A Recipe….for Fresh-Smelling Carpeting

Thursday night Jeff set himself a difficult task….to trim Macy’s nails.  Like many dogs, Macy resists this grooming chore – not strenuously, but enough to make it difficult.  And Thursday evening was no exception.  She doesn’t squirm too much, but she burrows into whatever small space she can – hiding her feet as much as possible.

So it is no great surprise that Jeff accidentally cut one of the nails past the quick.  What is surprising is that Macy didn’t show any sign of discomfort, nor did it bleed right away.  So Jeff cut as many of her nails as he could and let her ‘escape’ when she’d had enough.  It wasn’t until several minutes later that I walked into the bathroom to see blood on the floor.  Then I headed through the bedroom and into the living room to see that our [off-white] carpeting now looked like a crime scene!

Jeff got a bucket of water and some carpet cleaner and began working on the spots.  At first it seemed like the spots were improving, but when the carpeting began to dry we could see that it wasn’t better; but actually was worse.  So Saturday morning we rented a steam cleaner and Jeff cleaned the carpets [which incidentally needed to be done anyway so although the nail trimming experience wasn’t fun for Macy it did lead us to cross an item off our To Do list].

Ok, those of you who have a dog or dogs know that when your carpeting gets wet – regardless of how frequently or infrequently you vacuum, it can smell like a wet dog in your house. And it sure did.

We opened some windows nice and wide to let the house air out and the carpeting dry.  While the drying was going on, we ran some errands and had a bite to eat.  When we returned home we both agreed that it still smelled like a wet dog, but thought since the carpeting was still damp we should wait until it dried to worry.

Sunday morning the wet dog smell was gone, but the carpeting itself still smelled ‘funky.’ [Special thanks to Jeff who took the bullet and actually got down and smelled the floor!]  We didn’t have any Carpet Fresh on hand so I decided to make a DIY version.

I put about 1 cup of baking soda into a canning jar.  I added 6 drops of doTerra lavender essential oil and 6 drops of doTerra lemon essential oil and stirred it vigorously with a fork until the oil was evenly distributed throughout the baking soda (don’t skimp on this step or your carpet refresher will clump in the jar).  Then I cut a piece of card stock to the size of jar mouth, used a mini hole punch to make my own shaker lid and secured it on the canning jar with the metal ring used to hold canning lids.

Jeff sprinkled the carpet refresher around the rooms and we let it sit for about 30 minutes, after which he vacuumed the carpets.  The scent transformation was amazing.  No longer was there a ‘funky’ smell in the house.  Just a nice freshness (almost neutral – definitely not perfumey in any way).

Here we are two days later and there is still no wet dog smell or ‘funky’ smell in the house.  Since I know you can become nose-blind in your own home, I asked my mom if she smelled anything out of the ordinary when she came into the house today and alas she did not.  I know she would tell me if she did because she is as hyper-sensitive about her house not smelling like her pets, as am I.

I’m sure oils other than lavender and lemon would work as well, but doTerra recommends those two (along with peppermint oil) for nearly everything – particularly in respect to cleaning/sanitizing your home.  I apologize to the manufacturers of Carpet Fresh and other carpet products; but I will not be going back.  I now have a chemical-free way of ridding my house of pet odors and other carpet ‘funk’ and I will be sticking to it.  It’s better for my family (two-footed members and four-footed members) and less expensive too!

Give it a try and let me know how you like it and/or if you have other chemical-free recipes for homekeeping to share!!!!

Steamy in My Kitchen Today

It is steamy in my kitchen today.  Not because of the weather, but because of the bevy of activity on the stove.  Today is a day of preserving and I’m up to my elbows in blackberries and cucumbers.


Blackberries

Yesterday, in the torrential downpour, Jeff picked a boat-load (yes, that’s an official measurement) of blackberries.  So today I had to honor his commitment to his garden by making something wonderful from the harvest.  I was going to make blackberry jam, but why do that when you can mix it up?  Jeff and I both had similar trains of thought for the blackberries. The thought  processes went something like this……

“Jam…..ok……but better……add herbs…..ok……..what kind…….basil? No……..thyme? Maybe…….rosemary?  Definitely…..but better……add a
dash of balsamic? Ahhhhhhhh.”

Having taken a ride on that thought train, today’s jam is Blackberry Balsamic Jam with Rosemary and it sure smells good in my kitchen!!!! The jam is made and has been passed through the food mill.  The jars are sterilizing on the stove top as I write.  All that is left is to fill them and give them private time to relax in a water bath.

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Just in case you’re wondering about jam vs. jelly vs. marmalade……..

What else is going on in the kitchen?  Bread and butter pickles.

I am not a lover of cucumbers.  In fact, I would almost rather starve than eat one; however I love cucumber spa water and I love bread and butter pickles.  So when my mother-in-law asked if I wanted some fresh cucumbers from her garden, I accepted with the intention of turning them into pickles.

[OK, I must confess – I took a quick break from writing to get the jam into the jars and the jars into the canner.  Now I can get back to writing about the pickles.]

Having never made bread and butter pickles, Jeff’s mom generously shared her recipe with me via Jeff’s phone.  However, I forgot to get the recipe from him and he is currently unreachable by phone so I did a google search for ‘bread and butter pickles.’  The search pointed me to Pinterest (darn), which yielded a recipe from the Brown Eyed Baker that sounded good to me.

The Brown Eyed Baker’s recipe for bread and butter pickles is currently in process in my kitchen.  I waffle cut the cucumbers using my mandoline (Q: Have I ever mentioned how much I love my mandoline? A: Only about a million times!) (Q: Have I ever mentioned the importance of safety when using a mandoline? A: Mentioned is too subtle a word for what I’ve done – ranted is more like it. If you want to read about it, click See John Cook: A Public Safety Message & Rant).

Now the cucumbers, having been salted according to the recipe, are chillin’ in the fridge.  As soon as the jam comes out of the canner, I will be on to the next step of the recipe. Stay tuned…..

B&BPickles

[Insert your favorite elevator music here!!!]

Ok, I’m back…..While I waited for the jam to finish, I:  Pickling Solution

 

  • soaked my plastic cutting boards in a bleach and water solution,
  • emptied and reloaded the dishwasher,
  • listened to my belly growl,
  • started a pot of cold brew coffee
  • rinsed the cucumbers according to the recipe instructions
  • thinly sliced the onions
  • prepared the pickling solution

 

Cucumbers & Onions in Pickling SolutionThen, while the cucumbers sat in the hot pickling solution, I:

 

  • made a quick trip to the grocery store
  • watered my plants
  • dusted the living room
  • swept the kitchen floor
  • baked some sweet potatoes for lunches this week
  • returned some phone calls
  • fed my growling belly

 

Finally, I packed the jars and put them in the canner for 10 minutes.

It was certainly a productive day, not just in my steamy kitchen; but at my house in general.  I’ll be happy in the months to come when I open a jar of jam or a jar of pickles.  And I’ll have some healthy lunches this week too.  So here’s to steamy!

All in a Days Work

 

 

 

 

 

It Ain’t My Mamma’s Potato Salad

Picnic season is upon us…..the temperature and humidity are both climbing, the sun goes down later and it’s the season of long weekends, vacations, graduation parties, and other outdoor festivities.  That means it’s picnic food time!

This is the time of year – you know, between Memorial Day and Labor Day – that you can be out cutting your grass and jealousy slowly (or maybe not so slowly) creeps over you as you smell what ever deliciousness is on your neighbor’s grill.  According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (NHDSC) – this is peak hot dog season.  Between Memorial Day and Labor Day American’s consume approximately 7 billion (with a B) hot dogs – 150 million on Independence Day alone (that’s over 10,000 miles of hot dogs)!

