Tuesday, June 30, 2009


  The best part of joining a CSA is the mystery of what bundle of delicious greens we are going to get each week. This week, we got a lot of good stuff, including squash blossoms! These fragile fickle flowers are so gorgeous. I have only had them battered and fried, so why mess with success? I didn't even clean them, worried they might just disintegrate down the drain. I dipped them in some beaten eggs, then in flour seasoned with salt and pepper, then into a shallow fry pan of oil. I turned them once, then set them on a paper towel, and seasoned them with salt and pepper. They were really delicious. I wanted more! Here is a post with more squash blossom recipes that my fellow Woodside CSA members shared.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

I'll take one of everything! Brooklyn's Unfancy Food Show

    Who needs fancy when you can just eat and have fun? Thats what the Unfancy Food Show was all about, sampling some really delicious grub while meeting the geniuses who's very hands created it. Having been raised by my Sicilian father Rocco, I have mastered the art of talking with my mouth full. I have not mastered the art of ordering a prosciutto sandwich with my mouth full of mulberries and trying to take a photograph of the sandwich while paying for it. So I did the eating and let them do the talking and learned a lot of interesting facts about what went into the food that was going into my mouth. I also came home with lots and lots of goodies! 
   First stop, Gerald Jerky. I have to admit, after the Slim Jim factory explosion, I am not pro-jerky, plus its seems like mystery meat. But this Gerald Jerky actually looked like chunks of meat. 
   And Rachel, the Jerky Lady, hand made it in a food dehydrator with no preservatives. She spiced the jerky just right and it tasted like meat, not like salty MSG. Delicious. And soon she'll be making these with pastured grass fed beef. Even better. One bag of Jerky please!
    Next, McClure's Pickles. I am really a sweet gherkin kind of girl, but Bob McClure, co-owner with his brother (I love family enterprises) had some really tasty garlic pickles, some outrageous hot spicy pickles, and a mustard that was out of this world. How much for a case? 
   Onto Mama O's Kimchee, another family pickling venture. Kimchee is a Korean super-food, raw and very nutritious.  
   Mama O was right there being great and mama-ish. Kheedim Oh, son and chef/owner, was super nice and his kimchees were phenomenal. There was kimchee salsa, cucumber kimchee, daikon kimchee and I picked up a tub of traditional kimchee. All were ridiculously good and the perfect spice level for my taste. 
   Time to represent at the Queens County Farm Museum! When I was a kid this farm was an educational petting zoo. Pat, my godmother, helped out there one summer and explained to her tour group of kids that the horse's untimely erection was really a ladder for climbing onto the horse! No pony rides that day!
     The girls at the farm table explained to me that the farm has come a long way since then. Now they sell fresh produce, eggs and even farm raised pigs at the Union Square Farmer's Market on Fridays. I bought a round zucchini and made it that night for dinner in the form of Zucchini Stew and it was so flavorful and fresh. There I also bought a cup of their super sweet mulberries and cursed myself for wearing light colored pants. Lookout for the Queen's Farm's and Brooklyn-Based July 4th Weekend Pig Roast!
   Next door was the Brooklyn Kitchen table and a lot of fun cooking supplies. Their canning display caught my attention because of all the produce I have been getting from the CSA and my anticipation of some really fresh plum tomatoes for sauce that I want to preserve. I bought a Canning Manual and they gave me a lot of great advice. Check out Brooklyn Kitchen's cooking classes. 
 Across the way, the sight of a woman cutting pieces of fresh prosciutto off a pig caught my eye. Salvatore Bklyn, a wholesaler that sells to the likes of Marlow and Son's, was whipping up amazing open-faced prosciutto sandwiches smeared with fresh homemade ricotta and arugula and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. Yes!
   Chocolate time. First stop, Nunu Chocolates with some really nice salted chocolate caramels. A box of those to go. Owner Justine was a doll and explained that the company was started to give away goodies during her partner and husband's music shows, but the company just took off with a few successful retail stores, one on Atlantic Ave in Brooklyn, and they still haven't given them out during performances. They get their cocoa from Brazil and look forward to a trip there to visit the farm.
   Taza Chocolate had an elaborate display, with lots of free samples, like my favorite the Guajillo Chili Mexicano which tasted like chocolate covered peppers! (Hmmm? Kitchen experiment tomorrow?) Their organic and sustainable, direct trade and stone ground chocolate from Mexico and the Dominican Republic was really delicious and had that unfancy raw texture I prefer in dark chocolate. Anne showed me what a giant cocoa pod looks like, inside of which the cacoa beans are found.
    I even tried some raw ground unsweetened cacao nibs which almost had a nutty, Grape Nuts cereal flavor, and would be great to put on ice cream or Ann recommended in place of chips of chocolate chip cookies. A bag of nibs, thanks!
   There were two cheese stands, but they were so packed with people I literally couldn't get a taste, so more chocolate made sense and I headed over to Fine & Raw Chocolates for some dark chocolate from Equador. Their newest product, Raw Chocolate Ice Cream, was displayed on dry ice. Sexy.
    I had to elbow my way into Liddabit Sweet to try some of their local seasonal candies. Their cucumber mojito jelly candy was really like nothing I have ever tasted and I loved it! It was like eating fresh candy. No weird artificial aftertaste. Great!
   My last stop was the Marlow and Son's table, a sea of sanwiches and a tough decision. White fish or Brisket Sandwich? How does one choose? White fish, and can I just try a piece of the brisket, please?
 They were such a fun crew and let me have my white fish and my brisket, too! Both were such a great way to end my day of sampling at the Unfancy Food Show. I didn't have one beer while I was there but I felt drunk (in a good way) on irresistible food while I headed home. Thanks Brooklyn!


