Category: Cheese

Green Chile Pimento Cheese

Green Chile Pimento Cheese

A love affair with Pimento Cheese begins, ends, and begins again at will in my house. Sometimes it’s months or a year or two in between dalliances. And then it’s over and over and over again plain old, plain old just like it always tastily was or sometimes it arrives in new captivating disguises like CHICKEN-PIMENTO CHEESE PATTY MELTS with Grilled Broccoli with Sriracha Sour Cream from the summer of 2017 here on More Time at the Table.

Continue reading “Green Chile Pimento Cheese”
Two-Cheese Walnut and Rosemary Shortbread Cookies

Two-Cheese Walnut and Rosemary Shortbread Cookies

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Whenever I run into savory little cheese cookies someone’s served with a glass of wine, I’m happy indeed.  These days, they’re usually they’re made with Parmigiano-Reggiano, but older food memories include homemade crispy little cheddar crackers that were just as good with beer as with wine.  Back in the day, these were called “Cheese Pennies” and while they were usually simply round, occasionally a creative baker would even roll them out and cut them out into shapes (suits, of course) for bridge club.

Things that grow together go together

is the saying–Cheddar and Beer being two things the British do very well and Parmigiano-Reggiano and Wine being two things the Italians do just superbly. So, whichever way you roll –to coin a phrase –these savory bits are luscious.

Checking through my top choice cookbooks for such recipes (and tooling around the internet, of course) showed me there’re just as many varieties of not-sweet cookies as there are baking (or other) books on my cookbook shelves.

Continue reading “Two-Cheese Walnut and Rosemary Shortbread Cookies”

No-Cook Dinners

No-Cook Dinners

Food-Antipasti platter

  Antipasti platter or, in Italian, un piatta di antipasti.  A bit dear, but consummately satisfying for a special occasion. 

Every year about this time, there’s a night when we have only wine, cheese, and fruit for dinner. We eat it in the cool basement on three trays–one for each and then the cheese platter between us on the third.  An old movie plays on the tv. There’s not a salad or even a cooked vegetable and definitely not any sort of cooked meat. The wine is icy white or rosé.  Sometimes even the grill feels too much to do or too hot to light.

Continue reading “No-Cook Dinners”

Colorado Green Chile Chicken on Cheese Grits with Garlicky Spinach

Colorado Green Chile Chicken on Cheese Grits with Garlicky Spinach

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Cinco de Mayo, which celebrates Mexico’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla, might have gotten out of hand once in a while in U.S. celebrations.  A margarita or two many (sic) along with endless bowls of tortilla chips and salsa sounds great in the short run, but not in the long.  Why not skip the tequila hangover (it is, after all, a work night) and invite a few friends over for my chicken and green chili with cheese grits– a supper full of freshly layered happiness? Continue reading “Colorado Green Chile Chicken on Cheese Grits with Garlicky Spinach”

38 Power Foods, Week 10 — Mushrooms — Mushroom Ragù on Gruyère Toast

38 Power Foods, Week 10 — Mushrooms — Mushroom Ragù on Gruyère Toast

Slip some baguette with Gruyère under a broiler.  Saute some mushrooms with garlic, shallots, herbs, broth and wine.  Spoon the mushrooms over the cheese toast.  Dinner is served.

I grew up in a house that revered mushrooms. In any form, but mostly on their own.  Just cooked up in a big cast-iron skillet with some garlic or onions.  Eating them on their own was his favorite, but my Dad also loved them with some rice, eggs, or chicken.  He’d have mushrooms any old way.  As a little kid, I wasn’t buying.   It didn’t take long, however, for me to jump on his bandwagon.

My first mushroom love was the famous mushroom stuffed with sausage.  That gave way to (Lord) the deep-fried variety with sauce.  All the while, regular old mushrooms slowly began to take part in my kitchen pageant.  One day I saw that I was buying mushrooms pretty much every time I went to the store.  Talking with my oldest son the other day, I woke up and realized he was talking about cooking up a big pot of mushrooms.  Never know what you’ll pass on.


Mushrooms are inexpensive.  They’re healthy.  They’re adaptable. They’re widely available and come in many varieties.  They add vegetable and “meat” value to any dish.  Mushrooms are quick to prepare and can be eaten raw, fried, baked, sauteed, braised, or boiled.  They’re fine on their own, as a perfect omelet filling, luscious crowded together on top a steak or piece of chicken, and they just make gravy.  What’s beef burgundy without mushrooms?   How about a burger?  Portobellos, grilled, or sauteed, are perfect in a bun with all the fixings.   I’m sure there’s more!

