Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I know I’m a day late wishing you a happy Thanksgiving, but I was a little busy yesterday, and I didn’t even host dinner!  I’m sure I’ve told you that my dad’s wife Lynn loves to host Thanksgiving, and I’m am happy to let her.  I do have my tasks though.  This year I made a spiced cranberry sauce from, these mashed potatoes, green beans with shallots and lemon and Artichoke-Fontina dip.

I usually have a dinner party in the fall, so I like to set a fall table.  This year, I used my burlap table runner (who knew how versatile a burlap runner would be?) and topped it with a square of brown floral fabric I found in the clearance bin at the fabric store.  I just squared it up and turned under the edges.   I added the straw pumpkin and flower arrangement in a copper container Lynn gave me a couple of years ago, and I added a couple of ceramic pumpkins I bought at Marshalls.  I also added some pumpkins I bought at a blown glass pumpkin patch I attended this year.
I had never attended a glass pumpkin patch before, and I was amazed at all the beautiful pumpkins available.  The pumpkins are so beautiful, especially with the sun glinting off of them!  If you are near Palo Alto the first weekend in October, be sure to check out the blown glass pumpkin sale.

Last week, I was having a discussion with a friend at work, and she said that Thanksgiving wasn’t a time to try new recipes.  She thinks that Thanksgiving is a time to embrace traditional recipes, and she was going to make dishes her mother had made.  Thanksgiving is obviously a time for tradition, otherwise why would so many people be eating the same meal on the same day?  But, I think there are ways of changing up the Thanksgiving meal without changing the traditions of the meal.  My mother never liked the holidays, so I don’t have many memories of traditional Thanksgiving dinners (my memories are more likely to be of the bad Thanksgiving dinners we had, like the one we had at the Queen Mary.  Blech!)    

Lynn usually tries a new recipe or two for Thanksgiving, but they never veer far from tradition, and they are always delicious.  This year, when Lynn asked me to make the traditional cheeseball, I asked if she would mind if I made something a little lighter.  She had no objections, so I decided to make Artichoke-Fontina dip to serve with vegetables.  I’ve made artichoke dip before, and I was a little worried this dip would be more of the same.  I shouldn’t have worried. 

This dip is a different artichoke dip.  The fontina cheese, garlic and capers give this artichoke dip a complex flavor not found in a traditional artichoke dip, and the parsley adds a freshness that is also missing.  We gobbled the dip up with vegetables, but my family liked the dip with crackers better.  Serve it with both veggies and crackers so your guests can decide how healthy they want to be.

Artichoke-Fontina Dip
Adapted from Holiday magazine (from Redbook)
2 14 oz. artichoke hearts, drained
8 oz. fontina cheese, cubed
4 oz. reduced-fat cream cheese
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 Tablespoons capers
2 garlic cloves, crushed
½ teaspoon hot pepper sauce
Preheat the over to 350°F.  In the bowl of a food processor, pulse artichokes, garlic, capers and parsley three to four times.  Add the cheeses and the hot pepper sauce and pulse until completely combined.  Spread the mixture into a oven safe dish and bake for 25 minutes, or until starting to bubble and lightly browned on top.  Serve warm with crackers or cut-up vegetables.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Winter Vegetable Stew with Moroccan Flavors

Do you have a favorite cookbook?  I collect cookbooks, and if you had asked me the same question a couple of months ago, I probably would have chosen one of my slick cookbooks with fancy pictures on each page.  I’m fond of William Sonoma cookbooks (mostly for the pictures).  But, I’ll tell you a secret.  I usually only try a couple of recipes out of any cookbook.  I lose interest in a cookbook before trying more than one or two recipes.  With all the recipes from books, magazines and online, I’m not very loyal to any one source. 

All this changed when I purchased Fast & Fresh Vegetarian by Marie Simmons.  I’ve shared Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Black Bean Chili and White Bean and FennelCrostini, but I’ve made 10 other recipes from this book, and I’ve liked them all (this has to be a record for me). 

