A new look at cooking and home decorating...with an attempt to add more greens to the plate, more vegetarian options & hopefully lots of new ideas to explore

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Chicken Bruschetta

I know this seems like a funny dish to suggest right before the holidays. Ironically, I like it a lot because its light and easy and might help you to save some calories for those big holiday dinners.

Bruschetta topping:
1-1 1/2 cups heirloom tomatoes (they might seem like a summer item but many heirloom tomato plants still have fruit on them and its November!)- roughly chop
1 cup pitted black olives, roughly chopped
1/4 cup good olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons of fresh pesto if you have it or a few minced basil leaves
1/4 teaspoon sherry vinegar
Combine all of the bruschetta ingredients into a medium size bowl and set aside.

1 pound of very thin sliced chicken breasts(scaloppini), seasoned on both sides with salt and pepper
Brush a grill pan with a little oil and place the pan on high heat. When hot, cook the chicken for about 2 minutes per side or until cooked through. top with bruschetta topping and serve.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Victors clams

Victors clams
My friends husband made this delicious dish last month at a Loire Valley wine tasting night. It was so yummy and perfect for a summer dinner. Serve with some crusty French bread.

100 small clams---that's how many he used that night and he rarely cooks less
1 1/2 sticks of butter
Lots of minced garlic (probably about 6 cloves)
1 bottle of white wine

Make sure the clams are clean and rinsed. Place the clams in a large oblong or rounded pot. Place the butter, in chunks or slices, on top of the clams. Add garlic and about 1/2 the bottle of wine. Heat until it comes to a boil and simmer for approximately 15 minutes or until the clams open, which indicates they are done. As the clams are simmering, add more wine if necessary.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Kitchen project

I must admit that this week has been much more about kitchen appliances than about cooking. We have just embarked on a project of redoing our kitchen. A few weeks ago most of the stress was from the cabinetry and all of the surrounding choices. This week we are up to choosing stone, and finding fixtures.
As far as the granite goes, I have so far chosen a granite that seems to match the hues in my dogs coat. It's funny how we tend to gravitate toward colors that we are familiar with. Most of the week was spent going back and forth about the tile on the floor. The designer suggested travertine which I was not for, due to the amount of cooking (and mess making) that I tend to do. We then went to the more stain resistant porcelain tile and began a quest to find a "stone like" porcelain. I think we may have finally settled on something that wont "compete" with the granite but then, anything can change. At the moment we have chosen a Bordeaux granite.

the next challenge is faucet fixture- who knew there were so many options?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Italian wedding soup

The first time that I had this soup was when I was a college student in New York. I think I had gotten a small cup of takeout soup from Dean and Deluca and brought it back to my dorm room. Instantly, I fell in love with the soup, not just the romantic name, but also the warm comforting broth and hearty vegetables. Here, quantities are approximate and feel free to vary the soup based on what you have on hand.

2-3 cups mini meatballs ( I make them ahead and throw them in frozen, thus the soup is almost effortless, use any meatball rec., fully cooked)

2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and fine dice
2-3 small carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2-3 stalks celery, roughly chopped
3 Quarts chicken stock
1-2 heads of escarole (about 1 1/2-2 pounds) tough stems removed and roughly chopped
3/4 cup pastina pasta (optional)
salt and ground pepper for seasoning
grated parmesan cheese for serving

Start by warming you oil over medium heat in a 5 quart Dutch oven or pot, once warm add the onions, carrots and celery and reduce heat to medium low. Cook for 7 minutes, stirring often. Add the chicken stock. Then, bring to a boil, add the frozen mini meatballs and escarole. Simmer 10 minutes. Add in the pastina and cook another 6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper as needed. serve with grated cheese.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Lamb Shanks with an Asian Flair

With the amount of sports that my children do during the Summer time, it was a nice change to come home to this slow cooked meal. Lamb shanks seem like a winter dish, but with a nice salad in place of starch, this is perfect in summer as well. If making it in the winter, I like these served with a simple risotto. Please note that the hoisin, soy and sweet red chili sauce all came from the Asian section of my regular grocery store.

