Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Sorry for my lack of posting the past few days! We've been a wee bit busy. We had a great visit with Andy's Mom, and I think Zander is missing her already. This past weekend was a whirlwind, but in the kitchen there is a deifinite standout. Quinoa. Yesterday I played around with this magic grain, and I have to say, I am impressed with its possibilities.

I had both Andy's Mom and My Mom as lunch guests yesterday, so I had to come up something a little special. I also had to come up with something that would fit in with the GI diet. The challenge was to come up with a dish that was substantial, without being heavy in the carb department. So I turned to a comfort food- soup. I decided to do a tomato basil type soup, but again, I had the issue of being substantial. I could not serve my mom a sandwich on the side, the soup had to be all-inclusive. I decided on brown rice, and then saw the box of quinoa next to it. I have only used quinoa once before, and decided this was a good opportunity for a different application. So here it is, and this is also my contribution to The Virtual Cooking Club at The Savory Notebook.

Indian Style Soup with Quinoa and Roasted Red Pepper Raita

cooking spray
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 Tablespoons red curry paste
1 bay leaf
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes in juice, tomatoes crushed with hands
4 cups vegetable stock
2 parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup baby carrots thinly sliced
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup thinly sliced mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
2 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup fresh basil, cut into a chiffonade

1 cup quinoa, cooked according to package directions

1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 red bell pepper, roasted and finely chopped
1/2 cup shredded cucumber and accumulated juices
salt and pepper to taste
Combine raita ingredients in a bowl at least one hour before serving.

Heat a nonstick pot over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Add diced onions, carrots, and celery, and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add curry paste and cook for 2 more minutes. Add bay leaf, tomatoes, veggie stock and bring to a simmer. Next, add the parsnips, baby carrots, peas, mushrooms, and dried basil. Cook for about 20 mintues, or until the parsnips and baby carrots are cooked through. Add baby spinach and fresh basil.

Put a large scoop of quinoa into the bottom of a soup bowl (I used an ice cream scoop). Ladle the hot soup over the quinoa, and top with a dollop of raita. Serve immediately.

After making this soup, which was a hit, I needed to do something with the leftover quinoa. I just had to find another use for this gem. So I thought about Alysha's breakfast challenge at The Savory Notebook. I decided I wanted to find a muffin to use the quinoa, so I did a few searches, and found nothing. Plenty of recipes that call for quinoa flour, or uncooked quinoa, but not with the cooked stuff I had. Then I found a recipe for Quinoa pudding, it struck me as something similar to rice and bread puddings, and I thought I could tweak it enough to make it breakfasty, and this is what I came up with, albeit a few days late:

Baked Quinoa
Serving Size : 8
1 cup quinoa (6 oz) -- picked over
6 cups water
3 large eggs
1 cup lowfat milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup slivered almonds or chopped walnuts -- or a mixture
1/4 cup dried currants or raisins
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Wash quinoa in several changes of cold water in a bowl, rubbing grains between your palms, then drain well. Bring quinoa and 6 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until grains are translucent, 13 to 15 minutes. Drain well in a sieve.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla, brown sugar, and salt in a large bowl until just combined. Stir in quinoa, bread crumbs, nuts, and currants and pour into a buttered 9-inch square metal baking pan.
Stir together cinnamon and remaining tablespoon sugar and sprinkle over top of pudding. Bake in middle of oven until a knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 100 Calories; 3g Fat (24.0% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 74mg Cholesterol; 82mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 1/2 Fat; 1 Other Carbohydrates.

While it may not exactly be portable, the baked quinoa is wonderful. It reminds me of baked oatmeal, only not so firm, and the flavor is really good. We happened to eat it for dessert last night with scoops of ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce. However, it woul dhave been equally good spooned into a bowl with milk drizzled over it. The baked quinoa does keep in the fridge, so you could bake it and eat it the rest of the weel for breakfast. Very good. And I am very happy with the whole quinoa expereience.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Happy Birthday Zander!!!

I won't be long-winded tonight, but we had a great day. Zander couldn't be happier with his gifts, and is further into Thomas the Tank Engine heaven. Today we added Henry, Toby, and a Barrel Loader to his train collection, so he was in train heaven. Here are a few pictures of him with his cookie cake, which really didn't come out the best appearance wise, but it sure tasted good. Poor Zander, he spent all day drooling over his "birthday" "I want my birthday...please can I have it?" So cute. So that's it for tonight. Tomorrow I will share the chicken recipe I made for dinner tonight- it turned out quite good.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Decisions, Decisions

Okay, so skip today's post if you're looking for something food related, or profound. Today I needed to ramble.

Well, this has been bothering me for a whole day now, and I think I just need to get my thoughts written down and share them. I got a job offer yesterday. A real job offer. Only for part time, and it was unsolicited. I am a stay at home Mom. And really, have not had the interest in going back to work. Before I stayed home I was a retail manager for a major craft retailer. I have to share a little background so I can get the full perspective. I was an assistant under the store manager- and we had no other management. He and I ran the store very successfully as a team. Essentially, I was his co-manager, but without the requirements of the rigorous schedule that entails that title. And like I said, we were an awesome team. Our store excelled and was one of the best in the company. Then I became pregnant, and really had a tough time choosing to stay at home. We were building this store for me to run. Eventually my manager would move up, and I would take the store. I was literally crying when I turned in my keys. I loved my job. I love retail. Love it. While Inventory time makes most people scream and cringe, I live for it. I love knowing how well we are doing as a store. I love all the counting and figuring and things that go with it.

Anyway, the deicison to leave work was because I am a workaholic. I stay until the job is done. And I think I knew in my heart that regardless what precious child was waiting for Mommy at home, work would always win out. So I chose to quit and Andy chose to support the family. After 4 months at home, I was called by my manager. He was being promoted to District Manager, and he called to share that with me, because I helped get him there. Was I interested in a co-manager position? Not on your life. But, maybe I could work Saturday mornings in the cash office? Sure thing. I did that for nearly 3 years. I worked every Saturday morning, and occasionally during the week when the regular office girl needed a day off. When I was very pregnant with Zander, I was working more days during the week, and I had enough. I wasn't spending enough time with Abigail as it was, and now I was going to have to balance my time between two children. So I left the store, and haven't been back except to shop.

