Eight years ago, my husband and I traveled to L.A. to watch the Horns play for the national title. Alabama came away victorious, which didn’t necessarily hurt my Aggie feelings (which were still fully Big 12-rivalry envious at the time…I might feel differently these days!), but the trip was worth it because of a fun side trip to Malibu and Santa Barbara and all of the fabulous meals we had in SoCal that weekend. The standout for me, hands down, was Madeo. With its low ceilings and nondescript appearance, this West Hollywood Italian joint absolutely relies on consistent, authentic, delicious food to keep its doors rotating. It’s been around forever, and the celebs flock there as a place to see and be seen without really seeing and being seen. I didn’t spot anyone famous, but I did find the holy grail of pasta bolognese! The sauce was rich and meaty, and I’ve contemplated planning trips back west just to order this dish. I supposed it was probably my first real deal bolognese, and I’ve since been on a mission to find something even remotely comparable. This recipe is just about as good as it gets! It evokes that same richness, and the all-day simmering is one of my favorite things to do on a chilly rainy day like today. This is solidly on my list of go-to recipes that will easily please any crowd!
Like everyone else, January for me has been a month of getting back on track after a VERY gluttonous holiday season! I started the Whole 30 program on January 8, and have been about 90% faithful to it for almost three weeks now. I like the Whole 30 because it’s not really a diet. It’s just about eating real foods. Proteins, vegetables, and fruits. If you’re like me, eating clean is not necessarily the challenging part; it’s the planning and executing! When you’re cutting out dairy, grains, soy, alcohol, and sugar, you can still make delicious meals, but you have to be a bit more intentional about it. You can’t hide an overcooked piece of chicken under a pile of cheese and call it a day! (I wouldn’t know anything about that, just heard that’s what some people might do…😳) I really like spice and complexity, so I always look at it a bit as a cooking challenge as well. I’ve put together a dinner meal plan below with some of my favorites. Each of these meals uses a loose “recipe” that can be customized according to what you like and what you have. I would gladly eat any of these dinners on any given night, not just during a Whole 30!
We hope you all had a wonderful Easter and Passover weekend! For us, Easter is always such a special time to come together and reflect on the ultimate sacrifice of our Savior, and rejoice in the dawning of a new spring season. It is such a joy to see everyone in their most beautiful pastel frocks at church and to watch the children’s sweet faces as they eagerly learn about Christ’s resurrection. Of course it would be remiss not to mention their excitement over the Easter Bunny and the delicious fruits of their egg hunting labors!
This year, we decided to celebrate Easter by having a brunch and egg hunt at home after morning church services. Brunch is one of our favorite meals to serve when we are hosting parties. After all, it is rare you find anyone, adults and kids alike, who doesn’t love bacon, pastries, and juice (with or without Prosecco)!
Brown sugar bacon crackers are always a hit, no matter whether you serve them for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner! They are deliciously addicting and one of the easiest things you’ll ever create in the kitchen. To make these yummy treats, simply line a baking sheet with foil or parchment and arrange club crackers on the sheet. Cut bacon into fourths and place a slice of bacon on top of each cracker. Sprinkle a little brown sugar over each cracker, and bake at 300 for about 45 minutes. Some recipes will tell you to drain them on paper towels. I did this once, and it made a huge mess because the paper towels stuck to the bottom of the crackers. It’s not necessary to drain them; the crackers soak everything up, which is part of why they are so yummy! You really won’t believe how incredible these little treats are!
In my opinion, breakfast casseroles are a no-brainer for brunch parties. Most all of them can be (and should be) made the night before, so you can pop them into the oven to cook while everyone arrives. The basic blueprint for most of these dishes is the same: torn bread placed in a casserole dish, topped with cooked crumbled sausage or bacon, and covered with a mixture of beaten eggs, milk, and cheese. My most recent discovery is this combination of croissants, sausage, parmesan cheese, Gruyere cheese, and green onions. I think the nutty cheeses and buttery croissants in this casserole send it over the top and make it taste extra special!
