Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mama's Soup Pot

The advent of Autumn always leaves me feeling nostalgic.

Long nights, cold days, grey skies - never is there a better time to be among those with whom we say, "These are my people, this is where I belong."

Don't ever underestimate the  power and the love that can be found in a simple bowl of soup...

Mama's Soup Pot
By one of my personal heroes: Leo Buscaglia

















There are too many treasures in life we take for granted, the worth of which we don't fully realize until they're pointed out to us in some unexpected way.

So it was with Mama's soup pot.

I can still see it sitting on the stove in all its chipped white-and-blue-enameled glory, its contents bubbling, steam rising as if from an active volcano.

When I entered the back porch, the aroma was not only mouthwatering but reassuring.

Whether Mama was standing over the pot stirring with a long wooden spoon or not, I knew I was home.

There was no recipe for her minestrone soup. It was always a work in progress.

It had been so since her girlhood in the Piemonte mountains of northern Italy, where she learned its secret from her nonna (Italian, grandma), who had inherited it from generations of nonnas.



For our large immigrant family, Mama's soup guaranteed we would never go hungry.

It was a simmering symbol of security.

Its recipe was created spontaneously from what was in the kitchen. And we could judge the state of our family economy by its contents.

A thick brew with tomatoes, pasta, beans, carrots, celery, onion, corn and meat indicated things were going well with the Buscaglias.

A watery soup denoted meager times.

And never was food thrown out. That was a sin against God. Everything ended up in the minestrone pot.

Its preparation was sacred to Mama.

To her, cooking was a celebration of God's providence.

Each potato, each shred of chicken was placed in the pot with grateful thanks.

I think of Mama whenever I read Proverbs: "She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family... Her children arise, and call her blessed."



At one time, however, Mama's soup pot became a source of embarrassment to me, for I feared it would cost me a new friend I had made at school.

Sol was a thin, dark-haired boy, and an unusual pal for me because his father was a doctor and they lived in the best part of town.

Often Sol invited me to his home for dinner.

The family had a cook in a white uniform who worked in a kitchen of gleaming chrome and shining utensils.

The food was good, but I found it bland, lacking the heartiness of my home fare served from flame-blackened pots.

Moreover, the atmosphere matched the food. Everything was so formal.

Sol's mother and father were polite, but conversation around the table was stilted and subdued.

And no one hugged! The closest I saw Sol get to his father was a handshake.

In our family, warm hugs were a constant—men, women, boys and girls—and if you didn't kiss your mother, she demanded: "What’s a matter, you sick?"

But at that time in my life, all this was an embarrassment.



I had known Sol would like to eat dinner at our house, but that was the last thing I wanted.

My family was so different.

No other kids had such pots on their stoves, nor did they have a mama whose first action upon seeing you enter the house was to sit you down with a spoon and bowl.

"People in America don't do things like that," I tried to convince Mama.

"Well, I'm not people," was her proud retort. "I'm Rosina. Only crazy people don't want my minestrone."

Finally Sol pointedly asked if he could come to our house.

I had to say yes.

I knew nothing would make Mama happier, but I was in a state of anxiety.

Eating with my family would turn Sol off completely, I believed.

"Mama, why can't we have some American food like hamburgers or fried chicken?" She fixed me with a stony glare and I knew better than to ask again.

The day Sol came over I was a nervous wreck.

Mama and the other nine family members welcomed him with embraces and slaps on the back.

Soon we were sitting at the heavy, deeply stained and ornately carved table that was Papa's pride and joy.

It was covered with an ostentatious, bright oilcloth. And sure enough, after Papa asked the blessing, we were instantly faced with bowls of soup.

"Eh, Sol," Mama asked, "you know what this is?"

"Soup?" Sol responded.

"No soup," Mama said emphatically. "It's minestrone!" She then launched into a long, animated explanation of the power of minestrone: how it cured headaches, colds, heartaches, indigestion, gout and liver ailments.

After feeling Sol's muscles, Mama convinced him that the soup would also make him strong, like the Italian-American hero Charles Atlas. I cringed, convinced that this would be the last time I would ever see my friend Sol.

He would certainly never return to a home with such eccentric people, odd accents and strange food.

But to my amazement, Sol politely finished his bowl and then asked for two more. "I like it a lot," he said, slurping.

