This Year’s Food for the Party

Even when I host potluck parties, as I recently did with our ornament exchange party last weekend, I still love to cook.  The Holidays Have Officially Started  Maybe it comes from my old restaurant days and catering days, but I never want to run out of food at an event, although at any one of my parties, that is VERY unlikely to ever happen.  Plus, I love to cook and entertain.  I cannot deny that fun fact, but then you should all know that by now.  🙂  The foods I provided for the party were simple this year, but were still very tasty and had everyone asking for the recipes.  Everyone left feeling very satisfied and satiated, plus they all went home with a brand new ornament for their trees.

The dishes made by me this year were the cranberry chutney served over brie, with crackers.

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A charcuterie tray with 3 different kinds of sausages and 3 different varieties of goat cheese.

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My artichoke and olive bruschettas.  More Holiday Cheer

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And lastly, some mushrooms stuffed with chorizo and spinach.  Because I had so much going on at the same time this year, I decided on a very simple menu for my party.  I don’t think anyone had any complaints about the simplicity though.  Everything disappeared rather quickly and got rave reviews.

Mushrooms Stuffed with Chorizo and Spinach

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2 lbs large button mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed – try to get them as close to the same size as possible

1 lb chorizo

1 bell pepper, diced small, any color or a mixture

1 onion, diced fine

2 TBSP garlic

5-6 cups of baby spinach, stems removed

4 TBSP butter

salt & pepper to taste

olive oil

1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

 

Rinse the mushrooms and remove the stems.  If the mushrooms are fresh, they easily just pop right out.  You can also scoop them out with a spoon if you like, just do so carefully so not to tear or break the mushrooms.

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Melt the butter and garlic together then brush the butter all over the mushrooms, both inside and out.  Set them aside until later.

You can use the remaining garlic butter and olive oil for cooking the chorizo, onions and pepper and the salt & pepper.  Make sure the chorizo is completely cooked.  When the chorizo is cooked add the spinach at the last minute and cook just long enough for the spinach to become fully incorporated and wilted.  Then carefully spoon the mixture into the mushrooms.

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Once the mushrooms are filled with the chorizo-spinach mixture top them with the mozzarella cheese and bake at 350* F or 180* C for about 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the mushrooms are hot.  Served immediately.

Sadly, Larry did not take any pictures of the mushrooms once they were plated and I was busy entertaining our guests, but I think you get the idea.  Happy Holidays Everyone!

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More Holiday Cheer

As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, The Holidays Have Officially Started our party was a big success.   People are still telling me how much they enjoyed it and how much fun it was.  I am also getting a lot of recipe requests too.  SWEET!!!!!   I am just glad everyone had a good time.

The kitchen is always my favorite room of the house no matter what day it is, but on party days, it seems to be everyone’s favorite place to be.

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We had a wide variety of foods and everything was delicious.  I love bruschettas of all kinds, and one of the dishes I made was a new type of bruschetta.  It was not the traditional kind we see and enjoy all the time with tomatoes, but was made from artichoke hearts, olives, butter beans and grape leaves instead.  It is super simple and very tasty.  It has a real Mediterranean personality.

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Artichoke and Olive Brushetta

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2 cans artichoke hearts, drained, chopped

4 large grape leaves, chopped

1 can butter beans, drained

1/2 cup olives – you can use any kind of olives you like, or use a combination of different kinds.  I used both Kalamata and Cavatappi olives, chopped

1 1/2 TBSP garlic

1 tsp lemon zest

1-2 TBSP lemon juice

salt & pepper to taste

red pepper flakes to taste – optional

3 TBSP olive oil + more for the baguette

1 baguette – sliced at an angle, and brushed with olive oil

 

Mix all the ingredients together with the exception of the baguette slices.

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Most people are unfamiliar with grape leaves.  Depending on where you live and the season, you can get them fresh, or you can buy them brined in a jar, like I do.  Roll them tight and chiffonade or slice them, just like you would for other leafy herbs and vegetables, then chop them in a rough chop.

 

Preheat the oven to 350* F or 180* C.

