Archive for January, 2009

Food Friday: Cook the meal (Skinny Chicken Pot Pie) and win the cookbook!

January 30, 2009

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The other day I worked an especially long day, and came home exceptionally hungry and tired. And guess what was waiting for this lucky girl?
Chicken Pot Pie, fresh out of the own, made by my husband that evening.

All thoughts of disciplined eating went completely out of my head as I dove in to the golden brown crust and the fragrant, tasty filling. About halfway through, I noticed the sauce wasn’t a puddle of cream, but instead was a light and savory sauce bathing the meat and copious amounts of vegetables. I didn’t think too much of it, and kept eating.

After dinner I discovered that I didn’t need to worry about disciplined eating, because I had just enjoyed a fantastic dinner out of the brand new EatingWell cookbook, Comfort Food Made Healthy (The CountryMan Press, 2009. $24.95) that I had left lying out on the kitchen table.

Let me tell you, we LOVE this cookbook. German Apple Pancake, Hot Artichoke Dip, Fresh Corn Chowder, Cobb Salad, Sweet & Sour Chicken,  Tuscan Pork Loin, Chicken Piccata, Old-Fashioned Chicken & Dumplings, Oven Fries, Onion Rings, Deep Dish Apple Pie, French Silk Pie, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, need I go on? All of these classics are given the EatingWell treatment, which is to say fats, sugars and other unwanted calories are reduced, not completely eliminated, so that you are still eating real whole and healthy foods, rather than scads of unnatural fat free and sugar free replacements.

There is also a great guide to steaming vegetables so they are crisp and appealing, plus a host of light yet interesting dips and sauces to partner with them and a great resource guide with tips for substitutions if you don’t, for example, have any fresh buttermilk on hand.

Want to win this cookbook? The fine folks at The CountryMan Press will be sending a copy to a lucky Hank & Willie reader. All you have to do is leave a comment below—I’ll have randomizer pick a number and will let you know the lucky winner next Friday!

Eating Well’s Chicken Pot Pie

(You won’t know it is a light version of CPP. I didn’t! And I don’t have a photo because? I just DUG IN. The photo is on page 4 of the book.)

Filling:

3 teaspooons canola oil, DIVIDED

1 cup frozen pearl onions, thawed (did not use–used a real onion)

1 cup peeled and chopped carrots

10 ounces cremini mushrooms (used white button mushrooms)

2 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, DIVIDED

1/4 cup cornstarch

2 1/2 cups cooked and diced chicken or turkey meat

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1/4 cup reduced fat sour cream

1/4 teaspoon salt

freshly ground pepper to taste

Biscuit topping

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour (used spelt instead, either would be good)

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons sugar

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 1/2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces

1 cup nonfat buttermillk

1 tablespoon canola oil

1. To prepare the filling, heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and carrots, cook, stirring til golden brown and tender, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil in the pan, add mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until browned and their liquid has evaporated, about 5-7 minutes. Return the onions and carrots to the pan. Add two cups of broth and bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Mix cornstarch with remaining broth (1/2 cup) and add to pan. Cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens. Stir in chicken, peas, sour cream, salt and pepper. Transfer the filling to a 2-quart baking dish.

2. To prepare the biscuit topping, preheat the over to 400 F. Whisk flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and thyme in a large bowl. Using fingertips or two knives, cut butter into the dry ingredients until crumbly. Add buttermilk and oil; stir til just combined. Drop the dough onto the filing in  six even portions. Set the baking dish on a baking sheet.

Bake the pot pie until the topping is golden and the filling is bubbling, about 30-35 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 6 servings, 403 calories each. Also has 12 grams of fat, 4 grams of fiber and 29 grams of protein per serving.

So there you have it. We can have our comfort food and eat it, too. Good luck —hope you win this great book!


Cuppa joe

January 29, 2009

So yesterday I bid a teary farewell to my beloved Keurig coffee brewer. After just three years of loyal service, it gasped, spat and died in my arms. I called Keurig’s service team, who assured me they could do nothing about it, then kept asking what they could do for me in unbearably perky tones. (Clearly, HER brewer worked that morning.)

