Category Archives: Celebratory!

Restocking The Stash: On The Road With IPB Living, Chapter 2

Day Two of our stash-restocking adventure dawned bright and early, around 11:30 in the morning. Yes, that’s 2:30 in the afternoon back home, but back home can suck it. We hit the ground running, lolling around in our pajamas and stitching for about an hour, then headed out into the blinding desert heat in search of lunch.

Now, we’re staying in a nice little resort hotel right near where we used to live out here, and the thing about resorts in the Phoenix area is that they work very hard to not appear like you’re in the desert. On our way to the car, we took a side exit and found ourselves on what our hotel calls the “Lawn Court”, and what Boomer called the “Croquet Court”.

There was even, on the sidewalk beyond the croquet lawn, a side planting of what seemed to be a lawn made entirely of succulents.

Despite the palm trees and lush grass, though, there are lots of beautiful desert-appropriate plantings on the grounds here, and while we’re too lazy to venture forth to see the entirety of what the place has to offer, we were able to get some requisite cactus pictures in just along the walk out to our car.

We also snapped a picture of an ocotillo, to remember the good old days when we had one in our front yard and used to wrap every spiky branch with Christmas lights during the holidays…

… and because we don’t want to go to jail, we took a mandatory picture of a giant, many-armed saguaro.

Our big plans for today were all food-related. For lunch, we wanted to go to NYPD Pizza, which was our favorite when we used to live here. It’s not easy finding New York-style pizza in the Valley, and going without is no way to live. We miraculously managed to find the restaurant on our first try, and on the way in, we noticed the sky was filled with charming fluffy clouds again. So here’s a picture of one:

There were two things we were most interested in at NYPD. The first was Pookie’s all-time favorite pizza, the Brooklyn Family. That would be sausage, pepperoni, and fresh basil:

It was, as remembered, excellent. The crust is not quite as New York-y as we remembered, being a bit softer than the real deal, but it’s still a scrumptious pizza. And while the Phoenix surrounds are long on good boutique-y sort of pizzas, the simplest kind is still the best.

The other reason we were excited to be eating at NYPD is the beer. You see, during the few years we lived in Scottsdale, our beer of choice was Fat Tire. Since moving away, we’ve found a small, local brewery in Princeton to supply us with all our beer needs, and it’s spoiled us. When we were in Ottawa for the NHL Draft in June, we got draft beers of a brand we won’t mention here and were horrified at how dishwatery it tasted. So we were very concerned that when we got out here for vacation, we’d be crushed to find out that Triumph Brewery had ruined Fat Tire for us, too. Pookie even vowed ahead of time, “I’ll just have to drink 800 beers during the three days to find out.”

Good news, Gentle Reader. While it’s not quite up to Triumph-level snuff, Fat Tire is still a perfectly cromulent beer. Which means Pookie won’t be gagging down the remaining 799 on her docket.

On the way out of lunch, Boomer’s worst driving instincts kicked back into gear, and we circled the parking lot fruitlessly a few times in search of the exit. Which was, as it turns out, exactly where we’d left it when we came in. But don’t tell Boomer that. Anyway, the detour afforded us the chance to gaze in wonderment upon this fine firearms establishment:

Yeah, we’re not in Princeton anymore.

After a quick stop at Best Buy, where we ogled fancy cameras but bought only new headphones for Pookie’s iPod, it was time to spend the day the way we love best: sitting around and stitching. Back at the hotel, we spread out the loot from our first run at the Attic.

There aren’t many new projects in there — just charts waiting to have their supplies pulled tomorrow. They look so eager, don’t they? Well, except for the one’s Boomer’s ugly bought. Those are all appropriately ugly.

And so we spent the remainder of the afternoon in a delightful state of relaxation, stitching, gorging on candy, and listening to music on the iPod speakers that our room came equipped with.

Finally dinnertime rolled around, and we were forced to remember how to stand upright long enough to walk to the car. Our hopes of seeing another rainbow, this time with camera in tow, were dashed, but in its place we got a spectacular sunset.

