"The best times you are going to have in life are at the dinner table and in bed." Old Italian saying. So relax, and enjoy the simple things!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Two Simple Fish Appetizers: Foodie Friday

shrimp cocktail tuna


My heritage is Southern Italian and I have passed on the tradition of celebrating "The Feast of the Seven Fish" on Christmas Eve to my family. The seven fish represents the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church. Play stump the Catholic with your friends of this faith by seeing if they can name all seven sacraments without Googling them. Some of them are pretty tricky. 

Every year on Christmas Eve I make a meal that consists of seven fish... and let me tell you my kids count! I have designed my menu to be more child friendly then when I was growing up. I will not be serving eels in a red sauce or fish heads soup etc... Over the next few weeks I will be sharing with you some of the dishes I make for this feast.


Tonno Tuna Appetizer
Tonno Tuna Appetizer


Tonno Tuna Appetizer

by Diane Balch

This is a great appetizer that you can throw on the table in minutes. You can keep the ingredients for it in the pantry and serve it over any type of lettuce you have on hand.


Tonno Tuna Appetizer Ingredients
Tonno Tuna Appetizer Ingredients

Preparation Time: 5 minutes                       Serves: 4 - 6

Ingredients:

1  5 ounce jar Tonno Tuna in olive oil
1 12 ounce or larger jar of Fancy Giardeniera pickled vegetables
1 head of Romano lettuce
1 pinch of Fleur de sel or another sea salt 

Directions:

1) Arrange lettuce leaves on a large platter.

2) Drain vegetables and then put them in the center of the platter.

3) Drain tuna and plop it out whole on to the vegetables.

4) Sprinkle the tuna with sea salt.

5) Serve whole leaves of lettuce topped with bits of vegetables and tuna.
tunatuna appetizertonno tunaItalian recipeSeafood appetizerFeast of the Seven Fish http://verygoodrecipes.com/italia



Shrimp Cocktail
Shrimp Cocktail


Shrimp Cocktail

by Diane Balch

To make shrimp cocktail tastier and less expensive I recommend buying the shrimp frozen and making your own cocktail sauce. 

Frozen shrimp is usually several dollars cheaper per pound than so called "fresh shrimp". When shrimp is caught it is usually frozen, so what you buy as "fresh" is most likely thawed out fish. Besides the price of frozen shrimp, keeping it in the freezer means you don't have to use it the day you buy it.

Buy uncooked but deveined shrimp. I prefer jumbo or large for shrimp cocktail. Don't buy it cooked because then it has been defrosted and refrozen. It usually tastes over cooked when I have bought it this way.


Shrimp Cocktail Ingredients
Shrimp Cocktail Ingredients

Preparation 15 minutes                 Serves: 4 - 6

Ingredients:

1 to 2 pounds of large or jumbo frozen shrimp uncooked and deveined
1/2 cup of ketchup
1 teaspoon or more of fresh horseradish
1 lemon cut into wedges

Directions:

1) Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add shrimp and cook them until they become opaque. Approximately 5 minutes. Drain and chill covered in the refrigerator.  

2) While the shrimp is chilling mix the ketchup and horseradish together. Taste and add more horseradish if you like your sauce spicier. Chill sauce also. Cut lemons into wedges. 

3) About 15 minutes before you are ready to serve the shrimp remove their tails. Arrange shrimp around the lip of a bowl filled with ice, center the cocktail in the middle and garnish the plate with lemon wedges.



Foodie Friday Features:

From: Half Baked Harvest

Cranberry Brie Biscuit Appetizer
Cranberry Brie Biscuit Appetizer
Cranberry is such a wonderful winter flavor and combine with brie in a biscuit how could this delicious treat not be a hit.


From: Simplee Sue

German Apple Puff Pancake
German Apple Puff Pancake
This traditional breakfast treat is a wonderful thing to make with your now aging apples.


From: Our Everyday Harvest

Acorn Squash with Roasted Corn Pudding
Acorn Squash with Roasted Corn Pudding
Seasonal and vegetarian.. and oh, so rich and creamy.


