Birthday dinner

Today is my husband’s birthday so I asked him to select the dinner.  He opted for oyster stew.  That worked out well as I got home from work late so I made the soup last night.  (Leftovers from a previous batch proved that it might even be better the next day.)

Oyster Stew

  • 3 slices bacon, diced
  • 4 TB butter
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup celery, minced
  • 1 1/2 TB flour
  • 1 1/2 TB Old Bay
  • 1 qt half and half
  • 1 pt oysters  (with the oyster liquor) – I actually had more than a pint because of my leftovers which isn’t a bad thing
  • dash Worcestershire sauce

Cook bacon in a heavy pan (love my Le Creuset!).  Remove bacon to a paper towel when done and reserve.  Add butter to the bacon fat and melt.  Add onion and celery and sauce until soft.  Add flour and Old Bay and stir well to combine.  Cook for about 1 minute.  Add half and half and whisk until smooth.  Add oyster liquor and Worcestershire.  (We stopped at this point and let the mixture sit for about an hour until we were almost ready to serve.) Simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add oysters right before you are ready to serve and heat through – 2 – 3 minutes.  Serve with reserved bacon.

oyster stew

Reward for a long day

I took Samantha and a friend skiing today (I don’t ski but I’m transportation).  I got home 10 minutes before my paddle tennis game.  I was so happy that I had made the chicken chipotle chili yesterday.  What a treat to come home to that!

Chicken Chipotle chili

  • 3 TB canola oil
  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into small cubes
  • 2 chopped onions
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 TB chili powder
  • 1 TB ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 qt chicken stock
  • 28 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes, drained of about 1/2 of liquid
  • 3 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, roughly chopped
  • 2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained

Heat oil in a heavy sauce pan and brown chicken cubes (about 5 minutes.)  Remove chicken and drain on paper towels.  Pour off fat leaving about 1 tablespoon in pan.  Add onions and brown about 4 – 5 minutes.  Return chicken to pan.

Stir together flour, chili powder, cumin and salt and sprinkle over onions and chicken.  Stir and cook about 1 minute.  Add stock, tomatoes and chipotles and simmer covered about 30 minutes.  Add black beans and cook another 10 minutes.

Let cool and then refrigerate until ready to serve.  Serve with sour cream, cheddar cheese and tortilla chips.

Upscale comfort food

It is raining here in Baltimore and Keith and Samantha are at the Ravens game.  My mom is coming over for dinner and we are celebrating her birthday.  These potpies will be a nice treat for my husband after sitting in the rain at the game and festive enough for a birthday celebration.  I’m actually going to make 5 and freeze 2.  (They freeze really well – I’ve actually taken them on ski trips.)  Also checks the make ahead box as I’ll get them put together this afternoon.  May have to wait until the game is over!

Seafood Potpie

  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 leeks (white only), chopped
  • 2 TB butter
  • 8 – 10 oz cooked lobster
  • 3/4 pound shrimp (I cleaned and deveined the shrimp and then tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted for about 8 minutes and then chopped)
  • 1/3 cup frozen peas (you can use more – I’m not a huge fan of peas)
  • 1/3 cup frozen pearl onions
  • 2 more TB butter
  • 2 TB flour
  • 3/4 cup seafood stock
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 TB sherry
  • 1 tsp thyme


  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 stick butter, diced
  • 1/4 cup ice water
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 TB water

Saute celery, carrots, onion and leek until veggies are tender (about 8 – 10 minutes) and set aside.  Combine with lobster, shrimp, peas and frozen onions in a ceramic baking dish or smaller single serving bowls.

I used the same saute pan to make a cream sauce.  Start by combining flour and butter, then slowly stir in milk and stock, stirring so sauce is smooth.  Add sherry and stir.  Sauce should be thick and smooth.  Add thyme and pour over lobster and veggies.

Combine flour with salt and baking powder in a food processor.  Pulse in butter about 15 pulses.  Add water with the motor running until dough is just combined.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Roll dough onto a floured work surface and trim to just bigger than your dish.  Brush edges of baking container with egg wash and cover dishes with pastry pressing against the edges.  Make 3 slashes in the pastry and bake at 375 for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Cover the tops with aluminum foil so they don’t burn.

Anniversary update

Thursday was our 15th wedding anniversary.  To celebrate I wanted to cook Keith a special dinner.  He loves scallops so I made Coquilles St. Jacques inspired by the recipe in Ina Garten’s newest Barefoot Contessa cookbook Make it Ahead.  I was in a bit of a hurry, since it was Thursday night so I wasn’t overly precise about my measurements and it was still delicious so don’t fret over quantities.  The sauce is so good that a roll or French bread to dip into it is really worth the calories!

