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Category Archives: Things I Love

Tequila-Braised Chicken

It seems that I blinked and almost two years went by since I’ve written.

A lot has happened in two years.  We renovated and sold our old house, then bought another house, packed and moved.

We took the boys to Disney World, Myrtle Beach and assorted other weekend adventures. We took ourselves to Barbados.

We adopted the most perfectly precious puppy.

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The kids got bigger and busier. We got older (and also busier).

My little Avon hobby flourished into a unexpected thriving business, with hundreds of other representatives on my team. (That’s me in the red sweater below.)

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We celebrated and we suffered. We gained and we lost. We laughed and we cried.

Basically, we’ve spent the past two years doing the whole life thing, with all of the celebrations and sorrows that brings.

And somewhere in the midst of all of that living, this little ol’ blog lost its place. Quite honestly, I was having a hard enough time garnering the mental energy to even figure out what to cook, let alone gathering the necessary ingredients, cooking it, photographing it, and then writing about it!

As our days became busier and our attention more scattered, we regretfully found ourselves in a routine of easy, not-typically-so-healthy convenience food.

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Enter “meal kit delivery” sites.

My lovely sister-in-law has been using a site called Plated for awhile now. Plated offers a weekly menu of meals to choose from. You select your meals a week ahead of time, then they ship you exact portions of the fresh ingredients you need to cook the meals, along with  bright, easy-to-follow recipe cards. On your delivery day, everything you need arrives on your doorstep, fresh and ready to be cooked.

After drooling over the pictures of the crave-worthy meals my sister-in-law was cooking with her husband, I decided to give it a try.

My one and only disappointment after receiving our first Plated box was that I didn’t have another box waiting on my doorstep, containing everything I needed to cook a delicious meal on all of the other nights that week! And the next week. And the week after that.

Turns out that there are a number of other sites that offer the same service as Plated. In the past couple months, we’ve also ordered from Blue Apron and become bigs fans of Home Chef, which has proven to be the best fit for feeding our whole family.

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Aside from the major convenience factor that Plated and other meal delivery kit sites offer, it’s also become much-needed fodder for food inspiration. Cooking each of the meals we’ve ordered through Plated, Blue Apron, or Home Chef, has stirred the culinary juices in my mind.

One delicious dish leads to an idea for another delicious dish. Change a bit here, add a bit over there, omit a bit over here, and voilá! You’ve got a new dish perfectly suited to your tastes.

One of our favorite Plated meals so far was a recipe for Beer-Braised Chicken. The following recipe is my modified twist on the immensely flavorful dish. Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are coated in a fragrant blend of spices, then braised in a smokey chorizo-tomato based sauce, until tender and drenched with deliciousness.

Top with a Mexican cheese, like queso fresco, and enjoy over rice. This chicken would also work well in a sandwich or as filling for quesadillas.

Make a double batch for freezable leftovers!

Tequila-Braised Chicken

Ingredients

  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 8)
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup chorizo, diced*
  • 1 medium cooking onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, rough-chopped
  • 1 ounce tequila (optional)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 2-3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup Mexican cheese (such as queso fresco), crumbled

*You can use sweet chorizo (dulce) or spicy (picante), depending on your preference for spiciness.

Procedure

Combine the paprika, cayenne, chili powder and salt in a small bowl. Pat the chicken thighs dry, then generously coat with the spice mixture. Heat the olive oil over medium-high in a wide saucepan. Once hot, add the chicken in a single layer. Sear for 1-2 minutes per side, until lightly-browned. Sear in batches, if necessary. Remove from the pan and set aside. (The chicken will not be fully cooked at this point.)

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the chorizo to the same pan you seared the chicken in. Cook for about 2-3 minutes. Add the onion and cilantro. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until the onion is tender.

Carefully add the tequila (optional). Allow to cook for a minute, then add the lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, tomato paste, and chicken stock. Stir to combine, then raise the heat to high. Bring to a boil.

