CREAM OF ASPARAGUS VEGETABLE CHOWDER

CREAM OF ASPARAGUS VEGETABLE CHOWDER
1 pound asparagus, wood ends trimmed
1 small Vidalia onion, chopped
1 large bunch green onions, sliced
1 cup sliced carrots
2 stalks celery, halved and sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 KNORR tomato bouillon cube
1 KNORR chicken broth gel tub
8 cups water
3 tablespoons butter, sliced and freezer chilled
1/2 cup white Moscato wine or Cream Sherry
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 ounces Mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced (3 cups +/-)
1 tablespoon White Balsamic Vinegar
Parmesan cheese for garnish

  • Whisk KNORR chicken broth gel tub and KNORR tomato bouillon cube into the water as you are bringing it to a boil.
  • Add onions, carrots, asparagus, celery and garlic. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes until all vegetables are tender.
  • Remove vegetables to a colander, retaining broth that drains off.
  • While vegetables are draining whisk salt, pepper and red pepper into broth.
  • Add potatoes and bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer cooking until potatoes are tender.
  • While potatoes are cooking, process cooling vegetables until smooth.
  • When potatoes are tender, slightly mash most of the potatoes.
  • Return vegetable mix to the potato broth along with any broth that drained off.
  • Add wine or sherry and vinegar blending well.
  • Add in heavy cream and Mascarpone cheese stirring until cheese is melted and well blended.
  • Serve with fresh Parmesan as garnish.

BLACK FRIDAY THANKSGIVING WRAP UP with NEW RECIPES for GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE, CRANBERRY POMEGRANATE TANGERINE SAUCE, PUMPKIN PECAN BUTTER CAKE with CARAMEL SAUCE & CINNAMON PECANS

As I mentioned before, I DO NOT shop Black Friday, unless it’s from the comfort of my desk chair talking to a computer.  Thanksgiving weekend for us is and always has been casual.  This year was no exception. With just 2 of us this year I bought a turkey breast only.  So my questions is, where does the rest of the turkey go?

Our range is on the way out also – losing the heating elements one by one and the oven is now 75 degrees under temperature.  I didn’t want to take a chance so I started the turkey breast in the slow cooker and then used the oven to only brown the top.  Amazingly, it turned out PERFECT!  I see great turkey sandwiches tomorrow! And there are plenty of leftovers until the new range is installed next week.

Our morning started out foggy and drizzly before turning to serious cold and rain.  I did manage to capture this Robin hanging out in the old garden bed.

And the first opening bloom of the Christmas Cactus this season.

99.9% of my recipes are made from scratch, but every now and then I do cheat a bit.  Part of Thanksgiving’s dessert, PUMPKIN PECAN BUTTER CAKE with CARAMEL SAUCE & CINNAMON PECAN was one of those small cheats and believe me I will cheat again, but next time I’ll add some fresh whipped cream.  MOST of the recipe is scratch ingredients, but it called for a Betty Crocker SuperMoist yellow cake mix.  Instead I used a SuperMoist BUTTER PECAN cake mix and it was FABULOUS!  I’ll give you the original recipe (which for the life of me I can’t remember where it came from – probably pinterest) with my changes in red.

GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE
3-15 ounce cans cut green beans, drained VERY WELL!
2 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons Wondra
1 1/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon each, paprika, sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Savory Spice Shop Hidden Cove Lemon Garlic Blend
1 teaspoon celery flakes
2 tablespoons Riverhouse Parmesan Herb dressing **
3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 cup +/- French’s French fried onion rings

  • Over medium heat melt butter in saucepan.
  • Whisk in Wondra until golden.
  • Add milk and heavy cream gradually, bringing to a boil JUST SLIGHTLY!
  • Reduce heat and simmer, stirring continuously until sauce begins to thicken.
  • While still stirring add in paprika, salt, pepper, Lemon Garlic and celery flakes. When you reach your desired consistency set pan aside to cool slightly.
  • In a large mixing bowl toss the green beans with the Riverhouse Parmesan Herb dressing.
  • Pour sauce over beans and gently toss and coat.
  • Pour into a baking dish and top with crumbled bacon and fried onion rings.
  • Bake 20-30 minutes until heated through.

