Dinner Party

Friday night we hosted some friends for dinner. We haven’t had anyone over for a meal in ages, and were reminded how much we like it! I cooked as G ended up stuck at work until late (he made it home just in time to share the meal). The recipe below for pork tenderloin was excellent. I served it with Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Browned Butter, Roasted Organic Carrots and Orzo Baked with Green Onions and Parmesan.

Prosciutto-wrapped Pork Loin with Salsa Verde
Source: “Everyone Can Cook” by Eric Akis
Serves: 6-8
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 hours

2 1/2 lbs boneless pork loin
black pepper to taste
8 long, paper-thin slices of proscuitto
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup capers, finely chopped
4 anchovy filets, mashed
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season the pork with pepper (no need for salt as the proscuitto adds enough saltiness). Carefully wrap the slices of prosciutto, slightly overlapping them, around the meat. Roast for 75-90 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the center of the thickest part of the roast reaches 165 degrees.

While the pork is roasting, make the salsa verde. Combine the parsley, capers, anchovies, garlic, mustard and vinegar in a bowl. Slowly beat in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and set aside at room temperature.

When the roast is cooked, let it rest for 10 minutes. Slice it thinly and serve the salsa verde alongside.

The Burns Supper

G and I attended a very lavish Burns Supper last night. Robert Burns is the national poet of Scotland and people around the world honor his memory each year on his birthday, January 25th. This Burns Supper is hosted by some lawyer friends with a few Scots thrown in for good measure. It’s held at the Stimson Green Mansion on First Hill and everything is top notch. The whisky selection was extensive, we nibbled on fresh oysters and shrimp, and the meal spared no expense. It included planked salmon, rack of lamb and Cornish hens.

Most everyone in attendance was kilted. It’s not often you see that many men in kilts and I must say, I think G was the most dashing of the lot. The Burns Supper follows a specific program beginning with The Selkirk Grace and then on to a Presentation of the Haggis. Everyone at our table ventured to try the haggis, neeps and tatties and most were surprisingly pleased with the taste. The bulk of the evening is then given over the reciting Burns’ poems, singing songs, and telling a few Scottish jokes. Both G and I prepared poems to recite. Here’s the one I read:

“My Heart’s in the Highlands”

My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart’s in the Highlands a-chasing the deer
A-chasing the wild deer, and following the roe;
My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go.

Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North
The birth place of Valour, the country of Worth;
Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.

Farewell to the mountains high cover’d with snow;
Farewell to the straths and green valleys below;
Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods;
Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods.

My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart’s in the Highlands a-chasing the deer
Chasing the wild deer, and following the roe;
My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go.

Adventures with a Heart Rate Monitor

I decided to take the week off from snowboarding. Instead, G and I went out for a short trail run at Discovery Park this morning. I realized it was my 1st trail run in 6 weeks. We only went for about 45 minutes and it was hard work at times. We ran down along the beach at G’s request. Normally, I’m totally happy to do 2 laps of the ‘loop trail’ but G thinks it’s too boring, Anyway, the beach trail was nice, but it got very windy and rainy when we were there. The rain was so hard it hurt and I had to take me hat off and hold it as the wind was threatening to blow it away.

I wore my heart rate monitor during the run. That thing is great! It told me that I burned 494 calories during our run. G laughed as I did a few jumping jacks at the car- I really wanted to get it to 500! I’m hoping to find some time to mess with the settings this weekend. I still don’t know much about what my target heart rate (or range) should be. Incidentally, I also wore the monitor yesterday while walking on the treadmill. I walked a pretty brisk pace for 45 minutes and burned a stinkin’ 150 calories. What’s the point!!?? My heart rate didn’t exceed 105 during the walk so I guess I wasn’t working hard enough. None of which compares to the supposed calories burned while snowboarding. One of the days it reported nearly 1600 calories burned. My latest Runner’s World magazine proclaims training with a heart rate monitor is ‘in’. Cool.

Go Google!

I have been greatly disturbed over the past few years by the government’s increasing infringement on our privacy. I won’t go on at length about it but I do keep one eye on the developments. It is with no uncertain pleasure that I heard about Google’s latest run-in with the Department of Justice in which they refuse to give up supposedly anonymous search data. The subpoena that was issued to Google was also issued to AOL, Yahoo and Microsoft, all of whom complied with the request. It’s about time someone stood up and challenged the government’s ‘right’ to personal information! Go Google!

Falling into Place

Yesterday G and I dragged our butts out of bed at 6:30 am and headed back to the snowy mountains. It was my 5th day snowboarding and it finally felt the pieces were falling into place. I spent the morning on my own: practicing connecting my turns, riding lifts, and generally getting comfortable. Every week I get a little nervous until I’ve been on the slopes for a while. I guess I don’t have enough confidence in my ability yet to go out without any hesitation.

After lunch, G and I practiced together and did some more difficult runs. We had a few good runs before my legs kind of gave up on me and I had to call it a day. I can tell when I’m starting to get tired because I fall an awful lot more! The only thing that seems to completely elude me is disembarking the chair lifts. I was 0 for 12 (give or take) yesterday in getting off without falling. I’m not sure what I was doing wrong but I know that I need to get a whole lot better at being graceful. Falling down and sliding/hopping on my butt as another round of skiers unloads is starting to get old!