Once boiling, return all of the chicken to the pan. Reduce the heat to medium. Cover the pan, then allow it to cook for approximately 8 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside to cool slightly.

Raise the heat to medium-high and allow the braising liquid to cook uncovered for about 3-5 minutes, until it’s reduced by about 1/2. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, use a fork or your fingers to tear the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

Return the shredded chicken to the braising liquid. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper, as desired.

Serve over rice. Garnish with green onion and Mexican cheese.

Serves about 4.

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Delicious Dairy Round-Up and a Giveaway!!

In many ways, I’m an overly trusting person. I’m an optimist by nature and I tend to assume the best in people, almost to the point of foolishness. It’s the way my brain (and maybe my heart?) works and it can be both a benefit and a curse. Because my personal belief system comes from a place of trusting that most people are honest, moral, ethically-minded people, I sometimes fail to ask the questions I ought to ask. And when it comes to the food I feed myself and my family, I really should be asking more questions.

View from The Inn on the Lake – Canandaigua Lake, NY

Like most of us, I strive to feed my family a well-balanced, nutritious diet which is mostly composed of whole foods. I try to stay aware of current findings in nutrition research and I use that information to make the choices I feel are best for my family’s needs. But sorting through the vast amount of information, which is easily accessible in today’s modern technological age, can be positively confusing. You can find a strongly-worded, research-based article full of references and evidence, to support or refute just about any claim. Add that to the fact that as technology changes and new information becomes available, widespread belief systems about what’s healthy or not change. Remember when eggs were bad for you? Or margarine considered healthy? Or fat-free products the ticket to healthy living? It’s a moving target. On top of all of that, you then need to contend with the difference between what medical professionals tell you and what you heard from your neighbor’s best friend’s former schoolmate. It’s absolutely overwhelming, even to a well-educated adult with a background in biochemistry and an avid interest in food.

Canandaigua Lake

Most of us want to do the right thing when it comes to our family’s well-being. But in an age of way too much information, where it’s almost impossible to sort fact from fiction from personal preference, identifying that ‘right’ thing can be downright perplexing. You can’t win. In fact, I stopped trying to win. Ultimately, I end up basing most of our choices on the bits of information which seem the truest and our own personal evidence. If my family appears and feels happy, healthy, and well-nourished, I consider our choices a success. If something isn’t working, we look for the culprit and go after it with our fiercest ninja moves.

Noblehurst Farms in Linwood, NY

For myself and my family, dairy products have always been a part of our diet, which we all enjoy and thrive on…our personal evidence. The kids drink milk, we use it in our cereal, we love ice cream and yogurt, and you might as well crown me the ambassador of cheese. (Make it an extra sparkly crown, please!) Convincing me to like dairy was never an issue. So, when I was invited to attend a NY Dairy Farm to Table event hosted by the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council, which would involve touring an upstate NY dairy farm, followed by eating cheese and drinking wine, along with two uninterrupted nights of sleep in a comfy hotel room, nobody had to twist my arm real hard.

Mama cow and her calf, just a couple hours after the birth, comfortably resting in a clean stall.

I eagerly accepted the invitation, certain it would be an enjoyable (and yummy) experience. What I hadn’t counted on was how positively eye-opening the experience would be and how it would answer so many of the questions I hadn’t taken the due diligence to ask.

I walked into the experience thinking about cheese, delicious cheese. I walked out of the experience feeling absolutely blown away by the level of planning, thoughtful practice, and monitoring, that goes into producing the safe and nutritious milk which ends up on our store shelves and is used in some of our other favorite dairy products. (Yes, I’m thinking about cheese again.) I have a new found appreciation for the animals who provide us with the food that many of us enjoy on a daily basis and for the hard-working farmers who care for those animals in order to get a plentiful supply of that food to our families’ tables.

I’ve tried really hard to prioritize my thoughts, but there are just so many things I want to share with you. So, pour yourself an icy cold glass of milk (perhaps a few cookies on the side for dunking) and stay tuned until the end, where I’ll share links to my top ten favorite Gourmand Mom recipes featuring dairy and an awesome giveaway!

