Sunday Dinner

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Deviled Eggs
Homemade Refrigerator Pickles

Crispy Smashed New Potatoes

Chocolate Buttermilk Sheet Cake

Deviled eggs are one of those delicacies that many of us make, but don't really have a recipe for.  As a child, I remember watching my mother make them-- a little bit of this and dash of that; mix it all together and you're done.  My children love deviled eggs and will likely one day use this blog as a family cookbook, so I thought it would be helpful to have a written recipe for them to follow.  That way the eggs will have that "just like mom used to make" taste to them.


Chocolate-Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

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Scooped into bowls or topping a cone, this cool, minty ice cream is a sure fire way to beat the heat. It does require turning on the stove, but one spoonful or lick will have you believing that it was completely worth it.
The original recipe called for regular mint, but I have a bumper crop of a unique variety of mint. Chocolate mint. Yes, I have chocolate scented mint running rampant in my garden. Two great flavors in one leafy green is the perfect base for this no artificial color or flavor frozen treat. If you don't have chocolate mint, you can certainly use regular mint. Using fresh mint does lend a lovely herbal flavor on the first bite. However, I find that the overall flavor improves with age. Therefore, I recommend making this ice cream at least a few days in advance before serving. The method to create the layers of chocolate ribbons is unique as well. Once the ice cream base is frozen in an ice cream maker, it is layered and drizzled with melted chocolate. The chocolate hardens and breaks almost immediately, creating bite-sized chips. Bite after bite, this garden fresh ice cream will have you coming back for more!


Grilled Panzanella

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I am always on the lookout for seasonal dishes that are normally served as a side to meats or seafood that can take the lead role and stand on their own for a meatless meal.  This spin on the classic panzanella salad delivers.  It is bursting with peak summer freshness and flavor with a grilled twist.  A traditional panzanella consists of fresh summer vegetables (like tomatoes and onions) that are tossed with stale bread and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.  This panzanella consists of fresh vegetables, basil, and grilled vegetables.  A few capers add a briny note to the mix.  It is all tossed together with a delicious vinaigrette.  Once combined, the juices from the vegetables and the vinaigrette are soaked up by the grilled bread--yum!

The recipe called for a seeded and chopped large tomato, but I like to use Campari tomatoes for their size and flavor.  They are slightly larger than cherry tomatoes and are bursting with sweetness.  I add them at the end to keep their juicy insides intact.  You can certainly use any tomato that suits your fancy.  In fact, you can use just about any vegetable or herb to your liking.  Grilled zucchini, squash, or even some fresh oregano would be a welcome addition. As I have said before, make it for you, make it your own.  Just please make this dish before the summer bounty is no more! 

*Tip- After cutting the onion, I carefully skewer each round with a wooden skewer that has been soaked in water. This helps keep the rings of the slice intact when grilling.  The soaking also prevents the skewer from burning.

**Note- The recipe calls for a ficelle.  What is a ficelle?  It is a very thin baguette.  Ficelle literally means string in French.  If you cannot find a ficelle, you can use a standard size baguette, but cut each slice into smaller pieces before grilling.  The ficelle I used was about 1 1/2-inch in diameter.


Sunday Dinner

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Roast Chicken
Caramelized Shallots
Simple Green Salad

Yogurt Cake with Currant-Raspberry Sauce

With freshly picked ripe red raspberries and jewel-like currants from my garden, there was only one thing to make for dessert this Sunday.

This cake was featured in the last August issue (2009) of Gourmet magazine.  Once I made it and, most importantly, tasted it, I knew that I would be making it again and again. The cake is made with plain yogurt, which makes for a tender and tangy cake.  A sweet, thick white icing is poured over top and it is served with a fresh currant-raspberry sauce.  After two weeks away at camp, I knew this summery cake would be well received and appreciated by some happy-to-be-home campers.


Tomato-Based Gazpacho

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It's H-O-T and I am not referring to the Tabasco in this recipe.  The temperature outside is climbing to the 100º F mark.  Definitely too hot to be turning on the stove, so a batch of this soup was in order.  It is nourishing and statisfying without weighing you down and it requires little effort.  It is also a great way to keep up your fluids and electrolytes in times of extreme heat.

