Category Archives: EASTER DINNER RECIPES

TWICE BAKED POTATOES

So who do you know that doesn’t like baked potatoes, bacon, and sharp cheddar cheese? And when you put them in combination, well there just ain’t nothing finer. And yes I know twice baked potatoes are full of calories. But remember, not everyone thinks about calories and nutrition all the time. For example: ask any 6 year old to name his or her favorite restaurant. I’m willing to bet you a 10 lb. bag of Yukon Golds that there is a clown, golden arches and a PlayPlace somewhere on the premises! Children don’t think about what they are eating, and once in a while, we should let our inner child come out and not worry either. Life is short! And I know it can be shortened by eating the wrong food. But once in awhile and especially when it’s a holiday get-together, take a break from counting calories and measuring fat content. After all, chances are you’ve stayed up half the night dying eggs, and putting together Easter baskets. Then early Easter morning you get to hide eggs in your house or yard, prepare a feast for your family and friends, and supervise the whole search and rescue Easter egg mission. I do believe you deserve a treat, and twice baked potatoes are definitely a treat!

I will be thinking of you on Easter as I enjoy the day with 3 of the people I love most in this world, my husband and our dear friends Jim and Margo. And since the 4 of us will not be spending the day with any grandchildren, grand nieces and nephews, etc., there will be nary an Easter egg in site, chocolate or otherwise. I’m really OK with that! Oh, one little piece of advice for those of you hosting Easter egg hunts. Count the dyed eggs before you hide them, especially if they are going to be hidden in your home. Also count the “found” eggs and make sure the number is the same. This is not difficult to do. 21 eggs hidden, 21 eggs found. But if the score is 21 to 20, I’d advise you to go into full blown search mode. Get the other adults involved too. For the children offer a small chocolate reward to whoever finds the last egg. For the adults, a larger chocolate reward, like a pound of See’s candy. If you’re lucky, the egg will be found by an adult who likes to share! Happy Easter to all.

  • 3 medium-large russet potatoes
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 3-6 slices lean bacon, chopped
  • 1 c. sour cream
  • 1 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 T. fresh chopped or dehydrated chives
  • milk
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • paprika

Wash potatoes, dry and rub with oil. Pierce skin with fork a couple of times and sprinkle with salt. Bake potatoes in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 60 minutes or until flesh is soft. Remove from oven and cut in half. Let sit for a few minutes to cool. Meanwhile cook bacon until crisp. Drain. Set aside. When potatoes are cool enough to handle, remove as much of the flesh as possible paying attention not to break the skin. (If you pierce the skin it is not the end of the world.) Mash the potato flesh with the cooked bacon, sour cream, cheese, and chives. Add enough milk to make a stiff mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Place potato skins on a baking sheet, skin side down. Scoop potato mixture into the skins and sprinkle with paprika. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until very hot and starting to get crisp and brown on top. Serves 6. These are wonderful with ham at Easter. I love them because you can make them ahead of time and just pop them in the oven about 45 minutes before you plan to serve dinner.

 

STUFFED BONELESS LEG OF LAMB

Once upon a time (I have always wanted to start a preface to a recipe or story with this ever so rarely used story opener) there was a really good Italian restaurant in Redmond, Washington that offered cooking classes. For the life of me I can’t remember the name of the restaurant and in my defense, I did take the class along with my dear friend Jim 16 or 17 years ago. Anyway, the restaurant is long gone! What remains is this fabulous recipe. Now I am a lamb lover. I love grilled ground lamb patties served with Tzatziki, lamb curry, rack of lamb, marinated and grilled lamb chops; basically all things lamb. But my favorite all time way to cook lamb is this stuffed leg recipe.

The first time I made it for guests was for a cooking club that has been going, more off than on unfortunately, for over a decade. The thing that stands out most about serving this dish was the reaction I received from my 2 cooking buddies Ken and Paul. (And yes it does seem like all my best cooking pals are male. My mom never raised no dummy!) But back to my story. The leg of lamb was happily resting under its aluminum foil blanket and it was time to make the sauce. The first thing you need to know about this lamb preparation is that it produces just about the best sauce you will ever taste. And this evening’s sauce was no exception. I actually invited the guys to try the sauce/gravy as it was reducing. I wanted to demonstrate the difference a touch of lemon juice could make to the overall flavor of the sauce when it was added just before serving. Well, that was one of the worst mistakes I ever made! The guys were eating spoonfuls of the sauce before it ever got to the table. They even asked if I had any straws! They wanted to suck it up right out of the pan!

