Holidays are coming!

twisted-fork-white1_clipped_rev_2

I don't want to frighten you but there are only 31 days left until Thanksgiving and 63 days              until Christmas.  Once we've passed Halloween it will be upon us with lightening speed and if you're anything like me, you won't be ready.

Every year, I say the same thing to myself.   I am going to shop throughout the year, have everything wrapped by Thanksgiving, decorate before December 1st and enjoy the month before the carnage begins.  Well... that never happens.  What actually happens is I see the Christmas decorations out before Halloween so I think I have all the time in the world, I haven't started any shopping until three weeks before because, well the holidays are busy,  and if it's anything like last year... I got the tree up and had no decorations on it.  Luckily it was a pre-lighted tree.

Let's face it.  We're all busy and this time of year just gets crazy.  We want to do it all and be another Martha Stewart, but if you're anything like me the thing we want most is to be with our friends and family.  That adds the additional pressure of entertaining and what to make in the limited amount of time we already have.  One thing I have learned is to make it easy on yourself.  It doesn't have to all be gourmet, or homemade... in the infamous words of Ina Garten "Store-bought is fine!"  I, of course being in the business of catering, have a multitude of appetizers and meals I can easily make for you, so if you don't want to do it, I am available to help you.  However, if you want to do it yourself, I've listed a couple of recipes below that will wow your guests and still be easy on your pocket and you.  Enjoy!

 

SMOKED SALMON CHIPS 

INGREDIENTS (makes 25 appetizers

approximately 1/2 cup creme fraiche

3 oz package smoked salmon

chives, cut into 1 inch pieces or you can also chop

Place a teaspoon of creme fraiche on each chip, a small folded piece of salmon and then your chives.

 

MINI CAPRESE SKEWERS

INGREDIENTS (makes 25 appetizers)

Approximately 1/2 pounds Grape or Cherry Tomatoes

Approximately 8 oz Ciliegine Mozzarella

6 large Basil leaves, chiffonnade (stack your leaves one on top of the others, roll tightly and slice thinly)

25 bamboo skewers

Balsamic Glaze (store bought is fine!)

Wash and dry tomatoes.  Skewer one tomato, one ball of mozzarella and then one more tomato.  Continue with the remainder of skewers, tomatoes and mozzarella.  Arrange on platter and sprinkle the chiffonnade basil over the skewers.  Squeeze a thin line of Balsamic Glaze over your arrangement.

Candied Bacon

We all know the food groups that were part of our learning as we were growing up.  Vegetables and Fruit, Grains and Cereals, Protein, Milk and Dairy and Sugars and Fats.  No where in that learning did we cover the sixth and barely known food group… Bacon.  People of the world…wake up!  Bacon is not a new discovery, but it has become an important part of our daily lives.  Well, unless you don’t eat meat, I guess.   It’s everywhere now.  There is bacon and maple donuts, bacon chocolate, bacon flavored gum, bacon cupcakes. Need I say more?  I have said all along it should be its own food group.   I think you too will agree with me once you try this little gem of a recipe I found in Food & Wine.

candied bacon 002

 

Candied Bacon.  I made it for Super Bowl and it was gone in minutes.  It’s like food crack.  You can’t stop eating it.  Sweet and savory, salty and crisp…it’s addictive.   It might not be the healthiest thing to eat, but let’s face it, this isn’t something you’re going to eat every day.  (although I really could).  It’s super easy and one of those dishes that once you make it,  everyone wants to know how you did it.

candied bacon 008

Trust me on this one….  Bacon and easy to make.  You can’t go wrong with this.

People of the world!  I give you Candied Bacon!

Candid Bacon

MAKE AHEAD: The candied bacon can be made earlier in the day. Store at room temperature.
Course Appetizer
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 20 Strips

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chile powder
  • 20 slices thick-cut bacon 1 1/2 pounds

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with foil.

  2. In a small bowl, whisk the brown sugar with the chile powder.

  3. Arrange the bacon strips on the foil and coat the tops with the chile sugar

  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until caramelized and almost crisp.

  5. Transfer the bacon to a rack set over a sheet of foil to cool completely. Serve.

Garlic Shrimp

When I go to a restaurant I am my husband’s – and probably the wait staff’s – worst nightmare.  I must have it my way.  A little of this and a little of that.  If I could take a bit from each entrée it would be perfect because it seems there is always something I don’t like on every item, but something I do like on every item.

