Video #18 – Making Caramels with Priscilla

My friend Priscilla and I have been friends our whole entire lives. We are familia. Every year we get together and have a tradition of making big batches of caramels that we share with family and friends over the holidays. We have perfected these caramels too. We make the plain, traditional caramels as well as chocolate pecan caramels. And we have made all the mistakes already, so rest assured, these are fool proof now. With the Holidays just around the corner, it is the perfect time to share this video and share the caramels with everyone too.

As always, if you like what you see, please subscribe to my YouTube page and share it with your family and friends too.

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

Signs on the Wall

Sometimes, you just need to have a little fun and do something out of the ordinary, although I am always doing something out of the ordinary. That’s just me and just who I am. I always like to do something unexpected just to get your attention.

Last night I made chicken and broccoli Alfredo, which you have certainly seen me make many times, since it is one of my favorites. Fettuccine Alfredo with Chicken, Broccoli and Mushrooms

I didn’t have any new recipes to share with your today, so I am sharing something else instead. Today I thought it would be fun to do show you the signs on the walls. Signs that pretty much sum up life at my house and tell you exactly who I am as well.

Obviously, you all know I love to cook and you all know how I love my wines too.

I am also very crafty and enjoy working with my hands.

And you all know I am a big dog lover, and I do mean a BIG DOG lover too. Signs of the dog.

My two loveable Saints, Lucie and Vinnie. RIP Lucie Lu. Mommy loves you and misses you very much.

I needed something fun and whimsical today. I hope you did too.

Life is short, live it up. Stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

Balsamic Roasted Green Beans and Mushrooms

It was just a simple roasted dinner. Roasted pork chops, smashed potatoes and roasted green beans and mushrooms with balsamic vinegar. YUM! Sometimes, simple is best. I saw this recipe and thought it sounded so delicious. I just had to try it. And so I did. It was very tasty and one I will definitely be doing again in the future.

This simple yet tasty recipe only requires a few basic, everyday ingredients, and voila, a taste sensation is created. I ran out of Parmigiano cheese, so I did not add it this time around. I also made a smaller amount because I didn’t have as many green beans as needed. That’s what happens when you think you have enough of something and you don’t go to the store. 🙂 Oh well. “These things, they do happen”, Carlotta, from the Phantom of the Opera. But since it was just the two of us eating, it was actually just the right amount, so as always, it all worked out just fine.

Balsamic Roasted Green beans and Mushrooms

1 lb green beans, trimmed

1- 1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms

2 TBSP olive oil

1- 1 1/2 TBSP balsamic vinegar

salt & pepper to taste

shredded Parmigiano cheese for topping, optional

Preheat the oven to 450* F or 230* C

In a pan of boiling water, par cook the green beans first for about 5 minutes, then drain.

Place the sliced mushrooms and the green beans in a plastic bag and add the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Gently mix everything together to coat the vegetables.

Once the vegetables are thoroughly coated, place them in a baking dish. I also added a bit of cooking spray to the pan. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper to taste and roast for about 25-30 minutes, or until the green beans are tender and the liquid has evaporated.

If topping with Parmigiano cheese, add it once the vegetables have been removed from the oven and enjoy on the side with your favorite main dish. This recipe is just the way I like it – simple, basic ingredients, and delicious!

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

Nature Walks – … Squirrel …

Our weather is all mixed up. It’s the middle of November and it is a warm, sunny day. When I was out walking, I saw a few people in shorts. Shorts in November? Who would have thought?

The ducks and geese were leisurely swimming across the lakes, but there were a couple of playful squirrels that caught my lens today. I just couldn’t resist. They were just too darn cute.

This one was running along the fence.

This one is playing on the porch.

And then they were gone. Now you see them, now you don’t.

Shrimp Quesadillas

I make quesadillas quite often. They are simple and easy to make and are always delicious, or should I say delicioso! They are also extremely versatile. Sometimes we are just not in the mood for a big dinner or something that requires a lot of work and quesadillas are a perfect solution for that. You can make them with any filling you like. You can add chicken, beef, pork, seafood, shrimp, or vegetarian. There is NO right or wrong way to make them. The only necessary ingredients for quesadillas are cheese or queso, and tortillas. Other than that, just use your imagination and create what you like. Because there are no rules for making quesadillas, I am just going to show you the “hows” of making them rather than giving you an actual recipe.

Start by getting all your ingredients prepared. Once you start making the quesadilla themselves, they cook in no time at all. I make quesadillas with different ingredients all the time, although I try to always keep them Spanish in nature. I almost always add a bunch of different vegetables to whatever meat I am using as well. This time I used red and green bell peppers, a jalapeno, red onions, mushrooms and corn – all Spanish/Mexican vegetables that are found in most Mexican cooking. You can use any kind of cheese you like as well. I used jalapeno jack for mine, but Larry wanted a cheddar/jack mix for his.

Again, to make my quesadillas more authentic, I also use a variety of different Mexican spices and herbs, like thyme, oregano, cumin, coriander and cayenne pepper.

