Snappy dish towel designs by Dear Colleen.  
Find the here.


Getting into the spirit!

How great are these apple cups?  As much as I like vintage mismatched china, I don't enjoy doing dishes.  Using a fresh fruit cup also means no disposable cups in the trash.
Hop over to the amazing blog, Gimme Some Oven, for step by step instructions to achieve this awesomeness!

Comfort Food.

It's that time of year when comfort food means stews, soups, hot cocoa, cider, and pot pies.
Making a pot pie from scratch is not complicated.  This recipe calls for a puff pastry top, instead of pie crust.  You can go chicken, turkey or even veggie.  If you're doing a veggie version, just substitute vegetable stock for the chicken, and maybe add some potatoes, prepared like the carrots.

1/4 of whole turkey breast, or 2 chicken breasts- boneless/skinless.
1 lg. onion, peel & small diced
2 carrots, peel, small diced & blanched
2 stalks of celery, diced
4 oz. peas, frozen OK
1 tb. of fresh sage, chopped
1 tb. of fresh sage, chopped
2 oz. butter
2 oz. flour
2 cups chicken stock, cold
1/2 cup cream
salt & pepper to taste
1 sheet puff pastry, frozen OK!

1. preheat oven to 425*
2. Saute the onions & celery with the herbs in the butter until soft and translucent
3. Add the flour.  Cook for a few minutes, stirring.  Whisk in stock and cook over medium heat until it thickens and starts to boil.
4.  Add the cream, then turkey or chicken, carrots & peas.  Season with salt & pepper.  Cook until your protein of choice is just about done.
5. Pour mixture into a heavy casserole dish.  Cover with pastry.
6. Bake at 425* until crust is brown, about 25-30 minutes.

Impress, and ENJOY!

Spiced Honey!

If making jam or pickles seems like a bug production, try this!
It's very easy, and makes an amazing gift.

(courtesy of the Ball Canning Book, tried & true!)
Makes about three 8 oz jars

1 lemon, end pieces removed, cut into 6 even slices
12 whole cloves
3 cinnamon sticks
2 2/3 cups honey

1. Prepare canner, jars & lids.  See HERE for more on that process.
2. Stud peel of each lemon slice with 2 cloves. Think symmetry- you will see these in the finished jars.  In a stainless steel saucepan, combine lemon slices, cinnamon sticks & honey.  Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Boil for 2 minutes.  *note, when it comes to a boil, it happens quickly!  My first batch boiled over, and was as hot as molten lava.  be careful!*
3. Using tongs, remove lemon slices and transfer to hot jars, placing 2 in each jar.  Add 1 cinnamon stick to each jar.  Ladle hot honey into jars, leaving 1/4 head space.  Wipe rim.  Center lid on jar. Screw bands down until resistance is met, then increase to finger tight.  Use a towel to help buffer the heat!
4. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Bring to boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid and wait 5 minutes.  Remove jars, space them an inch apart and let cool.
If you don't have a "canner", a big pot will work.  It needs to have a tight fitting lid, and the water should cover jars with a few inches to spare.


Step it up.

Don't even think about serving a can of cranberry sauce this year.  Seriously!  It is SO easy to make a homemade sauce, and it is so tasty too!  Leftovers make a great spread for your turkey sandwiches to come.

I do a simple/standard recipe every year:
Heat 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of OJ.  (I opt for fresh squeezed.)  Bring it to a bowl and in goes a bag of fresh cranberries.  Cook down by simmering until all berries pop, and the longer you let it go, the more it will thicken up.  It will jell a bit more as it cools too.
 Go nuts and add some orange zest in the last few minutes, cinnamon, etc!

Here is a link to many tried and true recipes.
Go for it.  You won't be sorry!


How to save your tomato seeds...

In an effort to preserve what is important, here's a little lesson on saving tomato seeds.  They are about to disappear until the spring, so catching them now is a great idea.  

The key is to save the good stuff.  I went to my local farmer's market, and found a booth filled with beautiful HEIRLOOM tomatoes.  They are CERTIFIED ORGANIC, and LOCALLY GROWN on a FAMILY FARM.  


I decided on three varieties; 
the Yellow Pineapple,  Brandy Wine, and the Purple Cherokee.

Cut tomatoes in half, along the equator.
Gently scoop out, squeeze out, (and however you see fit) get out the seeds.  Try to avoid huge chunks of "meat"....some is inevitable, but less now is less work later.  Seeds should go into a clean glass jar or a drink glass.

