Different types of air conditioners

Air conditioners have become ubiquitous and it is hard to imagine having to go through the sweltering summer days without using one. These life-saving machines are a must if you want to be comfortable at your own home. AC units not only cool down the high temperatures, but they also remove humidity from the air to improve comfort. They range in sizes, from ones that only cool a single room to massive AC systems whose job is to provide ventilation to an entire building. There are various types of air conditioners and they all operate in a slightly different way.

Ductless air conditioner

Ductless air conditioners, also referred to as mini-split air conditioners, are used in buildings that don’t have premade ductwork (a system of ducts running through the building to promote air ventilation). Ductless air conditioners are connected with an electric cable and two pipes to an outdoor compressor and condenser unit. The number of indoor AC units is up to you. You can choose to cool the entire house with several ductless air conditioners or just install one for use in a single room.

Each indoor unit operates independently of one another. This means that you can set different temperatures in different rooms. You can even heat one room while you cool another. The units are compact and controlled with a remote controller. They are most often mounted on the wall, near the ceiling. So while they are not big machines, you will need to deal with a permanent wall fixture. Some models are bigger than the others and some can be quite noisy. Take a look at the best ductless air conditioner according to Climatastic.

Ductless air conditioners allow for more accurate temperature control than the traditional central air conditioners. Easy to control and install, they are a popular choice nowadays. They are rather cost-efficient but installing a lot of units to cool the entire house is quite costly.

RV air conditioner

Air conditioners are not only for buildings. You have AC in your car so why shouldn’t you have one inside an RV? Cooling the large space inside an RV requires a specialized AC unit.

The AC vent is mounted on the roof of the RV. Remember that it will raise the overall height of your vehicle so try not to buy something too tall unless your RV is one smaller size. The indoor unit can either be connected through your rig with thin metal ducts (ducted type) or through separate cables and pipes (ductless type). If your RV rig has built-in ducts then you can get both types, if no – your only choice is ductless. Ductless AVs are controlled by a remote controller and ducted ones use a thermostat.

RVs heat up very quickly in the summer and you will need a powerful machine to cool it. Being too hot all the time can easily spoil every family excursion. A quality air conditioner for your RV is an essential piece of equipment to buy before you set out on the trip. Make sure to check out this list of top rv air conditioners to find out what to buy.

Best coffee machines to suit your kitchen

Semi-Automatic Espresso Machines are your one-way ticket to becoming your professional barista and giving up on the eternal lines at your favorite coffee shop. Sounds good? If so, you should take a look at what we consider the benefits of owning a semi-automatic espresso machine.

First, you should know that semi-automatics come along with commitment because the job goes sideways. Maybe the best part about owning a semi-automatic coffee machine is the balance between control and comfort. While most of the features are nicely automated, you’ll have to deal with the extraction time, which means that you get to choose when to stop the shot pulling. After a few trials and errors, the taste will finally be the one you fancy!

Once you got the hang of the procedure, you’ll find yourself in the comfort and convenience of the personal home, enjoying a flavorsome cup of your favorite steamy drink. Yet this beautiful marriage between a manual input and the ease of an automatic machine is only possible when considering a reasonable product.

What we recommend

For a machine to really do its job, it needs great functions and enduring feature components. From technical perfection to durable, stylish design, the semi automatic espresso machine list on Coffee On Point covers the high-end, most proficient products on the market. They deliver a thorough analysis of the functions of the best espresso machines and why are they worth the money. The list gathers a wide array of semi-automatics with versatile features and functions. There’s no way you won’t find one that would suit your taste.

Our top-tier pick is the Nespresso Pixie D60 Espresso maker whose functions stand out in the very competitive market. Its uncostly price blends together with a unique design, easy operation, and fast coffee delivery. Moreover, the semi-automatic machine offers complete control over the cup size and the brew strength, thus, you can bet on a lot of flexibility.

Fully automatic alternatives

Semi-automatics don’t meet your expectancies? Or is their large design taking too much space of your countertop? Then you might want to take a look at compact sized machines that are no less proficient when it comes to a mouth-watering coffee delivery. Moreover, having been built as automated coffee machines, the compact coffee makers require much less of your presence.

The functions vary a lot from a product to the other. Whether you are looking for a single coffee serve machine or rather brew four cups of coffee at the same time, compact-sized machines cover many alternatives within the smallest design possible.

Coffee On Point enlisted their top picks for a compact coffee maker. A competitive automated, compact-sized machine is the Hamilton Beach 40081A Coffeemaker. From its easy operating system to the ability to brew up to 14 ounces of coffee, Hamilton Beach seems to satisfy the wide majority of its users. Also, the coffee machine is made out of stainless, sturdy steel that ensures a prospect of durability to its owners.

4 Best Rotary Tools

When it comes to rotary tools, you might find yourself struck by the many use-values of this crafts instrument. If this is your first time interacting with the concept, I will brief you in the story. As a general approach, rotary tools can largely perform anything from carving, polishing, and sanding to engraving and other related operations. However, just as the types vary a lot, you should look for the model that works best at the job you intend to do. Rotary tool accessories play an important role too in the decision strategy since the more the additional instruments the wider the utility range gets.

