What a busy fall!

Let me begin by saying HAPPY BIRTHDAY KATIE!!!! And HAPPY BIRTHDAY LIZA!!! My beautiful niece and beautiful ‘adopted’ daughter share this birthday. It’s the big 21 for Liza….I wish you both love and joy!!

This has been an amazingly busy month and it’s not over yet. Two weeks ago our younger daughter was home for the weekend. Last weekend number one child was here. We had a visit from Liza, and there is more to come. This weekend a childhood friend is coming to visit. Phew!

Of course this means there was a lot of food prep and consumption! For our Moose there was an amazing Harvest Minestrone soup. The recipe is from MindBodyGreen and is amazing.

I made a six quart pot of it….. And then for my carnivorous hubby, I took out two quarts, added 16 oz of beef stock and mini meatballs. Everyone was happy.

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I made kisir with both Moose and Liza. The recipe can be found in my previous post “Food is love…… A totally fun afternoon…..”. Both girls enjoyed it and will hopefully make it themselves.

With Tammy there was a trip to the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival. So much fun! And a leisurely dinner at Aroma Thyme. where we enjoyed great food and lovely company. The festival was a hoot too.

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All of the usual suspects continued in my day to day planning….. Meatloaf, quinoa, chicken…..ooooh!!! So for Sunday dinner with Tammy here, I made a YUMMY pasta dinner….
Pasta
Pesto
Sundried tomatoes
Chicken medallions
OH MY MY HOW DELISH!!! And super simple.

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This morning I prepared the fruit and nuts in sherry for the first fruit cake cookies of the season. Thanks Ina Garten!

What have you been cooking up?

The flavors of fall are the best. Get cooking people! And enjoy!!!!

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Flavor Seeker:: A fun new way to make roasted potatoes

I kept seeing these “Hasselback” potatoes in recipes and the more I saw them the more intrigued I was to make them. Nothing tough or complex, but the technique makes the ordinary baked or roasted potato …. Well, whimsical!

Preheat the oven to 450*. Take your potato and slice one side to make a sturdy bottom. Then cut slices down to about 1/4″ from the bottom and about 1/4″ apart. A gentle oil coating and a sprinkle of salt (I would put pepper too, but Barry isn’t a big fan) and in the oven they went. I baked them for an hour. Then I removed them….mmmmm……they already looked great. Crispy on the outside edges and creamy inside. But I didn’t stop there. Cheese was not only sprinkled, but tucked into the crevasses and back into the oven for 5 minutes until the cheese was melted and golden.

Whoa. So I made soup for dinner for Barry. Specifically I made broccoli cheese soup, so a cheesy baked potato made a nice side.

Who am I kidding…they are AWESOME! And they went right to the top of the keeper list.

Give them a try….you are sure to enjoy!

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Food is love….a totally fun afternoon….

My friend, Susan, is a chef. Our beloved Friday night restaurant was hers. Recently, the Bluestone Grill burned down. We are sad over this tragedy. Susan and Lauren are trying to put their lives back together and set a new course.

The upside is the time they both have to rest and rejuvenate from what was an extraordinarily busy and tiring venture. This free time has allowed me to see her outside the restaurant and last week she came to my house and cooked with me. It was so much fun!

We made kisir and cauliflower pizza … And a mess of the kitchen! LOL So much fun and so delicious!!!

The Bluestone served a dish with kisir (tabbouleh) and hummus with flatbread…..mmmmm….. I loved it. I had no idea how simple it was….

You need:
* one onion
* bulgur
* tomato paste
* s & p
* cumin or paprika ~ your preference – we used paprika
* tomatoes ~ as many as you like, but Susan used 2 or 3 plum tomatoes
* flat leaf parsley

Prepare the bulgur according to the package. Much like quinoa or couscous, it absorbs all the water when finished cooking.

While the bulgur is cooking, dice one nice sized onion...white or yellow, not red….and sauté until soft.  A pinch of salt will help break it down. When the onion is translucent, add s&p, paprika to taste and tomato paste.…we used a tube…probably about 2 tablespoons?

Let that sauté. Dice tomatoes and add parsley to them.

Now, into the bowl of diced tomatoes, add the bulgur and the saute mix until combined. SO GOOD!

Again the restaurant served this cold with hummus and naan (flatbread).

We ate it hot. I could hardly wait. As we ate, we talked about how it was good hot or room temperature.  It would be lovely with an egg over it for breakfast or sliced chicken for dinner.

**********

Susan wanted to make cauliflower pizza crust, which she had never made before. I was crazy nervous to cook with this woman who made food into magic for the mouth!!! My recipe of February 15, 2013  (https://neatnosh.wordpress.com/2013/02/15/success-and-a-simple-endeavor-for-today/) was our guide.

