Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Do You Have An 11?

I was listening to an interview with Anna Quindlen on her new book "Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake" on Fresh Air yesterday.  Quindlen said that she the 11 removed from between her eyebrows.  11?  What is she talking about?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Bar Too High?

I read a line in a book I was reading recently (Some Assembly Required by Anne Lamott) that advised the author to “lower her bar of expectations”.  This is one of my problems... my bar is way too high.

 I remember years ago when I was an administrative assistant to the principal in an elementary school (and I say this with all humility….I basically ran the office), and we had a janitor, Vinnie, who drove me nuts.  He would leave his pail that he had mopped the floors with for days in his janitor’s closet.  You would pass by and wonder if some sequestered student had gone to the great beyond.  I would watch him mow (a sit-down of course) right over a piece of paper, which if he had picked it up BEFORE mowing would have been one piece, but then would suddenly become a thousand.  In a conversation one day with his supervisor, I mentioned these annoyances and he said to me “Sylvia, you are getting out of Vinnie all he can give”.  This statement has resonated with me for years and often pulls me up by my bootstraps.  I expect far too much from people.

Am I a perfectionist?  Not really, as I myself am quite flawed.  I do like things nice and tidy.  I like my house to be esthetically pleasing.  A friend tells me that my animals are good for me as they counterbalance my “perfectionist” side.  Possibly true.  Especially today when my dog rolled in something very “fishy” and is nauseating to be around aside from several cleanings.

I pray every day for help to accept others as they are.  I continually hear my daughter saying, when I am ranting about something “Mom, it is none of your concern”, and she is right, but I feel this compelling need to change some parts of the world.  HELP!

My friend Susan often comes for dinner on Sunday night.  She works at a full time job and has a mini farm and works far harder than I do (she is also 10 years younger than I am), so she comes to dinner and we sort of wrap up the week and prepare for the upcoming one.  Now I love to cook so am always happy to try new recipes on her.  This one is a definite keeper.  It was absolutely delicious and not too much work. 

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Figs, Prosciutto, and Gorgonzola
From Sunday Roasts: A Year's Worth of Mouthwatering Roasts, from Old-Fashioned Pot Roasts to Glorious Turkeys and Legs of Lamb by Betty Rosbottom (Chronicle Books, 2011). Copyright © 2011 by Betty Rosbottom. Photographs copyright © 2011 by Susie Cushner. All rights reserved. Used with permission of the publisher.
Serves 4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Start-to-Finish Time: 40 minutes
Materials: Short wooden skewers or sturdy toothpicks, soaked in water for 30 minutes
A celestial trio of Italian ingredients -- dried figs, sliced prosciutto, and creamy Gorgonzola -- makes an irresistible filling for boneless chicken breasts. Once stuffed and skewered, the breasts are pan-seared, then quickly roasted until golden brown. A glaze made with honey and balsamic vinegar gives the chicken a polished look and complements the distinctive flavors of the stuffing.
  • 4 large, boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, 7 to 8 oz/200 to 225 g each
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 thin slices prosciutto (4 oz/120 g)
  • One 5-oz/145-g wedge Gorgonzola, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup/80 g thinly sliced dried figs, preferably Black Mission
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup/120 ml balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup/60 ml honey
  • 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
  • Fleur de sel
1. Using a very sharp knife held parallel to the work surface, make a horizontal slit through a chicken breast, stopping just short of cutting it in half, and open the breast up like a book. Repeat with the remaining breasts. Cover the breasts with plastic wrap/cling film and pound until they're 1/4 inch/6 mm thick, then salt and pepper them.
2. Cover half of each breast with 2 prosciutto slices, and then divide the cheese evenly over the prosciutto. Divide the figs evenly and place over the cheese on the breasts. Close each breast and secure each with 2 or 3 wooden skewers. Salt and pepper the breasts on both sides. (The chicken breasts can be prepared 2 hours ahead; cover and refrigerate.)
3. Arrange a rack at center position and preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C/gas 6.
4. Heat the oil in a large, heavy, oven-proof frying pan set over medium heat. When hot, add the breasts and cook for 1 minute per side. Place the pan in the oven and roast until the chicken is very tender and the juices run clear when pierced with a knife, for 12 to 15 minutes, turning once after 6 minutes.
5. Using oven mitts, remove the frying pan from the oven and transfer the breasts to a carving board. Tent them loosely with foil.
6. Add the balsamic vinegar and honey to the frying pan and, again using mitts since the handle will be quite hot, place the pan over high heat. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture has reduced to 1/2 cup/120 ml, for about 5 minutes.
7. To serve, use a dish/tea towel or mitts to remove the skewers or toothpicks and cut each breast crosswise on the diagonal into slices 1 inch/2.5 cm thick. Arrange the slices on a platter, slightly overlapping. Drizzle with some sauce and garnish with a sprinkle of parsley and fleur de sel.
Sides: Serve this chicken with buttered linguine or orzo and with tender green beans sprinkled with toasted pine nuts.
Leftover Tip: For lunch or a light supper, garnish a mixed greens salad tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette with cold slices of the chicken and enjoy with some crusty peasant bread.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

I know I am getting old but...................

            I am far from a techie, but I do try to keep up in that world.  I am already way behind owning only a laptop and a simple cell phone.  I don’t text, read books on a Kindle, or own an iPad.  I do, however, have an iPod that a friend gave me.

            I recently took a tutorial at our library on how to download books from the library’s collection which, amazingly, I did successfully (mainly because the woman taught the class so well) .  I then decided to get some sort of device so I could listen to it on the car radio, so headed to Best Buy and bought said device.  I got home and opened it.  The instructions were written in 2 pt. type and the typeface color was misty gray.  There were instructions in every language save Pig Latin.  I could not read them even with reading glasses.  I packed it up and returned it.  When asked why the return I told them and of course got the “look” from some young whippersnapper.

            Why?  Why would you write instructions so no one can read them, especially someone whose eyesight is aged?  And often if I can read the instructions, they are written as though you are very up to date in the techno world.  Would you give Tolstoy to a 3rd grader to read?  I expect to have instructions that go step by step that are easy to follow for everyone.  OK, enough said.
  I am in Maine this week.  The weather has been lovely.  There is something about the Maine sky that looks like it goes on forever and ever.  This is a picture of the park I walk to each morning with my dog.  It is a very pleasant walk along the water and takes about an hour.

            The landlords of my building have offered me a larger apartment….the apartment below me.  I looked at it this week and am excited about moving in.  It has the same view as my present apartment, which I love, of the water and the Portland skyline, and faces NW so I see those lovely sunsets.  It has a porch facing this view.  It will be much easier for me with the dog.  It will also allow me to spend more time here.

BOOKS:  I listened to Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton.  This was a great car book….I barely registered the ride up here I was so engrossed.  I am now reading Reading My Father  by Alexandra Stryon.  The next book on my list is “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed.  I enjoy reading these tales about people who do things that I would never do, being the cautious creature that I am.  I am always amazed when people just take off and go on some adventure.  There are things I would love to do but don’t have the guts.  I am working on it though…………