Thursday, February 26, 2009

Small Blessings

Just a note: it is 5:45 and light enough outside that I am thinking I need to change the timers on my automatic outdoor lighting.
It is so light out I hadn't even started dinner because, you know, it isn't dark yet.
Spring must be around the corner. Praise be.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

WFMW--Bake it in a bar!

As a novice in the kitchen, I feel a little like I'm stealing to pass this along, but I will send credit to City Mouse-Country Mouse!

CM-CM, known around here as The Best Babysitter Ever, is far, far, far more talented in the kitchen than I am, and we have been blessed to be the recipients of many of her fun experiments and eagle eye for yummy recipes. She is also in general a healthier eater than I am, so when I found Nikki's Healthy Cookies recipe here, and actually got all the ingredients together in my kitchen at the same time, I showed it to her and let her know if she had time and wanted to try it, the stuff was all there.

When I got home from work that night, the kitchen smelled yummy and banana-y, but instead of cookies, there was what looked like a little cake on the counter. CM-CM explained that she was running out of time, so she baked it in a pan instead. (She also used white chocolate chips instead of fooling around with chopping the Scharffen-Berger bar. They made total sense in the recipe.)

First of all, for these particular cookies, it was a genius move, because the dough falls apart a little bit anyway, and in the pan, it held together imperfectly but certainly well enough. Second, the white chips were aesthetically pleasing and since we were in it for fun, as opposed to food allergies, it was a great move. And third, they cooked faster and gave better portion control.

I have made these cookies now as actual cookies, and have gone back to bars. Because you know what? The bars are the perfect compromise between cookies and cakes. Fewer things to wash. Easier portion control. And did I mention fewer things to wash?

I'm sure that bars don't work for every cookie. But they worked for these, and between the recipes on the bags of chips and the internet, I'm finding all kinds of other cookies that can be baked this way. And it beats the heck out of spoons and evenly sized drops and parchment paper and all that folderol. And that works for me! What's working for you?

Also working for me? Our new hostess! Three cheers to you, Kristen, and wishes for a long & happy run as hostess!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

MPM--Back to What Passes for Normal Edition

Hello, blogfriends. I am still having issues from the bug that's kicking our tushes over here. The symptoms all continue though much less dramatically, and now everyone in the house has been affected in some way. Normally, it would be all about freezer meals this week. BUT, it is the once-a-year Member Appreciation Week at the Co-op, so everything in the store is 20% off! So, I'm buying, if not in bulk, at least more than I would normally.

Given how sick we all were last week, the plan was followed pretty well. For me, the winner of the week was not even officially on the menu; it was the variation on the curried cauliflower soup, which, in fact, bore almost no resemblance to the original other than texture. It was, essentially, leeks, carrots, and a potato, simmered down in broth and blended with the new immersion blender. I used chicken stock to make it closer to chicken soup to try to get us all better. That didn't work but it was a lovely thing to have while ill. We did not get to the sausage and quinoa bake. That's on the back burner for a bit more while I take advantage of the 20% off everything sale at the CoOp since the sausages will keep a bit longer. And while I decide how to replace all the peppers in the original recipe since I do not eat peppers.

I am not working this week, and, the kids are well enough to go back to school, and, my husband is sick with the same thing the beat goes on and we'll see how the week ends up. But given all the variables, this is the plan:

Sunday: Oscar night! Rotisserie chicken, salad, asparagus and scallion thing I'm addicted to, stuffing if I can find some in the cabinet. ("In the cabinet" is a big theme this week.) Usually I do "fancy" Trader Joe's hors d'oeuvres too, to fake being at some fabulous Oscar party. There are plenty in the freezer, clearly purchased for some life wish I were leading, and not the one I currently am, so that might happen too, just to move things along in there.

Monday: Chicken or leftover pork, roasted veggies, rice.

Tuesday: Mardi Gras! I'm getting donuts for one of the kids' classrooms, which should be fun. I'm going to try the golobkis from Smitten Kitchen (again, using things we already have in the kitchen), with kasha on the side. Never made either one of those things, so as backup, I am trying the Greek spaghetti sauce from How to Eat Supper and we'll be ready to go with that, too.

Wednesday: Slow cooker risotto, bean salad from How to Eat Supper.

