Sunday, February 21, 2016

Individual Potato Gratins with Parm and Goat Cheese

One of my favorite guilty pleasure meals is most certainly a good old fashioned steak dinna (as I like to call it!). And, let's be real - what's a steak without potatoes? I concoted an incredibly delicious spin on potatoes au gratin that is just a touch lighter and cooks much faster than the classic. My version features garlic, rosemary, parmesan and herbed goat cheese but you can certainly swap those flavors out for something you prefer more (could be bacon and cheddar!). If you've got a mandolin slicer, this recipe with be even easier, otherwise, sharpen your knives! 


4-6 new red potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup milk (any variety - I used 2%)
2 tablespoons flour
2 large cloves garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1/3 cup shredded parmasean
1/3 log of goat cheese
Salt/Pepper to Taste
Cooking Spray 
Muffin Tin 


 1.) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash potatoes well under cold water. Mince garlic, mince rosemary. With a mandolin slicer (or knife), thinly slice potatoes 1/16'' thick. Set aside. Thoroughly spray a 6 cup muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray. Stack potatoes in each greased well of the pan, distributing evenly. 
2.) In a saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter with minced garlic and rosemary until fragrant (about 2 mins). 
3.) Whisk in 2 tablespoons flour slowly, ensuring all lumps are worked out. 
4.) Once flour and butter are incorporated, slowly whisk in 3/4 cup of the milk. Reserve 1/4 cup for the next step. Bring the sauce to a slight bubble over medium and cut back to low. Add salt and pepper to taste. About 5 mins.
5.) Remove saucepan from heat and add in parmasean and goat cheese, stirring constantly with whisk. Add in reserved 1/4 cup of milk and return to heat. Bring back to a bubble until all cheese has melted and incorporated into the sauce.
6.) Pour the sauce over the stacked potatoes in the muffin tin. Don't worry about the sauce staying on top of the potatoes - it will melt through during cooking. Cover lightly with foil and place in over. Bake covered for 10 mins. Remove foil and bake additional 10-20 mins until potatoes are fork tender. Enjoy!

Theses gratins get a beautiful golden crust but remain perfectly gooey and smooth on the inside! 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Finding Bliss

Bliss: to reach a state of perfect happiness or to experience complete joy.

I went sledding for the first time in probably close to a decade this weekend and the uninterrupted time spent rolling around in icy cold snow with deep belly laughs after several undeniable faceplants left me with a lingering sense of happiness. A happiness that is childlike. A happiness that sometimes I believe begins to fade as we age. A happiness that is impossible to forget. A complete bliss.

My afternoon spent frolicking in snow - which, let's be real in declaring that after you get out of school it is nothing more than a pain in the ass - has surprisingly left me feeling rather inspired. It's left me with an undeniable craving for more. Not more snow, that is. (Don't get me wrong here, that was incredibly fun and blissful but I think that bliss can be replicated in less cold and inconvenient ways). But rather, its left me craving more bliss.

I have been thinking about what is blissful to me and I thought that in my effort to continue to search for and experience those "make you forget every worry, every fear, every ounce of negativity" types of moments, I'd share some of my sources of bliss. 

Being barefoot in my kitchen. A kitchen that generations of women in my family have stood barefoot cookin' in before me. The radio dial tuned to my favorite local country station, "country 102.9 WKIKayyyyy." The smell of something homegrown and homemade filling the room, steaming up my black rimmed glasses. Dancing between the fridge and the cooktop as I pull out random ingredients to concoct my latest culinary creation. 

A hot and strong cup of coffee with just a dash of cream and a packet of Splenda. Most blissfully enjoyed while snuggled under my favorite hand-sewn quilt made by my unbelievably talented Momma. And, for some reason, that coffee just tastes better when I can sip it as I flip through a handed down cookbook. 

A steaming hot shower. With a shower-Chard. If you haven't tried it, you're really missing some serious bliss. Try a crisp and cold glass of cheap Chardonnay with a steaming how shower after a long day. The flush of warmth touches to the core. It took me twenty-three years to discover this one but I'll be keeping this one forever. 

The anticipation of a date. Whether it's me waiting or watching a friend anxiously await the arrival of another - the bubbling excitement of being whisked away is nothing short of lovely. Obsessively looking out the window to spot the anticipated headlights, shaky hands applying that last and most important coat of lip stick, and of course, the shameless lift of breasts so they spill perfectly out of the top of your blouse. Don't act like you've never done it, ladies. It's blissful in and of itself. Try it.

Taking a back road. Here in Southern Maryland, there are few things that beat the feeling of blasting country music, rollin' the windows down and taking the long way home. There's a therapy unlike any other in just simply cruising at your own pace on your own path of wild and untamed land. 

