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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Scotch Dinner

We are blessed with some of the most wonderful friends.  And, once in a while we get to celebrate something really fun with some of them.  Like Mark's retirement.  Time for Scotch and dinner. 

And, you can see our furry kids really wanted to join us.  But, they know better than to come in a room where humans are eating...

Dinner was to be pork tenderloin wrapped in bacon and served with a bourbon glaze, sweet potatoes and cauliflower gratin.  Except that Connie and I didn't communicate well.  He thought I had a pork tenderloin thawed so he put the ones from the grocery into the freezer.  Then, thanks to a big project at our office that HAD to be finished, he got to the house well after we'd started the other dishes.  There was simply no time for thawing pork tenderloins.  Thank goodness for buying and freezing chicken thighs.  Those are easy to thaw.  Not quite as easy to wrap with bacon, but easier to thaw :-)  Since we were celebrating Mark's retirement with a really nice bottle of Scotch, my intent was to use Scotch (our regular brand, not the really good stuff) in the glaze.  The recipe below reflects the way I actually made the dish.  Which turned out to be a fabulous dish in spite of the substitution.  And, in spite of the fact that the bacon simply wouldn't stay on the chicken...

I wanted to do something with cranberries and apples for the sweet potatoes.  A hunt through recipes I've saved didn't bring up anything I wanted to make.  But, there was a recipe on that I could use as inspiration.  The cauliflower gratin was a recipe that I'd clipped from a magazine and tucked into an envelope of recipes to try soon.  Eons ago.  I have NO clue which magazine it came from.  I do wish they'd identify their recipes at the end of each because I really try hard to give credit as credit is due...  I'm assuming the bacon wrapped pork tenderloin/chicken is from Midwest Living.  It's credited to Chef Beth Murphy, Old Town Ale House. 

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Thighs with Scotch Glaze


4 chicken thighs (I'd recommend removing the skin)
8 strips thick cut bacon
1/2 c dark brown sugar
1 t Chinese five spice powder
1/2 c Scotch (we use Dewar's)


Preheat your oven to 350. Par cook the bacon in an oven proof skillet just until it starts to brown.  Leave the bacon fat in the skillet.  Wrap the chicken thighs with the bacon and secure it with tooth picks.  Mix the brown sugar and Chinese five spice.  Pat the chicken thighs with the brown sugar mix.  Saute in the bacon fat until the bacon is browned.  Remove the skillet to the oven until the chicken is cooked through.

adapted from Chef Beth Murphy

Cauliflower Gratin with Almond Crust


1/4 c butter
1 head cauliflower, separated into florets
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 T flour
2 t chopped fresh thyme
1/2 t salt
1/2 c whipping cream
1 c grated Gruyere cheese
2/3 c panko
1/4 c sliced almonds
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese


In a large skillet, melt the butter.  Add the cauliflower and onion.  Saute for about 8 minutes, then add the garlic.  Stir in the flour, thyme and salt.  Then, once the cauliflower is thoroughly coated with the flour, pour the mix into a greased casserole.  Drizzle it with the cream.  Then, top it with the Gruyere, followed by the panko, then the almonds then the Parmesan.  Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.

Sweet Potato and Apple Casserole with Cranberry Relish


1 large sweet potato, peeled and sliced about 1/8" thick
2 apples, sliced about 18" thick (I didn't peel them)
1 12 oz package cranberries
1/2 c dark brown sugar
1/4 c orange juice concentrate
1/4 c Scotch
1 t Chinese five spice powder
1/4 c butter
1/2 c chopped pecans


In a medium saucepan, par cook the sweet potato until it is slightly softened but not mushy.  Ours took 5-8 minutes.  Drain the sweet potato.  In a casserole, layer the sweet potatoes and the apples.  I used three layers of each.  In a medium saucepan, mix the cranberries, brown sugar, OJ, Scotch and five spice powder.  Cook over medium heat until the cranberries pop.  Stir in the butter.  Once that's melted in, pour the relish over the sweet potatoes.  Top with the chopped pecans.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. 

