A FRITTATA TO FILL YOU UP AND WHET THE TASTEBUDS

A few more pics to my Frittata dish

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I love eggs. I could partake of them for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I enjoy them fried, poached, scrambled, or in an omelet form. The wonderful thing about eggs is that they keep me satiated for a long time. Moreover, they are packed with beneficial vitamins, minerals, antioxidant like lutein and many other nutritious values.

So, today I was at a crossroad with what to prepare for a brunch. I was leaning towards scrambled eggs or a typical omelet. But then, on close inspection of my refrigerator I realized that I had all the ingredients to make me a frittata. I think I must have read it somewhere or viewed it on a cooking show. The trouble is I have never made that dish before. I thought, “How difficult could this be?”

I was a wee bit anxious and excited. You see, anything with cheese and eggs sound quite exciting…

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AUTUMN’S GREENS CAN BE SUCH A TREAT

The great thing about autumn is that it has these awesome and wholesome vegetables. A couple of days ago, I picked up these goodies. Their brilliant green hues screamed out to me. Moreover, their prices were quite competitive compared to a few months ago. After all, it’s their season to be plentiful, so I nabbed.

AUTUMN'S BOUNTIES
AUTUMN’S BOUNTIES

I did a quick blanch. I cooked them in salted water for a few minutes. Then I shocked them in an icy bathe in order to stop the cooking process. Blanching helps to keep them super green. I dried them and gave a quick satay in a drizzle of olive oil with crushed garlic. I then topped them with a little slivered almonds I had on hand along with a squeeze of fresh lemon.

The result was a crispy and refreshing finish. I know what I’ll do. I need to stock up on these greens while the prices are not through the roof. Perhaps, you should too.

WARM STACK OF PUMPKIN/BANANA PANCAKES WITH A SPREAD OF FRESH CRANBERRY JAM

It was raining ‘cats/dogs’ this morn. As I made my way from the ‘grave-shift’ Grind, all was on my mind was something warm/sweet and comforting. Hence, I made my pumpkin and banana pancakes with a hint of fresh ginger.Oh, so divine!

This time of the year (Fall), calls for fresh cranberries in the marketplace. So, I grabbed me my small stockpot and made myself a helping of sweet yet tart cranberry jam. Those berries went popping with a sprinkle of sugar in approximately ten minutes. What do you know? I had a delicious spread for my warm pancakes.

PUMPKIN/BANANA PANCAKES WITH FRESH CRANBERRY JAM
PUMPKIN/BANANA PANCAKES WITH FRESH CRANBERRY JAM

Yippee! I was on cloud nine. Oh, did I tell you? I had a crispy serving (teeny) of bacon. You see, sometimes, it doesn’t take much to make this gal happy. All I needed was a much-needed nap after I had my inspirational session with the ‘Powers That Be.’

Guys, remember, always be kind to your loved-ones as well as your beautiful palates.

THIS SHEPHERD’S PIE IS NO MARLARKEY….IT COULD MAKE YOU DO THE RIVERDANCE

Shepherd’s pie is a popular Irish dish. Traditionally, the dish is cooked with lamb or mutton (goat’s meat). However, in many households across the globe, cooks have placed their personal touch and have substituted the lamb/mutton for chopped beef or some other meat.

Over the years, I do think I must have cooked this well-loved Irish dish at least half a dozen times. My first experience was a teenager in Home Economics class (high school) ‘many moons’ ago. Hmm, the taste was mouth-watering for me and my peers. By the way, I was taught to cook with chopped beef.

In the latter years as an adult, I cooked it on a few other occasions. My ‘guinea pigs’ were elated with the finishing dish on all occasions. Strangely enough, I’ve not cooked the dish for many years. So, a few days ago when I saw Carla Hall on The Chew putting her spin on the good old Irish dish, it brought back memories. As such, I decided to make my very own shepherd’s pie.

Clearly, there are different variations to the dish. Carla did hers with a crust at the bottom. I’ve never seen it done that way; however, it looked very delicious.  In the past, I prepared mine with chopped beef without the crust; and so I made my way to the grocer. Guys, I’m not a big meat person. I guess that’s why I was not cognizant of the price of beef. The cost for a small package of chopped beef was through the roof.

I’m telling you guys, I was certainly taken aback with the astronomical cost of beef. After I recovered I decided to forego the chopped beef. I immediately went rogue. I decided on an amalgamation of two worlds. Yes guys, I made a decision to use Italian (mild) sausages. It’s like Antoinnetta meeting Patrick.

