Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Holiday Appetizers

Well, the holiday season is upon us. Holiday work gatherings, family get together's, & neighborhood pot lucks will be soon popping up. I'm going to list a few quick appetizers that will dazzle the crowd, no matter what type of gathering you attend. 

Hummus Deviled Eggs

Mix 6 yolks from 12 hard boiled eggs with 1 1/4 cups Sabra Classic Hummus. Pipe into eggs, sprinkle with smoked paprika, & garnish with fresh parsley.

Spicy Devil Shrimp Cocktail Sauce

Jazz up your cocktail sauce by mixing in one container of Sabra Homestyle Salsa and adding a tsp of Srirachi Sauce and mix until well blended. Serve with pick and peel shrimp.This kicked up cocktail sauce will be the hit of the party and everyone will be asking you for the recipe.

Bacon & Pear Bites

Cut just ripe pears into 1/2 inch cubes. Sprinkle with salt, sugar, and cayenne pepper. spear on a toothpick with crispy bacon.

Spicy Maple Nuts

Mix 2 cups each of pecans, almonds, and walnuts with 1/4 cup maple syrup, 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 2 tbsp chopped herbs (your choice), & 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper. Bake @ 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

White Chocolate Grapes

Melt white chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Spear grapes with toothpicks. Dip grapes in white chocolate then roll in sprinkles or holiday colored sugar. Refrigerate until set.

Enjoy these appetizers and please feel free to share them with as many folks as you like. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pre Thanksgiving Prep Work

It's 2:45 and I am at work running through all the prep work I need to do for Thanksgiving dinner. (Remind me why I agreed to work midnight to 7:00 am?) I've got peppers to chop, turnips to peel and cut, ground turkey sausage to cook for the stuffing, chestnuts to roast; The list goes on and on. It certainly is going to be a busy day sister's Kim and Megan are taking care of ALL of the desserts so that is a BIG load out of the way & my brother Bob is coming over on Turkey day to help in the kitchen. He's also a good cook but doesn't take direction very well so we will just stay on opposite sides of the kitchen and get done what needs to be finished.

Anyhow, back to the matters at hand. Wednesday's prep work. I'm making two soups for Thanksgiving dinner. Butternut Squash (recipe in previous post) and Spicy Tomato Bisque. Both of these soups need to be made the day before because there just isn't the time to do them on Thursday and I need to do the other things I listed above too.

A couple interesting things I am making are the Spicy Tomato Bisque Soup and Nutty Green Beans w/ Bacon & Blue Cheese (Not my recipe. Credit goes to Claire Robinson of TV's The Food Network). Below I am going to post both recipes and I hope you enjoy them.

Spicy Tomato Bisque Soup

4 oz. brie cheese
4 slices of rye bread
1 (28 ounce) can tomato puree
1 teaspooon red pepper flakes 

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
1/4 cup whole milk
4 ounces cream cheese, cubed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves 
Sriracha sauce, to taste.

Preheat the oven or a toaster oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Spread the Brie cheese onto two slices of bread, and top with remaining slices. Place on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 8 minutes, turning once halfway through. Cut in half, and set aside.

In a saucepan over medium heat, stir together the tomato puree, red pepper flakes, black pepper, basil, and sugar. Bring to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes.

Whisk in the cream cheese until well blended, then stir in the milk. Heat through without bringing to a boil. Stir in the fresh basil, and remove from the heat. Taste for heat quotient. If more heat is needed, add Srirachi sauce a little at a time and whisk well into soup until you get the heat you desire.

To serve, place each sandwich half into a separate bowl. Ladle soup over each sandwich.

Nutty Greens with Bacon and Blue Cheese


  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound haricots verts, trimmed
  • 3 slices bacon
  • 4 ounces blue cheese, cut into small chunks
  • 1 1/2 cups toasted whole pecans, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the haricots verts and cook for about 2 minutes. Remove the beans from the water and immediately place in a bowl of ice water. Remove the haricots verts from the ice water and set aside in a medium bowl.
In a large saute pan, over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon and place on paper towels. Add the beans to the bacon drippings and cook over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the blue cheese and toss just until it starts to melt. Break the cooked bacon into bite-size pieces and add to pan. Finish by stirring in the toasted chopped pecans. Season with the freshly ground black pepper and just a tiny pinch of kosher salt. When you make this it should be the last item on your menu that you prepare because it's best served hot, right out of the pan. This is an amazing side dish that will knock the socks off of your guests. If you want to impress someone, this is your dish!

