I talk about food a lot. And other stuff.

But mostly food.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Eating Well Magazine, March/April 2010

Open your April 2010 Eating Well magazine (Avocado) with me and let's see what we're cooking next.  I've marked some, and have already made something, so let's jump in with a check list.  Remember - one from each (or at lest most) category, and at least eight items total.

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup
Butterflied Grilled Chicken with Chile-Lime Rub
Italian Egg Drop Soup
Hilary's Heavenly Eggs
Bacon, Egg & Asparagus Pizza
Rosemary Orange Pot Roast
Spinach & Frisée Salad with Tangerines & Coriander-Crusted Scallops
Broccoli Rabe & Orzo Salad
Avocado Ice Cream

I grilled two more T-Bones last night and made a version of the Spring Salad with Beets, Prosciutto & Creamy Onion Dressing.  I didn't have sweet onions, so I used a leek.  I also used spinach for the leaves and pancetta from Trader Joe's in place of the prosciutto.  (Did you know you can buy a 4 oz. package of  cubed pancetta at Trader Joe's?  It's a staple in our house ever since Freddy wanted to try it and put it in the cart.  Just stick it in a sautée pan and crisp it up.  I put it inside grilled cheese sandwiches the other day, too.  Man, that stuff is good.)  The onion dressing is really fantastic.  I'm going to try to think of ways I can use what's left -- maybe as a spread on a roast beef sandwich?  Dressing for chicken salad?  Dip for steamed green beans?  Who knows it's destiny....

Last minute decision after writing this far and then going grocery shopping:  I'm adding one more because who can pass up soup with horseradish and blue cheese?  Tonight: Creamy Watercress Soup

So, anyone out there wanna cook any of this stuff with me?  Or if you have a subscription to Eating Well and something else looks good to you, let me know how it turns out!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

February 2010 Eating Well Recap

I have in my possession the April 2010 issue of Eating Well magazine. It's all marked up and I'm ready to go for round two.  Let's recap the last issue, then look forward.

The plan for the February 2010 issue was to cook eight new recipes.  Here are the results:

Honey- & Goat Cheese-Filled Fig Muffins - Made.  Success. Will make again for my turn to bring snacks to Molly's preschool class (for the parents).  Might also try the Almond-Honey Power Bars that day, depending on our tree nut ban a school.

Onion Rings - Did Not Make.  Didn't find anything for it to go with, and upon more consideration, don't think it'll go over in my house.

Cheddar Cauliflower Soup - Made. Moderate Success. Liked it, but it didn't make it to the table for leftovers.

Inside Out Lasagna - Made. Fail.  Bland flavor, gloppy texture.

Rack of Lamb with Warm Apple and Lentil Salad.  Did Not Make. I originally intended to make this for Valentine's Day dinner, but we went to Piccolo instead.  I substituted Thai Chicken & Mango Stir-Fry for a more basic weekday meal.

(Substitute)Thai Chicken & Mango Stir-Fry.  Made.  Success.  I'd use two smaller mangoes next time, but other than that a great, easy recipe.  Eating the leftovers for lunch as I type this.  They're good!!

Eating Well Fish Sticks.  Made.  Success.  Everyone loved these.  Will make again and put into regular rotation.

Broccoli-Potato Mash.  Made.  Moderate success.  Not everyone liked them, but they're fun and interesting.  I'll cut the potatoes smaller next time so the skin pieces aren't so big.

Peanut Butter and Pretzel Truffles.  Made. Success!!  Easy, fabulous, impressive.  I'm going to try some other chocolatey things from this page. (Chocolate Nut Bark, Frozen Chocolate-Covered Bananas and Quick Mini Chocolate Cheesecakes, anyone?)

There's a lot of green on that list!  I'm proud of what I did this last month.  My repertiore gained a few recipes that will be staples in our house.  Last year I tried to make binders of all the recipes I'd like to try. It proved to be overwhelming and the project lays abandoned in my basement.  With this project, however, I feel like I can rekindle that spark.  I'm starting a new binder with the successes of these trials. We all need some great, go-to meals, and I'm building my binder one issue of Eating Well at a time.  Thanks again for coming along for the ride.

