Inspired by seasonal fruit and fellow gin drinkers, I shook up my own satsuma mandarin sour. Vermont’s Barr Hill Gin, with botanicals of juniper and raw honey, makes it extra special EXCELLENT. While satsumas are in season–winter, the season of our discontent–look for fruit with leaves still attached. This shows they’re not just picked and handled with care, but also fresh and of the highest quality. You can store them at room temperature or in the fridge.

SATSUMA MANDARIN SOUR
1 oz freshly squeezed satsuma mandarin (about one piece of fruit, you can cut off the ends for a garnish)
1/2 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice (about half a lemon)
1/2 oz honey syrup (a 1:1 ratio of water to honey–my favorite variety is acacia from Smiley Honey)
2 oz Barr Hill Gin

Combine in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake, strain, enjoy–orange you glad you did? AH AH AH!

Hope you’re staying cozy like this comfort kat!

My mom has proclaimed these cookies “better than snickerdoodles.” She’s not wrong. Try them!

EGGNOG SNICKERDOODLES
Adapted from the New York Times

For the cookie dough
3 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 large egg plus two yolks, at room temperature (tip: place eggs in warm water as you gather ingredients)
2 tablespoons rum (I used Cruzan 9 Spiced Rum–highly recommend!)

For rolling
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cream of tartar and baking soda. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, 1 3/4 cup sugar and the Kosher salt on medium high till smooth and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes total. Stop and scrape down a few times during this cycle to ensure everything’s evenly incorporated.

Set mixer to medium. Add each egg/yolk one by one and combine thoroughly before adding the next. Add rum. Beat another minute or two.

Set mixer to low. Add flour mixture gradually, in 3-4 batches. Beat till combined. Set dough aside for about 10 minutes before prepping to bake.

In a small bowl, combine nutmeg, cinnamon and 1/4 cup sugar for rolling. I used a scoop just under 2 tablespoons (1 oz) to portion the dough.

Roll each cookie in spiced sugar. Transfer to cookie sheets, three across. Bake for 7 minutes, then switch racks/positions and bake for 7 more. They’ll be slightly puffed. Let cool on the cookie sheet a bit before moving to wire racks to cool completely. Makes 32 delicious cookies–AH AH AHHHH!

That’s 3 + 29 delicious cookies. Nevermind the apples!!!

Clams casino: a New England classic featuring local littlenecks, red bell pepper and the goodness of bacon. Sadly, as you’ll often find with clam sauce and clam chowder, so many places just don’t get it right. Problem solved! Now you can make them to perfection in your own home. That’s what we did yesterday. And now we can follow our own simple (and simply delicious) recipe for years to come.

CLAMS CASINO
2 slices thick-cut bacon
1 tablespoon butter, salted
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 dozen littlenecks, shucked
1/4 cup red bell pepper (about 1/3 or so of the pepper), finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine (we used Chardonnay)
2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano
sea salt or Kosher salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper
pink peppercorns (If you have them, they add nice flavor. Add just a bit, smashed between your fingers.)
3 tablespoons panko
Some chopped fresh parsley would be great in here, but we got lazy and didn’t feel like chopping anymore.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Line a baking sheet or pizza pan with foil. Place clams in pan.

Add bacon to large skillet over medium heat. Cook, remove from skillet, leaving bacon drippings in the pan. Blot with a paper towel, then finely chop.

Add about 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon oil to the pan. Then add red bell pepper, shallots and garlic. Sautee till shallots are tender and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add wine. Cook down about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Sprinkle Pecorino Romano and panko, stir to combine. Add chopped bacon.

Mound stuffing with a spoon atop each shucked clam. Bake for about 8-10 minutes till topping is golden. Serve with fresh slices of lemon to squeeze over the top. And over the top is just how I hope this dish rates with you when you make it. Buon appetito!

Here’s a new favorite soup, adapted liberally from this America’s Test Kitchen video. To serve, I garnish with a combination of finely chopped bacon and a blend of finely chopped herbs in Meyer lemon olive oil from Seven Barrels.

