Fourth of July…Pie!

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Happy Independence Day!

Since I love to embrace the festive elements of life, I thought I would share some recent pie experiences with you all, if only to compensate for this overcast day and its outdoor-inhibiting precipitation. Central Pennsylvania is not having the trite sunshine and warmth typically lauded on the Fourth. No, we are instead enjoying an understated drizzle/gloom combination for the holiday weekend. How nice. C’est la vie.

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Guided by the sage advice of Bon Appétit‘s test kitchen, I recently attempted my first fruit pie. I heeded their no-nonsense decree: “Fruit, sugar, cornstarch, acid, extras. These are the only things you need to remember to turn out a perfect pie filling.” Advice in mind, I chose Strawberries, apricots, cornstarch, apple cider vinegar, and for the “extras” I made a basil/vanilla whipped cream. I whipped the cream you guys- by hand. The “soft peaks” stage I’m sure you’ve all heard of…takes so much longer to reach than rumored. Talk about minor muscle toning! It was, however, rather satisfying in the end, and my little pie creation held its own. Following the basic ingredient formula, I was thrilled to discover that my strawberry apricot pies were properly sweet and tart, thanks to the apple cider vinegar (and despite hazarding guesses for all measurements).

Strawberry apricot mini pies!

Strawberry apricot mini pies!

This weekend I had the pleasure of encountering yet another perfectly seasonal pie. One of my best friends grew up on a veritable treasure-trove of biodiversity, and luckily for me, she was visiting this weekend, just as the blueberries and black raspberries were reaching prime-time plumpness. We spent the evening gathering, snacking, and soaking up the early July sunshine. Her mother, a domestic-goddess extraordinaire, baked a berry custard pie with our harvest.

berry harvest with wildflowers

berry harvest with wildflowers

Although my involvement in this pie’s success was limited to berry-picking, I watched the several-generations old recipe under construction, and witnessed the custard’s iconic jiggle as it emerged from the oven.

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Eating freshly baked pie on their Eden-esque property, and enjoying the rustic wholesomeness of a summer evening outdoors with friends, made it a very festive holiday weekend indeed.

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Savory Tartlets… and a bottle of Chardonnay

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Good evening fellow food lovers! Although summer has not yet begun, I already feel its imminent end, and the approaching necessity of joining the working world of adults full time. C’est la vie, je suppose. That, however, is only inspiring me to more fully embrace what spare time I have now, and play in the kitchen!

Last night, I docked my i-pod onto the speakers, opened all of the windows to let the warm, cut-grass breeze flow through the room, and began to excitedly ransack my fridge for ingredients. With a glass of wine and the charming Ukulele melodies of Dent May pepping me up to full-swing culinary cheerfulness, I began chopping, slicing, sauteing, and stirring like it was elimination round in a MasterChef challenge. Okay, let’s be honest, I am always imagining I’m on MasterChef. It makes me feel cool. “Yes Chef”!

Below are the pictured results of my attempts. I believe they were a success, as I intended to save some for lunch today, and failed. I simply love quiche and tarts, as they can be served hot or chilled, and can be whipped up with limitless varieties of ingredients. First is roasted plum tomato, herbed goat cheese, sauteed shallots and garlic, with chopped fresh dill and basil and parmesan. I used puff pastry for the shell. The second is comprised of sliced baby ‘bella mushrooms, asparagus, shallots, garlic, plum tomatoes, and a dollop of chèvre on top! Of course, each of these also contained whole milk, organic eggs, ground salt and pepper.

Tomato!
Quiche Prep

pre-whisking egg mixture contrasted with the finished tart!

pre-whisking egg mixture contrasted with the finished tart!

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Served with a light mixed green salad dressed in a ‘champagne’ and pear vinaigrette, and “Dark Horse” chardonnay, which is a good quality table wine for the price point! You can buy it at Trader Joe’s.

Thanks for dropping by and having a peek at what’s cooking. I’m heading to Lancaster, PA this Saturday, which has a surprisingly hip food scene for Central Pennsylvania. I will be sure to post some of my findings!

Bonne soirée mes amis!

Lightening Up!

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Two patterns have distinctly emerged within the realm of health and fitness in my life: 1) I am sporadically enthusiastic about working out and eating clean, but never for longer than two months consecutively, and 2) I really believe in some (embarrassingly?) new age holistic health approaches. While it would be great to announce that I am a yo-yo dieter no more, or that I am no longer tempted by food fads, and have stopped conducting questionable Pinterest experiments, or regularly indulging in emotional eating, I am strangely fond of these fluctuations, which may forever be part of me. At twenty-five I have happily accepted that I will never be runway thin or sleek and tan. Oh so luckily for me, being curvy is à la mode pour le moment, so I will run with that as long as (longer than) it remains thus.

