Monday, January 31, 2011

CSN Winner!

First, I wanted to thank everyone for entering my CSN giveaway - this was the most comments I have ever received on a blog post - and you must know that I was excited each and every time the little notification came through my email.  Thank you so much!!

I wish I could give everyone a prize!! but since I can't, I used Random Integer generator to pick a winner for my CSN giveaway - to keep it fair and all.

Congratulations Dee!  I will send you your coupon code!

One of you is also going to win a prize for your recipe suggestion!!  I had a hard time deciding, but I love the caramelized onion dip that Shannon suggested!  I saw a similar recipe on Food 52 and am dying for an excuse to try it....I might also have to try her recipe for baked black bean dip! YUM!

So Congratulations to Shannon!  Send me an email with your mailing address and I'll send you something delicious from my kitchen - please include any possible food allergies!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Baked Potato Soup

  This is one of my catch-all recipes that uses up kitchen surplus.  I made it up when it was snowing outside and didn't want to pick anything to make dinner.  I saw a big bag of potatoes in the kitchen and inspiration struck.
We always talk about how we should make baked potatoes for dinner sometime - and I'm sure we will.  But this night was damp and snowy, and was a perfect night for soup.  So I combined the two.

Baked Potato Soup

4 Large All Purpose Potatoes
2 small onions, chopped
4 strips bacon, chopped
4 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon flour
1/3 cup half and half

toppings (optional)
cheddar cheese
green onions

Prick the potatoes - then put them in the microwave for 7 minutes.  This may take longer or shorter depending on your machine.  While the microwave is nuking your taters, put your soup pot on a medium flame. When the pot is warm, add the chopped bacon.  Cook the bacon until it is crispy and brown.  Once rendered, use a slotted spoon to remove it from the pot and drain on paper towels.

Remove all but 1 teaspoon bacon fat, and add the chopped onions and cook until translucent.  Once the onions are cooked, add a teaspoon of flour and cook to make a light roux.  Add about a cup of the chicken broth and bring to a simmer and stir, making sure the flour mixture is evenly incorporated.

Scoop the cooked potatoes out of their skin - its OK if you get a little skin too.  Add them to the pot and use a potato masher to mash up the potatoes.  I kept it a rough mash because I wanted a little texture....but go to town if you want it smooth.
Add salt and pepper to taste - you'll want a decent amount of salt for the potatoes.

 Add the remaining chicken broth, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes.

Shut off the heat and add the half and half.  I decided that this was totally optional - we just had half and half leftover from the chicken chili and I thought it was a great way to finish it off...

Top the soup however you would top a baked potato - and feel free to get creative!  We went with bacon, cheddar cheese and broccoli.  I also had a little salsa on mine for some kick.

How do you top a baked potato?

Don't forget - you have until tomorrow to enter my CSN Giveaway!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

CSN Giveaway!!

So, you know about CSN Stores right?  CSN has over 200 online stores where you can find everything from stylish furniture, modern bedding, or my favorite: great cookware!  They have a lot of great deals on some terrific cookware and utensil brands - stuff that you know and could probably find for wayyyy more $$$ at the mall or specialty shops.

CSN has great prices on quality stuff!

Here are some of the things on CSN that I'm lusting after:

 A Le Creuset baking dish - to add to my newly acquired pieces!

 A ceramic mortar and pestle, for grinding spices.

And a Mezzaluna - for making quick work of fresh herbs.  It looks sort-of intimidating, doesn't it?

But instead of shopping for myself - I decided I'd like to do another giveaway, because I love my readers - and I love when you leave me comments.

CSN is offerring a $40 gift code to a reader of The Clean Plate Club!  

There are two ways to enter:

1.  Comment with a link to a favorite recipe for a game-day food - I need to finalize my Super Bowl menu

2.  Tweet about the contest (and then leave a comment telling me that you did)

I will choose a CSN winner using random integer generator, to be considered you must enter by midnight Sunday January 30th....
And if I choose your recipe for gameday, you will also get a surprise, straight from my kitchen!


