Friday, February 26, 2021

Irish Whiskey Caramel Sauce

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My traditional dessert for St. Patrick’s Day dinner is Chocolate Stout Cake, made with Guinness. The late Mr. O-P had a specialty of his own in Bread & Butter Pudding, that was out of this world (Family members are still talking about it.). This year, I decided to do something different and focus on Irish whiskey rather than stout. I came across this recipe while attempting to thin out my collection of Gourmet Magazines (Yet another futile 2021 attempt at organization.), and decided to give it a try. It is so easy to make, and incredibly good! When drizzled on top of coffee ice cream and topped with a couple chocolate covered espresso beans, it is definitely a dessert to remember.

Irish Whiskey Caramel Sauce
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine

1 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. water
6 T. Jameson Irish whiskey
1/4 c. heavy cream
1/4 t. kosher salt
Coffee Ice Cream

Melissa’s Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans

Bring sugar and water to a boil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil without stirring, but washing down any sugar crystals with a brush dipped in cold water, until syrup begins to turn golden, about 5 minutes. Continue to boil, swirling pan occasionally, until syrup is a deep golden caramel.

Remove pan from heat and carefully add whiskey, cream, and salt (mixture will bubble up and steam and caramel will harden). Return pan to heat and simmer, stirring, until caramel is dissolved and sauce is smooth. Cool to warm.
Serve sauce over scoops of coffee ice cream and top with chocolate espresso beans. 


Thursday, February 25, 2021

Celebrating St. Pat's

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 Green is my favorite color so I always enjoy decorating for St. Patrick’s Day. I had hardly closed the book on Valentine’s Day before I started getting out all my cute little green goodies in order to decorate my two-tiered tray. Here it is! Doesn’t it make you think of spring?


  The leprechaun salt and pepper shakers are from Fitz and Floyd. I dearly love these little guys. You can fine a similar set here.

The cups that you saw with a hunt scene last month have been reversed to the thatched cottage side. I have honestly never known tea cups to be quite as versatile as these. The name of this pattern is “Ireland Pursuit” from Noritake.

The oil rubbed bronze cabin with the light inside is something I find so charming that I keep it out year-round. It seems to go with just about everything.

 I found the little cottage sugar and creamer set among my mother’s things. Honestly, I had no idea that she even had this adorable set, so I plan to put it to lots of good use. It seemed most appropriate here.

 The vintage postcard plaques are new this year. I love using postcards in tablescapes and decor, but I find that because they’re so thin they tend to fall over or warp. These seemed to be the perfect answer.

 I bought a set of four of these shamrock tins to use it place settings to hold green popcorn.

St. Patrick’s Day wouldn’t be St. Patrick’s Day without a pot of gold, or in this case mint M&Ms.

 Do any of you decorate for St. Pat’s? Aren’t we all Irish on March 17th?


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Ranch Pasta Salad

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My dad was a big fan of salads. Even after my mother passed away, and he lived on his own for six years, he had a fresh salad every day; that, and his daily gin martini, was no doubt the secrets to his long and productive life.

When it comes to loving salads, the apple (Oooh, apple salad sounds good!) did not fall far from the tree, I love them as well. Whereas dad tended to stick with green salads, I like salads of all kinds. This week I was attempting to clean out my pantry (something that I have decided is a lost cause), and found half of a box of tricolor pasta. Because it fell out at my feet, and was generally irritating me, I decided to make a salad. I chopped up a variety of crisp, fresh vegetables to include with the cooked, drained, and cooled pasta, as well as one of my new favorite ingredients, salad seasoning.

This beauty keeps for 2 to 3 days in the fridge; if you want to have salad for a number of days running, but don’t want the hassle of fixing it, give this a try. Most of the kids that I know consider Ranch Dressing to be a food group, so they will love this.

Ranch Pasta Salad

1 c. Ranch Salad Dressing*
8 oz.
tricolor rotini pasta
1 green pepper, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 radishes, diced
Melissa’s French Echalion shallot, finely diced**
1 English cucumber, diced
1 Roma tomato, seeded and chopped
1 T.
Perfect Pinch Salad Supreme Seasoning

Prepare pasta according to package directions. Rinse thoroughly in cold water, and drain. Place cooked and cooled noodles into a medium mixing bowl, and toss with ranch dressing, to coat. With a rubber spatula, fold in all vegetables. Add salad seasoning and mix to combine.

Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. If you like the salad creamier, feel free to add more ranch dressing. Keeps in the refrigerator up to two days, perhaps three.

If you’d like to add protein and serve this as a main dish, add chopped egg, crumbled bacon, or julienne slices of cooked ham.

 *I prefer to make my own up fresh, but bottled works too.

