Sunday, December 28, 2008

O'Hare of the Dog

Dear Mouse, 

Can you believe it was last year this time we started to write A Mouse Bouche? Happy New Years' Eve Eve.

I am reflecting on A Year in Food Bloggery. I've noticed  - maybe you have too?  - that since I"ve dedicated so much time to finding nuggets of culinary interest, some seem to leap out at me when I'm not looking at all. 

As you know, this year being Home for the Holidays was made all the sweeter for me by the fact that I almost didn't make it.  Say it with me now: always fly direct. What would have been a simple, 4-hour flight from Kansas City to NJ became a harrowing journey through the bowels of Traveler's Hell, or, as some know it, Chicago's O'Hare Airport.  My boring half-hour layover became a spine-tingling seven-hour delay, followed by an exciting hour of suspense on board the aircraft, followed by a hilarious cancellation announcement.  

Luckily, at this point,  the Holiday Gods smiled upon me. My dear friend On a White Horse and her partner In Shining Armor (I'm totally using their real names), happened to be in Chicago. They picked me and my instruments up (my clothes were, of course, snug in NJ at this point) and whisked me off to a place with a bed, somewhere, I think it might have been a house, whatever, it was great.

And it is at this point, mad with fatigue and confusion, wedged between a guitar and a stroller, chatting with two (I thought) decidedly non-foodie friends, that I find out that Shining Armor... makes Glogg every year for the holidays. 

As in, the Swedish version of hot mulled wine.  As in, homemade. As in, there is supposed to be an umlaut over the "o" but I can't figure out how to do it. As in,  there are several bottles at her place right now and would I like some?

This, by the way, was completely unsolicited information. What is it with me and the Nordic Peoples this winter??

I am ashamed to say I fell asleep before I could taste it. But she very generously yielded her recipe!!! I think it's an appropriate little New Year's gift to you and all our readers. Happy 2009 everyone!!!

The Boo

Glogg by Shining Armor 

1 bottle red wine
1 pint of brandy (i use merlot and cheap brandy. also you can throw in .5 liter of port if you like a sweeter sip)
10 cardamom pods (crushed), or 1 tsp of crushed powder
2 cinnamon stick (broken down or whole)
orange peel (1 whole orange - i prefer fresh rinds to dried)
1/2 lb of sugar (i like to use brown but either works)
5 cloves (optional),
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup almonds
2 tsp ginger (optional)

put wine and spices into stainless steel or porcelain kettle (other kinds react badly with wine). 
Cover and simmer low. LOW.

Put the sugar in a pan and soak it with half the brandy. medium-low heat and stir until it becomes a clear, golden syrup and sugar has dissolved. simmer for about 15 minutes until the little tiny bubbles become larger burbles. add sugar to wine and cover for about an hour.

taste it along the way for desired blend. add more brandy (which is what i like to do) or port or sugar, etc...

strain spices with a thin cloth....with every cup serve it with new blanched almonds and golden raisins.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Wyoming Solstice

Dear Mouse, 

I already bought your present. Happy Hanukkah!

In other news, I'm in Laramie WY! Here's what I found there:
* altitude sickness (drink water, it goes away after a day)
* bison burgers
* elk chili
* snow, snow, snow
* The Library, a combination brewing company AND drive-thru liquor store. (No I am not kidding). Try the oatmeal stout and play Big Buck Hunter Pro for only $.50 a trek!!!! (I beat the GC five times.)
* Coal Creek Coffee Co., a roomy, unpretentious coffee joint with excellent food, serious coffee in BIG cups (served everywhere in town), and live music. Reminded me of Portland OR.  
* a music-loving population which packed Coal Creek for me despite blizzard conditions
* This spanking new small theatre, on the grounds of the historic Wyoming Territorial Prison. (Now a museum in warmer months).
* This cute B&B, which does have a staying-with-relatives vibe, but really nice ones who insist that you eat the salad fixings in their fridge with the frozen pizza you brought home, and make great granola for breakfast. 
*Oh, and Norwegians. :-) 

I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon in the kitchen with friends of the GC who introduced me to the world of Norwegian desserts. Since my only exposure to food from that part of the world thus far has been Bacon Paste in a Tube (thank you A-Mac), getting in on this family's Christmas cookies was enlightening and delicious. The treats are all variations on waffles (!! I'm sold).  Here's one kind.