    I am going to the Unfancy Food Show today, Sunday June 28th from 12-6pm at the East River Bar (South 6th btw. Bedford and Berry). Its $5 for, " two boroughlicious farms, more chocolate than you can shake a stick at, the promise of handpies from Sweet Deliverance and sandwiches from Marlow & Sons so that you won’t get too drunk in the afternoon sun, plus cheese galore..." The Queens Farm Museum will be there representing my favorite boro, too! Join me!


     I found this not that weird fruit while out with my friend Claire in Sunnyside looking for a late night snack. I got this Korean Melon. It was just so pretty and smelled ripe for the buying. It had a very mellow, not to sweet, flavor, like a cross between a honeydew and a cantaloupe.  

Saturday, June 27, 2009


     Whenever I walk Charlie on the street, everyone asks, "What kind of dog is that?" 
     "A Catahoula Leopard Dog," I answer. 
     "A cata-what?"  
     Because of the length and tongue twistiness of his name, these interactions get annoying fast. But, there's just something about Charlie. A Catahoula Leopard Dog is the state dog of Louisiana, a cattle herding dog, stubborn as a mule, with the eating capacity of a goat. He'll eat anything, buttons, any type of poop, coins, rocks, dirt, sticks, tin foil, push-pins, anything. He experiences the world first through his big gorgeous camouflage nose. He will dig giant holes, only in perfectly manicured gardens of course, then stick his snout right in there and inhale whatever aromas his olfactory glands can pick up. Then, if it passes as something edible, and most things do, Charlie will eat it. 

     Here's where we come to the Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Cake. As Rocco proudly says, "he's american!" And a state dog should have his own cake. Rocco adores Charlie, so for Father's Day, aside from ridiculous Catahoula paraphernalia I gave him, I baked this Cheese Cake in the likeness of Charlie's unique coat. Mommy calls Charlie her Peanut Butter Catahoula, so the cake naturally is peanut buttery. The cake is also chocolately so Charlie wasn't allowed to eat any, but we did give him lot of treats for being such a good boy and taking photos near it. There were a few close calls, but the cake remained safe and quite delicious in the end. 

