Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Cooking Day 6: Duck Confit

My photography skills really are not that great and once again Jamie pointed out tonight that I have to stop trying to photograph on white plates.  I get it...that is my 2017 goal.  With Cate's new camera and perhaps a few new plates...I can hope for better looking pictures.

But for now...I rocked at making Duck Confit.  Even as we speak, Cate is on her way back from Cleveland, from seeing her first NBA game, and has asked that this be waiting for her.  So, regardless of the time, and Jamie is asleep...I have duck confit in the oven (along with au gratin potatoes).  I hope she stays awake long enough to enjoy them.

This is a surprisingly easy dish to just takes a bit of time...actually three days.  Living in Belgium, you could find duck confit as easily as finding chicken.   Twenty minutes away from us was a duck farm where we could buy confit, duck breasts and foie is as prevalent as chicken or turkey is here in the States.  But back in the U.S., duck confit seems to be only available at high end specialty shops or online purveyors.  It is a shame.

If you have been reading this blog over the week, you may have noticed the same side dishes day after day.  Yes, Jamie has been making his sautéed spinach...but it is so good, why not.  Each day, we try a different potato dish...tonight it was potatoes sautéed in duck fat, naturally.

Duck Confit

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas Cooking Day 5: This Ain't Beef...Iberico de Bellota Pork

Evidently, I am supposed to stop using white plates for my pictures.  I only found this out once the meal was plated but at least in this case, my resident photographer did a really nice job.  I am hoping that once she receives her Christmas present, I will never have to take a photograph again!

Regardless of what you may think...this is not steak...but look at that marbling...look at how red the meat might mistaken it for a dry aged steak.  This is Iberico de Bellota pork...the premier pork of Spain.  These free range pigs have been feasting on acorns for a significant period of their lives...they are to pork what Waygu is to beef.  Even better, these little piggies snacked in the countryside near Cordoba and I have been there twice so they are like family to me.

No, you won't find this from your butcher.  So far, I can only find this through La is a wonderful story in and of itself.  A Navy Chaplain was stationed a significant amount of his career in Spain and he and his family fell in love with the country....can't say that I blame them.  He comes back to the States, retires near Williamsburg, VA and starts is own mail-order company specializing in all food Spanish.  Jamie purchased a Paella kit from them almost 10 years ago as a Christmas present and I have been a convert ever since.  I think they were instrumental in getting the government to even allow Iberico into the U.S.  Bless you.

Recently, they started selling Iberico steaks...this was a little over a pound.  It is so well marbled and really only needs salt and pepper.  Since I couldn't get to the grill, I cooked it over medium-high heat in a was a pretty thick cut of meat so it took about 15 minutes or so.  I seared it on both sides and then flipped it every few minutes.  Before serving, let it stand about five minutes, covered in foil.    Cut it not worry that it looks will be red.  But you can tell if it is cooked to the proper temperature.

It isn't cheap but it is delicious and is worthy of Christmas cooking.  We served it (again) with sautéed spinach and fried some beautiful fingerling potatoes (with bacon). Let the pork fest begin!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Christmas Cooking Day 4: Hanger Steak with Shallots

Stop into almost any bistro in France and chances are you will see on the menu Steak Saute aux Echalotes - Steak with a Red Wine Shallot Sauce.  The steak is typically a bavette or onglet cut, which is difficult to find sometimes here in the U.S.  Onglet is Hanger Steak and a good U.S. butcher will have this delicious and inexpensive cut of meat.  

This is a super easy dish to make - even worthy of a weeknight splurge.  Last night, we enjoyed this with Jamie's sautéed spinach and Cate's ever wonderful Au Gratin potatoes.  That girl can make some potatoes.

Hanger Steak with Shallots

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Christmas Cooking Day 3: Baked Pork Chops with Brie and Creamed Mushrooms

I was very proud of myself last night.  I repurposed a dinner from last week and created something incredibly delicious.  Remember, Baked Pork Chops with Brie from December 11, 2016?  I had one leftover from last week along with some leftover stuffing.  I placed the pork chop and the stuffing in a casserole dish, covered with foil and warmed it in a 350 degree oven.

Then I made my delicious creamed mushrooms (see October 8, 2015) using shiitake and oyster mushrooms.  Once the pork was warmed through, I placed it on a plate and covered it with creamy, mushrooms.  It may become a regular part of our repertoire.  


Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas Cooking Day 2: The World's Best Hamburger

I was three-quarters of the way through my burger when I realized that I had not taken a picture of it! Friends, use your imagination and know this:  This is the best burger recipe.  It is a no-fail star!  We only have them about twice a year but when we do, there is a little party going on in our kitchen. And after the stress of watching the Steeler-Bengal game, we needed a little party (thank goodness the Steelers won - or I may have had to postpone this meal).

The World's Best Hamburger
Adapted from The Food Network Magazine

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Christmas Cooking Day 1: Risotto with Duck and White Balsamic Vinegar

A week before Christmas and I intend on making a wonderful dinner each night.  I have planned the menus for weeks now...settling on ideas...changing my mind...settling on get the gist.  What I do know is that none of the recipes are new.  These are old, tried and true favorites.  Some have become traditions in our tiny household.  Crab hash with poached eggs for Christmas Eve morning, duck confit with sautéed potatoes, etc.  There are some changes this year...instead of fondue for Christmas dinner, we are having Raclette.   There are some other changes this year.  My sister will be celebrating with us.  She reminded me yesterday that we probably have not celebrated Christmas together since we were in college...and I will not tell you how many years ago that was.  It is so nice to have her near and we are all looking forward to spending the holiday with her.