Earlier I was speaking of all the prep work I am doing today for Thanksgiving. Good kitchen tools are a must and you don't have to get killed on price to have good stuff. I check reviews before buying and have gotten some really good deals.

My cutting board is a 11 1/4" x 11 1/4" end grain bamboo cutting board. I've had it for two years and with a little care it still looks as good as the day I first used it.
Here's a link to the cutting board I have:

Good knives are also important so that you can work precisely, effortlessly, and without injury. Again, you don't have to spend a fortune to get good knives. You can pick up a decent set for under $75.00 easily. I have a pretty basic set I use at home that is made by Master Cutlery and endorsed by (don't laugh) Top Chef, the TV series. These knives are incredibly balanced and I haven't had to sharpen them more than twice in the 18 months I have had them & these are my everyday around the house knives.

You can take a look at my knives here:

Top Chef 5-Piece Knife Set by Master Cutlery

Last but not least, may each of my American friends have a Happy Thanksgiving & remember the reason for the day off (Hint: It's not to stuff your face until you explode or so that you can go get in line for the Black Friday deals). Give thanks for the important things in your life, especially the ones we take for granted on a daily basis. Peace out!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Butternut Squash Soup

With Thanksgiving right around the corner and the temperature beginning to dip a bit this a perfect time to introduce one of my favorite soup recipes. Butternut Squash Soup is the bomb! I love making it. I love smelling it. I love eating it! This stuff is proof that there is such a thing as a foodgasm!

Butternut Squash Soup is easy to make, can be refrigerated for up to four days, and tastes just as good on day four as it did on day one.

Here is the recipe. Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Soup


2 large butternut squash (about 4 1/2 lbs.) or 4 lbs. peeled and cubed butternut squash
2 medium onions
3 cloves garlic 
3 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. salt plus more to taste
8 cups chicken broth


Halve, seed, peel, and cube the butternut squash. Set aside.
Halve, peel, and chop the onion
Mince the garlic.
Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the butter or oil and the chopped onion. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 3 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the squash and the broth. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until the squash is very tender, about 20 minutes.
Transfer small batches to a blender. Hold a kitchen towel over the top (to prevent burns) and whirl until completely and utterly smooth, 2 to 3 minutes per batch.
Return the soup to the pot and add more salt to taste.
Serve hot with warm Semolina Bread.
Makes about four servings.

As a side note; transferring the soup to a blender is a dangerous proposition. It's hot and cooking burns are no fun. Take it from me. I know. If you want to skip the blender step, there is an alternative. Buy an immersion blender. They aren't all expensive and you'll be amazed at what you can use them for besides making the yummiest Butternut Squash Soup in the world.
Here is the immersion blender I use: 

 It's inexpensive. I have had it for over a year and never had an issue with it's performance, it cleans up easily and you won't burn yourself pouring hot soup into a blender. 

Enjoy the soup and please let me know how you make out with the recipe.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Upping My Game

Things have been busy in the firehouse lately with our call volume increasing, fire prevention duties, community service stuff, residential smoke detector installations, and a new lieutenant working on our shift. Our crew works our tails off. We are probably the most active platoon in the station and now that the cold weather is here it's just going to get busier.

Before the really busy season starts I wanted to treat the crew and the new lieutenant to a really good dinner (I know how to suck up to a new boss too!). Something over the top. A wowza meal. Something they would remember. This was going to take some planning. The biggest issue is time management because as everyone knows, at a moments notice we go from 0 to 60 and are on our way to answer a call.

After careful planning this is what I came up with:
Spring Salad
Baked Salmon over Truffled Cauliflower Puree
Razzberry Turnovers
Well, unbelievably the meal went off with out a hitch and it was well received by all. In the interest of sharing my love of food and cooking, the recipes and pictures are below.

Spring Salad


4 cups baby arugula leaves, washed 
2 cups babay spinach, washed
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup Italian parsley leaves
1 small bunch fresh chives, chopped
1 cup thinly sliced radishes
1 cup shelled peas, blanched *

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup shaved Parmesan Cheese 
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
* To blanch peas: Drop it in boiling water for one minute, then place in an ice bath for one minute & drain


Combine arugula, baby spinach, 

mint, parsley, chives, radishes and peas in a large bowl.  Whisk olive oil, lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper together in a small bowl.  Pour 2/3 of the dressing over greens and toss to combine.  Arrange on plates.  Top with shaved Parmesan and lemon zest. Drizzle with remaining dressing. 

