A Little Slower Than I Planned

I have truly found this a little harder than I expected! The unintentional gymnastics after by birthday party certainly didn’t help. In the end I “only” tore my MCL, but as I found out today that pretty important ligament can be tricky to heel, and there are no real surgical options so it is PT and time. On the positive side I can now have some time out of the knee brace – which means (and yes this is vain) I will stop pulling threads on my favorite line of dresses. Maybe on Friday when I go to my second appointment I can tell him about my hope to run a 5K for my 50th birthday!

Summer is passing by so fast, and not taking any real vacation this summer has been weird, and really makes me feel as if I have missed out. Poppy has been in camp every week, but even she took a week off to recharge her batteries. I cannot believe that she is so close to starting 2nd grade!

Ah, but now onto food, onto my favorite part of this whole thing. I finally cracked open How To Master the Art of Chinese Cooking and took a stab at BBQ pork with simple fried rice. I cheated somewhat with the ribs by cooking them in the sous vide, so I could really just fix them and forget them for 24 hours! I use an Anova for my sous vide, and I have to say I absolutely love it. It does take some forward planning because the cooking times are long. but if you want tender, moist perfectly cooked meat and fish this is the way to go! The marinade was a little tricky because I didn’t have the bean curd paste, as I have yet to get down to Burlington to the specialist grocers, but over all it was pretty tasty. After being in the sous vide we finished the ribs on the grill to get all that crunchy and caramel goodness. I served the ribs with a simple fried rice from the same book and the only thing I would do differently with that is to increase the amount of soy and oyster sauce to give it a little more bite.

I also made the Spanish meatballs with Serrano ham from Cúrate but to be honest I am not 100% sure how I feel about them. I wasn’t “feeling it” the day I made them, and I rushed, so when i try them again I plan on taking my time and really paying attention to the ingredients and the techniques.

Baking wise it has been a slow couple of months, but we did have a small Bakers Against Humanity get together and I tried my hand at frangipane for the first time and knocked up a cherry plum tart. Again I rushed to get it done, so I think had I taken my time and shown some patience instead of rushing to get it done in under and hour I would be more satisfied with it.

Cherry plum crustless frangipane tart
Cherry plum frangipane tart

Coming up soon will be stuffed pork chops and a Maine Blueberry Pie….

Roasting chicken? Roasting potatoes? Roasting apples?

I love roast chicken. Seriously say “Winner, winner chicken dinner” to me and I am running to the store to buy a bird! The first meal I ever cooked for Chef Tim Haigh was a simple roast chicken and I have the scars from my meat thermometer to prove how nervous I was! Since then I have stuck rigidly to the same recipe – Jamie Oliver’s roast chicken from his book “Food Revolution”

Browsing through Cúarte I found the recipe for Lemon Rosemary Roast Chicken with potatoes and apples. The actual chicken itself is not that different to my old faithful, but the cooking method and the addition of the apples was a fun experiment. I misread the recipe at first and thought the chicken was roasted directly on the over rack which is the method I use for lamb at Easter, and to be honest I was worried about how this would work, quite simply because you just don’t get the amount of drippings from chicken. I took a third and maybe fourth look and realized how it needed to be cooked. I placed the peeled and chopped apples and potatoes in a small roasting pan with a wire cooling rack over it and then it was easy peasey! The potatoes and apples are tossed with olive oil before cooking, and the chicken is generously rubbed with oil and that’s all you really need. I deviated from the recipe in that I roasted the potatoes and apples for about 30 minutes before I put the chicken in, and this resulted in sweet, soft apples and crisp, golden potatoes. I added some tricolor carrots and I have to pat myself on the back for this one. The chicken was moist, and falling off the bone, I purposefully undercooked the carrots so they kept their color and their crunch. I would love to say that Poppy tried the chicken, but although she had told me how excited she was to eat it, in the end it was of course a PB&J. It was fun to share the meal with Vanessa, Elizabeth and Tim, to eat around the table with conversation and wine flowing.

Now cooking in the knee brace was a bit tricky, because I truly have to pay attention to where my knee is – although the brace is hinged I have learned the hard way that one centimeter at the wrong angle and the pain is awful. We did imbibe a fair bit of rosé so at least I was able to ignore the pain somewhat…..

I had planned to make albondigas tonight, but my orthopedist gave me vicodin yesterday, and given that I haven’t taken anything stronger than ibuprofen for a very long time the vicodin knocked me on my bum.  Seriously , I took one this morning and slept for 3 hours….The albondigas will be prepared in the morning ready to eat after my MRI…

 

It was an interesting start to the year

The BBQ we went to on July 9th at Tim and Elizabeth’s turned out to be a surprise party for little old me. ANyone will tell you I am pretty impossible to surprise, and the fact that Rob, Elizabeth and Vanessa were able to pull this off is amazing! It was fantastic to walk through the gate and see all my favorite people! I can never thank everyone enough for coming out – it was a fantastic afternoon/evening.

So great start yes? Well not quite…..

