Christmas past….

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What the heck happened to January?  Although, with the craziness happening in my family & the weather issues we’ve had this month, it feels like it was three months long.  I once again fell off the blogging train, not being here since Thanksgiving, and am sorry for that.  As per usual, one of my goals this year is to post more often…we will see how that goes!  This post, is more about fun & memories, than food & recipes…but there is always food in our memories, so I guess it’s all of the above!

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After another crazy busy holiday basket season, we decided that we would take a surprise trip out East, to see my husbands side of the family for Christmas.  We only told one person, everyone else, we just surprised.  It was great, but in hindsight, we should have told a couple more people, just so we could have seen everyone and spent more time with others…

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We had plenty of “coffee talk” time…

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And we were able to help prep for the big feast on Christmas Eve…we are “shrimpin” in the above pic…

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And that big feast…oh there was a little of everything….Shrimps done three ways, Baccala, Scallops & other fish dishes, Minaste, white spaghetti’s & spaghetti with sausages, appetizers & dips, a giant pan of ridiculously awesome potatoes that were perfect with the Prime Rib, which was in the other room…  Over thirty people, eating, drinking, having a perfect Christmas Eve!

We even brought a little snow out for everyone…beautiful isn’t it?

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(photo above courtesy of Visit Philadelphia)

There are certain requirements food-wise, for us when we visit our family out East.  Dunkin’ Donuts (but did you hear, they are coming to Minnesota!) & Wawa… but number one of the list; Cheesesteaks & Hoagies…from Ice House in Pottstown.  One year we went out East and did a little taste test between the two most famous Cheesesteak places in Philly, Pat’s & Geno’s.  We had a favorite between those two, but hands down, Ice House, is the place to go for a great Cheesesteaks & Hoagies.  Like em’ on Facebook here to see all the deliciousness that happens in their joint.

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Second food requirement on our list; Tomato Pie.  People, this is the stuff.  Served at room temperature, it’s not pizza, but a soft crust, topped with a tomato (paste almost consistency) sauce and Romano cheese…It’s addictive and so delicious.  The only place to get them is Corropolese (we went to the location in Douglassville).  They have them stacked up, ready to go, and they go.  We went in to get bread for the big feast and the lines were incredible!  I chatted with some of the other people in line and they come from counties around for the bread & Tomato pie.  It’s that good!

Veggie Pie

They make other versions too, and this time we tried a Sweet Pepper Pie as well.  It was really good, but my heart lies with Tomato Pie.  Now, if I could just figure out how to make it at home….

Wine for Dummies

There were so many other great memories that week, that this post would be twenty pages long if I went on about them all.  Of course we visited the local wine shop when we first got in…and this wine caught my eye.  Have you seen this anywhere?  I tell you what, just about anybody can make wine nowadays, can’t they….and no, I didn’t buy any.  🙂

This last day of January, is also the Chinese New Year, year of the Horse.  There are some pretty interesting predictions for the year…read them here if you are curious!

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I made these beautiful cookies last year for the Chinese New Year and kicked myself last night when I realized it was today…hmmm…maybe I have everything to make at least one of the recipes…

Are you watching the ‘big game‘ this weekend?  We are, but not really rooting for either team…but the kids want to eat like we are having a party, so we’ll try a few things like this recipe for Chicken Ranch Nachos, um yes!  And my son would love this Pizza Nachos recipe.  Or this recipe for Artichoke & Asiago Poppers …or maybe even these adorable individual Seven-Layer Dips….I love these kid friendly Mini Corn Dogs and my kids would love these Coconut Crunch Chicken Strips with creamy Honey-Mango dipping sauce.  The possibilities are ENDLESS!

What are you making?

Thanks for reading along, stay warm my Minnesota friends and have a great weekend!

Cheers, Shawn

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Last minute Thanksgiving favorites…

Well, I don’t know about you, but good ol’ Turkey day sure snuck up on me!  It’s not a stressful holiday for me, but it’s more of a final breathing point.  I try to remember to relax…breathe…enjoy.  After that, it’s all baskets & shred & bubble wrap…oh my!  I am hoping this year’s holiday orders are off the hook!  If you are interested, check out my Holiday Gift collection & let me know if I can help you this holiday season!

Okay, enough self promotion!  We typically spend the day at my brother & sister-in-law’s house, and I am usually charged with bringing one of my delicious Cheesecakes!  But that does leave me missing some of my favorites side dishes…and this year’s Thanksgiving recipe suggestions from friends & favorite sites, has left me drooling and thinking that for Christmas, I just might make a bunch of sides and skip the big main course!

