Thursday, October 25, 2012

Junot Diaz Night

If you know me, you know I love to read books, real books. So much so that I only started reading books on my iPad a few months ago! If you know me really well, you know that I went kicking and screaming into the ebooks mostly because I like to hold the real books. I like to smell them. Alright, so maybe I’m creepy….I prefer to use the term “old school”. If you know that my favorite book of all time is To Kill A Mockingbird, you are of the select few. And if you are of these select few, you may or may not know that my beloved copy is one I stole from one of my High School English teachers, has her notes in the margins and that I’ve read it close to a trillion times. I’ve got a lot of “stuff”, but this book is my most prized possession. That said, a close second on my list of favorite books is The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Because you presumably read my blog for food, I will not get into the details of why I love this book so much. What I will tell you is that the biggest reason I love it is because of Junot Diaz’s use of Spanish to paint a picture that cannot be adequately described with English words.

So you can only imagine my excitement to find out Junot Diaz would be at my local book store IN THE FLESH! Which is where I parked my happy a$$ for 3 ½ hours last night. I’d love to get into how amazing he was, but you read my blog for food. So what I’m leading you up to is that I didn’t cook last night due to my temporary residence at Porter Square Books. It was Josh’s night to cook! If you know Josh, you know he doesn’t come up with recipes, but he can execute pretty well. So I gave him a Real Simple recipe and he nailed it! And it was yummy enough to share with ya’ll.

Here’s the breakdown:

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 pork tenderloin
¼ medium head red cabbage, thinkly sliced
½ Tbsp red wine vinegar
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup applesauce

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Heat the oil in a large cast iron skillet (or whatever pan ya got) over medium-high heat. Season the pork with Borsari and cook, turning occasionally, until browned. 8-10 minutes. Add the cabbage and ½ tsp of salt to the pan with the pork and toss to coat. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until the pork is cooked through. 10-12 minutes. Remove the pork and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Add the vinegar and parsley to the cabbage and toss to combine. Serve with the pork and applesauce.

The meal was terrific and I was on cloud nine! Winning evening!

Salud Junot!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Squash the Squash!!!

So it’s been a pretty uninspired week of cooking. Frankly, between work and my workouts and family in town plus Strides, well, you get the picture! That said; I wanted to share a delicious recipe that I cook often in the fall. It really drives home the happy autumn vibes and warms the heart as well as the tummy! Last week in my organics box I received a beautiful Delicata squash. If you’ve ever seen a Delicata, you know that by itself, it’s really not much food. Especially when you have a husband with an empty leg! So I picked up another squash to go with it. I grabbed a Red Kuri squash, mostly because it was pretty. But pretty much any winter squash will work with this fantastic recipe with the exception of spaghetti. Besides being yummy and getting you right into the swing of fall, this is a fantastic choice of veg because likely your farmers’ market is still open and you should be able to get some locally grown! So try there first!

Here’s the breakdown:

1 Delicata Squash
1 Red Kuri Squash
1 Tbsp Hot Madras Curry Powder
2 Tbsp Butter
Olive Oil
¼ cup milk

Cut the both squashes in half and spoon out the seeds. Then rub olive oil on it and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes. Check with a fork at 20 minutes and take them out when a fork easily pierces into the inside. The key is for this to be soft. When the squash is soft, spoon out the insides and put into a bowl. Smash the squash to a mashed potato consistency. Then add milk, butter and curry powder and mix well.

And that’s it folks! I absolutely love this dish and I know you will too! Don’t be afraid of the curry, it is the most essential ingredient to making this an amazing treat! Try it out with any protein, but especially beef, chicken or pork. I’ve never tried it with fish, but hey, I’d try anything once!


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Better Than Your (My) Momma's Chicken & Mushrooms