Now I have to be honest with you. This recipe is easy once you build the demi-glace. But making demi-glace is a pain in the bucket. It’s not hard to make, it’s just time consuming. So when I make it, I make about 4 cups and that usually lasts me for an entire year, if not longer. But making your own demi-glace beats the heck out of buying it. You want to experience sticker shock, go on line and figure out what a cup of demi-glace costs.  Of course, if you’re super rich, no problem. But if you are ordinary folk like Mr. C. and me, well suffice it to say, I build my own. I usually make it when I know I am going to be futzing around the kitchen for several hours anyway. That way I can periodically give it a check while I perform whatever other cooking projects happen to be in the works. (It also helps that I have an outdoor kitchen. I can put my pot of bones, meat, veggies and water on to boil outside and not have to worry about messing up my kitchen.) So next time you want to prepare a dish that will knock the socks off your guests, give this baby a try. You will not be disappointed. Well maybe just a little. Leftovers for next evening’s meal are simply not going to happen.

  • 1 medium sized boneless leg of lamb
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T. finely chopped fresh sage
  • 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 7-8 slices prosciutto
  • 2 T. vegetable oil
  • 1 c. Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris, your choice (Both come from the same grape, but are made differently.  Italian style Pinot Grigio is typically lighter-bodied, crisp, fresh tasting, with a vibrant stone fruit flavor, floral aroma, and a touch of spice. Pinot Gris, from the Alsace region in France, is more full-bodied, richer, spicier, and has a higher viscosity.)
  • 1 c. demi-glace (see recipe under This & That Recipes)
  • ½ c. heavy cream
  • additional wine, if necessary (so don’t drink the rest of the bottle while the lamb is cooking)
  • ¼ tsp. fresh lemon juice

If the leg of lamb came in a sweet little mesh blanket bag, carefully slide the lamb out of the netting and set aside. Open lamb out on a cutting board and taking a sharp meat knife carefully slice the boned side of the meat here and there to achieve an even thickness. (I used to pound the meat with a mallet, but I have found slicing the meat here and there works better. Doesn’t leave the meat kind of mushy.) Rub the meat with a moderate amount of salt and pepper and sprinkle with the garlic, sage, and rosemary. Lay prosciutto on top. Roll the meat to approximately the same shape it was before you started messing with it. Tie with string so it keeps its shape while braising, or carefully stuff it back into the wire mesh bag. Heat oil in a heavy lidded roasting pan or Dutch oven. Brown the meat on all sides in the hot oil. Remove from heat and add the wine and demi-glace. Cover and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 35 minutes. Remove lid, reduce heat to 325 degrees, insert instant read thermometer and continue roasting until meat reaches an internal temperature of 140-145 for medium rare. Remove meat from oven, transfer to a cutting board, remove string or mesh bag, and tent gently with aluminum foil. Let rest for at least 20 minutes before slicing into ½-inch pieces. Meanwhile, add an additional fourth to half cup of wine to roasting pan if there is less than a half cup of liquid remaining after the roast was removed. Add the heavy cream and bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer a few minutes or until the sauce has reduced to a medium thick consistency. Adjust seasoning and add lemon juice. Remove from heat. Arrange 1 or 2 slices of meat on each plate. Spoon a small amount of sauce over each slice. (Don’t be too generous. The sauce is really, really rich. I usually serve whatever sauce is left in a small gravy boat and place it on the dining table for guests to help themselves.)

Side Dish Suggestions: Oven Roasted Fingerling Potatoes (recipe below), a steamed veggie like green beans or broccoli, a salad such as Winter Fruit Salad or Coleslaw, and a nice homemade Beer Bread. And for dessert – how about Cherries Jubilee or French vanilla ice cream with Spiced Rum Sauce (recipe found under Bread Pudding with Spiced Rum Sauce)

Wine Suggestion: Let’s see, how about starting with the left over Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris that has been happily waiting for you in the refrigerator? Or if that’s already gone, open another of the same!

