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Archive for August, 2010

Country-Style Tomatoes

Quick!  Before Fall nudges it’s way in, the Farmer’s Markets close for the season, and we’re left with limp and lifeless berries, peaches, and tomatoes, make sure you get all those bonafide summer recipes accomplished.  I missed this recipe last summer but I wasn’t about to make it go another round when I just so happened to have some leftover cream cheese and fresh basil on hand.

The funny thing is, I don’t really like fresh tomatoes.  Never have.  But sometimes you look at a recipe and just know it would be delicious … for other people.  And Nate absolutely loves tomatoes.  Tomatoes and corn, he could live on them.  Scratch that.  Tomatoes, corn, and bacon and sausage, he could live on.  Moving on …

If you’re looking to squeeze the final dregs out of summer cooking, if you’re looking for a way to make vegetables sinfully unhealthy but delightedly tasty then try these tomatoes.  I did.  And I don’t even like tomatoes.  But I do like cream cheese and I do like “fried.”  Two out of three ain’t bad.

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Country-Style Tomatoes
Originally from Taste of Home June/July 2009
Serves 8

4 large tomatoes
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1-1/2 teaspoons minced fresh basil or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup panko (Japanese) bread crumbs
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil

Cut each tomato into four thick slices; place on paper towels to drain. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, parsley, basil, garlic and salt until blended. Spread cream cheese mixture over eight tomato slices; top with remaining tomato slices.
Place flour and bread crumbs in separate shallow bowls. In another bowl, whisk egg and milk. Coat the top and bottom of each sandwich with flour, dip into egg mixture, then coat with crumbs.
In a large skillet, heat butter and oil over medium-hot heat. Fry tomato sandwiches in batches for 3-4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve immediately.

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First 3 Months

I haven’t taken much time to write about how much life has changed since adding Canaan to our family. I’ve mentioned many times how my ability to get stuff done, namely cooking, has taken a nose-dive. But since I’m doing well at this point to keep up with the cooking aspect of this blog, along with Canaan’s blog, I haven’t taken much time to document this transition for myself.

If I’d had an ounce of energy, spare time, or sanity during the first months, I think I’d have some great posts to be able to laugh at later. The transition was far, far from smooth. I wish I would have captured more of those “in the moment” feelings because I sure appreciated reading Anne Lamott’s daily feelings about her transition to motherhood while I was going through it.  Now with Canaan at 4 months of age I’m starting to feel a lot more sane again.

In a nutshell, what I experienced the first three months:

