Category Archives: Entertaining & Recipes

Irish or Not, Corned Beef and Cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day


I like to mark St. Patrick’s Day with a homemade meal of corned beef and cabbage in the confines of my humble abode. (See recipes below.)

Now I’m not one for the whole Kiss me I’m Irish tradition, which is why I prefer to invite some friends over, cook a nostalgic Irish meal, and eat in, versus having to duck and dodge the random, often drunkish guys looking for a snog.

“Kiss me, I’m Irish,” is a reference to kissing the Blarney Stone. And legend has it, that if you can’t kiss the stone, the next best chance of catching some good luck is to kiss an Irish person.

In the past, when I have taken a chance at the bars, I have sternly warned off creepy kisses by adamantly proclaiming that I have zero Irish roots.  Let those whankers find some other poor, defenseless, and possibly Irish victim to pucker up with.

But I have to admit that every time I flat out Irish deny, there is that little inner leprechaun, wondering, if not hoping, that perhaps there is a touch of the Irish in me.

The short answer is that anything is possible.

The longer answer is buried in the memories of my grandmother, and the delicious corned beef and cabbage dinners she made nearly every St. Patrick’s Day. Was she part Irish, or was it just a Catholic tradition?

Okay, I admit, a killer corned beef and cabbage recipe does not an Irishwoman make.

But who really knows?

That’s where Finding Your Roots, a show hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr. comes in.

In each episode, DNA diagnosticians trace bloodlines and analyze the genetic code of celebrities. The program utilizes AncestryDNA as one of its research tools, and I am always blown away by the often shocking discovery of long-lost relatives hidden for generations within the branches of their family trees.  I am an avid fan of the show mostly because I have always wanted to trace my own roots.

So what a pleasant surprise when in my inbox yesterday there was an offer from Ancestry.com for a 10% savings for their DNA analysis in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.

The sell copy stated that with a simple DNA test, I could discover my ethnic mix and see it there’s a bit of Irish in the family tree after all.

Call it luck o’ the Irish: For $89 I can finally find out about my ethnicity and where my ancestors hail from.

So as an early birthday present to myself, I have decided that I am going to have my DNA analyzed and discover my roots once and for all.

But as part of my yearly tradition, I’ve first got to make some corned beef and cabbage in honor and in memory of my possibly part Irish grandmother on St. Paddy’s Day.

Mammy’s Corned Beef and Cabbage

Like my grandmother, I slow roast the corned beef in the oven. The potatoes, cabbage, and carrots (I use parsnips) can be boiled together or separately. I like to switch it up sometimes and bake hash browns.  I mash the carrots and/or parsnips, and I fry up some onions just like my grandmother did. A real St. Patrick’s Day feast with all the fixings. [I have an anaphylactic allergy to carrots, so that’s why I use parsnips.]

3 large onions (I slice em’ and fry em’ in olive oil)
4-6 medium potatoes, peeled and boiled whole (or see my recipe for Baked Hash Browns)
1 pound large carrots or parsnips peeled, boiled, and mashed with salt, pepper, and butter.
2 Tablespoons black pepper
1 (4-6 pound) corned beef brisket whole
1 head of cabbage (I prefer Savoy cabbage)
2 Tablespoons Horseradish sauce
2 Tablespoons Cool Whip

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Unwrap the corned beef brisket and place fat-side up in a roasting pan just slightly larger than the brisket. If the corned beef comes with a spice packet, add two tablespoons of black pepper to it, and rub the mixture all over the top of the corned beef. If you don’t have a packet of spices, just rub 2-3 tablespoons of pepper onto the top. Cover the dish with heavy aluminum foil.  Place the meat in a 325-degree oven for 2 ½ hours. Then remove the foil and bake for at least another 30 to 60 minutes.

Check the brisket by inserting a fork in it after 3 hours. If the fork goes in easy, your corned beef is ready. If the fork doesn’t go in easy, bake for at least another 30 minutes. You may need up to an additional hour or even more for the corned beef to be fully cooked. Once it’s cooked, cover with foil and rest until you’re ready to serve.

Fry up the onions any old way, and boil the cabbage and the potatoes (unless you are baking Hash Browns) along with the carrots/parsnips.

When the carrots and/or parsnips are done, mash them with some butter, and top with a little salt and pepper.  Cut the cabbage while still in the pot, and then drain and put on a platter.

Uncover the brisket and transfer to a cutting board. Cut thick slices against the grain and put back into the roasting pan.  You can serve the onions and boiled potatoes separately or place them on the outside of the platter with the meat and cabbage in the middle.

I make a quick but delicious side sauce by taking ½ part prepared horseradish sauce and 1/2 part Cool Whip and combining them.

Serve everything with Dijon mustard, creamy horseradish sauce, and Irish Soda Bread.

And don’t forget the Guinness.

Baked Hash Browns

4 cups peeled and grated potatoes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
½ cup grated Parmesan (optional)
11×17 inch sheet pan

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Once the potatoes are peeled and grated, rinse and dry them well. Take the butter, olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper and melt it all together. (I do it in the microwave for 30 seconds.) Pour over your potatoes. If you want to add a little extra flavor, you can throw in some Parmesan. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper (don’t skip this step) and then put the potato mixture in. Put them in the oven and leave them alone. Don’t turn them or move them at all. Cook for 15-20 minutes on the lowest rack of your oven. When the edges are browning nicely, they are ready for the next step. Keep the temperature the same but move the pan up to the highest rack of your oven, and cook for another 10-15 minutes. This will crisp up the bottom. Keep a careful eye on them and take them out when they are done to your crispiness liking.

Irish or not, my eyes are smiling, I’m clothed in green, with a Guinness in hand, and wishing you Sláinte!

And don’t worry I’ll keep you posted about the Irish thing!

Super Bowl Sunday Food Fest


 Lady Gaga in my BFF’s platter of chicken wings.

I promised in my last blog post to move on, and stop talking politics.

