Browsing Category

Older Post

Game Day Food

January 14, 2012

Naan Bread Pizzas

This is AMAZING pizza.  The asiago cheese and arugula with olive oil will make you feel like you’re having a foodie feast, while the easy assembly and paper plates will make your pre-and-post game time a snap.

Serves 2
1 package of Naan Bread
1 c. grated Asiago Cheese
1 c. Alfredo Sauce (jarred is fine)
1/4 c. sundried tomatoes
large bunch of arugula
olive oil to drizzle

Preheat oven to 375. Spread alfredo sauce around Naan Bread, then sprinkle with asiago.  Place sundried tomatoes on top, then cook in oven 10-12 min. until the cheese is melted. Remove from
oven, then place a handful of arugula on top.  Drizzle with olive oil.

You can also set out other toppings and let people build there own.  Mushrooms, sausage, onions, olives, capers are a good start.  My husband loves his with meatballs.


Feta and Chive Dip

Warning: This dip is so addictive. 

1 package cream cheese
1 c. sour cream 
1 6 oz. brick of feta cheese, crumbled
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 T. chives, chopped, plus some for garnish

Mix all ingredients together.  Add a little salt and pepper, then garnished with chives.


Pulled Pork –  just put this in the crock pot and serve with rolls and coleslaw.

1 pork shoulder or butt roast, about 3 lb., rolled and tied
S & P
2 T. canola oil
1 chopped yellow onion
1 garlic clove
1/2 c. chicken broth
Eileen’s BBQ sauce (double recipe or enough to yield 2 1/2 cups):2 Tbsp EVOO
1 rib celery, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp yellow mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup water

Directions: Sautee Celery & Onion in Olive Oil.  Add next 7 ingredients and simmer until brown sugar is dissolved. Double or triple quantity depending on how much meat you have.

This sauce is delicious smothering a rack of ribs that you have broiled on each side for 10 min. or in a crock pot with 3 lbs of pork loin for pulled pork.  (SEE Game Day Post above).

Season pork with salt & pepper, then heat canola oil.  Brown pork on each side, turning frequently, about 10 min.  Pour off all but 2 T fat from the pan.  Sautee onions over medium heat, 3-5 min. Then add garlic, cook for 1 min. Add broth, and taste to check S & P.

Transfer pork to a crock pot, and add broth mixture.  Cook for for 8-10 hours on low setting. Transfer pork to plate and let cool, then shred, removing excess fat.  Add to the slow cooker with the BBQ sauce and mix, the set on warm setting for serving.

Cole Slaw:

1/2 c. mayo (I always use light and don’t notice a difference)
2 T. cider vinegar
1 t celery seed
1 t. celery salt

1 bag of cole slaw salad mix

Taste dressing and add regular salt if needed. Sometimes I also want
more cider vinegar.  Mix with cole slaw salad mix just before serving as salt
will draw water out of veggies and make it soggy.

A Trifle Easy

December 5, 2011

This year I have vowed to keep things simple at the holidays, so I am sharing with you 2 easy go-to ideas to bring to any party or when people come over.

The first is Ina Garten’s Ham & Cheese in Puff Pastry –
so good & all 4 ingredients can be on standby for a fancy appetizer.
The best thing about this idea is you can substitute any great combo
such as Brie & Raspberry Jam, Turkey and Cheddar, Fig Jam & Goat cheese,
or whatever you have on hand.


  • 1 package (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted (recommended: Pepperidge Farm)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 pound black forest ham, sliced
  • 1/2 pound Swiss Gruyere cheese, sliced
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

DirectionsPreheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan.

Lay 1 sheet of puff pastry on a floured board and carefully roll it out to 10 by 12 inches. Place it on a sheet pan and brush the center with the mustard, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Place a layer first of ham and then cheese, also leaving a 1-inch border. Brush the border with the egg wash.

Place the second sheet of puff pastry on the floured board and roll it out to 10 by 12inches. Place the second sheet on top of the filled pastry, lining up the edges. Cut the edges straight with a small, sharp knife and press together lightly. Brush the top with egg wash and cut a few slits in the top to allow steam to escape.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until puffed and golden brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes and serve hot or warm.

The second Idea is for an easy trifle – the holiday dessert that looks so pretty in
a glass bowl with layers.

Chocolate Peppermint Trifle:
Layer brownies, vanilla ice cream, and crushed peppermint candy in 3 layers, finishing with whipped cream and candy pieces.  You can think of other easy to grab cakes, such as angel food cake or pumpkin bread, and pair with ice cream and candy flavors that complement the cake & the season.

Chicken Pot Pie & Make Your Own Chicken Stock

November 21, 2011

Yesterday, I had 3 kids sleeping and hadn’t gotten to the grocery store. I looked at the contents of my fridge, and this is what I found:

A 5 day old rotisserie chicken,3 packages of mushrooms intended for another purpose, and heavy cream.  What to do?

