Thursday, April 17, 2014

Alex's Salad

Alex is my best friend Bryn's husband, which works out well for me since he cooks like the devil and feeds me whenever I'm in town. The man doesn't use measuring utensils, much less a recipe. He just likes to think something up and then makes it happen like Santa on Christmas Eve. Among my favorites is a great mango ginger curry that I'm determined to decode.

In my single days I used to travel up to Providence and Boston to see them. Alex would make amazing food with interesting flavors- grilled eggplant and basil sandwiches, cornmeal chocolate chip banana pancakes, yadda yadda- and we'd all stay up way too late having deep discussions about life and relationships. They'd give the guys I dated nicknames like Appleflinger and Awfulthingy. (Long story.)

This is where I'm supposed to create some natural segue into this salad, but I got nothin'. 'Cause I'd like to write something more clever than "This is a salad Alex made one day while I was at their apartment in Rhode Island, and I've made it about a bazillion times since." Like I said... got nothin'. (By the way, that was my first time writing the word "segue", and at first I wrote "segway." Segwaying into the salad would be an entirely different feat. Palm to forehead.)

Anyway, I asked Alex permission to call it the Eats and Beats Signature Salad, because I'm a thief of other people's intellectual property. But, in the end, I felt like I should call it what I always have.

Alex's Salad
  in all its glorious forms

I have never once served this salad and not had everyone comment on how good it is. Even my foodie friends go nuts for it. This salad is meant to be light on the greens and heavy on the good stuff. Feel free to adjust the quantities to your liking.

4 large handfuls of spinach leaves (not baby spinach!), stems removed
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, cubed
1 medium granny smith apple, chopped
1 large cucumber, skinned, quartered lengthwise, and chopped
2 handfuls quality dried cranberries
5 large hard-boiled eggs, chopped
4 strips of freshly-cooked bacon, chopped (not pictured; optional, but recommend 
when serving with the Rainy April Menu)
3 ounces goat cheese (not pictured; optional)
2 small avocados, chopped (I always add them, but I'd leave them out for 
 Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing made in advance using their mix 
packet. (1/2 the recipe will be plenty) 

Toss and serve with dressing on the side.

My husband likes this salad with a creamy poppy seed dressing, but I prefer the ranch. The ranch dressing should be homemade just because it really is remarkably better. All it is is a ranch packet mixed with some mayo and milk. So easy. Just make sure it's freshly whisked before serving. I always make this salad with avocados, but it's the only ingredient that doesn't seem to jive with the vibe of the Rainy April Menu, so I'd leave them out just in this instance. I don't normally add bacon and goat cheese just because I make the salad so often and leaving them out helps cut down the cost and the calories, but I think they're perfect ingredients for this particular menu.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Bread

This morning I read on Serious Eats that real bakers use weight measurements instead of volume (or cup) measurements. One must have and use a scale, or else they don't take their craft seriously. That's not really how they said it, but their name is "Serious Eats" so everything they write comes out sounding to me like a personal challenge. I'm going to get myself a scale, and I'm going to practice all the tips from this article on 11 Essential Tips for Better Pizza until I can make killer dough and pizzas using muscle memory alone, darn it!

Well, obviously, this changed the way I wrote today's recipe, because I could not bare to shame myself with foolish cup measurements. And you're all going to suffer, I mean benefit from it. You're getting the main components in grams! (With approximate volume estimations for those of you who don't have a scale. I'm such an enabler.)
The purpose of this photo really has nothing to do with garlic, but rather was an excuse to photograph the lovely new spoon rest that I received for my birthday from my parents-in-law. Thank you, Glenn and Valerie!
I made several loaves of this bread once for a special luncheon for a women's organization I belong to. This was last Fall and I still have ladies approach me asking me to teach them how to make it. Many of them thought I had purchased the loaves from a nice local bakery. It really is quite good if I do say so myself.

The bread takes some work and planning, but I promise you that none of it is complicated, and you'll come out looking like you really know what you're doing!

I like to make these extra-large loaves so that I can freeze half and just pull out a few slices whenever I want to add a little something to my dinner.