 Krumkake are a cone-shaped, thin, crispy waffle. They are feather-light and sweet but not cloying, require a special waffle iron, and make use of almond extract and cardamom (!!), which I'm told  is a really common dessert flavoring in Norway. Live and learn. 

God Jul! (Merry Xmas!)

Tomorrow we head to Kansas City. Up at dawn to make it there in time for ribs. See you at home. 

The Boo.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

All I Want for Christmas

Dear Boo,

In case you're still wondering what to get me for Christmukkah, I thought I'd make it easy on you and enclose my wish list. Not surprisingly, you might sense a theme here.

1) Le Creuset dutch oven.
Yes, they're expensive. But yes, TJ Maxx tends to have sales on this sort of thing. And yes, I've already thought about all this. I don't seem to own any kind of stove-top-to-oven dishes which leaves me crestfallen when I start reading a recipe for beef stew or braised lamb shanks or coq au vin that calls for just such a versatile pot. Also it makes me feel oh so Julia Childlike to bring one of these canary-yellow dishes to the table. I might even develop a faint trace of an accent. If you're lucky.

2) All About Braising, by Molly Stevens.

I've decided you can make up for the fact that you cackle wildly at my nerd-dom every time I mention this title, by buying said book for me. It seems to be all the rage on the blog circuit and I think you'll agree with me that during the winter pretty much all one should eat is something slow-cooked in some kind of sauce with sauteed vegetables. Also there's a recipe for braised celery with breadcrumbs which I am so perplexed by that I must try it. Also, will put to good use my new dutch oven.

3) My boyfriend's new book.So pukka in your plaid shirt, Jamie.

4) Oh Ina.You have never steered me wrong. From your awesome broccoli, to your outrageous brownies, you make me want to kick off my shoes, jump on the jitney, and come blow off some steam with you and Jeffrey. Let's get back to basics.

5) An Immersion blender.

Please don't mention this to the Boyfriend as I will get a good chiding about how we have no space for more kitchen stuff, and if you don't plan on using that AT LEAST once a week, out to the curb it goes, blah blah, yadda yadda, stoppedlisteningtwentyminutesago. Here's the thing. I want one. I don't have a blender. I don't want a blender for the aforementioned spatial issues, and who needs to clean all those parts. Also, what a genius invention--instead of juggling a hot pot and pouring all that soup into a whole other receptacle, one batch at a time, you just stick the little jiggimahoozit into the soup and BAM. Blending has commenced.

6) You may remember from "Things we Like Today" past, that we own two frosty beer mugs. Well, we did. One fell on the floor and cracked in half, spilling out whatever liquid that is between the walls of the glass (the Boyfriend thinks its water. I think it's something far more sinister).
Also one of the two cool Bodum glasses I like to drink wine out of, met a similar fate. It seems we are not meant to have double-paned glass. Maybe you could prove me wrong.

7) A Hess truck.
Every year you promise to make up for the fact that no one took me seriously when I kept asking Santa for one lo these many years ago. I hear there's a new model. With flashing lights.

Thank you. Your milk and cookies will be waiting.


The Mouse

Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday Fever

"Cross out of thy books/ malevolent looks/Both beauty and youth's decay
And wholly consort/ with mirth and with sport
To drive the cold winter away"
-Anonymous, 18th Century, The Boo's Favorite Carol
(Which She has Sung Loudlye of Layte in the Kitchen, for so as to Express her Holiday Spirit, and Also to Frighten the (Real) Mouse which Lives Behind the Stove)

Dear Mouse,

I am so excited. It's December!!

"Can you believe the Boo abandoned us this year to play the Knitting Factory? Let's punish her by letting her find our whole show online and then not loading properly, no matter how many times she tries to watch."

