recipes

Some Spring Cocktails and Entertaining Goodies

Apparently it is finally supposed to turn warm in DC this weekend (and by finally I mean again, since it was 80 degrees in February).  Nothing like seeing patios opening and flowers blooming to make me want to set down the heavier drinks of fall and winter and start sipping spring flavors.  I thought for the weekend I would pull together some of my favorite spring cocktails to inspire some deck parties.

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Thyme Vodka Lemonade

Mule with a Kick

Blackberry Mojito

The Cherry Blossom

This time of the year also makes me want to run out and buy everything in fun springy colors so I am sharing some of the spring entertaining items I have been drooling over lately (hint hint Mr. Easter Bunny!).

How cute are these Mark and Graham gingham plates?  Perfect for a picnic.

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They would look super cute on this Kate Spade lemon tablecloth that I already have (I found it at Home Goods for $12!!).

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How about these adorable cheese boards from Anthropologie?  It’s hard to pick just one.

I love these peacock blue glasses from CB2 – great for water glasses or any of my spring cocktails.

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And last but not least how cool is this ice mold from Crate and Barrel?  You can put flowers, fruit, leaves etc in the mold and it perfectly fits a bottle of wine.  It chills your wine and makes a functional and beautiful centerpiece!

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I hope wherever you are it’s warming up there to and you have a weekend full of friends, flowers and festivities!

 

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

Yes 40 cloves!  This beautiful French dish was one of my favorites as a kid – partly because of the novelty of how much garlic is in it and partly because its 100% delicious.  This is a great spring dish because its hearty but not heavy so no matter what the temps are outside its appropriate.  Please don’t be scared off by the garlic – this could even be a date night dish!  Once you have cooked the garlic it becomes totally sweet and not stinky at all.  Make sure to pick up some crusty bread to serve alongside so you can spread the melting garlic cloves on the bread and sop up all the sauce.  There are a lot of different versions out there so once again I went through and tried all of the recipes I could find and then combines the best of all of them to achieve this recipe.

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Peeling the garlic can be a pain but I sort of find it therapeutic.  If you want to do it in advance and store in the fridge for a couple of days you can do that.  I use the palm of my hand to push down on the clove ever so slightly so that the skin separates from the garlic but not so much that it crushes the clove (also I won’t tell anyone if you buy already peeled garlic, just make sure its whole cloves not chopped).  I would say it takes about 7 minutes to peel so factor that into your cooking time.  This is such great comfort food – serve it with mashed potatoes or polenta (and don’t forget that bread!) along with a nice clean green salad.

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  garlic galore
Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 bone in skin on chicken breasts, cut in half
  • 40 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup of cream
  • 3 teaspoons chopped tarragon

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  In a dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium high heat.  Salt and pepper the chicken pieces then cook in batches just so the chicken is nicely browned, about 5 minutes per batch.

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When the chicken is browned reserve it on a plate.  Turn down the heat to medium and add the garlic.  Sauté the garlic for 5 minutes, turning down the heat if you need to so it doesn’t burn.  Add the white wine and deglaze the bottom of the pan getting up all the good brown bits.

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Return the chicken to the pot, skin side up, and add the chicken stock.  Cover and place in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.  Remove the chicken and garlic to your serving platter and cover with foil.  Put the dutch oven back on the stovetop and cook down the juices over medium high for about 5 minutes until reduced a bit.  Stir in the cream and tarragon, taste for salt and pepper, then pour over the chicken and garlic.

 

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Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Print

Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 bone in skin on chicken breasts, cut in half
  • 40 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup of cream
  • 3 teaspoons chopped tarragon

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  In a dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium high heat.  Salt and pepper the chicken pieces then cook in batches just so the chicken is nicely browned, about 5 minutes per batch.  When the chicken is browned reserve it on a plate.  Turn down the heat to medium and add the garlic.  Sauté the garlic for 5 minutes, turning down the heat if you need to so it doesn’t burn.  Add the white wine and deglaze the bottom of the pan getting up all the good brown bits.

