Harvest Endive Salad

Fall seems to be a time to start thinking about using apples and walnuts more than during the spring and summer. It may be because the the traditional harvest has come in and these are fresher ingredients than any other time of the year.

Down in the southern United States, where this blog originates, the weather seems to swing between hot and cold for most of the fall and part of the winter, leaving us wanting warm and savory dishes part of the time, and salads the rest of the time!

Below is a salad recipe that lends itself to both savory and sweet. It’s great for a light lunch, a brunch addition, or an accompaniment to grilling. It’s also a swift and simple side to take to a family gathering or holiday party.

HARVEST ENDIVE SALAD
Ingredients:
2 heads endive (or substitute Romaine)
1 medium apple
3 oz Swiss cheese
1/4 cup walnut pieces, toasted
1 tbsp fresh chive, chopped for garnish

Directions:
Wash, dry, and trim endive. Cut each leaf into quarters lengthwise. Crosscut into roughly 1/2-inch pieces. Place in large salad bowl.

Wash apple, core and cut into 1/2-inch slices. Add to salad bowl.

Cut cheese into approximately 1/4 inch cubes. Add to salad bowl.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

If serving immediately, toss with dressing and serve. Sprinkle with chives for added color.

If taking to a gathering, wait until you are about to serve before adding dressing and tossing salad.

 

Dressing:
1/4 rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of salt

Directions:
In a lidded glass jar, combine vinegar, oils, salt and sugar. Cover and shake vigourously to combine ingredients.

 

Enjoy!

— Ann Cathey

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Holiday Tips and Shortcuts

Time runs short when prepping for the holidays at one point or another for all of us. I’ve gathered up some tips and shortcuts to help you through the holiday season that have proven their worth in my kitchen.

Peppermint is Your Friend
Hard peppermint candy is a wonderful all-purpose garnish for the winter season. Peppermint sticks used as stir sticks for hot cocoa add a minty splash to each cup. Crushed candies can be used to accentuate cookies (see the cookies items below), cakes, and even sprinkled around the edge of plates holding sweet dishes or dusted over slices of chocolate pie. Peppermint isn’t the only mint around. Spearmint is also more available during this time of year, as are many other flavors of candy canes. Get creative with your combinations and surprise guests with a little something extra.

Spiral Ham Saves Time
A spiral cut ham, while a little more pricey, will also save a lot of time when it comes to carving. Guests may choose full or half slices, or even layering the meat into a roll for a quick snack later in the evening. Figure on 1/2 pound of ham per person. The saltiness of ham pairs well with crisp flavors such as apple, pineapple, and cranberry. A chutney of these fruits makes a lovely glaze for baking, and a colorful and tasty spread for snacking on those ham rolls.

Traditional Flavors – From Another Country
Take a step away from the usual at the dinner or gathering table by basing your meal plan in the flavors of someplace far away. Europe is full of possibilities, as are some places closer to home.
Surprise your family with a European flare. The flavors of goose, gingerbread, a cherry stollen, marzipan cookies, and mulled wine will are examples of foods that will change a holiday meal into something memorable.
Going with a Spanish flavors, using saffron, tarragon, fennel and cinnamon to flavor your traditional dishes. The change in spices will fill your home with elegant scents, and offer your family something they won’t be expecting.
A taste of Mexico is another popular change, usually done Tex-Max style. Instead of turkey and dressing, go with tamales and chili, refried beans, hot queso and queso flameado with tortillas and chips.
Let’s not forget Jamaica! Jerked pork, fruit salsas of mango and pineapple, sweet breads, and if you really want to go all out, try roasted breadfruit. The textures and flavors are amazing.

Cookie Exchange
If you find yourself in a time crunch for a cookie exchange, Bake simple cookies such as snicker-doodles or sugar cookies and dip each cookie half-way in chocolate. Add holiday sprinkles or crushed peppermint to add even more tasty appeal. Macaron style filled cookies are also quick with pre-made frostings that come in dozens of flavors. Store bought cookies can also be treated this way, though make them something exciting and special by choosing foreign imports (Mexico and England are popular). Gingersnaps and vanilla wafers make good sandwich cookies. Roll the edges of the filling with crushed hard candies to add color and a personal touch.

Holiday Cocktails
Bring the flavors of the holidays into your party season or family gathering with adult beverages based in apple cider. Mix dark rum, cider, and cinnamon in a pitcher to serve hot or cold. Cider is also a good base for brandy and mulling spices.

