Category: Food (page 1 of 2)

Brie Bite Appetizers with Cranberry or Drunken Onions

If you need a quick and easy appetizer, you can’t beat baked brie in crescent dough.  Top it off with cranberry sauce or drunken onions and add a sprig of fresh rosemary for a little extra kick.  Baked brie bites disappear quickly from any appetizer table.

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crescent pastry filled with brie and cranberry or cartelized onions topped with rosemary

Ingredients

ingredients for crescent dough brie bites

  • Pillsbury crescent dough (dough sheet preferred, but the original Crescent Dough Dinner Roll variety will work)
  • Brie cheese
  • Cranberry sauce (canned cranberry sauce or even a fresh berry is perfectly acceptable) or Drunken onions (red onions carmelized with balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, and red wine.
  • Fresh rosemary sprigs

crescent dough with brie, onions or cranberry, and rosemary

Preparation & Tools

  1. Unroll crescent dough on floured cutting board.  If you could only find the dinner roll variety pinch the seams together.
  2. Use a pizza cutter to slice the sheet into 24 squares, as equal as possible.
  3. Place crescent dough squares into the wells of a mini muffin tin.  See above.
  4. Place a small square of brie into the crescent dough.  I cut squares large enough to cover the base and I leave the brie rind (exterior surface) intact.
  5. Cover the brie with cranberry sauce or onions carmelized with balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, and wine.  Canned cranberry sauce or relish is an easy alternative.  You don’t have to ‘can’ or process the onions if you prepare and use within a few days.
  6. Top with a small sprig of rosemary.
  7. Bake for approximately 15-minutes at 350 F.  The dough should be golden.
  8. Best served warm, but room temperature is fine.
  9. VARIATION:  Fresh blueberries or blackberries can also be used in place of the cranberries or onions.  In this case, I recommend using a mint leaf in place of the rosemary.

I love the flavor of the brie bites.  Do you have recommendations for other varieties?  Maybe some other kind of homemade or purchased relish?  I would love some options for my next party.

Laura


Enjoy Fall Cranberries with Sauce, Crisp and Cocktail recipes

Cranberries are a small, interesting fruit with a tart flavor that can be enjoyed in many dishes ranging from appetizers, sauce, stuffing, crisp, candy, and cocktails.  Cranberries have been reported to provide a wide range of health benefits, including control of chronic inflammation, chronic cardiovascular diseases and urinary tract infections (UTI).  This is attributed to the high concentrated source of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients,  and vitamin C and vitamin E, which are important antioxidant nutrients.

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Background

These delicious little berries grow on a low-lying vine that requires special growing conditions, including acid peat soil and freshwater.  Cranberries typically grow in low-lying beds or bogs that were created by glacial deposits.  Modern cultivation practices use wetlands ponds and other water bodies.  The North American cranberry, Vaccinium macrocarpon, is the fruit recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as the standard for fresh cranberries and the cranberry juice cocktail.  It grows on trailing vines like a strawberry.

Normally, growers do not replant each year since an undamaged cranberry vine will survive indefinitely. Some vines on Cape Cod are more than 150 years old and still bearing fruit.  While Wisconsin is currently the major growth region for cranberries (>50%), they are grown throughout New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington, and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Quebec.  Other regions grow cranberries as well, including Delaware, Maine, Michigan, New York, Rhode Island, and the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Ontario.   Cranberries are typically floated in water for easy harvesting and there are no shortage of cranberry festivals across the country.

Recipes

Fresh Cranberry Orange Sauce (prepare extra for the crisp recipe below)

I absolutely adore the tart flavor of cranberries and I associate this distinct flavor with fall and the winter holiday season.  Orange is a great complement to cranberry.  Preparing cranberry sauce is so easy.  Dump everything in a pot, heat until the berries pop and the mix thickens, transfer to a storage container.  Doesn’t get easier!

Here is a link to my favorite Cranberry Orange Sauce Recipe.  I didn’t have a zester handy at the cabin, so I had to use a peeler and slice the strips with a knife.  If you don’t have the right kitchen gadget don’t give up.  There is always an alternative.  The trick is to avoid the bitter pith (white part of the orange peel).  I recommend going light on the sugar addition.   For me the recipe specified just the right amount, but it’s always best to add to your desired sweetness level as berry sweetness can vary.

Wisconsin Cranberries

Wisconsin Cranberries

juice the orange

I love this kitchen juicer. Makes it easy to add juice to the recipes that follow.

Cranberry Orange Sauce

Mixing all of the Cranberry Orange Sauce ingredients over heat.

