Holiday Gifts Roundup

Time to start the baking extravaganza!

swellkid

Here are my favorite gift ideas for the season.  The chewy chocolate ginger cookies I make every year without fail, and they freeze beautifully, so you could make them today. Just click on the links below the pictures for the recipes.  Merry Christmas!

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Sea Salt Caramels

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English Toffee

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Ginger Molasses Cookies

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Chocolate Sables

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Rose Water Marshmallows

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Gnome Terrariums

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Chewy Chocolate Ginger Cookies

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Holiday Leftover Recipe Roundup

swellkid

007 Potato Chive Fritters

You have a fridge full of leftovers.  If you are like me, you made extra food on purpose so there would be a fridge full of leftovers.  Don’t pass up the opportunity to make a batch of stock with your turkey bones, ham bones, or beef bones.  Throw it all in a big pot with a few veggies and water and you’ll have stock in your freezer for months. Click on the chicken stock recipe link below for more details.  Here are some ideas for your leftovers!

Turkey Macaroni Bake

Ham and White Bean Soup

Ham and Egg Pies

Turkey Croquettes

Potato Chive Fritters

Savory Meatloaf with Leftover Stuffing

Creamy Cauliflower Bake

Making Chicken (or Turkey) Stock

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Oregon Oyster Stuffing

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Oyster stuffing, or dressing, originated in New England, some say all the way back to the Colonial period when oysters were extremely plentiful and therefore eaten by rich and poor alike.  They made their way to tables in the Midwest during the 1850’s when refrigerated train cars were first used. Since they had to be transported at great expense, they became more of a delicacy and were reserved for special occasions. In the 1900’s NE oysters went out of fashion due to high levels of pollution in the Atlantic.

Living in the Pacific Northwest has the huge perk of being close to some of the best oyster beds in the world, like Netarts and Yaquina Bay. You don’t need to shuck oysters for this dish.  Buy a jar of freshly shucked oysters at your local fish market, and be sure to reserve the “liquor” from the jar.

The oysters lend a rich flavor to this stuffing without tasting “fishy”.  They also keep this stuffing from drying out.  I added a small can of smoked oysters to replicate the smoky flavor of bacon. You can make this with vegetable stock so it’s perfect for the pescatarians (those who don’t eat meat other than seafood) at your Thanksgiving table.

  • 24 oz. Italian style bread, cut into one inch cubes and toasted in the oven
  • 1 stick of butter, divided
  • 1/2 lg. yellow onion, diced
  • 1 large leek, white parts only, halved lengthwise, and sliced.
  • 3 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1/4 c. dry vermouth or dry white wine
  • 1/2 t. celery seed
  • 1/2 t. dried sage
  • 3 oz. can of smoked oysters, chopped
  • 10 oz. freshly shucked oysters, cut into thirds, reserve the liquor
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 C. vegetable broth

 

First prep all of your ingredients, and toast your bread cubes.  Set them aside.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 4 T. of the butter. Add the onion, leek, and celery to the pan and sautee until soft and translucent.  About 5-6 minutes. Add the vermouth or wine and stir up all the browned bits. Stir and cook until the liquid has evaporated, about two minutes. Scrap the vegetables into a large mixing bowl and allow to cool a bit.  Meanwhile, in the same skillet cook the celery seeds, and sage with the chopped, smoked oysters, until they start to turn golden brown.  Scrape in with the vegetable mixture.  When the veggie mixture has cooled, add the fresh oysters and eggs, and stir gently to combine. Add the bread cubes and toss gently.  Add the reserved liquor from the jar – up to about 1/4 C. You don’t want to break down the bread or oysters too much- I find that using my hands is really the best way to do this. Add the broth a little at a time and combine.  You want the bread to be somewhere between moist and soggy.  You may or may not use all the broth.  The mixture should hold together when you scoop some into your hand, but it shouldn’t be dripping wet. Scrape the whole thing into a buttered baking dish about 9 x 11 inches. Cut the remaining 4 T. of butter into chunks and dot the top of the stuffing with it.  Cover and chill until ready to bake. This can be assembled the day before.  To bake, heat the oven to 350 degrees (while the turkey is resting is the perfect time) and bake, covered with foil for about 20 minutes.  Remove the foil and continue baking until is has a nice golden brown crust, and is hot throughout- about 10 – 12 minutes longer.

 

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Browned Butter Sweet Potato Brulee

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Wow. So, so, so delicious. I realize I am tooting my own horn here, but really, this dish is a winner.  The sweet potatoes are smooth and light thanks to being passed through a potato ricer, the browned butter gives it a wonderful, rich nuttiness, and the crisped brown sugar on top elevates it to a dessert-like decadence. This is a rich one, so you don’t need a large amount to serve a crowd, just a few spoonfuls per person will do.  Serves 8, 1/4 C. servings.

  • 4 medium-sized sweet potatoes I used orange, but yellow would work well too. Orange sweet potatoes are often labeled as yams in the supermarket.  True yams come from Africa and are rarely sold in stores here (more than you wanted to know about yams). 
  • 5 T. butter
  • 1/2 C. heavy cream
  • salt to taste
  • 2 T. brown sugar

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Poke holes in the sweet potatoes with a fork and place them on a baking sheet.  Roast for 50-60 minutes or until tender. Allow them to cool and then peel and slice them.  You can roast them a day or two before you want to serve this dish to save time.