Then yesterday my old boss calls. Of course, I knew he wanted something...but we chatted for awhile, and then he made the offer. Nothing big, but he was wondering if I would be willing to come in 2 days a week to work in his district office. He can't promote from within, because there's sensitive material at hand there. And he doesn't have anyone he really trusts to call. So he calls me. That does mean a lot that he would call after all this time. And part of me is wondering if I want to do it. It definitely wouldn't be for the money, because I would likely have to pay for child care for Zander for one of the two days. And while I don't know why I really would want to...there is a part of me that does. So now I just have to sit and think about it. Logistically it really isn't much of a possibilty right now anyway. We only have one vehicle, and won't have another one until the end of March. And I can't imagine leaving Zander with someone else- even if it were family. So I don't know. I have always kept the option of retunring to work in my back pocket. And every time Andy has gone through a job change, the thought has been there to call and see what they could do for me. Could I be the breadwinner for the family? And if I say no this time, does that burn that bridge? Do I have no chance to go back ever? But do I want to go back ever? There are many things to consider here. And part of me is laughing that I am even considering, because we're only talking a few hours each Thursday and Friday mornings.

So there. I've shared, and sorry if I've bored, but I really needed to get that down.

And on a happy more rational note! Tomorrow is Zander's 2nd birthday!! His giant cookie is decorated, Thomas is all over our dining and living rooms, and the presents are wrapped. So it will be a nice day. Dinner will be simple, but will be delicious, so I will be back to share tomorrow.

The Sevens Meme


I've been tagged for a meme by Patti at Adventures in Food and Wine. Amazingly, this was a tough list to complete. And as for tagging...I think most everyone has been tagged by now, but I will tag my sister Rachel, as well as Ana at Kitchen Space. If anyone else wants to be tagged...just let me know.

Seven Culinary Things to do Before I Die
1. Make Osso Bucco
2. Cook and serve clams/mussles
3. Be a judge on Iron Chef America
4. Write a cookbook
5. Learn to make cheese
6. Make artisanal bread
7. Open my restaurant

Seven Things I Can't do in The Kitchen
1. Keep it clean
2. Make cookies without burning at least one batch
3. Cook Game...creeps me out
4. Have an organzied pantry. I try...
5. Use the scant amount of oil called for in CL recipes- I always need to use more
6. Use a garlic press. Chopping garlic is therapy for me.
7. Cook fruit with meat

Seven Things That Attract Me to Food Blogging
1. It keeps my family connected
2. It's fun to do!
3. Keeps me accountable in a way
4. I have "met" so many wonderful people...
5. I am learning a lot about web design
6. It give me something to do when Andy is watching wierd TV
7. I love living vicariously through the other food bloggers

Seven Thing I Say Most Often While Cooking
1. Andy!!!! Go get...
2. Zander Louis- Get out of the kitchen!
3. Hot!!!
4. You may not have anything else to eat until supper
5. Abigail, share with your brother
6. What do you think?
7. Shoot.

Seven Cookbooks I Love
1. King Arthur Flour Baking Companion
2. Fresh Every Day
3. Everyday Italian
4. Joy of Cooking
5. My Cooking Light Annuals
6. The Bread Bible
7. From Tapas to Meze

Seven Food Shows I Can Watch Over and Over Again
1. Molto Mario
2. Everyday Italian
3. Sara's Secrets
4. The Secret Life of...
5. Food 911
6. Cookworks
7. Iron Chef America

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A Great Day with some Great News

So today started early. After dropping off Abigail at school, Zander and I headed out to do the weekly grocery shopping. We were back home by about 9:30 in the morning, which was good, since I had a little more cleaning to do before heading to the airport. Then around 9:42, the phone rang. It was my Mom. I really hesitated for a second at picking up the phone. Her and Dad have been spending the week with Grandma, and I really wasn't ready for that phone call. Yet I answered. "Good morning!" came from the other end. A happy good morning. She called to let me know that they were moving Grandma back home from the hospital, and that she was responding very well to the chemo. Incredibly well, in fact. We were bracing for the worst to happen this week. The outlook is still not great, but we get more time with Grandma, and she still has more chemo to undergo, so there's always a chance for it to do more. So yay!!!

Add to that that Andy went to work today, and I was in fantastic spirits. Zander and I picked up Andy's mom at the airport today, and we've alredy had a lovely time visiting. Zander warmed right up, and of course Abigail just loves her Grammy, so it will be a nice visit. So in honor of my fantastic mood, I thought I'd whip up a special treat for when Abigail came home from school. Fruit Pizza was the selection of the day.

So the picture is not the greatest. But the basic components are fruit and a sugar cookie dough. I started with a tube of Pillsbury sugar cookie dough. Not a regular in my kitchen, but fruit pizza works best with the dough in a tube. I baked that up on a pizza pan and let it cool. Next I took pineapple cream cheese, orange juice, and powdered sugar, and made a topping. Spread that on. Then came the chopped up fruit. In this case it was bananas, kiwi, grapes, apples, and pineapple. A sprinkling of alomds and a drizzle of melted raspberry chocolate chips completed the pizza. Zander enjoyed it, Mom enjoyed it, I enjoyed it. Abigail took one look at it and told me she wasn't hungry after all. :-o What is with my child these days?

Anyway, dinner tonight was a repeat of a beef stew I made a few weeks back. You can find it at the bottom of the page here. It was even better than I remember the first time. And this time there are leftovers, so I will get to find out how it is the next day- I will be sure and report back on that. I did try my hand at pairing wine with it tonight, and I think I did very well at suggesting that Andy pick up a Shiraz on his way home from work. With the assistance of the clerk at The Wine Premier, Andy brought this home:

A 2004 Shiraz from De Bortoli, an Australian wine. It was a very good wine, and seriously complemented the beef stew. And at $10 a bottle, it was a darn good steal as well.

So that's it for tonight. I don't know if I'll get a shot at posting tomorrow. We are planning a Penzey's run in the morning, followed by a stop at Toys R Us for Zander, and then we'll see how the day progresses. On tap for dinner tomorrow night is homemade pizza, and while very tasty, not really noteworthy or photoworthy. So until next time, happy eating!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Fun with Eric Carle

So today I woke up feeling like my head had been shoved through a meat grinder. Another cold has rammed head first into me, and it is terribly frustrating. The worst part was that today I was supposed to accompany Abigail on a field trip to see Eric Carle stories performed on stage. She was so excited for Mommy to come, and when I woke up, it looked like Daddy was going to be joining her instead. Well, I just didn't want to let my princess down. I don't get many opportunities to go on field trips with her, since I am home with Zander. So I sucked it up and jumped in the shower. I took a Theraflu and stuffed my pocket with Kleenex. By golly, I was going.

I am so glad I went. Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia truly performed for these kids. It was so fun to see, the set pieces and the puppets are all flourescent, and the stage is flooded with black light, so we don't see the people manipulating the puppets. Truly a work of art. What was even more amazing was hearing a theatre full of kids laughing and expressing joy over their story book characters coming to life. The first story they performed was Little Cloud, and when I saw Abigail clapping like I've never seen her clap before, I was just elated. I must have thanked her 20 times today for letting me share that experience with her.