What do we typically serve with our grilled hamburgers and hot dogs?  Some of the most popular options for picnic sides are fruit salad, cole slaw, macaroni salad, corn on the cob and, the star of today’s show, potato salad.

Although there are probably millions of recipes out there for potato salad, I will tell you quite confidently that my mamma’s potato salad is THE BEST!  It’s creamy and flavorful and both soft and crunchy – it has the perfect balance of flavors and textures……WHEN SHE MAKES IT.  That’s the sticking point – it’s only perfect when she makes it.  She has generously shared her recipe with me and I’ve made it and it has been good – even great – but not like hers!

Why am I telling you this?  Because we recently had a family dinner and, unfortunately, Mimi had to work so she couldn’t be there.  She graciously sent all the fixings, washed and prepped, for a delicious tossed salad (which in our family is not your traditional lettuce, tomatoes, croutons – it’s more a work of culinary art).  I had asked her to make the salad for dinner before I got the request that we have hamburgers and hot dogs.  Had I known that would be the menu, I would definitely have asked her to make potato salad!

But, these hardships in life [read this as it was intended – dripping with sarcasm and gratitude for my situation] teach us to adapt.  I knew I couldn’t serve Mimi’s Potato Salad to this particular crowd because they’ve all had it before and they’d know it was a sad imposter of the fabulous original.  So I decided to go an entirely different way (I know, surprising that I would do that).

I pulled out a potato salad recipe that I had developed for a class.  Here’s what I did:

The night before I assembled the potato salad, I:

  • smoked the potatoes
  • crisped and the bacon
  • hard-boiled the eggs
  • mixed the dressing

Before I continue, I should tell you a bit about a stove-top smoker, which is what I used to smoke the potatoes.  If you don’t have one of these in your culinary arsenal, you should! It’s a great tool for adding flavor without adding fat and is also a wonderful way of giving winter foods the taste of summer without grilling or smoking outside in the snow (which, of course, I have been known to do).

The stove-top smoker can be used on an electric or gas stove top, a grill or a camp fire/fire pit.  When you purchase it – and I just happen to know where you can buy a stove-top smoker –  the smoker is bright and shiny and pristine; however, the longer you use it, the more it will start to look like mine.  The smoker consists of four parts:

  1. Base (into which you add approximately 1 Tbsp of smoking chips, which come in a wide variety of flavors) 2
  2. Drip Tray (keeps your wood chips dry while smoking)
    3
  3. Rack (keeps your food elevated so that it is surrounded by smoke)
    4
  4. Lid (keeps the smoke trapped inside the smoker for maximum flavor)
    5

Generally speaking, you will add raw foods to the smoker and during the process of smoking they will become cooked.  What foods can you smoke?  The sky is the limit!  I’ve smoked chicken, seafood, veggies, cheese for pizza (you have to put it into a ramekin or you’ll have a mess), chickpeas for hummus, etc. etc. etc.

Back to the potato salad.  I assembled it the day of the picnic; however you could assemble it the day before to give all the flavors a chance to marry with a great result. Had i planned better, that is just what I would have done.  But you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men….

So back to the assembly. Because I had prepped some of the ingredients the night before, assembly was a breeze.  I got out my cutting board, my favorite ceramic knife, and set to work.

First, I cubed the smoked potatoes, which had been refrigerated over night.

11

I chopped the hard-boiled eggs, which had also been refrigerated overnight.

13

I crumbled the crisped bacon, which again was refrigerated overnight.

12

I minced the celery – including the leaves, which add great flavor and color.

6

And I minced the sweet onion.

14

I measured my shredded WHITE cheddar (I could go on a rant here about orange cheddar, but I won’t.  Suffice it to say it is my last resort).

9

I diagonally sliced the scallions – both the white part and much of the green.  I stop where the green begins to get dry.

8

And I whisked the dressing, which had been mellowing out in the fridge too.

7

Finally, I put all the ingredients (except for a few of the sliced scallions) in a LARGE bowl and gently tossed it until it was well mixed.  I tasted it for seasoning and adjusted as necessary.

To finish, I scooped it into the serving bowl and scattered the top with the reserved sliced scallions and slid it, covered, into the fridge until my guests arrived!

recipe_image

It AIN”T my mamma’s potato salad, but if you want a fresh spin on potato salad with unique flavors and textures, this should definitely make it to your picnic-side-dishes list!

 

Before all you fellow grammar-nerds ask or complain – yes, it damn near killed me to use the word ‘ain’t’!)

 

Loaded Wood-Smoked Potato Salad

by mmm mmm mmm

Keywords: Smoke salad summer

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, smoked and cut into large dice (see note below)
  • 1 1/2 lb sweet potatoes, smoked and cut into large dice (see note below)
  • 4 large eggs, hard-boiled
  • 8 slices bacon, crisped and crumbled
  • 4 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 1 small sweet onion, finely diced
  • 6 oz shredded white cheddar cheese
  • 6 scallions (white and green parts), diagonally sliced
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup Hellman’s mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp yellow mustard
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp ground smoked black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp minced garlic

Instructions

Note: To smoke potatoes

Place approximately ½ to 1 Tbsp. smoking chips in the bottom of the smoker tray.

Insert the drip tray.

Cover the rack with aluminum foil and spray the foil with cooking spray.

Place rack in smoker.

Place the potatoes in a single layer on the rack.

Cover the smoker with the seamless lid.

Place over medium to medium-high heat until potatoes are fork tender – approximately 20 minutes (white potatoes typically need a few more moments than sweet potatoes).

Assembling the potato salad

Cut smoked potatoes and sweet potatoes into 1″ dice and place in a large bowl.

Peel and dice hard-boiled eggs and add to the potatoes.

Add the crumbled bacon, diced celery, diced onions, shredded cheese and all but a few of the sliced scallions and gently stir to combine.

In a separate bowl whisk together all dressing ingredients until well combined.

Pour the dressing over the potato mixture and gently stir to combine.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Just before serving, taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.

Top with reserved sliced scallions, serve and enjoy!

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Saturday’s Pizza on the Big Green Egg

I spent the day on Saturday at The Kitchen Shoppe hanging out with folks who were learning about the Big Green Egg.  I’ve written about the BGE in previous posts and believe I have explained that to call the BGE a grill is the understatement of the century.  Yes, you can grill on the BGE, but you can also do sooo much more – you can bake, smoke, and roast too.

On Saturday, I was cooking pizzas on the BGE.  My assignment from Dan, our BGE guru and my boss, was to do an INTERESTING pizza.  Other than those traditionalist who only eat their pizza with red sauce and cheese, the pizza was well received.  So much so that I was asked to post about it on the blog.

On the BGE

So here’s what I did:

  • The Dough – I used Gran Mugnano ’00’ flour in my old-favorite pizza dough recipe – Jimmy & Jeff’s Pizza Dough (see below)
  • The Toppings – Stonewall Kitchen’s Fig & Ginger Jam (replaced the sauce), julienned prosciutto, crumbled blue cheese, arugula (lightly dressed with olive oil, salt and pepper) and a few shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • The Temperature – between 600 and 700 degrees F
  • The Tools – pizza peel coated with a healthy layer of corn meal, pizza lifter (like a giant, round spatula), pizza cutter
  • The Charcoal – a mix of Wicked Good Jake’s Blend and Big Green Egg
  • The Time – about 6 to 10 minutes – until the desired doneness is achieved

Before Being Fully Devoured

In addition to the pizza, folks who came out for the Big Green Egg lesson with Dan also ate pulled pork, spice rubbed chicken, BBQ salmon, and 1 1/2″ thick steaks cooked at 700 degrees F.

