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Sunday, May 30, 2010


Never mind food, how 'bout that Roy Halladay and his perfect game!  MB didn't understand why I was so excited about it until she found out that it was just the 20th one in MLB history.  Of course, the Phils only scored 1 run, but that's for another day.

And whoever put a bag of strawberries on our back porch this morning...thanks!

Enjoy your weekend.

Friday, May 28, 2010


Just a few things while getting ready for the Memorial Day weekend to start...

What are your Memorial Day plans?  As the "unofficial start to summer", I'm sure there will be plenty of grills working this weekend.  We'll be at my sister/brother-in-law's celebrating the 8th birthday of my nephew, Ethan.  His bday is actually on Sunday--the same day as my parents' 46th wedding anniversary.  Congrats, Mom & Dad!

We're taking a trip to Vermont for a few days very soon.  Jake's very excited.  We're going to try to see a yak farm (they thrive in the VT winters!), a glassblower, Ben & Jerry's, Vermont Teddy Bear Factory, Shelburne Farm (a huge working farm with animals, educational stuff, cheese making, walking paths, etc).  I was just reading an article about a town called Hardwick, which is the home to a large number of cooperative food businesses that basically saved the town.  We might try to visit there--it's supposed to have a great organic gourmet restaurant.  Have you been to VT?  What do you like to do there?

Farmers' markets are starting to open all around the area.  I'll be making 3 appearances at 3 different markets throughout the summer--Ottsville, Plumsteadville Grange & Indian Valley.  Look for more info in the future.

Enjoy your holiday weekend.  Eat well, have fun, be safe and don't forget to take some time out to reflect on those that we honor with the day.  Things could be quite different around here if it weren't for them.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


A couple weeks ago, I wrote briefly about an event taking place on June 24--a screening of the Fresh: The Movie.  Here's some more information.

The film will be shown at The County Theater in Doylestown at 7:00 PM.  It profiles farmers, thinkers and businesspeople who are trying to change the food culture in our country to forge healthier, sustainable alternatives to agri-business. 

Following the film will be a discussion with experts in local vegetable farming, cattle farming, locavore dining and more!  Included in the panel will be myself, Lynne Goldman of Bucks County Taste, Ryman Maxwell of Down to Earth Cafe, Tom Murtha of Blooming Glen Farm CSA, Henry Rosenberger of Tussock Sedge Farm and (possibly) more.  Share your thoughts on these topical issues and have your questions answered by people who are doing these things right in our area.

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased in advance by going to www.countytheater.org/store (click on "event tickets").

Even if you can't attend, you can help us to spread the word by telling people about it.  If you'd like a poster to post or share via email, let me know and I'll send one out to you.  It should be an informative, thought-provoking and fun evening.  Hope to see you there!

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Most Important Meal of the Day

With more and more fresh produce showing up as we get further and further into the growing season, we can't wait to have a fresh salad at lunch or grill up some veggies with our dinner.  But what about breakfast?  Why, unlike most other countries in the world, are vegetables not a breakfast staple for us? 

Sure, we often have fruit on our cereal, in our yogurt or on our pancakes, but what about tomatoes or cucumbers or bell peppers?  (And I'm not talking about a veggie omelet.)  A traditional breakfast dish in Israel is tomato-cucumber salad (photo at left--by Eve Turow).  Pickled vegetables are often on the Japanese breakfast table.  I remember traveling in England and with EVERY breakfast, there were grilled tomatoes (in addition to the 4 different kinds of meats and potatoes). 

Here in the US, veggies are relegated to the later meals of the day.  But doesn't it make sense to start the day with fresh veggies?  As food writer Eve Turow says in an NPR.com article:
[E]ating vegetables early in the day provides vitamins and minerals. One cup of tomatoes has over half the recommended daily vitamin C, and bell peppers provide a day’s worth of vitamins A and C. One cup of broccoli has 5 grams of dietary fiber, while a medium artichoke has 10 grams of dietary fiber, 40 percent of the recommended daily allotment. As sources of antioxidants and dietary fiber, vegetables are a perfectly sensible way to start your day.
At the business EXPO I did last week, I made Bacon & Corn Johnnycakes--essentially cornmeal pancakes with bacon and corn in them.  There was a lot of batter left, so we cooked them up at home and froze them to eat later.  They're great for breakfast!  I know, corn is sort of a semi-veggie, but still, you wouldn't normally think of them for breakfast.  But drizzle a little maple syrup over top and it's a meal!

So as your gardens start to put forth their bounty and you visit all the great farmers' markets, think about how you might start your day in a fresh, nutritious way.  It's a lot cheaper than an airplane ticket! 