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

White Chicken Chili

When I'm having a good week - you know the kind: you're on top of the household chores, you're getting all your errands done, and you're planning your weekly meals BEFORE you go grocery shopping....Well, when I am having one of those weeks, I usually make at least one soup or stew.

At least a couple nights a week, when I have yoga, or Rafe stays late at the library, we eat dinner at different times and its good to have something we can just warm up when we're hungry.

I saw this recipe on Bianca's blog, and knowing mine and Rafe's love of all things Mexican flavored, I knew we'd have to try it! 

I started by cubing the chicken,
Chopping onions and garlic,
And got my other ingredients ready.....This couldn't have been easier!
I started by cooking the chicken with the onions and garlic in my dutch oven.
While I was doing this - Rafe remembered that we had a poblano pepper hanging out in our we decided to chop it up and sub it in for one of the cans of green chilies.
We added it to the pan, just to cook it through slightly, and followed with the chicken broth, beans, and one can of green chilies.
After the mixture simmered, we shut off the heat, and added the half and half and subbed 6oz Greek yogurt for the sour cream.  I stirred the soup until it was evenly mixed.  We garnished the soup with fresh cilantro, cheddar cheese, and avocado.

Creamy White Chicken Chili
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed
- 1 medium onion, small diced
- 1 T vegetable oil
- 2 cans cannelini beans
- 14.5 ounces chicken broth
- 1 4-ounce cans chopped green chilies 
- 1/2 poblano pepper, chopped (if you can't find a poblano just double the chilies)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup half & half
- 6 ounce fat free plain greek yogurt

Heat the oil on medium heat and add the chicken and onions.  Cook until the onion is translucent, and the chicken is cooked through.  Add the garlic and poblano and give it another couple minutes.

 Add the chicken broth, beans, chilies, salt, cumin, oregano and cayenne. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes.

Turn off the heat, add the half and half and Greek yogurt.  Garnish with cheese, chips, avocado and/or cilantro.

We got a couple dinners out of this recipe.  We really enjoyed the way the creamy soup tempered the heat of the chilies and cayenne.

Thanks Bianca!!!!

What's your favorite 'reheat' meal.  Links appreciated :)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Around My French Table: Stuffed Pork Roast

Last week while menu planning I realized that we hadn't had pork in a while - and it was on-sale at the grocery store, thus my first recipe from "Around My French Table" was the Chard Stuffed Pork Roast.

I almost ALWAYS have kale in the house - I blame my Portuguese rather than buy swiss chard at the grocery store, I subbed my favorite green.

This was relatively easy and quick to prepare on a weeknight.  I started by chopping my kale, onions, and garlic.  The recipe also called for plump raisins.  My golden raisins had seen better days, so I put them in a bowl and covered them with some hot water to plump while I prepared the rest of the filling.

I sweated the onions and garlic, then added the kale to wilt.  Once the stuffing was cooked through, I transfer it to a bowl and combined the stuffing with the golden raisins.
Next, I prepped the pork.  I used a smaller roast than the recipe called for, since it was just for two of us. 
I sliced the pork almost completely in half, and filled it with the kale stuffing.
Then I used kitchen twine (thanks Lee, for having an amazingly stocked kitchen!) to put the pork back together.
Although the roast was a little smaller than Dorie calls for,  I kept the ratio for the stuffing and the seasoning the same, since pork is generally a very mild meat I though it would stand up to some extra seasoning.  (that is also why it is falling apart at the seams, filled with delicious savory/sweet stuffing.
The pork roast is then very simply seasoned with salt, cracked peppercorns, and crushed coriander seed.  

I don't cook with coriander very often, so I wasn't exactly sure what flavor to expect in a dish where it was a major seasoning.  I knew that coriander was the seed of the cilantro plant and I love cilantro so I was optimistic.  Coriander actually has a really fresh and almost lemony flavor....but still a little earthy.  Think mild citrus and a hint of sage.