Having been raised by a mother who was a veritable Nostradamus when it came to predicting unusual health trends, I have accrued many years of exposure to the throes of ayurvedism, veganism, herbalism, and the healing powers of fasting, cleansing, and detoxing long before their mainstream emergence on the cultural scene. Unlike my mother, who hikes nearly every day, and eats like it’s always lent, I have regarded each new trend with equal parts skepticism and excitement, (just in case this time it really is a miracle cure-all!). In reality, I, like many of my fellow humans (women especially) am constantly driven to discover some new way to become better, more appealing, more attractive. With a passion for feminism and rejecting myriad societal pressures, I try to focus on implementing and attempting ventures which actually make me feel good. For instance, if I were an influential politician at this moment, other than announcing my intentions to run for President, I would also enthusiastically endorse the healing powers of kombucha!

GT's Cosmic Cranberry! One of my favorites!

GT’s Cosmic Cranberry! One of my favorites!

Yes, the funky probiotic drink which is a bi-product of brewing fermented tea with a horrifying alien-like scoby. Recently, the food science world has been exploding with potential health benefits of strains of probiotics, many of which exist in kombucha, and how they contribute to our overall well-being. Additionally, it is incredibly easy and cheap to make at home, which I have tried with some success. I’m just going to toss this out there- I actually think my probiotic intake over the past year has helped dramatically reduce my spring allergies. Ask me about it!

Abandoning my kombucha soap-box, I also have tried scrubbing my teeth with activated charcoal (see picture) as a friend and I both read it could basically soak up every stain your teeth ever even considered having. It didn’t blow me away, but it was fun, and would make a great Halloween accessory.

charcoal whitening

I would love to hear everyone’s adventures in modern food or health trends. Please share in comments if you have one to pass along!!

I hope everyone is enjoying springtime and enjoying a lovely start to the week!

An Epicurean Evening…

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This weekend I had the pleasure of arranging and overseeing the hor d’oeuvres for the annual charity gala given by Carlisle Arts Learning Center (CALC) on Carlisle’s charming Pomfret Street. Along with the assistance and inspiration from the wonderful women of CALC and an amazing team of volunteer servers, the food was a great success. The theme was epicurean meat and cheese boards, which were accompanied with a great selection of wines, and an array of decadent desserts from a local bakery. The 100 plus glasses of champagne we poured for the toast would likely make Jay Gatsby smile.

Among the pictures below you will find: prosciutto, capicola, soppressata, Genoa salami, Gouda, Manchego, Camembert, brie, Jarlsberg, Spanish olives, and heaps of fresh strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and red grapes. Such a list of sumptuous foods recalls Christina Rosetti’s poem, “Goblin Market” to mind. Sinful. While a total joy, preparing these plates can be likened to being the girl in Pan’s labyrinth at the feast! Even more dishes escaped me before I could snap pictures!

I enjoy few things more in life than working with great ingredients and having great people enjoy them. Thanks again CALC, I’m looking forward to next time!

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Little Delights

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There is nothing lovelier than sharing a meal outdoors on a soft sunny day, and luxuriating in the early evening breeze. Lately, I have enthusiastically engaged in this activity as often as possible, and am likely to only increase this occurrence as the weather grows warmer. I have also been insanely busy lately, wrapping up finals, and therefore not posting of late. I am however, finally done, and plan to let the food preparations commence into full swing. Here are a few of my favorite moments from recent endeavors. I hope you enjoy!
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First is a simple snack that is so easy yet feels decadent. Top a slice of crusty bread (this one is garlic!) with slices of ripe avocado, lime juice, chopped fresh basil, and some freshly ground salt and pepper. As a disclaimer, I tried this after I saw it on someone’s Instagram, and I can’t remember or find who it was!Either way, kudos, and thank you for the inspiration!

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IMG_1538 I have prepared several versions of this dish lately, but here is a mango, strawberry, fresh basil, and balsamic salad. Just slice each up as desired, and enjoy after the balsamic has soaked into the fruit for a little while. So worth the half an hour or so wait. Bonne weekend mes amis!

Endless Love…

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No..not the romantic drama that I may have rented from Redbox, but the endless love I feel for the luscious, diverse, and nutritious AVOCADO! I realize I am no Columbus of this ambiguous fruit/vegetable (okay, ‘fruit’) marvel, but I do feel like I discover it anew every spring when they appear in tempting green multitudes in the produce section. Isn’t it one of life’s beautiful domestic moments to see a great avocado sale and they are perfectly ripe? Not over the hill squishy with blackening rinds, not a vivid and firm crocodilian hide, which promises enjoyment in a week’s time, but that perfectly pliant, ready to eat, avocado. To celebrate the beauty of this Cadillac of berries, I hope you enjoy this portrait I took of one that quite recently became guacamole:IMG_1314

Don’t more avocados deserve photographic preservation to commemorate their deliciousness? To continue to gush a bit, the diversity of the avocado is amazing! Because they often earn a well-deserved place among lists of best ‘brain foods‘ I have recently enlisted their help to get me through finals and those long-hauls at the library. This week, I whipped up a simple guacamole to take along during a study session, and along with a favorite brand of whole-grain chips, was empowered to ignore the siren call of coffee shop brownies et al. and stay healthily dedicated to my work.

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Additionally this week, I made a quinoa/avocado salad that served as a light early dinner. My favorite thing about chilled quinoa dishes, is versatility. You can basically add anything in, and it comes up roses. This one included quinoa, spinach, tomato, shallot, avocado, corn, and cucumber salad with a light lime and olive oil dressing (see below).