Read the rest of Eve Turow's article, including some great recipes, by clicking here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Down on the Farm

Earlier than usual, we got our veggie plants in the ground last weekend.  I'm no gardener, but I love having a veggie garden.  To me, there's not much better than biting into a juicy tomato fresh from the back yard.  Mmm...can't wait until they're ready.

We have 2 beds, but they're not huge.  We have the usual suspects: a variety of tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, 2-3 kinds of eggplant, green beans, summer squash & zucchini.  New for us this year are watermelon, broccoli & ground cherries.  (By the way, if any of you know how to use ground cherries, let me know.  We just bought them because we thought it would be something different.)  We also have a bunch of different herbs--basil, cinnamon basil, parsley, etc.  (See my previous post about herbs.)  The beds aren't much to look at now, but we're hoping they'll be thriving soon.  We used mushroom soil this year--on the suggestion of many.

This year, Jake has his "Jacob Garden" (toward the top of the picture above) where he's got the green beans and broccoli growing--2 of his favorites.  He's also growing zinnias that he started at school and a sunflower that he got at the Ape House at the Philly Zoo, of all places.  He wanted the watermelon, but we needed more room for them that the Jacob Garden can offer.

Let me know about your gardens--what are your favorite things to grow, what new things have you tried this year, etc. 

Good luck!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cook Me Tender

Jake's latest joke:

What's green and wiggles in your soup?

Elvis Parsley!

We thought it was funny.

It was good seeing so many of you out at the EXPO yesterday.  I hope you enjoyed the samples I had.  I met some new friends and caught up with some people I haven't seen since...well, let's just say it's been a while.  A long while!

If you couldn't make it yesterday, stop by at Pasqualina's Italian Market & Deli on Saturday, May 29 from 11AM to 3PM.  I'll have some yummy stuff for you to try made from some of the great items that Pasqualina's carries--cheese, olives, olive oil, pasta.  Come hungry and grab one of their delicious subs for lunch.  Pasqualina's is located at 1259 Souderton Rd (Rt 113) in Blooming Glen.  See you there!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Oh Wow!

After a long day of planting our garden on Saturday (more in another post), we decided to be lazy and go out for some food. 

We headed over to Tabora Farm & Orchard (1104 Uppers Stump Rd, Chalfont, PA, 18914) for some dinner.  If you haven't been to Tabora (or haven't been there in a while), you're in for a treat when you do get there.  Besides veggies, fruits and other food items for sale, they have a huge prepared food/deli section.  Be wary--it takes a long time to decide on all the great offerings!  Sandwiches, salads, soups...loads to choose from.  I got a great chicken salad sandwich (with grapes and apples on homemade bread), MB got some chili and Jake got some tasty chicken fingers.  MB & I split a Portobello Stacker--grilled portobello mushroom, tomato slice, grilled chicken breast, garlic spinach and goat cheese all stacked up (thus the name).  Really tasty. 

Tabora also boast loads of freshly baked goods--from sweet things (cookies, danish, etc) to savory items (stuffed rolls, etc).  It smells so good in there.  They also have ice cream made in-house.  Some interesting flavors like rosemary and lemon thyme.

But we were getting dessert later.  So we headed over to Lake Nockamixon to eat and my parents came to meet us because we were headed to Owowcow Creamery for ice cream!

Simply said, Owowcow (4105 Durham Rd, Ottsville, PA, 18942) has the best ice cream I've ever had.  They make everything in small batches and from local or organic ingredients.  The flavors change all the time--you'll want to taste every one of them.  They have 3 different kinds of vanilla!  I had chocolate-raspberry (with real raspberries) and blueberry-lemon (also with real fruit).  MB got some coffee-chocolate flavor.  Jake got his favorite--mint-chocolate chip (with fresh mint).  My mom got almond-coconut-chocolate chip and Dad got strawberry-rhubarb (again, with real fruit).  Man, it's just incredible stuff.  You have to at least try the chocolate-jalapeno if they have it when you go.  Delicious!  Intense dark chocolate followed by the heat.  Awesome! 

It's so great having places like this all around us.  We were talking on the way home how it's funny how it's so in vogue to eat like everyone did 100 years ago--fresh ingredients, local food.  That's a trend I can deal with!

Off subject--Don't forget to stop in at the Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce's Business EXPO tomorrow from noon-6PM at Quakertown High School.  Be sure to find my booth for some sample and to sign up for a chance to win a $25 Dinner's Done gift certificate!

Saturday, May 15, 2010


A sure sign of spring is the appearance of fresh, ripe strawberries.  We have a few plants just outside our back door and, with the warm weather we've been having over the last few weeks, they're closer to ripe than usual for this date.  In fact, many pick-your-own farms are already in full swing. 