Fun as it was, it really knocked me out for the rest of the day though. SO dinner tonight was courtesy the McDonald's drive through. (Why did they have to put one of those nearby!) Not the most healthy choice, but by golly it was quick and painless, and my kitchen is still clean. Can't beat that on a day like today. Andy's Mom flies in tomorrow, so Zander and I will be having our own adventure picking her up at the airport. I hope we get to see some planes take off or land or something. And this all brings me to the big news of the day! Andy goes back to work tomorrow!!!! He has been off since the week before Christmas, unexpectedly. So we asre very glad to have him going back. It figures that he heads back to work the week his mom is coming to visit, but we are both happy for normalcy to return.

And that's it for tonight, I'm afraid. I have laundry to put away, my head is throbbing, and Zander is wanting some Mommy snuggles. Can't have a better ending to a nice day.

Monday, January 23, 2006

An Empty The Fridge Sort of Day

Well, we were a bit busy today. Today Abigail was home since the schools had a day off today. And she had a friend over for the day. Yikes. It's been a little noisy here. Zander had a short nap, I suspect due to the noise, so he is most definitely not charming this evening. I have also had a slight tickle in my throat, and it just felt like a soup kind of day to me. I cleaned out the fridge today, and decided to try my hand at using some leftovers.

I think I did okay. Now I am sooooo not a leftover person. I will maybe eat them for lunch later in the week, or if it's something meaty I will make a pot pie or something. Today's challenge was something completely different. I always save the leftovers with the intentions to use them...but I usually never do. I just don't like them. Today I made "Leftover Chowder". I started with four lonely pieces of bacon, diced them, and cooked them. Then I cooked my mirepoix in the bacon grease. When the veggies were softened, I added 2 cans of chicken stock. After that came to a simmer, in went 3 different containers of leftovers, plus some herbs. In the leftovers I had mashed potatoes, roasted veggies, and cooked chicken. That all sounds okay, but then I decided I wanted more of a chowdery feel, so I added some milk and flour, let that thicken, and then I added about 2 cups of shredded cheese- some aged gouda that needed to be used, and some cheddar.

The soup turned out very good. Andy was surprised that I didn't use a recipe, and only thought I could have used more bacon. The kids didn't even touch it. I just can't figure out why they've become afraid of soup. They won't even eat something like chicken noodle soup. Go figure. So they feasted on drop biscuits smeared with butter and jam. Not the most nutritional for them today, but they are crabby, so I let them slide so that I wouldn't have to hear it. You know?

So I'm not sure how much of a chance I will have to post over the next few days. Tomorrow I am accompanying Abigail on a field trip to see Eric Carle stories on stage. That should be fun. Then on Wednesday Andy's mom is flying in to spend a week with us and help celebrate Zander's second birthday on Friday. We are looking forward to the visit. On a sad note, my grandmother is not doing well, and my parents are spending the week with her. Just a few weeks ago she felt perfectly fine, and now she is in a hospital bed riddled with cancer, and her liver is failing. It is very sad. My grandma has always been a fighter, and this is just not something she is up to fighting. So if you are a praying person, keep my family and my grandma in your prayers.

Ah. The sweet sounds of fighting children. I am off to get my two monsters ready for bed, and into bed. Hopefully I will be back tomorrow, if only for a short post.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Here we come a waffling...

This morning I was woken up by my two sunshines. Zander had an armful of Thomas trains and wanted to show me. Abigail had her cookbook in hand and said "Mommy, I want to make these." And pointed to a picture of waffles. Okay, give me a few minutes. By the time I had rolled myself out of bed, and made my way downstairs, Abigail had changed her mind. She was busy playing computer games, and did not want to help make waffles. Okay then, I won't be making waffles. This was good though, because I had earmarked a new recipe for Oatmeal Muffins this morning. Alysha at The Savory Notebook has organized a virtual cooking club, and this month the challenge is Whole Grain Breakfast Items. I admit
to seriously lacking in this department, so it is a good challenge for me. It is an added bonus if the item is portable. And for me, there is nothing better for breakfast than a muffin. On to the oatmeal muffins. This was a recipe from The Ultimate Muffin Book, and I had such high hopes for it. I was a little leary about making them, but the description boasted of the fact that these mufins tasted like an oatmeal cookie. That sold me.

Can I just say blech? Ugh. The muffins were simply awful. You could taste the leavening. The acidic/metallic taste of the baking powder and baking soda completely overwhelmed the muffin, and the mere 1/2 cup of brown sugar just didn't cut it. These weren't even remotely sweet. So into the garbage they went, and the day started off on a terrible note.

On to the dinner hour. Finally we were getting to the waffles. The picture up above is of my two helpers. Despite the lack of a smile from either of them, they had a great time mixing up the batter for the waffles. Abigail had charge of the dry ingredients, plus cracking the eggs. Zander had charge of the wet ingredients. They both felt important with their own special jobs to do. Zander really wants to do some scooping- but right now he is relegated to adding pre-scooped ingredients and stirring. It's safer for everyone this way. :-)

The waffle recipe we tried tonight was a new one, and it will be our waffle recipe from now on. It was perfect. The perfect amount of crispness on the outside, chewiness on the inside, and great flavor to boot. The is the second recipe I have made out of The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion. Both recipes have been fantastic, so I will have to try more out of this book. Until then, here is the recipe for Classic Buttermilk Waffles.

Classic Buttermilk Waffles
makes about 10 8-inch waffles
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled to room temp
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup pecan meal (optional)
In a medium sized mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla. In another bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients; combine the wet and dry ingredients just until smooth.
Spray the waffle iron with a nonstick cooking spray before preheating it. For an 8-inch round waffle, use about 1/3 cup batter. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the iron stops steaming.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Plague

I swear that we cannot get healthy here. It seems like I cannot remember a time when someone in our house was not sick with something. It's getting a little annoying. And it's also heartbreaking when the ones most affected are the little ones. Today it's poor Abigail. She came home from school like any other day, her happy self, and oddly today she was very hungry. She usually wants something, but today she wanted a tuna sandwich and some carrots. She ate it all- and then polished off some Oreo's and milk. I don't know what was on the menu at school- but obviously she didn't eat much.

