Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Campanelli with Mushrooms, Bacon, and Parmesan


For me, pasta is the ultimate comfort food. Pasta, and cheeseburgers, I love cheeseburgers. And a steak, a nice medium-rare Filet Mignon. Oh! And lobster bisque, sweet and succulent lobster bisque. Where was I? Oh yes, pasta. I find pasta to be the ultimate comfort food because it's easy to put together, and so warm and soothing to consume. It doesn't take a whole lot of effort to make a truly wonderful pasta dish that can work equally well as a starter, or main course.

Finding my fridge with more mushrooms than I needed, and wanting to make good use of them, I decided to create this dish. It was absolutely delicious, and so easy. It's important, in this case, that you use the Campanelli, because those little scroll-like noodles hold onto so much of your delicious sauce.
Campanelli with Mushrooms, Bacon, and Parmesan

4 ounces Campanelli pasta
4 pieces thick bacon
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 ounces mushrooms, sliced

2 Melissa's organic shallots, minced
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/8 teaspoon thyme
A glimmer of freshly grated nutmeg*

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 1/2 tablespoon salt. Cook pasta according to package directions, about 10 minutes to al dente; drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water; set aside.

While pasta is cooking, rough chop bacon and cook over medium heat in a 10-inch sauté pan until crispy, about eight minutes. With a slotted spoon remove bacon to a plate. Drain all but 2 tablespoons bacon grease.

To the pan in which you cooked bacon, add garlic and shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots are soft. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, another 3 to 4 minutes until mushrooms are tender. Return bacon to the pan.

Reduce heat to medium-low and pour in heavy cream, stirring continuously. Slowly add Parmesan, salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, and nutmeg, stirring all the while. Allow to simmer 2 to 3 minutes until it reaches desired thickness. If the sauce needs thinning, stir in reserved pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Add pasta and stir to coat. Serve immediately.

This makes two main course or four starter course servings.

*There is, of course, no official measurement called "glimmer." Considering a single grating of nutmeg to be just that.



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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tasty Tip Tuesday: How to Grate and Chop Ginger


I am a big fan of ginger. I love adding it to dishes, both ethnic and otherwise, to give it a tasty kick. But, being a root, ginger can be problematic when it comes to chopping, slicing, or grating. All of those fibers just tend to get in the way, and you can end up with a real mess.

So here's a little tip for you today. When you get ginger, as soon as you get it home and out of its bag, toss it into the freezer. It grates, slices, and chops like a dream when it's frozen. It also keeps forever, so you will always have it on hand. I make it a habit to have one or two ginger roots in the freezer so that I can make any recipe that has ginger, at the drop of a hat. Throw that powdered stuff away, and grate your own. It's easy, if it's freez-y. (Bad pun, I know, but I just couldn't resist.) :-)


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Monday, October 16, 2017

Autumn Alfresco Tablescape


In looking at the 10-day weather forecast, it appears that my dining alfresco weather days are on the wane. Not that I'm complaining; no one loves fall weather more than I do, but I like to have breakfast out-of-doors, and mornings when temperatures are in the 50s make this a bit too cold to manage.
Over the weekend, I decided to go all out and set a pretty table on the lanai.

The flowers that I had gotten for my birthday still look as glorious as ever, so I decided to use them as the centerpiece on my table. As soon as fall hit, I changed the decor on the lanai to reflect the season.

Gone was the Tommy Bahama tropical tablecloth, replaced by a brown floor length tablecloth, and this autumn topper, that I made myself. I love the colors of autumn, and every one of them are reflected in this beautiful fabric featuring colorful fall scenes.
With the tablecloth in place, and the flowers at the center, all I had to do was build from there. Because it was a round table, I chose the same woven round placemats that I used indoors last week. That was my base.

I topped those with the plaid plates that I am so in love with these days, and, because I was going to have soup later in the day, I decided to use these wonderful bowls. Aren't they colorful and gorgeous?

