Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Happy Holidays!

The Milk Punch Cocktail

We’re taking a brief break

We’re taking off for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. So this is our last post of the year. We’ll be back with a new post on Wednesday, January 6, 2016.

If you get bored and need something to read before then, why not browse our index? You’ll find plenty of good stuff there.

We’d like to wish everyone a wonderful holiday season! See you next year.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Chocolate Almond Sesame Bars

Chocolate Almond Sesame Bars

A richly decadent holiday treat

Chestnuts roasting by an open fire? Let’s get real. What most of us crave at holiday time is chocolate. And lots of it.

So get ready to deck your plates with these Chocolate Almond Sesame Bars. They’re decadence in cookie form.

Their flavor gets even better if you let them rest overnight, so they’re also a great make-ahead treat. Bake them when it’s convenient for you, and they’ll be ready for any guests who drop by.

Assuming you can resist eating the whole batch yourself.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Wine-Braised Beef Pot Roast

Wine-Braised Beef Pot Roast

Easy and classic French-style cooking (that’s also down home)

When we entertain, we often like to serve a big honking hunk of meat. Preferably something that’s full of flavor, easy to prepare—and can be made ahead of time.

Like pot roast.

Doesn’t sound fancy enough for company? Then just call it braised beef. And cook it with wine, the way the French do. All of a sudden we’re talking gourmet fare (and the perfect complement to a bottle of dry red wine).

Just make sure to prepare a big batch. Because your guests will be begging for seconds.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Frostbite Cocktail

The Frostbite Cocktail

Hints of chocolate add holiday cheer

December is here, which means the holiday season is upon us. Time for cookies! And cocktails.

Or better yet, cookies with cocktails.

If that combo sounds odd, you need to try the Frostbite Cocktail. This drink is full of rich cream and chocolatey crème de cacao. So it fits right in with holiday baked goodies.

The surprise ingredient in this cocktail is tequila, a tough-guy liquor that few associate with dessert. But in the Frostbite, sweet cream mellows the bite of tequila—and chocolate turns it into Santa’s little helper.

So mix up a round of these for some festive cheer. Then raid the cookie jar.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Crispy Shredded Hash Brown Potaotes

Crispy Shredded Hash Brown Potatoes

This easy homemade dish beats your local diner’s version

We love breakfast potatoes. And we can eat them any style. But given our druthers, we’ll go for hash browns every time.

We particularly crave the kind of hash browns you can find at any diner. It’s hard to beat those thin, crispy cakes of shredded potatoes. Especially when they’re cooked until both sides are crusty brown.

So serve up these hash browns on Thanksgiving morning (or the day after). And bask in the happy smiles of your guests.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Cornmeal Pancakes

Cornmeal Pancakes

These updated “johnnycakes” are festive breakfast fare

Who doesn’t like pancakes for breakfast? Or lunch or dinner? They’re wonderful anytime.

And they seem particularly suited to festive occasions. Such as Thanksgiving morning (or the morning after).

Cornmeal makes an especially succulent pancake, as colonial Americans discovered. Early European settlers practically lived on a version of cornmeal pancakes called “johnnycakes.”

So what could be more appropriate at Thanksgiving time? Bet you never knew that history could be so tasty.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Spicy Roast Winter Squash Soup

Spicy Roast Winter Squash Soup

Healthy flavor for hearty winter appetites

Our local markets are laden with colorful winter squash. So here at Kitchen Riffs central, that means it’s time for soup.

You can dish up this soup as the starter for an elegant cold-weather dinner. Or for a main course, just serve a large bowl of soup with crusty bread or salad. It’s a whole meal.

Soup’s on!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Yale Cocktail

The Yale Cocktail

Hints of violet add zest to this aromatic drink

It’s back to school time (again).

Last month we featured The Harvard Cocktail. So it’s only fitting that we now highlight a drink named after Harvard’s great ivy league rival, Yale University.

Especially since November is when many US colleges meet their traditional foes on the football field to decide which school gets bragging rights for the year.

