Cinnamon Ice Cream

Cinnamon Ice Cream

Cinnamon Ice Cream

I should name this Slacker Cinnamon Ice Cream…it’s been so long since I’ve posted anything to the blog. It’s not that I haven’t been cooking, baking, ice creaming (sure…that’s a word), and just generally experimenting; I just haven’t found the time to post.

Homemade ice cream is normally a summer/cottage thing for me, but this fall, I’ve made more ice cream than ever before. Maybe it’s because my new gluten free friend loves it, as do his kids. Maybe it’s because I’ve been clearing out my freezer, so now there’s always room for my ice cream canister. All that really matters is that I’ve enjoyed making some new flavors of ice cream, and they’ve been well received by my tasting crew. While ice cream is typically not a “fall dessert,” this cinnamon ice cream is the perfect accompaniment for apple pie, and that certainly qualifies as a “fall dessert.” You can adjust the amount of cinnamon you use in this ice cream recipe; I’m not a particularly huge fan of cinnamon, but I love this ice cream.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 Cups 1/2 and 1/2
  • 2 Cups Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 1 1/3 Cup Sugar
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 6 Egg Yolks
  • 1.5 tsp. Cinnamon

INSTRUCTIONS:

Add 1/2 and 1/2, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon sticks to a medium pot. heavy cream sugar vanilla and cinnamon sticksHeat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is just about to boil. While mixture is heating, add egg yolks to a small mixing bowl and beat for about 3 minutes until they become slightly lighter in color. add hot cream to eggsWhen cream mixture is thoroughly heated, remove cinnamon sticks and then slowly add one cup of the hot cream mixture to the egg yolks – whisking constantly. Repeat this at least one more time. (This will temper the egg yolks and keep them from scrambling.) Pour the egg mixture into the pot with the remaining cream and heat over medium for about 2-3 more minutes, gently stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. strainPlace a wire mesh sieve over a bowl and strain the thickened cream mixture (you will probably notice some clumps in the bottom of the pan – you can use a spoon to press some of these through the sieve). Add the heavy whipping cream and the cinnamon to the mixture. cover with plastic wrapCover with plastic wrap (you can press the wrap down onto the surface of the cream mixture to prevent a skin from forming) and refrigerate until completely cooled – at least one hour (I always let mine sit overnight). When cooled, pour mixture into ice cream maker and follow instructions provided with machine. When freezing, put a layer of plastic wrap over the top of the ice cream before putting the lid on the container.

Enjoy!

Vegetable Enchiladas

Chicken Enchiladas out of the ovenThese enchiladas evolved recently from a batch of leftover grilled corn and some great summer squash that I had on hand. I offered to bring a batch of roasted corn salsa to a friend’s gathering, and when I learned he was also in need of a main dish, I thought to make the enchiladas. My chicken enchiladas are always well received- I recently served them as an accompaniment to chicken tortilla soup (that was the star because Hannah had requested it for her birthday dinner) and was reminded of how great they are to make for a relatively large group. Although my friend is not a vegetarian, he is a healthy eater who is drawn to a diet heavy in veggies. His cousin, who was actually the real host, is a vegetarian, so I figured she would appreciate the gesture. I was tempted to make homemade enchilada sauce this time around, but settled for the jar variety in the end. While I still love my “standby” chicken enchiladas, these are a great vegetarian alternative. I love grilled or roasted vegetables, but you could substitute steamed vegetables for the filling. You could also use frozen or canned corn, or add beans…really, the possibilities are almost limitless when it comes to dishes like this.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Large Red or Sweet Onion – cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 Medium Yellow Squash – cut into 1/4″ rings
  • 2 Medium Zuchinni- – cut into 1/4″ rings
  • 2 Red Bell Peppers (can substitute another color) – seeded and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 2-3 Ears of Fresh Sweet Corn
  • 3 Cloves Garlic – finely chopped
  • 1 Medium Jalapeno Pepper – seeds and membrane removed and finely chopped
  • 3-4 TBS. Corn Oil
  • 2 TBS. Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 TBS. Ground Cumin
  • 1 TBS. Chili Powder (adjust to taste)
  • Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
  • 10 – 12 Fresh Corn Tortillas
  • 1 28 Oz. Can of Enchilada Sauce (mild)
  • 10-12 Oz. Queso Chihuahua – grated (can substitute Monterey Jack or Mexican blend – just make sure cheese does not contain spices)
  • 1 TBS. Fresh Cilantro – chopped