Gazpacho is a chilled tomato-based raw vegetable soup that originates from southern Spain. There are many variations in color and flavor of the original gazpacho, which included fresh summer vegetables and stale bread.  Nowadays, one can find recipes for gazpachos that include fruit and seafood, as well as ingredients like avocado and cucumber that alter the color. This tomato-based recipe stays fairly close to the roots of gazpacho with the exception of the stale bread.  I keep the bread on the side for dipping.

The original recipe calls for green bell pepper and onion, but I much prefer the sweetness of red bell pepper and shallots.  I also use a few green onions for their mild onion flavor.  Fresh garlic adds a bit of a bite and fresh flat-leaf parsley lends a nice lemony note. The acidity from the tomatoes and vinegar is balanced by a good extra-virgin olive oil.  In terms of texture, make it according to your own liking.  Some prefer their gazpacho chunky and some like it smooth.  I prefer it somewhere in between with a garnish of finely diced cucumber for added crunch. Lastly, several good splashes of Tabasco will accentuate the flavor in this fresh vegetable mixture if a bit of heat is your thing.  If you can't stand the heat outside, try it in this bowl of summery goodness! 


Blueberry Buckle

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A buckle is a coffee cake with a generous streusel topping that has fresh fruit folded into the batter. A traditional buckle actually "buckles" from the weight of the streusel, creating pockets of butter and sugar.  This buckle has such good structure in the batter that the streusel bakes up nice and crumbly on top of the cake and that is fine by me.  

I bake this in an 8-inch cake pan instead of the 9-inch pan the original recipe called for because I like my cakes big and tall (like my man).  Please pardon the leaked bit of internal monologue. Ahem.  I also lightened up the cake by substituting Greek yogurt for some of the butter.  In addition to the four cups of fresh blueberries, the yogurt makes for a very moist cake.  Also, with it being swimsuit season, my body appreciates the reduced fat.  The cake is flavored with a bit of lemon zest while the streusel has a bit of cinnamon in it, making for one tasty treat.  One bite will take you straight to blueberry pie nirvana.  In fact, I can't decide which is better, this buckle or blueberry pie.  Good thing I don't have to.  It is perfect for breakfast with a cup of coffee, but equally delicious warm with a scoop of ice cream for an after dinner indulgence.


Sunday Dinner

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Homemade Refrigerator Pickles and Aged Cheddar

Peach and Blueberry Galette

This Sunday is one of the rare times that we aren't together as a whole family because my two older children are still away at camp.  Part of me wanted to get take-out and forget about Sunday dinner and part of me wanted to have the whole neighborhood over to fill the void.  However, I knew my children were looking forward to hearing about what I was making via snail mail (the only way I have contact with them), and that warms my heart.  Besides, one day they will be gone, whether it is college or the real world calling, and the show must go on.  So, it is time to buck up and fire up the grill for a simple, but still delicious, Sunday dinner.

Since my youngest is still pulling on my apron strings this Sunday, I thought I would make one of my desserts just for her.  She adores peaches and blueberries (if they are cooked), so this galette was in order.  It is rather rustic looking, but the taste is anything but.  Sweet, juicy peaches and plump, fresh blueberries piled on a round of flaky pastry is a simple way to get dessert on the table.  No crimping perfect pie pleats or weaving lattice tops.  The crust has a higher flour to butter ratio to give good structure and to help prevent the dough from breaking and the fruit juices leaking during cooking.  I also add a bit of cornstarch to the dough and filling to combat the same issue.  I add a pinch of cinnamon and a bit of lemon juice to brighten the flavors of the peaches and berries.  It is baked until brown and bubbling.  Served warm or at room temperature with a scoop of vanilla ice cream makes it extra good.  So good that now I am looking forward to another Sunday dinner!  (But, I still miss my kiddos.)


Strawberry Sorbet

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If it could snow strawberries in July, this would be the sweet result. Strawberry treats are a staple of summertime evenings.  Something to savor as the sun goes down for what seems like forever.  This sorbet delivers the unvarnished strawberry punch (or caress, whichever you prefer) without the cream to weigh you down.  Enjoy without even a hint of regret or guilt.

I almost forgot to mention how easy this is to make.  Summer ripe strawberries, sugar, and honey is all you need to enjoy this seasonal sorbet.  Purée, strain, and freeze and you're in strawberry fields forever!