For the base I used Mommy's Cheese Cake recipe.

Quoting Mommy:
"Hi Jen,
Here's the basic cheese cake recipe that I use. I think you can add the peanut butter and chocolate just like you said.

Cheese cake:
Preheat the over to 350 degrees

2 8 oz. pkg. cream 
cheese at room temp. You can take the chill off in the microwave.
1 Cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream.
Graham cracker crust
You can buy the crust pre-made or make it with crushed graham cracker crumbs and butter, slightly softenen.
Mix them up and then press onto the bottom of the spring form pan.

Beat cream 
cheese til smooth, then add sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each one. Add vanilla, beat. Then add sour cream and beat.
Pour into the crust. Bake at 350 degrees for a half an hour or til the top is a light golden brown. Turn off oven and leave in one half hour with the door closed. Then open the door and leave open for another half hour (doesn't have to be wide open in case one of the cats might want to jump in the over for a piece.)

Can't wait to have Catahoula Cheesecake.
Love Mommy"
For the design, I used Peanut Butter and Chocolate Ganache.

Chocolate ganache - 1/2 C. chocolate chips + 1/2 C. heavy cream melted). Its best to use a double boiler for this. If not, use a heavy sauce pot and heat it on low and stir constantly.
For the peanut butter I tried to do the same, melting it with heavy cream, but I had really "natural" PB and it turned into this weird texture. I think regular JIFF would fair better. The PB actually was quite creamy so I ended up using it at room temp.

I randomly dropped 1/2 tsp of the ganache and PB on top of the cheese cake batter. At first I was going for a more camo look, but when I started making designs with the tip of a tooth pick, it came out so pretty, I just ran with it.
You just drag the tooth pick through the chocolate ganache and PB, and make little swirls and curls. Fun! 

Friday, June 26, 2009


    I had the best peach this morning. Kumar (above right), the awesome fruit vendor on 6th and Spring was excited when I took a nice sniff of his peaches and decided to by one. As I paid ($1, but it was worth it), he started spraying my peach, soaking my entire hand with a wonderful mist, then ordered me to sit down and eat it right away! I like this guy's enthusiasm. Many would say its just a peach. But this was a special peach, sweet and juicy and as I finished it, moaning in delight with peach juice running down my hand like a melting ice cream cone, passersby were giving me funny looks. "This is the best peach!"
    And, Happy Birthday to my favorite Cancer, Jeremy! (above left). For lunch we dined at Blue Ribbon Sushi. Our sushi was unbelievable! The eel avocado boxed roll and the special soft shell crab roll were both stand out. We're not sure which, but Frankenstein or a Neanderthal with epilepsy walked by as we ate Jeremy's birthday green tea creme brulee with a candle stuck in it and sang Happy Birthday in our best Spanish. 
    On the way back to the shoot, we passed by Kumar, and we got Jeremy a birthday peach. He got the whole treatment from Kumar, mist and everything. If you want a nice peach without having to go to Georgia, visit Kumar in Soho. He's awesome! And if you want to road trip with me to Georgia just for a peach, let me know!

An East End Culinary Tour, "I'm not hungry but I'll eat!"

