Graduation Feast

Graduation FeastMy sons are graduating from eighth grade this week and the whole concept is blowing my mind. I am not prepared, nor do I feel old enough, for two kids in high school. It feels like I was just holding them on my shoulder while they drooled and then I blinked and they were 14…

With all of the chaos that is the last week of school (never mind the graduation-specific stuff), it is safe to say that I haven’t been doing much cooking. So, in honor of two of my most favorite people, I have put together a list of their favorite dishes. These are the recipes that, if I had 10 more hours in the day and I could clone myself, I would serve to celebrate their accomplishments. These are also the recipes that I usually have to double if I want to actually get to taste them myself…unless they have friends over, then I’m out of luck.

To all of you who might have kids or relatives graduating from middle school, high school or college, I offer you a hearty congratulations not only to the graduates for their hard work and dedication to get to this milestone—but to the families that worked equally as hard to get them there!

Cherry Cola Ribs
You’ve gotta try these. They’re the bomb! They are also extremely addictive.

Feast or Famine Mac ‘n Cheese
I offer you two of my top recipes for a comfort food favorite, Mac & Cheese. True, the desperate can go the blue-box, plastic cheese route. But the real deal is easy to prepare, and you can make extra for the freezer.  Read more…

Chili Corn Casserole

Chili Corn Casserole Corn Fed
Can someone tell me where the month of May went? Yesterday I blinked and now all of a sudden we are staring Memorial day in the face. The fact that Memorial Day weekend is upon us is a good thing in my opinion, if only because it is the herald of summer weather, fun, and a slower pace.

For me, and a lot of other people, Memorial Day marks the beginning of BBQ season as well as the arrival of the summer produce. I’ve noticed the peaches and nectarines have started to appear as well as the English peas and the good strawberries. What makes me happiest though is when the local corn starts coming in.

I love fresh corn on the cob and when it’s at its peak, sometimes I don’t even bother to steam it. Corn the cob can be a pain in a BBQ setting ‘cause you aren’t always able to sit and eat. And, managing it one handed can lead to either serious butter stains or corn in the dirt. So, it’s nice to do something with corn that is more paper plate friendly.

Per usual, I will be spending Memorial Day enjoying America’s pastime from the bleachers in Brentwood. But, there will still be time to throw some steaks on the grill and celebrate. So, I am crossing my fingers there will be some corn on the way to the baseball fields ‘cause there is still one more family birthday to celebrate and I’m in charge of sides.

I found this take on cheesy corn casserole in one of my magazines and I can’t wait to give it a try this weekend. The original recipe called for green onions. But, since I am a rebel, I am going to swap those out for diced green chilies. Feel free to try the onions for less of a kick.

Happy Memorial Day!

Chili Corn Casserole
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated
Yields 8 to 10 serving  Read more…

Vietnamese Steak Marinade

Vietnamese Steak MarinadeLighten up, Francis
It’s week two of the let’s lighten up menu. I’m not saying I have been totally good about it but I will say I have been doing better than usual. There may have been pizza for dinner one night ‘cause we had to do some laundry and straighten up the house as things had gotten way out of hand. There may also have been a hot dog at the softball game because I was hangry. (Youth sports is no place for hanger.) For the most part, we’ve been eating better.

Saturday’s fantastic weather prompted me to head outside and do some grilling. Per usual, we had a packed schedule. Thankfully, I was able to make a marinade out of stuff I had on hand. I poured it over some flat iron steaks that needed to be used, tossed them back in the fridge, and left for the afternoon. I threw the steaks on the grill when we returned for a quick dinner with some steamed rice and broccoli.

As it turned out, there were a lot of leftovers—which was a good thing if not unusual. For lunch on Monday I was able to slice up some of the meat and put it on a salad I tossed together with some spring mix, peppers, sliced red onions and whatever else I found in the crisper. What a light and tasty meal! Salad is not usually my first lunch choice but topped with the sliced meat it was the perfect meal.