I am , I hardly need remind you, what you might call the Anti-Grinch. I am more into Xmas than any secular half-Jew has a right to be. Every year, I am as psyched as I was in the days when I steadfastly believed in Mr. Claus past all reason, and wrote the now-famous literary epic, "The Goldberg's Christmas" (
without irony) for our family files. Seriously, I am useless. All I want to do is sing, buy presents, watch cartoon specials, and basically run around in Victorian getup clutching holly branches and shouting "God bless us, Every one!"

That, and, of course, eat stuff.

I feel particularly blessed right now. For one thing, I'm about to pack my bags and leave town for two months, mostly for performing-type work, which is awesome. BUT the best part is that, since I'll be gone just before and just after 12/25, it has been necessary to push some beloved traditions, well, just a bit earlier. ... thereby stretching out the holiday by a few weeks. (Yeah!!)

Take, for example, the Winter Solstice dinner I usually host for you & sundry folks at my house, round 12/21. On that date this year, I will be in Laramie, playing here & here , watching the GC in this, and lighting birthday candles in one of the tiny travel menorahs our mother bought that one time. SO what is there to do but observe it twice!

Early Fest #1: (One Week Before) Winter Solstice
Two members of our festive group were available on 12/14, and when I say festive I mean that I said "bring wine" and they EACH brought three bottles. EACH. For three of us. Which may account for the fact that I do NOT have photos to share, but I DO have a giant ceramic head filled with jellybeans (yay early gift exchange!). I also have a recipe to share that is quick and warming and may use up some Thanksgiving swag lying around. Witness: I had a can of pumpkin, some cans of chicken broth, and a butternut squash sitting forlornly in my fruit bowl. In about 20 minutes (after prep) I had Fast & Easy Winter Squash Soup.

OK yes it is from yet another Ina Garten recipe but with one key difference. You do not, do NOT need a blender, or for Lord's sake, a "food mill" (i see that in recipes all the time and just picture, like, a little edible house) to make this. Just reach in there with your wisk at the end, and mash up the incredibly tender squash until your desired consistency. I like the rough, textured result. 2 C chopped onion, a can and a half of chicken broth, can of pumpkin, 1.5 lbs butternut (peeled/chopped),1/2 C cream, salt & pepper. Saute chopped onion 10 min in a little oil & butter, add everything else except cream, cook/simmer for 20 min, covered. Uncover, remove from heat, add cream, mash with wisk. That's it. Maybe a little chopped sage on top. Make at the end of a shopping day.

Early Fest #2: Traditional Post-Xmas Bloody Mary Gift Exchange w/A-Mac, Pre-Xmas
I love this annual meal/gift exchange that you and I have with our friend A-Mac, who happens to be the mixologist responsible for the best Bloody Marys I have ever had. It usually takes place around 12th night, at her place. But this year, come that date, I'll be slapping my way through Alice Cooper's "School's Out" on a rented bass in Louisville, Kentucky. The solution? An early gift-exchange breakfast on 12/15.

We went to Alias because of its reputation for fabulous brunch and a whole menu of Bloodys that maybe would make up for the loss of the usual (as if). The "Hair of Mary", I noticed, has a double shot of vodka. Crazy! Still feeling the champagne-and-jellybean fest of the night before, I opted instead for the much more sensible option of two regular Bloody Marys.
That celery is pickled. (And you would be too.)

Bottom line, I think you agree, is that, although perfectly acceptable, the brunch is nothing to write home about. Unless, like A-Mac, you order this:

Cheese Grits & Greens. Heavenly.

Though I was glad we ordered the "KY Sausage", if only to reassure ourselves:

I'm looking forward to visiting their state.

So I leave in two days!! I'll see you at home. Expect much bloggage from the Wild West (spoiler alert: the GC has already mentioned ELK).

I'll leave you with this piece of divine hilarity I got to experience the other night in person. The unbeatable Fiona Walsh at the Irish Arts Center, as 'The Armchair Chef''. There but for the grace of god...

