Just Because It’s Freezing Dinner Party

22 Feb


This weekend, just because it was freezing out (and because there is always an excuse for a dinner party), I had some friends over for dinner. The restrictions of my 1923 bungalow required that the party included a big fire in the fireplace, the oven on 425 and a space heater in the dining room. And, lots of good wine (thank you Mark!) helped keep body temperatures high too.

With the help of my friend Masha, we pulled together a fabulous surf & turf menu complete with crispy smoked paprika hasselback potatos and a citrusy heart of palm salad. Masha also made the most indulgent brownies for a late night treat by the fireplace.

My dining room table was cluttered with wine glasses and plates with the noise of laughter and clinking glasses. It was a reminder that I needed to come up with more party excuses. I’ll share the recipes this week.

Just Because It’s Freezing Dinner Party Menu

  • Gaucho Style Flank Steak with Chimichuri Sauce 
  • Florida Stone Crabs
  • Smoke Paprika and Garlic Hasselback Potatoes
  • Hearts of Palm Salad



Fig and Red Wine Reduction on Crostini

18 Feb


Yesterday on my snow day, I knew I had enough staples for a good snack by the fireplace. An old baguette, some goat cheese, dried figs and wine (duh). Nothing beats a quick crostini, a toasty fire and a dog at your feet. Snow is coming again this week – stock up!

Fig and Red Wine Reduction on Crostini


  • 1 cup dried mission figs, chopped
  • 1 cup, red wine
  • 1 tablespoon, brown sugar
  • 1 sprig, fresh rosemary
  • fig and honey Goat Lady Dairy cheese
  • bread, olive oil, salt and pepper

In a small sauce pan, combine chopped figs, wine, brown sugar and rosemary. Bring to a boil and simmer until reduced. Make sure you keep an eye on this – don’t burn any sugar! Meanwhile, toast slices of french brea with a drizzle of oil, salt and pepper. Once the bread is brown, smear with goat cheese and top with fig reduction!



Birthday Blueberry-Sour Cream Muffins

16 Feb




This weekend we celebrated my friend Masha’s birthday in full gym style with a Sunday morning workout and post-party. It was the first time I’ve done an hour at the gym with a purple party hat on but we all made the most of the challenge. Post workout, we had blood orange mimosas and Blueberry-Sour Cream Muffins in tiny “muffin-top” cups. Fitting for the gym, right??

I made these Blueberry-Sour Cream Muffins for Masha because of her love of sour cream. They were a great birthday treat and the “muffin tops” were totally worth the laugh. I highly recommend surprising people with an unexpected picnic party. They make life that much more.

Blueberry-Sour Cream Muffins, Food & Wine Magazine


  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon


  • 1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 rounded cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 rounded cup frozen blueberries

Preheat the oven to 375°. In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, butter and cinnamon. Rub with your fingers to form coarse crumbs. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Butter a 12-cup muffin pan. In a medium bowl, whisk the 1 1/2 cups of flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat the egg at medium speed until frothy. Add the sugar and melted butter and beat until pale yellow, 1 minute. Beat in the sour cream, vanilla and lemon zest until blended. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until almost blended. In a bowl, toss the blueberries with the remaining 1 tablespoon of flour. Using a rubber spatula, fold the blueberries into the batter.

Fill the muffin cups three-fourths full of batter and sprinkle with the topping. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the pan and let cool on a rack.

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.

Reinventing Ensalada de Kale

2 Feb




A couple days before I ventured back into my office for the start of 2015, my friend Andrew and I treated ourselves to dinner in Durham at Mateo. I had been dying to go and the extra long New Years weekend allowed enough time to make a trip. If you haven’t been to Mateo, make a date of it. From the small cozy atmosphere to the classic tapas menu – it’s practically perfect for any occasion. I also just love tapas and I’ve been lucky enough to visit Curate in Asheville and Mateo in Durham in the last six months.

At Mateo, we sampled almost everything on their menu from their signature deviled eggs with chorizo to a perfectly decadent farm egg with crispy manchego and romesco. My heart was literally heavy on the way home. An unexpected surprise was a simple salad of marinated kale, crispy artichokes, migas, chorizo, manchego, grapes, lemon vinaigretta. I’ll admit, we just ordered the salad to make ourselves feel better. Nothing offsets two egg and pork dishes like a kale salad. But, the salad stole the show. Crispy artichokes, spicy chorizo with a tart salad dressing and sweet bite of grape. It was a surprise to my taste buds and I put the recipe on my list to recreate.

I made a less fancy version on Friday night to pair with Bon Appetit’s new recipe for Spicy Lamb Handpockets. I whisked a lemon vinaigrette to coat over kale, grapes, jarred artichokes, slices of manchego cheese and slivers of good quality cured chorizo. It was almost the same as Mateo with the comfort of my home fireplace. Make this at home soon and book a reservation to Mateo as soon as possible.


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.

Chocolate Truffle Tart

11 Jan



At 11:55pm on December 31, 2014, we sliced into this Chocolate Truffle Tart and poured flutes of champagne. I’m not sure anything else is more fitting for the last bite of 2014. Although, I’m sure I could come up with a very long list of foods.

This chocolate tart is surprisingly simple. A quick dough creates a rich, oreo-like crust plus a simple super sweet no-bake filling. This dessert takes some time because of various steps but is a good starter recipe if you are looking to get into baking. Enjoy!


Chocolate Truffle Tart, Cooks Illustrated

For the tart shell:
1 large egg yolk
1 tbsp. heavy cream
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup (5 oz.) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
¼ cup (¾ oz.) Dutch-process cocoa powder
2/3 cup (2 2/3 oz.) confectioners’ sugar
¼ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes

For the filling:
12 oz. good quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. liqueur, such as Kahlua, brandy, or dark rum (optional)

  • To make the tart shell, whisk together the egg yolk, cream and vanilla in a small bowl; set aside.  Place the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, and salt in a food processor.  Process briefly to combine.  Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture; process to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about fifteen 1-second pulses.  With the machine running, add the egg mixture and process until the dough just comes together, about 12 seconds.  Turn the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and press into a 6-inch dish.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 48 hours.
  • Remove the dough from the refrigerator.  (If refrigerated for more than an hour, let stand at room temperature until malleable.)  Unwrap and roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a 13-inch round.  Transfer the dough to a 9-inch tart pan.  Mold the dough to the sides of the tart pan and remove the excess off the top.  Set the dough-lined tart pan on a large plate and freeze for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to middle position.  Preheat the oven to 375° F.  Set the dough-lined tart pan on a baking sheet, press a 12-inch square of foil into the frozen shell and over the edge, and fill with pie weights.  Bake for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time.  Remove from the oven and carefully remove the foil and weights.  Continue to bake until just set, 5-8 minutes longer.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  • To make the tart filling, place the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl.  Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan (or in the microwave).  Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and let stand 1-2 minutes to melt.  Whisk together until smooth, then whisk in the liqueur.  Pour the filling into the tart shell and chill in the refrigerator, uncovered, until the filling is firm.  To serve, transfer the tart to a serving plate or platter.  Slice with a clean, sharp knife, wiping the blade between slices.




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