Friday, March 29, 2013

How Would You Like Your Eggs? Deviled. a time long ago, I can remember running through the grass in my Sunday best and the obligatory Easter bonnet looking for Easter eggs.  And trust that my mom had our bangs teased 5 inches off our heads.  It was the 80s after all.  The sun was shining and family was all around.  Nowadays with no little kids in the mix (yet), Easter is more about the food than the scavenger hunt or candy.  Although, David still does get a basket.  Plus, in case anyone else has noticed, the sun has apparently packed up and left for good.  When will this weather change?!  But enough of the whining and onto the food.

One Easter Sunday constant that has endured throughout the years is deviled eggs made in the most traditional sense.  Some egg yolks, a little mayo, a few more key ingredients, stuffed in a hard boiled egg and sprinkled with some paprika...the appetizer was made.  Funny side story... Jen grew up swearing up and down she was going to name her child Paprika.  She just simply loved the name.  Time will tell if I will have a spice referenced niece or nephew!     

Crab-Stuffed Deviled Eggs
Photo Credit:
Recently, I've noticed a revitalization of the deviled egg.  Much like what happened to mac'n'cheese (Kraft is still my personal fav) a few years ago (lobster, crab, truffle variations galore), the deviled egg seems to be undergoing the same level of attention and experimentation.  In fact, at Supper, a great restaurant on South Street in Philadelphia, they even have a Deviled Egg Happy Hour.  So while I will probably be sticking to the traditional deviled egg this Sunday, I thought I would jump on the fancy pants band wagon and pass along a more upscale version as well.  

Crab-Stuffed Deviled Eggs
from Bon Appetit, April 2012

  • 8 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 8 ounces crabmeat
  • Fresh tarragon sprigs (optional)
Cut eggs lengthwise in half. Scoop out yolks. Place yolks from 4 eggs in medium bowl (reserve remaining yolks for another use). Mash yolks with fork.
Mix in mayonnaise, chopped tarragon, minced shallot, lemon juice, cayenne, and hot pepper sauce. Mix in crab. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Mound crab mixture in cavity of each egg-white half (about 1 heaping tablespoon for each). (Can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Place crab-stuffed deviled eggs on platter. Garnish each with small tarragon sprig, if desired, and serve.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Pineapple Stuffing

This week's post will be a bit unorthodox as compared with our normal weekly edition.  After discussing what to do this upcoming week, Jen and I both figured the obvious choice would be ham.  However, it is Easter weekend and every Christian and/or Easter bunny believer is either making ham or lamb.  So in the hopes of offering something different to your holiday meal, I wanted to pass along a Sharp family tradition, Pineapple Stuffing.  While we may not be the originator of this recipe as any quick Google search will tell you, we've grown to love it and welcome it at any family gathering.  Dessert or side dish?  It's debatable.  But there is no controversy over its indisputable deliciousness.
My Mom has been making this dish for years and it continues to be a crowd favorite.  She even turned David into a believer many times over.  It is sweet and buttery and a perfect compliment to the tangy, salty ham.  Given its decadence, we only break out this specialty during holidays but it is highly anticipated all year long.  I hope it becomes a family favorite for you as well!  

Happy Easter!

Pineapple Stuffing

  • 1 (8 ounce) can of crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 5 slices of bread, stale and cubed
Cream the butter and the sugar in a mixer.  Add the eggs one at a time.  Stir in the pineapple.  Next fold in the bread crumbs.  Place in a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish.  Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees.  Serve warm.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

When I Dip, You Dip, We Dip

Whenever, I go over to someone's house for a get together or a dinner, I always like to check out the dip situation first.  You can really measure how a party is going to go by the dips they have.  If its buffalo chicken dip, you think 'hmm...this could be okay - a little spice, up with the trends, should be a pretty good night'.  French onion dip from a container...probably going to be an okay night.  Not that I wouldn't turn down a nice Ruffle slathered in french onion dip, but they are more likely to be a little reserved and not up with what's going on.  In other words, you may be in store for a pretty boring dinner as well. 

So in hopes of helping you spice up a future get together, I thought I'd introduced to you a new dip guaranteed to have your guests excited about the evening to come.   It may be a bit dessert-like but I think it would also be a nice sweet alternative to the other dips of today.  Try this at your future dinner party!

