Thinking Inside The Box: PopOver-PopIns

Williams-Sonoma Texas Tins

Popover-PopIns With Cheddar Cheese

For years I have been intrigued by the catch phrases and words that come in and out of vogue in business speak.

Sarah Palin and John McCain

Failure to Vet

For a while, it was very important that we ‘vet’ everything. Like ‘do you think we’ve appropriately vetted that idea/brand/event?’ I blame the overuse of ‘vet’, ‘vetting’ and ‘vetted’ on John McCain’s team who apparently failed to properly ‘vet’ his running mate, Sarah Palin.

We used to ‘think’. Then we learned to ‘brainstorm’. After that we were encouraged to ‘ideate’.

We have ‘balls in the air’. We ‘dance on the head of a pin’.

We wanted to be members of functional teams. And, now we need to be members of high performing teams – this one we like to abbreviate to just HPT.

It was once considered exceptional to give the job/project 100%. Until someone asked for 110%. And now I think the going give rate is 1000% Wow! That’s a lot!

We also have been accused of not being able to ‘get out of our own way.’ At times we ‘can’t see the forest for the trees.’ We have to always be ‘innovative.’ There are all those people who are ‘penny wise and pound foolish.’ Etc.

Thinking outside of the box

Brilliance

But perhaps the most overused of all marketing catch phrases is ‘thinking out of the box’. It’s so very important that we think ‘out of the box.’ With its overuse, thinking out of the box has literally become inside of the box thinking.

In cooking, sometimes the best ideas are inside the box. Especially when the box is a light, eggy, airy popover and inside is a delicious secret of sharp cheddar cheese.

PopOver-PopIns (makes 12)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

1. Mise En Place

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of melted butter
  • Butter for greasing the pans
  • 1 1/2 cups of flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups of milk at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Popover mise en place

Mise En Place – Tres Important!

2. Mix all ingredients EXCEPT THE CHEESE in a bowl with a whisk. The mix will be thin.

williams-sonoma

Everybody in the bowl

Cheddar Cheese Popovers

Whisk it!

3. Butter two Williams-Sonoma non-stick Texas Tins and put into the heated oven for :02mins.

Popover pans

Buttered PopOver-PopIn Pans

4. Take the pans out of the oven and pour batter into each cup about 1/2 way up

texas tins williams-sonoma

Pour Into the Pans

5. Pop a pinch of the shredded cheddar cheese into the center of each cup

PopOver-PopIns

Place the Cheddar Cheese

6. Bake for :25-:27 mins – You’ll know they are ready when the edges are a rich golden brown. Because of the cheese well, they will pop over and pop in.

Williams-Sonoma Texas Tins

PopOver-PopIns Popped Out of the Oven

7. Pop them onto a plate….And put a perfect pat of butter into the steaming center

Williams-Sonoma Texas Tins

Pop Butter Into the PopOver-PopIns

One of the best things about the popover-popins is that they freeze beautifully. So, if you can’t eat all 12 at once, pop the leftovers into a freezer bag and into the freezer. When you’re ready to eat them, wrap them in tinfoil and pop into a 350 degree oven for :10 mins to heat through.

Thinking differently is key in many situations – creating newness and partnerships that are unexpected can catapult a brand into the forefront of the consumer’s mind. Just think about what the unexpected male spokesperson (Brad Pitt) has done for one of the world’s most iconic fragrances.

In popovers, though…with very few balls in the air and without dancing on the head of a pin – You can create a yummy goodness that’s all on the inside of the box. No need to vet that.

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Hookers – Like People Who Catch Fish

Tilapia in a Lemon, White Wine, Caper Sauce

Hook Yourself Up with A Grown Up Dinner for One

With Halloween rapidly approaching, I think back on all of the costumes I selected growing up. For the first 8 or so years, I was a witch – spare me the life-art comments. Then, when I was finally allowed to select my own costumes, I was a cat (hate cats, not sure why I did that), a hobo – cuz I was going to Halloween during the depression? A candy striper – always the do-gooder – smiley face.