Anyway, about 30 minutes after she'd finished her sandwich, she complained about having an itchy tongue. What? Whatever that was, it was odd, but it was really bothering her, so I finally came up with a freezie pop that seemed to quell the itch. 30 minutes after that, she told me her ear hurt. Really hurt. And after that it was like *boom* sick as sick can be. She was tired, not hungry, headache, earache. I highly suspect an ear infection. She's been hanging onto that cold, so I suspect it's migrated into her ears. So she will be home from school tomorrow, and hopefully she will feel better. It was quite the fight to get her to take some Motrin before bed, but hopefully that will help dull the ear pain, and ward off a potential fever.

So unfortunately there is nothing new from the kitchen today. I have a few thoughts in my mind for tomorrow, provided I can get a few minutes to myself. So we'll see. In the meantime- send us some healthy thoughts, we sure could use them!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Good Intentions

My day started out rather nice. While Andy took Abigail to school today, I determined that today would be the day to make some homemade honey-wheat bread, and try a new soup. A quick peruse through my to-try list showed me that I had the fixings for Navy Bean Soup with Rosemary and Ham Hocks from Fresh Every Day. So I put my dough together, and got it proofing. Then I started prepping my ingredients for the navy bean soup. The first step was to soften my beans. Since I hadn't soaked them overnight, they required a 45 minute slow boil. So I got that going.

I was thrilled. Dinner was basically done by 11 am, and I had the rest of the day to do whatever. Nap time was coming up, so I fixed Zander his lunch and sat down at my computer to catch up on my foodie blogs. I was busy surfing when Zander demanded my attention. Story here:
These are what Zander was eating with his lunch today:
And this is a picture of Zander:
And the lesson learned today? Peanuts do not belong in a little boy's nose.
Yep. That's right. When I turned to look at Zander, he looked at me with tears in his eyes, pointed at his nose, and said "Peanut In Nose?" What!!?? It took me a minute to grasp what he said, and then we were sitting together so I could look in his nose, and wouldn't you know, there was a peanut in there. So first I called Mom- how on earth do I get this thing out. She was not very helpful, and mostly good for commiseration. Next I called Andy. I thought if I could get him to come home and hold Zander still, I could go after that peanut with a tweezer. Right. It was too far up there, and I was worried about doing some damage to that tiny nose.
I couldn't believe it, but I had to call the doctor. So off we went to the doctor. He must have spent 45 minutes with us trying to coax the thing out, or get Zander to blow it out. But it just wasn't happening. So off we go on a 30 minute drive to an Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist. He was wonderful, and that peanut came right out for him, and Zander was soooo happy. He was thrilled with the sucker the doctor gave him. So today, we lost most of the day hauling around a very upset little boy and his peanut. All told, that darned peanut will probably cost us $250 in doctor bills.
I was grateful that I had chosen today to make dinner ahead of time, but not grateful that I lost my lazy day.
Which brings me to dinner:

Navy Bean Soup with Rosemary and Smoky Ham Hocks is an excellent bean soup. It is slightly smoky, slightly salty, and slightly sweet. It is perfect. I am looking forward to heating it up for lunch tomorrow, as bean soup is always better the next day. I did make a few changes to the soup, but nothing that would really affect the integrity of the dish. I used homemade turkey stock instead of chicken, as that is what I had more of. I used a ham shank instead of a ham hock, and lastly I added some chopped carrot and parsnip when I added the beans. I would certainly do so again.
* Exported from MasterCook *
Navy Bean Soup with Rosemary and Smoky Ham Hocks
Recipe By : Sara Foster, Fresh Every Day
Serving Size : 8
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium yellow onions -- diced
4 celery stalks -- diced
4 cloves garlic -- minced
1 1/2 cups dried navy beans -- soaked overnight
8 cups chicken broth
1 smoked ham hocks
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon sea salt -- plus more to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper -- plus more to taste
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary -- chopped

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onions and reduce heat to low. Cook and stir until soft and brown, about 15 minutes. Add the celery and cook adn stir for 8 to 10 minutes longer, or until soft. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, about 1 minute more, being careful not to let it brown.
Add the drained beans, chicken broth, ham hocks, bay leaves, salt, pepper, and dried rosemary. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer, uncovered until beans are tender, about 1 hour 30 minutes.
Remove th ebay leaves and discard. Remove the ham hock and place it on a plate to cool. When cool enough to handle, pull the meat off the bone and add to the soup. Stir in the fresh rosemary and salt and pepper to taste. The soup is even better the day after it is made. It will keep up to 4 days in the fridge, or also freezes well.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 306 Calories; 12g Fat (36.3% calories from fat); 20g Protein; 28g Carbohydrate; 11g Dietary Fiber; 30mg Cholesterol; 1040mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 1/2 Grain(Starch); 2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 1 1/2 Fat.
I added 2 carrots and 2 parsnips diced up when I added the beans- very good, and will do so again. I liked the added sweetness from them.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

It's Intoxicating!

Today in the mail I recieved a package. As soon as I saw the familiar blue and white label, my heart started beating a little faster. I snatched that package and brought it into the house. Carefully I opened the other mail I had received, quickly recycling the unimportant, and filing the important. Soon, all that remained was the package. I set that package on my counter and just looked at the plain brown cardboard packaging, and the blue and white label and sighed. I soooo wanted to tear into it right there. My palms actually got itchy, and I found myself biting my lip. No. I must finish folding the laundry, put it away, and get more going. So I walk away and return to my laundry pile. Before I know what is happening, I'm racing from room to room hanging up this, and tucking away that, and my heart is beating a little faster, and I'm almost shaking from the anticipation.

Finally, the moment comes. Carefully, I grab my kitchen shears and remove the label, pulling out the reciept for my records. Next, I grab that familiar pull tab and pull open the box. After removing the extra flyers tucked in, I finally saw it. I gingerly set it on the counter while I dutifully walked my cardboard remains to the recycle pile in the garage. A return trip from the garage found Zander hungry. A wistful glance at my new treasure and I headed to the fruit bowl for a kiwi, and to the pantry for some wheat crackers. I settled Zander in the living room with his bowl of munchies, and Barney's Exercise Circus. One more trip back and forth added a cup of apple-raspberry juice. Obligations fulfilled, I finally have my moment. Immediately I am hit with an overwhelming urge to share with the world, so I grab my treasure and head straight to the computer.

And here I am.

What is it that causes this excitement for me? What on earth could make today better than any other day this week. Surely something truly special, something that will bring a smile to my face for a long time to come. Well, what else could it be than a new cookbook! Sara's Secrets for Weeknight Meals is sitting next to me at the computer here. I haven't even cracked it open yet. :-) But I am thrilled. Sara Moulton is one of my culinary heros. I have watched her on FoodTV for so long, and she truly is a genius. Sadly, her contract with Food Network has not been renewed, so I will have to watch what I can, while I can. Andy bought me her first cookbook last year, and while I read each word, I find most of the recipes in the book to be time consuming, and actually, a little impractical for my family at this time. I sure have high hopes for this new one. I have made quite a few of her recipes from her most recent show, Sara's Secrets, and I truly hope this book is chock full of those successes.

