Monthly Archives: December 2013

Somewhat Healthy Granola

DSC_3992Mr. K and I just returned from Christmas in Minnesota.  Family time is hard, isn’t it?  My parents divorced when I was 16.  I was actually ok with it at the time, seeing as my mom and dad are not compatible in the least.  Both of my parents are remarried and have been for at least a decade.  I don’t think I was aware of it at the time of each of their weddings (or if I was I didn’t quite know how to handle it), but I felt very territorial when they remarried other people.  Perhaps part of it was dealing with the unresolved feelings from their divorce several years earlier, but I really struggled when they remarried.  Unfortunately, I don’t think I hid this very well from my mom.  I’ve never had a hard time telling my mom how I feel about things.  Of course, this isn’t necessarily a good trait.  Especially when my honest feelings end up hurting her.  I wasn’t crazy about my stepdad at first.  The summer after my sophomore year in college, I stayed at his house since my mom had recently moved in with him.  We ended up butting heads a lot that summer.  I think we both felt threatened and it played out like a bad sitcom.  I remember getting into an argument with him because he thought it was rude of me to not eat my dinners with them every night.  Naturally, he had no idea that I had been eating dinner solo basically since I was 16.  My stepdad and I have come a long way since then.

There were a few tense moments with various family members during my visit.  I grew up in a VERY small, rural town in Minnesota.  Many town residents consider Minneapolis “the big city” that some younger people end up moving to after high school or college.  For those of us who end up moving much farther away and to a much larger city, there can be a cultural divide when we go home to visit.  Many people in my extended family tend to feel threatened by this.  After I moved to NYC, I was hyper-aware of how I sounded and what I talked about during my first few visits home.  I wanted to be true to myself and my lifestyle without offending anyone that might feel intimidated by this.  It’s a tricky balancing act:  I want to share all of the fun and interesting things I’ve done lately without sounding pretentious.  Why hasn’t someone created an App for this yet?
DSC_3988 Tense moments aside, I realized during this visit home that I still tend to feel territorial towards my parents from time to time.  I love them both fiercely, and over the years I have become quite protective of my relationships with each of them.  It could be partly related to the fact that I no longer live close to them and haven’t in almost 11 years.  We are all getting older and our time together is limited.  Therefore, when I go home I want to spend as much time with them as possible.  And when I feel someone is threatening that, my fangs can come out.  Luckily, they only came out once or twice on this trip.  Maybe one of my New Year’s resolutions should be to sand down the fangs in 2014.  Nawwww, I don’t do resolutions.  But I will be sure to tell my parents how much I love them.

Do you know what else I love?  (Ok, that was a bad segue.)  This granola!  I’ve been making it regularly for my husband over the last year or so.  We are never out of this granola at our house.  Mr. K likes to eat it with fruit and almond milk for dessert most nights.  I am not blessed with the same metabolism, so I try to keep my intake to once a week or so.  You’ll notice that I call it “Somewhat Healthy Granola”.  I feel like granola is often touted as a healthy snack food, but the thing is, granola isn’t all that healthy.  There are probably two camps on this, but I put granola in the unhealthy category of food.  Most mass-market granolas are covered in sugar and oil, making them very delicious but very loaded with calories.  A lot of smaller granola producers have sprung up over the last few years, and they are holding back on the sugar and oil.  Instead, they highlight the oatmeal, nuts and dried fruit that make up the majority of the granola mixture.  This makes for a less sweet (and usually much less crunchy) but healthier granola.  My Somewhat Healthy Granola recipe falls into this latter category.  But don’t fret, the brown sugar and maple syrup still ensure a wonderfully-rich sweetness.  And although there is no butter in this recipe, there is a hint of butter flavor that comes from the toasted nuts.  I’m a sucker for salty-sweet snacks and this falls under that umbrella.  If you aren’t crazy about salty sweets the way I am, you can easily cut back on the salt.

Happy 2014!

