Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas with the family

I am a bit late posting this, but it has been a busy couple of weeks. I spent a few days with my southern family in Atlanta. Warmer weather and great company. One of the many highlights was a visit to TG's kindergarten class. Grandma Marilyn read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' to the kids. Great fun. Lots of big eyes. The holiday service at Parkway Baptist Church was lovely, especially watching TG in the children's choir. She takes after her Grandma in her love of singing. Lunch with Don and Carole Guffey after service was fun with lots of catching up.

Visited my northern family in Middleton for a couple of days as well. As always the holiday service was very special. Lots of traditional holiday music. A very nice church is St. Luke's. Since we are all foodies, our meals were excellent. Christmas Eve after church, we feasted on Chris's clam chowder and Mary's cheese biscuits. A good way to end the day. Christmas dinner (as always) was a foodie paradise. We were joined by Mary's parents, Larry and Loretta. Here's what was on Chris and Mary's Table:

Macadamia Nut-Crusted Goat Cheese and Crackers
Pepperoni and Asiago Pinwheels
Italian Beef Rib Roast, with Parsnips and Roasted Potatoes
Broccoli and Cauliflower Gratin
Carrots with Lime and Toasted Pecans
Rice Pudding with Raisins and Caramel Sauce

We certainly got our 5 vegetables in today. Not often that happens. A movie for the late afternoon and good conversation. I look forward to my New Years table. You will notice a 'lightening' of meals on my table in the coming year. I look forward to 2011 being a Happy Healthy New Year for us all.

Hope you like my new graphic. I plan to have it change with the seasons. Thank you Chris. I love it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Weather Outside is REALLY Frightful....

It's been a snowy, windy couple of days. Not a lot of snow but enough ice to make walking and driving a challenge. Definitely not a time to be outside for any length of time. It was a perfect weekend for holiday baking. My table this week is primarily covered with cookies. I do, however, have an interesting supper. Here is what is on the table:

Grilled Beer Brats over Braised Brussels Sprouts and Shallots

Brownie Bourbon Balls
Grandma Miller's Sugar Cookies
Red Velvet Sandwich Cookies
Peppermint Bars

Spinach Artichoke Pasta Salad

I love Brussels Sprouts. I know I'm in the minority, but it all depends on how they are prepared. I grilled two beer brats and then sauteed deconstructed sprouts (outer leaves removed and tossed with the core cut in half)and sliced shallots in the drippings. A bit of beef broth is added and covered until the sprouts are cooked. The brats are sliced and tossed with the vegetables. A warm filling comfort meal.

The cookies are some I have always made and others I have not. Th brownie bourbon balls were new. A pan of brownies is baked and cooled. They are then broken up and
processed with a few tablespoons of bourbon. When it comes together I used a small ice cream scoop and made balls. They are rolled is chopped toasted pecans and set out to firm up. They smell fabulous, hope they taste the same.

It would not be the holiday's if there were no sugar cookies. It's a simple butter cookie recipe dropped by small balls and baked. While still warm they are sprinkled with red and green sugars. Festive and great with a cup of tea or hot cider.

I have made red velvet cookies before and they are always well received. This time instead of spreading the cream cheese frosting on top, I spread on the bottom of one and covered it with another cookies to make a sandwich. I sampled one and am pleased with the change.

The peppermint bars are 'semi-homemade' A roll of sugar cookie dough is pressed into the bottom of a pan and partially baked. Then mini marshmallows are spread over the top and white chocolate chips are added. The dough is returned to the oven for a few minutes until the marshmallows are puffed. When it comes out of the oven, crushed peppermint candies are sprinkled over the top and the pan is cooled. Bars are cut into squares. These are excellent and quite sweet. Small bars are best.

I am particularly excited with the pasta salad. It is our library potluck tomorrow and instead of a sweet, I decided on the salad. Have not made it before, but I think it will be enjoyed by all. It's pretty much vegetarian. Chopped artichokes, roasted red pepper, red onion and chopped baby spinach. Cheese filled spinach tortellini are cooked and cooled and added to the vegetables. A dressing of lemon, garlic, lemon zest red wine vinegar and EVOO is tossed with the pasta mixture. I had a small bowl and am happy with it. Will make it again when I need to bring for a crowd.

I will be away visiting family in Atlanta next week so I will be back Christmas weekend. I have my own graphic artist so look for some additions to my blog. Have a happy and safe holiday. Bon Appetite!!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The First Snowfall of the Winter...

The first snowfall is always something to behold. The trees on the property and around the lake take on a frosted appearance. It continued to snow on my drive to campus for the Empty Bowls event. Always a good time to celebrate birthdays. Campus, being in a forest preserve, looks almost like a black and white photo. It never ceases to take my breath away. Arriving back at home it was time to start my meal for the table. Cold and snow bring out the crock pot for some comfort food. This week the table holds:

Wine Braised Brisket with Carrots and Onions
Baby Greens with Pistachio Vinaigrette, Beets and Feta Cheese
Herb Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

The brisket is browned well on all sides and set aside so that onions and garlic can be caramelized. The meat is put back in the pot with red wine, beef broth, rosemary, quartered carrots, tomato paste and seasonings. It cooks about 3 hours until meat is easily shredded.

The fingerling potatoes were tossed with EVOO and Italian seasonings. Because they are small roasting time is about 30 minutes.

The salad is very colorful and an interesting mix of flavors. The vinaigrette is EVOO, lemon juice, garlic, Dijon mustard and seasonings. Chopped pistachios are added and tossed with the cooked sliced beets to marinate. At serving time, Feta cheese is added to the beets and tossed with baby greens. Chopped pistachios are used for garnish. The sweetness of the beets pairs well the Feta. A fine compliment for the richness of the brisket.

A small bowl of red grapes with a cup of tea finished off the table.

Next week begins preparations for Christmas. So I expect some baking will take center stage. That will leave, on the table, a meal of something quick and easy. Perhaps a pot of chili and cornbread.

Have a great week. Keep warm!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thanksgiving Week at the Table

It's hard to believe Thanksgiving is this week. A three day work week means lots to get done so I can leave early on Thursday for dinner with the Wisconsin Family. I thought that because I have lots to do, I would prepare a table that would lend to reheating during the week. Here is the table:

Caesar Salad on Flatbread
Tamale Pie
Lemon pudding in Puff Pastry Shell

I've said before I'm not much into baking, but the recipe for the flat bread sounded simple enough. Flour, salt, a bit of oil and water in the processor until the dough starts to come away from the sides. Form into a ball and roll out on a lightly floured surface. It is a free from shape, good thing because is certainly was oddly shaped. Lay it on a baking sheet and lightly brush with EVOO. It baked up nicely and was very crispy. The salad was chopped romaine lettuce dressed with EVOO, lemon juice, a bit of mayo and seasonings. Tossed with the salad is grated Parmesan cheese. The salad is spread on the flatbread which is still warm. I really liked this; a different and unusual way to have salad and 'bread'. I see this with chili, stew and lots of soups.

The tamale pie is a simple one dish preparation. In a large skillet ground turkey is browned and mixed with pinto beans, sliced black olives, chopped green chilies, chili powder and a jar of salsa. While this heats through corn meal and more chili powder is cooked with water until thickened. It is spooned over the meat mixture and topped with shredded cheddar cheese. The dish is heated in the oven until cheese melts. The recipe says it reheats in a microwave...we shall see as it will be dinner most nights this week.

I have not used puff pastry in years, but this sounded easy and looked very pretty in the cookbook. The shells are baked until puffed and browned. The lemon curd is cooked atop the stove until thickened. The whites that are not used in the curd are whipped with a bit of sugar and lemon zest is folded in. The meringue is spread on top of the curd filled shell and put back into the oven to brown. A very pretty presentation and quite simple. I love lemon curd...not too sweet!

My offering at the table on Thursday are 2 appetizers and.....GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE. I love the stuff. It would not be a holiday with out it.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving to all my FB friends. I expect next week will be a lower calorie table.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Blast from the Past

This week has had several days of R & R in Galena Illinois, one of my favorite places. Thank you to Fran and Brian at Aldrich Guest House for your hospitality and great company. I will be back. Dinner out is always a delight and I will recreate my dinner at Fried Green Tomatoes at a later date.

I think one of my first restaurant orders as a young adult was trout almondine and it was part of my table this week:

Trout Almondine
Corn and Couscous Salad
Black Forest Brownie Pecan Tart

Whole Foods had very nice looking trout this week and preparing it lightly cooked in butter and oil. A toasted almond topping with orange zest was a good addition. Love trout.

The salad was a new combination I found in a Martha Stewart cookbook. Not one of my favorites as her recipes tend to be a bit over the top. This was sauteed onion, diced jalapeno, garlic and corn. This mixed with couscous steamed in hot broth. Tossed with cilantro and seasoned. I really enjoyed this served at room temperature or hot.

I'm not much for desserts, but I do have some favorites. I love pecan pie and black forest cake. This dessert is a smaller combination of both. The pecan pie has melted chocolate added and baked in a graham cracker tart crust. A cherry pie filling is spooned over the top and a squirt of whipping cream makes it a festive dessert. Will keep this in mind for the future.

The soup for the week is Watercress-Cauliflower soup. Onion and cauliflower are simmered in broth with seasonings and watercress is stirred in at the end. When cooled slightly it is pureed in a blender. Served with chopped chives. Simple and quite good.

Next week is a puzzle and will be a surprise for us all. Stay Tuned!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Return of the Salmon

In 2008 when I began this project, my first table featured poached salmon. It was awful. A huge waste of a lovely piece of fish. I bought an equally nice piece of wild salmon and fixed it two ways on this weeks table. The results were far different from the last. Here is what was on my table.

