What Really Matters Most!

What Really Matters Most!

I hope your holidays were as special as mine. For me, family time is a time of renewal … a rebirth of what is important. I love this stage of my life. I no longer have the responsibilities of parenting, yet I can still take pride in the family that we created.

It’s great to watch the boys careen down the street on bikes and scooters while my friends and neighbors desperately try to dodge them.

It’s wonderful to greet my Sam in the early morning and watch him mindlessly shovel cereal into his mouth before I pour my first cup of coffee.

Who knew a princess could be so jolted by the pea under her mattress that she developed a huge tangle in her flowing hair that had to be surgically removed? It definitely was the bedding… not the princess!

It’s only been a few days since the unwrapping and we’ve already returned three gifts and requested additional parts of others. And where did those receipts go?

The food was over-the top. My fridge is filled with leftovers, lasagna, steaks, sauerkraut and pork… we did it up! The wine flowed….. why wouldn’t it! The activities were active…. swimming, beaching, pickle ball, cycling, day trips and only limited screen time. None of us made it to the ball drop, and that was fine!

Yet, I am renewed. Renewed by the fact that this group of daredevils and princesses chose to spend time with us, their grandparents and parents. We created some memories, some new traditions and made a plan for our summer get together. It doesn’t get better than that – looking forward to continuing our family adventures.

Here are some pictures from our family to yours.

Wishing you a happy, healthy New Year! A little late maybe, but better late than never.

 

Homemade Cookies Make Great Last Minute Gifts!

Homemade Cookies Make Great Last Minute Gifts!

My gift to you this Christmas is a box of sugar cookies that come together faster than you can say happy holidays. But you don’t have to use mine. Perhaps you have an old holiday cookie recipe passed down from your grandmother to your mother – or you just found it in this year’s magazine.

Maybe you grabbed a tin of cookie dough at the grocery store last week. None of this matters. What matters is that these cookies are made special by making them with those you love. I sure had a blast decorating ginger and sugar cookies with my grandkids this season, and making sure we had enough on hand for Santa.

Our cookies give new meaning to “tree trimming”, and sparkle with Fancy Sprinkles.

So, this season, grab someone special, get out the cookie cutters, and share a couple laughs while you make some cookies!

 

Christmas Sugar Cookie Recipe

15 minute cuisine

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

 

 

For the dough

3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg, beaten

1 tablespoon whole milk

For the baked cookies

Red, green and gold sprinkles and icing

Confectioner’s sugar for work surface

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

Place the butter and sugar in a separate mixing bowl and beat by hand. You can use a mixer but it’s more fun to hand-mix!

Add the beaten egg and milk into the butter and sugar mixture until just combined, gradually adding the dry ingredients and beating until mixture resembles cookie dough.

Divide the dough in half, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Sprinkle work surface with confectioners’ sugar. Remove cookie dough from refrigerator, and sprinkle rolling pin with more of the confectioner’s sugar.

Roll out the dough to just under an inch thickness, moving it around on your work surface so it doesn’t stick.

Cut the dough into Christmas tree shapes, and place into the oven for 9 to 10 minutes. Let the cookies cool before you decorate them with the icing and sprinkles.

A Wonderful Breakfast Recipe for December 25th

A Wonderful Breakfast Recipe for December 25th

Christmas morning arrives and it’s present unwrapping time! The delight of every child and most adults, whether giving or receiving, gifting is FUN and fast. Immediately after gift unwrapping comes cleaning up the papers, bags and bows.

Then there’s the sorting and piling and then… very soon after it all begins, everyone wanders into the kitchen and asks:

“What’s for breakfast?”

What has always worked for me and my family are my make ahead casseroles. I discreetly pop everything in the oven while everyone is grabbing packages, and by the time everything winds down, viola…breakfast is served!

My menu usually includes slices of spiralized, sugared ham, warmed in the oven with a bit of butter and brown sugar; an egg casserole that is the perfect venue for either your favorite veggies or salty meats, and a cheesy hash potato casserole that comes out hot and bubbly.