Thursday: Some kind of turkey burger. Probably Greek. Though maybe (wait for it) the one from How to Eat Supper. We have whole-wheat pitas for these. Side salad, and...something. I have a box of tabbouleh mix that it might be time to try.

Friday: Probably pizza. We'll be out at high school sporting events of some kind, supporting one babysitter at cheerleading or the other at ice hockey. And it's Lent, so hot dogs are not on the menu this time around

And one of these days (Saturday, I'll betcha) we'll do the Indian takeout so I can get that off my mind!

After this week, I should be just about done the "oh I have to try these immediately" recipes from How to Eat Supper and I'll move on to something else. It will probably be the new How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman, but many of the recipes in Deceptively Delicious are tempting, and the freezer meals book looks awesome. But I should really clear my freezer more first! And it's really nice to have a new cookbook that's full of great ideas.

Anyone use Everyday Food much (besides you, Accidental Hausfrau)? I caught the show yesterday and everything they made looked awesome and not hard. Of course, I don't have the foodprep elves that they do. Even my kids liked the look of the show, and unlike some kids I've known, they are not usually interested in watching food on television.

Are you in need of menu planning ideas? Go to I'm an Organizing Junkie to be dazzled by the menu planners there!

Pei Wei

My husband and I were given a great gift this weekend. Knowing I'd been sick for two weeks, Girlfriend called me up and said she and our brother in law would take our kids for the evening, out for pizza and visits with the (oh-so-glamorous) older cousins so my husband and I could go out or stay home and take a nap, whatever we wanted. Since my husband has come down with this hideous thing too, we weren't sure what we'd do, but we certainly took them up on the kind offer. And the kids were thrilled, annoyed only that they couldn't travel in the minivan (no carseats there).

We debated staying home, but in the current economy, felt like we needed to throw our support to the only Indian restaurant in the county. We waited a long time for one to open and we don't want to lose it due to a pesky downturn.

We needn't have worried. We couldn't even get in the door. Plan B: I remembered some gift certificates we still hadn't used or used completely and ran back home to get them. My wonderful aunt in California, who remembers shocking amounts of details about my life despite having plenty of her own kids and grandkids to keep track of, had sent gift certificates to Pei Wei, "the Asian diner," and part of the P. F. Chang's group, when one opened near us last year. I had gotten quickie takeout from there, but this was our first meal there.

The Asian diner concept was interesting. First, when walking in the door, we were channelled in to a space along the wall where the menu was on the wall, backlit, with signs telling you to place your order before being seated. Fortunately it wasn't busy and no one was coming in behind us, so we had some time to peruse and look back and forth. There were appetizers/starters, salads, noodle and rice bowls, and "specialties."

We had fun ordering; I tried the chicken lettuce wraps and the ginger broccoli with shrimp. My husband tried the egg drop soup (a special) and the dan dan noodles. Drinks self-serve from a soda fountain. Kids' meals were limited, but we didn't have to worry about that. When we ordered and paid, the cashier told us to look for table #64, and sit there and our food would come to us. So we poured our drinks, grabbed some extra napkins for our still-soaking-wet table, and waited about 3 minutes before the soup came out. I did not try it since we are both sick and I didn't want to cross-contaminate any more than we already were. My husband liked it but wasn't crazy for it.

The highlight of my meal was the lettuce wraps. Half-spheres of iceberg lettuce came with a chicken in brown sauce over the white rice noodles with a soy-vinegar sauce, and then it was up to us to put them together. It was flavorful, if not spicy, and the contrasting temperatures (hot chicken, neutral noodles, cold lettuce) was a nice touch.

The dan dan noodles with beef came with plenty of beef medallions and cucumber on the side, which was interesting as the cool veggie cut the spicy sauce to some extent. I usually avoid foods marked as hot but I tried this and it was definitely spicy but didn't burn off my mouth.

Alas, my own entree was disappointing. Part of it was my own fault; I paid the extra $1 for fried rice on the side, and missed the fact (despite it being clearly labeled as such) that there would be diced red peppers in it, making it something I couldn't eat. I should have picked the brown or white rice, clearly. The other problem was that I had a choice of chicken, beef, shrimp, or tofu for my meal. I splurged on the shrimp, but when they arrived, I didn't love the texture. I couldn't tell if it was just that they had been defrosted less than optimally or whether they were not fully cooked. Either way, I enjoyed the broccoli but left most of the shrimp.

