Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Kitchen Shower Idea: The Ironing Board Lady

My walking partner, Debbie, told me about the cutest gift idea. The Ironing Board Lady makes the ideal kitchen shower present.

Purchase the bride an ironing board and dress in a bib style apron. Get creative with building her upper body: perhaps a splatter cover for her face, rolled towels for her arms, dishwashing gloves for her hands, mop hair and plastic scrubber pad eyes.

A heart cookie cutter becomes a clever mouth and she carries a bouquet of kitchen tools in an upside down grater. Use cheese cloth or netting, the kind that would cover a dish at a picnic, as her veil.

This little lady will be the life of the party and all her parts will come in handy when setting up a home.

What a fun gift to give and receive.
Special thanks to Debbie and her sister Donna for this tip.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Boston Creme Pie: The Official State Dessert of Massachusetts

I’ve visited Boston a few times, but can’t recall ever tasting the official state dessert- Boston Crème Pie. The dish looks like it would be perfect for a pie-throwing contest; firm enough to throw and not fall apart, but gushy enough to make a sloppy mess.

The pie is actually much more a cake: two layers of sponge cake with custard filling in the middle, similar to donut crème. There is no crust. The top is frosted with a thick chocolate glaze, like a ganache. When served, the dessert is cut into wedges.

Naturally I was curious about the pie’s history. Apparently early American colonists lacked cake pans and used pie tins to make pudding-cake.

The Parker House Hotel, now the Omni Parker House Hotel, claims to have served the pies since their opening in 1856. The story says that French chef M. Sanzian, who was hired for the hotel’s opening, created Boston cream pie. But, his cake was originally served by the names Chocolate Cream Pie or Parker House Chocolate Cream Pie.

Back in 1996, a civics class from Norton High School sponsored the bill to name a state dessert. Boston Cream Pie was the winner: the official Massachusetts State Dessert. Interestingly, the pie beat out the toll house cookie and Indian pudding. Can surely understand the latter.

Anyway, here I was shopping in Sudbury, a Boston suburb (with the zipcode 01776) and the freshly baked pie-cakes were being put on display. I decided the time had come for a taste test.

Debi’s Taste Test

I made myself a cup of tea, choosing Orange Pekoe over English Breakfast- just didn’t feel right or patriotic recalling the Boston Tea Party. Then cut myself a slice and photographed it.

The chocolate frosting was smooth and yummy, pretty much overpowering the cake. The sponge layers, which resembled yellow cake, were very moist but didn’t have much flavor. And, honestly I didn’t taste much of the crème filling either.

Being one who has a savage sweet tooth, yet still tries to watch calories, I’d forgo Boston Crème Pie in the future. The concoction just wasn’t delicious enough compared to other New England specialties: cranberry bread, apple pie or cobbler. Ah-hem. Pass me some Florida state pie, please. That would be Key Lime.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

How do you eat your Easter Marshmallow Peeps?

Where would Easter candy be without Peeps? Nearly everyone’s Easter basket contains a package of these sugar-coated marshmallow fluff pieces.

As a child, I never liked Peeps, but year after year they appeared along with plastic eggs and a big chocolate rabbit.

I must be in a minority because an astonishing number of Peeps chicks and bunnies are eaten at Easter--enough to more than circle the Earth’s circumference. Peeps are the best selling non-chocolate Easter candy.

Some people eat the candy frozen or stale- which means rock hard. Others like to stretch them apart or bite off their heads. My daughter and I like to microwave Peeps and watch them grow! They expand like the marshmallow man in the Ghostbusters movie and make a gooey mess.

Have fun with your Peeps and Happy Easter.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Try a scintillating salad from The Tudors Royal Feast

Beet Orange Salad with Toasted Walnuts and Goat Cheese

A tour guide at Hampton Court offered a quick and easy way to remember Henry VIII’s six wives and their fates. She said, “Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Lived.” Makes sense, doesn’t it?

The Showtime network has been airing “The Tudors" for two years. Each episode makes me feel like I’d been invited into the King's court. The cast is superb and need I mention, gorgeous, and costuming worthy of a museum exhibit.