Paper Wrapped Salmon
Potato-Gruyere Gratin

Grilled Salmon Gyros
Cucumber-Pomegranate Salad

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup with Cider Cream

Cooking fish of any kind in parchment paper is a favorite process of mine. The salmon is seasoned and covered with strips of Zucchini, yellow squash and black beans. A broth of white wine and soy sauce is drizzled over the vegetables and a pat of butter on top. The paper is folded tightly to form a packet. Baked on a cookie sheet for about 20 minutes. The packet is carefully opened and the fish is served in the paper. This was a recipe I will use again with perhaps some other fish. The salmon is a excellent choice.

The side for this was a gratin of thinly sliced, partially cooked cauliflower and potatoes. They are layered in a casserole with half of the grated Gruyere and milk is poured over. Top with the remaining cheese and bake about 30 minutes. Great taste, but rather bland looking. Perhaps some green herbs would have been a good choice.

The second half of the salmon is marinated with garlic, hot pepper flakes, EVOO, lemon zest and juice. It is then grilled and broken into smaller pieces. I don't care for pita bread as a receptacle for anything, so I used a warmed flour tortilla in it's place. A tomato onion salad and yogurt cucumber dill sauce is spooned over the salmon and rolled up. Excellent! I really like this concept and was pleased with how it turned out.

I made a salad to go with it. Thinly sliced cucumber, fennel and Granny Smith apple are dressed with a dressing of lemon juice, zest, EVOO and white wine vinegar and S&P. Fresh pomegranate seeds are sprinkled over the top. A good choice with the rolled gyro.

The soup this week is a puree of cooked butternut squash, leeks, carrots, celery and Granny smith apple. The broth is chicken with apple cider and herbs. A garnish of cider cooked down to thicken and then sour cream stirred in. A spoon over the soup is with some fried sage leaves.

All in all I was quite pleased with the table. It was a bit of a challenge because my disposal died on Saturday and there is about 3 inches of vegetable peelings and water in the sink. Cooking without the use of the sink is something I don't want to experience again. Hopefully it will be fixed by next week.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Beyond Jack O Lantern and Pie

I have used pumpkin in many ways this year more than ever before. I try to use more colorful foods in my diet and pumpkin is very colorful. This weeks has been part of that project.

Roasted Brats with Apple Chutney
Stuffed Pumpkin
Ginger-Pumpkin Souffle

The brats were a recipe that was part of the demonstration at the Food Wine Experience last week. The brats are browned and placed upon a bed of apples, onions, garlic, salt, brown sugar, red wine vinegar, red pepper flakes, mustard seeds, and slivers of fresh ginger and roasted. This is a great recipe for brats. The chutney is an excellent addition.

The stuffed pumpkin was an new experience for me. Have read about them often, but this the first time I have done one. The hardest part was cleaning out the pumpkin. I should have made a larger opening, but it worked out OK. Salt and pepper the inside of the cleaned out pumpkin. In a bowl I mixed dried bread cubes, Gruyere cheese cubes, diced garlic cloves, cooked bacon and mushrooms, green onion slices, and thyme. Cream and nutmeg is poured over the mixture inside the pumpkin and baked. It came out super. I loved the flavors with the pumpkin and was a great and delicious show piece.

The souffle was also a great addition. It was calorie conscious and very good. Soy milk was used with fresh ginger, eggs and canned pumpkin. The process is much as other souffles. The baked souffle is lovely and I sprinkled the toasted seeds from the pumpkin on top.

This was a pumpkin celebration and most enjoyable. We shall see what next week brings. No soup today since I have a lot leftover from last week.

Have a great autumn week and keep warm.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Kohler Food and Wine Experience 2010

This weekend was the tenth Food Wine Experience in Kohler Wisconsin. The event is held at The American Club and the surrounding area. The Inn and Shops at Woodlake also host seminars and chef cooking demonstrations. A vendor marketplace is available for visitors to sample and purchase a variety of foods. I attended two demonstrations by Food Network chefs Anne Burrell and Aida Mollenkamp. Both were entertaining and informative. The food on my table on Sunday was shown on Anne Burrell's show 'Secrets of a Restaurant Chef'

Pork Kebabs with Romesco Sauce
String Bean and Potato Salad

Pork loin is cut in cubes and marinated in cumin, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, garlic, lemon and EVOO. The cubes are put on skewers and grilled. The meat is removed from the skewers and served on the sauce.

Romesco sauce is a cooked mixture of EVOO, garlic, red pepper flakes, tomatoes, piqauillo peppers, bread, almonds, saffron, vinegar, and parsley. The mixture is processed until smooth and spooned on the plate with the pork on top.

The bean potato salad can be made well ahead of time and served at room temperature. Red potatoes and garlic are boiled in salted water until fork tender. The potatoes are cut in half and tossed with cooked green beans. The dressing is vinegar, EVOO, slivered kalamata olives, oregano and sliced scallions.

This meal presents a very pretty plate. The red of the sauce with the browned pork cubes. The glossy potatoes, bright green beans and kalamata olives add to the color palate.

The recipes from the demonstrations will appear here in later entries. Braised chicken thighs and bratwurst with chutney style apples.

The soup this week is a chicken, vegetable, rice soup. Simple and filling, this will make for great lunches with rice crackers and fruit.

Monday, October 18, 2010

"Chicken, Chicken, Chicken"

A beautiful sunny weekend and the smell of roasting chicken. Doesn't get better than that. A busy week ahead so I needed to be sure I prepared something that could be used in other ways in other dishes. Here is what's on the table.

Perfect Roast Chicken
Smashed Potatoes and Broccoli
Baked Pears with Pumpkin Cream and Cinnamon-Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Soba Noodle Soup

The chicken is very simple. A lemon is cut in quarters and placed in the cavity along with a head of garlic cut in half and sprigs of thyme. Vegetables are layered in the bottom of the roasting pan; carrots, onion, and fennel. The chicken is placed on the vegetables and brushed with melted butter. The skin turns a warm shade of brown during roasting and the juices cook into the vegetables.

The potato dish was a pleasant surprise. The recipe called for Yukon gold potatoes but I chose to use sweet potatoes which are cut in cubes and cooked in salted water. After about 20 minutes, broccoli florets are added to the potatoes. The potato/broccoli mix is drained and milk, a bit of butter are added, then the mixture is mashed. Salt and pepper to taste. An excellent dish and it reheated very well this evening.

Pears are in season and I really like Bosc. Pears are cut in half the long way, the stem and seeds are removed. Riesling, honey, cinnamon stick and a bay leaf are poured over the top and basted several times during baking. The filling was a mixture of cream cheese, pumpkin and whipped cream. I toasted pumpkin seeds with cinnamon, sugar and a bit of butter and these were sprinkled over the top. A nice ending to the meal.

The soup this week used some of the leftover chicken. Chicken broth is the base with slices of ginger root and soy sauce. Soba noodles are added and cooked until tender. Then the shredded chicken is stirred into the broth. In a bowl a mixture of coleslaw mix, snow peas and scallions covers the bottom. The hot soba noodle broth is poured over the vegetables. Have not made this kind of soup before, but it is very good and will make for some great lunches this week

The rest of the chicken will be part of an apple, pecan salad later in the week.

I will be attending the Food-Wine festival in Kohler Wisconsin next weekend so my food on Sunday will likely be simple. I have been to the festival before and enjoyed the demonstrations and market place.

Have a good week and enjoy the foods of the harvest.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

On a Mission....

This weekend I thought I would begin a mission of searching for recipes for the cold winter months ahead. They will be prepared on weekends and reprised during the week. I am a huge fan of meatloaf and risotto and tried the first of what I expect will be several recipes for each. Also a recipe for soup to take to work during the cold weather to come. Here is what was on my table:

Pork-and-Pumpkin Chili
Creamy Baked Pumpkin Risotto
Meatloaf with Tomato Relish

The chili is a bit labor intensive, but was worth all the chopping and simmering. I worked with 2 ingredients I have not used before; poblano peppers and mustard greens. Pork shoulder is an inexpensive and flavorful cut of meat requiring a lot of trimming to cut into cubes which are simmered in Mexican beer and water, skimming off surface foam. Diced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, and dried oregano are stirred in. Chopped tomatoes, onions and the poblano are sauteed in oil in a skillet with salt and pepper. More oregano, chili powder and garlic are added as is a can of pumpkin. This is added to the simmering pork for 30 minutes. Add the chopped mustard greens and simmer until they are tender. The chili is served with a dollop of a sour cream/pumpkin mixture and a lime wedge. It does have a bit of a bite to it but I expect will become a cold weather favorite.

Risotto is an easy enough preparation, but requires careful attention. The addition of hot broth to the rice cannot be ignored or all will be lost. I found a risotto recipe that is prepared in the oven. Broth, arborio rice, diced butternut squash, canned pumpkin, diced onion, salt, and pepper are stirred together in a baking dish. The dish is covered in foil and put in the oven for about 35 minutes. The foil is lifted a couple of times during the baking and the mixture stirred. When most of the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked, it is removed from the oven and grated cheese, cream cheese, EVOO and chopped herbs are added. I used the last of the basil from my herb garden. The dish is very pretty to look at and yummy. I can think of other combinations of vegetables, etc. to use in place of the squash and pumpkin. Another winner!

I think there are as many meatloaf recipes out there as there are people who love it. Everyone has their own favorite. The one I chose is a bit different in that a tomato relish is prepared, cooled and about half is mixed with the meats. The relish is made of tomatoes, onion, garlic, red bell pepper and chopped flat leaf parsley. After the mixture is cooked and the vegetables are softened, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper are added. Stir the relish into equal parts of ground chuck and pork, eggs, dry thyme, milk soaked bread, salt and pepper. A loaf is formed and placed on a rack on a cookie sheet. The rack keeps the meatloaf from sitting in the fat that will come out during cooking. More relish is spooned over the top and strips of bacon are laid lengthwise over the relish on the top. Bake until thermometer registers 155 degrees in the center. Cool slightly and slice. I am not sure I will need to try any other recipes. This one really rocks!

