Corn Chowder – Family Friends and Food

We went to visit a friend in her newly renovated camp in Millinocket Maine. Kind of sounds like a theme with us this years.  It is around a 6 hour drive north; I did keep my eye out looking for a sight of a moose; mostly so we didn’t hit one as there were many signs on the way that said to watch out for them.  But I really wanted to see one; I did have to laugh a couple of times at myself, did I really think I would be able to see a moose while driving 75+ miles an hour on the highway? I did not – not any all weekend!

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We had a wonderful meal Friday night of Roast Beef, Gravy, Baked Potato, Butternut Squash, Green Beans and Yorkshire pudding; all were excellent!  We stayed up pretty late talking, drinking and laughing; when I woke up, way too early around 6am – I know I have issues! I was the only one that got to see the sunrise and it was pretty AMAZING!  The house was extremely quiet, the view unbelievable and the water’s edge was so incredibly close. While I was sitting there I had a kind of epiphany.  I have had a pretty great year so far!!! I am very blessed and extremely grateful for my family and friends.  I am very proud of my kids; I am thrilled they are happy and healthy and that we have a very close relationship.  I am grateful for the friends I have, the ones that live close by and I see often and the ones that are further away and that I was able to spend more time with them this year.  I started a cooking class and a blog that are both getting a lot of positive attention. People seem really interested in knowing more about both, even all the way up in Maine.

We had a Halloween party Saturday night that we all helped get ready for.  We had Swedish Meatballs, Corn Chowder and a yummy cake to make.  I was in charge of the Corn Chowder.  I will admit that I have only made this once maybe twice ever.  My family doesn’t like it so I don’t have a “set” recipe in my head.  I do however enjoy making soups/chowders and believe it or not my class on Thursday was a soup/chowder class.  It must have been a sign. I do tend to use things up in the fridge in my soups.  So I started by chopping up onions, celery and julienned some carrots. Sautéed them in some olive oil and a little butter; Thyme is one of my favorite herb for chowders, so that was my base and it help build a yummy soup from there.  Everyone, except Rich, loved it.  Told you he doesn’t like it!

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Corn Chowder

2-3 or even if you dare 4-5 pieces of crispy bacon

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 Tablespoons butter

2 Large Onion chopped

2 Stalks of Celery diced

2-3 Carrots julienned

5 Tablespoons flour

1 Teaspoon thyme

2 Cups Chicken Stock

4 Cups Milk

1 Cup Heavy Cream  by using more milk it lightens it up quite a bit)

1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt

1 Teaspoon fresh crack black pepper

3 Large potatoes diced

2 Bags of frozen Sweet Corn (or 5 ears of fresh ears of cut off their cob and blanched in some salted water for 3 minutes)

In a large stockpot over medium high heat, cook the bacon and olive oil until the bacon is crisp.  Remove the bacon and set aside.  Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions, carrot and celery and butter to the fat, and cook for about 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.  Stir in the flour, salt and pepper and thyme, cook for about 3 minutes.  Add the chicken stock and the potatoes bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.  Add the corn and the heavy cream.  Season to taste, serve hot and garnish with crumbled bacon.

GO SOX!!!

Garlic Herb Crusted Center Cut Pork Loin

Super busy weekend AGAIN…I am not complaing – just tired and stuffy today!

Dinner out at MT’s in Nashua Friday night, I am going to try my hand at making their yummy sweet and salty wings.  They have no breading on them, they are baked not fried and they have maple syrup with a bacon crumble on top. They are simply divine!!!

Bought some new skis at our local mountain ski swap; ran to Nashua again for material, I have a baby shower coming up this weekend and I am going to make large versions of receiving blankets. Everyone loves them; at least that is what I keep hearing!  Off to VT (supposed to leave at 2, I didn’t get home till almost 3) to our good friends to have dinner and see their newly built addition. It looks great by the way; it looks like it has always been there; not an afterthought which can happen with addition’s – Nice Job!!!!

Someone; and I won’t name names; had a little too much wine to drink Saturday night, the next morning after we all woke up and the coffee had been made; this particular someone disappeared; he was found sleeping in the car with his sunglasses on covered with a blanket – kind of funny!!! Only because it wasn’t me… You should have seen the look on his face when we mentioned we were going to breakfast at Sugar and Spice, priceless!  He did feel better after eating, but it took a little while! The maple syrup for my buttermilk pancakes (they make their own) reminded me of the wings from Friday night.  Food full circle for me – when I have time; hopefully soon; I will be writing about sweet and salty wings.

After breakfast we rushed home for my husband’s Uncles 86th b-day party. By the time we got home tonight I was exhausted and thanks to my son; he gave me his cold; my head is very foggy!  Forgive me if I do not make any sense today!

Another weekend without grocery shopping and the only thing that I could make quickly was a center cut boneless pork loin. Probably doesn’t sound like a quick simple thing to fix but since I still have some herbs in the garden that have not been lost yet to the weather, and thanks to the harvest this year, we have potatoes, garlic and beets – Voila!  Garlic and Herb crusted pork loin, mashed potatoes and Beets!

