Saturday, February 26, 2011

Tyler Florence and Pot Roast - A Nice Combination!

I stopped in at Katie's and Bill's when I came in from grocery shopping tonight and was greeted by the most wonderful aroma.  She made pot roast and though they had eaten, she saved me a plate.    This was not just any pot roast; it was Tyler Florence's pot roast.  Tyler is much admired around here, as much for his handsome good looks as well as his passion for creating meals worth sitting down for.  Katie has one of those huge, enamled dutch ovens.  It weighs a ton before you put anything in it!  It's perfect for cooking a pot roast.  This meat just fell apart on the fork.  The combination of vegetables and seasonings was perfect.  Katie added a little red wine to the braising liquid which really was a nice touch.  She served it over a mound of mashed potatoes, and I used up all my Weight Watchers points on this meal, and it was worth it!

Katie is a good cook, and her brother Jeffrey gave her the Tyler Florence Family Meal cookbook for Christmas.  She put it to great use tonight with his pot roast.  It was absolutely delicious.

Here's the recipe, from the Food Network (linked here):

•1 (3 to 4 pound) piece beef chuck roast, trimmed of excess fat
•Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
•3 tablespoons olive oil
•1 can crushed tomatoes
•1 cup water
•2 yellow onion, halved
•2 garlic cloves, chopped
•1 bunch baby carrots
•2 celery stalks, sliced
•1 cup button mushrooms, stems removed and sliced in half
•2 sprigs fresh rosemary
•4 sprigs fresh thyme
•2 bay leaves


Season all sides of the beef with a fair amount of salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot that has a tight cover; heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over moderately high heat. Brown the meat on all sides, taking the time to get a nice crust on the outside. Pour in the tomatoes and the water. Scatter the vegetables and herbs around the pot roast, season with salt and pepper; and drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of oil. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Braise for about 3 hours, basting every 30 minutes with the pan juices, until the beef is fork tender.
Slice the pot roast and arrange on platter surrounded by the vegetables. Serve with the pot juices.


Photo and book at

Thursday, February 24, 2011

My Obsession with Ketchup...

I don't know where my love of ketchup comes from.  I really do love it.  Russ makes fun of me and calls it my "vegetable" when it takes up significant real estate on my plate.  I'm a dipper.  Love to dip, and it might be genetically predisposed because I come from a family of ketchup lovers and notice that little Henry will eat things with ketchup that he won't eat without.  Of course, we started him that way.  Henry is a dipper, too.

Ketchup is an interesting condiment.  It's not elegant.  It doesn't pretend to be.  It's definitely not keeping company with coulis or truffle oil.  Ketchup is much humbler than that.  Most think of it as a burger-and-fries kind of garnish, but it's great on so many other things.  When we were kids, our mother made us fried egg sandwiches with...ketchup.  One of my favorite sandwiches is cold, left-over meatloaf, thinly sliced, on lightly buttered toast with a few grinds of black pepper and...ketchup. 

I could live without ketchup, I could...find another condiment, or just quit cold turkey, but I don't want to.  I look forward to that little puddle of ruby goodness, and even if I don't dip into it, just knowing it's there is comforting.  Yet, there are only specific foods for which it is appropriate.  For example, I love ketchup on a burger or scrambled eggs, but do not put it anywhere near my hotdog.  I will never have fries with a hot dog because the ketchup from the fries would conflict with my standard yellow mustard/sweet relish thing.  It would change everything.

Ketchup is a key ingredient in my home-made barbeque sauce, and in my sweet and sour sauce as well. 

You can find the interesting history of ketchup here, courtesy of Wikipedia.  The next time you pick up your bottle of Heinz 57, you'll be better informed about the evolution of this kitchen staple. 

Hope you enjoyed this informal little narrative on my favorite condiment!