These are recipes included in my first cookbook, At Home in The Kitchen and I’m sharing one of my family favorites, with you and yours this holiday season.

Merry, Merry to all and to all a Great Season of Family Gatherings!

Fluffy Egg and Cheese Casserole

1 hour and 20 minute cuisine

Serves 6 to 8

10 slices white bread

8 large eggs

3 cups milk

3 tablespoons chopped garlic chives

1 tablespoon prepared mustard

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Dash of hot pepper sauce

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

3 tablespoons diced green onions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Trim the crusts from the bread and discard. Cut the bread slices into 1-inch cubes.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, chives and mustard.

Season with salt and as much hot pepper sauce as you like. Stir the bread cubes, cheddar cheese and green onion into the egg mixture.

Pour the mixture into an ungreased baking dish. Bake the casserole for about 1 hour or until the center is just set and the edges begin to brown.

 

How to Create the Ultimate Wine & Cheese Board for Your Dinner Party

How to Create the Ultimate Wine & Cheese Board for Your Dinner Party

Charcuterie boards are trending! Traditionally, this platter is filled with aged cheeses and cured meats. Much like an antipasti platter, you arrange bite size treats, and your guests choose morsels to place on their plates.

My board, is a mixture of both charcuterie and antipasti. It’s not shy on cheese or meats, and has a special stuffed fig recipe you’ll find at the bottom of this post. I had a lot of fun arranging this platter. What would be the first thing you’d reach for? Marinated olives, crunchy bread sticks, radishes rubbed in sea salt, chunks of fresh shaved Parmesan, prosciutto or Italian salami?

For all offerings on my buffet table, I keep portion size at 2 to 3 ounces of meat per person, and 5 to 6 ounces on all the other appys.

What Do You Drink with Charcuterie?

Wines that taste best with charcuterie boards are Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Bordeaux style wines – any vino that is low alcohol, fruity and higher acid. For whites, I recommend champagne or sparkling wines. There should be one bottle for every pair of guests.

For the cheese – arguably the best part of any charcuterie board – sheep’s milk cheeses tend to go best with red wine. A good rule of thumb is that the older the wine, the firmer the cheese should be. Unless it’s truffle infused, I don’t think brie is necessarily the right choice. Gouda and aged cloth-bound cheddar are what go into my shopping cart when I’m planning a romantic evening.

As you go to assemble the board, little bowls of marinated olives, the little pickles known as cornichons, nuts and dips are always welcome – as are the occasional edible flower: think roses, deep purple sage flowers, pansies and violets. Hibiscus flowers are also as pretty to look at as they are to nosh on.

So many excuses to have a cozy little dinner party this winter season – happy entertaining!

Fresh Figs Appetizer

Ingredients

8 ripe figs

4 ounces Blue cheese, crumbled, room temperature, about 1 cup

2 tablespoons sour cream

Honey for drizzling

Directions:

Cut each fig in half, horizontally. Use a spoon or fork to mix softened (room temperature) blue cheese with sour cream. Use the sour cream to make the blue cheese spreadable. Spoon the blue cheese onto the figs. Drizzle with a bit of honey.

Serve the figs at room temperature.

Not Julia’s Beef Stew

Not Julia’s Beef Stew

I love Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon – but truly American beef stew is different, and if you’re looking to achieve a real, flavorful meat n’ potatoes kinda night, this is your recipe!

My version comes together quickly, with items you probably have in your pantry and freezer. I throw in an extra step of browning not only the beef, but the potatoes in oil and butter. You might not think it’s worth the effort, but trust me, it is!

Here’s how I do it. I cut about 2 pounds of beef into 1 ½ inch cubes. I had a top round roast in my freezer, so I used that, but you can use any cut of beef that adapts well to stewing or braising – like chuck roast, short ribs and brisket. Stay away from leaner cuts (like steaks) as they will toughen up during the long cooking process.

My friends at brobbq.com have all the meaty details on how to make your meat n’ potatoes night “a cut” above!

I cut baby yellow or red potatoes in half – about a 1 ½ pound bag. Place them in a bowl and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and some dried thyme. I peeled 8 large carrots and cut them into chunks and I diced 1 big onion.