So, if you haven’t made your final dish list yet, and are looking for a few suggestions, here you go!  Some of these, tried & true, are my favorite sides that would be great for Thanksgiving.  Others look amazing and will hopefully grace my Christmas table!

Potato Fennel Gratin~  probably my all-time favorite potato dish!  An Ina Garten recipe…aka The Barefoot Contessa.  Every time I make this, we clean the dish…no leftovers, so if that’s what you want for Turkey Day, don’t make this 🙂  She has lots of other great ideas on her website, so be sure to click on the link and check them out!

Zucchini Fritters~  another favorite recipe, this would be a great appetizer to tide everyone over while you finish off the big feast.  I originally found this recipe in a copy of my favorite food magazine, Saveur.  Taking a quick peek at their website I see lots of other delicious recipes for the big day!  Sauce isn’t needed for these, but if you wanted, you could whip up a quick Horseradish sauce or even a tomato Tarter sauce.  The picture above was a recipe I found on the Home to Homestead blog, written by the gorgeous Elizabeth Ries of Twin Cities Live, and has the added deliciousness of corn & fresh herbs!  She made a quick sour cream sauce that looks delish!

Baked Risotto with Grilled Asparagus~  wait, what?  Baked Risotto?  Yes, I know, it doesn’t make sense.  But I’ve tried it!  It’s very good, not as creamy as the traditional method of making Risotto (and great biceps at the same time!) but good nonetheless.  I found this recipe on the Williams-Sonoma website.  They have great recipes there!  Have you ever been to a store?  I LOVE that place!!  And now the hubby has a Professional Chef discount, so I can spend more!  Sorry, focus Shawn…. So if you are looking for an easy & delicious rice side dish that doesn’t involve alot of hassle or time, this is the dish for you!  And Asparagus, while know to grace the Easter or Spring table, can be just as good in the late fall!

Apple-Raisin Stuffing with Sausage~  my co-worker, Nikki, brought some of this in as her lunch one day after Thanksgiving last year.  It smelled so good I begged for a bite.  Her brilliant husband added Sausage (he used Jimmy Dean, but use whatever you like) which made this sweet, salty, savory & perfect!!!  Sometimes that Turkey table can get too full of salty side dishes, so adding this mixes it up a bit!  YUM!

Braised Kale & Chickpeas in Coconut Milk~  My sweet fellow food blogger friend Kate posted this dish on her website last December.  I was just falling in love with Coconut Milk at the time and also beginning my love affair with greens…KaleSwiss ChardCollards.  People, if you haven’t discovered these, you MUST!  They are SO good for you!  We grew Rainbow Chard this summer & along with how beautiful they were, they grew like crazy!!  When I made this dish the first time, I added Bacon (uh duh) but it’s not required, as without it, it’s just as good!  And I would encourage you to use curry paste.  You can get small jars of it in the ethnic section of most grocery stores.  I love Thai Kitchens- Green Curry Paste.  Give it a try!  Oh yeah, and while you are there, check out her recipe for Boursin Spinach Gratin – I’ve wanted to make that for a long time now & might make another great side dish!

Red Cabbage Braised in Cider & Beer~  I recently made this dish in one of my Beer for a Year posts and man, it’s amazing!  It will bring a gorgeous color to your table!  When I made it, I included the beer & bacon, but if you want, you can omit both and use apple cider, which I have done.  Either way, it will become a new favorite in your house and not just on Thanksgiving!

Deviled Mushrooms~  so I am not totally sure where I came across this recipe.  As a mushroom lover, it appealed to me for a few reasons; first, it seemed really easy!  It also looks delicious, with those plump mustard seeds and the silky sauce coating each mushroom.  I think this would be great on your table, at Thanksgiving and anytime!  I am linking you to the Amazon page where the cookbook this recipe is in, can be purchased.  But I did make a copy of the recipe and am attaching that as a PDF File for you to print off yourself!

So, that’s my list!  Of course I could go on & on…..and there’s always desserts I could share…maybe next year!  I do plan on doing a holiday baking list of some of my favorites, so stay tuned for that!

And as we join together this coming Thursday, I want you to know that I am truly thankful for you!  It’s been an amazing year and I feel so honored you have taken the time from your busy lives to read my blog posts!

