Perfect Presents

Seasons’ Greetings all.  I just love Christmas and the Holiday Season.  I love all the lights and the festivities.  And I really LOVE presents.  The little kid in me just loves to open presents.  But as much as I love to receive presents, I actually love to give presents more.  I was out doing some Christmas shopping earlier today, looking for those perfect gifts to give my friends and family.  There is something special about going out and to try to find the perfect gift for those who are special to you.  It’s fun to bring joy and good cheer to everyone, whether you know them or not.  I know it is not Christmas yet, and we still have about 2 weeks to go before the actual date, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the season for the whole season, right?!  I am sharing my delightful, early Christmas presents that I was “allowed” to open, with all of you.   As you know, I had my ornament exchange party last week,  Holiday Fun.  All who came had a great time, we all enjoyed some really delicious foods, and everyone went home with some new ornaments for their tree.  We have really eclectic ornaments that fit our eclectic personalities.  These are the new ornaments that now and forever shall also have their places on our trees.

I have a collection of various different frogs, guitars, swimming and scuba diving ornaments because well …..  these are who I am.  Aside from being a chef, and “A Jeanne in the Kitchen”, I am also a swimmer and a scuba/rescue diver, and when I get time, I do play my guitar.  The froggies come from my water aerobics classes that I have been teaching for many, many years.  One of my favorite exercises to do is “froggies” and anyone who has ever taken any of my classes knows this, and hence, the froggie tradition came to be.  This handsome guitar playing frog was from my friends Janet and Bob.

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This one to me is the perfect ornament for a Rocky Mountain Christmas.

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Then there is my whole little tree that is filled with fun cooking ornaments and beach-themed ornaments from my friends Kathy and Lynn.

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Aside from fun ornaments, cook books are ALWAYS a favorite of mine.  As you all know, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE cookbooks. Some might even say I am obsessed with cookbooks (my husband being the main one).  Last year, my nephew Adam and his wife Claire, from Australia, gave me this delectable beauty.  My dad was an Aussie, from Melbourne, and we still have “heaps of rellies” over there, and fortunately, we got to celebrate the season with some of my Australian family last year.  That was a FABO Christmas.

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This year, my friend Delores gave me this libra grande delicioso!  Both of these beautiful cook books will provide a lot of delicious meals, filled with many happy memories, for years and years to come.

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Today, I received some pure cookie perfection in the form of DELICIOUS molasses cookies, from some of Santa’s elves out in California, who just happen to be my very good friends Scott and Traci.  It’s already turning out to be a very good Christmas.

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So, just in case you were wondering what to get me for Christmas, I have given you some ideas of the perfect gift.  🙂  Happy Holidays everyone.  Enjoy the magic of the season.

 

Let’s Make Wine

We have been members of InVINtions, A Creative Winery InVintionsWine.com (The Hallowine Party at InVINtions) in Greenwood Village, Colorado for quite a few years now.  We go there all the time, and no matter what we do, we always have a fun time.  Sometimes we go just to taste wines, other times we go for their great parties and events.  Today, we got to be winemakers for the day with our friends Janet and Bob.   We made a red blend made from Australian Grenache-Syrah grapes, and Australian G.S. is the name it goes by on the label.  Today was the day we made the wine.  We have to wait for about 45-60 days to let it ferment before we can bottle it and drink it.

When we first arrived at InVINtions, they were not quite ready for us, so we brought in lunch that we enjoyed with a few wine samples before we got to make our own batch.

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Once we finished lunch, our wine tutor, Evan, brought out all the ingredients we needed to make our wine.  We had our grape juice, grape skins, yeast, wood chips, bentonite and other flavorings.

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We started the process by adding the reversed osmosis water and mixed it with the bentonite, then we mixed in the big bag of grape juice.

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After those were all mixed together, we added the grape skins.  We put them in in large cheesecloth type bag and mashed them up.  The bag will remain in the mixture through the fermenting phase.

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Janet and I tasting the grape skins.  They tasted just like grape jelly.  Yum!

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Mashing up the grape skins into the wine mixture.

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The masher.

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Reading the gauges and testing to see if we have all the right proportions and that everything is at the correct levels.

