Friday, October 28, 2011

Totally random thoughts and some soup

So…it snowed last night. Seriously. And there’s a possibility of several more inches this weekend. And I though the Berkshires would be a slight reprieve from winter in Vermont. Silly me.

Halloween in Monday. Honestly, while I love the excuse to decorate my apartment and eat tons of miniature candies (because if its mini, it barely counts, right?), Halloween just isn’t a big deal to me. Mostly, it just marks the end of autumn and the beginning of the most wonderful time of year, that stretch from Nov. 1 through Christmas that is just one massive holiday extravaganza. Baking, listening to Christmas music (Michael Buble’s new Christmas album came out earlier this week. I about had a heart attack from all the excitement), 24/7 Thanksgiving specials on the Food Network. I can’t wait!

One reason I can’t wait (besides all the ones I just listed)? Guess who is hosting Thanksgiving this year???!!! Like you need to guess…That’s right, my grandparents and my mom – all the way from Texas – will be joining the dog and I this Thanksgiving. I have the most fabulous menu planned. I’ve been at it for weeks already. I can’t share it yet – top secret – but suffice it to say, it is awesome.

Changing gears slightly…to dinner last night! Do you remember a few weeks ago, I went to the Greenpeas TV dinner and had the most amazing butternut squash soup ever? Well, what with last night being all cold and snowy, I decided to attempt to recreate it. Although it didn’t come out exactly the same, it was delicious.

I had some frozen squash in the freezer, so I defrosted it . While that was frosting, I heated some chicken stock and some onions in a big pot. I added the squash and let that all simmer together for a few minutes. I added half a can of drained kidney bean and attacked it with the immersion blender until smooth (the beans add thickness). Then I added the rest of the beans and milk until I reached the desired consistency. A dash of herbs de Provence, some grated parmesan cheese, and some crumbled bacon (and a splash of bacon fat) finished the dish. I served the soup in a bowl drizzled with a swill of EVOO and some freshly cracked black pepper.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Chicky, chicky recipe and musing

I have to admit, money has been tight lately. More that tight, actually, but that’s beside the point (taking a new job – at a pay cut – moving, trying to still see family and friends, and putting food on the table have proved to be a challenge, and I wouldn’t be making it right now if it wasn’t for my mom and her continuous support). One of my biggest expenses is, and has always been, food. I am very poor at planning meals ahead or creating a working budget – although I am a big proponent of coupons, another kudos to my mom. Furthermore, I like to cook, and the recipes I choose often involve ingredients that I buy, use the one time, and then let go to waste. I am bad at cutting recipes down to one or two servings. I am bad at coming up with creative uses for leftovers or random ingredients. Basically, to summarize, I spend too much money on food, and some of it inevitably goes to waste.

So anyway, I am looking for ways to trim my grocery bill. I tend to do one larger shop each week, and then a couple “mini” stops at the store to pick up an ingredient or two for this recipe or that. As the sole person in a one-person household – unless you count the dog, which, I must say, I often do – feeding myself should be relatively simple. I also eat breakfast at home and pack lunch to take to work every day, increasing the need for groceries but decreasing overall expenses.

Trust me, this is all going somewhere.

Last weekend, the local botanical garden held a harvest festival. My dad and I went (who, yes, was visiting and yes, we had a fantastic weekend) and stopped at the booth of Tortured Orchard, a condiment/sauce company based locally – they do have a website for long distance orders, too. The company is run by two very friendly women, and dad and I wandered over to try a sample – and walked away with three jars. I picked up the sweet apple blush, which is a cross between apple sauce, cranberry sauce, a fruit compote, and a relish. It is sweet and fruity, and would work well in sweet and savory applications.

Fast forward a few days. I was eager to try my blush on something, although I didn’t know what. I was reading a book based around food and was eager to cook something. I had some leftover fresh rosemary, a bag on lemons and a bag of red potatoes, both bought on a manager’s special, and a mostly gone by pear in the fridge. Furthermore, I had a giant log of butter, graciously sent to me by my mom, along with an equally large block of cheese. So I got creative, and the following recipe is the result. I want to note – I stopped by the grocery store to pick up the one item I needed (chicken). I wanted to get excess so that I could freeze some and avoid the need for such trips in the future. A pack of three boneless, skinless chicken breasts, albeit on the large side, was almost $7. Meanwhile, a pack of twice as many boneless, skinless thighs was only a dollar more. The lesson here – break out of your comfort zone and try some different cuts, and it might save you quite a bit of money. Also, Rocco DiSpirto said on Rachael ray’s talk show the other day that you actually save calories by going with the thighs. I’m sold.

Harvest fruit chicken thighs


A large pat of butter (whatever “large” is to you will work – mine was somewhere between 2-3 Tbsp)

A drizzle of EVOO

2 large boneless, skinless chicken thighs

2 large springs rosemary, one chopped and one left whole

Salt and pepper

Pinch of cinnamon

A whole lemon, halved

2 ripe pears

A couple spoonfuls of Sweet Apple Blush by Tortured Orchard, at room temp or slightly warmed


Get the butter melting in a skillet over medium-high heat, and add the olive oil. Meanwhile, treat the chicken with salt, pepper, and chopped rosemary on each side, and sprinkle the top with the cinnamon. I cut each thigh in half to speed up the cooking process, and also to stretch each serving. Once the butter-oil mixture is nice and hot, add the chicken to the skillet (it doesn’t really matter which side of the chicken you start with, you’ll be flipping it a couple times). Squeeze the lemon halves over the top of the chicken, and add the halves to the skillet, along with the rosemary sprig – this is simply to flavor the cooking oil. Once both sides are starting to brown (a couple minutes each side), reduce the heat a little and top the skillet with tin foil. Total cooking time for the chicken in about 12-15 minutes, depending on the thickness.

While the chicken is cooking, slice a pear. I didn’t bother to peel it, but you certainly can if that suits you. Once the chicken is cooked, pull it from the skillet and set aside. Add the sliced pear to the remaining lemon-rosemary butter, and quickly sauté until warmed through and soft.

Plate each thigh half and top with sweet apple blush, as much as you’d like. Serve with pears.

I quartered some red potatoes and boiled on a back burner while preparing the chicken. Both got done at about the same time. I drained the potatoes and served topped with more butter, salt, and pepper.