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May 27, 2016

The BEST Brisket Recipe | Sweet & Tender Soda Pop Brisket

Brisket can be somewhat of a daunting piece of meat.  It is very large, very fatty and notoriously hard to cook.  I've always been confused by it with the multitude of different recipes and recommendations that exist.   Should you cook it low and slow?  For 2 hours or 12?  The recommendations are all over the board.  To make matters worse, it is one of Mike's favorite comfort meals, which equals high expectations.  

I recently saw a brisket recipe that featured Coca-Cola and ketchup as the two main ingredients.  Sound like an old, yucky recipe from the 80s?  Maybe, but it came highly recommended...

Cook's Country (on PBS, my favorite channel) is filmed in an old Vermont farm house - which I love.  They feature unpretentious food with recipes that have been tested and retested.  Chris Kimball, the host, is a very poindexter looking fellow that seems to have a sophisticated (a bit snobby?) palette.   He knows everything about food, New England life and culture.  On the last episode, he said that this recipe was his favorite recipe of all time.  A recipe with sauteed onions, ketchup and Coca-Cola as the main ingredients.  Now that is something to try.  

I have to tell you, that I loved, loved loved this recipe.  I don't know what happens to sauteed onions, mixed with ketchup and Coke in an oven when it cooks with a brisket, but let me tell you - this sauce was incredible.   The entire thing only baked in the oven for 3.5 hours, then rested for 45 minutes.  

There are a couple of things that are crucial to this recipe.  The resting is a very important, apparently, as Chris described it, the many tendons of the brisket get tight during the hot cooking, but the resting period allows them to soak up the moisture of the sauce and soften, leaving the brisket fork tender.  And it was.  The original recipe called for rubbing the meat with salt 6-24 hours before cooking, but I skipped this part due to time.  If you have the time, I'd love to hear how salting it improved the tenderness, too. 

I served our Soda Pop Brisket with Ina's French Potato Salad.  It is basically steamed potatoes, dressed with herbs and a dijon vinaigrette, served warm - was a great side dish for this sweet and rich brisket.  I also served it with some really easy homemade refrigerator pickles.  I'm so excited for these simple, rustic Summer dinners.

Enamelware : You may have noticed the beautiful robins egg blue enamelware pieces I used for this very summery dinner  (Oval Platter, $18, Large Basin Bowl, $16).  They are part of my Summer Collection, here.  They are incredibly fun and lightweight - perfect for casual, outdoor entertaining. 

I made a couple of changes to their original recipe - mainly the seasonings. 

sweet & tender
Soda Pop Brisket

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3 1/2 lbs beef brisket
sea salt*
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 lb onion, large dice
2 cups coke-cola
1 1/2 cups ketchup
4 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder

*This is the part I skipped due to time, but if you plan ahead, it would be great to try.
With a fork, poke holes in the brisket all over.  Rub the brisket with salt.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 6-24 hours.

Heat oven to 325 degrees.  Pat brisket dry with paper towel.  In a large heavy bottomed pan (I used my dutch oven), heat 2 tablespoons of oil.  Sear brisket for 4 minutes on each side.  Remove from pan. 

Add the other 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan along with the onions.  Cook on medium until onions are tender and browned.  About 5-6 minutes.  Add ketchup, coke, onion powder and garlic powder.  Stir together, then put brisket back in, turning it to coat in the sauce.

Cover pan and put it in the oven to bake for 3.5 hours.  Remove from the oven, leaving covered, and let rest for 30 minutes.  Remove lid, then let rest for 15-30 more minutes.  Remove from pan, and slice in thick slices.  Spoon warm sauce over to serve. 

Here is the brisket before slicing. 

See how tender and juicy?  It is the resting that does it.

You really have to try it.  A very special recipe from very humble ingredients.

And for the potato salad...
I used the Barefoot Contessa's recipe for French Potato Salad, recipe, here.

It is a very simple - steamed potatoes tossed in a dijon and champagne vinaigrette with parsley, dill and scallions.  It was tart and tangy with the dressing and herbs - a perfect compliment to the sweet brisket sauce. 

Instead of cubes, I did the potatoes in slices - made it look/seem more like a dinner side dish than a potato salad.

Simple and pretty - perfect "real" food for summer.

I'm excited to snack on this all week for lunch.  I'm trying to upgrade my lunches during the week from a peanut butter sandwich... any ideas?