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Everything is in the proper proportions and the levels are correct.  Now it is time to add the yeast.  The yeast is the last ingredient we need to add.  The yeast is what allows the grape juice and skins to ferment.

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It’s ready to go.  Let’s cover it up and let the fermenting begin.  Let there be wine.

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It’s sealed tight, with a little release valve to allow it to off gas.  Now we wait.  Out mixture will need to ferment for about 45-60 days before it actually becomes “wine”.  After it goes from grape juice and skins to wine, it will be time to bottle it.  We can either drink it right away or we can let it age and wait to drink it later.

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Here we are, enjoying the “fruits” of our labor.  A votre sante!  Salud!

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Lets get it going #59

I am always up for a good party. I’ll cook. Come see what’s cookin’ with “A Jeanne in the Kitchen”. You can find me at ajeanneinthekitchen.com

Its good to be crazy Sometimes

Its all a bit quiet this week, are you lot getting fed up of partying every weekend?

If not come and join in click here and lets go for it

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Smoked Turkey and Vegetables Crepes

We have all heard of and most likely eaten some type of crepe.  They are very thin and delicious French pancakes that can be filled or not filled.  Crepes are very versatile and can be eaten many different ways, at any time of day.  They can be filled with a savory filling and eaten as a main meal or they can be filled with fruit and/or other fillings to be eaten as either a dessert or breakfast.   The word crepe is French for pancake, but derives from the Latin word crispus, meaning crisp.  Originally they were called galettes, which translated to flat cakes.  Crepes originally hail from the Northwest region of France, known as Brittany.  When they were first created, they were used as bread and very rarely had fillings.  Up until about 100 years ago, savory crepes were always made with buckwheat flour and were knows as galettes sarrasines.  Dessert crepes were made with wheat flour.  In France, “crepes are traditionally eaten on Candelmas and Shrove Tuesday to celebrate renewal, family life, and hope for good fortune and happiness ahead.  ” (p. 5 – Crepes – Sweet & Savory Recipes for the Home Cook, by Lou Seibert Pappas).  It is customary to touch the handle of the frying pan and to make a wish with a coin in the hand while the crepe is being flipped.  In earlier times, the French farmers would give their landowners crepes as a symbol of their allegiance to them.  Crepes are eaten all over the world and go by many names.  The Italians call them crespelles.  In Hungary, they are known as palacsintas.  The Jewish culture refers to them as blintzes and the Russians call them blinis.  To the Greeks, crepes are called kreps and Scandinavians call them plattars.  Each country and each culture adds a slightly different and unique twist to their crepes, but no matter what you call them, or where you eat them, they all have one thing in common; They are all delicious.

I made my crepes last night with a bit of a Southwestern flair.  When Larry smoked the ribs and the turkey, we had some smoked turkey legs as well.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with them, then the idea of making crepes struck me, and my Southwestern smoked turkey and vegetable crepes were created.  I took the meat of the bones and shredded it, then added pumpkin, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, shallots, and red pepper flakes to use as my filling.

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Smoked Turkey and Vegetable Filling

1-1 1/2 lbs smoked turkey, shredded

1-2 cups fresh spinach, stemmed and chopped in a rough cut

1 shallot, minced

1-1 1/2 TBSP garlic

1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

5-6 mushrooms, sliced thin

1 cup pumpkin, cubed small

1-2 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste

salt & pepper to taste

olive oil for cooking

 

Saute the pumpkin first for about 5 minutes, then add the rest of the vegetables and the other ingredients and continue to cook for about another 5-7 minutes.  One the vegetables are all cooked, add the turkey.  Mix everything together well and set aside.

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Savory Sage Crepes

2 large eggs

1/2 cups milk

1/3 cup water

2/3 cup flour

2/3 cup corn flour or masa harina

2 tsp fresh sage, chopped fine

2-3 TBSP melted butter

1/4 tsp salt

 

Mix everything together in the food processor for about 30 seconds or until well blended, then cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before cooking.  In a small, HOT skillet, with butter, and add about 3 TBSP of the batter to the hot skillet.  Make sure to swirl it all around to cover the pan completely.  Cook for about 1 minute, then loosen the edges with a spoon, and gently flip the crepe over and continue to cook for about 1 more minute.  Repeat until the crepe mixture is all done.  Greek Crepe Cannelloni Stuffed with Beef.