Types of Rotary Tools

  • electric
    Since the outlet provides continuous fuel to the electric rotary tool, one thing you don’t have to worry about is the run-time. On the other hand, while the unlimited power allows you to perform lengthier projects, a disadvantage of an electric rotary tool is the cord that might keep you in the proximity of the outlet.
  • cordless
    Although, in this case, the run-time is limited to the battery life, you benefit from the perk of not having to stay in a single spot. In this manner, you can complete your duty wherever you wish. One drawback might be the necessity of periodical recharging of the battery, which can take precious minutes from you.

Our Top Picks For Rotary Tools

1. Dremel 8220 Cordless Rotary Tool

Dremel sells an audaciously high-end model that features a powerful 12 V motor and an adjustable speed that spans up to 35 000 RPM. This rotary tool is designed to operate optimally in a wide array of projects, such as cutting, sanding, drilling, carving, and polishing. The kit includes 45 Dremel rotary tool accessories, a battery charger, a shaping platform attachment, and a detailer’s grip attachment.

2. Dewalt DW660 Rotary Tool

The highlight of this tool is the 5-Amp motor that serves no less than 30 000 RPM. The model features a turn-on/bump-off dust-sealed switch, which allows you to easily control the operating system and also displays an enduring lifespan. Accessory-wise, the product comes with 1 drywall cutting bit and 1/4 and 1/8 inch collets.

3. VonHaus Rotary Multitool

At a reasonable price, this rotary tool comes with a kit of 287 accessories to use in accordance with your purpose. The model can operate on vast projects since the speed varies between 5000 to 25 000 RPM. Moreover, the motor is considerably robust as it holds 230 V of power and has a maximum cutting depth of 32 mm.

4. Tacklife RTD37AC Rotary Tool 

Tacklife achieved the impossible with this rotary tool. The model features a speed that varies between 10 000 and 40 000 RPM, thus, it is highly useful for hard-duty projects. Moreover, the model has an integrated LCD to easily check and adjust the speed. Also, the wide assortment of accessories and 4 additional attachments can uphold any project you pursue and deliver optimal performance.

Sea Scallops with Lemon Risotto & Buttery Pan~Seared Artichokes

 Ode to the Artichoke

The soft~hearted artichoke put on its warrior suit and, straight-backed, built a little dome. Underneath its scales,

it was impenetrable.

Right next to it crazed vegetables bristled and twisted themselves into creepers, cattails, or histrionic bulbs.

Beneath the earth slumbered red~whiskered carrots, the earth sucked dry the vines that draw wine from the soil,

cabbages spent their time trying on skirts, and oregano labored to fill the world with perfume, and all the while sweet

artichokes in their corner of the garden dressed for war, like shiny pomegranates, and just as proud.

 

One day they marched through the market, side by side in wicker baskets, to make their dream come true:  to be soldiers. All lined up, they were never more warlike than that day at the fair. The men in white shirts who stood amidst the vegetables, they were the artichokes’ officers. Tight formation, the drill sergeant’s screams, drumroll of a falling crate.

 

But then along comes Maria with a basket on her arm. She picks up an artichoke fearlessly, she looks it over, she holds it up to the light as if it were an egg. She buys it and sticks it in her bag along with a pair of shoes, a cabbage and a bottle of vinegar; back in the kitchen, she drops it in the pot. This is how the career of the armored vegetable we call an artichoke comes to a peaceful end. For the final act we reveal  its delicious flavor, plucking it leaf by leaf, and devour the peaceable dough that lies at its green heart.

 

Text  ~ Odes  To Common Things, by Pablo Neruda {translated by Ken Krabbenhoft}

Buttery Pan~Seared Artichokes

Ingredients

  1. 1 teaspoon of salt
  2. 4 whole artichokes
  3. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  4. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  5. 1 lemon, washed, ends trimmed and thinly sliced

Instructions

  1. To a medium pot, add three inches of water and season the water with the salt. Turn the heat to medium high until the water reaches a light simmer. Meanwhile, trim the artichokes. To do so, start by trimming the ends of the stem and cutting off the top of the artichoke. Grab a pair of scissors and trim each of the petals, discarding the pointy tops. Slice the artichoke in half and using a spoon {a serrated grapefruit spoon works well here}, scoop out the furry center. Transfer the artichoke halves to the simmering water, cut side down and allow to cook for 20 minutes, until the stems are tender when poked with a fork. Carefully remove the artichokes to a colander to drain completely.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the butter. When the butter has browned, add the sliced lemon and artichokes, cut side down. Cook for about 5 minutes, until there’s a visible light-sear on the artichokes as well as the lemon slices. Remove and serve immediately.

Adapted from A Cozy Kitchen

Note:  these artichokes turn out so incredibly tender and buttery!  If you like to enjoy your artichokes with some type of dip check out this Ponzu Aioli.  We skipped the dip route as our artichokes were being served alongside a rich, creamy risotto for this dinner but, for an appetizer that aioli sounds wonderful!

