Only the Good Stuff

March 8th, 2011 · 6 Comments · Kitchenlightenment

You’ve heard me mention Momfilter on DALS before, but now I want to officially  mention it because as of last week, the site, a lifestyle resource for parents created by two Cookie mag founders Yolanda Edwards and Pilar Guzman, is officially live. I know, I know. There are a lot of websites out there for moms so, why, you ask, should you bookmark this one in particular?  Because, as the name promises, you’ll be getting information and inspiration — on everything from food to fashion to books and beauty – that has gone through the Yolanda and Pilar filter. These are the friends who regularly steer me towards the best deals in fashion (for kids and moms); who tell me exactly where to stay and eat when I go to, say, Philadelphia with the kids; who upgraded my guacamole after a single dip (“You need waaaay more salt!”) and my jeans wardrobe after a single glance. (“You need the next size down.”) In other words, you can trust them to tell it to you straight. And you can trust that they’ll always deliver the good stuff. I’ll be chiming in from time to time, too, so please take a look and let them know what you think.

PS: Would you look at this Michal Rubin shot above from their “Remembering” series. Could it be any sweeter?

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Wax-On Wax-Off, the Kitchen Edition

September 21st, 2010 · 19 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Quick

My friend and Time for Dinner co-author Pilar Guzman has a theory about cooking from recipes (as opposed to improvising with what you’ve got in front of you). She calls it the Wax-On/Wax-Off theory. Remember how the Karate Kid had no idea he was developing muscle memory for defensive blocks until Mr. Miyagi took away the car-waxing cloth???  Pilar believes that there is a whole world of capable cooks out there who are still waxing cars…I mean, still relying on recipes even though their highly developed culinary muscles have fully prepared them to start winging it in the kitchen.

That person was me until a few years ago. I remember the recipe that turned it around for me — Chicken with Bacon and Brussels Sprouts. I had eaten some version of the dish in a restaurant and for whatever reason decided that this was the meal that was going to be my Crane Kick. I had probably cooked and edited 4200 skillet meals by that point in my life so I knew the basic technique was…

Brown meat in fat. Remove meat. Add vegetables. Add meat back to pan with some form of liquid. Simmer until meat is cooked through.

So I thought about the ingredients I needed, thought about the technique, then tested myself. The exercise not only yielded the most delicious dinner that even the girls inhaled like wolves, but ignited a little flicker of confidence that I knew would just keep growing. And it has. I think it’s a huge reason why I’ve been able to keep the family dinner thing going. (Is there anything less appealing than bobbing back and forth between a pot and a cookbook during the six-o’clock scramble?) So now, it’s your turn to test yourself. Up there in the picture are all the ingredients you need (chicken, bacon, brussels, onion, wine…forgot to show salt & pepper) to create Chicken with Bacon and Brussels (finished dish pictured below). See how you do…and let me know how it turns out.

Can I tell you how much I love this dinner? Not only is the bacon/ brussels combo genius, but the whole meal takes about a half hour and uses only one pot. (more…)

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Tabula Rasa

July 21st, 2010 · 13 Comments · Dinner, Pork and Beef, Time for Dinner: The Cookbook

Let’s say you just went shopping at Trader Joe’s so your refrigerator is stocked with staples like pork and chicken and onions and olive oil as well as some fun little extras like prosciutto and Whole Wheat Naan. Let’s also say that on your way home from your weekend in the Berkshires, you picked up some fresh corn and tomatoes and blueberries at a roadside farm stand. So you’re set in the Fresh department, too. And then, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend that you have spent the last decade working on the food team at two major magazines, write a daily food blog, and in fact have even co-written The Book on family dinner.

If all this was in fact the case, you probably don’t imagine that you would ever find yourself in the position I was in last night. Staring at my full fridge at 6:20 with not a single idea of what to feed my family. Zero. When I was working at Cookie, I used to regularly get 6:20 emails my friend (and co-author) Pilar who found herself in the same predicament. Tabula Rasa, she’d write. Complete Tabula Rasa.

Since Tabula Rasa strikes more often than one might think, I’ve trained my brain to default to one of three settings: The Omelet Setting, The Risotto Setting, and the Taco Setting. Any one of them would have made good use of the staples in the pantry as well as my roadside score. Last night I went with Pork Tacos.

Pork Tacos
Warning: This is not a throw-it-together tabula rasa meal like an omelet might be. It requires about 45 minutes of hands-on time. And if you like to pan-fry your tortillas (instead of heating in oven) it ends up being a three-pot meal. But, delicious, delicious. And worth the investment for us because both kids will generally eat some variation of it, which means we are rewarded by a nag-free meal.

In a small Dutch oven or a medium, straight-sided pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add a salted-and-peppered pork tenderloin (about 1 1/4 pounds; the standard size) and brown on all sides. (It does not have to cook through.) Once it’s browned, remove from heat and to the same pot, add 1/2 onion (chopped), 1 clove garlic (minced), a dash of red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Cook until onions are soft, about 3 minutes. Add one 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 bay leaf, and a few hefty shakes of dried oregano. Stir to combine, then add pork tenderloin back to pot, nestling it in the liquid. Bring to a boil, then cover pot and simmer for about 30 minutes. (If you have to go pick up your spouse at the train because you forgot to tell him you took the car home from the station yourself, well, now is the time to do it.)

While pork simmers away, make a corn salad with cooked kernels, chopped tomatoes, cilantro, scallions, olive oil, a squeeze of lime. Warm 4-6 whole wheat tortillas (wrapped in foil) in a 350°F oven.

When pork has cooked, remove from pot and, using two forks, shred it into pieces as shown above. (There is no art to this; in fact the less artfully done, the better.) Add shreds back to the sauce, stir everything together, then assemble tacos as shown. Top with sour cream.

