If I had a dollar for every time I have been asked, “Do you cook at home?”, “What do you cook at home?” I could have really blown out the Christmas gifts this year. The answer is a resounding yes, I love to cook at home. We do have some favorites that we repeat, but we have a lot of different things. It is quite different to cook out of the commercial kitchen and at home sweet home. So, for those of you interested, I thought I would share with you the in’s and out’s of the Chandler household over Christmas break through our meals and stories that go with them. It is a little different and definitely more elaborate than a normal week since we are all on vacation, but perhaps I will chronicle a week in the normal busy routine later this spring. We eat very well, and like I said it is more indulgent at the holidays, but we don’t snack a lot and I try to pair meals on big days with simpler, lighter, lunches. You will notice our food is well-balanced, fresh, and like all things, healthy in moderation. My kitchen is nothing fancy or large, but I love it. If I had ten times the space I would most likely set it up the same way, but have more room around it. It is well stocked with a full fridge, and most importantly lots of family, friends and love pouring through it. Typically I make an effort not to make my blogs too lengthy, so I apologize in advance as this will be a bit more detailed due to the notes I will make for menu/recipe explanations. I will do this in italics so you can easily skim past the details to the other good stuff and come back to the notes when you need to, but they do have some good hints and info in them! This first edition is from Friday through Sunday night. I hope you enjoy my Christmas Chronicles, and a very Merry Christmas this year.
A simple Friday night dinner…
Marinated grilled flank steak
Cast iron skillet Potatoes
Marinated grilled flank steak- I did a very simple flank steak Friday night, just kosher salt and Malabar black pepper, then lightly sprinkled it with soy sauce and a little Worcestershire. Sealed it in a Ziploc bag to sit a few hours, (which is my favorite way to marinate meats at home), then grilled it. The key is that when my husband grilled it, I also gave him a fresh lime sliced in half to grill first, then squeeze the juice over it on each side. It is such a great flavor, really similar to the ingredients in Allegro marinade. When grilling flank steak it is important not to over cook it, preferably a good medium rare, and be sure to let it sit ten minutes before slicing it against the grain.
Cast iron skillet potatoes My son loved these potatoes, thinks they are almost as good as French fries he said, so when a ten-year old says that I take it as a compliment. And, oh so simple …so don’t you fear! For this recipe I took 4 medium-sized Yukon gold potatoes and rinsed and dried them, then cut each one into eight equal sized pieces. Meanwhile, I had the oven preheated to 400 with my medium size cast iron skillet in it heating up, generously coated in olive oil. After the pan is hot and oven is preheated, add the cut potatoes to the pan and toss them to coat in the olive oil. Next simply add some of your favorite seasonings. I did salt and pepper, fresh dried oregano from my herb garden this summer, and a shake of Chad’s special seasoning which is made in Hilton Head. Place skillet back in oven for 30 minutes (don’t forget the handle will be hot!) and the key is to not mess with the potatoes so they get a golden crust on one side. After thirty minutes stir them so another side is flat side down in pan, and continue to roast until browned again and soft when pierced with a knife.
Spinach Salad- This is one of my favorite salads and all I did was toss fresh baby spinach with thinly sliced mushrooms, sliced strawberries, hard-boiled eggs, chopped bacon, and the crunchy kicker in it was candied pecans…all tossed in a yummy homemade raspberry vinaigrette and lightly scattered with blue cheese crumbles. Hmmmm hmmm good, one day if I write a cookbook I will share more recipes than I am able to here, like my dressings.
Quick & Easy breakfast sandwiches for the kids, aka “Chandler McMuffins”… and a classic omelet for my husband
Grilled cheeses and egg salad sandwiches- two classics that can’t be beat for lunch
Italian Meatballs with Spaghetti and bread
“Chandler McMuffins”… and a classic omelet- Some days I would love it if my kids were cereal eaters, it would make hectic mornings a lot easier, but they aren’t and I cook breakfast almost every morning. Secretly, I do like it that they crave the good stuff instead of the sweet stuff. One of their favorites is breakfast sandwiches, and all I do is fry an egg, top it with cheese in the pan so it melts, add bacon or sausage if I have it, and sandwich that bad boy between toasted English muffins. Breakfast, done in no time. Since it was the first day off and a lazy morning, I treated my husband to a classic omelet with spinach, mushroom and bacon. Notice all of the omelet ingredients were leftover and already prepared from my spinach salad, just used differently? When I shop, I don’t shop for things by menu’s, I just buy ingredients I want and then find ways to use it- much more fun!
Grilled cheeses and egg salad sandwiches- One thing I have noticed in catering is that adults love kid food, simply put. Grilled cheeses are just one example of the kids in all of us. I however love egg salad, and the most basic kind. So Friday night when I made the spinach salad I boiled a few extra eggs so they would be ready for egg salad over the weekend. I chopped 4 eggs using an egg slicer, mixed it with just enough mayonnaise to blend it together, probably a little over 1/4 cup, kosher salt and pepper and that is it. Let it sit for about thirty minutes, then spread on your favorite bread.
