Tag Archives: make ahead

Hummus

Hummus definitely falls into that category of foods where you ask yourself, “Is it worth making this or should I just buy some?”  There are plenty of good brands of hummus to purchase, especially if you doctor it up with a drizzle of olive oil or a sprinkling of zatar spice.  The thing is you can never quite buy yourself the super smooth, fresh tasting, garlicy punch of your own homemade hummus.  There are a zillion of hummus recipes out there and once again I have practically tried them all to try and find the right combination of teqniques.  Most purists will tell you to start with dried chickpeas, soak them over night, cook them with baking soda etc etc but at that point, for me at least, the scales of why can’t I just buy this and dispense with the hassle starts to tilt into convince’s favor.  So canned chickpeas it is.  That doesn’t mean there won’t be some work involved.  I found the somewhat tedious task of taking the skins off of the canned chickpeas makes for a substantially smoother and better tasting hummus.  It’s not as easy as just dumping the can into the food processor but at least it’s not a multi day effort.  To peel them, drain and rinse the canned chickpeas.  Then take the chickpea between your fingers and gently squeeze – you will find the weird white casing comes right off.  For a can of chickpeas it took me about 15 minutes – just turn on your favorite cooking show and get lost in the mindless task.

From my research I learned that the other benefit of cooking your own chickpeas was that when they are warm they take on the other ingredients better.  Well here we can easily cheat that by quickly nuking the skinned chickpeas in the microwave for a couple of seconds before adding them to the food processor.  After that its just a matter of taste with the amount of tahini, lemon juice and garlic.  The recipe below is how I like it but play around and see what you like best – some people really want more of that sesame tahini flavor, others really hate lemon juice and replace it with water.  The method is the key and once you have that down the sky’s the limit.  Hummus away!

Hummus 

  • 15.5 ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed, drained with the skins removed (see above)
  • 5 -6 tablespoons warm water
  • 3 tablespoons tahini sauce
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • olive oil and zatar for serving (optional)

Once all the chickpeas are peeled (see above on how to remove the skins) place them in a  microwave safe bowl and microwave them on high for 20 seconds.  Add the warmed chickpeas to the food processor along with the rest of the ingredients.  Puree until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides.

If its not as smooth as you would like add more warm water.  Chill for at least 1 hour to let the flavors meld – serve room temperature with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of zatar (optional).

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ACC Parties: A Spring Menu for Easter

Easter in my family is a big deal and definitely my 2nd favorite holiday (sorry nothing beats Christmas!).  There is something about the little chickies, the pastel candy and all those spring ingredients that make me so happy.  Even if you don’t celebrate Easter the beginning of spring is a great time to gather your family and sit down to a nice meal that celebrates the best parts of the season.  Here is a suggested menu that has a lot of moving parts but actually very little needs to be done the day of, leaving you free to hunt Easter eggs and binge on candy with the fam.  I wanted the table setting to be whimsical, especially with kids in attendance.  I found these super cute carrot utensil holders at the dollar section of Target and paired it with our Vera Wang wedding china, set on chargers that sort of mimic an Easter basket.  Glitter eggs scattered over my homemade seersucker tablecloth and bam, spring is alive.

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I don’t like to have giant flowers getting in the way of conversation so instead I opted for some thyme from my garden staggered down the center of the table in white pots.  How cute is that cabbage serving dish?  I found it for $4 at Home Goods the week before Easter so I knew it had to make it to the table.  I set up our kitchen island as a appetizer and drinks station with a floral Cynthia Rowley tablecloth (also Home Goods!) and some baby’s breath mixed with bells of Ireland for flowers.

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Cheese and Chartucherie Board

No party is complete without one!  Since both of the aps I was actually making were veggie based I knew I had to get some cheese in here somehow.  Just pick a nice selection and throw some dried apricots or grapes on the plate to jazz it up.