Somewhat Healthy Granola
Adapted from Alton Brown

Yield: 6-10 servings

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup almonds, pecans, or walnuts (or whatever your favorite nut is)
3/4 cup shredded, sweetened coconut
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 teaspoon salt

1.  Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
2.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
3.  In a large bowl, combine the oats, nut, coconut, and brown sugar.
4.  In a separate bowl, combine maple syrup, oil and salt.
5.  Add oil mixture to oats mixture and stir until combined.
6.  Pour mixture onto parchment-lined baking sheet.
7.  Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, tossing every 15 minutes to ensure even toasting.
8.  Remove from oven and let cool for 1 hour.
9.  Transfer granola to a tightly-sealed container.

Pecan Rosemary Bark

DSCF2857Mr. K and I just drove 1100 miles from New York City to my hometown in Minnesota.  I haven’t taken a cross-country road trip since maybe 1999.  We thought it would be a nice change from dealing with the hassles of flying.  The first day of driving was a long day; we made it all the way to South Bend, Indiana.  To break up the monotony of driving, we listened to lots of podcasts and music, and made several coffee/bathroom stops along the way.  At one point, I had my ipod on shuffle and a couple of songs came up from my high school and college days.  There was a time when I couldn’t listen to certain songs without getting a knot in my stomach.  If the song reminded me of a time in my life when I was unhappy, I would immediately turn it off lest I relive that time in my head.  I chose to listen to the songs this time around.  Hearing these songs again made me reminisce about who I was back then.  I was insecure, anxious and depressed, and much less self-aware.  I don’t know that anyone around me could tell my true state of mind on any given day.  I think I did a pretty good job of hiding it from people, and I think I still do.  In fact, I would posit that most people who suffer from depression do a decent job of hiding it from others.  There is still a lot of shame surrounding this disease, and it can be difficult to talk about with others.
DSCF2847 While listening to these songs from the 90’s, I started to think about my life then and how I foresaw my life in the future.  While I always thought it would be amazing to live in NYC, I never saw myself doing anything incredible with my life or living anywhere other than Minnesota.  I didn’t think I would ever get married and wasn’t sure about my future happiness in general.  And just thinking about where I was back then made me so, so grateful for my life today.  I snuck a peek at my husband sleeping in the passenger seat and a big smile crept over my face.  How did I get so goddamn lucky?  I have a wonderful husband, and we have a great life in NYC that we love.  But more importantly, at that moment I felt proud of myself for everything that I had accomplished thus far:  moving to NYC in my late twenties, getting my Master’s degree, starting a business, and having the courage to continue bettering myself.  It’s a wonderful life isn’t it George Bailey?

We are currently staying at my dad and stepmom’s house.  My stepmom does a great job of decorating the house at Christmas.  Beautiful garland decorated with ribbon and clear lights lining the staircase, poinsettias throughout the house, and nutcracker men by the fireplace.  You can’t help but feel festive the minute you walk in.  I made this bark a few weeks ago but I wanted to be sure to post it before Christmas.  I love all types of bark but I’ve never had a sweet/savory bark before this one.  I swoon over rosemary and I love pecans this time of year so it sounded like a great combination for the holidays.  The sea salt and dark chocolate helps unite the flavors.  If you like rosemary, I guarantee you will like this bark.  And it makes a beautiful holiday gift.  Happy Holidays, dear readers!
DSCF2851Pecan Rosemary Bark
Adapted from Camille Styles

20 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup pecan halves, toasted
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
sea salt, to taste

  1. Line a 8×8-inch square pan with parchment paper; set aside.
  2. Gently melt the chocolate using a double boiler or microwave method.  Remove from heat.
  3. Pour chocolate into parchment-lined pan.
  4. Evenly sprinkle the pecans, rosemary and sea salt over the chocolate edge to edge.
  5. Using the back of a spoon, gently push the pecans down to make sure each piece has adhered to the chocolate.
  6. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for 20 minutes until firm.

