Summertime Holiday Dishes Plus MVK’s Food News of the Week

Note, apologies for the advance unedited piece you may have received on Monday; I’ve been having some troubles with my host and it sent instead of saved!  

I wish every morning this could be my view at breakfast.

I wish this could be my view at breakfast every morning! My view from the top of Mount Abraham.

“In the summertime when the weather is hot
You can stretch right up and touch the sky.”

“In the Summertime,” by Jerry Mungo

The first two lines of this old chestnut have been an earworm for the past two weeks or so. Long sunny days with the light going well past nine, and starting around 4:30 a.m., have me out and about well before my usual early rising time and sometimes well past my bedtime. No matter, this time is fleeting and I know in just a few short weeks I’ll start to notice the time change and that it’s no longer a bright light that wakens me.

That said, it’s almost Fourth of July weekend, which for some marks the start of summer. This is one of those golden years where the holiday is bumped with a weekend, so we don’t have the odd middle-of-the-week day off. I always find this time of year as one with family and friend gatherings, summer guests, picnics, and lots of opportunity to feed a crowd. So this week I’m recycling a favorite idea and bringing you some past suggestions for summer eating and hosting!

index

Miscellaneous and Appetizers

Jordan Marsh’s Blueberry Muffins
If you have some fresh blueberries, these are delicious and easy.

Meditteranean Kebobs
My go-to dish for potlucks.

Black Bean Hummus with Queso Fresco
I took this once to a dinner party and I ended up eating most of it! It’s SO good!

Kale Chips
Healthier than potato chips!

Soups and Main Dishes

Julia Child’s Vichyssoise
I’m not one for summer soups, but I do love this one.

Summer Minestrone Soup
A great soup with summertime vegetables.

Zucchini and Red Pepper Frittata
Eggs are a real lifesaver for dinner on summer evenings.

Marinated Grilled Chicken Legs
These are great hot off the grill or cold.

Marinated London Broil
Mmm…

Salads

Israeli Couscous “Tabbouleh”
A fun spin on an old favorite.

MVK’s Nicoise Salad
My take on this classic French summer meal.

Szechuan Cucumbers
No guilt if you eat the whole bowl!

Red White and Blue Salad
A fun salad for the holiday!

Asian Green Bean Salad 
A great vegetarian dish with an Asian twist.

Cavatappi Salad with Tuna and Olives
A delicious heart-healthy pasta salad.

Desserts

Strawberry Shortcake
It’s not summer without having this for dinner one night.

Old Fashioned Blueberry-Maple Pie
A Vermont spin on an old fashioned favorite.

pepsiMVK’s Food News of the Week: This is How Much Celebrities are Paid to Endorse Unhealthy Foods
I recently read this article about how much celebrities are paid to endorse certain foods, mainly soda and fast food. I was surprised and also saddened. If you can believe it (I can’t), Beyoncé was paid $50 million (yes, you read correctly) to promote Pepsi products! You can read the article by clicking here.

Ramps Two Ways Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Speaking of a fleeting season, I wait all year for my lilac bushes to bloom! The peonys will be next!

Speaking of a fleeting season, I wait all year for my lilac bushes to bloom! The peonies will be next!

We are now looking at Memorial Day weekend in a couple of days and are in the thick of the springtime harvest season. The farmer’s market is now open outdoors, with the locals selling their delicate greens and late winter root vegetables. I think spring is the most fleeting of the seasons; I feel like I blink and I’m then looking at young squashes. Which means when it’s spring I take full advantage of what the season has to offer and for me that means ramps. The season lasts maybe three weeks, so when I see them I grab them, so I hope this post isn’t too late! If so, tuck this recipe away until next spring. You will thank me. 🙂

Ramps are also called wild leeks and can be found in wet, woody areas, but I, of course, find them nice and clean at the coop. They have a lighter, more delicate flavor than say garlic or even cultivated leeks. You can use both the greens and the stems for different recipes or all at once. I love to sauté the stems in a little bit of butter and then add them to scrambled eggs (the addition of some fresh dill and cheese only makes it even better). And you can add some to pesto and also pickle them, too. (See below.)

