Friday, January 19, 2024

Team Dinner: Clipper Pride 🎉💪❤️


Post practice, large teenage appetites. Loud voices, laughter, teasing, "please" and "thank you" to the parents.  Pushing the underclassmen to the end of the line, only taking a small helping until prompted to put more on the plate. They awkwardly enter the house and leave feeling as comfortable as an old friend.                                                                                           
Make so much food that you think you will be eating it for days after these lanky, goofy kids leave your house. Don't be fooled. There will barely be a morsel left. You will get to eat only if you put some aside before they arrive.  
                                                                           Team Dinner. 

I never realized that one day I wouldn't be waiting at practice, driving a carpool, setting up play times being totally involved in my child's and his friends' lives. But becoming a high school student and getting his license changed all that. I am no longer around the laughter, the silliness, the stinky, dirty and totally great kids they way I used to be. So, when there is a request for me to host Team Dinner, I jump at the chance. Although while I am shopping, preparing and fretting about "Where the hell am I going to fit all these kids on my tiny house?" I sometimes question my lofty plans to make almost everything from scratch. I just can't help myself.

I am sad that this is the last year for team dinners. (Declan is a senior in high school.) I hold out for the times that hopefully, the kids will bring their friends home for a snack or a dinner. Stay for a few minutes, tell me about their lives while I listen to their laughter. I promise I will look forward to making just about anything they request but no way will I attempt to make homemade tortillas- Don't even ask!

Team Dinner Taco Buffet

lime wedges
shredded lettuce
chopped avocado 
Pico de Gallo (see recipe)
shredded cheese
sour cream
pickled jalapenos
Pickled Red Onion (see recipe)
taco sauce
hot sauce
bbq sauce
Jalapeno Ranch (see recipe)
corn or flour tortillas (2-3 per person) 60 for 16 high school basketball players
Spicy Black Beans (see recipe)
Pork Carnitas (see recipe)
Mexican Shredded Beef (see recipe)

2 Bite Corn Muffins (see recipe)
Clipper Pride Cupcakes (see recipe)
candy bowls
salsa/tortilla chips
beverages : water, Gatorade, flavored seltzer waters

Pico De Gallo


16 oz. cherry or grape tomatoes, diced
6 green onions, diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

Combine all ingredients and serve immediately. If prepping in advance, combine tomatoes, green onions and cilantro or parsley. Just before serving, mix with vinegar- Kosher salt and serve.

Pickled Red Onion


1 small-medium sized red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1/2 cup white vinegar or cider vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 wedge of an orange
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring mixture to boil and immediately turn off heat. Pour mixture into a non reactive bowl (glass or porcelain). Allow to cool. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve on taco buffet, in salads or sandwiches.

Jalapeno Ranch 
(Jalapeno Buttermilk Dressing from The Homesick Texan Cookbook by Lisa Fain)


2 large fresh jalapenos, stems and seeds removed, chopped
1 clove garlic ( I used 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon lime zest (I substitute 1 tablespoon lime juice)
1/4 cup buttermilk (add more for a thinner dressing)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Puree in a blender: jalapenos-buttermilk. Pour mixture into a serving bowl. Slowly mix in sour cream and mayonnaise. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Spicy Black Beans


2 (24 oz.) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper

Place all ingredients in a large pot. Gently mix to combine. Heat on low for 30 minutes (or longer for softer beans that can be spread onto the tacos). Serve warm.

Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas 
(adapted from Food Network Kitchen)


3 cups chicken broth
3 whole oranges 
1/2 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons ground cumin
3 teaspoons chili powder
3 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 medium onions, quartered
8 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
4 bay leaves
9 pounds boneless pork shoulder, fat trimmed, cut into approximately 2-3 inch size pieces

1/4 cup vegetable oil

For serving:
See Team Dinner Taco Buffet

Divide all ingredients through pork shoulder into 2 slow cookers. Cover and cook on high for approximately 5 hours until the pork is tender. Remove pork from liquid, shred meat. 
Heat a large pan, add 1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Working in batches, spread pork in an even layer in pan and allow to crisp (5-10 minutes). Stir to crisp the other the edges. Remove pork to serving tray and cover with foil. Continue with remainder of oil and pork. If pork on serving tray becomes dry, moisten it with cooking liquid. If serving the pork at a later time or the next day, refrigerate. When ready to serve, heat pork and some liquid to 135 degrees. Serve warm.

