Parfait! Dirty Martini Cheese

Do you like Vodka? Olives? Cheese?

Well, then settle down and read on, have I got a cheese appetizer to see you through the holidaze and beyond!

Cream cheese whipped with sliced Spanish olives, seasonings, and…

vodka!?!

Yeah, youbetcha! This is the cheese spread that keeps on giving.

INGREDIENTS
Basic Spread:
•8 oz cream cheese (softened)
•1 tbsp mayonnaise
•1/4 chopped green olives
•2 tbsp olive juice
•1/4 tsp black pepper
•1/4 tsp garlic powder
•1/8 tsp celery salt

Vodka Version:
•2 tbsp vodka
•1/4 tsp olive juice
•1/2 tsp olives

Church Version (no vodka):
•Scallions
•1 tbsp olive juice

Place the cream cheese in a mixing bowl to soften, then add the ingredients of your preferred version.

Note: I always prefer the vodka version, but some folk do not partake, and I like to serve most everyone who comes to my door.

Whip with an electric mixer until well blended, then stash in a covered jar(s) in the fridge for at least a couple of hours or, always more better, overnight to allow the flavors to come together.

Serve straight from the jar, or, for fun, spoon into martini glasses and garnish with more sliced olives. Spread on crackers, breads, endive leaves, you name it.

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Horseradish and Citrus Salad

So…

don’t run screaming from your electronic device, but this IS a recipe for a Jell O molded salad.

The thing is, this salad is actually pretty darned good!

My Aunt Buzz used to make a version of this to serve with her Fractured Taco Casserole; I opted to serve it with fresh veggies and crackers as part of a munchies gathering.

Most folk, to be totally honest, looked at it a little bit askance, but then, they tried it, and all bets were off. My husband even suggested I bring it for Christmas, but I do not think that his family is ready for jello and horseradish just yet.

Too bad for them.

INGREDIENTS
•1 small box lemon jello
•1 small box lime jello
•2 cups boiling water
•1 cup mayonnaise
•1 cup cottage cheese
•20 oz can crushed pineapple, drained
•1 cup chopped pecans
•1/4 cup horseradish
•1/8 tsp salt

Note: I upped the horseradish called for in the original recipe a lot, and my guests thought I could’ve added more, so these amounts reflect the extra tablespoon I should have added to this batch.

Stir the jello into the boiling water until completely dissolve, mebbe a minute or two,  then set aside to rest and thicken on the countertop for an hour.

Note: this would be a great time to drain your pineapple.

When ready to prepare, combine the mayonnaise, cottage cheese, horseradish, drained pineapple, and the salt in a mixing bowl until well blended.

Note: for a smoother textured salad, try running the cottage cheese though a food processor fitted with the metal blade.

Fold in the cooled and slightly thickened jello until well blended, then stir in the chopped pecans.

Transfer the mixture to a mold, cover, and stash in the fridge until completely set, at least two hours.

To release the salad from the mold, dip into hot water for 30 to 60 seconds to loosen, then invert on to a serving plate.

I will admit to loosening the edges of the mold with a butter knife to help things on.

Serve as part of a munchies spread, or, go ahead and try it with my aunt’s casserole or even plain tacos. You may just find yourself pleasantly surprised.

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This Sauce, Though…

First, I made a tasty batch of Iberian Meatballs – a blend of ground pork and Portuguese garlic sausage and other tasty things, sweety darlings.

Then, I made the sauce.

It is hard to describe how such a simple blending of basic ingredients can come together to make such a NICE tomato sauce.

Good as the sauce is, though, it is better with the meatballs.

So, let’s make some sauce, add meatballs, and then let the whole thing rest overnight in the fridge before gently reheating and serving.

INGREDIENTS
•1 tbsp avocado or olive oil
•1 cup diced sweet onion
•1-1/2 cup dry white wine
•2 cans (14-1/2 oz) diced tomatoes
•1 cup tomato sauce
•1 cup sliced Spanish olives
•1 tsp black pepper
•1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
•1/2 tsp Cayenne
•1/2 tsp paprika

Warm the oil in a large pan over medium high heat, then add the diced onion anc cook for eight or nine minutes, until the onion is translucent and tender and (mebbe) just a bit browned in places.

Add the wine, turning the heat to high and scraping up any bits of onion stuck to the bottom of the pan.

Cook for a minute or two, then lower the heat, add the remaining ingredients, and simmer for ten minutes.