**If you can’t find this brand, Litehouse Parmesan Caesar is a great substitute.

CRANBERRY POMEGRANATE TANGERINE SAUCE
1 bag cranberries
1 cup pomegranate seeds

1/2 cup fresh squeezed tangerine juice with pulp*
1/2 cup pineapple juice*
2 cups sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon orange peel
  • Wash cranberries and drain in colander.
  • Mix tangerine juice, pineapple juice and sugar in saucepan until dissolved.
  • Add cinnamon and orange peel. Stir well.
  • Add the cranberries and pomegranate seeds simmering over medium high heat until bubbling, stirring often.
  • When the mixture begins to boil, reduce heat.
  • Cook uncovered or until all cranberries and pomegranate seeds have ’popped’.
  • Sauce will thicken as it cools.
  • Can be stored in the refrigerator for a week or frozen for future holidays.

Yields: 2 cups
*You can use ALL orange juice if you prefer

***I like to make a double batch at Thanksgiving and freeze half for Christmas.

PUMPKIN PECAN BUTTER CAKE with CARAMEL SAUCE & CINNAMON PECANS
CAKE BOTTOM 
1 Betty Crocker SuperMoist yellow cake mix (Butter Pecan)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 Egg

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Line the bottom of your 10 inch springform pan with parchment paper. I cut a square sheet and close it into the seam of the bottom with the latch and then trim into a circle. Lightly spray the pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  • NOTE: you can use a 9×13 cake pan, but coat it well with non-stick cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl combine the cake mix, melted butter and egg until well blended.Press batter into the bottom of your springform pan.

FILLING 
8 ounces softened cream cheese
15 ounce can pumpkin
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 teaspoon PURE vanilla
1/2 teaspoon orange peel 
3 eggs
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
Caramel sauce (recipe follows) 
Candied pecans (I used Fisher’s Cinnamon Pecans) 
Kraft Caramel Balls 
Smucker’s Pineapple Sauce, slightly warmed (optional)

  • In a large mixing bowl beat together the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth.
  • Add melted butter, vanilla and eggs, beating until well combined.
  • Fold in powdered sugar, orange peel and pumpkin pie spice until just mixed.
  • Pour batter over cake base and smooth even.
  • Bake 60-75 minutes until cake is set and top is only slightly wobbly (similar to a cheesecake consistency).
  • COOL COMPLETELY on a wire rack BEFORE removing the pan.
  • Serve sliced with Caramel sauce, pineapple sauce, caramel balls and pecans.

NOTE: YOU WILL NEED LESS TIME USING A 9X13 PAN!

CARAMEL SAUCE 
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
3/4 cup sugar
2+ tablespoons water

  • Combine the cream and butter in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently to prevent scorching.
  • Remove from the heat.
  • In a medium saucepan cook the corn syrup over a medium heat until bubbly.
  • Fold in 1/4 cup of the sugar and continue to cook until the edges begin to turn a light amber color.
  • Add in 1/4 cup sugar more and repeat until all the sugar is blended in.
  • Continue cooking until amber color darkens stirring constantly.
  • Remove from the heat and carefully fold in the cream mixture.
  • Cook over medium heat stirring frequently until caramel is bubbling.
  • Serve warm.
  • Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Microwave 20-30 seconds to soften refrigerated caramel before serving.

I’m off to wrap Christmas presents – Have a great weekend! 

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PARSNIP PUREE POTATO SKINS

Did you know that parsnips are from the carrot family? This vegetarian diet hubby requested is giving me room to try some new recipes and I’m losing weight though he says he isn’t.