Return the chicken to the pot, skin side up, and add the chicken stock.  Cover and place in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.  Remove the chicken and garlic to your serving platter and cover with foil.  Put the dutch oven back on the stovetop and cook down the juices over medium high for about 5 minutes until reduced a bit.  Stir in the cream and tarragon, taste for salt and pepper, then pour over the chicken and garlic.

Individual Tiramisu

In keeping with last week’s “mini” theme I thought I would post a great individual dessert you can serve to a crowd.  These were the perfect sweet ending to an engagement party I threw that I will post about next week.  The best part is that they have to be made in advance, so while there are a lot of layers, they are easy to do and can all be made a day before.  I used 8 ounce glasses from Ikea but any small vessel will do, even plastic.  Grab a bunch of these mini spoons and you are good to go.  If you don’t want to do individual tiramisus then just follow the instructions without breaking up the lady fingers and layer in one large pan.  The special couple had a sentimental attachment to this dish but it turned out to be a real crowd pleaser – almost like coffee and dessert in one!

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Individual Tiramisu (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  elegant mini desserts
Special Equipment:  24 small glasses and spoons, hand mixer

  • 12 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup marsala wine
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 24 ounces room temperature mascarpone cheese
  • 2 cups of espresso (or 2 cups hot water with 6 tablespoons of espresso powder)
  • 1/2 cup coffee liqueur (like Kahula)
  • 36 lady fingers (found in the Italian section of your grocery store or in the cookie aisle)
  • cocoa for disting

Place the egg yolks, marsala wine and sugar in a heatproof bowl.  In a saucepan add several inches of water and bring to a simmer.  Place the bowl over the water (make sure its not touching) – this is called a double boiler.  Using a handheld mixer beat the egg mixture for 5 to 8 minutes, until the eggs have tripled in volume.  The mixture will be light in color and thickened.

Take the bowl off the heat (carefully) and fold in the mascarpone cheese, trying not to deflate the mixture (room temp is very important here so it incorporates easily).

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Set aside.  In a shallow baking dish combine the espresso and the coffee liqueur.  Break the ladyfingers into a couple of pieces (I broke them into quarters).  Spoon a small amount of the mascarpone mixture into the bottom of the glass.  Dunk two ladyfinger pieces into the espresso mixture, quickly so they don’t fall apart, and pile them into the glass.

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Repeat for 2 more layers and then dust with cocoa powder.  Repeat with the rest of the glasses (I did it in assembly line style which worked well).  Chill overnight and serve.

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Individual Tiramisu

  • Servings: 24
  • Time: 40 minutes, overnight chilling
  • Print

Special Equipment:  24 small glasses and spoons, hand mixer

  • 12 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup marsala wine
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 24 ounces room temperature mascarpone cheese
  • 2 cups of espresso (or 2 cups hot water with 6 tablespoons of espresso powder)
  • 1/2 cup coffee liqueur (like Kahula)
  • 36 lady fingers (found in the Italian section of your grocery store or in the cookie aisle)
  • cocoa for disting

Place the egg yolks, marsala wine and sugar in a heatproof bowl.  In a saucepan add several inches of water and bring to a simmer.  Place the bowl over the water (make sure its not touching) – this is called a double boiler.  Using a handheld mixer beat the egg mixture for 5 to 8 minutes, until the eggs have tripled in volume.  The mixture will be light in color and thickened.  Take the bowl off the heat (carefully) and fold in the mascarpone cheese, trying not to deflate the mixture (room temp is very important here so it incorporates easily).  Set aside.

