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Tag Archives: New Year’s Eve

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.
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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

Baked Clam Spread

We try to teach our kids about generosity and about giving to those who are in need. To this end, we send in donations when their school collects for the food pantry or bags of toys for sick children who spent Christmas in the hospital. Periodically, we go through the boys’ toy boxes to gather and donate neglected toys to children who would be happy to have them. And the kids watch as we package and donate baby supplies to families in need. We could do a lot more than we do. But through all of these small actions, it is our hope that our children will learn to appreciate how fortunate they are and to think of others in need.

So, you can imagine how proud I felt when the boys offered to donate their old, worn toothbrushes to ‘kids who don’t have any toothbrushes’, after Santa left shiny, light-up toothbrushes in their stockings. I suppose we still need to work on what items have donation value.

As this year comes to a close, I continue to be eternally thankful for all that we have; a beautiful, healthy family, a warm home, dear friends, close family, love. We are so fortunate. It is my wish that 2012 brings the very best of everything to each of you. Take stock of the things which really matter and let everything else go. All the rest is small stuff. Health, love, family, and friends…these are the things worth being concerned about.

I’ve got another quick and delicious appetizer idea for your New Year’s celebrations; a simple baked clam spread made with canned clams. Now, you all know I’m a big fan of from-scratch cooking, but there’s a major convenience factor here. Using canned clams turns this recipe into something you’re very likely to cook as compared to something which seems like too much work to be worth it. For the purpose of this recipe, canned clams work perfectly. And, by all means, if you’re up to cleaning, steaming, and removing the fresh clams, even better!

Baked Clam Spread

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 2 (6.5-ounce) cans of chopped or minced clams, drained
  • 2/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until tender and golden. Turn off the heat. Add the clams, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, crushed red pepper, salt and fresh parsley. Stir until well blended. Stir in the lightly beaten eggs. Spread the mixture into a small baking dish. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Spread onto crackers or slices of bread.

Alternately, the mixture can be stuffed into real or aluminum clam shells and baked for about 10-12 minutes. (To be honest, stuffing the mixture into clam shells is the best way to do it, but I couldn’t find those little aluminum clam shells in any of my stores, so I gave up and baked it in a dish.)

Buttermilk Battered Coconut Shrimp with Pineapple Chipotle Dipping Sauce

This recipe is a holdback from our New Year’s Eve celebration. Poor planning necessitated a few New Year’s recipe alterations. Namely, my lack of vegetable oil for frying the shrimp led to baking, which produced a delicious (and lower-fat) coconut shrimp, but not exactly my ideal result. I strive to present you with the ideal. So, I reserved this recipe until I had the opportunity to prepare it as planned.

The first time I ever made coconut shrimp was for a Caribbean-themed bridal shower, which I threw in honor of my sisters, who were having a double cruise-ship wedding. At the time, I used a recipe for beer-battered coconut shrimp which I’d found online. I’ve since developed my own buttermilk-based recipe, but I fully stand by the battering idea. A quick dip in a bit of batter helps the coconut to adhere to the shrimp and produces a fantastic, doughy coating around the shrimp.

To save a bit on the fat and calorie count, you can bake these little guys in a 400 degrees oven for about 15 minutes or so, until the coconut begins to turn golden and the shrimp is fully cooked. But, hands-down, my preferred method is frying. Go ahead and indulge! A sweet and spicy Pineapple Chipotle Dipping Sauce makes the perfect accompaniment to these tasty shrimp.

Buttermilk-Battered Coconut Shrimp with Pineapple Chipotle Dipping Sauce

Ingredients

For the Shrimp

  • 3/4 cup Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 3/4 cup Buttermilk
  • 2 Eggs
  • Creole Spice Blend
  • 1 pound Jumbo Shrimp, peeled and deveined, tail-on
  • 1/2 cup Flour
  • 2 cups Shredded, Sweetened Coconut
  • Vegetable Oil, for frying

For the Dipping Sauce

  • 1 (12-ounce) jar Pineapple Preserves (or Orange Marmalade)
  • 1-3 Chipotle Peppers (from a can of Chipotle in Adobo)

Directions

To prepare the batter, combine flour and baking soda. Stir in the buttermilk and eggs until well blended. Season with a dash or two of Creole spice blend.

To prepare the shrimp, arrange a plate of flour, the bowl of batter, and a plate of the coconut. Holding by the tail, press each shrimp in the flour to lightly coat. Then, dip into the batter and allow the excess to drip away. Press into the shredded coconut to cover both sides. Place the coconut-coated shrimp onto a baking sheet until you’ve prepared all of the shrimp.

Heat about an inch of vegetable oil in a large frying pan, over medium heat, until it’s good and hot. Place several shrimp in the hot oil and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, until the coconut is golden brown and the shrimp is fully cooked. The oil should sizzle around the shrimp as it cooks. If the coconut browns too quickly, reduce the heat.