I finally had to say, “Um, you could make me a cup of coffee, SINCE MY BREWER doesn’t seem to be willing to provide me with one.”

Silence.

Then a repeat of the scripted apology, statement of distancing from the failed product and asked AGAIN what they could for me. I forsaw an endless loop that I  had no hope of escaping without coffee, so I ended the call, sighed and hauled out our lovely old coffeemaker, a gift from a dear friend for our 2000 wedding. (The one that still works perfectly after all these years, KEURIG. Take a lesson.)

HOWEVER.

Today, Henry happened to be in the room when I began the pour-water-measure-coffee-find-blasted-coffee-filters routine. And, when his gaze locked onto the white, cylindrical coffee maker, I realized, this child, in his whole 2.5 years of life, has never observed a real coffee maker in action. If a space ship had landed on his bowl of oatmeal, discharging miniature aliens bearing chocolate, it would have had no more scrutiny than this pot of coffee.

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He actually pulled over the stool, sat there watching it and wouldn’t get down until the whole pot was done.

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My apologies for the loads of photos and the wonky post-processing. Blame it on the lack of a Keurig brewer.

Contributions to the Hank & Willie Coffee Brewer Fund MOST WELCOME at hankandwillie@gmail.com. SAVE ME.

Why we have blogs

January 28, 2009

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve had a case of the blahs lately. Something to do with this endless winter we’re having in New England, maybe, and tired of taking photos inside? So I haven’t had much inspiration to spend time here, until I get a lovely, thoughtful comment like this one, out of the blue, from a mom who had just read a post I wrote a long while back about the trauma (to mom) of seeing your child knock out a tooth.

From reader L, who no doubt found me via Google:

Hi, just had the same experience with my 3 year old son. I sobbed at the sight of his tooth loss and pain. He fell off his bed and into the radiator three feet away. My husband and I are still puzzled over the physics of how this occurred and needless to say, we moved the bed.

I just wanted to say thank you for your posting. It really comforted me, especially the part about feeling irrationally responsible for what happened. It might sound dramatic to say this, but I did experience deep depression after the event, in large part due to the helplessness I felt and my inability to protect my child. Your mind also starts turning over completely senseless things you could have done to prevent the accident, and in the end, you arrive at the realization that some things are beyond your control. I think this last part is what bothered me most about the accident. At any rate, reading your posting made me feel I wasn’t alone and thanks a bundle for that. Your children are also extremely adorable.

Thank YOU, L, for your nice comment, because it reminds me, in part, of why I’m here. While I started this blog as an electronic baby book, and I still value it beyond measure for the record it keeps of my children’s babyhood and maybe beyond, I never knew, when I started this, the value it would provide in connecting with other parents. I’ve connected with all kinds of parents—those scarred by premature birth or premature tooth loss, parents of boys, parents exploring different parenting philosophies, parents hunting for a “dirt cake recipe” (nearly every day, according to my stats) and so on. I’ve met friends with so much in common, and friends without almost anything in common, and I, too, have been comforted by their words along the way.

So now you’ll have to excuse me, while I go search the sometimes wise, sometimes funny and nearly always comforting words of the blogosphere for something new tonight. Let’s see, should I try “Second fall on front tooth, looks slightly gray?” “Bleeding front primary tooth, preschooler” or just “Will my son’s baby tooth fall out because he just fell on it again, for GOD’S SAKE?”

Food Friday: Slow-Cooker Moroccan Spiced Chicken with Apricots

January 23, 2009

atk_family_cookbookii_250-1I know. Stand back. I’M ACTUALLY POSTING ON A FRIDAY. ABOUT FOOD.

I’ve really missed it, and been longingly drooling over other food blogs, but Fridays have just seemed to be the day where I have the most fleeting possible relationship with the computer, and while I know I could write Food Fridays ahead of time, WHERE’S THE FUN IN THAT?