Now, when we were kids and visited our grandparents out here, one of the most exciting parts of every trip was seeing Camelback mountain. For huge portions of our lives, it was the only mountain we could name. And it’s certainly easier to recognize than, say, K2, which we wouldn’t know if it kicked us in the teeth.

We were so excited by the sunset and driving along next to Camelback that we took a zillion pictures in the car, with no consideration for how they were likely to turn out.

What is there to say about a dinner at the Roaring Fork? This was our favorite restaurant when we lived here, and, beside a few supremely swanky dinners we’ve had at places well outside our regular orbits, remains right up at the top of the list. We had cocktails (an organic agave margarita and a prickly pear mojito), scrumptious appetizers (tempura-battered shrimp for Boomer, tortilla soup for Schnookie, and the famous green chile pork stew for Pookie), staggeringly good entrees (cedar plank salmon with apricot barbecue glaze for Boomer, roasted pork carnitas for Schnookie, buttermilk fried chicken for Pookie), and then barely had any room for our desserts (molten brownie and huckleberry bread pudding). The green chile pork stew is near the very top of our short list of bestest food stuffs on the planet, and it’s been two whole years since we last had it. Horrors!

It was well worth the wait.

Walking out of the Roaring Fork after dinner is never easy, considering how stuffed we always are. Tonight we left with a bag of our leftover desserts, as well as three mysterious gifts from the guy who bussed our table. He’d been very chatty, and we’d struck up pretty much an evening-long conversation with him; before we left he told us there were three boxes in our doggie bag that we had to wait until we were outside to open. When we got back to the hotel, we cracked them open:

What a sweet gesture! It was lilies from the table settings! After opening them, we had to glance around suspiciously, concerned that we were back in the “everyone breaking out in song” type of day we had yesterday. It’s way too late for musical numbers, so if there are any synchronized-swimming muppets hiding in the woodwork, we’d love for them to just wait until tomorrow.

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Filed under Away From Home, Celebratory!, Dining Out, Drinky-Drinky, On The Road, Pictures Worth A Thousand Words, Pins and Needles, Pommerdoodling, Stitching, Worth Selling Your Soul For

Restocking The Stash: On The Road With IPB Living, Chapter 1

Today was the big day — time to hit the road for our “Restocking The Stash” trip out to The Attic in Arizona! After several weeks of giddy anticipation, we were in a full-on state of high-level pommerdoodling when this morning finally rolled around. All that stood between us and our carefully mapped three-day assault on the Valley of the Sun was a mere trans-continental flight. Pfft! Child’s play!

We left Philadelphia at a perfectly reasonable midmorning time, made a bit less reasonable by the fact that none of us slept a wink last night (yes, heading out to The Attic is, for us, an awful lot like Christmas is for seven-year-olds), and after five shockingly uneventful and quick-moving hours, descended on our target.

It should be noted that it seemed to us today that the whole world was as happy as we are that we’re on vacation. First off, after years of driving around the entire Philadelphia airport to get into the short-term parking garages, we took a wrong turn this morning and discovered a route that is a zillion times easier, and ended up with the best parking spot we’ve ever had at the airport. Then the flight crew spent the last hour of our plane ride getting on the speakers and congratulating each other for various life accomplishments. There was the “Let’s all give a hand for [Flight Attendant X], who got engaged last night!” announcement, followed by the “Let’s all give a hand for [Flight Attendant Y], who is celebrating a belated birthday today!” one, followed by the “A flight attendant will be going along the aisle now collecting service items. Please hand over empty bottles, cans, wrappers, credit cards, jewelry, engagement rings…” one. Then the driver for the rental car shuttle inadvertently had the entire bus in stitches as he explained how rental car returns work, but at a level appropriate for “Sesame Street”. Pookie remarked that it felt like she was living in the first part of “The Truman Show”, when the entire world is ridiculously perfect. Schnookie agreed, and suggested she expected either musical numbers or Muppet synchronized swimming routines to break out at any moment.

