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.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Snowy Autumn Floral Bouquet

It's that time of year where snow is possible and I'm not ready. With today, being the first expected snowfall. Then again, I'm never quite ready for snow, unless it's a nice all-day-Saturday-snow, with big juicy flakes falling slowly, creating a picturesque snow scene, (with no wind or chance of losing power.) The perfect snow fall. But it is still autumn and plump pumpkins are still around, with crisp leaves accessorizing our lawns and twiggy wreaths, hanging on doors. I was planning to plant a crazy amount of pretty purple crocuses but I think I've missed the cut off, as the ground feels hard, with a feeling that the acceptance of new bulbs, will not be welcomed. It's the in-between-time of the season, not quite fall and not quite winter, yet. Thanksgiving is only two weeks away and if you want to make a floral bouquet that has a touch of both seasons, the combination of cool kale and snowy white asters with warm orange roses in a pumpkin is a pretty bouquet that will compliment either the crisp leaves or snow on the ground.

Choose a pumpkin that is on the taller side to mimic a tall vase, (you can use a smaller pumpkin also.) Make the opening to your pumpkin, drawing a circle around the stem and carefully remove the pumpkin top with a mini utility knife and saw. (You don't want a really big opening.) Remove the pumpkin seeds and threads. (Save the pumpkin seeds for roasting, they make a great snack! Here is a recipe for Old Bay Seasoned Pumpkin Seeds.) Center you kale in the middle, trimming as needed, for the height that you are looking for. Add in your asters and fill in with your roses, trimming as needed. I trimmed the bottom of the kale flower and took a few of the leaves and tucked them into the pumpkin, to finish off the bouquet. Add water and some sugar, to extend your bouquet life and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Roasted Chicken Breast with Hard Pumpkin Cider Sauce

Time is just flying by, I can't believe it's election day, once again! So I predict like many election nights of the past, it's going to be a long one. So take some time, relax and make a nice dinner, before the counting takes place. I've been really enjoying hard apple cider lately. There is a local winery/distillery that makes great hard cider, I can't get enough of the stuff and feel like I need to take note from the squirrel in the yard, stock-piling those acorns, lol. Check them out at And I thought while I sipped away the other night, why not add it to roasted chicken? And it came out so flavorful and juicy! You can go as heavy or light with the pumpkin pie spice. I think it's a great addition to savory dishes, why let pumpkin pie have all the fun? ;) So, if you haven't voted yet, get out and VOTE and may the best man win! Happy Election Day!

  • 2 chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
  • 1/2 cup Hard Pumpkin Apple Cider or any flavor Hard Apple Cider
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • pinch pumpkin pie spice, or more
  • 1 Swedish-style gingersnap cookie, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons light cream
  • sea salt
  • fresh ground black pepper

Salt and pepper both sides of your chicken and rub pumpkin pie spice into the chicken. Place in a heavy bottomed baking pan. Pour the hard pumpkin apple cider over the chicken. Dot with 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, broken up into small pieces. Place into a 375 degree pre-heated oven for 30 minutes. Take your chicken out of the oven and add the gingersnap cookie to the pan and baste the chicken with the cider, in the pan. Place back into the oven and roast for another 20 minutes, longer if you would like your chicken darker. Carefully remove your chicken from the pan and pour the liquid into a small saucepan. Place the chicken back into the pan and cover the chicken and let it rest, while you make the sauce. Bring the liquid to a boil on high heat, add in 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter and light cream, whisking it into the sauce. Let it boil for a minute or so, until you have a light sauce. Serve with your chicken and steamed green beans on the side. Serves 2. Enjoy!

Chicken back in the pan, resting, while the sauce is bubbling away...

Monday, November 5, 2012

Cauliflower, Broccoli Rabe & Cannellini Bean Pot

A hearty veggie and bean dish hits the spot on a chilly autumn night. It's the season where balancing the household and the upcoming holidays can become a little challenging. And that's when you need a satisfying meal that nourishes the soul and leaves the belly nice and full. As the temperatures cool down significantly, it's important to take care of yourself and gets those antioxidants in. This dish is full of veggies and it's really delicious. It was hard to keep on the stove, my hubby and I almost ate it right out of the pot, it was just so good!  This is great on its' own or you can add rice, quinoa, or farro on the side. Great for leftovers also! It's delicious when served with a Slow Roasted Pork Loin with a Pear & Rosemary Sauce. Enjoy!

