lingonberry

Lingonberry Goat Cheese Spread

Cheese is a staple food item in this house.  We love the full spectrum: cheddar for tacos and sandwiches to flavored, specialty cheeses.  When I saw a unique jam (lingonberry) to try, I just knew I wanted to marry it with a spreadable cheese.

Before I go any further, perhaps you are wondering what is a lingonberry? It is a fruit of an evergreen shrub that is popular in Scandinavian cooking. It is similar in color and taste to the cranberry. If you can’t find lingonberry at your local store, just substitute a cranberry sauce or jam.

To make a colorful appetizer for Christmas, I decided to blend the lingonberry jam with some soft goat cheese and crushed pistachios.  Not only does it make for a pretty display, it is just as delicious as any of the pre-blended brands you can buy.

The recipe also lends itself to versatility.  I look forward to trying a blend of goat cheese with blueberry jam and quince paste, just to name a few.

lingonbery


Lingonberry Goat Cheese Spread

4 ounces goat cheese
2 tablespoons crushed pistachios
2 tablespoons lingonberry jam*

In a large bowl, stir together the goat cheese and pistachios until well blended.  Next, stir in the jam just until streaks of red and white remain.  Line a small bowl with plastic wrap and fold in the cheese. Press the cheese into the bowl to form.  Place a plate over the bottom of the bowl and invert; remove the plastic wrap and serve with crackers or bread.

*substitute another jelly or jam, such as cranberry, if desired

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loaded PB granola bars

Loaded Peanut Butter Granola Bars

If given a choice, my children would eat peanut butter every day for breakfast.  On top of the great taste, they enjoy getting to make breakfast on their own (if you can really call smothering a piece of bread with peanut butter cooking). Needless to say, we dissuade them with other, more filling choices.

This week I wanted to make something that was just as easy to serve, yet kept them begging to eat.  I made Loaded Peanut Butter Granola Bars. In addition to the peanut butter, the bars are filled with steel cut oats, puffed corn cereal, nuts, dates, and chia seeds. The kids LOVED them, and I am thrilled they get fiber, protein, and omega-3s. A family win!

loaded PB granola bars


Loaded Peanut Butter Granola Bars

3 cups steel cut oats
2 cups puffed corn cereal
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup pepitas
¼ cup chia seeds
¾ cup crunchy peanut butter
½ cup honey
3 tablespoons coconut oil

 

In a large bowl, mix together the oats, cereal, dates, pepitas, and chia seeds. In a small sauce pan, combine the peanut butter, honey, and oil. Heat over medium heat until melted. Pour over the oat mixture and stir to coat.  Cover the bottom and sides of a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with foil and cover with cooking spray, then spread in the granola mixture and press firmly.  Cover with a sheet of waxed paper and cover with another baking pan and weigh down.  Refrigerate for 1-2 hours than cut into bars.

Note: I used the recipe for Chocolate Monkey Bars from BH&G as a starting point for the peanut butter binder and wet to dry ratio.  The possibility of mix-ins are endless.

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Corn Alfredo Sauce

Corn Alfredo Sauce with Penne and Chicken

I love watching cooking shows (I’m sure you aren’t surprised), including Chopped.  I am always amazed by the random mix of ingredients in the baskets and the creative recipes that the chefs create.  I guess that is why I just had to try the Chopped contest sponsored by Del Monte and Food Network.  The virtual basket included fresh lemon, fresh basil, feta cheese, and one can of Del Monte corn. I had a few ideas that came to mind, but one I wanted to try was a Corn Alfredo served over Penne and Chicken.

corn alfredo sauce

  I replaced some the cream and flour typically used in an alfredo sauce with pureed corn, which also was a great way to sneak in some veggies. The alfredo sauce was seasoned with fresh lemon zest and feta to create a fresh and unique sauce that wowed my family.  I made a simple dish by tossing it with pasta and chicken, and then garnished it with fresh basil and black pepper. 

My recipe ended up in the middle of the gallery of entries for the contest.  Just browsing the submittals makes me hungry.  I can’t wait to try some of these other corn inspired dishes!

Corn Alfredo Sauce


Corn Alfredo Sauce with Penne, Chicken, and Basil

1 ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
15.25 ounce can of Del Monte Whole Kernel Corn, drained
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 pound penne pasta, cooked and drained
1 cup chopped, pre-cooked chicken
0.25 ounces fresh basil chiffonade
Black pepper for garnish

To make the corn alfredo sauce, place  whipping cream, corn, and lemon zest in a medium sized sauce pan and use an immersion blender to process until smooth.  Heat over medium heat until it reaches a simmer, then stir in feta cheese. Use the immersion blender again to process until smooth, then bring the sauce back up to a simmer. Place the pasta in a large bowl, remove the sauce from the heat and pour over the pasta.  Add the chicken, and stir until the pasta and chicken are coated with the corn alfredo sauce.  Garnish with the fresh basil and a dusting of black pepper and serve.

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boar ragout

Boar Ragout

You know me, I often like to try something new and different. This week I wanted to try ground boar (which I found in the freezer section of my local grocery store).  I decided to use the boar in a hearty, wintery ragout.

boar ragout

A mixture of roasted acorn squash, mushrooms, and purple potatoes, was tossed with a boar and rosemary sauce. I served the ragout over soft polenta, for a beautiful (and filling!) dinner.  The true test – would the kids eat it?  Sure enough, they asked for seconds of the nutty tasting boar ragout.  I’m glad they are willing to try all of mom’s wild new dishes!

boar ragout


Boar Ragout

1 small acorn squash
½ pound purple potatoes
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces baby bella mushrooms
1 lb boar meat
½ tablespoon fresh rosemary
½ tablespoon freshly minced garlic
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup beef stock
Polenta for serving (optional)
 

Heat oven to 350°F. Slice acorn squash in half, and remove seeds.  Cut in half moons and place on a greased baking sheet, cut side down.  Cut purple potatoes into 1 inch width circles, then cut into half moons; place on a greased large baking sheet along with onions.  Place both baking sheets in oven and bake for 30 minutes or until acorn squash and potatoes are tender.  Remove peels from squash and cut into chunks.

 Meanwhile,  heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Add mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes, or until browned.  Transfer mushrooms to a large bowl.  Add boar meat and brown over medium heat, about 10 minutes.  Add in rosemary, garlic, flour, and stock and simmer, stirring to mix in flour.  Remove from heat and stir in mushrooms, squash, and potatoes.   Serve with polenta, if desired.

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Pork Green Chili

Pork Green Chili

I like to make a big pot of chili as an easy dinner that provides plenty of leftovers for multiple meals (lunch included).  I tend to gravitate towards beef chili, but this week I was in the mood for a Pork Green Chili.

Pork Green Chili

I kept it simple by using my crock pot.  A pork loin was cooked until tender and easy to shred, and then creamed corn, green salsa, onions, and beans were added to make a hearty and tasty chili.  The green salsa had a fair amount of kick, providing a great base for the chili.  We ate ours with cheddar cheese grated on top, but a Monterey jack would compliment the dish just as well.

I’m sure I will tinker with this chili the next time I make it. I can never seem to make chili the same way twice.  What is your favorite chili mix in?


Pork Green Chili

4 lb pork loin
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup diced yellow onion
2 cups jarred green salsa
One, 14 ounce can creamed corn
One 15 ounce can northern beans, drained
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon cumin

Cheese for serving (optional) 

Place the pork loin in a crock pot with 2 cups of chicken stock on high for 4-6 hrs. Skim off the fat and shred, then add onion, salsa, corn, beans, cumin, and garlic.  Stir to combine and cook on high for 1 hour longer. Serve; refrigerate any leftovers.

Notes:  Looking for the same amount of kick? I used 505 Southwestern hatch green chili in medium for my chili. I was not sponsored for this post.

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asparagus casserole

Asparagus Casserole

Many Thanksgiving gatherings include a green bean casserole. There is no denying the creamy goodness of such a casserole, but I wanted to test out a version using asparagus (a favorite vegetable in my family) with a homemade sauce. 

