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Leftover Reinvention

    I made pork fried rice on Saturday, and had a few cups of leftover brown rice, because I always make extra. I also had a leftover red bell pepper, sliced mushrooms and carrots from our Super Bowl 50 shindig. After digging through the fridge, freezer and pantry, I pulled out an onion, garlic, half a big block of white cheddar cheese, a small piece of dill Havarti cheese, some fresh eggs and a bag of frozen shelled edamame (soy beans). I decided that a cheesy rice and veggie bake would would fit the bill on this cold and windy evening. It is in the oven right now, and if it turns out, I will post the recipe later tonight or tomorrow. If it doesn’t turn out, we’ll just forget about this post, pretend it turned out and that I forgot to post the recipe, ok?

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Does absence really make the heart grow fonder?

Only time will tell…

    I have been absent from my lovely little foodie blog for several years due to a career change, which involved some crazy work hours. Admittedly, most of those crazy hours were by choice, since I loved the work (web and software development). But after three and a half years, it was time for a change. I left just before Thanksgiving (a little over two months ago), and it was the first time in several years that, once again, I enjoyed cooking the turkey day feast. Always a labor of love, as are all the family holiday and event cooking marathons. Then, after a bit of recharging and a big family Christmas trip to Texas, followed by some really serious recharging, I am finally jumping back into blogging. I also have a special new project in development, but it isn’t ready for prime time. As soon as it is, I promise to share. So…
    Yesterday was Super Bowl 50 and I was busy all day shopping and whipping up fun food for our annual little family shindig. When I say little, I mean there were just four of us this year. I had to be discerning about what I made, since the fridge and freezer can only hold so many leftovers. A simple veggie tray is standard, the easiest healthy option to put together. The orange bell pepper rings were my fav, being so sweet. I also made a family favorite, Cherry Pepper Jam Meatballs, which only have a few ingredients, but pack a huge punch of flavor. The recipe is from Benjamin Twiggs, my favorite Cherry products company on the planet. I left them in the crockpot and everyone just ladled them out by the spoonful. And while the chicken and waffle sliders, made with organic chicken nuggets, were also delicious, the MVP of the evening went to something I recently discovered (on Pinterest, of course). A perfect combination of salty, sweet and smoky, crunchy on the outside but soft on the inside…and the winner is…Bacon Wrapped Tater Tot Bombs! A processed food blitz, I know, but I swear, the flavor was spectacular and worth a trip to the woodshed. My family loved, I mean LOVED them! Due to the over-the-top sinfulness, I would not make these more than once or twice a year (seriously, I think they could also be called heart attack nuggets). But they were sooooooo good. I would also recommend only making them when there is a guaranteed opportunity to share. Did I mention I made a triple batch? Or that they reheat most excellently the next day? Yeah, I did and they do. Touchdown!

Bacon Wrapped Tater Tot Bombs finished dish image

Bacon Wrapped Tater Tot Bombs

New Cookbooks!

Image     I know it has been a long while, but I’ve missed my blog and thought it was time to reconnect. What better way to start up again then with a post about the arrival of two new cookbooks! Ok, I purchased one in person while in El Paso, TX last week, “Very Fond of Food,” by Sophie Dahl. And I saw “The Sugar Cube,” while in El Paso, but ordered it from Amazon to keep the weight of my suitcase down. I’ve starting pouring through both, in a very split personality manner, but I am thrilled with each and am just having a great time deciding what to make for dinner tonight and also to bake for dessert! I have not decided yet, but soon. I’ll post the results later, promise, so wish me luck.

Christmas Cookies Baking Blitz!

A few of my cookie booklets and magazines

A few of my cookie booklets and magazines

It’s that time of year when I drag out all of my cookie cookbooks, magazines and booklets. My favorite is the Pillsbury “Bake Off,” which my mother always used when I was a kid. She gave it to me when I got married, and then one year, my husband threw it away, “accidentally.” Well, luckily, I found it on ebay and he now knows that it is precious to me. I remember leafing through this little booklet as a kid and just being enthralled with some of the images, especially the one with the little bottle brush trees, the image of the giant cookie stocking, which is on the back cover as well, and then also the image of the little girl decorating the cut out cookies. I wanted to be her so badly, with all those sprinkles and pretty cut out cookies to decorate. I have baked a lot of the cookies in this little pamphlet over the years and it wouldn’t be Christmas if I didn’t make at least a couple of my favs. This weekend, we are starting with “Jam Strip Cheesers,” which are simple cream cheese dough based cookies filled with jelly. Not too sweet, but very addictive. Woman’s Day had a wonderful “Lemon Snowdrop Cookies” recipe in their 1996 “Holiday Baking” magazine, which is no where to be found online, I looked, thinking I had lost the magazine at one point. It is a simple recipe, with lemon zest, powdered ginger and oats, rolled in powdered sugar when still warm. I love them. Maybe I will add a photo later, if they turn out.

