Thursday, January 31, 2008

Tofu Stir Fry with Coconut Curry Sauce

I'm still on this vegetarian kick. I'm not so sure you can call it a kick; I'm not sure what it is, but I can honestly say that for the past 4 months I've had absolutely no desire to eat meat other than seafood. I'm not sure if I've really given up the land based animals for good, or if I am going through a phase, but what I can tell you is that I am having a blast finding unique dishes that I never would have thought to make had I not taken meat out of my diet. This is one of those dishes. The tofu really stood up to the sauce, and its consistency was almost meatlike among all the vegetables. I would definitely recommend this to meat eaters as an alternative if they were seeking one. It was that good.

Tofu Stir Fry with Coconut Curry Sauce
Recipe coming soon.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Light Baked Fish | Cook's Illustrated

I went cross country skiing for the first time on Saturday and now my legs are useless appendages attached to my body trunk. I cannot move them voluntarily. In order for me to put my pants on this morning I needed to hold one pant leg in one hand, and then use my other hand to manually lift my leg and aim it at the pant hole and thrust it in. I have not felt this kind of pain since my last marathon. Its the kind of muscle soreness that defies all logic in your brain. Usually your brain sends the message to your leg, telling it to move up or down or get your leg into that pant hole, but today there is no connection between what my brain tells my leg to do, and what my leg is actually physically capable of doing. Today at work, in order to cross my legs I had to pick up my left leg from under the knee, with both hands, and heave it over my right. And I call myself an athlete...I'm so not today.

Yesterday I saw a man riding in a convertible, in Vermont, with the top down. Can you say asshole. It's freaking freezing out. Here's a tip, if you have to wear multiple coats, a fleece hat and big ass bulky gloves that make it near impossible to grip the steering wheel correctly, it's too figging cold to have your stupid top down.

Welcome to the post that has no direction, where will it go now?

I'm Irish, Fish and Chips is as traditional as turkey on Thanksgiving and crying while watching Billy Elliot. I'm just kidding, I didn't cry during that movie, however if you do ever fly to Shannon direct on Aer Lingus, you will be forced to watch that movie.

I was super excited to see amongst my Cook's Illustrated recipes one for Light Fish and Chips. This recipe was just a complete knock-out in my house when I made it, and I can't wait to make it again, it's that good.

Lighter Oven Fried Fish Best of Cook's Illustrated Light

1(5-ounce) box plain Melba toast , broken into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

large egg whites
1 tablespoon
Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 1-inch-thick cod fillets (about 6 ounces each)
Vegetable cooking spray
Table salt and ground black pepper
lemon cut into wedges for serving

1. Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with foil and place a wire rack on top. Process the Melba toast into coarse crumbs in a food processor, about twelve 1-second pulses. Spread the crumbs in a shallow dish and toss with the oil.

2. In a separate shallow dish, whisk the egg whites, mustard, thyme, garlic powder, and cayenne together.

3. Pat the cod dry with paper towels then season with salt and pepper. Working with one piece of fish at a time, dip it into the egg white mixture, then coat with the Melba crumbs. Press on the Melba crumbs to make sure they adhere to the fish. Lay the coated fish onto the prepared wire rack and spray the tops with vegetable oil spray.

4. Bake until the coating is golden and the fish just flakes apart, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve with the lemon wedges and Tartar Sauce.

Per Serving:Cal 300; Fat 7 g; Sat fat 1 g; Chol 75 mg; Carb 21 g; Protein 35 g; Fiber 2 g; Sodium 530 mg

Rating = So Damn Good

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Sundried Tomato & Pesto Tofu Dip | Yum

Can I just say that I'm really bummed about Heath Ledger. He just seemed like such a down to earth person in such a whacked out Hollywood scene. And I think he was a refreshingly good actor. Just so sad. I'm so sorry for his little girl, who is now left without a father, and I'm sorry for his ex-fiance who is now truly a single mother. Just tragic. My heart goes out to his friends and family. And on a different note, I was so excited to see the new Batman movie, and now it may just be too weird to watch.

Moving along to happier thoughts. This dip disappeared at the football party (GO PATS!) that we went to on Sunday. It disappeared even though people knew there were no dairy products and it was tofu based. Just goes to show how good this dip is, and that you don't need heavy cream cheese or sour cream bases to make good dip.

I found this recipe while searching online and now I can't find the original site I found it on; it may have been an web link.

