Sunday, January 31, 2010

Dinner Tonight: Roast Pork Loin With Garlic and Rosemary

This roast pork loin is one of my go to recipes. It is so easy and delicious. Tonight I served it with steamed broccoli, chipotle sweet potatoes, and the red stuff that looks like tomato sauce is actually homemade applesauce. It is red because I added cranberries, I have bags of them in the freezer left over from the holidays.

My boys love homemade applesauce. I think it's because of the chunky texture and that it is served warm. Like the pork, it is really easy to make:

3 pound apples, peeled, cored, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1 cup water
1/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 1/2 T. fresh lemon juice
1/2 t. ground cinnamon

Combine apples, 1 cup of water and brown sugar in heavy medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until apples are very tender, 25 minutes. Uncover and simmer until almost all liquid in pan has evaporated. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice and cinnamon. Cool for 30 minutes.
Using fork (I use my handheld potato masher), mash apple mixture until coarse and chunky. Serve. Leftovers are good for up to 3 day in the refrigerator.

Now that our bellies are full we are going to watch the Grammys. We just found out school is closed tomorrow, so we can handle a late night!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dinner Tonight: Comfort Food

For me, Gratineed Chicken in Cream Sauce, is the definition of comfort food. After a cold and icy day the comfort was needed. It doesn't get much better than chicken and vegetables bathed in creme fraiche and topped with melted gruyere. Thankfully the rest of the family enjoys it also.

The kids were extra lucky tonight, we decided to make desert again. Twice in one week?!? Not a usual occurrence here. Last winter I heard Nigella Lawson interviewed on NPR about easy to make winter comfort food. When she talked about this cake-pudding hybrid with pears I was intrigued. I originally found the recipe on NPR's website and we made it a few times last winter. It is extremely easy to put together and I always have most of the ingredients on hand. It comes out of the oven looking, almost, like a pan of brownies with a nice crisp top. When you cut into it, it is cakey in some places, but around the pears it is like fudgey pudding. Nigella suggests serving it with chocolate sauce. I make whipped cream, for it has enough chocolate flavor already.

Yum, yum, yum! Dinner and desert were surely decadent. Here's hoping the Y is open tomorrow!

We'll Take What We Can Get!

Finally! A little bit of snow and sleet fell last night. It's kind of a slippery mess out there, but the cold isn't deterring these two from throwing ice chunks at each other!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Dinner Tonight: Bacon-Boursin Soufflé with Spinach

I've made this soufflé a few times before. Usually as a side to a juicy steak. Tonight I thought it would make a nice main course served with a salad. It worked out perfectly. The kids had seconds, and ate them!

I found this recipe in Cuisine at Home magazine, the February 2006 issue to be exact. I had to dig through the archives today to locate it. Thankfully my magazines are sort of organized....anyway here it is:

Makes one 9" Soufflé
Total Time: About 1 1/2 Hours

Saute; Remove:
2 strips thick sliced bacon, diced

Saute in 1 T. Drippings; Add:
1/2 cup onions, diced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Gradually Stir In; Add:
1 1/2 cups whole or 2% milk
1 pkg. Boursin cheese (5.2 oz.)
1 cup frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
Salt, white pepper, and ground nutmeg to taste
5 egg yolks
Reserved bacon pieces

Beat; Fold Into Base:
5 egg whites
1/4 t. cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the lower third. Generously grease a 9" soufflé dish with softened butter; coat the inside with 3 T. plain bread crumbs. Freeze the dish

Sauté bacon in a saucepan over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Pour off all but 1 T. of drippings.

Saute onions and pepper flakes in drippings until onions are soft, 4-5 minutes, stirring often; add flour.

Gradually stir in milk; bring to a simmer, stirring often to prevent scorching. Reduce heat to low, then add Boursin, spinach, Parmesan, and seasonings. Transfer to a large bowl along with egg yolks; stir in the reserved bacon.

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar to stiff peaks in a bowl using an electric hand mixer on medium high speed. Lighten the spinach mixture with some of the whites, then carefully fold in the remaining whites.

Pour batter into prepared dish, place the dish on a baking sheet, and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake another 15-20 minutes. For the best presentation, serve immediately.

