Flashback Friday – Slow Motion

Flashback Friday

The following originally appeared on 4/22/09 at Exit 51.

Slow Motion

Sometimes we need to be reminded of the obvious.  Remember that fable about the tortoise and the hare?  What was the moral of that story?  Right, fastest isn’t always best.

There are countless examples of how we have become a society that minimizes the value of being leisurely; no need to enumerate them here.  The point remains that we pride ourselves on how much of anything we can cram into as little time as possible.  It’s sad when you think about it.  Because that thinking touches every part of our lives, including how we eat.

Well Duh!
photo by me

If faced with the option to either commit several hours to preparing dinner at home or popping through some random drive thru as you multitask through a day, which are you going to choose?  It’s ok, you can tell me.  I know that the easy answer is the drive thru.  But is it always the best answer?

Looking at what I’ve been cooking lately, I’ve got my fair share of recipes that will never end up on 30 Minute Meals.  These are strictly weekend recipes for when I have the luxury to spend  an hour, or three, on a dish.  But do not think that all that time is actively spent at the stove.  Please, have you met me?  I would never suggest such a thing.

I can think of plenty of better things to do with three hours…like settle in and read a book, or work my way through all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls dvd’s, or indulge in a leisurely nap on the sofa.  If I’m “hard at work” on dinner, I think that excludes me from simultaneously tackling other chores like laundry and cleaning.

Now, I understand not everyone can make that choice.  But if you can, I hope you will.  At least once in a while.  And if you do, maybe you can dine on this slow motion dinner.


Braised Chicken

I got this recipe from a Wegman’s magazine.  I’ve made a few modifications so that it is more in keeping with our South Beach living.  I liked the results, but think that maybe the chicken needs to be completely naked.  The skin made the juices a little too greasy for my taste.  I also let the dish stay in the oven for a second hour, with the heat turned off, because it wasn’t convenient to eat dinner when the timer went off.   Just make sure that your lid is on tightly and there is enough liquid in the pot so that the chicken doesn’t scorch.

  • 1   pkg (about 3 lbs) Chicken (Split Breasts with Ribs, Drums and Thighs)
  • 2   Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 3   Tbsp chopped shallots
  • 2   pkgs (4 oz each) gourmet mushroom blend
  • 1/2   cup dry white wine
  • 2   cups Chicken Stock
  • juice of one lemon (2-3 Tbsp)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat oil in large pan on medium; add chicken. Brown lightly on all sides. Transfer to clean platter; set aside. Discard all but 1 Tbsp oil.

Add shallots; cook, stirring, 1-2 min. Add mushrooms; cook, stirring, 3-4 min.

Add wine; cook, stirring to loosen browned bits on bottom of pan. Simmer 3-5 min, to reduce liquids by two-thirds. Add chicken stock, return chicken to pan, and bring to simmer.

Cover; place on center rack of oven. Braise 1 hour.

Remove pan from oven. Stir in lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Pork Cutlets with Orange Sauce

During my last cookbook breakup, I left the South Beach cookbooks on the shelf.  While we don’t use them for our meals every day, I like having them around.  When we get tired of the same old, same old, I can open them up for some inspiration.  It’s funny how sometimes when I look at a recipe I have no desire to make it.  Then another time I can’t wait to get in the kitchen and start cooking.  That about describes how it came to be that we finally tried pork cutlets with orange sauce.

Pork Cutlets with Orange Sauce

Adapted From South Beach Quick and Easy

BAH Note: These would have been better if I had brined the chops for a few hours.  Pan frying can really do a number on the moistness of a chop.

  • 8 pork cutlets, approximately 3 ounces each, about 3/4 inch thick
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced (approximately 1 tablespoon)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • zest and juice from one small orange

Pat the pork dry and then season with salt, pepper, and the rosemary.  Heat half the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Working in batches, cook the pork until lightly browned, approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side.  Transfer the cooked chops to a plate and cover to keep warm.

Reduce the heat to low and add remaining oil to the skillet.  Add the shallot and cook for one minute.  Raise the heat back to medium high and add the broth and orange juice and zest.  Cook until the liquid reduces by half and starts to just thicken.

Return the pork, and any accumulated juices, back to the skillet and cook 1 minute more, turning the chops to coat them in the sauce.

{printable recipe}

Flashback Friday – Oven Hot

Flashback Friday

The following originally appeared on 9/24/08 at Exit 51.