Oven Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

  • 2 lbs. fingerling potatoes
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • seasoned or kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced

Place potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour on just enough olive oil to coat the potatoes lightly. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and add rosemary, and garlic. Mix with your hands. Bake in a pre-heated 425 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. (Your potatoes can be roasting while your leg of lamb is resting.)

 

 

 

 

 

CREAMY GREEN BEANS WITH MUSHROOMS

For holiday dinners a plain veggie is almost always ignored especially if the meat and other side dishes are also fairly simple. After all, it’s a holiday meal. And inherent with holiday dinners is the absolute need for something rich on your plate that you might not otherwise eat. And if that lovely mouth feel that comes from a dish containing butter and half and half happens to also include a vegetable, it’s a win-win situation! For example, this recipe would be perfect if you were planning to serve Maple Syrup Glazed Spiral Ham and Refrigerator Mashed Potatoes. Neither recipe has so high a fat content that creamy green beans would be too rich served as an accompaniment. However, if you were planning to serve Stuffed Leg of Lamb (recipe to be posted in a day or two) and Baked Red Potatoes with Roasted Garlic Sauce, a simple dish of steamed green beans would be a much better choice. Taste buds are picky and they are easily overwhelmed. They seem to be particularly happy when they have a variety of plain and rich flavors to visit and revisit at leisure. So when planning a dinner party, think about variety in both taste and texture, plain preparations versus rich, and color presentation. Color is all too often neglected when choosing what dishes to serve together. And I’m not saying that you have to obey the rules of the color wheel. But who doesn’t prefer to see a pop of bright green, red, or yellow on their otherwise mono-chromatic plate of food? Remember, parsley wasn’t invented to provide a last minute burst of fresh flavor to almost any savory dish, or because of its high vitamin content. It was invented for the sole purpose of bringing a splash of color to an otherwise dreary plate! A little story:  I will never forget one of the dinners we were served when my former husband and I took our 3 youngest children to Europe for 5 weeks in 1978. One of the places we stayed in England actually served us poached white fish, boiled peeled potatoes and way over cooked plain cauliflower. And on a white plate, of course! Now, in the world of home decoration white on white is terribly sophisticated. On a plate placed before three children ages 10, 11, and 12, who were used to a very eclectic assortment of food at home, this all white presentation was not well received. In retrospect it was really quite funny to watch all three little faces turn to me at the same time with expressions that clearly read “mom, do I have to eat this”? And truly, who could expect them, or anyone for that matter to eat something so unappealing. If I remember correctly, none of us ate that dinner. Instead I think we found the nearest Indian restaurant. (We ate quite a bit of Indian food for the two weeks we travelled around England, Scotland, and Wales and were never disappointed!) So, moral of the story; have fun planning your Easter dinner. Just remember – too much of a good thing is not appealing, crunch is your friend, and white on white is stunning in the home of a “dazzling urbanite” (to quote Jim (Gene Wilder) in Blazing Saddles), but on a plate, not so much!

  • 2 T. butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 8-oz. cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 c. half and half
  • ½ c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 T. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 lb. fresh green beans, cut in bite size pieces and steamed until crisp tender

Melt butter in a medium sized fry pan over medium low heat. Add the onions and sauté until tender, about 6-8 minutes. Stir in the garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper. Sauté for about a minute or until garlic releases its aroma. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they start to turn a light golden brown, about 10-15 minutes. (This dish can be prepared up to this point ahead of time and set aside. Just before ready to serve, place back over heat and follow instruction as written.) Add the half and half and Parmesan cheese. Simmer until the sauce thickens, stirring frequently. Adjust seasoning. Gently stir in the green beans and parsley. Serve immediately. This green bean dish is based on a recipe from the blog entitled Closet Cooking; a great source of fun recipes, by the way.