Prepare the dipping sauce by blending the pineapple preserves and chipotle peppers in a blender, food processor, or with an immersion blender. Adjust the quantity of chipotle peppers based on your desired spiciness.

Serve the shrimp with a simple baby spinach and bacon salad, dressed in a honey balsamic vinaigrette.

Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 1/8 cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Oil (Olive, Canola, Sesame)
  • 2 Tablespoons Honey
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions

Whisk together all ingredients until well combined or combine all ingredients in a container with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously, until blended.

Creole Deviled Eggs

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Recently, I was contacted by an organization called The Kids Cook Monday, which advocates for involving children in the kitchen. I’m a longtime supporter of cooking with kids. As a  parent and educator, I’ve seen firsthand the many benefits which early cooking provides, including building motor skills, developing and practicing mathematical concepts, enhancing language skills, and strengthening social-emotional skills. Furthermore, kids who participate in the cooking process are more likely to experiment with a variety of foods.

Here at The Gourmand Mom, my two mini sous chefs are my frequent companions in the kitchen. At the ripe old ages of 2 and 3, they’ve already begun to acquire a depth of culinary knowledge. You’ve already seen my little helpers pop up in previous posts. Some of my recipes have even been directly inspired by the wild imaginations of my tiny chefs (Pepperoni Pizza Salad and Vanilla Soup). As a supporter of The Kids Cook Monday campaign, you’ll be seeing my helpers featured more regularly, ideally once each Monday. The recipes themselves will remain the same.

In some way or another, almost everything I post can be seen as a kid-friendly recipe. To me, it doesn’t take hot dogs or PB&J to make a recipe suitable for kids to help. Just about every recipe has got components which would be appropriate for even the littlest hands to assist with. Young children are experts at measuring, stirring, rolling, pouring and smashing. Older children can even begin cutting soft items, like fruits or cheese. There’s almost always some way to get kids of all ages involved in the kitchen. Even modeling techniques and talking through the steps can be engaging and beneficial.

This past Friday, while my littlest guy napped, I entered the kitchen to begin preparing a few hors d’oeuvres for our little New Year’s Eve gathering. My three-year-old was content in the living room playing with some of his new toys. I hadn’t planned for a cooking with kids activity. But, within a few minutes, my son had climbed up on a chair to get a closer look at what I was doing and began asking, Is there a special step for me to do? I sent him off to wash his hands and grab the new chef’s hat and apron he received from his great grandmother for Christmas. Then, together, we set about preparing the first hors d’oeuvre; Creole Deviled Eggs, a spicy twist on a classic hors d’oeuvre.

My petite chef expertly smashed the yolks with a fork, then added and blended the ingredients which I measured for him. He was excited by the relish, which smelled like pickles and the hot sauce, which he claimed his brother would love. I invited him to taste our creation, prior to kicking up the spicy factor, but my hesitant little taste tester refused. Once the filling was complete, he stayed by my side as I spooned our filling into a pastry bag and completed our hors d’oeuvres. Though he was unwilling to taste our creation, he was more then proud to present his homemade hors d’oeuvres to our guests later that evening.

These spicy little eggs make a great addition to any hors d’oeuvres menu. They feature the familiar flavors of classic deviled eggs with just a touch of grown-up spicy flavor. If desired, you can even split the batch and prepare half in the traditional mild-flavored way and half with the added spice.

Creole Deviled Eggs

Ingredients

  • 12 Eggs
  • 1/3 cup Mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon Creole Mustard (or Dijon Mustard, if Creole Mustard is not available)
  • 1 Tablespoon Relish
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Creole/Cajun Spice Blend
  • Hot Sauce, to taste
  • Fresh Parsley, for garnish

Directions

Place the eggs in a saucepan. Cover with cold water. Bring to a gentle boil. Boil for about 10 minutes. Then, rinse the eggs under cold water and allow to cool. When cool enough to handle, carefully peel the eggs. Cut each egg in half lengthwise and remove the yolks. Place the yolks in a small mixing bowl and smash with the back of a fork. Combine the egg yolks with mayonnaise, mustard, relish, spices, and hot sauce. Add more or less spice and hot sauce, as desired. Spoon the filling back into the egg whites. For a more elegant result, place the filling into a pastry bag and pipe the filling into the egg whites. Garnish with fresh parsley, if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes 24 Deviled Eggs

A little picky-eater tip: When it comes to food, my children can be just as picky as any children, but it doesn’t stop me from exposing them to new flavors or lead me to water-down their meal plans. It can take a child multiple exposures to a new food before they become comfortable with it. Don’t give in to picky eaters. Continue to expose your kiddies to new foods, even foods they’ve vehemently rejected in the past. Typically, when I’m offering something unfamiliar, I pair it with a side of something known and enjoyed. This way, I ensure that everyone has got a little something familiar to fill their bellies, while also providing the opportunity to become more comfortable with a new food.