One of the long spacious barns at Noblehurst Farms

We spent the morning at Noblehurst Farms in Linwood, NY. Noblehurst is a large, modern, seven-generation multi-family dairy farm. They care for and milk 1700 cows to produce a daily yield of approximately 15,000 gallons of milk. Most of the milk produced at Noblehurst Farms is sold to Steuben Foods in Elma, NY for yogurt production or Sorrento in Buffalo, NY for mozzarella cheese. Mmmm….cheese.

Seventh generation dairy farmer, Kitty Noble Rudgers, co-owner of Noblehurst Farms in Linwood, NY, (who I should note is currently thirty-six weeks pregnant with the eighth generation of Noble dairy farmers), hopped on a hayride along with Noblehurst’s cow nutritionist and dairy manager to show us how Noblehurst produces those 15,000 gallons each day. We toured their vast property from where they grow the food which feeds the cows, to where they ferment and store the cows’ food, to the digester that turns the cow’s waste into energy which can be transferred back into the power grid. We visited a large barn where many of the cows are housed, the milking parlor, and the barn where calves are born and raised. (I pet a baby cow. He mooed. I considered adopting it.) Afterward, we had the opportunity to meet with the veterinarian who cares for the herd as well as the CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) planner who works with the farm to ensure they are meeting or exceeding all standards for keeping our environment safe.

Young calf, resting with other young calfs.

Everyone we met was open and informative as our small group toured the farm’s operations. Here are a few of the highlights…

  • The vast majority of farms across NY and the nation are family owned and operated. This just makes me feel good when I’m thinking about the food I feed my own family. It sort of makes me think back to a time when every family owned their own cow for their family’s milk and eventually meat. Nowadays, very few people own their cow, but we’ve got these farm families who were born and raised on dairy farms and are now providing the rest of us with delicious dairy.
  • Anyone who’s ever nursed their baby can attest to the fact that comfortable, happy, and well-nourished moms make the most milk. Well, same goes for cows. Comfortable, stress-free, healthy cows produce the most milk, so if for no other reason than profitable business, it is in the best interest of the farmer to take darn good care of their cows. Cows are fed a carefully crafted blend of food which is optimized for their overall health, taste preferences, and milk production. Each cow eats approximately 90-100 pounds of food every day along with a bathtub’s quantity of fresh water. Holy cow…90-100 pounds?!?! I’m rethinking my desire to adopt a cow.
  • All dairy products are antibiotic-free. Sick cows on conventional dairy farms may be treated with antibiotics, when necessary, just as doctors may prescribe them for ourselves or our family members when needed. But milk from these cows is not allowed to enter our food supply. Multiple levels of safety screening occur at both the farm level and production plant level for every batch of milk to ensure that antibiotic-tainted milk does not end up on our store shelves. Loads of milk which test positive for antibiotics are dumped, at great cost to the farm, so it’s not something that anyone takes lightly.
  • The use of artificial growth hormones to increase milk production is a concern to many people, who worry it may enter the milk and cause adverse affects in our bodies. I hear ya! Though the FDA has found no significant difference in the quality of milk from cows treated with artificial growth hormones as compared to the milk from untreated cows, I’d always rather lean towards the side of extra caution when it comes to my family’s safety. The good news is that while use of these hormones is currently still allowed in the United States, most dairy farmers (including Noblehurst Farms) are responding to consumer demand by eliminating the use of artificial hormones in favor of optimal nutrition practices.

Weeeeeeee…a carousel ride for cows!

