Saturday, November 28, 2009

Weekend Cooking: "Sinful" Roasted Chicken

How much do I love, love, love Top Chef??

The latest cookbook from the Bravo television series is out, Top Chef: The Quickfire Cookbook. I have it in my TBR stack, but its release reminded me that I needed to pull out last year's release, Top Chef: The Cookbook, and make one of my favorite recipes.

Elia cooked this on season two to represent pride in the seven deadly sins challenge, calling this a very "proud" chicken. I know everyone is "poultried out" right now, but this is definitely one to keep on file!

One 7-pound organic roasting chicken, rinsed and patted dry
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened, plus one stick unsalted butter, melted
3 medium carrots, cut in diagonal chunks
2 zucchini, thickly sliced
8 ounces button mushrooms, stemmed and halved
1 pound fingerling potatoes, halved
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock
4 fresh rosemary sprigs
8 fresh thyme sprigs

Brush the chicken with the softened butter. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Tie the legs loosely together.

In a large bowl, combine vegetables. Add the melted butter and toss to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Put chicken in roasting pan and scatter vegetables around. Pour in the stock and top with herb sprigs.

Roast chicken at 400 degrees for 1.5 to 2 hours, turning the vegetables a few times, until chicken is golden brown.

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"Waiting On" Wednesday: The Gin Closet

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

The Gin Closet
By Leslie Jamison
Publication Date: February 16

From Publishers Weekly:

Jamison's beautifully written debut follows independent young New Yorker Stella and her estranged aunt Tilly as they form some version of a family. Stella is disenchanted with her life and job as a journalist's personal assistant; Tilly is a professional lost soul, a former prostitute, and an unsuccessful recovering alcoholic. To all appearances, Stella is the savior, finding Tilly, who's been shunned by the family, to rescue her; but through alternating first-person accounts, the reader grows to view the two women as equals. The relationship between Stella and Tilly is compelling, as are their relationships with auxiliary characters, but what truly drives the novel is Jamison's gorgeous prose.

What's your "waiting on" pick this week?

Want to participate? Grab the logo, post your own WoW entry on your blog, and leave a link in the comments section!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Weekend Cooking: Best Squash Casserole

As adults, my sister and I have taken over the "sides" portion of Thanksgiving at my parents' house. We leave the turkey and dressing to them...and we split up the rest between us. I have my list of standards, but I always throw in one new dish each year, too. So, I hit my cookbook closet for this year's addition.

I collect Junior League cookbooks from across the South, and among my favorites is one from my own city, Tables of Content. It has a recipe for Best Squash Casserole that I have been wanting to try (how can you not, with a name like that?). I gave it a test run last night, and it will definitely make this year's table!

10 yellow squash
2 eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 envelope ranch salad dressing mix
1 cup shredded mild Cheddar cheese
12 butter crackers, finely crushed
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
Additional shredded mild Cheddar cheese
8 butter crackers, finely crushed

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Combine the squash with enough water to generously cover in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes or until tender and drain. Let stand until cool and slice. Drain the sliced squash in a colander, pressing with the back of a spoon to extract any remaining moisture. The cooked squash should measure 5 cups.

Beat the eggs in a bowl until blended. Stir in the mayonnaise and salad dressing mix. Fold in the squash, 1 cup cheese, 12 crushed crackers, the garlic salt, and pepper. Spoon the mixture into a 2-quart baking dish and sprinkle with additional cheese and 8 crushed crackers. Bake for 30 minutes.

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"Waiting On" Wednesday: The Murderer's Daughters

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

The Murderer's Daughters
By Randy Susan Meyers
Publication Date: January 19

From Amazon:

Mama was “no macaroni-necklace-wearing kind of mother.” She was a lipstick and perfume-wearing mother, a flirt whose estranged husband still hungered for her. After Mama threw him out, she warned the girls to never let Daddy in the house, an admonition that tears at ten-year-old Lulu whenever she thinks about the day she opened the door for her drunken father, and watched as he killed her mother, stabbed her five-year-old sister Merry and tried to take his own life.

As they grow into women, Lulu holds fast to her anger, denies her father’s existence and forces Merry into a web of lies about his death that eventually ensnares her own husband and daughters. Merry, certain their safety rests on placating her needy father, dutifully visits him, seeking his approval and love at the expense of her own relationships. As they strive to carve lives of their own, the specter of their father, unrepentant and manipulative even from behind bars, haunts them. And when they learn he’s about to be paroled, the house of cards they’ve built their lives on teeters on the brink of collapse.

What's your "waiting on" pick this week?

Want to participate? Grab the logo, post your own WoW entry on your blog, and leave a link in the comments section!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cook from the Book: Southwestern Sausage Ring

Connie at Tales from the Fridge has started a new Cook from the Book cookbook challenge that's right up my alley:
Are you addicted to cookbooks? Do you have a collection of cookbooks that are sitting around collecting dust? Do you wish you cooked out of them more often? Do you have a hard time figuring out what to make for dinner? Twice a month, cook a recipe from a cookbook and post about it. This is a great way for us to try new recipes from our books and share them with each other. Posting days will be the FIRST And THIRD Tuesday of each month.