In our new incarnation as photography hobbyists, we were super-excited to have an opportunity to take some pictures at the rental car mall, where they have these cool suncatcher sculpture thingies in the clerestory windows. No, we’re not afraid to look like tourists. We’re also, as tourists visiting a place we used to live in, disappointed to report that the temperature today was depressingly unimpressive. The most sweltering high we were able to document was just 108. Pathetic, Phoenix. We know you can do better than that.

We’d like to say that our first stop immediately off the plane was The Attic, but we’re not going to lie — we were starving. Even though we’d packed hilariously heavy snack bags filled with pounds and pounds of candy for the plane, we needed some real sustenance before we could shop. Oh, and some cold drinks. Five years away from the desert leaves a girl unprepared for how thirsty this place makes you. We hit the shining beacon of every IPB road trip: McDonalds. And once we’d procured their finest meats and cheeses (or, more accurately, their finest potatostuffs), we gave a French Fry toast to being on vacation and on the verge of returning to the most wonderful place on earth.

And that most wonderful place on earth? Is just up the street from the McDonalds. It might look unassuming from the outside…

… But inside it’s a slice of heaven.

It’s probably corny to say it, but a trip to The Attic is like coming home for us. We had a big round of hugs with Jean, who was specially outfitted in her new Brett Favre Jets t-shirt, then caught up with everyone’s gorgeous projects. Then it was time to let the awesomeness of The Attic wash over us. We tried to document it, to give a taste of the shopping experience, but it’s hard to get everything. For starters, the shop is brimming with beautiful models of all kinds of projects. Most importantly, and the main focal point, is the famous Wall Of Samplers:

We aspire for the walls of Maple Hoo to look like that someday.

As you wander around the store, there are tons of other displays, and our favorites are the seasonal ones. There’s the Christmas “mantle”…

… and the Thanksgiving/Halloween fall corner…

… not to mention the 4th of July/Americana corner that we didn’t photograph because we were so busy picking up a kick-ass chart (more on that tomorrow).

Another favorite target for us is the display in the center of the shop of the current featured designs.

This part of the store is trouble, because you could safely just ask for one of everything in there, and, by the time we head home on Tuesday, we probably will have picked up exactly that.

There are areas of the shop we didn’t even hit today, as this was just our cursory first-wave attack. It can be almost overwhelming trying to make sure you’ve seen everything, and we all managed to pick out small projects to start with. After an hour or so of poring over charts, we moved on to the supplies.

And oh! The supplies! You want fibers? The Attic has every fiber you can imagine. Why, here’s just some of the cottons on hand:

Wait, you like overdyed cotton floss more? Great! Here’s the tip of the iceberg of those:

What’s that? You prefer silk to cotton? Great! There’s a whole wall of overdyed silks, all of them mouth-wateringly beautiful!

We didn’t even bother trying to get a picture of all the regular silk threads on hand — we’ll get to that on our second-wave trip. In the meantime, are you looking for cute accent buttons? Well, there are stacks of boxes of those, each more adorable than the last:

And what can you even say about the beautiful stitching tools on hand? Pookie’s scissor collection has already been documented here, and it’s fair to say that The Attic is the pusher who got her addicted in the first place. Beyond the vast array of gorgeous scissors, there are dozens of ornamental thimbles, etuis, little baskets and catchalls, measuring tapes, rulers, and the items that most caught our eyes today: handpainted autumn-themed floss winders:

Oh, and did we mention that The Attic is unimaginably well-stocked with linens? Because they are. There are racks and racks of linens in a rainbow of glorious colors, counts, and vintagey hand-dyed looks; here, in the middle of the linen section, a view to the left…

… and here’s the other side of the aisle:

You could probably take a week just to fully appreciate the linen selection, but we were running out of time today. After a few hours of feverishly pulling charts and putting together threads and linen for just a few small projects, we checked out with a modest bag of swag, ready to spend a day regrouping before making our big restocking run. Today was just a nibble. Monday will be the real feast.

