Monday, October 29, 2012

Hunkered Down

Whoa, Sally!

Preparations for this storm resulted in some surprise goodness at our place.  While clearing out our garage freezer to make room for ice, I happened upon five chicken carcasses.  Seriously, who finds five forgotten chicken carcasses?   I know I've saved a couple over time with the intention of making stock.  But five was a surprising volume to have amassed in the last year or so since we lost power -- and all the contents of our fridge and freezer -- with the last hurricane.   Well, at any rate, no time like the present to put the 'carcai' (Is that a word?  If not, shouldn't it be?) to work.

Homemade Chicken Stock (click here for recipe)

My major adjustment to the recipe was to use the bones I had instead of three whole chickens.  I also omitted dill because I forgot to buy it.

There was something very snuggly about a pot on the stove simmering away all afternoon, and the aroma in the house was deliciously inviting.   But the best part, for sure, was tasting the result the next day.   After freezing three quarters of the stock (yeah, loading up the freezer is precisely the opposite measure to take in the wake of a hurricane, but I didn't appreciate the HUGE quantity of stock this recipe would yield), I made chicken rice soup.  This gorgeous, rich stock made all the scrumptious difference.

I didn't really use a recipe here.  My dad used to make chicken and rice soup with random leftovers from the fridge and I always loved it, so I figured I'd attempt my own version.

I started by rubbing two boneless, skinless chicken breasts (further efforts to clean out the freezer) with olive oil and sprinkling them with kosher salt and black pepper before throwing them into a 375 degree oven for about 25-30 minutes.  While they were cooking, I got a small pot of brown rice going, which was simply 1 cup of long grain brown rice, cooked according to the package directions.  Next, I chopped and sauteed half a large onion in a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a large pot.  I medium-diced 4 carrots and 3 stalks of celery and added them to the pot to soften.  After 10ish minutes, I added the stock -- about 3-4 quarts, I think -- to the pot.  When the chicken was done in the oven, I chopped it and added it to the pot, along with the rice and a handful (about 1/4 cup) of chopped flat leaf parsley.  After a quick dash of salt and pepper to taste, it was ready! 

A bowl of soup and a crusty baguette is perfect storm weather in my book. 

Be safe, everyone!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Bye Bye Lulu's

Hub and I eagerly anticipated a rare, quiet date night out together to celebrate his birthday, only to find that our destination restaurant was CLOSED.  I mean, after lining up a baby sitter, getting ourselves dressed, downtown and parked only to be greeted by a little sign sending us the other direction for all hours other than brunch was a big, fat whomp whomp whomp. 

I'll clarify that we'd never let this - or anything for that matter - spoil a jewel of a night together, so we zipped to Zeus Gallery, another cozy food establishment on our go-to list, without skipping a beat.

Retrospectively, the thought of no more Lulu's dinners has been depressing me.  We've had some tasty dinners there, which I (of course, nerdily) had pictures of, so I'm sharing them in a goodbye tribute.

This is a grilled Caesar salad that didn't photograph well (slimy anchovies, anyone?) but tasted afreakinmazing.  The charred lettuce was the perfect backdrop to the rich egg, briny anchovies, nutty Parmesan, and crunchy house made croutons, all blanketed in Caesar dressing screaming of garlic and lemon.  (I just reread that.  If you're a Caesar person, you might be salivating.  If you're not, this may actually sound heinous and for that, I apologize.)  This was the dish I actually hoped to order the fateful night we found it closed!  RIP grilled Caesar salad.

Grilled mahi mahi over pancetta and sweet potato garnished kale resting in a blanket of celery root and apple puree.  Every bite was heaven, but I think my favorite part was the kale.  Have I mentioned my kale obsession?  I've got about a dozen recipes featuring on top of my pile, and I can't WAIT to try one or five.

Ahhh, classic shrimp and grits.  (I'm not sure who I think I am attempting to identify a classic southern anything with my Pennsyltucky roots.  I'd like to think I have a teeny bit of street cred after experiencing a few divine versions in Charleston, being a Richmonder for a whopping 3 years now, and my general inclination to stuff my face.  But I'd clearly be an impostor if I claimed to be an aficionado of southern cuisine.)  I'll just tell you the facts; this grits were buttery and rich, the shrimp were cooked to tender perfection, and the spicy, chorizo-speckled sauce was to die for.  Big fan.

