Makes your snacks POP!

These winter nights are getting colder, and Netflix will be getting a lot more air time. Popcorn is a go-to snack, and for good reason. Not only is it tasty, but it's rich in fiber and polyphenols, which detoxify the body and fight inflammation.

Delicious is it is, popcorn is also a bit of a blank slate, where you can go beyond butter and salt. Ladles and Linens features a whole line of Dell Cove popcorn toppings, some of which are featured below. As you can see, it was impossible to pick just one!

Our family is really big on having movie nights, and lately we've become obsessed with Parmesan Rosemary Popcorn. It's almost like a brittle, and so addictive, the bowl is empty every time. The recipe is almost too easy!

Here's what you need:

  • 12 cups of cooked popcorn
  • 4 tablespoons of melted salted butter
  • 2 cups of grated parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons of finely chopped rosemary
  • extra salt and pepper to taste

Toss the popcorn, butter and spices in a bowl until well-coated. Then lay flat on a baking sheet, cover with parmesan and pop into an oven that's been preheated to 350 degrees. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the parmesan is a light toasted brown. Remove, let cool, then break apart into pieces. 

A true act of love is handing someone a chunk of popcorn held together by crunchy parmesan. That is, if you can give it up. Now grab that weighted blanket, sink into the couch and enjoy!

 

Homemade Valentines for the Family

One of the best things about being a parent is re-living your youth through the eyes of your children. Christmas and Halloween haven't been this fun since I was a kid myself. Bring on the paper snowflakes and fridge art!

Right now, boxes of pre-printed Valentines line the shelves at grocery stores. You know the type; perforated tear sheets featuring Minions or those ubiquitous Frozen characters. My son loves this time of the year, as he can re-stock his candy stash now that his Halloween leftovers have been reduced to Smarties.  I lay awake at night wondering who these neighbors are, and how their life experiences have prohibited them from knowing that no one. Likes. Smarties.

But I digress. Valentine's Day, for me, is a chance to show I care in a personal way. But keep it simple; the holiday only lasts a day and usually lands on a weeknight!

Ideas:

Grab a sheet pan, stack tortillas in a heart shape, and pile on nacho toppings. It's a fun nacho night for the family! Or you can do a tongue-in-cheek nacho gift for your loved ones, using scoop-shaped tortilla chips (pictured above).

Roll out a ball of pizza dough, shape it into a heart and load on your family's favorite toppings. Imagine their surprise when you pull it out of the oven!

Bake a tray of brownies, and use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to pop out heart-shaped bites.

Use that same cookie cutter to punch out pieces of a grilled cheese sandwich or garlic bread, to serve with warming tomato soup. I'd be more than happy to gobble up the leftover edges.

For older kids, you can always let them know how much you care with a funny towel. Or this one. Or this one. They'll use it on the daily, and think of you every time they're in the kitchen - the best place in the house.

Here's to a simple and delicious Valentine's Day!

 

Rainy Day Fun: Making Pierogies

If there's one thing more comforting than carbs, it's carbs stuffed with carbs. And if that weren't comforting enough, you top it off with sour cream. Pierogies do for your soul what chicken soup claims to do.

Perhaps it's because each pierogi is made by hand with care. If you gather a small group of friends to make them together, the whole experience, from creation to consumption, is special. 

Our Ukrainian friend Kristy guided a small group of us through her family recipe, with a filling of goat cheese, potatoes and farmer's cheese. It's heaven. But you can get inventive with fillings. My husband had made sloppy joes from scratch, and I smashed them with baked potatoes for a hearty, meaty filling. We spent hours laughing, storytelling and eating our way through a ridiculous amount of food. 

Here are some ways to make it, as my friends say, "a whole vibe":

  • This is a rainy day activity. If it's warm and sunny out, especially in winter months, soak it up while you can. Pierogi-making is for when you want to avoid blustery weather and hunker down in comfort.
  • If you're going to make pierogies, do it in bulk. It's such a labor-intensive recipe, it's best to roll up your sleeves, hit your stride and make them en masse. They freeze beautifully.  

