A Taste of Paris

Ten years ago, my husband took me to Paris to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. It was an amazing trip, the adventure of a lifetime, a triumph on so many levels. Paris is truly a magical city and we ate, drank, toured, laughed, sat, strolled, and explored as much as possible. Since that year, we have taken other trips, exotic and foreign, but Paris still holds the power of unshakeable memories over us, always drawing us back into the "remember that time..."

One such remembrance is our actual anniversary dinner at the Michelin starred restaurant, Guy Savoy. The ambiance: elegant and reserved. The service: witty, attentive, and intelligent. The fare: delicious, rich, and artistic. The bill: exorbitant. That meal, that night, remains to this day in our top five food experiences of all time.

We were in love with each other, fell in love with the city and in turn, in love with all things France. Fast forward to this year when I have undertaken this crazy goal to cook my way through Fine Cooking magazine. I opened the April/May issue to find the "Moveable Feast" article highlighted a visit with none other than Guy Savoy (the chef and namesake of our beloved restaurant) and cookbook author, Patricia Wells, who resides in Paris! So I was quite excited to prepare the recipes from this particular issue. 

On a cold and windy evening in April, I invited friends to join us and they graciously agreed to suffer through this menu:

Spring Greens Salad with Fruit, Roquefort & Balsamic Dressing

Asparagus with Paprika Sabayon

Rib-eye Steak with Tarragon Chimichurri

Frites

Strawberry-Rhubarb Blitz Torte

The conversation was lively, the wine poured and though the steak was a bit underdone, I think the meal was a success. I'm definitely not Guy Savoy, but when I was crafting his sabayon (a cooked egg yolk sauce), I felt a renewed appreciation for the art that is Fine Dining. 

My experiment or goal or resolution, whatever you want to call it --to step out of my comfort zone and create recipes that I would not otherwise attempt--is succeeding. For the "numbers" people out there, I stand at 55 completed recipes out of 114 from 3 issues. Still a ways to go...hoping the June/July issue does not arrive for several more weeks!

 

a brunchin' we will go

 a beautiful day at the Dallas Arboretum

a beautiful day at the Dallas Arboretum

Spring has been an absolute whirlwind. Maybe because I have been sleep deprived beginning with Daylight Savings or perhaps it's due to trying to schedule FaceTime sessions with a son on the other side of the world. Whatever the reason, I feel constantly behind, always running to catch up. 

Long weekends spent with family are usually a great way to slow things down. In that spirit, our Easter week began on Palm Sunday with church services alongside our son and his pregnant wife. Oh wait. Haven't I told you? Our family is being blessed in 2018 with new babies. My eldest daughter (residing in Arkansas) is expecting her fourth child, due in May and our eldest son (lives here!) is expecting his first....TWINS! SO. EXCITING. I. MAY. JUST. WRITE. LIKE. THIS. UNTIL. SUMMER. Jk. But we are indeed overjoyed by all of these tiny blessings headed our way. 

Back to Palm Sunday. After mass, the four of us came home for brunch because a leisurely meal accompanied by mimosas is a surefire way to slow time. The menu was Eggs Benedict as requested by my DH. It's a timeless breakfast entree, isn't it? Crisp english muffins topped with canadian bacon, a pillowy poached egg and rich, decadent hollandaise sauce. In the Butterfield house, we like to change things up and sometimes replace the muffin with hash brown potatoes, or even stack the potatoes on top of the toasted bread. Also, we seldom serve the traditional skinny slices of canadian bacon and opt for slabs of smoked ham. Or, maybe a crab cake for ultimate, sinful gluttony. Whatever version, the crowning glory remains the same--bright, lemony hollandaise, and I'm sharing my recipe at the end of this post. 

Dinner that evening was also a feast. Expertly grilled New York Strip steaks, baked potatoes, sautéed spinach, roasted eggplant, a lovely crisp green salad with balsamic dressing. And there was chocolate cake for dessert. That was just for 4 of us! But our celebratory week was off to a good start.

