Saturday, December 31, 2011

Auld Lang Syne


"Here's to the bright new year,
and a fond farewell to the old;
here's to the things that are yet to come,
and to the memories that we hold."
Anonymous

Auld Lang Syne" was first played as a New Year's song by Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians at the Roosevelt Grill in 1927. He adopted the song in 1929 for use in his annual New Year's Eve broadcasts on radio and television. Auld Lang Syne translates "for old times's sake". The song often associated with the new year is a global anthem and remembrance and a fraternity type. If you type the song title into You Tube there are more than 32,000 versions that come up. The song is sung throughout English speaking countries and has been translated into more than 40 languages.
But who is the author? Robert Burns wrote this Scots poem in 1788 and set it to the tune of a traditional folk song. However, Burns never claimed to be the original author. He traveled extensively throughout his native land and once said "he took it from an old man." After more than two centuries after Burn's death opinion is still divided on the source of the song and how much credit he deserves. 
Singing the song on Hogmanay or New Year's Eve very quickly became a a Scottish custom that spread to other parts of the British Isles. As its people emigrated around the world they took their song with the.them.
Today many cities throughout the world have developed their own ball dropping traditions to  ring in the New Year. Auld Lang Syne will be sung by many as each look forward to a fresh start in the New Year 2012.

For last year's words belong to last year's language
and next year's word await another voice
and to make an end is to make a beginning."
T.S. Eliot



Friday, December 30, 2011

Minestrone Soup

"Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year."
Ralph Waldo Emerson


Cook's Note:
The following recipe started out as an original one from Better Homes and Garden cookbook Cooking Italian.  By the time I completed the soup pulling ideas from several other sources I can confidently say it is now my own recipe because of all the changes made. The completed recipe makes about 18 cups or 4-1/2 quarts and freezes well. My family really liked the robust flavor. It is a very filling soup so it only needs to be served with bread/bread sticks and fruit or a salad. It can be vegetarian dish by just omitting the sausage and use vegetable broth rather than the chicken or beef broth. Despite the fact there are a long list of ingredients it was easy to put together and quite worth the effort.
Minestrone is an Italian peasant vegetable soup made with fresh seasonal vegetables often with the addition of pasta and meat. There is no set recipe for Italians because the soup is usually made with what vegetables are in season. There are countless versions of Minestrone soup but all recipes do include common ingredients: beans, onions, celery, carrots, stock and tomatoes. 
Minestrone Soup
Ingredients:
  • ½ cup diced carrots
  • ½ cup diced celery
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 3 TB. Olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic minced
  • 2 can chicken broth or beef or vegetable (make sure the broth is low sodium0
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage (I bought a package of coleslaw mix to use)
  • 2 cups tomato juice
  • 2-½ cups water
  • 1 can basil, onion, oregano chunky tomatoes
  • 1cup diced zucchini
  • 1 can northern beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 small package frozen Italian style vegetables (not thawed)
  • ½-3/4 lb. cooked Italian sweet sausage and crumbled in a food processor
  • 2 cups dried pasta shells
  • ½ tsp. sage
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 TB. dried parsley
Directions:
  • In oven brown sausage while making the soup
  • In a large Dutch oven or soup pot add olive oil and sauté celery, onion, gallic and carrots till onion is tender but not brown
  • Stir in the broth, tomatoes, cabbage, tomato juice, water, and spices
  • Bring to a boil from a low-medium heat, cover and simmer on low heat about 15 minutes
  • Stir in beans, zucchini, frozen vegetables, dried pasta and cooked meat
  • Bring to a boil and simmer for an hour covered
  • Optional 1/8 cup -1/4 cup red wine added in at end of cooking time
  • To serve be sure to remove bay leaves and top soup serving with grated Parmesan cheese




Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Novel Approach

"The most wasted day of all is
that during which we have not 
laughed."
by Sebastian Chamfort








One small town in southern Minnesota has found a fun and unique way to share its rural landscape, creative talents and community values with visitors. Since 2009 residents of Truman, Minnesota have been creating barn quilts. No, I do not mean quilts found inside the home but those posted outside on barns and other agricultural buildings.  Barn quilts are quilt patterns using geometric shapes and folk designs painted on wooden panels that are hung on exterior walls. A recent show on TV featured some of these barn quilts and the artists who make them. Often families who commission one for their barn have requests for the artist to create one that has specific meaning for their family. The following link below is a slide show to some 65 barn quilts patterns.
Barn quilts began about 300 years ago with the arrival of immigrants from the Rhine River region of Germany. The last few years there has been a resurgence of popularity in states such as Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa and South Carolina who have developed quilt trails. These trails are usually a self guided driving tour through a particular area to view the barn quilts. I think barn quilt trails are a novel way to attract visitors to certain area.  

