Sunday, August 21, 2011

And now, a few words from my former biscuit

"Hey. What are you lookin' at?"

"Never seen a talking biscuit before? What's with the salivating?"

"Back off."

"Seriously.  Step the "F*** back!"

"Really? Really? Well, guess what, lady?"

"You can just EAT ME!" 
(sticks out tongue for effect). 
 I do exactly as he says.  
End of conversation. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My packages are better than their packages

The UPS guy and I get seriously close at Christmas time, thanks to Amazon Prime and my sister.   Then I lose touch with him in the spring, and we become almost estranged during the summer months, except for the occasional delivery of vacuum cleaner bags here and there. But lately, the flow of packages has picked up again, and the thrill of that "thunk" on the doorstep has returned.

As always, some of these deliveries were big hits. Others, less so.
Play the audio and see for yourself.

School uniforms (hers)

Textbooks (his and hers)

1200 piece Lego Space Shuttle kit (my husband's...the guy seriously needs to get back to work*)

Printed corporate checks (the new company's)

A jar of homemade blueberry jam and a handwritten postcard saying the following:

"We hope that your LA summer is going well.  The family M hopes to close escrow on our house next week.  It is a very slow process here.  To bide our time we make jam.  And here is how it is made.  First, grab your bike and then ride 7.25 miles along Lake Ontario until you see U-Pick!  The berries are so ripe they nearly jump into your bucket.  Back on the bike to stop for ice cream.  This has nothing to do with jam, but it is so yummy.  Next, cook the jam and send to dear friends! We miss you."

I win.

Not to mention what was in my other package.


double win***.

* It is pretty cool, actually.  Retractable Lego landing gear and swinging robot arm!
** Plus some hilarious and clever kitchen gear from Fred and not one, but two, lovely thank you notes, an unexpected and completely perfect gift from a friend who shouldn't have.
*** Except that it took me forever to figure out how to add these silly sound effects to the post, so I double lost some sleep.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The best part of the kiddie table

There was one good thing about being at the kiddie table at our Thanksgiving dinners when I was little:

The sparkling apple cider.

It came in real grown up wine glasses.  We'd make snooty faces and toast each other while holding up our little pinkies, then sip at the delicious bubbly stuff and giggle.  It was fancy in a glass.  So of course, I carried the tradition on for our holidays.  We don't have a kiddie table, at least not officially, but we do have the crystal stemware filled with what my kids reverently call the sparkly apple cider.

I like that name even better.  Very festive.

Now, when it's August, and there are no official, formal, holidays to celebrate, you can still get that special occasion feeling.   All you need is sparkly apple cider.  And an ice cream machine.

Sparkly Cider Sorbet
This qualifies for Shortcut Week in two ways.  First, you basically just need a bottle opener and an ice cream machine (OK, not everybody has that, but if you do...).  No cooking!  And second, you get to skip a bunch of months and go right to Thanksgiving, just for a minute.  The sorbet is sweet and tangy and absolutely refreshing, still a tiny bit carbonated, and brings the fall flavor of apples to a dessert made for hot summer nights. 

1 bottle sparkling apple cider, chilled
1/2 c. simple syrup*
juice of 1 large lemon 
a splash of Calvados liquor, optional
pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients, then process in an ice cream maker as directed. If you serve right away**, the sorbet will be soft and the tiniest bit slushy.  We like ours like that.  We also like this with all the varieties of sparkly ciders***.   

Click to print this recipe!

* Equal parts water and sugar, boiled together for a few minutes and then cooled.  If this sentence is giving you deja vu, it should.  I used it in the footnote to the post on the remarkably similar and equally festive Sangria Sorbet.  Of the two, my kids vastly prefer this one.
** You should definitely get out some pretty glasses, and add on a mint sprig, if you have one. That's the fancy way to go.
*** Apple-Grape, anyone?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Foodie Girls Lunch Brigade - Special DC Food Truck Edition

The following is another delicious dispatch from FG4 (aka my sister), doing her utmost to be the Foodie Girl flag bearer on the East coast*.   Bless you, FG4!**