When we were saying our good-byes, Sol confided, "You sure have a great family. I wish my mom could cook that good." Then he added, "Boy, are you lucky!"

Lucky? I wondered, as he walked down the street waving and smiling.

Today I know how lucky I was.

I know that the glow Sol experienced at our table was much more than the physical and spiritual warmth of Mama's minestrone.

It was the unalloyed joy of a family table where the real feast was love.

Mama died a long time ago.

Someone turned off the gas under the minestrone pot the day after Mama was buried, and a glorious era passed with the flame.

But the godly love and assurance that bubbled amidst its savory ingredients still warms my heart today.

***
Sol and I continued our friendship through the years.

I was the best man at his wedding.

Not long ago I visited his house for dinner.

He hugged all his children and they hugged me.

Then his wife brought out steaming bowls of soup. It was chicken soup, thick with vegetables and chunks of meat.

"Hey, Leo," Sol asked, "do you know what this is?"

"Soup?" I responded smiling.

"Soup!" he huffed. "This is chicken soup! Cures colds, headaches, indigestion. Good for your liver!" Sol winked.

I felt I was home again.

***

I wish everyone, today, a sense of home and a sense of gratitude for what is. All too often we don't see or appreciate things that matter until they're gone...

Here are two soup recipes I really love.

I hope you enjoy...

Split Pea Soup in the Slow Cooker

















Hamburger Soup




















Soup is one of those magical things that has the power to connect us to feelings of loving kindness and care.

In fact, some of my earliest memories of childhood pleasure involve waiting for the soup bones to come out of my own mother's pot.

The succulence of marrow filled with herb infused broth is most likely one of the early taste memories that has given me my palette for real food.

So it came as no surprise that there is scientific evidence to support the curative effects of chicken soup.

How could there not be?

Especially if the garlicky goodness of it all has been infused with a mother's (or a father's) love.

In all of creation, I can think of nothing so healing as that.















Happy Thursday all!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The 5 Life Lessons I Learned as a Finalist on Recipe to Riches

This is strange...

Usually I write about life lessons I glean from watching other people on TV -  not myself - but the journey toward getting onto Recipe to Riches, and the unexpected turns my road has taken in the meantime are worth recording for posterity - or at least for myself.

So without further ado, here are my Five Life Lessons...

1.  The best part of any journey involves the experiences you have while you travel.

Much like Dorothy on her way to Oz, I compare the yellow brick road that led me to Recipe to Riches to the road Dorothy traveled in the iconic story The Wizard of Oz. It was the friendships Dorothy made, and the things she learned along the way that shaped her experience.

When I think back over the last two years, from Recipe to Riches, to The Real Women of Philadelphia, and back again, the best moments I had were spent in nervous anticipation, brainstorming recipe possibilities, meeting people who have now become treasured friends, taking chances, and learning how to do new things.

The journey has given me a new found understanding of courage I never thought I had, media and computer skills that have enhanced the way I think and do things, and supportive friendships that have helped a squeaky old heart believe in itself again.

















These things, I have come to learn, are a prize package that is real and long lasting and worth more than I could ever explain.

2. Believe in yourself enough to silence the naysayers. 

In the season 2 auditions, despite the overwhelming excitement and enthusiasm I received from the judges, one comment stood out in my mind: The filling in my Asian Snack Wraps was lacking flavour. Bear in mind, this is the same filling all three judges deemed as being delicious, and special during the actual competition.

Despite that, I came away from the auditions, not focusing on the excitement the judges had about my concept but instead, convinced myself my recipe was somehow flawed and in need of fixing.

This is nothing new for me. No matter how much I accomplish or what roads I travel, there is a tiny voice inside my head always at the ready to remind me that I'm not really good enough.
















I'll never know for sure if I would have had enough time to roll out 300 scallion pancakes, individually fry, and wrap them, but I will forever wish I'd taken a gamble on myself and given it a try. This is a life lesson I hope I've truly learned so that the next time I'm presented with a situation to cause self doubt, I will rise above it and stand on my own.

3. Never operate under the assumption others know more about your vision than you do.

My concept for Asian Snack Wraps was to to bring street food to people at home. In that respect, this wasn't a concept I designed as something hungry kids would be eating on the way to a soccer game. I envisioned it as a snack that would give people of all ages a "Food Truck" experience at home  - an opportunity to try a lightly salted, chewy, crispy scallion pancake and enjoy the sweet and sour flavours of fresh ginger, sweet Asian chili sauce, crunchy water chestnuts, and savoury Asian pork tucked inside.