Coquilles St. Jacques (serves 2)

  • 3 TB butter
  • olive oil
  • 2 TB flour
  • 2/3 cup of seafood stock
  • 1/2 cup of half and half
  • 1/4 tsp curry powder
  • 2 – 3 shallots, minced
  • 1 package cremini mushrooms, cleaned (throw away stems) and sliced
  • 1/4 cup Cognac
  • 1/3 cup panko
  • 2 TB minced parsley
  • 1/3 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 3/4 lbs scallops, rinsed, dried and cut in quarters

Preheat oven to 400.

Melt 2 TB butter over medium heat and whisk in flour, stirring constantly.  Slowly add seafood stock, whisking as you go.  Then add half and half and curry powder.  Stir over low heat.  Cream sauce should be thick but if it gets too thick, add more liquid (either seafood stock or half and half.)

(You can either do the next step concurrently with the first step if you are pressed for time like I was or do them separately.)  Melt remaining TB of butter and about 1 TB olive oil in another pan.  Saute scallops over medium heat until soft – about 3 minutes.  Add sliced mushrooms and cook  for about 8 – 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add Cognac and increase heat so the alcohol cooks off.  Reduce heat and combine with cream sauce.  Add scallops to mixture, stir well to combine and divide among gratin dishes.

Mix panko, parsley and cheese in a small bowl and pour in about 1 TB of olive oil.  Sprinkle mixture evenly on top of gratins and bake for 20 minutes until bubbly.  Serve hot.

Ina says you can prepare the gratins ahead and refrigerate them and bake right before dinner.  Great dinner party meal!  Look how pretty it looks!

Anniversary dinner!

Anniversary dinner!

We continued the celebration last night by taking Samantha to The Milton Inn.  We hadn’t been there in years.  It is a beautiful old building and it was already decorated for Christmas.  Samantha had on a pretty new dress and looked quite sophisticated for 8.  She had a cheese plate appetizer and then cream of crab soup for dinner, followed by a trio of sorbets.  Keith had a fabulous chicken liver pate followed by Blackened Catfish Étouffée.  I started with beef tartar and then had the salmon in macadamia nut crust.  It was a lovely meal and we were so proud of how well Samantha behaved.  What a fun way to celebrate as a family and what a lovely restaurant for a special occasion.

An old favorite

One of my neighbors called yesterday to ask for the recipe for the chicken/eggplant casserole I served at the neighbor party.  I didn’t realize that she didn’t know about the blog.  I was telling her that the chicken pesto sundried tomato recipe is a favorite with lots of friends.  We are actually eating out tonight but I give you one of my classics.  (I created this recipe when I was looking for something easy and inexpensive to serve for a large dinner party.)  It is easy to make, you can prepare it ahead of time, it is pretty, it freezes well and people love it.  And it only has 3 ingredients (4 if you add the pine nuts.)  My recommendation for tonight would be to serve it with steamed broccoli but it pairs well with rice, cous cous or any vegetable.  When I did the dinner party I served it with cous cous and a vegetable gratin of layered zucchini, red onion, tomatoes and herbs baked in a casserole with a little Parmesan cheese.

Chicken with Pesto and sundried tomatoes

  • 1 boneless skinless chicken breast per person
  • 1 – 2 tsp of pesto per person
  • 1 – 2 tsp of minced sundried tomatoes per person

Pound chicken breasts between two pieces of wax paper until even.  Spread each with sundried tomatoes and pesto and then roll up.  (I did photos of the prep a while back so if you search blog you can find.)  Place in a ceramic baking dish and refrigerate until ready to cook.  Cook at 350 for 35 – 40 minutes.  I like to spoon a little of the pan juice over the chicken a few minutes before the end.  If you like, you can sprinkle with pine nuts.  Leftovers are delicious and also freeze well.

I did a post a while back where I took pictures at each step so if you want a step by step walk through, search blog for chicken with pesto and you’ll find the tutorial.  🙂

Pizza with tomato coulis

This is a healthy pizza that takes advantage of the fact that I’m seeing good looking tomatoes at the produce stand.  You can fix the onions and tomatoes the night before and then assemble the pizza quickly but it doesn’t require much active time making it a good choice for late in the week on a night of a swim meet!  There is even an extra piece for Keith to take for lunch tomorrow!

