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Cranberry Chipotle Cocktail Meatballs

I hosted a little cookie exchange this weekend. It was really just an excuse to engage in a bit of holiday cheer with a few of my best girl friends…as if we needed an excuse! We drank pomegranate champagne cocktails and warm mugs of mulled wine as we laughed by the light of the Christmas tree. Then we loaded up our trays with the assortment of delicious cookies and homemade bread before saying good night. I love the holiday season exactly for such festive gatherings.

Our evening was as educational as it was fun. We learned such things as:

  • When offering your guests mulled wine, it helps to say the word “mulled” slowly and clearly, so your guests do not believe you are offering them some sort of fancy French mold wine.
  • Carrots are not only delicious, but also an excellent source of small talk.
  • If your boot gets stuck on your foot as you pass through airport security, you will need to sit in the naughty passenger area until the boot can be pried from your foot. (Try to appear as if you’re ok with this situation.)
  • Alec Baldwin likes Word with Friends and Wegmans. And we still like Alec Baldwin.

I made a few snacks for my cookie party, including some spinach-gorgonzola triangles (think spanakopita, made with gorgonzola cheese instead of feta) and these cranberry meatballs. They’re inspired by a recipe I spotted in an advertisement for Ocean Spray cranberry sauce. Ocean Spray’s recipe calls for a combination of jellied cranberry sauce and chili sauce over frozen cocktail meatballs. It reminds me of the sweet and sour meatballs which my mom used to make with a combination of grape jelly and ketchup. It was one of her standard dishes to bring to potlucks and they were surprisingly delicious. You’d never have guessed the sauce was made from jelly and ketchup, of all things!

I knew there was something to this cranberry meatball idea. So, I made a few little tweaks to raise the homemade factor in the recipe and to kick up the flavor with a bit of chipotle heat. The result is sweet, savory, spicy, and surprisingly delicious. These tasty little meatballs are going to make a prompt reappearance on my Christmas Eve menu!

Cranberry Chipotle Cocktail Meatballs

Ingredients

For the meatballs:

  • 2 pounds ground turkey
  • 1/2 medium onion, very finely diced
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper

For the sauce:

  • 2 cans jellied cranberry sauce
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 chipotle peppers (from a can of chipotle in adobo)

Directions

To prepare the meatballs: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine ground turkey, onions, eggs, bread crumbs, salt and pepper until well-blended. Form into 1″ balls. Place the meatballs on a baking sheet which has been lightly rubbed with oil. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until cooked through.

To prepare the sauce: Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium/medium-low heat. (Use one chipotle pepper for mild/medium heat or two chipotle peppers for medium-hot.) Use a fork to smash up the cranberry sauce. Stir and cook for about 5-7 minutes until a sauce forms. Remove the sauce from heat and allow to cool slightly. Puree the mixture using a blender, immersion blender, or food processor. Pour the sauce over the cooked meatballs.

Meatballs and sauce can be refrigerated or frozen until use.

To reheat: Reheat the meatballs in a foil-covered baking dish in a 350 degrees oven, until the meatballs are heated through, about 25-30 minutes (frozen meatballs will take longer). Periodically stir the meatballs as they reheat. Alternately, the meatballs and sauce can be reheated in a saucepan over medium-low heat or in a slow-cooker.

Makes about 60 cocktail-sized meatballs

Tis the season for festive cocktails, like pomegranate champagne cocktails and mulled wine.

For the pomegranate champagne cocktails: Place a few pomegranate arils (the bright red seeds) into the bottom of a champagne glass. Pour a splash of pomegranate juice over the arils. Fill the glass with champagne. The arils sparkle like floating gems and are really fun to pop in your mouth as you enjoy your festive cocktail.

For the mulled wine: Mulled wine is warm, spiced and flavored wine…sort of a warm sangria. It’s typically made with red wine. The flavors and spices can vary. I combined 1.5 liters of Merlot with 1/4 cup honey, 1 cup of pomegranate juice, and two cinnamon sticks. Then, cut one navel orange in half. Squeeze the juice into the mixture, then place the orange halves into the liquid. Slowly warm the mixture to a very gentle simmer. Allow to gently simmer for about 20 minutes. Do not boil. Serve warm. You can prepare the wine on the stovetop in a saucepan or use a slow cooker.