To clean ramps, I fill the sink with cold water and swish them to make sure all the dirt is removed. For the greens, I cut just where the greens stop and the stem starts.

One of my favorite food writers is Melissa Clark of the New York Times. She frequently appears on WNYC’s The Leonard Lopate Show, which I listen to as a podcast. Recently she was on talking about springtime vegetables: ramps, asparagus, rhubarb, and gave a “recipe” for ramps that sounded delicious. (You can listen to the show here.) I decided to try my own version. I grabbed a handful of ramps at the coop and created these two recipes, greens for one and the stems for another.

This recipe is forgiving. As I was making it, I didn’t keep track of the specifics, so you can make this for one, two, or more eaters depending on how many ramps you have! Hopefully ramp season hasn’t passed by and you to try this! It was sooo good!

ramps
Sautéed Ramps with Ricotta
Inspired by Melissa Clark.

These would be delicious as an appetizer or accompanying a nice dinner salad or soup. Or you could make it your whole dinner (that’s what I wanted to do!).

Olive oil
Ramp greens
Crushed red pepper (if desired)
A good baguette (gluten-free if needed)
Ricotta cheese
Fresh lemon
Kosher salt (or another larger-grained salt)

1. In a medium saucepan, heat about 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Add your ramp greens and sauté until just softened. If you want a little bit of heat, add just a shake of some crushed red pepper.

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Slice the baguette and put on a cookie sheet. Bake until the bread is nice and golden.

3. Add a smear of ricotta cheese on each piece of bread. Add some greens and just a tiny squirt of fresh lemon juice and salt. Then eat warm!

ramps2Pickled Ramps
The way I like to eat these is in a quesadilla or tostada. They are great with melted cheese!

½ cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 Tablespoons water

Mix the vinegar, sugar, and water together in a small bowl to make sure the sugar is dissolved. Add ramp stems (cut into half-inch pieces), and add to vinegar mixture. Cover. You can eat them in about two days and the bowl can be left on the kitchen counter covered for seven to ten days.

 

garlicMVK’s *Like* of the Week: Peel an Entire Head of Garlic in 10 Seconds!
Ok, I’ll admit I haven’t tried this technique from Saveur magazine yet, but since peeling garlic is my least favorite thing I do in the kitchen (even above doing dishes!), it is on my radar when I need a whole head of garlic!

Check it out here!

Super Bowl Snacks Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

In nearly five years of writing, I have never written an article on snacks for football Sunday! Which, when I think about it, isn’t that odd since I don’t really watch football, except when a game goes into overtime and I’m waiting for “60 Minutes” to come on, although I do usually watch the Super Bowl. But I’m only there for the snacks and the half-time show! And in my opinion, forget chicken wings and everything else, nothing is better than chips and dip.

These days, clam dip is non-existent on the fridge shelves at the supermarket and I’m not sure why. But when I came across this simple dip in the New York Times a few years back, I now make my own. Homemade is always best for most everything, because it’s healthier, you’re controlling the ingredient list, and there is no added fake ingredients! It takes five minutes to put together, an hour (or longer if you want to make it the day before) to sit in the fridge, and lots of veggies and chips on the side, you will be the star of the game! And if you don’t like football, the dip will also go well with Episode 6 of “Downton Abbey!”

I’ve made this with either two cans of chopped clams or three cans of minced. I don’t think you can go wrong with too many clams, and I up the Worcestershire to 1 teaspoon. I’m not shy with the cayenne and lemon juice, and like Sifton says, I taste and adjust the seasonings to my palate. I sprinkle a little bit of Hungarian paprika, for yet another kick of hot.

Not into clam dip? Here are some other suggestions healthy and delicious snack idea for game day!

