Category Archives: Food

Faux, the New Real

Well?

I used to be a real stickler for everything in my home being real, genuine. I had an unbreakable rule: Real fruit in the fruit bowl, even if no one ever ate it. Real flowers artfully displayed, even if we weren’t expecting company. If it wasn’t real, I didn’t display it or arrange it. Years went by, and it became an almost full-time job keeping ahead of the rotting, wilting, uh, expense of it all. The real fruit rotted in the fruit bowl before it was time to go to the food store again. The real flowers wilted and died halfway through the week they were guaranteed to last.

Keeping one step ahead of the rotten and dead took up too much of my psychic energy and free time after a while. Week after week, it was a choice between either eating the last apple or making something out of it. And how much fruit can one family eat anyway? Or flowers. I’d spend an hour or two arranging flowers only to have them kick the bucket after a couple of days. I wanted to change, but I didn’t know quite what to do. I mean, fresh fruit and flowers make a home feel more homey to me and I hated to give that feeling up, but the plasticky flowers and jeweled fruit I grew up with didn’t seem like viable alternatives.

Then in walked my girlfriend Ginger. When she lived close by (now she lives in St. Louis <sniff>) we visited back and forth pretty often. One afternoon I walked into her kitchen and exclaimed over the new rosemary topiary sitting on the kitchen counter. She smiled as I walked over to rub a leaf and catch a whiff. When I got thisclose I realized the rosemary topiary was faux. It was fake and it didn’t look fake or gross! It was a revelation!

Another time soon after I walked into Ginger’s dining room and saw a very pretty tree. It looked like it needed watered, though, since a few curled up brown leaves rested on top of the pot. Ginger smiled. Faux! It was faux!

Ginger sold me on faux. She coached me: Start with a high-quality faux plant, add a few “real” elements to the tableau (the dried up leaves, for example) and you can fool most of the people most of the time. Now I use faux in my home, selectively, and to great effect.

Quick! Real or faux?

Soooo????

Well? All real? All faux? A mix??

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Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, floral design, Food

A Great Meal. A Great Struggle

Last night I made Suzanne Michaud’s recipe Braised Chicken with Lemon and Dill.  I met Suzanne in December when she was the chef/teacher at my girlfriend Gail’s home cooking class. I took plenty of great recipes away that night, and now I subscribe to Suzanne’s blog, Comfort Food Stories. This recipe, which arrived in my email box recently, can be found here. Click on the link to get the recipe and see what the finished dish looks like. Yum!

I browned the chicken in a combo of canola oil and butter.

Since my husband Mike is a picky eater, I replaced the dill with fresh chopped parsley for a milder taste. We love the dish, which is flavorful, tender and easy to make. And when Suzanne said it’s quick to make, she really meant it. I’m glad I took her advice and had everything prechopped and ready to be popped into the pan!

I had everything standing by to be popped into the skillet. Fast hands!

These are the sauteed beans for a yummy side dish!

Just a few drops of oil and saute away!

I'm hoping to be up and running soon!

Separately, some of you know that I am in the throes (yes, throes) of transferring my blog to a self-hosted format. Since I am not a programmer, or anything even close, my learning curve has been steep, but I am making progress! I have a domain name (adventuresofamiddleagemom, of course!) and a host; I am pointing unseen programming arrows in the right directions and figuring out how to import my old blog posts into my new site. Last night I wasn’t patient enough and  I ended up with only half of my old posts imported and now have to go back like three steps and start again. <sigh> Has anyone else done this successfully?

Anyway, keep your fingers crossed I can make the transition successfully. In the meantime, if I am not posting as often you know it’s because I’m mentally exhausted from trying to get all my acronyms straight and the unseen arrows pointed properly!

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Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, Blogs and Blogging, Comfort Food Kitchen, Cooking, Food, Let's Talk Recipes

Fernandes II Steakhouse: We’re Still Full!

Yum!

Every table is filled in this huge, three-story restaurant every time we eat there. It attracts mostly large family groups that come for the festive atmosphere and tasty food. We typically call two weeks in advance to get a prime-time table reserved, and although it’s pricey, we definitely think Fernandes II is worth it when we want to celebrate an occasion; last night, we celebrated my son Max’s last night home before heading back to Big Ten College.