Crying every night (from me, crying from Canaan was far more regular!) while we ate dinner at the coffee table so that I could sit on the comfy couch to eat.
A desperate wish that the weekend really could be a weekend, that we could just give Canaan “back” so that we could have a break then
Never have I ever worried so much about what time I was going to bed at and how I could maximize my sleep time.  We left home group early, I wished people would leave  my house at 9pm so we could sleep
Making myself insane by trying to “guess” if C might take a “long” nap (ie: 40 minutes or more) so that I could take a nap too.  Then getting in bed and reading for 5 minutes to transition, closing the book, sinking down into the covers and closing my eyes only to hear the first squawk from the monitor.  Then keeping my eyes closes, hoping the squawking would magically stop
Possibly many of the most stupid prayers I’ve ever made.  Like, “Please God, just tonight let this baby sleep for 3 whole hours, please.”  Then waking up 40 minutes later, feeding him, rocking him and praying the exact same thing over again – only this time “negotiating” for only two hours.
Some of my favorite times were out with friends.  All of a sudden holding Canaan on my lap or feeding him wasn’t as big of a deal if I had someone adult to talk to
Coming out to my car at Emily’s house to discover a parking ticket.  I couldn’t figure out what the ticket was for because I had placed a one-day permit in my window.  The neighbor having to explain to me that it was May 15, not April 15th and that’s why I got the ticket.  Yes, I missed a month of life
Taking every chance I could do lay down in order to do an activity because even sitting hurt.  Having wishes and fantasies where Canaan was the type of baby who would fall asleep on my chest and stay asleep, but giving up after 10 minutes of him squirming and crying
Allowing my arm to fall dead asleep and not moving it for two hours when Canaan would take a nap.  Lying beside him unable to sleep because he would re-wake himself and move his head every 10 minutes, but staying there two hours anyway.
Highs when Canaan would take a 3-hour nap or sleep for 4 hours at night … and then real lows when this wouldn’t happen again for weeks and he would go back to his 40 minute naps.
Pulling the car off the freeway halfway through a trip or pulling into the  Kohl’s/Best Buy parking lot to get out and feed Canaan because Nate couldn’t take the sound of his cries.
Being frustrated and mad when cars moved to slow and we hit a red light or when cars didn’t accelerate fast enough and we would start to hear stirrings of life from the backseat.
A sincere, desperate desire for my child to sleep all the time just because that meant he wouldn’t be eating.
How this kid could never sleep for more than 40 minutes at home but whenever we would be at an event he would sleep through the whole thing.
Going to the children’s museum with Emily.  On the way home Edie started crying, then Eleanor, and then Canaan all together.  Except we could barely hear Canaan because his cries were quieter and further back in the car.  Just laughing helplessly til we got home.
Getting “stuck” places 40 minutes longer than intended when I didn’t leave before C got hungry and so I had to set everything back down and take 40 minutes to feed him
Being ecstatic when Canaan started being able to be awake for 15 minutes after eating without getting hungry all over again
Conversations with Nate about how he was rocking him to sleep or what method I was using to transfer him from arms to crib.  I think we both thought the other must be the expert because we sure weren’t.
Daily appreciation for great friends who called regularly, told me stories about themselves and their kids that made me feel normal, and who were just as happy to get out of the house as I was
A quote from Emily about a week after Canaan was born that I thought about and used on myself often.  I had asked her about how stressful it was to come to my house with both her kids and she said something like, “Oh, I’m stressed.  I’m totally stressed.  But I figure I can be depressed sitting at home or be stressed and depressed and going out.”  That resonated regularly with me.

It hasn’t all been bad.  Not at all.  I just wrote a post on Canaan’s blog about some of my favorite things so this in balance, I promise.  These are just the crazy-making moments that I remember, living with a little boy who didn’t know how to sleep.

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Part of the cooking frenzy from a few weeks ago was due to the fact that my very first sister-in-law, Laura, is getting married!  I was happy to help her celebrate bachelorette style by making some appetizers for everyone to enjoy.  Laura has been a great sister and I wouldn’t miss being able to support her in this way.  And now in just about a week we’ll have a new marriage and a new addition to the family in Garenne.

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Some of the fun! Gorgonzola, pear, and apricot tarts, brie and raspberry cups with chives, salami and gorgonzola biscuits with raspberry preserves, thai chicken lettuce wraps, and a blue cheese and strawberry salad. Later Loretta brought out dozens of mini cupcakes from Sugar Bliss in flavors like fuzzy navel and red velvet.

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I found this salad to be a refreshing step away from the greens+fruit+nut or the greens+tomatoes+other vegetables combinations. Those ingredients are generally in my fridge so they are the easiest to come up with at 6pm. Lima beans, on the other hand, don’t show up at my house too often.

Refreshing, chock full of green and good vitamins, this salad is a wanted addition to a summer brunch.

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Baby Greens with Asparagus and Pistachios
Taken from The Oprah Magazine Cookbook
Serves 6

Lemon oil:

Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup canola oil
4 sprig fresh lemon thyme or thyme
1 piece (2 inches) fresh lemongrass , crushed

Lemon vinaigrette:

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons lemon oil
3/4 teaspoon honey
3/4 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Salad:

1 bunch asparagus , trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 cup fresh fava beans or frozen lima beans , thawed
8 ounces mixed baby greens
1/2 cup shelled pistachio nuts , coarsely chopped

To make lemon oil: In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients; heat over medium-low heat until oil is hot and small bubbles begin to appear. Transfer to a bowl; cool to room temperature. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight. Strain before using.