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Pomegranate and Poached Pear ‘Salad’

I’d like to take a moment to officially declare pomegranate as the most fun fruit to eat.

First comes the game of removing the tiny, shimmering pomegranate gems, called arils, from the hard exterior rind. Some people recommend a process of scoring the outer rind of the pomegranate, soaking it in cold water for a few minutes, then breaking the pieces open and allowing the arils to fall to the bottom of the water while the rind floats on top. Others recommend cutting the pomegranate into pieces and smacking the rind with the back of a spoon to loosen the arils, which should eject from the fruit. I like to simply cut the pomegranate into pieces and go to work, pulling apart the fruit piece by piece, systematically releasing the gazillions of juicy arils from within. There’s something incredibly satisfying about peeling back the layers of membrane within the fruit to uncover pockets of the sweet, plump gems.

The small effort of removing the arils yields a great reward; a bowl full of sweet, ruby gems. Pop one in your mouth and enjoy the sweet burst of juice as you bite into each delicious seed. Pick one up the next time you spot them in the grocery store. Now is the time to enjoy this delicious, fun fruit! And they’re super healthy for you too!

If you can stop yourself snacking on this tasty fruit, save some of the pomegranate arils for this delicious composed ‘salad’ of sorts. This seasonally perfect dish would make a very elegant hors d’oeuvre for a holiday party or perfect first course for a seated dinner. (Pretty certain this is going on my Christmas dinner menu!) Fresh pears are poached until tender, then paired with salty gorgonzola and vibrant pomegranate arils, nestled into a crisp leaf of Belgian endive. A simple pomegranate balsamic vinaigrette and candied walnuts provide the finishing touches.

Poached Pears and Pomegranate ‘Salad’

Ingredients

  • 2 heads Belgian endive
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate arils
  • 1/2 cup gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

For the Poached Pears:

  • 2 ripe, firm pears (Anjou, Bosc, Bartlett…)
  • 4 cups poaching liquid (water, white wine, champagne, apple juice…)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 vanilla bean (optional)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (optional)

For the Candied Walnuts:

  • 1/2 cup shelled walnut halves
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Pinch of cinnamon
For the Vinaigrette:
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/8 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper
Directions

For the pears: Peel pears, cut off tops and bottoms, and cut in half lengthwise. Remove the core, using a melon baller or knife. Place the pears in a saucepan with your poaching liquid. (Any combination of water, white wine, champagne, juice, etc. would be delicious.) Stir in the honey. If desired, add a cinnamon stick and/or a vanilla bean to the liquid. Bring the poaching liquid to a gentle simmer. Cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the pears from the cooking liquid and allow to cool. Once cool, chop the pears into small chunks and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the Walnuts: Heat walnuts in a pan over medium heat for about 3 minutes, until they begin to toast.  Add butter and cook for an additional minute.  Add brown sugar, cinnamon, and about 1 tablespoon water to the pan. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly until the water has evaporated and the nuts are glazed. **You may need to add small quantities of additional water to achieve a glaze. Allow to cool. The glaze will harden as the nuts cool. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.

For the Vinaigrette: Whisk the oil, vinegar, pomegranate juice, and mustard together. Season with salt and pepper.

To Assemble the Salad: Rinse the endive. Cut off the core end and carefully separate the leaves. Fill each leaf with a bit of the pear, pomegranate, and crumbled gorgonzola. Top with candied walnuts. Arrange on a platter to serve as an hors d’ouevres or plate 2-3 prepared endive leaves per person as a first course. Lightly drizzle with the vinaigrette.

Serves 4-6

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

My ultra-keen, super sleuthing skills (errr… google), have led me to discover that it is currently football season.

Football and I may be strangers, but tailgating-type munchies and I are the dearest of friends.

Chicken wings are always a popular pick when it comes to football-watching munchies. And people go wild for all sorts of chicken wing flavored goodies, like Buffalo Chicken Potato Skins and Chicken Wing Dip.

The next time you’re in charge of the snacks for a big game, try these spicy chicken wing meatballs. They’ve got the celery and blue cheese baked right into the chicken!! Definitely winning!

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground chicken
  •  1 egg
  •  1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  •  1/4 cup onion, finely diced
  •  1/2 cup celery, finely diced
  •  1/2 cup gorgonzola (or other bleu cheese) cheese, crumbled
  •  1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
  •  1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Vegetable or olive oil, to grease the baking dish

For the sauce

  • 1/2 cup Frank’s Red Hot
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rub the bottom of a large baking dish with a bit of oil, to prevent the meatballs from sticking.

