nutritious and delicious

Thanksgiving break marked the end of our first term of classes.  5 labs down, 10 to go. First up after turkey day: Nutrition and Sensory Analysis. The timing couldn’t have been better, huh? I was really looking forward to this class–I knew the instructor and knew we had very similar views on food.

What a new term also means is new classmates.  A group of about 8 of us “big kids” from our first session got together and all registered for the same classes, which meant about 12 new faces.  The first couple weeks were a little rough. I quickly named a group member “Wonder Boy,” and not as a term of endearment. We’ve all settled in though, and get along pretty well.  But it is VERY exciting to see old friendly faces in the halls.

So let’s get to the good stuff–the food! Each day before service we went down the whole line and each group had to explain why each of their dishes were “nutritious and delicious.”  Not surprisingly, i LOVED all the food in this class. A fellow health nut and I talked so excitedly about how much better we felt after class each day–we had more energy, were in better moods,  and life just seemed a little brighter.  After the land of cream sauces and mushy meat, it was like discovering the promised land.

upper left: shrimp spring rolls with rice noodles and fresh mint
lower left: banana nut bread (barf)
center: buckwheat pancakes! deeeeelicious
upper right: vegan tofu chocolate pudding with raspberry coulis. deeeeesgusting.
(i try to like tofu. i really do. but i just don’t. i don’t hate it like i hate bananas, so that’s something)
lower right: spaghetti squash with tempeh bolognese. tempeh is another meat substitute made of fermented soy beans. infinitely better than tofu.

 here’s a couple shots of the full lot of daily production (well, actually each of these are only about half of it):

two of my accomplishments: brocco-flower cheddar soup and smoothies (blueberry-banana and strawberry-raspberry-peach)

   

hands-down one of my favorite things i’ve made to date: falafel!

wonder boy made the tzatziki. took him approximately 2 hours.

 and the crowning glory after two weeks of very little meat, cheese, or fat:

bacon cheddar sliders with caramelized onions and chipotle mayo on fresh-baked rolls. the southern carnivorous males were in HEAVEN.

For our final, we had to take a recipe and modify it to pretty strict nutritional requirements.  I took a sautéed salmon with a beurre rouge sauce (read: 2 sticks of butter with some red wine) and turned it into:

Ancho Chile Salmon with Clementine Reduction

(after being tasted and graded. A+!)

I marinated the salmon in fresh clementine juice, clementine zest, ancho chile powder, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. 30 minutes later, they got baked at 375 until cooked through, about 12 minutes.  The brown sugar and the sugars in the juice caramelize on the outside of the fish, and the higher heat allow it to cook quickly and not dry out. Meanwhile, I reduced the exact same mixture as the marinade over medium heat until slightly syrupy. Drizzle that over the fish, top it with some toasted panko breadcrumbs and BAM (he’s a jwu alumnus, ps)!

Nutritious and delicious.

sometimes

sometimes you get so busy you can’t cook.

sometimes you get so busy you forget to sleep or eat.

i’m currently somewhere in between.  cooking, yes. sleeping yes, but in that middle place is where writing blog posts has fallen out of the realm of frequent possibilities.

sometimes, when you’re in that place, Manfriend says “don’t worry about dinner, i’ll take care of it.”

sometimes he makes you 2 baby bacon grilled cheese sandwiches and sweet potato fries.  sometimes. 🙂

adventures in artichokes

artichokes were on sale last week, so i picked some up, got home, and realized i had actually no idea how to cook an artichoke.

when i found this recipe on Monday, I decided it was fate.  Manfriend hadn’t had bacon in 24 hours and was starting to get the shakes.

while my artichoke-trimming skills need some refinement, we discovered something new and magical and wonderful: tomato-bacon vinagrette.

it was very tasty with the artichokes, but it really would be tasty over just about anything (including the salad greens Manfriend promptly dumped all the extra over). “I want to eat this every day of my life,” were the exact words I believe.

