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Archive for December, 2007

A Side of Raunch

“Waspy Wasperson’s plans were cancelled. Do you mind if he joins us for dinner?”, asked Irish Lebowski over email.

“If he can handle the raunch, we’re cool”, I replied.

I don’t know why I found the warning necessary. Irish and I lived together for two years; Waspy knows me well and is well attuned to my MO.

So, I headed over to Irish and Waspy’s house on Friday night, the night before my departure for Florida. The plan was to make some dinner to celebrate the holidays, drink some wine, and see what shenanigans ensued. All went as planned, and topics of conversations included, but were not limited to: their wide screen TV, which makes me believe in miracles; Hillary vs. Barrack; and why I love assholish men. (Results of conversation: It is awesome, but to obtain one I will probably need to get married; Hillary all the way; because I am a masochist that enjoys the game way too much? I am sure there are a lot of reasons for the last one.)

Along with all these enlightening and enriching conversations, Irish and I managed to throw together this pork tenderloin. This was so simple, yet tasted incredible. Then again, it is pork stuffed with brie; I don’t really know how one could go wrong with this. This is a fairly faithful adaptation of a recipe from Cooking Light. The only thing we changed dramatically was the filling. The original recipe called for figs and blue cheese. It made some alternate suggestions (including the apricots and brie, as well as cranberries and chevre) and our love affair with brie lead us to this option. We also seasoned the meat inside and out, something the original recipe overlooked. Another example of how the right ingredients, even if it is just a few, can make a fantastic meal.

Hooray for good friends, hooray for pork and hooray for raunch. Hope you all are having a very naughty holiday season and have an incredibly indulgent New Year to come.

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Apricot Brie Pork Loin

Adapted from Cooking Light

1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed

1/2 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup brie, chopped

Salt and pepper

Cooking spray

1 tablespoon apple jelly, melted

Preheat oven to 450°. Slice the pork in half lengthwise, cutting to, but not through, other side. Open the halves, laying pork flat. Place pork between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/2-inch thickness using a meat mallet or small heavy skillet. Salt and pepper meat. Sprinkle apricots and brie over pork, leaving a 1/2-inch margin around outside edges. Roll up the pork, jelly-roll fashion, starting with long side. Secure at 2-inch intervals with twine. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper, and place on a foil-lined jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450° for 20 minutes. Brush jelly over the pork. Bake an additional 5 minutes or until a thermometer registers 160° (slightly pink). Let stand for 10 minutes. Discard twine; cut pork into 12 (1-inch-thick) slices.

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TMI

In celebration of my almost (probably early tomorrow) 10,000th page view, I have been inspired to share 7 things you don’t know about me. With a list of 101 things already on this blog, some of this is merely expansion, but I hope you can give a girl a break.

1. My first memory is a baby shower. I don’t know who it was for; I was about 3 years old. I received a tacky bee hive, constructed from twine and adorned with little felt bees, as a favor. This hive hung in my room for years.

2. I am deathly allergic to bees. I discovered this when I was 10 years old. I was pulling a sheet off the clothes line and was stung on my right pinky finger. Within 15 minutes, my hand had swollen to twice it’s size; in 30 minutes I was suffering from a severe asthma attack. A few months after my diagnosis I saw the movie “My Girl”, in which Macaulay Culkin’s character dies from a fatal bee sting. I completely lost it in the movie theater. I carry an EpiPen very inconsistently, which is extremely foolish.

3. I have an ungodly tolerance for really shitty reality TV. I love that tranny muppet New York and cannot believe she picked Tailor Made. While watching “America’s Most Smartest Model” I recognized contestant Slavko from the Jerry Hall train wreck, “Kept”. “Paradise Hotel” completed me.

4. Middle and High School was not a happy time for me. This is not a unique experience, but it certainly felt it at the time. I suffered from acne so bad kids called me Helen Keller, saying the could read brail off my forehead. I wore glasses and had a weight problem. I found it impossible to censor my thoughts or control my snarky remarks. In an uptight town where J. Crew was the norm, I gravitated towards Hot Topic. I truly think feeling like an outcast in high school has made me a more well rounded, interesting person.

