Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My Life on an iPhone

Am I the only person who has jumping for joy when Verizon finally got the iPhone?  E and I usually purchase the same phone, but after my car accident I needed a new phone, so we negotiated a double upgrade and each of us ended up with an iPhone.  At least something good came out of a scary and inconvenient situation - I really like this phone.

Most of the time I take photos with my "real" camera, but sometimes I don't want to walk around looking like a tourist with the real deal around my neck.  Or I'm lazy.  Or it's hot and I don't want to carry anything extra.  On these days, I love using my mobile phone as a camera and my iPhone is the best camera phone I've owned.

I could go on and on (and on) about apps, but the Instagram app is one of my favorites.  Basically you can snap a quick photo, edit it on the spot and with two clicks share it on Facebook, Twitter or email (among other places).  It also saves a copy that you can use wherever else you'd like.  The photos come out square like old school Polaroids.

I'm realizing that (no surprise) I take a lot of photos of food!  Here are some of my favorites from this summer (with a few non-Instagram iPhone photos thrown in, too)...

View from our hotel room in Montreal...

Shrimp and Grits at The Stone Balloon Winehouse for E's birthday...

Chicken Kebabs with Rosemary and Red Pepper Couscous...

The Blue Parrot Bar & Grille for mom's birthday...

Jambalaya at The Blue Parrot... yes, that's a crawfish.  It tasted like shrimp to me.

Sushi (Sweet Potato Roll, Tuna Roll, Salmon Roll, and Philadelphia Roll) at Saketumi.

Ingredients for a good batch of fresh salsa (I swapped out canned tomatoes for fresh - it's summer!)...

Bruschetta... another summer favorite!

I'm loving being able to take halfway-decent photos on the go.  Sure, it's not DLSR, but the Instagram app is always with me, so I have yet another way to document the culinary milestones of everyday life.

Do you use the camera on your mobile phone?  Do you snap photos of your food before you eat it?  Are you sad that the summer growing season is coming to an end (at least around here) and that you won't have anymore fresh basil, tomatoes or watermelon?

I still have more summer travel and summer produce recipes to share!  Stay tuned!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Peach Bread

What do you do when you have a rare earthquake, a tornado warning and a hurricane in the same week?  If you're me, you buy ten pounds of peaches and spend the weekend making peach jam, peach butter, peach rum sauce and peach bread... and you still have peaches left over.  You do all of this because your mom insists that after this crazy weather ends there will be no more peaches left on the trees in the Philadelphia area.  And she's probably right.  So you have a peach festival in your tiny kitchen while the storm roars outside... until you lose electricity.

It would be perfectly fine with me if I didn't see another fresh peach until 2012.  My kitchen table was covered in them, then my refrigerator was full of them, and then my mom and I spent hours peeling them.

I will tell you all about my adventures in food preserving soon, but for now, let's start with something easy... peach bread.

It's late-August and I think you can still get your hands on some fresh peaches.  If not, you can use frozen, thawed peaches (or even fresh nectarines) to make this bread any time of year.

This bread tasted like a peach cobbler.  It's not terribly healthy, but it's not really that bad for you either.  I used some whole-wheat flour and I also replaced some of the typical oil with applesauce.  I made it yesterday and there are just two slices left... and it's calling my name.

Peach Bread
by Keeley
makes 1 loaf

1 egg
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup fresh,peeled diced peaches (about 1 large peach)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a loaf pan with non-stick spray and line it with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon.

In a second bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar.  Add vanilla, vegetable oil, and unsweetened applesauce and whisk until combined.

Wet ingredients into dry ingredients.  The mixture will be thick and stiff.  Do not overmix.

Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake for one hour, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from pan and let cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

International Road Trip Part 2

I'll start the story of our recent International Road Trip with our first stop:  Montreal.  Montreal is a major city in the province of Quebec and it's located about 8.5 hours north of our home in Delaware.  We left home around 5:30 a.m. on Sunday morning and arrived at our hotel around 3:30 p.m.  The road trip was pretty uneventful (New Jersey... New York...), except for the border crossing into Canada.  The border patrol had never seen our particular variety of Delaware license plate (I don't think Canadians get to choose their plates) and we had an interesting conversation at the border.  Otherwise, all went well.

