Archive | August, 2012

lamb revisited

30 Aug

For years I have said to my dining partners “If you want lamb, make reservations.”  I am not a huge lamb fan.  I mostly have enjoyed it at wine dinners.  Lamb paired with the appropriate wine is, like most food, amazing. Other than that, it just didn’t appear on my radar.  I didn’t crave it.

Then one afternoon  I was out wine shopping.  I just happened to get an outstanding bottle of wine at a bargain price.  Red wine.  And it was begging to be paired with lamb.  So the adventure began.

When I begin to embark on a new food or recipe, I research.  I look at the food history, cooking methods, seasonings, pairings, and pictures.  I try to become more familiar with the food.  To me, lamb is a middle eastern food, and I only like lamb chops.  So finding a good butcher for top of the line chops was a must.

I found a local mediterranean market that featured halal food.  Halal foods are foods that are allowed under Islamic dietary guidelines.  The market I found had a butcher.  Surely they would have the prefect lamb chops for which to begin my foray into cooking lamb.  I was correct.  This market with the butcher in the back had fresh lamb, cut the chops to order, and it was $6.99 a pound.  My local grocer had not so great lamb chops at nearly twice the price.  Score!

Now what?  Well, my research indicated that lamb, cooked indoors, could really stink up a kitchen.  So I decided to grill the chops outside on the grill.  I also discovered that rosemary was  perfect to flavor the chops.  I have a friend that grows rosemary in her yard, so I scooted by and nabbed a handful!  I wanted to keep it simple.  Rosemary, salt, pepper, and some flavorful high quality olive oil is what I used to prepare the chops for the grill.

I let the chops sit for a couple of minutes to come to room temperature while the seasonongs sat on them.  I wanted the flavor to sink in!  I tossed these things on a hot grill at about 400 degrees.  A quick flip after 4 minutes, and in another 4 minutes they were done.  I pulled them off.  Roasted beets accompanied the chops, as did wild rice.  And, of course, the lovely wine paired with the meal was a show stopper.  Yum!

The outcome was incredible!  So much flavor!  The chops were savoy, and very easy to prepare.  The meal was, in fact, quite effortless.  And the grilling not only eliminated the smell I was concerned about, it made cleanup a snap.  The outcome of my adventure into cooking lamb was a fantastic meal.  The discovery of a new mediterranean market which I will now frequent was an added bonus.  And exploring the amazing taste sensation of a fabulously paired food and wine combination is always a win in my book!

Rosemary and olive oil rubbed lamb chops

Raiding the fridge

29 Aug

Two of my children have left for college in the past week.  For years my house has been the place where my kids and their friends often gathered.  With all the hubbub around my house, it has been normal for me to keep the kitchen loaded with lots of food.  And I cook big, because I just didn’t know how many kids would end up around my dinner table.  Hear that noise?  Sound like brakes?  Yup.  Last week that came to a screeching halt.

My kids left for college, and so did their friends.  I am left with one little chickadee in my nest (if you can call a big honkin high school football player little…). Food consumption in my home suddenly has changed.  The result is a fridge is loaded with leftovers.  I am still getting used to my much smaller family unit (albeit temporary) and haven’t made the mental adjustment to downsize my cooking.

So dinner tonight (and probably tomorrow night too!) consisted of leftovers.  And wow wow wow!  It was good!  I raided the fridge for dinner.  This is what I piled up:

  • 3 kinds of greens (lettuces)
  • leftover chicken-I cut it into cubes
  • leftover sliced bell peppers
  • goat cheese (but any kind will do)
  • cashews

Then I made home made vinaigrette.  Here is my winning recipe:

  • 1 cup good quality olive oil
  • 1/2-3/4 cup vinegar-I like apple cider vinegar for this one
  • 2 T. honey
  • 3-4 T. Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste

I whisked this together and poured it over the salad.  My 15 year old son and I noshed on this and it was delish!  It was so easy to create meals from leftovers, and quick.  Our meal was healthy!  In included animal protein in the chicken, a good source of calcium and plant protein in the cashews, fiber in the greens, vitamin C in the peppers, and was packed with vitamins and minerals.  The flavor was fantastic, and cleanup was minimal.

