Food | Somewhere in Middle America – Part 2

In the spirit of the holidays, my husband and I celebrated the first night of Passover with an impromptu 10 minute seder at the kitchen counter, complete with four servings apiece of Manischewitz in aperitif glasses. Happy Pesach!

It’s not a celebration without a pink Funfetti cake! After a delicious Valentine’s Day brunch at Dixie Quicks and a trip to the movie theater to see “An Education,” J prepared dinner while I made dessert. I thing serving pink Funfetti cakes for special occasions is becoming a new tradition for us.

We made our first back in January for my dad’s birthday, and it was so yummy and festive that we’ve become addicted. A couple of weeks ago for a dinner party I used chocolate frosting instead of pink vanilla on a Funfetti cake, and it definitely wasn’t the same.

How did you celebrate Valentine’s Day?

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One of my favorite things to do while on vacation is to eat. I love checking out the local hot spots. So while we were in St. Louis this past weekend for a wedding, J and I made sure to carve out some time to visit some of the city’s best known restaurants. I updated my Facebook status asking for recommendations and received quite a few from Omahans who used to live in the Gateway City. I also scoured the St. Louis version of Where magazine and the online version of Sauce, a local culinary and entertainment magazine, for insider tips.

For dinner Saturday night we chose Araka in Clayton (above), which won a 2009 Readers’ Choice award for “Best Lookin’ Restaurant” from Sauce. We arrived early, and I enjoyed a most delicious Raspberry Lemon Drop at the bar while we waited. After we were seated we decided to order off the Restaurant Week menu–3 courses for $25. When you consider that most of the entrees cost approximately $25 a piece, that was a steal. I am proud to announce that I tasted escargot for the first time, as that’s what J ordered for his appetizer. Unfortunately, service was a bit spotty, and we had to send back my pork loin twice. The first time it was overcooked. The second time it was literally raw in the middle. The restaurant handled the snafu appropriately and did not charge me for my meal, which also included an appetizer and dessert. My dessert was just blah. I ordered the chocolate chip pound cake, but they served me an end piece with the “crust,” so it wasn’t as soft and moist as it should have been. Thankfully, J’s dessert was so delicious that it made up for what mine was lacking. Chocolate-hazelnut bars. Yum.

Before we left St. Louis we decided to stop at Pi in The Loop for lunch. A favorite of President Obama’s, the trendy–and relatively healthy–pizza place is famous for its Chicago-style deep dish pizza (above) with cornmeal crust. (Although we heard somebody say it was San Francisco-style pizza. I didn’t know SF had a style of pizza.) It was insane. Even the spinach salad we started with was fantastic. Although we ordered a large pie (for $22!), it was so filling that we were each only able to eat 2 slices. It’s a good thing we went for lunch on Sunday; on Friday and Saturday nights, you can wait up for 2-3 hours for a table!

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Australia’s favorite chocolate cookie — and mine! — are making their American debut courtsey of Pepperidge Farm. However, if you’re lucky enough to have a World Market in your town, you can find the original Arnott’s version in the international food department.

I’ve discovered where the Old Men’s Club hold their meetings on Thursday mornings — Winchell’s Donuts at 120th and Center!

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After our deliciously healthy dinner Sunday night, J decided he wanted to bake a cake. Not one to object to freshly made cake, I agreed to help. While he prepared the batter following the Martha Stewart recipe below, and I hulled and halved the strawberries. Our teamwork paid off in a big way–a delicious summer strawberry cake. If only we hadn’t forgotten to top it off with Cool Whip!

Makes one 10-inch cake

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pie plate
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch pie plate. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together into a medium bowl.
  2. Put butter and 1 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low; mix in egg, milk, and vanilla.
  3. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture. Transfer batter to buttered pie plate. Arrange strawberries on top of batter, cut sides down and as close together as possible. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries.
  4. Bake cake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake until cake is golden brown and firm to the touch, about 1 hour. Let cool in pie plate on a wire rack. Cut into wedges. Cake can be stored at room temperature, loosely covered, up to 2 days.

… but it’s swordfish! Check out the gourmet salad my husband prepared for dinner last, which included fresh sweet corn from the Farmer’s Market and a homemade blueberry vinaigrette.

Yesterday a friend of ours from Cleveland, “F,” was in town for business meetings. J’s mom lives in Cleveland, and we asked her send the friend to Omaha with a stash of pastrami and corned beef, two deli meats you just can’t find out here. Shortly before 2pm I received a call from F letting me know that he was heading to his first meeting and would be about 5 minutes West of where I live. He gave me the make and model of his rental car and told me he would leave the car unlocked so that I could go into the backseat for the goods. My instructions were to lock the doors when I was finished.

Feeling as though I was about to take part in a covert drug sale, I pulled up next to the silver PT Cruiser and climbed into the empty car. I took the brown bag of food, leaving the canvas tote it was in and the ice pack that was keeping it cold. Mission accomplished. I locked the car and made my way back home, only to discover in my kitchen that the brown bag contained bagels and rye bread. Where was the beef? It was then that I realized the ice pack was not actually an ice pack but a hot/cold bag keeping the meat fresh. Dang it! I had already locked the car; there was no going back. F was already in his meeting; there was no way to get in touch with him. What to do, what to do?

J’s mom and I both called F’s cell phone knowing that he wouldn’t answer but hoping that he’d at least see our missed calls. Sure enough, when F was out of his meeting, he called me back to give me the location of his next appointment, this time 5 minutes South East of my house. By now it was thunderstorming in Omaha, but I jumped back into the SUV and drove to pick-up location number 2. At this point I was feeling a bit ridiculous. I was chasing after 2lbs of meat in the pouring rain. But once I had the precious cargo in my hands, I realized it was so worth it. Dinner was delicious. We even had Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda and Black Cherry soda to compliment our traditional Jewish deli sandwiches. 

What type of food would you go out of your way to get? 

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Happy Iced Coffee Day! Please do me a favor. Go to your nearest Dunkin’ Donuts and get yourself a small iced coffee for only 50 cents. Ten percent of the purchase price will go towards supporting the troops.

One of the downfalls of living in Omaha is that we don’t have a Dunkin’ Donuts. Back East, DD’s were almost as ubiquitous as Starbucks. I remember the day when they opened a DD one a block away from my office on Hudson St. I could skip out whenever I wanted for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up: a blueberry-flavored iced coffee with cream and sugar. Pure bliss, I tell you. And on particularly stressful days, I’d get myself a coffee roll, too.

So please let me live vicariously through you. Get a small DD iced coffee for 50 cents and then tell me how tasty it was.

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I discovered a tasty new treat at Costco this week: Dry Roasted Edamame. Perfectly salted and gloriously crunchy, these protein-filled beans make a great afternoon snack. However, they aren’t calorie-free, so if you eat too many of them they can become unhealthy… and like peanuts or pistachios, I can see these being hard to stop munching on.