Roasted Garlic Bread
created using this recipe by Jim Lahey at Sullivan St Bakery as a base

Yield: 1 extra-large loaf

Aluminum foil
Two large mixing bowls
6 to 8 quart pot with lid (Pyrex glass, Le Creuset cast iron, or ceramic)
Plastic wrap
Parchment paper

1 bulb of garlic
olive oil
860g (6 cups) bread flour
2g (1/2 teaspoon) yeast
16g (2 1/2 teaspoons) salt
4-5 large sprigs of rosemary, leaves removed and stems discarded
690g or 24oz (3 cups) hot water
extra flour and cornmeal (for dusting)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lop off the top of  the bulb of garlic just so that most of the cloves inside are exposed.
Slowly pour a small amount of olive oil onto the top of the cloves and allow time for it to be absorbed. Do this two or three more times.
 Wrap in aluminum foil and place inside a small baking dish. Place in the oven to roast for 25 minutes, or until cloves have softened.

Allow the garlic to cool slightly. In the meantime, chop up at least 3/4 of the rosemary leaves (leaving some whole for aesthetics if you'd like.) When garlic is cool enough to handle, carefully squeeze out the cloves by applying pressure to the bottom with your fingers. (Don't squeeze from the middle or they'll just get smooshed.) Chop or mash the garlic.
Mix all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside. In the other bowl add hot water, rosemary and garlic (to let the flavors infuse into the water.) Allow water to cool to the temperature of a baby's bath. Incorporate water mixture into the flour by hand for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Dry and lightly coat the inside of the vacant bowl with olive oil and place the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest 12 hours at room temperature (approx. 65-72°F).
  Remove the dough from the bowl, fold dough in half, and then fold it again. Let it rest for 15 minutes in the bowl. 
Generously flour a clean, hard surface and place the dough on top. Shape the dough into a ball by tucking the sides underneath itself, and place (seam side down) onto the parchment
 paper. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap and let rise 1-2 hours at room temperature, until more than doubled in size. (Speed up the process by leaving it under the light of your microwave with the door slightly ajar.)
With 45 minutes left in your rising time, preheat oven to 450°F. Place the pot in the oven at least 30 minutes prior to baking to preheat. Once the dough has more than doubled in volume, remove the pot from the oven, sprinkle a light layer of cornmeal on the bottom, and invert the dough into the pot seam side up. Cover with the lid and bake 35 minutes. 
While the bread is baking, combine about 1/4 cup of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and set aside.
After the 35 minutes, brush the top of the bread with the salted olive oil, and bake with the lid off for another 10-15 minutes uncovered, until the loaf is nicely browned.

Serve with Spicy Lentil & Sausage Soup and the rest of the Rainy April Menu.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Spicy Sausage & Lentil Soup

I used to be a server at Carrabba's where I had the pleasure of sampling everything on the menu as part of my training so that I could describe the dishes accurately to patrons. I remember it fondly. Back then and still now one of my favorite menu items is their Sausage and Lentil Soup. Since it's only an occasional menu item, I sometimes have to make my own when I have a hankering.
For a deeper pancetta (bacon) flavor, don't drain off the fat from the pancetta. Instead, use it in lieu of the olive oil to cook the vegetables.
When creating my own recipe, I started by using this one from, which acts as a strong base. After some tinkering, I have gotten it to the point where it's so good that my husband and I can eat a double batch all on our own over the course of 4 or 5 days without wasting a lick and without having to freeze any.

On Monday when I introduced the Rainy April Menu, I told you that you'd be making food that will make you feel like a fancy pants chef even though you won't need crazy skills. All you'll need is to have your ingredients prepped and ready to go.

