Saturday, January 26, 2013

port jervis, ny

if you've never heard of port jervis, it's ok, neither had i until i ended up there. it's about 90 miles outside of nyc and the intersection of ny, nj, and pa. it's a cute little town (population under 10,000) and i think budget travel named it one of the best small towns in 2008. i'm not sure if they were talking about the winter time :)

 but the town was cute, all 2.5 square miles of it (even w/ my bad directional sense we had the town memorized by day 1). in about 5 min you can end up in any of the 3 states and the only way i could tell which state i was in was if i was in jersey and i 1) couldn't buy beer at the gas station, and 2) they pumped my gas for me.

saturday night we went to the grill in matmaros, pa. it was disco night or something. i think the entire drinking age of that town was there that night but it was fun to people watch (the fog machine i could have lived w/o though). and it was only about 7 minutes max from port jervis. 
tri-state monument: impossible to find, no tourist signs direct you to it and you have to drive through a cemetery to see it. 

we ate lunch at the erie hotel restaurant, we were craving mexican but that wasn't happening. the building has been fully restored but still looks pretty cool. the food was so-so. tried my first mexican coffee, i'm not sure how i felt about it.

getting beer was kind of hilarious sunday night before the ravens vs patriots game (i won't rub it in too much, but ravens kicked ass!). we found out to the left of our hotel was nj so none of the gas stations sold beer and the liquor stores were closed so we were directed to ny where we circled quite a bit until we found a little convenience store.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


i loved despicable me for the minions alone. and the fact that they were all in love with fruit, like me, didn't hurt either :D

so of course this is a banana update, if you didn't get that yet :)
first is M's bday cake-

Banana Sheet Cake (9 x 9)

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
2  large mashed bananas
1/4 cup Greek yogurt

3 oz whipped cream frosting, room temp
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temp
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a 9x9 baking pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. In a larger bowl, beat the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time and then add the vanilla and mashed bananas. Mix in half of the flour mixture, then the yogurt, then the other half of the flour mixture. Spread the batter evenly in the baking pan and bake for about 20 minutes or until nicely brown and the surface springs back up when touched. Let cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting, mix all the ingredients together (electric mixer would be the easiest, but by hand is doable). Spread over the cake. Decorate with toasted pecans, optional.

*did half the simplyrecipes recipe but forgot to halve the egg and butter in the frosting, egg might have made the cake denser, and frosting turned out perfectly (not too sweet but a cream cheesy goodness)

second was a new banana bread recipe! who would have thought i would ever branch away from my usual recipe.

Banana Bread
adapted from joy the baker
makes 1 loaf

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulate sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup uncooked old fashioned oats
3 tsp canola oil
1 large egg, beaten
2 medium egg whites, beaten
3 large ripe bananas

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a loaf pan. In a large bowl mix all dry ingredients from flour through the oats. In a smaller bowl, mash bananas and then add whole egg and oil until thoroughly mixed.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well. In a medium sized bowl, with an electric hand mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the batter in three additions. Pour batter into pan and bake until top of loaf is firm to touch about 45 minutes. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

let's do some honky tonky

just got back from nashville, tn last night after taking a look at Vandy (what the locals call Vanderbilt). here's the low-down on the city

(10.5 hours from Central MD to Nashville)


Day 1 (arrival)
·        arrived early in the morning, went to Hermitage Café (71 Hermitage Ave, 24 hours); food was so-so, but watching locals and getting entertained by staff is worth it. Got great recommendations on where to eat in town
·         explored Vandy
·         shopped at Pangea (eclectic mix of clothes, jewelry, postcards, etc. bohemian kind of fun)
·         lunch at Provence Breads & Café (1705 21st Ave South) right by Vandy campus. We were still waiting for check-in time to start at our hotel (Knights Inn in East Nashville, ~$45/night for the two of us including taxes, breakfast and HBO). Got a picnic spread of their Tuscan bread (good, get their smaller loaf), mild cheddar, and their artichoke pesto spread (be warned, this stuff is garlicky, like kill vampires just by breathing)
·         walked to and around Centennial Park (2500 West End Ave) to see the Parthenon (to scale)

·         picked up Cuban food at Calypso café at Vandy location (2424 Elliston Pl)
o   got the beans and 3 option- w/ bean and corn salad, coleslaw and cornbread muffin w/ coconut (best part of the meal! Really tasty)

Day 2
·         morning spent at Vandy open house
·         lunch- provence leftovers
·         The Hermitage- Andrew Jackson’s home (4580 Rachel’s Ln); free day, tour house and grounds w/ museum

·         Lunch: Swett’s (2725 Clifton Ave) for southern food
o   Fried chicken very good
o   Baked cornbread good
o   Chess pie very sweet
o   Candied yams really sweet
o   Banana pudding good if you like bananas and the now-and-later kind of taste
·         To listen to live music, Commodore Grille (2613 West End Ave) in the Holiday Inn has singer-songwriter night Tues- (we got there at 8, perfect timing, try to find a table with a view); spinach and artichoke dip not that great, but drinks are a good deal; stayed through open mic

