Posts Tagged ‘dinner’

Do you ever have a difficult time deciding what kind of wine to serve with Thanksgiving dinner?  Of course you do….more than half of your guests like red wine and we all know white wine is the appropriate wine to serve with fowl.  Should it be a strong Malbec or Cabernet?  Or perhaps a Pinot Noir or Zinfandel?  And what white wine should you serve?  Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Chablis, Sauvignon Blanc?   Well you can see it’s really a conundrum, so I suggest you stick to Apple Cider.

Apple Cider, the traditional Autumn harvest drink, is the perfect non-alcoholic beverage to accompany your Thanksgiving feast.  I see these cocktails being served before dinner because I think the traditional Thanksgiving meal is on the sweet side.  I try to keep the sweetness to a minimum; No marshmallows on my sweet potatoes, even my cranberry sauce is tart;  I make it with grated ginger and sherry vinegar.  

Which one of these cider concoctions will you be serving this year?

1. Cider & Pomegranate Margaritas:   Coarse salt,  1/2 oz. simple syrup,  1/2 oz. fresh lime juice, 2 oz. tequila,  2 oz. pomegranate juice,  4 oz. apple cider. Dip the rim of the glass in water, then in the salt.  Combine all ingredients and ice in a cocktail shaker.  Shake vigorously, strain.

2. Citrusy Cider Scotch & Lavender:  1 sprig fresh lavnder,  lemon wedge,  1/2 oz. simple syrup,  3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice,  2 oz. scotch,  4 oz. apple cider.  Combine main ingredients and ice in a cocktail shaker.  Shake vigorously.  Garnish with the lemon wedge and lavender.

3.  Cider Dark & Stormy: lime wedge,  4 oz. ginger beer, 1/4 oz. fresh lime juice, 2 oz. dark rum, 2 oz. apple cider.  Combine the cider, rum, and lime juice in an ice-filled glass.  Top with the ginger beer. Garnish with the lime wedge.

Don't Forget the Mint Sprig

Don’t Forget the Mint Sprig

4.  Gingery Cider with Tequila:  1 spring mint, 1 small piece sliced fresh ginger, 1 strip lemon zest, 1 TBS fresh mint leaves, 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice, 1 tsp agave, 2 oz. tequila, 4 oz apple ciderMuddle mint leaves, ginger, lemon zest and agave in a cocktail shaker.  Add cider, tequila, and ice.  Shake vigorously.  Strain over crushed ice and serve with the mint sprig.

5.  Cider Shandy:  1 orange slice, 6 oz. lager, 6 oz. apple cider.  Combine the lager and cider.  Serve with an orange slice.

6.  Smoke & Spice Cider:  1 sprig mint,  3 slices jalpeno, 1 TBS fresh mint leaves, 1/4 oz. simple syrup,  3/4 oz. fresh lime juice, 2 oz. mescal, 4 oz. apple cider.  Muddle the mint leaves and jalapeno in a cocktail shaker.  Add remaining ingredients and ice.  Shake vigorously and pour into the glass. Serve with the mint sprig.

Apple Cider Champagne

Cider Bellini

7.  Cider Bellini: 1 spring fresh rosemary, sparkling wine like Prosecco,  1/2 oz. apple cider. Pour the cider into a champagne flute.  Top with sparkling wine.  Serve with the rosemary sprig.

8.  Fall Cider Sangria: 1 sliced apple, 1 sliced pear, 1 sliced orange, 8 oz, apple brandy, 1 bottle white wine, 32 oz. apple ciderCombine all ingredients in a large pitcher.  Chill at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

9.  Spiked Cider Tea:  2 thin lemon slices, 1 black tea bag, 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract, 2 oz. gin, 8 oz. apple cider.   Bring the cider and vanilla to a boil.  Remove from heat and add the tea bag;  steep 3 minutes. Remove tea bag and stir in the gin.  Serve with a lemon slice.

10. Rum & Pineapple Punch: 1/2 sliced fresh pineapple, 1 oz. fresh orange juice, 1 oz. simple syrup, 1 1/2 oz. lemon juice,  2 oz. brandy,  4 oz. rum,  16 oz. apple cider.  Combine the pineapple, cider, rum, brandy, lemon juice,  simple syrup, and orange juice in a punch bowl.   Chill at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

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I said I was going to make it and I did but not tonight (Sunday).  I made it last night because we weren’t all that hungry for a big meal as we had taken a trip to the local turkey farm to check out what we might want to order for Thanksgiving.  The Hincks Turkey Farm, established in 1938 has a quaint little outlet shop/restaurant in Mannasquan, NJ.  We treated ourselves to turkey sandwiches.  I had the Russian Turkey and Peter had the Flaming Turkey.  Mine, you can probably guess the ingredients but his?  His had hot cherry peppers in it!  This late lunch took place close to 3:00 so as dinner time approached, we weren’t very hungry.  