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2-4 lb center cut pork loin patted dry with a paper towel

pre heat over to 450′

2 Tsp Kosher Salt

1 Tsp freshly Cracked Black Pepper

2 Tsp fresh Sage leaves chopped

2 Tsp fresh Rosemary chopped

5 minced garlic cloves

2 TBS olive oil

Mix the above (salt thru olive oil) in a small bowl into a paste

place pork in a low sided roasting pan – cover with paste mixture – place in over for 20 mintues, lower heat to 300′ and continue roasting for another 20-30 minutes – an instant read meat thermometer should reach 145′.  Everyone’s oven is different so a meat thermometer will be one of your best tools, these times are what I used for my 4lb loin. Tent with tinfoil and let sit for 10 mintues before slicing – YUM!

“Honey are you trying to fatten me up?” “You were on FIRE this week!”

Those were Just a couple of quotes from my husband this week!  Apparently I made a lot of yummy things.  Actually I must admit they were all pretty yummy.  The “are you trying to fatten me up” comment was on Wednesday,

I think it all started with Sunday night – I made a French Apple tart that I had never made before – Yummy and Easy!

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2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
12 tablespoons (11/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup ice water

For the apples:
4 Granny Smith apples
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, small diced
1/2 cup apricot jelly

2 tablespoons Rum, or water

For the pastry, place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter and pulse 10 to 12 times, until the butter is in small bits the size of peas. With the motor running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse just until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Roll the dough slightly larger than 10 by 14-inches. Using a ruler and a small knife, trim the edges. Place the dough on the prepared sheet pan and refrigerate while you prepare the apples.

Peel the apples and cut them in half through the stem. Remove the stems and cores with a sharp knife. Slice the apples crosswise in 1/4-inch thick slices. Place overlapping slices of apples diagonally down the middle of the tart and continue making diagonal rows on both sides of the first row until the pastry is covered with apple slices. Sprinkle with the full 1/2 cup of sugar and dot with the butter.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the pastry is browned and the edges of the apples start to brown. Rotate the pan once during cooking. If the pastry puffs up in one area, cut a little slit with a knife to let the air out. Don’t worry! The apple juices will burn in the pan but the tart will be fine! When the tart’s done, heat the apricot jelly together with the Rum and brush the apples and the pastry completely with the jelly mixture. Loosen the tart with a metal spatula so it doesn’t stick to the paper. Allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature. – this is a recipe I found online that is Ina Gartens – I love her!!!

Monday was Ribeye Steak, Mashed Potato, Mushroom Gravy and Asparagus – I think I mentioned before that I am not a fan of Mushrooms!  SO my way of “hiding” them was to chop them as small as I possibly could; the gravy was SO delicious that I couldn’t NOT eat it.  I was told after dinner that “we can have that more often” Ya I’ll get right on it!  My son likes Mushrooms and hates asparagus – which was why I made both – take that!!!!

Tuesday I got up early and threw a beef stew together – I will even admit; it was the best one I made in a crockpot, Hands down!  Wednesday nightI tried another new recipe.  I had harvested my Leeks among other things and had tore one away from it’s root so I wanted to use it up quickly.  I found a recipe online that used the leeks, pancetta which I had in the fridge and chicken stock that I am never without; whether it is my own or from the store. Make some pasta, saute leeks and pancetta add wine and stock and add it all together and cover it with Parmigiano Reggiano Voila!

The “On Fire” comment was when he was getting ready to take me out to dinner on Friday!  I will confess that I was less successful with the dropped eggs on toast Friday morning – Note to self; when poaching eggs. DO NOT leave the kitchen for ANY reason!!!

I ended my week night cooking (we usually go out to dinner on Friday nights) with a new recipe I found in a magazine Deconstructed BLT – This one is a keeper!!!

6 slices of Bacon

4 French Baguette slices

1/4 Cup soft goat cheese

4 Cups Bibb lettuce (I used boston)

2 large tomatoes sliced

1/4 Cup white balsamic vinegar (I didn’ t have white)

2 Tbls extra virgin olive oil

1 large clove of garlic minced

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper

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Cook bacon until crisp – set aside

toast baguette slices until brown/crispy, spread with goat cheese and set aside

divide lettuce a nd tomatoes among 2 plates. Whisk together vinegar and next 5 ingredients, drizzle over tomatoes and lettuce

Top salad with bacon and baguette slices. Sprinkle with additional black pepper is desired.

Makes 2 servings – I doubled it as there were 4 of us!

My husband did harvest his potatoes this week – He got an entire wheelbarrow full AND was disapointed it wasn’t more.  Who is trying to fatten up who here! I love potatoes and of course me being me, I don’t want anything to spoil so I must use them up!  I did go out and purchase a rack system and some baskets (KP we didn’t get enough last night) to hopefully make them last for MONTHS!!!  He did have a few ummmmm mutant ones (see last photo) that I won’t bring out for my cooking class or bring out when friends come over to make dinner…BUT we will still eat them!

