Thursday, June 30, 2011 Grape Soda Night Was DDelicious!

Usually, once dinner is in full swing, I completely drop the ball on the picture taking and video making - but I managed to snap this shot before I ate all my grape soda pulled pork.

OMG! Grape soda pulled pork!

As I was preparing this feast over the course of two days I made an important discovery. Grape soda turns things horrible colors, but it tastes good.

Grape soda can chicken, seasoned with cocoa, chili, cardamom, galangal, allspice, sage, oregano, sea salt and pepper. Pulled pork seasoned with chili, cardamom, allspice, cinnamon, cayenne, paprika, sea salt and pepper, cooked in the crockpot with a bottle of Goya grape soda. Two kinds of grape soda BBQ sauce, one spicy and one sweet. Slammin drop biscuits, apple sauce made with grape soda and corn. Oh, the corn, with grape soda reduction and roasted garlic and butter - it was like a sweet ghetto Burre Blanc and gaddangit it was good! If you take any recipe from this dinner let it be this one. This covered about 12 ears...

1/2 can Grape Soda - put it in a pan at low-medium heat and reduce it by half,

Add a couple cloves of chopped roasted garlic and continue to reduce for about 5 minutes, it'll start to smell incredible.

Then add two sticks of butter, slowly in pieces, whisking it in to prevent separation.

Pour it on grilled corn, sprinkle with salt and BOO-YEAH!

You're going to have to trust me on this one. It sounds strange, but it will blow your mind with it's sweet complexity - simply dreamy.

Dessert was s'mores, and more grape ice cream sodas (which we also had as an app because dinner wasn't ready yet, bad timing on my part combined with early guest arrival. But no one complained they had to eat ice cream as an app, who would?). I just LOVE s'mores! I had two. And the guests loved them...and there was a big gob of melted chocolate on my carpet, always a good sign.

One of the best dinners ever - I really surprised myself. At one point, when I first pulled the pork out of the crockpot and saw the putrid color it had become I started to get nervous, but I managed to season everything perfectly. You can't go wrong with sweet and spicy, that's what I say!

Stay tuned for the video and feel free to contact me with any questions!

And, while you're at it, check out this awesome article I wrote for Alternative Control, check out this scene I did for Scenes from the Movies on Tango Dango and don't forget to make a reservation to see my play Connect Couples (dot) Com.


Monday, June 27, 2011 Grape Soda Night!

Oh, yeah baby, you read that right! Grape Soda Night!

My people love the grape soda. I don't know why this is, I actually drank one the other day and it was turrible! But there is no better way to celebrate the return of my good friend Marc than to slather our dinner in sugary purpleness. I promised him a Grape Soda Can Chicken upon his return from Mexico and I shall deliver.

Grape Soda Can Chicken, Grape Soda Pulled Pork, Grape Soda BBQ sauce, Slammin' Drop Biscuits, Grape Ice Cream Sodas...need I make more? I probably will, this is a special occasion. Stay tuned \m/

On another note entirely, I have written a brand spanking new play! It's called Connect Couples (dot) Com and it'll be premiering at the first ever Dinner Theatre Night at the Piedmont Club in Darien, CT on Saturday, July 23. Please, please, please, if you are in the area and you are able, please come down and check it out. It's only 20 bucks for dinner and a show (I'm not making the dinner this time) and you'll be supporting the incredibly nice people over at the Piedmont Club and, of course, you'll be supporting original theatre right here in lower Fairfield County.

Please pass it on! And make your reservation soon! Only 60 seats are available, and 25% of them are already sold. Reservations required by July 19, call the Piedmont Club at 203-655-7884


Wednesday, June 22, 2011 Pork is Cheap, Yo!

I made this fantastic discovery - don't ask me why it took me so long, maybe I wasn't paying attention, but pork is cheap, yo!

These beautiful deep fried meatballs were born of a 1 plus pound pack - $2.41 I paid for it. That's it! What the heck kinda food do you get for $2.41? The cabbage is actually super cheap, too. 59 cents a pound and the sweet potato was 99 cents a pound. Looks I'm growing up to be an expert in post-modern-depression-like-living.

Of course the 1 plus pound pack yielded me enough meatballs to feed an army - or at least feed my husband and I for two nights. Tonight they found themselves sandwiched inside some kick-ass garlic scape bread and topped with caramelized onions and creamy cheese sauce.

It's was messy, drippy, tasty good. The kinda sandwich you need to take a shower after because it's dripped down your face and neck and arms.


Here's the basic recipe for the meatballs. How would you serve them?

