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One of my favorite people in the world writes one of my favorite food blogs in the world, The Hungry Hippo.  Her resolution for 2013 is to make more of the recipes from the cookbooks she owns.  These are cookbooks I love and I will sit for hours and browse them when I visit her (I can do this because she’s the one playing with my kids while I do).  She posted this recipe a few weeks ago (from a Parisian cookbook, no less!) and I could not wait to try it.

Broccoli and Cauliflower Gratin

Ingredients:
2 cups of broccoli
2 cups of cauliflower
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of flour
1 1/3 cups milk (I used whole)
2 egg yolks
2/3 cup cheese (according to the Hippo, the recipe called for gruyere, she used 1/3 C cheddar, 1/3 C parm and I used what I had in my fridge.  I think it was jack and cheddar, maybe?) plus some extra for sprinkling
about 1/4 cup bread crumbs (I used panko)
salt and pepper
sprinkle of nutmeg (I skipped this)

Directions

Wash and chop your veggies into same size florets.

IMG_4732 Put some water on to boil and once it has come to a rolling boil, add the florets.  Cook them for 1-2 minutes.  Take them out immediately- you don’t want them to get mushy, just slightly less crisp.  IMG_4734Set them aside and work on the sauce.  Melt the butter in a saucepan.  When it has melted, add the flour and whisk together, letting it cook for a minute to get the raw flour taste out.  Slowly whisk in the milk and let it thicken. Take your pan off the heat and add the egg yolks one at a time, whisking while you do.  Try to avoid making scrambled eggs in your sauce.  Add the cheese, again, whisking while you do so that it will melt evenly.  Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg (if using).

IMG_4736I used ham in mine, even though the Hippo did not.  I cubed a ham steak.

IMG_4733Then I added it to a hot frying pan to brown and crisp it over medium high heat.

IMG_4735Butter a casserole dish and add your veggies.

IMG_4737Sprinkle the ham around to fill in the spaces.

IMG_4738Pour your sauce over this.

IMG_4739Mix your breadcrumbs with some of the cheese and sprinkle on top.

IMG_4740Bake at 400 until the top is golden brown and it’s heated through and bubbly, about 30 minutes.

IMG_4741This could be a side dish but with the added meat, it can also be a lovely main dish.  The egg yolks add a silkiness to the sauce that isn’t there in a basic white sauce.

IMG_4742It was good for a cold night.

IMG_4743

Puddle of Cookie

This year for Thanksgiving we had a bit of shake-up, the end result of which was that we a) had Chinese take-out, which was delightful and b) I made a few desserts.  One of which was a gluten-free cookie, taken from The Hippo’s Blog.  I will tell you that I think her cookies were probably better since I had to make a few substitutions due to a lack of proper ingredients (I’m just saying, maybe someone had a few drinks the night before Thanksgiving so that she couldn’t drive to the store and mistakenly assumed that it would be open on Thanksgiving day.  It wasn’t.).

Nonetheless, they were good.  I totally recommend making them if you can.  They’re both chewy and crispy at the same time.  I made mine slightly too large so that they didn’t cook through the whole way and some of the centers got left on the silpat.  So make yours smaller.

Puddle Cookie (mostly the Hippo’s recipe, found here)

Ingredients

3 cups confectioners sugar

2/3 cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)

2 1/2 cups pecans, toasted and chopped (I actually used about 2 cups of slivered almonds and 1/2 a cup of pecans)

1/2 cup egg whites (about three large eggs)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso powder

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350.  Line a sheet pan with silpat or parchment paper.  Don’t skip this part, trust me.

Toast the nuts either in the oven or in a pan.  Pay attention because if you can smell them, they’re about to burn.  I toasted mine in the oven at 350 for about 5 or 6 minutes.

Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl.  It seems like a lot of sugar (it is) but it will sort of melt down as you add the liquid of the egg whites.

Mix well and add the egg whites.  It will get really sticky but mix well anyway.