Black Bean Soup with Toasted Ancho Chiles

DSC_3975Inhale.  Exhale.  I am learning to go with the flow of life, and not fight it at the onset of trivial inconveniences.  I got stuck unexpectedly in last Saturday’s snowstorm.  I was working for a friend, manning her booth at Columbus Circle Holiday Market, all fine and good until the snow started blowing.  Right. In. my. Face.  The last I checked, we were only supposed to get 1-3 inches of snow.  It started coming down just as I left my apartment.  The snowfall was so beautiful—big beautiful snowflakes slowly descending through the air—that I stopped a couple times on my way to the train to take pictures of the falling snow.  It continued this way until around 11:00, at which point it started snowing heavier and the wind picked up.  But there were plenty of people out shopping and eating at the market.  I wanted to scream, “What are you doing!  Why aren’t you home curled up on your couch watching a movie or baking Christmas cookies?”  Instead, people were willingly out in the elements.  By 2:00 the snow was whipping sideways directly into my face.  Errrgh.  Come on, universe.  I asked for a light dusting of snow for Christmas, not a blizzard!
DSC_3907Mr. K and I had dinner plans that night with some good friends of ours that we hadn’t seen in a few months.  They recently took a trip to China, and I was eager for them to regale us with their stories.  Alas, we decided to cancel due to the storm.  (Who needs a night of icy sidewalks, train delays, and freezing toes?)  What to do for dinner now?  My shift ended at 3:00, so I proceeded to walk across the street ever- so-carefully to Whole Foods.  (I almond wiped out twice, I kid you not.)  If we were going to be stuck inside tonight, we were at least going to eat well, goshdarnit.  I picked up a couple of dried ancho chiles thinking something spicy should be on the menu for a cold night.  And my husband happens to be a spice freak, so I knew he would be happy with this decision.  When I finally got home at 5:00, I changed into some warm, dry clothes and started making this black bean soup.
DSC_3905Both Mr. K and I agreed that it was the perfect warm and spicy dish for such a gross weather day.  The recipe is very straightforward.  If you aren’t an ancho chile fan, go ahead and use a dried pasilla chile or perhaps a couple of poblano chiles.  Any chile would work in this soup, frankly.  The soup has a nice little touch of heat, but you can certainly dial up the heat by adding more chiles.  I’m still working on acclimating my palate to the level of my husband’s where spice is concerned, so I was pretty conservative on the chiles.  If you can’t find queso fresco in your local supermarket, any salty, dry cheese that crumbles nicely will work just fine.

Black Bean Soup with Toasted Ancho Chiles
Adapted from Bon Appétit

Yield: 6 servings

2 tablespoons raw shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 large dried anchi chile, stemmed, seeds removed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
1 28-oz. can fire-roasted or plain diced tomatoes
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 14.5-oz. cans black beans, drained
1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco or feta

1.  Toast pumpkin seeds in a small dry skillet over medium-high heat, tossing occasionally, until golden, about 5 minutes; transfer to a plate.
2.  Toast ancho chile in same skillet until slightly darkened and pliable, about 1 minute; transfer to plate.
3.  Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and golden brown, 8-10 minutes.
4.  Transfer to a blender.  Add tomatoes, ancho chile, 1 can of black beans and blend until smooth.
5.  Return tomato mixture to saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until thick, 6-8 minutes.  Stir in broth; season with salt.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until soup is slightly thickened, 10-15 minutes.
6.  Stir in 2 remaining cans of black beans.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until warmed through, about 5 minutes.
7.  Serve soup topped with queso fresco and pumpkin seeds.

