Saturday, March 14, 2015

An Anniversary, A Blondie, and An Exciting New Project

This March The Essential Rhubarb Pie is 8 years old.  I am so happy I have managed to keep this blog going for so long.  I know it's not as active as it used to be, but I think I have matured a bit since I first started blogging.  In the beginning I just wrote about whatever I ate haphazardly.  Then I started trying to make the recipes look like real recipes.  Then I finally started adding photos.  I blogged everything I cooked.  My photos were bad.

As time went on, I started becoming more selective about recipes I put up here (coining the phrase TERP-worthy) and bought a light box and a better camera in hopes of taking somewhat better photos.  It's a constant process to make a blog better.  Still, I try to stay true to my heart and post what I want to post, and stop worrying about the "right" way to blog.

I am proud to still be here when many blogs have stopped.  Recently I went through my reading list and started to cull it a bit.  So many blogs I read faithfully haven't been updated in years.  Many of the bloggers I read have simply called it quits.  Then there are the bloggers who have used their blogs to launch bigger and better ventures in the food business.  The ones that I read that are still going strong and still regularly posting recipes have my neverending admiration.  

When I go back through 8 years worth of posts, I see many recipes that I could take or leave, many that all sound just a big too similar (I even coined another phrase "Standard TERP Sauce" to describe the typical ingredients for many of my recipes), and many that I loved and want to make over and over again.  As I refine my ideas and my skills, I realize that some recipes are worth sharing and many more aren't.  That's one reason why you don't see so many posts here over the past year or two.  I only want to share recipes that I would be proud to share with anyone and not just use as experiments on my poor husband. 

There is a second reason why this blog is a bit slow lately and will continue to be slow in the coming months.  I have an exciting new project on the horizon.

As I said, I have many recipes that I love and want to make over and over.  When I do make them, I find I have to go back through the blog and search for the posts. As I cook those recipes, I have to pause and constantly  keep my iPad from going dark while I refer to it for the recipe.  There had to be a better way.

Earlier this year I decided to go back and reinvigorate my told TasteBook account.  I had joined that site because I wanted to share recipes with some friends from a particular forum I post to.  While I was happy to have access to their recipes, they are all aware of my blog and read it.  They didn't really need my TasteBook.  But TasteBook isn't just online recipes.  You can use TasteBook to self-publish cookbooks from recipes you post there.  Wouldn't it be much easier to have a physical cookbook of my favorite recipes so I wouldn't have to always be searching online?  It would also be easier for friends and family who want my recipes.

So now The Essential Rhubarb Pie will become a cookbook by the end of this year.  That is why I won't be featuring as many new recipes as much in the coming months.  I am going to be going back and cooking all of my most favorite recipes.  I will be tweaking instructions and perfecting the recipes as well as taking better photographs of some of the ones that have bad photos attached.  This means I hope to have plenty of dinner parties in the coming months and my coworkers will be eating a lot of desserts.  Maybe I will start to re-institute Family Dessert Night on Sundays (that was a great concept that never really took off).  As I am still somewhat sidelined by injuries, I really have the time to create this new work.  It's a silver lining as well.

I want to have the book done my Christmas so I can give copies as gifts to friends and family.  I am very excited about this project and being able to share my best ideas in a different way.

Now that I have said that, I do actually have a new recipe to share with you today.

One dessert I have never made on this blog is blondies.  Yes, this blog has featured my experiments baking other bloggers' blondies, but I never tried making a blondie of my own.

This past weekend Oxbow Stables threw its annual awards dinner.   I still can't ride, but I can at least spend a few hours with my horse friends enjoying a massive potluck dinner.  Guests are told what to bring to the party, but I don't always honor my assignment.  They usually ask me to bring a salad.  Sometimes I just don't want to make a salad.  Also, let's face it, in a potluck full of delicious foods, most people don't want to eat a salad.  I wanted to do what people love best - dessert.

With my desire to test out a blondie recipe and a desire to make dessert for this party, I knew it was perfect timing.

I was radical (for me anyway) and used no chocolate in these.  Instead I used another favorite ingredient that has been showing up in my desserts - dulce de leche.  I also studded them with lots of coconut.

