Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Greek Pasta Salad


I have found, amongst my friends and family anyway, that olives are like cilantro; you either really like them, or really don’t. I really like them. As a consequence, I look for ways in which to use them. A Greek pasta salad seemed like a great way to combine both green and Kalamata olives along with other crunchy vegetables, and a flavorful vinaigrette. This is a tasty and colorful salad that can be served cold or at room temperature, making it an excellent addition to any meal served buffet-style.

Greek Pasta Salad

 2 c. tri-color rotini

10 cherry tomatoes, halved

1/3 c. Greek pitted green olives

1/3 c. pitted Kalamata olives

1/3 c. diced Melissa’s roasted red peppers

1 green bell pepper, diced

½ cucumber, cubed

¼ c. diced red onion

½ c. cubed feta cheese

Julienne strips of salami*


⅔ c. extra-virgin olive oil

¼ c. Greek red wine vinegar

1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 t. Melissa’s minced garlic

2 t. dried oregano

Pinch dried basil

 Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

 Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

 While the pasta is cooking, Whisk together dressing ingredients; set aside.

 Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Toss with pasta. Pour vinaigrette over all and stir to combine. Cover and chill at least three hours before serving.

 *This can be made vegetarian by illuminating the salami. Additionally, if you don’t have that on hand, consider strips of ham, or grilled chicken.


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Monday, November 29, 2021

Chocolate Caramel Turtle Bars

The day after Thanksgiving is my official day of collapse. The days following that day mark the beginning of holiday baking. As I have mentioned before, I am not much of a baker, but I do enjoy Christmas cookies. I also enjoy a wide variety of them, and hold the bar cookie in high esteem. Cookie trays need different tastes, textures, and shapes, and the bar cookie can provide all three. This easy-to-prepare square of chewy deliciousness will be a star in your display.

Chocolate Caramel Turtle Bars

Adapted from Hoffman Media

1½ c. flour

⅓c. sugar

¼ t. kosher salt

¾ c. cold unsalted butter, cubed


2/3 c. sugar

2 T. flour

½ t. kosher salt

⅔ c. light corn syrup

2 T. unsalted butter, melted

1 t. vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1 c. pecan halves

¾ c. semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with foil, letting excess extend over sides of pan. Spray foil with Baker’s Joy.


In a food processor, pulse crust ingredients until mixture is crumbly. Press mixture into bottom of prepared pan. Bake until edges have lightly browned and center is dry, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes.


In a medium bowl, combine sugar, flour, and salt. Whisk in corn syrup, melted butter, vanilla, and eggs. Sprinkle pecans and chocolate onto prepared crust. Pour sugar mixture over pecans and chocolate.

 Bake until edges are golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool slightly on a wire rack, about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes. Cut into squares. Garnish with warm caramel topping, if desired.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2021

"Soup to Nuts" Thanksgiving Tablescape

When you have hosted Thanksgiving dinner for 30+ years, eventually, trust me, you run out of table setting ideas. I don’t like to do the same thing year after year, but this year I really struggled to pull something together. I brought absolutely every Thanksgiving/autumn item up from the belly of the beast, spread it out over the countertops and table, and chose from there. I don’t know how my guests will feel, but I am enjoying the change.

I went with a simple, dark checked tablecloth and topped it with round placemats. From there I used tin chargers from a local business (shout out to The White Rabbit), and then used plates edged in plaid that I got a couple of years ago from Pier One.

  The pheasant luncheon plates on top are from Williams-Sonoma, years ago. I love them, but don’t often find the opportunity to use them.

I liked the colors here, but particularly liked the edge that I knew would show around the acorn soup bowls (also Williams-Sonoma years ago). 

This year I absolutely fell in love with the plaid napkins from Pottery Barn as well as the miniature copper mug napkin rings! Aren’t these adorable?! I filled them with mixed nuts (so that we would have everything from soup to nuts for dinner). I will bring them out again at Christmas time and fill them with cranberries. I am over the moon about these.

The pinecone flatware is from Cabela’s. Don’t underestimate Cabela’s when it comes to dinnerware. They have some amazing things.

The crystal is German-made Mikasa gifted to me by a friend who was sick of them. I think they look lovely here.