However, because of second guessing and a lesson about hindsight I will speak to next, in the heat of battle I fried my snack wraps to a dull, freaked out brown - and even though they were still really delicious, I completely sealed the deal in my own mind that they weren't good enough so that by the time I got to the marketing challenge and agreed on the name "Wrap Attack" and the whole "cool urban vibe" thing, my fate was sealed.

In retrospect, Wrap Attack had nothing to do with bringing a new culinary experience to Canadian homes (cue an ebullient Lyndsay looking into the camera and gushing "they totally get it").

O.M.G.

4. Hindsight really is 20/20

You should have been in my mind during the flight back home, and during the six subsequent months I've had to ruminate over this one in silence. In retrospect there are many things I would have done differently if I knew then what I knew now like (a) not deep fry, (b) test one snack wrap for dough quality and thickness prior to rocking out 100 of them, (c) re-think the whole "urban vibe thing" - lets just thank GOD I refrained from rapping.

Oh, and (d) the bun.

Though the wonderful hair and makeup people did a beautiful job at putting my hair up, the bun didn't do a lot for my street cred.

5. Outcome is just another way to say beginning.

The trouble with an adventure is that it doesn't last forever and no matter how much of your heart, soul, and passion you put into an experience, the day eventually comes when you wake up and realize it's over. Life goes back to normal, memories get filed away, and after awhile few people remember that you were someone who once upon a time took a chance on a dream, traveled the yellow brick road, and met The Wizard.

So to anyone out there reading this who is in the process of chasing your own dreams, know that you are in the best place ever - cherish all the ups and downs, notice everything, and be grateful every single moment for the experience.

The outcome will take care of itself.

As for me, I've always said that endings are just another door way to a new beginning. I don't know what my next adventure will be but I have faith that it will be a good one.

For now, though, I'll end by saying, there truly is no place like home.

















If you'd like to try making my Snack Wraps yourself, here is a step by step video

The printable recipe can be found HERE.



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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Apple Juice Brined Jerk Pork Tenderloin with Apple Butter Gravy and a Potato, Apple, and Brussels Sprout Hash

I am a big Robert Irvine fan and, as such, was THRILLED to see he has a mystery box contest going where one lucky winner will receive a limited edition chef's jacket that has been signed by him!

People, I am on a mission because I want a jacket!

The box ingredients this week are: Pork Tenderloin, Apples, and Brussels Sprouts. This is what I came up with!

Apple Juice Brined Pork Tenderloin with Apple Butter Gravy and a Potato, Brussel Sprout, and Apple Hash. 

















Pork Tenderloin 
Click here for the printable recipe

Brine Ingredients
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups apple juice
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup dark Brown Sugar
  • 2 Bay leaves  
  • 1/2 tsp Herbes de Provence or Thyme  
Jerk Rub
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion salt
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese 5 Spice powder
  • 1 teaspoon  dried hot chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or Herbs de Provence
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Mix together and store in an airtight container.

Directions
  1. Combine the brown sugar and salt in the water and bring to a boil. Stir until dissolved and then add the rest of the brine ingredients. Lower heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to cool completely.
  2. Trim the silver skin off the tenderloin. Add the tenderloin to a large Ziplock or resealable plastic container. Pour brine over all and seal. 
  3. Leave in the brine for 2-3 hours. Remove, rinse well, pat dry, and rub both sides with about a tbsp of the jerk rub until everything is well covered. 
  4. Roast in a 350 oven on roasting rack  for about 30-45 minutes or until the tenderloin reaches an internal temperature of 145 for medium or 165 for well done. 
  5. Let rest 10 minutes before slicing. 
  6. Serve drizzled with Apple Butter Gravy
Apple Butter Gravy
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced 
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup butter
Bring all of the ingredients to a boil in a small pot and simmer until the apples are soft. Add the butter and simmer just until it melts. Remove from heat and using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. Return to heat and keep warm until ready to serve. Serve drizzled over the sliced pork tenderloin.

