Presents for the Chef

The power of networking and making friends is invaluable, no matter what you do, or what your line of work.  You meet so many wonderful people when you open your doors and your heart.  So many good and unexpected things come your way when you are responsive to all the positives that are out there, just waiting to be discovered.  When I first started my blog, “A Jeanne in the Kitchen”, I had no idea what I was doing, let alone any expectations for what the future might hold.  I still don’t really, but in just a few short months, I have been graciously welcomed into the world of blogging, and many new doors and new possibilities have opened up and presented themselves to me; things I never knew I wanted, but now value and appreciate.  I thought my culinary career had ended a long time ago, but now, it seems like it is once again flourishing.  I have “met” so many interesting and wonderful people, some of whom I feel a real connection to, and even call friends.  One such person I have connected with, is David Richman, Founder and CEO of Cheforward, LLC, who saw my blog and has been following me.  He has taken me under his wing, so to speak and is now helping me grow.  Chef Richman’s company Cheforward, LLC sells beautiful serving ware to the restaurant and catering industries.  Today, I was very pleasantly surprised with not one, but two packages filled with some of his beautiful pieces.  They are meant to be used for serving, and believe me, they will be used for just that, but they are also beautiful pieces of art as well.  This wonderful surprise came just in time for me to use at my annual Holiday party that will be coming up in just a couple of weeks.  Here are the gorgeous pieces that were waiting for me when I came home from work this afternoon.

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Aren’t all these pieces just gorgeous?  And these are just a few of the beautiful items that can be found at Cheforward, LLC.  Go on their website cheforward.com to see more of what they have to offer.  Thank you so much, Dave Richman.  This was a very kind and generous gift.  All of these pieces will be well used and well loved every time they are used.  They will make their grand debut at my annual Holiday party, in two weeks.  Now I have to think of some really good foods to serve on these that will do them the justice they so deserve.

Some Flavors from the Middle East

The Middle East is where many different cultures from three different continents all come together and meet.  It is the melting pot for South Eastern Europe, Western Asia and the Eastern parts of North Africa.  There are many different countries within this region of the world as well, but most of the culinary influences hail from three countries – Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.  These three countries make up what is known as the Fertile Crescent. Though these three countries all share a common language and have the same cultural heritage, they all three have their own unique and distinct personalities.  These regional distinctions are also found in the foods from these areas.  Lebanon is famous for its wide array of mezze or little dishes, similar to tapas in Spain.  Jordanian recipes are renowned for the meat dishes, and the Syrians are best known for their piquant or spicy dishes that are meant to be eaten with breads.   “The cuisines of Lebanon, Syria and Jordan are generally regarded as Arab food at its best”, The Food and Cooking of the Middle East.   Dinner had bits and pieces of all three of these Arabic regions.  It was full of flavor and full of color.  We had grilled shrimp marinated in lime juice and cilantro, that I served with roasted pumpkin with pomegranate and pepita seeds, cous cous and pita bread with hummus.  I completed the meal with a crisp chardonnay that had hints of apples and melon.

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Shrimp with Cilantro and Lime

15-16 large shrimp or prawns, peeled and deveined

2 TBSP lime juice

1-1 1/2 TBSP garlic

salt and pepper to taste

3 TBSP olive oil

1 small bunch of cilantro, chopped in a rough cut

 

Mix everything together and marinate the shrimp for about 1/2 an hour and chill.  I skewered the shrimp and grilled them, but you can also pan-fry everything together as well.

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Save the marinade.  Once the shrimp is cooked and ready to serve, heat up the marinade and top the cooked shrimp with it.  YUM!

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Roasted Pumpkin with Pomegranate and Pepita Seeds

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3 lbs of pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cubed

1/4 cup olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

2 TBSP lemon juice

2 TBSP honey

pomegranate dressing (optional)

1 shallot, minced fine

1 bunch of parsley, chopped in a rough cut

1/3 cup toasted pepita seeds

1/2 cup of pomegranate seeds

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp allspice

 

Preheat the oven to 450*F

 

Toss the pumpkin cubes with half the olive oil, salt, pepper, cinnamon and allspice.  Roast for about 20 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender, stirring after about 10 minutes.  Once the pumpkin is cooked, remove from the oven and let cool.

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Once the pumpkin has cooled, toss it with the pepita seeds, pomegranate seeds and parsley.  Mix together the lemon juice, honey, olive oil and pomegranate dressing, if using.  I had some left over pomegranate dressing and used that for some extra flavor.   Then toss everything together and serve.   I really like this dish served warm, but you can eat it cold too.

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Whooo hooo its the weekend share #56

Hey out there, if you like food and fun food facts, then I am the blogger for you. My blog is A Jeanne in the Kitchen and you can find me at ajeanneinthekitchen.com. Stop by and say hi.

Its good to be crazy Sometimes

Its that time on a Thursday you have all been waiting for, yep its the weekend share, so roll up roll up and add your links

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If you have never done this before, give it a go, you lose maybe 30 seconds of your life adding a link and you never know who might see it, I will, my mum probably will, so its well worth it.

As everything is life there are rules, if you are new or just need reminding here they are

Rules are very simple,

  1. You can share up to five links
  2. They can be a post, your blog, someone elses post or blog
  3. You can comment on here from now till 11.30pm on Friday evening (GMT time)
  4. I shall start sharing from Midnight Saturday till 11.30pm Sunday (GMT time)
  5. It can be anything you want, however I will have final say if I think its…

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Mexican Vegetable Medley

I love all vegetables, and we eat them all the time.  As I have said many times, I eat vegetables with my vegetables, and more so than not, I serve multiple vegetables at a time.  I guess my love for vegetables comes from growing up in Southern California, where fresh vegetables are in abundance all year round.  There is also a very large Hispanic population, and therefore a large influence on life in Southern California  in general, which also probably plays a large role in my love of vegetables and good Mexican food.  A good friend of mine had told me, not so long ago, that I “was more Mexican than American”.  I was also told, many years ago by one of my chefs who used to work under me, that “mi corazon esta Mexicana, no esta Americana”.  Although, biologically I do not have any Latina blood in me, this is probably true, to a certain extent.

Traditional Mexican cuisines are a fusion of Mesoamerican and Spanish foods that have been blended together over time to give them their own unique personalities.  The diet of the Aztecs consisted of mostly chilies, beans, tomatoes, herbs, vanilla, avocado. papaya, pineapple, achiote or annatto, squash, sweet potatoes, turkey and fish.  I love all of these foods, and we eat them all quite often.  When the Spanish came to the New World, they introduced olive oil, almonds, beef, chicken and pork, which we eat a lot of as well.  What is popularly known as Mexican food here in the United States, is actually more of a Tex-Mex type of food, and is completely different than what is traditionally served in Mexico.  Authentic Mexican food is all about the freshness of the ingredients, so a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits, mixed with a variety of herbs and spices, as well as many variations of queso blanco or white cheeses, are things most commonly found in and used when preparing Mexican dishes.  The yellow cheeses we see used in Mexican foods here in the United States, are from the American influences, and are not traditionally used in Mexico.

Garlic and onions are two of the most popular ingredients and flavors used in Mexican cooking.  Most savory Mexican recipes use at least one of these ingredients, if not both, as do I, in almost every recipe.  Traditional Mexican cooking also uses a wide variety of herbs and spices as well.  The most popular herbs used in Mexican cooking are Mexican oregano (not the Greek oregano), basil, cilantro, mint, sage, and thyme.  Spices that are mostly used in Mexican cooking are cumin, coriander, allspice, cacao powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, achiote or annato seeds, and epazote.  Epazote is used mostly when cooking beans, and is used to help correct digestional problems that often come about when eating too many beans.  But it has to be used sparingly because eating too much can also be toxic.

I have all the basics of Mexican cooking right here.  I have a variety of peppers, squash, tomatoes, garlic, onions, sage, thyme, oregano, cilantro, cumin, and red pepper flakes.  I also used my queso blanco and some pinons or pine nuts.

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Once everything was cut, I sauteed all the vegetables and spices together until they were soft and tender.  I added the fresh herbs right at the end so they would not loose their flavors.

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After everything was cooked and the herbs were added, I transferred it all to a baking dish coated with cooking spray, then topped it with mozzarella cheese (you can use any cheese you like) and pine nuts.  I baked it uncovered at 375* F for about 30 minutes, or until the cheese was all melted and a little crusty and the pine nuts were toasted.

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Esta mui fresca, mui delicioso y saludable.  !Desfruitas!

 

 

Southwestern Green Chili Sausage Rolls

We had taken some green chili  sausages out of the freezer, and I wanted to do something different with them, but by the time I figured out what I wanted to do, I did not have enough time to get it done.  I made some green chili sausage rolls that I served with a Mexican blend of vegetables and a combination of rice and lentils, for a quick and easy Southwestern comida.  I may run out of time to be as creative as I like, but my ideas are very rarely in short supply.  Because I was pressed for time, I actually “cheated” this time.  As you all know, I much prefer to make my own breads and dough for things if I can, but sometimes, life happens and there just is not enough time for that.  Fortunately there are plenty of good alternatives out here that help us out when we are in a pinch.  I used some Pillsbury Crescent rolls for my dough wraps, and everything turned out just fine, as I knew it would.  These are very easy to make and taste great.

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This is all it takes to make these sausage rolls.  You can use any kind of cheese you like.  I actually used both mozzarella and cheddar cheese for my sausage rolls.   I am not a big cheese eater at all, but I can do the lighter cheeses.  My husband prefers cheeses that are heartier and more flavorful.  So mine had the mozzarella cheese and my husband’s had the cheddar cheese.

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Cook the sausages completely and let them cool before wrapping them.  Whether you use your own dough that you make or store bought, roll out it out to about 1/4 ” in thickness, on a lightly floured surface, then cut into thin strips.

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Wrap the dough strips carefully around the cooked sausages and then top with your favorite cheese.  Bake at 350* F for about 30 minutes or until the cheese is all melted and the dough turns golden brown.

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I topped my green chili sausage rolls with avocado slices and salsa, then served them with a Mexican medley of vegetables and spices (possibly tomorrow’s post) and a combination of leftover lentils mixed with tomatoes, spinach and rice.  I was more in the mood for a glass of wine than I was for a margarita, so I chose a crisp viognier with hints of grapefruit and other light citrus flavors to accompany the meal.  !Desfrutas!

 

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Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Rosemary and Fennel

Fall seems to have left us for while, and we have jumped right into winter.  It started over the weekend, and it is still here.  Our temperatures outside have been in the low 20’s, and we have had two days of snow.  The good thing about the Colorado snow, however, is that it does not last very long, and as soon as the sun comes out, the snow starts to melt off, unlike other parts of the US where the snow stays around for months and months.  But it is still very cold outside.  And when it is cold outside, the best thing to do is stay warm inside.  That can easily be done by having the oven on for some good baking and roasting.  That is exactly what I did too.  I roasted beef tenderloin with rosemary and fennel, along with some roasted vegetables and roasted sweet potatoes mixed with maple syrup and pecans.

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The view of the first lake from our deck.  When the weather outside is frightful, make the most of it and enjoy the warmth from inside with some good wine and delicious foods from the oven.

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Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Rosemary and Fennel

1-2 TBSP olive oil

1 TBSP fresh rosemary

1 1/2 tsp fennel

salt & pepper to taste

1 beef tenderloin 4-5 lbs

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Blend all the ingredients together in the food processor and generously coat the beef tenderloin.  Let it sit uncovered or loosely covered in the refrigerator for anywhere from 24-36 hours.

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When you are ready to roast the meat, take the meat out of the refrigerator cover and let set at room temperature for about 30 minutes before putting it into the hot oven.  Preheat the oven to 375* F if using a regular oven and 350* F is using a convection oven.  Roast for at least 40-50 minutes for a rare meat, where the thermometer inserted in the center reads 120* F, and longer depending on your desired doneness.  For me, medium rare is just perfect, and the thermometer should read between 125-130* F when inserted into the thickest part of the meat.   Cook the meat to your preferred level of doneness, just keep in mind, the longer you cook the meat, the more dried out and tough it will become.

While I had the oven on, I also roasted some mixed vegetables with garlic, salt & pepper and olive oil, as well as some sweet potatoes mixed with pecans, brown sugar, butter, fresh sage and maple syrup.

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Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Pecans and Maple Syrup

1-2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks

1/3 cup chopped pecans

1 TBSP brown sugar

3-4 TBSP butter melted

1/2 cup maple syrup

2 tsp fresh sage, chiffonade into thin strips

salt & pepper to taste

 

Sprinkle all the ingredients evenly over the sweet potatoes and roast at 350* F for about 30 minutes, or until he sweet potatoes are tender and slightly caramelized, stirring occasionally.

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I also made a mustard cream sauce for the meat.  All I needed was a few simple ingredients to make this tasty sauce.   In addition to these simple ingredients, I also added some black pepper, parsley and butter to finish the sauce.

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Mustard Cream Sauce

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

2 TBSP Dijon mustard

2 tsp lemon juice

salt & pepper to taste

2 TBSP butter

parsley

In a hot skillet, add the heavy whipping cream and Dijon mustard and mix well.  Then add the lemon juice and salt & pepper.  Cook it down for about 5-7 minutes, at a medium/low temperature, stirring frequently, then add the butter right at the end.  Finish with parsley and serve over the roasted beef tenderloin (optional).

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Nicodemus was Mommy’s little helper today, making sure Mommy made everything just right.

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Just the results Nicodemus and Mommy were looking for.  To complete the meal, I served it with a robust, fruity, smooth red blend.  A perfect meal for a cold wintery day.

 

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Pumpkin Ginger Soup with Shrimp

My friend Elizabeth is having fun learning how to cook new things, and every now and then we get together, and I introduce her to new foods.  She came over the other day, and we did just that.  It was a cold day, although nothing like what it has been these past few days, so I thought it would be a good day for soup.  I also had a lot of pumpkins that needed to be used.  We made a pumpkin and shrimp soup that came out really, really good.  I took my pumpkin Parmesan bread out of the freezer and served that with the soup, along with a crisp white blend.   It was the perfect late lunch on a cold and dreary day.

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Pumpkin Ginger Soup with Shrimp

Make the soup first, then top it with the cooked shrimp, along with a dollop of sour cream and chives if you like.

The Soup

2 TBSP olive oil

1 medium onion, diced fine

1 TBSP garlic

1 TBSP ginger

2-3 lbs of pumpkin

3 celery stalks

4 cups chicken stock

1- 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

salt & pepper to taste

2 tsp fresh sage

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I made my own chicken stock that we used.   In a large soup pot, heat the oil and saute the onions and celery until they are both translucent.  Then add the garlic, ginger and the pumpkin, and cover with the stock.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and continue cook for about 30-45 minutes, or until all the vegetables are soft and tender.

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Once the vegetables are all cooked, add the cream and puree the whole mixture.  When the soup is pureed, set it aside and keep it warm.

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The Shrimp

1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 TBSP olive oil

1 TBSP ginger

1 TBSP garlic

red pepper flakes to taste

1 TBSP lemon juice

sour cream

chives

 

Saute the first ingredients together until the shrimp is cooked.  Then add the lemon juice and mix well.

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I think dancing around the shrimp brought out all the flavors.

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Quality control.  We had to make sure it came out all right before serving, right?!

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A cool, crisp white blend was the perfect addition to make the lunch complete.

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