Cooking Light Chilled Sweet Pea Soup with Mint and Cream

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Nothing is more springy that sweet peas (no one needs you know you get em out of a bag!).  This soup is simple and can be made up to two days in advance.  I served it in cute little glasses for sipping but discovered that the texture really wasn’t ideal for that so I would suggest providing spoons for people to eat the soup with instead.  It’s a super light appetizer that adds a nice green punch to the mix.

 Za’atar Spiced Beet Dip with Goat Cheese and Hazelnuts

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I had been dying to make this dip since the first time I spotted it in Food and Wine Magazine all the way back in 2012 – goes to show how many recipes I have socked away!.  It’s totally beautiful but I knew it would also be delicious, being the brain child of Yotam Ottolenghi, of Jersuleam (and this post) fame.  Everyone loved the earthy complex flavor and of course the color!

Lamb Kebobs with Minted Yogurt Sauce

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Lamb is the quintessential Easter dish but with grilled lamb kebobs you can make life much easier.  Marinate the lamb up to two days before and then just throw on the grill as you are having appetizers.  I love that it doesn’t hog the oven like a big lamb roast and it also encourages your guests to go outside and enjoy the spring, keeping the grill master company.  This version by Ina is so good though I skipped her sauce and went for my standard mint and yogurt sauce found here.

Make Ahead Polenta

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As described in this post, make ahead polenta can be really done with any kind of polenta recipe you have by just increasing the liquid content.  This was a great side for the lamb and didn’t require me standing over a hot pot frantically stirring the polenta – it was even a hit with the kiddos!

Roasted Asparagus

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Just toss spears with olive oil, salt and pepper and put them on a baking sheet.  During the last 15 minutes of the polenta put the baking sheet in the oven, toss once and voila!  A nice crunchy veggie side with almost zero effort.

Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

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Ok so here is where most of the effort for the meal came in.  I realized when I was planning the menu that I had so many make ahead items that I didn’t really have much to do “day of.”  That can sometimes spell disaster because then I set and reset the table, putter around driving my husband crazy (and myself) before our guests arrive.  So I made an easy layer cake and decided to try my hand at the basket weave frosting on top.  I followed this tutorial from Wilton – it was actually pretty easy once I got the hang of it.  It does take a while and my hand was sort of cramped into a claw for a bit but you can do this first thing in the AM and just keep the cake at room temp (or in the fridge if it’s really warm in your house).  I also got  beautiful edible dried flowers from Terrian and scattered them on top.  I have to say I was really proud of this one but if you don’t have the time or energy a store-bought dessert or even this cake without the fancy pants frosting would be delicious.  Happy Spring to everyone!

St. Patricks Day Dinner Party

As I have explained, St. Patrick’s day is a big deal in our house.  This year it is going to be even more awesome as it falls on a Friday and my sister in law Sara will be in town to celebrate.  DC watch out!  Last year I pulled together this fun little dinner party to celebrate.  Hopefully the menu and pictures inspire you for this Friday. Sláinte!

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Decorating the table is easy for this one – anything green or gold works!  I used my favorite gold flatware and gold and black votive candles.  I just so happen to have several mini beer mugs (don’t you??) that I used to hold a sprinkling of baby’s breath down the middle of the table.  Paired with green linens and a rattan charger for contrast it was a super easy table to pull together.  For additional green, Bells of Ireland and Babys breath in a large vase at the end of the table.

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Black Velvet

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Guinness is essential for a St. Patrick’s day feast, but for those of you who are not a big fan or who want to class it up a bit may I suggest the Black Velvet.  Half Guiness, half Champagne (or in this case Cava) you use the back of the spoon to pour the two which creates this amazing layered effect.  Also the cava brightens up the Guinness making for a lovely drink.

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I served these with an Irish cheese board that included Dubliner cheddar, a Irish whiskey washed cows milk cheese, some fig jam, candied walnuts and a Cashel blue cheese from County Tipperary.