Such is the way when I look at a new recipe.  I become inspired by one recipe, but like ingredients from another and pretty soon I have a collaboration of two or three different recipes.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but I think tonight’s adventure did.

garlic shrimp and birds 013

 

 

 

This is a marriage of ingredients from 3 different recipes, inspired mostly from a Food and Wine recipe I found online.  It was a fairly quick meal to fix and although I paired it with coconut rice, you could serve it with a salad or crusty bread and it would still be a filling meal for you.

garlic shrimp and birds 011

 

 

Just make sure when you eat this, share the joy.  There is a lot of garlic in it and you know they always say that if one eats garlic, then everyone should.  Don’t worry, they’ll all love it.

On a side note…no vampires will be visiting for a while.

Garlic Shrimp

Course Appetizer, Entree
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup olive oil extra virgin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 red pepper, sliced thin
  • 2 stalks baby bok choy, sliced thin
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 3 Tablespoons dry sherry
  • 1/2 lemon juiced about 2 Tablespoons
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped parsley

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in saucepan.

  2. Add bay leaf, garlic, crushed red pepper and saute until fragrant, approximately 3-4 minutes.

  3. Salt and pepper shrimp and add to oil mixture, cooking until shrimp are done, approximately 3-4 minutes.

  4. Add red pepper and bok choy and cook for 1 additional minute.

  5. Add butter, sherry, lemon juice and stir until butter is incorporated and melted.

  6. Add chopped parsley.

  7. Serve immediately.

Split Pea Soup, Split Decision

When it comes to the standard way of making things, or trying something new, my husband and I are typically at odds.  For Peter, lobster has to be served steamed in a shell, shrimp can be with a cocktail sauce or in scampi.  You can’t have pizza with goat cheese and you certainly can’t have pea soup without green peas.  Until now that is, because I live by a different set of rules.

Let me just give you a little background on this.  I grew up with pea soup.  It was always a staple when we had leftover ham.  It was green and thick and not very appetizing.  So it was a huge mistake on my part, when I mentioned after our ham dinner, the idea of making soup.  It turns out, much to my dismay, that he loved pea soup.

Well, I half-thought about it and when I was at the market, I picked up a bag of split peas.  Peter would be so surprised if I actually made this for him.  But visions flashed before me of the thick green paste and I immediately scrubbed that idea and threw the peas back on the shelf.  I started to walk away and out of the corner of my eyes I saw a bag with split yellow peas.  That’s right….YELLOW peas.  I never had them before, but after looking at the back of the bag and the recipe idea it gave, I thought I could make it work.  It was a good compromise.

That weekend, since it was cold and definitely feeling like a soup day, I decided to give it a try.  I cooked my ham bone down and reserved the broth and although I did refer to the bag recipe, I did change the recipe quite a bit to make it more my style.  This was working!

pea soup 016

 

The flavor was really good and the texture of the broth was more like a vegetable broth.  I was so happy because I thought his was something I could eat and Peter would love that we had split pea soup.  I really believed this was our soup of compromise.

Until my husband sat down to dinner that is.  He took a bite and it wasn’t so bad.  He took another bite and it was ok.  The third bite, he decided to tell me that pea soup was meant to be green and mushy.  This simply was NOT going to do.

pea soup 011

So once again we were at odds.  I loved it and he did not.  He wanted his green thick mush and I liked the texture more like a broth.  And it’s okay.  It’s okay if he doesn’t like it, because he doesn’t have to love everything I make and he has his standards.  But I will probably make it again and he will probably eat it again and complain again.   And have another two helpings again.

Do you really have two helpings if you don’t like something?

Split Pea Soup, Split Decision

Course Appetizer, Entree
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Total Time 5 hours 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 bag yellow split peas
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 4 carrots, diced small
  • 2 stalks celery, diced small
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 8 cups water, chicken broth, ham bone broth or a combination I used 6 cups chicken broth and 2 cups of my ham broth
  • 2 cups diced, cooked ham
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup croutons optional

Instructions

  1. Soak, rinse and sort peas per package instructions.

  2. Heat oil in a large, heavy 5-7 quart pot.

  3. Add onions, carrots, celery and cook until tender,

  4. Add garlic and cook another 1-2 minutes or until fragrant.

  5. Add salt and pepper and stir to coat vegetables.

  6. Add cup of wine and stir to deglaze, scraping up any bits from the pan.

  7. Add broth and or water and bring all ingredients to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until peas are tender, about 2 to 3 hours.

