I talk about food a lot. And other stuff.

But mostly food.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chicken soup. But not on purpose.

Monday, my parents invited the kids and me over for dinner.  They do this every once in a while when my husband is traveling to help me out and give me a little break in the meal and night-night departments, and I appreciate it.  I especially appreciate it when the invitation is prefaced with, "We're trying a new recipe..."  

You know how I love eating at Chez Sweeny.  My parents are very good cooks - especially my dad. Monday I was sent into anticipatory mode.  My dad had started brining the chicken at 9am, and it was going into a one-pot recipe with sweet potatoes and cream by Jamie Oliver.  

When the chicken was supposed to be done (and was still pale in the pan and medium rare), the sauce was separated and soupy.  We added 10 minutes an turned the oven up 15 degrees to get it up to temp and get at least a hint of brown on the skin.  

This is not the sauce you are looking for.
It has no resemblance to this.
PS there's no asparagus in the recipe - what is that in your picture, Parade?

The first step is admitting you need help.  Call me.

It left us all wondering if anyone actually tested this recipe, or if they just trusted a well known chef at his word that it would work.  I'm going with the latter, as there is no description of how big these breasts are supposed to be, it took 55 minutes, there's nothing green in it like the picture suggests, and the sauce did nothing but separate.  Needless to say, I'll be doing further study on how to actually cook this meal - the components tasted good, but who could even attempt to eat that sauce?

Parade Magazine: I am an experienced Home Kitchen Tester for magazine recipes. Let's talk. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Today's breakfast (take two)

The Grand Duke always said to me: "Olga, never be stingy with the

So, I posted this while eating these today WITH THE RECIPE below the photos, but apparently I don't know the constraints of posting to my blog via email yet.  I am now at my computer, and here is the recipe.  YUM!!

1 cup flour
1 1/4 cups milk
Pinch salt
2 eggs
2 TBS melted butter, cooled

Combine all ingredients until smooth.
Heat neutral oil or 1/2 tsp butter in a small non-stick pan over medium heat.
Ladle about 1-2TBS of batter in tge pan and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan with a very thin layer.
When the batter is dry, flip or turn with tongs and cook the other side.
Remove to a plate and continue this way with the remaining batter.

Combine equal parts sour cream and cream cheese and sweeten to taste with sugar or honey.

Combine 1 1/2 cups frozen fruit of your choice with 1/2 cup water in a saucepan and heat until bubbling. Wisk in 2-3 tsp cornstarch and stir so lumps don't form. Cook over medium low heat until thick, adding more cornstarch or water as needed for a good syrupy consistancy.
Lay the crepe on a plate, place a dollop each of cream and fruit in the middle.  Fold sides over, then flip the whole thing, so the seam is on the bottom.  If you make yours bigger than mine, like I wish I had, you can tuck the sides under and have a little pillow of happiness on your plate. Finish with a little of each filling on the top.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Cookbook Format and Organization

We all have our favorite cookbooks.  Some we like for the recipes, some for the tips, some for the photographs.  I'm interested to hear what format works best for you.  Do you like cookbooks that are organized by season? By ingredient? By meal?

Here are some of my favorites:

*Eating Well's Rush Hour is organized by season.
*Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything is organized by protein or other ingredient, and has techniques, cooking times, cuts and other general information before the recipes start.
*Martha Stewart's Good Food Fast is also organized by season and it has a section for Basics - dressings, sauces, frequently used techniques. I love that sort of resource.
*David Joachim's Brilliant is a whole book of tips and techniques.  I like how it's organized alphabetically with a visual index on the outer edge of the pages: 

So.  What works for you?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chicken pot, chicken pot, chicken pot PIE!

I've discovered that my children love peasant pies.  They raved about shepherd's pie and now I've discovered their love of chicken pot pies.  And really, what's not to love about veggies, meat and sauce under pastry?

Last night, here's what I did:

Roast some vegetables (2 onions, 8 brussels sprouts, 2 small potatoes, 1/2 head cauliflower) with olive oil and salt in a 425 oven for about 50 minutes.

Cook some chicken breasts on the stovetop - medium heat, olive oil, salt. About 15 minutes total. 

Make a roux.  Equal parts butter and flour. (2 TBS each?) Cook it for a few minutes to cook out the flour taste:

Roux the day?  Who talks like that?

Add 5oz can of evaporated milk and 1/2 a Korr's chicken bouillon cube (or 1 Wyler's).  Cook over low for 2 minutes.  Add enough water to make 1 3/4 cups sauce.  Add 2 tsp fresh herbs (I had thyme, parsley and tarragon). (Next time I'd add just a few drops of lemon juice, I think.)