I am very pleased with this table and will proceed with my mission of discovering foods that can be prepared ahead and used again, perhaps in other forms. Leaves more time for reading and other indoor activities.

Have a good week and I hope you try some of these during the cold weather. Bon Appetit.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

An Apple a day.....

A gorgeous autumn weekend! Apple Fest in Long Grove and my annual apple cider donut. Also a couple of bags of apples. Apple sauce and more!! The table this week is all about apples.

Apple Onion Soup in the slow cooker with Cinnamon Cheese toasts
Apple Potato Salad
Crab/apple Cakes
Apple Bread Pudding Cake

Some of this table was a bit of a disappointment and some a wonderful surprise!

French onion soup has been a restaurant favorite for years. This recipe adds diced apple and cinnamon. The onion, apple and garlic are simmered in a slow cooker with beef stock, white wine, apple cider, herbs and seasonings. The French bread toasts are dusted with cinnamon, covered with shredded Gruyere cheese and baked on the soup in the oven. A great change from the usually salty French variety.

The apple potato salad was a lot of chopping and preparing and a bit of a disappointment. Idaho potatoes are diced and sauteed with onion, garlic, diced fresh ginger and slivered almonds. Apples and butter are added and cooked until apples are softened. A dressing of mayo, sour cream, diced apple, onion. lemon juice, Parmesan cheese and capers is mixed and tossed with the warm potato mixture. Was nice but a bit flat considering the ingredients. It just needed something to perk it up. Will need to think about what that might be.

The crab cakes were a mixture of crab, lemon juice, herbs, diced granny Smith apples, Panko bread crumbs and salt and pepper. I think an egg would have been a good addition and helped to hold the cake together. They did fall apart when sauteing them. The flavors were great and at $15 for 12 ounces, I would have eaten them anyway.

The star of the table was Apple Bread Pudding Cake. Apple sauce (made on Saturday from the Apple Fest apples), lemon zest, cinnamon and dried cranberries (the recipe called for raisins, but I don't care for them so I substituted the cranberries) I also substituted the cinnamon raisin bread with Cinnabon Cinnamon bread slices and dipped the slices in milk, egg yolks and melted butter. The dipped bread slices are layered with the applesauce mixture and baked. When the egg mixture is set the top is spread with apricot preserves and the egg whites are whipped with a bit of sugar and spread over the top put back in the oven until the meringue is browned and lovely. I can see this as a brunch dish or a morning meal before preparing a big holiday menu.

All in all a pretty successful apple celebration. Have a great week and will think about what to do next weekend.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A nip in the air....

This weekend it finally felt like autumn had arrived. Cool Temperatures and some color change in the trees. The lake is covered with Canada Geese on their way south for the winter. It brought to mind warm comfort food. I have wanted to look into pasta sauces and not use the over salted sauces in jars. This week I played with a red sauce with meat.

Pasta sauce two ways
Zucchini Fritters
Mascarpone Polenta

Recently I read a book "The School of Essential Ingredients" It's a story of 8 people taking cooking classes in a restaurant. Each chapter focuses on one of the characters and the recipe they learn. Tom did a pasta sauce that worked for me. The sauce begins with sauteing onion and garlic in oil and chicken broth. The meat mix I used was 1/3 pound each ground chuck, pork and lamb. Once the meat is browned milk is added and cooked until absorbed into the meat. Next comes red wine, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce and seasonings. The sauce simmers for 2 hours and then tossed with penne pasta and Parmesan. An excellent and easy meat sauce. I expect it will be repeated in a number recipes over the winter. In a couple of weeks I plan to work on a meatless sauce.

I used the meat sauce over the polenta and it too was very successful. The polenta is corn meal cooked into a boiling mixture of water, milk and EVOO. As it thickens pepper, heavy cream and mascarpone are added. When it thickens finely chopped rosemary is added. Have not made polenta with mascarpone, but will again. The cheese gives the polenta a nice smooth texture.

The unexpected star of the weekend was the zucchini fritters. I had the reminder of a large zucchini that I wanted to use. Grated with the liquid squeezed out the zucchini is mixed with mint, dill, green onion, garlic, black pepper and feta cheese. An egg and a bit of flour are added. The batter is sauteed in a bit of oil until browned on both sides. Drain on paper towels and served with Tzatziki sauce from last week (it keeps well in the refrigerator). I can guarantee that with the garlic in the fritters and the Tzatziki, there will be no vampires in your house!!

Next week is Apple Fest in Long Grove so I plan on apple recipes for the weekend. Have a couple in mind. Until then, have a great week!!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Surf and Turf at Marilyn's Table

Surf and Turf has become an restaurant staple. However, the surf and turf's change depending where you are. I think mine is pretty unusual. Here goes!!

Grilled Grouper
Marinated Lamb Shoulder Chops with Tzatziki
Arugula, Orange and Feta Salad
Stewed Chick Peas with Tomatoes and Zucchini
Strawberries in warm caramel with salted nuts

First of all I did not prepare this all at one meal. I fixed the grouper on Saturday and the lamb on Sunday. The remaining dishes were spread out over the two days.

First, Saturday: the Grouper. I love this fish, but is is not always available. When I saw that Fresh Market had it, I could not wait to pick it up. It was unusually good looking (I have another piece in the freezer for later) The preparation is south Louisiana, with Emeril's Essence. Melted butter, garlic, Parmesan and Emeril's Essence are brushed over the grouper on a hot grill pan. Cooking time is roughly 15 minutes. At the last minute sprinkle with fresh herbs, tarragon, thyme, and basil.

Next is Sunday. The lamb chop is marinated overnight in lemon, oregano, dill, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and EVOO. Grill for 2 - 3 minutes per side.

As good as the two entrees are, the sides are very special. Tzatziki is favorite of mine; not only on lamb, but on vegetables and in sandwiches:

English cucumber, coarsely grated, Greek yogurt, garlic, white wine vinegar, dill and mint. A pinch of Kosher salt completes the sauce. Chill overnight in the refrigerator.

The Chick pea stew is excellent. Drained chick pea are cooked with cumin, fennel, crushed red pepper tomatoes and zucchini. Definitely something to be repeated.

The salad of Arugula, baby spinach, orange segments and dressing was a great accompaniment to both the fish and the lamb. Dressing of Dijon mustard, orange juice, white wine vinegar, EVOO and salt and pepper.

I'm not big on dessert, but the strawberries looked sooo good. Dipped in warm caramel and rolled in chopped salted nuts...YUM!

The end of October I will be going to Kohler Wisconsin for the Food Wine show. Chef Anne Burrell from the Food Network will do a demonstration. The Lamb, Chick Pea Salad and Tzatziki recipes are hers. I look forward to seeing what she brings to her table. Never trust a skinny cook especially with great hair!

Have a great week and will see what I come with up next week.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Lazy Labor Day

Today will be a lazy one for me. I have cooked for the last two days and will enjoy leftovers today. Over the last few years I have watched several television chefs prepare pulled pork. There are several ways to prepare it; slow roasted or slow cooked in a crock pot. I chose the slow roasting method. Here is what is on my table:

Pulled Pork
Eastern and Western Carolina Sauces
Butternut Squash Slider Biscuits
Broccoli Cole Slaw
Butternut Squash Cole Slaw with Honey Goat Cheese Dressing

The pork shoulder was about 4 pounds. It is rubbed with a mixture of chili powder, cumin, light brown sugar, onion powder and cayenne pepper. Then wrapped in plastic and refrigerated overnight. Oven temperature is 275 degrees and the meat is placed on a rack and roasted for about 6 hours. The outside forms a very nice crust and the meat is easily pulled apart with 2 forks.

There are three Carolina barbecue sauces; all vinegar based. I prepared 2 of them. The Eastern Carolina sauce uses juices from the pork, white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, dark brown sugar, sweet smoked paprika, a few dashes of hot sauce, salt and pepper. The Western Carolina sauce adds organic ketchup to the basic vinegar ingredients. Another variation uses prepared mustard in place of the ketchup.

The slider biscuits are a basic buttermilk biscuit with cinnamon and cooked butternut squash added. The size of the biscuit was a perfect way to try the two sauces over the shredded meat and slaw.

The broccoli slaw is very simple and very tasty. Put a bag of broccoli slaw in a large bowl. Crush a package of Ramen Noodles (Oriental variety) and saute the noodles in a skillet with butter and slivered almonds. The dressing is canola oil, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar and the seasoning packet from the noodles. Toss the sauteed noodles, dressing and broccoli slaw together. Serve with chopped green onions on top. This went very well with the pork and sauce on the biscuit.

The butternut squash slaw was new for me. Butternut squash is a favorite of mine, but I have never eaten it raw. Peeled the neck (I used the bottom cooked in the biscuits) and cut it in strips using a mandoline. The dressing is goat cheese, honey, EVOO, apple cider vinegar and lemon juice. A little salt and pepper and then tossed with the squash. Stir in dried cranberries and toasted walnuts. This slaw was better as a side rather than on the sandwich.

All in all a great table with leftovers for today and some dinners this week. For today it is book time. Later on a movie and a visit to the book store. A very labor less day for me.

Until next time, Bon Appetite or Happy Cooking or whatever works for you.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Taking a Break

I will be taking a hiatus for a bit. I have some issues that need my undivided attention. So Bye for Now but I will be back.....

