Saturday, December 29, 2012

Potato Cakes

What's the only thing needed on a snow day? (Besides the more serious essentials, like shovels, snow boots, hats and gloves, etc.) Comforting...carb-loaded potato cakes, with a golden crust to hold in the creamy and warm inside. Did I mention these have bacon in them? I know, the story gets better...I don't know how this happened but it happened, I found creme fraiche at a health food store on sale! I couldn't wait to try it in my mashed potatoes and they came out great! The recipe is below for the mashed potatoes I made but if you have a tried-and-true mashed potato recipe, just set aside 2 cups for the potato cakes. For this recipe you'll need cold mashed potatoes, so leftovers from the fridge are great. Stay warm, happy weekend and enjoy!

  • 1 pound skin-on Yukon Gold potatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 heaping tablespoon creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon crumbly Gorgonzola
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • sea salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely cubed bacon *optional
  • plain or seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup flour, sifted
  • canola oil for frying

Cook your potatoes until fork tender, drain and mash in the creme fraiche, cheese, cream, butter. Season with sea salt and ground pepper. Allow to cool and place in the refrigerator. Once you are ready to make your cakes, fry up the bacon in a touch of canola oil, until as crisp as you like. Allow to drain on a paper towel and mix into the mashed potatoes. Add in the flour and combine well. (Depending on the consistency of your mashed potato recipe, you may have to add more flour. They shouldn't stick to your hands as you roll them.) Form into little balls, (using a cookie dough scoop works great.) and then roll them between your hands to smooth them out. Press the balls into the bread crumbs on both sides, forming little cakes. Heat up the canola oil until hot on medium-high heat in a non-stick skillet. Fry in batches, browning on both sides. About a minute on each side is enough. Drain on paper towels, then move onto a paper bag, so they stay crisp. Serve with sour cream. Makes 22 potato cakes.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Calamari with Fennel in a Saffron Tomato Broth

It's the most enjoyed time of year for food lovers. As my husband came home the other day, with all of these goodies that aren't usually in the house, I couldn't help but feeling like a child opening up gifts on Christmas day, as I unwrapped cheese pastries, gingerbread, poppy seed breads and a variety of kielbasas. Foods that aren't usually had, enjoyed (really enjoyed) and now the time comes, (sigh) the guilt of over indulgence. And to remedy it, a light, yet flavorful dinner is needed. Fennel is a great vegetable, flavorful, light and combining it with seafood makes an equally flavorful meal. But...if you are still indulging, lol, top with a little cream and it's a symphony of flavors, nice enough for a small impromptu party. Enjoy!

  • 1 pound squid tentacles
  • 3/4 cup minced shallot
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 fennel bulb, cut into small slices
  • reserved fennel fronds for garnish
  • 6 Campari tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup water
  • pinch saffron threads
  • pinch annatto
  • pinch smoked paprika
  • pinch fennel seeds, crushed and chopped
  • sea salt
  • ground black pepper
  • pinch Vegeta seasoning or any all-purpose seasoning

In a heavy bottomed pot, like a Dutch oven, combine the olive oil, butter and shallot. Saute on low heat, until softened about 10 minutes. Add in the fennel bulb, very little salt, pepper, saffron, annato, smoked paprika and fennel seeds and give it a good stir. Cover and cook on low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in the tomatoes, tomato paste and water and let it simmer on low for 20 minutes until the tomato has broken down, stirring occasionally. Add in the calamari and cook for a few minutes, until the calamari is opaque and firm. Adjust the seasoning as needed with salt and Vegeta. Serve with a small shaped pasta, rice, grits or even smooth and creamy mashed potatoes would be a nice side dish. Top with fennel fronds. Serves 4.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Walnut Bon-Bons

If you leave some walnut bon-bons for Santa, I don't think he will be disappointed, as he bites into a Nutella covered walnut topped with creamy milk or deep dark chocolate and some sea salt flakes. You might wake up to find a letter from Santa, asking for the recipe. ;) The process is a little messy but it's the kind of making-mud-pies-type-of-fun, that's therapeutic and relaxing. Enlist the kids to help out, I'm sure it will be lots of fun! Enjoy! Everyone enjoy their Christmas! I hope it's filled with lots of merriment, laughter and good cheer!

  • 1/3 cup Nutella
  • 32 walnut halves
  • 1/2 pound milk or dark chocolate
  • smoked sea salt flakes like Maldons* optional

Chop your chocolate and place in a double boiler or with a metal bowl placed over a pot with a small amount of boiling water. Always be careful, when using the second method and use pot holders. Make sure you don't put too much water in the pot. Have your walnut halves ready and spoon on about a teaspoon or less of  Nutella onto your walnut, filling the crevices, (using a small rounded cheese knife worked great.) Using a fork to hold your walnut half, spoon on the melted chocolate. Balance between another fork, so the excess chocolate falls back into the bowl and place on parchment paper. Top with as little or as much sea salt as you like, if you like and allow to set in a cold pantry or refrigerator. Makes 32 bon-bons.

Step no. 5 is the most fun! ;)

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Side Dish of Sauteed Mushrooms

It may not be the prettiest dish to look at (just dim the lights and use lots of candles, lol) but there is never a holiday, where it's not on the table. I'm a mushroom lover and it's a simple dish that I always loved cooking and eating. (Make sure to use a wooden spoon, when tossing and stirring the mushrooms. I'm giving you advice that my mom would give me but when I would ask why? There would be no real answer except it tastes better, lol. But I've found the answer, wooden spoons and spatulas are gentle enough on your enamelled cast iron pots, while being substantial enough to handle what is in them.) You can always add some herbs like rosemary or marjoram to make them more special. This goes great with yesterdays' post, "Pistachio & Coriander Crusted Prime Rib." If there are any leftovers, you can toss them with cooked cheese tortellini and top with grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese. Enjoy!

  • 2 1/2 pounds button mushrooms, sliced about 1/2 inch thick*
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (equalling about 1 cup)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • sea salt
  • ground black pepper

In a heavy 5 1/2 quart Dutch oven, combine the onion and butter and saute on low heat, uncovered until the onion is softened about 5 minutes. Add in the mushrooms and give them a nice toss and salt them. (I add them in two batches.) Cover your pot and give them another toss after about 10 minutes. Cook on low heat covered for an hour, stirring occasionally. Your pot will be filled with them but once they cook, they reduce down to about a third, so if you are serving many people, you might want to double the recipe. For a family of mushroom lovers, it's a good idea. After the hour is up, make sure your mushrooms are tender. (If tossing in any herbs, do so at this point.) Increase the heat to medium-high for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the liquids have evaporated. Adjust the seasoning as needed.