First, I made a stock out of said rotisserie chicken which also used up my veggie drawer carrots and celery.


For Stock:

1 chicken carcass

1 Onion, cut in half

2 Carrots, cut in half

2 celery stalks (or use the center with the leaves, has flavor)

4-6 cloves of garlic

1 t. peppercorns

1/2 T. salt

4-6 c. water (fill until it covers chicken)

a bouquet garni (a bundle of herbs) that included parsley, rosemary, and thyme…

Then I put it on high until it came to a boil. (Julia Child says to skim the the surface 2 or 3 times at this stage, there is sometimes a foamy matter that rises up.)


Once it comes to just a boil, lower the heat to simmer, (Julia again comes to mind, since she says leave the heat low enough so that a few bubbles surface every so often. She is so specific! And that is exactly what happens when my burner is on its lowest option.) Cover half the pot, simmer for 2 hours, taste to season with more salt. Let cool, strain, store in fridge for 3-4 days or store in freezer.  Once you do this a few times, you don’t need a recipe and you can use up whatever you have: leeks, scallions, sage, parsnips, turnips. They all flavor stock beautifully.

After I made stock, I assessed the freezer.  My tendency to stuff my freezer with possible meal options pays off yet again. I made Chicken Pot Pie with some frozen veggies (mostly peas, carrots & corn), frozen all natural chicken breasts, and frozen puff pastry shells. If you haven’t heard of these before, they are fantastic:

I like this product because unlike puff pastry, which needs time to thaw, this can go strait from freezer to oven and in 30 min you have a little bowl your kids love. For a chicken pot pie recipe, I like Ina Gartens which can work substituting puff shell pastry for her recipe below.  As for the mushrooms in my fridge, check out the stuffed mushroom appetizer recipe that follows:

Chicken Pot Pie

(From Ina Garten)

Prep Time:30 min
Cook Time:55 min
Serves:4 individual pot pies

  • 3 whole (6 split) chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups yellow onions, chopped (2 onions)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups medium-diced carrots, blanched for 2 minutes
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas (2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen small whole onions
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

If you want to make your own pastry, Ina offers this recipe:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
  • Flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove the meat from the bones and discard the skin. Cut the chicken into large dice. You will have 4 to 6 cups of cubed chicken.

In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock and dissolve the bouillon cubes in the stock. In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick. Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and heavy cream. Add the cubed chicken, carrots, peas, onions and parsley. Mix well.

For the pastry, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the shortening and butter and mix quickly with your fingers until each piece is coated with flour. Pulse 10 times, or until the fat is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water; process only enough to moisten the dough and have it just come together. Dump the dough out onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Divide the filling equally among 4 ovenproof bowls. Divide the dough into quarters and roll each piece into an 8-inch circle. Brush the outside edges of each bowl with the egg wash, then place the dough on top. Trim the circle to 1/2-inch larger than the top of the bowl. Crimp the dough to fold over the side, pressing it to make it stick. Brush the dough with egg wash and make 3 slits in the top. Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.

The Mushrooms? Why stuffed mushrooms for a Thanksgiving Appetizer, of course. So easy and SO good.
Stuffed Mushrooms: 

1/2 c. Italian Bread Crumbs
1/2 c. Parmesan or Pecorino Romano Cheese
1T. Parsley
2 T. Olive Oil
Add any additional ingredients you like: capers, sauteed meat & onions, fennel, mint, rosemary etc.

Stuff 12-24 mushroom caps such as cremini or button mushrooms with 1 tsp- 1Tbsp of stuffing. Bake on a
greased baking sheet for 20 min. at 400 degrees.

Love, Loyalty, Friendship and Corned Beef

October 2, 2011

This past weekend, my husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary with a throw back to the theme of our nuptials.  For our wedding, the Irish & Scottish theme was carried out with a Claddagh on our invitations (it symbolizes love, loyalty and friendship with hands, a heart and crown), church bulletin, etc…and is engraved on my wedding band.  My husband & the groomsmen also wore kilts, bag pipers played, and of course our large Irish families and all our friends drank a lot (you mean that happens at all weddings?).

When we wanted to have a simple and relaxed celebration with little ones running around, we carried some Irish through the weekend.  (We even painted our family room green. Not to be on theme, more because we finally got around to it, but it was a fun way to spend our anniversary).

For food, we started with a night out to one of our favorite restaurants, an Irish Pub that used to be a church (and reminds my husband of the Quays Bar in Galway where he went abroad). I had a Black & Blue, which is Guinness with Dead Guy Rogue mixed together, and fried calamari on steroids to start (it was tossed with banana peppers and topped with spicy mayo, garlic and parmesan shavings). My entree was Blackened Swordfish – very fresh & perfectly seasoned with in season butternut squash & garlic mash.