If you want a subscription to Eating Well, go here  They're less than $15 a year, and they're running a special right now with a free trial issue.  Get yours and cook along with me!

Look for the next post about what I'm cooking out of the April Issue!!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

And now for something just a little bit different.

Being a parent, I've become aware of how important routine and schedules are for children.  They need a place to come back to.  They need a safe structure so they can explore the world around them with confidence, and know that this and this and this will happen, and we will always be there for them.

But let's be honest.  Routine and schedules can be boring at their best and stifling at their worst for an adult.  I've started to look for little releases throughout my week to break up the routine that my children need to thrive and grow.  I've made some observations about my own daily routines and tried to do them differently every once in a while.  It makes me live that moment just a little more intentionally, and brings a tiny bit of zest to my everyday tasks.  They might sound silly, but they do help me notice what my small patterns are, which helps me to practice noticing what my big patterns are.  A change of any size, at it's best, can broaden our minds, open our hearts, and make room for great things to come in to our lives.

 Here are some little ways I've tried to live my day differently in the tiniest way.  

*Shave my left leg first, instead of my routine right
*Unload the dishwasher "backwards" (silverware last?!)
*Fill the dog's water bowl first, then her food bowl
*Put my lipstick on before my mascara
*Choose my jewelry first and build an outfit around it
*Lay out my clothes the night before so I have two more minutes to stay in bed, breathe and get mentally prepared for my day
*Drive with the radio off
*Eat an omelette for dinner, appetizers for lunch, pasta for breakfast

UPDATE:  Thought of a new one:
*Write a blog post that's not about food :)

So, tell me:  What do you think?  What will you do to make a tiny change?

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Miracle of Fish

Last night I made salmon, peas and scallions and served them with a pre-made grocery deli couscous salad.  Freddy (2) had three helpings of fish.  Molly (4) had two.  And they ate their peas.  I was really excited to bring this couscous home to them, too.  It had big pearl couscous, raisins, sweet potatoes, almonds, scallions and chickpeas.  The dressing was made with  honey, orange yogurt and fig.  Sweet and delicious, right?  They both hated it.  But they had multiple servings of fish, so, I'm ok with that.  There's enough couscous left for me to have as a little snack later.

Tonight I'm making the dish it has taken me three trips to the store to get ingredients for - you'll hear that story soon enough.  When I realized I *still* didn't have all the stuff I needed last night, I was very happy that I had bought the beautiful piece of salmon they were sampling at the store.  Now at least we didn't have to have pizza again.  I decided to shake off my frustration of not having all the ingredients of my planned meal AGAIN, and use it as a fun experiment night.  I tried some flavors I thought would go well with the salmon.  I peeled and sliced a lemon and a red onion, and cut some of the fresh dill I'd bought at the store. (I was totally seduced by fresh herbs at the store and now have a lovely bouquet on my kitchen counter.  Spring IS coming, right?)

I put a tiny bit of olive oil on the fish and seasoned it with salt and pepper.  Then I lay some dill sprigs down and covered that with alternating wheels of lemon and onion.  Pretty!  I brushed a little bit more olive oil on top and broiled it on low for 5 minutes.  Not done - and I decided to ditch the rack and lay the skin side right on my half sheet.  Six more minutes broiled on low, and the thinner section of the fish was almost there.  I switched the broiler to high and cooked it for three more minutes.  Beautiful!  The thickest part of the fish was still not cooked, but I served the part that was cooked, and put it back in on low.  I served it to the adults with a little of the lemon and onion on the plate, but they were really too strong to actually eat.  They gave the salmon a wonderful flavor, though.  By the time the kids needed seconds, the rest of the fish was beautifully done.  There were no leftovers.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Valentine's Dinner at Piccolo

I don't have enough words to explain how much I love this restaurant - no matter how long this post is.  Three years ago when Auriga closed it's doors, I mourned.  I mourned the loss of a place my family celebrated big and small events in our life with food.  It was the loss of the place we brought our of town visitors and new and old friends, and championed to strangers in our everyday lives.  It was the place I could go and know, for a fact, that whatever I ordered was going to be beautiful, flavorful, seasonal, interesting, surprising and, above all, the kind of food I needed to close my eyes to eat.   The kind of food that makes me do my little happy food dance in my chair when the server approaches.