Slice the baguette at an angle, in thin slices.  Brush both sides with olive oil and place on a baking pan.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until the baguette is lightly browned and crunchy, then flip the pieces over and continue to bake for another 15-20 minutes.  You can use them right away or store them in an airtight container for a few days before using.

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Once the bread is done, top it with the artichoke mix and enjoy.

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After everyone had their fill of all the good food, it was time to unwrap the ornaments and let the stealing begin.  There was definitely a lot of stealing too, which always makes the game much more fun and entertaining.  We had so many great and unusual ornaments this year.

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The rules are that all the ornaments have to be shown, just in case someone wants to steal them later, which is usually the case.

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Happy Holidays everyone!  Make them Merry and spread good cheer!

The Holidays Have Officially Started

The Holidays have officially started, which means from here on out, things are going to be crazy, busy and hectic.  Even though the Holidays are crazy, busy and hectic, I love them (for the most part).  Yes, I too get very stressed because I tend to take on to much and want things to be special and perfect for my friends and family.  But for the most part, the stressful parts have already been done.

Thanksgiving has already come and gone.  Our Thanksgiving was for 10.  It was just my “sister” and her family and Larry and I.  It was a fairly simple meal since Jaala and her kids are all vegan.  We had a lot of simple vegetables and vegan side dishes, but I still made a big huge turkey, stuffing and a cranberry chutney.   I was looking for a small turkey to buy, since I knew it would only be Larry and I eating it, but no such luck.  I ended up with a big 20 lb bird, which means lots of leftovers.  It’s a good thing we love turkey.  Jaala brought the tofurkeys and some other delicious vegan dishes to make our meal complete.   It’s not what is on the menu but who you share the meal with that’s really important.

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The Queen has already paid me a few visits and has given me her advice on how to re-create from the Thanksgiving leftovers.  I made turkey pot pies with some of the turkey, and there will be plenty of other turkey dishes in the near future as well.  The recipe is basically the same as for my chicken pot pies, only I used turkey and some of the gravy as my binding agent instead.  Chicken Pot Pie

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Getting the Christmas cards ready to go out before Thanksgiving was a HUGE relief.  The day after Thanksgiving, they were out in the mail, going in all different directions.  And because Thanksgiving was so late this year, and our annual party was so early, we got the house decorated before Thanksgiving, was was also a HUGE help.  It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas

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Our Christmas party has also come and gone.  We had a houseful of people.  There was a ton of food and good cheer, and everyone had a great time.  We always have an ornament exchange party.  This year we had some really beautiful and fun ornaments that were up for the grabs and for “stealing”.  I always encourage a lot of stealing, since it is a fun game to help ring in the holidays.  There was a lot of stealing this year too.  We make it as a potluck so others can share their family recipes as well, although I usually prepare quiet a bit of food too.  Surprise, surprise, right?!   My menu was pretty simple this year, but everything was delicious and all the food disappeared quickly.

One of the things I did was use my cranberry relish from Thanksgiving to top some brie.  Usually I make my cranberry relish with pears, but since we had the 2nd snowmegeddon,  The 2nd Snowmegeddon  I did not want to venture out to the stores if I did not need to.  I did not have pears this time around, but I did have pineapple instead.  Both versions are very good, although I have a slight preference to the pear version.

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Cranberry Chutney

4 cups cranberries – I used the dried Craisins, but you can use fresh cranberries too

2 1/2 cups sugar

2 apples, peeled and diced small

2 pears, peeled and diced small, or about 2 cups of pineapple, diced small

1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced small

1 cup golden raisins

1/3 cup crystallized ginger, diced very small or about 1 TBSP of dried ginger

splash of a sweet liqueur of your choice – I usually use hazelnut or ginger liqueur

6 whole cloves or about 1-2 tsp of dried crushed cloves

2 cinnamon sticks or about 3 tsp of dried cinnamon powder

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups water

 

Put everything together in a saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook for about 30 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.  Stir frequently and make sure all the sugar dissolves.  This is best when served at room temperature.  The chutney can last in the refrigerator for about 3 months.  You can also add some jalapenos, lime or lemon juice and green onions to make a cranberry salsa, which is also very tasty.   It was a big hit on top of brie too.