But to be honest, I am still obsessed with all things political.

But a promise is a promise, even though my heart and mind isn’t into much of anything else these days.

And try as I could, the only thing I could think of to blog about, is last Sunday’s Super Bowl and what I ate.

I know, it’s old news, but I’m trying here!

So here goes…

I love Super Bowl parties.

The number one reason? It’s all about the food.

…With a few commercials and a half-time show thrown in.

Oh, and of course, there’s the football game.

And yet another excuse to party hardy.

And regardless of whether I am asked to bring something or not, I always show up with my favorite go to’s:

My do-it-yourself platter decorations, and my kick-yo-ass spicy boneless buffalo chicken.

Since I need to fill up some blog space here, I thought I’d throw in a few Super Bowl stats to stretch this thang out.

Did you know that Americans spent more than $50 million on food for this last Super Bowl? (That’s a lot of moolah.)

According to the National Chicken Council (yes there is such a thing), more than 1.3 BILLION chicken wings were consumed over Super Bowl Sunday weekend. That’s enough wings to circle the Earth almost three times. They also estimated that of the wings eaten during Super Bowl weekend, 75 percent came from restaurants or food service outlets, and 25 percent were homemade, which means abut 325 million wings were picked up at grocery stores and supermarkets.

When I showed up at my local grocery store Super Bowl Saturday to pick up chicken, the wings were gonzo.

Shoppers were scurrying and snooping around in the meat department, while others were begging the butcher for a miracle. Good thing I was making boneless buffalo chicken breast!  (See my recipe below.)

Super Bowl Sunday is also hands down, the busiest day of the year for pizza places. Domino’s alone sold about 12 million slices of pizza that day.

And don’t forget about the guacamole dip (8 million pounds), tortilla and potato chips (14,500 tons), popcorn (4,000 tons) and lots and lots and lots of beer.

Estimated Super Bowl Sunday calorie consumption was approximately 1,000-2,000 per person, almost as much as the average person eats in an entire day.

Antacid sales increased by about 20 percent on the Monday after the Super Bowl, and approximately six percent of Americans called in sick.

I like to be creative and make food markers using a Super Bowl theme.  They’re super easy, and everyone raves about them.

I simply find some appropriate photos online, print them out, tape them onto cardboard, create a cardboard post, and wrap the post in aluminum foil.

Take a look at this year’s Super Bowl marker menagerie:

And who knew my Matt Ryan food marker would be so prophetic? (Poor Matt.)

Now for my Boneless Buffalo Chicken recipe:

Boneless Buffalo Chicken
1 pound skinless chicken breast (1” thick – cut into 2” x 2” pieces)
3 cups flour
1 ½ cups buttermilk (Fat free works)
1 ½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
Peanut Oil (great for frying, but vegetable oil is ok too)

Hot sauce
¾ cup hot sauce
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon butter
¼ heaping teaspoon cayenne pepper

Blue cheese dressing
4 oz. Blue cheese, crumbled
1 cup sour cream
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauce directions: Place sauce ingredients in small pan and simmer 4-5 minutes until well blended. Remove sauce from heat and set aside.

Boneless Chicken directions: Mix flour, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Place buttermilk in a separate bowl. Make sure chicken is cut into pieces.  Heat oil for frying.
Dip chicken pieces into the buttermilk and then into the flour.  Gently shake off excess flour and carefully place pieces into hot oil and fry until golden brown.  Remove chicken pieces and drain them on a paper towel.  When you are ready to serve the chicken, place them in a large container and cover with the hot sauce.  Place a lid on the container and gently shake or stir until all nuggets have been coated.  Then place the chicken nuggets on a non stick baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.  Serve with blue cheese dressing.

 

Thanksgiving on Black Friday

thanksgiving2016a

Thanksgiving has traditionally been the one holiday where, like it or not, families get together, chow down, throw shade at each other, and oh yeah, give thanks.

Mothers, fathers, children, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces and every other iteration of family and friends travel here there and everywhere to get together for some clan time.

Some of this “time” will inevitably be dysfunctional, but we all still participate.

Why?

Because good, bad, or ugly, at the end of the—in this case—Thanksgiving Day, we’re all kith and kin together. Hopefully.

And if you’re fed up or irked by a particular family member, remember this:

Just because they look like you, doesn’t mean they are you.

As challenging and painful as the day might turn out, most of us are celebrating Thanksgiving with our peeps.

We can all agree on two Thanksgiving Day things: Some familial dysfunction, and a hassle getting to your destination.

And while we can maneuver around family characters, there’s no getting around the holiday traffic.

Traveling on Thanksgiving Day is plain old horrendous.

And if you come from a divorced family, or are married and or involved with someone, everyone puts the guilt trip on you to show up for their Turkey event.

How many families do you know who strictly adhere to the every other Thanksgiving rule?

Now that we’ve established that Thanksgiving already poses a real dilemma for many, and is a downright miserable holiday obligation for others, I have two questions for you:

A) Why stress out on the day set aside for giving thanks?
B) Who says Thanksgiving has to be on Thursday?

Several years ago my husband and I asked and answered A & B and came up with our own way of celebrating Thanksgiving: On Black Friday.

No traffic, no scheduling dilemmas, no disappointed families, you can work pretty much all day on Friday, and best of all? No turkey.

But okay, we might still dish out some dysfunction.

Below are some of my Black Friday recipes should you want to change it up next year!

deconstructed-thai-salad
Deconstructed Thai Salad
Serves 8

Dressing:
1 can low-fat coconut milk
1/2 cup peanut butter (creamy or chunky)
1 tablespoon yellow curry powder
1 clove garlic
Juice of 1/2 small lime
Splash of sriracha
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)

Place all ingredients above in a blender until very smooth. Taste it to make sure you like the combo. If not, add more peanut butter, curry powder or siriracha. Then put it in a saucepan and bring to a boil, then simmer until reduced and thickened about 10 minutes. Cool down completely. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Salad:
6-8 small seedless cucumbers sliced
1 head of iceberg lettuce chopped
I pint of red cherry tomatoes whole
1 pint of yellow or orange cherry tomatoes whole
6 hard-boiled eggs halved
2 cups bean sprouts
16 ounces firm tofu

Place lettuce in the center of a large square platter, and then line up the other ingredients above in a row. Serve with dressing.

standing-rib-roast
Perfect Bone-In Rib Roast
NOTE:  When ordering a Bone-In Standing Rib Roast, figure you will need one rib per two people. This will also  ensure plenty of leftovers.