From: Call Me PMc

Apple Cinnamon Coffee Cake
Apple Cinnamon Coffee Cake
Again... a wonderful dessert to make with aging apples, and oh, so moist, love the layer of cream cheese and the streusel is divine.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Beef Daube with Carrots and Elbow Macaroni:French Fridays with Dorie

Beef Daube
Beef Daube

Hurricanes and Nor'Easters along with traveling to Virginia for Thanksgiving seem to be all behind me now... I'm back and hope to regain a regular weekly Dorie recipe schedule.

As a child I was subjected to "food torture" tricked into eating tripe, sweet breads, and calf's brain... to name a few of the delicacies my grandparents forced upon me in the name of food heritage. So the thought of making beef cheeks for my family was wholly unappealing... I bought beef chuck. 

When I told my kids what was supposed to be in the stew their reaction surprised me. My 11 year old daughter said, "Well, they might be delicious, especially after they have cooked for a long time in wine." She is probably right, as it dawned on me that I wasn't protecting them from anything, I was avoiding dealing with my own food phobias.

When I first tasted the stew I did think it needed a top note, so I grated a little orange zest into it. This really brightened the dish without being over powering. The other things I did a little differently than Dorie instructed was I deglazed the pan with 1/4 cup of the wine after I braised the beef. Then I poured the reduction over the beef. I also used a plastic spatula, not a wooden spoon, to scrap the pan. I think it removes more fond easier and prevents burning.

As for the end result... superb. My husband commented on how rich and earthy the sauce was, and my kids both loved eating it over pasta instead of with bread the way we typically eat stew. I loved the velvet sauce and the subtlety of the flavor. Dorie was right, the chocolate wasn't over pronounced. Truly a classic stick to your bones comfort stew.

Here is a similar Beef Daube recipe from Dorie.


Note: As a member of French Friday's with Dorie I am not allowed to print the recipe. I invite you to take a look at this wonderful cookbook "Around My French Table" if you are interested in this or any other recipe I review. 

 










Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Holiday Party Planning: Simple Living in Practice

holiday entertaining

Hosting a holiday party doesn't have to be stressful if you plan it well and share the work. Here are some ideas for simplifying your party planning.

1) Print invitations: If you are planning on having more then just a few close friends over for cocktails make up a paper invitation. Many photo sites have easy to follow formats which literally take minutes to layout an invitation that they will mail out for you. I've used Shutterfly for years and their prints are good quality and their prices are competitive. 

Include in the invitation exact information: time, place, dress, and a specific date for an RSVP. Try to invite people for a fancier affair 1 month in advance, for a more causal event 2 weeks in advance. If you invite people too early they will forget,... too late, they are more likely to have other plans.


2) Get commitments and remind people. It is important to send a physical invitation that friends can put up on their fridge or bulletin board to remind them about the party. People get very busy this time of year. Unfortunately, people have gotten very bad about RSVPing, but if you put a specific date to RSVP by on the invitation, you can feel comfortable contacting them after it. 


3) Write out a party plan: Write out a shopping list for your party and plan a menu and or theme for the food. The more you visualize your party beforehand the less likely you will forget important items. You can create a template check list to use for all of your parties. The more you are willing to note what things you needed more or less of after a party, the easier it will be to plan your next event.


4) Accept contributions: When friends RSVP and offer to bring something have a list of items ready that you can assign them. Don't say, "Bring anything." if you get an offer of food. You know what you want to make yourself. Let your friends fill in the extras like: a cheese plate, crudités, or a vegetable side dish etc. Your friends will appreciate you narrowing down their cooking options. Give non cooks items to get like paper goods or beverages. If you have a friend who is really into music, let him make a play list. Delegate, delegate, delegate... just check up on them and remind people of their commitments a week before your event.

5) Beverages are more important than food. Worry more about having enough to drink, then having a lot of food. For a small get together a few appetizers and 1 to 2 desserts are plenty. People don't eat a ton at parties because they are talking, and they don't want to look like a pig gobbling food in front of other guests.

6) Decorate with flow in mind. However you plan to decorate make sure you hide away any furniture etc. that is overly big and or will block the flow of people from one area to another. 

7) DO NOT have enough seats for everyone. You want people to move around and talk to each other, you don't want them to plop down in a chair and check out.

