Thursday, January 31, 2019

Bacon-Wrapped Olives

Sometimes the simplest things turn out to be the best, and that certainly is the case with these easy and delicious nibbles. One of the many tasty recipes that I’ve tried from Martina McBride’s new cookbook (You can read my review here.), that are make ahead, take no time to put together, work equally well outdoors on the grill, or indoors under the broiler, and are irresistible with a cocktail. I have found that they also make welcome and tasty toppers to sandwiches. Just run a long bamboo pick through the top of the olive and directly into the sandwich, and serve. Great presentation!
Bacon-Wrapped Olives
Adapted from Martina's Kitchen Mix

25 wooden toothpicks
1 lb. low-sodium smoked bacon (not thick cut), cut into thirds
1 (7-ounce) jar
pimento-stuffed queen olives, drained

Soak the wooden picks in water for one hour; drain.

Preheat a grill to 300° to 350° F (medium), or heat up the broiler in your oven.

Wrap each piece of bacon around an olive, securing with a wooden pick. Grill over medium (or broil until crispy), turning often, until bacon is browned and crisp. Serve warm.

One of my most popular blog posts (and soon to overtake the number one spot) is this Olive Cheese Spread. Get the bigger jar of olives, and use the rest in this!

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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Sirloin Burgers with Pimiento Cheese

 You know how I love my pimiento cheese, and for the most part, I’m a purist. I don’t want anything other than a few ingredients in mine because that’s what I consider to be authentic. However, there are exceptions to every rule, and in this case, I have to give a nod to Sean Brock and his tremendously good version with loads of extra ingredients. I make his solely to serve on burgers, and you won’t find a better tasting cheeseburger than this one.

Here I used ground sirloin (From Aldi, as you read on Monday this is Aldi Week), that I seasoned with Montreal Steak Seasoning, dried minced onion, Worcestershire powder, and infiltrated with two large button mushrooms, minced. The mushrooms add moisture to the meat without making it greasy. This is a wonderful burger. I was generous with the cheese, and because I’m always looking for a way to add vegetables or fruits to every meal, added sliced tomato and lettuce to this one. I served it on top of a toasted brioche bun (The buns are also from Aldi, and they are delicious!), and it was absolute heaven!
Sirloin Burgers with
Sean Brock’s Pimiento Cheese
Slightly adapted from Heritage by Sean Brock

4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
½ c. mayonnaise, preferably Duke's
½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. freshly ground white pepper
1/8 tsp. smoked paprika
¼ cup finely chopped bread-and-butter pickles, plus ½ c. brine
1 lb. sharp cheddar cheese, grated on the large holes of a box grater

Put the cream cheese in a medium bowl and beat it with a wooden spoon until softened. Add the mayonnaise and mix well. Add the hot sauce, salt, sugar, cayenne pepper, white pepper, and smoked paprika and stir to blend. Add the pickles, brine, and cheddar cheese and stir again. Fold in the diced pimentos.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Tightly covered, the pimento cheese will keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

Pimiento Cheese purists, like me, will enjoy this easy, classic version.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Cali'flour Kitchen Cookbook, Reviewed

I am a big fan of cauliflower, but if you are not, or if you think you’re not, this book is for you Cali’flour Kitchen contains 125 cauliflower-based recipes that will take you from breakfast all of the way through to dinner. For the first time ever, you will see cauliflower in a new light, and learn to embrace it as you never have.
You will learn, first off, how to make a cauliflower meal that will take you on quite an adventure through cauliflower-land. Anything that you’ve liked in the past that has been loaded with carbs, can be made without them by substituting cauliflower. I am talking sauces, spreads, cheeses, sandwiches, soups and salads, casseroles, party food, even pizza! The recipes are all easy to understand, and each one is color-coded to alert you as to whether or not it is gluten-free, grain free, Paleo, Keto, vegan, or dairy free.
The pictures are wonderful, and you are taken step-by-step via photos and text on how to make cauliflower meal, the basis for many of these dishes. After which you will learn how to make your own pizza crust, white bread, croutons, chips, and crackers. If cauliflower rice was your only experience with cauliflower, your eyes will be opened wide here.
You will even find cauliflower desserts that will allow you to have sweet treats without the guilt. The Chili Chocolate Pie looks phenomenal. Even kids will enjoy cauliflower being infused into their diet particularly if you serve it to them in the form of chocolate chip cookies.
This book will also inspire you to experiment on your own with cauliflower. I was so intrigued by the pizza crust that I made both hot and cold pizzas. The hot pizza, made better by being baked on a vented pizza pan, was as satisfying as a carb-laden one; the cold pizza, perfect as an afternoon snack, topped with herb cream cheese, slices of artichoke, and baby spinach.
For more information on this unique offering, click the photo below.

