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We’ve Got The Summer Blues…

Posted by on Jul 3, 2014 in Food, Fourth of July, Holidays | 51 comments

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In a good way, that is… this deep blue jewel (and our state fruit)–the blueberry–heralds the arrival of summer. Think a bubbling purply cobbler, think a patriotic Fourth of July dessert that marries the red and blue berries, think how sweet those plump berries taste when just popping them in your mouth.

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We like picking those berries ourselves at B & B Farms in Egg Harbor City, NJ, enjoying the sunshine, and seeing the contrast of the white sandy soil and cool green leaves on the bushes as we grab handfuls of those berries into our bucket.

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We take them home, maybe 25 pounds or so during the season, and conjure up ideas for all the things we will make. From our kitchens, it’s Blueberry Scones, a classic Blueberry Pie, Blueberry Lime Pound Cake, chutney, ice cream, jam, and syrup. Year ’round blueberry delight, and don’t forget a few pounds for the freezer. There is nothing quite as good as a Sunday morning blueberry pancake, to be had at any time!

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Very yummy Blueberry Hand Pies recipe from Bon Appétit.

Find out lots more about the wonderful blueberry via the Blueberry Council.

WISHING YOU ALL A VERY HAPPY AND SAFE INDEPENDENCE DAY!

 

 

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Our Polish Easter: It’s all about the Babka

Posted by on Apr 18, 2014 in Easter, Family, Food, Holidays, Recipe | 38 comments

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For our family, there is nothing more synonymous with Easter than making and eating homemade Babka. There are many variations of the iconic holiday tradition, but this is what we remember from our Polish heritage and our childhood: a light, textured, buttery, egg-rich, fragrant dough, studded with golden raisins (not too many) and a crusty brown shiny exterior, all to be slathered with more butter (of course).

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No other version seems as authentic as this match to what we remember eating at our Grandmother’s home (Stella Uminska Brodow, our Babcia—although we never called her that). Easter memories are full of simple Polish food and tradition—kielbasa, hard-boiled eggs, ham, the treasured babka, early daffodils in the yard, and of a time long ago when the Polish priest came to her home to bless our Easter dinner. It is our joy to continue our heritage, long after all of our beloved Polish family members are with us no more.

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One of our newer traditions has transitioned us from the standard solid colored eggs to a technique that is not only easy, but ties in (pun intended) to Linda’s background as a textile designer. By wrapping raw eggs tightly in printed silk tie fabric, and then boiling the eggs with vinegar for about 25 minutes, the dye from the tie is transferred to the shell of the egg, imparting a decorative design, almost mimicking the detailed painted designs of Polish painted wooden Easter eggs.  This technique, courtesy of Martha Stewart (who is also Polish) can be found here: http://www.marthastewart.com/269788/silk-tie-easter-eggs

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This year, it won’t be complete without a Good Friday trip to the Polish Deli, Basia’s in Ventnor City, NJ, for the traditional kielbasa and ham, and maybe some pierogi and other Polish delicacies on the side.

Wesołych Świąt Wielkanoc!

Polish Babka

3 pk  (1/4 oz) active dry yeast (3 tbsp)

¾ cup warm water (110F)

1 Tb plus 1 cup sugar

7 3/4 cups flour (about)

1 1/2 cup milk

1 ¼ c unsalted butter or margarine

6 eggs

2 egg yolks

1 1/2  tsp salt

1 cup golden raisins

1 egg white

Grease side and bottom of 2 10-inch tube pans.

In shallow medium bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add 1 Tbsp sugar and 1/2 cup warm flour; stir to combine. Cover; let stand in a warm place 5-10 minutes until foamy. Heat milk and butter or margarine in a small saucepan until melted. Let stand until mixture cools to warm. In a large bowl, beat eggs, egg yolks, and remaining 1 cup sugar until pale and frothy. Add cooled milk mixture, salt, and yeast mixture. Beat until smooth. Gradually beat in 4 1/2 cups flour. Stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Knead dough into a soft, smooth dough. Divide dough in half. Arrange one part dough in each greased pan. Cover with a damp cloth; let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly beat egg white and brush over top of dough. Bake 50-55 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Makes two 10-inch loaves.

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Sunday Suppers

Posted by on Jan 27, 2014 in Cooking Class, Food | 20 comments

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Well, my first resolution of the New Year (losing weight) has already gone by the wayside, so I might as well move on to resolution #2, which I know will be much more gratifying and inspiring than starving myself. Of course, it has to do with food, photography, travel, and more importantly, back to blogging after a bit of a hiatus.

Last week, I finally got to experience a highly anticipated cooking class with Sunday Suppers, operated and hosted by Karen Mordechai, in Brooklyn, NY. I missed out on an earlier cooking/dinner event because my trigger finger for the “Buy Now” button wasn’t fast enough. So, I subscribed to Sunday Suppers, awaiting patiently for another opportunity which came about on January 19, 2014.