  • Invite three to four friends so it's intimate, but still a little factory-like, so you can belt out the goods. Play music in the background, light candles, and serve a wintry cocktail. Since you will undoubtedly be snacking on pierogies all day, put out a spread out with different types of food, like crudite and hummus and a charcuterie board
  • Make sure you are fully-stocked with rollings pins, trays, a stock pot and a comfortable outfit that you don't mind having covered in flour.

There's something therapeutic about working with your hands. Therapy has never been so delicious. 

5 Ways to Hygge Your Home

So the holiday decorations have been put away, and your home feels bare. On the bright side, you decluttered. Consider your living space to be a blank slate, a fresh start before bringing on the hygge. 

What exactly is hygge? This buzzword, pronounced "hyu-gah," exploded into pop culture in 2016, and has been named Word of the Year by both Oxford and Collins dictionaries. Simply put, hygge is "a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture)."

Denmark and Norway practice hygge as a culture year-round, but especially in winter. The Northern hemisphere experiences limited sunlight and bitter cold, and their way of celebrating comfort is an art.

Below are 5 ways you can practice hygge this winter. 

Gather

To beat the isolation that can occur in winter, Danes often invite friends and family over for intimate gatherings. Sometimes it involves a nature walk to soak up  vitamin D in that sliver of time the sun is out. Per the below photo, my friends and I enjoyed an outdoor walk, then warmed up by a fire pit, drinking craft beer.  Regardless, it ends with everyone indoors for a cozy get-together. And what is a winter gathering without comfort food? Bake something to share.

Get Lit

Stack some wood in the fireplace and settle in. Cut off the harsh overhead lights and light candles to give your room a warm glow. Danes burn through more candle wax than any other European country - about 13 lbs per person per year!

Warm and Fuzzy

Weighted blankets, faux fur comforters and soft throw pillows, there are all things that will make you feel safely cocooned, as you Netflix and chill.

Hot Stuff

If it's warm, drink up. Comforting beverages like hot cocoa and whipped cream, or peppermint tea and honey are the way to go. Extra points if you put down the phone and pick up a book.

Bundle Up

Wool socks and cashmere sweaters feel as good as they look, but nothing's better than an old pair of sweatpants. Hyggebukser is an actual term for a worn pair of pants you would never wear in public, but secretly treasure. 

Though Los Angeles is generally warmer, desert climate calls for chilly evenings, even during the summer. On cold winter nights (there was frost guys), friends would gather around the fire at our cabin, drink spiced mulled wine and because every gathering has one, some guy would inevitably pull out a guitar.

Year after year, Scandinavians are voted the happiest people in the world. While it's true that employers and the government promote an incredible work/life balance, part of the picture is their focus on comfort, and living well. And during these winter months, we need all the hygge we can get!

 

...And Mom and Dad Can Hardly Wait for School to Start Again

From us here at Ladles and Linens, we hope you're having the happiest of holidays. We also know this time of year can be fraught with stress and over-packed schedules. It can be a struggle staying mindful about slowing down and being in the moment. 

It could be little things, like treating a cousin to a peppermint mocha. Or everyone agreeing to put down their tablets to take in It's a Wonderful Life, which serves a strong reminder to be more grateful. Board games, caroling (even as a joke flash mob - trust me, it's amazing), preparing a great meal; these are all things that can bring us together.

Some say that the week between Christmas and New Year's Day is the longest week of the year. ...and Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again. It can feel especially long if you encounter political arguments, spoiled children or cannot find a decent hiding space. Try to reframe this added time as a gift. I make jewelry or bake chocolate chip cookies.  If the kids are running circles around the house, take them out sledding and help them burn off steam. If everyone's buried in their phones, pull out a game of Apples to Apples, and up the ante by giving the winner a gift card.

In short, you deserve the kind of holiday they sing songs about. Give it your best shot. Happy holidays!

 

Feast of the Seven Fishes

We have Catholicism to thank for the Feast of Seven Fishes. From as far back as the Roman era, they would "fast" before Christmas. I put "fast" in parentheses because  it usually meant they abstained from meat. And on Christmas Eve, they'd enjoy the bounty of the sea. Southern Italian immigrants brought the tradition to the United States, and it disseminated from New York City's Little Italy in the 1800s to well-appointed homes in the American South.