INSTRUCTIONS:

Combine all of the cut vegetables (except corn), garlic, corn oil, balsamic vinegar and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper in a medium sized mixing bowl. vegetables ready to roastAllow to marinate for at least 20 minutes (as long as overnight).  In the meantime, preheat grill to medium (or oven to 375 Degrees if oven roasting). Peel the corn and remove all of the silk. Brush corn with additional corn oil and season generously with Kosher salt and Pepper. Place vegetables in a grilling basket or grilling tray. (If oven roasting, lay in a single layer on a baking dish) Add vegetables and corn to the grill or the oven. Grill, tossing (turning, in the case of the corn) occasionally, until vegetables are tender.  When corn is cool enough to handle, cut kernels off of cobs.Thru March 20 131 In a bowl, combine corn and other grilled vegetables with 1-1.5 cups of shredded cheese.enchilada roasted vegetables Preheat oven to 375 Degrees. Pour a thin layer of enchilada sauce into a  9×12 baking dish and set aside. Pour a thin layer of enchilada sauce into a pie plate or onto a plate. Heat 3-4 tortillas in the microwave for 10-20 seconds just to soften so they don;t crack apart when rolling. Add a tortilla to the enchilada sauce (in pie plate) and soak on both sides. Add about 2-3 TBS. of vegetable filling to the tortilla, roll up tightly and place seam side down into the 9×12 baking dish. Repeat this until you have used up all of the filling – you should end up with 10-12 enchiladas depending on how fat you make your enchiladas. Pour a layer of enchilada sauce over the enchiladas Cover with a layer of sauceand top with remaining cheese (you can add more if you like). Place in oven and bake until cheese is melted and enchiladas are heated through (about 20-30 minutes).  Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake

My friend who recently visited me at the cottage requested strawberry shortcake. I was only staying at the cottage for a week, and had limited baking supplies on hand. I had brought some buttermilk pancake mix (Krusteaz is my favorite brand), so I thought we could use that (I figured it wasn’t that different from Bisquick or Jiffy Baking mix). With some brief searching on the internet and a few modifications (based on ingredients we had on hand), we came up with a great recipe which resulted in great shortcake. This shortcake recipe will definitely be my new go-to for a quick, easy, summertime dessert.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4-5 Cups Fresh Strawberries- sliced
  • 2/3 Cup Sugar – divided
  • No-Stick Cooking Spray
  • 2 1/4 Cups Buttermilk Pancake Mix
  • 4 TBS. Cold Butter- cut up into small pieces
  • 1/2 Cup Milk
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • Whipped Cream

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 Degrees.  In a medium bowl, combine sliced strawberries and 1/3 Cup of sugar. Allow to sit at room temperature. In the meantime, prepare the dough. Combine pancake mix and remaining 1/3 cup of sugar. Add cut-up butter to mix and work in with a fork or fingers. Add vanilla and milk, and mix thoroughly – batter will be very stiff. Coat a 9″ pie or cake pan (eoither round or square) with non-stick cooking spray and spread batter in pan.  Bake shortcake for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from oven and all to cool slightly – cut into individual servings, top with strawberries (and accumulated juice), and whipped cream.

Fresh Peach Cobbler

Fresh Peach Cobbler a la mode.

Fresh Peach Cobbler a la mode.

