Friday, May 15, 2009
I recently was lucky enough to have a fashionable friend pick through my closet and tell me how badly I was embarrassing myself. What I did discover was that from my office job days, I had far too many white oxfords. Solution: a fun, chunky short or long necklace to add interest to these classics. That's where M.Flynn Jewelry comes in. In large funky baubles and more elegant gold links, they can liven up your wardrobe and one or two pieces can make everything you own seem a little more fun: great bang for your buck. Check out the sale page which has some great buys right now and if you are local - check out their new studio in Boston.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
True story - a couple for whom I have much admiration have driven each other to destruction over pork. She was a European eater and he was eating pork five times a week when they moved in together. Several pounds later, she was forced onto a raw food diet to compensate. It's an old story: what's good for you isn't delicious and what's delicious isn't good for you - POPPYKOSH! In the great peace between the healthy eater and the pork lover, the treaty was signed at pork tenderloin. Either grilled or roasted, it is juicy and tasty and at only 160 calories and 6 grams of unsaturated fat in 4 oz. of a plain, trimmed, roasted pork tenderloin, it can be a healthy source of protein. So why so overlooked? With a sister like bacon and a brother like baby back ribs, its easy to become the red-headed step-child in this family. Here are some great recipes for when you have time and when you don't, for you and for the kids, for when you want simplicity and when you want gourmet. In addition to the nutritional positives, in this economy its worth noting that pork tenderloin is a reasonably priced meat as a main course. The only note of caution with pork is that undercooked pork is not safe - but serving overcooked pork to a hungry clan or a table of foodies is even more dangerous, so please use your meat thermometer and measure often until you get the feel for it.
Figs and Pork Tenderloin
I know what your thinking, but its not just because I'm obsessed with figs - this is truly delicious and where you can buy Stonewall Kitchen, easy.
1 lb. pork tenderloin
1/4 cup Vidalia Onion Fig Sauce by Stonewall Kitchen
or 1/2 cup homemade Vidala Apple Fig Jam (see below)
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
pinch of salt
Clean the meat, trimming any fat off the tenderloin. Lightly salt the loin and coat in the homemade jam or Stonewall Kitchen sauce. Let sit for at least 30 minutes but even better if you marinade in the morning before you leave for the day. Preheat oven to 425. Coat a portion of the roasting pan in the oil and place the tenderloin and sauce on top of that area. Place the pork in the oven and immediately reduce heat to 400 and cook to your liking using a digital read meat thermometer. ( I like 145 -150 degrees which is a little med-rare and typically takes about 20 minutes total). Figure that 1 lb. will serve 4 adults a healthy portion, but if you want generous portions, go for a 1.25 lb. tenderloin which will take slightly more time. If you are serving for a dinner party, you can easily cook two side-by-side.
You can also grill this tenderloin in a similar fashion. Preheat the grill to hot and sear each side, about 2 minutes per side, before turning the heat down to medium-low and pulling the cover down. Again, grilling time varies on the size of the meat and the heat of your grill. To keep it healthy, avoid charring the meat when you sear it by reducing the amount of time it is on high heat. The grilling works best with the Stonewall Kitchen sauce as the homemade version is more of a jam than a sauce.
To serve, slice the meat on the bias. Serve with couscous. Also delicious with this dish is wilted kale, steamed with crushed garlic in the water and topped with a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of a lemon wedge. If you are using the homemade fig jam, you will be using more because it has loads of lumpy yummy stuff - make sure to serve some homemade jam on top or on the side. For a fun light dinner, serve over baby spinach as a salad with sliced apples, walnuts and feta cheese dressing with olive oil and the jam syrup.
Vidalia Apple Fig Jam
This creation pulls from the flavors of the Stonewall Kitchen sauce but is inspired by Todd English's famous fig jam. (Not surprisingly, "The Figs Table," his second cookbook is one of my favorites, see http://www.toddenglish.com/ for purchase. )
1 crisp apple (FUJI), cored and small diced
1/2 large vidalia onion, peeled and small diced
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 cup red wine
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary minced
1/2 cup raw sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup dried mission figs, measured first then quartered
In a saucepan on med-high, heat oil, adding onions and pinch of salt and stirring for about 3 minutes. Pour the red wine in to deglaze (rub the bottom of the pan to get all the juicy onion bits mixed in). Let reduce in half, add the chicken broth and vinegar and reduce again in half. Add the sugar and lower the heat until it is melted into the sauce (about 3 minutes). Add the rosemary, mustard, figs and apples and cook on a simmer, stirring frequently for 15 - 20 minutes until the sauce slowly drops from the spoon like a loose syrup (should still be a bit runny). Let cool before using as a marinade and can be made 4 days in advance. I like the reserve a portion of this for serving on the side of a roast - looks great, tastes great.