*I usually wipe down the mushrooms with a damp cloth but running them under water won't hurt to remove the dirt. Then trim the bottoms, if needed. You can alternatively quarter the mushrooms, instead of slicing them.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pistachio & Coriander Crusted Prime Rib Roast

A slow roasted prime rib on Christmas bring a specialness to the dinner table. I remember the first time making it, how nervous I was, it took so long. I think in part because I kept opening the oven and checking its' temperature, lol. By the time the oven had warmed itself back up, I was checking it again, a roller coaster ride of uneven oven temperatures, a roast does not like. A prime rib roast has a perfect Christmas dinner feeling to it, as the evening becomes dark, the tree is lit, Christmas songs are played in the background and the ooos and ahhhs as the prime rib emerges from the oven. It's a truly memorable feast, once a year. As funny as it sounds, I remember the years not having it, the vegetarian years, the year I made ham (fantasizing it was prime rib, lol) and the year that I don't count because I cooked it way too long, where it was all grey inside, as my mood on the outside. I hate ruining anything in the kitchen, especially, a special dinner but there was no saving it, except lots of gravy and having it for leftovers in sandwiches. I've always made it as most cook books suggest with salt and pepper, served with a horseradish sauce but adding pistachios, nutmeg and coriander adds a delicious crust to the roast and gives it another level of richness. It's a nice variation for anyone looking for a twist on the classic. Enjoy!

For the roast:
  • 1 4-pound prime rib roast with bone, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup raw pistachios, crushed very fine
  • 1/4  heaping teaspoon whole coriander seeds, crushed and chopped
  • pinch cinnamon
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • fresh ground  black pepper
  • sea salt

For the horseradish-pistachio sauce:
  • 8 oz. heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup home style prepared horseradish in a jar, usually found in the refrigerator section, squeezed dry, reserving the liquid
  • 1 tablespoon of the pistachio mixture

Combine the pistachios, coriander seeds, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Adjust the seasonings as needed. (A nice amount of nutmeg really stands up to the flavors of the roast.) Salt and pepper the entire roast. On a separate plate, lightly score the fatty part of the roast and pack on most of the pistachio mixture. (Reserving 1 tablespoon, plus some for garnish, for the horseradish pistachio sauce.) You really want to pack it on and then move it to a heavy bottomed roasting pan. Roast in a pre-heated 325 degree oven, averaging 20-25 minutes per pound, with 20 minutes for rare and moving up to well-done. (To be sure, use a meat thermometer to check for doneness.) Let your roast rest an average of 5 minutes per pound, loosely covered with aluminum foil. In the mean time, combine the heavy cream, horseradish and pistachio mixture, adjusting the seasoning with extra salt, pepper and the reserved liquid from the horseradish. You can always serve horseradish on the side so everyone can help themselves in making their sauces spicier. Garnish with the reserved pistachio mixture. Serves 4

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Birds of Paradise Holiday Bouquet

I love winter branches and berries, rich fragrant juniper, pretty holly and red berries. But as odd as it may sound, I love throwing in a few stalks of unbloomed birds of paradise. The long slender stalks bring in an unexpected humor to a winter bouquet and makes me think of Santas in shorts with sunglasses on, while sipping on frosty beach drinks, like margaritas or even better, pina coladas. Growing up on the cold winters of the east coast, I've always thought, how fun it must be to enjoy the holidays surrounded by palm trees and sandy beaches and adding in the tropical flower, brings that vision a little closer. It's not only a beautiful and unique flower but long lasting. Come new years', you can upcycle your bouquet, (removing what has dried, if anything has and adding in something new, if you like) and "pop" open your birds of paradise, giving a burst of color to your bouquet and hopefully the new year!

For this bouquet, I put in two birds of paradise stalks, cut at different lenghts (if they have a slight film on them, spray them with a fruit and vegetable wash and follow the instructions on the bottle and it pretty much clears up, repeat if needed) and added in the red berry branch. I tucked in juniper branches in the front and a little behind the birds of paradise and added in the variegated holly as a filler, trimming to the desired heights. Adding in white branches would be nice, along with any pine tree trimmings. For the vase, I wrapped a clear glass vase with burlap and tied it with a red bow. (Do this step before filling your vase, lol, my mistake.) If your birds of paradise haven't opened up on their own, (they take a long time to bloom) dip the top part into warm water and gently pull out the flower inside, helping it along. ;)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

In Memory of Connecticut Angels

I started to write about a popcorn recipe and tried to make it light hearted and it just felt wrong because inside and out, I am crying a river of tears. This blog is about sharing a recipe with you, some deeper thoughts sprinkled throughout and maybe an inspiring idea to make your space happier, for goodness sake this blog has the word happiness in the title. But I feel far from, very far from it. I'm so sad that those little kids didn't get to experience life. In a essence they were, now are, angels. At the same time, I'm angry, why did it have to happen and as many times, as I go through my thoughts, I can't make peace with any of them. We are all crying, inside and out and my prayers go out to the families and God, I wish that there was a magic eraser that could take away their pain and just bring their babies back. There is a light to this darkness, there just has to be, and I hope that it comes very soon because we need it, after such a heart-wrenching heartbreak. We pray for you and with you, that you may find peace in your hearts one day.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Sweet Butter Sticks

One of my favorite cookies...shortbread. I love their butteriness. They are the perfect cookie. But it's the holidays, a time of year where everything has an extra special touch to it. And for all of the non-cookie makers that want to be but have burned too many batches of cookies and have kind of given up, (maybe we just need new stoves, maybe our oven temperatures are off? Hmmm...) such as myself, making an already mastered cookie into a special treat is easy, delicious and even your Aunt Betty may give you a dirty look across the table, as your cookies take center stage. (Quickly take the attention off your cookies onto hers and give her your secret and the relationship will be easily mended. Next year when she brings these same cookies over, exclaim as loud as you can, "Aunt Betty, these are the best cookies I've ever had! I need the recipe!" All will be well between the two of you. You can't steal Aunt Bettys' thunder.) These are too good and need to be shared. They are nice because they satisfy everyones' taste buds. You have minty, nutty, tart and a little savory with the salt. Double the recipe as needed. And of course you can use homemade shortbread cookies. ;) Enjoy and happy-happy weekend everyone!

  • 8 rectangular shortbread cookies, like Walkers 
  • a little less than 1/4 pound white chocolate, roughly chopped, the smaller the better
  • crushed butter mints or butter candies
  • roughly chopped dried cranberries
  • chopped raw pistachios or walnuts
  • smoked sea salt flakes

Melt your white chocolate in a double broiler or in a set-up of a small pot with boiling water and a bowl holding the chocolate in it. Stir until the chocolate is nice and smooth and be careful. Once your chocolate is melted dip the tops of the cookies in the chocolate, if you have some left over you can coat an entire cookie if you like. Top with your butter mints, dried cranberries, pistachios and salt flakes. You can do them all with one topping or a mix, like pictured.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Chai-ed Milk with Black Spice Rum

When I was little, I found a recipe for a sweet hot milk in a childrens' cookbook and couldn't wait to try it. My mom was never enthusiastic about me using the stove and I had to ask her when she was in good spirits, lol. And it was around Christmas time, that I first made the recipe with milk, sugar and vanilla. Did I love it, especially because it was sweet and spiced with vanilla. It was almost like a hot melted scoop of vanilla ice cream. much as I like ice cream soup, it doesn't seem too appealing now, lol but a chai spiced almond milk spiked with black spice rum sounds much better. ;) Enjoy!