Vietnamese Steak Marinade
Adapted from NY Times Cooking

This marinated and grilled Vietnamese flank steak is fantastic over a simple salad or steamed rice bowl with broccoli. It also is delicious with our recipe for Vietnamese Cucumber SaladRead more…

Marinated and Grilled Mediterranean Leg of Lamb

Marinated and Grilled Mediterranean Leg of Lamb On the Lamb
Growing up we didn’t do Easter Brunch. We ate Easter dinner at my Grandmother’s and there were strict rules that had to be followed. Along with the purple water glasses, it wouldn’t have been Easter without some asparagus, scalloped potatoes, and a leg of lamb.

My Grandmother took the traditional approach to preparing her leg of lamb which included stuffing whole cloves of garlic in small cuts all over the leg before roasting and serving it alongside some mint jelly. (Heaven forbid, we not have the mint jelly.)

As the rebel of the family, I like to buck tradition and butterfly my leg of lamb before I throw it on the grill.

Grilling a butterflied leg of lamb is super easy and you can play around with different flavors with the marinades or dry rubs. You could go Greek, Moroccan, Tejano, or whatever floats your boat. Of course, everything depends on the crowd. Not everyone wants to be transported to the markets of Marrakech for their Easter dinner—even if a grilled leg of lamb would be very tasty with couscous and grilled veggies. (Sign me up though…)

For Easter, I like to tone it down a bit and go with more Mediterranean flavors like this recipe for Marinated and Grilled Mediterranean Leg of Lamb — if you are able, try to marinate the lamb overnight. It is a simple yet flavorful marinade that will produce a tasty meal when served with grilled veggies, some roasted new potatoes, and a bit of a chocolate bunny for dessert.

Marinated and Grilled Mediterranean Leg of Lamb
Adapted from Epicurious
Yields 8 servings

Our butchers will be happy to butterfly and trim the fat from the leg of lamb for you.

The uniform thickness of a butterflied boneless leg of lamb makes it easy to grill and serve. If you don’t have access or inclination to grill outdoors, the lamb can be cooked on a hot, lightly-oiled and well-seasoned, 2-burner, ridged, grill pan. Cook it uncovered, turning over once (about 12 to 14 minutes per side).

We recommend marinating the lamb overnight and up to 24 hours. Read more…

Mom’s Lamb Chops Recipe

Mom’s Lamb Chops RecipeWhen I moved into my first apartment after college, the first real meal I made for myself was my Mom’s lamb chops. When I say “real” meal, I am talking about something that didn’t involve boiling noodles or scrambling eggs. This was a legit, little bit pricey, complete with mashed potatoes and fresh peas, adult meal. To this day, I don’t know if it was the meal itself or the fact that I did it all on my own (and was now totally self-sufficient) but it was one of the best meals I ever ate.

Mom passed away recently and there has been a whirlwind of activity with all that this entails. So, on the rare evening that I have had time to make dinner for my family, I’ve noticed that I have been gravitating towards the recipes that were Mom’s. Her meatloaf is a great example.

My mother got such a kick out of the fact that I would write this blog every week. Mainly, because she knew all of the players in the family stories I would tell. Her only complaint was that she didn’t get as much credit for my culinary development as she deserved. And, she was absolutely right.

I have often talked about the recipes that my grandmother made, and they are all great. But, my mother was just as talented and prolific. And, the reality is, it’s the recipes my mother made for my sister and me that I serve to my own family on a weekly basis. I am still on the hunt for her New Orleans Barbequed Shrimp recipe….

Tonight I will be making Mom’s Lamb Chops again. There’s not a whole lot to the recipe. In fact, there are really no measurements—all the quantities in the recipe are approximate.

Mom’s Lamb Chops Recipe
The amount of marinade Mom made depended on how many chops she had. You can use whatever lamb chops you can find: sirloin chops, loin chops—whatever works.

Mom always used loin chops and we always got exactly two on our plate. And, always with mashed potatoes and peas.
Yields 4 servings Read more…