They were really good and definitely helped me get through that endless part of the evening when they begin handing out the hundreds (or so it seems) 4-H and Pony Club awards.  This is one situation where you can't avoid boredom eating.  I love those kids at the barn and I'm proud of their accomplishments but...zzzzzzz

I know they're ugly.  No photo could make them beautiful.  They were ugly enough that partygoers ignored them on the buffet for a while.  Then they found out what they were.  Soon they were all snatched up.    Be warned - they are gooey.  Make sure they are completely cool when you cut them.  

Coconut and Dulce De Leche Blondies

  • 1 stick melted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar*
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup coconut flakes
  • 1 cup dulce de leche
Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8" square pan.

Stir together flour and baking powder.  Set aside.

In a large bowl beat together butter, egg, vanilla, cinnamon and salt until well combined.  Stir in the flour mixture to combine.  Fold in the coconut flakes.

Pour the batter into the pan.  Pour the dulce de leche over the top and swirl it into the batter.  Bake 25-30 minutes.  A knife inserted in the middle should be mostly clean.

Cool completely before cutting.  You might even want to put them in the refrigerator for a while before cutting. 

*Some people prefer dark brown sugar for their blondies.  I confess I use light brown.  I find I don't like that aggressive molasses flavor in my desserts unless it's a dessert that's meant to taste like molasses (like gingersnaps).  If you like the flavor, by all means use dark brown.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Another New Favorite Side Dish

It's strange that I'm cooking more than ever these days, but inventing less.

Prior to my surgery I was often out two or three nights a week.  I'd spend most of my weekend 70 miles away from home then come home too tired to cook.  Kevin and I would eat out at least twice a week and three nights a week we would eat leftovers for dinner, whether they were from a restaurant or leftovers from the meals I prepared the night before.

Now I'm cooking much more.  I have the time so I do it more often.  I'm home almost every night and I don't spend my entire weekend at the barn like I used to (it's too cold to hang out there if I can't ride).

I'm learning the tough lesson that meal planning is harder when you have more meals to plan.  Much of what I make are basics or else my old reliable classic TERP recipes.  My focus these days is to make the classics the best they can be.  I put a lot more time and care into food than I did in the past.

My biggest issue with dinner isn't the main course.  It's coming up with side dishes.  I wish I liked vegetables more (or that I liked more vegetables).  I wish the vegetables I do like were all of the same ones Sir Pickypants likes.  I feel like I make the same vegetables over and over again and they're always steamed and buttered or else roasted.

This past week we had steamed green beans, and chopped salad, and...zzzzzzz

I'm sorry.  Did I just nod off?  I do that when I consider some of my most recent meals.

So this week I decided I had to get off the vegetable hamster wheel again and find a new side dish.  I love fennel and have been using it in salads pretty often.  I thought I would try something new with it.

This roasted tomato and fennel compote was perfect.  I'm sure there are a hundred dishes almost exactly like it, but I'm sharing mine anyway.  I have seen a few recipes like this that use olives, but since we don't like them, I just used the main ingredients with some pearl onions and flavored with roasted garlic, basil, and fennel fronds.

It was perfect on a grilled, grass-fed steak.

Also good on fish - or so the hubs would tell me.

Roasted Fennel Tomato Compote

  • 4 Tbl olive oil, divided
  • 2 pints grape tomatoes
  • 1 fennel bulb cut into 1/2" slices, fronds reserved
  • 6-8 cippollini onions, peeled
  • 6 clove of garlic, whole, unpeeled
  • 5-6 fresh basil leaves, cut in chiffonade
  • 1 Tbl lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Toss the tomatoes, onions, fennel slices, and garlic in 2 Tbl olive oil.  Spread out on a cookie sheet.  Roast about 30-40 minutes*, or until soft.

Remove the peels from the garlic cloves.  Mash them in a bowl with remaining olive oil.  Whisk in basil, reserved fronds, and salt.

Toss the tomatoes, fennel, and onions with the dressing and serve.

*I confess I wasn't paying much attention when I made this.  I threw it in the oven and winged it and served dinner when it all seemed soft enough.  Start with 30 minutes and see if it's soft enough for you.  If not, keep going.   This is a very forgiving dish.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

My New Favorite Side Dish

My last post was about Christmas, and now Christmas is officially over.  All 12 days are gone.

