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Monthly Archives: December 2011

Fresh snow for Christmas!!!

I was so excited when I got out of bed this morning! We had about 5 inches of fresh snow covering everything…just in time for a White Christmas in New England! Yippee!! It made for a messy drive to work, but worth it.

I’ve done a little research and discovered that a White Christmas has many definitions. In some places, it’s good enough to have snow on the ground come Christmas morning, although the amounts vary. In other places, it must actually snow during the 24 hours of Christmas day – even if it’s only one snowflake mixed with rain.

For me, snow on the ground is good enough! I have always lived in New England and it “feels” like Christmas to me when the ground is white and it’s cold outside. Maybe we’ll build a snowman or woman… Maybe we’ll go snowshoeing while the turkey is cooking… Or, maybe we’ll just sit by the fire, listen to Christmas music and look at the tree while sipping a steaming cup of coffee… Whatever we choose, we’ll enjoy being together and relaxing!

P.S.  Sorry, no recipe with this post, just my wishes to everyone for a holiday filled with peace, laughter and joy!

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Posted by on December 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Baked Apple Pancake…a special morning!

Happy Holidays to all! This post will be short and sweet. I wanted to share this recipe, just in case anyone was looking for that little extra special breakfast for Christmas morning. It’s more than a regular pancake made on the stove – it’s baked in the oven and very simple to prepare (especially after the long night of wrapping presents and assembling toys). It’s light and fluffy, plus it has the sweetness of baked apples and cinnamon. And, of course, it’s gluten-free!

If a large cast iron skillet is not available, use an 8 x 8 inch baking dish or a large deep-dish pie plate. My family will only eat it with real maple syrup (the real stuff is truly the best)!

Have a wonderful holiday!

Baked Apple Pancake 

2 tablespoons butter

2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ cup pecans, chopped

4 eggs

1¼ cup Pamela’s Baking & Pancake Mix

1¼ cup milk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a large 10-inch cast iron skillet (or 8 x 8 baking dish), heat butter, apples, cinnamon and pecans together in oven while it’s pre-heating. Cook, stirring occasionally, until apples begin to soften. Place eggs, Pamela’s mix and milk in a blender and puree until smooth. Pour batter over apples in the pre-heated skillet (or dish) and stir briefly to blend with apple mixture. Return skillet (or dish) to oven and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake for 10 more minutes, until golden brown. Serve with real maple syrup. Makes 4 servings.

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2011 in Breakfast

 

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Shepherd’s Pie… a great, one-dish comfort meal!

Mmmm... so good!

My son arrived home from college this week!! My husband and I are so happy to have him around the house again. He worked in another state over last summer, so we only saw him for brief periods. I know we just spent Thanksgiving week with him (see earlier post “What’s in your suitcase …?”), but it’s still good to have him home for a longer stay. He’s a really good kid and we all enjoy doing things together.

One of the things we really enjoy is sharing a good meal! I made a hearty clam chowder last night with a fresh tomato and mozzarella salad, fresh bread (not gluten-free) with olive oil and parmesan cheese for dipping. Tonight, I made Shepherd’s Pie with ground turkey.

Shepherd’s Pie is a wonderful comfort food and can be adapted for anyone’s taste preferences. It’s a great one-dish meal. You can add any vegetables, spices, or different types of meat and it tastes great all blended together. Both my husband and son only eat seafood or poultry (no red meat), so ground turkey is a great substitute. The dish my mother made when I was growing up had ground beef, corn and mashed potatoes. Very simple. As my taste buds matured, I learned to enjoy some extra spiciness, so I began adding garlic, oregano, basil, onions, cheese and extra vegetables – like mushrooms, spinach, or shredded carrots. I put spices and some veggies in with the meat to cook and absorb flavor and other veggies, like fresh spinach, layered on top of the meat. The potatoes are always the final layer. There really is no wrong way to make a Shepherd’s Pie, so have fun, and try some new veggies or spices! Bon apetit!

Shepherd’s Pie 

 3-4 large baking potatoes, cut into chunks, skin on

¼ cup milk

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 lb. ground meat (beef, turkey or lamb)

½ cup chopped onion

½ cup chopped mushrooms

1 garlic clove, minced

½ teaspoon dried basil

salt/pepper to taste

1 (15 oz.) can corn, drained

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup shredded cheese (your choice – cheddar, monterey jack, mozzarella,…)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a large baking dish. In a large pot, place potato chunks, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until potatoes are soft when pricked with a fork. Drain well. Add milk and mash with a beater or masher. Set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, add ground meat and thoroughly cook through. Drain fat, if needed. Add onion, mushrooms, garlic, spices and cook until onions start to soften – about 5 more minutes. Layer the meat mixture in the bottom of the greased baking dish. Layer the canned corn on top of the meat. Evenly spread the mashed potatoes on top of the vegetables. Place the butter and cheese on top of the mashed potatoes. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Makes 4-6 servings.