On Saturday I returned from a 16 day trip to China. I had high hopes of catching up on my blog and adding a lot of posts while I was traveling, but I discovered that my blog is blocked in China- not for any reason specific to my blog, but, apparently, all WordPress blogs (and many other blogs where people can freely express opinions) are blocked. My neighbors were initially surprised that I wanted to host our regular Sunday dinner so soon after my return, but then they thought about it and came to the realization that cooking was probably near the top of my list of things that I missed while away from home for so long – they were right. We enjoyed a great meal of grilled chicken, grilled vegetables, pasta with basil and lemon cream sauce, grilled bread, and fresh peach cobbler with a la mode. To me, grilling is like a true celebration of summer, however it’s not popular (at all!) in China, so it was what I craved upon my return. I believe I’ve posted most of the recipes for everything except the cobbler. Watermelon, berries,  and peaches are the fruits that come to mind when I think of summer. Since I ate an abundance of watermelon in China, that was off my list; so I settled on a dessert with peaches. The obvious choice… cobbler. I toyed with the idea of a pie, but cobblers, crisps, and buckles are just so easy, and seem so much more casual and homey. This cobbler was no exception. We enjoyed it still warm from the oven, but it’s great at room temperature, or reheated in the microwave. As with many desserts, it’s even better topped with ice cream or whipped cream. You could make a ginger flavored whipped cream or homemade ice cream which would be delightful, but I settled on store bought vanilla (the kind with the vanilla bean flecks).  You can adjust the spices a bit, I like a bit of nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger, but cardamom is a popular pairing with peaches as well (I didn’t have any ground cardamom on hand, and didn’t feel like grinding any). Serves 8-10 (with leftovers).

INGREDIENTS:

  • 8-10 Peaches, peeled and sliced (1/4 inch)
  • 1 tsp. Lemon Juice
  • 1 1/4 Cup Sugar
  • 4 TBS. Corn Starch
  • 1/4 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
  • 14 tsp. Ground Ginger
  • 2 Cups Flour (I use 1 Cup of cake flour and 1 cup all-purpose, but can use just all-purpose)
  • 2 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 Cup Cold Unsalted Butter (cut into small cubes)
  • 3/4 Cup Buttermilk or Heavy Cream

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees. In a medium bowl, combine sliced peaches, lemon juice, spices, corn starch and all but a few tablespoons of the sugar (reserve for sprinkling on topping). Gently mix until all ingredients are incorporated and allow mixture to sit for 10-15 minutes while you prepare the topping. peaches coatedIn a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and whisk together until well mixed. Add butter cubeswork butter into dry ingredient mixture and, using your fingers, incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the buttermilk or cream and use a fork to combine to make a dough – but do not overmix. The dough should be the consistency of a biscuit dough; it should hold together and be able to clump, without being too wet. If necessary, add a little more buttermilk or cream. Pour the peaches into a casserole dish or 9×13 baking dish.layer peaches in pan Top the peaches with the dough (drop clumps over the top until covered) and sprinkle with remaining sugar. peach cobbler ready for ovenBake at 350 Degrees for 50-60 minutes until crust is browned and filling is bubbly.peach cobbler out of oven

Serve warm or at room temperature. Top with ice cream or whipped cream if desired.

Cupcake Bouquet with Strawberry Basil Cupcakes

Cupcake Bouquet

Cupcake Bouquet with Strawberry Basil Cupcakes

I have developed a bit of a love/hate relationship with Pinterest. It is a great resource for ideas and inspiration, but sometimes I become a little too inspired and ambitious. I love the way this “project” turned out, but I am going to be perfectly honest – it was a ton of work! The recipients were well worth the effort (I made these for a couple of special Moms on Mother’s Day), but I caution you to enter into this project naively. It can be challenging to find the supplies; I got very lucky to not only find the perfect parts, but to get a super great deal on the pots (Michael’s marked down to $2.99 plus I had a 25% off coupon). I found the water tubes at a local garden center/florist (English Gardens for those of you who are local to metro Detroit), but I had to ask the florist if they had them and if I could buy them (.25 each – a bargain). You can buy the tubes on-line, but you need to order a box of 100 – I will not be making 100 of these gifts! You can use any type of cupcake for this, but I went with my strawberry basil cupcakes because I wanted to use fresh basil as part of the bouquet. Some great alternatives would be lemon leaves (available at most florists), mint leaves, or any other herb or green (edible) leaf. I would recommend using a fairly sturdy stemmed green. The original project on Pinterest did not use any fresh greens (just tissue paper), but why settle for that when I could further enhance it?

