Thursday, September 21, 2017

Italian Chopped Salad

As I mentioned earlier in the week, this past weekend I spent a lot of time making a variety of salads. I love it when I have a salad already prepared waiting for me in the fridge, to just pull out and nosh on for lunch.

I have a lot of salad recipes that I've been wanting to try, this one, for Italian Chopped Salad among them. I changed it up a bit by adding fresh corn cut from the cob. You probably think that's a strange addition to a chopped salad, but it isn't at all. Here is a picture (not a good one because it was taken before digital cameras) of a salad that I had in Venice, Italy back in the summer of 2001. Look at all of the corn on top. Prior to this trip I had never eaten fresh corn on a salad, but now I love it, and so does my dad, who has a salad every day, and most of the time that salad is topped with fresh corn.
The slightly adapted recipe below is from bellyful.net, and can be changed up to suit your interests, likes, and what you have in the fridge. I made two changes, one, as I mentioned, was to add corn in place of the green olives, because I didn't have any of those on hand. The other was to swap out the scallions for red onion, because I happen to love red onion in a salad.
Italian Chopped Salad
Slightly adapted from bellyful.net

1 cup ditalini pasta, cooked according to package directions
3 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1 9-oz. pkg.
Melissa’s Peeled and Steamed Garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup cubed summer sausage
1 cup cubed provolone
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup marinated artichokes, drained and chopped
1/2 cup sliced red onion

1/2 cup fresh corn

Dressing:

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
Two cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cups red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

This salad can be prepared in one of two ways. Either you can combine all of the salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss it together with the dressing, and then serve, or, if using it as a main dish, you can put it together, attractively, in a pasta bowl (like I have used here) or on a plate. It's your choice.

To make the dressing - in a medium bowl whisk together all of the dressing ingredients except for the olive oil. Slowly pour in olive oil, whisking constantly to emulsify*. Drizzle over the salad and gently toss to coat

*I swear by bullet blenders for making vinaigrette salad dressings. I toss everything in together, and pulse it until it is combined. Using a bullet blender your salad dressing is going to beautifully emulsify, and stay emulsified for as long as it's in your fridge.


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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Spinach Artichoke Dip Cheesy Bread

If, like me, you are a fan of both cheese garlic bread and spinach artichoke dip, then this recipe from Anna at Crunchy Creamy Sweet is soon going to be one of your favorites. I spent the weekend making salads of one kind or other, and figured I needed some cheesy garlic bread to go along with it. While a salad alone is certainly a meal, it doesn't seem quite complete without a roll or delicious piece of bread.

I cut this recipe in half, froze a portion of it, and have every confidence that it's going to reheat just fine. This strikes me as something that would be a meal in itself, or an excellent appetizer for your tailgating or (looking ahead) Super Bowl spread. Give it a try, but I warn you, it is addicting!

Spinach Artichoke Dip Cheesy Bread
Slightly adapted from crunchycreamysweet.com

1 loaf of Italian bread, split in half lengthwise
1/2 cup butter, softened
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
5 tablespoons sour cream
5 tablespoons mayo
114-ounce can of artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 package Ranch Dressing Mix
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
110-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, and water squeezed out
1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a medium mixing bowl, mix together cream cheese, sour
cream, and mayo. Stir in artichokes, spinach, ranch dressing mix, salt, pepper, and 1/4 cup mozzarella (reserve the rest for topping). Mix until well combined.

Place bread, cut sides up, on a baking sheet. Spread softened butter equally over the tops of each. Cover with a sheet of aluminum foil. Bake for 7 minutes. Remove from the oven, and top with a dip mix, spreading evenly to coat. Sprinkle the top with the remaining mozzarella cheese. Return to oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Cool to room temperature before slicing and serving.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Baked Summer Sausage with Apricot Mustard Glaze


If you are anything like me, then you probably have difficulty resisting a sale. Recently I succumbed to a sale on smoked sausage. I like smoke sausage, I really do, but I don't think I need quite as much as I ended up with. As I was un-bagging my haul, I thought to myself, huh, what am I going to do with all of this smoked sausage? Naturally, a trip to the web was in order.