Ingredients:

  • Italian (mild) sausages (2or3)
  • Chicken broth
  • Medley of veggies (carrot,celery,bell peppers,onions,scallion,thyme,garlic)
  • Corn starch (for thickening)
  • Salt/black pepper
  • Basil (dried)
  • Irish potatoes (4)
  • Butter
  • Sour cream
  • Milk (whole milk)
  • Olive oil

Method:

And so, there it was, I arrived home and fetched my three firm Italian sausages from the freezer. After a quick defrost, I gently snip the casing from each beautiful specimen. I then squeezed the slightly salty goodness in a hot and waiting skillet. I browned them and set aside. The excess oil was removed from the skillet and a drizzle of olive oil was added. To that I placed a diced medley of veggies like carrot, celery, onion, bell peppers and garlic to the pan.

Next, I added a dusting of cornstarch so as to thicken and create a sauce. After the flour was browned, I added a little chick broth and stirred.  Fresh thyme and dried seasoning were then added. Oh, the aroma in my dwelling was out of this world. Under low heat, I returned the browned sausage pieces to the skillet and placed a lid on.

After a mouth-watering and reduced consistency was created I placed my creation in a glass baking dish. Already, my mouth was salivating in a huge way. It was time guys; it was time to collide the two worlds. At that point, I used my spatula to slather on the smooth, creamy and delicious mashed potatoes. I then sprinkled a little parmesan cheese on top with a very light drizzle of olive oil. The dish was placed in a 375 degree heated oven for about 10 minutes in order to set. Then, it was placed under a hot broiler for approximately six minutes for a brown and slightly crispy top.

Conclusion:

Guys, the finished dish was unbelievable. The potato topping came out crusty, but, when I dug beneath with my spoon (yes, I had to use a spoon) I was greeted with a gush of succulent mix of sausage and veggies all mingled into one. Oh, what beautiful union! My palate was thankful.  I did a happy River dance in my head. I was super happy.

TIPS ON HOW TO PREPARE FOR A STRESS-FREE HOLIDAY PARTY

Once again, it’s that time of the year. Believe it or not, it’s the holiday season. It makes you wonder where time has elapsed. Before you know it, we will be decorating and carving that bird for Thanksgiving. Already the stores are laden with toys under the Christmas trees and the Hanukkah decorations are not far away. It seems like all the holidays are pooled into one.

And, when this time of the year arrives, many will throw a party of two for their loved ones. However, without proper planning and preparation, those involved can become rather stressed. But, there’s no need to be frazzled. With a little planning and prepping ahead, you can come out smelling like roses. Some of the tips to consider and incorporate are:

1.  Casual or formal event – Before hand, it’s vital that you determine whether it will be a laid-back casual event or a formal one.

2. Number of guests – It’s very important to establish beforehand the number of guests who will be attending your event. Use e-vite, direct texting/messaging to send out invitations. However, do bear in mind that some of your guests may not be tech-savvy, therefore, it’s very important to use the traditional/personal way via phone call.

3. Seated or Buffet – One good rule of thumb to employ is to have a buffet affair if the number exceeds twelve (12). And if that’s the case, perhaps you should consider ordering extra chairs, tables, table linens and cutlery.

If it’s a seated affair with under twelve guests, try to decorate with a low enough center piece so that guest will be able to see each other across the table and interact.

4. Budget – Once you have made a decision of the type of party and a head count, it’s very imperative that you establish and adhere to a budget. A budget will aid you in tracking expenses so you’re less likely to overspend.

5. Plan menu – Although it’s the festive season, keep it simple. This is not the time to be presenting a new dish to your guests. If you intend to do so, make sure to test days in advance in order to take out the ‘kinks’.  Serve fish, poultry, meat and vegetables along with side dishes.

6. Cooking/prepping of meals – It’s wonderful if you’ve money in the budget to hire a professional chef. However, if you are responsible to prepare and cook meals, bear in mind that you can lighten the load by doing some of the dishes in advance. A stew or roast tastes even more mouth-watering a day or two later. Marinade meats overnight or a day/two before the day of event. Cakes and pies can be baked days in advance.

Bear in mind that the event is one for great joy and fun. Therefore, you need to reserve time and energy to mingle with loved-ones and other guests.