My favorite recipe so far, has to be Winter Vegetable Stew with Moroccan Flavors.  The stew is filling and tasty.  The sweetness of the butternut squash and the root vegetables marry nicely with the Moroccan spice mixture.  The cinnamon and cayenne pepper add a nice heat to the stew.  I served the stew over some quinoa.  My son didn’t eat it (he has an aversion to the texture of squash), but Les and my daughter have been asking for it again. 

If you are looking for some delicious vegetarian recipes or are just trying to find some new vegetable side dish recipes, you should check out Fast & Fresh Vegetarian.  By the way, there aren’t many pictures in this book, but it doesn’t bother me because the recipes speak for themselves.

Winter Vegetable Stew with Moroccan Flavors
Adapted from Fast & Fresh Vegetarian by Marie Simmons
¼ extra virgin olive oil
2 cups diced (½ inch) onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped (½ inch) peeled butternut squash
1 cup chopped (½ inch) carrot
1 cup chopped  (½ inch) turnip
1 cup chopped (½ inch) parsnip
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh tomatoes
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 fresh lemon cut into 4 wedges

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium low heat and add onions.  Cook until the onions are golden, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and the spices including the salt and a good grinding of black pepper.  Cook, stirring for 1 minute.

Add the squash, carrot, turnip, parsnip, tomatoes and ½ cup of water.  Cover and cook over medium low heat until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes, adding more water if the mixture looks dry.  Taste and add more salt if needed.  Add the cilantro.  Serve with the lemon wedges.  Serves 4.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Atomic 60s Part II

As I promised, I’m sharing a few appetizer recipes from our Atomic 60’s party. First, though, I’m going to share a couple other pictures from the party. As usual, I was able to snap a few pictures as the first guests arrived, but once the party got started, I set my camera down and didn’t pick it up again until much later. I missed a bunch of good pictures trying to be a good hostess. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll just decide I want to be a good photographer!

I love how everyone got into the theme of the party this year.
Our party-planning group.

Les and I

Looks like girl's night!

Shannon in a great outfit!

Brian mixing up drinks.

Sandy made Date and Linguica Rumaki for the party, and I think this was one of our appetizer stars! It is such a tasty and fun vintage appetizer

Date and Linguica Rumaki
Printable Recipe
Madjool Dates, pitted
Linguica Sausage, sliced in fat matchsticks
Bacon, sliced in half crosswise

Stuff the madjool dates with a slice of linguica. Wrap the date with the slice of bacon and secure with a toothpick. Place on a broiler pan and bake in a 350° oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until the bacon is fully cooked. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The cheese ball recipe was handed down to me from my mom, and like the grasshopper pie, I’m sure it was actually served in the 60s. I make this cheese ball about once a year for some party or get together. Everyone always loves it, and it brings back  childhood memories for me. I even remember the wooden platter my mom served the cheese ball on.

Cheese Ball
Printable Recipe
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
4 oz. blue cheese, at room temperature
¼ cup chopped green onions, whites and light green parts only
1½ cups chopped walnuts

Mix together cream cheese, butter, blue cheese and green onions until fully combined. Shape into a ball and roll in the chopped walnuts. Serve with butter crackers like Ritz.

A friend gave me this crab corner recipe after she served them at a party I attended. I’ve lost touch with this friend, but she photo-copied the recipe, so I know she got it from Pauli Powers. Thank you Pauli Powers whoever you are. You came up with a great cheesy do-ahead crab recipe. I made these the week before the party, and I cooked them right before serving them. Crab Corners were easy and popular with our guests.

Crab Corners
Printable Recipe
4 English muffins, split in half
1 can crab
1 jar Old English cheese
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon garlic salt
½ cup butter
dash of Tabasco sauce

Mix together the crab, old English cheese, mayonnaise, garlic salt, butter and Tabasco sauce. Spread crab mixture on the English muffin halves. Place muffins on a sheet pan, and put the sheet pan in the freezer until the muffins are fully frozen, about 4 hours or overnight. Remove from the freeze and cut the muffin halves into quarters. Place muffin quarters in plastic freezer bags and back into the freezer until ready to bake.

To Bake: Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place frozen crab corners onto a sheet pan, and bake for 10 minutes or until they are golden brown and bubbly.


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