 

SCALLOPED POTATOES

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Of all the side dishes that seem to be a favorite of everyone, scalloped potatoes must be near the top of the list. And really, what’s not to love? Thin slices of potatoes baked in a lovely cheese sauce. Well, I’ll tell you what’s not to love! The time it takes to bake most scalloped potato recipes. Holy cow, it’s holiday time and you already have several dishes that need anywhere from several hours in a slow oven to 45 minutes in a hotter oven to re-warm. So then comes along your big old lovely casserole of potatoes. How the heck are you going to make room for a dish that requires 1 ½ – 2 hours in a 350 degree oven? Well dear readers, I’m still slightly aghast that it took me until about 8 years ago before my internal incandescent light bulb, which I had always assumed had at least a wattage rating of 100, came on in my brain and shed some light, so to speak, on the subject. (Either my wattage is less than I originally believed it to be, or my wire filaments aren’t burning as hot as they should! And yes, I still have an internal incandescent light bulb. I was born way before there was an option to be hard wired with a CFL – Compact Fluorescent Lamp)! So if you are looking for a simple way to make an old favorite, give this recipe a try. There is no flavor lost when you partially cook the potatoes ahead of time. And the peace of mind from knowing that your potatoes won’t possibly be crunchy when you are ready to serve is worth more than you’ll save from switching from incandescent to CFL or LED (light-emitting diode) lighting!

  • 1 lb. Yukon Gold or russet potatoes
  • 1 T. butter
  • ½ tsp. paprika, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 T. cornstarch
  • 1 c. whole milk
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 c. shredded cheese (sharp cheddar, aged Gouda, etc.)

Peel potatoes and cut in half. (And yes I peel my potatoes for this recipe, because boiled potato skins tend to become tough.) Then slice each half potato into 1/3-inch slices. Place in a covered pan, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add a goodly amount of kosher salt, cover and cook until just about tender. (You don’t want mushy potatoes, so watch carefully). Drain. Meanwhile, brown butter in a medium sized saucepan. Add paprika and cornstarch and let burble in pan for about a minute. Gradually whisk in the milk and pepper, bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and slowly stir in the cheese. Adjust seasoning. (The sauce will be very thick.) Carefully add the cheese sauce to the potatoes. Scoop mixture into a lightly buttered casserole pan and sprinkle lightly with additional paprika. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until the top is starting to brown and the sauce is bubbling around the edges of the casserole dish. Let sit a few minutes before serving. Note: Don’t be afraid to mix and match the cheeses for this recipe. This dish is a perfect way to use up those bits and pieces of cheese that aren’t aging gracefully! Also, this recipe doubles and triples beautifully.

WINTER FRUIT SALAD

I am not the biggest fruit lover in the world. I think it’s because sweet food has never been my favorite. But I know what you are thinking. Fruit is good for you and you need several servings a day. I know! I too read all the press about healthy eating. But I just can’t make myself wake up in the morning yearning for my first piece of fruit! Actually that’s not quite true. There is one fruit I always wake up thinking about, and that is the seed of the coffee plant. And yes, coffee seeds or pits (incorrectly named as beans because of their resemblance to the true beans that grow in long pods on certain leguminous plants) grow inside the round red or purple cherry fruit of tropical evergreen shrubs. So I guess if I were to press the point to the ridiculous, which is how I seem to be hard-wired to do anyway, each morning when I consume a cup of processed (to free the seeds from the cherry), roasted (to enhance the flavors locked inside) finely ground and brewed coffee, I am getting my first serving of fruit for the day! I can live with that. And another thing I can live with in the morning, or for lunch or dinner, is this fruit salad. I don’t know why, but fruit that has been cut up tastes better to me. And then when you add a simple dressing which further enhances the flavor of the fruit, even I become a devoted fan. There’s hope for the old gal yet! Speaking of hope, I hope you enjoy the new Easter recipes I will be posting the rest of this week and the ones that are already on my blog under Easter Dinner Recipes. I’m especially fond of the Deviled Eggs recipe. And really, after your children have hunt for and found the colored hard boiled eggs lovingly placed in your yard awaiting their discovery, what else are you going to do with them? Your kids are never going to want them all for themselves. After all, they’re children. And what child is going to choose a rabbit egg (that’s just wrong to begin with) over a chocolate egg or a marshmallow peep? (Now peeps are really sick and wrong, yet I know intelligent men like my dear friends Nich and Steve who actually horde them!) With your children’s permission of course, don’t delay turning those dyed eggs into Deviled Eggs. I say don’t delay, because you truly don’t want them to go bad hidden in the back of a child’s closet. (Trust me on this one. I have first-hand knowledge of organic items being hidden in a closet.)