Drop by small spoonfuls (less than a tablespoon) onto the parchment or silpat.  Place about six to a sheet- they will spread a bit when baking.  Bake for about ten minutes.  You should remove them when they look dry and crackly.  If you take them out too early, they will be wet in the middle and won’t come off the cookie sheet in a whole cookie. Let them cool on the sheet for a few minutes before you move them to a rack to cool.

More Bits and Pieces

I have started about twenty posts since I last posted.  The problem I was having prior remains:  lots of kitchen fails.  Add that to the heat and the baby weight and the fact that I’m not really cooking anything interesting and you get a whole lot of nothing.  But I can report that we have had a minor miracle in our house tonight:

It is 9:15 and the baby is asleep in his crib and my daughter is asleep in her bed.  This has never happened, ever in the history of, well, ever.  We are not a cry-it-out family so it’s been several years of coaching G. to sleep in her bed by herself and we are traveling the same path with baby M.  Though, we are trying to let him sleep alone whenever we can.  So I finally have time to write but, sadly have nothing about which to blog.  Sigh.

I have done some minor entertaining in the last few days.  If you’ve been following along at home, you know that last September I started at a new school.  This means lots of new work socializing, something we all know I loathe.  Not because of the people themselves but because of me- I hate, hate, hate social situations which do not involve people I already know.  So it was a nice turn of events that I grew to adore one of the administrators at my school- the one I work with most directly.    We agreed that when the year was over, we would need an outside-of-work adult playdate (which sounds so much dirtier than it was) which would involve yummy snacks and wine.  That came to fruition this week.

I know I don’t speak about it as often as I could here but my grandparents knew Julia Child.  My grandfather was well-known in our area because of his knowledge of wine and his wine shop in our town.  My grandmother knew all the gourmet chefs in the area, Julia foremost among them.  In my kitchen I have a few pieces of correspondence from Julia and Paul framed and hanging by  my oven to remind me of all of this.  I have only the vaguest of memories of Julia Child- mostly I remember tall.

At any rate, I tend to forget just how neat it was that my grandparents knew Julia and Paul Child.  It’s only in the re-telling that it comes back to life.  Which it did this week when my new work friend came over for snacks, wine and gossiping.  Turns out she’s a huge Julia fan and we share a love of cooking, reading cookbooks for fun and cooking shows. We also share a love of yummy snacks.

Deviled eggs because, why not?

Lady Gouda’s Peppery Cucumber Crackers.  To which I added cherry tomatoes which made them even more delicious (and slightly breast-like).

Ina Garten’s Green Herb Dip (I added some garlic and basil as well).  Note:  if you happened to have a whole bunch of cilantro (yuck! why would you?!) around, it would be good with this dip.  I’m just saying.)

It all went nicely with some prosecco and lots of gossip.

This week I also made the Hippo’s Delectable Radish Spread/Dip/Slaw.

It was good and did not taste like dirt.

I also added some celery seed and a pinch of sugar to sweeten it slightly.

I’m trying to avoid desserts these days which is killing me.  I have a few things I’d like to try over the next few weeks but will need to plan carefully so that there are others around to eat my creations.  Stay tuned for that.

Meanwhile, I’ll get around to more family recipes, I promise.  I plan to flip through Grandma’s recipe box this weekend.  Stick with me!

Bits and Pieces

So, what to do when food is the enemy, your time is limited and your father is in town visiting for a week?

Actually, food is no longer the enemy for me, I seem to have figured out what/how much/when to eat so that my blood sugar is under control and the nausea seems to have subsided for now.  I can’t do much about the heartburn, thank you third trimester.  My time also isn’t as limited as it could be- I am finally, somewhat caught up at work so that I don’t have a mountain of testing reports to write.  Instead, I have a number of kids to test and an equal number of reports to write.  But my father is here visiting for the week and so the free time I have, I want to spend with him.