I want to post each day the recipe from the night before and we shall see how far we get.  If anything, it will document for myself the dinners so as the years go by, I can just look them up!  Last night's dinner was prepped by me but made by Cate and Jamie.  Cate, of course, made the risotto and Jamie made the duck.  When we lived in Belgium, duck was so prevalent.  Here in the US, it is a luxury.  In this recipe, a little goes a long way.  We cooked two breasts but could have served it for three people with just one.  A smooth red wine goes really well with the this case, we opened one of our treasured Austrian wines, a Zweigelt.

Risotto with Duck and White Balsamic Vinegar
From Bon Appetit

Friday, December 16, 2016

Carrillada: Making My Favorite Spanish Tapa

     My apologies up front...I could not get a picture that gave this dish justice.  We made it Saturday night and were blown away.  We had the leftovers tonight and were blown away again.  It really is amazing and just the right dish to serve when it freezing outside and there is snow on the ground.     

     Our favorite restaurant in Sevilla is La Azotea.  Owned by a husband and wife team (he is Spanish, she is American), it is an amazing place to experience Spanish tapas.  On one visit to Sevilla, Cate and I visited their restaurants (they have three in the city) three times in a 30 hour period of time.  It is that good.  Why?  The food is inventive but authentically Spanish.  The wait staff is eager to help and the owners are super friendly.  I once arrived 30 minutes before the restaurant opened just to make sure that we would be seated (as there is always a line) and the owner came out and asked if I wanted to wait it would be more comfortable.

     We have never had a bad dish there.  The traditional tomato mozzarella salad is completely unique.  In the center of a salad bowl is a scoop of lemon sorbet.  Artfully placed around the sorbet are heirloom tomatoes, burrata and greens.  You might think that you are missing the basil but take a closer look...what you think might be candy are actually basil gummies...totally ingenious.  If you visit the Gran Poder location you might catch a glimpse of the owner, skillfully slicing the Iberico de Bellota and noshing on a few slices.  The kitchen is tiny and that is another amazing feat - that such great food could come out of such a small space.

     Whenever Jamie, Cate and I discuss going back to Europe (and we will go back), Sevilla is always on our list of places to visit.  No matter how many times we go there, I think we will always want to return.  It has an amazing vibe...even for us old folks.  And the food....we have tried many times to recreate the marvelous meals that we had there.  I must say that we have had many successes but making Carrillada took us over the top.

     Now, what is Carrillada?  I have intentionally not indicated what it is as I thought that you would skip over this entire post (the 10 or so people that actually read this).  Carrillada are...wait for really, wait for it......pork or beef cheeks.  In our case, of course, pork cheeks.  Surprisingly, itis a very lean cut of pork, that when braised, is utterly delicious...and cheap. At La Azotea, they serve this tapa with a slice of melted goat cheese on top.  As it was our main course, we served it atop a scoop of decadently creamy polenta.  On a blustery winter day and with a glass of red wine, it was the perfect weekend meal.

     The inspiration for this dish actually came from Lauren Aloise, an American who owns a food tour company in Madrid.  She also has her own website and frequently details Spanish recipes.  When Cate and I visited Madrid on our last trip before moving back to the States, we had the opportunity to take one of Lauren's food tours---led by her and it was one of the highlights of the trip...that... and the three La Azotea visits!

Carrillada:  Braised Pork Cheeks with Port Wine and Honey
Adapted from Lauren Aloise, owner of Devour Spain

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Baked Pork Chops with Brie

   Try this dish once and you will never think about the days of Shake and Bake. I have memories of weeknight dinners consisting of Shake and Bake pork chops, StoveTop stuffing and some vegetable that I ultimately swirled around the plate trying to hide.  I haven't had Shake and Bake in years but I will admit I served StoveTop with this wonderful baked pork earlier this year.

    I found the recipe idea purely as a fluke and after tweaking it a bit, it has become a huge hit. It is weeknight worthy and special enough for company.   If you are adverse to pork, this would go well with chicken.

Baked Pork Chops with Brie
Serves 4


4 boneless pork chops (I had a pork loin that I sliced into 1" thick chops)
2t Dijon Mustard
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (surprisingly, we like the dish better just using seasoned breadcrumbs instead of panko but you could use either)
2t butter, melted
2 cloves garlic, minced
2T dried parsley
Brie cheese, sliced

Preheat the oven to 400. Heat a little olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper and spread Dijon Mustard over both sides. When the skillet is hot, brown the chops, three minutes a side. Remove to a baking dish.

Combine breadcrumbs, butter, garlic and parsley. Place slices of Brie over the chops, covering each chop. Top with breadcrumb mixture. Don't worry if the breadcrumbs slide off the pork a bit.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

easy, peasy...and delicious.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Ricotta Gnocchi with Brown Butter Sage Sauce, Brussels Sprouts and Bacon

This dish is easy enough for a weeknight dinner, especially if you buy a premade ricotta gnocchi and special enough for company.  The original recipe was published in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette a few weeks ago.  We tweaked it by adding bacon, of course.  And I must mention...Dear Husband made this - even more fabulous!

Ricotta Gnocchi with Brown Butter Sage Sauce, Brussels Sprouts and Bacon
Adapted from Gretchen McKay, Pittsburgh Post Gazette


12 ounces shaved Brussels Sprouts
Grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Pine Nuts
3 slices of bacon, cut into lardons and cooked
1 stick of butter
12 sage leaves

1.  Cook the gnocchi according to directions.
2.  In a skillet, melt the butter.  Add the sage leaves and pine nuts.  Cook until butter starts to brown slightly, 5-7 minutes.
3.  Add cooked bacon and Brussels sprouts.  Stir to coat; remove from heat.

Place cooked gnocchi is a warmed pasta bowl.  Spoon sauce over and garnish with grated Parmesan.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Butternut Squash Ravioli - Family Cook Night in our New Kitchen

     After nearly a month, our kitchen reno is complete. What better way to celebrate than to have a family cook night.  Our island now has space for chairs, which makes it way more cosy and it is a great space to hang out together.  After a morning spent raking leaves and getting the lawn ready for winter, we were all ready for a good meal and a quiet evening together.  What made it even better was that Dear Daughter had nothing on her social schedule.