So for 8 adults I ordered 4 Ribs (1/2 rack), approximately 8
pounds. The price for 4 ribs was $148.00.

Nobody said this was a cheap meal.

Bone In Standing Rib Roast – 4 Ribs (approximately 8 pounds)
1 stick butter, softened
Ground pepper
Kosher salt
Garlic powder

Place Rib Roast on a plate and bring to room temperature, about four hours.
Then place the meat in a roasting pan that’s slightly bigger than the roast itself.
Slather the whole roast with softened butter. Then add salt, pepper and garlic powder to the entire roast.
Preheat the oven to 350°F for at least 20 minutes.
The roast should be cooked at 350 degrees for about 2 hours to 2 ¼ hours, depending on your oven.
You will need to check the roast with a meat thermometer close to the 2 hour mark.
When the meat thermometer reaches 110 to no more than 120 degrees, the roast needs to come out of the oven (for a perfect combination of medium, medium rare and rare), regardless of how long the roast has been cooking.
Remember that the roast’s temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees after you remove it from the oven so remove it 10  degrees before the desired doneness. There is nothing worse than an overcooked rib roast.
Once you remove roast from oven, tent it with foil but put a hole in the foil to keep the crispiness of the outside of  the roast.
Rest the roast for about 10 minutes, and no more than 15 minutes, to let the juices redistribute throughout the  Roast and still be nice and warm. Also, if you decide to pour the pan drippings over it, the roast will cook a little  more as well.
If the roast still isn’t cooked enough for your taste, you can always slice it and then put part of it back in the oven  to cook it more. Better to under cook it than to overcook it. And you don’t even have to put on the heat, but you  do need to watch it carefully.
The slices taken from the ends of the roast will obviously be the most done, and the middle will be the least done,  so you should be able to suit the preferences of everyone at the table.
Also, remove the rib bones and put them back in the oven on high to crisp them up and then place them around  your roast.

If you want to serve your roast with au jus on the side, save the drippings and see the recipe below!

aujus
Killer Au Jus
¼ cup beef fat drippings from your prime rib
1 ½ Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
2 Cups Beef broth
Salt & Pepper to taste

Melt fat in skillet over medium high heat. Whisk flour into the beef fat, whisking constantly
while cooking, until the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes.
Pour beef broth into fat mixture, increase heat to high and bring mixture to a boil. Boil mixture
until it thickens slightly, season with salt and pepper to taste.

broccoli-timbale-b
Broccoli Timbale
Serves 8

Ingredients:
4 Cups Broccoli florets
1-1/2 to 2 cups whipping cream
5 large eggs
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
3 Tablespoons chopped scallion (optional)
Nutmeg to taste (optional)

Steam the broccoli (florets only), for 4 to 6 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 2-quart baking or souffle dish, 6 to 8 timbale molds, custard cups, or ramikans (each holding about 1/2 cup). I used an 8 cup Charlotte mold, which has slightly flared sides, making it super easy to unmold my masterpiece.

Cut out a circle of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the mold(s); place in the bottom of the mold and then butter the paper.

Then prepare the Timbale mixture:
Place and beat 5 eggs in a bowl.
Set aside 1-1/2 to 2 cups of whipping cream.
Place the cooked broccoli in a food processor or blender and process with the eggs and cream until smooth.
The amount of cream you use will make the mixture more concentrated or more custard-like. I like to use 2 cups.
Season to taste with salt and pepper
Add a pinch of nutmeg if using
Add the scallions if using.
Pulse to mix.
Carefully spoon the Timbale mixture into the mold(s).
Cook the timbales in a water bath: Place them in a baking pan just large enough to hold them, pour in very hot water halfway up their sides and carefully place in the oven. For 1/2-cup molds, cook 15 to 25 minutes; for a 2-quart mold, or an 8-cup Charlotte mold cook 35 to 45 minutes, or until just set.
Carefully loosen around the edges and invert onto a plate.
Tip: You can make the timbale up to 2 days ahead, either in the dish or unmolded. Reheat for about 10 minutes in a 325-degree oven before unmolding.

whipped-and-baked-potatoesc
WHIPPED AND BAKED POTATOES
Half of a 5-pound bag of potatoes
Whole milk or whipping cream
Lots of Butter
paprika

Peel and cut up potatoes and cook until done.
Put potatoes in mixing bowl and mash or rice well.
Add butter and milk or cream to taste and mix with a beater until potatoes peak.
Put potatoes into a casserole dish and top with paprika.
The potatoes can be put directly onto a 35o preheated oven or put into the refrigerator until ready to cook.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown on top.

jello-fruit-compotea
AMAZING JELLO AND CRANBERRY COMPOTE
1 6 ounce package strawberry Jello
1½ cups boiling water
1 16-ounce can jellied cranberry sauce
1 small can of mandarin oranges
1 small can of diced pineapple
1 small can of peaches (cut up in bite size pieces)
2/3 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Dissolve Jello in boiling water. Stir cranberry sauce in bowl until very smooth. Blend with Jello and chill in refrigerator for 15 minutes. Fold nuts and fruit into a decorative glass bowl and chill until solid. You can decorate the top after it has set with some walnuts and mandarin oranges. I like to make a kind of flower design in the middle.
Serves 6

baked-smores-a
Baked S’Mores
1 package golden sugar cookie mix (Betty Crocker)
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
2 milk chocolate bars (5 oz. each)
1 7 oz can marshmallow Fluff

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8”x8” square pan. Combine cookie mix, (with butter if it calls for it), egg and water in large bowl. Stir until thoroughly blended. Divide cookie dough in half. Press half the dough evenly into bottom of pan. Place each chocolate bar evenly into the pan. Take a clean tablespoon and wet it. Then take the back of the spoon and spread marshmallow crème to cover the chocolate. Drop the remaining cookie dough by tablespoonfuls on top of marshmallow crème. Spread lightly with back of clean spoon. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool at least three to four hours before serving. Cut into squares.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Fish and Dishing—Girls’ Night In

Girls night in AWine A
One of my favorite occasions is when my girlfriends join me for a girls-only night in.

