Thursday, April 30, 2009

All Kidding Aside - here are the sides!

Oh I just crack me up. Get it? Okay, maybe it's just me. 

As luck would have it I have contracted an ear infection just in time for my Women's Wine Weekend (notice there is no H in wine). And I can't even whine about it because no whining is in the WWW bylaws. Oh bother. I am on antibiotics and motrin and will soldier on, but curses to these allergies of mine - every spring it seems....

I'm making two side dishes with the beef tenderloin on Saturday night. Crisp New Potatoes with herbs and roasted sticky carrots. I'm also going to make an herb butter for the hot ciabatta rolls I'll be serving with dinner. So, all kidding aside, here are the sides:

Crisp New Potatoes: (serves 4)

One small bag (about 1 pound) small creamery new potatoes (you can also use baby red skinned or fingerlings)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 sprigs fresh rosemary OR thyme, stripped and chopped.
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
Kosher or Sea Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper

Wash and pierce potatoes. Starting with COLD, salted water, cook for about 10 minutes until just soft enough to pierce (we're going to cook them some more - so don't cook them all the way).
Drain, let dry naturally.
Melt butter in large saute pan. Add oil and heat to medium high. Add potatoes. Salt & Pepper to taste. Cook potatoes until they begin to crisp and brown, turning to brown all sides. Add rosemary (or thyme) stir one more minute. Place on platter, drizzle oil/butter combo over and sprinkle handful of fresh parsley over. 

Roasted Sticky Carrots: (serves 4)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

16 carrots (about 2 pounds) select thin, rather than big carrots. If more than 1/2 inch in diameter, split in half.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, stripped and chopped
2 tablespoons honey

Peel carrots, wash and dry.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in oven proof casserole or rimmed cookie sheet. Add oil. Add carrots and roll around to coat. Sprinkle with ginger and thyme. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes until soft and slightly carmelized. Roll carrots about halfway through. When easily pierced with a fork, drizzle carrots with 2 tablespoons honey. Roast for 5 more minutes. 

These carrots go great with pork, beef and chicken and kids LOVE them! 

Herb Butter:

There is no end to the variations of herbed butters you can make. Always, always, start with unsalted butter, it has a more pure taste and you can always add salt to your liking!  

I make my butter and keep it in a little butter jar in my fridge.  You an also roll it into a log in plastic wrap and then slice it. It keeps for as long as, well, butter - but don't plan on having it around long, it just won't last. 

Try these:

Zest of one lemon, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley. Great with fish and chicken
Herbs de Provence - perfect with meat dishes
thyme and sea salt - chicken, fish
rosemary and sea salt - chicken, fish, beef, lamb
honey - on toast with tea

Use your imagine. Any herb or flavor you are using in your cooking you can mirror in the butter. What a nice surprise for your family; warm bread from the oven and a lightly flavored butter to spread on it. Put it on the table before dinner to give them a little taste of what's to come. 









Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Two Days To WWW - and Tenderloin




These are the women of WWW. Women's Wine Weekend (notice there is no H in Wine).

That's me, the first on the right

It's two days until we convene and commence to, well, whatever we want.

Today I am going to buy the beef tenderloin and this is how I'm going to make it for WWW Saturday Dinner:

Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Rosemary, Chocolate and Wine Sauce

1 (2 to 5 pound) beef tenderloin
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 teaspoons olive oil
½ cup chopped shallots
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups dry red wine plus more for drinking (duh)
2 cups beef broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Tenderloin:

Take meat out of refrigerator 1 hour before roasting. Season meat with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add meat and sear until well browned on all sides.

Transfer the meat to a rack set on a baking sheet. Roast until desired doneness (140 – medium rare, 150 – medium). Take meat out of oven 6 degrees below desired temperature. Tent. Residual cooking will bring to desired temperature. Let rest AT LEAST 15 minutes before carving.

Sauce:

Heat remaining 2 teaspoons of oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, carrot and celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cook for 2 more minutes. Add the wine and broth and stir in tomato paste, bay leaf, rosemary and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce and simmer until reduced by half (about 30 minutes) Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Discard solids. Return sauce to pan, whisk in cocoa. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Serve on the side with the sliced tenderloin.


Tomorrow: All the sides.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Fun With Food and Chicken Skewers


The best husband in the world gave me a food scale for my birthday. Hoopdeedoo! Well, to be fair, he gave me a food scale AND a juicer. For some of you out there this would mean immediate expulsion from the best husband in the world club. But don't be judging the BHITW, because this is exactly what I wanted. 

It's not just any food scale. It is a new and improved nutritional food scale. 
Commercial quality with 8.8 pound capacity. 
Able to measure food in grams, kilograms and ounces. But wait, there's more. You can get the exact nutritional information of the food you are weighing, unlike my other old food scale that just weighed stuff. 
For instance, I have here an avocado. Just your plain, everyday Haas variety. When I put it on my old food scale I am told it weighs 7.5 ounces. When I put it on my new and improved nutritional food scale I am told:

Weight: 7.5 ounces
Enter the code for avocado: 334 and voila!
Calories: 375
Sodium: 25.73 mg
Fiber: 0
Cholesterol: 0
Protein: 4.89 grams
Carbohydrates: 14.71 grams
Fat: 36.76 grams

Oh Joy! Oh Rapture!  Wait, let's try a lemon.

Weight: 4.2 ounces
Enter the code for lemon: 359
Calories: 36
Sodium: 2.16 mg
Fiber: 2.0 grams
Cholesterol: 0
Protein: 2.16 grams
Carbohydrates: 10.86 grams
Fat: 0 grams

Imagine the possibilities!! No more guessing. No more cumbersome books and indexes. Who knew a food scale could be so much fun! Here's the skinny on tonight's dinner of 

Grilled Lemon Chicken Kabobs with minted sugar snap peas and tri-color couscous (serves 4)

1 Pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 4 half breasts)
3 tablespoons (about) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Juice of 1  fresh lemon (remember what I told you about that bottled stuff)
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
Kosher Salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 cups fresh sugar snap peas, washed and ends trimmed

Heat grill to medium-high.
Cut the chicken breasts into 1 inch cubes. Place in a bowl and drizzle about 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 the lemon juice over. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Let marinate 15 or so minutes. Not too long or the chicken will start to "cook" from the lemon juice. Thread onto skewers.  Grill for about 10 minutes until done. (hint: leave a little space between pieces of chicken for even cooking).

Meanwhile, steam the sugar snap peas. Toss with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, lemon zest, rest of juice, salt, pepper (to taste) and chopped mint. 

Serve with a side of tri-color couscous made to package directions. 

Okay, here's the fun part:
4 ounces of chicken, 1/2 cup of the peas and 1/2 cup couscous:
547 calories
13.8 grams of fat
48 grams of protein
84 grams of carbohydrates
5.1 grams of fiber
*** I am NOT a registered dietician or a nutritionist - I am a serial dieter. 

