Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Epicurious Taste

Some of my favorite recipes have been found in the traditional Bon Appetite and Gourmet magazines. My mother had subscriptions to both while I was growing up. My favorite time to peruse the pages was during the holiday months. Sure enough, I still love that nostalgic time to flip the October, November, and December copies of each magazine.

In this modern day of our ever so fast Internet, we have access to Bon Appetite and Gourmet via the website Epicurious. They have a treasure trove of recipes, and you can find just about anything that you
could ever want. If you register with their site you may keep your own recipe box; adding your own recipes, as well, as adding recipes that you use from Epicurious. Just recently They have partnered with a wonderful company called Taste Book. By registering with Taste Book you can carry over your epicurious recipe box, and actually have those recipes printed out into a book that is bound with rings. You order the recipes by the page and add them in your own book as you go. If you want pictures in your taste book, you can just upload them from your own files.

This pie was made by a family member who introduced me to the Epicurious website years ago. We can always count on him to make wonderful pies at the holidays. This one from last year was so beautiful that I had to capture it on film. This was the "Bittersweet Chocolate Pecan Pie" from the November 2007 edition of Gourmet magazine. It was extremely wonderful, and was gone in minutes! BON APPETITE!!!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Farm Stand Freshness

There is nothing quite like buying produce from your local farm stand. Where I live they are everywhere during the Summer and in the early Fall. Farm stands are where I pick out the freshest berries to make my jam, pears and peaches to make fruit cocktail, and apples to make applesauce and apple pie filling.

My favorite farm stand item, however, is the ever ripe, red, and sweet tomato! There is nothing better than a sun ripe tomato picked from the vine just that morning! With these tomatoes I make my chili sauce and stewed tomatoes. It is a guarantee when you open that bottle in the dead of Winter, a hint of Summer sunshine fills the air.

My very special place to buy my tomatoes is a "mom & pop" store in the local town. There are always boxes of tomatoes lining the walls on the outside, and even more that grace tables on the inside. At the end of August salt and pepper corn, and large ripe peaches surround the tomatoes.

This Summer a friend made a wonderful & unusual salad that she got from the New York Times. It not only looked beautiful, but the smell permeated every inch of the room. The smell was so intoxicating that I was not quite sure what it was. The lovely flavors consisted of fresh tomatoes, fresh peaches, red onion, and fresh rosemary. The dressing was a squeeze of lemon juice, salt & pepper for taste.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Cupcakes ...The Finest of Foods

Who does not love cupcakes? The cupcake phenomenon fascinates me. Why only a few years ago nobody even thought about a cupcake as being such a gourmet treat. Now there are cupcake stores popping up in just about every town; each trying to put their own spin on the "original cupcake".

What makes me smile whenever I hear about a superb cupcake is the thought of my sweet mother baking her brains out every Christmas in the 1980's to put her "special" petite four cupcakes in a booth at the local upscale mall. People lined up every year knowing that she would be there with her miniature cupcakes, tarts, brownies, and pumpkin cake. My sister and I slaved along side her, decorating the small cakes with white royal icing tops, a small pale pink flower, and an even paler mint green leaf.

I had had not thought much about her cupcakes until one night three years ago I was visiting family in Virgina and someone said, "Lets go get a Le CupCake!" We drove for what seemed 20 minutes to a small coffee house in Falls Church, VA. There they were, and only four left! We got them home, and with on bite the memories flooded back to me. The royal incing, the pale colors, the wonderful soft cake. It was heavenly. I had to wait an entire year before I could go back to savor another.

In the meantime, however, I researched my obsession on the Internet. I fell across the supreme cupcake blog, Cupcakes Take the Cake. It is the first blog I ever really read. From there I started seeking out various cupcake shops on trips that I took. I would tell myself I had to eat them in the name of research. Which were the best? Lulu's Cupcakes in Scottsdale, Arizona was pretty good. The box it came in was pink with cupcake holes for each cupcake. They wrapped it with a pink ribbon. I realized that the best cupcake may include the packaging.
So Cupcake in Salt Lake City, UT. was very good as well. I gave them a good rating not for packaging, but for taste, size, and the original artwork on their website. The Cupcakery in Las Vegas, NV. has been my most recent stop. The cupcakes were OK, but the icing is the intrigue here. It is fluffy and light, and some of them have edible sparkly glitter on them. They look fairy-like. The flavors are original too. Lemonberry, "Oh My Gosh, Ganache!", & Coconut Bliss. These pictures are from my Cupcakery adventure. I only ate a bite out of each! ; ) My next conquest is to visit the infamous Sprinkles in L.A., CA., and of course, Magnolia Bakery in New York City, NY! Until then, I am still dreaming of cupcakes!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Buying Bulbs

It is time to be thinking of what bulbs you are going to want to plant in your garden next Spring. This is by doubt one of my favorite things to do. I pour over the catalogues, and idle in the garden centers to look at the hundreds of beautiful bulb varieties. One of my favorite catalogues is Colorblends out of Connecticut. I ordered a crate full of bulbs last Fall. There were all different kinds of daffodils, and a mix of sherbet long stemmed tulips. When the crate arrived I was so surprised to realize that it was shipped from Holland! The newspaper it came packed in was in Dutch! The bulbs were a wonderful quality. Some were as big as my fist, and they were not diseased. Many times when you see bulbs on sale in bulk at a super center they can be diseased. This is bad if don't catch it, because it can effect the dirt and other plants around the diseased bulb.

You want to plant your bulbs when the GROUND is 57 degrees. Before I plant I take out the old summer plants, dig out any bulbs that are old from the year before. I have made a map of where what bulbs were planted where. I then take several weeks to reintroduce organic dirt and worm casings that I buy from the garden center. I overturn and rake the dirt everyday for a couple of weeks. I then let the dirt settle for a week before I start planting.
Once I do start planting, I make a map and design of where the bulbs should go according to the height of the bulb, and according to the time it might bloom; early, mid, or late Spring. I don't usually pay that much attention to colour schemes, but that would be nice to do as well. The extra planning will make a huge difference in how your garden looks when the bulbs start to shoot up. Once that is figured out I take little heed to the directions on the packaging as to how to plant the bulb. For instance, daffodils I have found, do just fine when placed next to each other in a dug out hole. Tulips need some room to expand and grow during the Winder, but keep in mind how it might look in the Spring when they come up. You don't want a large gap in between each flower. Lastly, just as an added colour boost. I always plant pansies around the bulbs. The pansies make your garden look pretty the rest of the fall, and they keep their color as they go dormant under the mounds of snow that may fall. When the snow has melted, it is nice to see a show of pansy colour before you bulbs shoot up. Have fun with your bulb hunting. Keep in mind their are wonderful rare varieties of tulips and daffodils out there. Your friends and neighbors will be delighted as much as you will be when the big show arrives!