Almond-Apricot Thumbprints

DSC_4001I’ve been on a Christmas cookie-baking bender the last few weeks.  I think I’m making up for lost time.  The last two Christmas seasons I was incapacitated by the day-to-day aspects of running my chocolate business.  I would wake up at 5 a.m., assemble packages to be shipped, go into the kitchen at 9 a.m. to make more chocolates, come home at 7p.m., inhale some leftover pizza, spend an hour promoting my business on social media, continue packaging product until 11 or 12 that evening.  And then start over again the next day.  I barely had time to bathe, rarely saw my husband, and definitely didn’t have time for a social life during the month of December.  And this was with the help of two lovely interns.  As anyone who has their own business knows, starting a business is extremely hard.  Small food businesses can be even tougher because of the lower price points.  It’s all about volume.  You have to sell A LOT in order to make any money.  I thought starting a small chocolate company was my calling but I quickly burned out after less than two years.  And that was after achieving many successes:  my products were featured in Food & Wine and Bon Appétit magazines, and were sold in local Whole Foods Markets.  That is to say, I had many reasons to keep at it and continue to grow my business.  But when I sat down to reflect, my quality of life had severely diminished over the last two years.  I also knew enough other small food business owners to know that the “quality of life” aspect doesn’t change all that much down the road.  Your business is like a child that needs constant attention, nurturing and energy in order for it to thrive and be profitable.  And even after all that, being profitable isn’t a guarantee.  In other words, you have to REALLY want it, and I realized I didn’t want it more than I wanted a work/life balance that allowed me to have a fulfilling life with my family.
DSC_3949The stress of running a small business also took a toll on my mental health.  I rarely had time to exercise, go to yoga classes or see my therapist; all of which help to keep me sane.  I discovered I had a much shorter fuse with my husband during this time, and could be set off by the smallest things.  I went to an all-day market one Saturday only to come home to the kitchen still full of dirty dishes.  I couldn’t believe it!  The audacity of Mr. K to be home all day and not do the dishes?  Of course I hadn’t actually asked him to do them, I just assumed he would know to do them.  (Because, well, I probably forgot to mention that he is a professional mind-reader in his spare time.)  I had to slow down and remember that I still needed to convey what I wanted instead of just hoping he would know what to say or do.  All of the things I had time to do before I started my business started to get left behind, like taking time to communicate clearly with my husband.  Humans are silly creatures, aren’t we?  Several months after closing my business, we sat down to check-in with each other one night.  We both articulated how happy we were in our marriage.  We no longer felt neglected or unappreciated by the other person.  Instead, we recognized that we had both been making a big effort over recent months to show the other person how special they were.  And readers, that is one hell of a good feeling.
DSC_3964Now back to my cookie baking streak.  In case you missed my post earlier this week, I made Chocolate-Covered Gingersnaps that were met with a resounding “Hell yes!” by both my husband and I.  These Almond-Apricot Thumbprints didn’t receive the same accolades.  I found them to be on the dry side with a bit of an unpleasant sandy texture.  My husband on the other hand, can’t get enough of them and has even gone so far as to declare them Favorite Cookie No. 2 after some brownie sandwich cookies with cookie dough frosting I made a few months back were named Favorite Cookie No. 1.  I do love the pairing of apricot jam with the almond flavor in these cookies but it’s still not enough to declare them a success in my book.  Maybe the dough needs more butter?  Feel free to let me know if you try this recipe as is and what you think.  I hope to post at least one more Christmas cookie/candy recipe before the holidays are over!
DSC_3983Almond-Apricot Thumbprints
Adapted from Bon Appétit

Yield:  About 4 dozen

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups unsalted, roasted almonds
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup coarse sanding sugar
Apricot jam (for filling)

1.  Place racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 375°.
2.  Pulse flour and almonds in a food processor until almonds are very finely ground.  Add baking powder and salt and pulse to blend.
3.  Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
4.  Add egg and almond extract and beat until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes.  Reduce speed to low and gradually add dry ingredients; mix just to combine.
5.  Place sanding sugar in a shallow bowl.  Scoop out dough by the tablespoonful and roll into balls (if dough is sticky, chill 20 minutes).  Roll in sugar and place on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 2″ apart.  Using your thumb, make a deep indent in each ball.
6.  Bake cookies, rotating baking sheets halfway through, until golden, 13-15 minutes.
7.  Transfer to wire racks and let cool.  Fill with jam.

Cookies can be baked (but not filled) up to 2 weeks ahead; wrap tightly and freeze.  Thaw before filling.  Cookies can be filled 1 day ahead; store airtight at room temperature.