7. Drinks – Serve both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Keep a few appetizers (hors d’oeuvres) in close proximity to drinks to provide a balance. Nuts and chips/dips are fairly inexpensive.

8. Delegate – Remember that one of the characteristics of a good host is to ask for aid. Request assistance from competent individuals. For example, if a loved-one has a good ear for different genres of music, forego a paid DJ and have him/her do the honors. Or, Instead of hiring a bartender, be cost-effective and smart by asking a loved-one who is familiar with wines and mixing drinks.

9. Declutter and clean venue – Before the event, make sure to rearrange and move small and precious furniture items out of arms way. Reserve a few dollars in the budget to hire a professional cleaner before and after the event.

10. Photography – Do capture the precious moments. Hire a professional for a few hours in order to document the event in photos. Or, designate a reliable family member or friend who is competent in that area.

11. Childcare – Children are precious; however, they can get in the way. Perhaps, you could hire a baby sitter for those guests who have kids. The sitter will keep them entertained and safe in a designated area.

12. After event – Make sure to send out thank-you notes to guests for attending via social media, email and the traditional way. A few photos included would be awesome and heartwarming.

Guys, holiday parties can be stressful. However, applying some of these tips and more can certainly alleviate a lot of hassle. You’ll be the ‘talk of the town.’

Happy Holidays!

A SUPER DELIGHTFUL/HEALTHY STUFFED CHAYOTE (CHO CHO) DISH TO WHET YR APPETITE

Chayote is a squash-like fruit/vegetable(?) that is predominantly sold in markets in the veggie section. But, because of its light green and pear-like appearance some consider it a tropical fruit. It is originally grown in Mexico and Central America.

CHAYOTE (CHO CHO)
CHAYOTE (CHO CHO)
FILLING FOR STUFFED CHO CHO DISH
FILLING FOR STUFFED CHO CHO DISH
READY FOR BAKING
READY FOR BAKING

The name varies from region to region. In Jamaica, it’s called “cho cho”. And traditionally it’s cooked in savory dishes like stews and soups along with other vegetables.

Chayote(cho cho)is loaded with great fibers and other beneficial nutrients. There’s no saturated fats. As a result, it’s excellent for the lowering of cholesterol in the body. It is said that because of its health properties, dietitians often recommend it in dietary plans.

From my experience, cho cho tends to be bland in taste. And as a result, this squash like food needs to be enhanced with flavors in order to be more appealing. As a child, I can remember my dear mom sometimes treated it like mashed potatoes. She boiled it in salted water and then crushed it with a fork. Milk and butter were then added with a sprinkle of black pepper.

It has been sometime since I’ve cooked cho cho. So I bought a couple of firm ones and  decided to put my spin and continue on the savory route by stuffing them.

Ingredients:

  • Chayote (cho cho) (2)
  • Picked codfish flaked-up [shrimp or any protein of choice could be used]
  • Bell peppers (diced)
  • Zucchini (diced)
  • Onions
  • Broccoli
  • Scallion (stalk)
  • Thyme (sprig)
  • Olive oil or canola (tbsp)
  • Salt/pepper(pinch)
  • Bread crumbs (sprinkle)
  • Cheese (sprinkle)

Method:

1. Rinse codfish with tap water and cook in stock pot for approximately 5 minutes in order to remove excess sodium. Repeat the process until fish is ready at your preference. Flake and set aside.

2. Cut cho cho in halves. In sturdy stock pot, add water along with salt to taste. Immerse cho cho in water and add a drop of vinegar and oil to prevent oxidation (browning).

3. Cook for approximately 25 minutes until they become fairly fork tender and drain.

4. Rinse under cool water and when cool enough to handle remove pit and discard. And gently use a spoon to scoop flesh. Set aside. Reserve skins for later.

5. In a hot skillet, add olive oil or any good oil. Quickly satay onions, bell peppers, zucchini, scallion, thyme, and broccoli. Season with pinch of salt and pepper to taste.

6. Add flaked codfish and cooked cho cho and gently combine. Remove from heat and sprinkle with bread crumbs to help in binding.

7. Spoon filling in reserved cho cho skins. Sprinkle with shredded cheese of choice along with bread crumbs. Drizzle with olive oil.

8. Bake in a 420 degree oven for about 10 minutes in order to set. Put under broiler for an additional 5 minutes so as to brown the top.

9. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Guys, was proud of my finished dish; my first attempt at stuffed chayote (cho cho).