the aviary–cafe and creperie

mom always has a to-do list of places to go , people to see, and food to eat, for me when i arrive home.  top on the list was the aviary, a creperie in downtown springfield.  it once was a boutique and now is a super cute cafe that has a french, victorian greenhouse feel.  i sent mom to the bathroom just to check it out.  her conclusion “it just makes you want to use christmas lights and twigs for all your decorating”

tha aviary

the menu has savory crepes, sweet crepes, salads, soup, daily specials and dinner specials.  they also are open for brunch starting at 8am.  we got there around 11:30 and there was already a 30 minute wait.  so my advice call ahead to have your name on the list or pop in, put your name in and then wander into the shops near by, like we did.  mom already as some stocking stuffers purchased now.

once we got seated mom decided on their BLT special which was in panini form.  i went with coq au vin crepes.  julia child in her book “my life in france” goes on endlessly about the horrible ways in which people are ruining the recipe of coq au vin.  this of course has made me want to try it ever since but the only recipe i have for it involves a crock pot and i pretty certain that recipe wouldn’t be julia child approved.

coq au vin crepes

the meal was like chicken stew wrapped into sweet, hot custom made crepes.  i opted for the side salad that had balsamic vinegar dressing and apples in it.  the thing though that i liked the most, purely for its aesthetics was that when you ordered water you got you own chilled glass bottle to refill your glass with. trés magnifique!

its the little details that count

Sunday, July 24, 2011: A McCartney Meal and a bittersweet anniversary

I’m not going to lie to you, but yesterday was a hard day. A year ago Sunday two wonderful things happened to me: I started my 6 month sabbatical and I (with all my family) saw Paul McCartney in concert. Both events changed me as a person in ways I can’t even begin to explain, so Sunday was there was some reflecting and serious sadness going on…and that’s just the truth.

To celebrate our first meeting with our pal Paul, I made a meal from one of Linda McCartney’s cookbooks and homemade cornbread with the Sanford’s baked beans.

At the last moment I decided to add a swirl of honey to the top of the corn bread and it made a crispy, sweet coating…very interesting.

Sanford baked beans is a recipe from our beloved and neighborly-basically-family members, yes, you guessed it, the Sanford’s. John and I leave out the bacon which might drive one of the Sanford’s a little crazy, but hey…we just don’t dig on swine.

Linda’s meal all took place on the grill. It involved marinated vegetables and veggie sausage kabob and egg dipped, garlic stuffed cornmeal potatoes.

Here’s pictures from our grilling process– John was the man in charge of the keeping the fires burning.

pre-grilling/ post-boiling

Ok, here’s the story on the potatoes. The Linda McCartney cookbook I have is used and the cook who owned it before me took detailed notes on what was good or not and why and altered the recipes. If you’ve read Harry Potter then you’ll get the “Half-Blood vegetarian” feel of this next section. The cook noted that these potatoes were “bland, despite the garlic, but the cornmeal crust had a nice crunch.” I thought, “I can add garlic powered and pepper to the cornmeal and that will solve the bland issue.

Dang it! It didn’t work. I have to remember the Half-blood vegetarian is always right.

For dessert we decided to walk down to Sonic for ‘Blasts.”

I got Oreo and John got Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup…can you tell which is which?

They were both almost too melt-y to eat, so we ate the whipped cream off the top and put them in freezer to “reconstitute themselves” as John said. Guess what’s for dessert tonight!

meatless monday: sun-dried tomato alfredo

i totally failed this monday at being meatless 😦  but it wasn’t really a conscious decision.  mondays i open the cafe at work.  which means i have to start moving around at 4:3oam so i aim ready and coherent when i show up at work at 6am.  at 5am after downing my breakfast of leftover pancakes and bacon i looked at my empty plate, slammed my hands down on the table in frustration and declared aloud “ITS MEATLESS MONDAY! DAMN IT!”  the rest of the day, though meatless, felt like a tainted failure.

the difference between making ordinary food and making spectacular food is thinking a little outside of the box.  pre-made items are easy, and sometimes really delicious on their own but why keep it as its original self.  this was my thought when conceiving my dinner for meatless monday.  looking in my pantry i had a jar of paul newman’s alfredo and a jar of sun-dried tomatoes.  viola one yummy thing turned into extra yummy.  i toyed with the idea of also adding curry powder to the sauce, curried, sun-dried tomato alfredo. it could be a total hit but for now i played it safe.

and i give thanks to paul newman for this yumminess

 

sunday night dinner: july 17, 2011–southwest chicken cheesy skillet

the very first recipe i have saved in my book or clipped out food ideas, is southwest chicken cheesy skillet. i saved this recipe probably over 6 years ago and haven’t made it in about 4.  but i thought it was worth another go since it was the first recipe in my book, i mean i must have saved it for a reason.

my first saved recipe

 

the most important decision i have before starting to cook is what apron to wear.  i collect vintage aprons. what makes an apron worthy enough for me to buy……1.  it has to be under $10 2. it has to be vintage and not a reproduction 3. color and design (i’m a sucker for ric-rac)  i will admit most the time i coordinate them with my outfits.