Sundried Tomato & Basil Tofu Dip
1 package soft lite tofu drained
1/2 jar sundried tomatoes packed in oil
about 1/4 cup prepared basil pesto (I used pesto that I had made earlier and frozen)
zest and juice of one lemon

Add tofu, sundried tomatoes (some of the oil), pesto, lemon zest and lemon juice to a food processor and process until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Rating = Damn Good

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Baby It's Cold Outside | Shrimp Bisque


Monday was another big snow day here in the Northeast, and nothing takes the chill out of your bones like a nice steamy bowl of soup (or bisque). This particular bisque recipe was published in the January 2008 issue Cook's Country magazine. I don't subscribe to Cook's Country, but my friend Emily gave me this particular issue when I visited her at the Test Kitchen just before Christmas. Yep, it's another winner. Not hard to make, and so delicious. Sorry the picture looks like crap - it just wasn't that easy to photograph it, especially when I was dying to just eat it and not spend all day photographing it.

Also, I apparently drank way too much water with dinner because I woke up this morning at 1:05 with the most ungodly pains in my stomach because apparently my bladder was about to explode like a water balloon slapped on hot pavement. I read somewhere recently that if you need to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom that you shouldn't turn on the bathroom light, because the sudden surge of brightness completely screws up your Circadian rhythm (the 24-hour cycle your body goes through everyday telling you when to sleep and when to wake), thus making it making it much harder for your body to fall back asleep.

Bull Shit.

I scampered out the bedroom, through the dining room, past the laundry room and into the bathroom, sans lights; I then proceeded to go to the bathroom sans lights and then proceeded to navigate back to the bedroom sans lights, only to get into my nice comfy bed and stare at the stupid frigging clock until 3:30 in the morning. I was not able to fall back asleep until two hours before my alarm went off. Circadian Rhythm My Ass. I'm now very tired, probably so tired that I'll have one of those nights were I'm "too tired to sleep". Does this happen to you - you just get so tired that sleep evades you. Ugh. If any of you have tricks for getting back to sleep in the middle of the night, please let me know them.

Shrimp Bisque Cook’s Country

4 tbsp unsalted butter
2 lbs medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, and chopped, shells reserved
2 onions, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 tbsp all purpose flour
6 tbsp tomato paste
6 (8-oz) bottles clam juice
2 cups white wine
2 cups heavy cream
Salt and pepper

Melt butter in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add reserved shrimp shells and cook until spotty brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in onion, celery, and carrots and cook until beginning to soften, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Add clam juice, wine and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes.

Pour broth through a fine mesh strainer into a large saucepan, pressing on the solids to extract juices. Discard solids in the strainer.

Bring broth to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in the shrimp and cream and simmer until the shrimp are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve. Enjoy.

Make Ahead Note: The broth can be prepared through step 2 and refrigerated in an air tight container for up to 24 hours.

Rating = Damn Good

Monday, January 14, 2008

Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna | ATK

What I don't get is this. About a week ago Hilary Clinton showed the smallest bit of emotion at a campaign stop in New Hampshire. This show of "emotion" was then broadcast on every news program and analyzed by every new organization. She didn't cry, she didn't wail, she choked up a bit, probably because she hasn't slept in 8 months, has the most unflattering pictures of her are posted all over the newspapers, (it's like the news organizations try to find the most horrible pictures of her that they can find), and is no doubt fighting an uphill battle in a man's industry. I bring this up not because I like Hilary or would even vote for her. I bring this up because yesterday after the Cowboys lost to the Giants, Terrel Owen's cried in the postgame press conference. I didn't see that display of emotion get analyzed on CNN or MSNBC this morning, or his picture get plastered all over the newspapers as Terrel Owen's big "emotional " breakdown. I just think that it goes to show the markedly different way emotion is perceived in the mainstream media. A woman who's trying to make history as the first woman president gets mildly emotional at a campaign stop, and the whole news system goes ballistic trying to analyze her strength. A male sore loser cries over a football game and no one bats an eye. I just don't get it.

Moving along. I made this recipe for my Italian in-laws, which is the ultimate test of a pasta dish, and it got rave reviews. This dish can be made a couple days ahead of time, or can be frozen up to two months.

Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna ATK (Best Make Ahead Meals)

1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 lbs cremini mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced thin
1 medium onion minced
6 medium garlic cloves minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 tbsp)
1 28oz can tomato puree
1 28oz can diced tomatoes, drained
ground black pepper

24 oz whole milk ricotta cheese (about 3 cups)
1 10oz package frozen chopped spinach thawed and squeezed dry
2 oz Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
1 large egg lightly beaten
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

12 no boil flat lasagna noodles
1 pound whole milk mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 4 cups)
1 oz Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)

1. FOR THE SAUCE: Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the mushrooms, onion, and 1 tsp salt. Cover and cook until the mushrooms have released their liquids, about 10 minutes. Uncover, increase the heat to medium-high, and continue to cook until the mushrooms are dry and browned, 5 to 10 minutes.

2. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato puree and diced tomatoes, bring to a simmer, and cook until thickened slightly, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste; set aside.

3. FOR THE RICOTTA FILLING: Stir all the ingredients together until uniform; set aside.

4. TO ASSEMBLE THE LASAGNA: Spread 1 cup of the sauce over the bottom of a 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Place 3 of the noodles in a single layer in the baking dish. Spread 1/3 cup of the ricotta mixture over each noodle, then sprinkle the layer with 1 cup of the mozzarella. Spoon 1 cup of the sauce evenly over the cheeses. Repeat the layering of the noodles, ricotta, mozzarella, and sauce twice more. Place the remaining 3 noodles on top, cover with the remaining sauce, and sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup mozzarella and the Parmesan.

5. TO SERVE: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil that has been sprayed with vegetable oil. Bake until the sauce bubbles lightly around the edges, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until hot throughout and the cheese is browned in spots, 25 to 30 minutes longer. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Rating = So Damn Good

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Muhammara | ATK Light

Well so far this new year 2008 sucks ass. After having my car breakdown in a snow storm of the first day of the year, I find out that my car which I've only owned for 14 months and which I didn't buy the extended warranty on needs a new engine to the tune of 7,000 dollars. Please FORD, tell me how a 2005 car, less than three years old and with less than 45,000 miles on it needs a new engine. Please tell me how this is acceptable. I've always owned Ford cars and have always thought they were well built. Not so much with the 2005 Ford Escape I guess considering you need to buy it a whole new engine when it's three years old. Truth be told, I don't have the money to fix the car, so I'm not sure what's going to happen - it may sit and rot in the mechanics shop for years while I try and save up the money to fix it. THANKS FORD!

On a lighter note, I made this dip/spread the other night when we had friends over, and I was almost too greedy to serve it because I wanted it all for myself. It was that good.

Muhammara ATK Best Light Recipes
1/4 cup walnuts
1 2/3 cups jarred roasted red peppers, drained, rinsed, and thoroughly patted dry with paper towels
2 slices wheat or white sandwich bread, torn into quarters
3 tbsp juice from one lemon
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp mild molasses
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper.

1. Toast the walnuts in a dry skillet over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until they are fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a plate to cool.

2. Process the toasted walnuts with the remaining ingredients in a food processor until smooth, about 10 pulses. Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the flavors meld, about 1 hour. (The dip, covered, can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Season with additional lemon juice, salt and cayenne as needed before serving.) Serve the dip either cold or at room temperature.

Rating = So God Damn Good

Friday, January 04, 2008

Sage and Citrus Hummus

Two things.

One. When the person on the train sitting next to me has bad breath. I feel violated. I feel forced to consume tainted air, and I find no air as terribly hard to breath as the air that is expelled from someone else's body; whether it be halitosis, flatulence, or burps. No less than three times in the past week I boarded the train, only to be in close proximity to someone on the train who either had just finished a disgusting baloney sandwich and proceeded to share his heartburn and horrible processed meat smell with the whole train; a mouth breather with the worst case of morning breath/halitosis/something died in their mouth smell; or just someone who decided he/she would toss air biscuits through the whole train. These have all forced me to take a new plan of attack on the train which is, wrapping a perfumed soaked scarf around my neck before I leave the house, and then plunging my head face down into the scarf as soon as I get onto the train. Aren't people lovely creatures. How come you never sit down next to someone who smells zest fully clean, why is it always a person demonstrating all the functions of all the orifices of the human body.

Two. While driving to VT on Friday I had way too much coffee and then got stuck in construction traffic which allowed me to move a mere 2.6 miles in an hour. When I finally got through the construction traffic I stopped at the first tourist/rest area I could find because I was pretty sure I was theeese close to peeing my pants. The bathroom was one of the fancy environmentally conscious bathrooms where the water in the toilet is green, to warn anyone who might be tempted to drink the water, that indeed it is recycled water and is not potable, so don't drink the toilet water. I proceed to use the bathroom, just barely making it there before I peed my pants; and I have to go so bad and it takes so long for me to pee, that they automatic flush system kicked in before I was even done. I had no idea that there was only so much time that the toilet allotted you before it says, ok little missy, I think you're about done here, and flushes away. I guess I had to go even worse than I thought, but really, the preemptive flush threw me there. Just thought that maybe there shouldn't be a time limit on such things.

And finally what you really came here for...the recipes. This is another variation on the light hummus recipe that I use from the Best Light Cookbook from America's Test Kitchen. It was good, but I was a little disappointed in the sage, it just didn't seem as powerful as the rosemary so next time I will have to add more.