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2011 in Main Meals

 

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Immersion Blender…my new favorite kitchen gadget!!

Okay, I think I’ve found a new favorite kitchen gadget! I also realize I may be behind the times significantly for not having bought one of these sooner. I’ve seen them used so often on the Food Network channel and always thought it would be nice to own one.

It all started yesterday when my husband and I went Christmas shopping for ourselves. This year, we decided to get each other useful things and not keep them a surprise – we’d go shopping together! My husband wanted a new full-size blender because he makes protein fruit/vegetable smoothies for breakfast every day (yes, every day!) and our blender was beginning to struggle with his ingredients. He puts everything but the kitchen sink in his smoothies! We decided to go into Portland, Maine and shop at the Leroux Kitchen store on Commercial Street (http://www.lerouxkitchen.com). We just LOVE kitchen stores -they give us so many great ideas!

So, after he picked out his blender, I decided to ask about an immersion blender. I like the idea of blenders and food processors, but you have to transfer your ingredients to their container and there are so many pieces and parts to clean and dismantle after you’ve used it, that I’d rather spend the time hand chopping things myself. But, the immersion blender can be used right inside the pot or bowl or mug with all the ingredients in the original container and there is only one part to remove and clean. It’s so easy! Now we have a full-size blender and an immersion blender – Merry Christmas to us!

I used my new immersion blender for the first time this morning and I think I’m in love!!! (We both decided not to wait until Christmas to use our gifts – we’re grown-ups and we can handle it!) What I used it on was nothing special or fancy and there’s no recipe in this post to “Wow” anyone. But it sure was FUN!!!

I put some water, frozen mango cubes, frozen blueberries and a little agave syrup in a two-cup container, submerged my immersion blender and let her rip! It gave me a frozen fruit smoothie that tasted fresh and delicious. I can’t wait to use it on my next soup or to froth some milk for a cappuccino or whip up a fresh salad dressing. My mind is spinning with ideas!

I’ll keep you updated on what I whip up in my kitchen!

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2011 in Kitchen Gadgets

 

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Potato Leek Soup with Crabmeat… Wow!

A "10"? You decide...

Winter has been slow in coming to Maine this year. We’ve had unusually warm temperatures, after the foot of wet snow the day before Thanksgiving! That snow is gone now, but we had a little dusting last night. I hope we get a bit more in time for Christmas. I’ve always lived in New England and Christmas without snow is just not right! I like a cold and white Christmas season!

Another reason I like the colder weather is the chance to eat more hot soups. Sometimes they’re the whole meal and sometimes just a starter. This past weekend, I decided to try a new one. I’d bought a leek at the grocery store in hopes of turning it into a yummy soup. I have a cookbook that specializes in Maine soups (Superb Maine Soups by Cynthia Finnemore Simonds — https://secure.downeast.com/books/maine/superb-maine-soups.html ), so I looked there first. I liked her recipe, but as my usual scientific nature took over, I experimented with it, changed it and made it my own!

My husband rated this soup a “10” followed by a “Wow”! I should clarify that my husband is not a picky eater, but because he is now eating gluten-free food, the “Wow” factor is sometimes harder to get. The crabmeat I added to this soup made it really filling and it was our main meal for the day, with a simple gluten-free roll on the side. I’m sure it would also taste great without the crabmeat – your choice!

Potato Leek Soup with Crabmeat

 1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

1 celery stalk, chopped

1 large carrot, chopped

1 leek  (slice vertically, remove roots and dark green leaves), rinse and chop finely

6 small new potatoes, diced, skin on

1 clove garlic, minced

dash of salt/pepper

3 cups vegetable stock

¼ teaspoon dried dill

6 oz. crabmeat, fresh or canned

1 can (12 oz.) whole evaporated milk

In a large soup pot, heat oil and butter on medium-high heat until melted. Add chopped celery, carrot and leek and sauté until tender. Add in diced potatoes and garlic. Add a dash of salt and pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often. Slowly pour in vegetable stock. Add dried dill, turn the heat down to simmer and cook until potatoes are soft when stuck with a fork. Once potatoes are soft, use a potato masher to break up the large chunks of potatoes. (It does not have to be a uniform texture.) Add the crabmeat and evaporated milk and simmer until heated through. Serve with a pinch of fresh chopped parsley, if desired. Makes 4 servings.

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2011 in Soups

 

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