Washington Cookies

My nana past away this past weekend. And I really didn’t see this one coming. I knew her health was declining, but after not seeing her for a year, to walk in the last hours of her life was shocking to see. She died peacefully late Saturday night, and the air among my family was she chose her time. Ironically, she past on the same weekend of her family’s reunion. Her family has a lot of history. Her father owned an apple orchard in Sterling, MA. Even I can remember visiting the orchard and sitting on her father’s lap (my great grandfather) while he took out his bottom dentures to scare me. She loved that farm, and would have done anything to be there at the reunion. Almost all of us were planning to attend, but when things went down hill, we opted to stay back. We had our own immediate family reunion, said our goodbyes, and we truly feel she stopped at the family orchard on the way ‘home’ to say goodbye to everyone there too. When I think about it that way, it makes death seem divine. And I guess it is- we, the living, just don’t ever see it that way.

Nan Betty was a simple woman. She didn’t need anything fancy, and kept everything calm and practical. Including food. She cooked a mean Thanksgiving Dinner, but aside from that her cooking was centered around “pinch the pennies, make the most of the food you have.” It was frugal eating, and taste was not always the priority. However, she made some amazing desserts, and with every visit we made, there was always a cookie jar with fresh baubles waiting for us. She always had  Washington Cookies in that jar. Those cookies were served at my wedding this past summer. Those cookies will keep Nana Betty’s Spirit alive. And as I sit here baking these cookies, feeling guilty for not living close, not visiting more- her spirit comes alive and hugs me as the smell of Washington Cookies wafts through my home. And her spirit tells me it’s okay…

Washington Cookies

1 1/2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 cup margerine (that’s what she used but I use butter)

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

3/4 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup chopped walnuts

2 cups rolled oats

1 package of chocolate bits

Directions

1. Mix dry ingredients together and set aside.

2. Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs and vanilla

3. Add dry ingredients

4. Slowly add nuts, oats and chocolate.

5. Spoon onto a greased cookie sheet and bake 10-12 minutes at 350.

A Taste of Italy

I’m in no way Italian. Growing up in Bloomfield and not Italian wasn’t easy, especially on spaghetti nights with the jarred sauce my mom served us. When I crossed into Morris County territory, people were surprised to know that I wasn’t…especially the way I talk. I now tell people that I am ‘Italian By Association.’ Because to some extent I AM italian. Even though it isn’t in my blood, it’s in my memories. And I have my Italian next door neighbor Antoinette to thank for that.

Last night I made her ‘gravy’ for dinner. Maybe it was the Sunday afternoon with football in the background, or maybe it was the signs of fall in the air, but I instantly felt ‘italian comfort.’  As the sauce simmered for 5 hours, I was taken back to when we were kids and she’d bring us her Thursday leftovers-my sister and I would fight over them. Her pasta fagioli stuck to my ribs, and it was the only way my mom could get me to eat beans. For years I struggled with my culture, and how I felt more italian than English, Irish or even German. And it wasn’t until I became a total foodie, that I realized I had no FOOD culture. My grandmother in NJ didn’t cook-or at least anything that would identify with our heritage. She grew up during the depression and food was simple- keeps us alive and nothing more. And I was so far away from my other grandmother, I didn’t get that opportunity there either. There are a few sacred dishes my mother learned from her Irish father (a form of German potato salad if you can believe it!), but everything we ate as children was generic American food or a recipe out of Good Housekeeping. It wasn’t until we were out of high school that my palette for something new developed, and luckily I was able to sneak in enough cooking classes with Annie before she passed in 2001. It was Annie who gave me food identity. Annie’s italian cookies were served at my wedding…

Thinking about it today, I wish I could back and ask her questions. Did her family have canning parties? What meat, other than sausage did she use? I know she did use others… I also want to punch myself for not getting her recipe for the pasta fagioli. And guess after writing this I realize-she was a grandmother to me of sorts. She never had grandchildren, and we filled that gap in her life. And, likewise, she filled a gap in mine- the desire to feel part of a food culture. So I am italian. I have Annie to thank for that…and I will pass her recipes on to my children. And hopefully theirs…

Annie’s Italian Gravy

5 Hot Italian Sausage

5 Sweet Italian Sausage

1 Medium Onion, chopped

2 Cans Tomato Puree

2 Cans Tomato Paste

Salt to taste

1 tsp. sugar (to cut the acidity)

1. In a dutch oven or large pot, add a couple tablespoons of olive oil and turn heat onto medium. Add the onions and cook until translucent.

2. Add sausage and brown in pan. Yes, the onion will burn. That’s okay.

3. When sausage is done, remove from pan and add the tomato paste. Stir the paste around and mix it with the oil and onion. It will also help lift the crusties off the pan.

4. Add the puree. For each can of puree, add 2 cans cold water. Mix it all together and stir until the tomato paste is dissolved.

5. Add the sugar, and a few sprinkles of salt. Bring to a boil.

6. When sauce comes to a boil, reduce to medium low and add sausage back into pot, including all the juices on the plate.

7. Simmer for 4-5 hours, or even longer, occasionally stirring and adding salt to taste. Be careful with the salt though. If you add salt to taste early on, it will be too salty when it’s done. Add salt gradually!!!

