I have chatted with so many friends who thought, in December, that the first month of 2021 signaled the end of the pandemic. Though this may occur before year’s end, we must still be patient. So, our 2021 lifestyles are still not that much different, yet. We must energize ourselves again to be vigilant a bit longer as the virus continues its stealth path. How do we do this? I turn to my kitchen. Our homes have been our safe place and will continue to do so. Brighten your family’s day by preparing a heartfelt meal. I suggest the wholesomeness of Chicken & Biscuits. This family style entrée will bring a smile to anyone’s face. On the stove top, in a large cast-iron skillet sauté chopped onion, green pepper, celery and diced carrots in butter. When the vegetables are soft, add 1 crushed glove of garlic. Add 1/2 cup of sherry to deglaze the skillet. Add thyme leaves (not the stems). Add 1/2 cup of flour to make a roux. Cook until incorporated. Add very hot ½ and ½ milk, little by little to begin the sauce. Add, little by little, heated chicken sauce to begin to slightly liquify the sauce. In a separate small bowl, hand beat 1 egg yolk, until completely smooth. Add a little sauce to the egg bowl and stir vigorously to prepare the egg mixture to be put into the skillet. (If you put the egg straight into the skillet, you will have a cooked egg yolk – not an incorporated egg yolk.) Add pre-cooked boiled chicken pieces. Gently simmer until all of the ingredients in the dish are hot and adjust the seasoning to taste. Remove the skillet from the direct heat, but keep warm. Prepare the biscuits and preheat the oven to 425⁰F. When almost ready to serve to your family, place the cut biscuit dough on top of the chicken mixture. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the biscuits are baked through. Serve in the middle of your table, placed on a double layer of hot pads. 2021 just had a bright place, emanating from the glow from the middle of your kitchen table. © Kelly McBride Loft
Kelly teaches adult, children and family dining classes. Please view this featured link from the Houston Chronicle newspaper regarding Kelly's expertise.
Welcome to "Celebration Logic"
These weekly highlights focus on creative entertaining, culinary creations and recipes that reinforce life's celebratory moments with entertaining confidence. These blogs of creative entertaining tips and recipes are available in printed book form and in e-book form.
With the chill in the air, hot food is heartwarming and this specialty is a dish that my mother made – Mom’s Scalloped Potatoes. I have tried many variations of scalloped potatoes and I have determined that Mom’s is still the best for its smooth, creamy, rich taste. Mom’s Scalloped Potatoes can be assembled the day before and refrigerated until ready to bake. You will need a 12-pack of American individual cheese slices and 12 large red new potatoes. Peel the new (red) potatoes and slice all ¼ inch thick. Par-boil but do not cook the potatoes until done – cook these just enough to shorten the baking time, which is about half the time you would boil potatoes for potato salad. Ready a 9” X 12“ baking dish by spraying it with non-stick spray. In a 4-cup measuring cup, spoon in 1 cup of flour. ON TOP of that, pour on “half & half” milk to the 3-cup level. Stir vigorously. Into the baking dish, pour on a thin layer of the flour/milk mixture. Layer on the par-boiled sliced potatoes to cover the bottom of the dish. Then, lightly salt with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. Pour on another thin layer of the flour mixture. Cover the potatoes with slices of American individual sliced cheese. Repeat the same steps for the next layer. Top the dish with the final layer of American individual sliced cheese. Cover to refrigerate for baking later or bake covered with foil at 375⁰F for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, until bubbly. Cheese can be a cook’s best friend in the wintertime because the strength of your kitchen is only as good as when those who are eating are happy. © Kelly McBride Loft
The snows are reaching far south this year and the culinary celebration of Maple syrup is upon us. Native Americans discovered this divine sweetness generated from Maple trees. In the 1700’s and 1800’s, maple syrup was widely enjoyed. Maple syrup is not only good on pancakes; it is a great flavoring for vegetables, too. Try my Maple Carrots for a wholesome winter’s day side dish. First, peel and slice the carrots (one per person) into medallions. Simmer in water until almost tender. Drain the carrots and return to the pot. Add a small amount of orange juice and a generous drizzle of Maple syrup. Serve hot with your main course. It’s colorful, homemade, and delicious! So, let it snow and the cold winds blow; we know how to sweeten up our lives during challenging times and we have known this for centuries. © Kelly McBride Loft
