30 January, 2011

Friction and Brisket

As I've told you before our dinner conversation is quite often nothing by Daddy and I constantly reminded the girls to stop singing/talking/playing with the forks and start eating. Tonight, however, was different.

The Monster started skiing lessons this morning. We were a bit worried because she has a tendency to be uber frustrated when she can't do something perfectly the first time she tries. Skiing is apparently another story. She loves it so much it wore out her entire body, as she told us.

Dinner conversation tonight was minimal until she'd scarfed down her brisket, broccoli, and last minute request of beets and blood oranges. (Yes, dinner was brought to us by the Letter B.) While we waited for her sister to finish the conversation turned to friction. Some days it's fart jokes, some days it is University level physics.

Hubby and The Monster are discussing friction and how it allows for movement. He launches into a lesson on the difference between static and dynamic friction. And she totally gets it. Scary. At the end of dinner she starts pulling on his arm and this conversation happens:

Hubby: You can't pull me because I have a higher coefficient of static friction.
The Monster: Oh yeah? Well I have superhero friction.
Hubby: What's that?
The Monster: Superhero friction lets me push off and fly.

That's when I served the brownies.

Slow Cooked Maple Cider Brisket
This recipe is adapted from the Edible cookbook. The meat itself was a gorgeous cut from Hoven Farms, but not quite as big as the recipe called for, so I played with it a bit. To be honest, I've never cooked a brisket before. I will be adding it to the regular repertoire from now on. Fantastic! Fork tender, with this almost sweet and sour sauce, this brisket was perfect for this cold, snowy day and a table full of hungry bellies. It served all of us and there is enough left for another family dinner.

1 large red onion
1 tbsp bacon drippings
5 cloves garlic
2 1/2 pound beef brisket
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp tomato sauce
1 cup strong brewed tea (original recipe called for coffee, but I had none)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 water or chicken broth
1 tbsp dijon mustard

1. Slice the onion in half then cut into crosswise strips. Heat the bacon drippings in an oven proof pan with a tight fitting lid. Cook the onion for 5-6 minutes until soft and lightly golden.
2. While the onions are cooking, finely chop 3 cloves of garlic and thinly slice the remaining two cloves. With a sharp knife cut slits all over the brisket. Poke the garlic slices into the slits. Set the brisket aside for the time being.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
4. When the onions are soft and golden stir in the garlic, salt, oregano, pepper, and chili powder. Cook for 1 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, tea/coffee, vinegar, maple syrup, water/stock, and mustard. Bring to a boil.
5. Place the brisket in the sauce, cover with the lid of the pan and place in the oven. Braise for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 300 degrees F and continue for braise for 3-4 hours.
6. Let the meat rest 15-30 minutes before slicing. Serve with sauce.

26 January, 2011

Nutella is Evil

Don't let that fake mom on the commercial fool you - Nutella is evil.

I don't care if you tell me there is a cup of skim milk in an entire jar. Turns out I'm not spreading an entire jar on toast. In reality I'm eating it by the spoonful and keeping the children from even knowing Nutella exists.

Let me make it clear that I've got nothing against treats for my kids. We bake at least once a week, they love their honey sticks, and sugar is not a bad word in this house. But Nutella is like crack. Highly addictive and good for giving you a rush. That rush does not belong on toast - that sounds disgusting - because no kid needs to get used to the idea of a chocolate filling for breakfast.

We are considered strict parents among our family and friends. I've got no problem saying no when my kids ask for something repeatedly. But if they knew Nutella existed a whole new world of begging would emerge. Seeing as I don't have the will power to keep a teaspoon out of the jar then I expect a distinct challenge in the same for my children. They also know how to climb on the counters. Keeping Nutella in the house is simply too dangerous.
Then again, I might ask my husband to hide a jar just so I can make these brownies periodically. Rich and fudgy and the recipe makes the perfect amount to satisfy the craving without leaving you with a pound of baking laying around.

That Abby Dodge is a genius when it comes to the easy dessert. She gave me the permission to share this recipe to you. You may have seen it a million times over already since Desserts 4 Today came out. Maybe not. Either way, you should dig out your own jar of Nutella and scrape out what you've managed to leave behind after your midnight snack.

Nutella Brownies
Makes 12 mini brownies

1/2 cup Nutella
1 egg
5 tbsp flour
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a mini muffin tin with 12 papers or liners. (Or spray with non-stick spray.)
2. Whisk the Nutella and egg together in a medium bowl. Whisk in the flour until smooth.
3. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins. Top with chopped nuts.
4. Bake for 11-12 minutes. Remove from oven and set on a rack to cool completely.

23 January, 2011

Rhythm and Apple Pie

It felt good to be back in the kitchen today. An afternoon of crust making, apple peeling, chicken roasting, orange peeling, and even doing the dishes. I honestly can't remember the last time I did that - prepared a proper Sunday dinner.

Today Smilosaurus was very helpful. I'm going to milk that. Her sister was the same way, until she turned 3. Now she isn't as interested in the kitchen. Like all moms, I'm clinging to the adoration of my children while I have it. She helped me rub the freshly roasted hazelnuts in a clean towel, she worked the food processor, tossed the fennel and apples, and stood transfixed as I peeled a blood orange.

Even on the days when I just-want-to-get dinner-on-the-table I'm always happy for her help. Well, except when she decides she needs to salt things. We're used to each other and have already developed our own rhythm. And she's two and a half!