Most of the time my parents were OK with whatever I chose to be. My mother even made the witch costume that I wore for the first 8 years – hold comments until the end. But in 7th grade my friends and I on the verge of becoming little women decided to go a little more risque.

Risque…hmmm.  Bear in mind that in my somewhat conservative catholic home I wasn’t even allowed to wear a non-competitive swim suit in 7th or 8th or 9th grade. And, when I sported my first ‘fashion’ swimwear at 14, my father sent me home from the pool.

Toddlers in Tiaras

She’s such a pretty woman!

So, when I announced proudly that the girls and I were going to be hookers, you can imagine the reaction I received.

Yep, hookers.

I’m not even sure that I knew what hookers really did – but I did know that we would be able to look a lot cuter than we had as hobos the year prior.

Naively, I didn’t really anticipate any negative reaction from my parents. I mean I pretty much figured: Hookers. Hobos. Whatever.

Uhm, no.

My father instantly put the kibosh on that idea and informed me that the only hookers in the family would be people hooking fish.

OK. So candy striper repeat it was. Of course, it was an over-made up candy striper – but a do-good candy striper nonetheless.

As far as fishing and hookers…A couple of nights ago, I hooked a couple of tilapia filets at Whole Foods and made:

Tilapia in a White Wine Sauce (serves 1 – there’s no reason you can’t have a real meal when dining alone)

Frozen Tilapia Pescatarian Vegetarian

Have on hand

NOTE: If you’re using the Whole Foods frozen tilapia, 7 hours before you intend to cook, take one package out of the freezer, remove the packaging, place the filets in a baking dish, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.

1. Mise en place:

  • 1 tsp of capers rinsed and drained
  • 1 small shallot minced
  • 1/4 cup white wine – I used chardonnay because that’s what I had, but you might want to use a drier one
  • 1 tsp parsley chopped
  • the zest of one lemon
  • the juice of one lemon
Whole Foods frozen tiliapia

Mise En Place to Make even Anne Burrell Proud

2. In a 10-inch skillet over medium, heat 1 tsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp of butter.

3. Salt and Pepper the filets on both sides, gently coat in flour and place in the heated skillet

Tilapia searing in butter olive oil

Browning the Fish

4. Cook on each side for +/- :04 minutes – depending upon the thickness of the fish.

Lemon Caper White Wine Shallot Sauce

Beautifully Browned

5. Once the fish is wholly cooked, remove from the skillet and keep warm

6. Add the shallot to the skillet and saute until fragrant – about 2 mins

Lemon White Wine Caper shallot sauce

Saute the Shallot

7. Add the white wine and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Allow the sauce to thicken slightly – about :03mins. If you don’t feel like it’s thickening enough…throw in a little butter (1 tsp) and stir until it melts into the sauce

Whole Foods frozen tilapia

Add in White Wine and Lemon Juice

8. Stir in the lemon zest, parsley and capers

Lemon White Wine Shallot Caper Sauce

Stir in Parsley and Lemon Zest

9. Stir to combine flavors – about :02 mins. Then pour over the fish and serve

Cooking with Wine

Pour the Sauce over the Fish

Halloween is a time when you’re allowed and encouraged to be something you’re not. Whether it’s a witch (stop it), a hobo or even a hooker.

And, while I wasn’t ever allowed to dress like Pretty Woman, I ultimately became quite the skilled hooker…and cooker of fish.

Now That’s a Crock of Publicity and White Chili

Chicken Chili

White Chili: Chicken & Beans

This past week, Chanel No 5 debuted its new ads featuring Brad Pitt. Yep, in case you missed it – which might have been impossible…cuz the spots are running constantly – even targeting men – during Sunday’s morning news programs and the afternoon and evening football.

Is it a men’s fragrance? No. It’s Brad waxing confusingly – I think about not being able to get a woman out of his mind. But, I’m not really sure…

What I do know, though, is that everyone’s talking about it.

Brad Pitt Channel No 5

He Does Look Good

Jen Chaney of the Washington Post describes it as: “what it looks like when Pitt tries really hard to make pretentious sentences sound meaningful while wearing a casual button-down shirt.”

No easy feat.