   This week marked the first Hamptons trip for Erik and I since Yui (my former work spouse as Mike called her) moved to Japan. Before embarking Erik, a vegetarian, complained that on his previous Hamptons trips he had not enjoyed one good meal! I was shocked and felt a personal culinary challenge brewing: I would engorge Erik on amazing food. I succeeded. Here is our overindulgently fat itinerary broken down by day and meal.
   Day 1 (lunch): Before we left, we were famished (a good start) so I decided we pick up some olives and cheese from Valentino's Cash and Carry, a great shop on Metropolitan Avenue with great imported Italian cheeses. Nonna is a regular there. We got a loaf of semolina, 2 types of cheese, a prima sale and a ricotta salata, and two types of olives, small black little ones and big green fresh ones. That is how I distinguish them in the giant white buckets. We also got some tasty sun dried tomatoes. I think Erik was a little skeptical, so I offered him a slice from Rosa's Pizzeria. He got the Sicilian, the best slice they offer. 
    We brought out treasures to Rocco's, where we picked up Charlie, the Catahoula Dog, our 3rd traveler on our Hamptons journey, and at a nice lunch there. Rocco cut up some fresh tomatoes with olive oil to freshen up the meal. Erik seemed to enjoy his lunch while listening to Rocco's mumblings with his mouth full. He remarked on how delicious the bread was, so soft on the inside and crusty on the outside. We headed east with the leftover cheese, olives and sundried tomatoes, satisfied but ready for more.
    Day 1 (snack): Arrived and settled, we headed over to the photo shoot, figuring we might as well pick up a snack to hold us over. We stopped by at La Fondita, a small Mexican place in Amagansett on Montauk Highway. Its the first I've seen it open, and I was intrigued. I got two baja style fish tacos and wished I ordered fifty. They were outstanding. Everything a fish taco should be, a warm and crispy but not oily batter with fresh soft warm fish on the inside, covered in a creamy chipotle mayo, topped with shredded cabbage and wrapped in two perfect soft tacos. I also got a Hibiscus Flower Aqua Fresca. Erik ordered a vegetarian burrito that he loved and a Horchata, an Aqua Fresca made with rice milk, cinnamon and almond. For a dessert "snack" we got some $0.35 each Mexica Wedding Cookies, both kinds, chocolate and vanilla. They are like a light and less buttery and nutty short bread with a cinnamon edge and doused in powdered sugar. Fantastic. Erik and I were split, I dug the chocolate, he the vanilla. We swore we'd bring Carrie, Erik's wife who would arrive the following day.
    Day 1 (dinner): After the shoot, it was time for more, "snacks." After all, it was a long tiring shoot. We went right around the corner to Citta Nuova. Not only is it a really nice Italian restaurant, its usually open late night, even during the off season, which is perfect for us. We started out with Fava Bruschetta covered in Pecorino Romano and a Shaved Fennel Beet Salad. For sides we got broccoli rabe, which was good and straightforward with olive oil and garlic, but the winner was the Fingerling Rosemary Potatoes which seemed like they were doused in butter (not compling.) They were caramelized to perfection. And lest we forget about dessert, an arborio rice pudding creme brulee. Yes, it was delicious. We were on to some great eating and had only been there one day.
   Day 2 (breakfast): The next morning Carrie had arrived, she's the sweetest girl and a vegan, another challenge, but I think she ended up happy before leaving that day. We ate breakfast at my favorite spot, Hampton Chutney Co. Carrie and I ordered the #7 (seasonal grilled corn, roasted peppers, roasted onions, arugula and jack cheese). Carrie got it in dosa form without cheese and a watermelon juice. I ordered mine in Uttapa form. It was like a pizza and had two much cheese for my liking, but the corn was fantastic. I will only opt for dosas from now on. Erik got the #5 (avocado, fresh tomato, arugula and cheese.) and the Mango Lassi and Double Chocolate Chunk Cookie. I also got a Chai Tea which is always superb. Next, a walk to the beach. The waves were big, the sun was strong. Enough, more food awaits.
    Day 2 (lunch): We hadn't quite walked off our breakfast but we saw the Jitney go by and had to squeeze a vegetarian burrito into Carrie before she left. Two more vegetarian burritos, for the lovely couple and some Hibiscus Flower Juice, a fish taco and a chorizo taco for me and the Tamarind Aqua Fresca. And don't forget to fill a bag with more of those cookies. The catch phrase for the Hamptons was taking form, "I'm not hungry, but I'll eat!"
   Day 2 (dinner): The second evening we figured we'd eat before the shoot. We dined at the 1770s House, one of East Hamptons' finer eating establishments. Looking at our attire, they hinted that maybe we should sit in the garden as the dining room is "more formal." Maybe we didn't look Hamptons chic, (thank god!) but with a prixe fix, we were right on budget and maybe slightly hungry? I got a Seared Scallop on a Vichycoisse of pureed potatoes and leeks, and Erik started with an arugula salad, which he later admitted was overdressed. For course two, I got a orvietta pasta with fresh lobster and Erik the fettucini with trumpet mushrooms and farm peas. I would have rather my sauce to be a little fresher and lighter to complement the lobster but it was tasty still. Erik's pasta was the real winner. I secretly wanted to order it, but more wanted him to try the lobster. I won't divulge whether he did. At this point, dessert was excessive, but included so ... Molten Chocolate Cake for Erik, and for me the Date Toffee Cake drowning in Caramel Sauce. (this one's for you, Yui!) After this meal, I realized this place is good, but a little decadent for my agida prone 1/2 Sicilian stomach. Its been a long time but I actually bought some Tums! The butter was to blame, not the extravagant over eating! 