 

 

 

 

Fresh Cranberry Orange Sauce

Fresh Cranberry Orange Sauce recipe at onceuponachef.com

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10 Easy, Low Mess, Transportable Tailgate Recipes

It’s fall and it’s football season.  You have tickets for game day.  Now it’s time to plan the tailgate menu.  Here is a collection of easy, low mess, transportable tailgate recipes to get you started.

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Tailgate Recipes

Image courtesy of skeeze @ Pixabay.

I selected the following recipes to please picky kids, satisfy grown-up appetites, minimize prep work on game day, eliminate the need for crock-pots and barbecues, keep utensil and serving -ware requirements simple, and to keep the mess to a minimum.  Sorry, no saucy wings in this tailgate recipe collection.

Tailgate Recipes

Appetizers

A wide variety of appetizer recipes is included here.  This collection will take care of those who like pizza, tacos, or even the classic corn dog.  I think every tailgate appetizer collection needs at least one dip, so be sure to check out the cheesy bacon ranch dip recipe.

Homemade pizza puffs from Cafe Mom.

pizza puffs

Sausage Roll Ups from Dreaming-n-color.

 

Cheesy Bacon Ranch Dip from Deliciously Sprinkled.

Cheesy Bacon Ranch Dip

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Grilled oyster recipes that everyone can enjoy

Raw oysters are great, but try grilling/broiling with spinach, garlic & Parmesan or Chorizo & cheddar. Don’t like raw oysters? Try these recipes.

As a kid, I spent a significant part of my summers down  in Gulf  Shores, Alabama.  We loved slow-living on the bay, fun times with family and good friends, and the delicious Gulf Seafood.  Shrimp, stuffed flounder, and crabs were fantastic, but my younger brother and I were HUGE fans of raw oysters.  One summer, during a side trip to New Orleans, my parents couldn’t get the trays of raw oysters to our table fast enough.  My favorite dinner as a ‘grown up’?  A wedge salad with bacon and blue cheese accompanied by at least one dozen oysters with lemon, horseradish and hot sauce.  Mmmmmmm!

While not everyone appreciates the slimy texture of oysters like I do, it is possible to prepare oysters that everyone will enjoy.  There is something primitive about cracking open the shells.  Throw a few on the grill and enjoy.

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Spinach Parmesan Grilled Oysters

Chorizo Jalapeno Cheddar Grilled Oysters

Where to buy oysters?

We found a local grocery store that often carries oysters.  I definitely recommend that you call ahead and order in advance.  You don’t want to prepare a menu only to find out oysters are not available.  Unfortunately, I am speaking from experience on this point.

The guys at our fish counter always give us a few extra.  They are typically priced by the dozen and usually one or two of the oysters are not good (won’t open or they are stinky when you open them).  Request that they pack the the oyster in a bag on ice.  Once you arrive home, be sure to open the bag when you place them in the refrigerator so the oysters can breath.

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Parchment paper cooking: Eat a healthy fish dinner & spend more time with family

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Life happens fast.  We all have too many things we need need to do: work, sports, school activities, help with homework, etc.  Our lives are also filled with a long list of the things we want to do: spend quality time with friends & family, read a book, take a bath, travel, spend time working on a hobby, etc.  For me, family time has become more  critical than ever as I realize my son is growing up way too fast.  How did he get to high school already?

We also want to eat healthy and save money.  All of these conflicting desires and demands can really stress out a parent.  Let’s figure out a way to slow down the clock, hear about our kid’s experiences, achievements, and challenges over a healthy, easy, budget-friendly meal.  Here is a quick and easy cooking technique for shrimp and fish that will allow you to spend more time with your family and friends.

A couple of years ago, my husband and I enrolled in a cooking class at a nearby farm.  We had a chance to try several different fish recipes and cooking techniques.  I immediately realized that ‘en papillote’ had the potential to change my life in the kitchen.  This fancy French term?  It describes an easy cooking method for healthy food with minimal clean-up!  Count me in!

I love to cook and experiment in the kitchen.  My kitchen experiments have not always turned out as planned and are never perfect, but  this is real life and I don’t recall a time when my family has ever turned down a meal.  The recipe outlined below works well with shrimp and any sturdy white fish such as orange roughy, tilapia, haddock, sole, or halibut. Buy whatever your budget allows.  I purchased a pack of individually wrapped tilapia filet (6) for about $10 at Target.

I really like the flexibility of this recipe.   It allows you to use what you have available for marinade or toppings.   It can be varied easily to make this part of a regular meal rotation without boring everyone’s taste buds.  If you keep a bag of fish filet in the freezer, you can make this last minute to avoid expensive food delivery or an unhealthy drive through visit.

