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Thanksgiving Menu Ideas

Hey, folks…

Reposting last year’s round-up of Thanksgiving ideas for a little menu-planning inspiration!

~Amy

APPETIZERS

Cranberry Chipotle Meatballs

Corn and Bacon Fritters with Smoked Salmon

Bacon-Wrapped Dates stuffed with Bleu Cheese

THE MAIN EVENT

Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast with Pan Gravy (and tips for roasting a whole turkey)

Bacon and Cider Braised Turkey Drumsticks (and garlicky creamed spinach)

Spiced Sweet Potato Puree with Pecan Streusel

Sausage, Apple, and Leek Stuffing

Cranberry-Orange Sauce

Green Beans Almondine

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Walnuts

Hot Doughy Buns

DESSERTS

Chocolate Pecan Pie

Pumpkin Coconut Pie

A Few Variations on Apple Pie (in an all butter pie crust)

Caramel Apple Cake

Turkey-Shaped Sugar Cookies

Caramel Apple Tartlets

Spiced Mango Upside Down Cake

Cannoli Cheesecake

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Thanksgiving Inspiration

I learned something interesting about myself this week – I do not like corn bread stuffing. I love corn, corn muffins, corn bread, and corn fritters. I eat a ridiculous amount of corn when it’s in season. I even once made a sweet corn ice cream. But I do not like corn bread stuffing.

I guess it comes down to what you’re raised with – sort of how some families are the Crest kind of people and some families are the Colgate kind. Some families are loyal to Miracle Whip, while others will only use mayonnaise. Some families have corn bread stuffing at Thanksgiving and some families have white bread stuffing. Our family was always a Crest, mayonnaise, and white bread stuffing sort of family.

The four things I am most thankful for.

I didn’t realize how ingrained this inclination towards white bread stuffing was until I set about preparing a corn bread stuffing earlier this week. It should’ve been delicious, with crispy bits of bacon, tender dates, shallots, and celery. It was supposed to be a new recipe to feature in this post about Thanksgiving ideas. But I didn’t like it. I can’t even tell you if it was good or not, as far as corn bread stuffings go. I am just a white bread stuffing girl through and through and I couldn’t wrap my taste buds or my heart around that corn bread stuffing. I’m not sharing the recipe.

But I am going to share this round-up of wonderful, tried and true Thanksgiving ideas, in plenty of time to add them to your Thanksgiving menu…

Give thanks for good food, friends.

APPETIZERS

Cranberry Chipotle Meatballs

Corn and Bacon Fritters with Smoked Salmon

Bacon-Wrapped Dates stuffed with Bleu Cheese

THE MAIN EVENT

Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast with Pan Gravy (and tips for roasting a whole turkey)

Bacon and Cider Braised Turkey Drumsticks (and garlicky creamed spinach)

Spiced Sweet Potato Puree with Pecan Streusel

Sausage, Apple, and Leek Stuffing

Cranberry-Orange Sauce

Green Beans Almondine

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Walnuts

Hot Doughy Buns

DESSERTS

Chocolate Pecan Pie

Pumpkin Coconut Pie

A Few Variations on Apple Pie (in an all butter pie crust)

Caramel Apple Cake

Turkey-Shaped Sugar Cookies

Caramel Apple Tartlets

Spiced Mango Upside Down Cake

Cannoli Cheesecake

Breakfast and Brunch Recipe Round-Up

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I recently shared a recipe for a Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Bagel Casserole, as an option for a special Father’s Day breakfast in bed. Just in case that idea doesn’t float your boat, here’s a round-up of previously posted breakfast ideas. Any of these would make a spectacular Father’s Day breakfast for the dad in your life or a great addition to your next brunch buffet!

Cinnamon-Raisin Donut Bread Pudding

Carrot Cake Pancakes with Cream Cheese Glaze

Potato and Chorizo Frittata

Fluffernutter Bread Pudding

Nutella and Strawberry Stuffed French Toast with Raspberry Coulis

Sausage, Biscuit, and Gravy Casserole

Eggs Benedict

Birthday Cake (Sprinkles) Pancakes

Cinnamon French Toast Bake

PB&J French Toast

Roasted Vegetable and Goat Cheese Quiche

Strawberry-Stuffed French Toast

Chocolate Chip Bacon Pancakes

Quiche Lorraine




Ham and Corn Chowder

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Life is made up of a series of memories; some big, some small, some clearly life-changing, and some seemingly inconsequential. My wedding day, the births of my children, the loss of loved ones…all clearly consequential. But the little memories…like singing the soundtrack to Grease with my sisters while we played on our childhood swingset or selling candy bars outside the grocery store or riding our bikes in the park…turns out that those are just as consequential. We just don’t always realize it in the moment.