    Day 3 (breakfast): At this point all I wanted was some fresh fruit, but Erik was in the mood for waffles, so before our hike in Montauk, we at at John's Pancake House. It was a great place, full of character and characters, from the giant marlon plaque hanging on wood paneling over the old school diner bar fashioned with a Jerry Seinfeld cut-out picture frame to the straight out of an 80s sitcom waitress who described my blueberry buckwheat pancakes as "dark, heavy, grainy and really healthy for you." They were good and all of the above. Erik got a gigantic Whole Wheat Waffle with Strawberries on top. This place was serious about their batter. 
   We headed off to Camp Hero and hiked to the lighthouse on a really lovely secluded stretch of rocky beach. Charlie the dog was on a different and far more disgusting culinary tour during this trip, too. I had thought he was partial to deer poop, the likes of which he scarfs on the lawn of the Gansett Green Manor, where we were staying. On the beach that day we learned he has a poop tooth for sea gull terds, the shells of dead horse shoe crabs, Erik introduced him to sting ray eggs, and he pranced around with a 3 foot long dead fish carcass in his mouth. Appetizing. On to lunch. 

    Day 3 (lunch): I could not leave the Montauk without eating a Lobster Roll, so we went to Lobster Roll, also known as Lunch, where they served us some really delicious traditional fresh lobster rolls on a hot dog bun, with a side of cole slaw. And as if we didn't already eat batter filled pancakes for breakfast Erik ordered beer battered onion rings. Wise choice my friend. They were perfectly fried. I didn't even need to use the Tums again, surprisingly.

   Day 3 (dinner): By now we were fully disgusted with ourselves and I was feeling like my challenge was successfully executed. We shot our last shoot and headed home, but were hungry, again, and it was pouring and we didn't feel like sitting down at a restaurant as the Catahoula dog had been in the car for most of the day, like a well-behaved doggy boy. So we got a loaf of bread and reminisced about our East End Culinary Journey while driving home and messily shoving cheese and sun dried tomato sandwiches into our mouths along with the olives, all leftovers from the first meal we kicked off the food tour with. For dessert, I found some leftover Mexican Wedding Cookies and Erik managed to down a bag of Sweet Potato Chips, a bottle of green vegetable juice, and a donut!?!? remarking that after 3 days of overeating, its great to end it with some junk food. Touche'.  He asked, "When you and Yui used to come out here, did you eat this much?" Answer: Yes!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Save me a piece 'a that hero...

I also found this "cake" on the Cupcake Cafe Website. This is so a Queens 6 footer!


    My friend called me a witch last night, a good witch of course, because I had a weird ESP moment over a cookbook. At the shoot today, when I sent Erik out to Adorama to pick up equipment, I immediately thought "cupcakes!" from the Cupcake Cafe, the best cupcakes in NYC. Then I reconsidered because I have been sinfully overly indulgent these past few days (look out for the Louisiana Catahoula Cheese Cake recipe). So wrong yet so right. I think Claire is right because I went to the kitchen at work, normally empty, to grab some water and came upon this fabulous cupcake table, that I can only imagine a candy fairy had created after my witchy mind summoned her! This diabetic shock in waiting spread is either the result of some major boss butt kissing or pure love. From the sweet energy emanating from the table scape, I sense its the latter.   