As for the Scallops & Lemon Risotto…

IMG_9394

An incredibly smooth, creamy & rich {thanks to the addition of some mascarpone cheese} risotto that avoids the realm of “heavy” due to the infusion of fresh, bright lemon juice and zest.  The perfect bed for tender sea scallops which have been seared in golden butter…Pan~Seared Sea Scallops & Lemon Risotto

Ingredients

  1. 6 cups chicken stock {preferably homemade}
  2. 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  3. 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  4. 1 medium yellow onion, peeled & finely chopped
  5. Salt and freshly ground pepper
  6. 1 garlic clove, peeled & minced
  7. 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
  8. 1/2 cup white vermouth
  9. 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  10. 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
  11. 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
  12. 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  13. 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves {stems discarded} finely chopped
  14. 10 fresh sea scallops, washed and thoroughly dried

Instructions

  1. Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan, cover and keep hot. In another large, deep saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil until shimmering and then add 2 tablespoons of the butter and melt. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and cook over low heat, stirring, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly until glossy and the rice is well coated with the oil/butter mixture {a white dot should appear in each of the rice kernels as the glutinous covering becomes transparent}, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the vermouth to the rice and simmer over moderate heat until almost absorbed, about 3 minutes. Add the hot stock, 1 cup at a time, and cook, stirring constantly between additions, until most of the stock has been absorbed before adding more. The rice is done when it’s tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes total. Stir in the 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, the mascarpone, the lemon zest and juice, and the chopped parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the pan from the heat and cover the saucepan, set aside and keep warm.
  3. In a large, heavy skillet, heat the remaining olive oil and butter over medium~high heat until the butter is completely melted and begins to turn golden in color. Add the scallops to the pan, being careful not to overcrowd them and cook until a nice sear develops on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, flip each scallop and cook the same way until each is well seared on the other side, about another 3 minutes.
  4. Spoon the risotto onto individual serving plates and top with 2 scallops per plate. Serve immediately.
Notes
  1. Making sure the scallops are thoroughly dry before cooking will help them achieve a good, golden~brown sear. After rinsing the scallops in a colander, I like to use a paper towel to pat each dry and then I spread the scallops out on a plate and put them in the refrigerator to air dry in the cold until approximately 20 minutes before I want to cook them, removing them from the refrigerator at this time to come to room temperature prior to cooking.
Adapted from Food & Wine

Salmon Grilled with a Vodka~Infused Citrus Glaze & Miso Roasted Asparagus

We don’t eat enough fish.  It’s a fact, both here in my own home as well as in the broader realm of the general American diet.  Despite the well-known health benefits, cited here and here, of a diet which includes foods rich in the Omega~3 fatty acids {such as oily fish like salmon, mackerel, herring & trout}, the overall consumption of fish by Americans is on the decline….

But much of that consumption decline seems to be at home, as many restaurants report an increase in the popularity of seafood.

“I actually see a huge increase in both fish and vegetable consumption in the restaurant world,” said David Santos, chef of Louro in New York City. “However, I think that people are eating far less fish at home and that is the cause for the drop-off. Meats tend to be more forgiving and easier to cook than fish. So in these days of cost-effective living, people are definitely more prone to buying that pork loin or that chicken than say, that wonderful local wild striped bass. People know how to cook chicken or pork and beef.” ~ Study:  Americans Eating Less Seafood, by Bret Thorn in Nation’s Restaurant News

Well, if you {like me} are looking to incorporate more of the ocean’s delicacies into your diet, you can begin with this simple & flavor~packed salmon recipe…I promise, you will be hooked!

We are…I have made it three times since I first discovered the recipe over at Sara’s place a few weeks ago.  It’s a quick and easy dish, perfect for a weeknight dinner, like ours {ready in 30 minutes or less} that can easily be dressed up and served for a special occasion, like Sara’s.

 

My adaptations to the original recipe were slight.  Rather than one large piece of salmon with the skin on, I opted for individual filets with the skin removed.  My citrus:  a combination of blood & carra carra oranges, which yielded a beautiful rosy pink juice for the glaze…

 

After brushing the salmon with the sauce, the filets were given a quick turn in a hot grill pan {rather than set under the broiler} and then removed to individual dinner plates with a beautiful sear.  The salmon was so tender and had a wonderfully bright, slightly sweet flavor.  Served with simple brown rice and Miso Roasted Asparagus {recipe follows}, this salmon dinner is a celebration of spring.

 

Salmon Grilled with a Vodka~Infused Citrus Glaze
For the salmon
  1. 4-5 skinless salmon filets {about 1 pound total}
  2. Olive oil
  3. Salt & freshly cracked pepper
For the sauce
  1. 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice {I used a combination of blood & carra carra oranges}
  2. 1/2 cup vodka
  3. 2 tablespoons natural cane sugar {or brown sugar}
  4. 2 tablespoons liquid aminos {or soy sauce}
  5. 1 tablespoon fresh dill {fronds coarsely chopped & stems discarded} + additional as garnish {optional}

Instructions

  1. Place salmon in a shallow dish and rub the filets all over with a bit of olive oil & season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the sauce ingredients {except the dill} and bring to a boil over medium~high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is reduced by half. Remove the sauce from the heat and whisk in the chopped dill. Pour the sauce over the salmon.
  3. Lightly oil a grill pan and heat over a medium~high flame. When the pan is extremely hot, place the salmon filets into the pan and cook {without moving} until the meat turns opaque approximately half-way up the filet and is nicely seared on the bottom, about 3-4 minutes {depending on the thickness of your filets}. Flip each piece of salmon over and finish cooking in the same manner.
  4. Remove filets to individual serving plates and garnish with additional dill fronds if desired.

