Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mohonk Mountain House

Last week the Mohonk Mountain House had "Community Week". Mohonk is an old hotel outside of New Paltz and all of the locals had been telling me that I should go visit in the Spring. However, typically you have to pay to get onto the property; something in the ballpark of $15 per person...not per car...per person. I understand the charge; they need to have something in place in order to maintain the lawns and gardens on the property and make sure it is not overrun with tourists.

Anyhow, a few weeks a year they open the property to the community, which means that you can walk around the property free of charge. Considering the fact that I probably ran into 30 people max (including the hotel staff) I don't think it is any coincidence that community weeks likely occur at the least desirable times of the year; half of the grounds were closed for one reason or another so I only really saw the bare bones of the place, but I'm not about to turn away a free opportunity.

Therefore what follows is what I shot while walking around. I'll have to suck it up, fork over the $30 bucks and bring Dan along to see the gardens in the Spring because I'm sure that it's lovely.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Coffee Enthusiast's Guide to Good Coffee

A few friends have asked what I have been doing without Peregrine down the street to feed my coffee habit. Well, after a few discussions with some trusted experts on what I can do without having to purchase a fancy espresso machine (basically the only good ones are several thousand dollars and Dan is not ready for me to make that kind of purchase!) This is an overview of my coffee routine. It really is not as complicated as it may look.


I'm not a coffee purist by any means; my aunt Chottie will totally poo poo this post when she reads it because a purist drinks their coffee black. I am merely an avid coffee enthusiast, a milk and sugar adder to my coffee-er. There was an interesting article in Barista Magazine on this subject this past fall.

Though I pollute my coffee with milk and sugar I am however rather picky about my joe additions. I make a vanilla simple syrup or a vanilla sugar (for the sugar stir together 1 cup sugar and add a Tbsp of vanilla bean paste or more depending on preference; store in the fridge for up to a month), or I'll also use dark muscavado sugar, which is the pile of sugar pictured on the right. The sweetener I use depends on my mood that day.


I use a coffee bean vacuum. A friend gave this to me several years ago; this thing runs on batteries and vacuum seals the beans. You can set it to a 12 or 24 hour reseal setting to conserve energy.


I have currently been importing beans from Peregrine, but I'll switch to Counter Culture from the CIA or Bread Alone once the last of my beans have been used up. It may not seem like one would notice the sublety in flavor whilst using milk and sugar but there really is a difference between freshly roasted beans and the stuff you get in the supermarket.


A great friend gave me a Williams-Sonoma gift card once (as a note...WS gift card always equals a happy Patricia...just saying!) and I was able to get this little beauty. It takes all of 10 seconds to grind the beans...then I pop those into a filter and set on top of my dripper (which I got at Peregrine).


Summer of 2009 my good friend's mom (Dede) introduced me to the little baby above and I've been using it ever since. It is a Nespresso milk frother another WS item; my parents and in-laws think that I am a bit ridiculous when it comes to my coffee (I keep a french press at my in-laws lake house and I brought my frother when we stayed two weeks one vacation.)

Seriously though, this thing is awesome. You add a bit of milk, hit the button and voila, frothy milk.


I use a dripper that I purchased at Peregrine this fall to actually produce my coffee. It is pretty straight forward. You put your grounds in a filter and pour hot water over the top and it drips into the cup!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patty's Day

As promised, a quick look at my Aunt B style tree--I made due with what I had on hand (which in my case is boat loads of ribbons and kitchen type stuff, thus kitchen towel as a tree skirt and cookie cutter as a tree topper...hey, whatever works right!)
I started out brainstorming what I would do for St. Patty's day and Dan requested chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting (plain jane); working at a cupcake shop has forever ruined me, because now no cupcake is finished without a little something on top.

I really loathe fondant so I decided to make little St. Patty's day hats out of marzipan. No, this is not traditional St. Patrick's fare, not even close, it is more the bastardized version that the day has become, but I thought the hats would be cute atop a cupcake none-the-less.

The photos are mostly for my mom (she called while I was making these and it's hard to describe them without a photo(; so, mom, this is what I was talking about...St. Patty's Day top hats!

I thought they turned out well, but I didn't take and pictures of them actually on cake...whoops!