This year, Chef Doug Flicker (along with many others from Auriga, including the lovely and talented Front of House Goddess, Bridget Harrington, and über-knowledgeable and very tall server Robb-With-Two-Bs) is back with Piccolo.  With a vision of smaller plates that are easy to share (and prices that reflect that), the brilliant concept of Shared Gratuity between front and back of house, and the return of complex, interesting, surprising, eye-closing, conversation-stopping flavors, I say: Let the happy food chair dancing begin again!

My husband and I were there with my parents on opening night (my mom with four freshly broken ribs - she wouldn't have missed it!) and ordered The Entire Menu.  You can read my letter to the Chef from opening night, along with that night's menu, after the jump if you'd like.

For Valentine's Day, Piccolo offered a pre fixe menu ($50 per person).  We, again, ordered the entire menu (how smart to offer a choice of two for each course, allowing me to order dinner without feeling like I'm missing something).  We also got the wine pairing ($75 per person) (I don't have that list with me, but it was great).

Sitting in the little back room this time gave us a private feeling, and I especially love walking through the kitchen to get to my table.  Chef Flicker was always happy to look up, say hello, and even answer my question about the little jars lining the bookcase with mysterious contents marked "White Asparagus Dill Pollen".   Apparently white asparagus pickles might be in a future dining experience.  Can't wait to try them.

I am so happy and so grateful to have a place to go for food like this.  I have a new place to champion, because I really believe in it.  Knowing that it's there makes me feel happy and somehow connected with my ideal of creativity through food.  It broadens my palate and my imagination about food, and it fosters my courage about all the wonderful things our Earth's bounty offers us.  I try things I would never eat anywhere else when Chef Flicker cooks it - from the simple mushroom or escargot to the slightly more adventurous pickled pigs feet or veal tongue - because I trust that even if it's not my favorite flavor, it will be a wonderful experience.

Valentine's Day Menu:

House "smoked" wild sturgeon with potato, lemon jam and dill
Chioggia beet terrine with goat's milk, truffle honey and endive

Winter ragout of white asparagus and Brussels sprouts with brioche crouton and chevre
Swiss chard raviolis with Au Bon Canard duck, medjool dates and pickled walnuts

Blue prawns with chamomile yogurt, english cucumbers and saffron couscous
Spanish mackerel with Jerusalem artichokes, porcini mushrooms and tomato jam

Roasted quail stuffed with a chestnut sausage, braised salsify and garlic potato puree
Pine cured veal breast confit with Brussels sprouts, pistachios and garlic sausage

Malted panna cotta with chocolate milk and figs
Chocolate terrine with chocolate pearls, dark raisins and pinecone syrup

Friday, February 19, 2010

Honey- & Goat Cheese-Filled Fig Muffins

That's right.  The time has finally come.  I made the muffins.  I had A LOT of help.  Luckily, the recipe calls for three bowls to be going at the same time.  2yo boy got to mash and chop and stir to his heart's content, the goat cheese, honey, lemon zest(!) filling.  The entire time.  4yo girl got to "sift" (ie stir with spoon, rake with very clean hands) the dry ingredients.  And I got to stir up the wet ingredients and assemble everything.  That being said, I have no pictures of the actual MAKING of this recipe.  Please enjoy the results, however:

This is an amazing recipe. I tried one right out of the oven - because how could I not?  It was warm, gooey, moist, explosive, sweet - but not too sweet, creamy.  Everything I wanted it to be.  An hour later, I followed the directions for "make ahead" version.  I wrapped one in a paper towel and microwaved it on high for 30 of the 30 -45 recommended seconds.  The filling pretty much disappeared into the muffin. And it was scorching hot.  The kids ate it (after it cooled) for dessert, and thought it was the bee's knees (and of course they did - they made it, after all!).  I nuked one at 20 seconds  for myself, and it was a little better.  When I have one for it's intended destiny of breakfast, I will try 15 seconds, to attempt to preserve the integrity of the goo inside.

