Baked Camembert with Dried Figs, Cranberries and Walnuts

Baked Camembert with Dried Figs, Cranberries and Walnuts

This is a quick appetizer to pull together with some pantry staples and a round of Camembert or brie cheese.  I reconstituted some chopped dried figs and cranberries in some hot water and drained them after 10 minutes and mixed it together with some apricot jam, (you could also use chutney, fig jam or even orange marmalade) and chopped walnuts.  You could also use almonds or pistachios and this mixture can be made the day before and refrigerate.  Bake the cheese with the mixture on top for 10 minutes and serve with crackers. You could also serve it with sliced apples or pears.  I forgot to set the timer and cooked it too long, so the cheese melted all over and wasn’t a pretty picture (literally!) and I didn’t include the photo, but yours will be better!  Click here for the recipe….

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Caramelized Pear, Shallot and Sage Crostini with Blue Cheese

Caramelized Pear, Shallot and Sage Crostini with Blue Cheese

I love the combo of fruit and cheese, and pears and blue cheese go so well together. I sautéed a shallot until it was caramelized and then added some pear slices with some fresh sage and cooked them through.  Toast some slices of baguette and place the pears on the crostini and garnish with crumbled blue cheese and you have a delicious appetizer.  The pears can be made the day before and assembled just before serving them.   Click here for the recipe….

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Black Forest Trifle

Black Forest Trifle

This is my Grandma’s trifle bowl and I am so happy to have it and get to use it. She loved to make desserts and I know that’s where I got my love of them too!  Instead of the traditional British trifle, I mixed it up and made it with a cherry filling.  You can make it quite easily with a few cheats ~ store bought pound cake, Birds custard mix, and frozen cherries.  I put the frozen cherries in a saucepan with some lemon juice and a little water and sugar to taste and let it cook for 8-10 minutes.  I made a slurry with cornstarch and water and added some until it was a glaze consistency.  I made the ubiquitous Bird’s custard from my childhood and all you have to do is bring milk to a simmer and add a little cold milk to a small bowl of the custard mixture, whisk it up and add some hot milk to the mixture and then whisk it all into the hot milk and cook the custard until it simmers and cooks for a few minutes. I like to add a dash of vanilla powder or little splash of vanilla and then allow it to completely cool.  Cut up some pound cake and add it to the trifle bowl, sprinkle it with some Kirsch if you have some or a little brandy, and add a third of the cherry mixture and top it with custard, and then repeat the layers.  Make some whipped cream and dollop it over the cherries and then grate a bittersweet chocolate bar over the trifle for garnish.  This trifle can be made the day before so it is nice if you are having a party.  Click here for the recipe….

 

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Medjool Date Power Balls

Medjool Date Power Balls   

These power energy balls are a great snack and packed with healthy, whole ingredients.  They are really quick to make in a food processor and they keep very well.  You just pulse all the ingredients in the food processor and roll them into balls.  They’re a twist on an ancient Indian sweet recipe called khajur pak, often found piled high in specialty Delhi sweet shops.  There are several varieties of dates but 2 of the most popular in the grocery store are Medjool and Deglet Noor dates.  Medjool dates are picked when they are ripe, but don’t have as long a shelf life and are usually more expensive than Deglet dates. Deglet dates are picked when they’re rock solid and inedible and have to be steamed to loosen them up. They have a longer shelf life, are less expensive and a good choice for baking because they hold their shape. Medjool dates can often be too soft for baking but make good snacking and stuffing dates. Dates are loaded with antioxidants, are fat free, and provide a good source of fiber and potassium.  Give these a try!  Click here for the recipe….

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Indian Lentil Chili

Indian Lentil Chili

Happy New Year!  As the new year rolls around, I usually try and reflect on things I want to make a difference at the beginning of the year.  Making resolutions always seems to have me veer in the opposite direction, but I am considering trying to eat mindfully might be a difference I would like to consider.  I think that maybe even eating vegetarian at least once a week is a good thing to incorporate and this chili makes it easy for me give it a good start!  If you are trying to find more ways to get lentils and legumes into your diet, this is a great chili recipe that uses the incredible aromatic spices of India like cardamon, coriander, cloves, garam masala and cumin with a tomato base.  Red kidney beans give this chili some more substance and cilantro brings the dish some fresh flavor at the end. I used a combination of red dal lentils, lentils du Puy and green lentils and started with a quick fresh time saver of Trader Joe’s mire poix which is a mixture of chopped onions, carrots and celery which made this chili even faster to make.  This chili also freezes well and is a hearty vegetarian dish with incredible depth of flavor.  Click here for the recipe….

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Winter Sangria

Winter Sangria

This Winter Sangria is delicious!  In a pitcher you pour white wine, brandy, fresh apple cider, simple syrup and add pomegranates, sliced pears, satsuma oranges and a cinnamon stick.  You can make this the day before to really allow the fruit to macerate, and just before you serve it, add some ginger beer or ginger ale for a little fizz.  I just played around with the simple syrup and kept tasting it until the balance was right.  I rimmed the glasses with a swipe of a lemon around the rim and dipped it in a cinnamon sugar mix.  You can decorate the glasses the day before.  Pour the sangria over a glass of ice with a spritz of the ginger beer and enjoy!  Click here for the recipe….

