Thursday, December 15, 2011

Baking with Laura - Christmas Cookies

Wilton Cookie Pro Ultra II Cookie Press

Christmas press cookies are delicious and fun to make!  I use the recipe in the Joy of Cooking for spritz cookies.  It is basically a batter for butter cookies.  The batter is then placed in a cookie press, and then baked in the oven.  The cookies can be stored in a tin for a week or so and then served on a pretty platter for Christmas Eve and Christmas.  You can choose the design disk to place in the cookie press.  The photos show wreath cookies and Christmas tree cookies.  They look pretty when topped with sprinkles.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Cooking with Linda - Broccoli Rabe

Broccoli rabe is my husband's and my favorite vegetable. We try to eat it about once a week. Our three sons don't like it, though I think they will acquire a taste for rappini as they mature. After all, they eat edamame!

one head of broccoli rabe
extra virgin olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic
garlic powder
juice of one lemon
iodized salt
white cannellini beans (optional)

Sit down at the kitchen counter to prepare this vitamin-rich green, as it is time-consuming, at least for me. Cut off and discard roughly 2" of the hard, tough stems. Tenderize remaining stems by peeling the tough stem exterior or "skin" with a pairing knife then splitting them lengthwise, twice, so that the ends "flower."  My mother-in-law, a wonderful cook, taught me this trick. For ease of eating and incorporating this green into recipes, cut all stems and large leaves in half.  

Soak greens (split stems, leaves, florettes) in a large pot of water for ten minutes, agitating with tongs to remove any impurities. Drain water; replace with fresh, clean water. Soak again, and drain water in the sink in a large colander The one featured in this link is my favorite, the one I use several times a week.

Lay out a clean, dry dish towel on the counter top. Place two layers of paper towels on top of dish towel; using tongs, place wet broccoli on top of the toweling to absorb some of the water.
Over medium-high heat, saute 3 thinly-sliced garlic cloves in a few tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil.  I cook the broccoli in my favorite large stainless steel saute pan. It comes with a clear, tempered glass lid, which helps me keep an eye on the cooking process.

Place the greens into the sizzling oil and use tongs to turn so that all leaves, stems, and florettes are lightly coated in olive oil. Saute with lid on for about 7-8 minutes or so, until broccoli is tender and bright green. Season to taste with iodized salt, garlic powder, fresh lemon juice, and a teaspoon of "raw" extra-virgin olive oil. The combination of these flavors in unbelievably savory.

Rappini - Tenderized, Ready to Saute
Cooked & Ready to Eat
I use stainless steel tongs  (a favorite cooking and serving tool) for flipping while sauteing as well as for serving (one-handed tongs for buffet service works great...for salads, especially).

A Very Versatile Green One of our favorites is broccoli rabe combined with slices of boiled-then-grilled Italian sausage and orecchiette (little ears) pasta. We also enjoy broccoli rabe with white cannellini beans.  Simply add the canned and drained beans toward the end of the saute process, so the beans become warm and flavorful.

A versatile topper, broccoli rabe is delicious on top of a grilled chicken breast or Italian bread toasted in the oven with a sprinkling of olive oil and salt. Leftover broccoli rabe leaves, tenderized stems, and delicate florettes are delicious and nutritious in a sandwich in lieu of lettuce. Or, simply place it alongside a fresh Italian roll, your favorite cheese (we are fans of Asiago and Dubliner) and (as pictured below) portabella mushrooms with roast red peppers.
Satisfying Vegetarian Lunch
Carnival Glass Dish

Tip from Mom: Even if it's just for the two of you, always cook the whole head of broccoli...or the whole head of boiled cabbage or cauliflower. Leftover Andy Boy broccoli or broccoli rabe can be warmed up and used as a side dish for next evening's dinner.  Or, you may want to prepare the leftover vegetables in a new way by incorporating them into a favorite recipe.

~ Linda

Monday, February 14, 2011

Baking with Linda: Heart-Shaped Brownie for Valentine's Day

Soon after I was married, my mom gave me a heart-shaped baking tin. Now, nearly 19 years later, a heart-shaped brownie is our Valentine's Day dessert....following pale pink, heart-shaped raviolis with pink vodka sauce. This Valentine's meal, by candlelight in the dining room, has become a tradition in our family. Tonight we listened to Andrea Boccelli, which was perfect.
Ghirardelli - our Favorite Brownie Mix
Follow the recipe on the box. I use one bag of brownie mix for my approximately 10-inch baking pan. Ideally, use organic eggs and olive oil in place of vegetable oil. Serve with a dusting of confectioner's powdered sugar, strawberries, festive swirls of whipped cream, and glasses of cold milk!

If there are coffee lovers in your family, you may want to try 1/3 cup espresso or coffee in place of the 1/3 cup water called for in the Ghirardelli brownie recipe. A delicious mocha flavor results.

Happy Valentine's Day.
 ~ Linda

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Finding the Balance on and off the Mat

For me, yoga practice is a metaphor for living well, balanced, strong, healthy.
As a stay-at-home mom, if I can't find a few hours a week for working out, then something is off-balance within the demands of daily living, raising children, and keeping a home.

My gifted yoga instructor says yoga increases our ability in "finding balance between exertion and ease" ... whether settling into a deep twisted lunge, holding side plank in yoga toe lock, "resting" in plank, or struggling to get a spot in the parking lot before class is filled.

