Make Your Heart Smile

28 02 2007

My friend Cathy forwarded this link to me in an email. Her message was, “I promise this will make your heart smile.” And it did. Check it out. Go Juan Mann. Go Free Hugs.


The Crack Cocaine of Baked Goods

28 02 2007

I heard this commentary about Girl Scout Cookies last night on NPR. It’s written and read by Marc Acito, author of ‘How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater.’  I was hooked when I heard him say that Girl Scout Cookies are the “crack cocaine” of baked goods. If you eat the peanut butter Tagalongs like the folks in my household, you’ll identify immediately with that metaphor. We make Cookie Monster look finicky. If I don’t hide a box for myself, I’m not likely to get a taste at all.

 P.S. Scott, when you’re zipping through New Jersey next, do you think you can manage to drop off the TagAlongs before they get stale, or worse,  you eat them!

Riesling Night

27 02 2007

 As I mentioned in my previous post, this weekend was an continuation of The Endless Feast. Sunday was “Riesling Night with Old and Older
German Wines.” 

The food included one of my favorite dishes from Frances’ kitchen – lamb chop lollipops which were accompanied by lentil samoas – a reprise of Saturday’s potato samosas, hand-cranked saffron noodles,  veal scallopini, and another chinese cabbage dish served with Grant’s home made veal pancetta…very very yummy. I contributed venison sauerbraten, my first attempt ever at a sauerbraten, chocolate sour cherry sourdough bread, and fig anise sourdough bread.

The venison sauerbraten recipe came from Eat Like a Wild Man and was very tender and tangy. The gravy was a little sinful, but the instructions were a little vague about how much butter to use in the roux to thicken it…so I erred on the side of flavor and texture and used the butter very liberally.

One of the guests provide home made Greek desserts which consisted of something with a name I can’t begin to pronounce but that translates roughly to ‘milk pie’ and almond crescent cookies. The milk pies looked like cannolis and were made with farina and puff pastry. It was hard to eat just one.

 For the wine we opened two bottles of Joh. Jos. Prum’s spatlese riesling, a 1983 and a 2003. For those who believe that white wine doesn’t age, you have to try something like this. The contrast between the two wines was remarkable.

The younger one tingled on your tongue as if drops of fizzy gas were gently puckering up and kissing the inside of your mouth. The older one had the same flavor with a striking quality of richness. It’s like contrasting the difference between chocolate ice cream and chocolate sorbet. Both have the same satisfyingly sinful chocolate taste, but the ice cream has an almost intangible third dimension as it melts on your tongue and slides down your throat.

 We opened a third riesling which was also a Joh. Jos. Prum riesling. This one was a 1988 Auslese Wehlener Sonnenuhr.  It was a little sweeter than the other two and is typically considered a dessert wine from what I’ve read about German auslese wines.

To finish off our desserts, we had an eiswein from Wegman’s which one of the guest brought. Very very delicious!

Soiree and the Feast

25 02 2007

I’m in the midst of another chapter in The Endless Feast with my friends, Frances and Grant. This is a big food weekend for Frances.  She hosted 2 back-to-back meals yesterday, beginning with an afternoon tea soiree for some of her medical students and office colleagues which was followed by “Open That Bottle” night where we opened a number of unique and exotic bottles of wine from Grant’s cellar.

I’ve known Frances and Grant since our sons attended the same in-home daycare when they were 2 years old. I called them initially because they were listed as a reference for the daycare provider. Grant answered the phone and the conversation began and never ceased.That was almost 15 years ago now.

 Soon after that conversation, The Endless Feast began. And that, too, hasn’t abated in all this time. We just love to experiment with all manner of ingredients and cuisines. But more on that in another post…back to this weekend’s chapter.

Yesterday’s tea menu was an assortment of hors d’oeuvres which included both savories and sweets.  The savory goodies included pan roasted lamb with peanut sauce, Indian-style potato samosas with apricot chutney, falafels, hummus with cucumbers. We indulged in cherry clafoutis, chocolate babka-like crescent things (very very sinful), and a cherry danish-like pastry. I supplied the walnut bread and the baguettes.

The conversation roamed from education topics to giving a frog a cesarian section to comparing recipe notes to a lively discussion on the politics of the Iraq War.  I have yet to have a dull conversation in that household.

Open That Bottle Night was extraordinary! Grant decided that we couldn’t open a bottle that was younger than 25 years old. We had 2 bottles of French bordeaux and 2 sweet wines for dessert — a spectacular 106-year old bottle of  Portuguese Moscatel de Setubal and an equally spectacular bottle of  Hungarian Tokay. As you may have guessed, I’m a huge fan of dessert wines of all sorts and can more easily recall details about these than about the dinner wines. But I promise to get details and update!

The meal was stunningly simple in comparison to the beverages. Frances braised bison short ribs which she served with sticky Thai rice and sauteed Chinese cabbages.

We took pictures which I’ll post  with more details as soon as I get a copy.

Update:  Here’s a photo of the bottles. As you can see the reds were bordeaux wines from  Chateau Le Gay and Chateau Cheval Blanc.

