Monday, August 30, 2010

Pink Grapefruit Sorbet

I love citrus fruit and I love sorbet, so when I saw this recipe on One Perfect Bite, I knew I needed to make it immediately.  One day later I had the ingredients for a refreshing pink grapefruit sorbet.

The recipe calls for freshly squeezed grapefruit juice or bottled juice and grapefruit zest.  If it had been December and grapefruits were in season (when I can get them by the case for less than $10), I would have used 100% fresh.  Instead, I used bottled juice combined with the zest, juice, and some of the pulp of a fresh grapefruit. 

I used the 100% juice version of Ruby Red grapefruit juice.  I didn't want to use a juice cocktail because I didn't want it to be too sweet.  I even reduced the amount of sugar in the original recipe because I prefer sweet over tart in my sorbet.

I cooked sugar with hot water, then mixed it with the grapefruit juice, pulp, and zest.  I let it cool off int he fridge for a few hours before freezing it in my ice cream maker.

About 25 minutes later it looked like this:

It didn't "fluff up" the way ice cream does.  Ice cream normally doubles (or triples) in volume when it freezes.  This sorbet did not. 

The result was delicious.  Around these parts we'd say this consistency is more like water ice (or Italian ice, depending on where you're from).  I love that adding a tiny bit of vodka kept this from freezing solid, even after being in the fridge for a few days. 

This sorbet is tart.  Tart is one of my favorite flavor sensations.  My mother says I used to suck on lemons when I was a child.  Speaking of lemons, this would also make a great lemon sorbet.

I enjoyed this in small quantities (about 1 scoop per serving) because the flavor is so strong.  I'd definitely make this again.  It's easier and healthier than ice cream. 

Grapefruit Sorbet
from One Perfect Bite

2 large ruby grapefruits, juiced, or 1-1/2 cups pink grapefruit juice I mixed the juice of one grapefruit with some bottled juice
1 teaspoon grapefruit zest (zest before juicing grapefruit)  I also added some pulp
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup granulated sugar  The original calls for more sugar, but I liked it with less.
1 tablespoon vodka

1) Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan; bring to a boil and stir to dissolve sugar. Cool completely.
2) Combine grapefruit juice, zest and sugar/water mixture with vodka in a metal bowl. Chill in refrigerator or by placing the metal bowl over a larger bowl filled with ice water until 40 degrees.
3) Pour chilled mixture into container of an ice cream machine and churn until frozen. Scoop frozen sorbet into a container. Seal and transfer container to freezer for several hours to allow sorbet to firm up. It can be kept frozen for up to 3 days. Yield: 4 servings.

Friday, August 27, 2010


My husband fell in love with Phillies baseball this summer.  He's from Baltimore, but he's lived in the Philadelphia area for more than 12 years and this was the summer he decided to love the Phillies.  This means that I can't watch Food Network in high definition on the "good" television, I can't catch up with Season 3 of Mad Men on the "good" television, and we also can't ride in the car during a Phillies game without E tuning into the Major League Baseball channels on XM Radio.  This man is loving the Phillies.

For his 30th birthday I arranged for us to go to two Phillies games.  The first game was last Thursday and the last was this past Tuesday night.  Two games in less than seven days.  The man was in heaven.

Me?  I enjoyed the game.  I even bought a Phillies shirt for the occasion.  It was fun, plus I got to eat lots of junk food.  Unfortunately, our team didn't win either game.

As a matter of fact, the last game we attended went to 16 innings.  That's right, the game ended way past midnight!  Since we had to go to work the following day, we left at the top of the 11th inning.  I know that E wanted to stay, but I had to get my beauty sleep.  Plus, I had eaten way too much junk food from this place:

Am I the only Philadelphia-area person who hadn't had Crabfries from Chickie's & Pete's?  Oh-my-goodness!  The restaurant is a Philadelphia sports bar and their famous crabfries are sold at Citizens Bank Park.  I "discovered" these fries when we attended a minor league baseball game with my coworkers earlier this summer.  One of my coworkers had a bucket of these fries and I was curious, so she let me try one.  They are covered in a seasoning that is similar to Old Bay.  She explained that I had to dip them in the creamy, white cheese sauce (maybe it's American cheese?).  Yes, it sounds overindulgent, but they are so yummy!

