Sunday, February 24, 2013

Roquefort Sauce

Day 16

Copyright, Doug Kapustin Photography, 2013
At our house, we rarely grill steaks. Maybe once a month, we’ll ask for a nice cut from the butcher and indulge. We recently enjoyed one such evening, as Doug and I were browsing through a local meat shop and happened upon some very nice cuts of beef. We couldn’t resist. 

Having purchased such nice steaks, I wanted to add something new and unforgettable to the plate. The wheels started turning. 

Instead of the humdrum grilled steak, salad, and potato option, I decided to give the meal a bit of a twist by adding a steak sauce, changing our traditional salad with a French vinaigrette to a wedge with a fresh creamy dressing, and by serving cheese grits, baked in a casserole rather than served from a saucepan. The grits were almost outvoted by twice baked potatoes—an easy, yummy recipe I’ll share later in the blog— which I often make with red meat entrees. Alas, everyone finally agreed to try a different side dish instead. 

I’d say the steaks with Roquefort sauce were a huge hit. Doug isn’t fond of cheese, believe it or not (who isn’t fond of cheese?!?!), so he ranked the sauce much lower on the sauce scale than, say, a béchamel or a more common, fermented base, like Worcestershire. The girls and I really preferred the new sauce, though. It was creamy, rich, and sharp, and it definitely added a touch of gourmet to the traditional “meat and potatoes” reputation of a steak dinner. Many cooks and chefs have their versions of steak sauces that are delectable, for sure. Ina Garten, my very favorite chef, makes both a Stilton sauce that requires no cooking and a Gorgonzola sauce that is a slow cooked, creamy one.  Restaurants frequently offer diners the choice of blue cheese crumbles on their filets, so I opted for my own blend of favorites I’ve seen from various sources. 

The result was a sauce that can be served cold or at room temperature, that is quick and minimally labor intensive, that requires absolutely no cooking, and that includes easy-to-find ingredients. How could we say no to something that simple? 

This Roquefort sauce offers a generous dollop for about six steaks. It can be doubled, and the horseradish can be increased to taste. Truthfully, had I been eating alone, I would have used a lot more of it in the sauce. Of course, that’ll be completely up to you, although I suggest increasing it by small increments, tasting, then adjusting as needed. Remember, you can always add more of what you like, but removing an ingredient is impossible.  


Roquefort Sauce 

8 oz. sour cream
6 oz. Roquefort cheese
½ cup mayonnaise
4 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2 tbs. chives
2 tbs. prepared horseradish
1 tsp. black pepper 
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 dash hot sauce

Into a food processor, put Roquefort cheese and chop until in small pieces. Add all other ingredients and blend until smooth. Pour into gravy boat or serving bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve. Sauce can be served directly from refrigerator or at room temperature. 

Spoon sauce over steaks and baked potatoes, as desired. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Winter Comfort Cocoa

Day 15

Since it’s still cold outside, I thought that a hot cocoa recipe was a must, especially before the thawing of spring arrives. This recipe is one that I created based on several that I’ve tried and enjoyed. Ina Garten has an excellent Mexican hot chocolate recipe that I’ve tried, but I had the idea to substitute half of the milk with heavy cream. The cream gives it a thicker, richer flavor, and the added fat blends well with the melted chocolate and sugars. Of course, if you prefer to cut the cream with milk or half and half, it will definitely work too. I tend to enjoy richer, more decadent chocolate recipes, so I opted to serve my hot cocoa fully loaded. In our household, my husband and daughters prefer the lighter flavor while my stepson and I lean more toward the decadent. It really is just a personal preference. 

Copyright, Doug Kapustin, 2013
We’ve all tried the powdered hot chocolate, sometimes adding milk and marshmallows, and other times just water. And, with a little doctoring, it can be tasty, but there really is no substitute for real hot cocoa. I enjoy serving this drink at Christmas time with cinnamon shortbread or croissants with raspberry jam. Those flavor combinations are the most pleasing, I’d say. 

Few things are more pleasing than a warm drink and good conversation with those we love. As I write this, my sweet Basset Hound, Emmy, is resting on the chair beside me, and I’m acutely aware that I can enjoy her company as much as human companionship sometimes. Although she can’t enjoy hot cocoa with me, she certainly begs and waits for cookie or croissant crumbs to find their way to the floor. 

Hot cocoa brings comfort, especially on cold days. I’m an avid reader, so the idea of a warm chocolate drink, a blanket, and a good book is very appealing. While trying this recipe, I recommend reading Joanne Harris’ Chocolat and its sequel The Girl with No Shadow. The stories take place in a chocolaterie in the south of France, and the main character’s specialty is—you guessed it—Mayan hot cocoa. The books blend romance, magic, cooking, and even a bit of intrigue. There’s a movie based on the first book, too, so it’s a win-win. 