Day 3
·         Shopping

·         Lunch at PM (2017 Belmont Ave) (, which is asian inspired cuisine. Heard good things about the veggie burger from the guy who worked at pangea. We split:
o   coconut calamari w/ cucumber salad: very good, comes w/ a hot sauce and a sweet and sour sauce, the breading is nicely fried and crispy
o   veggie burger with a wasabi mayo and with sweet potato fries: the burger was marinated in a teriyaki kind of sauce, best veggie burger I’ve ever had

·         walked around downtown Nashville, The District and explored the state capitol building (free)
·         dinner: La Hacienda Taqueria (2615 Nolensville Rd); got the fish taco (not impressed at all), and a vegetarian combination platter (the rice was really good, beans were pretty good, chalupa and enchilada were so-so); didn’t get to take endless chips up to use; would not recommend except for the fact that it is cheap- so to make up for a kind of crummy dinner got mcflurrys at the mcdonalds down the road from the restaurant (it was icy and perfect)

Day 4 (departure day)
·         left around 4:30 am
·         stopped at a Cracker Barrel in TN (it was originally founded in TN!), everyone was really nice and friendly; split
o   Country Morning Breakfast- two eggs over easy (this is important, if you like your eggs like this of course), sawmill gravy and homemade buttermilk biscuits (dip your biscuit in the runny yolk, it cuts back a bit on the saltiness and is just plain delicious!)
o   Buttermilk pancakes with Montmorency cherry topping and whipped cream: don’t bother with the whipped cream, it’ll just get too melted from the warm pancakes and slide off, the cherry topping made the top pancake too sweet so see if they will put it on the side. The middle pancake (there were 3) actually tasted the best

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

molasses madness

did you know that if you boil molasses at least three times it is called blackstrap and loses all its sweetness? i mean the robust molasses i got from grandma's molasses was pretty darn unsweet (think burnt sugar, it was also the color of burnt sugar) but this stuff makes unbelievable ginger cookies w/ some spice fun. i'm having too much fun w this molasses stuff. and on wikipedia. haha. someone stop me!

gingerbread cookies are probably in my top 3 cookies (i think chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin round out my top three, although right now i'm on such a baking high i can't even think of another kind of cookie...oh boy, someone stop me)

but i used simply recipe's molasses spice recipe b/c after reading that i should chill the dough overnight for gingerbread men, i went for the more instantaneous gratification :). these babies don't look anything like simply recipe's version, no crackle, no poof, but my sisters called them "crack cookies" so i guess that was a ringing endorsement. good thing i had lots of coworkers to share the drug addiction with. the dough was very sticky and the cookies puddled out to be very thin (it was an all around vote that the cookies baked on the silpat were much nicer than those on the aluminum foil- more crisp but in a light airy way). these cookies are very delicious! gingery, buttery with a nice rich flavor which i'm thinking comes from the combination of all the spices with the molasses (nom nom). the only change i made to the recipe was using raw sugar in place of brown sugar (i still can't find my brown sugar from thanksgiving so i think i'm on strike for buying more until it shows itself). i also made these cookies much smaller to get about 4-5 dozen cookies. these cookies spread, so only put about 8 cookies per cookie sheet. bake about 5-6 minutes.

today, got stuck in bumper to bumper traffic right on my way home from work (i'm hoping this wasn't remnants from new year's eve fun and people forgot how to drive) but i passed 3 accidents. so de-stressing meant thinking about cookies to bake- aka, tool around with the cookie recipe to make it healthier and also more cakey (i like my cookies crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside!)

for the 2nd version i took out an entire stick of butter, 1/4 c of the sugar (the raw sugar), and put in two large spoonfuls of plain yogurt. the dough still came out incredibly wet and i had an even harder time rolling it in sugar (it was more a ploop into the sugar bowl then covering it in sugar and balling it up and shaking off as much sugar as possible). but these cookies were much poofier and cakier. also, less greasy. which i appreciated. these need to bake a bit longer to get the crisp on the outside, about 7-8 minutes is perfect texture in my opinion. 

in case you didn't get enough molasses in your life, i got one more goodie for you- spice molasses pumpkin bread adapted from circle b kitchen who adapted it from bon appetit. i made quite a few changes (out of pure laziness of not wanting to get more ingredients and nutritional preferences). plus, i only made 1 loaf.

Spiced Molasses Pumpkin Bread (1 loaf)

1/4 c white sugar
1/4 c plain yogurt
1/4 c robust molasses (I used Grandma's Molasses)
1 large egg
10 oz pumpkin puree
1.5 c flour
1/2 tsp group allspice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c raisins
1/2 c toasted walnuts, chopped
sprinkle of raw sugar, optional but recommended

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter one loaf pan.

Mix the sugar, yogurt, pumpkin and molasses in a large bowl to blend. Mix in the egg.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour, spices, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. Stir the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture in two additions. Mix in the walnuts and raisins.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan, sprinkle with raw sugar and bake 40-50 minutes.

since i took out all the fat from the recipe the sprinkled sugar on top helps to give the bread some crust. this bread is delish- moist from the pumpkin and raisins and the toasted walnuts fit perfectly with it. eummm, too bad i'm not as productive about the rest of my life when i get stuck in traffic. happy baking :) i really need to stop baking late at night so you can see the actual yummy color of the food!