Dorie suggests roasting the pork in a cast iron skillet.  I love this method!  The pork got great color in the pan.  I only wish I had though to have some veggies ready to sauteed in the pork fat drippings while the meat was resting!! Next time.

After the meat rested for a few minutes, I sliced it up and plated it with some simple roasted carrots and potatoes.  Look how juicy that meat looks!

I really loved this recipe.  I particularly enjoyed the sweet/savory combo of the stuffing, and the way that a very simple recipe opened my eyes to a new seasoning.  I really liked the addition of coriander.

Rafe liked this -- but did mention that he prefers the way I normally cook pork roast....hmm.  He's not yet sold on Dorie.

Kale Stuffed Pork Roast
adapted from 'Around My French Table'- Dorie Greenspan
3-4 large stalks of Kale - ribs removed, washed and shredded
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup raisins
red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, crushed
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
1.5 lb pork roast
olive oil
salt & pepper

If your raisins are somewhat shriveled - start by putting them in a heat-proof bowl and covering them with HOT water while you prepare the rest of the stuffing.  

Heat olive oil in a saute pan and add the onion and garlic.  Cook until the onion becomes translucent, then add the kale.  Stir the mixture to ensure even wilting of the kale.  It should take about 5-7 minutes for the kale to cook down - then transfer the mixture to a bowl.  Drain the raisins and add them to the mixture.  Stir gently to combine.  Season with salt and red pepper flakes.

Slice the pork roast evenly in half - but not completely through.  Fill the pork roast with the cooled stuffing.  Fold it back up and secure it with kitchen twine.  Poke any filling back inside as necessary!

Rub the fatty side of the pork loin with a bit of the olive oil and season with salt, and the crushed black pepper and coriander.  Place the roast fat side up in a cast iron skillet (or roasting pan - I won't tell Dorie).  Roast until the pork registers an internal temp of 140.  Mine took about 30 minutes.

Once the pork is cooked through, remove it from the oven, and place it on a cutting board to rest, tented with tin foil.

Dorie recommends serving with honey mustard on the side, which is exactly what I did.  Next time however, I am determined to use the pan drippings!  Either for sauteed string beans, or a pan sauce!

Have you ever used coriander?  Do you like it? What has been your favorite herb/spice discovery?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Monday Funday

Has it really been a month since I left Boston for Connecticut suburbia?  When I drove to the city on Monday, it felt strange.  The city where I lived for 6+ years was no longer mine. 
 As I drove down I-90 watching the Prudential center get bigger and bigger on my approach, I got a little sad...

Then someone immediately cut me off as I was getting off my exit.  *SNAP* Back to reality.

Monday was a holiday - and since there was an event in Boston in the evening - and a few of my friends had the day off, we decided to grab lunch and have a 'funday' together.  We started at Sel De La Terre.

On this particularly cold and biting day, I was relieved when I was greeted by the hostess, she took my coat, and directed me to the bar where I would wait for my friends.  I browsed the drink menu and decided on a cocktail with some seasonal flavors.  I don't recall the exact name, but it had apple cider, allspice liquor, and bitters.  It was yummy and warming.

Very soon after I took my first sips, Michelle arrived at the restaurant and we were seated at a lovely corner table with plenty of sunlight (great for bloggers toting cameras!)  Soon after we were seated Daisy and Megan joined us.  Meghan was coming too, but was meeting us after lunch.

I immediately dug into the bread basket...I was starving, it was only 12:30 and that cocktail was making me a little dizzy. It was good and strong!

I checked into Sel De La Terre on Foursquare and was told that the restaurant had a deal - a free order of rosemary fries for a checkin.  I told our waitress and she immediately returned with these beauties...I almost dug in before we got a photo!  Bad blogger!  They were crispy and well seasoned - and I kept going back for more.  I love good french fries.

