Wednesday, January 30, 2013

All This Time... were growing in my belly, little one.  We are so glad and blessed that you are here.

I anticipate many, many more moments like this. 

Bunni and Rikki are dazed and exhausted, as you can see, since their 22-hour nap schedules have been disrupted.

Little E arrived on January 17 at 8:12 p.m., weighing in at a hefty 8 lbs. Can you believe that? I'm 5'2". I blame his size squarely on Kevin, who's 6 feet tall.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Pork Chops Shepherd Style

Pork! Whenever I think of the word "pork", I think of the movie Babe.  During one of the scene changes where three little mice say something irreverent, they squeak out "Pork is a good white meat--ahahahaHAHAHA..." in a somewhat maniacal chorus. It has stayed with me ever since.

We had my parents over for dinner the other night and I made these pork chops, after seeing Lidia Bastianich making them on TV.  I adapted the recipe to serve 4 people instead of 6.  Even then, we had plenty of leftovers (these chops were hunky) and used them for sandwiches. Delicious.

4 bone-in pork loin chops, about 1-inch thick, 6 to 8 ounces each
salt and pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour, for dredging
2 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
3 small or 2 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
2 plump garlic cloves, sliced
4 oz hunk of provolone, sliced into 4 pieces
3/4 cup white wine (optional)

Note: the nice thing about this recipe is that you can brown the pork and cook the onions ahead of time, and then about 30-45 minutes before you're ready to serve, proceed with the rest of the recipe.

Heat oil in an ovenproof 12-inch skillet over medium heat.  Generously season each side of the pork chops with salt and pepper.

Dredge the pork chops in the flour, shake off the excess, and lay the pork chops in the skillet in a single layer.  Cook for about 4-5 minutes until the bottoms are light golden brown, then flip and brown the other side for another 4-5 minutes.

Remove the pork chops to a plate.  Place the sliced onions and garlic into the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden brown, about 15 minutes (the original recipe says to cover the skillet but I overlooked that).

You can stop at this point.  When ready to continue (or if  you were motoring through to begin with), preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Push the onions over to one side of the skillet and place the pork chops back in the skillet.  Top each pork chop with onions, and lay the slices of provolone over the onions.

Raise the heat to medium high, and when things are sizzling, pour the wine around (not on top of) the pork chops.  Let reduce for a minute or so.  Place the skillet into the oven for about 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the pork chops and how you like them done.  I like them slightly pink in the center.  Foregoing the more accurate thermometer method to check for doneness, I did the good ol' method of hacking into one with a knife to see how pink it was.

Remove to a platter, let rest for 5 minutes, and serve.  I made this broccoli rabe to go along with the pork. (Note about the broccoli rabe recipe: no need to get rid of the stems, they get soft with the long cooking time, and start checking your greens at 45 minutes or less because the 1 hour 15 minute cooking time in the recipe is a little nutso. Also, I ditched the garlic chip topping .)


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Nursery Reveal

I am 38 weeks pregnant.  Are we ready? I'm not sure if anyone can ever really be ready for a baby and the extreme life change to come, and besides, the answer in our case is a definitive "no".  Oh you think I'm joking.  While having your nursery all set up is not necessarily indicative of how prepared people are to raise a baby, it's a nice benchmark that shows that you've...well, put thought and effort into the endeavor.  At some point, during one of my haphazard and aimless wanderings into the nursery, I completely abandoned the notion that we would be ready in this regard.

Admittedly, I have been organizing and making lists of things that need to get done (like learn how to strap a baby into the carseat).  Some may call this "nesting". I don't think so. It's more like "basic shit needs to get done so why don't you finish eating that cookie and get to work".

So here are pics of our nursery, the state of which directly correlates to and quite accurately depicts my frame of mind and preparedness for the impending baby.

Hallway leading into nursery.  At some point, I'm guessing soon, this table, which will be used as a diaper changing table, will need to move into the actual nursery, although there isn't room for it now because of the following...

Some people put up wall art, bookshelves, and mobiles in their nursery.  We have decided that "boxes" is a fine theme for decor.

Kevin did set up the crib. This is the crowning achievement of our nursery.  It's the Gulliver crib from Ikea.  Like you care--this isn't exactly the type of nursery from which pinterest posts and inspiration are derived.