2-3 Tablespoons Canola or vegetable oil
3 medium to large lamb shanks, seasoned with salt and ground pepper
2-3 medium size, peeled and thinly sliced yellow onions
2" knob of fresh ginger, grated
1 head of garlic, (13 cloves) peeled and minced
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons honey
zest and juice of 2 lemons
1/2 cup water
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
5 Tablespoon Hoisin sauce
1/4 cup Thai sweet red chili sauce

To Finish sauce(optional) you will need 2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons water, salt, pepper, fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon.

Start by warming you oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the seasoned lamb shanks and sear until all sides are golden (about 3 minutes per side)- Add lamb shanks to slow cooker pot.

Reduce heat to medium low. Add the onions and cook for about 3-5 minutes or until onions are tender. Add the ginger and garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the vinegar and cook while scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan for 1-2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker.

Add to the slow cooker the honey, lemon juice and zest, water, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and red chili sauce.

Cook on high 5 hours.

The lamb shanks can be eaten as is but I like to strain the liquid, discard the solids, and place the liquid into a saucepan. Combine 2 tablespoons cornstarch with 2 tablespoons water and add it to the pan. Bring liquid to a boil and adjust seasonings with, salt, pepper and fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wild Rice with leeks, dried apricots and hazelnuts

This is a great side dish and its simple enough to make. You will cook the wild rice and while its cooking you can prepare the other items that will be folded into the rice once it is fully cooked.

8 oz of wild rice- this is just a little more than a cup
2 1/3 cups water or stock

Place the water into a non stick sauce pan (I am using about a 4 quart). Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add in the rice and cover the pan. Reduce the heat to medium low (or to a simmer) and cook the rice, covered, for 45-50 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to cook the rice over high heat until all of the extra liquid has been cook off, this should take about 8 minutes of cooking, while stirring often.

Add in:
3 medium leeks, cleaned and sliced into 1/8" slices- you will then, sauté the leeks in
1 tablespoon oil for about 5-8 minutes over medium heat.
1 cup toasted hazelnuts
3/4-1 cup of dried apricots, roughly chopped
a hand full of dried cranberries
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
large pinch of kosher salt- to taste but 1 like about 1/2 tablespoon or more

Simply fold these ingredients into the rice and serve.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

This is basic pizza dough but with some whole wheat flour added in. I have tried to switch my family over to mostly whole wheat products. Regular pizza dough is easy enough to find in the frozen section of most markets, but it isn't always as easy to find frozen whole wheat pizza dough.

To Start:
3/4 teaspoon yeast ( I am using a rapid rise)
1 cup warm water
1 cup white flour
1 teaspoon honey

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
extra flour as needed (1/8-1/4 cup)

1 medium mixing bowl brushed lightly with oil

Mix the yeast, water, flour, and honey together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Combine with a spoon until the mixture looks lumpy. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel and let mixture rest 30 minutes.

Combine the wheat flour, 1/2 cup white flour and salt. Pour into the stand mixer bowl and kneed for about 5 minutes until mixture is springy and elastic. Add more flour if dough seems wet.

Turn dough out into a bowl which has been brushed with a little oil. Form dough into a "ball" shape then, cover and let dough rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Form dough into pizzas, top with toppings and bake.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Roasted Green pears with blue cheese

These pears are a refreshing way to start a meal, or serve them after a main course in place of dessert. I look use a low fat blue cheese (I think the brand is Stella) because even though its low fat it still has lots of flavor. You can use any blue veined cheese such as stilton or even gorgonzola.

non stick spray
2 Green pears such as Anjou, halved and cored with a knife or melon baller. Also, you can trim a small slice off from the bottom rounded part of the pear so the pear lays flat if you like.
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375

Spray a small baking dish, (just large enough to hold the pear halves) with cooking spray. Place the pears in the dish and brush them with lemon juice. In a small bowl combine the cheese and cranberries. Divide the cheese mixture among the pears and stuff the mixture into the pear cavities. Bake for 15 minutes, then brush or drizzle the pears with the melted butter. The butter helps give the pears a more golden color. Bake another 10-15 minutes or until pears are tender. I suggest serving 1/2 a pear per person along with a Arugula salad that has been lightly dressed with olive oil and sherry vinegar.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Wow, isn't it nice when it feels like summer weather again? After the long winter I look forward to 80 degree days. Working in the garden at this time of the year brings such joy. I love seeing the flowers bloom and feeling the earth in my hands. Usually, around now I opt for lighter fare from the kitchen as it allows me more time in the sun.