  I don’t know a whole lot about mushroom nutrition, but here are a few things I’ve discovered: they’re full of B vitamins and lots of minerals.  In a nutshell:

Mushrooms provide many of the nutritional attributes of produce, as well as attributes more commonly found in meat, beans or grains. Mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free and very low in sodium, yet they provide important nutrients, including selenium, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin D and more. Read on to discover some of nature’s hidden treasures found in mushrooms.  more info:  mushroom.com

BTW:  If you’d like to pick wild mushrooms, be extremely careful, and get some training.  Many people become seriously ill every year eating poisonous mushrooms.  

You don’t need a big herb garden.  I just have a couple of fragrant pots right outside my front door.  A little dirt.  A little water.  Not much more.  In Colorado, we’re able to bring pots of herbs indoors for the winter.

When I realized mushrooms were up next on our 39 Healthiest Ingredients,  I began dreaming of  cooking up a big pot of them with yummy fresh herbs, shallots, etc., and spooning that over toasted baguette pieces that were topped with Gruyère.  Last night I stopped dreaming:

mushroom ragù on gruyère toast                  serves 4

  •  8 slices baguette 
  • 8 thin slices Gruyère cheese
  • 1  T each extra virgin olive oil and butter 
  • 1/4 t crushed red pepper 
  • 24 oz any mixed mushrooms, sliced (shitake, button, crimini, portobello) 
  • 2 shallots sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2T minced mixed fresh herbs (tarragon, marjoram, chives, parsley, sage, thyme are good choices)  plus a little extra reserved for garnish
  •  1/2 cup each chicken broth, low sodium and white wine
  •  1/4 t  each kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, optional
 Place baguette slices, topped with the Gruyère cheese, on a baking sheet and broil for about 2 minutes or until cheese is browned and bubbly.  Remove from oven and place two cheese toasts in each of four shallow bowls. Set aside.

In a large, deep sauté pan, heat olive oil, butter, and crushed red pepper over medium heat.  Add mushrooms, shallots, and garlic.  Cook a few minutes without  stirring until mushrooms are browned.  Stir to turn mushrooms and add herbs, broth, wine, salt, and pepper.  Simmer for several  minutes, stirring occasionally until liquid is somewhat reduced.  Taste and adjust for seasoning. Divide mushroom mixture evenly over toasted cheese baguette slices. Garnish with reserved fresh herbs.  If desired, top with grated Parmesan.  Pass extra fresh ground black pepper at the table.

For vegan option:  skip Gruyere and brush bread with olive oil before broiling.  Exchange vegetable broth for chicken and either use vegan grated cheese for garnish or no cheese at all.

Wine?  Please serve my mushroom ragu with an Oregon Pinot Noir.  You’ll be so glad you did.  I’m partial to Ken Wright or Sineann, but there are many lovely winemakers around the Willamette valley. 

Want more great mushroom ideas?  Check out the other beautiful 38 Healthiest Ingredient bloggers:

Ansh – SpiceRoots.com  
Jill – SaucyCooks 

Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink
Anabanana – adobodownunder.blogspot.com
.
As we go along, I’m guessing we’ll get some other writers involved.  If you’re interested in joining the gang writing each week, get in touch with Mireya from My Healthy Eating Habits:  Mireya@MyHealthyEatingHabits.com

Sing a new song,
Alyce

Bannocks — A Tribute to Marion Cunningham (Reposted from my Dinner Place blog)

Bannocks — A Tribute to Marion Cunningham (Reposted from my Dinner Place blog)

A little apricot preserves…

 I never knew Marion Cunningham personally, but after my Mom, she pretty much taught me to cook and, perhaps more truly, to bake.  She died this last week (July 11, 2012–Read the LA Times obituary here) at the age of 90 after a lifetime of cooking, writing, and testing recipes for her cookbooks (Fanny Farmer, Fanny Farmer Baking Book, The Breakfast Book, etc.) and for her long-lived column in The San Francisco Chronicle.  She encouraged several generations of home cooks to… well, to just go on and cook.  Set the table and eat at home, please and thank you.



Her books and recipes were not cute, though they were entertaining.  They weren’t novelesque, though they were terribly readable.  They were always sort of like Goldilocks’ favorite bed–just right.  Accurate, concise, occasionally gently witty…above all correct, well-tested, and usable. If I couldn’t remember the formula for cobbler topping, I grabbed The Fanny Farmer Baking Book.  For goodness sake, I STILL grab it.  If I was testing my own blueberry muffin recipe, I looked no further than Marion Cunningham for comparison. Not just because I knew the recipe would work, but because her entire life’s belief in feeding oneself and one’s loved ones well was warmed up, stirred in, and firmly baked into each and every page.

