Thursday, April 29, 2010

Fresh Mint Martini

I affectionately call this cocktail my vodka mojito. This is a perfect Summer cocktail. This one is calling your name, give it a try!

Fresh Mint Martini
Serves 1 (easily doubled)
Recipe from Food Network

Combine 1 or 2 slices cucumber, 4 or 5 mint leaves, 1 tablespoon lime juice and 1 teaspoon sugar in a shaker and crush with a muddler or spoon.  Add 3 ounces gin or vodka and fill with ice.  Cover and shake, then strain through a sieve into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a cucumber slice.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Photo submitted by Loek VanVliet

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Blue Cheese Sirloin Burgers with Red Wine-Onion Jam

Welcome to our Sunday gathering. The weather is perfect. The windows have been opened, the music is turned up, the table and chairs have been brought outside, and friends have arrived with ice coolers and wonderful side dishes to compliment the meal.

My husband has fired up the grill and we are going to enjoy some fabulous grilled hamburgers and bratwursts too, served up with blue cheese and a red wine onion jam, with all the traditional American side dishes, french fries, potato salad, cole slaw and baked beans.

 I am quite pleased with myself. For the first time, with inspiration from Cathy from Wives with Knives I stepped out and baked my own hamburger buns-oh my!

It is Sunday, kick back and enjoy the day with us.

Blue Cheese Sirloin Burgers with Red Wine-Onion Jam
Serves 4
Recipe from Bobby Flay's Grill It!

1-1/2 pounds ground sirloin
2 tablespoons canola oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 ounces blue cheese, cut into 4 slices
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
4 hamburger buns or kaiser rolls, split
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 cup watercress leaves
Red Wine-Onion Jam (recipe follows)

1. Heat your grill to high.

2. Shape the meat into 4 burgers, each 1-inch thick.  Brush with oil and season liberally with salt and pepper on both sides.  Place the brugers on the grill and grill untl golden brown and slightly charred, 3 to 4 minutes.  Turn the burgers over and continue grilling to medium, about 3 minutes longer.  During the last minute of cooking, place a slice of cheese on top of each burger, close the cover of the grill, and allow the cheese to melt.  Remove the burgers to a plate and let rest while you grill the buns.

3. Butter the cut sides of the buns and season with salt and pepper.  Place on the grill, butter side down, and grill until lightly golden brown, about 30 seconds.

4. Spread mustard (a strong flavored mustard) on the bottom and top half of each bun and top with some watercress.  Place the burgers on top of the watercress and spoon some of the onion jam on each burger. Top with the bun tops and serve immediately.

Red Wine-Onion Jam
Makes 3/4 cup
Recipe from Bobby Flay's Grill It!

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium red onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the oil in a medium saute pan on the grates of the grill or on a stove top over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and cook until soft, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.  Add wine, vinegar, honey, and thyme and simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated, 5 to 7 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove from heat and let cool to room tempertaure.  The jam can be made 2 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  bring to room tempertaure before serving.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tres Leches Cake with Mango

The Tres Leche cake has become a new favorite in our house. Literally translated means "Three milks" We made this cake for one of our Sunday gatherings and it was an immediate hit.  The cake is soaked in milk making the texture airy and spongy with a sweet milk flavor.  This cake is absolutely delightful.   

This cake is perfect for gatherings because you can prepare it ahead of time, and for us that means more time spent with friends, and less time fussing in the kitchen.

Be careful...Don't say I did not warn you. This is just the kind of cake that would get you up in the middle of the night for just one more bite, and before you know it, it will be all gone.

Tres Leches Cake with Mango
Serves 8-10
Recipe from Food Network

For the Cake:
Vegetable oil, for greasing
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-1/4 cups whole milk 
1-1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
12-ounce evaporated milk
14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk 
1 tablespoon dark rum

For the Topping:
2 large ripe mangoes
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cup heavy cream
Ground cinnamon for sprinkling

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease an 8-inch square baking pan with vegetable oil and line the bottom with parchment paper.