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Would Anybody Like to Play a Game?

June 10th, 2010 · 16 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Pasta, Pork and Beef, Seafood, Time for Dinner: The Cookbook, Vegetarian

Now, granted this might be hard because it involves some knowledge of my cookbook shelves pre-June 10, 2010. But the game is this: Can anyone guess what new cookbook has been added to my kitchen library? I’ll give you a hint. It’s wedged in between Ruth Reichl and Marcella Hazan, a few doors down from Martha Stewart and Bugialli and Bittman, underneath Julia Child and Mario Batali and Jim Lahey…? Give up?

It’s Time for Dinner, the cookbook I co-authored with Pilar Guzman and Alanna Stang while we were all still at Cookie. Although the book doesn’t officially publish until September, I received a real-life, I-can-hold-it-in-my-hands advance copy by FedEx this morning and it’s hard not to be Abby-ish and imagine myself (and my cowriters) on the same shelf as my food heroes. But the thing is — there I am. There we are. Next to Marcella Hazan!

I would love nothing more than to show you every single page in the 272-page playbook, but I’m going to restrain myself and just deliver some good news to all those former Cookie readers who have written to me telling me how much they miss the “So You Have A…” column. There is an entire chapter of SYHAs in the cookbook — 20 ingredients, 3 meal options for each, which means 60 total recipes. (Sixty recipes in just one chapter, btw.) For those of you new to SYHA, the column was one of Cookie‘s most popular pages. It charted recipes visually and the choose-your-own-adventure strategy (“head this way if you have pork; that way if you have pasta”)  is tailor-made for parents who come in the door at 6:30, see a big bunch of swiss chard (or sausage or frozen peas or miso paste) in the fridge and need quick inspiration for how they can turn it into dinner.  As addicted as I am to my digital recipe generating these days, seeing the flowcharted recipes spread across two pages reminded me how impossible it is to replicate the feeling of opening a book (see? It lies flat!) and getting inspired by lush photographs (thank you, Marcus Nilsson) and clean design (thank you, Number 17). Ok, I’m done now with the shameless self-promotion. Thanks for listening.

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We Have a Cover!

May 12th, 2010 · 18 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Pasta, Picky Eating, Pork and Beef, Rituals, Seafood, Sides, Salads, Soup, Time for Dinner: The Cookbook

…And, perhaps even more exciting, we also finally have an amazon link where you can pre-order our Time for Dinner cookbook. OK…how cool is that cover? I can call my own number here because I had absolutely nothing to do with it. Lia Ronnen at Melcher Media and Bonnie Siegler at Number 17 are the creative forces behind the design — as well as the 75 other cover tries that I am convinced, if decoupaged into shelf-liner, could make someone somewhere a million bucks. (Thanks, guys.)

In honor of this milestone, I’m giving you a recipe (tweaked a bit) that comes from one of my favorite chapters of the book. The chapter is a “starter kit” on feeding the baby called “What’s in it for me?”  where we show how to prepare basic fresh baby purees (avocado, sweet potato, bananas, etc.), then give instructions for how to take those purees and use them as the base for grown-up dishes. (So an avocado mash turns into taco topping, a peach puree is stirred into a Harry’s-style Bellini, you get the idea.) When we batted around ideas for grown-up-izing baby’s pureed sweet potato, Alanna, who wrote the section, suggested mixing in a miso butter with scallions. Apparently people knew about this combination? I did not, but let me just tell you, it’s a revelation — a revelation that my kids have come to like more than a plain sweet potato.

Sweet Potatoes with Miso Butter and Scallions (adapted from Time For Dinner)

2 whole sweet potatoes or yams
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons miso (white)
2 tablespoons chives or chopped scallions

Roast whole sweet potatoes at 450°F for 40 minutes. While they are roasting, mix together remaining ingredients. When potatoes are ready, slit them in half lengthwise, scoop out some flesh for the baby and mash with a fork.  Top the rest with miso butter. (For Abby, I scooped the flesh out of the skin and tossed it for her in a special bowl. Seemed to do the trick.)

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Time for Dinner: The Cookbook

March 21st, 2010 · 6 Comments · Dinner, Time for Dinner: The Cookbook, Uncategorized

Pilar Guzman, Jenny Rosenstrach (me), Alanna Stang (photo: Andrea Chu)

When I worked at Cookie, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by moms who (collectively) knew the answers to everything. Really everything! From Should I send my late-birthday kid to kindergarten or not? to What should I wear to a summer afternoon wedding? to Is Coraline too old for my six-year-old? But the real bonus was that two of them, editor-in-chief Pilar and executive editor Alanna, above, were astonishing cooks who loved nothing more than talking about food — particularly the kinds of food that their kids loved to wolf down. We spent our last year at Cookie compiling all our notes into a book and the result is something we promise is going to change the way you feel about cooking for your kids. It’s called Time For Dinner: Strategies, recipes, and inspiration for every night of the week (Chronicle) and will be out in September 2010. If you happen to be press and you’re interested in getting on the review copy list, you can email David_Hawk@chroniclebooks.com.

More….

Time for Dinner is filled with more than 200 recipes–everything from customizable lasagnas to sushi hand rolls that look like ice cream cones–that will inspire your family dinner. (Victoria Granof developed the recipes and Marcus Nilsson shot the gorgeous photos.) You’ll also learn how to:

  • Make one meal that everyone in the family wants to eat
  • Break out of your rut
  • Keep the kids distracted while you cook
  • Plan and prep so you’re not scrambling for ideas every night
  • Master a few basic techniques you can fall back on
  • Reclaim dinner so you can start enjoying meals again!
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