Sure, it’s fun going out with the girls, but nothing beats a laid-back night with my dearest girlfriends, dishing and bantering in the comfort of my home.

I recently hosted a girls-only dinner party, and at the request of my BFF, I served her fave—fried fish on the barbie.

Fish C

When hosting any kind of home cooked dinner, I like to keep it super simple. That way, I get to enjoy my party and my friends. Who wants to run around serving people all night? Not me. I much prefer to throw a few simple things together, grill something up, and then kick back and enjoy.

So here is my go-to girls’ night in carte de jour: Chips and dip, my crunch salad, fish on the barbie with a side of wild rice, and a happy ending of cheese and chocolate for dessert.

Fish E

And a plethora of wine.

When it’s just us girls, chips and dip are all we really need to get us prepped for the main event. A little dark russet potato chip scooped up with some onion dip.

Chips & Dip 1

Oh, and did I mention lots of red and white wine?

Then I follow up with “The Crunch,” my chopped concoction of celery, red, yellow and orange peppers, edamame, and cherry tomatoes, topped with crumbled blue cheese and bacon.

Crunch 1

While my friends are chowing down on The Crunch, I grill up some whole fish slathered on the inside with my homemade basil herb paste, throw together a side of wild rice, some more wine, and voila! Girls’ night in.

Fish D

And now for the happy ending.  An impressive looking cheese display.

Cheese A

On this particular night, I chose a wheel of brie, smoked gouda, a goat cheese with garlic and herbs, and havarti. Then I piled the cheese onto a pedestal plate adorned with thyme, assorted nuts, and sea salt caramels, wedding-cake style.

And of course, some more wine.

The Crunch
1 red, 1 orange, 1 yellow pepper, cut into small chunks
10 stalks of celery cut into small chunks
1 cup edamame
1 cup cherry tomatoes sliced in half (I like to use organic red, yellow and orange)
Mix the veggies together and add some salt, pepper and garlic powder
Serve with your favorite dressing, or top each serving with crispy bacon and fresh blue cheese.

Have leftovers? Mix them in with some tuna fish for a delicious and healthy lunch the next day!

Basil Herb Paste
4 garlic cloves crushed
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Juice of 1 small lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
Add garlic, basil, salt, pepper, oregano and lemon juice in a food processor or blender. Pulse until well blended. Gradually add oil, pulsing as you blend. Taste the paste as you go along. You may need more of something depending upon your personal taste. Freeze the paste in small plastic containers.

Let Them Eat Cheese—for Dessert

Cheese tower
I love, love, love cheese. But serving cheese before dinner can oftentimes kill everyone’s appetite.

So I like to change it up and serve my cheese after dinner. It’s the perfect way for your guests to appreciate it in smaller portions, with a more mindful and enlightened purpose.

There is no better way to finish off your opened bottles of wine after dinner than with a nibble here and there of cheese.  And offer up some dessert wines for an even better experience.

Cheese makes a superb contrast to overly sugary desserts, making it the perfect alternative, offering just a hint of sweetness to finish off your meal. There’s nothing quite like the complex flavors in cheese to end a meal. I enjoy and crave it as much as sugar.

Honey, jam, chutney, mostarda, fresh or dried fruit, nuts, prunes stewed in port wine, crusty French or dark bread, and homemade panforte will further enhance and beautify your cheese platter.

Most cheese belongs to one of three basic categories: soft, firm, or blue. For a well-rounded variety, you should choose one from each group.

For me, a trio of cheese is the perfect ending to a night of entertaining. You don’t need to overload the plate with a ton of cheese—three samplings should be sufficient. I don’t know why, but in the world of cheese, a three-cheese offering is usually what’s served up: a creamy, a hard and of course, a blue.

Unless you want to make a cheese statement, like building a cheese work of art. Then you should go for it—and add all the cheese your heart desires. I happen to love this three-cheese wanna be wedding cake. It’s super simple to create and will definitely impress.

Cheese Platter Idea

Some category recommendations:

Soft: Brie, Brillat-Savarin, Camembert, Constant Bliss, Epoisses by Berthaut, Stinking Bishop

Firm: Cheddar, Comté, Double Gloucester, Gouda, Saxon Shires

Blue: Cremificato Verde Capra, Gorgonzola Dolce, Stilton, Valdeón, Cambozola

Need further cheese clarification?

SOFT
Brie: My favorite brie is St. André from the coast of France and is lavish and tasty enough to take center stage on your cheese plate.
st_andre
It is a pasteurized cow’s milk cheese, covered with a satiny, edible rind, although I usually eat around it to better enjoy the deliciously rich, buttery, and silky, salty center.

Brillat-Savarin: This decadent triple cream cheese from Normandy is perfect for dessert. The mushroom and hazelnut flavor combined with its buttercream texture make it one of the silkiest triple creams you will ever taste. Serve with crusty, French bread, or drizzle a tiny bit of honey over it for a standout flavor.

Camembert: This creamy cheese has an earthy, woody taste, with a hint of mushroom and nutty overtones. It has a buttery flavor with a soft, yellow interior and a thin, edible white rind.

Constant Bliss: This dream cheese reminds me of kettle corn: sweet and buttery, with a mild hint of saltiness. At the finish, there is an almost citrusy grapefruit flavor to it.

