The Caramels Are Done!

As you know, my friend Priscilla and I have a tradition of making our delicious caramels every year. We have been making these delicious caramels together for quite a few years now. Video #18 – Making Caramels with Priscilla

We love getting together to make them and catching up with each other as we are stirring the pots. The part I DON’T like, however, is the cutting and wrapping. It’s not that I don’t like it, but it is just so time consuming, especially since I make two big batches every year. Each batch that I make is 8 lbs of soft, sweet caramel, so that is 16 lbs that have to be cut and wrapped. On average, it takes me 4-5 hours per batch to cut and wrap them all. But they are now done for this year. WHOOOOO HOOOOOOO!!!!!

We always make plain caramels, and usually a chocolate nut one as well. This year’s chocolate nut caramel was chocolate salted cashew. I keep saying i want to venture out and try even more flavors, but then I remember the cutting and wrapping and think against making yet another batch. Maybe one day though. Who knows? 🙂

All that is left to do now is to package them up and hand them out. My friend Karen was asking me if they were going to be shared with friends. Her exact question was “hope those cavities are going to be shared amongst friends”. Yes indeed! I do not need all those calories or cavities. We make them to share and share we will. Each caramel is made with lots of love. 🙂

For all of my American friends, Have a very Happy Thanksgiving, and for everyone else, have a great day. Stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

More Pumpkin

Pumpkin season may be coming to a close, but it is by no means over just yet. I love pumpkins, so I am going to ride this pumpkin wave for as long as I can. I have another delicious pumpkin recipe coming your way, but first, I wanted to share this fun little pumpkin piece. It was something I saw the other day and just had to share it with all of you too.

Meet Patches the pumpkin. Patches is just a “tiny” little pumpkin, weighing in at a mere 1432 lbs. That is A LOT of pumpkin pie right there. My friend Lauren didn’t think Patches was a real pumpkin, but it is. 🙂

Now for my recipe. There is NO WAY even I could cook that much pumpkin, and I wouldn’t even try. My oven, or even my kitchen, couldn’t hold this much pumpkin, and how would I even begin to move it. 🙂 My recipe only calls for one 15-oz can of pureed pumpkin. 🙂

Pumpkin and Shrimp Bowties

Of course, I changed the recipe and made it my own. What else would you expect, right?! 🙂 I made a lot of changes, so it is really nothing like the original at all, but then that is nothing new to you. that’s just what I do. You can make this dish with either chicken or shrimp. The original recipe called for shredded chicken, but I had shrimp down, and just expanded on it from there.

1-1 1/2 lb peeled shrimp

5-6 pieces of bacon, diced

1 onion, diced

1 TBSP garlic

3 cups fresh spinach, stemmed and chopped

1-1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms

1-2 TBSP butter

1 15-oz can pumpkin puree

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup heavy whipping cream

salt & pepper to taste

1 TBSP fresh sage or 1 tsp dried sage

1 cup grated Parmigiano cheese

1 cup Mozzarella cheese

fresh parsley, chopped for topping

olive oil

bowtie pasta

Cook the bowtie pasta just until it is al dente. Then drain and set aside until you are ready to use it.

Preheat the oven to 350* F or 190* C.

Spray a 9×13 baking pan with cooking spray.

Combine the pureed pumpkin, chicken broth cream, sage and seasonings together and set aside.

Cook the shrimp in the butter and olive oil until it is done. Then remove from the heat and set aside.

Cook the bacon for about 5-7 minutes, then add the vegetables and continue cooking until everything is cooked.

Add the pumpkin mixture and blend everything together well. Add the cooked pasta and shredded Parmagiano cheese and combine well. You may need to readjust the seasonings.

Once everything is mixed together, spoon half of the mixture into the prepared baking pan and add half of the cooked shrimp on top. Repeat until the pan is filled. Add the Mozzarella cheese on top and bake for about 20-30 minutes, or until all the cheese is completely melted.

When it is done, spoon it up and serve with your favorite side dishes. I just made a simple salad and used the rest of my cheesy bacon bread Cheesy Onion And Bacon Bread that I topped with my chimichurri sauce. Chimichurri Topped Roast I also added a dollop of chimichurri on top of my shrimp bowties too. I had a cool, crisp chardonnay on the side too. Yummy!!!!