After dinner we were all in for a sweet treat. I have been exploring a lovely food blog, Smitten Kitchen, where I came across this today! Brown butter and a little salt make for a more adult krispie treat. Not to worry, the kids love them too!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Dinner Tonight: Kid's Choice

Tonight I let my five year old choose dinner. He requested Nachos. Not the fancy pulled pork nachos I made a couple weeks ago, but my weeknight version. The kids love these. I brown a pound of ground turkey and use a packet of McCormick's low sodium taco seasoning. Then I layer chips, meat, beans (black or red kidney), and cheese in a baking dish, and bake at 350 until the cheese is melted all the way through. After baking, I throw some lettuce and chopped tomatoes on top and serve with salsa, sour cream, and guacamole.

I didn't get much help with the preparation, but I did have some company in the kitchen. He looks thrilled, doesn't he?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dinner Tonight: Lemony Risotto With Asparagus and Shrimp

This risotto recipe lived up to it's lemony title and was a bright and creamy way to end a chilly day. I will say, this was a bit labor intensive. Lot's of time standing over the pot and stirring, but the result was worth it.

The best thing about it, I think, is the boys didn't utter one complaint about having asparagus. It is not a popular vegetable in my house. We had it the other night and there were ewwws and yucks abound. I'm not saying they ate every bit, but they didn't complain!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Happy 60th Dad!

Nantucket 1980

What I Want to Buy Today: Ravioli Maker

Now that I know how easy it is to make pasta at home, I would love to use this to make ravioli. So many delicious fillings, so little time.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dinner Tonight: Steak Au Poivre

As the boys and I were shopping for Huevos Rancheros ingredients on Friday, there was a man cooking something in front of the butcher's counter. My oldest son liked what he smelled and wanted a sample. He took one and my youngest did also. The man told them it was Steak Au Poivre. Steak Au Poivre is pepper steak with Brandy sauce, I saw no pepper or sauce on what the kids ate in Harris Teeter, but they said they liked it. I asked if they might want to try the real thing and they said, "Sure."

If you have read previous posts you know that I don't cook to my kid's tastes, I cook to mine and my husband's tastes and hope that the kids will catch on. I like to introduce new tastes, if they like it great, if they don't, they need to try to eat enough to not go to bed hungry. We don't enforce any sort of clean plate club, it would make all of us miserable. With all of this said, I was skeptical of either of the boys taking more than a bite of pepper encrusted steak!

The recipe called for 3/4 inch to 1 inch thick strip steak, I bought two filets that were nearly 2 inches thick and sliced them in half so they were 1 inch thick steaks. We cooked them as directed, and while great for the kids, I found them a little overdone, more medium than medium rare. A side note, the kitchen gets quite smoky while searing the steak. The sauce came together beautifully.

We served the steak with baked sweet potato and asparagus. I was surprised when the boys had taken a few bites of steak and did not complain about too much pepper. Eventually though, they both said they did not like the sauce. Sous Chef and I loved the sauce.

The recipe I used was from epicurious, it was originally published in, the now sadly defunct, Gourmet magazine in 1955. As I was eating tonight, my copy of Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" caught my eye. I wondered why I searched web sites instead of using that as a reference. It turns out the recipes were very similar, the main difference was that Julia's recipe did not call for heavy cream in the sauce, but twice as much butter. Our's could have been close to restaurant quality for half the price if only the beef wasn't a tad overcooked, but it was still fabulous!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Dinner Tonight: Huevos Rancheros

Friday nights from now on are International Night in our household. We started with Mexican fare. I have been craving breakfast for dinner for some time, so Huevos Rancheros it was!

I followed the recipe for the sauce and the method for cooking the tortillas and the eggs, but added some toppings. Since we were having this for dinner and some (my husband) felt it needed to be more filling, I added black beans, avocado, and cheese. Some other recipes I looked at called for queso fresco, which I could not find in Harris Teeter. I used crumbled goat cheese, the mild flavor and texture lent itself nicely to the rest of the ingredients.

Though faced with chipotle, the kids didn't mind the sauce. I think they were more weirded out by sunny side up eggs, they are used to scrambled. Both gave a valiant effort, they ate more than I anticipated. The adults, as usual, were pleased.

You may have read about my camera difficulties last night due to my broken lens. I received my new lens this afternoon and I am very pleased so far. I'd like to send a very special Thank You!!! to my cousin who has helped my photography immensely. My pictures are brighter and sharper than ever!

Happy Weekend All!

Dinner Last Night: Technical Difficulties

Our meal last night looked exactly like the picture above, I, however, did not take that picture. Clumsy me, broke my camera lens on Wednesday night. The second one in a year, I'm starting to think I don't deserve to own a nice digital SLR. After a trip to the camera shop, where I learned repair cost almost as much as a new lens, I thought maybe this is a blessing. I was able to order a lens that is more suited to photographing food and it should be here later today!