adapted from

Chicken Grand-mere Francine

Somehow our schedule has gotten REALLY busy.  Seems busier than normal.  In the span of eleven days we've had a wine dinner, two trips to the theatre, a football game, a party, dinner with a friend, sushi with the crew from Chef Joseph's, dinner with two different couples and a birthday party.  Yes, that's right, something planned ten days out of eleven.  That meant that actually getting home and being able to fix dinner was a good thing.  I was exhausted from a crazy workload at the office and some big projects at the house.  So, I wanted to fix something easy.  Usually nothing from Weekend in a French Kitchen qualifies as easy AND has an ingredient list that's on hand.  My friends had been raving about Chicken Grand-mere Francine.  I either had everything or a close substitution.  Chicken it was.

Now, first let me tell you about the yard...  We never dreamed when we moved in that the yard would basically be a layer of sod over fill.  We tried to plant a couple of the starts we'd brought along and had to chisel out holes.  It was miserable.  Two of the areas where we wanted to plant had some pretty good slopes.  That meant we could have retaining walls built and topsoil tilled in.  One's shaded by a locust and a pear.  Pear trees don't have a terribly long life span so we don't know how long that one will last.  The locust is a bully.  The roots are upending our driveway and the sidewalk to the front porch.  And, they're right on the surface.  Plus, it's a filthy tree.  There's always some detritus from it.  But, it's huge and having it taken down would be really expensive.  So, replacing it will just have to wait.  Given all that we decided to work with the trees we have.  The guys put some big boulders in to match the one that was already there.  Then, they lined the rest of the bed with stones.  We proceeded to put almost all of our hosta in.  And, the Solomon's Seal, epimedium, astilbe, columbine and meadow rue.  We'll want to fill in with more of everything next spring.  But, for now it looks great.  The other part of the shade garden will be hellebore, heuchera and some daylilies in the partial shade.  The sun garden has two tiers.  I've put in rhubarb and red sorrel.  Space has been left for more rhubarb plants along with kale and Swiss chard.  Then, we've got bee balm, Echinacea, rudebeckia, lilies, iris, daylilies, Siberian iris, horseradish, daisies, peonies and loads of other sun plants.  Here's how everything looked and looks. 

Back to chicken.  We didn't have celery root.  It's always a challenge to find at the grocery and we didn't want to start the hunt.  So, we decided to leave it out.  I had red potatoes and not Yukon Gold.  They'd work just fine.  No Cipollino onions so a large onion cut into chunks would have to work. So, the dish began.  First, you sauté the skin side of the chicken until it's golden brown.  We prefer thighs so that's what I used.  You remove the chicken to a plate and pour off all but two tablespoons of the fat.  Then, you add butter, onions, shallots, garlic and thyme.  Now, the recipe called for something I'd never done.  You separate but do not peel the garlic cloves.  Ok, I'd try it.  After everything gets a little browned, you add the potatoes and bacon.  Cover the pan and cook for ten minutes, stirring a few times.  Then, the chicken goes back in along with some chicken broth.  The whole shebang goes in the oven for 25 minutes.  You proceed to either putter in the kitchen and drool or sit in the living room reading the paper and drooling.  Yes, it smells that good.  And, it tastes as good as it smells!  When we post dishes for Weekend in a French Kitchen, we don't include the recipe.  But, you'll be able to tell a LOT from the photos!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Five Spice Apple Pie

Finally.  The frost is on the pumpkin.  We've had the longest, latest Indian summer I remember.  And, now I'm finally ready for some fall foods.  Like pie.  That's the theme of our Blogger C.L.U.E. Society this month.  And I got assigned one of my all time favorite blogs.  By one of my favorite bloggers!  Deb and I got to be friends almost as soon as I started blogging.  She and her hubby are wonderfully adventurous eaters who love to travel and garden.  Two of our favorite things.  Her blog is named after her cat, Eliot.  Isn't that a purrfect name for a kitty?  For years I've poked around on her blog making yummy dishes.  Too many to count.   One of Deb's recipes that's on my list is her version of Bee's Knees.  It's a cocktail typically made with honey and either gin or vodka.  We've made some version eons ago and I can't remember which Connie used.  But, her version has lavender in the honey simple syrup.  I'm waiting for my lavender buds to dry a bit.  Keep checking the things weekly and they're just not cooperating.  Here's a link to the recipe in the event you've got lavender calling your name:  Bee's Knees.  I wish I'd listed recipes made by each blogger so I could give you a list of the recipes I've tried.  But, alas, they're part of a huge pile of recipes that I've printed, made and put in a pile to organize...  I've finally started a scanned file of recipes.  But, they too need to be organized.  The story of my life.  Too much information needing too much organization!