    Rocco hasn't been happy with the swiss chard from the CSA. The first week, I picked out a puny bunch, the  next week it wilted quickly so he just gave it to me. I don't know what to do with Swiss Chard, so I treated it like Kale or Spinach and sauteed it in a little olive oil with garlic and onions, and a wee bit of honey, salt and pepper, then let it steam in it own juices. I was going to make a frittata, but then again, I just made a frittata with CSA Spinach, so I decided to make a Swiss Chard Sandwich (similar to a Broccoli Rabe Sandwich) but with a runny fried egg on top. To the toasted Italian bread, I rubbed some fresh garlic, topped it with the swiss chard, topped that with the eggs, a little salt and pepper and there you go. 
    Swiss Chard prepared this way, is really peppery and distinctive in flavor. Almost like something I need to get used to. It brought back weird olfactory memories that I couldn't quite grasp. Like of the woods on a damp day? Or a stream. Weird but still tasty. The way Rocco prepares it, it comes out very differently. I think he boils it, then to the hot Swiss Chard adds fresh garlic and olive oil. Rocco, is that right?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Did You Say Duck? Hapa Kitchen presents...

    When I saw the "Paris of the East" invite on the Hapa Kitchen blog, I just had to go. A dinner all about duck, each course, and I love duck! I emailed right away, 2 tickets please, but it was full and I was sad. No duck for me. It was meant to be though because after a cancellation I was in with 1 ticket; I was taking myself on a date ... with DUCK! 
      On the invitation they said, "Dressing Up Is Not Discouraged." Fancy. But, the shoes-off "suggestion," at hosts Winnie and Chris' apartment in Fort Greene, Brooklyn (mound of guests' shoes at the door) gave the party a comfy and casual vibe. Besides, I love walking around barefoot in stockings. And the fun part of hosting the dinner in your home is that peculiar items end up in your bedroom, like a wok on top of your bed sheets.
    Walking in to the whirlwind of a kitchen was a bit dizzying at first. And Hapa Kitchen's Akiko Moorman, with experience working in NYC restaurants, ran a tight ship. This girl knew how to keep the pace moving and the duck rolling. Such take charge energy is required for a 5 course meal for upwards of 40 people. The main ingredient, the duck was provided by D’Artagnan.
    Mixologist Mayur Subbarao's "Huan Huan" Cocktails were sweet bright red "pace yourself" concoctions that helped loosen everybody up.  
    The lovely servers presented duck mousse canepes with shiso. The texture of the soft mousse on the crisp rice cracker made a nice starter.
    Happa Kitchen's Cathy Erway prepared Steamed Duck Buns with Dijon as a second appetizer. Moist duck inside a warm doughy bun, with a kick of dijon and fresh cilantro. Fantastic. I am just sorry that I didn't reach for seconds. 
    We chatted about the Supper club, and she explained to me that a Hapa is a person of mixed-with-asian descent. Her friend, Ken, passionate about the subject, spoke about Loving vs. Virginia, a Supreme Court case that in 1967 made it legal for interracial couples to marry. Cathy explained that their crew members are first generation "legal" Hapa babies. There was certainly a lot of Hapa Love there and it was really coming through in the delicious duck.
 When we sat down to begin our main courses, Jennifer Lee, representing her family's organic farm called Sang Lee Farms, located on the North Fork of Long Island, talked about the fresh local produce provided by the farm and how the local CSAs have really helped keep the farm running. She runs a stand on Saturdays at the Fulton Street Farmer's Market. 
    The first two courses, the Five Spice Duck Pastry followed by the Duck Explosion with Cucumber Soup were excellent. They paired perfectly with Wolffer Estate Vineyard's Rose and a Reserve Chardonnay, respectively. Wolffer Estate is a gorgeous vineyard on the South Fork and I always enjoy their Apple Wine in the fall. 
     For the main course, a seared duck breast with drunken butter and baby bok choy, paired with a Merlot. The duck was so savory and the duck fat, well it was the best part. It was so delicious I would have been satisfied with this dish as the finale. They finished the meal with a Spring Salad with Crisp Duck Skin and more wine, a Cabernet Franc. The dressing was a bit sweet for my taste buds at this point in the meal, but the crispy fried duck skin was scrumptious. A bowl of crispy fried duck skins please! For dessert they served a Red Bean Brulee and a nice sweet strong dessert wine. Beans for dessert are tricky because after a big meal they are quite filling, but they were floating in a perfect custard.  
    Why no pictures of the last two courses? Blame it on wine or blame it on the great time I was having at the duck dinner. I embarked on my solo date looking forward to some delicious duck, and the Hapa ladies certainly delivered. But the meal did what a great meal does, bring people together. Walking into the party, I knew no one, but by the end, I wanted to just hang out all night, and eat more duck! 