The food was delish, the weather was cooperative and the company was wonderful.  What’s your favorite pizza on the Big Green Egg?????


Jimmy & Jeff’s Pizza Dough

by mmm mmm mmm

Keywords: pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 package active dry yeast (2 tsp)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm water (115 degrees F)
  • 3 cups “00” flour
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup warm water (115 degrees F)

Instructions

Combine yeast and sugar in a bowl large enough to hold approximately 2 cups of liquid. Add 1/4 cup water, stir and let bloom (about 5 to 10 minutes).

While yeast blooms, place 3 cups of flour and 1 tsp sea salt in to bowl of a food processor. Whirl to blend.

After the yeast mixture blooms, add the honey, olive oil and 3/4 cup warm water. Stir with a whisk.

With the food processor running, add the yeast mixture through the feed tube.

Mix until the dough pulls away from the sides of the work bowl and forms a ball.

Remove the dough from the food processor and knead for a few minutes to remove air bubbles. Dough should be soft and elastic.

Shape dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap.

Let rise for several hours. The longer the better. You can let the dough rise overnight in the refrigerator with great results.

After the first rise, punch the dough down, divide it in half, form each half into a ball and let it rise again for about an hour (or more if necessary).

Shape the dough and top it with your favorite ingredients.

Bake in a hot oven (500 degrees F) or cook on the grill.

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My Own Kind of Kind

American writer Henry James once wrote:

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”

While I agree, I also think he forgot one…..the fourth is to make kind.  Or at least to make a knock-off of you favorite Kind Bars!

That’s just what I did yesterday – thanks to Jeff and the folks at “the kitchn.”  Not only did Jeff find a recipe for me to use to replicate my favorite smoked almond kind bars on “the kitchn’s” site, but he also picked up some bulk nuts and seeds for me when he was in Lancaster on Thursday.

Where can you find the recipe for Smoked Almond Snack Bars!  Right here!

So, how’d it go?  The recipe was sooooo easy!  The only thing I think was missing from the instructions was to say that peeling the parchment paper off the bars has to happen at just the right moment.  If you try to take it off too soon, you may feel like throwing the whole mess in the trash.  But if you let them sit a bit longer, it will peel right off.

I made a triple batch in a half-sheet tray (approximately 12″ x 18″) and was able to get 30 bars that are approximately 1 3/4″ x 4″ – a great snack size! I used 1/3 smoked and salted almonds and 2/3 plain almonds.  I used a bit less salt than was called for because the smoked almonds were salted.  And I used a bit less than 1 tsp. of Liquid Smoke for a triple batch.

Because I had to run Macy to the spa, my bars cooled for about 35 minutes after they came out of the oven.  I did have to put them back into the oven for about 2 minutes to get them out of the pan – but fortunately the recipe told me how to handle such a situation! After I cut the bars and let them cool for several hours, I wrapped them in waxed paper and am storing them in the freezer per the recipe instructions.

So how does the recipe rate?

4 and 1_2 ms

I’d give it 4 1/2 M’s out of 5….the taste is great, it yielded the promised amount and the instructions were informative. The only thing missing was the information about removing the parchment paper – of course, the recipe writer may not have had trouble with that step.  But there’s always room for improvement, right?

Let me know how it goes if you make them!!!!

Black Bean & “Red” Lentil Sliders

This is a recipe you’ve been able to find in the Recipe Box at mmm mmm mmm since 2012; however when I posted it, I didn’t write about it.  Since I started making them for Wednesday morning at 9:00 a.m. for Wednesday night’s dinner, I took some time to photograph the process so that I could share it with you.

I will tell you that I had to make a substitution from the original recipe because I didn’t have any red lentils on hand. Rather than letting a missing ingredient slow me down, I simply improvised with what I did have – brown lentils.  Because red lentils typically cook to a much creamier / mushier texture than brown lentils, I overcooked the brown lentils slightly to get the creaminess I like in the recipe.

Now there are those people who are organized enough on a regular basis to plan ahead and start their dinner early in the day.  True confession time: I am not one of those people.  And I’m not married to one of them either.  Jeff and I typically talk about what’s for dinner while we’re driving home from work and then we’re wishing we were more organized.  On occasion one of us will think ahead and remember to take something out of the freezer; but that’s the exception not the rule.  So in the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I wrote this post poolside on Wednesday, which is the reason I made the Black Bean & “Red” Lentil Burgers for dinner that day.

Writing My Post

You see, our friends Lu & Mark are on vacation this week and before they left they asked us if we would take care of their pool while they are away.  The request for our help translates into them generously offering us the use of their pool without us feeling like we’re taking charity!!!!  But, they can rest assured that the Aquabot has been in the pool and done its job, the chemicals are at the right level and the pool’s been shocked! All this is a small price to pay for a relaxing retreat in the heat of summer!  But as usual, I digress…..

I was able to relax on my raft with my book in hand on Wednesday knowing that dinner was already made.  All I had to do when I finally decided I’d had enough lounging by the pool was hop in the car, drive a few miles and slide the burgers into the oven along with the partially cooked sweet potato fries that I started baking while I was forming the burgers.

So, what’s the skinny with the Black Bean & Red Lentil Burgers?  Well, they are a great meatless meal option, they’re high in fiber and low in fat, and are deliciously satisfying served with avocado arugula pesto (which is what I did the first time I made them) or with spicy lime mayo (which I did on Wednesday).  You can make them into full-size burgers or into slider-size appetizers.  You can serve them on a slider roll, a parmesan crisp (frico), or “naked.”

Oh, and the best part is, they’re easy to make.  Here’s what I did…..

  1. Mis en place – which is a fancy, French way of saying I got all my ingredients in place.  Taking the time to mis en place helps you determine if you have all the ingredients AND the right amounts of each ingredient before you begin cooking.

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  2. I rinsed, drained and, using a potato masher, lightly mashed most of the black beans.

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  3. I grated the carrots, squeezed out the excess liquid and added them to the black beans.
    Black Beans & Carrots
  4. I sautéed the finely diced onion in some olive oil for 5 minutes, added the minced garlic and cooked it for one additional minute.
    Sauteeing Onions & Garlic
  5. To the onions I added red pepper flakes, kosher salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste (I only had sun-dried tomato paste so I happily substituted it for regular tomato paste), lime zest and lime juice and allowed the mixture to cook for another minute or two.
    Aromatics
  6. I added the onion mixture to the black beans and carrots and also added the cooked lentils, chia seeds, beaten eggs, ground flax seed, and wheat germ.  I mixed the whole shebang until it was well combined.

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  7. Using a Metric Wonder Cup set to 4 Tbsp.; I formed the burgers, covered them with plastic wrap and put them in the fridge until I got home from Chez Shuey.

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When I got home, I preheated the oven to 400 degrees F and while it was coming up to temperature I dredged each burger in some breadcrumbs and sprayed them, using my EVO Sprayer, with a little olive oil.  The breadcrumbs and olive oil give the burgers a crisp texture on the outside (to mimic the wonderful char you get on a properly grilled burger), while the inside is moist and flavorful.

I served them on a Kings Hawaiian roll with a dollop of Spicy Lime Mayo.  To go with the burgers, we had sweet potato fries and some store-bought cole slaw.

Dinner

I spent the day on Wednesday floating in the pool, writing this post, reading, generally relaxing in the summer sun and waiting…..waiting for the yummy dinner I had prepared.