Speaking of cooperation...  Our local grocery just hasn't been cooperating.  They've been eliminating items that we regularly buy - like frozen chopped broccoli for Chicken Elegante.  And, it's been tougher to find things we don't buy regularly but we do on occasion.  Like Cornish Game Hens.  This time it's frozen sweet cherries.  They've not had them.  And, with our wacko crazy schedules heading out on a mission to find specialty items hasn't been possible.  So, I've changed menus or substituted.  This time, I had to totally change recipes.  You see, I had my heart set on Vanilla Cherry Pie with Almond Crumb Topping.  I know.  Doesn't the name alone make your mouth water?  Then, you read the recipe and swoon.  I so want some of that pie.  And, I've wanted it since the day I found out I was assigned Deb's blog and went pie hunting. 

No cherries meant I was on to a different pie recipe.  Connie was voting for the Frito Pies but I explained this was a pie for Thanksgiving dinner.  Evidently, he loves Frito Pie so much that he'd eat it for Thanksgiving dinner.  I really need to get those on the menu for some Sunday night football!  Then, there's onion pie.  Not quiche, Deb says, but true onion pie.  It's a bit like the famous French onion tart, pissaladiere.  There's one twist to it that I'm so going to try - mustard on the pie crust before you put the rest of the ingredients in.  Doesn't that sound fabulous!

But, I digress, Thanksgiving pie is the subject here.  There were several other choices:  wine and raspberry cream, stone fruit, nutella, pears and apples, and five spice apple.  Now, we've grown to love five spice powder.  It used to be one of those specialty spices rarely used.  Not these days.  I use it in all kinds of recipes.  So, I was intrigued.  And, I was running out of time...  Heading for a conference and my pie had to be made, photographed and blogged before I left town.  We had no time to bake over the weekend.  I thought I'd seen a box of pie crusts in the fridge.  It was a cold, rainy night and traffic was horrid.  So, I broke one of the cardinal rules of the Blogger C.L.U.E. Society.  I changed the recipe.  The box of pie crusts wasn't.  I didn't have shortening.  One of the things I used up before we moved and have never replaced.  Hunting, hunting, hunting.  Ahhh, graham crackers.  Maybe stale, maybe not.  But, something to make a pie crust out of.  What about a topping???  I kept picturing that wonderful vanilla almond topping for the cherry pie.  What if I made one of those and put some more five spice in???  Let me tell you...  This was the BEST apple pie I've ever had. Who would have ever thought that replacing cinnamon with five spice would make such a difference?  But, that's the kind of cooking Deb does.  Creative, inventive, fun.  And, it tastes so darned good!  Here's the link to her recipe and some more photos of mine...  Five Spice Apple Pie.  Please remember to head to the cherry pie recipe for the topping...

Now, here are links to the rest of my friends: 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Raspberry Cointreau Syllabub

Each month we are assigned a new blog to peruse for a recipe that fits that month's theme.  This month I was assigned A Spoonful of Thyme.  I made several wonderful recipes from Kate's blog.  Then, I found out that Rebekah's husband had had a health emergency and she'd not be able to do her post this month.  Well, when I realized that her assigned blog was Food Lust People Love by my friend Stacy, my hand was in the air saying, "Pick ME!  Pick ME!"  You see, Stacy has some of the best cooking around.  And she does it all in the UAE.  She is one amazing woman!!!  So, this month I had the complete and total pleasure of checking out not one but TWO wonderful blogs. 