     My pantry is bursting with various different kinds of squash.  As it has been difficult to actually cook recently, now that the kitchen is finished, I have no excuse but to put together some dishes.  I am actually not a huge fan of squash but this ravioli dish is super good and super easy.  I will admit that it was almost a disaster.  We tried to use pre-made pasta dough but we could not get the sides to seal no matter what we tried.  I suddenly remembered that we had wonton wrappers and Dear Husband did an exceptional job with the brown butter sage sauce.   In the end, we had enough for appetizer portions with plenty of squash puree set aside for another attempt sometime.  We all had a good laugh with the near dinner disaster and that made the evening that much more fun.  So, squash ravioli for an appetizer and good prosciutto and cheeses to follow.

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Sage Sauce

I used a combination of butternut and honey nut squash.  Honey nut is new to me...they look like miniature butternuts.  If you cannot find them, then just use butternut.

Butternut Squash Puree
2 large butternut squash, sliced lengthwise.
1 onion sliced
1T butter
1/2 tsp ground ginger

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly oil a baking sheet. Place the squash cut side down on the baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes or until you can put a fork easily through them.

In a saucepan, melt 1T butter.  Add the onions and lightly sauté until translucent.  Add the ground ginger and cook for an additional minute.  Scoop the squash pulp from each half and add to the onions.  Cook for one minute, stirring to combine the ingredients.  Puree the mixture in a blender.  Check the consistency.  If it has too much liquid, then place back in the saucepan and lightly reduce until the puree is thicker.

Wonton wrappers
3T diced shallots
3T grated Parmesan Cheese
2T heavy cream
Salt and white pepper
1T butter
Pinch of nutmeg

Saute the shallots in butter for one to to minutes.  Add the puree and cook for an additional two minutes.  Add the heavy cream, checking to make sure that the consistency is not too runny.  Cook one more minute.  Remove from heat, add the cheese, salt and pepper to taste and a pinch of nutmeg.  

Set aside to cool.

Construction:  Place 1 1/2 t of filling in the center of a  wonton wrapper.  Swipe water around the edges with your finger.  Bring one corner to the opposite corner to make a triangle.  Press the sides together to seal.  Set aside and continue until you have the amount you want.  In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the wontons three to four minutes.  You may have to do this in batches.

Brown Butter Sage Sauce
8 T Butter
12 Sage leaves

In a skillet, melt the butter.  Add the sage leaves and lightly crisp.  As the wontons are finished, transfer them to the sauce and stir lightly.

To serve, place ravioli in a warmed dish.  Spoon butter sauce over the top.  Sprinkle grated cheese and a few sage leaves over the top.


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Life in Flux...but Better with a Good Sunday Brunch

Oeufs en Cocotte

     Are we always in a state of flux?  Perhaps.  We are now entering Week 4 of a kitchen renovation and I am definitely feeling the "flux".  This isn't a huge renovation cabinets and countertops.  The only new appliances were to be a new cooktop and microwave.  Cabinets are installed and we are now waiting for the countertops, which seem to be taking forever.  I have no cooktop but I have learned how to cook using the burner on our outside grill.  Then last Sunday, the refrigerator died a horrible death and rather than try to bring it back to life...I added yet another payment to Lowe's.  When it rains, it pours.

Honestly, having this is saving me at the moment!

     Friday, Dear Husband arrived home from a two week trip to Asia.  While we had talked twice everyday, we had missed talking to him on Thursday.  By the time he arrived on Friday, he was exhausted...and sick.  He lasted fifteen minutes before going to bed once we arrived home.  We saw him for thirty minutes on Saturday as he spent most of the day in bed.  This morning, he was hovering over me, to ask where he should go on a Sunday morning if he needed to see a doctor.  Ninety minutes later, he arrived back home with his antibiotics.  He did manage to last through my "Welcome Home Brunch" but is back in bed now...maybe to rise for the Steeler game.

     So, we are in real flux this weekend.  I have felt the real need not only to write but to cook.  So, I am doing both today.  As I cooked breakfast this morning, I felt a calm come over me.  I was welcoming an old friend that I had not seen for a while.  As I type these words, I feel the same.  I will never be the writer I want to be but given my introvert ways, it is my way of being an extrovert.

     I first made this dish several years ago.  While in Belgium, we lived an hour away from the Le Creuset factory in France.  Once a year, they opened the factory doors for one weekend only and slashed their prices on everything.  You had to go with the mindset, "You get what you get."  You could not be hung up on color schemes or certain pieces.  Early one Sunday morning, me and two of my friends headed down the Autoroute to culinary heaven.  And this particular year, my color, blue, was everywhere.  I walked away with pots, soup bowls, and these little cocottes.  I had no idea what to make in them but they were so damn cute.  "I just had to have them!"  So, I left the sale spending about 200 Euros and had about 700 Euros worth of Le Creuset.  That, my friends, is money well spent.  We topped off our shopping spree with a delightful Sunday lunch...nothing better than shopping with friends.  It is a memory I will not forget.

My filling is leeks, shallots and bacon.  What will yours be?
Now, what do you make in those cute little mini cocottes?  They are perfect for this wonderful Sunday brunch recipe.  Actually, you can make them anytime of the week.  In fact, I make enough of the filling to last all week and then just pop them in the oven so Dear Daughter can have protein on school days.  You can use whatever filling you is one of those perfect recipes...make it what you want.

Crack the egg into the center of the pot.

Add a bit of cream and seasoning
Top with cheese

Place in the oven - either on a pan or in a water bath

Oeufs en Cocotte - Shirred Eggs

1 leek, thinly sliced
1 shallot, diced
1T butter
3 slices of bacon, diced
Salt and Pepper
Gruyere cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a skillet, cook the bacon until nearly crispy.  Add the leeks and shallots and cook until translucent, about 3-5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add about 2T heavy cream and cook down until thick.

