Friday, February 29, 2008

From Drew Lazor of the City Paper:

In honor of Philly Beer Week, City Paper has organized THE CP BEERAMID,
a little bracket-style competition that'll settle which area brew is
tops. Yeah yeah, everyone does brackety things this time of year. But
come on, y'all — it's beer. Local beer to boot.

The competitors (aka The Sloshed 16):

Yuengling, Appalachian Brewing Company, Troegs, Sly Fox, Iron Hill, Flying Fish, Weyerbacher, Yards, Legacy, Stoudt's, Dock Street,
Victory,Triumph, Dogfish Head, and Nodding Head

First-round voting runs from today to Monday, March 3. Go vote

If you're in the Philadephia area, and you like beer even a little bit, there's sure to be an event over the 10 day period of beer week that will please you. What am I doing? I'm saving up all my excitement for the last event at Triumph Brewing, the Real Ale Festival. Check out the entire schedule here.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Peanut Butter Pretzel Pie

I picked up a dessert recipe calendar from a local bank at the beginning of the year. It contained more than one recipe that caught my eye, including this peanut butter pie with pretzel crust. It's easy to put together and only needs to chill for a couple of hours before serving. I made this pie for A Full Plate Cafe, but might make it again at home for a friend who is a peanut butter lover.
peanut butter pretzel pie

3/4 cup crushed pretzels (crushed fine with a food processor or rolling pin)
3 tablespoons white sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl combine the sugar and pretzel crumbs. Drizzle in the melted butter and stir until the crumbs are all coated with the butter. Press the mixture firmly into a 9 inch pie plate, making sure to come up the sides of the pan. Bake the crust for 10 minutes. Cool on a rack while you prepare the filling.

1 8oz package of cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 large container of Cool Whip. thawed (12oz)

In a mixer combine the softened cream cheese , sugar and peanut butter until smooth. This mixture will be thick. I added one scoop of Cool Whip to the peanut butter mixture and stirred to lighten it up a bit before adding the rest of the Cool Whip and gently folding to combine the two mixtures fully. Pour this into the cooled pretzel crust and chill for 2 hours.

It's a very rich pie so you can cut it into small pieces and get about 8 servings.

If I make this pie again I'm going to add something to the top, perhaps some lightly crushed chocolate covered pretzels to give it more texture and crunch.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I really love to bake. But even those of us who love to spend time in the kitchen, don't always have unlimited time to spend there. This is a blondie bar cookie that is quick and easy to whip up, and because it's so moist and chewy, even those who don't particularly like coconut find themselves eating one or two. The original recipe came from Epicurious, but I'm re-posting it here with small preference changes.

1 1/2 sticks salted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 12 oz bag semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut, toasted and cooled*
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut, untoasted

Omaha 2007 043
Preheat your over to 350°F. Cream together the butter and the brown sugar, beating the mixture until it is light and fluffy, add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, and beat in the vanilla. In a small bowl whisk together the baking powder, and flour, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, and beat the batter until it is just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and the both cups of coconut.
Omaha 2007 052
Spread the batter evenly in a buttered 13- by 9-inch baking pan. Since the dough is very stiff and thick, I find using a small butter knife gives you more control over the spreading of the dough, while a rubber spatula just leaves you with holes and a sticky mess. Bake the blondie in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. It should be very light golden color and start to pull away from the sides of the pan slightly. Let the blondie cool completely in the pan on a rack and cut it into squares.

*Be very careful when toasting coconut. On this particular occasion I felt it unnecessary to stand in the kitchen while I attempted to toast my coconut and my first batch nearly started a fire. For photographic evidence, click here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Aramingo Diner

Weekends are made for breakfast. You can get up early and start the day off right with and eggy breakfast and excellent coffee, or you can sleep in late and do the exact same thing. That's my favorite way to enjoy weekend mornings. Not too long ago, on a tip from a friend, I ventured to the Aramingo Diner, and it's now my go-to breakfast spot.
aramingo diner (1)
The breakfast menu isn't huge and it isn't fancy, but that's exactly the way diner food should be. I'm a fan of all their omelets, the one picture above is ham and cheese with some seriously crispy and awesome hash browns in the background.
aramingo diner
My friend J-Rye ordered a similar omelet and also a side of country sausage. One meat per meal is enough for me, but I had a small bite of this sausage and it was very tasty, and not greasy or bland the way some breakfast sausage can be.

