Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanks...and No, Thanks.


I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving feast.  I enjoyed the first one I had not cooked in over twenty years.  I was the fortunate guest of a fellow personal chef friend, whose bountiful table, and deep fried turkey were delightful.  

Obviously, I have a lot to be thankful for this year, not least of which is the fact that I've gone from unknowing cancer host, to cancer survivor, soon to be cancer treatment warrior, in the short span of about 6 weeks.  My follow-up surgical appointment Monday went well - everything she carved out of there and sent to pathology came back clean.

I am really glad that I decided to ditch the Aetna Healthy Food Fight Finals.  While I am a little disappointed that I didn't even get the courtesy of an acknowledgment from G2, the ad agency, running the campaign on Aetna's behalf (or an autographed Bobby Flay book).  In fact, after I left the  G2 rep a voicemail saying I wasn't going to go because I wanted to move up my cancer surgery, several days later she sent an e-mail asking about my travel preferences.  Overall, my experience with G2 was very poor from the beginning, when they 'forgot' to tell me I was a semi-finalist, and I only found out when I followed up with them.  

Anyway, I am glad I moved the surgery up a week, and it's done, it's out, it hasn't spread, it isn't in my lymph nodes, and I am one week further into the treatment than if I had waited.  It did turn out to be Stage II based on the tumor size, which ended up around 2.9 cm.  

This week I had the port inserted in my left arm for my chemo.  Man, am I glad I didn't have that done first, which apparently my oncologist did want.  It takes about an hour to have it put in.  It's done in the radiology department because they use an ultrasound to locate your veins (I have good ones!), then they take an x-ray after it's placed.  It's titanium, purple, and about the size of a quarter. It's under the skin, so it will be a little bump after it heals, and they can poke it to put things in (chemo drugs, CAT Scan dye), and take things out (blood).  I now have to have my blood pressure taken in my legs for awhile. 

It was an all woman team, and the nurse practitioner who did it has done about 3,000, so she obviously knew what she was doing.  And I was wide awake (they use a local anesthesia - like going to the dentist), they tell you all about while they are doing it.  Most of the hour is prep time.  It really didn't hurt while they were doing it, but it started bruising immediately, and by the time the local anesthetic wore off I was very glad I still had over half a bottle of the 'good stuff' left from surgery.  Who knew having something surgically implanted would hurt more than having something removed? (I mean besides Pamela Anderson and most of the Housewives of Atlanta?) 

I spent a couple of nights sleeping with my arm on a pillow, and I had a minor freak-out when I saw how much bruising there was when I was allowed to remove the bandage, but it's better now, although still a little sore and a bit annoying.  I was excited last night that I could actually roll on to either side while sleeping.

So I have one more week to heal before chemo starts.  Six courses, every three weeks.  Then daily radiation for 6 weeks.  Why still chemo and radiation if it's all out?  Well, there is no way to tell if there isn't some sneaky cancer cells lurking somewhere.  The type that I have is more aggressive and prone to returning, so the chemo will kill any lurkers anywhere in my body, and the radiation gets them directly in the area where the tumor was. 

I also agreed to participate in a small clinical trial which is testing an over the counter medication that is thought to reduce neuropathy (tingling in feet and hands) and may help prevent having all of my finger and toe nails from falling out (!).  There are 380 people in the trial - so I have a 50/50 chance of getting the placebo.  The male nurse in oncology that is tracking the study is cute, so I figure if nothing else, that's a nice distraction. 

I got prescriptions for anti-nausea meds (one of which the brand name is $800, amen for generics!), a 'total cranial prosthesis due to chemotherapy induced alopecia'(WIG), and a handicapped placard.  I hit the BMV today and was pleasantly surprised to only have a few people in front of me (and no one hacking up a lung in the waiting area). 

The other thing that I am very thankful is my wonderful posse of friends.  The flowers (my dentist sent flowers, how sweet is that), cards, hand knit hats and scarves, mittens that look like puppets, Elmer Fudd hat with flaps, tea mug, jams. stuffed buddies, ornaments, gift cards, phone calls, and e-mails, along with offers of help, have really helped make this whole whirlwind of becoming a cancer warrior, a whole lot easier. I love you all.

