Category Archives: Vegetables

fries, torta, parmasean, sauteed vegetables, roasted vegetables

Best Baked Beans! – Show 101

Best Baked Beans! – Show 101

Every time there’s a get together in my neighborhood the first thing that comes to mind, “I hope Linda brings her baked beans!” That’s how good these baked beans are! My friend and neighbor, Linda, graciously offered up her recipe so that I may share it with all of you. Linda titles the recipe “Sue’s Baked Beans” because she got the recipe from her sister Sue who got the recipe from their mom! No matter what the title it’s one great family recipe.

Just the thought of bacon, sauteéd onions and creamy beans and you’ve got my attention. These are a few of the ingredients that go into this Best Baked Beans recipe. Other key ingredients are brown sugar, honey mustard, garlic granules, and to balance out the whole dish  apple cider vinegar, of course.

It’s really fairly simple especially since the recipe calls for canned beans. Shhhh …no one has to know that, lol! These beans, in my opinion, taste like they are made from scratch. Our time is very valuable and if you can make baked beans that taste like this you’re one step ahead of the game. These best beaked beans are creamy, flavorful, and a wonderful balance between sweet and tangy making a great addition to grilled fish, chicken, pulled pork or sausages. These will become your go to baked bean recipe once you taste them!

For some other fun BBQ ideas, Homemade BBQ Sauce, Grilled-Marinated Steak on Skewers, Seared Sea Scallops or Stout Braised Pulled Beef Short Ribs and don’t forget to end the meal with some Homemade Hersheys Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake topped with GHOST Peeps!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients:

  • Bush Beans – Vegetarian (large can undrained)
  • Black beans- 15 oz. can (drained and rinsed)
  • Kidney beans – 15 oz. can (drained and rinsed)
  • Butter beans – 15 oz. can (drained and rinsed)
  • Cannelloni beans – 15 oz. can (drained and rinsed)
  • Bacon – 8 slices Boars Head
  • 2 to 3 onions (chopped)
  • ½ cup cider vinegar (add more if you like tangy vs. sweet)
  • 2 to 3 tbls. honey mustard
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • Ground pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Add the 5 cans of beans to a large mixing bowl
  2. Cook bacon in skillet until crisp, drain on paper towels and then crumble into small pieces–save 2 tbls grease
  3. In the same skillet cook chopped onions in the 2 tbls bacon grease until soft
  4. Then add in the crumbled bacon, cider vinegar, brown sugar, honey mustard, garlic powder, and ground pepper and simmer for 10-15 minutes
  5. Pour this mixture over beans and mix well.
  6. Pour into baking crock or dish and bake at 350 degrees for one hour….delicious!

 

 

 

CT Style with Ryan & Kat Making Mediterranean Chicken Kabobs!

CT Style with Ryan & Kat Making Mediterranean Chicken Kabobs!

I’m always thrilled to be back on CT Style and that’s where I was this past Friday with Ryan Kristafer & Kat Cosley sharing one of my favorite recipes, Mediterranean Chicken Kabobs made with Greek yogurt. This recipe originated from a show I taped at a beach house right here in Madison two years ago with my friend Maria. It’s delicious on the grill outside and I show on easy it is to grill indoors using my “Lodge” reversible cast iron grill-pan.

I had a wonderful time in The Bender Kitchen meeting Kat Cosley, and as always, with Ryan Kristafer’s quick wit sense of humor he takes it up a notch! Having two little ones of her own Kat totally gets the convenience of being able to make different versions of these flavorful Mediterranean meals which can be made ahead for a busy family,

The Mediterranean Yogurt Chicken Kabobs are one of my all time favorites because it’s such a simple process and just so good for you! Marinate, skewer and BBQ…thats it! This recipe oringially came from Epicurious but as I always do, I tweaked it a bit when it was given to me adding in Spanish smoked paprika, a mild, sweet yet smokey spice thats gives a wonderful addition to the recipe.

 

The sides that go with the kabobs, the homemade tzatziki, hummus and green goddess sauce can be a great compliment to grilled steaks, pork or veal chops, scallops or any fish! These flavors really brighten up any dish. 

You can click on the links above to get to the recipe pages on my website that go with this live cooking segement on CT Style and they are also offered on the CT Style website as well.