The turkey and artificial foliage and gourds I’ve had for a number of years, and it never gets old. This year, to mix things up, I wove lighted fall maple leaves throughout so that when the time has come for dining, all I need to do is flip a switch in the power pack (carefully hidden at my place setting) and everything will be a glow.

Whatever you do, however you celebrate, with whomever you celebrate, have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day.

This post is linked to: Tablescape Thursday

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Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Blackberry Cranberry Sauce

Thanksgiving food is largely traditional, and it’s not easy to vary your menu from year to year without meeting with some resistance. One year I made the mistake year of serving cream of mushroom soup as a starter instead of my traditional potato leek, and there was an exchange of gunfire. This year, I decided to stick with the basic menu in order to avoid the dramatics, and simply change up the cranberries. I found this recipe online, and was intrigued by the addition of the blackberries. As much as I love blackberries, honestly, I can’t tell you when I last bought some, so I had to make this. It is delicious! I think it is one of the best cranberry sauce varieties that I have ever tried. If you’re looking to try something new, try this.

Blackberry Cranberry Sauce

Adapted from Studio Delicious

2 c. fresh cranberries

½ c. water

¼ t. kosher salt

¾ c. dark brown sugar

1 4-oz. container fresh blackberries

2 t. vanilla

1 T. raspberry vinegar

In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, stir together cranberries, water, salt, and sugar, stirring to help dissolve the sugar. Bring mixture to a boil until the cranberries pop and sizzle, about 7 minutes. Add blackberries and raspberry vinegar, lower the heat to medium, and allow mixture to gently simmer, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 more minutes until the liquid is syrupy and almost evaporated. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Cool and serve. Keeps in the refrigerator for up to a week.

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Monday, November 22, 2021

Pumpkin Pecan Bundt Cake


I know that what I am about to reveal is going to stir controversy, but I am who I am, and I make no apologies when I say that the worst part of Thanksgiving dinner, for me, is dessert. I am not a particular fan of pies, but I find pumpkin and pecan (the former in particular) to be totally uninspired. As a consequence, I am always looking for something different, yet seasonably appropriate to serve for dessert.  I found this recipe on the Eagle Brand website, was intrigued, and decided to give it a try. It’s quite good! In fact, I think this would be equally good at a brunch as it would at dinner. If you’re looking for something different yet appropriate, the answer just may be right here.

Pumpkin Pecan Bundt Cake

1 c. vegetable oil

3 large eggs

½ c. sugar

1 14-oz. can of Eagle Brand® Sweetened Condensed Milk

2 t. vanilla extract

1 15-oz. can pumpkin purée

2½ c. all-purpose flour

2 t. pumpkin pie spice

1 t. cinnamon

1/8 t. cloves

1 t. baking soda

2 t. baking powder

½ t. salt

½ c. buttermilk


1 stick butter

1 c. sugar

¼ c. rum

½ c. chopped pecans

 Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a decorative 12-cup Bundt pan with Baker’s Joy.

In the work bowl of a stand mixer beat oil, eggs, and sugar together until well blended. Add milk, extract, and pumpkin purée, and beat until combined.

In a medium bowl whisk together flour, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add it to the liquid mixture, in increments, with mixer running. When the wet and dry ingredients are combined, slowly add buttermilk, beating until just combined.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 60 to 70 minutes until cake tests done. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan, and continue cooling for another 10 minutes. Transfer cake to serving plate.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and sugar together. When better has fully melted, stir in rum, and cook for five minutes. Remove from heat, add pecans, and spoon over top of cake.

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Friday, November 19, 2021

Slow Cooker Arrabbiata Sauce

If you’re unfamiliar with Arrabiata sauce, let me tell you that the only difference between marinara sauce and Arrabiata sauce is heat; the latter employs the use of red pepper flakes. While many Arrabiata sauces are vegetarian, I like to add meat to mine because it makes it extra hearty and delicious.

This is a great slow cooker recipe because other than browning the meat (if you use it) everything just gets tossed into the slow cooker and hangs out all day long making your home smell like your favorite Italian restaurant. Use this in the same way that you would marinara sauce. It makes a lot, so be sure to store some in the freezer for future use.

