Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Milk Punch Cocktail

Milk Punch Cocktail in glass with grated nutmeg garnish, and cookies in background


What Santa really wants you to leave out for him

Milk and cookies—that’s what kids will be setting out for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. But we think ol’ Saint Nick might prefer something with a bit more, um, substance.

Enter the Milk Punch Cocktail: All the goodness of milk. All the fun of booze.

You can serve this drink chilled, or warm up the milk and serve it hot on a snowy evening. Best of all, the Milk Punch Cocktail is refreshing, and not too heavy—just what Santa needs. After all, you want him to be able to get back up the chimney.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Cream of Mushroom Soup

Cream of Mushroom Soup in bowl

A perfect starter for festive winter meals

December means parties, entertaining, and festive events all around. So we need to whip up some guest-pleasing delights—especially if we’re hosting big dinners.

Main courses always seem to sort themselves out, but what about starters? We want something hearty (to take the edge off those winter appetites). Something out of the ordinary, too—but not difficult to make.

So how about cooking up some homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup? It’s rich and delicious, but not time-consuming.

Once you try it, you’ll never go back to the canned stuff. Ever.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Scofflaw Cocktail

Scofflaw Cocktail in cocktail glass with orange slice garnish

The drink that thumbed its nose at Prohibition

Everybody knows what a scofflaw is, right? But you may not know that the term was coined during the Prohibition era in the US.

Prohibition (which was in effect from 1920 to 1933) banned the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages. It failed spectacularly, however. Many people ignored the law and just kept on drinking—both in the privacy of their homes and in unlicensed saloons called speakeasies.

So widespread was this behavior that in 1924, the Boston Herald newspaper ran a contest asking people to create a moniker for these lawless tipplers. The winning entry was “scofflaw.”

A few days later, a bartender at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris created a tasty new drink—and named it the Scofflaw Cocktail (how could he resist?)

Prohibition finally ended in the US on December 5, 1933. So this Friday marks the anniversary of that happy day. Guess what we’ll be drinking to celebrate?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Easy Sweet-Potato Hash with Bacon


Serve as a side, or top with a fried egg for a quick main course

So you’ll probably have some sweet potatoes left over from Thanksgiving dinner, right? And your guests will be hungry the day after, despite the huge meal you served. (Funny how that works.)

If you roast sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving, you’ll have the perfect leftover ingredient for a tasty breakfast dish. Or even the foundation for a quick dinner.

This Easy Sweet-Potato Hash with Bacon makes a savory side. Or top it with a fried or poached egg for a one-dish meal. Add a beverage of your choice (if it’s dinner, a glass of wine would go well), and you’re all set.

So hash your mouth.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Roast Squash & Sweet Potato Chili with Kale

Roast Squash & Sweet Potato Chili with Kale in bowl

This vegan crowd pleaser is perfect for Thanksgiving Eve

All of us in the US know Thanksgiving is coming up, right? And you probably know what you’ll be serving for the big meal. But how about the evening before?

Some picky out-of-town guests may be arriving on Thanksgiving Eve. You know the ones we mean: That college student who turned vegetarian. The fussy in-law who insists on having the latest food-fad ingredients at every meal. And so on.

Fortunately, this Roast Squash and Sweet Potato Chili with Kale covers all the dietary bases. It’s vegan, so it will appeal to non-carnivores. But it’s also chili (aka flavorful guy food), so meat eaters won’t mutiny. And it has kale, so it should pass muster with the food faddists. It’s even gluten-free.

Best of all? It’s easy to make. In fact, it’s basically a one-dish meal. So you’ll save time cooking—which will give you more time for arguing around the dinner table. Ah, those family gatherings.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Green Tomato Jam

Green Tomato Jam on biscuit

A sweet way to use end-of-season tomatoes

As we’ve moved into autumn here in St. Louis, our garden has continued to put out late-season goodies. Including quite a few tomatoes that didn’t have time to ripen before the summer sun faded.

We happily harvested our green tomatoes—but then had to figure out what to do with them. Fried green tomatoes? Nah, been there, done that. Curried Green Tomatoes? Terrific, but we did that last year. We wanted something really different.

So we decided to make Green Tomato Jam. It’s wonderful with biscuits or on toast. And you can even use it as a “sauce” or garnish on meat (it’s spectacular with pork roast).

But we have to make a confession here: Our favorite way to consume Green Tomato Jam is straight from the jar. By the spoonful. Take that as a warning.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Harvest Moon Cocktail

Harvest Moon Cocktail in cocktail glass with lemon slice garnish

A forgotten classic

Autumn is important for us eaters (and drinkers). That’s when farmers rush to harvest crops before the first frost. Then they take those crops to market—which is how the rest of us get fed.