  • Dairy cows are not over-worked milk machines. In fact, they spend a very small amount of time being milked each day. Cows at Noblehurst Farms are milked three times each day on a rotary carousel milker. They step onto the slow moving carousel, are examined for any signs of infection or health concerns, are sanitized, then hooked up to the milkers. The milkers automatically fall off once the cow’s flow reduces to a certain level. They finish their ride on the carousel, then step off and spend the rest of their day eating their carefully crafted diets and resting on comfortable beds in their stalls. The entire process takes nine minutes. Multiply that by the three milking cycles each day for a total of twenty-seven minutes spent in the milking process. And on average, they get about two months off from milking each year. Doesn’t sound like such a bad deal to me! I nursed my three sons and let me tell you…I spent a heck of a lot more than twenty-seven minutes being milked each day and I certainly didn’t get all of that time for resting and eating in between or the two months of vacation time!
  • Rotary milkers aren’t the only modern technology being used for efficiently milking large groups of dairy cows. We met a pair of local dairy farmers who use robotic milkers. With robotic milking, the cows roam freely and can choose to enter the milking stalls as they wish, as often as they wish. Once in the stall, the robotic milking system automatically cleans the cow for milking, attaches, and effectively milks the cow. It’s even capable of recording coordinates for each individual cow so that it can more easily identify the correct placement of the milkers each time that cow enters the stall! How cool is that?? But the funny thing is that apparently, some cows enjoy this process so much, they choose to enter the stalls for milking many more times than necessary each day! Silly cows!
  • All milk is healthy, wholesome, and nutritious. – Whether you choose organic or conventional milk, whole, reduced-fat, or skim, you’re getting those nine essential nutrients: calcium, vitamins A, D and B12, protein, potassium, riboflavin, niacin and phosphorus. And did you know that whole milk is actually only 3.3% fat?? Personally, I’m a skim milk girl, but if you prefer the fuller body of whole milk, there can certainly be room for it within the framework of a healthy balanced diet.

Milking machines on the rotary milker at Noblehurst Farms

I loved dairy prior to this experience. It would have put a serious damper on my love affair with cheese to have observed anything other than the remarkably well-designed, efficient and sustainable production they’ve got in place at Noblehurst. Instead I walked away feeling more confident than ever about the dairy products I feed myself and my family. Seeing it all firsthand, I am reminded to be mindful of where our food comes from. It’ll be hard not to think about those adorable and generous cows every time I enjoy some delicious cheese!

In honor of this awesome experience, I’ve put together a round-up of some of my favorite recipes featuring delicious dairy! Give them a try!

Spicy Bacon Mac and Cheese

Cannoli Ice Cream

Mixed Berry Mousse with Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

Quadruple Berry Muffins

Creamy Bacon Mushroom Soup

Three Cheese Fondue

Aged White Cheddar and Broccoli Soup with Chorizo

Spiced Fruit Bread Pudding

Bacon Cheddar Drop Biscuits

Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

Want to win this???

GIVEAWAY TIME!!!

The American Dairy Association and Dairy Council is offering a gift bag of dairy-themed items for one lucky reader! It’s an awesome bag of goodies, including a cow print apron and oven mitt, a gorgeous wooden cheese board, cow cheese spreaders, a cow wine cork, little squishy cow toys, a sturdy cow-print lunch bag, and a Taste of New York cookbook! To enter, simply leave a comment on this post telling me your favorite cheese or favorite use of dairy products. The contest will close on Saturday, November 3 at 12:00pm EST, at which point a winner will be randomly selected. One entry per person, US mailing addresses only, 18 years or older please. 

Good luck, friends!

The American Dairy Association and Dairy Council hosted the NY Dairy Farm to Table event. As part of this event, they provided me with accommodations, compensation towards travel expenses, a gift bag of dairy-themed goodies, and a delicious evening at the NY Wine and Culinary Center. I was under no obligation to the ADADC, Noblehurst Farms, or any other agency to write this post or in any way share my experiences.

Holiday Cookie Round-Up

Well, folks… The holiday season is officially upon us! And with that, the time to complain about the too-early Christmas displays and carols on the radio has passed.

But then, that stuff never really bothered me anyway. Quite the opposite.