To those whose behavior has ranged from blase to baffling - no, thanks.  I don't have the energy to deal with your issues, your inner child, or your inability to deal with the reality that the world does not indeed revolve around you.   Because right now whether you like it or not, the world revolves around me.

I am saving all of my energy to fight cancer, and I'd like to stay as happy and stress-free as possible during the trip. 


Monday, November 22, 2010

Roasted Squash w/Figs, Toasted Walnuts and Swiss Chard

Secret Ingredient
I was inspired to (re)create this recipe after watching chef Steve Schimoler, of Crop Bistro serve it to the couple who were sharing the chef's table with us after the Fabulous Food Show.  The couple were vegan (and hopefully cleared honey as an ingredient), so Steve presented their entire seven course tasting menu of dishes that he basically created on the spot, including this one.

It was almost as fun watching him take on the vegan challenge as it was watching him present our dishes. Almost. Did I mention Lobster Cappucino and Crispy Pork Belly with Piquillo Pepper Relish?

We were of course sitting right in the thick of the action, and he described each dish in detail when he presented them, and this looked and sounded so good.  The couple really enjoyed it, and when we asked they described it as more figgy than nutty.

Toasted Walnuts & Chopped Dried Figs
In addition to the toasted walnuts, and chopped dried Mission figs, there was also Swiss Chard, which I am still harvesting from my ornamental bed in front of my house.  I chopped the stems and leaves separately.

Chard Stems - Pink Lipstick Chard

Chard Leaves
I sauteed the chard stems in a skillet with a little walnut oil until tender, then added the leaves.  Once the leaves were cooked, I tossed in the toasted walnuts and chopped figs.

I was making a balsamic reduction (also used by chef Steve), by reducing about a half cup of cheap balsamic in a small pan, when I went to check on the laundry and was greeted with Squirrel Gate 2010.  I turned the pan off while I dealt with acorn deluge, and of course it instantly turned to pan cement.  The only way to get it out is to add more liquid and reheat it.  Which is why the finished recipe is a little dark.

Final Dish
I topped it with a drizzle of Lulu White Truffle Honey , 9-Ounce Jar, which makes anything instantly awesome.  While I still love the concept, and will probably attempt to re-tweak it with less balsamic, and perhaps some quinoa or farro, this one was good, but not great, but it provided a needed cooking distraction for the night before surgery.

Fortunately I had a couple of chef Steve's leftover lamb chops and a few bites of his awesome Savory Pumpkin Sage Bread Pudding, which I was glad to find the recipe for on-line, to make up for it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends Frittata

Frittata w/Arugula, Feta, Dill & Pancetta
I feel amazingly good for someone who spent several hours in surgery on Monday.  Other than a little pain when I first woke up, and a little numbness in my hand likely due to a pinched nerve from having my arm laid out for a long while during surgery, I feel good as new.  I dutifully took the pain meds and tried to stay still, but it only lasted until Thursday, when I chucked the drugs and started moving like a human.  More on that journey later, back to food already!

I wasn't sure that I'd be up to going to the first indoor winter Countryside Conservancy farmers market, now being held at Old Trail School, on Saturday, but after a trip to Mustard Seed Market, to stock up on provisions to get me through amateur shopping week, aka the week of Thanksgiving, I headed to the market. 

The new location has better parking and more space for the vendors and the customers, in the school's gym and cafeteria.  It was remarkable to look around and see the amount of beautiful fresh produce available this time of year - arugula, lettuce, greens, bok choy, in addition to the usual winter selections of squash, garlic, potatoes and onions.  Pretty remarkable when you think that just a few short years ago there was one or two 'winter' markets held around the holidays, then last year monthly from November to April, to this year, two winter markets a month. 