My success for the day: I actually feel like a snowboarder. A REAL snowboarder, albeit not a very good one!

Chocolate Cake Extraordinaire

My Cooking Light Supper Club met last night to make an Asian-inspired meal. We cooked, ate, drank, and chatted the night away. A good time was had by all and we left feeling full and satisfied by the good company. The meal consisted of: Spicy Cucumber Salad with Peanuts, Sour & Spicy Shrimp Soup, Coconut Rice with Beef Stir Fry, and Darjeeling-Chocolate Layer Cake. My favorite thing, by far, was the cake, although the coconut rice was pretty tasty as well. I made the recipe as written except for using oolong in the place of darjeeling. I might add that the cake made an excellent breakfast. I had the remains with a cup of coffee this morning before heading out to snowboard.

Darjeeling-Chocolate Layer Cake
Source: CookingLight.com

CL’s notes: While Darjeeling is a strong black tea, in this cake its flavor is muted so that it enhances the deep chocolate flavor. Sift the cake flour after measuring, not before, to achieve moist, tender results.

Cooking spray
2/3 cup boiling water
6 tablespoons loose Darjeeling tea
2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
2/3 cup boiling water
1/4 cup plain fat-free yogurt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 large egg whites
1 large egg

1/2 cup boiling water
5 tablespoons loose Darjeeling tea
2/3 cup (6 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

Remaining ingredient:
2 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts, toasted

Preheat oven to 350º.
To prepare cake, coat 2 (9-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray; line bottoms of pans with wax paper. Coat wax paper with cooking spray; set aside.

Pour 2/3 cup boiling water over 6 tablespoons tea leaves in a bowl; steep 5 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl; cool to room temperature.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Combine 2/3 cup cocoa and 2/3 cup boiling water, stirring with a whisk. Cool in freezer 10 minutes, and stir in brewed tea, yogurt, and vanilla.

Place granulated sugar, brown sugar, and butter in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add egg whites and egg, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture and brewed tea mixture alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Pour batter into prepared cake pans; sharply tap pans once on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pans. Carefully remove and discard wax paper. Cool completely on wire rack.

To prepare icing, pour 1/2 cup boiling water over 5 tablespoons tea leaves in a bowl; steep 5 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl; cool to room temperature. Place cream cheese in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until fluffy (about 1 minute). Sift together powdered sugar and 1/2 cup cocoa. Gradually add cocoa mixture and 2 1/2 to 3 tablespoons brewed tea to cream cheese. Beat just until smooth. (Do not overbeat or icing will be too thin.) Discard any remaining tea.

Place 1 cake layer on a plate; spread with 1/2 cup icing. Top with another cake layer. Spread remaining icing over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle with hazelnuts. Store cake loosely covered in refrigerator.

Yield: 16 servings (serving size: 1 slice)

CALORIES 305(21% from fat); FAT 7.1g (sat 3.9g,mono 2.3g,poly 0.4g); PROTEIN 4.7g; CHOLESTEROL 29mg; CALCIUM 33mg; SODIUM 212mg; FIBER 2.5g; IRON 1.9mg; CARBOHYDRATE 60.3g

“My Year of Meats”

I finished reading “My Year of Meats” by Ruth Ozeki last week. It took me a few days to process how I felt about it. Both while reading it, and immediately afterwards I was pretty disturbed by the content. It’s a work of fiction, but she deals with a lot of issues relating to the US beef industry and there’s some very upsetting passages.

I don’t have anything terribly profound to say about it. Ultimately, I don’t feel informed enough about the issues she addressed to comment intelligently. My first reaction was to consider giving up meat; beef specifically. But I have no idea if the things she maintains in the book are true or accurate. And without doing any research of my own, it seems like an impulsive thing to do. If I give something up every time I read an article which claims it’s ‘bad’, I’ll be eliminating tons of things from my diet. At the same time, it’s not realistic for me to go around spending my time investigating claims about food to determine their validity.

What it boils down to for me is this: I like not having a lot of dietary restrictions. I think it makes life harder- whether it’s travelling, eating out, visiting friends or whatever. It’s nice to be able to say, “I’ll eat anything!” Do I really eat anything? Of course not. I won’t eat at Taco Bell, I don’t like Cheetos particularly, and I avoid canned vegetables like the plague. I could go on, but you get the idea.

My conclusion is along the lines of what G and I have been discussing for a while, which is buying as locally and seasonally as possible. If that means buying only meat where I can determine the origin, then so be it. Perhaps I’ll only buy natural, organic or free-range meat. (Note to self: find out EXACTLY what those terms mean). I can only do this to a certain extent- not every grocery store lists the origin of it’s meat on the package! But our closest supermarket does, in fact, do this for much of the meat sold. In general, I think I’m probably going to eat a lot less beef for now. And when I do start buying it again, I hope to be able to do so consciously.