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It HAS to be the weather; it being so cool and this weekend kind of drizzly – I made a Roaster Chicken for dinner tonight – Swedish Meatballs, Italian Meatballs and Marinara Sauce for later in the week.  This weekend was filled with putting aways screens, summer cars, (my 89′ Mustang GT Convertable, he has a 85′ SVO) washing windows, deep down and dirty cleaning, washing walls and the risers on the stairs – you get the picture.  Oh Ya and lots of cooking!!!

Next weekend my Garlic is going in!!!

Golf weekend, leaf peeping and a quick yummy dinner!

Left town on Friday around 1pm and headed North for a weekend of golfing & laughs with another couple.  Not even thinking that North in New England this time of year generally means the leaf peepers are out and about; though the colors are not at their peak just yet.  The turning of the trees is one of many magical moments in New England; if you have never been here in the fall; you have never really been here.  The mountains and the trees are just amazing; we were in the lower White Mountains for the weekend.  I have lived here my whole life and I am still in awe when the trees show their colors. Going from green to bright yellow, or red, or orange; really any color in between. When the sun hits them just right ahhhhhhhhh beautiful!!!!! There are very few people that don’t stop and take it all in.

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We were able to get in 16 holes before the early setting sun made it impossible to find where our balls were landing. Actually kind of funny; my husband landed on the green in two and never saw either hit land.  They were great hits, we think!  I lost one of my pink balls, which come to think of it was kind of a pain to locate if I hit into the dropped leaves.  It didn’t stop me from using them all weekend though.  I only truly lost one that was on the 16th hole in the dark; we heard it go through the leaves but could never located it; I even tried looking again when we played the course the next day in the daylight – no luck. I did have a trick up my sleeve for dusk play. A few years back I was lucky enough to stay late with some friends after the womens league I play in. Someone brought out some light up balls – they are SO cool! We kept playing the 18th hole over and over again – Had a blast!  I ordered some of them shortly after; I finally got to use them on Friday night to finish out the 16th hole.  Very Cool!!!

I won’t bore you anymore since this is a foodies blog but I must tell you about my best shot of the weekend.  on the 4th hole at Owls Nest course Friday (in the daylight) after taking my ball out of the water I barely rolled into, I chipped a 50 footer into the hole for par; even though I had to take a drop – I think I peaked too early! Just saying – nothing as exciting after that!

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We got another 18 on Sunday before the rain started; it actually started when we were on the last hole; but we had to finish – too close not too.  Arriving home late in the afternoon on Sunday being very chilled chilled even after our 2 hour drive home; it was 59′ out cold raw and damp.  I wanted something warm yummy and quick!  I had some beets that I had picked from my garden before we left; and even though my husband planted enough potatoes for an army; he hasn’t picked them yet; We always have potatoes in the house, so I picked some thyme from the garden and made roasted thyme potatoes, sliced up the beets and boiled them and Cider Honey Glazed Chicken thighs.  Sorry the picture isn’t very good quality; I took it with my phone, pretty tired but I wanted to share this because it was delicious!!!

8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1TBS olive oil – Kosher Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
1 cup apple cider
2 TBS honey
1 1/2 TBS cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Oven rack should be set at 6″ from the broiler, heat oven to 450′. Line a large rimmed cookie sheet with foil

rub the chicken with the oil and the salt and pepper, place thighs skin side up, place in the oven and bake for about 20-30 minutes; they will be lightly browned and done through – you can double check with a meat thermometer (not near the bone) it should read 165′ F.

While cooking place the cider and honey in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer vigorously until the mixture has reduced by half.  remove from heat and wisk in the butter.

Turn to broiler; brush the chicken with the cider glaze and broil for a minute or two, brush with more glaze, broil again until deep golden brown, 2-3 minutes.  Remove chicken brush with more of the glaze and serve.

Both pictures look great on my phone; they do not transfer well – I will use my camera from now on!!!

Celtic Fest: Bethlehem PA. The Big E – Local Southern NH fairs

Late summer and let the fairs begin; as a child I remember going to any and all local fairs with my family.  Cheshire, Hopkinton, New Boston, Deerfield and the mother of all fairs the Big E – Eastern States Fair.  I have very fond memories of going to all of these, actually looking forward to going and making sure I knew what days the fairs were happening, checking out what the main event was and making plans with friends to attend those days.  My favorite event was definitely the demolition derby. I am sure, actually positive I am not alone in this, derby day always drew the largest crowds.  I learned a very valuable lesson; that I stand by till this very day.  While I am not necessarily afraid of heights per say, I having no problem climbing up on things, in things etc.;  I DO NOT like climbing back down.  Being kind of a punk teenager; I was at the Cheshire fair on derby day, there were no seats to be had, standing room would be fine but I am only 5’4” tall, a friend at the time had a GREAT idea.  Let’s climb the pine tree and watch from up there.  First off you know full well you are not going to be able to stay in the tree, security is bound to kick you out.  Secondly it’s a pine tree, actually I learned a couple of things that day.  I am not a fan of pine trees; pine pitch is the worst, I don’t mind them in the woods, love the smell of them; hate them anywhere near the house and or driveway.  Back to my not being able to climb down; I was stuck; scared shitless; probably one of my first anxiety attacks that I can remember.  Thankfully no emergency personnel had to come, but it took a team of people to help me get down.  Never again!!!

