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Not really. But we did do something equally irresponsible and out of character.

We went out.  To Buffalo. On Allen Street.  After 9 p.m.  On Wednesday.  And for MUSIC, of all things.

Long story short: our neighbors–Buffalo hipsters turned Southtowns homeowners (and parents!)–were in a band (well, HE was in the band, she wasn’t) that happened to be having a ‘reunion’ show at a bar downtown.  I saw it on Facebook and felt strangely compelled to go.  No idea why.

The stars aligned–Andrew got caught up late at work, couldn’t start on the garage, we finished dinner in time–and off we went to Nietzsche’s on Allen Street.  Let’s just say we weren’t in Kansas anymore. (It’s not like we’ve never been to Allen Street, but it’s no Canalside, either.)

IMG_8100.JPGOur adventure began as we drove through the west side of Buffalo and I heard Andrew hit the door lock.  He’s so melodramatic like that.  Within a few blocks we were at our destination, and I had to surrender the car to Andrew to parallel park.  It’s not a strength of mine.

Nietzsche’s is just what you’d expect looking at it from the outside–dark, run-down, plastered with band stickers and posters with peeling wallpaper and exposed pipes.  Everyone inside was either hipster, hippie or covered in tattoos; Andrew and I stuck out like sore thumbs.

As usual, the show was running behind schedule, so we watched much of Handsome Jack’s bit while sipping our beer.  Apparently they are one of our neighbor’s–Tommy–favorite local bands and just got a record deal.  This means nothing to me, but it sounds nice.  I commented to Andrew that I thought they sounded like Lynyrd Skynyrd without the ‘country twang.’  I was pleased when Tommy said he agreed.

IMG_8096.JPGAs another band was setting up for their show, Andrew decided a piece of pizza sounded good, so we took a walk down Allen and found ‘Crust,’ a local place with slices available at 10:30 on a Wednesday night.  Gotta be in a city.

IMG_8099.JPGFinally, we headed back to the bar in time to see Tommy and his band, The Found, setting up for their set.  I remember seeing ‘I <3 The Found’ bumper stickers on our neighbors cars; I had no idea it was his actual band.  It turns out he sings and plays bass.  Who knew we had a rockstar next door?!  Check him out–he’s in the white shirt and cropped pants.

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IMG_8104.JPGThey gathered the largest crowd and we had fun sitting and listening…until about midnight when we were more than exhausted.  (I’ve been going to bed before 11 these past couple weeks, and I definitely felt it last night.  And this morning.)

Speaking of the morning…  How long has it been since you had the remnants of a bar stamp on your hand the next day??

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Two weekends ago, Mrs. Nye and I attended a cooking class in Wyoming County (a.k.a. the sticks) fairgrounds, in a house built in, like, 1806.  You see where I’m going with this.  It was primitive.

The Eli Griffith House, located in Pike, N.Y., was the first in the area to have a ‘beehive’ oven.  The small brick oven, located just above and to the right of actual hearth, had a domed top and allowed breads and other items to be ‘baked’ inside.  There are accounts of people (women, I’m sure) walking upwards of SEVEN MILES to use this oven.  Good gracious, I’m thankful for mine right about now.

Mrs. Nye grew up in Wyoming County, attending the fair, and years ago even attended this class herself.  When she found out about this year’s event, she asked me if I’d like to come along.  The purpose of the class, held just a couple weeks before their county fair, is to train and recruit volunteers to do the cooking demonstrations–in period dress–during the fair.

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There were a dozen of us cramped in a tiny kitchen in front of a fire.  Multiple fires.  The first weekend of August.  I don’t know how they did it back then, without just dying of heat stroke.  And it wasn’t even one of our hottest days.

The event ran from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Upon arriving, we were given a bit of a welcome and intro and then the fires were lit.  (A couple of us wondered why said fires weren’t ALREADY GOING upon our arrival, since it would take THREE HOURS for them to get the beehive oven warm enough, but who’s counting??)

