A Cold Blast from the Past, in honor of #WorldPenguinDay

In honor of #WorldPenguinDay, here is one of my all-time favorites from our cruise ship days…Antarctic Peninsula, 1999. That’s the M/V Clipper Adventurer, anchored in the background. In this photo, we are surrounded by Gentoo penguins, who had zero fear of humans. Once upon a time, this was our daily life and I will be forever grateful for the wonderful travel adventures Tony and I have had together and the many more to come. Happy World Penguin Day!

Tony & Sarah in Antarctica with penguins (ship is in the background)

 

When Life Hands You Lemons…My Baking Disaster

Lemon Poppy Seed Breakfast BreadOur food column in The Forum this week features a lovely Lemon Poppy Seed Breakfast Bread, but that wasn’t the originally intended recipe. No, instead I had high hopes of showcasing a lovely lemon pound cake, based on a new recipe I discovered in a cookbook all about the secrets of baking.

Faced with a surplus of beautiful lemons just begging to be used, I zested and juiced with great anticipation. Unfortunately, after several rounds of sifting dry ingredients and creaming the liquids (which included a pound (!) of good butter), I encountered utter failure – not once, but twice.

For the first batch, I used a specialty pan to create beautifully shaped mini cakes. Unfortunately, I left them to cool in the pan too long and while the tops were a lovely golden brown, the sides and bottoms were…not.

Mini Cakes failure

I switched to my trusty old light-colored metal loaf pan, and the cake looked nearly perfect when I pulled it from the oven. Sadly, when I went to turn it out of the pan after waiting the recommended 30 minutes, it fell out with a tumble and promptly broke in half. I was left with a jagged mess beyond repair, just a heap of broken bread. Sadder still? The battered remains weren’t even all that tasty.

Broken bread

I’m not entirely sure what went wrong, and maybe that will always remain a secret. Was it the recipe? Were my baking pans at fault? My oven? Or perhaps it was the absence of vanilla in the recipe? (I am naturally wary of any baked good recipe that doesn’t call for at least a smidge of vanilla.)

Alas, I will probably never know, as this double defeat may have put me off this recipe for good. Luckily, I still had enough ingredients on hand to turn to an “old reliable” recipe for Lemon Poppy Seed Breakfast Bread. Again, I made two batches and this time the results were much more promising. For more on this story and the recipe, feel free to visit us in Wednesday’s Variety section of The Forum.

Baking is a passion for me, a form of therapy and entertainment, and even when things don’t turn out as expected, I still enjoy the process. But it’s always more fun when they do.

I would love to hear from you and invite you to share your comments with me below.

Have you ever had a baking failure? Did you figure out what went wrong? Did you try the same recipe again, or look for a new version? Did you ever bake again? 🙂

Take Comfort in this Meat-Lover’s Meatloaf

Meatloaf 4Beloved throughout America, meatloaf is held up as one of the ultimate comfort foods, and everyone I’ve ever talked to about this wholesome specialty claims that their version is the best. We are strongly attracted to foods that create such universal appeal as to generate a sense of pride and territory – what is the story behind that food, and why does it wield such power?

We are positively crazy about this week’s featured recipe, Chef Colosimo’s Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf, and not just because it’s the world’s best meatloaf, but also because it comes to us from a dear friend. Chef  Robert J. Colosimo, known affectionately to his friends as Bobby, was the corporate executive chef at Clipper Cruise Line during the time that Tony and I worked for the company, and he was a terrific mentor, chef and friend to both of us.

Chef Colosimo’s meatloaf was featured once each cruise for lunch, and it was a signature favorite with passengers and crew alike. It’s not so different from other meatloaf recipes I’ve encountered, as there is only so much one can do to meatloaf, and perhaps it was simply the comfort of the familiar that made it so popular. But this savory and delicious meatloaf brought me home every time I ate it, even in such remote locations as the Amazon or Antarctica.

We’re still in touch with Chef Colosimo, who was recently honored as Chef of the Year 2016 by the Chefs de Cuisine Association of St. Louis, where he lives with his wife and three children. Two years ago, we shared his recipe for the famous Clipper Chipper Cookies, which has now become a favorite among many of our readers.