Do you celebrate Epiphany/Little Christmas?  I don't, but I'm beginning to wish I did.  I love Christmas.  I love the festive feel.  I think that feeling tends to fade for most people as soon as the New Year's Eve hangover wears off.  Even though many homes and public areas keep their decorations up until January 6th, by January 1st it tends to feel stale and anticlimactic to me.  I want to keep that festive feeling going.  I like the idea of milking Christmas for all it's worth.  If you stretch out the Christmas celebration, you keep having something to look forward to. There is even a bonus because you are now allowed to put off that New Year's resolution to lose weight for a few days. 

I know some people do still celebrate Epiphany.  The bakeries in my neighborhood all sell Three Kings Cakes.  It seems to be the most important to Italians (or perhaps to all Catholics).  For Italians the mythical witch, La Befana, makes her appearance on Epiphany Eve.  This is when she gives out presents to the children of the world in atonement for not bringing a gift to the Christ Child (depending on which version of the legend you believe).  

This year I decided to do something festive for Little Christmas.  I would make a nice meal, serve wine, and try to think of something Italian inspired.

My inspiration came from my 2011 trip to Italy where on the farm we often had beans mixed with rosemary and olive oil or a big bowl of bietole, doused in olive oil, as contorni.  I also remembered my grandmother occasionally cooking "beans and greens".  It felt properly Italian to do a dish with both beans and dark greens, and Italian seemed appropriate for the last day of Christmas.

I made my dish with pancetta, onions, garlic, white chard, cannellini beans, rosemary, and pine nuts.  I think of it as a simple dish, but it was definitely a bit heavier than the foods I ate in Italy.

This is America.  I'm allowed to overload my dishes with extra ingredients!

I served this as a side dish alongside a roast chicken (which I felt would be a festive meal for a minor holiday).  I think it would do well by itself as a meal though.  The leftovers would make a perfect lunch.  There is a wonderful combination of flavors here.  You have sweetness from the onions and pine nuts, saltiness from the pancetta, mild bitterness from the chard (one thing I like about chard is that it's not overly bitter as some greens are), and a savory texture from the beans.  

This was so good, I hope to serve it again - and not just on holidays.  I think this side dish will make many appearances on my table in the future. 

White Beans and Chard

  • 2 oz pancetta, cut into small pieces
  • 1 Tbl olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch white card, roughly chopped
  • Optional splash of wine or chicken stock
  • 1 can white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbl pine nuts, toasted
 Cook the pancetta over low heat in a large frying pan until the fat has rendered and the pancetta is crispy.  Remove the pancetta from the pan and set aside (try not to eat it all before you serve the dish).

Add the olive oil to the pan and then add the onions.  Cook until the onions are soft and transparent.  Add the garlic and cook another minute or two.

Add the chard to the pan and cook until it wilts and the stems become tender (they don't have to be totally soft though).  If you would like to add a little wine or chicken stock at this point, go right ahead.  I found the dish didn't need any extra liquid, but I did consider adding some and I think that might add to the dish a bit.

When greens are wilted stir in the beans and rosemary.  Cook over low heat until the beans are warmed through.

Toss with the pine nuts and reserve pancetta bits and serve.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Live Blog 2014!

Hello and Happy Holidays (It's my blog and I can say Happy Holidays if I want to!) to all of my beloved TERP readers.  It's a big day for the (dis)Ordered Kitchen.  I'm hosting Christmas dinner.  Why am I hosting Christmas dinner when I am still recovering from surgery and still have pain in my hip?  Because no one else wanted to do it!

I don't really mind.  I like hosting holidays as long as I don't have 17 people over.  I am into hospitality and cooking for people.  If you believe in astrology, you could say it's a Cancerian thing.  Cancers are homemakers who like to nurture.

The last time I hosted Christmas, I did a live blog, giving regular updates as the day went on, posting food as I cooked it.  I thought it would be fun to do that again.  All my friends can share the adventure with me.

So let's begin.

12/24/14 -   Start with the most time-consuming stuff.  It's Christmas Eve and I just finished making dessert.  My dessert is my favorite non-chocolate cake recipe, Brown Butter Layer Cake.  I thought it would be great with salted caramel frosting.  At first I thought I might make my own recipe, but ended up going with Martha Stewart's version.  I did add a teaspoon or two of salt to the caramel sauce.  Who doesn't do that these days?