In ramekins or cocottes, lightly butter the bottom and sides.  Place a spoonful of the leek mixture in the bottom of each.  Make a slight indention the middle.  Crack one egg into each ramekin/cocotte.  Season with salt and pepper.  Drizzle a bit more cream and top with shredded Gruyere.  I topped mine off with some chopped chives.  Place the tops back on and place in the oven for 10-15 minutes based on how you like the egg.

You can also cook this in a water bath - it tends to take a bit longer but it also allows you to control the runny-ness of the egg.

What is so great about this recipe is that you can assemble ahead of time and then pop them in the oven.  I serve them with a small green salad and toast.


Yep, he is sick and both are not happy about having a picture taken!

Monday, September 5, 2016

The End of Summer and the Beginning of Everything Else

Susan (my sister), Cate and Jamie

Somehow in the blink of an eye, we went from the independence seeking terrible 2's to the independent demanding almost 15-year old.  I know that sentence is horribly grammatically incorrect (as is this one), but that is the only way to describe it.  Cate (aka Dear Daughter) has entered high school with a vengeance  - loving every moment of it, relishing in the independence that was not afforded her last year in her Catholic middle school and feeling mighty grown-up.  While some her friends, who have only attended one school  for the past 8 years, are floundering a bit with the fact that yes, there are other kids from other schools attending this high school...Cate has embraced it.  I know that she does not get this trait from me but she is incredibly social and loves the fact that she is making new friends.

So, the helicopter mom in me wants to make sure that she is eating well both for breakfast and for lunch and while I keep telling myself that she is old enough to make both of herself, you can still find me in the kitchen each morning making her first two meals.  She has never been a "leftover" person so imagine my surprise last week when her response to my, "What do you want for lunch tomorrow?" was met with, "Do you have any more of that pasta that we had tonight?  We have a microwave in the cafeteria and I can heat it up."  Sad to say, but I was ecstatic.  She is eating leftovers and is heating them up at school. In my book, that means I have taught her well!   I did check her lunchbox the next day and the container was empty.  So she is either dumping the contents or actually eating the meal!  For my sanity, she is eating the meal.

I cannot believe that my dear Catherine is a freshman in high school.  Wow...we talk about boys, about driving, about college.  She seems, to me, to have a maturity that is far greater than what I had at her age...she is comfortable in her own skin, confident, and has a special way with her friends.  Frequently, when I try to step in, she tells me..."I got this, Mom," and she does.  I know that there will be uphill battles and we will have to continue with the boundaries that we have set, but I can see that she is already moving away from "needing" us in the way that she did as a kid.   She will need us in different ways as she continues to mature, which means that we will have to adapt once more as parents.  As parents, it is scary...and exciting.

So, Cate ventures into a new world, confident and happy.  I, too, have ventured into a new world...moving into a new job and for the first time since we returned from Europe, I feel settled.  How many companies would tell you that they want you to work for them...either full time or part decide.  So I am, once again, back in education...working 30 hours a week for a charter distance learning school.  I am super busy, loving it and it still affords me to have those car rides with Cate each afternoon when I pick her up from school.  Because, you know...That is when you learn all the stuff!

So no pictures for this dish but it is super easy and it super nutritious - just what a high schooler needs midday.

Pasta with Sausage, Cannelloni Beans and Kale


8 ounces cooked pasta
1/4 cup oil packed sun dried tomatoes
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
8 ounces Italian sausage
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp Italian seasoning
pinch crushed red pepper
3 cups chicken broth
one bunch kale (stems removed, coarsely chopped)
1 can cannelloni beans, rinsed and drained
1 rind of Parmesan (optional)

1.  Cook the pasta.  Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid (which I never use....but just in case).
2.  Drain tomatoes in a small sieve over a bowl, reserving 2 tsp oil; slice tomatoes.  Heat a pot over medium heat.  Add tomatoes, tomato oil, onion and sausage to pan.  Cook 10 minutes until sausages are brown; stirring to crumble.  Add garlic and cook one minute.  Add Italian seasoning, red pepper and broth.  Stir in kale and Parmesan rind.  Cover and cook 10-15 minutes, until kale is tender.  Add beans and pasta.  If the sauce has reduced too much, add reserved pasta broth as needed.  Discard Parmesan before serving.

Note:  You can make a batch of this without adding the pasta.  This is what I do.  Then in the morning, I cook up one serving of pasta...which could be penne or farfalle or even tortellini.  I add jus the needed amount of "sauce" and place in a reheatable container.


Friday, August 12, 2016

Recipe: Cashew Chicken

     No joke, this is how my mind works.  On Thursday evenings after I receive an email from my CSA letting me know what veggies I will be receiving on Friday, I make the weekly menu.  With my handy-dandy dry erase marker, I spend a few minutes writing out the menu on the board that sits in our kitchen for all to see.  This means that daily I will hear the question, "What is for dinner tonight?"  After years of the same process, my family refuses to adhere to my procedure.  "Look at the board, people!"

     Perhaps the one reason they do not rely on the board is that I have been known to change my mind.  Yes, I's true.  Case in point is Thursday's menu item on the board:  Chicken salad with quinoa.  Never made the dish but I have had the recipe for years.  It sounded good and it was healthy.  Then, I got on the treadmill for my daily walk to make my 10,000 steps.  I was watching Chopped, as usual.  I was watching but not fully engaged. I was thinking, "I really do not want chicken salad with quinoa.  But I have chicken ready so I need to make some sort of chicken dish."  Over the next thirty minutes or so, I hashed out ideas in my mind.  "What about a chicken in a dijon cream sauce like you used to make in France.  We haven't had that for a while and we have some French cream.  We have some potatoes so I could make a gratin."  I dismissed that as too heavy for a weeknight meal.  "What about grilling the chicken and serving it with nice lettuce from the garden and on the side make a few mini cheese quesadillas with those cute little tortillas that you picked up on the Strip the last visit."  Tempting but not on target.  And so it went in my head...