  • 16 oz. vanilla flavored almond milk
  • 3 oz. black spiced rum
  • 2 chai tea bags
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch ground cinnamon
  • fresh nutmeg

This is a great cocktail that works with any kind of milk, regular, soy, almond or rice. You can use plain or vanilla flavored. (If using regular milk, you might want to add more honey or even sugar and adjust as needed. Just add the sugar in as the milk is warming up.) On low heat, bring the almond milk to an almost boil. Add in your tea bags, cover and let steep for 10 minutes. With a spoon, squeeze your tea bags to get all of the flavor out. Whisk in your honey. Add in the black spiced rum, vanilla, cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg. If you want your chai super hot, you can do this on the stove or you can cool it down with an ice cube and sip with a straw. Serves 2.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Chamomile & Olive Oil Salt Scrub

Prescription for a better night:

  • Step 1: Sit comfortably, in a quiet space.
  • Step 2: Deep inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth, slowly. (Repeat ten times or set a timer for 5 minutes.)
  • Step 3: Next, take a nice long hot shower using this salt scrub. (Take your time, relax, count a few things you are grateful for, no matter how big or small)
  • Step 4: Repeat steps 1 & 2
  • Step 5: Relax and enjoy your evening, you deserve it.

  • 1 cup Epsom salt
  • 1 chamomile tea bag
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

Break open the tea bag and add to the salt, stir with a fork. Add in the olive oil and stir until combined. The olive oil is really nice for dry winter skin. This makes a nice gift also, especially in a rustic bowl, just double the recipe as needed for the container that you put it in. Unmarked vintage canisters make great containers also, as do apothecary jars. Prescription instructions optional. ;) Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Crushed Chocolate Covered Cherry Pie

One of my favorite things about this time of year are the chocolate covered cherries. I loved when that box was opened up to be enjoyed, they were such a treat. I saw those foiled wrapped jewels the other day at the drugstore and thought a crushed chocolate covered cherry pie would be delicious! And if I used cherry juice it would be kind of healthy? No? Lol, I'm trying. But seriously, this pie isn't too sweet, getting most of the sweetness from the chocolate covered cherries and the whipped topping. Enjoy!

  • 1 ready made chocolate pie crust
  • 8 oz. container frozen whipped topping plus 1 cup, softened
  • 1 1/4 cup 100% cherry juice
  • 8 chocolate covered cherries
  • 2 envelopes unflavored gelatine

Begin by bringing 1/2 a cup of the cherry juice to a boil. Add in 2 chocolate covered cherries, finely chopped, allowing the chocolate to melt. With the remaining cold juice, in a shallow plate, top with the gelatin and let it sit for a minute. Stir in the boiling cherry juice and stir until dissolved. Fold in the whipped topping and pour into the pie shell. Let sit overnight until set. (I usually invert the top of the pie crust container, to cover the pie when putting it into the freezer and once set, move the frozen pie into a pie plate.) Once you are ready to serve, let it sit out for a little bit and chop the remaining chocolate covered cherries and top the pie with them. Serves 8.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Burlap Wine Wrap

I have a reoccurring fantasy this time of year, where I am calmly wrapping gifts (beautifully, with crisp edges and lots of fluffy, curled ribbon) as the fire is crackling, Christmas music is playing, as I take sips of wine and relish in some of the preparation of the season. Taking a twirl as I place each wrapped gift under the tree. (I'm also in a sexy dress and high heels, I'm thinner and it's snowing out. Juicy fat flakes, slowing falling before the window.) But the fantasy never becomes reality. I'm always rushed when it comes to wrapping gifts, usually wearing sweat pants, eyeing the clock and the roast in the oven. Running in circles. Usually, wrapping presents Christmas morning. Sometimes I like pressure and beating the clock. (Time always wins.) And through the years, I have found interesting ways to wrap gifts as sometimes, (gasp) I've ran out of paper. So, for the much loved gift of wine, burlap is a great, (compostable by the way) alternative to the wine bag or box, which are beautiful but the burlap takes on a natural beauty and ends up making it extra special.

For the burlap wine wrap, measure out a 12x12 (you may need a bigger piece depending on the height of the bottle) piece of burlap. For a neater look, cut along the natural threads in the fabric to reduce fraying. Line up the bottom of the wine bottle with the end of the burlap, with the back of the wine bottle facing the opening. Take your ribbon of choice, either a shiny satin ribbon, natural jute or textured yarn and tie a knot, leaving a two inch tail.

With the yarn, (about 6 feet in length) wind it around the bottle making a design. Tie the end of the yarn with the tail and trim the ends. Next, tie a small knot at the neck of the bottle and tie it closed. Tie in a fresh piece of holly or greenery and trim the end. For the tag, I use a paper bag. Cut a 3x4 piece of the paper bag and rip the edges (for a more organic look) and fold in half. Write your message inside and the lucky persons' name on your tag. You can crumple and hand iron it to give it more of a rustic look. (That happened by default too, as the only paper bag I had was tightly wound up for kindling, lol) Use a hole punch to create your opening for the yarn and tie into the neck of the bottle. Happy wrapping! ;)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Snowball Wreath

So hard to believe but I haven't started decorating for Christmas yet. These pictures are from last year. They say when inspiration strikes, you should act on it and I'm glad I did because last year I was so drawn to wreaths made out of felt "snowballs". And I was so inspired by them, I decided to make one at home, out of a variety of yarn and Styrofoam spheres. (This year I'm obsessed with plaid, I wouldn't be "in the flow" to make this kind of wreath this time around.) But I do love it and it's inspired me to do some decorating this weekend. I do wish I had more step-by-step pictures but I'll explain how to make it! It's was pretty easy and fun. Great for a weekend project! Speaking of...Happy weekend everyone!

For this wreath you will need:
(all found at your local craft store, except for the holly)
  • 1 16 inch Styrofoam ring or smaller
  • 4 different types of white, or ivory yarn
  • one of those Styrofoam galaxy kits (you will probably have some spheres left over)
  • a variety of different size Styrofoam balls, a few 3 1/2 - 4 inch, 3 inch and 2 inch, about (four each)
  • a glue gun
  • fresh holly to tuck in between the snowballs 

First, you want to begin wrapping your Styrofoam ring with one of the yarn. (The plainest and least expensive is best, it's just the form to glue your snowballs to.) You want to wrap evenly and end it with a knot. (You will probably do this a few times, not consecutively.) Make sure your ring is covered as best as possible, wrapping the yarn close as possible around the ring. Depending on what kind of galaxy kit you get, how large and how small of a variety and how many will depend on how many different size Styrofoam balls you will need. For a 16 inch ring, I used a total of about 47 balls, with about four being 3 1/2 - 4 inch big,  four 3 inch and four 2 inch with the rest coming from the galaxy kit. You want to wrap each ball with each of the different yarns. It's nice to get a variety. I got one very thick, one very thin, one with texture and one pretty plain one. Once you are in the craft store, you'll see what the selection is. You want them the same color but the texture of the yarn to give it interest. You will really need 8 large snowballs (the 3 1/2 to 4 inch) and the rest are fillers to your wreath. That's where the galaxy kit comes in, with its' variety of sizes. I worked in fours. Separating the ball sizes and dividing them each into four, and then wrapping each size in the variety of yarn. Just begin wrapping your ball, working in one direction then changing direction so the yarn stays on securely and you want to knot it at the end. (I really hope I'm explaining this good enough. Once you have everything in front of you, it will come together much easier than it sounds.) Lay your ring down and you want to only work of the surface of it. Begin pretty randomly hot gluing your largest snowballs on, with enough space in between to make it even and with the next largest being worked in between, balancing on the outer and inner edges. Continue hot gluing the smaller snowballs until the wreath is complete. (Until you are happy with it.) Hang your wreath on a long nail and enjoy!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Warm Brown Rice Salad

My mom used to throw cold leftover white rice into salads, like "side salad" type of salads with iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and onions with sweet and tangy French dressing. Those salads would be main meals in the summertime. I loved them as a kid! They were the best on a hot summer day. But it's December and it's cold out, yet I'm craving a salad. And I thought that warm brown rice with bitter arugula, walnuts and tart cranberries would make a nice salad. It was so good! So quick to make, surprisingly satisfying and healthy too. Enjoy!