Here are the cakes cooling on the rack. (Yes I know my place is messy.  I am still in the tidying process)

Think there is too much butter in the frosting?

I made the cake layers and frosting tonight, but I'll  assemble it tomorrow.

The frosting was an Italian meringue buttercream (which seems a lot like a Swiss meringue buttercream to me) according to Martha Stewart.  I had to warm egg whites and sugar over a double boiler and whip them really well.  Gradually I added the butter.  At first the butter just seemed to destroy the meringue and create a deflated greasy mess.  Then after the last few additions of butter I had a creamy, fluffy frosting.

Christmas Eve dinner wasn't very festive.  It was just Kevin and me having dinner.  We ate some leftover Almost Perfect Chili (some variations on that recipe though).  Maybe it wasn't festive, but at least it wasn't fish.  There aren't too many advantages to being an adult, but one of them is that I can eat whatever I want (in other words not fish) on Christmas Eve.

Thursday 6:51 AM - I need to get started on stuff!  I now have 10 hours until the guests arrive.  Time to work on some actual food.

When I last did a live blog for Christmas dinner, I created the dinner over the space of three days.  This year I had part of an afternoon and an evening and then just one full day to do dinner.  This is a little scary.

Thursday 8:15 AM:  I just made my green bean casserole.  Before you shrink away in disgust and vow never to read TERP again, I will remind you that I don't use instant anything if I can avoid it.  I made homemade green bean casserole.

I started by blanching a 2 pound bag of green beans. While I don't use instant and prepared foods, I do use shortcut foods.  I don't want to be wasting time trimming green beans, so I bought a bag of pre-trimmed beans and cut them up.

 There were boiled 2 minutes and shocked in ice water.

Next I sauteed shallots and mushrooms and then cooked them in a basic white sauce with butter, flour, and milk.  I also used pre-sliced mushrooms as a time saver.
 Here they are in the pan ready to be topped and baked.  In this case I'm frying up the onions later and putting the whole thing in the oven when the guests arrive.  The recipe below will tell you how to do it all at once.

Homemade Green Bean Casserole

  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Oil for frying
  • 2 pounds trimmed green beans
  • 1 Tbl olive oil
  • 2 large shallots, minced
  • 1/4 (1/2 stick) cup butter
  • 10 oz sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 4 cups lukewarm milk
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tsp salt
  • Dash of nutmeg
Soak onions in buttermilk for 15 minutes.  Mix together flour, spices, and salt.

Drain excess milk from onions.  Toss in flour mixture to coat.  Fry in hot oil until crispy.  I use a Fry Daddy for this purpose.  Set aside and try not to eat them all.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut beans into smaller pieces and cook in boiling salted water about 2 minutes or until they are vibrantly green.  Immediately plunge into an ice water bath.  Drain and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a pan over low heat and cook shallots until they soften.  Add butter and cook until melted.  Add the mushrooms and cook until they begin to brown and give off their liquid.  Add the flour and stir in vigorously.  Constantly scrape up any flour sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Cook until it doesn't smell like raw flour.

Leave an open space at the bottom of the pan and slowly whisk in the milk.  As you begin whisking, slowly incorporate the other ingredients in the milk.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture becomes thick.  It should coat a spoon well enough that you can draw a line through it.  Keep cooking until the whisk starts to make tracks at the bottom of the pan.  This should take about 15 minutes.  Stir in pepper, salt, and nutmeg.

Mix together beans and the sauce.  Place in a casserole dish.  Top with fried onions and bake for 25 minutes.

10:08 AM

Just finished making the mashed potatoes.

No recipe needed here.  I boiled 3 pounds of potatoes.  I dried them briefly in the pot and then ran them through a food mill. I mixed in a cup of hot heavy cream, a stick of browned butter, and plenty of salt and white pepper.

Good stuff.  The food mill tends to leave a lot of uniform lumpy bits, which I know some of my family doesn't like.  The just leaves more for Kevin.  He doesn't care.

I have so much cleanup to to before moving on to the next phrase of prep!

11:04 AM - Yikes!  6 hours to go.  My next phase of cooking was the sauce making.  I made two beautiful sauces for the meats.