I am cooking a little more slowly and deliberately this week, partially because my right side isn't quite up to fancy knife skills and skillet flipping yet, and partially because I have no one to feed except myself, and there's no reason to rush the process.  When I cook 10-15 dishes at a time for a client, it sometimes rushes by in blur, kind of like when you leave work on autopilot and arrive home and don't remember the journey.  I may just turn into the zen cook.

One of the easiest, most filling, protein rich dishes that you make is a frittata.  Sounds fancy, but it's basically a baked omelet with whatever you want cooked in it.  You need good eggs (that sounds so Ina Garten), but if the egg recalls of this summer didn't scare you off factory eggs, and send you searching for somewhere you could get farm fresh eggs, then maybe I can convince you that the taste is completely worth seeking them out.  Happy chickens make better eggs.

One of the first things I scored at the market yesterday was a flat of 2 1/2 dozen Brunty Farms eggs, who also had radishes and fresh parsley.  Not only have I met the farmer, I've met the chickens!

I also bought some fresh arugula - there were lots of farmers with it, some delicious fresh cream cheese from Mayfield Road Creamery, a couple of par-baked pies (apple and pumpkin) from the best pie maker I know, Diane from Humble Pie Baking Company, some pumpkin chevre, and fig-cognac chevre (!) from MacKenzie Creamery, a baguette from Great Lakes Baking,  and some spinach from Maize Valley.

I talked to several farmers about growing watercress.  New studies have shown that watercress stops the growth of breast cancer cells.  Jeff Brunty is planning to do a aquaponic fish house, so watercress will be a perfect fit.  Plus it will be great to have safe, farmed fish.

So this morning's breakfast is testament to not buying food from strangers; I know personally who nurtured most the ingredients in this morning's breakfast (and this afternoon's lunch, probably). Frittata is great reheated gently, or even eaten cold.

Frittata Ingredients
I used this Pamela Anderson (not that Pamela Anderson, this Pamela Anderson) recipe from Fine Cooking.com - but part of why I love my on-line subscription to FC, is that they also have a build your own frittata recipe tool, if you don't feel confident enough to just wing it.

The only thing I changed was that I added some chopped pancetta to the pan with the garlic because I had an open package in the fridge.  I also used a 9" pan which worked fine.

And now I am either headed to the gym for a little overdue (light) exercise, or it looks like another unseasonably warm autumn day, so maybe a nice walk around the neighborhood.  Honestly, I think good food and exercise are a good part of why I feel as good as I do today! Bon Appetit!


Arugula, Feta & Dill Frittata
by Pamela Anderson
        Serves four.

9 large eggs
3 Tbs. freshly grated Parmesan
3 oz. feta cheese, crumbled (about 2/3-cup)
2 Tbs. minced fresh dill
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
4 cups packed arugula (about 4 oz.), stemmed, washed, and dried
Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Stir the Parmesan, feta, dill, and a light sprinkling of salt and pepper into the beaten eggs.

Heat the oil and the garlic in a 10-inch ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When the garlic sizzles and starts to turn golden, add the arugula. Cook the arugula, stirring constantly, until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low, shaking the pan to distribute the arugula evenly. Add the egg mixture and cook until the eggs start to set around the edges, about 1 minute.

Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until the eggs are puffed and set, 10 to 12 minutes. Slide or invert the frittata onto a large plate, cut into four wedges and serve.

Before Flipping Fresh From the Oven

After Flipping

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bye Bye Cancer, Hello Percocet

Someone in editing is in big trouble
Fortunately the folks that took great care of me yesterday don't work in marketing and billing, because I have a sneaking suspicion that who ever proofed this billing stuffer is in a bit of trouble.  I did wake up with a little paint, but it's mostly Sharpie art.

Arrived at the hospital as directed at 7:30 am yesterday morning after no liquids or food after midnight.  Thankfully I am not very caffeine dependent anymore, so no withdrawal there.  After checking in and carrying my unnecessary pee sample around, I was moved to the pre-surgical unit where I was given my lovely gowns, and swaddled in warm blankets.