The first things that were prepped were the ‘chicken on a string,’ (a.k.a. a poor man’s rotisserie) and the chicken noodle soup, cooked in a kettle over the fire.

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Homemade noodles were even prepared:

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Also, three different kinds of breads were made, two with yeast and one without.  They needed to rise before being baked in the beehive oven.

Once all the dishes were prepped and/or cooking, we even churned fresh butter! (This was pretty exciting.  I KNEW you could church butter, but I’d never actually seen it done.)

First, you use the churn for maybe 20-30 minutes, depending on how vigorously one churns…

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Then, you pour off the liquid (buttermilk) and what remains is the butter.

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However, you have to ‘wash’ the butter to rid it of additional buttermilk.  You do this by pouring a little water into the bowl of butter and using a scraper-type tool to work the butter until the water is no longer white.

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Our finished product:

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Around this time, we loaded our risen dough into the oven.  Many of the loaves were placed on large cabbage leaves, both to protect them from the ashy floor of the oven and to help contain moisture.  The oven is closed using a wooden door and maintains about a 300-degree temperature.

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Miraculously, everything seemed to be done at about the same time.

First, the soup:

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Then, the ‘bubble and squeak:’

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Toward the end of the cooking process, we mixed up batter for corn fritters (more corn than pancake), and cooked them over a griddle near the fire:

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Lastly, the beehive oven was emptied, the bread all browned and crusty!

The Sally Lunn (sweet yeast bread baked in a cast-iron Bundt pan):

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Multiple loaves of wheat and herb breads:

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And that blueberry pie (perhaps the best I’ve ever had–except anything Mrs. Nye makes!):

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brunch

Andrew and I went looking for another diner this past weekend while we were out renting a tool for the current house project: one of those nifty epoxy garage floors.  Our go-to breakfast spot, Charlie’s, is just fine, but we were feeling something else.  Something new.  Something different.  Something that would have (hopefully!) less of a wait at 10:30 on a Sunday morning.

We were going to be in West Seneca to get the tool, and a quick Yelp search yielded Christie’s, located in the Southgate Plaza.

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We showed up and were seated right away.  It’s not only a breakfast place, but it definitely has that kind of feel.  We loved it right away.  The food was cheap and the service was excellent.

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I went with the ‘1×1,’ which is one pancake, one slice bacon, one sausage link and one egg.  Andrew went with the ‘2×2.’

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I also added an order of their ‘the works’ home fries, just to keep it interesting.  A steaming plate of fried potatoes topped with peppers, onions, cheese and gravy!

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The verdict:  We loved this place!  While I didn’t think the food was as good as Charlie’s (what can I say, I’m loyal), we loved the atmosphere and we’d definitely go back.  Because it’s larger, (and within minutes from Carolyn and Ben’s new place) I can see this being a better breakfast option for the family than Charlie’s here in East Aurora.  On more than one occasion we’ve had to resort to Plan B rather than face a 45-minute wait there.  Next time, I’ll skip the pancakes in favor of their french toast or their oatmeal!

 

 

This Saturday morning, I finally visited Paula’s Donuts.

Around here, everyone seems to agree that Paula’s are the best.  However, there are only two locations, both of which are in the Northtowns.  Serious bummer.  (Or necessary obstacle, due to my severe lack of self-control around sweets.)

As chance would have it, I scheduled a dinner date with some of our friends in Kenmore Friday night, and it also just happened that two of the four of us had to also be at the Niagara Falls Reserve Station at 9 a.m. the following morning.  Andrew Bair, a dear friend from ROTC, and I were scheduled to do our semi-annual muster (a.k.a. paperwork), so I arranged to spend the night at their place after we wrapped up our evening.