  8. Add ham and serve topped with croutons if desired.

Lobster and Corn Arancini

Clearly I am not in control of my life any longer.  Between work, the trips, my food writing class, the boot camp exercise class (that I might add is about to kill me),  and the house and all it involves, I cannot find any time to do any thing.  It’s a sad state of affairs, when I have to schedule time to complete the one thing I love to do…this blog.

This past weekend was one of the first in many that I have been able to devote a couple of hours to myself, so I decided to finalize a couple of ideas I’ve been working on.  It was me and my kitchen, alone at last.  Me and my kitchen along with cheese, rice, lobster and corn.  It can’t get any more romantic than that….just don’t tell my husband I said so.

IMG_6768

I love Arancini. You know them; they’re those cute little cheesy rice balls.  I can’t seem to ever have enough of them and a while back I got this obscure idea to add lobster to the recipe.  And what goes better with lobster than corn?

IMG_6770

With the combination of flavors, all the ingredients made for a very tasty dinner.  What I loved was the sweetness of the lobster and corn combined with the creaminess of the cheese and rice but it all had the crunch from the outside crust.  Yes, my friends, an Arancini affair had begun.  I even invited my husband to come along for the taste train of love, of which I believe he thoroughly enjoyed, given that he ate four of them.

IMG_6798

Make a date with your kitchen and try these cheesy rice balls.  You’ll love them as much as I did, with or without the husband involved.  Just don’t tell him I said so.

Star rating is a huge YUM!

A Toast Addiction

I watched a cooking show the other day.  There is nothing extraordinary about that, and in the opinion of my husband I probably watch them more than I should.  It was a show I had never seen before, and honestly I can’t even tell you the name of it.  What I can tell you is that after that show I acted like a pregnant woman out of control, on a quest to satisfy an overwhelming craving.  It was a craving for toast…..oh, but not just any toast.

IMG_6659

It was toast browned in a skillet with a mixture of maple syrup and butter. It was toast that was caramelized until it had a sugary, crunchy coating and then topped with a slice of creamy, yet savory cheese.  It was more than toast and I wanted to try it.

IMG_6667

I am not usually a maple syrup on anything kind of person.  Not even as a child did I like French toast or pancakes smothered in that syrupy sticky sweetness.  I do like the taste of maple syrup, but more in the one little bite kind of candy you get when you go back to New Hampshire or Vermont for a visit.

For some reason, however, this had really caught my eye.  For the next week I thought of nothing else and so finally over the weekend I decided I was actually going to make it.

I wish I hadn’t.  I was like a drug addict on crack I loved it so much.  I made it three times and went through a whole loaf of bread and a round of brie.  I did have a little help eating it all, but quite honestly,  if I didn’t have to share, I probably wouldn’t have.  It was just that good.

IMG_6672

I curse you and thank you Amy Thielen of the Food Channel.  I am now an official Maple Bread lover,  or otherwise known as a toast addict . My disclaimer is,  I cannot be responsible for you once you try this.  I will, however, welcome you with open arms to my support group.

It really is that good.

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.

IMG_6421

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.

IMG_6426

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!

IMG_6429

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.

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.

IMG_6099

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.

IMG_6102

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.

IMG_6021

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

IMG_6026

Buffalo Chicken Egg Rolls

Course Appetizer
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 4 minutes
Total Time 34 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 Package egg roll wrappers
  • 3 cups finely diced chicken (you can poach breasts, use prepared rotisserie, leftovers, etc)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4-1/2 cup buttermilk (depending on creaminess desired)
  • 8 ounce cream cheese (use whipped or soften the cheese beforehand for easier mixing)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons hot sauce (more or less for your personal taste)
  • 2 Tablespoons minced shallots
  • 4 ounces blue cheese crumbled
  • salt and pepper to taste

BLUE CHEESE DIP

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped chives
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to season

Instructions

  1. Mix mayonnaise and sour cream together.

  2. Add buttermilk, cream cheese, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce and combine until well blended.

  3. Add shallots and blue cheese and combine.

  4. Season to taste and set aside.

  5. Place wrapper flat and place approximately 1 to 2 tablespoons of chicken mixture onto the middle of the wrapper. Roll according to package directions, seal with water and set aside.

  6. (at this point you may freeze if desired)

  7. Heat peanut oil in heavy duty pan until it reaches frying stage 350 degrees F to 400 degrees F

  8. Place rolled wrappers in hot oil for 4 to 5 minutes turning occasionally. Remove and drain on paper towels.

  9. Slice in half on the diagonal and serve immediately with blue cheese dip. (directions follow)

  10. BLUE CHEESE DIP

  11. Whisk together sour cream, mayonnaise, honey, lemon juice and chives. Fold in blue cheese crumbles. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  12. Refrigerate before serving.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Green TomatoesI grew up in the North where things like okra, hush puppies and fried green tomatoes were a foreign language.  The first time I even heard about fried green tomatoes was when the movie by the same name came out.  I watched it, and I saw the things she was putting on the plates and I wondered at the time why anyone in their right mind would want to eat something like that.  Fried tomatoes?