Give the drink (and the book!) a try for your next get-together or whenever you’re ready to enjoy a sweet treat and a relaxing afternoon. 

Winter Comfort Cocoa

3 cups milk
3 cups heavy cream
2 tbs. light brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
10 oz. semi-sweet chocolate*, chopped 
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract

Optional: TINY pinch of cayenne pepper 

*Lindt chocolate is an excellent choice for hot cocoa (or any chocolate dish)

In a saucepan, heat milk, cream, and sugars. Heat thoroughly on low but do not bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients. Allow mixture to blend while off of heat, then return to low heat until mixture comes to a simmer again. 

Serve in generous mugs with whipped cream and chocolate chips if desired. 

Serves 6. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fettuccine au Jambon

Copyright, Doug Kapustin, 2013

Day 14

Thinking back to my senior year of high school, I have many fond recollections. I made some of the best friendships that year as I began planning for college and the next chapter in my life. Probably some of the most endearing moments from that year were spent with my friend and cousin, Chris. Chris’ mom married my uncle that year, thereby creating an opportunity for our friendship to begin.

I don’t know how we started going exclusively to the same restaurant on our Saturday outings, but I can’t remember even one time when we chose another place to eat. Our Saturday nights were the same each week—dinner, a movie, then back to his house for SNL. We’d watch Saturday Night Live while trying to stifle laughter, although we still managed to wake Chris’ parents every week. I remember how patient his mom, Judy, always was when she’d open her bedroom door to ask us to try not to laugh so loudly. 

We’d watch SNL and eat our restaurant leftovers, sharing each other’s dinner orders. Chris always ordered pasta, ham, and peas in a delicious white sauce and I usually ordered pizza. Often, we’d switch take-out boxes at home and try the other’s food. 

I loved the pasta sauce that Chris ordered, as it was a tried-and-true favorite of customers at our local eatery. Years later, I went back to order it again, and it was just as I remembered it—creamy, comforting, and absolutely delicious. Trying to recreate it over the years, I’ve made my own version that is a tasty second.

Enjoy my recipe of ham fettuccine pasta that is still as pleasing today as it was almost 20 years ago. I’m so happy I can share it here. 

Fettuccine au Jambon


1- 16 oz. box fettuccine, cooked al dente
1 lb. cooked deli ham, diced
1 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups heavy cream
4 oz. cream cheese, cut in cubes
1- 10 oz. bag frozen peas
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tsp. white pepper
½ tsp. black pepper
Salt to taste


In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook 2 minutes. Add diced ham and brown until onions are translucent. Add garlic and cream cheese cubes. Stir until cheese becomes very soft and coats ham and onions. Reduce heat to low and add cream. Stir. Heat until all cheese is melted. Add black and white pepper, frozen peas, and salt. Stir until peas are cooked through. Just before serving add parmesan and stir. Serve over hot fettuccine. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Almost Chili Perfecto

Copyright,  Doug Kapustin Photography, 2013

Day 13 

For our family’s annual Super Bowl dinner, we like to make chili. I really don’t enjoy sports on television or otherwise, so a perfect meal for the Super Bowl evening is essential in our house. Chili is a great choice because it’s even better the longer it simmers, and everyone can keep returning to the chili pot as frequently as they like. 

My husband, Doug, has a spectacular chili recipe that is closer to the traditional beanless Texas variety. Even though he usually makes his chili for the Super Bowl, I sometimes ask to make my version. This year, I was given the green light to make mine, so I’m including it here. 

Not at all traditional, the chili I like to prepare includes two beef cuts as well as pork. The beer and beans add a nice flavor and texture to the final product also. Of course, the amounts of spices can be altered to accommodate personal tastes, but the measurements I’ve included in today’s recipe are consistently nice and well balanced, I tend to think. 

When I make chili, I enjoy serving it over rice that has been tossed with lime juice and cilantro. I also add a healthy sprinkling of a good, sharp cheddar cheese, freshly chopped green onion, and a dollop of sour cream. Naturally, a good chili needs a good cornbread, so I like to make Green Chile Cheddar Cornbread. I’ve added that recipe here too, and it’s one that I’ve adjusted from various recipes online over the last year or two. 