Place about a third of beef cubes into a resealable plastic bag with flour, salt and pepper and shake. I do this in batches so that all the cubes are coated evenly. Heat olive oil and butter (about 2 to 3 tablespoons of each) in a large, deep pot over high heat. Turn on the fan, we want the butter and olive oil smokin’ hot. Place the coated cubes into the pot. Brown on one side, about 1 minute. Flip and brown on the other side, about 1 minute more. Transfer the brown beef to a platter. Repeat this process until all the beef is browned. You can add additional olive oil and butter in between browning. I did!

Remove the pot from the heat for a minute and take a deep breath. That browning goes fast! Add more olive oil and butter to the pot. Place the potatoes, cut side down in the pot (as best you can) and return the pot to the heat. Let the potatoes brown for about 2 minutes. Flip them over when there is a nice golden crust on the cut side. Transfer the potatoes back to the bowl.

Place the carrots into the pot and toss them around until they just begin to brown. Season with salt, pepper and a bit of cumin. Transfer the browned carrots to the same bowl with the potatoes.

Place the onions into the pot. Season the onions with salt and pepper. When the onions are beginning to soften, about 5 minutes, pour in about half of a bottle of red wine. Reduce the heat to medium. Simmer the wine until it reduces by about half. Pour in about 3 cups of beef stock. Stir in about 3 tablespoons of tomato paste. Place the meat back into the pot. Reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer the stew for at least 90 minutes. After ninety minutes, add in the potatoes and carrots. Continue simmering the stew until the meat is very tender, about 3 hours total cooking time.

There you have it. An all-American beef stew with a bit of a fried potato twist. I promise, you’re gonna love it – it’s one of the defining recipes in my book, SUNDAY BEST DISHES: a cookbook for Passionate Cooks!

End of the Year Fresh Market Surprises!

End of the Year Fresh Market Surprises!

We purchase our holiday turkey from New Town Farms in Waxhaw, North Carolina every year. This year, I was surprised to learn that Sammy, New Town’s Father Farmer also raises a small heard of Ossabaw Island Hogs. These are descendants of the famous Spanish Iberico hogs that are renowned for the most prize cured hams in the world – Jamón Ibérico. You may remember me writing about those hams after our trip to Spain a while back. The butchers in the fresh markets have contests to see who can cut the finest slices from the cured meat. It’s an art!

I also learned that these hogs have an interesting history. They were brought from Spain to a small island off the coast of Georgia in the 1500’s. They remained there for years, developing new characteristics for survival which make the meat delicious and extremely high in Omega 3’s. Sammy is one of a handful of farmers who raise these hogs, and he butchers just a few every year. Luckily, we will be the beneficiaries of this long history when we taste the pork that I purchased from Sammy on New Year’s Day.

And, if this is not delicious enough, my trip to the Mathews farmer’s market, where I picked up the pork, landed me right in front of the happiest farmer I ever met, Jim Mundorf of Nuthill Farms (pictured above). These are some of his yummy offerings!

 

He got me to taste his Henpecked mustard greens, which were delicate and tender and had an after-blast of mustard that ups the flavor profile in any salad…and especially on that left-over ham sammie.

He also sold me some Tokyo Cross turnips that you can slice raw into salads, but he suggested that I cook the tops with some vinegar and then roast the turnips to go with. Yes, Jim, I will! Click here to see New Town’s store!

Pork is a New Year’s tradition in our house. This was my Dad’s favorite thing to eat! My favorite way to enjoy the dish is to slow cook the meat (any cut works: chops, ribs, butt and shoulder) in the slow cooker with sauerkraut.

Here’s how ya do it!

Place the sauerkraut into the bottom of your slow cooker. I add sliced onions and slices of cabbage to the kraut. Season the meat and place it on top of the sauerkraut. Pour in about a cup of chicken broth. Cook the pork on low heat for a long time. I serve the dish with mashed potatoes and sautéed greens. This year, we’ll add some mustard greens to the mix!

 

Wishing You’re the Happiest and Healthiest of New Years!!