Epoisses by Berthaut: Made in a tiny town in the Burgundy region of France, Epoisses by Berthaut is one of the great cheeses of the world. But it might also be one of the stinkiest. It’s so pungent that it is banned on public transportation in France—a country remarkably tolerant of its strong cheese aromas. But don’t let the smell turn you away because it’s rich, creamy interior and edible reddish-brown coating is so worth it.

Stinking Bishop: Made from pasteurized cow’s milk, dating back to the Cistercian monks who once settled in Dymock  Gloucestershire, in the south west of England where this cheese is made. Suitable for vegetarians, it is a spectacular cheese experience and when served at room temperature, it will dramatically run across the entire plate, so give it plenty of room.

FIRM
Cheddar: The older the cheddar, the better the cheese as far as I’m concerned. My favorite is Cabot’s clothbound cheddar.
Cheddar
It has a wonderfully crumbly texture and nutty aroma, and the flavor is deeply savory and slightly tangy with a caramel sweetness to the finish.

Comté: This creamy, nutty-tasting French version of Gruyere absolutely deserves a spot on your cheese platter. It has an earthy flavor and a delightful texture.

Double Gloucester: Rich, buttery Double Gloucester is crafted with extra cream for a mild yet flavorful cheese, with notes of nuttiness, citrus, and hints of onion. The full-cream used to make Double Gloucester gives it a rich, buttery taste and flaky texture.

Gouda: As long as you find a Gouda that’s aged for longer than two years, you’ll revel in the sweet, caramel taste and slight crunchiness of the cheese.

Saxon Shires: A wonderfully flavorful layered cheese, Saxon Shires is also known as “Five Counties Cheese” because of the variety of cheeses that make up its five delicious layers.
saxonshire
The texture actually changes piece by piece, for a unique taste experience in every bite. The five cheeses are Double Gloucester, Caerphilly, Cheshire, Leicester, and Cheddar. This cheese has a dramatic appearance and an especially pleasing flavor. If you’re a fan of any of these British classics, this is definitely worth a try.

BLUE
Cambozola: A mild and triple creamy delight with just a hint of blue veining.
Cambozola
Think Gorgonzola crossed with Camembert, which makes it the perfect choice for those who are intimidated by the intense blues.

Cremificato Verde Di Capra: This Italian cheese is light and lemony and perfect for blue beginners. It’s very dense, almost like fudge, yet creamy. There is only a hint of salt and blue bite.

Gorgonzola Dolce: Almost spreadable, with a consistency of vanilla ice cream, Gorgonzola Dolce is soft and creamy with a hint of tang and sweet to it. Its bright white interior is laced with streaks of blue, giving it an impressive appearance to match its incredible flavor.

Stilton: Also known as the “King of English Cheeses,” the Blue Stilton is a semi-soft, creamy and crumbly cheese that gets tastier with age. Stingingly sharp and salty, the balance of these two traits are incredibly harmonious and satisfying.

Valdeón: This bold, salty and sharp blue is from Spain. You know it’s the real deal because it comes wrapped in sycamore maple leaves. Be forewarned that this cheese is in-your-face and not for cheese wimps.

For an enjoyable, unforgettable and tasty combination of both firm and blue, try the layered combo of Stilton and Double Gloucester, called Huntsman.

Huntsman: This layered dream cheese is made from two British standards. Double Gloucester, a mellow, tangy, and delicious double cream cheese and Stilton, the richly-veined, smooth yet creamy blue whose flavor is distinctive and surprisingly soft.

Huntsman cheese

The beautifully layered presentation of these two classics feature artistic layers of the orange-hued Double Gloucester enveloping the Blue Stilton and makes a most stunning impression on your cheese tray.

Here are some recipes I found along the way to add even more dimension to your first-class cheese plate:

Rosemary Raisin Pecan Crispy Bread
Rosemary Raisen pecan crispy bread
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/8 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup honey
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
1/8 cup sesame seeds
1/8 cup flax seed, ground
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
Preheat oven to 350° degrees. Mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl.  Then combine the buttermilk, brown sugar, and honey and mix it well.  Then combine the raisins, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flax seed and rosemary and stir until blended. Grease an 8×4 bread loaf pan and pour the batter into it. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until golden and springy to the touch. Remove from the pan, place on a wire rack and cool. The bread needs to be very cool before slicing it, so you may want to put it in the freezer for a few minutes. Reduce the heat in the oven to 300 degrees. Once the bread is cool, slice it as thin as possible, and place them in a single layer on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake them for 15 minutes, then turn them over for another 10 minutes or until crispy and golden brown. Makes about 4 dozen crackers.

Panforte
Panforte
5½ oz. shelled pistachios
5½ oz. blanched almonds
6 oz. dried figs, quartered
3½oz. mixed peel
1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
2 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted
1oz. plain flour
1oz. butter
5½ oz. honey
5½oz soft brown sugar sifted
Confectioner’s sugar, to serve
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square cake pan and then line the base with parchment paper. Combine the pistachios, almonds, figs and mixed peel in a mixing bowl. Sift the pumpkin spice, cocoa and flour over the mixture and stir well to combine all the dry ingredients. Then melt the butter, honey, and brown sugar together in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the mixture is combined well and just starts to boil. Pour the mixture on top of the dry ingredients, and mix well. Transfer all ingredients to the cake pan and make sure it is level by pressing it down with the back of a spoon. Bake in the oven for approximately 45 minutes, or until it is bubbling slightly. Remove the pan from the oven and cool completely, before removing from the pan. Dust panforte with confectioner’s sugar, and slice.

Dried Fruit Mostarda
mostarda
8 oz. dried apricots, quartered
4 oz. dried cherries, halved
4 oz. dried figs or prunes, quartered
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons brown mustard seeds
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon cayenne
Kosher salt, to taste
Place the dried fruit in a saucepan, and cover, just barely, with water or sweet white wine. Bring the ingredients to a boil over medium-high heat; occasionally stirring, and until the apricots and cherries are plumped and the liquid is reduced, about 30-40 minutes. Let cool.