I cooked my vegetables first, then added the shrimp. I cut my shrimp into pieces, because it just makes it easier to eat, but you do not have to.

In a separate pan, lay a tortilla on the bottom of the pan and add a layer of cheese.

After the cheese is completely melted, remove the tortilla and repeat with another tortilla, so you have both a top and bottom. Add your filling to the second tortilla then top with the first tortilla and press to stick them together.

Remove the tortilla from the skillet and top with your favorite toppings. I usually add salsa, lots of salsa, and either avocadoes or guacamole and either cilantro and/or green onions. Larry also adds sour cream to his. They are always very messy, but they are always so worth the mess.

My quesadillas are always so good, it is really difficult for me to eat them anywhere else. After eating mine, I have been very disappointed in so many quesadillas we have purchased, that I have given up eating them anywhere but home.

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

Nature Walks – Duck, Duck Goose

It was yet another beautiful, bright, sunny day, and yet another gorgeous day for a nice walk around the lakes. The ducks and geese were out today. Today’s walk was a little bit of duck, duck goose.

The mallards were out today.

So were the hooded mergansers, both the boys and the girls.

There were some ring-necked ducks out.

And there were even a couple of buffleheads out.

I have no idea what is on his head.

And of course, there were plenty of Canadian geese out too.

Enjoy your day. Make the most of it.

Southwestern Ham, Sausage and Vegetable Soup

You all know how much I love stuff in my stuff. That goes for just about everything I cook. It was another soupy kind of day, and I had leftovers that needed a home, so I made a tasty soup that seemed like it had everything in it but the kitchen sink. And that is exactly the way I like my soups too. 🙂

I had a few sausages that needed to be cooked, but there were not enough to make them as meal by themselves. I used my leftover ham Hamming It Up and what seemed like a ton of vegetables. I was making up my recipe in my head as I was in the store, buying extra things I wanted to add to my soup. The list just kept growing. I kept thinking to myself, ” of this would be good, and this would be good too, and so would this.” The end product was a work of art. Ham and sausages were the meat, and then I added a bunch of vegetables. I decided to make it a creamy tomato based soup, which turned everything into a very tasty, spicy Southwestern soup. I served it with some of my garlic cheese bread and wine on the side, and all of a sudden the soup became a meal. We eat a lot of soupy meals when the weather starts to cool off. They are both simple and delicious, which makes them just simply delicious.

Southwestern Ham, Sausage and Vegetable Soup

1 lb sausage, cooked and diced

1-2 lbs ham, cooked and diced

1 large onion, diced fine

2 TBSP garlic

2-3 celery stalks, diced

1 zucchini, diced

1 potato diced

1 cup pumpkin, peeled and diced medium

3-4 roasted chilies, or to taste

1 cup corn

4 medium- large tomatoes, diced

6-8 cups chicken broth or ham broth

salt & pepper to tast2 cups heavy whipping cream

olive oil

6 fresh sage leaves, chiffonade

4-5 fresh thyme sprigs

Dice the cooked ham and cooked sausages and set aside.

Mix all the heartier vegetables together and set aside. In a separate bowl, combine the softer vegetables, including the zucchini and peppers and set aside.

Dice the tomatoes and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large soup pot, then add the heartier vegetables and saute for about 5-7 minutes, or until the onions become translucent and the potatoes soften up.

Add the rest of the ingredients and mix together well.

Add the broth to the meat and vegetables. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook for about an hour, stirring frequently. Since this is a tomato based soup, you want most of the tomatoes to break down and liquify.

Add the cream and combine thoroughly. Continue to cook the soup for about 30 more minutes, again stirring frequently.

Once the soup has cooked down, the vegetables are soft and tender, and all the flavors have incorporated themselves into the mix, it is now time to sit back and enjoy this delicious, hearty soup. You can also use chicken if you prefer as well.

When I make soup, I usually make a lot of it. We had a very similar meal a few days later when we went to Jonathan and Priscilla’s for mine and Priscilla’s annual caramel making tradition. (More on that coming later). I brought the soup and Priscilla made a light and easy salad and some focaccia to go along with the soup and a bundt cake for dessert. it was after all, National Bundt Cake day.

Stay safe and stay well Everyone. Don’t let all the craziness of the world bring you down. ‘Til next time.

Video #17 – INVINtions, A Creative Winery

Today, I am taking you through a virtual tour of our favorite local winery, InVINtions, A Creative Winery. We have been members at InVINtions, for quite a few years now, and have enjoyed every minute, and counting. You have “met” Marcus and crew numerous times through my blog. Marcus, Cory, and all their wonderful staff have become family to us over the years. We always have so much fun there. I will show you just some of the good times to be had, and let Marcus, Owner and Master Sommelier, tell you in his own words why InVINtions’ wines are the best around.

InVINtions, A Creative Winery is located in Greenwood Village, just south of the Denver Tech Center. Their address is 9608 East Arapahoe Road, Greenwood Village, CO 80112. Reservations are highly recommended, especially during these crazy, chaotic times. You definitely want to make sure you don’t miss out on all the good times. You can always get in touch with InVINtions either online at info@inVINtionswinery.com or you can call (303) 799- WINE or (303) 799-9463. If you like and/or love wine, I promise you, you will be very happy you discovered InVINtions and all their great wines and friendly staff.

