George’s Favorite Shepherd’s Pie

George’s Favorite Shepherd’s PieMy Foodie Valentine
In all of the years that I have known him, I’ve probably made thousands of meals for my Valentine. Strangely enough, I think the first legit meal I made for him wasn’t actually for him. It was a dinner for his best friend’s 30th Birthday. Prime Rib and a Turtle Swirl Cheesecake. Epic…

I’m not sure if he understood when we started dating that, among other things, he was now my official taste tester and culinary lab rat. Not that he ever considered that to be a hardship. But, with this marriage came the legal requirement to be my taster. (It was in the vows.)

The good news is that he really isn’t picky. My Valentine is happy to eat whatever I put in front of him—mostly because it means he doesn’t have to make dinner. Rarely has he taken a bite and spit it out. But, there have been a few over the years and plenty of so-so meals….

The first time I blew his mind, I made a Brazilian Bahia-Style Seafood Stew that had coconut milk and all sorts of good stuff in it. It was tasty, though not exactly healthy. When I introduced him to Moroccan food he ate so much I found him was lying on the couch moaning in pain. It’s a toss-up as to whether to take that as a compliment or pity his lack of self-restraint. More often than not though, it’s the simple dishes that send him into dining rapture.

Among his favorites are chicken cutlets with milk gravy, Red Beans and Rice, and a perfectly grilled steak. Paella is another as is a my Green Chili Rice Casserole. And, don’t forget the Grilled Pork Chops with Sweet Lemongrass Marinade

The other night I made a Shepard’s Pie and you would have thought I got takeout from the French Laundry. I mean, it was good. But, I wouldn’t have anticipated the fight for the leftovers the next day. Frankly, I think it was more that it was the perfect dish at the perfect time.

So in honor of my Valentine of 20 years, here is the Shepherd’s Pie I made that blew his mind. May your sweetie enjoy it as much as mine did…

George’s Favorite Shepherd’s Pie

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Maple Brined Stuffed Pork Chops

Maple Brined Stuffed Pork ChopsIt’s A Small World
One of the strangest things about working at Piedmont Grocery is that no matter where you are or what you do you will run into someone who knows, shopped, or worked here. When I was on my honeymoon in Europe, I ran into one of our long-time customers. And, I can’t tell you how often it has happened when I traveled back East.

This past weekend, it happened again…

My sister and I share a love of cooking. And, if we can find a way to spend a day together, just the two of us, and do something food, cooking, or wine-related we’ll do it. The problem is we have taken pretty much every cooking class known to man and it can be hard to find classes that spark our interest. This is why when I found a butchering class that would teach us how to break down a pig into all of the different cuts we jumped at the chance. It helped that the chef teaching the class served for two years as the meat cutter for the French Laundry. (Anyone who worked under Thomas Keller for that length of time is someone I would like to meet and have a conversation with.)

The class was fantastic and we definitely learned a lot about the different cuts of pork. (And, that some of the best tasting cuts of pork are not necessarily the most well-known cuts.) After the class was finished we enjoyed some of the fruits of our labor in the form of fresh Bratwurst and some crispy-fried pork cutlets with applesauce. It was during this time that our chef shared some of his background and how he got where he is now.

That’s how we found out that he grew up in Oakland—off of Grand Ave..—and worked for Piedmont Grocery in the late 90s…

Maple Brined Stuffed Pork Chops
Adapted from Boulangerie on Food 52
Yields 4 Servings Read more…

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Pecan Cookies

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Pecan CookiesAnd A Bag Of Chips
I keep chocolate chips in my pantry because you never know when you are going to have to make something for some event. Or for that matter, you never know when inspiration will strike and it will be a good idea to put them in pancakes. Side note: It is always a good idea.

It was not in my plans to make chocolate chip cookies over the weekend until I opened my pantry and noticed that someone or something with opposable thumbs had opened the bag of chips and apparently had been using them to satisfy a craving. The result was chips spilled on the shelf. Sadly enough, I don’t think this is one I can blame on the children—unless you think 49 still qualifies as a child.

So that is how I found myself making chocolate chip cookies Sunday afternoon. Since it is January and I have been trying to avoid such things, I justified my actions by telling myself I had no choice because the chips were just going to keep spilling everywhere. That and the kids were going back to school…so it would be a nice way to take the sting out of having homework again. Never mind that it was January 7th and I was already about to blow up my New Year’s resolution. Sigh.