Earth’s natural satellite (aka the moon) even helps celebrate the harvest: Every autumn we enjoy a particularly notable full moon called the “Harvest Moon” (more on that in the Notes).

Here in the US, some of autumn’s bounty traditionally has been distilled into applejack—a hard cider made from North American apples. And applejack just happens to be used in a classic cocktail called the Harvest Moon. Appropriate, don't you think?

Many of today’s imbibers have never tasted a Harvest Moon Cocktail. If you’re among them, get ready for a treat. Just mix up one of these gems, and you may be dancing by the light of the moon.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Green Chile Stew with Pork

Green Chile Stew with Pork in bowl

Meat and potatoes, New Mexico style

Green Chile Stew with Pork (aka Chile Verde) is one of the best-known dishes in New Mexico. And while it’s a meat-heavy dish, the flavor is all about the chilies.

Which makes sense, because green chilies—New Mexico’s largest agricultural crop—feature superb quality and flavor.

More about chilies later. Right now, all you really need to know is this: When the weather turns cold, nothing heats you up better than a steaming bowl of Green Chile Stew with Pork.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

No-Churn Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream

No-Churn Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream in bowl, with pumpkins in background

Its pie-like flavor is no trick, just a (luscious) treat

This time of year, we love to use one of our favorite autumn ingredients: pumpkin. You know, the big orange squash people use to make pumpkin pie.

But man (and woman) cannot live by pie alone. We also need ice cream!

Which reminds us: A while back, we discovered a way to make ice cream without churning—and using no special equipment except our trusty stand mixer. It’s a quick and easy method that produces better ice cream than anything you’re likely to buy in a carton.

So of course, we couldn’t resist adapting it to make this terrific tasting No-Churn Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream. Just in time for Halloween. Boo!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Texas-Style Chili con Carne

Texas-Style Chili con Carne with jalapeno and cheddar cheese garnish

Warm up with a meat-based classic

With autumnal equinox receding in the rear-view mirror here in the Northern Hemisphere, we’re entering a period of chilly (not to mention gloomy and rainy) weather. Which is good news, in a way. Because chilly season means chili season.

During the cooler months, we have chili frequently—at least once a week. And although we make chili using all sorts of ingredients (including a mean vegetarian Sweet Potato Chili with Black Beans), there’s something special about a chili that’s heavy on the meat.

And when it comes to meatiness, nothing beats Texas chili. It typically contains loads of meat and chilies—and not much else. Just the thing to take the chill off.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Italian Meat Sauce for Pasta

Italian Meast Sauce with pasta in bowl

Brighten up your pasta with this zesty tomato sauce

Autumn is here in the Northern Hemisphere, and that means shorter days and cooler evenings. Time for comfort food, wouldn’t you say?

Fortunately, nothing is more comforting than a big plateful of pasta smothered in a rich tomato-based meat sauce. It’s a dish that kids and adults both like, and never tire of. Plus it’s fun to make.

With Columbus Day coming up in the US next Monday (October 13), we think it’s time to celebrate all things Italian. And what better way to do that than to cook up a big potful of meat sauce for pasta? Mamma mia, it’s good!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Delmonico Cocktail

Delmonico Cocktail with orange slice garnish

A taste of New York history

Delmonico’s restaurant opened for business in lower Manhattan in 1827—and forever changed the way we eat out in America. It was the first restaurant to introduce à la carte dining in the US. That was a major innovation at a time when most commercial eating establishments were inns or dining halls, where people ate whatever the house happened to be dishing up that day.

The Delmonico steak (a fancy cut from the short loin) was invented at the new restaurant. So too reportedly were Eggs Benedict, Baked Alaska, Lobster Newburg, and Chicken à la Keene (today known as Chicken à la King).

The Delmonico Cocktail was yet another of the restaurant’s inventions. Their house drink was a gin- and brandy-based concoction, livened up with both sweet and dry vermouth.

This sip of cocktail history still tastes great before dinner. Or as a nightcap after an evening at the theatre.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Sundowner Cocktail

Sundowner Cocktail with lemon twist garnish

This Tiki drink is a Hawaiian original

We often use the term “sundowner” for any alcoholic drink we sip when relaxing at the end of the day. Preferably while watching a gorgeous sunset. But the Sundowner is also the name of a specific cocktail—several different ones, in fact.

The Sundowner Cocktail we’re featuring today was created for the Kon Tiki restaurant at Sheraton’s Waikiki resort in Honolulu. More about that history later.