With dinner out of the equation, I'd love to try the brunch here (who wouldn't find herself beckoned by a red velvet waffle with pecan cream cheese?!).  The typical weekend chaos doesn't often afford the luxury of brunch, but I'll put it on the Some Day list.

Photo courtesy of

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Slow Cooker Resolution # 37

Why hello there, neglected blog friends!  Thanks for checking back despite the infrequency of my entries as of late.  Speaking of neglected, I pulled this guy out of the cabinet after way too long, and I just loooved the result tonight.

It's ridiculous to turn down help when I could seriously use an extra hand or four to get things done. It seems that I'm making repeated resolutions to employ the slow cooker more, since it could free up precious moments to accomplish the almost stupid volume of tasks requiring attention each evening.  But the truth is, I'm not super jazzed by a lot of slow cooker recipes I see.  They can often seem, well, boring...and I also know that I miss the scrumptious flavor imparted by the searing/grilling/browning process left out of this cooking technique.  What I DO love about using the slow cooker is being welcomed by savory aromas when I open my door, as well as the brilliant fact that dinner is ready to go!

When I recently happened upon a slow cooker version of beef stroganoff by my girl Marth, it sparked a desire to give this contraption another whirl.  I get a hankering for beef stroganoff about once a year, and the thought has been nestled in the back of my brain since the onset of the fall.  If you're, too, a fan of this dish, this slow cooker version does not disappoint!  The beef is tender, the onions are scrumptiously caramelized, and the mushrooms add earthy flavor and textural interest.  The  combination of these ingredients unified with this rich and creamy sauce over a bed of toothy egg noodles is satisfying and warms your belly the whole way through. 

I probably should have taken more care to photograph the final product. But the messy rustic approach is kind of part of this food experience.  Oh, and I was also dying to dig in!  

Beef Stroganoff (click here for recipe)

One note on the recipe: it instructs to thicken the cooking liquid at the end. I was left with very little cooking liquid to speak of, so I just used a cup of chicken stock instead.  It worked like a charm!

My faith in this kitchen gadget just might be restored.  I hereby pronounce (yet another) resolution to be more intentional about incorporating it into my weekly menu planning.  If anyone has any great recipes to share, please do!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Tomato Dilemma

Okay, so receiving a bag of home-grown tomatoes -- on top of an existing inappropriately large retail supply born of my inability to resist them -- is not really a dilemma.  But the desire to not waste, and more importantly, to enjoy every summery, juicy morsel, provides an opportunity to be creative.  Here are our tomato endeavors from the past week. 

Tandoori Spiced Chicken with Grilled Tomato Jam and Herbed Yogurt Sauce (click here for recipe)

This recipe is outstanding, giving you spice, savory, tangy and fresh all at once. The jam is divine and could be employed in countless other ways. So if you have any leftovers, keep them! I love the flavor complexity added by grilling the tomatoes. 

My only variation is related to the chicken... I applaud anyone who can handle the quantity of cayenne pepper called for in this spice rub. I am NOT one of those people, so I significantly reduce the measurement of that ingredient.

Classic California BLT

Simple. Fast. Close-your-eyes-delicious.

  • Toasted Bread, spread with a layer of mayo - just keepin it real, friends.
  • Thick-cut black forest bacon
  • Sliced tomato sprinkled with salt and pepper (important!)
  • Iceburg lettuce
  • Sliced avocado

Not to be neglected, the corn was done on the grill and rubbed with chili lime butter - which was just softened butter stirred together with lime zest, lime juice, a couple dashes of sriracha and salt.

Asparagus with Grilled Tomato Tarragon Vinaigrette (courtesy of Bobby Flay)

I'm providing recipes below for everything on this scrumptious plate, but to point of this post: this vinaigrette is to die for and uses the same grilling strategy for the tomatoes described above.  I could (do) eat it with a spoon.  Grilled tomatoes plus tarragon equals amazing. 

