Tuesday, November 30, 2010


A few weeks ago, we had dinner with good friends at Etta's restaurant in Seattle. Head chef, Tom Douglas and his staff prepared a wonderful feast....it was amazing.
Born in Cleveland, raised in Newark and Delaware, Tom found himself broke in Seattle at age 19, and never left. Thank goodness. Never formally trained except by his two granmothers and his mother, he loved to cook - often making breakfast in bed for his parents-he took Home Economics in school.
He wrote a cookbook in Seattle called, " Tom Douglas' Seattle Kitchen". He realized by listening to his fans that they were choosing a single recipe from the book and then trying to figure out the rest of the menu themselves for bigger crowds. So to help everyone out, he put together the book above, "Tom Douglas' Big Dinners".
It is fabulous! There are 13 different menus with additions of cocktails that set the appropriate mood. He also suggests assortments of appetizers for cocktail parties. He adds tips for do-ahead dishes and shortcuts. There is an introduction to each menu that helps with the setting of your event. The full-color photos are tremendous and beautiful. A must have for the people in your life that cook for lots of family and friends!
Great Christmas Gift!

Monday, November 29, 2010


Now that Thanksgiving is over, you know the football season isn't far behind...boo hoo!!!!!! After a big meal of turkey and ALL the side dishes, it will be nice to settle down with a one pot dish that just tastes delicious and makes watching the game so much more enjoyable...less clean up!!!


6 dried small red chiles stemmed and seeded
1 tbl cumin seeds
1 lb dried pinto beans soaked overnight and drained
2 tbl fresh oregano leaves (or 3 tsp dried)
2 large yellow ontions diced
3 large carrots diced
2 stalks celery diced
7 cloves garlic minced
2 fresh jalapenos stemmed, seeded, diced
2 lb skinless chicken thighs
grated cheddar cheese for garnish

In a small bowl, cover the dried chiles with boiling water and let steep for about 15 minutes until soft. Reserve 2 cups of the soaking water and drain the seeds from the rest of the water. Puree the chilies in a blender with the 2 cups reserved water.

In a small saute pan, add cumin seeds and toast. Grind them in a blender after about 5 minutes. In the same pan toast the oregano leaves (only fresh ones) and remove as they start to dry out.

Put the beans in a soup pot and cover with 7 cups of water. Add the chili puree, toasted cumin and oregano, onions, carrots, garlic, celery, jalapenos ans chicken thighs. Bring to a boil then reduce and skim off fat as it rises. Remove the chicken when it is cooked through about 25 minutes. After it cools, shred the chicken thigh meat and set aside and discard the bones.

Continue to cook the beans until tender about 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Return the chicken to the pot and heat through. Add salt to taste. Serve with grated cheese on top.

The house will smell great!

Friday, November 26, 2010


I hope eveyone had a marvelous Thanksgiving!!!!!
This lucious cocktail pairs wonderfully with all your Thanksgiving leftovers. The brandy and lemon juice add a subtle blend of fruit flavors to this martini.
Enjoy your leftovers....
3/4 oz good Gin or Vodka
3/4 oz dry vermouth
3/4 oz apricot brandy
1/4 oz lemon juice
cherry for garnish
Pour everything except the cherry into a martini shaker with ice and strain into a martini glass.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