Back to dinner, Salmon with Green Beans and Lemon Zest. I highly recommend this meal. The salmon was perfectly cooked and infused with flavor from the lemon zest and capers. My husband, who is not crazy about salmon, thought this was delicious. I served it over saffron rice. Once all the capers were out of the way, my kids ate the fish without complaint. I call that a small success!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Dinner Tonight: Kid's Choice

Since Dad has class on Wednesday night, we decided that it would become Kid's Choice night and the boys would help Mom set the menu and cook the meal. My youngest has no interest, so that leaves me and my eight year old. Last night I gave him a stack of issues of Everyday Food. All the recipes are simple and straight forward. He chose Tomato Soup with Cheese and Bacon Toasties.

My son was helpful in the kitchen, but felt left out because this recipe called for so much chopping. He volunteered, but I'm not so sure he's ready to learn knife skills yet! I let him stir the onions and garlic on the stove, that's a big job.

The soup was good, very fresh tasting. Of course the Cheese and Bacon Toasty (fancy name for grilled cheese) was delicious, you can't go wrong with Gruyère and bacon!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What I Want to Buy Today: John Robshaw Pillows

Oh, how a variety of these gorgeous pillows will brighten up my couch and, hopefully, my new Mercer Chair come spring!

Images from

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dinner Tonight: Lasagna with Homemade Pasta

For Christmas in 2008, my husband gave me the pasta roller attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer. Tonight was the first time we used it! I have wanted to try it for a long time now, but I think I was intimidated. Not anymore, it's fun and easy.

My youngest son had been requesting lasagna all week. I use a very basic recipe for lasagna as an outline. I will sometimes use ground turkey or Italian sausage instead of beef and I double the garlic and add a few shakes of crushed red pepper flakes into the ricotta mixture. I've always wanted to add spinach or mushrooms, but know that the kids would turn their nose up at it. Tonight I was able to sneakily add spinach, directly into the pasta!

We all thought dinner was delicious! I can't wait to make spaghetti!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Golden Globes Party

Well, not so much a party as a family dinner with hors d'oeuvres that we eat in front of the TV because I insist on watching the awards and the red carpet specials that precede them. My husband feigns interest, but usually has an excuse to go to bed early. Not this year!!! No work or school Monday!

The menu was Spicy Dill Dip with vegetable crudites, Italian Stuffed Mushrooms, and a Spinach and Scallop Soup.

The boys ate some veggies but were not interested in the rest. Thank goodness I had a pizza from Trader Joe's in the freezer.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

What I Want to Buy Today: Ribbon Board

What a pretty way to get organized! Sittin' in a Tree is a new Vera Bradley pattern for Spring 2010. I would love to hang this over my desk with hopes of limiting the piles of paper that tend to accumulate. I also like the Imperial Toile pattern, but the pink may be a bit too shocking for our family room.

Image from

Friday, January 15, 2010

Dinner Tonight: Tilapia and Mashed Yams with Pancetta-Sage Breadcrumbs

TGIF! Tonight is the start of a three day weekend for everyone in my family. To get it started as soon as possible, I found this nice and easy tilapia recipe. Especially easy for me because I could harvest sage from my herb garden and I had breadcrumbs in the freezer left over from the amazing lamb dish we made for New Years Eve, pre blog. The breadcrumbs thawed quickly and were ready to go.

This was my first time preparing tilapia. The small, thin fillets sautéed in butter were ready in a flash. We placed them on a pile of the sweet potatoes and sprinkled the pancetta-sage breadcrumbs all over the plate. The breadcrumbs added a great crunchy texture to the plate and all the flavors worked well together.

Based on the ease and quickness of preparing this meal, I believe it is a great weeknight meal. Nothing better than easy and delicious!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dinner Tonight: Island Pork Tenderloin Salad

Tonight, I had a pork tenderloin left over in the fridge from the nachos Saturday night. When I was searching through recipes, this inspired me. I felt these flavors could transport us from this rare cold spell we've been suffering to a warm tropical place.

I'd like to say it was a success. The pork, rubbed with spices and then glazed with even more spice (Tabasco) and sweetness (dark brown sugar) and was laid atop a bed of greens accented with avocado, orange, and golden raisins. There was a nice balance of sweet, spice, and acid in this salad. I was worried the Tabasco in the pork glaze would turn the kids off immediately, but they didn't seem bothered by it. My oldest almost cleaned his plate and thanked us for a great dinner. My youngest gobbled up the avocados and the fruit and ate some of the pork. He said he liked it.....