You may be looking for something sweet after all these savory dishes so you should check out some of my other recipes like authentic Baklava, Chocolate Crackle Cookies, my own Chocolate Chip Cookie Creation, Drunk Blondie Bars, or Chocolate Pecan Pie

 

 

 

 

 

 

CT Style in The Bender Kitchen with Summertime Recipes!

CT Style in The Bender Kitchen with Summertime Recipes!

 

 

 

 

Back on CT Style in The Bender Kitchen with Ryan Kristafer and Teresa Dufour this past Thursday morning!  I feel so fortunate to be working with such a wonderful group of people at WTNH Channel 8 who make it so fun to share The Traveling Epicurean recipes with all of you.

My goal for this segment was to show you a couple of creative and really delicious ideas for all your summertime produce. Panzanella and Berries in Dreamy Cream came to mind.

One of the wonderful things about making these dishes is the abundance and variety you have to choose from at the farmers markets in the summer. The incredible flavors in this Panzanella recipe go without saying. All the aroma’s from the fresh herbs, basil, parsley, thyme & oregano to the fresh vegetables like the heirloom tomatoes, garlic, cucumbers, red onions really get you salavating. The creaminess from the fresh mozzarella and the crunchy from the homemade croutons balance it all out.

As for the Berries in Dreamy Cream, you can whip this one up in a matter of minutes as well. I’ve been making this sauce for over 20 years and always get the same delightful response from guests after their first bite. You would never think that melting Fluff and cream cheese together could make such a delectable sauce on fresh berries. It’s a sensation you have to treat your self to and then you’ll know what I’m talking about.

For other scrumptious, easy go to summertime dishes you’ve got to check out my Salsa 101, Best Guacamole Ever, Zucchini Spaghetti,  Fresh Grarden Tomato Sauce or Roasted Garlic & Cannelini Bean Dip ! ENJOY!

CT Style in The Bender Kitchen with Teresa & Ryan Making Manicotti!

CT Style in The Bender Kitchen with Teresa & Ryan Making Manicotti!

With Easter right around the corner I was excited to be back on CT Style in The Bender Kitchen with Ryan and Teresa so I could share with you my family’s secret recipe for homemade manicotti. These delicate pasta crepes are the lightest manicotti you’ll ever have. They are oozing with mozzarella, covered in tomato-basil sauce and topped with grated Pecorino Romano cheese and are sure to turn heads at the dinner table!

Italian tradition always includes a yummy side dish to go along with the ham, leg of lamb, turkey, salmon or tenderlion like manicotti, lasagna, eggplant rollatini or parmesan. Comfort food bringing it all together, an Italian side dish makes such a nice compliment to what ever meat or fish you choose.

This homemade manicotti recipe is a poured crepe-like batter and in my opinion it’s a whole lot easier then making a tradition rolled out pasta. Making the pasta crepe is like making pancakes or French crepes. On my manicotti recipe page I show you detailed pictures of how to make them. The YouTube “Manicotti Show” that’s embeded there also includes very detailed instruction on how to make these walking you thru each step making it very easy for you to follow and learn.

I love cooking for everyone on the CT Style set who seemed to love the manicotti because there weren’t any left over…makes the chef very happy! The lettuce wedges with Roasted Blue Cheese & Buttermilk Dressing (stay tuned for an up and coming show on that one) and crumbled bacon were a big hit too and lets not forget those Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies! 

Once you introduce these delectable homemade manicotti into your family’s holiday dinner you’ll find it becoming part of your tradition too! Other wonderful side dishes you could add into your dinner, my Creamed Onions, Steak House Creamed Spinach or zucchini torta! Don’t forget about Ricotta Pie or Greek Baklava both crowd pleasers at parties! Enjoy and Happy Holidays! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

Torta de Pollo with Chef Mark

Torta de Pollo with Chef Mark

Torta de Pollo is a delicious and innovative way to change up the ole chicken pot pie not to mention it’s a down right fun thing to do! That’s what Chef Mark has done here layering tortilla’s with chicken and vegetables instead using a traditional pie crust. A Spanish Dry Sherry, called Amontillado, certainly takes this chicken pot pie version to a new level. Using these tortilla’s will save you time from making and fussing with a pie crust and who doesn’t love that.

Chef Mark has some wonderful flavor building steps going on here in his Torta de Pollo as he graces us with his truffle salt and Himalayan salt rock.  Let’s not forget his de-glazing of the veggies with this Spanish Dry Sherry called Amontillado by Savory and James that every kitchen should carry for a mere $13 a bottle. It would be silly not to have this in your cubbard!

