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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Best Ice Cream Topper Ever

That is, if you like stuff on your ice cream (I do). I put these on any kind of ice cream compatible with chocolate--lately, Mint Chocolate Chip and Espresso Mocha. And apparently (I only know this because of where I found this image), they're vegan. Who knew?

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Three Kids/Three Things

The bebe rolled over for the first time yesterday. Mavis was home with the two younger kids while I was teaching choir at Number One's school. She was playing on her mat while Number Two watched Sesame Street and Mavis was in the adjoining study. She suddenly got fussy, and he turned to see that she'd gotten stuck on her tummy and didn't know how to turn back. She's done it a few times since. Aw, she's growing up!

Number Two is getting more excited about words, even occasionally recognizing them in print. Today as we were getting ready to leave a playgroup, he saw a sign and said, "That says 'Stop'!" which it did. Well, he actually said something more like "Gnat say ''Top'!", where the apostrophe before the T stands for a nasal exhale--how he commonly deals with esses in consonant combinations.

And finally, Number One keeps all my faithful and dedicated readers in mind. Last night, midway through dinner, he said, "This is new--shouldn't you take a picture of it?" He was right, it was something I haven't blogged about, but there wasn't really enough left on the plates to justify taking a picture. The recipe was one I originally found in the NYTimes when I lived in New York, from Marian Burros's "Plain and Simple" column (I think--I'm too lazy to go downstairs and dig it out). She originally served it with basil mashed potatoes, and I went for our old standby orange and green mashed potatoes (with the last of that purple kale, and shallot instead of onion) instead. The recipe might have originally included a small amount of white wine, but I don't remember for sure and in any case I didn't have any one hand, so this is how I made it last night.
Lemon-Thyme Chicken

boneless skinless chicken breasts (I made four, which was one too many, but they almost always come two to a package)
flour, seasoned with salt and pepper, for dredging (optional if you're trying to reduce carbs or just lazy)
olive oil or butter or combination
salt and freshly ground pepper
medium shallot, chopped fine (ping-pong ball sized)
few sprigs thyme (I popped leaves off before adding to the pan; Marian originally left them on and then removed the stems before serving)
juice of one half-lemon
zest from about half the half-lemon
1/2 C chicken stock
few blobs of butter (maybe a tablespoon total)

Pound the chicken breasts to an even thickness (usually about a half-inch), and dredge in seasoned flour if using. Heat oil/butter/both in nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering, then add chicken in a single layer (if you didn't dredge it in flour, season with a little salt and pepper now). Brown on both sides, then remove from pan (or, if it's not too brown and you have a big skillet, stack it all on one side). Add shallot to pan and sauté until translucent and starting to brown, adding thyme leaves or sprigs halfway through. Add lemon zest and juice and chicken stock and scrape up browned bits. If you removed the chicken from the pot, or if it needs a tad bit further cooking, flip it in sauce to coat and let simmer a few minutes until done. Then add blobs of butter as you remove the pan from the heat, correct seasonings and serve.

Number One really liked the flavor of the sauce, so I suspect I'll be getting a request to fix it again soon. I successfully planned menus for most of this week (yay me!). Saturday we had beef and broccoli stir-fry, Sunday a veggie risotto, then the lemon chicken. Tonight will be buffalo burgers, tomorrow or Thursday pan-roasted pork tenderloin and couscous salad, and Friday I'll make mac and cheese for the kids while we go out. I'm still missing one dinner, hm.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Shutter Happy

Number Two has a new favorite toy: the spray bottle we use while ironing. He's been having a bit of a hard time limiting his inside spraying to the bathtubs and sinks, so we've been taking the spray bottle on walks (another favorite activity). The walk on this particular day never really got going (he's right in front of our house; my rosemary and two variegated sages are visible in the flower bed on the right), so I had him go into the back yard instead, and I went inside to cook. He was out there for probably two hours, coming in periodically for refills.



Here's the bebe in her walk getup for this week--in the Baby Bjorn, and buttoned inside my fleece.



Last night after dinner, the kids played together:









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The Great Roast Chicken Trials

For various reasons (farmers' market not in season, all the other reasons why one should avoid eating too much red meat), we've been eating more chicken lately. There have recently been a couple of intriguing takes on the roast chicken in Cook's, so I decided to try them, along with the method I used to use when I had a great farmers' market source for poultry, and decide which one we liked best.