These are so elegant, yet unbelievably simple to put together. What a great starter for tomorrow's feast. If you need a small dish to bring to Grandma's house this is IT!
You can make the tapenade up to 3 days ahead and refrigerate until you are ready to put these lil' darlings together. Make sure you bring the tapenade to room temperature before you spread. These ingredients make about 16 toast points.
1/2 lemon
roasted red peppers cut into 16 thin strips
1 cup pitted kalamata olives
1 tsp fresh finely chopped rosemary
1 garlic clove, salted and mashed to paste
1-2 tbl olive oil
fresh pepper
toast points (see below)
Zest the lemon half. Put the zest, olives, rosemary and garlic in a food processor. Add the olive oil through the feed tube pulsing until you get a thick uniform paste. Transfer to a bowl and squeeze the juice from the half lemon into the mixture. Season with salt and pepper and more lemon juice if you like.
Toast Points:
4 slices of country white bread
1 tbl unsalted butter, melted
With your oven rack about 6 inches from the broiler, set on high. Set the slices of bread on a baking sheet and brush one side with the melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Toast in broiler until they are crisp on one side about 1-2 minutes. Flip and cook the other side. While they are still hot slice off the crusts. Let cool a bit before cutting into triangles or squares.
To assemble, spread the tapenade on the toast points and then top them with a slice of red pepper in a curl shape.
YUmmmm EASY!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Stuffing...so many varieties, there could be a section of a bookstore devoted to the many many
stuffing/dressing recipes. I actually add some cooked wild rice to this recipe, which I love but some people may think the wild rice has too much flavor and takes away a bit from the cornbread taste.
You can make this the day ahead and refrigerate until you are ready to stuff the turkey. You can make homemade cornbread, or from a box. I actually use cornbread stuffing croutons.
1 pkg cornbread stuffing
1 stick unsalted butter
5-6 slices of good bacon
1-1/2 cups chopped onion
1-1/2 cups chopped celery
2 large shallots chopped
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tbl dried sage
3 cups toasted pecans, chopped
3 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth
fresh ground pepper
In a large saute pan, add 4 tbl butter and add bacon and brown slowly until it is crisp. Remove from the pan and set aside. Leaving the fat in the pan, add the onion, celery, shallots, thyme and sage. Stir often until soft about 10 minutes. Toss the vegetable and pecans with the cornbread stuffing. Season with salt and pepper. Add the eggs stirring just until it holds together. If you need more liquid, melt a little butter and add it to the mixture.
Let it cool completely before filling the turkey. Bake any extra in a greased dish for about 45 minutes basting it occassionally.
If you want to add wild rice, cook it according to package directions and add to the stuffing with the vegetables. You may want to cut back a bit on the cornbread and taste after incorporated and add more cornbread stuffing as you like.
A nice change of pace!

Monday, November 22, 2010


What is a winter holiday without butternut squash!! While I don't have a great time peeling it (it has a tough skin and can be a bit difficult to peel), it is very much worth the effort. This is a great substitute for traditional mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes.

You can assemble the gratins a day ahead, without the breadcrumbs, and refrigerate overnight.


3 lb butternut squash peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 large onions chopped into about a 1 inch dice
3 tbl fresh chopped sage
2 cloves of garlic minced
2-1/2 tbl unsalted butter
1 tbl olive oil
1/2 cup plus 2 tbl heavy cream heated to warm
fresh ground pepper
1 cup panko breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Grease a gratin dish (13 x 9) with butter. In a large saute pan melt 1 tbl unsalted butter and olive oil over low heat. Add the onion and sage. Cover and cook on low while you dice the squash.
Put the squash in a steamer basket over simmering water. Cover and let steam until tender - about 10 minutes. Pour squash in the gratin dish with the garlic and sprinkle with 3/4 tsp salt.

Cook the onions until carmelized about 25 minutes total. Season with salt and pepper and add them to the gratin dish and mix with the squash. Pour warm cream over the vegetables.

Toss the panko breadcrumbs with 1-1/2 tbl melted unsalted butter. Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the gratin and bake until the top is brown and bubbling about 40 minutes.

This will become a great holiday favorite!

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Today is Rachel's big party....I am cooking up a storm then partying at a local bar..