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Treasures from the Gulf

This week has been odd in that the power was out for almost 48 hours this weekend. Needless to say, that did put a damper on my food plans. I usually spread out the food and cooking over two days, Saturday and Sunday. However, since only Sunday was available, I split up the menu and will prepare the rest next week. My plans were to use some of the wonderful seafood from the Gulf. Most of it is still readily available and safe to eat. This week I prepared:

Ginger-Soy-Lime Marinated Gulf Shrimp
Crayfish Stuffed Tomatoes
Strawberry Beignets

Whole Foods had Gulf shrimp that were very fresh and very large. A marinade of shallots, fresh ginger, garlic, soy sauce, lime juice, sugar, green onions, black pepper and EVOO is blended and the shrimp marinated for 25 minutes. Then they are grilled for about 3 minutes per side until pink and cooked through. The marinade was great on the shrimp and I expect would pair well with other seafood. Shrimp could be eaten hot or cold. Messy but good!

I really enjoyed the stuffed tomatoes. A mixture of cooked crayfish, basil, a bit of mayo, Dijon mustard, lemon juice and Creole seasonings is placed in a hollowed out tomato, chilled and eaten on a lettuce leaf. I could have eaten the filling alone in a bowl with a spoon. Yum!

The Beignets were an interesting challenge. If you've been to New Orleans and had them at Cafe DuMonde with coffee/chicory au lait, you know how light and lovely they are. I can't imagine how they make them all so uniform, like small pillows with powder sugar sprinkled over them. Mine looked like mutant amoebas I remember from sophomore biology class. They were tasty however and I found a strawberry dipping sauce that went well.

Although abbreviated, this week was successful and hopefully the entree and salad will be the same next week. Enjoy the week and happy eating.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Born Family Reunion

My family has had a reunion every (well almost every) June for many years. The original Born's were three sisters and one brother and their spouses. This year 2010 we only have two sisters left. One sister (my Mom) and her brother and their spouses are gone as are the spouses of the surviving sisters. Both remaining sisters are in their 90's and very spry. This year we met at Towering Pines in a forest preserve. It has been several years since I have been able to attend and the changes in the family are dramatic. Cousins and their families have grown beyond my wildest thoughts. I felt almost like a stranger, but it didn't take long to identify who went with whom. Everyone brings a dish to share and whatever entree they want for themselves. I should have remembered that an entree was not necessary given the spread on the serving table.

My dish to share was one I found in a Weight Watchers hand out. My entree was special for me.

Strawberry-Quinoa Salad
Greek Isle Chicken

The salad is very pretty and quite simple. The Quinoa is cooked and cooled. Sliced strawberries and thinly sliced English cucumber are tossed with it. A sesame-ginger dressing is mixed in. The mixture is served over baby greens which have been lightly dressed with the same dressing. It was very well received. I was surprised now many knew the grain. Not much left, but will have some for lunch this week.

The chicken is also very simple. A boneless skinless breast is sprinkled with Greek seasoning, browned in EVOO and removed while the sauce is cooked. A mixture of garlic, sliced grape tomatoes, oregano and pitted green olives makes up the sauce. After it is gently cooked the chicken is placed on top and finished off in the oven.

I will enjoy this too the rest of the week. All in all a nice week end. It was good to see family I have not seen in a long time and catch up with family news.

After hearing and reading about the oil spill in the Gulf, I have decided to do a menu featuring Gulf seafood for next week. One of my favorite chefs, John Besh has done a lovely cookbook "My New Orleans" I expect some of what I do will come from this book.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

More from Vermont

I have a couple more dishes to try from last week using the cheddar cheese. This menu is a bit of a mish mash and contained my first real disaster.

Twice-Baked Cheddar Cheese Souffles
Grilled Romaine with Lemon Oil, Oranges and Shallots


Seared Duck Breast with Ginger-Rhubarb Sauce
Cheddar-Pecan Green Bean Casserole

I have not made a souffle in years. This recipe was a bit unusual in that they are in individual ramekins and twice baked. The ramekins are buttered and dusted with a mixture of Panko bread crumbs and ground hazelnuts. The souffle was pretty standard using eggs, separated and folded with the cheddar cheese. After the initial baking, they are turned out of the dishes on to a baking sheet. More cheese is placed on top and baked an additional 8 minutes. These were wonderful. The double baking gave them a nice crust on the outside and a soft cheesy center. Served with the grilled romaine salad with oranges, shallots and an orange-lemon oil dressing made for a nice light meal. The romaine softens when grilled but retains crunch.

Duck is a favorite of mine, but a whole duck is a lot to deal with. I found 2 very nice duck breasts. The breasts are seared in a hot pan skin side down. Much of the fat renders off and is removed. The breasts are seasoned, turned and finished meat side down. The cooked duck is sliced on the diagonal for serving. The sauce was a reduction of red wine, ginger, rhubarb, shallots and star anise. The reduction is served over the duck and is a very nice paring. The sauce is a bit tart and cuts the sometimes greasiness of the duck.

The casserole was awful. I can't explain what was wrong, but the beans were undercooked and the sauce was soupy. A terrible waste of lovely green beans and the cheese. Most of it went in the garbage.

My family reunion is next week so my food to go is still a work in progress. Hope the weather holds as I have not seen most of the family in a while.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Return to the Green Mountains

As promised I have put together a menu from the ingredients I brought back from Vermont. Cheddar cheese, maple vinegar, maple syrup and Vermont Common Crackers. My last visit I brought home a cookbook "Dishing Up Vermont". Two of the recipes I made came from that book.

Cheddar-Dill Scones
Grafton Cheddar Ale Soup
Fresh Spinach Salad with Basil Maple Vinaigrette

The scone recipe didn't come from the book but is from The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. They are made with butter, eggs, whipping cream, dill and cheese. Knowing they would be very rich, I made them small, about two bites each. I have lots of them and froze what was left for another time. They are excellent and go well with the soup and salad.

The soup was a surprise. I have made cheese soup before it is very heavy; hardly a good idea when the temperature is 90+ degrees. This was not heavy at all. I think the bottle of ale helped to smooth out the milk, cream, Worcestershire, dry mustard, garlic and chicken stock. The cheese melted nicely off the heat. Vermont Common Crackers are placed in the bottom of the bowl and soup poured over, as is done with chowders along the Maine coast. We are more accustomed to topping soups with oyster crackers which are very small in comparison. I reheated a bowl of the soup on Sunday and added a cup of blanched chopped broccoli (one of my favorite vegetables). It too was very good.

The salad is a mixture of chopped basil leaves, torn baby spinach, and minced shallots. I added grape tomatoes, cut in half, and fresh mozzarella. I made the mozzarella in a cheese class at Viking Cooking School a couple of days before. The dressing is maple vinegar, Dijon mustard, maple syrup, salt/pepper and EVOO. A perfect dressing for the salad. Crumbled maple bacon on the top and the salad is complete. Maple bacon is baked on a rack in the oven and brushed with maple syrup and fresh cracked black pepper. My favorite way to cook bacon. I was able to bake them with the scones so my kitchen did not get too hot.

Given that this is Memorial Day, I had to do some barbecue so I have two more recipes to do next week. Twice baked cheese souffles and a green bean cheddar dish.

I grilled a chicken breast and the last five minutes basted it with BBQ sauce mixed with mashed strawberries. I had it with leftover salad and iced tea. All in all a great foodie weekend and the recipes were simple and fairly quick so I could ready my balcony for the summer. Hanging baskets and a railing basket of herbs. A perfect sanctuary to relax with a book and a glass of something. Enjoy the week and well see you next time.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Springtime in Vermont

I'm back from visiting good friends in Vermont. Vermont is an amazing place. The population of the state is smaller than half of Cook County in Illinois. The scenery is gorgeous. The Green Mountains are so interesting. I called them the 'broccoli forrest' since the visual looks much like a bunch of broccoli. My friends are avid birders. I can't tell you how many species there are. A few are hummingbirds, orioles, cardinals, wood peckers, catbirds, grossbeaks, and finches of many varieties. The best was the last day... Indigo buntings!!! How blue they are!!! I know I left out many, but can't think of them. I was a bit disappointed...or not...that I did not see the bear.. But since I had to walk from the main house to the cottage (where I stayed) in the dark..maybe not.

Most villages are small. All have a 'country store' They have EVERYTHING. Beer, wine, vegetables, dairy, clothes, hardware, Movies, it, they have it. Also galleries of local artists. My favorite village is Manchester. The home of Orvis, great clothes and fly fishing equipment and Vermont foods. Also an amazing book store. Northshire Bookstore!!! It has a cafe and we have lunch there and peruse books we are interested in while eating. We watched "Mash" Great way to spend an evening (they have all 14 seasons) and the "1900 House" film.

I purchased Vermont food to use next week in my meal. Maple syrup, Cabot Cheddar cheese, Vermont Common Cracher (oyster cracker on steroids) and a surprise , maple vinegar. Stay tuned for a menu to enjoy for spring.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Visiting Vermont

Since I will be away this week, I didn't prepare anything exciting except to empty my refrigerator of anything that would not keep. I oven roasted the leftover vegetables and mixed them with quinoa, used up the fresh fruit and salad greens. Nothing very creative or interesting.

What do you think of when you think of Vermont? Covered bridges, country roads and green hills? Well, I think of Vermont cheddar cheese, maple syrup,Vermont Common Crackers and Ben and Jerry's ice cream. I hope to bring some crackers, cheese and syrup home with me and some new ideas on how to use them. The Ben and Jerry's probably would not do well in my suitcase? So I will get it at Dominick's. Hopefully next week I will have some interesting tasty things to tell you about.