  • 2 cups cooked brown rice 
  • 2 cups tightly packed baby arugula, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces
  • 2 heaping teaspoon dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar with pear pulp (found in the vinegar aisle)
  • 2 teaspoons roasted walnut oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh orange, clementine or tangerine juice
  • sea salt
  • fresh ground black pepper

To your cooked rice, add in the arugula, walnut pieces and cranberries. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, orange juice. Season with sea salt and ground pepper. Pour over the salad and combine well. Serve nice and warm. Serves 2.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Turkey Mince Meat Pie

So there is this great Dutch bakery near the house that has the best lemon filled donuts. Around a mile away from the bakery, my mouth starts watering. (I really should keep a bib in the glove compartment, lol.) And in this bakery, besides delicious baked goods are Dutch food items, cheeses and such and I came across this meatball seasoning that I have used a few times and has been a great seasoning to yes, meatballs. It's spicy with nutmeg, coriander and ginger and it adds a nice and different touch to the average meatball. It's a nice transition from the parsley and lemon or cilantro and lime flavors, from the warmer days. And as I see these jars of mysterious mince meat pop up around this time of year, I can see how a savory and sweet meat pie would be appealing. So I thought to myself, this seasoning would be great to make a mince meat pie! And the flavor of the filling was great, slightly sweet, a little spicy and oh so savory. But the filling ended up shrinking a bit, so if there are any true mince meat pie makers out there, I would love some tips! And I ended up poking the pie to take the internal  temperature and after that, the juices ran from the center (volcano-like), spreading the juices throughout the crust, softening it. So I wonder if I didn't poke the center would it have come out better? I would love to hear any thoughts! And if you want to hold the crust, mince meatballs or mince meat patties would be nice using the filling. Enjoy!

  • 2 pounds ground lean turkey
  • 1 Fuji apple, peeled and grated, squeezed extra dry
  • 2 Medjool dates, pitted and finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Gehakt seasoning, (or you can also use a mix of ground mace, cloves, pepper and nutmeg)
  • 2 teaspoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • sea salt
  • 1 9" ready to roll pie crust

Combine the turkey, apple, dates, panko crumbs, egg and seasonings well. Prepare your pie crust, pressing firmly into the plate, trimming the excess if you like or scalloping the edge. Press the turkey mixture into the pie shell, smoothing the surface of the pie, so it's even. Cover the pie crust with pieces of aluminium foil so they don't brown too quickly and end up burning. Place in a 350 degree pre-heated oven and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover the crust and continue baking for about 30 minutes or longer until nice and brown. Let it rest about 10 minutes before you cut into it. If making the meatballs or patties, heat up a canola oil until hot and fry up in batches. Serve with creamy mashed potatoes and sauteed red cabbage and onions on the side. A creamy gravy would be nice too. Enjoy!

 This seasoning may be hard to find, so this is Bliss House Happiness's first giveaway! I'm so excited! Send me an e-mail at and enter your first name and last initial, your city and state and on December 12th, I'll have the drawing and announce the winner! Sorry at this time, only U.S. addresses will be in the drawing. Don't worry if you can't find the seasoning, you can order it at mention Bliss House Happiness and get 10% off! Great spice to have in your cupboard!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Cavatelli & Baby Kale

"Cavatelli and Broccoli" rolls off the tongue a lot easier than "Cavatelli and Baby Kale" but it satisfies the taste buds sitting on the tongue, just the same or pretty close. As many times as I've tried to make cavatelli and broccoli at home, it doesn't come out as good as from a restaurant. But if I'm completely honest here, I like when the cavatelli and broccoli are slicked with garlicky oil and I like to dip my bread into the pools of oil sitting on the bottom of the plate, (no judgement please, lol) slick and shiny, resembling mini ice skating rinks. My bread, being skates, gliding along the slippery plate. So, I've given up recreating the exact dish at home but have found a nice substitute for the broccoli found in the salad section, baby kale. And it makes a nice dish at home that's quick, easy and tasty. Perfect for this hustling and bustling time of year. Enjoy!

  • 13 oz. bag frozen cavatelli
  • 3 cups tightly packed baby kale, roughly chopped
  • 8 cloves of garlic, smashed and finely minced
  • 2 quarts of water
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil plus a drizzle for the pasta water 
  • sea salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a large pot, bring the water up to a boil and add in the bouillon cube and a drizzle of olive oil. Stir well, so the bouillon cube dissolves. Add more salt if needed. Toss in your cavatelli and cook for about 5 minutes, until they rise to the top. Drain them and reserve 1/4 cup or more of the pasta water. In the meantime, in a large pan, combine the garlic, butter and olive oil and saute on low heat, stirring often until the garlic turns nice and soft, if you see it beginning to brown, add a tablespoon or two of the pasta water to slow down the cooking process. Once the garlic is soft, toss in the kale until wilted. It doesn't take long at all for it to wilt. Toss in the cavatelli and 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Season with sea salt if needed and fresh ground black pepper. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and give it a nice toss. Drizzle with a little extra olive oil if you like. Makes 2-3 servings.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Pork Loin with Thyme, Orange & Prune Sauce

Hello December! The month that is waited for earnestly, with great excitement. It's the happiest month of the year, usually full of cheer and merriment. And chances are, you'll have a party, to spread the cheer. Which sometimes, can be more stressful, than not. But here is a nice idea for a dish that has lots of flavor that isn't too demanding of time but tastes like it is. A succulent juicy pork loin gently flavored with thyme, oranges and sweetened with prunes. And a touch of Grand Marnier, makes it extra special. The secret to the pork being so juicy and flavorful is letting it sit overnight in the juices and when your pork is done, making a nice sauce out of the pan juices. Mmmm...go send out those invites! ;)

  • 5 pound boneless pork loin
  • 6 springs of thyme
  • 1 cup tightly packed prunes, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice (about 4 oranges)
  • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, divided
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 5 tablespoons heavy cream
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • fresh ground black pepper