At least I think that's what it all adds up to. The new and improved nutritional food scale did not come with a calculator and after 1 1/2 hours of trying to figure this out I'm tempted to just order pizza. 

Oh bother, I really just wanted it to weigh flour which is what my old food scale did. 

Tomorrow: LET THE JUICING BEGIN!! 

Monday, April 27, 2009

4 Days to WWW

I just realized it is only 4 days until WWW - that is Women's Wine Weekend. 

Women's Wine Weekend (notice there is no H in wine) consists of me and seven fabulous women friends all congregating at Marie's (one of the Fab 7's) weekend house in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. 

We do this twice a year - in the fall we go to Michele's farm in upstate New York. Spring finds us in Pennsylvania. 

I do look forward to these weekends. 

We, all eight of us, are from different, yet remarkably same, walks of life. There are singles, divorced, never marrieds, marrieds, childless, empty nesters, and children still at home among us. But we are the same in that we are women. And we are friends. 

WWW has all of us contributing to the welfare of the weekend. Welfare meaning food and drink. I am responsible for Saturday night dinner and you KNOW you will be seeing the recipes over the next few days. This is my menu:

Beef Tenderloin with Rosemary, red wine and chocolate sauce
Roast, crisp new potatoes with fresh herbs
Roast "sticky" carrots with honey and thyme
Fresh breads, herbed butter.
Many laughs

And of course all the wine we care to sip during the preparation, eating and clean up. Everyone pitches in and again, there is no H in wine. 

I have to get busy making my lists, shopping and preparing the best husband in the world for my departure. But I leave you with this little note about women that my dad sent me; I think it says it all as to why eight women, all different, are so alike:

One Flaw In Women 



Women have strengths that amaze men. 
They bear hardships and they carry burdens, 
but they hold happiness, love and joy. 


They smile when they want to scream. 
They sing when they want to cry.. 

They cry when they are happy 
and laugh when they are nervous. 

They fight for what they believe in. 

They stand up to injustice. 


They don't take "no" for an answer 
when they believe there is a better solution. 


They go without so their family can have. 

They go to the doctor with a frightened friend.   
They love unconditionally. 
They cry when their children excel 
and cheer when their friends get awards. 


They are happy when they hear about 
a birth or a wedding. 

Their hearts break when a friend dies. 

They grieve at the loss of a family member, 
yet they are strong when they 
think there is no strength left. 

They know that a hug and a kiss 
can heal a broken heart. 


Women come in all shapes, sizes and colors. 


They'll drive, fly, walk, run or e-mail (or blog) you 
to show how much they care about you. 


The heart of a woman is what 
makes the world keep turning.


They bring joy, hope and love. 

They have compassion and ideas.. 

They give moral support to their 
family and friends. 

Women have vital things to say 
and everything to give. 


HOWEVER, IF THERE IS ONE FLAW IN WOMEN, 
IT IS THAT THEY FORGET THEIR WORTH. 



Don't forget your worth. More tomorrow.

Diets and Blue Cheese Dressing

Today is Monday and I am officially starting my diet. It is the 52nd diet I have started in the past year. I have gained and lost the same pounds now 52 times. But this time, I really mean it. 

It's hard to be on a diet when you are a cook. Now I know what you are thinking, "but you're a cook", you can make low fat, low calorie everything. Uh-huh. That is what makes it doubly hard. I KNOW what things are supposed to taste like and there are just some things that will never, ever taste like the "real" thing. 

So what's a serial dieter and consummate cook to do? Do her best. Here is the best "diet" blue cheese dressing around. I took out the sour cream and mayo and substituted yogurt. I'm having a tad on my lunch salad today. 

Blue Cheese Dressing:

1 cup Greek style 0% fat yogurt (my favorite is FACE)
Juice of half a lemon
1/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled
Kosher Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper
Skim Milk as needed to thin

Whisk the yogurt, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste together. Stir in blue cheese. Add skim milk by tablespoons until desired consistency. 

Tastes like the real thing. I promise. 

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Littles, Middles, KidAdults & Shortbread

In my life there are littles, middles and KidAdults.

Littles: this is an example of littles. They are very small people incapable of rational thought or of using the modern facility we refer to as a toilet. Notice the disposable diaper peeking out of Jillian's (the little on the right) shorts. They tend to arise very early in the morning and do not require coffee to commence making noise.

Littles favorite word is NOOOO! They are prone to temper tantrums, drooling and uncontrollable cuteness which renders them unbelievably lovable.

Middles are between the ages of 5 and 12.
They are known for their athletic prowess, superior intellect (that consists mostly of thinking their parents know everything) and their ability to use modern facilities (i.e. the toilet). They are prone to using inappropriate verbs that renders them hysterical (think: fart, booger, doo-doo head, etc.). They tend to make adults laugh, but not in front of them because that would be inappropriate and would not be a good example.

KidAdults are ages 13 to ?
KidAdults know everything. They are absolutely mortified at how incredibly stupid and out of touch old people are (old people = anyone older than them) they are inflicted with the disease of rolling eyes. This condition renders them incapable of speaking to or listening to anything adults say without rolling their eyes into the back of their heads. Do not waste your money on an opthomologist; this is a first time KidAdult parent mistake. The condition will eventually pass without major repercussions to their overall vision.

There are many stages of KidAdults and it depends on the person you are speaking with whether these beings are referred to as KidAdults or Kids or Adults.

For example:
I am an adult to my offspring (consisting of KidAdults and one sometime Adult)
I am an adult to my siblings and the best husband in the world.
I am a Kid and at times a KidAdult to my parents and their friends. As in: Andy and Dolores' Kid has a blog. Or as in: my KidAdult has a blog.
Sometimes my son, father to Hannah and Jillian, the littles (pictured) is an adult, sometimes, he is a KidAdult; even though he is in his 30's.
I'm sure to my grandparents (now deceased) I was a little and perhaps a middle. Or maybe they, being wise and from the old country didn't bother about such musings....

S0, who are you and who are the people in your life? No matter; here is a recipe that will satisfy the little, the middle, the KidAdult and the Adult and in your life:

Peanut Butter and Jam Shortcake:

You will need:


¼ cup creamy peanut butter (do not use all natural types)
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup sugar
Large pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ cup flour
1/3 cup of your favorite jelly, preserves or jam (preserves & jam work best, but jelly is fine too)

Preheat oven to 350.

Spray bottom of 9 inch springform pan with nonstick spray. Beat butter and peanut butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt and beat again. Beat in vanilla, then flour. Take out 1/3 cup batter, shape into flat disk, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes. Pat rest of dough into bottom of pan using slightly wet fingers. Refrigerate while waiting for the frozen disk.

Remove pan with dough from refrigerator. Spread jelly or jam over dough leaving a ½ inch border. Using the large holes of a box grater, grate the dough disk and sprinkle over jam.

Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool. Release sides from pan. Cut into “pizza” wedges.

Enjoy being a little, middle, kidadult or adult again.