In fact, the week before Thanksgiving, as I stood in line waiting to checkout at my local Target, I overheard a woman complaining to the cashier about how early the Christmas displays appear. I stood there, silently judging her, as I pretended to peruse the selection of batteries, mascara, and matchbox cars, cleverly arranged to attract impulse shoppers. Bah humbug, Ms. Scrooge!

I happen to enjoy the early holiday displays in the stores. (Now you’re judging me, aren’t you??) There’s something about the anticipation…seeing those decorations, but knowing it’s not time, not just yet. I look, I plan, I wait. As much as I love Christmas, I force myself to wait until after Thanksgiving to bust out my full festive cheer. Honestly, I can only focus on one holiday at a time. And we’ve still got a skeleton hanging outside our front door and leftover Thanksgiving green beans in the fridge.

It’s here though, for real now. There is no longer shame in the jingle bells I’ve left tied to my running sneakers or the shopping cart I intend to fill with glittery wrapping paper this morning. The scarecrows and skeleton outside my front door will promptly be replaced by a happy family of snowmen and a blinking reindeer. The holiday season is here and that also means it’s cookie baking time! Are you ready??

I’ve got a few new cookie ideas brewing for this year. But to get you started, here’s a look back at some of my previously posted cookie recipes.

**I’ve starred the favorites I’ll be remaking for this year’s cookie collection.**

Carrot Cake Cookies

Peppermint Patty Cheesecake Bars

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

**Sand Tarts**

**Cherry Vanilla Drops**

Rainbow Cookies

**Coconut Macaroons**

**Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies**

Choco-Cherry-Coconut Bars

**Pfeffernussen**

**Oatmeal Chocolate Craisin**

Lemon Ginger Sugar Cookies

Almost Thin Mints

**Chocolate Covered Spiders (Haystacks)**

**Peanut Butter Fudge**

Holiday Bark

Apple Pie A La Mode Smoothie and a FREE coupon!

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As you know, I love food. Food is so much more to me than just sustenance and nutrition. It’s more than just putting a meal on the table and feeding my family. It’s an experience. It’s a pleasure-inducing event. It satisfies me in a manner much deeper than just quenching my hunger. But this love of food comes at a great cost, not only to our waistlines, but also to our piggybanks.

I admit that, in the past, I have never been very conscious of shopping grocery sales or monitoring the prices of individual ingredients. I typically plan our grocery trips based on what we feel like eating or what looks fresh and delicious in the store, rather than basing our meals on sales or what we have in the pantry. This approach is deliciously satisfying, but puts our normal grocery spending off the charts. Lately though, I’ve been trying to become more conscious about our grocery spending; buying meats in bulk, planning a few less expensive meals each week, and even using coupons!

Now, couponing is something I’ve attempted in the past and never had much success with. I’d diligently clip my coupons, only to arrive at the store with a stack of savings on things I wouldn’t normally purchase anyway or things which would end up costing me more than other similar items, even after the coupon was applied. But, this time has been different. This time, I’ve started following a few couponing blogs, which have made things so much clearer. I get it now. Not sure why I didn’t get it before, but I get it now!

My Coupon Binder

I’ve learned about sale cycles, stocking up on items at their lowest prices, and matching up manufacturer coupons with store coupons and sales to get things for mere pennies or even for free. Yes, free! Why in the world have I been paying full price for toothpaste and toothbrushes when stores are giving away my preferred brands for free almost every week???  Silly, silly me!

I’ve become a little obsessed. I’ve even set up a binder to neatly organize my coupon collection. I refuse to sacrifice the quality of the foods we eat for savings, but why wouldn’t I try to save money on the things I’d normally buy anyway…money which I can put in my vacation fund for some grand, luxurious trip to a tropical locale, where I’ll overindulge in food, drink, and naps. I’ve already picked the place.

So, when I was contacted recently, by Foodie Blogroll (in partnership with Halogen Network), inviting me to help promote some new products from Dannon Activia Selects, with the opportunity to invite my readers to receive a coupon for free yogurt, I was immediately intrigued. When it comes to coupons, it doesn’t get much better than FREE!