  • 1 head cauliflower, trimmed into florets
  • 1 15.5 oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed
  • 4 cups roughly chopped broccoli rabe
  • 1/4 cup quartered sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • sea salt

Bring a heavy bottomed pot of salted water to a boil and add the cauliflower and season with sea salt. Let the water continue boiling on high heat, leaving the pot uncovered. After 7 minutes, add the broccoli rabe, let it cook for 3 minutes. If using sun dried tomatoes, add into the water and after a minute and drain the pot.(You can use oil packed sun dried tomatoes, if you do, add them in with the beans later on.) Keep your veggies warm and into the same pot, add in the olive oil and garlic. Let this cook on low heat. You don't want the garlic to burn, you want it to get nice and soft. Sometimes, instead of adding the butter to the olive oil right away, I add it once the garlic gets nice and hot, so it slows down the cooking process. So add in your butter and continue cooking until the garlic is soft. Take the garlic out and set aside, leaving the oil and butter in the pot, add in the cauliflower and broccoli rabe. Let this saute for a minute or two and give the pot a nice stir. Add in the drained can of beans and heat through, until the beans are hot, about 10  minutes, (less if you want the vegetables on the crisp side.) stirring occasionally. Add in the cooked garlic and rosemary and cook for a few more minutes. Adjust the seasoning as needed. Makes 4-6 servings.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Slow Roasted Pork Loin with a Pear & Rosemary Sauce

Autumn means dropping temperatures, cozy blankets, apples, leaves in the yard and roasts in the oven. They create that warmth in the house, that only a slow cooked meal creates. This slow roasted pork loin is so juicy. It's perfect for a weekend, where you make it early on in the day and let it sit on the stove, while you go rake some leaves, coming in and out, sneaking in a bite or two, with its' luscious sauce. Its' intoxicating scent, still lingering in the air, making coming into the house, all the better. This is a nice roast to make for your family and it's great for company. Serve with a nice savory pear salad with blue cheese and serve the pork with buttered green beans on the side and end the meal with a pear crisp. Happy weekend!

  • 2 pound boneless pork loin
  • 1 ripe Bartlett pear, peeled and cored & chopped
  • 10 red seedless grapes, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup Chardonnay wine
  • 2 tablespoons fig marmalade
  • 1 oz. balsamic vinegar
  • heaping 1/4 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 3 juniper berries
  • 2 oz. light cream
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • sea salt
  • fresh ground black pepper

In a sauce pan, melt the unsalted butter on medium heat and add the grapes and pear, let it saute for a few minutes. Add in the wine, vinegar and fig marmalade, combining everything well and heat until bubbling. It doesn't take long, about 5 minutes. Add in the rosemary and juniper berries, combine well. Drizzle a little olive oil into a heavy bottomed baking pan. Salt and pepper your pork loin and place into the pan, fat side up. Spoon the fruit around the pork and pour the liquid over the it. Place in a 325 degree pre-heated oven for about 45 minutes, uncovered, until cooked though. Average about 20 minutes per pound, until the roast reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees. (If making a larger piece of loin, just extend the cooking time, averaging the 20-minute-per-pound-rule.) Remove your loin to a smaller warmed baking pan and cover, while you make the sauce. Let your pork sit for 15 minutes, so the juices stay in the meat. Remove the juniper berries from the sauce and discard. Into a blender, or using a hand-held immersion blender, blend your sauce away, adding in the cream. Adjust the seasoning as needed. Serve alongside the pork and enjoy! Serves 4.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Sage Turkey Cutlets with Mushrooms & Beans

Ahh...the beginning of November. Visions of Thanksgiving dinners are dancing in my head and I can't wait for all the flavors of that day. And you don't have to wait till Thanksgiving day and have these treasured flavors tonight. Herb-y sag-ed turkey and sweet mashed potatoes with a little creamy gravy. Beans add a little extra creaminess to the dish but you can always skip them if you are not a fan. The best part of this meal, is it doesn't take hours to make, about an hour tops! And if you are craving that pumpkin pie at the end of this meal, you can always make Pumpkin Pie Greek Yogurt! Enjoy!

  • 1 pound turkey cutlets
  • 10 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups cooked great northern beans
  • heaping 1/4 cup flour
  • pinch ground sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon marjoram leaves
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 champigion mushroom bouillon cube, (or any type of mushroom)
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 3 small sage leaves
  • ground black pepper
  • sea salt

Combine the flour, ground sage, salt and pepper. Adjust the seasoning if needed. Dredge the turkey cutlets in the flour and set aside. In a Dutch oven, melt the butter on medium heat, until sizzling. In batches, add the turkey and brown for a few minutes on each side. Once brown, set aside. Add the mushrooms and stir until they get a little brown. They can burn, so keep an eye on them. Dissolve the mushroom bouillon in the hot water and pour over the mushrooms. (You can use 1/2 to 3/4 cube of the mushroom bouillon, to reduce the sodium.) Scrape the bottom of the pot, to bring up any brown bits. Increase the heat and bring to a boil. Once the broth is boiling, lower the heat to low and add the turkey, any accumulated juices, the sage leaves and marjoram. Simmer for 10 minutes covered, occasionally moving the cutlets around, so they don't stick to the bottom of the pot. After 10 minutes, turn the cutlets over and add the beans, simmer for another 10 minutes, until the broth thickens to a light gravy. Serve with quick mashed sweet potoates. Cook 4 sweet poatoes, cut into similar sizes, and cook until fork tender. Add in 2 tablespoons unsalted butter and 2 tablespoons heavy cream or milk, salt and ground pepper, mash until combined well. Adjust the seasonings as needed. Makes 4 servings.