We were by this point utterly exhausted. Almost deliriously so. In fact, we ended up going ridiculously far off course as we tried to get to our hotel because none of us could remember exactly where in Scottsdale it is. Fortunately, we had one of those amazing August skies to distract us; it’s so beautiful to see the big clouds piling up behind the McDowell mountains.

At long last, we found the hotel, checked in, and dragged our sorry carcasses to our rooms, just in time to collapse into bed for some long, hard naps. We were all a bit disoriented and cranky when we woke up, ready to go up the street to Blue Burrito, one of our favorite cheap-and-easy restaurants from back in the day when we lived here. Before going out, though, Pookie took the camera onto the patio of our room to shoot the lawn and trees in our immediate surrounds.

Then, being novice hobbyist photographers, we left the camera in our room when we went out to pick up dinner. And, of course, were greeted outside by the most glorious sunset-tinted clouds and a giant rainbow. Naturally. We should have known, on a day where we expected big song-and-dance numbers to break out at any moment, that there would be a rainbow.

At any rate, after more hijinks trying to figure out from memory where things are located, we managed to retrieve our dinner. We fell on our burritos like we were starving, and further supported our theory that some of the best vacation meals are the picnics you bring back to your hotel room, to enjoy at the end of a long and tiring day.

Now, with our bellies full and the first chapter of our travelogue written, we’re feeling the three-hour time difference. We’ve got a hard day on the docket for tomorrow, rife with sleeping in, lolling around and stitching, and then dinner at the Roaring Fork. And maybe some Muppet synchronized swimming routines!

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Filed under Away From Home, Bonanza!, Celebratory!, On The Road, Pins and Needles, Pommerdoodling, Stitching, Worth Selling Your Soul For

Unicorn Kisses, Or Adventures In Cookie Baking

To celebrate that the final piece of the Unicorn Kitchen was put into place on Friday morning — only 14 months after the actual work on the project started — we decided to make something special. Something special that could also serve to kick-off a new series that we’re very excited about here at stately IPB Living manor: Cookie of the Month! We’re going to not take the beautiful kitchen for granted and not get stuck in a peanut butter cookie rut by trying out a new cookie recipe every month. Kicking off this project is August’s cookie, Baci di Dama, or Chocolate-Filled Hazelnut Cookies.

These little sandwich cookies had everything a special baking event requires. Fancy ingredients? Check!

New techniques? Check!

Potentially disastrously annoying fussy steps? Check!

FAN-tastic! We couldn’t wait to try them!

Schnookie kicked things of by toasting the hazelnuts. We had directions that said to toast them for 12-14 minutes or until lightly toasted. What exactly constituted “lightly toasted” was a little unclear. Were the nuts going to be slurring their speech? Perhaps they’d knock over a priceless Ming vase when stumbling through the living room. Or maybe they’d make an awkward pass at a co-worker they’d regret in the morning. It was tough to tell, since when we looked in on the oven, they were all just sitting around. Finally when they got fairly aromatic we decided they were done. Schnookie tucked them in between some paper towels and closed them in a sealable plastic baggie to steam. Meanwhile, I decided to get a head start on the rest of the recipe.

While the nuts were cooling I mixed 1 cup of flour, 1/8 of a tsp of salt, and 1/4 tsp of lemon zest in a bowl. Then I read the recipe. Heh. Starting over, I mixed the softened butter, the salt, and the zest, and then filled a cup measure with cake flour. I then saw my hand lifting the measuring cup and moving it towards the bowl. I apparently could not handle the fact that the flour didn’t get mixed in with the salt. Cookie of the Month is a necessary thing for me — I’m obviously brainwashed by Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies! I’m a disaster! Fortunately, I stopped myself and things could proceed.