My family goes through yogurt like it’s nobody’s business and Dannon is a brand I’ve loved since childhood. I was initially a bit hesitant about using this site to promote new products, but Dannon is a brand I can stand behind and this particular promotion gives me the opportunity to share my love for yogurt, coupons, and delicious smoothie recipes, so I agreed.

Dannon Activia, a yogurt with the added benefit of helping to regulate your digestive system, has recently introduced two new lines of yogurt. The first is a collection of smooth and silky French-style yogurts, which come in cherry, mango, blackberry, and cherry flavors. They’re also offering the French-style yogurt with fruit on the bottom in strawberry and mixed berry flavors. I’ve got to say, I’ve always been a big fan of Dannon’s Fruit on the Bottom yogurts, so I’m really excited to try these products.

The second is a line of thick and creamy Greek-style yogurts, which come in vanilla, blueberry, strawberry, and pomegranate berry. Greek yogurts are all the rage these days, and for good reason! They’re thick, smooth, and packed with protein. I haven’t had the opportunity to sample these yogurts yet, but the new Greek-style yogurts are top on my list to try!

You can try these new yogurts too! Simply enter a few pieces of information on the Dannon Activia website or Visit the Activia Selects Facebook page to get your FREE coupon now!

Now…you know I couldn’t let this post go without a recipe! One of my family’s favorite ways to enjoy yogurt, aside from straight out of the container, is mixed into smoothies. And this smoothie is a good one! So, use your free coupon to pick up some of this new yogurt and then give it a try in this fantastic smoothie which has the taste of a delicious slice of apple pie a la mode! (Dannon Activia’s Greek-style vanilla yogurt would work perfectly in this recipe!)

Apple Pie A La Mode Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 4 granny smith apples
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups vanilla yogurt
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger

Directions

Peel and core the apples. Cut the apples into small pieces, then toss in the lemon juice. Freeze for a few hours in a covered container. To prepare the smoothie, blend the frozen apple pieces with all other ingredients until smooth. Garnish with a fresh slice of apple and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

This sponsorship is brought to you by Activia Selects who we have partnered with for this promotion.

FREE coupon offer good 8/3 /11 – 8/15/11, up to 1 million coupons, on any Activia Selects Single Serve, up to $3.00. One coupon per household. Offer valid in the U.S only. VOID IN LA, NJ, CA. Coupon valid until 8/15/11.

Residents of LA, NJ, CA will be given a ‘$1 off 3 Activia Selects’ coupon.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this post! Would you enjoy future opportunities to hear about new products and potentially receive free coupons or samples? Or should I just stick to the recipes and leave the advertising elsewhere?

Chorizo and Asparagus in a Deconstructed Hollandaise

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I love eggs. I love ’em boiled, fried, scrambled, or poached. I love ’em with hot sauce or just a touch of salt and pepper. I love them stuffed as cheesy omelets or served on top of a huge pile of corned beef hash. Deviled eggs, egg salad, and potato salad with chunks of chopped boiled eggs warm my heart. And I go gaga for bacon, egg, and cheese bagel sandwiches, most especially when they come from any bagel shop in NYC.

I love eggs. I love a slightly runny yolk with a thoroughly cooked white. I anxiously await the burst of the yolk between two halves of an English muffin and find particular pleasure in wiping up the drippings with a corner of bread. I love the little bits of scrambled egg which are tossed in fried rice. Oh, and quiche…I love quiche. Egg pie, perfectly genius. And don’t even get me started on Eggs Benedict! Oh, incredible,edible egg…you make my heart swoon!

Of all the ways I love eggs, there is nothing I love more than finding an egg in an unexpected place; in the middle of a pizza, on a burger, or set atop a mound of crispy fries. Or how about gracing a pile of perfectly roasted asparagus??