Be back tomorrow

Go Patriots tomorrow against Indy

Friday, November 19, 2010


This weekend is Rachel's BIG birthday extravaganza.....
She picked her weekend cocktail ..THE MANHATTAN!!!
One of the finest and oldest cocktails. It was the first cocktail to use vermouth. Some have said a Canadian whisky was the original whisky but my friends that are true "MANHATTANITES" say it was a rye whisky...heck I am a "WINE-er" so I don't really know!!!!!
2 oz rye whisky
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
2-3 dashes of bitters (optional)
garnish with a maraschino cherry
Some alternatives:
Dry Manhattan: uses dry vermouth not sweet
Perfect Manhattan: uses equal parts sweet and dry vermouth
Brandy, Scotch or Southern Comfort Manhattan: replaces whisky with these spirits
Happy Birthday Rachel!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Brittle is so easy to make and everyone loves it. You can make it a week ahead and store in an airtight container so it doesn't get in the way of all your other party plans. It is a great alternative to cakes, pies etc.
2-1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
2 tbl unsalted butter
1 cup whole almonds toasted, cooled and roughly chopped
oil for greasing baking sheet
Grease a baking sheet.
In a saucepan, add sugar making sure it doesn't stick to the sides of the pan. Add water and stir making sure the sugar is all incorporated in the water. Then turn heat on to high and boil until it turns a light brown about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the butter until melted. Stir in the nuts and pour mixture evenly on baking sheet. Let cool.
Break the brittle into single serving pieces and place on a serving platter....it will be gone in minutes!!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Long day on the road...be back tomorrow!
Have a great day!

Monday, November 15, 2010


After living in the Pacific Northwest for so many years, one thing I miss so very much is good salmon. At least here in the Midwest, we can get really good smoked salmon, beautiful in fact. So during this holiday season, put a little twist in your traditional deviled eggs.
You can make the eggs and the filling a day ahead, just make sure you store them separately and fill the eggs before serving.
6 large hard boiled eggs
6 oz cold smoked salmon finely diced
1/4 chives finely chopped
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tbl shallots minced
2 tbl capers drained, rinsed and chopped
1 tbl fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp lemon zest
fresh ground pepper
Let the hard boiled eggs cool, then peel and cut them in half lengthwise. Remove the yolks, put in a bowl and break them apart with a fork. Add the salmon, mayonnaise, shallot, capers, lemon juice and zest, 3 tbl of the chives and 1/8 tsp of pepper. Mix well.
Using a spoon or an ice cream scooper, mound the filling into the egg halves. Garnish with the remaining 1 tbl chives and a pinch of pepper.
Great twist to a legend!

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I made this last night for about 20 people and they ALL loved it!!!! One guest didn't like mushrooms so I made one batch with zucchini instead..and it was also delicious!!!! I served it with a caesar salad and vodka-sauced pasta....just wonderful and easy. You can put it together up to about 3 hours ahead of time and just put it in the oven when you are ready.


4 whole boneless chicken breasts cut into 1-2 inch strips
1 cup flour
4 eggs
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbl unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion diced
2 (9 oz) jars of artichokes drain and rinsed
1/4 cup capers, drained and rinsed
1 lb mushrooms quartered
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup dry vermouth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

On a dinner plate, combine flour, salt and pepper. In a shallow bowl beat the eggs. On another plate combine the breadcrumbs. Dredge the chicken strips in the flour, then eggs then breadcrumbs and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan then add butter. Saute chicken in batches until golden brown. Set aside on a paper towel lined plate to drain. To the saute pan add the onion and saute for about 2 minutes. Add artichokes and capers and saute for about 2-3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and incorporate for about 30 seconds. Add chicken broth and vermouth and remove from heat.
Arrange chicken in a single layer of a 13 x 9 pan. Pour the artichoke, mushroom mixture over the chicken. Bake uncovered, basting frequently for 35-40 minutes. Remove and serve.

The chicken stays so juicy!

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Today is a big birthday bash at our house for Louie's 85th...see ya all tomorrow!!!

Friday, November 12, 2010


Today gets a special "shout out" and I mean "Shout it Out" to Julie C and you know who you are.....she mentioned to me at last night's bash that I blogged a cocktail on a Thursday ....seriously....if I knew enough cocktails it would be 7 days a week on the blog.....
So TGIF Julie...the stain is gone I am sure!!!!!!!
2 small slices of ginger
1 tsp apricot preserve
1/4 oz lemon juice
lemon twist
Muddle the ginger, preserve and lemon juice in a shaker. Add the ice, whiskey and Grand Marnier....shake well. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass.... .garnish with a twist.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