Recommendation:  If you are driving your car over an international border, make sure you have your permanent and current registration and tags on your car.  

As soon as we crossed the border we saw some hilarious signs reminding us that 100 kilometers per hour does not equal 100 miles per hour.  Just in case we didn't pay attention in school!  Actually, we did have to make a conscious effort to use the kilometer section of a speedometer in the car... we just opted to cruise comfortably below the speed limit.

As far as money, we carried major credit/debit cards (I prefer American Express, but it's not accepted everywhere, so have a Visa and/or Mastercard on hand).  We also exchanged about $100 for Canadian cash...

Canadians have $2 coins.  We couldn't get used to handing a bartender or server a coin as a tip... different!  We also noticed that servers bring the credit card machine to your table when you use a card to pay your tab at a restaurant.

A friend recommended that we stay at Hotel de Paris.  Our "Executive" room was $125 per night, plus tax, which is a good rate for Montreal.  My friend described the hotel as European-style and I agree.  The rooms are a modest size (similar to a master bedroom in a private home) and the hotel is really a large house.  Think of it as a series of suites with private bathrooms.  We had a window air conditioning unit (it really wasn't hot, so that was fine).  Our room had a semi-private balcony.  It was functional and for less than $400 for the duration of our stay, I can't complain.

Hotel Positives

  • Location - within walking distance of the Latin Quarter area (lots of restaurants) and the Metro station
  • Continental breakfast included
  • Updated bathrooms
  • Friendly staff

Hotel Negatives

  • On-street parking-street signs in French, difficult to understand parking rules (we found out at the end of our stay that there was limited garage parking for $15/night)
  • No elevators (but the building only has three floors)

We started each day with the complimentary continental breakfast:

The coffee was good, the muffins were great.  It was enough to get us started each day.

And now, the fun part... speaking French!

Although most Canadians speak English, Quebec is a French-speaking province, so French is the first language.  I've been to other provinces in Canada, but this was my first trip to Quebec.  I knew that French was the dominant language, but I was still surprised that everything really was in French.  I'm such an American, I know.

I speak Spanish, but I've had little exposure to the French language, so this was quite the adventure.  Fortunately my husband took four years of French in high school and he downloaded an iPhone app with common French phrases.  We were in business!

I recommend that you at least try to speak French when you meet people in Quebec.  For me my "trying" was limited to simply saying "bonjour!" and smiling.  Many people heard our accent (even when E did speak French) and would switch over to English.  All signage and most restaurant menus were in French.  Believe it or not, I figured it out most of the time.  Maybe it's because French and Spanish are both romance languages, but I did not feel overwhelmed by the language difference at all.  We encountered some people who did not speak English (well), but we worked it out.  Sometimes we'd attempt to order food in French and they would send over an English-speaking cashier to finish taking our order.  It worked.  For the most part, people were happy to see us and willing to help us understand.  If anything, this experience motivated me to learn more French.

We took the Metro everywhere.  If you go to Montreal, just do yourself a favor and buy a train pass.  E took a photo of the subway map with his iPhone so we'd a way to discretely reference the train map.  It worked like a charm!  It was really easy to get around using the train.

If we weren't riding the train, we were walking.  We must have walked five miles per day.  Make sure you pack comfortable shoes!  We didn't mind walking at all, especially since it was a comfortable 70 degrees (Fahrenheit).  Speaking of temperatures, Canadians are like (most of) the rest of the world and they measure temperature in Celsius.

My first impressions?  I can't believe we're only a one-day drive from home!  People here really do speak French!  The city has a European flavor.  Oh, and where can I get some poutine?

What is poutine?  That will have to wait for my next post!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

New Address!

My Life on a Plate has a new home!  Starting today you can go to for all things delicious.

