FAMILY, FRIENDS, AND FOODIES…..HAVE A JOYFUL/HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!!

Today, I’m thankful for life. I’m grateful and thankful for more than enough to sup for yours truly and to extend to others. I pray for those without sufficient. May they find a way out.

Guys, on this day, I made pumpkin/root ginger pancakes…just what my stomach needs on this crispy morn. Temps are in the late 50’s to 60’s. Now, that’s ‘winter-land’ Florida style.  I made home-made cranberry sauce the previous day, so, I’m ‘rocking’ it as the perfect topping for my cakes. Of course,  I had to heed to the craving of a few pieces of crispy bacon along with fresh grapes and orange slices.

GUYS, AS ALWAYS, BE KIND TO YOUR LOVED ONES AS WELL AS YOUR BEAUTIFUL PALATES!!

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THE VERSATILITY OF FRESH CRANBERRIES….FOR THANKSGIVING/BEYOND

I’m  excited and thankful for wholesome cranberries. These delightful berries are extremely plentiful during the fall and winter months. As a result, the cost for them is somewhat inexpensive. And, it’s during this time that I try to extend the use of them throughout the calendar year. Thankfully, these berries can be stored in the refrigerator for approximately three months and in the freezer for up to a year.

Based on scientific studies, cranberries are loaded with great amounts fibers, vitamins, antioxidants, and other essential nutrients. Because of their health properties, they are excellent for good heart health in that they lower the bad cholesterol (LDL) in the body. Also, they aid in preventing the sticking of bacteria to the bladder. Thus, they play a big part in warding off urinary tract infection (UTI).

For me, I love the versatility of fresh cranberries. Some of the ways I like to use them are:

  • Sauce – There is no need to purchase the store-bought version when I can whip up a home-made version. It takes virtually ten minutes to come up with this tart/sweet treat. With a sprinkle of a little sugar a great sauce can be made to be had with turkey and chicken. In addition, it’s great on toast, crackers or with cottage cheese.
FRESH HOME-MADE CRANBERRY SAUCE
FRESH HOME-MADE CRANBERRY SAUCE
  • Martini (Alcoholic or non-alcoholic) – A refreshing drink can be had by simmering some in a stockpot. Cool and place in blender with water. If desired add a little grated ginger and squeeze of lemon. Sweeten with sugar to taste. Place a portion in martini shaker with ice along with vodka, gin or rum. Shake and serve in glass along with olives.CRANBERRY MARTINI WITH OLIVES

CRANBERRY MARTINI WITH OLIVES

  • Topping for Ice-cream – Ice-cream can be livened up and become more interesting by topping cranberry sauce as a tart yet sweet topping. I tried that a few days ago and the flavors and tastes set my palate on over-drive.
VANILLA ICE-CREAM WITH HOME-MADE CRANBERRY SAUCE AS TOPPING
VANILLA ICE-CREAM WITH HOME-MADE CRANBERRY SAUCE AS TOPPING

Guys, I’ve some more sauce on hand. I know what I’ll doing with same. Come Thanksgiving morn, I’ll be making some pumpkin/banana waffles. You guessed….instead of store-bought syrup, I’ll be topping and spreading fresh cranberry sauce.

Hmm, I can’t wait! Guys, as always, be kind to your loved-ones as well as your beautiful palates. HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

A SPINACH (CALLALOO) SOUP THAT WILL MAKE YOU WANT TO HEAD FOR JAMAICA

Whenever this time of the year arrives, my palate craves comforting dishes. Moreover, when it rains, forget about it…..I’m like an ant or one of those creatures. I’ve to collect and hibernate until dry weather appears. Well, that’s what happened on Friday.

It has been ‘raining cats and dogs’ all day long. The sun has gone on a hiatus. It has been wet, cool and gray.  Without the palm trees, you would think you’re in Seattle not the sunshine state of Florida.  And for me, that means consuming a tasty and ‘stick to your rib’ kind of a meal.