8) Spread out food and drink. Think about were you want your guests to congregate. If you want to get them out of the kitchen and into your beautifully decorated living room. Set the bar up in the living room. Put some trays of food out in the rooms you want people to hang out in... guests are like dogs they migrate to were the treats are. 

9) Aid conversation. Most likely you are the only person who knows everyone in the room, so when you introduce guests to each other include some information about them that will help spark conversation such as: "Jack is really into tennis also." "Jill loves to garden too." or "Helen is the person who baked the cookies you were just raving about."

10) Winding down the party and cleaning up. When you want to wind down the party get a pot of coffee brewing and start cleaning up... always say yes, when someone asked to help. If you are close to guests assigning clean up tasks. People want to help because they are grateful for your hospitality. You don't need to be overly exhausted trying to be the "super host" who makes all the refreshments and does all of the clean up. Accept help so you can enjoy the party too.

Happy Holidays,

Diane

This post is shared on (now on Wednesdays):


NaturalMothersNetwork.com


Related articles
Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, November 26, 2012

Local and Sustainable Eating: Healthy Eating

Photo Source: Snippits and Snappits

Why Eat Locally? Why Eat Seasonally? Food that is locally grown is fresher and perfect for the season you are in... right now in the Northeast of the US squash and root vegetables are in season. These plants are high in vitamin C and A which are important for gearing up your immune system for the flu season that is coming. 

So nutrition is one reason to eat locally fresher foods. 

Less pollution... the shorter the distance food has to travel to get to you the less carbon monoxide will be added to our already overloaded atmosphere. 

Still not convinced... how about diversity... heirloom fruits and vegetables make cooking and eating more than just a process of extracting calories. They makes food fun and interesting. Variety will be lost if we don't support small local farmers who's market niche is selling the different and the unusual compared to the grocery store. If you don't just want to eat beef tomatoes and red delicious apples... buy local food.

The Nature Conservancy who is best know for simply buying environmentally rich land and stewarding it is expanding it's reach into teaching and promoting sustainability. Take a look a their website and check out the recipes chefs have contributed to them which promote local food use, and consider making a holiday gift to this fantastic organization.


Weekly Menu Plan:



Meatless Monday: Pesto Pasta and Tomato Salad

Tuesday: Sausage and White Beans with Rolls



Friday: Beef Stir Fry


This post is shared on:


menu plan monday


Friday, November 23, 2012

Pumpkin Lentil Stew: Foodie Friday

 Pumpkin Lentil Stew
Pumpkin Lentil Stew

Are you stuffed? I am... time to eat something lighter and healthier after that big meal yesterday. Pumpkin is still very much in season and well priced, so grab a few small ones. They keep for quite a while. When I need to get myself back into balance I aways return to lentils...low in calories, high in fiber, iron, and protein, and pumpkins are chock full of vitamin A and C which you need to ward off getting a cold during this holiday season. So relax today, enjoy friends and family...shopping can wait.


Pumpkin Lentil Stew

By Diane Balch

Preparation time: 1 hour                                           Serves: 4 - 6

 Ingredients:

1 small pumpkin roasted 
1 leek chopped
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of curry powder
4 cups of chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 cup of dried brown lentils


Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees

2) Cut pumpkin into quarters. Remove stringy insides and seeds. (save the seeds and roast them oil and salt). Baste the inside of the pumpkin with olive oil and sprinkle it with salt. Put it in a baking dish and roast the pumpkin for about 30 minutes or until it starts to brown and is soft when poked with a fork.

3) While the pumpkin is roasting, in a large sauce pan heat 2 tablespoons of oil and sauté the leeks until they wilt.

4) Add the lentils, broth, curry powder, salt and pepper to the leeks and bring this to a boil. Lower and simmer on medium-low covered for about 45 minutes or until the lentils become soft.

5) When the pumpkin is done, and cool to the touch, scope out chunks and add them to the cooked lentils.  Great served with crusty bread or over polenta. 

American recipespumpkinlentils,vegetarian recipegluten free recipepumpkin stew 






Foodie Friday Features:

From: Kathe with an E

Chicken and Dumplings
Chicken and Dumplings 
To me this dish is the ultimate American comfort food. Hearty and delicious for chilly winter evenings.