Happily on Thursday, my in-laws arrived from Albuquerque without incident. They have not been in Dallas since 2015, the year of two weddings, a graduation, and a family reunion. We scheduled a number of outings for their visit and tried not to wear out their 80+year-old bodies too much. They were able to see our son's new home and hear the glad news that the twins are GIRLS! (see how I keep sneaking those announcements in..?!) On Friday, our youngest daughter, husband and canine child, Frank, were here with us from Round Rock. We enjoyed a margarita lunch, strolling around the Arboretum and a fabulous meal at 20-Feet Seafood Joint in Lakewood. 

Side Review: If you haven't heard of this little hole-in-the-wall seafood restaurant, I am here to endorse the establishment and send you as soon as your little feet can carry you that direction for the following reasons:

  1. It's BYOB. We brought 3 bottles of wine with us: rosé, sauvignon blanc, and a red blend. Also a premixed shaker of Manhattans (the in-laws go-to cocktail.) (we did NOT consume it all!) And they will uncork your bottles as well as provide stemware in which to enjoy your beverage of choice!
  2. The Lobster Roll. It's amazing. Also, the Green Room Mussels, Fried Oyster Po Boy, Fish & Chips, and any special they're offering that day.
  3. Service is better than any I've encountered in a casual setting. You place your order at the counter, but the servers are patient, pleasant and helpful. The table bussers are young and sweet, also helpful. There's just nothing to complain about. Tables are first come, first served, but they'll help put tables together and find an area, outside or inside for you. 

The weather was ideal Thursday-Saturday so we sat out on the patio and enjoyed our mussels, french fries, Lobster Rolls (3), Fish & Chips (2) and Shrimp Po boy (1). Afterwards we indulged in a little custard from Wild About Harry's and came home to play cards.

Saturday breakfast was 2 casseroles I pulled from the fridge making my life so easy. The kids returned to Round Rock and we prepared for the next round of guests--my brother-in-law, wife and canine arrived from Houston. We supped on homemade lasagna and caesar salad and dined al fresco while watching the NCAA Final Four.

Easter Sunday dawned cool and cloudy and the mass was just beautiful, uplifting and joyful. And then we headed to another brunch, this time at The Mercury, where although our server is the best (Medy?) the food was honestly, just ok. Not that they didn't have variety: prime rib, fried chicken, sushi, salads galore and waffles. But it's really hard to do Eggs Benedict for a crowd because it's always cold and a little congealed, don't you think? So that brunch was a bit disappointing. 

I know right now you're thinking, all those Butterfields do is EAT! And sometimes, it feels that way to us too. I have omitted the boring details of walking pups, gardening, and any exercise that made it's way on to the schedule.

Sunday dinner was a bit of a masterpiece, if I'm allowed to say so. Beef Tenderloin roast, perfectly seared on the grill by my hubby and accompanied by au gratin potatoes, maple-bacon roasted brussels sprouts, spring salad with asparagus, fruit and citrus vinaigrette (on the menu this week!) and finally a luscious Chocolate-Espresso Cream Pie for dessert was shared with my dear friend, Rosemarie and her three girls, making our number 10 for dinner. What a fun evening! After our meal we watched the live production of "Jesus Christ Superstar" and digested slowly.

Monday was so nice and quiet, with just the four of us. The weather turned cold, giving us an excuse to read the paper by the fire and only venture out for a little chinese bistro lunch. They departed on Tuesday morning and it was back to work for my husband and me. Thanks to their visit, we were able to extend those five days and truly experience five days rather than the rapid, whirlwind, collapsed time that I've been feeling is my life. In three weeks we head to Europe to meet my son--can you believe the semester is at a close?