2. Make the cake: Beat the eggs and sugar in a large bowl with a mixer until pale and slightly thick, about 6 minutes.  Slowly beat in the melted butter, then beat in the vanilla and 1/4 cup whole milk.

3. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.  Sift the flour mixture over the egg mixture, then gently fold together with a rubber spatula to make a thick batter.  Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 30 minutes.  Run a knife along the edges to release the cake from the pan.

4. Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 2 cups whole milk, the evaporated milk, condensed milk and rum in a bowl.  Pierce the warm cake all over with a fork, then pour the milk mixture evenly on top.  Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.

5. Before serving, making the topping: peel, pit and dice the mangoes.  Puree half the mangoes in a blender with 2 tablespoons sugar.  Transfer to a bowl and fold in the remaining diced mango.  In a separate bowl, beat the heavy cream and the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar with a mixer until soft peaks form.  Slice the cake; top each piece with the whipped cream and sprinkle with cinnamon.  Serve the mango topping on the side.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Photo submitted by Megan at

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bailey's Coca-Cola Ham with a little help from Paula Deen

A couple of years ago, my younger son Bailey and I were watching the Paula Deen show together. Bailey showed an interest in making Paula Deen's baked Coca-Cola ham.  Together we made the ham. Since that day, whenever it is requested Bailey prepares the ham for the family or for a crowd. This has become his trademark recipe.

We traditionally think of preparing ham for the holidays but, ham is a wonderful way to feed your family or your guests, and still have plenty left over for ham sandwiches and other meals throughout the week. Also, a baked ham is easy to prepare and is easy on the family food budget.

Baked Coca-Cola Ham
Serves a crowd
Recipe from Paula Deen

1 (10 pound) fully cooked ham
2 (12-ounce) cans cola
Canned pineapple rings
Light brown sugar for sprinkling
Maraschino cherries

Preheat the oven to 325 F.
Place the ham in a shallow roasting pan.  Baste the ham with cola. With toothpicks, stick some pineapple rings on the ham, about 4 or 5 rings. Sprinkle some brown sugar on the rings.  With toothpicks place a cherry in each pineapple ring hole, and then stick some cloves in the rings.  Cover it with foil and bake 15-18 minutes per pound of ham, or until the ham reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees F. Baste with cola about every 30 minutes while cooking.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thomas Keller-Veal Cutlets Served Family Style with Arugula and Fennel Salad

Thomas Keller is to American cooking as Julia Child was for bringing French cooking to the everyday American family. He loves American food and he showcases our iconic recipes in his new ad hoc at home cookbook.  His dishes are served up in big bowls and platters, and served family style.

He is the chef and owner of  Napa Valley's French Laundry and New York's Per Se.  His restaurant in Napa valley is considered one of the top 50 restaurants in the world. He is the only American chef to have received simultaneous Michelin stars for two different restaurants.  On my list of things I must to do in my lifetime, is to secure reservations and enjoy dinner at the French Laundry. 

This dish my husband and I made for ourselves from his new cookbook. He prepared the veal cutlets and I prepared the arugula and fennel salad. This was a wonderful meal and we discovered what a great flavor combination arugula and fennel make together.

Breaded Veal Cutlets with Arugula and Fennel Salad
Serves 6
Recipe from: Thomas Keller ad hoc at home

2 pounds trimmed veal top round, cut across the grain into twelve 1/2 -inch-thick slices
(note: I think pounded thin pork loin or even chicken breast would work just as well)
3 small or 2 medium fennel bulbs
About 3 cups of panko crumbs
All-purpose flour for dredging
2 to 3 large eggs
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Peanut or canola oil for shallow-frying
6 ounces (about 8 loosely packed cups) arugula, rinsed and dried
1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Lay 2 pieces of veal on a large piece of plastic wrap, cover with a second piece of plastic wrap, and, using a meat pounder, pound to 1/4-inch thick.  Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining veal.  (The cutlets can be wrapped and refrigerated for up to 12 hours.)