Spicy Lentil & Sausage Soup
by Janna Patterson, Eats and Beats

Serves 6-8
Active Prep and Cook Time: approx. 35 minutes
Inactive Cook Time: 1 hour

1 lb hot Italian sausage
11/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
4 ounces diced pancetta
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 stalk of celery, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
1 small zucchini, diced
6 cups quality chicken broth
 2 141/2 oz cans petite diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cups dry brown lentils (not green or red)
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Parmesiano Regiano cheese, freshly grated for serving (optional)

1.With the tip of a very sharp knife or a pair of kitchen scissors, cut an incision lengthwise down the entire length of each sausage casing (the intestinal casings, not the packaging the sausages came in,) and remove the meat of the sausage into a medium bowl. Get rid of those icky casings forever.
2. Preheat a large pot on the stove over medium-medium high heat. (Medium is plenty on my stove, but I know some of you have stoves that are a little bashful.)
3. Using a mortar and pestle or the end of a rolling pin and a clean hard surface, grind the fennel seeds. They don't have to be completely pulverized; leaving some of the fennel seeds whole is just fine. With clean hands, gently massage the ground fennel seeds into the sausage meat until fairly evenly distributed. (Don't you feel fancy already?)
4. Plop the uncooked sausage meat into the preheated pot and allow it to brown as you break up the meat with a spatula, the way you would with ground beef. Drain off the fat and remove the sausage to another dish for now.
5. In the same pot, cook the pancetta. Turn down the heat a bit if needed so it won't burn. Drain off the fat and add the pancetta to the sausage for now.
6. With the pot on medium-medium/low heat, add the olive oil and the next five ingredients and cook until the onions are translucent.
7. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil over medium-medium/high heat. Stir in tomatoes, lentils, sausage and pancetta. Cover the pot, turn down to low, and allow to simmer for 1 hour.
8. Serve with Parmesiano Regiano cheese, if desired, and the rest of the Rainy April Menu.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Rainy April Menu- Spicy Lentil & Sausage Soup

I rarely have occasion to use my formidable meat cleaver, but the other day she got put to work when I brought home a nice, juicy watermelon. Perhaps it was a little overkill, but, I tell you what- I got a cleaner cut on that melon than I ever have. Anyway, the point of me telling you this is that when that little buddy split open it emitted a sweet aroma that instantly transported me to the dozens of outdoor, warm weather celebrations of years past. The point of me telling you that is to contrast it with the actual weather we've been having around here as of late, which has been rather dreary. Aaaand the point of me telling you that is so that I can offer you a little edible empathy in case you're also experiencing your fair share of April showers.

Enter, the Rainy April Menu.

The Menu
Main Course:
Spicy Lentil & Sausage Soup
Sides: Alex's Salad and Roasted Garlic & Rosemary Bread
Dessert: Simple Toffee Cookie Ice Cream Sundaes

The Music
"Rainy Day" (found on Eats and Beats' Music Playlist page.)

Notes about this menu: 
The workload, and special tools: This is the kind of menu that makes you feel like a gourmet even if you're not. There's nothing about it that requires a great deal of skill, but it does require some TLC and it goes beyond just chopping and stirring. For instance, you're going to grind your own fennel seeds and roast a bulb of garlic. You'll also be removing sausage from their casings. It's all EASY and I'll talk you through each step. Since it's a very handsy menu, so I think you'll end up feeling extra satisfied and empowered when you and your guests (or family) dig in! You'll want to make sure you have all the prep work done in advance. In case the idea of a lot of prep work stresses you out, take courage knowing that most of the bread work needs to be done the day before, the cookies, soup, and some of the salad work can all be done the day before. There's very little that needs to be done the day you serve this meal! The bread gets baked in a dutch oven, so make plans to borrow one from a friend if you don't already have one. A mortar and pestle would come in hand, but you can always just use the end of a rolling pin and a hard surface.
The flavors: This is the essence of modern comfort food. Warm and unpretentious with mostly familiar flavors and lots of fresh ingredients. In the main course you can look forward to a little heat, a subtle fennel taste, and the savoriness of pancetta and sausage that everyone loves. Alex's Salad has a fantastic combination of textures and flavors. Chewy, fruity, crunchy, salty, creamy... I have made it dozens and dozens of times and have never, ever, ever tired of it. Rosemary and garlic bread is always a crowd pleaser, and the toffee and caramel in the dessert provide those wonderful soothing flavors that you want on a rainy day. I don't know what else to say, except that it's reeeeally good.

