Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Romantic Rack of Lamb

When the boys were little, it was never easy to find a babysitter on Valentine’s Day so we would put the kids to bed early and have an intimate dinner with a good bottle of wine and these amazing mustard-coated lamb racks served rib ends up and gently interlocked on an heirloom silver platter. A simple dessert of fresh strawberries capped off a quiet romantic evening.

The boys are older now and enjoy these lamb chops as much as we do. The racks can be cut into individual servings as well, then coated and roasted in the same manner. which makes serving a bit easier. You may want to have extra napkins handy because it is impossible to resist gnawing the bones to get every last tidbit.

2 racks of lamb about 7 ribs each
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 large cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoon oregano (or rosemary or thyme), fresh or dried
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup coarse breadcrumbs, fresh or Panko
2 tablespoons melted butter

Mix the mustard, garlic, salt, herbs, lemon juice and olive oil and whisk together until it reaches the consistency of mayonnaise.

Your racks should be frenched for the best presentation. If your butcher did no French the racks, do this first. Then, score the fat side of the racks lightly by making shallow crisscross cuts. Leave the rib ends free and coat the tops and sides of the racks with the mustard mixture. This can be done up to a day in advance and kept refrigerated until ready to cook.

Melt the butter and mix with breadcrumbs.

Preheat your oven to 500°F. Roast the lamb for 10 minutes at 500°F to sear. Reduce the thermostat to 400°F removing the lamb from the oven to spread the bread crumbs over the top of the lamb racks and return to the oven. Roast the meat for another 20 minutes, to rosy rare. A meat thermometer insert into the center should read125°F. The meat should be just slightly springy when pressed. Remove the racks from the oven and let rest 5 minutes serving.



Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Red Velvet Madeleines

There is nothing like having teenagers to make you feel old. I made reference to a “cakewalk” and was treated to a volley of eye rolls. Come to find out neither even knew what a cakewalk was. Also known as a “prize walk,” a cakewalk is a hopscotch-meets-musical-chairs raffle in which numbered squares are laid out in a circle for ticket holders to walk around in time to music, which is played for an irregular length of time and then stopped. A number is then called out, and the person standing on the corresponding square on the floor wins a cake as a prize (hence the name).

While growing up in the country, our rural church would have an annual fundraising carnival at which the cakewalk was THE event. The primary reason for its popularity was the community confectionist, Juanita Gunnells’ cakes and candies. She would always donate a German chocolate cake, a red velvet cake, and depending on the weather divinity or peanut butter fudge.*

I was always fascinated by the unnaturally-red, red velvet cake whose color was explained as a chemical reaction between the often-used buttermilk and the red anthocyanin found in cocoa powder. In reality, the red coloring was added to hide the fact that a minimal amount of cocoa powder was used especially during World War II when beet juice was used to add color to red velvet cakes.

Since Dom is not big on cakes, but enjoys a good cookie or pastry, I decided to try a red velvet variant. I had found a French madeleine pan at an antique shop that I was dying to use, so it was providence.  Dusted with confectioner’s sugar, these made a romantic-looking Valentine’s Day treat!

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons red food coloring
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour (yes, it really does make a difference)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine the sugar, eggs, yolks and vanilla in a mixing bowl and beat at medium-high speed with an electric mixer for 5 minutes or until thick and pale. Add butter and food coloring to the mixture, and beat until well-blended.

Whisk together the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt, and then fold in the egg mixture. Spoon the batter into 2 well-greased shiny madeleine pans, filling three-fourths full (about 1 tablespoon per madeleine). Since I only have one pan, I baked mine in batches; placing the batter in the refrigerator between batches.

Bake at 400° for 8 to 10 minutes or until the centers of the madeleines spring back when lightly pressed. Immediately remove madeleines from the pan to prevent sticking and cool on a wire rack. Cool completely (about 20 minutes) and dust with powdered sugar just before serving, if desired.

*Because of the high sugar content, divinity absorbs moisture from the air on a humid days and can end up a gooey mess.


Friday, December 1, 2017

12 Days of Holiday Cookies

There is nothing like the scent of vanilla wafting through the house as
the holiday cookies are baking. We have compiled some of our family favorites for you. 
Simply click on the picture to be taken directly to the recipe!