May 24, 2016

Petite Berry Tarts with Easy Vanilla Custard and Graham Cracker Crust

Petite Berry Tarts with Easy Vanilla Custard and Graham Cracker Crust

For a couple of years now, I've been donating dessert for a dinner that our church sponsors at Sheffield Place, an organization and facility that serves homeless women and their children.  The program houses Up to 75 people (fourteen homeless mothers and their children at any one time).  The average length of stay is nearly four months.

Nearly all of the mothers have a mental health diagnosis, most commonly depression, anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and bi-polar disorder.  Most of the mothers have a dual diagnosis of addiction.  Most are survivors of domestic violence, and many grew up in foster care and/or were runaways, lack a high school diploma or GED, and have felony convictions.

A typical family at Sheffield Place is headed by a mother in her 20's and the average mother has two children under five years of age. 

To prepare families for self-sufficiency and the challenges of managing a home, families practice life skills.  The mothers care for their own living unit and take responsibility for cleaning shared living spaces. With guidance, they learn to prepare healthy food on a tight budget and to resolve conflict in a positive manner. Financial education helps each woman resolve debt and place money in a savings account to begin preparing for the time when she leaves Sheffield Place.

The mission of Sheffield Place is “To empower homeless mothers and their children to heal from their trauma and help them become self-sufficient.”

The dinner that a group from our Church sponsors is to honor the mentors of the women.  The women invite someone to this dinner that has helped support them through their journey.  Sometimes it is a friend, foster care mother helping care for her children, mother, or in one instance her twelve-year-old very sweet daughter that the Mom is working hard to impress.  They get up and speak about their mentor as a way to thank them.  Hearing the stories is always heartbreaking and joyous, as they are growing in their personal strength.  These women are fighters and working so hard to overcome their circumstances.  It is amazing to witness.

To be honest, I always feel a little un-worthy to hear the stories and get to partake in the celebration.  All of the women there deserve so much respect, and here I am basking in the glow of their journey, enjoying the stories they are telling and cheering them on... and all I do is bring dessert.  But then I remember, I can share it here.  I can share with you this reminder of constant struggle that happens on the outskirts of our communities, and right under our noses.  

Celebrating with them is important.  When we celebrate with them, they feel our support and respect.  Just as with any other party we may attend or host, we are celebrating life with our friends and family.  Getting together with loved ones, giving each other hospitality and love in the form of dinner (or bringing dessert), is what I love so much about entertaining.  

As they went through the buffet, and we serve them, we here things like, "Oh I love lasagna - my Mom made the best lasagna.  My favorite meal."  Hearing things like that makes me think, these women are just like us.  She remembers the great lasagna her mom made for family dinners when she was little and now she is here.  And here I am with a group of women, serving these needing, struggling women, and caring for them.  It is a privilege to be a stand in for a family, though it is the tiniest small gesture.

Don't discount and the opportunity to share, support and celebrate... or the power of dessert.

Last year, I made big Cherry Cupcakes piled with frosting.  They were so pretty!  However, many of the women were following the programs nutritional guidelines and learning to make healthy choices.  My cupcakes were like a giant temptation for them in front of their mentors and counselors!  Oops -ugh!  So, this year, I wanted to make something more nutritious for them that they would be able to enjoy a little more guilt free : )   I also thought it would be great for them to see something that is so simple to make, that might be a good option for them to make for their family.

Of course, this would be a great dessert for a Bridal/Baby Shower since it is light and fresh or even a 4th of July party... and it is Red, White and Blue ; )  They are made ahead of time (a couple of days, even!), which always makes everything easier.

I used the Small Tart Pans from my store.     Here, you can see the Small Tart Pans ($5 for 10) compared to the Petite size ($6 for 10).  The Small are a bit smaller, making a nice individual portion of a dessert.

I put a Graham Cracker crust in each, and packed it with a measuring cup.

And then I made homemade Vanilla Pudding (pastry cream, custard.... whatever).  So yummy hot from the stove!!

This was a huge batch!  I think I had to do 8 of the original recipes.

I filled each pan about half way up with the pudding.  This is a great starting point for any tart/pie.  

Here are a few I plan to try...
Banana Cream Tart : Banana slices in before the pudding, then top with whipped cream.
Chocolate Cream Tart : Chocolate pudding, whipped cream and topped with chocolate shavings.

Here are 6, that fit on a Small Sheet Pan, $7.  Twelve-Fourteen fit on a Large Sheet Pan, $8.

Classic French Blue Linen Tea Towel, $18 for 2

Petite Berry Tarts with Vanilla Custard

recipe makes 8

10 graham crackers
1/4 cup of sugar
6 tablespoons of butter, melted
1/3 cup of cornstarch
1 cup of sugar
1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
4 eggs
4 cups of milk
1 tablespoon of vanilla
4 tablespoons of butter
fresh berries

Preheat oven to 350.