Food is a topic of conversation, she said. It can be an imprint that you pass onto someone else. It can be a shared experience. Sitting down and eating together is a binding quality for a family. Eating on the run doesn’t cover all the bases it should.

She never was a star chef on “Chopped,” (though she did have a cooking show, “Cunningham and Company,” on the Food Network) and she didn’t have lots of restaurants named after her, but all who knew her work respected and loved both her and the food-at-home she championed.  She worked with James Beard as his assistant for years, traveled with Alice Waters, and claimed Judith Jones as an editor.  Why she didn’t make Gourmet Live’s list of the 50 Women Game-Changers in Food was always beyond me.  So, Marion, my very own hero, in your tasty and fine memory, I today share your great Bannocks recipe for all far and wide.  I know there are delectable aromas whispering your name wafting toward heaven from all over the world today– and always.  Thanks for the food and even more for encouraging the life that goes with it.  God speed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 A bit about Bannocks:  A Scottish, gluten-free flat and buttery bread that can be used as a breakfast treat with butter and jam or honey, it’s also a fine cracker for cheese, and a crunchy-buttery (not sweet) shortbread for anytime.  Before home had ovens, bannocks were cooked on a girdle..like a griddle, but hung over the heating surface with chains.  Bannocks were then cooked more like pancakes.  You might try it when camping.   If you’re a Dorothy Sayers fan, the British mystery writer mentions bannocks being cooked on a girdle in the book HAVE HIS CARCASE

Bannocks perhaps are a bit like scones in shape as they’re triangular, though they are not tall and bread-like, and rather only about a crispy  1/4 -1/3″ thick.  Lovely with soupI make these in the food processor in just a few minutes.  The recipe works fine at sea level and at altitude as is.
 

photo courtesy Gourmet

Bannocks by Marion Cunningham from The Breakfast Book
 
 

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup oat flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
  • 1/2 cup water

 
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, toss the oats, flour, and salt together with a fork. Cut the cold butter into small pieces, toss it into the flour mixture, and rub it in until coarse bits form. Stir in the water until all the flour is absorbed.  (Can be done in the food processor if desired.) 
Gather the rough dough together and put it on a board lightly dusted with oat flour. Knead about 6 times. Divide the dough in half and pat each half into a circle about ¼- inch thick. Cut each circle into 4 wedges and arrange the wedges 1/2 inch apart on the baking sheet. Bake about 20 minutes or until lightly colored.

 “Cooking is one of the legacies we can leave to the future, and I would like to be remembered for my baking. We all know we’re not immortal, but after I’m gone, I would like my son and daughter to be able to say, ‘Our mother made real yeast bread for breakfast.’”
  ~Marion Cunningham

Have fun cooking and taking care of yourself,
Alyce

38 Power Foods, Week 6 — Broccoli — Broccoli Soup with Toasted Brie

38 Power Foods, Week 6 — Broccoli — Broccoli Soup with Toasted Brie

 

When my kids were growing up, they all loved broccoli.  Pretty unusual.   One of them adored spinach and one of them always wanted pickles, but all of them would eat broccoli.   So broccoli it was.  A lot. To this day, when our youngest, Emily, is home from grad school, she asks for Chicken-Broccoli Casserole (a quick Chicken Divan known as “Government Girl Casserole” around the D.C area) and I don’t have to look for a recipe.


You get the picture:  I seldom make broccoli anymore.  Being a healthy (see below for nutrition information) and relatively inexpensive cruciferous ( a family of plants which have four petals arranged like the arms of a cross, as the mustard, radish, turnip, etc.) vegetable, I know I’d like to buy it more, but some days I just can’t.  I have fallen in love with broccolini (a cross between broccoli and Chinese broccoli) and often sauté it with large shards of Parmesan until the cheese is a golden, crispy chip-like accompaniment.  The Parm-crusted broccolini is then laid gently atop greens and tiny tomatoes with a bit of lemon, black pepper, and olive oil for a filling main-course salad.

Working on the soup cookbook for the past two months (I got an ISBN number yesterday..AHHH!!) has been one of the most positive, annoying, interesting, and P-Offing of all my cooking experiences.  Somehow, the first soup I worked on (can’t remember why) was broccoli.   Too funny.   Maybe I had a plethora in the vegetable bin for some terribly odd reason; I don’t know.  Maybe it was on sale.  Whatever; that soup is out to a couple of testers now, but I’ll share it here with you.  I’ve made it  several times shall we say.    If you make it, I’d enjoy knowing how your soup turned out.   Read this carefully as we’re in the middle of a wretchedly hot summer in the U.S. (unless you’re an Australian or Scot reader):

This soup is luscious hot or cold.  The cold version is served differently:  instead of the brie toasting on top, you put a spoonful of peppered (or you could use lemon peel) yogurt down in the middle of the soup as a surprise to your table mates.  Being sure ahead of time, naturally, everyone eats dairy.  To serve cold, make it early in the morning before the heat of the day claims your kitchen.  Let cool and refrigerate covered until dinnertime.  