Using the tortilla’s instead of the pie crust gives this Torta de Pollo an almost creamy texture. Changing up a chicken pot pie recipe like this, swapping out the tortilla’s for the pie crust, is such a creative and easy thing to do. It reminds me of a couple other of my favorites like chicken enchiladas or chicken cordon blue because of the swiss cheese in with the layers.

No baking time is another wonderful feature of this recipe. Once you sauté the veggies and make the “special sauce” consisting of chicken stock, rosemary, heavy cream and Spanish sherry you then cover the torta with this delectable sauce and flash broil it for 3-5 minutes…voilà! You certainly won’t be disappointed with this one! Enjoy and have fun using your favorite vegetables!

My BEST Crab Cakes with Homemade Thousand Island Dressing would make a great appetizer addition to the Torta de Pollo, and, or my Baked Aparagus Wrapped in Prosciuto. Don’t forget to have a yummy salad on the side like a Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons or Fennel and Citrus Salad with a Tangering Dressing! You’ll definitely need a sweet in your back pocket so go for the Death by Chocolate Meringue Pie and that should do the trick!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients for Torta de Pollo:

  • 1 rotisserie chicken
  • 1 pkg 8″ flour tortilla’s
  • 3/4 cups Emmetaler Swiss cheese – NOTE: 1/4 cup is for “the special sauce”
  • 3/4 cups Comté cheese – NotE: 1/4 cup is for “the special sauce”
  • 1/2 cup each chopped broccoli and cauliflower
  • 1/4 each, julienne parsnips, chopped peppers & celery
  • 1/2 lb portabella mushrooms thinly sliced
  • 1/2 lb small assorted colored potatoes, purple & yellow THINLY sliced
  • 1/3 cup frozen peas
  • 1 lg garlic clove thru press
  • 1 shallots sliced
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup dry sherry
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt (truffle salt if you have it)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 9 x 13 baking dish (will be wider then the tortilla’s
  • fresh rosemary for “Special Sauce” – recipe below
  • 1 cup heavy cream for “Special Sauce” – recipe below

Directions for Torta de Pollo:

  1. Remove all the meat from the rotisserie chicken
  2. Slice up the chicken to bite size pieces and set aside
  3. Add remaining rotisserie chicken, the bones & the skin to a medium size pot and add 1 celery stalk, onion skin, and 1 carrot cover with water and bring to a simmer for 1/2-1 hr
  4. Warm sliced de-boned chicken in a medium pan with 1 cup chicken stock on low heat
  5. Put sliced mushrooms in a hot sauté pan and cook for 5 minutes, stir after a minute…don’t worry if they seem to stick it’s ok
  6. Now add 1/4 tsp salt to mushrooms
  7. Move sautéed mushrooms to the side and add in 2 tbsp olive oil with the slice potaotes
  8. Sauté potatoes for 3 minutes
  9. Then add parnips, peppers, celery, garlic, shallots and lemon zest
  10.  Add in broccoli, cauliflower, cook 1 minute
  11. Deglaze with 1/3 cup dry sherry
  12. Add in frozen peas, add 1 cup chicken stock, bring to a simmer
  13. Stir in 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp Berbere spice
  14. Let veggie reduce 5 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated
  15. Put wrapped 10-12 flour tortilla’s in foil in a warm oven
  16. Begin to layer Torta de Pollo
  17. Add 3 tbsp chicken chicken stock to bottom of baking dish
  18. Begin with tortilla, then 1/2 cup chicken & 1/4 cup swiss, then a tortilla, 1/2 cup veggies (without any excess juice), tortilla, and repeat until 10 layers – 4 or 5 chicken layers & 4 or 5 veggie layers. Note: push down slightly as you are layering to keep shape flatter
  19. Make “Special Sauce” -see below
  20. Pour all the sauce over the Torta de Pollo and place under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, til slightly bubbly
  21. Slice and serve with a drizzle of extra sauce over the top…mmm!

Ingredients & Directions for “Special Sauce”:

  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup dry sherry
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup shredded Comte swiss cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Emmentaler swiss cheese
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp fresh chopped rosemary
  1. Using same veggie sauté pan add in first 3 ingredients, and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes
  2. Reduce slightly and then stir in cheeses, rosemary, s & p
  3. Pour over Torta de Pollo to place under broiler

 

Smoothie Demo at Funktion Fitness!