So of course we had to stand in line with like 100 other people to get a nice order of hot Crabfries with warm, white melted cheese.  You would think that they would taste really salty with the combination of Old Bay-like seasoning and melted cheese, but it works perfectly.

Are they good for you?  Heck no!  Would I eat them once or twice a year?  Yes!  Especially if my husband splits them with me.  Forget the baseball game, I'll just take the Crabfries.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Kitchen Lighting

My husband and I purchased our home back in 2005.  It is by no means our "forever home", but we want to keep it nice and leave it better than when we purchased it.  We're on a budget, though, so it's taken five years to get most of the improvements completed.

Our home was built in 1997.  Most of the fixtures (faucets, lighting, carpeting, countertops, appliances) were builder-grade (aka cheap). We've slowly replaced the cheap-o stuff with nicer upgrades, courtesy of my handy husband.  He can't do everything, but I'm so happy with what he's learned by watching web videos and reading internet articles on home improvement.

Our latest project:  finally changing the light in the dining area of our eat-in kitchen.  After five years of living with a frosted glass and brass cheap basic light, we settled on a brushed stainless steel casual fixture with a beige drum shade.  I've been looking for an affordable fixture with a drum shade for nearly two years and we finally found this one for less than $100 at Lowe's:

It may not seem like a huge deal, but we got rid of our '90s-style beige appliances and flourescent lighting a few years ago, but we were still working with this super basic light fixture.  The new one looks like a real lamp and it makes me feel like I'm eating at a cozy restaurant or coffee shop, even when I'm just eating cornflakes at 6:30 am.  Plus, E installed a dimmer on this fixture, so we can have some ambiance when we're enjoying our evening meals.  I love it.  Little improvements make a big difference.  What do you think?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Marinara Sauce

 Tomato season is in full swing and my tomato plants are producing very well.  We've had our share of bruschetta and fresh tomato salsa and I'm looking forward to eating enough tomatoes in the next 30 days to turn myself red.  (Okay, not really, but you get the point.)

Here's another use for fresh tomatoes:  marinara sauce.  The best part is that you can make this all year with canned crushed (or whole) tomatoes.  I grew up on jarred sauce and relied on it for the first few years when I was living on my own and cooking at my apartment.  Prego, Barilla, and Classico sauces were staples on my grocery list.  I think the turning point for me was watching the Food Network where Rachael Ray whipped up marinara sauce in five minutes and visiting authentic Italian restaurants (i.e. not Olive Garden) and learning the difference between sauce in a jar and fresh sauce made with fresh basil.  Oh how I love fresh basil.  To me, basil tastes like summertime.

It goes without saying that I'm not Italian, I just appreciate Italian food.  This is my way of making a basic sauce.  There are many, many ways to do it, but here's my version of an authentic marinara...

Saute one small onion (chopped finely) in olive oil over low heat until soft (about 8 minutes).

Once the onions are soft and translucent (but not brown), toss in 3 cloves of minced garlic (or if you love garlic, add more) and cook for 1 minute).  Then add crushed tomatoes.  You can do one 28-ounce can, or you can add about 2 pounds of peeled, seeded, and diced fresh tomatoes.  If you use fresh tomatoes, you'll need to add some salt. 

Stir in pepper and oregano.  Bring up to a simmer on medium heat.  Once the sauce is simmering, you can add red wine or chicken stock to thin it out a bit.  Cook it at a slow simmer for about a half hour, then remove it from the heat and stir in some chopped fresh basil.  Splurge for fresh basil, it makes a huge difference.

Taste for and adjust seasonings as necessary and that's it! 

This is a really basic sauce.  Sometimes I add roasted red tomatoes (especially when I have tons from my garden), merlot, green peppers, more garlic, whatever.  But this basic recipe yields a marinara that's great in spaghetti, lasagna, served over pasta, or even as a dipping sauce.

We still keep a few jars of prepared sauce in our pantry for those evenings when my husband cooks dinner (rare) or when I'm eating alone and I need something to toss on my pasta and I'm sleepy and I only have enough energy to boil water.  You know how it is.

Marinara Sauce
a Keeley original recipe
yield 1 quart

1 small or medium onion, minced
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes or 2 pounds of fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and crushed
salt (optional, to taste)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 Tablespoons dried oregano
3/4 cup dry red wine (such as merlot) or chicken stock
1/2 cup fresh basil, torn into small pieces

Put onions and olive oil in medium saucepan over medium low heat.  Cook onions slowly until soft and translucent (about 10 minutes).  Stir in chopped garlic and cook for an additional minute.