This is what the baby will be looking at from the crib.  We want our baby's first word to be "clutter" or "junk".  That crib railing there? That was the defective one that I managed to get Ikea to replace after a cumulative 1.5 hours on the phone (99% of it on hold). Behind it is a shipping box for 12 bottles of wine. We thought that was appropriate for a nursery.

And there you have it.  I hope this post makes you feel better about your life.

Oh, and here's a picture of me last week at 37 weeks.

Monday, January 7, 2013

2012 Cookie Tins

You get a double dose of recipes today--cookie recipes, to be specific.  And you thought today was going to be like any old day. I realize that by making that comment, I am taking the slight risk that I overestimate the impact of this blog post on your life. I'm not a Leo for nothing. Please don't burst my bubble, because I'll just come up with another delusion to make myself feel better.

Hm, after all that, I looked back at my blog and realized that I already shared one of the cookie recipes with you. So, it is just a single dose of recipe today. I imagine you are devastated.  If not, please see above note about keeping me in ignorance.

Anyway, a few years ago I got in the "habit" (if doing something two years in a row counts as a "habit") of making cookie tins for some family members.  The first year I made 5 different kinds of cookies.  The next year, I made 3.  This year, I trimmed it to a very sleek and slim 2 varieties.  I highly recommend this to myself for any future cookie tins.

I made molasses spice cookies again, and rugelach.  Both cookie recipes are from Dorie Greenspan, and can be found on the internet or in Dorie's Baking: From My Home to Yours.

I love rugelach--so tasty, and so festive in appearance.  Perfect for a cookie tin.

I made this recipe twice.  The first time I followed the recipe as is, putting all the filling ingredients into each cookie.  The second time, I made half with the jam, cinnamon sugar, currants and nuts, and the other half with a brush of egg wash, cinnamon sugar, chocolate chips and nuts. You can play around with this recipe.


For the Dough
4 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into 4 pieces
1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Filling
2/3 cup raspberry jam, apricot jam or marmalade
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped nuts (I generally use pecans for any baking that calls for nuts, unless the recipe calls for peanuts, in which case I use peanuts--I won't get into this now)
1/4 cup plump, moist dried currants
2/3 cup mini chocolate chips (or 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, but the mini chips are so much easier)

For the Glaze

1 large egg
1 teaspoon cold water
2 tablespoons sugar, preferably decorating (coarse) sugar (I forgot this)

Notes: I like to make the dough, form the cookies, and freeze them at least a day beforehand just to break things up. If you freeze your cookies before baking, add a few minutes to the baking time (no need to defrost).

To make the dough, place the flour, salt, butter and cream cheese in a food processor.  

Dorie says to pulse the dough 6 to 10 times, scraping down the sides as you go, then processing continuously until large curds form. I didn't scrape the sides down, just pulsed and then processed. I think it turned out okay. You don't want to process it so that it forms into a big ball--that's going too far and bad things will happen. Divide the dough in half, form each half into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 1 day (or freeze for up to 2 months).

When ready to form the rugelach, take out 1 disk of dough and let rest on the counter for about 10 minutes. Mix the cinnamon and sugar together.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the disk into a 11 to 12-inch diameter circle.  Thinly spread half of the jam onto the dough circle.

Then sprinkle half the cinnamon-sugar mixture, currants, nuts and chocolate over the dough.  Take a piece of wax paper (or plastic wrap) and gently press the filling ingredients down into the dough.

Rugelach pizza!  Using a sharp knife or a pizze cutter, divide the disk into 16 wedges (start by quartering the pizza, then halving each quadrant into 8 pieces, and then halving each piece for a total of 16).  Starting from the outside of each wedge, roll up tightly, ending with the tip tucked under the bottom.

The one on the right rebelled against the whole "tip under the bottom" instruction.

Place the formed rugelach onto a greased baking sheet (a greased/nonstick surface is important because some of the jam will seep out) and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (or, you can freeze them, lightly covered, for up to 2 months).  

Repeat with the second disk of dough.

Whenever you are ready to bake the rugelach, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the egg and water, and brush the tops of each cookie with the egg wash.  If you remember (which I didn't), sprinkle the 2 TBS sugar over the cookies.

Bake the rugelach for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back midway through, until the rugelach are golden. 