Right now, just focus on the bracing and refreshing flavor that will be coming your way when you mix up one of these beauties. The Sundowner is the perfect end-of-day relaxer or pre-drinner appetite teaser. It’s definitely a drink you should get to know, and soon. Because it’s 5 o’clock somewhere.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Blueberry Flaugnarde (Flan)

Blueberry Flaugnarde (Flan) with powdered sugar garnish

This classic French dessert is a simple (yet elegant) way to enjoy summer blueberries

We’ve been enjoying sensational blueberries in our part of the world for the past several weeks. We eat them as snacks, mixed into salads, doused in cream—and of course baked into desserts.

Speaking of which, one of the best desserts we’ve made this year is Blueberry Flaugnarde, a classic French dish. It’s quick and easy to make, and the blueberries just sing with flavor.

Blueberry Flaugnarde is also reasonably light, so it won’t weigh you down during these last hot days of summer. And it’s good hot from the oven, chilled from the fridge, or at room temperature. Perfect for a Labor Day cookout, don’t you think?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Straits Sling Cocktail

Straits Sling Cocktail with orange and cherry garnish

Mother of the Singapore Sling?

Most people have heard of the Singapore Sling Cocktail, a drink created in the early 20th century at the Raffles Hotel (located in—no surprise—Singapore).

But the original recipe for the Singapore Sling was lost. What we have today is a recreation, and maybe not an exact one. Some mixologists think the Singapore Sling is a not-quite-accurate rendition of another drink that was being served at the Raffles Hotel bar around that time—one called the Straits Sling (locals called Singapore the “Straits”).

More about all this later. For now, the important thing to know about the Straits Sling is that it’s less complicated to make than the Singapore Sling (fewer ingredients). It also has a bright, perky flavor that’s not nearly as sweet. Which makes it a perfect drink for celebrating the last weeks of summer.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Pasta Caprese

Pasta Caprese on plate with basil garnish

A great way to celebrate peak tomato (and basil) season

It’s been summer for a while here in North America. Which means our veggie gardens are overflowing with ripe tomatoes and knee-high basil. And every farmers’ market has mounds of both. So now is the perfect time to enjoy the classic pairing of these two warm-weather favorites.

If you add fresh mozzarella to the mix—taking an already wonderful flavor combination to an even higher level—you have the makings for Caprese salad. We eat a lot of that at our house, but sometimes we want something more substantial. Something that can also serve as a one-dish meal. Then we opt for Pasta Caprese—which is really just Caprese salad with a pasta base.

Pasta Caprese serves up healthy flavor that almost everyone likes—kids included. It’s also an easy-to-make recipe that can be ready in minutes. You won’t spend much time in the kitchen preparing this beauty. Which means you’ll have more time to enjoy all that summer sunshine.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Doctor Funk Cocktail

Doctor Funk Cocktail in hurricane glass

The Tiki drink named after Robert Louis Stevenson’s physician

Everyone knows Robert Louis Stevenson, right? He wrote classics like Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Swell swashbuckling stuff, some of those books.

What you might not know is that Stevenson spent his final years in Samoa. There he was attended by Bernhard Funk, a German physician who was also an accomplished mixologist. One of Funk’s concoctions (and one which he reportedly served to Stevenson) is the inspiration for the drink we know today as the Dr. Funk Cocktail.

The drink originally was intended to be a tonic. Modern medicine might quibble with that claim, but all would agree that this drink is a great way to beat summer’s heat. So if the dog days of August are getting you down, Dr. Funk has just the prescription for you.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Rum Daisy Cocktail

Rum Daisy Cocktail in cocktail glass, with daisies in background

A modern twist on a 19th century American original  

Many popular cocktails combine booze and citrus (lemon or lime), with a bit of sugar added to balance the citrusy tartness. Indeed, that’s the basic recipe for a whole class of drinks called “sours” (such as the Whiskey Sour).

But what happens if you add some effervescence in the form of sparkling water? The mid-19th century bartenders who made this modification to the sour decided they had invented an entirely new class of drink. They called it the daisy.

Back then, brandy was the spirit of choice for daisies. But you can make this drink with any spirit—whiskey, gin, even tequila (and we like them all). During the hot summer months, though, we tend to prefer a rum-based daisy. Rum makes a perfect warm-weather spirit, and a Rum Daisy Cocktail is delicious before a light dinner.

Which is why we’ve been drinking this cocktail a lot lately. You might say we’re half crazy for it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chilled Cucumber Soup with Yogurt and Dill

Chilled Cucumber Soup with Yogurt and Dill in bowl

Beat the heat with this tangy starter

It’s cucumber season in our part of the world. We can’t seem to harvest them fast enough in our backyard garden. And every farmers’ market is overflowing with them.

