When I saw this funny, vintage, Valentine card, I just had to buy it. In a kitschy way, it represents what’s dear to my heart… cooking with love.
What’s my definition of cooking with love? Well, I think that it’s cooking with care and intention…really thinking about what you are doing, who you are doing it for and adding extra care and effort. I cook for my family and friends, and with every twirl of the whisk and chop of the knife, I imagine them enjoying the dishes that I prepare. I think of cooking as my gift to them.
On Sunday, I always try to make something extra special, that maybe I didn’t have time to make during the week. As we sit around the table and I see all of the smiling faces, hear the laughter and good conversation, I feel the love coming right back at me.
Rules are made to be broken, right? Those of you who have read this blog for awhile know that I promote good conversation with family and friends during Sunday supper…which means NO television. That rule will be broken next Sunday when we all gather around the screen to watch the Super Bowl.
Even though my two teams, Cincinnati Bengals and Chicago Bears, will not be making an appearance this year (maybe next?) we’ll all be watching the Patriots and Giants battle it out. These teams have great quarterbacks and it should be an interesting game…well, at least we all hope it will be! Is there anything worse than a big game that’s won in the first half?
I came up with the idea for these savory little bites because…well…I love bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches. I’ve modified them with thicker bacon, artisanal bread, and a bit of herb in the mayo…but you get the idea. They’re gussied up for their ‘game day” appearance, but what makes them special is that they’re are so tiny and tasty. These savory little bites will be gone in minutes, so you might want to make a double batch.
I’d like to wish both New England and New York the best of luck!
Super BLT Bites on Sourdough with Tarragon Mayonnaise
Yield: 12 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Tiny, savory bites of bacon goodness.
12 slices of bread, sourdough or whatever you like
3 slices of bacon, thick, if you prefer
6 small tomatoes (I used Campari, a bit bigger than cherry)
1 leaf lettuce, your choice
1/2 cup mayonnaisse
1 teaspoon tarragon, snipped into small pieces
The hardest part of this recipe is not eating them all before putting them on the tray.
Toast 12 slices of bread, and with a small cookie/biscuit cutter (mine was 1 1/2 inch) cut out 2 rounds per piece. Use the remaining bits for bread crumbs and/or croutons.
Cut the bacon into 4 or 5 pieces per slice (so they fit on your cut out bread rounds) and fry until crisp.
Cut each tomato into slice (you should get 2 nice slices per tomato).
Tear the lettuce into 12 small pieces.
Mix the mayo and the tarragon together.
Assemble them. On a bread round, place a dab of the mayo, then a bit of lettuce, bacon, tomato and top with another round of bread.
I just love a reason to celebrate with my family and friends, don’t you? Even though we just rang in New Year a few weeks ago, it’s time to revel again…this time to welcome in the auspicious Year of the Dragon for Chinese New Year!
I can’t tell you exactly how long we have been going to China Gourmet, but the restaurant was started in 1978 by the much loved restauranteur Bing Moy, and it’s now run by his oh-so capable and charming son, Tenley. It’s still the “go to” place for the BEST Chinese food, prepared to your specifications, a fact that patrons absolutely love…you don’t want onions, no problem, tofu instead of shrimp, no problem at all.
I think Dana was about 6 months old when she made her first trip. She even invited Mrs. Moy to one of her birthday parties when she was a little girl. It’s that kind of place; families feel comfortable there…young couples on their first date sit along side others celebrating 50 years together.
I recently asked Tenley if he would share a recipe with me so we could all celebrate the Chinese New Year. He thought that this classic appetizer would be a tasty dish, simple enough for us all to prepare. Tenley calls them wontons, I call them savory pillows of perfection. Either way, even though Chinese New Year is tomorrow, January 23rd, we’re having these as part of our Sunday Supper celebration tonight.
Make it special, make it Sunday.
Homemade Wontons with Spicy Sauce
Yield: 4 - 6 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
A wonderful combination of savory and spicy! Guaranteed to wake up your appetite!
For the Wontons
Large pot of boiling water.
1/3 pound raw shrimp, washed, deveined, tails removed and finely minced.
12 wonton wrappers, defrosted
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
Dash salt and white pepper
1 egg (for egg wash)
For the Sauce
1/4 cup thin (light) soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon Accent
(Accent is a flavor enhancer used in Asian cooking, it's also known as MSG)
1 or 2 tablespoons (depending of how much heat you like) hot chili oil
2 scallions (green onions), sliced
Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil.
Wash the shrimp, remove the tails, devein and finely mince.
To the shrimp, add 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil, dash of salt and white pepper.
Whisk the egg, and brush the wontons lightly on one side. (This is what is going to seal the wontons).
Evenly divide the shrimp mixture onto the middle of the wontons. Fold them to make a triangle. Press the edges together. Let dry for 10 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, Accent, and chili pepper with oil.