Living in the south you have to adjust….most times in a good way.  What’s that saying?  When in Rome…..?  I’ve been here long enough that I feel I am a southerner, so when the time came a few years ago and I saw Fried Green Tomatoes on the menu, I had to try them.  Well, either the southern humidity finally got to me or we were on to something good.  Fried Green Tomatoes?  OH YES!

As it usually is in my world, once I like something, I have to try to make it.  And it has must right.  I have tried many recipes but I believe I have finally got one that has become my favorite.  With a few tweaks here and there I have adapted this from Southern Living to a point where I think it’s worth sharing.   It’s got a nice tang, a little spice and a lot of crunch and you can always add a garlic aioli or basil mayonnaise for added enjoyment.

So for you Yankees…..you may have won the war, but you’re missing out on some good eating.   I hope you try this because you will be glad you did.

Bon Appétit Y’all!

Fried Green Tomatoes

Course Entree, Side Dish
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 Tablespoon hot sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce
  • 1 cup all purpose flour, divided
  • 1 cup panko crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 6 medium green tomatoes, cut into 1/3-inch slices
  • Canola or Vegetable oil
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Combine eggs and next 3 ingredients. Set aside.
  2. Combine 1/2 cup all purpose flour and , panko, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl or pan.
  3. Dredge tomato slices in remaining 1/2 cup flour, dip in egg mixture, and dredge in panko mixture.
  4. Pour oil to a depth of 1/4 to 1/2 inch in a large cast iron skillet, heat to 375 degrees. Drop tomatoes, in batches, into hot oil, and cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels or a rack. Sprinkle hot tomatoes with salt.
  5. (You can keep cooked tomatoes warm at 250 degrees in the oven).

Fantastic Fig Spread

When I was growing up my closest connection to figs were in the Fig Newtons my mom used to buy.  I wasn’t a big fan.

Then came the bunko game a few years ago.  We all brought a dish to share and the only thing I remember from that night of eating was the basket my friend Leigh brought.  It had a small dish of fig jam in it and I don’t recall, but I’m sure I ate the entire thing myself.  I could not believe that was what figs really tasted like.

IMG_5558

After that I became obsessed with figs.  We bought a small fig tree the first year, with no results.  The next year we bought more fig trees and solicited advice from the sales rep.   He knew more than we did apparently, because that year I harvested five figs.  (yes, I did say the number five).  This year, we tried netting, something for the bugs and some fertilizer and we have a bumper crop!  I have so many that I can make Fantastic Fig Spread!

I don’t know where Leigh got this recipe from but I’ve made it before and it truly is fantastic.  In the past when I have made it (from store-bought figs) I have followed the recipe exactly.  This year I opted to add a little orange flavor to it and it was…..dare I say it?…FANTASTIC!!

This is an easy recipe and if you’ve never canned anything before this would be the one to start with.  Give it a try.  You will love it so much that next year you’ll be planting fig trees like I did.

As Ina Garten would say, “How easy is that?”  Enjoy!

Fantastic Fig Spread

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fresh figs, trimmed and quartered (I would chop a little smaller)
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 12 ounces dried figs, stems trimmed and chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon grated lemon zest

Note: you can add 2 tablespoons orange zest and 1/2 orange juice to the above ingredients if desired.

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and simmer 1 minute. Remove from heat, cover, and cool overnight.

  2. Stir jam, and bring to a boil over medium-high het. Reduce heat to medium, and cook 25 to 30 minutes, or until jam is thick, stirring often.

  3. Meanwhile, sterilize jars and lids: Submerge jars in a large pot filled halfway with simmering water, and lids in a small pot of simmering water. Keep jars and lids in hot water until ready to use.

  4. Remove jars one at a time from hot water and fill with jam, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Seal with lids. Place canning rack or cake rack in bottom of a large pot, and return sealed jars to pot, adding extra water to cover jars by 1 inch, if necessary. Bring water to a boil and boil ten minutes. Remove jars from water and cool completely.

  5. **Once cool, check lids. They won’t have that “pop” in the center. If they do, use them immediately or throw away.

Pin It on Pinterest