CREAMY WHITE BEAN SOUP
adapted liberally from America’s Test Kitchen

Soup
extra virgin olive oil to coat the bottom of your pot
1/2 a large sweet onion, diced
1 rib celery, chopped a bit finer than the onion
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 cans small white beans or canellini beans (I used Goya)
2 tablespoons Pecorino Romano, grated
1/2 a lemon, squeezed
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
sprigs of fresh thyme
2 tablespoons salted butter

Herb oil
Maybe 1/4 cup or so (I don’t measure) of Meyer lemon olive oil
Handful of fresh parsley
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary
Chop very fine, add to lemon olive oil. Let sit so the flavors meld.

Garnish
2 or 3 pieces of your favorite bacon, cooked and diced fine

Coat a large stockpot with extra virgin olive oil, burner on medium heat. Add celery and onions. Cook 6 to 8 minutes, till softened and onions are translucent.

Next, add thyme, sliced garlic and cayenne. Cook till fragrant, about a minute or so.

Add two cans of beans and their liquid. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook 6 to 8 minutes more.

Remove thyme. Add Pecorino Romano. Remove from heat; blend for 2 minutes with an immersion (stick) blender. Yes, your arm and/or finger will get tired from blending. Weird. No worries, the feeling goes away!

Add 2 tablespoons salted butter and 1 cup chicken broth. Blend one more minute.

Next, whisk in 1 more cup of chicken broth. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in freshly squeezed lemon juice.

To serve, garnish with a drizzle of herb oil and a tasty row of chopped bacon. Enjoy!

Sometime during the plague, I started buying these cute, colorful creamer potatoes from the Little Potato Company. Even the description on the bag is cheery.

Beyond their cheerful colors and harmonious flavor, they do have such a nice, almost fluffy texture.

I saw Lidia Bastianich making baked stuffed potatoes on TV. I liked the idea, and had sausage on hand, but she was stuffing baked potatoes. I wanted to take her idea and run in my own direction. So I roasted these colorful little potatoes and made my own topping, based on what I had in the fridge and the flavors I like. Here’s my summer potato project. I know it’s fall now, but hope you love it as much as we do! We’ve been enjoying it weekly!

ROASTED POTATOES PIZZAIOLA

The little potatoes
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. However many potatoes you want, quarter them and coat them in olive oil. Add Kosher salt to taste and, if you have it, Penzeys California Seasoned Pepper and chopped fresh rosemary. I always make extra so I can have more the next day!

Put ’em in the oven for 15-20 minutes, then turn them and let them cook for 15-20 minutes more. The goal is for them to be a little crispy outside, fluffy inside. Have a bite and see.

While the potatoes are in the oven, get started with the topping.

The sausage topping
1/2 a sweet onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
5-6 oz. baby bellas (or mushrooms of your choice)
10 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/2 a ball of fresh mozzarella, cubed
2 hot sausage patties (or half a pound of your favorite sausage)–mine is Longhini
fresh basil for garnish, if you have it (parsley’s nice, too)

Coat a large skillet with olive oil, turn heat to medium. Add the sweet onion and bell pepper. Let these cook till the onions start to get a bit golden. Then add the sausage, breaking it up as you go. Next add the mushrooms and tomatoes. Right before it’s time to serve, add the basil (or parsley) and the fresh mozzarella. You just want to warm the mozz up so it starts to get stretchy and do its thing.

Then it’s time to put it all together. Plate your potatoes, top with sausage topping. Maybe a little extra basil or parsley, if you’re feeling fancy.

And remember–ricorda

Hope you’re safe and healthy. Eat your potatoes and stay good!

It’s delicious, it goes down easy, it packs a punch and is simply a classic cool cocktail. Created by Hugo Ensslin, the head bartender at the Hotel Wallick in New York, the first published recipe for the drink appeared in his 1916 Recipes for Mixed Drinks.