Potato, Brussels Sprout, and Apple Hash
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 15 Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp Herbes de Provence or thyme
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 granny smith apples, peeled and cubed
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
Directions
  1. Cook the potatoes and brussels sprouts in boiling water 4-6 minutes until just barely tender
  2. Mix the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and Herbes de Provence together,
  3. Drain the potatoes and Brussels Sprouts and toss while still warm in the lemon juice mixture. Set aside and refrigerate at least an hour. 
  4. Saute the apple, onion, potatoes and Brussels sprouts in butter in a large non stick pan over medium high heat turning often until the onions are golden and caramelized and the sprouts have begun to brown.


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Tasting Recipe to Riches Concoctions

Okay, this is my last Recipe to Riches post, I promise!

In actuality I'm in recipe development mode today - putting together something wonderful for Sunday dinner that I plan to share soon!

In the meantime, I had a chance to do something really fun that I thought I'd share here since my readers from outside of Canada haven't had a chance to see the show.

This is category winner Stephen Childs and I cooking off on a local cable show  with Karen Elgersma.

How to Make Asian Snack Wraps Recipe to Riches Season 2

I'm not sure where it all began, this whole I want to cook, come up with my own recipes, and do it all on camera obsession - but recently I managed to have a home foodie's ultimate bucket list experience: cooking 300 servings of my original recipe for Asian Snack Wraps in a professional kitchen on Food Network Canada in the hopes that what I was creating would be my Recipe to Riches.

Those of you who've been around awhile will recall my passion was born when I heard the phrase "Calling all Cooks" coming from my TV one fateful night about a year and a half ago - the night I made the decision to audition to be on the show Recipe to Riches the first time.

In year one, I brought my Gobblers... tender little cornbread mini muffins filled with my secret recipe for Chili Con Carne!




















And nervously brought them before judges Tony Chapman, Dana McCauley, and Laura Calder. I was not only thrilled to receive a gold ticket, I came very close to being a finalist that first year!

So never one to give up, I came back swinging in the year 2 auditions with my Asian Snack Wraps.





















Despite a poor decision to deep fry during the batch up, and a marketing challenge that featured cheerleaders and 15 year old boys who I doubt do much Superstore shopping, this recipe is one of the most delicious savoury snacks you will ever taste and because of the overwhelming response I've received from cooks all over Canada, I decided to create a step by step video outlining exactly how to make them.

Much like making a big batch of perogies, they're picky to put together, but oh so worth it. Especially because they can be made ahead in big batches and frozen.

And non- red meat eaters or vegans, don't despair, you can easily and to beautiful result sub out ground turkey or tofu. But don't change up the pancake. I know its picky, but the chewy texture provides the perfect contrast to the crunchy filling.

In a pinch, though, the filling is pretty much amazing in everything and I have been known to pop it into Phyllo pastry or wonton wrappers in mini muffin tins - a la Asian Bundles.
















I've made some slight modifications to the recipe posted on the Food Network sight.

You will find those modifications on the Printable Recipe Here.

Here's the step by step video for making my snack wraps. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask and don't forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel - I'll be featuring a how to on the Gobblers next weekend!




Prep Time: 60 min
Total Time: 90 min
Serves: 16

Scallion Wrappers
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup very hot water
  • 1 cup chopped scallions
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • Ground sea salt for sprinkling
Directions
  1. Pulse the scallions in a food processor until they resemble a soft mulch.
  2. Mix the flour, sesame oil, and scallions together. Make a well in the flour and add hot water to the flour mixture and knead until it forms a nice dough.
  3. Divide into four equal segments, roll into a tube that is 1.5 inches in diameter, cut into 1/2 inch segments, and roll on a lightly floured surface (dough is sticky so you will need to use flour) into a paper thin disk like a soft tortilla shell. Store in between pieces of wax or parchment paper until ready to cook.
  4. Cook the pancakes one at a time over medium heat in a non stick pan that has been treated with cooking spray. Cook about a minute or two per side, sprinkling one side lightly with salt. Fill with Korean pork filling.
Korean Pork Filling

