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valentine’s gift idea: a cup of love from catherine’s table

cupoflovemug

If you’re one of those people who wishes you had time to make a homemade valentine for your sweetie, but life (and your schedule) have other plans, consider the Cup of Love from Catherine’s Table. Each piece is made with care by potters Noelle VanHendrick and Eric Hendrick of Zpots Studio Pottery. With a unique texture and carefully molded to feel good in your hand, these little beauties were clearly made with love.. and the handwritten font gets an A+ from us on design. Use them for hot toddies or to hold a bouquet of flowers on a breakfast tray. $32 at Catherine’s Table.

real life test kitchen: old fashioned lasagna bolognese

Here’s something worthwhile to do during the next snowmageddon: make lasagna bolognese from scratch. It will occupy hours of your time, make your house smell wonderful, and please your family more than a cup of hot chocolate.

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I had been wanting to try Bon Appetit’s October cover story for some time, and actually decided that this was the perfect dish to serve at the Christmas pot luck we attended. I followed their instructions faithfully, but decided NOT to make my own noodles. Perhaps another year.  The results were outstanding, and tasted even better as leftovers the next day.

First, make the Bolognese sauce — which honestly is wonderful enough on its own to serve over pasta for a week.
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What you need:
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled, coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground beef chuck
1 pound ground pork
4 oz. pancetta (Italian bacon), finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup whole milk
1 14.5-oz. can crushed tomatoes
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided

How to Make:
1. Pulse onion, carrot, and celery in a food processor until finely chopped.
2. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add beef, pork, pancetta, and vegetables; cook, breaking up meat with a spoon, until moisture is almost completely evaporated and meat is well browned, 25–30 minutes; season with salt and pepper.
3. Add wine to pot and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot, about 2 minutes. Add milk; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until moisture is almost completely evaporated, 8–10 minutes.
4. Add tomatoes and 2 cups broth; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, adding water by ½-cupfuls if sauce looks dry, until flavors meld and sauce thickens, 2½–3 hours.
5. Let sauce cool, then cover and chill at least 12 hours or up to 2 days.

Second, make the bechamel sauce — a good technique any home chef needs to know.
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What You Need:
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk, warmed
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
Kosher salt

How To Make:
1. Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until foaming. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute.
2. Whisk in warm milk, ½-cupful at a time. Bring sauce to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, whisking often, until the consistency of cream, 8–10 minutes; add nutmeg and season with salt.
3. Remove from heat, transfer to a medium bowl, and press plastic wrap directly onto surface; let cool slightly.

Third – Assemble the lasagna!

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1. Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a 13×9” baking dish with butter.
2 Cook your noodles — don’t use the no-boil kind. Be sure to make them al dente. When finished, lay them out on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels. Try not to overlap them, or they will stick together.
3. Reheat the sauces if needed. Combine Bolognese sauce and remaining 1 cup broth in a large saucepan over medium heat, and heat until sauce is warmed through.
4. Meanwhile, if you made the béchamel ahead of time, heat in a medium saucepan over low heat just until warmed through (don’t let it boil).
5. Spread 1/4 cup béchamel in the prepared baking dish. Top with a layer of noodles, spread over a scant 3/4 cup Bolognese sauce, then 1/2 cup béchamel, and top with 1/4 cup Parmesan.
6. Repeat process 5 to 7 more times, starting with noodles and ending with Parmesan.
7. Place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake lasagna until bubbling and beginning to brown on top, 50–60 minutes.
8. Let lasagna sit 45 minutes before serving.

More Shelterrific lasagna recipes can be found here!

two cocktails recipes from julibox to help you say goodbye to 2013

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Julibox

Lets face it. We don’t make cocktails nearly enough at home. Sure, we serve beer and uncork wine bottles a couple times a week, but when was last time you got out the cocktail shaker and mixed one up? One of our (more fun) resolutions for 2014? Make more cocktails! Starting tonight, with New Year’s Eve 2013. On our bar menu is an old favorite with a slight twist, and a fancy little number that puts the same bottle of cognac to use. Helping us along the way is a new site and subscription service called Julibox. If you subscribe to Julibox for about $40 a month, you will get a box mailed to you that has the fixings for four cocktails plus recipes. (True, a bit expensive for four drinks you make yourself, but a nice gift idea for those want to move beyond craft beer of the month!) These aren’t just any recipes, but recipes that have been developed and heartily tested by expert curators, including Paul Sevigny, a well known Miami bartender (and Chloe’s brother). What we’re excited about is the idea of a cocktail community that exchanges recipes and tales of mixology, which is what the Julibox site curates. In the spirit of sharing, here are two recipes of theirs, both of which use pear cognac. Cheers — And happy new year!!


Winter Side Car

Side cars are one of our favorite cocktails to drink on a cold blustery night. This version is made with pear cognac (or brandy if you can’t find the cognac) and Disaronno. We’ll make this one in a pitcher — so times it by six!
What you need:
1 3/4 oz Xante Pear Cognac
3/4 oz Disaronno liquor
the juice of one lemon
For garnish:
lemon rind twist
sugar rim
How To Make
1. Rub the a slice of lemon around the rim of a martini glass.
2. Pour a pile of sugar into a saucer plate and dip the glass into it.
3. Pour the cognac and Disaronno into a shaker filled with ice.
4. Squeeze in the lemon juice.
5. Shake vigorously for 10 to 15 seconds.
6. Strain into the sugar-rimmed glass and garnish with a twist.

Fleur-De-Lys
Because everyone needs a little bubbly on New Year’s Eve, this lovely drink uses the same cognac as the Winter Side Car, but is topped off with some sparkling wine.
What You Need:
1 3/4 oz Xante Pear Cognac
2 oz brut champagne or sparkling wine
1 tsp of granulated sugar
juice of half a lemon
Garnish:
Lemon twist
How To Make:
1. Combine the lemon juice and sugar in a cocktail shaker filled with ice.
2. Add cognac and shake until very cold.
3. Strain into a large coup glass.
4. Top with champagne and garnish with a twist.

post off: what christmas cookies are you making this year?

Can you believe we have only one weekend left until Christmas?! I am seriously missing the time we lost because Thanksgiving was so late this year. My weekend will be a cookie-making frenzy in an attempt to catch up before the big day, because it just isn’t the holidays without having certain cookies in the house.

One of my musts are pizzelles, which I make on my waffle press religiously each year in honor of my Great Aunt Jean, who could have started her own business based on the hundreds she made and gave away every year. I also will make a version of a Russian teacake from this Betty Crocker recipe — delicious butter balls covered in confection sugar.

Dark chocolate crinkles are another staple, and I have my eye on this recipe from Crunchy Creamy Sweet.

I am also craving pignoli cookies, like the ones I used to buy when I lived right in the heart of Little Italy, on Mulberry Street, in the 90s.

What are your holiday cookie staples? I’d love to know.