Smoothie Demo at Funktion Fitness!

Giving my favorite “Mango-Kale Smoothie” demo for the staff and members at Funktion Fitness this past Thursday morning was tons of fun! The best part was seeing all their smiling faces after taking the first sip of my Mango-Kale Smoothie. They really loved how refreshing and fruity the smoothie was. Like I always say, if it wasn’t green you wouldn’t even know there was kale in it!

In my opinion, finding a balance is the key to everything in life. Getting my dose of endorphins thru spin class at my gym, Funktion Fitness, is just as important to me as having a healthy go to energy drink. And not just any old healthy energy drink but one that’s as delicious as my Mango-Kale Smoothie! The best thing is attaining these things and enjoying yourself to the point where it just doesn’t seem like work at all!

Having an awesome motivator, like my spin instructor Heather Theriault at Funktion Fitness, is half the battle. She has so much enthusiam for life and that work ethic of hers making your workout super tough but so gosh darn fun it goes by in a flash…can’t ask for anything better then that!

So it’s up to you to find some kind of exercise outlet that makes you happy, and gets you your weekly dose of mood boosters, endorphins. As for the healthy energy drinks, I’ve got you covered with my scrumptious smoothies to give you those weekly boosts helping you to keep powering thru your day with a smile…enjoy!

CLICK HERE TO FIND THE RECIPE, INGREDIENTS AND DIRECTIONS TO MY MANGO-KALE SMOOTHIE ! You can get really creative with your smoothies and I show you how in one of my other smoothie shows “My Energy Smoothies 101. You’ll want to take a jump over to my Mango Salsa Recipe page as well and don’t forget to make my Best Guacamole Ever Recipe … never any left over where ever I take it!

Energy Smoothies 101

 

 

 

 

Mango-Kale Smoothie!

 

 

 

Best Guacamole Ever and Crostini with Skirt Steak & Guac!

 

 

 

Mango Salsa with Pulled Beef Tacos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#1 Meatball at Kevin & Jori’s

#1 Meatball at Kevin & Jori’s

It was definitely worth the wait to find out how to make Kevin and Jori Smith’s oh so sucullent and flavorful meatballs! It took a little patience to sync our schedules thru this busy holiday season but we were finally able to tape these #1 Meatball winners from the recent competition,  “Lisa & Vin’s 2016 Meatball Throw Down”! It’s a team effort between Kevin and Jori that produces one of the best meatball’s I have ever tasted. Watch out Dan Holzman from “The Meatball Shop” in NYC for these amazing meatballs will turn heads!

Come to find out Kevin and Jori won Lisa & Vin’s Meatball Competition the year before as well! Once you have your first bite into these melt-in-your-mouth meatballs you will know exactly why.

Not only were we eating Kevin and Jori’s amazing meatballs while taping the #1 Meatball show but Vin made is homemade pasta we call “The Trucals” from the show “Homemade Pasta at Vin’s”. Vin makes his pasta with a special roller called the trucal iron hence the name “The Trucals”.  This trucal iron that belonged to his grandfather cuts thick strands of pasta as you roll over it making for a hardy, chewy, yet tender strand of pasta.

If it couldn’t get any better then that Kevin added in an incredible garlic-basil bread and Jori her luscious tomato-basil salad with fresh Burrata cheese! Talk about the perfect meal…OMG! I am truly excited that I am able to bring you Kevin and Jori’s winning meatball reicpe. I know you will love them as much as I do!

You will need to have some amazing desserts up your sleeve to live up to these meatball standards like my Drunk Blondie Bars with a Caramel Bourbon Sauce, Chocolate Crackle Cookies, OR my Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe! Then there’s Death by Chocolate Meringue Pie or a Chocolate Pecan Pie where you’ll always need just one more little fork full! LOL.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Bottom photos courtesy of Gianni Esposito)

Ingredients for #1 Meatball Makes Approx 55 Meatballs:                                                                -Note: this is a large recipe… you can 1/2 the reicpe for a lesser amount of course and remember meatballs FREEZE really  well, raw or cooked!

