Archive for September, 2009

The Sweetest Little Onesie

Baby Panama will officially not have to go naked now.  Here is her/his first set of clothes, a gift from Eric and Emily.


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Italian Cheese Fondue

What could be better than cheese and bread for a pregnant stomach?  Some days, not much.  I’ve been avoiding meat so regularly (unless it’s on a taco or burrito and then I eat it right up!) that there is literally not a single protein left in my freezer.  This is unheard of for the girl who buys 8 lbs. of chicken breasts every time they are on sale! 

What makes this Italian is the use of fontina cheese in place of the more traditional French emmentaler cheese.  Ultimately, I didn’t find the end result to be too distinct, probably because gruyere cheese has such a strong flavor.  But ultimately, ultimately I found it quite delicious regardless of its Italian or French origins!  I appreciated the suggested dippers but included grapes and pears because I find those just divine with a good cheese.

Italian Cheese Fondue
Originally from foodnetwork.com, Giada de Laurentiis
Cook Time: 20 min.    Yield: 6 servings (as an appetizer or first course)

8 ounces grated Fontina 
8 ounces grated Gruyere 
5 teaspoons cornstarch 
6 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, chopped (I had to skip this)
2 cups dry white wine (such as Pinot Grigio)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped chives
Bite-size pieces of focaccia, sliced salami, fresh fennel, Belgian endive, steamed broccoli florets and asparagus spears, for dipping

Toss the Fontina and Gruyere cheese with the cornstarch in a medium bowl to coat. Saute the pancetta in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat until crisp and golden, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a plate. Pour off any excess oil. Pour the wine into the same saucepan and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to medium. Whisk 1 handful of the cheese mixture into the wine until it is almost melted. Repeat with the remaining cheese mixture in about 4 more batches. Continue whisking until the cheese is completely melted and the fondue bubbles, about 1 minute. Stir in all but 2 tablespoons of the pancetta. Season the fondue with pepper, to taste.

Transfer the cheese mixture to a fondue pot. Sprinkle with the remaining pancetta and chives. Set the pot over a candle or a canned heat burner. Serve with focaccia and vegetables.

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Carnitas Croissant Sandwich

Of course the minute I posted about our Sandwich Friday tradition and the tasty meat and bread combinations that came out of that venture, Nate was begging to reinstate it. Sadly for him, it hasn’t been officially reinstated, but he did get a new sandwich out of the deal.

There was no recipe for this one as it was made up mostly of leftover ingredients that we had on hand. But sandwiches aren’t really meant to be measured and quantified anyway. They are a perfect mate for anyone who likes to “eyeball” it or mess around with proportions as they see fit. This is a great one to do just that with and still come out with a tasty treat.

Carnitas Croissant Sandwich

Croissants, sliced
Lemon Pepper
Leftover pork carnitas, shredded and warmed slightly
Avocado slices
Fontina, havarti or any other cheese you find delicious, sliced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place the open croissants on a baking sheet.  Combine lemon pepper and mayonnaise and spread on both sides of the croissant.  Layer the carnitas on the bottom side of the bread and top with the avocado.  Layer the cheese on to the top side of the bread.  Place in the oven about 8 minutes, or until sandwich is hot and cheese is melted.  Fold the croissant together and serve.

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Lemon Cream-Stuffed Grapes

A five-ingredient, light, refreshing appetizer perfect for a summer day.

Lemon Cream-Stuffed Grapes
Yield: 12 servings (3 grapes per serving)

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 pound seedless globe grapes, rinsed and patted dry

In a small bowl, beat cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice and peel until blended. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. 

Cut a deep “X” in the top of each grape to within 1/4 in. of bottom. Carefully spread each grape apart. Transfer cream cheese mixture to a heavy-duty resealable plastic bag; cut a small hole in a corner of bag. Pipe filling into grapes. Refrigerate until serving.

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Almost Halfway

Nate and I are almost halfway through our this first round of training.  As anticipated, days are long, sitting time is long, and there’s not a whole lot of room for personal space or time.  Still, it’s been a good first half to the week.

I really enjoyed meeting the president of IT and getting to interact with him.  He had some words to say that I needed to hear.  At times I feel overwhelmed and scared with what a major decision this is.  And it often feels like I have too much control over my life, too much responsibility, and too much room to make some big mistakes.  It stops me mid-morning or in the middle of the night and I have to evaluate, “What are we doing?  Have I really made a good decision?”  But Scott really spoke into each of us how God has ordained so many different things to come together for us to get here and that we wouldn’t have our seats in these chairs without a powerful purpose.  It gave me a real sense of peace … at least for the moment.  I know I’ll have many more stops and gasps along the way.

I also really enjoyed the time that was set aside to hear each of our life stories and how God has been interwoven in each of those.  It struck me as pretty important for this group to know that about me in a more personal way than simple words on a page.  They will become one of my primary support systems.  I enjoyed, in preparing for this exercise, the emphasis that was placed on our “life story” and not just a moment in time when we made a decision.  I think speaking some of my own experiences aloud, weaving them together in new ways, and having others witness that was meaningful to me.

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This salad hit the spot in a way not many can do.  It was such a perfect weeknight meal that I wish I could recreate it tonight and pronto.  And I would except that I used up all my fingerling potatoes and pancetta last night.   Regrettably I ate it far too quickly the first time around, forking up the potatoes and greens in a swift spin.  It was a dinner of pure delight.  It was pure unadulterated happiness … until I tried to do my back and core exercises on a stomach full of fingerling potatoes.

The glazed and golden potatoes are buttery and warm amongst the crunchy greens.  And the dressing?  The dressing is perfectly tangy and snappy with vinegar and shallots.  A warm salad on a cold night?  I sure hope I can find in season fingerling potatoes come November.

Glazed Fingerling Potato Salad with Pancetta and Warm Mustard Vinaigrette
From Fine Cooking 101, pp. 22-23

Serves four.

4 Tbs. unsalted butter
3/4 lb. fingerling potatoes (7 or 8 medium), quartered lengthwise
Kosher salt
2 oz. pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1/3 cup)
5 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. finely chopped shallot
3 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper
4 oz. escarole, torn into small pieces (6 cups)
1/2 cup shaved aged Gouda (1-1/2 oz.) (I’d skip this next time as I thought the cheese got lost amidst all the other goodness.)

Melt 2 Tbs. of the butter in a 10-inch straight-sided sauté pan over medium heat. Add the potatoes and enough water to just cover them (about 2 cups). Bring to a boil. Add 1 tsp. salt, cover the pan, reduce the heat to medium low, and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the potatoes are just tender, about 8 minutes.  (I skipped covering the pan for 8 minutes, feeling that would take forever.  My potatoes were still cooked through nicely by the time the water boiled away and it saved probably 10 minutes.)  Uncover the pan, raise the heat to medium high, and add the remaining 2 Tbs. butter. Cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until all of the liquid has reduced to a glaze and the potatoes are lightly browned, about 20 minutes more.

Meanwhile, cook the pancetta in an 8-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. (I cooked shorter because I don’t like it too crispy.)  Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Pour off any fat from the pan, return the pan to medium heat, and add 1/2 Tbs. of the oil. Add the shallot to the pan and cook, stirring, until tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and mustard and cook until the mustard is smooth, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and gradually whisk in the remaining 4-1/2 Tbs. oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Put the escarole and pancetta in a large bowl and toss with 3 Tbs. of the vinaigrette. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide the salad and the potatoes among 4 salad plates and sprinkle with the cheese. Drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette and serve.

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