Eating is a necessity. However, we choose what to eat. The choices we make reveal a great deal about us. The food you eat can tell quite a bit about your heritage, your family, your fears, your sense of adventure, your attitude toward yourself and others, and a myriad of other personal tidbits to anyone paying attention. Everything about eating is a glimpse into your soul.

I hope to reveal a little bit about myself to you through my food. I enjoy cooking. I enjoy eating. I find pleasure in bringing pleasure to others. I hope that by sharing my recipes I bring you a little bit of joy.

Cook my food. Feed it to the people you love.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Butternut Squash Gratin

‘Au gratin’ usually refers to a cooking method that creates a crispy crust on top of the dish.  It can also refer to the dish itself.  The most familiar is probably Potatoes au Gratin, which is layers of potatoes, cheese, and cream baked until the potatoes are soft and a crunchy crust has formed on top.  Thinking about it, I suppose that Baked Macaroni & Cheese is technically ‘au gratin’ as it is baked and forms a crust.  But really you can cook almost any vegetable this way.

I decided to try Butternut Squash au Gratin because butternut squash are in season and crispy, crunchy, crust,-what’s not to love?  Acorn squash, buttercup squash, or even pumpkin could be used with this recipe.  Just adjust the cooking times.  I used rosemary because I have a rosemary bush (small tree) outside my back door.  You could substitute thyme, tarragon, or savory for the rosemary. You could also use onion instead of shallot.

However, if you decide to follow this recipe exactly, you will not be disappointed. All of my recipes are original and I have cooked all of them from scratch, following only my self-taught knowledge of cooking techniques and my taste buds. Therefore, most of the time the first and often the second try is if not inedible then in need of tweaking.  My husband has eaten many (many, many) of my mistakes.  This recipe was delicious the first time.  My grandmother used to say, “It ain’t braggin’ if you can back it up.”  Allow me to humbly say, “Yum.”

Butternut Squash Gratin

Servings: 6-8
Time:    Prep: 15 minutes; Cook: 1 hour
Hardware: Cutting board and large knife, measuring cups, a veggie peeler, a large spoon, a large pot, a colander, a large skillet that can be used on the stove top and in the oven (cast iron works great), a wooden spoon

  • 1 butternut squash (about 3 pounds)
  • 4 cups broth (you can use vegetable or chicken)
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 shallot (not more than ¼ cup)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ + ¼ cup bread crumbs
  • ¼ + ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup Half & Half
  • Salt & Pepper
  1. Put the broth on to boil.
  2. Cut about ½ inch off both ends of the squash.  Peel it.  Being very careful, cut the squash in half.  Using the large spoon remove the squash’s seeds.  Cut the squash into 1 inch cubes.
  3. Put the squash cubes and 2 sprigs of the rosemary in the boiling broth. Simmer until the squash is easily pierced with a knife, but isn’t falling apart. You want it to still be a little firm. This will take about 15-20 minutes. Drain the squash, reserving ⅔ cup of the liquid.  Discard the boiled rosemary.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  5. Dice the shallot and garlic.  Remove the remaining rosemary from the 3rd sprig and mince.
  6. Melt the butter in the skillet over medium heat.  Add the shallot, garlic, and minced rosemary.  Sauté, stirring often, until the shallot is translucent, about 4 minutes.
  7. Add the squash to the skillet with the shallots.  Lightly salt and generously pepper the squash.  Turn the heat to medium high and add the reserved liquid.  Gently simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about 5-7 minutes, stirring just enough to keep everything from sticking.
  8. Stir ¼ cup of the crumbs and ¼ cup of the cheese into the squash.  Pour the Half & Half over the squash.  Top with the remaining crumbs and cheese. Salt & Pepper again.
  9. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until the top of the squash has formed a golden brown, crunchy crust. You can turn on the broiler for 2-3 minutes to really create a crispy crust, but be careful and keep a watchful eye on your dish as there is a fine line between toasty goodness and charred awfulness.
  10. Serve warm.
Slightly sweet, slightly savory, very tasty

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Beef Wellington

My husband and I live alone.  No children by choice, so we can wait 'til the last minute to plan our holiday meals and they can be as elaborate or as simple as we want them to be.  I know not everyone is in that situation.  So it may be too late to add Beef Wellington to your Christmas menu.  Or maybe you have 20 people to feed and it would be cost prohibitive.  Or maybe you have children who are not interested in rare steak and mushroom paste.

