This year we had to have our annual MDW picnic inside and I was PISSED. I hate the inside. I’ve really been enjoying the time that we’ve all been spending in the outside over the past year and a half and I really didn’t want to spend this thing inside either.
But we had to, it was raining and we didn’t have an appropriate covered outdoor environment, ugh.
We only just realized today that we didn’t even get to have a picnic AT ALL last year because it was during the terrifying stay in your house and don’t leave unless you’re going grocery shopping time of COVID. So I guess this was better than THAT, but still made me sad.
My mom set up the house like it was actually a picnic on the inside. We had all the stuff!
We can eat food and drink drinks AND hear live music! The folks playing the music walk around and play the music! We can be inside this really cool historic building that I actually really, REALLY missed and have a great night!
Last night we really had a great night.
I had a TON of La vie en rose cocktails. Definitely lost count but it was a ton.
The La vie en rose cocktail has lychee and vodka and some other stuff but I was mostly in it for the lychee. And the lychee was in it for ME.
We had a charcuterie board as an appetizer. Because we do what we must.
For my entree I chose the salmon. IT WAS INCRED. GET THE SALMON YOU GUYS.
They were kind enough to allow us to outsource dessert because it was my friend’s bday. Like they let her bring in a tray of banana pudding from baonanas and a delicious cake. The birthday desserts were EXCEPTIONAL and I was glad we got to have them.
All night the band played jazzy music on stage and it set a wonderful mood.
It was a great choice of birthday venue for my pal and I’d love to go back.
Doing any kind of “baking” that involves melting and molding chocolate is like REALLY HARD YOU GUYS. I’m not really sure why I signed myself up for this but I did and once I started I had to finish.
There were enough ingredients in my house to make 6 but only 3 survived. The second half of chocolate chips I tried to melt got messed up and melted wrong and could not be recovered. It was actually really disgusting and made me feel sad about chocolate overall which is something I’ve never felt but I’m not sure how to avoid it next time. So who knows.
The bombs themselves are very fragile and didn’t seal together very well and I propped them up in a ziploc bag and nestled them in a plastic container and then wrapped that in plastic wrap to get them home.
Making hot chocolate bombs is a project for people with more concern and consideration when it comes to attention to detail and also more precise fine motor skills.
Because I do not have any fine motor skills. OR care and consideration for attention to detail.
Tomorrow I will feed these bombs to my family and we’ll see what happens.
Just a quick little recap of a Thanksgiving at home.
Or, a Thanksgiving without really going anywhere.
I was really stressed about deciding what to do for Thanksgiving. But in the end I decided not to risk it and to stay home at my own house.
Unfortunately I am far from having the culinary skills to prepare an entire Thanksgiving at home.
Luckily my mom was nice enough to prepare send all of the food to me! Via socially distanced delivery boy, which is my dad. I don’t think he likes to be called “delivery boy” even though he was one in this case. Sorry Lexx.
We woke up on Thanksgiving morning and had a leisurely biscuits and gravy breakfast.
After breakfast I insisted that we dress up because I always dress up on Thanksgiving even though it is mostly inside and I wear slippers the entire time.
Slippers were certainly worn for Thanksgiving at home.
At the last minute I decided to set the coffee table up like a real “table” and I felt really proud of it. I mostly didn’t think I had enough “home items” to make a cute little table but I DID.
We drank Irish coffees and mimosas and got pretty drunk before the meal, a time honored family tradition.
When we were ready I warmed up the food my mom sent and it was TIME TO EAT.
Cheesy bread, turkey, stuffing, 3 kinds of potatoes, green beans, etc. ALL THE HITS.
After we ate I demanded we go to Lincoln Park for a “hike” because at my parents’ we usually go into the woods behind their house for a “hike.”
It was a successful “hike” because we spotted a hawk!
When we returned home I ate some cookies I made and pumpkin pie from Edible Underground and then it was time for bed.