Artichokes with Tomato-Bacon Vinaigrette

(printable version)

Ingredients

  • 2 medium artichokes
  • 4 bacon slices
  • 2 vine-ripened tomatoes
  • 1 shallot
  • 3 tablespoons drained capers
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Method

With a serrated knife cut artichoke stems flush with bottoms. Cut off and discard top inch from artichokes. In a saucepan cover artichokes with salted water and bring to a boil. Simmer artichokes, covered, until just tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

While artichokes are cooking, coarsely chop bacon and in a skillet cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden. With a slotted spoon transfer bacon to paper towels. Halve and seed tomatoes and cut into 1/4-inch dice. Finely chop shallot and capers. In a bowl combine lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk in oil in a slow stream until emulsified and add bacon, tomatoes, shallot, and capers.

Drain artichokes upside down on a rack and arrange each on a plate. Separating leaves slightly, drizzle vinaigrette between leaves and onto plates.

muses and slaves…welcome to ancient rome.

Saturday morning, inspiration struck. Recently, Manfriend’s friend…let’s call him the Shoeless Brit…graciously bestowed upon me his mother’s unwanted bread machine. I had made (I use that term loosely, the machine really did the heavy lifting) a great loaf of french bread, but it was on its last legs. No use crying over stale bread–and I had milk! Cream, rather, from the cauliflower soup.  A match made in heaven. French toast was a must!  30 seconds on the interwebs later, we were off and running.

my muse

and its accomplice

This was a little more involved than your traditional french toast..you dip, drain, fry, and bake.  In my opinion, it’s totally worth it.  And you know Alton’s poor (slash–insanely lucky) kitchen assistants tested 8,000 recipe variations to find the best. This meal is in honor of them.

French Toast
from Alton Brown
(and his kitchen slaves)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons honey, warmed in microwave for 20 seconds
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 (1/2-inch) slices day-old or stale country loaf, brioche or challah bread
  • 4 tablespoons butter

Method

  • In medium size mixing bowl, whisk together the half-and-half, eggs, honey, and salt. You may do this the night before. When ready to cook, pour custard mixture into a pie pan and set aside.

everybody into the pool!

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Dip bread into mixture, allow to soak for 30 seconds on each side, and then remove to a cooling rack that is sitting in a sheet pan, and allow to sit for 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Over medium-low heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a 10-inch nonstick saute pan. Place 2 slices of bread at a time into the pan and cook until golden brown, approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side.

mmmm hands down one of my best foodie pics to date. i RULE.

  • Remove from pan and place on rack in oven for 5 minutes. Repeat with all 8 slices.

why are oven shots so difficult? Oh maybe because i'm crouched over balancing on my toes.

  • Serve immediately with maple syrup, whipped cream or fruit.

I served mine with the fruit of the gods: BACON.

In the spirit of the Food Network, this was YUM-O.  I made the full recipe of dipping liquid for 8 slices, but my 6 soaked it alllll up.  And these reheated like a dream in a 375 oven yesterday morning.

and for my next act…

I will use every new appliance acquired in the last month.   This recipe caught my eye recently as I enjoy soups and you all can’t freaking get enough bacon out of me.   After a crazy weekend in the office, it was just the thing to rejuvenate me and break in my le creuset!

(which, for the record, is a fantastic blog you should read….right after this one 😉 )

Ingredients
  • 4 strips of lean bacon
  • 3 large carrot, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 15 1/2-ounce cans white beans, drained
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Method

First things first:

did you catch the "weekend in the office" part?

  • In a large Dutch oven, fry the bacon until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels. Let cool, chop, and set aside.

SERIOUS bacon.

a fitting first task.

  • Over medium heat, add the carrot, celery and onion to the pan drippings in the Dutch oven and sauté for 7 minutes; add the garlic and sauté for an additional 60 seconds, stirring constantly. Season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste.

tried out my new mandolin and promptly took off my manicure.

also broke in the new garlic press. this thing is a WORKHORSE. thanks manfriend 🙂

  • Add 2 cans of beans, bay leaf and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Let simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the carrots and celery are soft.

now we're cooking.

you're so pretty.

  • Uncover and remove the bay leaf. Using a potato masher or an immersion blender, partially mash the bean mixture until it thickens slightly. Stir in the last can of beans, parsley and bacon. Taste and re-season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, if needed. Enjoy.