Add the cooked meatballs, cook for another ten minutes, then serve, or, always more better, set aside to cool, then stash in the fridge overnight to allow the flavors of the meatballs and sauce to really blend.

One of my new faves.

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Iberian Meatballs

Book Club was coming up, and I was hunting for a little sumpin’ sumpin’ different to serve, when I came across a nice recipe for Spanish meatballs.

Thing was, it called for some seasonings that are not my favorites, as well as ground pork and veal.

See, ground pork is simple to find out here, but ground veal is a stretch.

Then, I got to thinking…

I had some of my favorite Portuguese style garlic sausages (Linguiça) from a local market, the aforementioned ground pork, and enough other spices and seasonings that I thought would taste like the region, and set to work.

Note: all linguiça is not the same! Some Wisconsin sausage makers have stuff they call linguiça, but it is way too smoky. These sausages, from my local Jewel, taste the most like the linguiça I could get in southeastern Massachusetts, which has a huge Portuguese community.

INGREDIENTS
•1-1/4 lb ground pork
•20 oz Portuguese sausage
•3 cloves garlic, minced
•1/2 cup gluten-free panko crumbs
•2 eggs
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•1 tsp Seasoned Salt
•1/2 tsp paprika
•1/2 tsp allspice
•1/2 tsp curry powder
•1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
•1/2 tsp black pepper

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Heat your oven to 350º and line two rimmed baking pans with heavy duty foil.

Place the eggs, garlic, panko crumbs, Sherry Peppers Sauce, and seasonings in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse until nicely blended. Set aside to rest for five or ten minutes.

Note: just before making the meatballs, I had used the processor to chop dates, raisins, prunes, and pecans to make a Date Roll for the get together. Instead of thoroughly cleaning out; I decided that any little bits of dried fruits and nuts would only add to the overall flavor I was building.

Slice into the sausages and remove the casings. Add to the food processor along with the ground pork and pulse until well and truly blended.

Using a scoop, portion out your meatballs and arrange in a single layer on the baking pans. I used a two tablespoon scoop and ended up with 31 meatballs total. If you’d like to use these as a most excellent cocktail appetizer, go ahead and use a smaller scoop. Just remember to mebbe adjust your over all baking time.

My two baking pans will not fit in the oven side by side; so I placed one on the bottom rack and one on the upper rack, and set the timer for 23 minutes.

Once the timer beeped, I flipped the pans and gave the meatballs another 23 to 28 minutes, until the kitchen was smelling really good, and they were nicely done.

Remove from the oven and set aside to rest while you make the sauce.

Oh, yeh, about that sauce?

It is wicked simple and really far too tasty to share a post with the meatballs that are perfect with it, so…

Check that out, tomorrow!

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Nicely Spiced Eggplant

First things first.

This recipe can be vegetarian, so Ima classifying it that way, but…

even though it is quite good as a vegetarian main course or side dish, it is also, without a doubt, so much better when you add cooked ground pork.

Sorry.

Some things just needed to be said.

Anywho, go vegetarian or go for pork, I think you will find this a very nice new way to enjoy eggplant that dies not involve breading and tomato sauce and cheese.

INGREDIENTS
•Kosher salt
•Olive or avocado oil
•1 eggplant, sliced 1/4 inch thick
•2 tbsp vegetable oil
•2 cups diced onion
•1 tbsp minced garlic
•1 lb ground pork (optional)

Sauce:
•2 tbsp lower sodium Tamari
•2 tbsp water
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•1 tbsp sweet chili sauce
•1-1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
•1-1/2 tsp Sambal Oelek
•1 tsp white sugar
•1/2 tsp black pepper
•1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
•1/2 tsp Asian (toasted) sesame oil

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Slice the eggplant, arrange in a single layer on a tray, and salt both sides.

Set aside to rest for 30 to 90 minutes. You note the water beading to the surface of the slices? That is gonna mean you get less soggy, less bitter cooked eggplant. Good deal, right?

After the eggplant has rested, rinse each slice well under cool water to remove excess salt, then pat dry with a clean kitchen towel.

Cut the slated, sliced, then rinsed and dried eggplant into 1/4 inch chunks and heat two tablespoons of oil in a pan over medium high heat.

Add the eggplant chunks and cook, stirring often, for five minutes, until the eggplant begins to brown.

