Menu 35 – Easter Day

When your dad is an Episcopal priest, Easter is more than bunnies and chocolate. It’s about getting to church early so you can get a seat, and seeing parishioners you haven’t seen since the Christmas Eve service. It’s about looking serious while you prepare communion with your dad because you are an acolyte and this represents the body and blood of Christ (“for heaven’s sake stop that smirking”). It’s about wearing a spring dress on a cold April day so you bundle up with a winter coat and make the best of it. It’s about tulips lining the alter. There was one Sunday my mother got all commercial on us and we woke to bunny prints (powdered sugar!) all over the house which eventually led to a monumental basket of chocolates. That was a great day. But then, off to church.

It wasn’t all about bread, wine and hymns. Dinner was an event in our house. Usually ham. Often scalloped potatoes. A green vegetable. I don’t know if we had dessert. My mom isn’t big on desserts.

I almost never go to church now. This is for another blog post OVER HERE sometime. In short, Easter for me is another way to be present with family – kids and grandparents – and enjoy hunting for eggs together, making a meal together (definitely an expression of love and perhaps rising again) and coming together at a table. This year will be no exception. I have never hosted Easter, but if I did, I would make this menu. Lovely deviled quail eggs that are a cute surprise. A braised lamb dish that is (yay!) cooked ahead and dreamy – and comes alive with a bit of lemon. Serve with, as the recipe suggests, over fregola. It’s a day partly about bunnies so let’s make some delicious carrots. And then this cake – I’ve wanted to try this cake for a year. I even bought a special tart pan. Rhubarb is barely around and worth grabbing up. Happy Easter everyone, whatever that means to you and your family.

Menu 35 - 3 25 2016

Tips and Notes

Eggs: http://www.dartagnan.com/deviled-quail-eggs-with-bacon-and-thyme-recipe.html

Lamb: http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1018017-braised-lamb-with-egg-and-lemon

Order Fregola: http://www.amazon.com/Rustichella-Abruzzo-Fregola-Sarda-17-5/dp/B000B38C6A

Carrots: http://www.marthastewart.com/863971/glazed-carrots-thyme

Cake: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/rhubarb-almond-cake

Menu 32 – Scandinavian Night

In 1999 I did a bike trip through Denmark where the roads are flat, the people are pretty and the beer is awesome. I remember leaving Copenhagen and saying “I know I will be back.” What a wonderful colorful city. So when I asked my mom what she’d like for a menu, I was happily surprised to hear “How about a Scandinavian menu?” Excellent! It’s always good to please your mother. And it also gave me a chance to research new cuisines, and attempt to sketch a Danish port. What could be better.

My dad always wanted to be Scandinavian. He was half Finnish and kept grouping himself with the Scandinavians but really, that is a stretch. We also share a family rumor from my mother’s side that we have Viking roots (based on some hand issue my grandfather had that a random doctor in Arizona said had only been traced back to the Vikings…I know. Did the doctor quack when he said that?). Back to the food….

This is a simple menu with nods to Denmark, Sweden and Norway. I wanted to go fancier but my mother is the QUEEN of simple (except when it comes to popcorn toppings where she lets it all hang out), and since this is her menu, I thought I would oblige. If I dare say, it’s about as Scandinavian as you can get – pickled herring, delicious roast pork with cracklings (go Denmark with the cracklings), a new way to make potatoes (hasselback, accordion potatoes!), a cucumber dill salad and Sabayon Lingonberry Mousse. I chose simple dishes as I found those were very traditional and because I’m suggesting you make something that sounds and looks fancy “Sabayon!” but is actually pretty straightforward and must be made ahead. I just love the idea of this creamy, brandied mousse layered with pretty tart lingonberry jam. Go to Ikea and grab those lingonberries (Challenge! Try to get out of Ikea with JUST the lingonberries!). Then make everyone in your family research interesting facts about each Scandinavian country. See? I took care of your dinner, your dessert and your table talk.