Yum! On the side, I sliced (much more successfully) some leftover yukon golds, tossed ’em in salt, shallot pepper, a little cayenne, and baked at 400 until cooked through and browned. Then, because I was feeling frisky and had a new microplane, I microplaned some parm on top and broiled until cheese bubbled. No recipe. Just culinary brilliance.

let’s get smashed

I made these little tots on Sunday for our thanksgiving celebration. They were FANTASTIC.  I was surprised how creamy they came out, despite a total lack of butter. Oh, but well the fact that the main ingredient in the dressing is BACON GREASE, that probably helped round things out.

This recipe takes a cue from German potato salads that have a vinegar base, but by reducing it through the deglazing process softens the flavor to just give it a little tinge of tang.

The bowl was scraped clean by the end of our meal, if that’s any indication of how they went over.   Add this to  your Thanksgiving menu STAT.

 

Bacon Smashed Potatoes
Gourmet November 2009 (R.I.P)

 

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1/2 pound bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dill

Method

  • Steam potatoes in a large steamer rack set over boiling water, covered, until very tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
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peeled by HAND. if you ate these you should now appreciate them even more.

  • Meanwhile, cook bacon in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until crisp. Transfer bacon with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain, reserving fat in skillet. (I did the bacon in 3 batches, wiping out the skillet each time and only reserving the fat from the final batch. no need to clog arteries completely solid)
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the tower of bacon

  • Add 2 tablespoons vinegar, sugar, and 3/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper to hot bacon fat, scraping up brown bits.
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be mindful not to directly inhale the vinegar steam. i speak from experience.

  • Transfer potatoes to a large bowl, reserving 1/2 cup steaming water. Add vinegar mixture to potatoes and smash with a potato masher to desired texture, adding reserved water if desired. Stir in dill, bacon, and vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste.

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Cooks’ note: Potatoes can be made 3 hours ahead and kept at room temperature. Reheat, covered, in a microwave or in a 300°F oven. (This is exactly what I did and it worked fantastic. Just stir the dill in at the very end.)

bacon blues

I threw together this little creation last week and am just getting around to posting it now, which is convenient for 2 reasons:

1. this weekend involved less “cooking” and more “carry out” and

2. it features BACON.  I have gotten a lot of grief from a few avid readers for my flagrant abuse of this holy pork product.  I carelessly discarded 5 slices of bacon after they roasted my little chicky to perfection and for that I am deeply, deeply sorry. I can only hope that the following picture can right just a little bit of my wrong.

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redemption in a frying pan.

So. Last week was crazy busy and I found myself needing to work out, bake 2 batches of pumpkin bars, bang out some laundry, and clean my entire apartment all in one evening. Oh and I should probably eat. First the workout went out the window, but luckily I still got some upper-body exercises in thanks to the rock-hard butter I cut into the pumpkin crust.  Next I began the mental tour of my food supply: leftover chicken…that fish is definitely not good…blue cheese…bacon…oh mozzerella!…pickles (no)…wait a minute! I bought the cheese so I would make pizza dough…why don’t I just BUY pizza dough? And there’s bacon and there’s chicken….DONE. Away we go. Bacon, cooked.

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onions, softened.

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all my little soldiers marching toward their fate in my belly.

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found some great whole wheat mediterranean flat bread at Whole Foods.

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toppings galore!

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cheese me.

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400 degrees....mmm I think it was 10 minutes or so.

Fantastic. Easy-as-(pizza) pie dinner for one (Ok 2…I made another one to bring for lunch the next day). I used spicy tomato sauce which went great with the sweet onions, juicy chicken, and salty bacon (DID I MENTION THE BACON?!).  It didn’t get super crunchy in the middle, so next time I wouldn’t use a cookie sheet..just put him in there bare-back.

And in closing, I want to reiterate my sincerest apologies for my previous pork abuse. The bacon omelet Manfriend whipped up last week would have brought  you to your knees and a tear to your eye. Bacon has a special place in my heart and my home and I swear here-to-fore to treat it with the utmost respect.

the suffragette iron chef

I’ve gotten into the habit of cooking unnecessarily large meals on Sundays so that the leftovers carry through the week. It saves me money, time, calories, hell it just flat out saves me as weeks get unintentionally crazy.