Combine all meatball ingredients until well-blended. (The mixture may feel a bit sticky.) Roll the mixture into one inch balls. Place in a single layer in the baking dish and bake for about 25 minutes.

Combine the Frank’s Red Hot with the melted butter. For a milder sauce, add more butter or decrease the hot sauce.

Pour the sauce over the meatballs and serve!

Makes about 2 dozen. You can easily double or triple this recipe for a big crowd!

Top Ten Gourmand Mom Recipes

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m greatly entertained by reading through the search terms which lead people to this little blog. It often leaves me puzzling over how the terms “Christmas money wreath” or “dog with running shoes” brought people here. What in the world have I been writing about? Of course, most of the time, people are just looking for recipes and, as it turns out, some of those recipes are quite popular!

Here, I’ve compiled a list of the top ten most viewed Gourmand Mom recipes. Then, if you scroll down a bit further, you’ll see ten of my personal favorites. (Clicking on the recipe titles will bring you straight to the recipe.)

What’s your favorite recipe? Tell me about it!

Top Ten Gourmand Mom Recipes

(according to page views)

Crab Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers  – Coming in at #10, these spicy little appetizers are a fresh and flavorful alternative to the kind you’ll find in the frozen food section of your grocery store!

A Better Caramel Apple Cake – Yum! This recipe is the result of experimenting with a delicious recipe I found in the Food Network magazine! Who knew that a bit of boiling water would make such a big difference?? With apple season reaching its peak, now’s a great time to give this one a try!

Almost Perfect Fontina Chops – This recipe is inspired by a Bonefish Grill dish, which is apparently a big favorite, since I get a few search hits every day from people looking for this recipe. This version is not intended to be a copycat recipe; it’s just a delicious dinner inspired by the popular Bonefish dish.

 Independence Day Berries and Cream – Mixed Berry Mousse and Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta – My love for panna cotta began with this sweet treat. Mmmm….fresh berry mousse with sweetened cream! Mmmm…

Strawberry Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese and Almonds – The fresh ingredients do all of the hard work in this simple and delicious salad!

Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp – This is another recipe that gets a ton of search hits. The people want Hawaiian garlic shrimp…and with good reason! It’s delicious! Next time, I’d veer away from the traditional preparation and cook these babies with the shells removed to get more of the buttery garlic in my mouth and less on my fingers.

Chicken Wing Dip – Coming in at #4 is Chicken Wing Dip. It’s practically a classic and totally crave-worthy. Oh dear, just thinking about it makes me want to throw batch in the oven. Must. Have. Chicken Wing Dip.

Pumpkin Gingersnap Parfait – Perfect season for these tasty treats. Some may prefer to sweeten the pumpkin a touch more in these easy treats. For me, they’re just right!

Sweet Honey Cornbread – This one scored most of its hits when it landed on WordPress’ Freshly Pressed section for a day. It’s a great cornbread recipe; sweet, tender, and super easy to make!

And the #1 Most Viewed Gourmand Mom recipe is (drumroll, please)…

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cream Pie  – This luscious pie wins the top spot by a landslide. Somehow it’s found itself within the StumbleUpon community. I’m really not quite sure how StumbleUpon works, but it sure drives a ton of traffic to this delicious recipe!

Ten of My Personal Favorite Recipes

Greek Lamb Burgers with Tzatziki Sauce – This burger takes the cake as far as my husband is concerned! It’s become his meal of choice for birthdays, anniversaries, and any other excuse he can come up with!

The World’s Greatest Penne ala Vodka – I can’t claim credit for the creation of this recipe, but it’s definitely on my list of all-time favorites!! Seriously the best vodka sauce I’ve ever tasted!

Sausage, Bean, and Rapini Soup – This incredibly satisfying dish is in our regular dinner rotation. It freezes well, so make it in a huge batch to keep on hand for an easy dinner. Make it as brothy as you prefer and serve with a nice piece of French bread!

Chicken Salad Sandwich – Waldorf Style – There’s something incredibly satisfying about the combination of sweet, savory, and crunch in this chicken salad. It’s on my go-to list of easy weeknight dinners!

Grilled Honey Garlic Baby Lamb Chops – I want to slather this honey garlic sauce on everything. I think I could live on this honey garlic sauce.