Over by the drinks, they had huge baskets of fortune cookies. We each grabbed one and were pleasantly surprised enough by the actual sweetness and almond flavors that we each got another. The fortune seemed to imply I was going to win Oprah's Oscars trip, but alas, no limo has shown up yet.

So, Pei Wei. Will I go back? Yes, absolutely. I want to try some of the salads, and will try again with some of the entrees, just skipping the fried rice this time. And our total for two was $30, so we still have plenty left on the gift certificates! It wasn't the best ever but I liked the idea of sort of "Asian greatest hits" (a pad thai, a version of General Tso's chicken, etc.) all in one place, along with Americanized options with Asian influence. It's not the edamame ravioli with truffle oil from Buddakan that I adore, but it's good, fast, convenient pan-Asian for nights when that's what I crave.

Edited to add: This morning, I asked my husband his take on Pei Wei. He loved our date and was happy to go, but he found the food "too gooey, too gelatinous," and while the "flavor was all right" he complained "there was not an ounce of subtlety." Well. There may have been some that Mr. Sickie missed, but the texture issues are inarguable. I'll still go, but I'll stay away from the dan dan and egg drop soups.

And thanks to Mom24, who gave me a good tip in her comment that they do make food "on demand" so I can ask for no-pepper fried rice next time. And I think I will.

Friday, February 20, 2009

FFOF 67--Getting Salty

Four Foods on Fridays, brought to you by Valerie at Food, Crafts and Fun. Join in here!

#1. Potato chips. Flavored? Regular, ridged or stacked?

My current favorites are ruffled Baked Lays. I like the crunch and pringle-ness of them. I am also a fan of Herr's, an east coast brand. We took the tour of the factory and it really does inspire loyalty to see how your snacks are made! And I do love Salt & Vinegar, but my tongue can't take the burn anymore, so I'm back to plain or sour cream & onion.

#2. Cheese doodles. Yellow or white? Puffed or crunchy?

Pirate's Booty or Trader Joe's baked for the kids. (And me snarfing off them.) My OB/GYN loves the little round ones by Planters, so I brought three cannisters each time I gave birth! Gotta keep the doctor happy and I am not above bribery. As for myself, though, nothing beats crunchy Cheetos. But I can't even remember the last time I had one.

#3. Pretzels? Your favorite shape? Favorite flavor?

Well, soft pretzels are the hands-down favorite in this house. But if we're having regular from-a-bag pretzels, Utz Extra Darks are the favorite, followed closely by the pretzel rods and Snyder's Sourdoughs.

#4. Share a recipe for salsa or dip.

Based on a Rachael Ray recipe, this is sort of a side dish, sort of a salsa/dip.

1 bag frozen corn, defrosted if it's winter, or not in summer
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1-3 tomatoes, chopped
1 bunch finely chopped cilantro
5 green onions, finely sliced, white and some green
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped (optional)
1 tsp OR Tbs minced garlic, depending on how you like it (hot or not)
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tsp cumin
1 avocado - peeled, pitted, and diced (optional but yummy!)
2 tablespoons olive oil, or to taste

Mix all together in bowl. Serve with something scoopable.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

No Comment

A friend emailed me today to let me know she'd been blocked from commenting on my blog. I checked my settings and found they were pretty limiting as far as who would be allowed to comment. It's a puzzlement, since I moderate and have the word thing and all, but my apologies if anyone wanted to comment and was blocked. It should be more hospitable now.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

WFMW--Record Time

A couple of years ago, we had a flood in our basement. Fortunately, the water was clean, and large plastic toys wipe up pretty easily. But there was one big loss: about 6 liquor boxes full of my parents' records. I don't know when in my life I thought I'd be listening to Last of the Red Hot Cha-Cha's or Liberace's Piano Memories or the original cast recording of Tovarich! But they were so mildewed, there was no hope for them and in to the trash they went.