The first time Josh met my mother, she was cooking for him at her house. I asked him what he’d like since she’s such a fantastic cook. Of all strange things he asked for was chicken marsala. I’m not sure on what planet he thought my super southern momma was going to pull a classic Italian meal from. In fact, I remember marinara sauce coming from a jar and boxed dry spaghetti as a kid. She’d add ground beef usually, but trust me; this was not one of my mom’s specialties! So in an attempt to impress my cute new boyfriend, I asked her to satisfy his ridiculous request. And I prayed that he’d never eaten it before! Well, the woman put together a dish with chicken and mushrooms. But man was it awful! He thought it was fine, but he really should have asked for fried chicken or goulash.
Since that terrible incident, I’ve feared cooking chicken and mushrooms in any combination. I love mushrooms and chicken is a staple for me, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Until, that is, Everyday Food magazine had a recipe for chicken with mushrooms. I had previously admired the loose mushroom section of Whole Foods and this recipe gave me an excuse to buy some.
The problem with this recipe was that it had the chicken dredged in flour and cooked in butter. Alllllrighty then my eating habits just aren’t digging that. Queue Big Eater Small Body remedy! This one’s pretty easy, nix the flour and replace the butter with coconut oil. So I can’t really take the credit for this recipe, but I’ll take the credit for healthing it up and give Martha Stewart her props! What I love about Martha Stewart’s recipes is the ease at which most of them come together. However, Martha Martha Martha, why on earth would you use button mushrooms when you have so many beautiful ones to choose from at Whole Foods?!?!
So enjoy this beautiful mushroomy delight with low stress!
Here’s the breakdown:
2 chicken breasts
1 tsp coconut oil
2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 lb cremini mushrooms, quartered
¼ cup white wine
¼ cup chicken broth
s & p

Slice the chicken breasts in half horizontally to make 2 thin pieces. Pound out the chicken. I used a hammer, but perhaps you’ll have a more official kitchen tool. If not, hammers work! Place some plastic wrap on top of the chicken and work it out! Maybe hold onto this recipe for a tough day at the office! N E WAY…..when the chicken is thin, cut those pieces in equal halves or thirds depending on the size of the piece. Heat coconut oil in a skillet and in batches brown the chicken on both sides. About 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm. Turn the heat down to medium and add thyme and mushrooms to the pan. You may need a little more coconut oil, but eyeball it. Last thing you want is oily food. Even if it is yummy coconut oil. Sauté the mushroom mix for about 6 minutes until they are soft. Add the wine, broth and cook until liquids are reduced by half. This takes about 3 minutes according to the white collar criminal, but I’d say it’s really closer to double that time. Return chicken to the pan and cook for 2 minutes until everything is the same temperature.

Voila! I served this dish with a lemony broccoli that worked really well as a balanced dinner. All ya gotta do is sauté minced fresh garlic, red pepper flakes, zest of one lemon and a minimal amount of coconut oil until the garlic is fragrant. 2 minutes or so. Then add the broccoli. Crank the heat a bit and sauté for about 5 minutes. Do not overcook the broccoli. That’s the absolute worst!

I can safely say this dish was worlds more enjoyable than that chicken marsala attempt in 2002. And though Josh would never admit it to my mom, he did enjoyed it more as well. Hope you’ll try it out as well!


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Smokin Good!

It’s a pretty well-known fact that foodies love pork. In fact, I didn’t even call myself a foodie until I started to really appreciate the world of pork and all it had to offer. Well this foodie is here to tell you about a terrific company in Vermont where they’re smoking the finest quality and happiest of pigs to bring you great sausages, bacons, hams and various other pig products. Established in 1962, Vermont Smoke and Cure has been providing their consumers with a product that they can eat with confidence that the piggies’ and consumers’ best interest and health is a priority.
They currently source their local pigs from a single farm in Franklin, Vermont and season some of their pork with local Vermont maple syrup from Sweet Retreat in Northfield, Vermont, which we love because our local farmers are so important to us! All of us, right? In fact, in 2011 they purchased over 60,000 pounds of pork and beef for their products either in Vermont or not far from there!

The pigs live on pasture during much of the year and in barns with deep bedded packs during the winter and early spring.  They eat only grains and legumes, minerals and pasture or hay.  Farrowing crates aren't used.  These are happy, healthy pigs.

So what are they doing exactly….smoking and curing. And bringing you a quality of products you can taste the Vermontness (is this a word?) in. They are using a restrained hand to bring you a product that you can taste a balance of smoke, salt, pork and maple. And HELLO who doesn’t love maple syrup? I think I’ve heard a particular funny guy at a wedding weekend say “I happen to know everything there is to know about maple syrup! I love maple syrup. I love maple syrup on pancakes. I love it on pizza. And I take maple syrup and put a little bit in my hair when I've had a rough week. What do you think holds it up, slick?” Agreed Mr. Vaughn!
And, if you have a particular food restriction, you’re likely to be able to eat almost anything they produce as all but their beer brats are made without wheat or other gluten containing items, MSG, milk or milk products, or nuts of any kind. And they go so far as to clean all the equipment after making the beer brats to prevent cross contamination! So for those of us with food allergies, Stay Calm & Consume On!  
So what are you waiting around for? Oh yeah, the Boston Local Food Festival isn’t until Sunday! Make sure you check them out then and if you love the product, as I assume you will, they will ship to you! Visit them at Vermont Smoke and Cure! And definitely get your tookuses down to the food festival! Check it out Here!!!!