Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Love is...


Mr. Fritz proposed to me two years ago today, in the middle of the national mall after a day filled with wintry delight. When I think back to that afternoon, happy memories abound. More significantly, though, I can say without reservation that I feel blessed every single day to be able to share my life with him. So, no recipes tonight (although for the record, I did feed him a lovely dinner of tomato and sausage risotto). Instead, just a little note of appreciation to God for bringing Mr. Fritz into my life. And to Mr. Fritz for marrying me. I couldn't be more grateful.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Dinner Tonight: Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork With Sweet Potatoes and Pears

This recipe for Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork with Sweet Potatoes and Pears, from the December issue of Real Simple magazine, is my kind of meal: roasted in the oven on an aluminum-foil covered sheet pan. Almost zero clean-up and very little prep time. Plus, super-delicious! To make, you cut sweet potatoes and red Bartlett pears into slices, toss them with olive oil and thyme, salt and pepper, and roast on a baking sheet at 425 for 15 minutes. While that's roasting, you wrap a pork tenderloin in prosciutto and, when the 15 minutes are up, push the vegetables to the side of the pan and add the pork, drizzling the pork with a bit of honey. Then you proceed to roast everything (the pork and the vegetables) for another 20-25 minutes. You end up with a company-worthy pork roast and some super tender vegetables and caramelized fruit.

My only problem, and it is one I seem to have a lot these days when I am roasting vegetables, is that the vegetables burned a bit before the pork was finished cooking. I think if I make it again, I'll put the vegetables and the pork into the oven at the same time, instead of adding the pork after the vegetables have already been roasting for 10-15 minutes. Also, since I was just cooking for me and Mr. Fritz, I used a half pound pork loin instead of one and a quarter pounds of pork tenderloin, so I wasn't totally sure how long to roast the pork for. I settled on 20 minutes and I think it probably would have been fine at 15-18 minutes.

Regardless, the pork with the prosciutto wrapped around it was really pretty wonderful, and the slightly burnt vegetables were salvageable, if a little too crispy in parts. The roasted pears, in particular, were a great treat. I don't roast fruit as often as I should...

Treats: Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

I told Mr. Fritz that I'd made him some incredible cookies to take in his lunch this week and he took one look at them and said, "Merry Christmas, Mr. Fritz!" Then he took this glamour shot of them to show off their irresistibility:

The recipe is from the October issue of Everyday Food and it is the recipe that finally put this issue over the top for me as an all-time favorite. It's turned out so many great meals, I think it alone was worth the entire year's subscription price...

In any case, as I've noted many times, I am NOT a baker. I'm incredibly bad a baking. But these cookies. Oh my word. They are so delicious I almost don't know what to say. The magazine called them "Crave worthy" and that is no understatement. In fact, I gave one to Ms. Hays today as a parting gift when she stopped by to see me and when she tried the cookie a few hours later, liked it enough to send me the following text message: "I just had a bite of your cookie. Holy crap that's a good cookie!" See what I mean? Definitely worthy of Mr. Fritz's glamour shot treatment. And definitely worthy of your time if you decide to make them. I know I'll definitely turn out another batch before too long.

My one note/tip: the recipe calls for 8 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, chopped. I hate chopping chocolate, so I just used my big heavy meat tenderizer and banged on the two 4-ounce chocolate bars while they were still in their wrappers. Worked like a charm!

Recipe Roundup: Incredible, Easy Beef Stew

My mom always made beef stew when I was growing up and it was one of my favorite meals. This, despite the fact that I'm not much of a meat eater. I guess the thing about stew is that it is impossible to resist such a great dish - warm, fragrant, chock full of vegetables, awesome gravy. Yum!

A few weeks ago, Jamie Oliver appeared on Good Morning America and shared his recipe for stew. He structured it so that you could adapt it for chicken, pork, lamb or beef and it looked so easy that I made a note of it to try it when the weather seemed cold enough to warrant a big pot of it. Then, while reading through the December issue of Cooking Light, I saw another recipe for beef stew. I decided to merge the two recipes and come up with my own hybrid, mainly based on Jamie's.

Here's his original recipe:

Jamie Oliver's Basic Stew


  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 carrots
  • Olive oil
  • 1 heaped tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 x 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 fresh or dried bay leaves
  • 1 pound diced stewing beef (I kept my pieces pretty big, actually)
  • 2 cups brown ale, Guinness or stout

  • If using the oven to cook your stew, preheat it to 350°F. Trim the ends off your celery and roughly chop the stalks. Peel and roughly chop the onions. Peel the carrots, slice lengthways, and roughly chop. Put a Dutch oven on a medium heat. Put all the vegetables and your chosen herb into the pan with 2 lugs of olive oil and fry for 10 minutes. Add you meat and flour. Pour in the booze and canned tomatoes. Give it a good stir, then season with a teaspoon of sea salt (less if using table salt) and a few grinds of pepper. Bring to a boil, put the lid on, and either simmer slowly on your cooktop or cook in an oven for the times shown above. Remove the lid for the final half hour of simmering or cooking and add a splash of water if it looks a bit dry. When done, your meat should be tender and delicious. Remove any bay leaves or herb stalks before serving, and taste it to see if it needs a bit more salt and pepper.

