Chocolate Chip Cookies

I just took a batch of chocolate chip cookies out of the oven. Would you like one? Here at the Inn we have homemade cookies every day. I use the Nestle’s Toll House recipe right off the bag. I make up the dough on Monday and keep it in the refrigerator. Every afternoon, right before our guests arrive, I scoop out a few cookies and bake them. Fresh baked cookies make the whole Inn smell great, and most people find them irresistible.

Before we bought the Inn, I would make a batch of dough, scoop the cookies into balls, and freeze them. Then after a busy day, I could still make freshly baked homemade cookies for my family. I know these days you can buy frozen hunks of cookie dough and do pretty much the same thing with even less work. But why not try making your own frozen cookie dough balls? It really takes very little time, and they’re tastier–and more economical–than the premade ones.

And don’t forget you’re always welcome to join us for freshly baked cookies here at the Inn. We still have a few rooms left for this weekend!

Flowers in Winter!

People love to get flowers. And not just on the special days–Valentine’s Day, anniversary, birthday… Flowers are always a nice surprise. Flowers are a great way to tell your special someone, “I love you; I’m thinking of you.”

Here we are, in the middle of a long, snowy winter. Maybe a sunny bouquet is just what your wife needs to brighten her day. Or ladies, perhaps you can do a turnaround and get your husband a rose or a few beautiful flowers from the store you’re shopping at today.

Some of our most popular packages at the Inn include flowers. It’s always fun to see the reactions of the one being surprised with flowers as a special treat. Just remember, it’s always a good day to bring someone flowers!

Lime Salmon

The weekend is coming to an end, and maybe you are thinking about dinner plans for the week ahead. Here is an easy, healthy dinner recipe. The first time I made this recipe for a private dinner party, it got rave reviews. Sometimes simple can be as wonderful as a meal that takes hours to prepare.

Lime Salmon

salmon filets
salt and pepper
4 tblsp. butter
one lime

Season filets with salt and pepper. Melt butter and add the juice of the lime along with the zest. Grill or sautee the salmon on one side and then turn over and brush with the lime butter. Once the salmon is done, brush with more lime butter.

Very easy and so tasty. Serve with some steamed vegetables and a maybe a baked sweet potato and a salad, and dinner is ready!

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

Do you love chocolate dipped strawberries? They’re incredibly easy to make, and you can surprise your loved ones with a treat that will make them feel very special. If you have small children they may want to help.

Combine 1 cup (6 oz.) chocolate chips (I like to use dark chocolate) with 1 tablespoon of solid shortening, like Crisco, in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for one minute, then stir until smooth. If the chips aren’t quite melted, heat the mixture for an additional 15 seconds at a time. Dip clean, dry strawberries in the chocolate and lay them on a sheet of wax paper until set. If you’re in a hurry, you can put them in the refrigerator to help them set faster.

You can dip other things besides strawberries, too–like pretzels, cookies, or other kinds of fruit. Be creative. And be sure to let me know how it turns out!

So much to do in South Bend!

Are the never-ending snowflakes getting you down? The dreariness of winter’s cold and snow and clouds? Do you need to get away and get out and do something fun? Look no further than South Bend! We have so much going on here that there’s a special Web site to cover it all. Visit ArtsEverywhere.com to see what’s going on the weekend you want to visit. Or plan your visit around a special event that interests you. Don’t forget to check out the eSavers link for special discount offers. You’ll find plays and concerts, symphonies, great dining, and of course a great bed and breakfast ready and waiting to pamper you. Most of the events in town are within walking distance of the Inn, so you can “go green” even in the dead of winter!

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.