5. I love my name. Seriously. I will never change it.

6. My first concert was the New Kids on the Block, which is the same as half the girls my age. I received the tickets for Christmas and became completely unraveled. I was a Jordan girl. I experienced true euphoria for the first time when I received those tickets.

7. I had my sexual awakening to the “Under the Bridge” video. Watching Anthony Kiedis run, fists pumping, hair flowing, and tattoos blazing, quickened my pulse and shortened my breath. This set off a life long obsession with dirty rocker boys. Anthony begat Lenny Kravitz, which begat Chris Cornell. Dave Grohl still makes me feel a little weak in the knees.

And there you go–more than you ever wanted to know. Happy Holidays, kids. Thanks to all of you who stop by here and shower me with love and affection. I heart you, too. You may see me a little bit next week, but wanted to send some love out to the interwebs.

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Home Stretch

On Saturday I get on a plane to visit the parents in Florida. I haven’t seen them in over a year and they have since moved into a new house. It should be a nice, albeit short, trip. Soon after I get back, Annie Birdie heads to Argentina and I have the house all to myself for two weeks. She has predicted the place will become a messy nudist colony in her absence; I do intend to do a lot of loafing around in my underwear. People, I am tired. Holiday parties, birthday parties, work insanity–I am at the end of my rope. I need to sleep for approximately 10 years and then take another nap.

In preparation of both of our holiday departures, Annie Birdie and I celebrated our own Christmas Monday night. It was the perfect little evening; she loved my gift to her as I loved hers to me (a year of Entertainment Weekly!), we watched TV, drank some wine, and ate a great meal. Annie even shared some of her famous mint brownies, one of my most favorite things that she makes. There was nary a Christmas carol even hummed, nor a mention of the baby Jesus. My kind of holiday celebration…

For dinner, I prepared cardamom honey chicken with pine nut couscous. Annie threw together a great little salad and we were in business. There was no way to really capture the beautiful brown skin of the chicken, flecked with cardamom and pepper. The picture below doesn’t do justice, but you get the idea. Annie isn’t a fan of savory dishes with sweet notes (for instance, a chicken salad with apples or pizza with pears on top) but I had faith that the sherry would cut the sweetness. This recipe created some seriously moist meat with a unique flavor. As an added bonus, the marinade is sans oil, so it tastes good and is good for you. I strongly recommend this for a dinner party; it even won Annie over, despite her trepidation.

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Honey Cardamom Chicken

Slightly Adapted from Simply Recipes

Marinade
4 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp sherry
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds, ground
1 teaspoon peppercorns, ground

Chicken
6 chicken breasts, or one whole chicken, cut into parts
2 Tbsp Olive oil
1 lemon, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 390°F. Warm the honey, stir in the sherry, cardamom and peppercorns. Place marinade and chicken in a large bowl, coat chicken with marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2 Heat olive oil in a large frying pan at medium high heat. Sear the chicken, skin side down, until golden.

3 Place lemon slices in a roasting pan. Lay the chicken pieces on top. Brush with the marinade. Season generously with salt and pepper. Place in the oven and bake until done, approximately 17 minutes for breasts, 22 minutes for thighs, wings, and drumsticks. (To compensate for the different baking times, I browned the dark meat first and threw it in the oven. I then browned the breasts, which take about 5 minutes, and added them to the pan.) Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

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My first real crush was in middle school, on a boy named D. He had insanely blue eyes and criminally long eyelashes. I was hysterical over him. He sat in front of me in English and I let him cheat off of me. Loves means enabling.

I went out with D one time. We saw a matinée of “Milk Money” and his mom picked us up in her Iroc. I was quite impressed with that car. She brought us to Taco Bell afterwards, a new endeavor for me. I had never been. I remember asking D what I should order, feeling giddy and excited to just stand next to him. Me, D and a soft chicken taco…it was bliss.

Fast forward 15 years, and things are no longer that simple. This Saturday I met up with Cindarella at the mall. Do you know the only thing worse than the mall before Christmas? The mall before Christmas with brutal hangovers. The first course of action was to hit the food court in an attempt to kill the pain with grease. I went for the McNuggets; Cindarella ran for the border. We sat in the packed food court and talked about men and various aggravations related to them. As we both sat there– tired, defeated, achy–I found myself wishing I was 12 again and my biggest worry with a guy was ordering the right taco in his presence. Instead, we are bitching about guys over our nachos.