I like to think of this dish as asparagus in a deconstructed hollandaise sauce. Asparagus and hollandaise sauce are a classic pairing. Hollandaise sauce is traditionally made by creating an emulsion of egg yolks, lemon juice, and butter. A dash of salt and sprinkle of cayenne pepper complete the sauce’s seasonings. It’s a rich, buttery sauce which has a tendency to be a bit finicky to prepare. (Click here to see my step by step photo guide on how to make Hollandaise sauce.)

Today’s dish combines all the elements of asparagus with a classic hollandaise sauce, without the fuss. We’ll fry our eggs sunny-side up in a generous amount of butter, leaving the yolks smooth and runny for optimal dippability. Then, we’ll set the eggs atop piles of roasted asparagus, drizzled with a touch of fresh lemon juice. Slices of spicy chorizo sausage complete the dish.

Chorizo with Asparagus and a Deconstructed Hollandaise

Ingredients

  • 2 smoked chorizo sausages
  • 1 large bunch of asparagus
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 eggs

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place the chorizo sausages in a baking dish and cook for 25-30 minutes, until thoroughly heated through. Slice the chorizo before serving.

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. Place them in the oven for the last 10-12 minutes of the sausage’s cooking time.

To cook the eggs, heat butter in a nonstick or cast iron pan over medium heat. Crack two eggs into the pan, being careful not to break the yolks. (If desired, you can first crack the eggs into a small bowl or ramekin to ensure that the yolk remains unbroken and then carefully transfer to the pan.) Cook for a few minutes, without flipping, until the whites are cooked, but the yolk remains runny. Season with a dash of salt.

To serve, arrange several asparagus on a plate. Drizzle with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Carefully place the fried egg on top of the asparagus and arrange the chorizo slices on the plate. Garnish with fresh lemon slices.

Serves 2


Greek Salad and a Love Story

Is it wrong to be in love with a knife? Will people laugh at our love? Will I be labeled some sort of weirdo cutleryophile? Call me what you may…I am madly in love with a knife. It was true love at first sight. I initially spotted my new darling in the window at a Chicago Williams-Sonoma. I was drawn to that knife in the way which other women are drawn to the glittery diamonds on display in a jewelry store window. My heart went pitter-patter. The noticeable blush in my cheeks sent a surge of jealously through my husband.

The object of my affection was a knife in Shun’s newest Edo line of knives, sold exclusively at Williams-Sonoma. Gorgeous hammered steel detailing, samurai sword sharpness, perfectly balanced weight; not only a precision cutting tool, but a beautiful work of art. The 8″ Dual-Density Utility knife, with its high and low frequency serrations, whispered sweet nothings at me through the window. I was so easily wooed; so fully enamored. Were it not for its mind-numbing price tag and the knowledge that airport security would never have allowed me to gingerly carry my new love on board, I would have purchased that knife on the spot. Alas, I left empty-handed with a razor-sharp hole in my heart and the salty remnant of a single tear run down my cheek.

Then, this past weekend, we paid a visit to my parents to celebrate a belated Christmas. And Santa had left a very special gift for me at my parents’ house; the knife of my culinary dreams. Though I’ve been a loyal fan of the very excellent Henckels and Wüsthof knives for many years now, I have to admit that this knife puts my other knives to shame. My other knives quivered in the knife block when they saw this one coming. I can still hear them crying their nervous tears that they may never be used again.

Today’s recipe was selected for the pure excuse of having something to cut with my new knife; so simple, it’s barely a recipe at all. The bonus is that it also happens to make a delicious, refreshing, and flavor-packed meal; a fresh Greek salad decked with feta cheese crumbles, savory olives, and a basic red wine vinaigrette. I threw a few chopped anchovies onto my salad, but if the tiny, salty fish aren’t your cup of tea, simply omit them. A skewer of grilled shrimp or a nice piece of broiled fish would make other excellent additions.