Boys, Mussels and Kettles



Children are amazing, aren't they? Their response to everything is so simple and pure. This is Shane, my 10 year old nephew, less than 24 hours after surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his side. 

My husband (the best husband in the world) asked him how he was feeling. A big two thumbs up is his reply. He is feeling strong. Which reminded me of muscles (mussels)

We don't have the results back from the biopsy yet so we don't know if this was stage 1,2,3 or 4 cancer and until then we won't know how the doctors want to proceed (radiation, chemo, combo of), but here he is, smiling his smile of life, feeling happy and strong. Now if that isn't a lesson for all of us, what is? The surgeon does feel that he was able to remove all of the tumor, that it had not spread to the bone or his abdominal cavity. Thank God and thank you for your prayers. 

Jim is still in Michigan. He will come home tomorrow. He called last night, feeling very lonely and sad. How can that be? He was with his entire family, sister, brothers, mom and dad and all the assorted nieces and nephews (the littles, as I call them) that come with them and everyone is feeling happy and strong. His reply was that being with them, made him lonely for me. They were complete, and he wasn't. This is one of the reasons he is the best husband in the world. 

I know how he feels. Yesterday, because I was lonely for him, I went to a beautiful place not far from our home. It is a low valley, cut out by a glacier thousands of years ago (I know this because the best husband in the world, who is a geologist, told me). It is called a glacial kettle. Over the years, one bulb at a time, thousands of daffodils have been planted here and, like daffodils do, they multiplied. Today, there are over 30,000 daffodils blooming in this kettle. 

It is a beautiful place and brought me much peace. This glacial kettle also reminded me of
a. my husband and 
b. a big black cast iron kettle I have. 
Which reminded me of this simple, yet satisfying meal:

Mussel Pot for Two:

3 pounds Prince Edward Island (or your favorite, such as green lip) mussels, scrubbed and debearded. Click together any open mussels, if they don't close, discard them.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup white wine, such as Riesling (more for drinking with dinner)
1 small bunch fresh flat leaf parsley, rough chopped
1 loaf crusty, french bread

Melt the butter in a dutch oven or better yet, a cast iron kettle if you have one. Add the shallots and saute until soft (about 5 minutes).  Add the garlic and give it another minute. Add the wine and mussels, bring to a good simmer. Put a lid on it and cook for 5 to 8 minutes or until the mussels open. 

Throw a handful of chopped parsley in and stir. Discard any unopened mussels. Serve with crusty bread for dipping into the sauce and a good cold white wine. 

Enjoy and stay happy and strong no matter what life hands you. 

A Cooks Note:
You can substitute clams or large shrimp (in the shell) for the mussels. This is a great appetizer for 4 to 6 or a simple, light meal for two. Add a salad if you insist on greens. 



Wednesday, April 22, 2009

And the Tough Get Cooking

I decided that if I can't do anything about operations and tumors and cancer, I CAN make chocolate chip cookies. These are not the standard Toll House Cookie Recipe that we all grew up on. Nope, these are, New and Improved, HOT from my oven in New Jersey, and personally driven and hand delivered to Shane in Michigan by his Uncle Jim:


THE BEST CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES IN THE WORLD:


2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp table salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted until slightly browned
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk only
2 cups (12 oz) Ghirardelli or Hershey's semi-sweet chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Position the rack in the middle of the oven.

Stir sugars and vanilla into melted butter. Whisk or gently mix. Wait 3 minutes, mix again. Wait 3 minutes. Mix again.

Add egg and egg yolk. Mix gently until incorporated.

Stir together flour, salt and baking soda. Add to melted butter, sugar mixture. Stir or mix gently. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop by tablespoonful onto parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes. Cool slightly. Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

A Cook's Notes:

By browning and melting the butter you are accomplishing two things:

1. Adding more depth of flavor with the browned butter

2. Aiding in the melting of the sugars. This will keep the cookie chewier.

The egg yolk will also give your cookies more chewiness; rather than a cake like texture that the egg white would add.

The higher ratio of dark brown sugar to white adds even more depth of flavor and adds a caramel crispness to the outside of the cookie

Use Hershey or Ghirardelli chocolate - it is a better quality than Nestle.

Bake in batches - only one tray at a time. Yes, it's time consuming, but you will get a better, even baked cookie. Use two trays - one in the oven and one ready to go. Don't put batter on hot tray, allow cookie sheet to cool before reloading.

And finally, make these cookies for small boys (and girls) and not so small boys and girls with scary stuff in their lives.

It's Hard to Blog Today

It's hard to write today. We received some very sad, frightening news from Michigan where my husband's clan resides. 

Our little nephew Shane, just 10 years old has been diagnosed with a cancerous tumor.  He is having surgery tomorrow to remove the tumor. We won't know more until after the operation.

This has all happened really fast - starting with a playground fall just last week and what was thought to be a bruise. Well, that "bruise" got worse and by the third visit to the doctor's this tumor was discovered. 

Needless to say, his parents (my brother-in-law and his wife) are frantic but holding their own and making very rapid, wise decisions based on the best available information right now. 

Jim, my husband is leaving tonight to be with his brother and family. I'm glad he's going. It's hard being so far away from family in the best of times. When tragedy strikes, it's even harder. I wish I could go too. At the very least I could keep everyone fed. 

That's me. When the going gets tough - I get cooking. 

For now, if all of you who read this could just stop what you're doing and offer a gentle prayer for Shane and his family it would be greatly appreciated. While you're at it, offer it up to all the sick kids out there. Everyone needs a little help from above. 

Monday, April 20, 2009

James and The Giant Cupcake


This is James. He is fifteen years old and one of Zach's, my 15 year old son's, best friends.

These are James' giant cupcakes.

Recently, my son's friends have been eating dinner with us on a Saturday night.

Typically, it starts like this; around 3:00 on a Saturday afternoon, the phone rings.

Me: Hello? Zach?
Zach: Hi mom.
Me: Where are you?
Zach: In my room.
Me: In my house?
Zach: Yeah. In my room.
Me: Have you fallen and can't get up?
Zach: No, it's me Zach - I'm in my room with Sal.

Sal is another one of my son's friends he "hangs" with. There is Tom and Sal, and Mark, and Ryan, and James. They are very nice boys from the neighborhood and all 15 years old.

Me: You are in your room with Sal? Has Sal fallen and can't get up? Did a dresser fall on you? Are you engaging in CPR on Sal that prohibits you from coming out of your room, walking the 10 feet to the kitchen and conversing in person with me?
Zach: no, we're playing video games, can Sal eat over?
Me: Sure

That's how it typically starts. Five or ten minutes later, another phone call:
Me: Hello Zach?
Zach: Yeah, mom... can Tom eat over too?
Me: Did Tom fall down and can't get up?
Zach: Oh mom...
Me: okay.

This will go on for sometime. This past Saturday, Zach did eventually emerge from his room to ask if James could also eat over. James was coming from a fresh haircut appointment and wanted all his friends to see his new "do" (my words, not theirs)

When James came in the door - I was shocked.