One of my favorite posts on Stacy's blog is Muffin Monday.  Oh, yeah.  Muffins rock.  And, she has quite the collection.  I remember making one with mushrooms.  Sounds gross.  Tastes incredible.  I really need to make those again.  Soon.  Now, let's talk for a moment about some of her other recipes that caught my eye...  Sweet Potato French Bean Lentil Salad.  Does that sound amazing or what?  Cauliflower Leek Roquefort Tart follows that.  Yeah, I know.  Both of them are on my menu.  I didn't lick the computer screen but I was tempted to!  There's one recipe from my young adulthood that I have to get made soon - dirty rice.  It's a Cajun dish with rice and chicken livers and all kinds of goodies.  Then, there are the sweets.  Too many to list.  Let's just say that if you have a sweet tooth, stop by.  And, if you don't, stop by.  Stacy's got something on here for everyone. 

Our Sunday supper was going to be beef tri-tip from Kate's blog.  It sounded like a pot roast so I had potatoes, onions and carrots ready to go with.  A nice, light dessert sounded perfect.  Like a syllabub.  Whipped cream, Greek yogurt, Cointreau and raspberries with a bit of sugar.  What a perfect dessert.  Our mint didn't survive the move so we picked a leaf or two of lemon balm to go with it.  I may try mint in the future but I'll probably keep using the lemon balm.  Here's where  you find Stacy's recipe:

Raspberry Cointreau Syllabub

And, here's where you can stop in and visit with the rest of my friends from Blogger
C.L.U.E.  Society.

Frangelico Squares and More

This month for Blogger C.L.U.E. Society I was assigned a lovely blog called A Spoonful of Thyme.  I did my normal reading and printing pdf's of likely candidate recipes.  Pulled out the Excel spreadsheet where I keep our menus and tried to figure out what I was going to make.  I really wanted to make the Frangelico bars for Mandy and Nick's party.  But, the split pea soup and the ham, potato and cheese soup sounded really good.  Connie was voting for the risotto with the sun-dried tomatoes.  The spicy plum chicken sounded really good as did the chicken with mushrooms and lemons.   I can't leave out the roasted carrots with bourbon.  Or the meatballs.  Hmmmm.

Well, let's just say that that Kate's blog kind of overtook this Kate's Kitchen :-)  We had a lot of fun cooking from her blog the last couple of weeks.  And, we made some tremendous dishes.  Every last one of them was a make again.  But, I've got to tell you the Frangelico bar story first...

We have this friend named Lou.  Uncle Lou is his nickname.  He used to office in the same building we're in.  Rode the elevator with him enough times that we got to know him.  He ran a Congressional campaign for a guy who also became a friend.  And, he lives across the street from some folks named Jillian and Matt.  Yes, they've become friends too.  Now, Jillian and Matt's best buds have moved to Indy and have purchased a house right behind Jillian and Matt.  So, they had a housewarming party.  Now what you need to understand is that Uncle Lou is in shape.  He's a fitness fanatic.  He eats right.  He doesn't stand around stuffing his face with sweets.  Unless they're Frangelico bars.  I didn't count the number he ate.  And, if I had I wouldn't tell you because I know he's going to read this and I really do want to stay friends with him.  Let's just say that an extra hour or two in the gym wouldn't have been enough to work off the number he ate.  LOL.  Yes, my friends, they are that good. 

We have a saying in our house.  It goes like this, "This is terrible.  You won't like it.  I will have to eat it all so you don't have to worry about it."  Yes, I know it's a bald-faced lie but I do try it on occasion.  When it came to the Frangelico bars, Connie and I both tried it on each other!

Kate doesn't go into a lot of detail about herself so I don't have a lot to share.  But, she did tell one story to tell that had me laughing out loud.  How to store recipes.  Like most of us, she's pretty much tried every method known to mankind.  Right now they seem to be in a stack.  And, that's only one of the out loud giggles I had. Suffice to say that you really need to grab a cup of coffee, sit down and spend an hour or two getting acquainted with her blog.  Not only will you wind up with a bunch of fun recipes, you'll also be entertained!