Shopping note:  Fine French brie is an expensive, highly caloric treat.  While I’m crazy about it,  I wouldn’t necessarily use it in this soup, though of course you can if you like. (I like my French brie as is.)  Domestic brie, often made in the great state of Wisconsin, is sold for a great deal less and is fine here.  The Whole Foods in St. Paul, for example, sells a good-sized wedge for $2.99–a sale price, but it’s often on sale.  I haven’t checked the Colorado Springs Whole Foods for its availability.  Anyway….

Try the little preview from my soup book and have fun!

 

 

This soup is warm and filling without being heavy.  Made with puréedbroccoli and other vegetables, it appears to be a cream soup, but contains no cream. Topped with a slice of brie and slipped under the broiler for a few minutes until toasty, it’s a perfect lunch for guests arriving midday.  Ladled into tiny bowls or cups, hot or cold, it’s a first course for a birthday dinner with the surprise of a tiny spoonful of peppered Greek yogurt hidden in the middle.  While it may take a few minutes past the 30-minute mark, it’s worth it!

Still working on getting a good picture!

Broccoli Soup with Toasted Brie         4-6 servings

  • ·        2 quarts low-salt chicken stock**, heated in microwave or on stove
  • ·        2 tablespoon olive oil
  • ·        Crushed red pepper, fresh ground black pepper, and kosher salt
  • ·        2 garlic cloves (one left whole to flavor oil and one chopped for the soup)
  • ·        1 medium onion, peeled, trimmed, and cut into eighths
  • ·        3 stalks celery, trimmed, and cut into 2” pieces
  • ·        2 carrots,  trimmed, and cut into 1” pieces
  • ·        ½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • ·        1½ teaspoon herbes de Provence (or a mix of dried basil, thyme and rosemary)
  • ·        5 cups fresh broccoli, trimmed well, and chopped finely*
  • ·        Hot sauce, 4-6 drops, or to taste
  • ·        Zest and juice of one lemon
  • ·        6 1-oz slices of Brie
1.     Heat the chicken stock in the microwave or on the stove. (I like an 8-cup Pyrex measuring cup for the microwave.)
2.     Place the chopped garlic clove, onion, celery, and carrots into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until chopped coarsely. (Or chop by hand.) 
3.     In an 8-qt stock pot over medium heat, sauté a pinch each of the pepper and salt along with the other whole garlic clove for one minute.  Add the chopped vegetables, stir, and cook covered about five minutes until beginning to soften.
4.     Meantime, preheat the oven broiler.
5.     Add the broccoli, hot stock, hot sauce, ½ t each kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, and lemon zest and juice to the stockpot. Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat a bit, cover, and cook until broccoli is tender, about 10 minutes. Stir once or twice.  Using an immersion blender (or process in batches in food processor), puree the soup.  Taste and adjust seasonings.
6.     Ladle soup into broiler-safe bowls and top each with a piece of Brie cheese.  Place bowls on baking sheet about 4 inches under broiler and broil 3-5 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned. (You could also bake this soup at 350 degrees F for several minutes if you do not have broiler-safe bowls.  Alternately, simply place the cheese in the bottom of the bowl, ladle soup on top, and let sit a couple of minutes to melt cheese.)     
  7.   Serve hot or let cool, chill covered in refrigerator, and serve cold with a surprise small spoonful of peppered plain Greek yogurt hidden in the middle of each bowl.
*You could also use leftover cooked broccoli here to hasten cooking.
**Use vegetable stock for vegetarian option
Accompaniments:   Midsummer, a small plate of ripe tomatoes and peppered cottage cheese with crackers for lunch.   Add a salad and grilled salt and pepper baguette for supper anytime of the year.
Wine:  I like a California Chardonnay with this soup, but a French Sauvignon Blanc with its grassy nose would also work.
Dessert:  Blueberries and a spoonful of lemon ice cream or sorbet.

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a few facts about raw broccoli

According to the USDA Nutrient Database, a standard 100 g serving of raw broccoli has 34 calories with .37 g fat, 1.70 g sugars, 6.64 g carbohydrates, 2.6 g dietary fiber and 2.82 g protein. Broccoli also contributes greatly to your daily vitamin and mineral requirements. For example, raw broccoli delivers 89.2 g of vitamin C, which equates to 149 percent of your daily allowance. In its raw state, broccoli provides 9 percent of your daily requirement of potassium and 12 percent vitamin A.