Since this is a foodie blog and there is so many choices of things to eat at fairs; I love the smell of the sausages but to me they never taste as good as they smell.  Fried dough is heavenly and I will forgo everything else just to have a fresh buttered cinnamon and powdered sugar fried piece of dough.  It is amazing to me that as I have gotten older I choose carefully what I eat.  As a kid one of everything please, food was to consume only.  Now I know what I like and don’t and what I should and should not eat, not that I always listen to this. Hence the fried dough!

I cannot go any further without talking about the Big E – now that’s a fair!!!!  My brother passed away way too soon a few years ago. I am so glad that the 3 of us siblings wanted to take our kids and our dad to the Big E.  It was a beautiful late September day; we went during the week, less crowds.  We got to share with the kids how we do the Big E.  We first walk through all the vendors; check out the “infomercial” building; at least that is what we call it.  Check out all the animals, damn those Clydesdales are HUGE.  But the best part of the fair is eating our way through the state buildings.  I am telling you the loaded baked potato from the Maine building is FREAKIN AMAZING!!!!  If you do nothing else Go – Buy – Eat – No sharing please!

We are visiting a very good friend of ours new home in PA this weekend.  I am actually sitting in her living room right now writing this.  There is a Celtic festival nearby so we all (of us) jumped in the SUV and went yesterday.  It was gorgeous day out, though we had a couple of Irish peeps with us, we were ALL Irish on Saturday; or at least we drank and ate like an Irishman.  We walked and walked, we drank beer, very cold beer which was excellent.  Since it was a Celtic Fest the fare was typical Irish food, bratwurst, corned beef, shepherd’s pie etc.  I did see the largest cans of sauerkraut I have ever seen.  After contemplating what we were going to eat while walking by all the food vendors, stopping for a corn on the cob that was covered with some spice rub that had chili powder in it and it was excellent!  Another highlight was their Potato Chip Twister.  Fried to perfection!  Sad to say but we had 3 or them.  The music was great, my bratwurst was awesome and did I mention the beer was cold YUM!!!!

My Shepherd’s Pie Recipe – I know so simple but it is comfort food for me!

Brown some ground beef – remove all the grease, I also dice up (very small) and sauté some onions. I season the beef very well with salt, pepper, garlic and adobo (my favorite go to spice) I use a can of creamed corn and also a can of niblets.  I top with yummy mashed potatoes and then some grated cheddar cheese.  Very simple but OH so yummy! I will be making this sometime this week!!!!

Fall Fare

Like most people; I can only assume; when the weather starts to cool off the urge to start up the oven definitely takes over.  It not only helps take the chill out of the house and makes the house smell yummy!  It saves you from starting the furnace sooner than you want to.  

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Photo above taken by: Steve Fernandes – I LOVE this photo!!!

Before we built the home we live in today, we lived in a much smaller home where the only form of heat we used was a wood stove.  That makes for VERY chilly mornings and even chillier evenings when we got home from work; at least until you got the stove going.  I think that is where my love of cooking started especially when the air changes. I would cook anything that would keep the oven going for a few hours; just to get the house as warm as I wanted.  Sometimes it would get so hot we always ended up opening a window.  Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner was definitely worth 2 or 3 windows AND the front door. I am not complaining I really liked my little home. 

Since living in New England my entire life we have always had a wood stove; fireplaces are pretty but very inefficient.  When we started the new house I was MOST concerned we wouldn’t be having a wood stove or fireplace.  What no wood to cut, split, stack and clean up after. I did have many sleepless nights and brought up the subject quite often.  Well I am converted now, the whole house is radiant floor heat by propane and I would NEVER go back willingly to wood.  There are no cold spots in the house, no cold floors, no cold anything; the whole house is the same temperature.  We do keep the bedrooms colder than anywhere else and the ceramic tile in the bathrooms are AWESOME!!!  But my love for cooking was born out of wanting to be warm!   

Today being the first full day of Fall and boy can I tell; Not only are the leaves turning and dropping; I swear the color of the trees in the swamp just up the road from my house are almost at peak. I have already cooked a Roaster Chicken, a Ribeye Roast, made chicken stock for the freezer, took all the tomatoes that I haven’t done anything with from the garden and braised some Chicken thighs with them plus even more just this week.  I haven’t done anymore baking since all the zucchini & banana bread that I made a couple of weeks ago. BUT I did just make a Sam’s Club run today and bought some flour and sugar.  I must also take a trip to the local orchard up on Norway Hill to pick some yummy macintosh apples.  I can almost smell the apple pie and crisp cooking.