I did make an attempt at healthy. I added pecans and some oatmeal. (What? That counts, right?) While it may not actually have made the cookies healthier, it did make them taste pretty good. And I really only had one…handful. Right out of the oven.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Pecan Cookies
Yields approximately 3 to 4 dozen cookies, depending on size

Ingredients
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans

Directions
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line several cookie sheets with parchment paper, or lightly grease with non-stick vegetable oil spray.

Beat together the butter and sugars until smooth. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.

Whisk together the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and add to the butter mixture in the bowl. Mix until everything is thoroughly incorporated. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, and mix briefly. Stir in the chocolate chips and pecans.

Scoop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 1 1/2″ to 2″ between cookies.

Bake the cookies for 12 to 17 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown, with slightly darker edges.

Remove the cookies from the oven, and as soon as they’re set enough to handle, transfer them to a rack to cool.

Chicken Stew with White Beans and Sausage

Chicken Stew with White Beans and SausageSoup’s On!
The fact that the rest of the country is enduring record-breaking cold temperatures has inspired me to ramp up the soup making. Well, this, and the fact that it is the New Year and I can’t just go on eating the way I did through the holidays. I have found that soup is a satisfying way to fill you up with a lot of veggies without feeling like you haven’t eaten anything.

I have a number of go-to soups that I make all the time. This Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup one is a staple as is my Spanish Chickpea Stew with Kale and Salt Pork from our cookbook club. Chicken Noodle Soup with Dill is a no-brainer this time of year—as it seems everyone is catching a cold. and of course, it’s a favorite with the kids.

This is also the time of year where I find myself using dried beans in the slow cooker during the week, or filling the house with wonderful aromas on the weekend. Gam’s Navy Bean Soup Soup is perfect for cold winter evenings. But, a little spice can be welcome too in our Spicy Chicken and Rice Flu Chaser Soup or Thai Hot and Sour Chicken Soup.

If you are one of those who is part of the Instant Pot craze (or maybe you got one as a gift for Christmas) they are great for producing tasty, authentic-tasting Pho in half the time. Check out this article on Epicurious.

With the rain moving in this week (Finally!), it’s the perfect time to stock your freezer with healthy and hearty soups for the new year. For me, I am breaking out the crockpot this weekend and making this oldie but goodie…Chicken Stew with White Beans and Sausage .

Chicken Stew with White Beans and Sausage
Recipe adapted from of Slow Cooker Revolution
From America’s Test Kitchen
Serves 6 to 8

This Chicken Stew with White Beans and Sausage is inspired by a classic Tuscan white bean stew—we added sausage. Browing the chicken, sausage, and aromatics makes for a richer, deeper flavor. The abundance of spinach wilts down substantially.  Read more…

Amy’s Favorite Roast Chicken

Amy's Favoirte Roast Chicken RecipeThe Aftermath
We survived the holidays mostly intact. I say mostly because I don’t think anyone can consume that much cheese, beef, and heavy cream without some sort of adverse effects. I couldn’t bring myself to step on the scale this morning for fear it would laugh at me—I chose to live in ignorance. Even the dog gave me a You’ve got to be kidding me look when I filled her bowl.

It’s times like these when it becomes difficult to figure out what’s for dinner mainly because no one is really that hungry, (except my two boys…constantly). But, we gotta eat and whatever I make has to be easy and actually be good for you…preferably with a salad on the side.

What would this perfect meal be? Roasted Chicken. There are few things more satisfying than a nice, juicy roasted chicken. Served with a fresh green salad on the side, it is the perfect meal to get back into the daily routine and to lighten things up.

Roasting a chicken is not difficult and there are hundreds of ways to do it. One of my favorites is this recipe for Bundt Pan Rotisserie Chicken that I shared back in March.

But, the easiest way is to rub it with olive oil, salt and pepper, and throw it in the oven for an hour or so. If you have the energy, you can also chop up your favorite herbs and rub it as well as some olive oil all over the chicken for some great flavor.

Below is the recipe for Amy’s Favorite Roast Chicken that I use the most because it is the most reliable and I can do multiple chickens. (See the point about my boys above.) Having a thermometer to check the temp is key so that you know the chicken is cooked through.

Amy’s Favorite Roast Chicken

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