I continued the theme with Shepard’s Pie for dinner and Rueben’s for lunch today.  Here are my recipe’s for both.  High quality meat really makes a difference.


Shepard’s Pie (my twist on Alton Brown’s recipe):
2 T. olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrot
3 garlic cloves
1 – 1 1/2 ilbs. ground beef or lamb
2 T flour
2 t. tomato paste
1 c. beef or chicken broth
1 t. Worcestershire Sauce
2 t. chopped Rosemary
2 t. chopped thyme
1 cup frozen peas (can do 1/2 corn, 1/2 peas)
For Mashed Potatoes: Peel and Boil 5-6 large potatoes  (Russet or Yukon Gold), diced small, for 10-12 min. When soft, mash and add 1/2 c. milk + 2 T. butter, 1 egg yolk, 1 t. salt & 1/2 t. pepper.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Warm olive oil in large sautee pan,  then add the onion and carrots and saute approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add the lamb, salt and pepper and cook until browned and cooked through. Sprinkle the meat with the flour and stir, continuing to cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste,broth, Worcestershire, rosemary, thyme, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer slowly 10 to 12 minutes or until the sauce is thickened.

Add the peas to the meat mixture and spread evenly into baking dish. Top with the mashed potatoes, and bake for 25 minutes or just until the potatoes begin to brown. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

Rubens (a reminder of how good & simple these are):

Rye Bread, buttered
Good Corned Beef
Swiss Cheese (I used Gruyere)
Thousand Island Dressing (I mixed ketchup, mayo, and pickle juice + chopped pickles it was great!)

Assemble and cook like a grilled cheese. Yum!

Home Is Where the Good Bread Is

September 7, 2011

(First Published September 2011)


We just moved into our new house a few weeks ago, and during the period of our homelessness (traveling plus an extended stay at our North Conway, NH ski condo for the whole month of July) I thought a lot about good food.  Or lack thereof.  In such transition mode, it is hard to rely on some of the staples of good cooking.

Our transition had roughly three stages.  The first stage was called the eat out a lot stage.  The second stage was the cooking in the really tiny ski condo kitchen stage.  The third stage involved easing into our new kitchen with simple meals at first since we were unpacking, until finally, a return to cooking (and recipe following and wine drinking) commenced.

In the eating out stage, I realized how much I appreciate good food.  We traveled quite a bit and had to rely on convenience food (please, McDonald’s, come up with healthy food! Or why hasn’t someone developed healthy fast food???) Unripe tomatoes, overcooked meat, three pieces of shredded lettuce, dried out cheese, dressings and spreads with no flavor but three times the fat, and the most frequent offender:  disgusting bread.  You have to really try hard not to care as a restaurant to serve bad bread.  Nothing is as unsatisfying as bad bread.  Except for unripe tomatoes.  Especially in gazpacho.

So by the time we rolled into our condo, tiny kitchen and all, I was thrilled to get away from road food.  I can remember my first trip to the grocery store when we had settled.   I was like a kid in a candy store.  Fresh herbs! Asiago cheese! Artisanal bread!  Even the hummus and taboule felt like a luxury.  We were in flux, but at least we could eat well.

Quickly, however, I discovered that a kitchen in July of a second-story condo with 1 air conditioner made you want to do anything but cook.  I braved one night of a rosemary and garlic crusted pork tenderloin, but most of the time I chose a meal that would require the least amount of time in front of heat.  At least we had summer’s produce.  We lived on Caprese salad, cold cucumbers, salads, and sandwiches.

I found a local health food store and bought the local milk they sold.  Then we planned a trip to visit the farm where it came from.  Sherman Farm in Conway, NH is a beautiful, clean, pastoral vision.  It was so much fun to walk up to the cows and watch them eat their grass, lick their salt cubes, and moo.  The kids had a kick out of the animals freedom of expression of poop and bodily functions.  Especially the pig that got up to greet us and then promptly relieved himself.  Best of all, their pre-made dinners from farm fresh ingredients were the perfect solution to my dilemma of a warm kitchen and craving good food crew.   That and their delicious produce which sustained us for several weeks.

Finally, we moved into our house, and I fell in love (again) with the amazing storage and organization capacity of our new kitchen and pantry.  I was able to fill a whole room with mixers and food processors and cookie cutters and platters.  Having these items accessible is truly my biggest luxury of our new house (that and the great neighborhood families, of course).   We were actually able to have house guests the following week after moving in and, despite an unorganized spice cupboard, pull off relatively good meals like lobster and chowder and delicious homegrown tomatoes from our visitor (thanks Mark for making up for all the bad tomatoes I have eaten this summer).

