Mothers Day at the Inn

How many memories are evoked from the scent of something baking or bubbling on the stove in the kitchen of your grandmother or mom? Growing up in the 60’s most moms of my peer group,cooked out of the necessity to feed a family. There were no sun-dried tomatoes, anchovy paste or fancy lettuces at our home. Mom could make a fabulous meat loaf from a meager pound of hamburg. She could whip up a chocolate eggless cake which we would devour before she could even frost it. She made awesome oatmeal cookies heavy with raisins , brown sugar & walnuts. Growing up in an Irish Catholic neighborhood we were pretty much eating what everyone else was, simple food that could go from pot to table by 6:00. Simple food, simply prepared & these days considered classics.

My mom is no longer with us. A victim of a breast cancer diagnosis that took her from our family almost 30 years ago. Thinking back to my childhood, she would always let me help her in the kitchen. Whether it was stirring a pot to make pudding or sauce for meatballs, or tearing up iceberg lettuce for a salad. I did not realize then that that feeling of creating something out of a bunch of wet & dry ingredients, would be the start of my life long passion for cooking & eating.

lemon caper chicken
Stuffed Chicken with Lemon caper sauce

We prepared a beautiful dinner in our restaurant in the Inn celebrating the wives of several guests , who’s husbands snuck them away for an overnight in Vermont. Dinner included a fresh salad of baby spinach, sliced strawberries, toasted almonds & small clods of Vermont goat cheese, topped with a maple lemon vinaigrette. Our entree consisted of a skin on split chicken breast stuffed with a mixture of sun-dried tomatoes, proscuitto , parmesan reggiano, fresh basil & softened butter. The dish is sauteed & finished with a lemon caper butter & a splash of Marsala wine. Since this is peak asparagus season, we roasted a big beautiful batch with olive oil & salt & pepper & served it unadorned so the flavor s would shine through.A perfect accompaniment to the chicken was a baked risotto. I adapted an Ina Garten recipe( Barefoot Contessa) to include some brown basmati rice ,rather than all aborio. If you love risotto & hate standing at the stove stirring for 45 minutes, than you must try this recipe. Dessert was a lemon pound cake recipe from James Beard cookbook. Just thinking of his portly posture , bald head & impish grin makes me feel nostalgic. I made a homemade batch of orange honey ice ream & a berry sauce of raspberries & strawberries simmered with sugar, Chambord & some lemon zest. I would say we paid proper homage to the moms at our dining table.The husbands seemed pretty content too!

Mothers day dinner
Table set for Mothers day dinner

Stuffed Chicken Breasts

3 Tbs. freshly grated parmigiano reggiano

2 Tbs. chopped prosciutto, domestic is fine

2 Tbs. finely chopped Sun dried Tomatoes

10 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

2 Tbs. softened butter

Salt & freshly ground pepper

2 boneless chicken breasts, skin on

Heat oven to 450. In a small bowl combine the Parmesan, prosciutto, sun dried tomatoes, basil & butter and mix until blended. Add salt & pepper to taste.

Take the chicken breast & cut a pocket into the meat. Stuff half the mixture into the pocket. Chill both stuffed breasts for 10 minutes.

Season both sides of chicken with salt & pepper. Heat a saute pan to medium high. Add 1 Tbs.oil & 1 Tbs.butter. Add chicken skin side down & saute until a golden brown. Gently flip over to brown that side.

Remove the chicken from the pan & place in a baking dish & bake for 10 minutes.

In the saute pan you cooked the chicken in, take a wooden spoon & stir a bit to loosen browned bits. Add 2 Tbs. capers , 2 Tbs. Marsala wine & a good squeeze of lemon juice. Then add 2 Tbs. of butter & swirl into the pan until combined.

Remove chicken from the oven and pour pan juices over & serve.

Memorial day weekend

Our summer at Abbott’s Glen Inn in Vermont, starts on Memorial day weekend. Friday afternoon is a bustle of activity getting ready for 3 days of entertaining our guests.Weather always plays a big part in how we enjoy the weekend. It is a challenge to select a menu that fits the forecast.