Photo:  Wikipedia

Monday, February 21, 2011

Just a Great Basic Cheeseburger

This weekend my daughter Katie and I were watching the Create channel on Public Television.  Martha Stewart's show, Everyday Food, featured the making of a basic cheeseburger.  How odd it seemed to us when the cook demonstrated how she made her perfect cheeseburger:  She rolled the beef between two pieces of plastic wrap into a flat disk.  It wasn't pretty, or perfectly round, or even slightly thick.  It was a thin, uneven, flattened round of beef that'd never win a burger beauty contest.  She dropped it onto a hot skillet and that's when things got interesting.  She let it cook on that hot pan for about two-and-a-half minutes, and when she flipped it over, that ugly duckling of a burger took on a beautiful new persona.  It was lusciously browned and crispy, and once flipped she added a slice of cheddar cheese.  It cooked an additional two-and-a-half minutes at which point she placed it on a toasted (buttered and broiled) sliced bun with lettuce, thin slices of onion, and pickles.  On the inside of the top bun she spread some mayonnaise and swirled a little bit of mustard and ketchup, creating her own instant sauce.  The cook used 80% beef and full-fat cheese, insisting that you have to have the fat to create the most flavorful burger.  That may be, but....  I thought, well, I could make that burger, a healthier version, using my 90% beef, a Cabot 75% fat-free cheddar slice, and a Thomas's healthy English muffin, just toasted (high fiber, 100-calories)..

So I did.  I rolled 4 oz. of 90% beef between two squares of parchment paper until it was about 3/8-inch thick and about five inches round, uneven edges and all.  I cooked it just the same way as Martha's chef with my less-indulgent ingredients, and it was one of the very best burgers I've ever had, and only 7 Weight Watchers Points.

I rolled the other 3 portions of beef between parchment paper and stacked them, bagged 'em up, and placed them in my freezer for that burger craving that will surely take over one evening, and I'll be prepared to have my burger, almost unaware that it's not so bad for me, now and then.  

Photo credit:

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Roasted Eggplant Lasagna

A good friend shared one of her favorite recipes with me. Roasted eggplant lasagna is a delicious and hearty meal that I find to be very satisfying.  Nutritionally, it's great -- almost no fat, loaded with tomato-ey goodness, and layered, like traditional lasagna, with cheeses.  A hefty serving of this dish is very low in Weight Watchers points (I'm currently following Weight Watchers Point Plus program on-line).  Forget that it's wonderfully healthy, forget that it's low in points.  Savor the delicous goodness and warm aromas that fill the kitchen.  What follows is my take on the recipe.  I've adjusted it here and there for family preferences.  You can customize this recipe any way you like -- add crumbled chicken sausage or mushrooms, or a variety of vegetables sauteed until soft in just a little oil and some water or chicken stock.  If you aren't counting points, use whatever cheeses you like.  Make it your own, and you'll be making it again!

Roasted Eggplant Lasagna

Prepare two cookie sheets and a rectangular baking dish (about a 9x13) - spray with vegetable spray

2 medium-sized eggplant (peeled or not - your preference.  I prefer peeled)
1 cup tomato sauce (I use Classico's roasted garlic version - very low in sugars and fat)
3-4 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 pint non-fat ricotta cheese (I like a cheesey lasagna)
1 egg white
salt and pepper
Italian seasoning
garlic powder
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese  (I use fat-free; low-fat is fine)
grated or shredded parmesan or parmesan and romano cheese - a few tablespoons.

First, cut the eggplant lengthwise into thin slices, between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick.  These will be the lasagna "noodles."  Place eggplant slices on prepared cookie sheets, spray tops lightly with vegetable spray, sprinkle with salt and pepper,  and bake at 425 degrees Farenheit for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven.

Mix ricotta cheese with egg white, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. black pepper, and a 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder, and 1/2 tsp. of Italian seasoning.

Assemble lasagna.
Put about 1/4 cup tomato sauce in the bottom of pan.  Spread to edges.  Add one layer of eggplant.  Spread tomato sauce over eggplant, just enough to coat.  Add 1/3 of the tomato slices and whatever additional vegetables you like.

Drop teaspoonfuls of 1/3 of the ricotta cheese mixture evenly over tomatoes. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese and lightly sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the parmesan/romano over the top.  This is your first layer.

Repeat layers with your ingredients (I got three layers) ending in mozzarella and parmesan/romano cheeses.  You may find you want to use more tomato sauce than the recipe calls for - that's up to you.

Bake at 350 degees (F) until hot and bubbly .  To brown the cheese a bit more, turn the broiler on for the last couple of minutes and watch carefully.  Remove just as the cheese begins to brown.  Let it sit for 10 minutes before cutting.

On Weight Watchers Point-Plus program, one fourth of my version of this recipe racks up just six points.  You can trim that considerably by using less cheese, but know that you will be very satisfied that you've had a great meal whether you are counting points or not!

