Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Language of $$

When Amber and I were discussing plans for Forkably Hip, our upcoming fashion and food event this coming Sunday, she mentioned her friend Michelle, owner of LadyLanguage.com might be willing to donate a gift certificate we could give out as a door prize. I was super excited, as her website is a great place for to find fashion forward finds for all body types with super low prices. I was thinking a $25, or maybe $50 donation at the best. But today, I was blown away when Amber announced the LadyLanguage gift certificates totaling $200!! Yay! So don't lose out on your opportunity to win a chance to buy any of the items pictured here. Reserve your spot today!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Tomatoes Coming Out Of My Ears

Heirloom Brandywine tomatoes

Lugging home 60 lbs of tomatoes from my parent's garden in an oversize Olive Garden paper bag (double bagged) seemed like a great idea at the time. My parent's 40 tomato plants were overflowing and they didn't have the energy to deal with all of the fruit. Happily, my Mom helped me load up all I could possibly carry. However, when I got off the Monday morning train in Chicago, I could hardly carry the bag outside to a taxi. I pride myself on my strength but I had to keep taking small breaks every couple feet. Even Ira, who came to meet me at the station found it hard to muscle the bag, needing to wrap a shirt around his hand to protect his palms from being torn into by the string handles.

Why am I going into so much detail about the weight? If we had a hard time carrying this thing, imagine what the layers of delicate tomatoes at the bottom of the bag where like when I unloaded them. Total smoosh.

Half of the tomatoes needed to be dealt with immediately or be thrown away. I was super tired from having to be up at 6 a.m. to get the morning train back to Chicago; all I wanted to do was take a nice hot bath and take a nap. My 40 hour work week was beginning the next day, and I knew I wouldn't have time until Saturday to take care of them. What to do?

A quick solution: Roasted Marinara!

I decided to slow roast the crushed tomatoes with some garlic and spices in the oven over low heat. This way, after the prep work, I could just throw the tomato mixture in the oven and forget about if for a while. You don't need to stir it or anything. Super easy!

I went through and separated the tomatoes into piles of the ones which were crushed and the ones were OK enough to last through the week.

Using a paring knife, I cored the tomatoes removing the stems, rotten and bruised areas, and cutting the larger tomatoes in half.

I didn't have any fresh herbs on hand, so a bit of dried thyme, rosemary, and oregano was added along with some delicious cloves of garlic given to us by Ira's Mom. Adding some kosher salt, pepper and a bit of olive oil, this stuff was ready for the oven.

I set the stove for 250 degrees and put it in the oven in my new birthday present. By cooking at a low temp, the sugars of the tomatoes are really emphasized and the flavors of all the ingredients fuse beautifully. Best of all, I could go take my bath and nap, knowing this would be fine in the oven for at least 2 or 3 hours.

I woke up, well rested, with my roasted tomatoes all ready to be taken out of the oven. After letting them cool for a bit, I gently pulsed them in the food processor and viola, ROASTED MARINARA!

Here is a photo set of a roasted marinara I did earlier last spring salvaging tomatoes starting to get moldy. I love roasting marinara!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Hill of Beans

A wheel barrow full of my parents organic greens, beets, kale and Italian purple beans.
Here is my full set of gardening pictures.

As of a couple days ago, it is officially fall, which means harvest time for the gardens. The past couple of times I've been back visiting my parents, my Mother keeps regaling me with stories of how many cans of tomatoes she just put up. It's not in a bragging way, but more in a "I'm sooo exhausted and if I see another ripe tomato on the vine, I'm going to destroy it with a tennis racket" kind of way. Of course, my Mom and Dad both love gardening, and get a real pleasure out of putting up their own food; the hard part about a garden is, it doesn't wait for you. You get home from work and you're tired. TOO BAD, you've got a bushel basket of peppers starting to go bad, and you've got to do something with them. It is rewarding yet tiring.

Bushel baskets full of heirloom tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos and more beets.

So the upshot is, my parents are only too happy to send me home with as much stuff as I can carry because they get to feel like they are nourishing me while getting rid of some of their own work load. WIN WIN!

My Mom and I holding her Italian Purple beans. These guys were left too long
on the vine, so my Mom sent them home with me to see what I could do with them.

So, for the next week or so, I'm going to focus my posts on talking about how I processed the produce I brought home and some of the shortcuts I took to cook and preserve it all to save time in my hectic life.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Eat This Book

I've always wanted to join a book club, but never found a good fit for me so, I decided to start my own. After nagging my friend, Katherine, for many days, trying to convince her a "club" can equal two people, I finally got her to join me. Then, however, we got bogged down again trying to come up with a book. After a million "I already read that"s and "I don't want to read that"s, we came to a choice we could both agree on, The Quiet American by Graham Green. Neither of us knew much about the book except its supposed literary importance and the location of Vietnam as its setting.

