Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day: Epic Fail

**Note** So sorry for the weird spacing....blogger is doing it's own thing apparently!

I consider myself to be a pretty decent cook. I have managed to put together some pretty complex meals in my day. Not often do I get scared of trying something new in the kitchen and often find comfort and joy when preparing a wonderful meal for my husband.

A bit of history for you: On the first Valentine's Day that Pat and I celebrated I decided to make Flounder Francaise. It's fish that is dredged in eggs and flour and then cooked in a skillet. What we ate for dinner instead of lovely flounder, was soggy fish in a scrambled egg mix. Yes, I totally messed that one up! Pat, being the great boyfriend at the time ate it right up. However, I have never made it again.

The past few Valentine's Days have been pretty successful. Two years ago we made King Crab Legs and got engaged! Last year I made pretty great dishes courtsey of The Pioneer Woman. This year, although we have a super cute baby to celebrate with, cooking our special meal...well, let's just say I'm glad I had wine on hand!

First things first. I decided to prep my goat cheese for my Baked Goat Cheese salad the night before. I chopped my chives, used dried thyme instead of fresh and got out my fresh goat cheese. I mixed them together in the processor and stuck it in the fridge. However, I was secretly worried as first of all, my cheese turn GREEN! And secondly, the cheese mix just seemed WAY too runny. But I just put it out of my mind.

On Valentine's morning, after the cheese had chilled for over 12 hours, I prepped everything to make the rounds. I beat my eggs in a dish. I put my chopped pecans in another dish and grabbed my cheese from the fridge. I used a spoon to scoop out the cheese and then started to roll it in my hands to form a ball. However, instead I bascially just ended up with a handfull of gooey cheese. For whatever reason the cheese never firmed up, and therefore could not be made into balls. So after some quick thinking I tosssed the cheese mixture into the freezer hoping to encourage the firming process. This seemed to help a bit, but ultimatly I only managed to get 5 disks dipped in egg and nuts before everything started melting apart. I will say, while not pretty (or correctly done I am prety sure) the 5 disks that I did end up baking were pretty center and all!

On to the meringue.... After Lucy's morning feeding and my workout, I decided to get started on the merignue while she was down for her nap. Let me just say, I am pretty sure Ina Garten is a big, fat, liar. She claimed you only need to beat the egg whites and sugar for 3 minutes, max. I was standing there for a good ( and I mean GOOD ) 10 mintues. Ok, so I don't have an electric mixer, but I have a hand mixer with a whisk attachment so I'm not sure that should make a difference. Anyways, I finally got the stiff peaks I had been waiting for and into the oven it went.

And that is where it stayed the rest of the day. No, it was not done when Ina said it would be done. In fact, it pretty much wasn't ever done. I baked the crap out of it all day long and finally by evening I had achieved the crisp outer crust I had been promised. Out of the oven it came! It looked great and I was pretty proud of myself that I had managed to pull together my first ever meringue.
I look back on that moment of blissful ignorance and laugh to myself. Oh, don't worry, the inside was a total runny mess. Can you believe that?? After baking all freaking day, it STILL wasn't done. Oy! So I cut around the edges and saved that part and pitched the rest. I added some whipped cream and my berry mix to the parts and pieces pavlova. The best part of this is the fact that neither Pat or I even liked it. So we just ate the berries and called it a day.

Finally....the scallops. I have made Scallops Provencial multiple times before. It's a fancy dish with minimal effort. However, add a screaming baby to the mix and well...that's right folks, third fail! Ok, ok so it wasn't a total disaster, but my scallops certinaly weren't as good as I have made them before. And by the way, what the heck was I thinking making only beige-toned foods.

To top it all off, Lucy cried the entire evening. From the moment Pat walked in the door to the time we finally got her to go to sleep. Nothing like sharing a "romantic' mediocre meal with your husband, while taking turns trying to calm your cranky baby.

Next year it's gonna be a frozen pizza and a few beers. Good thing I had some wine and the picture Lucy and I made for Pat to look at.

The one upside is that while I have been so (and I mean more than words can describe) dreading going back to work...after a day like today, sitting at a nice, quite desk for 8 hours doesn't seem all that terrible.

But then I see this cute face...and I am sunk once all over again!

Scallops Provencal
Barefoot Contessa
1 pound of bay or sea scallops
Salt and Pepper
All purpose flour, for dredging
4 Tbs of unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup chopped shallots
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 lemon, cut in 1/2
1. Sprinkle the scallops with salt and pepper, toss with flour, and shake off the excess.
2. In a very large saue pan, heat 2 tbs of butter over high heat until sizzling and add the scallops in 1 layer. Lower the heat to medium and allow teh scallops to brown lightly on 1 side without moving them, then turn and brown lightly on the other side. This should take 3-4 minutes, total.
3. Melt the rest of the butter in the pan with the scallops, then add the shallots, garlic, and parsley and saute for 2 more minutes, tossing the seasonings with the scallops.
4. Add the wine, cook for 1 minute, and taste for seasoning. Serve hot with a squeeze of lemon juice.
Herbed Baked Goat Cheese Salad
America's Test Kitchen

