Monday, February 21, 2011

Turning a new leaf...

It's been four years almost exactly since I gave birth to my precious child.  It's been almost five years since I was married.  It's been just as long since I've felt confident about myself and the way I looked.  So today, I made a choice, finally, to get back to where I feel good about myself.  I joined Weight Watchers Online. I'm telling you only because I need to feel like I've made it known so that I will have that over my head.  Typing that out directly seems silly, but I think you know what I mean. 

My goal is to get to a healthy weight by summer as well as have a daily exercise routine made into a habit, which I've never really had, by this day next month.  I need to do this for not only me but for my four year old daughter.  She needs to grow up not hearing her mom complain about her appearance.  She needs to know that taking care of herself is key to being a well rounded person, confident and healthy.  She needs to never hear me say "I"m fat!" ever again!

I feel that in order for me to set a good example for her and insure that she grows up feeling confident and self assured.  There are too many things, too many people in this world that drag us down and make us question ourselves.  I want my insecurities to never be hers.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Make It NO Matter...

This is my new mantra..."make it no matter..."    

No matter if I don't have exactly the tools that the recipe calls for, no matter if I don't have precisely the same ingredients (within reason of course). 

I live on the coast of Mississippi and I have to drive to Louisiana just to find Fennel so when I want to make something and it calls for authentic lard or chervil (a French herb), I cannot simply push the recipe aside and dismiss it, saddened and depressed.  No, certainly not, I must carry through, find replacements and substitutes, tap all my resources. 

I have been reading this beautiful cookbook, European Peasant Cookery, The Rich Tradition, by Elizabeth Luard.  It is jammed full of rich and hearty meals from the peasant cooks of generations long since passed. 

Recipe's like Stuffed Steak from Holland, Oil Biscuits from Spain, Rosepetal Preserve from Bulgaria, Boiled Chicken and Noodles from Austria, Garlic Puree from France, and Colcannon from Ireland.  Over 500 recipe's in between the pages of this heartwarming book. 

Last night I made Beef Bourguignon that I adapted from, of course, Julia Child, as well as Ina Garten.  It was sooo good, my husband said it was the best thing I've made so far.  I will share my beef bourguignon day with you soon, with pictures and all. 

Today, since there are leftovers from the last two nights, I'm spending today making a couple things from European Peasant Cookery.  I'm going to attempt a Danish Applecake and perhaps Country Bread from Spain.

So far, in this journey to cook more passionately, I've made things that went way out of my comfort zone. However, the knowledge that so many housewives and busy moms, before me have made the same things in their own humble kitchens, has made me feel more confident and more excited about what's ahead, more than ever.  And I'm having the best time sharing it with you. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Roasted Veggie Pasta

Vegetarian pasta dishes are a great way to get a healthy and quick meal on the table in a flash.  My roasted veggie pasta casserole is very good and really easy. 

Roast grape or cherry tomatoes with several cloves of garlic as well as any other veggies on hand. 

Today, I bought five zuccini for $1.50 so I decided to add them.  I also added leeks and sweet peppers.

Chunk chop the other veggies and coat everything with olive oil, salt and pepper. 

 My oven was about 350 degrees.  Be sure to turn everything a couple times while roasting for even cooking.  The zuccini will be done before the tomatoes and garlic so I put them on different cookie sheets. 

Once the tomatoes and garlic are done you can either smash them up with a potato masher or throw them into your food processer. 
The other veggies can be chopped into bite size pieces once they're roasted.

I used mini penne pasta this time but you can use any kind that you prefer.  For the cheese Asiago, Parmesan, and Mozzarella are all very good in this dish.  It's always great for flavor to use fresh herbs, Basil, Thyme, and Parsley are all delicious.  

Once everything is chopped, shredded and cooked, you're ready to assemble the casserole.  You can mix the sauce and the pasta or layer everything separately.  Bake for 30 minutes on 325-350 degrees.

A green salad made up of arugala, hearts of romaine, carrots, and sweet peppers is a great side and I made a salad dressing with dijon mustard, maple syrup, fresh squeezed lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh basil.  Along with some oven roasted crusty garlic bread this was a hearty meal that makes you forget about meat and potatoes. 
Amelia even came dressed for dinner.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Key To My Kitchen Happiness

Last night I ordered pizza because I was in bed all day with a cold.  Today, as I drink my coffee, sneeze in rapid intervals and nurse myself back, I'm brainstorming dinner ideas for tonight.

I wrote a post a while back about what the key to my writing happiness was.  So I thought I would now do one that explores my kitchen/cooking happiness.