For my lunch, I ordered a portobello mushroom sandwich.  Although you know I'm a huuuge fan of meat, I do occasionally order a meatless dish at a restaurant.  Particularly when it involves goat cheese and tomato hummus.  The mushrooms inside were very well marinated, and it was served on a really nice toasted wheat bread.  It came with some chips....they were a little boring.  From their appearance my brain thought barbecue, but the flavor wasn't there.  I went back for more of those fries instead.

I couldn't help but take a picture of Michelle's SDLT burger (Daisy ordered the same).  It looked perfectly cooked, and gorgeous atop the brioche bun.  Megan ordered the mac and cheese and I had a bite - it was really good and I loved the crunchy crumb top!

Michelle had to leave us to go back to work before dessert - but we would meet up with her again later in the day.  Daisy, Megan and I perused the dessert menu.  Sel De La Terre had so many great options, we couldn't decide!  Then we saw the dessert tasting for 2: A sampling of all the desserts in 'miniature'.

I thought the plating was gorgeous.  And little teeny desserts are just so .... CUTE!

Flourless chocolate cake with a berry sorbet.

On the left is the maple goat cheese mousse - this was one of my favorites.

This was a teeny tiny tarlett.  this tasted just OK, but I loved the light on those mint leaves....

Apple bread pudding with cider gastrique and vanilla ice cream

I loved this orange vanilla creme brulee, it was a great update on a classic.

This almond chocolate mousse layer cake was tasty and moist - and I loved the added texture of the toasted coconut on top.

I love panna cotta and I find it to be somewhat polarizing when I dine with others - either you love it or you hate it.  I LOVED this chai tea panna cotta - I think it may have been my favorite of the tray.  The flavor was bright, the texture was perfect and creamy, and I loved the addition of the sesame brittle.

After lunch the rest of our day involved strolling around the long wharf area and some cocktails at RumBa in the Intercontinental hotel.

The bar was empty and the fireplace was beckoning us to seek refuge from the frigid temps outside.

I was a little disappointed that there were no seasonal cocktails.  After my cidery drink at Sel De La Terre I could have used a little pumpkin.....but the champagne mojito piqued my interest.

It was tropical and delicious - and nearly impossible to drink from a champagne flute with that lime slice.....I removed the lime and sipped my treat.

After a good time spend sipping cocktails, chatting and tweeting, we decided we should start moving closer to the South End near our evening festivities.  Our amused cab driver who smelled heavily of baby powder dropped us off on Washington street and we meandered into Union Bar and Grill.  It was 5 minutes before opening - but Justin, who tweets for Union, ushered us in out of the cold.

A different Justin (the bartender) mixed us some delicious cocktails.  I had the Aloe: vodka, aloe and white grape juice. It was light and refreshing.  I had only experienced aloe when I've had a sunburn, but the aloe in this drink definitely helped minimize the burn of the healthy dose of vodka.

Soon, Michelle rejoined the group and we had an impromptu photo-shoot in the bar.  I love this picture of all of us!  We finished our drinks, settled our tab, and headed down the street....  

To the Gallows for the launch party of the Boston Food Bloggers website!  Rachel Blumenthal is the brains behind the website which indexes all of the food bloggers in the Boston area.  She and Christine Liu planned this amazing event.

I don't have many pictures here, because I spent most of my time catching up with old friends like Justin & his wife Leah, Lara, Katie, Fiona, Elizabeth....

As well as meeting some new folks like Summer and her husband Ray, Kara, Kelley and Lizzy.

I drank lots and lots of water (to counteract the days adult cocktails), and enjoyed a burger, some bacon caramel popcorn, and deeeelicious poutine.  The food at the Gallows was great, and I'd love to try it next time I'm in town.

And then it was time to drive back to CT!  Until next time Boston!!!

Sel de la Terre on Urbanspoon

Rumba on Urbanspoon

Union Bar and Grille on Urbanspoon

The Gallows on Urbanspoon