Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Medjool Dates and Smokey Bacon-A Sweet and Savory Marriage

It's All About the Bacon and the Medjool Dates

Bacon and Cheese Stuffed Dates
Cook;s notes:These delicious bite-size appetizers are prepared in less than 30 minutes. Holiday entertaining is a bit easier with make ahead directions. Follow all the preparation steps except do not bake the dates. Place stuffed dates in an airtight container, cover, and chill for up to 24 hours. Bake as directed just before serving.
Recipe from Midwest Living
  • 2 slices bacon, crisp-cooked, drained, and finely crumbled, or 1/4 cup chopped prosciutto (2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion (2)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (2 ounces) or goat cheese
  • 1- 3 ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tsp. Dijon-style mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 24 Medjool dates (about 16 ounces unpitted)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl stir together bacon, green onions, and garlic. Add blue cheese, cream cheese, mustard, and pepper to bacon mixture. Stir to combine.
  • Using a sharp knife, make a lengthwise slit in each date. Spread each date open slightly. Remove pits. Fill each date with a rounded teaspoon of the bacon mixture. Place dates filling sides up on a baking sheet. Bake, uncovered in the preheated oven for 5 to 8 minutes or until heated through. Serve warm. Makes 24 appetizers.

Bacon Wrapped Dates with Goat Cheese
Cook's notes: For crispier bacon, bake longer. Wrap bacon pieces around the dates 1.5 times. Recipe adapted from
  • 8 slices smokey flavored bacon 
  • 16 dates
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • toothpicks
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil otherwise there will be grease everywhere . 
  • Slice the dates lengthwise on one side to create an opening. Remove the pit.
  • Using a spoon, stuff a small amount of goat cheese into the cavity of each date and press the sides together to close.
  • Cut the bacon slices in half. Wrap each date with a slice of bacon and secure with a toothpick.
  • Arrange evenly on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the dates and use the toothpick to turn each one so it's laying on its side. Bake for another 5-8 minutes, until browned to your liking, and turn the dates to the other side and repeat. Remove from the oven, place on a paper towel lined plate, and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
Bacon-Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Almonds
Cook's notes: 
Dates can be stuffed, wrapped, and kept refrigerated for up to 24 hours before baking.Recipe serves six as appetizers comes from
  • 24 Marcona almonds or regular almonds
  • 24 dried, pitted dates
  • 12 slices thick-cut bacon, cut in half (roughly 5-inch pieces)
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  • Stuff an almond into each date. Wrap each date in half-slice of bacon and secure with a toothpick. Stick the toothpick through the date closer to one end, so as not to run into the almond in the middle.
  • Place dates on the baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, turning them over after halfway through, until the bacon is fully cooked and crispy. Baking time may be slightly longer or shorter depending on thickness of the bacon. Serve immediately.
Thanks Sara for today's food inspiration! 

Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain) 
Born on November 30, 1835, in Florida, Missouri, Samuel L. Clemens wrote under the pen name Mark Twain and went on to author several novels, including two major classics of American literature: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He was also a riverboat pilot, journalist, lecturer, entrepreneur and inventor. Twain died on April 21, 1910, in Redding, Connecticut.

Some interesting trivia from Writers Almanac
Mark Twain favored white linen shirts and suits and smoked 20 cigars and countless pipes every day. He first fell in love with his wife, Olivia, when her brother showed him a photograph while they were on ship together. Twain said: "I do believe that young filly has broken my heart. That only leaves me with one option, for her to mend it." On their first outing together, he and Olivia went to a reading by Charles Dickens. She turned down his marriage proposals three times before accepting. For the rest of their lives together, she edited his novels, essays, and lectures.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Burst of Literary Birthdays

Today celebrates the birth date of Louisa May Alcott born November 29,1832. Coincidentally she and her father Bronson Alcott share the same birth date. 

For her books, Alcott was often inspired by familiar elements. The characters in "Little Women" are recognizably drawn from family members and friends. However, Alcott's portrayal, even if inspired by her family, is an idealized one. For instance, Mr. March is portrayed as a hero of the American Civil War, a gainfully employed chaplain and, presumably, a source of inspiration to the women of the family. He is absent for most of the novel.
In contrast, Bronson Alcott was very present in his family's household, due in part to his inability to find steady work. While he espoused many of the educational principles touted by the March family, he was loud and dictatorial. His lack of financial independence was a source of humiliation to his wife and daughters. As was common at the time, Louisa had little formal education. She was taught mainly by her father using his unconventional ideas about education. She read from the library of neighbor Ralph Waldo Emerson and learned botany from Henry David Thoreau.
Louisa early on realized that her father's flighty educational and philosophical ventures could not adequately support the family so she sought ways to provide financial stability. She wrote short stories for magazines and published a collection of fables she'd originally written as tutor for Ellen Emerson, Ralph Waldo Emerson's daughter.

