Thursday, October 9, 2014

Cooking Club September 2014.

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Last spring my Cooking Club was looking for a new cookbook. One of our members brought her copy of My Beverly Hills Kitchen: Classic Southern Cooking with a French Twist by Alex Hitz as a suggestion. I perused its beautiful pictures and delicious sounding recipes and began to read the introduction. Details of the author's childhood sounded familiar, so I glanced back at his name on the cover and was startled to realize, "I know this guy! He and I sang in children's choir at church many years ago!"



Shortly before my Cooking Club's September gathering where we would be using My Beverly Hills Kitchen for the first time, I looked up Alex on Facebook. I sent him a message and told him about our Cooking Club and that we had chosen his book for our current selection. I included a link to the Dallas Morning News article about our Cooking Club that ran in last summer's paper:

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Dallas friends gather once a month for cookbook club

I was delighted to receive a prompt enthusiastic response from Alex:

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He even posted about our correspondence on his Facebook page:

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Our lunch featuring Alex's recipes was a smashing success. The dishes were delicious and flavorful and the instructions easy to follow.

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Appetizer: Bacon-wrapped dates
Soup: Tomato Soup with Parmesan croutons
Salad: Poppyseed salad with bibb lettuce
Entrée: Chicken curry
Vegetable: Carrot purée
Bread: Sally Lunn Bread (I made this. It was even better the next day toasted with some butter for breakfast)
Dessert: Dorothy's coconut cake (this was the star of the show!)

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My Cooking Club is looking forward to a great year with My Beverly Hills Kitchen!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A movie recommendation and my current favorite thing to make for dinner.

Long time, no post! I'm going to try to get back in the blogging habit. Thanks to those who emailed and encouraged me to post again.

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This summer a Cooking Club friend invited me to see the movie Chef. I went in not knowing much about the film but found it to be completely delightful: a feel-good, witty story featuring the music and food of Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans and Austin (warning: the movie will make you hungry).

Chef will be released on DVD (linked below left) on September 30th. The soundtrack (below right) is also great.




In one scene in the movie, Chef Carl, played by Jon Favreau who also wrote and directed the film, prepares a late-night dinner for Scarlett Johansson's character. I was so taken by the pasta he made that I found the recipe online: Pasta Aglio e Olio. I prepared the version from the movie once and then found Ina Garten's rendition of the same recipe and decided I prefer that one because it has less olive oil and parsley and more Parmesan. I just wish I could master the way Chef Carl twists the pasta so artfully into a bowl.

Pasta twist
(Source: Food and Wine)

I have made this Spaghetti Aglio e Olio many times this summer. It is an incredibly fast dinner to prepare and I usually have all of the ingredients, except perhaps fresh parsley, on hand. I'm amazed that a recipe with so few ingredients can be so delicious.

I hope you have a chance to enjoy the movie, the soundtrack, the pasta or all three.

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The cast of ingredients

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The ingredients after I've sliced, chopped, and grated everything. Notice a glass of wine has now joined me for this endeavor

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The pasta and garlic sauce boil and simmer in separate pots

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Just after stirring in the Parmesan and parsley

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Yum yum yum


Spaghetti Aglio e Olio
adapted from The Barefoot Contessa

Serves 4.

2 tablespoons Kosher salt (for the pasta water)
1 pound dried spaghetti
⅓ cup good olive oil
10 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1½ cups reserved pasta water
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup minced fresh parsley
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook al dente according to the directions on the package. Set aside some of the pasta cooking water before you drain the pasta.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a sauté pan large enough to hold the pasta. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until it just begins to turn golden on the edges. Be careful not to overcook. Stir in the red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds more. Add the reserved pasta cooking water and one teaspoon salt to the garlic and oil and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Sauce should be reduced by about one-third.

Add the drained pasta to the garlic sauce and toss. Allow the pasta to rest off the heat for 5 minutes so that the sauce can be absorbed. Stir in the parsley and Parmesan and toss well (if you add the parsley too soon or while the heat is still on, it will clump fiercely and refuse to separate - trust me on this one). Add salt to taste and grate some fresh Parmesan over each serving.

Friday, January 31, 2014

What's for dinner and Vivian strikes again.


Determined not to let January 2014 come and go without one post from me!


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In the most recent issue of Bon Appetit I saw a picture and recipe for Winter Squash Carbonara with Pancetta and Sage that looked really good. I decided to try it last Friday night as it was classified as a "quick and easy weeknight meal." The dish was quite tasty, but at my house it was definitely not quick, mostly because of the prep time involved (where is that sous chef when I need him?). Next time I would buy pre-cut butternut squash (Central Market sometimes has this in their produce section) or chop the squash in advance. Perhaps next time I might be more adept at peeling and chopping butternut squash, too, and hasten things along that way.

Winter Squash Carbonara with Pancetta and Sage

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces pancetta, chopped (I used the thick-sliced applewood bacon from the Central Market butcher because I think it is fabulous)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
1 2-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into ½" pieces (about 3 cups)
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
12 ounces linguine
¼ cup finely grated Pecorino cheese, plus shaved for serving

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta, reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 8–10 minutes. Add sage and toss to coat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pancetta and sage to a small bowl; set aside.

Add squash, onion, and garlic to skillet; season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, 8–10 minutes. Add broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until squash is soft and liquid is reduced by half, 15–20 minutes. Let cool slightly, then purée in a blender until smooth (I used my immersion blender but had to transfer the squash to a deeper pot to do so); season with salt and pepper. Reserve skillet.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.