Fill a large bowl with ice water.  Remove the stalks from the fennel bulbs.  Using a Japanese mandoline, vegetable slicer, or a very sharp knife, thinly shave the fennel crosswise.  Transfer to the ice water to keep the fennel crisp.  Set aside.

Set up dipping station:  Put about 1/2 inch of flour in a shallow bowl wide enough to hold the cutlets.  Lightly beat 2 eggs in a second bowl.  Spread 1/2 inch of panko crumbs in the third.  Replenish each bowl as needed.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Season the meat with salt and pepper and coat each piece, one at a time: Dip both sides of the cutlet in the flour, patting off any excess, then dip into the eggs, letting any excess drip back into the bowl, and then coat on both sides with panko crumbs, patting them so they adhere; transfer to the baking sheet.

Preheat the oven to 200 F..  Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet.  Pour just under 1/2 inch of peanut oil into a large frying pan and heat to 350 F.  Add 2 cutlets to the hot oil and cook for about 1 minute on each side, until crisp and golden.  Transfer to the rack, and keep warm in the oven.  With a skimmer, remove any pieces of coating remaining in the oil. (Do not allow the oil to get too hot, or any bits of coating will burn and give the oil an off taste.)  Fry the remaining cutlets in batches, transferring them to the oven.

For the Salad:
Drain the fennel and pat dry.  Toss with the arugula in a large bowl.  Squeeze 2 of the lemon wedges over the greens.  Drizzle the olive oil around the sides of the bowl.  Season with salt and pepper, and toss.

Arrange the cutlets on one side of the platter, overlapping them.  Arrange the greens on the other side of the platter.  Garnish the platter with the remaining lemon wedges.


Thomas Keller Movie Notes:

Thomas Keller designed and taught Adam Sandler in the movie Spanglish how to cook what is often called the "World's Greatest Sandwich".

In the movie Ratatouille he allowed the producer to intern in the French Laundry kitchen designing the fancy layered ratatouille "confit byaldi" for the characters to cook.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Fresh Strawberry Martini

Strawberries are plentiful in Florida in April. In fact, right now Florida has an over abundance of strawberries and they are reasonably priced. This means that I am buying more strawberries than I need and am looking for ways to use them.

I can't think of a more perfect way to use fresh strawberries than in a refreshing cocktail. I will tell you that the fruit used in this cocktail should be as ripe and as fresh as possible to produce the most flavor. A dash of simple syrup should only be used to ripen the fruit flavor and is not intended to create a frou-frou a/k/a syrupy sweet drink.

Strawberry Martini
Serves 1

2 ounces good quality vodka
1/2 ounce frais de bois (optional)
A dash of simple syrup
Fresh strawberries

Crush three fresh strawberries in a shaker, using a muddler or the flat end of a barspoon.  Add ice, a large shot of vodka, a dash of frais de bois, and a hint of simple syrup to taste.  Shake the mixture sharply and strain into a frosted martini glass.  Garnish with a fresh strawberry.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Breakfast Strata with Sausage, Mushrooms, and Monterey Jack

My family spent a few days visiting friends in Austin, Texas. We had never been to hill country and had the opportunity to enjoy some great food and music. We also spent quality-time with friends who are more than fun.  They kept us laughing and smiling our entire vacation.  Each night, we went to bed with full bellies and near exhaustion.

Our friend Debbie is a planner by nature, and the cookbook, The Best Make Ahead Recipe Cookbook is one of her favorites. With another fun filled day ahead of us, Debbie made this wonderful breakfast strata the night before and baked it in the morning.

If you have guests and don't want to spend a lot of fuss time in the kitchen, then I recommend that you save this recipe.