However, you should find the perfect time and audience to serve Beef Wellington. Beef Wellington is traditionally made of filet mignon coated in duxelles, topped with goose liver pâté, and wrapped in puff pastry.   It is beautiful and delicious.  It isn’t really that hard to make if you use pre-made puff pastry and make the duxelles (DEWk-sell) ahead of time.  You can find foie gras at specialty stores, but let’s be real.  My sister made Wellington for me once and used the Boursin cheese.  Same texture and no tortured geese. I also like the taste better.

Like I said, the duxelles can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 4 days or frozen for 2 months. Duxelles is a classic French preparation of mushrooms, in which you cook the mushrooms into a paste. Doing this serves two purposes.  The first purpose is the process really intensifies the flavor.  The second purpose is it cooks them down.   Mushrooms are full of liquid and if you didn't evaporate some of it then they would release the liquid into your dish and ruin it.  I used porcini and oyster mushrooms.  You can use button, but the flavor is a little bland.  Mix it up.

If this recipe makes too much duxelles you can use the leftovers in a million ways. Here are but a few:  Add a tablespoon to gravy; add a tablespoon to scrambled eggs or into the filling of an omelet; stir them into pizza sauce; top your favorite fish with them, add some Herbes de Provence, some butter, wrap the fish in foil and bake; stir a tablespoon or two into a quiche; roll out the other sheet of puff pastry, top with duxelles, caramelized onion, your favorite herbs, and shredded Gruyere cheese, fold just the edges of the pastry over and bake. 

Read over the recipe before you start.  My recipes tend to have more steps than others do because I am not making assumptions about your experience as a cook.  I want everyone to be able to have fun in the kitchen and not be intimidated by needlessly vague or hard to follow directions.  Beef Wellington looks elaborate, but really anyone can do this.

I served the Beef Wellington with mashed potatoes and a wonderful sauce.  To make the sauce I simmered 1 cup of port wine, I cup of beef broth, 1 tablespoon of prepared horseradish, and 1 tablespoon of course ground mustard until it was reduced by half and then strained it through a fine sieve.

Beef Wellington-Easier than it looks
I like mine rare


The Duxelles 

Hardware:  Food processor, a rubber spatula, measuring spoons and cups, a bowl, a skillet, a wooden spoon, a container with a lid


  • Course ground kosher salt
  • Fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 16 ounces of mushrooms (use a variety)
  • 1 shallot (¼ cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ teaspoon dried tarragon
  • ¼ cup of your favorite port (you can substitute beef stock)

  1. Place the shallot and the garlic in the food processor and pulse until they are very fine. Scrape out the processor bowl and set them aside.  Put the mushrooms in the processor and pulse until they are the size of very small (think aquarium) pebbles.
  2. Melt the butter and oil in the skillet over low heat.
  3. Add the shallots mixture and sauté, stirring often, until they are translucent, (about 4 minutes)
  4. Stir in the mushrooms.  Raise the heat to medium.
  5. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have thickened and turned dark (about 15 minutes).
  6. Use the port to deglaze the pan.  Add the tarragon, a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper.  Turn the heat down and simmer, stirring enough to keep the mushrooms from sticking, and cook until the liquid is absorbed and the mushrooms are practically a paste. (5-10 minutes)
  7. Transfer to the container and cool completely.

Beef Wellington

Servings: 2

Prep time: 15 minutes   Rest time: 20-40 minutes Cook time: 25-30 minutes
Hardware:  Measuring cups, a skillet, tongs, a plate, plastic wrap, a rolling pin, a pastry brush (optional), a small bowl, a fork, parchment paper, a baking sheet


  • Olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan
  • 2 -8 ounce beef tenderloin steaks (filet mignon)
  • Course ground kosher salt
  • Fresh cracked black pepper
  • ⅓ cup Boursin Cheese (Use whichever flavor sounds good-I used Shallot and Chive)
  • ⅓ cup duxelles
  • An egg + a tablespoon of water
  • Flour for dusting
  • 1 puff pastry sheet