I am reminded of Andy's comments to me earlier- "What are you going to do today? The house is clean?" Guess what I'm going to do today? After I get Zander settled down for his afternoon nap, I am going to curl up on the couch my beautiful new treasure and indulge in an afternoon of food fantasy. Before I do that though, I simply must get some bread dough going. Maybe I'll be back later today to post something exciting, but for now, I am going to go enjoy myself.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Returning to a Favorite

Today we returned to one of Andy's favorite dishes. This recipe is one of the ones that really hooked me onto Cooking Light magazine. I had tried the magazine years ago when I was just out of high school and interested slightly in cooking. It really was nice, but for someone new to cooking, and someone living in Mom's house, it was a little much. I always rememebred that magazine though, so 4 years later when I stumbled across a good deal on a subscription, I tried it. The first issue I got was overwhelming to me. So overwhelming, that I would look through the issues, set them aside, and wonder what I had actually ordered. Two months later I tried this recipe, and my love affair with Cooking Light began.

Dilled Pork Stroganoff was indeed, the first recipe I ever tried out of Cooking Light. I was skeptical. Could light cooking really be good? I enjoyed reading the articles and perusing the food photography, but could the food really hold up? One bite of this told the story, and I was hooked. Stroganoff in general was one of my favorite foods. I remember quite clearly that I often requested stroganoff for my birthday dinner growing up. Looking back, I'm sure Mom was delighted with that choice each time. Not only was it delicious, but it was economical too, and for a large family on a budget, that was crucial to a successful dinner. The bar set for stroganoff was pretty high, and could the lighter version pass? Of course, it did, or I wouldn't be writing about it. The homey flavors that come out from the onions and mushrooms are fantastic. And the pork...flavorful, not dry one bit, and just slightly tangy from the sour cream addition. To me, the most unique addition, is the dill, and that is ultimately what makes this dish. We just loved it, and now Andy is the one requesting it often. Served on a bed of egg noodles, the stroganoff is a meal in itself, and for me, is truly a comfort food.

Dilled Pork Stroganoff
Serving Size : 4
3 cups egg noodles -- uncooked
1 pound pork tenderloin -- trimmed and cubed
1/2 teaspoon salt -- divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 1/2 teaspoons butter -- divided
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 cups sweet onion -- chopped
8 ounces mushrooms -- sliced
1 cup low-fat sour cream
1 tablespoon fresh dill -- chopped
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour

Cook noodles according to package directions.
Sprinkle pork with 1/4 tsp salt and pepper. Melt 1 1/2 tsp butter in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over med-high heat. Add pork, saute 4 minutes, or until no longer pink. Remove from pan and keep warm.
Add broth to pan; cook 30 seconds. Add 1 teaspoon butter, 1/4 tsp. salt, onions, and mushrooms; cook 8 minutes or until vegetables are lightly browned. Remove from heat.
Combine sour cream, dill, mustard, and flour in a small bowl. Add pork and sour cream mixture to pan; stir well. Serve over noodles.
Source: "Cooking Light March 2002"Start to Finish Time: "0:30" - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 392 Calories; 11g Fat (25.6% calories from fat); 34g Protein; 38g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 119mg Cholesterol; 569mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 1/2 Grain(Starch); 3 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Vegetable; 1 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates.

NOTES : Sweet onion: Walla Walla or Vidalia or Texas Sweet
Dill: Use 1 teaspoon dried dill in place of fresh if wanted.
Fat free sour cream can be used, but doesn't seem to be as good. Be sure to not boil the mixture after the sour cream has been added. It will curdle.

Friday, January 13, 2006


So you think you know someone very well, and then WHAM! They surprise you with something unexpected. Andy and I have been together for about 8 years, and today for the first time I find out that Chicken Parmesan is his favorite food. His ultimate comfort food. And I had not known that, and I also had never prepared that. I guess things are changing. Today I returned to Giada's book, Everyday Italian for tonight's dinner inspiration. I gad pulled some frozen chicken breasts out of the freezer, and this was how I chose to use them.

What essentially drew me to this version of Chicken Parmesan was that it was lighter than other versions I had seen or had. Most parmesan recipes, whether they be chicken or veal, come with a breaded cutlet of meat. This one does not, and the freshness really shines here. I did make one error in preparing the recipe. :-) I read through the recipe earlier in the day and remembered thinking that I had all three of the fresh herbs called for in the recipe. I did, and when I started chopping and mixing, I chose the wrong three. It was an excellent mistake to make. So now I am adding a healthy handful of fresh basil to the list of ingredients in my book. Other changes I made were that I used a bottled marinara (although Giada's is good), and I also left off the butter called for in the baking. I don't know why it needed that?

I also chose to brown the chicken in a non-stick pan, and then transfer to a baking dish for the finishing. That worked just fine. I wanted to leave the excess fat from the oil in the frying pan, and while I may have lost a tiny bit of flavor, you would never know, and the end result was spectacular. So Chicken Parmesan now goes into regular rotation, and the major note I have to make is that I need to make more because Andy is in hog heaven when it comes to Chicken Parmsan. Some lightly steamed veggies capped off this meal, and I think everyone left the table happy and satisfied. (Well, except for Andy, who wanted more.)

Chicken Parmesan-recipe courtesy Giada DeLaurentiis, Everyday Italian

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves ( I added this part)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 (3-ounces each) chicken cutlets
1 1/2 cups Simple Tomato Sauce, recipe follows or purchased marinara sauce
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
16 teaspoons grated Parmesan (Actually used about half this amount)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces (Left off)

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
Stir the oil and herbs in a small bowl to blend. Season with salt and pepper. Brush both sides of the cutlets with the herb oil. Heat a heavy large oven-proof skillet over high heat. Add the cutlets and cook just until brown, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the skillet from the heat.
Spoon the marinara sauce over and around the cutlets. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of mozzarella over each cutlet, then sprinkle 2 teaspoons of Parmesan over each. Sprinkle the butter pieces atop the cutlets. Bake until the cheese melts and the chicken is cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Simple Tomato Sauce:
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
4 to 6 basil leaves
2 dried bay leaves
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional

In a large casserole pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about 2 minutes. Add celery and carrots and season with salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, basil, and bay leaves and simmer covered on low heat for 1 hour or until thick. Remove bay leaves and check for seasoning. If sauce still tastes acidic, add unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time to round out the flavors.
Add half the tomato sauce into the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Continue with remaining tomato sauce.
If not using all the sauce, allow it to cool completely and pour 1 to 2 cup portions into freezer plastic bags. This will freeze up to 6 months.
Yield: 6 cups Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes Ease of preparation: easy

Tagged with :

Southern Comfort Food

One thing I learned last spring on our travels to Florida, is that Southerners REALLY know their breakfast food. Particularily in Alabama. We loved Alabama. In a few years we are planning a trip back to spend more time in that beautiful state. And whenever I make myself my favorite breakfast, I think fondly of that state and the people who live there. And of course, I think about our trip and how wonderful it was, so this is always a good breakfast. Simple Cheesy Grits with a fried egg on top is a morning of perfection.