Ruth's No-Cook Hollandaise Sauce

 

Just a southern girl at heart

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I am the first to admit that I have an unusual background. Born in Kentucky, childhood in the mission field in the Far East, adolescence and college in the American Southwest, and finally adulthood in the great state of Texas. To say my culinary influences are wide and varied is a vast understatement! If you’ve read my blog, you know that I draw heavily from my Asian influences (Chinese New Year) and my time in New Mexico (love me some Hatch green chiles). But I most often return to the South where my mother first learned to cook American classics.

During my infant & toddlerhood in Wilmore, Kentucky, Mom was blessed by neighbors and friends who shared recipes and techniques with her that she was able to prepare for her young family. The biggest takeaway: Fried Chicken shaken in a paper sack. (original blog post here) Because I love fried chicken, I am repeatedly tweaking new recipes not to necessarily improve on the original, but to add another option to my arsenal.

Last summer I became quite obsessed with making a perfect fried chicken sandwich. Not gonna lie: I have loved Chick-fil-A in my life…I remember being a teenager in Albuquerque, working at Orange Julius in Coronado Mall and trying their sandwich for the first time. It was a revelation! Best mall food ever! (Oh, and Hotdog on a Stick, but that’s another story.) Even these days, if the only option available is fast food when we are on the road, we head for the red and white sign. 

Back to the perfect fried chicken sandwich. I made the first batch for the hubby and me to take to the Memorial Day concert at Flagpole hill. I am all about those picnics and the bubbly that usually accompanies the lawn food! They were good, but the breading was a little thick for my liking, the slaw too spicy, the roll too much. For my second try, another picnic, a wider audience: my two sons, daughter-in-law and us for the July 4th concert at Heritage Park in Farmers Branch. The sandwich received 5 thumbs up. 

James loved them so much that the recipe made his “last meals” request before heading to his semester abroad in January. We invited a few of his friends over for a send-off meal and this time, the chicken breasts got a special pickle juice bath and I cut them in half and served them on slider buns. 3 dozen sandwiches and 7 college boys later, I knew I’d found the winning combination. 

So what’s next? I need a new favorite southern recipe to try out and make my own. Any suggestions?

 

 

Super Bowl LII: It's all about the food

Let me begin by saying that I hope this is the least watched Super Bowl of all time. I dislike both teams, the commercials in past years have been lame and I'm all around down on the NFL these days. That being said, yes, we ARE having people over for a Super Bowl "party." LOL

Because I hate to break it to you, Tom Brady, but there are more chicken wing fans than individuals who want to see you win another title! According to the National Chicken Council, Americans will consume 1.25 billion chicken wings this weekend. Also on America's menu: 11 million pounds of chips, 4 million pounds of pretzels, 2.5 million pounds of nuts, 8 million pounds of guacamole, and 50 million cases of beer. Additionally, Super Bowl Sunday is the 2nd biggest grilling day of the year. (What's number 1? Think fireworks and patriotism.)

So it's only natural that I enjoy taking advantage of the occasion to try out some new dishes on a captive audience. From the FCI (Fine Cooking Initiative), I'm serving up 

Mashed Cauliflower with garlic & anchovy Crostini

Ricotta & Goat Cheese Tart with Fresh Figs

Pancetta & Parmesan Tartlets

Kale & Caramelized Onion Turnovers

Pasta with Crab & Bacon

Haven't decided on a sweet yet...any suggestions? And I'm not serving wings but I think I'll do a twist on the Buffalo classic with the following recipe from a famous NYC restaurant. 

The Meatball Shop Buffalo Chicken Balls

What's your plan for Super Bowl Sunday? Will you order take-out like 48 million other Americans on game day? Whatever you do, have fun, eat well and maybe pick up some Tums when you're at the store (antacid sales rise 20% the day after!) 

 

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Keepin' it Fresh

I always have big plans to change habits and alter my behavior at the beginning of each new year. Most of these resolutions relate to behaviors, bad habits, weight loss, health, self care, etc. 2018 is my year to take it to a much simpler level. With regard to relationships, it's all about Cherish for me (see last week's blog). 

