Today’s Recipes: Perfectly Roasted Chicken, Chimichurri Sauce, Lemon Roasted Green Beans with Marcona Almonds, Orzo and Peas with Mint and Lemon Zest, Chocolate Cupcakes with Pink Mascarpone Frosting, and Pomegranate Martinis.
This Sunday is Mother’s Day, a day to say thank you for all they do every day. Think of all the scraped knees and cuts they have cleaned and bandaged, the meals they have prepared, the fevered heads they have cooled with damp cloths, the sleepless nights they have spent while we were sick. They care for us and love us with all our faults, no matter how disagreeable we can be, especially during our challenging teenage years. How lucky are we to have someone this special to learn from.
And don’t forget all the other wonderful women in our lives. The amazing women we call our friends, sisters, aunts, and all those who make our lives easier in a variety of small ways deserve to be honored as well.
In the majority of families it is the mother who prepares the meals. If you are a beginner, taking over this responsibility can be daunting. With the help of some incredibly talented friends of mine, I have put together a wonderful meal certain to thrill everyone in the family. See my recipes below and follow the links to my friend’s sites for theirs. Let’s spread the love around ;o)
Are you bored with the same old chicken every week? From the inspiring and gifted Jeanette of Jeanette’s Healthy Living we have a bright and sassy way of changing it up. Whether you roast the chicken yourself (recipe below) or buy a pre-cooked one from the grocery store, adding South America’s favorite Chimichurri Sauce gives you a whole new experience – and a mighty tasty one at that!
Green beans are always popular with children, but they don’t have to be served plain. I love roasting them and adding a splash of fresh lemon juice to tantalize the taste buds and really wake them up. Marcona almonds are blanched, lightly oiled and salted and are perfect for special occasions. Just try not to eat them all ahead of time – one of my biggest challenges LOL. You can find them at upscale grocery stores and most Trader Joe’s carry them.
If you serve the same potatoes or rice day in and day out, try pasta as a side dish. From the fun and unpredictable Greg of Sippity Sup, a lovely Orzo and Peas with Mint and Lemon Zest will make everyone sit up and take notice. Orzo is a rice-shaped pasta that cooks very quickly and is extremely versatile. It is one of my favorites. I know you will love the blend of traditional Mediterranean flavors with the surprising hit of mint.
No celebratory dinner would be complete without a fantastic dessert and today is no exception. From the creative and witty Irvin of Eat the Love, one of the finest bakers I know, here is a favorite with a twist. We all love cupcakes and these will have you wanting to forego the rest of the meal and just dive head first into the middle of these Chocolate Cupcakes with Pink Mascarpone Frosting. Luscious chocolate is always a crowd-pleaser and when you pair it with mascarpone (Italian cream cheese) frosting, you know it is a winner.
If you want to replicate Irvin’s beautiful presentation, use a piping bag and star tip for the frosting. You can use edible flowers from your garden (wash them first), buy sugar flowers from a bakery supply house, online, or use festive sprinkles.
Following Irvin’s lead, I thought it would be fun to serve Pomegranate Martinis before dinner. They are the most gorgeous pink and very festive. If you are serving these to children or those who do not imbibe, you can leave out the alcohol. A garnish is not necessary, but it definitely makes them look fancier.
Growing up so close to the Napa Valley, I was destined to love wine. Sometimes deciding which wine to serve with dinner can be intimidating. With a little help from the impeccable palate of Alana, the Girl With a Glass, you too can become an expert and impress all of your friends. Whether you are a white or red wine drinker, Alana can give you pointers on her favorite picks and help you find new favorites for your wine cellar or next dinner party.
Every event needs a beautiful setting. Create a pretty table with a colorful tablecloth or placemats and napkins, and don’t forget fresh flowers! I would go with a mixture of pink and white to mirror the colors of the cocktails and dessert. These can be from your own garden or buy some at the farmer’s market or florist. Placing a bowl filled with lemons is not only beautiful but it also perfumes the table. A lighted candle (unscented) always makes a table look special. Even a small effort will be greatly appreciated.
However you decide to honor your mother this weekend, I hope you have a wonderful time, lots of laughter, and don’t forget the extra hugs. I just love hugs, don’t you?!
Enjoy your Mother’s Day celebrations, meeting these fantastic friends of mine, and Happy Festive Friday everyone!!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
If the thought of preparing an entire meal is overwhelming to you, just make one or two of the following recipes. You can get the rest of the meal from your local grocery store. Buy a rotisserie chicken or some side dishes and greatly reduce your stress level. Remember, this is all about having fun together!