My speedy transport person guided my wheelchair around the twists, turns, and bridges to the Nuclear Medicine department where I spent a fair amount of time parked in the hallway awaiting my 8:30 dye injections. (Radioactive dye is injected to locate the sentinel lymph node, which is the one that is removed, sliced, and frozen, then sent to pathology to be analyzed during surgery. It's results determine whether more nodes need to be removed).  I was finally fetched by a couple of techs, one of whom reminded me of Raine Wilson, circa Six Feet Under.  And not in a good way.  Turns out he was just in charge of loading the radioactive blue dye in the syringes.

A doctor came in afterward and gave me five injections around the site.  The injections also contain lidocaine, so they pinched, some more than others, but it wasn't that bad, all things considered.  Then I was reparked in the hall and instructed to massage around the area to speed the dye to it's node destination.  You can just imagine how funny that looked, but most of the early morning workers were focused on their donuts, or were talking with each other about the weekend, and barely noticed me.

Next up, after about a half an hour in the hallway, my speedy transport dude came back and whizzed me down to the breast center for my next procedure, which was the placement and insertion of the guide needle.  Which I didn't really have a clue was coming until I got there.  Probably just as well, since it turned out to be the least fun part of my day.

Basically a seated mammogram, without a lot of pressure at first, so the titanium chip that was put in at the biopsy could be located.  The usual pancake treatment - vertical, then horizontal.  Then the fun part, more pressure while holding perfectly still until the radiologist came in to insert the needle.  Honestly, I think I semi-blacked out and went numb after a few minutes.  There was some debate about the new needles between the nurse and the radiologist, which were apparently a first for the radiologist.  But I barely felt it go in.  Then after a another film, they removed it and did it the other way and put it back in.  Then it was taped to my chest and I was returned to pre-surgical.

I was visited by the good fairies from anesthesia, and after a false start with a not too sharp needle, the IV was hooked up, my friend Debbie was allowed to visit for a few minutes, and then I was off to the OR on schedule at 11:30.

Woke up around 3:30 in recovery.  Didn't feel too bad, pain wise.  Took a bit to shake off the groggy, then I got ginger ale and Lorna Doones.  Apparently pathology was a bit backed up and it took awhile to get my lymph node results back; she took out two, I am not sure exactly why yet, but they are clean, and as a bonus, I did not need a drain. 

Got my going away Percocet around 4:00, and after a pit stop for frozen peas/ice pack, was back in my good old recliner by 6:00 pm.

My BFF Debbie took excellent care of me and made me a pain med schedule.  She went home and my sister came to spend the night.

I woke up about 3:30 and took a green pee (!).  I asked the Nuclear techs if I'd pee blue from the dye and they said no.  They were wrong. Apparently the don't know the end results of their work.  It's toned down, but still not quite right.

I decided to sit in the recliner until my 4:00 am percocet, and was resting peacefully with my favorite cat, Jake, on my lap, when a mouse/cat scuffle broke out behind me.  The cats usually play with/torture the mice and leave me to do the dirty work.  Jake made a dive and came up the victor, then proceeded to take it upstairs to show my sister, who was still pretty much asleep.

We finally cornered Jake and his catch in the dining room, and he dutifully dropped it, and I covered it with a bowl and Michelle slid a file folder under it and took it across the street.

I figured that was the end of rodent gate until this morning.  Back story: Last week my dryer started taking 2-3 cycles to finish a load.  I figured it was old and on it's last legs.  So I had the handyman take a look at it.  It felt like only the low heat was working.  He took it apart.  Couldn't figure out what was wrong with it, so I decided to just go get a new one.  We went to Lowes, got a new one and hooked it up.

Did a load on Friday and it seemed to not be working much better than the old one.  Hung out with friends all day Saturday at the Fabulous Food Show (Alton Brown was a hoot!), then had another fantastic Tour de Crop chef's menu at Crop Bistro (thanks Chef Steve for such a great meal!).

Sunday, I wanted to get the laundry caught up and it just wasn't getting dry.  Finally I noticed that there was water coming out of part of the duct and the tape was coming loose.  So, I pulled on it and was rewarded with a shower of acorns, birdseed, and leaves that were completely packing about 12' section of the pipe!  Threw up my hands, left a message for the handyman, stuffed a couple of towels in the open pipe, and said, a project for another day.