Graham Cracker Crusts :

Make crust by pulverizing graham crackers and sugar in a food processor (or in a plastic bag) until fine crumbs.  Add melted butter and pulse until it comes together.  

Portion into tart pans on a baking sheet and press with measuring cups to pack crust. 

Bake on baking sheet for 10 minutes.  Cool.

Vanilla Custard : 

In a medium sauce pan, combine cornstarch, sugar and salt with a whisk.  In a separate bowl, whisk together milk and eggs.  Add milk/egg mixture to the cornstarch and combine.  Bring to bubbling over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened.  It should cook for about 2-4 minutes.  Remove from heat, add vanilla and butter.  Whisk in until smooth.

Scoop portions of warm custard into the crusts.  Let cool.

Top with fruit.  Refrigerate until serving.

I would love to hear what ideas you have for this Mini Tart & Vanilla Custard concept!  I use the Tart Pans all of the time.  Here are my favorite recipes : 

Products Used : 

Small Tart Pans ($5 for 10)

For more information about the Sheffield Place, visit here.  You can see photos of some of the children and mothers that are benefitting from the amazing programs.

May 23, 2016

Summer Sale starts today! Robin's Egg Enamelware, Nautical Cookie Cutters...

Summer Sale!

The Summer Sale is starting today! There are lots of markdowns, including the Robin's Egg Blue Enamelware + Nautical Cookie Cutters. If you order today, you will have everything in time for your Memorial Day celebration!
Once these items are sold out, they will not be restocked.

May 19, 2016

Seafood Boil Party | My Favorite (and the easiest) Summer Party

Can it be possible that Memorial Day Weekend is next weekend?  Hosting a Seafood Boil is one of my favorite ways to entertain.   It is easy (so easy!), not really that expensive, and it makes a fun and festive night.

For me, a seafood boil is the essence of casual (but special) summer entertaining.  As you know, I love really casual entertaining, so a seafood boil is the perfect marriage of luxury (I mean, we are talking lobster here...) and a roll-up-your-sleeves and dig-in sort of party.  

Almost every summer we host some sort of Seafood Boil for our friends.  This year, we threw one for my Mom's surprise birthday party.  If you've never hosted one before - let me tell you, it is the easiest party you will ever throw.  The fresh seafood is such a fun summer treat for everyone, that there is very little to do besides set a pretty table.

Shop my Summer Products including this Robin's Egg Blue Enamelware, here.

Seafood Boil
serves 6

1 lemon, cut in wedges
1 tablespoon of old bay seasoning
1 tablespoon of whole peppercorns
2 pounds of small potatoes
6 ears of corn
6 small lobster tails (optional)
2 pounds of shrimp
french bread
melted butter

In a large pot of boiling water, add lemon, old bay, peppercorns and potatoes.  Boil for 8 minutes.  Add corn and lobsters and cook for 3 more minutes.  Add shrimp and cook for 2 minutes.  Drain from water and pile on platter.  Serve with crusty bread and melted butter.

When I first saw this Robin's Egg Blue Enamelware Collection, I couldn't wait to use it for our annual seafood boil.  Here, I'm using the Large Round Platter ($16) to serve the seafood.  The tall sides make it very easy to pile everything in.

In the summer, I'm a beer girl.  I love, love, love Summer Shandy.  It is like beer and lemonade mixed together.  I put it in the Enamelware Deep Basin ($16)  (Now restocked!!) with ice and wedges of lemon.  I also offer white wine to keep everyone happy.

I made very casual candle hurricanes out of old extra large mason jars.  I filled the bottoms with large sea salt and then used my Tapers.

And of course... Lobster Sugar Cookies are such a fun parting gift... or dessert.  They are actually very easy to decorate.  If you can trace the outside and color in the lines, you're set.

These are back to the store this season - along with some other fun nautical shapes.

Gosh, these cookies make me feel like I'm sitting in Martha's Vineyard right now.

Shop the Nautical Cookie Cutters, here > 

Have I convinced you to throw a Seafood Boil yet?  You won't be sorry!

Another favorite version of this is a Shrimp Boil.  My brother-in-law hosted us at a boil a couple of years ago - old bay spiced water with sausages, onions, shrimp, corn and potatoes.  You can see that recipe, here >

What are your favorite Summer party traditions? 

Shop :

Robin's Egg Blue Enamelware ($16-24)

Nautial Cookie Cutters >
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