I also made some shamrock cookies (though these are technically four leaf still not traditional Irish fare...this seems to be a theme with me here.) These are just your straight up sugar cookies with royal frosting, and yes I used the cookie cutter that was on top of my tree for these; don't worry, I gave it a good wash first!

For dinner Dan requested Shepherd's pie, which, go figure, actually is traditional Irish fare (according to my Irish boss...corned beef and cabbage is not actually started here in the states and was exported back to Ireland).

I've been making this for Dan for close to three years now; this is a perfect Dan (i.e. meat and potatoes) kind of meal best when consumed with a Guinness of course.

D&P's Shepherd's Pie

1 1/2 pds peeled & quartered Yukon Gold Potatoes (I also like Carola potatoes)
1 medium onion diced
1 medium carrot diced
1 stalk of celery diced
1 cup of frozen peas
2 Tblsps olive oil
1 Tblsp salted butter
1 pd ground lamb
3/4 cup lamb, beef, chicken or veggie stock
1 Tblsp thyme (or 1 tsp. dried)
1 Tblsp rosemary (or 1 tsp. dried)
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 Tblsps. red wine vinegar
Salt & Pepper


1. Boil potatoes in salted water until fork tender (about 20 minutes); drain and mash with 3 to 4 Tblsps salted butter, 3/4 cup milk, 1/2 cup sharp cheddar, maldon salt and fresh cracked pepper (or however you normally do mashed potatoes...chives would be good too but I didn't have any on hand!)

2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400F. Saute onions, carrots & celery in a dutch oven until tender (7-10 minutes), season w/ a bit of S&P; add lamb and cook until browned. I add a pinch of rosemary and thyme along with a bit more S&P at this point to add flavor to the meat.

3. Sprinkle flour in and cook 2-3 minutes to get rid of that "flour" taste; pour in stock slowly stirring constantly to reduce clumps. (I use homemade chicken stock because I keep lots of this in our freezer but use what you have; I've made this with a bouillon cube before, don't stress about it if you don't have stock.)

4. Add the rest of your herbs along with the nutmeg and the vinegar. Simmer about 5 minutes or until it reaches a thickness you like.; Add frozen peas. (Sometimes I add a slurry of corn starch using 1 Tblsp of corn starch and a bit of the liquid from the pot if the flour doesn't thicken it enough.)

5. Spoon the meat into individual gratin dishes and top with mashed potato and a sprinkle of cheddar. Heat in the oven for 20 minutes (or until the potatoes are nicely browned on top.)

6. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving

NOTE: I've also just used the dutch oven that I used for the meat, plopped the potatoes on top and popped that baby in the oven; a one pot wonder, but the gratin dishes are nice for individual portions or for serving to company.

Also, the only reason there are peas in this dish is because Dan loves peas; my original recipe excludes these. Add them if you like, forget them if you don't.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

One of my favorite treats growing up was chocolate milk. As I have noted here in the past, I love milk in almost any form, but especially with coffee or chocolate as a companion!

When I was about seven, my grandma gave me this little battery powered chocolate milk maker; it was basically a very low powered blender of sorts....the ultimate single tasker of of a kitchen...however, I used that thing almost every night until it up and died on me.

Dad is predictable (sorry dad!), he would get a bowl of vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup, a handful of chocolate chips, or a couple fig newtons when the news came on after dinner; I would go for chocolate milk (which I suppose I'm predictable too...ce la vie.)

I have really been craving chocolate milk here lately, but every time I go to the store I just can't buy that can of Hershey's I grew up with due to the not so wonderful ingredients listed on the back.

You can see that list for yourself here without going to the grocery store OR you can make your own with five ingredients that you likely have on on my friend read on...

In DC I was an avid reader of the Wednesday Washington Post (because of the food section of course). I did a search for a chocolate syrup recipe and low and behold, gotta love archives, because it is here in all its glory.

I put mine in a mug (I prefer cups with handles for those who do not personally know me and just happened upon this site...yes, I'm weird) and headed to the deck to sip my treat. I deserved it; I attempted to ride my bike on the hills around our house today...stupid, stupid idea...I am way too out of shape for that kind of work out!

