Category Archives: Cooking

What a throwback

Sometimes I’m not sure which era I live in.  In some ways, I totally feel the whole modern woman thing.  And in some ways, I think part of me lives in the 1950s.  What have I been doing in between watching the Olympics in the evening?

Working on another new quilt, this time for my niece…

… and baking chocolate chip cookies.

I’m all about multitasking, people.

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Filed under Cooking, Crafts, Just me

What’s for dinner?

I was reading a fellow HDYDI mom’s blog, Lit and Laundry, and it’s her birthday today!  Hooray, happy birthday!  Her gift request from everyone in blog-land is a favorite recipe.  As I know she’s already seen my Chicken & Couscous Salad, I decided to find another good summer recipe.  And you know what?  It sounded so good that I might just have to make it myself, possibly tonight or tomorrow. And why not, I was looking for an excuse to have my kids try canteloupe. (I’m actually slightly allergic to melons. Nothing serious, but I wouldn’t exactly be finishing my kids’ leftover canteloupe.  But in the salsa? No problem.)  And I thought I’d pass it along to all of you… yet another tasty summer recipe, hooray for the grill!

Hoisin and Bourbon-Glazed Pork Tenderlioin with Three-Fruit Salsa (from Cooking Light)

Pork and Glaze

  • 1/3 c. hoisin sauce
  • 2 T. seasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 T. bourbon
  • 2 T. maple syrup
  • 1 ½ t. grated ginger
  • 1 ½ t. fresh lime juice
  • ½ t. chile paste with garlic
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 1-pound pork tenderloins
  • salt & pepper

Salsa

  • 1 c. finely chopped peeled canteloupe
  • 1 c. finely chopped peeled mango
  • 1 c. sliced small strawberries
  • ½ c. finely chopped seeded peeled cucumber
  • ½ c. finely chopped green bell pepper
  • ½ c. finely chopped onion (I like a red onion)
  • 1 ½ T. chopped fresh mint
  • 1 T. chopped fresh basil
  • 2 T. fresh lime juice
  • 2 T. finely chopped seeded jalapeño
  • 1 T. honey
  • ¼ t. salt

Instructions:

  1. Combine all salsa ingredients in a bowl, cover and refrigerate to let flavors meld a bit.
  2. Combine all sauce ingredients (hoisin through garlic) and set aside.
  3. Fire up the grill to medium-high.
  4. Butterfly pork (slice lengthwise, cutting nearly in half, but not quite through to the other side), and season both sides well with salt & pepper.
  5. Grill pork 5 minutes on one side.  Flip, then baste grilled side with prepared sauce (the sauce never touches raw meat, baste generously as there’s a lot of sauce to go around).  Repeat, flipping every few minutes and basting, until pork is cooked through (maybe 15-20 minutes total).  Discard remaining sauce (it shouldn’t have been contaminated with the raw meat, but the flavor is a little boozy to use as a serving sauce).
  6. Let stand on a platter ~5 minutes, then slice crosswise into half-inch slices.
  7. Serve with three-fruit salsa.  Roasted or mashed potatoes are a nice side dish.

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More summer yummy

It’s a hideous day here in New England.  Daniel has picked up his sister’s virus from earlier this week, and has a 101-102 degree fever.  Rebecca woke up coughing and crabby.  And it’s raining. Awesome.  However, we’re supposed to get our first heat wave this weekend, so I thought I’d share what will likely be in my freezer this weekend…

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I love the change of seasons. I tend to get tired of one, by the end, so I’m always ready for the next one to arrive. In particular, I love bringing out recipies that I only make in certain kinds of weather. When it first gets cold, I love making my turkey chili and cornbread, or chicken stew with biscuits. But when it gets warm and I can finally walk around in shorts and t-shirts and sit outside… ahh. I’m ready for a popsicle. Or, as I mentioned a week or two ago, some Chicken & Couscous Salad. Or…

Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream. Even just saying it tastes delicious, don’t you think?

[No, this isn’t going to turn into a food/cooking blog. But sometimes, even if my kids can’t eat it yet, these things are just too good to pass up.]

Like plenty of newlyweds, we got an ice cream maker as a wedding gift. It sat in the cabinet for a while, a nice idea but something I never seemed to remember to use. One friend swore it was great for frozen margaritas, but I like them on the rocks, so no go there. Until a friend came to visit from out of town and couldn’t believe we hadn’t made strawberry ice cream yet. So she made it. And I was hooked.