Coming up: the recipe for the Spicy Lentil and Sausage Soup.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Kate's Greatest Hits

We have a special family edition of Eats and Beats today, because we celebrated our Kate's 3rd birthday last weekend! I wish you could all know this kid, because she's so clever and smart and artistic... and hilarious. She's said a lot of noteworthy stuff over the past year, and I'm going to share with you some of her greatest hits as documented on Facebook.

Kate: "Mama, I want you to go get a chewy star all by yourself, and I want to eat it all by myself."

Kate: "Mama, can you draw a bunny for me?"
Me: "Sure!" *draw, draw, draw* *hand it to Kate*
Kate: "That's a sad, sad, sad, sad bunny."

Me: "Kate, I think we should be done with diapers. I think you should just wear big girl underwear from now on and that we should just let Lou wear the diapers. ....What do you think about that?"
Kate: "I don't think about that."

Kate: "Mama, I finished my burrito!"
Me: "You did?"
Kate: "Uh-huh!"
Me: "Really?"
Kate: "Uh-huh!"
Me: "Both sides?"
Kate: "Uh-huh."
Me: "Are you telling me the truth?"
Kate: "No."

Kate's not feeling well, so I brought a sick bowl to her..
Kate: "No, mom, I don't want a bowl.
Me: "Well, you need a bowl in case you get sick, because you can't throw up on the blanket, or on the couch, or on the ipod."
Kate: "OR I could throw up on YOU."

Kate: 'I am a bumblebee. And I am your future."

Two firsts this morning.
1. Lou fell asleep while playing on the floor.
2. Kate decided to wake me up by sticking a pencil straight up my nose.

Kate, wearing bumblebee antennae on her head and dropping a box of Raisin Bran next to me: "Mama, the bumblebee is hungry."
Laughing, I get up and get her a bowl.
Kate: "Thank you, Mama Bumblebee."

Kate: "Mom, can we decorate the cookies with sprinkles?"
Me: "We have to make the cookies first. We're going to make heart-shaped cookies!"
Kate: "That's respectable."

Me: "Kate, do you like your cereal?"
Kate: "It's like plastic."

Kate: "Dad, I need to tell you something."
Shawn: "What?"
Kate: "Patience, dad. You can't just slide down the bed and swash into the water."

Kate to Lou: "Say something; I'm giving up on you."

Kate: "Mama, I'm making an illustration."
Me: "An illustration? What are you drawing?"
Kate: "Clusters. Clusters and clusters and clusters."

"Once upon a time there was a hungry bear, and one day he stopped eating with one of his mouths, and he couldn't see his horn cross the street. And then the rain started coming down and it was so hard to go to sleep. And what did the bear did? He stopped crying. The end." -Kate

Kate: "Lou is a turkey on Halloween Sunday. Try to understand."

As Kate was cutting paper with her little toddler scissors she said, "Cutting paper for a party is my job. It's my job. Because you don't cut for cutting. You cut for a party."         
"Well, today has been a big, fat shocker. Kate woke up and decided she wanted to wear undies. We have tested the potty training waters in the past with absolutely zero success. Zero. So I had no hopes for today. But, to my amazement, she used the toilet without even telling me she had to go, and had no accidents all day, even when we ran errands. I hope I'm not jinxing myself by announcing this in a semi-public forum.
The most amusing part of this was when Shawn came home and Kate ran to the door yelling, 'I'm going to pee for you! You are so excited! I'm going to show you how to pee!' And then she grabbed her little toilet, stripped naked and did it at his feet. Welcome home, Shawn.

Kate's Christmas list included:
"Toys I can turn. Turn, turn, turn."
"A blueberry treat"
"Cute mouses"

Kate, to me: "I want to get big like a monster..... like YOU!"
Oh, Kate.... I came downstairs from putting Louisa down for a nap, when Kate told me she had a birthday present for me... Then she reached into her pants, pulled out this invisible present, informed me that it was "homemade," and then told me to "suck it!" 

