Friday, November 21, 2014

Spiced Pumpkin Balls and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

"Come said the wind to the leaves one day,
come o'er the meadows and we will play.
Put on your dresses scarlet and gold,
for summer is gone and the days grow cold."
A child's song from the 1880s

It's less than a week until Thanksgiving.  There are a few trees and bushes around town that are holding on to fall color.  Mostly the leaves are on the ground and piled at curbs.  City trucks make circuitous routes through neighborhoods "vacuuming" them up daily.  The weather has been dry for the past week leaving a bed of crunchy leaves to walk through.

As each of you prepare to celebrate the harvest in your own way, I'm once again sharing a few favorite recipes of mine.  The spiced pumpkin ball recipe is handwritten on a  card.  I'm almost certain that it came from a decade's old Gourmet.  Whatever the source, it is a delicious addition to a relish tray.  If you haven't already, I hope you'll give it a try.

Spiced Pumpkin Balls-from Gourmet?

2 cups pumpkin balls (use the larger end of a melon baller) from 3 pie pumpkins
(Save the pumpkin seeds)
1 2/3 cups of sugar
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 cinnamon stick, broken in two
6 whole cloves
6 whole allspice
4 2" strips of lemon peel

Combine all ingredients except the pumpkin in a stainless steel saucepan.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for five minutes. 

Add the pumpkin balls and simmer for fifteen minutes.  

Transfer to a pint jar and pour the liquid over.

Chill at least three hours or up to a week.

Next up, use those saved pumpkin seeds for this delicious snack.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas) 

I used three pie pumpkins for my spiced pumpkin balls and saved the seeds.  I had approximately two cups of seeds.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees

Lightly oil a 12 x 11 baking pan.
Spread the seeds out in a single layer.

Sprinkle with sea salt and toss, pulling some of the oil onto the seeds.

Roast for about 25 minutes, just until they start to lightly brown.

Cool and store in an airtight container.

ENJOY and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Crab Louis

I'm remaining steadfast on the refrigerator and pantry clean out.  Saturday turned out to be a bit of a day for backsliding.  The Baker called from Costco to say they had King Crab legs.  I said "bring some home".  He did.  The sun was shining  even though the temperature hovered at 24 degrees.  I put a checkered cloth on the table, turned the thermostat a little higher and made us a Crab Louis salad.  Sometimes one just has to pretend.  And, to think, winter is still another month away!!

Crab Louis has been a favorite of ours for a very long while.  It seems to have started on the west coast in the early 1900s.  Some say it was named for King Louis (one of them).  Probably true since it is a regal dish.  Give it a try or save the recipe for summer or do both.

Crab Louis


1 cup mayonnaise
3 Tbsp ketchup
1 Tbsp sweet pickle relish
juice of half a lemon
dash of hot sauce

Mix well.

Shell about a pound of King Crab legs.  Tear into bite sized pieces and add the dressing to taste.  Serve over a bed of mixed greens.  Accompany with toasts.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Pasta with Chicken and Sun Dried Tomatoes

I am finally back on track for the big fall food clean out!  Even though I've done this on a small scale for years, Nathalie Dupree inspired me to be serious about the purge each fall and spring.  Do you all y'all know Nathalie?  I first "met" her through PBS's "New Southern Cooking with Nathalie" on Saturday mornings while living in Charleston.  Ironically, she moved to Charleston about the same time we moved away.  The author of a number of southern-style cookbooks, Nathalie continues to be very much involved in the culinary world.  I enjoy keeping up with her on Facebook.

Our first meal from what was on hand was inspired by a recipe I saw on La Table De Nana.  Monique had shared the recipe that she found on another blog and it sounded delicious.  Going with what I had, a few changes were made (chicken thighs instead of breast tenders, radiatori pasta instead of penne and an ounce or two more on the sun-dried tomatoes).  It turned out to be a tasty meal that will be repeated.