So how about turning some of those cukes into a cool, refreshing first course? One that’s brimming with flavor, but not too heavy.

Chilled Cucumber Soup is the perfect summer starter. It’s also a versatile performer—you can change up ingredients to give it a different character every time you make it (more about this in the Notes). Best of all, it takes just minutes to prepare in the food processor.

You can make it ahead of time too. In fact, the flavor improves if you allow it to rest in the refrigerator for a few hours, or even overnight. So whip up this soup—and then head to the hammock for a summertime siesta. Because, hey, soup isn’t the only thing that improves with rest.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Brandy Smash Cocktail

Brandy Smash Cocktail with orange and mint garnish

The Mint Julep’s little brother

Long ago, in a century far away, the Brandy Smash was America’s most popular mixed drink. During the 1850s and 60s, drinkers flocked to this mint-infused charmer. But then (as so often happens with cocktails), it fell from favor.

Well, it’s about time for a revival, don’t you think?

A Brandy Smash is basically a shorter, less elaborate version of a Mint Julep. It’s easier to make than a julep, and (usually) contains less booze. And because it’s a smaller drink, it’s perfect for times when you want a refreshing tipple, but don’t have all afternoon to enjoy a long, slow sipper.

You don’t even need to use brandy in this drink if you don’t want to. Just substitute whiskey or gin—or almost any spirit that catches your fancy.

And the flavor? Smashing.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

White Bean, Tuna, and Swiss Chard Salad

White Bean, Tuna, and Swiss Chard Salad with cherry tomato garnish

Beat the heat with this savory no-cook summer dish

There comes a time every summer when the heat gets us down. And cooking sounds like no fun at all.

So what to do? Well, just raid the garden for greens and the pantry for a few staples. Then put together this quick no-cook dish. It’s satisfying but not heavy, with loads of healthy flavor.

This salad makes a great one-dish meal or a hearty side. It’s perfect for picnics too. And it takes only minutes to prepare, so you’ll be out of the kitchen in no time—and ready for some summer fun. Pool party, anyone?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Sherry Cobbler Cocktail

Sherry Cobbler Cocktail with fruit garnish

The drink that popularized ice and straws

Ever have a cobbler? The drink, that is, not the dessert?

Back in the 19th century, the cobbler was one of the most popular mixed drinks around, with sherry usually serving as the base spirit. It was among the first drinks to include ice as an integral component—and one of the first to be served with a straw. More on that later.

The Sherry Cobbler has been out of favor for a long time, but we think it’s due for a revival. It makes a particularly tasty and refreshing summer drink. Plus, sherry has a fairly low alcoholic quotient. That means you can have a couple of these on a lazy afternoon and still keep your wits about you.

So why not mix up one of these charmers and sip a little cocktail history? Your great, great, great grandparents would approve.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

No-Churn Cherry Ice Cream with Chocolate

No-Churn Cherry Ice Cream with Chocolate in bowl, with cherries and chocolate in background

Or adapt this easy no-churn recipe for any flavor you like

How often do you make ice cream at home? Until recently, our answer would have been “not very.”

Mostly, that was because we couldn’t get decent results with home ice cream makers. The smaller “pre-freeze” units (the ones where you need to freeze the bowl) only kinda sorta worked for us. The larger machines (the kind with built-in condensers) do a better job—or so we’ve heard. But our kitchen space is limited, so we’ve had to rule out that option. And no way are we going to bother with rock salt and hand cranks.

Which meant that for years, we just shrugged and bought Ben and Jerry’s.

No more, however. We’ve discovered a quick no-churn, no machine way to make ice cream that produces superior results. And it’s a lot cheaper than buying pints of Cherry Garcia® (our favorite flavor, for which this recipe is a credible alternative).

Anybody want to buy a used ice cream maker, cheap?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Queen's Park Swizzle Cocktail

Queen's Park Swizzle Cocktail in tall glass with mint garnish

Beat the heat with this tropical cooler

With hot summer days arriving in our part of the US, it’s time to dream of escaping to the shore or the mountains. Or at least the pool.

If you’re one of the lucky escapees, there’s no better way to spend a long afternoon than sipping a tall cool one. Like a Queen’s Park Swizzle Cocktail—a rum and mint delight named after an elegant hotel in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

And if you’re not lucky enough to get away? Well, mix up one of these babies and treat yourself to a mini-vacation right at home. No airfare required.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Chipotle Cherry Salsa

Chipotle Cherry Salsa with tortilla chips

Spicy and a bit sweet . . . great with chips or as a sauce on meat or fish

Fresh cherries? Yum! Their sweet flavor makes for such wonderful pies, tarts, and other dessert goodies.