That’s it. Simple dimple.  Leftovers can deliver a fast meal loaded with flavor.  Try it!  Look in the fridge and freezer.  Get creative!  Use that leftover pasta sauce to add to cooked vegetables.  Use that leftover steak or chicken for a salad.  I have even used pimento cheese, which I may from scratch as a crowd pleasing appetizer, to make grilled cheese sandwiches.  Fabulous when paired with tomato soup!  Dig into those leftovers and dine with ease!

Manners Monday

24 Aug

We have all been there.  Stuck.  Embarrassed.  Wanting to disappear.  Beam me up Scotty!  What am I talking about?  Children, of course.  They act up in public.  They scream.  They crumble.  They appeal to our inner insecurities by calling us a bad parent in public. Come on, it happens to everyone.  And when it does, what is a parent to do?

Well, even though I am past the “terrible two’s” with my three teenagers (I reserve the right to recant that statement!), kids, as much as we love them, embarrass us at times.  May I hear a resounding “Yes mother, payback is hell!” from the crowd?

This summer I wanted to address this with my children, and address it hard because they are slowly leaving the nest.  I want them prepared to be comfortable in new social situations and to make others comfortable as well.  My children have always been very social creatures, and in their defense,  have beautiful manners.  For the most part.

I came home from work one Monday, and announced to the children that we were having “Manners Monday”.  My children, using their best manners, scoffed at me, rolled their eyes, and stated that they “already knew everything” about manners.  I simply pointed out that their reaction to my offering was the height of poor manners and needed to stay put.  I now had a captive audience.  They knew they blew it and had to stick around for my “class”!

I will say that our Manners Monday was more of a review session than an all out instructional class.  But completely and totally necessary!  What did we review?  Here is a quick synopsis of what we touched on:

  • Greeting guests
  • The importance of thank you
  • How to set a table for a casual meal
  • A firm handshake
  • Table manners
  • Gracious language
  • Appropriate meal conversation and pleasantries
  • Acceptable cell phone usage

In the end, my children were happy for the review.  And truth be told, the review helped me as well.  Sometimes we can all get a little complacent.  Manners are incredibly important, and should always make others feel more at ease in social situations.  Hopefully my Manners Monday had an impact.  And will continue to do so for a lifetime.


Neutral Zone

22 Aug

Meal time has always been important in my home.  Even in childhood.  I grew up in the midwest, and supper was at 5:30.  Period.  My mom served up the evening family meal consistently every night at that time.  And all 5 of her children had to be present and accounted for.  Table cleared off.  Butts in seats.  Hands and face clean.  But don’t think for a minute we wanted to miss our supper.  The food was definitely a highlight, but more importantly, the laundry of the day was about to be aired.  Trust me…no one wanted to miss any juicy details!

Family meals were very spirited when I was growing up.  A big family, a tight knit neighborhood, and food worth fighting my brothers for meant a noisy happy meal.  Loud discussions, news of the day, and  perhaps some off beat gossip was worth showing up for.  But more importantly, it was the one time of day when the entire family gathered during busy family life.  It is when we connected.  Supper was lively, but it was always pleasant.  Fun.  Together.

When I became a mom, family meals became a mainstay for my children as well.  My children have come to expect this as normal.  And if friends are over, they join us as well.  I learned a long time ago that family does not equal relatives, so if you are in my home, you are family.  And our meals are very spirited.  Lots of great conversation.  Current events.  Daily happenings.  And occasionally, a little gossip!

Meal time should be neutral.  Family meals should be a fun experience, and a respite from the stress of daily living.  Topics should be non inflammatory, upbeat, and positive.  It can be a time to gently direct manners and etiquette, but quietly and in the context of the meal.  it is so important that home be a “safe zone” for family members.  Everyone should be allowed to totally be themselves at home.  Let it all hang out.  And that includes during meals.

Family meals are a highlight of my life.  Always have been, and probably always will be.  I love having folks gathered around my table.  The chatting, the food, but most importantly, the personal connection lifts my spirit.  I believe that it does this for everyone around the table.  Which is why I think it is crucial for all families to have daily meals together.  No matter how challenging it is to get everyone together, it is always worth it!