I like fast and healthy recipes that remind me of the outdoors. This week I made my friend Jan's Sicilian pasta. Its quick, easy , light and fairly rustic. Just the kind of meal to eat out in the garden. Also, fish in parchment has become a new favorite because many of the aromatics which I need for the dish are just outside in my herb garden. Dessert may be as simple as some strawberries with a bit of whipped cream.
enjoy the sunshine!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Healthy Brownies

Often, the problem with losing a few pounds when you have children is that we tend to fall into the rut of "one bite for Johnny one bite for mommy"!- These brownies are for when you want to have that comfort food feeling, but they are a bit healthier. The children seem to gobble them up too.

non stick spray for pan
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 Teaspoon table salt
1/4 cup coco powder
1/4 cup hot water
1 brownish banana, peeled and mashed
1 egg plus one egg white
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350
Spray your 8 x8" pan with non stick spray.
In a medium mixing bowl combine the Flours, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl combine the coco powder and hot water. Whisk to combine. Add the banana, egg, maple syrup, honey and vanilla. Whisk to combine then Pout the dry mixture into the whet mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined. Pour into your pan and bake for 25-30 minutes. Let cool a few minutes before cutting.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

How to Clean soft shelled crabs-

Soft shelled crabs are in season starting around the beginning of may. They are the molten state of the blue crab. Cleaning them takes only a few minutes, but if at all possible, its much less messy for you to have your fish guy do it for you. If you want to clean them yourself, or if you get home and find that they have not been cleaned, follow these simple steps.

1. First remove the eyes and mouth buy holding the crab with tongs and snipping off at least 1/4" behind the eyes in one swift cut with the scissors. While still holding the crab use your scissors to snip away or scoop out any extra harder shell or any other matter left behind from the area.

2. Take out the gills. You will do this by lifting up the shell on each side of the body. Scrape out or use you scissors and cut out the gills.

3. This step is optional but some people prefer if done. You will now flip the crab over and see a flap on the bottom area of the body (it's kind of a triangular shape and I think of it as the tail). Cut this off with scissors.

4. Rinse the crab well before storing on ice in your refrigerator.

To Cook: Crabs are usually dipped in batter and then pan fried in neutral oil such as vegetable, for about 4 minutes per side. They can also be grilled for about the same amount of time.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Oatmeal Coconut cookies

When the warmer weather begins to come around, many of us get spring fever. I notice that I have it when I start to bake what I consider to be "summer" desserts like lemon pies- or desserts with coconut. These cookies fit the bill, and are delicious with milk or lemonade.

1 cup of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup of regular sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups of oats (I am using the Silver Palate Brand- which are slightly rougher and thicker)
1 3/4 cup shredded coconut, sweetened

Preheat oven to 350
Have ready 2 baking sheets lined with silpat sheets(or buttered)

Place the butter into a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed for 1 minute or less until the butter is light and fluffy. Add in the sugars and continue to combine for another minute. Reduce speed to low and add in the egg one at a time, then the flour, vanilla, salt, baking powder, baking soda, oats, and coconut. Mix just until a dough has formed.

Scoop out balls of dough with a small ice cream scoop (or about 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough per cookie). Place on cookie sheets leaving space in between the cookies. Pat down each cookie so it is about 1/2" thick. Bake at 350 for 13-16 minutes or until golden around the edges. let cool and continue with second batch.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Anja's Asparagus

This simple asparagus Hors D'oeuvre was passed around at a baby shower- I loved it because it was easy to eat while standing and drinking a cup of Coffee. It tasted good and looked pretty to, which is about all that you can ask for from cocktail food.

Anja said: I don’t remember if I told you because I spoke to several of the ladies yesterday about the wraps but the funny thing is that it is basically wonder bread and canned asparagus! Ok, here it goes…

1 can asparagus
1 large loaf of white bread (like Wonder or Sunbeam)
1 stick of butter
grated parmesan cheese

Cut the crust off the bread. With a rolling pin, roll each piece of bread till flat. In a small frying pan, melt a stick of butter. Place grated parmesan cheese on a plate. Roll up one asparagus in a piece of bread (starting on the bread’s angle), then roll it in the melted butter and then in the cheese.Put it on a cookie sheet (the sheet should be covered in aluminum foil).
Sprinkle all the wraps at the end with dill and bake at 350 for approx. 20 minutes.