Brown Butter Soda Bread

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I make this every year without fail.  It is hands down the best soda bread recipe I have ever tried and even better, it makes two loaves!  The browned butter gives it a nutty rich taste and the rosemary adds a freshness.  If you have never baked bread, this is where to start as it requires no kneading or pans and is practically impossible to mess up.  Make sure to pick up some good Irish butter to serve it with.

Boston Lettuce with Buttermilk Dressing

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You have to have some green right?  I love beautiful Boston lettuce (some call it bibb but not this Bostonian!) as its so tender and light.  You can serve it whole like I did which makes it look like you plucked it right from a beautiful Irish garden, or cut into wedges for individual servings.  Drizzled with this buttermilk dressing its a great fresh start to the meal.

Patrick’s Irish Stew Pot Pies

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This stew that I posted last St. Patrick’s day is delicious all on its own but my boy looooves pot pies so I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to combine the two.  Also a great excuse to use my cute little shamrock cookie cutters!  Make the stew in advance, then just put into individual bowls.  Defrost some puff pastry, you will probably need 2 sheets for 4 pies.  Cut out circles slightly larger than the top of the bowl.

Brush the edges of the bowl with egg wash and then top with the puff pastry.  You will need to cut slits in the top to let steam escape or you can use a cookie cutter like I did to make a shamrock hole.  Brush the top of the puff pastry with the egg wash and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for 30 minutes or so until golden.

Guinness Ice Cream Floats

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No real recipe needed here – just scoop your favorite vanilla ice cream into a tall glass and top with as much Guinness as you would like.  Drizzle on some chocolate sauce and you are in business!  All of these dishes are pretty easy so even when St. Patrick’s day falls on a weeknight you can impress your friends.  Happy St. Patricks!

How to Build a Bagel Bar

The holiday season is officially upon us.  I had my entire house decorated Friday by about noon but I am nuts.  I was at the White House yesterday and the army of volunteers are still putting up their decorations (check out my insta for a pic!) so if you haven’t gotten around to it, don’t feel bad.  For this crazy season I thought I would post things that are perfect for making ahead, ideas for simple but elegant entertaining and of course cocktails to get you through.  This bagel bar is a great combo of all three and daytime entertaining is ideal for the holidays.   Question: who doesn’t love a #sundayfunday brunch?  Answer:  the person who has to wake up early to cook!  I love hosting people for breakfast and brunch but sometimes it can be a real “scramble” getting everything ready in the morning.  Have a bagel bar means just a bunch of arranging and yes I guess some cooking making bacon but come on, we cannot skip the bacon!  Everything else can be prepped a head of time so all you need to do it pop the bubbles and enjoy the day.

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Step one:  Night before order the bagels – these beauties are the thing holding up the whole party so you don’t want subpar bagels and you certainly don’t want to show up at the bagel place to discover that they are out of the best flavors.  I like to order from Bullfrog Bagels on H Street here in DC.  If your bagel place doesn’t have online ordering just pick up the phone and place the order directly with them.  I would budget a bagel per person even though I find that most of my friends only really eat a half once they load up on the other goodies and toppings.  However, no one ever wants to be skimpy and any leftovers can be frozen.  Get a mix of plain, everything and sesame (the most popular flavors) and then grab whatever looks good – I love salt bagels in case anyone is inviting me to their bagel bar!  Now that the bagels are pre-ordered that means just popping out to grab them first thing in the AM or getting a helpful friend or spouse to do it for you.  If you want to save even more time go ahead and order cream cheeses with the bagels, if not stay tuned for how to spruce up plain old spreads.

Step two:  Night before bake some sweets – brunches are built on the two pillars of salty and sweet.  The bagels and their toppings have you set for savory so you need to provide some sort of dessert/sweet option.  If you order your bagels from a true bakery go ahead and grab some sweets there but I like to at least have my hands in something for this party.  This last time around I made Ina’s Ultimate Ginger Cookies but my cookies Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies would be perfect for brunch instead.