Stay healthy and drink your wine, especially if it is wine from InVINtions, A Creative Winery. ‘Til next time.

Italian Chicken Ortolano

Larry said he wanted something with chicken for dinner, but he did not specify how he wanted it. The rest was up to me. So when I hear that, it means I go look things up in my massive culinary library to see what best suits my fancy at the time. This time, I came up with Italian chicken ortolano. Traditionally in Italy, this dish is made from guineas or pheasant or wild fowl, but chicken works very well too. From the best of my understanding of the Italian word ortolano, it means orchard worker or farmer, or from the vegetable patch. Good! It means cooking with a lot of fresh vegetables. I like that. I cook with a lot of vegetables all the time. I have been told many times that I am actually more European than American, and especially with how I cook and love to feed people. That works for me.

Chicken ortolano is a chicken and vegetable casserole or stew that is cooked in stages. The first stage is to cook the vegetables, then brown the chicken, and finally combine them together for a final cooking stage in the oven.

Chicken Ortolano

1/3 cup butter

6 TBSP olive oil

4-6 fresh sage leaves, chiffonade or chopped fine

3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme

2 celery stalks, diced

1 TBSP garlic

2 lbs chicken, cut into pieces – I used breasts, but you can use bone in chicken pieces too

1 cup dry white wine

8-10 pearl onions, peeled

1 large potato, cut into large pieces

2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks

1 cup pumpkin or squash, cut into large chunks

salt & pepper to taste

Coat the chicken pieces in salt and pepper and cook in a combination of the oil and butter. Cook until the chicken is browned on both sides, about 7-10 minutes per side.

At the same time, in a separate pan, cook the vegetables and potato in oil and butter as well. Cook until the vegetables are mostly tender, or about 10-15 minutes.

Add the wine, the sage and the thyme to the vegetables and continue to cook for an additional 10 minutes, at a medium temperature.

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

Spray a large baking pan with cooking oil.

Add the chicken to the coated baking dish, including the butter and oil. Pour the vegetable and potato mixture over the chicken and place the dish in the oven.

Roast for about 30 minutes or until the liquid is mostly evaporated and has thickened and the chicken and vegetables are completely cooked. Serve it up and enjoy with some fresh warmed bread and a glass or two of the same white wine you used to cook with. This dish is rustic Italian at its best. You’re going to love it. !Mangia!

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

Garlic Knots

Even though making bread, particularly yeast breads is time consuming, there is something very calming and relaxing about it too. I love making all kinds of breads. I love eating all kinds of breads as well. I decided to make some garlic knots for a change of pace. I had fun making these garlic knots. Believe it or knot, this delicious doughy snack was apparently created in New York City. Garlic knots were invented to prevent waste. In 1973, a pizzeria in Queens, NY came up with the garlic knot as a way of not wasting leftover pizza dough scraps, although pizza makers in NY had been making garlic knots for quite a few years prior to this too. This totally works for me. Since I have a have a passion for using up leftovers, and as you all know, I love bread and I love garlic, so this is totally up my alley. Bread and garlic are two things I don’t know if I could live without. They are both very good on their own, but are even better when combined. To me, that is just a match made in Heaven. All I need is butter, and life would be just perfect.

Garlic Knots

1 1/4 cups lukewarm water

6 TBSP butter, melted and separated

1 tsp sugar

2 tsp dry active yeast

1 egg, separated

2 tsp salt

3 1/2- 4 cups flour

1 TBSP garlic

Mix the 2 cups of the flour and salt together and set aside.

Mix the yeast, water and sugar together and set aside for about 10 minutes, or until it becomes frothy.

Mix the egg yolk, milk and 4 TBPS of the melted butter together.

Combine the yeast mixture with the egg yolk and milk mixture, then add to the flour and salt and start mixing everything together to make a soft dough. Slowly add about 1 -1 1/2cups of the additional flour. Form the dough into a ball and set it inside a large bowl that has been oiled. Cover and let rise for 2 hours. I like to melt my butter. I find it helps mix everything together better, although some people prefer to crumble their butter in.

Once the dough has completed its first rise, punch it down and cut into 12 equal portions.

Roll out each piece into a rope, then tie it into a knot.

Once all the knots are made, place them on a baking sheet cover and let them rise again for another 1 1/2-2 hours.

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

Melt the rest of the butter and mix the garlic in with it. You can also add the egg white to this mixture. Brush the knots and place in the hot oven to bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until they are golden brown and hollow when tapped on the bottom.

When the knots are done, enjoy them either on their own, or as a compliment to something else. You can also add poppy seeds, sesame seeds, or herbs as well, if you like. Mix and match them how you want.

If you want to make the knots even more buttery and garlicky, brush some more garlic butter on them as soon as they come out of the oven. Bread, butter and garlic – 3 of my favorite things. 🙂

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