In a shallow baking dish combine the espresso and the coffee liqueur.  Break the ladyfingers into a couple of pieces (I broke them into quarters).  Spoon a small amount of the mascarpone mixture into the bottom of the glass.  Dunk two ladyfinger pieces into the espresso mixture, quickly so they don’t fall apart, and pile them into the glass.  Repeat for 2 more layers and then dust with cocoa powder.  Repeat with the rest of the glasses (I did it in assembly line style which worked well).  Chill overnight and serve.

Chicken Salad Canapes

I often have a hard timing figuring out what sort of canapés I can serve at parties that are filling.  Most meat based appetizers require them to be warm or are really expensive (think lamb lollipops) but if you are going to be drinking all night I want my guests to have more in them than just cheese!  Here little mini phyllo cups really come into handy.  You buy them in the frozen section of your grocery store and they are already cooked so all you have to do is fill them.  I decided for a recent party to go with chicken salad, most specifically chicken salad veronique, which is a French version with grapes.  It is really delicious as a regular chicken salad served alone or in a sandwich but for this application I cut the chicken and the grapes really small so they would fit neatly in the cups and be easy to eat.  These things went like hot cakes and I am sure your friends will appreciate the “heavy ap” at your next party.

Chicken Salad Canapes (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  phyllo cups
Special Equipment: none

  • 2 rotisserie chicken breasts (or roast your own)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons white wine
  • 3 tablespoons chopped tarragon
  • 20 green grapes, quartered
  • 60 phyllo cups – I used the Athens brand

Cut the chicken breasts into small pieces and place in a large bowl.

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In a medium bowl wish together the mayo, sour cream, white wine, tarragon and salt and pepper.

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Add 3/4 of the mixture to the chicken along with the grapes.  Stir to combine and then add as much of the remaining dressing as necessary.  The salad can be made several days in advance and stored in the fridge.  When you are ready to serve, use a teaspoon to fill the cups with the salad.

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Chicken Salad Canapés

  • Servings: 60
  • Time: 5 minutes
  • Print

Special Equipment: none

  • 2 rotisserie chicken breasts (or roast your own)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons white wine
  • 3 tablespoons chopped tarragon
  • 20 green grapes, quartered
  • 60 phyllo cups – I used the Athens brand

Cut the chicken breasts into small pieces and place in a large bowl.  In a medium bowl wish together the mayo, sour cream, white wine, tarragon and salt and pepper.  Add 3/4 of the mixture to the chicken along with the grapes.  Stir to combine and then add as much of the remaining dressing as necessary.  The salad can be made several days in advance and stored in the fridge.  When you are ready to serve, use a teaspoon to fill the cups with the salad.

Bolognese Sauce

I usually plan dinner parties weeks in advance – tinker with the menu, what wines to serve, what kind of tabletop I want to have etc until I settle on exactly the look, taste and feel I want.  However, there is something to be said for spontaneity and this sauce and the dinner party it spawned is a good reminder to me that I should trying to be less planned.  I have been working on my bolognese sauce for a couple of years, trying to meet my husband’s exacting standards.  I had been getting pretty close so when our good friend Dave was staying with us for the weekend I thought it would be a good way to try out the latest incarnation.  We were having a bunch of people over to watch the Patriots so the notoriously long cooing sauce could just sit and bubble away while the game was on.  Well smelling the sauce for a couple of hours drove my friend Baker to distraction – he offered up a deal.  Could he and his fiance Erikka stay and have dinner with us if he provided fresh pasta??  That was much too good for me to pass up and so suddenly a dinner for 3 because a party of 5 with a fresh pasta lesson to boot.  I was able to round up a nice salad to start and figured out some sort of dessert with what I had in my pantry.  Baker schooled us all on making pasta by hand (something that I am determined to conquer this year).

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It was one of the most fun nights in recent memory and the sauce was just perfect with the fresh pasta strands.  This sauce would actually be good on cardboard so if you don’t have fresh pasta just used boxed like I had planned to.  This makes a ton and freezes really well so you too can have an impromptu dinner party!