Parboiled asparagus, get coated in a generous amount of a cream sauce, and mixed with sauuted onion, garlic, and cheese. Once baked and bubbly, it gets a dusting of crumbled bacon.  I’m sure this dish will be irresistible at our Holiday feast!

asparagus casserole


Asparagus Casserole

2 lbs asparagus
6 tablespoons butter, divided
1 cup diced yellow onion
½ tablespoon freshly minced garlic
4 tablespoons flour
1 ½ cups ½ and ½
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese
½ cup cooked and crumbled bacon

 

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large pot.  Add the asparagus and boil for 5minutes; drain and add asparagus to a greased 2.8 Liter casserole dish.

In a non-stick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of butter.  Once melted, add the onions and saute for 8-10 minutes, or until translucent and begin to brown.  Add the garlic during the last minute of saute; remove from the heat.  Return the non-stick skillet to the stove and melt the remaining butter over medium heat.  Add the flour to the butter and stir frequently for 2-3 minutes.  Slowly add the half & half, stirring until smooth and sauce begins to thicken.  Add the salt and pepper, then pour over the asparagus.  Add the onions, garlic, and Monterey jack cheese to the asparagus, and gently toss to evenly coat the asparagus with the sauce and cheese.

Heat oven to 350°F. Bake the casserole for 20 minutes, then top the casserole with the bacon and bake for 10 minutes longer, or until the casserole is hot and bubbly. Serve; refrigerate any leftovers.

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Maple Cashews

Maple Cashews

At family gatherings, my grandfather would always set out a bowl of cashews for a snack.  My guess is that this tradition started my love of cashews, which is why I tend to be the offender who will steal them from the mixed nuts if given the chance.

I use them periodically in my cooking, such as my Cashew Chicken Stuffed Avocados and Asian Salad, but this week I wanted to make a candied cashew for snacking and to serve at this year’s holiday gatherings.  I kept them simple – a mixture of maple syrup, oil, and allspice was all I needed to make a sugary glaze for the nuts.

Maple Cashews

After just 15 minutes of baking the Maple Cashews were ready for snacking.  I have enjoyed this treat throughout the week and I can’t wait to share them with my family.

Maple Cashews


Maple Cashews

¼ cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon allspice
2 cups cashews

Heat oven to 350°F.  In a small bowl, stir together the maple syrup, olive oil, and allspice. Place the cashews in a medium sized bowl, pour over the maple syrup mixture, and stir to coat. Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray, then spread the cashews over the sheet. Place in the oven for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the oven and cool completely; store in a cool, dry container.

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Sausage and Kale Soup

Sausage & Kale Soup

This week, one of the books my daughter brought home for reading homework was Stone Soup.  If you have never read the book, the story is about an impoverished town that comes together to share the small amounts of food they have to create a large and scrumptious kettle of soup. Reading about a “little bit of meat, a little bit of beans, and a little bit of carrots” got me thinking that a hearty soup was just the ticket for this weekend.  Not only would I get to use the last bit of kale from my garden, but it also would give me a vehicle to get more beans into the kid’s diet. 

 Sausage and Kale Soup

I chose mild Italian sausage as my “little bit of meat” since it would add a lot of flavor.  I rounded out the soup with kale, black beans, carrots, onions, and chicken broth.  The soup was delicious without being too heavy. The kids thought it was a fun way to bring the book to life. Stone soup never tasted so good!

Sausage and Kale Soup


Sausage and Kale Soup

1 lb mild Italian sausage, without casing
12 cups chicken stock
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced yellow onions
3 cups kale
One 15 ounce can or black beans, drained

 

Add the sausage to a large pot and brown and crumble over medium heat.  When the sausage is cooked through, add the stock, carrots, and onions.  Bring to a boil and add the kale and black beans.  Cook for until the kale is wilted, then serve.  Refrigerate any leftovers.

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spooky sandwich

Spooky Sandwiches

 Two months in to the school year and my daughter is bored with lunches.  To spice up her lunch box AND do something fun for Halloween, I decided to make an easy Spooky Sandwich.

 spooky sandwich

I bought a set of food markers (I found mine at Walmart, but a craft store would also be a good source) to decorate some lunch items.  It is best to draw on a more solid surface, such as royal icing, or in this case a tortilla.  Soft items like bread or oily/crumbly items don’t work well.