Chocolate-Covered Gingersnaps

DSC_4008The holiday season is finally upon us!  Every year I tell myself that I am going to buy a Christmas tree and every year I fail to buy one.  I love the smell of evergreen that hits you when you come home after a long day during the month of December.  It always puts me in a good mood.  Just walking through the Christmas tree vendors on the sidewalks of NYC always seems to put a smile on my face.  In the 11 winters that I’ve spent in New York, I have yet to buy a Christmas tree.   It just seems so daunting:  having to schlep the tree home, set it up, buy ornaments, and then decorate it.   And yet, every year after Christmas I regret not buying one and then resolve to buy one the next year.  It’s really not all that ridiculous.  As anyone who has seen a typical New York apartment knows, space can be quite limited.  Last year was the first time in probably 8 years that I could have actually had a reasonably sized Christmas tree in my apartment.  But we were still living out of boxes and therefore it seemed kind of silly to add a tree to the mess.  This year I gave it considerable thought, but decided against it since we are driving to Minnesota to spend the holidays with my family.  We would have come home to a pile of dried needles on the living room floor.

DSC_3891 I am excited to be spending the holidays with my side of the family this year.  No matter how superb my Christmases have been away from my family, there always comes a moment on Christmas Eve when I wax nostalgic about my family.  No other holiday feels as family-centric as Christmas, and when I am not with them this time of year I always miss them a little more than usual.  I think it’s partly because I don’t have a lot of happy memories from my childhood, but the ones that I do have are mainly centered around Christmas.  Growing up, my parents always seemed to be in a good mood around this time of year.  It seems ironic given that most parents are usually stressed out with all of the activities, shopping, entertaining, etc. that are expected.  My dad was a mail carrier and he would come home loaded up with boxes and tins of candy, cookies and bars from the women on his mail route.  Because we lived in Minnesota, we had one of those deep freezers that people in the Midwest always seem to own.  My dad would fill it up with all of his holiday goodies and it would typically be depleted by the middle of January thanks to his two daughters.  Did I mention I was a chubby kid?
DSC_3939I love all things gingerbread, but I didn’t acquire this taste until I became an adult.  As a kid, gingerbread was too spicy for me.  I would eat every cookie on the endless cookie platters except for the gingersnaps and gingerbread men, adorable as they were.  I have grown extremely fond of gingerbread over the past few years.  I love the depth that molasses adds to a baked good.  I came across a recipe for lebkuchen 3 years ago and fell in love with them instantly.  A traditional German gingerbread, they are a cross between a cookie and a cake, with a much larger ratio of nuts to flour and an added level of flavor due to the candied citron.  There is a company here in NYC that makes insanely good lebkuchen called Leckerlee.  They even package them in traditional collectible tins.
DSC_3940I love the combination of gingerbread and chocolate.  Really, there isn’t much that chocolate doesn’t pair well with.  I only partially dipped these cookies in chocolate because I wanted them to look pretty.  If you don’t care about such things, go ahead and cover the entire cookie in chocolate.  You won’t regret it.  And if you want to add another level of flavor, feel free to throw in a tablespoon of orange zest or candied citron.  It will be a nice complement to the spiciness.

Chocolate-Covered Gingersnaps
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine

Yield:  about 48 cookies

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 sticks (3/4) cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup molasses
1 large egg

parchment paper
1/4 cup granulated sugar
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

1.  Into a large bowl sift together 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, baking soda, and spices and whisk in brown sugar.
2.  In a small saucepan melt butter and whisk into flour mixture with molasses and egg until well-combined.
3.  With a wooden spoon stir in remaining 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour until combined well. 4.  Chill dough, covered, until firm, at least 1 hour, and up to 2 days.
5.  Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
6.  Roll level tablespoons of dough into balls and in a small bowl roll balls in granulated sugar to coat.
7.  Arrange balls about 2 inches apart on baking sheets and bake in batches in middle of oven until flattened and a shade darker, 10 to 12 minutes.
8.  Cool cookies on baking sheets 2 minutes and transfer with a spatula to racks to cool completely.
9.  Dip completely cooled cookies into tempered chocolate (see below) until covered halfway and place on parchment-lined baking sheets until chocolate is completely set.
10. Cookies keep in an airtight container at room temperature 5 days.