We have so much to look forward to in 2021! Let’s shake off the most challenging Last Year – oh, it is so grand to write that. We did learn a few special things Last Year, home is safety and our kitchen tables exude essential togetherness with our immediate families. So, let’s keep the best of Last Year, as we move forward. Try my Oyster Soup to kick-start a great year ahead, keeping our most special home-style dining. Begin with the Oysters (a dozen). Clean the Oysters and remove the tough tissue that attaches to the shell. No one wants to “chew” their soup. Keep the Oysters cold until the broth is ready. In a small soup pot, melt a half stick of butter. Add 1 celery stick (finely diced) and 1 shallot (finely diced). Add the leaves only (no stems) of Thyme (about 1 tablespoon). Sauté until tender. Add ¼ more of a stick of butter. Then, add 1 crush garlic clove. After no more than 1 minute, turn up the heat to high and once boiling add 1/3 cup of Cream Sherry. Deglaze the pan by stirring with a wooden spoon, as this bubbles up. TURN DOWN THE HEAT. (You don’t want to burn it – just deglaze it.) Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of flour and stir vigorously to make the Roux. The Roux should simmer for about 3 minutes. Meanwhile heat 2 to 3 cups of Whole Milk in the Microwave (I do 1 cup at a time to keep the milk hot as you add it, little by little, to the Roux in the pot). Little by little add the HOT milk to the Roux, stirring vigorously to incorporate the liquid. ONLY ADD ENOUGH MILK, TO THE THICKNESS THAT YOU WANT. LIGHTLY salt with kosher salt. You want to taste the oysters, not the salt. Now, strain this broth before adding the oysters. (Without straining you will have the tiny bits of celery, shallot, and thyme leaves.) Add the prepared oysters. Only simmer the oysters for 8 to 10 minutes. This is SIMMERING, NOT BOILING. (Don’t over-cook the oysters.) Welcome 2021 with this exceptional soup. Its inspiration is from the sea and its wholesomeness will sustain your very special family. © Kelly McBride Loft
Oh, if there was ever a year to celebrate, it is the closure of 2020 to embrace 2021! Create your own version of a London Grille while firing up your grille and fire pit with the people who live under the same roof. Offer grilled lamb, veal, beef filet, Cornish hen, and/or crab claws. I suggest lemon parfaits for desserts – changing the sour lemons of 2020 to the sweet lemon desserts in 2021! Social distancing is a necessary protective measure; however, separating outdoor dining table(s) to family units who live under the same roof, can enhance a celebratory moment. Take temperatures upon arrival with a non-contact forehead thermometer and set the ground rules that we don’t clink glasses this year. Baked Alaska fits this style gathering – but keep everyone outside and at a safe distance. (Tenting or a garage transformation will be the backup inclement weather coverage – it’s still 2020 and we still need to be flexible.) This is the year to safely celebrate that you survived 2020!
The Feast of the Seven Fishes has a long-standing heritage impact. Traditionally, each of the seven courses offers a delicate dish from the sea. The main course can be a prized whole fish with “a pocket” cut into the top side to the fish, such as a large flounder. To make this, utilize a large sheet pan with an edge of at least 1”. Cover the pan with parchment paper; then place the fish. With the fish scales removed, fill the pocket cut into the fish with thyme leaves (not the stems), chopped basil and thin lemon slices with the seeds removed. In a large measuring cup melt 1 stick of butter and mix in 1 cup of creamed sherry. Stir well and pour this onto the prepared fish. Once poured onto the fish. Lightly salt the fish. Let this marinate on the fish for about 15 minutes before cooking. Broil or bake the fish until thoroughly cooked. To serve, plate the fish onto a large platter. A sauce to accompany the fish is always appreciated, such as lemon butter sauce. The main fish course should always be eaten with proper fish forks and fish knives. Merry Christmas! © Kelly McBride Loft
Do you miss your neighbors and caroling? With every challenge, creativity can overcome. Plan a Progressive Christmas Coffee Tasting to enhance the seasonal festivities. Have each homeowner provide designated coffee selections in their driveway. The selections can be Turkish coffee, Cajun coffee, Irish coffee, Espresso, etc. For those not inclined to offer a hot beverage, some can offer mocha parfaits or tiramisu. Each home should have a seasonal musical selection playing, just as if going door to door with caroling. Spread the good cheer and blessings without spreading the pandemic. © Kelly McBride Loft
