It tastes like frogs legs…

but it’s chicken!

frogs-legs-chicken

In Jacques Pepin’s “Fast Food My Way”, he gives a recipe for chicken breasts cooked with garlic and parsley in the style the French use for frogs legs. It is exactly like how I’ve eaten frogs legs (and they do taste quite like chicken). This is a great recipe and every time I make it the girls are so excited to sit down to dinner. I am, too.

In an attempt to get away from having a starch on the plate at each meal (rice, pasta, couscous, potatoes, etc.), I have been trying to add a second (or third) vegetable. Last week, I served butternut squash and broccoflower with the pork tenderloin. Last night, I served lima beans and corn (o.k., a little starchy, but with some good fiber, too) and zucchini. J separated out her lima beans from her corn and ate all of the corn and about 1/2 of the limas. L asked why we didn’t have that combination more often. One of the reasons is that lima beans are harder to find at the grocery store these days. It seems that shelled edamame has replaced lima beans – both alone and in vegetable mixtures. This bothers me for a few reasons. First, I really like lima beans. Second, lima beans and soy beans taste nothing alike. Third, don’t we have enough soy products out there?
limas-and-cornzucchini
Well, I’m going with L’s suggestion and we’ll have lima beans more often.

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Bean Soup, A Hit

bean-soup-with-bread
As if the Speedy No Knead Bread wasn’t enough of a hit, Monday night I made a bean soup that everyone sucked down like it was their last meal. Even J, who doesn’t always love beans, finished her bowl and said that it was the best bean soup that I’ve made.

The speedy version of Mark Bittman’s “No Knead Bread” was introduced to me by my sister-in-law during our trip back east in December. What a revelation. I don’t think it is better than the non-speedy version, which I love. It is just that it takes SO much less time and planning. I also find the dough a little easier to work with. You can start it before lunch, forget about it for 4 hours, then when you are back home, just get it ready for the oven and bake it. This time, I mixed the dough at about 9:00 am, thinking I’d fold it and bake it starting at 1:00. But, I forgot that I had a school meeting at 1:30, then was out most of the rest of the afternoon. So, I poked the dough back down into the bowl at 1:15 before I headed out. Then, when I came back home at about 3:45, I turned on the oven, folded the dough and let it rest, went back out for a carpool, came back at 4:20 and threw it in the oven. By 5:05 it was out of the oven and I was on the road again. Very forgiving, this bread.

The soup, too, was forgiving. I soaked the beans using the quick method (bring to a boil in a lot of water, turn off the heat and let sit for an hour), then drained them, added most of the rest of the ingredients, simmered everything for about 1 1/2 hours. Then, I had to head out for my meeting, so I turned off the heat and left everything on the stove. Later, after I put the bread back in the oven, I added tomatoes, cut the ham off the bone, added some barley, and simmered everything for another 1 1/2 hours, while I was out doing errands.

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Plan for this week

lemon meringue cake
Rain, rain, don’t go away – we need you! And, you mean SOUP and hearty dinners this week (for the most part).

Today is S’s birthday, but we celebrated last night with family and had a delicious cake from Tartine Bakery in San Francisco. Their Lemon Meringue Cake is unique, wonderful and very lemony. S wanted me to re-create it, but I didn’t have their cookbook, or the time to do it (and I used up my creative baking juices a couple of weeks ago). So, tonight since we have meetings and appointments and activities, we’ll have something simple (but, special, because I made bread).

Here is the plan for the week:
Monday: Bean and barley soup with ham, Speedy-No-Knead Bread, Cheese, Leftover Cake and berries
Tuesday: Chicken Breasts with Garlic & Parsley (Jacques Pepin), zucchini, lima beans with corn
Wednesday: Brisket with noodles, salad
Thursday: Pasta with Broccoli, salad
Friday: on the road again, going skiing
Saturday: Brisket Leftovers in the mountains!