1 1/2 cups pecans
12 ounces goat cheese, softened
2 Tbs chopped fresh chives
1 tsp minced fresh thyme
2 large eggs
Vegetable oil spray
12 cups hearty salad greens
Dried cranberries
Carrots, chopped
Red onion, chopped
1. Pulse the pecans in a food processor until finely chopped, about 10 pulses; transfer to a medium bowl. Add teh cheese, chives and thyme o the food processor and process until smooth, about 30 seconds. Refrigerate the cheese mixture in a covered bowl until firm, at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.
2. Using your hands, take 2 Tbs of the chilled cheese mixture at a time and roll into twelve 1 1/2 inch balls. Beat the eggs in a meduim bowl. One at a time, dip the balls in the egg, allow the excess to run off, then roll them in the nuts, pressing gently to adhere. Place the balls 2 inches apart on a rimmed baking sheet. Press the balls into 2 inch disks with a greased measuring cup. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until completely firm, at least 2 hours or up to 1 week.
3. Adjust the oven rack to the upper position and heat the oven to 475. Remove the plastic and spray the cheese lightly with vegetable oil spray. Bake until the nuts are golden brown and the cheese is warmed through, 7 to 10 mintues. Let cool for 3 minutes.
4. Toss with carrots, croutons, and greens. Add dressing of your preference.
Mixed Berry Pavlova
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa


4 extra large egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch of kosher salt
1 cup sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/2 pint blackberries
1/2 pint rasberries
Whipped cream

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a sheet pan. Draw a 9 inch circle on the paper, suing a 9 inch plate as a guide, then turn the paper over so the circle is on the reverse side. (You won't get pencil mark on the meringue).
2. Place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on high spead until firm, about 1 minute. With the mixer still on high, slowly add the sugar and beat until it makes firm, shiny peakes, about 3 minutes.
3. Remove the bowl from the mixer, sift the cornstarch onto the beaten egg whites, add the venegar and vanilla, and fold in lightly with a rubber spatula. Pile the meringue into the middle of the circle on the parchment paper and smooth it within the circle, making a rough disk.
4. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. Turn off the oven, keep door closed, and allow the meringue to cool completely im the oven, about 1 hour. It will be crips on the outside and soft inside.
5. Invert the merintue disk onto a plate and spread the top completely with sweetened whipped cream. Combine the strawberries, blackberries and resberries in a bowl and toss with sugar. Spoon the berres carefully into the middle of the Pavlova, leaving a borner of cream and meringue. Serve immediately.
Last Bite: When celebrating Valentine's Day with a new baby at home, try something easy, like spaghetti!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow Day!

Yesterday at this time it was not snowing at all. People on Facebook were going crazy with doubtful comments about the impending "Snowmagadden 2011". And yet, at about 3:30 yesterday afternoon the first delightful snowflakes began to fall. And fall, and fall and fall. Currently our little town is buried beneath about 13 inches of light, fluffy snow.

Although I am home on maternity leave right now and every day is essentially a snow day for me, I had so much excitement built up in my about the blizzard. How funny! I was glued to the TV and was even thrilled when I noticed my work had cancelled operations for today! Like it really made a difference or something. Then when I got up for Lucy's first feeding I found myself turning the TV on in the middle of the night, searching for more reports on how bad this blizzard was going to get. I think mostly I was hoping that it would be bad enough that Pat wouldn't have to go into work today. And then, during the 5am feeding, finally a snow emergency had been declared. No one out on the streets, expect for emergency personnel. I put the baby to bed and crawled into my own bed bursting with excitement to tell my husband he would have to take a Snow Day!

However I forget how easily I tend to romanticise events like this. Turns out Pat still has to work from home today and while he isn't working, he is out trying to dig out our house. So, really, it's just about like any other day. But still fun!

Things with Lucy have started get a lot better. I think her little system is finally healing and she is a much happier baby now. And I think we are making improvements in the sleep department. Turns out my baby is a belly baby. She LOVES to sleep on her belly. I know, I know...before you freak out on me, Back is Best. But she LOVES her belly. So for naps during the day she sleeps on her belly since I am able to keep and eye on her. And at night sometimes I will start her out on her belly and then move her to her back once she is asleep. It may not be ideal...but sleep deprivation will make a person very creative!

Sleepin' on the tum-tum!

I am also getting some wonderful smiles from her. However she likes to make a liar out of me since no matter HOW hard I try...I still can't catch one with the camera yet. Oh well....they are adorable and I know there are plenty more to come.

All bundled up heading to Grammie's!

Trying out the new shades during a very "sunny" feeding!

Cute baby!

In other news...I cooked this week!!! Can you believe it?!? Like a real recipe! And it was delish! I am including it below in case you happen to already have everything on hand...and if not then do try it out once you have shoveled yourself out of your house!

Chicken Cutlets with Orange and Arugula
Rachel Ray "Look + Cook" Cookbook


1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Freshly grated nutmeg
Handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped (I used dried)
Zest of 1 orange
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs beaten
4 small thin cut boneless skinless chicken breasts
Salt and Pepper
Olive oil
2 seedless oranges
2 yellow or orange tomatoes, seeded and diced (I used good ole red ones)
1/2 small red onion, chopped
2 tablespoons EVOO
4 cups baby arugula leaves


1. Combine bread crumbs, cheese, nutmeg, parsley and orange zest in a shallow bowl. Place the flour in a second dish and the eggs in a third, positioned between the flour and bread crumbs.
2. Lightly pound the chicken between wax paper into large, thin cutlers. Season the cutlets with salt and pepper and coat them with the flour, eggs and bread-crumb mixture. Heat 1/2 inch of frying oil in a very large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, cook the cutlets 1 or 2 at a time, depending on the pan size for about 2 minutes per side. As the cutlets are done, place on a baking rack to drain. The cutlets may be served at room temperature, but you want them to remain crisp.
3. While the cutlets cook, peel and section the oranges and dice. Combine with the tomatoes, onion, EVOO and salt and pepper to taste. When ready to serve, gently mix in the arugula leaves.
4. Top the cutlets with mounds of orange and arugula salad and serve.


Have a great Snow Day everyone!!