PARSNIP PUREE POTATO SKINS
1 1/2 pounds parsnips, peeled & cut into 1 inch pieces
2 medium potatoes, baked & scooped out
1 green onion, sliced thin
2 tablespoons sour cream
3-4 ounces grated cheddar cheese
1/4-1/2 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons butter, melted
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add parsnips and boil 20-25 minutes until extremely tender.
  • Bake potatoes in oven or microwave. Halve them and scoop out the insides.
  • Puree the cooled parsnips and potato insides until smooth.
  • Add butter, sour cream, salt, pepper, nutmeg and heavy cream and blend well.
  • Fill potato shells with puree. This makes enough to also fill 2 compotes for another meal later in the week.
  • Top with grated cheese and green onion
  • Bake for 20 minutes.
  • Increase to broil and brown tops for a minute or so.

GORGONZOLA BACON GREEN BEANS

GORGONZOLA BACON GREEN BEANS
1/4 pound thick bacon, chopped
1 small bunch green onions, sliced
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
1/4 cup Gorgonzola crumbles

  • In a large skillet cook bacon until crisp.  Remove with a slotted spoon to drain on papertowels.
  • Add onions and green beans to bacon drippings and stir fry until crisp tender.
  • Drain off any remaining bacon drippings.
  • Toss onions, green beans, bacon bits and Gorgonzola crumbles.

BROCCOLI GREEN BEAN ALMOND SAUTE’

BROCCOLI GREEN BEAN ALMOND SAUTE’

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons White Balsamic Vinegar
1 bunch green onions, sliced thin
1/3 pound green beans, trimmed
1 broccoli crown, chopped small
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons slivered almonds

  • Heat olive oil in large skillet.
  • Add vegetables and saute’ until tender.
  • Add soy sauce and white balsamic vinegar.
  • Sprinkle with sea salt and white pepper.
  • Add almonds, blend well and heat through.
  • This dish is good hot OR cold!

DECONSTRUCTION: HOW STUFFED CARROTS BECAME A CARROT CASSEROLE

I’m always on the look out for great ways to spice up vegetable recipes.  I found what sounded and looked like an awesome recipe in a magazine for a carrot side dish.  I was excited to make it, but then oh so disappointed.  They looked pretty, but they tasted awful.  So, we sat around the dinner table deconstructing AND reconstructing the recipe!  My family is so good at dinner conversation.  Well, maybe not, but at least they tell me what they don’t like and then help turn it into something they will like.


The original recipe:
BAKED STUFFED CARROTS
12 medium carrots
1/4 cup mayonnaise
4 teaspoons grated onion
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons butter, melted and divided
1/8 teaspoon paprika

  1. Place carrots in a skillet. Add 1 inch of water.  Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 15-20 minutes or until crisp tender.  Drain.
  2. Cut a thin lengthwise slice out of each carrot.  Scoop out carrot, leaving a 1/4 inch shell, set shells aside. Place the removed carrot in a food processor; cover and process until finely chopped.  Transfer to a large bowl; add mayonnaise, onion, horseradish, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Spoon into carrot shells.
  3. Place in a greased 13 inch x 9 inch baking dish.  Combine the crumbs, 1 tablespoon butter and paprika; sprinkle over carrots.  Drizzle with remaining butter.
  4. Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until tender. 
Do you remember Gilligan’s Island Season 3, episode 20?  No, I didn’t REMEMBER the number or season either, but I remember the episode well.  Gilligan discovers a crate in the lagoon and pries off the lid, which falls face side down of course, and inside are all these beautiful seeds.  Mary Ann immediately plants a garden and they all have their favorite vegetables.  Because the seeds are radioactive they produce bigger and “better” vegetables that gives each castaway a special ability.  These were 2 1/2 inches in diameter!