So, I’m lying on the couch last night, glass of wine in hand, playing around on my computer and distractedly watching American Idol, when two of the contestants come on stage and begin singing Islands in the Stream, a duet originally performed by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. In an instant I was transported back to my childhood, in my parents’ room, where my sisters and I used to stand at the foot of their bed, with our toes jammed between the mattress and boxspring, so that when we’d lean forward, the edge of the mattress would catch our calves and we’d suspend there, bobbing forward with our arms outstretched. We’d sway back and forth, mock-gliding over the mattress singing Islands in the Stream at the top of our lungs…with all the wrong lyrics, I am sure.

Such a simple little memory and yet it’s etched in my mind. Because it’s more than the ordinary event of singing a song with my sisters. It was a matter of being together, of laughing, of loving, and of feeling at home. Those are consequential, life-altering sorts of things wrapped in a silly little memory and tied together with a country song.

Every morning, our boys come bursting into our bedroom. The baby is usually already there by that point, drowsily enjoying a morning feeding. But the older boys don’t wake drowsily. They wake with a lightening bolt and go 0 to 60 in the moment they open their eyes. They fly into our room in a flurry. They do not stick their toes between our mattress and sing a Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton duet. They mostly just make animal noises and shout things like underpants. They climb into my armoire. They climb under the bed. They jump on top of the bed. (Just imagine if you released a couple of monkeys into an enclosed space…it’s exactly like that.) Every so often we can convince them to climb under the covers for a snuggle. And sometimes we’re inclined to just send them back to their room because the activity level far exceeds what we’re prepared to handle that early in the morning. But those morning memories, of waking to a family that loves them…those memories matter.

This weekend we’ll be making more memories, the kind that add a bit of mystery and magic to childhood. Though I’ve expressed my half-hearted support for the Easter bunny, he will be visiting our home, hiding eggs, and leaving a basket filled with soft, stuffed-bunny toys, bubble wands, chocolate-dipped marshmallow Peeps, chocolate eggs, jelly beans, and animal crackers hidden under the cellophane grass. We’ll color eggs and make a coconut-covered bunny cake with shoe-string licorice whiskers and a jelly bean nose. It’s tradition. And tradition matters too.

For dinner, we will most likely enjoy slow-roasted lamb with a fresh mint sauce, along with roasted red potatoes, roasted asparagus, and slices of warm French baguette. Our family prefers lamb over ham, but for many families, ham is the star of their traditional Easter feast. With that in mind, I came up with this ham and corn chowder, which would make perfect use of leftover Easter ham. This satisfying soup is worth making, even if you don’t have leftover ham on hand! It’s hard to go wrong with sweet kernels of corn in a warm, creamy broth. Use fresh corn, cut from the cob, if corn is in season or use frozen when it is not. I used frozen corn kernels and it was perfect.

P.S. I just purchased Islands in the Stream from iTunes and have been listening to it on repeat as I write this post. I’m considering teaching it to the boys and showing them how to stick their toes under the edge of my mattress.

Ham and Corn Chowder

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 15-ounce cans vegetable broth (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 2 cups ham, diced (approximately)
  • 2 1/2 cups sweet corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
  • 6-8 green onions, sliced
  • 1 large baking potato, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Additional sliced green onions, for garnish

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cook for a few minutes, until lightly golden and tender. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and garlic. Stir to coat and cook for another minute or so. Whisk in the vegetable broth. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for about 3 minutes. (The broth should begin to thicken slightly.) Add the ham, corn, green onions, potato, and half and half to the pan. Bring the soup to a boil. Boil, stirring frequently, for 10-15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Ideally they should just be beginning to break down (to add extra thickness to the soup) but not so mushy that they’re falling apart. Season with the paprika and salt and pepper, to taste. Serve warm, garnished with additional sliced green onions.

St. Patty’s Day Round-up

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Parenthood has a way of constantly making you feel brand new. I mean, I’ve got three kids. We’ve been doing this whole parenting thing for almost five years now and in some ways, we feel like old hands at it. We know our kids and have a good enough understanding of child development to know what to anticipate as our children work through the daily challenges and joys of childhood. Our hearts pound with pride as they take those first steps, say that first sweet word, and cut that first little tooth. And we hold our breaths with anxiety when one of our little ones is not well. But, for the most part, we know what to expect and we know how to react.