Like the first blooms of mustard in the fields, asparagus is a sure sign of spring and a welcome addition to the dinner plate after weeks of winter greens.

“Like most vegetables, asparagus starts losing its sweetness the moment it is cut.  Therefore, as always, look for the freshest specimens:  they should be smooth~skinned and bright~colored, with the bloom of a living green stem; the heads should be compact and tightly formed.  Inspect the butt ends ~ if they look desiccated, it means they were not freshly cut.  Asparagus is sometimes harvested too late, after it has begun to bolt:  the heads will have started to elongate and spread apart, and the tiny nascent leaves and branches to open up; the section of stalk just below the tip will appear slightly streaky and almost fluted.  Asparagus like this will usually be tough, taste grassy and bitter, and may discolor when cooked.  Asparagus is best eaten as soon as possible after harvesting, but to store, treat the stems as cut flowers:  put the bunches in warm water, tips up, and refrigerate.”  ~  Alice Waters, Chez Panisse Vegetables

The asparagus that accompanied our salmon was dressed with a mixture of sweet white miso, freshly grated ginger, lemon juice and some sesame oil and then gently roasted.  The finished vegetable was incredibly tender with a beautiful bright green color and even brighter flavor…a perfect match for the slightly sweet salmon.

 

Miso Roasted Asparagus

Ingredients

  1. 1 bunch asparagus spears (about 1 pound), ends snapped off, stalks cut diagonally into 3″ lengths
  2. 1 tablespoon sweet white miso
  3. 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  4. 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  5. 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
  6. big pinch salt

Instructions

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375ºF. Spread the snapped and sliced asparagus on a rimmed baking sheet. In a small bowl, stir together the miso, sesame oil, lemon juice, grated ginger, and salt. Drizzle this mixture over the asparagus, toss to coat, and roast in the oven until crisp-tender, 10-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.

 

Winter Tomato Soup & Crispy Baked Kale with Gruyere Cheese

This tomato soup is one of our family’s favorites.  It cooks in the slow-cooker which makes it a favorite of mine.  The vermouth adds such a wonderful flavor and don’t be stingy with the dried tarragon.  Using a hand-held immersion blender, once the soup has finished cooking, also saves time {check out the one I use over to the right under “Some of My Favorite Things}.  Any left-over soup can be re-heated in the morning for a wonderful accompaniment to scrambled eggs!

Winter Tomato Soup {adapted from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook, by Beth Hensperger & Julie Kaufmann}

  • ½ cup {1 stick} unsalted butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 {28-0unce} can imported Italian whole tomatoes with their juice {I prefer the San Marzano brand}
  • ½ cup dry vermouth
  • 1 heaping tablespoon sugar
  • 1 heaping teaspoon dried tarragon
  • Sea salt to taste
  1. In a large skillet, over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add the onion and cook until golden, about 15 minutes, stirring often to cook evenly.
  2. Combine the tomatoes, vermouth, sugar and tarragon in the slow-cooker, add the onion and butter, scraping out the skillet into the slow-cooker.   Cover and cook on LOW for 5-6 hours.
  3. Purée in batches in a food processor or with a hand-held immersion blender.  If you don’t like the tomato seeds, push the soup through a strainer set over a large bowl & return strained soup to the slow-cooker.  Season with salt & serve.

The  Crispy Baked Kale with Gruyère Cheese is a new recipe for us.  This family adores kale…mostly because of its texture.  Kale is hearty & is able to keep its “crunch factor” even with the most generous helping of dressing, while most other lettuces get soggy.  In fact, I can make a kale salad for dinner and, more often than not, I will enjoy the left-overs for lunch the next day.  When kale is cooked , it turns the most beautiful green!  This baked version of kale is super easy & it was the perfect side-dish to our tomato soup this evening.  The original recipe calls for a specialty, Alpine-style cheese, called “Tarentaise”, that can be easily substituted with Gruyère.   I was planning on using Gruyère until I stumbled upon Tarentaise at the Cowgirl Creamery in San Francisco…

Crispy, Baked Kale with Gruyère Cheese {adapted from Food & Wine}

  • 2 {4-ounces each} pieces of sourdough bread, crusts removed, bread torn into ½-inch pieces
  • ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 pound lacinato kale, washed & dried, large stems discarded & leaves chopped
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 cups shredded Tarentaise or Gruyère cheese.

Note:  the original recipe calls for the addition of chopped fresh thyme.  I chose to omit the thyme this evening because the soup was infused with a generous helping of tarragon.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.  In a large mixing bowl, toss the bread pieces with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil & spread on a baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes, or until lightly toasted.  Let the croutons cool on the baking sheet.
  2. In a large pot, heat the remaining ¼ cup of olive oil.  Add the shallot & onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes.  Add the minced garlic to the pot and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add the kale, cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender-crisp, about 8-9 minutes.  Season with salt & pepper.
  4. Transfer the kale mixture to an 8-by-10 inch baking dish, that has been coated with cooking spray.  Scatter the cheese over the kale and top with the croutons.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and the croutons are golden.  Let stand for 5 minutes, then serve.
No pictures of the finished dinner plate tonight…Max arrived home this evening after a week of traveling on the East coast {his first distance trip without us}!  He had SO much fun & I was SO happy to see him tonight!!!  He ate every bite of that cheesy baked kale & had two servings of the tomato soup.  After a shower, and goodnight hugs, he poured himself into bed…I don’t think we will see him before noon tomorrow!
So another week ends…time for a sunset. Photos by Mallory {taken while waiting for Michael’s ferry this evening}…

Golden Gate Bridge at Sunset {from Tiburon}

Looking back at Belvedere Island {from Tiburon} at Sunset

Maddie waiting for Daddy…

THANKS, Love & Hugs Mallory!