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Step three:  Night before prep the fixings – here you can really be creative.  What do you like on a bagel?  What would look pretty and colorful?  What is in season?  What is in my fridge that I want to get rid of?  Valid questions all.  For this bagel bar I went pretty traditional – I had lox, radishes, red onions and horror of all horrors, cucumbers.  One of the few things in the world I DO NOT EAT but here is where being a good hostess kicks in.  Its my understanding that some people actually like these thing and actually the green was a nice addition to the plate so what the hell.  Slice everything thinly and store in plastic bags in the fridge.  If tomatoes are in season they are also a nice addition as well as thinly sliced fennel.  For cream cheese I wanted to have a nice selection so I had plain as well as three flavors.  Flavoring cream cheese is incredibly easy – just blend finely chopped herbs or veggies in with the cream cheese.  The key is to have room temp cheese so that everything blends well.  I find that the paddle attachment in a stand mixer is the best way to do this but good old elbow grease and a spatula will work as well.  Just add in fixings until you get the flavor you like.  For this party I did scallion, honey and walnut and a veggie cheese made with carrots and celery.  Fill small bowls or ramekins with your custom or store bought cream cheeses and cover with saran wrap so they are ready to go.

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Step four:  Morning of make bacon and coffee – ok so yes you do have to do some work here but its truly minimal.  Patrick makes the coffee in our family so that’s one less thing I have to do but get it set up the night before and all you have to do is push a button.  The bacon you should do in the oven as I taught you here so you can do a huge batch at once.  Put as much as you can on baking sheets at 400 degrees for 15 minutes then drain on paper towels and done.

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Step five:  Morning of set up bar – dual meaning here.  You want to set up the bagel bar and the booze bar morning of.  Slice those bagels and arrange them prettily in a basket or on a tray.  Do not make your guests navigate the hazzards of slicing their own bagels – your friends will thank you.  Pull out the prepped fixings from the fridge and set them out as well to come to room temp (except the lox which should be set out right before).  Grab your toaster and set that out as well so people can toast if they want to (do you have toast tongs?  If not this is a great excuse to get some).  Also set up the bar so your guests can grab their own drinks.  I put out sparkling water as well as sparking wine (my house cava of course), some red and white wine, sodas and a variety of juices.  Glasses and an ice bucket and you are all set.

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This bagel bar is the perfect brunch for after a family event like a graduation or recital as you only need a few minutes of prep before your guests arrive and everything is served room temperature.  Pretty presentation and thoughtful homemade touches will make your guests feel special while you can catch some extra zzz before the party.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

In honor of the University of Maryland Terrapins starting their football season 4-0 (Fear the Turtle!!!) I am posting one of my favorite snacks from college.  I have already spoken about my love for the wings at Cornerstone in College Park but another important component of those happy hours was the spinach and artichoke dip.  Just another “healthy” college snack (oh how I miss my 19 year old metabolism) to knock back with some cheap beer and good friends.  Cornerstone’s was fantastic, though I am sorry to say since graduation it seems like they have changed their recipe and not for the better.  Anyway it is way easier just to make it at home and that way I can class it up a bit with nutty grueye cheese.  I can assure you the College Park version didn’t include creme fraiche either.

Because this version uses frozen spinach and canned artichokes it is extremely easy to pull together – just make sure to squeeze out as much water from the frozen spinach as you can otherwise it will end up soupy.  I like to make this ahead and then just pop it into the oven when folks get hungry.  LET’S GO MARYLAND!!!!!

Spinach and Artichoke Dip 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 10 ounces canned artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 6 ounces cream cheese – room temperature
  • 4 ounces creme fraiche – room temperature
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 3/4 cup grated gruyere cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • tortilla chips and crudites to serve with

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat and cook the shallots and garlic until softened, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the spinach (make sure to really squeeze out all the water you can) as well as the nutmeg and red pepper flakes.  Cook for another 2 minutes or so until all the water is gone.