First I made raspberry-maple mustard.  This was simple to make.

Mix together:

3/4 cup grainy dijon mustard
1 10oz jar seedless, fruit-only raspberry preserves
1/4 cup real maple syrup.

Next up was a lemon-tarragon mayonnaise. 

This one was a little harder, but it was a fine example of "waste not, want not".

You see, my cake recipe had 2 egg yolks and 3 whole eggs in it.  I was left with two whites.

The frosting recipe contained 9 egg whites.  I only needed 7 in addition to the ones I had left over from the cake.

After making the frosting, I had 7 leftover egg yolks.  What better thing to do with them than make them into a sauce?

Lemon-Tarragon Aioli

  • 7 egg yolks
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbl white wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbl dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbl chopped fresh tarragon
  • Optional dash of horseradish
Place the egg yolks and lemon juice in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Whisk constantly until the yolks are thick, pale, creamy, and lukewarm all the way through.  Remove from heat.

Whisk in the mustard, vinegar, and salt.  Continue whisking constantly and slowly stream in the olive oil.  Pour in slowly and whisk quickly so the emulsion doesn't break.  Whisk until the mixture becomes creamy and very thick.  (If you're impatient and your arm gets tired, move it to the blender and blend of high a minute or so.)  Stir in lemon zest, tarragon, and horseradish if using.

12:55 PM - Just finished setting the tables.  What a mess!  There is no fancypants eating in this house.  The linens are wrinkled and mismatched.  One of these place settings is not like the other 10.  I have a mishmash of chairs. 

But this is home and it's family.  No one cares.  We just all want to be together and we all want to eat.

Note I tried to be a little fancy and put all of those little votives down the middle of the main table.

One day I will have a house and I will have the storage for a full set of Christmas-themed linens and plates.

I do wish I had a tree though.  I didn't get one this year.  I didn't think with my post-surgical hip pain and the medial epicondylitis in my elbow that I would physically be able to take a tree home and decorate it.  A tree does make the house seem that much more festive.


What happened to my live blog?  Well, the home computer was hijacked for the afternoon unfortunately. Poor SPP just needed a bit of refuge with me bustling around the house all day getting things ready.  It was no longer so easy for me to jump on the computer every time I cooked something.

So what did I do since the last check in with the blog?

I cooked a beautiful beef roast. It was a grass-fed ribeye roast.  I cut slits in the meat and stuffed cloves of garlic into them.  Then I rubbed the outside with olive oil and thyme and plenty of salt and pepper.  It went into the oven at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then roasted another 2 hours at 325.

I also cooked a small turkey breast for the non beef eaters.  (I feel I should make some kind of joke here about gin or the Tower of London, but I can't think of one funny enough.)  I rubbed it with rosemary, olive oil, salt, and pepper and poured a little white wine in the bottom of the pan.  I cooked it alongside the beef for two hours.

I made the specialty cocktail of the evening.  Instead of eggnog I served hot cider infused with cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and allspice.  Then I added lots of brandy.

A tea ball helps keep the smaller spices contained.

Here is my bar all set to go.  For those not drinking cider, there was plenty of wine.

I started the evening with a cheese plate.  I had a mix of cheese types and textures.  There was brie, peppered goat cheese, gouda, and manchego.

Time to start dinner.  Candles on the main table are lit.

Who doesn't love homemade biscuits?

Finally, the dinner buffet.  We had the beef, the turkey, the mashed potatoes, the green beans, the sauces, and some cranberry coleslaw that my mother provided.

We ended with the dessert buffet.  Here is the frosted cake along with cookies that my sister-in-law baked and pecan bars that my mother baked (they taste like the Christmas of my childhood).

We had a great evening.  I was afraid the dinner might be a little boring, but everyone seemed to love it.  The biggest hits were the cake and the mashed potatoes I think. (Moral of the story:  People will love anything with brown butter.)  We had an early dinner, so everyone was out by 8:30 and it gave the two of us enough time to clean up as much as we needed to before sitting down the the Dr. Who Christmas special.