Oven Hot

This recipe is coming to you courtesy of last week’s Food Chat over at the Washington Post. The timing was perfect since I’m trying to find new and interesting ways to work those SB Friendly veggies into our meals. SFC has already established that he’s a fan of the sweet potato. But I didn’t know how he’d feel about squash.

Hitting the Oven

He came in the kitchen as I was cutting and chopping and asked, “Is that squash?”  The tone of his question didn’t tell me whether he was excited or not.  He went off to the basement, to do whatever it is he does down there, and I went back to getting the squash, shallots, and rosemary ready for their coating of salt, sugar, and olive oil.

About thirty minutes later, after the vegetables had come out of the oven and the pork chops went in for a quick roast, he came upstairs.  Making his way over to the cooling veg, he said, “Something smells good.”  Before I could say a word, he started stealing bites off the sheet pan.  Guess that means that he won’t mind if I make this again.  I hope not, because I picked up another squash at the store this weekend.

My only gripe with this is that there’s no reference to oven temperature.  I started out with my oven around 400 degrees.  After the first 20 minutes of roasting, I cranked it up to around 450.  I think the squash was a little too crowded on the sheet pan.  I had more of a steamed veg than a roasted one.  No matter though.  We ate it all.

Butternut Squash Roasted with Rosemary and Shallot

From The Washington Post, who credits it as being adapted from Fine Cooking magazine.

This side dish achieves long-roasted flavor and caramelization in a half-hour’s time. To double the recipe, use 2 baking sheets; if roasting both sheets simultaneously, increase the final roasting time to 20 to 25 minutes.  This can be made several hours ahead and reheated just before serving.

4 servings

  • 3 cups 3/4-inch diced butternut squash (from a 2-pound squash)
  • 4 medium shallots, cut into quarters
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Distribute the diced squash and quartered shallots in an even layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle the olive oil over them and toss to coat evenly. Sprinkle the rosemary, salt, sugar and pepper over the vegetables and toss to coat. Roast for 20 minutes, stir the vegetables and continue roasting for 10 to 15 minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender and lightly browned. Adjust seasoning to taste and serve hot.

Flashback Friday – TV Dinners

Flashback Friday

The following originally appeared on 9/18/08 at Exit 51.

TV Dinners

I can’t recall the last time we didn’t eat dinner in front of the tv.  We have one of those things, what do you call them?  Oh yes, a dining room table.  We do have one but in such a small house, it is usually all crapped up with mail and books and papers and reusable shopping bags.  Come dinner time, it’s easier to just sit on the sofa instead of dealing with the growing pile of stuff that needs to be put away.  Eventually, Mount Stuff will just collapse under its own weight and what’s left of the table will be momentarily cleared off. Sometimes this bugs me.  At least we used to try and make the effort.  But now, unless company is coming, we have a standing reservation in the living room.

This casual dining environment does mesh well with my style of cooking.  It’s not like I bang out five course meals on any given day.  I can’t even imagine how big our coffee table would have to be for that.  Oh wait, that would probably be the size of our dining room table….right.

I don’t know about SFC, but growing up in my house, all meals were served either in the kitchen or dining room.  The living room was strictly off limits for food and drinks.  The rare exception was if we had a guest.  They were allowed to have a drink in the living room.  But they also had to sit on furniture entombed in thick plastic slipcovers.  Was it a fair trade?  I’m still not sure.  But those were the rules.

Weekends saw big, traditional meals – fried chicken and pot roast were staples.  But the weeknights were different.  Both of my grandparents worked and once my brother and I were old enough to be home alone without burning the house down, our dinners were left for us in the oven.  Mostly, this would be leftovers.  But sometimes, we’d open the oven door and see a covered, shiny aluminum tray.  It was TV Dinner night!  We usually ate Swanson dinners.  Their fried chicken, never as good as my grandmother’s, was always greasy.   And the dry mashed potatoes were awful.  But they did make one fine cherry cobbler.

We would take the dinners out of the oven and settle in at the dining room table.  From there I had a direct view of the tv and my brother could watch it reflected off the glass front of the china cabinet.  Most of my childhood memories of afternoon television – Captain Chesapeake, Speed Racer, Rocky & Bullwinkle, Lancelot Link (Secret Chimp) – are all from the point of view that I had from that chair in the dining room.  So I guess it really shouldn’t be a surprise that as an adult I still find myself eating in front of the tv.  Only now the meals are a little more hands on.