Slow Cooker Arrabiata Sauce

1 lb. ground beef

½ t. Montreal Steak Seasoning

28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

28 oz. diced tomatoes, do not drain

6 oz. can tomato paste

2 T. brown sugar

½ c. diced white onion

2 garlic cloves minced

1½ T. Italian Seasoning

1 t. sea salt

¼ t. freshly ground black pepper

¼ - ½ t. red pepper flakes

 In a 10-inch skillet over medium/high heat, brown beef, crumbling as you go. Stir in steak seasoning. Drain fat on paper towel-lined plate. Place in the bottom of the slow cooker. Add remaining ingredients, and stir to combine. Cook on high for 4 to 5 hours or on low 7 to 8 hours. Serve over your favorite pasta.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Slow Cooker “All You Can Eat” Cabbage Soup

I told myself that I would never stoop so low as to use the phrase “back in my day,” but I’m going to. Back in my day cabbage soup came into being. It was largely flavorless muck with a broth like river water, and it made the house smell like a bad diaper. I still shudder when I think of its early beginnings. But, as with many things, it has come a long way. I have come a long way as well, and have improved upon recent recipes by adding the woodsy taste of wild mushrooms, as well as employing the use of a slow cooker. Now, I’m not going to lie, there is a lot of chopping involved here. That said, once you get that completed, you can relax, and let the crockpot work it’s magic. This makes a lot, but it freezes beautifully, and it is really good! Don’t take my word for it try it for yourself. There is no fat, this is vegan, low-calorie, and word has it that you can lose up to 9 pounds in a week. I’ll bet this is looking better already.

Slow Cooker All You Can Eat Cabbage Soup

1 ½-oz. pkg. Melissa’s dried mushrooms*

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 large onion, diced

½ lb. carrots, sliced

4 ribs celery, sliced

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 14.5-oz. can French-style green beans, drained

1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes

1 8-oz. can tomato sauce

½ head green cabbage

6 c. vegetable broth**

½ c. chopped fresh parsley

1 t. smoked paprika

½ T. Italian seasoning

¼ t. freshly ground black pepper (more or less to taste)

½ t. salt (more to taste)

1-2 T. lemon juice

Smoked Sea Salt

Hydrate mushrooms according to package directions.

Chop the cabbage into one-inch strips or squares, and place in the bottom of a 6-quart slow cooker. Add remaining ingredients EXCEPT salt and lemon juice; stir to combine.

Cook on HIGH 5-6 hours (or until the vegetables test done) or on LOW 8-9 hours (see above). When cooking is complete, stir in salt and lemon juice. Add more of each of the latter, to taste. Finish with smoked sea salt for added depth and flavor.

Serve and enjoy. Freezes beautifully.

*I used chanterelles, but you can use any type of dried mushroom.

**I used Better Than Bouillon to make my broth.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Boozy Cherries


What is it about fruit and booze that just screams the holidays? Honestly, it may seem strange, but it’s true. At no other time of the year am I as keen on soaking fruit in alcohol than I am around the holidays. If you feel the same and are looking for a tantalizing new recipe, you’ll find one in Abrams’ new release, Arty Parties, An Entertaining Cookbook by Julia Sherman, creator of the charmingly cute Salad for President.

If you are one of those people who pounce on cherries as soon as they’re available in the summer and freeze them, I hope you froze at least one and a half pounds of sour cherries in order to make this delicious treat. They last in the fridge up to a year, and make mixed drinks, ice cream sundaes, and Sunday morning pancakes extra special when topped with one of these. If not, I tried it with well-dried frozen cherries, with good results.

Boozy Cherries

1½ lb. sour cherries
1½ c. light brown sugar
whole cloves
1 t. black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
2 whole star anise
1 large strip orange zest
1 c. vodka

Wash the cherries thoroughly, leaving attached stems in tact and removing any loose stems from the bunch. Pack half of the cherries into a
large glass mason jar, being careful not to squish them.

In a saucepan, combine the sugar, 1½ cups of water, cloves,
peppercorns, cinnamon, star anise, and orange zest. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes until reduced by half. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 15 minutes.

Add the vodka to the cold syrup. Pour the mixture over the cherries to just cover (spices and zest included). Fill the jar with the remaining cherries and top off with the hot liquid. Allow to cool, then seal and refrigerate. The cherries will be ready to eat after two weeks.