The nuts were cool at this point, so we each took half of them and placed them in a kitchen towel. I had been assuming that this step would take forever and would involve lots of hazelnuts being thrown violently across the room out of frustration. Turns out, once they’ve been toasted and steamed, hazelnuts are remarkably eager to molt. There were a staggered few that were a tad ornery, but skinning the hazelnuts was considerably easier than it sounds. So into the food processor they went! Once again, the directions were a tad vague. Very nervous about over-working the ingredients, Schnookie veered on the side of caution with the food processor. We were both convinced the mixture would turn to the dreaded paste in the blink of a an eye. So as soon as it looked powdery, we added the mixture to the butter, salt, and zest. (That’s butter, salt, and zest. Pookie.)

The directions said to mix with a wooden spoon or spatula. I went for the old school wooden spoon and waved it around a bit ineffectually. Schnookie, Miss CIA Baking Boot Camp Graduate, stepped in with the spatula and two seconds later the dough was perfectly combined. I tried to console myself with the knowledge that Schnookie hates the process of actually baking cookies, and thus couldn’t banish me completely from the kitchen. We added the flour and it was time to load up the trays. The directions said to make dough balls that were 1/2 tsp big, aka “the size of a marble”. A few moments later it was established someone (it rhymes with “Blnookie”) seems to think marbles are huge. My tray was lined with delicate marble-sized balls, while hers was groaning under the weight of, well, slightly larger-marble-sized balls. There was much bickering over whose would be better.

This bickering was most likely born out of the anticipation that filling the trays with miniature cookies would take forever. Once again, though, we discovered the teaspoons clattering against the empty mixing bowl considerably earlier than we expected. It was time for Miss Never Been To The CIA Except For That Failed Fruit And Vegetable Carving Class to step in to do the baking. The directions said 12-14 minutes or until lightly golden. How eerily familiar. It turned out it was almost as hard to judge when the cookies were done as it was the nuts. Still, after about 10 or 11 minutes, the cookies looked to be lightly brown on the bottoms. They weren’t, however, the adorably puffy cookies in the picture that accompanied the recipe on Epicurious. Rats.

We decided it was either that the nuts weren’t mixed enough or the humidity of New Jersey in August was too much for the dough. Yeah, we’ll go with the latter. After the cookies had thoroughly cooled, it was time for the last step we were both secretly fearing. Filling them with melted chocolate. Schnookie had a recipe ages ago for chocolate-espresso sandwich cookies, filled with ganache. Possibly one of Earth’s tastiest cookies, they were also the single most annoying kitchen experience ever. Filling sandwich cookies sucks, no ifs, ands or buts about it. But this was a celebratory event, so filled cookies it was! I took control of the piping bag, and Schnookie signed up for sandwiching duty. Between the two of us, it took… you guessed it, considerably less time than we were expecting!

It’s a new kitchen miracle! Everything about making these cookies was a blast! But how do they taste, you ask. Delicious! Crisp, crunchy, nutty and sweet, these little cookies pack a huge punch. They taste a little like the most delicious Pepperidge Farm Brussels cookie you’ll ever have.

The recipe suggested serving them with coffee, so out came the coffee grinder, the French press, and the Small World House Blend beans. As delicious as the cookies are on their own, with coffee? They’re phenomenal. Even in their lumpy, misshapen, non-puffy state, these cookies had a perfect ratio of fancy-looking to easy-prep. In short, they were a delightfully different and refreshing way to celebrate the completed kitchen.

Recipe:

3/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted, any loose skins rubbed off in a kitchen towel, and cooled
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, well softened
1/4 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
3 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened; preferably 70% cacao), chopped

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 or 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Grind nuts with confectioners sugar in a food processor until powdery (be careful not to process to a paste).

Beat together butter, zest, salt, and nut mixture in a large bowl with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until creamy, then add flour, stirring until just incorporated (do not overwork).

Roll level 1/2 teaspoons of dough into tiny balls (the size of marbles) and arrange 1 inch apart on baking sheets. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until very pale golden, 12 to 14 minutes, then slide parchment with cookies onto a rack to cool completely.

Melt chocolate in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Spoon melted chocolate into a small plastic bag and seal bag, forcing out excess air. Snip off 1 bottom corner of bag with scissors to form a small hole.