Pour in tomatoes and increase heat to medium.  Add black pepper, salt (optional), oregano, wine or broth.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When sauce is cooked and thickened, remove from heat and stir in basil.  Serve immediately or refrigerate and use within three days.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Blueberry Cobbler

Recently, my dad came to visit for a belated Father's Day dinner.  E and I grilled pork tenderloin and London broil and we served the meal with a fresh Caesar salad and oven roasted potatoes.  It was a great summer dinner.  Before I was a halfway decent cook, I was known for my baking.  I had about 3 pints of fresh blueberries from my most recent Costco trip, so I opted for a blueberry cobbler.

This technique is different from the one I used for my Apple Cobbler, but it's almost as easy and produces great results.  Unlike the Apple Cobbler, which was more cake like with the topping baked into the fruit, this one is a traditional cobbler with a warm fruit bottom and a nice cookie-like baked topping.

I started off by plopping the blueberries right into the baking dish and tossing them with sugar, flour, and lemon zest...

Then I topped the berries with the batter for the topping.  It's thick, so you just plop it in big spoonfuls on top of the cobbler.  It fills in when it bakes.

At this point I kept it in the fridge for a few hours until I served dinner.  Once dinner was served, I baked the cobbler in the oven and served it for dessert with fresh whipped cream.  I keep a quart of heavy whipping cream in the fridge for those occasions when I don't have vanilla ice cream to accompany our desserts.  Making homemade whipped cream is really fast and it's far superior to the premade stuff.

And there you have it!  The blueberries are plump and almost syrupy once they cook.  This pie is not overly sweet (making it far superior to that blueberry pie filling in a can) and it's slightly tart.  I'd say this recipe serves about 6 people.  There were no leftovers.  Even my husband, who claims he doesn't eat warm fruit, loved this cobbler.

Blueberry Cobbler
slightly adapted from Williams-Sonoma (substituted blueberries for blackberries)

For the filling:
6 cups blueberries
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
Pinch of salt (I omitted the salt because I bake with salted butter)

For the topping:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract


Preheat an oven to 375ºF. Lightly grease a 2-quart baking dish.

To make the filling, in a bowl, gently toss the berries with the sugar, flour, lemon zest and salt until blended. Pour into the prepared baking dish.

To make the topping, in a bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, butter and vanilla until well blended. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and, using a rubber spatula, fold gently until the flour is moistened and the mixture forms a soft dough.

Drop heaping spoonfuls of the dough onto the fruit, spacing them evenly; the dough will not completely cover the fruit. Bake until the filling is bubbling, the topping is browned and a toothpick inserted into the topping comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 8 to 10.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Food Storage and 100th Post!

This is my 100th post!  I anticipated that my 100th post would be on my one-year blogiversary, but I was a few days off.  This post isn't a recipe, it's a tip. 

I cook a lot of food, especially on weekends.  I live in a household of two, but it's not unusual for us to grill a pack of hot dogs, several hamburgers, four chicken breasts, a pork loin, and a few steaks in one day.  We love getting that hickory smoke/charcoal flavor in our food and we tend to grill enough meat for three days of lunches and dinners.  E has even been known to grill bacon for breakfast. 

I've learned through experience that there's no point in having a bunch of meals cooked and planned if you don't have ample storage.  This goes for your cabinets, your spice rack, your dishes, glassware, and of course your food storage containers.  My husband makes fun of me because I'm obsessive about freshness and organization when it comes to leftovers.  My favorite containers are the Premier collection from Rubbermaid.  I bought a set at Costco two years ago and they still look (almost) as good as new.

I prefer these containers becaues they are as clear as glass and I haven't had them shatter, break, or cloud up.  The lids are flexible rubber with a tight seal (and a transparent window on top).  They don't stain (hello spaghetti sauce and chili) and they don't seem to hold odors (hello raw onions).  I can open my fridge and figure out what's cooked and prepped for use within seconds.  Whole watermelon?  When cut up, it fits in two of the larger containers.  Grilled chicken?  Sliced and ready to go?  Lunch for tomorrow?  Packed and ready to grab and go.  They come in several sizes and configurations.

I even go as far as to use tiny labels to put the date each item was cooked or prepared on the lid of each container.  I don't like to keep cooked food more than 72 hours, and this stops us from having to decipher mystery food on trash day.  Fortunately, there's not much waste because we pack our lunches and plan our meals to incorporate leftovers.