Black-Eyed Pea Salad

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This right here is a beauty of a dish.  The way it looks is just the start.  This is one versatile bowl of beans.  Mainly, it is an excellent summer side dish to sandwiches and grilled meats, like the Brown Sugar Chicken.  It is also perfect to pack for picnics and potlucks.  A couple of spoonfuls rolled up in a sandwich wrap make for a nice light lunch and it is really tasty when scooped up with some good potato chips for a party dip. Aside from the creaminess of the beans, there is crunch from the onion and red pepper, sweetness from the tomatoes and vinaigrette, and a kick of heat from the jalapeño and hot sauce.  Each bite will tell you a different story.  I'm up to thirty-seven myself.  There's a whole lot going on in this bowl of beans!


Grilled Butterflied Brown Sugar Chicken

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As much as I love a whole roast chicken any time of the year, grilled chicken is a must in the summer.  Many recipes direct you to grill chicken pieces separately, but by taking a few extra steps, this whole chicken method will ensure that the entire chicken is moist and juicy.  There will not be any dried-out chicken breasts or underdone chicken legs and thighs to pop your grilled chicken yummy balloon.  

The concept of butterflying meat may sound intimidating, but it really couldn't be easier once you become comfortable with the technique.  Simply remove the backbone using a pair of sharp kitchen scissors, then flatten the chicken to a uniform thickness.  This helps the chicken pieces to cook evenly.  To make sure that the white and dark meat finish cooking at the same time, the grill is prepared for indirect heat. This requires that one side of the grill is hot and the other side is cool.  Placing the chicken on the cool side of the grill with the legs closest to the hot side enables the chicken to cook at a lower heat, resulting in a moist, juicy, and perfectly cooked chicken.  As the browning bird reaches its final minutes on the grill, it is brushed with a sticky, sweet, buttery brown sugar sauce that becomes lightly caramelized before removing from the grill.  The smell is an honest precursor to the taste.  Trust me on this, you will love it. 

*Note-- When turning the butterflied chicken I use a large round "cake" spatula on the underside and another spatula on the top side before flipping.  This helps keep the tender meat of the entire chicken intact.  If you don't have a large round "cake" spatula, use the largest spatulas you have on hand.  Do not use tongs or forks for this will cause the skin, meat, and bones to separate/tear and moistness to be lost.


Sunday Dinner

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Marinated Peaches with Triple Cream Cheese 

Shrimp-n-Grits with Ham Gravy
Cabbage Salad with Garlic, Herbs, and a Red Wine Vinaigrette
Chive Biscuits

Coconut Cream Pie

I am keeping this Sunday post short, but "sweet".  My children are headed off to sleep-away camp tomorrow so we are going to spend some family time at the beach today.  That means I am not spending the day in the kitchen as much as a usual Sunday, but I still wanted a meal for them to savor before heading off to camp.  The appetizer is a fresh and refreshing start to the meal.  Shrimp-n-Grits is good comfort food that comes together rather quickly while the cabbage salad adds crunch and helps cut the richness of the shrimp.  The chive biscuits help sop up every last bit of ham gravy.  The Coconut Cream Pie is the recipe I am sharing today.  This pie is filled with a  coconut custard and topped with a lightly sweetened coconut whipped cream.  It is flaky, creamy, light, and perfect for any coconut lover.  It is also a chilled pie, so it is a perfect ending to a warm day at the beach.


Homemade Graham Crackers

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Now that I have shared with you a recipe for homemade Vanilla Marshmallows, I want to take it one step further for the "ultimate" s'more experience.  These homemade graham crackers will provide an edible foundation that you will not soon forget.  This is a whole wheat dough sweetened with sugar, honey, and molasses for a nice depth of flavor.  The cinnamon adds a gentle spice note.

The original recipe called for whole wheat and light rye flour, but I used all whole wheat.  I thought the full nutty flavor would work well with the honey and molasses, and it does.  I also added a touch more vanilla to the dough.  Unlike a cookie where you need to cream the butter and sugar, this recipe is more like making a pie crust.  Process all the ingredients in the food processor just until the dough comes together.  Then chill, roll, and cut your way to gourmet grahams.  Don't just make these for s'mores, though.  They are great to pack in school lunches, delicious when slathered with peanut butter or Nutella for an after school treat, or perfect for a not-to-sweet afternoon pick me up. Whether you make them for s'mores or snacks, you and whoever else eats them will be happy you did.


Vanilla Marshmallows

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Most everyone likes marshmallows.  Add a campfire to roast one over either on a stick or, as in the picture, a steel fork, and you have a summer/fall treat like no other.  Marshmallows out of the bag will do.  If you don't use all of them, they can double as packing material. 

