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All the flavors of Beef Wellington, but in half the time and effort.

Deconstructed: Beef Wellington Bites

I love Beef Wellington, but let’s face it, it can be complicated (getting the puff pastry wrapped around the tenderloin can be equal to the first time you tried to diaper a squirming baby).  It also takes a boatload of time to prepare, so I usually make it only on a holiday or special occasion. How sad – that’s like only using your “good” china and glassware at Thanksgiving, and we ALL know that has become a “No, No” since you never know if you will still be here for that next special occasion.

I decided to deconstruct the traditional recipe and make it a new and easier way without compromising the flavors.  This recipe still has the same flavor profile (beef, pâté, mushrooms, onion, sherry) but now I can make and serve it in around 30 minutes instead of 2.5 hours.  When I prepared the steak I used Hawaiian salt to season it.  Until about a month ago I had never used the stuff (even though I had a package of it in my pantry).  Thanks to my sister Judy (who happens to be a fabulous cook), I now use it religiously when seasoning steaks and seafood – thanks Sis!

Steak, onions, mushrooms, pate, baguete, lemon, garlic, and more... the start of a great Beef Wellington Bite!

Steak, onions, mushrooms, pâté, baguette, Gruyère cheese, and more… the start of a great Beef Wellington Bite!

Cut baguette in half, then into diagonal sections, and sprinkle olive oil on top. Into a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes.

Cut baguette in half, then into diagonal sections, and sprinkle olive oil on top. Into a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Rub cut garlic on top after lightly browned!

 Serves:  Two

Ingredients:

1 pound Ribeye Steak (boneless)

10 medium size Cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 small onion, diced

1/3 pound Gruyère cheese, grated

1 clove garlic – cut in half

1 package Mousse Truffée (pork and chicken liver mousse with truffles)

1 french baguette

1 small lemon

Olive oil

Sherry, two splashes

Hawaiian salt

 

Method:

1. Cut the baguette in half and on the bias.  Place on baking tray and pour light sprinkle of olive oil and put in 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes till it starts to get crusty.

2. While crostini is in the oven, clean and slice mushrooms and add to a non-stick pan and do a round-about swirl of olive oil – sauté the mushrooms till lightly browned, add two splashes of sherry and then let it cook down to zero moisture – then transfer to a plate.

3. Using the pan you just used, add the diced onions to one side of the pan.  Add a swirl of olive oil and then add a sprinkle of Hawaiian salt to one side of the steak and place in the pan with the onions. Fry for about 3 minutes, salt the top side, turn over and continue cooking until medium rare.  Remove from pan to a plate and let rest before cutting into strips.

After you have rubbed the crostini with garlic clove, spread each piece with pate.

After you have rubbed the crostini with garlic clove, spread each piece with pâté.

4. The crostini is now done.  Remove from oven, place on rack and rub the cut clove of garlic across all the crostini, and then let cool for about 5 minutes.

5. Take warm crostini and lightly spread with the liver pâté.  Be sure and buy a creamy “mousse” type of pâté (as opposed to the hard and chunky type), so it spreads nicely on your bread.

6. Layer a piece or two of steak on top of the liver pâté, then top with mushroom/onion mixture.  Grate the Gruyère cheese and sprinkle on top of everything and pop under the broiler till cheese melts. Arrange the Beef Wellington Bites on a platter, squeeze a bit of lemon juice on top, and serve!

These appetizers are hearty and great for a cocktail party or just while “watching the game”.  Or, serve them with a cup of tomato or french onion soup, and you have a great dinner, and didn’t have to wait for a special occasion to enjoy it!

The

Gruyère has melted nicely and the Beef Wellington Bites are warm, crusty, and gooey!

 

Steak, mushrooms, pate, sherry - all on a crusty baguette - YUM!

Steak, mushrooms, pâté, sherry – all on a crusty baguette – YUM!

 

All the flavors of Beef Wellington, but in half the time and effort.

All the flavors of Beef Wellington, but in half the time and effort.

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Scalloped Potatoes with Link Sausage

Ah comfort food!  We seem to be having a pretty mild winter here in Seattle – so far no snow other than in the mountains; not too bad on the rainfall (although Seattle Weather blog shows stats that February was wetter than normal – me I just don’t believe it!)  Even the wind has been pretty cooperative except for an occasional day here and there that was a little more than “gusty winds”.  But as everyone observes every morning on the national news, the majority of the rest of the country is facing some pretty severe weather and it doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon. Several of my friends and readers on the East Coast have written asking for a good “comfort food” recipe – one that they might even have the goods stocked already in their pantry and refrigerator.  And this recipe does just that.  To all my friends on the East Coast who are bundled up, sitting around the fireplace as the furnace has gone out, shoveling snow each morning and night, or have just plain run out of “hot and hearty” dishes to prepare, this one is for you!  Stay warm my friends!