But, hey, cherries can do savory too. As this recipe shows.

Just combine cherries with spicy chipotle and jalapeño chilies in a rich salsa. The result? A tasty and versatile dish that fits in anywhere. Serve it as a first course with chips. Or use it as a sauce to accompany pork, fish, or chicken.

Best of all, Chipotle Cherry Salsa is simple to prepare. And with peak cherry season upon us in much of the US, now is the perfect time to try it.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Monkey Gland Cocktail

Monkey Gland Cocktail in cocktail glass

Named after a famous French virility enhancer. Really.    

Let’s not beat around the bush about how this cocktail got its name. Back in the 1920s, there was a French surgeon by the name of Serge Voronoff who developed a procedure for grafting monkey testicle tissue (glands) onto the, um, “glands” of male humans. The aim was to enhance the men’s virility, bring back their lost youth, and promote longevity.

This inventive procedure gained widespread notice. Everyone heard about it, including Harry MacElhone, owner of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. So when MacElhone created this drink, circa 1923, he called it the Monkey Gland Cocktail—no doubt hoping that some of the surgery’s virile glory would rub off (so to speak).

The surgery didn’t work (you’re surprised, we know). But the cocktail? It’s a transfusion of pleasure. And you don’t need a medical professional to administer it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Opera Cocktail

The Opera Cocktail in cocktail glass with lemon twist garnish

One sip, and you’ll be singing its praises

The Opera Cocktail was a classic in pre-Prohibition days. And no wonder—its lightness and clean, crisp flavor make it the perfect palate cleanser before a summer dinner.

We’ll be drinking it to celebrate the opening of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, a summer opera festival that runs from late May through late June. Tonight marks their second performance (Mozart’s The Magic Flute), and in June they’ll be presenting the world premiere of Gordon & Vavrek’s Twenty-Seven. More about all of this later.

Even if you can’t make it to a performance at Opera Theatre, you might want to celebrate another opening: This post marks the beginning of our Summer Sippin’ and Snarfin’ Series. And the Opera Cocktail makes an excellent opening number. It’s a celebration in a glass!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Chipotle Sweet-Potato Salad

Chipotle Sweet-Potato Salad on plate, with fork and napkin in background

Spice up your summer cookouts 

Here in the US, Memorial Day is coming up soon—signaling the start of cookout season. And cookouts require potato salad. They just do.

You could make an old favorite with white potatoes, of course. But why not try something different? Sweet potatoes—with their deep, rich flavor—work extremely well in potato salad. Add some chipotle to the mix, and you have a side dish that can stand up to any main course you slap on the grill.

So make extra. Because your guests may walk right past the burgers or barbecue to load up on this.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Asparagus and Spinach Salad

Asparagus and Spinach Salad topped with prosciutto and a poached egg, overhead view on black

Prosciutto and poached egg add savor to springtime favorites

Springtime means fresh produce. That includes two of the year’s most anticipated treats: homegrown asparagus and spinach.

Both are abundant right now in the part of the US where we live. There’s terrific local asparagus from farmers’ markets. And spinach? Well, our backyard garden is producing a bumper crop.

Both asparagus and spinach are wonderful when served alone—but combining them in a salad makes for something special. Add some salty prosciutto and a poached egg, and voilà: a savory salad that you can serve as a small starter or a larger main course.

But hurry! The season for fresh local asparagus is short, and you don’t want to miss out. Otherwise you’ll have to wait until next year. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Dubonnet Cocktail

Dubonnet Cocktail in cocktail glass with lemon slice garnish, on black acrylic with flowers in background

Better than flowers for Mother’s Day

Dubonnet is a sweet-tasting, wine-based apéritif that contains a bit of quinine (more about that later). Dubonnet has an interesting flavor all by itself, but it really shines when mixed in a cocktail.

Though several drinks specify it as an ingredient, the eponymous Dubonnet Cocktail is the best of the breed. This drink’s bracing flavor makes it perfect for sipping before dinner (or as afternoon refreshment). It’s a favorite of Queen Elizabeth II (and was loved by the late Queen Mother, too).

With Mother’s Day coming up this Sunday in the US, why not pour a round of Dubonnet Cocktails? After all, it’s Queen Mum-approved for mothers everywhere.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Shrimp in Chipotle Sauce

Shrimp in Chipotle Sauce with cilantro garnish in ramekin, overhead view on black

Spicy tomato zips up this traditional Mexican dish

When Americans think of Mexican food, we picture tacos, enchiladas, and refried beans. But seafood? Not so much.