Sarah Nicholas and her family have made an annual tradition of Feast of the Seven Fishes, and it was effortlessly elegant. Not too mention a far cry from what I imagined this meal was like. I always pictured loud gatherings in Italian tenements, with all the bickering and kissing and the elbowing of one another. Clearly I've seen my share of mob movies from the 1990s. 

There were beautifully-plated bacon-wrapped shrimp, truffled cod with Moroccan couscous, cured salmon with fresh-chopped garlic, au-gratin scallops over mushrooms, lobster bisque, shrimp scampi, whitefish spread, seafood lasagna, lobster ravioli, clam chowder quiche, and I haven't even touched upon the charcuterie, sides and dessert. It may as well be called the Feat of the Seven Fishes. Hosting a dinner like this is not for the faint of heart.

For this reason, I marveled at Sarah's ease. Shoulders back, languid on the couch, laughing. I try to pull off this aura, but I often forget to take off my apron, or I keep jumping up because I forgot "one last thing."

At the Nicholas home, Bing Crosby played softly on the speakers, birch candles gave off a fresh, sprucy scent and children pulled Nutcracker-themed candy poppers after dinner. The evening was decadent, yet Sarah made it feel like she "woke up like this."

Happy holidays, everyone!

Dazzle Holiday Guests with a Chesapeake Favorite

It's the most wonderful time of the year - especially for les gourmands. Not only is this cold weather allowing us to indulge in comfort foods, but during the holidays we are being impeccably served. Prime rib with horseradish and Yorkshire pudding, homemade chocolate bark dusted with crushed candy canes. I could go on.

Richmond Chef Tammy Brawley knows her way around a holiday party. As the owner of The Green Kitchen, it's a busy time of year! She hosts private chef dinners, works as a personal chef, does catering and even hosts cooking classes at her Church Hill location. 

When I asked what one of her favorite recipes was, she didn't hesitate. Crab cakes with lemon dill sauce is a mix of comfort food and sophistication. As we are all Chesapeake Bay-adjacent, owning a covetable recipe is practically our birthright. Below, she will walk you through how to take your holiday party up a notch. 

Crabcakes

2 lbs crab, lump works best, but claw meat is fine as well, as long as it’s picked thoroughly for shells

1 Tablespoon mustard

1 teaspoon= 25 mini crab cakes

dry mustard

1 Tablespoon dried parsley, or 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped fine

zest and juice of 1 lemon

½ cup ground crackers or dry bread crumbs, more might be needed

2½ ounces parmesan cheese

2 eggs

¼ cup mayonnaise, more might be needed

butter and olive oil

Directions

The amounts are approximate. It’s best to “feel” as you go.

Put crab into a large bowl. Add mustards, parsley, lemon zest and juice. Mix thoroughly by hand.

Add ¼ cup ground crackers or dry bread crumbs, to start. Add parmesan cheese. Squeeze a small handful together to see how well it holds. Reserve remaining ¼ cup.

Add 1 egg to start, mixing again thoroughly. Squeeze a small handful together to see how well it holds.

Add 2 tablespoons mayo to start, mixing thoroughly. Again, check for how well it holds together.

Here you can add more crackers or dry bread crumbs, the 2nd egg and the remaining mayonnaise if you find it necessary.

Place plastic or parchment on a sheet tray. Form crab cakes evenly, either in mini 1 ½ ounce size or larger if desired. Place crab cakes on lined sheet tray.

Have burner on medium low and warm enough butter and olive oil to cover bottom of pan. Once butter and oil are thoroughly combined, raise heat to medium, for about 2 minutes. Add crabcakes and pan-fry until golden, flipping once. Serve with Lemon-Dill Sauce

Lemon-Dill Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise

2 tsp. grated lemon rind

1 Tbs. lemon juice

3/4 tsp dried dill

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. hot sauce (optional)

Stir together.  Chill.

 

Leftover Turkey? Make Some Jerky!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Ladles and Linens has a lot to be thankful for this year, and it has to do with you. Thank you for shopping local and supporting small business. And thank you for making the world a more delicious place!

As a rule, it's always better to make too much food than just enough, because you'd be saddled with worry about running out. Besides, leftovers means less cooking and more time to relax. Speaking of leftovers, why not switch up the turkey sandwiches for a healthy snack to carry you through the hectic holiday season? Turn that bird into turkey jerky!