The Boo

Sunday, December 7, 2008

For the Love of a Sunchoke

Dear Boo,

The rumors are true. I'm in love. Sure, he's a little funny looking. His figure's kind of knobby and a little bulbous. He looks tough, but don't be fooled--he's got thin skin. And he's always dirty. But it's all part of the delicious package. A little sweet, a little crunchy. Different from the others but can fit right in at the dinner table with the usual company. Sigh. I'm a lucky girl.

We met the other week at the Greenmarket. I was strolling through looking for something, but I wasn't sure what. These guys caught my eye, what with their splashy looks....

but I needed more. At the Ask a Chef table, I heard the name and fell. "Sunchokes", they breathed. "Jerusalem artichokes. They're delicious roasted. Or raw in a salad. Mild artichoke flavor...." I hightailed it over to the table and bought myself a bounty of these bizarre looking fellas.

At home I peeled the skins off (you don't really need to, except that it seemed easier to me than scrubbing each one, and the outer skin is a little rough), and sliced the chokes into about 1/4 of an inch thick pieces. It was hard not to eat as I sliced as they have such an addictive crunch and a milky smooth artichokey flavor with a little sweetness. I can imagine them in a yummy summery salad maybe kind of like this one.

But I needed a little winter warmth. So I threw them in a hot pan with some olive oil and tossed and waited, resisting the urge to pop one in my mouth, risking burnt fingers and all. Since I wanted them to get a little soft before they crisped up, I poured in a bit (maybe 1/4 cup) of chicken broth and let them simmer away. A few minutes later, I threw in some chopped fresh rosemary, some salt and pepper, and then when they looked irresistibly browned and beautiful, I pulled it off the stove and squeezed half a lemon over the chokes and a sprinkling of parmesan.

The verdict? Love. Pure, unadulterated adoration. Imagine if a potato (heaven, perfection, reason to live), and an artichoke (second runner up for perfect vegetable) made sweet sweet love and were blessed with a little one (perhaps I've gone too far. talk about food porn...) who possessed the best of both parent's qualities. And then you ate that thing. Disturbing implications aside, you'd be pretty happy. As was I.

So happy in fact, that I ate way too many and suffered because of it. Take heed.
For Thanksgiving, one of my assignments was a vegetable and so I thought I'd spread the gospel of the Sunchoke. Since I was working with bigger quantities here, it seemed easier to roast them with some olive oil and s&p. Which I did. at 400. While the chokes were in the oven, I got some olive oil and a bit of butter warm in a pan on the stove. To that I added some chopped rosemary (3 T?), and about 1/3-1/2 Cup of breadcrumbs, with some garlic and salt and pepper, and a handful of parmesan. Just before it was all toasted and yummy, I added lemon juice. When the chokes came out of the oven, I tossed them with the breadcrumb mixture. Not that these veggies need much enhancement, but if you're gonna do something, I say try this. The flavor combination was sooooo yummy, and a perfect alternative to potatoes as a different kind of side dish.
The next time you're at the Greenmarket, maybe try venturing outside of your carrot-focused comfort zone and explore some other root family folks. Roasted or sauteed, they're good people.

Love to you and my man 'Choke,


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I am So Totally Over my Salad Spinner

Dear Mouse,

I just needed to get that off my chest.

I have, like, three of them for some reason, all of them missing various pieces, and it's just like an edge-of-the-sink, splashy leafy circus every time I use them. No cupboard or vessel can hold them; they bounce out every time you open one, onto the floor, it's downright dangerous. And in the end, you have sort-of dry lettuce that is sort-of still dirty. Anyway, lettuce is not in season now, which brings me to my point.

I'm almost done with the book you lent me, Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which I love. Her year-long saga of farming, local eating and generally revising her family's relationsip with food has been hilarious and inspiring.

I've noticed that the approach of XmasUkahStice has brought with it the usual spate of Food Terrorist Literature: the magazine articles, soft news stories, and subway ads about holiday excess reminding us that in this time of togetherness and celebration our Diet Alert should be raised to Fat Orange.