Tonight we are having Boneless Center Cut Pork Chops with apples for dinner and I might just have to make some chocolate chip cookies for dessert.  A couple of years ago my husband and I had a “who can make the Best Chocolate Chip Cookie challenge”.  Not a great thing to do if you are watching your weight.  It probably took us a month of both of us making cookies every week; it might have been even longer, I honestly can’t remember.  While his cookies LOOKED better than mine, I won the taste portion – Though I can’t remember how long it took us I do remember who won; funny thing is he seems to think he won.

Bad picture but awesome cookie!

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Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies – How I make them!!!

2 Cups flour plus 2 Tbs All Purpose flour

½ Tsp Baking Soda

½ Tsp Salt

5 Tbs unsalted butter – room temperature

5 Tbs Margarine – room temperature

1 Cup brown sugar

½ C Sugar

1 large egg Plus 1 egg yolk

2 Tsp Vanilla

1 Cup more or less semisweet chocolate chips

 These make about 18 large cookies – Bake at 325’ for about 15 to 18 minutes

Large cookies – take about ¼ cup of the dough into a ball, split the ball in half and take the jagged edges of the dough and place them side by side sticking them together with the jagged edges facing up; place on either a parchment covered cookie sheet or spray the cookie sheet with cooking spray.  Do not overcook but cool them on the sheet, once cooked remove using a metal spatula.  

Rich watching his cookies so they come out perfect!

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Viking Stove – Bedazzled

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Before

During

During – My adorable husband

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After

Everything needs a little freshening up after a decade of hard work; we have been in our home that we built for 10 years now.  Thankfully it was built by a very detail oriented hardworking perfectionist; my husband; so the quality of material and attention to details that we put into our home has stood the test of time.  I lovingly say that the home was built with his sweat, our blood (I helped where I could) and my tears!  We personally freshen up by vacationing in the Caribbean if not every year definitely every other year.

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Over time homes need a new coat of paint, maybe some re-arranging or updating.  A few rooms recently received a fresh coat of paint; I am in the process of re-designing my daughter’s room from what she picked out when she was 12 to an adult bedroom. Here is a small glimpse of what I have done so far a long way to go but it’s a start.

My Viking stove which I can safely say with good authority has done probably the most work in our home without a lot of attention; other than regualr cleaning I did just have to replace the igniter’s in both ovens; but so far that is it.  I first fell in love with my stove when I saw it in a magazine over 20 years ago. I ripped it out of the magazine and started a file folder of must haves.  Another idea I saw in a magazine 10 years while we were designing/building. Unfortunately I didnt rip it out which I kick myself for; it took me 10 years to get it built but it was totally worth the wait.  If you look at the above photo of my daughters room the bookcase is actually a doorway to a fairly large storage area.  I LOVE it my husband did an awesome job.

When we decided to build; it was actually always the plan when we bought our first home; it just took a lot longer than, at least I anticipated.  I had 2 stipulations to building.  We build a kitchen around my stove and we don’t end up in divorce court. My words verbatim “if I can’t have my stove, I don’t want the house” I fought long and hard and I can honestly share with you; it could have gone either way on both counts!

For those of you who have built their own homes and had a “budget” I use that term loosely; I have yet to meet ANYONE who has come in on or below their “budget” When it comes time to purchase appliances; there is not a lot of money left.  My husband begged me to not buy the Viking, he tried everything in his power to back out of this stipulation, offering to buy me two stoves and put then next to each other; leaving space for it to come later.  I being so damn stubborn put my foot down; needless to say he will concede today that it was a great decision.

While sitting here writing about my Viking it reminds me of the character that was in love with his typewriter played by Greg Kinnear in You’ve Got Mail LOL – I have issues.

Most people when they come over LOVE my kitchen area and of course my Viking; I have had a few people ask if I actually cook like that; trust me I do!  Just this weekend our good friends who spent the weekend with us asked if I used all 6 burners. Yes I do!  A lot of people want to cook on my stove; come on over – since starting my cooking class; many people have now cooked on my Viking.

Probably my most often cooked and family favorite meal is a Roaster Chicken with mashed potatoes, steamed carrots, frozen peas, butternut squash and pan gravy!  My mouth is watering right now!  Here is how I prepare most all of my birds for the oven.

I use kosher salt, fresh cracked black pepper and Adobo inside and out – liberally!  I never stuff any of my birds; Turkey or Chicken with dressing.  I always use onions and apples sliced up and placed inside the carcass.  It makes for awesome tasting gravy.  I also take the water from the veggies I cooked and add it to the pan drippings to help make the gravy – I swear by it!

Baking Breads & Pickling

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Yesterday I spent the day baking and pickling!  While I would love to tell you everything was from my very own gardens; we did not have a very successful harvest this year.  We have decided to remove the majority of the soil from our raised beds and start over; it may sound pretty drastic; but I spend too much time & money on the beds for them not to provide me a little something to help feed my family and friends.

