Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Another Reason to Love Etsy

Have you been to Etsy? If not, you need to take some time to have a look. It's like a clearinghouse for all things retro-handmade-antique-quirky-fun. Make a cup of tea and find a relaxing chair first, because once you get started you'll be browsing for hours.

I admit to only buying 2 things from Etsy, but not for lack of wanting - more a lack of funds. The first thing I bought was an adorable Wonder Pets cape for Ian's Christmas a couple years ago. It was handmade with love by another mom and something I wasn't able to find anywhere else.

I also found something else wonderful and it came in the mail yesterday:

I spied this at Sassydoggs' shop and fell in love with it immediately. I have my own family cookbook that I write recipes in to save for my kids, but it had started to look rather pathetic and it wasn't quite what I'd been looking for anyway. Enter this little gem. The cover is an oilcloth of sorts and it's never been used even though it was made in 1964. I also appreciate that the seller and I have so much in common, both having fathers who sold antiques and both having a desire to reuse and recycle. A perfect match, really.

My next feat will be to find more filler paper in that size, which I know I can do at any local stationery store, but the real feat is to find old paper, slightly yellowed at the corners and ready to fit in with the retro feel of the book.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Georgia Cheesecake Pie

Georgia Cheesecake pie
Georgia Cheesecake Pie
Somewhere about 20 years ago I had a bunch of very ripe peaches that needed to be used up and I wasn't sure what to do with them. Thinking along the lines of peaches and cream that my Grandma Foster served, I found them to be too ripe for that, but perfect to put into the bottom of a cheesecake.

I added a regular pie crust and dubbed it 'Georgia Cheesecake Pie'. We've loved it ever since. This recipe first appeared on my Family Favorites page and I've revamped it since then to use egg whites and more cream cheese. The egg whites make the cheesecake nice and fluffy. Please don't use canned peaches, part of the flavor of this comes from the fresh peaches cooking as the pie bakes and infusing the cheesecake layer with peachy goodness.

Georgia Cheesecake Pie
Serves 8
Printable Recipe

1 9-inch single crust pie crust-unbaked
5 large very-ripe peaches, pitted and sliced thinly - peeling is optional
1 pound cream cheese - softened
1 c granulated sugar
3 egg whites
1 t. vanilla
2 T. flour

Flour bottom of unbaked pie crust with 2T. flour.
Add peaches to crust.
Mix remaining ingredients and pour over peaches.
Bake at 350 degrees F until top is set and partially browned ~ about 35 min.
This is absolutely delicious served warm or cold.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Review: Perfect Salad Partners

Jennifer Chandler's Salad Niçoise

I was fortunate enough this month to have two products offered to me to review that just happened to be the perfect pairing: Simply Salads -a cookbook by Jennifer Chandler, and Tanimura and Antle Artisan Lettuces. What a great combo for this time of year!

I adore salads, so any cookbook that focuses solely on recipes for delicious salads is perfect for me. Add to it the fact that each of these salads is made using a base of any one of 26 bagged salad blends, and I jumped at the chance to read it. I love this book and it's going to be getting a lot of play in my kitchen this summer.

The book begins with Salad Blends 101, a chapter detailing each of the most common bagged salad blends available, with photos, so that you know just what you're looking for. It then goes on to the best-possible pantry for salad making and then offers up more than 100 different salad recipes listed by main ingredient. Jennifer Chandler has matched up ingredients with greens creating gourmet recipes that are simple enough to serve every day.

The Tanimura and Antle clamshell design protects these beauties and keeps them fresh.

I took these recipes and paired up one of them with the Tanimura and Antle lettuces that I received and the result was pure bliss. Tanimura and Antle have been selling the freshest of the fresh in produce since 1982. These new Artisan lettuces, Tango, Oak and Gem are petite and perfect. I received 8 lettuces total: 2 red Tango, 2 green Tango, 2 red Gem and 2 green Gem. The website and literature state that these have an extended shelf-life of 16 days, and they are 100% correct. I've never had lettuces hold up so well for so long and still taste good. Think about it, my samples were shipped from California, not purchased at the store, and they made their journey here in absolutely perfect condition and held up stored in the refrigerator until I had time to use them.

They were the perfect base for the salad recipes in Simply Salads and something I hope my own local stores begin carrying.

Copies of Simply Salads are available at Amazon.com.

Please see the Tanimura and Antle website for more information on Artisan lettuce and recipes for all of their wonderful produce.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Grandma's Confetti Cookies

Red, White and Blue Confetti Cookies
Confetti Cookies dyed for 4th of July

When I was a child I spent part of nearly every summer at my grandparents' home in Tipton, Indiana. Grandma Sharp, my maternal grandmother, having only had one child of her own, spent her time herding my four brothers and me off to activities and church and cooking mountains of food for us - no small feat.