  • 2 T. fresh lime juice (don’t even think about using that stuff that comes in a cute little plastic lime look-alike container)
  • 2 T. honey
  • ¼ c. vanilla yogurt
  • ¼ tsp. poppy seeds
  • 1 tart apple, cored and cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 oranges, peeled and sections cut in two
  • 2 c. red or green seedless grapes
  • 2 kiwi peeled, cut in half and each half cut into half-moon shaped pieces
  • 2 bananas, sliced
  • 2-3 sprigs of fresh mint, opt.

Combine lime juice, honey, vanilla yogurt, and poppy seeds in the bottom of a pretty bowl. (Glass is nice if you have one.) Add the fruit and stir gently. Garnish with sprigs of mint. Serve immediately. Note: the dressing can be made ahead or time, but don’t add the fruit until you are ready to serve. You can use any combination of fruit you like. With the amount of dressing this recipe makes, about 7-8 cups of fruit is just about right. You don’t want a soggy salad. Also, I use no more than 5 different kinds of fruit when I make fruit salad.  I think if the salad contains more than five varieties your mouth can’t fully appreciate the unique qualities of each.

 

 

MAPLE SYRUP GLAZED SPIRAL HAM

So, I never intended this blog to be holiday specific, but things sometimes take on a life of their own. And my blog seems to be doing just that. It thinks that since Easter is just about here, I ought to offer up some of my favorite Easter recipes. Well, who am I to argue with my blog when it is so obviously correct! So for the next few days, I am going to post a few of our family’s favorite Easter recipes. And the obvious first choice for me is the star of most of our Easter dinners – baked ham. Now I believe I have alluded to the fact that I love almost all things pork! (I do draw the line at pickled pig’s feet and pork rinds, but most other piggy products are high on my beloved foods list.) And for the most bang for the buck and ease of preparation, spiral ham is a really good choice. I just slap it in the oven, prepare a simple glaze, slap that on just before I’m ready to serve, and call it good. Actually, what I really should be calling “good” is this recipe! I found this Dave Lieberman (I really like his recipes, by the way) masterpiece on-line when I wanted a new way to prepare baked ham to serve in addition to turkey last Christmas. I immediately knew that this was now going to be my favorite way to prepare ham. I absolutely loved the flavor of the glaze as did all the rest of my family. And the ham sandwiches the next day were just over the top wonderful. You know, ham is really versatile. You can serve it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Which makes me wonder why I don’t buy it more often? So I decided to do a little research on ham. It turns out that most lean ham is about 5% fat, 2% of which is saturated. Not too bad. But the killer, so to speak, is the sodium content. For an average 3-oz. portion, there is roughly 1170 mg of sodium. Yikes, that’s more than I should eat for the whole day! And only 3 ounces? I could no more stick to a 3-oz. portion than I could recite the Gettysburg address from heart!  So, although I love ham and will continue to serve it for holidays, I’m going to have to personally leave it at that. Oh well, life is a game of choice. And because I want to continue eating an occasional piece of bacon, I am going to choose not to research the fat and salt content in bacon. I can only take so much bad news on any given day! So if you will excuse me, I’m going to go start practicing my reciting skills. Fourscore and seven years ago……

  • 1 (9 lb.) partial bone-in spiral cut ham (I use Hemplers spiral hams, butt end (more meat)
  • 3/4 c. water
  • 1/2 c. real maple syrup
  • 1/2 c. dark brown sugar
  • 2 T. whole-grain Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Place ham in a roasting pan and pour water into the pan bottom. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a pre-heated 300 degree oven for about 90 minutes or until heated through. Meanwhile whisk together the maple syrup, brown sugar, mustard, and spices in a saucepan until smooth and heat until simmering. Simmer for 2 minutes and remove from heat. Set aside. When ham is heated through, remove the aluminum foil, and pour or brush the glaze over the top to cover completely. Raise oven temperature to 400 degrees. Return the ham to the oven and bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until glaze is caramelized and bubbly. Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing pieces off bone.