Lisa, a couple of notes: The original recipe called for thin slice wonder bread but I can’t find that anymore so I roll the pieces really flat. I tend to use better parm (while I don’t grate it fresh but I buy freshly grated) because I think the end result is more tasty and the dill I use is dried although I’m sure you could try fresh. So easy, they always look great, everyone wants to try them and they are always a big success! I had a lady once ask me if I was a pastry chef because she was so intrigued with the “dough”! And then people are always amazed when you tell them the recipe!

Love it! Thanks Anja!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Batter Blaster

I ran into a friend in the grocery store, and after a few minutes of polite conversation she told me about Batter Blaster. "It's over by the milk". I walked over to find it. Wow. Its pancake batter in a can. I read the label expecting a bunch of junk in the can, oddly its organic. I feel the need to tell everyone about this, not because it make s the world's best pancakes, but because it eliminates a bunch of mess.

At this time of the year it's dark out when my alarm goes off in the morning and it's hard to get out of bed ,then start a whole breakfast project. Honestly, I would rather save my energy for later in the day, maybe for making Paella, or perhaps a Spanish soup, maybe for a tart- it matters not- the point is that this is a big help on those busy school mornings when it's hard to get going. Besides, the kiddies seem to love to watch the batter squirting out of the can!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Picante Sauce

Picante sauce is a Spanish(from Spain) sauce which is tomato based. There are many, many versions of Picante. Often the sauce has a roux mixed in to make it a little thicker and lighter in color. Sometimes mushrooms are added. Somewhere between a sauce and a salsa, it has a tart/sweet thing going on that makes it unlike an Italian tomato sauce. The "heat" can come from pepper, pepper flakes or one recipe used bloody Mary mix to speed up the process... I like this version which is simple enough for anyone to make.

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and cut into a small dice
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons sweet (dulce) Paprika
1/4 cup water
1 can of crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tablespoons sherry
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar

Heat olive oil over medium - medium low heat in a small pot or saucepan (about 4 quart). Add the onions and cook 5-7 minutes (do not brown). Add in the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the remaining ingredients and bring the heat up to a simmer then let the mixture cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring often.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Cathy's Lobster Boil

Last Saturday my fried Cathy made a lobster boil dinner. I wanted to bass the recipe along to you because it is easy to make. I also love the secret ingredient of basil, a trick whish was given to Cathy by her father in law. Cathy says it also work well when making shrimp cocktail.

2 lobsters, about 3 pounds each
1 teaspoon salt
1 large pot
4 handfuls of fresh basil

Boil a very large pot of water. You will want enough water to cover the 2 lobsters. To the boiling water add the salt and 1/2 of the basil. Add the lobsters then the other 1/2 of the basil. Bring the water back to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover the pot and start timing.

Cathy suggests-
1 1/4 pounds will cook approximately 15 minutes
3 pounds will cook 20-25 minutes
these times Cathy likes because the lobster will be firm but not rubbery.

When the cooking time is up run the lobsters under cool water just enough to stop the cooking.
Cathy also suggest having your husband crack open the lobster for you so that you do not ruin you manicure!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Les Dames D'Escoffier

A few nights ago I had the pleasure of meeting Carol Brock the founder of Les Dames D'Escoffier, and the person to whom this book is dedicated. Les Dames is a group of professional women in the food industry. The women may be food writer, chefs, merchants or other professions all relating to food and hospitality.

Carol was the Sunday food editor at The New York Daily News. Meeting Carol was quite a treat because she is in a word, inspirational. Carol brought forth original pictures and photos of Julia Child as well as many other chefs and cooks. Carol explained to us all, in case we had forgotten who Auguste Escoffier was. His accomplishments included designing safer kitchens, establishing funds for chefs, exploring canning as well as encouraging better seasonal produce.

The book, is a wonderful collection of recipes from the groups all women membership. Women who influence all types of cooking(not just French) are included, such as Gale Gand, Dorie Greenspan, Alice Waters to name a few. The recipes collected for the book are eclectic in style and fun to look through. Most also seem simple enough to prepare, so if you don't have a copy already you might want to pick one up at your local bookstore.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Pots de Crème- great for valentines day...
Makes about 16-18 small pots or 6-8 ramekins

The cute little pots for pots de crème are available at most cookware store or online. They are also great for serving small portions of eggs.