my navy floral apron

nothing is more american in a recipe than velveeta cheese. the question i always catch myself asking when cutting it up is…..what is cheese food?  the recipe didn’t call for it but i also added in red beans.  i’m trying to learn to work with dried beans because they are cheaper but that also means i got to soak them. preplanning for something like that is not my strong suit.  the first time i did this i followed the directions 2 cups of water for 1 cup of beans soaked 24 hours.  the beans were still crunchy.  so this time i did 2 1/2 cups of water and soaked the beans for almost 3 days.  the beans were still crunchy.  what is the trick to this?  i’m not ready to give up. any helpful hints?

can't go wrong with cheese food and rotel

i have also started to catch on with these recipes that only involve a skillet.  there is no way all that food can fit into a normal size skillet.  it always goes to the top and when you start adding and stirring everything in, in various stages, food always starts over-flowing on the sides.  from here on out these recipes are going into a deep saucepan.  the whole meal ended up being a hodge-podge of sorts with the southwest cheesy skillet, homemade coleslaw, a biscuit with honey and a tallgrass ipa.

an attempt at a balanced meal

 

Sunday Night Dinner: July 17, 2011- Happy National Ice Cream Day from a Busy Kitchen

This Sunday was national ice cream day. So I started the day off right with a little ice cream after lunch.

I spent the afternoon making a Midsummer Corn, Tomato, Fennel soup for our Tuesday night meal. I made the broth myself and added corn cobs to it. The recipe also has potatoes in it, a lot really, so I have no idea why they aren’t in the long title.

John hung up our new kitchen radio. As many of you know, music in the kitchen is key for our meals and cooking, so when the old one bit the dust we were in a sad state. After he drilled for a long time and finally got it up there I promptly asked, “What if I don’t like it there after all?” Yeah, not the response he was looking for. Good job hanging that puppy up, honey.

For dinner we had one of my favorite summer meals: mint and garlic tiny tomatoes (baked with olive oil in the oven), bread, and fresh mozzarella cheese. Salads too, of course. You can tell which salad is mine– NO CELERY. The things I do for love.

Here are the tomatoes– before baking. We used herbs from our garden and there are a few of own Juliet tomatoes thrown in there.

After baking…

I bought store bread because I am still studying Julia Child’s baguette recipe, so I felt a little like a failure there, but still it was all very tasty.

We talked about the tour de france and even did a conversation starter: “What new thing do you really like doing?” John said pizza/dvd night on Fridays (he likes seeing me excited to make our homemade pizza) and I said eating a more vegetarian diet, meditating, and working out at work. The tomatoes agreed.

For dessert we had mixed berry cobbler and, you guessed it, homemade ice cream!

What else are you going to have on national ice cream day? Well, I guess a lot of things….

blueberry pancakes with maple-bacon

 

now that's breakfast

 

i’m overly critically of anything creative i do, even cooking.  something could always be better, or the next time i know to add this, change that.  i also deeply believe that food always tastes better when someone else makes it, so if i’m the cook it just is lacking a little something.  even when dinner guests tell me what they are eating is the most amazing thing every, i won’t believe them because i’ll know that something in it was canned and not fresh, etc.  but once in a blue moon i’ll even impress myself with a meal i have created.  that is how i felt this morning when looking down at my plate for breakfast.

right before i woke up i had been dreaming about cooking pancakes.  in my dream they were chocolate chip pancakes, which i as burning, while public enemy was playing in the background.  needless to say this left me with the hungry desire for pancakes when i got up.  instead of chocolate chips i went with fresh blueberries to add to my batter. (fyi don’t use pancake mix its so lacking, and homemade mix is incredibly easy, flour, sugar, baking powder, oil, egg, and milk viola pancake mix!)

at work i have gotten accustomed to eating pancakes with a side of sausage, that sweet with salty mixture, carbs with protean.  as my griddle was heating up i was just wishing i had sausage to cook when it dawned on my i have bacon.  i’m not much of a bacon fan but now living in the south one of things i have learned how to do, besides making random chit chat with strangers, is cook bacon.  so i embraced my southern surroundings and added maple-bacon to the menu.  this is what i call breakfast!

 

meatless monday—stuffed tomatoes with hummus

this has been my third meatless monday.  i’m still shocked at the challenge this provides.  for instance at lunch i really wanted a turkey sandwich on a blueberry bagel.  instead i had fresh mozzarella with tomato, lettuce and pesto on a baguette, while watching the tour de france.  now thinking back on this it all seems so perfect for the tour. i don’t think the turkey and blueberry bagel could have captured that european cycling feel.  every time when it comes to dinner nothing sounds good. honestly at home when does a salad sound good.    but so far i have been pleasantly surprised each time.  this week when scavenging through my fridge, i’m working on eating things up that i already have on hand this week, i created a meal that turned out yummy and a tad fancy.

a

stuffed tomatoes with hummus

for meatless monday #3 i created stuffed tomatoes with hummus on a bed of lettuce drizzled with balsamic vinegar.  along with it was what i called “cheesy-olive bread”, essentially bread with chopped up green olives topped with mozzeralla and toasted in the oven, and a cup of fresh blueberries.  after this success i’m kind of getting excited and curious about what i’ll come up with for my next meatless monday.