If you use Google Reader or have my old URL bookmarked, no worries.  The old address forwards to the new location.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Blueberry Compote

Mmm... breakfast!  If I had a plate like this waiting for me every Monday morning I'd always be in a good mood.  I know a lot of you have tried the recipe I posted earlier this year for Waffles of Insane Greatness.  Well, if you think that's good, take it to the next level with this easy fresh fruit compote.  Oh, and it's good on Buttermilk Pancakes, too.  Since blueberries may not be plentiful at this point in August, keep in mind that this recipe is also great with other berries:  strawberries, raspberries, blackberries...  Hop on over to Potluck and check out my latest post for the recipe.  Your tummy will thank you!

I'm especially grateful for this recipe because E and I just went to a coffee shop (casual, not table service) that was selling fruit-topped Belgian waffles for $10!  I mean, really?  You could feed four people with $10 worth of breakfast ingredients... but I digress.

When I finally stop playing Angry Birds and Words With Friends on my iPhone I'll continue the story of our International Road Trip.  Let me just say, the iPhone is worth all of the hype.  I'm just glad I bought it after I finished my doctoral degree or I would have never got any schoolwork completed.

I'm working with a few people on guest posts and I wanted to throw this out there:  If you'd like to do a guest post on this blog, please email me at  Maybe you'd like to share your favorite recipe, grocery shopping tips, or some helpful diet and nutrition info?  Whatever it is, let me know.

Also, if you have any requests or feedback, email me!  I cook new stuff every week (I just don't always blog about it) and I'd love to take some requests!

I finally got on Twitter, so if you'd like to have more (semi) regular updates from me, please follow me @KeeleyPowell.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

International Road Trip - Part One

I just put 1500 miles on my brand new car.  That's like driving halfway across the U.S.  It's like driving most of the east cost.  It's equivalent to about a month of my normal commute.  It was worth it (especially considering that E did most of the driving).

Two weeks ago we hit the road at 5:00 a.m. on a Sunday and drove to Montreal.  We stayed in Canada for three nights, then spent two nights at a bed and breakfast in Vermont on our way home.  It was a great choice for a summer road trip and I highly recommend this little Canada/New England loop for any of my Northeast/Mid-Atlantic friends who want an out-of-the ordinary road trip experience.

How in the world did we decide to go to a French-speaking province in Canada and then re-enter the U.S. in a very rural New England state?  Well... I like Canada.  It's the only country that we can reasonably drive to (about 8 hours to the border) and it's a bit cooler than the mid-Atlantic region during the peak summer heat.  People rave about the French-influenced culture, cuisine and of course, the novelty of the French language in Quebec, so we figured this was a cheapie way to get a little European flavor in our lives.  As far as Vermont, I had never even visited New England until I was in my 20's (despite the fact that we are less than 6 hours away) and I had never been to Vermont.  Back in April I connected with some nice folks from Cabot and I was encouraged to take a trip up to Liberty Hill Farm in Vermont.  We decided to do a two-for-one and we mapped out a Canada/New England loop and hit the road.

The trip was a fantastic blur of rich meals, walking for miles, speaking pathetic broken French, helping with farm chores and of course plenty of good cheese.  More details coming soon... this road trip definitely can't be described in one blog post!

Have any of you ever stayed at a bed and breakfast?  Do you enjoy road trips?  We tend to stick to a ten-hour limit before we insist on taking an airplane.  Anyone else thinking of moving to Canada?  Is it just me, or are people really, really nice up there?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Rosemary and Red Pepper Couscous

Please forgive me for not posting often this summer.  I appreciate every single reader and comment, but lately I've been out living life and forgetting to come back and write about it.  There must be something about being in a car accident that really makes you appreciate those you love, because my husband and I have maximized every single day this summer.  We've spent so much time hanging out with friends and family and traveling that I started to get concerned that this would turn into a travel blog, so here's a recipe to break things up before I start talking about our most recent road trip.

Couscous.  It's kind of like pasta, but kind of like rice.  It's a quick-cooking starchy side that I think will please most people.  A few weeks ago I got my hands on some Israeli couscous, which is larger than regular couscous. It's about the size of small pearls as opposed to traditional couscous which is like large grains of sand.  You can prepare this recipe with either type of couscous.

I got the idea for this recipe while watering my tiny garden on our deck.  My red pepper plant hasn't yielded much this year.  I don't know if it's the heat or the fact that I've sometimes neglected to fertilize it, but I'm only on my second pepper this season.  I have plenty of herbs, though, so I opted to use fresh rosemary in this recipe.