The coffee here is also great, brewed dark and strong, just the way I like it.

Aramingo Diner
3356 Aramingo Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19134

Aramingo Diner in Philadelphia

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Poetry a la Penne

Every single time I sit down at this table to map out my research proposal, I end up writing a 5 line poem called a Cinquain. I blame no one but myself, I've developed a short attention span since leaving college. Would my dissertation be easier to write if it could only contain 22 syllables?

Presto Pasta Night

I asked
You came to eat
penne a la vodka
and spilled pink sauce down the front of
your shirt

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Peanut Butter Candy Cookies

I have lots of peanut butter lovers in my life. Mix it with chocolate and even more people enjoy the flavor and texture of peanut butter, I count myself among them. If you like peanut butter or know a peanut butter freak, you're going to love this cookie.
cookies (9)
When I saw this recipe on Cookie Madness, I moved it to the top of my pile of recipes to make. It requires more candy ingredients than I ever have on hand, so it also required me making a special trip to the store. Totally worth it. I'm posting the recipe here with small changes.

Peanut Butter Candy Cookies (Original Recipe)
1 cup salted butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter, creamy or chunky
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 tablespoons of molasses
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 c cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter chips
1 cup Reese’s Pieces
1 12 oz package mini Reese’s peanut butter cups, cut into half and frozen.

Unwrap the Peanut Butter Cups and cut into halves. Place in a bowl and put in the freezer while you make the dough.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter, peanut butter, sugar, and molasses until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda. Slowly add dry ingredients to the peanut butter mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips, peanut butter chips and Reese's Pieces.
cookies (1)
Drop the dough by tablespoons onto cookies sheets lined with parchment. These cookies do not spread much, so only an inch apart is necessary. Remove the frozen peanut butter cup halves from the freezer and press one or two pieces onto the top of each dough ball.
Extra Peanut Butter Cookies
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Let the cookies cool for at least two minutes before removing with a spatula to a wire cooling rack.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sazon Restaurant & Cafe

My buddy J-Rye was up for a visit this past weekend and we hit a few great spots around the city. One of which was Sazon, a Venezuelan restuarant between 9th and 10th on Spring Garden Street. We were actually headed to eat at Vietnam Restaurant, but due to auto show traffic around the convention center, we went further north, and I'm glad for the detour.
queso empanada
We started with a queso empanada, a corn turnover stuffed with fresh cheese and friend in corn oil. The turnover was crunchy on the outside, light and tender on the inside, but oily. I'd order another, but knowing the outside is going to be on the oily side, I'd skip the cheese filling, which only added to the greasy situation.
sazon (4)
I'm a huge fan of green plantains, and these were excellent tostones. Topped with a garlic puree after being fried, smashed, and fried again, these plantains were crunchy and had a spicy kick from the garlic.
sazon (5)
J-Rye ordered the fish omelet off of the brunch menu. It came out looking more like a fritata, and was chock full of red snapper, cilantro, and potatoes. It also came with salad and two arepas (corn flour patties) stuffed with cheddar cheese. The salad was nothing special, but the omelet was perfectly balanced and the arepas were delicious as well.
I ordered the pernil sandwich. Shredded pork, marinated with onions and orange juice, is piled on top of foccacia bread and topped with lettuce, tomato, and a spicy house sauce. Very yummy and very messy.

I'll be back for more arepas and tostones and to try their famous hot chocolate drinks.