  • 6 lbs meat: 2 lb. ground beef 80/20, 2 lb. ground veal, 2lb. ground pork
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh garlic
  • 2 whole heads roasted garlic (Keep garlic heads in foil the whole time for this meatball recipe)
  • 3 cups grated pecorino romano grated cheese
  • 2 3/4 cups homemade ciabatta bread crumbs – 2 loaves of ciabatta – the bottom 1/2’s
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped Prociutto di Parma
  • 4 lg basil leaves
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 7 eggs (Kevin likes 1 1/2 egg per lb of meat)

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400º
  2. Drizzle 2 heads of garlic with a tbsp of olive oil wrap in foil, place into oven for 35-40 minutes
  3. Slice loaves of ciabatta in 1/2, save tops for garlic bread – recipe for spread below
  4. Cut up bottom havles in small cubes, place on a cookie tray and bake until golden approx. 12 minutes
  5. Cool bread cubes then pulse to a crumb in a food processor
  6. Add ground beef, veal, and pork to a large mixing bowl
  7. Add in chopped prosciutto, salt, Percorino cheese, and bread crumbs
  8. Mix with hands to start combining
  9. Add in 7 lg eggs to meat and again mix with hands to combine, folding meat over and over
  10. Squeeze roasted garlic bulbs out of their sleeves and put into food processor or little chopper with olive oil and 4 basil leaves and purée
  11. Add this mixture to the meatball mixture and again mix folding over and over to combine
  12. Roll into 2″ size meatballs
  13. Pour 1/2″ high olive oil into large sauté pan and heat on med/high – MUST BE OLIVE OIL!
  14. Add in 8-9 meatballs at a time, don’t over crowd pan
  15. Cook on all sides until golden approx 6 minutes
  16. Remove to plate and serve with pasta, you can find Vin’s homemade pasta, “The Trucals” which are sooooo worth the effort!
  17. Serve with garlic bread too…mangia mangia 🙂

Garlic Bread Spread:

  • Ciabatta tops
  • 3/4 stick softened butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pecorino grated cheese
  • 4 basil leaves chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves finely chopped

Mix all ingredients above, smear onto ciabatta halves and bake for 12-15 minutes on 375º YUM!

Creamed Onions

Creamed Onions

Creamed Onions, inspired by my Grandma Reilly, are put together in mere minutes then baked in the oven until bubbly making for the perfectly saucey side dish. My secret ingredient in the creamed onions offers a suble flavor bringing together the heavy cream, half and half, white wine, chicken broth, and mild Emmentaler Swiss cheese.

The secret addition in these creamed onions that give’s this dish that extra special something is evaporated milk. A small amount of Emmentaler is the other delicate flavor. Emmentaler is a very mild swiss cheese with remarkable melting qualities usually found in fondue recipe’s. I never got the recipe from my Grandma but thru many yummy test runs figured it out and have been making this recipe for over 15 years.

I began reminiscing about my Grandma’s Reilly’s holiday dishes when Pem McNerney, Living Editor, for The Source and other Shoreline newpapers recently sent me an email with a list of questions pertaining to Thanksgiving asking me if I wanted to elaborate, I was happy to oblige. Look for the hyper-links below the creamed onion recipe to help with your Thanksgiving Dinner!

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Ingredients for Creamed Onions:

  • 2 frozen bags (approx 2 lbs.) of white pearls onions 14 – 16 oz each bag
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1/2 cup white wine- chardonay
  • 1/2 chicken broth
  • 1 small can evaporated milk (the 5 oz can)
  • 1/2 cup grated Emmentaler Swiss cheese
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp finely grated blk pepper OR white pepper

Directions for Creamed Onions:

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add frozen white pearl onions
  2. Bring back to a simmer, and keep simmering for 20 minutes
  3. Mix corn starch and Emmentaler cheese in a small bowl, set aside
  4. Remove simmering pearl onions to the baking dish with a slotted spoon
  5. Drain water from sauce pan
  6. Using SAME pan (no need to clean) add heavy cream, half and half, evaporated milk, chix broth, and salt and pepper and bring to a low bubbling simmer
  7. Whisk in Emmentaler cheese-corn starch mixture until combined, 20 seconds…keep whisking until melted in and then…
  8. Remove from heat immediately and pour over onions in baking dish
  9. Stir to even coating onions and bake for 35 minutes on 350º until bubbly, it will be golden around the egdes
  10. Note: Grilled ribeye or Filet Mignon, creamed onions and a drizzle of truffle oil is OUTRAGEOUS! Enjoy! 🙂
  11. NOTE: These creamed onions get even better when re-heated because the onions break down a little and melt into the sauce…MMM!