http://www.barnquilts.com/slideshow.html
Some families like to take on the barn quilt project themselves.  This one is from Grundy County, Iowa 
I did some sleuthing (via the Internet) hoping to find out if barn quilts are popular in Europe. I was unable to find any information. Please let me know if you have heard of quilt trails in any European countries. 
__________________________________________________________


Butternut Squash Ravioli with Mushrooms
Ingredients:
  • 2 (8 oz.) packages of refrigerated butternut squash-filled ravioli (I found them at Super Target)
  • 4 TB. butter
  • 1 small box white mushrooms, cleaned patted dry and sliced
  • 1 tsp. prepared garlic (it comes in a jar)
  • 3-4TB. chopped green onion
  • 2 TB. parsley fresh or 1 TB. dried parsley
  • 1 tsp. sage
  • shaved Parmesan cheese
Directions:
  • Prepare ravioli according to package directions. Keep warm
  • Melt butter and sauté onions and mushrooms about 3-5 minutes, add garlic, sage and parsley sauté 2 minutes
  • Add cooked ravioli and toss gently
  • Serve immediately with shaved fresh Parmesan cheese

    Sunday, December 25, 2011

    A Wish

    My wish for you...
    May you have the gladness of Christmas, which is hope;

    The spirit of Christmas which is peace;

    The heart of Christmas which is love.

    Saturday, December 24, 2011

    On Track

    Christmas According to Bella
    Dear Santa,
    My stocking has been hung by the chimney with care.

    I really hope that I am on your list. I have tried hard to be very good, well pretty good, okay just good this past year. Please overlook the times I hatched escape plans and ran away from home playing  around the neighborhood for a long time, ate nasty stuff on beaches scaring my owners, peed in the car but only once and really it was an accident, wrestled a bit hard with my doggie friends, got my owners up many times in the middle of the night to go outside and do my doggie business, ran into the woods and dragged back garbage and stole my neighbor's measuring cup he left outside with ham juices to cool. 
    I received in the mail my Santa wish list. I am busy filling it out with a little help from my owner. She thinks you should know all the good stuff I do like ride nice in the car, don't bark at visitors to the door, do not jump on people, give very good tail wags, does not show separation anxiety and best of all she thinks I am friendly and lovable.
    So I hope you will make a stop at our house, my wishes are few and mostly include food. Yesterday I scored big at the dog park.  Some owners were giving out cute little cellophane bags of treats.
        
    Love, 
    Bella
    P.S. Thank you for reading my letter and hope you stop by my house. I will be watching and waiting for you!  This year I am hooked up to http://www.noradsanta.org/en/ that tracks you on your worldwide journey. Oh, and one more thing we made you reindeer cookies to snack on when you stop at our house.




    Friday, December 23, 2011

    Last Minute Thoughts Before The Holiday

    On this day in 1823, a poem entitled A Visit From St. Nicholas was published in the Troy Sentinel in New York City. The unsigned poem that began "Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house..." was years later credited to Clement Clarke Moore. Originally  the poem was submitted to the newspaper by a relative of Moore. The magic of this jolly visitor in the poem is largely responsible for the conception of Santa Claus as we know him today.
    So it was the day before Christmas Eve for me and I was giving my cupboards a much needed overhaul when what to my wondering eyes should appear but this lonely can leftover from Thanksgiving.
    So I sprung into action perhaps a bit like St. Nicholas and went straight to my work making  Cranberry Sauced Meatballs, the perfect appetizer for a Christmas Eve buffet. And by sheer luck I even had on hand prepared meatballs in the freezer to make the job easier. Now that was a real time saver.
    words in italics taken from his poem...just to give the author full credit.
     I liked this recipe as a nice alternative to the grape sauced/chili sauce meatballs I have made before.
    Cranberry Meatballs 
    Ingredients:
    • 2 LBS. of meatballs-make your own or use prepacked ones
    • 1 can ( 16 oz.) cranberry sauce
    • 1 bottle (12 oz.) chili sauce
    • 1/4 cup orange marmalade
    • 1/4-1/2 cup water
    • 2 TB. soy sauce
    • 2 TB. wine vinegar
    • 1 TB. lemon juice
    • 1/2-1 tsp. dried red pepper flakes 