Open That Bottle Night Bottles

A New No Guts

23 02 2007

For some time I’ve been blogging at thee original No Guts, No Glory.  I was disappointed to discover that Windows Live Spaces requires you, my loyal readers, to log in prior to leaving a comment. Because I know how imtimidating that can be, I decided to make a move, which I’ve been meaning to do for some time now. So ta da! It’s hear. Hopefully, this will be a lot easier for you…so please feel free to let me know what you think about what I write! 

I’m planning to move at least some of the posts over to this site. So don’t be surprised if you see duplicates. WordPress allows you to import from other blogs but not from Windows Live Spaces as far as I can tell…so it may be a manual process for me, which may put a serious crimp in my importing plans….we’ll see

An Africa Jacket of My Very Own

12 02 2007

Hoorah! Woohoo! On Saturday, I completed an Africa Jacket for my very own use. If you recall, I made jackets for my nieces using some materials I bought while visitng Africa. They looked so cute that I determined to make one for myself. Plus, I decided it was another opportunity to work out the design kinks. Taylor taught me to widen the sleeves somewhat…the sleeves of sweatshirts taper off more significantly than a normal jacket. Plus, I wanted to experiement with lining to hid all the seems of the decorative stitching.
So I set to work, and voila! I now have my own lined jacket! I also set parameters for myself with this one. I decided not to splurge on additional trims, but to challenge my creativity a little more and use what I already had at home. Those little baubles add up even though a half yard here and a quarter yard there don’t seem like a lot when you’re asking the store clerk to measure it out.

But I must say, I’m pleased with the results. It’s not quite as dramatic as Devon’s and Taylor’s jackets, but it will do. Rather than lots of shiny gold trim, I used antique buttons to add some sparkle and texture. Plus, I wanted to create some kind of closure that wouldn’t involve making buttonholes. And, that turned out alright as well.

So I’m wearing my jacket now as I write. And I promise to add a photo asap.

The Venison Dinner

1 02 2007

Last Saturday night, I hosted a feast for some of my more curious, adventurous, or perhaps I should say, devoted friends using venison as an Iron Chef ingredient. My Dad is the penultimate hunter, spending much of October through January tracking the wary beasts through “Penn’s woods” in both Potter and Lehigh counties. The result is that my parents’ freezer and, usually, mine are never empty!  

My dad processes the venison himself, a tedious and exhausting task. Thank goodness he’s usually so pumped from a successful hunt that there’s adrenaline to spare to carry him through this activity.

Depending on the size of the deer and the location of the gunshot or arrowhead, we enjoy many cuts of 100% organic, lean red meat. My dad uses an old family recipe to make his country breakfast sausage.  He has a local butcher cure the hindquarters into a prosciutto-like delicacy that Pennsylvania Germans call dried “beef”, and sometimes he has them season, cure, and smoke a blend of venison and pork into a sweet, tangy summer sausage. Everything else he cuts himself…roasts, steaks, cubes, “hamburger,” chipped steak, ribs, and the pièce de résistance – tenderloin – the filet mignon of the deer. 

This year my friends, Frances and Grant, and I added to the mix. With Grant’s insatiable desire for accumulating all manner of kitchen gadgets, Frances’ extraordinary cooking skills, and our mutual addiction to experimenting with all kinds of cuisines and all types of ingredients, the three of us, accompanied by our sometimes, non-plussed boys,  have been on an endless culinary journey for the past 13+ years.  

So one cold and gray December Sunday, we experimented with Grant’s newest and most exciting appliances – a commercial grade grinder, a sausage press and a smoker. We managed to transform some ground venison into a lovely sausage subtly flavored with dried cherries, a traditional breakfast sausage, Italian sausage with fennel seeds, and our own first attempt at smoked summer sausage.  

Working from this stockpile of frozen delights I set to work. We started off with thin slices of dried beef wrapped around slivers of kiwi, cold summer sausage accompanied with honey mustard dressing, gruyere cheese, and my specialty, homemade baguettes and walnut bread. I pan-fried all 4 types of sausage, serving the cherry sausage cold with slices of pear, the Italian sausage with green peppers, tomatoes, and onions, the breakfast sausage with baby potatoes, and my dad’s country sausage with a warm horseradish sauce.  

The next course included fall-off-the-bone ribs which I roasted with a homemade tangy barbecue sauce. Grant contributed smoked scallops and shrimp for variety and to cover those among us who might have been questioning the wisdom of accepting this dinner invitation.  

Then it was time for the main attractions…tenderloin medallions served medium-rare with a fruity, rosemary, red wine reduction and a garlic roast with a jus prepared from venison stock. I added sides of wild rice and a dried corn casserole to complement this “wild” meal.  

And, we ate and ate and ate and ate.  I don’t think anyone went home hungry.  

I just want to thank all my brave dinner guests for hanging in there with me. Some, like my parents and Frances and Grant, have come to expect that every meal at my house is something of an adventure. But the rest of you guys – surprise, surprise, surprise and thank you, thank you, thank you! 

Originally posted here.