Charcuterie trays are always a big holiday hit.  So there was a sausage and goat cheese platter, with 3 different kinds of sausages and 3 different varieties of goat cheese, and crackers that was also part of this year’s menu.   I also made some chorizo stuffed mushrooms and some artichoke and olive bruschetta, which will both be featured in later posts.IMG_9790

Don’t be to stressed and let the fun and festivities of the holiday season begin.  Bring in the good cheer of the season.  Whatever holidays you and your family celebrate, Happy Holidays to you from my house to yours.

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Image may contain: 3 people, including Jeanne Jones and Elizabeth Stevens, people smiling, people standing, christmas tree and indoor

 

 

 

 

A Special Blogger Award

I apologize for being so late in accepting this nomination from Yonnie, over at inhiscare753.  These past couple of weeks have been crazy busy, and I am just now able to respond to her gracious nomination for the Special Blogger Award.  Many thanks to you Yonnie.  I am very honored and flattered.  If you haven’t checked out Yonnie’s blog, you should stop by.  She is always full of positive inspiration and good tidings.

The Special Blogger Award is awarded to bloggers by bloggers because of something they did to make people feel loved, appreciated and special.  It is a big honor.  I had no idea my blog, “A Jeanne in the Kitchen” had such a positive impact on so many people.  I write mostly about food, and about living life both in and out of the kitchen.  Life is short.  Enjoy every moment while you can.  Tomorrow is never guaranteed to anyone, so live life for today.

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AWARD RULES

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you (as above )

2. Answer the questions you are asked (if you’re comfortable doing so!)

3. Create 10 questions for the bloggers you’ve nominated.

4. Nominate at least 3 bloggers for the Special Blogger Award.

5. Comment on your nominees most recent blog post to let them know you’ve nominated.

6. Have fun!  This one is the most important one of all.  🙂

 

Questions (Newly Nominated):

1. How do you like them apples?

I love apples.  My favorites are galas, but I will eat them all.

2. Ask permission or forgiveness?

Neither really.  I act first and maybe ask for permission later, after the fact, but usually not.  I try my best to live a good, clean life and I do my best to follow the Golden Rule – Do unto others as you would have done unto you.  Hopefully this means I do not need much forgiveness.  Do I make mistakes?  Absolutely I do, and I always try to rectify them and correct them as soon as I can.  Am I perfect?  NO, NO, NO.  I am very flawed indeed, but I always do my best to do the right thing, even if the results don’t always reflect that.

3. If you had to guess an answer on a True or False test, which one would it be?

Depends on the question.

4. Which sense of the five is your keenest?

Does hindsight count?  I am a very tangible learner, so I would say my sense of touch.

5. Left or Right or Turn Back at a fork in the road?

Depends on what I am hoping to find.  Sometimes, you need to do a little bit of all of these in order to follow your path.

6. Top 3 Go To Karaoke Songs you nail while driving alone in the car?

I don’t think I really nail any song.  A lot of times, I make things up as I go.  🙂

7. Secret movie star or famous singer crush?

I have to choose just one?  There are so many.

8. Finish this sentence (don’t answer chair like Neil did): “I am, I cried to no one there not even the ……”

Tough one to answer.  I HATE to cry, even though sometimes it is the necessary thing to do.

9. If you be could be named after a color, which one would it be?

Well, it’s kind of a combination of colors and things really.  I have 3 favorite colors, blue, green and purple – the colors of the ocean.  So in honor of these I would like the name Oceana.

10. Last item on Your Bucket List?

My bucket list is never-ending.  I am always adding more and more things to it.  I have always said I want to do it all and see it all.  My plan is is to get as much done as I can and not worry about what I can’t get to.

 

It is always so difficult for me to come up with my own nominees because they are so many wonderful blogs, about so many different and fascinating topics.  I enjoy a lot of different subjects.  I love to learn and to grow.  Because I cannot nominate everyone, I will choose some bloggers who allow me to grow in new ways, and to meet new challenges with new ideas.