After both Andrews, Liza and myself enjoyed Greek food, some Elmwood Avenue-walking and Vera Pizzaria cocktails (a blog post itself!), I said goodbye to Andrew and settled in on their air mattress.  (Admittedly strange staying without one’s spouse when you’re just 20 miles away, but it made sense.)

So, the next morning, the least we could do was stop off at Paula’s, which is just down the road from their home.

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I don’t know that they’re famous for any particular flavor or type of donut–just that they ARE famous and the line forming as early as 7:30 on a Saturday proves that.

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I’ve actually had Paula’s once before when a teacher brought them to school for us, but I’d never been there myself.  I do, however, remember their Red Velvet donuts and knew THAT was the flavor I’d be getting.  Or at least one of the flavors…

20140722-081552-29752647.jpgAnother favorite donut flavor of mine is Sour Cream, so I opted to try one of those, too.  The picture doesn’t lie; these donuts are pretty large and their crumb is just phenomenal.  Let’s just say that their texture and flavor makes eating a Dunkin’ Donut taste like a sponge.  Seriously.  (And I actually LIKE Dunkin’!)

I was good and only ate half of each…and of course bagged up the rest for later.

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I just cannot even stress how good these are.  I may or may not be planning a repeat visit sometime in next month ;)

Last week, I brought dinner to a family in our Bible study who just had their first baby, little Parker.  I tell you what–I loved every second I held that little boy in my arm!  What a cutie :)

I wish I could say my ‘meal effort’ was completely sacrificial, but there were elements that were self-serving; namely the dessert and breakfast recipes I included!  I realized bringing this meal would check all three of my ‘boxes:’

1. trying a new recipe

2. giving away most of it so I don’t have to eat it all

3. no pressure on Andrew to eat something he won’t want/doesn’t like

Can I just say I still can’t believe I have to deal with #3, but, such is my lot in life.  I suppose his numerous other (actually important) qualities overcome his pickiness.

Anyway, so I immediately went to my trusty casserole–the only one I make–as their dinner entree.  It’s super easy, super tasty and actually something I felt they might make again.  It’s called ‘Kim’s Casserole,’ after my mom who made it for us once she joined the family.  I think this might have been the only casserole we had growing up, and I’m kind of surprised SHE made it.  I almost wonder if she made it up; I’ve never seen or heard of any other recipe like it.

Kim’s Casserole

1 box Uncle Ben’s Long Grain and Wild Rice (I use the quick-cooking version–why not??)

1 can Cream of Mushroom soup (grab the healthiest one you can find)

8-12 oz. ground sausage (I use Jimmy Dean Reduced Fat 12 oz. package)

1. Prepare rice and brown sausage.

2. Mix cooked rice, ground sausage and soup in a bowl. Transfer to a baking dish–8×8–and cook in a 350 degree oven until edges brown (about 20 minutes).

THAT’S IT!

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Please note that casserole MUST BE SERVED WITH CINNAMON APPLES.

Seriously.

They can be canned, frozen, homemade–I don’t care–but you absolutely must serve them with cinnamon apples.  And preferably near/next to/on top of each other.  You’ve just got to try a bite of casserole and a bite of apples together.  Heavenly.

It’s easy enough to cook down some apple slices with a little cinnamon and brown sugar, but the canned variety works well, too:

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The dietician in me wants to recommend a green vegetable as a side (I provided our friends with a steam-in-the-bag snap peas) but to be honest with you, I have absolutely no recollection of what other vegetable we had with this meal growing up.  And to be even more honest, I can’t even really pinpoint one I feel ‘goes’ with this dish at all, but please, for the love, have something healthy with this.

And because I couldn’t pass up a chance to make cheesecake, (and I knew cheesecake it also our friends’ favorite dessert) I whipped up these babies to take along with dinner:

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They are, hands down, the easiest cheesecakes you may ever make.  (Unless, of course, you’re using a pre-made crust and a box of something…but then you aren’t really making anything, are you?)

