Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pork tenderloin en croute + herbed potatoes = yummmm

I got both of these recipes from one of Emeril Legasse's cookbooks. It is all the best recipes from his restaurants in one book. The recipes are anything but quick and simple, but they are great for that special ocassion. I have found that if you do a little prep work ahead of time the actual cooking time isn't that bad.

The first couple of times I made it I found it to be very time consuming, but once I figured out how to time time things (ie: put the potatoes in the oven first then start the pork) it didn't take much more time than anything else I make.

The secret to perfect, herbed potatoes is this .... do NOT stir them while they cook. Cover them with herbs and oil and let them cook for 45 minutes at 400 and walk away. Being in one place on the pan gets them crispy .... turning them makes them soggy.

I was going to make this for a fancy Xmas Eve dinner, but we got home too late. Then I was going to make it as a fancy Xmas day dinner, but we were too exhausted. So this became the Day-after-Xmas-fancy-meal. It is pork tenderloin covered with a Cajun mustard, mushroom saute, and wrapped in puff pastry. The potatoes are SO good in just olive oil and fresh rosemary, oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Absolutely cravable.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

15 months: Devon (December) Xmas and food

What a crazy month it has been! 3 weeks ago Devon would walk until he fell then he would crawl the rest of the way. 2 weeks ago he would walk, fall, slowly stand back up and stagger around like Frankenstein with his arms out. 1 week ago he he would slowly walk without falling (for the most part) and now he is just cruising all over the house. It is the cutest thing to see him so mobile and the look of pride on his face as he "runs" from one room to the other. He tucks his little arms up like wings and he just goes!

I have a baby gate for the upstairs, but I need to get 2 more gates since there is a set of stairs going up and a set going down to the laundry room from the main floor. We are working on his stair climbing and descending abilities, but he's not quite there yet so the hideousness that IS a baby gate is needed. His favorite things to say are: cat, Dada, spoon and the most recent (and my favorite) is,"What is that?" It comes out more like,"Wass sat?", but 2 days ago it came out as 3, separate words,"What is that?" It was hysterical. He loves pizza (thanks Dada), salmon, fig newtons and pears. He is figuring out how to use a fork and spoon (a boom, boom, boom as he calls it)and is becoming so independent. It is so cute to watch him play and use his imagination. He is stil taking a 3 (sometimes 4) hour nap and is getting back to a regular sleeping schedule after weeks of staying up late.

My Monkey Bread was quite the labor of love. It took me from 8am to 5pm to let it raise, fold, raise, mix, raise, raise, raise, raise and though it looked beautiful it wasn't the "sweet sticky bun" I thought it would be. Joe's family seemed to like it and even said that they liked it "not so sweet", but I thought it was a huge let-down considering all the time it took. I don't think I would make it again since it took so much work, but at least now I know I can make it if I needed to.

I wanted to post this picture because I have discovered a great gadget. (the clear hourglass on the far left with the handle) I am not one for gadgets in cooking .... it's cheating in my opinion. I have a toaster, a Vita Mix blender, a mixer, an electric can opener and that's it. I don't have a food processor, though I may cave since one-handed-chopping is damn near impossible with a baby on your arm. I do love this little chopper though. I saw that my Mom had one of these and when I saw it at Bed, Bath and Beyond for $7 I scooped it up. It chops nuts either fine or coarse depending on which way you turn the crank. Plus, the bottom part is a measuring cup so you no longer have to chop then measure it out. Very helpful.

We spend Christmas with my family, but Christmas Eve with Joe's family. They always do a full dinner and then we open gifts. It is so much fun for me to see all the kids opening their gifts and watching them react to what I chose for them.

Devon has hit that age where he hands you stuff until he is out of stuff then he takes the stuff away from you only to give it right back. Everything around Joe was handed to him by Devon. Notice in the first picture what is in Devon' hand. Then the 2nd picture Joe has it.

Devon handed Joe pretty much all the stuff that is laying around him and Joe thought it was just hysterical. I am so happy to have caught Joe's boisterously, wonderful laughter on film.