Cooked turkey works just fine. Since it can be a dry bird, don't simply depend on the natural juices it was cooked in. To help preserve the jerky, the marinade needs a good amount of salt. And to give it oomph, make it zesty. Thinly slice the remainder of the turkey (against the grain), set your oven or dehydrator to 175 degrees, and use one of the below marinades to season your turkey overnight. Once in the oven or dehydrator, it should take about 2-4 hours for the jerky to be complete, depending on the thickness of the slices. The meat should bend before it breaks - that's how you know it's ready.

Americana marinade: Worcester sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, salt, pepper and herbs (use your discretion; rosemary, thyme, sage, etc)

Korean BBQ: Sesame oil, soy sauce, brown sugar and garlic salt. Top with sesame seeds

Buffalo: A little olive oil and a lot of Texas Pete

Mexican: Soy sauce, cumin, hot salsa, lime juice, chili powder and a bit of lime zest

 

 

 

 

Making Friendsgiving Extra Friendly

I'm all about family, but friends are the family you choose. And Friendsgiving (a Thanksgiving meal between friends) can be an ideal alternative if you're far from your hometown. For one, it's often not as fraught regarding politics, and the group gathers on their own volition, not familial obligation

Oftentimes, the host pulls from a wide variety of friends who are far from their families, ensuring that you'll meet some fresh faces. Another perk is that since this feast is already taking the non-traditional route, why not switch up the menu? I've always wanted to host an Indian-inspired Friendsgiving, with Tandoori turkey, aloo gobi to replace the mashed potatoes and cranberry chutney.

Traditionalists will not be pleased with me, but here it goes: turkey is tasty, but in my opinion, an overrated bird. Less juicy than chicken, less flavorful than duck. So why not switch up the theme altogether?

You could throw a soul food feast, with fried chicken, collard greens, cornbread and sweet potato pie. Or a Chesapeake-inspired seafood boil, with shrimp, corn, crab legs and cornbread. The possibilities are endless. Here are some other ways to make the occasion special:

  • Have everyone take tuns around the table to describe one thing they are thankful for. Oftentimes during the busy season, we're too busy or stressed to practice gratefulness. 
  • Add a signature scent to the dinner, and light candles around the home with seasonal notes, like pumpkin spice, cinnamon apple or orange clove.
  • Bring the outdoors in. Take a little hike around your neighborhood and find things of beauty: waxy, fresh-fallen leaves in yellow or red, pinecones or firethorn branches, dripping with orange or red berries. Run these along the center of your table
  • Create a leftover station ahead of time, with take-out containers decorated with a Friendsgiving-y theme, like a turkey or autumn leaves, with the words Thank you for being a friend. It's a thoughtful parting gift!

So remember, if you find yourself without plans this Thanksgiving, throw your own Friendsgiving! You likely aren't alone, and can gather a grateful little group you don't get to spend as much time with.

Happy holidays!

Richmond Chef Puts a Twist on on a Classic

If it were socially acceptable to eat an entire plate of mashed potatoes, that would be my Thanksgiving meal every year. But I'm an outlier, as the real crowd-pleaser seems to be the pie.

And when it comes to Thanksgiving dessert, people are split into two camps: pumpkin and apple. I always like a twist on a classic, and prefer pumpkin cheesecake to the actual pie. And I'm not alone. Richmond chef Christine Wansleben of Mise En Place also loves a good twist. Her go-to dessert recipe is  Sour Cream Apple Pie, a holiday favorite her family looks forward to every year. It's so delectable, she sometimes eats it for breakfast...with ice cream!  

Like any good cook, she has well-worn baking instructions. And to get us all into the holiday spirit, she's decided to share the recipe with us! Be prepared for a season of hosting by stocking up on these baking essentials from Ladles and Linens!

"It's made with ingredients you already have in your home, and just as good if you use a roll-out pie crust," Wansleben added. The timing couldn't be better - apples are in season. If you're looking forward to holiday baking, visit Mise En Place for  a Soul Food for the Holidays class on 11/22, Cocktail Party Favorites on 12/5, and more!