In the spirit of unbiased research, we’ll drink to both sides.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Mushroom and White Bean Ragout

Mushroom and White Bean Ragout

This make-ahead dish is perfect for Meatless Monday—and fancy enough for Saturday night company

We often eat meatless at our house. Many vegetarian and vegan dishes pack so much flavor, we never even notice the absence of meat.

This mushroom and white bean ragout is a good example. Portobello mushrooms offer plenty of “chew” and savory flavor. White beans add protein. Dish it up over polenta or noodles, and you have a one-dish dinner. Best of all, you can make this ragout ahead of time—it reheats beautifully.

We’ve served this dish to company, and it always gets rave reviews. So be prepared to take a bow.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Easy No-Stir Oven Polenta

Easy No-Stir Oven Polenta

Serve this gluten-free goodie as a side, or as the bed for a saucy main

Polenta is the food world’s shape-shifter. Essentially cornmeal porridge, it’s a dish that can be served any number of ways, any time of day. All good—except you have to cook it first. And traditional recipes are labor-intensive, calling for nonstop stirring for 30 minutes or more. How exciting.

So imagine our delight when we discovered a foolproof way to make polenta that requires little more than measuring out the ingredients. And that cooks virtually unattended. All the great flavor without any of the tedium. Sign us up for that.

Serve this dish at your next dinner party, and the guests will think you spent hours slaving in the kitchen. We won’t tell if you won’t.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Italian Pork Ragu for Pasta or Polenta

Italian Pork Ragu for Pasta or Polenta

Think of this as Italian Pulled Pork

Cooler weather has arrived in our part of the world, so we’re looking for heartier fare. Like this luscious meat ragu.

In Italian, “ragù” refers to a meat-based sauce. In the US, we mostly use beef for Italian Pasta Sauce. But pork makes a tasty change.

Serve this ragu by tossing it with pasta or ladling it over creamy soft polenta. But be sure to wear ear protection when you dish this up. Because once your guests taste it, their cheers will be deafening.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Harvard Cocktail

The Harvard Cocktail

This Ivy Leaguer is top of its class

We’re back from vacation. We had a swell time, and did loads of fun stuff. Including a visit to Boston and Cape Cod (more on that later).

Boston is chock-full of colleges and universities. One of the best known is Harvard, an institution of diverse accomplishments—including having a cocktail named after it.

The Harvard Cocktail contains brandy, which we find rather warming. So it’s perfect for the cool autumn weather we’re beginning to enjoy in our part of the US.

To celebrate our trip to Boston, we’re featuring Harvard’s namesake drink in today’s post. Travel is so educational.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Golden Dream Cocktail

The Golden Dream Cocktail

This dessert drink tastes kinda sorta like a Creamsicle

Remember Creamsicles? You know, those orange-covered vanilla ice cream bars that we enjoyed as kids?

We loved them. So of course we couldn’t resist this adult beverage, which tastes remarkably like a liquid version of that favorite childhood treat.

The Golden Dream is sweet (it’s meant for dessert, after all). But it’s not one dimensional. In fact, it features some interesting flavor nuances—and just enough alcohol to give it a kick.

Which makes this our dream dessert. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Chocolate Chip Bars

Chocolate Chip Bars

Your kids won’t trade away these lunch box goodies

With Labor Day coming up here in the US, kids are headed back to school. Which means they’ll soon be clamoring for lunch box treats and after-school snacks.

You could make that perennial favorite, chocolate chip cookies. But why not go one better and make these awesome chocolate chip bars?

Kids will love them. And grownups may sneak some into their lunch bags too.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Americano Cocktail

The Americano Cocktail

An Italian thirst-quencher, named for American imbibers

Hot, humid summer afternoons can drag us down. But we perk right up when we sip an Americano—a compelling mix of astringent Campari and sweet vermouth, lightened with sparkling water.

The Americano makes a perfect hot-weather apéritif. And it’s fairly low in alcohol, so you can have two without worrying about the consequences.

Good thing. Because once you have one, you’re sure to want another.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Tomato, Cucumber, and White Bean Salad

Tomato, Cucumber, and White Bean Salad

This summer-fresh vegan delight works as a main or side

Local tomatoes and cucumbers are at their seasonal peak right now in our part of the world. So we take every opportunity to enjoy them, often tossing with oil and vinegar to make a simple, quick salad.