Kat and I had the best of intentions to make this happen, but as we were both frantically busy this summer, we had to postpone our first meeting from the first week of July until August and then further. We may have stayed in this state of inaction if our friend Alison, author of the blog Lost In The Supermarket, hadn't decided to join our group. She cemented the deal when she offered to host a Vietnamese themed meal to go along with our book discussion.

My Bánh mì sandwich with ginger pork, brie, mustard, mayo, pickled
mushroom, carrots, red cabbage, cucumber and fish sauce. Noodle
salad and Pate on bagette on the side.

Alison's Quiet American menu featured ginger pork Bánh mì sandwiches, sided with spicy noodle salad, pate and brie with bagettes and edamame with kosher salt. The deliciously exotic food flavored our conversation discussing Green's novel, which tells of early covert American involvement with the Vietnamese French war in the mid 50's foreshadowing the longer American military engagement yet to come.

Pork pate with fresh mint and noodle salad in the background. Pyle, the
damaged protagonist of our story drank much Scotch throughout the novel,
so I had to follow suit.

The novel delves into abstract issues of personal responsibility versus the global/cultural consequences of our choices. The main character, Pyle says about the man he has dubbed the Quiet American, "I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he has caused".

I felt a similar way about Alison's menu, as I sat contemplating the trouble I would have to go through to eat this meal every day.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Forkably Painful Official Invite

Designed by Painfully Hip Design.

Yay. We're getting geared up. Reserve your spot today!

Check out the Forkably Hip invite on Painfully Hip.com

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hangover Breakfast

This past weekend we drank so much Hofbrau Oktoberfest beer, by Sunday, I am almost getting sick writing the name out.

From left, myself, Amber and Rory and two random girls drink many beers at the Frankenmuth Oktoberfest festival!

Of course we had a great time, but of course we had to pay. Sunday=hangover time. Luckily, my mother was ready with her annual Sunday post-Oktoberfest brunch. Every year, she treats us all to a brunch complete with food perfect for curing any hangover.

Her brunch buffet includes organic homemade tomato juice, egg frittata, fruit salad, bacon, sausage and most importantly two bread casseroles: french toast casserole and a strata casserole which made of large pieces of bread crumbs with egg, tomato, ham and cheese.

My mother's Strata Casserole with Ham and Tomatos

The bread in these two dishes is perfect for soaking up extra alcohol in your stomach. What's best about strata, beside it's delicious taste, is its ease to make. It only takes minutes to make and can be made up to two days ahead so you don't have to waste time waking up early the morning of your party. Check out the recipe and try it for yourself.

P.S. Sorry the pictures for this post are so crappy, but I was incredibly overhung when I was doing them and this is all I could produce.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Oktoberfest means its time to drink beer!

As we are a family who loves to party, it has become a tradition to attend the Oktoberfest celebrations in Frankenmuth Mi. Known as Michigan's Little Bavaria , it annually hosts the fifth largest Oktoberfest in the country; this says a lot for a town of only 5,000 people. Frankenmuth pulls out all the stops, which may be the reason why it was the first Oktoberfest to be sanctioned by the Parliament and the City of Munich. Hell Ya!

Where's my Dad? He's getting more beer of cours!

We've been going as a family every year for the last six years (except for 2006 when Ira and I were traveling around on bikes). We've become such regulars, they featured our pictures in this years brochure!

That is Ira (in green) and my friend Katherine's back (in red) in the lower right corner. The photo is of our table as we drink Ein Prosit! (one cheer/toast). My arm is one of those arms in there. I am famous!

The day is spent pretty much as the pictures above indicate. Lots of beer, dancing, singing, and indulging in sausages, pretzels and more beer. You can spend the day watching men in lederhozen slap each others butts!

Did I mention the Weiner dog races?

People get really dressed up, and then we have to pose with them.

Katherine posses with her new buddy.

None of the men could resist this photo op! I was going to try and reduce the girl's red eye but then, I didn't, both from the perversity of making her look like a devil woman and out of laziness.

Drink enough that you have fun, and are relatively out of it.

But don't be like this guy!

My brother-in-law Jason saves the day, by calling the paramedics to come and help this hapless fellow out. Don't worry, he was fine. I love the look on the face of the woman in the background.

OK, lets get out there and drink drink drunk!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Painfully Forkable! Forkably Hip!

My secret agenda for this blog was originally supposed to be a vehicle for the food events I wanted to throw. However, as I got deeper into the blog hole and realizing how much time it takes up, the food events have sort of taken a back seat. But I am excited to announce I throwing a second event. FINALLY!