Waiters carve and serve BBQ meats tableside.

Fernandes is famous for its rodizio, a fixed price, all-you-can-eat meat fest; waiters carry huge skewers of different kinds of grilled meat and even bigger carving knives tableside and slice portions onto your plate; they just keep coming back with filet, pork, lamb, sausage, sirloin and more until you finally wave them off. My husband Mike and Max ate the meat fest meal last night. Mike looked like he was in a meat coma by the time he had tucked into his last sausage!

Take a look at the photos to see what the rest of us ordered and ate. And yes, some of us, who will remain nameless, ordered dessert too!

I ordered the spicy shrimp; check out my portion of rice in the bowl to the left of my plate!

My sister Cindy ordered a steak; those homemade potato chips are the bomb!

My daughter Tory ordered the garlic, mushroom, spice chicken. Tasty, tasty, tasty!

My brother-in-law Bid ordered steak and lobster tail. Tender and delish, nothing was left on his plate!

My niece Moriah ordered this steak; it comes on a bamboo plank with a lit stove underneath; she cooked her steak just the way she wanted it!

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Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, Family, Fernandes II Steakhouse, Fine Dining, Food, New Jersey

Market Restaurant in Montclair, NJ: Yum!

The view from our booth toward the front door of Market.

My girlfriend Gail and I recently ditched our regular evening lives and went to dinner at “Market,” a Montclair, NJ restaurant; it was a first visit for both of us. Since it’s BYOB, we brought a tasty pinot grigio in a screw-cap bottle (Kris, about $12 around here); it’s so convenient you can take it to a concert in the park, fireworks on the beach, anywhere without carrying a corkscrew too!

A selection of dishes made with local, fresh, organic ingredients.

Gail and I ordered five different items from the menu. I know. I know.  It sounds like a lot of food, but we don’t go out together all that often and we like a variety of foods on the table. And it’s not like my daughter won’t eat the leftovers when they arrive home (She’s been known to wait up to see what we’ve “left her.”). We ordered a number of appetizers, an entrée and a “plate.” Market encourages diners to choose “plates” from its hand-written menu; it’s a way to try a number of different dishes, albeit in smaller portions; the ingredients are local, organically grown and fresh.

To begin, our young and well-informed Market waitress slid a lovely old fashioned wooden cutting board of flatbread crackers and pesto onto the table so we had a bit to snack on while we examined the menu offerings and chatted up a storm. We liked the crunchy flatbreads and savory pesto and we appreciated that our waitress gave us time to relax into the restaurant’s atmosphere.

Isn't it beautiful?

Gail started with one of the night’s specials and a fav of hers: crab cake. Gail is an expert on crab cake. Ask her. She’s typically very modest, but when it comes to her palate and crab cake, she admits it’s an area of great expertise. Gail said the crab cake was very, very good, one of the best she’s tasted. She practically hummed she was so pleased with it! I don’t care for crab, but I can say the plate was beautifully presented with the crab stacked with the cubed mango and avocado. No leftovers on that plate.

I started with the chipolte cheddar mac & cheese. I didn’t taste the chipolte in it, nor did the shot of carrot-lime soup rev it up enough for me; I mean it was tasty, but not as yummy as what I have eaten at Southern Belle, another Montclair eatery. Leftovers on that plate.

The ketchup is homemade too and boy is it yummy!

By now the rest of the dishes had arrived tableside. I dove into the American Waygu Beef Sliders. Once my tongue tasted the horseradish-caviar crème fraiche smeared on the tiny bun I knew it was a winner. Gail agreed. The sweet potato fries served on the side were crunchy and flavorful; I think they are better than the sweet potato fries offered at Toast, another Montclair restaurant. That is high praise from me. Leftovers on that plate, but only because we ordered enough food for 3 people.

The harcot verts were a choice from that night’s tasting menu.  Can you say lemon-dill béarnaise sauce? How about frizzled prosciutto? And almonds too! They were cooked just right. The accompaniments were perfect and the whole dish was beautifully presented. I practically grabbed the beans out of Gail’s mouth. No leftovers on that plate!