We try to dine outside as much as possible, but it was a wee bit chilly for the patio so we opted for the warmth of the Inn dining room to enjoy grilled Italian sausages, roasted Vadallia onion marmalade, focaccia rolls with a homemade herb garlic butter & warm tortellini topped with an uncooked tomato basil caper sauce & pearl mozzarella.the sweet finish to the meal was a premium gelato & homemade butterscotch biscotti.

 

Kentucky Derby weekend

When the beginning of May finally arives,we look forward to watching the Kentucky Derby. We celebrate at our Vermont inn  with pre race hor d’oeuvres & a complimentary Mint julep served in a sliver tumbler. The guests gather in front of a large flat screen for viewing & place a friendly wager. None of chose the winner but we we had a great time enjoying all of the tradition & colorful hats that are part of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

We created a few new items our guest to enjoy with their mint julep. A creamy spinach & artichoke dip served with crispy pita wedges was a new addition to the cocktail food assortment. A platter of  miniature cheddar cheese biscuits with Virginia ham & maple mustard

mini biscuits with ham
Mini-biscuits-Derby-food

paid homage to its southern roots. We northerners like a good biscuits too!

Part of our hor d’oeuvre selection included some lovely cheese from a  new cheese maker in our town. Spoonwood Cabin Creamery makes hand crafted style  European  cheeses with pride & care. We offered our guests a selection of semi soft & triple creme , one of which was soft disk called devotion.  You could certainly taste the devotion that went into creating every creamy mouthful. Spoonwood is open on the weekends for tastings & even has a small lunch menu to enjoy with a nice assortment of wines.

Our dinner included a southern favorite Shrimp Etouffee served over a bed of brown rice.Dessert was a luscious Derby Pie. It is a Pecan Pie with Bourbon, Bittersweet chocolate chips & rather than dark corn syrup I used dark maple syrup.Baked until golden mahogany color & served with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream. We could barely trot ourselves over to club sugar shack for a dance.

 

Quick & Easy Biscuits

2 cups white flour

1 Tbs. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 Tbs. sugar

1/3 cup butter

1  cup buttermilk

1/4 cup grated cheddar

In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, sugar, & salt. Cut in shortening until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Add the buttermilk & grated cheddar until the dough comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface.Knead it until the dough for a few minutes.

Pat down to to 2 inches thick. Cut biscuits with a small biscuit cutter.

Place on a ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake  10 ~12 minutes in a preheated 425 oven until edges turn brown.

Amberjack fish

amberjack-ingredients-innthebuff-gourmetSince our arrival in Florida we have been feasting on fresh fish.

Today we selected a fillet of amber fish, or more commonly known as jack fish. It is a firm white fish & very mild in flavor. I pan fried it with a quick sauté of grape tomatoes & garlic in a little butter & olive oil. I wanted to throw in some capers but didn’t have any so I chopped up a few dill pickles to give the sauce a more piquant flavor.  Some chopped fresh Italian parsley finished the dish! Delicious.amberjack-dinner-innthebuff-gourmet

Florida Dining

A few times of year my husband & I escape to the sunny sands of Florida’s gulf coast. April tends to be a quiet time in Vermont; the snow is finally melting and the land just looks tired & gray. While our assistant manager Liz finishes up the last of the sugaring, (maple, that is,) we head south.

Shrimp and Avocado Salad
Shrimp & Avocado Salad

While most folks on vacation look forward to dining out, I embrace the opportunity to buy locally & cook .

A friendly older gent sets up a farm stand 3 days a week. We load up on fresh berries; oranges & grapefruit; lettuces and all kinds of tomatoes. Next stop is always the fish store. Independently owned, this little gem has a nice selection of fresh caught shrimp, blue crabs and a gulf favorite– grouper. We visit there often, selecting whatever is the catch of the day.

Florida Hibiscus Flower

Now don’t get me wrong, I love eating out & tasting the local fare, but to cook at our Florida home is equally satisfying. Our back patio overlooks the canal, and from there we can enjoy incredible sunsets amidst those iconic Palm trees and bevy of blooming hibiscus.

Since we have arrived we have chosen to eat every meal al fresco, enjoying the glorious feeling of summer, having endured so many frozen snowy days in New England.