I know silly..it isn't Friday cocktail time, but mulled wine takes more time than a simple cocktail and is a perfect warm drink for the crisp holiday season.
You can infuse the wine up to a day ahead, just make sure you take the spice bundle out. Then add the brandy, Gran Marnier and vanilla when you are ready to serve.
Of course I use the entire two bottles of wine except for the glass I serve myself when cooking!!!!!!!!
2 (750ml) bottles of a good merlot, shiraz or zinfindel
1 tangerine or small orange, seeded and cut in half
10 cloves
3 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
1 whole nutmeg cracked into a few pieces
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp whole peppercorns
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup brandy
1 tbl Grand Marnier
1/2 tsp vanilla
Toast the cloves, cinnamon, star anise, nutmeg, coriander and peppercorns in a medium sauce pan over medium heat stirring occasionally about 1-2 minutes. Transfer the spices to cheesecloth and tie with twine. Set the pan aside to cool.
Put the wine, tangerine and sugar in the pan with the spice cloth. Heat the whole mixture uncovered over low heat for 1 hour, don't let it boil.
Remove the spice mixture and carefully squeeze the tangerine juice into the wine. Stir in the brandy, Grand Marnier and vanilla. Taste and add more sugar if you would like, but not so it tastes sweet. Serve hot!
It is 60 degrees here today so no need for this...but winter is coming this weekend!!!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


This is a perfect fall dessert. All the ingredients are readily available. The topping can be made about 4 days ahead and you can bake it a day ahead and reheat. It makes a dinner party a bit easier when you have so many other details relating to the rest of the meal to worry about.


For the topping:

1-1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks

In a mixer with a flat attachment, combine all ingredients and mix on low until large crumbs form and then refrigerate in a container with a tight lid.

For the Filling:

6 firm pears peeled and cubed
4 small oranges peeled and sectioned
1 cup dried apricots
1 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup flour
dash of vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Mix the pears, oranges, apricots, orange juice, lemon juice, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Slowly add flour and mix well. Let stand for about 10 minutes to let combine. Grease a dozen ramekins and pour fruit mixture in and add topping. Place ramekins on a baking sheet.

Bake until bubbling and brown, about 40 minutes. Remove and let cool to room temperature to let them settle. When your guests are finishing their dinners, heat the crisps at 300 degrees until hot for about 20 minutes.

A great addition is a big scoop of ice cream!!!!!

Monday, November 8, 2010


A true holiday favorite and one I love every day of the year...shrimp cocktail. To make the shrimp super flavorful, it is better to poach them in their shells in a great broth. Make sure after the poaching is done you don't rinse them or you lose all the flavor from the liquid. Use at least 16-20 count shrimp. That means in a measured lb., there will be at least 16 to 20 shrimp.

The recipe for the spicy cocktail sauce follows!


1-1/2 lbs jumbo shrimp (16-20 ct)
1 roughly chopped shallot
handful of peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 cups dry white wine
1 cup water
1 tsp salt
1 lemon cut in half

In a saute pan with a lid, combine wine, water, shallot, peppercorns, bay leaves and salt. Squeeze lemon into the mixture and then add to the pan. Bring to a boil and reduce to medium-low and let simmer for about 10 minutes to combine the flavors. Add the shrimp and poach for about 3-5 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the shrimp sit in the pan, covered, for 2 minutes.
Transfer to a strainer and discard the poaching liquid. Let the shrimp cool then remove the shells and devein. Chill for at least 2 hours and up to a day. Serve with the following sauce.

Cocktail Sauce:

1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup chili sauce
1/4 cup grated shallot
1/2 tsp minced jalapeno
2 tbl prepared horseradish
1 tbl fresh lemon juice
pinch of salt

Combine everything in a bowl. Cover and chill until ready to use. This can also be made a day ahead. Before serving, taste to see if it needs more lemon juice and salt.

I could eat a TON of these!