Our problems may have changed, but so have our palettes. Looking at Cindarella eat her processed, refried beans, I started to crave black bean soup. This recipe is hearty and flavorful, heavy in the rotation during the winter months. I make it so often I have it memorized. It varies a bit time to time–more corn if I have it laying around, thrown in grated carrots–but it always comes out really well. It’s filling while being healthy and makes for the perfect lunch box addition.

I just don’t think it will solve our boy problems.

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Black Bean Soup

Adapted from Bon Appetit

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cups chopped medium onion

2 large garlic cloves, chopped

Several red pepper flakes (small shake)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried

3 15-ounce cans black beans, drained, 1 cup liquid reserved

1 14 1/2-ounce cans low-salt chicken broth (or vegetable broth)

1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice

1 Tablespoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, red pepper flakes and thyme; sauté until onion is golden, about 8 minutes. Add beans, reserved 1 cup bean liquid, broth, tomatoes with juices, corn, cumin and hot pepper sauce. Bring soup to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until flavors blend and soup thickens slightly, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.

Working in 2 batches, purée 2 1/2 cups soup in blender until smooth, or stick in the immersion blender for about 45 seconds. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls.

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Eat Your Vegetables

Grown ups who do not eat vegetables scare me. I have known a few, and really…there are no words. We are all adults, aren’t we? While, of course, you can choose as an adult to eat whatever you damn well please, it just seems a bit ridiculous and to dismiss a whole food group because you had some crappy canned asparagus as a kid. Suck it up. Life is too short to have a diet consisting of five items.

This recipe proves that vegetables can taste good. They are not bland and they certainly are not boring. This is a recreation of something I had in a restaurant (maybe Jaleo?) and it stuck in my mind. Simple, healthy and delicious. It will make even the most finicky of you believers.

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Sauteed Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts

Lemmonex Original

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/2 diced shallot (about 2 teaspoons)

1 bag baby spinach

2 tablespoons raisins

1 tablespoon pine nuts

1 pinch nutmeg

salt and pepper

In a mug or bowl of very hot water, immerse raisins. (This plumps them) Toast nuts in dry pan, keeping an eye on them so they don’t burn. Heat oil in large saute pan at medium heat. Add shallots and saute for about 2 minutes. Add spinach, pine nuts, drained raisins and nutmeg. Cook until spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. (Note: spinach shrinks incredibly. This is enough for two people).

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Three days before LittleBrother’s 4th birthday, December 15, 1985, he reported to the hospital to have tubes placed in his ears. Having been born with an ear infection, and struggling with them his entire life, this was a pretty routine procedure. My mother was an old pro, having been through this three times before. They checked in to the hospital and left several hours later. My brother was in good spirits.

The next day, my brother was violently ill. Having been through this before, my mother knew this was not normal behavior for him. Her intuition told her something was wrong–and she was right. When the doctor punctured his ear drum to implant the tubes, his ears were infected (something a 24 year old medical intern would have been able to see). The infected fluid leaked to his brain and he was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis.

There was a 48 hour period where no one thought my brother would make it. I have few memories of this time–I was just a small child myself– but I do remember my mother’s tearful pleas that I go visit him in the hospital. I was too scared and refused to go.

In my absence, a photo that had been taken of me a few days before he was admitted to the hospital was placed at his bedside. I am dressed up as a huge Christmas present, arms and legs sticking out of a huge gold box, enveloped in a monstrousness red ribbon with a Santa hat on my head. I have a cheesy smile on my face that is reserved for 4-year-olds weeks away from Christmas. My brother apparently obsessed over this picture, looking at it while he lay in the hospital.

My brother is now an adult, suffering from zero long term effects of this illness. The picture stays up year round in my parent’s house, a reminder of how much we all almost lost.

You would think after this Christmas miracle, I would embrace this time of year with cheer and optimism. You thought wrong. The crowded stores, incessant carols and pressure to find the perfect gift for family members soured me on Christmas in middle school. Let’s face it; once you have given your little brother the will to live, you have peaked on gift giving. A Yankee candle or scented soap just ain’t gonna cut it. My mother, a Christmas freak, has been cursed with a husband and a daughter who could care less about helping her trim the tree.