…..I guess if you have to wait, poolside with a good book and a tall, cold beverage is the way to do it!  Thanks Lu & Mark.  I will happily make this recipe for you when you return – that is if Mark can tolerate a meatless meal!

 

Black Bean & Red Lentil Sliders (or burgers)

by mmm mmm mmm

Keywords: sandwich entree black beans red lentils carrots chia seeds

Ingredients

  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup cooked red lentils
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots, squeezed to remove water
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 lime, zest and juice
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 Tbsp ground flax seed
  • 6 Tbsp wheat germ
  • 1 Recipe Avocado Arugula Pesto

Instructions

1. In a bowl large enough to hold all ingredients, coarsely mash black beans.

2. Add red lentils and squeezed carrots and mix well.

3. In a small saute pan, saute diced onions for 5 minutes, until translucent.

4. Add minced garlic and saute for 1 minute.

5. Add spices, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, lime zest and juice and saute for an additional minute to toast spices and tomato paste.

6. Add the sautéed mixture to the black bean mixture and stir to combine well.

7. Add the beaten eggs, the flax seed and wheat germ. Mix well.

8. Form into burgers or sliders and place on a half-sheet pan that has either been sprayed with cooking spray or that is fitted with a non-stick mat.

9. Sprinkle to tops of the patties with a light dusting of bread crumbs and a drizzle of olive oil.

10. Bake in a preheated 400 degree F oven for approximately 12 minutes for sliders or 17 minutes for burgers.

11. Top with a dollop of Avocado Arugula Pest, serve and enjoy!

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Edible Lace Doilies for Mother’s Day

I am so blessed to be able to do what I love! And that’s not something I just say [write], I TRULY mean it.   I had fun today teaching a Mother’s Day cooking class with my mom.  Our menu included:

  • Brandied Shrimp Bisque with Herb Garnish
  • Spring Pea Salad with Edible Flowers
  • Tourte Milanaise with Beurre Blanc
  • Orange Lamingtons
  • Chocolate Espresso Pots de Crème
  • Tibetan Eye of the Tiger Tea with an Edible Lace Doilie

My mom and I had a fun making the recipes for some truly great people!  There were new friends and old [No, I’m not talking about age].  People I’ve seen recently and people I haven’t seen for a while.  And it was so nice to see them all.  And I’d be remiss if I didn’t give an honorable mention to Ryan, the brave male in a room full of females who treated his mom to class as a way to celebrate Mother’s Day together!

We served a delicious tea – Tibetan Eye of the Tiger – with dessert and in it we floated edible doilies that were lovingly made by my friend and co-worker, Vivian.  They looked beautiful in the tea cups and were a “nice little extra” for the moms!

Here’s a look at the Orange Lamingtons before they were served.

Lamingtons

As promised, the recipe for Homemade Sugar Veil is below.  This is not my recipe, but one worth sharing. I cannot tell you exactly where the recipe originated.

1/4 cup boiled purified water
1 Tbsp. tylose powder
1 Tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. meringue powder/egg white powder
1/2 tsp. corn syrup (Karo is preferred)
Pinch of white icing color (and/or color of your choice)

  1. Add tylose powder to boiling water and mix until clear.  It might take a bit of effort, don’t worry.
  2. Once clear, mix in the confectioners’ sugar well.
  3. Next, add cornstarch and combine.
  4. Mix in the meringue powder/egg white powder.
  5. Add the corn syrup.
  6. Add the white icing color and/or color of your choice.

*Notes:

  • You can keep the mixture in the refrigerator for a week.  When you want to use it, let it come to room temperature and give it a mix.
  • Be aware the mixture will get moldy if you don’t use it.  So don’t make a huge batch if you don’t plan to use it all within a week.
  • You are able to store the lace in a plastic zip lock bag and to restore the elasticity, place a slightly damp cover or paper towel on top.  You don’t want to leave it on for too long or it will dissolve.
  • The water you use can effect the outcome.  You best chance is using purified water – avoid mineral, fluoride or tap water.

You will need silicone molds to make the doilies.  Per Vivian, you can purchase them on Amazon.com (and I’m sure there are other places to buy them too).

A quick note of thanks to all the lovely ladies with whom I work.  Especially the ones who helped with class today.  It did not go unnoticed that you spent your Mother’s Day making my class a success.  I appreciate all the help and support and guidance and suggestions and old-fashioned hard work you do for me and with me!  You are the best group of co-workers and friends a girl could ask for!

Thank you also to everyone who came to class today! You bless me – truly and richly bless me – with the opportunity to do what I love!!!!!

Wheat Berries & Wheat Berry Salad

I’ve been on a bit of a wheat berry kick lately and thought I’d share it with you. For those of you who don’t know what wheat berries are, read on.  For those of you who do, read on anyway!

A wheat berry is a kernel of wheat with only the hull removed.  It includes the bran, the germ and the endosperm. They resemble barley and other whole grains and are quite nutritious.  When wheat berries are ground, they turn into whole wheat flour.

High in protein and fiber, wheat berries are delicious and healthy additions to salads, soups, and side dishes. When cooked in simmering water until somewhat soft, they hold their shape and add a bit of crunch to both sweet and savory recipes.

For a good nutritional explanation of wheat berries, visit Jillian Michaels’ site.

Take a look at what wheat berries look like raw:

Raw Wheatberries

Today, I used wheat berries to make a salad.  I cooked 1 cup raw wheat berries according to the package instructions and then added:

  • 1 granny smith apple, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 3 oz. grana padano cheese, diced
  • 3 Tbsp. salted sunflower seeds
  • 2 Tbsp. Gazebo Room Greek Salad Dressing
  • 2 oranges, segmented and juice squeezed over salad
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

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The results were terrific!  The salad made a yummy breakfast, which may sound strange to some of you.  I’m not really a “sweet for breakfast” kind of girl, so I’m always looking for savory and healthful options for breakfast.  This salad provided not only fruits and veggies, but also protein and healthy carbs.

If you haven’t tried them, consider giving wheat berries a chance.  Maybe you won’t want them for breakfast; but I’ll bet if you try them you will want to include them into your weekly meal plans.

Greek-Inspired Stuffed Eggplant

One of the aspects of gardening I appreciate most is the social one.  I know, this may sound strange; but if you’re a gardener you know what I mean.  When you garden, you end up talking passionately with other gardeners and trading produce like young boys trade baseball cards (or at least they did when I was young).

If you’re lucky, you grow different things than your friends do….that way when the crops are really prolific, you end up with produce you didn’t grow and your friends end up with a harvest they didn’t grow.  It’s a wonderful way to build relationships!

“When eating fruit, remember who planted the tree; when drinking water, remember who dug the well.”

~ Vietnamese Proverb

Abundance of Eggplant 2

Over the weekend I came into an abundance of end-of-season eggplant; so I spent part of my day today making Greek-Inspired Stuffed Eggplant.  I’ve made this recipe previously; but never written down the process.  Today was a good day to take my time documenting the recipe and an even better day to share it with you!

Preparing Eggplant

Eggplants Cut in Half

Peeled Stripes

Gazebo Room DressingEggplant Boats

Eggplant Boats Drizzled with Gazebo

I began by preparing the eggplant……First I cut the stem end off and then I cut them in half lengthwise.  I used a peeler to strip away some of the peel (I left some stripes of skin on the eggplant because Jeff likes them without the skin, but there are important nutrients in the skin – so it’s my compromise).  Next I used a paring knife to score a “well” in each half and then a spoon to scoop out the flesh.  I saved the flesh in a bowl to add to the filling later.