     I do not know why I settled on Cashew Chicken.  The idea banged into my head and stuck.  It was fast.  It was easy.  I had all of the ingredients.  So the menu board was wrong.  Dear Daughter asked, "What are we having for dinner?"  I replied, "Cashew Chicken."  "Well that is not on the board," was her retort.  Point taken.  Go ahead and ask me daily if you need to as you will never know if I change my mind.  I cook the meals...I can change my mind.

Cashew Chicken
adapted from The Pioneer Woman

1/2 cup soy sauce
1T rice vinegar
1T brown sugar
2T oyster sauce
1/2 t sesame oil
3T vegetable oil
1lb chicken - I had chicken tenders which worked well.  Thighs would also be tasty.
1T chopped garlic
1T chopped ginger
1 green pepper, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/4 cup sherry (can substitute chicken broth)
2T cornstarch
1 cup unsalted cashews
2 green onions, sliced

1.  In a bowl, mix together the soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, oyster sauce and sesame oil.  In a second bowl, mix the cornstarch and 1/4 cup sherry or water.  Set aside.
2.  Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok.  Brown the chicken for a few minutes.  Then, add the garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds.  Add the onions and bell pepper and cook for 2 minutes.  Pour in the sherry or broth and deglaze the pan.  Lower the heat and pour in the soy sauce mixture.  Then add the cornstarch slurry and stir the sauce for a minute.  Add the cashews and stir to coat.  If the sauce is too thick, add a bit more broth.
3.  Spoon over rice and add green onions on top.


Friday, August 5, 2016

Recipe: Kale and Sausage Stuffed Squash

     Lots of good stuff came in last week's CSA shipment.  Two small delicata squash were sitting on my counter.  I have to admit that I am not a big squash lover but I didn't want these to go to waste.  I remembered that last year, I had some success with making a stuffed squash and looking through my ingredients and a quick Internet search, an idea began to form.

     Delicata squash has a nice mild flavor and the outer skin can be consumed.  This does take a bit of time but it still qualifies for an easy weeknight dinner.  Try it and let me know what you think.

Stuffed Delicata Squash

Ingredients for 4 servings

2 medium delicata squash, halved and seeded
2T olive oil
12 ounces sweet Italian sausage
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 sage leaves, minced
pinch of nutmeg and cayenne peper
bunch of kale or spinach, coarsely chopped
1T sherry
2T chicken stock
1/4 c Swiss or Gruyere cheese, grated
1/4 c Parmesan, grated plus 2T
1/4 c Panko

1.  Preheat the oven to 375.  Place the squash on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast for 25 minutes.
2.  Meanwhile, prepare the filling.  In a pan, heat 1T olive oil over medium heat.  Add sausage and onion and cook until sausage is cooked through.  Add garlic and cook another minute or so.  Add sage, nutmeg, cayenne, salt and pepper.  Then add the kale, sherry and stock.  Combine and then cover and cook for a few minutes until liquid has evaporated and kale has wilted.
3. Remove from heat and add in the cheeses.
4. Spoon the mixture into the squash.  Cover with additional Parmesan and Panko.  Drizzle just a bit more olive oil onto the top. Bake for 20 minutes.


Monday, August 1, 2016

Recipe: Fiori di Zucca (Fried Stuffed Zucchini Flowers)


     I stepped out onto my deck yesterday morning and was amazed at how well my container garden was doing this year.  While in Germany and Belgium, I was lucky enough to have a small plot of land and enjoyed my summer vegetable gardens.  In our current home, I do not have a yard large enough for a garden and even if I did, I am sure the deer would enjoy the fruits (veggies) of my labor more than we would.  So, I decided this year, that I would try growing vegetables in containers.  I have had some pretty good success and while it  isn't enough to feed the family, it is fun to tend.  I did go a bit crazy with zucchini plants. I have five pots with zucchini and they always seem to be blooming!

     I first had Fiori di Zucca on a visit to Rome.  We had rented an incredible first floor apartment that had its own garden overlooking Roman ruins.  In our neighborhood was a fantastic market called Volpetti and we must have visited each day we were there.  One evening, we were planning to have a light dinner outside and we found ourselves in Volpetti once more buying Prosciutto and cheeses.  We noticed these beautiful fried zucchini blossoms and added them to our dinner purchase.  We cannot remember what they were stuffed with but they were amazing.

    As I looked over my zucchini plants, I realized that I had a number of male blossoms, which had opened quite nicely.  Knowing that I had some goat cheese in the refrigerator, I quickly decided that we had to try to make Fiori di Zucca for our Sunday night appetizer.  I carefully snipped six open male flowers.  In the kitchen, I mixed together 1/2 cup of goat cheese, 1T whipped cream cheese, 1T heavy cream together in a bowl.  I added sliced scallions, chives, basil and salt and pepper.  Very carefully, I spooned a tablespoon of the cheese mixture into each flower and twisted the ends to close the flower.

     Later that evening, I mixed together one cup of flour, one cup of sparkling water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  I dipped each flower into the batter and let the excess drip off.  Then I fried each flower for two minutes or so until they were golden.  After draining briefly on a paper towel and drizzling a bit of salt over them, we had the perfect summer appetizer, which transported us back to Italy.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Thursday's Dinner: Warm Peach and Prosciutto Salad and Cauliflower Soup with Maple Sausage Bread Crumbs

    Last night, I was stuck in traffic and arrived back home even later than I had anticipated.  This was on top of a dentist visit, where the new crown didn't quite sit right so a new impression had to be made and I have to go back again in two weeks...novocaine for nothing.  I was very happy that dinner was practically made.