    Directions:
    • In a large dutch oven over medium heat whisk all ingredients except meatballs
    • Cook for 5 minutes or until ingredients are smooth
    • Add meatballs and cook on low heat 30 minutes-stirring occasionally and meatballs are warm
    • Another alternative is to place meatball mixture in a slow cooker/crock pot and cook on low-medium for 2 hours  

    Note: Recipe can be made ahead and then placed in a crock-pot to cook when needed
    adapted from Southern Living Recipes (Internet) 

    Bellini
    This drink would make a wonderful toast to the New Year 2012
    Bellini was invented at Harry's Bar in Venice in 1931. This simple drink was a favorite of Ernest Hemingway, Sinclair Lewis and Orson Welles, who were said to have sipped it while the United States was under Prohibition. After tasting this drink I must say one would use a lot of restraint to just sip it :)
    Ingredients:
    • 1 oz. (1/8 cup) peach nectar
    • 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
    • 1/2 oz. (1 TB.) peach schnapps
    • 4 oz. (1/2 cup) sparkling wine/champagne
    • 3 fresh raspberries

    Directions:
    • Pour peach nectar, lemon juice and peach schnapps into a glass and stir
    • Gently stir in sparkling wine/champagne
    • Add raspberries on top



    Tuesday, December 20, 2011

    Winter Solstice



    December 21 is a day for great rejoicing!! As the Winter Solstice heralds in a new season bringing us the shortest day of the year we are now on a roll toward summer solstice. Over the next six months we will steadily gain nearly seven hours of daily sunlight. The term solstice means "sun stands still". It is when the sun stays closer to the horizon than any other time of the year and appears to rise and set in same place for several days in a row.  Can't wait for those longer days of daylight!
    Looks like where I live we will just have to dream about a white Christmas since the forecast is for a brown Christmas.  Enjoy the imagery of this winter poem.
    Snow Toward Evening
    Suddenly the sky turned gray,
    The day,
    Which had been bitter and chill,
    Grew soft and still.
    Quietly
    From some invisible blossoming tree
    Millions of petals cool and white
    Drifted and blew,
    Lifted and flew,
    Fell with the falling night.
    by Melville Cane


    The following recipe would be great for a Christmas Brunch. It is quite easy to prepare. One of the best parts is putting the coffee cake together the night before. The cake's flavor can only be enhanced with a your favorite cup of coffee or tea. 


    Overnight Coffee Crumble Cake
    Recipe from Southern Living December 2011
    Ingredients:
    • ¾ cup butter softened
    • 1-cup sugar
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1 tsp. baking powder
    • 1 tsp. soda
    • ½ tsp. salt
    • 1-cup buttermilk
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
     Cinnamon Nut Crumble
    • ½ cup chopped walnuts
    • ½ cup almonds
    • ½ cup pecans
    • ½ cup brown sugar
    • 6 TB. flour
    • 3 TB. melted butter
    • 2 tsp. cinnamon
     Directions for coffee cake
    • Beat butter until creamy, adding in sugar and then adding in eggs one at a time and vanilla
    • Beat till fluffy
    • In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder. baking soda and salt
    • Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour
    • Pour batter into greased 13 x 9 pan and cover with plastic wrap
    • Chill 8-24 hours
    • The night before mix in bowl the crumble nut mixture, cover and set aside
    • Let chilled pan sit out till at room temperature and sprinkle with cinnamon nut mixture
    • Preheat oven 350 and bake for 30 minute
    • Drizzle with rum glaze

    Directions for Cinnamon Nut Crumble

    • In food processor add chopped nuts
    • Add in brown sugar, flour, melted butter and cinnamon
    • Pulse for a few seconds to mix
    • Sprinkle over coffee cake

    Glaze

    • Mix 2 cup powdered sugar 2 TB rum or bourbon, 2-3 TB. milk
    • Drizzle over warm coffee cake




