Pecan Squares and Class

No matter what we do in life, we all need to continue learning our craft.  It only makes us better at what we love..  I started this blog a year ago, jumping in and not really knowing what I was doing.  And if we’re really being honest here, I still wonder if I know what I’m doing!

A friend and local food expert teaches a class in food writing, called “Expressions in Food”.  It’s instructional in writing blogs, journals, and food reviews so I thought it might give me some insight and help improve my blog I share with all of you.  (you’re still out there….right?)

Our first class suggested we bring snacks to share.  I had a weekend of Super Bowl, moving into a new office and this class so I decided to bake Pecan Squares, courtesy of Ina Garten.  The recipe makes so many I could cover everything with one dish! So I trudged in with my plate of bars, everyone brought their food of choice and our instructor, Patrick brought wine.  Now that is my type of class!

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For two and a half hours, we shared our interest in the class, drank wine and ate our snacks, all while learning how to describe what we were eating.  It was a cornucopia of smells, textures and flavors, from creamy onion dip that jumped off the salty crunch of the potato chip around the plate to the sweet caramel and sandy texture of the pecan squares.  What a tasty way to spend my Sunday afternoon!

I left the class, happily anticipating the next one and I hope it helps me to relay to you my love of food and recipes in such a way that you will love to read my blog even more than you do now.

Happy reading (and eating everyone)!

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Cream Cups with Raspberry Sauce

Several weeks ago, I had an opportunity to do a cooking demo for a smallish group of women.  The smallish group turned out to be about thirty, so I was a little out of my comfort zone.  However, they made me feel such a part of the group and were so fun, that I couldn’t be nervous!

I had put together a menu that was easy, could be prepared ahead of time and hopefully tasteful and something they would be happy to serve to their guests.  I decided upon Shrimp Toasts (recipe posting in the near future), Roasted Fennel and Sausage  (one of my earlier posts) and for dessert, Cream Cups with a Raspberry Limoncello sauce.

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I’ve always loved the Cream Cups. I first had them at a dinner party hosted by my former neighbor and friend Leanne Yocke.  I’m not sure where she got the recipe from but I adapted it a little and have an easy yet elegant dessert that literally could be thrown together at the last-minute.

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The recipe follows as I made it, but you can do so many things with this.  You could make it with just a fruit sauce or a reduced wine sauce, for just a couple of ideas.

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If you have unexpected guests, are planning a romantic dinner for two or stepping out of the box and wanting to do something a little different, give this a try.  I really think you’ll be glad you did!

 

French Onion Soup

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed it like I have but everything we do in life lately seems to be all about the new and improved, the bigger and better version of what has already been done.  Most movies are remakes of classics, technology is something we all must have the newest version of and the old version is usually only six months old.  Even restaurants and chefs have to try to do something new with the old and revered.  Maybe I’m just getting older but sometimes I don’t want the new and improved.  I want the classic, the thing that’s been tested time and again and can stand on its own merit.

I want French Onion Soup.

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I could have done this the easy way and gone to some restaurant, but I don’t think even they take the time to do it right, as it always seems bland and tasteless.  It’s a classic and deserves the respect and the time needed to make it wonderfully satisfying and flavorful.  I turned to the one person I knew that gave it that respect, the one person that started us all down the road of loving food.

I turned to Julia Child and Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

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Don’t be intimidated by this book or the fact that Julia is the guru of fine cooking.  She makes everything so simple to follow.  She also uses wine and cognac in this recipe, so if you’re anything like me, you like it already!

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To do this right it is a process.  You can’t skimp on the time or the effort it takes.  If you do you will lose the richness and the flavor it gives you.  This is one of those recipes where you will again take the first spoonful, close your eyes and savor the deep beef broth, the sweetness of the onions and the texture of the toast.  The only word you will be able to usher in a soft breath is “YUM”.

It’s that good.

A New Year Begins…

I cannot believe it is New Year’s Day 2014.  How fast this last month has flown!  To be honest I have to say that I am so glad this holiday is over and even more glad we are on to a bigger and better year.  So many things to think about, some good and some not so good.

Have you ever received one of those letters over the holidays that tell you how great the year has been and how many achievements the family has had?  I will tell you that I didn’t send out any letters like that this year.  My position as a mortgage lender was not nearly as successful as it has been in the past,  financially it has been more of a struggle and I have had to realize that my children have their own lives and don’t need me like they used to.  And of course there was the devastating loss of my beloved brother Will in October. The holidays were something I always looked forward to so I needed to do something that would help bring the happiness back into our home.