To make vinaigrette: In a medium bowl, whisk together all ingredients until blended.

To prepare salad: Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add asparagus; cook until just tender, about 2 minutes. Drain in colander, rinse with cold water until cool, and then drain again. Repeat with beans, cooking about 1 minute before draining.

In a large bowl, combine greens, pistachios, asparagus and beans. Add vinaigrette and toss. Serve immediately.

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Asian Orange Chicken

I believe this is my first-ever Asian-inspired post.  About four times a year I get a craving for Chinese food, but that usually means a run to the local Chinese take-out place.  Nate, on the other hand, loves Chinese and considered this a roaring success.  “Tastes just like real take-out,” he said.  I’m not sure whether that is a particularly good thing or not, but I’ll tell ya what – the leftovers are long gone.

I appreciated being able to control the freshness of the vegetables and the amount of oil that went into this dish, unlike when we order take-out.  I also enjoyed being able to pair it with some simple noodles with a dash of soy sauce instead of the usual fried rice, which always ends up in our garbage can.

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Asian Orange Chicken
Adapted from allrecipes.com
Yield: 8 servings

Sauce:
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons chopped green onion

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
Chicken:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut
into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 head of broccoli crowns, chopped and steamed until tender crisp
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
Pour 1 1/2 cups water, orange juice, lemon juice, rice vinegar, and soy sauce into a saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Stir in the orange zest, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, chopped onion, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and cool 10 to 15 minutes.
In a resealable plastic bag, mix the flour, salt, and pepper. Add the chicken pieces, seal the bag, and shake to coat.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Place chicken into the skillet, and brown on both sides.  Add mushrooms near the end of the cooking time and saute lightly.
Add the sauce to the skillet.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Mix together the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water; stir into the sauce. Reduce heat to medium low, and simmer, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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Cooking Overload

Never again will I take on three hosting/cooking events in less than 24 hours with a 4-month old. Experience has taught me that this is just too much. I had fun planning, doing, and being at each event, especially my sister-in-laws one-and-only bachelorette party. But I know it was too much since it involved:

– sore feet and legs from standing
– Nate and I scrambling from kitchen to dining room to add little chopped chives, walnuts, bacon and crumbles of gorgonzola, brie and more to itty bitty tiny tarts at the last minute
– no desire to cook for the next two days
– leaving my husband behind with a kitchen covered in sauces, dirty pans and cooling racks, crumbs and splatters … and a 4 month old
– a fridge so full that took valiant efforts of rearranging any time an ingredient was needed
– Realizing as I settled in my car on my way to the last event that I hadn’t taken any time to get on the floor and play with my son on Saturday and that he would be fast asleep for the night by the time I returned.

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Butter on steak?  I know.  Red meat alone is supposed to kill us all, never mind adding butter on top.  But still, after having read this combination in a fleeting glance at a magazine cover I couldn’t get it out of my mind.  And luckily I had two steaks in the freezer and fresh rosemary sprigs in my fridge just begging to be put together.  And I’m pretty glad that I did put these four, simple ingredients together (plus salt and pepper), regardless of whether Dr. Oz, Jenny Craig, or any trainer on The Biggest Loser would approve.

Steak with Balsamic-Rosemary Butter
Serves 4

4 4 oz. steaks
Salt
Pepper
Olive oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Fresh Rosemary, minced
Butter

Make the butter first.  Begin by putting the balsamic vinegar in a pan and simmering over medium heat for a few minutes to reduce it slightly.  Take it off the heat and let cool completely.  Bring butter to room temperature.  Mix reduced vinegar and rosemary into the butter.  Place into fridge to firm up.

Heat grill.  Pat steaks with a paper towel to dry, then sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides.  Oil grill grates with olive oil.  Cook steaks on grill for just a few minutes on each side, until medium rare, or longer depending on your preference.  When cooked, immediately plate and place a mound of the butter on top.  Serve immediately.

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