After preparing the eggplant “boats,” I drizzled them with some Gazebo Room Dressing (about 1/3 cup total for all 7 eggplants) and roasted them in the oven at 400 degrees F for about 30 minutes (some were smaller so I took them out sooner).

I cut the skinless boneless chicken breast into 1 1/2″ cubes and mixed it with 1/3 cup of Gazebo Room Dressing.  I set the chicken aside to marinate while I worked on the filling.

Orzo Cooking

Filling in Process

Then I boiled a pot of water to cook the orzo for the filling.  While the pasta cooked, I prepared the vinaigrette using lemon juice and zest, minced garlic, minced thyme, coarse Dijon mustard, salt, pepper and olive oil.  When the orzo finished cooking, I drained it and stirred about 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette into the orzo and set it aside to cool. When it was cool, I added 1/2 cup of currants, 1/2 cup of pine nuts and 12 oz. of Feta cheese that I had cut into cubes.

Eggplant Flesh for FIlling

I then set about making the filling.  I started by sautéing 2 medium diced onions in olive oil.  (To minimize dish washing later, I used the same vessel in which I cooked the pasta). While the onions cooked for about 5 minutes over medium heat, I diced the reserved flesh from the eggplants (I discarded the really seedy pieces) – in the end it was about 3 cups of diced eggplant flesh.

I added the diced eggplant to the cooked onions and continued to cook the mixture while I cut some Tuscan kale into ribbons.  When the onions and eggplant were softened, I added the kale and cooked it long enough for it to wilt.  When the veggies were finished, I transferred them to the bowl with the orzo to cool.

Cooking ChickenBrowning Chicken

Next I turned to the chicken.  In the pan I used to cook the veggies to cook the chicken (again, this would save me on dish washing later).  I cooked it in 3 separate batches – to avoid boiling the chicken – for about 4 minutes per batch until it was nicely browned and cooked through.

After all the chicken was cooked, into the filling mixture.  To finish the filling, I mixed in all but 3 Tbsp. of the dressing.

Eggplant in Oven

Stuffed Eggplant

I spooned the filling into the eggplant “boats” – filling them until they were nicely mounded with filling.  Finally, I topped the “boats” with seasoned breadcrumbs and a drizzle of the remaining dressing and baked them in a 350 degree F oven for about 35 minutes.

The result? Mmm mmm mmm!

 

Plated EggplantI hope you use this recipe and enjoy the delicious results. I recommend making extra and sharing it with friends or family.  As a matter of fact, the timer is just going off and as soon as I slide the eggplant out of the oven I’m headed to our friends’ house to drop some off.

Sharing the fruits of your labor – whether they’re veggies from your garden or a meal from your kitchen (or really, the result of any of your talents) – gives your friends one more reason to think of you and smile!!!

Greek-Inspired Stuffed Eggplant

by mmm mmm mmm

Keywords: entree chicken eggplant lemon feta cheese

Ingredients

    To Prepare Eggplant Boats

    • 6 medium eggplant
    • 1/3 cup Gazebo Room Greek Dressing

    To Make Vinaigrette

    • 3 lemons, zest and juice (about 1/2 cup juice)
    • 1 Tbsp. minced fresh thyme
    • 1 Tbsp. grainy Dijon mustard
    • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
    • 1/2 tsp. pepper
    • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

    To Make Filling

    • 3/4 lb. orzo, cooked according to package instructions
    • 3/4 lb. chicken, cut into 1 1/2″ cubes and marinated in 1/4 cup Gazebo Room Greek Dressing
    • 12 oz. Feta cheese, cut into 3/4″ cubes
    • 1/2 cup currants
    • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
    • 4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
    • 3 cups cubed eggplant (reserved when preparing eggplant boats)
    • 2 medium onions, diced
    • 1 large bunch Tuscan kale, chopped

    For Topping

    • 3/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
    • 3 Tbsp. reserved vinaigrette dressing

    Instructions

    To prepare eggplant “boats”

    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

    Cut the stem end off each eggplant.

    Cut each eggplant in half lengthwise.

    Optional – if you don’t prefer to eat the peel, peel each eggplant half or compromise like Jeff and I do and peel strips off each eggplant half, leaving a little of the skin intact.

    Using a paring knife, score a well in each eggplant half.

    Using a spoon, scoop the flesh out of the well. (Cut the removed flesh into small cubes and save 3 cups of the cubed eggplant for the filling. I discard any flesh that is really seedy.)

    Place the “boats,” well facing up / skin side down, on a rimmed baking sheet.

    Drizzle the “boats” with Gazebo Room Greek Dressing – dividing the 1/3 cup dressing among all the halves.

    Roast the “boats” in the preheated 400 degree F oven for approximately 30 minutes (you want them to be tender, but not mushy).

    Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

    To make the vinaigrette

    In a medium bowl, whisk to combine the lemon zest and juice, minced garlic, minced thyme, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper.

    While you are vigorously whisking, slowly drizzle the olive oil into the lemon mixture. You want to whisk faster than you pour so that you create a nice emulsion.

    Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

    To make the filling

    Cook the orzo according to the package instructions.

    Drain orzo and transfer to a large, heat-proof bowl.

    Pour 1/2 cup of the dressing over the hot orzo and stir to coat.

    Set orzo aside to cool.

    When orzo is cool, stir in cubed Feta cheese, currants and toasted pine nuts.

    Set aside.

    Over medium-high heat, sauté onions in Tbsp. olive oil- stirring frequently – until tender but not brown, approximately 5 minutes.

    Add remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil and cubed eggplant and cook for an additional 5 minutes, lowering heat to medium.

    When eggplant is soft, add chopped kale and cook for approximately 3 minutes just to wilt the kale.

    Remove the veggies from the pan and allow to cool.

    In the same pan, sauté the cubed, marinated chicken – stirring frequently – over medium high heat – working in batches to avoid boiling your chicken rather than searing it – for approximately 4 minutes, until cooked through and nicely brown.

    Remove chicken from the pan and allow to cool.

    When veggies and chicken have cooled, mix them into the orzo mixture.

    Add all but 3 Tbsp. of the remaining vinaigrette and stir well to coat and evenly distribute ingredients.

    To Fill, Top & Bake Eggplant

    Reduce heat of preheated oven to 350 degrees F.

    Fill each eggplant half with filling, mounding the filling over the top edge of the eggplant.

    Place eggplant half on a rimmed baking sheet.

    Repeat with all halves.

    Distribute the seasoned breadcrumbs evenly over all the eggplant halves.

    Drizzle the remaining 3 Tbsp. vinaigrette over all the eggplant halves.

    Bake in preheated 350 degree F. oven for approximately 30 to 35 minutes. Filling will be heated through and breadcrumbs should be golden brown.

    Serve & enjoy!

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    Pizza Dough: A Base for Yummy Toppings & for New Friendships

    Throughout my life, I’ve developed friendships based on many things…..common hobbies, school ties, work, mutual friends, shared pain, serving together, love of dogs, etc….. But I have found over the past year and a half (or perhaps I’ve just reinforced what I already knew) that in addition to these things, food can be the base upon which friendships are built.

    Through my work at The Kitchen Shoppe & Cooking School (TKSCS) I’ve come into contact with many people – some are like me and some are not.  Some I might not otherwise have had the opportunity to meet or get to know, others I would. But no matter the similarities or differences, I’ve developed some wonderful friendships and our common bond is food and the passion for creating the best food we can.