The March family is portrayed living in genteel penury, but the Alcott family, dependent on an improvident, impractical father, suffered real poverty and occasional hunger. In addition to her own childhood and that of her sisters, scholars who have come across the diaries of Louisa Alcott's mother, have surmised that Little Women was also heavily inspired by Abigail Alcott's own early life.

C.S. Lewis was a British novelist, scholar, writer of pro-Christian texts and poet but best known for the Chronicles of Narnia series, seven volumes of stories about young children who find entry to another world through an old wardrobe. They meet a magisterial lion named Aslan who asks for their help in battling evil. Aslan says, "I never tell anyone any story except his own."

Lewis was born Clive Staples Lewis in Belfast, Ireland Nov. 29, 1898. His mother died when he was young and he spent much of his time at boarding school, where his headmaster wielded a cane and admonished students to "Think!"
Before becoming a scholar of classics at Oxford University, Lewis served as an infantryman in World War I. He was wounded in the back, he said, "oddly enough by a British shell." He became lifelong friends with writer J.R.R. Tolkien, and they met weekly at Oxford for tea and literary discussion with other writers for 16 years. They called themselves "The Inklings."
Madeleine L’Engle (1918-2007) was an American author of young adult fiction, Christian fiction, science fiction, poetry and non-fiction. She is the author of the Time Quintet and Austin Family series. She started writing when she was eight years old, keeping a journal. Because she was shy, clumsy as a child, she was considered to be stupid by her teachers, causing her to spend more time reading and writing. After a career that was not going well financially, L’Engle was strongly considering retiring from writing on her 40th birthday, but soon came up with the idea for what would become her best-known work, "A Wrinkle in Time." The young adult novel won the Newbery Award.
Cheddar-Veggie Appetizer Torte
Cook's notes: Check out this  easy appetizer recipe.  It's a quiche like torte baked in a springform pan served warm or cold. Perfect for holiday entertaining.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Seasonal Plate

A Festive Holiday Meal from the Seasonal Plate
Pork Loin Steaks with Cherry-Plum Sauce
Cook’s notes: The Cherry-Plum Sauce can be made 1- 2 days ahead. Refrigerate covered. If it’s too thick, add water, a little at a time until it reaches desired consistency. The sauce is enough for 4 loin steaks. Recipe adapted from Southern Living 2015. 


  • 4 Pork Loin Steaks 
Cherry-Plum Sauce
  • 1-1/2 tsp. olive oil
  • ½ cup shallots, diced or sweet onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (5 oz.) package dried tart cherries
  • 1/2 cup plum jam
  • 1 TB. dark balsamic vinegar or Black Cherry Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1-1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • 1 cup water mixed with 1 TB. cornstarch
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  • Sauté shallots or onions and garlic in hot oil in a saucepan over medium heat for  2 minutes or until softened. Stir in cherries and the next 5 ingredients. 
  • Bring cherry mixture to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often, 5 minutes or until mixture has thickened slightly and cherries are plumped. Divide sauce and pour half over pork. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes. To serve spoon rest of the sauce over pork. Refrigerate any leftovers. 

Wild Rice Salad with Mixed Greens,Blueberries and Clementine Segments  
Cook’s notes: This refreshing salad combines greens and grains packed with lots of nutrients. Kale can be substituted for mixed greens. As a time saver; make wild rice ahead, refrigerate until needed and toast pecans. Dressing ingredients can be easily doubled.

Plate each salad individually rather than using a salad bowl. Recipe serves four.

Salad Ingredients:

  • 3 cups cooked wild rice
  • 1 pint blueberries
  • 3 clementines, peeled segmented and halved
  • 1 cup diced red onions
  • ½ cup each diced sweet red and yellow mini bell peppers
  • ½ cup toasted pecans
  • Mixed greens
Citrus Dressing Ingredients:
  • 2 TB. white balsamic vinegar or Fig Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 tsp. grated orange or clementine zest
  • 1/4 cup clementine, tangerine or orange juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil or Blood Orange Olive Oil 
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp.thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp. honey
Salad Directions:
  • Mix wild rice, blueberries, clementines, onions and peppers in a bowl. 
  • On each serving plate place mixed greens. Top with wild rice mixture and sprinkle toasted pecans, drizzle with dressing. 
    Dressing Directions:
    • Mix all ingredients in a blender and drizzle over salad.