Rather than type out each recipe here, I'm going to give you links to all the ones we tried.  And, below those links you'll find links to my other Blogger Clue friends recipes this month.  They're a bunch of fabulous cooks so I hope you'll be able to visit them.

Frangelico Bars - I made these exactly like the recipe.  They were one of the best bar cookies I've ever had.  A little like pecan pie bars but better!

Chicken with Mushrooms and Lemon Sauce - to save time here I cut the boneless, skinless chicken breasts into strips.  Then, I added about 1/4 cup of chicken broth to the sauce.  I think Connie would've licked the saucepan had I let him...
Bourbon Carrots - Amazing.  Instead of cayenne we used Emeril's.  So easy and had oodles of flavor.

Split Pea Soup - the best split pea soup I've ever had.  I had to cook the second set of split peas a bit longer to get them soft.  Next time I think I'm going to try adding a can of diced tomatoes. 

Sweet and Spicy Chicken Thighs - this one I really messed with the recipe.   Our grocery doesn't sell boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  So, I used skin on and crisped the heck out of the skin.  I thought I had plum jam in the pantry but couldn't find it so used  beach plum jam.  Loved the sauce!  Yes, I plopped Connie's ear of corn on my plate to carry it to the screened porch.

Risotto with Sun--Dried Tomatoes and Shrimp - risotto is our clean up the kitchen for two dish.  Once I got the hang of making it, it became our comfort food.  I had a jar of sun-dried tomato pesto that I wanted to use up.  Connie missed the chunks of tomatoes but I loved the flavor. 
Best Basic Meatballs - the question is Emeril's or Ina's?  I've made both this year and have loved both of them.  The technique for these is interesting with beef broth on the baking sheet.  The meatballs were super tender and moist.  Emeril's has a bit more zing with the Italian sausage so next time I'm combining his recipe and Ina's technique to see how it works.  Just another excuse for spaghetti and meatballs!
Tri-tip Sandwiches - Thus far, we've just had the tri-tip and the rest of the meat hasn't made it into sandwiches...  As a pot roast this was fabulous.  I loved the gravy with the beef consommé.  Yes, I did add a good glug of red wine...  I served it over half a baked potato with some cooked carrots and onions on the side.
Italian Wedding Soup - Thus far this is only the meatballs.  They are fabulous and I'm sure the rest of the soup will be equally fabulous!
Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread - WOW.  The best gingerbread I've ever had.  I always thought my great-grandmother's recipe couldn't be beaten.  It has been.  The complexity of this is amazing.  I served it to company and shared half of what was leftover.  I think that's getting served to a lunch group today...  Along side I served my great-grandmother's lemon sauce.  Perfection on a plate. 
Ok, now here's the list of the other blogs I hope you'll check out:

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Arugula, Pear and Parmesan Salad

Sometimes the simplest recipes are indeed the best.  There are plenty of recipes (boeuf bourguignon, for example) that require hours of preparation and layer upon layer of flavors.  Then, there are others with a few ingredients and quick preparation that just can't be improved on.  Pear, parmesan and arugula salad is one of those. 

This month for Blogger C.L.U.E. Society, I was assigned Wendy's blog.  A Day in the Life on a Farm.  I love her intro:  "Two retired cops searching for peace and quiet find chaos and happiness."  Isn't that just the way life works?  Wendy and her husband, Frank, may be technically retired but it sure looks to me like they spend a LOT of time working on this farm of theirs. 

I've loved reading Wendy's blog since joining Blogger CLUE so was very excited to get her this month.  Our assignment was originally to be apples.  Turns out ONE apple is $6 in Japan.  So, we expanded to pears also.  Turns out some of our buddies didn't have either on their blog.  So, we wound up with fall fruit.  That meant I had a wealth of choices.  Thank you, Wendy! 