But it wasn’t until this past weekend that I was finally able to cook with the music flowing, wine flowing, and delicious things simmering.  I made chicken stuffed with brie and spinach, a gemelli pasta with sausage and broccoli and ricotta, chicken noodle soup, and delicious turnips.  With both chicken stock and homemade chocolate sauce in the fridge, along with the wonderful smells throughout our new house, I knew we were finally home.  Oh, and there is half a bag of crusty rosemary & olive oil bread on the counter, too.

French Farmers

May 5, 2011

I have dreamed from time to time about what it would be like to live on a French farm, especially one from a century ago.  Life would be harder, sure, but quality ingredients – delicious, fresh, right outside my door, from May to October – would be something to experience.


I have started to call it my WWFFD fantasy, i.e., what would French farmers do?  This has become my go-to kitchen philosophy.  When I am stumped for a meal, I ask WWFFD? And the answer is always marvelous, like a warm goat cheese salad with champagne vinegar and Dijon mixed with good olive oil for a light dressing, or warm crusty bread with a simple vegetable soup, or even just an omelet with Gruyere, tomato, and herbs.  They might not have had the internet, but all that time they did not spend checking email, they spent on figuring out how to make food taste delicious.

Their discoveries with the egg alone leave me in awe. So what did that point in time when someone discovered Mayonnaise look like?  It probably wasn’t that romantic: half-starved peasants had to eat their stores of potatoes and turnips again.  In the middle of a week-long storm when they worried that their barn roof would blow off, they had to come up with something to keep their spirit from dimming.  Behold the mixture of egg yolks and oil.  And that is just one of their egg creations – Hollandaise sauce, soufflés, custards, bread pudding, dressings, and omelettes each could have their own meditation given to them.

Then there is the chicken.  The priest who married us is of French lineage, and during dinner one night he told me that the best memory of his late twin brother was when they made roast chicken. He so struck me with his description of that meal that it had to be one of the first married meals I made.  It was a revelation, and so simple.  I followed Julia’s technique, down to massaging the bird with the butter, and it was easily one of the best meals I have ever had.  I understood why that would have been the most memorable of his last evenings with his brother. I think of French farmers, who didn’t just buy a plastic covered ball of pink flesh with an ink price tag. They no doubt raised that bird on grain that they grew and harvested. Then the bird grew and was harvested.  The night that bird was roasted had to be so joyful. The satisfaction of your mind and heart and tastebuds must be up there in the list of life’s pleasures.  We might not experience all of those aspects of a birds life, but we can at least buy organic chicken. It is amazing to me how much more flavorful organic meat is compared to its massed produced counterpart. I am pretty sure what a French farmer would not do, and it is everything the poultry feeding mills do to the growth hormone, antibiotic injected birds in their dark warehouses.

I try to make stock each time I make or buy a chicken.  I think of the farmers then, what they had in their gardens in abundance or how they tried to use up what they had so it wasn’t wasted.  The onions, carrots, and celery, making up the French mire poix flavor base.  The garlic and salt and peppercorns, thyme and rosemary and bay all grew around their home.  Then they added the time to simmer it for hours.

No doubt the allure of time is part of the French fantasy.  The time to grow and harvest your own food, and taste its freshness. But mostly it is just bringing out the delicious goodness of simple food. If we lack time in our modern lifestyle, how close can we come to capturing their way of eating?  Great products like Cheeses from Vermont, produce from local farmers, and organic meat is as close as we can come. It might take some planning, for sure, but the results are memorable.

But there is something more to it as well, something that the French Culture infuses in its habits of eating (as do the Italians, of course.  One could easily alter my French farmer fantasy to an Italian Farmer one).  It is simply the passion for its food.  One example of this is the concept of terroir, which is that the earth a plant is grown in – be it grapes for wine, coffee, even the grass that an animal eats that then flavors its milk and cheese – gives unique characteristics to the plant itself.  Since the earth can produce a special uniqueness in the fruits it bears, a sense of place takes on an even deeper dimension for those intimately involved with the quality of the food a region is producing.

(Anyone remotely interested in food or travel has probably heard of Italian families arguing over whose town produces better olive oil.)  This concept is most commonly thrown around between wine connoisseurs but it is now so broad I first learned of it from Vermont cheese makers.  It really captures me for some reason, and makes me want to take a tour around France, tasting everything.  (All I can remember from my visit there is that the yogurt and butter there are unbelievably better that ours.) Since I am not bringing my three small children there anytime soon, I’ll have to try to notice the terroir of New England instead.

The French farmer fantasy, at its heart, is just about taking the time to notice such subtle qualities in your food.  Their emphasis on good food might be more extreme then our lives allow, but it invites us to taste our food more deeply, to slow down and pay attention to it. Good food is always a map, always about a sense of place. We can use food to notice our own lives. Our own rhythms. Our own terroir.