One Sunday a few months back, I went through one of my cookbooks and “flagged” (with pink heart-shaped post-its) the recipes I wanted to try. Manfriend comes over and kindly says, “that book has a heart on every single page!” WELL. It wasn’t just any cookbook. It was Food Network Favorites. The best recipes from the TV chefs that I’ve come to love–LOVE–and have inspired many of my daring culinary endeavors. One of which ended with frosting on the ceiling, but I digress.

So, this Sunday Manfriend and I batted around ideas for Sunday supper. Pizza? No. Lasagna? Maybe. Roasted Chicken? Sold. And I had just the recipe in mind.

Now, I want you all to bear in mind that this little chicky was prepped and prepared on an October Sunday Afternoon. Manfriend was happily enjoying a buffet of pigskins and testosterone when I decided to play Iron Chef. A great idea until it requires simultaneous manipulation of the bird and photographic documentation. There was an excessive amount of hand washing, an expletive of two, and a ton of confused squawking (from me, not the bird). Just…bear that all in mind. I hope you giggle as much as I did when I reviewed the shots today.

The Ultimate Roast Chicken
from Tyler Florence

Ingredients

  • 1 5.5 lb free range chicken (mine was neither. 4.75 lbs and Perdue)
  • 1/2 bunch each: fresh oregano, thyme, and parsley
  • 1/4 lb. unsalted butter, softened (1/2 c.)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 orange, halved
  • 1/2 head garlic
  • 1 small white onion, peeled and halved, plus 1 whole onion
  • 6 strips smoked bacon
  • 2 T all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 c. chicken broth
  • 1/4 c. dry sherry

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 425. Rinse the chicken with cool water, inside and out
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like I said, not the large, organic, upstanding bird Mr. Florence called for.

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before you rinse, remove these bad boys.

i promise the pictures get more appetizing. Seriously rinse though--who knows what that liquid in the package is.

I promise the pictures get more appetizing. Seriously rinse though--who knows what that liquid in the bag REALLY is.

  • Pat it dry with paper towels (Helps the yummy stuff stick to the skin). Divide the herbs, keeping half of them whole. Finely chop the other half. In a small bowl, mash the softened butter with the chopped herbs until combined.
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I considered using a food processor to chop to make life a little easier. Then I remembered I was Catholic.

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chopped! turns out butter doesn't photograph well when faced directly. It's elusive like the Loch Ness.

  • Rub the herbed butter under the skin, as well as all over the outside of the chicken. (First loosen the skin before you attempt to stuff under it.) Season the bird with salt and pepper.
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does this picture make you a little uncomfortable? It makes me uncomfortable. This has to be done though. Be gentle and patient--dont' tear the skin, but the connective tissue will give away as its prompted. Also remove your watch.

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Stuff the skin upside-up and upside-down.

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i think i'd like to be slathered in this stuff. note: at this point i've washed my hands 45 times.

  • Stuff the cavity with the orange, garlic, onion halves, and the remaining herbs. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine (I did not do this. No twine.). Place the chicken, breast side up, in a roasting pan. Put the whole onion into the pan to help color and flavor the sauce (I cut him in half to fit better).
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chances this will all fit in my lil' chicky: slim.

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Half the orange, broke up the garlic cloves, and cut the stalks off the parsley, but it all fit! Don't be afraid to squish it all in, it's all just going to juice and get in the meat anyways.

  • Lay the strips of bacon across the breast of the chicken and roast for 25 minutes.
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this is what you call, "guilding the lily."

  • Remove the bacon, baste the chicken with the drippings, and cook for another 25 minutes to brown the skin. The chicken is done when an instant-read thermometer reads 180 when inserted into th thickest part of the thigh. The legs of the chicken should wiggle easily from the sockets, too.
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MONEY. my little birdy clocked in at 182 after 50 minutes. My oven runs cold, but even so if you have a full 5.5 lb-er, I think you'll need more tiime. But lets get back to it--how great does this look?

  • Remove the chicken to a platter and let stand for 10 minutes or so the juices settle back into the meat before carving.
  • Meanwhile, remove the softened onion from the roasting pan. Tilt the pan so the drippings collect in one corner and skim off as much fat as possible, leaving the drippings. Place the roasting pan on the stovetop over mdium heat and use a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
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scrape scrape scrape...scrape scrape scrape...scrape your booty? no. wrong. Heat helps this process. I used 2 burners.

