Thursday, March 31, 2011

I can't think of a title.....

So, I started this little blog a while ago, in order to share recipes with family and friends.  I am, by nature, an introvert.  I'm happy staying home, and love to be by myself.  Little did I know when I started this little endeavor by simply typing a few words into blogger - that I would make friends.

And friends I did make.  I've met and conversed with people around the country and around the world I never would have gotten to meet (and still may never).  I've gotten to know people in Rob's extended family - shared struggles and laughs.  I've asked advice, listened, responded to emails, and shared lives with an amazing group of people over this past year and a half.

And then today - the doorbell rang.  It was the mailman.  He had a package.  For me.  I had to sign for it.

My friend, Shay, from Australia sent me a package!!!!  Shay and I have gotten to know one another a good bit over this last year.  Even though I can't sew a stitch, she and her quilting friends have embraced me.  She's so clever, has limitless amounts of energy, and is a kind soul.  I feel like I really know her even though we live half a world away.  I consider her my friend.  If you know me, you know I don't say that lightly. 

And, she made me a quilt.  A Quilt.   It's simply gorgeous.  Dusky pinks and chocolate browns - perfect for our living room. 

Here is the back -  it has a vintage, Anthropologie feel - only more beautiful.

Yesterday was my birthday - and she didn't even know.  How cool is that?

I am so humbled, Shay.  I can't believe you took the time to make such a beautiful heirloom for our family.  And that's what it is.  When I think of your hands crafting something after finishing everything else you balance - I'm blown away.

In answer to your question - I love it.  I loved it when I saw it on your blog.  I love it even more now. 
Thank you my friend.


Our Bags are Packed....

I'll be honest - our bags aren't packed yet, but I thought this made for a catchy title.  I am in the midst of packing - Rob and I are leaving for a long-weekend trip to the sunny Gulf coast of Florida. 

We'll spend one night and one day on Marco Island, staying at the Marriott, before heading north to Bradenton.  Rob is presenting as part of a seminar on planned giving [to non-profits] before we head off on our own. 

We'll be leaving Marco Island on Friday afternoon - and hopefully stopping to pick oranges along the way.  I've already bookmarked a few restaurants on yelp and the rest of the time - we'll be reading, swimming, and being lazy.

I was unable to find a new bathing suit - but no one knows us anyway, so who cares?  Rob made me promise not to bring this one..  He think it looks old lady-ish.  I agree, but it's comfortable. 

I'll be taking my camera along with me - I hope to show you some really cool out-of-the-way places in case you ever want to visit the sunny shores of our southernmost state! 

Our Octopus Adventures....

My parents are best when it comes to birthdays.  Since my birthday and Kate's are near to each others, we just had a weekend of celebrations!

My parents bought me a new vacuum cleaner - a canister cleaner called a Mighty Mite.  Now, I'm the kind of person that loves (!) practical gifts.  Our house has wood floors, ceramic tile, flagstone, and marble.  I was desperately in need of a good canister vacuum.  This one is light, it's super-powerful, and I don't have to carry it like I did my last one.  To not have a killer headache after a weekly cleaning is the best birthday present ever!

They also gave me some "mad money" - I intended to buy a bathing suit - and I tried lots on.....but, not so much. 

Then, my mom made me this - the flower arrangement she made in my Dad's pottery vase has been brightening my foyer table for the past week.  Tulips are my favorite!

Then, on Sunday night, we headed to my parent's house for a feast extravaganza.  My dad and I had shopped at the Reading Terminal Market on Wednesday.  Such choices! 

Reading Terminal Market  is a nice conglomeration of vendors, restaurants, and sights.  Even though we suspect some of the Amish are fake, you could find just about anything here!  If you're visiting Philadelphia, you definitely want to come here - especially around mealtime. 

now I know where the kids get their "fake smile" from!

my Dad and sister talking with Wan, the fishmonger
On to the preparation - my dad prepped everything and froze our purchases.

marinated octopus - ready for grilling

Josh thought the results were "okay"

fried calamari and grilled baby octopus

steaks to round out the meal

Emma kind of liked the seafood

Kate - not so much!

waiting to pig out!
We had steaks, bread, octopus, sea bass, baked beans, corn, calamari, and toll house pie with ice cream and Bailey's whipped cream for dessert!

My dad really liked the octopus - I kind of liked it.  It was novel, I'll say that.  Josh liked it, Rob really liked it - and my mom wouldn't even try it!