Forkably Hip; A Night of Fashion and Food. Sunday, October 5th. 6 p.m.

For our second food event, Forkable is teaming up with our good friend Amber Mortenson of Painfully Hip fashion fame to create a fabulous evening of food and fashion.

Amber's mission statement, "fashion forward finds for the weak of wallet" matchs our own goal of economy while creating quality "slow food for fast living". So lets hype up the hype, and see how fancy and falutin we can be on the cheap. Prizes for the Thrift Stars of the Day will include gift certificates from LadyLanguage.com among others as well as having your fashion finds featured on PainfullyHip.com.

So come dressed in your finest and cheapest and chow down on our French Provincial inspired 3 course prefix. Bring along your favorite cheap wines and bulldoze us with your budget buys to pair with our meal. Everyone BYOB. Suggested donation of $25.00 for online preregistration or $30.00 at the door. Vegetarian options available in preregistration. This is not just a chick flick, so men, don't be shy! Spaces are limited so reserve your spot right away!

Re-Thinking Soup

Classic Mexican Beef Soup served with fresh corn and lime

Activism is still alive on our college campus' today, as I experienced during my lunch break excursion to UIC's sponsored Re-Thinking Soup event hosted at the Jane Addams Hull House. A tuesday lunch discussion group focusing on topics of food politics, Re-Thinking Soup weekly hosts a different guest chef serving soups made from local ingredients.

Volunteers serving soup at Jane Addam's Hull House Re-Thinking Soup

I found out about this group, when my friend Efrain, one of the founders of the Chicago underground supper club Clandestino, invited me to come to this weeks lunch, and share my two cents on his chosen theme of supper clubs as civil disobedience. Efrain and I met when he came as a guest to my Forkfest this past July, and as a veteran in the world of underground supper clubs, he was very supportive of my first foray into the scene.

Efrain discussing his views on the underground supper clubs as civil disobedience.

I was excited to share in the discussion of the underground supper club movement as well as eat some tasty soup! I was not disappointed on either front. The conversation was active in promoting awareness of food sustainability issues and the soup was the embodiment of such theory. Efrain served two soups, a light and fresh corn chowder, as well as a classic Mexican beef soup, both made with all local ingredients purchased at the green market. Each was delicious (of course I tried both!) but my favorite was the beef soup, with its light yet complex beef flavored broth, served with a fresh cob of local sweet corn. Hopefully his recipes will be posted soon with the previous weeks soup recipes on the Re-Thinking Soup blog.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Rude Carrot

Rude Carrot
Originally uploaded by Wiccy Sunrise

Ohhh. I am much overhung this morning. We hosted our fourth (and last) going away party of the summer yesterday for my cousins, Leah and Greg, who after years of struggle, are finally giving in to manifest destiny. I was originally telling people the party would go from noon-4? but of course with many blood marys and mimosas later, we were still going strong at ten. So needless to say, I am in no blogging mood. However, I am always in the mood for a carrot with little boots.

I am going to drink some alka seltzer.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Jalapeno Poppers. Fire In the Hole!

Pretty much anything wrapped in bacon becomes a million times better. If you add cheese, your recipe will be UNSTOPPABLE!

When my sister Emily and her husband Jason were visiting his family in Texas, they were served whole jalapenos stuffed with cheese, wrapped in bacon and BBQ'd until nice and crispy. They were blown away, but my sister's gringo taste buds were burnin! When they got back to Michigan, they wanted to figure out a way to make the poppers year round, without the BBQ and without so much pop. Here is the recipe they came up with.

Jalapeno Poppers

Slice 15-20 Jalapenos in half, seed, and allow to soak in water for 30 minutes. By removing seeds and soaking you can remove a lot of the spiciness from the raw Jalapenos.

Tip: Use latex gloves when handling raw jalapenos to keep the oil off your hands. Always wash your hands with soap to remove any oil which may have gotten on your skin. If you don't, and touch your eyes or the inside of your nose, you will be in a world of pain!

Mix 1 cup of shredded cheddar and 1 package of cream cheese. Spread cheese on each Jalapeno half.

Take 1 package of bacon, and cut in half or in thirds to have enough for all your jalapeno halves. Individually, wrap bacon around each jalapeno half.

Preheat broiler. When all halves are wrapped, place tray under the broiler until bacon is brown and crispy.

By de-seeding and soaking and cooking the peppers, much of the killer spiciness is reduced. (Don't worry, these are still very fiery). Emily and Jason came up with substituting broiling instead of using a BBQ so you can do them quickly year round without firing up the charcoals.

This is the perfect time of year for this snack as peppers are popping off the vine. So wrap 'em in bacon stuffed with cheese and really let it pop.

Check out my Jalapeno Poppers Instructable which has supplemental info and great readers comments.