But sometimes we want a heartier dish. So we add white beans to the mix—turning a simple salad into a great picnic side dish, one that can also stand alone as a meatless main.

It’s easy, healthy, and bursting with fresh flavor. Not to mention vegan and gluten-free, so everyone can enjoy it. That’s summer at its best.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Suffering Bastard Cocktail

The Suffering Bastard Cocktail

AKA The Suffering Bar Steward, this slow sipper was concocted as a hangover remedy

OK, the name is a bit . . . unusual. But don’t let that put you off. Because the Suffering Bastard happens to be an exceptionally refreshing drink. Which makes sense, given its origin as a hair-of-the-dog remedy.

It’s a wonderful cocktail for a lazy afternoon by the pool or on the beach. And because it’s a fairly voluminous tipple, you’ll take a while to get through one. So you won’t be drinking too many of these.

Good thing. Because you don’t want to wind up with, you know, a hangover.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Lemon Drop Cocktail

The Lemon Drop Cocktail

Better than candy

Hot enough for you? Yeah, we’re tired of talking about the weather, too. So let’s just cool off with a drink already.

Fortunately, the Lemon Drop Cocktail should perk us right up. This smooth drink soothes and refreshes on a hot afternoon. It’s sweet, but the lemon lends just enough tartness for pre-dinner sipping.

Think of it as your new lemon aid.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

BLT Pasta with Goat Cheese

BLT Pasta with Goat Cheese

Garden-fresh produce lightens this summery dish

Vine-ripened tomatoes—with their deep, savory flavor—are one of the glories of summer. And they work well in so many dishes.

We particularly like to pair them with bacon and lettuce, as in the classic BLT sandwich. Or BLT Salad.

But sometimes we want a more substantial main course. Something we can serve hot, but that doesn’t require too much cooking on sultry summer days.

Enter BLT Pasta with Goat Cheese. This simple dish has restaurant-quality flavor, and cooks in minutes. It’s so good we’ve already added it to our recipe rotation. We bet you’ll agree—so get those meal planners revved.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Cosmopolitan Cocktail

The Cosmopolitan Cocktail

Yeah, we know—but it tastes really good

Is there any drink with more cultural baggage than the Cosmopolitan (aka the Cosmo)? With its girly pink hue—not to mention its status as signature drink on Sex and the City—it seems that no self-respecting cocktail connoisseur would be caught dead drinking it.

Which is too bad, because it’s quite a refreshing cocktail. It’s great by the pool in the summer heat. Or as a pre-dinner treat.

So if you’ve never had a Cosmo—and despite its popularity, many people haven’t (that baggage thing, you know)—maybe now is the time to give it a try. Because real men (and women) aren’t put off by a little snark.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Sautéed Corn with Chilies and Bacon

Sautéed Corn with Chilies and Bacon

This quick dish is equally tasty made with fresh or frozen corn

Fresh, local sweet corn—it’s one of the glories of mid-summer. But corn also freezes exceptionally well, and what you find in the frozen-food aisle usually has been processed within hours of picking. That means it may have more flavor than “fresh” corn that’s actually days old when it hits your grocer’s produce department.

Which comes in handy when making a dish like this sautéed corn. It’s wonderful with fresh corn, but you won’t even notice the difference if you substitute frozen.

With the main ingredient so readily available year round, this tasty dish might become a menu staple: Have it during summer to celebrate fresh corn. And have it again in winter, to remind you that sunny days will soon be here again.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Cape Codder Cocktail

The Cape Codder Cocktail

This summer cooler is a breeze to make

July is here, and North America is set to celebrate. Today (July 1st) is Canada Day. And this Saturday, July 4, is Independence Day in the US.

So this is a busy week, full of cookouts and picnics. And to beat the summer heat, we’re all looking for something cool to quench our thirst.

Enter the Cape Codder. Its bright, slightly tart flavor is perfect for those long, hot summer days. And its gorgeous red hue lights up any party. You can even make a nonalcoholic version for those who prefer not to imbibe.