Have a good week

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Meatless Monday.....Well, Actually Saturday

I'm back from my high school class reunion. It was a very nice weekend. Saw lots of people I had not seen or thought about in many years. It was, however, a good thing our name tags had our senior class picture on it. Some had changed very little and others......well??? But back to the groove. The past weeks there has been a lot of talk about meatless Monday's on Face Book. I decided to try to have at least one meatless day a week. This week menu:

Risotto with Artichokes, Asparagus and Leeks
Salad of Shaved Fennel and Oranges
Strawberry Rhubarb Tart

Making risotto is an experience. Have not made it often and wonder why. I really like it and it's not difficult. Sauteed leeks in EVOO. The Arborio rice is added and stirred to coat each grain with the oil. Hot vegetable broth is added a ladle at a time until almost absorbed. At the end, blanched asparagus and thawed cut up artichoke hearts are added. Parmesan cheese and minced rosemary are added just before serving. A very nice dish with a fair amount of leftovers for the week.

The salad too was easy. The fennel is shaved thinly on a mandolin and put in a bowl with segments of an orange and lots of chopped parsley. The vinaigrette is made of red wine vinegar, lemon juice EVOO and salt/pepper. I like vinaigrette's with different vinegars. Went well with the fennel and oranges. A nice contrast with the risotto.

Received a bunch of rhubarb this week and put it together with strawberries to fill a graham cracker tart shell. A spoon of vanilla flavored Greek yogurt topped off the tart. Love rhubarb and this was just the right ending to the meatless meal.

I have several vegetarian cookbooks and will do this kind of meal again. Maybe more often than once a week. I think next week I will start an adventure with main dish salads. Summer will be here soon and salads are welcome on warm days.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Let's Have Breakfast for Dinner!!

I love breakfast. However, five days a week my day starts too early to do it justice. It's usually cereal and yogurt with berries in my office, at my desk in the library before we open the doors. I made omelette's and other breakfast favorites on weekends. Since I began this project, other food preparation has taken most of the time I usually spent for those favorites. Restaurants offer 'big breakfast's' of juice/fruit, bacon, eggs, fried potatoes and other favorites. I decided this week to indulge myself and prepare several dishes I have been saving in a folder for a bit. Most of them a bit on the unusual side.

Scrambled Eggs in Potato Baskets
Jalapeno-Cornmeal Pancakes/Apricot Jalapeno Topping
Maple Bacon
Greek Yogurt Cheese with Rhubarb/Berry Sauce
Fresh Rhubarb Punch

I have not purchased prepared fresh hash browns found in the dairy case until now. They turned out to be a good thing. They potatoes are mixed with sauteed onion, salt and pepper and beaten eggs to bind the potatoes together. They are then spooned into sprayed muffin tins. When the cups are full a well is made with the back of a spoon. The nests are then baked until golden and set. Meanwhile eggs are scrambled with fresh chopped chives, tarragon and mascarpone cheese. Cook with a bit of oil until soft and creamy. Carefully remove the nests, plate and spoon the egg mixture into them. A bit of chopped parsley on top. This is a fairly simple preparation, but a pretty one. I think I overdid the tarragon a bit and would cut back on that herb next time.

These pancakes were a pleasant surprise. In addition to cornmeal batter mixture, seeded diced jalapeno, grated Parmesan cheese and chopped green onions are added. The small pancakes are cooked using 3-4 tablespoons of the batter. A sauce of apricot jam, orange juice, chopped green onions and seeded chopped jalapeno pepper is heated and spooned over the cakes. Bacon painted with maple syrup and baked in the oven is served along side.

I have recently become a fan of Greek Yogurt. It is less tart and much creamier. I placed a cup in a double layer of cheese cloth and set it over a bowl. The liquid milk solids drained out leaving a nice firm ball of cheese.

Rhubarb is a spring favorite and I cooked it with sugar and water until it was soft. It was divided and strawberries and raspberries added to half of it. This mixture was cooked until the berries are soft. The sauce is spooned over the yogurt cheese. Loved it! The texture of the cheese is much like softened cream cheese without all the salt and fat.

The remainder of the rhubarb sauce was put in a blender with pineapple and lemon juice and blended until smooth. Fill a tall glass half way with the sauce and top off with sparkling white wine. An alternative to the familiar mimosa. Really good and very refreshing.

I enjoyed this week ends offerings and will do breakfast menus again. I will be taking next week off. I will be attending my high school class reunion...50 th. Good grief! Have a good couple of weeks and enjoy the spring weather.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cooking Light/Mediterranean Light

Cooking Light is not only an excellent magazine, but they publish a number of cookbooks that are equally excellent. Mediterranean cooking works well with the concepts of light cooking. Last week halibut was cooked in parchment. This week chicken is cooked in the same way.

Greek Country Salad on Grilled Romaine Lettuce
Artichoke with Roasted Garlic-Wine Dip
Chicken Breast en Papillote

The salad is composed of chopped vine ripened tomatoes, English cucumber, green bell pepper, and red onion. The lettuce is quartered and left intact; drizzled with a bit of EVOO and grilled. Served on a plate with spoon fulls of the vegetables, chopped Kalamata olives and reduced Feta cheese. The dressing is a vinaigrette of fresh herbs, red wine vinegar, minced garlic, salt and pepper. I used a Tuscan Olive Oil from The Olive Tap in Long Grove. Just a light drizzle is needed to bring the flavors together. I also toasted cubes of a multigrain roll over the top.

Springtime brings lots of fresh vegetables. One of my favorites is the artichoke. Big round globes of tightly compacted leaves. The stem is cut off and the tips of the leaves snipped. It is cooked in boiling water until a knife pierces the base easily. The dip begins with roasted garlic cloves simmered in white wine. Then vegetable broth is added and reduced by half. A tiny piece of butter is melted into it. The mixture is blended until smooth along with an additional couple of garlic cloves. A sprinkle of parsley and is served warm for dipping the artichoke leaves. The choke is removed and the heart is cut up and some of the dip is poured over them.

I really like preparing an entree in parchment. Placing the pouch on the plate is a bit dramatic. Cutting open the pouch so the aroma and flavors are released is a special experience. The chicken breast is placed on the parchment, drizzled with a bit of EVOO and salt and pepper. Garlic, shallot and mushrooms are lightly sauteed in a bit of EVOO. Diced tomatoes are added and seasonings are adjusted. The mixture is spooned over the chicken and grated lemon zest is dusted over all. The pouch is sealed and baked for about 40 minutes.

An enjoyable meal. Wonder what else I can prepare using a parchment pouch? Will give it some thought.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Halibut two ways!

I've been trying to add more fish to my diet and since there are many varieties, I will try different methods of preparation. This week the fish is halibut; a nice meaty fish. I tried two very different preparations and served them with a cous cous side dish.

Lemon-Artichoke Halibut en Papillote
Grilled Halibut with Mango Cucumber Salad
Black Bean and Spinach Cous Cous

En Papillote is a French term for food baked in parchment paper. The steam in the packet cooks the contents and creates a sauce. The fish is placed on a bed of chopped shallots on the paper. A spoon of salsa is spread on the fish along with artichoke hearts and lemon slices. Salt and pepper the mound and seal up the pouch with narrow folds. The packet is cooked on a baking sheet for about 20 minutes and served in the pouch. Cut the pouch open and enjoy the fish and the sauce. It is a very nice meal and I will try the papillote method again with other types of fish.

The second piece of halibut was also very successful. It was lightly oiled and seasoned with salt and pepper; grilled for about 5 minutes per side. It is served atop a salad of sliced cucumbers and radishes, chopped onion, diced jalapeno and mango. A light dressing of lemon juice, EVOO and white wine vinegar. This fish is an entirely different taste, but also one I will use again. The salad has just a bit of a bite to it and compliments the fish very will.

As a side dish for both preparations was Israeli cous cous (a larger grain than other cous cous) cooked in broth. a box of frozen spinach is thawed and the liquid squeezed out. Along with rinsed and drained black beans it is mixed into the cooked cous cous. A bit of lemon juice and salt a pepper is the only dressing. It is served at room temperature.

All in all this was a good week. Will need to think about what to do next week.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Happy Easter!

Easter was a great week-end. I think I should not be surprised that even though we don't communicate much about the menu, our meals turn out fabulous every time.

Arrived on Saturday and Chris made a pasta dish for dinner that was great. Poached chicken, artichokes, Kalamata olives, Feta cheese, & sun dried tomatoes sauce over pasta. With garlic bread, super!!

After church on Easter we began to put together the dinner. The ham was great with a special glaze: honey, mustard and juice of an orange. Great! Thank you!

Hors douvers were provided by Loretta; tortilla scoops, crackers and lots of fillings, sloppy Joe's, tuna salad and goat cheese with cranberry relish (my favorite) on top. Also Feta cheese filled olives.

Dinner :

Sliced Glazed Ham
Cheese Scalloped Potatoes With Bacon
Caprerse Salad
Loretta's tossed salad with OJ's, Beans and Croutons/French Onion Rings
Spring Vegetable Saute
Lime Glazed Angel Cake with Pistachio's

Basically an easy preparation for this meal.

The glaze was heated and added to the already cooked ham after heating a couple of hours. The potatoes were put together on Saturday and cooked on Sunday. Potatoes, cheese, bacon, onion, etc. The Caprese Salad is made of grape tomatoes ane mini Mozzarella's balls, basil, EVOO and salt and pepper. Lori's salad is filled with many good things, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, beans, Mandarin Oranges and other salad ingredients and a dressing of choice.

The vegetable medley is blanched green beans, broccoli, asparagus, snow peas and small peas. Tossed with EVOO, sauteed shallots, and red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.

An all together good menu.

Dessert was a Lime Angel Food Cake with Glaze and Pistachio's with coffee or tea.
After dinner we always watch a movie. This year was "A Blind Side" A good film we all enjoyed.

A great meal and good company. The drive home in the rain and traffic....not so much; but worth the weekend.