    Monday, December 19, 2011

    Reindeer No-Bake Cookies

    http://www.southernliving.com/food/how-to/how-to-make-reindeer-christmas-cookies-00417000076639/
    Follow the above link to these very cute no bake and easy cookies to make for the holiday season from Southern Living.
     The great thing about this recipe is that all the ingredients can be found at the grocery store.
    Ingredients:
    • 1 package of Nutter Butter cookies. I placed one cookie (on left side package) so you can tell what cookie size looks like
    • 1 small can of white frosting
    • 1 package large regular holiday M&M's (so there is enough for the cook/cooks to nibble on )
    • 1 bag of pretzels
    Directions:
    • Take one cookie apart
    • Break a pretzel with a large sharp knife to make 2 antlers-cut in one quick stroke 
    • Place a dollop of frosting at top of one of the opened cookie half on either edge and place a pretzel piece for the antler on either side and press down
    • Place other cookie half on top to secure the cookie
    • Use a dollop frosting each for the M &M eyes and nose. Be sure to use a red M &M for nose

    Tip: Take a quart size plastic bag (heavy duty) put in 5 large tablespoons of frosting in the bag
    Cut a corner off with scissors and use this as a easy piping bag


    Sunday, December 18, 2011

    In A Pickle

    "Setting goals is the first step 
    in turning the invisible into the visible."
    Tony Robbins 

    Staying on task and getting the tree decorated before December 25th is a worthy goal. Each ornament hung seems to have a story for me-who gave it to us and when. This pickle-shaped glass ornament always brings a smile. I remember the excitement of the student giving me such an unusual Christmas gift. She shared her family's pickle tradition with the class.
    The pickle legend (which many say is just a myth) is a very old Christmas Eve tradition from Germany. After the children were tucked into bed one of the parents would hide the pickle ornament among the tree branches so it would be difficult to find. In the morning the first child who would find the ornament would get an extra gift from St. Nicholas. If it were found by an adult first traditionally it meant  good luck for that grown-up for the whole year. 
    Looking for a last minute gift idea? This book is a fun read about a young pickle's journey to discover that it is okay to be different. Along the way in his journey of self-discovery Baby Dill's family becomes quite inventive helping him get pickle bumps so he will feel like all the other pickles. I thought this book had many good teaching concepts to be shared with the 5-8 year old age group. Follow this link for more information about the author and how to buy the book.
    http://www.picklebumppress.com/
    Hunger is the best pickle.
    Benjamin Franklin 

    Saturday, December 17, 2011

    Panforte di Siena

    Where is Alton Brown (creator and host of Food network, food scientist) when I need him?
    I have been holding on to this recipe for several months. It is a famous Tuscan honey and nut cake a specialty at Christmas sold in pretty boxes and served in thin slices.The roots of the recipe go back to the 12th century in Siena. when sugar was not really used in Italy except in Sicily. "Pane" is Italian for bread. "Panforte" in Italian means strong or tough bread. 
    Three years ago I was on a trip to Tuscany Region, Siena was one of the stops. 
    This a photo of Tuscany region looking out over the wall. Siena is a medieval town surrounded by a wall like a fortress. And I might add breathtaking scenery is in abundance in this region. 

    As part of the tour we attended a cooking school for the day. In this picture volunteers had a chance to make the pasta that was going to be used  for our main meal. I am in back wearing an apron over a brown shirt. 
    Well back to why I need Alton Brown. He is a food scientist who investigates on his shows why certain ingredients work well together and the food chemistry of recipes. I had several questions regarding Panforte di Siena ingredients. There was no oil, eggs or butter and very little liquid listed. Yikes! I thought how can this work? I checked out several other recipes to make sure the ingredients listed were the same as this recipe well as cooking time. 
    For once I even carefully followed the directions. After placing in oven my Panforte di Siena watch began. Even my husband and Bella kept peering through the little glass window waiting for the cake to rise. 
    Have you ever baked and asked yourself these questions: Why isn't it rising? Why doesn't it look like the picture? What could I have done differently? Well, when the timer went off I was still on the fence for this recipe. I let it cool down completely and carefully wrapped in foil for the 24 hour wait and then the big reveal with the dusting of confectioner's sugar needed to complete the presentation. 
    According to my reading this is a type of fruitcake that will keep for weeks without refrigeration. How good is that!
    I am happy to say that the cake does have a very good flavor. It is dense and a bit chewy AND is a lot better than the traditional fruitcake served at holiday time.  
    Panforte di Siena
    Ingredients:
    • 1 cup crushed almonds
    • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
    • 1/2 cup peeled hazelnuts-finely chopped (can toast in oven and when warmed remove the skins)
    • 1 cup dried apricots (finely chopped)
    • 1/2 cup crystallized pineapple (it comes in small pieces)
    • 1/2 cup dried fruit such as figs or candied citrus peel (finely chopped)
    • grated peel of one orange
    • juice of one orange
    • 1/2 cup cake flour
    • 2 TB. unsweetened cocoa
    • 2 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1/2 cup superfine sugar
    • 1/2 cup honey
    • 1/4 tsp. allspice 