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sassy Sweet Treats makes dessert an entire meal!

  Our lovely friend Jennie Broderick, AKA Cookie Einstein and owner of Sassy Sweet Treats, invited us over for dinner on Saturday with her husband Jim and our friends Todd and Nicole. "Dinner" was great, an assortment of deliciously basted BBQ goodies and a great time with our pals and their canines. But in Sassy Sweet Treats Land, the main course is of course dessert. 
   For a starter Jennie served Grandma Flossy's Cream Cheese and Olive Spread. Apparently, its that simple. Just cream cheese and olives. You can't go wrong with either, and Flossy realized together they are even better! The first of many addictive flavors of the evening.
   I literally had a bouquet of cilantro from the CSA so I made this "experimental" White Bean Cilantro Hummus. I added some garlic, cumin, lemon juice and olive oil. Its a great spread for bruschetta.
   We played with Tugboat and Daisy. 
   Daisy is a very sassy girl herself. She exuberantly jumps up on people and has great aim when it comes to men. We are not talking about tennis balls!
   Now for dessert. Oh wait, we didn't eat dinner yet. Dinner was fantastic. Not only can Jennie bake but she is a Barbecue Queen as well. She made really delicious grilled shrimp, chicken and perfect corn, a fresh mozzarella and tomato salad plus hamburgers for the two picky boys. 
   Her oven skills don't stop at cookies either, we had Bowman's Mac n' Cheese. Whew, was it delicious! What I really liked was that Jennie used two big types of pasta, cellentani and rigatoni. It was messing with my mind. You get big mouthfuls of different creamy textures, topped with toasty bread crumbs. Irresistible.
   I supplied a veggie dish of Sage Pecan Carrots
   Everything was so good. I really wanted seconds but I consciously held off because there was a lot more to come!
    Now is it time for dessert? I have to say, my dessert feigning brain wouldn't have waited, but Jennie, who is a wonderful hostess, knew exactly the appropriate time to wait between dinner and dessert, so we weren't still full but hungry for sweets. 
    Of course there was an assortment of Jennie's Famous Sassy Sweet Treat Cookies. There were her best selling chocolate chunk, my favorite the peanut butter chunk, the fabulous sugar cookie, the scrumptious oatmeal raisin and the very special oatmeal toffee chunk. You want to try these. Trust me. They make great gifts, but be selfish and treat yourself to a tin. You will be very happy you did. Make that two tins; they go very fast. (I am giving Mike a dirty look right now because he just finished the last of the stash we brought home ... grrr.)  
    Another addictive dessert that Nicole made was what she calls Chocolate Saltines. They are so so good. Why? A few key ingredients, chocolate, saltines brown sugar and butter! Thats it. So easy and so delicious.
    There's more. Jennie's Mom Bonnie made her infamous Sour Cream Coffee cake at my desperate request. I had this the first time when I photographed Jennie's cookies for her website and I literally rave about it every time I talk to her. It is my favorite cake ever. Rocco, who also loves it, describes it as uniquely complex on the taste buds, at first you taste the warm butteriness, then the chocolate flavor melts in, then a nice hint of sour creamy cinnamon. Its bonkers. Jennie, please figure out how to ship this. I will order it every week!
    If all this is not enough Jennie made the most beautiful Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes. She assembled them like a pro and they looked better than the photo from the magazine where she got the recipe. These babies were so good with more playful textures to spin my brain: the sweet strawberries enveloped in smooth whipped cream on top of perfectly moist shortcake. 
    At one moment I looked at my plate and I might as well have had one of those segmented TV dinner trays in front of me. A piece of Sour Cream Coffee Cake in one corner, Nicole's Chocolate Saltines in another, the decadent Strawberry Shortcake Cupcake in the center, and the poor Peanut Butter Chunk Cookie never made it to the plate. And in the next moment it all disappeared. Thanks Jenny and Jim for a wonderful evening! 