These containers aren't cheap (I think I paid $26 for a set of 12), but they will last.  Plus, it seems that Rubbermaid will offer a replacement if yours are defective.

If you're going to cook, you need to have a plan for storing and using leftovers.  You also need a plan for storing your groceries so you don't buy duplicates.  It also helps to have a clean and organized fridge and freezer.  I know I'm always inspired to cook meals when I come home to a clean, well-organized kitchen.  I'm not perfect (there's a sink full of dirty dishes waiting for me today), but I do like to organize with these Rubbermaid Premier containers.

Friday, August 13, 2010


As much as feel Don Pablo's has mass-produced somewhat mediocre Tex-Mex food, I must admit that I enjoy their carnitas.  My husband orders them whenever we end up in the restaurant (which I will say is a few times a year) and I definitely appreciate any version of slow cooked pulled pork.  I figured I'd try to make carnitas at home (even if the taste wasn't exactly the same) because I can make enough for eight servings for about the cost of one serving at the restaurant.

What are carnitas?  In Spanish carnitas means "little meats".  In my experience it's the Mexican version of pulled pork. It's seasoned with oregano, onion, garlic, and citrus and served on fresh tortillas with fresh toppings.

I searched the Web for recipes and many of the authentic (and I'm sure delicious) versions used lard.  I just couldn't bring myself to roast or fry an already fatty cut of pork in lard.  It seemed unnecessary.  I came across a recipe on the Williams-Sonoma website (yes, they do have a few recipes listed) that did not use lard and could be prepared in a slow cooker and I decided to give it a try.

Main ingredient?  Pork shoulder!  You know I love pork shoulder.  Read more about that here and here and here.  (I think I need a pork category to organize my blog.)

I rubbed the pork shoulder with spices and let it sit in the fridge overnight...

Then I got up at 5:00 am (I typically rise at 5:15 for work) and browned the pork, covered it with lime, lemon, garlic, onions, and beer, and plopped the whole mess into the Crock Pot for 10+ hours.  Yes, my house was smelling like fried pork and beer at 5:00 am.  Welcome to Keeley's home.

It's like a party in a Crock Pot!

I came home to this...

Which I pulled with tongs, removed some fat and bones, and broke down into this...

It was pretty good.  The taste was milder than Don Pablo's version (if that's even a standard for carnitas) and I'd like to add more garlic and a bit more salt next time.  The flavorful broth can cause your tortilla to get too moist, so I drain mine well before wrapping it in a tortilla.

Speaking of tortillas, corn tortillas (while more difficult to work with) are authentic, but we ate ours with flour tortillas.  Recently, I've learned how to make my own flour tortillas, which has opened up an entirely different world of possibilities (that's a topic of another blog post).

I like my carnitas on a (homemade) flour tortilla topped with pico de gallo or just some red onion and cilantro...

Maybe you like yours with cheese... or chipotle sauce... or sour cream... do your thing.

I'm not sure how "authentic" these carnitas are, but they were satisfactory.  With a bit of tweaking I can make this recipe perfect for my little family.  I love finding a good slow cooker recipe, especially with the fall coming up soon.  If you enjoy fresh Mexican food, try this one!

from Williams-Sonoma


2 tsp. salt I would add a bit more salt next time
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 boneless pork shoulder roast, 3 to 4 lb.
1/4 cup olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups Mexican lager-style beer I used Dos Equis (bought one bottle for about $2)
Grated zest and juice of 1 large orange
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
1 Tbs. dried oregano

For serving:
Warm corn or flour tortillas
Lime wedges
Chopped yellow onion I prefer red onion
Hot or mild salsa
Chopped fresh cilantro


In a small bowl, combine the salt and pepper. Season the pork roast generously with the mixture.

In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the pork and cook, turning frequently until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a platter and set aside.

Pour off all but a thin layer of fat in the pan. Add the onion and garlic and sauté just until they begin to soften, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the beer and deglaze the pan, stirring and scraping up the browned bits from the pan bottom with a wooden spoon.

Transfer the pork to a slow cooker and pour in the beer mixture. Add the orange and lime zests and juices and the oregano. Cover and cook according to the manufacturer's instructions until the pork is very tender, about 5 hours on high or 10 hours on low.