    Salted Caramel Eggnog Shooters
    Cook’s notes: Small dessert shooter glasses (3 inch high) are available at the Dollar Tree Store or use large shot glasses. The following recipe gives you just the right small bite with a big flavor to finish off your meal. And it solves the problem of what to do with leftover eggnog. Recipe makes six shooters.


    • 1 cup commercially prepared eggnog
    • 2 TB. sugar
    • 1-1/2 TB. cornstarch 
    • 1 jar Salted Caramel Ice Cream topping ( e.g. Smuckers) 
    • ¾ cup heavy cream, whipped or Reddi Whip 
    • Freshly grated nutmeg
    • Stacy’s Salted Caramel Pita Chips 
    • Combine the eggnog, sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan. Place over low heat and cook until mixture thickens. Remove from heat, place in a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Chill for 45 minutes. Stir to mix. 
    • Use a tiny spoon and layer twice: eggnog mixture, caramel topping and whip cream. Serve each shooter with a pita chip. 

    Sunday, November 27, 2016

    Weekend Round-Up

    I did my part for Shop Small on Saturday. Several places were even giving out canvas bags which I thought to be a great advertisement year round.
    Our Thanksgiving leftovers got a make over with Nancy Fuller's (Food Network September 2016)  Divine Chicken Divan. The recipe was adapted with turkey substituted for chicken. It's comfort food that serves 6-8 and perfect for chilly late autumn meals. Even picky vegetable eaters will embrace the dish.  
    Divine Turkey Divan
    Cook's notes: Julia Child would approve of this recipe with butter and cream in the ingredients. The wild rice and turkey are cooked ahead for easier preparation. It's a hearty company worthy dish packed with lots of flavor. 
    Topping Ingredients:
    • 3/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs e.g. Panko
    • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    • 3/4 cup sliced almonds, crushed 
    Main Dish Ingredients:
    • 1 large head of broccoli cut into 2 inch florets, about 4-5 cups
    • 1 cup mushrooms, diced 
    • 4 TB. butter
    • 1/3 cup flour
    • 1 TB. chopped fresh sage or 1-1/2 tsp. dried herbes de Provence
    • 2 TB. white wine or sherry
    • 1 cup chicken broth. low sodium
    • 1 cup 2% milk
    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • pinch of nutmeg
    • 1 cup green scallions, chopped or 1 cup sweet onions, diced 
    • 1-1/2 cups shredded Gruyere, white cheddar or light Swiss cheese
    • 3 cups cooked meat chicken or turkey, diced
    • 2 cups cooked wild rice 
    • Mix topping ingredients and set aside.
    • Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 2-1/2 qt. size baking pan.
    • In a large bowl add chopped turkey, broccoli florets, mushrooms and wild rice. Set aside. 
    • Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. When butter is melted add sage or herbes de Provence and let sizzle a minute. Add flour and cook roux 2-3 minutes avoid getting it brown. 
    • Add in wine or sherry and cook to reduce it away about 1 minutes.
    • Whisk in broth, milk cream, season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, whisking to make sure lumps are out. Cook on low heat until thickened about 6 minutes. Add a pinch of nutmeg.
    • Stir in scallions or onions and cheese. Cook until cheese is melted. Pour sauce over the broccoli, turkey, wild rice and mushrooms. 
    • Pour into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle topping evenly over the turkey mixture. 
    • Bake uncovered about 35 minutes.
    Week of Nov. 27th
    Recipes from the Seasonal Plate
    Holiday Appetizers
    Book Reviews:

    Friday, November 25, 2016

    Read Kids Classics

    I jumped on board for the 2016 Jump Into A Book ReadKidsClassics challenge.
    Valerie Budayr, children's book author, publisher, co-founder of Multicultural Children's Book Day and creator of jumpintoabook site originated this brilliant idea to encourage all ages to read children's classics. So far I've enjoyed
    March "Little Prince"
    April "Wind in the Willows"
    May:James and the Giant Peach"
    June "Adventures of Tom Sawyer"
    took a summer break and in
    September enjoyed rereading "Anne of Green Gables"
    October "Little Women"

    It's November and time for a review of "Tuck Everlasting, " a children's classic.  

    I was inspired to reread “Tuck Everlasting” after reading an obituary in the New York Times. The author, Natalie Babbitt, recently died Oct. 31, 2016. Babbitt was not only a talented writer but also an illustrator. She illustrated some of  Valerie Worth's children's poetry books.