If using a crock pot to reheat and serve, allow 2-2 1/2  hours  on high to bring pork to temperature.

Mexican Shredded Beef
(adapted from Slow Cooker Mexican Shredded Beef by Meghan McMorrow)


2 tablespoons chili powder
3 teaspoons cumin
3 teaspoons paprika
3 teaspoons dried oregano
2-3 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon red chili flakes

6-7 pounds beef chuck roast
2 onions, diced
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 small can tomato paste
4 tablespoons lime juice (juice from approx. 2 limes)

If using the oven, preheat to 275 degrees. The meat will take 5-7 hours to cook.
You can also cook this recipe using a slow cooker on low for about 7 hours.

In a small bowl, mix together chili powder - red chili flakes and set aside.

Add the chopped onion, garlic, tomato paste, lime juice and 2 tablespoons of the spice mixture to a deep sided roasting pan (oven) or slow cooker. Sprinkle the rest of the spice mixture over the chuck roast and rub into all surfaces of the meat. Place meat on top of the onion mixture. If using the oven, tightly cover the roasting pan with foil and place pan in oven for 5-7 hours. If using slow cooker, place meat on top of onion mixture, cover and cook for approximately 7 hours on low.

After meat is cooked, remove from oven/ uncover slow cooker. Shred meat removing any large pieces of fat and gristle as you find them. (If the meat is too tough to shred, it will need to be cooked longer. Cover meat again and place in oven/ continue with slow cooker for another 30-60 minutes and attempt to shred again. 

Once meat is shredded, mix with the cooking juices/sauce. Season with salt to taste. Serve warm with taco fixings.

2 Bite Corn Muffins
(1 batch = 12 small muffins. I make 36 muffins to serve 16-20)


1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup ground cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt plus more for sprinkling on tops of muffins
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg, beaten
ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 12 muffin tin.

Combine all dry ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl. Stir together buttermilk, oil and egg. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir together until just moistened. Scoop 1/4 cupfuls of batter into each muffin cup. Sprinkle with Kosher salt and ground black pepper.

Bake muffins for 15-20 minutes until a pick inserted comes out clean. Remove muffins from tin and serve warm or at room temperature. Best on the same day as baked.

Clipper Pride Cupcakes
(1 batch = 15 cupcakes. I make 45 cupcakes for 20 people plus leftovers.)


1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup cold water
1 beaten egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 cupcake pans with 15 cupcake liners.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, mix flour- baking soda. In a small mixing bowl, combine vanilla-beaten egg. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just moistened. Fill 15 cupcake liners in the pan 1/2 full with batter. bake for 15-20 minutes until puffed and dry looking on top and pick inserted comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes and remove cupcakes to rack to cool completely before frosting. (See recipe.)

Frosting for Cupcakes


1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup Crisco
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/8-1/4 cup milk at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
Team color sprinkles: Maroon, white and silver for Falmouth High School Clippers!

In stand mixer, beat the butter and Crisco together, add salt and combine. Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, stopping to scrape the bowl. Slowly add milk in between sugar additions. Add vanilla. Mix to achieve spreadable but not too stiff consistency. If needed, add a little more sugar or a tiny drop of milk to reach desired consistency.

Place 2-3 tablespoons of frosting on top of each cupcake. Smooth out with an offset spatula or butter knife and immediately top with sprinkles. Store in an airtight container. Cupcakes will keep for 3-4 days. 