One of my favorite captures of back road life in SoMD. Simplicity at its finest.
Pillow talk after a few glasses of red wine. The warm and sensual touch of red wine in winter brings me a comfort unlike any other. Being completely entwined with the person you love. Raw. Honest. Unforgiving. Sharing secrets in the simple light of candle after. Well, I'll leave that as is. My Momma is a reader here (ha!).

The first step onto a sandy ocean shore. No matter how many times I find myself at the edge of an ocean, the waves crash below my feet and fill me with childlike giddiness. The salt burning my eyes as I dive head first into the ocean sway and the gentle pull of undercurrents bring me to a place of complete and utter relaxation. Nothing beats salty hair and sunburnt lips. 

A beautifully deep conversation. I can't help but think of my sweet friend Kim who left us far too soon when I think about those conversations you have with a friend that make you think in a way that is inspiring, motivating, and nothing short of fulfilling. Sharing with people who challenge you. Who make you better. That's bliss. Love you, always for that Kim. 

It seems that as we grow older and dance our way through our very own coming of age story, bliss is harder to come by. We get caught in the ebb and flow of adulthood. The looming list of to-do, the bills to be paid, the people to report to, life to keep in order. I know that making a list like this reminds me that experience bliss a lot more than I take the time to recognize. 

So, I'll ask... Where do you find your bliss?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Stovetop Beef Stew

There's something mildly intimidating about taking a stab at classic recipe. I often find myself shying away from the classics as if I haven't matured enough in my culinary exploration to nail them. To put it plainly, I think they just scare me! Now that we've finally felt the chill of winter arrive here in Southern Maryland and stew meat was on sale at Food Lion (yay!), I decided the stars had aligned for me to take a stab at a tried and true American classic: beef stew. While this recipe certainly needs to be reserved for a weekend due to the length of time it needs to cook, it was actually very easy. This was well worth the wait; the meat was incredibly tender and it was warming and rich without being overbearing. There is very little flour involved, too. The stew thickens with the length of time it cooks, the starch of the turnip and potato and the richness is developed through the tomato paste. 


1-2 pounds chuck roast or stew meat
1/4 cup flour (to toss meat in)
3 large ribs celery
3 large carrots
1 large turnip
5-6 small red potatoes
1 medium sweet onion
2 cloves fresh garlic
1-2 sprigs fresh thyme
3/4 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
3 oz (1/2 can) tomato paste
4 cups reduced sodium beef broth
Olive Oil


1.) Cut meat into small, bite-sized pieces. I marinated mine in olive oil, balsamic vinegar and seasoned salt for 3 hours prior to cutting but that is optional. Toss bite-sized pieces in 1/4 cup of flour.
2.) Over medium-high heat, drizzle olive oil in large stock pot or dutch oven. Brown meat in batches, removing as the outside becomes nice and brown. The meat does not need to cook fully here.
3.) Once all meat is brown and removed from pan, add in diced onion and minced garlic. Cook until onions become fragrant and slightly translucent. About 5-8 minutes.
4.) Add tomato paste, 3 cups of beef broth (you want to reserve about 1 cup for when you add the vegetables later on in the recipe), and browned meat. Add thyme, rosemary, paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Mix well and bring to a boil. Simmer for approximately 30-45 minutes. Stir occassionally, scraping the bottom of the pan.
Nice and thick!
5.) While meat, tomato paste, broth and onions are simmering, cut up carrots, celery, potato (skin on). Peel turnip and dice. A rough dice works well for all these.
6.) After beef and broth have simmered for atleast 45 minutes, add in vegetables and remaining 1 cup of stock. Bring to a boil and simmer for another 45 minutes to an hour.
7.) Once stew has thickened and meat begins to fall apart with potatoes, your recipe is complete! Serve over egg noodles, rice or mashed potatoes!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Chocolate Chip Cake Mix Cookie Bars

There's something about the stark cold of winter that makes me want to preheat the oven, melt some butter, cream some sugar and create the most decadent and delicious baked goods. I'm really not one for baking, to be quite frank. I don't like the necessity for exact measurements (because I am so not the eyeball it baker) and I haven't had much success with baking perfection in the past. But! I have found that for those who lack that inherent, grandmotherly baking skill, starting with a cake mix can be an easy way to mask your lack of baking talent. Adding instant pudding and applesauce to a regular cake mix ensures that whatever you're baking will have the necessary moistness. Additionally, I often swap applesauce for oil (usually not completely but it could be done) to cut down on calories and add extra fiber. If you wanted to try out today's recipe without the applesauce, just use 3/4 cup of oil instead of 1/2.

Today's snow flurries had me craving something fresh baked so I mixed up an incredibly easy cookie bar!