To make this super easy and DELISH casserole, you will need:
24 mini croissants, torn into small pieces
1 lb hot ground breakfast sausage
1 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
6 green onions, thinly sliced and divided
5 large eggs, beaten
4 c. milk
2 c. shredded Gruyere cheese
Spray a 9X13 baking dish with nonstick spray and arrange torn croissants in the bottom. Cook the sausage in a skillet over medium, stirring to crumble, until no longer pink. Toss with Parmesan and 5 sliced green onions, and spread mixture over the croissants. Whisk eggs together with milk, and pour over the sausage mixture. Cover and chill at least 8 hours. Preheat oven to 350. Sprinkle the Gruyere over the top of the casserole, and top with remaining sliced green onion. Bake 45 minutes or until set and golden.
We always have a good time setting the tables, and the kids’ table is no exception! These precious melamine Easter egg plates with Peter Rabbit quotes and white plates serving as chargers were a big hit. We used stuffed rabbits from my daughter’s room, and the kids were thrilled to have a dessert centerpiece. That made decorating super easy! We also had a platter of Rice Krispie Treat nests filled with Cadbury mini eggs (the absolute best candies in the whole world!). I browned the butter and added a pinch of sea salt when making these, and it quickly turned them into a dessert fit for the most sophisticated of palates!
No great bash is complete without a party foul or two, and I can take all of the credit for this one. I love making blueberry muffins, and they are usually pretty foolproof. This weekend, however, I just wasn’t on my game and completely forgot to spray the muffin pan with nonstick spray. I also overfilled them, so the whole thing was a big mess. Not to be defeated, though, I decided to just go with it, and instead we had blueberry muffin parfaits with Greek yogurt and fresh blueberries on top!
A fun time was had by all — as you can see, the kids didn’t even mind being in their “fancy clothes,” at least for a short while anyway! It was the perfect way to celebrate this holiest of days!
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” — John 11:25-26
Smocked Pink Dress: Luli & Me, purchased at Bering’s and not available online (here for similar) | Metallic Jacquard Dress: Zoe, Ltd., sold out (here for similar) | Chastiti’s Dress: Nordstrom | Necklace: here for similar | Seersucker Suit: Janie & Jack, sold out (here for similar jacket, here for similar pants) | Blue Shirt: Janie & Jack (here for similar) | Blue Bow Tie: Janie & Jack | Navy Jacket: Zara Kids | Purple Gingham Shirt: Ralph Lauren | Blue Seersucker Pants: Ralph Lauren | Pink Bow Tie: Nordstrom | Chandra’s Dress: Zara, sold out (here, here, and gorgeous splurge here for similar) | Tan Seersucker Suit: Janie & Jack, sold out (here for similar jacket, here for similar pants) | White Shirt: Janie & Jack | Navy Bow Tie: Janie & Jack (here for similar)
We are having what I hope is the last blast of frigid winter weather before spring makes its appearance. The temps in Houston went from highs in the 80s yesterday to hovering near freezing this morning! I actually don’t mind the cold, but I don’t particularly enjoy being out in it. I prefer staying in, bundling up, and watching movies…and EATING! This recipe for Chicken Pot Pie is one of my favorite things to make on chilly days. It is hearty and comforting and just right for cold weather — it is the perfect comfort food!
This recipe comes from Rebecca Rather’s cookbook “The Pastry Queen.” Rebecca previously owned Rather Sweet Bakery, a fabulous restaurant and bakery in Fredericksburg, Texas. She served delicious pastries and sweet treats that lived up to her nickname, but she also offered daily lunch specials. According to her cookbook, on the days she served her All Sold Out Chicken Pot Pie, so many people would call ahead to reserve their pot pies she would sell out of them before lunch even commenced! While I never had the chance to enjoy one at her restaurant, I have made this recipe dozens of times, and I can see how the name of this menu item came to be. It is so yummy!
The recipe comes in three parts: the filling, the cream sauce, and the crust. I have actually only made the crust one time. It was indeed delicious and not too much work, but I find it much easier, and just as tasty, to just use a frozen puff pastry sheet. I think it turns out so pretty too!