Generously salt and pepper your pork loin. And place 5 of the springs of thyme diagonally, over the pork. In 2 inch intervals, tie off your pork. (I used 7, 14-inch pieces of kitchen twine to tie off the pork, trimming the excess.) In a heavy bottomed 13x9 pan, drizzle a little olive oil in the bottom of the pan. Place your pork down, fat side up. Sprinkle the prunes around the pork and pour the orange, apple, 1 tablespoon of the Grand Marnier over the loin. Add in the leaves of the remaining spring of thyme. Cover with foil and let sit in your refrigerator overnight. Once you are ready to bake your pork, bring it to room temperature, or slightly under. Dot your pork with the butter and place in the oven, tightly covered. Bake for and hour and a half at 325 degrees, averaging 20 minutes per pound. Half way through, baste your pork. Once your pork is done, carefully move it to a cutting board and cover with the foil, allowing it to rest. Take your pan juices and prunes. Set up a strainer over a bowl and drain your prunes, squeezing the prunes, to get out all of the liquids. Using a hand immersion blender, puree your prunes and set aside. Ladle your pan juices into a gravy separator and pour the defatted juices into a pot, continuing until all of the liquid is defatted and add in the prune puree and the remaining tablespoon of Grand Marnier. Bring to a boil and season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Whisk in the heavy cream, simmering for about 3 minutes, until thickened. Remove the twine and discard. Cut into thin or thick slices and serve with the sauce on the side. Serves a party of 6.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Chicken Fried Turkey

The last day of November! The cold weather is upon us. And there is nothing better on a cold day than a hot plate of stick-to-your-ribs food fare. And when you look up "stick-to-your-ribs" in the dictionary, there is a picture of chicken fried steak but we are watching calories here, substituting the steak for turkey. (I am in denial, I know, lol.) I remember the first time having country gravy at a small hometown place, in one of the Carolinas for breakfast with hearty grits and thought to myself, that it wasn't very exciting!? I fantasized for the longest time, probably since knowing I was taking the road trip to see my cousin off to college, how I would fall in love with this thick luscious looking gravy and how it would be my go-to-gravy, that saved every bland meal, but I wasn't so excited about it, until I had it with chicken fried steak in a great soul food restaurant years later. Country gravy goes with chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes like peanut butter to jelly and butter to bread. They just go together nicely. But I never learned how to make it, so I thought who better to learn that from than the Pioneer Woman? The pictures are great and so easy to grasp. You can check out the purist recipe at I played around with the recipe a little bit, adding sun dried tomatoes, fresh sage and butter (?) I don't know what I was thinking but it came out good, especially because I like that herb-y deep flavor of sage. This does a good job of sticking to your ribs, on a cold, late autumn, overcast day. Happy weekend everyone!

For the turkey steaks: 
  • 1 pound turkey breast cutlets, about 4 pieces
  • milk for dipping
  • 1 cup flour
  • generous pinch ground sage
  • pinch of sweet paprika
  • lots of fresh ground black pepper
  • sea salt
  • canola oil

For the country gravy:
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 sun dried tomatoes from a oil packed jar, drained and finely minced
  • 1 sage leaf, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons of grease from pan
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • sea salt
  • lots of fresh ground black pepper

Begin by pounding the turkey cutlets until thin. (I use a wooden board that is used just for this purpose and put plastic wrap over the meat and then pound with a meat mallet, using the flat side.) If the pieces get too large, which they can, cut them in half. Set up a breading station, one plate with the milk, one with the seasoned flour and one large platter for the seasoned cutlets. Mix the dry ingredients of the flour, ground sage, paprika, sea salt and ground pepper. Next dip the cutlets into the milk followed by the seasoned flour, pressing the flour deeply into the turkey, ensuring that every millimeter is coated. Heat up your canola oil in a large heavy bottomed pan until nice and hot. Next fry your seasoned cutlets. They cook in a matter of less than a minute per each side. You really have to keep an eye on them. Once they are browned around the edges, flip and fry on the other side. Drain on paper towels, then move them onto paper bags, so they stay crisp. Work through the rest of the batch until all are fried up. Carefully drain all but 2 tablespoons of the grease from the pan, leaving the bits for flavor. Sprinkle in the 2 tablespoons of flour, whisking quickly and allowing it to brown on low to medium heat. Add in a little of the milk, the sun dried tomatoes, minced sage, sea salt and pepper. Continue adding in the remaining milk and butter, increasing the heat if needed. Cook until the mixture bubbles away and turns into a country gravy. It doesn't take long at all. (If you want more gravy, double the country gravy recipe.) Serve with mashed potatoes or flaky buttery biscuits. Mmmm....Serves 4.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Chicken & Tripe Stew

I was lucky enough to live next door to my best friend when I was younger, that had a mom with a golden touch when she cooked. Everything she made was finger-licking good! She even made liver taste good, something that I cringed at. (They told me it was liver afterwards. They called it "steak" and looked at each other suspiciously, lol, I should have known. But they knew me better. I wouldn't have tried it, had I known.) After eating dinner at home, I would go next door to hang out and her mom insisted that I eat dinner with them. I would half-heartedly explain that I wasn't hungry, I already ate at home. But the truth was I was always hungry for her cooking. She would talk me into it by telling me she would only give me  "poquito," meaning a little bit in Spanish. And was I so happy for that little bit. My sin of gluttony felt heavenly, every-single-bite. One of my favorite dishes she made was "Mondongo", a stew of tripe, chicken, yucca, plantain and corn. She served it with a creamy wedge of ripe cool avocado and perfectly made white rice, where the rice didn't stick to each other, every grain retaining its' shape and a gentle flavor of garlic permeating the grains. What she did, I tried to recreate but it will never be like hers. I'm sure I will be perfecting this over time and sharing round two one day but for now, this is a nice first try. Enjoy! Serves about 4-6 generous portions.

  • 1 pound of honey comb tripe, cut into 1 inch squares
  • 10 cups water
  • 6 chicken drumsticks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
  • 1 green plantain, peeled and cut diagonally
  • 1 yucca (about a pound in weight) peeled, cut into 1 inch rings, those rings, quartered
  • 1 red pepper
  • 2 cubanelle peppers
  • 1 bag of frozen pre-cut corn on the cob, about 4 pieces
  • 1 8oz. can Spanish style tomato sauce
  • 1 packet Sazon (with coriander and annatto)
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • generous pinch of Vegeta
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • pinch of sea salt
  • nice handful cilantro

First cook your tripe. (A smelly daunting long process. It really is worth making more at once. And freezing it. Once I cooked down the pound of tripe, it amounted to a small heap and after I snuck a few bites, there was even less of it. So, if you are a tripe lover, you can easily cook more of it to add to your stew.) Cover you tripe with enough cold water (enough to cover by 2 inches, so the tripe pieces float), a little sea salt and bring to a boil on high heat, covered. Once it boils, lower the heat and simmer for 2 hours, covered, occasionally stirring the pot, so the tripe doesn't stick. Drain your tripe and set aside. In a heavy Dutch oven,  heat your olive oil, onion and garlic on low heat until transparent, add the Sazon packet and stir well. Add in the tripe, water, plantain, yucca, tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Once it boils, lower the heat and simmer covered, for 1 hour. During that time, you want to blister your peppers. To blister you peppers, put them directly on an open flame, on the stove, until the skins blacken. It doesn't take long. Turn them, so they blacken evenly. Please be careful, use grill tongs, and wear gloves in a well ventillated area. Or you can do this on the grill. Place them in a paper bag to cool. Once cool, peel the skins, remove the seeds and the white membrane. Roughly chop them and blend them in a blender or use a hand immersion blender, until pureed. Once your hour is up, add in your chicken drumsticks, (you can remove the skin if you like) pepper puree, black pepper, sea salt and Vegeta. Simmer this for another hour, on low heat, until the chicken is cooked through. Add in the corn and cilantro for about 10 minutes until the corn is cooked through and the stew is equally hot. Adjust the seasoning as needed. Serve with  rice, a wedge of avocado and fresh cilantro or parsley in this case. Serves about 4-6.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cranberry Bean, Smoked Pork Chop & Sauerkraut Stew