Next week?? Halibut in Papillote (parchment paper)

Have a great week!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Battle Barbecue

Two years ago Viking Cooking School and Culinary Shop opened in Glenview. Since that time I have attended 17 cooking classes. This week was a class on barbecue. There are two competitors for the best barbecue sauce. North Carolina sauce is vinegar based and Kansas City sauce is tomato based. In class we made both with 3 kinds of meat and a number of sides.

Pit Master's Fire and Spice Dry Rub
Fall Off The Bone Baby Back Ribs with Tangy Mop sauce
Low and Slow Pulled Pork with North Carolina Sauce
Bourbon Barbecue Glaze
Barbecued Chicken
Roasted Yukon Gold Potato Salad
Cast Iron Skillet Bacon Cheese Grits
Apple Brown Betty

The rub is made up of light brown sugar, black pepper, sweet paprika
chile powder, kosher salt, garlic and onion powder and cayenne pepper. The rub was used on 2 of the meats; the picnic shoulder for the pulled pork, the baby back ribs and in the marinade for the chicken.

The vinegar sauce uses apple cider vinegar, garlic, red pepper flakes, kosher salt, black pepper, sugar, Worchestershire sauce, hot sauce, liquid smoke and a small bit of ketchup. Reserve some of the sauce to serve warm with the meat. The rest is used as a mop sauce for the pulled pork as it roasts in the oven for about 5 hours. Cool the meat slightly and pull apart with forks and serve with the remaining sauce. Put meat in buns or serve open faced.

The ribs are massaged with the dry rub, wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for at least 2 hours, 24 is better. Cook bone side down over indirect heat on a grill, turn meat about half way through. Cooking time is about 2 - 3 hours. Dry ribs need to rest 5 - 10 minutes. Wet ribs are 'painted' with Kansas City Rib Sauce: Ketchup, water, vinegar, brown sugar, olive oil, paprika, chili powder, garlic and cayenne. Brush the bone side first and then the meat side until lightly charred. Serve with more sauce.

Marinate chicken in apple cider vinegar, red pepper flakes some of the dry rub, chopped yellow onion. Set aside about half of the marinade for mopping while chicken cooks. Cover the chicken and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. Pat chicken dry and cook over indirect heat, skin side down to start and baste several times with remaining marinade until chicken is cooked about 45-50 minutes. Serve with which ever sauce your prefer or bourbon barbecue glaze: ketchup, chile powder, sweet Thai chili paste, brown sugar, yellow mustard, apple cider vinegar and bourbon.

The sides were very good. The potato salad was my favorite. Roast Yukon Gold potatoes which have been cut in 1 inch pieces, tossed with EVOO and salt/pepper. While the roast, saute bacon in skillet and remove with slotted spoon. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the drippings for the dressing. Whisk together Dijon mustard, brown sugar and balsamic vinegar. Add EVOO and bacon drippings. Season with salt/pepper. When potatoes are cooked place in large bowl with thinly sliced green onions, diced tomato, cooked bacon and chopped parsley. Add just enough vinaigrette to moisten. Season and serve at room temperature.

In a medium saucepan heat milk and chicken stock to boiling. Stir in stone ground grits. Reduce heat and cook stirring constantly with wooden spoon until thickened. Reduce heat again and continue cooking until grits are soft and creamy, about 25 minutes, stir occasionally so as not to stick. While grits cook, bacon is sauteed in a cast iron skillet until crisp, drain and keep the drippings. Stir cream into grits and heat through. Add 2 tablespoons bacon drippings, cooked bacon and 1 cup grated extra sharp Cheddar cheese and one cup thinly sliced green onions. Season to taste. Pour grits into the cast iron skillet. Scatter 1/2 cup more cheese over top and brown under broiler. Garnish with about a quarter cup sliced green onions. and serve.

The Apple Brown Betty can be made ahead of time and put in the oven while barbecue is being consumed. Butter a round casserole. In a large bowl toss Granny Smith apples that have been peeled, seeded and thinly sliced with sugar cinnamon, nutmeg, a dash of salt and some apple juice. Pour into casserole and top with a mixture of crushed butter cookie crumbs, butter and light brown sugar. Bake until top is golden and serve with vanilla ice cream.

This was a wonderful meal and can be prepared inside or out. A great start to summer grilling season. Enjoy the warm weather and have a Happy Easter!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Lighter Lenten Fare

My only experience with cooking a whole fish goes back to summer vacations at the lake. Freshly caught perch, sunfish and small bass were caught, cleaned and fried crisp. Many a meal featured them. Later on at home, we wrapped a whole trout in foil with onions, lemon and potatoes and cooked the packet on the grill. During Lent many supermarkets feature fish not usually available. I decided I wanted to tackle a larger whole fish. Since Emeril always talks about 'if you can smell fish or ammonia in the store, go for the lamb', I decided it would be best to order something so it was fresh.

Baked Striped Bass with Tomatoes, Rosemary and Olives
Sauteed Broccoli, Roasted Peppers and Goat Cheese

I have to admit when I got the 3 pound striped bass home, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. First I had to find a pan long enough to accommodate the creature. Then it was time to get started. Thinly sliced lemons and yellow onion were laid in the pan forming a bed for the bass. The fish was salt and peppered and the cavity filled with more lemon, onion and sprigs of fresh rosemary. Over the top slices of tomato cover the fish. Chopped kalamata olives and chopped rosemary were added along with a drizzle of EVOO. White wine is poured over all and roasted uncovered for about 20 minutes. More EVOO is added and the broth spooned over the fish and returned for another 15 - 20 minutes The fish flaked away into nice fillets. The broth and vegetables are spooned over. A very nice dish. Reheated on Sunday it was still tasty.

The broccoli dish went very will with the fish. Satueed with garlic until crisp but tender. Cut up roasted jarred red pepper is added with chopped green olives, parsley, green onion, dried marjoram, lemon juice, salt and pepper. When heated through it is served with crumbled goat cheese.

After last weeks heavier meal, this was very refreshing. I will not be intimidated by working with a whole fish again. Perhaps a red snapper next time.

Next week I will be spending a day in Galena for 'Wine Lovers Weekend' Lunch at Fried Green Tomatoes and a tour of 3 of the local winery's is planned. Will see what Sunday brings. I have some halibut I have wanted to work with. We shall see what I can come up for it.

Happy Spring!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

St. Patrick's Day.....Trattoria Style

A trattoria is an Italian eating establishment. My meal brings together the best of both the Italian and the Irish.

Butter Lettuce Salad with Crispy Prosciutto, Oyster Mushroom Chips, Blue Cheese and Pears
Mini Irish Soda Bread
St. Patrick's Linguine
Irish Coffee Mousse

The salad was excellent however labor intensive. The prosciutto was cut in strips and sauteed crisp; drained on paper towels and tossed with a bit of red wine vinegar. The mushrooms where mixed with EVOO, red pepper flakes and salt. Baked in the oven until they were dry and crisp. The lettuce, blue cheese and pears were mixed with the prosciutto and mushroom chips and dressed with a bit of EVOO and red wine vinegar. A nice balance of sweet and tart. Will do this again.

The Irish soda bread is usually made in a large round loaf, but since it would take me a long time to eat the loaf, I made the dough into 10 small round loaves. I substituted dried cranberries for raisins (which I don't like except in oatmeal cookies) Now I have individual loaves in the freezer for another day.

The star of the show is the pasta dish. All the usual ingredients of a St. Paddy's Day meal in a different format. Sauteed diced carrots, cabbage, shallots, and garlic. Deglaze the pan with a bit of white wine and add chopped cooked corned beef. The 'gravy' is made of Dijon and whole grain mustard and a dollop of prepared horseradish stirred into a mixture of heavy cream and half and half. (Yes I can hear my arteries harden.) At the end a cup of shredded Irish white Cheddar cheese, and small frozen peas are added and then tossed with cooked linguine. A sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and the dish is complete. Very rich, but excellent. I may revisit this and use a white wine and broth base for the mustard's and horseradish. Should lighten it up considerably.

A couple of years ago I came across a Margarita Mousse recipe. Since a Margarita is not typically an Irish drink, I did some substituting. I used strong coffee and a bit of Irish Whiskey for the tequila and Triple Sec. This made up the custard base which is cooled and folded into whipped cream and egg whites. A very nice finish to a non-traditional St. Patrick's Day meal.

Whatever next week brings, it will be much lighter. Enjoy the nice weather and the return of the robins.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Marilyn had a little lamb.....shank, that is!

This was a weekend of one pot meals.

Joe's Cafe Minestrone

First on Saturday I made a large pot of minestrone. The recipe came from a place in Santa Barbara California, Joe' Cafe. Have never been there, but the soup is fabulous. Lots of vegetables, some I've not had in minestrone before but will use again. Tomatoes, broccoli, zucchini, cabbage, and fresh spinach. I used black beans because I like them better than great northern and the pasta was whole wheat penne; and all cooked in beef stock with the usual carrot, celery, onion and garlic. A fragrant colorful bowl.

Braised Lamb Shank with Roasted Tomatoes and Toasted Orzo

Sunday was a one pot meal as well, just in different stages. Braising is a term that is comforting and a lamb shank requires this type of long slow cooking. It was browned in olive oil and them simmered in chicken stock, red wine and carrot, celery, onion and roasted garlic until tender. A couple of hours. Along with it is a toasted orzo and onion cooked risotto style using the strained braising liquid and chicken stock. Oven roasted plum tomatoes are stirred in at the end with lots of chopped parsley. Lots of flavor from the shank. The meat is taken off the bones, cut up and stirred into the risotto. A very nice dish on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

I should have leftovers for most of the week and look forward to them. Next week I will do a St. Patrick's Day meal, but with a bit of a twist. Not just your same old corned beef and cabbage. Take a look!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Mostly for Chocolate Lovers

I promised 2 things last week: Chocolate and Paula Deen recipes. Well that is sort of true. Two of the 3 recipes came from one of Paula's shows when she had a guest. There is no butter in either recipe and the chocolate is actually cocoa powder. The dessert I had planned was scrapped after I came across something fun and interesting in the food section of the Chicago Tribune.