Basic Pork Meatballs

Slightly more than a pound of pork
1 egg
1/3 of an onion
1 clove garlic
fresh herbs (use what you like! I used sage, thyme and arugula)
salt and pepper

Mix everything together and then add bread crumbs in small amounts until the meatballs can be rolled into a semi-firm ball.

I deep fried mine, but you can fry them in a pan or do them in the oven at 350 until they're done. Always do a test meatball to make sure you've properly seasoned them!

I actually still have a handful of meatballs


Monday, June 20, 2011 Mushrooms for Meatless Monday, Monday

So here's me giving Meatless Monday a try.

I've been aware of Meatless Monday for a while, and I've done it on occasion, but more because I ate so much crap over the weekend and not because it was a national trend. I try to avoid trends.

But here we go with this DDelicious dinner poorly constructed sentence fragments...

Portobello mushroom caps - salt, pepper, olive oil.

Put cheese on top - grill.

Thin slice shallot, flour, fry.

Boil 4 parts water, add one part semolina, stir, salt.

Put it on a plate.

Eat. Enjoy. Rock on.


Thursday, June 16, 2011 Roasted Pepper Spaetzle Rocks!

I had this crazy idea yesterday. What if I used the rest of the roasted peppers left over from my Angel Hair with Roasted Peppers and Parmesan Cream Sauce to make spaetzle? You can put veggies in pasta, spinach pasta, tomato - why not flavor my noodles with a little of the flavor of home.

First, I gotta tell you, in my house we didn't call them spaetzle, we called them Hungarian Noodles. Now that I think about it this was probably a term they created in order to feed a fussy child. I can't imagine I'd have put anything with a name I couldn't spell or pronounce into my mouth. So the Hungarian noodles remained in my vocabulary, both verbal and culinary, until someone finally introduced me to the word. The recipe remained the same.

Enough of that reminiscing crap, flash forward to tonight's dinner and here we go...

Smothered Pork Chops with Roasted Pepper Spaetzle

Two huge pork chops

Marinate them in hickory liquid smoke, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika.

While that's going on slice up half an onion as thin as you can and cook in a saucepan with olive oil until they become translucent. Add one can of diced tomatoes and one clove of chopped garlic. Let that cook at a low heat.

Once the meat has marinated for 30 minutes or so sear each piece in a pan to get some color on it and then toss in a 350 degree oven to finish the job.

While that's going on boil a big ass pot of water. In a bowl mix 1 cup flour, 1 egg, approximately 1 1/2 roasted peppers pureed with a spot of water and about 1/2 a cup more of water (and salt, of course). Usually it's a 1:1:1 recipe...usually for me that is.

The recipe I had was 2 cups flour, 2 eggs, 1 cup water...but one day I got too busy talking to Marc while making my noodles and I added almost 2 cups of water! Well, wouldn't ya know those were the best noodles I'd ever made! So it's a mistake I keep on making. Thinner batter seems to work for me.

Now, I suppose you'll need a spaetzle maker, a piping bag might work, but I like piping bags. Pouring the batter into the spaetzle maker dispenses it through little holes, plopping the batter into the boiling water. Once it's all in there I like to stir it up to separate the noodles, they like to clump at the bottom and make one big noodle.

Once they float to the top they're done! Add some salt and paprika to the tomatoes to taste, take the chops out of the oven and ta-frickin-da! I assume you can figure out the plating from the picture. The pork chops were enormous, I only ate about half of it. But the flavors of the tomato and roasted peppers and onions all played so nicely together the pork was just bonus.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011 Cookin' Out The Fridge, Yo

I love to come up with meals in my head and then walk down to the supermarket for ingredients. Makes me feel green and creative all at the same time. But sometimes you just have to make do with what you have. Last night's dinner was all about what I had...and didn't have.

It was my plan to use up the last of the mushrooms I'd bought for deep frying (still trying to master that toy) and the last of the kielbasa in a mac-n-cheese type dish using the Swiss cheese I'd bought for the night before's sammiches. Well, by the time I peeled myself away from the computer (writing a play!) my husband had eaten the kielbasa for an afternoon snack.

Since I was so determined to not spend a penny on dinner I went with the next best thing I had available - hot dogs left over from Dinner on a Stick Night!

The end result wasn't as perfect as I'd imagined, the hot dogs really didn't pack the flavor punch as much as the kielbasa would have. Here's an approximation of what I made. I really didn't measure anything, so amounts are for comic relief only.

Mushroom and Swiss Mac-n-Cheese

1 1/2 cups uncooked pasta, cooked and then drained, duh.
1 1/2 hot dogs sliced and fried
5 mushrooms sliced and fried in the left over hot dog fat plus olive oil
1/8th of an onion sliced and diced then fried in the same pan as the hot dogs and mushrooms at a really low heat forever. Add more olive oil if needed.

