Quotes of the Year

Just a little something I whipped up after reviewing all my posts in 2015… (Turn on the speakers and settle in, because it’s about 4 1/2 mins long!)

And in case you want to see some previous years… 2011 & 2012.

no videos these years but… 2013 & … too busy wrapping up my thesis at the end of 2014!

Kringle & Many Other Delights

It all starts with a Kringle in early December.

That delicious Nordic treat of pastry dough and filling shaped into a ring. And apparently Racine, Wisconsin is the epicenter of such a treat!

and more candy

Next the fancy box of chocolates, with an edible “logo” chocolate bar of course! These folks know how to plan ahead!!

By the time we entered the week leading up to Christmas, the office was receiving treats practically hourly! (not that I am complaining one bit!) There was a box from New York’s little Italy – full of authentic meat, cheese and cookies! oh those cookies were good! The whole thing was so good that I couldn’t even get a picture snapped before we were descending like seagulls attacking. It was 10:30 in the morning.

 

After that… more candy!

( you notice many are already missing!) holiday candy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And basically onto full “holiday carnage” as the deliveries reached a fever pitch… holiday cargage 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally on Christmas eve (yes a few of us are working today!)… the last of the pastries that came the other day….they won’t last the morning!

 

Avocado Lottery

Picking out an avocado at the store is a little like buying a dollar scratch ticket. You never know what you are going to get. Big winner or just a waste of a dollar.

It’s a low investment so you are not too worried if it doesn’t work out. But the dream of choosing just the right one and scoring big is strong! Oh the things you could do with the winnings.

When I pick out a winning avocado I know immediately that it needs to be enjoyed simply. The buttery flesh of a perfectly ripe avocado only needs a little salt, some ground cumin, a splash of lime juice. That’s it unless you want just a hint of hot sauce.

The secret to my nachos is simplicity. Oh and put the cheese down first. I use the broiler to melt the cheese onto the tops of the chips first. That way you get no soggy chips under there, the cheese acts like a barrier between the wet stuff and the chips. Next some fresh diced tomatoes if you can get your hands on some this time of year. A pinch of salt and pepper. The final topping is the perfect lottery-winning avocado. Mashed up with the above mentioned and simply spread on top. The avocado all fresh and velvety on top of cheesy, crisp chips. Truth be told you could leave off the tomatoes but why would you ever want to do that!

The colors are rather appropriate for the season, no?

The colors are rather appropriate for the season, no?

 

 

 

Hot “Stuffed”

Stuffed Cherry Peppers are a popular item around these parts.

These are the small, bright red peppers sometimes known as “pimiento” but usually referred to as “cherry peppers” based on their size and color. (Capsicum annuum for those who are really into it) They have a fairly low rating on the Scoville scale of heat but this doesn’t mean they don’t pack a bite of heat. For me they have an initial “prick” of heat but it subsides pretty quickly. But everyone is different so proceed with your level of caution.

Here in New England you will find these little guys pickled and served up along side platters of lamb kebobs or even more popular… as part of an Antipasto platter stuffed with a bit of salty cheese and prosciutto.

After spying fresh ones for sale at the city farm market, I recently decided that these little guys might serve as a nice vessel for a meat stuffing thereby elevating their status to “hot appetizer.” Just imagine these guys feeding the masses at your next football party or even as part of a fancy “passed hors d’oeuvres” affair.

I used a bit of ground pork (fatty butt to be specific) but a more lean cut of ground pork or beef would be good. (or lamb, yum…)  I added only seasoned salt, ground black pepper and fresh minced basil to the meat before stuffing the peppers and pushing a little hunk of Havarti cheese into the center. (Instead of stuffing the cheese in, you could add it as a topping in the last 10 mins of baking instead using Parmesan etc)

Here was my process….

remove the tops and all of the seeds to keep the heat down

Remove the tops and all of the seeds to keep the heat down.

 

perfect little vessels

Perfect little vessels – They can only hold barely a tablespoon.

Pack in the flavor with seasoned meat and a cube of cheese

Pack in the flavor with seasoned meat and a cube of cheese.

baked for 20 mins at 400 degrees with a drizzle of olive oil

Baked on an oiled sheet pan for 20 mins at 400 degrees with a drizzle of olive oil.                                  Maybe top with minced, fresh basil if you are feeling fancy.