Have a LOVELY Weekend!

Winter Tomato Soup

Prep time Cook time Total time
Winter Tomato Soup {adapted from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook, by Beth Hensperger & Julie Kaufmann}

Ingredients

  • ½ cup {1 stick} unsalted butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 {28-0unce} can imported Italian whole tomatoes with their juice {I prefer the San Marzano brand}
  • ½ cup dry vermouth
  • 1 heaping tablespoon sugar
  • 1 heaping teaspoon dried tarragon
  • Sea salt to taste

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet, over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add the onion and cook until golden, about 15 minutes, stirring often to cook evenly.
  2. Combine the tomatoes, vermouth, sugar and tarragon in the slow-cooker, add the onion and butter, scraping out the skillet into the slow-cooker.   Cover and cook on LOW for 5-6 hours.
  3. Purée in batches in a food processor or with a hand-held immersion blender.  If you don’t like the tomato seeds, push the soup through a strainer set over a large bowl & return strained soup to the slow-cooker.  Season with salt & serve.

Crispy Baked Kale with Gruyere Cheese

Prep time Cook time Total time
Crispy, Baked Kale with Gruyère Cheese {adapted from Food & Wine} Note:  the original recipe calls for the addition of chopped fresh thyme.  I chose to omit the thyme this evening because the soup was infused with a generous helping of tarragon.
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 2 {4-ounces each} pieces of sourdough bread, crusts removed, bread torn into ½-inch pieces
  • ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 pound lacinato kale, washed & dried, large stems discarded & leaves chopped
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 cups shredded Tarentaise or Gruyère cheese.

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.  In a large mixing bowl, toss the bread pieces with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil & spread on a baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes, or until lightly toasted.  Let the croutons cool on the baking sheet.
  2. In a large pot, heat the remaining ¼ cup of olive oil.  Add the shallot & onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes.  Add the minced garlic to the pot and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add the kale, cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender-crisp, about 8-9 minutes.  Season with salt & pepper.
  4. Transfer the kale mixture to an 8-by-10 inch baking dish, that has been coated with cooking spray.  Scatter the cheese over the kale and top with the croutons.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and the croutons are golden.  Let stand for 5 minutes, then serve.

 

Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken with Charred Green Beans & Scallions

I should know by now, after thirteen years into this horse “habit”, that things rarely go according to plan.  Yet, when plans go awry {like they did this weekend}, I am still surprised.  I won’t bore you with all of the horrific details but, in short, a 1 1/2 hour flight North {to Oregon} to see a horse {that wouldn’t jump} ended a day late with airplane problems, delays, a cancelled flight and, finally, arriving home to SFO early this morning with no available gates to pull into {which resulted in a one hour wait on the runway}.  Monday with a capital “M”!  Like I have said before…when I plan our weekly dinner menus I cannot predict what will unfold in our lives but somehow, with a plan in hand, things always seem to work out.  And so it was today…with Michael and the girls stranded in OR yesterday, the pasta sauce I had prepared for our Sunday dinner was quickly packaged and sent into a deep freeze for later use {Max and I dined on eggs and toast last night}.  But tonight, we were all reunited and this dinner…normally a meal we would enjoy for Sunday dinner…was a celebration of taste and togetherness on this Monday evening!  A Sunday supper, one day delayed!

The meal itself may sound extravagant but, really, it is quite basic.  Boneless, skinless chicken thighs and some very thin slices of prosciutto are wrapped together…

 

 

And, with a basting of  anchovy~herb butter…

 

Are roasted to golden perfection…

 

While the chicken roasts, green beans & scallions are coated and tossed with a bit of the anchovy butter and then broiled until tender and charred…

 

 

Meanwhile, a couple of huge, fat, juicy lemons are sectioned and set aside…

 

 

And, the finished dinner plate…

 

Ingredients

  1. 12 tablespoons salted butter
  2. 1 tablespoon anchovy paste
  3. 2 sprigs fresh sage, leaves removed fro stems and minced
  4. 10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  5. freshly ground pepper
  6. 10 thin slices prosciutto
  7. 2-3 lemons, halved

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Place the butter, anchovy paste and sage into a saucepan over medium~low heat. When the butter is melted and bubbling, stir the sauce and then remove it from the heat.
  3. Season the chicken thighs lightly with pepper, then wrap each piece with a slice of prosciutto. Working over a roasting pan to catch any drips, brush the anchovy butter on the chicken, coating it completely, then arrange the chicken pieces in the roasting pan.
  4. Roast the chicken, basting it a few times as it cooks, until the juices run clear when pierced, 20-30 minutes.
  5. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter. Stir the remaining anchovy butter into the pan juices that have collected in the bottom of the roasting pan, scraping up any browned bits. Spoon the pan juices over the chicken. Garnish with fat, juicy lemon wedges for squeezing over the meat.
Charred Green Beans & Scallions