And for self improvement, I want to Grow. Specifically, I cook every day of the year. It's easy for me to get into a plan, execute, serve mode. I spend so much time forming menus, shopping for ingredients and then cooking that I feel I don't spend enough time experimenting in the kitchen. But I truly desire to explore new cuisines, cutting edge techniques and recipes outside of my comfort zone. 

For 2018 I am challenging myself to cook every recipe in Fine Cooking magazine, a publication that produces 6 issues annually. I subscribed in December and I love the format of the periodical. It has always been one of my favorite food magazines but it will take tremendous effort to accomplish this goal. I will have to commit to trying out unusual ingredients and new recipes every single week. But how fun!!?? The December/January issue has a section dedicated to Phyllo...with 5 completely different dishes! There are also recipes for 3 holiday roasts, a vegetarian Tikka Masala, 4 bar cookies, and a seafood pasta. Yummy....food coma induced now. There are 34 unique recipes in this edition and as it appeared in my mailbox mid-January, I'd better get busy before the new edition shows up with a whole new set of deliciousness to experiment with in the kitchen.

Follow my Instagram story to see the results...I'll post pictures of each new recipe as well as reviews from my qualified and unbiased official taste testers. 2018 is hereby declared the year of YUM.

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Thursday Night Pasta

It was 4pm and I hadn't planned dinner...
My DH had asked for pasta this week and somehow the days got away from me and it was Thursday and I had yet to plate up his request. He called me when I was finishing up at the shop and made a suggestion. "How about if I grill salmon and you make some kind of light pasta to go with? Forget about the red sauce--just use what we have on hand." Being exhausted and given a free pass to avoid a stop at the grocery store, I jumped at his menu plan with both tired feet!

When I arrived home, I immediately raided the refrigerator for any and all available ingredients. This was the resulting dish and it was perfect with his smoky-lemon-butter salmon. 

Everything But The Fridge Pasta

Note: I am obsessed with this goat cheese, now available at my Costco! I eat it straight from the package and also with baguette toasts. 

All of this to say that I am grateful for my JB, who knows my heart...that my intentions are good but I don't always have the energy to pull my plans together without his assistance. 

 Thursday night dinner: smoky-lemon salmon filet + everything but the fridge pasta

Thursday night dinner: smoky-lemon salmon filet + everything but the fridge pasta

Life of Pie

What was the first thing you ever baked in your parents’ kitchen? I think 9 out of 10 people would respond “cookies.” Me too! I remember that our neighbors across the street  (Joyce Strong and her mother, Mary) had shared these funny little brown, bumpy lumps with us and I thought they were divine! When I asked Joyce about them, she said they were “Cat-tails.” The joke was that we had cats and the Strong family did not care for pets of the feline persuasion.

The cookies were actually an unbaked oatmeal confection that many of you have probably tasted or made at some point. It was the perfect first foray into the baking world for me because the cookies required no oven time! My mother’s cookies were a different story. Unlike those Peanut Butter Chocolate No-Bake cookies, each of Sadako’s cookies were perfectly round spheres…crisp and chewy and mostly eaten right off the wax paper where they cooled on the counter.

My mother, Sadako, born and raised in Taiwan, was a novice to American baking but she applied the strict attention to detail learned in her mother’s kitchen to her newly acquired skills. Due to her quest for perfection, she struggled especially with pie crust. And of course, apple pie was my favorite dessert in the world. I could not wait until she baked pie—sneaking into the kitchen late at night for a last piece before bed, waking up in the morning and eating a slice for breakfast. I even loved the little cinnamon strips she would make with the leftover pieces of pie crust. But she constantly complained of the troubles associated with rolling out crust so we did not have pie as often as young Ruth would have liked. :(

Fast forward to my first kitchen away from home and by golly, I was going to learn to make pie. Ironically, I don’t remember the first fruit pie I baked. But I do remember the first time I made a chicken pot pie for my sweetheart, JB. I recall that I used too many herbs in the gravy and one in particular, tarragon, was not his favorite. So several tweaks later, the Home Sweet Home chicken pie as it is today, became my signature dish. I took it to pot-lucks, friends who’d had babies recently or lost a loved one, and family reunions.