Nachos: The direct opposite of loaded nachos you might find at a bar, my take is simple and delicious. Distribute a layer of tortilla chips on a cookie sheet. Add some grated sharp cheddar cheese and chopped jalapeno. Add another layer of chips, more cheese and peppers. Bake at 350 degrees until the cheese is bubbly, top with chopped scallions and serve with salsa and sour cream.

Black Bean Hummus: Healthy and oh so yummy!

Baked Artichoke Dip: For two years in a row, this has been the most popular recipe on myvermontkitchen.com! If you take this to a party, you will be the most popular cook in the room!

Guacamole: This recipe is for two, but just double (or triple) it if you have a crowd!

Deviled Eggs: In my house, these don’t last very long and are always a hit!

Mediterranean Kebabs: No cooking involved!

Homemade Salsa: Like I say, homemade is always best!

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Clam Dip
This recipe by Sam Sifton originally appeared in the January 27, 2014 issue of The New York Times.

1 pint sour cream

1 cup cooked and cooled chopped clams, from approximately 2 dozen littleneck clams, or 2 small cans of chopped clams, with three tablespoons of their liquor

1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, or to taste

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

¼ teaspoon ground white pepper, or to taste

Spears of red bell pepper, celery and endive, or salted potato chips, for serving

1. In a small bowl, combine the sour cream and clams and mix well.

2. Add the lemon juice, Worcestershire, cayenne pepper, salt and white pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least an hour.

3. To serve, place a bowl of dip on a platter with spears of red bell pepper, celery and endive, or with salted potato chips.

theholiday

The kitchen from “The Holiday,” one of my favorite movies!

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: 13 of the Best Movie Set Kitchens of All Time
With movie award season upon us, I found this article highlighting the best kitchens in movies a lot of fun. I counted and I’ve seen ten of the 13 movies and am having a hard time selecting my favorite kitchen, but it’s a toss-up between “The Holiday” and “Julie and Julia.” But I love the kitchen in “You’ve Got Mail” too! Which is your favorite? You can see all the movies by clicking here.

 

 

It’s Labor Day Weekend Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

This time of year, the front meadow is a sea of goldenrod.

This time of year, the front meadow is a sea of goldenrod.

I always use Labor Day weekend as the benchmark for the end of summer. Kids are back at school, the days are getting shorter and cooler, and the local apple orchard is now open. So this weekend is a perfect time to say goodbye to the season and to invite some friends over for some a delicious meal! I’ve scoured MVK’s archives for some recipes that would be perfect for this time of year. I hope whatever you do this coming weekend, it is filled with good food!

Appetizers

Deviled Eggs
Who doesn’t like deviled eggs? Take this to a party and they will be gone in the blink of an eye!

Baked Artichoke Dip
While this is a little fussy, it is well worth the effort.

Homemade Hummus
Know the ingredients in your hummus by making a batch of your own!

Mediterranean Kebabs
You don’t even need to know how to cook to make this tasty appetizer!

Entrees

Marinated Grilled Chicken Legs
Get the grill going for this flavorful chicken dish.

Linguine with Clam Sauce
If you can find fresh clams, this dish will be phenomenal, but canned work just as well.

Mystic Pizza
Impress your guests by grilling this pizza!

Marinated London Broil
Mmmmm…..

Brazilian Fish Stew
This stew tastes like a professional made it. Show off your skills!

Salads and Such

Potato Salad
I made this over Fourth of July weekend and am still thinking about it!

Kale Salad
Instead of a usual green salad try using kale instead!

Quick Pickles
Because I love these!

And you can never go wrong with a platter of sliced fresh tomatoes with basil and a little drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Desserts

Warm Roasted Peaches with Cream
Pick up some Amish peaches if you’re in the Northeast and roast them with a little cinnamon and nutmeg. You won’t be sorry!

Brownies
You’ll make a friend for life if you make a couple batches of these incredible brownies.

Crumbly Peach Pie
A summer isn’t complete without making my grandmother’s peach pie.