When it comes to frosting cupcakes, my skills are lacking (or non-existent). There are a lot of resources on-line that show cool frosting techniques. You can choose any style that mimics a flower for these. I was going to try to do the rose pattern as shown on the original Pinterest post, but that was above my pay grade. I just kind of experimented (on a paper towel) first and ended up with a design that looked a bit like a chrysanthemum or a dahlia (notice I said “bit”). I used my the frosting recipe that for my strawberry basil cupcakes which is a variation of a buttercream/cream cheese frosting, but it contains strawberry puree (great color) and some basil infused milk). The problem was that the frosting was not stiff enough to achieve the petal design and because the cupcakes are kind of tipped when placed in the flower pot, you really need a stiff frosting that won’t drip. The solution for me was to just keep adding powdered sugar, but this took away from the strawberry flavor, so there was no point. I am including a recipe for a traditional stiff buttercream frosting which will pipe well and hold up. You can use a bit of food coloring if you want to achieve a particular color (the gel food coloring – available at specialty food stores like Sur le Table or Williams Sonoma- are great because they don’t dilute the frosting).

Recipe for Strawberry Basil Cupcakes

Basil Buttercream Frosting:

  • 1 Cup Unsalted Butter -softened (but not melted)
  • 3-4 Cups Confectioners (powdered) Sugar- sifted
  • ¼ tsp. Salt
  • 1 TBS. Vanilla Extract (or any other flavored extract you want)
  • 1/4 Cup Milk
  • 4 Large Basil Leaves
INSTRUCTIONS:
Add milk and bail to a small saucepan and heat over medium to just below boiling. Cook for 20-30 minutes. Through October 9 004Allow to cool to room temperature (put in the refrigerator to speed up process) Transfer milk and basil to a food processor and puree. Add the butter to a large bowl (or the bowl of a mixer) and, using an electric miser, beat until smooth. Add about 3 cups of sugar and beat on low. Add salt, vanilla extract and a few tablespoons of the basil infused milk and mix until well combined. Check consistency and add more powdered sugar or milk to achieve desired consistency – should be stiff if you want to pipe flowers. Add food coloring (if using) and mix thoroughly.
Strawberry Basil Cupcakes:
INGREDIENTS:
  • 1 1/2 Cups Flour
  • 1 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 10-12 Medium Fresh Strawberries (should measure 2/3 cup after pureed)
  • 8 -10 Large Basil Leaves
  • 1/4 Cup Milk (room temperature)
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extracr
  • 1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter (softened)
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Egg (room temperature)
  • 2 Egg whites (room temperature)

INSTRUCTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 Degrees. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners (double up on liners to maintain the cute color or decoration of liners). In a medium sized bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt. In a blender or food processor, puree strawberries and basil leaves.Through October 9 005 Add milk and vanilla extract to blender or food processor bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, (or bowl of a mixer) cream together butter and sugar. Beat in egg and egg whites. Add half of the flour mixture and mix until blended. Add the strawberry, basil, milk mixture and mix again.Through October 9 009 Add remaining flour mixture and mix until well blended, scraping down sides as you go. Pour batter (evenly divided) into cupcake liners. Through October 9 010Bake 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 5 minutes and then remove cupcakes from pan and transfer to cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting. Frost with desired flowered pattern.cupcake bouquet4

To make the cupcake bouquet:

SUPPLIES:

  • 1 Cute Flower Pot
  • 1 Styrofoam Ball (should fit inside flower pot – diameter of ball should be about the same as diameter of top of pot)
  • Tin Foil or Newspaper (may not be necessary)
  • Toothpicks
  • 3-6 Water Tubes with Pointed Tips and Rubber Tops
  • Fresh Leaves (edible or food safe – basil, mint, lemon)
  • Tissue Paper (coordinating color)

Prepare pot by placing the foam ball in the pot. Use crumpled tin foil or newspaper in the bottom if you need to raise up the ball to desired height (roughly 1/2 of the ball should be above the top of the pot. Fill water tubes with water, place plastic top on each one and set aside. Plan out how many cupcakes will comfortably fit, and determine where the cupcakes will go. Insert toothpicks (two per cupcake) where you will place cupcakes. The toothpicks are easily moved, so you can adjust later if necessary. Insert the water tubes where you want to place leaves (you may want to temporarily place the cupcakes where they will go to determine the best placement and angles). If it is particularly difficult to insert the water tubes, use the tip of a knife or scissors to sort of pre-drill your slot. Add the cupcakes and adjust accordingly. cupcake bouquet5Add the leaves to the water tubes. Finally, fill blank areas with crumpled tissue paper.