Bolognese Sauce (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  fresh pasta in the house!
Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
  • 5 ounces chicken livers, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 6 ounce can of tomato paste
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • parmesan rind (optional)
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • parmesan for serving
  • pasta (fresh or dried) for serving – its also great as pizza sauce!

Add the olive oil to a large pot and heat over medium temperature.  Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic to the pot and season with salt and pepper.

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Cook for about 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not browned.  Add the chicken livers and the thyme and increase the heat to medium high.  Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the livers no longer look raw.

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Add in the ground beef, pork and lamb and cook until no longer pink, breaking up the pieces with your utensil occasionally, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, then add the tomato paste, pepper flakes and the parmesan rind (if you have one).  Cook the tomato paste for a couple of minutes until it is totally incorporated with the rest of the sauce.  Add the red wine, stir to combine, and then stir in the cream.

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Bring to a simmer and then turn down the heat to low and cook for 2 hours at a minimum, 3 to 4 hours if you have the time.  If at any time the sauce looks a little too dry you can add in a splash of wine or cream to loosen it up.   Remove the rind before serving. This sauce keeps well in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months.

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Bolognese Sauce

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 3 to 5 hours depending
  • Print

Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
  • 5 ounces chicken livers, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 6 ounce can of tomato paste
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • parmesan rind (optional)
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • parmesan for serving
  • pasta (fresh or dried) for serving – its also great as pizza sauce!

Add the olive oil to a large pot and heat over medium temperature.  Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic to the pot and season with salt and pepper.  Cook for about 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not browned.  Add the chicken livers and the thyme and increase the heat to medium high.  Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the livers no longer look raw.  Add in the ground beef, pork and lamb and cook until no longer pink, breaking up the pieces with your utensil occasionally, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, then add the tomato paste, pepper flakes and the parmesan rind (if you have one).  Cook the tomato paste for a couple of minutes until it is totally incorporated with the rest of the sauce.  Add the red wine, stir to combine, and then stir in the cream.  Bring to a simmer and then turn down the heat to low and cook for 2 hours at a minimum, 3 to 4 hours if you have the time.  If at any time the sauce looks a little too dry you can add in a splash of wine or cream to loosen it up.   Remove the rind before serving. This sauce keeps well in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months.

Balsamic Brussels Sprouts

In keeping with the clean eating theme of the week and the new year I thought I would post one of the easiest vegetable recipes I know that features one of the best veggies to help clean up your act.  Cruciferous vegetables, think broccoli, kale and our little friends the brussels sprouts, are considered “super vegetables” because they contain high amounts of Vitamins A and C, and help prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease.  I love them because they are usually inexpensive and also some of the only good looking things in the produce aisle once the weather turns cold.  I love roasted brussels sprouts (and also fried ones but that’s not really health conscious!) but those take time.  By shredding the sprouts you can saute them in minutes.  In the spring and summer I like to pair them with bright lemon like I do here but in the fall and winter something a bit deeper is called for.  For that I turn to balsamic glaze, essentially balsamic vinegar that has been cooked down to a rich syrup.  You can do that yourself but lots of places are selling glazes these days and that makes this even quicker to make (I like Wegmans version).  Want to speed up the process even more?  Skip the tedious task of slicing the sprouts thinly and let the slicer blade on your food processor do the work for you.  Look how fast!

If you don’t have a food processor you can thinly slice them with a sharp knife for on a mandolin several days in advance.  Just keep them in a baggie until you are ready to use them and this dish will come together in minutes.  This dish would be great alongside Veal SaltimboccaPistachio Crusted Pork Medallions or Cornish Game Hens with Herb Butter.

Balsamic Brussels Sprouts (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  a healthy 2017
Special Equipment:  food processor fitted with a slicer blade (optional)

  • 1 pound brussels sprouts, sliced thinly
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons balsamic glaze

Heat your largest skillet to medium high and when it is hot add the olive oil.  Dump in the sprouts and season with salt and pepper.