Playing with her Choo-Choos and Grandpa.

So, I did meal plan for the week and will give you the run down.  I also did a bunch of prep for the week.  And I’m thinking about holiday baking already.  It’s a big day.

Tonight we’re having Asian Chicken Soup.  I’ve baked off the chicken for it, using some salt and some Chinese Five Spice Powder.

Monday we’re havingFalafel and salad.  Tuesday we’ll be eating fish and veggies (or chicken and veggies if you’re my dad).  Wednesday is squash mac and cheese, for which I roasted the squash today.

Thursday is quiche and Friday is african chicken soup.  What can I say?  I’m on a soup kick.

I also made cookie dough today which I will roll into logs and freeze so that a few days before December vacation I can slice them, bake them off and come into school a hero.  I made chocolate peanut butter chip* and an experiment of chocolate peppermint.  Same chocolate dough, but with peppermint extract and crushed peppermint candies.

So there you have it, my week in food.  I promise more exciting posts to come but for now, this will have to do.  I have toddlers with whom I need to play and fathers with whom I need to visit.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

*As I went looking for the link to the recipe, I realized I’ve never posted it, which is shocking!  I’ll post it here but 1) I have no photos and 2) credit goes to the back of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Chip bag.  Every time I make it, I think, “That’s a lot of sugar, I should cut back, I bet it doesn’t need that much.” and every time I make it, I never do.  So, you decide how you want to roll.

Chocolate Cookie

Ingredients

2 cups white flour

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups butter (about 2 1/2 sticks), soft but not melted

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or peppermint if you’re doing what I did)

1 bag peanut butter chips  (or about 1 bag crushed peppermint candies)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment or silpat.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.  In the bowl of a mixer, beat the sugar and butter until combined and fluffy.  Add eggs and the extract you’re using and mix again.  Slowly add the flour to the butter mixture- it will be messy.  Reese’s bag says to do it in several parts, I always dump it in, as my approach to baking really is pretty loose.  Stir in the chips or peppermints.

Drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheets and bake 8-9 minutes.  Leave some space between them as the will spread and puff up while baking. They will then also fall a bit when you take them out, which is ok.

 

The Hippo’s Pastitsio

Now that the cold weather is coming- it’s been sunny and 70 here, which makes me walk around saying, “Global warming?  What global warming?  New England is supposed to be warm in November, right?”- it’s time to think about stick-to-your-ribs food, comfort food, heavy, make it on Sunday eat it until Wednesday food.

Or am I the only one that thinks this way?

For my first heavy food of the season, I attempted The Hippo’s Pastitsio.  It was delicious just the right mix of cream and acid, savory and almost sweet.  The spices made it more than just a regular old baked pasta dish and I used lamb which I don’t often eat.  I felt very Mediterranean.

I won’t re-post the recipe here, for that you should click over to the Hippo’s site.  I will talk about the steps and give you some photos.  Otherwise, this would be a really short, boring post…

Make the tomato sauce.  I must confess that it took me three days to make this recipe, not because it was hard but because I was busy.  So the first day I browned the lamb and onions. The next day I added the tomatoes and spices (I was lacking tomato paste so I added a bit more tomato).  I don’t think the sauce suffered any from the day’s rest it got because I didn’t put together the dish until the day after that.

I made the crema.  It’s a little different from my usual white sauce because it includes eggs which made it more silky and smooth as well as slightly more rich.  In short, yum!

Then I boiled the macaroni and started to put it together.  First, the layer of bread crumbs, which went in onto a buttered pan.

Next, half the pasta, all the meat sauce and half the crema. 

Lots of cheese comes next. I used a mix of mozzarella and parmesan because that’s what I had.

Add the rest of the pasta and then the rest of the crema and top with the cheese.

Bake until it looks like this:

My Taste Buds Remember

It’s finally here:  vacation.

Big sigh of relief!