James, for as long as I have known him, has had very long hair that he wore tied back in a pony tail; which in itself is funny. Let me explain. I grew up in the 70's - where long haired "hippies" were the norm. These kids have absolutely no clue that they are imitating a style from the 70's. It would be like me wearing saddle shoes and poodle skirts. But they don't get it. They believe they are the fashionistas and and on the cutting edge. hee-hee. If they would only take a glance at my high-school yearbook how mortified would they be???

Anyway, James came in - another dinner invitation was extended and like so many Saturday night dinners I found myself cooking for 4 to 5 teenagers, my husband and myself. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. I have always tried to have an "open door" policy when it comes to our home. Better to have the kidadults congregate here than elsewhere and besides, it is amazing what you can learn over a table of shared food.

What I learned that night:

James had been growing his hair for a couple of years in order to donate it to Locks for Love; an organization that makes wigs for children undergoing chemotherapy. There is no charge for these wigs. It was finally long enough and in one fell swoop he had it all cut off to benefit children with cancer.

Sometimes kids can amaze us.

So that's why I made James a Giant Cupcake. Because James, in my eyes, has a giant heart.

Devil's Food Cupcakes with Chocolate Glaze and Cream Cheese Swirl.
Makes 6 jumbo (muffin size) or 12 normal size cupcakes.

Paper cupcake liners (jumbo or regular sized)
1/2 cup whole grain pasty flour (I like Hodson Mills whole wheat pastry flour)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon slat
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup reduced fat yogurt (I like Face 0% fat Greek yogurt)
1/4 cup skim or 1% milk
1 teaspoon vinegar or lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg white

Glaze:
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon nonfat milk (plus more if needed)
2 ounces dark or semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped

Squiggle:
2 tablespoons cream cheese (I like neufchatel; light cream cheese)
2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar

Place rack in in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

Line cupcake pan with liners. Whisk together flours, cocoa, baking soda and salt in medium bowl and set aside.

Combine milk and lemon juice or vinegar in a small bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes, add yogurt and stir to combine. Add vanilla. Set aside.
Combine butter, oil and brown sugar in the bowl of mixer and mix on high speed until sugar has dissolved, about 1 minute. Add egg and egg white and beat another minute.
Add 1/3 of cocoa/flour mixture, then 1/3 of milk/yogurt mixture, mixing well after each addition. Repeat until all ingredients are combined.
Distribute among cupcake liners.
Bake for 22 minutes for jumbo muffin size or 15 minutes for regular cupcake size or until toothpick comes out clean.
Cool on rack.

Glaze:
Combine confectioner's sugar and milk in small saucepan and heat over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Add chocolate and and stir until melted and smooth. Add milk by 1/2 teaspoons if too thick. While still warm, frost cupcakes.

Squiggle:
2 tablespoons cream cheese. Microwave for 10-15 seconds.
2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar. Stir into cream cheese.
Place in small plastic bag, snip off corner and squiggle on cupcakes.

Don't tell the 15 year old's these are low fat, low calorie, high fiber. They are loaded with love and that's the only thing anyone needs to know; just like Locks for Love and fifteen year olds.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Mojitos and Spring


Yea! Today is a perfect spring day. 75 degrees, slight breeze, blue skies and sunshine. To celebrate spring and to honor the renewed talks of lifting restrictions to Cuba, I am going to make Mojitos.

Mojitos are my favorite spring and summertime drink. I first had one about 12 years ago at this great Cuban Restaurant in Key West, Florida. In recent years Mojitos have become a favorite everywhere and you can buy any number of premixed Mojito concoctions. I like to think I was on the cutting edge of Mojito Mania. I have tried several of the mixes out there and I'm here to tell you, while you can get away with it - don't serve a Cuban these abominations. Mojitos are easy to make and a homemade Mojito is something to savor. My recipe may not be the original Cuban Mojito straight from Havana but they are darn good.

Mojitos: (makes 4 to 6 Mojitos)

You will need:
Simple Syrup (the original Mojito uses Sugar Cane syrup but I am fresh out of Sugar Cane)
10 Limes
Rum
Club Soda
Mint Leaves

Simple Syrup:
One cup sugar, one cup water - boil until sugar dissolves. Keeps forever in the fridge. Today, I'm trying minted simple syrup - I added some torn mint leaves to the sugar and water, then strained them out when it was done. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Juice your limes. Keep them at room temperature and roll them on the counter giving gentle pressure with your palm while rolling - this will help extract the juice. If you have teenage boys in the house get them to do it. Tell them it will build their pecs. If you can get them to do this, juice 20 limes.

In a tall glass, place torn mint leaves 1/4 of the way up the glass (about 10 leaves). Muddle the mint around with the back of a spoon or an honest to goodness muddler (which of course, I have) 
Add Ice all the way to top of glass.
Add 2 shots of rum (or more - it's your Mojito)
Add 1 shot lime juice
Add 1/4 shot simple syrup 
Top with club soda. 
Insert straw, stir it around.
Sip and say AHHHHH.... 

Some people put some quartered limes in the drink also as a garnish - but I don't. But it's YOUR Mojito and they do look pretty. 





Friday, April 17, 2009

Important Health Information For Women

I am taking a mental health day today. I am NOT EVEN COOKING today - even though that tends to help my mental health. My husband is taking me out for sushi at FujiYama Mama - The very name of this restaurant gives me a mental health boost! How funny is that? FujiYama Mama??

The only blogging I am doing is this Special Woman's Health Announcement that I borrowed from Jan Can Cook blog. Jan has a great blog site called GirlTalk and another great site called Jan Can Cook - do check them both out! Enjoy:

IMPORTANT HEALTH INFORMATION FOR WOMEN

Do you have feelings of inadequacy? 
Do you suffer from shyness? 
Do you sometimes wish you were more assertive? 
If you answered yes to any of these questions, ask your doctor or pharmacist about Margaritas.

Margaritas are the safe, natural way to feel better and more confident about yourself and your actions. Margaritas can help ease you out of your shyness and let you tell the world that you're ready and willing to do just about anything. You will notice the benefits of Margaritas almost immediately and with a regimen of regular doses you can overcome any obstacles that prevent you from living the life you want to live.

Shyness and awkwardness will be a thing of the past and you will discover many talents you never knew you had. Stop hiding and start living, with Margaritas.

Margaritas may not be right for everyone. Women who are pregnant or nursing should not use Margaritas. However, women who wouldn't mind nursing or becoming pregnant are encouraged to try it.