The season of stews is upon us. The cold weather is settling in, bringing its' wet weather, gloves and frozen cheeks with it. I love those first few minutes walking into a warm house, where you thaw out a bit. And it's even better when there is a chock full of creamy beans, smoky pork and sauekraut bubbling away on a hot stove, filling the house with savory smells. About two weekends ago, I stopped by a supermarket that I don't usually frequent and saw these smoked pork chops that I had to bring home to experiment with. It was a sunny and oddly warm day and I was tempted to throw them on the grill, to see what happened but I had a feeling that low and slow cooking would lend that smoky flavor over to the cranberry beans and sauerkraut and it pleasantly did. This stew is great as leftovers, it's even better warmed up the next day! Enjoy!

  • 1 cup cranberry beans, soaked overnight
  • 2 smoked pork chops
  • 2 cups drained sauerkraut and carrots from a jar, (usually found in the Polish aisle)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • a few dried champignon mushrooms
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed and minced
  • 5 cups water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 juniper berries

Place the cranberry beans in a large heavy bottomed pot, top with the pork chops. Add the bay leaves, juniper berries and water to the pot. Bring to a boil on high heat, covered. Remove any foam that comes to the surface. Once it boils, lower the heat and stir in the the tomato paste and simmer on low heat for 1 hour, covered. Stir occasionally, so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. I love my wooden spoons for that! After your hour is up, remove the pork chops and set aside. Add in the sauerkraut (squeezed super dry), mushrooms and the garlic. Remove the meat off of the bone, shredding and cutting the meat into small pieces and add back into the pot. Increase the heat to high, so your stew begins to boil again. Once it does, lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and juniper berries before serving. Makes about 4 servings.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dark Chocolate & Snickerdoodle Crumb Covered Marshmallows

The only thing missing is the Nutella and it's in there, under the chocolate coating! We woke up to snow on the ground and it's the first snow of the season, giving it a reason to celebrate. It's a beautiful snow sticking to the trees and bringing the Christmas feeling into the air. And what better way to celebrate than with chocolate? These are nice to enjoy or to give away in the spirit of "Giving Tuesday." Enjoy!

  • 1/2 pound bulk dark chocolate
  • 12 big marshmallows
  • 3 tablespoons Nutlella
  • 1-2 snickerdoodle cookies (crushed)

In a double boiler, melt the chocolate or set up a pot with boiling water with a metal bowl sitting snugly in it. Be careful with having too much water in the pot or it can splatter boiling hot water. And handle the metal bowl with a pot holder and be careful. Cut your marshmallows in half crosswise and top each half with a pat of Nutella and drop into the melted chocolate one by one.

Coat the marshmallow with the chocolate using a spoon or spatula and pull out using two forks, balancing between both forks, to allow the excess chocolate to fall back into the bowl. Place the chocolate coated marshmallows on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet or baking pan. Repeat, until all the marshmallows are coated. Top with snickerdoodle cookie crumbs and place into the refrigerator to harden for about 30 minutes. Makes 2 dozen.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks and to show your gratitude by spending time with your loved ones and sharing a nice meal together, hopefully with lots of laughs and good times. It's not always picture perfect as you may hope it will be. Families at times, drift apart and life happens. But for that, you have to be thankful for the people in your life that make you smile. So on this day, give thanks to your loved ones and do something special for a stranger, you might just be making their day. And I'm sure they will be thankful for your kindness. Enjoy the goodness of the day!

To make your loved ones feel extra special, you can make these name settings using bud vases or small mini bottles and leftover herbs. There has never been a holiday where I don't have leftover herbs. In this vase you have sage, rosemary and thyme but don't you have to limit yourself to just those herbs, you can use parsley, cilantro and oregano. First begin by taking a small stick, trimming it as needed and tie a knot on one end using twine or fancy ribbon, depending on the style of your Thanksgiving Day table. Measure out how high or low you want your name place card to be and tie a knot on the other end of the stick, almost making a necklace for the bottle. I saved the rosemary stems and used them for the stick to hang the name on. Next, cut a rectangular piece from a paper bag, measuring in relation to how wide your vase is and fold in half. Next, you can write your loved ones name on the outside or stamp it on. On the inside you can write a special note on why you are thankful for them in your life. Hang your little name place card over the stick and add in your herbs and water. It makes the table smell so nice and makes your loved ones feel special. Happy Thanksgiving everyone, hope you have a day where memories are made and lots of laughs are shared and feelings of gratitude run deep and heart felt!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cranberry Vanilla Ice Cream

I can never get enough cranberries on Thanksgiving day. When I was little, one of my favorite memories was getting together with my cousin on the Wednesday before and we would make apple pies, one classic and one studded with cranberries. The next day, I couldn't wait for a slice of my favorite pie, the apple-cranberry. The best part was finding those tart berries among the cinnamon-sweet apples. Last year, I put dried cranberries into the stuffing (it would have been helpful if I written down the recipe, lol, it was so good) and this year it's cranberry vanilla ice cream for dessert. Mmm...creamy and tart. A perfect ending to a Thanksgiving day feast. Enjoy!

Recipe for cranberry vanilla ice cream: makes four 1/2 cup servings.
  • 1 pint vanilla ice cream
  • 1 teaspoon Frangelico liqueur
  • 1 cup prepared whole berry cranberry sauce

Bring your ice cream into the refrigerator and let it sit for 1 hour and then combine with the cranberry sauce and the Frangelico liqueur. Scoop into a freeze proof container and freeze overnight. It's nice to top your apple pie with or to have by itself. Top it with a crushed snicker doodle cookie, crushed hazelnuts or dried cranberries to make it extra special. Below you'll find a recipe for whole berry cranberry sauce, if you need it.

Recipe for whole berry cranberry sauce: makes a little under 2 cups.                                   
  • 12 oz. cranberries
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar (plus 2 tablespoons if you want your ice cream sweeter)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • generous pinch pumpkin pie spice

Combine everything in a heavy bottomed pot and cover. Bring to a boil on high heat. Once it comes to a boil and your cranberries start popping, lower the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, occasionally stirring, especially towards the end. Allow to cool. You can use 1 cup for the ice cream and reserve the rest for the table for dinner or double the ice cream recipe if needed and use it all.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Persimmon & Proscuitto Appetizer

Thanksgiving is this Thursday! I'm sure you are planning the menu by now or have already done your food shopping. Let's talk about an appetizer for the big day. Instead of a cheese, nut and cracker platter, why not try something a little different? Persimmons are great in flavor and give the taste buds something to celebrate. They are sweet, fresh and exciting! Especially when combined with prosciutto, rosemary and tart balsamic vinegar. Fresh ground black pepper gives it a little bit of a kick. And if you really miss the cheese, you can pile some Parmesan shavings on the platter. If you have guests coming to dinner that like to help out in the kitchen, have your bread toasted, and your guests could wrap the prosciutto around the persimmon slices. On second thought, it may not be that great of an idea...I'm not too sure how many will end up on that platter! ;) Enjoy!