    I added:
    1 4-ounce package of baby portabello mushrooms, sliced
    3 cloves of garlic, minced
    half a pound (maybe more), baby gold potatoes, cut into quarters
    1 more cup of beer (in my case, oatmeal stout)

    And I simmered the stew in a big heavy pot for four hours instead of the three hours Jamie called for. The finished dish, which we shared with Mr. and Mrs. Meyer, was divine. I can't wait to make it again.

    Recipe Roundup: Sausage, Mozzarella, and Brocolli Rabe with Shells

    We had Sausage, Mozzarella and Broccoli Rabe with Shells, from the November issue of Everyday Food, for dinner on Friday night. And boy was it delicious. I used Italian sausage with basil and garlic instead of regular Italian sausage and really liked the flavors. This was also my first time cooking with broccoli rabe. It's sort of an unwieldy vegetable, but it was a great alternative to spinach, which is what usually ends up going into baked pasta dishes.

    The recipe had a few steps to it, since you start off by boiling the pasta and the broccoli rabe in one pot while cooking up the sausage, garlic and tomatoes in another before combining everything and pouring it into a baking dish, topping with fresh mozzarella and Parmesan, and baking for 15 minutes. In other words, don't make this on a night when you're in a hurry. Do make it when you want something warm, gooey, savory and satisfying. It is great!! And even
    cutting the recipe in half (well, everything but the amount of pasta), we still had enough leftover for lunch on Sunday.

    Sausage, Mozzarella, and Broccoli Rabe with Shells
    Source: Everyday Food Magazine, November 2009
    Serves 4. Prep time: 35 minutes. Total time: 50 minutes

    2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

    1 large onion, chopped
    3 sprigs thyme
    coarse salt and ground pepper
    2 garlic cloves, chopped
    3 links spicy Italian sausage (3/4 pounds total), casings removed
    1 Tb. all purpose flour

    1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes

    1 bunch (about one pound) broccoli rabe, trimmed and coarsely chopped

    6 ounces freshly mozzarella, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

    1/4 cup Parmesan

    Preheat oven to 400. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high. Add onion and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden brown, 15 minutes (reduce heat if browning too quickly).

    Add garlic and sausage, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, breaking them up with a spoon. Cook sauce until slightly thickened, 5 to 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Discard thyme.

    Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook pasta 4 minutes less than package instructions. Add broccoli rabe to pot and cook 15 seconds. Drain pasta and broccoli rabe and return to pot. Stir in sausage mixture. Transfer to a 3 quart baking dish or divide among 4 16-ounce gratin dishes. Top with mozzarella and parmesan. Bake until cheese has melted and liquid is bubbling, about 15 minutes.

    Recipe Roundup: Chicken and Chickpea Soup

    I've been so busy the past few days that I haven't had a chance to post. But I have been cooking away. I'll be posting the things we liked. First up:

    Chicken and Chickpea Soup. This is a recipe from the December issue of Everyday Food. It's scaled to serve six, so I cut the recipe in half, sort of, and made a few other tweaks.

    First, I used boneless chicken breasts instead of the bone-in thighs suggested. This cut the prep time by a lot, since instead of cooking the chicken in a complicated way, I simply added chunks of raw chicken into the pot after I'd sauteed the onions for awhile. I added the spices when I added the chicken, so the chicken ended up being nicely flavorful.

    I cut the amount of chicken down to half a pound, cut the amount of broth in half as well, but kept the full amounts of spices, carrots, onions, chickpeas and lemon juice. As a result, the soup was really chock full of vegetables and smelled and tasted delicious. I also really appeciated the garnish of cilantro, garlic and lemon zest - it added a nice finishing touch to the soup and was worth the five minutes it took to mix it up. I'll definitely make this soup again.

    Chicken and Chickpea Soup
    Source: Everyday Food Magazine, December 2009
    Serves: 6. Prep time 15 minutes. Total time 1 hour 15 minutes (I think I made it in about 30 min)

    2 tsps. olive oil

    4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (I used 1/2 pound of boneless chicken breasts)

    coarse salt and ground pepper

    1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced

    3 tsps. minced garlic

    3/4 tsp. ground cumin

    3/4 tsp. ground coriander

    1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

    2 medium carrots, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices

    6 cups chicken broth (I used three cups)

    1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained

    zest and juice of 1 lemon

    2 tbs finely chopped fresh cilantro (corriander)

    (I skipped this first step, opting to add boneless cut up chicken to the pot along with the garlic and spices in step two) 1. In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Season chicken with salt and pepper and cook, skin side down, until skin is browned and crisp, about 6 minutes. Flip chicken and cook until browned, 6 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate.

    2. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat from pot. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 4 minutes. Add 2 teaspoons of garlic and spices; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in carrots and return chicken to pot. Stir in broth.