The first method was for French roast chicken in a pot--the perfect opportunity to use the robin's egg blue Martha Stewart Collection enameled cast iron dutch oven I got for Christmas. Before I had even tried the other methods, I was leaning toward choosing this one as the default, because it's dead easy.
French Roast Chicken in a Pot

4.5-5.5 lb chicken
kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper
1 T olive oil
1 med onion, chopped medium
1 rib celery, chopped medium
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 sprig rosemary

Preheat oven to 250. Remove giblets from chicken, pat dry, and season with salt and pepper. Bring oil to just smoking over medium-high heat in dutch oven (mine is 7.5 qt). Add chicken, breast side down, and put vegetables and rosemary (I think I'll try thyme next time) in pot around it. Brown well, then flip over and brown the backside, stirring veggies occasionally. Then cover with foil and put the lid on (Cook's says the foil helps create a tighter seal), and pop in the oven for 80-110 minutes, until the chicken is 160 in the breast and 175 in the thigh.

Like I said, dead easy. It was also deliciously moist. Cook's says to strain the veggies out of the exuded juices, degrease, add a little lemon juice and serve alongside the chicken, but I skipped this. I did strain and degrease the juices (about a cup), but I saved them to add to the stock I plan on making in a few days.

The next trial was of Crisp-Skinned Roast Chicken, from the March-April 2008 Cook's. From the get-go this one has a disadvantage in that it requires some advance prep, always hard for me to remember to do (I ended up doing it at about 1 am last night--definitely not ideal). But it promised ultra-crisp skin, which I knew would be a big hit with Number One.
Crisp-Skinned Roast Chicken

3.5-4.5 lb chicken
1 T kosher salt
1 t baking powder
1/2 t ground black pepper

Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl. Pat chicken dry. Using a sharp paring knife, cut four one-inch slits in the back skin of the chicken (alongside the spine). Use your finger or a wooden spoon handle to loosen the skin, front and back and legs. Then flip it over and use a skewer to poke 15-20 holes in the skin of the breasts and drumsticks. Pat dry again. Sprinkle salt mixture over bird and rub it in with your hands. Put chicken in roasting rack in pan (they say rimmed cookie sheet, but frankly my roasting pan is smaller) and refrigerate, uncovered, 12-24 hours.

Put oven rack on lowest position and preheat oven to 450. Tear off a sheet of foil big enough to mostly cover the bottom of your roasting pan, and poke holes in it with a paring knife about 1.5 inches apart. Put the foil loosely in the pan, and put the rack on top of it. Flip chicken breast side down, and roast for 25 minutes.

Take pan out of oven and flip chicken onto its back (they say to use wads of paper towels, but I used my turkey-flipping forks and they worked just great). Put it back in the oven and roast until the breast is 135 degrees, about 15-25 minutes.

Increase oven temperature to 500 degrees, and roast until the skin is brown and crisp, and the temperature is 160 in the breast and 175 in the thigh, 10-20 minutes. Transfer chicken to cutting board and let rest, uncovered, 20 minutes, then serve.

Once again, we had a deliciously juicy chicken. I wasn't blown away by the skin, though. Yes, it was pretty brown and pretty crisp, but there was just the slightest hint of chemical aftertaste from the baking powder, and it was a bit more hands-on and time-consuming in the prep than I would have liked. I haven't fully polled the boys, but I suspect this will not become a regular (since as the cook I have more votes).

Here is the chicken the night before, after rubbing with the salt mixture.



Here it is the next afternoon, after about 16 hours in the fridge drying out.



And here are the remains after we were done eating (sorry no pic of the golden glory!).



I served it with orange and green mashed potatoes (the kale was actually dark purple, not green, and stained the onions in the sauté) and clementines,



and Ganache-Filled and Frosted Cupcakes for dessert. Yum.





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Friday, February 15, 2008

ToddlerSpeak

My favorite current words in Number Two's vocab:

Kitchen = Chicken
Computer = Come-Pick-You

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Grasping at Straws

I've been busy, sick, tired, injured, and otherwise disinclined to post much lately. So here's a meme courtesy of Jana:

What kind of soap do you have in your bathtub/shower right now?
Safeguard for Mavis; Cetaphil normal-to-oily for my face (everyone should use this, since it's a) cheap; b) gentle; and c) water-soluble, leaving no residue); Skin Milk for my body.