Thanks to all of you and for what you do.  You all help brighten things up in your own special ways.  You all are Special Bloggers.  Keep on doing what you do.

 

My Questions to All of You:

  1.  Who has had the biggest influence on helping you become who you are today?
  2. Do you have any hobbies?
  3. Where is your favorite place to visit?
  4. Are you adventurous?
  5. Are you more practical or romantic or a good blending of both?
  6. What inspires you?
  7. Do you prefer to rock the boat or go with the flow?
  8. Any regrets on this journey called life that you care to share?
  9. Would you call yourself religious, spiritual, a combination of both, or something different?
  10. If you could live anywhere in the world, or worlds unknown, would you, and where would you go?

Good luck to all of you.  I look forward to reading your answers.

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The 2nd Snowmegeddon

As you all know by now, Colorado and much of the Northern United States has been hit hard again with another round of Snomegeddon. It’s a Snow Day  Depending on where you live in Colorado, the snow levels were anywhere from about 8 inches up to 34 inches.  Our final snow totals were 13.5 inches.  Today, the skies are once again blue, but we are stilling dealing with all the aftermath of the 2nd snowmegeddon.  The roads are a wild adventure ride, filled with ice patches and snowbanks all around.  It was definitely slow going anywhere you went. Coming back from work, my car thermometer read 18* F.  Everything is still blanketed in a thick, fluffy, white blanket of snow, and it is still mighty cold out, but as I said, the skies are blue once more, and that is definitely a good sign.   When not driving around in the mess on the roads, and when you can actually sit back and appreciate the beauty of the snow covered trees lit with Christmas lights, they really are a sight to behold.  They are pretty magical indeed.  This is our front tree.

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It was the perfect weather to finish the Christmas decorations and for a nice pot of hot chili to warm us up.  While the chili was cooking, we finished the Christmas decorations, with a little help from Nicodemus, our little black panther.

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Chili is a Tejano dish, originating around the borders of Northern Mexico and Southern Texas.  It was originally created by the working-class Tejano women for the cowboys to take out on the trails with them.  Chili, or chili con carne, as a spicy beef stew made with chili peppers (hence the name) meat, usually beef, tomatoes, garlic, onions and spices.  In the 1850’s it was made from dried beef, suet or hard fat, chili peppers and seasonings that were pounded together to make a brick that was left to dry.  Then the cowboys would take it with them, and boil it when they were ready to eat.  Originally, it was made without beans, but today, beans have become a key ingredient to most chilies.  Now, there are so many different kinds of chili, both with and without beans.  There is no one way or right way to make chili.  Every family has their own recipe and their own secret ingredients, many of which have been passed down through the generations.  Messing with a family’s tradition and/or a family’s chili recipe can be a serious crime to some.  Some would say, those are fightin’ things.  Don’t mess with the chili traditions; not if you value your life.  🙂  Chili is now the official dish of Texas.

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This recipe is just one of many, many countless recipes.

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3 lbs of seared beef, cut into cubes

2 jalapenos, diced fine

1 red onion, diced medium

1 green pepper, diced medium

2 TBSP garlic

2 TBSP tomato paste

1 cup tomatoes, medium dice

1 can diced tomatoes, with the juice

2 cans beans, either black or kidney or both – I used black, since that is what I had on hand – draining the juice is optional

2 TBSP chili powder

1 TBSP crushed Aleppo chilies, optional

salt & pepper to taste

4 cups beef broth

2-3 TBSP flour

1-2 tsp cumin

 

Mix the beef, vegetables, garlic, onions and beans together well, and place them in a slow cooker.

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Mix all the wet ingredients and the flour and add them to the dry ingredients, mixing thoroughly.

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Combine everything together well, cover it up, cook at a medium high temperature for about 4 hours, and forget about it until it is time to eat.

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When the chili is ready, serve it with some hot cornbread and honey butter.  And if you really want to make it Texas style, add some Fritos on top.  You can also serve it with cheese, onions and sour cream too.

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