Greek Salad

Ingredients

  • Romaine Lettuce, chopped
  • Baby Roma Tomatoes, quartered
  • Seedless Cucumber, quartered and sliced
  • Red Onion, thinly sliced
  • Olives, Kalamata and/or Oil-cured
  • Feta Cheese, crumbled
  • Anchovies, optional

For the Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 1/8 cup Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Garlic, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon Onion Powder
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions

Combine all vinaigrette ingredients and whisk to combine. Toss the lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions in a bit of the dressing. Top with feta cheese, olives, and anchovies (optional). Serve with toasted pita triangles, if desired.

Santa’s Favorite Cookie – Pfeffernussen

According to my father, Pfeffernüsse are Santa’s favorite cookies. As children, we took this statement to be truth, without question. Even now, though I’m grown, and have long understood that Santa exists more in spirit than in flesh, I still believe that Pfeffernüsse are Santa’s favorite cookie.

Christmas was always a magical time for me. I held on to my belief in Santa for longer than most children and cried tears of true grief when I discovered the truth. And though I felt briefly, but truly, heartbroken the year I found out about Santa, I am thankful to my parents for the magic they added to the holiday. As a parent, I am conscious about instilling an understanding of the true meaning of Christmas in my children. But, as much as I want them to understand the theological significance of the day, I yearn for them to feel the same swell of excitement I felt as a child on Christmas morning.

My first Christmas, post-Santa, was just as special, but for entirely different reasons. As the oldest of my siblings, I became the first to learn of and share in the traditions which made our Christmas so special. I giggled as my dad climbed up to the attic with jingle bells in hand, to stomp around in Santa fashion. I held my breath as I tiptoed upstairs with my mom to help gather the wrapped gifts from Santa. I enjoyed sips of my dad’s Christmas Eve eggnog. And best of all, once my siblings were sound asleep, I was allowed to sneak downstairs to help my parents decorate the tree.

The tradition of decorating the tree on Christmas Eve was my most favorite tradition of all. Weeks before Christmas, my family would select our tree. The tree would then wait outside until Christmas Eve, at which point, my father would set the tree in the stand and string it with lights. That was it. My siblings and I would go to bed, convinced we heard Santa on the rooftop, just as we drifted off with visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads. In the morning, we’d awake to a brilliant, fully-decorated tree, in a living room magically filled with gifts. By all appearances, Santa had come during the night, winked his eyes, and transformed our living room into a Christmas vision. There was nothing like that moment, peering down the stairs to see the tree, fully adorned, for the very first time on Christmas morning.

As much as the memories of that tradition fill me with joy, I’ve been reluctant to begin it with my own family. I just don’t have the self-control necessary to wait until Christmas Eve to put up our tree. My compromise with this issue has been to set up a small undecorated tree on our kitchen table, near our plate of Santa’s cookies, for Santa to decorate each year. And though I suspect that pfeffernüsse was more of my father’s favorite cookie than Santa’s, you can bet there will be some pfeffernüsse on that plate for Santa.

This was my first time making pfeffernüsse, which are a peppery German cookie, so I turned to a reliable source for cookie recipes; Martha Stewart. I made her recipe as written and it was fantastic. No alterations required. The dough comes together easily and the flavors are exactly as I remember. I’m certain that my dad (my childhood Santa) will enjoy tasting these delicious cookies.

Santa’s Favorite Pfeffernüsse

Slightly adapted from Martha Stewart’s Pfeffernussen

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups Flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon Ground Cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 stick Butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 cup Molasses
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 cup Confectioner’s Sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine the flour, cinnamon, allspice, pepper, cloves, nutmeg, and baking soda in a bowl. Set aside. In another bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, and molasses until creamy. Add the egg and vanilla. Beat for another minute or two until well-blended. Gradually blend in the flour mixture until a smooth dough forms. Pinch off pieces of the dough and roll balls, about 1″ in diameter. Place the balls on the lined baking sheet, about an inch or so apart. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the cookies are golden and slightly cracked. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Place the confectioner’s sugar in a container. In small batches, gently toss the cooled cookies in the sugar. Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Makes 2-3 Dozen

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