Saturday, November 6, 2010


These are a great appetizer for any party but I love them when I have just a cocktail party. They are filling and your guests won't go away hungry. This recipe makes about 24 but some of the won tons may collapse in cooking so you might want to plan for a little extra.
You can bake off the won tons and keep them in an airtight container for up to a week. Not into beef?? these work with chicken and even shrimp.
24+ square won ton wrappers
1/2 lb beef tenderloin
1/2 cup diced red peppers
1/4 cup shallots minced
1 tbl minced garlic
2 tbl sugar
3 tbl fresh lime juice
2 tbl fish sauce
1 tsp chile paste
1 tsp soy sauce
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Using a cupcake pan, press the won ton wrappers down into the individual tins and lay the corners back to create a cup. Bake until lightly brown about 8-10 minutes and let cool.
Season the beef with lots of salt and pepper. Heat an oven proof saute pan on high until it is really hot. Sear the beef on all sides about 3-4 minutes then put the pan in the oven and cook the beef until medium rare (internal temperature of about 130 degrees) about 8 minutes depending on meat thickness. Let it rest about 10 minutes and thinly slice it to strips.
Combine beef, red pepper, shallots and garlic in a bowl and add lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar and chile paste. Toss all together and fill cooled won ton cups.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Happy Friday!!!!

Just got home from a fabulous trip to New York City....great friends, food and DRINKS!!!!

This takes a few days to make...but delicious...and a great holiday cocktail.

Actually leftover cranberry sauce helps make the sweet liqueur for this twist on a French classic.


1/4 cup water
3 tbl sugar
1/2 cup leftover whole berry cranberry sauce or canned
3/4 cup vodka
4 cups cold dry prosecco or champagne

Combine water and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook about 5 minutes until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, stir in cranberry sauce and let cool. Stir in vodka and pour the mixture in a covered mason jar or similar container and refrigerate for 4 days.

After 4 days, strain the mixture through a sieve preferably with cheesecloth. Keep covered in the refrigerator until you are ready to use.

To make the cocktail, spoon 2 tbl of the cranberry sauced-vodka into a champagne flute add about 1/2 cup chilled champagne. You can garnish with a few fresh cranberries.


Thursday, November 4, 2010


So many bean dips lack any true flavor to me..this one adds eggplant but also pine nuts, mint and oregano to really "kick it up a notch". You can serve with sliced crusty baguettes, toasted flour tortillas or pita chips. Again, very easy and quick to make and it makes for a very elegant starter!

2-3 small eggplants, cut in half lengthwise (about 1-1/2 lb)
2 anchovy fillets (yes you can opt out of this ingredient)
1 garlic clove
1 cup cannellini beans drained and rinsed
2 tbl toasted pine nuts
6 tbl olive oil
3 tbl fresh lemon juice
1 tbl fresh mint chopped and a few pieces for garnish
2 tsp fresh chopped oregano

On a foil lined baking sheet greased with a little olive oil, toss eggplant with 2 tbl olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil until the skin is charred and eggplant is tender about 20-30 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Mash the anchovy fillets with a knife to make a paste and chop garlic and season with salt and pepper....more salt if you are avoiding the anchovy.

Transfer the paste to a food processor and add beans, 2 tbl oil and 1 tbl water. Puree until smooth. Remove the skin of the eggplant and discard. Add the remaining eggplant flesh to the bean mixture with the lemon juice, mint and oregano. Pulse until it is slightly chunky. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve with topping of toasted pine nuts and mint leaves.

Makes a meal for ME!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Well it is officially the start of Holiday Season. The next two months of entries here will be lots of Holiday food and DRINKS!!! So let's jump right in with a sweet easy pumpkin dessert!!!!!

These can be made ahead and refrigerated for 3 days and frozen for up to a month.


2 (8oz) pkgs of cream cheese at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
1/3 cup solid canned pumpkin
2-1/4 tsp flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch of salt
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 300 degrees

Spray a regular muffin tin with cooking spray and line with foil liners. Blend cream cheese in a mixer until smooth and fluffy about 4 minutes. Add the sugar, vanilla and salt and mix until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time and blend - don't overbeat the eggs.

Transfer 2/3 of the batter to a bowl. Add the pumpkin, flour, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg to that bowl and blend well.

In the muffin tins use the 1/3 cup of plain batter and put about 2 big tbl in each liner. Then portion the pumpkin batter to each liner and using a fork or skewer in a swirl pattern as you see in the picture above. Bake until the centers of the cheesecakes barely jiggle about 15-18 minutes. Let cool and refrigerate or freeze if you want or...