As a result, I decided to visit my farmer’s market and secure all that I needed. One of items on my mental list was callaloo (Jamaican spinach). After eying and collecting my other vegetables and provisions, out of nowhere in my head I came up with an old Jamaican favorite, pepper pot soup. I think I must have cooked this dish once or twice in the past.

In Jamaica, we call this spinach dish, pepper pot soup. In other parts of the Caribbean like Trinidad, it’s called Callaloo soup. And, like the name, it also has quite a few variations on how it’s made depending on the country.

The great thing about pepper pot soup is that it’s loaded with great fibers, iron, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from all the vegetables and ground provisions. Frankly, just with these ingredients, the soup could stand on its own without the meats.

RAW CALLALOO
RAW CALLALOO (SPINACH)
SOME OF THE INGREDIENTS TO MAKE PEPPER POT SOUP
SOME OF THE INGREDIENTS TO MAKE PEPPER POT SOUP

The main ingredients:

  • Callaloo (8 stalks) [Kale/collard greens could be substituted)
  • Okra – chopped (6)
  • Onion (1/2 of a large)
  • Celery (2-3 stalks)
  • Bell pepper (1/4)
  • Scotch bonnet (1 1/2) any color
  • Cured brisket (1/4 lb)
  • Pickled pig’s tail (1/2 lb)
  • Salt/pepper to taste
  • All spice (pimento) (1/4tsp)
  • Garlic (2 cloves
  • Thyme (3 sprigs)
  • Scallion (3 stalks)
  • Freshly crushed root ginger (1″-piece)
  • Coconut milk (1cup)
  • Sweet potato (1 med)
  • Yam (1/4lb)

Method:

  1. Excess sodium was extracted from beef/pork by rinsing thoroughly with tap water.
  2. In sauce pot, meats were covered with fresh tap water with a drizzle of house vinegar. This was brought to a boil and simmered on medium heat for approximately 6 to 10 minutes. This process was done twice.
  3. Meats were then rinsed under tap water and placed in a sturdy stock pot and covered with water and coconut milk. Crushed pimento and garlic were added.
  4. After meats were 1 1/2 hrs. into cooking diced veggies and ground provisions dumplings (spinners) were added.
  5. Then, the last 15 to 20 minutes, callaloo and spinach were added along with scotch bonnet peppers, thyme, onions, and scallions.

  6. After pepper pot soup was brought to the consistency desired, thyme (woodsy section) was fished.

    Jamaican pepper pot soup...cooking stage
    Jamaican pepper pot soup…cooking stage

    FINISHED PEPPER POT (CALLALOO) SOUP IS SERVED
    FINISHED PEPPER POT (CALLALOO) SOUP IS SERVED[yellow scotch bonnet for garnish]
    I’m happy!

     

     

     

     

     

 

 

 

OH, I LOVE EGGS!!!

Penning about eggs brings me back to my childhood days. A time when things were quite simple; but lush and rich. Well, that’s was what my siblings and I thought then. And funny enough, I still feel that way. Some may disagree. You see, in our backyard, our family reared or should I say, raised these amazing hens. It was a farm to table type of living in a huge way. It warms my heart just thinking about it.

It was our duty to feed those extraordinary hens and keep their coops clean. They would peck at our fingers especially when we had to retrieve those precious organic eggs. Oh, those moments were packed with excitement but felt a wee bit scary. None of us wanted to be pecked.

Can you imagine? We were always overjoyed to bring in the bounties to our humble kitchen. They were always warm to the touch as we nabbed them from those amazing hens. Dear mom had her way in creating super fluffy and delicious scrambled, fried or boiled eggs. We thought those birds were quite magical. And they were. I even had names for each of them.

Fresh Eggs
Fresh Eggs

As adult, I still get excited about the incredible eggs. They are filling and can be had at breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. Moreover, based on research, I know that they are loaded with beneficial vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients that are good for the body.