I’ve also been spending a lot of time on other creative areas of my life and soaking up great advice and collaboration with friends, other photographers, helpful bloggers (thank you, team portfolio) and one very talented graphic artist as I work on my portfolio of images, and it seems I only have the ability to focus on one thing at a time. All that stuff about multitasking moms? Apparently doesn’t apply here.

Today, though, I have to sing the praises of one of my newest cookbooks, The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook by the fine folks at Cook’s Illustrated. My sister gave me this for Christmas, and it is has been in heavy rotation ever since. YOU NEED THIS COOKBOOK. I have some cookbooks to give away in the coming weeks, but this one is absolutely worth buying, a good thing since I don’t have one to give you. Their marketing blurb tells it far better than I can:

A cooking tutorial bound in a sturdy five-ring binder, The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook is the one and only basic cookbook you will ever need, covering every course, from appetizers to desserts, plus chapters on breakfast, sandwiches, sauces and condiments, and beverages. Friendly and to-the-point test kitchen tip boxes accompany the recipes and point out either where you might go wrong, or a special technique or ingredient that makes the recipe successful. Helpful charts (like primers on steaming vegetables and cooking grains) and Cooking 101 pages (covering topics like brining meats, buying cheeses, and how to prepare crudités) make this a reference unlike any other.

I just reached for this book to share a recipe and was surprised to find it actually on my shelf, since I use it every single day. I’m sure I’ll give you many more recipes from it in the future, but for today, try this one. We all loved it—even my picky picky four-year-old who was fooled by the fruit. Happy Food Friday to you—what are you making at your house this weekend, the statistical coldest days of winter? Inspire me, let me know what’s cooking and baking at your place!

Slow-Cooker Moroccan Spiced Chicken with Apricots

Raisins or prunes may be substituted for the apricots (but really, WHY?). If you are unable to find hot paprika, substitute sweet paprika mixed with 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper. (That’s what I did.)

6 bone-in skin-on split chicken breasts or 12 bone-in chicken thighs

salt and pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 onions, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons hot paprika

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

6 garlic cloves, minced

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 cup dried apricots, cut in half

1 cinnamon stick (please–like I had this lying around. Just used 1 teaspoon cinnamon.)

1 (15.5-ounce) can of chick peas (forgot to add this, but was still good. Would be more Moroccan if I had added it!)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup minced cilantro (Didn’t have this so just added dried parsley)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Lemon wedges for serving (Also didn’t have this. Whatever.)

1. Dry the chicken, season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 of the tablespoons of oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium high heat until just smokin’. Brown the chicken on both sides, about 10 minutes, then add to the slow cooker (remove browned chicken skin). You’ll have to do this in batches if you make the amount the recipe calls for, but I used less chicken and got it all in one pan.

2. Discard any leftover fat. Add remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan, and heat over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions, paprika and other spices. Cook until onions are soft, about five minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 15 seconds. Stire in 2 1/2 cups of the broth, the apricots (and the cinnamon stick if you are using one.) Scrape up the browned bits, bring to a simmer and then pour over the chicken into the slow cooker.

3. Cover and cook on low for about three hours. After three hours, stir in the chickpeas, replace the cover and continue cooking until the chicken is tender, about one hour longer. (Note: I added green peas just before serving. Seemed to fit in just fine.)

We had this over brown rice, and it was a sweet and savory hit. The little extra work in the beginning, browning the chicken and sauteeing the onions and spices makes all the difference!

How to charm me

January 20, 2009

Ask me if Obama will be able to eat breakfast before “he chooses the laws tomorrow.”  And “what is his new dog’s name?”

Will, age 4.5

Hot time in the city

January 15, 2009

We ventured forth to the big city last week, to visit with some college friends in town, to celebrate the birthday of a young lady who just turned 10 and to go for a ride on the rails.

img_7335Will takes his train rides VERY seriously.

It all went off without a hitch, and we even made it to L.A. Burdick’s in Harvard Square for the best hot chocolate anyone has ever tasted. (Will promptly spilled his on the floor and BELIEVE ME when I tell you this is NOT a kid place, but they brought him a replacement  immediately and on the house, thank you, Burdicks!)