Use this recipe, and for the final few pulses add about 1.5 tbsp chopped fresh sage.

Rating = Damn Good

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

New Year....

So this is what the last day of 2007 looked like for me. CB and I spent the weekend in VT and woke up on New Year's Eve to 6 inches of snow white powder just waiting for us to make new snow shoe tracks in. We were the only ones on the trail that day which made for the most amazing pictures and very hard snow shoeing. So Much Fun. The above picture is along the Mad River Green Path, we were on a little bridge looking up stream to the covered bridge in the background, so quintessential VT.

As a post to sum up the past year I'm taking a poll posted over at All and Sundry, a blog that I greatly enjoy reading up on. Here goes:

1. What did you do in 2007 that you’d never done before?
Went to Texas, Georgia, Philadelphia and Mexico and Ottawa. I'd never been to any of those places.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I really don't remember what my New Year's resolution was last year, probably to lose weight, if that was my resolution I probably didn't do very good with it.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Oh, boy, yeah, Hilary had a baby girl and Kristen had a baby boy.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
My Uncle Arthur

5. What countries did you visit?

Mexico and Canada

6. What would you like to have in 2008 that you lacked in 2007?
Patience. Don't hold your breath on that one though.

7. What dates from 2007 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Geez - there isn't just one date.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I feel like such a slacker, this year wasn't big on personal goals for me...if I had to take a guess it would probably be that I became a much much more informed consumer.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Probably not making a goal for myself, so I didn't have anything to strive for.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Beyond the horrible episode of traveler's diarrhea in Mexico, no thank goodness.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Two things, our very first painting when we visited New Orleans, and a new couch for VT, because the old one harbored 20 years of nastiness.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
CB - he's always so calm and collected.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Britney Spear

14. Where did most of your money go?
Cookbooks, clothes, travel, wine (not necessarily in that order)

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Hosting Thanksgiving for the first time.

16. What song will always remind you of 2007?
Rehab - by Amy Winehouse

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
 a) happier or sadder? 
b) thinner or fatter? 
c) richer or poorer?

a. same
b. same
c. same - wow maybe my goal should be to make more money

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Relaxing - seriously, just sitting and not worrying about what I could be doing while just sitting.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Worrying about the things I have no control over.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
With my family at my Nana's house, like every year since I was born.

21. Did you fall in love in 2007?
No, but my love of certain things was reaffirmed almost daily.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
Ohh. Grey's Anatomy and Lost (please come back to prime time tv, you're my only guilty pleasure)

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
No, thank goodness.

24. What was the best book you read?
I have read so many books, the best being
Animal Vegetable Miracle
The Omnivore's Dilemma
The Autobiography of King Henry the VIII

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I really suck at musical discoveries...I'd have to say for me it was Regina Spektor.

26. What did you want and get?
An immersion blender - totally food porn present I realize.

27. What did you want and not get?
A Garmon GPS Running Watch - I've been asking for it for three years and CB says that my wrists are too small and I need to wait until they come out with a smaller version, otherwise it will be like running with a microwave on my wrist. Total Crap CB - MY BIRTHDAY IS IN 8 WEEKS AND COUNTING.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
Lions for Lambs

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
CB and I made the most amazing carrot cake from ATK and then we spent the day with my family at a breast cancer fundraiser then at cake at night.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
If I actually looked good in my bikini in Mexico.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2007?
Buy as many clothes from Ann Taylor Loft as is possible and love them all.

32. What kept you sane?
Listening to classical music on my Ipod while reading on the train, to drown out all the stupid banter going on around me. It made my commute so much more tolerable.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Will Ferrell for his "Good Cop Baby Cop" and "The Landlord" videos which I watched no less than 50 times each.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Immigration Reform

35. Who did you miss?
Michelle in Chicago

36. Who was the best new person you met?
I cannot place one.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2007.
Even if you're 82 you can beat breast and lung cancer, and become cancer free like my Nana did this year. You're never too old to fight.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Because you're mine, I walk the line.- - - Johnny Cash, "I Walk the Line"
"I think I'll go to Boston, I think I'll start a new life, where noone knows my name." - - - Augustanam "Boston"
That song got me every time I heard it. When I moved to Boston in 1999 I literally had nothing, no job, no money, I was moving into a place that I found on the internet, and none of my friends were local, I literally started over and it was the best thing I ever did. As far as the Johnny Cash song - I always think of that song when I have to travel from work and I'm away from CB, it just reminds me of him and how important fidelity is, and how it's so great that we have no jealousy in our marriage. Truly wonderful in this day and age.

New Years resolution for this year: To make weekly managable goals so that I acheive something every week. We'll see how that goes.