Transfer the pork to a carving board and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Using a large, shallow spoon or a ladle, skim as much fat as possible from the surface of the cooking liquid. Using a large, sharp knife and a fork, coarsely cut and shred the pork into small bite-size pieces.

Arrange the meat on a warmed platter or individual plates, moisten it lightly with the cooking juices, and serve immediately with the tortillas, lime wedges, chopped onion, salsa and cilantro. Serves 6 to 8.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Roasted Chickpeas

I think most people enjoy a crunchy snack.  I know some who refuse to eat beans and nuts, but I love both.  If you like nuts, I urge you to try roasted chickpeas.  You remember chickpeas... the beans that are in hummus?  If you don't like hummus, no worries, this taste is completely different.  They are healthy and they have the flavor of a bean, but the crunchiness of a nut.  I like to make these and keep them at my desk for snacking during the workday.  I like mine a little salty, a bit garlicy, and somewhat spicy, hence my choice of spices. 

I've seen this recipe done several ways, but I've found that roasting the chickpeas without oil, then tossing them in oil halfway through the cooking process leaves you with crunchy, nutty chickpeas.  Nobody wants to snack on mushy beans.

I normally double this recipe. I can eat one batch in a single workday, so I need to have a backup.  Bonus?  This is not only a healthy snack, it's also (relatively) inexpensive.

This is an easy recipe, but I'll warn you that your entire home will smell like roasted chickpeas... not that it's a bad thing.

First drain and rinse your chickpeas...

Spread them out on a foil lined baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.

Carefully remove them from the oven and toss them in a bowl with olive oil and seasonings. 

Pour the beans back on the baking sheet, return them to the oven, and bake for an additional 15-25 minutes, or until the chickpeas are fragrant and golden brown.  A few may burn, just toss 'em.

I like to let mine cool completely before enjoying them.  They tend to get crunchier as they cool. 

Easy, right? 

Roasted Chickpeas
a Keeley original

2 cans of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained (I use low sodium, you can use whatever)
2 teaspoons kosher salt (to taste)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Place chickpeas on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the salt, spices, and olive oil in a large bowl. 

Remove chickpeas from oven after 15 minutes, carefully pour into the spice mixture.  Toss to coat.

Return chickpeas to baking sheet and bake for an additional 15-25 minutes or until chickpeas are golden brown and fragrant.  Toss out any burned chickpeas and let the rest cool completely on the baking sheet. 


Monday, August 9, 2010

Boston Cream Pie

As much as I enjoyed my trip to Boston several weeks ago, I was a bit sad that I didn't get to try any authentic Boston Cream Pie.  I "discovered" this delicious dessert (which is more like a cake) back in high school and I've always enjoyed the soft, buttery cake layers topped with smooth Bavarian-style cream and chocolate. 

E and I were invited to enjoy dinner with friends a few weeks ago, so I decided to make a Boston Cream Pie.  I found this recipe on and I'm pleased with the results.  As much as I enjoy and appreciate a from-scratch cake, this recipe uses a boxed cake, but the results are more than satisfactory.

First I baked a double layer yellow cake (I used Duncan Hines).  I split each layer in half (so I had a total of four layers) and topped the layers with homemade vanilla cream.  Making the cream was the most difficult part of this cake.  I didn't pay attention to the recipe and I ended up with some lumps, but it was still good.  Just be sure you read the entire recipe before you begin.

I topped the first three layers with cream, then put the fourth layer on top. 

I would recommend baking the cake and making the cream the day before.  Those were the most time consuming parts of this recipe. 

Then it was time to make the chocolate ganache topping.  This was so easy!  It was my first ganache and now I just want to cover everything in our kitchen in chocolate.  I even dropped the whisk and my dog ended up getting a taste of the chocolately goodness (I know, I know... I'm a bad pet parent.  She didn't get much.)

I chopped up some Bakers Semi-Sweet Chocolate...

and whisked in some warm heavy cream...

And the sauce was ready!  It was that easy.

Then I poured the sauce all over the layered cake and let it drip down the sides...

It was a bit messy, but it was sooo good!  I placed it in the fridge for a few hours prior to serving, just to make sure the layers didn't slide out of place at the table.

I would not recommend trying to travel with this cake.  I held my breath the entire time we were driving to our friend's home out of fear that these layers would slide and smear and smudge our cake carrier.  Keep this dessert at home, or assemble it on location.