1. A clean house

2. Fresh flowers (I just love fresh flowers around the house)

3. I enjoy hearing and watching the Food Network while I am cooking, something about it is comforting. 

4. Sharing what I've made with the people I love.

5. Fresh ingredients, especially, fresh lemons and limes, herbs, and garlic.

6. I love chopping, it's therapeutic, except onions, that's just painful

7. A yummy beverage, even if it's an ice cold water with lemon.

8. My blender/food processor, my zester, and a good sharp knife.

9. My Kindle, I have cook books on it that I've found very helpful, especially Julia's Kitchen Wisdom.

10. Cookbooks, old and new.  Nothing is better than always being surrounded by books, at least for me that is the case.

Those are my top ten keys to kitchen/cooking happiness.  What are yours?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Recipe and Resentment

Yesterday I made braised pork chops with pan drippings, left over mashed potatoes (refreshed in the oven), and broccoli with hollandaise.  However my hollandaise was a disaster.  It was supposed to be the star of the plate, but, I failed.  Well I didn't exactly fail, I made it, it tasted good, and I had it sitting aside while I finished the meal.  I read that it can be good up to an hour and 1/2.  So I figured I would reheat it once the meal was ready. 

First let me just say that hollandaise sauce making kicked my butt.  I beat that stuff until I thought my arm was going to spin off my body.  Remember in Julie and Julia, Julie said that hollandaise was so good because it was "whipped into submission"...well she wasn't joking! So, there I was whipping and beating, beating and whipping my egg yolks and butter, for over 20 minutes I did this.  When it was finished I was pleased.  It was the color and consistency it was supposed to be and it tasted good. 

Cut to me in the kitchen, finished hollandaise standing by, I've just finished the rest of the meal and I've decided in my infinite stupidity that I would pop the sauce in the MICROWAVE (all I can say is that having a baby, even if it was four years ago, stole some brain cells).  I'm sure most people reading this would yell, NOOOO don't do that...well it's too late.  You see? I already did it and I ruined it.  I completely ruined my hollandaise sauce.  The butter separated and it looked like greasy yellow snot!

So the star of my dinner found it's destiny down my sink.  Did Julia Child ever screw up hollandaise sauce? Probably! But, the real question is, did Julia ever try to microwave her cooling hollandaise? Absolutely no chance.  I'm sure of it.

Later, after I had cleaned my kitchen and the kids and hubby were busy in other rooms I cleaned my cutting board.  I mention this because I found a way to get the smell of onions and garlic out of my wood cutting round.  Vinegar and baking soda.  It's amazing. 

It also takes the smell out of your drain and sink after you've cooked fish or something like that and the dishes stink.  I hate that.  Especially the next morning.  Eww, makes me cringe.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Serious Eats, Amazing Sweets

Last night I made my own version of a quick beef wellington sort of thing.  Seasoned hamburgers cooked and then placed into puff pastry and baked until golden and oh so inviting.  It was absolutely remarkable, I can't imagine what a real beef wellington tastes like.  Oh my!

I served it with mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy.  I would have added corn or green beans or even a salad to round it out but I ran out of time and quite frankly, the will. 

I cooked all day.  I've been wanting to make my own bread, with my own hands rather than a bread maker, for a very long time.  Yesterday I did.  First time in my life.  I made a recipe from called Romano's Macaroni Grill Rosemary Bread. I didn't have rosemary so I made it without that.  It turned out rather good but I think I need some major practice to make it look and taste great. 

I was disappointed in my bread attempt so I was super stoked when we ate the dessert that I made.  It was Ina Garten's Brownie Pudding recipe.  The recipe says to place it in a baking dish but I decided to put it into four ramekins instead.  I put the extra batter into a mini cupcake pan.  The cupcakes were like mini brownies but harder, almost like a cookie, great in flavor but not in texture.  The ramekins were AMAZING!  This simple recipe is so stinkin' good I wanted to make it again today.  I rethought that when I tried to zip my pants this morning.  Anyway...the tops of this brownie pudding is hard so you have to break it like creme brulee and when your spoon goes into the chocolate heaven, creamy, fudgy goodness your actually think you'll die.  It was that good! It baked for an hour, like the recipe called for, and it was still gooey and yummy and warm and delicious.  I wish I had another one right now! It's very rich so two people could share one dessert. 

I used the rest of my creme fraiche as the topping.  I beat it with sugar and heavy cream until it was thick and dolloped that on top.  OH MY GOODNESS! I should have taken a picture! I will next time. 

All in all, beside the bread, which I should mention tasted good and my family enjoyed, the evening was a food loving, mommy blogging, kitchen goddess in the making's dream. 

The End.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Crème Fraiche Start to Finish

I've had creme fraiche on the brain the last couple of days. I started my experiement on Monday night (late) and am happy to report that:  my creme fraiche was a success.  Last night, I placed the thickened creme into a bowl after about 20 hours of standing, uncovered, on my kitchen counter, stirred it up and then transferred it to a clean mason jar and put it in the fridge.

This morning I pulled it out to use for breakfast.  I decided to use the creme in my scrambled eggs.
Look how thick and creamy it got!!

I beat a spoonful into my eggs and put them to the pan that was waiting with melted butter on medium heat.  Oh how I long for a gas stove.  Apartment living lends itself to becoming a better cook (it's what I tell myself) because you have to work with what your given.