Clipper Chipper cookies up close

These days, Chef Colosimo is the general manager and certified executive chef at Eleven Eleven Mississippi, a restaurant located in the Lafayette neighborhood of St. Louis, founded by fellow Clipper Cruise Line alumni Paul and Wendy Hamilton. If you’re ever in St. Louis, please make sure to stop in and say hello from Sarah and Tony.

With its mixture of ground beef and pork, and crispy bacon topping, this is definitely a meat-lover’s meatloaf. When served aboard the Clipper vessels, Bobby’s meatloaf was accompanied by a heavenly Marsala mushroom sauce and whipped potatoes, but here at home we’re so eager to dig in that we haven’t gotten around to making the sauce yet. We’ll be sure to share it with you when we do.

This recipe calls for fresh breadcrumbs, and you can easily make your own by blitzing stale bread in your food processor until finely ground. I separate mine into cup-size portions and freeze them in plastic zip bags for easy use whenever I need them.

To form the meatloaf, I spray a loaf pan with non-stick spray and pack the meat tightly into it, then I turn it upside down onto the baking sheet and gently remove the pan. I cut the bacon strips in half and wrap them around the top and sides of the loaf, with each piece slightly overlapping.

DSC02038

Last week during our recent cold snap, we enjoyed one of the most comforting meals I have ever had, featuring Chef Colosimo’s Meatloaf, Cream of Chicken Soup, Apple Spinach Salad and Rosemary Smashed Buxton Potatoes.

Meatloaf Comfort Dinner

The effect this meatloaf has had on me over the years is nearly magical – when I was on the ship, one bite would instantly surround me with the comfort of home and family. Now, I am flooded with memories of exotic places, wonderful food, and lifelong friends. What could be more comforting?

Chef Colosimo’s Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf

Ingredients:
1 pound ground beef
½ pound ground pork
¼ cup minced onions
¼ cup minced bell pepper
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 each eggs
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 teaspoons hot sauce (Tabasco or your favorite)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 to 6 strips uncooked bacon

Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Sauté the onions, bell pepper & garlic with the olive oil for 3-4 minutes over medium heat. Cool completely.

Combine all ingredients except the bacon in a mixing bowl and mix well until the ingredients are blended evenly. Take a small teaspoon of the mixture and fry in a small frying pan and taste for proper seasoning. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Spray a large baking pan with non-stick spray and form one long loaf of even thickness and length. After loaf is formed, place the strips of bacon evenly over the meat loaf.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 1 hour or until the meatloaf reaches an internal temperatures of 150 degrees. Remove from oven and let meatloaf rest 10-15 minutes before slicing.

 

 

Cold Weather Comfort: Cream of Chicken Soup

Cream of Chicken SoupCream of Chicken Soup…the perfect antidote to a cold winter day. This soup is the embodiment of savory comfort, and is surprisingly light and silky for a cream soup. It’s a hit wherever we take it, including last weekend at the Valley Women’s Expo – we could hardly keep up with the demand!

Easy to make, lush and satisfying, AND it’s good for you. Now, isn’t that comforting? 🙂

Cream of Chicken Soup

Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced carrots
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup dry white wine
1 quart low-sodium chicken stock
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
4 tablespoons roux
½ cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

For Garnish:
1 cup cooked chicken breast, diced
½ cup frozen green peas, thawed

Directions:
Sauté the onions and carrots in the butter over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the white wine and cook the mixture until the liquid is reduced by half, about two minutes. Add the chicken stock and thyme and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer.

Use a whisk to incorporate the roux, then add heavy cream and whisk again until combined. Continue cooking for five minutes until the soup thickens. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired. Lastly, add chicken breast and green peas, cook for one more minute to heat, and serve.

To Store: Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to one week or freeze for up to 2 months.

Tony’s Tips:

  • To save time, buy a rotisserie chicken and remove the breast meat.
  • Wait to add the chicken and peas until just before serving, to keep texture and color fresh.
  • Double the batch and freeze some for use in other recipes that call for cream of chicken soup.
  • Roux can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks, or frozen for at least 2 months.