One of the easiest ways to temper chocolate is to place it in the microwave for 30 seconds at a
time on high until the chocolate is almost melted.  Be very careful not to overheat it.  The chocolate should feel neutral in temperature.  To test, use a spatula to place some melted chocolate on your top lip.

Dutch Baby Pancake

DSC_4022I am a complete pancake snob and it’s all my grandma’s fault.  She owned a café when I was growing up, and she made the best buttermilk pancakes in all the land.  If cooking/travel shows had existed back then, I am positive they would have declared her pancakes to be the best.  She would have made Bobby Flay weep in a pancake “throwdown”.  My grandma essentially ruined pancakes for me for the rest of my life. *sigh*  Her pancakes were like a beautiful stack of clouds with crispy, golden brown edges smothered in fresh butter.  My parents would drop off my sister and I at the café almost every morning throughout my first year of school.  It was my grandma’s responsibility to feed us before we walked to school.  I don’t remember eating anything other than those pancakes.  Every.  Single.  Morning.  Looking back, I wonder if she ever became concerned that I was carbo-loading before school every day.  I was already a slightly chubby kid, and the pancakes ensured that I grew out of my pants very quickly. DSC_4014Now, I’ve tried hundreds of pancakes throughout my 37 years.  For many years, it was my go-to brunch choice.  I thought if I just ordered pancakes at enough restaurants, eventually I would strike gold.  They can’t ALL taste like cardboard, can they??  Oh yes, yes they can.  Since then, I have only found one other restaurant (ONE!) that makes pancakes as good as my grandma’s.  It happens to be a greasy spoon diner in Manhattan called Johny’s Luncheonette.  They are moist and tangy from the buttermilk and yet nice and crispy around the edges.  This place is actually one block away from my husband and I’s old apartment in Chelsea.  We lived together in that apartment for three years but we didn’t discover Johny’s until the last six months we were there.  I was both elated to find it and yet saddened that it had been there all along without my knowledge.  I am serious about my pancakes.  DSC_4017I wish I had known about Dutch baby pancakes much earlier.  I guess I did, technically speaking.  There is a restaurant in Rochester, MN called Pannekoeken that makes pancakes in the style that originates from The Netherlands/Belgium- essentially Dutch baby pancakes.  They are much wider and thinner than American pancakes, and are typically baked in a skillet.  I know I had them occasionally at Pannekoeken growing up but they were never all that memorable.   Again, thanks Grandma.  A friend alerted me to this recipe a couple of years ago and said I had to try it.  She was sure it would make the cut.  She was right.  I think I ate half the pan that morning in-between raving about it to my husband.  The recipe comes from Melissa Clark’s cookbook, In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite.  It’s a great investment if you are looking for a worthwhile cookbook to add to your collection.

Dutch baby pancakes are eggier and sweeter than American pancakes.  There is also plenty of butter in the pancakes themselves so no need to add any on top.  After they have finished baking, all you have to do is sprinkle confectioner’s sugar and lemon juice on top and voilá, breakfast is served.  The best part is that you don’t have to stand over the stove and make an infinite number of pancakes, which can be time consuming.  Dutch babies are baked in the oven and take all of 15 minutes.  I added a dollop of elderberry jam to mine, just because.

DSC_4027Dutch Baby Pancake
Adapted from In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite

Yield:  1 pancake

3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)

1.  Preheat the oven to 425°F.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, flour, cinnamon, and salt until combined.  The mixture will be lumpy.
2.  In a 10-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat, melt the butter.  When the butter has melted, carefully pour in the pancake batter and transfer the skillet to the oven.  Bake until the pancake is puffy and golden brown around the edges, about 15-20 minutes.
3.  Working quickly, take the skillet out of the oven and, using a fine-mesh sieve, shake the confectioner’s sugar over the pancake.  Return the skillet to the oven until the butter has been absorbed into the pancake and the sugar is lightly caramelized, an additional 3 minutes.
4.  Splash the lemon juice over the pancake, cut into wedges, and serve immediately.