The only good thing about the holidays is the food. Food knows no race, creed, religion, or color so I whipped up some latkes in celebration of Hanukkah this Sunday. Having attended GW, I am practically Jewish anyway. This traditional recipe is ripped from Cooking Light and, if I do say so, turned out really well. Topped with applesauce and some light sour cream, they were heaven. The outsides were crispy and crunchy, while the insides were soft and starchy with the perfect amount of onion. One word of caution: watch out while grating the onions and potatoes. I got cocky once I got to the onions and the huge chunk of flesh I removed from my right thumb is evidence I should not have been so cavalier with my grating. Despite the injury, these will become a yearly tradition.

Hope y’all had a lovely Hannukah.

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Latkes

Source: Cooking Light

4 cups shredded peeled baking potato (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 cup grated fresh onion (about 2 medium)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg
1 large egg white
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Combine potato and onion; squeeze moisture from potato mixture over a sieve. Lightly spoon the flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine potato mixture, flour, and next 5 ingredients (through egg white) in a large bowl. Divide mixture into 12 equal portions; squeeze out any remaining liquid. Shape each into a 1/4-inch-thick patty. I found using a muffin tin, even though it dirtied an extra pan, helped me divide the patties into 12 equally portioned latkes.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 6 patties; cook 5 minutes on each side or until golden. Repeat procedure with remaining oil and patties.

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Being the painful nerd that I was, I participated in a trip with People to People International in middle school. At the tender age of 13 (14?), I left the loving embrace of my parents and under minimal adult supervision, wandered the streets of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. One day I will tell the story of my near death at the hands of Socialist medicine, but today, we focus on Bex.

Bex was the daughter of the Murrays, a wonderful English family I spent 5 days with while I was in the English countryside. She and I hit it off quite well, and she came to Rhode Island the summer after I met her for her first trip to the states. She loved the mall and Fenway Park; frankly, this is the best this country really has to offer anyway.

The summer after she visited us, I once again visited her in the UK and her parents generously took me to France during my visit. I really am grateful for this trip, because her family largely subsidized the voyage. We stayed in the Saumur in the wine region and it was one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I ate horse (please spare me your preaching) and her parent’s coaxed me into drinking my first alcoholic beverage, a bourbon ginger (sorry Mom).

During one of our day trips (we needed to do something between eating croissants and jam), we visited a mushroom cave. Being 15, I found mushrooms disgusting, though I don’t think this was based in any real experience with them. I was a stubborn kid who was scared of trying new things; thankfully, I have outgrown this. At the end of the tour, her parents bought excessive amounts of mushrooms and cooked with them the rest of the trip. I am full of regret that I did not participate in eating all this fungus.

Luckily, I have outgrown my aversion to mushrooms. I do know it is one of those things where you love ’em or hate ’em. I threw together this soup last week after the craving for some mushrooms struck me. I looked over a dozen recipes and this is a mix of all them. The skim milk keeps it light, while the flour helps thicken it. Cream could be substituted for the milk for a richer soup. The white wine adds some depth and I love using the shallots for a more delicate onion flavor. If you have an onion on hand, about 1/4 cup of minced onions can be easily substituted. Served with some crusty bread, this really hits the spot and reheats well for a light lunch.

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Cream of Mushroom Soup

A Lemmonex Original

I Tablespoon Olive Oil

3 shallots, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

2–8 oz. packages sliced mushrooms

Generous splash on white wine (~3 Tablespoons)

2 Tablespoons flour

1 Tablespoon fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dry thyme)

1 quart low sodium chicken stock (or vegetable)

1 pint skim milk

Salt and Pepper

Heat oil in large soup pot. Add shallots and garlic and saute for 4 minutes, until translucent. Add mushrooms and saute for another 5 minutes, until mushrooms are soft. Add wine and cook for 1 minute. Add flour and thyme and cook for 1 minute. Add chicken broth and milk and cook for about 8-10 minutes, at medium heat. Puree with immersion blender or in a counter top blender, leaving some chunks of mushroom. Salt and pepper to taste.

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