From the forefront of psychology to the mobile food court in the parking lot - a report by FG4

"There were three highlights for me at the 119th annual convention of the American Psychological Association this weekend in Washington DC. The first was getting to see my husband for three whole days, the second was getting picked by Chaser to play ball with her during a small group demonstration of her amazing talents, and the third was the food truck extravaganza for lunch on Saturday. At the appointed 11:30 time, twelve of the best food trucks in the DC area came to the park outside the convention center to dish up lunch for hundreds of hungry psychologists visiting from all over the world. Of course, as one of those psychologists, and more importantly, one of the Foodie Girls, I felt it my duty to attend this event and report my findings. All in the name of research...

In a tremendous show of support, my husband chose to join me for this lunch escapade, and so I promoted him to an official (and very good-looking) "Foodie Guy" for the afternoon. Sure, he got some good food out of the deal, but who wants to spend that much time with a bunch of psychology students, faculty, and clinicians?! He needed a title.

The layout: on opposite ends of the park are two stages, each with a live band playing different genres of music to entertain the crowds. Picnic tables had been strategically set out with plenty of seating in the shade (did I mention it was 95-degrees with 80% humidity?!) I admit I did like having all that seating, which is usually a challenge when having lunch at a food truck. The food trucks circled the perimeter of the park, with food as varied as their decorations. Everything from middle eastern food to gourmet hot dogs, grilled cheese to pizza, and pies to cupcakes - just to name a few.

Then we spotted it: the truck with the longest line (snaked around the side of the park - at least 30 people waiting at any given time), and with the best reputation: the Lobster Truck.

Actually Foodie Guy had eaten there once before when it was parked near his office, and stated that a long line is standard for them. Foodie Guy also knew that they have a store-front location in New York. Good to have this guy on our team.

After carefully scrutinizing all the options, we return to the Lobster Truck and wait in the crazy long line for our lunch.

The menu is simple: lobster rolls prepared two ways: Maine-style (lobster chunks in a lemony-mayo base, sprinkled with sweet paprika and scallions - served cold) and Connecticut-style (lobster drawn in butter, also topped with sweet paprika and scallions - served warm). They also have clam chowder and a shrimp roll if you aren't that into lobster.

Periodically one of the workers would run down these different preparations by yelling them out of the window of the truck. I appreciate that she was trying to make sure you were prepared to order to keep the line moving, but every time she started, people at the end of the line (who couldn't hear what she said because that line was so darn long) began to panic that they had run out of something. Luckily we were all psychologists and we know how to manage high levels of anxiety...just not when we think the Lobster Truck has run out of lobster. Luckily, steady reassurances from the people in the line who heard what she said helped keep people from rioting.

Our turn to order, Foodie Guy gets the Connecticut-style and a fresh lemonade. I go for the Maine-style as a combo (comes with chips and a Maine Root soda with unlimited refills). This set us back a pretty penny (lobster sandwich alone: $15 and a large (20-oz.) lemonade was $3.50; combo was $18). Once you order, things move nice and quickly. We got our sandwiches within 2-3 minutes and we headed for the air-conditioned sanctuary of the convention center (screw all those nice picnic tables and live music).

We sat down, I opened the containers with our sandwiches and immediately got a whiff of lobster (very yummy!).

One word: delicious. Simply that. Delicious. Gotta say, this was one tasty sandwich. I started with half of the Maine-style, which was really good. Just the right amount (read: just a touch) of the mayo, and a whole lotta lobster. The generous helping of lobster meat was fresh, succulent, slightly sweet, anything but chewy, it was just plain tasty. Then, in true foodie fashion, Foodie Guy and I swapped sandwiches and then it was my turn with the Connecticut-style. We agreed it was no contest - the Connecticut sandwich was the better of the two - absolutely perfectly cooked and delicately seasoned with the butter. The only problem was that darn butter, while definitely not greasy at all, did soak into part of the bun and made it mushy.

I chose the ginger ale soda and it was also very good, and went back for two refills before our lunch break was over. Foodie Guy's lemonade was fantastic, just enough tartness and full of overall flavor. Foodie Guy is a tough lemonade critic, and this one made his short list of favorites.