Of course, you’ve not seen an increase in posting because of about a million other things that have been getting in the way of cooking.  There’s one thing in particular but I need a few more weeks before I can blog about it.  In general, though, it’s been due to exhaustion.  My little monster has suddenly turned into a full-blown toddler and I’m spending all my vacation days chasing after her.  She’s fast!

Despite the tired, I did manage to crack open Grandma’s recipe box this week.  I found a card entitled, “Good sauce for chicken or london broil.”

I read the recipe and thought, “gee, I have all these ingredients and I have chicken in the freezer, why not?”  But I couldn’t, for the life of me, remember a sauce anything like this from past Grandma meals. The instructions on the card were…. sparse.  In fact, other than the list of ingredients, the only thing noted was “Makes a lot.”  What to do?  Call The Hungry Hippo, of course.  After consultation with her, we agreed to treat it like a bbq sauce- brush it on the chicken lightly while cooking and then again just before it was done.  Being sure, of course, to heat the sauce itself in between so as to kill all raw chicken germs.  It worked like a charm.

And when I tasted it, I was instantly transported back to Grandma’s table.  Of course I knew this sauce.  I just didn’t know I knew.  My brain didn’t know but my taste buds remembered.

Good Sauce for London Broil or Chicken

Ingredients

1 teaspoon salt (I found the sauce to be quite salty so I would probably leave this out next time)

1 teaspoon basil (I used fresh)

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup ketchup

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup corn oil (I used canola)

2 cloves crushed minced garlic

Directions:

If you are lucky enough to have a friend like my friend K., go out to your front step and pick some basil out of the planter full of herbs that she brought you for your birthday.  Three or so medium leaves should do it.

It's really something- basil, thyme, rosemary... it's a thing of beauty and I pray every day that I don't inadvertently kill it.

Chop up your leaves. 

I did a very rough chop.  If you don’t have fresh, I’m sure dried will work just as well.

Throw all ingredients together into a bowl.  Mine looked rather, um, yucky before I stirred it.

(I apologize for the horrible photos this post.  I really ought to look into getting a better camera if I’m going to continue to do this food blogging thing!)

Whisk it all until it’s combined.  It will have the consistency of bbq sauce.

Set aside.  I decided to use mine on chicken so I seasoned the chicken breasts with salt and pepper.

After heating my grill pan (over medium high heat), I brushed the chicken with a little bit of olive oil and put it in the pan to brown.

I flipped it to let it brown on the other side.

I then brushed it with a thin layer of the sauce and put the whole thing in the oven at about 400 degrees to let it cook through.  I continued to baste every few minutes or so.  Meanwhile, I heated the sauce in a saucepan over medium heat until it was boiling, so as to kill off any of the raw chicken germs.  This reduced the sauce somewhat which may have added to the
strong salt flavor.  If you’d rather, you can simply divide the sauce into small containers  and use one for brushing on the raw chicken and the rest for brushing on the cooked chicken.  For me that’s a lot of dishes I’d rather not do.  I just heat it.

I took it out when it reached 150 degrees and let it sit (last I checked, USDA recommendation for cooked chicken was 160 but it continues to cook after you take it out of the oven and you must let it rest so that the juices redistribute and it’s not dry).  After it rested, I sliced it up and served it for dinner.  I had sauce leftover so that went into the fridge and will be used again later in the week. 

It got rave reviews around here.  Or at least, the baby toddler liked it.  It’s sort of salty and sweet at the same time and has a slight asian flavor to it (from the soy).  It’s not quite bbq sauce, not quite fully asian.  It is, as grandma said, a good sauce for chicken!

Kitchen Fail! (And Fix)

Whew.  It was a long, long week.  The kind of week wherein I wanted to come home, curl up on the sofa with a book and eat the yummy, comforting food my Grandmother would make.  Sadly, of course, I couldn’t do that.  Partly because, well, she’s dead and partly because, as the resident grown-up, I can’t just hide.  So instead, I made my own comfort food (with a little cheating from Whole Foods).  This was on Wednesday night which was particularly terrible.

