I remember being excited that Easter was going to be celebrated on the latest possible date this year. I was looking forward to green grass, spring flowers, and warm temperatures. The snow storm we had last night wasn't exactly what I had envisioned. I don't think I can handle one more layer of the white stuff. What I can handle are the layers in these muffin-size potato stacks. With Easter right around the corner, I wanted to share this individual side dish that we enjoyed this past Sunday. They are a perfect single portion for each guest's plate. They would also make a lovely addition to a buffet table.
Thinly sliced Russet potatoes are tossed with a garlic and thyme butter mixture before being stacked and layered into a 12-cup standard muffin tin. You might not think that all those potato slices will fit, but trust me, they will. Since the base of the cup is smaller than the top, start layering with the smaller ends of the potatoes and finish with the larger middle slices. And as you go, press down on the potatoes to ensure a packed stack. Bake until golden brown on the outside and tender on the inside.
Once baked, they can be kept in the oven on a low temperature until the final components to the meal are ready. However, I would recommend lightly tenting the muffin pan with a sheet of aluminum foil to keep the stacks from drying out. According to my husband and children who went with a few leftovers for lunch on Monday, they reheat well too☺.
Guess what? The snow and ice have completely melted. Spring is FINALLY here! Woohoo--doing a happy dance...doing a happy dance! Two of the first things I have to get my hands on are fresh chives from my garden (can you believe that they made it through that blasted winter?) and sweet spring strawberries at the market. They both come into play in this deeply flavored, sweet and savory salad.
It is perfect for a spring luncheon with friends or as a light Friday night dinner like my husband and I enjoyed it. The greens are dressed with a delightful maple-balsamic dressing. Just please use the good stuff and not the flavored high fructose corn syrup kind. I'm talking about 100% pure maple syrup (I use Grade B from Trader Joe's). The salad is then topped with strawberries and avocado. The original didn't call for bacon, but hello, there are eggs and maple syrup in there, so you just gotta have some bacon too☺. Now about those eggs. I like mine on the "soft centered-just barely set-little bit of runny" side. That creamy, golden center mixed in with the sweet dressing--yumm. You could also poach them. But if that is not your thing, you can certainly hard-boil them and slice them for the salad. Remember--"make it for you, make it your own".
I had two problems with this cake-- one good and one not so good. The "not so good" problem was trying to find the energy to make it right after breakfast on Sunday after a day of doing spring clean-up in the yard on Saturday. Hooboy, that left my muscles and joints with a stiff ouch that morning! The good problem was trying to decide if we liked this cake as much as the Strawberry Dream Cake, the Fresh Strawberry Mousse Cake, or the Strawberry Poke Cake. After much thought on the matter, we decided that each is good in its own berrylicious way.
Unlike the other strawberry cakes, this one relies on sweet strawberry preserves to provide that "please get here Summer" essentia. So if the berries at your local market aren't yet bursting with flavor, make this cake and you just might see the lazy, hazy days peeking at you from just around the corner. Having said that, seek out the best preserves that you can find. I like to use Bonne Maman preserves. For this cake, I use the entire 13-ounce jar; some for the cake itself and some for the frosting. The preserves do add a pale pink color, but I like to kick up the "pepto-bismol" color with a bit of red food coloring paste. And yes, please use food coloring paste and not the liquid stuff. The end result is much purtier.
What do I have to say about the frosting?? Two things-- butter and cream cheese. Nuff said. Now go on put your aprons on☺.
French-Style Pork Roast with Gravy
Strawberry Preserves Cake
Mashed potatoes. Can one have too many recipes for them? I think not. So here is another one for your recipe caché. At first glance, they might seem plain and simple. And they sort of are, until you get to the technique. Contrary to the old belief that if beaten too long mashed potatoes turn into glue paste, these are whipped for a good 2 to 3 minutes. I use my stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, but you could use a hand-held mixer to achieve good results. The important thing is to make sure the potatoes are thoroughly dried after they are boiled. Drier potatoes absorb more milk and butter. I also take it one step further and rice the potatoes through a potato ricer. I like my potatoes smooth and fluffy sans lumps. Serve them as they are or make the pile on your plate a vessel for a ladle full of gravy-- this is comfort food at its finest.
If you are a long time reader, you know that I have a warm spot in my heart for Sunday dinners. They are something that I sometimes plan all week for and that we all really look forward too. But what I don't write that much about is our Sunday breakfast menu. I like to start the day off with a big meal to fill our bellies and then spend the rest of the day playing, doing chores, and being lazy (yeah right) until 5 o'clock "apps" time rolls around.
We enjoy the usual suspects like pancakes, waffles, and french toast. But one of our favorites is soft scrambled eggs with chives, fresh fruit, and some kind of sweet baked good, like coffee cake, muffins, or in this case...orange sweet rolls with cream cheese icing. If you are a fan of big, buttery cinnamon rolls slathered with cream cheese icing and love the flavor of orange marmalade, then..."say hello to my little friend." In fact, my husband actually prefers these over cinnamon rolls.