We used 6 cups of riced cauliflower and 6 cups of cheese….but I thought that 6 eggs would be too much and she agreed. We settled on 4 and that was great. She couldn’t help herself, so she added s&p and I think a bit of oregano! LOL All about YOUR taste I always say.

We made one large crust on parchment and a cookie sheet. And we made a smaller one to eat right away on a ceramic pan. Both cooked well….but…….

****** NOTE!!!!! ******

BE SURE TO DRAIN THE CAULIFLOWER WELL. WHEN DRIER THE CRUST WILL BE ‘STURDIER.’

I was so nervous, that was my mistake. Still tasted yummy!

Susan deciding which piece to devour first!

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photo 2Cheesy and divine!!

We ate our fill and relaxed on the sofa to talk….Susan said her belly was doing the happy dance with all the yummy cheese!

We had a lovely afternoon….. Thanks Susan!!! I really did ENJOY! 😉

Flavor Seeker ~ Make it at home! Endive Salad

I have said before that I enjoy going out to a really good restaurant and bringing the flavors home. We went to a restaurant recently where we had the loveliest endive salad. The other night, I made this treat for dinner.

We decided to have a finger food night. This consisted of a big bowl of boiled and kosher salted edamame, fresh bakery bread with olive oil and balsamic reduction, and endive salad. It was divine.

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In particular, I want to tell you this. I made the balsamic reduction and had the smell of vinegar in my sinuses for the next 36 hours! LOL 🙂 Really, a balsamic reduction is very simple. Put some balsamic vinegar in a saucepan. Use twice as much as you want to end up with as it ends up reduced by half. On a medium high heat, bring the vinegar to a rolling boil. Keep it there until the vinegar reduces by half and gets syrupy. Really, that’s it.

Now, a couple of things. One: DO NOT LEAVE THE POT ALONE! Make sure you watch it and whisk frequently. Two: Be certain to do this is an well ventilated room. Turn on the exhaust fan. Open an window! The steam that comes off as the vinegar reduces is pungent!

I started with 2 cups of balsamic vinegar. It took about 10 minutes. So that is a rough estimate for you. It is delicious. I used it for the bread and oil. I also drizzled it over the endive.

Endive Salad

You need:

  • endive leaves
  • cheese crumbles ~ The restaurant used blue cheese, but we like milder cheeses, so I used goat cheese.
  • honey roasted pecans
  • balsamic reduction

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So yummy!!!

Try it. And enjoy!!

On being a flavor seeker…

Moose is on a train from Chicago to NY. She managed to get out ahead of the current snowstorm, Saturn, and is mere hours from her destination. She is visiting a friend first and then will come home tomorrow.

moose photo from Moose

Tammy is likely snowed in, though I have not heard from her today. I have to wonder if she is in the dark… power outages were expected in the DC metro area.

Saturn photo courtesy of The Weather Channel

Barry’s school robo-call came about an hour ago. After school activities are canceled today. Always interesting to me that they call staff members during the day when they are in school. {giggle} I have kept busy with some preparation for Moose to come home. And I am doing my thing, scouring the net for recipes. This time I am looking for lentils. I have a yen for them, and I think they would be great for Moose to try.

Remember there is cucumber salad setting in the fridge, and it is delicious. I will pick up cauliflower to make pizza crust early next week. Moose and Kenz made them last week and enjoyed them. Tomorrow will be pizza and salad. I have chicken in the cast iron goddess in the oven. Chicken salad, I think. And I made fruit cake cookies from the drunk fruit I assembled yesterday. They are rolled in parchment paper and tomorrow I will cut and bake them.

Barry and I had a great conversation last night about the change in my diet, and in his. I have to tell you that he made me laugh out loud. As much as he enjoys the food I prepare, now and then he gets a “hankering” for some processed something or another. Last night we were talking about vitamins and I reminded him that his D was low, not only because of the weather {no sun!!} but also because he doesn’t consume milk anymore. He used to eat raisin bran every morning for breakfast. No more. He got a very serious look on his face and said, “Well, I can’t help it! All this gourmet food you feed me, I can’t eat cereal anymore!” LOL 🙂 I “apologized” through my laughter.

When I think of the transition in our diet, I sometimes wonder if there are foods I would like to eat again…ones that are processed, or carb-laden. Truthfully, I do not. In fact, my two favorite snacks used to be M&Ms and ice cream. Now they are almonds and edamame. I seldom eat anything sweet anymore. I much prefer savory.

As I improve my cooking and baking, we have certainly developed new favorites. There are recurring foods, but I continue to strive to make each dish taste better each time I make it. And I work to find new tastes and flavors all of the time. As I look at lentil recipes, for example, I see flavor pairings that seem to be recurring themes. So these will be part of my lentil sidedish. Actually, I bought some salmon and it seems salmon on a bed of lentils will be an excellent flavor combination. There will be onion, garlic, and though I see a lot of thyme, I like dill with garlic. And then dill and lemon on the salmon will be delightful. Of course, I did see quite a few recipes with some bacon! 😉

I will make risotto for Moose, using veggie broth for her, of course. And I have saffron. As far as the other flavors, I will leave it to her what veggies we might throw in there. I would love asparagus, but I don’t think that is one of her favorites, so perhaps peas… and I see a lot of recipes with leeks in risotto… hmm…

So clearly, the main theme in my planning is flavor. Every meal I make now, I try to make sure that it is tasty. If you are going to eat something, it should taste good! Right? Even with the leftovers, I change them and add flavor so that the new meal I create with them is better than the last. Sauces, dips, herbs, and spices have all become more important and I attend to them with greater enthusiasm. Do you?

Remember that looking for great flavor takes planning, but planning out your meals ultimately fills you with fresh food, good food, and flavorful food. Just my thoughts…

So hey, my chicken smells like it needs to come out of the oven. Be a flavor seeker… and always, enjoy!

 

Let’s Talk Cauliflower!

So I bought a fresh head of cauliflower and riced it on Friday to make my Cauliflower pizza crust. Additional note on that: I will bake it on parchment paper next time. The cauliflower is so moist that even on a non-stick pan and well greased, it had sticky spots. Later I thought, GEESH I should have used parchment paper!

Well, now I did say that I had a whole head of cauliflower and the recipe for one only used 1 cup of the riced goodness. I had read enough to be intrigued with trying it as a rice side dish and did so. Again, there is so much water in cauliflower that it can be cooked without adding any. I microwaved a small dish (about 1 cup) with salt and a tbsp of butter. Wow. Really like eating rice.

Next, I still had more so I thought, ok, let me use this up. I cooked the rest of the rice in butter, salt and pepper, and then added some milk when it was cooked down. All of that went into the Ninja and WOW~ I had cauliflower mash! Yum!!

I made three dishes from one head of riced cauliflower. All delicious and different. I am going to try using this new idea of riced cauliflower in my stuffed peppers next time I make them! Why not? Save on carbs and honestly, both rice and cauliflower take on the flavor of what they are cooked in so I am eager to see how that works!

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Pick up a head of cauliflower on your next trip to the market and try these tasty treats! ENJOY!

Preparing that Special Meal ~ Part Two: The Savory Sides!

So, dessert is in the fridge getting chilled and ready. The ham is in the Dutch oven. Barry just called and I teased him with the prospect of this yummy meal.

I am planning three sides for this meal.

  1. Roasted red potatoes with a honey mustard topping
  2. Steamed broccoli Steam, salt, serve, no instructions people.
  3. Sauteed green beans with onions ~ oh and a touch of bacon

Roasted Honey Potatoes http://allrecipes.com/recipe/honey-roasted-red-potatoes/

I will cut the potatoes in smaller chunks to maximize the surface crunch. A pound may be a bit much, but on a special occasion more is better. (And there will be planned leftovers for the weekend. ❤ )

Put the potatoes on a baking sheet which is coated with a cooking spray. Sprinkle the diced onions over top.

Combine the melted butter, honey, dry mustard, and S&P in a small bowl. Drizzle over the potatoes. Toss a bit to coat.

Bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes, stirring about halfway.

Southern Green Beans ~ courtesy Rachael Ray http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/southern-green-beans-recipe/index.html

What I like about this simple preparation is that, first and foremost, it has yummy flavors. I also like that the green beans will get cooked and softened a bit before the savoriness is added. See, Barry and I just don’t like crunchy veggies. That bit of cook time will soften them just enough so we will be happy. BTW I will use a cast iron skillet for this… true southern.

Cook the green beans in 1-inch simmering water, covered, for 6 minutes. Drain them and set them aside. In the same skillet, brown the bacon. When the bacon begins to offer it’s fatty goodness, add the onions. When the onions are translucent and the bacon crispy, add the green beans back to the pan and turn to coat in bacon drippings and onions. When the beans are hot, the bacon crisp at edges, and onions translucent, add vinegar to the pan and season with beans with brown sugar ( Sorry RR but I will use brown sugar). Allow the vinegar to evaporate and the sugar to combine with pan drippings ~ this will only take a minute or two. YUM!

Finally, I am going to make a quick pineapple topping for the ham. I know, I am cooking it in orange juice. I always have. It adds some flavor, but the pineapple ‘gravy’ will take it over the top.

Pineapple glaze:

  • 1 can pineapple chunks
  • 1 jar pineapple preserves
  • a pinch of kosher salt

Yup. That’s it folks. Put these ingredients in a sauté pan, low to med-low heat. Melt together until syrupy and warm. A little salt makes everything better, so don’t argue. Do it.

Next installment ~ you thought I was done ~ the finishing touches!!! ❤

So we can…ENJOY!