Cocktails

Mad Men Manhattan

Margaritas

Mocktails

sunday dinner

(Photo Steve Cavalier/Alamy/Alamy)

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Should Sunday Roast Dinners Still be on the Menu?
One of the things I was most excited about when I was in London last year was going out for Sunday Roast, which is basically a full dinner at lunchtime. I have a version of that in my own home almost every Sunday because there is more time to cook; a really nice meal, usually a roast of some sort, to end the weekend and to have a nice start to the work week. Sunday just feels odd if I’m throwing together a stir fry.

So I really enjoyed this pro and con op-ed piece out of The Guardian last week for Sunday roast dinners.  Of course I’m in the “pro” camp; they truly are a comfort blanket meal. You can read the article in its entirety here.

Black Bean Hummus with Queso Fresco Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

I love my early morning summer walks. I run into geese, chickens, and Dexter the Cat!

I love my early morning summer walks. I run into geese, chickens, and Dexter the Cat!

A few weeks back The Eater of the House and myself were invited to a dinner party and the request was to bring either an appetizer or dessert. Since I had the time and the urge to cook a little bit, I made some chocolate chip cookies with coconut, but wasn’t really sure what to make for an appetizer. Be forewarned, if I am cooking for a group of people either at my home or for a potluck, I almost always try something new. Certainly not the wisest of decisions (the rational voice in my head is always questioning why?!), but I love trying something new to me and introducing it to guests. And I truly hit the jackpot with this dip.

This incredibly flavorful black bean dip has a little bit of heat, a hint of garlic and crunchy onion, and a combination of lime juice and red wine vinegar that is so good that after one bite I moved the plate closer to me with the hope the other guests wouldn’t notice. It was so delicious, I made it the next day just for myself!

I searched high and low in the grocery store and couldn’t find queso fresco cheese, so I used feta in place and it was just as good. This appetizer will make vegans and those who don’t eat dairy happy if you leave off the cheese as well as those who are looking for a healthy, flavorful dip that isn’t terribly heavy or rich. I thought it would be terrific as a vegetarian burrito filling or as an accompaniment for eggs!

black bean dip
Black Bean Hummus with Queso Fresco

This recipe first appeared in the April 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Can’t find queso fresco? Crumbled feta cheese can certainly be substituted, or if looking for a dairy-free version, just add extra onion and cilantro. I also added a couple tablespoons of water to make it more dip-like as I found it a little dry without it.

1 tablespoon tahini (roasted sesame seed paste)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 (15-ounce) can unsalted black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons water
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons queso fresco
1 tablespoon chopped red onion
2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro

Combine tahini, lime juice, olive oil, beans, salt, water, and garlic clove in the bowl of a food processor. Add vinegar, cumin, and crushed red pepper to food processor with black bean mixture; process until smooth. Top with queso fresco, onion, and cilantro.

onionsMVK’s *Like* of the Week: Pickled Onions
This is more like my love of the week. Or month. Or year. I decided at the beginning of the summer to make some pickled onions to go with the burritos I was making. O. M. G. They are the best (and easiest) thing you can make to add flavor to your food! I take 3/4 cup of apple cider or red wine vinegar, 1/4 cup of water, and add some diced red onion. They last forever and are so good! I’m a big onion fan, so this just adds enhanced flavor with a little bit of a zing. I especially like putting them on a warmed corn tortilla with melted cheese, a scrambled egg, and some avocado for a really tasty breakfast!

I found this article, which gives great instruction on how to make quick pickled onions or you can do what I do. Either way, I hope you find a new delicious food accompaniment!

Homemade Salsa

apple orchard

The apple orchards are in full bloom!

I came to the conclusion recently that after writing this blog for four-plus years, I really need a recipe index for everything I’ve written and cooked. Because after searching, I discovered I’ve never passed along my favorite recipe for salsa! Guacamole, artichoke dip, hummus yes, but never salsa. After recently making a big batch, I figured I would right that wrong!