    Recently, TKSCS held its 40th anniversary celebration – it was a full-day event that included cooking demonstrations, product specials and demos, food samples and learning opportunities for a wonderful product, the Big Green Egg (BGE).  Those of you who have heard of the BGE or who own one probably know that the BGE provides the basis for some unlikely friendships as well.  BGE enthusiasts, or Eggheads, have all kinds of fora (or forums) online for sharing BGE cooking experiences and recipes. People who might not otherwise have met or who might share nothing else in common interact with one another, sharing what they’ve learned and helping one another through sticky cooking/grilling/egging situations.

    I have a BGE on my back deck, and over the last 6 months have dipped my toe in the water of the BGE experience.  One of the things I best love making on the BGE is pizza.  Although homemade pizza has been a staple in our house for years, pizza on the egg is relatively new.  And I have to say I can’t imagine making it any other way.  The BGE allows you to cook pizza at high temperatures (600 – 700 degrees F), which gives you a nice crisp crust, and it imparts a wonderfully smoky flavor to the pizza.  It’s fabulous!

    So at the 40th anniversary celebration, I made pizza on the BGE for 8 hours.  What a great assignment.  I got to be outside in the beautiful spring weather while doing something I love.  My “station” was next to the band – the Buc Hill Aces – and near the BGE classes that were being offered throughout the day; so in addition to smelling my pizzas, I also got to enjoy the wonderful aromas wafting through the air from the classes.  The students were grilling hamburgers, steaks, chicken and shrimp.  It was a fiesta for the nose!!!

    Throughout the day, many people commented on the pizza dough.  Those of you who have been reading for a while know that the dough recipe was given to Jeff by our long-time friend Jimmy.  Jeff tweaked the recipe through the years and finally entrusted me with it about a year ago (March 21, 2013 to be exact). While there is no magic in the recipe, it does have just the right combination of ingredients to produce a flavorful crust with a wonderful texture.

    So for those of you who asked about the dough recipe, I am finally posting it on the blog. I hope you enjoy the recipe and that it becomes a mainstay in your pizza repertoire.  If you try it, please let me know how it turns out for you.

    Jeff and I have made this recipe hundreds of times in the last 22 years and have never been disappointed.  We’ve learned things along the way and have sometimes had to make substitutions.  We’ve played with the recipe, adding new ingredients such as fresh herbs, whole wheat flour, flax seed, etc. – sometimes the results were good and sometimes not so much; but the basic dough is always a crowd pleaser.

    I would highly recommend cooking your pizza on the BGE if you have the chance.  It really does produce a wonderful result.  And not only is the pizza great, but the aroma that wafts from your yard into the yard next door will be enough to get the neighbors interested in what you’re doing, which hopefully will spark conversations and, in turn, allow new friendships to blossom!  I have a sneaking suspicion, that sharing this recipe for pizza dough will be the base of some new friendships too!!!!

    Keep an eye on my “Classes I’m Teaching” page. I’m working on my cooking classes for the fall and am planning a hands-on pizza making class, among others!

    Jimmy & Jeff’s Pizza Dough

    by mmm mmm mmm

    Keywords: pizza

    Ingredients

    • 1 package active dry yeast (2 tsp)
    • 1 tsp sugar
    • 1/4 cup warm water (115 degrees F)
    • 3 cups “00” flour
    • 1 tsp sea salt
    • 1 Tbsp honey
    • 2 Tbsp olive oil
    • 3/4 cup warm water (115 degrees F)

    Instructions

    Combine yeast and sugar in a bowl large enough to hold approximately 2 cups of liquid. Add 1/4 cup water, stir and let bloom (about 5 to 10 minutes).

    While yeast blooms, place 3 cups of flour and 1 tsp sea salt in to bowl of a food processor. Whirl to blend.

    After the yeast mixture blooms, add the honey, olive oil and 3/4 cup warm water. Stir with a whisk.

    With the food processor running, add the yeast mixture through the feed tube.

    Mix until the dough pulls away from the sides of the work bowl and forms a ball.

    Remove the dough from the food processor and knead for a few minutes to remove air bubbles. Dough should be soft and elastic.

    Shape dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap.

    Let rise for several hours. The longer the better. You can let the dough rise overnight in the refrigerator with great results.

    After the first rise, punch the dough down, divide it in half, form each half into a ball and let it rise again for about an hour (or more if necessary).

    Shape the dough and top it with your favorite ingredients.

    Bake in a hot oven (500 degrees F) or cook on the grill.

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    Shhhhhhh!

    Shhhhhhhh!  My friend Holly is turning 40 (I hope this is not a secret) and her husband, Jeff, is throwing her a surprise party (this is the secret).  He asked me to make a few things for the party and although I’ve been Tweeting pics all day, I haven’t indicated why I am cooking.

    The house smells amazing as hundreds of meatballs cook. Today I am making two types of meatballs and tomorrow I will be skewering hundreds of grape/cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls and basil leaves.

    My contributions to the party include:

    • Buffalo Chicken Meatballs with Blue Cheese Dressing

    Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

    • Greek Meatballs with Eggplant & Feta with Tzatziki Sauce
    • Greek Meatballs with Eggplant & FetaCaprese Skewers with Basil Pesto

    Caprese Skewers Continue reading

    Love Your Leftovers: Savory Veggie Waffles

    Those of you who have been reading for a while know that I often go on a bender, cleaning out my fridge and making dinner from the dribs and drabs in small containers.  It’s both a culinary challenge and a great way to avoid wasting food and money!

    Last night Jeff gave my dad a ride to pick up his car.  Finally – and just in the nick of time – the air conditioning is fixed!  Woooohooooo!  While they went to pick up the car, my mom and I turned leftovers into a delicious meal.  Savory veggie waffles and a refreshing summer salad.

    Continue reading

    Monday’s MmmMmmMmm

    It’s no secret that I was frustrated with the meat industry on Monday, so it should come as no surprise that we had a meatless meal on Monday evening.  It was so good I thought I’d share the pics and recipes with you.

    After ranting and raving about the meat industry changing the names of 350 cuts of meat, there was no way I could bring myself to cook beef or pork.  So I pulled out the quinoa and went out to the garden…and I’m glad I did.  While the quinoa cooked, I picked some beet greens and the last of the fresh peas.

    I’ve been working on a recipe for Quinoa Cakes for the last several weeks and have made a few different iterations, changing ingredients based on what I have on hand and what is in the garden.

    Continue reading

    An Old Favorite

    On the way home from church this afternoon, I got a craving for an old favorite.  A really old favorite.  When Jeff and I were first married, I made this recipe quite a bit and I haven’t made it for years.

    I’m not sure what even made me think of it on the short ride from Daybreak to home; but the heart (or in this case, the stomach) wants what the heart (stomach) wants!  And since I had to be in the kitchen working on a recipe anyway, I set about making this old friend – Dilled Tuna Pasta Salad.

    A quick word on the tuna.  A few months ago, I decided to try some different brands of tuna than the usual grocery store brands.  And I decided to try a few imported brands to see if there really is a difference.  The two I tried today were worlds better than your average tuna from the grocery store.  They were both packed in oil, which absolutely makes for a richer tuna experience; but the flavors were infinitely different from grocery store tuna as well.  It really is worth the extra money when tuna is one of the stars of the show!

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    Continue reading

    Food Journal

    I realized today that even though I’ve only been Blogging about food since September of last year; I’ve been Jlogging about food for a lot longer!

    Front Cover w FlowersI’ve spent the majority of the day committing to paper recipes for a class I am teaching in a few weeks; and, as often happens when I am thinking about things I’ve made in the past, I pulled out my food journal.  It will come as no surprise to those of you who have read past posts that I got sidetracked!  My self-diagnosed ADD kicked in AGAIN and with a smile on my face I traveled down memory lane.

