Handmade Holidays: Food Edition

Here’s the gift I best remember from last Christmas: Two jars of pickled quails’ eggs that my sister gave me. I also remember—with longing—the orange Bundt cake she made for our grandma and the ceviche she gave our dad. If you like to cook, then you know the pleasure of feeding someone else: Food is love in one of its most elemental forms. And food gifts are also great because you’ve probably got a good idea of what the recipient likes to eat—the same cannot necessarily be said of knowing, for example, how the recipient likes to smell. Once you’ve realized that, yes, food makes a wonderful gift, you’ll probably come up with plenty of ideas of your own, but I’ve scoured the web to find a few recipes that look delightful to me. Here they are

Mushrooms in oilLet’s start with pickles. So easy! So delicious! Martha Stewart has a nice pickle primer with recipes that might inspire you to experiment. From pickles, it’s just a small step to stuff preserved in oil. If you search for “preserved in oil” or “conserved in oil,” you’ll find a ton recipes. These mushrooms look pretty awesome to me, as do these peppers. After oil, of course, we turn to vinegar. This balsamic glaze is gorgeous, and infused vinegars are simple and pretty. And, while we’re on the topic of infusing, I would like to mention homemade liquors and cordials. If you try this honey and saffron liquor, please make a bottle for me.

Gum dropsCandy is classic. Again, Martha Stewart is a great source for ideas. Check out her basic bark recipes if you want something easy and sure to please.  The grownups on your gift list might appreciate some no-bake rum balls. Brown sugar-rosemary walnuts sound like a glorious combination of sweet and savory. And these gum drops! Just look at them! Imagine them in unexpected flavors—herbal, maybe?

Santa cookiesThis list would obviously be incomplete without cookies. This Santa cookie wins the prize for sheer adorableness, but Martha Stewart’s holiday icebox cookies are pretty sweet, too. I’m a big fan of icebox cookies, especially when I need a large quantity of cookies. The other thing that’s great about icebox cookies is that you can give someone frozen or chilled dough so that they can make fresh cookie themselves after the holidays. I can personally vouch for the wonderfulness of these chocolate-black pepper cookies. And, as long as we’re turning on the oven, both Heidi Swanson and Nigella Lawson have incredibly enticing gingerbread recipes.  



Bath and Beauty Edition

Etsy Edition

December 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Chocolate Frozen Yogurt

Recently, I decided that it was about time to introduce my daughter to homemade ice cream, but I really didn’t want us to get into the habit of eating a fat-filled dessert every night. I thought about sorbet, but Frances does not believe in fruit-for-dessert, and I didn’t expect that she would go for fruit of the icy variety, either. For Frances, dessert means chocolate, so I went looking for chocolate frozen yogurt recipe.

I did not embark on this search with enthusiasm. In my experience, frozen yogurt is the sad thing you eat when you want ice cream but don’t want the fat. As I searched, though, I wondered if using Greek yogurt might make a difference, et viola! I found this post at Chocolate & Zucchini.

I trust Clotilde Dusoulier, and her informative description of her recipe was quite convincing. So, I gave this recipe a try.

Oh. My. God. This frozen yogurt isn’t just good for frozen yogurt. It might be the best frozen chocolate confection I’ve ever had. So rich and creamy, with a subtle tartness to balance the sweetness. It reminded me of chocolate-cream cheese frosting, or the batter for a chocolate-buttermilk cake.

A couple of notes: Being that I live in a small town in the middle of Michigan, rather than Paris, I do not have access to fresh yogurt from a Greek market, so I used Fage 2%. Also,  the chocolate I purchased for this recipe was candy bar with 80% cocoa, and not being exactly sure what qualifies as “bittersweet”, I did not add the sugar all at once. I think I used about 100 grams instead of 120, taking into consideration Clotilde’s reminder that the sensation of coldness in the finished product would diminish the sensation of sweetness.

Frances Cooks

May 26, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (2)

This Week’s Menu, with Wine Pairings by Carolyn Evans Hammond

Good, Better, Best Wines Carolyn Evans Hammond is a sommelier, a journalist, and the author of Good, Better, Best Wines: A No-Nonsense Guide to Popular Wines. Carolyn is a different kind of wine writer, one who’s attuned to the tastes of the American wine-drinker. That is to say, she’s not afraid to review wine in a jug. In fact, she’s not afraid to review wine in a box. Thus, she was just the person to suggest wine pairings for cheeseburgers, pizza, and canned soup.

