Thursday, March 26, 2009

Opa makes dinner

One of my kids' favourite meals that Oma used to make was chicken goulash. It was made in a typical European way, except Henny made it with a far greater portion of sauce than I think was usual. She did this so the kids could mix the whole thing into the mashed potatoes that she always served with the goulash. They loved it.

Karl surprised us last night when he came over for dinner. He brought with him a somewhat streamlined version of Oma’s goulash and...Opa had one more surprise: spatzle. I love spatzle and think it is perfect with goulash so I offered up my spatzle maker...

Opa was not impressed: he scoffed and said something that indicated he believed my spatzle maker to be a pile of *#%@ and proceeded to make us hand-thrown spatzle. He used a soup spoon, dipped it in cold water to prevent the spatzle from sticking to it, scooped up some dough and dropped the balls into the boiling water.

After dinner I asked him for the recipe. He again scoffed and said it was simple. When I pressed for measurements, he was even more vague. I figure he is either plagued by bad memory or is keeping his spatzle recipe a closely-guarded secret. So here is my version of Opa's spatzle.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk

Stir together the flour and salt. Combine eggs and milk; stir into the flour mixture. Pour the batter into the spatzle maker and slide the cutting tool back and forth over a large pot (with a diameter of at least 20 cm or 8 inches) of boiling, salted water.

Take care to let the extruded pieces of dough fall into the slightly bubbling water and let them cook for approximately 2-3 minutes. Generally, spatzle swimming on the surface are sufficiently cooked and may be gathered with a large slotted spoon, drained and placed into a serving dish. Karl’s larger spatzle took about 8 minutes to cook.

Oma’s Chicken Goulash

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp paprika
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
3 tbsp flour (she used potato flour to make this gluten free)
1 1/3 cups chicken stock or more if needed
1/4 cup tomato paste

Cut chicken into 3/4-inch chunks. In Dutch oven, heat half of the oil over medium-high heat; fry chicken, in batches, until browned outside and no longer pink inside, about 4 minutes. Remove to bowl.

Add remaining oil to pan. Add onion, garlic, paprika, salt and pepper; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add flour; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in stock and tomato paste; cook, stirring often, until thickened enough to coat back of spoon, about 5 minutes. Return chicken and any accumulated juices to pan. Stir until heated through.

Serve with mashed potatoes or spatzle.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Miss Congeniality Cabbage Soup

There is a slight problem with the recipe that I am about to share: it is not good looking.

Being part of a very visual profession, I know that the quickest way to get a recipe killed is for it to look bad. A few years ago we were doing slow cooker food for a story for Wish Magazine. The chicken tagine tasted fabulous, was easy to prepare and featured ingredients most people have on hand. In other words, a perfect recipe for busy Wish readers. Its fatal flaw was that it wasn’t fashion-model-fabulous looking.

Chicken tagine never graced the pages of the magazine.

So with that in mind, I beg you to make this recipe. It has all the hallmarks of a recipe to suit 2009; it is cheap, easy and good for you. It is dead simple to make and I really must give credit to Grant Van Gameren, chef/co-owner at The Black Hoof. This is a man with a real affection for turning nothing into something really quite fabulous. He serves cabbage soup with bone marrow which is really fabulous.

He also writes a blog called Charcuterie Sundays that you should check out if you want insight into how an innovative chef thinks. He has a general description of how to make cabbage soup and I mostly followed it, but then couldn’t resist cooking up some bacon, chopping it fine and adding it at the end. A few crisp, crumbled bacon pieces would have been a nice garnish but my daughter ate them before I could stop her. I sprinkled nutmeg on it instead which is exactly what Grant does.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium head of green cabbage, cored and finely sliced
1 onion, peeled and chopped
10 whole cloves of garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
2 cups white wine
4 slices cooked crisp bacon

1. Sauté cabbage, onion, garlic, salt and sugar over medium low heat until cabbage is limp and translucent, about 15 minutes. Reduce temperature if it starts to brown.
2. Increase temperature and deglaze with wine. Add enough water to cover cabbage. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce temperature to maintain a good simmer.
3. Continue to simmer at least four hours. Yes: this is slow cooking stove-top style.
4. Add 3 pieces of chopped bacon. Puree soup with immersion blender. Add a few tablespoons of butter to ramp up silkiness.
5. Serve top a few crumbled pieces of bacon and a sprinkle of nutmeg

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Diva's favorite new beauty products

It's not secret that my physical appearance hasn't exactly been a priority lately.

I have a mother-in-law who is ill, a husband who is working 70 hours a week, a demanding full-time job and a preschooler who is attempting to perfect his tantrum by way of constant practice: I need all the help I can get.

Luckily I've received a few products for review to help ensure that I appear a little more polished on the outside than I feel on the inside.

Check out this little beauty...

This, my friends, is the Cadillac of toothbrushes, the Oral B Triumph. (Insert heavenly choir here).

I have written before about my paranoia that my mouth is becoming less and less fresh as I get older: this brush has gone a long way towards alleviating that fear. The little display timer really motivates you to properly brush each quadrant of your mouth for 30 seconds (a total of two minutes) and as a result my mouth feels like I just came from the dentist after each brushing.

This kind of cleaning doesn't come cheap (it retails for $120 plus) and I'm not sure that my Irish peasant stock would have allowed me to splurge had I not been sent one to review, but OH MY LORD now that I have it I am addicted to it. I had never even used an electric toothbrush before and I can't believe the difference. My teeth are noticeably whiter and my mouth just feels sooo much cleaner.

If this kind of brush isn't in your budget, you might want to consider asking for one for a birthday or Christmas gift: I know once this one breaks down (hopefully many years from now!) I'll be finding a way to get my hands on another. After all, once you've ridden in a Cadillac the view from a Kia just doesn't cut it.

Another favorite find is a fancy new product from L'Oreal - Double Extend Beauty Tubes Mascara. It's double-barreled: you brush on lash conditioner and thickener from one end and the actual mascara from the other. Given that I generally fly out the door within 30 minutes of waking, at first I wasn't sure I wanted to take the extra time to apply two distinct coats but it leaves my lashes so long and thick I don't mind. I can actually create a small breeze when I batt them. And the best part? It comes off really easy with just water.

If you're interested in trying this mascara visit and enter the special code FZCU for a $5 discount.

My last find is a lusciously delicious skin shielding lotion and sunblock from Skin MD Natural. It's one in a new line of products that, rather than penetrate, help turn the top layer of skin into a protective shield. From their web site: "Shielding lotion is a lotion that forms a protective barrier on the skin and keeps out irritants and chemicals. It also allows the natural oils and moisture to remain in the skin."

I used it as a moisturizer/ sunblock on our recent trip to Key West and I was really pleased with it. It's not greasy at all and you only need a tiny bit to make your skin feel soft and plump: very nice and definitely something I would use again.

Now if only someone could invent a product that would keep an obstinate three-year-old from screaming throughout his supposed nap time, thereby preventing his mom from catching up on her much needed beauty sleep.

Anyone, anyone...?