I present to you the Gilligan’s Island Carrots:
THE RECIPE WORTH MAKING:
BAKED CARROT CASSEROLE
12 medium carrots

1/4 cup mayonnaise1 large bunch green onions, minced3 cloves garlic, minced1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs2 tablespoons butter, divided1/8 teaspoon paprika

  • Place carrots in a skillet. Add 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 10 minutes or until crisp tender. Drain. Cool.
  • Slice carrots into 1 inch lengths and then into 4 pieces each.
  • In a small skillet melt 1 tablespoon of butter.  Saute’ onions and garlic until translucent and fragrant. Drain of fat.
  • Transfer to a large bowl; add mayonnaise, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
  • Toss with cooled carrots until well coated.
  • Place into a greased 9X9 baking dish. Combine the crumbs, 1 tablespoon butter and paprika; sprinkle over carrots. Drizzle with remaining butter.
  • Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until tender.

BAKED ONIONS with BROWN GRAVY

BAKED ONIONS with BROWN GRAVY

2 large onions (I used a Vidalia and a Red)
1 1/2 cups prepared brown rice
2 slices multi grain bread, staled and crumbed
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon garlic
1 JUMBO egg, beaten
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons butter

  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  • Spray baking dish with PURE.
  • Halve onions. Cut a flat spot on the bottom of each and remove all the insides except for the 2-3 thickest outer rings. Place onion cups in baking dish.
  • Chop onion insides into fine pieces.
  • Prepare brown rice and set aside.
  • In a large skillet melt butter.
  • Saute’ onion until tender.
  • Add garlic and saute’ until fragrant.
  • Add bread crumbs, prepared rice, cheese, beaten egg, salt and pepper taste.
  • When well blended and egg is cooked fill the onion shells and place remaining rice mixture around the sides.
  • Prepare gravy and pour all over the onions and rice mixture.
  • Bake 1 hour.

BROWN GRAVY
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon minced garlic, jar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cups hot water
2 tablespoons Better than Beef Bouillon
salt and black pepper to taste

  • In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
  • Whisk together the hot water and bouillon. Set aside
  • Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, until the mixture is golden-brown and fragrant.
  • Add the garlic and cook a few seconds more.
  • Whisk in the beef broth and Worcestershire sauce.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Bring to a low boil.
  • Reduce the heat to a low simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally until desired consistency.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.

PAN SEARED CHICKEN BREAST & WILTED SPINACH with PARMESAN PASTA

PAN SEARED CHICKEN BREAST & WILTED SPINACH with PARMESAN PASTA
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced*
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 ounces white wine
1 lemon, juiced
4 ounces bacon, diced
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
3 cups fresh spinach, washed and stemmed
spaghetti, cooked and well drained
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1 large tomato, diced
*While I prefer fresh garlic, I have found that the roasted jar garlic is a great substitute, especially in the winter.
  • Brown bacon until crisp.
  • Add onion slices and garlic, sauteing until tender.
  • Move bacon and onions to the sides and add butter.
  • When butter is melted, add chicken and brown well on both sides.
  • In the meantime, prepare the pasta per package directions.
  • Remove chicken, keeping warm.
  • Add spinach and saute’ until spinach wilts.
  • Move spinach to outer sides.
  • Toss pasta with wine and lemon juice.
  • Mound pasta in center of pan.
  • Top with Parmesan cheese.
  • Layer chicken pieces over top.
  • Serve immediately.

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CARROTS AU GRATIN

Carrots Au GratinCARROTS AU GRATIN

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons WONDRA flour

1 cup milk

1 small bunch green onions, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese****

3 1/2 cups peeled, diced and cooked carrots

1 teaspoon celery salt

1 cup Panko crumbs, sauteed in butter

  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a small sauce pan melt butter over a medium heat.
  • Add flour and whisk until golden.
  • Add salt and garlic powder.
  • Add onions and blend well.
  • Gradually add milk, whisking until smooth.
  • Stir constantly until sauce begins to thicken.
  • Add cheese and whisk until smooth consistency.
  • Alternate layers of carrots and sauce in a buttered baking dish.
  • Top with bread crumbs.
  • Bake 30 minutes.

****Changing the cheese flavor changes this dish considerably. I’ve experimented with several and found that Gruyere’ is an excellent alternative.