I start with the grits. I do not prepare quick cooking grits, as old-fashioned grits have a fantastic texture that gets lost with quicker cooking ones. I cook the grits according to package directions with a pinch of salt. After they're cooked up, I stir in plenty of black pepper and freshly grated cheddar cheese. Into my bowl they go, awaiting the capper. Then I fry an egg up in olive oil, seasoning with salt, pepper, and Penzey's Fox Point. After placing the just-cooked egg on top of the grits, I simply must demolish the yolk, allowing that golden goodness to ooze all over the grits. All that is needed to finish off this bowl of happiness is a cup of coffee. I love my breakfast. I do not make it often, as it is a treat to be savored. The only thing that could be better is having this breakfast in a little diner in Alabama. Someday. :-)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Ding Ding Ding!!!

We have a winner. :-)

Can you tell I am smiling?

After just 6 attempts, I have found my chocolate cake. Oh, is this one good. I admit that I was getting a little discouraged with the recipes I was finding. It did not make sense to me that there was no such thing as a true chocolate cake. Not only flavor wise, but texture wise as well. I had all but given up, and had planned a trip to the library today to pick up The Cake Mix Doctor. I had been so determined to stay away from a cake mix cake, simply because they don't hold up well to fillings and frostings. But after spending a bit of time researching different cake recipes, I am proud to say that I have created my own chocolatey and fudgey cake.
I started with a Baker's One Bowl Cake, which I liked the texture of. Then I added both cocoa and espresso powder to give it depth of flvaor. That was good, but slightly dryer than I wanted, and texture-wise, I didn't think it would hold up well to filling. So today I made even more changes. I added an extra egg, as well as sour cream. I love sour cream cakes, and I thought that would be a fine addition. My last change was to use all-purpose instead of the cake flour I had been using. And Bingo! I have a winner. The only thing I might change yet is the liquid in the recipe. I am currently using 1 cup of water. Well, in my mind that is one cup of no flavor, so that might change. My original thought had been to use buttermilk, but I think that would compete with the sour cream, so I may just use milk. Of course, it's great like it is, so we'll see if I make the change. Until then, I am thrilled to share the recipe.

Erika's True Chocolate Cake

8 ounces good quality semisweet chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli)
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1 1/2 cups Baker's Sugar (superfine)(plain would be okay too)
4 whole eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1/2 cup sour cream (I used low fat)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (again, I used Ghirardelli)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 cup water

Preheat oven to 350.
Melt the chocolate chips and the butter together (about 1:30 in the microwave). Add the sugar, and mix well. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring thoroughly with each one. Add the vanilla, espresso powder, and the sour cream. Next add the cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Stir well. Add 1 cup of the flour, stir well. Add the water, and again, mix well. Finally, add the remaining cup of flour.

Pour into a greased 9x13 cake pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting into.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Success and an Almost success!

Let's start with the almost success, pictured above. Today in my quest to find Rachel's chocolate wedding cake I tried two more recipes. The one on top is actually Baker's One Bowl Chocolate Cake. The change I made there was to use Ghirardelli chocolate chips instead of the semi-sweet baking chocolate. I liked it immediately. It has a nice chocolate flavor, it is super easy, and it has a nice moist crumb to it. The cake on the bottom is the recipe off of the back of Ghiardelli Unsweetened Cocoa powder. Again, a good cake, this one with a deep chocolatey flavor. Really close to what I am looking for. But I really like the texture of the Baker's one. So, I plan to combine the two recipes and see what the amalgam will bring me. My intent is to use the Baker's recipe as my base, subbing some of the cocoa for some of the flour, and I plan to add a tiny bit of espresso powder to the melted butter and chocolate to deepen the chocolate flavor. I am hoping for success. I will share the final recipe once I am happy with it. In the meantime, if you would like the recipes I've used today, get yourself a can of Ghardelli Unsweetened Cocoa powder, and Baker's Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate. :-p

Now for the success of the day. Pot Roast. I've always thought I had a pretty good pot roast. Although occassionally I overcook it, I have never thought ill of my standard boring pot roast. Until today. In my effort to utilize my cookbooks more, I turned to Fresh Every Day by Sara Foster. Her recipe for Mom's Pot Roast produced not only a fantastic pot roast, but seriously, the most delicious pan juices (read:gravy!) that I have ever experienced. I did make some minor changes, and will do them again in the future. The one major change I made was that I did not use the one cup of red wine called for. Instead I used 1/4 cup Port and 3/4 cup water. I truly think that is what made my pot roast shine. Here is the recipe with my changes included. I did not add additional vegetables for eating with the roast. Instead I strained out the carrots, onions and herbs, and turned the remaining liquid into a fantastic gravy. We poured this over the roast, and over some garlic roasted potatoes. Yum. I'm looking forward to using up the leftovers.

Mom's Pot Roast

Serves 4 to 6

1 3-pound chuck roast, at room temperature
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 TBS canola or safflower oil
1 large onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
6 fresh thyme sprigs
4 fresh rosemary sprigs
¼ cup port
¾ cup water
4 to 6 cups beef broth
Additional carrots and potatoes if desired

Preheat the oven to 325.
Season the roast generously on all sides with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil in a large dutch oven, or large ovenproof skillet over medium high heat. Add the roast and sear to a rich brown color, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
Add the onion, carrots, thyme, and rosemary to the pot. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are light brown and the onion is soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Return the roast to the pan (lay directly on top of vegetables). Add the port and water, let cook for 1 minute. Add the beef broth until it nearly covers the roast (but not quite). Bring ot a boil over medium heat.
Cover with a lid or foil, and place in the oven to roast for 2 hours, 30 minutes. If you are going to add additional carrots and potatoes, this is the time to add them. Continue to cook another 40 to 60 minutes, or until the meat breaks up easily with a fork, and the vegetables are tender.
Transfer the roast to a shallow serving dish. Remove the herbs from the cooking liquid. Pour the vegetables and liquid over the roast and serve.
OR: Strain the vegetables and the herbs out of the liquid. Add a slurry of water and flour and cook to boiling over medium high heat. Add additional salt and pepper if desired. Serve gravy alongside roast.