The result is a light, fluffy cake with just enough creamy filling to wet your fork and the perfect amount of not-too-sweet rich chocolate topping.

I will admit that E and I ate this the following morning with coffee for breakfast.  Yes, I know.  We're bad.

Boston Cream Pie
from Aaron McCargo, Jr. on The Food Network


1 box yellow cake mix

Pastry Cream:
2 cups milk
1/2 cup white sugar
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise (I used pure vanilla extract.)
6 egg yolks
4 tablespoons instant flour (recommended: Wondra)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Ganache:8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream

Bake 2 cakes according to package instructions in a 3-inch deep cake pan. Once baked, remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Once cooled, take a long serrated knife and slice each cake in half to form 4 separate disks.
Pastry Cream:
Pour the milk, 1/4 cup sugar and the vanilla bean in a saucepan over medium heat. Combine the egg yolks and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a bowl and whisk until light in color. Add the flour, vanilla extract and the salt to the egg yolks and mix to combine. When the milk just begins to boil, remove from heat. Very slowly temper the hot milk into the yolk mixture, stirring constantly. When about half of the milk has been added, pour all of the yolk mixture into the saucepan over medium heat. Using a whisk, mix as it heats, making sure to reach all of the corners of the pan when stirring. Bring the mixture to a boil. Let it boil for about 1 minute, stirring constantly. The mixture will be thick. Remove from heat and add the butter. Strain the pastry cream through a fine strainer. Put it into a bowl and cover directly with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the cream. Refrigerate to chill for at least 1 hour before using.
In a small saucepan, over low heat bring the cream to a boil. Add the chocolate to a small bowl and pour in the hot cream. Stir until smooth, then allow to cool slightly.
Spread cooled pastry cream on the top of 3 of the cake layers. Put each disk of cake on top of each other, leaving the last cake disk untouched. Press the cake firmly. Put the cake on a wire rack with a sheet tray underneath. Pour the slightly cooled ganache on top of the cake being sure the ganache covers the whole cake. Allow to cool in the refrigerator or at room temperature. Put any remaining pastry cream in a piping bag with a star tip and use to decorate the top. Slice the cake and serve.  (There was no cream left when I finished layering this cake!)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Birthday and Blogiversary

Today is the one year anniversary of My Life On A Plate and it's also my husband's 30th birthday!  (What was I doing starting a blog on his birthday last year?  Weren't we out to dinner or something?)

I realize that I've been referring to my spouse as "my husband" or "hubby".  I'm doing this because I'm not sure how he feels about his likeness being on the Internet.  (Of course, I seem to have no problem with showing his face in pictures.)  I'll refer to him as "E" from now on.  That's my nickname for him.  We'll see how that goes.

I really enjoy sharing my culinary experiences and interacting with all of the bloggers on my blogroll.  Thank you to everyone who follows me or who reads my posts, but hasn't commented yet.  It makes my day to see what's on your minds and I love interacting with you through my blog or through yours.  This whole blog thing isn't any fun without interaction. 

I have a stack of great recipes that will be hitting this blog soon.  I'm getting a bit sad about the end of summer, but I'm also looking forward to fall cooking.  Fall means fresh apples, hot chocolate, port wine, roasted pork (which I make all year anyway), potatoes, sweet potatoes...  Okay, I lied, I am looking foward to fall. 

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Delaware Beaches

Last week my husband and I packed up the dogs and headed down to a condo in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware for the week.  We rented the same condo last year and we enjoyed this vacation option because it's close to home (90 minutes away), affordable, convenient (it has a full kitchen and a pool), and Milo and Zelda (the pups) were able to come!  (FYI, we rented the codo off Vacation Rentals By Owner.)

It was over 100 degrees during the first two days of our vacation, so we took advantage of the air conditioned outlets and avoided the steamy beaches.  We got a lot of great deals on clothing and accessories.  For some reason we always seem to shop for clothing on vacation.  We're more relaxed and we have time to talk to the salespeople to really get what we want and need.  I've done a lot of outlet shopping and the Tanger Outlets in Rehoboth beach are among my favorites.  Delaware is tax-free, so that's always great.  Plus, they have some of my favorite stores:  Kenneth Cole, Chicos, Soma, Banana Republic... maybe you have other favorites, but those are the shops that make me happy.

Once the temperatures went back to normal we spent some time on the beach...