Sunday, November 19, 2017

Complete Thanksgiving Menu Planner

With Thanksgiving only weeks away, we are all in menu planning mode. As one of the biggest, if not the absolute biggest food holiday, we thought we would make it easier for you by compiling a round-up of some of our favorites, old and new. Last year we published a Thanksgiving e-cookbook with some Thanksgiving ideas, but this year we have gone a step further and expanded the list to include 40+ recipes with some morning noshes, turkey tips, condiments, side dishes and desserts. Many of them are healthy and some are a bit more indulgent. We even added a few ideas for what to do with those turkey leftovers.

Morning Treats:
Cranberry Financiers
Pumpkin Chestnut Scones
Mug Muffins
Pumpkin Cranberry Bread
Baked French Toast

Turkey Preparation:
     • Brining
     • Stuffing
     • Trussing
     • Barding
     • Butter-crisped Roasting

Two Cranberry Sauces
Pear Cranberry Chutney
Cranberry Zinfandel Conserve
Chardonnay Rosemary Jelly

Pumpkin Hummus
Cream of Peanut Soup

Jalapeno Cornbread Muffins
Boston Brown Bread

Corn Pudding
Potatoes Fondantes
Bacon-braised Brussels Sprouts
Curried Cauliflower
Swiss Chard Gratin
Roasted Beets
Mashed Potatoes with Love
Broccoli with Lime Dressing
Charred Cabbage
Rice-stuffed Tomatoes
Green Beans Gremolata
Sorghum Caraway Carrots
Cauliflower, Leek & Mushroom Strata

Cranberry Almond Tart
Apple Crostada
Hasty Pudding
Chocolate Pecan Pie
Peach Almond Galette
Gingerbread Cake
Sweet Potato Pie
Bread Pudding
Pineapple Cranberry Cobbler
Pumpkin Crème Brûlée

Bobbie Sandwich
Turkey Enchiladas Verde
Turkey Jambalaya
Matzoh Ball Soup

We are honestly thankful to our all al loyal readers! Enjoy your Thanksgiving Holiday!

Originally posted on 11/15/2015


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Pumpkin Spice Caramel Popcorn and Pepitas

The nights are getting cooler and the store aisles are filling up with holiday merchandise. While some head straight for the ornaments and decorations, I cannot resist the shelves of holiday treats: chocolate-covered almonds, gingerbread, peppermint bark and caramel popcorn. Nowadays, caramel popcorn comes in a wide variety of flavors unlike the Cracker Jack of my youth. Also, unlike Cracker Jack, gourmet caramel popcorn is a pricey treat when bought at department stores!

Well worth the price to avoid the messy, finger-scorching caramel and the sticky, cemented aftermath? Not anymore apparently. A little internet searching turned up several recipes that recommended making the caramel in the microwave and using the same to finish the popcorn in a paper bag. Seriously? The microwave?

Yes, I was skeptical, but the urge to try some was too strong to repel. So, instead of tediously hovering over the saucepan to make sure the caramel reaches the perfect candy consistency, so it doesn't crystallize after coating the popcorn, I made some popcorn, loaded my caramel ingredients into a large mixing bowl and found a big paper bag. The entire time I muttered to myself, “There’s no way this is going to work,” “I’m gonna end up with a bag of popped goo,” and “What was I thinking?” Trying to convince myself with, “If you think about it, shaking the caramel corn in a bag should provide astounding uniformity, rather than pouring the caramel over the popcorn in a roasting pan, and then trying to mix the gloppy mass with a wooden spoon.”

After removing the paper bag filled with caramel corn from the microwave and dumping it out on parchment paper, it was torture to wait for the corn to cool enough to taste. The result? “Ah -{crunch, crunch, crunch}-mazing!!” I couldn't believe it! And I couldn't stop eating it… It is a good thing it is so easy to make because now I needed to make more for the guys!

  • 1 cup popping corn, popped
  • ¼ cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds), toasted
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup, light or dark
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Place the popped popcorn in a large brown paper grocery bag and set aside.

Combine the corn syrup, butter, spice, vanilla and sugar in a large microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir the caramel-to-be and microwave for another 2 minutes. You may see that the butter is not fully incorporated – don’t worry. Add in the baking soda to the caramel mixture and stir vigorously. The syrup will foam up quite a bit, so be careful!