Remove each rugelach to a cooling rack.

Cameo by molasses spice cookies.

For packing the cookie tins, I bought some red and green packing filler from World Market and placed it at the bottom of the tin, and then nestled the cookies into muffin wrappers.  For the larger molasses spice cookies, I flattened out the muffin wrappers into disks.  I covered the whole thing with parchment paper before putting the lid on and sending the tins on their way.

Hail the cookie tin! Ta-da!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake

Happy New Year! Hope you all had a great holiday season.

I have a suggestion for post-holiday blues: post-holiday baking!  That suggestion may have been borne from the fact that I am late in posting some recipes. But now that I've made the suggestion, I really do think it could work.

I first made this chocolate gingerbread cake years ago and decided to revisit it this year.  Before I begin, I have a couple of things to tell you.  First, this recipe is from the lovely Dorie Greenspan. I get to call her "lovely", implying a sense of intimacy with Dorie G. that I completely lack, because I once saw her on a subway platform.  I didn't say anything at the time, but you can be sure that afterwards, I found her website, and left a creepy comment asking if it had indeed been her standing on the platform, and how I should have said hello (because that would have been less creepy, of course).  Because she is indeed lovely, she actually wrote me back and confirmed that it was her, and I forget how exactly the next part came about, but she emailed me her recommendations of places to eat in Paris, a city that I had mentioned we would be visiting in the next month. So see? I get to call her "lovely", because she is.

Second, I am going to show you how to make this cake, but I made one huge mistake with this recipe this time.  I inadvertently used blackstrap molasses instead of regular molasses (the recipe specifically states that blackstrap molasses should not be used, and if you do some research--although don't because I'm going to tell you--you'll see that blackstrap molasses is generally not used for baking because it's so damn freakin' strong). As with most things that go awry in my life, I blame this on someone else.  Specifically Whole Foods.  The only molasses on the shelf said "molasses" on the label. Nothing about blackstrap. I figured I was safe.  After making the cake, I wondered why it was so much darker and sharper than the previous cakes I made.  I looked at the ingredient label on the "molasses" bottle, and the first ingredient was "blackstrap molasses". What the hell gives.  Kevin compared the taste to tar. Thank you sweetie. I made a tar cake.

Anyway, the method is the same, but your final product will be much lighter in color and hopefully in texture as well if you use regular molasses (like Grandma's Original Molasses commonly found in grocery stores).

Oh, there is a third thing to tell you--the original recipe has a chocolate icing. I skip that.  If you want the chocolate icing, see the link above.


2 tablespoons finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon sugar
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate—2 ounces melted and cooled, 4 ounces finely chopped
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (5 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
1 cup buttermilk (I used a cup of whole milk and 1 TBS of lemon juice)
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger in syrup (available in Asian markets), optional (I did not use this, but I imagine it would be very tasty)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch square pan (which I do not have, so I used a 10-inch springform pan) and set it on a baking sheet.

Prep your chocolate (both the melted and the chopped) and fresh ginger.  Mix the ginger with 1 TBS sugar.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and dry spices.

Beat together the butter and light brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes).  Crack in the eggs one by one, beating for 1 minute after each egg on medium speed.

Add in the molasses and mix on low speed until blended.

The batter will probably look a little curdled at this point. That's okay.  Carry on. Add in the melted chocolate and ginger-sugar mixture and mix until blended (low speed again).

Still on low speed, alternate adding the dry ingredients and buttermilk in 3 parts each (i.e. dry, buttermilk, dry, buttermilk, dry, buttermilk).  Stop when just incorporated--you don't want to overmix because that develops gluten.

Using a spatula, fold in the chopped chocolate.

Pour batter into prepared pan, and place the pan (which is still on the baking sheet) in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Place pan on cooling rack for about 10 minutes, then unmold the cake (place a plate upside down on the top of the pan, flip the pan upside down so the cake is upside down on the plate--remove the pan and then flip the cake back onto the cooling rack).

When completely cool, slice and serve.  This was part of our Christmas dinner, which was served with this chocolate pecan tart (which was the most complicated version of pecan pie I have ever made, which is of course why my sister put it on the menu, because her culinary skills know no bounds) and whipped cream.

As I said, yours will be much lighter than this "slice of tar" (which Kevin would call it). Ta-da!