Scalloped Potatoes with Link Sausage

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 90 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

4 large russet potatoes

1 medium yellow onion, finely diced

1 Tbl Kosher salt

2 Tbl dried parsley

2 cups white cream sauce

14 pork sausage links

Dash of Paprika

 Preparation:

1. Peel and slice potatoes (use a mandolin if you have it, for even thickness of slices) and drop the slices into a bowl of cold water for about 15 minutes.  Lightly rinse the slices and spread them out on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels.  Place 2 or 3 paper towels on top and lightly pat dry the slices.

1st layer of potatoes with cream sauce

1st layer of potatoes with cream sauce

2nd layer of potatoes

2nd layer of potatoes

3rd layer - ready for oven

3rd layer – ready for oven

2.  Butter a 2 or 3 quart casserole dish and add your first layer of potato slices on the bottom.  Pour 1/3 of the cream sauce on top, sprinkle some salt, parsley, and 1/3 of the diced onion.  Then add a 2nd layer of potato slices, sauce and salt/parsley/onion. Lastly add the 3rd layer of potatoes on top of that and again pour cream sauce and salt/parsley/onion. Do a light sprinkle of paprika across the top layer.

Potatoes baked for 30 minutes and sausage has been added.

Potatoes baked for 30 minutes and sausage has been added.

3. Place the scalloped potatoes in a 400 degree oven and bake for 30 minutes.  Then remove pan from oven and lay the 14 links on top of potatoes and back into the oven for another 30 minutes. Remove from oven, turn over the sausage links, raise the oven temperature to 425 degrees and finish cooking for another 20 minutes. Scalloped potatoes will be golden and crusty on the edges and the link sausage will be nicely browned. Not too much effort needed for this recipe, just patience as it cooks in the oven.

Golden potatoes fresh from the oven!

Golden potatoes fresh from the oven!

Scalloped Potatoes with Link Pork Sausage

Swedish Meatballs (KÖTTBULLAR)

New Year’s Eve is approaching and Swedish Meatballs (Köttbullar) are perfect for bite-sized appetizers. Make ’em, freeze ’em, bake ’em and serve them in a chafing dish, crock pot, or fondue pot – whatever you have on hand that will keep these babies warm.   I made these on Monday and froze them to be used on Christmas Day – then all I had to do was bake them that afternoon and make the sauce.   I like to use a combo of both ground beef and pork when I make the meatballs – and I know some people even add veal for a more rounded flavor.

Use whatever bread you have on hand and make fresh breadcrumbs in a food processor – you will notice the difference, but use the Pulse button so you don’t end up with sawdust.  I was in Stockholm last year (see here) and had the most amazing Swedish Meatballs – they were large, very large, as this was an entrée and not an appetizer and tasted absolutely amazing!

As they say in Stockholm:

Gott Nytt Ar!!

(Happy New Year)

 

Swedish Meatballs

  • Servings: 72
  • Time: 30 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
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Meatballs:

3/4 pound ground beef

3/4 pound ground pork

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (sourdough if you have it)

2/3 cup milk

1 whole egg

1 clove garlic

1 tsp Kosher salt

1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

6 oz cream cheese – cut into small cubes

1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped finely

Olive Oil

Sauce:

1/2 cup half-and-half

3  Tbl unsalted butter

3 Tbl flour

3 Tbl Marsala wine (optional)

1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce

1/2 cup low sodium beef broth

Pinch salt

Dash of Tabasco Sauce

Dash of celery salt

Dash of onion powder

1/2 cup sour cream

Preparation:

  1. Pour the fresh breadcrumbs in the milk and let them soak for about 5 minutes till they start to swell.  Place ground beef, pork, breadcrumbs/milk mixture, egg, parsley, salt, pepper, minced garlic, and cream cheese into a bowl.  Using clean hands mush it altogether till well blended.
  2. Form small meatballs and place on waxed paper on a cookie sheet and put in the refrigerator for at least one hour, preferably four hours – this will help the meatballs to keep their shape.
  3. Heat olive oil in pan and add some of the meatballs – don’t crowd the meatballs or they won’t brown well.  Remove to paper towel once they are nice and brown.   Spray PAM onto a cookie sheet and line up the meatballs –  cook them for about 15 minutes on 375 till cooked through.  You can also leave them in the frying pan and cook them stove-top but I find they tend to burn on one side and don’t fully cook through.
  4. Using same frying pan, keep the drippings and add flour to make a roux.
  5. Whisk into the roux, the half-and-half, beef stock, Marsala wine, Worcestershire Sauce, Tabasco, celery salt, onion powder, and salt until smooth.  Cook and stir over low heat until the sauce thickens – takes about 10 minutes.  If you have bits of hamburger in your gravy, pour it through a sieve.  Take the gravy off the burner and let cool for a minute or two before adding the sour cream.  Stir in the meatballs, and continue to cook for about 5 minutes till the meatballs are heated through.
  6. Place the meatballs with sauce in your serving dish and sprinkle fresh parsley on top and serve.

