Marvelous Margarita

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A little something from California.  I never really liked Margaritas until I started making these.

Ingredients:


  • 3 oz Good tequila ( I use Espolon)
  • 2 1/2 oz Cointreau (orange liquor)
  • 3 Limes
  • 1 oz Blue Agave 
  • Ice
Total time: 5 minutes

In a shaker, add the tequila, Cointreau, juice of 2 limes, blue agave, and ice.  Shake until a frost forms on the outside of the shaker.

Serve over ice, and garnish with lime.

If you wish, you can put all ingredients into a blender, and make a frozen version.


Extended Photo section here.





Marvelous Margarita - Extended photos

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Pasta Carbonara - extended photos

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Pasta Carbonara

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This recipe is difficult to find in restaurants in its original form, and more resembles a Alfredo sauce when you are out.  The sauce is made with raw eggs, but the heat of the warm pasta slightly cooks them and creates a wonderful sauce.

Ingredients:
  • 4 oz Pancetta
  • 1 lb Spaghetti 
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley 
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • salt & pepper
* You can add additional flavors to your pasta dish, just like an omelet.  Onion, peppers, mushrooms, etc.



Start by rendering your pancetta, preferable in a cast iron pan.  When pancetta is crispy, set aside to cool.  I like to use the rendered fat, but it can drained off if you prefer. 


Put a pot of water on the stove and bring to al boil for the pasta.

In another bowl, mix the eggs, parmesan, parsley, salt and pepper.  Add the heavy cream last, and be sure it is thoroughly combined.

Once the pancetta has cooled, add it to the egg mixture.

Cook your pasta to your desired firmness.  Next take the pasta from the water and add it to the egg mixture and mix thoroughly.  I add a little pasta water to help create the sauce.

You can drain the pasta and let it cool for a minute, so as not to cook the eggs, but reserve some of the starchy water to add as needed.








More Photos here from my friend Jon!

Lemon Parmesan pasta

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This is one of my favorite spring and summer pasta dishes.  Requested often when i visit my friends or they come over for dinner.  In addition, it is quick and easy.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb long pasta (spaghetti, fettuccine, etc.)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 3 lemons (zest of 2 lemons)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan 
  • salt/pepper


Total Time: 30 minutes

Start by putting a large pot of water on the stove, as this recipe will not take long to make.



Heat a large skillet big enough to hold the pasta, add the olive oil and onions.  After a few minutes, add the zest of the two lemons and juice from 2 and 1/2.  Reserve the other 1/2 for garnish.  Let cook for about 10 minutes on a medium to low heat (this is called infusing the oil).  Cook the pasta until almost done (al dente), and then add directly to the oil mixture.  You may want to add a little pasta water to moisten up the dish.


Next, add the parsley and salt/pepper and mix.  Turn off the heat and add the parmesan.  Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl, and garnish with lemon slices, more cheese, and parsley.


Strawberry Daiquiri

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I know this cocktail will seem a bit dated with all the fanciness out in the world, but i find it very refreshing and a good reason to buy the large size strawberry pack.

All you need is a blender or blending device that doesn't get used like it used to.

Ingredients:

2 cups fresh strawberries

1.5 ounces white rum

1 lime (juiced)

1.5 cups ice

1 ounce lemon/lime simple syrup

Special Tools: Blender


Trim the tops of the strawberries, add all ingredients to the blender and mix until mixture is a smooth icy delight.


Simple, easy, delicious.





The folklore of P.J.

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                It was early on a spring day in 1998 when P.J. first walked into the store. He looked like he hadn't slept much the night before. And as with many of my other friends, there was instant feeling that we were going to get on. He was from the Midwest and had a smile that matched his friendly blue eyes. P.J. was slender, athletic, and stood about 5’10’’, a bit short for a AAA ballplayer. The standard is 6’2”, muscular, about 220, short hair, square jaw, and about 24 years old. So when P.J. said he was with the Red Wings, it wasn't obvious in which capacity.
                
               This was the first year baseball would be played in Frontier Field, the new stadium in our city. The park was about a block from the store. The players would stay at a hotel a block in the other direction while looking for a place to stay for the season. Visiting teams would use the same hotel and the bagel shop quickly became a common lunch spot for both the Wings and visiting teams.
              
