Local Libation

Mead.

According to their website this Apple Mead is made with a special mash of Indian Ladder Farms apples combined with fermented honey.

It looked seasonally appropriate for an almost fall evening. Something different then the usual wine or pumpkin beers (is anyone else already sick of hearing about these?)

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This locally made mead (which Google tells me is the oldest form of alcohol?) is hard to describe.

On the tongue it is fizzy and at first inhale taste like cider, but goes down with a stronger, more fermented and alcoholic flavor. There is hardly any aftertaste, neither negative nor positive. Making it a comforting drink to cozy up with.

Sniffing the glass is scarily similar to paint thinner or rubbing alcohol, with a feeling of impending doom. Followed by the light fizz of a cider and the sharp hit of fermented….other. I’m assuming honey. The more I sip it, the more it reminds me of a heavier red wine, lingering in a heavier way than white wine or cider. Sometimes it felt uncomfortably like drinking perfume, other sips were more like a well crafted cocktail.

In summation, it went very well with my chicken soup (not to brag, but my chicken soup was pretty good stuff).

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I would get it again. I will get it again. Maybe try the other varieties.

Thoughts?

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Roadtrip and Repeats

On Sunday, Mister and I went on a mini road trip to just north of Lake George.  We had booked an hour trail ride at the Circle B Ranch, and were luckily blessed with the most amazing end of summer weather for the day.  It was perfectly warm and breezy as we wandered through the woods on horseback, guided by Joe and his son, Joey.

All that sitting around and nature-enjoying made us hungry.  So when we drove past Oscar’s Adirondack Smoke House afterwards, we had to stop for a quick bite.

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Seriously drool worthy. We split a cheddar cheese stuffed Bratwurst, which I liberally topped with some of their beer mustard and extra sauerkraut. Thankfully Mister appreciates sauerkraut too. The Brat had a perfect snap to the casing, making it a hearty bite versus a mushy chew.

We reluctantly got back in the car, sad that we were far from home with an uncertain afternoon which made us reluctant to load up on anything perishable from the store. We headed towards Lake George and walked around for just a bit.

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I was EXTREMELY disappointed by what was available for a quick bite; everything was closed, overpriced, or just unappealing (like an ice cream shop right on the water that reeked of bleach, or the dreary generic upstate pizza that was nearly $10 for two slices. I settled on two scoops of fancy ice cream to curb my crankiness until we got home. I’m not sure I see the appeal to Lake George? Did we miss some gem?

Some things are more reliably good. Like the baked eggs I’ve been making all week. I’m on my third…maybe fourth batch in just over a week. The recipe started as a crust-less quiche courtesy of my friend Erika. Out of laziness, and forgetfulness, I altered the recipe a bit based on what I remembered to buy at the store, and what had to get used up from the fridge. The basic is a scoop of cottage cheese, a cup or so of egg whites, and three-six eggs depending on how much you want to make. This gets whisked together and put in a baking dish that has already been coated with baking spray. I’ve played around with fillings, the most popular so far being baby spinach, onions, peppers, and honey turkey. My most successful tactic seems to be layering half the egg mixture, then filling, then the rest of the egg, all topped with a generous coating of shredded cheese.
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Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or until a toothpick/knife/cake tester comes out clean. Its light and fluffy, while being hearty enough to power through morning. I’ve paired it with toast, a muffin, or some fruit and yogurt on the side. Hot or cold, its a consistently delicious dish.

Fed Like Family

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Last night Mister and I went to Ferrari’s restaurant for an abundant meal of carbs served in an atmosphere that I can only liken to a Grandmother’s living room. It was perfect.

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Upon arriving you wait in this cozy, slightly cramped, bar / vestibule. The bar tender appears to be possibly the owner, maybe family of the owner. He was friendly, welcoming: greeting regulars by name, teasing the staff, and making sure everyone felt at home while they waited.