Ingredients
  • 1 pound medium ground pork (can also use ground turkey or tofu)
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 (8 ounce) can water chestnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 6 green onions, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Asian (dark) sesame oil
  • Sea salt in a grinder
Sauce Ingredients
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Siracha chile sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
Directions
  1. Mix the sauce ingredients together in a medium bowl, set aside.
  2. Spray a non-stick skillet with PAM and bring to medium high heat, brown the ground pork and onion stirring often and reducing the heat to medium, if necessary.  
  3. When the pork is golden brown and cooked through, drain in a colander lined with paper towel to remove any excess fat and then return to the pan.
  4. Make a slurry by mixing the cornstarch and warm water together.
  5. Add the reserved sauce, water chestnuts, and stir. Stir in the slurry and continue to saute until the meat thickens slightly and comes together. Add the green onions and remove from heat. Let cool while you make the scallion wraps.
  6. Place 1 heaping tbsp of the ground pork mixture onto one side of each cooked scallion wrap and fold burrito style - one half over the cover the meat, both sides in, and the other half over *or* transfer meat mixture to a serving bowl. At the table, everyone place some meat mixture in a wrapper, fold it and dips in sauce.
  7. To make ahead and re-heat: Store the pre-made wraps in refrigerator and microwave about a minute and a half before serving.
  8. To make ahead and freeze cool to room temperature wrap in tinfoil and place in the freezer. Once frozen, store in freezer bags. Re-heat in a pre-heated 400 oven on an un-greased baking tray or cookie sheet for 5 minutes a side, turning once. Place on paper towel to blot any oil.
Dip Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp soy
  • 1/4 cup hoisin
  • 2 tbsp sweet chili
  • 1 tbsp rice wine
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp chili garlic sauce
  • 1 tbsp brown suga
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ginger
Mix everything together and serve in small bowls. Dip can easily be doubled or tripled.



***

Author:

Lyndsay Wells is a professional trainer, writer, and program developer with a passion for food and cooking. She is an award winning recipe developer, and a website ambassador for Kraft Foods Canada. Lyndsay believes cooking should be approachable and easy and has great tips and ideas for putting together sophisticated looking dishes that cooks of all levels can accomplish.

Visit her daily on her blog, The Kitchen Witch or on her YouTube Channel, CHARMED With The Kitchen Witch.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

One Life - Recipe to Riches - Here's to the Dream Chasers!

"It’s a great big world and you'll see
It could pass you by at light speed
You got one life, one life
Don’t stop live it up"

- Hedley, One Life

I have always had theme songs; music and lyrics that define who I am and, better still, where I hope to be going as I make my through the triumph and tragedy of an ordinary life.

But ordinary is a word I have always had trouble with because, just by virtue of taking one breath in and one breath out while we navigate our collective way through the human experience, we are elevated to the extraordinary.

All of us.

Perhaps it was that: my overwhelming belief in the possibility each of us has to be extraordinary that attracted me and caused me to take a chance and audition, not once, but twice, to be on the popular Canadian reality cooking show Recipe to Riches.

Cynics out there might laugh or shun me, making light of my experience without ever fully understanding what it is to put your whole self out there on public display with no apology or fear - to be fully willing to be vulnerable as an exchange to chase a dream.

And make no mistake; all of us who took a risk, sent in a recipe, attended the auditions, and faced the judges are dream chasers. People who believe there might be more to life than clocking hours and counting the days between pay cheques.

Recipe to Riches has given us each the possibility to dream big and for that and so much more, I am beyond grateful.

If you're in Canada I hope you'll tune into the Food Network tonight to watch myself, Jennifer Innis, and Stephen Childs as we challenge ourselves, create lasting friendships, and embark on the culinary adventure of a lifetime!

"You can’t get it
If you don’t keep giving
Can’t get it if you don’t
Keep giving
Oh!

It’s a great big world and you'll see
It could pass you by at light speed
You got one life, one life
Don’t stop live it up"

Here's to the dream chasers!

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Creamy Lobster Mac and Cheese

Yesterday my favourite seafood shop had a special on lobster tails that I just couldn't resist. I've been craving something creamy and comforting like mac and cheese and thought the addition of fresh buttery lobster would class it up a bit and, boy, was I right!

Better still, my original tried and true recipe for mac and cheese is high on flavour without the addition of butter and cream (except in the lobster ;)

Put it all together and you've got a recipe for DELICIOUS!!
















Please enjoy my step by step how to video.