The use of a man and the ad itself have been a little polarizing. People either think that Brad’s careful, slow delivery is uber sexy OR they want to know ‘what the hell does this all mean?”

What it means – whether you love the ad or hate it  – is that Chanel has launched its most iconic fragrance into the forefront of conversation for people of all ages. People who would have never before considered Chanel No 5 might now. People who have never heard of Chanel – have now. Chanel has garnered more press, more chatter, more engagement than it probably ever had.

And that’s a big crock of free media – well they reportedly paid Brad Pitt a cool $7mill….so, sorta free.

Speaking of big crocks….it’s crock pot season and I guest crocked at a friend’s recently.

White Chicken Chili (serves 6-8)

1. In a large saute or fry pan over medium heat, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil

2. Stir in:

  • two medium onions chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers – deveined and seeded – and then chopped – best to either wear gloves for this or wash your hands immediately after working with the peppers.
  • 1 tbsp + 1tsp dried oregano – crush the oregano in your palms to release the flavors
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
Saute vegetables

Saute Veggies

Saute until moderately tender – about 5 mins

3. Add in 7 chopped garlic cloves – don’t worry, you’re going to slow cook this. The garlic will not overpower. And, saute until fragrant – about 2 mins.

4. Add in 4 cooked chicken breasts – shredded. I used a rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods, because it’s just easier.

If you want to cook the breasts yourself – you can cube them and cook with the onions in step 2.

White chicken Chili

Whole Foods Roti Chicken makes this easy!

5. Add in Salt and Pepper

6. Once heated through and all flavors are combined – about 4 mins – transfer to the slow cooker

7. In a small bowl, mash up 2 15oz cans of cannellini beans (rinsed and drained) with 1 cup of Pacific Organic chicken broth.

white chicken chili beans

Mash the Beans

Pour into the slow cooker.

8. Add in 1 additional can of Cannellini bean and 3 more cups of chicken stock to the slow cooker.

Slow Cooker Crock Pot White Chili

Everybody in the Pool!

9. Cover and cook on low for 2hrs :45mins

10. After 2hrs :45mins, add about 1 1/2 cups of shelled frozen edamame and stir. Cover again and allow to cook an additional :15 – :20 mins.

I used 365 brand shelled edamame.Whole Foods Brand

11. Serve with a garnish of chopped parsley and shredded cheddar cheese

White chili with chicken

Pretty Presentation

The chili certainly isn’t as pretty as Brad Pitt. And, like the new Chanel ads, it could have used a little more spice. Next time I’d add a little hot sauce or maybe some cayenne.

As for Brad and Chanel – I’m still not sure what it all is supposed to mean. Some may think it’s a crock full of crazy – but I think it’s a crock full of free press.

When You’re Only 24-Cookies Sad…And Have To Say Bye Bye Bye

Some people starve their way through heartbreak…Others eat their way through.

I’ve been eating my way through the pain of knowing that Justin Timberlake will never be mine.

I have loved Justin Timberlake ever since he graduated from Disney and burst onto the boy-band-teen-idol-music scene with his frosted tipped curly hair. Fresh faced with instant allure and breathtaking adorability he was the 14-year old baby front boy in N’Sync. You couldn’t really put your finger on it, but you just knew he was going to be a big deal.

Justin Timberlake N'Sync

JT Dirty Popped Onto the Scene

I was among a select group of the world’s oldest N’Sync fans. It was a small club (or a secret society maybe) composed of gay men and pop music loving 30-something women. My college roommate was a member as well and we had several conversations debating which was the cuter band member – She liked JC…I always liked Justin.

I was a quasi grown up with a pretty demanding job at the time. She was a new mother. We had no business spending our time talking boy bands.

But we didn’t care.

Justin Timberlake Secret Wedding

I Should Be His Girlfriend

I boldly braved the ridicule of friends and professional colleagues when I announced proudly that I was going to see N’Sync’s ‘No Strings Attached’ show.

I even bought the DVD afterwards so that I could watch the show over and over and over again in the comfort of my own home.

When the ‘band’ broke up – I avoided separation anxiety because JT immediately released his solo album crying himself a river after his split from Britney.

What he really cried was a river of solo success.