There is something special about the homemade variety.  The way they ooze when cooked, the depth of flavor, knowing what went into them--all of these factors enhance the experience.  An experience that was well received by several eleven year old girls when my daughter chose s'mores in lieu of a birthday cake for her backyard birthday campout.  Even after all the girls had claimed they were full of s'mores, they each managed to grab one more pillow of goodness before tucking into the tent for "sweet" dreams.

Making your own marshmallows might sound complicated, but they are simple enough that my children help me make them.  Just make sure an adult handles the hot syrup.  The two essential kitchen tools you will need are a candy thermometer and a stand mixer with a whisk attachment.  With those tools and a few ingredients you will have a homemade treat that will be sure to please.  Eat them as is, dunk them in melted chocolate, let them swim in a mug of cocoa, or use them as the base for the "ultimate" s'more.  

*Graham Cracker recipe coming soon!


Strawberry Dijon Mustard

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With all the ripe strawberries at the market, it was time to make this fun spin on the classic condiment.  The sweet berries paired with good Dijon mustard make for a unique taste bud tickling tandem. My favorite way to use it is on a roast chicken sandwich piled with sliced cucumbers, baby greens, and a few pickled red onions.  It is equally delicious with cheese and crackers.  A good Saint-André or a mild goat cheese pairs nicely.

*One note-- when I make this mustard, I make sure to pat the sliced strawberries dry between paper towels.  This removes some of the moisture, allowing the mustard to keep in the refrigerator for a longer period of time.  Otherwise, you will wind up with a soupier strawberry mustard, but it will still be good.


Sunday Dinner

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Shrimp with a Chipotle Dipping Sauce

Pork Tacos
Chipotle Refried Black Beans

Banana Coconut Cake with a Toasted Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

This Sunday is a birthday Sunday dinner menu, not an actual birthday (it's later in the week), but we also celebrate birthdays by having a Sunday dinner menu created by the birthday girl or boy.  My middle child, Emma, is turning 11 and this is her menu.  I can't remember a birthday of hers when we didn't have tacos.  She can't get enough of them and none of us are complaining.   

She is my eater that can handle quite a bit of heat, so she chose to start with shrimp and a spicy (but not too spicy for my other children) chipotle dipping sauce.  Pork tacos with all the fixings come next.  It is then finished with a newly designed cake that my daughter (who loves all things monkey) requested.  As much as I would like to share the cake recipe (I will in the future if it turns out as tasty as I think it will), as well as all of the other recipes, it is the appetizer that I am sharing today.  

Shrimp are a favorite come Sunday appetizer hour.  To keep in theme with the menu, I am serving it with a spicy and creamy dipping sauce packed with flavor.  A little chipotle in adobe, roasted red bell pepper, cilantro, garlic, and lime puréed with sour cream and mayonnaise form the body of the sauce.   This sauce is so tasty that the shrimp become merely a vehicle for sauce delivery.  It is simple to prepare and simple enough that my almost 11 year old made it:)  If you want more heat add more chipotle.  If your taste buds are more sensitive, then hold back on the smokey peppers.  Remember, make it for you, make it your own.  


Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork

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Another American holiday grilling weekend is around the corner and I wanted to share with you my rendition of the smoked pulled pork I grew up with.  I will start with a disclaimer and say that I am by no means a barbecue expert.  I don't have serious smoking equipment and tools, but I do have a great love for this smoked meat.  I will tell you what I use and the technique I employ to ensure a juicy smoked pork shoulder with a perfectly pink smoke ring.

After 6 hours on the grill
I use a Chargriller grill with a side smoke box.  I start my fire with a chimney starter and lump hardwood charcoal (no briquettes or lighter fluid in my backyard).  I soak my hickory logs overnight in five gallon buckets that I get from the hardware store.  That way they smolder and smoke just right.  I use a rub and a mop and then cook it low and slow for a total of about ten hours until it is moist and meltingly tender.

Serve it plate style with coleslaw and beans or serve it on a good bun. Start with a little bit of the Western Carolina Red Sauce on the bottom of the bun, load up a generous pile of the shredded pork, a little more sauce on top with a couple of squirts of the "liquid gold" for a kick and then top if with a serving of coleslaw-- mmm, now I am drooling!

Condiments and Sides

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