Remove from heat.  In a large bowl combine the spinach mixture, artichoke hearts, cream cheese, creme fraiche, mayo and gruyere cheese.  Season with salt and pepper and pour into a baking dish (I used a 7 by 10 dish but 8 by 8 or really any medium to large size will do).  Top evenly with the grated Parmesan.

If you are making this in advance let the dip cool then cover with saran wrap and store in the fridge for a couple of days until you are ready to bake.  Once ready to cook it, remove any covering and bake in the 400 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes (the length will depend on the size of pan you use and how brown you want it to get, just make sure its bubbling before you take it out).  Let cool for several minutes and serve.

Slow Cooker Lamb Tagine

When I was a kid and got a present I would immediately use it, even if that meant wearing a parka in July or playing with my ice cream stand at Christmas.  I haven’t grown up all that much because when my brand new slow cooker arrived in the mail it was less than 24 hours before I broke that baby in.  My friend Tommy had convinced me to upgrade from my old school crock pot to one with a digital timer.  After some research I settled on the Set n’ Forget from Hamilton Beach and have been really happy with it so far.  The best thing about having the timer is that I put the lamb tagine in before I went to work and set it for 8 hours – once it hits the proscribed time the slow cooker switches to a warming mode.  I was worried that the food would be overcooked and dry but it was perfect.  I always wondered how people were cooking in their slow cooker and working a full work day but now I can be one of those people!  Browning the lamb at 7:00am wasn’t the highlight of my day but coming home to an almost complete meal was – I served this dish alongside some couscous which only requires boiling water.  Viola, a dinner party!

A tagine is actually an earthenware cooking vessel from Northern Africa (and the name of dishes made in it).  Its conical shape helps seal in moisture to braise chicken or lamb dishes just like its more modern slow cooker friend.  I would love to have this hand-painted one from Tunisia, maybe not to cook in but to use as a serving dish, but tagines are pretty large for a single use item!  So the slow cooker it is, just make sure to serve it up in a pretty dish before devouring it.  I included some traditional Northern African flavors like the olives and preserved lemons to give this dish a lot of contrasting flavors.  If you have never cooked with preserved lemons before this is a great way to start – you can buy them in a jar or make them yourself (I did once and went back to buying them as I couldn’t tell the difference).  Because they are processed in salt the lemon rind becomes edible and has a lovely smooth flavor unlike the sharp citrus bite of fresh lemons.  They last forever in the fridge and really punch up the slow cooked lamb.  I like the Les Moulins Mahjoub brand but any will do.  This dish also freezes really nice so make up a big batch this weekend and squirrel some away for a rainy day.

Slow Cooker Lamb Tagine 

  • 2 – 3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds of lamb leg, trimmed and cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces on a diagonal
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cardamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 cup port (or red wine)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 of a preserved lemon, rinsed, seeded and chopped finely
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/3 cup green pitted olives
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium high heat.  Put the flour in a bowl and season it with salt and pepper.  Working in batches (should take 2 to 3 max) dredge (i.e. toss the meat in the flour and then shake off the excess) the lamb cubes adding them to the hot oil.  Only do enough that can fit in the pan.  Brown the pieces all over, cooking a couple of minutes on each side, before adding them to the slow cooker.

Add more oil if necessary to brown all the batches of lamb.  Then add the onion, carrot and garlic to the skillet, lowering the heat to medium if necessary to keep from burning.  Cook for 5 minutes or so until the onion begins to soften, then add all of the spices along with salt and pepper.  Cook for another minute or so, stirring until all the veggies are combined with the spices.

Pour in the port and use it to deglaze the pan (i.e. get all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan).  Dump everything in the skillet in to the slow cooker on top of the lamb.  Add a 1/2 cup of water and stir everything together.