Once all the egg mixture is in the pan I added salt and pepper and finished cooking it. 

There you have it...Scrambled eggs with creme fraiche, topped with asparagus and a dollop of my beautiful creation on top, cracked some pepper,  delicious! The creme fraiche added a rich smooth tangy-ness to the eggs.  So good!

Creme Fraiche Start - to - Finish!!

You can use this creme in place of sour cream, plain yogurt, mayonaise, or even whip cream.  Personally,  I'm going to figure out a sweet and tangy use for this yummy condiment.

What's for dinner?

Okay, so it turned out well and the family enjoyed almost was a disaster. We had Tilapia with a lemon butter cream sauce, French style risotto and steamed broccoli.

When I say it was almost a disaster it's because the sauce was disgusting the first time around. I tried to duplicate a recipe I saw on Food Network and it didn't go so well. I learned a lot with this meal though and will make many adjustments next go around. There will be a next go around too, that's how much it was enjoyed.

The tilapia was frozen, I imagine fresh fish would be much better but we do with what we have.

Tilapia with Lemon Butter Cream Sauce

4 fillets of Tilapia

Dredge for the fish

Zest of 1 lemon

1 tbs Herbs De Provence

1/2 tsp pepper

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup flour

Pat dry your fillets and dredge them in the flour mixture. Tap off any excess. Put immediately into a hot sauté pan with olive oil. Brown both sides. Approximately 2 minutes on each side. Place finished fish in a foil tent to hold heat.

Sauce for fish

2 tbs white wine

2 tbs chicken stock

1/2 lemon juice (about 1 tbs)

1/3 cup heavy cream

2 tbs unsalted butter

Dash of Herbs De Provence

Dash of salt

Dash of pepper

Deglaze pan with white wine. With wooden spoon scrape brown bits from pan so it can mingle with the wine. Add chicken stock, lemon juice, 1 tbs butter, Herbs De Provence, salt and pepper and cream. Bring to a simmer, stirring often. Turn down a bit and let reduce until it's thick. Taste to make sure you have enough salt. Drizzle over fish.

Braised Risotto (French style)
Adapted from Julia Child recipe, Julia's Kitchen Wisdom

Serves 4 people

2 tbs olive oil

1 tbs butter

1/2 white onion (chopped small) - you can use any onions you like

1 clove of garlic (chopped small)

1 cup Arborio rice

1 tsp fresh Thyme (chopped)

2 tbs white wine

2 cups chicken stock

Sauté onions in butter and olive oil until soft, add garlic and rice. Stir to coat rice and cook until milky in color, about 2 minutes. Add thyme and stir in. Add white wine and stir. Add chicken stock and stir. Bring to a boil. Turn down and simmer, covered, for 8 minutes. Take off heat and set aside, without removing the lid, for 5 minutes. Serve hot. You can add sautéed mushrooms on top of this rice for another twist and it's delicious.

There you have first meal post.  I already see all kinds of ways I will need to improve and adjust my process.  I did have fun and am so glad that it was yummy!

Give it a try and let me know how you like it or how you made it your own. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Crème Fraiche Start

I've decided to make my own creme fraiche.  I used a small amount of ingredients for my first time to see how it turns out.  Late last night I got the wild hair to go for it. 

I used just short of 1 cup of heavy whipping cream and 1 1/2 tablespoons of buttermilk.  I combined them in a clear glass jar and left it on the counter with out a lid.  It's supposed to develope into a thick consistancy within 12 to 24 hours.  The thicker and creamier you want it the longer you're to keep it out. 

When I woke up this morning this is what it looked like.

By this afternoon it's developed a bit more, seeming to get thicker and has a layer on the bottom and the top that appear to be much thicker.

I'm unsure if I'm to stir it so I'm going to go ahead and leave it alone.  Come tomorrow morning I should have my creme fraiche results.  I shall keep you posted. 

My Life Needs Some Spice

I have recently been exploring my kitchen and the cook books that have been stacked more decoratively than for use.  My mom tried to get me interested in cooking when I was a teenager and although I humored her slightly, it was something I found no delight in.  Now I find myself a wife and mother and I'm also finding my passion for food and preparing healthy and tasty meals for my family. 

I've recently been obsessing over foodie websites like Smitten Kitchen and watching Julie & Julia over and over, downloading Cookbooks and How To Cook books onto my Kindle. I've made my first poached egg and risoto, even Julia Child's hollandaise and bechamel sauces.  I've invested in a few new kitchen tools like a Cuisinart Powerblend Duet.  I've pined over Le Creuset French Ovens and KitchenAid Mixers.  Obsessed I tell you! My four-year-old daughter thinks the Food Network is the only channel we have. 

I've been wondering where I could possibly fit in, in the world of food blogs and food writers and I've come to the conclusion that it doesn't matter where I can so called "fit in".  I love cooking and I love writing, so therefore, I'm combining them.  Period.