Showing posts from 2011

New Year's Eve Memories and Inspiration

My memories growing up of New Year's Eve were usually spent at home watching Dick Clark's Rockin' Eve, drinking sparkling cider, and always eating some kind of cheeseball and crackers, which was our idea of "appetizers" and seemed fancy. The only way this could possibly be considered fancy could be that we had several different kinds of crackers, but to an 8 year old it seemed fancy. There were some times I remember being babysat at my grandparents house and my parents coming back late with my grandma who was always wearing something impossibly sparkly and some silly hat. I think when I was about 12 years old I imagined growing up and attending a long string of fancy holiday parties. I think I even bought a velvet dress and leather skirt for the day when these fancy parties would come into reality. Little did my 12 year old self know that grown ups typically go to office parties which are attended in a white button up shirt and black pencil skirt, family parties …


The winter holidays obviously can cause a whole range of emotions in people - they are weighed down with memories of past Christmases, especially if people or things are now gone. Also, places that mean one thing on other days of the year can have other connotations on Christmas. They are weighed down with expectations, pressures, and comparisons. The sentence "But its Christmas!" seems so much of a stronger thing to say than "But it is President's Day!" It seems a bit like weddings - what other thing has such strong expectations attached to it because it happens to be a certain day on the calender?

That being said, most other Christmas breaks I have had I have traveled farther than this year. The college where I work does a campus shut down during this week to save money with energy costs. It is the sort of thing where you don't want to know what day it is, because you don't want to know how fast it is going by (like our honeymoon). It makes me think o…

Homemade Food Christmas Gifts

I heard on NPR today that the average person this year is expected to spend around $700 on Christmas. If you don't have a lot of extra money or you aren't able to travel to your home town, Christmas can seem like something you might rather just skip over. But one thing I have realized this year is that you don't have to spend a lot of money to make things festive or enjoy a bit of the holiday spirit. The cookie exchange, for example, was a great cheap way to do something a little bit special that brought people together. Today my coworkers and I went out for lunch, and tomorrow we are having a pizza party. Even though our employer said there wasn't any extra money for holiday parties we've found ways to have fun anyway. Same with presents - you really don't need to spend a lot of money just to let people know you are thinking of them. Somehow I went from wanting to skip the whole thing to going a little overboard in terms of my gift assembly line.

To start with…

Emperor's, Wolf Road

We went to Emperor's last night. We had been there a few times before. My husband has also been there for lunch, and says that is a great deal. We got the Singapore Noodles and they made a chicken with mixed vegetable in garlic sauce for us because we couldn't decide between a couple of things.

Things that are great about Emperor's:
The waiter here actually remembered my husband is allergic to nuts. That can't be expected. I don't even think we've been here that much - very impressive.The garlic sauce is actually not sweet. It has a little spice to it, and a touch of sweetness - the right balance.The Singapore Noodles are great. They are really flavorful, and also fun to eat.I also like that the hot tea comes with your meal.The hot and sour soup is really good - which we all know is the real test of a Chinese restaurant. I would say in this area that this is how I would rank the top Chinese restaurants in the area: Ala Shanghai, Emperor's, and Ichiban. Thing…

Chicken Pot Pie with Buttermilk Topping

I mentioned this recipe once before during my recap of Thomas Keller's chicken and dumplings soup. It is from Cook's Illustrated. I really think it is a great recipe, and the buttermilk topping is probably a lot healthier than the puff pastry or pie crust versions of pot pies.

First I made the topping which is basically a biscuit recipe that you cook on top of the filling. Then we went out to the Recovery Room and watched some football (Go Lions!). You can skip this step if you want. I also stopped by the New Scotland Wine Shop and got some sherry from the nice old lady for my sauce. It is convenient they are open late on the weekends.

Then I cooked my skinless, boneless chicken breasts in chicken broth. Of course bone-in chicken is way more flavorful, but we didn't have any on hand, and of course you aren't going to roast a chicken specifically to make pot pie. Put the chicken in a bowl after about 10 minutes.

Then I added in my carrots, celery, and onion.

Give that…

Prune, NYC and Cocktails at the Morgan

I took yesterday off of work months in advance to attend an author signing and cooking demonstration by Amanda Hesser for the Food52 cookbook. We woke up super early, drove to Poughkeepsie, took the Metro-North, took a cab from Grand Central, and made it to Sur La Table on 57th street just in time - just in time, that is, for their staff to tell us it was postponed because the store hasn't finished installing their kitchen yet. So unfortunate. What a let down!

So we just killed some time hanging around Columbus Circle and then met our friend at Prune Restaurant for lunch at 1st and 1st. Scott had the sweetbreads with capers and bacon.

I had the burger on an English muffin with Cabot cheddar cheese, and our friend had the skate with a lemon caper sauce. Hers also came with a potato slaw with some sesame sort of dressing with it. It was all amazing.

A side view of the burger:

We also had desserts: churros and a poached pear with brandy and creme fraiche.

We also had coffees which we…

Delmonico's Italian Steakhouse

We first went to the Delmonico's in Utica when we were visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown a couple years ago. We also visited the Ommegang Brewery, and had worked up strong appetites. I consulted my guidebook I bought when we first moved here, and there didn't seem to be a whole lot in Utica listed, but Delmonico's sounded interesting (here is the menu). We went there, and I got the full pound lasagna  (wow), not sure if I finished it all or not (I definitely haven't since then). I remember liking the cocktail glasses, and liking how many celebrations seemed to be taking place all at once (birthdays, family get togethers, couples on dates). Going to Delmonico's  seemed like a super popular thing to a certain group of people - and I immediately liked it for what it was. Sure it is not Italian-Italian but as far as Italian-American goes, I think it is great. It is so much better than it needs to be. Upon coming home we realized there was one in Alban…

Office Cookie Exchange: The Event

After a lot of math and baking and decorating, the day of the cookie exchange finally arrived. I was excited and hoped that everything would work out in the end.

Here we set up the samples for people to try. You may remember those trays, vases and plastic wine glasses from my Fall Mexican Themed Cocktail Party. One trip to Party City supplied two different little get togethers. I thought about making little centerpieces, and pretty much wandered around town looking for the best option. I sort of had candy canes in mind, but spotted some ribbons at the newstand and stuffed those in the vases.

 You can spot my Sol LeWitt and Edward Hopper cookies. Also molasses cookies, almond cresents, mini cheesecakes, lemon poppy seed thumbprint cookies with raspberry filling, chocolate crinkle cookies, pumpkin cookies, pecan sandies and chocolate chip cookies. Not pictured are a few kinds including sugar cookies and chocolate chip chai. I just put a ribbon where the salsa went during the last party…

Art Museum Inspired Ginger Cookies

Last week I posted about my plans for the staff cookie exchange and my art museum inspired cookies. I had watched a video online about painting fondant. I learned about fondant at a class I took at Bettie's Cakes.  I bought a huge box of it at a craft store. I also bought some gel food colors, and some vodka. I rolled out the fondant and cut it up in squares. The first batch I did I put too much vodka mixed in with the colors. This made them take forever to dry, and therefore the coloring was still wet while the fondant got a little hard. You want a little vodka (you can also use vanilla or lemon extract). It is not like a watercolor painting. You just want to add a very small amount to thin it a little bit, and prevent the color from globbing up. I also bought some brushes from the cake decorating section of the craft store.

 This is my Edward Hopper's "Morning in a City".

After they got a little hard, and I had a disastrous time trying to put plastic wrap over th…