Pizza with Tomato Coulis and Goat Cheese

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, sliced thin
  • 2 tsp butter
  • 5 – 6 tomatoes
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 TB balsamic vinegar
  • Prepared pizza crust (I used a Boboli whole wheat crust)
  • 4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
  • Pitted black olives, optional

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat and add olive oil.  Cook onions, stirring often until browned (about 10 – 15 minutes).  Set aside.

In same pan, melt butter and add tomatoes and sugar.  Cook, stirring often until most of liquid has cooked off (about 15 – 20 minutes).  Add balsamic vinegar and simmer 3 more minutes.  Set aside.

Spread onion on prepared pizza crust.  Top with tomato coulis on top.  Sprinkle with goat cheese and olives.

Bake at 450 until golden brown and cheese is softened (about 10 minutes).

Not for the faint of heart!

I thought it would be fun to try something new tonight and I wanted something that would make leftovers.  I decided on a stuffed flank steak based on a recipe I found in a magazine.  Let me just tell you that this was not the easiest thing in the world.

The premise of stuffed flank steak is simple – you take the nice flat steak (made flatter by the fact that you have “butterflied” it open) and spread stuff on it and then you roll it up.  I have made chocolate peanut butter pinwheel cookies at Christmas for years and made a Buche de Noel cake many times.  Both of those require rolling and in my experience, rolling sounds easier when described than it is in practice.  The flank steak proved to be no exception.  In fact, the first effort was such a mess that I took it apart, took the filling out, washed and dried the meat and started over with smaller amounts of stuffing.  Next time (and there will be a next time after a sufficient recovery period), I will know to start smaller.  Here is what I would do next time (it did taste good):

Stuffed flank steak

  • 1 flank steak (about 2 pounds), butterflied (slice the steak in half horizontally to about an inch from the edge and spread flat) I would recommend covering it with plastic wrap and pounding it a little to get it flatter and a little more even.  I didn’t do that this time but will next time.  I might even ask my friend at the butcher to do the butterflying for me.
  • 1 jar roasted red peppers, rinsed and dried
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 chopped shallot
  • 1 chopped garlic clove
  • 1 TB fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried
  • 1/3 lb sliced Provolone cheese
  • 1 cup baby spinach

Puree peppers, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, shallot, garlic and thyme in a food processor until smooth.  Set aside.

Spread steak open and season with salt and pepper.  Spread with sliced Provolone cheese, spinach and pepper puree in that order.  (I started with more of all of these ingredients and could not get the steak to roll.  Next time I’ll start with smaller quantities and I think I’ll put some plastic wrap over it after the cheese and spinach and flatten with a rolling pin before I cover with the red pepper puree.  Plastic wrap or parchment paper under the steak would also make the rolling easier.)

Starting with the short end, roll the steak as tightly as you can.  Tie at 1 inch intervals with kitchen string and brush with more olive oil.  Refrigerate until ready to cook.  Cook at 450 for about 40 minutes and remove from oven.  Check temperature with a thermometer – ours was 140 which was higher than I would like.  120 would be better.  If underdone, you can cover with aluminum foil for a few minutes to bring up the temperature.  I served it with 1/2 baked sweet potato each.  Here is a picture (I thought about taking a picture of the mess but wasn’t in the mood.)

You can see that the one piece is pretty short on filling.  That is part of having it uneven and not being a great roller.  It is advertised as being a good company dinner but I definitely need more practice before trying it on company.  This is one of those where the ingredients are fairly simple, the taste is good but it would definitely be stressful trying to pull this together for company without at least one trial run.

New Neighbor party!

We are very excited to have several new families with young children in our neighborhood.  We have been in our house for 5 1/2 years and the only thing I haven’t liked is that there haven’t been any kids around.  When I was growing up we had lots of kids around and as a result there were plenty of spontaneous games of hide and seek, sardines, flying statues, tag, etc.  I’m delighted that we almost have 6 kids between 4 and 7 practically in our backyard.

We wanted to welcome the neighbors with a casual dinner.  I thought about doing a cookout but the weather can be iffy and we have found that trying to cook lots of burgers makes the grill get really hot.  I want to be able to visit with our guests and get to know everyone so I wanted a do ahead menu.  I decided to repeat the menu from the tennis team party we did at the end of August.  Everyone liked it, it can all be made ahead of time and unlike last time, I’m not trying to juggle the preparations with a trip out of town.

Here are all the recipes and ingredient lists.

Asian Snack Mix

I got this recipe from my sister.  At Christmas she put this in containers that look like Chinese takeout containers but they were decorated for the holiday.  Cute gift for teachers and friends.