Photo:  thanks to my friend C for the photo and the inspiration!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day to all my ADKBaker readers!  I've had a busy Valentine's Day weekend, with Russ arriving Thursday night and leaving this morning.  We had an early celebration dinner last night at the rustic and beautiful  Cock 'N Bull Restaurant in Galway, NY, just a few miles from home.  We both ordered wild salmon stuffed with roasted red peppers and served with a light lemon sauce.  Russ had the caramelized onion mashed potatoes while I (being a newly enrolled and enthusiastic Weight Watcher!) had a double serving of vegetables which were seasoned green and yellow string beans and carrots.  It was a lovely dinner in a beautiful setting. 

I've had fun this weekend, too, with my little grandsons.  Katie and Henry made cut-out Valentine hearts to decorate the doors and windows.  Henry came upstairs and "helped" me decorate a cake.  I sliced off the tops of my two layers and they became Henry's very own decorated cake. 

I'm cherishing these waning hours of my weekend, trying to mentally avoid late-weekend letdown and the fact that I have to rise (and maybe shine) at 5:55 a.m. in order to be in the gym by 7:00.  I have to deliberatly force myself to NOT think of the piles of work and challenges I'm facing once I arrive in the office, and instead focus on this day and the hours I still have to enjoy being at home. 

In honor of Valentine's Day, I'm linking you here to last year's post about Heart-Shaped Sugar Cookies.  They were incredible.  I sent a box to Meghan last year, all the way to Long Beach, CA, and she never received them.  Some lucky, greedy interloper enjoyed them instead.  But the good wishes that went along with them made their way there, and will again this year. 

Here are a few photos of this weekend:

Henry's cake

My cake

Construction paper hearts
by Katie and Henry

The boys...

Chocolate covered strawberries!
Happy Valentine's Day to all of you!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Thinking of Summer Sunsets

One sunset on a drive home
last summer - ahhhh....
Well here it is February, the 8th already, and this is my first post of the month.  I've been a little preoccupied in the other part(s) of my life. I'm participating in an exercise science study at Skidmore College which has me arriving at the gym at 7 a.m. four mornings a week.  Then it's a full day of work which flies by, and then home to hang out with Katie and the boys usually until Henry goes to sleep, around 8 p.m.  All of a sudden I realize that I'm missing something - hmmm, what is it?  OH!  It's my blogging time, those few moments every now and then when I go back to my writing roots and share a story, a recipe, or a moment with you, my blog friends.

The past week was quite eventful, starting with a couple of snow storms and ending with the Super Bowl.  Here in upstate New York, we even experienced thunder and lightning, smack dab in the middle of a frozen winter!  I've said that this is indeed a very wintery winter.  People nod "yep" in full agreement.  I like those winters when there are three or four distinct and separate measurable snow storms,  when Puxatawney Phil's predictions seem possible.  Sure, there could be six more weeks of winter.  This year, that seems much too optimistic.  The snow I see outside my window looks as though it has intentions of staying right through April!  To that I say, "Go!  You've made your presence known.  We're all in awe of your power and might.  You're the boss (bully) of all the seasons.  We admit it.  So, go.  Go and don't come back until at least after December 21!" 

Morning outside my kitchen window

My friends Sue and Pete left for a month in Hawaii today.  All day long, I've been thinking about where they are on their journey.  I know how much they'll love the time they spend there.  They're both retired now, and to have that kind of time seems so foreign to me.  My friend Valerie lives in Hawaii for most of the winter.  I can't imagine it...well, I can imagine it, but I can't forsee it!   Others are heading to warmer climes too, as our temperatures dip.  My sister-in-law Carolyn and her husband Billy are in Florida until April.  My sister and her husband are heading to Hawaii in a couple of weeks.  The lure to experience warmth, breezes, and ocean waters is just so tempting, it's not hard to understand the migration of "snow birds" every winter.  The older I get, the more I see of that flock.  I'd love to be among them one day, but as a single and financially self-supporting woman I don't see it happening for practical reasons.  I'll wait for the summer and spend one very luxuriant week on the North Carolina coast with my sister Anne and her family.  That's the "happy place" I go to in my mind when I need an escape.  Right now, deep into February and single-digit temperatures, it's good to have summer memories to keep me warm.