I know I’ve told you about the now defunct Horn of the Moon, a vegetarian restaurant in Montpelier, Vermont. As a teenager, I would take my babysitting money to enjoy pizza night on Tuesdays and sometimes would stop in for a sweet and hot carob (note, not hot chocolate!) after school. A definitive ’70s Vermont restaurant, there were spider plants hanging (in macramé plant holders) in the large windows that overlooked the Winooski River. Questionable décor, but the food was delicious. I even spent a day cooking in the kitchen in the hopes of landing a summer job. I can’t remember if they decided it wasn’t a good fit or if I did, but no matter, owner Ginny Callan has a beloved cookbook that I frequently turn to when l am looking to cook Vermont produce: rhubarb, fiddleheads, asparagus, and zucchini.

This recipe fits winter or summer; winter use a 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes, summertime six medium-sized. I like it really spicy, so I’m liberal with the cayenne and sometimes I’ll add a jalapeno with the green pepper. A lot of chopping and measuring, but in the end you’ll know it was worth the effort. And it makes 3 cups, so there will be lots!

salsaSalsa
This recipe is from the Horn of the Moon Cookbook, by Ginny Callan, Harper & Row, 1987.

One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes in tomato juice (In season, 6 finely diced medium-sized fresh garden tomatoes are a wonderful option!)
1 TBS. minced garlic
½ teaspoon salt
2 tsp. sunflower oil (MVK’s Note: I use canola or another light oil)
2 tsp, lemon juice
2 tsp. ground cumin
½ cup very finely chopped onion (1 onion)
¾ cup very finely chopped green pepper (1 large pepper)
4 scallions, thinly sliced
¼ to ½ tsp. cayenne pepper (to taste)
1 or 2 fresh hot chili peppers, minced (optional)

Crush tomatoes; chip or run lightly through food processor. Combine with rest of ingredients. Chill until ready to serve. Makes 3 cups.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Food, Wine, and Books!

nh22Last weekend I attended the second “Food, Wine, and Books” fundraiser for the New Haven Community Library. Held at Lincoln Peak Vineyard, we had drank wine and ate samples of recipes cooked from a variety of books in support of this local library. The evening brought together my three favorite things: books, wine, and food!

nh21It was picture-perfect, the temperature was just right and no bugs yet. We sat on the porch with friends we hadn’t seen in months (we are all coming out of our winter hibernation!), and chatted about books and politics while sipping the delicious wine and food. A cucumber dip from the book, Life from Scratch (a food memoir that is on my radar, but I haven’t read yet), was so good, there was a pasta/salmon salad out of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and I think my favorite was the chicken paté from my idol Ruth Reichl’s wonderful memoir, Tender at the Bone. (I’m always a sucker for paté.) It was a wonderful way to enjoy the springtime weather, support a good cause, and try out some new dishes!  

 

 

Homemade Hummus

 

Rain + lower temps + snow = this scene.

Rain + lower temps + snow = this scene.

For years I’ve been eating store-bought hummus because it’s healthier than cream dips, but not really liking the flavor of it. Although some brands are better than others, I think they all have an off taste which I don’t like. Last month at book club, my friend, Deb, brought some hummus made at one of the local natural foods stores. I had to restrain myself from eating the whole container. THIS is what hummus is supposed to taste like: chickpeas, a little garlic, lemon, and just a hint of tahini. But it’s expensive when you buy it at a deli, so I decided to recreate an equally delicious yet less expensive version in my kitchen!

So, I don’t have a food processor, only a blender. And the last time I attempted to make hummus, it was a total disaster. (Never make hummus in a blender, it just won’t work.) But. I do have a potato masher, which worked beautifully! Before you think I spent 30 minutes or more mashing the beans, au contraire! It took me about two minutes to really smoosh them and five minutes to make the whole recipe! Some recipes call for olive oil, but I find the tahini adds enough richness, plus the hot water makes it smoother. If you find that it’s a bit dry after it sits for a couple of days, just add a little bit of hot water and stir. (Note, when I say this is “smooth,” it won’t be silky smooth like the store-bought version, it has that rustic, homemade feel, but smooth enough to spread easily on a cracker. I’m obviously having a hard time describing the consistency!)

