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Anything But Brussels Sprouts Mom

I am a vegetarian so vegetables are clearly an important part of my diet. At a recent dinner party, a group of us were discussing how our love for vegetables has evolved over the years. Had our taste buds changed? Was it because we were buying more organic vegetables now? After some debate, we realized the answer was a little bit of freshness and a dash of creativity.

When we were little, my brother and I usually dreaded the vegetable portions of our dinners, which typically included a rotation of carrots, corn, and brussels sprouts. Without fail, my brother would drop pieces of corn all over the carpet as he tossed them around his plate infuriating my father. Tasteless carrots were met with eye rolls until Dad convinced us that if we ate more carrots we would be able to see through the wall of our twin home and spy on our neighbor Lissa eating her dinner as well. And the worst of all – the brussels sprouts. Sorry mom, but they were just inedible. There isn’t much else to say.

So imagine my horror when, after a month or two of living together, Ryan requested brussels sprouts for dinner one night.(Note: he only makes requests after I relentlessly plead “What do you want for dinner?”). Now, it had probably been about 20 years since I tasted a brussels sprout and the feelings were still raw. “Really? You want me to make those?” I asked. “Yes,” he replied. “I really love brussels sprouts.” In that moment, I realized three things: 1) I have no idea how to make brussels sprouts; 2) I am going to have to eat brussels sprouts again; and 3) I need some help.

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No, I didn’t call my mother. Back in those days, she cooked vegetables by opening a package or can, boiling them in a pot with 1-2 tablespoons of water, and serving. Instead, I did a little research and hit my local food stand for some fresh brussels sprouts. With a little olive oil, some garlic, and some parmesan cheese, I actually ended up with quite a tasty dish and Ryan loved it too. Since then, I’ve sautéed them and roasted them in the oven a few different ways. And mom, I don’t blame you. You did the best you could. Being the most fashionable and cool mom on the block tends to retract from one’s cooking focus. 

Below are two great recipes for brussels sprouts and carrots that are easy, healthy and delicious. Both are from Mollie Katzen’s book  “Get Cooking: 150 Simple Recipes to Get You Started in the Kitchen.”

Braised Brussels Sprouts in Mustard Sauce

Ingredients

• 1 pound of brussels sprouts

• 1 TB olive oil

 • 1/3 cup minced shallots

• ½ tsp salt

• ½ cup water, divided

• ¼ cup mustard

• 2 TB brown sugar

• Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Cut off the base of a sprout with a sharp knife. Slice a piece from side of the sprout. Place it cut side down and cut it crosswise into about 5 slices. Repeat with all sprouts. Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium heat for 1 minute. Add olive oil to coat the skillet. Add shallots and sauté for two minutes. Stir in sprouts, salt, and 3 tablespoons of water; spread everything evenly across the pan. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover for five minutes.

Meanwhile, combine mustard, brown sugar, and remaining water in a small bowl and stir. Once sprouts have cooked for 5 minutes, pour mustard mixture over them and stir. Remove from heat. Serve hot or warm with a little ground black pepper.

Spiced Carrots

This is super easy. You cut 5 carrots into 1/4 inch slices on the diagonal. Heat a skillet on medium and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 tsp. ground cumin, and 1 tsp. cinnamon. Cook for 30 seconds. Add carrots and ½ tsp. minced garlic. Turn with thongs. Add ½ tsp. salt, cover, and cook for 5 minutes or until tender. Serves 4.

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Best Laid Plans

My husband is the first man I ever really loved.  I’m not sure if that is sweet or just plain sad given that we didn’t start dating until I was 33. While I endured many obsessions, flirtations and well documented humiliations, none would qualify as love. But nonetheless, this is the truth. My mother claims my dad as her only love so I feel as if I’m in good company.

On Sunday, we celebrated our sixth month wedding anniversary. Ryan claims that this milestone doesn’t qualify as an anniversary, but I decided to make a special dinner to celebrate anyway. Given our love for Paris, I chose a French theme to incorporate two of our favorite dishes from the honeymoon – Sole Meuniere and Crepes. Ryan’s love for crepes actually challenged his love for ice cream during our visit and we became frequent customers of the hundreds of crepe stands that line the streets of Paris. His favorite is nutella, so nutella it will be.

                                                             Parisian Crepe Stand                 Following a few hours of writing on Sunday morning, I headed to DiBruno Brothers for the remaining ingredients I needed – nutella, crème fraiche, lemons, spring mix, goat cheese, and a French baguette. Our friend Liz was gracious enough to donate a bottle of French white wine to the occasion as well.

And just as I was getting to prepare this lovely meal, my husband came home and went right to bed because he wasn’t feeling well. Obviously there would be no dinner together. Without any cable or internet or a functioning DVD player in the living room, I decided to make the salad and a couple of crepes anyway while I read a good book. Hopefully we will get a do-over on this one. Feel better Ry.

Easy Sole Meuniere (Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 fresh sole fillets, 3 to 4 ounces each
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

Directions

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Have 2 heat-proof dinner plates ready

Combine the flour, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in a large shallow plate. Pat the sole fillets dry with paper towels and sprinkle one side with salt.