After finishing our lunches, I was willing to take one for the team, and try one of the pies from the Pie Truck.  but they had run out of cherry, and only had pecan left. Instead I opted for a refreshing popsicle. Whatever was fresh at the farmer's market becomes the day's menu selection, for $2.50. I asked the driver, "blackberry basil cream or summer peach?" He said, "definitely the blackberry." I was not disappointed.

Foodie Girl (and Guy) rating: Both the Lobster Truck and Pleasant Pops are ON the list!
Just be sure you have a little extra cash (they do accept all major credit cards) and patience for that Lobster Truck.

If you're in the area, and want to see where the DC trucks will be, click here."

Well done, FG4 and the honorary Foodie Guy!  We look forward to your next report.

* She's also sent in critical prior dispatches on reality TV cupcakes and the leaning tower of fro yo.
** For eating in general, and specifically for emailing me the info about your adventures. This is the ultimate in shortcuts for me this week:  a post I did not have to write myself!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


I am hereby declaring this to be Shortcut Week here at Cheesy Pennies!

This is much catchier than my first impulse for a theme name:  
How To Make That Trip To The Frozen Food Aisle Work For You Week!  

Plus, the zippier, yet somehow broader label of "shortcut" will allow me to use materials from a different aisle of the supermarket in other posts*. So folks, Shortcut Week it is.

That said, I am reluctant to jettison my initial thought completely.

How To Make That Trip To The Frozen Food Aisle Work For You Wings
A family favorite around here**, and a big hit from the kids cooking class I taught.  You can go from reusable shopping bag to oven in under 10 minutes, and as a certain colonel used to say, these are finger-lickin' good.

1/2 c. olive oil
Juice from 2 lemons
1 Tbs. garlic salt (you can add other spices if you like!)
healthy grind of fresh pepper
1 4lb bag of frozen chicken wings, not thawed
1 tsp. kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 375, and move the rack so it's in the upper third of the oven.  Line a large baking sheet with foil and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic salt, and pepper, until you have a smooth mixture.  Add the frozen wings, and stir with a large spoon to coat each wing thoroughly.  The dressing will naturally adhere to the wings because they are frozen, forming an instant coating.  Spread the wings out on the prepared baking sheet, skin side up.  If you have any of the dressing left, spoon it over the wings.  Don't worry!  I didn't forget about the salt.  That comes later.

Roast the wings for 25 minutes, until they are just beginning to brown.  Remove from the oven, and carefully pour off the excess liquid that has accumulated in the pan.  I pour mine down the disposal in the sink.  This is the water/chicken stock that was used to freeze the wings, along with some of the excess fat.  It's been helpful so far in keeping the chicken moist as it cooks, but now we want these little guys to get nice and crispy!  Sprinkle with the kosher salt, and return to the oven for another 15-20 minutes.

You know they are done when the skin on top is golden brown, slightly dry, and nicely crisp. The bottoms may still be a little juicy, but that's totally fine.

Remove from the tray and serve immediately. Be sure to sit down and grab some for yourself immediately, too***.

Click to print this recipe!

* One theme, many posts.  Can you say, shortcut?  I think you can.
** The real name of this dish is "Oven Roasted Lemon Garlic Chicken Wings", but the kids just know them as "The Wings".
*** It's now a running gag at my house for my husband and the kids to plow through these before I can even sit down, and just leave the pile of bones on my plate.  My son will say, "Mom!  Calm down with the wings already!" and then everybody laughs really hard.  Meanwhile, I get like one wing, and have to eat extra salad.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

I am so not taking them to Muir Woods

We saw this movie last night, and loved it.

But then, as I was starting up the car afterward, I looked down at my hands.

Then at the little red bag that is my constant companion*.

Oh dear.

I'm surrounded.

I think that little blue guy might be the leader.

* Except when I leave it hanging off the back of my chair at the restaurant where I have just eaten, and have to return sheepishly to retrieve it the next day.  This happens more frequently that I would like to admit, lending credence to the possiblity that my apes are, in fact, smarter than I am.