Menu 34 – Saint Patrick, You Old Dog

I get it – you were over-served. Someone spiked your green beer you spent the weekend hungover. You hate Ireland and vow to never ever chase leprechauns and pots of gold again (while consuming copious amounts of alcohol). St. Patrick’s Day went from a Christian holiday to, let’s say, a religious experience where you ended up worshipping the porcelain god.

Time to redeem yourself. Time to reconnect with all that is good and Irish and enjoy the wonders that come from that beautiful country. Friends, time for Traditional Full Irish Breakfast.

Yes, now that the green haze is wearing off, invite your ne’er do well friends over this Saturday for brunch and go back to the land. The Irish know how to start the day. Pretend you’re in an old Irish manor house and serve a Traditional Irish Breakfast. This breakfast is meant to last you through much of a long cold work day. It’s got several types of sausages, bacon, fried eggs, baked beans, tomatoes, mushrooms and bread and ALL of the above (ex the beans) has been thoughtfully fried up in good old Irish butter. Procuring traditional white and black (i.e. BLOOD) pudding (sausage) might be hard – if you have time, order blood sausages online. If you skip that part and stick with regular pork sausage, I won’t tell. The beans – you can make your own or you can buy the canned version. Eggs are easy, fry them up preferably in the same pan you’ve fried up the meats and the mushrooms/tomatoes. Not a ton of cooking to be done here (you are recovering, after all) but I would urge you to try to make this low maintenance and delicious bread. The idea here is to eat enough to feel better about leprechauns. Wash all of that down with copious amounts of good dark tea, and begin to feel happy and lucky again.

 

Menu 34 - 3 21 2016

 

Tips and Notes

Make this bread! http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2015/06/ballymaloe-irish-brown-bread-recipe/

HERE is a wonderfully descriptive breakfast cooking plan (though it doesn’t include beans but how hard is it to add them? Dump a can of beans on a pot and you’re good to go. Excellent hangover food). I might skip the Boxty as that seems like more cooking than I want to do, but that’s just me being not fully Irish.

ORDER White and Black Pudding.

Menu 33 – GO TERPS!

Let’s start with a congrats to 5th seeded MARYLAND in the NCAA Tournament!! Actually I’m conflicted here since I didn’t go to Maryland (Georgetown! Oh but we didn’t make the tournament..) and I have family history in Kansas…but I’m partial to Maryland food, so here we go with a Maryland themed menu. Game one against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits (jackrabbits? The ignominy) is Friday – you have tons of time to plan this…read on!

 

My Maryland History

One of the best memories I have of growing up is going to our church Annual Crab Cake Dinner. Crab cakes, green beans and something for dessert. I barely remember dessert because it was really all about the crab. From 1976 – 1999 my family lived in Hyattsville, Maryland. When we moved there from upstate New York I remember thinking how nice it would be to live in a place called “Mary – Land” and that I would probably be friends with Jimmy Carter’s daughter, being a neighbor to DC, you know.

Maryland is a lovely place to grow up. The state itself is remarkable – country, city, beaches, mountains. A little Northern and a little Southern…the best of both. This week host a Maryland Pot Luck (Marylanders like to share, so make your friends contribute to making this menu) and celebrate the state that is the birthplace of “The Star Spangled Banner”, where jousting is the official state sport, where school is closed if they PREDICT snow and where pizza is cut in squares!

 

This Maryland Menu…

You’re expecting a bushel of crabs? That would be awesome but obvious. We’re getting a little more creative here…do you know Maryland is also known for its fried chicken? Best food EVER. Maryland fried chicken is distinguished from other Southern fried chicken as rather than cooking the chicken in several inches of oil or shortening, the chicken is pan-fried in a heavy cast-iron skillet and covered after the initial browning so that the chicken steams as well as fries. Let’s give this a try. Don’t worry – of course we will start with crab and there will be a LOT of Old Bay.

As people arrive, have a few bowls of Old Bay seasoned popcorn around and serve a local beer. There are a number of good craft beers in Maryland, but if you aren’t there, have one from your own state. Then set out big trays of bite sized crab cakes (mostly crab, very little cake). Next, the fried chicken with gravy – and (hold on to your seats) Old Bay & Cheddar biscuits (OMG). We aren’t skimping on seasoning here (Maryland itself by the way has four true seasons). If you want to serve some greens right now like kale, cabbage and spices do so – you would be nodding to yet another Maryland specialty of stuffed ham (which seemed a little over the top even to me, but the greens would be nice here). And last but not least, have someone make Maryland’s Official State Cake (another thing that makes Maryland AMAZING – we have our own CAKE). Read about it HERE and then lick your fingers. You’re full of carbs, crab and Maryland goodness. Flop down on the couch in time for Terps v. the Jackrabbits, this Friday at 4:30PM EST, Hon!