Why so terrible?  A painful meeting with a mother and daughter who are in an emotionally and potentially physically unsafe situation at home.  It was so hard to watch as mom slowly let down her guard to tell us what was happening.  Not all, mind you, just some.  Over the course of 40 minutes it went from “everything is fine” to “I’m thinking of leaving.”  It was hard all around- on mom, on her child, on my principal, on me…  In the end I was, once again, in awe of the power and bravery this woman showed.  While these conversations are hard and exhausting, often they remind me just how amazing people can be.

So I needed to cook something warm and comforting when I got home.  I made mashed potatos, green beans and cheated by buying some pre-made meats – and thai tofu, ’cause that’s how I roll- from Whole Foods.  The potatos were warm and comforting to be sure, but I needed more.  So I made chocolate pudding pie.  From scratch.

Now, you must understand, chocolate pudding is one of my few nemesises…nemesi?  in the kitchen.  I’ve made it more than once and often, no matter what I do, it comes out the wrong texture- too thin, doesn’t set up and ends up a really rich sauce.  Still tasty but not pudding.  But I had an extra pie crust from making quiche earlier in the week (P.S. use the Hippo’s dough recipe to make your own pie crust, you won’t be disappointed. Plus, if you are lazy as I am, you can make it in the Cuisinart in a jiff.) and there was some really good chocolate for sale when I went through Whole Foods.  How could I resist?I used Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for the pudding- you can find it here.  I’ve used it before and I was determined to make this pudding correctly!

I combined the dry ingredients in the top of my double boiler.  I added the milk and whisked it all together.  I set over the double boiler, which had simmering water in it and let it bubble away.  I stirred it once in a while, as the instructions suggested.  Now, here’s where I always seem to get it wrong- I don’t think I ever let it cook long enough.  SK suggested about fifteen to twenty minutes or until the mixture coats the back of a spoon.  I let it go at least twenty five minutes and it seemed thick enough at that point.  I added the chopped chocolate and let it melt in while I whisked.  And that’s it- you just let it set up.  So I did.  And it didn’t set.  I even left it overnight but no, no dice.  Here it is, in the pre-baked pie shell, not quite set up.It was frustrating.  But Thursday was a new day so I poured it all back into the double boiler and let it cook again.  For longer.  Plus, I mixed about two teaspoons of cornstarch with a few splashes of milk and whisked that into the pudding while it cooked and… wait for it….IT WORKED!  About thirty minutes after the second cook, I had real, actual, correctly textured pudding!  See?Ok, admittedly, it’s hard to tell the difference but trust me.  When I sliced into it, the pudding stayed where it was supposed to stay!

Plus, it was exactly what I wanted.  Maybe not on the day I wanted it but good nonetheless.

And, I’ll give you a bonus photo with a little bit of a caveat.  I have posted a few photos of my (I think) beautiful daughter on here because this is, after all, a blog about family cooking.  But I’ve not posted photos of me. Mainly because I don’t use my real name here and because I’ve found that when I see photos of the bloggers who write the blogs I read, I find it sort of jarring- they’re never what I expected them to look like!  But, while I was making the pudding, my mother came by and took some photos of me and my daughter “cooking” together and it got me thinking about that.  As I’ve mentioned, the kitchen in my house is the one in which I learned how to cook, by my grandmother’s side.  I intend to teach my daughter the same way.  And this photo sort of summed that up for me. Since this blog is My Family Table and she’s the next generation of it, I think it should be seen.   So here it is:(No worries, she wasn’t actually touching the whisk nor was she close to stove or the steam from the double boiler- safety first!)

