Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Meatless Monday

As most of you who have been reading this blog for any time know, I am a meat and potatoes guy. The result of 51 years of meat and potatoes is that I cut a pretty robust and burly figure. Christine and I were talking on the way back from Pittsburgh about our menu planning for the fall. We came up with the following schedule:
Sunday--"Mary's Gravy"
Monday--Meatless Monday
Tuesday--Blue Plate Special (roast, meatloaf or another family favorite)
Wednesday--Pizza (from whatever pizzeria has a twofer special)
Saturday--Casserole, crock pot, sandwiches or breakfast for supper

What I really need help with, being the meat and potatoes guy that I am is what to have for "Meatless Monday". Any ideas? Post them below.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Two Cool Eateries in Keen, NH

Our family has been taking an annual treck for at least one week to Camp Spofford in south western New Hampshire. The camp is on Spofford Lake, just about halfway between Keene, NH and Brattleboro, VT. Our kids love it so much that two of them are working up there this summer. When we take our week, going out to eat at some of the funky restaurants in Keene or Brattleboro is always on the schedule. This week we visited to standouts that you definitely check out if you are visiting that region for vacation or on a fall foliage tour.

We ate at a place called The Keene Fresh Salad Company. This eat in deli is known for their different varieties of fresh pesto that are used to garnish their sandwiches. We enjoyed a turkey, fresh mozzarella with pesto on a freshly baked foccocia. It was pretty tasty.

The place that really stood out though was Fritz's. This restaurants specializes in Belgian fries that are served with all kinds of interesting dipping sauces. I had the Havarti Dill Cheeseburger and my wife had the Caprese Panini, which was made from fresh basil, tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella. We ordered a few different dipping sauces with our fries, including a peanut satay, Parmesan peppercorn, spicy chipolata ketchup. I have to say however, that these fries were so awesome I mostly ate them with salt and a dash of malt vinegar.

When in the Keen, NH area. Check out these two restaurants. You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What 18 Day of Rain Does for the Garden

It has been a very wet spring and early summer here in Jersey. Last I heard we have had 18 days of rain straight here in Ocean County. The sad part of that news is that I haven't been to the beach much. This past Sunday was a beautiful beach day though and Christine and I headed up there after church. The weather was beautiful, but the water was not great. There was a green algae bloom, the result of all the run off from the overflowing bay. That is kind of unusual for the Jersey Shore, because contrary to popular belief, excellent coastal water quality is one of the high priorities for our state. However, the result of all the rain was healthy vegetation in waters and the same has been true of the my garden.

We put lots of sweat equity into the garden this year and lots of compost, and it already starting to pay off. Here are a couple of photos of early garden results.

Fresh Sugar Snap Peas in abundance. We had them along side a nice chili that Christine cooked up along with a fresh arugula and leaf lettuce salad fresh picked from the garden.

Raspberries and blackberries galore.

The flowers love the rain. One of my hybrid day lilies.

Well, my chore for the day is to do the July bills. After that I have some church reading to do. It looks like another fine beach day, so I am headed out before supper, then I plan to grill a nice London broil for a supper on the deck.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Breakfast at Shut Up and Eat

Yesterday, Christine and I had a lovely breakfast at an interesting little joint called "Shut Up and Eat". Like the majority of restaurants in Northern Ocean County, "Shut Up and Eat" is located in a strip mall. Their strip mall is the K-Mart Plaza on route 37 in Toms River. The restaurant is a quirky little place. The theme is Mom's cluttered kitchen table--a decorating style that might be called "tacky chic" There is a diner counter that folk eat at, as well an eclectically furnished dining room. Nearly every inch of the wall are with pictures, photos, plaques, etc. The tables are set with mismatched thrift store mugs, dishes and salt and pepper shakers. The servers dress in pajamas and there is a standing special that gives you a 13% discount on your meal if you show up pajamas.

