Monday, December 23, 2013

Cookbook Project: Book #1 - Essentials of Italian

I got this book many moons ago when I used to take cooking classes at William Sonoma in the Stamford Town Mall. I loved the teacher and took classes for 3 or 4 years with her because she'd use ingredients I never worked with or thought to work with. She's the first person that opened my mind to really trying new foods.

The week I posted my decision to count my cookbooks by trying a recipe from every cookbook I own, is the same week I called a good friend and asked if she'd be a guinea pig. I have a dinner right after Christmas and know that I'm serving braised short ribs, but thought Polenta with Gorgonzola sounded like an amazing companion to the ribs. Guess what. I was right.

I have to admit, I've never made polenta and have always heard how you have to watch it like you would a small child around an open flame; both burn easily if you look away for one moment. However, this recipe boasted that it was creamy, but made in the oven. No hovering. No needing to keep a watchful eye out for it to cease up on me and turn into a big ball of goo. The recipe literally called for me to mix several ingredients together and pop it in the oven until the last 10 minutes of cooking when you stir in gorgonzola and butter to give the polenta the incredibly rich, silky, cheesy flavor that went perfectly with the red wine braised short ribs.

The only change I'd make is I'd pull it out at 48 minutes, instead of the suggested 1 hour cooking time to stir in the cheese and butter. However, I wonder if it is because I chose to cook this in my toaster oven -- things may cook faster in the toaster oven than my 50 + year old vintage oven.

Would I make this again? Absolutely.

Polenta with Gorgonzola

2 C whole milk
1 C coarse-ground polenta
Sea Salt
1/4 lb Gorgonzola cheese, rind removed and crumbled
2 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 C grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375.

2. In a 2 qt (2-l) baking dish, whisk together 3 C water with the milk, polenta, and 1 tsp sea salt. Bake, uncovered, until the liquid has been absorbed and the polenta is tender, about 1 hour.

3. Remove the dish from the oven and whisk the polenta until creamy. Stir the Gorgonzola and butter into the polenta, distributing them evenly. Sprinkle the Parmigiano-Reggiano evenly over the top.

4. Return the dish to the oven and bake until the chesses are melted and the top is lightly browned about 10 minutes. Serve at once directly from the dish.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Cookbook Project

I openly admit I love and own an insane amount of cookbooks. Some may say I have an obsession with the amount I own, but in my defense, I've been collecting books for years.

When friends and family ask how many books I own, I instantly respond: "Oh, about 250". The truth is I have no clue. I have cookbooks in my living room, hall closet, office, back room off bedroom and my attic. I've never counted them and recently been contemplating how long it would take me to finish all the reading books I've purchased or projects I've started. As I was relaxing this past weekend on my living couch, I took a hard look at the cookbooks I walk by everyday and thought it's time to count my books. However, I don't want to just count them, I want to use them.

When I first started buying my own cookbooks, I wouldn't buy one unless I knew I was going to use it. Over the years, when I cooked from a recipe in one of my cookbooks, I'd make notes next to the recipe of when I cooked it, who for, any adjustments made, and final opinions of the recipe from me and the people who sampled the recipe with me.

Based upon my desire to know how many books I own, I decided to create my own personal Cookbook Project. Every week, I am going to cook 1 recipe from a minimum of 2 cookbooks. My husband has offered to lend some help. I'll pick out various recipes in the books and he'll be the one who decides which one is going to be cooked. Because he likes to cook, I'm hoping to rope him into actually helping me.

Once a week I'll post the recipes selected, books chosen, personal notes about it and maybe pics of the end result. In my personal notes I'll will tell a little bit about why/when I bought the book, difficulty, if I were to make any changes to the recipe and what they'd be, and of course I am going to note whether I'd make this recipe again.

I'm looking forward to getting started and have already selected my first 2 recipes I plan on making this weekend.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Etcetera, Etcetera, Etcetera...

I'm in a book club and next month I get to select the book we're going to read. When I started thinking about my choice, I started to go to the New York Times' Sunday book review section before it hit me: I own many books I haven't read yet, why am I going outside my own stash?

Of course, this thought naturally progressed to the next one: How many books, magazines or projects have I not read, finished or even started? Am I a procrastinator? Hell yes, when it comes to cleaning. I have a sister who loves to clean, and while I love the results, I seem to be missing that gene. However, for everything else, I realized I have a lot of open projects because I have a lot of interests. I guess you could say I like shiny objects, but in this case, objects = interests. And I realized this makes me happy.

I've always wondered if there is an age where your curiosity to try or learn new things shuts off. I'm happy to say it hasn't happened to me yet. However, I would like to take the next year to act on/finish/make a dent in my books, interests (cooking, writing) or projects (I really thought recycling old t-shirts into squares for a quilt was a great idea. However, I've had a bag full of squares in my back room for the past year, maybe it's now time to create the quilt. Granted, I'm calling it the "ugly quilt" because I've never made one, but have started asking older sister questions on how to do this since she made one years ago).