After stumbling upon and trying this Apricot and Mustard Glazed Smoked Sausage, I am now wondering if I bought enough. This is so good! Not only is it good, but it's very easy, and look how beautiful it appears on the plate. 

This would work well as a starter, appetizer, or hors d'oeuvre, as you see here, plated with a variety of Melissa's Muscato Grapes, and those addictingly delicious Sweet Potato Tortilla Chips from Wickedly Prime. It would also work well at an evening meal alongside a mound of coleslaw, and hot German potato salad. This is a true fall dish, sure to be a welcome addition to whatever spread you put out for your weekend football parties, or (thinking ahead) Super Bowl. Whenever, or however you serve it, you have to try this. You won't regret it.
Baked Summer Sausage with Apricot Mustard Glaze
From melaniecooks.com

1 12-ounce piece summer sausage
1/2 cup apricot jam*
3 tablespoons
Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.


In a medium mixing bowl combine apricot jam, mustard, and brown sugar; mix well.

Slice the summer sausage three quarters of the way through (accordion style) into 1/8 to ¼-inch slices, so the slices are connected at the bottom. Place the summer sausage onto the baking sheet, and brush with half of the glaze. Be sure to get glaze in between the slices by using a spoon to do so. Reserve the remaining glaze.

Put the summer sausage into the oven and bake for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, remove from oven and brush with remaining glaze. At this point, the spaces between the slices should have opened up making it easier to get glaze between each. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 20 minutes. Remove from oven and serve as you see fit. It can be reheated in the microwave, if needed.



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Monday, September 18, 2017

Pumpkin Spice Butter


Today I am going to introduce you to big fun, and I am talking BIG! I recently made my own Pumpkin Spice Butter, and it is to die for. No, I'm not talking about adding pumpkin spices to a softened stick of butter. I am talking about infusing cream with those spices and actually making butter.

It was fascinating to me to watch this come together, and I was well rewarded with a wonderful taste. Imagine having pumpkin spice in butter form, being able to spread it on toast in the morning, or
Pumpkin Crumb Muffins in the afternoon. The recipe is from Tasting Table, and I encourage you to try it. You'll enjoy watching the liquid separate from the fat, and turn this spice-infused cream into a delicious butter. Here's the recipe.
Pumpkin Spice Butter
Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoons ground allspice
1/4 teaspoons ground clove
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

In a small saucepan, toasted the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, clove, and white pepper over medium heat until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the cream and bring to a light simmer, then remove from the heat and let cool completely. Store in a sealable container and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, place the cream in a food processor with the confectioners' sugar and salt. Spin the mixture until the fat turns into butter in the liquid separates. Transfer the mixture to a large piece of cheesecloth, and ring out any excess liquid.

Transfer the butter to a small condiment bowl and use immediately or stored in the refrigerator for later.


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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Pumpkin Crumb Muffins

Who doesn't love a delicious pumpkin muffin at the onset of fall? And, who doesn't love a delicious pumpkin muffin with crumb topping? You could pretty much top anything with crumb topping and I would be fully on board. Not only is this muffin, from Chris Scheuer at The Café Sucre Farine delicious, but it's easy to make as well. I'm not a baker, as I’ve said many times, one of the reasons is because, honestly, I hate dragging out that big stand mixer. This recipe saved me from that, requiring only a couple of bowls, a whisk, and a spoon, and I liked that.

I whipped these up in the morning while the coffee was brewing, and enjoyed the fragrance while they baked. Spread with pumpkin spice butter, they were absolute heaven. If you are the pumpkin spice nut that I am, you are really going to enjoy these. Consider also topping them with a slathering of
Pumpkin Cream Cheese. Fall is the time when we embrace pumpkin, and you're going to want to start right here.
Pumpkin Crumb Muffins

For the muffin batter:
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 cup pumpkin purée
¼ cup milk
cup melted butter
2 large eggs beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the crumb topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup brown sugar packed
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons butter melted

Preheat oven to 400˚F. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with baking spray or line with paper cupcake liners.

Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and pumpkin pie spice in a medium size bowl. Set aside.

Combine the pumpkin puree, milk, melted butter, eggs and vanilla in a separate bowl and mix well.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add the pumpkin mixture and stir, just until flour disappears. Scoop mixture into prepared pan.

