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.