These are simply an enriched white bread dough that I enrich even further buy adding an egg and some potato flour to keep the dough soft and tender. The filling is just orange marmalade with a bit of ground ginger. Some orange marmalades can be on the bitter side, so I mix in a little light brown sugar to counteract that (and it adds to the gooey, sticky goodness-- nothing wrong with that).
You can certainly make these the morning of, but who really wants to wake up three hours before breakfast is served?? I can think of better things to do than drink coffee while watching the chemical reaction of yeast. And that would be sleeping in for this gal! So to make sure I get a full night's worth of beauty sleep☺, I make the rolls the night before and let them "cold rise" in the refrigerator overnight. While the oven is preheating the next morning, I take the rolls out and let them come to room temperature. Meanwhile, I can get all the other components for breakfast ready.
Once baked, I bring them warm to the table and let everyone frost their own roll. The recipe makes eight rolls and there are five of us, so I save the remaining three for a quick weekday breakfast and keep the frosting in the refrigerator. (Note-- keep the frosting in the back of the refrigerator where you are less likely to see it. This stuff is dangerous!)
Spring Break came...and Spring Break went. Notice that I didn't say vacation? It was a fairly smooth road trip halfway across the country and back for me and my three children to visit aunts, uncles, and cousins. Baseball games, riding Harleys, playing with little cousins, watching old home movies with freshly popped popcorn, and just good clean family time made up the vacation part. But being a single parent for a week, daily chores, cooking, and sleeping with one of my children in the same bed on several nights...?? Well, at least the scenery was different. And seeing flowers in bloom (not to mention green grass) was a bonus for this snow refugee.
Now I'm back in my kitchen and back to the daily grind of chores, cooking, afterschool activities, and sports. (But at least there are no more children sleeping in my bed.) It's time to pull out those quick and easy dinner recipes.
A stir-fry provides a great way to get dinner on the table in a flash. Yes, there is a little prep work like cutting the pork and stringing the peas, but it really doesn't take much time at all. Better yet... enlist some helpers. Company is always appreciated in the kitchen☺.
I changed the proportions around a bit to suit the serving size for my family and my need for leftovers for work/school lunches. I also added an onion because I love them and put them in as many savory dishes as I can. Just before serving, I like to stir in some Sambal Oelek--I love me some spicy garlic chili paste. Seriously, I can eat that stuff by the spoonful! But if you are like my son and can't handle the heat, just serve it on the side and let others add to taste. Steamed white rice completes the meal.
I am embarrassed to tell you how many times I have made this in the last month. But I think I am even more embarrassed to tell you that I don't make just two as the recipe is written. I make four. My husband and two older children claim they can take one whole pizza, fold it in half, and stuff their faces full. Although they haven't yet tried that gluttonous technique, they do manage to put quite a few pieces away in one sitting. My youngest and I eagerly rob each pizza of its corners ☺. (There is just something special about those corners.) And the leftovers are packed away in school/work lunches.
I didn't grow up with this style of pizza, but with the frequency that I have been making it, I am apparently making up for lost time. The crust is very thin and almost cracker-like. There is no yeast in the dough and the only leavening agent is baking powder. This dough is perfect for those of you who are wary of working with yeast. The original sauce was quite bland and way too sweet for me, so I dialed back the sugar and added a few herbs and garlic (you just gotta have garlic in pizza sauce). Then I brightened up the tomato flavor with a little red wine vinegar. The original cheese blend was Cheddar and American, but after a little research, I learned that a true St. Louis style pizza uses Provol cheese. It is a blend of Cheddar, Swiss, and Mozzarella. I can't find that in my local markets, so I use my own ratio of the three cheeses. The secret ingredient to the cheese blend that makes this pie stand out is liquid smoke. Not much-- just three drops. It adds a nice, subtle smokiness.
Bake it in a hot oven until golden brown. Cut it into squares (pie shapes are a no-no) and fight over the corners.
St. Patrick's Day has come and gone, but that is no reason to put away your stout glasses for another year. We enjoyed this as an appetizer this past Sunday as part of our toast to the Irish and man, oh man was it a hit. In fact, my husband and children threw their hands down and had to walk out of the room to compose themselves before returning for another round.
Onions, cheese, and beer? SOLD! But not just any onion. Sweet spring leeks are the star in this spread. The original recipe called for Neufchatel cream cheese, but I am not a big fan of that flavor. You know what they say-- "where there is fat there is flavor"☺. I also added a little mustard and Worcestershire to balance the richness of the dish. A garnish of parsley provides some freshness and color as well.
I served this with rye crackers, but you could use toast points or pumpernickel bread as well. And in case you have any leftovers (I highly doubt it, but we did since there are only five of us), it is delicious when spread on the Guinness Caraway Rye bread with thinly sliced leftover corned beef. Just sayin'.