I also had a ton of my parents' and grandparents' old records in storage. When my parents died, it became horrifyingly apparent that they had each been the repository for all the stuff from all the childless aunts and uncles before them, so my poor husband and I were going through generations and branches of family stuff, not just our own nuclear family's. We're still not done, I'm sorry to say. Even with a mountain of trash in the driveway (and I mean a mountain...the pile was at least 10 feet tall, and took up all three car-spaces horizontally), we just ran out of time to finish culling, so stuff is still in storage, not because I don't want it, but because I don't know what it is.

One reason for this: a lot (ok, maybe just a little if I'm lucky) of this stuff is still useful to someone, somewhere, and I want to figure out who and where. This is bordering on psychotic, really. Normal people would have chucked or recycled or donated long ago.

But the records! My one grandmother had a Victrola. And my grandfather loved Gospel and ragtime (go figure) and had Scott Joplin records from his youth. I hated to just consign them to the dump without someone telling me whether they were worth anything to anyone.

All the record dealers, though, seemed to only want, say, Motown recordings from 1953 to 1959. Or needed me to ship them myself. Or some other problem.

And then...bliss in the paper! There was a picture of some high school kids loading boxes in a van, and it turned out, it was quite a record collection from a local musician. But what caught me most about the caption was that the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra, whose van it was, is not picky about the records it collects. It has a growing archive of recorded music of all formats but primarily LPs. And so, all our records, from Pop-Pop's 78 of How Great Thou Art to my husband's totally awesome late 70s/early 80s Elvis Costello and Talking Heads, headed off to Indiana. ("Indiana needs my records," my husband said, when I asked if he was really ok with sending off decades of coolness cred to Bloomington.)

I'm a little sad, really (and if truth be told, I just typed "lottle" so maybe I'm sadder than I care to admit). But we have nothing decent on which to play these; I can't imagine my kids will care about Tubby the Tuba more on a record than on an iPod, and apparently, Jesus Christ Superstar is still available if I want to hear Judas' Lament ever again. And while I loved the ritual of loading all the 45s with the soundtrack of South Pacific on the turntable, my kids have no interest whatsoever. And frankly, neither do I--or at least not enough.

But I am thrilled to have gotten what I wanted: a home for the records, where someone who knows what they are worth, whether that is "not what it will cost to haul them away" or "more than you ever dreamed." (Note: the over-under for us on this collection is $200. I'm taking the under.)

So...are you sitting on a record collection that you would like to see get a good home? Please contact this nice man, Dave Canfield, and he will tell you the best way to go about it. They do take all kinds of media, including tapes (ah, had we but known) and CDs, and will talk to you about the best way to get them to Bloomington. What's in it for you, besides reclaimed space? A tax deduction. Dave is apparently quite the appraisal expert and will go record by record and see what you donated and send you a form for the IRS at tax time. His email is davecanfield (@) sbcglobal. net (without the spaces obviously) and he is lovely to work with.

I'm just excited that maybe somebody, somewhere, will be excited to hear some of these long-silent sounds again. And that's working for me.

So is Bossy...thanks for the link!

And Shannon, so are you. Thank you for the fun of these past few years and thanks especially for passing on your internet baby so we can keep on playing, learning, and meeting over there!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Uber-late FFOF 66

Oh, criminy. I am so sick this week I'm glad this isn't really about food!

#1. Are your Kitchen utensils nylon, silicone, wood or other?

Depends what you are talking about. Silverware is stainless, and so are most serving pieces. I love my nonsticks, so I have a good collection of silicone too. But, there are some things that wood is just plain best for, so I have a few of those too.

#2. Do you prefer dishes washed in a dishwasher or by hand?

I am too wimpy with water temperature so I way prefer dishwasher. But, mine is dying (still) so I do a lot by hand, being too cheap to actually replace it until it keels over dead.

#3. How many sets of dishes do you have?

Three. I only ever use one, the Corelle. (Which is really one made out of two, because yes, my boys are talented enough to break Corelle.) But I have my parents' dishes, and my grandmother's dishes, all of which I love, and none of which I can use until the little guy stops dropping at least one serving item (dish or utensil or cup) per meal.

#4. Share a recipe that calls for only one pot or pan.

Right now? Cup-of-soup is my big suggestion, I'm sorry to say. But I was wildly impressed with the African Chicken from Glorious One Pot Meals and highly recommend checking it out at your library to see if it's something you'd enjoy!