The napkins are the same gold ones that I had used before, the flatware are of the faux bamboo variety that seems so appropriate for out-of-doors.
I only have two of these wonderful pumpkin mugs, so they were the perfect choice.
The yellow chalices were a gift from my mother about 40 years ago. You've seen these a lot, and I still love using them. They always get comments from people, they hold a lot of water, or iced tea, or whatever beverage I'm serving at the time, and add so much color and fun.
Naturally, I had to put a mini pumpkin in each of them for a bit of whimsy.
Because the flowers are still in my favorite vintage corn picture, I had to make use of the crows once again.
I had such fun dining at this table. I hope you enjoy looking at it as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

Here are my sources:
Brown floor length tablecloth -
Amazon
Gold napkins -
Amazon
  Round woven placemats - World Market
Plaid dinner plates - Pier 1
Soup bowls - David Harden “Autumn Splendor” pattern
Pumpkin mugs - Starbucks, many years ago
Yellow chalices - gift for my mother
Bamboo flatware - eBay
Vintage corn picture - eBay
Flowers - Secret Admirer


 
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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Stock the Crock: 100 Must-Have Slow-Cooker Recipes, 200 Variations for Every Appetite, Reviewed


For my money there are no better slow cooker cookbooks available today than those by Phyllis Good. Good has published over a thousand slow-cooker recipes in her various offerings, so she obviously knows what she's doing. In her latest, Stock the Crock: 100 Must-Have Slow-Cooker Recipes, 200 Variations for Every Appetite, she offers not just her own excellent recipes, but those gathered from her fan base. Each was tested, perfected, and then offered up in numerous variations in order to make the recipe easy to prepare by the average home cook. Once the recipe was perfected, Good went one step further, creating variations for those who observe gluten-free, paleo, vegetarian, or other special diets. 

There are a wide variety of crockpot recipes here, in all categories, and I am particularly appreciative of the fact that, in addition to gluten-free, paleo, and vegetarian adaptations, she didn’t forget those of us whose households have shrunk, by including two-serving versions of some of the recipes. The Pumpkin Crème Brûlée, for example (that sounded amazingly good to me), is offered up as a recipe that serves six, but with a smaller variation to serve two, using ramekins. I have never made crème brûlée in the crockpot, so I plan on trying this recipe tonight.

There is so much to like about this book. Yes, it doesn't have as many recipes as her previous books, however, it does have lots of full-page colorful, mouth-watering photos, and I really love that in a cookbook.

I can't say enough about this cookbook. If you are a fan of slow cooking like I am, you need to add this to your library. With the holiday season ahead, you might consider a gift of this book along with a suitably sized crockpot. Delicious!



Disclaimer: I received a complimentary cookbook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Pumpkin Spice Sugar


By now you all should know that I have a vast collection of dishes. What you may not know is that I love each and every one of them. Despite the sheer volume of dishes that I have, every one is special in its own way. With this in mind, you can imagine my distress when, the day before yesterday, my pumpkin pepper shaker slipped from my hand, hit the floor, and shattered. I was absolutely crushed! I love this set of pumpkin salt-and-pepper shakers, and have had them forever.

There was nothing particularly special about this set, it just appealed to me. Pumpkins would take me from early September all the way to the end of November, and I like that.
Not a fall table was without them. I used them at a Halloween luncheon at my old house.
I used them on the Baker’s rack when I would start decorating for fall.
They graced every fall dinner table.
And I just liked looking at them.

I wasn't about to discard the one lone, rather sad, salt shaker. But, I did empty it of salt, wash it up, and set it on the counter to stare at for a day or two.

While it sat there, I started to think of ways in which I could use it. Ways in which I could use a single unit from a set. It was then that it came to me. I would fill it with pumpkin spice sugar, in the same way in which I had filled another solitary shaker from a set where one had broken with cinnamon sugar for toast. An idea was born!

I had no idea as to the portions, so just guessed, but now I am happy as a clam to have this one shaker, filled with something special, that I use every morning. So pleased to still have it in use, and with a very special purpose all its own.

If you would like to make some pumpkin spice sugar of your own, here are the proportions that I used. Certainly you could double or triple it. I needed only a small amount to fit into my pumpkin shaker.
Pumpkin Spice Sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon homemade pumpkin pie spice

Mix together thoroughly with a whisk, and put into your favorite shaker. Use to sprinkle on top of hot cocoa, your morning latte, ice cream, muffins, or simply on top of a buttered biscuit, croissant, or, as I have done here, a humble piece of toast.


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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Texas Sheet Cake Brownies


It seems as though I did nothing but cook over what should have been a restful birthday weekend. I wanted to have a lot of meals prepared to take to my dad that I could deliver when we had lunch on Friday, as well as the yummy desserts that he loves. Last Thursday I made Texas Sheet Cake Brownies to take to dad's. I don't like Texas Sheet Cake (That, of course, begs the question as to why I would make these, for which I have no answer.), but liked the ease (They don't call me "Easy Pattie" for nothing.) and, of course, had to put my own special spin on them. I mean, why use a tablespoon of brewed coffee when a bottle of Kahlúa is calling your name?