Of course, local foods are better tasting, more nutritious and help to support our local businesses.  But I found it interesting that, according to www.pickyourown.org:
Consumer Reports says store bought strawberries have so many pesticide and fungicide residues on they, that they don't recommend you eat them!
Makes finding local berries even more worth it. 

Read my Bucks County Taste piece, Pick-your-own strawberries in Bucks to find out tips on picking berries and some of the many places in Bucks County to do some picking.

Friday, May 14, 2010


A few things on a beautiful Friday afternoon:

On Thursday, June 24, I'll be part of a group sponsoring a screening of Fresh: The Movie at the County Theater in Doylestown.  It's a film about people who are trying to change the way this country eats--through natural and healthy farming.  It will make you realize how good food really can be if we just do things the right way.  After the film, there will be a discussion with a panel of experts--local farmers, restaurant owners and more.  Should be a fun and informative evening.  Mark your calendars and keep your eye out for more information.

I'll be taking part in the Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce's Business EXPO next Tuesday, May 18.  The event takes place from noon to 6:00PM at Quakertown Community High School, 600 Park Ave, Quakertown, PA, 18951.  Stop in to check out what local businesses have to offer.  And be sure to stop at my table for some free samples--Cranberry Orzo Salad and Bacon/Corn Johnnycakes--and to sign up for my monthly e-newsletter and for a chance to win a $25.00 Dinner's Done gift certificate.

Did you know that TastyKake now has Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes with DARK chocolate?  Mmmm...

Go Flyers!

Thursday, May 13, 2010


A new study has shown that eating about a third of a cup of nuts each day can reduce "total cholesterol levels by 5.1 percent and 'bad' LDL cholesterol by 7.4 percent".  That same amount of nuts, according to the study, can improve the ratio of "bad" to "good" cholesterol and reduce triglyceride levels.  The study concludes that it doesn't really matter what kinds of nuts are eaten to get these results.

Of course, as is always the case, this potentially good news is tempered by the fact that nuts are high in calories and fat.  But since they're also a good source of protein, dietary fiber, some vitamins and antioxidants, moderation is recommended.  No sense in eating a bucket of nuts each day and becoming an obese person with good cholesterol levels, right?

If you'd like to read more of the article from HealthDay, click here.   

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


OK, here's a quick quiz.  What is scorzonera?

A-A fine Italian sports car.
B-A disease affecting the liver.
C-A musical term meaning "to play in a somber manner".
D-A root vegetable.

Since this isn't a car, medical or music blog, you probably guessed that the answer is "D". 

I just ran across an article about this strange looking vegetable. It is long with black skin (that stains).

It apparently, is very much like the vegetable, salsify.  But like the author of the article, that doesn't help me much because I've never eaten or cooked salsify.  You can read more about scorzonera in the article from The Atlantic by clicking here.

I find it fascinating that there are so many foods out there that we've never tried--and many we've never heard of.  The world of food always seems to bring something new.  So, try it...you might like it!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Marinating for Mom

On Mother's Day, we had the whole family over to celebrate moms & grandmothers.  We were counting on the weather to be as nice as it was earlier in the week, but you know how that works out.  Of course, the kids didn't care too much.  They had a great time playing on the swingset and playing baseball and Find Uncle Pete  (all the parents love when Uncle Pete's around).

We were making flank steak and, as usual, I turned to America's Test Kitchen for a great recipe.  I figured that I'd pass it on since it's delicious and very easy.

Garlic-Shallot-Rosemary Wet Paste Marinade (makes enouhg for a 2-pound flank steak)
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
6 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary

Puree all of the ingredients in a blender until smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender jar as needed.

For the steak, trim and pat dry a 2-pound flank steak, then put in a rimmed baking sheet.  Using a dinner fork, prick the steak about 20 times on each side.  Rub both sides evenly with salt (about 1 teaspoon) and then the paste.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour or up to 24 hours.

The recipe says to wipe the paste off with paper towels when ready to grill, but I didn't and it came out great.  You can do what you want.  Season with black pepper.  Grill 4-6 minutes, then flip and grill until the 2nd side is well browned--about 3-6 minutes.  A thermometer should read 125 degrees for medium-rare or 135 for medium.  Cooking flank steak more than medium isn't recommended.  Unless you like shoe leather.

When up to temp, remove from grill and let rest 5-10 minutes, tented loosely with foil.  Using a sharp chef's knife or carving knife, slice the steak about 1/4 inch thick against the grain and on the bias.  Serve immediately. 

Easy, quick and tasty.  The best kind of meal!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Amish Country

On Saturday, we made our yearly pilgrimage to the Amish Country to pick up things for our veggie and flower gardens.  Every year we go out with my parents and make a day of it.  The weather even cooperated for most of the day.