The filling is pretty straightforward and can be modified to include your family’s favorite veggies. I love the suggested combo, but carrots, asparagus, and corn would be great too. If you include potatoes, make sure and dice them small and cook until they are soft. I prefer to do the veggies in batches so they actually sauté instead of steaming in a crowded pan. I sometimes even cook the mushrooms in a separate pan to ensure they brown up nicely. Also, if you use the skinny haricots verts green beans, you can just toss them in to sauté with the other veggies, skipping the microwave step completely.
I think making a homemade cream sauce is so much tastier, and definitely healthier, than using canned cream soup. This sauce holds everything together and gives it a wonderful richness, but it is not heavy at all.
The wonderful thing about this recipe is that you can modify it to your family’s taste. It’s like an outfit that can be dressed up or down. When I make it, I often replace the regular salt with truffle salt and serve it with a light salad and a crisp glass of Sancerre to jazz it up a little. I think adding fresh herbs, perhaps thyme, would also add a nice extra layer of flavor. However you choose to make it, this recipe will likely forever change your opinion about chicken pot pies — it is definitely not the frozen TV dinner pot pie of the 80s!
Fredericksburg holds a special place in my heart, and it is one of my husband’s and my favorite Texas towns. I miss stopping in for a chocolate-dipped coconut macaroon at Rather Sweet, but my fingers remain crossed that she will set up shop again. In the meantime, I pretend I have a fraction of her kitchen prowess and make as many of her recipes as I can! Rebecca Rather’s amazing “The Pastry Queen” cookbook is available on Amazon. Her holiday cookbook, “The Pastry Queen Christmas,” another favorite of mine, is also available on Amazon. Featuring items both sweet and savory, her Christmas cookbook offers complete menus for each holiday event.
Rebecca Rather’s All Sold Out Chicken Pot Pie
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 large russet potato, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
8 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 rotisserie chicken or 1 whole stewed chicken, cooled and chopped into bite-size pieces
8 oz. fresh green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 (8 oz.) pkg. frozen peas
½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 c. all purpose flour
2 ½ c. chicken stock, preferably homemade
½ c. heavy whipping cream (optional)
Dash of hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 c. (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter
3 c. all purpose flour
10 oz. chilled cream cheese
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground white pepper
1 large egg
To make the filling:
- Melt the butter in a large sauté pan set over medium heat. Add the onion and potato; sauté for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, bell pepper, and mushrooms; sauté about 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Stir in the crushed red pepper and add salt and pepper to taste.
- While the vegetables are cooking, place the green beans in a microwave-safe bowl and add enough water to cover. Cover the dish and microwave on high power about 10 minutes, until the beans are tender (if using the skinny hericot verts, you will only need to microwave them about 2 or 3 minutes). Drain thoroughly.
- Stir the beans, cooked chicken, and peas into the vegetable mixture. Set the filling aside.
To make the cream sauce:
- Melt the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the chicken stock and cook the sauce over medium heat until it thickens to the consistency of a cream soup. Add the cream, hot pepper sauce, and salt and white pepper to taste.
- Pour the cream sauce over the chicken and vegetable filling, and stir to combine. Fill individual 1 ¼ cup capacity oven-safe bowls three-quarters of the way to the top with the creamed chicken filling.
To make the crust:
- Preheat oven to 375.
- Cut the butter into 16 pieces. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse the butter and flour until crumbly. Add the cream cheese, salt, and white pepper. Continue pulsing just until the dough forms a ball.
- Set the dough on a flat surface dusted with flour. Use a floured rolling pin to roll the dough out to ¼-inch thickness. Measure the diameter of the pot pie bowls and cut out dough rounds that are 1 ½ inches larger in diameter.
- Whisk the egg in a small bowl. Lay the dough rounds on top of the pot pies, making sure the dough hangs evenly over each bowl. Brush the dough lightly with the beaten egg.
- Bake the pies for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Serve immediately.