Lightly spray ramekins with cooking spray and layer in the vegetables, sauce, diced chicken, sauce. (Next time, I'd mix up the chicken and veggies to evenly distribute them, but I'd still layer the sauce in. I'll also fill them more.)

Make an egg wash with one egg and a little water.  Brush on the outside edge of the ramekin.  Cut out a circle of dough just bigger than the ramekin.  I used Pillsbury's crescent dough.  Brush egg was over dough and dust with a sprinkling of herbs.

Set on a sheet pan and bake in the still 425 oven until golden brown.  Mine took about 5 - 7 minutes.


Shopping List:

Assorted vegetables (ie onion, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, potatoes)
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

2TBS butter
2TBS flour
5oz can evaporated milk
Korr's chicken bouillon 

Chicken breasts, cooked and diced

2 tsp assorted herbs (ie thyme, parsley, tarragon)

Pillsbury crescent roll dough (either a sheet, or press the perforations flat)

1 egg

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Lost and Found -or- Is it Spring Yet?

You know when you want to find something and you can't and it drives you crazy and you know it's out there somewhere and we have the Internet for god sake and you should be able to find it so where is it already?  And then you give up? And then a while later you find it?

In my real life, I recently found and lost the cufflinks I gave to my husband on our wedding day.  I found them the week before he was going to be wearing a tux again on the cruise we went on last week. I was so excited.  I put them someplace I would remember to bring them them.  Or did I not move them, because I knew that I would forget where I put them?  I don't know, because I didn't find them again in time for the cruise.  Perhaps I'll run into them again in the next seven years - hopefully before the next formal event we go to.

In my Internet life, I've been looking for a swing set for the kids.  All I've been able to find are the kind that are $12,000,000 and have a turret and a moat and maybe some crocodiles circling it. And guard dogs with bees in their mouths and when they bark they shoot bees at you.  I just want a regular swing set.  With four poles and a few swings. Maybe a slide.  Maybe, maybe a see-saw.  I gave up looking when the snow started to fly.  But I didn't really give up.  I knew the answer was out there somewhere.  Now, I live in Minnesota, so it just keeps snowing, and it may keep doing so for another few months, but I have faith that Spring is coming.  I'm looking for signs of it - too early, I know.  But I know it will come.  Besides, look what I just found without even looking: A plethora of SWING SETS!  Please click the link and tell me which one is your favorite.  I'm all excited.

PS: CSN stores rule. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Risotto. And what to do with the leftovers.

I love risotto.  I know a lot of people shy away from it because "it's hard" and "it takes too long," but I've never minded making it.  I find it soothing, and kind of fascinating, to tend to the pot as the ingredients marry and blend, and the rice gets all creamy and delicious.  I also like how you can make it differently every time, depending on what ingredients you have on hand.  This time I used acorn squash, asparagus, carrots and broccoli.  I also fried up some tofu and sprinkled the little cubes on top for some texture and protein.

5 - 6 cups broth - chicken or vegetable. 
3 carrots, peeled, cut into thirds and then quartered lengthwise (or about 12 baby carrots, cut lengthwise)
1 bunch of asparagus tips, about 4 inches long
1 - 1 1/2 cups broccoli florets
1 small acorn squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced (or 1/2 tsp minced jar garlic)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried thyme or 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped
Fresh ground pepper

DIRECTIONS for risotto:
*Bring broth to a boil in a saucepan.  Add carrots and cook 3 minutes. Add asparagus and broccoli and cook 1 minute more. Remove vegetables and reserve. Bring the broth down to a simmer.
*Heat oil in a wide pan.  Add onions, squash and garlic and cook until onions are softened - 3 - 5 minutes.
*Add rice to onion, squash and garlic and stir to coat.  Cook 2 - 3 minutes.
*Add wine and stir until mostly absorbed.
*Add broth, a ladle (or 1/2 cup) at a time, stirring between additions and waiting until most of the liquid is absorbed before each new addition of broth.  Continue this way until the rice is creamy and cooked through.
*Stir in the parmesan and thyme.
*Add the vegetables back in and stir to heat them through.
*Serve with tofu (recipe follows) and a generous sprinkle of fresh ground black pepper.