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Plan an Oktoberfest celebration for family and friends

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Planning guide for Oktoberfest

OKTOBERFEST!  The best fall party of them all!  This is a perfect time of year to enjoy beautiful fall weather with family and friends.  Attending Oktoberfest in Munich Germany is on many people’s Bucket List (mine too).  For good reason, the party (originating from a wedding celebration) has been a tradition since 1810.  The official event in Munich typically takes place between mid-September and early October (Official 2017 dates: September 16th-October 3rd).  It’s time to start planning your Oktoberfest event.

Event Budget

This party can be as simple/complicated and budget-friendly/expensive as your heart and bank account can manage.  Smaller is simpler, but Oktoberfest provides a great excuse to mingle family, friends, and co-workers.  Just be sure to ask for help.

As the size of the party increases, consider asking guests to bring appetizers, entree, desserts, or beverages to share.  Many guests love the challenge of preparing a special, party-appropriate dish.

Invitations

Evite is a great way to send out a party invitation.  It’s easy to set-up and allows you to review guest RSVP’s quickly and easily.  You can even ask guests to sign up for food or beverage contributions.  This feature makes it easy to ensure your guests will have adequate food and beverage and prevents having too much of any one item.

If Evite doesn’t work for you e-mail is an easy option.  Hard copy invitations dropped in mailboxes or formal written invites sent by mail also work, but they do require a bit more planning.

Venue or Location

You driveway, patio, or yard provide a perfect venue for Oktoberfest.  If it’s cool build a bonfire or have baskets filled with blankets and extra sweaters to keep guests comfortable.  Tents are part of traditional Oktoberfest celebrations.  Don’t have a tent?  Consider borrowing a tent from a neighbor.  Tents and tables can be rented, but this will add significant cost to your party budget.  Another option is to decorate your garage or open your home to guests.  You might also consider renting a picnic facility in a nearby park.

Beverages

Oktoberfest food and drink

In my opinion, the guest list is the top priority.  Next in importance?  Food and beverages.  To keep the party simple, enlist the help of your crock pot, family, and friends.

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When life gives you lemons? Make dinner, dessert and cocktails!

I adore lemons.  I love the yellow color; they always make me feel happy and bring a smile to my face.  I also love the smell of the blossoms and fruit and cannot get enough of the flavor.

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Photo courtesy of Pixabay (Hjalmar18).

When we lived in our little Spanish Bungalow in Long Beach, CA we had a lemon tree in our front yard.  I loved walking past it numerous times each day enjoying the smell and activity of the bees buzzing busily around it.  When we moved back to the Midwest, one of the things I missed most (besides milder winter weather, of course) was my little lemon tree.

Several years ago, my son gifted me with a lemon tree for Mother’s Day.  I loved this little tree, but it did not like indoor life in my home.  After about 1-year nearly all of the leaves had fallen off and it certainly wasn’t flowering or bearing fruit.  I almost threw my little lemon tree away, but decided it couldn’t hurt to place it outside on our porch for the summer.  The sunshine and fresh air breathed new life into my resilient little tree.  A couple of years later, summers outdoors and winters indoors, it is healthy and now it has two lemons ripening.

There are approximately 50 varieties of lemons.  They range in flavor from sweet to sour and in acidity.  They are grown all around the world and are thought to have originated in northeastern India.
The ancient Egyptians are credited with ‘inventing’ lemonade around 500 AD.  However, only the Pharaoh and royal family were allowed to enjoy the beverage.  In 1630, a lemonade soda (lemon juice, honey, and sparkling water) was first sold in Paris.  Through the 1840’s demand for lemons grew as a cure for scurvy.  This debilitating disease was caused by a lack of Vitamin C and significantly impacted sailors and miners during the California Gold Rush in the mid 1800’s.  This demand for lemons resulted in the many California lemon groves, some of which still exist today.  Even in current times, many websites suggest that increasing consumption of fruits like lemons decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and overall mortality while promoting a healthy complexion, increased energy, and lower weight.

And now that you have learned a little bit about lemons, let get to the recipes!

Dinner

Lemon Chicken is a quick and easy meal for a weeknight.  Add a salad and rice or pasta and you have a perfect meal. Continue reading

A Beginner’s Guide to Canning: Preserve Your Food in Jars

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Canning is a great way to preserve fruits and vegetables for later use.  When I was growing up my mom made delicious plum jam, but she did not can or pickle any vegetables.  No canning mentor for me.  Thank goodness for the internet!

Several years back, my husband and I decided to rent a community garden space to grow vegetables (check out one of my early posts on our farm plot).  We paid ‘rent’ for a 30’X30′ plot and got to work.  We started planting in late April-early May and by the time late July rolled around we had a bumper crop of vegetables and the bounty continued through early October.  We shared much of the harvest with friends and family, but we still had tons of veggies left-over.