Which is odd, because Mexico has a long coastline with some extremely productive fishing grounds. Mexicans eat lots of seafood, and many famous seafood dishes are well known throughout the country. It’s just that many of us gringos aren’t familiar with them.

With Cinco de Mayo on the horizon, you may be planning a festive menu. So how about a traditional shrimp dish from Veracruz? It has all the zesty flavor you expect from Mexican food, but it’s lighter and healthier than many of the dishes you may know.

Sounds like a winner. Olé!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Homemade Deviled Ham

Homemade Deviled Ham on cracker with sriracha and chive garnish, overhead view on black

Leftover ham gets a spicy re-do for sandwiches and canapés

Got a big ol’ ham left over from Easter? Wondering what to do with it? Meet deviled ham—your new best friend.

It’s basically spicy ham salad (often with mustard-forward flavor) that’s been ground to a paste in the food processor. It makes a great spread for sandwiches, crackers, or whatever.

Deviled ham is an old-fashioned treat that many of us have forgotten. Too bad, because it has great flavor. Plus, it takes just minutes to make, so it’s easy for you.  And once people taste it, their smiles (and praise!) will come easily too.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Celery Root (Celeriac) and Potato Gratin

Celery Root and Potato Gratin on plate, with baking dish in background

Scalloped potatoes with ‘tude

Easter arrives in a few days, so menu planning is ramping up. Having a big roast? Or maybe baked ham or a leg of lamb? If you’re serving any of the above, you’ll probably want a rich, starchy side dish to go with it.

Scalloped potatoes are a popular choice, of course—and this dish takes them as a starting point. But then we add celery root (celeriac) to dial the flavor up a notch. We also add some sharp Gruyère and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and just a touch of zippy Dijon mustard.

The result is irresistibly good. But fair warning: If you’re feeding a holiday crowd, you may want to double this recipe. Otherwise, the serving dish might not make it all the way around the table.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Lentil, Rice, and Pea Salad

Lentil, Rice, and Pea Salad with lemon slice garnish in ramekin, overhead view on black

This healthy change-of-season dish makes a great main or side

As the weather makes its leisurely turn from chilly to warm across much of the US, our appetites are beginning to change too. We may still crave some hearty dishes, but we’re looking to lighten things up a bit.

This Lentil, Rice, and Pea Salad is perfect for the seasonal transition. Lentils and rice give comfort during the cool days that still linger on, while peas add color and a touch of spring.

This dish delivers as a meatless main course, but it also makes a tasty side. It’s vegan and gluten-free, too, so you can serve it wherever. Best of all, it’s equally good warm or chilled.

So what are you waiting for? No matter what the weather is like in your part of the world, you can make a dish that promises sunny days ahead.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Twentieth Century Cocktail

Twentieth Century Cocktail with lemon twist garnish

Named after the “world’s greatest train”

Back in the day, rail was the only way to go if you were traveling any distance at all. Trains were fast, reliable, and comfortable. From 1902 to 1967, one of the fanciest was the 20th Century Limited, which offered service between New York City’s Grand Central Terminal and Chicago’s LaSalle Street Station.

The 20th Century Limited aimed to attract high-income travelers. Women received flowers and perfume when boarding the train, while men got carnations. Passengers boarded and detrained on a crimson carpet that was rolled out for their exclusive use (that’s how the phrase “red carpet treatment” entered our vernacular).

At its height, the train offered an onboard library, a barbershop, secretarial services, and a superbly equipped dining car (roast prime rib, anyone?). It oozed sophistication and luxury. So it’s not surprising that in 1937, when British bartender C. A. Tuck invented a particularly complex and richly flavored cocktail, he named it after this celebrated symbol of excellence.

The 20th Century Limited made its last run long ago. But the Twentieth Century Cocktail is still picking up steam. So hop aboard for a sip of the high life.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Soft and Buttery Dinner Rolls

Soft and Buttery Dinner Rolls on black acrylic

Easy and flavorful, these fluffy buns could be a meal in themselves

When was the last time you had a really good dinner roll? One with a golden crust and a pillowy, yeasty interior? With enough butter-kissed flavor that piling more butter on at table is an indulgence, not a necessity?

If you buy dinner rolls at the supermarket, it’s probably been a long time since you’ve had one that’s really worth eating. Fortunately, however, making your own is quite easy. And although it takes a while for the dough to rise, your hands-on time is only a few minutes.