Cheddar and Garlic Biscuits – I first made these biscuits during a major craving for Red Lobster’s Cheddar Bay Biscuits. I searched online for a copycat recipe and found a ton of Bisquick-based recipes. Wanting to make fresh biscuits from scratch, I combined the elements from a basic, buttery drop biscuit with the seasoning of the Red Lobster biscuit. They’re perfect. Everyone cheers when these are on the menu!

Salmon, Cucumber, and Orzo Salad in Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette – This was initially intended as a pantry meal, if you will; something quick and easy using a few leftover ingredients I had on hand. It became an instant favorite. There’s something incredibly satisfying about the combination of flavors and textures in this simple dish!

BBQ Beef Chili – This hybrid chili/bbq beef dish makes my mouth water. Serve it with the cornbread from the Top 10 list!

Corn and Bacon Fritter Cakes – I just posted about these recently. I want to eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday, topped with smoked salmon and creme fraiche. The best part is that they reheat really well. In fact, they may even be better reheated than straight out of the pan. Pop them in the oven for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees and they’re perfect! (P.S. A dollop of sour cream would make a fine substitute for the creme fraiche!)

Pizza Dragon and Chairs of Stock (Steak Bordelaise Pizza) – My brother in law goes nuts for this pizza! He’s still trying to figure out how to package it and sell it, since he’s convinced it will make me millions. This pizza is a steak dinner on a pizza crust. It takes a little time to get all of the components together, but everything can be prepared ahead of time and it’s worth the trouble!

Do you have a favorite Gourmand Mom recipe? Any other recipe you’d like to see here? Tell me about it!

Chickpea Fries with Green Athena Sauce

Many years ago, I made a friend for life during my college orientation weekend. I don’t recall how we first met. We may have been seated next to each other during some presentation to incoming freshmen. However it happened, it was kismet, as they say. We became instant friends that weekend, as we explored our new school and the town which would be our home for the next four years.

We spent the rest of the summer sending handwritten letters to each other. Yes, this was before the time of facebook, widespread email, and texting. Freshman year we grew closer. And as roommates during our sophomore year, we were practically inseparable. In fact, the vast majority of my college memories in some way involve this particular friend; memories involving mermaids (and mermen), dance routines with a big finish, a glowing Red Dog clock, flooded suites, and self-directed midnight evacuation drills from our second floor dorm building. Note to self: Scaling the side of a brick building with your sheets tied together will result in holey sheets. And laughter. Lots of laughter.

College Memories

In the years after college, we moved in different directions, geographically. Separated by distance, our opportunities to share drinks, laughter, and miscellaneous mischief have become fewer and farther between. But we will always share a part in each other’s celebrations, successes, and challenges. She stood as my bridesmaid during my wedding and wore a pin I gave her in her hair as she celebrated her own. Though we now live, quite literally, on opposite sides of the globe, my dear friend will always remain close in my heart. I feel fortunate that our lives crossed paths.

Recently, my globe-trotting pal sent me a link to a Mark Bittman article, which describes a process for making a sort of chickpea fries; crisp on the outside with a smooth, custardy center. Yum! Only, the article is a bit vague on the exact procedure. My friend’s first attempt never made it to the taste-testing phase. Dying to love these little goodies, she sent a plea for help. I told you we’d always be there for each other’s challenges!

Vegetarians and gluten-free eaters rejoice! This recipe is right up your alley. In fact, this protein-rich alternative to French fries should make just about everyone happy! I based my recipe on Bittman’s description and a bit of trial and error. Your biggest challenge may be getting your hands on the chickpea flour necessary for this recipe. But if you’ve got a well-stocked grocery store nearby, you may be in luck. I was able to find the flour in the organic and natural foods section of my Wegmans. If you don’t see it in your grocery store, try asking at the customer service desk.