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Every Friday for the foreseeable future, I’ll be blogging one of the 38 healthiest ingredients from POWER FOODS : 150 DELICIOUS RECIPES WITH THE 38 HEALTHIEST INGREDIENTS by the editors of Whole Living Magazine.

38 Power Foods is a group effort!   Stop by these other blogs and see what they’re cooking each week as we team up to bring you some of the healthiest cooking available.

Jill – SaucyCooks 

Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink
Anabanana – adobodownunder.blogspot.com
.
As we go along, I’m guessing we’ll get some other writers involved.  If you’re interested in joining the gang writing each week, get in touch with Mireya from My Healthy Eating Habits:  Mireya@MyHealthyEatingHabits.com

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

in memoriam
 \
One of my great cooking heroes, Marion Cunningham, is now cooking in that great perfect kitchen where the Tupperware bowls and lids all match and the whole world comes to the table in peace to ease their hunger….  Read my tribute to Marion on the Dinner Place Blog.

 

Bannocks- a simple, flat, oaty, crispy Scottish cracker-bread..from Marion’s BREAKFAST BOOK

Sing a new song; cook something of Marion’s,
Alyce

 

Afternoon Open House

Afternoon Open House

Hot Spiced Cider with or without Rum (Pum Pum Pum)

An afternoon open house is the perfect party …  No main course.  Everyone’s gone by dinner time…  And folks show up because  other commitments are for evening.  Few dishes to wash.  Food that’s easy to prepare ahead. Your goal:  everything out and ready for guests to help themselves.  Your reward:  To be able to enter your own party!

Ginger cookies, Chocolate Snowballs, Date bars–Made ahead and frozen

A couple of perfect festive drinks (Sparkler and Hot Cider), as well as a pot of strong coffee and some thick cream (for those who must dunk cookies or are heading to a serious evening party), make set-up much easier than a cocktail  or dinner party.  People come dressed comfortably.  Yes.

A festive few dishes and a candle or two.  Not much more needed.

Your best cookies,  a couple of great nibbles…Always vegetables…A bit of cheese-

Lots of vegetables–some fresh, some grilled. Herb Garlic Cheese Dip with Pine Nuts

Something they’ll remember later…like my taste-like-jelly-filled-donut shortbread sandwiches:

Raspberry Shortbread Sandwiches

 

Crowded is ok. They’ll come and go.

All set up ahead leaves time for visiting and listening to the great Christmas playlist you put together for the party.  Everything from Revels to Tony Bennett to Harry Connick, Jr. to Cambridge Singers.

Something  filling for those who skipped lunch.  Here, a great tapenade.  Don’t skimp on the olives; buy the best you can find.  Grill your sliced baguette on the stove if it’s too cold outside.

Spicy Tapenade with Crostini

Spanish Cava is a lovely, inexpensive sparkler.  Whatever’s leftover can be used for New Year’s or for
mimosas for brunch.  There’s usually a discount if you buy a case.  Think ahead.

Cava and Cranberries.  Back-up bottles  all chilled in the frig.

 

Leave flutes set up with cranberries and folks will pour the sparkler over them.

 

David Lebovitz famous Pretzel and Nut Mix.  No Chex Mix needed.

Something crunchy is a must.  Nuts, pretzels, chips…for the salty people.

My take on  Eli Zabar’s shortbread recipe..Bittersweet chocolate and sea salt..  I like Valrhona chocolate for dipping, but could only find Callebaut locally this year.  Makes excellent hot chocolate, too, by the way if you’ve any leftover from dipping.  Valrhona is French chocolate; Callebaut is made in many places, but is basically Belgian-French in origin.

Menu:

*Hot Cider with or without Rum (I leave the rum plainly marked in a pitcher on counter.)
*Pot of strong coffee and Hot Water for tea.  The best cream you can find.  Lemon, sugar.
*Cava (or your favorite bubbly)–Add a couple of  fresh cranberries to the $1. glasses
*Cookies–4 of your favorites.  Homemade or beg from friends-even buy at great bakery.
*Garlicky Rosemary Cheese Dip with Pine Nuts and  Lots of Veggies (Recipe below)
*Spicy Tapenade and Crostini (Grilled Bread) – Recipe Below
*Cranberry Almond Bars with Tangerine You must have chocolate. Make it yourself.
*Alyce’s Go Nuts!   Salty, hot, and sweet pecans.  Great protein.
*David Lebovitz Pretzel and Nut Mix–gotta have something that crunches.