    3. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a medium simmer, partially cover and cook until chicken is falling off the bone, about 50 minutes. (Again, this took a lot less time - I cooked the chicken fully in step two, so then I just let the soup simmer until the carrots were soft, around 10 minutes)

    4. Remove chicken from soup. When cool enough to handle, tear chicken into large pieces, discarding skin and bones. Return meat to pot. Add chickpeas and season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. In a small bowl, stir together 1 teaspoon garlic, lemon zest, and cilantro; sprinkle over each soup serving before serving.

    Thursday, December 3, 2009

    Treats: Snickerdoodles

    The Original Mrs. Fritz sent us home from Thanksgiving with a container filled with some of Mr. Fritz's favorite cookies: Snickerdoodles. He's been enjoying them ever since. I asked her to share her recipe, and here's what she sent along. Thank you, Original Mrs. Fritz!

    1/2 cup butter
    1/2 cup vegetable shortening
    1 1/2 cup sugar, plus 3 Tbs.
    2 eggs
    1 tsp soda
    1/4 tsp. salt
    2 tsps. cream of tartar
    2 3/4 cups flour
    3 tsps. cinnamon

    Mix butter, shortening, 1 1/2 cups sugar and eggs. Sift together and add the flour, soda, cream of tartar and salt. Roll into size of walnuts. Roll in mixture of 3 Tbs sugar and cinnamon. Bake at 400 degrees 8 to 10 min. Makes about 4 dozen 2" cookies.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009

    Love is...

    ...picking through the cooked carrots to make sure that Mr. Fritz only gets the non-burnt ones.

    Tonight I was looking forward to trying this recipe for carrots with thyme from the October issue of Everyday Food. It's super simple: put sliced carrots, a tablespoon of butter, half a cup of water and four sprigs of thyme in a skillet, bring to a boil and let it cook for 7 to 9 minutes, or until the water has evaporated and the carrots are cooked. Everything was going along swimmingly at seven minutes. Then I got a little distracted preparing the chicken that I served it with, and after a couple of more minutes I started smelling and acrid burning. Oops. I guess on my stove, nine minutes is too long. In the end, they weren't all burnt, so I served them anyway. But I made sure that Mr. Fritz got most of the good ones. And actually, even the burnt ones were pretty good, so I will definitely give the recipe another try - albeit while keeping a closer eye on them.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009

    Dinner Tonight: Sweet Potato and Chipotle Soup, plus a bonus recipe

    Tonight, Mr. Fritz went out with the guys for dinner, so I had a lovely vegetarian-ish meal of Sweet Potato and Chipotle Soup. (The "ish" comes from the chicken stock; everything else about it is vegetarian.) This soup, from the December issue of Everyday Food, has quite a kick to it. I'd never cooked with chilies in adobo sauce before, so I was surprised by how incredibly potent they are. The recipe calls for one-half to one chili. I used one half and made sure to discard the seeds before I added it to the pot.

    The recipe also calls for the so
    up to be blended, and for that I turned to one of my most trusted tools: my immersion blender. I truly think that every kitchen should have one of these; they're small and they are so incredibly handy for blending hot soups, smoothies, even making fresh whipped cream. I think I'm on my third one (they don't last forever, unfortunately, and my first two used rechargeable batteries, which I think just stopped charging. Now I have a plug-in model) and I can't rave about it enough.

    I made this soup on Sunday afternoon and have been eating it all week for lunch (and, well, dinner tonight). It turned out velvety smooth and wonderful. It's garnished with a bit of sour cream, which helps to cut the heat from the chilies. I highly recommend it and plan to make it again!

    Sweet Potato and Chipotle Soup
    Source: Everyday Food Magazine, December 2009
    Serves: 8. Prep time: 15 minutes. Total time: 50 minutes
    2 Tbs olive oil
    1 medium white onion, chopped coarse salt and ground pepper 2 tsps. ground cumin 4 medium sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds total), peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces 2 cloves garlic, minced 1/2 to 1 whole chipotle chili in adobo, chopped 7 cups of low sodium chicken broth sour cream, for serving
    toasted flour tortilla wedges, for serving (optional)

    1. In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook until beginning to brown around the edges, about 7 minutes. Add cumin and garlic and cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in sweet potatoes, chile, and broth. Bring to a boil; reduce to a rapid simmer, partially cover, and cook until sweet potatoes can be mashed easily with a spoon, 20 to 25 minutes. (I let mine cook for probably 30 minutes longer than that, because I was busy with other things when the initial simmering window was up.)

    2. Let soup cool slightly. Working in batches, transfer soup to a blender and puree until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids) (Of course, I just used my aforementioned immersion blender for this and pureed the soup in the pot. Less mess!) Return pureed soup to pot over low heat and season with salt and pepper. Top with sour cream or serve with tortilla wedges if desired.

    Bonus recipe: Last night I broiled some salmon topped with dill and lemon, and served it alongside Spinach with Nutmeg and Lemon. The spinach recipe is from the October issue of Everyday Food and it was, as far as spinach goes, sublime. I was able to make dinner in all of nine minutes. And it was the best "fast food" that we've probably ever had! Definitely give it a try!