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I would love to hear everyone’s favorite avocado recipes!! Please share in comments or messages. I can’t wait to try some more!

What a relief!

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Just a little update to say how amazingly refreshing it is to enjoy a salad when the sun is shining! Incredible, isn’t it, how our bodies just know when it’s the season for fresh green things again? I am grateful that as the onslaught of finals looms for the next couple of weeks, healthy eating can be a quick. easy, and affordable option even when time is limited and the pressure is on. Here is a fantastic and simple salad I made this week and had with a glass of Chardonnay after an early evening bike ride. IMG_1228

This salad boasts some of my favorite ingredients including baby spinach, mixed greens, sliced shallots, sweet corn kernels, vine ripe tomatoes, pan seared chicken tenderloins, chopped yellow bell pepper, and (courtesy of the olive bar at my local grocery store) a cheese stuffed baby piquillo pepper to top it off. I also tossed it in a light and flavorful sesame-lime Thai dressing from Aldi, which I love. Tossing together filling salads that feel both satisfying and health-conscious is one of my favorite springtime food activities. I would love to hear readers’ favorite salad recipes and ideas in the comments below!!

Along a similar vein, I am trying DietBet, which seems like a cool way to motivate to get fit for summer. My “bet” ends this weekend, so wish me luck, and I’ll be sure to report the results soon! Enjoy the sun everyone!!

-Jenny

FILL-A-DELPHIA! (Or simply Philadelphia, if you can resist the abundance of deliciousness)

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If I had to live in a terminal like poor Tom Hanks, I would certainly hope to be stranded in the sumptuous abundance of the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia. I would heartily recommend going in with a plan, or at least a notion of what you might like to eat. I took a less tactical approach and was swallowed whole. I actually became overwhelmed with so many varying inclinations that I had to step outside, recollect myself away from the teeming market stalls, many equally appealing, and step back in with a narrowed search. There are simply too many types of cuisine to include here, but I highly suggest visiting this Philly  food mecca. I was tempted to live in Philadelphia upon the sole basis of being able to regularly stop in. One of the most surprising features was the incredibly affordable produce section. Vast mountains of peak-fresh fruits, vegetables, and specialty produce of all assortments, boasted lower prices than almost anywhere. In central Pennsylvania, I had the very day prior paid a reasonable $2.99 for a quart of fresh strawberries. The R.T.M. had them, piles, for $.99 each. All of it was similarly priced. Amazing. I fantasized about how healthy I would be if I had such access, only to recall that I would be very unlikely to resist the myriad less healthy options in abundance at the market.

Other Philly mentionables include an amazing selection of Belgian beer at Monk’s Cafe, and a lovely Parisian-style brunch on Rittenhouse Square at Parc.

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This little piggy went to market!

This little piggy went to market: across the street I retreat to enjoy a massive coconut shrimp and a glazed chicken skewer!

Vegetables are the Fair-Weather Friends of the Food World

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A whole week of sunshine. I am really not sure how I will cope if the weather turns chill again. I hope winter will get the hint and exit stage left when the calendar proclaims it officially spring in a few days time. The best intentions really could not prepare this life long food lover for such a harsh winter. My enthusiasm for the gym, being outdoorsy, and–well, vegetables, took a mighty nosedive over the past couple of months.

This summer I was a fresh-eating, paleo-ish fiend, but as the daylight perpetually darkened, the palatable spectrum of bright living food I had focused on dimmed into the muted beige of baked goods and pasta. Alas! nature has once again set sights on veggies, and there is no better way to ease back into it than making a thoroughly satisfying roasted vegetable medley. You won’t have to sacrifice one bit of satisfaction with this savory dish. Roasting draws out the full flavor profile of each element. The sweet potato is divine with melted goat cheese, and the creamy poached egg borders on decadence with a bite of zippy kale and a garlicky red potato. Seriously, try it.

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If you would like to try it at home, here is a basic recipe:
Oven Roasted Veggies with Sauteed Kale and a Poached Egg
-Chop selection of veggies into roasting pieces (I used shallots, brussels sprouts, baby red potatoes, and sliced sweet potato, and minced garlic)
-Brush veggies with olive oil and place into baking pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper as desired. Roast at 375 F for 25 minutes(leave oven on)
-Meanwhile, sautee de-stemmed/chopped kale, onion, thinly sliced baby bella mushrooms, and crushed garlic in butter. Sprinkle with sazon and cayenne.
-After a few minutes, add a splash of low sodium chicken stock to the pan and cover to soften the kale, and start a pot of water boiling for your egg.
-Once the chicken stock is absorbed (and after aprox 25 minutes of roasting), briefly pull your veggies from the oven, and add the kale mixture to the roasting pan. Here, you can add some goat cheese too. I tossed on some herbed chevre)
-Finish roasting veggies for five minutes or until as tender as desired. In this time, prepare your poached egg via your favorite method.
-Now you are ready to serve it up! Plop that egg on top and try some Sriracha to add a little zip!

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(Click on the pictures to examine the full size tastiness)

Please let me know if you try it in the comments section! Enjoy!