Working quickly, pour the syrup over the popcorn in the paper bag and shake the bag enthusiastically. Roll down the top of the paper bag and place the popcorn - bag and all - in the microwave and microwave on high for 45 seconds. Remove the bag from the microwave and add the pepitas and again shake the bag enthusiastically.

Microwave the bag of popcorn for another 45 seconds and shake. Repeat this one more times (making three total 45-second bursts), and then pour the popcorn out onto cookie sheets to cool. Let the popcorn cool a bit before separating the clumps into smaller morsels. Please use caution; the molten caramel can cause serious burns.

The popcorn is best on the day it's made. Seal any leftovers (Ha ha ha! As if!!) in an air tight bag or container. Over time, the sugar will begin to soften, making the popcorn more chewy than crispy (which makes it a perfect topping for ice cream, yogurt, cupcakes or cookies.)


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

"It's A Southern Thing" Boiled Peanuts

Growing up in the north Georgia, the appearance of signs along rural highways advertising “Boiled Peanuts” (pronounced bowled peynuts) signaled the end of summer and the beginning of football season. As the temperature began to drop, we would put away our flip flops, don our flannel shirts and head for the Appalachian Mountains to “see the leaves.” With Larry Munson calling the play-by-play in the background, we would stop at a roadside stall to buy a bushel of Rome Beauties or Arkansas Blacks, and a steaming paper sack of boiled peanuts with a jug of apple cider. The peanuts never made it home, instead they were consumed in a soggy frenzy that resulted in pruney fingers and damp sleeves.

For the record, our friends in the Northeast and Mid-West have never heard of boiling peanuts. In fact, boiled peanuts has even appeared in an episode of the Travel Channel's "Bizarre Foods." Readily available in Southern states, peanuts became a crucial nutritional commodity during the American Civil War. Using the ancient preservation technique, peanuts were boiled in salt water to eliminate impurities and kill bacteria. When troops of the Confederacy were without food, peanuts provided a high-protein ration that could be carried by soldiers and lasted for up to a week.

Peanuts were first brought to the southeastern United States during the late 17th century. Many historians assumed that peanuts were brought to this continent by slaves from Africa, but peanuts actually originated in Brazil and Peru; and, despite their name and appearance, peanuts are not really nuts, but rather members of the bean family.

While it may be difficult to replicate the country ambiance of a local produce stand, boiling up some “goobers” is actually pretty easy. You can use dried unroasted peanuts, but green (freshly harvested) work best and require far less cooking time.

  • 2 to 3 pounds fresh green peanuts
  • 1 cup salt
  • Water
  • 2 tablespoons Cajun spice mix or Old Bay seasoning (optional)

Rinse the peanuts thoroughly to remove dirt and debris and place them in a large stock pot. Cover completely with water and stir to "settle" the peanuts adding more water to cover the peanuts by at least 2 inches. Add salt (and seasoning if desired) and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and let the peanuts simmer, covered, for approximately up to 4 hours, stirring occasionally. Add additional water as needed to keep the peanuts covered.

To check whether they are done, pull 1 or 2 peanuts out of the pot and break them open. If they are still slightly crunchy, they are not done yet. When they are soft, then they are done.

Taste the peanuts, if you would like them to be softer, return them to the water and continue to simmer until they reach the consistency you desire. If they are not salty enough for your taste, add more salt. When they are done, drain and serve immediately.



Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Hot Summer Night Panzanella

There are some summer nights that it is just too hot to eat a hot meal; the idea of meat and potatoes is a little repulsive. With the tomatoes, cucumbers and papers rolling in, a simple fresh panzanella seems like just the ticket. This classic Italian bread salad is a cross between gazpacho and bruschetta with juicy ripe tomatoes and cubed stale bread as the key components forming a cool meatless yet filling dish.

The bread should a formerly crusty artisanal type. As we frequently have leftover ciabatta, that’s our go-to. While most of the type, we are trying to keep bread from going stale, in this case you might actually want to speed up the process by cutting the bread into cubes ahead of time and leaving them in an unheated oven to dry out.

When you are feeling your stomach just starting to rumble, start roughly chopping your fresh veggies, assemble your salad and toss with the vinaigrette. The key to this dish is time.