 

ROASTED MUSHROOM CREAM SOUP

I found this recipe in Bon Appetite years ago and it has been my favorite creamy mushroom soup ever since. (Of course I made a couple of tweaks, but that’s what I do!) The first time I made this delicious soup was for Mr. C. and the other members of the “Tangoheart” orchestra. It was for one of the many rehearsals we held at our Bellevue home. (You’ve heard the term “starving musicians”. Well this group could have been the poster children for starving musicians everywhere!) I usually served soup for these rehearsals because it could remain happily simmering on the stove until the group was ready to take a food break. Soup is also quick and easy to eat, so the group never had to take too much time away from rehearsing. Along with a nice chewy loaf of bread, a glass of wine, and a brownie perhaps (no, not the kind that is now legal in Washington state), soup was always the perfect way to provide a simple meal for our musician friends. This soup is also lovely when served as the first course at a dinner party. It is ever so rich, and a cup or so is just perfect. So next time you plan a dinner party, consider serving a lovely rich soup like this, just after the appetizers and before the main course. Your guests will love everything about this soup. It is creamy, a little chunky, and tastes like heaven in a bowl. It’s also meatless. That’s especially nice when planning a dinner party for associates or new friends. Even if one of your guests happens to be a vegetarian, and unable to partake of the meat portion of the entree, they can always have more of this wonderful soup. Your guests may not be musicians when they arrive at your home for dinner, but serve them this soup and they will be singing your praise by the time they leave!

  • 1 lb. Portobello mushroom, stemmed, dark gills removed, caps cut into ¾-inch pieces
  • ½ lb. shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps cut into ¾-inch pieces
  • 3 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ T. butter
  • ½ medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 T. Madeira
  • 3 T. flour
  • 6 c. vegetable broth
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 1 ½ tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • chopped fresh parsley, opt.

Place cut mushrooms on a large short sided baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 15-30 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender but still moist. Meanwhile, melt butter in a heavy large pot. Add onion and garlic and gently sauté until the onion is very soft. (Do not cook too quickly. The onion and garlic should not be allowed to brown.) Add Madeira and simmer until almost all of the liquid has evaporated. Add flour; stir for 2 minutes. Add 4 cups of the broth, cream, and thyme. Remove from heat. When the mushrooms have finished baking, puree half of them with the remaining 2 cups of vegetable broth. Chop the remaining mushrooms into small pieces and add them, along with the mushroom puree to the pot. Return pot to heat and simmer over medium heat until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning. Ladle into serving bowls/cups and garnish with a light sprinkle of chopped parsley.

 

 

BREAD PUDDING WITH SPICED RUM SAUCE

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There are few desserts as delicious as bread pudding. But it has to be good bread pudding. For decades I shied away from this incredible dessert because of my grandmother. Please allow me to explain. I think I’ve already told you that both my mother and maternal grandmother were not good cooks. My grandmother however, was excellent at homemade bread and pies. So you would think, since bread pudding is made from bread, she should have been able to make at least a passable bread pudding. Absolutely not the case. And since I never watched her put one together, I actually don’t know how hers was prepared. (Even from the ripe old age of 4 or so, I knew instinctively when to say no thank you to food that I had once tasted and knew was of poor quality. Why then would I even want to know how it was prepared? I was no dummy, even as a kid!) But, to the best of my recollection, grandma’s bread pudding starred plain old bread, soaked in a combination of milk, eggs, and a pinch of cinnamon and liberally laced with raisins. Now I like raisins, but not when they are burnt. And that was my grandmother’s forte. She could burn a raisin better than anyone I have ever known. And even if there had been some kind of warm sauce to serve with the pudding, it sure as heck didn’t contain liquor. (Not that I would have even known about cooking with liquor when I was a child. My parents weren’t teetotalers, but by any stretch of the imagination, they weren’t drinkers either. So spring forward several decades to when I left my bad memories behind and became a true devotee of bread saturated with milk, cream, and eggs and studded with little golden jewels of flavor. New Orleans. Marti Gras. Good friends (Dick, Eloise, son John and daughter-in-law Carol), fun parades, great music, and amazing food. So you know the old saying, when in Rome, well when in New Orleans you eat anything placed in front of you because it is bound to be delicious. So in order not to appear a prig (yes, I spelled it right) I went along with the crowd and ordered bread pudding for dessert one evening. Any resemblance to what I had experienced as a child was merely coincidental!  I had discovered heaven in a bowl. As soon as we got home after our 10 day adventure in Louisiana, I went to work finding the perfect recipe for bread pudding. I finally ended up with the recipe below, an amalgam of several recipes I found in cookbooks. I hope you enjoy this lovely dessert as much as we do. This bread pudding has actually made believers of others like me who, until they tried really good bread pudding, just couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. But I get it now. This recipe could make a bread pudding believer out of you too. Give it a try.