Pork Tenderloin

Butternut SquashPork TenderloinPork Tenderloin DinnerL suggested that we have pork tenderloin for dinner on Thursday night. Yes, sounds good, not too fatty, quick cooking. Good idea. But how to make it. The last couple of times that I made pork tenderloin (how long ago, I don’t remember) were completely uninspiring. When L & I decided on pork tenderloin for Thursday night, we also decided on the sides: mashed butternut squash and steamed broccoli. There was some broccoflower at the market, so I substituted that.

So, I did a little searching on the web, in the usual places. I didn’t see anything that looked weeknight-friendly on Epicurious.com. Then I tried foodnetwork.com and did my usual search methodology: type in the food variety (in this case, pork tenderloin) and then sort the results by rating.

I chose the Charlie Palmer recipe: Marinated Grilled Pork Tenderloin. It was given 5 stars and after reading the reviews, I thought it would be a winner. Happily, I wasn’t disappointed. I threw together the marinade (I didn’t use exact measurements, too much of a pain, and added only 1/2 of the oil called for) and put it in a zipper bag with the tenderloins a few hours before they were going to be cooked (and when I was home and had time). Then, a couple of hours before cooking, I took them out of the refrigerator. S did the grilling.

This was a serious hit. L & J scarfed down every bite. Flavorful, tender, not in the least bit bland. The marinade, which is reduced to a sauce, was what made the meat a winner. Definitely will add this to my repetoire and I would serve this for guests any time. I wonder whether the marinade would work well with chicken. I would imagine it would be great.

Caramel Corn

Caramel Corn
How does it happen that my children always want to cook on play dates? One wonders….

Today, J had an impromptu date with a friend and said, “Mommy, can we cook something? How about muffins?”

I said, “Sure, we can bring them for snack for L when we pick her up, and for your friend’s sisters, too.”

Muffins became caramel corn. My arm, and my resolve, is so easily twisted. And, that is why I have a lot of cavities.

We used the recipe on David Lebovitz’s site. I made it with L when she had a friend over a couple of months ago, and it came out very well except we didn’t have enough corn syrup and substituted honey. The flavor was good, but I think my thermometer is a little off and the syrup got a little too, well, caramelized and a little burnt.

This time, I had all the right ingredients and we made it according to specifications. We used 1 cup organic brown sugar and 1/2 cup organic granulated sugar (had to combat the corn syrup somehow). Also, the kids dumped all of the candy ingredients (save the extract and baking soda) into the pot – no matter, it worked just fine. It turned out perfectly – golden, crunchy, sweet, buttery. Thick with caramel.

This caramel corn is positively addictive. I mean it will have to be put out of sight by someone else so that I have no idea where it is. Help.

Wednesday Chicken

Chicken with Tomatoes and Artichokes
Really, not the prettiest picture of dinner. I’m trying to get everything on the table, I have no experience in “food styling”, and J is saying, “Mommy, enough with the pictures.” Well, it tasted much better than it looks.

This was a good, if quick, dinner on Wednesday. I had to hit the road at 7:00 for book club (“My Life in France” by Julia Child – loved it).

I improvised with the chicken, tomatoes and artichokes. I think those three are a great combination – but I think artichokes improve almost any meal. Even though I live in artichoke country (I even have an artichoke plant in my garden – it is HUGE, or as L would say, GIANORMOUS), if the artichokes are not a main part of a meal, I get the frozen artichoke hearts from Trader Joe’s. They require so much less work than fresh artichoke hearts and are infinitely better than canned and jarred ones.

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Steamed Fish, Recap

Steamed Fish MealLemon Steamed FishAsian Steamed Fish
Healthy. Yes. And, it is an easy way to fix two different styles of fish. J doesn’t like the asian seasonings and vegetables, so I prepare her fish slightly differently. She gets a lemon butter steam while L, S & I get the asian version. And, when it is all done and on the plate, it is delicious with some rice, which sops up the broth that forms from the vegetables, fish and seasonings. Easy clean-up, too, because you just pitch the foil.

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