The sauce is a cross between a cucumber-yogurt tzatziki and a green goddess dressing, so I’m calling it my Green Athena Sauce. It’s works perfectly with these tasty chickpea fries and will probably leave you looking for other things to dip in it. Try pita, fresh vegetables, chips, bread, skewered lamb…

Chickpea Fries

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/8 cups chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (plus more, if desired)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper (plus more, if desired)
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

Directions

Line a 13×9 inch baking dish or baking sheet with parchment paper or wax paper. Lightly rub the paper with vegetable oil to help prevent sticking. Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to medium and gradually whisk in the chickpea flour. The mixture will thicken quickly. Add the other ingredients. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add additional water if the mixtures seems too dry or additional flour if the mixture seems too runny. Spread the mixture into the prepared baking dish or baking sheet. Use a piece of wax paper to help press the mixture into an even layer. Cover with the wax paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. Once cool, cut the mixture into the shape of fries or any other shape you desire.Heat a shallow (less than 1/4″) layer of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-medium high heat. Place the fries into the hot oil. Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel to remove excess oil. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Green Athena Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cucumber, peeled and grated
  • 3/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Bg handful of fresh parsley
  • Pepper, to taste
Directions
Squeeze the grated cucumber in your hands or in a piece of cheesecloth to remove as much liquid as you can. (Skipping this step will result in an overly runny sauce.) Combine the cucumber with all other ingredients in a food processor or blender. Blend until well combined. Add as much parsley as you desire, until the sauce has a nice green color. Taste and adjust seasoning, to taste. Refrigerate until serving.

Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart with Pine Nut Crust

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Where have I been? Where have I been?  Well, I’ve been unsuccessfully working on composing this post for over a week now. In fact, it’s taken me so long to get this post completed, that I actually received a semi-panicked phone call from my dad, during the mutually agreed upon no-call hour (kids’ bedtime) to make sure I was ok. Awww… My dad checks in on me via this blog. I love that. And yes, I’m am fully ok. Just sucked into the time warp which is having a newborn baby and two very active young boys.

To be fair, I can hardly blame my absence on the baby. He is fully content to stay snuggled in my lap, quietly nursing, as I write. It’s my other two monkeys who leave me with minimal focused time for writing; the ones who are in a perpetual state of movement, mischief, and mayhem.

Oh, and the noise level… I have no words to describe the constant cacophony of assorted noises in this house; trucks, barking dogs, rockin’ guitars, the singing Handy Manny tool box, Spongebob on TV, laughing, screaming, whining, and some other toy that’s perpetually shouting letters at me. Even the puzzles make noise. I’m considering ditching all of these modern, noise-making toys, and bringing back some nice, quiet, battery-free tops, jacks, and jump ropes. Or perhaps I should just buy a set of heavy duty, noise-blocking headphones?

When all is said and done, it’s just been a bit tricky to write lately.

My posts may be few and far between these days, but we’re definitely still cooking! My busy little family needs to eat and summer produce is just begging to be devoured. It’s tomato season now; that time of year where tomatoes are so sweet and luscious, they really live up to their classification as a fruit. Now is the time to whip out those recipes which really showcase ripe tomato flavor.

I’m paying homage to a few beautiful heirloom tomatoes in a simple tart, paired with goat cheese, in a buttery pine nut crust. A bit of fresh basil pesto and a drizzle of balsamic glaze complete the dish. My children have aptly dubbed this recipe “rainbow tomato pie”. My grocery store carries an assortment of gorgeous heirloom tomatoes when the season is right, but specialty tomatoes are not a necessity for this recipe. A few ripe plum tomatoes from your garden or the grocery store will work perfectly.

The tart itself is a cinch to put together once you’ve prepared the crust. There’s no need to get complicated when the ingredients are so prime. Preparing the crust takes a little time, but the good news is that it can be prepared at any point ahead of time and frozen until you’re ready to use it. Freezing the dough in the tart pan prior to baking has the added benefit of reducing shrinkage during baking.

The key to preparing a perfect pie or tart crust is to keep the ingredients cold and avoid overworking the dough. To this end, you’ll want to keep all of your ingredients refrigerated until the moment of use. An extra cold surface, such as a marble slab, is helpful, but not mandatory. As you work, handle the dough as little as possible to prevent the butter from melting by the warmth of your hands.