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Thanksgiving Memories

When I think of Thanksgiving many nostalgic memories come rushing in. It’s easy to do with all the aroma’s of this festive season.  The first fond memories I had of Thanksgiving were going to Grandma Reilly’s house having her homemade pies and creamed onions! The blueberry pie with a crispy, flaky crust and oozing sweet blueberries was my favorite. Her lemon meringue pie at a very close second. Not that her creamed onions didn’t leave a huge impression on me. Unfortunately, I never did get her pie crust recipes but have spent many hours fooling with pie crusts until I got it right, my “perfect pie crust in 5 minutes” with a “blueberry pie” filling to emulate her’s! –  http://thetravelingepicurean.com/perfect-pie-crust-in-5-minutes/  and  http://thetravelingepicurean.com/best-blueberry-pie/ .

The hard thing about Thanksgiving is there are so many dishes to make it can be exhausting. There’s the dilemma of which one’s are tradition, which one’s your favorite and can I eliminate any of them? The best answer is don’t be a control freak or a kitchen hog and have everyone join in doing their part, laughing, mixing, tasting, working along side of you. It’s ok to delegate out some of those tasks. Then it doesn’t seem like work at all! This being said, one Thanksgiving in particular comes to mind. Years ago while living in San Francisco my dear friends Lisa, Bobby, Pam and John came out West with their children and parents to visit more family and invited us to stay with them as well.  

This was a grand occasion, not only was I excited to be with my nostalgic East coast friend’s for this Thanksgiving holiday but they rented out The Historic Spreckels House in Sonoma, CA. It was breathtaking! We went wine tasting, played football on the grounds, and read lots of storybook’s to the little ones. The lasting impression for me here was all the fun we had in the kitchen. We all pitched in together to make a gourmet Thanksgiving dinner that could have been a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting. My contribution to the dinner were my “Easy Icebox Dinner Rolls” that I dredged in chopped green onion and fresh rosemary. Nothing like adding to the aroma’s of roasted turkeys then with that of fresh baked breads. – http://thetravelingepicurean.com/easy-icebox-dinner-rolls-2/

The great thing about these icebox rolls is you can make the dough 4 days ahead. I call that brilliant! It’s key to staying sane on a holiday like Thanksgiving. These rolls have turned into tradition for me and my family, a dish that everyone asks about when ever they arrive. My friend Laura, and loyal Traveling Epicurean follower from Carmel, California will text me pictures of her “easy icebox rolls” every Thanksgiving. She writes, “it’s a family tradition and traditions create memories that last for generations.”

The most important thing about preparing for a holiday like Thanksgiving is timing. For instance, the pie crusts can easily be made a month ahead and put into the freezer. Take them out two days before to thaw. Roll them out, get them into your pie dish and back into the fridge until the night before when you can put together filling’s and bake.

Roasting the brussel sprouts on a cookie tray with chopped garlic, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper is another time saver. Set aside after roasting in a heat proof serving dish and warm right before sitting down. This is the most delicious way I have ever had brussel sprouts. Once you try this way you’ll be hooked. – http://thetravelingepicurean.com/best-brussel-sprouts-ever/

My tip of the day: “Wondra flour” for your gravy is a God send! Don’t waste your time fussing with a roux! Is it too lumpy, will it dissolve, is it too thick, did the raw flour taste cook out? Forget about it… Wondra dissolves immediately and gives your gravy a luscious sheen in mere minutes. Yeah!

It’s funny because most of my friends who came out to stay with me when I was living in San Francisco knew they were to bring a tub of Mashmallow Fluff and a shrunk-wrapped pizza from Modern Apizza in New Haven. A couple of my favorite’s that you couldn’t get out there. Yet, the side dish that baffle’s me the most on Thanksgiving is the marshmallow’s on sweet potatoes. It’s something i just can’t wrap my brain around. The fact is, my confusion of why someone want’s marshmallow’s baked on sweet potatoes doesn’t really matter because this dish has been around since the early 1900’s. It is a tradition for many family’s on Thanksgiving. That to me say’s it all. Now nuts in cranberry sauce? I won’t even go there.