For the crumb topping, combine flour, sugars, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Stir to combine. Add melted butter and stir with a fork until large crumbs form.
Divide crumb mixture between muffins pressing lightly on top of each as you go.

Place in oven and immediately reduce temperature to 350˚F. Bake for 20 minutes, then cover lightly with foil and bake another 5-7 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the muffins comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Shower with powdered sugar when completely cool, if desired.
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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Peppers of the Americas: The Remarkable Capsicums That Forever Changed Flavor, Reviewed


I'm not always a fan of single subject cookbooks because, what can I tell you, I bore easily. This cookbook, however, is the phenomenal exception to that rule. Written by New Jersey resident Maricel E. Presilla, who grows more than 200 varieties of peppers at her home, Peppers of the Americas: The Remarkable Capsicums that Forever Changed Flavor is the only pepper book that you are ever going to need. If you are familiar with some of her previous works, such as Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America, The New Taste of Chocolate, Revised: A Cultural & Natural History of Cacao with Recipes, and Mola: Cuna Life Stories and Art, then you are well aware of the beauty and quality of her work. This book is invaluable to the serious gardener, cook, and pepper lover, and is jam-packed with information. Her writing style is thoughtful and engaging. The photography is lovely, those that coordinate with recipes are mouthwatering, and there is a photo of each fresh and dried pepper, along with the history of each as well as information on taste, where each stands on the Scoville scale, and how best to use them.
I particularly liked the gallery of dried peppers as well as the copious information on not just drying, but smoking, storing, and pickling, as well as detailed instructions on how to make salts, powdered chilies, and pastes. Salts have become my passion of late, so this is going to be one of the first things that I try. If, like me, you have an interest in roasting peppers, you can learn how to do so; if your interest is in making pepper vinegars or other condiments, you can learn that as well. I was intrigued with the pepper spiced pineapple vinegar, and will be giving that a try.
In addition to being both guide and encyclopedia of peppers, as well as containing an excellent resource guide, the last third of the book contains recipes, one appearing more delicious than the other. There are so many that interested me I can't possibly list them here, but after I've made salts and vinegar, I'm going to try the Tamale Pie filled with Chicken and Chili Ancho Adobo.

Additionally, I appreciated the section on growing peppers, whether you choose to do so via seed, or purchased plants. I am an avid gardener, find peppers relatively easy to grow, but tend to stick with the mundane. This book has changed that for me. There is a list of where to obtain seeds for some of the more rare varieties, and I'm going to be making good use of that. I'm also going to be consulting the book come spring when it's time to plant.
I can't say enough about this book. If you have any interest in peppers at all, you must have this one.




Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Getting Ready for Fall


Fall is on the way. I don't have to look at the calendar to know that, all I have to do is step outside. There is a coolness in the air that wasn't there a week ago.
The mornings are darker, the evenings are shorter, and there is a crispness to the breeze that has me thinking about pumpkins and harvest time. Yesterday, while running errands, I happened to notice that the leaves on the trees are starting to turn. This is my favorite time of the year, and I love decorating for it.
As you all know, I have a bit of an obsession when it comes to dishes for which I make no apologies. I think of all the sets that I have, more of them relate to fall than anything else. I simply cannot get enough of them! Year after year I tell myself I need to stop and not buy any more, and then Pier 1, Pottery Barn, or Williams-Sonoma will come out with something that I just have to have.
One of the things that I find so appealing about setting a table for fall are the colors; I love greens of all sorts, amber, orange, and I particularly love plaids.
This year, Pier 1 had plaid dinner plates that absolutely made me swoon. Fortunately, Pier 1 always helps me out by making certain that one set of dishes blends nicely with another. So, the pumpkin plates that I got for my birthday nearly 3 years ago blend perfectly with the plaid plates of this year.
Now you get to enjoy them with me. Have a look at some of the things I've been getting out for this year. I love blending the old with the new, and I love fall.
Sources:
Mugs – Starbucks years ago
Pumpkin and plaid plates – Pier 1
Napkin – Pottery Barn
Faux leaves – Michael’s
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