Back page of the Bake Off Cookie Favorites booklet

Back page of the Bake Off Cookie Favorites booklet

 

Bottle brush trees with cookies

Bottle brush trees with cookies

 

 

Lucky little girl decorating cut out cookies

Lucky little girl decorating cut out cookies

Impromptu Creamy Acorn Squash and Fettuccine

Image     It was one of those nights when I needed to make dinner with whatever I could find in the pantry. The Acorn Squash was calling out to me so I decided to start with that. I had some turkey bacon, dried cranberries, pecans, celery, a small block of Americana Grana, (a hard cheese, reminiscent of Parmesan Reggiano, though there is really no substitute in my mind) and a box of Fettuccine.  So I cut the squash in half, removed the seeds and roasted both halves, cut side down, for 35 minutes at 400°F, in a preheated oven. While the squash roasted, I put a pot of water on to boil for the Fettuccine and cooked 5 slices of turkey bacon until crispy, then placed them on a paper towel. I added two tablespoons of butter to the bacon pan, then added a medium onion and a stalk of celery, both diced small. As they softened and started to become translucent, I added a half cup of whole pecans and a quarter cup of dried cranberries. I stirred the mix often, adding a half teaspoon of dried Rosemary that I crushed between my fingers and some garlic powder. I also added the Fettuccine to the boiling pot of water along the way and cooked it according to the package directions. Once the onions and celery were soft and completely translucent, I turned off the burner. When the squash was done, with the flesh very soft, I removed it from the skin and put it into the pan with the other ingredients, adding a couple of tablespoons of 1/3 less fat cream cheese, 1/4 cup of skim milk, salt, pepper and some of the pasta water. (I turned the heat back on, by the way.) I stirred until the mixture turned into a thick creamy “sauce.” I added more salt and pepper to taste. I put the Fettuccine into individual serving bowls, topped with the Acorn Squash sauce and then put a handful of grated cheese on top. Finally, I drizzled some balsamic cream, an Earthy Delights product that I recently decided to try, and voila! Dinner was served. I would add more turkey or other bacon next time, but otherwise, I was very happy with how my “impromptu” kitchen creation turned out. 

My Dad’s Guacamole

Guacamole

Fresh Guacamole

   My father makes the best guacamole on the planet. No, really, it is the best I’ve ever had, and I’ve tried a LOT of guacamole in my lifetime! He doesn’t put a bunch of things in it that take away from the heavenly taste of the avocado. When he makes it, it disappears quickly, no matter where we are, home, party, family reunion, it is always perfect. So I make mine the same way he does. And it is incredibly simple. You need only one or two ripe Haas avocados, the kind with very nubby and really dark green-to-black skin. They should give a bit when you poke or squeeze them, no rock hard avocados or very squishy ones either. You slice it open, remove the pit and then scrape out the lovely, velvety and luscious interior into a bowl. Next, you use a fork to mash it up, but not so much that it is all just a paste, it should be somewhat lumpy, like oatmeal, or maybe even a bit lumpier if you like it that way. Next you add the following:

***one or two teaspoons of finely minced yellow onion. Simple cooking onions are the best.

***1/8 – 1/4 cup finely diced fresh tomato (get the best ones you can find) If you love tomatoes, you can add more, but don’t overdo it, you might end up with watery guacamole.

***One to two tablespoons of fresh chopped cilantro, if you can get it.

***Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Now gently mix it all up (you don’t want to break your nicely mashed avocados down further to that paste I mentioned earlier), and enjoy!

   We usually eat our guacamole with  our own tortilla chips. which we make by cutting up fresh corn tortillas from the market into triangles and frying them in oil (vegetable or canola), until they are golden and crispy. If you haven’t done this part before, promise me you will watch some how-to video’s before you try it. You can never walk away from a pan of hot oil and if it starts to smoke, you need to turn it down, since it could catch fire. This hasn’t happened to me before, but it did happen to my sister-in-law a while back, and it scared the heck out of her, nothing like a fire on the stove!

   But back to the guacamole. You can eat it with your favorite tortilla chips or make veggie sandwiches, pitas or roll-ups with it. We don’t add garlic, fresh or powdered, chilies of any kind, lemon or lime juice, or anything else. I do love all those things, but they overpower the delicate and sublime flavor of perfect avocados. So there it is, my Dad’s guacamole recipe. I love it this way and I love my wonderful father too! Maybe I’ll share his fabulous chili recipe here one of these days…

Jamaican Banana Bread

Jamaican Banana Bread image   

Warm loaf of Jamaican banana bread

              I have been dying to make this Jamaican Banana Bread for a while now. I don’t know why, since I have never eaten it nor made it before. But it the recipe just sounds so tropical with the coconut and rum, I think that must be it, especially at this time of year, when we still have lots of show and cold to look forward to before spring. Anyway, the house smells divine and it looks incredibly good. But how does it tastes? Let me try it right now…OMG, it is just as yummy at it looks! I’ll be adding this recipe to my list of favs. No really, it is really, really, really good!
Of course, I did not have the exact ingredients this recipe called for, so although you can find the recipe here, let me tell you what I changed to suit my pantry. I did not have any limes on hand, so I used orange zest and orange juice in place of where it called for the lime zest and lime juice in the bread recipe. However, I used up all my fresh squeezed orange juice and had to use fresh squeezed lemon juice for the topping. I also added 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract to the 1 teaspoon vanilla extract to add more coconut flavor to the bread. Finally, I probably used closer to 1 1/2 cups of mashed banana than the 1 cup the recipe called for. I had three really, really ripe bananas and did not want to waste the third one. I also used dark brown sugar instead of regular brown sugar and I use Mount Gay rum instead of dark rum. But everything else was the same. I did use real butter instead of margarine, which was an option in the recipe. I just don’t keep margarine in my house. No judging here, I just don’t happen to care for the taste of any margarine I’ve tasted. Should I ever taste one that I really like, I will post that breaking news here, but don’t hold your breath.
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