The great part about this syrup is that it will keep in your fridge for several weeks because it is basically a chocolate simple syrup.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


What is an Ebelskiver? It is a basically a little round Danish pancake. I looked up the history, but what I found was vague; one said that it started with Vikings who made pancakes on top of their pock marked shields...who knows!

Dan's great aunt told us about them at our rehearsal dinner; a treat she remembered from her childhood. While perusing Williams-Sonoma later that year I found this and decided to give it a whirl.

If you have kids, I think that these would be a huge hit! They are great little popable breakfast fun.

We generally like them plain (remember, Dan is a traditionalist!) and I'll just pile them up on a plate and serve with a side of warm maple syrup for dunking; however, Williams-Sonoma has a ton of creative recipes for Ebelskivers on their site if you are feeling especially adventurous!

Adapted from Karen Blixen's site (you can find her recipe here.)

--4 eggs (separated)
--2 Tblsps. granulated sugar
--1/2 tsp. salt
--6 Tbsps. butter (melted and slightly cooled); 2 for use in batter and 4 for the pan
--2 cups buttermilk
--1 tsp. baking soda
--1 tsp. baking powder
--2 cups AP flour
--1 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder and sugar together in a large bowl, set aside.

2. Separate the eggs. Add salt and vanilla to egg yolks. Whip the egg whites until stiff.

3. Add buttermilk and egg yolk mixture to dry mixture; mix until just combined (still lumpy); Slowly add the 2 Tblsps. of melted butter.

4. Fold in about a 1/3 of the egg whites (this is your sacrifical whites that will lighten the batter and allow you to keep the fluff of the other 2/3rds). Fold in the remaining 2/3rds of the whites.

5. Add about a half tsp. of butter to each well of the pan. Ladle in batter, filling each well about 3/4th of the way full.

6. Turn aebleskivers when you start to see air bubbles in the middle of the well. I use a pair I use chopsticks for this task but Williams-Sonoma sells these turners too. (Mom these would make a good stocking stuffer for me :P)

7. Serve with warm maple syrup.

8. Enjoy

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Parker House Style Rolls

Harvey Parker opened the famed Parker House Hotel and Restaurant in 1855 in Boston, MA. Mr. Parker went outside of the area tradition, and at great expense, hired a french chef, Sanzian, to run his restaurant. Having been in the restaurant business before being in the hotel business he knew a good restaurant could bring interest and great regard to the Parker House.

Sanzian would later invent what is now known as the Boston Cream Pie (not too shabby to be credited for the creation of a state pie!) Another famed baked good from this kitchen is the Parker House Rolls, which according to the hotel history was conceived by a German baker named Ward (you can find the full history here.) The recipe was apparently a well guarded secret until 1933 when Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt requested the recipe!

I am going to visit my sister in a few weeks, and I plan on making a few things for her to have in her freezer and just be able to pop out and bake when she wishes. Anyhow, Kristen has an obsession with bread; she's had this as long as I can remember. Growing up, seeing as she was a picky eater, she would judge a restaurant based on their bread alone.

Thus, whilst reading the King Arthur blog some time ago I stumbled upon a recipe for Parker House Rolls. My mom has used Sister Schubert rolls for years; these are a knock off of the Parker House version that you can find in the freezer section of your grocery store.

I've been on a mission recently to try and make things from scratch verses buying them prepackaged and processed in the next venture might be tortillas (just start reading the labels on stuff and you might become a convert too!)

The results were just as I had hoped; Dan and I both really loved them and he now wants me to rework them a bit in order to make these into a hot dog bun version for the summer. As you can see, I didn't have the right sized pan for the original recipe, but it really didn't matter; they weren't pretty, but they were tasty!

I only made half of the rolls (8) and froze the other half of the dough after the first rise because we didn't need 16 rolls between the two of us (shoot, we didn't need 8 either) and I wanted to see if this would be a viable option for Kristen. I'll let you know how the frozen batch works out.

You can use the original Omni Parker House Roll Recipe, or the King Arthur version that I used here. As a note, potato flour can be found in most supermarkets these days; I used a version made by Bob's Redmill.

In other news, we woke up to a small layer of snow; thankfully, what you see here is about as much as we got, which meant no shoveling, and just mere waiting for the sun to come out and do its work!