As an antidote to this time of Calorie Phobia, I'd like to offer a quote from Kingsolver's "November/December" chapter. It says everything I'd like to say back.

"For most people everywhere, surely, food anchors holiday traditions. I probably spent some years denying the good in that, mostly subconsciously - devoutly refusing the Thanksgiving pie, accepting the stigma my culture has attached to celebrating food ( ...) We are supposed to pretend if we are strong-willed that food is not all that important. Eat now and pay later, we're warned. Stand on the scale, roll your eyes, and on New Year's Day resolve to become a moral person again.

But most of America's excess pounds were not gained on national holidays.
(..) Good people eat. So do bad people, skinny people, fat people, tall and short ones. Heaven help us, we will never master photosynthesis. Planning complex, beautiful meals, and investing one's heart and time in their preparation is the opposite of self-indulgence. Kitchen-based family gatherings are process-oriented, cooperative, and in the best of worlds, nourishing and soulful. ... I have given and received some of life's most important hugs with oven-mitt pot holders on both hands. "

In gratitude for friends, family, creative endeavors both in and out of the kitchen, and a big pot-holder hug to all.

Love, The Boo

P.S. Online, I found a lettuce-hygiene product called the 'Spin n Stor'. From the instructions:

"Just put your freshly washed greens into the bag, hold the top closed, spin it around overhead in a big arc for maximum force (Argee suggests about a dozen times), and the water drains out through little slots at the end of the bag into a reservoir."

Spin it around overhead in a big arc for maximum force.

Oh, ok.
In a New York apartment?

Love (again), The Boo

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Mousy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Dear Boo,

I am oh so thankful this year for you, my sister, this, our blogtastic creation, our wonderful family who appreciates the subtle superiority of a brined turkey, an aunt who makes a kickass Thanksgiving spread set on a table that would knock Martha's Wellies right off, the optimism displayed by our country in these hard and sad times, the awesome boots I just got for a fraction of the price, my nice cozy apartment on a cold winter night, a city with infinite answers to the question "what do you feel like for dinner?", a reasonable amount of disposable income with which to explore said answers, our aunt's recipe for perfect and easy pumpkin bread, the book I just finished that made me sob before I even had a chance to realize how good it was, you, dear readers, and other things too numerous to mention.

To celebrate, the annual parade of floats gargantuan, elaborate, and colorful:

The turkey. Brined in cider, salt, pepper, herbs. Moist and crispy. Usually it's all about the sides for me, but this year the turkey was where it's at.


The spread. Stuffing. Brussels sprouts with pecans. Sweet potatoes. Sunchokes (jerusalem artichokes).Turkeyleaf Mise en place.

Plate o bird.

Pumpkin bread. Corn muffins.

So good it deserves it's own picture.

Pumpkin log stuffed with gingered mascarpone.

Best. Pie. Ever.
You gonna eat that?
You gonna eat that?
You gonna eat that?
I'll eat that.

--"Birch" by Karen Shepherd

With love and admiration for auntie and uncle for feeding us all so darn well.


The Mouse

Monday, November 24, 2008

Three Vegetarian Dinners

Dear Boo,

I know I promised a pie post, which is forthcoming, but before you have dessert don't you think you should eat your vegetables? I do.

A certain member of the Brown Theater Faculty used to like to say, "Twice is repetition. Three times is motif." Or something. Which, though not all that helpful as an undergraduate actor, does make some sense. Think of the banana/orange knock knock joke. Or Santa. Two Ho's just doesn't seem right. (get your head out of the gutter, you hussy.) The point is, threes are good. And thusly this post will be a trifecta of meals. All vegetarian. All delicious.

Dinner #1:

We begin with Election Night. I was in a STATE to end all states all day which culminated in me nearly driving the Boyfriend to leap out the window by obsessing over our dinner plans. SHOULD we ORDER IN??! Should I COOK SOMETHING?? SHOULD I WAIT until our GUESTS ARRIVE to get THEIR OPINION??!! Should I LIE on the FLOOR NOW and GUZZLE VODKA until I pass out and you can just wake me up when it's OVER FOR LORD'S SAKE??!!!