 **Can substitute an equal amount of red onion.



Monday, February 22, 2021

Red Beans & Rice

Despite the fact that I have been blogging for more than a decade, and cooking nearly all of my life, I have yet to experience some of the simplest of foods. Case in point, prior to making them just the other day, I had never eaten red beans and rice. I kept thinking to myself…beans and rice? What can be so yummy about beans and rice? Well, I’ll tell you, they are delicious! I did all of my chopping ahead of time, so it was absolutely no trouble to put this together. The house smelled wonderful while they were simmering on the stove, and once I took my first delicious, smoky, spicy bite, I could hardly put the spoon down.

 Red Beans & Rice

Adapted from Damn Delicious

 1 c. long grain basmati rice

1 T. olive oil

1 (12.8-oz.) pkg. smoked andouille sausage, thinly sliced

1 3-oz. pkg. Melissa’s shallots, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

2 celery ribs, diced

2 T. tomato paste

3 cloves garlic, minced

1½ t. Cajun seasoning

3 (15-oz.) cans red beans, drained and rinsed

3 c. chicken stock

1 t. Crystal hot sauce

1 bay leaf

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 T. chopped fresh parsley leaves

 Cook rice according to package instructions; set aside.

 Heat oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Working in batches, add sausage, and cook, stirring frequently, until sausage is lightly browned, about 3-4 minutes; set aside on a paper-towel-lined plate

 Add shallots, bell pepper, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3-4 minutes.

 Stir in tomato paste, garlic, and Cajun seasoning until fragrant, about 1 minute.

 Stir in red beans, chicken stock, hot sauce, bay leaf, and sausage. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Uncover; continue to simmer until reduced, an additional 15 minutes.

 Using an avocado masher (an invaluable tool, in my opinion), mash beans until slightly thickened, if desired; season with salt and pepper, to taste.

 Serve topped with rice and garnished with parsley, and a bottle of hot sauce on the side.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Plat du Jour by Susan Herrmann Loomis, Reviewed

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In the interest of full disclosure, I am a fan of Susan Herrmann Loomis. I had three of her books already in my culinary library (Farmhouse Cookbook, Italian Farmhouse Cookbook, and Clambakes & Fish Fries), when Plat du Jour came into my possession thanks to Melissa’s Produce. I like her style, I like the time and research that she puts into writing each cookbook, and I love her recipes.

   Her love for France and its cuisine shines through in all of her books, but particularly here. She wants to share this love with her readers, and consequently has created this book on making [what may seem to be complicated] French dishes into easy every day fare.

I enjoy this book as much for the recipes for the side dishes as I do for the mains. Her sides are unique, easy to prepare, and intensely flavorful. What she does with mashed potatoes (a bay leaf added to the cooking water and nutmeg added to the mix) has altered the way I view and prepare mashed potatoes. This is not to say that the main dishes aren’t equally wonderful, case in point the Butter-Drizzled Seared Steak with Potato Gratin. 

She is a genius with chicken; her Roast Chicken with Fresh Tarragon is particularly good, as is the Golden Roast Chicken with Shallots and Apples, the perfect dish to welcome fall.

I feel a kinship with the French in that love their eggs, and so do I. If you feel the same, you will no doubt enjoy her various ways in which to prepare them, my personal favorite being her Country Omelette with Wild Mushrooms and Potatoes. If you are a lover of poached eggs, you will enjoy her recipe for Mushrooms with “Broken Eggs” (so simple to prepare, and yet so satisfyingly delicious).


In addition to all of the wonderful things you’re going to learn about France and French cuisine, you are going to come to know Susan as well, thanks to her wonderful tips, sides, bits of history, and other such comments. One thing I really appreciated was that each recipe tells you what equipment you’re going to need, preparation time, cooking time, as well as level of difficulty. Inexperienced cooks, particularly, will find this invaluable. She is very honest in describing difficulty level, in some cases stating that while the recipe is not difficult it does require patience. I really appreciated that aspect.

This book is also loaded with beautiful, mouthwatering photos, an absolute must for every cookbook, in my opinion. Even though I am older and experienced, I still appreciate having a colorful photo of what the end product is supposed to look like for my own personal comparison.

Whether or not you, like me, have “known” Susan for a long time, or if this will be your introduction to her, you are thoroughly going to enjoy this book.
Buy it, read it, cook from it.



Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Melissa’s Produce in exchange for an honest review.


