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Soup, sofa skating and grilled cheese

26 Jan


This weekend was the perfect weekend to wind down, relax and refuel. January has been a busy month with little time for anything but early mornings, meetings and tapping on keyboards. So I spent the weekend spending time with friends, resting and cooking some classic comfort foods.

After a visit to the Greensboro Curb Market for the annual chili cook-off (congrats to Massey Creek Farm and Savory Spice Shop for their big win), I picked up the remainder of my groceries and hunkered down at home with a couple recipes, a cooking partner and a couple of pups. While watching Greensboro’s live broadcast of the US Figure Skating Championships (many twizzles, spins and Johnny Weir), we prepared an easy turkey sausage, kale and potato soup and roasted poblanos for this delicious spin on a cheddar grilled cheese. A seat on the sofa with soup and sandwich was the perfect setting for a great Saturday night.

This recipe for Roasted Poblano Grilled Cheese Sandwiches is the classic grilled cheese dialed up a notch. A smokey, slightly smokey and spicy poblano pepper with gooey cheese and a salty bite. If you have a panini machine, this is the perfect time to crank it up. If not, a cast iron skillet will work just fine.

I paired the sandwich with a turkey sausage, potato and kale soup. I’ll share the recipe this week. Stay warm out there!

Roasted Poblano Grilled Cheese Sandwich, Washington Post 

  • 1 medium roasted poblano pepper, minced 
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated, at room temperature (I used smoked cheddar from The Fresh Market) 
  • 2 ounces regular, at room temperature 
  • 3 tablespoons regular or low-fat mayonnaise 
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 slices country bread or sourdough 
  • Salted or unsalted butter, for the bread

Preheat a panini press.

Combine the minced poblano, cheddar cheese, cream cheese, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl until well incorporated.

Lay out the bread slices in 4 pairs. Spread 3 tablespoons of the cheese mixture on four of the slices. Place the remaining four slices on top of the cheese mixture to create 4 sandwiches. Spread the butter on the outside of the sandwiches. Reserve the remaining cheese (see headnote).

Cook 2 sandwiches at a time in the panini press until lightly browned. The cheese should be gooey inside. This will take about 3 or 4 minutes.

Cut each sandwich in half. Serve immediately.

Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

14 Jan



Soups on this January. With my freezer stocked with chicken stock, I’ve been cooking up a variety of hot soups for school nights and lazy lunches. With my heart set on a healthier and easier Greek avgolemono soup, I arrived at this recipe for Lemon Chicken Soup with Orzo. It was certainly easier than managing all those eggs and was simple to make on a Monday night. I found it was even better the next night when I remembered to add the dill!

If you are feeling a hint of a cold, this is the trick! Stay warm, friends. And hold tight to that chicken stock.


Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup, Bon Appetit 


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium leek, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced crosswise 1/2-inch thick
  • 1 celery stalk, sliced crosswise 1/2-inch thick
  • 12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup orzo
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • Lemon halves (for serving)

Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add leek and celery and cook, stirring often, until vegetables are soft, 5-8 minutes. Add chicken and broth; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer until chicken is cooked through, 15-20 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate. Let cool, then shred chicken into bite-size pieces.


Meanwhile, return broth to a boil. Add orzo and cook until al dente, 8-10 minutes.


Remove pot from heat. Stir in chicken and dill. Serve with lemon halves for squeezing over.

Iron Chef Suppers

12 Jan


As the working world returns to the grind of the new year, I find that weeknight suppers seem more and more challenging. If I were one of those people who planned my meals in advance, I might not be referring to the world of Iron Chef Suppers. But what fun is syncing your meals with the five-day forecast? The world needs more anticipation, more mystery, adventure, creativity and challenge! Yes, I’m still talking about after-work Tuesday suppers.

These challenges are easy and require no advance preparation! Just come home after a long days work, have no fear and get creative. You find a piece of salmon in the freezer, an extra slice of pancetta and a half a pomegranate in the fridge – plus a half open bag of pasta in the pantry. These things are a natural fit, right?

Render the fat of the pancetta (saving the crispy bits for garnish with pomegranate seeds), sear the salmon in the fat. Drop into the oven.  Meanwhile cooking the pasta to al dente. Tossing with good olive oil, any fresh herbs and remnants of salty cheese to toss in. Finish by topping with salmon and sprinkle of pomegranate seeds and pancetta bits. Not bad, right?

What’s in your fridge tonight? I challenge you.

Winter Grilled Steaks with Herb Compound Butter

6 Jan





I spent New Years Eve in the North Carolina mountains with my good friends, my furry dog and lots of good food and cocktails. For the NYE holiday (after hiking Echota earlier that morning in 24 degree weather), we promised ourselves we would have a very late dinner in order to stay up until the ball dropped in New York. This late activity required a trip into town for beers at Appalachian Brewery, a couple homemade appetizers (I’ll share one this week) and special cocktails at the house. Check out the most delicious Old Fashion with my mom’s Florida sour calamondon oranges.