And then something completely unexpected happens. Rationally, I know that parenthood is full of unexpected surprises, but sometimes they just sneak up on you. Like when I glanced over at my almost five-year-old and noticed that one of his bottom teeth was loose. And I panicked. Panicked as if blood were pouring from his ears. It’s just a loose tooth; a normal part of being a kid. But I never saw it coming. Not yet, at least.

So, I did what any mildly irrational parent would do and called the dentist to make an emergency appointment. Somebody do something! My kid has a slightly wiggly tooth! Of course, the trip to the dentist confirmed that it is totally normally for my little guy to have wiggly teeth. His adult teeth are just working their way up. Adult teeth??? But, he’s my baby! Guess it’s almost time for me to put on some tooth fairy wings.

And now we’re just waiting for that first tooth to come out. I stopped by the bank today and picked up a handful of gold dollar coins to leave under his pillow when the time comes. The tooth fairy always left me silver dollars, which I collected like treasure. But since the gold dollar coins are the best I can find, they’ll do the trick. In fact, I suspect the gold coins may be even more intriguing to my little men for their likeness to pirate treasure and a leprechaun’s pot of gold.

Speaking of leprechauns, we’re all very excited for St. Patty’s Day around here. My sister and brother-in-law will be visiting for the weekend and we’ll be spending the day with friends. To celebrate our bursting Irish spirit, I made a batch of my World’s Simplest Fudgey BrowniesThen, I spread a thick layer of dark chocolate frosting on top and decorated with a handful of Lucky Charms marshmallows. They definitely brought some smiles to my rowdy bunch of leprechauns, though I suspect they’ll be disappointed to discover the marshmallow shortage in their snack cereal.

If you’re looking for some other ideas for St. Patty’s Day fare, check out these previously posted Gourmand Mom recipes:

Traditional Corned Beef and Cabbage

Grasshopper Pie

Irish Soda Bread

Reuben Quesadillas

Corned Beef and Cabbage Egg Rolls

Classic Lamb Shepherd’s Pie

Guinness-Braised Beef

Low-Carb Cottage Pie

Split Pea Soup with Ham

Roasted Rack of Lamb with Cranberry Horseradish Relish

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My husband and I almost didn’t make it to midnight this year. We were totally ok with missing the official beginning of the new year, in return for sleep; sweet, precious sleep. But, the baby had other plans. The littlest man start fussing somewhere around 11. By midnight, he was in my arms vying for the first kiss of the new year. I told him that his daddy always gets the first kiss. Baby love got the second.

Our New Year’s Eve celebrations are not nearly as exciting as they were in the past, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. No streamers, no crowded bars with inflated cover charges and subpar food, no need to call a taxi home…just calm, quiet, together. Perfect.

I made us a nice dinner after the kiddies were all tucked into bed; an incredibly simple roast rack of lamb over a cranberry horseradish relish with a big pile of roasted red potatoes. Notice the excess of potatoes and lack of a green veggie. Mmmm…potatoes! Totally overcompensating for the diet we knew we’d be starting the next day.

You may have noticed that I’m a bit of a minimalist when it comes to my recipes. It doesn’t take a lengthy list of ingredients or elaborate techniques to get great flavor when you’re working with fresh foods. The shopping list for this elegant meal is short (you’ve probably got most ingredients in your pantry) and it’s a cinch to pull together. Makes a great date night meal too…you might want to mark this one for Valentine’s Day!

Cranberry Horseradish Relish

Ingredients

  • 3 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup pomegranate juice
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • Black pepper, to taste

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until all cranberries have burst and the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Season with black pepper, as desired. Cool to room temperature before serving.

Easy-as-Can-Be Roast Rack of Lamb

Ingredients

  • 1 rack of lamb, trimmed and bones Frenched
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Trim off any excess fat or silverskin from the lamb. Season with salt and pepper. Heat a thin layer of olive oil in an oversafe pan over medium/medium-high heat. Place the lamb in the hot pan and sear for about a minute on each side. Then, place the pan in the oven and cook until it reaches your desired doneness. 15-18 minutes should give you a nice, juicy medium-rare/medium. Allow the rack to rest for about 5 minutes before slicing between the ribs.