The fresh strawberries, a little lemon juice, and heavy cream… what’s not to love? Oh, this stuff is so good. You simply must take spoonfuls out of the spout in the top while it’s churning. You know, for quality assurance, right? And after it’s frozen solid in the tupperware in the freezer… there have been nights where M just couldn’t stop himself from eating nearly the entire thing. And strawberry is not otherwise his favorite flavor. This is just that good.

This is pretty much straight from the Cuisinart instruction manual / recipe book. It’s not a custard-based ice cream which means it’s pretty quick to make, no waiting for a custard to cool or worrying about getting the eggs just right. You can substitute peaches for strawberries, but I have found that, while you can get away with simply good strawberries, the peach version isn’t really worth making unless you have perfect peaches, right at the height of ripeness. Cook’s Illustrated also has some suggestions regarding macerating peaches in this month’s issue.  Anyways, back to the strawberries…

Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream

1 quart fresh strawberries
4 T fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. 1% milk (I’ve decided 1% makes for the best finished texture, not sure why)
1 1/2 c. heavy cream (do not skimp and make this with light cream)
1-2 t. vanilla

  1. Hull and chop or slice strawberries, place in a medium-sized bowl. Add lemon juice (watch out for seeds) and 1/2 cup of the sugar. Stir, cover, and refrigerate 1 1/2 – 2 hours to let the berries macerate.
  2. Take berries out of the fridge and pour them into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until mostly pureed, though there may be a few remaining larger chunks. This depends on your desired final texture. I like my strawberries pureed, but if you want more chunks of strawberry in your ice cream, reserve half of the strawberries in another bowl, and puree the rest.
  3. Pour milk and remaining 1 cup sugar into another bowl, and mix until sugar is dissolved (an electric hand mixer makes this go a lot faster, but you can use a whisk if you want). Add cream, vanilla, and pureed strawberries and any accumulated juice, and whisk to combine.
  4. Get your ice cream maker assembled and turned on so the bowl or churning mechanism is already moving, then pour in the cream mixture. Let it churn for 30-40 minutes (per your manual’s instructions). If you have any reserved chopped strawberries, add them to the mixture at about 25 minutes.
  5. Once the ice cream is the consistency of soft-serve, remove from machine and pour into a freezer-safe container with a lid (I use a 2-quart round gladware), and put it in the freezer to harden, about 3 hours. Or, just eat it all straight out of the machine, who am I to judge?

Be aware of the capacity of your ice cream maker, as well as the fact that the mixture will expand in volume as it churns. I used the full quart of strawberries, 1.5 c. of milk, and 2 c. of cream, and I had a bit too much for my 1 1/2 quart machine. Don’t overfill, or you will have a sticky pink mess on your hands. (A tasty one, though!)

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Guess who’s coming to dinner

Sunday night, we got an unexpected call from my uncle Andy. Turns out he was coming to the area on a last-minute business trip, and was hoping to stop by Monday evening. In particular, he was on strict orders from my aunt to make sure he saw the babies and got a picture.

The timing was cutting it close, but when we knew he was on his way from the airport, we kept the kids up a little later than usual so that they could see and be seen. While they were pretty zonked, it was worth it so my uncle didn’t miss them. He is seldom out on the East Coast, so it’s not like he would just see them next week or something. And I’m not sure his wife would allow him back in the house tomorrow without a picture.

It was fun hanging out with him over dinner, telling funny stories about the family. He’s my dad’s younger brother, and that entire side of the family is just plain crazy – in a good way. My uncle Andy in particular was the start of two cherished family traditions: the adding machine, and re-naming people. The adding machine is just that – an enormous mid-century calculator, weighing about 40 pounds. It gets passed around the family like a hot potato at gatherings, the only rule (and I mean only) being that you are not allowed to give it back to the person who gave it to you. With my dad being one of nine children, 24 kids (plus spouses, now) in my generation, and 24 and counting in my kids’ generation… you’ve got lots of choices. It nearly always shows up at weddings, bridal and baby showers, baptisms, and certainly Christmas and family reunions. [The photo is my stepmom and stepsister decorating it for my cousin Heather’s wedding.] It was once returned to its original “owner,” uncle Andy, when my dad, uncle, and cousin cemented it on a brick pedestal in Andy’s front yard. It was decorated with Christmas lights that winter. That had to have been at least a decade ago, and it was long since chipped out of the cement (there are still a few pieces clinging to it) and continues to make the rounds by increasingly elaborate means.