Eggs are can be cooked in variety of ways and depending on my feeling I’ll cook them in the following ways:

A crustless Quiche
Crustless cupcake Quiches
A FRITTATA  TO FILL YOU UP AND WHET THE TASTEBUDS
A mouth-watering Frittata
A couple Fried Eggs with cheese on top
A couple Fried Eggs with cheese on top
Boiled Eggs and codfish
Boiled Eggs and codfish
A great Omelet
A great Omelet with fresh fruits

These are just about some of the ways I love my eggs. Oh, they bring back such memories.

 

A FEW OF MY FAVORITE GADGETS IN THE KITCHEN

When it comes to kitchen gadgets  and  equipment, I try to stock the necessities. Over the years, I’ve come to depend on these vital ‘partners’ as I call them. They have aided me to turn out tasty and delicious dishes to serve all and sundry in my circle. Moreover, because I’m often trying to stretch the dollar, I sometimes figure out ways to have them work double or triple duty for me. Some of my fave gadgets are:-

Blender

Standing Blender
Standing Blender

My handy and faithful standing blender is a god-send. It’s an Oster make. I  bought it a couple of years ago from Walmart.  It’s really has been my ‘go-to’ gadget in the kitchen when I wish to do a quick puree of soups, an amazing smoothie, or even the milking of a coconut. On a few occasions, it has helped me combined the ingredients in crepes which turned out spectacular.

CANTALOUPE/GINGER DRINK FR BLENDER
CANTALOUPE/GINGER DRINK MADE FR BLENDER
Watermelon non-alcoholic martini
Watermelon non-alcoholic martini made in blender
Puree pumpkin/carrot soup done in my blender
Pumpkin/carrot soup pureed in blender

Clean up after using is a breeze. With a little warm soapy water and a handy brush, all is done. I really would be lost without my dear standing blender.

Muffin pan

Muffin pan - another one of my fave kitchen gadget
Muffin pan – another one of my fave kitchen gadgets

From the looks of my muffin tin you can observe that it has been used repeatedly. It has created some awesome corn, blue/strawberry muffins and more. I’ve also used this  baking wonder for mini versions of fruit cakes. In addition, when I want a savory treat without the crust, I make me a few mini quiches. Oh, these egg/cheese delights are just the right treat.

Just the right bite for a fruit/rum cake
Just the right bite for a fruit/rum cake
Crustless cupcake quiches
Crustless cupcake quiches

Instead of a slice, no one can resist a smooth and succulent bite of cupcake macaroni/cheese.

For a great mac/cheese bite....my muffin tin is alright
For a great mac/cheese bite….my muffin tin is alright

Food processor

Recycled Food processor
Recycled Food Processor

I’ve always wanted a food processor but didn’t want to pay big bucks for same.  So, I was quite delighted when I located just the right one on Overstock.com. It is a recycled number and has been working perfectly since.

Slaw chopped in food processor
Hot Slaw chopped in food processor

It has aided to cut and chop tons of onions and other vegetables. Needless to say lots of tears have been abated because I didn’t have to cut/chop those tear jerkers. I love a very creamy mashed potato or cauliflower, and my handy food processor has a way to create absolutely the best. I love the way it produces divine and smooth home-made hummus. All I need to do is put in all the ingredients and let it does its thing.

Home-made Hummus Dip made in food processor
Home-made Hummus Dip made in food processor
Cauliflower & Potato Soup pureed in food processor
Cauliflower & Potato Soup pureed in food processor

These are just some of my favorite things (gadgets) in the kitchen. I reckon part of the reason they fall under that umbrella is because of their multi-purpose abilities. They allow me to work more efficiently in the kitchen.  I’m happy!

RICE UNDER ATTACK!!! ##ARSENIC

Guys, it’s deja vu. It happened to our dear apple juice. Now it’s our popular staple, rice and its by products. Tests conducted by  Consumer Reports Magazine state that considerably amounts of inorganic arsenic have been found in rice (especially brown rice), baby rice cereal, rice cakes, rice milk and other products containing rice.