Mediterranean Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
This recipe is an adaptation of the Eating Well Spanish Style Pork Tenderloin recipe in the November 1991 magazine. I have changed some details including substituting spinach for Kale (to make it more palatable at a dinner party) and cranberries for currants - I find them to be more sweet and flavorful.
2 12-14 oz. pork tenderloins
3 cups raw spinach, blanched to a wilt
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, roughly chopped
1/4 cup cranberries, roughly chopped
4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoon oregano, fresh chopped finely
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Combine chopped toasted pine nuts, chopped cranberries, chopped oregano, cheese, and 2 tablespoon olive oil and crush and stir with a wooden spoon. Set aside.
Prepare the tenderloins, wash and butterfly: Make a lengthwise cut in the tenderloin through the center of the meat but not all the way through so that you can open the meat like a book. Cover with wax or parchment paper and pound with a meat pounder (or if you do not have one, borrow a mallet from the garage) until the meat is at a 1/4 inch thickness (like the thickness of a pencil). Laying them flat, place down a layer of spinach and an overlapping layer of the nuts and cranberry mixture, spreading evenly. Roll the tenderloin back together and tie in three places with kitchen twine. Sprinkle the rest of the salt and some pepper, and a little bit leftover of the Parmesan cheese on the top of the loins.
Place the remaining olive oil in an oven safe pan on medium-high heat. When the oil is starting to get hot (becomes thinner and more shimmery), put the tenderloins in, searing on both sides (roughly 2-3 minutes each side). Turn off heat and place the pan in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes - using a meat thermometer to measure 145 to 150 degrees. (Make sure you are measuring in the meat not the stuffing.)
Serve sliced with mashed or roasted potatoes and greens.
Pork Tenderloin for the Kids
Once you have mastered the tenderloin roast, as seen in the first recipe, it is much the same with different marinades. Here are some combinations that I have tried that work well for the kids:
Honey-Mustard Pork Tenderloin: 4 tablespoons honey and 1 tablespoon country mustard (Dijon is usually too spicy for the kids)
Apple Maple Pork Tenderloin: 1 tablespoon applesauce mixed with 3 tablespoons maples syrup. Let the kids make this with you and use a kitchen brush to paint it on.
Sweet and Sour Pork Tenderloin: 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 1/4 cup apricot jam.
Friday, May 1, 2009
You probably think you are over it, or maybe you have never tried it on, but the roasted chicken is the Chanel #5, the little black dress, and your favorite college sweatshirt all rolled into one - the classic elegance, the foundation piece, and the comfort. The long and short is that it is maybe the lowest maintenance foundation for a healthy family dinner out there. It can be served as the main contender, stuck in your preschooler's sandwich the next day, dressed up to serve for a dinner, or reused as a chicken soup. Here is a classic recipe to love along with ideas for serving to toddler and adult, how to make it work as a meal several times over for your family. Great as a Sunday night dinner for moms working out of the house, it can work for you all week long as a main course for the kids' dinner or an add on to their favorite mac and cheese (LOVE it with Annie's Organic Shells and White Cheddar and some frozen peas.)
Roasted Chicken with Thyme and Lemon
1 Whole Chicken - (I like Bell and Evans or Whole Foods 4-5 lbs)
3 cloves garlic
Bunch of Fresh Thyme
Tablespoon of Sea Salt
Tablespoon Herbs de Provence
Tablespoon Butter (softened if you think of it)
2 Tablespoons EV Olive Oil
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees - convection if you have it. Wash the chicken inside and out with cold water, removing all giblets (save on the side if you are making stock) and dry. Take a tablespoon sea salt (roughly I just fill up the inside of my palm when its curled into a cup) and rub it around the inside of the bird and stuffing into the cavity three hand crushed cloves of garlic, a bunch of thyme, 1/2 of a lemon cut across and 1/2 of an onion that has been quartered. "Plug" the cavity with the last half of lemon. Throw on a roasting pan (I like Emile Henry or Le Creuset ceramic pans). You can truss or tie the bird to keep the moisture in. Put the rest of the onions on the side. Run the bird with the olive oil first and the softened butter second (or place the butter if not softened in small dices around the top), sprinkle with salt, pepper and herbs de provence. Put in the oven at 425 for 20 minutes and then reduce to 400 degrees for another 40 minutes to one hour and fifteen minutes (depending on the size of the chicken and your oven). Invest in a digital read thermometer if you can and figure on taking the bird out at 164 degrees internal temp. Cover with tin foil and a towel and let sit at least 10 minutes before serving - this lets the juices steam back into the breast meat.