3 cups heavy cream (you can substitute 1 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1 1/2 cup milk if you must)
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
6 egg yolks (to use extra whites make a soufflé or egg white omelet)
1/2 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 325

Into a non stick sauce pan, add the cream and vanilla. Heat mixture enough to bring to just below a boil then remove from heat (add optional flavorings here if using- you can also strain the mixture at this point if necessary) set aside to cool to closer to room temp.

In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks and sugar on high for a minute or until the eggs turn a lighter yellow. Slowly pour in the cream mixture and stir to combine.

Pour the mixture into pots de crème molds or ramekins. Place in a large roasting dish (I place the roasting dish in the oven before adding water) and fill the dish with warm water until the water is about halfway up the sides of the pots. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until set and jiggly. The time will depend on the size of the pots.

Variations- add to the warm cream 3 tablespoons of roasted espresso, the citrus zest from one lemon, lime or orange (which you might want to strain out after it has infused its flavor) or a bit of chocolate or nutella for flavor.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Lorie’s Chicken with Pinot Grigio and Portabella mushrooms

1 Tablespoon of olive oil
4 Tablespoons of Flour
½ Teaspoon Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
4 (3 oz) Boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 cups of thinly sliced baby portabella mushrooms (or other mushrooms)
1 cup pinot Grigio
3 tablespoons of parsley, minced
2 Tablespoons fresh basil roughly torn /or minced
1 cloves of fresh garlic, peeled and crushed

Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan over medium high heat. Combine the flour, salt and pepper in shallow container or zip lock bag- dredge or toss the chicken breasts in the flour to coat.

Add the chicken breasts to the skillet and cook for about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove the chicken and set it aside. To the skillet add your mushrooms, wine, parsley, basil and garlic; them simmer on high heat until the liquid ahs reduced by ½-1/3 cup or about 4-6 minutes.

Discarded the garlic and add the chicken back in to re-warm, then serve.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Kitchen Confusion

Yesterday, I spent the better part of my day at a kitchen design store. Once home I flipped through the glossy images of beautiful kitchens with granite countertops and wine coolers and under lit cabinets. A friend of mine is redoing her kitchen and she asked me to come along to help her. I am not sure that I am much of help but I am learning quite a bit about kitchen design.

What interests me most about all of this is the function of the kitchen. For some people it is a place to take refuge. A place to remember travels they may have taken to Italy, France or Asia. Some people choose a kitchen that helps them to dream of things which they have experienced or hope to experience in the future.

Others design a kitchen as a showcase. It is simply a place where they can show the world what they bought. That is fine too. There is nothing wrong with hiring a great designer to make beautiful room for your house. Even if you don’t plan to cook in it all that much. Maybe your family will spend time there, lingering over breakfast. Perhaps you just enjoy showing it off to friends at dinner parties – no matter. It is a place for gathering more that actually cooking.

There are those who want a practical kitchen. They want recycle bin stations; pull out garbage bins and bread baking stations. They want snack areas for the kids and places to store juice boxes.

Having spent a few months in the past, trying to figure out what style I want my perfect kitchen to be someday, I have turned a corner. In place of deciding on a set style such as “Old World” or “Country French” or “Tuscan” I see it differently. What do those labels really mean anyway? Now it is more about what the kitchen can do for me. Will it make me dream of the Italian countryside? Will it work for my entertaining needs? Will all of my kitchen clutter fit in there? (Probably not!) No matter. I no longer feel boxed in by a certain style and I have learned a lot in the process.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Weeknight Meals

Here is the thing; on the weekends we have time for fun cooking. Making dinners like Mario Batali’s seared tuna can be fun, relaxing and enjoyable. Try it during the week and its unlimited stress. Halfway through reading the recipe I realized that I needed at least 2 other recipes to make the dish- blood orange vinaigrette and a recipe for the garlic. OK, I can handle that on a Saturday, Monday night no way!

So for the past few days I have been cooking from some “weeknight meal” cookbooks. The problem with these is often that the flavors are meant mainly for adults not children, so then you still have to make 2 dinners. Another factor is that when you get right down to the actual cooking it may be fast but the prep time and cleanup is still a factor. Then there is taste.