In an effort to save our harvest for later use (think dark, cold winter days; I knew we would want to mentally escape), I scoured the internet and book stores for good canning references, magazines, and guidelines.  I had heard about the dangers of canning (exploding jars and food poisoning) and was honestly quite intimidated.  After reading the basics, it seemed manageable and I decided to give it a try.  I loved the process and the reward.  I hope you will follow the steps I have outlined below to get started on your own canning journey.

Step 1:  Collect recipes and tips

I recommend purchasing a good canning/preserving reference book.  Food safety is extremely important when canning and good quality resources outline critical procedures for produce preparation, processing, and storage.  Books, magazines, and Pinterest are great places for inspiration.  If you are interested in a particular fuit/vegetable, search the internet for recipes.  I highly recommend that you read the reviews.  Many recipes do not follow proper, safe canning procedures (for example, my beloved Blue Ribbon Pickle recipe) and usually this comes up in the comment thread.  If you are not sure, follow recipes in a canning reference book.  The book I got started with is the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  I do not recommend modifying or tweaking recipes.  They are designed to ensure appropriate conditions for canning and the quality and safety of your final product.

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A simple recipe for a quick and healthy Alfredo sauce – 3 variations to add variety to your menu

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Why healthy Alfredo sauce?

I love to cook and I love the idea of preparing healthy meals.  I have been following the 21-Day Fix eating plan on and off for just over 1-year.  It helps me balance portion sizes and  the right mix of food groups.   I feel great when I stick to the plan, especially with some exercise.

I try to eat healthy, but comfort food tastes great and sometimes it’s just good for the soul after a stressful day.  Fettuccine Alfredo is one of my all-time favorite comfort meals.  The traditional recipe uses butter and heavy cream and this is served over pasta.  Unfortunately, the comfort feeling doesn’t last long and tends to turn into a bloated feeling and state of guilt for me.  Fear not, comfort food can be adapted into a healthier, feel better version.  I have tried several ‘healthy’ Alfredo sauce recipes and have found the recipe provided in the link below to be a great base.  Think of the recipe as a really nice blank canvas.  You are the artist who gets throw on the color and design the finished product exactly to your taste.

Don’t get me wrong,  I love carbs too and can’t give them up.  However, I do try to manage my carb intake (that little yellow box is way too tiny fellow 21-Day Fixers!).  I recently purchased a spiralizer and really enjoy using it to prepare ‘zoodles’ (zucchini) or even better yet, daikon radish noodles.  Seems strange (pungent smell), but perfect base for a creamy sauce.  Even better than pasta with a creamy, heavier sauce.  Try it!

How do you prepare a satisfying meal with a healthy Alfredo sauce?

A great 21-Day Fix version of Alfredo sauce.  Check out this great link.

Ingredients for a basic  Alfredo sauce:

  • 1-1/2 cup 2% cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 4 Tablespoons low fat milk or almond milk
  • spices (garlic powder, salt, pepper) can be added if you don’t follow the variations outlined below; go light with the salt as the base flavor can be salty from the Parmesan

Instructions for Alfredo sauce preparation:

  • Mix  cottage cheese and Parmesan cheese in a saucepan or dutch oven (I LOVE my Dansk Kobenstyle cookware)
  • Heat on medium-low, mixing just until the Parmesan cheese melts.  Temperature is key.  Be patient (I know this is hard after a long day of work).  Be warned, if you overheat everything separates.  Please be patient, it really only takes a few minutes.
  • Allow to cool slightly and carefully transfer the sauce  to a blender.  Ensure bottom is attached tightly to prevent leaking.  I’m thinking about trying an immersion blender the next time I prepare this recipe, which is probably next week!
  • Puree the Alfredo sauce in the blender, adding the milk to get the desired consistency.  Don’t make it too watery, you have another opportunity to add more milk when you reheat the sauce.
  • Transfer the sauce back to saucepan or dutch oven, add any protein or vegetables that you may have prepared (see quick meal tips and recipe variations below).
  • Serve over pasta, zoodles , or Daikon radish noodles.

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4 great recipe ideas for leftover ham

Links to recipes are provided below. Enjoy!

 

Over the weekend, we enjoyed another fantastic barbecue.  We had family over, so we grilled lots of food including a double-smoked ham with apricot glaze from Ray ‘Dr. BBQ’ Lampe’s Slow Fire Barbecue guide.  That is not a mirror image below; we threw two hams on the smoker.  A couple hours into the low and slow smoke, we covered the hams with a simple glaze prepared by blending apricots in syrup, ketchup, soy sauce and molasses.  What great flavor.  We also grilled salmon and asparagus.

 

 

 

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