Thursday, February 18, 2021

Cajun Potato Soup

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I can honestly say, when it comes to Mardi Gras, I really don’t do that much celebrating. I do, however, really enjoy the food. As a consequence, year after year, I try new recipes for Cajun and Creole dishes. With the frigid temperatures that we’ve been having, nothing sounds better than a hot sandwich or steaming bowl of soup. This Cajun Potato Soup warms you inside and out, thanks to the spices and andouille sausage. It goes together rather quickly; I got the oil and butter melting as I was chopping the vegetables, and then just threw them into the pan as they were cooking. In no time, I had a delicious, comforting bowl of soup.


 Cajun Potato Soup

Adapted from

2 T. butter 

2 T. olive oil 

1 3-oz. pkg. Melissa’s shallots, diced 

2 ribs celery, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1½ lbs. andouille sausage, sliced into rounds 

1 1.5-oz bag Melissa’s Baby Red Potatoes, quartered

3 c. chicken broth 

2 c. whole milk 

2 c. heavy cream 

2 t. Italian seasoning

1 t. Creole seasoning

1 lg. Handful fresh spinach, chopped 

Grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

 In a large stockpot over medium heat, melt butter and oil together. Add onion, celery, and garlic and cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage slices; cook, stirring occasionally another 5 minutes. Add potatoes; cook and stir 15 minutes. Slowly add chicken broth, milk, heavy cream, and seasonings. Bring to a simmer and cook 10 to 12 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Add spinach and cook until wilted, about one minute more. Remove from heat. Top with Parmesan cheese.




Monday, February 15, 2021

Philly Cheese Steak Sloppy Joes

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Arctic weather has moved into the area, subzero temperatures are the order of the day, and that can only mean one thing: hot sandwiches. Summer is for salads and cold sandwiches; winter is for hot, and I do love a good hot sandwich. This Philly Cheese Steak version of a sloppy Joe is warming and wonderful.

Philly Cheese Steak Sloppy Joes

Adapted from


1 lb. ground chuck

2 T. butter

2 Melissa’s shallots, diced

1 small green bell pepper, diced

8 oz. cremini mushrooms, minced

2 T. ketchup

1 T. Worcestershire sauce

¼ t. kosher salt

½ t. Montreal Steak Seasoning

½ t. freshly ground black pepper

1 T. cornstarch

1 c. beef broth

6 oz. Provolone Cheese Slices, chopped

6 brioche hamburger buns

Place a 10”-12” cast iron or heavy skillet over medium/high heat and heat until hot. Add ground chuck and sear on both sides until a deep brown crust appears before breaking the beef apart. Stir the ground beef, browning until a deep crust appears on about 50% of the beef.

 Remove the beef to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Into the same skillet add the butter, shallots, bell peppers, and mushrooms. Sear vegetables for 1-2 minutes, stir, and then continue to brown for another 1-2 minutes before stirring again. Add beef back to the pan.

Add the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salt, Steak Seasoning, and black pepper, stirring to combine. In a small cup mix the beef broth and cornstarch together; add to beef mixture. Cook until the liquid in the mixture has reduced by about 75%, 3-5 minutes. Turn off the heat, stir in the provolone cheese. Served on toasted brioche buns.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Happy Valentine's Day!

 I generally don’t post on weekends, but I thought I would share this picture of the Valentine cards that I put into the mail this year, as well as the lovingly collaged envelopes.

Consider this my virtual Valentine card to you. Have a lovely and romantic day, and if you live anywhere near the Mississippi Valley, as I do, stay warm!


Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 12, 2021

Falling in Love Chocolate Mousse Pie

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St. Valentine’s Day has always meant chocolate and flowers to me. It’s also meant a cocktail and a really good steak dinner, but I digress. Although I won’t be celebrating, I will be noshing on a delicious dessert. This recipe comes from the charming 2007 film “Waitress.” It’s easy to prepare, absolutely delicious, and how romantic is the name? There are a variety of recipes for this pie on the Internet, this one is mine.

Falling in Love Chocolate Mousse Pie

1 9” baked pie shell
114-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup water
1 4-serving package chocolate pudding mix (not instant)
1/4 t.
espresso powder
1-oz. square unsweetened chocolate
2 cups heavy cream, stiffly whipped

In a large sauce pan over medium heat, whisk together condensed milk, water, pudding mix, and espresso powder. Add chocolate. Cook, stirring constantly, until the chocolate has melted and the mixture has thickened.* Remove from heat, and with a hand mixer, beat until smooth and shiny, 1-2 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes, and then put in refrigerator to chill thoroughly, 45 minutes to an hour. Give it a stir and fold in whipped cream, until fully incorporated. Turn into prepared pie shell and chill until set, 4 to 6 hours. If you like, you can decorate the top by piping rosettes of
stabilized whipped cream around the edge.

*We’re talking serious thickening here, like a heavy custard. It needs to go beyond the thickness of a pudding because remember, you’re going to be slicing this.