Roasted Red Potatoes with Garlic

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds baby red potatoes, quartered
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toss the potatoes in olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for about 40 minutes. Use a spatula to occasionally turn the potatoes as they cook.

Meal Serves 2-4 People

Timesaving Tips:

  • Preheat the oven and prepare the potatoes first.
  • After the potatoes are in the oven, make the cranberry relish.
  • While the cranberry relish is simmering, trim and season the lamb.
  • Sear the lamb while the cranberry relish is cooling.
  • Place the lamb in the oven 20 minutes before the potatoes are done. The lamb will finish before the potatoes. Allow it to cool while you plate the cranberry relish and potatoes. Slice and plate the lamb last.

Steak and White Cheddar Panini with Garlicky Potatoes Au Gratin

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Happy New Year, my friends!!

Like millions of other people, I’m resolving to lose weight and live healthier in this new year. I know…such a predictable resolution! But, I’ve got at least 20 (ok, probably more like 30) pounds of extra weight still hanging around since giving birth to our third little love almost eight months ago. I’ve been making all sorts of excuses (some quite valid and some more of a stretch) for why I haven’t lost the weight yet. I was hoping it would just go away, but it’s become clear to me that it’s time to stop dragging my feet and to get proactive.

When it comes to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, my approach has always been one of balance. Eat mostly nutritious and unprocessed foods, enjoy a few indulgences, balance the indulgences with exercise. It’s an approach which has always worked well for me and makes good sense as a long-term plan. But, at this particular point in time, I feel that I need something with a few more ‘rules’ to get me jump-started on the right path.

So, beginning today, I’ll be following the South Beach diet, slightly modified (as I am still breastfeeding our baby and the first phase of South Beach is a bit too restrictive for a nursing mom). My husband and I have done the South Beach diet in the past and there are many things I like about it. It’s often confused for being a low-carb diet, but that’s a misconception. The South Beach diet is more of a good-carb diet. It’s a diet full of lean proteins, healthy fats, fresh fruits and veggies, and whole grains. It makes me feel good to eat this way. In many ways, it’s the way most of us should be eating anyway.

South Beach is a diet with guidelines, rather than a detailed plan; guidelines that teach you to choose foods which keep you feeling fuller longer and keep your blood sugar levels more stable in order to avoid the inevitable cravings and overeating which result from rapid peaks and plummets in blood sugar levels. Feeling more satisfied naturally makes it easier to eat less and lose the excess weight. (I like that part!)

My main gripe with the South Beach diet is in its suggestion to use artificially sweetened products and other processed food substitutes, particularly during the restrictive first phase of the diet where even fresh fruit is off-limits. I get the point, but personally, I’d rather enjoy real foods more sparingly than start introducing food substitutes like sugar-free jello and artificial ‘buttery spreads’ into my diet. So, I’m going to skip the recommended sugar-free snacks and stick with a smidgen of real butter when I need it.

You may be wondering what my new ‘diet’ means for this blog. Well…nothing, really. My little space here is not about to become a diet blog or a South Beach resource. Quite simply, this will continue to be a place to share my love of cooking delicious food. You can still expect to see all sorts of simple and crave-worthy recipes…just maybe a bit more broiled fish and roasted veggies in between the macaroni and cheese and triple chocolate cake.

Well, it’s really official now…put in writing for accountability’s sake. I’m starting a diet. I will stay focused. I will lose this weight.

But before we embark on our healthier diets, I had to splurge a bit…have something completely indulgent (in addition to diligently finishing off the leftover Christmas cookies). With that, I give you garlicky potatoes au gratin and a cheesy flank steak panini sandwich, loaded with horseradish butter and sweet caramelized red onions on a doughy loaf of French bread. This meal is worth a little extra time on the treadmill!

Garlicky Potatoes Au Gratin

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds Russet Potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 cup gruyere cheese, shredded

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Rub 1 tablespoon of butter around the bottom and sides of a medium-sized baking dish. Rub the smashed clove of garlic in the butter. Arrange the potato slices, lying flat, in the baking dish. In a saucepan, heat the half and half, garlic, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper, until it begins to bubble. Allow it to bubble gently for a minute or so. Pour the mixture over the potatoes. Give the baking dish a little shake and press down gently on the potatoes to ensure the potatoes and sauce of evenly dispersed. Sprinkle the gruyere cheese on top.

Bake for about 55 minutes.