Fast forward through one pandemic, and 100+ years later, here we are, social distancing and adapting to the new normal. Why not drink one in style, even if it’s in your cars? That’s how we roll!

THE AVIATION COCKTAIL
1 oz lemon per person (juice of one whole lemon for two)
2 oz gin per person (4 oz for two)
1/2 oz Luxardo (1 oz for two)
1/4 oz (1/2 oz for two) crème de violette

Squeeze, shake, serve, garnish with a cherry. At home, I serve them straight up in a cocktail glass. But it’s been so blazin’ hot here, we had ours over ice this weekend. Either way, they’re delicious and so fruity, it’s like a refreshing glass of adult punch. CLINQUE!

Cheers to good friends–even at a distance!

My mom’s been making this pie as long as I can remember. Over time, she started adding sausage, which only made something great even more so. With that in mind, I wanted to add a bit of onion and red bell pepper to keep it on an upward track of deliciousness. That’s exactly what this is! See if you don’t love it as much as we do–it’s a total keeper!

CHEESY SPINACH SAUSAGE PIE
6 oz. bag of baby spinach
2 hot sausage links, removed from casing, cooked and crumbled
1/4 large sweet onion, diced
1/3 to 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup butter, melted
8 oz. container full-fat ricotta cheese
3 eggs
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
heaping tablespoon Pecorino Romano
1/2 cup heavy cream (can use half & half)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Butter a 12-inch pie plate. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large frying pan coated with oil, cook peppers and onions. Add sausage, breaking into pieces as it cooks.

Steam spinach, then squeeze to remove liquid. Chop spinach (run a knife through it in a grid pattern). Set aside.

Whisk together melted butter, ricotta, cheddar, Pecorino Romano, eggs, cream and nutmeg. Add spinach, sausage, peppers, onions; mix well.

Pour into buttered pie plate. Bake for 30 minutes or till slightly brown at edges and filling is set. Enjoy! #quichemeyoufool

Back in the late 1980s, I was a bright-eyed co-op student working at a now-defunct local health care company. There, I met my first real world boss, Jim, who thought it funny I should call him “Mr. Dunn.” When I had been there a bit, our mutual friend Pat heard me call him that and said, “Mr. Dunn?! His name is Jim!” We all became fast friends, went to happy hour after work and the occasional concert. Good times.

I lost track of good ol’ Mr. Dunn until, through the wonders of LinkedIn, we reconnected and would occasionally meet for “mariachi practice” at a Mexican place in Wallingford, CT, “Los Mariachis.” There, we became well acquainted with our friend Stan, our margarita of choice.

In honor of National Margarita Day, I’ve dedicated a standout margarita recipe to our good friend, Stan–and my good friend, Jim. Whattt?!!! You forgot? Grab your ingredients and celebrate tomorrow, then!

No matter how you decide to mix it up, you’ll never go wrong with a 2:1:1 ratio. That’s two parts tequila to one part fresh squeezed lime to one part some sort of orange liqueur. Now, let’s party with Stan!

THE “STAN” MARGARITA FOR TWO
Inspired by Los Mariachis (Wallingford, CT)

2 limes–roll and squeeze 2 ounces of juice
Save a slice of lime to use as a garnish
4 oz. tequila (They use Don Julio 1942 Ultra Premium–I really should get some for authenticity’s sake! But I used one of my heavy hitters.)
1 oz. Patron Citronge (They use Cointreau.)
1 oz. Grand Marnier

Shake or stir ingredients. Pour over salt-rimmed rocks glasses, filled with ice. Then celebrate! Dance in your kitchen! Concern your cat!

Ciao, amici! Unless we’re connected on social media, I know, it’s been a while. But I’m happy to be back in the kitchen with every good wish for 2020. We’re buzzing up something new in the blender that’s creamy, dreamy, coconutty, alcoholic and downright delicious! WOOOOW! I’ll give you a personal update after the recipe, OK?