So for your next dinner party or holiday meal (these are a natural at Easter), why not surprise your guests with a basket of fresh, homemade dinner rolls? They’ll disappear in a hurry, guaranteed. Just remind everyone to save some room for the rest of the meal.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp

New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp in oval ramekin with French Bread

Spicy, garlicky sauce cries out for dunkable bread

If there were a “truth in advertising” law for recipes, this one would get busted. Because New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp isn’t really barbecue at all. And shrimp don’t even play the leading role. Instead, it’s the sauce you’re after—a butter-heavy dunking mix that’s liberally spiced (and delightfully seasoned with garlic). You’ll want to mop up every last drop with crusty French bread.

Given the amount of butter in the sauce, this dish clearly is no diet food. But did you really expect it to be, with “New Orleans” in the name? That part, at least, is for real.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Irish Potato Candy

Irish Potato Candy on Happy St. Patrick's Day Napkin

This cinnamon-coated coconut cream candy is a Philadelphia St. Pat’s tradition

Certain cities have iconic foods associated with them. Boston? Clam chowder and baked beans. New York? Thin-crust pizza and bagels.

How about Philadelphia? You may think Philly cheese steaks, hoagies, and soft pretzels. But Irish Potato Candy? Maybe you haven’t heard of this treat.

Irish Potato Candy is a traditional Philly confection that (despite its name) did not originate in Ireland. Nor does it contain potato. But the shape of these candies and their reddish-brown coating make them look like little round spuds—hence the name.

These candies may sound a bit odd, but wait until you bite into one of these diminutive darlings. Their flavor is no small potatoes.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Vieux Carré Cocktail

The Vieux Carré Cocktail in glass with lemon twist garnish

A New Orleans original

Vieux Carré means “old square” in French. It also happens to be what they called New Orleans’ French Quarter back in the day. So when Walter Bergeron invented this cocktail in the 1930s (while tending bar at a hotel in the French Quarter), it was a no-brainer to name it after the Big Easy’s oldest and most famous neighborhood.

The watering hole where Bergeron worked is now called the Carousel Bar. And yes, it resembles (and revolves like) a carnival carousel.

If you’d like to ride the painted ponies, but can’t make it to Nawlins right now, no worries. Just mix up a Vieux Carré Cocktail—and take your palate for a spin.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo

Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo with Tabasco in background

New Orleans flavor in your own kitchen  

The US has loads of interesting regional dishes. One of the best known is gumbo, a hearty stew-like dish with bottomless flavor. Gumbo originated in south Louisiana eons ago. Today it’s made with a wide variety of meat and seafoods, in both Cajun and Creole styles. It’s so popular (and the variations are so endless) that probably every family in Louisiana has their own unique recipe.

All gumbos are based on a long-cooked roux (the flour-and-fat mixture that also forms the basis for many gravies). When we make gravy, we usually cook the roux for only a few minutes. For gumbo, we need to cook it for at least half an hour, and usually more like 45 to 60 minutes. It’s a bit of work, yes. But the flavor payoff is worth it. And that flavor is the essence of gumbo.

Mardi Gras is coming up this Tuesday—and it’s the biggest celebration of the year in New Orleans. What better way to join in the festivities than by making a batch of gumbo for yourself? It’s like a party in a bowl.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Celery Root (Celeriac) Rémoulade

Celery Root (Celeriac) Rémoulade in ramekin, overhead view on black

Kinda sorta like French coleslaw

Celery root (celeriac) is a type of celery grown specifically for its root. Even if you’ve never used it, you’ve seen it in the grocery store. It’s the brown, knobby veggie that (to the uninitiated) looks like a rock. But trust me, it’s edible—with a subtle, delectable flavor.

Celeriac is better known in Europe than in the US. When shredded and served raw—as it is in this dish—it has a crisp crunch. Combine it with tangy dressing, and you have a dish that resembles coleslaw. And one that happens to be one of the iconic dishes of French cuisine.

You can serve Celery Root Rémoulade as a starter, instead of a salad. Or as a side dish to accompany most fish, meat, or poultry dishes. It even goes great with hamburgers. Or as they say in French, les hamburgers.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Braised Celery with Tomato and Parmesan

Braised Celery with Tomato and Parmesan on plate, fork and napkin in background

A great side dish to accompany, well . . . anything

Never tasted Braised Celery? Well, you’re in for a treat. Because braising makes celery tender and sweet, revealing new depths of this often-overlooked veggie.

For this recipe, we cook celery in tomatoes (marinara sauce, actually), then finish it with a layer of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. We end up with a dish that’s almost a gratin, but not quite.