     Realizing that I had some fresh local peaches and blueberries on the counter and arugula growing in a container on the deck, I remembered a peach salad that I had made years ago.  I tweaked the recipe a bit and it turned out to be a great first course.

     The cauliflower soup was made on Sunday.  As it warmed in a pot on the stove, I quickly cooked up small pieces of maple sausage.  When the sausage was cooked through, I added a bit of butter to the pan along with 3/4 cup of panko.  Once this was crispy, I transferred the mixture to a bowl.  At the table, we added the garnish and it added sweetness and texture to the soup.

     The soup is super easy to make and this recipe can serve as a base for many cream based vegetable soups.  In a large pot, melt 4T butter and then added one medium diced onions, three crushed garlic cloves, three thyme sprigs and one bay leaf.  Cook over medium heat until the onions are softened.  Add cauliflower florets, six cups of good quality chicken stock and bring to a simmer.  Cover and cook until the cauliflower is tender, about 20 minutes. 

    Transfer the soup to a blender in batches and puree the soup until smooth.  I strained the soup through a fine sieve into a soup pot.  Then I added a half cup of heavy cream and seasoned with salt and pepper.

   Back to the peach salad...

Warm Peach, Blueberry and Serrano Ham Salad
Inspired by Michael Chiarello

Ingredients for three people

2 peaches, cored and sliced into thick wedges
1/4 cup blueberries
3/4 cup baby arugula
Parmesan crisps (you can either make them or buy them)
6 slices thinly sliced Serrano ham or Prosciutto
2T butter
2t finely chopped fresh thyme
2T balsamic vinegar.

Place two slices of Serrano or Prosciutto on each plate.  Place the peaches in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Heat butter over medium heat.  Add thyme, peaches, and vinegar.  Toss for one minute.  Add the arugula and toss.  Divide mixture evenly among the three plates.  Scatter fresh blueberries and crushed Parmesan crisps and serve immediately.

    Next week is looking to be as busy as this one...I am thinking that I will be cooking again for the week on Sunday.  Stay tuned.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Recipe: Nicoise Salad

     Years ago, there was this kitchen store in New York City called Fishes Eddy.  It basically sold dishes from restaurants that had gone out of business.  Dear Husband and I loved this store but it was hard to buy anything because I would have to lug it home on the plane.  Finally, on one visit I could not resist these large salad plates from a restaurant called the Hollywood Grill and Bar.  While the name of the restaurant doesn't really go with last night's French salad, it did help make a really pretty presentation.

Salade Nicoise

Ingredients for 2 servings

Several cups of salad greens.  I used a lovely lettuce from our CSA, arugula and several torn leaves of basil
1 hardboiled egg, quartered
5 to 10 green beans per person, blanched
4 small red skinned potatoes, cooked
2 small tuna filets
Mustard vinaigrette

From the picture you can tell that I also added edible flowers and cherry tomatoes but omitted the olives - not on the typical Nicoise but, it's my salad.  So, in the end, add whatever you like.

As I previously mentioned, the green beans, eggs, and potatoes can all be made in advanced and stored in Ziploc bags.  I even made the vinaigrette in advance and just gave it a shake or two before I dressed the salad.

I like to dress the green separately and then pile everything else on the plate.  For the tuna, season on both sides.  Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add the tuna steaks.  Cook for just 30 seconds a side.  Remove from the skillet and slice.  Add to the salad.

A nice Rose wine from Provence and perhaps a good baguette and you may feel like you are in France for just a few moments!

Slight change in plans tonight.  Dear Daughter is off to a dinner party - so instead of making dinner tonight...Dear Husband and I are having Pizza!  Date night?  Not sure...but it will be a treat!  Will be back on track later this week.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Recipe: Squash Blossom Quesadilla with Sautéed Spinach

     Monday evening's meal was a hit and it took all of ten minutes to put together.  I gathered squash blossoms from the garden and made a simple, yet tasty quesadilla.  Remember to take only the "male" blossoms.  You can chop up the flowers or do as I did, leave them whole.  They are quite delicate so gather them in the morning when they are open so you can gently clean them.  If you look closely at the picture, you can just see one of the blossoms poking through the cheese.  Squash blossoms have a very delicate zucchini flavor and it pairs well with the spice of the jack cheese.

Squash Blossom Quesadilla

Ingredients (for three servings)

6 corn tortillas
1 cup pepper jack cheese, grated
12 squash blossoms
2 scallions, green part sliced
2T cilantro, minced
sour cream and salsa on the side
Wrap tortillas in a paper towel and lightly heat in the microwave until softened.  Heat just a bit of oil in a nonstick pan.  To assemble the quesadilla, place two squash blossoms on one side of the tortilla, letting the blossom stick out a bit over the edge.  Cover with cheese, cilantro and scallions.  Fold in half and cook until the cheese is melted, turning several times, as needed.  Serve with sour cream and salsa.

Sautéed Spinach


8 oz spinach
2 cloves garlic minced
1T olive oil
pinch of red pepper flakes

Heat the oil in a skillet until shimmering.  Saute the garlic lightly for one to two minutes; you do not want it to brown.  Add the red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds.   Toss in the spinach and cook until just wilted.  Serve.

Tuesday's dinner:  One of my favorite summer salads:  Nicoise


Monday, July 18, 2016

Sunday afternoon...A Week's Worth of Meals

     This was my stovetop yesterday afternoon.  While the summer months are supposed to be less hectic than the school year, it seems that our July is jammed pack with activities.  Looking ahead at the week, I realized that if we had any hope of having nutritious dinners, I was going to have to put some time into cooking on Sunday morning.  Within two hours, I had menus planned and delicious morsels cooling in plastic containers.  