What color or design is on your shower curtain?
The shower in our bathroom has a frameless glass door, 3/8" thick. The kids' tub/shower has a glass brick-patterned curtain, currently tucked up out of the way since none of them take showers yet.

What would you change about your living room?
Nicer coffee table, if we decide to keep having one (we go back and forth--I grew up without one); piano bench to match the piano; smaller-proportioned couch to match the loveseat I love; UV-blocking film for the north window to prevent further fading.

How many plants are in your home?
None. I would kind of like a carnivorous plant for the kitchen windowsill, but I'm not very good with houseplants. We have very few window coverings on the first-floor windows, so we don't lack for green things in view.

Are the dishes in the dishwasher clean or dirty?
Clean. Mavis does the dishes every night after the kids are in bed (though I think he should start doing them right after dinner and enlisting help from the boys), and I unload some time during the next day, often during dinner prep (I should get more help from the boys with this part, too).

Do you drink out of glass or plastic most of the time at home?
Glass.

Do you have iced tea, made in a pitcher, right now?
Something tells me this meme was originally composed in the summer. But no, and not even in summer. I prefer filtered ice water.

Do you have any watermelon in your refrigerator?
Ah. Definitely summer. No, not currently, though sometimes in summer. But they are kind of heavy to schlep around at the farmers' market.

So, what is in your fridge?
Milk (organic nonfat and 2%), just over a pint of half-and-half, a pint of buttermilk, half a dozen eggs, chicken bones, carrots and celery (I'm out of chicken stock, so it's time to make it), parmesan rinds (hopefully I'll remember to toss them in the stock this time), film for the film camera we've stopped using and which I think is currently residing behind my dresser, an apple, an orange and a bag of locally-grown kiwis, half a butternut squash, two zucchini, half a bunch of scallions, peanut butter, whole wheat flour, rice flour, cornmeal, steel-cut oats, sweet cucumber chips, a dish of baking soda, tiny containers of chutney and raita from Indian takeout, Number One's leftover Subway sandwich, cooked chicken. I think (without looking) that's most of the stuff on the shelves. If you really want to know the vast array of seldom-used condiments in the door, let me know.

What’s on top of your refrigerator?
Surplus cereal, Hebrew alphabet magnets, fridge accessories we don't use (ice bin, two-liter-bottle holder).

White or wheat bread?
Whole wheat. Vita-Bee!

Comet or Soft Scrub?
I might have some ancient Comet (definitely Bon Ami, since it's non-abrasive) under a sink somewhere, but I rarely do any of my own cleaning. I think my cleaning lady and her crew use something like Soft Scrub, but a non-fuming version since they switched to greener cleaning products.

Is your bed made now?
The comforter is kind of pulled up, but not all the way. Our bed is never truly made by anyone other than the biweekly house cleaners, much to my mother's horror when she comes to visit.

Is your closet organized?
Sort of. It's not a huge walk-in closet, so it kind of has to be. It's overdue for a sorting and tossing, but there aren't random piles of stuff or anything.

Can you describe your flashlight?
We have a couple of the hand-crank/solar ones in a sunny spot, a mini maglite in the kitchen junk drawer, and a couple of small LED ones in various spots.

If you have a garage, is it cluttered?
Most of the clutter is in the basement, but the garage has a few things that could stand to be cleaned up, and a pile of sawdust left over from the construction of our eco-roof last spring.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Four Months Old

Can you believe she's getting so big? At the doctor the other day for her checkup, she measured in the 95th percentile for height, but only 75th for weight, and 60th for head size--the first time one of my children has had a head smaller, proportionally, than they are tall (the boys have consistently been >95th their entire lives). The night after her appointment (at which she had shots), she woke up in the middle of the night for the first time in, literally, months, and I thought I might die. Doesn't help that I'm in the middle of a cold in my throat. Hopefully it was a one-time thing related to the vaccinations--last night she was back to her usual pattern of sleeping all night, and woke up around 6:40.





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