Times are tough, anxiety is at a record high overall for everyone according to science, and everything pretty much sucks. So, I’d like to write about something that brings me joy and that is Baonanas.
Baonanas is Jersey City born and raised banana pudding and frankly it’s everything that’s right with the world.
I personally love banana pudding and would put it in my top 3 favorite desserts, right next to vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting and coconut sprinkled on top, and any chocolate based ice cream. It is that good.
The combo of incredibly sweet bananas, made so sweet by nature alone, combined with ‘nilla wafers and some kinda pudding stuff, is truly bliss in a cup. And Baonanas serves it with a fun little wooden spoon! So you can eat it slower! So you can feel like there is MORE.
Baonanas first came into my life when I got it at the sadly defunct Jersey City WORD bookstore cafe. I was just there for my usual black Stumptown cold brew, I SWEAR, and I spotted banana pudding in their cooler. And I was like <screams maniacally and disturbs the whole store> “IS THAT BANANA PUDDING?!”
Yes, yes it was.
For a long time I just got it there! It was right by where I lived! It was great!
Eventually I ended up at the famed weekend feast know as Smorgasburg (orgasburg, orgasburg) in Brooklyn and Baonanas was there!
I was so excited to tell my Brooklyn and NYC pals they were from JC!
SUCK IT, BROOKLYN.
JKJK I like Brooklyn but this banana pudding is fully JERSEY’S, thank you.
They have a spot in Harborside Financial Center and I’m not really ever over there so I haven’t gone. But I HAVE gotten delivery from there. Yes they deliver! It’s magical.
But the best news OF ALL is that they now have a full-on brick and mortar flagship store on Monticello Ave.
I moved up to “The Hill” from downtown a couple of years ago and it’s different, as far as food and drink options are concerned. You have to work a little harder to find them but they’re there. And I’m so glad Baonanas is one of them!
I think where they’re located is considered McGinley Sq, but it’s a short 10min walk from my home in The Hill and I’m very glad about it. I went over there a couple of weekends ago, on my way to drop off my ballot, to sit outside and enjoy a special fruity drink and some OG Baonanas.
The OG Baonanas is the best! They have a ton of different fun flavors, but I always go back to the OG. As I said above, a traditional banana pudding rounds out my top 3 most favorite desserts and I’m obsessed with dessert so that is REALLY saying something.
Their shop on Monticello is super adorable and very yellow. Like sunshine! And bananas…I guess. There is a sign hanging outside that is painted over yellow that I believe is an old Breyer’s Ice Cream sign maybe? I’m not sure but I love that they kept the old sign. I love an old sign I’m not kidding.
It was incredibly nice to sit outside on Monticello as well. I believe they also have music out there on the weekends. I didn’t see any when I was there and it may be done now because the impending doom of winter is upon us. But I know they did it most weekends when it was warm out.
As of this posting we still don’t have the President we want so you may be in need of a treat…I know I am. So go check out Baonanas! It’s delish! As I said they’re in Harborside Financial Center, and their McGinley Sq locaish/HQ is at 181 Monticello Ave. GO. GO NOW. GO BAONANASSSSS.
This past weekend we had an outdoor baby shower for my lil sis. The same lil sis we had a virtual bridal brunch for back in April.
We really wanted to have a gathering with actual people that were actually physically together. It felt important.
Of course we followed all the social distancing rules. Like why wouldn’t we? But that meant we had to have the shower NOW while it’s still warm enough for people to hang out in the outdoors and before there is a huge fall spike in COVID cases, as predicted.
So we had to have the shower a bit early. My sister is due at the end of February, and usually a shower for that would happen in like…December? I don’t really know. But I do know it would happen a little later because most people look very pregnant in their shower pics. That’s really all I have to go off of.
My sister only looks kinda pregnant. Like you can tell she is but she’s not waddling around yet. That’s the usual shower look. BUT NOT AT THIS SHOWER BECAUSE WE HAD TO GET THAT SUCKER DONE BEFORE THE WORLD PRESUMABLY SHUTS DOWN AGAIN.