Coffee Milk Mascarpone
adapted from Miles Thompson, Allumette, Los Angeles, California

Coffee Milk Mascarpone
Photo credit- Jack Gartland
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup strong espresso
2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Lady fingers or shortbread cookies, for serving
Cinnamon, for garnish 


  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cheese with the espresso, condensed milk, and salt on medium speed until medium-stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to overnight
  • Remove the coffee milk mascarpone from refrigerator and let sit until just slightly chilled.  Garnish with cinnamon and serve with lady fingers

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Matzo Ball Soup - Joanne's Savory Summary

Being a huge soup fan, I was excited for this meal.  I've also had Hymie's matzo ball soup and it is absolutely delicious.  The recipe looked easy enough so I figured this would be a success.  Since Passover began Monday, I found most of the ingredients I needed on an end cap in Whole Foods.  I opted to use oil for my matzo balls rather than chicken fat.  The thought of asking the butcher for chicken fat in the middle of Whole Foods was an experience I wanted to avoid.  Don't get me wrong...I love the healthy options and amazing variety but I have noticed a level of 'attitude' in the patrons at my local Whole Foods.  Chicken fat would have thrown the judgmental glances into overdrive.

Originally I had intended on making this Monday because I had to work on Sunday.  However, after
IT issue after IT issue, I thought I would give the recipe a try on Sunday with my unanticipated free time.  However, this was after David had already ordered a pizza.  Needless to say we are both deflating today.  I made the matzo ball mix around 2 and left it in the fridge to chill while we watched March Madness.  Around 4, I started making my chicken and broth.  I decided to use skinless chicken legs with the bone in.  We eat enough chicken breast around this place to last a lifetime so I needed a slight variation.  I figured the chicken legs would give a different flavor to the broth and add some dark meat to the soup. 

After about 3 hours of chilling, I put together my matzo balls with as much care as I could muster.  While they weren't as light and fluffy as Hymie's, I was pretty impressed with my matzo balls.  They weren't super dense but they weren't exactly airy.  Definitely something I can work on for next time.  David absolutely loved the soup even though initially I got plenty of side eye when he realized soup was on the menu this week.  He finished all of the leftovers already and even requested I make it next week.  Considering I have half a jar of matzo meal left, I will be glad to!

Matzo Ball Soup- Jen's Savory Summary

Hello everyone!  I am enjoying a short week here at work since we have off on Friday! Woohoo!  Also, I've been enjoying a mountain of leftovers from this past Sunday.  Matzo ball soup all around!   I do not know why but I decided to double the recipe.  When I was mixing up the matzo to rest before balling it together, I thought that is definitely not enough.  Boy, was I wrong.

Anyway, back to the beginning of the recipe.  I don't know if many of you recognized it but the beginning of the recipe was identical to the poached chicken from chicken a la king a few weeks back.  When I was making the a la king, I thought wow this chicken is good and it would make a fabulous soup so that's why you see it here in the matzo ball soup recipe.  I made up the matzo first to let it rest for a full four hours.  I opted to get the Manischewitz brand of matzo.  Who knew there were so many different kinds?  I had three at my local grocery store.  I did not use schmaltz  (chicken fat).  I had intentions of trying it but I couldn't get to the butcher for it.  I will save my schmaltz experimentation for another day.

Next I got going on the chicken soup.  It was pretty simple since I just did it two weeks ago.  The chicken was so delicious and tender. When I was shredding it for the soup, I did snack on a bit.  Finally, it was time to make these matzo balls.  I really tried hard to not press the balls so they were light.  This may of been my cause of failure since I may of compressed them too much.  My matzo balls were a bit dense in the middle when finally cooked.  I laid on them on a prepped cookie sheet and got the broth back to a boil.  Next, I plopped those bad boys in and waited for the magic to happen. 

When I went to put the chicken back in with the carrots, they had exploded and actually doubled in size.  This is when I began to question my double the recipe mentality.  I let them simmer for quite some time since I had finished the soup at 4PM, a little early for dinner.  And I figured the longer they simmered the better the soup would be.  I could feel the healing powers of this soup already.  It was so comforting.  I will be enjoying this for many more days...lunch every day this week in fact. Hope you all enjoyed this recipe and now share my love of matzo ball soup!

Happy Eating!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Squash It - Part Two

Last week, I talked about one of my weeknight favorites, spaghetti squash.  Once I discovered this (and ate it about 5,000 times), I decided to expand my squash knowledge and try some different kinds.  As kids, we would have sometimes butternut squash.  On occasion, my mom would bake a butternut squash with brown sugar and the result would be a vegetable side dish that ended up tasting more like dessert.  Perfect for any child wary of her vegetables. 