                                  Other Recipes

 Herb Garlic Cheese Dip with Pine Nuts 
12 oz goat’s cheese (chevre), softened
32 oz (4 c) ricotta cheese
Zest of one lemon
Hot sauce- a few drops
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
2T fresh dill, minced  (Can choose just one herb if you like.)
2T fresh basil chiffonade
2T fresh chives, minced
1T fresh thyme, chopped (plus a few sprigs for garnish)
1T fresh Rosemary, finely minced
1/2 t coarsely ground black pepper (or more to taste)
Pinch of kosher salt
Garnishes:
1/2 cup of pine nuts
1/4 cup sweet red pepper, diced
Rosemary sprigs 


Place all ingredients except garnishes in the food processor and pulse until well-blended.  Taste and readjust seasoning.  If making the day before, the garlic will settle down a lot overnight in the frig. Store in a tightly-covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  Spoon into serving bowl and garnish with pine nuts, peppers, and sprigs of rosemary  Serve with fresh vegetables or crackers.  If too thick, add a few drops of milk and stir well before serving.

Spicy Tapenade  (Basic recipe courtesy Tyler Florence)

2 cups pitted mixed olives
3 anchovy fillets
2 small garlic cloves
Generous pinch of crushed red pepper
Big handful of flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Tiny pinch  ea kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
Process all ingredients in food processor using steel blade.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to a week.  Serve with crostini (Many people make this in the oven, but I am fond of grilling the bread on a large, stovetop grill if the weather is inclement.  Grilled crostini is luscious with salt and pepper, but none is needed here when serving with tapenade.)

Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood

This week, we’re buying a few small gifts, making a vat of barbequed brisket,  going to a choir party, taking some friends out to dinner and to a Rose Ensemble concert, baking a manger scene (yes!) and stollen, watching every Christmas movie we can, and picking up my sister at the airport.    Emily and I are getting our hair done together tomorrow, so we’ll be all cleaned up for the whole deal.  Work is slowing down, though I still have a couple of pieces to rehearse and direct.  Probably need to get that Rutter out and practice!  Dave’s week will be intense and then crawl, alternately….as co-workers world-wide try to get ready for Dell’s week-long break, but still make time for Christmas parties.

We’ll be at church on Christmas Eve, of course…it’s my favorite service.  If there’s time, we’ll stop by a couple of open houses, but we’ll come home to cookies and eggnog in the wee early hours of Christmas morning and fall into bed to listen for the sleigh bells.

Christmas Day is a different story:

For years, I never even made Christmas dinner and I’m an avid cook.  By the time Christmas Eve services were done, I was done, too.  No one’s happier to see Christmas day arrive than a church musician.  A great meat tray and the perfect basket of croissants sounded good to me.  Maybe a big bowl of shrimp and sauce and fresh veggies.  But one year Dave began cooking on Christmas Day and that continues.  I do a mean pan of cinnamon rolls and stollen and and an egg casserole for brunch after presents and he’s in the kitchen the rest of the day often cooking up something out of Tyler Florence’s books. It’s a hoot for him to get me out of that kitchen and to just putter on his own.  No timetable.  I stay in my jammies and watch movies.
 
 
   
Last year’s Christmas Day rolled flank steak with roasted tomatoes.
Christmas Day.  Toys, movies, the pups.
Gabby and Tuck have been good all year, but they’re still worried there’ll be  nothing in their stockings.

Maybe there are others with the same fears….

                                                                courtesy Share Our Strength

 

Want to feed some kids before the end of 2011?

 

No Kid Hungry this Holiday Season

With your help this holiday season, we can connect hungry children with nutritious meals all year long! Every $1 you donate to Share Our Strength helps connect a child with up to 10 meals. Through December 31, our No Kid Hungry Partners are matching the first $500,000 donated during the holiday season.   Click here to donate.

John O’Donohue is fond of talking about “entering your own life,” but I love the idea of entering your own Christmas.  It’s time.

Merry Days to you!   Do the fun things.
Alyce

Homemade Tomato Soup and Fried Cheese on a Snowy Night or How’s the Second Week of Advent Goin’ for Ya?

Homemade Tomato Soup and Fried Cheese on a Snowy Night or How’s the Second Week of Advent Goin’ for Ya?

The story goes that tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches….  Actually, I don’t know that story.  If you do, tell me.  I just can’t remember when I didn’t eat that comforting, homey classic Saturday noon meal.   My kids grew up eating it, but mama’s got a brand new bag.

This time around, I made the tomato soup myself.  No sugar, sweetheart.  Just a drop of honey to counteract the acid in the tomatoes.  And…no grilled cheese sandwich.  Not for me.  Dave had one.  Instead, I fried my cheese and gently topped my soup with it.

