Cooking · Dining · Food

Nibbles For When You Don’t Want a Meal

In my house, we have what is referred to as a Nosher’s Run. This is a collection of nibbles, or snacks, that are collected in lieu of a full sit down meal. It is a great option for movie night, game night or when we just want something a bit out of the ordinary.

The Domestic Geek posted a great appetizer recipe that is very versatile and easy to make. Check out the video:

You can find the recipe here.

Not into Brie or cranberry sauce? How about substituting cream cheese along with a different fruit or bacon? Why not check out the puff pastry cups instead of the crescent dough?

Speaking of cream cheese, why not take advantage of the flavored cheese spreads or make your own?

You could go a bit crazy and start playing with chicken nuggets mixed into the cheese mixture. Think buffalo flavors or perhaps an oriental flavor profile. Or, how about pulled pork?

If you receive a pot of chutney or onion jam for the holidays, why not try those?

These versatile nibbles could be a great option on a snack buffet.

How would you make this recipe your own?

Cooking · Dining · Food · Recipe of the Month

The Holiday Meal Revisited

When we think of the ‘Holiday Meal’ many of us think of the roasted turkey or ham (or both) with loads of different sides and a collection of pies, cakes, and cookies that will require the loosening of the belt or the wearing of the comfy clothes.

Some cooks are genuinely terrified of roasting the bird. If they have little to no experience with roasting a chicken a turkey can not help but be scary.

Then there are those years when the tried and true are just boring and repetitious. Of course, there will always be those traditionalists who insist The Meal be exactly the same every year, but what if maybe we tried something a little different? Since many Americans repeat the same big meal menu for Thanksgiving on Christmas, there might be room for a change.

At a time when shortages are rampant and items that used to always grace the holiday table might not be available, now seems to be the perfect time to experiment a bit.

The recipes I’ve included keep the spirit of a Make A Fuss Meal and that meal can be created for any reason, not just the Holidays. True, most of them are not diet friendly. That being said, there are dozens of alternative recipes available at the touch of finger to keyboard.

Here’s What I’m Thinking

How about a spectacular main course accompanied by easy side dishes? For those who love their traditional sides, they could be used. Dessert could be a showstopper or a collection of the usual goodies folks look forward to.

Basically, what you have is a blueprint for a meal that can be easily customized and created. And, if you are lucky to have a group over for The Meal, some of it could be divvied up among guests to bring. Sort of a pot luck, you know?

Check out the November Pantry Magic Holiday Meal Revisited recipe collection here.

Happy Cooking!

Cooking · Dining · Food · Recipe of the Month

Vintage Food: Waldorf Salad

For those of us who grew up in the 1960s, the Waldorf Salad was part of the holiday menu. It was one of those ‘kept for special’ recipes that were brought out along with the other holiday staples like roast turkey, candied sweet potatoes and the like.

I recently found myself thinking about this almost forgotten favorite when I purchased some chicken salad for sandwiches. It came with shredded cooked chicken, and pecans, cranberries mixed with mayo. Delicious!

As I said, I got to remembering the Original Waldorf Salad recipe and thought I’d look it up. As you can see from the link, at the very beginning, the salad was simple, elegant and easy to prepare. It was also easy to update.

Adding sliced grapes, shredded chicken, maybe some bleu cheese changes the flavor profile and adds a bit more interest. You literally can gussie this one up in a variety of ways to make it more modern, but why? Really, the original is light, flavorful and has a nice combination of textures that will work well alongside a menu including roast chicken. I would think it might also be a nice side with a roast beef. I’d probably shy away from a roast pork as the meat might be a bit too rich. Then again, maybe not.

If you have never tried the Waldorf Salad, in any of its forms, I urge you to check the link above for the original recipe and see what you think. It might just become a part of your regular rotation – if not your holiday menu.

Let me know what you think!

Cooking · Dining · Food

Check It Out: Food Freedom

Is stress taking over your efforts to control your weight and your health? Are you finding yourself facing the Holiday Season, and all the food, with trepidation? Mind Over Munch announced a new, free, course offered on her website and via YouTube that addresses the way we approach food.

If you are looking for ways to better your relationship with food and make progress in your path to healthful eating, this could be an excellent resource.

All the information is in the video and the links are in the description box below it.

Cooking · Dining · Food

Comfort Food Follow Up

Remember the meat loaf and jacket potatoes I indulged in a couple of weeks ago? In light of the conversation about meal planning and such, I thought I’d share the evolution of that lovely meal.

aka: Left overs can be magic!

Okay, the meat loaf made at least 2 meals along with the jacket potatoes. I had a bit in some soft tacos, too. The remainder made its way into a baked ziti casserole that, in itself, made 3 meals.

By my reckoning, that’s a total of six meals. And there’s still more ground beef in the freezer waiting to be used.

I know we sometimes get caught up in the “I hate left overs” rut along with the “I’m tired of cooking” rut. But if you take a step back, take a deep breath, and look at what you’ve got in your pantry, you can often come up with ideas for meals that you’ve already started preparing. 🙂

This is the power of having the building blocks of a variety of meals in your pantry, fridge and freezer waiting for your inspiration.