Adda few tablespoons of water to the jar, and cover with a coffee filter & rubber band, or plastic wrap with a few holes in it.  You want it to get a little air, but not be totally exposed to it.

Wait.  Wait about 3 or 4 days.  You'll see a shift in the seeds-  Once the fermentation process begins, they will begin to separate...

 Once the seeds have separated, they are ready. Basically you are wanting the enzyme to breakdown that covers the seed- it is a sprout inhibitor, and without this step, your seeds will never grow into anything except a headache.  Skim any mold from the top of the jar, and pour seeds into a very fine strainer.  Use a spoon to shift them around under COLD running water, for about 2 or 3 minutes until they are completely clean.

Once they are fully cleaned, lay them out on a coffee filter, on a plate.  The coffee filter helps absorb the moisture, and they do not tend to stick to it much.  Every day move them around, and put them on a new filter.  After about a week they should be totally dry.  Put them in a paper envelope and store in the fridge until the last frost/spring.

Don't forget to label the jars, drying plates, and envelopes with as much information as you can.  
Save before the holidays for a thoughtful gift.  I know I'd really appreciate something like this, and I'm sure you know someone who would too.
"The gentle art of gastronomy is a friendly one. 
It hurdles the language
makes friends among civilized people, 
and warms the heart."
~ Samuel Chamberlain


If there is such a thing.....

Left over wine?  I know, it sounds silly but it does happen.
If you leave it a day too long, it starts to get that vinegar tang.  It's not a great taste by the glass, but don't waste it!  You can cook with it!
Wine has three main uses in the kitchen - as a marinade ingredient, as a cooking liquid, and as a flavoring in a finished dish. If you feel you won't use it right away, freeze it!  Make wine ice cubes, label them with the type of wine, date, and notes on the flavor.  Knowing the flavor of the wine will help you bring it into a recipe/meal easily.  The function of wine in cooking is to intensify, enhance and accent the flavor and aroma of food.
 Here are some hints on how to use wine while cooking:
Young, full bodied wines work with red meat.
Earthy, full bodied red for soups with root vegs and beef stocks.

Dry white wine compliment fish, shellfish, seafood, poultry, pork and veal.  Also cream sauces.
Crisp, dry white is nice in a seafood soup.
Sweet white can go into desserts.

Go Gougeres!

In class last week we made pâte à choux [pah-ta-shoo], a very simple dough that can go many ways.....
It is a tried & true- a chef by the name of Panterelli invented the dough in 1540!

It's very simple to make, compared to pasta dough, bread dough, etc.
What is it exactly?  Think creme puffs, eclairs, and beignets. 
It contains only butter, water, flour, and eggs.  Simple. You probably have everything you need in your kitchen now.
In lieu of a raising agent like yeast, it employs high moisture content to create steam during cooking to puff the pastry.  They are light, airy, and asking to be filled with something yummy.

A gougere is a savory pâte à choux, and I made a batch with parmesan cheese.
I can't stress how simple and lovely there are.  
Take a few minutes (literally), and give it a try.

You'll need:
1 cup flour
1 cup water
8 tbl unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tsp salt
4 eggs
1 cup parmesan cheese, finely shredded.

Preheat oven to 400*

1.  Put the water in a saucepan over low heat, add in butter.  Combine the salt into the flour, set aside.
2.  When the butter has melted, increase the heat to bring water to a boil.
3.  Turn off the heat, and stir in all of the flour.  Stir until thoroughly combined, and return to medium heat. Continue stirring for about 2 minutes, or until the mass comes cleanly away from sides of the pan. 
4. Remove from heat and allow dough to cool for a few minutes.
5.  Put the dough into a mixer, and start on low.  Slowly bring in one egg at a time.  Do not add the next until the previous egg is fully incorporated.  Once all eggs are in, mix in the cheese until fully combined.
6.  Put dough into a pastry bag.  If you do not have one, a ziplock bag works too- just cut the corner.  Pipe onto a parchment paper covered baking sheet.  Space them about 1.5 inches apart.  You can make mound shapes apprx 1.5 inches, or eclair shapes....be creative, and see how they look.
7.  Bake at 400* for 20 minutes, or until they are doubled in size, and lightly browned.
8.  Bring them out once browned, and pierce with a fork a few times.  Quickly return to oven for for a few minutes to dry them out.  Cool on a rack.