America’s Obsession with Green Bean Casserole

Green bean casserole
Love it or hate it, the green bean casserole is a Thanksgiving side dish that stands the test of time and has had a place in the collective American heart for the past 60 years.

A Campbell’s spokesperson was recently quoted as saying that a whopping 40 percent of the cream of mushroom soup sold in the U.S. goes to making green bean casserole and that their surveys show that 30 million households serve it up for the holidays.

Del Monte, founded in 1886, and a major U.S. marketer and distributor of green beans recently asked 3,000 Americans whether or not they plan to eat the good ole classic green bean casserole side dish this Thanksgiving.

Del Monte also asked Americans to divulge one secret ingredient they add to the casserole’s iconic green bean, cream of mushroom soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, and crispy French fried onions to make it unique and different.

And last but certainly not least Del Monte ranked its Top 5 most popular green bean casserole recipes (based on frequency on Thanksgiving dinner tables). You’ll find the recipes at the end of this blog.

I know you’re chomping at the veggie bit to know which U.S. States have the highest concentration of Thanksgiving green bean casserole eaters—AND their secret ingredients.

TADA!

RANKING OF ANTICIPATED GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE EATERS THIS THANKSGIVING 

  1. Louisiana:  60%
  2. Oklahoma:  58%
  3. Kentucky:  57%
  4. Florida:  54%
  5. Wisconsin:  52%
  6. Missouri:  51%
  7. Colorado:  50%
  8. Kansas:  49%
  9. New Hampshire:  48%
  10. Maine:  46%
  11. Vermont:  45%
  12. California:  44%
  13. Mississippi:  43%
  14. Idaho:  41%
  15. Utah:  41%
  16. Texas:  40%
  17. Illinois:  39%
  18. Ohio:  38%
  19. New York:  37%
  20. Michigan:  37%
  21. Alabama:  36%
  22. North Carolina:  36%
  23. New Mexico:  35%
  24. Maryland:  34%
  25. Tennessee:  32%
  26. Massachusetts:  32%
  27. New Jersey:  31%
  28. South Carolina:  30%
  29. Pennsylvania:  29%
  30. Virginia:  29%
  31. Arizona:  29%
  32. Minnesota:  28%
  33. Indiana:  27%
  34. Georgia:  26%
  35. Delaware:  25%
  36. Oregon:  23%
  37. Rhode Island:  23%
  38. Connecticut:  22%
  39. Nevada:  22%
  40. Montana:  21%
  41. Iowa:  21%
  42. Washington:  21%
  43. West Virginia:  20%
  44. Alaska:  20%
  45. Arkansas:  20%
  46. Nebraska:  19%
  47. Wyoming:  19%
  48. South Dakota:  19%
  49. North Dakota:  18%
  50. Hawaii:  17%

Secret ingredient drum roll, please…

America’s Top 10 secret ingredients for green bean casserole are:

  1. Bacon (34%)
  2. Mushrooms (17%)
  3. Cheese (11%)
  4. Grilled Onions (8%)
  5. Almonds (7%)
  6. Sausage (6%)
  7. Bread crumbs or crushed crackers (5.6%)
  8. Garlic (5.2%)
  9. Jalapeños or hot sauce (4%)
  10. Sour cream (3%)

Who needs those fancy shmancy roasted root vegetables, gourmet cranberry chutney and all the other sophisticated Thanksgiving side dishes we slave to make? At 60 years old and counting, green bean casserole is here to stay.

DEL MONTE’S 2015 TOP 5 GREEN-BEAN CASSEROLE RECIPES:

#1: Classic Green Bean Casserole
Ingredients:
2 cans (10.5 oz. each) Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons soy sauce
¼ teaspoon black pepper
4 cans (14.5 oz. each) any style Del Monte Green Beans, drained
2-2/3 cups French’s Crispy Fried Onions, divided
Directions:
Stir soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, green beans and 1-1/3 cups onions in a 3-quart casserole. Bake at 350 degrees F, uncovered, 25 minutes or until bean mixture is hot and bubbling. Stir green bean mixture. Sprinkle with remaining onions. Bake 5 minutes longer or until onions are golden brown.

# 2:  Bacon and Cheddar Green Bean Casserole
Ingredients:
8 slices bacon, chopped
½ cup finely chopped onion
1 container (8 oz.) sliced fresh mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ cup chicken broth
1-1/2 cups milk
2 cans (10.5 oz. each) Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
½ cup shredded sharp white Cheddar cheese
4 cans (14.5 oz. each) any style Del Monte Green Beans, drained
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 can (6 oz.) French’s Crispy Fried Onions
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-heat. Cook bacon until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon and drain on paper towels. Discard all but 2 Tbsp. bacon drippings. Add onions and cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently, or until soft. Add mushrooms and garlic; cook 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Remove from pan and set aside in a separate bowl. Melt butter in the same pan and whisk in flour and cook, stirring constantly, until a light golden brown. Whisk in milk and broth and cook 2 to 3 minutes until mixture is smooth and thickened. Stir in bacon and mushroom mixture and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until heated through. Remove from heat and stir in soup, cheese, green beans and salt and pepper, if desired. Pour into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish (3 quart). Stir well and sprinkle with fried onions and bake, uncovered, 30 minutes until hot and bubbly and onions are golden brown.

# 3: Sautéed Mushroom and Green Bean Casserole
Ingredients:
1 Tablespoon butter
½ package (8 oz.) sliced fresh mushrooms (or 4 oz. Sliced Portobello mushrooms)
1 can (10.5 oz.) Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
1/2 cup milk
3 cans (14.5 oz. each) Del Monte Cut Green Beans, drained
1 can (6 oz.) French’s Crispy Fried Onions
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook mushrooms 4 minutes or until tender. Stir soup, milk, green beans and 2/3 cup onions. Pour into a 2-quart casserole. Bake, uncovered, 25 minutes or until heated through and bubble. Stir, sprinkle with remaining onions. Bake 5 minutes longer or until onions are golden brown.