What’s next? Well, I have some carrots that will be added to some broccoli for soup and I’m contemplating biscuits to go along with it.

What’s on your idea list?

As always, if this has been helpful or given you some ideas, please click the “like” button and don’t be shy about leaving a comment or question.

Cooking · Dining · Food

Comfort Food

The weather is slowly shifting to cooler days and nights. Hooray!

For those of us who are getting tired of their own cooking (hand in the air), it can be a bit of a battle between easy and boring in the kitchen.

I’ll be honest; I’ve had a bit too much chicken lately. Which is saying a lot for me.

Thanks to a market that had a better stock in the meat department, I snagged a family pack of pork shoulder steaks. I added some baking potatoes and some ground beef and we are in for some seriously non-chicken good food!

For those who don’t know, one of my Top Five Favorites is a simple, easy and fabulous roast.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Take out your broiler pan – or if you don’t have one, line a rimmed baking sheet with foil – spray with non-stick cooking spray. Put the steaks on the pan, season with salt, pepper, garlic and dried sage.

Roast for 45 minutes, turn over and season. Roast for at least another 30 minutes. You are looking for a rich caramel color on the meat.

Add some baking potatoes at the beginning of the roast and they will all be done at the same time.

I roasted 2 of the 4 steaks in the pack and put the other 2 in the freezer.

As for the ground beef, I’ve got my eye on a meatloaf recipe and am debating between mashed potatoes or more baked potatoes. I bought enough spuds I could do both.

Easy. Flavorful. Wonderful comfort food. Yum!

Cooking · Dining · Food

Berry Farm Treasures

Justin and Ally were at Knott’s Berry Farm recently to sample the offerings at the food festival. While the park isn’t open, there are lots of places to get wonderful foods to try. I admit a whimper or two…

I was pleased to see that Knott’s Berry Farm has a page of recipes on their website. Knott’s Recipes to Try is chock full of great ideas.

Food is often a big part of enjoying a park. I’ve eaten at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Restaurant many times – and always enjoyed the meal.

I’m also a huge fan of the boysenberries. I look for ways to add them to my pantry any chance I get. 🙂

Check out the post – and don’t forget to search for more recipes. Bring a touch of the park home.

Cooking · Dining · Food

Playing, er, Experimenting in the Kitchen

I’ve been cooking since I was 11 or 12. My mom started me off with simple foods and eased me into the magic of the kitchen one meal at a time. Before I knew it, I was responsible for dinner every night. And, yes, doing the dishes, too.

As a result, I was one of those kids who knew more than the rest of the class when I took my one and only Home Economics class. (Wasn’t into sewing, but loved the cookery stuff!) The advantage of the class was discovering foods and techniques that we didn’t have at home.

Over the years I’ve been fascinated by all sorts of cookery shows, books, magazines, you name it. When I discovered that other folks read cookbooks like I read science fiction, my mind was blown. Truly.

The upside of that curiosity is the willingness to try new things. Now, I won’t say that I have no limits, because I do, but I will say that those limits are few and far between.

Things I’ve Discovered Along The Way

Seasoning can be more than just Salt and Pepper. If you are like me, you have a spice collection (large or small) that might be overlooked more often than not. I encourage you to dive into that collection and try those tasty gems on different things than what you bought them for.

I love curry powder! I have a very old and very rarely used recipe for chicken curry that requires not only curry powder but powdered ginger. A couple of weeks ago I was preparing my favorite breaded chicken breasts and pulled out the curry powder instead of the poultry seasoning.

Heaven!

Speaking of that poultry seasoning. I know it tends to reside in cupboards only for the rare occasion you make stuffing at Thanksgiving, but did you know a touch on beef can be an amazing experience?

I discovered this many years ago when I stopped by a local burger shop to try their fare. They had a reputation for flavorful, beautifully cooked burgers. All true, but the real star of the show was the poultry seasoning that was used when the burgers were mixed.

Onion and garlic powders make everyday cooking easier. I don’t do enough cooking anymore to rely on chopping fresh. Too often things go bad before I can use them. Since I hate waste, the alternative was the powdered versions. Note: I don’t use the ones with salt added as I like to control that one on my own.

Dried mustard is another unsung hero. Yes, it is used in bar-b-que sauce, but have you tried a touch in eggs? You can add it to the filling for deviled eggs, but try a touch added to beaten eggs along with the salt and pepper before you scramble them. When I first saw that ingredient in a recipe for scrambled eggs I was dubious, but I tried it and it became a favorite.

I keep small jars of dried rosemary and sage in my collection, too. They are wonderful when roasting chicken or pork.

I also keep a small(ish) bottle of coarse ground black pepper. I prefer the flavor to a fine grind, but don’t have the desire for a mill. Oh, and white pepper has a different flavor that can be quite tasty used in the correct dish.

One thing to keep in mind if you are contemplating a collection of dried herbs and spices – store in a cool, dark place.

Don’t be afraid to play a bit. Think of it this way, if you have it, and use it, you must already like it. Try a small amount in a new way and see what you think. You might be on the way to a New Family Favorite.