Kate jumped from the couch onto a soft surface below.
With a eyes wide and a big grin- "I jumped!"
Me, holding up my hands: "Double high five!"
Kate, with the same happy expression on her face. "No!"

Me: "I love you."
Kate: "I love Grandma."

As Kate was starting to get grumpy:
Shawn: "Kate, you were so happy! What happened?"
Kate: "I woke up."

Sometimes when Kate's laying in bed I'll tell her stories that I make up. Always when it's done she'll say, "Again!"
Today she was getting a little aggressive toward Louisa over a toy, so I asked her to apologize and share, which she did for a minute and then started to be rough with Louisa again. So I took the toy away and gave her a time out. When it was over I tried to reiterate what went wrong by reminding her of everything that had happened and then giving her the moral of the situation. When I was done she smiled and said, "Again!"

Kate pointing at a family of cats. "That's the daddy and the mama and the Louisas."

Me: "I need a hug."
Kate: "I need a chocolate."

Me: "Come get your diaper on and then we can watch your show."
Kate: "That's crazy talk."

After I dropped one of the few chocolate chips Kate and I had as a post-lunch treat:
Kate- "Let me help you with that."
She picked it up, ate it, and added, "There you go."

Kate and I were playing with an art game where she can fill in a picture using colored buttons. I helped her with one button, and she didn't like where I put it, because she said in a demanding tone, "No, mama! Doesn't go there!" I said, "Oh, sorry," and then added, "Can you speak nicely to mama, please?" She looked up at me and I could tell she was thinking hard what to say next. After about ten seconds she said, "I'm so proud of you." And then added, "Nice to meet you!"
Don't leave Kate alone with the strawberries
I like when Kate mixes up "scared" and "scary." She just hugged Louisa and sweetly whispered, "Don't be scary."

Kate just took something, covered my mouth with it and said, "All better."

When she was just 22 months old: 
Standing on a power adapter. Kate: "Crush it. Crush it."
Happy Birthday, Kate!         

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Wanted: Gorgeous Wreath for Eats and Beats Front Door

The Patterson home is in upheaval. Our plumbing sprung another leak causing water damage to our dining room ceiling. My beloved dining room! The first time it did this, we had to remodel two of our bathrooms. Since our system seems to be quite unhealthy, we're in the process of replacing the whole thing. So, our walls look like this:

And our ceilings look like this:

My front door is feeling a little left out of all the action. It's bare and lonely and cold and has been since I took down my Christmas wreath. It needs a new necklace. I have my eye set on some of these  Spring beauties from Williams-Sonoma.

Farmers' Market Wreath

My friend Brittany Jepsen sometimes (lovingly) teases me about my love for wreaths. She has killer taste, so this makes me question my love at times. But not today, sister. Not today. Look at this one!
Citrus Floral Wreath

Red Chili Wreath
And I want these two for my kitchen. I already have plans for these herbs.

Floral Herb Wreath

Cooks Herb Wreath

I can't decide which of the first three I'd want the most for my door. Maybe the first one. Maybe it's the door's birthday... Yeah... That sounds accurate... 

Who works for Williams-Sonoma? Anyone?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

I'm a Wretched Person and There's Nothing These Cookies Can Do to Change That

I feel awful. We just had a major snowfall which dumped over a foot of snow onto our small neighborhood of townhomes. My husband was out early this morning shoveling the sidewalk in front of our home and around our cars. And since he's such a nice guy he shoveled for the single woman who lives in the townhouse to our right. Sometime in the afternoon, the plow came and took care of all the snow that was in the middle of the street. An hour or so later I saw a couple of neighbors shoveling around their cars. One gentleman started taking small amounts of snow into his shovel and putting it into the street. I saw him pause after each scoop and staring at it as if reevaluating his method. After another couple of scoops into the street, I decided to lift the window of my bedroom from which I watched the scene below, and "tactfully" suggest that perhaps the newly-plowed street wasn't the best place to dump the snow, and I offered our yard if he needed a place to leave the snow. I wasn't rude about it, but I'm certain he knew I wasn't thrilled with his decision. I told my husband as much, which is when he said that the street is where he put his snow when he was shoveling out the cars. After a little while I looked out the window to see that the gentleman had gone back into his house, job undone, and I began to feel guilty. I decided to apologize for pointing fingers from the cushy position of one who shoveled exactly zero scoops of snow today, but I didn't want to make the apology empty-handed. So, I made him some cookies and brought them over. Well, he came to the door and I told him how sorry I was and handed him the cookies. He graciously accepted my apology, told me I was being too hard on myself, and then proceeded to tell me that he has cancer and really shouldn't have been out there in the first place, because he couldn't lift the snow. Yup. I hassled a man suffering from cancer about where he was putting his snow in the middle of a snowstorm. I don't think I'm going to be getting over this one for months. Or years.