For the sauce
2 slices of American cheese
2-3 ounces of shredded Swiss cheese
about a cup of milk
a good spoon of roux (butter and flour mixed together)

This is where it gets funny for me, because for some reason I added enough roux to make a wall paper paste, so I took out most of it and then added more milk to thin it out. My point is that you can fuck it up and still recover. It's only food. You're not trying to cure cancer, you're trying to make mac-n-cheese. Go easy on yourself, mistakes can be fixed.

So you heat up the milk on the stove, add the roux when it's bubbling and then mix it all together to thicken it. Really, it's like magic. Amazes me every time. Then add the cheese, stir until melted then fold in the pasta, hot dog, mushrooms and onion. Finally season with salt and pepper and mustard to taste. The mustard gives it a great flavor, and it would have been even more perfect with the kielbasa.

We each ate two bowls of this. And I'm thinking, if we ever do a Mac-n-Cheese Night this will have to make an appearance.

What do you like in your mac-n-cheese?


Sunday, June 12, 2011 Learning a New Toy

Deep fried devil dogs, baby! You frickin know it!

My husband got me a brand spanking new deep fryer at a tag sale a while back and I never got around to using it until last night. First attempt, not perfect, imagine that. BUT the results were still gosh darn tasty, and I learned a few things.

#1 - If you don't have the exact ingredients for pancake batter it's not the end of the world. You know how it is, you do a Google search of deep fried Oreos because when you do a Google search for deep fried Devil Dogs you get a hot dog recipe. Then, of course, you don't have the ingredients for the pancake batter that every recipe calls for. You don't have Bisquick or pancake mix - so you have to put your thinking cap on and decipher what ingredients make up the ingredient. I'm sure glad I went to college for this. Then you discover you don't have milk, you only have half and half - you know how it goes. Here's what I ended up making, and it worked.

1 cup flour
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon salt

mix together

beat one egg in a bowl

Mix together (in a measuring cup)
1/2 cup of half and half
almost a half a cup of water
top it off with maple syrup and vanilla extract

add the wet to the dry, mix with a spatula until lumps are almost all gone.

I froze the Devil Dogs, possibly a wasted step. The cream was still solid in parts and nice and melty in other parts. The jury is still out on that one. This leads me to lesson...

#2 - Following manufacturers directions is for losers! I should have known the directions were written by a bunch of suits that have never deep fried a thing in their lives! "Place the food in the basket before dropping the basket into the hot oil." So...can you guess what happened?

The basket is still soaking in a pot of water - 12 hours later!

I understand they don't want me burning myself, but if the hot oil doesn't immediately touch the batter my deep fried Devil Dogs will always lose half their coating. And that ain't right, yo!

Obviously I have to work on this. What a shame. I can tell you that they were DDelicious! Powdered sugar brought the whole thing home. I may experiment with a little cardamom in the batter, giving it more of a doughnut thing going on. But these are a home friggin' run, baby!

I have a bunch of mushrooms and a zucchini, so today I shall experiment with some deep fried savory - but I may have to give these another go before the day is through.

What would you deep fry?


Saturday, June 11, 2011 Greek Festival Nostalgia

I've been going to the Greek Festival on Newfield Road in Stamford since I was a kid. I remember getting dropped off in 5th or 6th grade for a day of sno cones, cotton candy and rides, rides, rides. I can't remember exactly when I had my first souvlaki, but my order hasn't changed much over the years. In the beginning I got chicken souvlaki, just tomatoes. Now that I have my lovely allergy to conventional chicken I go with the pork, but still, just tomatoes.

This years pork nostalgia wrapped in foil was missing a bit of the seasoning that I've come to expect over the last couple DECADES! OMG - how did I get this old? But it was still DDelicious. I got some real burnt up crunchy bits in mine that were yummy surprises, and the bread is still out of this world. I wish I knew where they got it, even without that extra dash of seasoned salt they brought me back to the years my friend Cathy and I would be sitting on the steps munching on souvlaki, pining over Joey Belladonna and Alex Skolnick (from Anthrax and Testament, if for some reason you don't know).

If you have never been to the festival you have two more days, today and tomorrow (Saturday June, 11 and Sunday June, 12). They have dogs and burgers for the unadventurous, souvlaki and gyros outside in a tent and then even more Greek food inside in the AC. Plus Greek baked goods! I've been known to bring home a baklava or two. This year I stuck to the fair faves of kettle corn and a caramel apple. Both were decent, nothing spectacular, but I finished them both so they couldn't have been too bad. Mister Softee was also there with a huge line! I wanted me some vanilla with chocolate sprinkles, but it seems I'll have to get that another day.