Steak and White Cheddar Panini

Ingredients

  • 1 pound flank steak
  • Salt and pepper
  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 1 1/2 cups aged white cheddar, shredded
  • 1 loaf French bread (batard or baguette)
Directions
For the steak: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place the steak on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for about 20 minutes or until it reaches your desired doneness. Allow the steak to rest for a few minutes before slicing. Slice into thin strips. Set aside.
For the caramelized onions: Heat one tablespoon of butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the onions. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until sweet and tender. Set aside.
For the horseradish butter: Melt the butter in a small bowl. Add the horseradish. Stir. Place the bowl in the refrigerator. Every few minutes, stir the butter. Continue checking and stirring until the butter has become firm enough to be spreadable. Remove from the refrigerator.
To prepare the sandwich: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the French bread in half lengthwise. Press down on the top of the loaf to flatten the bread. Spread the horseradish butter on both halves of the bread. Arrange the steak on the bottom half of the bread. Scatter the caramelized onions on top of the steak. Generously sprinkle with the white cheddar. Place the other half of the bread on top. Tightly wrap the sandwich in foil, pressing down as you wrap.
Place the wrapped sandwich in the oven. Place a heavy, oven-safe pan (or a brick wrapped in foil) on top of the sandwich to keep it flattened as it cooks. Heat the sandwich for about 20 minutes or until all components are warmed and the cheese is melty.

P.S. Though I’m not quite brave enough to share my starting weight with you, I will gladly keep you updated on the loss! Wish me luck! Anyone else embarking on a New Year’s weight loss plan??

Day: 1 Weight Loss: 0 Motivation: High

Braised Beef Short Ribs with Figs and Creamy Brie Potatoes

You know that show, Masterchef? The one where Gordon Ramsay and two other dudes put a group of amateur cooks through their paces, looking for America’s best home cook?? Enthusiastic friends of mine have mentioned that I should try out for that show. Never gonna happen. Competition and I don’t get along so well and I’m a big awkward goof in front of the camera. Seriously, it would make you cringe. Besides, they probably wouldn’t even let me on the show now that I’ve just called Joe Bastianich and Graham Elliot those “two other dudes”. Just kidding guys! You know you’re my favorite, Joe! 

Anyway, I’m an amateur home cook, much like the contestants on that show. I share their passion for food, I’ve got a few culinary skills up my sleeve and I can come up with a tasty recipe or two on the fly. I enjoy watching what the contestants come up with and am constantly impressed by how quickly and creatively they can think on their feet. Not sure I could hack it.

But I’ve been thinking that there’s something missing from the show; something which many home cooks contend with on a day to day basis; something much more challenging than executing expert knife skills or producing the perfect souffle…

Don't let his cute little face fool you...this guy is twice as demanding as Gordon Ramsay!

I’m talking about children. Cooking in the presence of children changes the game. I’d be interested in seeing these accomplished home cooks produce such artfully-plated, mouth-watering meals while simultaneously bouncing a crying baby on their hip and preventing the older kids from razing the house. Now that would be impressive!

Because, for many of us, that is the reality of being a home cook. We may not have Gordon Ramsay standing over our shoulder making us question our choice of figs with the short ribs or telling us that our sauce is under-seasoned. And most of us are not racing against a big timer mounted on the wall. But we are constantly racing against the clock of a different kind. Children can turn every night into a high-pressure culinary challenge. It’s a challenge hard to replicate in a cooking competition. Perhaps we can ask the contestants to prepare their perfect souffle with wiggling 35-pound weights on both legs, a shrieking bowling ball in one arm, and a tower of antique teacups balanced on their heads?

Props to all home cooks who put meals on the table for your family, night after night…regardless of whether it’s boxed macaroni and cheese with cut up hot dogs and peas or braised short ribs with creamy brie potatoes and roasted asparagus! It’s a challenge regardless. I know all about it!

But what if I told you that preparing the braised short ribs would be almost as easy as the box of macaroni and cheese with hot dogs?? Seriously! This dish is really a cinch to put together and so, so satisfying. Adults and kids alike will love these creamy potatoes and fall-off-the-bone tender beef in a slightly sweet sauce.