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Let sit for a minute until some browning has occurred, then stir.  Stir again every couple of minutes for 5-7 minutes until the sprouts have wilted a bit and they are browned in areas.  Place on a serving platter and drizzle with the balsamic glaze.

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Balsamic Brussels Sprouts

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 7 minutes
  • Print

Special Equipment:  food processor fitted with a slicer blade (optional)

  • 1 pound brussels sprouts, sliced thinly
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons balsamic glaze

Heat your largest skillet to medium high and when it is hot add the olive oil.  Dump in the sprouts and season with salt and pepper.  Let sit for a minute until some browning has occurred, then stir.  Stir again every couple of minutes for 5-7 minutes until the sprouts have wilted a bit and they are browned in areas.  Place on a serving platter and drizzle with the balsamic glaze.

Healthy Grab and Go Breakfasts for 2017

It may be a bit cliche to start off the new year with healthy recipes but its cliche for a reason!  We all over indulge during the holidays and start the new year with the best of intentions.  The best thing about these two recipes is that they are healthy and delicious but also appropriate year round.  No matter the season everyone is always looking for quick breakfast ideas what will keep them full until lunch.  Here I have for you an easy green juice and a delish smoothie.

Green juices are an awesome way to start your day – it seriously makes you feel virtuous all day long.  They look terrible but I swear once you get past the first sip and your skepticism they are actually really yummy.  Problem is you need a juicer for this – if that isn’t in your budget or you don’t think you will use it much, move on to the smoothie.  I have to admit that juicers take up a lot of real estate and can be quite pricey.  I don’t love mine but I also don’t use it a ton so didn’t want to spend a lot either.  I have this one from Hamilton Beach and it works pretty well but if you want the best of the best I suggest you check out Sweet Home, a great site that thoroughly reviews products.  They provide a range of options depending on your budget and have never steered me wrong.  For the smoothie all you need is a blender.  I use my Cusinart Smart Stick immersion blender that even comes with its own smoothie cup.  I have had it for years and its great for smoothies or pureeing soups etc.  I use a frozen banana so it almost drinks like a milkshake.  Whenever one of our bananas becomes too ripe to eat I just break one up into chunks, put them in a baggie and throw them in the freezer.  Each of these drinks only take minutes to make and really constitute a meal.  Throw them in a cute cup and you are ready to tackle the work day.  Happy New Years!

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ACC’s Green Juice (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  clean out your veggie drawer and your insides!
Special Equipment:  a juicer and a wire strainer (optional)

  • 5 ounces baby spinach
  • 1 inch of ginger, peeled
  • 1 apple, core and all, cut into 1/4ers
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 carrots

Juice all of the veggies and fruit into a container.  If you would like, strain through a fine wire strainer, then enjoy over ice.

ACC's Green Juice

  • Servings: 1
  • Time: 3 minutes
  • Print

Special Equipment:  a juicer and a wire strainer (optional)

  • 5 ounces baby spinach
  • 1 inch of ginger, peeled
  • 1 apple, core and all, cut into 1/4ers
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 carrots

Juice all of the veggies and fruit into a container.  If you would like, strain through a fine wire strainer, then enjoy over ice.

Almond Chia Banana Smoothie (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  like a milkshake but healthier
Special Equipment:  blender

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 non fat vanilla yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds

In a blender combine all the ingredients (I like to add the ingredients to the blender or smoothie bowl and let sit for a couple of minutes to soften the banana so it incorporates better but if you are in a rush you can skip that step.)

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Almond Chia Banana Smoothie

  • Servings: 1
  • Time: 1 minute
  • Print

Special Equipment:  blender

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 non fat vanilla yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds

In a blender combine all the ingredients (I like to add the ingredients to the blender or smoothie bowl and let sit for a couple of minutes to soften the banana so it incorporates better but if you are in a rush you can skip that step.)

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