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We also got to visit with Sarah who is hoping to have a baby in this millenium,

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we browsed at the Curious George store and we missed the annual Ride the T Pants Free pantsless demo, which I am supremely grateful for, since I spend many mornings explaining to my children that they cannot go out without pants when it turns out, in fact, you can.

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Will loved the train, but couldn’t take his hands off his ears in the station. He’s not much for loud noises.

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As you can see.

img_7400We celebrated a birthday and some belated Christmas

img_7407Happy birthday, Lydia, we love you!

Thank you to our great hosts and hooray for the Red Line!

We interrupt our regular programming to say

January 13, 2009

Happy Birthday to my dear hubby, celebrating a milestone birthday today!

With love from me and your two favorite prize fighters.

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Note black eye and missing tooth—we run with a tough crowd at our house.

And for those of you who didn’t believe Henry’s eye got worse?

Exhibits A, B and C!

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Yes, complete with bloody nose. We don’t do anything halfway around here.

Thank you, photo lovers for your kind offers, I’ll send out a link today!


Hit me with your best shot

January 12, 2009

So, I’m back. I know, I usually have a guest blogger fill in when I go to the bathroom, but I didn’t think too many of you were missing me, especially since you, apparently, were all at the gym this week. Or at least I’m assuming that’s why I can’t get a parking spot there, yes?

I applaud your endeavors and wish you good luck, but I won’t mind when a few of you start slacking, because SWEET JESUS ON A TREADMILL, it’s busy there.

In other news, Henry scored the first shiner of 2009 yesterday, born of a spectacular fall off a kitchen stool followed by a smack into the edge of the kitchen table. Poor love, he was just reaching for some chocolate—he might have something of a candy aversion now.

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That was yesterday’s view, which was kid stuff compared to this morning’s swollen-eye-purple-lid look! Unretouched, as you can see from the collection of food crumbs and whatnot on his face. Don’t hate me for making this my Best Shot Monday. For more best shots and hopefully fewer injured toddlers, click here!

P.S. Even if you didn’t miss me, I missed you! I’ll be back more regularly now, I can feel it. In the meantime, any photo lovers out there want to help me with a project I’ve been working on? I need critique on my portfolio, and I’m looking for your opinion. Leave me a comment if you want to take a look, and I’ll send you the link!

Hank & Willie Year in Review 2008. Finally.

January 3, 2009

GOOD GOD, IT’S FINALLY POSTED!

Huge thanks to my crack team of troubleshooters.

Dear Record Industry,

I do not want to rip off your hard-working creative artists. Not even a little.

However, let me give you a little tip. If you allowed us to use your songs or, heck, even charged us a fair-use fee to use your songs in our little home-grown, non-profit seeking slide shows, YOU MIGHT GET A FEW MORE PEOPLE BUYING YOUR SONGS. BECAUSE THEY ARE GOOD AND IT IS KIND OF FREE ADVERTISING. JUST SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT.

Sincerely,

The girl who spent the last three days trying to outsmart you and every video hosting site in the world because she just wanted to play a SONG for God’s sake.

***********

So, this is a complete cop out because I used the SAME song as last year, but it was, for some reason, the only one that did not trip off the sensors of every copyright alarm out there. But let me tell you, it was this or a recording of me humming, and you definitely came out ahead in that deal.

If you like it, you should go and BUY this song, Sweet by French artist Jehro.

If I were really a whiz I would give you title pages that you could read, instead of flashing by you and credits and things like that. But instead, I give you the celebration and remembrance of a year past and our best wishes for all the hopes and promise of 2009.

And oh, the songs I had for you. Thanks, readers who gave me amazing choices. I’m listening to them right now. Wish you could, too!

Enjoy!

Blame that fussy baby new year

January 1, 2009

Since life has conspired to keep me from finishing my now annual photo roundup of the year just past, I give you last year’s as a place holder.

You know, in case you had nothing else to do for a few minutes.

Click HERE.

I hope to finish it by tomorrow. Got any good song suggestions for me? I’m having a hard time topping the one I used last year.

Happy new year to you all!