Menu 32 - 3 3 2016

 

Tips and Notes

To start: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/herring-in-mustard-sour-cream-on-rye-bread

The pork, thank you very much: http://sweetsoursavory.com/blog/2013/11/17/danish-pork-roast-flskesteg

It’s not summer but who cares. Maybe like age, summer can be a state of mind….http://www.outside-oslo.com/2013/06/21/cucumber-salad-for-your-scandinavian-midsummer-menu/

Potatoes http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-hasselback-potatoes-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-199763

The Pretty Pretty Dessert: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/sabayon-lingonberry-mousse-109137

Menu 31 – Not an Oscar Menu

Geez you really want an Oscar menu? You’re having an Oscar party to see how Chris Rock handles the tone deaf lack of Oscar diversity? Well that’s the only reason I plan to watch too, so I can relate. I am not providing a full Oscar menu but here’s a suggestion: eat whatever you want as long as it’s diverse – since, you know – diversity is GOOD FOR US as a society and as individuals. We can’t survive on hummus alone. Mix it up and you’ll have a much healthier, richer and more interesting experience. Oh and start with a bubbly champagne cocktail.

We had a great dinner with my husband’s mother and her boyfriend a couple of weeks ago. It was cold as bones outside and right before Valentine’s Day. This is a lovely meal for four that can easily be expanded for a larger party.

Start with a simple hors d’oeuvre – maybe a bowl of marcona or smoked almonds and a cocktail. Nothing heavy. Nobody makes meatloaf anymore, so we made meatloaf and it was delicious. Ina has a great recipe from a place in the Hamptons – The 1770 House. It calls for beef, pork and veal. None of my local stores were selling veal so I left it at beef and pork and were none the worse for wear. It calls for a garlic sauce. This part needs work. It was somehow tasteless and took some gussying (a bouillon cube; more butter; a dash of Worcestershire). I would make that part again but next time I might start with a roux and homemade beef stock.

We’re going homey here – let’s make a blinged up Potato Celery Root Puree (when I think BLING I think CELERY ROOT). Ina Garten buried a ridiculously good potato/celery root puree within a scallop recipe – I’ve linked to it for you below. I followed it almost exactly (I added a little milk to the cream to just cover the vegetables). This can be made earlier and reheated.

And then we roasted broccoli. It’s really the best way to eat it. Just before serving grate some lemon zest on top and well, it’s just like mom used to make but better.

We weren’t skimping on dessert. I had a disc of holiday sugar cookie dough left in my freezer so made round sugar cookies, topped with royal icing (pink) and then decorated with hearts (red). They were delicious and GONE. I think you should do the exact same thing but decorate however you want. Serving homemade cookies never gets old.

Menu 31 - 2 25 2016

Tips and Notes

Behold, meatloaf: http://www.barefootcontessa.com/recipes.aspx?CookbookID=33

Ignore the scallop part, focus on potatoes and celery root here: http://www.weeknightgourmet.com/fish/shellfish/barefoot-contessas-seared-scallops/

Broccoli – start here but eliminate the lemon juice part. I find it gets bitter. Do everything else and then just toss some lemon zest on it before serving. http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/roasted_broccoli/

Best Sugar Cookie recipe: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/ultimate-sugar-cookies

Easy royal icing for your splendid cookies: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/the-most-royal-of-icings

My cookies: cookies

P.S. Why the rooster? My mother-in-law has a thing for birds like this so I thought I would draw one.

P.P.S. Sneak preview for next week….my mom requested a Scandinavian menu….Ooohhh Challenge! Tune in later for that one…

Menu 30 – Apres Ski!

This menu is actually good après most cold weather activities…skiing, skating, shoveling. It’s make ahead, humble and filling. We’ve even got a nod to Quebec in here this week with a very rich, very simple dessert. Forget après…how about “anytime” is more like it.