Grilled Tomato Tarragon Vinaigrette
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh tarragon
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 ripe plum tomatoes
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
Grilled asparagus
Hard boiled eggs (my new obsession, I've found)

1.  Heat grill to high.
2.  Whisk together the vinegar, garlic, tarragon, salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl.  Slowly whisk in the 1/4 cup olive oil until emulsified.   Let the vinaigrette sit at room temperature while you grill the tomatoes.
3.  Brush the tomatoes with the remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Grill the tomatoes until blackened on all side, 2-3 minutes per side.
4.  Remove the tomatoes from the grill and let cool slightly.  When cool enough to handle, cut the tomatoes in half crosswise and remove the seeds.  Cut the tomato halves into small dice and add to vinaigrette.  Add the onion and season with salt and pepper.  Allow the vinaigrette to sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before serving. 
5.  Place the grilled asparagus on a large platter and spoon the vinaigrette over the top.  Top with sliced eggs.

This incredible side supported a ridiculous entree of Tea Rubbed Filet Mignon Steaks with Buttery Mushrooms (click here for recipe).  I don't think praise is warranted after you've read that title.  Our portion sizes were admittedly not reasonable, and I don't regret it.  There, I said it.

I don't have a spice grinder, so I used a mortar and pestle to make the rub.


Provencal Tomatoes (click here for recipe)

These little jewels are somehow sweet, light, satisfying and savory all at the same time.  They're stuffed with a mixture of herbs, bread crumbs and Gruyere cheese that plays perfectly off the sweet tomatoes.  To impersonate my girl Ina who authored this go-to recipe, how bad can that be??

End tomato rant.  Thanks for your patience... there were a lot of tomatoes.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Summer Suppers 2

Holy deliciousness.  I can always count on Bobby Flay for sensational recipes, but this one is To. Die. For.   And I just love how it's so perfectly summery too.   If you've never had grilled peaches before, they are afreakinmazing, especially glazed with this luxurious, syrupy reduction of red wine vinegar and honey that comes together in just a few minutes.

Grilled Pork with Agrodolce Grilled Peaches (Click here for recipe)

We not only had rain in the forecast when we prepared this; it was pouring.  But hub wouldn't permit two consecutive non-grilled dinners, so he resorted to this arrangement.

He stood in the garage doorway, and the grill hid safely under the awning. The garage fire alarm only went off three times. A grill is NOT required for this feast though, so please let that not make you miss out on this seriously awesome dish. The pork can be roasted in the oven (look for a 135-140 internal temp), and the peaches would be fab broiled.

Our modification to the recipe was pretty much born of laziness. We used a pork tenderloin instead of a roast and didn't bother with the brine. We simply rubbed it with olive oil and generously sprinkled it with kosher salt, black pepper and chopped fresh rosemary. 

This immediately became a top 5 summer dish.   I'm in love, and I feel pretty darn confident that you will be too if you try this!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Summer Suppers

After a nutty few weeks with traveling and dinners of whatever-works, I was giddy to anticipate a relatively uneventful week at home.  This meant a Sunday afternoon sit down sesh to organize some meals for the upcoming week.  I'm the first to admit that I can deem that process a total pain and wish it - and the subsequent shopping/chopping/prep - over before it starts in favor of, oh, I don't know, a Starbucks date with Molly, a family baseball game in the front yard with pizza box cutout bases, a nap (wait, what is that again?).  But in this, the heart of summer, the vast a supply of fresh goodness had me jazzed to figure out what to cook.

This meal was actually tonight's dinner, and it was yummy enough to prompt a visit to my ever so slightly neglected blog!  This dish is tasty, satisfying, and super easy to prepare.  Try to find fresh sausage for this if you's sooo good.

Sausage and Summer Squash  (Click here for recipe)

Just cook the sausage and veggies in your fave store bought Italian dressing amplified with chopped fresh garlic.  Brush the same dressing onto a sliced baguette and throw into a 400 degree oven until golden and crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside.

That's it!  What a fun surprise that simple Italian dressing can make this dish so surprisingly tasty.  And whoever says the bread isn't the best part is totally lying.

The only downside of this feast was the mess factor. Do you see the splatterville around the pan?  Argh.

We've actually made this dish on the grill before, which both adds great flavor and spares the kitchen clean-up.  No doubt we would have gone that route tonight had rain not been in the forecast.  The good news is that it's awesome prepared either way!

This easy dinner is a winner. I hope to have more successful summer suppers to report soon!

Monday, July 9, 2012


I must beg your forgiveness for such an uncreative title. It stands, simply, for Best Sauce Ever.  I'm irrationally jazzed up by dishes served with dipping sauces, because they lend another chance to pile on unique layers of deliciousness.  This dipping sauce was born after I had some leftover long peppers from a tangy, incredible steak sauce recipe and just had to dream them into a thicker sauce (reminiscent of my beloved Peruvian chicken).  What is a long pepper, you ask?

