Happy Valentine’s Day!

molten chocolate cake2This is one of my favorite sweet treats to make for Valentine’s Day or any occasion requiring a spectacular dessert. Molten Chocolate Cake. It’s easy to make and you can still make it for your Valentine this evening. It can also be made one day ahead and placed in the fridge, then brought to room temperature and baked when needed. I like to add just a touch of cinnamon to my batter for a little spicy warmth, and use vanilla bean ice cream on top. Make 1/3 of the recipe for two, if that’s where you’re headed. This isn’t my recipe, but it’s one I use over and over again, and I highly recommend it! You can find the recipe by clicking here.

Need more quick Valentine’s ideas?

Coeur a la creme by candlelight...very romantic!

Coeur a la creme by candlelight…very romantic!

Coeur à la crème click here.

Milk Chocolate and Orange Pots de Creme for dessert!

Milk Chocolate and Orange Pots de Creme for dessert!

Milk Chocolate and Orange Pots de Crème click here. Just add a little orange zest to make my version.

flowers

Hope you have a lovely day one and all!

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Time to Catch Up with Some Recipes New and Old

Potsdecreme1I’m in denial that February is almost over. It seems like this year is flying by even faster than the last. Although for those of you in the northern U.S. and Canada who have had weeks upon weeks of tremendous snow, I’m sure Spring can’t arrive fast enough!

So what’s been happening here? Well, we’ve tried to get back into our wonderful hiking schedule every Saturday, but winter weather—even here in the deep south—can be daunting. We’ve managed a few nice, long hikes so far this year, but will probably  have to wait until March or so to get back to our routine. Here are a few scenes from some those hikes and as you can see, even winter forest is quite lovely. Enjoy these moments of peace and solitude along with the myriad of textures and pattern that a winter forest reveals. Continue reading

Keeping It Classic: Steak au Poivre, Blue Cheese Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Asparagus

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Not the best images as they were all snapped quickly with the iPhone. We were concentrating more on eating than snapping, as it should be.

Valentine’s Day may have come and gone, but classic meals are timeless!

I was reminded of that once again last Friday night, when I shared this meal with my Valentine. We rarely eat steak, and even more rarely purchase filet of beef tenderloin, but since this was Valentine’s Day and we were dining chez moi, I decided to keep things very old school. Steak, potatoes and asparagus…that’s about as classic and old school as it gets.

It was a pretty snow, but that's actually about 1/2" snow on top of ice.

It was a pretty snow, but that’s actually about 1″ of snow on top of ice.

I ran through the grocery rather frantically on Friday—Valentine’s Day itself—after days of being “trapped” in our house last week from yet another winter storm. When I arrived at the butcher counter, a smiling young woman asked me what I wanted, saying that this was the kind of day that you just couldn’t be anything but happy. She was right. I ordered my two beef tenderloin filets and she handed them to me nicely wrapped in butcher paper—along with a beautiful little lobster tail! “Today only, we’re giving away a free lobster tail when you buy steak, for as long as they last…and you’re the last one!” she called out, beaming at me. And by this time I was beaming back, let me assure you, as I absolutely adore lobster. Surf and Turf for dinner—even more classic than I’d intended! Sweet.

After securing my ingredients for dinner and dessert, I was back home in a flash. And here’s what our very classic Valentine’s evening menu included:

Artichoke Squares
Schramsberg Brut Rosé 2009 Napa Valley

Steak au Poivre
Lobster tail sautéed in butter and finished with lemon
Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes with Fourme d’Ambert
Roasted Asparagus
2002 Titus Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

Molten Chocolate Cakes with Coffee Ice Cream
(Another glass of the Schramsberg, naturally!)

MoltenchocolatecakeA truly elegant and deliciously decadent dinner, easily made and costing literally pennies on the dollar of what you’d pay to eat it in a restaurant. And with the most intimate setting—our own dining room. Lovely evening.

But it doesn’t have to be Valentine’s Day to enjoy this simple feast. These are classics for a reason…they’re delicious any time. This terrific meal comes together so quickly (if you’ve made and frozen your artichoke squares ahead of time like I told you), that you’re out of the kitchen in no time flat and able to relax and enjoy. See below for the recipes and links (in red.)

Bon Appétit!

Artichoke Squares (from my last post)

Steak au Poivre (Alton Brown)
Notes: I used a mixture of black and pink peppercorns because I had them left over from making Chai Tea mix. I’ve had this dish at a restaurant made with all green peppercorns, and it was amazing.

Lobster Tail Sautéed with Butter and Finished with Lemon
Simple is best here, and this allows the sweetness and natural briny flavor of the lobster to shine through. It also keeps the meat from getting rubbery, just don’t over cook it.

1 small cold water lobster tail removed from its shell and split in half lengthwise (small tails are typically sweeter meat)
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Melt the butter in a small non-stick skillet over medium low heat. Add the two sides of the lobster tail, making sure each is on top of the melted butter, and cook for 3 minutes, then flip the tails to the other side and cook for 3 minutes more, or until the meat has just turned opaque. Squeeze the fresh lemon juice over the meat. Plate the lobster meat and pour the lemon butter mixture remaining in the pan evenly over the top of the lobster meat. Eat and wish you had about 5 more small lobster tails.

Blue Cheese Mashed Potatoes (The Neeleys)
This is a brilliant way to make mashed potatoes and I wish I’d discovered it sooner. You dice and cook your potatoes leaving on the skins, heat your cream and butter separately, add the blue cheese, then pour that over the drained potatoes and then mash…brilliant. I used Fourme d’Ambert blue cheese which is readily available here, creamy and lovely. Use your favorite cheese or no cheese, and do a happy dance!

Roasted Asparagus
(2-4 servings)

1 lb. fresh asparagus spears, washed and tough bottoms of the stalks removed
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Sprinkle of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with foil. Toss the asparagus spears in the olive oil and lay them in a single layer on the cookie sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, checking them after about 10 minutes and turning them over. They are done when the asparagus is tender and has a few browned spots on the stalk. Serve.

Bittersweet Molten Chocolate Cakes with Coffee Ice Cream (Bon Appétit Magazine)
I’ve been making this dessert since it first appeared in the magazine in January of 2003 and it’s always a winner, always reliable and always impressive. I’ve added a pinch of cinnamon to mine, or sometimes a bit of grated orange zest, and tried different ice creams, too, just to change it up. They’re not too hard to make, either. You can make these a few hours ahead of time, or the day before, then store them covered in the fridge, pull them out to get back to room temperature while you eat dinner, heat the oven up, bake them just after the meal and serve. What’s not to love?

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