Set for 8 hours on low or 5 hours on high.  Once it has finished cooking you can refrigerate for several days or freeze for several months.  Right before serving (or while you are reheating it) stir in the chopped preserved lemon, raisins and olives, stirring to combine.  Let those ingredients heat through and then serve with the parsley sprinkled on top.

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A Southern Dinner Party

Living in Washington, D.C. can lead to a bit of an identity crisis – invariably when someone asks me where I am from I answer Boston immediately and then clarify that I live in DC.  However, next year will mark the year I have actually lived longer below the Mason Dixon line then I ever lived in New England.  Most Southerners will tell you that absolutely does NOT make me Southern and that’s ok by me.  I am going to try and continue my mix of the best of both worlds – reading my Southern Living magazine on my front porch with some iced tea wearing my Red Sox hat.  One thing that I have always admired and tried to emulate though is the Southern hostess’s way of making people feel welcome and comfortable even if it’s 100 degrees outside.  I am learning that the key is making sure that the food isn’t too formal, that you make as much as possible in advance and that you lean heavily on comfort foods.  That perfectly fits my entertaining mode so I threw together this Southern dinner party so we could beat the heat and catch up with friends.  Southern summers are so hot that going out to dinner actually becomes a chore, where as this delicious meal is made mostly in advance and with the help of a slow cooker that won’t heat up your house.  And who doesn’t love a party where you eat corn nuts out of a silver bowl???  Southern entertaining at it’s best.

Cooking Light Bacon Goat Cheese Jalapeno Poppers

These bite size appetizers are insane.  Spicy, salty, sweet, cheesy, crunchy, meaty.  It leaves nothing out and none will be left behind.  I served these with a bowl of corn nuts and that was it for the first course – dinner is pretty hearty so don’t front load the first course.  A great selection of craft beers or a crisp sauvignon blanc would be a good pairing for these bites.

NYT Mississippi Roast

When you read this recipe you are either going to think it sounds like the best thing ever invented or totally disgusting.  The first group is correct.  This large beef roast is cooked in a slow cooker with basically ranch dressing for over 6 hours to become meltingly tender and delicious.  This recipe has been around for a long time but to those of us outside of Mississippi it took the New York Times of all publications to bring it back in vouge.  It really is incredible and not at all greasy.  If you have leftovers they would make for an amazing sandwich.  Make sure to have extra pepperoncini on hand to serve alongside the roast.

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Smashed Red Potatoes with Creme Fraiche

Mashed potatoes seemed like a natural side for the roast but this version by Country Living actually makes for a lighter and brighter side perfectly contrasting the meat.  The addition of lemon peel while cooking the potatoes and using creme fraiche instead of a ton of butter and cream makes this one of my go to potato dishes.  Throw in a quick veggie side and you are all set.

Individual Peach Crumbles

It wouldn’t be a Southern party without a little bourbon and the use of a cast iron skillet!  These single serve peach crumbles are so good and can be made way in advance.  Once dinner is over move every one to the living room or a porch if you have one for an after dinner drink and pop these in the oven.  People will love that they each have their own dessert and the sweet peaches are the perfect note to end the night on.

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Individual Peach Crumbles

Years ago when Patrick and I were registering for our wedding at one of our favorite local shops, Hill’s Kitchen, I spotted these precious mini cast iron skillets.  What does a girl who already has everything register for??  Ridiculously cute and not very sensible baby sized pans.  Leah, the owner, convinced us both of their utility (she is a genius like that) and on the registry they went.  I will admit I don’t use them daily but when I do they put a smile on my face.  This peach crumble would of course work in ramekins or in one large pan (I would think a 8 by 8 inch baking dish) but just like how cupcakes are more fun than a cake, these individual crumbles will really wow your guests.  If you aren’t near Hill’s Kitchen you can also find them online.  They are also great to use as serving dishes for nuts, olives and the like or doing mini frittatas.  Buy them first and find more uses for them later!