Preheat the oven to 350* F

Once the crepes are all cooked, spray a baking pan with cooking spray, and fill each crepe with filling, then roll everything together.  Lay the crepes side by side in the baking sheet until the baking sheet is full.  Before baking, if you like, you can top the crepes with cheese of your choice.  bake for about 20 minutes, or until the filling is nice and hot.

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I hate dry food and almost always have some kind of a sauce to top my foods.  I made a tangy pumpkin-yogurt sauce to top my crepes.

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Tangy Pumpkin-Yogurt Sauce

1 cup pumpkin vinaigrette

1 cup plain yogurt

1 TBSP ginger

1 TBSP fresh cilantro, chopped fine

 

Mix everything together and heat in a saucepan for about 5 minutes, then spoon over the hot crepes and serve.  I served my crepes over wild rice with a roasted vegetable medley, with a fruity, lightly oaked chardonnay.  C’est ce bon!

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Larry Is In the Kitchen Tonight

Every now and then I let my husband Larry into the kitchen too.  It’s pretty rare, but on occasion, it does happen.   He doesn’t really like to cook so much, but he does likes to grill and smoke things.  A few months ago, he “inherited” a smoker from one of his brothers when he replaced it for a new one.  We still have a few kinks to work out, but mostly things come out pretty good.  My biggest complaint with using the smoker is that things often come out dry and/or overcooked.  I admit, I do not even know how to use the smoker, so I am not to blame for this.  I much prefer to cook than to use either the smoker or grill.  The smoker and the grill is in Larry’s repertoire, not mine.

The other day when we had our Christmas party, Holiday Fun, while Larry was smoking the bacon wrapped turkey, he also added a rack of ribs that I had rubbed with a Cajun rub.  Larry was so proud of his ribs and how they turned out.

Larry is adding the last of the apple butter BBQ sauce to the ribs before putting them in the oven (I really don’t remember what ingredients I used to make the apple butter BBQ sauce, but I am sure I could easily replicate it when I need to).

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Before putting the ribs into the oven.

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After they came out of the oven.

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Cajun Rub

2 TBSP Cajun spice rub

2 tsp paprika

2 tsp dried thyme

2 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 TBSP garlic

1 TBSP brown sugar

 

Mix everything together well and rub over your favorite meat.

 

Vinnie is carefully watching Daddy, hoping desperately that some will fall his way.

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And dinner is served.  We had Cajun ribs with apple butter BBQ sauce, leftover mashed sweet potatoes, leftover Brussels sprouts slaw, and an herbed cheese bread with a red smooth, full bodied red blend to make the meal complete.

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How to Cut an Avocado

Growing up in Southern California, where avocados are in abundance, and we eat avocados all the time, I just always thought that everyone knew how to cut them and how to remove the seed.   But the other night while at a Christmas party, we were talking to someone who was telling us how she had cut herself very badly while removing the seed from an avocado, and she now has an aversion to cutting them.  That was a real eye opener to me.  So I thought I would show everyone how to properly remove the seed from an avocado to prevent anyone else cutting themselves while in the process.  This post is more of a public service announcement or a PSA, and is not like my normal posts.  I want everyone to be safe now rather than sorry later.

Once you know how, cutting avocados is really pretty easy.  Start with a sharp knife at the top of the avocado, right where the stem is.  Insert the knife at the stem and rotate the avocado away from you.  You will have one even cut that will cut the avocado in cleanly in half.   Slap the blade of the knife hard into the center of the seed.

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Give the knife and seed a slight turn to one side, which will loosen the seed from its pocket. The seed will come out of its pocket very easily, while still attached to the knife.

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Carefully remove the seed from the knife.  If you are using the whole avocado, and there will be no leftovers, discard the seed.  If you are only going to use part of the avocado, or if you are making guacamole, keep the seed and place it back on the remaining avocado or into the guacamole to help keep it fresh and to help preserve the “greenness” of the avocado.  Lemon or lime juice will also help.

Once the seed has been removed from the fruit, take a large spoon, and gently go around the edges of the skin and the “meat”, making sure to support the meat of the fruit with the spoon, and all the meat will come out of the skin very easily, in one piece.  This works best when the avocados are ripe.  With unripened avocados, you do the same thing, but unfortunately, the meat is more firm and does not cooperate as well.  If the avocados are not ripe, and you have a couple of days to wait before using them, place them in a brown paper bag with a banana to help soften and ripen them.

IMG_4356Once the avocado has been removed from its skin and the seed has been removed, it is ready for you to eat and enjoy how you like.  Desfruitas!

 

Not Feeling Well? I’ll Make You Some Chicken Noodle Soup

I am sure most of us have grown up hearing the phrase “Not felling well?  I’ll make you some chicken noodle soup”.  As it turns out, there is more to this than it being just a mere wives’ tale after all.  Research is now showing that there really are some medicinal qualities to eating chicken noodle soup, or chicken soup with vegetables, when you are feeling under the weather.   There are many different versions of chicken soup around the world, and it seems like eating chicken soup is a universal remedy when feeling ill.  No matter what other ingredients go into the soup, it almost always contains onions, garlic and carrots, as well as the chicken and the stock.   According to Dr. Stephen Rennard, MD, from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, eating some kind of a hot soup even with the minimal ingredients of chicken, onions, garlic, carrots and stock acts as an anti-inflammatory agent for the nasal cells, which reduces nasal congestion.  Researchers cannot specifically identify the ingredient or ingredients in chicken soup that makes it so effective against fighting off colds and infections, but say it may just very well be the combination of the vegetables and the chicken working together that gives chicken soup its medicinal effectiveness.   The chicken and chicken stock are both full of proteins and amino acids; one in particular, called cysteine, that help thin the mucus in the lungs, as well as aiding in building up weak muscles, which also helps to fight off infections and illness.  With the addition of onions and garlic, both containing protein, calcium and sulphur, the swelling in the nasal cavities is reduced, which aids in combatting nasal congestion.  By adding carrots, you are also adding Vitamin A, and that strengthens and increases the white blood cells, which in turn fight off infections.  The more vegetable you add, the more healing properties of the soup.   So next time you are feeling under the weather, you really should eat that chicken noodle soup that is offered to you.  It really will help you feel better.  Of course, you can eat chicken soup at any time, not just when you are sick.

I have been craving chicken noodle soup for awhile, and decided with it being excellent soup weather, now was the perfect time to make some chicken noodle soup.  I love thick, chowdery soups, so I made a thick, creamy chicken noodle soup.  It warmed me up from the inside out.  No, it is not as healthy as a chicken noodle soup without the cream, but it sticks to the ribs more (unfortunately, in more ways than one) and is more of a meal with the addition of the cream.

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Thick and Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup

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1 1/2-2 lbs chicken, cubed small

1 onions, diced fine

3 carrots, diced fine

3 celery stalks, diced fine

1-1 1/2 heaping TBSP garlic

6 cups chicken stock ( I made my own turkey stock and used that)

1 cup fresh green beans, cut into 1″ pieces

1 cup frozen peas

1 lb uncooked noodles of your choice (I used extra wide egg noodles)

3/4-1 cup flour

salt & pepper to taste

1-2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

1 tsp each fresh thyme, oregano, sage – if fresh, chop fine

olive oil and butter for cooking

2 cups heavy whipping cream

 

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Once you have the vegetables and chicken cut, coat the chicken in flour.   Cook the chicken in a large pot in a combination of olive oil and butter.  Cook until the chicken is cooked completely and is slightly browned.

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Once the chicken is completely cooked, remove it from the pot and set it aside.  Add the vegetables, and more oil/butter if needed, and cook them until they are tender and the onions are translucent.

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Once the vegetables are cooked, add the chicken, stock and seasonings.  If you are using dried herbs, now is the time to add those too.  If you are using fresh herbs, wait to add those later.  Mix well and bring to a boil. Let it boil for about 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to a simmer and let simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occassionally.

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Add the pasta, cream and fresh herbs if using, and continue to cook for about 10 more minutes.  Adjust the seasonsings if necessary.  Combine everything well.  Ladle it up and enjoy.

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It was a simple meal of just soup with warmed ciabiatta bread and wine.  Every time I make a simple meal of soup, it always reminds me of my favorite picture that I grew up with.  Granted, my soup and meal is not as humble as the meal in the picture, but it is a good reminder that sometimes simple is best.

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