We had a nice breakfast that we constructed out of the breakfast specials that were posted on the door. I had two eggs over easy, hash browns, rye toast and coffee with a side of corn beef hash. The coffee was fresh, hot and full of flavor. The eggs were cooked just the way I like them. The hash browns were crunchy with a bit of a peppery kick. The star for me of my meal was the corn beef hash. It was homemade, with big chunks of corn beef, green peppers, potatoes and onions. Yum. Christien had the silver dollar with a side of bacon special. The bacon was nothing special, but the silver dollar pancakes were light and tender. What really impressed me about her meal was the the pancakes were served with a bottle of real maple syrup. Now that is something to write home about. What was especially exciting about breakfast at "Shut Up and Eat" was the bill. We got out of there for under $10. I really don't know when the last time was that I had such a nice breakfast for such a small amount of money.

"Shut Up and Eat" is trying to get themselves on Diners, Dives and Drive-ins and they are asking everyone to send an email to Guy Fieri about the place. If you live in the area or are on Rt 37 on your way to the beach, be sure to stop for breakfast at "Shut Up and Eat."

Shut Up And Eat - K-Mart Shopping Center, 213 Route 37 East, Toms River. 732.349.4544.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bria's Sweet Sixteen Cupcake Tower

My family celebrated my youngest daughter's sweet sixteen. I am feeling old. Bria wanted a special cake for the occasion and we brainstormed all kinds of ideas and finally decided to make cupcake tower. It came out pretty great. Her sister and her boyfriend spent a couple days before the event making cupcakes. They made carrot cupcakes with cream cheese icing, devil's food cupcake with Mary Steven' famous white icing, chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with fudgey chocalte icing, and my favorite, german chocolate cupcakes with pecan coconut icing.

Instead of buying the cupcake stand from the craft store, we build our own. It was pretty easy. In this picture you get a better idea of the structure.

We took 3 different size Wilton cardboard cake trays and the top was a plastic wilton cake tray, created styrofoam columns by gluing together styrofoam discs and covering them with ribbon. Then we glued them to the bottom of the top three trays. We glued a large styrofoam disc to the bottom tray and glued a dowel to the center of that disc. Finally we connected the tower together by pushing the dowel through the center of all three top trays. It really worked out well and was quite inexpensive. The great thing is that is breaks down for easy storage. The top of the tower was supposed to be topped by a fondant covered topsy truvy cake, but the heat that day caused us to have an "Ace of Cakes" moment so we had to improvise.

Posted by Picasa

Friday, May 1, 2009

My Original and Delicious Manhattan Clam Chowder Recipe

I grew up eating hot and steamy bowls of clam chowder when I was a kid spending my summers at the Jersey Shore. My very first summer job was working at the Sign of the Fish Restaurant on the southend boardwalk in Ocean Grove, NJ. Dave Shotwell and his lovely wife ran it for a couple of summers when he was taking his summer break from directing the marching band at Neptune High School. My official title my first year there was dishwasher, but Mr Shotwell would often use me to do the peeling and chopping for the soups that were a staple of the menu. This is where I learned to love the kitchen and cooking. Mr. Shotwell cooked up a very awesome clam chowder that would sell out in one day. My clam chowder recipe tries to recall the flavors from the Delicious steamy bowl I used to help make back in the day. Of course it's base is a tomato infused clam broth, enriched with bell peppers, potatoes and flavored with a good dose of black pepper and thyme. It is so simple to use fresh clams and so economical, at least in our area, that I can't imagine why anyone would use the canned stuff. Give my recipe a try and let me know what you think.

House Hubbie's Own Manhattan Clam Chowder

12 chowder clams (the size above cherrystones also called quahogs)
1 cup of water

Wash off clams, make sure they all alive, steam in a closed pot until clams are open. Remove clams from pot, when cool remove clam meat from shells, chop and set aside. Strain cooking liquid through paper towel or coffee filter in order to remove sand. Set aside.

4 strips of bacon, diced
1 medium onion
2 stalks celery
4 carrots
2 bell peppers

Cook bacon in bottom of pot until rendered. Drain off fat and return bacon and 2 T of bacon drippings to pot. Chop vegetables into about a 1/2 inch dice. Season with salt. Sweat veggies in bacon drippings over medium heat until onions are clear.