    “Tuck Everlasting” is an American children’s novel published in 1975. It explores the concept of immortality. It is a cautionary tale that has sold over two million copies and has been called a classic of modern children's literature. “Tuck Everlasting” has been loved by children and parents for its honest, intelligent grappling with aging and death.

    "Tuck Everlasting" has inspired two feature films, released in 1981 and 2002 and three times into unabridged audio and has also been adapted into a Broadway musical.

    During Babbitt’s prolific literary career that has spanned four decades she has produced some 20 books, and illustrated over 10 books. Some of her accolades include Newberry Honor Award in 1971 and in 2013 the inaugural E.B. White Award.

    Babbitt was inspired to write Tuck when her 4 year old daughter woke from a nap crying because she was scared of dying. This was one of my favorite books to use in the classroom with fifth graders. It generated many interesting discussions on the universal themes of death and immortality.

    The storyline focus, doomed to - or blessed with - eternal life after drinking from a magic spring, finds the Tuck family wandering about trying to live as inconspicuously and comfortably as they can. When ten-year-old Winnie Foster stumbles on their secret, the Tucks take her home and explain why living forever at one age is less a blessing that it might seem. Angus Tuck and his family have been guarding their secret of longevity for many years. Complications arise when Winnie is followed by a stranger who wants to market the spring water for a fortune. Winnie is terrified of death. Angus, the family patriarch who considers immortality a curse for their family, tries to reassure Winnie that the great natural wheel of life must turn. They encourage her not to drink the water from the spring.

    Babbitt has written a highly engaging narrative filled with beautiful and descriptive language. It’s rather a quiet read with an emotional pull that draws the reader in. I loved Winnie's story, and seeing how just stepping outside of her fence made her world seem so much bigger until finally it's gigantic when she reaches the Tuck's cabin. Coming across Jesse Tuck in the woods and subsequently meeting the rest of the Tuck family showed Winnie a lot about life and choices.

    The characters in this charming book do not disappoint. Obviously I liked Winnie because she knows that she's not extraordinarily special. She's just Winnie Foster - the girl with an overprotective family, the girl who's not allowed to leave her yard and the girl who talks to toads. Jesse and his brother, Miles Tuck, are fun characters, but quite honestly I feel like I didn't really get to know them very well in the book, especially Miles. I wouldn't have minded a few more pages for Babbitt to explore them a little more. The man in the yellow suit is a mysterious, yet an intriguing character. I liked how Babbitt characterizes him, and I'm sure many kids will be able to figure him out before the conclusion of the novel. My favorite characters in the book were Tuck and Mae. They seemed like they genuinely cared about Winnie and her decision, although at one point I was concerned that they wanted to keep her.

    "Tuck Everlasting" is a book that all children should read in the later years of elementary school (or earlier if they are on the advanced track). Its short enough for kids to read in a few days, maybe even one day. It contains some important life questions to discuss such as is immortality a curse or a blessing?

    Something for you to think about:
    Do you think immortality would be a curse or a blessing? What if you were given the choice to age normally or halt your life at this moment and stay that way forever just by drinking a bit of water?

    Thursday, November 24, 2016


    Wishing all of you the blessings of the season
    Happy Thanksgiving
    "Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for."
    -- Zig Ziglar

    When Giving Is All We Have
    by Alberto Rios 

    One river gives
    Its journey to the next.

    We give because someone gave to us.
    We give because nobody gave to us.

    We give because giving has changed us.
    We give because giving could have changed us.

    We have been better for it,
    We have been wounded by it—

    Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
    Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

    Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,

    But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

    Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
    Mine to yours, yours to mine.

    You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
    Together we are simple green. You gave me

    What you did not have, and I gave you
    What I had to give—together, we made

    Something greater from the difference.