Italian Meatballs with Spaghetti and bread– This is one bonus of my job, I do shop a lot at work. Especially going into two weeks off, I pretty much cleaned out at work so I will start fresh in January, so my freezer at home is full for a change. Example one, Italian meatballs already prepared and marinara sauce, simply boil spaghetti for dinner, nice wine, crusty bread…heaven.
Sausage waffles, fruit, fresh squeezed oj, and coffee of course!
For lunch a Choice of: Flank Steak & Grilled Veggie Quesadilla’s with Chevre & Pico de Gallo, or, Meatball Subs
Christmas Eve Eve Eve Dinner!
Sausage waffles and fresh squeezed orange juice- Recently I purchased a really inexpensive extra large waffle maker just for fun, and it has been one of those random things you are so glad you bought the last minute. One waffle is so big it feeds four. I have been having fun playing with my food, something I am good at, and adding things to our waffles. I saw on “Diner’s, Drive ins and Dive’s” recently a waffle with bacon cooked in it, and my take on this is Neese’s sausage, browned already, added to the batter then topped with syrup once crispy and hot!
OJ– pay attention to this fun segment for sure! To make the fresh oj it is helpful if you have a juicer, not the electric kind necessarily but one where you put the cut orange half in it and pull the handle down. (We have a small juicer, and if it isn’t too late, Santa, I’d love a bigger one!) I often buy juice oranges by the case from my produce company, or even at the store if/when they’re on special. If you are serving a lot of people, it is worth the trip to a produce vendor where you can buy a case of oranges for less than $20, such as Vernon’s Produce in Winston-Salem where no account is needed. Juice oranges are thinner skinned than a navel orange, and cheaper with better pulp. It takes about three oranges to make a nice glass of juice, so going through a case of 100 isn’t too hard when you have houseguests and kids are home. It makes a fantastic mimosa/screwdriver bar that you let guests prepare themselves. Set it up on a table far away from the kitchen and everyone is out of your way as well. Drag out Grandma’s punch bowl you never use and fill it full of sliced orange halves, add small bowls of fresh berries, pomegranate seeds and juice, and of course champagne and vodka, and I promise your holidays with family will be merrier!
Steak & grilled veggie Quesadilla’s with Chevre and Meatball subs– Remember that grilled flank steak from Friday night? Well, those leftovers make a great quesadilla. I don’t think I mentioned it, but on Friday while the grill was going, I had my husband grill an onion I quartered and a pepper cut into four large strips, and our quesadilla’s will be a delicious, easy, and light lunch after church today and before “Christmas Eve Eve Eve” dinner tonight. I grate my own cheese and I strongly encourage you to do the same. It does take a little more effort and about five more minutes max, but the cheese melts and is so much better, I think you’ll agree it is worth it. For my quesadilla I will go lighter on the cheddar cheese, just enough to melt it together, and I add a few big crumbles of goat cheese to it, yummy! Make a pico de gallo using a fresh chopped tomato, diced onion, scallions and lime juice, cilantro if you have it or other ingredients on hand. (I make this first before I start to prepare lunch, so the juices come out while the other items are prepared.) Cut quesadilla’s into wedges with your pizza cutter, add a dollop of daisy, pico on the side… and lunch is ready and fun enjoyed casually watching football. Meatball subs couldn’t be simpler- reheat meatballs from dinner the night before in marinara sauce and cut meatballs in half for easier eating. Place between good hoagie bread, top with fresh mozzarella or parmesan and melt/toast in oven or broiler. Note that the hoagie rolls I am using for subs were also the bread I sliced in half and buttered for dinner the night before…one ingredient but two uses.
Christmas Eve Eve Eve Dinner!– Sunday night we have family coming over for dinner and as I mentioned before I have a freezer full of food, so tonight we are selfishly having a big Holiday dinner. I say selfishly because the leftover turkey will be enjoyed over the next few days like at Thanksgiving, I will be able to make stock to use this week with the turkey carcass, and the meal will really be pretty effortless for me thanks to two of the three sides coming out of the freezer. My kids thought it was hysterical to name it with so many “Eve’s”, and they are excited. The menu is:
Oven Roasted Herb Turkey
Sweet Potato Souffle
Annie’s Amazing Cranberry Salad
Slow Simmered Butter Beans
Dessert will be simple: Peppermint Crunch Chocolate Chip Cookies we made on Friday afternoon, and assorted treats from neighbors & friends…
If and when I ever write a cookbook, I promise I will include so many details and recipes in it that are missing here! I simply can’t do it all while blogging through our Christmas, but you are welcome to contact me if you have any questions about anything I am writing. Half of the fun is sharing it, and I hope you enjoy it and have a fresh idea to try, too. Christmas Chronicles part two will be out in a couple of days and will take you from Monday through Christmas Eve.
Enjoy the best of food and life, one holiday, one meal at a time. Merry, merry!!!