Heirloom Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart in a Pine Nut Crust

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons butter, very cold
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons ice cold water
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 3 ounces goat cheese
  • 3 heirloom tomatoes, sliced
  • Fresh Basil Pesto (Click here to see my basil pesto recipe.)
  • Balsamic Reduction/Glaze (optional)

Directions

To prepare the pine nut crust: Cut the butter into small chunks, then refrigerate to ensure it is very cold. Combine the flour and salt, then pour the dry ingredients onto your work surface. Add the butter to the flour and use a dough cutter or a fork to cut the butter into the flour mixture until the chunks of butter resemble very small peas. Form an “O” shape on your work surface with the mixture. Place the egg and cold water into the center of the “O”, then use your fingers to gradually draw the flour mixture into the wet ingredients. Continue combining the flour mixture with the egg and water until a dough forms. Once the dough has mostly come together, add the pine nuts and gently knead the dough a few times, just until the pine nuts are evenly dispersed. Work quickly to avoid melting the butter. The dough should be firm and not too sticky. Add additional water, a few drops at a time, if necessary. Form the dough into a round disk shape, wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Once the dough is chilled, roll it into a round on a lightly floured surface, about 1/8″-1/4″ thick, wide enough to fit your tart pan. (A 9″ diameter tart pan, with a low edge and removable bottom is ideal for this recipe, but other tart pans can be used.) Carefully transfer the dough into your tart pan, gently press it into the bottom and sides, and use a knife to cut off any excess dough. Prick the bottom of the dough several times with a fork. Gently press foil over the dough to cover it and freeze for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake, with the foil in place, for 20-25 minutes until the dough appears mostly cooked. Then, remove the foil and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until the dough is golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool before assembling the tart.

While the tart crust cools, prepare the tomatoes by sprinkling with a bit of salt. Then, place the salted tomatoes in a colander to drain for about 30 minutes. The salt will help to draw out some of the excess liquid in the tomatoes in order to prevent a soggy tart.

To assemble the tart, spread a thin layer of basil pesto on the bottom of the tart crust. Sprinkle the goat cheese in an even layer over the pesto. Then, arrange the tomato slices on top of the goat cheese. Bake for about 25 minutes in a 375 degrees oven. Allow to cool slightly before serving. The tart is best served a little warm or at room temperature.

If desired, drizzle with a bit of balsamic glaze before serving. (You can purchase balsamic glaze at many grocery stores or prepare your own by simmering balsamic vinegar with some sugar or honey until it reduces into a thick, sweet glaze.) I highly recommend this finishing touch!

Roasted Rack of Lamb

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Tis the season to eat lamb! Falala, lala, la, la, la, laaaaa... Or perhaps it should be, Bababa, baba, ba, ba, ba, baaaa!

Easter is just around the corner. Children everywhere are sporting conspicuous dye-stained fingers and carry the faint aroma of boiled eggs. Their schoolwork is distracted by daydreams of the sweet treats the Easter bunny will soon deliver. Adults are counting the days until they’re released from their Lenten resolutions. And my home smells of Marshmallow Peeps and Cadbury Cream Eggs.

Traditionally, lamb and ham are popular selections for Easter dinner. For some people, Easter may be the one time a year they eat lamb. We are not those people. Around our home, lamb finds its way onto our menu on a semi-regular basis. We enjoy Greek-style lamb burgers with tzatziki sauce, shepherd’s pie, and roasted leg of lamb with fresh mint pesto. I even won a contest earlier in the year with a recipe for tender braised lamb shanks with brown-braised onions and mushrooms.

I’m so sorry adorable little lambs, but we really do appreciate your delectable contribution to our dinner table!

With Easter quickly approaching, I thought I’d share another lamb dish with you; a classic roasted rack of lamb, crusted with sweet roasted garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and parmesan cheese. We’ll set our perfectly roasted lamb chops aside slices of toasted sourdough topped with a white bean and kalamata olive puree and a side of roasted asparagus.

Sounds kinda fancy, right?? I promise you that it’s a cinch to make! The combination of naturally flavorful ingredients does the brunt of the work. You just need to do a little arranging and then sit back and take credit for this elegant spring meal!

White Bean and Kalamata Olive Puree

Ingredients

  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
  • 4-5 cloves roasted garlic*
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 slices sourdough bread, brushed with olive oil and toasted in the oven
  • 2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • Fresh parsley, chopped

*Click here to see my photo guide on roasting garlic.

Directions

Puree the beans, olives, and garlic using a blender, food processor, or immersion blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, as desired. Refrigerate until ready to use. To serve, spread each slice of sourdough with a generous amount of the bean puree and top with a few pieces of sun-dried tomatoes and a touch of fresh parsley.

Leftover puree makes a delicious dip or spread on veggies or bread!