    Wednesday, November 23, 2016

    Turkey Divan

    Question of the day:
    Will he make his desired weight and be saved?
    Cook's notes: Try this lightened version of Turkey/Chicken Divan for your leftovers. 
    It's just the perfect recipe after a big Thanksgiving feast. Cook wild rice ahead as a time saver.
    In the early part of the 20th century, chicken divan was the signature dish of the elegant Divan Parisien Restaurant in New York’s Chatham Hotel. Years later, the Campbell Soup Company redeveloped the recipe using a can of condensed cream of chicken or mushroom soup. This version is lighter. It skips using the canned soup, mayonnaise and sour cream which reduces the calories and sodium level. Adding cooked chicken breasts or turkey and wild rice makes for a satisfying dish. Recipe adapted from
    • 2 cups cooked wild rice
    • 1-1/2 lbs broccoli (2 large heads) cut into 2 inch florets
    • 4 cups cooked turkey or chicken, diced
    • salt and fresh ground pepper
    • 1 TB. butter
    • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
    • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
    • 1 cup sweet onions, diced
    • 4 TB. flour
    • 1 cup chicken broth-low sodium
    • 1 cup 2 % milk ot light half and half
    • 2 oz, dry sherry or white wine 
    • 8 oz. shredded reduced-fat Swiss
    • 1 tsp. each parsley flakes and herbes de Provence
    • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
    • 1 tsp. lemon juice
    • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    • 1/4 cup slivered or sliced almonds, toasted
    • 1/3-1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs (e.g. Panko or Progresso) 
    • Rinse broccoli, dry with a paper towel, cut into small florets and set aside.
    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
    • Heat a medium skillet on medium heat and add butter and oil until melted. Add garlic and onions to the pan, saute until tender.
    • Sprinkle the flour over the onion mixture and whisk until smooth. Add in parsley and herbes de Provence thyme. Stir in broth, milk, sherry, mustard and lemon juice. Bring to a slow boil. Remove immediately from heat and stir in half of the Swiss cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
    • Mix broccoli and wild rice together and spread in a baking dish. Pour half of the sauce over the broccoli and wild rice. Arrange the turkey/chicken on top and cover with remaining sauce. Mix the remaining Swiss cheese, grated Parmesan and seasoned breadcrumbs. Sprinkle evenly over the top. Add almonds in the last 5 minutes of cooking time.
    • Bake 30-35 minutes uncovered, serve hot.

    Check out Bella's latest blog titled Gratefulness

    Tuesday, November 22, 2016

    A Remembrance Served with Soup

    Today marks the somber remembrance of JFK's death November 22, 1963. There are many good reasons why Americans remember our 35th president, John F. Kennedy, so fondly. Throughout his life, as a young man in college, war hero, U.S. representative, senator, Pulitzer Prize–winning author, and president, Kennedy fully embraced the American spirit and called on us to do the same.

    It’s fitting that his first words to the nation, in his inaugural address as president, were “ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”

    In 1940, the year young Kennedy graduated from college, the world was in the throes of World War II. He could have done anything, but he wanted nothing more than to fight for his country, ultimately earning the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for acts of heroism and, owing to related injuries, the Purple Heart.

    As a U.S. senator he won the Pulitzer Prize for his book, "Profiles in Courage" in 1957. It is a volume of short biographies describing acts of bravery and integrity by eight United States Senators throughout the Senate's history.

    Kennedy was in office a mere 1, 000 days and faced many challenges which included protecting America's sovereignty from outside influences, racism and his ongoing health issues.  

    One particularly inspiring passage from the book reads, “In whatever arena of life one may meet the challenge of courage, whatever may be the sacrifices he faces if he follows his conscience — the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men — each man must decide for himself the course he will follow. The stories of past courage can define that ingredient — they can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul.”

    Without a doubt, Kennedy supplied his own courage.
    Ever Ready Special:Turkey, Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup
    Cook's notes: Pair the soup with your favorite sandwich, cornbread or Cranberry Eggnog Coffee Cake featured yesterday. Chicken can be substituted for turkey. Add more water the second day when reheating as rice absorbs the liquid. Recipe serves four. 
    • 1 cup uncooked Long Grain Brown and Wild Rice or a Wild Rice Blend
    • 10 cups chicken broth, low sodium, divided
    • 3 TB. butter, divided
    • 1 cup each fresh mushrooms. onions, celery, carrots, diced
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1/4 cup butter
    • 1 tsp. each herbes de Provence and parsley flakes
    • 1/2 cup flour
    • 2 cups water
    • 1/3 cup half and half or cream
    • 2-1/2 cups shredded cooked turkey or chicken 
    • Bring rice, 2 TB butter and 2 cups chicken broth to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Cover and reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. 
    • In a soup pot melt 1 TB. butter. Saute mushrooms, onions, celery, carrots and minced garlic stirring often 10 minutes or until tender.  
    • Add in 1/4 cup butter, melt and whisk in flour and cook 1 minute or until bubbly. Whisk in 8 cups broth, water, spices and cook, stirring often until slightly thickened. 
    • Whisk in wine, cream, mushroom mixture, turkey/chicken and rice. Cook on low heat 15 minutes. (Do not let mixture boil)  