1 box golden butter cake mix (yellow works, too)
1 box instant vanilla pudding mix
1 individual cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
2 large eggs
1 cup milk chocolate chips (or m&ms, or anything you have!)


1.) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
2.) Grease a 13x9 pan. I use cooking spray to cut down calories but good ol' butter and flour works too.
3.) Dump cake mix, pudding mix, applesauce, oil, water, eggs and chips into Kitchen Aid mixer bowl.
4.) Mix through on low speed.
5.) Spread batter into greased pan and place into the oven. Sprinkle with more chips if desired. 
6.) Bake for 20-27 mins on 350.
7.) Enjoy your effortless baking glory!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Garlic Ginger Ground Turkey with Peas

If you've followed my recipes on County Meanderings, you know that one of my favorite guilty pleasures is Chinese takeout. For me, it's not about the convenience. I simply love the dept of flavor and the "I can't make this at home" uniqueness that American Chinese dishes have. What I don't love is the MSG and unnecessary fats that come along with that. I've spent the last few months in the kitchen exploring ways that I can zap those cravings with a healthier and more cost effective alternative. Using inexpensive and lean ground turkey, this recipe takes a health spin on the delicious brown sauce that my pallet aches for. If you're a fan of ginger and garlic, I know you'll love my last Asian creation. 

Bonus...This is a one-pot dish - you have to love that, right? Easy prep, easy clean-up. That's my style. 


1lb lean ground turkey
1/2 yellow onion
1-2 inch piece of fresh ginger
2-4 cloves of garlic (depending how much you like!  I went 3 medium cloves)
1 cup frozen green peas


1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
1-2 tbsp brown sugar
Pinch of red chili flakes
1 tbsp thai chili sauce
Salt and Pepper to taste


  1. Dice onion, garlic and ginger (you can also grate the ginger if you aren't a huge fan of it). 
  2. Saute the onion, ginger and garlic over medium heat (any oil is fine but I love to use chili oil from the asian food isle) until it becomes very fragrant and the onions are translucent (5-8 mins).
  3. Add ground turkey and cook until no longer pink (medium-high heat for about 10-15 minutes).
  4. Add frozen peas and cook through (5 mins). 
  5. Whisk together soy sauce, brown sugar, chili flakes, chili sauce (could also add any other heat you like!) until the sugar dissolves. 
  6. Cut the heat to medium-low and pour in the sauce. Simmer on low for 10mins - 30 mins depending on how long you want everything to meld together. 
  7. Serve over rice, green beans, or in lettuce wraps. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Discovering Hints - Culinary Tips of the Past

My ideal night involves cheap wine and well anything, especially when related to food. If you follow me here at County Meanderings, you know I have an undying passion for anything food (and thrift store) related. As I was working on a piece of writing for a local foodie magazine tonight, I stumbled upon something I thought was too brilliantly lovely not to share. 

There's a warm nostalgia that wraps itself around me when I happen upon notes of the past. If you've ever recieved an old book from your Grandma, you know what I'm talking about. You're flipping through your handed-down gift and bam - something intimate and personal strikes you. Tonight, I had one of those moments in the recipe book I was working through. I stumbled upon a page a midst a bunch of recipes, fresh from the typewriter circa 1938 that was titled "Hint." I'll share a photo but incase the clarity doesn't do it justice, I've transcribed it with all original punctation (or lack thereof). 

Take a look:


When mashing potatoes heat the milk and butter before adding to potatoes then you wont be so apt to have lumps. 

When cooking fresh green beans, asparagus or any other green vegetable add a lump of sugar to  the water  and the veg. wont change color and it brings out the taste. 

When cooking any cut veg. in small pieces they cook quicker and taste much nicer it also saves vitamins and gas bills. (LOL!)

When cooking veg. either pour boiling water over them or put them into boiling water it saves flavor. Most veg. need just enough water to cover them. 

If a recipe calls for onions it usually adds to the flavor if they are browned a bit before adding. 

If you cook fresh beets don't cut the stems off too close or they will lose all their color.
And give them plenty of time to cook; bacon or salt pork added to the water they are cooked in is a nice addition if you like it. (My kind of gal!) 

Get a scraper for peeling potatoes, carrots & things it sure helps. 

When cooking anything in the oven be sure to preheat the oven before putting the food in. 

If you want whole leaves of lettuce for a salad remove the core of the head and run cold water in it this will seperate the leaves so they can be removed easily without tearing. 

If you'd like the recipe for Gawumpkis (?) I'll have Elsie write it out for me. (Totally want to know what a Gawumpki is!)

I've got a million ideas but it takes more time than I have I shall have to let this be continued. (Ugh!) 