Hope everyone had a great Christmas and enjoys a happy new year!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

A New Pork Dish and A Food Survey

Hello my dear TERP Muffins!  I do hope you all had a great Thanksgiving.  I stayed home this year, but didn't cook anything.  Instead of having a house party, everyone headed to Pappardella on Columbus Ave.  We all had a lovely time and for the first time in years, I actually ordered the turkey dinner even though I had other choices.

The turkey was moist and tasty  The sweet potatoes were infused with parmesan, which I found surprising, but delicious.  Otherwise, there wasn't much else about the meal to comment on.  It was all good.

Oh yes, there is something else to comment on.  I started with an excellent, fresh bellini.

I realize I am way overdue for a new recipe.  I could bring up a list of excuses as to why I'm not developing new recipes lately.  I could devote yet another paragraph to my health woes and remind my readers yet again that I had surgery.  That would be dishonest as my surgery was almost a month ago and I'm walking around pretty well and starting physical therapy.

My real excuse is that I've been doing this for seven years, I have trouble keeping my recipe ideas fresh, and when I'm cooking for myself, I have seven years' worth of recipes I can go back to.

Fresh inspiration does strike me from time to time and when that happens, I know I have to blog about it.

Before I start with a new recipe though, I am going to post this little survey from Emily.  I love filling out this kind of stuff.  I love talking about myself.  I'm so narcissistic!

Favorite cereal as a child?
Cocoa Pebble, much to my health-conscious mother's chagrin.
Coffee or Tea? With milk or without?
Meh.  I like the occasional tea and usually take it straight.  I think there is something weird about brewed leaves and milk.  I don't know why.   I think coffee as a straight beverage is kind of vile.  I like the flavor of coffee though.  If I drink coffee, it has to have lots of milk or cream.  Better yet, give me a cappuccino or latte or Irish coffee, or Thai iced coffee.
The one food you eat most often at breakfast.
Eggs and some veggies or a smoothie made from fruit, coconut milk, and almond butter.  Occasionally I make a pot of steel-cut oats.

Sandwiches are usually considered lunch food. If you had to choose from a grilled cheese sandwich or a peanut butter and jelly, which would you pick?
The angel on my shoulder says an almond butter or natural peanut butter with sugar-free jelly on sprouted grain bread.  The devil says grilled cheese. It's all good.
You can only put four ingredients in your salad (not including greens); what do you throw in the mix? Additionally, which greens and dressing do you pick?
I love a salad with arugula, shaved fennel, endive, and pine nuts with an orange-balsamic dressing.
One food you cannot live without at lunch.
I can't stick to one food at lunch.  I get bored too easily.  Water to wash it down is crucial.

It’s the end of the day. You’re tired, hungry, and your fridge is empty. If fast food (from a chain) is your only option, where do you go and what do you order?
I would probably go to Salsa Fresca down the street.  It's fresh and good for me and close by.  Otherwise, there is plenty of pizza in my neighborhood.
TV/Computer on or off while you are eating?
The one food you eat most often at dinner.
Chicken.  It's the one protein my husband and I both agree on.
Choose between two American desserts: cheesecake or apple pie.
I'd rather have something chocolate.  Can I say chocolate cheesecake?  Sometimes cheesecake is too tart for me and my husband is lactose intolerant, so I guess I should just go with apple pie.
Choose between two foreign desserts: tiramisu (Italy) or flan (Spain).
Tiramisu.  I like flan, but the flavor is often not intense enough for me.
Ice cream: cone or cup. I love a good sugar or waffle cone.  If it's a wafer cone, give me a double portion of ice cream in a cup.

Anyway, on to the recipe...

While food shopping this weekend I found this adorable little pork roast.  I have been craving some good pork and I knew I just had to buy this.  It was just a little over two pounds.

Once I bought it, I really had no idea what to do with it.  I tend cook pork with sweet sauces containing liqueurs, honey, molasses, and brown sugar.  I wanted to try something I have never tried with pork before.

I found some marsala in my liquor cabinet.  I have made chicken marsala many times, but I never tried marsala with pork.  I decided to try a marsala marinade.  Marsala is sweet, but I played down the sweetness by adding mustard, garlic, and rosemary and marinating it overnight.

It roasted up nice and browned and juicy.
I boiled the marinade to use as as sauce.  I kept the sides simple with haricots vert and roasted creamer potatoes.

This recipe is a keeper!