Stuffed Pork Loin With Figs

DSC_3866This past week has been an emotional roller coaster.  Suffice it to say that I have been waiting on some medical news and I am not the most patient person.  Up until this morning, I thought the news was going to be positive.  But I just found out that it’s not likely to be good news after all.  No one’s life is in danger, but this impending news could be heartbreaking nonetheless.  Self-pity seems to be a default mode for my brain when I experience pain or sorrow.  I’ve always admired people who somehow manage to keep their chin up when faced with a tough situation.  I have a quote on my refrigerator about attitude that I will stop and read from time to time.  One of the lines reads, “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”  So true and yet so damned hard to do.  Especially when your mood is melancholy much of the time.   Did you know that, up until 75 years ago, “melancholia” used to be the word used for depression?  I have been reading William Styron’s Darkness Visible and, besides sharing this factoid, he explains why “brainstorm” is a much more apt word for this disorder.  He describes depression as a noun “with a bland tonality and lacking any magisterial presence.”  I agree that it is a pretty non-descript word for such a horrible mental affliction.

I am getting better at not allowing myself to wallow in my own misery, but it takes a lot of hard work.  I have to literally have a conversation with myself where I take on the role of the rational person speaking to my irrational brain.  Have you ever tried this?  It almost feels like a parent talking to a child.  Maybe this is good practice for when I hopefully become a mother someday?  I also have to prevent myself from eating everything in sight when I’m feeling morose.  I am someone who equates food with comfort.  Comfort food for me is always Italian or sweets.  Although my parents deny it, I swear I have some Italian blood.  The sweets connection I often attribute to a time when I was pretty young, maybe 6 or so.  I was very sad because my mom was in the hospital, so one of my aunts gave me a package of M&M’s to try and cheer me up.  Neuronal firing, commence!  I am getting better at reshaping those little neural pathways (sorry, it’s the Psych major in me) but it’s a constant battle.  DSC_3838I made this pork loin over the weekend.  If you love the smell of rosemary like I do, you will really enjoy how good your house smells when this is roasting in the oven.  Divine, divine I say!  Why have I never thought of throwing some rosemary into a simmering pot of water for a potpourri effect?  I will add that to my to-do list.  I also am obsessed with dried figs.  I often eat them with blue cheese as a midday snack.  In fact, I made a sandwich with the leftovers from this roast by just adding blue cheese and using Hot Bread Kitchen’s scrumptious walnut raisin bread.  It was the perfect savory/sweet combo.  The roasted pork loin is extremely juicy and pairs beautifully with the figs and rosemary.  The recipe calls for a 2-3 lb. pork loin but I used 2- 1 lb. pork loins since that is what my local butcher had available.  Serve this the next time you have guests over.  They will be impressed.

Stuffed Pork Loin With Figs
Adapted from The New York Times

Yield:  6 to 8 servings

1-1/2 cup dried figs
1 boneless pork loin, 2 to 3 pounds
Salt and black pepper
3 or 4 fresh rosemary sprigs, minced
1/2 cup red wine, more if necessary

1.  Put figs in hot water to soak.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2.  Poke a thin, sharp knife into each end of pork loin, making a kind of pilot hole.  Then use the handle of a long wooden spoon to force a hole all the way through meat, making it as wide as your thumb.
3.  Drain figs when tender but not mushy, reserving liquid.  Stuff figs into pork loin, all the way to center from each end and spacing them throughout entire loin.
4.  Combine salt, pepper and rosemary and rub it all over the meat.  Put meat in a roasting pan and pour about half a cup of fig liquid over it.  Roast undisturbed for 20 minutes.  Lower heat to 325 degrees and continue to cook, basting with pan juices (or added liquid, like wine or water, if necessary) every 15 minutes or so.  When an instant-read thermometer registers 145 to 150 degrees- probably after 40 to 60 minutes- remove roast to a warm platter (make sure thermometer is in meat, not fruit).
5.  Let meat rest for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, put roasting pan on stove over one or two burners set to medium-high.  If there is a lot of liquid, reduce it to about half a cup, scraping bottom of pan with a wooden spoon to release any brown bits.  If pan is dry, add half a cup of wine and follow same process.  When sauce has reduced, slice roast and serve with sauce.