A few ingredient notes:  I did use Whole Wheat flour.  I think it makes a big difference not only in nutrition, but also in texture and flavor.  I used "soured milk" (1 cup less 1TBS of milk and 1TBS lemon juice that I let stand while I got everything else together) instead of buttermilk.  Worked like a charm as always.  I got dried Black Mission Figs at Trader Joe's and they were wonderful!

I will definitely make this again.  I may futz with it a little to keep it a little more moist while re-heating.  If you have any ideas or insights on how a person might futz in this way, please tell me in the comments below.  When I microwaved it, I was very happy for the little goo that was left, and the sugar sprinkled on top.  I will also NEVER eat two in one evening again.  This is a VERY filling muffin.  It actually *is* the meal that it is intended to be (and at 6 Weight Watchers' Points, that's a very nice breakfast!)  This is a fantastic brunch party recipe.  Right out of the oven, these are truly outstanding.  It even looks like the picture in the magazine! (Though Eating Well doesn't take pictures with an iPhone, I'm sure.)

UPDATE:  15 seconds in the microwave this morning gave perfect results.  It also preserved the moistness of the muffin itself, so I think no futzing is necessary.  I had posted earlier that I would up the honey and down the zest, but the next day, the proportions in the recipe are really balanced and nice.  I think right out of the oven is, of course, the best, strongest flavor, but these sure hold up.  I'm going to freeze a couple and see how that works out in a week or so.  

Seriously.  Do yourself a favor and make these.

What have you been eating?

This week we had  the Cheddar Cauliflower Soup and  Inside-Out Lasagna from my new Eating Well recipes list.

The soup was surprisingly good!  I really enjoyed it for dinner, and the recipe makes "four servings" that are very generous.  Unfortunately, I'm not a natural left-overs person, and now that it's several days later, I think the fate of our soup is to be a one serving meal.  Pretty specific and surprisingly strong (but good!) taste.  I'm not sure I can convince my taste-buds to go for it again.  Our 4 year old (who loves broccoli) ate half her bowl.  2 year old brother did not, but tried it twice, so there's some hope there.  I think the fact that I used Cracker Barrel Vermont Cheddar, and he got to sprinkle some on top helped my cause with him.

The pasta was not our favorite.  I have to admit, I'm not a fan of mushrooms to begin with, but I was willing to try them again.  I also wanted to introduce our children to something new, wrapped up in some of their favorite shaped pasta.  This was not a success.  The sauce was bland (it's a can of Italian Diced tomatoes, really), and the 3 TBS(!) of ricotta blopped on each serving looked pretty, but made the pasta cold, gritty and unappealing.  The kids fished out the pasta, the adults grimaced through the meal.  Dinner Fail.  Oh well, can't win 'em all.

On a happier note, I grilled hamburgers outside again last night.  Ate them so quickly, I didn't even get a picture, but, boy, that goes a long way towards fighting off the Mid-Feburary in Minnesota Blues.  It didn't even bother me when the propane tank ran out just as I was putting the burgers on.  I had an extra, and the grill was still hot.  I also had to laugh at myself a little bit when I realized I  was out on our deck, standing on the ice, in my tee shirt, grilling.

So - What have YOU been eating this week?  Any successes this week? Anything require a #dinnerfail on your Twitter feed like me?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Eat Steak, Eat Steak, Eat a big o'l steer...