In the end I concluded I needed something to do to distract me so I decided to cook some comfort food. Specifically, grilled cheese made with cheddar and fontina (and a little slather of chutney for me), tomato soup with cilantro stems and lime from Orangette, and our Uncle Barry's salad, a fabulous alternative to caesar. The soup channeled my anxious energy, the grilled cheese soothed me and reminded me of a time when I didn't care about politics, and the salad gave me something to pick at nervously throughout the night. In the end--well, we all know how that turned out. :)

Uncle Barry's Top Secret Salad

Chop one large clove of garlic. Put in the bottom of the salad bowl you plan to serve in. add a good pinch of kosher salt. With the back of your spoon, smush the garlic and salt against the bowl until it becomes a paste. Add black pepper. Add one Tablespoon of worcestershire sauce and one Tablespoon of dijon mustard. Add 3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil, whisk until emulsified. Add chopped romaine, about the equivalent of 1 head. Toss with dressing. Squeeze one half a lemon, and sprinkle with parmesan. Tada.

Dinner #2:

One of the members of our household who shall remain nameless had a weekend that looked a little something like this: Friday night: bacon cheeseburger & beer. Saturday brunch: Turkey Burger, Saturday dinner: Short rib burger and beers, Saturday late night: Tacos. Pizza on the way home. Sunday breakfast: Leftover pizza. yyyeeeaaahh. I wanted to cook something on Sunday but was implored to make it vegetarian and on the light side. There went my fantasies of standing over a steaming pot of beef stew. Instead I concocted what will now be known as Prague Cous Cous Salad, after an item on the menu at the Globe Bookstore in Prague where I ate probably 2 meals a week at while studying abroad. My version, also influenced by this recipe from 101 Cookbooks, goes a little something like this:

Prague Cous Cous Salad

1 butternut squash, carefully peeled and cubed.
4-5 small red onions, peeled and quartered in wedges.
3 zucchinis, chopped.
Few big handfuls of cremini mushrooms, quartered.
1 orange or yellow pepper, chopped.

Toss the above with a good few glugs of olive oil, some kosher salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
Spread on a roasting pan that's been preheating in the oven at 400. Roast for 30 minutes or until nicely browned and soft. You might want to do the onions and squash first, then the rest.
Take two cans of organic chick peas and a couple big handfuls (sorry, I don't have the foresight to measure most of the time) of pepitas (pumpkin seeds), toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and maybe some other seasonings to shall we say, kick it up? Throw those on the roasting pan for a couple of minutes until toasted a bit.
Make some whole wheat (if you're feeling super virtuous, which I was) cous cous according to the package directions. I think this would also work well with wild or brown rice, or quinoa.
To serve, pile some arugula (or baby spinach) on a platter--a big one. I've inexplicably given you a recipe for about 10. Dress with olive oil, squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper.
Pile cous cous jauntily (what?) on top.
On top of this, layer the roasted veggies, chick peas and pumpkin seeds.
Garnish with chopped scallions and cilantro.

To make dressing: whisk a cup of greek yogurt (i like Fage 0%), juice of half a lemon, quarter cup olive oil (or thereabout), kosher salt, pepper, and a handful of finely chopped cilantro. Drizzle over top.
Eat for weeks.

Dinner #3:

So at physical therapy for my elbow, we do all sorts of exercises to re-buff my arms and then when that's all over, sweet Ashley puts me in a private room where I lie down with a special ergonomic pillow under my knees, two electrodes attached to my arm to give me slight tingly kisses, and an ice pack. And then she dims the lights and leaves me there for 15 minutes. During which, for the past couple of sessions, I've taken to sleeping. Like, full on dreaming. It's lovely. So the other night, I had just woken up from just such a nap, hungry, as I always am after napping, and was walking home to the above leftovers, when I passed a gorgeous bin of brussels sprouts at the farmers market. I couldn't resist.