It was a bitter 17 degrees in Foscoe while we were celebrating – so a strong cocktail, a winter cap and determination to grill was essential. Luckily for my friends, I love to grill and was excited for the challenge.  So while most of my girlfriends were in black dresses and heals – I was in lined leggings, boots, a jacket and pink toboggan! Grilling tongs really add sparkle to an outfit.

For dinner, I made grilled filet mignon steaks with an herb compound butter over beet risotto with roasted brussel sprouts. Not bad, right? After all, it’s 2015!

A compound butter is an easy way to dress up any steak. A couple hours before grilling, pulse a stick of butter with a tablespoon of your favorite herbs – I used rosemary, thyme, parsley and sage. You could mix any variation – try a cilantro! Once the butter is combined, shape into a log and wrap with plastic.  Refrigerate for a couple hours, slice it and top the steaks right before they are to temperature. The heat of the grill will melt the herb butter on the steaks for the perfect topping!

New Years Re-Entry; Mexican Chicken Soup with Okra

4 Jan


The holidays are officially over, resolutions are in full-gear and re-entry begins tomorrow.  I had another fantastic holiday full of family, friends and delicious foods. I arrived back in Greensboro on Thursday in time for several movies, a good clean of my house, many hours at the gym and lots of time for resting.

Then Sunday came. In preparation for re-entry to work tomorrow, I spent a good hour at the gym with friends, stocked up at the grocery store and locked myself in the house for a nice afternoon making homemade chicken stock. They say that an “arctic blast” will arrive on Thursday, so I wanted to fully prepare for the worst with homemade soup provisions!

Nothing could be more relaxing than an afternoon stewing homemade stock (I used Ina Garten’s chicken stock recipe) will listening to Carly Simon, reading the newspaper and wearing in my new fuzzy slippers. Winston, my pup, enjoyed the aromas and potential for any chicken bones slipping between any utensils.

After making the stock, I made an easy Mexican Chicken Soup with Okra. It was spicy,delicious and hearty with the addition of okra. This is a variation on Ina’s Mexican Soup but I skipped the tortillas, sour cream and cheese (oh the resolutions) and added the okra for a nice substance.

I’ll post my recipes from the New Year’s Holiday this week!

Mexican Chicken Soup with Okra

  • 4 split (2 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
  • Good olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped onions (2 onions)
  • 1 cup chopped celery (2 stalks)
  • 2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots)
  • 4 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 1/2 quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in puree, crushed
  • 2 to 4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
  • 1 bag, frozen cut okra 
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts skin side up on a sheet pan. Rub with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until done. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones, and shred the meat. Cover and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions, celery, and carrots and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions start to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes with their puree, jalapenos, cumin, coriander, 1 tablespoon salt (depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock), 1 teaspoon pepper, and the cilantro, if using. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and frozen okra. Season to taste. Serve the soup hot!


Daniel Boone Country Ham Frittata

31 Dec


I’m celebrating the New Years holiday in the North Carolina mountains with friends, food and snow! Yesterday, as big fluffy flakes of snow fell in Banner Elk, the snow received a roaring applause from children and kid-like-adults (that’s me).

Before we headed into town….around noon while we still lounged in pajamas, I put together a quick country ham frittata using the local Daniel a Boone Country Ham! I’m a huge fan of country ham in just about anything… It’s salty bite is something totally unique to North Carolina and it was perfecting fitting for our setting.

Cautionary note: don’t over season your eggs or mushrooms! Country ham is super salty!

Here how I made it. I like my country ham quickly browned in a cast iron skillet with a good splash of coffee. You can also cook it in a little Coke! Meanwhile, I sautéed a pint of button mushrooms in a bit of butter and salt and pepper. At this point, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Once the country ham is hot and browned, chop it up. Whisk 6 eggs. Add a tablespoon of butter to the cast iron skillet on medium heat. Add the eggs. As the eggs begin to cook around the sides of the skillet, add the country ham, mushrooms, some cheese and a nice handful of torn chives. All of these ingredients are optional….use what you’ve got in the fridge. I literally used leftover cheese from our cheese plate the night before!

After the items have been added, place the skillet in the oven and cook until puffy and brown. Serve hot. Enjoy by the fire, with mountain views, good friends and fuzzy slippers (optional too).

This post is sponsored by the North Carolina Pork Council. 



Chutney Marinated Pork Tenderloin with Smokey Cheese Grits

16 Dec


I must admit, I’ve become a pro at putting together homemade Friday night suppers at my house. It’s become a tradition. I put together an idea of a menu, inform my friend (and master sous chef) Margo of the meal and a recommended side, assign wine to my friend Andrew and invite a special wild card guest. With little effort, we all end up stumbling into my kitchen after a long week for much wine, whine, gossip and a delicious homemade meal.

This Friday, after a minor grant writing disaster, I arrived home at 6:15pm with a plan in my head for dinner…. and Margaret and Eric scheduled to arrive at 6:30! Luckily, my house was mostly clean and my friends are low in judgement! Here was my drill for a speedy Friday night dinner by the fire.

On Thursday night, I marinated two pork tenderloin pieces in Plum Hot Chutney from Beth’s Farm Kitchen over night. You can use any hot chutney but this was a delicious gift from my friend Nancy.