When everyone is back and throwing their wet snow pants around, get the hot toddies going. We drink these all year round and definitely when we feel like we’re getting a cold. Best elixir ever. You can make the pot pie filling in advance and cut out your dough. If you get lazy (I might), substitute puff pastry which you can easily buy in the freezer section. Puff pastry makes everything better and always looks pretty. Beets. You know, I keep trying to like them. My family razzes me about this (“how can you not like beets!”) but these have a shot. Horseradish cream got me going. This dessert can be made in ramekins or in one larger pan. I would definitely opt to serve with cold heavy cream poured over. If that’s not your thing we can’t be friends.

Menu 30 - 2 17 2016

Tips and Notes

http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/apple-brandy-hot-toddies

http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2012/10/pancetta-white-bean-and-swiss-chard-pot-pies/

http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/roasted-beets-with-horseradish-cream

http://food52.com/recipes/416-pudding-chomeur

Menu 27 – Ladies’ Night!

It takes forever to find a date. Babysitting/husband/partner/work/travel schedules have to align. But when that night arrives, you cherish it. You know what I mean, that evening when it’s just you and your girlfriends. The talk swings from houses to hair to new business ventures to books to how to form an LLC to the best kids’ apps to wine to how to tell your assistant her skirt is too short and on and on. Make it happen. And make it happen over dinner, at someone’s house. Restaurants are great but at someone’s house you can sit on the floor with friends and laugh and get to the table and grab a bowl of soup and then head back to the floor for dessert.

But we all know that everyone doesn’t eat everything. Now things get hard. What to cook?

The answer is soup – THREE soups to be exact…one meat, one seafood, one veg. Offer a Boeuf Bourguignon Soup (made in advance) and a side of noodles; Ina’s Seafood Chowder (made day of); and last, make Potato Leek soup (in advance) for a vegetarian option. Voilà! Problem solved.

That should cover just about anything people throw your way in terms of restrictions. Also, people always ask what to bring. Get someone to bring a salad – a great winter salad of under-appreciated collard greens and life changing crispy shallots. Ask another to bring dessert (which MUST MUST MUST be these amazing lemon bars!). Stocking up on wine goes without saying. Now go send an email to those friends and pick a date. You won’t regret it.

Menu 27 - 1 28 2016

 

Tips and Notes

The Salad: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/collard-green-and-radish-slaw-with-crispy-shallots

The Soups:

http://www.marthastewart.com/296351/a-perfect-pot-of-boeuf-bourguignon-soup

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/seafood-chowder-recipe.html

http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/potato_leek_soup/

The Lemon Bars!  (I cut the sugar in these down to 3/4 of what it says)

http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-heavenly-lemon-bars-with-almond-shortbread-crust-recipes-from-the-kitchn-191597

 

Menu 25 – Almost A Week of Homemade Dinners!

The elusive homemade weeknight dinner.

We can do this.

You can do it almost ALL week. Don’t fret. Just a LITTLE prep time this Sunday and you too can exit the land of plastic container pre-made mystery food. Enlist your kids to chop. They’ll love it and feel important.

Seriously, give this a try. Below is four days’ worth of easy meals that you can have on your table within 25 minutes of taking your coat off. Do this Sunday:

  • Roast a chicken (on the larger side – 4.5 lbs.). Then cut off the meat and refrigerate. Throw carcass into a slow cooker. Roasting a chicken is easy. Do not be intimidated by a 4 pound dead bird.
  • Make rice pilaf
  • Chop an onion, carrots, celery, peppers and broccoli into bite sized pieces. Place them in separate containers and refrigerate them.
  • Steam your broccoli.
  • Make overnight chicken stock in a slow cooker

I can hear you fretting. I promise none of this takes long. A chicken roasts basically on its own. Pilaf is slightly fancier rice. Don’t like pilaf? Then just make rice. Pre-chopping is a god-send later in the week. And throw all of the remnants (chicken carcass, carrots, celery, some onion, bay leaf, cover with water) into the slow cooker and let it go all night. ALL RECIPE  SUGGESTIONS BELOW.

Then here is what happens:

MONDAY: roast chicken breasts and rice are reheated. Make a quick salad (greens, maybe some chopped veg if you want, dressing). DINNER.