I'd really hoped it would be fixed when I got home last night.  It wasn't.  At some point last night, Debbie and I heard a noise, and I noted the absence of cats, but we really didn't investigate.

So this morning when Michelle went down to clean the litter boxes, she discovered CSI Squirrel Akron on the basement steps.  Seems the owner of the nuts came a knocking, but was no match for the cat posse.  Who apparently think mice are toys, but squirrels are the enemy.  So there was a little extra clean-up.

The cats and I have been chilling out the rest of the day.  Debbie cooked her way through most of my CSA veggies and there are all kinds of yummy things to eat - roasted fennel with garlic and tomatoes, roasted broccoli, roasted sweet potatoes, and a  great big salad.

I feel surprisingly good, probably thanks to my new friend Percocet, but I think my surgeon, Dr. Partin, gets some major props as well.

Thanks to all of my friends who sent many green things and good wishes, I love them all.

Friday, November 12, 2010

When the Going Gets Tough, The Tough Go Shopping....

Jake breaking in my new throw
I have been preparing for my transition from cancer host to cancer fighter with all the zeal of Martha herself preparing for house arrest.  I've indulged in more 'retail therapy' in the last few weeks than I probably have all year. There is a certain sense of "You can't take it with you!" which you can use to justify nearly any purchase.

First up, the practical.  I knew from a friend that had breast surgery, that some pjs and shirts that buttoned vs. having to be pulled overhead were a must.  Which of course I didn't own, but thanks to a Kohls coupon and the JC Penney clearance rack, my formerly ratty pajama collection was instantly upgraded, and I added a tunic that I guarantee will make me look like a cross between Ina Garten and my mother.  I promised my stylists, the lovely Susan and Betsey, of Shop Your Closet, that I would not purchase or wear leggings (!), or heaven forbid jeggings, whatever they heck they are.



Next up the hats, aka known as my new hair.  Target proved to be fertile ground for this hunt, and I picked up a few there.  Finding 'diva' green ones proved to be a little more difficult, but Whole Foods, of all places, had a couple, including a really soft one made from recycled bottle caps, which were ridiculously priced, as is nearly everything in Whole Paycheck, but I don't have time to be picky.  Finally, the hat in the photo was selected by a friend as were cruising the new Charming Charlie store at Legacy Village. The pin, which is absolutely gorgeous green glass, is courtesy of my BFF from a tag sale.

More green things followed.  The ultra soft throw that my ancient cat Jake decided to adopt as soon as I put it on my recliner.  This new tea kettle:

A few more cookbooks for the collection, because clearly I don't have enough.  This photo is by the talented Shane Wynn and is in the Akron Life and Leisure feature on me in the November issue on the newstands now.  For the record this is about half of my collection - there is another bookcase this size in the dining room.


Then the electronics.  I felt a little cheated when I finally broke down and bought an iPod touch earlier this year and I got one with my Amazon credit card points - the DAY BEFORE they announced the new model.  I sucked it up and loaded my 400 or so CDs on it, and it's great because I can hook it up in the new car.  So I got over that cheated feeling, by getting an iPad.  Now I figure I something no one wants (cancer) and something everyone wants (iPad). 

And I upgraded my cell phone, so I am now a WiFi hotspot, and if lost (me and/or the phone), can be located within 10' via satellite.  The nice young man at the Verizon store, who probably felt sorry for me because I reminded him of his mom, spent three hours with me setting it up.  And it still took me a couple of days to figure out how to answer it. My Top Chef Bacon, Bacon, Bacon ring tone cracks me up every time.

I completed a personal chef service for one of my regulars this week, then I removed the business window graphic from my car window, and officially put my business on pause for the duration.  The shopping kind of took a bit of the sting out of that reality.  Kind of.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

In the Kitchen with Molly Stevens

 I had the pleasure of attending my second class with James Beard Award winning author, teacher, and editor, Molly Stevens last night at the Western Reserve School of Cooking in Hudson, Ohio. Molly's signature book All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking, is one of my favorite books.  (Her Osso Bucco recipe is divine).