We halved the original recipe, which serves six to eight and says to serve on a platter. This would be perfect for entertaining. the pork can be cold, my only advice would be, wait until right before serving to dress the greens and cut the avocado. Enjoy!

What I Want to Buy Today: Jitterbug Apron

The Jitterbug is only one of many whimsical designs you can find at Anthropologie. I plan on wearing this apron and my pearls whilst cooking, cleaning, and urging my sweet children to do their chores.

Image from

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Dinner Tonight: Kitchen's Closed

On Monday my sous chef started his last semester of earning his Masters. Sadly, he is earning his degree in business, not in knife skills. He's in class again tonight, so I made the kids a quick dinner and I may have some leftovers and catch up on what's recorded on my DVR since Sunday.

Starting next week, Wednesdays are going to be kids choice. Over the weekend my sons will pick out a recipe that they want to eat and help me cook. It should be an adventure, stay tuned!

Read This: Food Rules

Seeing Michael Pollan interviewed by John Stewart on the Daily Show last week sparked my interest in this book. I picked it up yesterday and read it in a little over an hour. The rules Pollan lays out are direct and easily attainable. My top three are, avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce, it's not food if it arrived through the window of you car, and don't eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk. Simple, right?

I'll be the first to admit that convenience sometimes disrupts the healthy eating goals I set for myself and my family. In the hour it took to read, Food Rules has changed the way I think about dieting, grocery shopping, and eating out. If you are looking to take steps to improve your eating habits and health read this book!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Dinner Tonight: Roasted Garlic Soup with Parmesan Cheese

This creamy garlic soup recipe was recommended to me a few years ago by my sister, and has been a favorite ever since. I had two excellent reasons to prepare this tonight. One was to finally make my cold go away (it's been a successful remedy in the past) and two was to use my new immersion blender, thoughtfully given to me by my mother-in-law for Christmas.

Forty-four cloves of garlic, yes forty-four, are in this soup. Twenty-six are roasted and the other 18 are sautéed and then all are simmered in broth with onions and thyme. The result is a really mellow garlic flavor.

The immersion blender worked like a charm. It pureed the onions and garlic perfectly and clean up was a breeze. Far more convenient than using the regular blender and having to blend in batches.

I served the soup with a salad of baby lettuces, cucumber, and heirloom cherry tomatoes and a piece of olive and herb filone, a delicious crusty italian bread.

If you find yourself with a cold that just won't go away, try this soup!

All the Rage With the Third Grade Set

My Third Grader came home today with a new way to spend his allowance. "I want to start a new collection", he told me, eagerly. I thought of the other collections upstairs, the collections that make it hard to navigate the boys' bedrooms. Baseball cards, Pokemon cards, Football cards, Legos, Playmobil, the list goes on and on.
"What do you want to collect now?" I patiently replied.
"Japanese erasers!" He ran to the computer and quickly pulled up the website.

After perusing the offerings, I want to collect Japanese erasers. The cupcakes are adorable and the teeth erasers are hysterical.

My son tells me these are a hit with boys and girls. At about $1.00 a piece they'd make great birthday party favors. According to the website, my fellow Charlotteans can find them at Learning Express in Stonecrest or you can buy here.

What I Want to Buy Today: Alhambra Necklace

Maybe I should say this is what I want someone to buy for me today and hide it until Valentines Day. The object of my desire is a Van Cleef & Arpels Vintage Alhambra long necklace in yellow gold and mother of pearl. A timeless classic and a worthy investment. I hope someone is reading....

Monday, January 11, 2010

Stylish Smart Phones

If you have an iPhone, Palm Pre, or Blackberry, head over to Jonathan Adler's website for a digital replica of his fresh and graphic wall coverings!

New Years Resolutions: Part 2

This morning I finally got around to starting number 2 on the resolutions list. Everybody's favorite, exercise! It's not that I never exercised in 2009, it's that I need to be more consistent in 2010. I should have started this last week when the boys went back to school, but I have been battling a head cold. As of today, no more excuses!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Dinner Tonight: Black Bean-Salsa Chili

We were still in a football frame of mind today. We recorded the games to get a jump on the time outs and commercials, and spent the lead time playing Wii Family Feud and then the boys played some Mario Party. So, it wasn't until about 3:00 that we started the Ravens vs. Patriots game. I was energized by the Raven's play. As I was watching, I recorded last night's nacho recipe into one of my binders. One step closer to completing New Year's Resolutions: Part 1!