The layout of the fair isn't so great this year - not a lot of room. And who knew there were so many teens and tweens in Stamford? And why are they all so tan? Aren't they in school all day? But there are some great rides and such that you'll love to watch. We watched one kid on the Euro-Bungee...OMG, I wish I had my video camera. Plump little Latino boy, cute as all fuck, all strapped into the bungee. Every time the ride operator started to raise him up his face would get all screwy with fear. We watched for a few minutes, sharing this awesome comedic moment with the ride operator who kept smiling at us as we smiled back - the kid and his mom oblivious to our enjoyment. We should have paid the 7 bucks, it was worth it. Of course the mom was of no help to the kid, just standing there with the camera - I wanted to encourage him, but who knew if he spoke English, or if that's even considered proper anymore...can you talk to kids without going to jail?

All in all it was a great evening. We ate, played some games, won a wolf for our rabbit and escaped before every teenager in lower Fairfield County was dropped off for an evening of fun. There really were a ton of people there. Parking was tricky - you can park at Davenport, St. Cecilia's or that other church on the corner of Newfield and Weed Ave.

The people running the fair were all super nice - a rarity in Stamford. If it wasn't for the Greek thing and the Orthodox thing I might want to join that group of people.

Definitely check it out! Enjoy!


Friday, June 10, 2011 Diet on Draught?

Is it at all possible to get good tasting diet soda from a restaurant or bar?

In my experience, no.

I went out to dinner the other night with the Heavy Metal Sex in the City girls to Monster B's in Stamford. In no way is this meant to be a condemnation of Monster B's. I actually did enjoy the food, and of course the company rocked, but unfortunately the diet soda stunk on ice. It tasted like shit, too.

And it's everywhere! Unless it's coming right outta the can diet soda from a gun or from a fountain is one of the foulest liquids known to man and woman. Horrifically bitter is the best way to put it. I don't know if it's the mix, the lines, the nozzles or a combination of all of the above. Ask any bartender and they'll admit nothing is ever properly cleaned. Just think about it, at the end of the night they may wash the glasses but whatever soda is in the line waiting to be mixed with water and bubbles has to sit there, in the line, until the next day when some poor unsuspecting soul orders a diet soda... Ick.

Now, I don't drink beer. I don't drink any alcohol, actually. And I know this makes me even stranger than I am, but could it at all be possible for me to get a good tasting soda when I go out with my peeps? Is that asking too much?

I learned the trick at one local venue - order bottled water. I suppose I'll have to stick to beverages I can open myself. No more crap tasting diet soda for me - them days are over!


Monday, June 6, 2011 Food Safety, Government and You

The great state of Connecticut, of which I'm prouder every day to be a citizen of, has a law halfway through the legislature which will require the service industry to give paid sick leave to it's employees.

Now, let's not get into political debate about this. I know we all have varying degrees of Libertarian leanings when it comes to government telling us what to do. I want to show you why this makes sense and help you to protect yourself no matter what the state officials end up doing.

A simple google search can get you all sorts of information about food borne illness. The CDC estimates the deaths per year between 5,000 and 9,000! I'm not an expert, but I took a 16 hour sanitation class (only 8 hours are required in CT) and I can assure you there are so many things about food safety that you don't even want to imagine are true. Many times we all left the class swearing we'd never eat out again.

Simply put, sick people are covered in germs you just can't see and there's a good chance that stuff will get on you and make you sick. If they blow their nose and then touch your plate, go to the bathroom (not wash their hands) and touch your plate - even if they just touch the food prep surface and then make salad on it! I could go on and on... There is so much to proper sanitation I wonder why all food service workers aren't required to complete the 16 hours of training. Cost maybe? But I doubt the government and the industry would let a silly thing like money get in the way of customer safety.

Smell that? That's sarcasm.

Our teacher, who is a health department legend around here, told us the story of a restaurant in Ridgefield where customers kept getting sick. Turned out the germs were being spread by the servers clearing the tables. Picking up dirty plates, serving new ones - all they needed to do was hire a busser...and maybe wash their hands more often.

When I was a server I practically washed my hands off! I washed my hands after clearing every table, before wrapping any leftovers and (of course) after every bathroom visit. Believe it or not we had a cook who was seen several times leaving the girls room without washing her hands. Management was told but she never was fired and she still never washed her hands. Needless to say I didn't eat anything there after that.

So, here are my (somewhat cheeky) suggestions for protecting yourself from food borne illness while out and about.

-Stay home and don't eat out (see, told you they were cheeky).

-Call ahead and ask the owner if they give paid sick leave.