From: The Rehomesteaders

Beef Pumpkin Stew
Beef Pumpkin Stew
What can say I say? We are on the same wavelength. Love this beef version of a pumpkin stew.


From: Manila Spoon


Portuguese Style Orange Cake
Portuguese Style Orange Cake
It is close enough to winter to start making citrus cakes. This one is moist and fragrant. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

10 Ways to Reduce Holiday Shopping Stress: Simple Living in Practice

Christmas stocking fireplace


Holiday shopping season is upon us, but there is no reason to get stressed out about finding the perfect gift for everyone on your list. The more you think about what you want to get everyone before you hit the stores, the less likely you will overspend and waste time walking around in circles at the mall.

1) Reduce the number of gifts you give. With your immediate family give one present per person, and say one Santa gift per child. If you visit with relatives have a Secret Santa exchange between the adults, and the kids can have one between themselves. This way you are only purchasing one gift for a relative, which can then be something nicer... and probably something more of what they really want, instead of giving a lot of smaller, not so special gifts. 

2) Through out the year keep a gift folder of catalog clippings or a wish list on a site like Amazon, so when you see gift ideas you can store them and not forget them by the time December comes.

3) Get a credit card with the department store or the on line site that you purchase most of your presents from. Usually you will get free shipping if you use their credit card, so shop on line and save the gas, the bad fast food, and  the increased chance of impulsive purchasing that happens when you physically go into a store.

4) Map out your trip to the mall or your downtown. Go shopping with a gift list that includes the stores you think you most likely will find your gifts, include a walking plan for hitting each one of these stores in the least amount of time. (Hint: Malls usually have maps on line that you can download.)

5) If you are bring kids shopping make sure it not close to their nap time (unless being wheeled around knocks them out.) or meal time.  Bring healthy snacks for them to munch on, so you don't have to stop at the unhealthy and expensive food court.

6) Keep your purchases organized. If you are purchasing more than one gift per person, i.e. stocking stuffers etc., keep all the gifts for that one person together in a shopping bag or a box, so you will not loss track of what you bought and thus end up over shopping for that person.

7) Keep all receipts in one place for all of your purchases. This way you will know were to look for a receipt if you need to make an exchange. Plus by having all of your receipts together you can tally them up and know how much you spent on your holiday purchases.  

8) Never assume your gift will not be returned. Get a gift receipt for every purchase and include it in the box. Without a gift receipt a person will only get the markdown price back for your gift which can be less than half of the original price you paid for the item.

9) Don't purchase items you like, purchase items your recipient will like. You may not love gold shoes, but if that is what your mother is into: buy them for her!

10) Make your own gifts and or buy from local merchants. Save money and touch someone's heart with the time and effort that is needed to create home made gifts: bake cookies, make vinegars or jams...etc. If you don't have a knack for making your own presents buy something that has been crafted with care from a local merchant and/or artesian food purveyor.

Happy Holiday Shopping,
Diane


This post is shared on: 

Gallery of Favorites

modivation monday


Monday, November 19, 2012

Thank Goodness for Turkeys: Healthy Eating

Turkeys
Photo Source: State Symbols

I am quite intimate with turkeys. I walk my dog regularly on Turkey Hill Road, live two doors down from Turkey Hill Lodge, and have an unofficial turkey crossing in the front of my house. Some mornings the turkeys crossing the road get very indigent toward drivers. They gooble and hoot at them, "Slow down, I'll get across eventually... I don't fly very fast either."

One afternoon when my daughter was about 4 she ran outside with a bucket in one hand and a mallet in the other, chasing after the turkeys that had congregated in our yard yelling, "I'm gunna kill me a turkey for dinner tonight." She was not successful. But we regularly enjoy turkey in our household even when it is not Thanksgiving time. It is a lean nutritious meat. 