This is a two day recipe. You can make perfectly delicious short ribs in less than two days (Check out my recipe for Braised Shorts Ribs with Creamy Parmesan and Sun-dried Tomato Polenta), but there are a few benefits to the two-day process. First, it will enable you to get the bulk of the cooking (and clean-up) completed the day before, making it easy to reheat the next night. Second, it gives the sauce a chance to cool, which will allow the excess fat (which is rendered from the short ribs during cooking) to rise to the top and become solid. This makes it super easy to remove the excess fat from the sauce. The night you plan to serve, you’ll simply scoop off the fat, reheat at a low simmer, adjust the seasoning of your sauce and serve!

Braised Beef Short Ribs with Figs

Ingredients

  • 6-8 beef short ribs
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 1/4 cup dry red wine (substitute 1 1/4 cup beef stock OR 1/2 cup grape juice and 3/4 cup beef stock)
  • 3 cups beef stock (plus more, if desired)
  • 10-12 dried Mission figs, halved
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sprinkle the short ribs with a bit of salt and pepper and the 2 tablespoons of flour. Heat olive oil over medium/medium-high heat in a deep dutch oven or a large saucepan (big enough to fit all short ribs in a single layer). Place the short ribs in the pan. Cook for a minute or two on each side to brown. Remove the short ribs from the pan and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the butter and onions to the pan. Cook for a few minutes, until tender and golden.

Return the short ribs to the pan. Add the beef stock, wine, and figs. Bring the liquid to a simmer, then cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and place it on the middle oven rack.

Allow it to cook for about 3-3.5 hours.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool at room temperature. Once cool enough to handle, place the entire pan in the refrigerator overnight.

By the next day, the excess fat will have risen to the surface and become solid. Use a spoon to scoop away the fat. Over low heat, slowly reheat the short ribs and sauce. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper as desired. The sauce  should have a strong, rich flavor.

(If the flavor is too strong for your preference, you can add a bit more beef stock to mellow the flavor. If the flavor is not strong enough, allow the sauce to simmer uncovered until you’re happy with the flavor. The flavor will intensify as the liquid reduces.)

Optional: If you’re happy with the flavor but would prefer a thicker sauce, stir a few tablespoons of the hot sauce with about 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Pour the cornstarch mixture into the sauce. Stir and allow it to gently simmer  for a few minutes. The cornstarch will help thicken the sauce.

Serve the short ribs (1-2 per person) over mashed potatoes with a spoonful of sauce.

A note about the wine in this recipe: Due to the long cooking time of this recipe, almost all of the alcohol in the wine will be cooked away. But, a very small percentage may remain. (See this chart.) I prepared this recipe for an adult dinner party, so the very small percentage of remaining alcohol was not a concern for our group, but if you are preparing this dish for your family you may wish to substitute beef stock for the wine or substitute about half of the wine with a no-sugar-added grape juice and the rest with beef stock.

For the Creamy Brie Mashed Potatoes: Peel, chop, and boil 6-8 russett potatoes, until fork tender. Strain and thoroughly smash the potatoes to desired consistency. Combine with lots of butter (I used a whole yummy stick.) and milk or cream. While still warm, stir an 8-ounce wedge of brie (rind removed) into the potatoes, until melted. The potatoes can be made a day ahead of time.

For the Roasted Asparagus: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse the asparagus and trim off the tough end. (A little trick for determining how much to cut is to hold one asparagus spear by the ends and bend. The point where the asparagus snaps is generally a good place to trim off.) Toss the asparagus in a bit of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the spears in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Polish Pie Pierogi Bake

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I considered opening this post with a Polish joke. You know, something along the lines of An Irishman, a German, and a Polish man walk into a bar… But, comedy is not my strong suit and I can never quite remember the punchline to jokes. Or, I remember only the punchline, but haven’t the foggiest idea of how to get there. Watching me try to tell a joke is often the funniest part of the joke I’m trying to tell. Either way, it’s probably better that I stick to the food and leaves the jokes to the jokers.

My Polish Pie is not really a pie at all, no more so than a shepherd’s pie or a cottage pie qualifies as pie. But the name just seems to fit. The idea first struck me a few weekends ago, when we drove past a local Polish festival. As we waited at the stoplight, tapping our feet to the catchy tunes of a live polka band, the distinct aroma of kielbasa flooded our car. My husband made some quip about pierogies and kielbasa.

MmmmmmPierogies!!

And in that moment, an idea began to take shape. Why couldn’t I create a baked pierogi dish, starting with frozen pierogies, in the same way that people make baked ravioli casseroles? Seemed like it should work. And it seemed only logical that the dish should include slices of kielbasa. I decided on sweet, caramelized onions and a rich cheddar cheese sauce to complete the dish.

