Archive for January, 2009

Product Naming 101

In the third installment of our ongoing series “Thank God for Camera Phones,” I bring you a classic case of “Someone let the intern do the product naming,” spotted at HEB this afternoon:


There was a whole case of this “ham and water product”! Crazy! I would seriously love to know how much of this HEB moves. I mean, who gave the go-ahead on calling this “ham and water product”? You don’t see hot dogs called “sticks of reconstituted animal by-products” do you?

I love the other verbiage on the package. We see that it’s 96% fat free, made by Farmland — Good Food from the Heartland, 32% of its weight is “added ingredients,” it includes “smoke flavoring,” and it’s deli-style! Methinks someone just said “Screw it, I’m getting laid off anyway” and just didn’t bother. Ham and Water Product WOULD actually be a good ingredient for Lindsay’s Hot Ham Water.

So, the first lesson in Product Naming 101 is: In some cases, honesty is NOT the best policy.

The more you know…

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Ryan plays peekaboo

I’m sure only Ryan’s parents and close relatives are interested in this 2-minute video of him playing peekaboo with me, but you are in for two minutes of cuteness if you watch! At several points he leans in towards the camera as if trying to figure out what it is. Adorable!

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I first heard of cassoulet (pronounced “cass-oo-LAY”) while watching the last season of The Next Food Network Star (yes, fine, I’ll watch just about anything on Food Network except for Rachael Ray and Sandra Lee). It was competitor Lisa’s signature dish, and although she didn’t win, I remember thinking that I needed to try it, as it’s full of comfort-foody goodness. How can you go wrong with a French stew of white beans, bacon, and a combination of meats? Alas, it’s not quite a healthy dish though, and since I watch what I eat, I didn’t immediately seek out a recipe.

As always, Cooking Light came to the rescue. The latest issue includes an entire section on making casseroles, and lo and behold, there was a cassoulet recipe, appropriately lightened for my purposes. I made it this Saturday, and I kid you not, it’s one of the best foods I’ve ever eaten.

Making cassoulet is not for kitchen wimps. I started at 2:30 pm and it was ready to eat at 8:30 pm. Granted, 3.5 hours of that was oven time, but the rest was prep work. It was totally worth it, though. Here’s the recipe with my alterations in bold (pictures below)


  • 1/4  cup  salt
  • 6  (8-ounce) duck leg quarters (I used 10 chicken drumsticks instead, a little more than 3 pounds. HEB didn’t have duck and Ryan wasn’t going to make it to Whole Foods)
  • 1 1/2  tablespoons  canola oil
  • 4  thick-cut bacon slices, sliced crosswise into (1/2-inch-thick) strips
  • 1  (3/4-pound) boneless leg of lamb, trimmed and cut into (1-inch) cubes
  • 1 1/2  cups  chopped onion
  • 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4  cup  no-salt-added tomato puree
  • 3  garlic cloves, minced
  • 2  cups  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 2  cups  water
  • 4  (15-ounce) cans organic Great Northern beans, drained (HEB was out of these, so I used cannellini instead. For our purposes, tomAto tomAHto.)
  • 8  ounces  cooked spicy Italian sausage, diagonally sliced (I used turkey Italian sausage and grilled it. In hindsight, I’d probably stick with the regular Italian sausage as the turkey was a bit dry.)
  • 1/4  cup  dry breadcrumbs

1. Rub salt evenly over duck; cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.

2. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add bacon to pan; cook 7 minutes or until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove bacon from pan using a slotted spoon; set aside. Increase heat to medium-high. Add lamb to drippings in pan; cook 8 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove lamb from pan, and set aside.

3. Preheat oven to 300°.

4. Rinse duck with cold water; pat dry with paper towels. Add half of duck, skin side down, to pan; cook over medium heat 15 minutes or until golden brown. Turn duck over, and cook 10 minutes or until browned and fat under skin is melted. Remove duck from pan. Repeat procedure with remaining duck, reserving 1 tablespoon duck fat; set duck aside. Add onion and pepper to pan; cook 7 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomato puree and garlic; cook 1 minute. Return lamb to pan. Nestle duck into lamb mixture; add broth and 2 cups water. Cover and bake at 300° for 2 1/2 hours or until lamb and duck are very tender. Remove duck from pan; let stand until tepid. Remove skin from duck; discard. Cut duck legs in half through the joint. Return duck to lamb mixture. Taste and adjust seasoning, if desired.

5. Increase oven temperature to 375°.

6. Stir 2 cans of beans into lamb mixture. Add bacon, sausage, and duck; top mixture with remaining 2 cans of beans. Sprinkle breadcrumbs evenly over top. Cover and cook 1 hour and 10 minutes. Uncover and cook an additional 20 minutes or until browned and bubbly.


Rendering bacon fat in oil.


The meats, ready to go. We have grilled Italian sausage, lamb, and chicken drumsticks.


Browning half the chicken legs in bacon fat and oil. Do not try to hurry this step. You need to do the chicken/duck in two batches because the meat has to be in a single layer and touch the bottom of the pot while browning. And while the meat is cooking, do not stir or move it around. It won’t brown properly. Yes, it takes almost an hour just to brown the chicken. Just pour a glass of wine and go with it.