How I love this holiday and sharing other friend’s traditions with my children. Last year my kids and I had a blast on Thanksgiving meeting my family out at  an early Thanksgiving brunch, then it was off to my friend’s Marco and Sheryl’s Lathrop Manor in Norwich, CT, where they also reside. At dinner time we sat down with a house full of their relatives and friends to Marco’s gourmet dinner. His buttery mashed potatoes were over the top!. Conversation at dinner had my kids learning about Benedict Arnold and Connecticut history. Come to find out Arnold actually lived in this Lathrop Manor in the seventeenth century working as an apprentice to the Lathrops, the first apothecary in Connecticut…in this part of the world! Their Lathrop Manor is being remodeling right now but you can check out this very cool house in one of The Traveling Epicurean shows called “Salmon B.L T’s at Marco’s” – http://thetravelingepicurean.com/gourmet-salmon-b-l-t-sliders-at-marcos/

This Thanksgiving I am looking forward to going to my parents house early. Having them spend time with my children, seeing my brother and his family, then off to dear friends for a second round of festivities later on! Making more fun memories unique to each one of us! Family, friends and food bringing us all together once again. May you be thankful for having the chance to spend precious time with your family and friend’s this 2016 Thanksgiving Holiday!!

Warm Holiday Wishes,                                                                                                                               The Traveling Epicurean                                                                                                                             Michel Vejar

Thanksgiving Pictures of The Spreckles House in Sonoma, California

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Feta-Basil Pesto

Feta-Basil Pesto

No doubt about it once you try this feta-basil pesto you will be hook! The creamy, French sheep’s milk feta pushes this pesto into a whole new arena! Combined with the fresh, floral basil leaves, Italian Reggiano Parmeggiano, extra-virgin olive oil and garlic are a creation that’s just born to go together! Done in mere minutes in a food processor there’s no excuse not to make this delectable sauce bursting with flavor every chance you get!

Making fresh feta-basil pesto can’t be any easier then the convenience of your food processor! There’s no need whatsoever lugging out the ole mortar and pestle making a huge project out of something that literally take’s 2 minutes to make. No cooking, no baking, no washing, NO FUSS, just load up the food processor and pulse. Voilà, you have a gourmet sauce that turns around any dish you add it to into gourmet.

One of the appetizer’s I like to make with feta-basil pesto are Crostini with Fresh Mozzarella and Roasted tomatoes. Let’s not forget to try the feta-basil pesto on seared Scallops, Swordfish or even Sweet Potato Fries! And then there’s the obvious, top EASY PEASY pasta or Zucchini spaghetti with the feta-basil pesto and you feel like a king. Any way you look at it this feta-basil pesto is a no brainer, a win-win situation! So get on it! lol … xoxo

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 sheep’s milk feta cheese – from local cheese shop if you can! It’s the star of the show!
  • 2 packed cups – fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 packed Reggiano Parmasan – freshly grated if you can
  • 1 extra lg OR 2 medium garlic cloves put thru garlic press
  • 1/4 cup PLUS 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a few dashes of your fav hot sauce

Directions:

  1. Place 2 packed cups of basil, 2 tbsp of olive oil, garlic thru garlic press, a sprinkle of s & p in food processor and pulse 6x
  2. Scrape down sides and add in Reggiano Parmesan and sheep’s milk feta and pulse 4x more
  3. Scrape down sides and add in a few dashes of hot sauce
  4. Drizzle in thru top opening of food processor 3 more tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil and pulse 3x more …voila you have feta-basil pesto! It’s as easy as that! 🙂
  5. Add this feta-basil to Crostini with Fresh Mozzarella & Roasted Tomatoes for an appetizer that’s sure to turn heads!
  6. OR EASY PEASY …Add the feta-basil pesto to some sautéed shrimp and pasta! YUM!

Pickled Eggplant at Nancy’s

Pickled Eggplant at Nancy’s

pickperfectThere’s nothing like homemade Pickled Eggplant with thinly sliced strands of eggplant delicately flavored by vinegar, garlic, red hot chili pepper’s, oil-cured black olives and capers all nestled in an olive oil bath. The oil-cured, black olives, add a burst of rich, meaty, sweetness and then there’s a little pucker from the capers. Similar to the oil-cured olives, the eggplant become’s sweet in the beginning of the pickling process when the salt pulls out all the moisture and bitterness.

When Nancy first gave me a jar of her delectable pickled eggplant I knew I would have to get the recipe. Not only is her pickled eggplant to die for but everything she cooks is of the same standard, absolutely delicious! Along with inspiring me in the kitchen, Nancy had the same effect on me on the golf course when I first started playing 8 years ago. She has such tenacity and determination when playing I call her the fiesty golfer! Considering how difficult the game of golf can be, she’s the perfect person to learn the game with.