Place wontons into boiling water and cook until done (about 4 minutes, when the wontons start to float). Remove with slotted spoon.
Serve immediately with the sauce and scallions (green onions) as a garnish.
Sometimes life sends you a curve ball, this time it came in the shape of a snowstorm.
Instead of being with my family this Sunday, I’m going to be enjoying Sunday supper with the kitties.
I haven’t introduced you to the furry members of my family, BoBo and Holly. For those of you saying, oh no, she has cats! I have to say that I love dogs as well, and have had many; the last being our wonderful collie, Tara. But now, we have cats…two old cats that hate each other, but they really love me and my family, and we love them.
So, as the snow starts to swirl landing softly as butterflies on the branches and lawns, I know that I will not be driving today, and maybe not tomorrow either. It’s time to snuggle in at home and make, well what? I wasn’t planning on being here, what’s in the freezer and pantry that sounds perfect for a frigid, snowy night?
How about soup? Yep, perfect! OK, now what’s in the kitchen. In the pantry I find a bag of mixed beans, a can of crushed tomatoes, on the counter are garlic and herbs, in the fridge, carrots and celery are hiding in the vegetable bin, the freezer holds a bone. A nice, big ham bone, that was once the focus of a feast, I’m all set.
I let the beans soak for about 6 hours (or you could let them soak overnight) while the ham bone defrosts. BoBo insists on having a bit of the ham, straight off the bone, and I’m not immune to his little, plaintive cries, so ham for him. He seems to having a growing love for pork products that he used to reserve only for shrimp.
So as the storm rages outside, BoBo, Holly and I get cozy by the fire and enjoy our impromtu dinner party. Milk for everyone! Cheers!
Hearty Bean Soup with Ham
Yield: 6 - 8 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes
A hearty soup that's perfect on a cold winter night!
10 cups of water
2 cups beans (I really like to use mixed beans, you can either combined them yourself, or purchase mixed beans at the store). If you are making your own mix, some good ones to add would be: navy beans, red beans, black beans, green lentils, yellow lentils, split peas...have fun with it.
1 ham bone or 2 ham hocks
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped (I was out of onions, but if I had them I would have added one)
1 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes, you could use whole or diced as well.
1 bouquet garni (What's that?) It's a combination of herbs and spices that you place in a small piece of cheesecloth and tie with kitchen twine. In mine I put a bay leaf, 6 black peppercorns, 6 cloves, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes and 2 sprigs fresh thyme, but you could use a combination of some of your favorite flavors.
4 carrots, sliced
2 stocks celery, sliced (go ahead and add the tops as well)
Salt and pepper to taste (I didn't use any salt, because we are cutting back on sodium and for me, the ham added enough salt).
Rinse beans and scan for any duds that are wrinkled or (heaven forbid) rocks. Rinse well.
Place 2 cups dried beans in large pot and cover with water by two inches. Let soak for about 6 hours or overnight. Some might float to the top, discard these.
Drain and rinse the beans.
Place beans back in large pot and add 10 cups water, ham bone, chopped garlic, chopped onion, crushed tomatoes, and bouquet garni.
Bring ingredients to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer uncovered 1 3/4 hours.
Remove ham bone.
Add carrots and celery and simmer 15 minutes till tender.
When it is cool enough to touch, pull the meat from the ham bone and cut into small pieces, then put ham pieces back into pot.
This time last year, I started Return to Sunday Supper. It’s been an a great year for so many reasons, but the best is having wonderful readers, like you! Last year I wrote 70 posts, went to 4 blog-oriented conferences and met some very interesting folks along the way.
Hopefully, I’ve learned a few things and made improvements that you enjoy. The biggest leap for me was going from Blogger to WordPress thanks to my wonderful designer, Lindsay Landis of Purr Design. So many of you have said how much you like the new look and the printable recipe feature.
Last year, I had the opportunity to do this guest post for Jaden Hair, that appeared on her crazy good blog, Steamy Kitchen. What an experience for a newbie! Thank you Jaden!
I’m glad that I had a chance to tell you about Common Threads and am excited about sharing more stories of how this organization is making a difference in the lives of disadvantaged families around the country.
The highlight of the year came when CBS Chicago nominated Return to Sunday Supper for “best blog” in the lifestyle category. Wow, so much excitement surrounded those few weeks. For all of you who took the time to vote, thank you! I know that everyone is busy and that it took an effort on your part and I want you all to know how much I appreciated it. It made me feel so good to know that so many of you cared enough to vote.
I’ve given myself new challenges for the coming year. I’ll be posting a bit more and it won’t always be a recipe. I’ve added a new category called “observations” where I will explore things that I find interesting, hope you will as well. Also, I will be delving deeper into the importance of eating with your family. Of course, Sunday Supper recipes will remain simple and tasty with a few Irish ones as I explore my heritage.
Thank you for joining me on this journey!