Even though we're not big dessert eaters, I started with the desserts.  Just for research, you know.  LOL.  Pumpkin spice bundt cake.  Pumpkin custard pie.  Caramel apple pretzels.  They all sounded SO good.  But, in the end I kept going back to the salad I'd found.  I was feeling guilty because it was so easy.  Then, I remembered the pickle dip.  Made for another group a few years ago.  Three ingredients and it's always the hit of the party.  Then, there's the fact that Connie LOVES pears.  Most fruit he grumbles about.  Not pears.  And, it's the perfect time of year to have them.  Ok, salad it was. 

We couldn't find any arugula anywhere so our trusty baby greens from Sam's had to stand in.  I missed the bit of pepperiness that the arugula would've provided.  But, I'll confess that had I not known the baby greens were a substitution, I'd have been 100% happy with my salad.  This was so easy to put together.  The flavors were fabulous.  And, the pears were the stars.  Not buried under dressing or cheese or something else.  They were the stars.  This is a perfect fall salad.

Here's where you can go meet Wendy and see this fabulous salad:  Arugula, Pear and Parmesan Salad.

Now, for some other fall fruit fun here are the links to my friends in Blogger C.L.U.E.:

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Tomato Sandwiches

I thought BLT's were my favorite summer sandwiches.  Not quite sure how to say this, but I was wrong.  I've found something better.  Unbelievable, I know.  But, so true.  So, what is it?

It's a mash up of three sandwiches.  First and foremost, the BLT.  Bacon, lettuce and tomato.  Second, James Beard's onion sandwiches.  Third the famous Spanish sandwich, the pan con tomate.  Thanks to Melissa Clark writing in the New York Times, we have my new favorite.

You see, for probably the second time since we started this whole moving adventure, I went to the grocery store.  Because I was the logical one to be packing and unpacking and putting away, Connie did all the errands.  ALL the errands.  Other than work, moving and the fun things we've done, I've not been out and about.  I was itching to actually go shopping.  Not something I thought I'd EVER say because, quite frankly, I don't like shopping.  Unless it's a garden center or a hardware store.  Well, or the cookbook section of a bookstore.  Then, I like shopping.  Tonight I had the option to stay home and work on all the stuff I'd brought home from the office.  Or head to Sam's with Connie.  Now, I'll admit, part of the reason I wanted to head out with him was to have time to actually work on a couple of upcoming charitable events.  We've volunteered to participate for the third time in The ARC of Indiana's annual cook-off.  And, we're hosting a friendraiser for Actor's Theatre of Indiana in a couple of months.  I wanted time to chat about both of those.  We got the ARC solved.  Our entry will be Boss Tweeds.  One of my favorite drinks. Ought to be fun. 

We got home pretty late.  I'd read this recipe in the last few days.  We had one lovely heirloom tomato left.  We had some bacon left.  And, some rye bread.  Not what the recipe called for but one of our favorites.  This would be perfect.  Connie brought the haul in, I put bacon in a skillet and started putting stuff away.  Just about the time that I stuffed the last thing into the freezer, the last piece of bacon came out of the skillet to be drained.  Show time!

Connie stood on the other side of the counter juggling the camera and handing me the appropriate ingredients in the appropriate order.  

So, let's take a second and go back thru these sandwiches.  BLT.  Bacon, lettuce and tomato.  With mayonnaise.  A classic.  pan con tomate.  Toasted bread, garlic rubbed on it, tomato crushed over it and salt sprinkled over it.  Last, but not least, James Beard's onion sandwich.  Bread, mayo, VERY thin slices of onion. 

Here's how you put them together:

Toast the bread
Rub both pieces with halved garlic cloves
Drizzle the bread (both pieces) with good extra virgin olive oil
Sprinkle with kosher salt
Cut the ends off REALLY ripe tomatoes and smoosh those onto the bread
Slather on mayonnaise
Lay very thin slices of tomato on the bread
Top with very thin slices of sweet onion
Top that with cooked bacon (which, by the way, I sprinkled with garlic and freshly ground pepper as it cooked)
Top with the other piece of bread

This sandwich is messy.  No, it's MESSY.  It's also fabulous and worth every bit of messiness it generates.  Either count on washing your napkins afterward or use paper. 

Here's how it looked:

adapted from The New York Times