Chicken Pot Pie Soup Mix

Chicken Pot Pie Soup Mix

I switched menus and made this hearty soup.  The problem with posting about it is that I didn’t make if from scratch so I don’t have a recipe to blog about.   When we were at the Orchard a few weeks ago, I spotted the soup mixes and remembered that I had made one last year and it was beyond “souper”.  The brand is Cherchies, and they make several different kinds of hearty soup mixes.  I think I paid $6.99 for the package;  You add cooked chicken to it and dumplings if you want to really make a meal of it.  And we did! I trimmed all of the meat off of the roast chicken  we had on Friday night and used it in the soup (love getting two meals out of something)  and I made dumplings with Bisquick.  What a delightful meal!  

I also purchased their Mushroom Chowder Mix so as soon as we have another nippy evening, I might make that one. 

I like to think of myself  as a good cook and love posting recipes of dishes I’ve made so I hope I haven’t disillusioned my followers tonight.

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Tasty Tidbits Tuesday has been missing in action more often than I would like to admit.  I made the pasta dish I featured a week or so ago – the Penne with Cauliflower and Swiss Chard.  OMG, I have to tell you it was sooooooo delicious.  It had a delightfully light flavoring yet strong enough that you could savor every bite.  I admit I couldn’t taste the  Swiss Chard but since it added a different texture and the goodness of a dark leafy green vegetable, I was happy it was in it.

Actually it wasn’t the ingredients as much as it was the cooking technique that brought such flavor into every mouthful.  If you recall, the cauliflower was blanched for 3 minutes in the pot of boiling water that would also be used to cook the pasta.  So when the pasta was cooking in the water that the cauliflower had been in, it absorbed a light flavor that was as I said, delicious!  

Well my passion for pasta got me thinking about how many of my Tuesday recipes were pasta dishes and so I’ve decided to make a new category on the blog; We Called It Macaroni.  And I’m going to be publishing a LOT of pasta recipes! I’m no Lydia however, I’m taking on the job of educating my readers to the joys of Italian cooking, particularly PASTA, and taking them beyond red sauce and meatballs!  You can now search the blog category We Called It Macaroni for any of the pasta recipes published previously.  “Mangia”

Lovely light and flavorful pasta dish.

Lovely light and flavorful pasta dish.

Orchiette with Brocolie Rabe, Oregano and Lemon

Coarse salt and ground pepper

3/4 orchiette or other small pasta shape

1 bunch broccoli rabe (1 lb) – trimmed, cut into 1 1/2 ” pieces

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1 TBS fresh oregano leaves, for serving

2-3 TBS fresh lemon juice , for serving

In  a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to directions, adding broccoli rate 4 minutes before the end of cooking.  Meanwhile, in a small saucepan heat oil, garlic and red pepper flakes over medium heat until garlic begins to sizzle, 2 minutes.  

Drain pasta and broccoli rabe and return to pot.  Add oil mixture and toss to coat;  season to taste with salt and pepper.  * I always sprinkle a little Peccorino-Romano or other Italian grating cheese on top of my pasta dishes

To  serve, sprinkle oregano over pasta and drizzle with lemon juice.

** As you can see, this recipe uses only olive oil as the sauce for the pasta dish;  Therefore you should definitely use the small pasta shapes such as orchiette and secondly when I see a recipe calling for so little sauce I often save a cupful of the pasta water to add to the sauce. Also I would use as many garlic cloves as I wished and just shake the red pepper flakes in and not measure.

***  You can also add cherry tomatoes with the garlic and cook them till they burst, add yet another dimension of flavor and texture to your dish.

Recipe from Martha Stewart’s Every Day Food

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Slow-Cooked Chicken Cacciatore a/k/a Chicken Hunter Style

Tomorrow morning I’m taking the crock pot and gonna cook up a storm.  I need to make a couple of meals and freeze some of them.  If I don’t, I find myself coming home late and too tired to cook and that leads to ordering in or eating junk.  Either way it’s no good, one costs too much money and the other ends up being empty calories.  So tomorrow morning I’ll make the Chicken Cacciatore and give my husband a real meal and freeze the rest.

3 lbs cut up chicken (split chicken breasts and thighs)

Flour for searing

2 TBS olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

8 oz of baby bella  mushrooms sliced

2 cups diced green peppers and onions

1 cup dry red wine

2 tsp. Italian seasoning

1 pkg (24 oz) of seasoned tomato sauce.

