Never too late for Romance!

You missed Valentine’s Day, you say? You’re in trouble, you say? Well, it’s never too late for romance. It doesn’t have to be just one day of the year.

This weekend we had 40 people at the Inn, taking a break from the everyday rat race to spend some quiet time together. But there are still plenty of opportunities if you weren’t able to make it for Valentine’s Day. A visit to the Oliver Inn can be enhanced with our Double Dark Chocolate Truffles from the South Bend Chocolate Company, a bouquet of roses, or even rose petals scattered around your room waiting to surprise your special someone. We also have dinner packages with Tippecanoe Place (right next door!) and LaSalle Grill, to save you time and money. We make the reservations and take care of all the plans. Give us a call and let us help pick out a fireplace or Jacuzzi suite for your perfect getaway. Don’t forget—you can keep romance alive everyday.

Fresh Baked Cinnamon Rolls

One of my favorite treats to make for guests is fresh baked cinnamon rolls. I found a good recipe years ago and have been making it ever since. Recently I came across a slightly different version and thought about trying it. You know how I love to try new recipes! But when I mentioned it to my son, he said, “Mom, why bother? Your cinnamon rolls are already the best.”

A nice thing about this recipe is that it’s very versatile. Making the rolls from start to finish takes about three hours, including rising time. But you can let the dough rise overnight in the refrigerator, either before or after shaping the rolls, to save time in the morning. It’s a great way to greet your family with fresh, hot cinnamon rolls without having to get up too early. It’s also great for company, since you can do some of the work ahead of time. I hope you’ll give these cinnamon rolls a try—or come visit us at the Inn, and I’ll make them for you!

Cinnamon Rolls
Makes 12

1 pkg. yeast
3 tblsp. sugar, divided
1/2 cup warm water
2 tblsp. butter, melted
½ cup milk
pinch of salt
1 egg
3–3¼ cups flour

Filling
1½ tblsp. melted butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon

Glaze
1¼ cup powdered sugar
2 tblsp. melted butter
2 tblsp. milk

Proof yeast with 1 tblsp. of sugar in ½ cup of warm water for 5 minutes. Combine melted butter, milk, salt, and remaining 2 tblsp. sugar in a saucepan and heat until lukewarm. Stir into yeast mixture along with the egg and 3 cups of flour. Knead in remaining flour as necessary.

Let rise 45 min. to 1 hour in a warm place (or overnight in the refrigerator).

Roll dough into a 9×12 rectangle. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Roll up dough and cut into 12 slices. Place cut side up in a greased 9×13 pan and let rise 1 hour in a warm place (or overnight in the refrigerator).

Bake at 400° for 16–18 min. Combine glaze ingredients and drizzle over warm

The Life of a Busy Innkeeper

To be an innkeeper is to be busy most of the time. This weekend is especially busy, since it’s Valentine’s Day and a three-day weekend for many people. The inn is almost full. We have a few couples who are celebrating birthdays along with Valentine’s Day. We have another couple who are traveling across the country from New Hampshire to Denver and needed a place to stay along the way. We have a few local couples who are tired of winter and just needed a place to relax and rejuvenate. Then we have a couple from Chicago who decided at the last minute to come to South Bend for a weekend escape and to visit the museums. All of our guests are enjoying homemade chocolate chip cookies, heart-shaped sugar cookies, and in-room fireplaces and jacuzzis.

We try to make the Oliver Inn a respite in a world of craziness. This morning I’m serving Stuffed Grilled Panini French Toast with fresh strawberries, along with grilled ham slices, almond poppy seed bread, and the chocolate chip coffee cake recipe I shared earlier this week. We will also have a variety of fresh fruit and juices.

We have a private tea party here at noon, and then beginning at 3:00, 18 more guests will arrive and we start all over, welcoming both new and old friends.

Here is my recipe for Stuffed Panini French Toast.

1 loaf (about 1 lb.) egg braid (or any good French bread)
cream cheese
8 large eggs
2 cups half and half
1 cup milk
2 tblsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
dash of salt

Slice the bread, not too thick or thin. Soften the cream cheese and spread a small amount on half the bread slices, then top each with another slice (as if you were making a sandwich).

Mix together remaining ingredients.

Preheat a grill pan or a panini pan and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Soak each “sandwich” in the batter, then grill both sides until golden. Place grilled sandwiches on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 min. to finish cooking.