BakedAcornSquash1_optAs I mentioned, I recently started eating acorn squash after getting into a spaghetti squash rut.  One of the main reasons why I love acorn squash is that you can stuff it with anything you wish and it still seems to taste great.  Acorn squash provides more of vessel for the meal while spaghetti squash is the meal itself.  So for those of you who aren't too keen on just eating squash itself, this may be more up your alley.  Also, still only 116 calories in half an acorn squash!

My stuffing of choice has historically been quinoa with mixed veggies and herbs.  First, I cook some quinoa in a vegetable stock to give it added flavor.  Trust me this makes a huge difference than cooking quinoa in water.  While the quinoa is cooking, I saute some tomatoes, red onion, zuchinni, feta... basically whatever I have on hand... with some herbs in olive oil until just softened.  Once the quinoa is finished I add this to the vegetable mix until everything is heated through.  Preparing acorn squash is the same as a spaghetti squash.  Slice in half, place face down in an inch of water and microwave for 9-11 minutes.  This is a such a simple week night meal and very healthy too! 

Happy Weekday Eating!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Have a little nosh

I'm a self proclaimed 'The Nanny' addict.  When I lived by myself I used to tape it on my DVR and have five episodes waiting for me whenever the mood struck me.   While watching the Nanny, I fell further in love with the art of noshing aka a light snack before a meal.  I grew up with constant snacking and even to this day whenever I go home my mom is ready with some snacks for us to eat and chat over before we even think about dinner.   

All the Sharp ladies 
While thinking about noshing, I was trying to decide what my nosh of choice was.  You know when someone invites you over their house you always volunteer to bring something.  For me, I always bring odd things here and there... some wine, I pick up oysters, I get some sliced meat at Fromaggio kitchen.  It never really is the same thing ever time. 

The two expert noshers
My sister, Joanne, on the other hand has her go-to nosh. Without fail, she breaks out the guacamole.  That girl can make some delicious homemade guacamole and it's always a crowd pleaser.  My mom has her go-to as well.  In her nosh vault is the ever delicious baked brie...the rich creamy cheese with a fruit preserve baked up in a nice puff pastry.  Served with crackers or a nice baguette, there are never any leftovers.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.  So now you see my dilemma.  I am surrounded by two ladies with great crowd pleasing dishes in their arsenal and all I can offer up is some cut meat.  Please help me find my nosh of choice!  

Help me!
Here is a twist on the classic brie en croute.  Maybe this will be come your nosh of choice!

Brie En Croute

1 wheel of Brie
1/2 cup pecan pieces
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon bourbon
1 sheet of puff pastry or a tub of crescent rolls

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Toast pecans for 5 to 10 minutes on a baking sheet.  
  • In a small bowl combine toasted pecans, brown sugar, maple syrup, and bourbon.  Mix until combined.
  • Roll out pastry sheet on a floured surface.  Place pecan mixture in the center spreading out to form a circle the size of the brie.  Place brie on top of pecans. Fold over pastry and pinch to close.
  • Place wrapped brie on foil lined baking sheet, pecan filled side up.  
  • Place into oven and cook for 25 minutes, or until pastry is light brown.
Serve with apples or sliced baguette

Happy Noshing!

Matzo Ball Soup

Hymie's Deli
I know what you're thinking. What does a shiksa like me know about matzo ball soup?  Well let me tell you.  Actually a lot.  I may of never made it before but I have eaten plenty of it.  Once I graduated from college, I moved out to Bala Cynwyd, PA within walking distance of my favorite Jewish deli, Hymies.  

What originally drew me there was their never ending pickle buffet. But, what kept me coming back for more was the soup.  Their matzos were light and flavorful.  During Jason's and my first year together we would always get Hymies to-go on cold winter nights when neither of us felt like going outside.  Our first year together was the year where Philadelphia was slammed with one blizzard after another so we were frequently snowed in.  I still remember sitting on the couch with a giant tub of soup and watching the week's worth of Jeopardys we had taped.  

So for this week's Sunday Supper, in honor of Passover, I want to recreate my favorite matzo ball soup.  I'm hoping it will bring back those fond memories of Hymie's and my first ever apartment in Bala Cynwyd.  