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My husband and I had decided the end of November that we were going to have one of those Ugly Sweater Parties.  I planned, I shopped, and I systematically made food for two weeks so I would be ready and enjoy the party.  I was however, unprepared for how fast all the food was going to disappear!  I take it as a compliment that they ate everything so quickly but for the first two hours of the party I was a lunatic replenishing platters so that there wouldn’t be hungry, drinking people wandering around.  Note to self:  cook more food up front and keep warm in the oven.

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The party, despite my poor food serving planning was great fun and a complete success. I know this will have to become an annual event.. At this point, I do want to mention my friend Marlene Charbonneau.  Here was a woman I befriended on Facebook because I liked that she baked and wrote.  I never met her but ordered some of her beautiful cookies for the party.  They were so amazing, so beautiful and so yummy that I have to give her a shout out.  She truly is my friend and I want everyone to know that her cookies are absolutely the best!

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This is where I have to learn I sometimes cannot do it all.  During the planning of the party, I got a call from a friend who needed help with her husband’s work party.  Unfortunately my husband and I were leaving that day to travel to New York to visit his daughter and then to pick up my mom and bring her back for Christmas.  But then we talked about getting all the food ready and bringing it over the night before we left….and I said yes.  So the day after our party, I shopped for the food and spent the next three days making food, writing instructions and packaging the food to take over and then left the following morning for five days out-of-town.  To those of you who may be crazy like me, I have to warn you to reconsider when you think you can do it all.  Especially when you also have a day job like I have! It was so chaotic that it was only now I realized that I haven’t posted since the beginning of December.  You can never be so busy that you put aside the things you love to do and that for me is sharing my highs and lows in the kitchen with you.  New Year’s resolution number one is to never stop doing what I love.

Anyway,  we managed to get through the month.  There was sadness over the holidays knowing that my brother and Dad wouldn’t be there to share but happy in the fact that my mom and my children were there with my husband and I.  It’s true what they say…you shouldn’t be worried about what is under the tree, but be happy with who is around the tree. Now it is the new year and a time for reflection and hope for the coming months.

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I’ve written this blog for a year now, the end of this month.  I cannot tell you the joy that it’s brought to me and I hope that somehow I have brought a bit of joy, knowledge, new recipes or something to you.  I want to thank you all for your support and following me and I hope you will continue to as I make my way through 2014.  Tell me what you would like to hear about, what you love and what you don’t.  I will continue share no matter what but without all of you I cannot grow and I want to let you know how important your support is to me.

I know it’s going to be a better year for all of us.  2014 will be a great year and I can’t wait to find out what the future is going to bring!

Pesto Crusted Roasted Pork Rack

Thanksgiving is over.  Finally!!  I was really looking forward to the holiday but after a week of leftovers it’s about time it’s done.  Turkey, turkey gravy, turkey soup, turkey sandwiches and turkey hash.  Don’t get me wrong….I have always loved turkey but after a week of trying to use it all up, I was certain that I would not be eating turkey again for a very long time!

That being said, it is time for something different.  So I decided to do something a little out of the box….at least that was what I had thought..  I have never been one that liked pork chops, but the husband has always liked them.  Since I am the one in the kitchen most of the time, I have usually won that battle.

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Out shopping one day, we came across a pork rack.  A little different that the standard thick ugly pork chop I had grown up with, so I decided to give it a chance.  The husband was feeling happy.

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Not knowing the best way to make it, I did Google my idea and came up with a recipe from the Craig Mostyn Group.  Although I had never heard of this site I gave it a shot and oh boy, was I glad I did.  The pork was moist and so very flavorful.  Not the pork chops that I had come to know from the past.  I served it with roasted potatoes and wilted greens and it tasted like a dinner I would have served at a party for guests…but incredibly easy.

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I always say, when you’re tired of turkey….eat pork chops.

 

A Lighter Stuffed Pepper

This is my favorite time of year.  THE HOLIDAYS!  It’s about good friends, good times and good food.  (Good parties aren’t really so bad either).  Christmas is actually my favorite, with Thanksgiving a close second as far as food and parties go, but I really do love the Thanksgiving leftovers.  (I know there are more out there like me, so admit it)  Seriously, I could cook everything up, skip the dinner and just save all the food for the next day.  That is how much I love it.

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The standard turkey sandwich is one of the best ways to go, but my mom’s turkey rice soup is pretty incredible too.  The only problem is I have so many leftovers left over, that it becomes boring with the choices I have to use them all up.  I think, however, I may have stumbled on a pretty good addition to the leftover madness that ensues.

This is a recipe that I have worked out with turkey sausage and the recipe follows.  An alternative of course would be to use the equivalent of chopped turkey. If you do use the chopped turkey, it may tend to be a bit on the drier side so definitely add a bit more olive oil to the mix when you’re cooking it with the onions.  You could also add a bit of leftover gravy to keep it moist.  The options are endless!  I also used Tatsoi, which is a hardy green, sort of like a spinach or kale relative.  If you can’t find it (I found mine at the farmer’s market) you can always substitute with spinach or kale.