# 4: Creole Sausage and Green Bean Casserole
Ingredients:
1 package (14 oz.) pre-cooked Andouille sausage, sliced
3 cups (12 oz.) grated sharp Cheddar cheese
1 can (10.5 oz.) Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
3/4 cup milk
2 to 2-1/2 teaspoons Cajun or Creole seasoning
4 cans (14.5 oz. each) Del Monte Cut Green Beans, drained
1 can (6 oz.) French’s Crispy Fried Onions
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine sausage, cheese, soup, milk and seasoning in a 13 x 9-inch (3 quart) baking dish. Stir in beans and 1-1/3 cup of the onions. Bake, uncovered, 25 minutes or until hot and bubbling. Stir, sprinkle with remaining onions. Bake 5 minutes longer or until onions are golden brown.

# 5:  Main Dish Green Bean Casserole
Ingredients:
2 cans (10.5 oz.) Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup
3 cups chopped chicken or turkey
2 cups uncooked instant white or brown rice
2 cans (3 oz. each) French’s Crispy Fried Onions, 2-2/3 cups total, divided
1-3/4 cups milk
2 teaspoons soy sauce
¾ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon black pepper
4 cans (14.5 oz. each) Del Monte No Salt Added Cut Green Beans, drained
½ cup slivered or sliced almonds, 2 oz.
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Stir together soup, chicken, rice, 1 can of onions, milk, soy sauce, oregano and black pepper in a large bowl. Add green beans and stir until well blended. Pour into baking dish. Bake 30 minutes or until bubbly. Stir bean mixture. Coarsely crumble remaining onions and sprinkle evenly over beans. Top with almonds and bake 10 to 15 minutes or until almonds are light golden brown.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!

AND DON’T FORGET TO MAKE GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE!

The Easy, Breezy Summer Dinner Party

Steaks on the grillLobster platter

I love love love to throw a party. My friends call me Martha Stewart—sans the jail time. And sorry, but no one BBQ’s like me!

Unfortunately, cooking at home has mostly been replaced by dining out as a means of entertaining. But there is nothing more gracious than entertaining at home. And hospitality isn’t about your house, furniture or even the food. It’s about the heart.

Make it easy on yourself by setting your table a few days before. Just remember that careful planning ahead of time will make for the most successful night.

The following party tips and menu suggestions will provide ideas for a spectacular party guaranteed to impress your guests gourmet style.

I will also share some clever ideas to keep your guests happy and occupied, and keep yourself stress-free from start to finish.

There are three secrets to a great indoor or outdoor summer dinner party.

The first is the grill.

The second is the grill.

The third? Yep. It’s all about the grill.

Okay, maybe there are a few more secrets to a successful soiree. But the grill is center stage.

The most important part of planning is making sure that you are ready when your guests arrive. Prepare your food ahead of time, and keep your food choices as simple as possible. Expect a few guests to show up early, so make sure your sink is empty of dirty dishes, and you’re enjoying your first glass of wine.

And use some of your creative juices to come up with a memorable tablescape that speaks volumes about your personal taste and fun loving personality.

Decorating your table doesn’t have to break your budget. Simply rummage through your house for ideas and ways to use what you already have to make stunning settings.

To make the easy, delicious menu in this blog, all you really need are those “three” secrets―and, of course, a little prep work. (But only a little, I promise.) So gather your friends and family, follow my tips and tricks, and party hard!

Weather permitting, I usually set up inside and outside. But if the weather doesn’t cooperate, I make my indoor tablescape as outdoorsy as possible.

I set up a wow-factor table with a mixture of lots of colors and various plate patterns. Rainbow colored paper napkins complete a party picnic atmosphere.

Go through all your platters and bowls and pick your most colorful. Add some grill pans, cast iron fry pans, and any other bowls and serving trays you can find to create a memorable and funky tablescape.

Mix and match table setting

Have some fun with it! I like to mismatch glassware to add even more color and creativity. And don’t forget the flowers. You don’t have to spend a fortune, but choose some bright and cheery flowers in all sizes and place them in any old vibrantly colored containers. You can also take stemmed glassware and place them upside down over flower buds and then set candles or battery operated tea lights on top for a unique and beautiful floral arrangement.

flower-table-decor

If you want to keep your party super casual, you can serve wine in regular drinking glasses. Set up the bar using brightly colored trays or plastic dishes to add color and flair to your cocktail set up. Good wine, top shelf Vodka, a martini shaker, and an extensive beer selection should be all you need for a simple bar set up. You can also whip up a pitcher of sangria or other signature drink. Add water and a variety of sodas and fruit drinks for the non-drinkers and designated drivers, and you should be set.

I usually set up an inflatable drink center. This allows bar access from all sides, prevents traffic jams, and looks impressive. Chill white wine two hours in advance, and make sure to put out extra ice, glassware, a bottle opener, corkscrew, and appropriate garnishes.

$_57

And if you’re the creative type, you can make your own drink charms to identify drinkers with their drinks.

Turn holiday lights into summer sparklers and adorn your porch posts, railings and tree trunks.

And don’t forget your favorite tunes! Nothing like a little music to get the party started.

Make sure to have plenty of appetizers set up in the kitchen. This way, when your guests want to chat it up while you’re preparing dinner, there are plenty of good eats available.

My go-to summer dinner menu is to grill up some boneless shell and/or rib eye steaks, some lobster tails, and fresh corn on the cob.

Lobster dinnerRib Eye Searinggrilled corn

My final menu touch is a beautiful salad. I usually go with a wedge salad with loads of halved cherry tomatoes, adorned with bleu cheese and bacon. I mean really, who doesn’t like bacon?

Wedge-Salad

My second go to salad is romaine lettuce, olives, onions, sweet cherry peppers and cherry tomatoes set up like a flower garden. If you’re on the fence about which salad to go with and have a lot of plant-eaters, prepare both!

