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Happy Birthday, Ben!

7 Feb

What we ate:

Main course: Wine Braised Pork Chops (from the latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated)

Sides (not pictured): Sweet mashed potatoes w/ butter & maple syrup, and a side salad w/ MIL’s Lime Vinaigrette.

The verdict: Wine braised pork chops were a complete let down! Bland and overcooked.

Ugh, I can’t stand it when this sort of thing happens. More so being that it was Ben’s birthday and having spent 3+ hours in the kitchen on it. I studied the recipe weeks in advance and shopped for the goods at our local Whole Foods. The butcher gave me the wrong cut… twice (I had to drive back to exchange it). I needed shoulder BLADE chops and not a single one of them knew what I was talking about. That may have been the problem. I was limited on time and hurried out of the store with bone-in and what seemed to have a good amount of marbling. Lesson learned. Do not cook something you’ve never made before on a special occasion for the 1st time. I felt awful because his mom and brother also had to endure the tasteless cardboard-like meat. Luckily, they were all sympathetic and greatly appreciative of my efforts. Everything was eaten!

This made up for it…

Beatty’s Chocolate Cake via Ina Garten

You can never go wrong with Ina Garten. She’s my hero… even though the woman is butter-happy (I use less than called for).

All in all, it was a great day. I was exhausted in the end. My dish rack was piled high, the dish washer was full & running, and more dishes were in the sink and on the counter patiently waiting their turn.

I am thankful for:

  1. My understanding boyfriend.
  2. My understanding MIL and BIL (brother in-law)- bless their hearts for finishing their plates.
  3. Our newly revived iRobot vacuum.
  4. My dishwasher- I know a lot of people out there who are without one.
  5. Ina Garten.

Happy 33rd, babe!

Valentine’s Day Chocolate Covered Strawberries

6 Feb


February 14th, 2011: Ben gave me an adorable mini Orchid plant. He also attempted to make me chocolate covered strawberries.

The plant has come into bloom again for the first time since entering our home and it reminded me of those strawberries Ben so thoughtfully made. We don’t really celebrate V-Day but he always finds little ways to make them memorable. Last year, I put in a small request for a couple of those chocolate covered strawberries from Godiva. Ben chanted how easy they were to make at home and offered to whip up a batch for me. I was elated!.. but I should’ve known better. Turns out that he melted chocolate directly inside of a sauce pot and ended up burning most of it. We still laugh about it today. For the most part, they were edible and quite good, actually. Looks were lacking but who was I to judge his skills (back then)?

If you don’t already know, the correct way to melt chocolate is over a double broiler. I don’t own one so I use an improvised one. All you need is a heat proof glass bowl set over simmering water. My version of chocolate covered strawberries does not require any shortening or butter. Just plain melted semi-sweet chocolate & fresh strawberries. And some sliced almonds, if you’d like.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries:

Makes approximately 20-25

Ingredients:

  • Semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli)- 2 cups
  • Fresh strawberries- 20 to 25 medium size. Washed and patted dry with a paper towel. Pull back green stems.

Optional: Crushed/sliced almonds

  1. Melt chocolate chips in a double broiler. If you don’t have one, place a heat proof glass bowl on top of a sauce pot filled with about 1.5″-2″ of water. Pour chocolate chips into bowl and bring water to a simmer over medium heat.
  2. Stir occasionally until all the chocolate chips have melted and then gradually reduce heat to low.
  3. Line a rack with wax paper or parchment paper and set near the stove on the counter.
  4. When the chocolate has completely melted, begin dipping each strawberry 1 at a time.
  5. If you want to roll them in almonds, do so right after dipping in chocolate.
  6. Place gently on lined rack. Continue until all the strawberries are complete.
  7. Cool entire rack in the refrigerator for approximately 10 minutes to allow the chocolate to harden.