Sazon Restaurant & Cafe
941 Spring Garden Street
Philadelphia, PA 19123

Sazon Restaurant & Cafe in Philadelphia

Two Foodie Poems

A week or two back I posted a link to Featured Poems, a blog started by a friend and dedicated to creating at least a poem a day. As I was talking with the blog's author yesterday, I told him my favorites usually revolved around subjects I enjoy, mainly dogs and food, and requested more poetry on those topics.

Call it inspiration (or maybe just boredom at work) but I wrote two poems today about baking. I haven't written anything creative in this manner since high school, so take it easy on me!

Both of the following poems are in the cinquain form. Read about it here.

The Waiting Game

Still limp
from the oven
Cookies slip from the pan
Wait one minute to cool before

Can't Have Just One

Sweet spice
of my cookie
Packed with love and sugar
before the day is done I'll have
three more

Thursday, February 07, 2008

This is the second post in a series about Farm Fresh Express. FFE is a new Philadelphia area service dedicated to providing locally produced fresh produce and groceries to your family year round. They have a storefront out in Lansdowne or you can get your groceries delivered to your house for just 10 dollars. Earlier this week I bragged about the incredible Satsuma Oranges I devoured from FFE, and today I'm raving about bok choy.
bok choy 002
Bok Choy, also known as Chinese Cabbage is a delicious vegetable whose taste and texture I enjoy very much. It's also nutrious, being high in fiber and Vitamin C. My friend John makes an amazing dish of baby bok choy with soy and ginger, and I attempted to replicate those flavors in my quick stir fry with this adult Boy choy specimen.
bok choy 003
When it comes to dishes like this, I don't measure, so an exact recipe is hard to reproduce for you here. I started by washing the boy choy and cutting it in to managable pieces. Then I heated some oil in my largest pan, added some onion and garlic until the kitchen smelled awesome, and then threw in the prepared bok choy.
bok choy 005
After a few minutes, the boy choy greens had wilted a bit, and the thick crunchy stalks were feeling a bit more tender. I added a variety of peppers including a poblano, and pieces of three different colored bell peppers. In my freezer, I found small amounts of edamame and sweet corn, so I added them to the mix as well. Finally, I found some leftover steak and chicken, so I sliced them and heated them up with the vegetables. For the sauce, I combined a few spoonfuls of brown sugar, fish sauce, ginger, siracha, mirin, and a little cornstarch to thicken things up.
bok choy 011
This was a totally delicious dinner and served with steamed jasmin rice, it was extremely satisfying.

Monday, February 04, 2008

A co-worker at A Full Plate pointed me in the direction of a local organization called Farm Fresh Express. As soon as I agreed to choose a few items from their store, use them at home, and write about them here on Foodaphilia, David, aka Philafoodie gave them props on his blog. I wanted to be the first, but I'll just jump on the bandwagon instead.
So this is the first in a short series of posts about the great stuff I got from Farm Fresh Express. If you click on their link or read David's post, you'll learn that Farm Fresh Express is a more flexible alternative to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Basically you can check out their offerings each week on their website (which when available, are all from local farmers) and choose whatever you like or need for the week (as little or as much as you want). They'll deliver it to your house for 10 dollars or you can pick it up at their store out in Lansdowne. And best of all, there's no committment to shop or purchase week after week, it's totally up to you.

So one of the items I decided to sample were the Satsuma Oranges. Clearly, these aren't grown locally here in Pennsylvania, but that may be a good thing because I doubt any citrus grown here would taste this good. As the little label states, these are grown in California, and while they don't look like much on the outside, they were some of the juciest and perfectly balanced oranges I've ever eaten.
More tart than a clemintine, but still easy to peel and without the hassle of seeds, these Satsuma Oranges are my new favorite citrus for as long as they're available.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Poetry Blog

No, not mine. I don't have the gift of words.

A friend who is a gifted writer has started a blog he calls "Featured Poems". The goal is a poem a day for the next year. That's 365 poems in 365 days. Want to follow along? Click here.