Ingredients

  1. 1 pound green beans, washed, dried + trimmed
  2. 1 large bunch scallions, washed, dried and trimmed
  3. 2 tablespoons Anchovy~Herb Butter

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425F. Cut scallions into 3-4 inch pieces. Place in a bowl with the green beans. Toss 2 tablespoons of the anchovy butter with beans and scallions. Place beans and scallions on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast 15-20 minutes mixing halfway through, until green beans are crispy and tender. For added char, broil for a few minutes. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Chicken Salad Sandwiches, Homemade Soda & Popcorn

Sunday dinners are different.  More often than not, the table is set in the dining room, flowers and candles dress the tabletop, dinner starts a bit earlier and we linger around the table a little longer, savoring a meal as well as the last few moments of the weekend.  But one of the greatest gifts, which arise from the Sunday dinner table, are the leftovers.  The succulent remains of a dinner {most likely roasted chicken or beef} that become transformed into a new meal…pot pie, soup or, in tonight’s case, a salad, thereby making Monday’s dinner preparation that much easier.  For this reason, our version of “Meatless Monday” usually occurs on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.

If using leftover roasted chicken meat is not an option and time is of the essence {which it usually is given a weeknight}, poached chicken breasts can be substituted with little additional effort.  Keep in mind, however, that the rich flavor which develops in meat that has been seasoned and roasted will be different than the flavor of a chicken breast poached in water.  My suggestion for poaching the chicken breasts is to cook the meat in a rich chicken stock {preferably homemade} which will flavor the cooked meat much more so than water alone.  Click here for a quick lesson on “How To Poach Chicken” @ The Kitchn blog.

Cooked chicken in hand, the remainder of the salad comes together with a few other simple ingredients…

 

A bit of chopping and slicing, followed by a gentle toss with “mayonnaise” {the recipe for my Greek yogurt version of mayonnaise that I used for this salad follows below} leaves you with a tasty salad to be enjoyed on its own …

 

Or used to fill a sandwich as we did this evening…

 

 

Roasted Chicken & Grape Salad
Yields 6
A great way to use leftover roasted chicken meat…chicken, grapes, celery and onion are tossed with a Greek yogurt mayonnaise flavored with herbs.
Print
Ingredients
  1. 4-5 cups cooked chicken, diced
  2. 2 celery stalks, trimmed and diced
  3. 1/2 cup peeled and chopped red onion
  4. 1 cup halved seedless red grapes
  5. 1/4-1/3 cup Garlic~Thyme “Mayonnaise”
  6. sliced sandwich bread {we used a dark rye}, if making sandwiches
  7. soft, leafy lettuce leaves {we used Green Butter Lettuce}
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, gently toss first four ingredients to combine. Fold the “Mayonnaise” into the salad beginning with a 1/4-cupful and mix well.
  2. If the salad appears to be too dry, add more of the “Mayonnaise” a spoonful at a time {mixing well after each addition} until the desired consistency is reached.
  3. Salad can be enjoyed on its own or used to fill a sandwich made using your favorite bread and a few slices of lettuce.
Notes
  1. If possible, make the salad ahead of time allowing the flavors {especially from the “Mayonnaise”} to really develop. Store, tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
By Kristin @ The Dinner Concierge

The dressing I used to bind the salad this evening was inspired by this one from not too long ago.  Using the same base of Greek yogurt and Dijon mustard, I altered the seasoning from horseradish {a good compliment to the roast beef in those first sandwiches} to garlic and thyme {the 2 ingredients which seasoned our pan sauce for the roasted chicken last night} both of which worked so well with the chicken and grapes.

 

Garlic~Thyme Yogurt Mayonnaise
Yields 1
An easy and flavorful condiment combining Greek-style-yogurt and Dijon mustard with herbs to create a healthy substitute for traditional mayonnaise.

Ingredients

  1. 1 cup Greek-style yogurt {not low-fat}
  2. 3 tablespoons creamy Dijon mustard
  3. 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  4. 1 large fresh garlic clove, peeled and pushed through a garlic press {about 3/4 of a teaspoon}
  5. Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, combine first four ingredients and whisk to combine. Taste and season with salt if desired. Can be stored in a tightly covered jar in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
By Kristin @ The Dinner Concierge

Water or milk usually serve as our dinner beverage but every once-in-a-while I make something different as a treat. When I came across this Cranberry~Orange Cooler over at the Jelly Toast blog it looked so refreshing and the preparation was very easy.  Using raw honey in place of the sugar for the simple syrup, I knew I could make a healthier “soda” beverage to accompany dinner tonight…

 

Cranberry~Orange Cooler
A simple syrup made using raw honey {instead of sugar}, cranberries and orange zest transforms simple sparkling water into a seasonal treat.

Ingredients

  1. 2 1/2 cups cranberries {fresh or frozen}
  2. Rind/peel of 1 orange
  3. 1 1/2 cups raw honey
  4. 1 1/2 cups water
  5. Sparkling water or club soda

Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring cranberries, orange peel, honey, and water to a simmer over medium heat.
  2. Reduce heat to medium~low and cook until cranberries are tender and begin to pop ~ about 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and allow syrup to cool then strain through a fine~mesh sieve. Discard the solids.
  4. Fill a glass with ice and pour in a bit of the cranberry~orange simple syrup and top with sparkling water. Serve immediately.