Then it was time to start cooking! It has been so cold here, by Charlotte standards, so a nice pot of Chili was needed. Black Bean-Salsa Chili seemed like a perfect candidate, low cal and full of delicious ingredients. As an accompaniment, I found Miniature Corn Muffins. The corn muffin recipe was from a magazine, All You, which is apparently a money saving missive. It claims the muffins have a cost per serving of 12¢. I have never heard of this publication, but my husband is now pressuring me to subscribe.

The chili preparation was interesting compared to past experiences. You puree half of the black beans and keep the other half whole. Only half a pound of ground turkey is used, but it is enough. The whole beans and vegetables provide plenty of texture. The finishing touch is a mixture of chopped cilantro, lime juice, and light sour cream. This is a delicious concoction that would be a perfect topping for any Chili. We added chopped avocado because we had some left over from Nacho's last night. Good addition!

The result was a wonderfully flavorful chili. To me the cumin stood out. The corn muffins were nice, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Sous Chef was tasked with the muffin preparation and forgot to add a half a cup of pepper jack. It was not missed, and again saved calories. They turned out to be a fine companion to the Chili. Just ask my kids. It seemed that all my youngest ate was the muffins and my oldest loved dipping the muffins into the chili like so:

Thankfully the boys recovered from the spicy torment they suffered last night with the nachos, and were able to trust me enough to try the chili.

The adults endorse it heartily!

What I Want to Buy Today: Mercer Tufted Chair

I did a temporary furniture rearrangement in the family room to put up a Christmas tree. After living with it for a month and receiving compliments on the new arrangement from my holiday guests, I have decided to keep it as is. Unfortunately (she says sarcastically), it leaves an empty area that needs to be filled.

The Mercer chair could very well be the solution to this dilemma. I spotted this chair in the Ethan Allen showroom a few months back and have craved the cozy tufting ever since. Perfect spot for curling up with a book.

And the perfect chair to hide my magazine archives.

Watch This: (500) Days of Summer

I highly recommend this sweet and funny movie. Told through the male lead's point of view, it's not your typical romantic comedy. My husband liked it and would not describe it as a chick flick. Last but not least, the soundtrack is fantastic. I love The Smiths too!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Tonight's Dinner: We Are Ready For Some Football

Today there was no special ingredient laying about in the fridge or cabinets. The inspiration was football! The boys in my house (I am outnumbered 3 to 1) have been looking forward to this weekend. I have to admit, I love it too. NFL playoffs are very exciting!

With football as an inspiration, what's a girl to make? Nachos! After last night's cream and butter calorie marathon, I felt it best to search Cooking Light for a nacho recipe. Boy oh boy oh boy, did I find a good one! Pork and Pinto Bean Nachos.

My husband and I really enjoyed this. The pulled pork was perfect. The chipotle, lime, and the fresh crisp onion, tomato, and avocado in the topping created layers of flavor. The kids, however, found it too spicy and missed my regular ground turkey with Ortega Seasoning. So no pics of the kids tonight, they wouldn't endorse it.

This is a "light" recipe, I have a couple ways to make it a little lighter. Let's start with the bacon in the bean mixture. It calls for an apple wood smoked bacon and I found some. Wonderful and nitrate free, but twice the price of your average bacon. It's fine because I want to try to incorporate more nitrate free meat (bacon and lunch meats) into our diets and I need it for tomorrow night's dinner also. The nacho recipe only called for 4 slices, but I feel it is unnecessary. The bean mixture was very flavorful before the bacon was added and the flavor of the bacon, once added, did not come through. Another thing you can cut back on is the olive oil. A little bit here and there.

My final verdict on this dish is great for adults, for kids, not so much. Perfect Super Bowl Party fare. I wish I could still say, Go Redskins!!! Maybe next year......

What I Want to Buy Today: Sun Dot Dress

This was love at first sight when I flipped through my Anthropologie catalog this afternoon. I hope they still have it in Spring when I've had sufficient time to work on New Year's Resolutions: Part 2. Any guesses what that may be?

New Years Resolutions: Part 1

For months, possibly years, my husband has been asking me to organize my recipes. I don't see what's wrong with my method of organization, print outs and torn out magazine pages put neatly into a draw with the place mats and napkin rings..... Well, I guess there are some problems with it. When I make something I've made before I don't rifle through the drawer to find the recipe, I tend to print out another copy. Then I add that copy to the drawer. I have found recipes in triplicate in that mess.
My goal is to transcribe my proven recipes into these nice binders and onto these cards I had made over two years ago.

Thanks to my fabulous sister, I can push the organizational envelope even further with these adorable page flags. Thanks VKG!

I'll let you know when this project is complete!