MPM--Sick as a Dog Edition

Hello, blogfriends,

I have been hit with the worst flu I've had in ... well, since the last bloggy gathering in my neck of the woods. That time it was a fever. This week, I have had a sore throat for a full seven days now, and if my doctor would pick up the phone, I would be over there in a heartbeat. It's starting to get me worried.

And I can't taste anything so cooking has been not so inspirational. The saddest part of this is that my husband went all-out for Valentine's Day, broiling steak au poivre, sauteeing spinach with red onions and red wine, and making baked potatoes that were utterly perfect. And I could barely taste any of it. What I could taste was totally amazing so that was the silver lining. He is significantly more gifted in the kitchen than I am, though he has the full-time job, hence my scrambling to figure out what I'm doing over here.

Last week: the cranberry pork roast was a huge hit. I followed directions exactly, with one exception of finishing after my super-hot crockpot was done at 3.5 hours. The texture was more roast like and less fall-y apart-y than my favorite pork roast that I do. I can't taste it, still, but my husband liked it and my kids...well...they still are in a won't-touch-it-if-I-don't-recognize-it stage. Which drives me nuts as they love pork usually, but c'est la vie. Plenty of leftover tacos for the older boy at least.

This week...well, lots depends on kicking this flu or whatever it is.

Monday: leftovers (pork roast for grownups, with rice for soaking up the yummy sauce, tacos for boys)

Tuesday: The Kindergarten Lottery! Not quite as sinister as the short story but close. Too many of us want morning kindergarten for our kids so they do a public lottery where they pull names until the morning classes are full, and then they make a waitlist. So we have to hustle out for that and I'm hoping my in-laws can come stay with the kids. So: Poppy seed chicken, slow cooker roasted veggies, chick pea salad, rice.

Wednesday: Take out. Really jonesing for some biriyani. If I can taste it. Otherwise, freezer meal.

Thursday: Sausage and quinoa bake. Will try to link to recipe.

Friday: Take out, or spaghetti and meatballs.

And please please please let me be better by next week. I can't believe this has hung on this long.

Don't miss I'm an Organizing Junkie for great menus and recipe tips!

And to pick up on the allusion above, it was so nice to meet all the new-to-me-at-least-in-person bloggers at Well Read Hostess's today. It was a lovely gathering and I only hope I didn't infect the whole crew. I'll have links to their blogs up soon.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

MPM--Back to School Edition!

So, we made it to the end of the school break, which must mean we're in the thick of the second term. My son can't wait to go back to school, and the letters and notes from the kids who will be teaching him just get him more and more excited to go.

And I'm in the last of a few weeks of a work marathon, and the dog has her surgical followup, and my husband's staycation ends...and we're getting back to normal around here, I think.

I'm still obsessing over the Splendid Table book. And now I've discovered a blog by a friend-of-a-friend (well, really, the wife of a friend of my husband's) with equal excitement over the first Splendid Table book, which is more Italian based, and, well, it's now on the list too but a bit lower down. Too much else going on here first. But from my book, the curried cauliflower soup was delish, and a bit of a surprise with three tablespoons of curry in it, only a teeny bit too spicy for me. But the yogurt set it off perfectly, and even though they insisted on whole milk yogurt, Trader Joe's Greek style fat free was just fine in this case. Yum. And it was an excellent opportunity to use the new immersion blender, which I loved! So fun. There are a few more recipes to go that I want to try (the beans, the spaghetti sauce with cinnamon, the chocolate lava cakes, the macaroons...ok, maybe more than a few) but I'm calming down now.

So, last week I intended to go out a lot. Instead I cooked a lot. That was ok too. So this week:

Monday: leftovers. Chicken & leeks (I shared with the family this time), rice, broccoli, salad, spaghetti and meatballs, all buffet style

Tuesday: I can't resist a whole-cranberry recipe so I'll be trying the cranberry pork recipe from the Year of Crockpotting blog. Will serve with baked potatoes, and the Smitten Kitchen caramelized shallots.

Wednesday: Turkey tacos. Yep, again, it's been at least ten days now.

Thursday: Leftovers.