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Beef Tenderloin Dinner

 Beef Tenderloin

 Duchess Potatoes

Roasted Parsnips

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

For our family Christmas dinner last year I made beef tenderloin with gravy, duchess potatoes, roasted parsnips and roasted Brussels sprouts and onions – a very British Christmas meal.  You can’t go wrong with beef tenderloin.  After I sauteed the beef on all sides, I put it on a baking tray and roasted it in the oven at 475 for 20-25 minutes.  I made the gravy by deglazing the skillet with the beef bits with some red wine and then added some gourmet store bought demi glace that I bought up at Granville Island and cooked it down.  I also added some of the beef juices after I took the tenderloin out of the oven to let it rest.  I could have made the demi glace myself, but using a good quality homemade prepared demi glace saved me some time and I took a small cheat.  I made the duchess potatoes the day before.  You make mashed potatoes and put them through a food mill to make them very smooth and creamy and add an egg to the butter and cream mixture which makes them light and fluffy.  Before baking the potatoes, you brush them with an egg wash so they nicely brown.  I cut the Brussels sprouts and onions the day before, put them in a plastic bag and refrigerated them.  Since parsnips can brown if prepared too far in advance, I peeled and cut them shortly before I roasted them.  I just toss them separately in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper and toss them on a baking sheet to get nice and toasty brown.  Click here for the recipe….

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Christmas Holiday Table

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The inspiration for this Christmas table started last year when I bought these pretty deer.  I used silver accents and set the table with the beautiful silver-plated chargers my dear friend gave me years ago that I cherish.  I spray painted branches I found outside silver and hot glued crystals to the branches and brought out my mercury trees that I have had for a while to make a little forest scene.  Always have to have the traditional Christmas crackers at each place setting, and liked the twinkle of the lighted garland with the cotton layer of “snow” and the shiny silver Christmas balls scattered down the table that reflect the light to complete the look.  I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season!

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Catfish with Ras El Hanout Collard Greens and Beluga Lentils

Catfish with Ras El Hanout Collard Greens and Beluga Lentils

The beluga lentils are what make this a delicious side dish.  They are higher in amino acids than French, green, or red lentils and don’t need to soak, so they are a quick 30 minute side dish.  They also don’t break down like other legumes and hold their shape.  Start by cooking the lentils in salted water for 25-30 minutes while you are making the rest of the dish.  When the lentils are halfway cooked, start sauteing an onion and garlic and add some collard greens, kale or spinach, a few capers and some ras el hanout. Ras el hanout is a Middle Eastern spice mix and there are many variations. It traditionally has cardamom, clove, cinnamon, ginger, coriander, cumin, paprika, mace, nutmeg, peppercorn, turmeric, dried rosebud, lavender, ajawan seeds and even more spices in some recipes.  You can usually find the blend at a gourmet store or Amazon.  In another skillet, lightly coat the catfish with salt, pepper, ras el hanout and rice flour and cook the catfish or any fish filet until lightly browned and turn over and cook until the fish flakes, about 6 more minutes.  Add the lentils to the collard mixture and add some lemon zest and juice and taste for seasoning.  Place some lentils on a serving plate and top with the fish and some capers for garnish.  Click here for the recipe….

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Giving Thanks

Ginger Liquor 

Apple Cider Ginger Smash

Stuffing with Sage, Pancetta, and Leeks

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Caramelized Onion and Prosciutto

and Roasted Parsnips

Sweet Potatoes with Crystallized Ginger and Pecan Streusal Topping

Garlic-Lemon Green Beans with Thyme and Toasted Bread Crumbsthanksgiving-2014-062-copy

 Pecan Pie and Pumpkin Pie

 I am very grateful my family comes over to my place for Thanksgiving and last year I was so happy my niece Emily designed the table.  She did a great job and I loved the colors and textures she created.  She made simple and pretty napkin rings with some burlap ribbon and tucked stalks of wheat in the napkins with some raffia and spray painted little pumpkins gold and made initial name tags tied with raffia for everyone.  We bought some pretty fabric with a beautiful ornate gold pattern and put some rustic burlap down the center to highlight the beautiful center pumpkin and other gourds.  I love having our families traditional favorites each year and my nephew has been coming over the day before for the last 12 years to prep most of the food with me and my niece has always  made the cranberry sauce and a beautiful pumpkin pie every year.  They both are very accomplished cooks and make a delicious Thanksgiving meal.  When he was little, I made him wear a kevlar glove just in case he cut himself, but he has great knife skills now!  Mom makes our families favorite pecan pie every year to add to the dessert table.  My brother bought a Rec Tec wood pellet grill last year and brought over a delicious and super moist smoked turkey to add to the dinner.  I had to make a stuffed roasted turkey as well so I could make the traditional gravy.  What’s Thanksgiving without homemade gravy!  It’s a real family contribution that adds to the wonderful day of being together.  I have an entire menu, timeline, grocery list, and helpful tips for preparing a Thanksgiving meal so you can be organized and less stressed while creating your own dinner for your family.  Happy Thanksgiving!  Click here for the tips and recipes….

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