Bread Pudding Ingredients:

  • ¼ c. spiced rum
  • 1 c. golden raisins
  • 8 lg. eggs, room temperature
  • 3 ½ c. whole milk
  • 1 ½ c. heavy cream
  • 1 ½ tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 (1-lb.) loaf Challah or other dense egg bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

Spiced Rum Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1 c. packed brown sugar
  • ½ c. butter
  • ½ c. heavy cream
  • 2 T. spiced rum
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon

Whipped Cream Topping Ingredients:

  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 2 T. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. spiced rum

Bread Pudding: Combine spiced rum and golden raisins in a small heavy pan. Bring to a boil and simmer until all liquid evaporates. Remove from heat and cool. Meanwhile combine eggs, milk, cream, vanilla, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Gently stir in bread cubes and cooled raisins. Pour mixture into a buttered 9×13-inch baking dish. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Bake uncovered in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 75 minutes or until golden brown and puffed. (Watch carefully the last 30 minutes or so. If the pudding starts to get too brown before it is set, gently tent with aluminum foil.) Serve warm with Spiced Rum Sauce and a dollop of Whipped Cream Topping.

Spiced Rum Sauce: Combine brown sugar and butter in a medium sized heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes or until butter completely melted and mixture is smooth. Add heavy cream, spiced rum, and cinnamon. Bring to a simmer and cook for approximately 5 minutes or until mixture thickens and is reduced to about 1 ½ cups. Serve warm over pudding. Can be made ahead and refrigerated. Bring to a simmer again before serving.

Whipped Cream Topping:  Whip heavy cream to stiff peaks; add powdered sugar and spiced rum. Serve dolloped over top of Spiced Rum Sauce.

 

PROSCIUTTO WRAPPED PORK TENDERLOIN

It isn’t very often that I get to prepare a braised meat dish where the first step isn’t to dredge the meat in seasoned flour and fry said meat until brown all over in hot vegetable or olive oil. Or pat the meat all over until it is very dry, season it with salt and pepper and fry it in a small amount of oil or butter over fairly high heat. So when I find a recipe for braised meat without this step, I am naturally suspicious! After all, how in the name of all things caramelized or browned is my meat going to have any taste? Then of course, what about the sauce? How is my sauce going to have any depth of flavor without all those wonderful little browned bits in the bottom of the pan? (And really, isn’t a braised meat recipe all about the sauce?) Well fret not. This recipe is living (well not really living anymore) proof that browning and caramelizing meat is not the only way to assure extraordinary flavor in braised dishes. I can’t truly begin to describe how tender and flavorful pork is when it has been prepared this way. And the sauce, oh, it is truly out of this world. So next time you want an easy recipe for pork tenderloin that does not require marinating the meat for hours or browning it before adding the other ingredients, give this dish a try. It is quick and easy enough to prepare even on a weeknight. I know that for a fact. (I wasn’t always a retired lady of leisure you know. I too know what it is like to come home from a long day of work to a cold empty kitchen and a hungry family.) I wish I had some words of wisdom to offer you at this point which would miraculously make your life easier when it came to fixing supper after a long day. But unfortunately I paid good money to have my memories of the first hour at home after work blocked, so you will just have to figure it out for yourself. However, I have retained a couple of little hints that I can share with you. Make your dinners fairly simple, packed full of good nutrition and made with love. Love is actually the best ingredient you can ever add to any dish.