It was creamy, crunchy and fulfilled all those grilled cheesey longings while I skipped the bread on a cold, cold night with the snow flying across the piano window:

 

Here’s how:

Homemade Tomato Soup with Fried Cheese

In a food processor (or by hand, chopping) fitted with the steel blade, place:

  • 1 small onion
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1-2 peeled carrots
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 of a lemon, including the peel

Process pulsing until the vegetables are evenly and quite finely minced.

In a 4-6 qt stock pan, heat over medium heat

  • 1 T olive oil

When quite warm, spoon in the minced vegetables and let cook 5 minutes until softening.
Add:

  • 1 28 oz can chopped tomatoes (I like Cento tomatoes.)
  • 1/2 cup white wine or water
  • 1tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp of chili-garlic sauce or a few drops of Tabasco

Bring to a boil and lower heat to a simmer.  Let cook slowly about 20 minutes, stirring regularly.  If desired, puree using an immersion blender or by carefully returning (1/2 at a time) mixture to food processor.   Taste and season again, if needed.   Lower heat to very low and make the fried cheese:

Fried Cheese

You’ll need 1 large, thin slice of cheese for each serving.   I used low-sodium Swiss Cheese, but Cheddar would also work well.  Don’t use too soft of a cheese.


Directions:  In a small skillet, heat 1T olive oil over medium heat.  Place the cheese slice in the pan, and watching closely, let melt well.  Meantime, ladle the soup into the bowl. Scrape out the melted cheese into a bowl full of soup and put the skillet back on the heat briefly.  Using a good spatula, scrape the now crispy leavings of the cheese into the bowl.  Eat while hot.

Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood

It’s the second Sunday of Advent.  In my world, we’re moving daily through the journey toward the stable.  Trying to figure out how to be ready for God to be born in our hearts.  Taking a good look at what we’ve stored in there over the last year as it’s been that long since we took inventory and marked down the things that didn’t sell.   Looking in dark corners.  Blowing away the dust and sweeping away the cobwebs that can’t be there if we are to prepare him room.  While it can seem odd, we are continually waiting for Jesus to come again. 

So today, we sang and talked, and lit candles.  Took communion together and sang, “Wait for the Lord, whose day is near.”  Jody played the accordian and the sounds of the guitars, banjo, organ, piano, and steel guitar raised the roof to praise God and to make alive our wonders and wanders.

At home, we’ve got the tree, but it’s not up.  Had a great day Saturday at Bachman’s looking at the decorations and buying a new tree, but it’ll sit out in the garage a while.  The Christmas dishes are out.  The table has the Christmas candles to grace it, and the many boxes of butter for the cookies are ready in the freezer.  Down in the basement, there are stacks of flour, sugar, and chocolate.  Almonds, raisins, and pecans.  Invitations went out today to draw friends in for a bit of cheer on a Saturday afternoon not too far away.  We’re finishing chores like the painted trim in the kitchen and getting curtains up…  “What?  Are you waiting for Christmas?” takes on new meaning.

The choir is working hard to be ready to sing our cantata next week.  Joseph and Patricia Martin’s “Canticle of Joy” is our offering and our study…our way and our journey this year.  All over the world, I’m comforted to think choirs are doing that same thing.  Moving in on the music, getting it in their hearts, and making it one of their priorities.  Makes you learn the story with your whole body when you sing it.

Here are a few at our rehearsal  with Cabrini for Thanksgiving service.
At Bachman’s looking for a tree….

Did you ever see a blue or purple poinsettia?

Elephant topiary next to the poinsettia tree.

Which one?

Beautiful, but out of our price range.

Finally getting our curtains up once we got home.

The Tuckster’s been eating snow.

Curtains! 

And so things are getting ready for Christmas… slowly, but surely.  And at your house?  Here’s a bit of Advent reading I thought I’d share:

ADVENT
Richard Rohr

When we demand satisfaction of one another, when we demand any completion to history on our terms, when we demand that our anxiety or any dissatisfaction be taken away, saying, as it were, “Why weren’t you this for me? Why didn’t life do that for me?”, we are refusing to say, “Come, Lord Jesus.” We are refusing to hold out for the full picture that is always given in time by God.

When we set out to seek our private happiness, we often create an idol that is sure to topple. Any attempts to protect any full and private happiness in the midst of so much public suffering have to be based on illusion about the nature of the world in which we live. We can only do that if we block ourselves from a certain degree of reality and refuse solidarity with “the other side” of everything, even the other side of ourselves.