Pumpkin season is coming to a close, so pumpkin it up while you can, although to be fair, good food and good taste is always in season, regardless of what the calendar says. 🙂

Stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

Nature Walks – The Rabbit

It’s strange that I have not seen a lot of rabbits this year. Usually we see a ton of them. But I caught one today who let me take a few pictures of him. No, I really don’t know if it is a him or a her, it just slips out, and I automatically say him, unless I know for sure. I don’t know why I do this, but it is just a force of habit. He (she, it) was just nibbling away at the grass, having a good time.

Have a great day Everyone. 🙂

Pumpkin Churro Cake

Pumpkin season is still going strong. There are so many good recipes out there and so little time to enjoy them all. I have really been trying my best to accentuate the pumpkin this season too, but there is just no way I can sample all the good pumpkin ideas in just one season. My latest pumpkin recipe once again comes from not one, but two of our very own. I got the idea for my pumpkin churro cake from both My Meals On Wheels at https://beatcancer2010.wordpress.com/ and from Frances at https://beadyarnspatula.com/. Thank you both so much. This cake was a huge success and disappeared in minutes. Of course I made the cake in my own way, but I was most definitely inspired by Frances’ wonderful recipe.

Pumpkin Churro Cake

I started off with a pumpkin cake mix, and then added to it to make it even better. I followed the directions (I know, a novel concept for me), for the cake, but added the pumpkin pie spice for the inside swirl and the coating on the outside of the cake.

Pumpkin Pie Spice Swirl

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

Combine everything together and set aside until ready to use.

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

Spray a bundt pan with cooking spray, then firmly pat some of the pumpkin pie swirl around the bottom and sides of the pan as well.

Make your pumpkin cake according to the directions. Spoon half of the mixture evenly into the prepared pan. Add about half of the remaining pumpkin pie swirl on top of the cake batter. Add the remaining batter on top. Bake for abut 1 hour, or until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle.

Allow the cake to cool completely before removing it from the pan. Add the remaining pumpkin pie swirl to the sides of the cake by slightly patting it onto the sides with your hands. Then let the feasting begin.

Have a great day and spice it up with as much pumpkin as you can. Stay safe, stay warm and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

Chimichurri Topped Roast

It was one of those really, really cold nights again, meaning it was just the right time to have the oven on for along time. We had a huge chuck roast that was the perfect thing to cook to help take the chill out of the air. I topped the roast with an old classic, chimichurri sauce.

Chimichurri is the Argentine version of salsa, and the Argentines use it for everything, but primarily grilled meats. Chimichurri is typically made of finely-chopped parsley, minced garlic, oregano and white vinegar – though there are regional variations, with Uruguay adding red pepper flakes for an added kick. I absolutely love chimichurri, no matter how it is served, but because we tend to like our foods with a kick, when I make it, I usually add the red pepper flakes, making it more Uruguayan than Argentine.

Chuck roast is usually a tougher cut of meat that needs to be slow cooked, which for a cold night is the perfect thing to cook. I just made it very simple, seasoning it with coarse salt and ground pepper on both sides, then adding about 1-1 1/2 cups each of red wine and beef broth. Then I turned the oven on to 400* F or about 210*C and let the meat roast, uncovered, for about 3-3 1/2 hours. During the roasting process, I added a bit more beef broth as needed so the meat wouldn’t dry out. We like our steak medium rare, though Larry likes his more medium and I prefer mine more rare, which would be an internal temperature of about 140*F.

Chimichurri Sauce

As the meat was cooking, I made the chimichurri sauce.

I usually only make my chimichurri sauce with the chopped, NOT pureed, parsley and red pepper flakes, but this time I also used some fresh thyme and fresh oregano, and a small jalapeno as well. It was very tasty indeed. I also like using both a fleur de sel and ground black pepper for this.

3 TBSP chopped oregano

3 TBSP chopped thyme

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1-2 TBSP garlic

salt & pepper to taste

1 jalapeno, diced fine

red pepper flakes to taste

2 TBSP champagne vinegar, or a white wine vinegar

1 tsp paprika

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Mix everything together well and let rest before using it. As I said, you can use this delicious sauce for just about anything. It is full of flavor, but not hot at all. Most Argentines do not like really hot or spicy foods.

When the meat is completely cooked to your liking, add a very generous amount of the chimichurri sauce on top and Desfruitas! Enjoy! I served our roast with my Brussels sprouts Purple Brussels Sprouts and smashed potatoes Smashed Red Potatoes and warmed ciabiatta on the side with of course, more chimichurri sauce for the bread. Since this was a big, bold roast it needed a big, bold red wine to go with too. I had a big Australian cab to go with the meal this time.