Clam steaming liquid plus enough bottled clam juice to make six cups.
2 12 oz cans of diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 t. thyme
freshly ground pepper to taste
3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced.
chopped clams
salt, pepper
fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
oyster crackers

Add the clam broth and clam juice to the vegetables. Add the tomatoes, by leaves, thyme and pepper. Simmer for about an hour or so. Add the potatoes and cook until they are soft but not mushy and soup has begun to thicken (20 or 30 minutes). Add clams. Cook for another 10 minutes or so. Taste and correct for seasoning with salt and pepper.

Serve chowder in bowls garnished with parsley with oyster crackers on the side.


Friday, January 30, 2009

Just What I Neeed on a Cold Winter Morning: Real Hot Cocoa

I made myself a cup of real hot cocoa this morning. Not the powdered stuff or the stuff made from chocolate syrup. It's simple.

Real Hot Cocoa

1 mug full of milk
3 rounded teaspoons of cocoa
3 rounded teaspoons of sugar
dash of salt

Heat the milk in a pan or in the microwave. In the bottom of the mug, mix together cocoa, sugar and salt. Pour a tiny bit of milk into the mug. Mix to form a paste. Pour in the rest of the hot milk. Beat with a spoon until blended and frothy.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Ahh! Puerto Rico

The Norwegian side of my wife's family and their spouses descended on San Juan, Puerto Rico for the wedding. One of her cousins was marrying a fellow a from Puerto Rico that she met while in medical school. The gathering took place over the New Year's holiday. It was a wonderful time. The image of staid Nordic types trying to learn to Salsa and getting into the Latino vibe caused more than one of us to comment on what a great "News From Lake Wobegon" segment it would make on "A Prairie Home Companion."

The picture above is the view from our hotel room at the Marriott Hotel on the beach in the Condado section of San Juan. This is a beautiful hotel right on beach. Great service, wonderful beds and amenities, a fantastic pool, perfect weather. It doesn't get much better than this.

The first evening the entire clan (more than 50 of us) gathered at Restaurant Barrachina in Old San Juan. This restaurant advertises that it is the birthplace of the "original pina colada", which it is not. I would advise that you stay away from this restaurant as it is a tourist trap.

Old San Juan is really beautiful. It is free and a must visit. Four cruise ships were in port the night of our visit to Barrachina, so the streets were crowded. We headed back the next day without the crowds and I spent some time getting some beautiful pictures of the streets, the vistas and the fort. Earlier that day, I was in the mood for some local Puerto Rican food. I asked a cab driver where he ate and he directed me to the pool grill in the Dutch Inn. This rundown hotel across the street from the Marriot is where the Greenhouse Restaurant is located, which gets a descent amount of the tourist trade. The grill in the pool area is great and local, local, local. Two women who speak no English give you menu with the food for the day. The menu has English translations. I had the roasted pork with rice and pink beans. My wife had the chicken in garlic sauce with rice and black beans. The senoritas ladled the food from large iron pots on the stove. The portions were generous and the the food was very tasty. Puerto Rican food is savory but not necessarily hot. I very much enjoyed it.

The last day were in Puerto Rico, we rented a car and traveled through the El Yungue Rain Forest. This about an hour drive from San Juan. We saw a little place called the Isamar Bakery on Route 26 right across the street from the turn off for the rain forest. We had a great inexpensive, home cooked meal there.

We met the owner, Cookie, who is from New York City. She returned to Puerto Rico and opened this bakery and has been doing very well. Cookie is a devout Christan lady and told us God told her to come back to Puerto Rico to help with the Baptist church that is just down the street from her bakery. Everything at the bakery is homemade and as you can see from the menu, very inexpensive.

Unfortunately the roast pork was sold out, so we had a Choripan and a Bistec Sandwich. Both were served on good homemade Puerto Rican bread. The Choripan was especially tasty. It is eggs scrambled and served with fried chorizo.

Since were were eating at a bakery we had to sample some of the tasty pastry. My wife had a a piece of flan. The folk we were with had guava cheesecake. I had a guava filled cheese danish. Yum.
Now that I am back in Jersey experiencing snow and nearly zero temperatures, remembering my few days in Puerto Rico are making warm all over. I can't wait to go back.