Matzo Ball Soup
adapted from Martha Stewart and food network kitchens
Photo credit- FoodNetwork
10 sprigs parsley
20 sprigs fresh thyme
1 small onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
3 pounds bone in chicken breasts
10 cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste

  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons rendered chicken fat, (available at butcher shops or in the meat markets of large supermarkets) or vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons matzo meal
  • 3 medium carrots, sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
  • 2 medium parsnips, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rounds

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and chicken fat until combined. Whisk in 1/2 cup water and salt. Add matzo meal, and whisk until combined. Cover and refrigerate batter until firm, 2 to 4 hours.
  • Meanwhile combine herbs, onions, carrots, celery, chicken broth, and chicken into a large heavy bottom saucepan.  Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.  Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to lowest setting.  Poach chicken for 20 minutes.  Remove pan from heat, uncover and allow chicken to cool in liquid for 30 minutes.  Remove chicken from bone and cube chicken.   Strain chicken broth and reserve.
  • Line a baking pan with parchment. Bring reserved chicken stock to a boil in a large wide saucepan, and reduce heat to a simmer.  
  • Slightly dampen your fingertips, and form 2 heaping tablespoons of batter into a 1 1/2-inch ball, being careful not to compress the mixture too much. Place ball on the prepared pan. Repeat process with remaining batter.
  • Using a large spoon, slide the matzo balls into the simmering stock. Once all the balls have been added, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add carrots and parsnips, cover, and continue cooking for 20 to 25 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and the matzo balls are cooked through.  Add cubed chicken back to soup. To test if the matzo balls are done, remove a ball from the water, and slice in half. The color should be light throughout. If the center is darker, cook 5 to 10 minutes more.
  • To serve, fill the soup bowls evenly with soup and vegetables, allotting each person one or two matzo balls, depending on his or her appetite.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I'd Like to Squash the Rumors

Believe it or not there is a healthy alternative to spaghetti with a readable ingredient list and containing not one wheat ingredient.  And even more unbelievable is that it is a vegetable of all things containing about 41 (41!!!) calories in one cup prepared.  I am talking about the aptly named spaghetti squash.  In my pre-wedding days when I was subsisting on vegetables and adrenaline, this was my go to meal.  Now that the white dress panic has subsided, I still incorporate this healthy meal into the rotation about once a week.  

I am about to get real here.  While I love our weekly Sunday meals, they tend to be exactly what we're meant to be... a big sit down dinner with sides and butter and deliciousness.  Great thing for a Sunday indulgence.  Not so much as an everyday thing.  One thing I was not given in this world (although I have no cause for complaint) was the naturally thin gene.  So it is with honesty and candor that I admit I have to count calories during the week in addition to logging gym time to stay fit and thin.  Enter my best friend spaghetti squash.  Before I am shunned with hisses and boos, I will admit it is not an exact replica of its starchy equivalent.  But does it satisfy those pasta cravings while not reeking havoc on my waistline?  Absolutely.  

The possibilities are really endless for how you can dress up spaghetti squash.  Sometimes I go with the traditional tomato based pasta sauce, some Parmesan cheese and I am set.  Other times when I am feeling fancy I grill up some veggies and toss them in with the squash.  I've included one of my favorite variations below for you to try.  And if this turns out not to be your thing do not fear!  Next week I will introduce you to the nutty, buttery acorn squash.  

Happy Weekday Healthy Eating!

Spaghetti Squash with Homemade Pesto & Pine Nuts 
Basic Pesto Recipe from Epicurious
  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves (from about 3 large bunches)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • Medium sized spaghetti squash
Pesto Sauce
Combine first 4 ingredients in blender. Blend until paste forms, stopping often to push down basil. Add cheese and salt; blend until smooth. Transfer to small bowl.  This can made ahead of time and stored in cool place. 

Spaghetti Squash
Cut spaghetti squash in half and place face down in microwave safe glass.  This will be hard to cut so use a sharp knife and be careful.  Cut lengthwise and remove seeds.  Fill bowl with water until squash is submerged under about 1 to 2 inches of water.  Microwave for 10 minutes.  Transfer onto cutting board (be careful, it is HOT!) and scrap out squash using a fork.

Toss with pesto sauce to your liking.  Pesto can be high in fat on account of the olive oil and cheese so don't use too much if you're trying to be health conscious.  I typically use about a tablespoon and it goes a long way.  I tend to eat this with grilled tomatoes and zucchini to add more filling vegetables.  It would also be great with grilled chicken.  