Saturday night was a beautiful 27 degrees Fahrenheit.  The sun was still over the horizon at 5:30.  There was a new moon.   I decided it was a perfect night to dust off the snow, remove the cover, and say hello to my old, dear, beautiful blue friend, the Vermont Castings Grill.  Two beautiful T-Bone steaks told me this was the right decision.  And I haven't even lost my touch.  They came out beautifully medium-rare.  I seasoned them so liberally, even Tom Colicchio would have been hard pressed to find anything wrong with these steaks.  I even made pretty grill marks on them.

For a vegetable, I tried a new Blue Cheese-Walnut Green Beans recipe.  I will absolutely make those again.  I didn't have a whole pound of green beans, but did put in the full amount of blue cheese and walnuts.  Turns out you can have a little too much of a good thing.  Balance is important.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day Cookies

There's nothing like fresh, from scratch sugar cookies made almost entirely by your two and four year olds cooling on the counter to remind you of how full of love your heart can be.

Super proud Mama moment:  the kids suggested putting orange and lemon in the cookies.  We added 1/2 T of each zest and 1/2 t of each juice in the butter and sugar, as recommended in one of the variations on sugar cookies in Brilliant.

The kids measured, mixed, rolled, cut and decorated the cookies.  Look how beautiful!  And they taste really delicious.  Talk about Roots and Zest!!

Friday, February 12, 2010

So, what did you have for dinner?

Sunday 2/7/10:

Leftover Pot Roast.  

I didn't have any carrots (What?  Who doesn't have carrots?), so I used what I did have: a turnip, half a rutabaga, a parsnip and some onion.  I let the vegetables caramelize in the pan, then took them out and browned the meat, returned the veggies to the pan and added the wine (a half a bottle of a great red called Big Ass Zin), some water and beef bouillon and 2 TBS tomato paste.
I served them with a new recipe for CreamyMashed Cauliflower .  I used jarred minced garlic and it totally overwhelmed everything else.  [Fail] We threw it out after two bites.  But the Pot Roast was truly wonderful.  I ate it for three days.

Monday 2/8/10:

Pork Roast with Teeny Tiny Potatoes and Roasted Brussels Sprouts.

Tuscan Pork Loin recipe found here.

I only had time to marinade for 30 minutes (read the recipe first, Virginia - not just the ingredients!).  I liked it fine, though, I have to say, I would prefer a smaller portion of this with the fat left on, than to do it trimmed and turning it twice while cooking.  The meat was a little rubbery (though I may have over cooked it by two minutes).  It's becoming stir-fry in it's next incarnation.

Teeny Tiny potatoes (sold as such at Trader Joe's) were cooked for seven minutes in the microwave, then put on a baking sheet with halved Brussels sprouts.  I rendered the fat that I trimmed off the pork loin, and drizzled it on the potatoes and sprouts instead of olive oil and salt.  They were cooked at 375 for the last 15 minutes of the pork's time, then I upped the heat to 400 for the 10 minutes the meat was resting.  I like a little more char on the spouts, and could have used 5 more minutes, but my husband said they were perfect.

Tuesday 2/9/10:
Leftover Pork Fried Rice, Pot-stickers, Tempura Vegetables and Edamame.  
Thanks again, Trader Joe's!

Wednesday 2/10/10:
Eating Well Fish Sticks and Cheesy Broccoli-Potato Mash

These were both on my list of new Eating Well recipes for the month.  Recipes are found  here and here.

The fish sticks were really delicious!  Light, easy, moist on the inside, the right amount of crunch on the outside.  I used all bread crumbs, as all my flake cereal had dried fruit in it.  I can't imagine why a person would need a whole cup of bread crumbs and a whole cup of flakes for the breading for this recipe, though.  The other breading ingredients were right on.  Here's what was left in the bowl after I'd breaded everything.  Yikes that's a lot of bread crumbs.  And hardly any egg white left.