    Directions:
    • Add chopped nuts to finely chopped fruits, add grated orange 
    • In a separate bowl mix flour, allspice, cocoa and cinnamon
    • Mix flour mixture with nut mixture
    • Line a 8 inch cake pan with parchment paper 
    • Very lightly grease parchment paper
    • In saucepan over low- heat juice, sugar and honey till sugar dissolves
    • Increase heat a bit and boil gently 5 minutes or until mixture thickened 
    • Quickly add this honey mixture to nut/flour mixture and mix well
    • Turn into prepared pan and level top with back of a damp spoon
    • Bake in preheated oven  @ 300 for 35 minutes
    • Cool in pan completely till cooled
    • Invert onto foil and wrap for 24 hours
    • Before serving dredge top with confectioners sugar




    Tuesday, December 13, 2011

    Holiday Cards and THE CHRISTMAS LETTER

    The first photo is a Victorian Christmas card 1870
    The second photo is a Christmas postcard circa 1900's
    Third photo war years 1940

    Did you know that the first English Christmas greeting cards rarely showed winter or religious themes, instead favoring fairies, flowers and other fanciful designs?  Supposedly  is was to remind the recipient of the approach of Spring. Yikes!!! what happened to their winter season!! All I know is our season doesn't officially begin till next week and who can even think about spring.
    Who would have ever guessed that the first commercial success of Christmas cards commissioned by Sir Henry Cole in 1843 would mushroom today in over a 1.9 billion dollar business. Despite the ease of email and egreetings many like me still hang on to the old fashioned tradition of sending cards and a Christmas newsletter. 
    Even though Christmas is only 12 days way I am still sticking to my ambitious plan to send out Christmas  cards and a family letter. But I must say a recent online article by Jo Adamson titled Why I"ll Never Send Another Christmas Letter did give me pause to think a bit. She had issues with those yearly Christmas letters that often are interrupted as family bragging sheets. How often have we received such a letter and asked ourselves How can one family do all that? Is it possible for one child to win so many awards/games? Who could go on so many trips? And what about those two page letters where some get carried away as they detail every family event for an entire year? 
    But I will say I love going to my mail box just like Charlie Brown checking each day hoping for an overflow of holiday cards. Now that is a treat!
    Despite the ease of email and egreetings to me it just doesn't compare to writing an old fashioned letter and signing a card to stay connected with  family and friends. So wish me luck as I try to stick with the plan. Since I recently made a very large pasta dish giving us many nights of leftovers which equals not making any dinners gives me plenty of time to get down to the business of composing a Christmas letter. And yes I will remember... No Bragging Allowed! 
    Mostaccioli
    Ingredients:
    ·        2 jars Marinara sauce (each 24 oz.)
    ·        2 cans diced tomatoes rosemary & oregano (each 14.5 oz)
    ·        2 TB. Italian seasonings
    ·        2-1/2 lbs. ground beef
    ·        1 large onion diced
    ·        2 cups Mozzarella cheese
    ·        1-1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    ·        1 box (16 oz.) rigatoni
    Directions:
    ·        Cook ground beef with diced onion, drain and crumble slightly in food processor
    ·        In large saucepan add Marinara sauce, diced tomatoes, seasonings cook uncovered on low heat for 30 minutes
    ·        Add cooked beef and cook 15 minutes longer
    ·        Cook pasta and drain
    ·        In a greased 13x9 pan add ½ pasta noodles, ½ of the meat sauce, ½ Parmesan cheese, ½ mozzarella cheese
    ·        Repeat layers ending with mozzarella cheese
    ·        Preheat oven to 350
    ·        Cook covered 25 minutes
    ·        Cook uncovered 10 minutes
    ·        Let set 10-15 minutes before serving


    Sunday, December 11, 2011

    Crock-Pot Chicken Corn Chowder


    Chicken Corn Chowder
    Recipe adapted from Fix It and Forget It cookbook Slow Cooker by Dawn Ranck and Phyllis Pellman Goud
    Photo posted is the following recipe below but with no cream or milk added. Serve this chowder with crusty bread or bread sticks.  It was a very satisfying meal, great flavor and the best part so easy to make.