Use a crock pot to keep your warm drinks warm with a low setting. Serve as needed all night long.

Cookie Tins
Cookies make great holiday gifts. colorful containers, both plastic and metal are wildly available these days, making cookie gift giving simple and attractive for the holidays. Whether you buy specialty cookies, or bake your own, choose four or five of each type of cookie, place them in cupcake papers to separate them, and arrange them attractively into your containers. Each container should hold several different types of cookies. Make several containers at one time so as to not waste cookies! Use mini tins to make wonderful party favors for guests to enjoy after the event is over.

Brownie in a Jar
Another fun gift for individuals who like to bake is a recipe in a jar. Choose a pretty jar with a good lid. Mason jars are good for this gift, though other styles may be used. Layer the dry ingredients of your favorite brownie recipe into the jar. Recipes for cookies, pancakes, and other baked goods may also be used – the more colorful and different the layers, the better. Write out the instructions and wet ingredients on the back of a festive gift tag and tie it to the jar with a bright ribbon. Add a bow on top for that extra touch.

 

I hope you have as much fun – and time savings! – as I have had with these suggestions over the years.

— Ann Cathey

 

Blackened Bananas

Bananas ripen in stages, and each stage is good for something. In spite of the common concept that bananas are best eaten raw, there are plenty of other uses for this wonderful fruit.

 

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Green bananas

If a banana is yellow with some green along the seams, it’s not quite ripe. The meat is harder than the truly ripe stage, and has less flavor.

 

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Ripening bananas

An all-yellow banana, most especially those that have turned a more golden color, are at the stage a lot of people refer to as “perfect” for just peeling and eating. The flavor is richer than the green banana, and more mellow.

 

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Slightly over-ripe bananas

Dark patches or spots on a banana are a signal to some that a banana is almost ready to ‘go’. The meat looks just like as it does in the all-yellow skinned banana. This is still a good eating stage, or for slicing and frying up like a plantain.

 

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Blackened banana

Then there’s that stage where the stem is shriveled and black, and the banana is slightly smaller with most of the skin gone dark. This stage of the banana is often just disposed of, but that’s a mistake.

 

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Banana peel showing blackening, and spots of over-ripe fruit still on the inside.

The most flavorful banana stage is actually after the skin has turned mostly dark, or “blackened”. It’s very soft, like room temperature butter and easy to mix without turning chunky. It’s great in cookies, breads, cakes, custards, and other recipes calling for raw banana. It is at it’s sweetest and still adds nutrients and fiber to your cooking.

The blackened stage may be peeled and frozen, whole or premashed, for use later.

Bananas can also take the place of oil in some recipes. Two medium bananas may be substituted for oil in most cake or cookie mixes, boxed or scratch.

 

–Ann Cathey

Food Porn – Jason’s Deli

Jason’s Deli is fairly widespread, and the food has been consistent and delicious for me over many years and many locations. I’d like to share the most recent visit.

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Broccoli Cheese Soup

 

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Chicken Alfredo
Penne pasta topped with grilled, 100% antibiotic-free chicken breast, creamy Alfredo sauce, Asiago. Served with toasted herb focaccia bread.

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The Plain Jane® Potato
Baked potato stuffed with cheddar, sour cream, butter, bacon, green onions.

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Beefeater
1/2 pound of hot roast beef, provolone, mayo, toasted on New Orleans French bread. Served with a cup of au jus.

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Reuben THE Great
1/2 pound of hot corned beef or pastrami, Swiss, sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing, grilled on rye.

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What can I say? It’s Great Rueben!

 

Be sure to check out their full menu, including some seasonal favorites!

–Ann Cathey

 

Be Freezer Friendly

Freezing foods is not only a way to preserve foods and keep them fresh longer, it also allows snack and meals to be easily kept on hand. If you take a few simple steps to freeze foods properly, and to assist your freezer to run as efficiently as possible, it’s a simple matter to keep frozen foods at their best.

TEMPERATURE CHECK
Most people don’t realize that you have control over the temperature of your freezer. Check for the temperature controls (use the manual if needed). The ideal setting for your freezer is 0F or below.

KEEP IT BREATHABLE
Make sure there is ample air space on the sides and top of the freezer to allow air to circulate and heat to escape. Air circulation is critical to keeping food frozen.