She had several specialties, one of which was Confetti Cookies, a recipe she had gotten from her cousin Juanita Searfoss. They are a delicate pink color filled with rainbow colored nonpareils, or confetti, and dusted with powdered sugar. My mother didn't make them so we always looked forward to having them at grandma's.

When I got older, I was given the recipe and started making them for myself and thoroughly enjoyed each batch. Just the aroma of them baking brought back happy childhood memories for me.

Just before the birth of my first child, a girl,  I was living with my in-laws. I had made several dozen Confetti Cookies just days before our daughter arrived. When my mother-in-law came to the hospital to visit with her new granddaughter, she brought along a container filled with those cookies and a note about "...pink cookies for your baby girl." As a first-time mom, and only 21 years-old, I was comforted greatly by that little bit of home she delivered to me.

Grandma's Confetti Cookies
Traditionally Colored Confetti Cookies

In the early 1990's when grandpa passed away, grandma was also ill and needed care. She came to Pennsylvania to live with my mom and step-father in their home. Part of grandma's illness caused her to not be able to eat many of the foods she loved. One of the few things she could tolerate, though, was Confetti Cookies. It was time for roles to reverse, and it was now my turn to make the cookies for her. I made them as needed over a 12-year period and was honored to bake and deliver them to grandma. The time visiting with her when I dropped them off was so special and she was so very appreciative; her face lit up each time I handed them to her.

Grandma is gone now, she passed in 2005 at the age of 97, but that recipe lives on. I make Confetti Cookies often for my 7 children, changing colors to suit the occasion, but they never taste exactly the same; they never taste just like the ones that grandma used to bake.

Confetti Drops
Mrs C.L. Searfoss
Printable Recipe

1 c spry (shortening)
2 c flour
6 T sugar
1/4 c milk
1 oz confetti candy (multi-colored non-pareils)
1 t vanilla or almond extract
1/4 t salt
red food coloring
powdered sugar

Mix shortening and sugar and salt. Add red food coloring to milk so it distributes well-ebough so the dough will be a pretty pink. Add extract to milk also. Add flour alternately with milk. Add confetti and mix well so it gets throughout the dough.

Roll into 1" balls and flatten slightly on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Do not let them brown!
The original recipe says to roll them in powdered sugar while warm but I always wind up with a sticky mess if I do this so I let them cool first.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Veggie Wednesday: Balasia is Back

Wendy Landiak, owner of Balasia, and Lehigh Valley's finest vegan chef is back at it every Wednesday at the Plaza Growers' Market in Allentown. Held each Wednesday - June through October - from 11:30 A.M. to 1:30 P.M. at PPL Plaza in Downtown Allentown, the market offers sustainable, local produce.

Wendy Landiak is there each week cooking up the best vegan food for take-away or to eat in at the plaza and is serving desserts from Vegan Treats - yum! This week, June 17, 2009 Wendy is grilling and menu items like sweet corn, baked potatoes, black bean chili and curry potato salad will be on the menu.

Stop by and check it out!

Saturday, June 13, 2009



My third post to this blog, back on July 6, 2005, was about this very sandwich. I didn't get into any detail about the origins of this particular food then, and I won't do that now, either, but I will repeat the recipe, with a brand new photo.

It's fun to look back on the last 4 years and all that's gone on, but one of the most fun aspects is seeing how my food photography has changed. These two photos are prime examples.

This is the photo I took today in natural outdoor light with an 8MP camera.

This photo was taken with a $20 1MP camera with an internal memory.

The funniest part about both of these cameras is the fact that they both needed to be held together with a rubber band - compliments of my great kids - so the batteries will stay inside. The top photo was taken with a Canon Rebel T1i, which was my go-to for Disney photos.

The recipe:

Muffuletta ala Anne
Serves 6
Printable Recipe

1 large round loaf of bread (traditionally Italian)
1/2 lb hard salami-sliced
1/2 lb sliced ham
1/2 lb smoked turkey
1/2 lb sliced cheese
1/2 c chopped black olives
1/2 c chopped spanish olives with pimiento
2 plum tomatoes sliced
1/2 c Italian dressing

Cut loaf in half horizontally. Remove inside of bread leaving a 1" ring at edge. Layer meat and cheese alternately, I usually make 2 layers. Top with sliced tomato, chopped olives, and drizzle with dressing. Replace top of bread and wrap tightly in plastic. Refrigerate for several hours and remove from plastic. Cut into 6 wedges.

Serves 6

Friday, June 05, 2009

Products to Love

EatSmart Nutrition Scales: Although culinary school was a long time ago for me (16 years!) I still find myself breaking out my copy of The New Professional Chef, the preferred textbook and guide for many chef schools. The recipes are some of the best I've ever had and I like to use the pastry and bread recipes in particular. The only problem with that is the recipes ingredients are more often than not listed by weight rather than volume.

Being without kitchen scales kept me from making many of my favorites. Lots of the conversions are fairly simple, but the end result isn't always the same. Having a set of scales has made it far simpler for me to replicate those much-loved recipes.