Remove the eggplant using a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add a bit more oil to the pan and add in the onion, cooking for eight or nine minutes, until tender.

Add the garlic and the ground pork – if you are using it – to the pan and continue to cook, breaking up the pork, until the meat has been thoroughly cooked.

Whisk the remaining ingredients together and add to the pan.

Stir in the eggplant cubes and cook, stirring often, until the sauce has thickened and most of any liquid in the pan has been absorbed, five to ten minutes longer.

Serve over rice with chopped fresh parsley or sliced green onion.

Our niece likes hers with additional sriracha as well, but you do what you like.

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Spiced Rum Peaches

Adding to my holidaze gift canning, I came across a recipe for “Drunken Peaches” – basically, peaches and simple syrup and brandy.

What’s not to love, right?

Except…

I wanted to add a bit of spice to my peaches, so I picked up a bottle of spiced rum and some whole cloves; figuring that both would do the deed nicely.

INGREDIENTS
•2 bags frozen peach slices, thawed
•1/4 cup spiced rum (per jar)
•2 cloves (per jar)

Simple Syrup:
•1-1/2 cup sugar
•3 cups water

Note: if you want to use fresh peaches, go for it, but I have a lot of holidaze canning to get done and a kindofa tight schedule, so fozen, peeled and sliced peaches worked a treat for me. Two bags made three pint jars.

First, make the simple syrup by stirring the sugar into the water in a small pan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.

Bring to a low simmer, then reduce the heat and keep warm while you prep the peaches.

Divide your peach slices evenly among canning jars – as I noted above, two bags filled three, pint-sized jars.

Pour 1/4 cup of spiced rum over each jar of peaches, then add two cloves.

Top each jar off with the simple syrup – leaving about 1/2 inch of head space.

Add lids and bands to each jars, screwing the bands “fingertip tight” – using just you fingertips to tighten the bands – and process in boiling water for 25 minutes.

For best flavor, you should allow the sealed jars to rest for one week.

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Mixed Berry Vodka

OK, so I am cheating a wee, tiny bit here.

This image is actually from earlier this year, after my cherry vodka had steeped for three weeks and been decanted so that my friend, Barb, and I could enjoy some while our friend, Mira, was in the Caribbean drinking all of the rum.

Long story.

Anywho; I have just prepped this season’s batch, and I think it is gonna be a winner!

I switched things up just a bit this time, adding a vanilla bean and some blueberries to the blend.

INGREDIENTS
•1.5 liter vodka
•24 oz frozen cherries
•5 – 10 oz frozen blueberries
•1 whole vanilla bean

Slice the cherries in half – you are doing this to expose the maximum amount of cherry flesh to the vodka – and place in a large pitcher with a tight lid along with the blueberries and the vanilla bean.

Pour the vodka over all, give it all a gentle stir, then cover the pitcher and stash it someplace cool and dark for three weeks.

“Yikes! Three weeks?!?”

Yes, but, there is no stirring, no looking after the pitcher; you just let it rest and do its thing and count down your three weeks.

Which, if you get a move on, and mebbe shave a day or two off the schedule, will give you a tasty treat for holidaze imbibing.

When done, strain the fruit from the vodka and transfer the vodka to new decanters.

Save the fruit, though, for a boozy topping to cheesecake or ice cream.

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Swozzled Cherries

As my friend, Mira, is known to say (after an especially trying day with work or the kids)…

“You don’t know, this could be vodka!”

Well, now you don’t have to wonder, because, yes, this is, in fact, a jar of maraschino cherries soaking in vodka.

“Why?” you ask?

It’s the holidaze, and, really, shouldn’t your maraschino cherries be soaked in vodka?

Yeh. I thought so.

The original recipe called for using a ten ounce jar of cherries, but I had a partial jar in the fridge, so added them too, and ended up with a nice, 12 ounce, jar of vodka and sweet cherry goodness which will go on top of individual cheesecakes at our Book Club gathering this weekend.

Because that, my friends, is how our Book Club roll.

INGREDIENTS
•Maraschino cherries
•Vodka

Drain the cherries. Save the juice or don’t.

Return the cherries to the jar – or – if you’ve made extra, as did I, place them in a jar to fit, then pour vodka over to cover.

Close the jar and stash in the fridge for at least 24 hours – though the longer you let them rest, the more swozzled they’ll be.

That’s all there is to it!

Add a little extra oompf to your next adult dessert gathering.