From Bach to Bartok, creativity has survived all of the plagues of illness and we will survive this one, too. Immerse yourself in creativity, be it inspiration from music, painting, poetry, prose or creative cooking. When our minds are not consumed with negativity, we can choose to break free. Try a new dish. My suggestion is to make my Acorn Squash Lobster Etouffee. First, prepare the acorn squash by slicing it 1 and 1/2 “thick; then removing the seeds. You will be left with lovely golden rings with the deep green outer edge. Brush the squash rings with melted butter. Bake the rings on a parchment paper lined baking sheet for about 30 minutes, until tender. Meanwhile prepare the lobster. Crack it and cut the lobster tail medallions to reserve. Prepare the etouffee sauce. In a large pot, sauté with a half stick of butter: half of a chopped onion, a half cup of chopped celery, and a half cup of chopped bell pepper. Cook until tender. Add a teaspoon of chili powder, a dash of salt, and of pepper. Briefly add the lobster medallions to absorb the flavorings. Then remove the lobster. Add 1 and half cans of 15 oz. tomato sauce and ¾ can of spicy diced tomatoes (about 9 oz.). Then, add a half cup of boiling water to simmer for 1 and half hours, uncovered. Add a teaspoon of sugar. Stir frequently. When the sauce is reduced, add the lobster medallions to the sauce. “Plate” the squash rings into large bowls, one to each individual’s bowl. Ladle the lobster etouffee onto the acorn squash rings to hold the etouffee. It really does create an outstanding holiday moment! © Kelly McBride Loft
The week after Thanksgiving is always transition week. Sheet pan suppers are most appropriate. This means that the meal is cooked and served from a sheet pan. First, you need a large sheet pan with an edge of at least 1. Cover the base of the sheet pan with parchment paper. Overnight marinate the chicken pieces in my suggested choice of fig jam mixed with balsamic vinegar; lemon vinaigrette dressing; or Italian vinaigrette dressing. When ready to cook, spray the parchment paper with cooking spray. Place the chicken pieces at least 3” apart. Then, I cover the chicken with a top layer of parchment paper. Bake the chicken at 350⁰F for about 45 minutes until thoroughly cooked. Remove the top cover of parchment. Just prior to serving briefly broil the chicken to brown the crust. Remove the sheet pan from the oven and place for serving. Decorate the chicken pan with sprigs of rosemary and tiny cherry tomatoes. It’s so easy and a family pleaser. © Kelly McBride Loft
Your clan is arriving soon, as they have been properly preparing their role by being socially distant prior to Thanksgiving. They have checked their temperatures and they are donning good masks. Your lovely Thanksgiving is challenged; however, you can create a memorable Thanksgiving by planning ahead. Have a backyard or porch gathering. If you don’t have a backyard, the driveway is an option by setting out beach umbrellas. In fact, those sturdy umbrellas are probably on sale this time of year. Set up your staging area with paper plates and disposable utensils, if your invitation list goes outside your immediate family. Have each immediate family section sit together as a unit. If people want to chat before and after eating, they need to be required to wear their masks. If you are the host and/or hostess, by following reasonable guidelines, your leadership will be most appreciated – just as being the cook is always appreciated. A couple of entertaining tips – Break out the forgotten punch bowl and fill it with brewed tea. Prior to the big day, freeze an ice ring of tea with slices of fresh orange. When serving, float the ice ring in the brewed tea for a practical and attractive way to service some of the beverage needs. Another tip is to create small individual dips in ramekins. Cut carrot and celery sticks of 5” in length to create a fanned “turkey” tail on the backside of each ramekin. It will take the hungry edge off while everyone waits for grand performance of the showcase turkey. Take the lead on staying safe. If you a cook, you are the leader. Have fun with your most meaningful Thanksgiving ever, as we count our blessings! © Kelly McBride Loft
Reading is to be revered. With less daylight, our “shorter” days provide more time inside and this is the perfect time to plan a leisure read. Reading time is also a great time for tea and open-faced sandwiches.