Half of the browned chicken.


Chicken and lamb after 2.5 hours in the oven. See that gorgeous dark color? That’s because you heeded my warning and didn’t hurry the browning step. Now, here is the one part of the recipe I did hurry along. It says to pull out the chicken/duck, let it sit till tepid, and then remove the skin. Yeah, it was about 6:30 at this point so I just took my chances with the hot chicken. It was falling off the bone, so I just removed the bones along with the skin.


Going back in the oven for the last time.


And finally, here we are. Beautiful, browned cassoulet.


I ate it with a crusty French roll. After all that work, I wasn’t going to make an elaborate side. Mmm mmm good.

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Need a good cry?

Then read this blog. I had to stop reading it a few minutes ago because I was crying. And you know I do not cry easily. The writer lost his wife 27 hours after their daughter was gone. Yeah, it’s that sad. Now I’m going to go check on my sleeping child and call my husband.

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I posted recently about my new favorite food blog, Homesick Texan. A few weeks ago Mason and I made asado from her recipe, and it was amazing. I took pics to document the process. I’m no photographer, but it might entice your taste buds enough to try it. Here’s the recipe:

West Texas Asado (adapted from Mark Flowers)
16 dried ancho chiles
1 large head of garlic (10 cloves or dientes as it’s said in Spanish) the cloves crushed.
3 pounds of boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 tablespoons of lard, bacon grease or peanut oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/2 cup of cilantro, chopped
2 teaspoons of Mexican oregano (or regular oregano if you can’t find Mexican oregano)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Take the chiles and remove stems and seeds (can reserve seeds to spice up asado later). Place chiles in a large bowl, pour warm water over them and then add two crushed cloves of garlic and 1 teaspoon of salt to bowl. Let soak overnight or for eight hours.
2. After chiles have softened, throw out the soaking water (it will be bitter) and place chiles in a blender with 1/2 cup of fresh water. Puree until a thick paste is formed—it should be about four cups of puree.
3. In a saucepan, sauté on medium heat the diced onion in one tablespoon of lard, bacon grease or oil until cooked and starting to brown, about ten minutes. Add the remaining 8 cloves of crushed garlic (about 1/3 cup) and cook for one more minute. Add the chile paste, 1 cup of water, the cilantro, Mexican oregano, salt and pepper.
4. Cook chile sauce on medium heat for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Don’t be alarmed, but it will probably dramatically bubble and heave.
5. Generously salt and pepper pork cubes. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of lard to a disco, Dutch oven or skillet (may do this in batches) and brown meat on all sides.
6. Add chile sauce to meat, and cook covered on low heat for 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
7. Serve topped with cotija or wrapped in flour tortillas.
Serves 8.
Note: When using dried chiles, you want them to be soft and pliable like raisins—this means they’re fresh. If they’re brittle and crumbly, they’re old and not worth the money.

PAY ATTENTION TO THE NOTE ABOVE regarding the dried chiles. This is the second time I’ve made asado, and the first time it was inedible because I got brittle, old chiles. The entire thing tasted dusty. Soooo disappointing, especially since I started the prep the day before. This time we made a special trip to Whole Foods just to get the chiles (for once, HEB let me down).  ALSO, get extra chiles. I needed 24 to make 4 cups of puree. And if you are afraid of spicy food, know that this wasn’t spicy at all. Ancho peppers aren’t really hot to begin with, and once you remove the seeds you remove any discernable heat.

That said, here we go.


The peppers after soaking. I only did it for two hours and they were perfectly fine.


Garlic, cilantro, and pork ready to go.


Stirring cilantro, garlic, and pork into chile paste. About to go in the oven.


The whole mixture just out of the oven.


The finished product. We served the asado on homemade tortillas (homemade by Whole Foods) with black refried beans (both the asado and beans are sprinkled with cotija cheese). Oh, and a margarita on the rocks. Can’t forget the booze.

Anyway, if anyone else tries this let me know what you think. We loved it and will definitely make it again.

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Happy fun time

Ryan discovered the joy of sitting on Daddy’s shoulders. 🙂


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2008 was a crazy year. At least the second half of it. Of course the biggest thing for me was that on June 2, two days before my due date, I became a mom. I learned that maternity leave, while it was a break from going to work, was still a lot of work. I learned that none of my expectations about parenthood were true. And that most of the time, reality was better than what I expected.

Anyway, I generally don’t make New Year resolutions, but I’m going to give it a shot for 2009. I think working at NI has finally managed to infiltrate my personal life and I can’t do anything without setting a goal for it. Here we go:

1. Reach my weight goal. I know everyone says this one. But I’ve lost 37 pounds since Ryan was 4 weeks old so I feel like it’s something I am quite capable of doing in 2009.

2. Find a home church. Preferably something Methodist and not too far from where I live. I’m taking recommendations, if you are in the Austin area.

3. Hang out with more girls. I love my hubby and my baby but mama needs some girl time. I’m not very good about initiating this type of thing so I’m going to work on it this year.

I think that’s it for me. Three’s enough for now. Here’s hoping everyone has a great day and a great year.

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