Thinking back to my first chili adventure, I believe I was just about 20 years old. At the time, I had just married, and my former mother and father-in-law regularly served Texas chili whenever we visited. I remember asking to learn how to make it, so my mother-in-law, Linda, showed me how. I tried and tried to duplicate her recipe and never quite had the same, ideal flavor. Her expertise and practice allowed her to add a pinch of this or a bit of that to make it just right. 

And so it went, over the years, as I tried to recreate her nearly perfect chili. Eventually, I decided to take her ideas and ingredients, to add my personal sense of flavor, and to make a chili that was uniquely my own. Although I’m still tweaking and trying to perfect my recipe, I’m pretty darned happy with this one. 

Thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Fowler for their culinary influence and for their love of cooking that helped to shape and expand my own appreciation of food.  Tate and I will look forward to sharing a bowl of their chili sometime in the near future, for sure!

 Almost Chili Perfecto


4 tbs. chili powder 
1 tbs. red pepper flakes (or to taste)
3 tbs. ground cumin  
1 tbs. cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 cup cilantro, chopped finely
8 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbs. black pepper
2 tbs. kosher salt

1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound ground sausage
1½ pounds stew beef, chopped in ¼ inch cubes

¼ cup + 2 tbs. olive oil
2 large Vidalia onions, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped

2 cans whole plum tomatoes, roughly chopped in food processor
2 cans pinto beans with juice
1- 12-oz bottle of beer* (Dos Equis Amber is a good choice for this chili)


In a large pot, heat ¼ cup olive oil and sauté onions and ground pepper. Once onions are almost translucent, add garlic and sauté for 2-4 additional minutes. Remove mixture from pot and set aside. In the same pot, brown the ground beef and sausage, drain, then set aside. Add 2 tbs. olive oil to the pot and bring to medium-high heat. Lightly salt, pepper, and flour the stew beef chunks, then brown in olive oil, turning to brown each side. 

To the stew beef, return the ground beef, ground pork, onions, peppers, and garlic. Then, add the chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and cayenne pepper. Stir.  Add the tomatoes, pintos, and beer. Stir well. 

Transfer all ingredients to a Crockpot** and simmer for 4-5 hours on lowest setting. Add cilantro just before serving. 

*If you prefer not to use beer in the recipe, you can substitute beer with ¾ cup of strong black coffee or 1 cup water. 

**If you don’t have Crockpot, you can certainly simmer the chili on low heat, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 hours. 
Green Chile Cheddar Cornbread

2 sticks butter, softened to room temperature
½ cup sugar
4 eggs
1- 4 oz. can diced green chilies
1 ½ cups cream-style corn
1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup all purpose flour
1  cup yellow cornmeal
2 tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
dash of hot sauce


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Cream butter and sugar with electric mixer. Add eggs, one at a time. Add chilies, corn, hot sauce, and cheese, mixing well to incorporate. 

Sift together dry ingredients, then add to mixture slowly until smooth. 

Pour into well-greased 9-inch square pan and bake approximately 1 hour or until knife in center comes out clean.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Strawberry Cream Cake

Day 12

Copyright, Doug Kapustin Photography, 2013
Happy Valentine’s Day!

The previous entry was for chocolate, so the obvious 2nd choice for Valentine’s Day is something with strawberries. This quick, easy, and moist cake is one that I created after experimenting with a cake mix. Using a mix really makes it easier, especially when we are looking for something attractive and fool proof. The cake mix I showcase here is honestly the best for this recipe, so use it if you can find it. If not, try it with a different one and see if you like the results! 


Copyright, Doug Kapustin Photography, 2013

Strawberry Cream Cake 

1 box Duncan Hines Signature Strawberry Supreme cake mix
1 block of cream cheese, softened to room temperature
¾ cups canola oil
4 eggs
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
zest of 2 lemons
16 oz. container of strawberries, washed and halved
½ cup sugar
1 pint of heavy cream and ½ cup sugar, whipped until stiff peaks form


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Place strawberries and ½ cup sugar in glass bowl. Toss gently. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour. 

Whip heavy cream and ½ cup sugar. Cover and refrigerate.

Generously grease and sprinkle granulated sugar in a heart-shaped baking pan (9-10-inch). A bundt pan will work if you don’t have a heart-shaped pan. 

In a mixing bowl, beat oil, cream cheese and sugar until smooth and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time. Beat until thoroughly mixed. Add cake mix slowly, continuing to mix as added. Add lemon zest and vanilla. 

Pour batter in pan and tap sides to reduce air tunnels and pockets. Gently drop on counter for the same purpose. 

Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes, checking every 5 minutes after 35. Cake is done when soft in center but when knife comes out clean. 

Cool on wire rack.