    Monday, November 21, 2016

    Overnight Cranberry Eggnog Coffee Cake

    Overnight Cranberry Eggnog Coffee Cake
    Cook's Notes:A make ahead coffee cake perfect for holiday entertaining and overnight guests. It's infused with orange zest and eggnog and studded with fresh cranberries. For a healthier dish I substituted non-fat Greek yogurt for sour cream. I chose not to use glaze because I felt there was enough sweetness already in the recipe. This recipe is definitely a keeper. 
    Tip: Buy bags of fresh cranberries while on sale. They keep up to a year in freezer. But double bag each one in a zip loc freezer bag. 
    Recipe adapted
    For the Cake:

    • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
    • 1½ tsp. baking powder
    • ½ tsp.baking soda
    • ½ tsp. salt
    • 1 cup eggnog
    • 1 cup sour cream or 1 cup Green nonfat yogurt
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 1 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 TB. grated orange zest
    • ½ cup butter, at room temperature
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1 cup dried cranberries or 2 cups fresh cranberries
    • 1 tsp. Saigon cinnamon 
    For the Streusel:
    • ⅔ cup granulated sugar
    • 3 TB. all-purpose flour
    • 1 tsp. Saigon cinnamon 
    • 2 TB. butter, at room temperature
    • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans or almonds
    For the Glaze:
    • ½ cup powdered sugar
    • 4 tsp. eggnog
    Cake Directions:
    • Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan; set aside.
    • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
    • In a large measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together the eggnog, sour cream or yogurt and vanilla extract.
    • In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar with the orange zest. Using your fingers, work the zest into the sugar until all of the sugar is evenly moistened. Add the butter and cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the eggnog mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. (The batter will be quite thick.) Using a rubber spatula, stir in the cranberries. Transfer the batter to the prepared baking pan and spread into an even layer.
    Streusel Directions: 
    • In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, flour and cinnamon. Work the butter into the mixture using your fingertips or a pastry blender until it is completely incorporated, then stir in the chopped pecans. Sprinkle the streusel evenly over batter.
    • Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, up to 24 hours.
    • Remove dish 1/2 hour before baking bringing to room temperature. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove plastic. 
    • Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes.
    Glaze Directions:.
    • In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar and eggnog until smooth; drizzle over cake. 
    • Allow the glaze to set for about 15 minutes, then serve warm or at room temperature. Leftover cake can be stored, covered, at room temperature for up to 4 days.

    Sunday, November 20, 2016

    The Main Event

    It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas and it's only Thanksgiving time. Judging from the packed grocery stores and parking lots food must be on a lot of people's minds. The stress of holiday shopping and cooking brought to my mind a funny poem I used often in the classroom this time of the year.

    The Turkey Shot Out of the Oven

    by Jack Prelutsky

    The turkey shot out of the oven
    and rocketed into the air,
    it knocked every plate off the table
    and partly demolished a chair.

    It ricocheted into a corner
    and burst with deafening boom,
    then splattered all over the kitchen,
    completely obscuring the room.

    It stuck to the walls and the windows,
    it totally coated the floor,
    there was turkey attached to the ceiling,
    where there'd never been turkey before.

    It blanketed every appliance,
    it smeared every saucer and bowl,
    there wasn't a way I could stop it,
    that turkey was out of control.

    I scraped and I scrubbed with displeasure,
    and thought with chagrin as I mopped,
    that I'd never again stuff a turkey
    with popcorn that hadn't been popped.

    This poem brought a recollection of the time when anarchy prevailed in our home one Thanksgiving when I was a child. My mother wanting to be super organized and on top of things as she prepared the big Thanksgiving dinner for eight children had what she thought was a great idea. After the turkey was cooked in mid-afternoon without our knowing, she instructed my father to debone the whole bird. As we all sat down for our big feast waiting expectantly for the Main Attraction, my mother proudly placed a huge platter of meat on the table. You should have seen the looks of disappointment! And then the cries of dissent arose. One could hear, "Where's the turkey? I want turkey! Where did the turkey go?"
    No amount of explanations from my mother would erase the disappointment of eight children who expected a whole cooked turkey on the platter on the table. The dinner was just not the same. Well, you can be sure my mother never repeated what she thought was a great idea on Thanksgiving again. And by the way, a future learning lesson for me.

    Perhaps this turkey is armed against deboning. 
    on Ever Ready  
    • Turkey Wild Rice Soup
    • Turkey Tortilla Soup 
    • Turkey Divan 
    • Cranberry Eggnog Coffeecake 
    • Cranberry Buttermilk Breakfast Cake
    Check out one of my favorite food sites Midwest Living that brings you 4o Thanksgiving Crowd Pleasing recipes.

    Friday, November 18, 2016

    Early Weekend Round-Up

    Say Good bye to Autumn and Hello to Winter
    What a difference a day makes-first big snowstorm of the season
    It's an indoor day for sure, lots of snow with blustery winds and frigid temps! Even the schools are closed.