So choose your celebration, and raise a glass.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Hungarian-Style Cold Cherry Soup

Hungarian-Style Cold Cherry Soup

Red wine livens up this summer starter

Chilled fruit soups are popular in Central and Eastern Europe. One of the best known is Hungarian meggyleves (Cold Sour Cherry Soup). It’s traditionally made from sour cherries, cream, and sweet white wine (in Hungary, that often means Tokaji).

Here in the US, it can be hard to find fresh sour cherries. But sweet Bing cherries are in season now—and abundantly available. So we use them instead of sour cherries in our recipe. And to avoid making the soup too sweet, we replace Tokaji with a drier red wine.

The result? A refreshing summer starter with outstanding flavor. And one that can provide a fun change of pace at your next dinner party—especially since this is a dish that many people are not familiar with.

Your guests are sure to be impressed. So start practicing a modest bow. You’ll want to be prepared for their accolades.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

El Presidente Cocktail

El Presidente Cocktail

An aromatic Prohibition-era favorite

El Presidente was named in honor of an early 20th-century president of Cuba. Or maybe two different presidents (more about that in the Notes).

No need to worry about the name, though. What’s important to know is that this cocktail has a wonderful “nose,” with a slightly sweet flavor. It’s crisp and refreshing, a wonderful accompaniment to the savory appetizers you’ll be serving at warm-weather festivities.

And speaking of festivities, this Sunday is Father’s Day here in the US. Families will be gathering to toast the leader of the clan. So what could be more appropriate than a round of El Presidente Cocktails? Hail to the chief.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Summer Pea Soup with Mint

Summer Pea Soup with Mint

This warm-weather starter is great hot or cold

It’s summertime where we live, and that means garden-fresh produce. We’re starting to harvest from our own backyard, and the stalls at our local farmers’ markets are overflowing.

This time of year, one of our favorites is sweet peas. When freshly harvested, they barely need cooking. And this is one veggie you want to eat as soon as possible after it’s picked. Wait too long and the flavor starts to fade.

But even if you don’t have fresh peas available (likely, because their season is far too short), you’re still in luck—they freeze extremely well. What you buy in the frozen-food aisle can often be as good as (sometimes even better than) what you find in the produce section.

Fresh or frozen, sweet peas taste great in this minty soup. So what the heck, go ahead and use frozen. Your guests will think you slaved away in the kitchen, shelling mounds of fresh pea pods. We won’t tell.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Bijou Cocktail

The Bijou Cocktail

Bijou means “jewel” in French, and this drink is a true gem

The Bijou is a classic from the 1890s. Its name refers to the ingredient colors, which represent three different jewels: Clear dry gin for diamonds. Red sweet vermouth for rubies. And green Chartreuse for emeralds.

When you mix those ingredients together, the result is an amber hue—and of course amber can be used as a jewel, too.

Best of all, the flavors combine to create a polished, multi-faceted cocktail that’s perfect before dinner. We’re betting you’ll declare it a crown jewel.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Golden Dawn Cocktail

The Golden Dawn Cocktail

Wake up to a party in a glass

Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer in the US. Here at Kitchen Riffs, it also marks the beginning of our Summer Sippin’ and Snarfin’ Series. More on that in the Notes.

This is the season for celebratory brunches, too: Graduations, weddings, Father’s Day, whatever. And you need something for your thirsty guests to drink—something that can stand up to the robust flavors of brunch dishes.

May we suggest the Golden Dawn Cocktail? It contains orange juice, so it shouts “brunch.” It’s also a tad sweet, which means it will pair well with spicy breakfast sausages, savory omelets, and just about any other brunch food.

Plus, it’s a great looking drink. So you know it will be the life of the party.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Pepper Coleslaw with Garlic Vinaigrette

Pepper Coleslaw with Garlic Vinaigrette

Perk up your cookouts with this colorful, tangy slaw

Here in the US, summer cookout season officially starts on Memorial Day. It arrives early this year—next Monday, to be precise (with the weekend before as warmup).

So you’re probably looking for outdoor-friendly food. Especially side dishes with enough flavor to match the burgers, barbecue, and grilled goodies we’ll be preparing. And preferably something you can make ahead of time—so you can enjoy the festivities with your guests, rather than slaving in the kitchen.