 


Creamy Seafood Mac and Cheese
Printable Recipe here

Ingredients
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup Philly light cream cheese
  • 1 cup shredded old cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese
  • 3 lobster tails meat removed and cut into chunks
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp corn starch
  • 1 Tbsp low sodium chicken broth
  • salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • 4 cups macaroni noodles

Directions
  1. Cook the macaroni noodles in boiling water until just al dente. Add salt during the last 30 seconds of boiling
  2. Meanwhile, saute the lobster chunks over medium high heat in the butter and olive oil. When the lobster is cooked, add the cup of chicken stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium high and add the cream cheese. Stir until the cream cheese in incorporated into the sauce. Add the other cheeses and stir until melted. 
  3. Stir the cornstarch together with the additional Tbsp of chicken stock and then add to the cheese sauce. Stir until thickened and reduce heat to low. 
  4. When macaroni is cooked, drain it and then add to the cheese sauce. Stir well. Serve with fresh cracked black pepper, salt to taste, and fresh Italian parsley as garnish.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Cherry Hill - Amanda's First Thanksgiving without Paul

October 16, 1947

Dear Mother,

I had to write because there is really no one I can to talk to and I feel I might practically burst if I don't get something off my chest.

You'll remember that I wrote about Val last month - how she continuously turns up at the school during lunch hour to spend time with Jack? Well this has continued and I, true to my word, have taken to eating my lunch in the teacher's lounge as far as I can get from Nurse Val and her brownies.

Frankly, it's a bit of a relief as my friendship with Jack comes with its fair share of complications - not the least of which, Mrs. Wilson's disapproving stare every time I mention something that has gone on at the school. She still holds the opinion that its unseemly for someone so recently widowed to be working, not to mention fraternizing with her son.

But that isn't why I'm writing.

As you know, last weekend was Thanksgiving and though I didn't have it in me to cook a big meal, I wanted to do something for the children. The school always makes such a to do over holidays and I just didn't have the heart to serve tuna casserole amidst all of the gay Autumn coloured paper turkeys the children have been bringing home.

My original plan was to hold a picnic in the living room after church on Sunday with just the children, but on Sunday morning it became evident the ladies of the auxiliary had other ideas. When word got out via an announcement Bobby made in Sunday school that we wouldn't be having a turkey this year, Marjorie Turner - who is not only the Sunday school teacher, she is Mrs. Wilson's best friend - took it upon herself to invite the three of us to her Thanksgiving dinner the next day.

Although I tried to beg off she wouldn't take no for an answer and I found myself on Monday evening surrounded by the Wilsons, Jack, Nurse Val, and Marjorie Turner's bachelor nephew Eugene who regaled me with information about his research on amphibians. In the meantime, Val kept watch over Jack like chicken hawk circling a nest and though our eyes met a few times over the course of the evening, we didn't have a chance to say more than one or two words to each other without Val swooping in or Eugene talking of natural habitats.

It makes me sad mother. Not only have I lost my husband (and I still have many questions as to what Nurse Val's involvement in all of that was) now I feel as though a really good friendship is also slipping away and it seems so unfair.

In the meantime, it was all I could do to extract myself from Eugene. I kept having to divert his attention back to the frogs because it soon became evident he was working up the nerve to ask me on a date and I'm just not ready for that. And even if I was, bless his heart, Eugene and I don't have that much in common.

Well, that's all the news for now.

I will leave you with a recipe from Marjorie. She made the most exquisite little pecan tarts for dessert.

Pecan Tartlets





















Ingredients
  • 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1 cup sifted flour
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • dash salt
  • 2/3 cup chopped pecans
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325F.
  2. Combine cheese, 1/2 cup butter, and flour. Mix thoroughly and chill, covered, 1 hour.
  3. Divide into 24 small balls and press into sides and bottom of 2 ungreased minature muffin pans.
  4. Combine egg, brown sugar, vanilla, salt and remaining 1 tablespoon butter; beat until smooth.
  5. Sprinkle 1/3 cup pecans equally into 24 tart shells. Divide egg mixture equally among 24 tarts, pouring on top of pecans. Sprinkle remaining 1/3 cup pecans on top of tarts. 
  6.  Bake 20-25 minutes until pastry is golden brown.



Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Five Awesome Recipe Finds for Holiday Entertaining

It's that time of year again when I begin to think about holiday entertaining. As such, I'm always looking  for show stopping recipes to prepare as the days grow shorter and the nights grow colder.

Cheese platters and fine wines, rich dark chocolate, dips and nuts and cookies shaped like the stars... and the moon... and Autumn leaves...



































 In no particular order, here are five recent favourites that I just had to share - starting with this recipe by Lucy Waverman for savoury little cheddar cookies on the LCBO website.
