Menu 33 - 3 14 2016

Tips and Notes:

Old Bay Popcorn: http://www.abeautifulplate.com/old-bay-stove-top-popcorn/

Mini Crab Cakes – keep the recipe really simple: http://www.inspiredtaste.net/25964/maryland-style-crab-cake-recipe/

Fried Chicken and Gravy: Good method but absolutely add OLD Bay to the mix here, and cut your salt: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2015/01/maryland-fried-chicken-white-gravy-recipe.html

Amazing BISCUITS! http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/cheddar-biscuits-with-old-bay-seasoning/0ab8660c-5ae7-4cb2-827a-00d53aedde06

Maryland’s Official State Cake: http://www.smithisland.org/cakerecipe.html

 

Maryland Fun Stuff:

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 29 – What to Take a Friend Post Surgery

“I asked ‘Can I bring dinner?’ and within 30 seconds got a “YES” reply.”

This was the text my sister relayed to me when a friend of hers came home from surgery. So my sister hopped to and got right into planning her menu.

My sister is a really good friend. She’s full on in the “it takes a village” camp when it comes to child-rearing and being part of her community. Her first thought is “How can I help?” When I had my first child, she came up and stayed with me (non-maternal me) for a week and helped out. She was a god-send. She didn’t ask, she just unloaded the dishwasher, took out the trash, folded laundry. She held the baby – through all the crying. She is THAT friend. You want her in your ‘hood.

And you want her to cook for you when you come home from surgery and would kill for a home-cooked meal but can’t get it done yourself.

Don’t tell me when you look at this that it’s too much work. YOUR FRIEND JUST HAD SURGERY! And my sister – mother of two rambunctious boys; pregnant lady with an incoming girl; and a NICU nurse who works nights – managed to make all of this in about half a day for her friend (to rave reviews). So there. Stop complaining and be a good friend. On to the menu…

Menu 29 - 2 11 2016

 

This is unapologetic comfort food. The ranch dressing doubles as crudité dip. Be sure to include paper plates and disposable flatware. Yeah yeah I get the environment issues but your friend just went under the knife – they don’t need to do any dishes.

DISCLAIMER: Reconsider menu if your friend has gastro issues. I don’t know what to do in that case. Maybe broth and a movie.

BONUS! You could also tuck in a bouquet of flowers or you can print this menu in black and white and let your friend have some Zen coloring time! DOWNLOAD here…Menu 29 – 2 11 2016 BW

Tips and Notes

The Pork Roast. Take in one piece to maintain juices. http://chefmommy-brandao.blogspot.com/2012/03/pork-tenderloin-with-pan-sauce.html

Hash Browns – so bad and so good.  http://www.thechildatheartblog.com/cheesy-hash-brown-casserole/

Your own Ranch Dressing Mix. http://happymoneysaver.com/diy-copycat-homemade-hidden-valley-ranch-mix/

Guilty pleasure – Stouffer’s Escalloped Apples.  Try this homemade version…http://my-extraordinary-life.blogspot.com/2010/02/escalloped-apples.html

Please, you don’t need a recipe for a Big Green Salad.

Dessert! Or Breakfast! Pound cake…http://www.chef-in-training.com/2014/05/lemon-blueberry-pound-cake/

Menu 28 – The Super Bowl…of FOOD

“Because I’m all about that food, that food, NO football…”

 OK I’ll stop. But I will admit, I had to look up who’s playing. Don’t we all agree that unless your team is in it, the Super Bowl is really about commercials and snacks?

And what could be better! Fun commercials and an excuse to eat ridiculously indulgent food. I’m all over it like Defense on the QB 🙂 (I’m trying over here. Really.)

It’s not the Super Bowl without dip. This Blue Cheese Caramelized Shallot dip is ugly (it turns kind of blue and brown with the cheese and the shallots) but it doesn’t matter – it’s delicious. Get the best potato chips you can find and cut some vegetables if you feel you must. Set this out right away. Also, Jerk Wings. There’s really no recipe for these – but they’re always just right. Go buy Walker’s Wood. Dump a bunch of it in a bag with your wings. Pour in a beer. Close it and marinate for a few hours. Roast the wings for about 45 minutes at 400 degrees. They’re sinus clearing and amazing (just don’t touch your eyes). And now the main event – the Cuban Sandwich. I’m always looking for reasons to eat a Cuban Sandwich. Break it down – roasted pork, ham, cheese and a pickle – all pressed and delicious. For a Super Bowl crowd, make it like a slider. These sandwiches beg for rice and beans on the side. Try the recipe below and set out a bunch of hot sauce. To finish, toffee bars. So good and bad at the same time.

We’re not trying for a lot of coordinated flavors here – we’re going for indulging in awesome hot sticky slow roasted fattening deliciousness. Wash it all down with a lot of local beer and no matter who wins, you will be a happy watcher.

Menu 28 - 2 4 2016

Tips and Notes

Make this dip. Don’t think twice. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/blue-cheese-and-caramelized-shallot-dip-104792

Cuban Sliders!! SHOWSTOPPER http://www.beantownbaker.com/2013/01/cuban-sandwich-sliders.html

Must have Rice and Beans: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/rice-cooked-in-black-beans-em-moros-y-cristianos-em-364829

Brownies are so last season. Try these gooey sticky toffee bars. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/amy-thielen/toffee-bars.html