Side effects may include: 


Ø Dizziness, nausea, vomiting, incarceration 


Ø Erotic lustfulness 


Ø Loss of motor control

Ø Loss of clothing

Ø Loss of money 


Ø Loss of virginity 


Ø Loss of bladder control 


Ø Attraction to ugly men 


Ø Table dancing 


Ø Headache

Ø Dehydration

Ø Dry mouth 


Ø and a desire to sing Karaoke

WARNING: 
*The consumption of Margaritas may make you think you are whispering when you are not. 
*The consumption of Margaritas may cause you to tell your friends over and over again that you love them. 
*The consumption of Margaritas may cause you to think you can sing. 
*The consumption of Margaritas may make you think you can logically converse with members of the opposite sex without spitting. 
NOTE: Margaritas are also available in generic form, known as tequila. Just as effective and costs only a fraction

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Talking Turkey

My husband asked me if I was going to blogviate today. As so often happens when we're speaking, I had no idea what he was talking about. Let me explain. My husband, whom I love dearly, likes to coin his own words. He patiently explained to me that blogviate was his version of "bloviate"; which didn't help me at all. So I looked up bloviate in the dictionary that is my constant companion since marrying this unique guy so long ago. Playing Scrabble with him is a real treat, but that's a whole different blog. Surprisingly, my New World Dictionary Of The American Language (2nd. college edition) did not list bloviate. So I turned to the Internet

Bloviate: (according to Wikipedia)

"To bloviate means "to speak pompously and excessively" or "to expound ridiculously". A colloquial verb coined in the United States, it is commonly used with contempt to describe the behavior of politicians, academics, pundits or media "experts," sometimes called bloviators, who hold forth on subjects in an arrogant, tiresome way.

The current verb 'bloviate' seems to be regarded as a back-formation from the noun blowhard.
The Oxford English Dictionary indicates that bloviate derives from adding a faux-Latin ending to the verb 'to blow' or boast, following a 19th-century fad of adding Latin-like affixes to ordinary words. However, others like William Safire claim that 'bloviate' comes from combining the words 'blow-hard' and 'deviation.'

Although 'bloviate' is listed in slang dictionaries as far back as the 19th century, the term was popularized by United States President Warren G. Harding in the 1920s. Famed for his poor English usage, Harding often used the word to describe his own speaking style. The term dropped from popular usage following his presidency but was resurrected in the 1960s when it was sometimes used in reference to Harding.

It became widely spoken again in the 1990s. Today, it appears regularly in The New York Times, The New Yorker and The Washington Post.

The term is used frequently by Fox News commentator, Bill O'Reilly whose show, The O'Reilly Factor, concludes with requests for email. The request for feedback sometimes includes: "And please when writing to us no bloviating, [that's] my job."

'Bloviating' has taken on new life in the blogosphere, used derisively to identify and otherwise chide the most pompous of contributors to message boards and forums."

Oh my - is that what I have been doing?? Bloviating on my blog? Does that make me a blogviator? Yes, my beloved assured me - although not as much as some. He said he was just giving it to me straight, "talking turkey". Which reminded me of the following recipe: 

Teriyaki Turkey Tenderloin (that's an alliteration by the way, which by telling you this makes me a bloviator or is it blogviator?...)

Two (2) Turkey breast tenderloins (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/2 cup teriyaki sauce
1 teaspoon ground ginger (or a nub of fresh, sliced thin)
2 garlic cloves smashed
1/4 cup pineapple juice

Cut your tenderloins into 1 inch cubes. Toss with all above ingredients. Place in ziplock bag and marinade in refrigerator for at least 45 minutes and up to 4 hours. 

Preheat grill to high. Skewer turkey tenderloin cubes. Grill until done, about 12-15 minutes, giving quarter turns every 4 minutes and basting first 3 turns. Discard any unused marinade. 

I like to serve this with grilled pineapple rings (brush with butter and melted brown sugar) grill lightly) and simple steamed white rice. 

Enjoy and try not to bloviate with your mouth full. 



Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Cook's Notes, Gnocchi








The Gnocchi were perfect. Tender, fluffy little pillows. But anyone who knows me, knows I cannot leave good enough alone. 

1. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to the the ricotta. 
2. This meal is rich, rich, rich. I think it would make a perfect small plate appetizer. Just 4 or 5 gnocchi would be a great starter to a light sauteed fish or chicken dinner.
3. I served fresh strawberries for dessert. The addition of bright red and green was a lovely "rounder". 
4. If you don't like peas, try asparagus. Same routine. Blanch. 
5. Purchased gnocchi would serve nicely (not as nicely, but nicely) and would save you a considerable amount of time. Don't NOT make this recipe because you don't have the time or patience for homemade. Just substitute. 

Enjoy the pics. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tulips, Squirrels and Ham Sandwiches

On the walk leading up to my front porch steps I have two big white planters. For every change of season I plant something different in these planters. Summer will find sweet potato vines and red and white geraniums, fall is for rust colored mums and at Christmas I use silk Poinsettias and silver twigs. Now that it is finally spring here in the Northeast I decided that it was time to plant some tulips in the planters. My local nursery had some lovely plants, just 3 for $10.00; a bargain considering each pot had at least 8 blooms. I chose 6 pots, 3 with bright yellow tulips and 3 sporting deep orange blossoms. Intermingling the colored blossoms in my planters gave me the stunning effect I was hoping for. A full 24 to 30 blooms filled each planter and brightened my walkway considerably. 

Now I have seen squirrels dig up all manner of things. But never did I imagine the havoc they would wreck on my beautiful spring planters. I could forgive the little rodents if they were hauling off my flowers to present to a fluffy tailed girlfriend. I could even look the other way if they choose one of two irresistible blooms. But no, the little devils in my neighborhood are hell bent on total destruction. Within 12 hours of my labor of love every sturdy stem had been bitten off at ground level. See, it wasn't the flowers they wanted, it was the bulbs themselves. To get to the bulbs, they bite off the flower, toss it to the side and dig up the tender, sweet bulb; scurrying up the nearest tree with their gourmet find. 

I was able to rescue the scattered blooms one by one and now have vases of yellow and deep orange tulips in every room. Sigh - at least the inside of the house echoes of spring.

Ham Paninis: makes 4 sandwiches

If you are like many people in this country you are now looking at a big platter of leftover Easter ham. And if you're like many people in this country, you are tired of leftover Easter ham. Here's an easy, tasty panini to use up the very last of that ham. 

Leftover ham (sliced thin)
Eight (8) slices rye bread
Eight (8) ounces Fontina cheese, shredded
Dijon Mustard
One (1) cup Cole Slaw, creamy style
Unsalted butter

Spread Dijon mustard on one side of all eight slices of rye bread.
Top 4 slices of bread with 1 ounce Fontina Cheese
Top with slices of ham
Top with a 1/4 cup cole slaw
Top with 1 ounce Fontina Cheese
Place 2nd slice of bread on top, mustard side down.

Melt butter and brush one side of sandwich with butter. 
Place on preheated grill pan, panini pan or fry pan buttered side down
Brush melted butter on top of sandwich.
Weight with a brick, panini press, or lid weighted with cans. 
Cook over low heat for 3 minutes. 
Check for golden crust. Turn, cook on other side 2-3 minutes until both sides have golden crust and cheese is melted.
Slice and serve piping hot with chips and a big dill pickle. 