I have close to a hundred cookbooks...that I don't really cook from. When I get a new cookbook, I read through it and make a list in the back of recipes that I want to try. I then put the book on a shelf...and inevitably forget about it!

So...instead of relying on one of my tried-and-true appetizers, I brought out something new for my Georgia-Auburn football game gathering this past weekend. It was a HIT! Think savory monkey bread.

Southwestern Sausage Ring
(Southern Living Annual Recipes 2003)

1 (12-ounce) package ground hot or mild pork sausage
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 (1-ounce) package fajita seasoning mix
2 (12-ounce) cans refrigerated biscuits (regular size, not Grands)
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded Mexican four-cheese blend

Cook sausage over medium heat until it crumbles and is no longer pink. Stir in peppers and cook 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle with seasoning mix and cook 1-2 more minutes. Drain well, pressing with paper towels.

Separate biscuits and cut into quarters. Place in a large mixing bowl. Fold in sausage mixture, tossing to coat.

Layer biscuit mixture and cheese in a lightly greased 10-inch tube pan.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand in pan for 5-10 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Review: A Friend of the Family by Lauren Grodstein

"One day, God willing, my son will understand. He'll have children of his own and then he'll understand. There's nothing a father won't do for his children."

Pete and Elaine Dizinoff have been friends with Joe and Iris Stern since college, living near each other in suburban New Jersey, vacationing together, and raising each other's children as their own. That is, until the Sterns' oldest child, Laura, commits a horrific act as a teenager that will haunt Pete for years.

As the families struggle to move forward in the aftermath, Pete focuses his energy on his only child, Alec, trying to ensure his future as a successful, responsible adult, despite twists and turns along the way.

When Laura comes back after a decade-long absence, she sets her sights on Alec, ten years her junior, who has returned home after dropping out of college. Pete, still intent on keeping Alec on course, sees the life he imagined for his son slipping out of his grasp as the relationship between the two moves forward.

Early on, the author presents questions that propel the reader to the novel's dramatic end for the answers. Why is Pete now living in the studio above his basement, estranged from his family? Why is he potentially being sued for medical malpractice? It's these two critical issues that provide the novel's momentum.

The novel is told exclusively from Pete's point of view, so we don't get the other characters' perspectives on all the events, but the singular focus is effective at driving home Pete's unwavering love for Alec, even as his efforts are resisted.

The book jumps wildly around in time to cover the history leading up to the present circumstances, which can be a bit confusing. Ultimately, though, Grodstein does an impressive job at getting inside the head, and heart, of a father who just wants the very best for his child at any cost.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday Salon: 11-15

Yesterday, I finished But Not for Long by Michelle Wildgen, an odd book set in Madison, Wisconsin, over three days (!) that focuses on three members of a sustainable-foods cooperative house. Throw in a mysterious lake incident, an area-wide power outage, and a housemate's alcoholic, estranged husband, and you have the potential for an interesting book...that ultimately falls flat. I was disappointed in this one, especially since I loved the author's debut novel, You're Not You.

I'm finishing up A Friend of the Family (review posted Monday), and then I'll (finally!) start John Irving's Last Night in Twisted River. This is one that I bought, but I've had to put it on hold until I finished up a round of library books. It's been calling my name!

Finally, stay tuned for Tuesday, when I start the new Cook from the Book cookbook challenge over at Tales from the Fridge.

P.S. Don't forget...if you participate in my "Waiting On" Wednesday meme, be sure to stop by and leave a link to your post so we can all see what you're anticipating reading!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Weekend Cooking: Three New Cookbooks

Beth Fish Reads hosts a Weekend Cooking meme, which is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: book (novel or non-fiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, recipes, etc.

Here are three hot-off-the-press cookbooks that are waiting for me to dive into! Don't worry...I'll be sure to post my favorite recipes from them, too!

(All descriptions from Amazon)

The Comfort Table: Recipes for Everyday Occasions by Katie Lee
A guide to enjoying great food with good friends around the Comfort Table, Katie Lee's simple recipes for cooking and entertaining guarantee the best kind of meals -- ones prepared with love that turn every occasion into a celebration.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl by Ree Drummond
The Pioneer Woman Cooks is a homespun collection of photography, rural stories, and scrumptious recipes that have defined my experience in the country. I show my recipes in full color, step-by-step detail, so it's as easy as pie to follow along.