Lamb Chops

Today I have a great dinner recipe for you—for Valentine’s Day or any day of the year. As much as we love cooking for each other, Tom and I are often too busy to make fancy dinners. But we try at least once a week to make time for an exceptional meal and a few relaxing minutes in our crazy life.

Rack of lamb of is always a treat. This recipe, which I created by combining a couple of ideas, works well with the nice loin lamb chops you often find at the store these days. The marinade is very flavorful and can even be used on a leg of lamb. If you’ve never cooked lamb, try this recipe. Lamb may just become one of your favorite dishes.

Grilled Lamb Chops
4 servings

2 lbs. lamb (either rack or loin lamb chops)
1 cup oil
½ cup minced garlic
2 tblsp. fresh chopped rosemary
2 tblsp. fresh chopped thyme

Mix together all ingredients except the lamb. Marinate the lamb in the mixture for 2–24 hours. Wipe off excess marinade and grill the lamb chops until desired doneness. If using rack of lamb, grill or brown both sides in a skillet, transfer to a roasting pan, and place in the oven at 350° until desired doneness.

Crab Cakes

Are you looking for a wonderful dinner recipe to make for your special someone this weekend? Even though our business is a bed and breakfast, we often host private parties and dinners—so I have a growing collection of dinner recipes too. It’s another opportunity for me to look for new recipes and experiment with different ways to wow my guests. I love watching cooking shows on TV for inspiration. I also use Google searches to find new recipes. Sometimes I mix two recipes together and make up my own version. Here’s one I really love.

Crab Cakes

1 pound crab meat (not imitation)
1 egg
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tblsp. mayonnaise
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tblsp. Dijon mustard
1 tblsp. melted butter
1 tsp. dried parsley flakes or 1 tblsp. fresh chopped parsley
1 tsp. seafood seasoning
½ cup fresh bread crumbs

Mix together all the ingredients except the crab. Then gently fold in the crab meat. Shape into cakes and refrigerate for 30 min. Fry 12–15 min., until golden brown on each side.

Keep warm in a low oven. Serve with your favorite tartar sauce.

Tomorrow: Rack of Lamb!

Best Chocolate Recipes!

I like to include chocolate whenever possible in our breakfast menu. Today I thought I would give you two chocolate recipes that have been among my favorites for years. The first one is Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake. I cut the recipe out of the coupon section of the Sunday paper years ago. I had it in my recipe file for about five years before I finally got around to trying it. When I did, I was sorry I had wasted those five years! Not only is this cake moist and delicious, it will also keep for 2-3 days and it freezes well. A real winner.

Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup sour cream
powdered sugar

Topping:
½ cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tblsp. cinnamon

Combine butter and sugar until barely mixed. Add eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla, flour, and baking powder alternately with sour cream. Mix 2 minutes with an electric mixer on medium speed. In a separate bowl, combine the topping ingredients.

Grease a 9×13 pan and spoon in half of the batter. Sprinkle with half the topping. Top with the rest of the batter and the rest of the topping.

Bake at 325° for 45–55 min. Serve warm, sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Today’s second chocolate recipe came from a newspaper article about Mrs. Field’s cookies. This is a copy of her recipe for Deadly Chocolate Muffins. If you are craving something really chocolately, this recipe is for you!

Deadly Chocolate Muffins
Makes about 16 regular-size muffins

2 cups (12 oz.) semisweet chocolate
1 stick butter
½ cup sour cream
1 cup flour
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
4 large eggs
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1¼ cups semisweet chocolate chips
¼ cup chopped nuts (optional)
¼ cup white chocolate chips

1. Heat oven to 350°. Line muffin cups with paper liners and spray the top of the pan with nonstick spray.
2. Melt the 2 cups of semisweet chocolate with the butter in the top of a double boiler, stirring until smooth. (Or heat in the microwave, in a microwave safe bowl, for 1 minute). Remove from heat and stir in the sour cream. Cool.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Beat eggs and brown sugar with an electric mixer until light and pale, about 5 minutes. Beat in chocolate mixture and vanilla. Add flour mixture and 1 cup of the semisweet chocolate chips.
4. Mix together the remaining ¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips, chopped nuts, and white chocolate chips.
4. Spoon batter into the prepared muffin cups until about ¾ full. Top evenly with the mixture of chocolate chips, ¼ cup nuts, ¼ cup white chocolate chips.

Bake 20–25 min., until centers are set.