How amazing is it that decades later essentially all these "hints" are still relevant? Anyone who spends any amount of time in the kitchen will undeniably appreciate at least one of these. I'm eager to try the lettuce one this weekend! 

Just thought I'd share, as this little page brought me some much needed joy this evening! As did my $6 Entwined Food Network Chardonnay - give that a try, too. 



Thursday, August 20, 2015

For the Love of Lipstick

On a warm spring afternoon, I slink into the bathroom. My stubby fingers fumble to get the door closed tightly behind me. I climb the obstacles; a step on to the toilet top, then the tank, making my way across the sink, straddling the basin - I stand. Slowly, I pry open the squeaky medicine cabinet. Each little motion evokes a suspenseful creak. I can't be caught. Mom will have my head if she catches me in here again. Finally, with enough space to reach my little hand in, I grasp it.

Red Lipstick. 

An oddly small shape, one inch in length, the tube is covered with a clear cap revealing the vivid red stick. The red makes my young mind wander; cherries, fire hydrants, America. It is one of the many mini samples of colors in the cabinet but I am so intensely drawn to its striking beauty, I see no other suitable option. My six-year-old spirit bubbles as I hold the tube up to my round face, straight in front of my pursed lips.

I flip my ratty blonde hair as a pluck off the top like a sassy pin-up salon girl, smacking on a piece of perfectly pink bubble gum. Cigarette in one hand, lipstick in the other. "Pucker up." I tell myself.

With a white knuckled grip, I draw the vibrant stick closer to my flushed, chubby cheeks. In a breath of confidence, I touch the stick to my pursed upper-lip. Instantly, I am twenty-five; beautiful yet brash, I am striking up a conversation with a woman who joins me in a smoky bathroom as we carefully reapply. She's painting on layers of rouge while alternating with a spritz of Aqua Net to her perm. I'm slightly in awe of her unknowing grace as she puts herself together. We both lean in to our reflections, lipstick in hand, putting the final touches on our boozy bathroom masterpieces.

With my sweaty feet straddling the sink basin, my confidence blooms. Another flip to my ratty blonde hair and instantly, it becomes a slick bun. I spin around in my office chair, finding the perfect light to gracefully touch a bold shade of red onto my lips. This red is deep, elegant, sumptuous. It has just enough gloss to give it some sass but not so much as to confuse intentions. The color is far more intense but it goes on smoother with each precise glide over my soft lips.  I stand, straighten out my pencil skirt and am off to pitch my latest proposal, carefully slipping my luscious red lipstick into my lacy bra - for good luck, you know?

I draw my young, round face closer to the mirror with a slow tilt. Lining the mini tube up to my puckered lips, another swipe lands me at the corner seat of a lowly lit restaurant. I sit perched with the same tilt, this time my blonde strands are neatly curled and I stare, awestruck into the eyes of handsome date. He excuses himself for the restroom and I slip my hand into my clutch to quickly touch up the ravishing red on my lips. Steadying my nervous hand, I swipe my lips before he returns. Instantly, I realign my posture, sitting graceful, tall and sure.

My love for lipstick was born straddling that sink with pudgy cheeks and clammy feet. Sneaking into my Mom's makeup took me to places the same way little girls are carried away as they watch Cinderella for the first time. From that moment, I craved the confidence I felt with a glide of crisp crimson. The way it blanketed me with assurance and grace. The guise of glamour it draped over my being. The subtle mysterious glow it painted upon my face. I knew from this very moment of play, that red lipstick would someday be my signature.

There is something so striking about a red lip. It's lively, it's vivacious, it's powerful - with just a dash of mystery. From the most stressful of days in office to the nerves of a first date, my ravishing red lip has often given me just the boost I needed. Each morning, I rise when the clock strikes 6 and my tired eyes are instantly awoken by the vibrancy of red. Just like that little gal playing in her Mom's makeup, my spirit still bubbles as I make that bright swipe over my lips.

Fast forward twenty years and here I am, sprawled out on my Craigslist mattress, wrapped in a hand-sewn quilt made by my lipstick-loving mother. After a ten hour day and three hour commute - I sink into my bed, still in my disheveled thrift store threads, a wrinkled blouse spilling over the top of a crinkled up pencil skirt and my hair almost as ratty as that pudgy little six-year-old girl straddling the sink in the spring of '97; I can't help but laugh at the looks of my twenty-something Tuesday night. My filled-to-the-brim glass of cheap chardonnay is hardly the posh bubbly I'd imagined but the remnants of my daily rouge remind me of simple times and the wandering naivety of childhood.

That little kiss reminds me of my first dance with red lipstick and instantly, I sit up a little taller - knowing that this headache tomorrow will be nothing that a little 6am ravishing rouge can't fix.

Red Lipstick Elizabeth Taylor