It was a very tasty and delicious way to stay warm.

Have a great day Everyone. Stay war, stay safe and stay well.

Nature Walks – A New Feathered Friend

It was a day of new discoveries all around. First I discovered my new purple Brussels sprouts Purple Brussels Sprouts, and then I had a new bird playing around in the tall wheat grass with some sparrows. What a great day!

My new feathered friend was a Dark-Eyed Cassiar Junco. They like to come visit us here in Colorado during the late fall and are here until early spring. And it is definitely late fall, so they are right on time.

Keep your mind and your eyes open to all things. You just never know when you might see something new. If you are like me, you won’t want to miss a thing. Have a great day Everyone.

Purple Brussels Sprouts

I am always intrigued when I find something new. I love making new discoveries, especially when it comes to new foods. I was in the grocery store just the other day, and I saw purple Brussels sprouts. I couldn’t believe it. I had never seen anything like that before, but there they were, looking right at me, begging me to buy them and to cook the up. It was funny, when I first saw them, I had commented to someone who was standing next to me, and she looked at me like I was from the zoo. She was not having any of this purple Brussels spout stuff at all. My curiosity and this lady’s disdain for them definitely played a large part in my buying them. Of course I had to oblige. I am glad I did too.

Purple Brussels Sprouts

Regular Brussels Spouts

What is the difference between the purple and green you might ask? I am asking the same questions. I had never seen, or heard of them before. They are basically the same, with just a few slight and subtle differences. The purple are slightly sweeter than the green and they are not as pungent. The purples like warmer weather. They are not so prevalent in colder temperatures, or at least not during the colder months. Other than that, the purples and the greens are basically the same. You cook them the same too, although the purples can turn a bit blue when cooked.

One of my favorite ways to eat Brussels sprouts is to roast them. And that is exactly what I did this time too. I roasted them with some olive oil, salt & pepper, garlic, shallots and bacon. They were oh so good too.

I just tossed everything together and put them on a baking sheet and roasted them at 425* F or about 240* C for about 30-40 minutes, turning them at about the halfway point. Then they were ready to eat and enjoy, and that we did.

Dinner was a chuck roast with chimichurri sauce, garlic and Parmigiano smashed red potatoes and these delicious roasted Brussels sprouts, with some warmed ciabatta and a hearty red wine on the side. It was a perfectly warm dinner for a dreadfully cold night. Delicious!

Stay warm, stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

Nature Walks – Robins In The Trees

This year is a banner year for all my robins. I am seeing more this year than I ever remember seeing in the past. They are everywhere. My trees are filled with them on a daily basis too. I love my birds. My dad and I used to watch our birds together all the time, so seeing my birds always makes me think of my dad.

Many of these are in the big pine tree right outside my office window.

Black Gold Cookies

It is once again time for cookies, but then again, I think it is always time for cookies. You know how much I LOVE cookies. I am always willing to try something new. I am always on the lookout for new and exciting recipes to try.

My latest cookie adventure was to make some caramel stuffed chocolate cookies. I used the latest batch of caramels that Priscilla and I just made Video #18 – Making Caramels with Priscilla and some of my black cocoa powder that Julia gave me. These cookies are definitely little treasures. They are black gold. I made some with chopped pecans and some without, “because … sometimes you feel like a nut and sometimes you don’t”. You can make this with regular cocoa powder too, but I thought it was fun to use the black cocoa instead.

Black Gold Cookies

Supposedly this recipe makes 5 dozen cookies, but I never get the amount they say I am supposed to get, so I don’t even worry about it anymore. Have you ever noticed why I don’t add the yields to my recipes? I have just learned, over the years, through many, many trials and errors, I just get what I get. I got almost 4 dozen cookies this time; definitely NOT 5 dozen like i was supposed to get.

1 cup or 2 sticks of softened butter

1 cup +1 TBSP sugar, divided

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

2 1/2 cups flour

3/4 cup cocoa powder – I used black cocoa powder, but any cocoa powder is fine

1 tsp baking soda

1 cup chopped pecans

60 pieces of caramels or Rolo candies

Preheat the oven to 375*F or about 200*C.

Add 1 TBSP of sugar to the chopped pecans, mix together well and set aside.

Combine all the dry ingredients and set aside.

Mix the butter and sugars together until creamy. Add the eggs, one at as time, mixing in between each addition. Add the vanilla. Then add the flour mixture, 1/2 at a time, and mix until just blended.