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Corned Beef & Cabbage - Joanne's Savory Summary

I have to admit I am not a big meat and potatoes kind of girl.  Instead, I would totally opt for a giant plate a pasta anyday if I didn't feel like a bloated load afterwards.  Luckily, there is a great alternative to spaghetti with almost no carbs...but more on that tomorrow.  It will either blow your mind or convince you that I've lost mine. 

So given my initial dislike for this meat heavy dish, I had low expectations for it meeting my personal satisfaction.  But first things did I secure the elusive corned beef?  Jen had given me visions of throngs of freckled Irishmen and women fighting over the last piece of corned beef.  She even sent me a  reminder text... 'Did you get your corned beef yet?!'.  Turns out, in the less St. Patty's Day crazed state of Pennsylvania, we had plenty to go around.

In an effort to get a little bit more health conscious, David and I decided to start shopping at Whole Foods.  Despite the common misnomer of 'Whole Paycheck', I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't much more than our usual Wegman's food bill, only now our entire cart was filled with organic, minimally processed food.  Whole Foods even had a display specifically set up for St. Patrick's Day where I grabbed one of the many remaining packages of corned beef.  Gray or red?  I had no idea.  But after cooking it, I am settling on gray.  Or an overcooked red?  I also unnecessarily picked up peppercorns not reading the clear as day label letting me know my corned beef was pre-spiced and ready to go.  

I decided to get started early on Sunday since we had little else to do besides have a House of Cards marathon (phenomenal show).  David said the house smelled just like his Oma's house which after a little more digging I was assured was a good thing.  I added the onions, carrots and the cabbage within the last hour.  I also boiled some potatoes.  After they were sufficiently soft, I dressed them up with a good amount of butter, dill weed and parsley.  

The corned beef was moist and spicy and, unbeknownst to me, David loves cabbage!  While this wasn't my favorite meal, I will commit to making it annually for this holiday.  

Happy Cooking!

Cornbeef and Cabbage - Jen's Savory Summary

The man behind the meat
I loved this recipe.  It was so perfect for a lazy Sunday.  The only part that took some intense planning was securing the corned beef.  It is quite a popular cut of beef this time of year.  Then there is the on-going debate, do you get the gray or the red, the flat or the tri cut?  Instead of debating back and forth I called my trusty butcher, MF Dulock, and let him decide.  They used the red tri cut, a more fatty piece which makes it less likely to dry out when you boil it to oblivion for 6 hours. When I walked into the store at 10AM on Saturday I was surprised at how packed it was.  There was a stack of orders for their corned beef and more people picking up other treats in the store.  I picked up a bag of dog treats as an extra little tidbit for Ethel.
Relaxing while beef cooks

On Sunday, I woke up around 9AM and took the corned beef out of the fridge.  I don't know if this helps but I think meat should always be at room temperature before you start cooking.  Who knows if its true, but I read it somewhere and I've adapted it as my bible.  At noon, I took out my large dutch over and covered the corned beef with water and adding some peppercorns and a dash of pickling spices.  I got both spices at Williams and Sonoma. Now here's the best part of the recipe - let it simmer for six hours.  I went over to the couch still in my jammies and relaxed. At around one I mustered up some energy to go to brunch and, yes, I left my stove running when I went to brunch...

At 4PM, I chopped up an onion, a bunch of carrots, and some celery.  I tossed them into the water and while tossing grabbed a piece of beef to try.  Sweet Jesus, it was good.  I sent Jason out to get some cabbage.  He decided to go to Ming's and get this 'cabbage looking thing' (his description). It turned out to be Napa cabbage.  So we had an Asian twist on our Irish meal.   For the last step, instead of putting melted butter on the veggies, I melted butter into a cast iron pan and sauteed up the veggies so they were nice and caramelized with a buttery finish.  Finally, I added the beef on top.  The corned beef and cabbage was complete!

I can't wait to make this again.  It probably won't be until next Saint Patrick's Day though because it feels wrong every other day of the year!

Happy Cooking!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Insalata di Cavoletti

Ethel and Bentley
This Sunday was a little bit of a nightmare in my neighborhood.  We are right at the beginning of the Saint Patrick's Day parade, which means an influx of people...very intoxicated people.  There were the few families going to the parade but, in our neighborhood with people our pouring out of JJ Foleys to head to the parade, the families are a minority.  I have gone to the parade before, when I was 20, but these days my Sundays are best enjoyed by waking up late, having some tea and then going out to brunch.  This past Sunday was no exception.  On a side note, we got to babysit our friends adorable golden retriever.  Isn't he cute?!
"Excuse me.. I believe I
ordered the large
Campbells CUP-o-chino"
For brunch we wanted to try a new spot down the street, Cinquecento (Italian for 500).  I started with a frothy cappuccino and ordered the insalata di cavoletti having no idea what it actually meant.  Language barrier aside, it was freaking delicious.  It was shredded brussel sprout leaves, roasted but still crunchy, with fried pancetta and ricotta salata dressed in a tangy mustard dressing.  While I was eating it, I kept thinking I need to make this at home.  So I did!  Here is my adaptation of the salad.  Please try it for a starter, quick lunch, or side dish at dinner.  You won't be disappointed.