This is a darn good recipe, if I do say so myself, and it's become one of Shawn's favorites, even though he has almost no sweet tooth whatsoever. And it's a great Winter cookie because it's so hearty. But it's still not good enough to redeem me.

Big and Chunky Winter Cookies
by Janna Patterson of Eats and Beats

makes approximately 16 large cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp 
1 cup brown sugar (dark if you really like molasses) 
1/2 cup white sugar
2 large eggs 
1-1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 
1 3/4 cups oats 
1 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
2 big handfuls of semi-sweet or dark chocolate chunks 
1 big handful of sweetened, shredded coconut
1 big handful of dried cranberries
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Cream the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Scrape the edge of the bowl and then mix in vanilla until evenly distributed. 
In a separate bowl combine all the dry ingredients minus the chocolate chips, dried cranberries, and shredded coconut. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones gradually, just until fully combined. Add the three remaining ingredients and mix just until evenly distributed. 
Scoop up the dough with a 1/4 cup measuring cup and onto a cookie sheet. These are big mamas. Bake until they JUST start to turn golden, and pull them out (because cookies with oats can feel dry easily, so you want them to underbake a bit.) This takes about 15 minutes in my oven, but every oven is different. Allow them to cool for at least 5-10 minutes before munching so that the form will hold.
Happy eating, and may you be less of a jerk than I am. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Music Playlist- Eiffel Tower, and COOKBOOK GIVEAWAY WINNERS!

Carla Bruni
I'm so sad to see this Valentine's Day collaboration with The Food Nanny come to an end. It's been such a blast. I'll just have to keep cooking her food so that I feel like she's still with me. :)

I have a very fun and colorful French music playlist to introduce to you, but before we get to that, I'd like to announce the two winners of the Food Nanny Rescues Dinner Again! giveaway. 

Josh who said, "I liked Eats and Beats on FB (cali)"
Ellie Roberts who said, "Awesome, I've been wanting this book, her first book I have is worn out! :) My kid's favorite is Friday, pizza night!"

Congratulations to the two winners! Email me at with your address and I'll make sure you got your new cookbook!

Now for the playlist. This collection is full of personality, (see Tout Dit,) and charm, (see Quelqu'un m'a dit,) and goes perfectly with the French Menu we just wrapped up. The vast majority of it is in French with only two songs, both by Nouvelle Vague, in English. I haven't the foggiest what any of them is singing about, but it sounds awfully sweet and spunky... except for one of the English songs, of course, which is called "This is Not a Love Song." But methinks the lady doth protest too much, and it really is about love. Or not. Either way, it's by a French artist and I like it.

Here's the full playlist:

{Eiffel Tower}

QUELQU'UN M'A DIT | Carla Bruni
THIS IS NOT A LOVE SONG | Nouvelle Vague
LA CITRONNIER | Amélie-les-crayons
MON AMIE LA ROSE | Francoise Hardy
COMME DES ENFANTS |  Coeur de Pirate
PAS UNE DAME | Carla Bruni
LE FESTIN | Camille
LE TEMPS DE L'AMOUR | Francoise Hardy
POUR UN INFIDELE | Coeur de Pirate
L'EXCESSIVE | Carla Bruni
LE MANTEAUX | Amélie-les-crayons
IN A MANNER OF SPEAKING |  Nouvelle Vague 
LIBERTE | Carla Bruni
TOUT DIT | Camille
LE LINGE DE NOS MERES | Amélie-les-crayons
MA JEUNESSE | Carla Bruni