Prompted by many e-mails that I have had from moms complaining that they make the same thing over and over again because it works, I thought I would give some Ideas about how to vary your dinner plans a little and still be able to feed everyone.

Soups on! - Make a soup, my kids love pea soup, other kids prefer a pasta soup, most soups can be make with pantry items like pastas, rice grains and frozen veg from the freezer
The super market prep cook- when shopping you can buy pre sliced mushrooms, peeled carrots, cut celery- it sounds lazy and expensive but, bear in mind that you do not have a helper in the kitchen and most chefs have a large staff. I find that I tend to buy only what I need when I buy food this way rather than buying extra which might go to waste.
Finding new flavors in old favorites- I introduce new flavors slowly to my kids for example, they love panko crusted chicken so this week I added a little fresh ginger to the breading. Not a big deal I admit, but if they like it they you have another flavor with which they are comfortable
Eggs and pasta- for these main courses you can keep them basic but I like to use them as a canvas adding in ham, chicken, and new vegetables. It is also easy to make two variations of a dish with 1 pound of pasta, just use different sauces. Eggs are great because you can go French in style and make different omelets, or Italian with different frittatas and Spanish with torte. Add in ham pr pre cooked potatoes and top with cheese and you have a very hearty meal.
Work in some fruit at dessert- stewed berries can be spooned over pound cake or fresh fruit over yogurt or use a delicious cheese like mascarpone – even Greek yogurt can be sweetened with a little honey – top the desserts with new fruits like poached pears and a little biscuit cookie or biscotti.
Roast a chicken- I love roast chicken and often season it with different flavors but during mid week the cleanup is a mess, so instead use a chicken that has been cut up by your butcher- it will cook faster and save you a lot of cleanup.
Stock the pantry- honestly there is nothing worse than having to run out mid week and for odds and ends- a well stocked pantry will save you a lot a of extra work
Use your freezer- I always keep mine stocked with pizza dough, frozen peas, pearl onions just to name a few things
Do Fondue- this sounds like a pain but actually I do it often, lots of cheese and chunks of cooked ham or chicken and fresh vegetables, or a nice chocolate fondue for dessert with fresh fruit- I don’t bother at all with the whole “light the fire under it to keep it warm” thing- just warn the fondue in a “le creuset” style pot on the stove and place it on to a trivet to serve. Many grocery stores now carry Fondue packets for both cheese or chocolate so there is really no work at all
Crepes- you can even buy pre-made crepes at gourmet store or make them ahead and freeze them- then just stuff and bake!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Feeling Inspired

After all the cooking that I do at Christmas, the days that follow are about relaxing. Plopping myself in front of the TV and watching Jacque Pepin whip up something tasty, or Lida travel to Italy. Afterward, I feel both inspired and rested, enough so that today I plan to get back in the kitchen and roast a duck.

My inspiration this week came not just from TV but also from a friend’s kitchen. My friend Maria has a lovely home and it is, I think, what you would call split level home. You walk in and then up a set of stairs into a bright open and airy space. Most notable is the kitchen. I affectionately call it kitchen stadium. Her countertops are black, she has a beautiful flat screen TV on which cooking shows are always playing, a very cool cookbook holder that hangs on the wall and a bunch of other nifty gadgets. I fell like Alton Brown will pop around the corner at any moment. Always, center stage is Maria cooking.

This week Maria invited me to sample some of her lentil soup. She makes lentil soup every Monday and serves it with pasta and fresh artisan breads. What inspired me here is that Maria has made her life simple yet very healthy. She uses a soy butter spread and whole-wheat pasta, the lentil soup is made in the afternoon with loads of carrots and other veg but with water in place of chicken stock so it can sit and simmer on the stove until dinnertime. She has mad a heart healthy yet easy dinner.

Another trick Maria used to save time is storage bowls. Something you might not think about spending money on, but Maria bough nice glass storage bowls in place of plastic so they can go from freezer to microwave to table- yes they are nice enough to serve a pasta course from! I ran out a bought some that afternoon.

I may never make as many heart healthy dinners as Maria dose (I think I smell duck fat..) but a few clever tricks sure makes it sound easy.