Another tasty and beautifully presented dish.

At that point I eyed the Wild Mushroom Risotto. It too was beautifully presented: The kale bundled on top was crunchy and fun to eat. I smeared a bit of the pesto onto the risotto and it added a nice zip to my mouth. Gail, a frequenter of Osteria Giotto in Montclair, said she preferred Giotto’s; I liked Market’s combo of the tiny arugula salad, pesto and risotto.

We had a great meal in an old-fashioned atmosphere with high-quality, well-presented dishes. Would we return? You bet!

Isn't the flower pot clever? Water was refilled tableside using a green watering can!

P.S. My apologies for the lack of sharpness of the photos; I had my little camera and I didn’t do a great job photographing the food that night.

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Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, best friends, Fine Dining, Food, Market Restaurant Montclair NJ, New Jersey

Let’s Talk Recipes: “Cooking with Herbs,” a Yummy Garden Club Event

Two of the six dishes we sampled today.

Today a great group of garden club women got together at Cynthia’s home for a club-sponsored demonstration: “Cooking with Herbs.” Debbie, a former professional chef and garden club force, chopped, flipped, stirred and whirred her way through five different herb-filled dishes and we sampled a sixth (Butternut Squash Puree with Thyme) that she deemed “too easy” to take the time to demonstrate for us; instead, we just ate it!

Debbie firmly believes in using the freshest possible ingredients to ensure the best possible end result. I really appreciate that she chose recipes that are easy to prepare and appeal to a broad range of taste buds; in addition, virtually all of the ingredients are easy to find in our local food stores!

The fresh herbs in this dish really make the veggies's flavors "pop."

Using a relatively small dice, chop eggplant and zucchini and placed on an oiled sheet pan in the oven to roast.

Meanwhile, saute onion, garlic and bell pepper on the stovetop.

Deb suggests using canned San Marzano tomatoes this time of year; she's chopping them up.

Add the San Marzanos to the stovetop saute and continue cooking.

After the eggplant and zucchini are roasted to a turn, tumble the sauteed veggies together with them.

Once you've stirred the cooked ingredients together, pour into a serving bowl and pass it around. Folks will take seconds!

Warm Potato Salad with Lemon, Mint & Chive Vinaigrette

Next up was Warm Potato Salad with Lemon, Mint & Chive Vinaigrette.

Make the dressing: Squeeze the garlic through a press and into the bowl.

Add whole grain mustard, salt and pepper to the bowl.

Add the zest of a lemon then stir.

Chop the mint and add fresh squeezed lemon juice next.

Then chop and add the scallions. Since the chives were not the best, Deb didn't use them in the dressing today.

Mix the dressing into the still-warm potatoes.

Serve it warm, serve it room temperature or serve it cold. Any way you serve it, it is delish!

Check out the other excellent, easy recipes Debbie made today by clicking on “My World in Photos,” on the right side of your screen. You will find recipes for Butternut Squash Puree with Thyme, Linguini with Lemon and Basil, and Grilled Sweet and Spicy Shrimp with Mint Sauce. You’re stomach will be happy you did!

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Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, Cooking, Food, Garden Club, Herbs, Let's Talk Recipes

Acid Indigestion? Stuffiness and Gas?

I Think I’m Dying Here.

No, not really. I mean, I’m not dying, dying; however, I’ve had a huge “lump” nestled right at the bottom of my rib cage, center stage, since 1:30 a.m. And it looked like it was here to stay for the rest of my life.

I stretched. I meditated. I twisted and turned. I heated myself up like one of our Siamese in front of our fireplace. All in the vain hope of moving the lump down and out. To no avail.

2:14 a.m.

3:30 a.m.

4:30 a.m.

Does it really matter if it's a.m. or p.m. when you really feel terrible?

You get the idea, right?

I finally broke down and went to my local CVS pharmacist hoping she might suggest a medication based on my symptoms. She stared at me hard and asked, “What did you eat for dinner last night?”

I replied, “Steak sliders with horseradish dressing.”

My friends, my true friends today!

She blinked, slowly, and said, “Start with Tums. Drink water to get things moving. The Tums should start to work within 10 minutes or so. Follow up with Prilosec if you still have gastric pain. If you don’t feel better within a few hours, call your doctor.”

