Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Chili - Vegetarian

Tired of Turkey ... had Cod with an Asian inspired sauce and a simple fried rice last night, home made mac and cheese the night before - but still, the turkey stares at me when I open the fridge. Decided to go easy (mostly opening cans - but its really good) and meatless tonight. This Chili is very hearty, I didn't even mention to my daughter that it was meatless - served it with grated colby cheese, chopped green onion, sliced black olives and sour cream.

Vegetarian Chili

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 Tbs canola oil
  • 2 tbs chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) petit diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (16 or 19 oz) red kidney beans, drained
  • 1 can (15 oz) pink pinto beans, drained
  • salt
  • pepper

In a heavy dutch oven or deep cast iron skillet heat oil. Add onion, carrots and bell pepper and saute for 5 mins, stirring until onion is softened. Add garlic, add chili powder and cumin, stir to combine. Add tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir and simmer for 10 mins. Add beans, salt and pepper. Heat through. Let simmer for 20 mins - 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Serve with cheese, sour cream, green onion, olives and avocado if desired.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cheese crackers (and T day prep)

Getting Ready for Thanksgiving!

Ok - T day is practically here! The thing I both love and hate about Thanksgiving is I always do the same menu. This predictability makes it easy to plan and streamline and get it right, but sometimes I wish I could be a little more creative. Oh well, thats what the other 364 days of the year are for. Today I made little cheese crackers, that hold beautifully in an air-tight container at room temperature, to serve as part of my appetizer platters. I do play a little with the appetizers from year to year - yesterday, I made two batches of my savory palmiers - puff pastry spread with a bacon and mushroom filling, rolled and sliced - I froze the palmiers and will bake them about an hour before I plan to serve them. Cheese crackers, palmiers and some green and red grapes, a platter of sliced veggies with some roasted red pepper dip, a few bowls of gourmet olives and maybe some spiced nuts will be my appetizers. Next I made my whole berry cranberry sauce (I use orange zest, cinnamon and cloves) and popped that in the fridge. I'll serve it with canned jellied cranberry sauce as well. I also made candied sweet potatoes today, using a brown sugar, butter, maple syrup and vanilla coating.

So these cheese crackers are amazing - heres the recipe:

Make Ahead Cheese Crackers

  • 12 Tbs (1.5 sticks) softened unsalted butter
  • 6 oz extra sharp white cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1.5 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Beat butter with electric mixer, for about 5 mins, or until very fluffy. Add cheeses and beat to combine. With hands add flour mixture and combine until a dough forms - if too crumbly to form into a ball add up to 2 Tbs cold water. Divide dough into quarters and shape into balls, flatten into discs and wrap individually in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to overnight. Roll dough (about 1/8 inch) and cut out with 1.5" cookie cutter rounds or shapes, place 1/2 inch apart on parchment lined baking sheets and bake at 450 for 6-8 mins or until golden, watch carefully as these goes from golden to burnt pretty quickly. Remove from baking sheet onto paper towel lined trays to cool completely. Store in airtight containers for up to two weeks.

Tonight I think I'll make an Italian Ricotta Cheesecake - a lighter and still decadent take on cheesecake - tomorrow, with only one day to go I will tackle the chestnut stuffing and the pumpkin pie. I bought the organic, free range, humanly raised well treated (hopefully read to on a nightly basis) bird today - and had to make room in my refrigerator by moving the delicious leftover pea soup from last night into a smaller container. Lots to clean - lots to do!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Parsley Pesto

I love, seriously, really, love pesto! Every time I make it and taste it, I say to myself, "I need to make this more often!". Pesto is an amazing flavor combination and it is so incredibly versatile.

Today I made a parsley with flat leaf (Italian parsley) it has more flavor, but plain curly parsley works too.

Once you have your pesto you can use it in a myriad of ways - as a topping for crostini, as a spread on a sandwich, as a way to dress up simple grilled or broiled chicken breasts, stir it into some hot pasta for a fabulous side dish, add a spoonful to soup to really brighten up things - add some feta cheese and use it as a filling for stuffed mushrooms, add some to cottage cheese for an instant veggie dip, put some in an omelet, on a savory crepe, in lasagna - the possibilities are endless...sometimes I just eat a spoonful!

Parsley Pesto

  • 1-2 bunches coarsly chopped parsley, thick stems discarded
  • 3 cloves garlic, rough chopped
  • 2-4 Tbs olive oil
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (toasted if desired)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • 1 tsp dried Tarragon

Combine about 1/2 cup of parsley, garlic and salt in food processor and process until blended, add remaining parsley and black pepper and process until parsley is chopped fine. With motor running add in olive oil and process until a thick pesto forms, add pine nuts, parm and tarragon and process briefly

You can always use basil instead of parsley for classic pesto, use spinach, use arugula - have fun with it! Oh, and you can use walnuts instead of pine nuts too!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cheese Puffs- Quick, Easy and So good!

Hey Everyone - I needed a super quick and easy snack for my daughter today, I had cheese and not much else to work with and no time to run to the market, so I made these delightful little puffs. Easy and fast, these appetizers or snacks are versatile and fun. You can use just about any cheese for these, a sharp cheddar is great but gruyere, jack, parm or even feta works as well. You can mix cheeses also. You can add crumbled bacon, or spinach or olives - have some fun with herbs or pepper - or just keep 'em super simple. They are great warm out of the oven and they go together so quickly and take under 10 mins to bake - which makes them great for unexpected company.

Super Easy Cheese Puffs

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking pwder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups grated cheese
  • 1/4 cup olives, sun-dried tomatoes, crumbled bacon etc (optional)

Beat together egg and milk. Sift in flour, baking powder and salt and stir to combine. Stir in cheese and any additions. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls on a greased baking sheet and bake in a preheated 400 F oven for about 10 mins or until golden and browned on the bottom. Remove to wire rack, cool briefly and serve while still warm.