Marsala Pork Roast

  • 1 small pork loin roast (about 2 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup marsala wine
  • 2 Tbl dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 4 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed
  • Salt and pepper
 Whisk together marsala, mustard, rosemary, and garlic.  Place the pork and the marinade in a large plastic bag.  Seal and let marinate overnight.

When ready to roast, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and remove the pork from the marinade.  Reserve marinade.  Sprinkle the pork roast with plenty of salt and pepper.  Place in a roasting pan and roast for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. 

Meanwhile boil the reserved marinade in a small saucepan until it thickens a bit. 

Remove roast from the oven.  Allow to sit for 10 minutes.  Slice and serve with the sauce.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Time For A Change - Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

Change can be good and change can be bad.  Unfortunately, even bad change can be unavoidable.

About a year ago I noticed while working out that I had some pain in my hip crease when I bent forward.  I didn't think much of it.  I was heavily involved with a body coaching program and my workouts were a huge part of my life.  I figured I was bound to strain something now and then.  It didn't hurt so badly that it impeded motion, so I ignored it.  The pain never went away and I decided that I should have someone look at it.  I went to my orthopedist, who had me do an MRI and some physical therapy.  The pain never went away.  I had a second MRI with dye injection.  This finally showed some tears in my labrum (the seal around the hip joint).  I would either have to live with the pain or have surgery.  Since I knew I didn't want to be in pain (however mild that pain was) for the rest of my life, I decided to go ahead and have the surgery. 

Now that the surgery is complete, my life has definitely changed.  Regular intense workouts, as well as dance, and even riding, are a thing of the past.  I may not be doing regular activity for another 6 months.  Right now it's just therapeutic moves as I shuffle around on crutches with a brace on my hip.  I have a long way to go to get my old life back.

Since I'm not crushing it in the weight room, galloping the equines around, or shaking my booty in Zumba or jazz class anymore, I also have to make some serious changes in my eating habits.  Gone are the days of giant hunks of protein for muscle building and big portions.  I have to eat quite a bit more conservatively now.

As I sit at home, bored and in pain, I am designing menus to get me through the next few weeks where physical activity will be very limited.  Many of my meals are plant-based and lower in fat than I previously ate.  I'm trying to bring the calorie counts down and the nutrients up.  I need my vitamins and minerals while I'm convalescing.

Here is my first recipe.  I was inspired for this by the holiday shops in Bryant Park.  You might remember an old post where I visited a vegan food stand called Two Tablespoons where I ate a somewhat disappointing cup of sweet potato and black bean chili.  I felt that it was not spicy or smokey enough.  Now I'm making my own version.  I even soaked and cooked my own beans since I am home more to do this now.   Since the Two Tablespoons version lacked both smoke and spice, I really ramped up the chipotle and added some ancho chili powder as well and even a bit of cinnamon.  I used fire roasted tomatoes for my tomato base.  I also added spinach to it so I can really make this a nutritional powerhouse.

I have an excuse for bad photos today!  I'm in too much pain to get out lights and props and linens and good tableware.  I had to photograph this as I ate it out of the first bowl I could reach without pain.

This is a very hearty chili with plenty of spice.  You don't need much to make a meal.  A little goes a long way.  There is so much heft and flavor in it that even I don't miss the meat.

Pretty good for chili made standing on one leg!

Chipotle Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 2 Tbl olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ancho chili powder
  • 1 Tbl chipotle powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 cups black beans cooked from dried (or 1 15oz can)
  • 1 28 oz can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 bag spinach leaves
  • Salt to taste
 Cook the sweet potatoes in boiling salted water.  You want them soft enough to run a knife through them, but they shouldn't be falling apart.

Heat olive oil in a large pot.  Add onions and cook until soft.  Add in the garlic, ancho, chipotle, and cinnamon.  Stir until onions are coated and mixture is very fragrant.  Add the sweet potatoes, tomatoes and beans.  Stir gently and cook for at least another 30 minutes.  At the end, stir in the spinach leaves until they wilt.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Birthday Dinner with Gordon Ramsay and a New Cake Recipe

I admit I have a weakness for Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares.  I suppose part of my interest in the show is simply the "train wreck" aspect, but I also like seeing businesses turn themselves around.  I actually find Ramsay's help with the menu and critiques of the food to be useful for my own cooking.  The changes in decor are also fun.