The other family tradition that is largely owned and perpetuated by my uncle Andy is the fact that newcomers get immediately re-named. Any time a girlfriend or boyfriend is brought to a family event, they are forewarned that they will be called something, anything, other than their real name. And that name will generally stick so hard and fast that, years later when the person has married into the family and has been around seemingly forever, you will have a very difficult time remembering what their actual name is. My cousin’s husband, for instance… he’s as gawky white guy as you can get. Pale skin, red hair, very very funny guy from Indiana. His name? Raúl, the Latin Sensation. My aunt’s Scandinavian husband? Stu. (Sometimes my stepmom calls him by his “full” name, Stuart. Seriously, I have a very hard time remembering his name is really Glen.) And my beloved, M… it took a few tries to find the “right” family name for him, but now it’s settled. Juan Epstein. Because really, how many other Puerto Rican Jews do you know?

So yeah, my dad’s family is crazy. But tons of fun. Yet another reason to consider moving back to Chicago… I’d get to hang out with them, and my kids would know the goofiness that I was lucky enough to grow up with. We shall see.

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Oh, and you want to know what I made for dinner? Of course you do, because it was really good! I made the Enchiladas Verdes from this month’s (July/August 2008 ) issue of Cook’s Illustrated, along with their Mexican Rice recipe. The enchiladas were hard to keep intact when I was serving them, so they looked a little messy on the plate, but no matter. They were super tasty, and the recipe was easily spread out over the course of the day whenever I had a few minutes to spare or the kids were napping.

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Filed under Cooking, Family, Infants

Tastes like summer

Today was the first really muggy day of the season. Not my favorite, when the weatherman starts talking about dewpoints. I remember watching the forecast last summer, in my hugely pregnant days, to find out how hideous my day was going to be. Today would have been one of those dreaded days. Not that I enjoyed being so sticky today, but hey, at least I wasn’t pregnant.

The heat and humidity, combined with the threat of severe afternoon thunderstorms, kept us from our longer afternoon walk. Instead, after the PM nap, we slathered on some sunscreen and sat outside for the short while we had before the dark clouds and thunder raced in. I brought out some wooden spoons and metal bowls, finally remembering one of those divinely simple toy ideas… and they were a hit! Not only were the spoons reasonably safe to chew on, but Daniel figured out how to bang it on the bowl after only being shown once or twice. Not bad! A future percussionist? 🙂

And as soon as I knew what a sticky day it would be, I instantly knew that I would make one of my summer standards for dinner. On a day like this, I want dinner to be room temperature at the absolute most. Even better is something that comes out of the fridge, but I need more than a lettuce-based salad to satisfy for dinner. This couscous and chicken salad is a favorite of mine as soon as the weather is warm enough. It’s easy, fast, and tastes even better the next day, straight out of the fridge. Make it at least an hour or two ahead of time, if you can, to let the flavors meld.

Chicken & Couscous Salad
Adapted from a Cooking Light recipe
1 c. uncooked couscous
1 1/4 c. chicken broth
2-3 c. diced or shredded cooked chicken (I like to roast bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts)
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 large or 2 small/medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
4-6 scallions, chopped
parsley, if you have it, chopped
1/4 c. white wine vinegar
2 T. olive oil
1 t. cumin
1 clove garlic, minced
salt & pepper

  1. Bring broth to a boil in small saucepan, add couscous. Cover and remove from heat, let stand ~5 minutes until all liquid is absorbed. Move cooked couscous to a large bowl, fluff with fork, and let cool slightly.
  2. Add chicken, veggies, and parsley to couscous, toss to combine.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine vinegar, oil, cumin, and garlic for the vinaigrette. Season generously with salt & pepper. Pour over couscous mixture and stir to combine.
  4. Cover and refrigerate. Serve cold or at room temperature, do not heat.

Obviously, it’s a salad, so put in whatever you think will taste good. The original recipe has radishes and pine nuts, and no tomato. Though I will say that I tried feta one time, and it just didn’t work.

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