I took a class with her a few years ago, and she made the fluffiest, most delicious mashed potatoes I'd ever had using a Norpro Potato Ricer.  It was a revelation!  I grew up on 'whipped potatoes' - my mother used the mixer, which definitely produces a heavier potato. Not that I disliked mom's, but the ricer produces a totally different dish.  Molly is the co-author of One Potato, Two Potato, which has about every way to cook a potato you can imagine.

Up until then, I had no use for a ricer.  Now I use it to squeeze the water out of frozen spinach, and I've used it as a mini strainer.  I have the stainless steel model and this Kuhn Rikon Potato Ricer with 2 Stainless Disks, White, which I like because it has two different sized disks, with the extra storing on top under a lid.

The theme of last night's class was fall entertaining, and started with a simple yogurt cheese, and a homemade rosemary cracker.  Both recipes were delicious and easily replicated by cooks of any skill level.

As she demonstrated how to make the recipes, she fielded questions from the audience.  One of things I like best about her as a teacher is in addition to her obvious knowledge of techniques and ingredients, she is able to effortlessly answer questions and distill the answer in a way that isn't too technical nor condescending. 

Roasted Cauliflower Soup w/Chive Oil
 The next recipe was a delicious two step Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Indian Spices and Chive Oil.  (photo courtesy of Catherine St. John).  Roasting the cauliflower, and toasting whole spices, added a delicious depth of flavor, and the fresh chive oil provided not only a pretty, but tasty garnish.

Grouper w/Sweet Potato Puree and Brussels Sprouts Chips


Next up was a Lime Spiked Roasted Sweet Potato Puree with Brussels Sprouts "Chips" served with a Pan Roasted Grouper.  This dish has everything going for it - restaurant style presentation potential, perfect combination of eye pleasing color contrasts, textural interest, and the lime vinaigrette really tames the sometimes cloying sweetness of sweet potatoes and provides just the right pop of acidity.  Plus, it's really a pretty easy recipe.  I will definitely make it at some point.

Finally, dessert was one of my favorite combos - Dark Chocolate Tart with Gingersnap Crust. There was a hint of black pepper and the crystallized ginger garnish gives it a little punch on the finish. Delicious!

Dark Chocolate Gingersnap Tart
If you are a Fine Cooking magazine fan, you have no doubt seen many of Molly's recipes.  She also edited The Best American Recipe series, and the final compilation book, The 150 Best American Recipes: Indispensable Dishes from Legendary Chefs and Undiscovered Cooks (150 Best Recipes).

I have checked out the 150 Best American Recipes many times from the library and I have no idea why I never just bought a copy. (If you've seen the November issue of Akron Life and Leisure magazine you know I have a bit of problem when it comes to cookbooks.)  The Turkey Sloppy Joe recipe is one of my all time favorites.  So I took advantage of my 10% off class discount and bought copy which Molly signed.

She is teaching another Italian themed class tonight - there were still spots available.  She is one of my all-time favorite teachers and recipe writers, and I highly recommend taking a class with her if you can.

And I am looking forward to her next book, All About Roasting, due out in about a year. 


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Apple Butter Pork Tenderloin with Savory Applesauce

 Months ago when I submitted my list of recipes for my 'More than Pork (chops) and Apple (sauce) - an homage of sorts to Peter Brady, I listed Apple Butter Pork Tenderloin with Savory Applesauce.  As the date for the class approached, I realized it was time to actually develop the recipe.

It only took a moment of inspiration, some delicious local apples, and a little tweaking to come up with a winner.  (I realize in the photo it doesn't look like the most attractive dish on the block, but turn your sensory memory on to the smell of cinnamon, apples, and sweet onions baking in a bath of fresh apple cider.  See, smells prettier already.  I just wanted you to see the bit of browning on the apples - a little extra flavor).