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 Disclaimer: I received a complementary copy of Arty Parties from Abrams books as a member of their 20 21–22 Abrams Dinner Party.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Baked Spinach and Zucchini

I have, for months, been trying to convince myself that a truly organized person needs only grocery shop once a month. So far, I have been able to stick to this with few exceptions. The problem with this scheme is that I end up buying a lot of produce all at once, and then it all starts to get dodgy at once, and I end up with one vegetarian meal or side dish after another. You may not see a problem with this, but let me tell you, when those vegetables are cruciferous, you end up with a BIG problem. We won’t even go there. As a consequence zucchini that I had planned to use in zucchini bread ended up taking a different direction in Ina Garten’s recipe called Baked Spinach and Zucchini. I love this dish for many reasons. It is relatively easy to put together, can be made ahead, can be served hot or at room temperature, as a main dish or side dish, and works at any meal of the day, breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I didn’t have any extra large eggs, so I used three large ones and upped the cream. My version is below. This would be perfect for the holidays.

Baked Spinach and Zucchini
Slightly adapted from Ina Garten

Olive oil
3 scallions, white and green parts, sliced ¼” across
2 small zucchini, sliced in ¼”-thick rounds
½ T.
Melissa’s minced garlic
1 10-oz. pkg. frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
½ c. cooked
basmati rice
2 T. chopped fresh basil
2 T. chopped fresh parsley
¼ t. ground nutmeg
1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 large eggs
½ c. heavy cream
1 T. unsalted butter, melted
¼ c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra
2 oz. Gruyere cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray an 8” x 8” baking dish with
PAM; set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a
12-inch sauté pan. Add the scallions and zucchini and sauté for two minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute more. Lightly press most of the water out of the spinach and add it to the pan. Add the rice, basil, parsley, nutmeg, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper, and toss well. Transfer to the prepared baking dish.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, melted butter, and ½ cup Parmesan. Pour the mixture over the spinach and zucchini, and smooth the top. Sprinkle with some extra Parmesan cheese and the Gruyere. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

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Sunday, November 14, 2021

New Native Kitchen, Reviewed

As someone who is both interested in Native American culture as well as having made my own acorn meal, the book, New Native Kitchen, Celebrating Modern Recipes of the American Indian by Freddie Bitsoie really spoke to me. Considering that we are coming up on the Thanksgiving celebration remembering when the Native Americans and pilgrims sat down to dine together in an effort of peace, the timing of this publication couldn’t be better.

Whether you are interested in Native American culture or not, this book will still appeal because of its unique and wide variety of recipes. What I found fascinating was that the various recipes mention the tribe with which they are associated. The regional differentiations between them are fascinating.

A bit of history is featured atop each recipe explaining the origin, preparation, planting, spiritual connection, and historical content. I was captivated as much by that text as I was the recipes.

The recipes themselves are easy to prepare, and, for the most part, contain ingredients that most of us have in our pantries. I was introduced to a new bean, the tepary bean, a white bean described as being “… a little sweeter than the earthier brown ones…” Interesting, no? A good substitute would be the navy bean, but as these are said to be available, I intend to begin the search so that I can make dishes that are truly authentic.

Lest you think these recipes simple and common place, the grilled beef tenderloin with juniper sauce appears to be restaurant quality. Paging through this book I found one recipe after another that appealed. In Native American culture the three sisters refers to a planting method that allowed squash, corn, and greens to grow symbiotically and support each other like sisters. This combination is found in a variety of soups and stews.

I was particularly pleased to see a recipe for Sweet Summer Corn Broth, employing the use of corncobs to make its stock. I have been making my own corn stock for ages for use in corn chowder and vegetable soups. One of the traditions of the author's childhood was to have a bowl or two to celebrate what had passed or what was to come every New Year’s Eve. What a lovely family tradition.

 The older recipes, the author assures us, have been given modern updates, only too aware that menus, tastes, and pallets evolve. For example, the Wampanoag Cherry Stone clam is no longer solely available for Northeasterners to enjoy, so with this recipe you can make it on your own. It provided the inspiration for what is now known as New England clam chowder, but without the heavy cream.

Each turn of the page will bring you a host of information, intriguing recipes, new techniques, as well as beautiful photos. With Thanksgiving coming up on the 25th, and Native American Heritage Day on the 26, there is no better time to give this book a try. It would make an excellent hostess gift.


Disclaimer: I received a complementary copy of this book from Abrams books as a member of their 20 21–22 Abrams dinner party.

 As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.