How about a colorful coleslaw that features the sweet taste of bell peppers? Add a garlic vinaigrette and maybe a touch of jalapeño, and you’ve got a dish that’s sure to please. Your guests will think you spent hours putting it together. No need to tell them how easy it is.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Summer Green-Bean Salad

Summer Green-Bean Salad

Garlic vinaigrette turns green (string) beans into a perky starter or side

Time to green up, guys! Because green beans are finally in season in our part of the US.

Sure, we can buy “fresh” green beans other times of the year. But why bother? Too often they are woody, and their dull out-of-season flavor borders on soulless.

But as spring rolls into summer, we can find locally grown green beans in abundance. They’re plump and tender— and their flavor is so robust, they don’t require complicated recipes. All they need is a quick vinaigrette dressing. Simple.

We can handle simple.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Bamboo Cocktail

The Bamboo Cocktail

Bright flavor, low alcohol—the perfect warm-weather apéritif

Temperatures have started to climb in our part of the world, with humidity following suit. So we’re looking for pre-dinner drinks that are refreshing, but not filling.

Good thing we found the Bamboo Cocktail—a tasty combination of sherry and vermouth. It loads on the flavor, but goes light on the booze.

So your mom would love it. Which is handy, since Mother’s Day is coming up this Sunday. Sip it while singing her praises.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Tex-Mex Shredded-Beef Enchiladas

Tex-Mex Shredded-Beef Enchiladas

Red chile sauce and melted cheese liven up this classic dish

Enchiladas are a favorite with us. And their variety is endless.

We’re especially partial to Tex-Mex enchiladas: Corn tortillas wrapped around a savory filling, then covered in chile sauce and baked (usually with a thick coating of melted cheese). Yummo!

And when the filling is shredded beef, they’re pretty much irresistible.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Shredded-Beef Soft Tacos

Shredded-Beef Soft Tacos

Chilies spice up this easy-to-make Mexican dish

We can’t say no to tacos. Who can resist their luscious combination of corn tortillas, spicy chilies, savory meat, and cheese?

In the US, most people seem to favor ground beef for taco filling. But we prefer to use Mexican-style braised beef that’s been shredded. The flavor is deeper, plus the shredded meat has a more interesting texture.

And what about the tortillas? Well, we love the crispy Hard-Shelled Tacos that are a tradition in many Tex-Mex restaurants. But given a choice, we’ll take soft tacos any day of the week.

With soft tortillas, you don’t have to worry about the taco shell shattering when you take your first bite (there’s nothing messier than a taco that disintegrates in your hands). More important, when making soft tacos, you can use your own Homemade Tortillas. Freshly baked tortillas are amazing, and we grab any opportunity to use them.

So soft tacos give you wonderful flavor and loads of zip in an easy-to-eat package. Don’t you love the taste of Mexico?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Easy Homemade Corn Tortillas

Easy Homemade Corn Tortillas

Mexican comfort food—and it’s gluten free

It’s hard to imagine a Mexican meal without corn tortillas. Having tacos or enchiladas? Corn tortillas are integral to both dishes. Want to start with salsa and chips? Crispy thin tortillas play a starring role. Serving a spicy mole or seafood dish? Warm tortillas slathered with butter make a great accompaniment.

You can buy ready-made tortillas in the grocery store, and they’re serviceable in a pinch. But they can be bit bland. In fact, when it comes to taste and texture, packaged tortillas can’t compete with freshly made.

Fortunately, it takes only minutes to make corn tortillas in your own kitchen. So why not? It’s loads cheaper and tons healthier. Not to mention perfect for your big Cinco de Mayo blowout.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Mexican Charro Beans

Mexican Charro Beans

Use black or pinto beans for a zippy dish of Frijoles Charros

Who doesn’t like a side of beans when you’re eating Mexican? They’re the perfect accompaniment to tacos, enchiladas, or just about anything else.

You could have refried beans, of course. But we prefer something with a bit more zing. So we turn to Frijoles Charros—brothy Mexican-style beans enhanced with succulent pork (we vote for bacon), spicy chilies, and tangy tomato.