Other Scottish researches conducted revealed that far less amounts have been found in basmati or jasmine rice. (I know what I’ll be eating sometimes)Clearly, there is cause for concern with all and sundry. And as a result those in the science arena have recommended that:

  • we as consumers should limit consumption of rice and its by-products
  • serve baby rice cereal to kids once per month

Dr. Oz was one of the first public officials who broke the news in regards to the presence of arsenic in apple juice. And, once again he has stepped forward at the forefront to advice on how we as consumers should handle the news of arsenic in rice. He recommends:

  • substituting rice for other carbs like quinoa, barley, etc that have less arsenic
  • if and when we’re going consuming rice, we should use more water per ratio to rice. For example, one cup of rice  to 6 cups of water and then drain the excess water.

For me, I’m concerned. No one likes to hear about chemical in their food. The little that I understand is that organic arsenic is naturally found in food along with inorganic. It seems like a small amount is not harmful; however, it’s the huge amount that is cause for concern because arsenic in large quantities can cause cancer.

We have heard about apple juice; now, rice and by products. What next? I choose not to be fearful but consume in moderation and follow the recommendations of Dr. Oz and others in the community who have consumers’ interests at heart.

Whenever I cook rice, brown or other, I generally rinse before I bring to a boil. Knowing what I know now, I’ll be rinsing thoroughly for a few times to eradicate any remnants of unwanted substance. Then, I’ll follow suit with Dr. Oz’s recommendations.

 

INSTEAD OF ONE BIG QUICHE, HOW ABOUT 1,2,3….CUPCAKE-STYLE?##CRUSTLESS

I was in the mood for something quite cheesy with my eggs. I thought of quiche but knew I didn’t have any crust. So I raided my veggie tray and grabbed a few spears of asparagus and broccoli.

I rendered a few strips of bacon and then drained my skillet of extracted fat. Then I drizzled a couple teaspoons of olive oil and added a little finely chopped onions. After I blanched my asparagus and broccoli, I dried and added them to the skillet combining them with the sauteed onions. And set those aside.

In a bowl, eggs were whisked with a dash of milk. I seasoned with salt/pepper along with chopped parsley and a little chives I had on hand. After veggies were cooled I added this to the egg mixture.

In muffin tin I did a sparse wipe of oil with paper towel in six spaces. Mixture was then added.  A little sprinkled cheese and crispy pieces of bacon were added and then placed in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes with an additional 2 minutes under broiler for a brown top.

I served my crustless cupcake quiches with chopped tomatoes.

Ingredients for crustless cupcake quiches
Ingredients for crustless cupcake quiches
Uncooked cupcake quiches ready for oven
Uncooked cupcake quiches ready for oven

Ingredients:

  • Eggs (3)
  • Bacon (2 to 3 strips)
  • Asparagus (3 to 4) 1″ pieces
  • Broccoli (1 spear)
  • Finely chopped onions (2 tbsp)
  • Salt/pepper (pinch)
  • Cheese (2 tbsp)
  • Parsley/chives
  • Olive oil (2 to 3 tsps)

ROASTED PORK BUTT/APPLES THAT CAN BE HAD TWO WAYS

Without a doubt, the cost of groceries are astronomically high. As a result, when I prepare and cook a dish, I try to find ways and means on how to utilize same more than one time. So, a few days a ago, I purchased a relatively lean piece of pork-butt with a tiny center bone (about 1.68 lb). Mark you, it couldn’t feed an army, but, I knew I could ‘rock’ it a few times.

I brought home my lean pork butt and stuffed it with a generous amount of roasted garlic along with thyme, onion, scallion, scotch bonnet pepper, allspice (pimento), a pinch of five-spice seasoning and of course, salt, pepper, etc.  I then chopped up a gala apple I had on hand and placed it around my butt. I roasted it at a 375 degree oven for approximately 45 minutes. Then, I turned it up to 420 degrees for another ten minutes so as to achieve a brown exterior.

After roasting, apple pieces and remnants from roasting dish were removed and placed in blender for a quick puree along with a little water to liquify. These were then added to a stock pot so as to simmer to a sauce-like consistency.

Slices of roasted pork-butt were served with seasoned yellow rice along with an assortment of green vegetables. I reserved a couple more servings for later dates.