Eventually, we all return to our first (food) love and I am no different. I’m baking Apple Pie this week and every one of my senses will be aroused to memories of my mother’s flaky pies which she claimed were less than perfect but I found to be pure heaven.

 Grandma Alice's Apple Pie

Grandma Alice's Apple Pie

Croutons 101

Why are we here today, ladies & gentleman? Because we love Bread in all of it’s delicious, crusty, chewy glory. But many of us are avoiding this marvel of yeast and wheat due to food allergies or fear of increased weight. For those that truly have an intolerance or even a life-threatening relationship with gluten, perhaps you should not read on. (Please consider transferring to another class, as Croutons 101 is not a good course for you.)

To my remaining students, I must confess that I too, have avoided pizza, crackers, hamburger buns, waffles, sandwiches, pretzels, and all other distant relatives to my very first addiction, Bread. I have blamed my slowed metabolism and increased pounds on bread, because I am not addicted to sweets. (I love a good piece of chocolate like every other red-blooded american girl but I don’t crave dessert.)

But in this course, we are going to learn to throw down our pre-conceived notions on the evils of bread. Instead, we will embrace the method by which I have learned to enjoy my favorite food in the world one nugget at a time.

Nunzio’s Croutons

 

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At this point, you may use the finished product to add crunch to any green salad or to float on top of a cup of soup. But feel free to do as I do and save some in a plastic bag to enjoy as a mid-afternoon snack when I am craving the bread that I denied myself at the restaurant we went to for lunch because I wanted to be good and not eat a sandwich. Deep breath. Repeat after me. Bread is not my enemy!

There are several other crouton recipes that I employ throughout the year. I make a bruschetta-type crisp for caesar salad, a buttery version for BLT salad and a cheese & cornbread beauty for tomato soup. The possibilities are endless. Croutons are also a good use of that beautiful whole-grain loaf that you purchased at the Farmers Market but forgot to eat and now the outside of the bread is kinda hard. (Or, throw chunks of it in the food processor and pulse until you have homemade breadcrumbs. Store in the freezer until you need them!)

In all seriousness, there is nothing like a great piece of warm bread, spread with salted butter or dipped in extra-virgin olive oil. So even though I will pop a few croutons to satisfy a craving in a week when I am cutting down on carbs, I also will ask for another basket of bread at Lucia because it is so soul-satisfying. <3

Seven days

Recently, we returned from a vacation to the Florida gulf coast with three out of four off-spring and two respective spouses. We were so fortunate to have time with family for our week because it doesn’t always work out that way. Now that most of our adult children are married, they must divide time between us and their in-laws so a week together here and there is a real treat.
So, in brief, here’s a look at our week by the numbers…

1 round of golf, 1 stand-up paddle board, 1 date night

2 days of rain at the end of our week, 2 sheet-pan breakfasts*, 2 martini nights

3 girls on the beach, 3 books finished by yours truly, 3 family meals at the vacation home

4 boys in the water, 4 absolutely-drop-dead-gorgeous days on the beach, 4 delicious dinners in restaurants

5 walks on the beach, 5 days without rain, 5 ways to eat oysters

6 games played, 6 different swimsuits, 6 water bottles consumed each day

7 sunrises & sunsets, 7 days of laughter, 7 cruiser bikes

Countless: inside jokes, photos snapped, snacks consumed, waves ridden, eye rolls, quotable comments by JB, songs shuffled, cocktails created, memories made.

Can’t wait to do it again.