I love the smell of rosemary and the red pepper adds a subtle sweetness.  My husband doesn't like any type of peppers, but he happily ate this side dish and even packed the leftovers for work the next day.  My favorite part is that it smells fresh and gourmet, but it cooks fast and can be served hot, room temperature or even cold.

Rosemary and Red Pepper Couscous
a Keeley original
serves 4

1 1/2 cups couscous (I used Israeli, you can use regular couscous)
1 Tablespoon butter
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup diced fresh red pepper
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Saute red pepper in butter until slightly softened, about three minutes. Add garlic and rosemary and saute for another minute.

Add dry couscous to the pan.  Saute until golden brown, about three minutes.

Pour in chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until liquid is absorbed and couscous is tender, about ten minutes.  Stir occasionally.

Serve hot, room temperature or cold.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Cruising - The Chef's Table

I've been gone for a week and I have TONS of stories and recipes to share, but first I want to finish my series of posts about cruising to the Bahamas...

I saved the best for last.  This is my fourth and final post about our cruise to the Bahamas.  (Check out the rest of this series here, here and here.)

It's already established that my I love to cook, I love to cruise and I appreciate and enjoy great food.  Since I'm a major cruise enthusiast, I joined Cruise Critic, a website just for cruise lovers like me.  You can thoroughly research any ship, cruise line or excursion with the help of this site.  I'm a researcher, so I read as much as possible about our trip before we left home.  In my research I learned about a new opportunity offered on all Carnival cruise ships:  The Chef's Table.

Like the steakhouse, The Chef's Table is an upgraded dining experience.  For $75 (per person) we had the opportunity to enjoy a seven course meal hosted by the head chef on the Carnival Pride.  The experience lasted nearly four hours.  It began with drinks and appetizers in the ship's galley (kitchen) during the dinner hour followed by seven courses served in a private dining room.  We enjoyed this special experience with just five other couples.  It was really special and we agree that it's the best meal we've eaten in 2011.  When I thought of a Carnival cruise, I pictured a family cruise with typical food and a casual atmosphere... this dining experience exceeded my expectations.  I couldn't believe I was on a Carnival ship!

I couldn't take any photos of during our galley tour, but we met in one of the lounges on the ship and we were taken behind the scenes to see the cooks and servers preparing meals for the dinner rush.  We had sparkling wine and several appetizers while we met different members of the chef's team.  After the tour and appetizers we moved on to our dinner table...

Our "private dining room" was actually the dance floor in the night club!  Other ships choose different venues for The Chef's Table, but it's always some special alternate place on the ship.  I loved the way the floor glowed throughout the meal.  It was really interesting and special to have a sophisticated meal in a place that's usually full of people and loud music.

Details, details!  I loved the place cards!  Even our servers knew our names from the moment we walked in the room.

You'll notice that I'm not in any of these pictures.  I was too busy trying to be discrete with my photography to ask anyone to take a photo of me.  Just know that I looked very nice in a black maxi dress and sandals and that I had a great time.

Once we were seated we started with salmon tartare...

Yes, I ate raw salmon and banana puree.  Together.  And it was good... seriously.

Next we had a roasted red pepper soup with corn.  First they bring out a bowl with the roasted corn...

Then they top it with the roasted red pepper soup...

Next we had shrimp fritters...

Who doesn't like fried shrimp?

We also had salmon topped with a lobster froth...

I may be forgetting a few courses... just know that it was a lot of different dishes!

Filet mignon, cooked to order, of course...

And just when you thought it couldn't get any more indulgent... dessert!

A raspberry sorbet topped with a strip of chewy coconut candy... a vanilla cake encased in a cage made of sugar.  (These aren't the technical names for the dishes, it's just how I remember them.)

So that sums up our four-hour (!) dinner experience.  We also received a group photo of the table with the chef and a cookbook.  If you have an adventurous palate I think it's well worth the price.  It was definitely a highlight of our vacation.

Has anyone else ever indulged in a ridiculously elaborate dining experience?  What's the best meal you've had in 2011?
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