Friday: Out to dinner. To beat the holiday rush, of course. Heart shaped pizzas all around!

Wish me luck. This is the last week of crazy, then back to semi-normal. If you want more inspiration for your dinners, try the best menus on the web at I'm an Organizing Junkie's!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

FFOF, a little late

Hey! VALMG came back and I missed it, somehow. If you want to play, go here.

#1. What’s the funniest sounding food or ingredient you know of?

My kids think leeks, bananas and coconut sound pretty silly.

#2. How do you pronounce “cavatelli”?

Gobbadeel, of course! I had a heck of a time finding it in the store the first time I was looking for it!

#3. How do you pronounce “gnocchi”?

Nyucky. They are my favorite. My boys love the Curious George tv show but it took me a long time to figure out that the cat's name wasn't "Noki!"

#4. Share a recipe that calls for mozzarella cheese.

In honor of my newest food obsession, a recipe I can't wait to try from The Spendid Table's How to Eat Supper, as it is a twist on my favorite thing to do with mozzarella cheese: stick it between tomatoes with some olive oil and basil leaves. Yum.

Ripe Tomato Stack with Pine Nuts and Mozzarella

Serves 4 as a main dish, 6 to 8 as a starter
20 min prep time
Salad can be assembled 30 minutes ahead

Garlic and pine nuts, currants and onion, take the ubiquitous tomato-mozzarella salad into new territory. Adapted from my second book, this salad might be The Splendid Table's website's most popular download. We had to include it here.

For me , this dish is all Sicily, but nto in the way you might think. It speaks of Sicily's location ninety miles off the coast of North Africa and of the island's Arab occupation from the ninth to twelft century. That era brough Arab cooks--along with scholars, artists, and politicians--to the island. So today this salad tastes more medieval and Arab than anything like modern Italy. This is pure Sicily, as typical as a view of Mount Etna.


3 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/8 tsp fresh ground black pepper
Generous pinch of red pepper flakes
1/3 medium red onion, cut into 1/4 inch dice
3 Tbs dried currants
2 Tight packed tablespoons fresh basil leaves, torn
2/3 cup pine nuts, toasted


6 medium ripe tomatoes
1 pound fresh mozzarella packed in liquid, sliced 1/2 inch thick
About 3 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil

1. To make the dressing, in a small bow, combine the lemon juice, garlic, black pepper, red pepper flakes, onion, currants, and salt to taste. Let the mixture stand for 20-30 minutes. Just before assembling the dish, stir in the basil and all but 1/4 cup of the pine nuts.

2. Core the tomatoes. Check that each is stable when placed cored side down on a plate. (The idea behind this dish is that each tomato will be sliced horizontally and layered with the cheese and seasonings so that it looks whole again on the plate. keep each tomato's slices in order for easy assembly.)

3. Cut each tomato horizontally into 1/2 inch thick slices. Place the bottom slice of each tomato on a serving platter. Season them with a little salt, then top each wth a slice of cheese. Season the cheese with a teaspoon or so of the onion mixture. Continue the layers until all the tomatoes are reassembled.

4. To finish the dish, sprinkle the tomatoes with the reserved pine nuts, the olive oil, and any leaftover onion mixture. Serve at room temperature.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

MPM--Staycation Edition

Happy February everyone! Ours starts with a joyous day--our niece is being baptized. (We were sure that this would be why the Eagles played in the Superbowl but they were merciful and bowed out two weeks ago. That also dropped the Eagles Cereal--I kid you not, it's faux-Cheerios in an Eagles-themed box, collect all 8 designs!--down to 2 for $3--yessss!) So that's our day today.

Alas, once upon a time, before the baptism was scheduled, before the dog tore her ACL, before I realized my work schedule, we had planned to go somewhere with a very big mouse with the kids this week. And that is clearly not happening. We're going next year anyway, so we'll just have to wait and I'll just have to be patient. I am sad to not be there, but we are full of fun things around here we keep saying, "Oh, this would be fun to do someday, wouldn't it?" And this week, we hope, will be "someday."

So, the meals are a little catch-as-catch-can, as we are going on some good local day trips and I'm hoping dinners will be out several of the nights. (Still cheaper than flights and a hotel, right?)