Mustard Vinaigrette 
1 tablespoon of Dijon Mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil 

In a small bowl combine all ingredients except oil.  Whisk until mixed.  Drizzle in oil while whisking.  
Ricotta Salata

Insalata di Cavoletti
1/2 pound of fried pancetta, cut into lardons
8 brussel sprouts, shredded
2 tablespoons of ricotta salata
olive oil
mustard vinaigrette to taste

In a heavy bottom pan drizzle some oil in bottom, over medium high heat heat oil until smoking.  Add shredded brussel sprouts and fry until crispy but still have a bite.  Remove from pan and cool.  

Combine brussel sprouts, pancetta, and mustard vinaigrette.  Toss until coated.  Top with ricotta salata 


Friday, March 15, 2013

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling...

Oh_Ryan's_Photo_3In celebration of St. Patty's Day (or Paddy's as I was told yesterday) which, although subject to heated debate, is actually celebrated in Ireland, I thought we would end this week with a sweet treat that is in fact not Irish at all, the Irish Potato.  Coincidentally, there isn't one shred of potato in them either.  So what the heck are they?  Read on and I shall tell you...

It turns out the Irish potato is a Philadelphia delicacy.  When I first found this out I was shocked!  You mean the world hasn't been exposed to this level of pure deliciousness.  Then I was proud.  Go Philly.  We can do more than just cheesesteaks and scrapple... queue the ever so healthy Irish Potato (sarcasm was invented here too by the way).  

St. Patty's Day 2010 - Notice ALL of the green
The main purveyor of this annual confection is Oh Ryan based right in Boothwyn, Pennsylvania.  After a little research, I discovered that in fact this was all this company made.  And we're not talking about a year round product.  That's a business model I could get used to!  I grew up loving Irish Potatoes.  Being actually about 2% Irish, I would certainly act like I was 100% Irish on St. Patrick's Day indulging in many an Irish Potato and as time went on quite a lot of Guinness (my favorite beer to this day).    

So whether you'll be knocking back the Jamison or sipping on some green beer, don't forget to include a generous portion of Irish Potatoes to start your wee Irish holiday.  I've included a recipe below so you can make them before Sunday while you're still sober...

Erin Go Braugh!

Irish Potatoes
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 4 ounces regular cream cheese, softened (Philadelphia brand OF COURSE!)
  • 1 pound powdered sugar, plus extra for coating hands
  • 7 ounces sweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
With mixer, cream together cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl. Mix in sugar and vanilla.  Stir in coconut flakes. Put cinnamon into small bowl. Coat dry hands with a little powdered sugar and using your hands take small pieces of mixture (about 2 teaspoons apiece) and form into potato shape. Drop potatoes into cinnamon and roll to coat. Place on baking sheet. When all the potatoes have been formed and dipped in cinnamon, refrigerate for several hours until firm.

 Funny St. Patrick's Day Ecard: Let's make this a St. Patrick's Day to remember before we black out.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Luck of the Irish - Eat Your Beef!

Pic1Since everyone and anyone is celebrating St. Patty's Day in one way or another (wearing green, drinking Guinness...drinking Guinness while wearing green), I thought our weekly supper should be no exception.  Originally I had centered my efforts on recreating an awesome Shepard's Pie.  Turns out, not so Irish.  In fact not Irish at all.  It is actually an English dish as pointed out my brother-in-law, Jason.  

Corned Beef and Cabbage (photo)
Photo Credit - Simple Recipes

So I was back to the drawing board and it hit me!  I am going to make Corned Beef and Cabbage.  Would I ever (ever) eat this any other time of the year?  Absolutely not.  But I figured it would be out of my normal comfort zone and commemorate a little Irish heritage along the way.  One tip... if you are planning on participating in this Sunday Supper get your corned beef now.  Surprisingly, it will run out fast!

Happy St. Patty's Day!