We did Christmas morning at our house in the morning around 8:00am. Devon sort of just had a birthday and he's only 1 so I didn't feel inclined to get him lots of gifts. I did, however, get him some wooden alphabet blocks, some wooden puzzles and a pop up toy. One of those "thingys" with 5 animals in a row then you hit a button and they pop up. He had a great time playing them before passing out for his afternoon nap. I got Joe some accessories for gadgets that he has gotten over the year (ie: Kindle, ipod, etc). He got me an iphone and the "Big Top" cup cake and 3D cookie cutters where you make the pieces and assemble them so the cookies can stand on their own (sort of like paper dolls in a way). The Big Top cup cake is basically a cake mold in the shape of a cupcake that is a little smaller than a basketball.
I made this big fuss about it when I saw it on TV so he got that for me. I would never have thought to get myself an iphone, but I have to say that I love it. It is so great. I love the "apps" that I've gotten so far and it really has allowed me to be more organized which I am all about. I got apps for grocery shopping, Epicurious (gourmet cooking recipe site), to do lists, baby games, and an app that helps me keep track of how much water I drink. That last one may seem funny to you, but I could literally go all day and only drink one cup of tea. Not so great for my kidneys among other things. This helps me make sure I am getting what I need.

Christmas at my Mom's was amazing this year. Maybe I was in a good mood, maybe I had enough sleep, maybe I just enjoyed watching Devon truly enjoy his first real Christmas (he was only 3 months last year), but I had a great time. There were lots of people there and it was loud and chaotic and great.

I call this one "Makin' out with Aunt Jane."

I got this funny little vest at Savers and thought it would be fancy for Christmas. My Dad square dances so all of the kids got him bolo ties to wear when he dances. My little sister got him a "Sherriff" star, but it was little kid size .... hysterical.

My Dad put it on Devon and it totally completed his outfit.
These are the bolo ties I got him.

All in all it was a great day and it was full of all the magic that Christmas can have .... if you're lucky.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Beyond Bread

Let's just go ahead and say it .... I am not a good baker. I can cook perfect pork tenderloin en croute and herbed potatoes as one of my regular, rotating recipes without batting an eye, but baking has always been tough for me. WHY is this? I learned to bake a pie when I was probably 7 years old so why do I still have a hard time with it?

It's probably one of those I-suck-at-this-so-I-will-focus-on-what-I'm-good-at type of things. I don't want to be one of "those Moms" who can't bake anything. The horror! Is it so much to ask for it to taste good AND look good?

My Mom has been baking since I can remember. My whole life she baked. Let me put it this way .... she baked all the desserts for my wedding. She bakes bread for her church every Saturday and has often given me an extra loaf which we literally inhale in about 2 days. I was telling a friend of mine about this and I said,"My Mom bakes bread every week. It must be easy." To which she said,"I know your Mom .... she just makes it LOOK easy." True statement.

I thought that I would just "give up" and get a bread maker to do the whole thing for me. I even priced out the one I wanted. A fancy $150 machine that could make French rolls among other things. The thought of spending that much money on a machine that could "cheat" me into home made bread bugged me. I realized that I could TOTALLY make bread on my own and gave up the machine idea all together. I have a college degree for crying out loud! I can SO do this.

I got out my fancy bread making book .... The Bread Bible. This book is incredible. If you follow every instruction you will make perfect bread probably every time. That's what I hoped anyway. The recipes are precise (IE: 2 cups and 6 and a half tablespoons of flour), a little fancy, a little fussy, and time consuming. Fine by me. As long as I could make what I wanted to make and have it turn out I am just fine with time consuming.

I wanted to start with basic white bread. This recipe describes the bread as,"What Wonder Bread, in it's soul, really always wanted to be." Sounds good to me. I like the idea of bread having a soul. About 7 hours after I made my "starter sponge", lots of mixing, waiting, rising, mixing, and more rising I ended up with these ....

They turned out pretty good if I do say so myself. They have this gloriously delicate "crunch" around the whole thing that gives it great texture and seems to hold in the moisture. This is the kind of bread that you can eat totally plain. Just good, home made, good to eat, good to look at bread.

I am writing this post now because I am waiting for my starter sponge to ferment for an hour at room temperature so I can refrigerate it over night for "full flavor potential." Tomorrows project .... Monkey Bread.