As we usually do, we started with a trip to Sadie's Bakery.  Sadie's is one of those places where, if you're giving directions to get there,  you say something like: "Go into Churchtown; turn right after that one church.  At that one big farm, turn right.  Then after the field with the big work horses in it, go up the hill.  It's on the left.  You can't miss it."  Once inside, though, you just want sit down and start tasting each donut, pie, whoopie pie, cake, apple fritter....So good.  And fresh.  The creme-filled Long Johns are awesome.

We went to our usual greenhouses and stocked up on a bunch of tomato varieties, peppers, eggplant, herbs, melons, etc.  We don't have a very big veg garden, but it's big enough to supply us with goodies for much of the summer.  Luckily, we didn't have time to put them in the ground yet--with the freezing temps at night lately, they would have been in trouble.  So they sit on our porch with sheets over them until the weather gets better.  Just can't wait to be able to go out and pull off a delicious, fresh tomato.  Could very well be my favorite thing about summer--next to baseball, I guess.  Jake has asked for part of our veg garden as a "Jacob Garden"--we'll put green beans and other things he likes in there.  He's very excited about that.

It always amazes me how much earlier the growing season is out there than it is here.  And it sure is a beautiful area--the rolling hills and fields are something out of a postcard.  Not to mention the great produce and meats.  Next time we go out, we're planning on filling our pie holes with the Shady Maple Smorgasbord breakfast.  Now, where are those stretchy pants?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Dinner's Done...and then some

Some people wonder how much food is made for a standard 5x4 personal chef service.  Well, the 5x4 means 4 servings of 5 different entrees and side dishes (where appropriate--some dishes are sort of "all inclusive" and don't really need a side).  It's a lot of food--for a couple, that's 10 meals.  5 meals for a family of 4. 

Here's a picture of just some of the food I made yesterday.  They're cooling before being packaged for the freezer.  Sesame Asparagus, Chicken Enchiladas with Salsa Verde, Turkey Cutlets in Port Wine Sauce, Orange-Apricot Chicken, Broccoli-Pine Nut Bake, Herb & Lemon Green Beans, among other dishes. 

You can always find out about the 5x4 and other services that I offer at my website: www.MyChefSite.com/DinnersDonePA

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Just a few random thoughts for today:

Went to the Philly Zoo yesterday with Jake, MB & my dad.  Beautiful weather and not crowded at all.  A very nice day.  It's one of animal-crazed Jake's favorite places.  Of course, work was being done on the lion area and they weren't out--much to the dismay of Jake.  But a lot of the animals were up and moving about, so we really got to see a lot of cool stuff.

Want to try something strange?  I just opened a bag of cheeseburger flavored Doritos.  Strangely, they taste like...well...cheeseburgers.  Modern science has somehow given them the ability to have chips with the taste of meat, cheese, mustard, ketchup, pickle.  It's like a bloody horror movie--pretty disgusting, but for some reason, you can't stay away. 

I just found some local (NJ) asparagus at Bolton's Farm Market in Silverdale.  Not the easiest thing to find, but getting a little easier this time of the year.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Hi. My name is Herb.

One of the things I really love about this time of year--and as we move through the summer--at least cooking-wise, is the availability of fresh herbs.  So nice to use them without having to pay a fortune for them in the supermarket.  Fresh herbs just add so much to pretty much anything that you cook. 

Years ago, we planted some oregano and chives in a flower bed at our place and they have been coming up bigger and bigger each year.  We usually just use the oregano until it dies--there's obviously more than enough than we need.  I should really dry some at the end of the season. 

We've also got a rosemary plant that barely hangs on through the winter.  A few varieties of thyme and sage survive in pots and somehow, we had tarragon grow in a tiny pot on our windowsill during the winter.  Of course, there's the Attack of the Killer Mint.  For those of you who have planted mint before, you know that it just spreads and spreads.  Eventually, you have to call in the National Guard to stop it.  We'll plant some of our favorite, basil, in a week or so along with some others--parsley, etc.  Supposedly, if you plant your basil next to your tomato plants, the flavor of the tomatoes is enhanced by the basil.  To me, you can't get much better tasting than a fresh tomato, but that's for another post.

Fresh herbs should be added to dishes at the last minute, so the fresh taste is not diminished by the heat of cooking.  Use dried herbs for things like sauces, that need to be cooked for a long time.  Be wary of dried herbs, though.  Things like oregano dry fine.  But herbs like basil, don't.  Dried basil doesn't taste anything like basil, if you ask me.  There aren't many herbs that are worthwhile substituting dried for fresh.  If you must, use about half of what the recipe calls for if using dried in place of fresh.  My suggestion is that you just use another kind of herb that you have on hand instead of using dried.

I have used freeze dried dill.  It looks and smells like fresh and you use it in the same amount as fresh.  Not bad in a pinch.