This crumble recipe is super easy and could be adapted for whatever you have on hand – berries, apples etc.  Just keep on eye on how much liquid your fruit is giving off.  Since I used frozen peaches they were wetter than say fresh ones – another splash of bourbon or a knob of butter should fix that problem.  Basically you want the fruit to have a nice glaze on it but not be sitting in liquid before you add them to the pan.  Also sharing another good hint here – grating butter.  For a simple topping like this where you want the butter to distribute evenly through the dry ingredients you can use a food processor and pulse them together or just pull out the handy box grater and grate in super cold butter.  Do it quickly and you will get small pieces of butter that works perfectly in this topping.  Make them up to two days in advance, keep them in the fridge and then just pop them in the oven (don’t forget the ice cream!).

Individual Peach Crumbles 

  • 1 pound frozen peaches thawed and drained
  • 6 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup quick cooking oats
  • vanilla ice cream

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  In a large skillet melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium high.  Add the peaches and 2 tablespoons of sugar and cook for 7 minutes until the peaches take on a little color and the butter and sugar melt into a syrup.

Carefully add the bourbon and cook for another 30 seconds.  Remove from the heat.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and equally divide the peaches among the 4 mini skillets on the baking sheet.

In a medium sized bowl combine the flour, 1/3 cup of sugar, salt and cinnamon.  Take the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter cold butter and grate the butter into the bowl.  Add the oats and stir to combine.  Equally pile the crumble topping on top of the peaches, making sure to cover all exposed peach.  Some will fall off on the baking sheet which is fine (that’s what the foil is for!).

At this point you can place the skillets in the fridge for several hours before baking them off if you want to make them in advance.  Bake for  30 minutes at 350 degrees until the crumble is lightly browned.  Remove from oven and let cool for several minutes then top with ice cream and serve.

Habanero Sauce

Want to heat up your Cinco de Mayo party this year??  Go with this sauce.  It is not for the faint of heart for sure. Pro tip – when you are broiling the peppers keep your exhaust fan going or open a window in your kitchen.  I once took Patrick to a hot sauce making class for our anniversary and it was held in a ventless room – not a great idea, imagine inhaling pure hot pepper fumes for an hour!  Also definitely go out and buy some plastic gloves to keep in your kitchen.  They are great when handling any hot peppers but either way please make sure to carefully wash your hands before you touch anything, especially your face!  A little goes a long way with this sauce so luckily it lasts a long time in the fridge.  You can pull it out whenever you want to spice up a dull week.  Happy almost Cinco de Mayo!

Habanero Sauce

  • 15 habanero peppers
  • 5-6 baby yellow or orange bell peppers
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • the juice and zest of 1 orange
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar

Preheat your broiler and lay the habaneros and baby bell peppers on a cookie sheet.  If any of the peppers have stems attached, pull those off.  Broil the peppers for 5 minutes, flip them over and broil for 5 more minutes until they are blackened.

Using tongs transfer the peppers to a medium size bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let them steam and cool for 10 minutes before handling.  While they steam, heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat.  Cook the onion and garlic cloves for 5 to 7 minutes until the onions soften.  Add the onion mixture to the food processor along with the agave nectar, orange zest and orange juice and the cider vinegar.  I recommend using plastic gloves for when you seed the habaneros.

Remove them from the bowl and on a large cutting board use your knife to scrape the seeds and membranes from the inside of both the habaneros and the baby bell peppers (no need to peel off the skins).  Put the deseeded peppers into the food processor and puree until combined.  Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary.  WARNING – this stuff is hot!  It can be stored covered in the fridge for several months.