They’re easy to make, and actually taste better if prepared a day ahead. Convenient! And they’re perfect for Cinco de Mayo. Which just happens to be coming up in a few weeks (funny how that works in the blogging world).

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Rosita Cocktail

The Rosita Cocktail

This beautiful drink tastes like a tequila Negroni

Quick, name a cocktail made with tequila. The Margarita, you say? Yeah, everybody knows that one. And maybe The Tequila Sunrise. But after that . . . ?

Well, meet the Rosita Cocktail: A colorful tequila-powered sipper that’s overflowing with flavor.

The Rosita is delicious enough all by itself. But because we’re publishing on April 1st this year, we’re giving you a second cocktail, as a special bonus. It’s the perfect drink for April Fool’s Day. You won’t want to miss it, so read on.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Chickpea, Rice, and Spinach Salad

Chickpea, Rice, and Spinach Salad

This Italian-style vegan salad makes a healthy starter or main course

Spring has arrived here in St Louis. Well, sort of. Daffodils are popping up, but we’re still having some raw days.

Which makes this the perfect time for hearty salads—the kind that use beans or other legumes. They’re protein-rich, so a generous serving makes a meatless main course. But they’re not so heavy that you couldn’t use a smaller serving as a starter, or even as a side dish.

Today’s hearty salad features chickpeas. But it’s also loaded with healthy produce: Fresh spinach, red bell pepper, and red onions. So it tastes like spring.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Kale and Cabbage Gratin

Kale and Cabbage Gratin

This Provençal-style charmer is a great starter, side, or main dish

We can almost hear you muttering to yourself: “Kale? And cabbage? In a gratin? Really?

Yes, really. And this is one of the best dishes we’ve made in quite a while.

We don’t say that lightly. We tend to post only recipes that we like a lot. But even by that standard, this dish is extraordinary.

Best of all, kale and cabbage tend to be inexpensive this time of year. So you get tasty on a budget. Nice.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Easy and Tasty Roast Cabbage

Easy and Tasty Roast Cabbage

Roasting sweetens cabbage, taking its flavor to a whole new level

Cabbage doesn’t get the love it deserves. Sure, we like it in coleslaw. And we pair it with corned beef for St. Patrick’s Day. But the rest of the time? Most of us just walk right past it in the supermarket produce section.

Too bad. Because when roasted, cabbage serves up terrific flavor. The taste becomes sweeter and more intense (in a good way). And roasting doesn’t overwhelm your kitchen with the cabbage odor some find offensive (you know, the kind you get when you boil cabbage to death).

Succulent, tender, delightfully flavored. Roast cabbage will be the star of your next meal. Really.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Brainstorm Cocktail

The Brainstorm Cocktail

A drink made with Irish whiskey? Perfect for St. Pat’s Day

If you’re looking for an alcoholic beverage to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, you have plenty to choose from. In the US, Guinness stout and green beer are traditional favorites. Or maybe you’d prefer a shot of Irish whiskey with a beer chaser (green, of course). And there’s always Irish Coffee.

But this year, how about something different? The Brainstorm Cocktail is an Irish whiskey-fueled elixir, so it’s totally appropriate for the day. And its intriguing flavor will have people coming back for seconds.

If anybody asks how you came up with the idea for this drink, just smile modestly—and tell them it was a brainstorm.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

White Bean and Quinoa Soup with Ham

Healthy goodness to tame winter’s chill

Polar vortex got you down? Tired of shoveling snow? Then come inside and warm up with a nice bowl of homemade soup.

Here at Kitchen Riffs central, we often turn to soup when winter wallops us. Soup makes an easy (and hearty) one-dish meal. And this bean soup is loaded with lots of healthy flavors.

So it’s just the thing to put Old Man Winter in his place.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Homemade Whole Wheat Bread

Homemade Whole Wheat Bread

For splendid sandwiches and terrific toast

Is anything better than homemade bread fresh from the oven? The aroma (and flavor!) can be irresistible. And making it is easier than you might think. Hands-on time is only a few minutes—and the flavor payoff is major.

Plus, homemade bread contains no preservatives or additives. So if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to eat healthier, baking your own bread is a great way to start.