I was able to use up my own cucumbers to make a dozen jars of Kosher dill pickles – we mostly use them for sandwich’s & burgers.  I would like to thank a couple of my husbands employees for their Zucchini and Green beans; which I made 36 various size loafs of zucchini bread and was able to make a couple of jars of dilly beans for the very first time.  I buy Banana’s every week at my house so I always have those on hand; they do not always get eaten in time so I will put the brown banana’s in the fridge, If i cannot get to them fairly soon I throw them in the freezer until I am able to make Banana Bread.  Because my son does not like nuts there are always 2 loaves made.  I think he does that so he gets his own loaf; just saying!

Several years ago a friend of mine; who is a trained chef; gave me her mom’s zucchini bread recipe.  The last few years I have tried to cut out some of the oil to make it slightly less fattening; apples sauce works out quite nicely.  I have also never made just one batch, when I make zucchini bread I make 4 batches at a time and usually times this by 2.  It freezes VERY well!  This year i made a total of 7 batches with what I had on hand; well actually not on hand, I took inventory Friday night of what I had planned on making and made a listing of what I needed to pick up.  I think I should invest some time and effort into raising chickens for all the eggs we go through – Ya I don’t see that happening anytime soon; I have a crazy dog who would put a kabash (sp?) on that, plus I am not shoveling ANY chicken shit…

While I was out getting my supplies on Saturday morning I ran into the cutest little old lady, we were standing there looking at the canning items left; note to self get your stuff together when they first arrive in the stores.  We started up a conversation about them not having what either of us needed.  Why I thought she was cute was her comment “I think there are a lot of new people thinking they can pickle” I immediately told her I have been doing this for years, I was even chuckling to myself thinking why did I need to defend myself for being in that aisle. I have pickled cucumbers, salsa, tomato sauce and spaghetti sauce over the years. I do enjoy the pickles the most. I gave away all my spaghetti sauce, we didn’t like the taste, my in-laws loved it. The garden salsa was very good, however there is nothing like fresh garden salsa. I had never had nor heard of dilly beans; probably because I am not a fan on green beans so I have never grown them, so I didn’t ever need to find out what to do with them. I am not too sure they turned out, only because they do not look like the ones I have tried. we’ll see in a couple of weeks.

Zucchini Bread – recipe bake 350′ – timing depends on what size pan you use
2 eggs
1/2 C vegetable oil
1/2 C apple sauce
2 C sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
Mix all the above together well
add the below
1 pkg vanilla pudding
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3 C flour
2 C shredded zucchini

Labor Day Weekend – Two states, Two families, Two days.

For the last 4 Labor day weekends Rich and I have gotten up very early on Saturday to drive to West Warwick, RI for a weekend full of Golf, Food, Parades and a lot of Laughs with our adopted Portuguese families.

You know how you have friends, you also will have some lifelong friends; ones you can just pick up where you left off and no one is upset that you haven’t been in touch in a month or so.  Then you have friends that are more like family. Our buddy Steve and his wife Barney are part of a very large extended Portuguese family; and they have all adopted Rich and I; at least over Labor Day Weekend.

The family home is a duplex comprised of a brother and sister growing up in the same house since they were very young and later in life splitting the house in two.  The brother and his family grew up on one side and the sister and her family on the other.  They have lived like this for close to 60 years if not longer.  There are cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, friends, neighbors; generation after generation that stop by; probably around 60 to 80 people stop by on Sunday throughout the day. I love how they all greet each other; everyone and I mean everyone gets a kiss on the cheek and a hug. They do this when you arrive and when you leave.

Saturday we play in the Golf tournament which is in Memoriam of Steve’s sister-in-law that passed away 10 years ago.  This is followed up by a steak or chicken dinner & raffle at a local Portuguese Club – similar to our VFW’s.  They tap the keg Saturday night; and to make sure that it is working properly; of course we have to test it. Sunday morning is set up day – tents, chairs, flags, crock pots and coolers.  Rich took over the job of hanging the American and Portuguese flags on the front of the house; this is where we watch the parade from and take the “family” group picture.  I help wherever I can and also sometimes help “shake” the crock pots; must be a family term.  I will be booking our hotel for next year soon before they all fill up.

Portuguese food is something of a mystery to me. They tend to cook their food for a very long time. I peck at Steve all the time when we eat at each other’s places. We have come to an understanding; I like my steak medium rare and let’s just say he doesn’t.  They make Cacoila (pronounced Caserla); and Chourico several different ways. They have a white pizza, a red pizza and a potato dish with Chourico and onions.  Most are passed around by the Matriarch’s of the families the two Irene’s, or whoever they enlist to do the task.  I lovingly refer to them all as the food pushers.  They crack me up with Donna do you want a Caserla; which I do like but you can only eat so many of them, they walk by with Chourico which they have made into little pigs in a blanket. Not the usual BBQ fare that I am used to; you never walk out of there hungry!

This year we had to rush back on Sunday for a BBQ at my Uncles house.  His 3 brothers were in town. One lives close by (my Dad) one from CA and the other from FL.  It has been 20 years since they have all been together in the same spot; that is very sad to me. Everyone is getting a little older and traveling a little less; but I hope we can make it happen again soon!