Heat the butter, sliced into pieces, in a saucepan over medium-high heat. When the butter starts to foam, watch it carefully, swirling the pan occasionally to prevent scorching. Wait for the butter to darken to an amber color and pour immediately into a separate bowl to stop the cooking.  Wipe out the pan with a paper towel and put it back on the burner over medium heat.  Pass the roasted sweet potatoes through a potato ricer or a food mill into the saucepan.  Cooking out the moisture is what will keep the potatoes from becoming gummy or gluey. Pass some of the potatoes through the ricer, stir, pass some more through, stir, until all the potatoes are in the saucepan. Stir and cook for a minute or so, until the potatoes start to stick to the bottom of the pan.  Pour in the browned butter and the cream.  Stir to combine and season with salt to taste.  Scrape the mixture into a baking dish.  Sprinkle the brown sugar on top.  At this point the dish can be covered and chilled until ready to broil and serve, up to 24 hours. When you’re ready to serve, bring the dish to room temperature, place the uncovered dish under the broiler for about 1-2 minutes.  Watch it carefully for burning.  You want the sugar to melt, caramelize, and crisp up like the top of a creme brulee. Serve right away.

 

 

 

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Instant Pot Cream of Tomato Soup

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I am new to the Instant Pot craze and have really enjoyed using it so far.  If you haven’t heard of Instant Pot, it is basically an electric, programmable pressure cooker.  If you do a lot of cooking, especially with a slow cooker, I really encourage you to try one out.  They do everything that a slow cooker does, just much, much faster.  You can cook a whole chicken in your Instant Pot in about 30 minutes. Did you forget to take your meat out of the freezer before you went to work? That’s ok!  Throw it into the Instant Pot and you can still have that pot roast you were planning on.

This has been a great tomato year for us in Portland.  We’ve had nearly three months of hot and dry weather- exactly what tomatoes like, but the kind of weather I completely detest.  I long for sweater weather and that smell that dry leaves give off when you walk on them.  This soup bridges that gap between summer and fall, and will make great use of your tomato crop.  If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can make a pretty identical soup on the stove top by following this link. 

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 12 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped (no need to peel)
  • 2 T. tomato paste
  • 1 handful of fresh basil leaves
  • 6 C. vegetable broth, chicken broth, or water
  • 2 t. Kosher salt
  • 1 t. black pepper
  • 2 C. half and half or 1 C. heavy cream
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Any variety of ripe tomato will work for this soup

 

Put all of the ingredients into the Instant Pot, except the half and half.  Place the lid on the pot and make sure the steam vent is closed. I used the automatic soup setting which was set at high pressure for 35 minutes.  It does take a little time for the pot to get up to pressure before the timer starts, so sometimes it doesn’t necessarily save you time to use the Instant Pot.  You could make this soup on the stove in the same amount of time.  The difference is, while the soup was in the Instant Pot I went around my house doing other things and didn’t have to stir it or even think about it like I would if it were on the stove.

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Since the soup will be pureed there is no need to peel anything, and you can just give the veggies a rough chop

Once the steam has vented you can take of the lid and use an immersion blender to puree the soup right in to pot.  Stir in the half and half or cream and taste for salt and pepper. If you don’t mind a little bit of pulp, the soup is ready to eat.  If you want it super-smooth you can run it through a fine mesh sieve and press on the solids to achieve perfect smoothness.  Makes 8-10 servings

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Gluten Free, Healthier Options, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Grilled Make-Your-Own Pita Pizza

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Get your family in on the cooking with these easy make-your-own pizzas.  Start with store-bought whole pitas, naan, or flatbreads.  I love Greek pita because it’s soft and pillowy and grills up nicely without getting too crunchy.  We used Pomi Tomato Sauce, which comes in a carton. I like this sauce because it’s not thick and sweet like American pizza sauce can sometimes be.  We also made some of our pizzas with parsley pesto, which made for a bright, vibrant change of pace.  This is a great meal for a party, especially if you are serving people with different dietary restrictions. You can easily accommodate the pickiest eaters with a wide variety of choices.  Everyone’s happy!

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For the Pesto:

  • 2 C. fresh parsley, packed
  • 1/4 C. olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • salt and pepper
  • juice of 1/2 of a lemon
  • 1/4 C. chopped walnuts

Put all the ingredients into a blender (I used my smoothie maker) or food processor, and puree until smooth.

Pizza Topping Ideas:

  • Pomi Tomato Sauce (or your favorite sauce)
  • Sauteed crimini mushrooms
  • Sauteed chopped bell pepper, or jarred roasted peppers
  • Sauteed red onion
  • Grilled zucchini
  • Crumbled Soy Sausage or Chorizo
  • Fresh Basil Leaves
  • Tomato Slices
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese
  • Daiya Vegan Cheese shreds
  • olive oil, salt, and pepper

Heat your grill to medium. Brush both sides of the pitas with olive oil. Set out all the toppings and let everyone make their own.  Grill for 6-8 minutes with the lid closed, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

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Kale and Blueberry Super Salad

This is the perfect salad for a summer picnic or barbecue!

swellkid

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My husband was eating a deli salad from Safeway a few days ago and liked it so much he took a picture of it and texted it to me.  This is a pretty rare occurrence, and has never, ever happened with a salad.  Here is my recreation.  Serves 8-10.

  • 2 bunches of Lacinato (dark green/purple) kale, thinly sliced across the grain
  • 1 C. fresh blueberries
  • 1 C. shelled sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 – 1 C. dried cranberries
  • 1/2 head of red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 C. champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 C. olive oil
  • 2 t. sugar, or 2 packets of stevia powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

To slice the kale, stack up a few leaves and slice them into thin shreds perpendicular to the stalk. Toss the kale, berries, seeds, cabbage and shallot together in a large bowl.  In a jar with…

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