Florida HeronOur lunches have been a variety of salad greens, beautiful tomatoes & fresh gulf shrimp, steamed & chilled. Enjoyed with a chilled glass of wine, I am happy in paradise. Oh, did I mention an uninvited lunch guest?

 

Italian sausage & kale, white bean stew

Friday night dinners in our Inn’s restaurant tend to be more casual than Saturday evening meals. With guests arriving in Vermont tired from a day of work & their drive up from Massachusetts, Connecticut or NY, they want something uncomplicated. During the summer season it is easy to pop something on the grill and in winter, we often have a pasta dish or homemade potpies. Since our spring here has been unseasonably chilly, I opted for a Kale Stew for my Friday guests. Italian sausages, kale & white beans simmered in a chicken stock come together for a satisfying easy meal. I served it up with ciabatta bread & a green salad served with a homemade Caesar dressing.naked-gardeners-abbotts-glen - Copy

Italian Sausage , Kale & White Bean Stew
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium vadallia onion, chopped
3/4 lb hot Italian sausage, casings removed
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
2- 15 oz. cans cannellini beans, rinsed & drained
4 cups chopped kale
1/2 Tsp. oregano
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1/4 cup Parmesan Reggiano cheese, grated

1.) Heat oil in a 6 qt. dutch oven on medium heat. Add onion & cook stirring until tender 5 – 6 minutes.
2.) Add sausage meat until brown. Break up sausages into bite size pieces as it cooks.
3.) Add garlic & kale and cook down until kale is wilted. Add oregano.
4.) Add chicken broth & cook for 15 minutes. Add beans. Cook another 15 minutes until kale is tender.
5.) Season with salt & pepper. Add red wine vinegar.
6.) Transfer into individual bowls & top with the parm.

~Serves 5~

snowing again, let’s make waffles

Amy in front of one of the inn's many gardens.
Amy in front of one of the inn’s many gardens.

 

What a disappointment. Another snowy day here in beautiful sloppy Vermont. I guess we will not be collecting sap today , but it’s a good morning to treat my guests to waffles,so into the kitchen to get some yummy breakfast smells happening.

Golden Pecan Waffles with Bananas & Clove Maple Syrup
waffles1 cup white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbs.brown sugar
1/4 Tsp. baking powder
1/4 Tsp. baking soda
dash of salt
2 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk
6 Tbs. butter melted & cooled
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted

1.) In a large mixing bowl, stir together flours, sugar, baking powder & soda & salt.
In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs & buttermilk
2.) Make a well in the dry ingredients & add wet, mixing gently. Add melted butter then chopped toasted nuts.
3.) Drop by large tablespoons onto a heated waffle maker. Close cover & cook approximately 3 minutes, longer if you like it crispy.

Cove Maple syrup
1 cup syrup
8 cloves
Heat in a small saucepan 7 let sit 15 minutes or so so clove hints the syrup.
Strain the cloves out before serving.
To serve, pile 3 waffles with butter & sliced bananas & top with warm syrup.
Makes 12 waffle squares.
To serve a crowd, I make them up ahead & keep warm in an oven set at 300.
I place the waffles in 1 layer on a cake drying rack set atop a sheet pan. This keep them crispy rather than floppy when you set them atop of one another in the oven.

Maple season

This weekend our community of Whitingham hosts its annual Maple Festival. If you are unfamiliar with the term sugaring & have wondered how that sap turns into syrup, then head to Vermont. Throughout the state, sugar houses will be open for touring.abbotts glen-maple syrup

March is the month when maple trees are tapped. The temperature has to run below freezing at night & above 40 during the day in order for the sap to run.It takes 42 gallons of sap to produce 1 gallon of syrup. For a small operation like ours, that can mean a whole day of boiling to produce 1 gallon. It’s worth it though when you taste that sweet flavor in an updated chocolate chip cookie or maple walnut pie.

I am including 2 of my favorite maple recipes from The Maple Syrup Cookbook by Ken Haedrickh. How sweet it is!