  • 3/4 lb. butter melted
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce
  • 1/4 c. ketchup
  • 2 t. onion powder
  • 1 1/2 t. garlic powder
  • 1/2 t. ground ginger
  • 1/2 t. ground red pepper
  • 1/2 t. brown mustard
  • 2 T. sesame oil
  • 1 box rice Chex
  • 1 box wheat Chex
  • 2 5 oz. cans chow mein noodles
  • 2 9.5 oz. jars cashew halves
  • 3 c. sesame sticks
  • 7 oz. jar sunflower seeds
  • 3 c. wasabi peas
  • 1 jar crystallized ginger

Combine first 10 ingredients. Combine all remaining ingredients EXCEPT crystallized ginger & slowly stir in butter mixture tossing to coat.  (You will need a few big bowls.) Spread in even mixture in 5 or so pans.  Bake at 250 for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so. Cool in pan 10 minutes; spread on paper towels to cool completely. Mince ginger and mix in.  Delicious and good for a crowd.

Asparagus with Wasabi Mayonnais

  • Asparagus spears, tough ends broken off
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  •   4 tsp soy sauce
  •  1 1/2 tsp sugar
  •   2 tsp lemon juice
  • 4 tsp wasabi paste

Blanch asparagus in boiling water for 2 minutes per batch.  Rinse under cold water and refrigerate.  Whisk together remaining ingredients and refrigerate.  Serve asparagus with mayonnaise dipping sauce.  (Mayonnaise keeps in the refrigerator for several weeks and is also good on turkey sandwiches.)  I did 3 lbs of asparagus and doubled the mayo.

Bok Choy salad

  • 1 head of bok choy, rinsed and chopped
  • 1 bunch of scallions


  • 1 jar of sesame seeds
  • 2 oz slivered almonds
  • 2 packages of Ramen noodles broken in pieces (do not use seasoning package
  • 2 TB of olive oil
  • 2 tsp garlic powder

In a medium sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Saute almonds and Ramen noodles tossing with garlic powder for about 3 – 4 minutes.  Add sesame seeds and sauté an additional 3 minutes.  Cool and store in a covered container until ready to use.


  • 2 TB soy  sauce
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup olive oil

Boil all ingredients and boil for 1 minute.  Reserve until ready to use.

When ready for salad, toss bok choy and scallions with dressing and then toss in topping.

Sesame noodles with peanut sauce

  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 TB chopped ginger
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 3 TB sugar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 package linguine noodles, cooked according to package instructions, drained and rinsed in cool water
  • 1 red pepper minced
  • 4 scallions, minced
  • 1 TB sesame seeds

In a food processor, combine garlic and ginger, chopping thoroughly.  Add peanut butter, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil and rice vinegar and combine well.  Toss with noodles until well covered and add red pepper, scallions and sesame seeds.  Mix well and refrigerate until ready to serve.  (I am doubling this time for 14 adults and 11 kids.)

Chinese Chicken Salad


  • 3 TB low sodium soy sauce
  • 3 TB rice vinegar
  •  1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 3 TB smooth peanut butter
  • 1 TB brown sugar
  • 1 TB finely chopped fresh ginger
  •  1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (save the rest in a glass jar in the refrigerator for chipotle mayo and that wonderful marinade)
  • 2 tsp sesame oil

Combine all ingredients in a blender or mix well in a bowl.  (If mixing in a bowl, mince the chipotle pepper.)


  • 2 cup sliced red cabbage or Napa cabbage
  • 2 cup sliced romaine lettuce
  • 2 carrot, grated
  • 1 cup trimmed snow peas
  •  3 thinly sliced scallions
  • 2 whole chicken breasts, bone in
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1/4 chopped peanuts
  • 1 lime halved

Mix cabbage, lettuce, carrots, snow peas, cilantro and scallions in a large bowl.

Toss chicken with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 350 for about 30 minutes or until thermometer reads 140.  Let cool and then shred chicken meat.  Reserve until ready to use.

Toss lettuce mixture with dressing and top with chicken and chopped peanuts.  Serve with lime halves.  I am doubling this time.

Lemon iced gingersnap sandwich cookies

  •  1 stick butter softened
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • Gingersnap cookies (I used Anna’s)

Combine together with a mixer.  Add juice and zest of 1 lemon and beat until spreadable.  Spread on purchased ginger cookies and sandwich together.  Freeze until ready to serve.


  • 2 squares Baker’s Unsweetened Baking Chocolate
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.  Melt chocolate, butter and sugar over low heat.  Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.  Stir in flour, eggs and vanilla.  Transfer to a  baking pan lined with parchment paper and bake for 22 minutes.  Remove from oven and let sit in pan for at least an hour before cutting.

Orange Pound cake – click on link for the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe