My season of Joy!

autumnAutumn is the perfect time of year in my opinion. I always feel like I’m in the middle of a Thomas Kincaid picture. The leaves are just gorgeous, even the ones that collect on the ground make me happy. Summer has come to a close and I just cut down all of my herbs and cleaned and chopped them, and now they are drying in pans all over the heavenly smelling house. Except for the rosemary which is chopped and submerged in olive oil in my fridge. The feeling I get and I’m sure many others get, in the fall is just pure contentment. I love the colors, the cool crisp air and comfortable nights, the sight of pumpkins, gourds and corn stalks everywhere. It’s purely understandable that this is a prelude to Thanksgiving, which seems to me, the perfect name for this holiday. I am indeed, thankful for this time of year. People seem nicer and happier, maybe they are just on their best behavior because Christmas is coming and they want really good presents or because its football season. But seriously, people really do seem more friendly and cheerful.

I love the thought of all kinds of pumpkin desserts, apple crisp and apple pies. Making a huge Turkey with mashed potatoes and flavorful gravy, stuffing, homemade bread, roasted veggies, butternut squash drizzled with a buttery brown sugar sauce. Sitting by a crackling fire to get warm with a cup of cocoa and always having a warm blanket draped over. Big pots of deliciously hearty soups and crusty bread. I love all the gatherings with friends and family that only happens this time of the year. And mostly, the arrival of family that live away and come home for visits. I’m a happy girl right now, enjoy the season everyone.

Braised Caramelized Cabbage

briased caramelized cabbageThere are side dishes and then there are side dishes. I just love cabbage as a side. I usually braise red cabbage but you can use whichever you have on hand. There are two ways I like to braise it, one with just butter, olive oil and garlic and secondly with the addition of cream. Typically, I serve cabbage with Pork, but it really doesn’t matter. This cabbage was leftover from a batch of Stuffed Cabbage Rolls. I only had enough filling for about 3/4 of my cabbage, I had the center of the cabbage left so I used it up. I’m always so proud of myself when I do not waste something. This time I did not add onions to the cabbage, but I do think it would be good. I also always enjoy adding spinach to the mix at the end. Very healthy side dish too.

Braised Cabbage

1 small cabbage sliced into 1/4″ strips
1/2 stick butter
2 TBSP olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic (optional)
1 c. chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
fresh parsley
opt: crushed red pepper flakes

Heat a skillet to med high heat.
add: butter and oil
add: Cabbage
stir fry for approx 5 minutes
to caramelize, let the cabbage sit in the pan, without moving it around. when it begins to brown up turn over and brown up more. When you are happy with the color, lower to medium heat. Stir in garlic and begin adding the chicken stock about a 1/4 cup at a time. Cover and let steam for 2-3 minutes. Continue adding the stock and covering until the cabbage is tender and fully cooked. Now taste it and add salt and pepper and crushed red pepper. Toss in parsley. Serve.

Tree Ripe!

Tree Ripe!Do you remember the days when you would bite into a peach and you would have it running down your face? Or when you would peel an orange and your saliva would begin to run because it was so juicy and delicious looking? I bet you’re doing it right now. Those were the good old days, when fruits were allowed to ripen on the tree and then be picked. Now the growers pick the fruit unripe and treat it with ethylene gas so it will ripen as it’s being shipped 3,000 miles across the country.
You can get tree-ripened fruit, it’s usually organic and it is a little more money. But, I certainly don’t mind paying more money for a piece of fruit that is free of chemicals and full of flavor and moisture. The other fruit is mealy and dry and with no trace of sweetness.
This week in our local Shop n’ Save stores, they have organic, tree-ripened peaches, plums, and nectarines. I bought a bag of each thinking I would make a peach pie with the peaches. I couldn’t do it. The fruit is so juicy and sweet like sugar that I needed to eat it over the sink. The plums were soft and deep purple — almost black — and the nectarines were the same: soft, juicy, and super sweet. I’m not even sure I want to tell you all because when I go back to get more, you may have bought them all up on me (just kidding!). Go and taste what should be available to us and support the wonderful farmers who are growing this fabulous fruit.

Family Time!

kidsThis was a fabulous weekend. It rained a lot so staying home and getting some work done was a blessing. But, the best part of the weekend was getting to spend time with family and kiddos. This weekend my niece and her beautiful family came from Illinois to visit. It has been a while since they have been back to Maine. Four generations all got together at Nany’s house. Nany cooked a really nice lunch of Italian food and I brought a Tiramisu. My nephews wife, Hillary and her two boys came. My niece Jennifer, her husband Brian and their two children were there. All 4 kiddos got to reconnect and they got along great. My son Eric was here also from Austin, Texas and my daughter Courtney who is expecting her first child, also was there.  Such a fun day day, full of laughter and playing. I brought my newest child Johnny Cash, our Pomeranian along to entertain the kids. I think they liked him, My nieces husband even said he would like to take him home with them.  Brian and I are looking forward to becoming grandparents and having a bustling home full of kids, noise and lots of fun.

Sting, David Byrne and St. Vincent, and Miccuci!

Thursday was a good night and a nice change from the usual concerts! I know you all know what that means. Brian and I got to spend the evening with 2 of our favorite people, our kids! Along with Katie who is another favorite in our lives. It’s a pretty rare occasion that we are all together these day. Our son flew home for a visit, but it was planned around Sting playing at the Bangor Waterfront. It was an amazing concert and so much fun, especially to watch the expressions on the girls faces watching Brian boogie in the aisle.
The following evening was shared with our other great friends Dan and Dominique or as my son refers to them, Daminique and Donial. We saw David Byrne and St.Vincent aka Annie Clark in Portland. Another great time was had at a not so ordinary concert. They were awesome, a blast from the past as well. They did a few Talking heads songs, Burning down the house, We’re on the road to nowhere, Naive Melody, and Wild Wild life! So great, the choreography and all the musical instruments and people in the band, 14 to be exact. Quite amazing, if you get the chance to see them… go.
We ate late at Nosh and had their famous bacon dusted French fries and Nosh burger which is topped with a fried egg. The following morning made a stop at our favorite store in Portland, Micucci’s. Picked up a bunch of Italian supplies including a beautiful eggplant and ran into my favorite cousin Micheal. What are the chances. Then we made a quick stop at the Fat Cat bakery for one of their crazy good whoopie pies.
All in all it was a fun weekend.

Doggie Treats!

johnny cashI’ve been planning for a while to make my own dog treats. We ran out out of dehydrated sweet potato chews that my dog loves. They are pretty expensive so I decided to make my own. When you make your own there will be no preservatives, so don’t make too much. The best part of making your own is that there is one ingredient, the potato. Almost every dog treat you buy will have preservatives. That’s not a bad thing if they are using the Tocopherols, Tocopherols are natural and safe in moderation. Even when you buy a dog treat with natural preservatives the instructions still say a limit as to how much you should give your dog daily. That for me is a red flag. My dog likes a treat every time he pees and poops. That’s potentially 5 times the recommended amount. FYI…if the treats that you are buying your dog say, BHA, BHT,or Ethoxyquin. Stay away! Those are not natural preservatives that are carcinogens and they are just a cheaper way for companies to preserve the dog treats. Treats that you buy need to have a long shelf life, so the companies must use a preservative or the fats in the product will go rancid.
Honestly, I am doing this post, cleaning house and doing laundry while the sweet potatoes are in my oven. Once you cut them up, they just need to cook for 3 hours. About halfway though I am going to flip them over.
But that’s it, peel, cut up, spread evenly on sheet pan, bake at 250 degrees for 3-4 hours and cool. Depending on the thickness of the cut they should be slightly chewy. But leave them in longer if you want to make bigger pieces or crunchier treats.
Compare a $15.00 bag of sweet potato treat to buying 2 sweet potatoes and you just saved a lot of money. Next I am going to experiment with chicken chews, I will let you know how that goes.

sweet potato treats

Memorial Day Weekend

daveI think sometimes we forget why Memorial Day is so important. For some its’ meaning is just a day off, but for others it is honor, courage, and great loss. Before I begin to talk about my Memorial Day weekend, I would like to express my appreciation for those men and women who died while serving in the US Military. I would also like to express my appreciation for those who served and lived, Thank You!
This was quite a weekend, so much going on. There was the March against Monsanto, that was so very successful and wide reaching. I truly hope that more people, do their due diligence and find out what is happening to our food supply and begin taking steps to help stop this insanity.There are so many products out there that are so wonderful, like Pomi tomatoes, which are BPA and GMO free, and their packaging is biodegradable. Find out what these products are and buy them. By not buying the harmful ones (like ROUNDUP, singlemost worst thing you can put on your land, now causing super weeds that are resistant to chemicals, so now the potency of these chemicals needs to be increased), companies will take notice and stop allowing the their product to be tainted. We need to hurt them where it counts, their pockets. If Monsanto remains exempt from the law and able to continue to spray their harmful chemicals onto the seeds, the ground, and the weeds, before long there will be nothing we can do. It will be a done deal, we will all be doomed. End of story.

On a lighter note, I saw my favorite band in concert this weekend, Dave Matthews Band. Had a good time even though it rained, no it poured, the whole time and it was 40 degrees in the outdoor Venue. BRRR! Cold. Was he worth it, yes and no. I will say that I feel I cannot do the concert scene at large Venues too much more. I guess I am just getting too old for the mayhem. As I looked around and saw young people, falling down drunk, others dressed in little to nothing for the sake of looking sexy, in basically freezing temperatures, wall to wall people, fights and others practically having sex, lines to the bathroom 75 people deep, I decided enough is enough. It’s really not how I want to spend any more of my evenings. But then, the music begins and Dave starts singing, to me I think and then the Angels begin to sing along with him. He does his crazy little dance, I cant stop smiling because he is so damn funny and cute. He interacts with the others in the band each one individually, the bond is so strong between these band members. It’s beautiful. The audience, so connected and singing every single word to every single song in perfect harmony. Every person on their feet dancing from the beginning of the concert to the very end. Screams of Joy from everyone. The contemplation of the next song that will be played, then the encore. Each band member playing a solo with insane talent on the instrument that they are playing so effortlessly. Just amazing and beautiful talent. How could I not want to be part of this anymore. Okay, when is the next show…

Roasted Garlic Butter & Garlic Cheese Bread

roasted garlicI would classify myself as a hardcore garlic lover. I would also have to classify my daughter Courtney the same. She might even be a little more hardcore. We fell in love with roasted garlic the first time we went to Disneyworld and ate a place called “The Portobello Yacht Club. Since then the name has changed. It was in downtown Disney, Brian and I and the kids were served this head of roasted garlic, a bottle of olive oil and fresh ground salt and pepper to dip our really good crusty bread into. The waiter poured a little olive oil into a small dish, popped a few cloves of garlic out, sprinkled salt and pepper and said now dip your bread and taste it,  It was heavenly. I went back to Maine determined that we needed to find a way to get this on our menu. So, I decided to turn it into a spread, because I felt there was too much involved the way they did it, and I didn’t want to overwhelm anybody. It turned out really well, but feel free to do it without the butter. Sometimes I roast the garlic and mash it into some softened butter and drizzle olive oil, salt and pepper on and then eat it. The butter just makes it so much richer. This is good to have on hand because you can use the butter in place of oil or butter when making things like shrimp scampi or anything savory that would call for butter or oil. It really just adds a whole other dimension of flavor to any dish. It’s absolutely fantastic when making cheesy garlic bread. Some people make it in a foil packet, but I like to use a glass covered dish. They do sell little garlic ceramic covered dishes but they only hold 1 head of garlic. I like to roast 4 heads at a time, they stay perfectly fine in the fridge for a couple of weeks. It’s a nice item to have on hand all the time.
roasted garlic butter

ROASTED GARLIC BUTTER
Preheat oven to 375 degrees ~ bake for 45 minutes

4 heads garlic
4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
2 tbsp. water

Cut the head of garlic by cutting 1/3 of the way down from the top of the stem. Don’t throw the top out, there is still pieces of good garlic in the top, that can be roasted just for a shorter time.
Place the cut heads into the dish cut side up along with the tops. Drizzle one tablespoon of olive oil on each head, and sprinkle salt and pepper on each head. Don’t worry about measuring, extra oil wont hurt anything. After all heads are prepared, put a couple of tablespoons of water in the bottom of the dish. This will create steam and help to cook the garlic. Bake covered for 30 minutes, remove the tops and put back into the oven for an additional 10-15 minutes. The cloves should be soft and creamy when you remove them from the oven. Check them by inserting a knife into the cloves, it should slide easily in. Add more time if necessary. Cool completely.

To make the butter…

2 sticks sweet cream salted Butter, room temp and easily whipped (if you need to microwave them, only do about 7 seconds, you don’t want it melted)
1/4 c. olive oil
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 heads and 2 tops garlic, squeeze out every clove of garlic

Beat with an electric mixer.
Reserve the other two heads of garlic in your fridge for later usage.
Spread on toasted crusty bread. Yummy!

cheese breadROASTED GARLIC CHEESE BREAD
preheat oven to 400 degrees
spread roasted garlic butter on to a baguette generously
top with shredded mozzarella cheese
bake until bubbly and golden, about 7-10 minutes

It’s good to be back!

I had been out of commission for a while on the blog for several reasons. We have been remodeling one of our apartments. So for the past 3 weeks, I have been painting ceilings, woodwork and walls, in every room. I am excited that the apartment is almost done. I would like to think that tomorrow I will have it wrapped up. I have recieved some help from Brian here and there, which has improved my mood greatly. I’m gonna give it a good cleaning, remove all the supplies and then lastly, the people are coming to refinish all the hardwood floors. and the stairs will get carpeted.

In between all of that, it’s tax season and I had had to prepare all of the paperwork for our business and personal. Every day this week I have opened up my email, only to find another list the accountant needs. Third packet going out Monday. And, I still had to work at my job. Can you say Stress! I think I need a vacation…

On top of all that, this blog crashed twice. So every time I found a few minutes to post, it was usually unavailable. Thats why today, I have hit it hard. Thank God for my son, and google message.

So hopefully, I am winding down and will get a chance to make all the things you all have been requesting. This week I am hoping to make Roasted Garlic Butter, No Bake Cookies, Stuffed Clams, and Lasagna. I guess we’ll see. Have a great weekend everyone! And, thanks again for the overwhelming support.

Allison