Monday, September 20, 2010

Finished Blanket

I posted a few weeks back about my crochet classes that I took from Fibre Space in Alexandria. My wonderfully patient teacher Leslie works miracles and I can now manage to read patterns.

I finished my first blanket a few weeks ago but it ended up being t-tiny so I used that as a test blanket. I'm planning to send that one to mom to use that for the doll bed.

I thus started another blanket (shown above) and have sent it off to our friend Becky who just had a beautiful little girl (Anna) two weeks ago.

I was really happy with result; it is not only cute but super soft. (I think that being picky about fabric must be a family thing because I was working on another blanket on the drive up to the mountains and the first thing K did when I pulled it out was feel the fabric...she then nodded her approval....too funny!)

In my testing phase I tried to wash my mini blanket in the machine on the delicate cycle (the yarn says hand wash or dry clean only however usually you can get away with delicate cycle).

This instance, the machine was a disaster, it stretched it all out and became a fuzzy mess. I took the above to the "green" dry-cleaner (they use non-toxic environmentally friendly solution) and it came out perfect.

I'm thinking of taking a hat making class next, so get excited folks!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Wellsboro Diner, Wellsboro, PA

My dad and his siblings have some land in the Allegheny mountains of PA. Dad, Dan , K and I went up after my cousin's wedding to check the place out (we had damage to some trees on the property due to a small tornado).

The property is close to Wellsboro, PA; a quaint all-American town built on the back of American factories. Many of the mountain towns are sparse to say the least but this one is well maintained and thriving in spite of the economic downturn.

It is a family tradition to go to the Wellsboro Diner at least once for pie when we go up to the mountains, so on our way in on Saturday we made the obligatory stop.

Inside it is a blast back to the 1950' and red and there is almost always a line to get in because there is very limited seating available.

I want to swoop in and fix this place up; it has great bones but that's about it. They don't use fresh ingredients (from what I can tell); it is mostly frozen and fried fare. It could be really fantastic if they had a chef with a vision. I've heard that breakfast is pretty decent (but it's hard to mess up eggs, bacon and toast so the jury is still out for me....I'll go for breakfast next time!)

They have the history, logo, name recognition and a solid following, they just don't have the food to back it up.

Needless to say all four of us were unimpressed with our pie. It has been years since I've been to the Diner (I've been a slacker and haven't been up to the mountains in a while--once or twice since Papa died in 2001).

Above is Dad's graham cracker pie. This used to be Papa's favorite but dad said that the above is not a good representation for how it should be. I'm curious if there was a change in management or if we all are just food snobs now...maybe a both!

My Raspberry Peach Pie; it tasted like canned peaches and likely frozen raspberries (which there is nothing wrong with a frozen raspberry--they can make great sauces and pies; however, with the canned peach...not so tasty). Pie crust was okay, nothing to write home about and the ice cream was interlaced with ice crystals...ugh.

Dan ordered what he thought was a "Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie" (since it was listed on the pie menu), but the above is what came out. A hard, flavorless cookie; Dan was bummed.

Kristen ordered the peanut butter pie, which could have been great, but ended up pretty awful in my opinion. I didn't even bother taking a picture. It was a peanut butter cream filling with whipped cream on top; all together, it was way too sweet and it was desperate for some crunch to save it from the one note it was hitting.

In all, the diner is a cute place to visit, but go for breakfast, not dessert!

Fresh Corn on the Cob

It is a universal thing; mid summer and beginning of fall bring a bounty of glorious produce. Corn and tomatoes are among the top favorites for Americans so we flock to the pile of fresh corn and heirloom tomatoes like they were gold.

Two weeks ago at the Farmer's Market I was a little overzealous with my corn purchase and ended up with thirteen ears!

I brought them home and used my super gigantic stock pot to soak the corn in water (I chose this route because I could fill the pot and stand the corn up vertically all at once and plop the lid on top to keep them all submerged. The All-Clad works great for this because the lid is substantial).

Dan was a bit perplexed when he came home; I usually only have five or six ears, so he had to be a bit creative and rotate them often to fit all of these on the grill. In the end he came through and roasted them to perfection.

I learned from many years of watching the Food Network that a bundt pan doubles nicely as a corn shucking vessel.

The pictured pan was purchased at the supermarket for next to nothing; I needed a good pan for monkey bread and HT was the only place open at the time I needed it!

It is fairly self explanatory once you discover the pan trick; just place the tip of the ear on the hole of the bundt and with a sharp knife slice the kernels off and they fall neatly in the pan.

If you were going to make a corn soup or chowder, I would "milk" the cob by running the back of my knife down the ear to get the corn juice for more of a creamed corn.

Dan and I have been using our corn abundance in salads and other recipes or just plain with butter, salt and pepper. You can freeze the cut corn in a freezer bag for up to three or four months to enjoy during the winter when fresh corn is no longer available.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Chocolate "Ice Box" Cake

One of my beloved co-workers MrrKrr left us last week to head back to the motherland and work for a big law firm. I'm so happy for this new opportunity for her but we were all sad to see her go. As a going away I wanted to make a few treats (naturally).

My Grandpa's favorite dessert is an icebox cake. Grandma always made it with Nilla wafers (my mom is not really sure why--if Grandpa liked vanilla better than chocolate or if they couldn't find the chocolate wafers--I'll ask G&G and get back to you guys!) I made it for one of our interns for her birthday in early July and MrrKrr said her mom used to make this cake too. It has one of those flavor profiles that is easy to remember (it tastes somewhat like an oreo with coconut.)

history of the cake begins with the invention of the "ice box" in the late 1800's; by the 1930's GE's Electric Refrigerator became more widely available so desserts that used this new invention as part of the process for the recipe emerged.

My Grandpa was born in 1921 in Minnesota; his dad was a Post Master and they were one of the first families on their block to have a refrigerator, so this dessert makes sense to me in that respect.

When making desserts for the office I have to keep transportation in mind. I think this would be a great cake piled on a scalloped cake stand, but getting that to the office in rush hour traffic didn't seem like a good plan. I put it in a trifle dish (put some bubble wrap in a small cardboard box and sealed the thing up--put the box on the floor of the passenger seat in the mini).

MrrKrr loves souffle's; I have never attempted a souffle and I doubt it would travel well from my house to the office if I had so I decided to put hers in a souffle dish (because I'm a smart alec...I get this quality from my dad ;P)

Chocolate Ice Box Cake

2 packages of Chocolate Wafer Cookies (or Nilla wafers...teddy grahams or graham crackers)

3 Cups Heavy Whipping Cream

3 Tbsps powdered sugar

1 tsp bourbon vanilla extract

1) Whip the heavy cream (either in a mixer, with a hand mixer or by hand; I usually whip by hand--I put the cream in a medium sized stainless steel bowl over a larger ceramic bowl filled with ice--I feel like I'm getting an arm work-out while I make dessert.)

2) Add the powdered sugar and vanilla; I usually use more than 3 tablespoons--just taste it after you add the sugar and vanilla and add more to your taste. Be weary though that the cookies are sweet so you don't want the cream to be overly sweet.

3) Assemble; build it like you might a lasagna--cream on bottom, layer of cookies, layer of cream, etc. until you finish (finish with cream on top). I shaved some semi sweet chocolate and microplaned some milk chocolate on top of mine using blocks of Callebaut. To achieve a curl pop the brick in the microwave for 15 seconds to soften and then used a vegetable peeler along the edge to create a curl.