Breakfast Strata with Sausage, Mushrooms, and Monterey Jack
Serves A Crowd
Recipe from: The Best Make-Ahead Recipe and our friend Debbie

16-20 (1/2-inch thick) slices supermarket French or Italian bread
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for the baking dish
1 pound bulk breakfast sausage
2 large shallots, minced (about 1/2 cup)
1 pound white button mushrooms, wiped clean and quartered
Salt and ground black pepper
1 cup dry white wine or vermouth
12 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (about 3 cups)
12 large eggs
3-1/2 cups half-and-half
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

1. Adjust 2 oven racks to the upper middle and lower middle positions and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Spread the bread out over 2 baking sheets and bake until dry and light golden brown, about 25 minutes, switching and rotating the baking sheets halfway through the baking time.  Let the bread cool completely and then spread buter evenly over 1 side of each bread slice.

2. Meanwhile, cook the sausage in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat, breaking the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until beginning to brown, about 7 minutes.  Stir in the shallots and cook until softened, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the mushrooms and cook until their liquid is released, about 10 minutes.  Transfer to a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add the wine to the skillet and simmer over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes; set aside to cool.

3. Butter a 13 by 9-inch baking dish and tightly fit half of the bread slices, buttered sides up, into a single layer in the dish.  Sprinkle half of the sausage mixture, then 1 cup of the cheese evenly over bread slices. Repeat with the remaining bread slices, sausage mixture, and 1more cup of the cheese.

4. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until combined, then whisk in the reduced wine, half-and-half, parsley, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  Pour the egg mixture evenly over the bread layers and sprinkle the remaining 1 cup cheese evenly over the top.

5. To Store: Wrap the strata tightly with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap flush to the surface of the strata.  Weigh the strata down and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.

6. To Serve: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Meanwhile, unwrap the strata and let it sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.  Bake the strata, uncovered, until puffed and the edges have pulled away slightly from the sides of the dish, about 1 hour and 20 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes before serving.


"The University of Florida may be in Gainesville, but the Gator Nation is everywhere"

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Lyle's Ceviche

This ceviche was made by my friend Lyle.  To make a truly great ceviche you need fresh fish.  Lyle is certainly a lover of fresh seafood.  He is known to catch a grouper and make a sushi lunch right on his boat.  Lyle caught the black sea bass used in this ceviche the same day it was prepared.

Lyle's Ceviche
Serves 4-8
Recipe courtesy of Lyle Floyd adapted from Simply Recipes

2 lbs. firm-fleshed fish (black sea bass used), cut into 1/2 inch pieces (no bone)
A few shrimp, cut into pieces
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 red onion, diced
1 cup chopped fresh seeded tomatoes
1 hot chili pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped finely
1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped 
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped 
2 teaspoons salt
a shake of dried oregano
Couple shakes of Tabasco or a pinch of cayenne pepper

In a non-reactive dish, place the fish, shrimp, onion, tomatoes, chili pepper, bell peppers, salt, Tabasco and oregano. Cover with lime and lemon juice. Let sit uncovered in the refrigerator for an hour, stir, to ensure that seafood is tossed in the citrus juices. Let sit for several hours. This will allow the flavors to blend.

Note: During the marinating process the seafood will become lighter in color.

Serve with chopped cilantro.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Lemony Potato Salad

This potato salad recipe does not get any easier to prepare, and with a mild lemon flavor it really wakes-up and compliments grilled meats.

Lemony Potato Salad
Serves 4-6
Recipe from Food Network

2 pounds russet potatoes (note: I used small red skinned, without peeling), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 lemon
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Place the potatoes in a pot of salted water; bring to a simmer and cook until tender.  Drain and cool slightly.  Mix the mayonnaise and parsley in a large bowl.  Grate in the zest of half of a lemon; add the juice of the lemon half.  Fold in the potatoes and add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and pepper to taste; refrigerate until ready to serve.