Instead of a frozen meal that takes four minutes in the microwave, or a boil-in-bag salisbury steak (another recurring childhood dinner), I try to fix dinners that don’t require a lot of fuss but still taste good.  One of my new favorites is so simple that I can’t believe I had to see it in a cookbook in order to put all the ingredients together.  Best of all, it’s a great way to use up leftovers and you can make it for one as  easily as you can for four. Don’t believe me?  See for yourself.

Quick TV Dinner

Adapted from the South Beach Diet

  • 1 whole wheat english muffin, toasted
  • 1 roasted red pepper
  • rotisserie chicken breast, sliced approximately 1/4″ thick
  • 2 slices cheddar cheese

Turn on your broiler while you toast the english muffin.  Top the english muffin  halves with roasted red pepper. Add sliced chicken breast, sprinkle with dried rosemary, and place one slice of cheese on each english muffin half.  Place on a baking sheet and broil until the cheese melts and begins to brown.

Serves two, if you have to share.

I made it with roasted chicken but get creative with whatever you have in the fridge – flaked salmon, thinly sliced steak, pulled pork, portobello mushroom caps.  Pair it with a side salad and you’ve got yourself a meal.

Tomato Fennel and Crab Soup

In my post cookbook breakup period, I’ve been looking for new inspiration.  So in addition to trolling the blogs for new recipe ideas, I’ve casually started buying cooking magazines again.  I figure if I can spend $29.99 on a cookbook that I only grab a few recipes from and then neglect on the bookshelf, why not spend $2.99 on a magazine that I can tear the pages from and then recycle?  The math might not add up but the space reclaimed on my bookshelf is priceless.

Tomato Fennel and Crab Soup

Adapted from Mark Bittman, Bon Appetit January 2011

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 28 ounces diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 can vegetable broth
  • 8 ounces crab meat

BAH Note: You’ll want to be sure to pick through the crab meat for any small bits of shell or cartilage.  Even in the dead of winter, I was able to find crab at the grocery store.  I think I used Phillip’s lump and it didn’t cost me an arm and a leg.

Heat olive oil in a dutch oven set over medium high heat.  Add onion and fennel and cook until softened.  Add tomatoes and vegetable broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer the soup for 10 to 15 minutes.

Working in batches, carefully transfer the soup to a blender and process until smooth.  Return the soup to the pot, taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper as desired.

Add crab to the soup and simmer for 5 minutes to warm through.  Serve immediately.

{printable recipe}



Flashback Friday – Over My Head

Flashback Friday

The following originally appeared on 9/15/08 at Exit 51.

Over My Head

Do you ever start something thinking you know EXACTLY how it’s going to turn out only to have those ideas shot to hell?  Yeah, me too.  Sometimes it involves a DIY project, like that time I thought it would be a great idea to update my grandmother’s bathroom.  Somewhere around the step of me trying to strip 50 years worth of paint off the door, I knew I was in over my head.

Peach Salsa

And sometimes it involves cooking.  I’ll think to myself “I’ve done something like this before, everything should be fine.”  Only, it’s not.  Take pork.  I don’t know what it is about pork that confounds me so. But it does.  Sometimes it comes out great.  And other times, despite a hot oven and digital thermometer that tells me it’s done, it’s a spectacular failure.  This is reason number one that I try never to serve a recipe to guests that I have never made before.  Too much room for error.

How can my instruments lie to me like that? At an internal temperature of 155 degrees, why is my pork still pink?  And I don’t mean a soft shade of blush.  No, I mean a bright pink that screams “I’m not done”.  I’m all about life adventures but food poisoning isn’t one of them.  Luckily, my friend Microwave finished the job up in a jiffy.  But still, this plagues me.  How can I not get something as simple as properly cooked pork right?  Did I mention this is why we have fried chicken for Easter?

Fortunately, the peach salsa that I’d made to go with the pork was impossible to get wrong.  And it brought a little bit of life to a meal that was otherwise completely forgettable.  I bet this would be good with fish too.  Give it a try and let me know.  And if anyone can tell me what the heck I’m doing wrong with the pork, I’m all ears.

Peach Salsa

  • 1 large peach, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup jicama, diced
  • juice from half a lime
  • cilantro, chopped

Put all ingredients into a bowl and mix well to combine.

Flashback Friday – Alt Risotto

Flashback Friday

The following originally appeared on 9/4/08 at Exit 51.