Romaine Flower Salad Cropped

And don’t forget some fresh bread.

If I have some extra time the night before my party, although not needed at all, I whip up my fave and easy-to-prepare boneless buffalo chicken (see all recipes below). I fry them and then finish them up in the oven the next day right before I begin my grilling.

And for the non-meat eaters, I usually offer a small sampling of cold poached salmon, and an assortment of veggie appetizers ordered from my local Middle Eastern restaurant.

For dessert, there is nothing like a fresh pie from a local farm with three or four containers of Haagen-Dazs ice cream flavors on the side. And okay, if you must, some fruit.

End the evening with a good strong pot of coffee.

Voila! PARTY TIME.

Steak on the Barbie
Note: Cooking time is based on an 8-10 ounce steak

Boneless Rib Eye and Shell Steaks (one 8-10 ounce steak per person)
Kosher salt (Kosher salt is less soluble and less dense than table salt and breaks down proteins and releases natural juices.)
Cracked Pepper

Season room temperature steaks with salt and cracked pepper before grilling. Arrange steaks on high heat on the grill and cook 4 minutes on the first side, rotating it 60 to 90 degrees midway through if you want to produce restaurant-style grill marks. The steaks are ready to turn when you begin to see moisture on the upper side of the steak. Turn the steaks over and continue to grill 2 to 3 minutes for medium-rare (an internal temperature of 135 degrees F), again rotating steaks 60 to 90 degrees midway through. For medium, grill steaks for 5 to 7 minutes (140 degrees F), for medium-well, grill the steaks for 8 to 10 minutes (150 degrees F). Do NOT overcook your steaks. You can always throw them back on the grill if they are not done enough for your guests.
Rest the steaks for approximately 5 minutes before serving.

Grilled Lobster tails
Lobster tails (1 4-ounce tail per person)
Butter
garlic or shallots
parsley
lemon
Kosher salt & pepper

Defrost lobster tails, if frozen. While lobster tails are still defrosting, cut away and remove the thin underside membrane entirely with sharp kitchen scissors, leaving flesh fully exposed.
Melt butter in a small pan and sauté the garlic or shallots for 1-2 minutes or until soft. Squeeze in some lemon, fresh parsley, and a little kosher salt and pepper. Brush some of the butter mixture onto the lobster meat.
Place lobster tails, flesh side up on the grill for 3-5 minutes or until the shells turn bright red. Brush meat again with butter mixture, and turn and grill for 3-5 minutes or until flesh turns white. Turn the meat flesh side up once more and add more butter mixture. Turn the flesh side down again only if needed, and cook for 1-2 more minutes. Place lobster tails on a platter garnished with lemon wedges and fresh parsley sprigs. Serve with remaining melted butter mixture.

Teri’s Delish Boneless Buffalo Chicken

You gotta have hot sauce:
1 1/2 cups hot sauce + 1/2 heaping teaspoon cayenne pepper + 2 Tablespoons butter + 2 Tablespoons water = Yum

Hot Sauce:
Place sauce ingredients above in a small pan and simmer 4-5 minutes until well blended. Remove sauce from heat and set aside.

Chicken:
3 cups flour
1 ½ cups buttermilk (Fat-free works too)
3 pounds skinless chicken breast (1” thick – cut into 2” x 2” pieces)
1 ½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
Peanut Oil (vegetable oil is okay too)
Celery sticks

Mix flour, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Place buttermilk in a separate bowl. Cut chicken into pieces. Heat oil for frying.
Place the chicken pieces in flour, then dip them into the buttermilk and back into the flour. Shake off any excess flour and carefully place chicken pieces into hot oil and fry until golden brown. Remove chicken pieces and drain on a paper towel. When all the chicken has been cooked and drained, place them in a large container.
(You can stop here, refrigerate the cooked chicken, and pick up the recipe the next day.)
When you are ready to serve the buffalo chicken, cover the cooked pieces with half the hot sauce and gently stir until all nuggets have been coated.
Then place the chicken pieces on a non-stick baking sheet and bake in a 350-degree oven for 10-15 minutes. Serve with the rest of the hot sauce, bleu cheese dressing and celery sticks.

Iceberg Wedge Salad
Iceberg lettuce (one-quarter wedge per person). Halved cherry tomatoes (red and yellow if possible)
Bacon (two slices crispy cooked bacon per wedge cut into ½-inch pieces)
Fresh crumbled bleu cheese
Bleu cheese dressing (I like Marie’s)
chopped egg (optional)

Discard outer leaves of the lettuce and quarter each head through the core so that each quarter holds together and place them on a large serving platter.
Sprinkle halved cherry tomatoes over each wedge.
At this point, you can sprinkle the crumbled bleu cheese, bacon, and bleu cheese dressing on top of the salad and serve immediately. Or if you prefer, you can serve the iceberg and tomatoes on a platter, with the crumbled bleu cheese, bacon, and bleu cheese dressing on the side.

Romaine Flower Salad
Head of romaine lettuce
Artichoke hearts
Cherry tomatoes
Sweet red cherry peppers, cored
Red onion sliced
Pitted black olives
Pitted green Olives
Pepperoncini
Basil leaves

Lay out the romaine lettuce leaves on a large platter. Place the cherry tomatoes and sweet red cherry peppers at the top of the platter and place the artichoke hearts in between as shown in the photo. Add the black olives on the bottom of the tray and place some green olives above them. Place pepperoncini on the bottom of the romaine, and add basil leaves.

Corn on the cob
Corn
Olive oil
Kosher salt & pepper
Water
Aluminum foil

Shuck the corn and place each ear on a separate piece of aluminum foil. Sprinkle salt & pepper, and a little olive oil on each cob. Take a teaspoon of water and add it to each cob. Then roll up the corn with the aluminum foil and grill them on high for 15 minutes, turning occasionally. Place the corn on a platter either with or without the aluminum foil.