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

Hearts of Palm and Spinach Quiche

As I have mentioned more than once, I often share meals with my dad. I enjoy cooking, and he enjoys eating, and taking a break from the frozen dinners that comprise much of his diet. This quiche is so good that, heaven help me, it crossed my mind to not mention it to dad and eat his portion myself. I didn’t, but I thought about it.

I am a big fan of hearts of palm, and try to use them in as many dishes as possible. I have found, over the years, that they are a fine, if not better, substitute for artichoke hearts. They have the same mild flavor, but are tender rather than woody, as artichoke hearts can tend to be. So, this is a variation on my
Crustless Artichoke and Spinach Quiche, using hearts of palm as a substitute. I liked it so well, that this is going to be my new “go to” quiche. I used the Applewood Smoked Gruyere that I picked up at Aldi, and this gave the quiche a wonderful creamy texture, and lightly smoky flavor. In a word, wonderful! 
Hearts of Palm and Spinach Quiche

1 piecrust, homemade or purchased
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups baby spinach
1 8-oz. pkg. Aldi Applewood Smoked Gruyere,* grated
5 hearts of palm from a 14.5 oz. jar of Melissa’s Hearts of Palm, sliced into ¼ coins (about 1 c.)
5 large eggs
2/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup whole milk
Few gratings
fresh nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Blind bake pastry shell, whether you’ve made the pastry yourself or bought one. You can do this by lining the pastry with aluminum foil, topping the foil with pastry weights, and baking it in the oven until the pastry is golden at the edges, about 15 minutes. If you don’t have pastry weights, well, by them (you can find them here), or use dried beans or rice.

Remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly, and spread Dijon on the bottom.  While the pastry is cooling, heat oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add spinach, and stir until wilted, 2-3 minutes. Place spinach, hearts of palm, and grated cheese (reserve a bit for top, if desired) into the pastry shell, spreading to cover.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, and the milk until thoroughly blended. Season with salt and pepper. Slowly pour egg mixture (Very slowly, I am talking almost glacial) over the spinach, hearts of palm, and cheese in the prepared pastry shell. Grate nutmeg over top, and sprinkle on remaining grated cheese.

Bake in the center of the oven until the filling is golden and puffed, and is completely baked through, about 45-55 minutes. To test for doneness, stick a sharp knife blade into the center of the filling and if it comes out clean, the quiche is baked through. Remove the quiche from the oven and serve immediately.

*This may be a seasonal item, so regular Gruyere would be fine as well.

Here is another use for those tasty hearts of palm – Baked Hearts of Palm Dip.  Addicting!

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Monday, January 28, 2019

Meal Plan Monday #8 - It's Aldi Week!

It’s Aldi week! If you read my post about my recent shopping trip to Aldi (That you can find here.), then you know that I got a little bit carried away. I thought that I would use one (or more) of their products in everything I made this week. So here’s what’s happening.

 Monday- Hearts of Palm and Spinach Quiche with Gruyere cheese

Sirloin Burgers with Pimiento Cheese 

Wednesday- Mandarin Orange Salad and Soup du Jour

Thursday - Dinner out, huzzah!

Friday -
Cream of Tomato Soup with Brussels Sprout Ricotta Toasts

Saturday - Sole Meunière, baked potato, peas

Sunday -
Butter Cauliflower Bowls with Cilantro Lime Rice

What are you cooking?

This week’s place setting; to see more of this table, click here.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Martina's Kitchen Mix Cookbook, Reviewed

​​Like sitting down to dinner with country music icon Martina McBride herself, her new book, Martina’s Kitchen Mix, My Recipe Playlist for Real Life, is a real cozy charmer. She loves cooking as much as she loves being on the stage, and that is to the reader’s advantage because it is loaded with easy-to-prepare and tasty recipes.