Notes

  1. This recipe yields approximately 2 cups of finished simple syrup. Store syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Adapted from Jelly Toast blog

Well, if sodas find a place at the dinner table, why not popcorn?  I started the popcorn before assembling the sandwiches and sodas.  The sound of our hot~popper and the smell of cooking corn kernels brought the children down to the kitchen without having to call them to dinner.  The finished popcorn soon became a dinner appetizer which was virtually wiped out by the time I had the sandwiches and sodas made, so unfortunately, no photographic evidence exists of our “popcorn with dinner” experience.  What I can tell you is that it was a HUGE hit!  I followed this recipe substituting hot~air popped popcorn for the microwave variety called for in the original recipe.  What a fun Monday night dinner!

BEST! Buffalo Chicken Wings & Homemade Blue Cheese Dip

Finally!  Just in time for the weekend…the Buffalo chicken wings you have seen pop up on my Weekly Dinner Menu a few times in the last month but which have never appeared in a post.  Not just any Buffalo chicken wings, mind you…these are EPIC!  A pretty strong statement, I know, but you must realize that Michael & I have sampled more than our fair share of wings throughout our {many} years together.  Beginning with our undergraduate years of college at Syracuse University, we have sampled the chicken wings in every city we have lived, slowly making our way from New York to California.  On a few occasions, we have even had them flown in from chicken wing “mecca” itself, The Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY.  Now, after testing a few versions here at home, I have “the” recipe and the secret is in the sauce.

My journey to find the best homemade Buffalo chicken wings {baked, NOT fried because, after all, I cleaned the kitchen for a week following my last fried food project} began over at Alton Brown’s place.  Using fresh, organic chicken wings that had been separated at the joint by my butcher {note here that each chicken wing actually consists of two pieces, a “flat” and a “drum”}, I diligently followed the drying out process to ensure crispy skin when baked.  The baked chicken wings turned out beautifully but, after a coating of the sauce, the finished wings had an overly vinegar taste and there was simply not enough sauce.  Alton did not specify any particular type of hot sauce and, although I knew The Anchor Bar uses Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, I went with Tabasco which is what I had on hand.  Little did I know what a difference the right hot sauce would make.

Not satisfied, I headed over to the Foodess, Jennifer Hill, and was encouraged by her endorsement of the Frank’s sauce as well as her doubling the amount of sauce used in the recipe.  This time I used frozen chicken wing pieces from CostCo, instead of fresh, baked in the oven for a bit longer period of time as they were not thawed.  Thinking this short cut would compromise the quality of the finished wing, I was surprised when the meat turned out just as tender on the inside and perfectly crispy golden on the outside as the chicken from my first attempt.

As for the sauce, it was very good, a marked improvement from my first try but there was still something missing, a savory component that could not only balance the heat but deepen the flavor.  At this point however, I knew the secret was buried in the sauce.

A little bit of research led me here to an article titled, “Power-Ranking the 10 Best Hot Sauces on Earth” in which I found my answer.  Kevin Alexander, the article’s author, echoed my opinion of Tabasco Sauce, ranking it from the bottom-up on the list as No. 8…

“…look, I have nothing against Tabasco, but it’s not going any higher up the list because it really is more heat than taste — sure, it makes things hotter, but Tabasco is very heavy on the vinegar side, and basically just tastes like hot vinegar…”

The Frank’s sauce fared a bit better coming in at No. 4…

“it…holds the illustrious title of being the main ingredient in the first buffalo wing sauce created in 1964 at the Anchor Bar and Grill in Buffalo. And that strength might also be its weakness — everything really tastes like buffalo wings, which is a mighty fine problem to have in most cases, but leaves it stuck no higher than fourth-place.”

And the winner is…

 

Mr. Alexander writes:

“In the end, it wasn’t close, friends. But this isn’t a general love letter to run-of-the-mill Sriracha. It has to be the rooster.”

And so the “rooster” it was for our dinner wings last night.  The rooster and a generous helping of butter…that’s all you need to create the best Buffalo wing sauce…ever!

 

Not a lot of cooking going on here…simply melt the butter in a sauce pan and add the sriracha sauce, stirring until mixture is heated through and then toss with the baked wings.

 

Blue cheese dipping sauce is a must and the “Foodess”, Jennifer, hit the nail on the head with her homemade version.  Click here to get to her recipe which I followed, exactly.

 

Raw carrot and celery sticks complete this appetizer, snack or light meal.  Be sure the veggies, as well as the blue cheese dip are nice and cold…the perfect accompaniment to the hot wings.