KEEP IT SHUT
Don’t stand with the door to your appliance open. Keep it closed as much as possible to maintain the internal temperature at an even level. In the event of a power outage, leave the freezer closed so food will stay frozen as long as possible.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY
If there are any empty spaces in your freezer, fill them up with plastic bottles of frozen water. This will assist your freezer in maintaining an even temperature without using up additional energy every time the door is opened allowing the cold air to fall away. Less air volume in large spaces means less loss of cold with each exposure.

SEAL CHECKS
Perform regular checks on the seal around the door of your unit. Keeping the seal clean and free of any material stuck to it’s edges will allow the rubber to complete the seal on the freezer every time. Hardening of the material, drying out, and even cracks can form over time decreasing the ability of the seal to hold in the cold. Have the seal replaced if it suffers any damage to keep your appliance in tip-top shape.

USAGE ARRANGEMENT
Keep items meant for long-term freezing in the coldest section of your appliance, be that int he back or bottom of the chamber. Also, try to allow for a first in first out rule for multiples of items and items that are not likely to remain int he freezer very long. For example, if you have two bags of frozen veggies, use the one that has been in the freezer longest, first. Keep frozen snacks (ice cream bars, fruits and berries, microwaveable mini pizza, etc) in the easiest to reach spots. It allows for quicker removal of items and resealing the chamber.

Your freezer, be it a chest freezer, an upright, or a second door on your standard refrigerator, will benefit in the long run from these usages. It can also help you maintain a lower power bill each month.

–Ann Cathey

Maple Bacon Mashed Potatoes

Fall is the time of year when maple-bacon flavors start turning up in the odd niches where pumpkin spice has already been and gone. In this case, I’ve run across a recipe that takes an old favorite and gives it a sweet-n-savoury twist.

MAPLE BACON MASHED POTATOES
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients
2-1/2 lbs gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup light cream
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp maple syrup
5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled, reserve some for topping
salt and pepper to taste
fresh chopped chives for garnish

Directions
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add potatoes and cook until a fork will easily slip into the center of a chunk of potato. This should be about 15-20 minutes.

Heat the milk, cream and butter in small saucepan over a low heat until the butter melts. Stir in the maple syrup. This may be done while the potatoes are cooking.

Drain your potatoes and return them to the pot. Using a potato masher or electric hand mixer, slowly stir in the milk mixture until potatoes are smooth and creamy.

Fold in chopped bacon. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

If you are not serving int he mixing bowl, turn the mashed potatoes out into a serving dish. Top with remaining chopped bacon and sprinkle with chives.

Serve hot. Refridgerate any leftovers.

 

NOTE: Potatoes, like pasta, prefer to go into boiling water rather than to be started cold. Starting your potatoes in cold water will allow the outer layers to cook more rapidly than the interior, allowing the out layers to actually cook off the chunks. While this is a great method for reducing potatoes for potato soup, it’s not so great for mashed potatoes.

 

I can smell this just typing about it. It sounds like a wonderful take on sweet and savoury, just in time for your holiday gatherings.

Enjoy!

–Ann Cathey

 

Grain Free Pumpkin Biscuits

With the pumpkin spice madness coming down upon us, I thought something pumpkin might be appropriate right about now. I keep seeing recipes online for pumpkin rolls, biscuits, and muffins that are Suited to a Paleo diet. They also seem to be suited to a well controlled diabetic diet, so I decided to check them out.

My results were a little different than I expected, but the resulting ‘biscuits’ were quite tasty and great with coffee. They did not rise as I hoped and were very moist – almost like little pumpkin custards rather than what i would consider a biscuit or a roll.

Grain Free Pumpkin Biscuits
Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 15 min
Total Time: 20 min

Ingredients:
-Dry
1 cup blanched almond flour
2 tbsp coconut flour
1/2 cup arrowroot powder (or tapioca powder)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt, more to taste
-Wet
1/4 cup canned pumpkin (OR unsweetened applesauce)**
1 egg
3 tbsp butter, cold or room temperature (not melted)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with baking liner or parchment paper.

In one bowl combine dry ingredients. In a separate bowl combine wet ingredients. Add wet to dry and whisk together to combine

Roll dough into balls and place on parchment paper. Or in my case drop 1/4 cup of mixture into cupcake pan segments. (Mine came out rather wet.)

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until cooked through and flaky. Serve warm with butter.

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My dough was more of a batter.

 

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Finished ‘biscuits’.

Make them more of a sweet roll by adding a touch of cinnamon and raw honey. Or make more of a savory by adding white pepper, garlic, sage, or your favorite savory spices.

Paleo, grain-free, gluten-free, in case you were wondering.

Enjoy!

— Ann Cathey