So, on this day, Sunday, I’ve decided  to make a stir-fry with one of the serving. I sliced pork slices in sizeable strips. With a drizzle of soy and teriyaki sauce I was able to obtain a brand new dish. In addition, assorted vegetables and whole grain linguine pasta were added to complete the meal.

Left-over Roasted Pork-Butt transformed into a delicious stir-fry
Left-over Roasted Pork-Butt transformed into a delicious stir-fry(Sunday’s supper)

Guys, my pork-butt was a winner. The flavors provided bold and exotic taste to the dish. With the sweetness from the apple sauce and the savory from the pork-butt, everything came together superbly.

##STUFFED CABBAGE…..A DISH YOU CAN ‘STUFF’ AND STORE

I confess; I’m not a great lover of cabbage. However, recently, I nabbed one at my neighborhood grocer (produce section) with the plan of making yours truly a dish of stuffed cabbage. I’ve cooked it once or twice in the past and enjoyed.Thus, I decided to revisit the cruciferous dish. I also added a huge input of dear old lycopene in the form of one of my faves, tomatoes. And, I loaded up a great amount of veggies. Like most dishes, everyone place their special spin. So here is my variation to stuffed cabbage. The other ingredients are:

Some of the ingredients for Stuffed Cabbage
Some of the ingredients for Stuffed Cabbage

Of course, other ingredients included:

  • Minced turkey (1/2lb)
  • Italian sausage (1/4lb)
  • Cooked brown rice (1 cup)
  • Raisins (1/2 cup)
  • Medley of veggies
  • Olive oil (drizzle) (canola or any oil of choice)
  • Onion (L) 1/2
  • Fresh tomatoes (4)
  • Canned tomatoes (2-14ozs)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Garlic (2 cloves)
  • Dried basil and oregano (1/4 tsp)
  • Sugar (1/4 cup)
  • Red wine vinegar or any house vinegar (1/4)

    Cored cabbage in pot with simmering sweet/sour tomato sauce
    Cored cabbage in pot with simmering sweet/sour tomato sauce

Preparation:

1. Remove core from cabbage.

2. In a sturdy stock pot, whole cabbage is boiled in salted water for 3 minutes. Then cool under cold tap water.

3. When cabbage is cool enough to handle, use paring knife or any knife to cut/remove tough center.  (I used twelve leaves)

4. In sauce pot, drizzle oil and soften diced onion and garlic. Add finely chopped tomatoes and canned tomatoes and season along with salt and pepper to taste. Add other dried seasoning along with sugar and vinegar.

5. Allow sweet and sour tomato sauce to simmer until it’s thickened to desired consistency. Set aside.

6. In hot skillet, drizzle oil and brown turkey/sausage. Make sure to season with salt, pepper, garlic, onion, dried basil oregano along with a dash of balsamic vinegar. Set aside.

7. Finely chop veggies (carrot, onion, bell pepper, etc.) and do a quick stir-fry (five minutes) of them. Remove from stove and add cooked rice, turkey/sausage, raisins and combine.

8. Use a measuring cup (1/4) or spoon to fill prepared cabbage leaves.

9. Place a layer of sweet/sour tomato sauce at bottom of baking dish.

Cabbage leaves awaiting filling to be placed in baking dish
Cabbage leaves awaiting filling to be placed in baking dish
Filled cabbage leaves ready to be folded and placed in oven
Filled cabbage leaves ready to be folded and placed in oven

10. Fold cabbage leaves and place in waiting baking dish. Spoon on sweet/sour tomato sauce on top. Cover with foil.

Stuffed cabbage leaves awaiting hot oven
Stuffed cabbage leaves awaiting hot oven

11. Bake in heated 350 degree oven for approximately 45 minutes.

12. Remove foil at the last five minutes. Serve hot. Add extra sauce if needed.

A plating of stuffed cabbage
A plating of stuffed cabbage
Stuffed cabbage in tupperware for storage in freezer
Stuffed cabbage in tupperware for storage in freezer

Guys, as always, be kind to your loved ones as well as your beautiful palates. Enjoy!