We arrived at the BBQ late; we did make sure to tell them that we had a prior engagement in RI. When we did arrive I was happy to see many cousins and their children albeit just before they left; but it was still very nice to see them for a minute for a quick catch up chat.

With the few that stuck around we spent the last hour or so sharing some funny stories; some were cooking gone wrong stories I wanted to share.  I am sure these have not only happened in my family. My husband was making gravy once; I am not sure where I was but he called me to ask how to make it. I told him how to make it using flour; he kept adding more and more and it just wouldn’t thicken – ummm it wasn’t flour; he grabbed the confectioners’ sugar – no gravy in the house that night.  At least he tried!  One also shared her oopsie moments – she had 2 very similar ones with very different results. Adding flour by mistake to peanut butter fudge; my uncle kept telling her that she had to have forgotten the sugar, fudge was supposed to be sweet; they threw that away. The other she added confectioners’ sugar to a chocolaty treat that should have been flour; she was going to a function and didn’t have time to remake so took it with her; the funny part is when people were asking her for the recipe.  She said she gave them the correct recipe – I wonder if they still liked them…

Because I knew we were going to be late I actually had the pleasure of hosting the 4 brothers and 2 of their wives for dinner Thursday night.  We had a wonderful evening filled with good food, lots of laughs and a lot of love as someone proclaimed. I will treasure that night forever!

Cooking Class – My sous chef sucks – she doesn’t but it made for a funny story

So far so good!  I have had 4 cooking classes in my home and I have had a lot of fun sharing how I cook with others.  My first class was a trial run to see if I could have that many cooks in the kitchen, you know how that saying goes “Too many cooks in the kitchen…” I feel that 4 students plus me and my sous chef, I will come back to the sucks part… it is a term of endearment; trust me.  3 students worked well and since this initial class was with my friend that urged; more like made me start pursuing this adventure, we talked a lot about what we could do, shouldn’t do and fine tuning the class for moving forward.  I have only put the word out via Facebook I am not entirely sure how or if I should branch out into other media.  I have had good luck so far, yes I know it is still early but I am going to stick with this for a bit.

Buzz on the street is this is a great idea, some wish they lived closer to attend, another friend wants me to take it on the road; she lives several states away.  I had a girlfriend stop over yesterday morning and thinks “I have something here”.  The people who have attended have so far have really enjoyed what I have shown them and loved the food we make together and that we all sit down in the dining room and eat together.  I have had several return customers, which I think is one of the biggest compliments I can get.

What has amazed me is some of the simplest things that I have been cooking for years; some people have never tried.  The first class was Chicken with Honey Beer Sauce, Smashed Potatoes, and roasted Asparagus and then we took it over the top and made Crème Brulee.  The food was all excellent; the class did exactly as I had shown them.  The surprising part to me is they love asparagus but never buy it because they didn’t know how to cook it properly. I hadn’t even typed up the “recipe” for roasted asparagus; I take it for granted that everyone does this.  I think the BEST part of this first class was making the Crème Brulee and 2 students while making it were thinking to themselves, I am NOT eating that.  I  practiced my voila moment; I pre-made the recipe so they could brulee and try it”  My punch line was ruined by my sous chef LOL I wanted to say “and with the magic of television” and bring out the already made dessert  blah blah blah!  The joke was spoiled almost within the first hour of class.  We all had a good laugh though.

My second class was One Pot Pasta; I think everyone needs this simple delicious recipe in their back pocket.  It comes together quick and you can pretty much use up what you have in your fridge/pantry.  We first threw it together while hanging out on the patio, Abbi (my daughter) came in and threw everything into the pot and we cooked it on the side burner of our grill.  PERFECT!!!

Mexican was my third class, this I felt was more chopping than actual cooking; I felt a little bad about that afterwards. This is all new to me so I hope the ‘students’ give me another chance. While what we made was excellent, we chopped a lot!!!  We made fresh garden salsa, avocado mango salsa, guacamole, black bean tostada and churros.  If you have never made churros at home – YOU HAVE TO!  They are just plain yummy – that is only if you like warm Mexican doughnuts covered with cinnamon and sugar…

Churros Recipe:

1 Cup water

2 TBS brown sugar

½ tsp Salt

1/3 Cup unsalted butter

1 Cup flour

2 Eggs

¼ Cup white sugar

1 tsp Cinnamon

Preheat about 2 inches of vegetable oil in a frying pan.  In a paper bag mix white sugar and cinnamon and put aside.

In a 3 quart sauce pan add water, brown sugar, salt and butter heat to a boil. Remove from heat and add the flour. Mix until well blended.  In a separate bowl mix the eggs and vanilla together and add to the flour mixture. Stir well blended and completely mixed in.  Fill a pastry bag already fitted with #1 large star tip.  Add dough to the bag  you will want to test your oil by squeezing a little dough in, if it doesn’t bubble up immediately, wait until your oil gets a little hotter.  Once hot enough; squeeze about a 4 inch doughnut into the oil.  Depending on what pan you are using; you should be able to get about 3-5 donuts into the pan.  Cook for about 2 minutes or so per side.  They should be brown on all sides and cooked through but just until cooked, let them drain on a rack for a bit  before adding them to the sugar, cinnamon mixture.  Enjoy!!!