Monday, January 9, 2006

Pantry Challenge- Red Curry Paste

So I've had a jar of Patek's mild curry paste lurking in my fridge for a long time. I bought it several months ago to make a coconut and shrimp soup. The soup was good, needed some tweaking, but the paste has sat ever since. The good thing is that curry paste lasts a REALLY long time. But I felt a hankering to use it, as I do enjoy the stuff. So today I headed to the store and picked up some plain old boneless, skinless chicken breasts. The last time I combined the curry paste with chicken, I simply sauteed it and added some tomato sauce. Good, but not what I wanted. After looking through a couple of recipes, and nothing struck me, I saw a mention of yogurt.

So I took a few spoonfuls of yogurt, added the curry paste and other magic ingredients and marinated my chicken breasts. After their bath, the breasts met their fate underneath the broiler. And Mmm was it good. The yogurt sauce kind of baked on, and the result was a perfectly done chicken breast. Andy declared it an instant hit, although he did help me dissect it and plan for the next appearance. It will need to marinate longer, and I need to conquer my fear of chutney, as that would be the perfect finish to the dish. Tonight I served the chicken with roasted vegetables, and the kids had macaroni and cheese. Here is the finished recipe.

Easy Yogurt Spiced Chicken

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup plain yogurt
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 TBS mild red curry paste
pinch of salt
black pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Combine everything except the chicken in a large bowl. Toss the chicken with the sauce and marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours (8 at the most), turning chicken from time to time.

Cover a broiler pan with foil. Heat the broiler to high. Place the chicken under the broiler, and cook for 5-7 minutes, turning as the chicken starts to brown. Cook for another 5-7 minutes, or until the juices run clear. Serve immediately.

Thursday, January 5, 2006

Another good one.

Tonight I returned to The New York Times Chicken Cookbook. I am attempting to find new ways to cook chicken for easier weeknight meals. So far I am succeeding. Usually if I have a cut up chicken, or chicken parts, my first reaction is to simply bake it. Which is good, but it's getting a little old. So this week I am mastering the art of braising. The Mustard Chicken the other night was an excellent example. Tonight's Chicken Paprikash is another such creature.

Chicken Paprikash is what it sounds like. Chicken is browned first and then braised in a liquid containg lots of paprika. I have never made a Paprikash, and this won't be my last. My first thought tonight as I tried my first bite of chicken was that the flavor was subtle. Silly, I thought to myself, Paprika is subtle. The sweet earthiness of the paprika really shone though, and with a few minor adjustments, this dish will be a winner. It is most definitely a keeper, but I would like to see double the onions, double the garlic, and adding some Hot or Smoky Paprika to the Sweet Paprika for added flavor. The recipe as written made a lot of sauce that would have been fantastic over some egg noodles. We had baked potatoes, which worked fine for me, but it really begged for some noodles to soak up the sauce. So we will make this again. Andy deemed it a keeper, and that's enough for me.

Later this week/weekend, I have one more braised chicken dish that I plan on trying. Until then, here is the recipe for Chicken Paprikash, adapted from The Best of Craig Claiborne.

Chicken Paprikash

1 3-pound chicken, cut into serving pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup thinly sliced onions
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
1 tablespoon sweet paprika (I used Penzey's Hungarian Sweet Paprika)
1/2 cup fresh or canned chicken broth
1 cup sour cream (I used reduced fat)
1 tablespoon flour

1. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper.
2. Melt the butter in a heavy skillet and add the chicken pieces, skin-side down. Cook over moderately high heat for about 5 minutes and turn the pieces. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes until brown on second side.
3. Sprinkle the onions and garlic around the chicken pieces. Sprinkle with paprika and stir. Add the chicken broth and cover. Simmer for 10 minutes or longer, until the chicken is cooked. (Mine was about 20-25 minutes over med-low heat.)
4. Remove the chicken to a warm serving dish.
5. Blend the sour cream and flour and stir it into the sauce. Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Pour the sauce over the chicken.
Yield: 4 servings

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

The Great Cake Hunt

So for those who don't know, Rachel and Cody's wedding is coming up quickly, on February 18th. I have been honored by being asked to make the wedding cake. At least I think I'm honored. :-) Rachel would like three layers. The largest layer will be a chocolate cake with a fudge filling. The next layer will be a white cake with red sprinkles throughout and raspberry filling. The top layer will be a lemon poppyseed cake with lemon filling. The whole deal will be frosted in a Vanilla Buttercream, dusted with luster dust, and decorated with flowers- edible if I can get them, otherwise they will be silk flowers.

Well, the first challenge is to find good cakes. This past weekend I tested the white cake, and I found a winner right off the bat. Elegant White Cake is a recipe by the good people at King Arthur Flour. It is a fabulous white cake. It is not a dry cake, yet it is not overly moist. Too moist of a cake will crack while layering and while cutting, so texture is key for the wedding cake. I am searching for two components for each cake. The main component is definitely flavor. The cake must be good. So today it was on to chocolate. When I make a homemade chocolate cake, I usually reach for a Devil's Food cake. I just love them. But they are not super chocolatey- which I am looking for in this cake. So today's attempt led me to Val from the CLBB. I really, really, value her opinions and recommendations on baking, so I wanted to try her cake first.

Preacher's Cake is incredibly easy, and is very good. While it is not chocolatey enough to be part of my wedding cake, it is a fantastic cake. I will enjoy eating what remains of it. It does remind me of the Devil's Food cake, but this has something more to it, I can't really say what it is, but it is an instant hit, and will become my quick go-to chocolate cake. So here is the recipe- it's calling your name! Try it!
Preacher's Chocolate Cake

Recipe By : ValChemist on CLBB

1 c brown sugar

1 c sugar

1/2 c shortening

2 eggs -- beaten

2 c flour

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsps soda

1/2 c cocoa

1/2 c buttermilk

1 c boiling water

1 tsp vanilla

Buttercream Frosting:

1 lb powdered sugar

1/2 c butter -- softened

1 tsp vanilla

3 tbsps cream -- (2- 3 tbsp)

Cream sugars and shortening; add eggs and beat very well. Add dry ingredients alternatelly with milk, beating well after each addition. Fold in boiling water and vanilla.
Pour in a greased 13x9 pan and bake 30-35 minutes in a preheated 350 oven. (can also be baked in 2 9-inch round pans for 25-30 minutes)
Cool cake for 20 minutes. Invert onto serving platter. Cool cake completely. Frost with buttercream frosting.