So I’m very pleased to present this week’s menu at the Jernigan-Clayton house, with wine expert recommendations.


ON THE MENU: Tomato soup from a can and microwave popcorn. (Frances, who is three, picked tonight’s meal.)

SOMMELIER’S COMMENTS: Soup and tomato are notoriously challenging foods to pair with wine and here they’re combined.  You need a wine with sufficient acidity to match the tomatoes and enough restraint as not to overpower the soup.  

And if you’re talking about Campbell’s cream of tomato soup [I am.—Ed.], you’ll need wine with enough residual sugar to combat the sweetness in the soup’s recipe.  I would say, go pink.

Menage a Trois Rose WINE RECOMMENDATION: Citra Trebbiano d’Abruzzo from Italy (under $8)

TASTING NOTE: Aroma of talc-like minerals leads to a crisp, refreshing palate imbued with delicate pear and floral notes. The result is a tight harmony of aroma and flavor in this refreshing, beautifully balanced wine. Lighter side of medium-bodied with 12% alc.

WINE RECOMMENDATION: Folie à Deux Ménage à Trois Rosé Table Wine from California (under $11)

TASTING NOTE: Shiny fuchsia wine with sweet aromas of strawberry-vanilla and an intense palate of glazed wild cherries and ultra-ripe strawberries. This is an off-dry rosé with balancing acidity and a lick of vanilla cream on the finish. Full-bodied with 13.5% alc.


ON THE MENU: Turkey chipotle chili from The Gourmet Cookbook (recipe online here), one of my very favorite recipes. I suggest peeling, blanching, and pureeing the tomatillos yourself. Using canned will, indeed, save you some labor, but it, like, quintuples the cost of this recipe. This dish is a lot of work, but my small family is left with a generous quantity of leftovers, and this chili freezes beautifully. (You can also freeze the leftover chiles in adobo, if you're opening a new can. I freeze them in portions of two.)

Lindemans Shiraz SOMMELIER’S COMMENTS: This flavor-blasted dish needs a wine with full-on fruit, ideally with a hint of smokiness.  There’s no reason you couldn’t carry on with the white or off-dry rosé (well-chilled) as a palate refresher but the ideal match would be a robust red.

WINE RECOMMENDATION: Lindemans Bin 50 Shiraz from Australia (under $8)

TASTING NOTE: Muted aromas of sun-warmed berries lead to exuberant flavors of stewed black forest fruit shot through with taut acidity. Bright, fresh, and fleshy with hints of smoke and pepper. Long, dark chocolate finish. Full-bodied with 13.5% alc.


ON THE MENU: Mushroom and sausage pizza. This is another kid-centric meal. If the day is gloomy and Frances and I are inside all day, well probably make our own crust from scratch. If we're outside all day, well most likely use Bobolis. In theory, this meal will be accompanied by something from the fruits and vegetables category. In theory.

Gabbiano Chianti SOMMELIER’S COMMENTS: Pizza demands an Italian red.  And to my mind, Chianti is the perfect mid-week quaffer—but you need to know which one to buy because they’re far from created equally.  That said, feel free to carry on with the Shiraz from last night because the smoked berry and pepper notes of this wine would also work with sausage-‘n-shroom za.

WINE RECOMMENDATION: Gabbiano Chianti DOCG from Tuscany, Italy (under $11)

TASTING NOTE: Here’s a great value Chianti that’s easy to find. It starts with wafting aromas of beef, cherries, earth, and minerals before caressing the palate with warm and enticing flavors of aged steak cooked rare, dusty cherries, and slight note of green olive. A hint of tannic astringency on the finish reveals a structure that would benefit food. This is a good value mid-week pizza wine. Medium- to full-bodied with 13% alc.


ON THE MENU: Chicken tikka masala with rice and naan on the side and mango for dessert. The main dish will be semi-homemade, utilizing a spice packet I got at the coop. The naan will be store-bought. I should probably just resign myself to the idea that the mango will have vanilla frozen yogurt on top, because fruit-for-dessert violates some of the fundamental tenets of my daughter’s belief system.