For now this playlist will be available on the home page of Eats and Beats on the right hand menu. You can just press the "play" icon and stream the music right from the site! It'll also be on the Music Playists tab within the next week. Hope it adds that little je ne sais qua to your Valentine's celebration.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Strawberries and Cream Cake

A classic Valentine cake with surprising flavor to top off your Valentine's French Menu (Option #2). There are the traditional ingredients- butter, vanilla, strawberries- but add sour cream, coconut, and almond, and this classic gets new life. Sometimes cake recipes focus so much on the frosting flavor that the cake itself becomes an afterthought. It's obvious that Liz Edmunds has carefully crafted both elements of her creation. I'm gaining a lot of respect for her taste and attention to detail as I cook through her book.

Speaking of her book, have you entered the giveaway yet? Today's your last chance! Tomorrow the winners will be announced!

In the meantime, here's the recipe for that cake.
If I'd had more strawberries I would have taken these little slivers and covered the sides for a little extra oomph of strawberry flavor.
Strawberries and Cream Cake
by Liz Edmunds
Serves 16
Time: 1 hour

Plan Ahead
Make cakes a day ahead of time or freeze and frost when ready. You will need two 9-inch cake pans.
 18.25 ounce box white cake mix
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 1/3 cups water, room temperature
1 cup sour cream
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
4 large egg whites

Fresh Strawberry Frosting
1 cup fresh strawberries, cleaned and rinsed, about 7 berries
1/3 cup butter, room temperature
4 oz. (1/2 cup) cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
4 cups powdered sugar
 Place oven rack in the middle of your oven. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with cooking oil. Cut parchment paper to the size of the bottom of the cake pan. (I place my cake pan on top of the paper and draw a circle around the pan, then cut and place the paper inside the pan.) Spray again.
In a large mixing bowl, add cake mix flour, sugar, salt and stir together. Add water, sour cream, coconut oil, vanilla and almond extracts, and stir until combined. Add 4 egg whites - one at a time, stirring after each one until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.
Divide the batter evenly between the 2 pans which will each be 3/4 full. Place in the middle rach of your oven and bake for 35 to 38 min. or until a wooden skewer comes out clean.
Immediately when the baked cakes are taken out of the oven, put 2 paper towels together and push the raised surfaces down until even with, or a teeny bit lower than the edge of the pan. Make sure the levels are smooth and uniform. Push them down firm enough to ensure that the cake stays where you push it and that it doesn't spring back up.
After hot cakes are pushed down, invert them onto cooling racks. Remove the paper. Place the hot pans back over the layers and let them cook with the pans on the cake to keep the moisture and steam in.
Frost when cool.

Fresh Strawberry Frosting
Process berries in your food processor or blender until smooth. Strain the puree. Discard the seeds. You should end up with 1/3 cup of puree.
Beat the butter, cream cheese, vanilla and almond extract together with an electric mixer. Add puree. Gradually add the powdered sugar and mix until smooth at medium speed.
Spread evenly over the 2 layers and sides of cake. Place frosted cake in the refrigerator. Serve cold.

May use raspberries in place of strawberries. If you use a strawberry cake mix use 4 whole eggs. Use raspberry extract in place of almond.
This cake OR the Chocolate Ganache Cake from the first menu would work well with the Food Nanny Fillet Mignon. In fact ganache is French, so when I post all the recipes in the Menus & Timelines page, I might swap the cakes officially. Either way, you choose which you'd like for which menu and have at. And ENJOY! You've got two great new menus to choose for next weekend's festivities.

Tomorrow you'll get a new Music Playlist to accompany this menu, which includes music from a new favorite of mine, Carla Bruni. Just you wait.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Food Nanny Fillet Mignon and Steamed Honey Glazed Carrots (The Meal That Made Me Blush)

My husband and I both agreed that this is one of the very best savory dishes to have been produced in my kitchen. It's ridiculous. I made it for myself for lunch so that I'd have plenty of daylight for taking photos. I kid you not, I started blushing when I took the first bite. I made it again for my husband for dinner tonight and he made eyes at me. And he said it got even better as he continued to eat it. Even now as I try to describe it, my head just goes to a fuzzy place and all I hear is a pleasant humming.

