Friday, November 1, 2013

Meet Tonda!

Hi there! My name is Tonda, and I’m so excited to be a part of this group.

My love for cooking started at the age of six, when my older sister taught me how to make my first grilled cheese. From that moment on, I was hooked! I was my dad’s helper in the kitchen always eager to prep, stir, and sample the creation of the evening. My dad was an excellent self-taught cook. Everything that he made was delicious!

I now have the joy of passing on my passion for baking to my daughter. She is three and already pulls up a step stool to the counter, and says "Momma, let's bake something." It absolutely warms my heart to know that she has interest, and will stand in the kitchen to help in the whole process of making something. Just to see her excitement when I pull something out of the oven is worth every bit of mess that we make. In her short three years of living, we have already made so many happy memories in the kitchen. I hope that her interest never wanes.

My love for gathering together to share a meal comes from early memories of spending holidays at my Babcia’s house. She would cook for days to make homemade pierogies, borscht, sauerkraut, and angel’s wings cookies. I vividly remember her raspberry soup even though I haven’t tasted it in well over 25 years. It was scrumptious! Everything made at her house was made with love and tons of butter and sour cream. While I have lightened up the recipes, I always add a sprinkle of love to each dish that I craft to give a nod to my Polish grandmother.

I am fearless in the kitchen. I will try to make anything once, and never stick to a certain cuisine. I love to experiment with new spices. My husband and I are adventurers at heart, and are often on the go. When we travel, I always bring home either a cookbook or spices to remind us of the taste of the place that we visited. Then, I try to recreate some dishes that we had on our adventures. If a dish is good, I mean really good, then the recipe makes its way into a little brown paper book in my kitchen drawer. It’s my culinary “little black book” of go-to, never fail, always great recipes to make again.

My husband, Franck, is my partner in crime in the kitchen. We plan menus and push each other to expand our culinary skills. It gives us great joy to spend hours in the kitchen together knowing that friends and family will come together to share laughter, make memories, and enjoy each other’s company over the meal that we made.

With that said, here is a recipe for a gigot d’agneau (leg of lamb). Serve with a side of mashed potatoes and sautéed haricots verts. You will have a plate of French comfort. A glass of Medoc wine pairs well with this dish. The leg of lamb will easily serve 6 to 8, so invite some guests. Your house will smell amazing when it is in the oven!

Gigot d’Agneau (Leg of Lamb)
by Tonda

3 Tablespoons butter
3 bay leaves
1 can (15 ounces) of diced tomatoes
1 glass of white wine
5 sprigs rosemary
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
1/2 teaspoon pepper
6 cloves garlic
6-7 pound leg of lamb

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Prepare the roasting pan by rubbing butter inside the pan. Add 2 sprigs of rosemary, 3 bay leaves, 1 can of diced tomatoes, 1 glass of white wine, and enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Process 3 sprigs of rosemary, olive oil, fleur de sel and pepper in a food processor to make a paste. Slit the leg of lamb and stuff 6 cloves of garlic inside. Rub the rosemary paste on top of the lamb, and place it on a roasting rack. Add two pats of butter, 1 tablespoon each, on top of the lamb. Roast at 425°F for 15 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 375°F for 25 minutes per pound of meat to reach 150°F on a meat thermometer at the thickest part of the leg for medium rare meat. Remove from the oven, and tent with foil for 15 minutes. Slice and serve with the jus from the pan drippings. Bon appetit!

A dinner party is never complete without a sweet ending. This apple crisp recipe is tried and true. I have requests to make this over and over. Look for my favorite apple, the Honeycrisp. They have the perfect snap when you bite into them, and hold their shape well when cooked. If Honeycrisp apples are not in season, then use Granny Smiths.

Apple Crisp
by Tonda

4-6 apples (Granny Smith or Honeycrisp)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup packaged yellow cake mix
1/2 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Peel, core, and slice apples. Prepare a 2 quart oven proof deep dish 3/4 full of apples. Mix cinnamon with sugar and sprinkle on top of the apples. Sprinkle with walnuts and oats. Finally, cover the top with cake mix and drizzle melted butter over the top. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the apples are tender. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

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