For Tofu:
*Squeeze the liquid from the tofu, season liberally with salt and pepper, and cut into cubes. (I cut the brick in thirds down the flat way - so you have three thin blocks - then cube those 4 x 6 each) 
*Heat oil in another wide pan and fry the tofu over medium heat until brown and crispy. 3 - 5 minutes. Flip the cues and cook on the other side until brown and crispy.  Remove from pan, reserve.  
*Toss a few on top of your risotto.  
*Use leftovers in a salad of spinach, craisins, walnuts and goat cheese for lunch the next day.

NOW.  When I have tried to reheat risotto, that creamy goodness becomes a gluey mess.  How, then, shall we eat our leftovers?  We fry them, of course!

Make a little risotto patty:

Dredge it in flour:

Fry it in olive oil over medium heat until it's golden brown.  Flip and do the same on the other side:

Enjoy as a side dish or for lunch.

Or, if you're me, fry an egg and have it for breakfast:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Chickpea, Spinach & Squash Gnocchi

I made Eating Well's Chickpea, Spinach & Squash Gnocchi a few months ago and have been wanting to make it again for a few weeks. (Yes, sometimes I make a meal, take pictures of it and don't tell you right away.  It's crazy, I know.)
Now that everything is settling down (and I've had pot roast for two nights in a row and really need to Not Eat Meat tonight), I think tonight might be the night.  I'm venturing out to the store in the snow this afternoon, and will be getting the ingredients and cooking this as you read about it.  Very meta.

Monday, January 10, 2011

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! ....what? it's the 10th!?

Me: Happy New Year, blog.  I haven't been around.
Blog:  Yeah. I noticed.   
Me:  You see, I've been doing other things. Without the Internet. 
Blog [aghast]:  What's that?  Without... The Internet?  How can this be?  
Me: Well, you see, it's because I was on a very large ship sailing around the Caribbean Sea with Famous People.*  
Blog: Ah. Well. That explains it.  
Me: Yes. Here are some pictures.  I'll talk about letting go of things and what I want for the coming year and all that stuff that Every Other Blog In Creation talked about two weeks ago while I was packing my family of four to get on a floating hotel for a week in another post.
Blog: Ok.....

Blog: I missed you.
Me.  I know.  I missed you, too.  Though not enough to take a single picture of food while I was gone.
Blog:  I understand.  You were on vacation.
Me:  Thanks.  I heart you.
Blog: Shut up and make with the pictures.

It's good to be on a boat with old friends.
Peter Sagal and my husband, Bill.

Fruity Rum Drinks in Neon Plasticware!  With FRUIT!

A view of the ms Eurodam from the beach at Half Moon Cay, Bahamas



Having stupidly watched Titanic two weeks before the cruise,
I was happy to see these awesome lifeboats that also served as shuttles to the islands.

The Paul F. Tompkins Memorial Mustache Formal.
Paul's not dead or anything, he just couldn't join us on the cruise.
Formal wear was optional, mustaches were mandatory and provided.
I brought monocles for Bill and me.

A theater full of geeks every night.  What's better than that?

This is as close to Jamaica as I got.
I was in the stateroom with my 3 year old who was throwing up from a virus for three days.
My 5 year old went ashore with my parents and came back braid-less,
but bearing color-changing gifts of barrettes, rings and nail polish.
She didn't start throwing up until the next day.

If you squint, you can see the crescent moon just under the  clouds.

Why almost 400 people were sailing on the ms Eurodam last week:
As best I can, from left to right:
John Hodgman, Wil Wheaton, John Roderick, Paul and Storm, Jonathan Coulton, Dammit Liz, David Rees, Molly Lewis, Mike Phirman, Peter Sagal, Bill Corbett (my husband), Stephen Toulouse, Kevin Murphy.

The scarriest of all the towel animals.
Towel Monkey.

I cannot tell you all that happened here.  But I can tell you that I had a wonderful time and am so lucky and so happy to have been a part of it all.  I saw some of the best performing I've ever seen, I hung out with some really amazingly talented people.  I had real conversations with people I've admired for years (one in particular since I was 12 years old), and got to meet their amazing families.  I met new friends and grew real connections.  Thank you so much, Jonathan, Paul and Storm, Liz, the Universe, for putting this all together.  Thank you, Bill  for including me in it.  Even though our poor children were throwing up for days, I still got to have nights most people only dream about.  Thank you to my parents for coming along and making those nights possible by watching the kids and for getting us really sweet chairs on the beach in the Bahamas.  I hope you got a good vacation out of the deal, too.  Thank you Holland America, for making my first cruising experience awesome enough - even with sick kids - to consider and look forward to a second.  With service and food like that, I'm sticking with you kid.

Thanks for being patient with me, Blog.  I'll start taking pictures of food again now.

*may not contain actual famous people.