I also don't particularly care for brownies (Again, not liking Texas Sheet Cake and brownies, one really has to wonder why I made this recipe.), because they never seem to have the density, chewiness, or rich chocolate taste that I'm looking for. This recipe looked like it had possibilities; with my Kahlúa addition in both the cake and frosting, I think I have reached brownie perfection. They are a little bit of work because you have to make cooked frosting, but, hey, brownies need frosting. These are decadent; you are going to find yourself in chocolate heaven. I topped them with crushed Butterfinger bars to take them right over the top.

A word about the pictures:  I totally forgot to photograph them on the day that I made them when the frosting was smooth and creamy. Instead, these hung out in the fridge for a couple of days. Yours are going to look a heck of a lot prettier than these. 
Texas Sheet Cake Brownies
Adapted from Averiecooks.com

Brownies
1 stick unsalted butter
ounces dark or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
tablespoon Kahlúa
1 tablespoon coffee
1 teaspoon instant espresso granules
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Frosting
½ stick unsalted butter
3 tablespoons whole milk
3 tablespoons unsweetened dark cocoa powder
1 3/4 to 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon Kahlúa

To Make Brownies:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminum foil leaving a 2”overhang on each end (for easy lifting), and spray with cooking spray; set aside.

Place butter and chocolate into a large microwave-safe bowl, and heat on high power to melt, about 2 minutes, stirring at 30-second increments. Allow mixture to cool momentarily before adding the eggs so they don’t curdle.

Add the eggs, sugar, Kahlúa, coffee, and espresso granules, and whisk vigorously to combine. Add flour and salt, and stir until smooth and combined without overmixing.

Pour batter into prepared pan, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula as necessary.

Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until center has just set and is no longer glossy. A toothpick should come out clean or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter. Allow brownies to cool in pan on top of a wire rack while you make the frosting.

To Make Frosting:
In a medium saucepan place butter, milk, and cocoa powder, and heat over medium-high to melt butter. Whisk constantly until butter has melted. Allow mixture to come to a boil and boil for about 15 seconds before removing from the heat.

Add 1 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar (more if you like it thicker) and Kahlúa, and whisk until smooth and combined. 

Pour frosting on top of brownies, using a spatula to spread.
Allow brownies to cool, uncovered, for at least 1 hour before slicing and serving. Brownies will keep airtight at room temp for up to 1 week, in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Crow & Corn Tablescape


When I received a lovely, and unexpected, bouquet of flowers from a secret admirer on my birthday (I know who the admirer is, but I'm not going to tell any of you!), I knew that I had to do a table setting to feature it.
Autumn themed tables are among my most favorite, probably because I tend to have more dinnerware in these colors than those of any other season. Or, maybe it's because I dearly love these crows and like to use them as often as possible. Who knows? All I know is that I had a wonderfully fun time putting this table together.
When the flowers arrived -- alstroemeria (also known as Peruvian lily), my favorite -- in these lovely fall colors, I knew they would look just perfect displayed in my vintage corn pitcher. Putting it on top of this checkered tablecloth seemed absolutely perfect, and it was easy to build the table from there.
I wanted to use colors of the harvest. Those include not only the warm colors of gold, brown, copper, and russet, but green as well. I think this combination looks wonderful on the table.
I have a vintage corn tea set, so wanted to use the cups. Don't they look adorable?
Then I figured, what the heck? I would go all out and use my corn on the cob holders as well. I think they frame each place setting nicely.
The plaid dinner plates on top of the majolica leaf plates are some that you all have expressed liking a great deal. I am so thankful that I jumped on these plates when I did, because they sold out in a flash. Plaid never goes out of style, but I rarely see it in autumn colors. These plates were a great find, and I know I will use them a lot.
I topped the plaid plates with these pumpkin plates, and love the look. I had the grandchildren over on Sunday, and they always enjoy my tables, quite happy to have a smaller plate with pumpkins on it to use for their meal.
The flatware with a little log cabin just says cozy to me.
The glassware consists of brown stemware that I got from my mother, and these wonderful Old Crow wineglasses that are such a treasure! On a table where crows make up a part of the centerpiece, I wanted to replicate them in this glassware. Aren't they whimsical and fun?
I hope you enjoy looking at my fall table as much as I enjoyed dining at it.
Here are my sources:
Green leaf majolica chargers - gift from a friend
Plaid dinner plates - Pier 1
Pumpkin salad plates - Pier 1
Napkins -
Amazon
Vintage corn cups and vase - eBay
Corn holders – Sur la Table
Brown stemware - gift from my mother
Old Crow wineglasses - eBay
Flatware - Cabela's


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