MAKE HAY WHILE THE SUN SHINES AS THE GREAT LAURA INGALLS WILDER SAID, OR MAYBE IT WAS HER DAD, AND I WORE MY COWBOY BOOTS DAMMIT.
So we planned it out, and by “we” I mean my mom and my sister’s mother in law, and I think we did okay. I THINK WE DID GREAT.
These things are always difficult and complex to wrangle, even when you’re not in the midst of a global pandemic. There are just so many moving parts. At one point I thought I’d be good at this shit because I spent so many years “producing”…aka literally orchestrating other people’s lives like they were my own personal marionettes.
But it’s still hard. It’s a lot of planning! And plotting! And pondering! JEEZUZ I AM EXHAUSTED.
Anyway here’s what we did.
The baby is a girl, so as far as decorations we had some pink things like plates, tablecloths, and balloons. Beyond that it wasn’t overly cutesy.
The shower was held at my sister’s mother in law’s house (my mother in law, in law?) and she did an awesome job of decorating with hay and pumpkins and scarecrows.
It was seasonally appropriate! And adorable! I enjoyed walking around and looking at all the little scarecrow babies.
There were also pumpkins there that they grew in their own backyard and as you can imagine I was PUMPED AF about that. Pumpkins in their own backyard?! Wahooo!!!!
Okay I’m going to be honest about this. No one likes games. No one wants to play games at a baby shower or at any shower or party overall across the universe.
I’m sorry I had to be that direct. But no one likes games. I personally despise games but I made an effort to infuse some games into the party and was met with a flaming pile of disinterest.
We did play one game where people get an ice cube with a tiny plastic baby bottle inside and the first person whose ice melts screams, “My water broke!” and then they win a prize. Luckily one of the kids present won the game and the prize.
BECAUSE GAMES ARE FOR KIDS.
Do kids even like them?
Anyway after one game I decided we wouldn’t do the second game because no one showed much interest in the first one.
I was proud of my ability to read the (outdoor) room and pivot on a moment’s notice.
THERE WERE SO MANY FOODS AT THIS PARTY.
Our mom made stromboli, which is my most favorite thing that she ever makes. I ate like 5 pieces. I’m sorry.
My sister’s mother in law made meatballs and stuffed cabbage. I meant to try the stuffed cabbage because I’ve never had it! But I didn’t get to. I really blew it. Hopefully she makes it again at a future family function FINGERS CROSSED.
There were a ton of desserts and I ate two of each. I was saving up my full week of dessert consumption, 6 days worth of desserts, for this party. I didn’t feel well afterwards but it was worth it.
Look at these cute little net tents to keep flies off the food! Perfect for an outdoor baby shower, if you ask me. And you’re here, so you did.
notes to baby.
There is all kinds of baby shower stuff online and you can’t do a “baby shower stuff that doesn’t suck” Google search without coming across something like these.
These little lists are cute and give prompts and require minimal effort, a perfect combo! We passed them out to the guests to fill out while it was present opening time so they had something to do besides gawk at my sister and her husband while she opened presents.
As far as present opening during the party, I don’t know that everyone does that anymore? I think it’s your choice but not required. Either way choose your choice and feel good about it. I give you permission.
caramel apple bar.
My mom and I were most excited for the caramel apple bar and I’d like to say my sister also liked it best. She’s usually a big sweets-head like me, but she hasn’t been feeling so great in her first months of pregnancy and moved away from the sweets. Frankly she moved away from most foods overall. But caramel apples still catch her eye and make her glad so that’s why we made the bar!
If you look up “caramel apple bar” online a whole bunch of shit comes up. Go ahead, try it.
Some of the articles/blogs/pins/whatever said to cut them in slices or soak them in vodka or stand on one foot while you dip them in caramel. There are many methods.
Our method was to stick a popsicle stick into an apple and dip it in caramel, then dip it into whatever toppings the recipient wanted. I say “recipient” because I was preparing the apples with gloves on and I was the only person touching the toppings. We tried to keep it COVID safe.