    My food journal is a beautiful brown-leather covered volume that I swore I would keep in pristine condition – I vowed to only write in it in my best handwriting.  Ahhh, the best laid plans…… A few of the pages began neatly – with legible printing; but over time they have become splattered and spilled upon and you can see some days where my passion for what I was recording overtook my desire to write neatly!  That’s how passion goes….

    Continue reading

    I Could Just…

    Whew…..today has been a busy day!  I began by getting up early (those of you who know me well will groan on my behalf when I tell you I got up at 5:30 a.m.) to have breakfast with my dad while my mom had some minor surgery.  After seeing for myself that my mom was doing fine, my plan was to head home and catch some zzz’s. But on the way home I started the “I could just” game.

    I thought to myself, “I could just run to the grocery store for a few things before I go home and have a nap.”  Then on the way to the grocery store, I thought, “I could just run to Ross’s to look for that serving dish before I go to the grocery store.”  So I did a quick scan of Ross’s and then went to Wegman’s for a few things. On my travels I talked to Jeff and he told me he’d taken some ground veal and pork out of the freezer and asked me to pick up some ground beef to add to it for a meatloaf.

    Continue reading

    A Healthier Comfort Food

    The lunch I made today was so good that I just had to tell you about it.  I woke up too late for breakfast (darn), so I didn’t get to have my oatmeal (I have been on a kick lately).  So I thought to myself, “Oatmeal?  I could do oatmeal for lunch, but I don’t want anything sweet.”  That was like a challenge to myself….which I think I overcame quite nicely!

    So I ended up making pizza style oatmeal – a great way to satisfy a pizza craving without having the crust.  I also added a few healthy things that you can easily “hide” in oatmeal!

    I made a regular serving of oatmeal and added:

    • 1 tsp. ground flax-seed (a good source of Omega-3’s, fiber, and it helps lower cholesterol (particularly the LDL (the bad cholesterol) among other things))
    • 1 tsp. chia seeds (high in protein, fiber, magnesium, calcium, and Omega-3’s)
    • A healthy grind of black pepper
    • A handful of grated cheddar and parmesan cheeses
    • An ounce-ish of ham (that I diced) – I didn’t have pepperoni, which would have been my first choice
    • 1 Tbsp chopped sundried tomatoes
    • A sprinkle of pepitas
    • A sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley

    It was DELICIOUS, warm and satisfying!!!  It really did taste like pizza…..AND it kept me full until about 5:00 p.m.  Who could ask for anything more?

    Ladies Who Lunch

    Growing up I remember doing a lot of “visiting” on and around the holidays – in fact, it was one of my favorite parts about this time of year.  Visiting in my family typically occurred at one of three places – my grandmother’s house, her sister Mary’s house, or their sister Mag’s (Margaret) house.  Later in the evening, after each of the three families had finished their main holiday meal, all the families got together and……well…….ate some more!  Not a full meal, but there was always food and drink.

    My Aunt Mary (actually my mom’s aunt, but we called her Aunt Mary)  had the best setup at her house for the large number of people who gathered because she and her husband – Uncle George – had a basement with a table that I thought could seat about 100 people!  Invariably, the women gathered either in the kitchen or the dining room (usually the kitchen), the men around the t.v., and the kids in the basement.  If I promised to be quiet, I got to sit with the big girls in the kitchen…..so, believe it or not (and I know this will be a stretch for those of you who know my ability to talk), I was quiet – most of the time!

    What I remember enjoying was all the generations being together talking and laughing.  Yesterday we had a mini recreation of holiday visiting at my mom’s house.  My Aunt Pam (again, not my aunt, but my mom’s cousin – but they may as well have been sisters) came out to visit from Bethlehem; so my sister (Laura) and her girls (Vanessa and Ashley) joined my mom (Connie), Aunt Pam, and me for lunch.  It was great to have several generations around the table talking and laughing!

    My mom made lentil sausage soup – Ina Garten’s recipe from her book Barefoot in Paris – and served warm bread and rolled provolone cheese & salami.  It was a warm, hearty, satisfying lunch with exceptional company and great conversation.  Cross-generational communication is always interesting to me! And I am seeing things from a new perspective these days….as I was growing up I was in the youngest or younger generation at gatherings and now I’m smack dab in the middle, so I have a new view of things – I get to listen to the younger generation and be amazed at how smart younger people are these days and occasionally roll my eyes!

    Our time together was heart-warming to me….we ate good food and talked about all aspects of life – from work and careers to relationships and life lessons.  We also talked some about family history.  I love hearing stories about how things used to be; but I also love the exuberance of the generation who is just beginning their own traditions!

    For dessert I made an Apple Upside Down Cake – an adaptation of a recipe from Diane Phillips – one of the instructors at the Kitchen Shoppe.  In a recent class, Diane made Pear Upside Down Cake with Warm Caramel Sauce – since I couldn’t find nice pears, I used apples and it was a nice twist on the original using ingredients that were available to me in the moment. Luckily, I was able to garnish the serving platter with the most delicious chocolate-covered candied orange peel made by my Aunt Pam – a treat we always enjoy.  We also sipped Aunt Pam’s homemade Limoncello Cream, a variation of standard limoncello from Sorrento (which you can usually purchase in a liquor store).  Limoncello Cream is made with lemons, grain alcohol, milk, sugar, and water.  It warms the body as well as the soul and since it’s not readily available, has to be homemade!

    After lunch Laura and the girls left – each going a separate way. Vanessa home to West Chester to have dinner with her boyfriend, Justin.  Ashley back to school in Millersville. And Laura home – just a bit down the road in Mechanicsburg.

    Mimi (my mom, Connie), Aunt Pam and I left for a little shopping.  We went to First Impressions in Linglestown – one of my favorite shops and then to Community Aid and Making Sense in Mechanicsburg. Aunt Pam won the prize for best bargains of the day.  For under $20 she bought a Talbot’s down vest, a Ralph Lauren sweater-ish vest, a three-piece velour and wool outfit from Saks Fifth Avenue – with the tag still on, a cute purse and two aperitif (no, Mimi, not “a parakeet”) glasses that I think are Mikasa. Wow – she is a consignment guru!!!

    As we were driving along the river going from the East Shore to the West Shore, God treated us to the most amazing sunset…..I just have to share a photo with you, but the photo simply does not do justice to the beauty we saw before us!

    In the last several years, time and distance and life (literally birth and death) has changed the makeup of our extended family.  Gatherings of extended family don’t happen nearly as often and they certainly aren’t the same as I remember them. I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to have a family lunch yesterday and I hope we can use it as a spring-board for more extended family gatherings.  I grew up spending a lot of time in the company of my aunts, uncles and cousins and I miss that time.  Although it won’t ever be exactly what it was, I hope that we can create new traditions and memories for all the generations!