I’m not sure how much this really makes. Maybe half a gallon? It can be frozen and goes great with ziti!!!!!

What about you? Anyone out there have a specific food that makes them feel connected to a culture, family, anything? I’d like to hear form you…and maybe snag the recipe!

Sebastian’s Schnitzelhaus Take 2

Last night I had a really good review of this place, but then lost the entire entry before publishing it. So, in my ire, this review may not be as good as last night!

If you told me I’d be having brunch on a Sunday at a German Restaurant, I’d tell you it would not be by choice. It’s not that I don’t like German food, but I can’t really see the connection with breakfast. So without choice, I walked into Sebastian’s Scnitzelhaus. Sebastian’s is located on the bordering streets of McGuire Air Force Base in Wrightstown, NJ. It’s a smart place to open a specific cultural restaurant, considering many of the service men and women stationed there have acquired the tastes of where around the world they’ve been stationed.

Pulling up to the restaurant it looked as if a garden gnome clan took over the place AFTER ivy plants exploded all over it. It had this late sixties, early seventies. For me, this is usually a bad sign. And after walking into a room in which fake flowers, beer steins and porcelain dolls threw up and being greeted by a 6ft. Hummel, I was ready to run for the hills. And having two dolls stare at you in the stall while going to the bathroom didn’t help either.

Our waitress greeted us in a lederhosen dress and took us to our seats. We all decided to order brunch, so there wasn’t much for service other than refilling water and coffee. However, she was very nice. The brunch table took up the whole length of the restaurant and had a large varieties of cold antipasto type salads, breakfast items, hot trays of dinner foods and desserts. Many of the dishes were served in small batches, so it had a real home cooking feel to it. So naturally, since this is a buffett, I had 4 plates…small of course!

Plate 1 I filled with their cold salads. They had German Potato Salad, Cucumber Dill Salad, deviled eggs, and a bunch of other things that I wasn’t familiar with. They were all very tasty- especially the potato salad. There was this one dish with onions, peppers and a sausage that looked like bologna I didn’t care for, but the rest were good.

Plate 2 was breakfasty things. Since there were so many dishes I wanted to try, I skipped the eggs, bacon, sausage and french toast. Instead I had the potato pancakes with sour cream and the german pancakes with berries. A MAZE ZING!! So good.

Mike’s Two Cents: “The german pancakes are JUST like the ones my Nanna made! I feel like I’m home!”

Plate 3 was for the dinner like entrees. I had the beef roulade, which was good, and stuffed cabbage- also good! But the best dish of the whole place was the stuffed chicken. It had some kind of cream sauce that was to die for! I couldn’t get enough. Although there were other entrees like pork and beef, I stuck with the three I mentioned above.

Plate 4 was left for dessert. I’m not one for sweets, so I really didn’t sample all that I could have, plus I was beyond full at this point. However, the warm bread pudding was calling me. And I’m glad I answered…it was perfect. Not too dry, not to wet- just right. And they had nice big pieces of fruit that came with this sweet cream sauce you could pour over it if you wanted. Yummy!  However, I was slightly disappointed that I didn’t see any strudel. I used to work in a German bakery, so I know what’s possible in that department. So to not have any there was a bit of a let down.

Overall, this was a really nice restaurant. And I’d definitely go back there- only with one of my Finger Lakes Rieslings! I guess the old saying goes…

‘Never judge a book by its cover- or its giant Hummel!’

Decor: 2 Taste Buds

Service: 5 Taste Buds (but this is based on brunch service)

Food: 5

Check the website out for a full list of menu items if you’re interested in going: http://www.enjoysebastians.com

Pork with Peaches and Pancetta

Friday night I had some friends over for dinner and was asked to post this recipe I like to make often. It’s fairly easy, I think and is a refreshing summer dinner. Plus it’s a different twist on pork.

1 1lb. pork tenderloin sliced into 1″ medallions (I buy the one marinated in lemon garlic and rinse of the marinade)

2 peaches- sliced thin

1 sweet onion- sliced thin long way

1-2 cups of white wine ( I use a sweeter white such as a riesling)

1/4 pancetta bacon diced into small pieces

1 tbsp. fresh sage finely chopped

1 pat of butter

 

1. In a large saute pan, heat the butter and pancetta. Allow the fat in the pancetta to break down a little in the pan.

2. Place pork medallions in pan and brown on both sides. 

3. When pork is browned, remove from pan and set aside. Add onions.

4. Cook onions down for 5-10 minutes or until they are slightly translucent. Add peaches.

5. Cook an additional 5 minutes and then add wine. Add pork back into pan as well.

6. Simmer until wine is a thick sauce. Add sage and stir.

7. Remove from heat and serve

 

I serve this dish with a butternut squash ravioli or even some roasted sweet potatoes.

Enjoy!!!!!