Pasta with Chicken, Mozzarella and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Serves 4

2 TBSP olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, minced
4-5 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs,  cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup half and half
1 cup mozzarella, shredded
8 oz pasta.  I used radiatori
Fresh basil, as much as you like
Red pepper flakes to taste
Salt to taste

1.  Over high heat, sauté  the garlic and sun-dried tomatoes in the olive oil for one minute until the garlic is fragrant.  Remove from the pan, leaving the oil.  Add the chicken and cook on high heat for one minute on each side.  Remove from heat and cover the pan.
2.  Cook the pasta according to instructions.  Reserve a bit of the pasta water in case the sauce is too thick.
3.  Add the tomatoes and garlic back to the chicken.  Add the half and half along with the cheese.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  When the boil is attained, immediately lower the heat and continue to stir until a smooth sauce is obtained.  This will only take a minute or less.  Taste and add salt as needed.  Stir in red pepper flakes to taste.  If the sauce seems too thick, add a bit of the pasta water.  Our's was perfect without it.
4.  Stir in the drained pasta and heat, stirring for one minute.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Cream of Asparagus Soup and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Here goes--and not necessarily in order of my title.  I had such great plans for my "social media break".  I'd planned to clean out the pantry, the refrigerator and the freezer.  I would make delicious dishes to share with you.  Let's start with day one, last Thursday.  THE BAD:  The downstairs furnace wasn't working.  It was cold.  I called our furnace company.  They'd send someone out first thing Friday.  Uh no, The Baker would be at his once a week job.  THE GOOD:  I would be heading out early for a one-on-one class for my Apple devices, a stop at the bookstore and then lunch with friends.  THE UGLY:  When I left the house, big snowflakes were falling.  A mile north, it started to rain.  The rain turned to sleet.  The sleet turned back to snow.  Gale force winds rocked my vehicle.  I finally pulled off the road into a church parking lot.  Should I turn back?  Should I seek refuge in the church?  Should I keep going?  I don't even think the US Post Office would have kept going.  In the end, the lunch with my ladies enticed me to continue on through the rapidly changing weather.  I had my class, visited the book store and met Diana and Jane for a warm, cozy and delicious lunch.

Despite the weather, we had twenty-five adorable trick-or-treaters at our door.  Before they arrived, I pulled this reminder of spring from the freezer.  So, I guess I accomplished a small portion of what I had planned--one less soup container in the freezer.

And, once again, this morning we awoke to a non-working furnace!

Cream of Fresh Asparagus Soup

3 Tbsp of salted butter
24 spears of fresh asparagus
1 cup chopped scallions (include part of the green)
1/2 tsp finely chopped garlic
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 medium potato, peeled and cut into large dice
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup milk
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream

1.  Slice the asparagus spears into about one inch pieces.  Melt the butter in a deep heavy pan.  Add the asparagus, scallions, garlic, potato and lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cover the pan and cook very slowly until mushy.
2.  Turn off the heat and stir in the chicken stock.  Turn the heat on to low and continue to stir until the soup comes to  boil.  Simmer for ten minutes.  Remove from the heat and puree with a hand-held blender or in a regular blender.  Return to heat and mix in the milk and heavy cream   Heat to a simmer and serve.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Happy Halloween

I'll be taking some time off from the computer.  In the meantime, Oliver wanted me to wish you all a happy Halloween.  May all your candy be Kit-Kats!!

May the witch that's in your town
Look you up and chase you 'round
With spooks and bats and owls unseen
Here's luck to you on Halloween.

Happy Halloween
Oliver and his pals!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Barbecued Beef Brisket--Lubbock Style

Saturday, like most of the week, was cold and wet.  Our spirits weren't dampened and neither was our barbecue.  We invited some friends to come over for a cookin rather than a cookout.  Thanks to Ernest Wright, oven-barbecued brisket was on the menu.  Back in the early twentieth century, Weber had not even begun perfecting the outdoor grill.  Patios weren't called "patios".  About the only time one ate outside was for church gatherings for dinner on the grounds.  In 1923, Mr. Wright figured out how to condense and bottle liquid smoke.  I didn't discover it until the mid-1980s.