Production notes

A pound of ground meat would fill approximately 24 peppers depending on the actual size of the peppers. You would probably use about 1/2 cup of fresh minced basil per pound of ground meat. About 2 tablespoons of seasoned salt per pound of meat and some good healthy pinches of ground black pepper.  The cheese cubes were tiny at about 1/4″ x 1/4″ in size. Any cheese would be good here, but one that melts willingly would work best.

Remember When…

Who remembers the fast food chain Wendy’s® when they had the salad bar in their restaurants? They had nicer seating and real plants too back in the day. There was a time when they straddled the space between “fast-food and fast casual.”

My father loved that place and when I was little (and it was his turn to get dinner) we would go there and get the salad bar and baked potatoes with chili on top. (chili-topped baked potatoes was a menu item then – now they still serve chili and the baked potatoes but you have to order each and combine them yourself.)

As a result every time I make chili I serve it over baked potatoes. It always reminds me of those times and it makes things just a bit more hearty and filling. The potatoes offer a little more nutritional punch then corn chips or rice. The chili and the potatoes can all be done a day ahead and reheated at the time of the event. Plus if you are having folks over for a big game or even if you just want to get the kids interested you can do a topping bar of favorites like shredded cheese, green onions, cilantro, chopped red onion, sour cream…. you get the idea!

The best chili is the simplest chili – 2lbs of browned ground meat (turkey in this case – shhhh don’t tell hubby!) and 1 small can (4oz) of tomato paste, 1 large can ( 12oz) of ground, peeled tomatoes, 1/2 of a green bell pepper and 1/2 of a white onion diced. 2 heaping tablespoons of your favorite chili spice blend. 1 whole lime juiced and some salt and pepper. Add a cup of hot water if it’s too thick. 1-2 hours simmering and you are ready to go!

Author’s note:

My dad passed away in March 2011 after a long and happy life, but this week is his birthday and I think he always considered the cool weather and the beautiful New England fall leaves a personal birthday gift to him. He loved everything about New England and I think of him a lot in October.

 

A Greek “Affair”

This time of year there are all kinds of “fairs” happening – craft sales, church penny sales, country fairs and my favorite… the Greek fair!

As fate would have it we were just too busy to even squeeze this fair in but I had to satisfy my hankering for some lamb somehow. So I carved out a few minutes to get some lamb on the grill.

I coated the meat in some olive oil, lemon juice and Greek seasoning from Penzeys. The blend is perfect not only on lamb but beef too! (And Penzeys – if your reading this feel free to send me a year’s supply for my free advertising! )

Grill until done to your liking – I like mine medium to medium well and served with a Greek pasta salad with feta cheese. Since the grill was on I tossed on  sliced zucchini and yellow squash too. You can use the spice blend to make up a light salad dressing, use your favorite bottle or simply use an olive oil, red wine vinegar mix with salt, pepper and dried oregano.

Served family style "ompah!"

Served family style “ompah!”

 

Note: use gluten-free pasta if desired!

Unusual “Pear-ings’

My mother has a pear tree in her yard and in the last few years it has really started producing. Each year we get bushels of pears off of it. This year I tried a classic savory tart involving blue cheese and pears.

I compared two kinds of blue cheese I had in my refrigerator. The one on the left was a “St. Clemens” which is traditional version imported from Denmark. The one on the right was a domestic raw-milk version from Wisconsin. I choose the domestic version because it was smoother, sweeter and had less of the that “blue cheese bite.”

I used a refrigerated puff pastry dough from the store and the whole thing took very little time and came out kinda fancy!

Mark the edges and dock the middle before pre-baking

Mark the edges and dock the middle before pre-baking

Slit the dough (try not to cut all the way through) to form a border and dock the middle before pre-baking about 10 mins in a 400 degree oven.

Pull it out and lay thinly sliced ripe pear slices in the middle. Sprinkle with a little salt and fresh ground black pepper to give it that savory seasoning. Dice a couple of tablespoons of salted butter and nestle them among the pear slices. Bake in the oven about 10-12 mins more until the pears just start to brown a bit and the crust is fully puffed and brown. Be careful that the crust doesn’t  burn.

pre-baked with pears, salt, pepper and a little butter

pre-baked with pears, salt, pepper and a little butter

 

 

 

When it comes out of the oven, crumble the room temperature blue cheese over the hot pears and drizzle honey generously over the all and serve.

Pretty to look at...

Pretty to look at…

...yummy to eat.

…yummy to eat.