Ingredient of the Month: Dijon

Dijon mustard

I don’t know if it was my France trip last year or because of this cute jar from Trader Joe’s, but Dijon has been on my mind lately.

And I think Dijon mustard deserves some space in all of our minds and menus. I used to dislike the sharp flavor of Dijon, but I’ve found that it adds some nice flavor to a lot of recipes!

I’m more a fan of the straight Dijon vs. the grainy mustard, but a little goes a long way with both.

Tell me more:

Dijon is a type of mustard originally made on Dijon in Burgundy, France. It is usually made with white wine and brown mustard seeds.

Dijon mustard

Where do I buy Dijon?

You can find Dijon at most grocery stores near the other mustards and condiments. I really like this Dijon from Trader Joe’s. You may even have someone locally who makes mustard like this!

How do I store Dijon?

Like most condiments, Dijon can be kept in the pantry until you open it then into the fridge for freshness. Some can be kept for a year or more.

How do I cook with Dijon?

Mustard can add a ton of flavor to sandwiches, salad dressings, meat and more! It’s got a vinegary kick, but it’s so worth it.

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Happy Things

I know, I know. Things don’t make us happy. True happiness comes from our relationships and living in close community, and lots of other things.

But…sometimes you find things and experiences that add to your happiness and interest in life. And these are a few of the things that have been adding to my summer vibes lately.

Finding a v-neck that is inexpensive and comfortable

I feel like for years I’ve been on the hunt for the most comfortable, wearable and cute v-neck tees to dress up or dress down. I love a good v-neck, but they can be tricky to find. I have a few from Everlane that I like, but I just discovered these wonders from Target. On sale, comfy and a range of colors. Score!

Spending cool evenings reading on the porch

I’ve been finding a great way to relax and enjoy the back porch is by spending 30 minutes to an hour outside right before the sun sets to enjoy the surroundings. I grab my current library read and enjoy the cool night breeze.

Discovering new sparkling waters to try

Like many others, I’ve really got into sparkling waters in the past year. What’s really fun is finding various types of tasty waters to try. I just discovered that my grocery store carries Mout Valley’s sparkling water, so I’ve been enjoying a bit of this bubbly water in the afternoon at work. Also, it’s from my hometown, so that’s pretty neat.

A fresh, new computer background

You know that feeling when you find a new desktop background that fits you perfectly?! I just re-discovered some really great ones on Design Love Fest. Check out the lemon one!

New landscaping projects!

I know this is super #adulting, but my husband and I have really enjoyed spending weekend time landscaping. We just extended our patio, so last weekend we trekked to a local landscaping place and farmers market to gather plants, shrubs and herbs to make our yard our own.

What has been making you happy lately?

Strawberry Bourbon Smash

Happy Friyay!

I know it’s not a proper word, but it sure is fun to write/say. It’s the perfect day for a simple summery cocktail, don’t you think?

Pick up your favorite bourbon and some sweet and juicy strawberries and get to muddling.

strawberry bourbon smash

I really like to top this one off with tonic water as opposed to club soda because it adds just the right amount of sweetness without having to use simple syrup. Also, if you have a few mint leaves, feel free to throw some in while muddling or on top to make it look pretty.

Sure, you could strain the strawberries for the juice, but I kind of like the pulpy texture. But, it’s up to you.

Happy weekend, ya’ll!

strawberry-bourbon-smash-recipe-card

*Click or tap on recipe card to enlarge and save.

6 Summer Fruit Desserts

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Happy Memorial Day!

I really do love this time of year. Not only is it nice to get a long weekend here and there, but summer produce is becoming available (and my tomatoes and peppers are growing up slowly). And the fruit!

I love how summer moves from sweet strawberries to tart blueberries and blackberries to cool melons and juicy peaches. There’s always some new fruit to savor just as is or cooked in a tasty dessert.

Maybe you’re thinking about what fruit dessert you want to make today or for the next few months. Well, if that’s you, I’ve got a few ideas to get you started on your way!

6 Summer Fruit Desserts

Strawberry Biscuit Cobbler

This dessert is really good with any summer fruit: strawberries, other berries, peaches. Anything fruity is great under this pillowy biscuit topping.

Strawberry Lemon Ice Cream

This ice cream takes a little bit of extra effort, but it is so worth it. The strawberry is sweet and creamy, and the addition of lemon adds a nice tartness.

Gluten-Free Blueberry Crisp

Calling all gluten-freers (and those who like almonds), this is the perfect summer dessert to enjoy with friends and your favorite fresh blueberries.