Grandma Flossy's Cream Cheese and Olive Spread
In a food processor combine Spanish Olives with Pimentos with Cream Cheese to desired consistency.

White Bean Cilantro Hummus
1/4 C. dry white beans, soaked overnight then boiled for 20 minutes in unsalted water until soft
3 cloves garlic
1/2 C. chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 C. olive oil
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. cayenne
Juice of 1 lemon

Combine everything in a food processor.

Sage Pecan Carrots
Bunch of carrots, peeled
1/2 c. pecans
1/2 stick butter
olive oil
1/4 C. chopped fresh sage
2 TBSP brown sugar
Salt and Pepper

Combine everything in a baking dish and bake until carrots are tender at 350 degrees.

Bowman's Mac n' Cheese

1 – 1 lb box of pasta (Rigatoni) 
1.5-2 lbs cheese (A majority of it should be sharp cheddar, the rest can be Monterey Jack) 
2-3 TBSP flour
2-3 TBSP butter
Italian style bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350°.  Grate all cheese ahead of time.  Boil water. Drop pasta into boiling water.  While pasta is cooking, make the sauce.  The key to great sauce is constant vigilance!

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter.  When butter is melted, add flour and 1/4 cup of milk.  Stir to get a paste.  

Immediately add cheese a handful at a time, stirring constantly.
  Add milk as you go along, as you see fit.  There is not a precise milk measurement because it varies depending on your cheese and volume.  You do not want runny/watery sauce.  It should have a good thickness, so add milk slowly.  You can always add more to thin sauce. 

When all of the cheese has been added, stir until a good thick cheese sauce has been attained.
  Salt and pepper to taste, though you probably will not need much salt. Until all of the cheese is added, heat on high heat.  You should turn down the heat to medium-low once all cheese is added, making sure to stir often to avoid cheese congealing or burning on the bottom.  Keep on low if you are waiting for the pasta to be done. When the pasta is done, pour into a strainer and drain water.  In a large oven proof bowl add 50% of pasta, add 50% of sauce, and add a layer of breadcrumbs.  Then add remaining pasta, remaining sauce, and top with a layer of breadcrumbs.  Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Cool for 0-5 minutes and serve.

Nicole's Chocolate Saltines
1 sleeve saltines
1 stick butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 package mini chocolate chips
Toppings-M&Ms, toffee bits, walnuts, coconut-whatever you want!

Cover a cookie sheet with sides with foil.  Spray with Pam.  Spread the crackers in an even layer on the sheet.  Melt better and sugar and pour over the saltines. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes (watch to be sure they don't burn).  Sprinkle mini chips over saltines and let sit for 5 minutes, it will then be spreadable-spread evenly over the crackers.  Top as desired then chill in fridge. Break into uneven pieces.

Everything else is super confidential!