Corned Beef & Cabbage 
as adapted from Epicurious


  • 5 pounds corned brisket of beef
  • 6 peppercorns, or packaged pickling spices
  • 3 carrots, peeled and quartered
  • 3 onions, peeled and quartered
  • 1 medium-sized green cabbage, quartered or cut in wedges
  • Melted butter (about 4 tablespoons)

Place the corned beef in water to cover with the peppercorns or mixed pickling spices (in supermarkets, these often come packaged with the corned beef). Cover the pot or kettle, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 5 hours or until tender, skimming occasionally. During the last hour, add the carrots and onions and cover again. During the last 15 minutes, add the cabbage. Transfer meat and vegetables to a platter and brush the vegetables with the melted butter. Serve with boiled parsley potatoes, cooked separately. (The stock can be saved to add to a pot roast or stew instead of other liquid.)


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I'm not Irish, I just play one on Saint Patrick's Day

There are hoards of pasty people descending on my city as we speak.  We are being invaded by the loud, red heads of the nation.  It's the only time of the year where neon green knee socks and freckles are in style.  The time I'm referring to is Saint Patrick's Day, and Boston my friend, takes this holiday very seriously.  Each year the bars in Faneuil Hall open up at 6AM with thousands of people already lined up around the block.  Also, there is an annual rumor that Boston runs out of Guinness   The ENTIRE city has no Guinness to speak of.  I have no idea if this rumor is true, but it sounds suspicious to me.  These days I don't venture out much on the high holy day.  Instead, I stay back in my neighborhood, quite immune to the Irish mafia, and marvel in how quiet the restaurants and bars are in my neck of the woods. I plead ignorance to bedlam that is happening only a few short miles away. 

This time of year also brings another I have not taken part in until this morning, The Shamrock Shake.  Yes, I had a milkshake this morning.  And yes, my stomach is not happy with me.  I drove through the McDonalds in the rest area on Mass Pike and quietly asked for a shamrock shake.  "Hold on miss let me see if we are serving that" (silently mouthing 'Milkshake at 7AM? Really lady?').  I think some behind the scene coercing happened for them to make it but moments later I was served a neon lime ice cream cold concoction   First thought, this can't be food.  Nothing is that shade of green.  I took one sip and thought meh it's pretty good.  However, I don't know if I could finish the whole thing if I tried.  In fact half of it is sitting melting in my car as we speak.  I'm not the biggest fan of mint flavored ice cream, which is sacrilege in my family, with parents who swear by mint chocolate chip ice cream.  For all you shamrock shake believers, here is a recipe for you to have it all year long! (I would add some alcohol to it... perhaps some Bailey's but that's just me...) 

Enjoy your Saint Patty's Day weekend!  Remember this weekend we are all irish so break out that green and have a Guinness for me because they are totally going to run out in Boston AGAIN!          

Photo Credit- Boston Globe

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Chicken A La King- Jen's Savory Summary

The poaching liquid
I was so tired on Sunday.  Extremely tired.  The night before Joanne and I attempted to be twenty one year olds and have a night out in the big city, NYC.  Needless to say, I had to be talked down from just getting a packaged of Purdue precooked chicken strips and cream of mushroom soup.  I suffered through though.  Let me start by saying, this was a pretty labor intensive recipe.  I was on my feet for hours... chopping, stirring  straining, rolling out dough.  It seemed to never end.   

Chicken poaching away
Poaching the chicken was so incredibly easy and the chicken was so amazingly tender and moist that I will definitely be doing this again.  Plus, it also filled my entire apartment with a warm Thanksgiving-esque scent.  While the chicken was cooling in the liquid, I proceeded to make the biscuits.  Let me preface this by saying I am not a baker by any stretch of the imagine.  This may seem shocking but I am not good at it at all.  I don't understand precise measuring.  I'm a food for love type of person, dash of this or dash of this.  My biscuits turned out okay but quite flat.  However soaked up with the a la king, they were fabulous.  

Back to the Chicken A La King.  I found the rest of the recipe quite easy to follow.  It resulted in a thick and flavorful chicken stew.  I was in heaven pouring it over the biscuits. It instantly warmed you right up and was perfect on a sleepy night watching Girls which is exactly what Jason and I did.  I loved the reinvention of the childhood classic.  I will make again although maybe I'll leave the biscuits to Pillsbury.    