Cupcake bouquet2

Popovers

Popovers

Popovers

Popovers are the new favorite roll in our host. They are featured at every Sunday Family Dinner. I usually serve two varieties of rolls, biscuits or bread – the popovers always go first! I’ve also been making some flavored butters to accompany the popovers. Both are super easy and the great thing about popovers, as opposed to most other rolls, is that you don’t need to wait for dough to rise. I’m not exactly sure of the science of the popover, but I do know that the pan has to be preheated, and you should not open the oven during the cooking process. I have a popover pan, but I also use my regular muffin tin and, quite frankly, the muffin pan works just as well if not better. I never have enough leftover to serve for breakfast, but these would be great for breakfast, brunch or lunch as well as for a dinner roll.  Makes 12 popovers.

INGREDIENTS:

3 TBS. Unsalted Butter- melted
2 Eggs – room temperature
1 Cup Lukewarm Milk (heat for 30-40 seconds in the microwave)
1 Cup Flour
1.5 tsp.  Kosher Salt (substitute 1 tsp. regular salt)

INSTRUCTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place a muffin pan or popover pan in the preheated oven and heat for at least 5 minutes. Meanwhile, break the  eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk vigorously . Add the warmed milk and whisk again. Add the flour, salt and 2 TBS. of melted butter, and whisk until smooth. Remove the muffin or popover pan from the oven and brush each compartment with remaining melted butter. Pour the batter into the warmed muffin tin (fill each compartment 1/2 – 3/4) and return it to the oven to bake until golden, about 35 minutes- avoid opening the oven during the cooking process. Remove the muffin/popover pan from the oven and remove popovers from the pan immediately. If possible, serve warm.
* The popover batter can be made in a blender – follow the instructions above, but blend in blender instead of whisking.
Light and Airy Popovers

Light and Airy Popovers

Honey Almond Butter:

1/2 Cup (1 Stick) Unsalted Butter – softened
1 TBS. Honey
1/2 tsp. Almond Extract
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until all ingredients are well incorporated. Taste and add more honey or almond extract if desired. Transfer butter to a small bowl or ramekin and refrigerate until butter reaches desired firmness (I usually serve it a little soft).

Savory Cheddar, Scallion, and Chive Scones

Cheddar Scallion Chive Scones

Cheddar Scallion Chive Scones

Scones are one of my baking “go to” options. I have recipes which include seasonal fresh fruit (berries) as well as recipes which don’t rely on fresh or seasonal ingredients. I love scones for breakfast or dessert, and they’re so easy to make. For Easter this year I wanted to make a variety of of homemade breads/biscuits. I have a great cheddar biscuit recipe which is hearty and rustic, but I wanted something a little more “elegant” than a biscuit for Easter dinner. I decided to incorporate the ingredients (with some additions) for my cheddar biscuits into one of my basic scone recipes. I will say that I was a little bit unsure as to how much butter to use (I decided on none at all) because I would be adding cheese. So I subbed out the cheese for butter, but increased the cream (to get a wet enough dough). The result was great – in fact, better than expected. The scones weren’t as flaky as my typical scones, but that was just fine since they were serving more as a dinner roll. You can alter the ingredient flavors by using a different type of cheese (stick with a cheese of similar consistency) or different herbs or substitute leeks, jalapenos, or roasted red peppers for the scallions. Really, the possibilities are nearly endless.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 Cups Flour
  • 1 TBS.  Baking Powder
  • 1 TBS. Sugar
  • 2 tsp. Salt
  • 1/4 Cup Scallions (green parts only)- chopped
  • 1/4 Cup  Fresh Chives- finely chopped
  • 1.5 Cups Cheddar Cheese (sharp, extra sharp, or medium – or your choice of cheese)- grated
  • 2 Cups Heavy Cream (plus a few extra TBS. for brushing tops)
  • Coarse Sea Salt (optional for sprinkling on top)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400°F.  In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Add scallions, chives and grated cheese, and mix until well incorporated. Add Cheese and ScallionsUsing a fork, stir in most of the cream until a sticky dough forms. If dough is too dry, add more cream.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead with floured hands (don’t overwork) until dough forms a cohesive ball. Divide dough into two equal balls and flatten each ball to form about 3/4 – 1″   high round disc. shape the doughCut each round into 8 wedges. Brush tops of rounds with additional cream and sprinkle each with a little sea salt.brush scones with cream and sprinkle with salt