Once cooled, pour juice from strawberry/sugar mixture over cake to moisten. Place strawberries on top of cake to cover. (If using a bundt pan, strawberries can be placed on each slice or around sides of cake.) Just before serving, place large dollop of cream in center of cake, slice, and serve. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Triple Chocolate Cookies

Day 11

If we’re honest, we probably agree that, for Valentine’s Day, there’s no way to even consider sharing a recipe that doesn’t include chocolate, right? I’m talking lots of rich, gooey, mouth-watering chocolate—chocolate delivered in the vehicle of triple chocolate cookies that have the flavor of brownies and the texture of thin, crispy wafers or soft crumbly biscuits, depending on the desired thickness and baking time. Today’s recipe really does showcase one of the best cookies I’ve ever eaten. Although I’m personally partial to butterscotch oatmeal cookies, this choice of Ghirardelli’s Triple Chocolate Cookies is a favorite on my rotation. I found the recipe a few years ago on the inside wrapper of baking chocolate, and I’m so glad I did.  

Copyright, Doug Kapustin Photography, 2013

Of course, we should celebrate those we love everyday in a thousand ways, but, more often than not, we take our loved ones for granted. For that reason, Valentine’s Day is a great day to remind us to express our love. And, what better way to say I love you than to make a sweet treat for those we hold dear? Sweets are such nice gifts, especially when they can be wrapped in small packages and left on pillows or in the lunch bags of our unsuspecting recipients. I find that cookies and truffles are the best choices for gifts since a batch can be divided between several recipients. For some wonderful reason, chocolate remains a staple of gift-giving, and I know that these Triple Chocolate Cookies will become a part of your next get together or special gifting occasion.  

As a child, I would go to great lengths to find chocolate. My favorite was the Kit Kat bar, hands down. It still ranks among my favorites, for sure, but I’ve since added Lindt milk chocolate bars and Ritter Sport Butter Biscuit bars to my list. If you’ve never tried either of those, I highly recommend both. Plus, if you’re wanting a fun five minutes, visit the Ritter Sport website and look at the bizarre chocolate bar choices and Ritter’s colorful wording to describe each. The website is sort of like a chocolate version of the Mentos commercials—really fun and quirky!

My father and mother—bless their hearts—must have been so frustrated and confused by such a rotund child with so many food obsessions. As far as I was concerned, every outing had to include elaborate meal and snack planning. Even every trip was centered-around the restaurants we passed, at least in my mind. My parents were kind and they humored me, but I was so different from them that they surely scratched their heads in incredulity.

Movies were another food adventure for me. I would not only look forward to the next movie we’d see at the cinema, but I’d plan and procure snacks that would best suit the movie plot. Once, I remember going to the movies with my cousin and her friends when we were teenagers, and we decided to buy burgers to hide in our bags for the event. Because the movie was Top Gun, I clearly needed a guy’s burger (made perfect sense to me), so I ordered a chili cheeseburger from Hardee’s. I cannot adequately convey my cousin’s irritation when she reached in her nice canvas purse after the theater lights dimmed, only to find a chili-soaked wrapper and a dripping burger. Irritated or not, she had no choice but to hand-it-over. And I had no choice but to enjoy it,  to lick chili from a paper wrapper, watching the hijinks of Goose, Ice Man, and Maverick. 

This year, I made the Triple Chocolate Cookies  for Valentine’s Day, so maybe I’ll sneak some into the local movie theater for old times’ sake. They’ll be a lot easier to hide than a chili cheeseburger.

Triple Chocolate Cookies


- 1 cup Ghirardelli 60% Cacao bittersweet chocolate chips
-1/3 cup all-purpose flour
-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
-1 cup Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate
-1 cup Ghirardelli white chocolate chips
-1 cup chopped pecans
-6 tablespoons unsalted butter
-3 large eggs
-1 cup granulated white sugar


Melt the bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolate chips and butter in the top of a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl over barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until thick; stir in the chocolate mixture.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder; stir into the chocolate mixture. Gently mix in the white chocolate chips and pecans.

Using a sheet of plastic wrap, form the dough into two logs, each 2 inches in diameter and about 8 inches long. Because the dough will be quite soft, use the plastic wrap to hold the dough in the log shape. Wrap tightly; refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until firm.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a cookie sheet or line with parchment paper.

Unwrap the dough. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into 3/4-inch slices. Place the slices 1 1/2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until a shiny crust forms on top of the cookies but the interior is still soft. Let cool on the cookie sheet. Then remove from the cookie sheet with a metal spatula.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

(Recipe modified from Ghirardelli recipe for “Ghirardelli’s Ultimate Chocolate Cookies”.)