She grew up on a Kansas farm, learning cooking at her mother’s side at an early age, where meals and stories were shared around the table. In this book she shares them with you, along with more than 150 of her favorite recipes. I have tried four so far, with wonderful results. How does Baked Olive Cheese Dip sound? Baked French Toast with Pecan Crumble and Blackberry Maple Syrup? Fresh Apple Cake with Homemade Caramel Sauce? The hits just keep on coming!
Another winner is the Chicken Tortilla Soup that is perfectly seasoned and impossible to stop eating. This, like all of the other recipes, is very high quality, but not too fussy for every day. There are also a lot of healthy options as well, making an all-round cookbook, perfect for the working mom or dad, as none are too complicated as to not be able to be made during the week, and yet all are family friendly.
Well organized, this easy-to-use this book offers a good mix of daily cuisine, part memoir and diary, along with Martina's personal notes (she calls them 'ad libs') to replace one ingredient with another to yield more healthier cooking, such as substituting olives for Italian sausage to get the flavor without the fat.

Beautiful photos, wonderful, related recipes, and person notes all make this cookbook a real winner!

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

Friday, January 25, 2019

Cream of Tomato Soup

Martina McBride has a new cookbook out (review coming in next post) that is absolutely wonderful! I have been having a fabulous time paging through and trying the recipes, all of which have been real winners.

Today I’m going to share her simple and delicious Cream of Tomato Soup with you. I will never buy tomato soup again (Not that I ever did, but you know what I mean,) having had this one. It is so rich and delicious and tomato-y and warming, that I’ll often have a cup of it in the afternoon instead of tea (Or, who are we kidding? A dirty martini.). Naturally, it goes wonderfully with a grilled cheese sandwich, and I always make my grilled cheese sandwiches with Aldi’s magnificent loaf of Pane Turano Italian bread (that you can read about
Cream of Tomato Soup
from Martina’s Kitchen Mix

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced (about 3/4 cup)
2 - 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
¼ to ½ teaspoon
crushed red pepper (optional)
4 cups
chicken broth
1 (14.5-ounce) canned diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
¾ cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons butter

Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Cook the onion, stirring often, until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook 30 seconds to one minute longer, stirring occasionally. Stir in the crushed red pepper, if desired, and
cook for one minute. Add the chicken broth, tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Cook over medium heat for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from the heat, and process the mixture in a blender or with a handheld immersion blender until smooth.

Stir in the cream, sugar, and butter. (The soup may be made to this point, cooled, covered, and refrigerated for a couple days or frozen up to one month.) Cook over low until heated through, about five minutes. Garnish with sliced fresh basil, if desired.

Another tasty tomato soup is this Creamy Italian Tomato Soup. So good!

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Thursday, January 24, 2019

Bewitched by Aldi

I try not to shop at Aldi more than four times a year. The reason is, like that “bad boy” I knew in high school, it’s not good for me. But, also like that “bad boy” I knew in high school, eventually I give in.

Something happens to me when I walk into Aldi, I completely lose my mind. From the moment I step through those sliding doors, they have me, and they know they have me. I swear I could hear the checkout clerks snicker. The first thing I saw was a mountain of bags of popped popcorn, both plain and buttery. Now, I have my own popcorn that I can pop, but, leaning in for closer examination, I heard one of the buttery bags whisper to me, “Wouldn’t I be wonderful with that episode of ‘Vera’ that you’ve been saving to watch since Sunday night?” I whispered back, “You would!” And, really, who has time to spend those 3.5 minutes in front of the microwave anyway? And so it began.
From there I saw the wines. I’m not much of a wine drinker, but the prices are unbeatable, so a couple of bottles went into my cart. Then came the cereal with its beckoning boxes. I don’t eat cereal, but something about seeing that stack of Cinnamon Frosted Flakes (Cinnamon!) touched my inner child. Suddenly I was transported back to my parents' kitchen, perched on top of the Sears catalog (before the days of booster seats), swinging my legs while diving into a luscious bowl of cereal centered on a Flintstone placemat on their Formica-topped table with the metal legs. I had to have them! And, I said to myself, this is undoubtedly a seasonal item, so I should probably buy two. I did.
My main reason for going to Aldi was pick up some butter and various other dairy products that are always considerably lower priced than other area markets. So three pounds of butter, two cartons of half-and-half (a dollar cheaper than local markets), sour cream, cottage cheese, and ricotta were added to the heap.

Next came produce. I told myself that I was only going to buy cilantro and red onions, because that was all that I needed, but seeing those beautiful heads of cauliflower for only $1.99 each, as well as the majestic crowns of broccoli, green beans, tomatoes, well, you get the picture. I was running out of room in my cart.