Options for serving: For a dinner party I always bring in a roasting pan to the table, but at a family meal, we carve it first. It is great to serve fresh to the kids at 5pm and then easily reheat in the oven on a low temp (250 degrees for 15 minutes) for dinner with your spouse when the kids are in bed. When I reheat later in the week for the kids, I usually save a thigh and microwave with the skin on to keep it moist -just enough to warm. It can be served traditionally with almost anything: rice, mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes and a steamed veggie on the side. Or, create a classic pasta dish - the names sounds fancy but the dish is easy, juicy and the perfect comfort food:
Roasted Chicken Fettuccine with a Deconstructed Pesto
1 pound pasta (any thick noodle will do)
2 handfuls of fresh basil leaves (about 1 cup loose)
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup of chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil to garnish
1 roasted chicken stuffed with:
3 cloves garlic
1 handful of basil leaves
one cup chicken broth
As above, prep and roast your chicken, placing the chicken broth (homemade or store bought low-sodium) in the bottom of the roasting pan. When the chicken is almost finished, start a pot of boiling water. Take the chicken out of the oven and let rest as you put the pasta in the boiling water. While the pasta is boiling, stack the basil leaves, roll them and slice thinly. Toast pine nuts on a skillet or in a toaster oven for three minutes or just enough for a golden brown - on low, tossing frequently so they do not burn. Pull the meat off the chicken -white and dark in small pieces, placing them back in the pan juices of the roasting pan. Pull the garlic out of the cavity of the bird and crush, placing back in the pan juice. Finally, drain the pasta and place into a either the roasting pan with the juices, or into a separate pasta bowl, pouring the juices on top along with the sliced basil, toasted pine nuts and Parmesan cheese. Add a tablespoon or two of olive oil if the pasta is still dry after tossing, but it shouldn't be!
My toddler is not a big fan of the pine nuts and she's holding the jury out on basil, so sometimes I put a little pasta aside and add the chicken and pan juices to hers first, then adding maybe some leftover steamed broccoli from last nights dinner, with the Parmesan cheese.
Last note: the quality of the ingredients always changes the quality of the meal, but I find this is particularly the case with cheese. If possible, spring for the Parmigiano-Reggiano when you can.
When I make a roasted chicken on a Monday night for the kids' dinner, I will carve it for them and serve them dinner at the kitchen island. While they are eating, I carve the entire bird, leaving some white meat for my husband and I for dinner, and setting aside the rest along with all the dark meat, in the refrigerator for a soup. Then I take the rest of the bird and pan juices (along with any giblets I fished out before cooking) and stick it in a big soup pot with water 3/4 up the soup pot. (almost covering the bird). many recipes have you add more onions, celery and carrots to the broth, but truth be told, I never have the time and I think the chicken, the pan juice and its stuffing contents make a super-rich broth without it. Bring it to a boil and then reduce to a low simmer and let it go partially covered while I give the kids a bath, get them ready for bed, eat my dinner etc. Before bed, I turn it off, let cool for 20 minutes, strain it through a sieve and place it into the fridge. In the morning, a good part of the fat has congealed at the top and I pull it off with a big spoon. You can freeze it in Ziploc bags or Pyrex containers but I love using the Preserve line by Recycline in the 25.5 oz. containers, (http://www.preserveproducts.com/products/foodstorage.html) they are just the right amount to pull out of the freezer when you need chicken stock for a recipe, they stack well and look cute in the freezer and you can feel good about this plastic. Its flexible - if you are up longer because Gossip Girls is on, great - let it stew longer. If it is a rerun and you are wiped, no worries - it will still be a great stock after a only a couple of hours.
Soup isn't about a recipe - its about using what is fresh in the fridge (or garden for that matter). It should be evolving and different each time. That said, this is a rough sketch of what I like my soup to be like. The Greek version (my father's side of the family) always has a hint of lemon.... so I roast the lemon, garlic thyme chicken to use for this soup. As these recipes build from each other, so do the flavors at each level so that the details of the stuffing filter into the pan juices and get shared with stock and ultimately, soup.