I have mixed feelings about Ramsay himself.  I think he is genuine the way he throws himself into the fixing of the restaurant, and he does seem to be sincere in his effort to help, but let's face it, his personality leaves much to be desired.  I wouldn't want someone shouting and cursing in my kitchen like that.  I know he is a world-class, Michelin-starred chef, but he comes off as an obnoxious know-it-all.

Then one day a friend posted a YouTube link on Facebook to a cooking series that Ramsay hosted called Gordon Ramsay's Ultimate Cookery Course: 100 Recipes to Stake Your Life On.  As soon as I watched the first show I was hooked. 

Ramsay tones down the tough guy act in the show.  If I hadn't seen him in any other TV shows, I would have thought he was a very nice guy.  He comes across as down to earth and likeable.  The recipes he presented were delicious.  I couldn't wait to try some of them.   Unlike Rachael Ray and other FN personalities, he doesn't just teach how to make a recipe out of 20 random ingredients.  He teaches you how to cook by explaining the techniques behind them.  He even gives specific cooking tips in each show.  

Each show features a few short recipes that take only 10 or 15 minutes to make (take that Rachael Ray!) and one big, show-stopping, dinner-party-type recipe.  When I saw his chicken stuffed with chorizo and white beans, I knew I had to make it at my next dinner party.  (I found a printed version of the recipe online so you don't have to sit through the episode. )  Dad's birthday was this past weekend, so I had my chance.  

The chicken, so simply roasted with olive oil and paprika on the outside was moist and flavorful.  The stuffing was a meal in itself.  I'm sorry that dinner was nearly over before I remembered to take a photo of them.

I started the meal with my own version of Pappa Al Pomodoro - Tomato and bread soup (or literally "mush").  I added some roasted carrots and fennel to my version.  It was my chance to make sure I took advantage of the last tomatoes of the season at the farmers' market.

I ended the meal with a new cake recipe.  I adapted my favorite pound cake to include bourbon, apples, and sour cream.  I served it with caramel cinnamon ice cream.

I think Dad was happy with his birthday dinner.

Pappa Al Pomodoro

  • 8 medium ripe tomatoes
  • Olive Oil for brushing and sauteeing
  • 1 small fennel bulb
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced.
  • 5 slices good quality bread
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
Heat over to 400 degrees.  Cut the carrots and fennel into roughly equal pieces.  Brush with olive oil and roast 20 minutes, or until you can stick a fork into them.  Set aside.

Score an X into the skin of each tomato with a small sharp knife and drop into boiling water.  When the skins start to pull away, remove and plunge them into cold water.  Remove the skins.  Gently squeeze the seeds out over a strainer into a bowl to catch the juice.  Coarsely crush or chop the tomatoes. 

Blend together all vegetables in a food processor.  Process until smooth. 

Heat olive oil in a large pot.  Add onion and cook until soft.  Add garlic and cook another minute or two until fragrant.  Add the vegetable puree to the pot.  Crumble in the bread and add the stock.  Cook for another 30 minutes.  Stir in the salt and vinegar and serve.

 Bourbon Apple Pound Cake

  • 1/2 cup bourbon divided
  • 2 Golden delicious apples, chopped
  • 4 Tbl brown sugar, divided
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 sticks of room temperature butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs, whisked to combine
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 tespoon salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a Bundt pan or spray with baking spray.

Mix together apples, 1/4 cup bourbon, and 1 Tbl  brown sugar.  Set aside.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a mixer, cream butter until soft. Stream in the sugar and continue beating on medium speed until mixture is light and fluffy. Add eggs just a little (about a tablespoon) at a time, incorporating well after each addition. Mix at medium speed until all eggs are mixed in and mixture is pale and gaining more volume.

Add flour mixture and sour cream alternately, ending with the flour. When it is thoroughly combined, gently stir in vanilla. Then gently fold in the apples.

Pour mixture into pan and bake for 55-65 minutes. Use the toothpick test to test for doneness. When baked cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes and then remove from pan.
Boil remaining bourbon, brown sugar, and lemon juice until combined and dissolved.  Make slits in the cooled cake with a knife and pour bourbon mixture over it.