                P.J. didn't bring his car to town and needed a place close the stadium. Fortunately, there was a renovated old building that still left the store on his way to work.  He had the work ethic of a farmer and probably needed it to succeed in a sport that looked for 6 inches and 40  pounds more from its prospects. That work ethic brought him by the store most mornings before the other players were awake. He’d often come back for lunch with the others on his way back to the stadium before games. We became good friends and I often found myself at the games cheering him on.  Always being on the players’ comp list was certainly an added incentive. Even though he was heartland conservative and I lean East Coast liberal, we’d had similar upbringings, including the fact that both of our fathers had been our high school principals.

                P.J. had an innate sense for people and public relations, and after a few weeks, he’d made regulars out of a whole bunch of players. Now, along with the cops, legal professionals, business people, and public servants, we had a new dimension within our customer base: professional athletes.

                About mid season, P.J. was looking a little more worn out than usual and one day I felt comfortable enough to tell him that he looked like shit. It wasn't just physical; it looked like mental stress had piled on as well. He told me that he needed a boost at the plate and then said, “Pick me out a cookie. One with some Hits.” I knew exactly what he meant. Like many ballplayers, he was superstitious, and wanted a good luck charm to increase his batting average. I smiled, and then with great focus went to choose the cookie I thought would help him most. I meant it to be light hearted, but that’s where it all started.

                P.J. got a few hits that night, and then continued this new tradition regularly. It didn't work every night, but it worked more often than not (and isn't that the core of baseball success?), and this made him unwilling to stop the ritual. He would save his cookie until right before the game, and pretty soon the other players started to ask what he was doing. If he’d flat-out told them, this budding piece of folklore might never have developed. But since he was reluctant to talk about it at first, it just intrigued them more. P.J.’s batting average was rising, his leadership skills were emerging, and his sense of team took over. He started letting a few of the guys in on his secret, hoping it wouldn't affect his own mojo.

 This didn't start a mad run on the cookies, but it put the idea in the backs of the minds of a few guys. When things were looking down and all else had failed, they quietly came walking into the store. At first, one guy would lag behind the group and joke about P.J. and the cookies as he paid his tab. A few of the guys were bolder, and  would come out and say that they could use some help and were ready to try anything. Others were coy, looking like pitcher Nuke LaLoosh from “Bull Durham” when he was putting on the garter.

                Either way, the folklore was building. In the following years, the local players were finding places to live in the suburbs, but the visiting teams were still coming by. Since free agency, one of the inherent parts of the game is that players at this level are traded on a yearly basis. A player that was here last year is now on an opposing team in the same league. When these players returned to town, they would act the pied piper bringing teammates into the store for lunch and the lore of the cookies. After a few years, baseball season became a big part of the business and the cookies were just one aspect of that boon.

                A few of the former players had landed scouting jobs for other clubs and they were even telling new players about the place, and especially the hit cookies. “Go in and ask for John, and tell him I sent you. Don’t touch the cookies! Let him pick one out for you.” We heard this often in the store, and not even the employees were allowed to choose. 

                All of this renewed my interest in baseball, which started in my neighbor’s garage when we were about 8 years old. I can’t explain why, but it was in that garage that I choose to follow and root for the Red Sox, a choice that’s stayed with me through the years. In my thirties, I made my first trip to Fenway Park and I still remember every aspect of that first game. It was a few years after I’d met P.J., and I was having dinner in the North End with my girlfriend. P.J. had roomed with Mike Lansing in college, and Lansing was currently playing second base for Red Sox. PJ said he could get tickets if I made it to Boston, and I called to take him up on the offer. When he called to say everything was set, I had no idea how much that game was going to impact my life.
                Whether it was the first-time experience of a big league game, the comp tickets from a ballplayer, the wonderment of Fenway Park, or just the access to someone who could or would do me such a favor, I was now fully vested in my Red Sox obsession. I got a chance to show it a few years later when the Sox had another opportunity to break the 87-year-old World Series curse.