Then today I tried a new recipe - Apple Pie with Chinese Five Spice Powder and Hazelnut Crumb Topping. It was just apple pie, but it wasn't the way I normally make apple pie. It seemed to take forever! A different crust, precooking the filling, and orange juice in the crumble topping?! My rhythm was off, way off. The only part that felt right, felt normal was peeling the apples.

So, it took a little longer. So what? It was damn good apple pie! The 5-spice powder was intoxicating, beyond anything cinnamon every aspires to be. While the crust was mediocre (oh, how I wish I'd stuck with my own pate brisee), the crumble topping was insane. I doubted the orange juice, but that made it sing. No taste of orange, but a heightened hazelnut brightness.

As I followed the recipe to a T, check it out here, from The Nourish Network. Kind of appropriate too, seeing as it was National Pie Day in the US. It fits in with Lauren's Go Ahead Honey series too.

We ate our roast chicken and potatoes, apple and fennel slaw with sunflower seeds, and roasted chiogga beets with oranges, blood oranges, and goat cheese. Before pie The Monster and Hubby went skating. Spazzing was kept to a minimum and she was rewarded with two slices of pie. Okay, maybe I was rewarded too...

16 January, 2011

Best Laid Plans

Definitely a night I was happy we keep a well stocked freezer.

The Monster's been fighting something for a few days. When she woke up from her nap she looked like she'd been through a few rounds with GSP. Her eye was not looking good. After we spoke with a doctor Hubby took her to the Children's Hospital.

This all happens at 5:30. Did I mention I have a project due tomorrow that is the biggest of my new professional career?

So Daddy and The Monster ate hospital sandwiches, and a banana when they arrived home to soak up the antibiotics. Smilosaurus and I dug some meatballs out of the freezer. Definitely also a night where I was happy for leftover party cupcakes from Crave.

12 January, 2011

Urban Survival - TV and Trail Mix

In the midst of a major deadline (let's just say it involves a lot of words) and a weekend away with some family, there hasn't been a lot of great cooking around the Arkison household. To be honest, I'm struggling to feed the family well and work. I'm totally relying on what's in the freezer to get dinner on the table.

During the day it's another story. The girls have been surviving on grilled cheese sandwiches and bowls of cottage cheese for lunch. At snacks they are, sadly, begging for chips and chocolate. Christmas isn't that far behind us, after all. Thank goodness for apples and pomegranates!

What they are truly surviving on right now is PBS Kids and Trail Mix. Yes, my kids are watching too much TV. I know that, leave me alone. As for the Trail Mix, this is my Mom's fault. Yes, Mom, I am totally blaming you and your Costco treat.

After buying the Trail Mix only once I got smart and made my own. I could make 4-5 times the amount for the same price, even from the warehouse. Use a combination of ingredients that works for you. Nuts, seeds, dried fruit, cereal, and even a few treats. In our house I use whatever nuts I have in the freezer. Or, perhaps, the leftovers from Christmas. Sometimes I'll toast them, usually I don't. The girls don't care. Add in some dried cranberries and raisins for some sweetness, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and yes, some M&M's. I used to add chocolate chips, but those got messy when a certain 2 year old liked to pick them out and coddle them in her hand for an hour.

Store in a large plastic bag or air tight jar. Pack in jam jars for on-the-go snacks.

It seems like a no brainer to do this, but I find that not many people take the two minutes to toss it together in a large bowl. I, for one, am thankful I took the time between paragraphs. Now, when The Electric Company comes on I know I can get at least a page written before the jar of Trail Mix is gone.

02 January, 2011

Less Talking More Eating

It's been months since I ate a cold meal.

Parents often say that they miss hot meals once they start having family dinners. Too much time spent cutting, feeding, cleaning, and cajoling and not enough time enjoying their own food. In our house we have the opposite problem. Hubby and I finish our meals before our children have even started eating and it's getting damn frustrating.

We always eat together. I dish up the same food for everyone, a little of this and a little of that. Everything must be tried, but not necessarily eaten if you don't like it. A glass of milk on the side and maybe, just maybe, a treat or some fruit after dinner. The girls, like most kids, don't like hot foods. I serve them first and we cut it all up, as necessary, as Hubby and I serve ourselves. Then we all sit down and should be able to enjoy a pleasant meal.


Meals are anything but pleasant these days. Hubby and I will chit chat while we eat, with the girls coming in every now and then to tell us to only talk one at a time or "less talking more eating!" By no means are we inhaling our food, but almost every night we'll be half done before the girls have taken a single bite - if we're lucky.

That picture up there? Our lovely bison stew (a family favourite, made this way) and some olive oil bread (courtesy of Martha Stewart). I snapped that of The Monster's meal when I was already half done mine.

Dinner tonight took 45 minutes! I'm all for leisurely meals, lingering over wine and great conversation. Or even milk and knock knock jokes. I am not, however, down with reminding my children to actually take a forkful of their food and watching them chew everything 50 times, every single bite. Every single bite. Or repeat that there that there is no singing at the table and they are the ones that need "less talking, more eating." (Oh, how my parents are laughing now.)

It isn't even a battle about whether they like it or not. It's the same regardless of what we eat, but definitely worse if it is something they are iffy about.

By the time the girls finally finished tonight and I offered up some grapefruit and vanilla bean panna cotta they, and we, were done.

What would you do when faced with this?