Funf 5 Riesling SOMMELIER’S COMMENTS: Spicy fare is fabulous with an off-dry but crisp, light-bodied, entirely quaffable Riesling.  It refreshes the palate between sips, cools the tongue and seasons the meal with lime flavors.

WINE RECOMMENDATION: Fünf 5 German Riesling from Germany (under $8)

TASTING NOTE: Quiet candied lime peel aromas lead to an intense, tangy blast of mouth-filling lemon-lime sorbet. Medium sweet but impeccably balanced with sharp acidity so it finishes dry. Tantalizing, refreshing and full of fruit. Fun stuff to drink on its own or with spicy food. The intensity of flavor helps it stand up to the hot fare and the acidity keeps on refreshing sip after sip. And at a light-bodied 9% alcohol, feel free to gulp.


ON THE MENU: Oven-roasted salmon with bacon, wild mushroom, and spinach risotto. For salmon, I like the cooking instructions from the March/April 2008 issue of Cook’s Illustrated (helpfully reproduced here). The risotto is from the April 2010 Cooking Light (recipe here). I will most likely cut full-grown spinach into ribbons instead of using baby spinach, as I have a powerful aversion to baby spinach.

Mark West Pinot Noir SOMMELIER’S COMMENTS: This flavorful dinner begs for Pinot Noir, which is the ideal choice for salmon.  And Pinot Noir has enough oomph to match rich risotto.  Lead into the meal, if you like, by pouring some leftover Fünf 5 Riesling as an aperitif.

WINE RECOMMENDATION: Mark West Pinot Noir from Sonoma, California (under $11)

TASTING NOTE: What a delicious wine! Aromatic flavors of raspberries, violets, vanilla, and clove characterize this richly-fruited, seductive Pinot Noir with resonating length. Along with considerable concentration, this wine is silky yet well-structured with taut acidity and soft, supple tannins. Such finesse! Full-bodied with 13.8% alc.


ON THE MENU: Cheeseburgers and sweet-potato fries, both prepared on the grill.

Yellow Tail Shiraz Grenache SOMMELIER’S COMMENTS: Grilled cheeseburgers are easy to pair—any well-structured red can do the job—but the sweetness of the fries require a wine with the lush roundness that comes from a hint of residual sugar—something for which [yellow tail] is well-known.  But beware: very few [yellow tail] wines in the range are winners but if you buy the right bottle, you’re in for a treat.

WINE RECOMMENDATION: [yellow tail] Shiraz-Grenache, South Eastern Australia (under $8)

TASTING NOTE: Slap some burgers on the grill and grab a bottle of [yellow tail] Shiraz-Grenache. You won’t be sorry you did. This wine is the equivalent of award-winning, gourmet barbecue sauce—and I mean that in the best possible way. Smoky, concentrated, and ripe with a generous kick of spice, it’s an easy crowd-pleaser.


ON THE MENU: Asparagus and smoked trout frittata, with orange and arugula salad on the side. The frittata, like the risotto above, is from the latest issue of Cooking Light (recipe here). The asparagus and orange salad is what it sounds like. I’ll make a citrus vinaigrette to go with, and I might sprinkle on a few chopped pecans. 

Rosemount Sauvignon Blanc SOMMELIER’S COMMENTS: Asparagus and Sauvignon Blanc is a killer match.  And trout with Sauvignon Blanc also works marvelously well—the citrus, herbal notes seasoning the fish.  So for this meal, you can guess my recommendation. 

WINE RECOMMENDATION: Rosemount Diamond Label Sauvignon Blanc from South Eastern Australia (under $11)

TASTING NOTE: Pronounced asparagus and lime zest on the nose lead to a crisp yet silky palate that’s citrusy yet herbal, full but delicate, lean yet muscular. Medium-bodied and balanced. Impressive. 12.5% alc.

If you’d like to read more of Carolyn’s entertaining, accessible wine reviews, visit her website, become a fan on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter. And, it should go without saying, get yourself a copy of her book before your next trip to the supermarket.