               I’d become just as superstitious as the ballplayers: sitting on the edge my seat every game; repeating any behavior that preceded success in anyway; hoping for a better ending than in years past. You may remember the Yankee/Red Sox series in 2004. The Yankees were up two games to none, and it wasn't looking good, again. Now that I was back in the fandom saddle, I was feeling the depression that had gripped Red Sox fans for so many years. There was no question what I had to do and I had to act quickly.

                Game three was scheduled for Friday at Fenway. I made a fresh batch of cookies, and carefully weeded out the hitless ones. I packed up two dozen, and send them Fed Ex Next Day Air to Red Sox GM Theo Epstein. I included a handwritten note explaining the folklore, several menus, and of course the cookies. The return receipt showed the package was signed for by a woman in main office.


                I have no delusions about what I did. If there was an impact, it was merely that I added my 2 cents to a pile of superstitious behaviors of all the other fans wishing for the same result. That Friday the game was cancelled due to rain. The Red Sox did score 8 runs on Saturday, but unfortunately the Yankees scored 19. The Sox were now down 0-3, and no team had ever come back from a start that bad to win a series. What followed was the greatest playoff comeback in baseball history, and it was against their greatest rival. The Red Sox won four straight to advance to the main event of The Show. They went on to sweep the Cardinals in the World Series, erasing the curse that had stuck since the long-regretted trade of Babe Ruth.

                All that would be enough for me to continue to tell this story. But there was going to be more. It was a few years later that I saw my first playoff game in person. It was in Cleveland, but it was still the playoffs and it was still the Red Sox. I’d told the friends I was with about the hit cookies, and they persuaded me to bring a bag with me to the game. It was game four, with the Sox leading 2-1. Being surrounded by Cleveland fans and having snuck in a bag of cookies made me a bit uncomfortable, and I really didn’t know what I was going to do to help out the team.

                It was scoreless going into the bottom of the fifth, when the Indians scored 7 runs. The fans were going crazy and my friends deemed it safe to break out the stash. We started indulging and my friends started telling a version of the folklore while we shared the goodies. Everyone seemed happy in our section (except for the two of us Boston fans) and the sixth inning was about to start.

                The Sox answered with a home run, then a second, and then a third. Back-to-back_to-back home runs. Another first in a League Championship Series. The mood changed quickly in our section, and I was not a particularly well-liked person for an inning or two. Cookies were being tossed on the ground and stomped on, and no one outside of our group kept eating. The game ended with no more scoring and I was happy to get out of there safely. Oh, and the Red Sox went on to win that series and sweep Colorado in the World Series.

                It wasn't until I wrote this that I remembered that in 1998, the year all this started, P.J.’s team won the AAA championship as well, the only year that’s happened since opening Frontier Field.

                As I used to tell the ballplayers who looked a little leery about this whole process, “Believe or do not believe, but the results work out better if you choose the positive.” A lot of things work like that.






Chocolate Chip Cookies (Neighborhood Famous)

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We started making these cookies in the first few weeks of opening.  They were an instant hit, and we became well known for warm cookies at lunch time.  I will tell you that it may take a little practice.  When i taught employees the system, they still did not always come out the same as when I made them.

Ingredients:


  • 1/2 lb unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt



 Total Time: 35 minutes

I start by melting the butter, which is not something many recipes recommend, but I have been doing this for many years, so try it out. Cream the melted butter with the white sugar and the brown sugar.  Next mix in the vanilla and the eggs and mix until light in color.

Now mix the flour, baking soda, and salt together, and then combine the wet and dry ingredients.  Once this is full mixed, FOLD in the chocolate chips.  The dough may be a little warm and the mixing can cause heat and the chocolate chips can melt into the dough, so be careful and fold them into the dough.

Although it is not necessary, if you refrigerate the dough you will get a more rustic looking cookie.  If you make cookies when the dough is warm they will spread out more and be smooth.


Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees, and place the cookies on a greased cookie sheet.  Leave plenty of room between cookies and scoop out 3 oz of cookie dough on the sheet.

Bake for about 12 minutes, or until light brown. I prefer my cookies gooey and soft, but if you like your cookies more firm, leave them in a few more minutes.

I have found that the baking part varies greatly with each oven.  You may have to experiment a bit with the rack location, time, and temp for your oven.

Good Luck.