Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year! (And a Recipe Roundup from the Past 24 Hours)

I can't believe that it's 2009! Despite the fact that the economy is imploding and there is doom and gloom everywhere, I was actually a little bit sad to say goodbye to 2008, because I'll always remember it as one of the best years of my life -- mainly because it included marrying Mr. Fritz and lots of merrymaking with friends and family surrounding that event, but also because I am so freakishly happy actually BEING married to Mr. Fritz is just so much fun. Anyway... back to cooking...

In the past 24 hours, I've spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen. For dinner last night, I riffed off of Everyday Food's Asian Beef Lettuce Wraps, swapping boneless chicken for flank steak. The result was a really wonderful, fresh, bright-tasting meal that was anything but heavy. The dish is basically Boston lettuce leaves filled with roasted chicken, green onions and mango, drizzled with a lime-cilantro-garlic-oil vinaigrette. It's served with a side of cellophane noodles tossed with scallions and oil. Delish.

In honor of Mr. Bigger's birthday last night, I made one of my signature appetizers: Phyllo-Wrapped Brie with Apricot and Rosemary Chutney. This is a recipe I've been making since 1996 and it was introduced to me by Mrs. Durham. It was in a current issue of Gourmet back then and her mother actually faxed the recipe to us so we could attempt to make it. We were 22 at the time and Mrs. Durham was already a rock star in the kitchen. The end result was so delicious and elegant that I've been making it ever since, typically for our annual Christmas party. Since this year was the first in many years that we didn't have the party, it seemed fitting to make it especially for Mr. Biggers instead. I won't get into the technique, because the recipe is written very clearly, but I will say this: I'm totally embarrassed about how brown the phyllo rosettes on the top got in last night's version -- I should have covered them in foil and forgot and so they are just way too dark. I'll also note that working with phyllo can be tricky, but it's certainly not impossible. Just move quickly and make sure you have all of the ingredients ready to go so that you can work through the assembly process as fast as possible.

Today, Mr. Fritz and I spent the day just getting caught up on life stuff. But I also squeezed some cooking into the mix. For lunch, I made Light Italian Wedding Soup, which features turkey meatballs and escarole (yes, Mr. Fritz, the "seaweed" made a return appearance to the Fritz Kitchen!). It's a very simple recipe and made for a hearty lunch, despite being low in calories. You start by making the meatballs (the recipe called for ground dark-meat turkey, I used ground white meat), then they cook in a broth that consists of sauteed onion, chicken broth and a can of diced tomatoes (undrained). Once the meatballs are about halfway cooked, you add chopped escarole and cook for another five minutes. Then you're done. Easy! I really liked the flavor profile of the meatballs and the broth. I'll definitely make this again.

And for dinner, I went the comfort food route and made Everyday Food's Lighter Blue Plate Special, which consisted of meatloaf, buttermilk mashed potatoes and steamed green beans. I was a little worried about the consistency of the meatloaf, because when I mixed it together, it seemed a little too wet (it's made of ground beef mixed with pureed carrots, celery, onion, panko and an egg white). But after spending 30 minutes in the oven it seemed to be just fine and it kept its shape. You baste it in barbecue sauce and in my opinion, that was the best part. I love barbecue sauce... Mmm...

And after I post this, I'm off to pop some popcorn on the stove and make some hot chocolate so that we can have one last toast to the new year. But before I do that, I just wanted to say thanks to those of you who have stopped by to visit my blog -- it's been really fun to receive feedback about the recipes I've posted and encouragement as I continue on this cooking odyssey. Here's to many more great meals in the year to come. Cheers!

(Of course, I can't find any of the Everyday Food recipes to link to them. Sigh. I'll keep looking for them and link to them as soon as possible.)

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