Next time, I'd peel the potatoes.  As you can see, when I quartered the potatoes to make the mash, the skins are left whole.  Maybe a smaller dice to steam them, to preserve some of the nutrition, but the skins were super big and a little unwieldy.  Kids loved the fish sticks.  The one who likes broccoli ate the mash, the other couldn't be persuaded, even though his favorite color is green.  Sometimes you just can't make the sale.

Thursday 2/11/10:
Bobbie's Chicken, Lemon Pepper Pappardelle, Asparagus Spears

Oh, Bobbie's Chicken, you're my favorite roast poultry.  Yes.  I love you even more than a perfect salt and pepper chicken. Yes. I pick at you even more than Thanksgiving turkey.  You are wonderful, succulent, flavorful.  Your bones make really really excellent stock.  I love you, Bobbie the sculptor (and Bert, too!).   Thank you for perfecting this recipe.  Found on page 403 of The New Basics, this is one of our favorite standbys. We rave about it every time.

I served this with Trader Joe's Lemon Pepper Papparadelle pasta and asparagus with butter and lemon.  Our four year old liked the pasta until the pepper kicked in.  Then she ate the egg noodles I'd made just in case.  Our two year old ate the lemony, spicy pasta like it was going out of style.  And no asparagus is safe for long at our table.  Mmmm!

Weekend Meal Plan:

We've been invited out tonight (Friday) with some preschool parents and their friends.  Can't wait to meet new people and I'm so grateful to my parents for taking the kids overnight.  Twice this weekend!!

Saturday we'll have chicken leftovers.  I made some acorn squash with lots of butter and salt to make it extra sweet and delicious for just such an occasion.

Sunday is Valentine's Day.  We have reservations at Piccolo.  Last time we were there (for opening night), we ordered and ate the entire menu.  We have two fewer people in our party this time, and I don't know how I'm going to edit my eating.  Everything was amazing.  I hope/bet there will be some new items and specials this weekend, and cannot wait for Sunday to come so I can eat there again.  Please.  If you live in or near Minneapolis, or if you know someone who does, make a reservation on their site or at Open Table and go as soon as possible.  Little bites, huge flavors, great prices, nice wine list, amazing front of house, and exceptional talent in the kitchen.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Truffle Update

UPDATE:  The truffles were amazing!  Super easy, though they take some unattended time.  I made them 1/2 tsp balls instead of 1 tsp balls in hopes that my children could/would pop them in their mouths instead of biting them and having them melt all over their two- and four-year old hands.  This worked about as well as one would expect, with not quite as much chocolate clean up as if I'd made them bigger.  

Twelve of them made it to our table.  The rest were packaged up and brought to our neighbors.  They are moving away, and we are very sad to see them go.  

On March 29th, a new family will move in next door with children aged 10, 6 and 4.  Here's hoping they like food - I really like to share!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Menu Planning

This week's menu planning session is a little different than I'm used to.  I've decided to take my newest Eating Well Magazine and cook one thing out of each category (at least eight recipes).  I've been getting Eating Well magazine since it started (and then again when it restarted), but I find that I go to my Eating Well Cookbooks more often than my magazines for recipes.  I'm going to challenge myself to break out of my regular EW menus with this practice, and see if I can't find some new family favorites.  I'll compile a binder throughout the year of our favorites, too, so we have a place to go when the ever-looming question of What's For Dinner stumps me.

This month's magazine has these recipes in store for my family:

Making the Truffles first (because, obviously.  And also I have all the ingredients on hand.  And also our awesome neighbors sold their house yesterday and I want to take some over to them).  Fish sticks and Mash later this week.  I might make the Muffins, too, but I also have a ridiculous amount of bananas in my freezer, so banana bread might bump the muffins to another week.  Some old favorites are also on the menu: Roast chicken (and subsequent stock for the freezer), and steak followed by steak salad later in the week.  I've got a pork roast with teeny tiny potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts for today's menu.  I'll take pictures as I go, and check in later.  We'll see if and how I stick to the plan, and what whims and surprises come along as we eat through the week.  Can't forget to make Valentines Cookies with the kids!