Arrange wedges about 1/2 inch apart on a parchment lined  baking sheet and bake in middle of oven until golden brown, about 18- 20 minutes.scones out of the oven Cool on a rack or serve warm.chedar scallion chive scones center

 

Cream of Asparagus Soup

cream of asparagus soupJPGI typically serve Cream of Sorrel Soup at Easter, but Spring was slow to arrive here in Michigan and there wasn’t enough sorrel.  So the logical alternative, for a great spring soup was cream of asparagus. Well, that was a great choice. It was definitely a highlight of the meal, even with the kids.  Cream of Asparagus soup at Easter 2014Not only is it delicious, but it’s super easy to make, and you don’t even need good asparagus. I was a little disappointed at how large the asparagus at my local grocery store was, but because the asparagus gets cooked down and pureed, you don’t need to seek out those tender thin stalks that can often be challenging to find. You can adjust the amount of cream in this soup – I went pretty easy on the cream because I loved the flavor of the asparagus. I used chicken stock as my base because I love the flavor (it’s in no way “chickeny”), but you could easily make this vegetarian by substituting vegetable broth. I served this as a small starter soup, but this would be great for a spring lunch on the patio, or as a weeknight dinner paired with a simple salad and bread, or with a sandwich.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 Lbs. (about 2 bunches) Fresh Asparagus- cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 Large Sweet or White Onion -chopped
  • 3 TBS. Unsalted Butter
  • 5 Cups Chicken Broth (use Vegetable Broth for Vegetarian version)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 Cup Heavy (Whipping) Cream
  • Kosher Salt
  • White Pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

Heat the butter in a stock pot over medium low heat, add chopped onion and saute until tender. Add chopped asparagus and cook for about 5 more minutes. saute asparagusAdd broth and simmer, covered, until asparagus is very tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Working in batches, purée soup in a blender until smooth. Return pureed soup to pot and stir in 1/4 cup of cream; add more to reach desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Heat and serve. Garnish each bowl with an asparagus tip if desired or fresh snipped chives or parsley.

Easter Dinner

Easter Table 3I think I might love Easter dinner almost as much as I love Thanksgiving dinner. Both really embrace and celebrate the season, and I love food that is seasonally fitting. Unlike Thanksgiving, where I it’s almost sacreligious to vary the side dishes too much (although recent years have brought new introductions), there are a lot of side dish options which are fitting for spring and bode well for Easter dinner. I typically serve lamb as the main dish, simply because I don’t really love ham and I do love lamb. If I were feeding a big crowd, I would certainly do both. Sorrel soup is usually a tradition for us (my mother always made it as well), but spring has been so slow in arriving this year, that I don’t have enough sorrel in the garden this year and it’s hard to find any place that sells sorrel. As for vegetable side dishes – the list is almost endless…think green and fresh. This year I plan to serve sauteed snap peas with mint, but I will also serve a light arugula salad. Asparagus is probably the most traditional spring vegetable, and I’ve served that many times in the past. Starchy side dishes are also nearly limitless. Buttered noodles with fresh chopped herbs is simple but appropriate, boiled new potatoes with butter and herbs would be equally great, as would simple herbed white or wild rice. I have made risotto (with mushrooms and asparagus) in the past, however, this year I  will be serving my grandmother’s scalloped potatoes (made with canned evaporated milk). My Dad loved these potatoes and my grandmother (my mother’s mother) was always thrilled to make them. I also usually make a quiche for any vegetarian guests – asparagus and mushroom or leek is always a hit. Bread and rolls are another important component of the meal. Last year I made cheddar scallion scones and they were a huge hit, so I’ll make them again this year, but I’m also going to make popovers because they are my families new favorite. Ah, and for dessert: lemon cakeLemon Buttermilk Cake with Lavender Frosting is the standard and I will serve that again this year since it is Auntie Sarah’s favorite and also because I’ll be making one for my friend Sara, but I think I’m also going to make a rhubarb pie or tart, since rhubarb is another spring icon. Last year I served a coconut cake (now “award winning” since it won our local dessert contest on the Fourth of July).

I love decorating for Easter, and I love coloring Easter eggs. Aracauna egg for EasterBlog thru April 4 003Two years ago I decorated the table with fresh Araucana eggs (they are often called the natural Easter eggs because they are beautiful shades of blue, green, beige and even an almost pink). Last year I died Quail Eggs and I loved the way those turned out.