Variation: my husband's favorite.
Use pineapple rings instead of cole slaw
Use Jarlsberg Swiss instead of Fontina. 

Eat these sandwiches indoors as I have no idea how squirrels feel about ham. 





Friday, April 10, 2009

Gardening and Eggplants and Tomatoes


I like to grow things but I hate to garden. Every spring and fall I go through the backbreaking ritual of planting stuff. It's hard work all that digging and bending and yanking. I tell myself that I am being one with nature. Me and Mother Nature working hand in hand. blah blah blah. The truth is I hate to garden but love to grow and cook with things I've grown.

All my daffodils that I planted in the fall are now blooming. They look positively happy with their bright yellow heads swaying in the spring breeze. They make me smile every time I saunter out my front door. There they are all lined up in the garden next to the driveway. Next to bloom will be the tulips interspersed among the daffs. Years ago I had my husband rip out a 50 year old hedge that was growing in this space. It was backbreaking work but he did it for me. In place of the hedge he put in a white picket fence - I really wanted a white picket fence (I was in my June Cleaver stage). I still like the fence.

When the daffodils and tulips die down all the perennials that I've planted over the years will take over this space and the wisteria over the arbor will bloom. It has gotten so big it is breaking the arbor - but I like that too. It makes my house look lived in. Like I had planned that all along.

Beyond the wisteria arbor are my roses - all pink and yellow and white. They are a dangerous trio; always snagging my clothes if I happen down the path under the arbor between the garage to the back yard. I like that too. They are like two year olds, grabbing at me for attention.

Inside the garden gate entrance to my backyard is my herb plot. Mint, thyme, sage, parsley and rosemary are already coming back from their winter sleep. Yesterday I noticed the puppy nosing around the mint. Do dogs like mint? I think she was just enjoying a new scent. I grow it specifically for ice tea and Mojitos. Okay, mostly Mojitos.

Beyond the herb garden is the pond. The koi have come out of their fish cave and I'm anxious to see if the water lilies made it again this year. The lilies bloom cream and yellow and the bright orange koi like to dart around their graceful underwater stems.

To the left of the pond is my vegetable patch. Soon I'll have to plant the tomatoes and eggplants that we eat from July to October. I'll plant some basil among the tomatoes because that's the way you do it. Marigolds will go around the perimeter to keep the bugs away. I'm thinking about planting pumpkins in an empty patch around the other side of the house. Not because I'll eat them - but because they are outrageous the way they grow. Everyday a foot or two of growth like they are taking over the world.

All this thinking about my garden has made me hungry for eggplant and tomatoes. I think I'll get a jump start on summer and make this simple dish today:

Eggplant with Parmesan Cheese and Tomatoes:

1 eggplant (select a firm eggplant with green top)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup panko crumbs (or regular unseasoned)
Salt & Pepper
1 egg, beaten
2 plum tomatoes
1 clove garlic
1 T balsamic vinegar
A small handful of fresh basil
Olive Oil

Peel the eggplant and slice into 1/2 inch rounds. Salt (use kosher salt) the rounds and place in colander in sink for 15 minutes. Rinse and pat dry.
Dip eggplant in beaten egg seasoned with salt and pepper
Press into panko / cheese mixture
Put breaded eggplant rounds on a rimmed cookie sheet and refrigerate for 15 to 30 minutes.

In the meantime, dice the tomatoes, mince the garlic. Place in small bowl and sprinkle with balsamic vinegar. Chiffonade the basil (that means roll it up like a cigar and slice)

Preheat oven to 400.

Pour enough olive oil into bottom of another rimmed cookie sheet to coat the bottom. Place in hot oven for 5 minutes. Move eggplant rounds from refrigerated cookie sheet to hot oiled cookie sheet - be careful not to burn yourself.

Bake for 10 minutes, flip eggplants on other side. Bake for 10 more minutes until crisp on both sides and golden brown.

Plate. Drizzle with a teaspoon or so of the tomato/garlic/vinegar mixture. Sprinkle with basil. Enjoy hot.

This won't be as good today as it will be in July and August when both tomatoes and eggplants come sun warm from the garden - that's a truth. It will inspire me though to get back out and dig and plant and yank and water. So I guess I'll break my back for one more year.





Thursday, April 9, 2009

Bolognese Sauce & My Purse


I had to go the grocery store this morning to buy a few items for a Bolognese Sauce I want to make today. Just a few things, like tomatoes, a fresh hunk of parmesan cheese. All the other ingredients I already have, including some lovely Pappardelle Pasta. 

I have this trick I do with my purse when I go grocery shopping and I'll tell you about it, but first you have to know some things about my purse. Number one thing is it's big. It's a big leather brown shoulder purse that I paid way too much for about 5 years ago. I keep alot of things in my purse, so it's not only big, it's heavy. Ask anyone who has ever had to hold my purse (as in here, could you hold this a minute?) or hand me my purse (as in, could you hand me my purse?). My purse is so heavy that I don't like to carry it for long. When I go grocery shopping I put it in the baby seat of the cart. Now I know that's not safe, because everyone knows thieves hang out in grocery stores just waiting to snatch women's purses from baby seats while the unwitting women are squeezing the tomatoes - that's where my trick comes in. 

This morning my purse felt exceptionally heavy. Heavier than most days. After a quick inventory of its contents, I discovered why. Here's a quick list of my purses contents, I'm reasonably sure that I could survive (along with my family of five) for at least a year on the contents of my purse:
  1. Wallet containing credit and debit cards, coupons, 47 cents, pictures k through 12 of all 4 children, pictures of both granddaughters, engagement picture of son and daughter-in-law, insurance cards, drivers license, PADI C-card (in case I need to go scuba diving at a moment's notice), at least 8 "store" cards - like PetSmart, Drug Fair, Macy's, etc.) prescription slips, mac receipts never given to my husband, dog's rabies vaccination tag, current dog license, dog license from deceased dog, health insurance card, cell phone cheat sheet, various receipts from clothing stores, life-time weight watcher membership from 1990, weight watcher pound counter from 1990.
  2. Pens
  3. Notepad
  4. dog treats
  5. gum
  6. nutrigrain bar
  7. breath mints
  8. cell phone
  9. cell phone charger
  10. blue tooth ear thing that I never figured out how to work
  11. makeup
  12. comb
  13. hairbrush
  14. band aids
  15. prescriptions (1 week supply for everyone in the house)
  16. tampons
  17. pads with wings (my daughter likes the ones with wings)
  18. tissues
  19. bottle opener (hey, you never know)
  20. cork screw (ditto)
  21. keys to every house I ever lived in
  22. car keys
  23. toothpicks
  24. chapstick
  25. matches
  26. mirror
  27. thing that cuts your seatbelt and breaks your window if you drive into a lake
  28. small flashlight
  29. reading glasses that I bought at the drug store for $5.00
  30. tylenol
  31. pepcid ac
  32. motrin
  33. vitamins
  34. lactaid (husband is lactose intolerant and you never know when you are going to eat cheese)
  35. business cards (mine and others of people I don't know or can't remember)
  36. Clie (pda)
  37. Old dog collar (again, you never know)
  38. Cold medicine (sniff)
  39. perfume
  40. hand cream
At least that's what is at the top of my purse. I'm a little frightened about reaching into the depths of it. I think the extra weight is from the recently added puppy biscuits. Anyway, when I put my heavy purse in the baby seat compartment of the grocery cart, to thwart any attempt by thieves with a hand cart or fork lift trying to steal my purse while I'm squeezing a melon, I hook the little baby restraint straps through the straps of my purse and click. Viola! Instant purse lock. Clever right? or maybe I should just clean out my purse - but what would we do in the event of an emergency??