           2 Bite Corn Muffins                                                              Clipper Pride Cupcakes                                                                                                                                                                                    


Sunday, November 12, 2023

Thanksgiving Adjacent


People are surprised when I tell them that I don't roast the turkey on Thanksgiving. Even more so when I admit that I never have and don't really know how to do it. I mean, I suppose that I could learn but Val always cooks the bird and now multiple birds so that there is enough leftover for everyone to take some home for the next day. As I have mentioned before, the Sandwich is the best part of this autumn celebration.

I prefer to prepare, tweak and recreate Thanksgiving adjacent food. Members of the supporting cast that can tolerate a makeover without offending anyone's precious memories or introducing a new player that fits in nicely with the old standbys and holiday favorites. New cocktails are welcomed by most and easily get incorporated without much fanfare especially if they feature classic Thanksgiving flavors like, apple, sage and cranberry. Updated appetizers can come to the party, too as long as they don't upstage or overtake a classic that everyone is expecting to nibble on before the big spread is offered. 

Let's face it, I would be very angry and disappointed if someone other than Val took over baking the turkey and classic stuffing that I crave every November. In fact, I cried my freshman year of college when Val told me that we were going to eat the big meal at my grandmother's house. I love my grandmother, a wonderful hostess but a terrible cook. All I could think about was dry as sawdust turkey, overcooked green bean casserole and store bought pies. The dining hall did a number on me that first semester. All I ate was the salad bar. The daily smells from the entree line turned my stomach. I had no idea what "Chicken Tettrazini" was and I did not want to find out. I lay in bed every night those first few months of school dreaming of Val's homemade cranberry sauce, perfectly roasted bird and flaky pie crust. I know first hand not to mess with anyone's holiday meal expectations.

So, if you want to add some pizzazz and perhaps, dare I say, make an update to the traditional fare, start small and don't make too much of a big deal out of what you are about to do. Just hand someone a glass of this and a bite of that. I promise you they will ask for these again next year claiming them as new annual favorites .

Cranberry Spicetini 
(makes one)

2.5 oz. vodka
1 oz. Spiced Cranberry Syrup (see recipe below)
1/2 oz. Canton Ginger
1/4 oz. lemon juice

Shake ingredients over ice. Strain into chilled martini glass. Garnish with fresh cranberries, rosemary and candied ginger on a toothpick along with a lemon twist.

Spiced Cranberry Syrup:
1 bottle cranberry juice cocktail (32 oz.)
5-6 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
5-6 star anise

Bring all ingredients for syrup to a boil. Turn down to simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Cool, strain and refrigerate until ready to use. Also great served with soda and a squeeze of lemon.

4th Thursday
(makes one)

3-4  fresh sage leaves
1/4 oz. maple syrup
large format ice cube or a few regular sized ice cubes
1/4 oz. apple cider vinegar
1 oz. apple cider
2 oz. cognac or brandy

Muddle 2-3 sage leaves with maple syrup in a rocks glass. Add ice, apple cider vinegar, apple cider and cognac or brandy. Stir to combine. Garnish with a fresh sage leaf.

If you prefer to strain out the muddle sage, strain after muddling then add to ice, vinegar, cider and brandy. Garnish with a fresh sage leaf.

Blue Cheese Puffs with Fresh Sage
(makes about 24)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese*
2/3 cup all purpose flour**
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 large egg

Combine the butter and blue cheese in a large bowl. Add the flour, ricotta, salt, pepper, sage and egg. Stir until well combined. Drop rounded tablespoons of mixture onto a parchment lined baking sheet. (No need to space apart as you can bake these on a separate baking sheet, as needed.) Transfer baking sheet to freezer and chill until rounds are frozen solid, at least 30 minutes. Once frozen solid, the rounds can be stored in a plastic bag in the freezer until ready to bake.
To bake: preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Transfer frozen rounds to parchment lined baking sheet, about 1 inch apart. Bake from frozen until lightly browned, 10-15 minutes. Transfer puffs to a serving platter, season lightly with salt, cool slightly and serve warm.

*Can substitute grated cheddar.
** Can substitute GF all purpose flour such as King Arthur Gluten Free Measure for Measure Flour. Baking time may take a few extra minutes for browning.