Chicken Breasts with Orzo, Carrots, Dill, and Avgolemono Sauce

Chicken Breasts with Orzo, Carrots, Dill and Avgolemono Sauce from Food & Wine magazine
(click here for recipe)
Another dinner that I brought to my brother and sister-in-law, who have a brand new cutie patootie baby.
I actually tripled the recipe that night and also brought dinner to my friend, S., and her family, as S. has been ill. We also had it for dinner at our house. I was looking for something that would be kid-friendly and fairly universally appealing (nothing too strange, unfamiliar or exotic), since I was making it for so many different people. It was a big job (cooking for 12 people!), but this recipe was actually simpler than it seems.
The only modification that I made was to toast the orzo (in a large skillet, over medium-high heat with a TINY bit of olive oil, just until golden-toasty brown, stirring frequently so that it browns evenly) before cooking it. Doing this adds a wonderful, nutty flavor to the finished dish. I really can’t imagine why the instructions skipped this step, because I always do that when I cook orzo. In my mind, it’s not optional. Oh, and I also cut the carrots into “coins,” rather than matchsticks. Here’s a photo of the orzo, pre and post-toasting:
This dinner was quite yummy and definitely something that I will make again. It was a hit for all of the recipients, as well. The avgolemono (basically, just Greek lemon sauce, thickened with egg) sauce was delicious and would be good over asparagus, too. My only issue with the recipe is that because the chicken is simmered for a while in a covered pot, it was a bit difficult to judge when it was done. I have a digital thermometer with a probe that can be attached that will beep to alert you when your food has reached the desired pre-set temperature and it was very helpful in cooking the chicken. When I make this again, however, I might brown the chicken in the pan and then finish it in the oven (again, with the assistance of the thermometer,) just to be sure that the chicken doesn’t overcook and get tough or stringy.

Dorie Greenspan’s Ricotta-Berry Muffins

These muffins are absolutely delectable. They are a tiny bit “fussier” than regular muffin recipes (some very specific batter-mixing instructions, no liquid, such as milk), but the tops are crusty and buttery, while the insides are moist and tender. They have delicious, rich flavor and are a great way to use up the rest of a container of ricotta that you might hve on hand from something else. Yum. I will definitely be making these again. I used lemon zest, instead of lemon, because was what I had on hand at the time and I also sprinkled about 1/4 tsp of coarse sanding sugar on top of each muffin before baking, to add a little extra sweetness and crunch. The batter, at least for me, turned out VERY thick (almost crumbly), so I just sort of packed it into the muffin tins and hoped for the best, but they turned out great.

Martinez Cocktail

I gave this cocktail a try recently. It looked appealing, because I am developing an unhealthy fascination with really like gin. The maraschino (I used Luxardo brand) liqueur was a little difficult to find, but I eventually found it at Spec’s. This was okay, but it didn’t dazzle me, in fact, I didn’t even finish it. I’m discovering that, for me, gin isn’t meant to be sweet. I like it with really good quality olives as a salty, savory drink and haven’t really found a sweet gin cocktail that I like yet. This cocktail may be enough to finally convince me to stop trying. If, however, you like gin and you like sweet drinks, this might be just the thing for you. I did find the history of the drink interesting (click recipe link to read it); it’s hard to imagine this drink as a martini precursor/namesake (since, in my opinion, the martini is vastly superior), but interesting, nonetheless.

Placebo Mocktail

Before my brother and sis-in-law’s baby shower, we had my brother and sister-in-law over for dinner one night and printed out a bunch of “mocktail” recipes, got a bunch of different juices and ingredients and had a great big taste test. The kids had friends over that night, so everybody got to join in the taste-testing fun. I wanted the Mom-to-be (and any other non-dipsomaniacs) to have something tasty and fun to drink (without alcohol, of course), so I let her choose which one she liked best. She ended up choosing this drink, which we served at the party (it requires a bit of prep, but can easily be made up ahead of time, so is great for a party, just add the seltzer at the last minute), but there were lots of others that we didn’t end up trying on our “taste test” night that I’ve had (set aside in my ever-expanding “Make Soon” folder) ever since. I decided to make this one for the kids tonight, in part to assuage my guilt at turning down Boy’s incessant after-school Jamba Juice requests*.
So, anyway…we decided to try The Placebo mocktail tonight, as a special treat for Boy. The kids LOVED this and it was pretty easy. The only hitch is that you have to have the Monin Granny Smith apple syrup on hand; I don’t really think there’s a substitute (except possibly another flavor – orange? pomegranate? of Monin syrup). There are lots of restaurant supply places and larger grocery stores that carry the Monin syrups, so you might be able to pick it up, depending upon where you live (don’t know if you can get it in Korea, Trish, but I’ll send you some if you want), but I ordered it (in preparation for the taste test) online.
* It’s not that I really have anything personal against Jamba Juice, but there are a few things that bug me about the place:
1) The smallest size drink that they offer is 16 ounces. That’s just ridiculous. No one should be drinking that much super-sweetened juice/yogurt/whatever in one sitting. If you do, it should count for a meal, in my opinion. C’mon…couldn’t you offer an 8 ounce size for kids or people with smaller appetites? My kids never finish a whole one (not that I would want them to!), but I feel so guilty asking them (as I do sometimes) to agree on a single flavor, so that they can split one. It’s not the money that I mind so much when I buy two whole ones, but it just seems so wasteful to buy two whole drinks, knowing that each of them will only be half-consumed.
2) Styrofoam cups? Really? It’s 2009, folks. I know that “styrofoam keeps them colder”, etc, but if you are drinking it in a timely fashion, you can drink it out of a paper or recyclable plastic cup and it will stay cold enough for plenty of time…
3) I can make my kids a smoothie at home (I *always* have plenty of frozen fruit, juice, milk, yogurt, etc. on hand) in minutes, with better (and organic) ingredients, for MUCH cheaper, with a washable glass. Just kinda irks me to buy it, knowing that I have ripe bananas (individually wrapped, thankyouverymuch) in my freezer at home.
Hmmm…in reading this, maybe I *do* have something personal against Jamba Juice…but, the kids love it and so I sometimes cave…