-If they don't give paid sick leave ask how the owner can reassure you that none of his or her employees is vomiting or has diarrhea or Hep A or a staph infection living on their skin.

-Ask the host or hostess how often they disinfect the menus.

-Bring your own silverware.

-Ask the manager how much hand soap they go through per month and divide that number by the number of employees scheduled per shift then multiply that by the total number of employees. If that number is greater than 1 there's a good chance everyone is not washing their hands as often as they should.

-As soon as you sit down call over the manager or head waiter and tell them only your server is to bring your food, not the food runner and certainly not the busser. Then instruct him to take away any and all plates, glassware and silverware because you brought your own. Then you may loudly and obviously unload your store bought utensils and hand the manager the still wrapped sleeve of cups and stack of plates with specific instructions that only he or she may unwrap them (after having washed their hands vigorously with soap and hot running water for 20 seconds) directly before the cooks (who have also just washed their hands in the same manner) place the food on them.

-And people with food allergies, forget it. Stay home. Vegans, too. Really.

So, yes, the Libertarian in me thinks we can all handle this without government interference. We just need to educate ourselves, be pro-active and vocal about demanding our sanitary rights. And when that la-la land comes to fruition you let me know, because I'll be home eating my own damn food.


Saturday, June 4, 2011 Stamford's Best Kept Secret

It was recently brought to my attention that everyone doesn't know about the best thing in Stamford. Here's approximately how it went down...

Me - "I was at the bird preserve the other day..."

Someone else - "Stamford has a bird preserve?"

At Cove Island Park, past the ice rink and behind the softball field, you will find the prettiest spot in town. It used to be the "stump dump" - littered with tree stumps and washing machines. But it's been cleaned up and redesigned to encourage wildlife to live wild and to give people like me something to love about Stamford.

Before you even enter the sanctuary you'll be treated to a beautiful view of Long Island Sound. On a clear day you can see the island, and if you're lucky you'll see a crane or an egret or a cormorant or a beaver - all of them almost oblivious to our existence. I've run into the beaver on many occasions. If you stand still he won't even notice you as he munches away on the grass.

Be quiet as you enter the path. I scared away a giant blue heron once as I entered. The sight of him flying made me think I was in prehistoric times and he was a pterodactyl. It was an awe inspiring moment, watching his huge wing span flapping him up, up and away.

Right past the gate is a little covered structure with a blackboard and cork board. You can write your sightings on the board as you leave and sometimes it has information on upcoming events. They do a lot of bird walks. I've never actually been on one, but I bet it's an informative event. They put up a lot of information on the cork board - what kinds of wildlife you're likely to see in that particular season. Many of the pictures were shot right there, so it's kind of exciting to think of what you might possibly run into.

Ate Turkey (dot) nom? Could that be our friends over at OmNomCt? And Redd Foxx? What's he doing at the bird preserve?

I've seen all kinds of wildlife down there - turkeys, deer, rabbits, ducks, geese, birds I wouldn't know how to identify and even two red foxes!

Oh, yes. I went down one day after a rain storm. As I silently wandered around the path I suddenly heard a gruff bark and saw an orange puff run off into the brush. I was a little scared, but I figured it would want to stay away from me, so I continued down the path. I saw him looking at me through the tall grass, and just as my mind was starting to form plan B I encountered another fox. This one looked right at me, barked and started to come after me! I turned and ran like I haven't ran since elementary school field day - only this time there was no consolation ribbon. I kept turning around to see if they were coming after me - my mind racing faster than my legs, wondering if foxes attack in pairs. I got away safely, and my Facebook friends got a million laughs at my expense, but I'll admit I'm still skittish when I walk that section of path. I think they were parents protecting their young, not rabid foxes, but it's still not something I want to endure...a fox attack.

But don't let that scare you away! There is so much beauty to appreciate down there. Take a friend with you - strength in numbers, know what I'm saying?

This is my favorite tree. I think it's a cottonwood, but I'm not sure. I love to stand in front of it and listen to the sound it makes as the wind rustles the leaves. I could stand there forever.

Now that beach season is here you need a sticker to park at Cove Beach. But there is a bus that stops right at the entrance to the park, so for $1.25 you can get dropped off. And if you want to park in the neighborhood and walk down there is a path through the woods, directly across from Albin Rd. That's a fun hike. The path is littered with bottles and fallen trees, but there are actually some beautiful spots there in the woods that you will never believe exist in Stamford without seeing them with your own eyes.

However you do it, get there. You won't be sorry. Unless you get attacked by Redd Foxx.


Dinner on a Stick Night! Featuring music by Waking Elliot, The Midnightm...