These are just a zippier version of roasted red peppers, which are a totally great substitute in this recipe, by the way. In all honesty, "recipe" is an indulgent term though, since this is really just a few ingredients quickly zapped together in a food processor that elevate a simple protein like rotisserie chicken into something seriously memorable. (I identify rotisserie chicken in the category of simple since it is most typical to pick up a rotisserie chicken at the store.   It may be no surprise that my hub resides in a different category: one that prepares said rotisserie bird himself, undeterred by 103 degree temperatures, with a result that could be the juiciest and most flavorful chicken ever. But as I had zero involvement in that project, I'll just say that this sauce is darn awesome on anything from store bought rotisserie chicken to wings to frozen chicken nuggets!)

Anyway, the scoop is below...  I so wish I measured this stuff precisely.  Even after a handful of preparations, I've never taken the time to figure out whether a "glug" really equals a tablespoon.  The good news is that it can be easily adjusted to taste.  If it needs a wake up, add a wee bit more vinegar.  If it feels overly acidic, add another squeeze of honey.  Remember to always season generously with salt and pepper too!


3-4 red long peppers
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayo
1 Tbsp (glug-ish) red wine vinegar
1-2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor, mini chop or blender and enjoy along with chicken, shrimp, or pork.   Don't forget the fries.

Friday, June 1, 2012


I am giddy to be back in the blogosphere today after one of the craziest work months ever, which seemed to allow time for little else in the way of responsibilities/chores/life, much less the fun escape of blogging.  I'm even more giddy to share this crazy fab recipe.  Can I tell you why? 

1.  It was amazingly restaurant-quality yumness that necessitated carrying on about it for nearly 30 minutes post-meal.
2.  Said yumness was achieved with very few ingredients.
3.  The whole thing was prepped and on the table in 30 minutes.

Seared Scallops with Fennel and Cherry Tomatoes (click here for recipe)


I've mentioned before that I love, love it. Spotting it pictured in last month's Real Simple mag nestled in a rich broth with seared scallops and, even better, accented by two garlic toasts on deck for dunking, sealed the deal. This was on the list to prepare, um, immediately. We made a few modifications:  First, in lieu of searing, Ryan took the scallops to a super, super hot grill (for just a sec, so as to not overcook them, particularly since they would have a minute or two in the simmering broth to cook even further...scallops can turn from scrumptiously tender to heinously rubbery in a millisecond).  As no surprise, he grilled the bread as well.  It is kind of ridiculous how a brush of olive oil, sprinkling of salt and pepper, rub of a fresh garlic glove, and quick visit to hot grates elevates a simple baguette into an almost stupid level of deliciousness. 

I had an unexpected dose of happy from those little cherry tomatoes.  They simmered in the sauce just long enough to release their sweetness, which had a lovely mellowing effect on the slight brininess of the clam juice and white wine mixture.  The finished plate was to die for, which makes me again in awe of how little time and effort it required.  Even if Ryan wasn't outside knocking out the scallops and bread while I threw the sauce together at the stove inside, it still would have been ready in the prescribed 30 minutes.

If you're looking for an awesome date night or company-worthy meal, try this!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Holy Cow

After an unintentional, extended blogging hiatus, I can think of no better recipe to bring me back online.  Best. Friggin. Burger. Ever.  I know that is quite an assertion, and though my passion should admittedly be reigned back in to planet Earth from time to time, please trust that this is no exaggeration.  This is one of those food experiences that beg a closed eyes, slow motion approach to each dreamy bite.  No shame, folks.  No shame here at all.

Burger with Red Cabbage Slaw and Pickled Okra Russian Dressing (Recipe at the end of the post)

While the recipe calls for buffalo, I opted for 85/15 beef in the spirit of familiarity for the kids.  Ryan somehow managed to get the grill to a screaming 650 degrees, which delivered the most gorgeous crust to the outside of the meat itself.  So yes, the meat rocked.  But the toppings, oh the toppings... just total Heaven.