The hostess popped back and forth from the mysterious dining room and the bar area, promising we would be seated in no time even without reservations. Sure enough, we were taken back there in under 15 minutes or so, though the wait was as enjoyable as the dinner to come, serving as an introduction to family atmosphere.

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The wood paneling. The framed family pictures. Mismatched dishes. It was just like someone had pushed the couches aside only moments earlier to set up extra tables for the expanding dinner party.

Service was efficient, the waitstaff seemed to appear at just the right moment to take orders and deliver food, while leaving us plenty of time to talk and relax with the cold wine.

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The bread basket that arrived was good quality bread but it was cold and sad. I didn’t want to waste any calories or stomach space, so I pushed it to the side once our salads arrived. Included with entrees, we both requested the house dressing. It was a slightly more complex Italian dressing that worked perfectly over the perfunctory mixed salad. These salads are the hallmark of local red sauce restaurants, highlighted by sharp cheese and sweet roasted red peppers.

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Starting with fried calamari, we were delivered these light, crispy morsels of tender squid. They weren’t the least bit chewy, and I was able to fully enjoy the salty, lemony goodness only made better by the bright sauce served on the side. It was thick with plum tomatoes, and lighter than their marinara.

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Mister chose chicken Parmesan, while I went with their Chicken Antonio. These giant chicken dishes arrived crisp with bowls of pasta. My chicken was egg dipped, crispy, but sitting in a perfectly tart sauce of lemon, wine, and garlic. I wanted a spoon to really enjoy the sauce on its own, it was that good. Light and decadent.

The chicken Parmesan was crispy in its breakind, thin. Neither chicken cutlet was dry or over cooked, which is sometimes the downfall of such giant portions or basic dishes. Ferrari’s marinara sauce is anything but basic. With the perfect consistency, neither too thick nor thin, with a bright tomato flavor I surprised myself with how much I liked it. Normally, I find marinara overwhelming when it’s costing my entree and my pasta, but this sauce was sweet without being cloying and had an actual depth of flavor. I just barely regret not ordering some.

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Instead of marinara, I requested garlic and oil on my linguini. Mister went with Alfredo on his spaghetti, and the table was covered with an overwhelming amount of food. According to their menu, pasta is cooked to order and to allow for extra time for this. The pasta was certainly al dente, mine came dripping with garlicky unctuous oil.

The only downfall, aside from the cold bread, was the side order of meatballs Mister ordered as an afterthought. They had the most unpleasant texture, and I’m not even sure how to politely describe them. It took effort to swallow my one bite; soft and squishy like white bread, with an aftertaste I would equate to the taste left in my mouth if I mistakenly breath in to deeply near the container of dog food. These were pretty terrible. They were not frozen, but they were not crispy on the outside and had a puréed, bready texture.

Meatballs aside, we had a fantastic night. We were not rushed in the slightest, even with a line out the door once we left. Our stomach full of garlic, chicken, wine, and pasta it was one of the best date nights we had in a while. Although pricy ($81.00), we have enough leftovers for at least two more meals. But it was more than the food or the price, it was the lighthearted feeling of a warm room filled with conversation and laughing. Shared meals and family reverberated from the wood paneling. Hardly weighed down from the gluttonous meal, instead I left relieved of the week’s stresses, lighter in spirit.

Resolve to Bake

I will bake more. I will bake more. I will bake more.

I’m trying. Solemnly swear.

This enthusiasm for warm food and fall flavors drove me to try a muffin recipe. This is from an old Cooking Light cookbook I unearthed from my shelf.

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I didn’t have dates, or pineapple. Subbed in some figs, diced apple, and pecan bits instead of walnuts. Oh and I didn’t have any bananas in the freezer (weird right?!) so I used one almost ripe banana and extra Greek yogurt.

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I also added some vanilla and pumpkin pie spice. I should’ve added more. These muffins were so moist and texturally perfect with the apples and pecans. But so bland. So bland. Ugh. Oh well, nothing extra butter and jam can’t fix.