Please enjoy the following turkey dinner round up collected from my weekly Friday food party:



Turkey Sage Sausage
Make your own Turkey Sage Sausage
Turkey Pot Pie
Turkey Pot Pie
Turkey Bundles
Turkey Bundles
Crock Pot Turkey
Crock Pot Turkey
Homemade Turkey Sausage Pizza
Homemade Turkey Sausage Pizza
Leftover Turkey & Seafood Paella
Leftover Turkey & Seafood Paella
20 Tasty Recipes Using Leftover Turkey
20 Tasty Recipes Using Leftover Turkey



Weekly Menu Plan:



Meatless Monday: Wild Rice Mushroom Pilaf

Tuesday: Bacon Scallion Yellow Split Pea soup (This last Friday's recipe.)

Wednesday: Breaded Chicken Breast, Mashed Potatoes, & Green Beans

Thursday: Thanksgiving Feast at Grandpas


Saturday: Beef Tacos, Salsa, Cheddar Cheese

This post is shared on:

menu plan monday



Friday, November 16, 2012

Bacon Scallion Yellow Split Pea Soup: Foodie Friday

Bacon Scallion Yellow Split Pea Soup
Bacon Scallion Yellow Split Pea Soup

A 100 loads of laundry later...I think I have gotten my house back together after the hurricane and the Nor'easter. Pioneer living is really dirty. I can't believe the soot that was on my floors from using the fireplace constantly... and the unflushable toilets... I won't even go there.

One night that we didn't have power my family and I went out for dinner to celebrate my birthday. I had a wonderful soup that everyone tasted, and I think we figured out what went into it. Here is my version of a hurricane soup.


Bacon Scallion Yellow Split Pea Soup

by Diane Balch

Prep time: 15 minutes        Cook time: 1.5 hours          Serves: 4 - 6     

Ingredients:

6 slices of chopped small bacon (4 for soup, reserve 2 for garnish)
1 bunch of scallions chopped small ( reserve 1/4 of a cup for garnish)
1 cup of dried yellow split peas
6 cups of chicken broth (48 ounces)
2 tablespoons of sherry
salt and pepper to taste


Directions:

1) In a large sauce pan brown the bacon pieces. Just before they get brown add the scallions and sauté them until they wilt.

2) Add sherry and turn the heat up to high. Scrap the bottom of the pan with a spatula to deglaze it.

3) After about a minute add the lentils and then the chicken broth to the pan. Bring it to a boil.

4) Add salt and pepper and let the soup simmer on medium low for about 1 hour or until the lentils soften.

5) When the lentils are soft puree the soup with an immersion blender or in small batches with a regular blender.

6) Garnish each bowl of soup with a small amount of bacon and scallions. Serve with crusty bread or rolls. 





Foodie Friday Features:

From: Gastronomical Sovereignty
French Onion Soup
French Onion Soup

                        This is my all time favorite soup and Kristy's recipe is Oh la-la!



From: Will Cook for Smiles

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls
Pumpkin Dinner Rolls
A seasonal twist on the classic dinner roll... sure to be a hit at any meal.


From: I Thee Cook

Maple Dijon Chicken
Maple Dijon Chicken
If you have some chicken breasts and mushrooms on hand you got a fast gourmet meal...fantastic.


From: Rhonda's Saucy Adventures

Apple Dump Cake
Apple Dump Cake
Kids find dump cakes fun...adults find them quick and easy. We make them camping in a dutch oven, over an open fire. This is a terrific seasonal recipe... can't wait for our Boy Scout Troop to try it out.

Instructions for Foodie Friday linky:

This is a food party please only link up food related posts. Thank you. 

Chick on at least 3 other recipes.

SUBSCRIBE TO THIS BLOG BY EMAIL OR RSS... 

or FRIEND ME ON FACEBOOK

SPREAD THE WORD: PIN, FB, TWEET ETC... this party. It is good for you and me.


1) Copy the Foodie Friday Button's html from this website's sidebar.
2) Paste this html to the html page of the recipe you want to link to Foodie Friday. You can also make a word link or post our button on your sidebar.                                                                 Please link back.
3) Copy the link to the recipes you want to add to Foodie Friday, not your homepage. You can post up to 3 recipes that you have not shared before.
4) Click on "your next" on this page.
5) Past your link and type in the name of the recipe, not your name.
6) Choose how you want to download the photo.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...