Matt and Ted Lee were raised on long-simmered greens, slow-smoked meats, and deep-fried everything. But after years of traveling as journalists and with farm fresh foods more available than ever, Matt and Ted have combined the old with the new, infusing family recipes with bright flavors. Using crisp produce, lighter cooking methods, and surprising combinations, these are recipes to make any night of the week.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"Waiting On" Wednesday: Secrets of Eden

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Secrets of Eden
By Chris Bohjalian
Publication Date: February 2

From the author's Web site:

"There," says Alice Hayward to Reverend Stephen Drew, just after her baptism, and just before going home to the husband who will kill her that evening and then shoot himself. Drew, tortured by the cryptic finality of that short utterance, feels his faith in God slipping away and is saved from despair only by a meeting with Heather Laurent, the author of wildly successful, inspirational books about . . . angels.

Heather survived a childhood that culminated in her parents' murder-suicide, so she identifies deeply with Alice and George's daughter, Katie, offering herself as a mentor to the girl and a shoulder for Stephen - who flees the pulpit to be with Heather and see if there is anything to be salvaged from the spiritual wreckage around him.But then the State's Attorney begins to suspect that Alice's husband may not have killed himself. . .and finds out that Alice had secrets only her minister knew.

What's your "waiting on" pick this week?

Want to participate? Grab the logo, post your own WoW entry on your blog, and leave a link in the comments section!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Review: Remedies by Kate Ledger

"Whatever had kept her marriage aloft had begun its slow exhalation, and what was left in her hand was like the string of a deflated balloon."

Simon Bear is a respected and well-loved internist, albeit with some questionable medical treatments, operating his Baltimore practice from a wing in his stately home. His wife, Emily, is a partner in a PR firm, and while she's successful at work, she feels like a failure as a mother to their sullen and rebellious teenage daughter.

The tragic loss of the couple's firstborn, as an infant, created a fissure in the foundation of their marriage, and years of refusing to talk about it or grieve properly have served to steadily widen the crack.

When Simon discovers and tests a surprising new treatment for chronic pain and Emily begins an affair with an old boyfriend, the rift grows larger. And, just as Simon realizes he needs Emily more than ever, if only more professionally than personally, she realizes that she doesn't need him at all anymore.

Although neither Simon nor Emily were particularly likeable characters, I nonetheless cared about their respective fates, wondering how, and when, their poor decisions would catch up with them. Ledger's writing is powerful, as she has a talent for "just right" descriptions. She deftly tackles big issues and thoughtfully examines the unraveling of a marriage, exploring how much pain can be endured before a breaking point.

Library Loot 11-8

Library Loot is hosted by Reading Adventures. Here's what I picked up from the library this week:

But Not for Long by Michelle Wildgen

A Friend of the Family by Lauren Grodstein

Family Album by Penelope Lively

New York: The Novel by Edward Rutherfurd

The Recipe Club by Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel

I also got Remedies by Kate Ledger, which I'm finishing up. The review will be posted later today.

What books came your way this week?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Weekend Cooking meme

Beth Fish Reads hosts a Weekend Cooking meme, which is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: book (novel or non-fiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, recipes, etc.

This weekend, I made one of my favorite football-season recipes, Brunswick Stew from The Blue Willow Inn Bible of Southern Cooking.

2 (15-ounce) cans stewed tomatoes
2 (15-ounce) cans creamed corn
2 (13-ounce) cans chicken
2 (10-ounce) cans BBQ pork
1 (14-ounce) bottle ketchup
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker, and cook on low for two to three hours. Best served with Jiffy cornbread or, amazingly, Ritz crackers.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

"Waiting On" Wednesday: The Heights

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

The Heights
By Peter Hedges
Publication Date: March 4

From Amazon:

"Tim Welch is a popular history teacher at the Montague Academy, an exclusive private school in Brooklyn Heights. As he says, "I was an odd-looking, gawky kid but I like to think my rocky start forced me to develop empathy, kindness, and a tendency to be enthusiastic. All of this, I'm now convinced, helped in my quest to be worthy of Kate Oliver." Now, Kate is not inherently ordinary. But she aspires to be. She stays home with their two young sons in a modest apartment trying desperately to become the parent she never had. They are seemingly the last middle-class family in the Heights, whose world is turned upside down by Anna Brody, the new neighbor who moves into the most expensive brownstone in Brooklyn, sending the local society into a tailspin."

What's your "waiting on" pick this week?

Want to participate? Grab the logo, post your own WoW entry on your blog, and leave a link in the comments section!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What I've Been Reading

I've completely gotten out of the book reviewing routine, and I know that I need to find a format that works for me (and my schedule!) to post write-ups of books that really spoke to me. It doesn't help that there have been quite a few books recently that just haven't been able to hold my interest long enough to finish.

That said, the beginning of a new month has inspired me. I've resolved to post one book review a week. I'm ready to get back into it!

Just to get up-to-date (and so I can start from scratch), here's a quick list of books that I've read within the past month that I really enjoyed:

The Wide Smiles of Girls by Jennifer Manske Fenske

Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan

Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'easter by Lisa Patton

Prospect Park West by Amy Sohn

Thanks for being patient while I have just been posting Waiting on Wednesday previews lately! New book reviews are on the horizon!