 The easiest way to make the applesauce is to use one of my favorite gadgets, the hand held immersion blender.  I transferred the cooked apples and onions to a deep bowl, and a few quick blitzes with the blender, and presto, instant applesauce. (It goes without saying, but don't lift the blender while it's running. Unless you like cleaning your backsplash).

 Another polar bear in a snowstorm type photo, but here is the finished applesauce.


 It was a big hit in my Jungle Jim's class with the men as well as the women.  It's easy, smells terrific while it's roasting, and the delicious sweet/savory flavor more than makes up for the slightly homely appearance.  What are you waiting for?  Dig in.

Apple Butter Pork Tenderloin with Savory Applesauce
Dine-In Diva Original Recipe


Serves 4-6

4 baking apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2” slices (I used 3 Jonagold & one Granny Smith)
1 large sweet onion, peeled and cut into 1/2” wedges
Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
2 stems of fresh thyme, stemmed and chopped
4 fresh sage leaves, minced
1/2 t. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 c. apple butter (I used Dickinsons brand)
1 c. apple cider
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 t. pumpkin pie spice
salt and freshly ground pepper
2  one pound pork tenderloins, trimmed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Spray 9x13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.  Place apple and onion slices, season with salt and pepper, fresh herbs,1/2 t. pumpkin pie spice and toss to coat.  Combine apple cider and apple butter in small dish then add to apples and onions and toss to combine.  Roast for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare pork.  Heat oil in large skillet.  Rub pork with 1/2 t. pie spice and season with salt and pepper.  Brown pork on all sides in skillet.   Transfer pork to the center of baking dish, pushing apples and onions around the edges. 

Roast until pork reaches 155 degrees, about 20-25 minutes. 

Remove pork and let rest.  Transfer apples and onions to a large bowl and use an immersion blender to blend the sauce to desired thickness.  Taste and check seasoning.  Serve sliced pork atop applesauce.   Garnish with additional fresh herb sprigs if desired.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

You Gotta Have Friends


Some love from my friend Julie






I felt like a pretty huge weight was lifted off my shoulders once I made the decision a week ago to not go to L.A. for the Aetna Healthy Food Fight finals.  I was really looking forward to competing - and winning, but I'm ready for a different kind of fight now.  (And honestly, the $10k prize of kitchen appliances aren't anything I would use, so it would just create more work for me to store, sell, and pay taxes on them.  I hope someone who really can use them wins. $10k in cash would have really come in handy, especially now)

I got my surgery moved up, and I have been in a serious nesting type mode.  It's probably more like Martha getting ready for house arrest, than 'the baby's coming' kind of nesting, but there may be some intersection.  There's things to buy, and things to get in order.  That's a whole other post.

There have been some, let's just say, interesting, reactions to my diagnosis.  Some have made me laugh, some have made me cry, some have made me slap myself upside the head as a reminder of why I set the expectation bar on that person so low that an Olsen twin couldn't limbo under, and some have really lifted me when I needed it the most.

I joked on Facebook that if people wanted to cheer me up they could send me Eric Ripert with a new iPad, some snickerdoodles and flowers.

A couple of days later, as I was leaving with a friend for the Apple store to buy an iPad, she spotted a FedX package in my front door.  I grabbed the package before we took off, and the return address was Le-Bernardin in New York.  (Eric Ripert's restaurant, fyi).

We tore open the package, and wrapped in Le-Bernardin tissue paper was a copy of Avec Eric: A Culinary Journey with Eric Ripert.   There is a companion show on PBS on Saturday mornings.  Not only is Eric nice to look at, his French accent is pretty yummy to listen to as well.   At first we were just pretty impressed by the book - then we flipped to this page:


My friend Lisa was busting on me a little about the "You wish!" part, but I think in Eric speak, it's "Your Wish! (as in granted).  Either way, it was a pretty good way to grant my wish, and the instigator has remained anonymous.

When we returned there was another FedX package which contained the lime green shirt emblazoned with "Cancer Picked the Wrong Diva" from my friend Julie.

