Saturday, January 19, 2013

SUMMERSET ABBEY by TJ Brown and Mustard Roasted Potatoes

Today I welcome author T.J. Brown, who has an incredible personal story about overcoming cancer, and an incredible debut novel. If you like Downton Abbey, you're going to love her new book, SUMMERSET ABBEY!

She's also a great cook, so read below for a recipe that I'm definitely going to try!
TJ Brown's Recipe: Mustard Roasted Potatoes

I have found an absolute passion for cooking now that my children are grown…no more picky eaters to please and I get to make what I want! This recipe is originally from the Barefoot Contessa, but I modified it to suit our tastes. These are perfect for a party because you can make them ahead of time and then put them under the broiler for a few minutes  to reheat.  

  • 2 1/2 pounds small red potatoes (or any potatoes really)
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Cut the potatoes into bite sized chunks, and place them on a sheet pan.  Mix together the olive oil, mustard, 2 teaspoons salt, and the pepper in a bowl and pour over the potatoes. Mix together well with your hands. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the potatoes are lightly browned on the outside and tender on the inside. Toss the potatoes from time to time with a metal spatula so they brown evenly.

Serve hot sprinkled with chopped parsley and a little extra salt.

And now, about the book, SUMMERSET ABBEY (available in bookstores nationwide):

1913: In a sprawling manor on the outskirts of London, three young women seek to fulfill their destinies and desires amidst the unspoken rules of society and the distant rumblings of war. . . .

Rowena Buxton

Sir Philip Buxton raised three girls into beautiful and capable young women in a bohemian household that defied Edwardian tradition. Eldest sister Rowena was taught to value people, not wealth or status. But everything she believes will be tested when Sir Philip dies, and the girls must live under their uncle’s guardianship at the vast family estate, Summerset Abbey. Standing up for a beloved family member sequestered to the “under class” in this privileged new world, and drawn into the Cunning Coterie, an exclusive social circle of aristocratic “rebels,” Rowena must decide where her true passions—and loyalties—lie.

Victoria Buxton

Frail in body but filled with an audacious spirit, Victoria secretly dreams of attending university to become a botanist like her father. But this most unladylike wish is not her only secret. Now, Victoria has stumbled upon a family scandal that, if revealed, has the potential to change lives forever…

Prudence Tate

Prudence was lovingly brought up alongside Victoria and Rowena, and their bond is as strong as blood. But by birth she is a governess’s daughter, and to the lord of Summerset Abbey, that makes her a commoner who must take her true place in society—as ladies maid to her beloved “sisters.” But Pru doesn’t belong in the downstairs world of the household staff any more than she belongs upstairs with the Buxton girls.  And when a young lord catches her eye, she begins to wonder if she’ll ever truly carve out a place for herself at Summerset Abbey…

Other books in the series:

A BLOOM IN WINTER (Summerset Abbey #2) March 5, 2013

SPRING AWAKENING (Summerset Abbey #3) August 6, 2013

Thanks for visiting, T.J.! This book looks awesome!! For more about the book, the series or TJ herself, visit her website!


Tuesday, January 08, 2013

The BEST Lasagna

I love pasta. If I could, I'd eat nothing but pasta for the rest of my life (and any kind of cake or cookie or cupcake...yes, I am a junk food lover!). Heck, I run because it lets me eat pasta. Carbo-loading anyone?

Lasagna is one of those always awesome dishes. I've had about seven gazillion different versions, but come back to this one as my favorite. It's Giada DeLaurentis's recipe (and let me just say that life is totally unfair when someone can cook and eat like this, and stay as tiny as she is). I've taken what I like about her recipe and then added my own little spin.

I'm not wild about spinach or ground beef in my lasagna--so I take those out and substitute sausage instead. I keep everything else pretty much the same. This is one of those dishes that takes a lot of time, more than even your normal lasagna, so plan ahead. The bechamel sauce and fresh tomato sauce need to be made earlier in the day, so account for that when you plan for this (total time for this dish, complete with cooling of the sauces, is about 2 to 2 1/2 hours). It's not a throw-it-together kind of meal. Then again, eating lasagna is one of those things that SHOULD take time, not to mention the carbo-nap you'll need afterwards ;-)

Giada's Classic Lasagna--Shirley's Version

Bechamel Sauce:

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk at room temperature
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce, recipe follows 
Simple Tomato Sauce:
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 dried bay leaves
Lasagna Assembly Ingredients
  • 1 pound ground Italian sausage
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds ricotta cheese
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 pound lasagna sheets, cooked al dente
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
 First, make the Bechamel sauce. Melt the butter in a large saucepan, then whisk in the flour (I add a bit of salt and pepper here too). Add the milk, whisking as you add it, then cook over medium heat, whisking, until it comes to a boil and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. That takes about 10 minutes, so just keep whisking. Add a dash of nutmeg (you should always add nutmeg to a white sauce; it helps bring out the flavor). I actually grate the nutmeg in--a little nutmeg nut lasts forever, so it's a good investment and tastes way better than the canned stuff.

To make the tomato sauce, heat the oil, then add the vegetables and cook until softened. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves. Simmer for 15 minutes. Cool. Then use either an immersion blender or a regular blender, and blend the sauce until smooth.

Mix 1 1/2 cups of the tomato sauce into the bechamel. You'll have extra tomato sauce, so save that for another dinner. It freezes well, and also lasts several days in the fridge.

Brown the sausage and cool. In a large bowl, mix the ricotta cheese and eggs. Set aside. Now you're ready to assemble. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place 1/3 of the bechamel sauce in the bottom of the lasagna pan. Layer on noodles. Add the sausage, and the ricotta mixture, more noodles, bechamel, rest of the ricottta (and sausage if you have more) and half the mozzarella. Another layer of pasta, then top with bechamel and remaining mozzarella, and Parmesan. Giada has you put the lasagna pan on top of a cookie sheet lined with foil. A good idea if your lasagna might boil over out of the pan.

Bake, covered, for 30 minutes, then remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. I found, however, that I needed to cook it longer than this--45 minutes with foil on, then 20 minutes with it off. Might have been my grumpy oven that day, which every once in a while doesn't cooperate with me. Anyway, this is DELISH, and yeah, it's fattening, but not every day is a diet ;-) Speaking of fattening, I have made it both with the extra butter she recommends, and without, and saw no difference, so I took the butter out here. I'd rather eat more cheese ;-)