But be warned: Once you taste homemade, you’ll never be happy with store-bought loaves again.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Red Beans and Rice Soup

Red Beans and Rice Soup

A lighter version of a classic New Orleans Creole dish

One of our favorite comfort foods is red beans and rice—that spicy dish found everywhere in Louisiana. It’s particularly nice in cold weather because it warms you up in a hurry.

But it’s also a hearty dish, so it fills you up in a hurry too.

What to do when you want the terrific flavor of red beans and rice, but don’t want such a hefty meal? Just transform the dish into soup.

Red Beans and Rice Soup makes a great one-dish meal. But it’s not quite as caloric as the traditional version—which is a good thing for those of us still trying to lose that holiday bloat.

It’s also a smart way to celebrate Mardi Gras. Which arrives, of course, next week.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The White Russian Cocktail

The White Russian Cocktail

Like liquid ice cream

Anyone who’s seen The Big Lebowski has heard about the White Russian Cocktail. The key character in that movie—a slacker known as The Dude—drinks them often. In fact, sometimes White Russians seem to provide 100% of his daily calories.

It’s not hard to see why. With its mix of vodka, Kahlúa, and sweet cream, the drink tastes like boozy ice cream. One sip, and you’ll agree: This drink abides.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

BBQ Beef Brisket Chili

BBQ Beef Brisket Chili

Beer and barbecue sauce add zip to this cold weather pleaser

Using up leftover BBQ Beef Brisket generally isn’t a problem. Still, a brisket yields a lot more meat than most of us can eat at one meal.

You could make a sandwich (or two) the next day, of course. But how about trying something different? When the weather is cold (as it currently is throughout most of the US), nothing warms you up better than a bowl of chili. So why not use your leftover barbecue brisket to make chili—complete with sauce. It’s like barbecue in a bowl.

And speaking of bowls, if you haven’t already planned the menu for your Super Bowl festivities, this would be a great dish to serve. You can easily prepare it ahead of time and then reheat it on game day.

Plus, it’s a dish that will be new to many of your guests. And since both teams in this year’s Super Bowl have been there before, it’s nice to see at least something new, right?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Oven Slow-Cooked BBQ Beef Brisket

Oven Slow-Cooked BBQ Beef Brisket

Outdoor flavor cooked indoors

BBQ beef brisket cooked over a slow, smoky fire? Nothing better. But when the weather is cold—as it currently is throughout much of the US—most of us don’t venture outside to tend a smoker or grill.

We’re happy to turn on the oven, though. Which is handy, because brisket “barbecued” in the oven can have flavor that’s almost as good as the outdoor kind. It even takes a bit less time to make. And it requires very little attention from the cook.

That gives you more time to enjoy other things—like chatting with your guests at the annual Super Bowl party. This year, maybe you’ll even get to see the whole game.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Green Chile Chili Beans with Bacon

Green Chile Chili Beans with Baco;n

The perfect side dish for your Super Bowl shindig

Here in the US, we’re starting to plan Super Bowl parties. Down under, folks are finalizing plans for Australia Day barbecues. And most of us know what we’ll be serving for the main course. But, hey, party feasts are all about those sides.

So if you’re looking for a flavorful dish that will complement a wide variety of foods, you won’t go wrong with spicy Green Chile Chili Beans. We love to serve these beans with BBQ Spare Ribs or BBQ Pulled Pork. They can even be a meal in themselves—just add a slice of cornbread, and you’re all set.

Best of all, these chili beans are cooked with bacon. Enough said.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Smith and Curran Cocktail

The Smith and Curran Cocktail

AKA Smith and Kearns, this tastes like a boozy chocolate egg cream

This drink goes by many names. It’s often called the Smith and Kearns, the Smith and Kearn (or Kern), or the Smith and Currans. Different monikers, same drink.

But its proper name is the Smith and Curran. That’s because it was named after two oilmen, Wendell Smith and James Curran. Over the years, people apparently misheard “Curran” as “Kearns.” Hence the differing names.  But no matter what you call it, this is a great drink.

More cocktail history later.  Right now, let’s learn how to make one of these lovelies.