I had so much fun at Nancy’s house last week making her pickled eggplant. It’s so worth the effort you put into making your own, a most rewarding process when you taste the final product. All of these incredible flavors come together to make an amazing eggplant appetizer like you’ve never had before! You just can’t buy this in the stores!

You may just want to turn your party into an anti-pasto party with other dishes to compliment your pickled eggplant like Guacamole Crostini, Roasted Garlic Bean Dip, Arancini Reubens Balls w/Homemade Thousand Island Dressing, Spanakopita w/Metaxa Mojito’s and, or Homemade Pesto w/Fresh Mozzarella & tomato Crostini! Yum! Hope to recieve an invite to your delectable party lol 🙂

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Ingredients:

  • 9 large eggplants
  • 10 cups distilled white vinegar – 3/4 of gallon jug
  • 10 cups water
  • 4 cups olive oil
  • approx 1/2 container of Mortons salt… use 1/3 cup per eggplant
  • 2 cups Italian black oil cured olives – seedless
  • 1 long hot red pepper
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 8 lg garlic cloves coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano OR 2 tbsp fresh oregano dried in the microwave
  • 1 large pickling crock
  • 2 clean white cotton pillow cases
  • 1 extra large bowl to tranfer wet eggplant in pillow cases back and forth from washing machine
  • a case of canning jars

Directions:

  1. Peel and slice all 9 eggplants into 1/8″ thick pieces
  2. Stack slices and cut into 1/8″ strips
  3. Place cut up strips into large pickling crock
  4. After the addition of each cut up eggpant sprinkle in about 1/3 cup salt and mix strips around with salt by hand
  5. Go thru all 9 eggplant making sure to spinkle 1/3 cup salt after addition
  6. Place a small dish on top of all the sliced eggplant so that the dish fits into the crock
  7. Place the gallon jug of vinegar onto dish and let sit 2-3 hours
  8. Remove vinegar bottle weight and plate from crock – at this point there will be a lot of dark brown juice extracted from the eggplant
  9. Transfer eggplant to a clean pillow case a handful at a time leaving behind the brown juice
  10. Divide all the eggplant into 2 pillow cases and tie off the ends into knots so as the eggplant doesn’t come out when you “spin” it in the washer
  11. Rinse out the pickling crock
  12. Take the two pillow cases full of eggplant to the washer and put on “spin” cycle only – NO WATER
  13. After spin stops, remove eggplant from pillow cases & place back into crock (save pillow cases in a large bowl ready to use one more time before cleaning)
  14. Add in chopped garlic cloves and sliced hot pepper
  15. Bring 10 cups vinegar/10 cups water to a rapid boil
  16. Pour vinegar/water mix over eggplant strands in crock
  17. Stir breifly to mix and cover
  18. Let ferment until cooled approx. for 3 hours giving the eggplant a stir at 1 1/2 hour mark
  19. When the eggplant is cooled remove from crock back into pillow caeses
  20. Divide up the eggplant and place back into the same two pillow cases you used on first spin
  21. At this point run all the jars thru dishwasher – time it so they are hot ready to jar the pickled eggplant after 2nd spin (give it about 1/2 hour-depending on timing of your own dishwasher)
  22. Put all the tops to the canning jars in a pan of water, bring to a boil to sterilze as well
  23. Place the eggplant strands back in the washer on “spin” cylce only again – NO WATER
  24. Rinse crock
  25. Microwave fresh oregano in a microwave for 1 minute, crumble the oregano leaves off the stem and set aside
  26. Add spun pickled eggplant back into the clean crock, add in 4 cups olive oil, 2 cups oil-cured black olives, 2 tbsps of caper and 2 tbsp of fresh microwaved oregano
  27. Take hot jars out of the dishwasher and begin to fill with eggplant
  28. Top off the pickled eggplant in the jars with a drizzle of olive oil keeping 1/2″ from the top
  29. Wipe the top of the jars clean with a clean paper towel and seal with the hot tops you boiled on the stove – Be Careful Not To Burn yourself here
  30. Approx 5 hours after putting the tops on the jars, gently push down on the middle circle to hear a small pop and complete the “seal” – NOTE: they may pop down completing that last seal all on their own
  31. The pickled eggplant is done and will keep for months at room temp
  32. I keep an opened jar in the fridge and bring to room temperature when ever I serve it…YUM!