  • 1 T. Dijon mustard
  • ¾ tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pork tenderloin
  • 6-8 slices prosciutto
  • 1 T. vegetable oil
  • ¾ c. dry Riesling
  • ½ c. half & half
  • 2 T. chopped fresh Italian parsley

Combine mustard, thyme, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Remove all silver skin, connective tissue, and fat from tenderloins. Dry completely with paper towels. Lay 3-4 pieces of prosciutto next to each other (long sides together) on a flat surface. Slather about a fourth of the mustard mixture on one side of a pork tenderloin. Place it mustard side down on the prosciutto. Slather another fourth of the mustard on the top and wrap the prosciutto around the pork. Repeat the process with the second tenderloin. Pour the vegetable oil in an oven proof baking pan (about the right size for the two tenderloins) and lay the tenderloins, seam side down in the pan. Pour the wine over the meat and bake uncovered in a pre-heated 350 degree oven until meat reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees (35-45 minutes). Remove meat from pan and cover with aluminum foil for at least 15 minutes before slicing. Meanwhile add half & half to remaining meat juices and simmer while meat is resting. The sauce should thicken a bit as it is simmering, so watch carefully. After the meat has rested, slice to desired thickness and place on serving platter. Spoon sauce on meat and sprinkle with parsley. Hint: An electric knife works best when slicing the tenderloins.

Side Dish Suggestions:  baked sweet potatoes and a green veggie or green salad

Wine Pairing: chilled Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc

 

 

ROASTED GARNET OR RUBY SWEET POTATO CHUNKS

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Until a few years ago, I only thought about serving sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving and Christmas. And then, only mashed up with butter, brown sugar, and topped with marshmallows. Now don’t get me wrong, I still serve a variation of the above for the holidays, but we now eat sweet potatoes at least once a week. And why? Because we love the flavor and they are good for us.

FYI: Even though garnet and ruby sweet potatoes are often labeled as yams, they are not indeed yams. They are sweet potatoes, and as such are rich in vitamin C, thiamine, niacin and potassium. And although a sweet potato is known to be moderately high in protein, about 5 grams of protein in an 8 ounce serving, as with most plant sourced protein, the proteins in sweet potatoes do not provide all the essential amino acids your body needs. So bear that in mind when you are considering your body’s daily nutritional requirements.

A little bit of history about sweet potatoes.  Sweet potatoes come in two varieties, firm and soft. The soft varieties such as Garnet, Ruby, and Jewel are easy to find and are perfect when you want a soft and creamy texture. Firmer varieties such as Kotobuki and Yellow Jersey (grown in the Mid-Atlantic States) are favored for Asian and East Indian cuisine. Apparently the term “yam” came into the common vernacular when sweet potatoes were first grown commercially.  To differentiate between the soft varieties and the firm varieties, soft sweet potatoes were labeled as “yams”, while the firmer varieties retained the sweet potato name.  Today, about 95% of real yams are grown in Asia and Africa. Unless you specifically search for yams, which are usually only found at an international market, you are probably buying sweet potatoes!

(To my mind, the delectable Ipomoea batatas tuber can call itself anything it wants.  As long it continues to appear at farmer’s markets, produce stands, and in the produce section of my local grocery store, I will remain a happy camper. And over the next few weeks and months I will share more wonderful recipes for sweet potatoes with you. But for now, give this delightful recipe a try. It is incredibly easy to prepare and even easier to eat.)

  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large ruby or garnet sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, honey, and olive oil. Add the sweet potato pieces and stir until every surface is lightly coated. Pour onto a parchment paper lined rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with kosher salt and a very light sprinkling of pepper. Bake in the middle of a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 60 minutes or until potatoes are tender and the bottom of each piece is a nice golden brown. Serve hot out of the oven.