So I was able to create a batch of hummus for a little more than what you’d pay for a can of chickpeas, plus no preservatives! The greatest investment you’ll make is the tahini, which you can find in the Middle Eastern section of your supermarket or at the coop. But it lasts a long time in the cupboard and after making this once, you may find yourself making this a lot. You could show off your skills and make a big batch for a Super Bowl party next weekend! Go Patriots! (Apologies to my Seattle readers: Marta, Jana, and Julie!)

hummsHomemade Hummus
I like lots of zing to my hummus, so I use at least half a lemon, but ease into it with a quarter lemon and test the flavor for yourself. 

1 can of chickpeas
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tablespoon tahini
2 Tablespoons hot water
Lemon juice to taste
A dash of salt
A couple of tablespoons of fresh cilantro, minced (if desired)

Add the chickpeas to the mixing bowl, smashing until paste-like. Add the garlic, tahini, and hot water, mix until smooth. Stir in lemon juice to taste, salt, and cilantro, if using. Serve with crackers, tortilla chips, or vegetables.

Photo: Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

Photo: Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: 10 Things Not to Do When You Start a Diet
January is a perfect month to start your diet; the holidays are over and you have at least four months (more if you live in the northeast!) before you have to get into a bathing suit. Cooking Light has this great list of diet don’ts for those who are starting their journey this month. You can check them out here!

Mediterranean Kebabs

lilacs

The lilacs are finally in bloom! I could bury my nose in their wonderful scent all day long!

This week’s dish can’t even be defined as a recipe, it’s more like a set of instructions!

A few weeks ago I was going to book club and instead of a green salad, I wanted to do something that was a little bit out of the box, was delicious, and the most important thing, I had about 15 minutes to put it together! So I created these vegetable kebabs, which can be used as an appetizer or in place of salad for dinner. Veggies, a little bit of cheese, and the flavor of fresh basil, they even make for a wonderful for lunch! Once you have everything chopped and ready to go, it really is done in 15 minutes!

I made mine with chunks of European cucumber, a baby mozzarella ball, a piece of fresh basil, and grape tomato sliced in half. I topped with some salt and pepper and a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. I thought a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar could be a good addition, too. I kept the order the same and made two rounds on the skewer. The skewers I have are six-inches long, just the right size, since these aren’t going on the grill.

You can make these with pieces of meat (think salami, spicy ham), different veggies (red, yellow, and orange peppers would be great!), with or without cheese, even fruit. Think about what flavors will go with what vegetables. Basil is the perfect herb since it is flat. I can’t think of another herb that would work quite as well, can you?

I have a potluck dinner to attend later on this week and will be toting these along. I think the kebabs are going to be made a lot in the coming months—a no-cook meal, they are perfect for those evenings when it’s too hot to turn on the stove!

 

Photo-skewers

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week
As I sat down wondering what I would endorse this week, my mind wandered to my adventures this past weekend. It’s garage sale season, and you will never know what kind of cookbooks you will find!

photo-coookbookI found this cookbook by local food writer, Andrea Chesman. I have a couple of her books and the recipes are always great. The book was in perfect condition and I paid $1 for it! (The price was .50, but since it was for the historical society, I said they could keep the change, big spender that I am!) So now that it is warmer weather, get out and check out some book sales! You may never know what gems you will find!

 

A Homemade Valentine’s Day Dinner

I thought I’d pop in early this week to pass along a Valentine’s Day dinner menu for you in case you were thinking of making a special meal on Friday night! I’m not one to really celebrate Valentine’s Day, but I never need an excuse to make a nice dinner. Restaurants always raise their prices and they’re usually packed, so I usually opt for making a special dinner at home. CookingVintageValentineSince Friday is a work night, the choices on this menu is special enough for the holiday, yet easy enough to put together after a long week at the office.