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

The Underrated Chicken Leg

I changed my mind three times today before I decided to go ahead and make this chicken. I went back and forth as to whether or not it would be well received by my family. But Braised Chicken Legs In Mustard Sauce was fantastic. I pulled this recipe out of a yet-unused cookbook in my collection. I've had this book for about 4 months now, and have flipped through it twice. One of my New Year's Resolutions is to utilize my cookbooks more. This particular cookbook is The New York Times Chicken Cookbook. I will most certainly be making another visit to this cookbook, and will definitely repeat this recipe.

What struck me first about this particular recipe is that it features chicken legs. You rarely see a recipe that features just the leg. I read it through, and most of the ingredients are things I have on hand anyways. I wasn't disappointed. My big change to the recipe was to swap out the beer for additional chicken stock and a few dashes of worchestishire sauce. Andy's beer supply is running a little low, and I wasn't sure exactly what he would get angry about me using for dinner. So I left it out. If we missed it, I certainly can't tell because the kids loved it, Andy loved it, and I loved it. The sauce was fantastic and was great dribbled over rice. It would be equally good dribbled over potatoes, or sopped up with bread. I used half the chicken called for, but made a full recipe of sauce. The next time I make it, Andy would like me to try using other chicken parts, and I also want to double the sauce if I can without wrecking the integrity of the dish.

Anyway, here is the recipe. The mustard is not as noticable as I was expecting, so give it a try. Easy weeknight fare for me.

Braised Chicken Legs in Mustard Sauce

3 Tbs. Olive Oil
12 chicken legs
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 tsp rosemary, fresh or dried (I used fresh)
1/4 cup dark beer (I omitted)
1/2 cup chicken stock or brown stock
1/4 cup wholegrain prepared mustard (I used Luzianne Creole Mustard- our fave)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs chopped fresh Italian parsley

1. Heat the oil in a heavy casserole large enough to hold the chicken tightly in a single layer. Add half the chicken legs, brown over high heat, remove from the pan and repeat with remaining chicken. Lower heat, add the onions and celery. Saute until tender, about 8 minutes. Stir int he rosemary, beer, and stock.
2. Return the browned chicken to the pot, cover and cook over low heat until it is cooked through, about 45 minutes, turning once during cooking.
3. Remove the chicken from the pot and increase the heat to high. Stir in the mustard, season to taste with salt and pepper and return the chicken to the pan, basting it with the mustard sauce. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and spoon the sauce over the top. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Yield: 4 servings
Author: Florence Fabricant

Monday, January 2, 2006

I don't have much new to post tonight. Some friends of ours stopped in today and thrust a pair of baby back ribs into my hands, saying they'd be back in two hours. :-) So we shared a fantastic meal of ribs tonight, and unfortunately, the pictures don't look too appetizing. You know...the charred flesh thing...

Anyway, here is another picture of my angels. They are peas in a pod, and here is a great picture of the two of them doing something they love to do best- give each other a hug.

Stew rediscovered

I love stew. It is another one of those comfort food things. My only problem is that I don't make a fine stew. Except for my chicken stew, but since that is really my pot pie filling without the crust, it doesn't really count. In the January issue of Cooking Light magazine they have a feature on stews. At first I looked past those recipes. Who needs a recipe for stew? Isn't it just dump in the pot and cook? Guess what- it isn't. They provided some very good information on the different steps of stew making, and they are right on the money. After a second glance, I thought, why would I want to make a plain old beef stew? Well, after a trip to our butcher resulted in two pounds of gorgeous looking stew meat, I changed my mind.

Basic Beef Stew with Carrots and Mushrooms is exactly what I was looking for in a hearty beef stew. I was leary about it on several layers. The first being the cup of red wine. I really don't like dishes where you can taste the wine. I like to drink a glass of wine- but I really don't care for wine flavored meats. Blech. But when I saw that the wine cooked down for 2+ hours, I thought I should try it. I was also leary about the stew thickening up, I didn't want a stew flavored soup either. But I tackled it anyway- trusting the wisdom of the Cooking Light staff. And yes, it was very good. Delicious in fact. My few changes I am sure did not change the integrity of the dish in any way. I could not locate cremini mushrooms, and for some reason my store was out of all mushrooms execpt for large button mushrooms, so I used those. Next time I would like to try the cremini's as they have that hint of woodsiness to them that I think would have punched up the stew a bit. The other change I made was in the amount of oil called for. I really wanted to give my new stainless a whirl, so I had to use more oil than called for, and eliminate the cooking spray.

All in all, I thought the stew was very good, and will deinfitely be repeated. It will be a fantastic make ahead dish, and while I suspect would freeze nicely, I won't be able to find out as my sister took the leftovers home with her. I will most definitely be meandering my way through the remaining stews in this issue of Cooking Light. Here is the recipe, courtesy of the CL website. A nice loaf of a crusty artisinal bread makes this a fabulous meal. Enjoy.

Basic Beef Stew with Carrots and Mushrooms
From Cooking Light

A crowd-pleaser, this recipe is justifiably a classic. Purchase precut lean stew beef, or cut lean beef sirloin or chuck into bite-sized pieces. White potatoes, not to be confused with baking potatoes, are waxy in texture and hold up well in soups and stews; you can substitute red potatoes. Halve any mushrooms that are larger than 1 1/2 inches.

1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 pound small cremini mushrooms
Cooking spray
2 cups chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 ounces)
2 pounds lean beef stew meat, cut into bite-sized pieces
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 (14-ounce) cans less-sodium beef broth
1 bay leaf
2 cups (3/4-inch) cubed peeled white potato (about 1 pound)
1 1/2 cups (1-inch) slices carrot (about 12 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Fresh thyme sprigs (optional)

Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, and sauté for 5 minutes or until mushrooms begin to brown. Spoon mushrooms into a large bowl. Lightly coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion; sauté 10 minutes or until tender and golden brown. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add onion mixture to mushroom mixture.
Place flour in a shallow bowl or pie plate. Dredge beef in flour, shaking off excess. Heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add half of beef mixture; sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt. Cook 6 minutes, browning on all sides. Add browned beef to mushroom mixture. Repeat procedure with remaining beef mixture and 1/8 teaspoon salt.
Add 1 cup wine to pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add thyme, broth, and bay leaf; bring to a boil. Stir in beef mixture. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 1 hour or until beef is just tender.
Stir in potato and carrot. Simmer, uncovered, 1 hour and 15 minutes or until beef and vegetables are very tender and sauce is thick, stirring occasionally. Stir in remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Discard bay leaf. Garnish with thyme sprigs, if desired. Yield: 8 servings (serving size: about 1 cup)