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Fireside Cocoa & Coffee Rubbed Ribeye Steaks & Spinach Gratin

28 Feb



If your’e looking for the perfect fireside — or TV side (hello, House of Cards) — cozy meal this weekend, I got you covered. It’s hearty, spicy and stick-to-your-ribs good. Stop worrying about Spring waistlines, I see no way out of this frozen tundra anytime on the horizon.

So, here it is. Spicy, coffee and cocoa rubbed ribeye steaks. A hint of smoke from smoked salt and paprika. An unusual taste of espresso and cocoa crusted on a juicy steak with the help of a sprinkle of brown sugar. So delicious. And served with the most rich spinach gratin that comes out of the oven bubbling with cheese.

Ina’s recipe for spinach gratin is EXTREMELY rich and the recipe makes enough for an army of hungry men. It’s certainly delicious and the most tricky technique for hiding spinach. If you’re making this for two, I would recommend making a forth of the recipe.

What’s hold you back? Get the store. The Fresh Market has a sale for NY Strips this weekend – those will work too!

Cocoa & Coffee Rubbed Ribeye Steaks 

  • 1 or 2, thick cut ribeye steaks
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried fennel
  • 1 tablespoon hot smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon smoked salt
  • pepper

Combine all spices and salt. Rub heavily on steaks. Cook in a cast iron skillet or on a grill to desired temperature. I like my ribeyes around medium-rare! Allow the steaks to rest and cut into nice thick slices.

Ina’s Spinach Gratin 

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 4 cups chopped yellow onions (2 large)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 pounds frozen chopped spinach, defrosted (5 (10-ounce) packages)
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent, about 15 minutes. Add the flour and nutmeg and cook, stirring, for 2 more minutes. Add the cream and milk and cook until thickened. Squeeze as much liquid as possible from the spinach and add the spinach to the sauce. Add 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese and mix well. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Transfer the spinach to a baking dish and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan and the Gruyere on top. Bake for 20 minutes until hot and bubbly. Serve hot.



Grilled Gaucho Style Flank Steak

27 Feb


This week, during all the winter snow and blizzard, I was dreaming of summer nights. Grilling outdoors, fruit filled deserts, cold cucumber salads and icy beverages. Oh, and rose wine. But we still have some time before those most desirable days.

So I put on my winter coat and grilled a big steak for friends with an herby chimichurri like gaucho sauce. It wasn’t the same. And it’s hard to grill meat outside in 17 degree temperatures (hot grill, freezing air, what to do?). But it’s very fun and worth the real grill taste. We enjoyed this simple steak with Florida stone crabs, Hasselback potatoes and a crisp salad. Oh, and a big roaring fire.

Stay warm out there!

Grilled Gaucho Style flank Steak

  • 1 bundle fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Lime Juice
  • 1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds skirt steak or flank steak, trimmed

In a food processor, pulse together the first nine ingredients. Save to serve with steak.

Season meat with salt, pepper and olive oil. Grill to desired temperature. Rest and serve with fresh sauce.



Spiced Lamb Hot Pockets

6 Feb



Last Friday night, Margaret and I experimented with Bon Appetit’s new recipe for Spice Lamb Hand Pies. We, of course, sang the Hot Pocket jingle the entire time they were baking…so I’ve changed the name for this purpose. While these meat-filled hot pockets were delicious – don’t skip the All Butter Crust – they are very heavy. Save this recipe for your man cave or the next viewing of Spartacus. And by no means should you make these when it’s warmer than 44 degrees outside.


Spiced Lamb Hot Pockets, from Bon Appetit Magazine

  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons dried currants
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¾ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ pound ground lamb
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • cup frozen peas
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • All-Butter Pie Dough (click here for recipe)
  • All-purpose flour (for surface)
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Cook onion, stirring occasionally, until browned and softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add tomato paste, cumin, ginger, cardamom, and turmeric and cook until fragrant and sticky, about 1 minute. Add lamb and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until browned and cooked through, about 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Stir in peas; cook until bright green, about 5 minutes. Drain reserved currants and add to lamb along with parsley. Let cool.


Place a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 350°. Working with one at a time, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to 12” squares. Cut each into 4 squares; transfer to 2 parchment-lined baking sheets. Spoon filling onto one side of squares, leaving ½” border. Brush edges with egg and fold dough over filling. Press to seal; crimp with a fork. Cut a few vents in tops; brush with egg.


Bake until pies are golden brown, 30–35 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Turkey Sausage, Potato and Kale Soup

29 Jan



It’s sleeting outside right now! So, perfect time to cozy up with a bowl of homemade soup. Here’s a hearty recipe for  turkey sausage, kale and potato soup. It takes less than an hour to prepare and will last throughout the week. Nothing beats heating up soup on a cold night. I suggest a squeeze of fresh lemon and splash of hot sauce on top! Stay warm!

Turkey Sausage, Potato and Kale Soup

  •  1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound turkey  sausage
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, cut into thin slices
  • 3 cups chicken broth or homemade stock
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 pound boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • Pinch dried red-pepper flakes
  • 1 pound kale, stems removed, leaves shredded
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  1. In a large pot, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the sausage and cook, turning, until browned, about 10 minutes. Remove the sausage from the pot and, when it is cool enough to handle, cut it into slices. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from the pan.
  2. Add the onion & carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic to the pan and cook, stirring, for 1 minute longer.
  3. Add the water, broth, and salt and bring the soup to a boil. Add the sausage, potatoes, and red-pepper flakes and bring back to a simmer. Cook, partially covered, for 2 minutes. Add the kale and bring the soup back to a simmer. Cook, partially covered, until the potatoes and kale are tender, about 6 minutes longer. Add the black pepper.

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. 




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