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The Enthusiasm Continues

The kitchen madness has continued. Through dinner and was only reignited during the rainy morning.

Last night I indulged Mister with some chicken and biscuits (aka chicken and dumplings…is this all the same dish?)

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I pulled down the trusty crueset and started by browning chunks of chicken with diced onion.

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To this I added mixed frozen vegetables, and the gooey, gelatinous goodness of Campbell’s condensed soup. There is something so soothing about this thick, reliable substance. Maybe it’s the preservatives, or the chemicals, but sometimes the comfort derived from a Campbell’s casserole just feels perfect. It settles over everything in a gentle, even coating; coaxed along with a few stirs and a cup or so of water.

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While that is heating through, I mixed up some Bisquick with water.

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The trick here is to add a bit of seasoning not only to the soupy mixture but the biscuit dough as well. I like garlic and paprika, a dash of salt and pepper. Then glob it onto the top of the bubbling soup. I try to leave spaces, crevices almost like rivers, to allow for easier serving.

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10 minutes uncovered. 10 minutes covered. Eat.

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It’s so classic, easy. Inexpensive and satisfies your stomach on a deeper level. Like hot cocoa after sledding, a bowl of this sticks with you in all of it’s gluey goodness.

Falling for Autumn

Saturday was cold and rainy. I passed the time thinking about steamy casseroles, soul soothing soups, and spicy scents filling my oven.

I wrote down some ideas, printed out a handful of recipes. They were put on hold until today when I had the time. Cooking deserves time when you want it to comfort and soothe. Zapping a nutritious meal into being in moments is always possible, but sometimes the act of mixing and creating is more therapeutic.

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I started with a simple bread in the bread machine. I had too many ideas and too little counter space to focus on just the bread, so the lovely gadget filled my kitchen with a luscious smell while I moved onto my other projects.

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I wanted a soup that was filling and luscious. Fresh sage and onion mingled with butter until fragrant. These were joined by butternut squash (pre diced by Trader Joes), chicken broth (found in the pantry), some apples, and some tofu (I wanted silken but TJs only had extra firm today).

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Letting that simmer while covered I pulled out another pan for project number two. (three counting that bread)

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My friend made an inspiring quiche while I was at her house over Labor Day weekend so I borrowed the recipe. I bought all the ingredients with the best intentions and then got distracted. Cottage cheese got subbed instead of ricotta. Peppers were added instead of spinach.

Spraying a pan with cooking spray, I softened onions and some frozen peppers. Once cooked, I put those in a pie dish (also coated with nonstick spray). In a seperate bowl I whisked egg whites, three eggs, half a cup of cottage cheese, some random seasonings and a handful of shredded cheese (it was the assorted kind from Trader Joes). Baked at 350° for about thirty minutes it looks great.

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I’ve still got the spinach and ricotta for the next one. The goal is egg for breakfast, soup for lunch.

Remember that soup I started? While the eggs were in the oven I used my kitchenaid immersion blender to purée that goodness. The sage was the best decision. It made the soup savory in an intense way that played well with the ginger and cinnamon I had liberally added.

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I hope this cooking spree keeps up long enough to sustain me through the impending cold. It’s like an expecting mother nesting for her child to be, the cold inspires me to settle in with a ladle and a crockpot.

Crafting Frosting

I’m not a huge fan of baking. It’s to precise. I’m not. But I excel at frosting.

This batch is for our volunteer dinner tomorrow night at work. What better way to celebrate a ships crew than with strong coffee chocolate frosting over a coffee flavored cupcake.

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I looked at the recipe on the back of the powdered sugar box for a general idea of ingredients. Then added them a bit at a time to the trusty kitchen aid until it looked like frosting.

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Softened unsalted butter, softened cream cheese, powdered sugar, splash of almond milk, cocoa powder, coffee extract.

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