Maple Walnut Pie

1 uncooked pie shell
3 eggs at room temperature
1 cup maple syrup at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
dash of salt
1 Tsp. vanilla
1 Tbs. white flour
1 1/2 cups toasted walnut halves

1.) Preheat oven to 425.
2.) In an electric mixer beat eggs on high for 2 minutes. Add maple syrup, brown sugar, salt , vanilla & flour. Beat to mix. Spread walnuts on the bottom of an uncooked pie crust. Then pour in egg mixture.
3.) Bake in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes, then resude heat to 375 & bake for 30 more minutes. The pie should be puffed & golden when removed from oven. Serves 8 ~ 10.
Cool & serve with whipped cream or good quality vanilla ice cream.

Maple Coffee Chocolate chip Cookies
1 cup butter softened
1 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 Tbs. instant coffee ganules or espresso powder
2 Tbs. hot water
2 Tsp. vanilla extract
1/1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 cup chopped toasted pecans
1 Tsp. soda
dash of salt
1/1/2 cups Ghiradelli bitterwsweet chocolate chips
1.) Preheat oven to 350. Grease 2 baking sheets. Cream butter in a large bowl with a mixer, slowly drizzling in the aple syrup. Dissolve the espresso powder in the hot water & add to creamed mixture with vanilla.
2.) In a seperate bowl, toss flours, nuts, baking soda & salt to mix. Stir into creamed mixture until incoporated. Stir in chocolate chips just until mixed.
3.) Drop by tablespoons onto baking sheet. Leave 2 inches between. Bake 15 minutes until edges begin to brown. Transfer to a wrack to cool.
Makes 2 1/2 doz.

It’s spring on the calendar

Spring arrived on Saturday morning around 6:45. I kept looking for signs, but there were none. Another cold day  (26 was the high temp,) the piles of brown snow made it feel more like mid-February. Vases of colorful tulips, purchased while grocery shopping, would be my only reminder of spring this weekend.Spring tulips in Abbott's Glen's Dining RoomWe celebrated it anyway with a Spring-inspired dinner!

spring salad
Beautiful Spring Salad

Baby greens topped with avocado, red onions, fresh slices of navel oranges & kalamata olives, topped with maple vinaigrette. Roasted salmon with a lemon & herb panko crust and a quick saute of snow peas, asparagus & chopped shallots.

 

Pineapple Upside-down cake
Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Dessert was a variation of a pineapple upside-down cake. The cake batter was enhanced with molasses & cinnamon and a touch of maple extract. Rather than using pineapple rounds, I finely chopped fresh pineapple so you got a mouthful of pineapple in every bite. We topped it off with a nice scoop of vanilla gelato.

Then it was over to Club Sugar Shack for a little dancing. Our theme was the 60’s. Peace, love & happiness was the mindset for hours of nostalgic music, hopefully our hippie dances to the sun-gods will make the warm weather arrive soon!

 

Left over corned beef

If you are like me you always cook more corned beef than your guests or family will eat in 1 sitting. No problem. Let’s cook up some great corned beef hash for breakfast. Making your own is really easy & I don’t know why I don’t make it more often. All you need are some potatoes & onion. This particular recipe is an adaptation from Cheryl & Bill Jamisons cookbook called “A Real American Breakfast”

corned-beef -hash
Homemade Corned Beef hash

I have tried many recipes from this book over the years & everyone has been a winner. It is my go to cookbook for new ideas.

So treat yourself to a leisurely breakfast with homemade hash, a great cup of joe tomorrow!

 

Corned Beef Hash
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 Tbs. butter
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 1/2 lbs. boiled potatoes, finely diced
3 cups corned beef, chopped
1 cup beef stock from the boiled beef
2 Tbs. heavy cream
2 Tsp. yellow mustard
1 Tbs. fresh chopped parsley
1 Tsp. black pepper
1.) Melt butter with oil in a cast iron pan. Saute onion until soft.
2.) Mix in remaining ingredients & simmer 10 minutes, covered.
3.) After a few minutes, turn hash over so it can get crispy.
4.) Remove cover & continue cooking about 10 more minutes. Continue to turn hash about in the pan.
5.) Top with a poached egg.

Naked Country cooking