Heat 3 tablespoons of butter in a large (12-inch) saute pan over medium heat until it starts to brown. Dredge 2 sole fillets in the seasoned flour on both sides and place them in the hot butter. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 2 minutes. Turn carefully with a metal spatula and cook for 2 minutes on the other side. While the second side cooks, add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice to the pan. Carefully put the fish filets on the ovenproof plates and pour the sauce over them. Keep the cooked fillets warm in the oven while you repeat the process with the remaining 2 fillets. When they’re done, add the cooked fillets to the plates in the oven. Sprinkle with the parsley, salt, and pepper and serve immediately.

My Nutella Crepes

  • Crepe batter mix (I cheated and bought the mix because I’m on a writing deadline and needed to speed up the process).
  • As much nutella as you like
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 tablespoons of crème fraiche
  • Two handfuls of toasted almonds dusted with raw sugar for garnish  

Blend crepe mix, eggs and butter then transfer to a bowl and let it stand, covered, for one hour. Heat a crepe pan and brush the pan lightly with the butter, heat the pan until it is hot and then remove it from the heat. Stir the batter, half fill a 1/4 cup measure with it, and pour the batter into the pan. Tilt and rotate the pan quickly to cover the bottom with a thin layer of batter and then turn the pan to the heat, loosen the edge of the crepe until the underside is browned lightly. Add couple of tablespoons of nutella, turn the crepe, brown the other side lightly and transfer the crepe to a plate. Make crepes with remaining batter in the same manner, brushing with butter as necessary. Top with crème fraiche (or whipped cream or vanilla ice cream) and garnish with the toasted almonds before serving.

**The crepes may be made in advance, stacked, wrapped in plastic wrap, and chilled for up to 3 days or frozen.

Goat Cheese Salad

  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled, halved
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 4-ounce logs soft fresh goat cheese, each halved crosswise, halves pressed to 1/2-inch thickness
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ baguette
  • Mixed baby greens

For vinaigrette:
Place garlic and oil in small glass measuring cup or ramekin. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and microwave 30 seconds. Transfer garlic to small bowl. Reserve oil. Using fork, coarsely mash garlic. Add basil, vinegar, and mustard to mashed garlic. Whisk until smooth. Gradually whisk in reserved garlic oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made one day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Let stand 1 hour at room temperature and rewhisk before using.)

For salad:
Mix first 6 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Toast goat cheese on small baguette slices to make cheese rounds. Bake cheese rounds at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until golden and crisp. Transfer to plate. Place greens in large bowl and toss with vinaigrette. Add 3-4 cheese rounds to each plate. Serve.

Comfort Me with Apples

My family and friends all get a big hearty laugh over some of the new and different things I’ve tried since Ryan and I have been together. From camping and canvassing (political telemarketing) to vegetarianism and cooking, my world has expanded quite a bit in the last four years. Someone once told me that you become a better version of yourself – the person you want to be – when you find the right person and I have to admit, at least in my experience, there is definitely some truth to that. I still love my gossip and fashion magazines and my credit cards still buzz in my pocket when I walk through the mall, but I like to think I’ve evolved a little.  I also like the fact that I’m writing again – something I have always loved – and I even tried running (on a treadmill only). You just never know what new adventure awaits.

For some reason, the Fall season always brings out this optimism in me. For some people it is New Year’s, for me it is when the leaves change color and pumpkin flavors abound. My brother and I grew up about three miles from an orchard, yet somehow we only jumped off of haystacks. Never picked one apple. Today, one of my most favorite new Fall activities with Ryan is apple picking. While we haven’t embarked on any apple picking this season yet, I did hit a local fruit stand for some crisp, delicious apples.

apples1

But what to do with these apples? At first, I thought I’d save them for our anniversary dinner on Sunday (six whole months), but then I decided on a different dessert for that meal. Then we received a call from friends in our building inviting us over for dinner tonight. The prospect of finding new couple friends at this stage in our lives, let alone ones who actually live in our building makes me giddy. Of course, the fact that they have an adorable baby, little Lucy, doesn’t hurt either. So I thought Apple Cake. I haven’t made Apple Cake in years. In fact, the last time I did my grandmother poured milk over it because it was “too dry.” Well, it is a new kitchen and new outlook so I’m jumping back in. I’ve probably mentioned that Apple Cake is one of my favorite food memories from my best friend’s house growing up. No one – and I mean no one – made a better version than Mrs. Long. But I’ll give it a shot.

*Tip: Since I’m still a nervous baker, I usually make a mini version of what I’m baking in a small ramekin so I can test out the final version without cutting into my tart or pie.

This recipe comes from my favorite food blog – www.smittenkitchen.com. This is her mother’s recipe. This is a quick, easy recipe and according to MY mother “the right apple cake recipe” because it contains orange juice as ingredient. Thanks mom.

Mom’s Apple Cake

6 apples, Mom uses McIntosh apples
1 tablespoon cinnamon
5 tablespoons sugar

2 3/4 cups flour, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a tube pan. Peel, core and chop apples into chunks. Toss with cinnamon and sugar and set aside.

Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ones, then add eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.

Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Spread half of apples over it. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples on top. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a tester comes out clean.

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