Adapted from Preparing for Christmas with Richard Rohr, pp. 5, 7

Sing a new carol,
Alyce

Bacon Caprese or Make Cheese While the Sun Shines

Bacon Caprese or Make Cheese While the Sun Shines

While food trends wax and wane (Remember cupcakes?), I never-ha!-fall into the kitschy traps other foodies do.  I did make gingerbread cupcakes for Super Bowl a couple of years ago, but I would have done that anyway.  And you aren’t reading about pork belly here, though I’ve nothing against it.  But I fall off the wagon a bit about bacon.  While I am definitely NOT a bacon fanatic (and it’s on menus in quite odd places), my husband definitely IS.  But he has been a bacon fanatic since Eisenhower was president.
His favorite movie moment is in “Grumpier Old Men,”

Grandpa: What the… what the hell is this?
John: That’s lite beer.
Grandpa: Gee, I weigh ninety goddamn pounds, and you bring me this sloppin’ foam?
John: Ariel’s got me on a diet because the doc said my cholesterol’s a little too high.
Grandpa: Well let me tell you something now, Johnny. Last Thursday, I turned 95 years old. And I never exercised a day in my life. Every morning, I wake up, and I smoke a cigarette. And then I eat five strips of bacon. And for lunch, I eat a bacon sandwich. And for a midday snack?
John: Bacon.
Grandpa: Bacon! A whole damn plate! And I usually drink my dinner. Now according to all of them flat-belly experts, I should’ve took a dirt nap like thirty years ago. But each year comes and goes, and I’m still here. Ha! And they keep dyin’. You know? Sometimes I wonder if God forgot about me. Just goes to show you, huh?
John: What?
Grandpa: Huh?
John: Goes to show you what?
Grandpa: Well it just goes… what the hell are you talkin’ about?
John: Well you said you drink beer, you eat bacon and you smoke cigarettes, and you outlive most of the experts.
Grandpa: Yeah?
John: I thought maybe there was a moral.
Grandpa: No, there ain’t no moral. I just like that story. That’s all. Like that story.

So last week when I shelled out the big bucks for a pound of Nueske’s bacon at the butcher counter at Widmer’s for the summer BLTs, I didn’t blink.  In fact, I kept cooking that bacon daily to make sure it was all used before any stray pieces went bad.  You know how good your house smells when you cook bacon (Try it when you have a for sale sign out front..)?  Well, my house still smells like that.  The scent is fixed in the rugs and on the dogs, who can’t stop walking around with their noses up in the air.  Dave acts the same way.  And if there’s a fine layer of fat sprayed all over my stove, he doesn’t wipe it up.  “A little bacon grease never hurt anything.”

In the middle of that bacon for breakfast, bacon for lunch spree came a trip to the Saturday Farmer’s Market in downtown St. Paul.  For all of you who’ve never been, this is the most beautiful market in the United States.  The food that you can’t buy there doesn’t need to be bought.

Spring market bounty

Perhaps I exaggerate.  But not by much.  At the market, I gently loved a few more Minnesota tomatoes enough to coax them out of their owner’s hands and came home to make cheese for caprese.

(See how on my Dinner Place blog.)  But that bacon called.  And before I knew it, I’d fried up the last of it to tuck in between the caprese layers.  Not only that, I threw the haricots verts in a pot of boiling water for two minutes, drained them and topped them with a dop of herb butter.  (Here’s how Ina does this. Why should I reinvent the recipe?)  I couldn’t resist making a beautiful salad of the entire thing with the beans in the middle.

I don’t see a reason for putting up a recipe for the caprese either; here’s one from epicurious.com. Just add the bacon!   I will say this about my caprese:  I place the salad on a bed of spinach and I squeeze lemon over all and dust the whole thing liberally with ground sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper.  I then drizzle not too much of my balsamic vinaigrette over everything but the green beans, which are already well-seasoned with the herb butter.  Lemon on the beans–yes.  One of my favorites.

 

Love summer, my friends.

Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood

The end of August isn’t the end of summer, but there are signs.  The flowers look too tired to continue blooming, despite fertilizing and watering.  The road crews appear in a big hurry to get it all done.  There are Christmas decorations out in a few stores.  I’m looking for a guy to plow my driveway.  Acorns are dropping and the squirrels are very squirrely. The big tubs of mums are for sale at Ace.  Our floor refinishing (and installation in the kitchen) is scheduled so that we can do it while windows can remain open.  And, of course, in Minnesota, it’s State Fair Week!  (Half a million sticks for food used so far.  And if you don’t know what that is, it’s anything edible that will stay on a stick.  See what you dream up.)

Neighbor’s Victory Garden (from my driveway)

I close today with lovely news!  I am now newly employed as a choir director at Prospect Park United Methodist Church, which is a church just across the line in Minneapolis.  I’m thrilled, excited, and don’t have words (right) for how light my heart is.  Watch this space for news of their fine singers and what fun stuff we’re up to.   Thanks be to God.  And:  thanks to all who supported me and prayed for my employment.  Cyberhugs as you
Sing a new song,
Alyce