Blackberry Galette

This French dessert is the perfect “crust envelope” (if you will) to wrap your favorite summer fruits in.

Peach Blueberry Buckle

The name is odd, but the taste of this almond-infused treat with blueberries and peaches is amazing! Trust me, after one bite, you will totally be on board.

Coconut Lime Bars

Grab some zesty limes, macadamia nuts and coconut to whip up these indulgent bars. They are the epitome of summer flavors!

Lemon Thyme Shortbread

lemon thyme shortbread

I can’t believe that I forgot about shortbread for the last few years.

How could I keep baking cookies and sweets and forget about one of the easiest and tastiest treats? How could I forget about this beloved British baked good while watching seasons of Father Brown? (Btw: It’s amazing!) How could I have not posted a new shortbread recipe since 2012?

lemon thyme shortbread

Well, while I figure out the answer to those questions, you can start gathering the ingredients for these incredible Lemon Thyme Shortbreads!

They’re not too sweet, full of zesty lemon and herbal thyme with a perfect balance.

P.S. If you live in Raleigh and need some free thyme, then come on by. I’ve got plenty to share. These shortbreads just wouldn’t be as scrumptious without our herbal Ingredient of the Month.

lemon thyme shortbread

This might be just the treat that you need this wet and rainy week or Memorial Day weekend.

*Click or tap on recipe card to enlarge and save.

Fruitful Travels: Washington, D.C.

Fruitful Travels: Washington, D.C.

One big plus of living on the East Coast/in North Carolina, is that we’re only a 4-hour drive away from D.C.!

I have fond memories of going on a trip to the capitol with my family while in high school (we even stayed in the National Cathedral) and visiting with my sister during the Cherry Blossom Festival a few years ago. My husband and I have visited twice in the past three years of living in NC.

We always both fall in love with the weather (we usually luck out with 70-degree sunny skies), unique architecture and walking-friendly vibe of the city. Oh, and the food was also fabulous.

Here were some of our favorite hot spots:

Dupont Circle

Washington, D.C.

This is the area that we stayed in and we really loved it! So easy to walk to restaurants and fun spots nearby (like Georgetown). I would definitely stay in Dupont Circle again!

Le Diplomate

Le Diplomate

We have now been to Le Diplomate twice, and it just keeps getting better. This restaurant is set up in an old French style with an offering of dishes that honor the French cooking tradition with a few nuances. The oysters are amazing, the main dishes and sides are rich and tasty (and creative) and the desserts (creme brulee) are to die for. Finish your meal off with an aperitif, and you’re good to go.

le diplomate dc

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Tea IQ: Herbal Tea

tea iq

As I’ve may have mentioned before, I’m a proud tea drinker.

My mom is a big tea drinker, and although I thought it tasted like weird water up until I was a teenager, a trip to Ireland and then a semester in England opened my eyes to the beauty that is a cup of tea.

Why I drink tea:

  • It’s healthy
  • It’s relaxing
  • It can be caffeine-free
  • It comes in so many types and flavors
  • It’s great to drink by yourself or with others
  • It goes great with cookies, cake and other treats

I think Americans sometimes give hot tea (I’m not talking sweet iced tea here) a bad rap. But, I have hope that we’re all coming around.

Although, I do think that Americans, on the whole, need a bit of a re-education about tea.

Since I’m a huge herbal tea fan (I don’t often drink caffeine), I thought I would start this Tea IQ series of posts with one on tisane or herbal tea.

What is tisane/herbal tea?

Although herbal tea (also called tisane) isn’t technically tea, it’s a quite tasty and refreshing drink (that most people still consider to be tea). It’s a beverage made from an infusion of dried herbs, spices, fruits or other plant material.

All herbal teas are caffeine free.

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Mother’s Day Memories

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It’s Mother’s Day this weekend and while I’m not a mother yet, it’s got me thinking about my wonderful mother and the food-related memories I share with her (which include tea, pie, Southern favorites, crumbles and crisps, Indian food in Myanmar and much more).

In that vein, I asked some of you Facebook friends to share your food memories with your mom, and I just loved seeing the answers.

It’s wonderful to share the love of certain foods and skills making family recipes, but it seems just as important the way our moms make us and others feel. They offer family, comfort and love through food. It’s quite beautiful finding our place at the table, and so many moms are good at making a place for this to happen. And for that we are blessed.