Meanwhile, January is over but my infatuation with The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper cookbook is not. Some recipes didn't go perfectly--for instance, I'm embarrassed to admit, Dumbed-Down Rice. It was still crunchy in the middle both times I tried it. But there was a huge game-winning home run in the tarragon chicken with leeks. It was unbelievable and the recipe is below. I know, with a half a stick of butter, how bad can it be? But I'll bet (and will try and see next time) that even with half the butter it would still be great. The brightness of the lemon and the tarragon made it a really delicious dinner that my husband and I did not share with the kids. We're getting bad about that lately.

Something else I enjoyed was her Cheater's Homemade Broth, where you gussy up canned or boxed broth. It does make a difference. And there are a bunch of other ones to try in there that I just didn't get to, what with life getting in the way. But there are some amazing looking desserts to try, and a cauliflower soup I hope to make later today....and what I'm saying is, this is definitely worth checking out from the library to see if it fits your tastes and time because it is certainly working for mine.

Glorious One Pot Meals is in for me at the library; if it's really good, it might be my February focus. Certainly it's the right time of year! Otherwise, I'm very excited, my aunt is supplying me with some great resources; Once-a-Month Cooking arrived yesterday, and she's sending me her edition of Deceptively Delicious, so look for those in upcoming months.

Meanwhile, I played catchup this weekend; look at Friday's post for reviews of some of the recipes I've tried lately.

This week:

Sunday: baptism/Superbowl party

Monday: Curried Cauliflower Soup (from The Splendid Table) for parents, noodles for the kids

Tuesday: Spinach Lasagne Rollups (we lucked out in a big big way last week and had turkey lasagne from City Mouse-Country Mouse that we made last all week with salads and garlic breads and other sides, so I didn't get to this last week).

Wednesday: Leftovers or out.

Thursday: Finally finally trying the Real Simple Ravioli with Peas and Shallots thing. Or, if the sale is still on, might do my favorite country-style ribs recipe from The Joy of Cooking. I'll post the recipe if I go that way.

Friday: Out again.

So that's our week in a nutshell. Can't wait to find out what we do this week. Tune in next week to find out! Want some more inspiration? Check out I'm an Organizing Junkie for the most inspired plans on the web.

Now, the recipe of the week, from The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper. (Really, just from the title, how could you possibly go wrong? And it made me look up Jerry Traunfeld and now his cookbook is on my list too. Because dang, this was good.)

Jerry Traunfeld's Tarragon Chicken Breasts with Buttery Leeks
serves 4
5 minutes prep time; 25 minutes stove time
serve immediately or reheat gently

2 cups thin-sliced leeks, white and light green parts only (1 large or 2 small) (I love leeks so I used 4 small with no problem)
2 cups Cheater's Homemade Broth (on p.48 of the book) or canned chicken broth (I used canned College Inn)
4 Tbs unsalted butter
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 lbs, organic if possible) (again, with the hugeonic organic breasts our Co-op sells, two were a pound and a half, so I butterflied them for quicker, more even cooking)
Kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbs coarse chopped fresh tarragon leaves

1. Place the leeks in a large skillet with the chicken broth and 2 tablespoons of the butter. Cook at a gentle boil over medium heat until they are tender and the broth has boiled down far enough that the leeks are no longer completely submerged. This should take about 8 minutes.

2. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Place them on top of the simmering leeks, spoon some of the leeks over the chicken, and cover the pan tightly. Reduce the heat to low. After 10 minutes, test the chicken for doneness; it should feel firm when you press it. If the breast pieces are large, it could take as much as 15 minutes, but don't overcook them.

3. When the chicken is done, transfer it to a warm platter. Increase the heat under the leeks to high, and stir in the lemon juice, the remaining two tablespoons butter, and the tarragon. When the butter melts, season to taste. pour the leek sauce over the chicken and serve.

They include herbal variations, and leeks-on-their-own variations. The one I'm going to try is the one for a leek and carrot side dish: Prepare the same dish using half leeks and half thin-sliced carrots with some crushed garlic. Finish them with a squirt of fresh lemon juice but omit the tarragon.

They also recommend The Herbfarm Cookbook by Jerry Traunfeld and if this recipe is indicative of what he's offering, this one needs to be on my list.