Mini Easter Eggs (Dyed Quail Eggs)

Mini Easter Eggs (Dyed Quail Eggs)

Click here to see instructions for Dyed Quail Eggs

Click here to see Previous Easter Dinner Menu and Recipes

 

Grilled Leg of Lamb (Recipe by Alton Brown)

I take zero credit for this recipe – normally I can’t resist adding my own personal touches to a recipe to make it my own, but in this case, I wouldn’t change a thing. Click on the link above to go to the original recipe and read some of the nearly 100 five star reviews. Many people comment that, like me, they were skeptical of the mustard, but you just can’t argue with the results. Alton’s recipe calls for a charcoal grill, but you can make this on a gas grill, just turn off the center burner when cooking. It’s important to buy good quality lamb meat; if you don’t find what you’re looking for, ask your butcher. As I’ve mentioned before, we happen to have a farm we buy from, so even though our lamb is frozen, the flavor is always outstanding. This recipe is too good to only serve once a year – it would be great to serve at any occasion.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Boneless Sirloin Leg of Lamb

For the Paste:

  • 4 Cloves of Garlic
  • 8 Fresh Mint Leaves
  • 1 TBS. Brown Sugar
  • 1 TBS. Kosher Salt
  • 2 tsp. Black Pepper
  • 5 TBS. Strong Mustard, such as Dijon
  • 2 TBS. Canola Oil
  • 2 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary

INSTRUCTIONS:

Roughly chop the garlic cloves in the food processor. Add the mint and repeat. Add the brown sugar, salt, pepper, mustard, and oil and blend to a paste. Spread the paste evenly on the meat side of the roast. Roll the leg into a roast shape and tie with cotton butcher’s twine. Leg of Lamb MarinadeFire 2 quarts (1 chimney’s worth) of charcoal (natural chunk is best). When charcoal is lightly covered with gray ash, split the coals into 2 piles and move them to the far sides of the cooker. Close the lid and allow the grate to heat. Then, place the lamb, skin side up, on the middle of the hot grate. Add the rosemary sprigs to the charcoal briquettes and close the lid and grill. After 20 minutes, flip the roast and rotate it 180 degrees. Insert the probe thermometer into the roast and continue to grill until it reaches an internal temperature of 135 degrees, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the roast at 135 degrees. Remove the butcher’s twine from the roast. Cover with foil and rest it for 15 minutes before serving.

 Alternative: Lamb Chop (or Leg of Lamb) Marinade

INGREDIENTS:

  • 12-16 Small Lamb Chops (French Cut) – or 1 Boneless Leg of Lamb
  • 1 Cup Olive Oil
  • 4 TBS. Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice (about 1/2 juicy lemon)
  • 8 Cloves Garlic – chopped
  • 4 TBS. Fresh Rosemary – chopped
  • 4 TBS. Fresh Thyme- chopped
  • 4 TBS. Fresh Oregano – chopped
  • Kosher Salt
  • Fresh Ground Pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

Pour olive oil into a glass baking dish. Add garlic, herbs, and lemon juice and mix until thoroughly combined. Add lamb chops (or leg of lamb) to pan and season with salt and pepper, turn over and season other side of meat. Spread marinade (including chopped garlic and herbs) over meat. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour (2 hours is better). Lamb chops in marinate

Easter Table 5

 

Rhubarb Tart

Rhubarb Tart

 