Image

 

 

Le Salbuen- Montclair

It can’t get any better than this- an organic eatery for brunch, in Montclair, with no wait across the street from the Farmer’s Market. And then I had their Nutella Latte…

Le Salbuen is located at 97 Walnut St. in Montclair and is available for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner during the week, and brunch on Saturdays. According to their business card, they specialize in ‘World Food’ and have meat and vegan dishes. They use only the finest and organic ingredients- including local milk, produce and grass fed meats. And having the Infamous Montclair Farmer’s Market right across the street for 8 months out of the year, I wouldn’t doubt that.

Michael has been talking this place up since the spring, when the magazine he works for featured Le Salbuen in their fall issue. So after a summer of wedding insanity, it was nice to finally get to Montclair on a Saturday in late summer. We walked in and were greeted/seated instantly. As I sat down, I felt as if I stepped off the streets of Montclair, and into a cafe in Paris. The decor is what I would call ‘Rustic Chic.’ The walls are simple and white, but the back wall is brick- which I later learned is recycled brick from Brooklyn, where the owners are from. The kitchen area is lined with NY Subway tile, to give it the urban feel we all have come to love and repsect in the Tri-State Area. The floor is also tiled, and they have antique furnishing such as an old sink in the back, old cash register and little vintage looking cake plates and pedestals to showcase their pastries and specials for the day. It was the cutest little place I’ve eaten in for a while.

DECOR- 5 TASTE BUDS

The menu has unique takes on simple classics. They offer a variety of coffees and lattes, breakfast sandwiches, quiches and pastries that are sweet and savory. I’d like to say the food has a French spin on it, but I learned the couple had just come back from a Portugal Vacation. Therefore there were specials on there that had a portuguese flair, such as Portuguese French Toast with figs and Portuguese Flour Sausage. I ordered the Bacon, Egg, Cheese and Avacado Sanwich with Goat Cheese and Mike ordered the Ham and Cheese Empenada. I also ordered a Nutella Latte. We ordered a side of herbed sweet potato fries.

The latte came out first, and I swear it was the best coffee I’ve ever had. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it! I don’t know if it was the coffee or the heat, but I could taste roasted hazelnuts and the cocoa in it’s natural state. The sweetness was not over powering at all. As we were drinking our coffee the owner approached us to see how we were doing. He recognized Michael form the magazine shoot, and we had a nice conversation about it. He then excused himself to hit up the farmer’s market. Our food came out, it looked amazing! I really liked how each meal had a small side salad of micro greens. The dressing was simple and buttery and was sprinkled with fresh cut herbs. My sandwich was to DIE for!!! The whole grain bread was fresh, and toasted to perfection. The bacon was crisp and the egg was cooked just enough to have a ‘little’ on the yolk run to add flavor, but not to run all over my hands. The goat cheese was my favorite part though. Since you can choose what type of cheese you’d like, I recommend the goat cheese! Our waitress was very attentive and smiley! She came and checked in on guests often. In fact ALL of the staff was like that. I LOVE when an owner comes around to check in. At first I thought he only did that to us because he knew Mike, but he went table to table when he got back from the market.

FOOD- 5 TASTEBUDS

SERVICE- 5 TASTEBUDS

Mike Two Cents: “I can taste the egg, I can taste the bacon, I can taste the avocado and the goat cheese.  But I taste them all together too!

Mike’s empanada was good- I only had one bite, but the empanada wrapper was crispy. The fries were okay- I like having them sprinkled with herbs! And on the note of herbs, they proudly have their own herb garden right on the street in from of the restaurant. I like that!

Outdoor Herb Garden

Overall, I loved this place. I would definitely come back for more. My only fear is that once the word get out about Le Salbuen, Montclair will take this place by storm, and it will be a hour+ wait after everyone finds out about this place.

Hello World!

Welcome People!

In an effort to channel my inner foodie (and outer for those who know me), I’ve decided to start a blog about things that taste good. Whether it’s a review of a restaurant, a recipe I’ve tried or a wine I’ve tasted- I want you to know about it. I like sharing! However, I have NO formal culinary or nutritional training/background. SO all the comments posted here are that of my own, and unless I directly quote a site or professional, are strictly opinion.

A little bit about me: I’m an art teacher. I love wine-mostly dry reds. I have two cats and an awesome husband, Michael. We both love eating and trying different flavor profiles. We also love photography, so sometimes we photograph our food too!

How this blog will work: Since I am posting on various topics, I’ve broken it down into four categories- Restaurant Reviews, Recipes, Current Food Trends and Wine Tasting/Pairings. Recipes and Current Food Trends are easy, but Wine tastings and restaurant reviews will be rated as follows:

Restaurant Reviews

Restaurants will be reviewed in three categories: decor, service, food. Each category will be rated in ‘tastebuds’ on a scale of 1 to 5, five being the highest and one being the lowest.

Wine Tastings

Wines will be reviewed with flavor profiles I taste, and NOT what the description is. I will also do my best to pair the wine with a meal, and give a brief description of where the wine is from and anything else I feel compelled to tell you about it. I, too, will rate wines. However, they will be scored according to ‘corks’ on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the best and one being the worst.

Since Michael often is with me when we eat out, and obviously reaps the benefits of my cooking, occasionally he will throw in his two cents about what we’re eating! Aside from that, I look forward to sharing my tasting travels! Enjoy!