    Ingredients:
    • 2 boneless chicken breasts or one rotisserie cooked chicken from the deli
    • 2 large sliced carrots
    • 2 celery ribs
    • 2 medium potatoes peeled and diced
    • 1 tsp. mixed herbs (1/2 tsp. thyme and ½ tsp. basil)
    • 12 oz. can cream style corn
    • 12 oz. can regular corn drained
    • 1 onion sliced and diced
    • 1 small box white mushrooms
    • 2 minced cloves of garlic
    • ¼ cup fresh Italian parsley or 1 TB. dried parsley
    • 3 cups chicken stock
    Directions:
    • Saute in 2 TB. butter garlic, mushrooms and onion
    • Combine all ingredients and place in slow cooker or crock-pot
    • If chicken is cooked cook chowder on high 4-5 hours
    • If chicken is raw cook on low heat 8 hours
     Note: Chowders take on many forms including regional favorites. Typically chowders share three common ingredients: dairy products like milk or cream, pork such as bacon or ham; and potatoes
    Another alternative to the above recipe: Add 1cup light cream or evaporated milk that has been mixed with 2 TB. cornstarch to the last 30 minutes of cooking time for a thicker creamier version. Cook 5 bacon strips till very browned , crumble and set aside. In place of the 2TB. butter sauté onions, garlic and mushrooms in bacon fat. Add this to soup mixture.

    "The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste
    experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without
    fear for newer and richer experience."

    -- Eleanor Roosevelt 

    Saturday, December 10, 2011

    Another New Discovery



    Blog posting November 29th featured this book cover illustration of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.  A friend recently made me aware that this particular illustration was done by Jessie Wilcox Smith. Since I was not familiar with this illustrator I did a bit of research and found out she was not the only illustrator for Little Women. The first book original illustrations were done by Alcott's sister May.
    Jessie Wilcox Smith (1863-1935) was among the most gifted of the students of Howard Pyle. He was an American illustrator and author 1853-1911. Pyle authored the classic book Merry Adventures of Robin Hood. He founded his own school of art and illustration.
    Smith is most famous for her work that graced the covers of  magazines such as Good Housekeeping (1917-1935) and Ladies Home Journal. In addition she was a prolific book illustrator. Her illustrations depict the everyday carefree moments of childhood such as being at the beach, playing in the park, playing with blocks etc. Perhaps you may have seen some of her illustrations but not known the identity of Jessie Wilcox Smith. 

    December 10th birth date of  Emily Dickinson, poet and author
     (1830-1886)
    One of the more famous quotes associated to Dickinson is...
    Hope the thing with feathers 
    That perches in the soul-
    And sings tunes without words-
    And never stops- at all.






    Friday, December 9, 2011

    Stromboli



    Stromboli
    recipe from Celebrations With Carmela's Cucina by Carmela Hobbins 
    I added a few ideas
    Ingredients:
    • 1 carton of refrigerated pizza dough (try Pillsbury)
    • 1/4 -1/2 lbs. of your choice Italian deli meats, thinly sliced (combinations salami, turkey, ham or pepperoni)
    • 1/4-1/2 lbs. your choice of Italian cheese, thinly sliced ( try Provolone, Mozzarella or Swiss) 
    • 1/2 cup prepared pesto sauce (could substitute pizza sauce for pesto)
    • 2 tablespoons melted butter
    • marinara sauce for dipping
    Directions:
    • Unroll pizza dough onto a jelly roll pan lined with parchment paper. 
    • Spread 1/2 cup of prepared pesto onto dough down the middle. 
    • Layer meats and cheese on top of the pesto or pizza sauce
    • Carefully roll the pizza dough from the long end jelly-roll style making sure the seam is on the bottom and ends are tucked under well
    •  Brush the top with the melted butter
    • Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes or until golden brown and pizza crust is done
    • Let rest 5- 10 minutes on cutting board and then cut into slices on the diagonal and place on a platter
    • Serve with prepared marina sauce
    some other suggested fillings include: olives, onions, tomatoes, sliced peppers 

      Thursday, December 8, 2011

      Cooking The Italian Way

      A recipe has no soul.
      You as the cook,
      must bring soul to the soup.
      Thomas Keller