It was so fun to celebrate together and of course, I felt very special! 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Chicken Biryani

I am helping to coordinate volunteers to make food for a multi-cultural fair at our school.  One of the recipes I was asked to assign was Chicken Biryani - a Pakistani chicken and rice dish.  As I read through the list of ingredients, I was immediately intrigued. 

My ultimate dream is to someday tour the world and learn about different cultures by tasting their food.  Until such a thing is possible, I used this recipe to bring a little piece of Pakistan into our home. 

The premise was simple: marinate the chicken for four hours and then saute with fried onions, finally combining with basmati rice and green sprigs of cilantro.  I wasn't able to find all of the ingredients listed, but what I was able to use from my own cupboard seemed to create a fairly authentic taste. 

 We loved it!  Rob and I both agreed that it lacked a little zip, only because I was unable to find the green chili paste**(see note below).  It was rich, it was tasty, and to us it tasted exotic! 

 Chicken Biryani (original recipe provided by Mrs. Siddiqui, adapted generously)
2 cups basmati rice
1 1/2 lbs chicken pieces (I used boneless, skinless thighs)
1 cup yogurt
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp garlic powder
 1/2 cup tomato paste
 2 tsp tabasco
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp garam masala
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp kosher salt
7 T canola oil
3 thinly sliced onions
fresh cilantro

1.  Mix tomato paste, yogurt, ginger, garlic, tabasco, cumin, garam masala, curry powder, and kosher salt. 
2.  Stir chicken pieces into the mixture and marinate for 3-4 hours. 

3.  Heat oil in saute pan.  Fry until golden brown - I am told this is a very important step and to not undercook the onions. 

4.  Add the marinated chicken (and all of the sauce) into the saute pan.  Cook mixture for at least ten minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. 

5.  Cook basmati rice according to directions.
6.  Top rice with chicken mixture and sprinkle with cilantro. 

**note: feel free to add a little spice by using red pepper flakes, red chili powder, or green chili paste**

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Remember When....

I wasn't eating meat?  Thank goodness that little fad went by the wayside before my Dad, my sister and I went to the Famous 4th Street Delicatessen.

my lunch - "regular size" - a Pastrami Reuben, with potato pancakes

each table gets a starter of various pickles and cole slaw

my sister's lunch: a potato knish with corned beef, pastrami, and brisket - topped with sauerkraut and swiss cheese

my Dad's pastrami hot dog

I have no illusions that this is mostly a tourist destination - but really, who cares?  Their food is delicious, the portion sizes are ridiculous, and it's novel.  We had a blast!

They even let me take a few pictures - and, I did see the owner chatting it up with some regulars - maybe some locals come there after all!

prepared salads

cakes and cookies

love the vintage floor

various Jewish pastries - rugelach, hamentaschen, blintzes


mmmm, smoked fish

Who doesn't want a black and white cookie as big as your head? 

If you're ever in Philadelphia - check this place out - it was established in 1923.  Even though the delicatessen ceased to be a family-run business in 2005, the deli still retains much of the typical delicatessen feel.

Kate's Birthday Party...

Friday night we celebrated Kate's 9th birthday! 

Here are a few pictures of our evening - with a little commentary in captions - wish you all could have been here!

Emma helped me make cherry jello with mandarin oranges and frozen sweet cherries

baby Wesley with his Uncle Jeremy

Jacob - the cutest two year old boy we know

Kate with Nanny

some of the food: hash brown casserole, caesar salad, deviled eggs, jello, fruit salad, roasted cauliflower

grilled pork tenderloin

the Pioneer Woman's drip beef for sandwiches

Jeremy, Wesley, Aunt Connie and Uncle Bill

Nicole with her little buddy, Jacob

Angie with her little cutie, Natalie (the cutest two year old girl we know)

baby Wesley - love his mommy's eyes!

Kate in her birthday dress and bling

Josh and his biggest fan, Jacob


the best neighbors around!

in order: Travis, Jeremy, Jacob, Nicole, Wesley, Angie

Kate gets very excited!

Emma kept sneaking away to try on all of Kate's new clothing - these were pajamas

Kate giving her thank-you hugs (my Dad)
Emma and Natalie playing airport

in order: my Mom, Uncle Bill, Kate and me

We enjoyed ice cream cake, homemade "twix bars", chocolate-covered strawberries and shortbread cookies for dessert.  We had such a fun time and it was great to all be together - I think Kate felt very special!