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Gluten-Free! Soda Poke Cake

When we have folk over, I always try to have something for everyone with special dietary needs; like, vegetarian, or no ‘shrooms, or nut free, or… gluten-free. And so, for a family holidaze gathering, I set out to make a dessert that one sister-in-law, who cannot have gluten, would be able to enjoy while everyone else was snarfing down pies and cheesecakes and cookies and all the rest.

I had bought some gluten-free flour, but Lynn assured me that the g-f mixes were pretty good, and much easier to make.

So, I then got to thinking…

“Hmmm, a poke cake would be good, but how about I make everyone’s favorite version; a yellow and Seven Up soda cake cherry lemonade jello?”

I was uncertain if the gluten-free mix would work with the soda as well as the regular mix does, but, what the heck, it’s the holidaze! If you can’t experiment on your family, who can you experiment on?

INGREDIENTS
•1 gluten-free yellow cake mix
•12 ox lemon-lime soda
•3 oz box Jello – not lite or lowfat!*
•1 cup boiling water
•1/2 cup cold water
•Thawed whipped topping
•Sprinkles

*Lite and/or lowfat gelatines are not gluten-free, as far as I have been able to discover.

Heat your oven to 350º and empty the cake mix into a large mixing bowl.

Pour in the 12 ounces of soda – and nothing else – then mix according to package instructions.

Well… the batter certainly looks good, and it smells really good so, let’s continue.

Apply cooking spray to your chosen cake pan(s) – I went with a 13×9 pan for ease for storage and serving given the sheer choices of my husband’s family’s holidaze dessert bar assortment.

Bake the cake according to package instructions, then remove from the oven and set aside to cool on a rack.

The cake didn’t rise quite as much as a regular one would, but still, smelled really, really nice, so, on into the breach, as it were.

Once the cake has cooled, stir the cup of boiling water into the jello for two minutes, until the jello has totally dissolved.

Stir in the 1/2 cup of cold water and set aside.

Using a roasting fork, poke holes every 1/2 inch all over the surface of the cake.

Pour the jello evenly over the cake, then cover and chill for at least three hours.

The original poke cake recipe says that, after chilling, you should spread the whipped topping over the cake, add sprinkles, then store in the fridge until ready to serve.

I prefer to leave the cake as is, and let each person choose the amount of whipped topping they like.

So far, the batter has smelled good, the baked cake has smelled really good, and the jello has been nicely soaked up.

Now, for the big test…

How does it taste?

You know what?

It really wasn’t too, too bad!

As my sister-in-law pointed out, a lot of these mixes are not gonna taste just like a regular cake – and it was a bit grainier or something – but the overall flavor was good, and she got to enjoy dessert along with the rest of the family.

I call that a win.

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Pesto, Pancetta, and Tomato Sauce

First things first. This is a total cheat recipe, with almost everything coming off of a store shelf or refrigerator case.

Doesn’t really matter though, because it was still wicked tasty.

And then, there is this jarred pesto from ALDI. Not refrigerated, just sitting on a shelf, waiting to be tried, and, for the price? I figured “why not?”

Why not indeed.

This inexpensive little jar of pesto is so much better than some of the “fresh packed” stuff in other markets’ coolers!

Of course, I did dress it up, just a wee, tiny bit.

INGREDIENTS
•1 jar pesto sauce
•Grape tomatoes, halved
•5 oz cubed pancetta
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•Sliced cherry peppers
•Cooked pasta – I used tortellini

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Warm a large pan over medium heat, then add the pancetta and tomatoes and cook, stirring often, until the pancetta has crisped up and the tomatoes have started to break down.

Stir in the sherry peppers sauce, lower the heat and cook for about five minutes more.

Give it a taste.

Nice, right?

But, we like a bit of zip to our sauce, so I added some pickled deli-sliced hot cherry peppers – look for these with the pickles, or at a well-stocked Italian deli.

Much more better!

Now, stir in the pesto and heat through.

Cook the pasta according to package instructions, drain, and toss with the sauce.

I have to confess to transferring the pesto to a bowl and cooking the tortellini in the same pan, draining it, then returning the pesto to the pan with the pasta and serving from there, tossed with shredded cheese.

Wicked tasty.

Wicked simple.

And very little clean up at the end.

We had three goodly sized servings (well, four, my husband went back for seconds), and enough leftover for one person (our niece) to enjoy for lunch the next day.

I call that a deal.

 

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