I drew skeletons onto one half of the tortilla before filling them with cheese to make quesadillas.  I also drew on sandwich rolls, just make sure to roll the sandwich first so that you don’t hide some of the image. 

This is such an easy way to bring a smile to your kiddos face without much effort.  Every now and then I plan on surprising my daughter with flowers or faces on her sandwiches!

spooky sandwich


Spooky Sandwiches

Food markers
Flour tortillas
Shredded cheddar cheese or cheese slices and lunch meat

 

Use food marker to draw on tortilla, then build quesadilla (or sandwich), and serve.

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Food & Nostalgia

When I was little, my parents would throw a Christmas party that was the highlight of the year (in a child’s eyes).  The house was decorated with trees galore and Santa was sure to make an appearance. Of course there was also the thrill of a banquet of food, treats, and dessert.  One year in particular sticks in my mind though. My parents packed us in the car, drove to downtown Chicago, and visited a soda shop. The shop sold soda in all sorts of flavors, which you could sample before purchase.  We settled on strawberry flavored and peppermint flavored pop for our party.  Pop was an infrequent treat, so to go to a specialty shop was extra special.

Unfortunately the store we visited is no longer in business, but a store recently opened in my neighborhood that specializes in soda.  Seeing the store refreshed my holiday memory, so of course I had to take a peek at their flavors.  The flavors range from unique to wacky and are too numerous to list here.  However, here are a few that sounded interesting enough to try:

 

Perhaps I will have to see if they have a peppermint flavored version I could sample over Christmas.  Do you have any fun, food related memories?

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Cape Gooseberry

Gooseberry Salsa

I had mentioned that I went a little bit nuts with the purchase of exotic fruits a few weeks ago. This is my third, and final exotic fruits post for a while. The feature of today’s post is cape gooseberries. The gooseberries of my childhood were of the green variety, which grew in my grandmother’s backyard. I had never see orange gooseberries that resembled tomatillos in packaging, meaning a paper thin husk that surrounds the fruit.

Cape Gooseberry
Cape gooseberries, which are also referred to as ground cherries, have a unique and hard to describe flavor. It is a combination of a bunch of sweet and tart fruits rolled into one, such that I can only suggest you give it a try to see what I mean.
To showcase the flavor I chose to make a simple salsa. I mixed diced cape gooseberries with red onion, green onion, lime juice, and honey, which served as a topping for roasted chicken.

Cape Gooseberry
OK, so cape gooseberries might be hard to find, but I still like trying new things. What unique fruit do you want to recommend?


Gooseberry Salsa

20 cape gooseberries, quartered (~3-4 ounces)
2 tablespoons diced red onions
2 tablespoons diced green onions
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon honey

 

Mix together the gooseberries, red onion, green onion, lime juice, and honey.  Stir to combine and refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

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Smoked Salmon Alfredo

Smoked Salmon Alfredo

This week I had a taste for lox and all of the typical accompaniments – tomatoes, cream cheese, onions, etc.  But instead of making a breakfast spread, I turned it into a Smoked Salmon Alfredo. 

Smoked Salmon Alfredo

The cream cheese was blended into a smooth sauce for spaghetti, which served as the base for my other mix-ins.  The star of the entree is the smoked salmon, which is broken into chunks and scattered through the dish. Even my husband (who isn’t super fond of a pasta-seafood combo) loved it. I hope you enjoy this spin on a classic just as much!

smoked salmon alfredo


Smoked Salmon Alfredo

8 ounces cream cheese
4 ounce half and half
1 lb spaghetti
8 ounces baby tomatoes
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup diced green onions
½ cup diced red onion
6 ounces smoked salmon, broken into chunks

 

In a small sauce pan, place the cream cheese and half and half and simmer over medium heat until the cream cheese is melt; stirring frequently.  While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta according to package directions. During the last minute of pasta cooking, add the tomatoes to the water with the pasta.  Drain the pasta and tomatoes and add to a large bowl.  Stir the salt and pepper in to the cream sauce, and pour the sauce over the pasta and stir to coat.  Add the green onions, red onions, and smoked salmon to the pasta, stir to evenly mix and serve.

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