*Recipe for Sheet Tray Pancakes for your next family vacation/reunion!

Ahhhhh, the Salad days

No, I’m not making a reference to my youth, a time of innocence, as the term “salad days”  usually refers to, but I mean THE Salad Days. As in, my consumption of salad Every Single Day for the past two months! Beginning with the Whole30 in June, I have managed to consume some form of fresh green concoction each day to the point that I don’t want to break the streak. Not that it’s become a religious experience for me, heavens, no. However, I actually look forward to my daily salad with some anticipation now.


My sweet M-I-L, Jeanette, was the first to introduce me to the idea that salad belonged on every dinner table, even at home. Sure, you go out to eat at a nice restaurant and you’re offered a salad before your main course but very few families consistently consume  greens with their meals at home. So my family grew up with the expectation that salad graced the table every night in addition to our main meal and possibly alongside other vegetables and bread. It was often a simple mix of red lettuce, carrot slices, diced cucumbers and Good Seasons dressing. Side topic: the joke in our house is that the making of the nightly salad is the first chore assigned to a novice in the kitchen. When someone enters Ruth’s kitchen and asks if they can help, invariably the answer is “you can make the salad.” This is because I am a bit of a control freak and don’t want you in my way as I’m trying to finish getting dinner on the table and truly, how can you mess up the salad? :)

Anyway, I digress. Salads. Lots of them. I’ve had some fabulous ones lately, from salmon & avocado atop arugula tossed in a sun-dried tomato vinaigrette to a romaine, apricot, walnut, avocado, olive number drizzled with a garlic-tahini dressing. A phenomena has started to occur when we go out for lunch or dinner…I think I’m craving a particular kind of cuisine like Italian pasta & pizza or Southern fried chicken and waffles but when I arrive at the restaurant I can’t get my eyes to wander off the Salad section.

I once scoffed at persons who chose salads thinking they were the “diet” choice on the menu when in truth the dressings and croutons made them anything but light. But now I embrace fat as an important part of my daily consumption and realize that the yummy flavors in a good dressing cause me to consume more healthy greens! Win-win.

In short, these are MY salad days. Two salads are on the menu this week. Join me.

 

Psst- the secret to perfect pie crust revealed here!

How do you make your pie crust? Why is your pie crust so flaky? What is the secret to perfect pie crust? These are the questions I most frequently receive, or some variation thereof.

You may have heard the following tips before and I also repeat them when posed the question of my pie crust:

  1. Use ice water when mixing the crust.
  2. Refrigerate the dough and allow it rest before rolling it out.
  3. Do not overhandle the dough or the crust will become tough.

But the Number 1 secret to MY pie crust is…(drum roll please) Practice. And the number 2 tip is Practice, also. See, I’ve made thousands of pie crusts in my days in the kitchen. A modest estimate of pie crusts rolled for the year 2016 is about 923. Thassa lotta pies! So of course I know the right amount of pressure to put on my rolling pin. And obviously I know how thin to spread the dough for the just right bottom and top layers of each pot pie, quiche, and fruit filled dessert. Your pies would absolutely be as flaky as mine if you had to make as many as I do!

So my advice:  keep making pies! Practice, practice, practice. Or not. You can always get them from Butterfield Gourmet! :)

Isn’t that true of most life skills, hobbies and endeavors? We need a lot of practice to get those things just right. If you really care about something, you won’t give up on the first couple of tries, but will attempt perfection again and again. I recommend you have a slice of pie and think about what you want to be really, really excellent at making and then create a practice plan to put it into action. Maybe two slices of pie—action plans require lots of fuel for the brain.  

 

Moms and Chicken Noodle Soup

When you’re feeling ill, don’t your thoughts immediately flash back to a time when Mom nurtured you back to health? She might bring you chicken noodle soup and saltines in bed and read to you. Maybe she would teach you to play solitaire or you’d watch the daytime soaps together. Sometimes you just needed a little rest and TLC to get back to normal. But when you were really sick, chicken noodle soup was definitely the ticket to bringing you ship-shape again.