I circled around to the specialty cheeses and saw that, for the most part, they were half off. I’m talking Applewood Smoked Gruyere, Smoked Gouda, Truffle Cheddar, Champagne Cheddar, the works! I swept my arm through the dairy case, and in that one swoop, toppled the majority of it into my cart.
A crowd had gathered around a freezer bin with a sign above that read “Specialty Buys,” so I had to look to see the attraction. There was nothing I needed. There was nothing I wanted. But somehow the beer-breaded jalapeño bites called my name. Do I like spicy foods? Not really. Do I eat a lot of jalapeños? Not a lot. Did I buy some? Of course!

By the time I got to the bread rack to buy what I think is the absolute best loaf of Italian bread available in any market (and some bakeries as well) to get the Pane Turano -- one of the few things that was actually on my list of five items -- I decided that I was not going to come back to Aldi in a long while, and knowing this loaf freezes beautifully, I took three.

As I approached the checkout, I had a cart that would do the mother of five boys proud. I couldn’t believe it. I had only carried three plastic bags into the store with me, certain that I would only use two, but wanted an extra just in case. I think the best thing I could’ve done with those bags was to put them over my head.

I won't even describe the damage I did in the freezer section. I will only say that before I left home, my freezer drawer slid in and out easily, and now I have to throw my body against it to get it to close. Did I mention that the buttery bag of popcorn rode home in the front seat with me? Probably best not to.

Yet again, bewitched by Aldi. Sigh.

Disclaimer: I am in no way associated with Aldi, and am not being compensated in any way. I just LOVE their stores!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Green Bean Artichoke Bake

My O-P used to lament over the paucity of vegetable recipes containing his favorite vegetable, the green bean. He’d look for them, but would always come up short after Green Beans Amandine, and the ubiquitous Green Bean Casserole. I got to thinking about this, wondering why it was the case. Then I started thinking about my Green Bean Salad, and wondered if I could come up with a hot version to use as a side dish, and thus the Green Bean Artichoke Bake was born. I swapped the tomatoes with red peppers, and croutons with Italian breadcrumbs, but it works! Overnight marinating makes the vegetables tender and flavorful, the topping gives it a pleasant crunch.
Green Bean Artichoke Bake

1 14.5-oz. can
green beans, drained
1 14-oz. can
artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1/2 cup diced
Melissa’s Roasted Red Peppers
8 oz. Italian dressing, your choice
1/4 cup
Italian breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 T. Butter, cut in pieces

Toss together green beans, artichokes, and red peppers. Pour Italian dressing over all, stir to coat, cover, and place in the fridge to marinate overnight. The next day, drain liquid and place vegetables in an ovenproof baking dish (or individual ramekins). Sprinkle breadcrumbs and cheese on top, dot with butter. Bake at 350° for 30 to 40 minutes, or until hot. Serves 4, but can be doubled.

A crowd-pleasing green bean recipe for a crowd is Smothered Green Beans.

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Monday, January 21, 2019

Slow Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes

I don’t know of any other time that I crave heirloom tomatoes quite as much as I do in the dead of winter. Perhaps that’s because, at this time, they are largely unavailable. Thanks to Melissa’s Produce, however, I was able to get my hands on a package of Baby Heirloom Tomatoes that are absolutely delicious.

Besides eating them straight out of the carton like candy, I wanted to use them to try a recipe that I saw a recently that looked too easy to be any good. It consisted of nothing more than the tomatoes, olive oil, and a few seasonings, so it was with great trepidation that I stirred these together and slid it into the oven, hoping beyond hope that I hadn’t wasted my precious tomatoes.

As it turned out, I hadn’t. This has to be experienced to understand how truly good it is. The entire time they were roasting the house was scented with the most luscious, spicy tomato fragrance, making the place feel like an Italian restaurant at the peak of its day.

Excellent as a side dish, wonderful tossed with pasta, and absolute heaven as a bruschetta topping. Sprinkle on some cheese and run it under the broiler, and you won’t be able to stop eating this! 
Shown here on a slice of my Rosemary Sea Salt Bread.
Slow Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes
Adapted from

½ head of garlic
1 sprig rosemary
¼ tsp. kosher salt

Preheat to 350°F. Toss tomatoes, garlic, rosemary, oil, coriander, and salt in a shallow 2-qt. baking dish to combine.

Turn garlic cut side down and nestle in amongst the tomatoes. Roast tomatoes, tossing 2 or 3 times, until golden brown and very tender, 40–50 minutes. Let cool slightly, then add vinegar and toss to coat.

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