  1. Set the pastry out to thaw.
  2. Season each side of the filets with fresh cracked pepper and coarse salt.
  3. Heat the olive oil as hot as your pan and stove can.  Sear the filets for one minute per side.  You want just the outside to be seared and the inside still very raw.
  4. Place the filets on the plate. Top the filets with the duxelles.  Press down.  Then top the duxelles with the Boursin.  Both the mushrooms and the cheese are the consistency of clay so this is easy to do with your fingers.
  5. Wrap the plate in plastic wrap and stick in the freezer (or fridge if you prefer your steak medium to well.)  Trust me.  This is necessary to keep from overcooking the steak you skipped a car payment to buy.  Remove after 20 minutes.  If the pastry still hasn’t thawed, place the steaks in the fridge until you need them. 
  6. Preheat the oven to 420°F.  Cover the baking sheet in parchment paper. Beat the egg and water in a small bowl with a fork.
  7. Sprinkle a flat surface with flour.  Unfold the pastry sheet onto the surface. Roll the pastry sheet into a rectangle large enough to wrap both steaks.  Cut it in half.
  8. Working with one steak, bush the pastry sheet with the egg mixture.  Place the steak cheese side down onto the pastry. Fold the pastry over the beef and tuck the ends as if you were wrapping a package. Keep all the seams on the top side as you are working.  Use the egg wash to seal.  Make sure there are no openings.  Flip the Wellington over and place it seam side down (cheese side up) onto the baking sheet.  Repeat with the second steak.
  9. Brush the pastry with the rest of the egg wash.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.  

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Chicken Corn Chowder

Soup is so easy.  It can be served for lunch or dinner.  It is usually easy to make.  You can throw in whatever you want, so it is a good way to use leftovers.  And it tastes better the next day.

To make this soup you can use leftover chicken, rotisserie chicken, canned chicken (don’t please), or roast your own.  I roasted chicken breast and flavored it heavily with garlic and thyme.  I used baby potatoes so that I wouldn’t have to peel them.  I just washed and halved them. You can add in chopped carrots also, most people do, but my husband doesn’t like them. If the chowder isn’t thick enough for you, you can stir in instant potato flakes or mash a few of the potatoes in the chowder.  Another way to thicken soup is to stir equal parts corn starch and water in a small bowl (a few tablespoons) and stir it into the boiling broth.

After you perfect this recipe, you can experiment and make it your own.  Add green peppers and seeded jalapeños with the veggies, omit the thyme and add in cumin, smoked paprika, and a little chili powder to create a Tex-Mex flavor.  If you omit the chicken, use veggie stock, and add more corn this can be made for vegetarians. You can also replace the chicken with turkey or even shrimp.  Have fun.

Servings: 6-8
Time:    Prep: 10 minutes; Cook: 30-40 minutes
Hardware:  Measuring spoons and cups, a cutting board and knives, A Dutch oven or a soup pot, a can opener, a wooden spoon, a ladle, serving bowls

  • 5 tablespoon butter
  • 2 shallots (or a small onion)
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ¼ - ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 ½ pound potatoes
  • 15 ounce can creamed corn
  • 2 cups defrosted steam in bag frozen corn
  • 1 ½ lbs. cooked chicken-chopped
  • 1 cup half and half
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Garnish:  Crumbled bacon, shredded cheddar cheese, chopped chives, chopped green onions, croutons, and/or oyster crackers
  1. Chop the shallots, celery, and garlic.  Set aside.  Depending on the type of potatoes you are using peel and quarter them.
  2. In the Dutch oven, over medium heat, melt the butter and add the celery, shallots, and garlic. Cook until the shallots and celery are soft (5-6 minutes).
  3. Add the flour and stir until it is a paste.  Slowly add the stock.  Bring to a low boil.  Add the thyme, red pepper, salt, and potatoes.  Boil until the potatoes are tender. (20 minutes)
  4. Lower the heat, add the rest of the ingredients and simmer until warmed through. (10 minutes)
  5. Fish out the thyme. Salt & pepper to taste.  Serve hot or warm.
  6. To serve, ladle soup into a bowl top with shredded cheddar, crumbled bacon, and chives or onions.  Offer your guests croutons or oyster crackers.

Chicken Corn Chowder