      Carmela's Cucina is based in Edina Minnesota. It is owned and operated by Carmela Hobbins. She offers Italian cooking classes that feature authentic Italian cuisine and preparation at her Cucina.
      Lucky for me I didn't even have to drive across town to be treated to a very fine cooking demonstration and a chance to sample foods prepared by Carmela at a recent luncheon. Carmela's Italian heritage and love of cooking Italian food has inspired her to host cooking classes, author two cookbooks and lead culinary trips each year to Italy and Savannah GA. Her cookbooks offer rich stories about her heritage and photos of family members and lots of good and easy to follow recipes.
      The following recipe is from her new book Celebrations with Carmela's Cucina. I really enjoyed the format of the book with her family stories and seasonal menus with recipes. Not only was the following salad recipe good, easy to prepare but a visual treat. Check out Carmela's website to learn more about her and the books she has written. You might even be tempted to sign up for one of her upcoming 2012 culinary tours. The next blog posting will include the main meal we had Stromboli.
      And no... I was not commissioned by her to write this blog :) Just liked the simplicity of the recipes and how flavorful each one was I tasted.

      Blueberry-Orange Salad 
      Ingredients:
      • 1 pint of blueberries, rinse and pat dry
      • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
      • 2 TB. balsamic vinegar
      • 2-3 TB. red onion diced-can do strips also
      • 8 cups spring mix (lettuce)
      • 5 oranges-peeled, remove membrane and slice
      • 4 TB. olive oil
      • ground pepper to taste
      • 1/4-1/3 cup toasted pecans
      Directions:
      • Mix sugar, balsamic vinegar and onion
      • Stir into blueberries, cover and refrigerate 30 minutes
      • Toast pecans
      • Add greens in bowl
      • Slice oranges and arrange with greens
      • Drizzle olive oil over lettuce greens and add marinated blueberries

      Tuesday, December 6, 2011

      magazine cover 1916
      St. Nicholas
      Any chance you remembered to put out a shoe last night? 
      Today is the feast day of St. Nicholas. The figure of Santa Claus comes from St. Nick, who in turn comes from the real-life St. Nicholas, a fourth-century bishop from Myra, in what is now Turkey. In many parts of the world, today is the day that children get gifts -- on the evening of December 5th, they might put out shoes and get small gifts like fruit, coins, or toys. 
      Perhaps this might be a good baking day to get a jump start for the holiday season.

      Banana Bread
      makes 3 loaves
      Ingredients:
      • 7 large or 9 small bananas over ripe ones and use food processor to blend smooth
      • 6 eggs
      • 1-1/2 cups melted butter or margarine (using a combination of butter and margarine works the best
      • 1-1/2 cups white sugar
      • 1-1/2 cups brown sugar
      • 1-3/4 cups white flour
      • 1-3/4 cups whole-wheat flour
      • 3 tsp. baking soda
      • 1/8 tsp. salt
      • 3 TB. Cinnamon
      • 2-3 cups chopped nuts
      Directions:
      • In processor add blended bananas, eggs one at a time, cinnamon, melted butter and margarine and sugars-mix well
      • In a large bowl add flours, baking soda and salt
      • Add creamed banana mixture to flour mixture and mix well
      • Stir in chopped nuts
      • Divide among three greased loaf pans
      • Bake @ 325 about an hour-check at 55 minutes
      Makes a moist flavorful bread-the secret to the flavor is using whole wheat flour



       "Smile, breathe and go slowly." 


      by Thich Nhat Hanh 




      Sunday, December 4, 2011

      World According to Bella

      In The Doghouse 
      The Scene
      After hours and hours of  wishing, wanting, craving, desiring, panting and then total exasperation setting in I managed to escape! I couldn't believe my luck when I heard my owner open the sliding glass door to bring something out in the backyard. I did not hesitate a minute pushed by her and out I flew! Freedom at last! I bounded through the new snowfall  galloping at a breathtaking speed past homes. I safely crossed the icy pond to the island. It was a dream come true to explore this island which has always been out of my reach forever.  I ignored all the shouts, yelling and angry voices. I was on my own and loved every minute of my" excellent island adventure." 
      But...just to make them happy I would reappear several times close to the house so they would know I hadn't fallen in the water or been eaten up by some scary things out on the island.  My quick speed made it difficult for them to catch me. As soon as it looked like I would be caught I whipped off in a different direction. For them there were a few heart stopping moments watching me navigate the slippery, icy pond water back and forth across to the island.  
      After awhile my exploring excitement died down. Feeling cold, hungry and very wet I knew it was time to stop. But I did manage to trick them. While they kept up their shouting out back I circled around the house and screeched to a halt at the front door. Just as my paw was ready to pounce the bell I was whisked inside. My best tail wag and sweet puppy eyes did not do the trick this time. I was in the doghouse! But oh- I didn't care-what fun I had!  
      _____________________________________________________
      Holiday Appetizer
      Florentine Artichoke Dip
      Ingredients:
      • 1/2 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
      • 1 jar (6-1/2 oz.) marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
      • 1 cup fresh Parmesan cheese
      • 1-8oz. cream cheese (softened)
      • 1/2 mayonnaise
      • 1-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
      • 1/4 tsp prepared garlic
      • 1-1/2 cups french bread crumbs (made from a baguette chopped in food processor)
      • 2 TB. butter melted
      • grated Provolene cheese
      Directions:
      • Lightly grease a glass pie pan
      • Preheat oven 375
      • Combine drained spinach, artichokes, Parmesan cheese, cream cheese, mayo, garlic, lemon juice
      • Beat until smooth
      • Spoon into pie pan
      • Grate provolone cheese over top
      • Combine breadcrumbs, melted butter and 1 TB. parsley flakes
      • Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture on dip mixture
      • Bake uncovered 25 minutes but check at 20 should be bubbly