     At first, it seems daunting to attempt cooking several meals at once.  However, it is actually pretty easy and takes just a bit of organization.  First and foremost, get an inventory of your refrigerator and freezer.  Second, actually write down what will be for dinner each night.  I have a board that I keep in our kitchen where I list each night's dinner.  

     This week's CSA shipment included the following:  spaghetti squash, cauliflower, cucumber, a white onion, carrots, potatoes, basil, lettuce and green beans.  My container garden is finally yielding zucchini and tomatoes and the milkman had delivered whole milk and heavy cream.  I also remembered that I had plenty of squash blossoms in my garden and my second planting of arugula was ready.  My plan began to formulate.

     Here is what we will be eating this week.  If all goes according to plan, I will share a photo and the recipe each day.  

Monday:  Squash blossom quesadillas with sauteed spinach.  These are absolutely delicious and very easy to put together.  Nothing needs to be done in advance except to harvest the squash blossoms in the morning.

Tuesday:  Nicoise Salad.  I love this salad as it is light but still hearty - if that makes sense.  I have tuna steaks in the freezer which I will defrost in the morning.  They only have to be seared briefly on each side.  I blanched the green beans and put them in a ziploc bag.  They went into the refrigerator along with cooked small red potatoes and hardboiled farm eggs.  All that I will have to do is assemble the salad over some fresh lettuce greens and add a garlicky vinaigrette.

Wednesday:  Spaghetti Squash with Meat Sauce.  I cooked the squash for about an hour and once cooled, I scraped the insides into a plastic container.  I used hamburger meat and a bit of pork sausage in the meat sauce and simmered it for several hours.  Chopped onion, zucchini and carrots added nutritional value.

Thursday:  Cream of Cauliflower Soup with Sausage Crumbles with a simple green salad.  I realize that it is summer and soup is not a very popular option, but I am not a big cauliflower eater. So if I am going to eat cauliflower...then I am having it in a luscious cream soup.

Friday:  Marinated Chicken Cutlets and Caprese Salad with  Basil Pesto.  Hey, it is Friday - let's keep things simple.  I took thin chicken cutlets and put them in a Ziploc bag along with half a bottle of Italian salad dressing.  They went into the freezer and I will take them out on Friday morning.  The pesto took about five minutes to make and I put it in a jar with a bit of olive oil to cover so that the air would not make the pesto turn brown.

There you have it - two hours and makings of four dinners.  Once school starts, I know that I will be doing more of this...making large batches of soups, stews, meatballs, etc and freezing them for even less hectic dinners.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Recipe: Red Cabbage and Green Onion Slaw

     Ok, I will admit that this picture was not taken at my house.  It was taken in Seoul during our first of four Korean BBQ meals.  Given that we were only in Korea for ten days, I guess this was our favorite, go-to meal.  The basic premise is simple.  In the center of the table is a grill and as soon as you order, hot coals are placed on the grill along with a cooking grate.  In some restaurants such as the one in this picture, an exhaust is pulled close to the cooking meat to keep the smoke at bay.  Around the tiny table are various bowls of sauces, different types of kimchi, salad and lettuce leaves.  The youngest person at the table is responsible for cooking the meat.  Once it is ready, you take a piece of meat from the grill, place it on a lettuce leaf, sprinkle with a bit of sauce, roll up and eat it in one bite.  It is delicious!

     It is a very communal meal, which I think is one of the reasons that we like it so much, apart from the incredible flavors.  There is no right or wrong in how you compose it.  Frankly, it is just a lot of fun.

     I was at the grocery store earlier this week and I saw "Flanken" style ribs in the meat section.  Next to the meat, someone had placed jars of Korean BBQ Bulgogi Marinade.  I immediately began planning how to recreate Korean BBQ at home.  I would not  normally buy a premade marinade but since I had not made this type of marinade before, I figured I would give it a try.  Flanken style beef ribs are a popular cut for Asian BBQ.  The ribs are thinly cut across the bones so each slice contains a few pieces of the bone.  I marinated the ribs overnight in the marinade and then grilled them outside for just a few minutes.  We wrapped them in lettuce leaves as we had done in Korea and it was a wonderful trip back.

     I wanted some simple side dishes to accompany the beef.  My container garden is beginning to yield lots of zucchini so I made a simple Korean style pancake.  In last week's CSA shipment, we received a large head of red cabbage.  A few minutes on the Internet and a few more minutes chopping and we had a simple Red Cabbage and Green Onion Slaw.

     There were no leftovers so I think dinner was a hit. It was a lot of fun and we lingered at the table longer than most nights.  That's another great benefit of this meal.

Red Cabbage and Green Onion Slaw
adapted from

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Continuing the Asia Trip at Home: Seared Tuna Salad with Ginger Vinaigrette

     I will admit that I did not eat a salad such as this one while in Asia. However, one takeaway from our two week adventure was how light the food is in both Korea and Japan.  One of the aspects of travel that I love is that I can learn about different food cultures and when I am back at home, try to replicate a few foods or ideas.  It sounds crazy but I have started having rice and miso soup for breakfast!  When we returned home, my radishes were ready so I took the whole crop and quickly pickled them.  They go very well with my morning rice.  And...I continue to use chopsticks!!     

     Now that we are back and Summer is in full swing, we are trying to cook less and have more salads, fruits and vegetables.  Last night, I made this salad...super easy and is really flavorful.  To round out the meal, I took some local snap peas and sautéed them briefly in olive oil.  I placed them in a bowl in the middle of the table along with some seasonal fruit.  It was light and delicious.