Imagine the first layer: delicious, melty fontina cheese hugging the burger.  Before it's nestled on the bun, the bread is first brushed smothered with an incredible Russian dressing speckled with none other than chopped pickled okra.  We hunted multiple stores for it just knowing that this vinegary element could be something to write home a blog about, and I'd go through that effort twice over to recreate this masterpiece of a burger.  Another generous spoonful of the sauce tops the burger, followed by a heap of tangy red cabbage and carrot slaw dressed in a light and sweet rice wine vinaigrette.  The bright flavor and crunch of the slaw amounts to perfection alongside the rich sauce.  No wonder you are famous, Bobby Flay.

Okay, so these burgers were no joke.  A pig out.  But it's hard to make something like a burger - especially one this insanely yummy - without some picnic-y sides.  I couldn't resist deviled eggs this time, which I'll blame on the little 'variations on the deviled egg' feature in the latest Real Simple mag.  We went the classic route, with mayo, fresh lemon juice, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper.  Would you believe that two of my six eggs had double yokes?  Isn't that weird?  I should probably go buy a lottery ticket.

For the second side, we brought out more Bobby Flay brilliance in the form of grilled sweet potato and scallion salad, which I've actually already rambled about here.  This is an easy, fresh, delicious salad that requires balsamic AND cider vinegar.  So you know I'm all over it.

Here's a shot of the plate in all its sloppy glory.

So yes, I'm hitting the gym hard this week after such a ridiculous caloric performance.  I know it's not something we should have every day.  My brain is clearly not cooperating, however, as it continues to strategize over when we can make these burgers again.

Burger with Swiss Cheese, Red Cabbage Slaw, and Pickled Okra Russian Dressing
Courtesy of Bobby Flay's Grill It

1 1/2 pounds ground buffalo (or beef, turkey, chicken, etc)
2 Tbsp canola oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 (1/4 inch thick) slices Gruyere or fontina cheese

Red Cabbage Slaw
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tsp honey
2 Tbsp canola oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 small head of red cabbage, finely shredded
1 large carrot, peeled and finely shredded.

Pickled Okra Russian Dressing
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 Tbsp ketchup
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup finely diced pickled okra
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1.  To  make the slaw, whisk together the vinegar, honey, oil and salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl.  Add the cabbage and carrot and toss until combined.  Let sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes or up to 1 hour before serving.

2.  Heat grill to high.

3.  Form the meat into 4 burgers, each 1 inch thick.  Brush with the oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Place on the grill and cook until golden brown and slightly charred, 3 to 4 minutes.  Turn the burgers over and continue cooking until desired doneness.

4.  Place 2 slices of the cheese on each burger, close the lid or tent with foil, and cook until the cheese just begins to melt, about 1 minute.

5.  Spread some of the Russian dressing on the tops and bottoms of each bun.  Place a burger on each bottom half and top each burger with some of the slaw and a bun on top.  Serve immediately and devour.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Marth's Wise Words

Martha Stewart - my guru of domesticity - once instructed to always make your bed, because "cleanliness begets cleanliness".  She maintained that you'll be less likely to drop things on the floor around a pretty, perfectly made bed than if it were disheveled.   My poor, poor husband has actually endured me repeating that phrase to him, because, like many insane over the top helpful but questionably bizarre tips she offers, I ate it up with a spoon.  Anyway, I heard the same "begetting" concept on a commercial once (for cereal maybe?) that one healthy decision leads to another one.  So if you invest time to exercise, you're likely to make more responsible food choices since the progress is already under way.

I'll coin a new phrase today:  Cooking begets cooking.  Sometimes it's just a matter of getting started for the groove to kick in.  For those that like the idea of cooking at home, but can't seem to find the spark to get started, there are some great tools available to aid with the most common road block: time!  Here are a few...

The only rule is to feel no pressure...because then it won't be fun and will just feel like yet another obligation on the to-do list.  Be further encouraged:  1) No one says "homemade" has to equal "fussy" or "gourmet"!  2) Cooking just once or twice can get you through the better part of a week if you plan for leftovers.  3) There's not a thing wrong with take-out.  To the contrary, taking a break is not only refreshing but necessary in my book.  (In fact, I'll be at Chick Fil A tomorrow night for my Kindergartner's school spirit night!)

If you're someone who is interested in cooking more, start small and give it a might just find yourself on a roll.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My Vinegar Heaven

Italian Sub Salad (Click here for recipe)

Italian subs are one of my fave pizza shop staples, and the more heaping/gloppy the toppings, the better, as far as I'm concerned. A tangy vinaigrette and classic shake of oregano are so perfectly complimentary to salty Italian meats and provolone. 