We had enough roasted vegetables at home to last a month at least, so I fantasized about how else I could prepare my bounty as I headed across 17th Street. A gratin, I thought, would be just the thing. And I already had most of the ingredients at home. Consulting Ina Garten's recipe for zucchini gratin (because any recipe with butter and cheese will inevitably be insanely good when made by the Barefoot Contessa), I came up with this:

Deliciously Sleepy Brussels Sprout Gratin:

2 lbs brussels sprouts, sliced thinly--you can use a mandolin, but I kind of really enjoy the shook-shook-shooking of the knife through all the crispy layers of cabbage, so I do it by hand.
4-5 large shallots, sliced thin
1 cup of low-fat milk (I had low-fat, but I'm sure it would be even awesomer with whole)
2 T flour
1/2 C (I think that's about how much I used) grated parmesan
1/2 C shredded cheese (I had cheddar and fontina from the grilled cheese night, but I think gruyere is what this dish was really calling out for to give it a little sour stinkiness)
Few Tablespoons of bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste

Sautee the shallots in a few glugs of olive oil until soft but not brown. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add brussels sprouts and stir, sauteeing until bright green and tender (cover for a couple minutes if you need to). Reseason. Add milk and flour and mix. Sautee until it thickens a bit. Add half the parmesan and half the cheese. Mix. Pour into baking dish. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and cheese. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until brown on top and bubbling. mmmmmmmmm

Eat your veggies. Vegetables, that is. Not vegetarians. Too gamey.


The Mouse

Friday, November 21, 2008

Cheesequake, or, Rock Waits for No Meal

Dear Mouse,

OK so as you know last night I played a Very Fancy Theatre Event to benefit the Public Theatre's Shakespeare Lab at a Very Fancy Apartment on the Upper West (Fancy) Side. (Fellow Lab Alums Bari Robinson, Natalie Paul, and Lydia Gaston also performed, throwing down some sonnets.) Remember how I was all excited to go undercover for this post, grabbing surreptitious shots of celebrity hands reaching for hors d'oeuvres and whatnot?

Yeah that didn't happen. Between nerves about A) singing in front of glitterati and B) getting the hell out in time to drive the band to Asbury Park NJ!! for the second gig of the night - there was really no time (gasp!!) for food. This, then, was the theme of the night, and hence of this post.

Here's the only shot I managed.

Cool, though, right??

In sum: 1 glass white wine, 2 tiny (TINY) filet mignon-on-crostini with horseradish sauce, 2 tiny tiny seared tuna on rice crackers w/wasabi, 3 tiny mushroom thingys in puff pastry = Boo's dinner. Lovely hostess asks my band's name. ( Boo's Mental note: In future, lie about band name at fancy cocktail parties. Also, use more than one bite for crostini.)

OMG it's 8 by now and I have to be onstage in NJ at 10!!. Panic. Sing, flee, go pick up these guys -
- and we're on our way to here:
Travelers: there is NO FOOD in Asbury Park. The natives subsist only on beer and Springsteen.

Just before going on, I inhale a bag of Sun Chips.

We made it in time!!! to play a 1030 set at the "Females Rising" night (oy) at this legendary, mighty Jersey club. I hit the weathered, proudly grungy stage still wearing my pink dress and heels from the cocktail party. Nevertheless, we had them at "Whipping Post". They danced!

Love and thanks to PhanPhest Entertainment for the show and to MC from The Rag, who interviewed us afterwards (for the December 4 issue, the same date we hit the Knitting Factory Main Stage in NYC!) . A sneak preview: "The music's so good the lyrics don't have to be... and then you realize they are." Sigh. Thanks.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Sexy Children:

Boys, please!!! There's enough of me to go around!!

That's better.

On the way home, we are starving enough to stop in Cheesequake -


-which is a real place, and eat Burger King, after a prolonged and noisy argument in the car.
(I believe I actually said, "I WILL turn this car around!!")

Beggars can't be choosers:

(I had Chicken Tenders, which are basically McNuggets shaped like chickens.)
Look closely: you can see Dan is actually eating a yogurt parfait from Sbarro. And sulking.)