Here a bean, there a bean, everywhere a bean…

Not too long ago I researched Navy beans for my Navy Bean & Ham soup. During that research I also found that navy beans, named that for the bean of choice of the U.S. Navy, are the main bean used in Boston Baked Beans. I have been making my BBQ Bean dinner for years using canned BUSH beans, but decided it was time to make true Boston Baked Beans my way. I found that most versions used salt pork, but I like the bacon too so I chose to use both. You could substitute if your prefer though. I also eliminated all mustard due to an allergy, but also because I prefer the sweeter version.Here is my version:

BOSTON BAKED BEAN DINNER

2 pounds ground beef

1/2 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled

1/2 pound salt pork, cubed & browned

2 large Vidalia or Maui onion, chopped small

4 tablespoons liquid smoke

1 cup ketchup

1 cup molasses

3 cups packed brown sugar

1 1/2 cup vinegar

1 pound navy beans

  • Soak beans overnight.
  • Brown hamburger, drain and layer into the bottom of your slow cooker.
  • Cube and brown the salt pork. Add to slow cooker.
  • Fry bacon until crisp. Crumble bacon into pieces. Add to slow cooker.
  • Chop onion into small pieces and scatter over the meat.
  • Add the beans to the slow cooker.
  • Scatter the brown sugar over top evenly.
  • Stir together the molasses, ketchup, vinegar, liquid smoke and Worcestershire sauce. Pour evenly over everything in the slow cooker slow cooker.
  • Cook on low for 4-6 hours.
  • Serve with Beer Bread or Cheddar Cheese Biscuits.
  • Great dish for a church pot luck.

OLD FASHIONED BOSTON BAKED BEANS

1 pound Navy beans, washed and sorted

1/2 pound salt pork, diced small

1 medium Vidalia onion, chopped

1/4 cup ketchup

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/8 cup PURE maple syrup

1/4 cup molasses

  • Dice salt pork and layer on bottom of slow cooker.
  • Chop onion and scatter over salt pork pieces.
  • Wash and sort beans.
  • Place beans in slow cooker on top of salt pork.
  • Cover with 5 cups water.
  • Cook on low overnight for 12 hours.
  • Drain beans, reserving liquid.
  • Return beans to slow cooker.
  • Add vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, maple syrup and molasses and blend well. Add in 1/2 cup of bean water as desired for consistency.
  • Heat through.

FRESH INGREDIENTS

I grew up in a neighborhood where fresh ingredients and a local market were always just a stone’s throw away. Grams cooked by “feel” with all natural and fresh ingredients.  Eating dinner together every night was a mandatory ritual, was done around the kitchen table and even though we didn’t always get along real well, we ALWAYS came together over meals…. When I moved to a new area, food was all of a sudden associated with convenience; and markets were big mega-chains with the same staples you could find at any other market.  There was a HUGE gap between culture, community and food.

This is how I cook today – I’m always on the look out for a farmer’s market or mom and pop store that’s BIG on produce!

Tomato Soup with Chickpeas

It’s finally getting warm outside!  Yet, I can always enjoy a bowl of hot soup.  Seriously, it can be 90 degrees outside and I’d still love to eat this soup. 
I’ve made this a few times and it’s always so good. I always have the ingredients on hand and it’s a great soup to make in a pinch when you don’t know what else to cook!

Tomato Soup with Chickpeas Recipe
2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 teaspoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon dried rosemary (fresh would work too)
3-15 ounce cans of tomatoes (I used diced)
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Pepper, to taste
2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1. Warm the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-low heat, and add the garlic and rosemary. Cook for a minute or two, and then add the tomatoes, sugar, salt, a few grinds of pepper, roughly half of the chickpeas, and the stock. Bring to a boil over high heat; then reduce the heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes.
2. Remove the soup from the heat to purée. If using an immersion blender, purée the soup directly in the pot. Otherwise, wait a few minutes, until the soup cools; then purée it in batches in a blender or food processor and return it to the pot. Add the remaining chickpeas, and warm the soup over medium heat.