 Chicken Noodle Soup with Mashed Potatoes

Chicken Noodle Soup with Mashed Potatoes

Because my mother is from Taiwan, it should be no surprise to learn that our version of the remedy was chicken flavored ramen noodles. Sure, we had Campbell’s chicken noodle soup once we moved stateside when I was 11. But the family staple was ramen and I brought that to my own house once I married and raised a family. Just this past week my son lamented (via text message, of course) that being sick without mom present to serve ramen noodles and bring him gatorade was rough. It’s nice to be missed.

For when someone you know or love is very ill, Dr. Ruth (that would be me) recommends straight up bone broth. Bone broth is all the rage in the food biz; Brodo is NYC’s broth only shop and in Portland, it’s the Broth Bar. You can purchase steaming cups of broth in coffee cups for your own “wellness to go.” Truth be told, bone broth is very easy to make. Here’s my go-to recipe for you to make at home.

Ruth’s Cure-all Chicken Broth

 2 whole chickens, rinsed, gizzards removed

2 large yellow onions, peeled and quartered

4 large carrots, washed and roughly chopped

4 large celery stalks, washed and roughly chopped

4 fresh thyme sprigs

1 fresh bay leaf

8 quarts water

1-2 tablespoons kosher salt, optional

1. In a very large stockpot (if possible, one with a pasta insert), combine whole chickens, onions, carrots, celery, thyme, and bay leaf. Add the water and place the pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, then adjust the heat so the liquid simmers gently, and cook for 2 hours. Skim the foam from the top as it forms and discard.

2. Remove all solids by lifting out the pasta insert and discard. If not using a pasta insert,  strain over a second large stockpot. Let broth cool, then refrigerate. After the liquid is cold, skim fat off the top and and strain again. Divide into quart bags and freeze for later use or use immediately.

So make your own pot of healing broth today; it will make anyone feel right as rain. And if you don’t have the time, there’s always ramen noodles. :)

Red wine + Chocolate

Could there be a better match made in heaven? I mean seriously. Forget about coffee with dessert—I adore dark chocolate with a glass of red wine or port. So why not combine the two? Have you tried Red Wine Hot Chocolate?!

I made a batch for Boxing Day and it was a straight-up treat. So rich and creamy and can I say it? Sexy. This is the perfect beverage to serve your sweetheart after dinner this week. And according to our Dallas forecast, Tuesday (Valentine’s Day) has 100% chance of rain so this lovely, warm drink will make your toes all cozy too.

Red Wine Hot Chocolate

Serves 4

2.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 cups whole milk

Pinch of salt

3/4 cup fruity red wine, such as Merlot, Shiraz, or Zinfandel

Whisk the chocolate, cocoa powder, sugar, and cinnamon together in a medium saucepan. Add the milk and bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until hot and smooth, about 5 minutes. Stir in the salt.

Remove from the heat and add the wine. Divide among 4 small glasses or mugs, (or 2 large!) garnish with a cinnamon stick and a dusting of cocoa powder, if desired, and serve. (recipe adapted from thekitchn.com)

Speaking of romantic meals, my husband and I don’t really go out to dinner for Valentine’s Day. The crowds are crazy, service is often sub-par and the food is predictable. We like to cook dinner together on nights when all the other couples are struggling to get out on the streets . One year we made lobster risotto and some seared sea scallops with champagne-butter sauce. Another time it was Barolo braised short ribs with pimento cheese polenta. This year I’m feeling Italian—because I think it’s romantic. I want to open a nice bottle of chianti and share a big plate of spaghetti & meatballs a la Lady & the Tramp! I’ll snap a picture for y’all… Hope you too have a fun, safe and delicious week!

 lady and the tramp

lady and the tramp