On Friday night when arriving home (hunched over with a slight feeling of karpaltunnel from typing all week), preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place marinated pork tenderloin on a roasting pan and roast for about 25 minutes – or until an internal temp registers 140 degrees. Allow to rest.

Meanwhile, cook quick grits according to instructions until creamy. Add goat cheese, to taste, and a good sprinkle of smoked hot paprika. Season with salt and pepper. You might want to add more cheese…this is up to your stress level.

Slice pork and serve over grits with your favorite side or salad. Margaret brought brined and roasted cremini mushrooms with pine nuts and a spinach salad. Enjoy by a fire (made by the friend who isn’t cooking) and a good wine. We enjoyed Rios de Chile wine. Cheers to Friday night suppers with friends. 



Frittatas Two Ways

12 Dec



The star of Winston’s Winter Walk brunch was two egg frittatas with a variety of interesting ingredients. My trick was to purchase as many precooked items as I could and choose easy ones I could prep right before brunch. I recommend starting at the olive bar – olives, roasted red peppers or Piquillo peppers, roasted garlic (The Fresh Market has so much to choose from!).  Then add things that are easy to prep – sauteed mushrooms and quickly steamed asparagus. Pick up interesting cheeses – I used feta and goat cheese but you can add your favorites! With almost no time, you’ll have the perfect combination in a large omelette-like feast!

Here’s how we (I must include my most valuable sous chef, Margaret) did it. Start with a large cast iron skillet. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  On the stovetop, heat about 1 to 2 tablespoons of butter (depending on how seasoned your pan is) on medium until melted.  Whisk 12 eggs with a couple tablespoons of milk. Season eggs with salt and pepper. Add egg mixture to the pan. Allow the bottom the the eggs to begin to firm while you layer your “toppings.” When you can see the edges of the frittata begin to set – move the skillet into your oven. When the eggs are puffed up and set, remove and serve hot! Garnish with fresh herbs!

Greek Frittata topping ideas – black olives, sliced Piquillo peppers, roasted garlic cloves, feta cheese and fresh dill for garnish.

Homestyle Frittata topping ideas – sauteed mushrooms, steamed asparagus, precooked potatoes, goat cheese and parsley or basil for garnish.

All you gotta do is get creative and be sneaky with short cuts. 100% of these frittatas were devoured by Winston’s guests. We call that a ‘home run’.

Tapenade Crusted Standing Rib Roast

2 Dec



It’s seems perfectly obvious that my untraditional Thanksgiving celebration would have surf and turf. A freezing cold November night is the perfect time to share seafood by the firepit. Sharing stories and connections. After which, running inside to warm up with rare beef, turkey and fixings. Oh, and transitioning to red wine.

My family opted for a standing rib roast covered in tapenade from Bon Appetit this year. In the past, we’ve braised lamb shanks, fried whole cornish game hens and even baked entire red snapper in salt. It’s a tradition to play with tradition in the Thompson family. The rib roast would be perfect for a very tradition holiday dinner party, too. Check out the recipe here – we used the recipe more for inspiration and less for specifics.

Belgian Beef Stew

19 Nov


Just when you think you have no time to blog, you find yourself in a jury duty waiting room with an ipad! While practicing this civic duty, I bring you a delicious recipe for Belgian Beef Stew with Carrots and Mushrooms.

This recipe is adapted from a Carbonnade Flemish Beef and Beer Stew from Saveur Magazine. It’s similar in nature to a French Beef Stew – just replace the red wine with a Belgian Ale! I found this recipe very sweet with the addition of dark brown sugar but it will also depend on what beer you select.

I added carrots and mushrooms to stew for a little more substance. You could serve this stew with egg noodles, potatoes or bread but veggies will do the trick too.

Im adding this recipe to my winter stand by recipes. Check it out!

Belgian Beef Stew, adapted from Saveur Magazine

2 lb. beef chuck, cut into 2″ x ½″-thick slices
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup flour
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
4 slices bacon, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced lengthwise
4 large carrots, cut into one inch pieces
2 cups Belgian-style ale, like Ommegang Abbey Ale
1 cup beef stock
2 tbsp. dark brown sugar
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
3 sprigs thyme
3 sprigs parsley
2 sprigs tarragon
1 bay leaf
2 pints, mushrooms, halved

Season beef with salt and pepper in a bowl; add flour and toss to coat. Heat 2 tbsp. butter in a 6-qt. Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add beef; cook, turning, until browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate; set aside. Add bacon; cook until its fat renders, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, carrots and onions; cook until caramelized, about 30 minutes. Add half the beer; cook, scraping bottom of pot, until slightly reduced, about 4 minutes. Return beef to pot with remaining beer, stock, sugar, vinegar, thyme, parsley, tarragon, bay leaf, and salt and pepper; boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered, until beef is tender, about 1 ½ hours.

Befor serving, roast mushrooms (with a touch of olive oil, salt and papper) on a cookie sheet at 425 degrees for about 20 to 30 minutes. Mushrooms should be tender and have some nice color. Stir mushrooms into the stew before serving.


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