Form about 1 TBSP of dough into a ball then make an indention in the center of each cookie for the caramel. Since I used my own caramels, I shaped the pieces into small balls that would fit into the cookie wells. Once the caramels have been placed inside the cookie wells, fold the dough around the caramels to completely cover them, or hide the treasures inside.

Once the caramels are buried in the chocolate cookies, pat them slightly to flatten them a bit, then lightly press them into the pecan and sugar mixture. Place them on an ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart, nut side up.

Bake for about 10-13 minutes, or until the tops are slightly cracked. Cool for about 3 minutes then remove and place them on a wire rack to cool completely.

These are soft ooey-gooey cookies that will literally just melt in your mouth. Every mouthful will be oozing with soft caramel. These are so yummy! I bet you can’t stop at just one. 🙂

Make the best out of everyday and make everyday a cookie day. Stay warm, stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

Modern Spanish Cassoulet

The history of cassoulet is a history of Languedoc. One legend places the birth of cassoulet during the siege of Castelnaudary by the Black Prince, Edward the Prince of Wales, in 1355. The besieged townspeople gathered their remaining food to create a big stew cooked in a cauldron. The little town of Castelnaudary, in the Lauragais area of Aude, is the capital of cassoulet. This famous culinary specialty of the south-west, the family meal of choice, goes back to the Middle Ages and is one of the most widely-enjoyed dishes in France!

A cassoulet is a traditional French dish that is made with a variety of meats and baked white beans. The name comes from its cooking pot, the cassole d’Issel. As with many dishes, a cassoulet has humble beginnings, and was once the simple fare of farmers and rural country folk, but soon was discovered by the citizens of Paris and was elaborated upon to become a rich and complex dish. By the 19th century, this simple rustic dish found its way to the elites of Paris and gained in popularity as a delicious dish that was enjoyed by all, rich or poor.

Since Spain borders Southern France, it only makes sense that the two counties share a lot of similarities in their foods too. There are probably just as many versions of cassoulets found in Northern Spain as there are in Southern France, that are very similar and just as good, with their own Spanish personalities. I love both Spanish and French food, as well as both of their cultures, though I have a slight preference for the Spanish. I made my own version of a Spanish styled cassoulet that was a perfect dish for a cold, chilly night. I served it with my cheesy onion bread Cheesy Onion And Bacon Bread and a big, bold cabernet on the side. !Delicioso!

Since a cassoulet is traditionally a very rustic dish, it is usually comprised of whatever meats and/or sausages that are on hand at the time. I was inspired by a dish I made along time ago, that was similar, but was more of a tapas dish. This time, however, I was looking to making it more of a meal rather than simply tapas. Sausage Cooked in Red Wine I made it with some leftover ham, Andouille sausage and a spicy chicken sausage that I cooked in a red wine and vegetable sauce. I admit, I cheated on the beans, and used canned beans rather than cooking them from scratch. Canned beans are always a welcomed ingredient and fantastic time saver. 🙂

Modern Spanish Cassoulet

2 lbs of various sausages, sliced

1/2 lb- 1 lb of cooked ham

1 cup pumpkin, peeled and diced

2 cups tomatoes, diced

1-2 cups mushrooms, sliced

1 onion, diced

1 1/2-2 cups red wine

1 1/2-2 cups beef broth

2 TBSP garlic

salt & pepper to taste

1 tsp red pepper flakes or to taste

4-5 fresh thyme sprigs

1 TBSP fresh sage, chiffonade or cut into very thin strips

1-2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed

Cook the onions, garlic, pumpkin, red pepper flakes and mushrooms in olive oil until tender, then add the wine and bring to a boil.

Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil once again, then reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for about 30-40 minutes or until all the meats are cooked and everything is tender. Since I used canned beans, I just cooked those separately and served my stew on top of them. If you are cooking your beans from scratch, cook your beans according to the directions on the package first, then add them to your stew at this point, as a time saver. You can certainly do it the “old fashioned way” too and cook everything all together, but you had better prepare to be in the kitchen for quite some time if you are going to do it this way. Why be a slave to the stove when time is precious?

I served it over the cooked beans with my cheesy onion bacon bread and a bold cab on the side for a perfectly rustic, warm Spanish meal on a cold, chilly night. This warm dish certainly helped to take the chill out of the air and warmed us up from the inside out.

Stay warm, stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

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