  • Stir the flour into the drippings to make a paste.
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flour in a sauce? weird? no. this is the beginnings of that magical, mythical thing called a roux.

  • Pour in the chicken broth in stages; continue to stir to prevent lumps. Stir in the sherry and bring to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste (mine needed neither).
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after just a splash of broth--see the pasty? that's gooooood. what are you doing?! don't stop stirring!!

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all broth and sherry added. Your goal in cooking the sauce is to reduce the sherry and concentrate the flavor. This is also where you set the table.

  • To serve, carve the chicken tableside and squeeze the oranges from the cavity over the meat.

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see the right side? that was my hacking attempt at carving. see the perfect slice of breast meat being lifted? that's Manfriend. Its like they're born knowing how to cut meat like we're born knowing how to walk in heels. My suffragette-self is ok with that.

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ah yes forgot to mention these kids. prick them with a fork, spray w/ oil, shake with salt, toss them in the oven and they'll be done when the chicky is. AND. I'm QUITE proud of this picture.

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sha-ZAM. dinner is served.

"I am a lucky man," he says with a content sigh :)

the best compliment there is 🙂

the end.

if you’ve gotten this far, you’re either related to me, or are enough of a foodie you were entertained–so put this on your to-make list already! It’s not a “wednesday night at 7pm what should I make” number, but if you enjoy the process as much as I do, this little ditty is well, well, worth it. The chicken is juicy and packed with flavor. The sauce is rich and robust–the sherry elevates it just enough that I’ll go ahead and call it sophisticated. The whole thing is simply, GOOD.

Manfriend wrapped up the remainders of the white meat (which I just enjoyed again) and picked the dark meat for later use….maybe a quick cassoulet? He also whipped up a fantastic tuna salad which was packed into lunch sandwiches.

bacon..and balsamic…and brussels…oh my!

I’ve been making these little guys for a couple years now, and I don’t even know where it came from (feel free to speak up if I stole it from you). I do remember that these sparked my eye shortly after Manfriend and I dined at Central here in DC and he convinced me we should have brussel sprouts. “Brussel sprouts?! Why would we get brussel sprouts at one of the best restaurants in the city?!”

Why? Because they were freaking delicious. So much so that I sought out this recipe and despite the few parallels between my and Michel Richard’s culinary skills, its still fantastic.

As the weather’s been getting cooler–wait, scratch that–as the fall season is supposedly upon us and fall goodies have been showing up at the farmers market, I’ve been jonesing for some sprouts. So, Friday night in Chicago when my mother said “What should we have for dinner?” my mind immediately went to this recipe. The meatloaf and mashed potatoes naturally followed (and they will…in a subsequent post).

At first reading, this seems much more involved and time consuming that it really is. Don’t be scared by “deglazing”…there actually is no way you can mess it up. This also has a good mix of down-time so you can manage your other dishes. And, um, there are 4 ingredients. You can handle it. And you’ll feel like you trained at the knee of Monsieur Richard.

Bacon-Balsamic Brussell Sprouts

4 strips bacon
2 c. brussel sprouts, cut in half lengthwise
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar

prepped and ready to go! remove all outer leaves that don't look pretty. not pretty = not tasty.

prepped and ready to go! remove all outer leaves that don't look pretty. not pretty = not tasty.

  • Preheat oven to 400.
  • Cook bacon in cast iron or oven safe skillet until brown, but not crisp. Remove to paper towels to drain.
i used uncured bacon this time...not sure why...it did not cook up nicely. get the cured stuff.

i used uncured bacon this time...not sure why...it did not cook up nicely. get the cured stuff.

  • Place sprouts cut-side down on bacon fat and cook until bottoms are crisped and browned. During this time, chop the bacon into pieces. ( I enjoy the act of crumbling bacon with my hands. To each their own.)

someone please compliment my lighting advancements immediately.

  • Drop bacon and garlic on top of sprouts and place in oven 4 minutes. (I usually do a little longer.)
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someone please compliment my lighting advancements immediately.

  • Remove from oven and deglaze pan with vinegar. Stir until all liquid is absorbed. (A wooden spoon works best. Don’t be scared of the steam. Scrape up all the bits on the pan until it stops bubbling. Voila!) Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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and the lighting experimentation continues.

and the lighting experimentation continues. win some, lose some.