I’ll be serving one or both of these treats for breakfast this weekend. There’s still time to make your reservations!  www.oliverinn.com

ArtsEveryWhere.com

Whether you are a resident or visitor to the South Bend area, you may not be aware of all the wonderful theatre, dance, music and art events there are to choose from. One of my favorite Web sites is ArtsEverywhere.com, the Greater South Bend region’s “ultimate guide to arts and culture.” Not only can you find something happening just about any day of the week, you can also find great deals by clicking on their eSavers link.

This weekend there are several things going on at the Morris Performing Arts Center, such as the South Bend Symphony performing “Broadway Rocks” on Saturday, Feburary 13, at 8:00. Experience the best of Broadway all in one evening! Join the South Bend Symphony and Capathia Jenkins, Julia Murney, and Gary Mauer, three of Broadway’s best singers for great moments from the hit musicals including The Phantom of the Opera, Tommy, Rent, Lion King, Mamma Mia, Jekyll and Hyde, The Wiz, Hairspray, Chess, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Dreamgirls. The background vocals for this concert will be provided by the IU South Bend University Chorus directed by Dr. Marvin Curtis.

Many other events are taking place this week all the way through the weekend. Check it out and treat your special someone to a night on the town. Remember to check back here tomorrow, too. All this week we’ll be offering last-minute ideas and recipes for Valentine’s Day.

Insanely Great Waffles

Well, it’s Monday—less than a week until Valentine’s Day.  Have you been thinking about something special you can do any other day this week?  Making homemade breakfast is always a treat for your family, but during the week you say you are too busy. So you usually buy the frozen toaster waffles. Well, I have just the answer for you. I call them Insanely Great Waffles.  They are really wonderful, super fast and easy, and they freeze well so you can have your own “frozen toaster waffles.” Serve them with fresh fruit or your favorite maple syrup, and your family will think they are something special. (I won’t tell them you really made them because you wanted them yourself!) This recipe is sure to become a family favorite.

Insanely Great Waffles

¾ cup flour

¼ cup cornstarch

½ tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

1 cup buttermilk or whole milk

1/3 cup oil

1 egg

1 tablespoon sugar

¾ tsp. vanilla extract

Combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the milk, oil, egg, sugar, and vanilla and mix well. Let the batter sit for 30 minutes.

Preheat waffle iron. (No need to use nonstick spray; these will not stick.) Cook for 2 ½  to 3 minutes or until done.

Green Eggs and Ham Pizza

I mentioned a few days ago that I’m always searching for wonderful new recipes. One of the questions guests often ask is whether I make the same thing for breakfast every day, or if I have a specific menu for each day of the week. Absolutely not! I would get really bored making the same thing every day—or even rotating just a few menus. I admit I have a few favorites that I like to fall back on from time to time. But I love to try new recipes, and I love finding that new idea that turns out to be something my guests find irresistible. This breakfast pizza is one of those. When guests first see it, they are usually surprised. And then when they taste it and love it, I’m happy.

Give it a try, and let me know how your family likes it!

Green Eggs and Ham Pizza
(4 servings)

1 lb. pizza dough (make your own, or buy premade dough from the grocery store or your local pizza parlor)
½ cup pesto
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
sliced deli ham, cut into thin strips
4 eggs

1. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and roll each one into a 7-inch circle (or for Valentine’s day you could make a heart shape). Put them on a cookie sheet and roll up the edges to create a crusty edge.
2. Spread each crust with 1-2 tablespoons pesto.
3. Top each pizza with about ¼ cup mozzarella cheese.
4. Place 4-5 strips of sliced ham on each pizza.
5. Bake at 500 ° for about 5 min.
6. Crack a whole egg in the middle of each pizza and continue to bake for 5-7 min. longer.

Serve immediately!

Places to Eat in Downtown South Bend

Okay, so Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and you’re thinking, “I have to plan something special to do…maybe go out to dinner.” Well, this year the 14th is on a Sunday, so that gives you several options—maybe you can make a special date for Friday or Saturday when places won’t be quite as crowded. Many restaurants are offering dinner specials for the whole weekend.

If you live in the South Bend area, go to the Downtown South Bend Web site and discover all the wonderful places just around the corner from us where you can have a romantic dinner. If you are going out to eat, why not make the evening even more special by spending the night here at the Inn? We only have a few rooms left for Valentine’s weekend; check our Web site for availability.

What are your favorite places to dine here in South Bend–or wherever you live? I’d love to hear from you.

Coming tomorrow: A fabulous Green Eggs and Ham Pizza recipe!