I most definitely have a good thing/bad thing string of luck going on right now. These gifts brought more than a smile that day; they also managed to more than balance out the disappointment I was feeling from giving up the contest finals and the less than supportive reactions to my diagnosis that I've received. 

I did buy an iPad.  I figure now I have something no one wants and something everyone wants.  Just trying to keep it in balance.

And like the song says: You Gotta Have Friends.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Grass Fed Beef Chili

I promised you chili, and here it is. (My apologies to anyone grading me on food styling - it was my lunch, so I gave the mug a quick wipe, snapped a few shots and ate it before I realized the photo could have been better).

I feel really strongly that if you are going to eat meat or poultry, that you only purchase humanely treated, organically fed products, preferably from someone you can look in the eye when you buy it.

I facilitated the purchase of a side of  Miller Livestock grass-fed beef a few weeks back, which was split among the members of my White House Garden CSA - about a dozen of us.   I am not kidding - this is the best tasting beef I've ever had. (Totally coincidentally, I just discovered Ruhlman posted about his visit to Miller's today - check it out here.)

When I scored the Nickles Corn Toasties the other day, I instantly thought: Chili!  The ground beef was packaged in two pound packages, so I took one out to thaw, and made ratatouille in the meantime.

Chili in Akron, OH means with kidney beans and ground beef.  Cincinnati is a whole different ball game, and this ain't Texas, so this is how we roll.

So without further ado, here it is.

Grass Fed Beef Chili

About 6 servings

1 Tablespoon olive or grapeseed oil
1 1/2 large red onions, chopped
6-8 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 # of grass-fed ground beef
1/4 c. of chili powder (I used Santa Cruz Chili Powder)
2 T. ground cumin
1 t. sweet Paprika (I like Penzeys)
2 15 oz cans of Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes with Green Chiles, including the juice
2 15 oz cans of organic dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 of a quart carton of organic beef broth - I like Imagine (write the date on the pkg with a Sharpie & use within 10 days)

Heat the oil in a heavy dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add the onions and saute until softened, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute for a minute.  Add the beef, break it up with a flat wooden spoon, and brown.  Add the spices and salt and pepper to taste, stir to coat the beef, then add the tomatoes, beans, and broth.  (Throw some beer in if you're drinking one).

Reduce heat and simmer for 30 - 60 minutes.  Skim fat, if necessary (I had barely any).

Garnish as you like and enjoy.  Gets better the next day.

It was so good I forgot to have a Corn Toastie.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Nickles Corn Toasties + Ratatouille

While I'd say at least 80% of what I eat is organic, whole food, and as local as I can get, I have a few hidden vices.  Nickles Corn Toasties, are one of them.  Slightly sweet, toaster sized corn cakes, they are perfect for tucking under a bowl of chili, or in tonight's case under some ratatouille.

The only place I know that reliably carries the Toasties is the Acme market on Route 18 in Montrose.  They used to be located on some oddly placed small wire shelf sandwiched between a couple of the meat coolers, along with packages of their maple bars.  I don't shop Acme very often because I am about 25 years too young, and I am not a big fan of their products/selection.

The organic selection isn't bad, however, and I needed a loaf of Udi's gluten free bread for a client, which they carry frozen, so I happened to be in there the other day and decided to back track and see if there were any Toasties.  They weren't in the old spot, but I found them closer to the bakery and breads where it would seem more logical to keep them to begin with. 

Ratatouille is Italian for 'all I have in the frig are vegetables'.  This week marks the end of both my White House Gardens CSA and my half share of the Brunty Farms CSA.  While there have been times when I felt like I was drowning in veggies (including now), I am sad that the season is over and I am going to have to actually buy things at the market.

I used this recipe, from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine. I really enjoy the magazine and have made lots of recipes from them for myself and for my clients.  The red wine vinegar added a nice touch of acidity which was perfectly set off by the sweet bites of the corn toastie.

I've got some grass fed ground beef thawing for chili, which is my favorite Toastie companion.

For the second night leftovers, I got a couple of sausages from Mustard Seed Market for a little extra protein.
Ratatouille over a Nickles Corn Toastie