Slow Cooker Lamb Tacos

I hope you all saw my post on Thursday about the fantastic new Mexican resturant in DC, Espita Mezcaleria.  Everything I ate there was delicious but the lamb barbacoa tacos were out of this world.  Before my second bite I told Patrick I needed to figure out how to make these at home.  I have had lamb tacos before but usually they consist of grilled lamb that has been thinly sliced or ground lamb served in hard shells.  The Espita tacos had richly sauced braised lamb folded into their homemade tortillas.  A slow cooker seemed like the best way to ensure that the lamb got fall-apart tender.  Lamb shoulder would be perfect for this but it can be difficult to find most of the year, whereas lamb leg you can pretty much always  track down.  I bought my lamb boneless and pre-butterflied because that’s all they had at the store but I promise it’s really easy to do and a good skill to have.

It really doesn’t have to be perfect at all since it’s all going into the slow cooker – if you are butterflying for the grill you want to make sure the meat is even thickness.  This recipe is a little more fussy than most of my slow cooker recipes – you want a decent amount of liquid to cook the lamb in but then you should cook it down to help concentrate the flavor.  If I really had all day I would have cooked all of the liquid down to the 1 1/2 cups needed but the house smelled too good to wait.  The lamb at Espita had a nice smokey, spicy sauce on it so I thought chipoltes were in order.  I used the dried peppers in the cooking process and then chipoltes in adobo to flavor the sauce.  If you cannot find dried chiptoltes in the store, any dried chili pepper will do.  As for the chipolte puree, I just take a can of the chipoltes in adobo (which you know about from here) and puree it in the food processor.  I use what I need and then keep the rest in the fridge for whenever I want to add a little kick (it will last indefinitely because of the vinegar content).  If you don’t want to do that just take one or two of the chipoltes, smash it with a fork and add them to the lamb along with some of the adobo sauce.  I served the tacos with chopped raw onion, some purple cabbage and a squeeze of lime.  I also added some of my Habanero Hot Sauce which I will be posting on Tuesday (yowza it’s hot!).  This would be perfect for Cinco de Mayo celebrations, just make it this weekend, pop it in the freezer and then defrost for next weekend!

Slow Cooker Lamb Tacos 

  • 3 dried chipolte peppers, stems removed
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 1/2 to 3 pound boneless leg of lamb, butterflied
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 gloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon coriander
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups of beef stock
  • 1-2 tablespoons chipolte puree (a can of chipoltes in adobo pureed)

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the dried chilis and toast them in the dry pan for 3 or 4 minutes, flipping once, until they darken a bit and you can smell the chili.  Remove and put into the slow cooker.  Add the oil to the pan and salt and pepper the lamb while you wait for the oil to heat.  Once the oil is hot add the lamb to the pan and brown on one side without disturbing it for 5 minutes.

Flip and cook for 5 minutes more until both sides are nice and brown.  Remove the lamb from the pan and add to the slow cooker.  There should be enough fat from the lamb and the oil in the pan but if not add a touch more canola oil   Add the onions to the pan and lower the heat to medium. Cook for a minute or two and then add the garlic, cumin, oregano, coriander and salt and pepper.

Cook for another 2 minutes until the onions are softened.  Add the can of tomatoes and use the liquid to deglaze the pan of any brown bits stuck on the bottom.  Add the contents of the pan into the slow cooker with the lamb and chipoltes.  Add beef stock so the liquid comes up at least three-quarters of the way up the lamb (you may not need all 3 cups).  Turn on the slow cooker to low and cook for 5 to 6 hours.

Carefully pull out the lamb and place it on a cutting board to cool (it’s ok if it falls apart a bit as you do this as you are just going to shred it anyway).  I used a large spatula and a wooden spoon to get it out of there.  Pull out the dried chipoltes and toss.  Pour the rest of the content of the slow cooker and its liquid into a blender or  food processor (carefully!) and blend until smooth.  Transfer one and a half cups of the puree to a saucepan and bring it to a simmer.  Simmer over low for 30 minutes until the liquid has thickened a bit, stir in desired amount of chipolte puree.

While the sauce simmers shred the meat once its cool enough to handle, it should fall apart very easily.  Once the sauce it done combine it with the shredded lamb.  You can serve right away or store in the fridge for several days or the freezer for several months.

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