  • 1 persimmon
  • 1 ciabatta roll
  • 3-4 slices thinly sliced prosciutto, each piece torn into 3-4 pieces
  • unsalted butter
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • fresh rosemary, minced and some for garnish
  • balsamic vinegar with pear pulp

Trim your persimmon stem and peel the skin. Cut your persimmon in half and lay the halves down on the cut side and slice into thin slices (about 1/8th of an inch) into the shape of stretched out half moons and set aside.  Trim the ends of your ciabatta roll and reserve for another use like bread crumbs. Slice your roll into about 1/4 inch slices. Cut each slice in half, creating the same half moon shape as the persimmon slices. Place your bread slices on a baking sheet and place in a 425 pre-heated oven for 5-7 minutes until lightly toasted, longer if your like your toast darker and flip halfway through. Let your toast cool slightly and lightly butter one side. Wrap your persimmon moons with a piece of prosciutto. Place your prosciutto wrapped persimmon on a piece of toast and repeat until all your toasts are covered. Lay them on a serving platter or board and serve with freshly ground pepper, minced rosemary and the balsamic vinegar so everyone can top their toast as they like. Make 12-16 toasts.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fried Cambozola Cheese over an Autumn Salad

Did I enjoy this salad, it was just so good! I'm so happy that I did the dishes before posting this because I'm sure I would have been dipping another slice of Cambozola into the panko crumbs followed by the hot oil, once again. I love Cambozola cheese and think at one point in my life it could have been considered a love affair, lol. We met every Friday night with wine and it always ended with a smile. During the autumn, salads can get pushed to the end of the table, while savory filling dishes get all of the attention but this salad can be the star of the meal. It's really delicious and celebrates fall flavors with bitter greens, sweet pears and tart cranberries. Let's not forget the creamy melted Cambozola on top, slightly warming the salad up. It's a nice salad for an informal party, in a cozy setting, where everyone can wait (hardly wait) for the Cambozola to fry up, to be enjoyed. Happy weekend all!

  •  red leaf lettuce leaves, torn into bite size pieces
  • 1 small Belgian endive, julienned and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 heaping tablespoons julienned radicchio
  • about 10 walnut halves
  • 1/2 D'Anjou pear, peeled and sliced thin
  • dried cranberries
  • 2 slices Cambozola cheese, about 1/4 inch thick
  • milk
  • less than 1/2 cup panko crumbs
  • canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons roasted walnut oil*
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar with pear pulp
  • squeeze of lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • sea salt
  • fresh ground black pepper

This recipe is for two servings, so triple or quadruple as needed. And all of the ingredients in the salad can be adjusted to your liking. Begin by piling the red leaf lettuce in a bowl or on a plate. Add on the Belgian endive and radicchio. On half of the greens, place your pear slices. If they are going to sit for a while, brush with a little lemon juice so they don't brown. Dry pan roast your walnuts on hot heat for 5 minutes, stirring them around occasionally, until nice and brown and set aside. (I pan roasted them with a few rosemary leaves, I've been obsessed with rosemary lately. It makes the house smell great and I added the rosemary leaves to the vinaigrette.) Place the walnuts and cranberries on the pear slices. Next make your vinaigrette by whisking all of the ingredients together and set aside. (*You can use extra virgin olive oil if you aren't a fan of roasted walnut oil.)  Season your panko crumbs with ground pepper and sea salt and set aside. Dip your slice of cheese into a little milk followed by the panko crumbs. Use a spoon to lightly press the crumbs into the cheese. Heat up a little canola oil in a non-stick pan on medium-high heat. Make sure your oil is nice and hot before placing the cheese in it. Fry for a few seconds. You will see the loose panko crumbs brown and you'll know when it's time to flip the cheese. Brown on the other side and remove with a slotted spatula and drain over the paper towel. (Don't put the cheese directly on the paper towel because it will stick.) Blot the top of the cheese lightly with a paper towel and place on the other half of the salad. Spoon the vinaigrette on the greens and serve the rest on the side. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sage Lentils

Hard to believe but years ago, I decided to become a vegetarian on Thanksgiving day, with all of the deliciousness on the table. But I stuck to it for three years and it was a great experience with a new found appreciation for beans, veggie burgers, tofu and a restaurant called Veggie Heaven. What a great place for anyone making the transition! As dramatic as my choice of day to become a vegetarian, it ended the same way, with a 10 P.M. Friday night trip to a Chinese restaurant for boneless pork spareribs. No slowly weening my way back into eating meat with maybe fish or chicken to start, no, no, lol, I went all the way and never quite looked back. And I understand that for vegetarians, Thanksgiving can be a little hard. But this recipe is hearty and delicious and can be made extra special and a wonderful addition to the Thanksgiving day table. And for carnivores, this is a satisfying dish for meatless Mondays or Fridays. Enjoy!

  • 3/4 pound lentils, soaked overnight
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped, about a cup
  • 1 teaspoon dried champignon mushrooms
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 porchini mushroom cube
  • 3 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • 4 small Campari tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 liter of water

In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and the small onion on low heat for 10 minutes until the onions are softened. Add in the lentils and the rest of the ingredients. Bringing everything to a boil and lower the heat, simmering for 2 1/2 hours, covered. Stirring occasionally. Adjust the seasoning as needed and remove the cloves and tomato skins. As the lentils sit, they will absorb more of the liquid. Serve with sauteed oysters and drizzle the lentils with truffle oil for a extra special touch. If you have leftovers, puree the lentils and you have a nice bean dip with crackers and vegetables.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cranberry Sauce: 3 Ways

I never met a cranberry sauce that I didn't like. And I have it as a side dish on my plate on Thanksgiving day, not as a condiment. I seriously love the stuff and when I saw those familiar bags at the supermarket, back in October, I had to bring one home to make a fresh cranberry sauce. I enjoyed it slightly warm and it was so tart, that every bite puckered my lips. I love the tartness of cranberries. Don't worry these sauces are nicely sweet and not too tart. You can make all three recipes for the cranberry sauce lovers of the family or double or triple the recipe that calls your name. The rosemary is fun and a little unexpected and savory. The classic is pretty basic with a vanilla twist and the Sriracha is hot and spicy. Enjoy!

Rosemary & Frangelico Cranberry Sauce
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon Frangelico liqueur
  • 1/8 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary, plus a few leaves for garnish
  • ground black pepper
  • sea salt

Almost Classic Cranberry Sauce
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • generous pinch of cinnamon
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • sea salt

Sriracha Cranberry Sauce
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
  • a slice of jalapeno pepper plus one for garnish
  • freshly grated 70% dark chocolate
  • ground black pepper
  • sea salt

The easiest way to do this is to use 3 small lidded pots. Have them set up on the stove and drop the ingredients into each one. Bring each pot to a boil on high heat, cover right away and lower the heat. Simmer each pot for 5-10 minutes on low to medium heat. (If using a heavy bottomed pot, like enameled cast iron it's closer to 10 minutes. If using a thinner pot, like stainless steel, it's closer to 5 minutes.) Keep an eye on them and stir occasionally. Serve warm or chilled. Because this takes up 3 burners, it's good to make ahead, if you would like to make these for Thanksgiving day.