Braised Celery makes a perfect sidekick for grilled/roasted meat, fish, or poultry. Or anything, really. And its flavor is lip-smacking good. So this might be the perfect time to wear your “Kiss the Cook” apron.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Italian Celery and Mushroom Salad

Italian Celery and Mushroom Salad on plate, with fork and napkin in background

Pecorino Romano perks up this fresh and healthy delight

Looking for a dish with crisp, sunny flavor—one that can make you forget winter’s gloom? This classic Italian Celery and Mushroom Salad is just the thing.

Mushrooms and celery always play nicely together when dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. But mix in some Pecorino Romano cheese, and look out flavor explosion!

This salad takes just minutes to make. So it’s perfect for a weekday meal. But it’s also delectable enough for a weekend dinner party. Don’t you just love it when recipes are that accommodating?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Celery, Corn, and Bacon Chowder

Celery, Corn, and Bacon Chowder in bowl, with spoon and napkin in background

Celery takes the lead role in this hearty dish

We all have celery in the fridge, right? Usually a wilted, half-used head buried deep in the vegetable bin. 

Most of us wouldn’t even think of using celery as a main ingredient. But I say it’s about time this shy veggie got some love.

Our Celery, Corn, and Bacon Chowder highlights the flavor of celery—in a warming comfort food. And with the cold, snowy weather we’ve been having in most of the US lately, I need all the warming comfort I can get.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Turkey (or Chicken) Piccata

Turkey Piccata on plate with lemon and parsley garnish, overhead view on black

This simple, lemon-sauced dish screams “special occasion”

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, you may be looking for a festive main dish. Preferably one that’s impressive, but still easy to prepare. A piccata made with scaloppine is just the thing.

You could use veal scaloppine, of course. But turkey and chicken have plenty of flavor—and they cost a lot less. Plus, your supermarket’s meat case probably stocks pieces of turkey breast already sliced into “scaloppine” (making this dish even easier to prepare).

So if you’re still pondering your Valentine’s Day menu, fret no further. You rang—turkey piccata answered. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Boca Negra Cake

Boca Negra Cake with whipped cream and strawberry garnish

For serious chocolate lovers

Boca Negra is one of the richest cakes we know (the name translates as “black mouth”). Its chocolate flavor is intense and deep.

This dense, dark cake is perfect for special occasions. Like Valentine’s Day—a holiday that cries out for chocolate.

And once you make Boca Negra Cake, you’ll be looking for new events to celebrate. So you can make it again.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Pink Lady Cocktail

Pink Lady Cocktail with maraschino cherry garnish

Perfect for Valentine’s Day

Need a fun cocktail for Valentine’s Day? Something with festive color and bracing flavor, but not too heavy? The Pink Lady may have your number.

This drink originated decades ago. But it fell out of favor for many years, so you may not have heard of it. Though you probably have heard of Jayne Mansfield, who claimed it as a favorite (more on that later).

The Pink Lady Cocktail is retro, romantic, and a little silly. Just like Valentine’s Day. Try it—you’ll heart it.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Bacon Macaroni and Cheese

Bacon Macaroni and Cheese on plate, with serving dish in background

An old favorite gets even more savory

Need to warm up after a cold day—and chase away the winter blues? Well, mac ‘n cheese is your friend. Add some bacon, and this classic comfort food reaches a whole new level.

So mix up some Bacon Macaroni and Cheese, and let your soul escape from winter. At least for a little while.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Jalapeño Pimento Cheese Canapés

Jalapeño Pimento Cheese Canapé, overhead view on black

Perfect for Super Bowl festivities

Come Super Bowl time, we start thinking of party fare, like dips and snacks. Which makes sense—in the US, the Super Bowl is almost synonymous with munchies.

Want to change up your appetizer routine this time? Well, you’ve probably seen pre-made pastry shells at your supermarket (the ones that often are made from phyllo—fillo—dough). Just fill them with a dip or spread, and you’ve got instant canapés.

Easy! And with these morsels on the table, you’re ready for gridiron glory.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Meat and Potatoes Chili

Meat and Potatoes Chili in bowl

Winter comfort food 

Need some down-home cooking to combat the cold weather we’re having throughout much of the US? Well, there’s nothing better than good old meat and potatoes.

We could just fill our plates with a slab of beef and a mound of spuds. But why not go for something with more flavor? Like this chunky Meat and Potatoes Chili. It has all the savor of traditional meat and potatoes, with the zing of chili. Win win.

And speaking of winning, if you haven’t already planned your eats for the Super Bowl festivities, this would be a great dish to prepare. You can cook it a day ahead, then reheat it—so you won’t miss a minute of the game. That’s a touchdown in my book.