When I came across this recipe claiming to convert such a substantial and delicious sandwich to a salad, my reaction was admittedly mixed: wow-this-sounds-incredible-if-it's-really-possible-to-achieve-the-awesomeness-of-this-sub-in-a-salad  vs. no-chance-a-salad-can-compare-to-the-awesomeness-of-this-sub-and-PS-recipes-like-this-kind-of-annoy-me.  It's probably rather clear since it's landing in this forum, but the former sentiment prevailed.  Hurray!

For me, the treasure of this salad comes from this glorious little jar of Italian pickled veggies.  I have no idea how I've managed to pass over such a gem of an ingredient for so long, as my love of pickled things clearly borders obsession. 

The zesty brine serves as the base for the dressing.  Genius.

A second dose of genius is toasted bread cubes (my theme lately, it seems), which boast the crispy outside and satisfyingly tender inside of a perfectly fresh Italian sub shop roll.  THEN these already tasty little nuggets take it one step further and drink up the dressing for a burst of flavor.

Toss some sweet Peppadews and salty olives from the Mediterranean bar on top, and I am totally in love. 

Win win to find such vinegary goodness (little less 'ode' and a little more, um, 'reverence' in this entry, eh??) in a salad that also just *nearly* satisfies like a sub!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Snowy Weekend - Part 2

I'm not sure any of my ramblings could amplify this classic cold weather feast.  The picture kinda says it all.  It's one of those dishes that challenge you to resist closing your eyes to savor each bite.  I should be moderately embarrassed for that remark, but it's my sad and hungry truth.

Red Wine Braised Short Ribs (Click here for recipe)

I didn't adapt the recipe itself, but I deviated slightly on presentation.  It instructs to strain the sauce entirely, which I did.  But I just couldn't abandon those sweet, tender carrots and celery, so on the plate they went... well, before the kids devoured them.  Also, instead of serving atop mashed potatoes, I opted for buttered egg noodles coated sprinkled with grated Parmesan on the side.  Um, not sure why I haven't had those in about 10 years??  Divine! 

Well, now that temperatures are climbing to over 70 degrees (in February!!) less than week after the snow fell, I'm guessing that these cold weather dishes are not as inspirational as I hoped they'd be. But please tuck this seriously fab and cozy recipe away for if/when winter decides to return!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Snowy Weekend - Part 1

Finally!  It was about darn time for a frosty weekend at home, as our "winter" thus far hasn't offered its typical font of seasonal culinary inspiration.  I almost forgot how much I adore a pot-of-delicious-something bubbling away on the stove, its aromas filling the house while the snow falls quietly outside.  Call me cheesy; you'll be correct.

I owe a debt of gratitude to my dear friend Maura, who provided me with a recipe from Martha Stewart's January issue, which tragically did not make it into my mailbox for reasons unknown.  I've felt the void.  I've mourned.  But I'm moving on now, thanks to February's delivery and, more importantly, this amazingly delicious recipe that makes me feel like I never missed out in the first place.

Pork Sausages with White Beans

What a completely unworthy title.  I know I get pretty enthusiastic about food in general, but trust me that this a stand-out.  Why?  Imagine savory sausage nestled in a divine stew of white beans, diced tomatoes, white wine, chicken stock, onions, herbs, and yup -- bacon.  THEN this goodness is topped with a layer fresh breadcrumbs sauteed until golden.  Two minutes under the broiler puts the exclamation point on this dish.  It's cozy, super tasty, kid-friendly, and makes great leftovers.

Kinda looks like stuffing on top, huh?   Well, thanks to the wee bit of butter in which the bread sautes, I beg you to believe that it's even BETTER. 

Martha and Maura, you are both my heroes!  On to the recipe.

Pork Sausages and White Beans
(courtesy of Martha Stewart)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ounces diced bacon
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups canned diced tomatoes (from one 14.5 ounce can)
1 1/4 cups chicken stock
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 pounds cooked pork sausages (French garlic or bratwurst,) left whole or sliced 1 inch thick
5 cups homemade breadcrumbs, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (sourdough is delicious!)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 325.  Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large braiser or high-sided ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.  Add bacon; cook until crisp.  Add onion; cook until tender.  Add garlic and thyme; cook for 1 minute.  Add wine; cook for 1 minute.  Add tomatoes; cook until sauce is thickened.  Add stock and beans; bring to a simmer.  Add sausages.  Bake for 30 minutes.  