Traditionally you would serve this with Lingonberry Sauce – if you can’t find in your local grocery store you can always find it at Amazon – 0r substitute Raspberry Preserve in its place

 

Swedish Meatballs

Swedish Meatballs

Prosciutto and Melon Squares

Layers of salty prosciutto with cold and crispy melon topped with whipped cream cheese – makes this canape delightful.  The slices of prosciutto should be paper thin, so I have it cut at the deli as opposed to buying it sliced and packaged with the other cold cuts.  Although prosciutto can be expensive (around $24 per pound), you are buying 12 very thin slices, which nets out to about $4 or $5 – this is actually cheaper than the packaged stuff as you are not paying for the marketing and packaging costs – definitely have it sliced at the deli while you wait – worth every penny.

Prosciutto and Melon Squares

  • Servings: 24
  • Time: 30 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

3 oz cream cheese, whipped

6 slices of wheat bread

12 thin slices of prosciutto (Prosciutto di Parma if available)

Chive stalks

Butter, room temperature

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Preparation:

Lay out wheat bread on a cutting board and lightly spread butter on each slice.

Top each slice with two thin slices of prosciutto, overlapping the slices and gently press them down onto the bread slices.  Place a small dollop of cream cheese on top and a small slice of melon. Cut the chive stalks on the diagonal and place along side the melon.

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Cut each slice into four squares and place on platter – add fresh dill fronds to decorate the platter.

 

 

Onion and Parmesan Toasts

Onion and Parmesan Toasts

Onion and Parmesan Toasts

Roasted onions and parmesan cheese are a great flavor combo.  For this canape I use Parmesan/Reggiano grated cheese.  If you need a quick canape at the last-minute this one fills the bill – only five ingredients to make the base and then any toppers you want to add.  In this case I chose bacon and salmon roe, but you could also do slices of cocktail onion, green or black olive slices, slivers of green apple for a tart twist, or any number of toppers, depending upon your imagination and what you have in your pantry.

Onion and Parmesan Toasts

  • Servings: 36
  • Time: 20 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 onion, chopped

1/2 cup Parmesan/Reggiano cheese

9 slices of whole wheat bread, toasted

2 Tbl fresh parsley, chopped

 

Preparation:

Using a non-stick pan, add a small amount of butter and sauté the chopped onion until lightly browned.

In a small bowl add mayonnaise, onion, cheese, and parsley and mix well.

MAYO, PARSLEY, ONION, AND CHEESE - THAT'S IT!

MAYO, PARSLEY, ONION, AND CHEESE – THAT’S IT!

Lay out the bread slices on a cookie sheet and toast one side.  Remove from oven and turn over and cut each slice into 4 rectangles.  Spread the mixture on each rectangle and place on the cookie sheet.  Lightly sprinkle each wedge with paprika and put in 425 degree oven for 5 or 6 minutes.

TOASTS ON COOKIE SHEET AND READY FOR THE OVEN.

TOASTS ON COOKIE SHEET AND READY FOR THE OVEN.

When hot and bubbly, remove and add to platter, adding your chosen toppers.

READY FOR ACTION!

READY FOR ACTION!

My Top 10 Favorite Classic Holiday Movies

 

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Love Actually with Hugh Grant

I was recently reading a blog post from someone who detested the movie, Love Actually – I mean they were really offended by it and thought it silly, useless, and just plain irritating.  I on the other hand, love this movie, and find it charming as it gets me into the Christmas spirit when I watch it.  This made me think of my Go-To list of movies I need to watch between Thanksgiving and New Years Day, that remind me of how important family is and all the magic you can experience when you celebrate the holidays together. Here is a list of my Top 10 Must See Movies every holiday season – you may recognize a couple and hopefully some are your favorites too! Read More

How Simple Is This? Quick Holiday Canape

A few ingredients can go a long way, when they are packed with flavor.  Keep these items on hand and you will have a spot-on tasty treat to give your drop-in guests, or when you have limited time in prepping for your holiday party fare. This canape has a sweet savory flavor highlighting the sweetness of the cranberry with the sharpness of the gherkin.  A pleasant surprise when you take that first bite. Quick, easy, flavorful – how simple is this? Read More

Shrimp and Cucumber Tea Sandwiches

 

This is my second most favorite tea sandwich, after the traditional Cucumber and Cream Cheese.  I use bay shrimp and not prawns as the flavor is far more delicate.   These would be great to add to any Holiday Tea, Ladies Lunch, or even to be used at the cocktail hour.  When not making tea sandwiches I put this filling on crusty sour dough french bread – Yum! Read More

Assorted Tea Sandwiches

High Tea for the Holidays

 

If you have never hosted a high tea before, now is the time to jump in with both feet and host one for your friends to help celebrate the upcoming holidays.  I try to have a holiday luncheon for my girl friends each year, where we reminisce about all the good times and memories we are grateful for.  It also gives us the opportunity to spend a minute or two on throwing away any of the negative vibes, and ensure they don’t roll over into the new year.  My luncheon menu varies from year to year and Read More

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Homemade Turkey Soup

There must be hundreds of turkey soup recipes floating out there to help use up your leftovers from Thanksgiving. This is the first time I ever made by own turkey stock, as I usually just use a carton of chicken broth.  I was amazed at how prominent the turkey flavor was by making it from scratch.  It has to cook for about 4 hours, so it takes time, but the prep work itself, Read More