    Photos of the Apple Upside Down Cake w/ Warm Caramel Sauce Garnished with Chocolate-Covered Candied Orange Peel

     

    Diane Phillips’ Pear Upside Down Cake with Warm Caramel Sauce

    Meal type Dessert

    Ingredients

    • 1/4 cup unsalted butter (melted)
    • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar (firmly packed)
    • 2 Medium pears (firm-ripe (about 1 pound))
    • 1 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
    • 1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 cup whole milk
    • 2 Large eggs
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla paste or vanilla extract
    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (softened)
    • 1 cup light brown sugar (packed)
    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
    • 1 cup brown sugar (packed)
    • 1/3 cup heavy cream
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or vanilla extract

    Note

    Recipe courtesty of Diane Phillips

    Directions

    Topping - using first 3 ingredients
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat the bottom and sides of a 9 x 2 inch round cake pan with non-stick cooking spray.
    2. In a small bowl, stir together the butter and sugar. Pour into the bottom of the prepared pan.
    3. Peel, core, and cut the pears lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices.
    4. Arrange the pear slices on the bottom of the pan in a circle around the edge, overlapping them slightly, with the pointed ends toward the center.
    5. If necessary, cut a little off the pointed ends to make the slices fit better. Or if the pear slices don't reach all the way to the middle, arrange a few shorter slices in the center to cover the bottom of the pan.
    Cake
    6. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, and salt into a medium bowl. Stir to combine. In a small bowl, stir together the milk, eggs and vanilla.
    7. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.
    8. Reduce the speed and add the milk mixture, it will look curdled. Add the flour mixture, and beat until the mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes.
    9. Spoon the batter in large dollops over the pears and smooth it into an even layer with an offset spatula. Bake the cake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer t he pan to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan. Turn a cake plate upside down on top of the cake pan and, using pot holders, carefully invert the cake pan onto the plate.
    10. Serve the cake warm with vanilla ice cream and/or warm caramel sauce.
    Warm Caramel Sauce - using last 4 ingredients
    11. In a medium speed saucepan, melt the butter, and add the brown sugar, stir until the sugar is melted.
    12. Add the cream, and bring to a boil for 1 minute.
    13. The sauce can be cooled, and refrigerated for up to 1 month. Reheat on the stovetop.

    Fall Dessert

    Dessert was so fresh and delicious tonight I just had to share!  After a long walk with Jeff I couldn’t bring myself to eat something too rich, but we were craving something sweet; so I made caramel apple parfaits.  And I must say they were scrumptious and beautiful!

    I diced some honey crisp apples and used them as the base.  I drizzled them with Apple Cider Caramel (see recipe below) and sprinkled on a few pepitas.  Then I topped  the apple base with a generous dollop of plain Greek yogurt, which I also drizzled with Apple Cider Caramel and sprinkled with pepitas.  Finally I topped the whole thing with half a Sawgrass Apple Cider Cookie.  If I do say so myself, “mmm mmm mmm!!!”

    Apple Cider “Caramel”

    Meal type Condiment, Dessert
    This recipe was a happy accident. I envision it being excellent over vanilla ice cream, perhaps drizzled over a bagel with cream cheese or over oven roasted sweet potato fries. The possibilities are endless!!!! Enjoy!

    Ingredients

    • 2 cups Apple Cider
    • 1 pinch Kosher Salt
    • 1 pinch Ground Black Pepper
    • 2 tablespoons Brown Sugar (divided)

    Note

    mmm mmm mmm blog at www.cookeatentertain.com

    Directions

    1. Put cider, salt, pepper and 1 Tbsp of brown sugar in a heavy bottom saucepan, stir well and bring to a boil.
    2. Lower heat to medium low (low if you have a particularly hot burner) and reduce to 1 cup.
    3. Add the remaining 1 Tbsp of brown sugar, increase heat. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and reduce to 1/3 cup.

    A New Cookie Recipe

    Earlier this week our good friend Ben stopped by to plant a tree in our yard – yes, I told you, he is a good friend and he also owns a landscaping business – and while he was here he said had a question for me.  The question was related to the Apple Cider Caramel recipe I posted in early October.

    Ben makes cider and was kind enough to share some with us.  From the cider he shared I made some apple cider caramel for he and his wife to try, which led to his question.  He asked, “Do you think you can make a molasses-type cookie with the caramel you made?”

    Never being one to shy away from a challenge, I replied, “I’ll give it a try and let you know.”  So I did.  Today I delivered a batch to Ben and his crew at a job site.  I am awaiting their assessment, but while I wait I thought I’d share the recipe with you.  As soon as I hear back from him, I’ll let you know his thoughts,.  But for now I can tell you that Jeff has not been at all disappointed that I’ve made multiple batches!

    I had the caramel already made, so the work was pretty easy.  I’d recommend you make a batch of the caramel and keep it on hand.  It’s good on plain yogurt, great in the appetizer on the home page of the blog, and I also think it would be great on grilled meats or even over vanilla ice cream….there are so many possibilities.

    The recipe for the caramel is:

    Apple Cider “Caramel”

    Meal type Condiment, Dessert
    This recipe was a happy accident. I envision it being excellent over vanilla ice cream, perhaps drizzled over a bagel with cream cheese or over oven roasted sweet potato fries. The possibilities are endless!!!! Enjoy!

    Ingredients

    • 2 cups Apple Cider
    • 1 pinch Kosher Salt
    • 1 pinch Ground Black Pepper
    • 2 tablespoons Brown Sugar (divided)

    Note

    mmm mmm mmm blog at www.cookeatentertain.com

    Directions

    1. Put cider, salt, pepper and 1 Tbsp of brown sugar in a heavy bottom saucepan, stir well and bring to a boil.
    2. Lower heat to medium low (low if you have a particularly hot burner) and reduce to 1 cup.
    3. Add the remaining 1 Tbsp of brown sugar, increase heat. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and reduce to 1/3 cup.

    Now for the cookies…

    Melt 3/4 cup of butter and add it to the bowl of an electric mixer.  Add 1 cup of sugar and 1 egg and mix until smooth.

     

     

    Add 1/4 cup of apple cider caramel to the butter mixture.  Mix until smooth.

     

     

     

     

    Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and ginger.  Blend into the butter mixture.  Cover and chill for 1 hour.

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Using a 2 Tbsp scoop, scoop dough into balls.

    Cut each scoop in half and roll between your hands into a ball, working quickly to keep the dough cool. Spread the remaining 1 cup of sugar onto a plate and roll each dough ball into the sugar to completely coat.

    Place balls 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets and bake for 8 minutes (time may vary depending on oven), until tops are cracked.  (Photo below taken at approximately 6 minutes into the cooking time).

    Cool on wire racks and enjoy!!!!

    As I wait for feedback from Ben and his crew, I am mulling over the name for these.  I thought of calling them “Bennies,” but that reminded me of a friend’s dog.  I thought of using Ben’s initials, but then they’d be “BS Cookies” – not too appetizing.  So for now I’ve landed on “Sawgrass Apple Cider Cookies.”  Sawgrass is the name of the street Ben and his crew were working on today when I delivered their samples….stay tuned for a name change….let me know if you have any suggestions, particularly you, Ben!!!!

    To learn more about Ben’s business, visit http://www.souderlandscaping.com/!

    Sawgrass Apple Cider Cookies

    Meal type Dessert

    Ingredients

    • 3/4 cups butter (melted)
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 1/4 cup apple cider caramel
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 teaspoons baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1/2 cup sugar (for coating cookies prior to baking)

    Note

    mmm mmm mmm at www.cookeatentertain.com

    Directions

    1. In a medium bowl, mix together the melted butter, 1 c. sugar, and egg until smooth.
    2. Add the apple cider caramel and mix until incorporated.
    3. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt and spices and mix into the butter mixture.
    4. Cover and chill for 1 hour.
    Toasting Pepitas
    5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
    6. Using a 2 Tbsp. scoop, scoop dough into balls.
    7. Cut each dough ball in half.
    8. Roll the halved dough into balls and then roll each one in the remaining 1 cup sugar.
    9. Place cookies 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.
    10. Bake for 8 minutes in the preheated oven (time may vary depending on your oven setting) until tops are cracked.
    11. Cook on wire rack.