With a side of sauteed sting beans
and caramelized butternut squash

Chicken A La King - Joanne's Savory Summary

I was really really excited to make this meal.  I hate to admit it but I love cream of mushroom soup.  Put it over chicken or egg noodles (or both) and I am in heaven.  However, I never really eat it.  David isn't really a fan and I'm not going to make it for myself.  I was so excited I even came home from a late night out in NYC and a two hour train ride home and still wanted to make this meal.  Little did I know how long it would take me to put this meal together.  But it was oh so worth it...

Uncut dough
I started with the herb biscuits because I considered them the hardest to make.  I ended up being extemely proud of myself for making a good amount of dough which in my limited dough making experience appeared to be a perfect consistency.  Since I didn't have designated biscuit cutters, I grabbed a circular stainless steel 1/4 cup measuring cups which proved to a perfect substitute.  Looking back, I definitely didn't make them thick enough so I made a mental note to not roll the dough out as much next time.

Next I started the chicken.  I had never poached chicken and it turned out to be simplest thing ever.  While my chicken was poaching, the seasoned chef would have started the cream sauce and mushrooms.  And perhaps if I had read the entire recipe through I would have.  Instead, I waited for the entire poaching process to finish then started the cream sauce and then followed by the mushrooms.  Lesson learned.  What I did in two hours could have clearly been cut down to 1, maybe less.  Since I forgot the sherry (I am blaming the late night coupled with the time change) I opted for white wine and it turned out to be a fine substitute.   

Finally after all of my steps were finished (done in painstaking order), I put the biscuits in the oven while my ingredients melded into a delicious blend.  After exactly 17 minutes, they were golden brown and smelled wonderful.  I served the finished product to David and he absolutely loved it.  It was filling and warm.  One drawback is the absolute time drain this was.  To quick transition into a weeknight meal I may revert back to the trusty Campbell's cream of mushroom on occasion (shh don't tell David).

Happy eating! 

Monday, March 11, 2013

From Georgia Peaches to The Big Apple

Cocktail hour in the room!
Girls weekend!  Since Jen and I were both attending our stepsister's bridal shower in New Jersey, we thought we'd head to New York City that night for a little girls weekend away from the husbands.  The times we can do this are few and far between so might as well take advantage of the great circumstances.  Jen and her husband Jason solidified their love affair with NYC by even getting married here last May.  With her knowledge of the city and my excitement for a new adventure with my sister, I knew I would be in an awesome time. 

Jen's friend, Cailtin, (check out her amazing food blog here) recommended an awesome taqueria called Empellon.  Since our reservations weren't until 7:30, we decided to pop into one of the many cool bars we passed on our way to the restaurant.  We settled on One If By Land, Two If By Sea.  After chatting with the bartender, I discovered he was a fellow Penn Stater (we truly are everywhere) and was given his personal concoction on the house.  You have to love that Nittany Lion Pride.  Finally, it was time to eat!  We headed over and entered the bustling and tight waiting area of Empellon.  This place was packed and popular.  Everywhere we went we seemed to be making friends and Empellon was no exception.  While waiting for our table where 'two minutes' turned into twenty, three gentlemen going to dinner with their wives boasted how wonderful the food was and how they've been there a dozen times.  With the food selections in NYC, I knew being such a repeat customer was a good sign. 

Sweetbreads on the left
Once we were seated, I decided to do a very brave thing.  I gave my ordering privileges to Jen.  Before you scoff at how unoriginal and ordinary this is, let me preface this by saying Jen and Jason are what could be considered outside-of-the-box kind of eaters.  While on her honeymoon in Thailand there was no street meat vendor unvisited even if the food at hand was unrecognizable.  In fact, while perusing the menu, she casually told me how Jason had recently eaten fried chicken hearts.  Yes, chicken hearts.  We decided to get 3 appetizer portion tacos, guacamole and, of course some liquid courage, homemade margaritas.  Jen ordered the pork cheek, sweetbreads (explanation of sweetbreads here...not for the faint of heart) and skirt steak tacos.  I nearly fell on the floor.  When our food arrived she gave me quick instructions of 'shut up and eat it'.  Let me tell you how surprised I was when I actually loved all three.  The sweetbreads reminded me a childhood treat, scrapple (explanation here... again not for the faint of heart).  Everything was delicious and flavorful.  I was in fancy meal bliss!  Plus, I gave myself a mental pat on the back for being so adventurous.
Guacamole and 7 salsas

After our meal, we continued into the night with more drinks, fun times which even included some dart playing, and memories of our weekend together that will last a lifetime.  We are already planning our next girls getaway!


Sisters reunited in NYC!