Roasted Rack of Lamb with a Roasted Garlic, Sun-Dried Tomato and Parmesan Crust

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/8 cup parmesan cheese
  • 4-5 cloves roasted garlic*
  • 1/8 cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound rack of lamb, trimmed and frenched
  • Olive Oil, for browning lamb
  • 1-2 tablespoons dijon mustard

*Click here to see my photo guide on roasting garlic.

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Combine the bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted garlic, and rosemary. Drizzle with olive oil and stir until moist. The mixture will still be slightly crumbly. Season with salt and pepper, as desired. Set aside.

Trim the lamb of any excess exterior fat or silver skin. Season with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil over medium heat in an oven safe pan. Place the lamb in the pan. Cook the lamb for a minute or two on each side, until lightly browned. Rub the top side with the dijon mustard, then press the bread crumb mixture into the mustard. Place the pan in the oven. Cook for about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and cook for another 8-10 minutes for medium-rare/medium doneness. Rest for 10 minutes before slicing into chops.

Serves 2


Roasted Asparagus

Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch of asparagus
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

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.

Meal Timing Tips:

  • Prepare the white bean puree and crust mixture for the lamb ahead of time. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Brush the sourdough slices with a bit of olive oil and place directly on an oven rack while the lamb is cooking. Once they’re toasted, you can prepare the bread with the white bean puree and sun-dried tomatoes while the lamb finishes.
  • Place the asparagus into the oven during the last 5 minutes of the lamb’s cooking time. They will finish cooking as the lamb rests.

Three Cheese Fondue

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I am the oldest of four siblings, with two younger sisters and a younger brother. I am eternally thankful for my family and the bond I share with my siblings. I am also immensely thankful that although I currently live about six hours away from my hometown, I am only minutes away from my two sisters. The circumstances, which have led us all to live within 5 miles of each other, six hours from our hometown, couldn’t have been better planned if we’d tried.

Growing up, surrounded by a large, loving network of aunts, uncles, and innumerable cousins, my sisters and I always appreciated the value of those family bonds. We knew, without a doubt, that when the time came to begin families of our own, we wanted to be near each other; to be able to provide our own families with that same close, loving family we experienced in our youth. We are so fortunate that the twists and turns of our lives have led us to where we are today. Now we just need to figure out how to get our brother up here too!

I have so many wonderful memories of spending time with my sisters in our childhood; running around the yard, choreographing dances to our favorite Madonna or Traveling Wilburys albums, and riding bikes along the boardwalk near our home. Recently, I was also reminded of one of our favorite past times, which involved chasing our youngest sister around the yard on the pretext that she had a caterpillar in her hair or while yelling, “Your epidermis is showing!” Siblings can be ruthless.

During one year, when my parents must have learned that too much TV is detrimental to developing young minds and decided to limit our TV time to one hour a day, my sisters and I relied on each other to tag-team movies. I don’t think I ever got to see The Goonies from start to finish until I was an adult. That pirate ship makes a lot more sense now.

We’d spend winter days inside, trading Barbie clothes and working on our dance moves. And during warm summer days, we’d wander in the woods surrounding our home and indulge on 5-gallon tubs of ice cream…our secret snack in our private, wooded hiding place.

Now, in our adulthood, our activities are not that much different from our youth. We still play games in the yard, run together, and engage in the occasional spontaneous dance party. We still taunt each other and enjoy movies together. And we still indulge in delicious treats during sisters nights, which usually involve no more than relaxing in one of our homes, chatting and laughing over good food and beverages.

During our most recent sisters night, we enjoyed our conversation huddled around a warm pot of three cheese fondue. This super simple fondue combines three of my very favorite cheeses; gruyere, fontina, and brie. A bit of white wine and cornstarch help bind the melty mixture. A fondue pot is certainly useful for serving fondue, but if you can devise another way to keep the cheesy mixture warm, you can do without the special fondue pot. The key is the keep the mixture gently warmed to prevent the cheese from forming a gloppy mess! Then, simply dip and enjoy…preferably with a few close friends or family members by your side!

Three Cheese Fondue

Ingredients

  • 2 cups gruyere cheese, shredded
  • 1 1/2 cups fontina cheese, shredded
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup brie cheese
  • Assorted fresh fruits, dried fruits, vegetables, and bread

Directions

Toss the shredded gruyere and fontina with the cornstarch. Set aside. In a pan or stovetop-safe fondue pot, bring the white wine to a simmer. Turn down the heat to low and add the gruyere and fontina mixture. Stir until completely melted. Add the brie cheese and stir until melted. If necessary, transfer the mixture to your fondue pot. Keep warm over a lit tealight candle. Serve with an assortment of fruits, vegetables, and bread.