April 16, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Cookbooks I Am Trying to Unload on Amazon

The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten

The Best Vegetarian Recipes: From Greens to Grains, from Soups to Salads: 200 Bold Flavored Recipes by Martha R. Schulman

La Comida del Barrio: Latin-American Cooking in the U.S.A. by Aaron Sanchez

Nancy Silverton’s Pastries from the La Brea Bakery

Bouchon by Thomas Keller

The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller

A Return to Cooking by Eric Ripert and Michael Rulhman

February 10, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

This Week’s Menu


Borlotti Bean Mole with Roast Winter Squash from 101 Cookbooks

Substitution: Pinto beans for borlotti beans




Italian Sausages and Lentils from Nigella Bites

Substitution: Chicken sausage for pork sausage

Endive, Arugula, and Orange Salad from Epicurious



Spaghetti with Spinach, Pancetta, and Egg from Pasta Harvest



Chili Pie from Real Simple Food (Fall 2006)

Substitutions: Mexican chorizo for Italian sausage, black beans for kidney beans

Green Salad



Leftovers or Carryout



Slow-Cooker Chili Chicken Tacos from Everyday Food (October 2008)

Homemade Salsa



Fried Green Tomato BLTs

Frozen French fries

October 27, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1)

This Week’s Menu

Grilled corn, shrimp & chorizo salad

Frozen pizza
Green salad

Grilled pork adobado with smoky roasted sweet potatoes (from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless)

Leftover pork warmed in green salsa with rice and queso fresco

Fusilli with zucchini and tomato (from Pasta Harvest by Janet Fletcher)

Fish tacos with lime-cilantro crema

Lentil & pasta salad

August 26, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Why Americans Are Fat

Steak Bites

From a Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon ad in the Sunday, August 17, edition of the Lansing State Journal: A never-ending serving of our tender steak medallions cut into bite-size pieces, hand-breaded, golden-fried then tossed in your choice of spicy Sidewinder BBQ, Buffalo (mild, hot, or Texas hot) or plain Texas Traditional. Served with choice of ranch or bleu cheese dipping sauce and bottomless steak fries.

August 19, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Cocktail Recipe: Bleachbomb


Bell’s Oberon Ale
Lysol® All Purpose Cleaner with Bleach

Take a couple drinks of beer. Spray Lysol® on walls of very small shower cubicle in closet-sized, windowless half-bath. Scrub tile vigorously, inhale deeply, and pause for occasional sip of beer. Continue process until shower is clean or until unconsciousness seems imminent.

August 6, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

This Week’s Menu

Puerco a la Mexicana, arroz blanco, and refritos negros (from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless)


Spinach risotto (from Cook with Jamie by Jamie Oliver) with grilled chicken

Pasta with tuna and lemon (from Off the Shelf by Donna Hay)

Shrimp pad thai (from Everyday Food)

Cheeseburgers and French fries

Frozen ravioli, sauce from a jar, and spinach

May 12, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

This Week’s Menu

Salad of Baby Greens, Smoked Chicken, Dried Cherries, and Pecans. Rosemary sourdough toast.
BABY: Banana, Avocado, and Chicken. Butternut Squash. Spinach.

Panfried Fish Sandwich with Bacon Mayonnaise (from The Improvisational Cook by Sally Schneider).
BABY: Hint of Mint Soup (from Homemade Baby Food by Connie Linardakis). Pears.

Spaghetti with Spiced Meatballs in Chipotle Sauce (from The Gourmet Slow Cooker by Lynn Alley, via the freezer). Baby Greens with Rosemary Sourdough Croutons.
BABY: Hint of Mint Soup. Butternut Squash.

Yellow Peas and Rice with Onion Relish (from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison).
BABY: Split Peas and Rice (from Homemade Baby Food by Connie Linardakis). Pears.

BABY: Split Peas and Rice. Bananas.

Chicken Tacos.
BABY: Sweet Potato and Chicken Dinner (from Homemade Baby Food by Connie Linardakis). Peas. Pears.

Tuna and Lemon Pasta (from Off the Shelf by Donna Hay).
BABY: Sweet Potato and Chicken Dinner. Carrots. Applesauce.

April 23, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack