Saturday, October 31, 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Kids Say the Darnedest Things

6-yr-old Alyssa's Quotes of the Day:

"I won't work at a gas station!"

"Knock knock."
"Who's there?"
"Banana who?"
"Banana......that can talk.......and has 25 eyeballs! See, you just make it up!"

"I'm a pig like my uncle."

"Can we go to Starbucks? I always get a small caramel frappacino from there."

"I guess a lot of people saw me on the news."
(random reference to a local news segment about a kid's playroom she was on months ago.)

"I can spell two bad words: ....S-A-I-T ...A-S-S"

Sunday, October 25, 2009

An Investigative Investigation of Things

Cereal, Part One:
Alpha Bits, Less Than They Appear?

I remember when there were two kinds of Alpha Bits: regular and marshmallow. The marshmallow was amazing, but it is no longer available. My local Acme is the only store I've noticed the regular one in, so when it went on sale one week, naturally I couldn't resist.

Then one night, when it was finally time to open the new box (the Apple Jacks were finished), TG did so, and poured a bowl, exclaiming "What the hell is this?" The "this" in question:

Figure 1: amorphous blob.

A mutant blob of hardened frosting and bits, which was probably stuck in the corner of the coating machine tray for days before it got knocked loose into our box (I've seen "Unwrapped", I know how these machines work!). I'll admit it...I licked it to verify it was hardened frosted goodness. And yes, it was delicious. I almost threw it out, then realized it would be a great blog story. You're welcome, Internet.

Little did I know that it would also lead to other observations as we ate:
TG: "I don't remember them being so stale-tasting."
Me: "I do."
TG: "Are you writing down things about Alpha Bits?"
Me: "Yup."

Figure 2. Bowl as shown on box.
I do not remember the individual bits being so imperfect, but maybe I am putting a shiny glow on my memory and it was always like this. My bowl does not look as good as the one on the box either (Figure 2), which leads me to wonder how many boxes they sorted through to get a bowl that nice. In reality, the bits are only vaguely alphabet-shaped; Q, O, and D all look similar, and the number of broken bits leads me to think there were a lot of L's. I decided to further investigate the situation by counting the number of each letter in an average bowl of cereal. It promised to be a time-consuming process; good thing I am unemployed.

Figure 3. One bowl laid out.
The results: there seems to be an inordinate number of A's, B's, and Ds, as well as P's Q's and R's (Figure 3). You will also notice in the photo there are many letters of the alphabet completely missing. Indeed, I could not even spell "i do things" with one bowl of cereal. This was disconcerting, because any number of children learning to read could be learning with no E's and a bunch of misshapen D's. And about those D's: wouldn't they all be extruded from the same machine? Why are the variations in size so extreme? Upon closer inspection of the bowl pictured, I see there is an S, but actually, no other letters that I did not find in my bowl (what I labled V could be U, and N could be Z). So maybe there IS some truth behind the bits, and they are just working with an alphabet that is quite different than the one I learned at Cedar Grove Elementary.
FACT: Alpha Bits do not contain the whole alphabet.

Unfortunately, the Internet was no help in understanding the process of creating Alpha Bits. This investigation led to many more questions than answers, and I feel unfulfilled. I'm sorry I brought it up.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


I've written about cereals before, so this is nothing new. I've had a loving relationship with cereal for some time now, something which I think occurs in a lot of people, starting as children. Should I feel guilty for bringing That Guy over to the dark side, as he eats cereal regularly at night now too? My love of cereals of all kinds, as well as my dubious decision to buy eight boxes at one time (for reasons I am still trying to figure out), often leads me to want to share this love with the world.

This particular series of posts began innocently enough: I had gotten a box of Alpha Bits, which I hadn't eaten in years, and wanted to write about them. Upon closer inspection, questions came up (these questions will be covered in the first post). A search of the Internet and Amazon yielded no good information or books that could answer these questions.

My eyes were opened to the simple physical characteristics that make a cereal, be they good or bad, and what we remember about them. The frosty coating, crunchy texture, and odd shapes all come into account while eating, as well as memories, commercials, and characters associated. It all sounds very scholarly. I decided that cereal needs to be investigated, and that I am the perfect person for the job. The first study will be later this week. These will be a series of completely unscientific investigations of cereal conducted in the hopes of finding groundbreaking information and landing a lucrative six-figure book deal.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Grandmother and the Pyrex

I snagged these Pyrex bowls from my mother's house before she cleaned everything out of the basement. They were my grandmother's, and since she is now living with my mom, they were deemed unneeded. I found out later, my brother also had his eye on them, but I got to them first. Sorry, Russ. I made it up to him by buying him a new set. Not the same, I know.

Grandmother had these bowls in her little postwar-era row house in Baltimore. She never had a dishwasher, so they are in great shape. I vaguely remember them at the house, but it's one of those things where you remember just enough to make it special. Once, I broke the small blue one by dropping it in the sink. I cried. TG saved the day by finding it on eBay in a set with the matching red one. I got a sink mat after that.

I was incredibly lucky/stoked to find another set at a flea market the other day, but this one is orange with an adorable flower pattern. Three nesting bowls, and they are in terrific condition, all for just five bucks! And we have nowhere to put them!

These bowls were photographed on location in 1972. Actually, while my grandmother DID have very similiar linoleum and appliances, this is my actual kitchen. Commence pity in 3...2...1...

Saturday, October 17, 2009


I like to thank anyone (yes) for reading my first-ever theme week! Are you sick of apples yet? Because I am not. I still have about 6 or 7 left to use. They will probably go to more applesauce; it's the easiest, and least fattening after all these sweets. If you have an apple or two that you must use before it goes bad, here are three suggestions for quick snacks that take little effort.

Dried Apples
Preheat oven to 250°
Slice an apple very thin, cutting through core also.
Place slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Place in oven and turn down heat to 200°.
Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until desired dehydration...they are good a little chewy but you can leave them till they get crispy.
(On my wishlist: a slicer.)

Apple and Blueberry Smoothie
1 Apple
Handful of blueberries
Pinch of sugar
Dash of Allspice
1 cup Milk

Blend all ingredients until smooth,
adding ice as needed to chill it.

Quick Apple Crisp
Makes 2 servings

1 large apple, peeled and diced
1 packet apple cinnamon instant oatmeal
2 tbsp white sugar
4 tbsp water
2 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces

Dice apple, and place in a bowl with all other ingredients (can also use regular oatmeal, just add a bit of cinnamon or allspice to the mix). Distribute mixture into ramekins, and cut more butter over the top if desired. Bake at 350° for half an hour, or until bubbly and apples are soft. Serve with ice cream!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Best Apple Cake Ever

This really is the best apple cake. It's incredibly moist, and flavorful without being overpowering. Make this, you will not be disappointed.

I only had a small piece myself, because these went to a bake sale at a day care. One sold for five dollars. Quite a steal, if you ask me. To sum up: yummy cake, five dollars, I got hardly any. Harumph.

2 eggs
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup white sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
4 cups apples, peeled and diced

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour one 9 x 13 inch baking pan.

In a mixing bowl beat oil and eggs until creamy. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat well.

Combine the flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl. Slowly add this mixture to the egg mixture and mix until combined. The batter will be very thick. Fold in the apples by hand using a wooden spoon. Spread batter into the prepared pan.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until cake tests done. Let cake cool on a wire rack. Once cake is cool serve with a dusting of confectioners' sugar or with a cream cheese frosting.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

It's All About the Pie

At least, this post is. To continue our theme week, here is an Apple Cheese Crisp. I got this recipe from the Interwebs some time ago, and just found the site again: dlyn, which is where you can find it. I never make pies; That Guy doesn't enjoy them, so I'd have to eat the whole thing myself. This seemed easy enough for a pie beginner, and it was, as well as really delicious. I made it to bring to a pumpkin carving party! It's a layer of apples, with a layer of cheesecake filling, and a crunchy crumb topping. The whole thing screams "Fall."

As for making it, I do not have any anecdotes, except for this: I was peeling the apples and started to peel the skin off my thumb as well. Fun! On my wishlist: a new peeler. And a knife sharpener, as I can hardly cut through the skin of apples anymore with my good knife.

Mmmmm...look at that crunchy texture!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

100th Post! And Applesauce

This is my 100th post! But I have a lot to say about this simple little recipe so I will jump right in.

First off, this is applesauce the way I like it, but it's so versatile you can change it however you want. Reduce the spices, or leave them out all together. Or use white sugar instead of brown. The brown gives it almost a maple flavor (but not really maple. In fact, forget I said that.), and made it really dark. I like it chunky, but if you want a smoother sauce, run it through a food processor. Add dried fruit to liven it up. Mix apples and pears. The possibilities are endless. Just remember, this recipe is for a crockpot.

It's a good thing I like it chunky, because I was completely sick of mashing this with a fork by the end (on my wishlist: potato masher). Here's the recipe based on what I made but with changes to make it even better.

6-7 apples, chopped (enough to fill the crockpot about 3/4)
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice

Chop apples and place in crockpot with sugar and lemon. Halfway through cooking add the spices. Cook on low for 5-6 hours or until apples are soft. Let cool slightly, mash or blend to desired consistency.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Apple and Brie Stuffed Chicken

I only have one picture of this, from the prep stages:
The pics of the final product turned out awful. I mean really bad. The dish looked good in person, but in the photo, the chicken looked pasty, and the apples are not recognizable. But it tasted great! I was pretty pleased with this one. The combination of apple and brie can never be bad. I've been eating ham sandwiches with them as well. All apple, all the time; that's me!

Apple and Brie Stuffed Chicken
Makes one serving

1 tbsp butter
1/4 of a white onion, chopped
1 apple, chopped
Dash of ground ginger
2 whole cloves
Salt and pepper
About 1 oz Brie, without rind, cut in small chunks
1 boneless chicken breast

1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1-2 tbsp honey

Heat a skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add onions and cook until tender, 3-5 minutes. Add apple, ginger, clove, salt and pepper, and a little bit of water. Continue cooking until apples soften but are not mushy. REMOVE THE CLOVES (I forgot to do that). Let sit off the heat to cool while preparing chicken.

Preheat oven to 375°. Prep the chicken for stuffing*. When apples are cool enough, stir in the brie chunks, and stuff all but 1 tablespoon of the mixture into the chicken. Bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes.

For a simple sauce, return leftover stuffing to the stove, and reheat, adding 1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and 1-2 tablespoons honey. Whisk to combine.

*You can use whatever method of stuffing you'd prefer. I simply butterflied my chicken breast and placed the filling in like a taco, using toothpicks to hold it closed.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Welcome to Apple Week!

Yes, for my first-ever theme week, I chose apples, since I have an unholy amount of them from apple picking. My apples are of an unknown varietal; I kept the Macintosh seperate for eating, but for baking I don't know which are Gala and which are Jona Gold. I also have a few green ones which are definitly not Granny Smith. So all my baking and cooking this week is with apples which are probably too sweet to cook with. Oh well.

First up: Apple Scones. If you will recall from my last scone post, I love those darn things. And any time I get to fuss with them and make them extra great, is a good time for me. This recipe is only slightly changed from my last one; basically I just added apple spices and such. They turned out incredibly moist. Just be sure to add the apples after the butter, especially you are using a food processor to cut the butter into the flour. That is what I usually do, unless I don't feel like cleaning up after it; then I use forks or my hands. On my wishlist: a pastry blender.

For these I used my favorite Oatmeal Scone recipe from Joy of Baking, so here it is again, revised:

2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 large apple, diced small
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
2/3 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375°. Grease a baking sheet with butter.

Combine apples with cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, and half the sugar. Stir to coat, set aside.

In a large mixing bowl place flour, the rest of the sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder and oats and whisk to combine. Add the butter and using two knives or a pastry blender cut in the butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add the apples, saving a few tablespoons of apple for topping. Mix until combined. Stir in the buttermilk (adding more buttermilk or flour if necessary) and mix just until the dough comes together.

Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead the dough four or five times and then pat, or roll, the dough into a circle that is 7 inches round and about 1 1/2 inches thick. Cut this circle into 8 triangular sections. Place the scones on the prepared baking sheet. Top with remaining apples.

Bake for about 15 - 18 minutes or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

We Picked Things

It was a beautiful day for apple picking on Sunday! Partly cloudy, with a nice warmth when the sun was out and not too much chill when it was clouded over. TG and I went up to Warwick Valley Winery in New York with a few friends and two toddlers. You can go there and hang out on the lawn for the day, then buy a bag and fill it with apples. They also had a store for wine and wine tasting. The crowd was ridiculous, there was a line for everything: food outside, food inside, buying wine, using the bathroom, etc etc. The apple selection was great though, we got some really big ones, along with a couple bottles of wine to enjoy on a forthcoming winter evening.

I hope I didn't get any syphillis-ridden ones like The Spiteful Chef. Or maybe its ick, like fish get.

To celebrate our beautiful bounty, I will be making a lot of apple recipes and posting them here during Apple Week, in the near future. You'll be coming to the blog, when suddenly, all-unexpected like, there will be daily apple posts for a whole WEEK*! Check back soon!

*Length of week to be determined. Calendar may be shortened for blogging purposes.

Mini Things

Isn't this the cutest thing you've ever seen? I always get neat stuff from Mini Cooper. This year celebrates the 50th birthday of Mini, so they sent a special edition of their magazine with a note and this cute little paper clip. I just can't wait to clip mini things with my Mini paper clip!

Things like this, the copy of Mini International magazine they sent, which celebrates the birthday. Here is my favourite page:

"Mayfair" Special edition trim with brown paint and tan bonnet stripes. Droooool. I'm not looking to give up my Sasha just yet, but wow. Apparently it's not available in the US. Maybe they didn't figure out how to put the steering wheel on the other side.

Just look at the awesome side-mirror caps. Little tan stripes?! Craziness!

I am definitely a Mini fan for life.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Cool as a Cucumber

No vegetable screams "Summer!" to me like the cucumber. It's light, crispy, and refreshing. This summer, I've made salad, pita sandwiches, and even cucumber water. Now, with the last decent ones of the season, here is Chilled Cucumber Soup. Cold soup: isn't that gazpacho? I'm not sure, so we are sticking with Cucumber. I got the recipe from a book, and as usual, changed it up. Try to guess what's different!

2 medium cucumbers, peeled and chunked
1/3 green bell pepper or 1 jalapeno seeded and chopped
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup plain yogurt
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1 tsp dried dill or 1 tbsp fresh (can also use mint leaves)
Salt to taste
Feta cheese for garnish

Combine everything in a food processor and process until smooth. Serve with feta cheese on top, in your awesome Campbell's Soup cups.

Saturday, October 03, 2009