I mean, when it’s this easy, why bother with a box?!  Crush some grahams, mix them with a tiny bit of melted butter and bake in muffin tins.  Mix up some reduced-fat cream cheese, greek yogurt, sugar and lemon zest, add in some plain gelatin and presto!  After a few hours setting in the fridge, you have individual cheesecakes that are healthy and truly homemade.

And because I’m SUPER AMBITIOUS (and I read somewhere that bringing a new mom and dad breakfast is always a nice touch–the source of course recommended bagels), I decided to whip up some waffles they could toss in their freezer!  Again, totally self-serving; I’d been wanting to try this Maple Oat Waffle recipe from my Good to the Grain cookbook for awhile now.  AND Andrew made a fuss about not getting Eggo Waffles after seeing them in this couples’ freezer AND he made a fuss about me not making waffles often enough.  (He’s just strangle-worthy sometimes, I tell you!)

So, I’ll just show HIM.

The recipe calls for oat flour and maple syrup and I may have nibbled on some of the edges just enough to verify that they are, indeed, wonderful.

It starts out with separated eggs, and you add the whipped whites to the rest of the mix in two parts:

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Now fold them in gently:

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Then add the other half of the whites and fold them in gently, too.

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Bake in a waffle iron (I used the #2 setting) until the timer goes off and allow each waffle to cool completely on a rack (if not serving immediately).  I went so far as to freeze them on a single layer in the freezer before packaging them up:

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Six for them, six for us!

Do yourself a favor and make one of these–any of them–today!

 

I have a pretty good story about French Onion Soup.  You know the soup I’m talking about–it’s on every menu on the planet and features softened onions, giant croutons and gooey cheese on top.  EVERYONE knows what French Onion Soup is.

Anyway, so Andrew (who greatly dislikes *most* cheese and insists he’s lactose intolerant) ordered himself the ‘onion soup’ while we dined at a little bistro while in FRANCE a couple years back.  It didn’t hit me until the waitress left that the onion soup on the menu was most likely FRENCH ONION SOUP, since we were, you know, IN FRANCE.

Sure enough, Andrew’s soup arrived covered in cheese and swirled throughout the onions.  Apparently in France, it’s just known as ‘onion soup.’  Good grief.

Which brings me to point of this post: I made French Onion Soup last night.  More accurately, I made Ellie Krieger’s Triple Onion Soup, which is found in her book, Comfort Food Fix.

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It turned out quite well and, despite Andrew’s severe case of a summer cold he’s fighting off right now, was enjoyed by both of us.  I omitted the bread topping (I didn’t feel like it and Andrew wouldn’t have appreciated homemade croutons in his sickly state) and, of course, only put cheese on my bowl.  I’ve made French Onion Soup before and not been a huge fan, but this particular recipe worked.  Next time you have an abundance of onions (like we did after we both bought bags of them at the grocery store unbeknownst to the other), give it a try!

On Saturday, we met up with one of Andrew’s co-workers and her dog, Deiter, at our local dog park.  Despite the park being within WALKING DISTANCE (not realistically, but it really is pretty close), we’ve only been there a couple time since it opened last year.  World’s worst dog-parents, right here.

Anyway, we always joke about Hadrian being a ‘sidekick’ dog; he’s Robin to everyone else’s Batman.  Seriously, a leader he is NOT.  He’s either hanging by us, off picking daisies somewhere else, and only rarely does he really get into the larger pack.  Clearly, he needs more socialization.  Or, he’s just not that into them.

It is, however, breathtaking to watch him run around in the group, galloping like a horse.  Let’s just say he gets A LOT of attention no matter where we are.  On the one hand, it’s pretty awesome having the coolest dog in the village…but if I hear another ‘saddle’ comment, I might go berserk.  I digress.

Hadrian had a great time, we enjoyed socializing with other dog-owners, and I’m glad I wore sunscreen.  Enjoy!  Hadrian sure did :)

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