Seared Tuna Salad with Ginger Vinaigrette
Inspired by Eric Ripert


Several small tuna filets
Salt and Pepper
1 T canola oil
Salad greens
4 leaves basil, chiffonade
4 leaves mint, chiffonade
6 leaves cilantro, chiffonade
1T finely diced ginger
2T finely diced shallots
2T sherry vinegar
4T canola oil
1T soy sauce
1/2 t fresh lime juice

1.  Make the salad dressing:  Combine the ginger, shallots in a bowl and whisk in the vinegar, oil, soy sauce and lime juice.  Set aside.
2.  Make the salad:  Combine the lettuce greens with the herbs.  Place a small mound of the greens on each plate. I also used edible flowers which added another flavor component.
3.  Make the tuna:  Heat 1T canola oil in a pan over high heat.  Season both sides of the tuna with salt and pepper.  Saute the tuna for approximately 45 seconds on each side.  Slice the tuna into thin slices and place on top of the salad.
4.  Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad.


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Adventures in Seoul

Sorry, I am writing this from an IPAD...will fix formatting and label pictures whe I get a computer.

     We have been itching for an adventure and this past week in Seoul has been incredible. Completely out of our comfort zone, it has been an amazing experience. The city is incredibly safe, extremely chaotic with 10+ million people and it just gets under your skin. Dear Daughter and I found the locals very helpful and nice, proud of their heritage and culture and usually eager to practice English. We became adept at pointing to menu item pictures..."We will have one of those.."

     I am happy to say that I did not over schedule us. It is very warm and muggy and after a couple of hours outside each day, we needed the coolness of our apartment. Out building was situated over the subway station which made it so convenient. Each day, we would head to the basement and within a minute or so, we were on the subway. We went all over the city and it was unbelievably easy. More than one time, a local would offer to change seats with me if I wasn't seated just next to DD.  So each day, we had at least one adventure. Here are some of the highlights!

Saturday: Food tour with Dan Gray of Delectable Travels. Dan introduced us to Korean BBQ, Korean Fried Chicken and Beer, Korean mung bean pancakes and a local market. He has an interesting story. He was born here in the 70's, a time when South Korea was not prosperous. His parents could not care for him so they gave him up for adoption. He grew up in the United States but after college, wanted to return. He has been here for the past eleven years and is incredibly knowledgeable.

Sunday:  Seoul City Tour by bus. This is a bit touristy but a great way to get the lay of the land. While Dear Husband worked in the morning, we headed to the Lotte Department Store and their incredible gourmet food hall. We came home with pork and kimchi dumplings and sushi. It made for a great Sunday lunch.

Monday: DD and I have a great time visiting Gyeonbokgung Palace. Completely destroyed by fire in the 1500's, it sat destroyed for over 200 years. It has been wonderfully rebuilt and is a fantastic heritage landmark. DD was in awe most of the time and the changing of the guards was really cool.

Tuesday:  We were back with Dan for a tour of the Mapo Fish Market. This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Dan picks out a selection of fish and we head upstairs to the restaurant above the market. Our abolone is baked and the giant crab is steamed. While this is occurring, we are dining on fermented fish eggs, sea squirt, fresh baby squid which is evidently in season and octopus...still squirming!  Dan tells us to chew the octopus well, lest the suckers will latch onto our windpipe!  Yikes!  We wrap the crabmeat in lettuce leaves and the cooks make an incredible rice dish with the inside of the crab. Definitely a memory maker.

Wednesday:  This is another memory maker...a tour of the DMZ. We are able to visit the Joint Security Area, step into North Korea, see over the border into their Propaganda Village, which are hollow buildings added to look like a working village. On the South side, Freedom Village is a working farm village, where the inhabitants live within the demilitarised zone and work the fields. For their courage, they are exempt from military service and taxes. While women can marry into the village, men must be direct descendants of current villagers. We all walked through one of the four tunnels discovered in the late 1970's coming from the North into the South. The whole day was a very sobering experience. DH was able to join us after his conference and we visited another one of Seoul's palaces and dined on delicious Vietnamese Pho for dinner.

Thursday:  DD and I toured the Gangnam section of Seoul, known for its expensive stores. Firsthand, we realized we were over our league and were giddy when we found an H & M. For lunch, we dined at Jungsik, the 23rd Best Restaurant in Asia and we laughed as we walked in with our H & M bag. Nobody treated us any differently and it was a wonderful meal. I have found numerous times that the best way to experience an expensive restaurant is to dine at lunch. The menu was quite reasonable and the food was amazing. Later that evening, we ventured as a family to a Korean BBQ joint and had a fantastic time. Culture dictates that the youngest has to cook...and that is exactly what DD did.

Friday:  This was a special treat. DD and a friend from Belgium who lives here now, spent the afternoon shopping in the Myeongdong area. First, we had a wonderful and free walking tour of the historic Bukchon Village, a collection of old style homes directly in the downtown section between two of the ancient palaces. Years ago, these homes housed the elite. Today, they have been magnificently restored and serve as an artist community and neighborhood. In the Myeongdong, the teenagers visited Dr. Fish, where they had fish nibble at their toes, drank peach tea at the Dog Cafe
while petting actual dogs and shopped for wacky of the things to buy while in Seoul.  That evening, we headed to the conference hotel for a reception with DH. Following the reception, we  stopped in the hotel bar located on the 37th floor, where we took in spectacular views of Seoul.

Saturday: Our closing day and we kept it simple. We found a very old restaurant in Myeongdong and had an early lunch of Kalguksu Noodles and fabulous dumplings. A bit more sock shopping and the purchase of sesame oil and ramen, recommended to bring home and we spent the rest of the afternoon packing for the next adventure.  Tonigh, we will see if we can have one last bbq dinner and then early to bed.

Travel is a part of us and I think to some completes us. We can get so caught up in our own little worlds...become so wrapped around things that are not important. While we were in Berlin last summer for a week, this is the first major overseas trip since we have returned to the States. I wondered if DD would be bored...missing her friends. She relished the experiences-- texting her friends..."You should see this...." She is a great travel partner and while she likes her "downtime", she is also ready to see and experience something new.