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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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

White Wine Romance

Summer has arrived in all of it’s hot, steamy glory. Everything changes for this season. If you have school-aged children, they will transition to camps, activities, summer jobs, or just sleeping in late. Schedules relax a bit with meals at odd times. The patterns of what we eat may change also; some of you may grill every other meal, never turn on the oven, or eat mainly cold food straight from the refrigerator. And beverages! Summer means lemonade, iced tea, frosty beer, sangria, mojitos, and frozen margaritas.
If you’re like me, on a summer evening after work or play, there’s nothing like a beautiful chilled glass of crisp white wine.

{The chilled glass is essential—JB fills mine with ice and adds water to get the melt going. When the glass is chilled just right, he often offers the water to me to drink before dumping the ice to replace it with wine. Gotta hydrate, am I right?}

I have enjoyed many a robust red in my time. Cabernet Sauvignon with my steaks, and Pinot Noir with my Thanksgiving turkey. I like Chianti with my Italian meals and a nice Malbec with brisket. But I always considered white wine as a warm weather beverage that must only accompany chicken, seafood, and meatless dishes.

However, as of late I find that white wine doesn’t give me a headache or make me sleepy. I can consume several glasses without getting tipsy and let’s all agree, it can be sooooooooo refreshing. So I must confess that I have transitioned to a year-round white wine drinker. Sometimes I go against all conventional thought and enjoy a Sauvignon Blanc with WHATEVER I’m eating!

Turns out I’m not the only woman trending this direction in wine consumption. I recently read a Wall Street Journal article titled “Why More Women Are Siding with White Wine“ and found I am not alone in choosing the lighter version of the grape’s bounty. Many females cite health issues as their reason but a lot of women just prefer the refreshment quality of the whites. Click here to read the article and see the author’s picks for 5 good bottles to feed a white-wine addiction.

And armed with this justification (hey! it’s the Journal!) I will continue down my white wine path into these hot summer days and beyond! :)

My Box Club Love Affair (Have you been to my Costco yet?)

That’s right. My Costco finally opened on Thursday, May 11, to great fanfare at Churchill Way & Coit, the first Costco warehouse within Dallas city limits.

I refer to the store as mine because I have been longing for a location here ever since we left suburbia in 2013. Because. I. Love. Costco. I love the wine selection, the gourmet cheeses, the organic meat, fruits, vegetables and olive oil. Their bakery is good, return policy rocks and the customer service is always pleasant and friendly. Seriously…what’s not to love?

The ONE thing that I do not care for about Costco are the sample carts. Many people love, love, love the samples as evidenced by the crowds that form around the space, but those clusters of free-food-seekers drive me crazy when I’m trying to shop! I’ve also never eaten in the little cafe at the front of the store for which the big box chain is famously known for their $1.50 beef hot dog & drink combo. Do you know that price has been in effect since the warehouse first began their cafe offerings in 1985? They’ve never once raised the price.

And that’s another reason I adore Costco. It’s one of the few retail establishments where I don’t feel like the goal is to gouge it’s customers on prices. In fact, their average product mark-up is 11% compared to 24% at Wal-mart!

But enough of my gushing over my favorite big box store…head on over, tell them Ruth sent you and pick up a $4.99 rotisserie chicken on an evening when you don’t have a Butterfield Gourmet dinner for your table!**

P.s. We had a great day out at St. Michael’s on Saturday and loved seeing some of you while we sold out of our inventory. I forgot to share the link to the awesome write-up in the Dallas Morning News last week, so hope you’ll read it and catch the nice mention they gave the market and Butterfield Gourmet! **all comments and opinions are my own and Butterfield Gourmet received no compensation for this essay. I just really love Costco!

 My Dallas Costco, 8055 Churchill Way

My Dallas Costco, 8055 Churchill Way

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.  

 

How to plan a perfect date night

Step 1.Choose your date. Whom should you take? Well, obviously- your best friend or soul mate, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, daughter, son, any of these will do. And sometimes if you’re very fortunate, the person qualifies for 3 of these descriptions.

Step 2.Choose a day. Now that we are empty nesters, we like Thursday. It starts the weekend, without the crowds and we are always relaxed near the end of the work week. But Saturday is good too. Or Sunday. Or Monday. Finding a day that will work for both of you is key!

 Our date night this past week

Our date night this past week

Step 3. Choose your venue. It can be the pizza parlor around the corner or the swanky steak place on Oak Lawn (this was our date this week thanks to a most generous patron). You can take a picnic to the Arboretum or White Rock Lake. Pick a place you’ve never been or one of your old favorites.

Step 4.Commit to putting your phones away while you’re out together. Be present in the moment.

Step 5. Eat a little or eat a lot. Drink a little or drink a lot (Uber required). Laugh. Talk. Whisper. Conspire.

Step 6. (optional)Dance, with or without music. In the parking lot or in the car—yes, you can chair dance in the car—it’s fun! On your front porch, in the bedroom, in the foyer with the kids watching. Dancing is an added bonus to the date experience.

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We all have busy lives but take time to plan a date night this week; you won’t regret it. And for the other nights of the week, I have some delightful menu options for you…see the menu tab above.

So very thankful for turkey, pie and family

 Serious pic

Serious pic

The past two weeks are a blur. I do remember baking a lot of pies. And sides. And buttered rolls. And we entertained a crowd…not unmanageable, but still a crowd.

It was a lovely Thanksgiving at our house, with three of the Butterfield boys and their families gathered to talk food, sports and life. I had a fantastic crew in the kitchen—my daughter, daughter-in-law and a brother-in-law were all huge helps and I could not have managed the meal alone. It was an ambitious menu with so many sides…

2 Roasted Turkeys with Hard Cider Gravy

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with brown sugar crumble

Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes

Mashed Potato Casserole

Maple Glazed Carrots

Skillet Green Bean Casserole

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cornbread Croutons

Brussels Sprouts & Cauliflower Gratin

Traditional Bread Dressing

Mushroom & Parmesan Savory Bread Pudding

Kale Salad with Butternut Squash & Pumpkin Seeds

Cranberry Citrus Relish

Buttered + buttered rolls

Thankfully, the clean-up team did not disappoint either. There were cousins running every which way to clear the table, wash and dry dishes and take out the mounds of recycling. (so many bottles!)

What a blessing to be surrounded by people you love at any time of the year! It was so nice and I hope that each of you had your own version of Thanksgiving joy around the table.

Because Thanksgiving came early this year, I have one last weekly menu before the holiday crush. Once December arrives, my team and I will be madly baking, boxing and mailing gifts across the country for orders. We would love to fulfill your gifting needs as well so be sure to get your orders in as soon as possible. Gifts are online now!

This Saturday, we will have a booth at the Jesuit Christmas Bazaar from 9am – 5pm. Please stop by and say hi! We are working hard to have lots of product to sell on the spot. We’ve come up with some not-to-be-missed specials just for the Bazaar and it’s all live on the ordering site and effective through Saturday only, so check it out here.

 Silly pic

Silly pic