 

Best! Buffalo Chicken Wings
Serves 10
The secret is in the sauce for this homemade version of the classic bar appetizer.
Prep Time 10 min Cook Time 50 min Total Time 1 hr

Ingredients

  1. 6 lbs chicken wings {fresh or frozen} tips discarded, separated at joint into 2 pieces
  2. salt and pepper
  3. 8 tablespoons unsalted butter {1 stick}
  4. ½ cup sriracha hot chili sauce, Huy Fong Foods {the “rooster”} brand
  5. Blue cheese dipping sauce & carrot, celery sticks for serving

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Spread wings out over two large baking sheets, avoiding overlap (otherwise the wings will steam, rather than crisp up). Season well with salt and pepper.
  2. Bake about 20 minutes {30 minutes if using frozen wing pieces} and then remove baking sheets from oven and turn wing pieces over. Return sheets to oven and bake for another 20 minutes {30 minutes if using frozen wing pieces}, until golden brown, crisp and cooked through.
  3. While the chicken wings bake, melt butter over medium heat. Add sriracha sauce and stir until mixture is heated through.
  4. Transfer wings to a large bowl and toss with sauce. Serve immediately with cold blue cheese dipping sauce, carrot + celery sticks.

Notes

  1. Chicken wings are made up of two pieces…the “flat and the “drum”. If using fresh chicken wings, be sure to have your butcher separate the wing pieces for you, saving a step and time. Frozen chicken wings usually come already separated.
By Kristin | The Dinner Concierge

Baked Eggs with Spinach & Bacon

We love eggs.  Plain & simple.  A wonderful breakfast for sure but eggs can also make an impressive & satisfying dinner {in a short amount of time}.

Quick, easy & satisfying was what we needed tonight.  The children were out of school today in honor of the Martin Luther King holiday & I managed to overbook the day…why do I do that?  I started dinner much later than I had planned so a few adjustments were necessary to this evening’s scheduled entrée.  I did not have time to prepare the potatoes & brussel sprouts so I needed to come up with a Plan B for the baked eggs.  What did I have on hand…a french baguette, fresh spinach & a wonderful new jar of tomato & rosemary preserves that I picked up from the San Francisco Farmers’ Market on Saturday morning…

With that inventory, here is what we enjoyed for dinner this evening…

Baked Eggs with Bacon & Spinach

  • 4 slices applewood-smoked bacon
  • 10-12 ounces baby spinach leaves
  • 8,  1-inch thick slices from a sweet french baguette
  • 6 tablespoons McEvoy Ranch Tomato Rosemary Preserves {or substitute with a rich tomato sauce}
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat & transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.  Pour off drippings from skillet, reserving drippings.
  3. Add spinach to skillet and toss over medium heat for 1 minute or until wilted.  Transfer spinach to a strainer set over a bowl to drain.
  4. Brush four 2-cup ramekins with reserved bacon drippings.
  5. Coat each baguette slice with some of the Tomato Preserves {or tomato sauce} and place 1-2 slices at the bottom of each ramekin, sauced side up.
  6. Divide spinach equally among the ramekins, placing on top of bread slices.
  7. Tear bacon into pieces and add to each ramekin {one bacon slice per ramekin}.
  8. Using the back of a spoon, press a well into the center of the ingredients in each ramekin.  Gently crack 1 egg into the well in each ramekin, keeping yolk in tact.
  9. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of cream over each egg.  Season with salt & pepper.
  10. Bake eggs until whites are just set but yolks are still runny, 13-15 minutes.  Remove from oven and serve immediately.

*Special equipment:  4, 2-cup capacity ramekins*

And the finished baked egg…

An entire dinner…proteins, green vegetable, bread…all in one adorable little ramekin.  You can really play with this recipe {adding cheese, spices, different sauces}…let me know what you create!  We will definitely be having this again…it sure would make an impressive brunch dish!

{This recipe is an adaptation of one found at Epicurious.com}

On a completely random note…I have been working on a home DIY project {which I will share soon} that left me with some extra chalkboard paint.  So I decided to take an old, large picture frame and paint the glass with the chalkboard paint.  Take a look at our new dinner menu board for the kitchen…now, everyone knows what’s for dinner!

Baked Eggs with Spinach & Bacon

Prep time Cook time Total time
Eggs, bacon & spinach are paired with french bread, tomato preserves and cream in this simple, one dish dinner.
Author: Kristin
Recipe type: Dinner, Breakfast, Brunch
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 4 slices applewood-smoked bacon
  • 10-12 ounces baby spinach leaves
  • 8 1-inch thick slices from a sweet french baguette
  • 6 tablespoons McEvoy Ranch Tomato Rosemary Preserves {or substitute with a rich tomato sauce}
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat & transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Pour off drippings from skillet, reserving drippings.
  3. Add spinach to skillet and toss over medium heat for 1 minute or until wilted. Transfer spinach to a strainer set over a bowl to drain.
  4. Brush four 2-cup ramekins with reserved bacon drippings.
  5. Coat each baguette slice with some of the Tomato Preserves {or tomato sauce} and place 1-2 slices at the bottom of each ramekin, sauced side up.
  6. Divide spinach equally among the ramekins, placing on top of bread slices.
  7. Tear bacon into pieces and add to each ramekin {one bacon slice per ramekin}.
  8. Using the back of a spoon, press a well into the center of the ingredients in each ramekin. Gently crack 1 egg into the well in each ramekin, keeping yolk in tact.
  9. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of cream over each egg. Season with salt & pepper.
  10. Bake eggs until whites are just set but yolks are still runny, 13-15 minutes. Remove from oven and serve immediately.
  11. *Special equipment: 4, 2-cup capacity ramekins*