This is not a pretty dish. It’s got that sort of sloppy, mixed up appearance that most casseroles end up having. (I think I’m going to skip the photo I took of it spooned onto my dinner plate.) But, what it lacks in appearance, it more than makes up for with flavor. Best yet, you can use leftover kielbasa and caramelized onions to make the most fantastic frittata!

Polish Pie Pierogi Bake

Ingredients

  • 1 box frozen potato and cheddar pierogies
  • 1/2 Polish kielbasa, halved and sliced
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 1/4 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray the inside of a baking dish (9×13 or smaller) with cooking spray. Line the bottom of the dish with the frozen pierogies.

To prepare the onions, heat one tablespoon of butter in pan over medium heat. Add the onions. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are tender, sweet, and golden brown. Scatter the onions over the frozen pierogies.

Scatter the kielbasa slices over the onions.

To prepare the sauce, melt the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons butter in a pan over medium heat. Stir in the flour until well-blended. Cook for a minute or two. (This is your roux, which will help to thicken the sauce.) Gradually add the milk, whisking until smooth. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes until it begins to thicken. Reduce the heat to low and add the cheddar cheese. Stir until melted. Season with a touch of salt and pepper. (Be careful not to over-salt the sauce, since the kielbasa will add a good amount of salty flavor to the finished dish.)

Pour the sauce over the mixture in the baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.

Bake for about 40 minutes.

Kielbasa and Caramelized Onion Frittata

Bonus recipe for leftover kielbasa and caramelized onions:

Kielbasa and Onion Frittata

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly beat 7-8 eggs in a bowl with about 1/4 cup milk. Season with salt and pepper. Heat a tablespoon of butter in an oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Swirl the pan so that the butter coats the bottom and sides. Add the eggs to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the bottom begins to set. The top should still be quite loose. Scatter leftover slices of kielbasa and caramelized onions into the egg mixture. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the eggs have completely set and the top is golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.

Independence Day Menu Ideas

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It’s almost time to celebrate America’s birthday; America’s number one holiday for backyard barbecues and launching brightly colored explosives into the sky.

Many of us will spend the day with friends and family, gathered around a hot grill, enjoying good summer food and cheering to independence. Check out these ideas for making your Independence Day menu extra delicious! (Click on the titles for a link to each recipe.)

And if you’re wondering how to make that tasty American flag cake pictured above, click here for a step-by-step guide.

Grilled Ribeye and Corn on the Cob with Chipotle Butter – Including lots of tips for grilling a delicious, juicy steak!

The Mona Lisa Burger – A juicy beef patty with gorgonzola, roasted garlic aioli, olives, prosciutto, onions, and sun-dried tomatoes

Grilled Honey-Garlic Baby Lamb Chops- A simple and elegant grilled alternative to burgers!

The Hangover Burger (aka The Heart Attack on a Bun) – Beef patty with bacon, chili, and spicy cheese sauce, topped with a slightly runny fried egg. Heavenly delicious!

Greek-style Lamb Burger with Tzatziki Sauce- My husband’s most favorite dish in the whole world, hands down.

Turkey Burger with Fresh Tomato Salsa- Slightly cheesy and perfectly delicious!

Barbecue Beef Chili – Pulled barbecue beef meets spicy chili in this super-satisfying dish. Totally worth the time it takes to put together. Make a huge batch and freeze the leftovers!

Baked Potato Salad – A flavorful potato salad alternative for those with an aversion to mayonnaise (like myself)!

Mediterranean Cous Cous – Simple and flavorful side dish which can be made ahead and served chilled.

Tomato-Cucumber Salad- Fresh summer tomatoes and crisp cucumber in a tangy vinaigrette.

Barley and Bean Salad – Bursting with nutrition and bright flavors!

Grilled Fingerling Potatoes- Throw them in a foil packet and pop them on the grill. Sprinkle with a bit of gorgonzola, if desired!

Dinosaur Barbecue Macaroni Salad – The only macaroni salad I’ve ever loved!

Orzo with Salmon and Cucumber - A fresh and satisfying side dish or main course on a hot summer day!

Tomato and Mozzarella Caprese - Classic and delicious!

Fresh Ginger Lemonade- A hint of infused ginger root with freshly squeezed lemons gives this lemonade that extra something special!

Mixed Berry Mousse- Pair it with a layer of vanilla bean panna cotta for an extra special treat!

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