‘Thunder Bowl’ Buffalo Chicken Potato Skins

Just when you thought I’d covered every possible incarnation of Buffalo chicken themed food, I’ve got another one for you! We’ve already enjoyed luscious Chicken Wing Dip, a decadent Buffalo Chicken Pizza, a tasty Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, and mouthwatering Chicken Wing Lasagna. And today, we’ve got Mini Buffalo Chicken Potato Skins; the perfect bite-sized way to enjoy all the flavor of Buffalo chicken wings, without the bones!

This recipe is inspired by a recipe I ran across on another food blog, Sprinkles of Parsley. I’d originally intended to make them as part of our Super Bowl party menu. But at the last minute, our planned party turned into a quiet night on the couch.

News of the party cancellation was easily the most distressing to our three year old, who’d spent weeks telling everyone he encountered about our planned ‘Thunder Bowl’ party. We’re still not quite sure how he dreamed up this ‘Thunder Bowl’ idea or what exactly he expected to happen during this grand event…Two men enter, one man leaves. Perhaps he’d imagined that we’d harness his little brother to his shoulders in Master-Blaster style and engage in some sort of rough and tumble mischief.

Whatever he’d been thinking, he was devastated to learn of the cancellation. He couldn’t be consoled without the promise of special Thunder Bowl treats. Bust the deal, face the wheel, Mommy!! And so, Super (or Thunder) Bowl party aside, I still had to try my hand at these tempting little appetizers!

I wonder what other ways we can come up with to get our chicken wing fix…perhaps Buffalo chicken eggrolls, ravioli, or maybe even quesadillas?

Buffalo Chicken Potato Skins

Ingredients

  • 5 pounds Baby Red Potatoes
  • 1/2 cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce (or other hot sauce)
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter, melted
  • 2 cups Chicken, cooked and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup Gorgonzola, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded
  • 3-4 Green Onions, sliced
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and dry the potatoes. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, until fork-tender, but firm. Once they are cool enough to handle, cut each potato in half and scoop out most of the insides using a spoon or melon baller. (You can reserve the scooped potato insides for another purpose.) Brush both sides of the potato skins with a bit of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the potatoes cut side down on the baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes. Turn the potatoes over and bake for 5 more minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Combine the melted butter and hot sauce. Toss the chicken in the sauce until well coated. When the potato skins have finished baking, fill each skin with the sauced chicken. Top each potato skin with a sprinkle of gorgonzola, cheddar and green onions. Bake for 5 minutes, until hot and melty.

Game Day Menu Ideas

Growing up, my family never watched football. We were more of a hockey and baseball kind of clan. But every year we had a big ole Super Bowl Sunday party. I was infinitely envious of my younger sister, whose birthday happens to fall right around the Super Bowl, for she had a guaranteed birthday party each year, long after the rest of us had been weaned off of annual birthday celebrations.

In college, I briefly and half-heartedly tried to get into the whole football thing. I watched games on TV with my new college friends and looked to them to explain the ins and outs of the activity I was so hopelessly clueless about. But, my interest in football was short-lived. Not long after that, I met my husband, who’s more of a guitar and drum kind of guy than a sports fan. So, football remains largely absent from my life.

But in true, inherited non-football-fan fashion, my husband and I are throwing a Super Bowl party this year. Our game day menu is still under construction, but will almost certainly include some adaptation of these Buffalo Chicken Potato Skins and a decadent German Chocolate Cake in honor of my sister’s birthday. (Those recipes to follow after the Superbowl!)

In the meantime, if you’re in search of a few new ideas for your game day celebrations, check out these previously posted Gourmand Mom recipes:

Spicy Beef Chili

White Chicken Chili

Sweet Honey Cornbread

Jalapeno Poppers

Spinach Dip and Fried Wonton Chips

Chicken Wing Dip

Homemade Pizza Dough

Blue Cows in a Blanket

Creole Deviled Eggs

Fresh Tomato or Corn and Chipotle Salsa

Steak Bordelaise Pizza

Buffalo Chicken Pizza


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