Toast breadcrumbs in remaining butter in a skillet over medium-high heat, stirring until golden, 8-10 minutes.  Stir in parsley.  Season with coarse salt.  

Remove skillet from oven.  Heat broiler.  Scatter bread-crumbs over top of sausage mixture.  Broil 6 inches from heat source until top is deep golden brown, 1-2 minutes.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Just cuz

So I had this dark beer lying around leftover from a whole grain mustard beer battered onion ring adventure (I forgot to take photos, darnit, or I'd share.).  We are not huge dark beer drinkers, and I wondered whether we'd end up tossing it....until I was mercilessly beckoned by a recipe for Beer-Pretzel Caramels.  Sold.

I casually mentioned them to my sister, who inquired "what will you do with all those caramels?".  I realized I hadn't considered that a bit, and at this point, said caramels were prepared and chilling in the fridge.  While it was a good question in light of it still being early in the New Year, Paula Deen's diabetes diagnosis, general caloric awareness, etc, I nevertheless paused and confidently replied, "consume them".   Sometimes there is no agenda necessary to make a delicous treat.  That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Pretzels are a brilliant addition to anything sweet, but they are particularly divine nestled in gorgeously rich caramel.

I love a recipe with a brief ingredient list.

The prep is fun and fast.  Half of the beer reduces to a beautiful, thick syrup...

...while the second half of the beer is stirred into the other ingredients and then cooked to reach 235 degrees of amber perfection. 

These two pots do their simultaneous magic in about 12 minutes.  Once the mixtures are combined, along with crumbled pretzels, the whole concoction is poured into a buttered dish to be refrigerated until firm - but still luxuriously chewy, just as I had hoped!

While the boys were playing in the family room last night, Molly and I sneaked into the kitchen for an "our little secret" caramelfest.  I'll excuse the indulgence for mother-daughter bonding!

Beer-Pretzel Caramels
courtesy of Food Network

1 12 oz bottle brown ale
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for the dish
 11/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups coarsely crushed thin pretzels

1.  Pour the beer into a glass; let sit until flat, about 1 hour.
2.  Butter an 8-inch square baking dish.  Bring half of the beer to a boil in small saucepan over medium heat; cook until reduced to 2 tsp, about 10 minutes.
3.  Meanwhile, combine the remaining beer, the brown sugar, corn syrup, cream and butter in a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until a candy thermometer registers 235 degrees (10-12 minutes).  Remove from the heat and stir in the beer syrup and pretzels.  Spread in the prepared dish and chill until firm, 45 minutes to an hour.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Warm and Fuzzies

I did the happy dance on our last visit to my parents' house when my dad suggested preparing one of my favorite childhood breakfast feasts:  crepes.  A handful, okay a lot, of experiences evoke total giddiness in me -  like the coffee maker's "I'm ready!" beep, the smell of freshly cut grass, an empty dishwasher, a good pedicure, a perfectly folded fitted sheet (oops, secret's out: I'm indeed insane), to name a few - and my dad's crepes have a special place on that list.

Memories of giggling with my sisters in our pj's over our plates of powdered sugar dusted, jam filled crepes rank pretty high on my warm and fuzzy scale.  I'm certain we each inhaled at least six of them at a sitting, which I, as a parent now, can imagine elevated the giggles to an irritating decibel given the sugar content.  I am so thankful for those sweet moments, and I just love the opportunity to now be able to share them with my kids.   

An integral part of this story is this pan... a pan that made a wholelotta crepes in its (clearly) long life.  Its magical crepe powers, along with the perfection of my dad's technique of course, yield the perfect batch.

A little tidbit I just learned in Bon Appetit, by the way, is that the ceramic coated frying pan has totally made a comeback.  Holla. 

Anyway, here is the pile of fluffy goodness before they are rolled into their classic sugar/jam tunnel.

And then, the real deal.  Just.Divine.

Here is the recipe, but I have to confess that I have yet to try to make them!  I kind of love that I - and now my little ones - associate them affectionately with Poppop Kevin and Grandma Connie's house.  Yes, I am a total sucker for nostalgia.  But since my sweet parents have graciously bequeathed The Crepe Pan to me, I clearly have no option but to summon courage and attempt them myself one of these days!