Pipe a small mound (about 1/8 teaspoon) of melted chocolate onto flat sides of cookies, then top with matching cookies, pressing flat sides together to help adhere.

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Filed under Baked Goods, Celebratory!, Cookie Of The Month, Cookie, Cookie, Cookie Starts With C, Pictures Worth A Thousand Words, Unicorn Kitchen

4th Of July? Guess It’s Time For BBQ

Here at Maple Hoo we’re not much for making a big deal of holidays. Even our Christmas celebration isn’t normally much more than putting out tons of handmade decorations and opening presents. I kind of have one level of cooking in me: everyday. I think I do a good job of making it so we eat well on a sort of “weeknight dinners” kind of way, but when it comes to the big feast days, it’s normally just more of the same from me. There’s only so much effort I’m willing to expend in the kitchen, and that’s a level of effort I’m willing to expend all the time. Our fancy meals are never really that fancy. And our holiday meals are never really that holiday-appropriate. So imagine my surprise when, as I went to assemble my weekly menu plans last Monday, my brain said, “Hey! 4th of July weekend is coming up! We’re gonna BARBECUE!!!”

So, in the wee hours of last Sunday night I flipped through Cheryl and Bill Jamison’s Smoke & Spice to find a holiday-worthy recipe before heading off to the grocery store after work on Monday. (This is why we don’t eat well on weekends. I do one grocery run a week, and normally I only have the energy on Sunday night or Monday afternoon to think of a handful of meals, and I figure, “Oh, I’ll come up with something on the weekend.” Of course, come Saturday, there’s nothing in the house to eat, so we just have frozen pizza. But I digress.) What I found was a “Sweet and Fruity Pork Tenderloin”. This sounded perfect:

“Sweet Sensation Rub”
1 tbsp ground allspice
1 tbsp packed brown sugar
1 tbsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp dried thyme

Two 12- to 14-oz tenderloins
Vegetable oil

Now, the recipe also called for an optional mop that sounded really good (it was made with extra rub, chicken stock, cider vinegar, and honey), but I use an electric smoker, so mopping really isn’t that productive. I regretfully opted out, but once the meat was in the smoker, I was just as happy to be parked in front of the TV with my stitching rather than trotting out to be mopping away at it.

So, the deal is that you mix all the rub ingredients up on the night before you’re going to barbecue, and then massage the tenderloins with a thin layer of oil followed by a couple of tablespoons of the rub. Then wrap them up tightly and refrigerate overnight. (The rub smelled exquisite.)

Then the day of the barbecue, you fire up your smoker to 200-220 degrees (F). While that’s getting up to the right heat, let the tenderloins sit at room temperature, unwrapped, for about 30 minutes.

Before tossing them in the smoker, sear the tenderloins on all sides in a skillet over high heat. Then cook them in the smoker for 2 to 2 1/4 hours; they’re done when they register 160 degrees (F).

The recipe also calls, though, for a choice of two spicy-sweet barbecue sauces, that you baste the pork with 30 minutes before it’s done in the smoker, and which you then serve on the side with the meat. The one I picked was “Jalapeach Barbecue Sauce”, a delightfully Semi-Homemade-sounding sauce:

16-oz can peaches in heavy syrup, undrained
1/4 cup minced onion
3 tbsp minced pickled jalapenos
2 tsp pickling liquid from jar or can of pickled jalapenos
2 tbsp peach chutney, or mango in a pinch
2 tsp packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin

You just mix all the ingredients together in a saucepan, bring to a simmer, and then let cook on low until the onions are tender and the sauce thickens, about 25-30 minutes. Serve it warm or chilled. It should be noted that I am highly suspicious of pickled jalapenos, so I used a fresh one, but I did use the pickling liquid from some pickled peperoncinis that I happened to have in the fridge. I also couldn’t find any peach chutney, so I went with mango. And I misread the recipe and put in two tablespoons of brown sugar (something I only noticed just now writing the recipe out). I also bought halved peaches in heavy syrup and chopped them pretty finely before mixing them into the sauce — I figured the peach halves probably weren’t going to be breaking down enough on their own to be sufficiently saucy.