Overall no one was interested in the caramel apples except my sis, sis in law, niece and nephew, my mom, and me.
Whatever, the rest of them don’t know what they’re missing.
Also when I was done making my apple and sat down to eat it my 6 year old nephew told me “Don’t go and take a cute picture with your caramel apple now <eye roll>.” So then I did. He’s not the boss of me.
dudes were there too.
My sister requested that my brother in law’s pals be there too. My dad was there, and some husbands and at least one uncle, my Uncle Tom who gave my Grammie a ride. Some of them said it was the first baby shower they attended and they liked it and I was glad. It’s a party after all, the more the merrier. I mean we were eating and drinking and making merry, baby stuff just happened to be there.
I think it’s a nice move to include the dudes. As an experienced baby shower-holding professional I say go for it.
So that was the outdoor baby shower! It went great! We were all very proud of the turn out and glad to get it done before it gets too cold or the world shuts down again.
I already said that, but the doom is upon us and will arrive eventually and we must prepare ourselves.
I’d like to tell you about some delicious foods in my hometown and they come from a little place called Edible Underground.
When I say “a little place” I mean an old Masonic Lodge outside of Frenchtown that I sometimes used to do gymnastics at when I was 10. I don’t know what a Masonic Lodge really is and I don’t know why I was doing gymnastics there. I think the gymnastics gym was too small or something.
I don’t really know. It was 1994.
This is about Edible Underground though. And now, in 2020, Edible Underground is there. I also don’t know what makes it “underground.” In my mind what makes it underground is that it’s in this nondescript place and you don’t even know it’s there. Not even a sign to announce its existence. At least I didn’t notice a sign. But I’m not very observant.
They do meals on Mondays and Thursdays, and they announce what the meals are going to be on their instagram!
They may also put it on Facebook but I’m not really a Facebook person because I’m tired of hearing opinions I don’t like. And that’s called curating what you consume to preserve your own sanity.
So you order a few days ahead and then the day of you pull in for pickup and go to the back of the building and they hand you a bag. And then you take it home and you eat it.
AND IT IS GREAT.
According to my parents, during the shelter in place times of early spring, they also delivered. But now it’s pickup only. But that’s okay, it’s worth riding over there. It’s not even far. Calm down.
The gals that run the show there seem really cool and also very excited about delicious foods and making them and sharing them with you. This is not a piece of official journalism so I don’t have their names or any quotes from them. But just know that the vibe is a good one.
A couple of weeks ago I came home to my parents’ and the meals of the night on a Thursday were blackened catfish with blistered tomatoes, corn, and shishito peppers, and beef sloppy joes. Also a manicotti option but we didn’t get that one. And then chocolate and caramel turnovers for dessert.
THIS FOOD WAS GOD DAMN DELICIOUS.
I obviously loved the catfish because I love the chicken of the rivers, streams, lakes, and seas. And those chickens are fish.
My dad got the beef sloppy joes and we tried some and it was also amazing. There was a celery taste in the joes that I had never before experienced in joes and it was transcendent.
The desserts were great too! I don’t think I ever had a turnover before then? But now I can proudly say I enjoy them. Like why the hell not.
I really love Edible Underground. I keep wanting to say Edible “Arrangements” and I like those too but that’s not what it is. It’s Edible Underground and it’s delicious. And that’s all I have to say for now.
It’s true, I’ve been having a hard time lately. I’ve been tired, uninspired, depressed. Just feelin blah. So I made an executive decision to spend some more time in my homeland in a van down by the river. And down by the river we keep it Jersey fresh.
Today, much to my surprise and absolute DELIGHT, my mom took me to a farm stand in Ringoes. She had a gift card. Who receives a gift card for a FARM STAND?!
My mom does, that’s who.
We were running around doing errands as folks who have off on a weekday do and all of a sudden she sharply cut the wheel of her Mazda CX-5 and we looped through a jughandle and boom we were at Sweet Valley Farm Market and our lives would never be the same.