Lemon Cake with Whipped Cream and Edible Spring Flowers

Lemon Cake with Whipped Cream and Edible Spring Flowers

Blueberry Braised Short Ribs

Blueberry Braised Shortribs over Egg Noodles

Blueberry Braised Shortribs over Egg Noodles

OK, so some of you might have been tempted to opt out when you read the blueberry part of the title. Well, I’m glad you didn’t. I used to be married to a guy who would say: “I like fruit, and I like meat, but I don’t like fruit with my meat.” I am sometimes suspect when I see unexpected combinations, but I am usually unexpectedly surprised (that’s redundant) at the results. This is a perfect example. I made this because my “fruit and meat friend” had the dish at a local restaurant that is no longer in business.  So, not only is the dish no longer available, the recipe is not available via RSVP (a great column in “Bon Appetit” magazine). Typically, braising liquid requires an acid component- most often it is wine (made from fruit…seeing a connection that is not so unappetizing?). I figured I could substitute blueberry juice, concentrate, flavored vinegar, or puree. I struggled with just which component to use, but my choice was based on the following: 1. blueberries were horribly expensive at the grocery store, 2. the only blueberry juice available was combined with other fruits, 3. I have blueberry balsamic vinegar but figured many recipe readers might have difficulty finding it. I decided to use a combination of pureed fresh blueberries (you could certainly use frozen…this just now occurred to me – duh), and a couple of tablespoons of blueberry fruit preserves (Polamer brand All Fruit spreadable fruit). The fruit preserves gave me the flexibility to make the blueberry flavor stronger or weaker (my “fruit and meat friend” said she would have enjoyed an even stronger blueberry flavor). I also experimented a little bit with the type of short ribs I used. I used half bone-in and half boneless. The bone-in short ribs typically provide more flavor, but also fat (most of which I painstakingly skimmed off). I preferred the boneless cuts in the dish because I didn’t have to work around bone or fat to get to the meat. My tasters agreed that all boneless would have been better. Sometimes I will leave bits of braised vegetables with the meat or I put them in the blender/food processor and incorporate them into the sauce.  In this case, however, I thoroughly strained everything and did not include any vegetables or pureed vegetables in the sauce – I didn’t want anything competing with  that blueberry flavor. One final note, while I will often serve short ribs over mashed potatoes or polenta, I think this dish is better accompanied by good old wide egg noodles – again, the goal was to highlight the subtle  blueberry flavor.(Serves 6)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4-5 Lbs. Beef Short Ribs (bone-in, boneless, or combination)
  • 2 Carrots – peeled and cut into 1/2 inch rounds (or 12-15 baby carrots)
  • 1 Leek – white and light green parts only, sliced
  • 6 Cloves Garlic – finely chopped
  • 1/2 Medium Onion- chopped
  • 2 Stalk Celery – diced
  • 1-2 Pints Blueberries- pureed in food processor or blender
  • 1/2 Cup Fresh Tomatoes- chopped (can use cherry or grape tomatoes cut in 1/2)
  • 3-4 TBS. Blueberry Preserves
  • 32 Oz. (4 Cups) Beef Broth
  • 3-5 TBS. Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Flour
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 TBS. Dried ( 2 TBS.  Fresh) Parsley – chopped
  • 1 TBS. Dried (2 TBS Fresh) Thyme- chopped
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 3-5 TBS. Corn Starch(optional, for thickening)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 450 Degrees. Season short ribs generously (on both sides) with salt and pepper. shortribs seasonedDredge meat in flour until coated, shaking off excess. Add olive oil to a large stock pot or dutch oven and heat on stovetop. Working in batches, brown short ribs on all sides and set aside. browned shortribsAdd garlic and chopped onion to pot and saute until fragrant, scraping browned meat bits from the bottom of the pot. Add remaining chopped vegetables and pureed blueberries and saute until the vegetables begin to soften slightly – about 5 minutes. blueberry pureebraising ingredients before liquidAdd blueberry preserves, beef broth (stock), and herbs to the pot. Add the browned shortribs and any juice from the meat, cover the pot and place in 450 degree oven. Cook until simmering – about 20 minutes and then reduce heat to 350 Degrees. during braiseCook for another 2.5-3 hours until meat is tender, but not yet falling apart. Using a slotted spoon, remove the meat from the pot and set aside. Pour the cooking liquid and vegetables through a fine strainer into a bowl. If desired, puree the vegetables in a food processor and return to the pot – (I did NOT do this, but I do it for other braised recipes). Place the pot with the strained liquid on the stovetop over medium heat. If you would like to thicken the liquid to make more of a gravy (I did), make a slurry (corn starch and a little bit of water combined)  and add to the hot cooking liquid. Stir and allow liquid to thicken to desired consistency (a prefer a not so thick sauce)- for a thicker sauce add more cornstarch water mixture. If sauce becomes too thick, you can thin it with beef broth. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper and possibly more blueberry preserves if desired. sauceReturn meat to pot, return to oven or continue heating on stove top for an additional 45 minutes to 1 hour until meat has reached desired tenderness. Serve over noodles, mashed potatoes, polenta, or rice.

Our Blue Themed Table

Our Blue Themed Table