Here’s what some of you said about your food memories with your mom:

Food for the masses! Always feeding 20+ people like it ain’t no thing and deliciously. I realize I get older that it’s really overwhelming for some people to cook for that many but luckily all the recipes I’ve inherited from her make it no big deal- jambalaya, chicken noodle soup, enchiladas, porkchops and spaghetti.

Lasagna and green bean casserole. I remember when I was middle school that was the first thing she taught me to make.

Here’s my recipe for White Spinach Lasagna.

If dinner was taking a while and we were all ravenously waiting in the kitchen, she’d throw in a pint of sliced fresh mushrooms with butter, fry them up, and we’d snack on that while dinner finished simmering or baking. She’d put the frying pan right on the table and we’d gather round with forks, and a few slices of lightly toasted wheat bread to sop up the buttery goodness left in the pan.

Chicken and dumplings, mom made one million times (with fluffy dumplings). I remember she would take the time to let us request what dinner we wanted for our birthdays. When I was a kid, I remember asking for asparagus and seared sea scallops. She obliged.

Chicken broccoli casserole! My mom would make it for me every time I came home from being away in boarding school and college. I can smell and taste it right now!

When I met my husband, his mom and dad often hosted gatherings for their very large family. I observed his mom’s ways and pitched in to help and learned the beauty of setting up a buffet dinner. Things were prepped together, people were allowed to bring side dishes, she set up the drink station so it’s serve-yourself; and put the cutlery and napkins at the end of the buffet so people don’t have to balance them while filling their plates! I’m really thankful for her teaching me about being hospitable, because I’ve made so many good friends by opening up our house in the same way.

Chicken Enchiladas and homemade salsa.

Making pie crust was one of those things I had to learn before I felt like a real adult. Always homemade from scratch crust that is rolled so thin you can see the countertop underneath it. That’s the trick. I learned from my mom, who learned from her mom. Every holiday or family gathering involves pie. We even served 20+ pecan pies at my wedding that my mom and I made in the days leading up to the big day.

Here’s my Pie Crust recipe.

Pie and molasses spice cookies. All pies are judged v. mom’s.

When I think of my dear mother, it’s actually her dislike of cooking I most remember and her hilarious shortcuts. Like using ketchup for marinara sauce for spaghetti. But she did have her triumphs she concocted herself that has made it through two more generations as favorites. Her non-alchoholic version of a mint julep is in no way recognizable to it’s more spirited cousin, but we drink it every St. Patrick’s Day.

Here’s my recipe for Mint Juleps.

The thing I have loved forever about my mom is the way she’s so gracious and accommodating. She may be cooking for four or 30 and tries to make sure there is something for everyone.

Sugar cookies at Christmas.

My Mom was a “foodie” before that was a popular term. She loved to cook and often had fresh baked cookies or some other pastry for us when we got home from school. She was a Southern cook and served fresh black eyed peas, turnip greens and cornbread sticks cooked in a wrot iron pan, with fresh sliced tomatoes and marinated cucumbers. She could fry chicken and make the best roast, rice and gravy. She had the gift of hospitality and always welcomed family and friends in our home. She could also set a beautiful table around which we shared lots of stories and laughter.

Here’s my recipe for pot roast.

Happy Mother’s Day and here’s to many more comforting food memories in your life!

Ingredient of the Month: Thyme

thyme

You might have thought that this month’s start ingredient would have been strawberries or rhubarb or something seasonal, and I thought about those. But, I decided on going with an ingredient that I’ve been using a lot lately and is wonderful for EVERY season!

Let’s talk about thyme.

It’s an herb that is crazy easy to grow and has lots of wonderful uses in sweet and savory dishes.

Tell me more:

Thyme is a green herb that consists of very small leaves on thin stems.  Once thyme starts growing, it can turn into quite a shrub. It is in the mint family and also related to oregano.

thyme

Where do I buy thyme:

If you don’t have some growing yet (you should definitely get some from your farmers market or grocery store and try it out), or you can buy fresh thyme from any grocery store. You can also buy dried thyme for use in many dishes.

How do I store thyme:

Once thyme is cut, it should be used immediately if possible. If you bought fresh thyme from the store, then keep it in its plastic container or a baggy in the fridge to use within a few weeks. Dried thyme can be stored in an airtight container in your pantry for a year or more.

How do I cook with thyme:

The most important thing to note about cooking with fresh thyme is that you need to gently pick the leaves off of the thin stems and discard the stems. I like to hold the stem at the top then run two fingers downward to easily collect the leaves. You can use the stems in some cases.

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