And of course we had to eat.  We checked out Mariachi for the first time.  It's about two blocks from the Rehoboth boardwalk on Wilmington Avenue.  For a resort-area restuarant, the food was pretty authentic.  The restaurant is two stories and we ate on the second floor balcony.  There were ceiling fans blowing and a nice ocean breeze.  We could see the ocean and the street below... pretty nice for Delaware.  My mom enjoyed dinner with us...

I had this really flavorful roasted chicken with an onion saute.  It was well seasoned, but not spicy.  I loved that all of our food was served with black beans and rice.

My mom ordered shirmp sauteed with onions and peppers.

My hubby had some type of grilled pork topped with sweet plantains (which I promptly stole from his plate) and veggies.

Dinner was delightful.  The margaritas were great (as expected) and the complimentary chips and salsa were fresh and much appreciated.

Oh, and we had to get dessert.  I've told you how my husband loves Tres Leches.  Well, Mariachi had it on the menu so we had to see if it was up to our standards.

Oh yes... it was really good!  The cake was obviously homemade.  There was a delicious swirl of a light, thin caramel sauce on the plate.  The whipped topping was almost as stiff as marshmallow, but not too sweet.  We devoured this cake in less than two minutes.  We wanted more.  We resisted.  There was much more eating to do.

We hit my favorite happy hour spot, Saketumi, three times during the week.  I enjoyed my favorite drinks (Mandarin Awesome and Bay Breeze) and my favorite sushi rolls (salmon and sweet potato tempura).  Oh, and I also love their lettuce wraps. 

We also went to my favorite down-home restaurant, Jimmy's Grille in Bridgeville (which is not at the beach, it's about 30 minutes inland in Bridgeville, DE).  Now Jimmy's isn't fancy.  They don't have a website and they don't even take credit cards.  It's the type of place where you seat yourself.  It's also the type of place that sells slippery dumplings and has the best fried chicken in the state (I'd argue in the region).  You know it's good when someone who doesn't even like fried chicken (me) will eat it. 

Of course, we were too busy eating for me to even take a picture, so here's an example of the fare they serve (from our trip in 2009):

Yes, that's chicken and waffles!  And fresh sweet corn and apples.  We're so greedy that we went to Jimmy's on Wednesday night for dinner, then returned on Thursday morning for breakfast.  Oh, it gets better... Thurday is dumpling day, so we made sure that we came late for breakfast to give them time to start cooking lunch.  We paid the breakfast check then took our lunch to go and feasted on fried chicken and dumplings for dinner.  And homemade rolls.  And cream cheese pecan pie.  And banana walnut cake with cream cheese icing. 

I need to go on a diet. 

Anyway... speaking of breakfast, I read about The Fractured Prune on Nadette's blog earlier this summer.  There are multiple locations around the country, but this one is in Rehoboth Beach.  It's a donut shop that will customize your plain donuts by adding different glazes and toppings.  The decor is a bit... creative.  It reminded me of a day care center.

I thought the donuts were good, but not superior to others I've experienced.  Who doesn't love fried dough dipped in sugar?  They were a nice treat with my morning coffee, but they aren't beating the donuts at the local bakery near my office.  I'm just sayin'.

(This is a really long post.)

Have I ever mentioned my husband's love for beer?  He especially appreciates craft beer and there are two craft breweries in Delaware, both in the southern part of the state.  We toured Dogfish Head Brewery (which is about 30 minutes from Rehoboth Beach) last week...

In my circle they are most famous for their 120 IPA, which has an insanely high alcohol content (something like 18%).  They brew it in limited quantities an the latest batch came out this week, in case you want to try it out.  I don't like beer and I could still drink it.

I gave him all my free samples.  He was very happy.  Just look at him.

We also ate at the Dogfish Restaurant on Rehoboth Ave.  They had a nice (short, free) spirits tour where they explained how they make rum and vodka.  Although the the spirits tour didn't include free tastings, you can buy a sampler for like $6 at the bar. My opinion?  The food at Dogfish is forgettable, but the drinks are nice.  They even have mixed drinks for those of us who don't get down with beer.

So all and all it was a great week.  If any of you live in the Mid-Atlantic, I suggest the Delaware/Maryland beaches as a nice family vacation spot.  I didn't even tell you all the details of our week, but I can answer any questions about my favorite vacation spot in my home state if you're interested.

Can you believe that it's the "end" of summer already? 
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