Salt and pepper to taste

Dust chicken with searing flour

Heat oil on MEDIUM in large braising pan; add chicken.  Brown lightly on all sides, 8-10 minutes.  Transfer chicken to slow cooker.  Discard all but 1 TBS oil.

Add garlic, mushrooms, peppers and onions to pan.  Cook, stirring occasionally, 3-4 minutes, until vegetables soften slightly.  Add wine; cook 1-2 minutes.  Add Italian seasoning and tomato sauce; stir.  Bring to simmer and remove from heat.

Add sauce mixture carefully to slow cooker.  Cover;  cook 3-4 hours on HIGH or 6-7 hours on LOW.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  I’m going to add some red pepper flakes too.  Serve over pasta or rice.

And omg, this house is going to smell DEE-LICIOUS tomorrow!

Recipe from Wegman’s Menu Magazine Fall 2009

Cooking Lab: Italian - Pollo alla Cacciatora (...

Chicken Hunter Style

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Pasta with Cauliflower


The other night I made a really tasty pasta dish, the perfect Sunday night supper.  The recipe which came from Wegman’s and called for using a pasta called Barilotti which is a thick twisted curl of macaroni.  It’s also a little pricey so I opted to use Gemelli or Cavatelli.  This is a great vegetarian meal.

1 lb pasta such as Cavatelli or Gemelli

1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs

2 TBS basting oil

1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

1/4 cup olive oil

1 TBS chopped garlic

3 anchovy fillets

1/2 TBS crushed red pepper

1 1/2-2 lbs cauliflower, cut into 1 ” pieces (about 6 cups)

1/2 cup water

1 tsp salt

2 TBS fresh Italian parsley

Ground black pepper to taste

Use a braising pan – a heavy Dutch oven would be a good second choice

Combine panko and basting oil in small bowl.  Toast in braising pan on MEDIUM, stirring constantly, 3-4 minutes until golden brown.  Transfer to small plate to cool. Then toss with grated cheese in a small bowl.

Heat olive oil, garlic, anchovies and hot pepper on MEDIUM-LOW.  Cook, stirring 2-3 minutes, until anchovy fillets dissolve.

Raise heat to HIGH.  Add cauliflower, water and salt; stir.  Bring to simmer;  Cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes or until water is evaporated, cauliflower is tender.  Turn off heat.

Add cooked pasta to cauliflower; stir to combine.  Add half the panko/cheese  mixture and parsley to pan.  Stir.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Garnish with remaining panko/cheese mixture.

Recipe courtesy of Wegman’s  –  Bring Home A Taste of Italy

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Image via Wikipedia

Now there’s a crazy phrase! Let’s see how do you bake a tornado, or souffle a hurricane? Well look for this one sometime in the future in another blog.  Today is really about cooking;  what’s in the crock pot right now is Slow-Cooked Collard Greens with Smoked Turkey and it smells so good, the whole house is filled with the aroma.  I started on Saturday morning cooking;  Into the crock pot went the makings of Slow-Cooked Beef Minestrone see previous blog for recipe:

https://pbenjay.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/slow-cooked-beef-minestrone/. And while that was simmering all day, I decided to make some Roasted Chicken and Butternut Squash Soup also published in a previous blog: https://pbenjay.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/roasted-chicken-and-butternut-squash-soup. It wasn’t really that cold this weekend so I’m not sure where the urge to soup-things-up came from but nonetheless, I love soups and am glad I now have a few containers of Minestrone in the freezer.

Last night’s dinner was the Roasted Chicken and Butternut Squash soup and when asked by you know who,“what’s for dinner”? and I told him, I got a less than enthusiastic reply.  I was informed that soup didn’t sound like much of a meal.  First of all I had to remind him that he has had it before and has remarked that “its a meal all by itself” because this soup is chunky, thick and full of chicken too.  So I thought about it and had recently seen a pasta recipe that I considered light- so why not make that as well.  Linguine with Lemon Cream Sauce was delightful, I loved it and I never really told you know who that it had cream in it.

Linguine with Lemon Cream Sauce

Coarse salt and ground pepper

1# Linguine

1 tsp. Olive Oil

2 Shallots, minced

1 cup of Heavy Cream

1 TBSP Lemon Zest (1 lemon)

2 TBSP Lemon juice

Cook pasta and reserve 2 cups of  pasta water.  Drain and return to pot.  Cook shallots in oil in small pot over MEDIUM heat till tender (4 min).  Add cream and lemon zest and bring to boil and cook until slightly thickened ( I stirred almost constantly) about 8 minutes.  Add lemon juice, salt, pepper.  I added some pasta water at that point, judging the consistency as I like it.  I also sprinkled some grated cheese over the top also.