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The fun thing about this is you can really use anything you want.  Stuffed peppers are typically made with rice and ground beef and lots of cheese, but I’m trying to go the heart healthy way more often, so this is why I decided on this formula.  Get creative and use those leftovers up!  After all, it’s going to be another whole year before we can do this again!

 

 

Buffalo Chicken Egg Rolls

Fall is my favorite time of year.  I love the leaves changing, the smell of fires in the air and the cool temperatures.  Every now and then, I will even watch a football game (go Pats!), but what I really love and it’s mostly the idea of, is a tailgate party.  How fun is that?  A group of people at the back-end of a car with good food, drinks and lots of laughs.

I need to digress here.  (Don’t worry, the two tales will eventually come together.)  There is a restaurant in upstate NY called The Boatyard.  A favorite of my dad’s and my brother’s, so we would go there at least once every time I was up there.  They are known for several dishes, but one of my personal favorites (and that of my entire family’s) are the Buffalo Chicken Egg Rolls.  Yes, I did ask for the recipe, but no…they apparently didn’t want to share.  It was okay, I thought I could figure this out on my own.

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This is where the two stories come together.  It was Sunday afternoon and we were watching a football game. I decided that we were going to have a tailgate party…in our home.  It was just a casual day to make fun finger foods and along with the hot wings I was making, I decided I was going to figure out what these egg rolls were all about.

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It did take several tries (so the first tailgating, although good, wasn’t exceptional), but I think once you make this you will find that this is well worth the time and trouble and calories.  People are correct when they say that anything fried is good.  I don’t eat fried food…but I definitely would eat these on occasion.  The nice thing about these are that you can make them ahead of time and freeze them.    So try these on your next tailgating party, or cocktail party, or just a party of two.  You will want these again and again….they are that good. They are spicy, crunchy and tasty.  All the things your taste buds will need from a tailgating party.

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Go Pats, happy tailgating and a very happy Fall season to all of you!

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What’s in the Pantry?

Let’s face it.  There are always going to be those times where you just don’t feel you can find another minute to get things done.  For the last two weeks, it seems I did not have any time at all.  I had been overwhelmed with baking (cheesecakes for a friend), taking a continuing education course for my profession (it certainly would have helped if I had not waited until the last-minute), food judging for the area home shows and the list goes on and on.

The other night I came home and my husband asked me what was for dinner.  I just looked at him, probably like a deer in headlights.  I hadn’t even considered dinner and now it was already late.  I didn’t want to go back out to the grocery store, so we had to figure out something.  That’s when operation pantry surprise went into action.

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We have always kept something in the pantry we can work with.  You never know if there would be people collecting for a food drive or the electricity is going to go out.  I took a look in the pantry to see how my creative juices were going to flow.  I had soup, noodles, canned chicken and a jar of roasted vegetables.  The creativity started to flow.

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I was able to put together a meal that was easy, fairly quick and satisfying for the family.  The next time you don’t have time, but you have hungry eyes waiting for you to feed them, don’t order a pizza.  Look in your pantry and see what you can find.  I’ll bet it will be something good.

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Sunday Dunk

It was a Sunday afternoon and it was cold and rainy.  Fall was definitely here and the weather was definitely matching my mood.  Football games were on and I really didn’t want to spend my day cleaning (even though we all know that is what I should have done), so I started focusing on what I could make for dinner.  When in doubt, cook.

It was a perfect day for comfort food, but I wanted something different from my standard go-to pasta dish.  I didn’t feel like soup and I was really over cooking chili.  And then that momentary flash-back occurred and I remembered the garlic show I had seen the day before.  There were a couple of dishes that I liked but didn’t like either of them enough to make one.  I did however like parts of them enough to combine them and create a dish that was exactly what I was looking for.  A warm, comforting, sit on the couch and dunk dish.

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Who doesn’t like garlic?  This was a perfect combination of a warm soup, a hearty dish and the feel good that you get from a pasta.

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You could easily pour this over pasta or rice, even mashed potatoes and make a nice dinner out of it. For me, however, sitting there dunking my crusty bread loaf into the roasted garlic yumminess was the inside tailgating atmosphere I had been looking for.

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The Patriots won a great game and much to my husband’s disappointment the Giants lost….again.  It can’t get any better than that.

 

A Tiny Break

This week I was hoping to write to you about all the good food I had in Quebec, but due to a loss within our family I was unable to go.  I want you to know that I have not forgotten you and will be back in full force next week.  This week I just need a tiny break and I hope you understand.

I would love to hear what you have made in my absence.  Happy eating everyone!

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