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…

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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Cranberry Tea Loaf

Cranberry Tea LoafHoliday Hurry Up
Well, we survived Thanksgiving. For those of you who were out there in the trenches on Black Friday battling, good on ya. I used to do Black Friday when my kids were younger. Not because I needed to get the best deal on the latest impossible to find piece of plastic from China, but because it was kinda fun to get caught up in the holiday frenzy.

Now? I can make my own frenzy, thank you very much. Besides, my kids have moved on from the fun stuff. It’s all gift cards and clothes now. (Zzzzzzzzzzzz). Gone are the big boy bike reveals and the excited screaming of Christmas morning. We now have to wake them up…sigh.

The past few days could definitely be put in the frenzy category. But, I can’t figure out why I feel so anxious about the holidays. I’ve been freaking out about trying to get things done and it’s not even December yet. Sure, I picked through some of the fifty million Black Friday and Cyber Monday emails that landed in my inbox to take advantage of some really great deals. But, I do that every year—so that can’t be it. Yes, I will be hosting a couple of get-togethers with friends. But again, I do that every year so no reason to panic…except that I haven’t really started to figure out what I am serving and the party is next weekend. So, while panic may not be appropriate it would be a good idea to start planning.

I am certain that some of the anxiety is self-inflicted. See, I always have this impossible Norman Rockwell vision of how the holiday season will unfold. (Think warm fires, plaid ribbons, eggnog, and velvet.) This almost always includes the creation of homemade baked goods for friends and neighbors that we joyously hand out to one and all—spreading cheer for all to hear. The reality is, I ain’t got that much time.

I did manage to make this Cranberry Tea Loaf over the weekend with some leftover cranberries. It is the quintessential flavor of the holidays. And, when you bake it in little foil loaf pans, it becomes a perfect hostess gift (or peace offering to your neighbors who, because they are awesome, throw the errant baseballs back over the fence without complaint).

Even better, give it the Martha Stewart treatment and wrap it in a cute kitchen towel. It’s a very good thing….

Cranberry Tea Loaf Recipe
Adapted from the Silver Palette Cookbook

Cranberries freeze well, so purchase several extra bags now while they are still available. This recipe is easily doubled. Read more…