With this in mind, I am trying to find "the ease" when the pressure's on to get it all done, when there's too much "Incoming", too many demands on the too few hours in a day ...  when I make the time for yoga and running the treadmill, I am more productive, energetic, and positive outside the gym; when I'm not exercising ... well, you get the picture...

I come from a long line of hardworking women (my mom raised four without help ("Don't think about how you're going to get it all done, just do it!" she routinely says, even when I was expecting my third...)
- she beat Nike to that slogan.
Her mom - whose frequent adage was a firm, "Push yourself" - worked full-time on her feet until she was 88, walking to and from work in the snow... And her mom (my great grandmother) ran a bar and grill in Astoria, Queens, while raising seven children ...

Still, I will intentionally try hard to take occasional shavasanahs (restorative, resting poses) by sitting for a while with feet up on the ottomon, by flipping through a magazine, by trying a new recipe, by enjoying a frivolous phone conversation with a friend about nothing important.

If you practice yoga or are determined to give this ancient, body and mind-encompassing exercise a try because you believe in its benefits ("Don't mess with ancient wisdom," my teacher says.) I encourage you to use yoga props such as foam blocks, cotton straps (pictured below), or bolsters

These props will help you to experience a full-range of postures ... with some measure of "ease" as you settle into the poses and as you reach your personal edge of exertion within these challenging yet health and strength-yielding positions.


~ Linda

Friday, February 11, 2011

Where We're Dining - BLT Market, NYC

Beautiful paintings of fruit and vegetables at BLT Market

Semi-Smoked Jumbo Scallops

Acacia Marinated Alaskan Black Cod Served in Skillet

BLT Market is one of several BLT restaurants located in Manhattan and in several other cities.  Their website is  BLT stands for Bistro Laurent Tourondel.  Laurent Tourondel is a French trained chef.  Others include BLT Steak, BLT Fish, BLT Prime, BLT Burger and BLT Fish Shack.  BLT Market is located in the Ritz Carlton Hotel at the corner of 6th Avenue and 59th Street in Manhattan.  The setting is beautiful yet casual.  The menu changes seasonally to adjust to use the freshest seasonal ingredients available.  The portions are small and the prices are high, but the food is beautifully presented and amazingly delicious.  We started with an appetizer portion of fresh pappardelle/sunchokes/red wine braised short ribs/garlic parmeson gremolata.  This was one of the tastiest dishes I have ever had.  My only complaint is that the portion was miniscule.    For main courses, we had semi-smoked jumbo scallops/green apple nage/braised endive/american caviar and acaia marinated Alaskan black cod/celeriac puree/wilted spinach.  Both were exquisitely presented and delicious.  The cod was truly amazing.  I can't wait to try some of these recipes at home.  We shared a spiced flourless chocolate cake/brandy creme anglaise for dessert.  Of course, it was so delicious!  Even the coffee was special.  Check this link for two cookbooks by Chef Laurent Tourondel, New American Bistro Cooking, and Fresh from the Market: Seasonal Cooking with Laurent Tourondel. Both cookbooks are filled with amazing recipes that I can't wait to try.  For a real treat, I would certainly recommend BLT Market! ~ Laura

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What We're Buying: I Love My New White Plates!

I recently bought new everyday china.  After years with my old pattern, I was missing a few mugs, a few bowls, and a few dishes.  It was time for a fresh start.  After looking at many patterns and many stores, I solid white round plates at HomeGoods.  The brand is The Palm - they are marketed as restaurant quality dishes from The Palm Restaurant.  The dishes have a rim that is slightly raised, which is very attractive. They are bone china rather than stoneware, which means that they are very light - which makes it so much easier to carry a stack of plates to the table.  They have a nice shine to them.  HomeGoods also has boxed sets of Palm dishes, but they are porcelain.  The bone china is sold by the individual piece.  I was lucky to get an entire sets of twelve (mugs, bowls, dinner plates and lunch plate) individual pieces. 

I've owned many patterns over the years but I love solid white.  Food looks beautiful on a solid white plate.  The food is what stands out without the distraction of a patterned background or color.  Using solid white dishes lets you decorate your table according to the season.  You can change the mood of the table by using different colored placemats, napkins, and glassware.

For formal dinners, I love my timeless Lenox Eternal china.  It is solid off-white, with an elegant gold border.  I have had this china for many years and have never grown tired of it.
~ Laura

Monday, February 7, 2011

Where We're Going - Enrique Iglesias at Madison Square Garden!

On Saturday night my husband took me to an Enrique Iglesias concert at Madison Square Garden.  We had great seats - right on the floor!  This was the most amazing concert I've ever been to!  Jay Sean opened for Enrique.  He was excellent.  I love his song "Do You Remember It".  But when Enrique came on stage, it was amazing.  He is an excellent entertainer and has a spectacular stage presence.  His music and voice are fantastic.  He sang many songs in Spanish and many in English.  He spoke to the audience a lot - in both Spanish and English.  He brought several audience members on stage with him, and sang to them, and had them sing and dance.  It was so much fun!  The lighting effects and background videos were excellent as were the dancers and the band.  Assorted reggae artists and rappers joined Enrique on stage at various times throughout the show.  Enrique's new album is Euphoria.  I'm certainly going to get it.  The audience went crazy when Enrique sang Tonight I'm Loving You, Hero, I Like It, and other favorites.  Enrique sings with great passion.  At one point, he re-appeared on a small stage that was only a few feet from us in the back of the floor.  He is not afraid to go into the audience and have the audience crowd around him.  The audience was covered with graffiti, and huge balloons breezed around the garden.  It was a night to remember.      ~ Laura