    View across the lake but a blur

    With only 6 more days left to plan, shop and cook-Ever Ready to the rescue with some of the best.
    All recipes have been previously posted
    Appetizer Platter
    Cook's notes: How easy is this! Arrange cheese, salami, pepperoni to create this festive looking turkey. And your guests will not feel too stuffed for the main event. 
    Cranberry Meatballs
    Cook’s notes: Meatballs can be made with ground venison, ground chuck or hamburger. Using prepared meatballs from the frozen food section is a time saver. The sauce is enough for 2-24 oz. bags of pure Angus beef meatballs.

    Meatball Ingredients:
    • 2 lbs. meat
    • 2 large eggs
    • ¾ cup dry breadcrumbs
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • ½ tsp. garlic powder
    • ½ tsp. thyme
    • ½ tsp. parsley flakes
    • 1/3-cup chili sauce
    Meatball Directions:
    • Combine and shape into 54 1-inch balls.
    • Place meatballs on a lightly greased cookie sheet and cover with foil.
    • Bake 25 minutes, remove meatballs, drain on paper towels, cool. 
    Sauce Ingredients:
    • 1 can (16 oz.) jellied cranberry sauce
    • 1 (12 oz.) jar chili sauce
    • ¼ cup marmalade
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 2 TB. soy sauce
    • 2 TB. red wine vinegar
    • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
    Sauce Directions:
    • In a saucepan over medium low heat combine all ingredients.
    • Cook about 20 minutes stirring occasionally.
    • In a large pot add meatballs, pour sauce over and bake covered @325 degrees for an hour. A crockpot on low can also be used and cook about 5 hours. 
    Honey-Sage Sweet Potatoes, Pears, Cranberries and Walnuts
    Cook's notes: Combine colorful vegetables and a fruit with simple seasonings on an ordinary roasting pan that results in a delicious autumn side dish. Sprinkle vegetables and fruit mixture with a dash of pumpkin pie spice and the dish is irresistible. One butternut squash can be substituted for sweet potatoes.
    Recipe adapted from Midwest Living and serves 4.

    • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes or 3 cups butternut squash cubes
    • 1 red onion, cut in 1/2 inch wedges or caramelize onions ahead of baking
    • 2-3 ripe pears, unpeeled, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
    • 3 tsp. olive oil or Blood Orange Olive Oil
    • salt and pepper
    • 2 tsp. white balsamic vinegar, Cranberry Pear White or Honey Ginger White Balsamic
    • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts 
    • dash of pumpkin pie spice mix
    • 1 TB. honey
    • 2 tsp. chopped fresh sage or thyme or 1 tsp. dried sage or thyme
    • Line a rimmed baking pan with parchment paper.
    • In a bowl toss together sweet potatoes, pears, onions and olive oil.
    • Spread mixture evenly on the baking pan. Drizzle with white balsamic vinegar and a dash of pumpkin pie spice. Salt and pepper.
    • Roast at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally.
    • Last 10 minutes of baking time add in walnuts and cranberries. 
    • Serve roasted vegetables and pears on a platter, drizzle with honey and sprinkle with sage or thyme.

    Mixed Greens with Apples, Grapes and Pecans Drizzled with Maple Cider Vinaigrette
    Cook’s notes: Maple Cider Vinaigrette is enough for 4-5 salads.
    Salad Ingredients:
    • Mixed greens about 6-8 cups to serve 4-5 people (I used a combination of baby spinach leaves and chopped Romaine)
    • 1 large Granny Smith apple and 1 Honeycrisp apple, diced
    • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
    • 1-1/2 cup halved red seedless grapes
    • 1 cup candied pecans or toasted pecans
    • Optional: ½ cup crumbled blue or feta cheese
    Salad Dressing Ingredients:
    • 3 TB. apple cider vinegar
    • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
    • 1 tsp. apple pie spice mix
    • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
    • 1 large garlic clove, minced
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • ½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

    Salad Directions:
    • Mix greens with apples, grapes, onions and pecans.Dressing Directions:
    • In blender add all ingredients and gradually add in olive oil. Mix well, cover and refrigerate until needed.
    Apple Cream Cheese Torte with Gingersnap Cookie Crust
    Cook’s notes: Wrap outside of an 8 inch spring form pan that has 2- 3/4 inch sides with foil.Crust Ingredients:

    • store bought gingersnap cookies
    • 5 TB. melted butter
    • 1 tsp. cinnamon or ½ tsp. Saigon cinnamon
    Filling Ingredients:
    • 1-8 oz. cream cheese, softened
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1 large egg at room temperature
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    Topping Ingredients:
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 1 tsp. cinnamon or ½ tsp. Saigon cinnamon
    • 2 Granny Smith, peeled and diced
    • 1/3 cup crumbled almonds
    Crust Directions:
    • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    • In a food processor crumble enough store bought gingersnap cookies to equal 2-1/2 cups of crumbs.
    • Add to food processor melted butter and cinnamon to cookie crumbs. Pulse 1-2 times.
    • Pat cookie crust mixture in bottom of spring form pan. Place in freezer for 5 minutes. Remove and bake for 5-6 minutes . Watch carefully so as not to over brown. Reduce heat to 350.
    Filling Directions:
    • Proceed with recipe by beating all filling ingredients together. Pour filling over gingersnap crust.
    Topping Directions:
    • In a bowl mix 1/3 cup sugar with 1 tsp. cinnamon
    • Chop 2 Granny Smith apples and mix into cinnamon/sugar mixture.
    • Place apple mixture on top of cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle with almonds.
    • Bake about 40 minutes or until crust is golden, apples are tender and filling set.
    • Refrigerate any leftovers.
    Cranberry Cherry Sauce
    Cook's notes:This sauce is flavorful and a perfect side when served over turkey, chicken, pork or salmon. It can be made a few days in advance and kept refrigerated. Also can be used as a basting sauce for grilled meats. Don't skip the wine part. For some inexplicable reason it really enhances the sauce flavor :)

    • 2 TB. cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup cran-cherry juice
    • 12 oz. cran-cherry juice
    • 1 cup of water
    • 1 cup dark brown sugar
    • 2 large cinnamon sticks broken in half
    • 1/4 tsp. allspice
    • 1-5 oz package dried tart cherries
    • 1-12 oz bag fresh cranberries
    • 1/4 cup dry red wine like a Merlot, Cabernet or Malbec
    • Whisk 2 TB. cornstarch into 1/4 cup cran-cherry juice and set aside
    • In a saucepan add 12 oz. cran-cherry juice, 1 cup of water, brown sugar, allspice, and cinnamon sticks.
    • Bring mixture to boil over medium heat stirring till sugar is dissolved, add cherries and reserved cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup cran cherry juice and cook 2 minutes until sauce slightly thickened. 
    • Add in cranberries and cook till berries pop about 7 minutes over medium heat.
    • Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl, stir in wine. 
    • Cool and remove cinnamon sticks
    • Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving.
    Sausage Cranberry Apple Cornbread Stuffing 
    Cook's notes: Cooking tip- Dry cornbread and white bread cubes out on a cookie sheet for several hours or crumble up pre-made cornbread onto a baking sheet, and toast in a 250 degree oven for about an hour. If you've got stale bread rip it up and toast it too. This preparation can be done a day ahead. Optional adding in 2 cups cooked wild rice. The entire dish can be made a day ahead. Recipe serves 8.

    • 1/4 cup butter 
    • 3 medium celery stalks, chopped (1-1/2 cups)
    • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped (1 cup)
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 package of Jimmy Dean Sage Sausage or turkey sausage.
    • 6 cups crumbled dry corn bread or 6 cups corn bread stuffing mix (equal to two 8-ounce packages)
    • 6 cups dry white (like artisan or sourdough) or wheat bread cubes
    • 2 cups peeled and chopped Granny Smith apples
    • 1 cup dried cranberries, cherries, or raisins
    • 2 TB. snipped fresh sage leaves or 1-1/2 tsp. dried sage 
    • 1 TB.snipped fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp. dried thyme leaves
    • 1 TB. dried parsley flakes
    • 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
    • 4 cups chicken broth-low sodium
    • Heat broth in a separate pan and keep warm.
    • In a large Dutch oven cook sausage, drain and set aside. 
    • Melt butter in same Dutch oven over medium heat. Saute celery, garlic and onion about 5 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat.
    • Stir in crumbled corn bread, bread cubes, apples, cranberries, sage, thyme, salt, and pepper into onion mixture. Add in sausage. Mix in enough hot broth to moisten stuffing, tossing lightly to combine. More warm broth can be added as needed. 
    • Spoon stuffing into a 3-quart greased baking dish. Bake, covered, in a 325 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover; bake for 15 minutes more or until heated through and to desired moistness.

    Cinnamon Apple Muffins

    GET TO KNOW YOUR APPLES Pink Lady , great balance of sweet and tart. Granny Smith , maybe the most popular baking apple. A little more tart ...