Coming up over the next month?  Lots of excitement around here!  We’ll be having a birthday dinner for our tenant, a birthday cake for the baby (she’s a YEAR old!  How on earth did this happen?!), Passover in early April and…. Oh, the excitement…. a NEW STOVE and NEW OVENS!  Thank you to my mother who loves me very much.  I am so, so, so lucky!  I can’t wait!!!

The Best Soup Ever

In the winter, when it’s cold, all I want is soup or stew.  I think it comes from my grandmother but sadly, I have no soup recipes from her.  Someday when I have more time (when will that be exactly? I’m not sure!), I’ll experiment and see if I can make her bean soup or her fish chowder.  Until then, I’ll keep making my standbys- squash soup and chicken stew and Italian Wedding soup.

I am officially in love with Italian Wedding soup.  It has everything.  Broth, meatballs, pasta, greens….  It’s a complete meal within a soup in a bowl!  Just the thing for a winter’s night.  I’ve mentioned this soup several times to the Hippo and she has demanded I post it.  Since she was here this weekend, I roped her into helping me make it.  It’s easier with two sets of hands (because then at least one set can hold the baby!).

The soup itself is pretty easy- as most soups are- the meatballs are what take time.  But they are so worth it.  Plus, then you have extra, if you’d like, for things like sandwiches or pasta or just plain snacking.  The recipe I’m giving you is a combination of Ina Garten’s and Giada De Laurentiis’.  You can find them here.

Italian Wedding Soup

Ingredients

For the Meatballs:

1 lb. ground chicken (I use dark meat)

2 sweet Italian chicken sausages

1/3-2/3 cup plain bread crumbs (I use store bought)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 egg

salt and pepper

For The Soup:

8-10 cups chicken broth (or homemade stock)

1/2 large sweet onion, chopped small

2 ribs celery, chopped small

1/2-3/4 cup carrots, diced

1 cup small pasta (like orzo or stars or tubetini)

12 oz of baby spinach, washed and stems removed (if you have the patience to remove the stems- I don’t always)

Directions:

Make the meatballs.  Combine all ingredients into a bowl.  In order to use the sausage, you’ll need to remove the casings (if you can buy the sausage without the casings, more power to you).  Do this by sort of squeezing them over the bowl.  Try to ignore all the phallic and/or scatological thoughts that might occur during this process.  Or alternately, make lots of lewd jokes about it, loudly.  The Hippo demonstrates here:

 

 

(Now, really, if you can look at that and NOT think lewd thoughts, you’re an angel!) Combine the chicken meat and then add the rest of the ingredients and mix.  I use my hands.

Once it’s all mixed, roll out small meatballs (walnut size or so) and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 20-30 minutes or until golden and cooked through.  My oven, as I’ve said here many times, cooks unevenly. I end up doing a lot of rotating of sheets in order to get everything cooked at once without burning.  Make the soup:

Chop the carrots, onion and celery.  Put about two tablespoons of olive oil into a soup pot over medium heat.  Add the carrots, celery and onion and cook until soft, about 5-6 minutes.  Add the chicken stock/broth and bring to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook for 6-8 minutes or until the pasta is cooked.  While the pasta is cooking, beat two eggs and two tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese in a small bowl. Set aside.

Egg and Cheese, prior to mixing

Egg and Cheese, Mixed

 

 

Once the pasta is cooked, add the meatballs.

Prep the Spinach.  Wash it and, if you like, remove the stems.  I never do but I can’t tell the difference.

Washed and ready

Add it to the pot.  It will look like a lot but it will wilt down to almost nothing.  Trust me (and Ina and Giada!).

Making sure that the soup is boiling, add the egg/cheese mixture, stirring while you pour it in- it will make little strands as it cooks- it will be kind of like egg drop soup (which is basically egg and chicken broth- look two recipes for the price of one!).  The starch of the pasta may make the soup thick, especially after standing for a bit. You can always add more chicken broth (or even water in a pinch) to thin it out.  Season with salt and pepper and serve hot.  Yum!  Best. Soup. Ever.