New Year’s Eve Hors d’oeuvres Round Up

I’ve said before and I’ll say it again. I love hors d’oeuvres. In my opinion, there’s no better way to entertain, be it for a casual girls’ night in, an elegant cocktail event, or a poker game, than with a selection of tasty hors d’oeuvres. One of my favorite events to host with an all hors d’oeuvres menu is New Year’s Eve. We keep things casual around here; pajamas, champagne, and an all munchies menu. With that in mind, I thought it wise to take a look back at some previously posted hors d’oeuvres and appetizer ideas which work perfectly for a New Year’s bash!

Click on the titles for links to recipes and more info on each idea.

Petite Toasts with Smoked Salmon and Crème FraicheCold smoked salmon with a dollop of crème fraiche. Check near your grocery store’s cheese section for crème fraiche, which is similar to sour cream, only thicker and less sour. If your store doesn’t carry crème fraiche, you can substitute with a bit of sour cream or cream cheese blended with fresh dill.

Feta Cheese Mousse with Summer FruitsWatermelon and fresh figs will be more difficult to find at this time of year. Substitute with any fresh or dried fruits. Goat cheese would also work well in this recipe and pair deliciously with fruit.

Buffalo Chicken Wing DipThis one’s a crowd pleaser! Not too pretty to look at, but super tasty. Pair with tortilla chips, fresh celery, or chunks of doughy bread. It can be made ahead, refrigerated, and baked before serving.

Olive Tapenade Three WaysThree variations on a simple and delicious olive tapenade. My favorite is the sun-dried tomato tapenade. Serve with crackers or slices of baguette.

Asian Style Turkey Meatballs with Hoisin Peanut Sauce – An interesting twist on cocktail meatballs. Prepare ahead of time and reheat before serving. About 15-18 minutes in a 350 degrees oven should do the trick!

Tomatoes, Mozzarella, and Basil PestoA classic favorite! Serve with slices of baguette and let your guests construct their own little hors d’oeuvres.

Baked BrieFill with apricot preserves or your favorite type of jam. Fresh whole-berry cranberry sauce works well too!

Bacon Stuffed MushroomsOmit the bacon for a vegetarian alternative.

Shrimp with Spicy Cocktail SauceNew Year’s Eve feels like the perfect night for shrimp cocktail! Make your own cocktail sauce and serve with a few wedges of lemon.

Crab-Stuffed Jalapeño PoppersA fresh and elegant alternative to frozen jalapeño poppers! Certain to clear those sinuses.

Mini Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes with Chipotle RemouladeMy personal favorite of the bunch! Prepare the mini crab cakes exactly as directed for full-sized crab cakes, only smaller. Broil for about a minute less. Serve each bite-sized crab cake with a dollop or drizzle of the remoulade.

Blue Cows in a BlanketWhile all your neighbors are serving Pigs in a Blanket, you can stand out with these Blue Cows in a Blanket!! Think mini Bacon Bleu Cheese Burgers wrapped in puff pastry! Ummm….YUM!

Apple Cinnamon RangoonsI want to marry these little goodies and run away with them to spend our lives together in apple cinnamon bliss. (Don’t tell my husband!)

Spinach Dip with Fried Wonton ChipsA simple prepare-ahead dip. Serve in a bread bowl with chunks of bread for an even easier, and equally delicious, alternative.

Spanakopita – Recipe Coming Tomorrow!!

A Few Other Simple Ideas…

Pigs in a Blanket – People love ’em. Make your own honey mustard sauce by combining dijon mustard with honey, as desired. Or serve with a simple Sweet and Sour sauce made from ketchup, grape jelly, and a splash of Worchestershire sauce.

Dates wrapped in Bacon – I might be making these myself this year. Stuff the dates with goat cheese or bleu cheese, if desired. Wrap each date with a piece of bacon and secure with a toothpick. Bake for about 20 minutes in a 400 degrees oven, until bacon is crispy.

Dried Figs with Goat Cheese and Prosciutto – Easy as it sounds! Cut dried figs in half. Place a small piece of goat cheese on the cut side. Wrap with a piece of prosciutto

Assorted Cheese Tartlettes – A fun alternative to a traditional cheese platter. Purchase pre-made phyllo shells and fill with a variety of cheeses and other toppings. Bake in a 350 degrees oven for about 10 minutes before serving. Try Feta with Olive Tapenade and Pine Nuts, Gorgonzola with Poached Pears and Bacon, Brie with Dried Apricots and Almonds, or Cheddar with Ham and Apples.

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