Combine pasta, squash purée, and ¼ cup pasta cooking liquid in reserved skillet and cook over medium heat, tossing and adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta, about 2 minutes. Mix in ¼ cup Pecorino; season with salt and pepper.

Serve pasta topped with reserved pancetta and sage, shaved Pecorino, and more pepper.

Note: Squash purée can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill.

This salad is from Cooking Light. It is quite tasty. This time I used a mix of baby arugula and baby spinach.

Arugula and Celery Salad with Lemon-Anchovy Dressing

6 cups baby arugula leaves
1/2 cup diagonally cut celery
1/4 cup almonds, toasted and chopped
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (I omitted these because I'm not a huge parsley fan and there is already some in the dressing)
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Dressing:
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 garlic cloves
1 canned anchovy fillet, rinsed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Combine first 7 ingredients in a blender; process until smooth. With blender on, slowly add oil. Process until blended.

***

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The other day Vivian walked up to me and I noticed that the screen on her iPod Touch was completely shattered. I exclaimed, "Vivian! What happened to your phone?!" She replied, in that way that only Vivian can, "It broke."

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Vivian and the Rudolph show.


Vivian loves Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.  Not just at Christmas, but all year 'round.  She has several Rudolph t-shirts and books, and she frequently watches the Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer movie on her iPod.

Lo and behold, this year Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer: the Musical came to Dallas.  Vivian's teacher, Mrs. Kemp, and her speech therapist, Melinda, took Vivian and her friend Will to see the show.  They reported that Vivian loved it.  From the looks of these pictures, I'd say she did!








After the show Vivian was able to interact with some of the cast members

Friday, September 27, 2013

A couple of funny Vivian stories.

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Vivian at a recent pep rally (which she calls a "pepperoli")

Last week Vivian's teacher let me know that Vivian had refused to do her work one day but had instead fallen to the floor and pitched a fit. When Vivian got home from school, I said to her sternly, "Vivian, Mommy is VERY sad when you don't do your work." She looked at me and replied, "Vivian is happy."

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Yesterday Vivian's school had a fire drill. Vivian's teacher knew the alarm would sound soon, and she realized with some concern that Vivian was deeply involved in working one of her favorite puzzles. Her teacher worried that Vivian would not want to leave the puzzle to go outside for the drill and might put up a fuss. When the fire alarm went off, however, Vivian jumped up from her chair, began waving her arms and moving quickly to door while yelling, "We have to get out of the building!"

Such a funny girl.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sweet Sixteen!

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Today my sweet Dots is turning sixteen. So far her birthday has been much sweeter than Vivian's sixteenth, thank goodness!

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Dots had to be at school at 6:20 for Cross Country practice so she only opened one present this morning

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She requested Chick-Fil-A for her lunch table so I bought that and carried it up to them around noon. Tonight Robert and I are taking Dots and four friends to her favorite restaurant

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I posted this picture on Instagram today. Dots was a funny, funny little girl. She adored this bathing suit and wore it under her clothes wherever we went for quite some time. On this particular day we were nowhere near a pool; this was just her outfit of choice!

Happy Sweet Sixteen to my sweet, beautiful girl!


Friday, August 30, 2013

Back to school 2013.

Vintage school days

My girls started school this week. College classes commenced for Will the week before; alas, I have no pictures of that to share.

Dots is a sophomore in high school. Vivian is classified as a junior, but she can stay in school until her 22nd birthday so she also has three years remaining. 2016 will be a year of big changes at our house.

Things seem to be off to a good start for the girls. Dots made the cross country team and has practice at 6:30 each morning, so she is out the door early (I can't say bright and early because it is pitch black when she leaves). Vivian has been very happy to get on the bus each day, and although there have been a few meltdowns when work or PE were involved, her teachers report that Vivian has generally been happy and cooperative.

Here's to a good year!

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Waiting for the bus. Vivian kept saying, "Where is my bus? It is time to go to school!"

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The bus is here! Vivian has been blessed to have had the same wonderful bus driver for 14 years!

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Happily aboard the bus

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Dots heads out for the first day of her sophomore year. No early morning cross country practice today!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Vivian and the magic paper machine.

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Vivian loves to color. She can spend hours entertaining herself coloring pictures. Often Vivian requests Robert or me to draw an outline for her (a happy dog, a sleepy sun, three frogs, two flowers, etc.), but she will also draw three things herself (a sun, a moon and an apple - same shape, different color).

I knew that Vivian's source of blank paper was my printer because I perpetually have an "out of paper" message on my computer screen. I assumed that Vivian opened the printer's paper drawer, took out what she needed and then closed it.

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This morning, however, I entered my office to discover a stack of 30-odd copies of a medical receipt that I had inadvertently left on my printer's copier glass yesterday. I realized that to get paper, Vivian was pushing all of the buttons on the front of my printer until a piece of paper spit out. Since the copier glass is usually empty, most of the time Vivian would be rewarded with a blank piece of paper by hitting the "copy" button. I'm guessing that yesterday she kept hitting the button hoping that the printer would eventually avail her of a blank page but had so such luck.

Today I showed Vivian where I keep a stack of blank copy paper, on a wire shelf just above the printer. I suggested that she get her coloring paper there and leave the printer alone.

This afternoon I heard the printer's motor whirring and found Vivian sitting in front of the printer randomly pushing buttons and retrieving the paper as the printer supplied it. I decided that Vivian must view the printer as her own special paper vending machine and that she prefers the cause and effect of pushing a button to receive a piece of paper over just taking blank sheets off a shelf.

Such a funny, but resourceful, girl!

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Coloring a "sleepy sun"