Recipe from Martha Stewart’s Every Day Food

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Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwich

Image via Wikipedia

Tasty Tidbits Tuesday

I just went for my annual check up and had what I already knew to be resoundingly confirmed: my cholesterol level is high.  Actually much higher than it should be.  It has been for over a year and every six months I tell my internist that I’m going to change my diet and bring it down.  So last year I brought it down but not low enough. Now it’s even higher soooooo….. it looks like medication is the only route left to take.  Therefore, I thought I would post a couple of great recipes for salmon and cod.  And maybe I will BUT not today after all. It’s Fall and time to start thinking about warm, cozy food and as I was leafing through Martha Stewart‘s LIVING (October) I came across this yummlicious recipe for a grilled cheese sandwich – grown-up style!

Think of this iconic sandwich as a blank canvas for those leftovers in your refrigerator; a heel of cheese, arugula, a piece of two of prosciutto and a final spoonful of jam or harissa (THIS does NOT sound like my fridge!)

Cheddar, Gruyère, and Fontina are all fine melting cheeses that offer an adult layer of complexity, nuttiness, and sharpness.  Swap in sourdough, or rye bread and the sandwich gets even more interesting – yet stays quite simple.  Martha suggests 9 variations:

  1. Gruyère, Apple, and Sage on Rye
  2. Gruyère, Red Onion, Prosciutto, and Pepper on Rye
  3. Fontina, Harissa, and Pear on Rye
  4. Cheddar, Dijon Mustard, Bacon, Tomatoes, Avocado and Pepper on Sourdough
  5. Cheddar, Jalapeno, and Cilantro onWhite
  6. Gruyère, Oil-Packed Sardines, Peppedew Peppers and Arugula on Rye.
  7. Cheddar, Cherry Preserves, and Basil on White
  8. Fontina, Oil-Packed Tuna, and Relish on White
  9. Cheddar, Bacon, and Pickles on Sourdough

Butter (room temperature) the inside and outside of both slices of bread, making sure to cover the surfaces.  Preheat a well-seasoned cast iron pan over MEDIUM heat.  Add the assembled sandwich.  Once the cheese starts to melt and the bread on the bottom is golden brown, flip the sandwich.(Avoid pressing with spatula, the goal is a fluffy sandwich, not a panino.)  Grill until cheese has fully melted and the other side is golden brown.

Mustard spread on the inside complements most cheeses.  Fruit preserves make a sweet and sometimes tart foil to savory cheeses.

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Easy Living

Here’s how a really great fun evening evolves: (in Ocean Grove)

I wanted to invite the Taylors over for dinner  and at the same time,  try to get together with Susan so she could get me started on my new knitting project (read obsession) and yes this is the same Susan and the same knitting that has popped up several times in these blogs. Peter wanted to watch a movie that he had just acquired – Easy Living which was written by Preston Sturges.  Those who know, know that Preston Sturges is one of his favorite screen writers – directors of all times.  Actually, begrudgingly, I have to admit that the Sturges movies I’ve seen have been terrific, replete with some of the world’s best ever character actors such as Franklin Pangborn and Luis Alberni.  But I digress (and that’s one of the best parts about a blog – you can!)

We could invite them over BUT really who wants to watch a movie on the  20 inch screen of a 1986 TV?  Luckily for all of us, the current economy and the latitude of friendship in this special place (Ocean Grove) allowed for a bold move on my  part.  I called Susan, told her what I had been thinking and then quickly negated it with a description of our TV as compared to their very large (42″-48″??) flat screen which is opposite their very spacious and extremely comfortable couch and without stopping to take another breath, just pushed on and suggested I bring the dinner to her house and we’ll watch the movie there!  Susan, being Susan, thought that was a marvelous idea.  We were all set then – she needed to provide the wine and dessert and the Peterlori catering company would bring the fully cooked meal to their door.

PROLOGUE:  We had drinks, hors d’ouevres and lots of laughs AND knitting before dinner and then a very good dinner if I do say so myself, with good conversation always with more laughs.  We watched Easy Living and The Producers!

There was one minor problem;  the advanced technology involved with the wide flat screen TV, the altercockers and the aspect ratio.  Sort of like the blind leading the deaf so we ended up watching the movie as if it were a pie crust being rolled out.

However, even in Ocean Grove with friends, leaving their home at 1 am seemed well you know….

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