I bought my CVS brand-equivalent of TUMS antacids and Prilosec and carefully motored home through the ridiculous snowdrifts and partially snowed in roads. I took a hard right-angle turn into my narrowed-by-snow driveway and dragged myself into the house.

I unwrapped the antacids and chewed two right down, a pink one and a green one. I drank a half glass of water.

Seconds later, I burped.

I took another antacid, a yellow one this time, at 1 p.m.

I drank a half glass of water.

And burped.

Little buddies! Little pals! Little lifesavers!!

I took another antacid at 2 p.m.-ish and followed with a half glass of water chaser.

And burped.

The lump is slowly dissipating. I’m cautiously optimistic I will weather this event.

But I surely don’t want to experience THIS again!

I’m going to tell you something that I’ve been thinking about all year: I hate getting old. I mean, I used to be able to eating anything, anything! And now? Now I guess I know I can’t eat steak sliders with horseradish dressing anymore. Or maybe I can’t eat steak sliders with horseradish dressing together with two glasses of pinot grigio anymore.

Who knew?! Who knew?!

And I don’t want to talk about the rest of the stuff I’ve been experiencing this year. You know, the getting old stuff. I’ll talk about that another day. When I’m feeling better.

<urrrpppp>

Ahhh.

So, how are YOU feeling today?

 

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Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, Aging, best friends, Food, Sick, Snow and Snowstorms

Christmas with My In-Laws and Then a Blizzard

Our family had a terrific Christmas Day at my sister-in-law Betsy and her husband Phil’s home; that’s Uncle Phil to all you folks in the know! We arrived mid-afternoon at their home in South Jersey; as we were the last family to arrive, gift opening commenced soon thereafter. Paper flew! Thanks were exchanged! Ohhhs and Ahhhs were exclaimed!

Poppop, with his usual generous nature, provided his grandchildren with their heart’s desires:

Max received a Kindle!

Pat received a rugby jacket; he's an awesome player himself and has his favorite teams.

Katie received some high-end designer boots that she loves!

Tory received a Nakona softball glove; oh yeah!!

Andrew and his Poppop gift somehow escaped my camera’s lens! Help! Some help here, family! What did Andrew receive?!

It’s fun spending time with my sisters-in-law and their families; they are funny, chatty and always ready to debate and discuss anything and everything. The back-and-forths can get lively and we always laugh, a lot. This year was the first time Betsy and Phil hosted Christmas and we had such a great time that I’ve already asked if we can return for Christmas 2011!

A home brew with a subtle but sincere kick!

As the afternoon wore on into the evening, I watched Uncle Phil sip the lemoncello I made for him and my brother-in-law Joe. I loved that when I asked his opinion of this year’s batch that Phil gave me his honest opinion; he’s dependable that way. I enjoyed watching the movie Elf with my nephew Andrew, son of Betsy and Uncle Phil. I’d never seen the movie before and Andrew made some wry observations that made it that much more enjoyable. Then all of us sat and watched a political comedienne. Wow! Opinions and catcalls and abuse flew thick and fast in our crowd.

All too soon we went to bed (except my son Max, who, according to his sister, finally turned off the TV at 3 a.m. and then proceeded to snore at a high decibel level until we woke them both at 9 a.m.) and woke up to bad weather news. Both my husband Mike and his sister Betsy are weather junkies. As we drank our first cups of coffee and tea, Mike and Betsy talked weather; Uncle Phil jumped in with his opinion. He has a huge right to his weather opinions, I think, since he works for a large Central NJ township and one of his many jobs, in addition to keeping his employees in line, is to plow the miles and miles of snow-covered roads in the event of a big storm. I’d bet Uncle Phil is still out plowing, making the roads safe for those who venture out tomorrow.

When we heard the forecast, we jumped in our car and headed North to home. The weather deteriorated and this morning we woke up to this:

The front porch drifts were 3 feet high! Sunny, Tory's beloved VW Bug, is freezing her butt off!!

 

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Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, Christmas, Family, Food, Lemoncello, New Jersey, Snow and Snowstorms, weather