You know what? I should make holiday barbecues more often. This pork? Was out of this world. It was, as promised, fruity and sweet, but marvelously, delicately smoky. The meat was tender and perfect, and the sauce was sticky and glaze-like, with the perfect balance of super-sweetness and a fun jalapeno kick. I loved this. I could eat it every single day. And what was especially nice about it was that my Bradley smoker makes it so you just plug the thing in, toss in the meat, and then go about your way. I know there are people who like messing with feeding fires and maintaining temperature and what-have-you, and having smoked things that way in my Webber, I can say with some confidence that, while I’m glad I’ve tried the analog smoking method, I’m happy to have a machine that does it all for me.

For sides, I decided to make corn muffins (just from the recipe on the back of the Quaker corn meal):

And the posole verde recipe from Rancho Gordo. I’d never eaten posole before, but when Pookie and I decided to buy a smorgasbord of beans from Rancho Gordo (ostensibly so we could taste the calypso beans we’d just planted in our garden), I saw this recipe on the site and decided to buy some posole just to try it. I don’t know what I was expecting it to be, but I know I wasn’t expecting it to be this:

The posole is just a dried corn, and as it rehydrated, I expected it to taste like the sweet corn we get here in Jersey. It was not like that at all. It was chewy and starchy, like a cross between corn flour and barley. It was delicious. I also was, stupidly, not really expecting this recipe to yield a soup. I guess I was thinking all that liquid was going to be absorbed like in a bean dish, so once everything came together, it was like, “Surprise! We’re having soup with dinner!” Of course, it was scrumptious. The roasted tomatillos make this magnificently tangy and tart, and there’s a sharp edge from the chiles, with a nice sweet base from the roasted onions. And then everything is brightened up with a hearty dose of cilantro. I used just about every bowl and utensil in my kitchen to make this, but it was really worth it — it seemed like something you’d get in a restaurant. If that restaurant served surprise soups.

So on a holiday we observed by sitting around stitching, drinking Rhode Island Reds, and watching MacGyver, I managed to plate a pretty fancy dinner for us:

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Filed under BBQ, Celebratory!, Hearty Meals, Meats Meats Meats

A Very Boomer Lunch

Today we had a barbecue lunch for Boomer, and then picnicked on the deck while she opened her Boomer Day presents.

While the presents were really the main course, we were also a bit interested in the food. I decided to give a new recipe (for me) a try: Grilled Chicken with Tamarind-Orange Glaze. I made the sauce on Wednesday night, and it took about an hour to reduce down to a nice glaze-y consistency. It wasn’t terribly happy about having been refrigerated for a few days, but a vigorous reheating this morning cured it of its problems.

The chicken grilled up beautifully, and I whipped up some basmati rice and grilled some pineapple to go with it all.

This was a scrumptious meal. The tamarind-orange sauce was a bit too tamarind tangy on its own, but as a glaze it was really fantastic. It was fresh and zesty and a bit outside of my comfort zone (I’ve never cooked with tamarind before), so it was a special treat to try something new. But again, the main point of the picnic was Boomer’s presents, so the real test will be to see how this holds up without a party attached. I think it’ll do that well.

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Filed under Celebratory!, Meats Meats Meats

Happy Boomer Day!

Mother’s Day means we pull out all the stops for Boomer, and “pulling out all the stops” means a fancy-schmancy cake from Chez Alice in Princeton.

Boomer selected the “Pink Passion”, which is layers of sponge cake with passion fruit and raspberry mousses. This is kind of an adventurous choice for us, but the rationale was that we have so much chocolatey dessertage here at Maple Hoo that it was worth it to try some flavors we don’t often make for ourselves. And it was an excellent choice — the mousses are tart and tangy and fruity and fresh, and the whole thing is light and smooth and heavenly.

Good thing I accidentally ordered a pizza-sized version of this — we’ll be eating it all week!

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Filed under Baked Goods, Celebratory!, Fancy Dessert, Pommerdoodling