Baked Salmon over Truffled Cauliflower Puree

Ingredients: Truffled Cauliflower Puree   
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 shallot, chopped
1 pound cauliflower, cored and cut into small florets
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 tablespoon white truffle oil

Heat butter in a large stockpot over medium heat.
Sauté shallot until translucent, then add cauliflower florets, cream, salt and pepper.
Stir to combine.
Cover pot and bring mixture to a boil.
Reduce heat, and simmer, covered, until the cauliflower is soft, about 10 minutes.
Add salt and white pepper; stir in truffle oil.
Transfer mixture to a blender.
Blend until smooth and creamy.

Ingredients: Sauteed Swiss Chard

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 pounds Swiss chard (about 1 large bunch), cut into strips
 (baby spinach works if you can't find swiss chard)
1/2 cup dry white wine (such as Chardonnay)
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground white pepper


Heat oil in a large skillet.
Add onion and garlic, and sauté until fragrant.
Add the Swiss chard and sauté until slightly wilted, about 4 minutes.
Add the wine, salt and pepper; simmer until wine is reduced and Swiss chard is tender-crisp, about 5 minutes.

Ingredients: Baked Salmon

1 cup breadcrumbs (I use Panko breadcrumbs)
1/3 pound smoked salmon, very finely chopped
1/3 cup prepared horseradish
1/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
4 (6-ounce) filets salmon

Preheat oven to 280°F.
Combine panko, smoked salmon, horseradish, 1/3 cup olive oil, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.
Stir until breadcrumbs absorb oil and mixture is combined.
Heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Sear salmon on both sides, about 2 minutes per side.
Cool to room temperature. Evenly distribute panko mixture among the tops of the salmon filets.
Bake salmon for 15 to 20 minutes, or until crust is golden and salmon is just cooked through.

Razzberry Turnovers

(Ok. So I cheated on dessert)

Well, that's it. from prep time to plating took me about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
I hope you enjoy!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Obama Victory Parade

Obama Victory Parade
Dave Raftery, who has added his reaction to our live map, has shared this gif with us to show how he’s feeling. We’ve rounded up the best gifs from election night.
What’s your fav election reaction gif of the day?

I don't care if you are sad or euphoric over the results of the 2012 election. This is awesome! Thank you to the ultra amazing Angela St Lawrence for sharing this link. You my lady, just plain rock!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Salsa Sunday

Tonight I am catering a small party for twenty people. It's a drop off job where I just set up the event, drop off the food and pick up the equipment the next day. These are my favorite types of catering jobs because they are pure profit after the cost of the food.

This is a Mexican food themed party. I am making a couple of different types of salsa for this party and I thought I would share them here since my cooking philosophy is that "cooking is love" and I love sharing my passion for cooking with as many people as I can.

Mango Salsa


1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted and diced (should be 1 1/2 cup)
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 Jalapeno chile pepper, minced (include seeds and membrane for hotter taste)
1 small cucumber, peeled and diced
3 tbsp cilantro leaves, chopped
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 red bell pepper, diced (seeds and membrane removed)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 diced avocado (optional)


Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If the salsa ends up being a little too hot or acidic for your taste, you can temper it by adding some diced avocado.

Corn Salsa


2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
1/3 cup chopped purple onion
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 avocado, diced
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped jalapeno pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt


Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours. Remove from refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving. Serve corn salsa with grilled meat, poultry, or tortilla chips .
Makes about 5 cups.

Tomato Salsa

Ingredients3 Roma tomatoes 
¼ head of red cabbage
¼  cucumber
1 small red chili
1 small green chili
Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
1 lemon
1 lime
3 cloves garlic
2 tsp chopped mint
2 tsp chopped coriander


Chop all salad vegetables to chunky pieces and mix in a bowl. Finely chop garlic and add to mixture along with mint and coriander. Squeeze in the juice of lemon and lime and stir well. Drizzle 1 dessert spoon of extra virgin oil and finish with balsamic vinegar.

There you go. Three simple, yet tasty salsa recipes that are sure to be a hit. I hope you enjoy making these salsa's as much as I enjoyed sharing them with you.