Until next time, Happy Thanksgiving to you & yours!  ox Shawn

Rustic Onion Tartlets & “Nightmare before Christmas” fun…

This Halloween, we were lucky enough to attend a friend’s annual “Nightmare before Christmas, (aka Halloween)” party.  It was a costume required event, which is great because otherwise the hubby and I wouldn’t have dressed up, with no other events to attend.  They go all out with this party, each guest bringing an appetizer or dessert to share, all usually with a Halloween theme (picture on the left).  I saw witches hat cookies, creepy bloody finger cookies, “mummies” in a blanket, cookies with marshmallow teeth-making it look like they could be monster dentures, a taco dip with a pumpkin face and my most favorite (not to eat, but creativity-wise) was the ear wax on a stick.  They had taken lollipop sticks and placed a mini marshmallow on each end and then drizzled caramel over each one.  They were awesome!  The Anderson’s had their house completely decked out as well.  Starting with the spooky music, lighting and fog as you walked up the sidewalk to the front door.  The picture above right is from one of their bathrooms.  It was so cool, with all the bloody things it truly looked like someone was brutally murdered in there!  Their other bathroom was decorated too, with black lighting & other creative decorations making it creepy as well.

They also had a creepy beverage station set up, along with a make your own drink bar.  The picture directly above is of one of his drink menus.  I have attached all three for your enjoyment!  🙂  (thank you Cameron!)  I had a few of those creative libations that night!

Halloween Drink Menu 1 , Halloween Drink Menu 2 , Halloween Drink Menu 3 , Halloween Drink Menu 4 , HalloweenBombList

For our appetizer, I decided to make something I haven’t made in quite awhile; Rustic Onion Tartlets.  This recipe originated from the Kraft foods website, but I have changed it so much over the years, it’s pretty much my own now.  I’ve made this recipe for weddings as well, when you make them in the tartlet form, they are so elegant and perfect for fancier occasions.  They are a little fussy & time consuming, but SO worth it!  The recipe was originally made in a pie shape, which is fine as well, but can be somewhat messy if you are trying to feed a bunch of people all at once.  (click on the link to view a picture of the pie)

Rustic Onion Tart (Tartlets):

1-2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 tablespoon of butter

1 large onion (I prefer to use Vidalia or other sweet) thinly sliced

8oz. bacon, cooked & crumbled

8oz. package of cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup sour cream (more if needed)

1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese (or you can try Jack, Parm etc.)

1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (more if you like)

1/4 cup apricot preserves (can use cherry, etc.)

1 ready-to-bake pie crust

So here is where you have to make a decision; are you going to make a tart, or tartlets?  I am going to give you directions for both….

Begin by taking a large sauté pan and heating it to medium-high.  Add the olive oil & butter.  Once the butter has melted into the oil, add the onions and cook until they’ve started to turn opaque.  Turn the heat down to medium low.  Stir every so often, and the onions will be done when they are deep golden brown. This usually takes around 15-20 minutes.

While the onions are caramelizing, and If making a tart, you’ll need to grab a pie dish. Unroll the crust into the pie dish, making sure you’ll have enough to make a 2-3 inch crust for the top.  If making tartlets, you’ll need a mini muffin pan (I also used mini muffin cups, just to help cut down on the mess at the party, but it’s not required) & you’ll want to roll out the pie crust a bit, and then either using a round cookie cutter or using a knife-cut into 3×3 inch squares, and you should have enough to make 24 tartlets.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For the cream cheese mixture, you’ll want to grab a medium-sized bowl and mix together the sour cream & cream cheese.  (For this party, I added some squash I had baked the day before and put the whole mixture into the food processor until smooth.  I then added some Indian spices right into the crumbled bacon-brilliant!!)  If making the tart, spread this mixture to the bottom of the pie crust.  If making tartlets, I find it easier to place this mixture into a pastry bag or large baggie and cut a small hole in the corner of the bag.  Pipe this mixture into the bottom of each tartlet.

Once the onions have caramelized, remove from the pan and mix with the preserves.  On top of the sour cream mixture, you’ll place the onions & preserve mixture, spreading out evenly.  Then add the blue cheese first, and then the crumbled bacon.  Top with the Swiss (or other) cheese.  You’ll want to bake this until the crust is light golden brown-usually around 12-15 minutes but cook longer if it’s only pale in color.

You are gonna love this recipe!  It’s so versatile and addicting!!  Of course you can use lower fat cream cheese & sour cream, but I never do…which is probably why I am fighting with my weight at the moment!  🙂

Thank you to the Anderson’s for inviting us this year!  We really had a blast…can you tell?!?!

All my best,

Shawn