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My last class, just this last Thursday night was homemade pasta, bolognese, alfredo and ravioli.  First off I had 5 people for this class.  A very good male friend of mine put up a stink that the class was full before he knew about it, he is not on FB so I let him in; why not try to see if I could handle more cooks in the kitchen.  Plus he had been to 2 of the 3 classes I had previously.  Side bar – He enjoys cooking and is a good cook, so when our families were hanging out one night, I mentioned to him I was starting a cooking class; he was very interested.  When he said he was coming to my second ever class – I was very nervous for him to come, I mean he knows how to cook and well, what could I possibly “teach” him.  Apparently something; as he had signed up for the next 2 classes.

While I was really excited for this class, there is nothing like homemade pasta.  We made a wheat pasta dough and a white pasta dough.  Everyone was skeptical of the wheat; only because they have tried several of the ones on the market; never overly impressed.  They loved this one; so much so that I received an email from an attendee around 8:45 am the next morning that she had bought the roller and pasta cutter set for her Kitchen Aid that she has never used.  I love it!!! Then I received a message on my class FB page that one of the ladies not only purchased the roller/cutter set, she purchased a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, I think Kitchen Aid should give me a little kick back for having this class.  I think I was a little over ambitious taking on so much in the allotted 3 hour class I set up.  The star of the show, I feel did not get its just dessert.  The Ravioli Al’ Uovo was saved for last and there was so much going on and my house was full and oh my messy; picture flour EVERYWHERE; I missed an important step by boiling the ravioli before putting it in the sauce, don’t fret I just ended up cooking it in the sauce, but that meant that it did not get the sauce poured over it at the time of serving.  SO I will definitely do a homemade pasta class again, and soon, I will have to break it up though. I will make sure that the ravioli gets its own class and we will make a couple of different fillings.

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Raviolo Al’Uovo Recipe: this is Ann Burrell’s recipe from her cookbook

2 Cups Ricotta Cheese

1 Cup freshly grated  Parmigiano Reggiano cheese plus more for garnish

¼ Cup fresh Italian Parsley

2 Large eggs plus 8 egg yolks

Kosher Salt

Flour as needed

Your favorite pasta dough recipe – if you don’t have one I can post mine

8 Tbs unsalted butter

2 Cups chicken stock

¼ Cup fresh sage leaves – Chopped

Crumpled Prosciutto – optional / not really

In a bowl combine Ricotta, Parm, Parsley and 2 whole eggs, mix well and season and salt.

On a clean floured work surface, lay out two sheets of pasta about 12 inches long, Brush lightly with water.

Equally space 4 dollops of the ricotta mixture; using a spoon make a nest or small hole in the center of each dollop.

Carefully separate the remaining eggs and put a yolk in each nest.  If you break one scoop it out with a spoon.  You want to be careful not to break the yolk.

Cover the ricotta nests and egg yolk with another sheet of pasta.  Use your index fingers to press around each ricotta nest to seal the edges, then use a large cookie cutter or fluted ring cutter or if you can, use a roller cutter, I am not that good.   Repeat – placing the completed raviolis on a well-floured cookie sheet.

Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil.  In a large saute pan, melt half the butter and add half the chicken stock. Season with salt and toss half the Sage in.

Add 4 of the ravioli into the boiling water and cook for 3 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the ravioli from the water to the chicken stock pan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

Transfer to serving plates and spoon a little extra of the sauce on each and garnish with crumbled prosciutto if desired.

Now for my Sous Chef Sucks comment!  She totally doesn’t!  She is one of my dearest friends and we always have a great time when we get together, which is fairly often and I love it!  She stopped over one night; we were going to go out and grab something to eat locally.  Had a glass of wine – too many so we stayed in.  Now we needed to eat something so I looked around the house to see what I could throw together.  We decided to make roasted butternut squash risotto.  That might sound a little ambitious being pretty late by now and a couple of glasses of wine later but that is how my house rolls!  We do crazy meals at a whim at times.  KP as some of you following this will know; was cutting up the butternut squash and me being me, her cuts were not very consistent LOL. Yes sometimes I am a little neurotic about my cuts.  Not that I have had any formal training I just know that the more consistent your pieces are they will cook at the same time and be the same throughout.  So I proclaimed that my sous chef sucks – jokingly.  Try saying that 3 times fast.  Then add some wine – Not an easy thing to do!  We laughed SO hard and have been laughing about it ever since.  This was before I started my blog and my classes.  We really wanted to use it somewhere, but when Abbi googled it – a lot of unpleasant things came up and she thought it best that we not be affiliated with the like.  I am still laughing about it now!

BTW – KP told me I was too wordy last post – let’s see how she likes this one!

Thanks for all the support – I am having a blast!