We came home and I was dashing around getting Poppy’s things ready for Children’s Island Day Camp when I slipped on something on a tile floor and managed to narrowly avoid doing a full split by bending my right knee in a way that nature never intended. Now, I am clumsy, I can quite literally fall over nothing so over the years I have developed a pretty high pain tolerance, this however was something different. I managed to get to the couch, I managed to get to bed, and I even managed to get to work the next morning, but believe me walking and not knowing if your knee actually works is a pretty awful experience. I am fortunate to have orthopedics in my building and the saw me right away and into a knee brace I went. After a week in the brace I am still hurting and the knee just doesn’t feel right, so tomorrow I will have an MRI – and I am hoping for “just” a severe pain because I do not have time for an ACL or MCL tear and the surgery they would require!

But the project is still on – I took last week off, and Robert stepped in for kitchen duties which meant curry, pizza, curry, pizza……But I am determined to get back on track….

Finding What I Lost Along The Way

Since this is largely about finding what I lost along the way, it seems only fair to start with a simple French classic – pain perdu.

Walking around Whole Foods yesterday picking up some items I know I will need on this journey (more to follow on that one) I spotted the rack of beautiful, fluffy, golden brioche and I just could not resist. “The LIttle paris Kitchen” has a lovely, simple recipe for this French classic served with a cherry compote. I truly never expected to make the compote, but I always have cherries in the freezer, and really what could be simpler than cherries and powdered sugar? I doubled the batter quantities, but halved the compote. I did this expecting Poppy to try it, and given that she had lots of fun helping me make it I was hopeful of new food breakthrough with her this morning. Alas that was not to be, and she had PB&J.

But back to the pain perdu – I cannot stress how easy this was, and certainly worthwhile for a weekend breakfast. The compote is not as sweet as you would expect, and using brioche results in a lovely, eggy, rich bread.

I get the rest of the day off as a Chef Tim Haigh is cooking dinner tonight, and I am turning my thoughts to the rest of the week and challenges cooking dinner will bring, and working out how to drag Rob into this as my prep cook……He is actually a better chef than he lets on, but generally his talents lie with the jars of Pataks curry sauce, the slow cooker and the grill. 19787086_10106467658212992_8935276504327364879_o

Why Am I Doing This?

There are so many memoirs by women having some kind of midlife crisis but between family and work commitments I just don’t have the time, the energy or the money to head off on an adventure to India, Nepal or even Maine. I am not going “to find myself” or find some dishy young lover to fill me with new passions. I have, however just entered my 49th year and the need to do something for myself was pretty overwhelming and to be honest it surprised me.

My husband, Robert and my best friend Vanessa inadvertently gave me this idea with their birthday gifts. They both know how much I love to cook, and to try new things, so from Vanessa came Rachel Koo’s “The Little Paris Kitchen” and from Robert, Eileen Yin-Fei Loo’s “Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking.” My in-laws, John and Leanne became part of the idea when the sent me a Barnes and Noble gift card with which I bought myself Katie Button’s “Curate.” With my last class of wine on my 49th birthday I decided to cook as many recipes as I can from these 3 books (and likely a few others from my collection) over the next year, and write about them here.

I used to cook all the time. When I met Rob 20 years ago I used to prepare elaborate meals for him, all made with super fresh ingredients. I would walk to Pike Place Market on my way home from night shift and pick up veggies, meat and fish. We walked more, ate out less, and were really just healthier. Even for the first couple of years after Poppy was born, I would meal plan and stick to the plan, so in ding this I am hoping to get back to that. I guess I am using the blog to keep me on track, and to hold myself accountable.

“Blah, blah, blah” you may say. Yes, I know this has also been done before, but really I am doing this for me, and in a way for my 7 year old daughter, who I am going to involve in as many of these meals as I can. She may never eat any of them, she is as picky as I was at that age, but if nothing else she will learn to cook, and we will get to spend quality time together.

When we bought our house 2 years ago we had all these great plans to have Sunday lunches with friends every week, and family meals every night in the dining room.  Instead we have fallen into a slump where we just don’t eat dinner as a family. Poppy always gets her dinner (usually chicken, inari of PB&J – like I said she is picky) but Rob and I have started just to pick, and it has really become very unhealthy. If we weren’t just picking, we were eating out, which meant we had so much food waste in our home. The worst thing about the picking, and not sitting down together is that we have become in a way strangers, the three of us moving around in our own orbits, not talking to each other.

Hindsight is of course 20-20, but I can see now that much of this was related to my own mood. I was in a job where I loved my patient population, but didn’t fit into the workplace culture. I was  incredibly depressed and anxious, and self medicating with wine. I changed jobs a few months ago, where I am closer to home, and far less drained at the end of the day. I am working in a team that is supportive, welcoming and really just generally filled with nice people. I am now taking an anti-depressant which once it kicked in made me realize just how miserable I had been. The wine has been a bigger challenge – look, I like a drink, I have never denied this and never would, however I have denied (and ignored) that I was drinking more than was good for me, which of course has had a totally negative impact on my life.

So here we go. Please follow along on this adventure with me……..Who knows maybe I will ring in 50, 50lbs lighter and being able to run a 5k (if I mange that I am rewarding myself with botox)