experience with bacon is minimal. Growing up, I pretty much never had it. I may have tried it once or twice by the time I was 18, but we never had it at home and I never ordered it at restaurants or tried it at friend's homes. Fast forward to my 2nd week of work in the 'real world', the guys on the sales team ordered the "Bacon Explosion" from the Midtown restaurant, Blue Smoke.  Here's a pic of some coworkers having the first take of the bacon explosion.

This is what it looks like...
 While I like to think that I will try anything, I actually didn't try this as smelling it was like smelling a heart attack. I stood by and watched with my caffein free green tea as these guys ate 4 inch slices of the bacon explosion with a side of fries. I'd later find out that some of them a hard time sleeping due to heart tremors! So this wasn't much of a seller on bacon for me to say the least....but, I digress. This past Saturday was the first official "Bacon Saturday" and this is what a love affair with bacon looks like:
It starts with a bike ride in the country side of Petaluma to the soundtrack in my head of the Beatles, "Blackbird".
 Maybe you will pass an old, deserted house...This is the Milton Octagon House from 1856. Interestingly, this is the 2nd Octagon shaped building I've seen, with the first being Castle del Monte in Puglia. I looked into it and turns out the Milton House has "Italianate" architecture!
9 miles later, a couple of rolling hills and a couple of stops to look into deserted buildings, I'm back at La  Country Chateu de Sean. My friend's bacon was from Joel Salatin's farm in Virginia. Joel once described his pigs as having "a great life - and one bad day." Check out this interview with Joel on how to eat animals and respect them too. (Joel Salatin will be speaking live at the Mountain View Performing Arts Center on Monday, March 5th thanks to POST.) Back to the bacon...  which was sizzling in a cast iron skillet. No butter or oil is added to the skillet - the bacon completely produces its own oils and flavors to prevent any burning.
The bacon only requires a couple of minutes per side. The smell is divine. Place the cooked bacon on a paper towel. Sample some as you finish cooking the rest. Eat slowly to truly appreciate the range of flavors. Salt & Fat - two elements our bodies could be craving, especially if you regularly stick to a healthy diet. 
Cooked bacon aside, crack two pasture-raised, hand gathered eggs into the bacon grease.  Fry two slices of multigrain bread in the bacon grease. In case you're not following we now have two bacon-grease-fried eggs and bacon-grease-fried bread. Add a mild, smooth mango-tomato salsa, a hot sauce to the mix. This plate is heaven. If I were to die today, I'd want for this to be my last meal...minus the mayo (not necessary and no added flavor).
Bacon Algebra (What kids usually learn at age 10, I learned at 24!)
(Bacon + bacon-grease fried egg ) / bacon-grease fried bread = Bacon Party in Your Mouth.

But it's not over here - what do you do with left over bacon grease? You add it to almonds in a Vita-mix and make bacon-grease almond butter...
Smeared on apple slices or with dates, this is a pretty incredible snack. Because we could not grind the almonds, the texture was not quite as creamy and a little bit dry however still DELICIOUS. Next time I'd love to make a pie crust with this or use it as a crust for chicken or an apple crumble..
Just for laughs