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I was joined by my friend Julia Librone, who is a very fine baker of fabulous goodies, specializing in biscotti. As we entered the space, we were in awe of the beauty of the table setting. It set the mood for the hearty winter meal we were about to prepare, but the beautiful warm yellow and apricot hues of the centerpiece bursting through dried branches and twigs was indeed a hopeful reminder that spring is not too far away… unless the groundhog says otherwise.

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After a little socializing and some tasty treats, Chef Ali Schmidt discusses the menu with us and we start right in working in the various stations that are set up for the pasta, beef and dessert.

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Purple Beet Ravioli ~ ricotta, lemon, poppy seed

I have to say, I can’t wait to make this ravioli. Not only was it delicious, but the color was so strikingly beautiful that I think this will be the perfect dish to make for my husband for Valentine’s Day. I’m not sure if Ali knows this, but the color is exactly the Pantone Color of the Year (Radiant Orchid – PMS 18-3224), so trendy!

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Ali starts the pasta dough and Eddie finishes the kneading resulting in perfectly rolled out sheets. Some of the group helps roll out the pasta sheets, cut the shapes and fill the ravioli with the ricotta.

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Beef Bourguignon ~ root vegetable, mushroom, cippolini onion

Since beef bourguignon is best served when made in advance, the dish was made the day before and Ali just demonstrated the basic steps to building the quintessential winter meal. Although I think I make a good beef stew (one of my world famous foods), I learned a few things that I will now apply to my recipe. One, I didn’t marinate the beef in red wine overnight, and two, I didn’t pre-cook the mushrooms and onions.

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Chocolate Prune Armagnac Cake ~ creme fraiche

Now it’s Echo’s turn to share a most wonderfully rich, yet light, flourless chocolate cake. Apparently, the secret ingredient in this cake are the prunes, but not just any old prunes, they are Agen prunes (Pruneaux d’Agen) which were hand carried by Ali back from Paris.

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And now, the mood is set and we are amazed at the beauty of this wonderful table that we are about to sit down at and share a fabulous meal.

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Indeed, it was an amazing dinner. Thank you Karen, Ali, Echo and Eddie and everyone else who helped make this a memorable evening!

 

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Recipe Review :: Irish Coffee Cupcakes

Posted by on Mar 18, 2012 in Desserts, Food, Recipe Review | 5 comments

Well, it’s Sunday morning, the day after St. Patrick’s Day, and yes, I have a bit of a hangover. My husband and I enjoyed a nice corned beef and cabbage dinner with our Irish neighbors, who take this holiday quite seriously. I offered to bring dessert, so I chose to make Irish Coffee cupcakes.

I have a rule that I won’t serve anything to guests that I haven’t made before. I learned that lesson the hard way. However, I have had many good results with Martha Stewart recipes and felt pretty confident that they would turn out well.

These cupcakes were easy to make, and I was very happy with the texture of the cake. Also, the flavors were well balanced and the cupcakes truly tasted like an Irish Coffee drink. You can find the recipe here on Martha Stewart’s website.

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New Year’s Champagne & a Mini Photography Lesson

Posted by on Jan 2, 2012 in Photography, Uncategorized | 2 comments

If you read my post yesterday, I only posted some of the bad things that happened last year. I promised the list of the good things, but I don’t think I need to do that. I’ll just share those goods things and how I am applying them as I move forward.

This actually wasn’t supposed to be a post, but as I was taking (not making, just yet) the photograph, I started seeing things in the photo I may not have been aware of a year ago. I started seeing the things I DON’T WANT in a photo. If you are a professional photographer, you don’t need to read any further. You know this already. This is just me, working out what you guys already know. Maybe it will help someone else, maybe not.

It started like this. Today, we finally popped the cork on the champagne we were going to have New Year’s Eve. I LOVED the stainless steel label. Gotta photograph it, right? Well, here was the first shot. Please forgive me, I am using a new lens (Canon 100mm 2.8 IS; Christmas present to myself) for the first time and I haven’t found it’s sweet spot yet for product photography.

I was shooting this in natural light, so I thought. On the left, you can see incandescent light from my kitchen lighting. So off it goes. Next…

Hmmm, that red is still there. Oh, it’s my RED Giants sweatshirt on the kitchen chair. So off it goes…

Okay, still some unwanted color elements, but I need to share one of the best things I learned this year. White Cards (and reflectors). It could be white paper, white foam core, aluminum foil, a mirror or even a chef’s hat (used recently to photograph a chef). On this shot, just needed to light up the left side of the label. I positioned the white foam core to the left and under the label, which also blocked out the color cast from something in my kitchen. It was positioned pretty close to the bottle, but since I was focusing only on the label, the foam core was out of the frame.

So, the final shot is still not perfect. I was shooting on a tripod but was too lazy to go get my cable release. Also, at f8, I thought it would be in focus, but since I am dealing with a macro lens, I guess I goofed, so please don’t berate me too hard.

The moral of this story is… I am not a professional. I am working through things I have learned this year. I am committed to shooting more this  year. You can watch online workshops, like creativeLIVE, which I HIGHLY recommend, but if you don’t shoot, you won’t improve. After the tough year I’ve had, I am committed to shooting more and take the (painstaking) time it takes to improve my work. Yes, painstaking. But it will be worth it.

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