You may not be aware but New Jersey is the Garden State. That means we have gardens, in our state. Not only do we HAVE gardens but we are KNOWN FOR GARDENS and mostly we’re known for giant gardens and another word for “giant gardens” is “farms.”
We are known for farms. Farms that churn out Jersey fresh produce at a rate of one million tomatoes per minute. Also we invented the greatest tomatoes of all time. With science. At Rutgers. They’re called Ramapo tomatoes and they are The Godfather of tomatoes. I don’t even care what you have to say about it because they are everything worth loving in our state and I can’t be convinced otherwise.
Beyond that, this farm market was everything I needed and more. I have recently been feeling shitty and I blamed it on the time of year like “oh it’s the dog days of summer” or some shit. But today I did a full on 180 and realized I actually really love this part of the summer. Everything is at peak green lushness and ready to be harvested. But it’s like the first part of harvest time. When everything still feels fully alive and not dying like it is in the fall. It’s like you pick something to eat and it still could grow back, or grow more for you to take later this year. It’s not too late. It’s still summer.
It felt nice to realize this. But it took spending some quality one on one time with some tomatoes and peppers and peaches and eggplants to come to this realization. And I thank my mom for bringing me to this beautiful temple of crops to worship the gifts bestowed upon us by our incredible state. The 3rd state to ratify the US constitution.
Upon entering the farm stand I first noticed some peaches. I love love LOVE peaches but only NJ peaches in the summer. Or Georgia peaches OBVIOUSLY but you have to be in Georgia to get those…OBVIOUSLY.
At this point in COVID-19 history I feel like it’s straight up asshole behavior to squeeze at things before you buy them to see if they’re ripe so I had to make an educated guess on which basket of peaches to choose. They had white and yellow peaches and I prefer yellow. That’s all I have to say about that.
As I was excitedly wandering and taking pictures my mom told this old dude working there that I was “in from the city” and maybe not used to all of this farm-fueled excitement. She’s wrong because I WAS BORN INTO THIS FARM-FUELED EXCITEMENT but maybe she said it to make him give me free stuff. Because quicker than you can say “elotes” he swooped over, scooped up a random ear of corn, tore it open, and told me to take a bite.
So I did. As a sample. It was incredible. I will tell you one thing about Jersey corn in August and that is that it is JERSEY FRESH. DON’T YOU FORGET IT.
We browsed some more and I came across some lovely cucumbers.
Some perky peppers.
A very sassy eggplant.
And of course miles upon miles of luscious, red, perfectly ripe, height of their season and prime of their very lives, Jersey tomatoes.
There is nothing more beautiful.
And there you have it. Jersey fresh. That’s all I really wanted to say. I feel Jersey fresh, personally. And REfreshed. And renewed. And it was produce that did it. The end.
It feels like shit is going to start getting shitty again, aka getting trapped inside forever, so I’d like to talk about a small light that shines while trapped inside and that is the light of this indoor plant thing.
My mom got it for me back in March, when this COVID nonsense started, and it’s the gift that keeps on giving!
At first I was like, this will not work and all of these plants WILL die and I will never eat or enjoy any of them. But I set off to set it up just to see what would happen.
Actually my boyfriend set it up first and then we harvested that group so then I cleaned it out and started up the second group of plants.
For the first round we just grew what came with the indoor plant thing: basil, parsley, and dill.
Basil is great and the birds also enjoy it. Well…just one bird now but the other one really liked it too! They eat it until their beaks turn green.
Parsley is just…meh. What even is parsley? What doesn’t it even DO? DO I EVEN CARE?! The parsley was the first plant I “culled,” as this article in the NYTimes unceremoniously refers to the slaughter of a ton of minks in Denmark.
Dill reminds be of pickles and is therefore highly undesirable and I didn’t even care what it was doing. Dont even speak of it, it disgusts me.
So for round 2 I procured the “Salsa Garden” and “Pesto Basil” seed pod kits on Amazon.