I served these as an appetizer prior to Thanksgiving dinner and not only were they gobbled right up, they were just beautiful with wine and looked super elegant by candlelight.

The next recipe is one I got from my friend  Jackie Leung, proprietor of the beautiful Ontario bed and breakfast Fern Glen Inn. 

I have made my share of warm brie appetizers, but the combination of curry and chutney in this super easy to prepare, impressively sophisticated dish takes it right to the top of my list!
















Cut the rind off the top of a wheel of brie. Rub in about a half tsp of curry powder. Cover with mango chutney and chopped pistachios or roasted cashews. Heat in the microwave about 45 seconds until warm and gooey and serve surrounded by Carrs water crackers.

The next recipe I just had to share is simply outstanding!
















Crispy little panko crusted crab cakes topped with roasted red pepper and chive aioli. I found this recipe at Myrecipes.com and knew I had to try it - and oh my! Am I ever glad I did!!

The aioli goes perfectly with these crunchy little gifts from the sea and once again, had my guests raving!

As did this surprisingly tasty recipe, also from Myrecipes.com, for Sweet Potato Squares with Lemon Garlic Mayonnaise.
















I can't totally explain why, but this recipe just works. Smokey bites of crispy sausage and salty roasted sweet potatoes are blanketed in a zesty dip. Served hot or at room temperature, these little morsels are addictive and won't last long on your holiday table!

Finally, what would a Top Five list be without something amazing for dessert? And I've got the perfect little bite to share to sweeten up the end of the evening. Better still, these easy and elegant little Ganache Topped Brownie Bites from Hun What's for Dinner pair wonderfully with red wine.
















I hope you enjoyed these five recipes and will consider trying them for yourself this holiday season.

As I continue to find these kinds of gems, I will share them with you - my beautiful and always appreciated readers!

Until next time, here's wishing you all a wonderful week!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Turkey Stroganoff - A Great Way to Use Leftover Turkey!

I created this recipe several years ago and, to this day, it remains one of my all time favourite dishes to make in the Fall.
















Tender egg noodles are bathed in a luxurious mushroom cream sauce that re-imagines the flavours of  Thanksgiving dinner. 

This comfort classic can be made using cooked ground turkey or leftover turkey and features cranberries, toasted almonds, and herbs that come together and evoke memories of Thanksgiving with every bite without all the fat and calories.

Visit the printable recipe here, enjoy the step by step video, and as always, enjoy this beautiful recipe!

Gobble gobble everyone :-)



Turkey Stroganoff
















Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 3 stalks diced celery
  • 1 medium diced white onion
  • 12 sliced button mushrooms
  • 2 cups (1 pound) cooked ground turkey or 2 cups leftover shredded turkey 
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 tsp herbes de provence (can substitute 1 tsp dried thyme)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
  • Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1 284 ml (10 fl oz) tin Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup (can use the 1/2 fat variety)
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
  • 1 tbsp worcestershire sauce 
  • 5 cups broad whole wheat egg noodles
Directions
  1. Heat the olive oil in non-stick skillet over medium high heat and begin to saute the apples, mushrooms, celery, and onion.
  2. Saute until the onions are soft and translucent and the mushrooms begin to release their water. Continue to cook until veggies begin to turn soft and golden.
  3. Add the cooked turkey, chicken soup stock, herbs de provence, salt, pepper, minced garlic, and frozen peas. Bring to a boil and let simmer until the peas are cooked (about 3-4 minutes).
  4. Add the soup, worcestershire sauce, and dried cranberries. Stir, reduce the heat to a low simmer.
  5. Cook the egg noodles in boiling water for five minutes. Add the noodles to the hot stroganoff mixture. Toss in the toasted almonds. Stir together, and serve.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Easy Cornbread

With the holidays just around the corner I thought it would be a good idea to have an easy cornbread recipe on file to use for cornbread stuffing!

This one takes five minutes to throw together and can be easily made with ingredients most of us will have readily available.

Happy baking everyone!

Easy Cornbread
Printable Recipe HERE

Ingredients
  • 1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour 
  • 3/4 c. cornmeal 
  • 1/4 c. sugar 
  • 2 tsp. baking powder 
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 
  • 1 c. 1 % milk 
  • 1/4 c. vegetable oil 
  • 1 egg, beaten
Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease 8 or 9 inch square pan. Combine dry ingredients. Stir in milk, oil and egg until moistened. Pour into pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.