BOLOGNESE SAUCE: serves 6

One stalk celery, diced
One medium spanish onion, diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons unsalted butter 

This makes up your soffritto or in french, your mire pore. The basis of all stocks and sauces. Think flavor, flavor, flavor. 

1 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon flour
3 teaspoons tomato paste
1/2 cup beef stock
1/2 cup red wine
14 ounces canned (or fresh) chopped tomatoes with juices
nutmeg, salt and pepper
1 pound pasta of choice
fresh Parmesan for top.

Saute your soffrito ingredients over low heat until nice and soft. Add the garlic last to keep from burning. When the soffritto is soft and fragrant, add: 1 pound ground beef
Cook until beef is cooked through, then sprinkle flour over beef. Add the tomato paste, beef stock, wine and tomatoes and bring to simmer. Grate a good 8 gratings of nutmeg over top. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Partially cover and simmer for 1 hour - stirring every 15 minutes or so to insure sauce is not sticking to bottom of pot. 
Adjust your seasonings. 
Make your pasta.
Serve with italian bread and pass the parmesan.

Now eat, you'll need your strength in case I ask you to hold my purse. 



Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Cook's Notes

As so often happens my resident teenagers had other plans for dinner. It's the first day of spring break so the "not so littles" had other plans. What to do with all that lovely polenta?

Press your leftover polenta into a pie plate (preferably glass). Press some plastic wrap right down over the polenta - then cover again with foil. Chill

Tomorrow or the next day, slice and grill or fry in olive oil. A lovely leftover. 

Tuna Steaks with Roasted Cipolline Onions


I keep getting fooled by Mother Nature. This morning it was snow flurrying on Holly Bear and I at the dog park. Brr... Everyday I look out my kitchen window promising the grill we will get reacquainted only to be foiled by nature. 

Tonight I think I'll fight back with a little comfort food (for my spring cold) and a little bit of spring by grilling indoors. I adapted this recipe from an original by Giada De Laurentiis. (who I secretly hate because she weighs 1 1/2 pounds fully dressed).

Roasted Cipolline Onions:(chip-o-lean-ee)
1 pound cipolline onions- skins removed. (to easily remove skins, drop in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes. cool. The skins will slip right off)
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Whisk it all together, coat onions, put in a small oven proof casserole and roast at 450 degrees for about 30 minutes(uncovered). You will know they are done when they are soft and the balsamic vinegar has reduced to a syrup stage. Salt & Pepper to taste.

Tuna Steaks: (enough for 4 people)
2 tuna steaks (about 1/2 pound each)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 T lemon juice (don't make me say it... FRESH SQUEEZED.. throw that bottle out)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt, few grinds fresh black pepper. 
Whisk everything together, place tuna steaks in marinade, turning to coat and let rest for about 5 minutes per side.

Now the comfort food part:
Polenta with wilted arugula (you could also use spinach or blanched asparagus tips)
2 cups chicken broth (low salt)
2 cups water
3/4 cup polenta (quick cooking)
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream (I told you this was comfort food)
2 cups fresh arugula - rough chopped

Heat the broth and water to simmering. Slowing whisk in the polenta (your Italian grandmother will tell you that you have to stir in only one direction). Continue to cook until thick and smooth - about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic. Stir. Add the cheese. Stir. Add the butter and cream and stir until butter is melted. Stir in the arugula. Season to taste with salt and pepper (easy on the salt - remember to taste because the cheese will add salt).

Back to the tuna:
Preheat your grill pan to medium high. Remove tuna steaks from marinade and grill about 3 minutes per side for medium. Cut the steaks in half. Plate - spoon the onions and balsamic sauce over. Pass the polenta. 

Take that Mother Nature. 






Tuesday, April 7, 2009

White Plates and why?

Many years ago I had an English Professor, Dr. Jones, at DeSales University - at that time it was St. Francis DeSales College -  but it moved up in the world. Our class was complaining to him because he gave us an assignment with an impossibly short deadline; we said we would never be able to complete it on time. As I recall it was something like a 10 page paper on a Salman Rushdie novel. I've never forgotten what he said to us in response to our complaints. He said, "I could give you all the time in the world to do that assignment, but the truth is, a paper is never done, it is just due". 

How true. Like so many things in life - never really done, just due. If given the opportunity and the time, how many of us would go back and "redo" something - perfect it, tweak it just one more time. Maybe that's why I like blogging. I always have another day to go back and comment, tweak, readdress or redo. 

I like second chances too. It gives me the opportunity to make it better. Maybe that's why I love cooking so much. I can add an ingredient, change a cooking time, stir a little of this or a little that into the mix next time. 

I know that's why I like white plates. Years ago when I first married my husband Jim, like many couples today, we both had a household. We combined my stuff with his stuff to come up with a hodge podge of stuff. One day I decided that I wanted matching plates. I shopped and looked and picked up and hemmed and hawed over my dish choice for months, finally deciding on a Pfaltzgraff collection known as "Sedona". I just thought they were beautiful. Rust, blue, and golden circles on a beige-ish background. I bought everything in the set. Salt and Pepper shakers, platters, chip and dip, you name it. I spent a small fortune. What I didn't buy I received as gifts over the years. 

Then I started cooking. Alot. And the more I cooked, the more I hated those plates and dishes and bowls and mugs and platters. See, they were too done. They didn't need me to redo them or tweak them in any way. They were perfect all on their own. You could set a table with all that crockery and it was a perfect setting. 

So awhile back I put all those dishes in a side cupboard and bought all new plain, sparkling white dinnerware. Just white. Not a pattern to be seen. I love it. It needs me. The dishes need me to give them character. They are my canvass and I get to create on them everyday. Ruby red strawberries with glistening green tops nestled in deep square pure white bowls. Beautiful. Golden roasted chicken with crispy brown potatoes and bright orange carrots on a sea of white. Lovely. Deep brown molten chocolate cakes with the shock of raspberry puree on a bed of glistening white - perfect!

These plates are my research paper of the past. But unlike the paper, they allow me to recreate my food story everyday. So you see, dinner is never done. It's just due. And that Rushdie paper? I think I got an A. 