Trumpets, please: ta-da-ta-da-ta-da. The new season of premiere's tonight, April 5th, on Showtime.

To publicize the long-awaited event, Henry’s wedding to Lady Jane Seymour, a royal feast was created by Sara Moulton, formerly of the Food Network and now PBS. I saw the scrumptious photo spread in Gourmet magazine, also at http://www.tudorsroyalfeast.com/ and immediately set to work duplicating the salad. (Also helps that I adore beets.)

This dish has the vibrancy of a diamond tiara with the ruby red beets and bright naval oranges glimmering like gems. I’ve decided to change the name in honor of Jane Seymour, because she truly sparkles on the show. Don't you agree?

The salad is worthy of a sovereign and would add a crowning touch to a summer cookout or a formal dinner party. The preparation is easy, but set aside about an hour to roast the beets.

If you enjoy the taste of this vegetable, you must try this recipe. Be forewarned, cravings arise after just one bite.

Here's another noble gift--You can see the first episode of season three now if you visit my Thoroughly Modern Mimi blog.

Seymour Salad of Beets and Oranges with Toasted Walnuts and Goat Cheese

2 bunches fresh beets* (1 ½ pounds without greens)
½ cup walnuts
3 naval oranges
2 Tablespoons minced shallots
2 Tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup canola, vegetable or olive oil
5 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled
Chopped chives or parsley for garnish

* I could only find red beets, but the addition of golden beets would enhance the glamour.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Wrap beets in foil and roast in the middle of the oven until tender, about an hour. (I placed them on a tray) Unwrap beets and cool. Slip skins off and slice into rounds.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Put walnuts in a small shallow baking pan and bake for 10 minutes. Let cool and coarsely chop.

Cut peel and white pith off the oranges and slice into rounds.

Combine shallots, orange juice, vinegar, mustard, salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and whisk until salt is dissolved. Whisk in oil in a stream.

Decoratively arrange alternating slices of beets and orange rounds on a large platter. Drizzle some dressing over them, then sprinkle the walnuts, cheese and chives on top. Serve the rest of the dressing on the side.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Something different for Easter: Why not Purple Potatoes?

“What (strong accent) are those” asked my daughter?

Purple potatoes,” I said.

“But, why” she continued?

“Why not” I answered?

My eye caught sight of this small bag in the grocery store. I picked it up. Hmm…Klondike petite purple Idaho potatoes? Wonder what would happen if I mashed them; would they turn lavender?

I returned home and opened the bag, keen to see inside. I sliced open a small spud and found a gleaming royal gem!

To cook, I decided to cover and boil the potatoes until tender, then cut into chunks; forget mashing. Afterward I slathered on butter and a pinch of salt and pepper. Amazing. The potatoes glimmered like jewels.

“Hey, these don’t taste purple, said Laura.

Yeah, they’re actually good,” said my husband.

And there you have it—the perfect vegetable for Easter. Oh, did I mention these taters are loaded with antioxidants?


For fun check out The Spud Syllabus .

Here’s a recipe I discovered on Smitten Kitchen, a food blog, after I winged my own. Thank you Michael Anthony and New York Magazine.

Directions and ingredients are very similar to mine, but substitute olive oil, sea salt and lemon juice. Next time I’ll try Michael’s recipe.

Michael Anthony’s Fork-Crushed Purple Majesty Potatoes

New York Magazine

Serves 4

1 lb. Purple Majesty Potatoes, washed

4 small shallots, minced

2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice

6 tablespoons good extra-virgin olive oil (the food blogger used half)

Sea salt to taste

White pepper to taste

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

In a large pot, cook potatoes with skins on in heavily salted boiling water until tender, approximately 15 minutes. Remove potatoes from pot, and peel them while still warm. Place potatoes in a large bowl and, using a fork; gently smash them, maintaining a fairly chunky consistency. Fold in minced shallots, lemon juice, olive oil, sea salt, and white pepper. Finish with parsley.