As the instructions say, first you add water, then you plop in the seed pods, add some plant food, and voila, you’re a legit horticulturist.
There’s some kind of timing involved with the growing light but my boyfriend set that part up so I can’t tell you about it firsthand. I think it’s probably pretty simple but plants quickly die in my care so don’t take my word for it.
The light schedule mimics the hours of sunlight in a typical growing season, or maybe it’s more than a typical growing season and I’m making this up. Either way the plants are super obsessed with the light and they grow toward it.
Except for the basil, which grew the slowest and the jalenpeno and tomato plants both grew over it and stole its light and then it died.
Sorry about that birdies, no basil today.
As they grow toward the light you’re supposed to trim them so they don’t touch the light. But for a long time, perhaps weeks, maybe more than a month, I was afraid to trim them. They were growing! Why would I impede that?! But they WERE touching the light and they WERE NOT yet producing fruit so I guess I had to do something.
I started with just trimming the tops so they weren’t touching the light anymore. And cutting off the dead parts too. Beyond that I was still scared!
But then I went home to my parents’ one weekend and saw that my mom had cut her tomato plant very, very short. And it was a short stubby tomato plant but it was bursting with tomatoes! So this gave me the courage to go home and trim mine a little more.
Soon we had some jalapeños! They were the first to pop out, before the tomatoes. The plant has a pretty white flower that grows and then the pepper grows through the flower. It’s pretty bad ass. There are both red and green ones on this plant!
The tomatoes came a little later but then they kind of took over, there are way more of them. I put some straws up to support them because they’re a vine and they like to grow up things. I think. I could be making this up.
So far I’ve used a jalepeno for a marinade for chicken per this recipe from the NYTimes. I used breasts because thighs gross me out. It was delicious! It’s funny that the leaves also have that spicy smell, if you rub them and then smell your fingers.
The tomatoes of course have that beautiful tomato smell. You don’t rub your plants and then smell your fingers? Lame. If you like the tomato smell you should try the Jersey Tomato candle from The Lucky Honeybee because they have captured it PERFECTLY and it BLOWS MY MIND.
I’ve used the tomatoes in a scramble and it was so fun to pick them off the plant and throw them into the pan. FARM TO TABLE, BABY.
This indoor plant thing is technically called an “AeroGarden” and you can get one on Amazon and I’d like to submit that you totally should. I know we’re not supposed to be supporting Amazon right now so you can also get one at AeroGarden’s very own site. It may become the only thing that entertains you while trapped inside. It may be the only thing that preserves your sanity. Trust me, I know. K bye.
Yesterday for dinner I made a child’s meal, and that meal was English muffin pizza.
Maybe it’s not EXCLUSIVELY for children, I don’t know. But I DO know that we used to make it all the time as kids with my mom and it was so simple that it allowed the kids to do most of the prep work and the parents only had to do the stove part.
Now that I’m an “adult” I did most of the prep work and then asked my boyfriend to do the stove part. The stove actually really scares me, I don’t want to talk about it.
I used these 100 calorie multigrain English muffins that were just sitting around in our apartment and probably were going to start rotting away soon. I toasted the muffins in the oven a bit before I applied the sauce.
For the sauce I used a can of diced tomatoes because that’s what I had and also I think tomato sauce in a jar is disgusting. I added salt, pepper, oregano, garlic salt, and onion powder to the diced tomatoes in a bowl and I mixed it all up and smushed them. To make them more sauce-like. But not as sauce-like as sauce in a jar. Because I hate it.
After spreading the sauce, I applied some pepperoni slices that I cut into cute little quarters. English muffins are small and therefore require cute little meat ingredients. It’s the only way.
For the cheese I did some with shredded mozzarella/provolone and some with part of a slice of mozzarella on the top. Once the cheese was on, I sprinkled some salt and pepper on top of all of these cute lil pizza guys and threw them into the oven.
They were cooked at 400 degrees for like 10 minutes, or until the cheese was melted and the edges were golden brown.