So, I know that there are a lot of you that want to write off this meal right away, because of the cost of this cut of beef. I have two words for you: half sirloin. They're about 1/3 of the cost, and they're cut very similar, so the cooking instructions hold. No, it won't be AS good, but it'll still be make-you-blush good. And it's not all about the steak. Cooked carrots are something that I've hated since childhood, but I ate every single one of those carrots you see on that plate, and I plan to make them again. My husband loved them. And they are EASY. (Many thanks, by the way, to my new sister-in-law Leslie, for giving us honey from her family's beehives for Christmas. It was perfect in this dish!)

Food Nanny Fillet Mignon
by Liz Edmunds, The Food Nanny

Serves 4
Cook Time: 10 minutes

Plan Ahead
Let seasoned steaks sit out for 30 min. at room temperature

4 1-inch to 1 1/2-inch thick center cut Black Angus beef tenderloin steak (Fillet Mignon,) room temperature
1 Tablespoon coarse salt
2 Tablespoons crush peppercorns
1 Tablespoon canola oil
4 Tablespoons cold butter

4 Tablespoons cold butter
1/4 cup shallot, minced
1/4 cup Merlot or red wine
1/4 cup beef broth
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon parsley, fresh or dried, minced

Fillet Mignon
Pat Steaks dry with a paper towel. Place on a platter or baking sheet. Season each steak onboth sides with coarse salt and crushed peppercorns. (Or use your pepper grinder on the largest grind.) Be sure to let seasoned steaks sit out for 30 min. at room temperature.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees. When oven is ready continue. 
If NOT making the sauce, pre-heat a cast iron pan over high heat. (I don't like the way this sauce turns out in a cast iron skillet. It seems muddy...) If you ARE making sauce, choose a non-cast iron, oven-safe pan. The pan is ready when you sprinkle with a few drops of water and it sizzles. If the pan is smoking turn down the heat. Add canola oil. Place the meat in the pan and sear 3 min. per side. Set your timer.
Quickly place 1 Tablespoon cold butter on top of each steak and move pan into the hot oven on the middle rack and continue cooking steaks without turning, 4 more min. for medium rare. Set your timer. Remove from oven. Place the pan on top of the stove. 
If not making with sauce, serve immediately. If making sauce, quickly remove steaks to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.
To the pan drippings on top of the stove add, 2 Tablespoons butter, 1/4 cup minced shallot. Stir until shallots are browned, about 3 to 4 min.
Add Merlot, or any red wine or cooking wine and beef broth. Stir, scraping up any brown bits. Boil over moderately low heat until reduced to a syrupy consistency.
Add heavy cream and any meat juices accumulated on the platter where the meat is resting. Boil down to half. Swirl in 2 to 3 more Tablespoons cold butter and the minced parsley.
Season to taste with coarse salt and fresh ground pepper.
Cut steaks into thin slices or serve whole and pour the sauce over meat.
Janna's Note:
Liz gives the sauce recipe as optional, but I can't tell you enough how worthwhile it is. For me, it was the element on the plate that stole the show.

Steamed Honey Glazed Carrots
by Liz Edmunds, The Food Nanny

Serves 2
Cook Time: 10 minutes

Plan Ahead
Cut carrots up and keep in plastic bag.

whole fresh carrots, peeled and cut into sticks - not "baby" carrots in plastic bags
Softened butter, to taste
Clover honey, to taste
Coarse salt, to taste

Peel the carrots. Cut in half lengthwise, then in half again. You should end up with at least 8 carrot sticks per carrot. (Some carrots are extra thick and you could cut more sticks.)
Steam carrots for 10 min. Remove and toss hot carrots with butter and drizzle with honey. Lightly salt. Serve immediately.

On Friday I'll be serving up the last installment of our Valentine's French Menu: Strawberries and Cream Cake. Hope you're as excited as I am!