Roasted Beet Salad with Cocoa Vinaigrette
Chocolate Spiced Pork Chop
Spiced Mousse Minis

I've spoken before of my preference to roasting vegetables. Beets roast extremely well brushed with oil and salt/pepper and wrapped in foil. They were cooled and sliced. They top a mix of spring greens and are joined by orange segments, goat cheese, red onion and toasted pecans. The vinaigrette is made of red wine vinegar, cocoa powder, sugar, salt and pepper and EVOO. A nice dressing for the colorful salad. Will do this one again.

The bone in chop is rubbed with a mixture of Italian seasoning, onion powder, cocoa powder, garlic powder, paprika, red pepper flakes, cumin and salt/pepper. Let rest for 10 minutes and sear 3 minutes per side and finish in the oven; about another 3 minutes depending on the thickness of the chop. Nice crust and the cooking time left the chop moist and full of flavor. Will try this rub on other meat as well.

The original dessert I planned was Chai Spiced S'mores, but the mousse minis caught my eye and turned out to be a fun bite sized way to end the meal. The mousse is made up of cream cheese, pumpkin pie spice, sugar, coconut milk and a bit of heavy cream. There were 4 different minis, but the same mousse is used in each. I chose the chocolate and strawberry ones. There were also banana cream and Pina Colada options. The fun part of the mini is that they are prepared and served in 2 ounce shot glasses. The chocolate one started with crushed chocolate wafers, the mousse, more cookie and a tablespoon hot fudge sauce. The second one was crushed shortbread cookies and crushed strawberries. I had no shot glasses and all I could find at Jewel were blue plastic ones. Probably would have looked better in clear glasses, but the color didn't detract from the yummy concoctions. I could see this on a build your own dessert buffet.

All in all a great meal on Saturday. Since I plan to watch the hockey game, dinner for Sunday was something I could prepare ahead of time and cook at the last minute.

Healthy Steak Tacos

Jillian Michaels is one of the trainers on 'Biggest Loser's'. Have never watched an entire program, but have read some about Jillian. Her philosophy on food is "If it didn't grow out of the ground or did not have a mother, don't eat it". This preparation is the first time I have worked with flank steak that it didn't come out like an old shoe. The meat is rubbed with a paste of chipotle and oil and grilled 5 minutes per side and then rested for another 5 minutes. I use a stove top grill pan. The meat sliced beautifully and was very tender. A bit spicy however. Next time I might cut back on the chipotle. The salsa was grilled pineapple, cut up, diced red onion and red pepper, fresh cilantro and red wine vinegar. Love grilled fruit (peaches and plums are my favorites) This was my first experience with fresh pineapple. A great addition to the other ingredients of the salsa. I have enough left over for lunches most of the week. Will see how it holds up.

I hope you try some of these and next week I'm looking at braising. Perhaps lamb shanks. Will see what I find. Have a good week and THINK SPRING!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Double Header Meals

Round one this week involves brining. There are as many recipes for brine as there are proteins to brine. The brine I chose is the first one I ever used. I saw it a few years ago on Martha Stewart's show and did our Thanksgiving turkey in it. This week I chose a Cornish Game Hen (half on Saturday and half on Sunday)

Roasted Citrus-Herb Game Hen
Roasted Cauliflower with herbs

The brine basics are salt, sugar and lots of ice water. The rest of the ingredients are your choice. This one has whole cloves and black peppercorns and bourbon. Stir it all together until the salt and sugar dissolve. Submerge the hen and set a plate on top so it stays in the brine overnight in the fridge. If you are using a large turkey, an ice chest works just fine. Just be sure there is ice added to keep the brine cold. Remove the bird and pat dry. Prepare as usual. The hen is rubbed inside and out with lemon and orange zest, thyme and mint leaves, chopped, salt and pepper and a bit of olive oil to make a paste. It is roasted in a bath of chicken stock, Marsala wine, lemon and orange juice and dried cranberries. Save some of the broth to be used as part of a dressing for a green salad (day 2).

As I have said before, roasting vegetables has become my favorite preparation. The caulifloweretts are drizzled with EVOO and sprinkled with fresh herbs of choice, salt and pepper. Toss a couple of times during the roasting at 400 degrees. The leftover veggies were tossed with greens on day 2 with the broth for the dressing.

An excellent meal and I look forward to brining again with some other protein.

I mentioned last week that I was going to Kendall College Dining Room with friends. The menu featured foods from Chile and Peru. Having no knowledge of either cuisine, I did some research on the foods we were served.

Chilean Chick Pea and Chard Soup
Duck Escabeche with Quinoa Fritters
Mixed Greens with Charred Corn, Hominy, Chick Peas & Queso Fresco in a Vinaigrette
Peruvian Lomo por lo Pobre (Steak for the poor)
Almond Manjar Bianca with Berry Sauce

The soup was lovely. The peas and chard are lightly cooked and chopped. A flavorful broth is poured over the mixture table side. Escabeche is Peruvian and is a pepper and used to prepare the duck and served with the fitters (will need to find out how the fritters are prepared, excellent) The salad was a country combo, very pretty. The entree "steak for the poor' is a grilled steak served with an egg on top, on a bed of tomatoes, onions and potatoes. Dessert was a Peruvian dish as well. A custard that is more firm than I am used to and served atop the most amazing berry sauce. All in a all an excellent meal prepared and served by culinary students. Thank you Jane for the Chilean wine. We can do this again....anytime!

Next week is my first with Paula Deen recipes. All chocolate! Who doesn't like chocolate?? An entree, a salad and a dessert. I think you will be surprised how chocolate is used in all the recipes. AND each recipe does not begin with a pound of butter! Join me in the chocolate celebration!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Simply Fish

After the feeding frenzy last week, I thought I should lighten up the cooking. I chose to do fish two ways:

Mustard Roasted Cod with Red and Green Peppers, Onion and Thyme
Steamed Green Beans with Lemon and Dill

Pan Sauteed Tilapia with Capers and Thyme
Roasted Broccoli with Lemon Pepper and EVOO

I decided that cod is not my favorite fish. Bland even with the mustard and vegetables. Colorful however, and since green beans are a favorite, the meal was not a disaster. Will try it again with a different fish.

The Tilapia was a different story. Loved it. Dusted with a bit of Wondra, dipped in egg and sauteed in a bit of EVOO. Added a tiny bit of butter and white wine to the pan drippings along with the capers and thyme leaves for a nice light sauce. Toasted slivered almonds finished the dish. I think my new favorite way to fix vegetables is to roast them. Easy and they keep their color and crunch. Tossed the broccoli with EVOO, salt and pepper and roasted them until tender crisp. A bit of lemon pepper and they were good to go.

The two meals were pretty successful (except for the cod) and I didn't feel guilty eating them.

I think next week brining is on the table. Have not done it in a bit and really like what it adds to whatever protein used. Probably a Cornish hen or perhaps some pork....or both.

Also will let you know how my dinner with friends goes tonight. We are going to the Kendall College Culinary Arts dining room. The menu features foods from Peru and Chile. Don't know much about either so it should be an adventure.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Super Bowl Weekend!!

Well, this was a great foodie weekend. Saturday was exceptional!

OMG Meatloaf with Red Wine Glaze
Brussels Sprouts and Fingerling Potatoes Roast

I have had the meatloaf recipe in my 'to try' folder for a few weeks. The 25 ingredients was a bit off putting. It turned out to be one of the BEST I've had. Most ingredients were of minimal amounts. Lots of herbs and spices. The meat was the surprise; ground lamb, pork and veal? No beef...OK so veal is baby beef?? The glaze is excellent and perfect for the ending of the roasting time.

The Brussels sprouts/potato dish was quick and easy. I have not used fingerling's before (they are a bit pricey.) Both are washed and cut in half, tossed with EVOO, salt and pepper and fresh thyme. Very good; even if you are not a Brussels sprouts fan.

The Game:

Adobo-Seasoned Chicken Wings
Jackie Jet Killer Chili in Muffin Cups
Bananas Foster

I really tried to use Indiana recipes, but except for Amish there are minimal. Will do an Amish menu later on. I don't think they watch football? New Orleans is a fabulous foodie town. The Hurricane is a big drink there. Lots of variations, but the one I chose was very good. The muffuletta is a great sandwich with ham, salami, Swiss and provolone cheeses. The olive salad is one I have in the cabinet all the time. Boscoli in a jar is excellent.

The wings are a recipe from Bobby Flay. Spicy but not overwhelming. The glaze is made from mango/honey/hot sauce. Great dish!

Indianapolis has a chili recipe, but it has lots of sugar, not one of my favorite ingredients. I try new chili recipes often but always go back to Jackie Jet's. His is the best. Thank you John for sharing. This I served in muffin cups. The cups are made on the back of a muffin tin. A nice size for the chili. Topped with grated cheddar and crushed Fritos.

I was hopeful that a recipe from Indiana would be good for dessert. However, the two I came across were not ones I was interested in. The persimmon pudding is one I did several weeks ago and enjoyed. The other is something called 'sugar pie' It just sounded yucky! Way too sweet. So I did Bananas Foster (I had leftover rum from the hurricanes) Was a bit nervous about flaming food, but it was OK and I didn't start my apartment on fire.

All in all this was a great weekend.

Probably next week will be a gentler menu. Hope you enjoyed the game!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cooking with Marsala

Years ago chicken Marsala was 'the' company dinner recipe. I came across a pork Marsala recipe in a 'Healthy Cooking' magazine and thought I'd give it a try. It was good, but I think I prefer it with chicken.