  • He brought sexy back…in a big way.
  • He crafted one of the most watched SNL skits of all time.
  • He became an actor and garnered kudos from Hollywood’s toughest critics for his role in The Social Network
  • Oh, and he’s a scratch golfer.

His talent knows no end.

With each addition to his resume, my infatuation intensified. (In the OK way).

I did meet Justin once…Some of my colleagues might say that I accosted him. Whatever, we met.

I spotted him leaving the Governors’ Ball after the 2011 Academy Awards. I looked at one of my friends and said, ‘you know I have to..’ She nodded knowingly, with a little bit of ‘you’re pathetic’ in her eyes.

But he was getting away…I had to hurry. I jogged after him in my 5 inch heels, stopped right in front of him and introduced myself. He was gracious. We shook hands.

I        touched          Justin Timberlake

At that moment I understood how Marcia Brady felt when after receiving her first kiss from Desi Arnaz Jr, as she declared ‘I’ll never wash this cheek again.’ Obviously, I would have to wash…but right then I considered my options.

Justin Timberlake Weds in Italy

It’s Tearin’ Up My Heart

So, News of Justin and Jessica Biels’ nuptials are tearin’ up my heart.

And no matter what I do I feel the pain.

So, I bake.

And, I’ve been baking ever since I heard.

Friday I made Nestle Toll House Chocolate Cookies. I won’t bore you with the details – because I pretty much follow the directions on the package…

Semi-Sweet chocolate Chips Nestle

Semi-Sweet for a Bitter-Sweet Day

Except…

  • I cut the recipe in half  – Let’s be honest: I wasn’t 48 cookie sad, I was more like 24 cookie sad.
  • Half of the directed flour would have been 1 1/8 cups…but, I used just shy of 1 cup. That way the cookies are crispier and less cakey. You also really get the buttery flavor by cutting the flour down a bit.
  • I gave the majority of the cookies away – Sometimes just the baking is therapeutic enough…And, let’s face it: Fat and sad is no way to go through life.
Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie

No Coincidence that the Chips are Tear Shaped

I know that my adoration of Justin isn’t really normal. And, down deep I have always accepted that becoming Mrs. Timberlake just wasn’t in the cards.

Still, that doesn’t make it any easier to say ‘bye bye bye’.

Holy Braciole

braciole flank steak

Beauteous Braciole

OK….last night’s dinner was a bit of work with a lot of steps and a bunch of ingredients. Everyone liked it. That’s my story.

Braciole (serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • A 1 1/4 -1 1/2 lb flank steak
  • 3 cloves of garlic chopped

    mise en place

    Le Creuset Prep Bowls

  • 1 chopped shallot
  • 1 10oz package Birds Eye frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
  • 8-10 baby bella mushroom, stem removed and sliced relatively thin
  • 1/4 cup of toasted pine (same as pignoli) nuts
  • 2 tbsp Poly-O whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup of Sliced or Shredded Provolone Cheese

    Organic Provolone Whole Foods

    Cut the Cheese

  • 2 leeks – chopped
  • 1 medium onion sliced
  • 1 carrot chopped
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 28oz can of Muir Glen tomato puree
  • Herb bundle with Rosemary and Thyme
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1. In a medium saute or fry pan, over medium heat, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil and add 1 clove garlic chopped and 1 chopped shallot. Saute until fragrant (about 2 mins)

Fragrant Garlic

Saute Garlic and Shallot

2. Add in 1 10oz package of Birds-Eye frozen chopped spinach – defrosted and squeezed dry. Saute until heated through then transfer spinach to a bowl and set aside.

Birds-Eye Spinach

Birds-Eye Spinach Sauteeing

3. Add 1 tbsp of Olive Oil to the same pan and heat over medium. Then add in 1 cup of sliced baby bella mushrooms. Saute until tender.

Whole Foods Baby Bella Mushrooms

I foraged for these at Whole Foods

4. Add back in the spinach and stir to combine

5. Stir in 1/4 cup of toasted Pine Nuts – I buy these in the bulk aisle at Whole Foods. They’re expensive, but buying in the bulk aisle allows you to get just what you need.