When I asked my sister, "Yoga Girl", if she had a lot of unfinished projects she said without skipping a beat "of course". "How could I not when I'm never home." I forgot how the routine of daily life prevents me from finishing every project. However, I'm now intrigued to want to start completing some of what I think is open just to see if the book lived up to it's book cover; or if I have the patience to transform a bunch of fabric squares into my new picnic quilt (really, did you think this 1st time creation would go on my bed?).

As I was thinking about this subject, while content with having a lot of unread books on my shelves or unfinished projects because it means I'm still curious about anything, I have to wonder am I the norm? Are there more people out there like me with the unread books and projects that take a decade* to complete; or do most people buy and read a book before they start another one? I'd be curious to know.

*For the record, I consider organizing my attic as a cleaning project and since I've already stated that I procrastinate when it comes to cleaning, I'm not going to put that into the same bucket as an unfinished project of interest.

Friday, October 4, 2013

One Size Does Not Fit All

Contrary to popular belief, one size does not fit all especially when it comes to advice. I think one person's path to happiness is a journey and everyone should remember this.

Years ago, I would freely dispense wanted and unwanted advice, but today, I just mostly listen (although, I can't say I keep my mouth shut 100% of time, but try). The other night I was having dinner with a friend when she shared with me that she's basically in a 'funk' without admitting she's sad with the circumstances of her life. She's in a routine that has become a rut and trying to figure out how to get out of it.

I wanted to scream "Well, why not just try something new?", but instead, I chose to ask "When is the last time you've nurtured yourself?"

I think it's easier for most to share what works for them other than to throw the right question back to the individual -- the type of question that leads the individual to the answer of their own problem. I want to believe if it works for me, and we're friends, it should work for them. The truth is, it may work for them, but if the person who is at the tail end of receiving the advice isn't really open to making the changes, it's about as useful as reading the dictionary to someone. I'm also a firm believer that it can often take many attempts to change your circumstances or lifestyle. You can easily stumble, but the next time you attempt to make a change, it may stick just a little longer until finally the change you wanted to make sticks.

I know most people believe if they're not successful with the first attempt at making a change, you're a failure, but I disagree. For me, I believe you learn from your mistakes, tweak them and carry them forward when you want to make that change again.

I did share with my friend that twice a week I go to Panera's where I write this blog and was surprised how this one act had such a significant affect on me. I was purposely carving time out of my daily routine, my own rut, just for me. Because I work out of my home, I have a tendency to grab what is in the fridge, eat in the house, and go back to work. I explained how this one act refueled my passion for writing and has become one of the highlights of my week.

Not all changes have to be over the top. Sometimes it is the small changes that make us the happiest.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Multitasking: Apparently, the Missing Male Skillset

I have to admit, I suck at it too. Actually, I can do it, but have noticed how anxious I feel after a multi-tasking session.

I read a blurb in the October issue of Yoga Journal about a study done at the University of California focusing on the present moment and had an 'a-ha' moment. While the study delves into people rehashing their past, or worrying about the future, I realized how often I'm not in the present.

While I 'watch' tv, I also pay bills, read a book, play an online game or surf the Internet. I end up missing a lot of nuances of the show. At work, it is worse. I'll be responding to an email when I get the pop-up screen that another has arrived in my inbox. Of course I have to go look at it. Depending upon the email, I'll start to respond and the cycle just starts over with another email popping up in my inbox. By the end of the day, I'm finishing up about 10 half-attempts at email responses, and closing out another 20 emails.

Whether for fun or work, I take it upon myself to try to be there for everyone the moment they need me. Unfortunately, I'm always left feeling a bit anxious.

I know some people are great multi-taskers. I'm learning I'm not and am actually okay with that. After reading the magazine blurb, I realized I need to just focus on one thing at a time. Whether I'm watching tv, reading or responding to emails at work, I'm going to be in the now. I'd rather enjoy, or focus, on what I'm doing before moving on. I've only starting adopting this attitude. However, I've noticed I'm not anxious or uneasy and feel as if I've focused 100% on a situation. address the title of this blog.....I often hear how men have a weakness for not being able to multi-task and am now wondering if they choose not to because they've known all along how more efficient and calm you can be when you don't.

Monday, September 23, 2013

New Year, New Outlook.

I've been gone from the blogging world for quite some time. The trials and tribulations of Storm Sandy finally came to an end, but I was in desperate need of a new computer. My laptop, while almost viable, takes forever to run. However, I've had it since 2005, so a 8 year run is a good deal.

Yesterday was my birthday and while most make resolutions on New Year's Day, I make mine on my birthday. I don't make resolutions that often lead to beating one self up for not being able to do it, but I try to reflect and create resolutions I think will make my life richer or easier. This year I only have one. Take a chance.

I don't want the fear of failing the reason to shy away from anything. Whether I want to eat better, exercise, learn to calm down or just forgive myself for some reason I've made up in my head, I just going to continue to try at goals and also accept myself if I fail. Every day, meal, hour, etc. gives me the opportunity to pursue what I want. Instead of harping on what I didn't do 10 minutes ago, I'm going to look ahead and try my best at the next opportunity.

I guess you'd call it a gift of self preservation and self love.

What resolutions have you set for yourself to enrich you as a person?