We were living our Lubbock, Texas years.  Our dinner group years.  Memorable menus!  One outstanding dinner was a barbecue--an indoor barbecue.

(We also served kielbasa, hence the pig napkins.)

We recreated that long ago Lubbock meal for our friends.  Sides were potato salad, cole slaw and cornbread.  Guests were asked to check their spurs at the door.  Jane showed up in jeans with a "brand" hanging from her belt.  She also brought a photo from her childhood on a dude ranch in Texas.  Jim had on his long-john top with a horse emblem (o.k., it was a Polo emblem but at least he tried).  Steve arrived wearing a tie that was full of "brands".  Diana sported jeans and boots (no spurs).  Ambiance was a Roy Rogers and Dale Evans CD on the Bose.

One never knows where our conversations in this group will go.  Saturday brought out the kid in us and memories of long ago cowpokes and their gals.  Soon, we were humming along with Roy and Dale.  And, all too soon, it was time to say adios and happy trails until we meet again.

Barbecued Beef Brisket

4-6 pound fresh brisket
Garlic salt
Onion salt 
Liquid smoke (usually where the barbecue sauces)


2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
3 tsp liquid smoke
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce

Put all the sauce ingredients into a large saucepan and simmer, stirring, until the sugar dissolves.

For the brisket:

1.  Sprinkle both sides of the meat with the garlic salt, onion salt and the liquid smoke.  Wrap the brisket in heavy-duty foil and marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
2.  Uncover and pour 1/2 the sauce over the meat.  Cover tightly and place in a roasting pan.
3.  Roast at 250 to 300 degrees for 5 to 6 hours.
4.  To serve, cut across the grain.
5.  Pass the rest of the sauce separately.

NOTE:  I usually roast the brisket before the day it will be served.  To reheat, wrap it in foil and heat it in a 250 degree oven for about 45 minutes.  


Friday, October 17, 2014

Cod Chowder Redux

I grew up inland at a time when fresh fish were available on Fridays only.  Mother planned her farmers' market trips on that day.  Her last stop would be at the butcher shop which doubled as a fish monger.  I don't remember what kind of fish she purchased but they had tiny, annoying bones.  They also had to be scaled.  This she did on pieces of newspaper on the kitchen table.  While the fish was tasty, my sisters and I weren't too enthusiastic about avoiding those bones.  The only cod available was salt cod that came in compact squares and had to be soaked.  I grew up thinking that's how cod was supposed to be.  It wasn't until I started traveling to New England a few year's back that I encountered fresh cod.  A steaming bowl of fresh cod chowder was so delicious that it became a mission to find some unsalted cod here in the midwest.  Surprisingly, it seemed to be readily available frozen--off my radar though.  Following a recipe for clam chowder, I substituted the cod.  The bowl received a big thumbs up!

We have had a chilly and drizzly week around here.  Not much sunshine to be found.  So it was time to make another bowlful.  This is just a tasty reminder as I've shared this recipe with you before.

Cod Chowder 

2 slices bacon, finely chopped
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 rib celery diced
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp flour
1/2 pound potatoes, diced
1 cup chicken broth
1 (8-10 ounce) bottle clam broth
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 pound frozen cod, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup half-and-half

1.  Heat a large heavy pot over medium heat and add the bacon.  Cook until the bacon is crispy and brown, stirring most of the time.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon to a paper towel and reserve.  Leave the drippings in the pot.
2.  Add the onion, celery, thyme and bay leaf to the pot and cook, stirring frequently, for 6 to 8 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not browned.  Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring, another 2 minutes.
3.  Add the potatoes, chicken broth and clam juice and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the potatoes are tender but still firm, about 5 minutes.
4.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add the cod and corn.  Simmer for 5 minutes more.  Remove the pot from the heat and cover allowing the cod to finish cooking.
5.  Return the chowder to low heat and stir in the half-and-half until just heated.
6.  Sprinkle the reserved bacon over and serve.