Baby Bella Mushrooms Birds Eye Spinach Saute

Spinach, Mushrooms & Toasted Pine Nuts

6. Once heated through, transfer to a bowl and while still hot, stir in 2 tbsp of Poly-O whole milk ricotta cheese. I wasn’t going to add anything here…but needed a binder for the stuffing and I heart ricotta cheese!

Poly-O Ricotta Cheese

Stuffing is Done!

7. Place the flank steak on plastic wrap on a cutting board. Cover with plastic wrap and using the flat side of a tenderizer, pound out the steak to about 1/2 inch thick. Be careful not to over pound and toughen the meat. If the flank steak is super thick, you can carefully butterfly the steak before pounding or even instead of pounding out.

Whole Foods Flank Steak

Pre-Pounded Flank Steak

8. Remove the top and bottom layer of plastic wrap and Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper the meat on the up side

9. Place 4 – 6 pieces of cooking string under the pounded flank steak at about 2 inch intervals. The string will need to be long enough to tie around the braciole once stuffed, so better to err on too long than too short.

NOTE: Putting the string under the meat before stuffing and rolling it, makes the ultimate tying process easier

10. Cover the meat with a layer of the spinach, mushroom, nut mixture. Leave about an inch uncovered all around – I didn’t leave enough space…

Birds Eye chopped spinach mushrooms

Layer on the stuffing

11. On top of that, add a layer of thinly sliced or shredded provolone cheese. You need a medium hard cheese here as you don’t want it all melty and oozing out of the braciole.

Organic Whole Foods Provolone

Because Everything is better with Cheese

12. Carefully roll the flank steak – keeping the stuffing inside.

13. Tie the roll securely with the strings – mine looked a little frankenstein or maybe ‘The Mummy’, but that was fine.

Whole Foods Flank Steak Braciole

Secured Franken-Style

14. In a roasting pan or a lasagna pan over two burners on med/high heat 3 tbsp of olive oil. I used my All-Clad turkey roasting pan…but, should have used a smaller one like the All-Clad lasagna pan.

14. Sear the stuffed flank steak on all sides – about 2 minutes a side.

whole foods flank steak braciole

Searing the Braciole

15. Transfer the seared steak to a cutting board. Set Aside.

16. Depending upon size of pan…Add another 1-2 tbsp of olive oil to the pan and heat over medium.

17. Add in 1 medium onion sliced, two chopped leaks and one chopped carrot. Saute until softened – about 7 mins.

NOTE: I might have added a second carrot…but only had one in the fridge.

Leeks Onions Carrots

Saute Veggies

11. Add in 2 cloves of garlic chopped and salt and pepper – saute another minute or two.

12. Raise the heat to med/high and pour in 1 cup of dry red wine to deglaze the pan.  Allow about 1/2 of the wine to evaporate.

13. Pour in 2 cups of beef broth – I had some chicken stock I needed to use so I did 1/2 chicken stock, 1/2 beef broth.

14. Return the meat to the pan and cover with 1 28oz can of Muir Glen pureed tomatoes. Then add in an herb bundle of Rosemary and Thyme – about 2 sprigs of each….

Muir Glenn Tomato Puree

Smother in Muir Glen Tomato Puree

15. Stir the sauce a bit. Bring to a boil, carefully cover with tin foil and place in the oven.

16. Braise in the oven for :50 – :60 minutes.

17. When done…Remove from the roasting pan and allow the meat to rest for :10 minutes.

18. Transfer a few ladles of the braising sauce to a blender and allow to cool….Then puree.

DO NOT puree while the sauce is still super hot – it’ll blow the lid off of the blender…really.

Whole Foods Vegetable Puree Muir Glen

CAREFULLY Puree the Sauce

19. Slice the braciole and transfer to a serving dish. Serve with the pureed vegetable sauce. Make sure you remove all strings and…I had to toothpick the ends…remember to remove those too.

Braciole Spinach Mushroom Stuffed Flank Steak Whole Foods

Holy Braciole!

Holy Braciole! That was a bit of work – but well worth it. And…while it could serve 4, three of us ate all but one slice!