Pork and Potatoes

Darn. I have a cold. One of those annoying last of winter or is it the first of spring head colds. I'm glad I decided on the roast pork and potato casserole tonight. I need some comfort food. What is it our mother's told us? Feed a cold, starve a fever?

The pork roast and the potato casserole are both in the oven. Here's what I ended up doing with the pork. I took it out of the fridge at 3:30 - I wanted it in the oven by 4:30. So far, my timing is good. :-)
I trimmed it and frenched the bones. Remember, it's a 5 (not four as previously reported..) rib roast. I saved all the trimmings and am roasting those in a little separate packet for the pup. No seasonings for her. Anyway, after trimming, I rubbed it with this yummy whole grain Dijon mustard, then pressed panko crumbs mixed with fresh thyme into it - top, sides, bottom. I used thyme because that's what I had. Sage, rosemary, garlic, etc... would be fine too. 

I then set the pork on a rimmed cookie sheet lined with foil. The bones themselves act like a rack so no rack needed. I'll roast the meat for about 20 minutes per pound, or until the internal temp registers 145 - carry over cooking will take it to 150-155 while it's resting. The potatoes are in there too. Everything will come out at the same time and dinner should be served at about 6:00. I picked a nice Chardonney for tonight. Butterfield Station. 

A little bit about resting food. This is one of the those things that took me years to learn the importance of. I don't know why I came to it late - it's not like the cook books don't mention it. Maybe it's that the books don't make a big enough deal about it. 

Well - I am making a big deal about it. All your food needs a resting period before carving, spooning, serving. Those molecules are banging around at top speed in that food. If you cut into it too soon - BAM - they just spray all over (all that lovely juice on the serving platter). Letting them calm down and retreat back into the food will reward you with more juice in the meat and less on your cutting board and platter. Trust me on this. 

Another note: if you don't have an instant read thermometer, get one. No cutting into meat to check for doneness. The thermometers are cheap, last forever and are an invaluable tool in the kitchen. 

While all this roasting and resting is going on I'm going to steam up some sugar snap peas. Their sweetness will go nicely with the tart lemon vinagrette I made last night. I'm also going to enjoy a glass of wine while setting the table. Bon Appetite to everyone - I hope whatever you're cooking up today brings you comfort. 

Pork and Potatoes - the beginning

Well, no snow or rain so far - but just got back from the dog park and baby it's cold outside. Definitely planning on that Roast Pork tonight for dinner. 

Have to run to the grocery store to buy some leeks and gruyere. I already have the potatoes. This is a classic french potato casserole. 

Potatoes
Gruyere Cheese
Leeks
Heavy Cream.

Butter a small casserole (or big - I just need 3 to 4 servings so I'm using a stoneware casserole the size of a loaf pan)
Slice potatoes (no need to peel, just scrub) thinly
Layer potatoes, sliced leeks (a small handful)
Salt and pepper
Gruyere
Repeat until you have about 4 layers.
top with 1/4 cup heavy cream - just pour it over. Grate some fresh nutmeg on top. 
cover with foil.
Bake at 375 for about 40 minutes.
Uncover and bake for 10 more minutes. 
mmmm... 
This is going to accompany a roast rack of pork (4 ribs) - I'm going to rub it with some whole grain dijon mustard and press some panko crumbs into it. 

The dijon pairs perfectly with the gruyere in the potatoes. 
I'll use the rest of the lemon vinagrette from last night to season some steamed sugar snap peas. 

More later...
Good morning Karen - I see you signed up for The Good Cook newsletter too - how did you hear about it?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Last note: While I was at the grocery store today I was looking at the cheeses, trying to decide what to buy as an appetizer that I could take to my brother's house this Sunday. A woman was also looking and shared this with me:

Buy a small brie round
top with one or two teaspoons of finely minced garlic
drizzle with honey (enough to run over the sides)
Bake in hot oven until cheese is soft. 
Serve with sliced baquette and crackers.

I'm going to try it. mmm.. sweet and savory.
this happens all the time to me in grocery stores. I don't know why - but people always talk to me - ask me questions or share a cooking tip or recipe. funny. I swear I don't wear an apron to the store! 
It's 4:00 so I'm taking the chicken out of the fridge. I want to start roasting it at 5:00 - and have it on the table around 6:30. You should always bring your food to room temperature before cooking. The timing allows for 15 to 30 minutes of resting the bird before carving. It's amazing how much heat the chicken holds just loosely tented and this allows for all the juices to return to the meat (instead of on the serving platter)

I'll pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Stuff my lemon (quartered into the cavity and truss the legs and wings to keep them close to the bird and protect the breast. Put the bird on a rack - breast side down - back on a rimmed cookie sheet and brush it all over with about 2 T. of melted, unsalted butter. Half way through the roasting time I'll turn the bird breast side up to finish cooking. 

While it's roasting (about 15 - 20 minutes per pound) I'll toss up a small salad and make some lemon vinegrette. At this time of year I can get Meyer Lemons so that's what I'll use for my dressing - a nice compliment to the lemon chicken. 
The juice of one lemon
1/3 as much extra virgin olive oil as lemon juice (3 to 1 with juice winning)
a teaspoon of dijon mustard
a T. of minced shallot
Salt and Pepper.

Add some store bought ciabatta rolls and a bottle of white and viola - dinner is served. 

tomorrow: the weather forecast is calling for the last of winter - some wet snow mixed with rain. I think I'll make the final roast pork for the season - with gruyere and leek potato casserole -and maybe steamed asparagus.  yum.  Have a good night.



The reason I put the chicken (uncovered) in the fridge (for at least 4 hours but as long as 24) is the salt and lemon will help to dry out the skin. Keeping it uncovered insures no moisture gets trapped that would retard the "drying" process. Just before I put it in a hot (400 degree) oven I'm going to brush it with some melted, unsalted butter. This will make for a uniform, crisp skin - just what you look for in a perfect roast chicken. 

Oh yeah - remember that whole zested lemon? I'm going to slice that in half and stuff the halves inside the cavity just before roasting.

more later....


Rainy Day Monday Roast Chicken

It's a rainy day here in the Northeast. The kind of day that promises spring is just around the corner. Gentle misty kind of rain, overcast. I've got laundry to fold and other household chores but first I want to begin the first step of making my family's favorite comfort food. Crisp skin and succulent meat - hint of winter and the lemony scent of spring. 

Nothing warms and brightens my kitchen more than the scent and sound of a lemony, herb infused chicken roasting away in my oven. I'm going to start first by taking my thawed 4 pound roaster, drying it thoroughly (very important) and rubbing it inside and out with a combination of:
Kosher Salt
Zest of one Lemon (save the zested lemon, we'll use later)
Fresh Chopped Rosemary

I'm even going to tuck some of this under the skin, between the breast meat and skin.

That's it for now. I place my little bird on a cookie sheet and put it in the downstairs refrigerator UNCOVERED. 

more later... 
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