Allowing the panzanella to rest for at least a half hour gives the vegetable juices time to mingle with the vinaigrette, and the bread time to absorb all the flavors. The bread should still be nicely chewy, but not soggy. You can up your game by adding some cubed mozzarella or shaved Parmigiano Reggiano for a little added protein if desired. Oh, and an insider tip: leave the salad out to rest. Placing it in the refrigerator tends to slow macerating process, and while I’ve been known to save leftovers for my lunch the next day, it is NEVER the same as it is fresh!

6 slices of rustic bread (about 2 cups)
2 medium fresh tomatoes, chopped (about 2 cups)
1 small cucumber, chopped
1 small bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 small clove garlic, minced
Generous pinch of salt
Pepper, to taste
6-8 large basil leaves, thinly sliced

Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes and set aside. If possible do this in advance to allow the cubes to get thoroughly stale. Then roughly chop the tomatoes, cucumber, and bell pepper into bite-sized pieces. This is a rustic salad, so preciseness in chopping in not necessary.

Combine the olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, salt, and a few grinds of fresh pepper in in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Toss the bread cubes and chopped vegetables in a large mixing bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over top and mix to thoroughly combine. I use my hands here so as not to break up the bread too much.

Let the salad sit for 1/2 hour to an hour. Add the basil chiffonade and toss before serving with a nice glass of chilled Pinot Grigio or a Chianti Classico. Buon appetito!

June 28, 2015


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Croque Monsieur Waffles for Dad (and Mom)

For all those early morning soccer games, swimming practices or track meets that Dad rose early to get you there on time, Father’s Day should be a day of rest and relaxation. We suggest you let dear old Dad sleep late and have a delicious surprise waiting for him when he gets up. Since everyone loves waffles, and what would be a better treat than waffles taken to the next level. The simple addition of meat and cheese elevate waffles to a new breakfast Shangri-La.

Dutch settlers are often credited with bringing the waffle custom to this country. Ever since, they have periodically been in and out of style, yet they remain one of the most versatile and delicious of battercakes. Another traditional breakfast pleasure is the croque-monsieur; a grilled ham and cheese sandwich topped with béchamel sauce. This classic French snack which is commonly served in French cafés, gets its name from the French words “croquer” (to crunch) and “monsieur” (mister). We have affectionately named the combination croque waffles. To really kick-up Dad’s feast, try adding a poached or fried egg to the top of his savory waffle. Although adding an egg technically makes it a croquet madame waffle, we somehow don’t think Dad will mind! The genius of this recipe is that the batter and béchamel sauce can be made ahead so that Dad does not have to wait very long to indulge on his big day.

1 batch waffle batter
Béchamel sauce
6 large slices of ham (or deli meat of choice)
6 slices of Swiss cheese (or your favorite)
6 eggs (optional)

Make the waffle batter first. Truthfully the batter works better after it has had time to rest. Preheat your waffle iron while you make the béchamel.

Béchamel Sauce
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 teaspoons salt
¼ cup grated Parmesan (optional)
Freshly grated nutmeg

Heat the milk until just about to boil and keep warm. In a separate saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Turn you flame up to medium and cook for about 6 to 7 minutes until the mixture starts to turn a light, golden color.

Add the hot milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly until very smooth. Allow the sauce to come to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium. If you are using cheese, add it to the pan and stir to thoroughly combine. Cook for another 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat before the sauce reaches the desired consistently as it will thicken some as it cools. Grate a bit of nutmeg and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set the sauce aside until you are ready to serve. If the sauce gets to thick as it sits. Place back over medium heat and add a bit more milk to thin it.

When Dad wakes up place half a scoop of batter on the center of the waffle iron and lay a slice of ham (we used capicciola) and a slice of cheese (we used provolone) and add another half scoop of batter, and then close the waffle iron. When the waffle is golden brown, remove it from the iron using care so as not to get burned by the release of steam.

Place the croquet waffle on a plate and ladle béchamel sauce over the top. For an added bit of flare, you can run the sauce topped waffle under a broiler to brown the top. If you are adding an egg, it should be placed on top of the sauced waffle.

Any uneaten croquet waffles (un –sauced of course)can be placed in the freezer for later and make handy snacks for hungry Dad’s on the go!

June 15, 2014

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