First, let’s talk about coquito. Some say it’s Puerto Rican eggnog. And some recipes do include egg. But not this one. It’s coconut, cinnamon, two delightful cans of dairy–sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk–and a generous pour of our ol’ friend the Captain. That’s Captain Morgan to you. Oh, and drunken raisins. It’s fine if you want to leave them out. But damned if they don’t add a special something! Let’s get this party started right! Right on!

COQUITO
Adapted from The Novice Chef

1/2 cup golden raisins
1 1/2 cups Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum
2 cinnamon sticks
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup cream of coconut (Coco Lopez)
1 (13.5 oz) can organic coconut milk
12 oz can evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
4 tablespoons shredded coconut

Note: this recipe yields just a bit more than a half gallon of deliciousness.

In a large pitcher with a lid, add raisins, rum and cinnamon sticks. Let sit for one hour.

In a blender, add the remaining ingredients. It won’t all fit at once, so blend in two batches, then pour into the pitcher. Shake to combine with the rum, raisins and cinnamon sticks.

Chill for at least four hours. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month (as if!). Shake it like ya mean it before pouring. Use a ladle to dish out the yummy drunken raisins and add to each glass. Sprinkle with cinnamon, if you like (oh, we like!). Cheers, cheers, cheers to coquito! Careful now, this stuff goes down way too easy.

A personal update

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wanted to let you know something important about the real star of this page, my precious April Katt. Sadly, I lost her last fall (April 1, 2000 – October 30, 2019).

My sunshine girl was the best friend, companion and little caretaker anyone could ever ask for. She made our little townhouse a happy home with her warm personality, caring gestures, curiosity and funny antics. She loved being part of whatever I was up to–including in the kitchen. You’ll remember those bright green eyes and shiny coat making an appearance in many recipes! She was always right by my side and often held hands with me. Saying goodbye to her was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

Many tear-filled days passed before I decided April wouldn’t want me to be sad and alone in a place that felt so empty without her. In her honor, I found a handsome gentleman from PAWS (Pet Animal Welfare Society)–the same shelter where I found AK almost 20 years ago. Mishu, Polish for “teddy bear” or “Sweetheart” came home November 9th. This charmer has done his best to brighten each day and make me laugh ever since. I’d swear April Katt either left notes or is in direct contact to guide him. How lucky I am to have two special soul kitties like these!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, I know we’re just four days into 2020, but I feel good about the year to come. And I really hope you do, too. Onward and upward, amici–we got this!

We’ll be seeing you sooner next time.

Love,
Hope, Mishu and the ever-present spirit of Ms. April Katt

strawberry sugar cookies Are you making

Are you making strawberry sugar cookies? Why, yes, I am! And you should be, too. What’s not to like about berry delicious little sugar cookies, loaded with vitamin C?

I halved the recipe from my mom’s handwritten version from the Women’s Home Companion Cookbook and dialed back the vanilla just a bit to let the strawberries shine through. These were originally roll-and-bake cookies. Now, they’re no-fuss little jeweled discs instead! Just take care not to let them fly off the baking sheet into the oven! Don’t ask why I mentioned, because stupid things never happen to me in the kitchen or anyplace else, ever. Really.

STRAWBERRY SUGAR COOKIES
Original recipe halved from the Women’s Home Companion Cookbook

1 3/4 cups flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg, well-beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2½ tablespoons freeze-dried strawberries, ground to a powder (you can buy the at Whole Foods and buzz them up in a food processor)
colored sanding sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Beat sugar and butter together until creamy, about 3 minutes. Beat egg and vanilla in a separate bowl; add to butter mixture. Add strawberry powder.

Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Add to strawberry mixture. Mix until flour is completely incorporated into dough.

Use a small cookie scoop, roll dough into a walnut-sized ball, then roll in sugar. Lightly press each dough ball down to flatten. Bake at 350 degrees F for 6 minutes, then up-the-river-down-the-river: switch from top rack to bottom rack, back to front for another 6 minutes.

Pro-tip: be careful putting these little discs into the oven. In all my years of baking, I never recall anything flying off the baking sheet, but there’s a first time for everything! Yup, that was today.

strawberry sugar cookies