1 roasted chicken, meat pulled off in small chunks
(see lemon thyme recipe above)
2 sweet yellow onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4-6 carrots depending on size, diced
4 stalks celery diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
salt (1 teaspoon) and pepper to taste
fresh thyme, 1 tablespoon
large handful (1 cup) of chopped fresh Italian parsley (flat leaf)
6-8 cups homemade chicken stock from above roasted chicken
1/2 cup dried pastina, made and then set aside
Melt the butter and olive oil in a soup pot, put in onions on low heat for around fifteen minutes, salting lightly and stirring often, almost caramelizing them. Add garlic and cook for about 1/2 a minute before adding carrots and celery. Cook on med-low until the vegetables soften (about 7 minutes or so). Add flour and stir to coat the vegetables in the flour. Add stock and bring to a boil. At the boil, reduce heat and add parsley. Let cook on low with top on for about 30 minutes. Add chicken and fresh thyme with the juice of a squeezed lemon wedge and cook another five minutes until the chicken is heated through. Add the cooked pastina to soup just before serving. Serve with fresh grated Parmesan cheese on top and if you have them, crostinis.
Variations on the Roasted Chicken:
This bird will fly with various passengers - easily changing the destination - here are some of my favorites:
(a) Winter: 2 clementines or one orange sliced in two with several sprigs of fresh rosemary and a quarter onion. Season the top with dried rosemary, salt and pepper. This makes a beautiful presentation brought straight to the table in its roasting pan and adds color to a winter table.
(b) Spring: 1 lemon halved, a few sprigs of mint and 2 cloves of a shallot, seasoned with sea salt. This is a great one to serve as a risotto. Take the meat off after roasting and make a broth, using the broth to make the risotto and add the roasted chicken into the risotto with fresh spring peas. Finally, garnish with mint.
(c) Summer: 2 limes halved, a bunch of cilantro and quarter onion, seasoned with sea salt - super fresh, light flavor. I like to use this recipe when I am planning on using the leftovers in enchiladas, burritos or tacos, sometimes reheating with chili powder and cumin.
(d) Fall: 1 apple halved with a quartered fennel bulb and oregano sprigs.
The Haba pram is both the sheep and the wolf in sheep's clothing. A little girl might use it as a doll pram while her little brother dumps out the pillows, fills it with cars and treats it as a wagon or dump truck. With two height adjustments on the handle, it can be used by a five year old or by a little one learning to walk. If you are using it as a walker, save it for the ones almost ready to go on their own. I am sure it is not recommended by the manufacturer, but my kids like to push each other around the house in it so fast that they pee their pants laughing. Find it at oompa toys.
The luscious fruit of the fig in its natural state has to be some sort of evidence of a higher power. The fig represents everything great about food - healthy, sweet and satisfying. Cupcakes on the other hand have little of the natural about them - but when you think of childhood and its wonder and surprises, how can you not think of a cupcake? Many of the women I know still get that feeling when they eat one. Below find my favorite recipes for figs and cupcakes and while you are eating them, let the taste bring you back to that wonder. ENJOY!
Figs and Prosciutto
One pint of fresh figs (about 10 figs)
12 slices of prosciutto sliced extra thin (2 extra in case you need to snack)
4 oz. gorgonzola cheese
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees - fully. At the top of each fig, cut a small cross roughly one quarter down the fig and stuff with about one tablespoon of the cheese. Wrap in one slice of the prosciutto. On a small baking pan (maybe a glass Pyrex), put a little dab of olive oil under each and place the wrapped fig on top. Keep in for roughly 5 minutes, or just until the cheese is starting to ooze. Let cool before serving as an appetizer for 10 people or place two on top of a salad of baby spinach and then top with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Momma's Had a Hard Day Cupcakes
These are a life saver on a challenging day and the best part is that they can be made with the help of the kids during melt down time and enjoyed together. Even though the directions say to let cool, try icing a few while they are still warm, watch the icing melt and spread all over your kids' faces, and hands, and clothes and the floor.....
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons fresh baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
4 eggs, room temp
2 softened sticks of unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
1 cup minus one tablespoon whole milk
Preheat the oven to 350 and line tins with muffin liners. Combine all dry ingredients and set aside. Combine butter and sugar and beat with an electric mixer on med-high for a few minutes until it puffs up a bit. Add the eggs beating well after each. In a 2 cup measuring cup, pour in the milk and add vanilla. Alternate adding this to the mixer with the dry ingredients, starting and ending with the milk. Just mix to combine. Finally, add the lemon juice and zest. Mix and spoon into the muffin cups - somewhere a little less than 3/4 full.
Bake for roughly 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out nearly clean. Let cool and frost with your favorite vanilla buttercream frosting. Check out this blog on buttercream frosting if you want the whole "scoop" http://cupcakestakethecake.blogspot.com/2009/05/cakewalk-will-real-buttercream-icing.html.