We hit home in the wee hours of the AM, grunt goodbye to each other, go home.

In the morning I eat this for breakfast:
and I feel much better. (leftover baked apple. Yeah, I ate it lying on its side. What? you don't know.)


The Boo

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hacklebarney Cider Sunday

Dear Boo,

This weekend, Jeff and I took one of those old fashioned Sunday drives out into the country on what has become a nearly yearly field trip to this place:

You and I used to take drives to the Hacklebarney Farm Cider Mill with mom and dad back in the day when I would stand outside the open garage door on the side of the main building, peeking in at the gears and presses of the big cider mill that crushed crate after crate of apples into pulp and juice. Then a couple of years ago, a friend and I were talking about pumpkin picking and when researching where we could go, I came across this place again (where during September and October, they also open up a pick your own pumpkin field). We came for the pumpkins, but discovered the bakery store and lunch options and vowed we'd return.

When I was about 8, someone told me that hot dogs had pig hooves in them, and that was IT for me. I refused to eat any for years to come....Except on one visit to the cider mill where I tried one of their dogs boiled in cider and declared it to be a singular treasure--the ONLY hot dog I would eat. Now, an avowed hot dog lover, the cider dogs keep bringing me back to Hacklebarney.

Jeff and I pulled up to the cider mill on a cloudy, windy, very cold day around 2:30, ready for some lunch. The whole farm seems to be permeated by a fog of sweet baking smells which just adds to the beauty of the place. We headed past the main house with the bakery store, and straight to the little shack where lunch is served. A young guy came out of the smaller house which holds the bakery and asked what we wanted. Cider dogs with cider and apple sauerkraut, and cider baked beans, please. We stood, stamping our feet against the cold, savoring the hot tasty lunch. The beans are syrupy and thick with chunks of apple and the sauerkraut is crunchy and sweet and sour and plentiful. And the dog--well, let's just say I still think this place is onto something major by boiling them in cider. I love a charred grilled hot dog as much as the next guy, but that's for summer. For a crisp fall day, I'd take this ANY day.

The drive to the Cider Mill is beautiful. Once you're off the highway you'll find yourself on back country roads along a babbling creek with old stone homes tucked into the hills along the path. If you make it out earlier in the season you'll get a lovely sampling of the leaves turning. The Mill is on the edge of Hacklebarney State Park which is full of beautiful paths through the woods if you're feeling adventurous. We, however, were cold and lazy, it being a grey sunday, and stuck to the warm inside of the bakery store where they sell pies (600 to order for thanksgiving, to be precise), apple dumplings, puff pastries, hot cider, mulling spices, and gallons of cider to take home. Oh, and cider donuts--powdered, cinnamon powdered, and pumpkin (the place was pretty quiet while we visited, but don't be deceived--the pumpkin donuts had sold out around 11am):

The donuts are light and fluffy--the kind you can plow through a few of before realizing the damage you've done. The cider taste is mild and not overly sweet--the dusting of sugar is all it needs. I bought a dozen. The Boyfriend was very appreciative.

Before we headed out, I also bought some cold cider and a basket of apples, the Mill's "Pie blend" of winesap, idared, golden delicious and a few others, good for baking or eating.

If you're looking for a jaunt out of the city one sunny, cold afternoon, I can't recommend this enough. Going earlier in the season is probably your best bet if you want to walk around or get a pumpkin, but as you can see, any time is worth it for lunch and some goodies, and petting the farm golder retreiver or cat.

And if you're Jeff, you might have the foresight to locate a Trader Joe's in Jersey on the way back so you can enjoy the other attraction of suburbia--normal sized supermarkets. Ahhhh. All you people who scorn Jersey--just give me an afternoon and I'll have you eating your words.

Also, give me a couple of days and I'll have an apple pie for you. Well, maybe not the pie itself, unless you're very lucky, but a forthcoming entry with the recipe and photos to drool over until you make your own. Til then...


The Mouse