So let’s start with cocktails! Since it’s a special night, it calls for making a special cocktail! Care to go retro? Try my ManhattanIf you want to splurge on the juice, try a pomegranate martini. Or if your meal is on the spicy side, how about a margarita?  

You must have something to serve alongside your cocktails! The stuffed mushroom recipe I make is easy, and you can make these the night before and just pop them in the oven when you get home. If you have extra time, this recipe for gougères is to die for, and are best right out of the oven–just don’t burn your tongue! Or this recipe for Artichoke Dip is always a crowd favorite. If it’s just the two of you, you can refrigerate the leftovers and warm the next evening and it will still be delicious.

Soup or salad? I will always go for salad whenever given the choice. You could make a simple salad of  greens but include something special like avocado or my favorite, Hearts of Palms. These run about $3+ a can, so I buy them only on rare occasions. Maybe a few grape tomatoes, a quick vinaigrette, and you’re set!

I always think seafood makes a special meal. You could make this scallop recipe (and forego the aforementioned salad), or linguini with clam sauce, which is quick and easy. Or what about this salmon recipe? Just pop the fish in the oven and make the quick sauce on the stove. If you have a little extra time and money, this Brazilian Stew is fantastic! A bit of crusty bread and dinner is served!

Dessert anyone? If you want something chocolaty, you could make these brownies the night before and serve warmed with a little bit of vanilla ice cream. Or what about gingerbread? This cozy cake is another recipe you can make in advance. Of course, one of the most special recipes of all is Julia Child’s chocolate mousse. This must be made in advance, so that way it will be ready and you can focus on the rest of the meal.

Whatever you have or make for dinner on Friday, whether it’s an elaborate four course dinner or takeout pizza, I hope you can share it with someone you love. Happy Valentine’s Day!

A Potluck Savior

DSCN0498

Hello, September.

Even though I love to cook, that doesn’t mean time is always on my side. And just because we’re past Labor Day weekend doesn’t mean you won’t be invited to a potluck supper or tailgate football party in the near future. When I am invited to a gathering and asked to bring a dish but I don’t have time to delve into my cookbooks to find that special something, I fall back on my potluck savior, Deviled Eggs. Almost everyone likes them and I guarantee you will go home with just your plate!

I usually think of these eggs as a summer dish, but you honestly can make them year-round for any get together–and I have. And making these are easy and includes three main ingredients: eggs, mustard, and mayonnaise, with a dash of salt and pepper and some paprika on top. The most time-consuming part is the boiling of the eggs!

Helpful Kitchen Tip: If you want to be a bit more upscale with your eggs, add a couple dashes of curry powder or some snipped chives to the filling. And if you want them to look extra special, place the mixed yolks into the corner of a plastic bag, snip off the end so you have a make-shift piping bag (like one used for frosting), and add the yolks to the egg whites in a fancy rosette!

Instructions:

Step 1. Take a Dutch oven and fill it with water. Put in as many fresh eggs as you would like, I usually make a dozen, and make sure all the eggs are covered with water. Bring the pot to a boil and cook at a simmer for about 15 minutes. When done, drain the eggs in a colander, place them back in the pot, and continue to flush with fresh, cold water until the eggs are cooled. From here, you can either make the eggs or set them in a bowl in the fridge until you are ready for Step 2.

Step 2: Carefully peel the shell off of each egg and place them in a bowl. With a sharp paring knife, slice each egg in half vertically, placing the egg white on a platter and the egg yolk in a separate bowl.

Step 3: Take a fork and mash the egg yolks until all are broken. Add a little bit of mayonnaise to the yolks, mix, then add a little bit of mustard (Dijon or yellow). I keep alternating these bit by bit until I have the right consistency as well as the right flavor. (I always use more mustard than mayonnaise.) Add salt and pepper to taste.

Step 4: With a teaspoon or with the plastic bag method noted above, fill each egg white with a bit of the yolk and continue until they are all equally divided. Sprinkle some paprika powder (I like the hot Hungarian for some heat) over the egg yolks and voilà! Your appetizer is ready for company!

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