Thursday, February 11, 2021

Everything But the Bagel Dip

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These days it’s highly unlikely that someone will drop by unannounced; if they dare they would no doubt be dressed like a beekeeper. So, while this four-ingredient, easy-to-put-together, absolutely wonderful dip is perfect for drop-in guests, you and your family will enjoy it too. It is so stupidly simple as to not be believed. In fact, I wasn’t sure I quite believed that it would be good at all because it was so easy. I was wrong. This goes well with chips, crackers, crudités, or chunks of bread (I know because I’ve tried all of these things), as well as an excellent topping on a burger (ditto). You’re going to want to keep this recipe in your repertoire just for those occasions when you need something delicious in a hurry.

Everything But the Bagel Dip
Adapted from


4 oz. cream cheese, softened 

⅓ c. Duke’s mayonnaise 

1½ T. Everything But the Bagel Seasoning

Place all ingredients into a medium mixing bowl, and beat until creamy, 2 minutes. When it’s smooth and creamy, scrape it out of the bowl into a refrigerator container. The flavor enhances the longer it sits. Keeps in the refrigerator 7 to 10 days.


Tuesday, February 9, 2021

How to Make Gravy from a Rotisserie Chicken

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It’s amazing what excites me these days. I’m not sure if that says more about my age, or the pandemic, nonetheless, I’m going to share my recent bit of excitement with you, namely, that I made gravy from a rotisserie chicken. I always find that gravy adds something to a meal (other than calories). It just seems a little more festive when I drizzle a bit of gravy over that chicken, mound of mashed potatoes, or side of dressing. If you are intrigued by the idea as well, here’s how I did it.

How to Make Gravy from a Rotisserie Chicken

One rotisserie chicken
2 T. unsalted butter
2 T. flour
2 c. chicken broth
Freshly ground black pepper
1/8 - ¼ t. rubbed sage
1 T. heavy cream, optional

Preheat oven to 400° F. Strip meat off of rotisserie chicken and set aside for future use. Break up the skeletal remains (for lack of a better word) and place those pieces into a 12-inch cast-iron or ovenproof skillet. Roast for 30 minutes. Remove pan from oven, being careful when you do, remember that pan is hot! Using tongs, remove the chicken pieces from the pot. At this point you have the choice of either discarding them, or turning them into a roasted chicken stock.

Place pan over a burner set to medium low. Add butter, stirring while it melts to incorporate it with accumulated juices, and any browned bits on the bottom. When butter has melted, stir in flour. Continue to cook, stirring, until the butter and flour mixture (the roux) has become a nice nutty brown color, 3 to 5 minutes. Slowly add chicken stock, continuing to stir, and simmer until the gravy reaches its desired thickness. At this point salt and pepper to taste, and stir in some rubbed sage for richness. Stir in cream, if desired.



Monday, February 8, 2021

Apricot Scones

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According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Apricot Scones are a menu favorite at The Barn, the restaurant on the grounds of the Thomas Sappington House Museum Complex in the county of Crestwood. Now, I have been to The Barn restaurant, and my experience was not a good one. However, I do love apricots, and I like a good scone, so I was willing to give these a try. The directions provided were unnecessarily tedious and long, so I updated them; I find the absolute best way to make a scone is in the food processor, so that’s what I did. These are indeed tasty and filling, and made a wonderful breakfast this morning.

 Apricot Scones

Recipe adapted from Feast Magazine


Flour, for work surface

2 c. flour

⅓ c. granulated sugar

1 t. baking powder

¼ t. baking soda

½ t. kosher salt

8 T. (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces

1 3-oz. pkg. Melissa’s dried apricots

½ c. toasted pecan pieces

½ c. sour cream

1 large egg

2 T. melted butter, for tops

⅓ c. Sugar in the Raw


Preheat oven to 450° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat. Lightly dust a work surface with flour.

 Pulse apricots in food processor 4-5 times until diced small; empty into bowl. Pulse pecan halves 4-5 times until chopped; empty into bowl with apricots.

Into the food processor, place flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Pulse until combined. Place butter cubes into food processor, and pulse until mixture forms a coarse meal. Add apricots and pecans, and pulse until blended.

 In a small bowl, whisk sour cream and egg until smooth, then add to the food processor. Pulse until it forms a large ball.

Place dough ball on floured work surface and pat into a 6-inch disc, smoothing sides as you go. 



Brush melted butter over the top and sides, then cover with sugar in the raw, pressing down lightly as you do.


Make four cuts into the top to create eight pie-shaped scones. Lift each one off of the work surface, lightly dipping the bottom into any accumulated butter and sugar, and place on baking sheet. 


Bake until golden brown, 15 to 17 minutes.


Serve warm or at room temperature.