      Saturday, December 3, 2011

      A New Discovery





      Are you familiar with Take Your Child to Work that occurs once a year?  It is a day set aside where children during the school day have the opportunity to visit and experience their parent's work setting first hand. Well Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day occurs today nationwide that encourages families to visit a local bookstore in their area. What a great marketing device to encourage patronage of bookstores especially local independent ones. And the best part is it encourages reading in the household. 

      In November 2010, suspense writer and mother Jenny Milchman wrote a blog post about what how if she ever got famous she would like to start a bookstore day for kids. “We need to show our children the pleasure, not just of a story, or even of a book, but of a bookstore. A place of half-hidden treasures just waiting to be discovered. Where you pluck things off shelves that are richer than jewels. Scheherazade’s lair,” she wrote. Within a month, Milchman’s idea for Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day had gone viral and 80 bookstores around the country participated last December.
      This Saturday marks the second annual kids’ bookstore day and now more than 250 bookstores in 45 states, Canada, England, and Australia are participating. 
      I went to Children's Publisher's Weekly and copied their list of recommended reading. So if you just happen to be out and about doing your weekend shopping here are some ideas.
        
      TOP 6 CHILDREN'S FICTION
      1
      The Son of Neptune (The Heroes of Olympus #2) Rick Riordan / Author
      2
      Crossed Ally Condie / Author
      3
      Every Thing On It Shel Silverstein / Author
      4
      The Outcasts John Flanagan / Author
      5
      The Lost Hero Rick Riordan / Author
      6
      Wonderstruck Brian Selznick / Illustrator
      TOP 6 CHILDREN'S PICTURE BOOK
      1
      Elf on the Shelf Carol V Aebersold / Author
      2
      If You Give a Dog a Donut Laura Joffe Numeroff / Author, Felicia Bond / Illustrator
      3
      The LEGO Ideas Book Daniel Lipkowitz / Author, Sebastiaan Arts / Contribution by, Tim Goddard / Contribution by, Deborah Higdon / Contribution by, Barney Main / Contribution by, Duncan Titmarsh / Contribution by
      4
      Home for Christmas Jan Brett / Author
      5
      Llama Llama Holiday Drama Anna Dewdney / Author
      6
      Heaven Is for Real for Kids Todd Burpo / Author, Sonja Burpo / Author, Colton Burpo / Author, Wilson Ong / Illustrator
      TOP 6 CHILDREN'S SERIES & TIE-INS
      1
      Diary of a Wimpy Kid Jeff Kinney / Author
      2
      Inheritance Cycle Christopher Paolini / Author
      3
      Hunger Games Suzanne Collins / Author
      4
      Twilight saga Stephenie Meyer / Joint Author
      5
      Magic Tree House Osborne, Mary Pope /
      6
      House of Night PC Cast and Kristin Cast /
      Holiday Gift Idea: Swiss Mocha Mix
      Use a pint size (double recipe if using quart size) mason jar with lid. Punch a hole in a recipe card listing ingredients and directions. Thread ribbon through punched hole and secure around the lid of the jar.
      Ingredients:
      • 1 cup dry hot chocolate mix
      • 1 cup powdered coffee creamer
      • 1/3 cup instant coffee mix
      • 1 tsp. cinnamon
      • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
      • 1/3 cup plus 2 TB. sugar    
      Directions:
      • Layer ingredients adding the spices in with coffee mixture 
      • One serving use 4 tsp. to 1 cup of boiling water
      • Mix and serve