The EatSmart Precision Pro Multifunction Digital Kitchen Scale has an extra large LCD readout and a capacity of up to 11 pounds. For something to small, it sure does a big job. It's exact to the smallest amount in both metric and customary units and takes up very little space in my kitche. That was a huge plus for me because the kitchen we had just prior to this one was about 8ft x 8ft - truly diminutive.

For a scale that packs a punch, whether you're measuring ingredients or keeping track of your food intake, this one beats the rest hands-down in functionality and most especially, price. It sells for a mere $25.

Gaea Mediterranean food products: Certified Carbon Neutral food products from Greece. Partnering with myclimate, Gaea has offset carbon emissions from each step of their process resulting in carbon neutral products. I tried two products:

Cyprus Sauce - Rich Tomato & Orange Fusion Sauce. I had a moment's hesitation at the thought of a tomato sauce with citrus in it, but this sauce is absolutely delicious. I used Gaea's label recipe for Izmir Meatballs, and they were perfect; even the kids ate them!
Olive Oil - Laconia P.G.I. (which stands for Protected Geographical Indication) Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the land of the Spartans! After a few references to the movie, "300" we tried it and adored it. The flavor is light, bright and buttery smooth.

Ile de France Suprême Cheese: A soft-ripened cheese made with crème fraîche that boasts a fat content of 63%, this is one seriously rich cheese. While I try to come up with a great recipe for each of the Ile de France cheeses I've tried, this one was put to so many different uses that I lost track. I added it to creamy polenta for breakfast, tucked it into the vegetable filling of of my latest strudel, added it to the top of toasted bagels and stirred it into a rich homemade macaroni and cheese. This is a truly decadent cheese, meant to be eaten in small amounts, that delivers big flavor with every bite.

Scanpan: Scanpan, a Danish cookware maker, has just released the World's first PFOA-Free line of nonstick pans using Green Tek surfacing. I just won one of these at What's Cooking and I'm already in love with it. Made of ceramic and titanium, it holds and distributes heat very well and the safe nonstick surface has made this my go-to pan for omelets and other egg dishes. I also love that the pan comes with its own heat-resistant holder that fits right over the handle. Putting this pan in and out of the oven is a breeze and the fact that it can be put into the oven is my other favorite feature.

Tropical Traditions Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil: Did you know that coconut oil is not bad for you? After years of being vilified, coconut oil is making a comeback, and rightly so. The antibiotic and healing properties of this simple oil are unmatched and the saturated fat content is actually a 'good' saturated fat. If you don't believe me, get over to Tropical Traditions to watch the video, read the testimonies, and check out amazing (and heartwrenching) story of how this particuar coconut oil, the first certified 'virgin' and organic came to be.

This is the best coconut oil on the market with higher antioxidant levels than any other sold and the flavor doesn't compare to others either. We've used it in cooking, straight up and even set aside some to use externally on minor cuts and rashes. It's amazing stuff with awesome healing properties that begs to be looked at.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Chicken Spanakopita

Spanakopita may well be one of the finest foods on this earth. The flaky, crispy phyllo and tangy feta combined with tender spinach and a moist cheese filing make it like no other food. I'm not sure where I got the idea to add chicken, but I did and it turned out really well. There is a single top crust to this as I was afraid the added chicken may make a bottom crust too moist and spoil the whole dish. I might do it again and try the bottom crust, but either way, this was very good indeed.

I used a variation of Helene Bozakis' recipe that my mom uses, subbing scallions for the onion, ricotta for cottage cheese, half the spinach and eggs, and I'm starting to think her recipe is foolproof, because it was just as delicious as always.

Chicken Spanakopita
Serves 8
Printable Recipe

Half of a 12oz box of phyllo sheets
1 stick butter-melted

1 lb frozen chopped spinach thawed and squeezed until dry
1 bunch scallions thinly sliced white and green parts
3T olive oil

8 chicken breast filets cooked lightly on both sides
1 c. feta cheese - crumbled
1 lb. ricotta cheese
1/4 c. grated Parmesan
2 T chopped fresh dill
3 eggs slightly beaten
1/4 t. nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Lay cooked chicken breast filets on the bottom of a lightly greases 9x13 baking pan.
Cook scallions in oil until fragrant - about 2 minutes and add spinach. Stir and cook for 2 minutes longer or until no liquid is visible.
Combine ricotta, Parmesan and feta with eggs and blend well. Add dill, nutmeg and salt and pepper - mix.
Blend spinach and cheeses together until well combined - spoon over chicken breasts in pan.
Brush each sheet of phyllo with butter and layer on top of chicken and spinach until all phyllo sheets are used up. Brush top layer with butter and tuck ends into the side of the pan.
Bake at 350F for 45 minutes until golden and crisp.
Let stand 10-15 min. before cutting. Good served hot or cold.