Elegant Pork Marsala
Roasted Parmesan Green Beans
Savory Palmiers

The pork recipe called for pork chops, but I used a pork tenderloin, cut into medallion's and flattened. They were lightly dusted with pepper seasoned flour and browned in a bit of oil. Then removed from the pan and kept warm. In the same pan onions, mushrooms and Canadian bacon slices were browned along with minced garlic. The pork is returned to the pan and the Marsala added, covered and cooked for 5 minutes. A slurry of cornstarch and chicken broth is added as a thickener. This sauce is served over the pieces of pork. I used some chopped parsley for some added color.

The green beans are put on a cookie sheet and drizzled with enough olive oil to lightly coat them. Greek seasoning (I used Penzey's) is tossed with the beans. When beans are tender, they are served with shaved Parmesan cheese. I really like fresh green beans and these had just a bit of a crunch. Will do them again.

I had half a sheet of puff pastry in the fridge and decided to make some savory Palmiers to have with the pork and green beans. Rolled out the sheet and dusted it lightly with salt and black pepper. Then some finely grated Parmesan and dry basil. The pastry is rolled up and sliced into half inch pieces and baked. This was probably the highlight of the meal and it was an afterthought.

Will try the Marsala with chicken sometime down the road, but next week the meatloaf I mentioned last week will be the star. Along with some Super Bowl munchies. Bobby Flay's chicken wings are at the top of my list. Until then, enjoy the week! Stay warm!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Rain, Fog and Cold = Comfort Food

Nasty weather all weekend. Fog, rain and cold. Most of the snow is gone, but more expected during the week. Good weekend to stay indoors and enjoy some comfort food.

Quick Coq au Vin
Caramelized Onion and Grapefruit Salad

The chicken recipe came from one of my Cooking Light cookbooks. It went together quickly and is very tasty. Skinless chicken thighs, carrots, Canadian bacon, and mushrooms simmered in a sauce of red wine, chicken broth, tomato paste and thyme. Recipe called for boneless thighs, but a lot of flavor comes from cooking on the bone. This is true not only for poultry, but meat as well. It reheated very well after work on Sunday so I could watch football.

I kept the salad components separate so they would work well on day 2. The onions are caramelized in EVOO, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. A dressing of red wine vinegar, lemon juice, honey, EVOO and salt and pepper was divided after mixing. The salad itself is made up of romaine lettuce torn in pieces, thinly sliced fennel, English cucumber, shallots and pink grapefruit sections. Dressing was tossed on half of the salad each day. The onions are served on top. Very refreshing along side the chicken.

I had another dish on the menu, but time ran out and I think it would have been too much. So the mushroom apple tart will be worked in next week. Just need to decide what will go with it?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Salmon Revisited

My first blog entry involved one of my favorite foods...salmon. If you read that entry, you will remember it was poached and I was very disappointed in the results. Well I have decided to try again. The recipe I used was sent to me by a Face Book friend who is also a classmate from high school. So here is what I prepared this week:

Martha's Roasted Salmon
Classic Ratatouille
Grapefruit with Sauvignon Blanc


Martha was kind enough to share a favorite salmon recipe with me. It was completely different from the one I prepared last fall. It is outstanding and very simple. A glaze/marinade of lime juice, honey, olive oil and salt and pepper is brushed over the salmon fillets and refrigerated for 30 minutes. Then roasted in a 450 degree oven for 15 minutes. The fillet flaked perfectly and the glaze is very tasty without taking over the delicate flavor of the fish.

I served it with a ratatouille of colorful vegetables. Eggplant, onion, garlic, red, green, and yellow peppers, zucchini and Roma tomatoes. They are sauteed in a bit of olive oil and dried basil is tossed in at the end. The plate with the salmon and the ratatouille is very nice to look at and the pairing was a good one.

The dessert was also a simple one. A half teaspoon of sugar is mixed with grapefruit sections and the wine poured over just to cover. A nice refreshing finish to this meal.

I have a salmon fillet left over and will likely top a chopped salad with it in a day or so. The remaining ratatouille has been cut into smaller pieces and will be mixed with Quinoa for lunch this week. I was quite pleased the the results of this menu and am thinking perhaps chicken next week.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Happy 'lighter' New Year

Happy New Year to you all!! For those of you who have followed my blog for the past months, you know that my inspiration came from seeing "Julie and Julia" last fall. The thought of blogging about cooking inspired me to do something similar. So here goes 2010.

I thought it fitting that the first menu be a 'Julia' one. One of her signature dishes has always been 'Boeuf Bourguignon'. Since I have decided to 'lighten' up my food I thought this a good one to start with. Jacques Pepin also does this dish and this month the Weight Watchers Magazine did a section on lightening up Julia's food.

Boeuf Bourguignon
Roasted Potatoes
Green Salad with Clememtines

For the most part the 3 recipes for this dish have the same ingredients, except for the bacon/pancetta. Most of the other ingredients just have different amounts. That being the case I made the base the same. When the pearl onions, mushroom, wine, broth mixture with carrots and yellow onions was complete, I divided it and cooked the browned meat with each and in one the sauted and drained pancetta to see what the difference in taste was. Turned out, the pancetta didn't change the taste much. But cutting the calories (WW points) was significant. I hope the rest of the years recipes come out as successful as this. I love Boeuf Bourguignon and this was a definite 'do again',

I fixed roasted potatoes and a green salad with it.

Next week I hope to return to the seafood world. I think I'm ready to try salmon again, just not poached. Have a good week!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Winter Holiday 2009

The end of another you believe it? Seems like just a short time ago people were worrying about the millennium and would the earth stop!?! Guess not we're still here!

The 10 days or so at then end of a year are busy ones. Lots of shopping, cooking and go go go! Changed our routine a bit this year. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were more laid back and our food non-traditional. Weather was frightful for Christmas. Lots of rain for my drive to Wisconsin on Christmas Eve. Had very wet feet by the time we got home from church, but a dinner of warm comfort food quickly warmed us all:

Mac and Cheese a la Barefoot Contessa
Hot Curried Fruit

Ina's mac and cheese is a favorite of mine. Rich and creamy with 4 cups of grated Gruyere and 2 of extra sharp Cheddar. Lightly buttered Panko bread crumbs on top. Yum! The hot curried fruit is courtesy of my friend April. Pineapple, Granny Smith apple, peaches and red grapes baked in a sauce of orange juice cinnamon, brown sugar and curry powder. Went perfectly along side the mac and cheese.

Evening wound down with a movie and hot tea.

Christmas Morning dawned with snow in the air. No plans to leave the house so that's OK. Big slices of Panettone with home made preserves (a gift to Chris from a co-worker) and lots of coffee to start.

Baked Brie with Pears, Cinnamon and toasted pecans

While we prepared dinner, we snacked on the baked Brie and mini toasts.

Chris's Beef Stroganoff and Kluski Noodles
Orange Scented Broccoli and Cauliflower
A love hearty red wine
And later: Mary's cheesecake with Cranberry Sauce

Have not had stroganoff in many years. I have no idea why, it was excellent. Lots of beef chunks, sour cream, and mushrooms. The broccoli and cauliflower set off the richness of the stroganoff. Movies and board games filled the rest of the day until the cheesecake was served. The tartness of the cranberry sauce was perfect over the sweet cheesecake with gingerbread crust. Good job Mary!

The drive home the next day was a character builder. Snowed the whole way. Lots of cars off the road; trip usually takes a bit more than 2 hours. Today almost 4 hours.
Was glad to pull into my parking spot to hunker down for a couple of days.

Lunch with friends during the week and 2 movies 'Nine' and 'It's Complicated'. But now it's time to think about New Years. I don't go out on New Years Eve; would rather stay home and enjoy the quiet. Since I had gone to a movie and lunch in the afternoon, my usual big dinner was postponed until New Years Day.

Mini Potato Pancakes with Sour Cream and Smoked Salmon Appetizer
My Annual Bottle of Champagne

The pancakes were crispy and the sour cream and salmon with a bit of grated lemon zest hit the spot. Might have to find another drink however. My thumbs don't want to cooperate when it comes to removing the cork from the champagne bottle. Saw the cork popped with a sword on a cruise, but couldn't find one in my knife block. Didn't make it to midnight and no surprise, it was still 2010 when I got up on Friday!

New Years Day is one of my favorite days of the year. Usually it's snacks and a book, but since yesterday I did that, today was my 'special dinner'. But first breakfast:

Panetonne French Toast
Maple-Candied Bacon

Panetonne makes wonderful French toast. It's become a tradition for me. The bacon preparation was new for me. If you have not done bacon on a foil covered rack in the oven.....try it. Thick cut center bacon painted with a glaze of maple syrup and Dijon mustard. 12 minutes on each side with a grind of black pepper. Amazing and no mess! Foil goes in the trash and the pan is clean. Mimosa's speak for themselves.

Dinner was time consuming, but worth every minute. Was glad I waited:

Lobster Stuffed Tenderloin with Bearnaise Sauce
Roasted Asparagus

Have not made Bearnaise sauce in years...probably since a culinary arts class at Harper. It came out quite nicely and kept warm while I worked on the 'star' of the dinner. Steamed 2 lobster tails, removed them from the shells and set them aside to cool. A filling of shallots, celery, garlic, spinach and mushrooms is cooked down and cooled. I butterflied the tenderloin and spread the filling over it. Overlapped the tails and rolled up the meat. Tied roll together with string and browned on all sides. Finished the roll off in the oven. While it rested I roasted the asparagus. The slices weren't as pretty as Emeril's, but was very tasty. A great ending to the holiday meals.

Clearly 2010 needs to be 'lightened' up or I will need to be oiled up to get in my car. Will see what develops. Hope you have enjoyed my blog this year and will see you all in the coming year.