Gorgonzola stuffed tomatoes

Valentine’s Day.  Most people are going out to dinner, sending flowers or eating pounds of chocolate.  In my earlier life, I may have wanted all that but I have to say as I’ve gotten older it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.  Sorry Hallmark….but I think you should show the people in your life that you love them every day of the year and not just one.  With that said, I still wanted to do something nice for my husband so I decided to make a dinner that I thought he would enjoy.  Throw in a little candlelight, a nice bottle of wine and voilà!

I decided on seasoned beef tenderloin, roasted pepper salsa and stuffed gorgonzola tomatoes.  I am not a beef lover, but my husband certainly is and we both felt the tenderloin turned out quite nice.  The salsa, with it’s tangy bite  was a nice compliment to the savory tenderness of the meat.  What surprised me however, was that the tomato turned out to be the star of the evening.  It was so easy to do and yet such an elegant addition to the meal.

I was telling my friends what I had done a day or two later and I was amazed that everyone seemed interested in my sharing of this recipe.   It was one I found in a magazine,  inspired by Giada. I think this is really great if you’re having a dinner party, if it’s just a couple of people or even if you’re eating alone.  It’s very easy and very good.  I highly recommend this.

So, make this for someone you love, including yourself…. and it can be any day of the year.

Duck Ragu

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A couple of years ago, my husband Peter and I were in Las Vegas.  It was dinner time and we were starving because of the three-hour time difference in our normal eating routine.  Like the other casinos, they had so many restaurants for us to choose from and most of them were unfamiliar to us. However, after some discussion, we decided on this little back hole italian restaurant.  DOCG. Remember the name and if you are ever at the Cosmopolitan, make sure you go.  At the time, I wasn’t sure what to order because for an italian restaurant it was a little avant-garde for me.  But I thought, take a chance.  Isn’t that what Vegas is all about?  So, at the waitress’ suggestion, I decided to try the duck ragu.  Wow….my meal turned out to be the winner of the evening!

Well, fast forward to this past weekend and what do I find in my recipe collection but one for duck ragu?  And conveniently enough, I had duck legs in my freezer that I had intended for something else.  It was kizmit!  Forces had come together to bring back my Vegas dinner.  I was going down memory lane.  (I am seriously starting to sound a little corny!)

My husband was a little skeptical.  Ok, maybe not skeptical….maybe scared and horrified that I would actually consider making this for dinner.  That moment when he realizes this is his only option for a real meal, trepidation written all over his face……it’s priceless.  .But I think it was winner winner chicken dinner (or duck in this case)!  He loved it.  And I believe you will too.  I would even recommend making this the night before and letting the flavors meld a little more…..amazingly flavorful.

So, once in a while, take a chance.  Try something new. You might find that you’ve hit the jackpot.

I hope you enjoy this recipe inspired by Fine Cooking.

Girl’s night

What is it about a girl’s night that gets me all excited?  We used to have them all the time but now with all our busy lives,  if we can get together once a month, we’re lucky!  And because of that, it makes our times together so much better…and so much more fun!

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I guess the thought of getting together with friends and the impending gossip, advice, stories and laughter is something that we all need at one time or another.  Add to that,  some great food and a bottle or two of wine (or three or four) and the evening is perfect!

To be honest I always feel a little under pressure at these events. I shouldn’t because it’s really about just getting together, but I do.  It’s always a question of “what am I going to make?”  Several of my friends are excellent cooks…one even a graduate of culinary school. Oh, the PRESSURE!!!   I typically feel like I need to make something unusual, something that is so tasty and so appealing it will even impress my culinary friends.  And this time,  I think I was lucky.  This time,  I’m pretty sure I was successful.  This time….. I had LOBSTER DIP.

Who doesn’t like lobster? Sweet, tender, and succulent.  And,  as luck would have it, on that day only,  our area market had a great special on lobster tails (although quite small, still quite tasty!).  I bought four, set them on the counter and then in a moment of panic said to myself…what am i going to do with these?

I always was quite good with a crab dip so I thought maybe I could just improvise and use what I learned from that….and amazingly enough it turned out to be quite high on the yummy scale.  I’m not sure if I really impressed anyone, but no matter….I liked it and will certainly make this again on my next get-together with the girls, with another couple or hey…a date with just me and my favorite bottle of wine.  So here’s to a good time…… that was had by all!

Boeuf Bourguignon

Julie and Julia….a movie about a blogger who takes on the infamous Julia Child’s cookbook.  I liked it so much,  I think I must have watched it three times the first day I bought the DVD. I enjoyed the French cooking class scenes, Meryl Streep’s character and the cooking project Julie challenged herself with…… but the Boeuf Bourguignon scene really seemed to catch my attention.  I’m not sure why because I’m really not a big red meat-eater.  I’m your chicken and fish kind of girl. But don’t you think they just made it look so incredibly tasty?  How is it that I would not want to make it?  So,  like a true fan,  I went out and bought the book, put it on my shelf and resolved that I would make the bourguignon very soon.  That was three years ago. ( Fast forward to now.)  Book sitting on my shelf covered in dust, a very cold day and a desire to make something memorable…. the recipe was calling my name.  It was now time to make the classic Julia Child beef stew…..her Boeuf Bourguignon!  My husband, Peter, and I went out and bought everything we needed.  His mouth was already watering, and although challenged by this I wasn’t crazy over what it was going to taste like.  (see earlier comments about me and red meat).  I followed the recipe exactly, drying the meat with the paper towels, browning the mushrooms, adding the red wine and oh my…..   I will have to say….. the aroma, the flavor and the tenderness of the beef changed my mind.  This was a definite “yum” moment and a memorable one at that.  I will definitely make this again and I would recommend you try it.  You and your guests won’t regret it.  And Julia, let me just say… Bon Appetit!

Crepe Cake with Caramel and Mascarpone Whipped Cream

Crepe Cake with Caramel and Marscapone Whipped CreamThere are two critically important things I learned this weekend in making caramel.  The first is that the process can go very fast so if you aren’t paying attention, you can ruin it in a nano-second.  Burnt sugar does not make for a good tasting caramel.  The second thing I learned (and this could be the most  important) is that the sugar is incredibly hot and because of that you should never (and I mean never!) work in your bare feet, drop a bit of the hot caramelized sugar and then step directly on it.  Lesson learned..(OUCH!!)..and next time I make it I will be wearing steel toed boots….. because that’s how I roll.

However, given that fact, the dream of french crepes, caramel and a wickedly delicious mascarpone whipped cream dancing in my head was to the point I had the need to spend my weekend in the kitchen making this cake.  My inspiration came from looking at other blogs, and I saw this posting from Poires au Chocolat.  Her pictures looked amazing and I wanted to try the recipe out but all the ingredients were listed in kilograms and milliliters. Really? I barely passed math so the thought of converting everything over to cups and teaspoons was a complete nightmare to me.  But I thought,  how difficult can this be?  I know how to make whipped cream, I’m passably good with crepes and other than crippling myself for life (and a hint of burnt sugar flavor) I was able to conquer the caramel.  It was well worth the effort and time to make. This is a cake I will keep in my recipe files.  I hope that when you make this and you take your first bite, you will do exactly what I did….close your eyes, take a deep breath and utter “YUM!”.

Below is my adaption of emily@poiresauchocolat.net’s crepe cake.  Bon Appetit!

 

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