Kitchen Skill: To Make your Plates Look Professional
Mentally divide each plate into thirds (think of a peace sign). Each section will hold part of your dinner. The chicken will be in one section, the carrots in another, and the orzo in the third. This way the plate looks balanced. If you have some fresh herbs tuck a little sprig of them next to the chicken. Green always makes a plate pop. No matter what you do or how you present it, your mother will be thrilled!
- 3 cups pomegranate juice
- 4 oz Absolute Citron vodka
- 2 oz Cointreau
- 3 tbsp sparkling water
- Juice of 1/3 fresh lemon
- Crushed ice
- Lime or orange wedge or pomegranate seeds, for garnish, optional
- Combine the pomegranate juice, vodka, Cointreau, sparking water, and lemon juice in a large pitcher. Just before serving combine some of the mixture in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well to blend and chill. Strain into chilled martini glasses.
- Garnish with lime or orange wedge or pomegranate seeds if desired. Serve immediately.
- Yield: 4 cocktails
- Nonstick vegetable oil spray
- 2 lb green beans, trimmed
- 1 onion, peeled, cut into 8 wedges (or rings)
- 6 large fresh marjoram sprigs (or oregano)
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- Coarse kosher salt
- 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tsp (packed) finely grated lemon peel
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped Marcona almonds or roasted regular almonds, divided
- Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 450°F. Spray 2 large rimmed baking sheets with nonstick spray.
- Combine green beans, onion wedges, and marjoram in large bowl. Drizzle with oil, and then sprinkle with coarse kosher salt and pepper. Toss; divide between prepared sheets.
- Roast vegetables 15 minutes. Reverse sheets (move the one on the bottom to the top and visa versa). Continue to roast until beans are tender and beginning to brown in spots, about 10 minutes longer.
- Transfer vegetables to bowl. Add lemon juice, grated lemon peel, and half of the chopped almonds. Toss to coat; season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle top with remaining almonds. Serve while hot.
- 1 (3 to 4 lb) whole chicken, cleaned, rinsed, and patted dry
- 1 medium onion and 2 large onions, peeled
- Salt and pepper
- 3 fresh lemons, rinsed
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 3 to 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 3 to 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
- Olive oil
- Onion Powder, optional
- 1/2 cup dry vermouth, dry white wine or water
- 1/4 cup chicken stock or water
- Fresh rosemary and/or thyme sprigs
- Fresh lemon wedges
- Preheat the oven to 425ºF.
- Cut the ends off the large onions and slice horizontally into 1/2-inch thick slices. Place slices in an even layer on the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking pan, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken.
- Cut the remaining medium onion and one of the lemons into quarters. Place them inside cavity of the chicken along with the garlic cloves and rosemary. Cut the 2 lemons into wedges and tuck them around the bird along with the thyme sprigs. Place the chicken on the layer of onions, breast side down. Rub with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a little onion powder. Pour vermouth and stock in pan and carefully transfer to the hot oven.
- Roast chicken for 20 minutes and reduce oven to 350ºF. Continue cooking for another 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from oven and very carefully turn it breast-side up. I like to use tongs to do this. Sprinkle the breast with a little more salt and pepper and return to oven. Add more stock or wine if the pan is dry. Cook for another 30 minutes or until thermometer inserted in the breast (but not touching any bone) registers 160ºF. If you don’t have a thermometer, wiggle the leg, it should feel loose in the socket. Pierce the thigh and look at the color of the juices, they should be clear, not pink. The total cooking time will be about 1 hour 15 minutes.
- When chicken is done, remove from oven and transfer to a cutting board. Let rest for at least 15 minutes, lightly tented with foil, to allow juices to be reabsorbed by the meat. Transfer onions and lemons from roasting pan to the center of a warmed platter. Remove onions, lemons, garlic and herbs from the chicken’s cavity and discard. Discard cooked thyme.
- Cut the chicken into quarters and place around onions. Garnish platter with remaining lemon, either sliced or cut into wedges, and extra fresh rosemary and/or thyme sprigs. Serve immediately, passing the pan juices at the table if desired.
- Drizzle Jeanette’s Chimichurri Sauce over the roasted chicken and serve Greg’s Orzo and Peas on the side with the green beans. Don’t forget to put the exclamation point on the meal with Irvin’s incredible Chocolate Cupcakes with Pink Mascarpone Frosting!
- Yield: 4 to 6 servings
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