TUESDAY: grab salmon fillets on your way home. Upon arrival home heat oven to 400 degrees. Salt and pepper the salmon; squeeze of lemon. Into the oven for about ten minutes. While they are cooking, sauté your already steamed broccoli with a little garlic. Serve them together.

WEDNESDAY: Bake some cheesy polenta. Cook your Italian sausages in a little oil. Remove when done. In the same pan, sauté your onion and peppers. Plate – polenta, sausages and peppers. Cheese on top. Easy.

** After the kids go to bed, make this recipe for Chicken-y Noodles. You already have the vegetables cut. You made stock the other day. After it’s made, put it in the fridge.

THURSDAY: heat up your chicken noodles. Add more broth if you want it soupier.

FRIDAY: ok enough already. Order pizza!

None of this is fancy but it’s also pretty doable. And good tasting. See what a little prep can do?

Menu 25 - 1 15 2016

Tips and Notes:

Roast Chicken: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/my-favorite-simple-roast-chicken-231348?. SKIP the trussing! No need. It’s done when internal temp is 165.

Rice Pilaf: you know, a little twist on rice: http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-simple-rice-pilaf-46100. I add mushrooms to mine and cook it using beef consomme.

Baked Salmon: http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-cook-salmon-in-the-oven-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-204559

Baked Polenta http://saramoulton.com/2010/11/creamy-baked-polenta/ (NOTE the heavy oven use this week. Ovens are your friend)

Chicken and Noodles: improvise from this recipe. You’ve already got most of it prepared: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/homemade-chicken-and-noodles/

Slow Cooker Chicken Stock: this is a good one, but don’t feel the need for this level of meticulous chopping: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2013/11/perfect-uncluttered-chicken-stock/

 

Menu 24 – Yes, We Can Still Ring in 2016!

I love everything about the holidays – the music, the decorations, the festivities and the ending. I love when they stop. It’s just so much of everything that by the time January rolls around I am thrilled to shut it all down and start fresh. It’s cliché but healthy to lighten up the eating, slow down the drinking, to begin anew. That is what this week is about. At the beginning of the year, we always find a need to clean out closets and drawers (partly driven by my craziness – my husband can see it coming around December 30th when I start asking how much we really like or need anything in the house that isn’t bolted down). It’s a great time to set the budget for the year (I do a monthly budget – I can’t help it, I am a CFO of a business and my house). We plan vacations for the year which come around so fast. With all of this happening, we still need to eat. So let’s do that with a nod to lucky New Year traditions. Black-eyed peas are a must and this shrimp dish is delicious and so easy. Collards go alongside to represent money. Why not? And eating ring/round shaped cookies is a nod to good fortune (these linzers look delicious!)

It all makes donating that coat you haven’t worn for six years so much easier.

Menu 24 - 1 6 2016

Tips and Notes

Garlicky Shrimp and Black Eyed Peas – Despite what the recipe tells you, this is a one pot wonder. The recipe suggests that you cook the shrimp separately from the other stuff. Here is what I do. I start with the shrimp, garlic and salt and pepper in the pot. I lightly cook them and then remove them to a separate bowl (make sure you get all the garlic out). Then I do the bacon and the veg etc. in that same pot. Why lose that shrimp taste? Seems silly. I add the wine and broth etc. and once that has all cooked, towards the end I add the shrimp back in. It’s just easier that way. This is great with garlic toast too – but I think everything is better with garlic toast.

Collards – try this straight up recipe.

Cookies – I have two discs of sugar cookie dough leftover in my freezer (you don’t?). Punch out traditional lucky New Year ring shapes. Bake. Decorate as you wish, or eat plain – they are delicious. OR if you don’t have extra, make these from the wonderful Lindsey http://hartandgarnet.com/l-is-for-linzer-and-lindsey/ . Who doesn’t love linzer cookies!

Also, take a moment and draw some stick figures. This is surprisingly fun. You can bring so much life into a little man or woman made only with a few marks. Give it a try.