Cucumber sandwiches are always a classic with very thinly sliced cucumbers on white bread with the crust cut off. Spread mayonnaise onto the bread and artfully set the cucumbers. Open-faced sandwiches include selections with the crust, which are a favorite in Scandinavia. These can include smoked salmon, sliced turkey, roast beef, etc. Always, put the condiments, lettuce, and tomato on the bread first. Top the protein choice with a black olive to complete the design. Some just prefer vegetables. Alternate your bread choices such as pumpernickel or rye. Just plan the prep, select your tea, and read away. It’s a soothing moment to embrace the autumn season…cookies should always await the last chapter. © Kelly McBride Loft
Autumn’s pleasant weather creates delightful picnic time and you can artistically design a stunning cheese and honey board to brighten your best picnic spot. The whole concept behind culinary boards is to make it “eye” appealing with multiple selections. This is done by putting “like” items together, not all mixed in a messy pile. Then, a pattern is run with those “like” items, such a linear row of seasoned crackers separating two artfully presented cheese sections on the board. Fruit can be the central focal point, with a stunning honeycomb set directly onto the board. Add sections of nuts, artfully arranged and charcuterie specialties for interest. For an added dimension, give items in your gastronomic presentation some height. To begin the project, purchase a sturdy food appropriate board that will support the weight of your food choices. It can be a wooden board, a marble slab (heavier to transport) or an interesting piece of slate or stone. The night before, clean your base board and draw a layout design. This way, you know that you have acquired all of your delectable delights…avoiding that – oh, so forgetful moment. Will you need cheese knives or is your cheese choice already sliced? Do you have a honey dipper and a small knife for the honey presentation? What will you use to cover the board once completed? Have you made room in your vehicle to transport the board? I view it as a fun art project…just don’t forget the wine and corkscrew…© Kelly McBride Loft
Missing Paris? It is in lockdown and our prayers are that a prevention/cure for Covid-19 is finalized soon. If you can’t visit the Paris, bring it home by creating a Parisian night. There is a very famous restaurant in Port Maillot on Boulevard Pereire called Le Relais de Venise son entrecôte. It is known for serving fantastic steak and fries (in French called entrecôte – premium beef cuts and pommes frites – what we call French fries). Prepare your beef filet and air-fry your pommes frites. Turn on a French cinema creation. With this combination, you have created dinner and movie. Now, change up the dining configuration in your home. Instead of the dining room, kitchen table, or TV tables, utilize a bistro table, tea cart, or tea table, which is set up near the TV so that the dining experience reenacts the Parisian atmosphere. All of the factors contribute to a divine dining moment, entrenched as a Francophile, and without getting on a plane. © Kelly McBride Loft
On Halloween evening, it is fun to be extra creative with food. I like to come up with designs that are different and can be made the afternoon prior to the gathering so that more time can be allotted to other preparations. Try my chilled Sardine Jade Rolls, for the seasonal impact on your Halloween appetizer table or as a starter for dinner. First prepare the Pesto Sauce: grind and thoroughly mix fresh basil, 1 glove of garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and olive oil until the desired consistency is reached. Remove the sardines from the can and pat dry. Remove the tails. Coat the sardines with the homemade Pesto Sauce. Cut into small stick shapes: cucumbers and carrots. Wash and pat dry leafy lettuce. Now, prepare the Rice Paper wrappers by dipping those in hot water for about 15 seconds, until pliable. Fill one wrapper at a time with: one piece of leafy lettuce, 1 or 2 Pesto sardines, and a pile of cucumber and carrot sticks. Now, carefully roll the rice paper sheets to form the Jade Rolls. For a dipping sauce, soy sauce with floating gummy/gumball “eyes” will work wonders for the final impact. Bring it on – it’s been a scary year and you can pair it with some inventiveness. © Kelly McBride Loft
Crabmeat is available year-round and its flavor is always a culinary treat. From juicy crab claws to succulent sections, crabmeat can be enjoyed as an entrée, an appetizer, a bisque, as a topping, or as an ingredient, such as a quiche. Crabmeat meals can be derived from soft shell crabs, stone crabs, blue crabs, spider crabs, velvet crabs, brown crabs, etc. My favorite is Alaskan King crab. There are a lucky few who live in Alaska, where crab restaurants offer the freshest catch, for self-cracking pleasure. Actually, making a mess is half the fun. A classic favorite is Crabmeat Imperial and it composed of very basic ingredients, served in oversized authentic scallop shells. The most important thing to note is if you are utilizing authentic scallop shells, it is necessary to boil the shells in advance to kill any lingering bacteria before using the shells as serving dishes. The crabmeat is combined with sauteed diced bell peppers, shallots, garlic, and parsley, which, when cooled is mixed with mayonnaise and shredded Italian cheeses. The mixture is piled onto the prepared seashells and baked. The Crabmeat Imperial puffs up and this rich delight is a retro favorite. Tonight, I am preparing the crabmeat by cooking it and cracking it, with a fresh lemon drizzle. Then, I will steam fresh asparagus. The heated crabmeat will top the fresh asparagus with lemon butter sauce. It’s that simple for a lovely “over the top” meal with crabmeat styling. © Kelly McBride Loft