*One 12 oz. bag of cranberry gives you 3 cups of cranberries. For the recipes that uses 1/4 cup of sugar, you can increase it to 1/3 cup if you like your sauce sweeter. Each recipe makes about 1/2 a cup of cranberry sauce. The sauces are nice not only with turkey but with pork and chicken also. Increase the vanilla extract to 1/2 teaspoon and it would be nice served warm over vanilla ice cream for dessert.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Baked Turkey Wings Basted with Apple, Fig & Rosemary

A couple of years back, I found myself single on Thanksgiving Day with slippery sleet keeping me from family and friends. It was a time of uncertainty and I used a lot of Kleenex, to wipe away the tears. Now I laugh at the thought of Daisy (my dog) and I cuddling in bed, while watching the Thanksgiving Day parade, as crumpled up balls of tissue collected around us, forming a snowy terrain. It was kind of like a replay of The Holiday, where Iris cried and felt sorry for herself in the kitchen. I feel you girl! That was me but it wasn't Christmas time but Thanksgiving Day. I then decided to make the best of it, before the sleet really started sticking, I went to the gym, then got a delicious cup of pumpkin spice coffee and went to do some last minute food shopping. Standing in line at the grocery store with turkey wings, hot sausage (pretty much all that's left at the meat counter on Thanksgiving day, lol) and more Kleenex in hand, I vowed to make the best of the day. And it was the most memorable Thanksgiving day, for many reasons, with one of them being the turkey wings and spicy stuffing for dinner. If you were ever to find yourself with that package of turkey wings and not quite sure what to do with it, here is a great recipe! Hope you enjoy!

  • 2 turkey wings
  • 6 tablespoons hard apple cider, divided*
  • 4 tablespoons fig marmalade
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Frangelico liqueur
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary or more
  • generous pinch of cinnamon
  • ground black pepper
  • sea salt
Combine all of the ingredients, except for the turkey wings and half of the hard apple cider and adjust the seasoning as needed. Place your turkey wings, in a heavy bottomed 13x9 baking pan. Pour half of the hard apple cider in the bottom of the pan. Baste 2 tablespoons of the apple mixture on the wings and cover with foil. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn the wings over and baste with another 2 tablespoons of the apple mixture, return to the oven, covered and bake for another 45 minutes. Remove from the oven once again, baste with the remaining apple mixture and bake uncovered for 25 minutes, until the wings get nice and brown. Serves 4.

*You can substitute non-alcoholic apple cider or apple juice instead of the hard apple cider. If the apple cider or juice is too sweet, you can make a mixture of apple cider and water to dilute it a bit to make the 6 tablespoons needed.

Friday, November 9, 2012

White Chocolate Bark: 2 Ways

Do you ever get excited about a food product? Or is it just me? lol. I saw a box of Maldon smoked sea salt at a food/cooking supply shop and was so excited, as soon as I found it, I started walking, maybe even skipping, towards the register and midway, I thought to myself, "I came here for something!?" What that something was, I managed to forget with the box of smoked sea salt in my hands, sweaty hands at that, lol. So all these ideas came to my mind and this is one of them, or two of them. For all you salty and sweet fans, you have a flaky smoked salt with the bite of fresh ground black pepper and a raw pistachio bark and a crushed spicy gingersnap cookie and smooth caramel bark with flecks of smoked sea salt on it. Hope you enjoy! Happy weekend everyone!

  • 1/2 pound bulk white chocolate, (you can use milk or even dark, I was in the mood for a super sweet chocolate.)
  • raw pistachio nuts, (not roasted)
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • smoked sea salt
  • 7 caramel squares
  • 1 ginger snap cookie

Begin by chopping up the chocolate, so it melts easier. Using a double-broiler or a pot with a metal bowl over it, pour the chocolate in, using a spatula to stir and speed along the melting process. Less water is always better when using the second method and use a pot holder, to handle the metal bowl, it can get pretty hot. Have a large cookie sheet set up with a sheet of parchment paper on it. Once the chocolate is melted, pour the chocolate in one block or two, depending on if are making the chocolate in one way or both. (Spreading out to an 1/8th of an inch or thicker if you like.) If making both barks, keep a small space between the poured chocolate.

Below is the cause of my sweaty palms! Are yours sweaty too or is it just me? If you want to make your own smoked sea salt, which can be fun, here is a recipe (I used some of it on the gingersnap & caramel bark) but just a warning, make it on a really sunny day while you use the grill. Brrr...

Begin the fun, sprinkle the pistachios, fresh ground black pepper and sea salt on the chocolate!

Melt the caramels with a drop of water in a heavy bottomed pot, stirring with a spatula until melted. Drop spoonfuls of caramel on the chocolate and sprinkle the crushed gingersnap cookie over the chocolate and caramel. Finish it off with a sprinkling of smoked sea salt. Let the bark cool in the fridge, until firm about 15 minutes. Break up the chocolate and enjoy!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Shrimp Stuffed Blue Fish

By now, you may be deciding between a few different stuffing recipes for your Thanksgiving day dinner. Stuffing is one of those things that makes everything taste better. And it doesn't exclude fish. Turkey, better stuffed, ravioli-stuffed with creamy cheese, stuffed cabbage, pierogis stuffed with potatoes, crispy empanadas, the list goes on and on...And now you can add shrimp stuffed blue fish to the list. The sweetness of the shrimp combined with the blue fish makes it one meal, that you will make again, sooner that you thought, it's filling, without leaving you heavy and just delicious! This makes 2-3 servings. Enjoy!

  • 1 1/2 pound whole bluefish, butterflied, (leaving the head and tail on, I think it helps with keeping the stuffing in)
  • a little less that 1/2 pound raw shrimp, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons whipped cream cheese (you can use whipped cream cheese with chives and skip adding the fresh chives, if you like.)
  • 1 teaspoon mayonnaise
  • 1 heaping teaspoon minced chives 
  • garlic powder
  • 1 sun-dried tomato, packed in oil, minced
  • a little squeeze of lemon juice
  • sea salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • a pinch of Vegeta, or any all purpose seasoning, that you like
  • olive oil
  • lemon slices and wedges

Combine the shrimp, cream cheese, mayonnaise, chives, sun-dried tomato, squeze of lemon juice, garlic powder, sea salt, pepper and a touch of all purpose seasoning in a bowl and set aside. Very lightly coat the bottom of a heavy bottomed baking pan with olive oil and place the fish inside. Lightly salt the inside of the fish and spread the shrimp mixture inside of the fish and top with a few slices of lemon. Place in a 350 degree pre-heated oven. Bake for 45 minutes. Enjoy with a simple baby arugula salad or orzo tossed with olive oil, sea salt and minced chives.