Alt Risotto

One thing I really miss cooking is creamy, tender risotto.  It’s one of my favorite comfort foods.  But the arborrio rice presents a problem.  We’re just not far enough along on our SB journey to have even a little bit of it.  And really, can you honestly just have a little risotto?  No, it calls to you from the pot until you find yourself licking the last bit off the serving spoon.  It’s dangerous business. Continue reading “Flashback Friday – Alt Risotto”

Flashback Friday – FANtastic

Flashback Friday


The following originally appeared on 9/2/08 at Exit 51.


Unofficially, summer is over.  Labor Day has come and gone and kids are back in school.  Soon enough, the leaves will start changing color and carpet our lawn as they fall from the trees.  We will shut off our A/C, open the windows wide, and enjoy crisp cool evenings.  Until then though, that A/C is running. Continue reading “Flashback Friday – FANtastic”

Spicy Roasted Cauliflower


image from http://www.istockphoto.com

I’m going to tell you a secret.  I have gotten very lax when it come to vegetables.  I know I should “Strive For Five” and all that but it is not happening.  It’s not that I don’t like vegetables.  Why just recently, I discovered that leeks are perfectly lovely and I’ve learned to love beets.  I think I just get tired of having the same vegetables the same way all the time.  And I can’t very well pretend that french fries represent the kind of vegetables that I should be consuming on a regular basis.

I want to be better.  But I think I need some help.  So tell me, how do you keep from getting stuck in the same old, same old vegetable rut?

Spicy Roasted Cauliflower

Adapted from South Beach Quick and Easy

BAH Note: When I eat roasted cauliflower, I could almost swear I was actually snacking on fries.  I think it has to do with the oil and salt and the texture once the cauliflower is roasted.  It will never be as good as fries but it’s a compromise I can live with.

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Heat your oven to 400 degrees and line a half sheet pan with aluminum foil.  Combine the cauliflower, oil, ancho chili powder, and salt in a medium bowl or directly on the prepared sheet pan.  Arrange into a single layer on the pan and roast for 30 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender and well browned.

{printable recipe}

Notes on a Recipe, Molly’s Spicy Pickled Carrots


The following originally appeared on 5/11/09 at Exit 51.

Notes on a Recipe – Molly’s Spicy Pickled Carrots

That Molly, she doesn’t mess around.  Those pickled carrots, they knocked my socks off.  First, because they were good.  Second, because they were HOT.  SFC thought they were just right but they were too spicy for me.  So depending on your tolerance, you might want to turn down the heat by reducing the red pepper flakes and maybe not cracking the black pepper corns.

Also, Molly’s basic brine is beautifully versatile.  After the carrots were safely tucked away in the fridge to do their thing, I cooked up a second batch for some asparagus.  Instead of red pepper flakes and thyme, I used fresh dill.  A quick taste hints at a slightly sweeter flavor with a more traditional tang.  Next time, I will wait and add the dill after the brine is off the heat to prevent some slight dill discoloration.  And instead of putting in whole bunches of dill, I will give it a rough chop.  Because having a big dill frond cling to your pickled asparagus is not good eating.

In case you missed the recipe, here it is.  I encourage you to mix things up and use vegetables and herbs and spices that you like.  Because, as I said to our guests as we devoured a plate full of pickled carrots and asparagus, this is ridiculously easy.

Molly’s Spicy Pickled Carrots

From A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg

  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar, plus more for topping jars
  • 2 cups water, plus more for topping jars
  • 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 6 (5 to 6 inch) sprigs fresh thyme
  • 5 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, cracked
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons brown mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 pounds small (finger sized) carrots, or standard sized carrots cut into sticks about 1/2 inch wide and 3 inches long

Combine 1 1/2 cups vinegar, water, sugar, thyme, garlic, black peppercorns, red pepper flakes, salt, and mustard seeds in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove pan from heat and let stand for 5 minutes.  Add remaining 1/2 cup vinegar.

Put carrots in large heatproof bowl, pour warm brine over them. Cool to room temperature.

While the carrots cool, wash two quart sized canning jars and their lids in warm soapy water.

When carrots and brine are cooled, divide carrots evenly between jars, arranging them snugly.  Using your fingers and wide mouth canning jars makes this easier.  Divide the brine evenly between the jars.  The carrots should be completely covered by the brine.  If not, add a mixture of 2 parts vinegar and 1 part water to cover.

Seal firmly and refrigerate three days to a week.  The carrots take time to absorb the brine.