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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Elegant, Easy Meals

We love to entertain friends and family with a nice meal.  Certainly every holiday is an excuse to have good food.  Some of our best times are spent around the table laughing and sharing stories.  Food is the catalyst that draws us closer and helps us connect; it is so much more than mere fuel for our bodies.  Treasured recipes are often passed down for generations and people are remembered for the food they cooked with love.

Teaching children to cook is a great way to spend quality time together.  My father grew up poor and often didn't have enough to eat.  As an adult, he developed a love for cooking and eating that he shared with me.  Dad especially loved to bake cookies, cakes and breads; my job was to stir.  Of course I spent alot of time tasting.  He also grew a wonderful vegetable garden so we always had fresh produce.  His gift to me has been a lifelong passion for good food.           

Having a special meal doesn't mean you have to slave away for hours in the kitchen.  I am not always as ambitious nor do I have the time my father did so I like recipes that look like I spent hours in the kitchen.  The first recipe I'm going to share is one my husband actually found.  He seldom cooks and hates it when he does but he wanted to make a special dinner for my birthday.  I wanted lamb chops and he came up with lamb chops with goat cheese sauce.  I tried the recipe again for Valentines Day and was very pleased with the results.  Try this if you've never had lamb or you want something different.

Lamb Chops with Goat Cheese Sauce
8 lean lamb loin chops, about 1 inch thick
1 tsp. salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
3/4 cup dry white wine (living in a dry county and not liking wine anyway, I do use the cooking wine)
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 sprigs rosemary
3 oz. goat cheese
Preheat oven to broil.  Heat an oven proof skillet on high heat on stovetop and add the salt.  Sear the chops on each side until browned, about 2 to 3 minutes each side.  Sprinkle with pepper while browning.  Sprinkle with chopped rosemary and transfer skillet to oven and broil about 3 minutes per side.  Remove chops from skillet and keep warm in a covered dish.  Return skillet to stovetop and heat over medium high heat.  Add wine to deglaze the pan, scraping the browned bits of meat off the bottom.  Add the broth and the sprigs of rosemary.  Simmer at a low boil until reduced by 1/3.  Remove rosemary sprig and stir in goat cheese to complete sauce.  Drizzle sauce over chops to serve.
I served this with mashed potatoes and a green salad.  It was a beautiful Valentine (and birthday) meal.  Lamb chops usually have a milder taste than other cuts of lamb and your friends and family will be impressed with your skill. 

When we were in Disney years ago, my husband ordered Blackened Catfish with Pepper Jack Cheese Grits.  It was divine so when I got home, I came up with my own version which couldn't be easier and always makes my husband happy when he sees it.

Blackened Catfish with Pepper Jack Cheese Grits
4 catfish fillets
2 tsp. McCormicks Blackened seasoning or to taste
1 cup regular grits, not instant
3 cups water
1 Tbsp. butter
1 cup grated pepper jack cheese ( I grated my own)
Place catfish in a lightly greased baking dish and sprinkle liberally with blackened seasoning.  Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.  Meanwhile cook grits according to package directions.  When desired consistency is reached, stir in butter and cheese till melted.  Place a serving of grits on each plate and top with catfish.
Serve this with a green salad or fruit salad to cool the spicy catfish.  Sugar snap peas would also be a nice accompaniment.

I hope you give one of these recipes a try this weekend, or the next time you want an elegant meal.   

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