Make It Real

This was a compliment I received from a very good friend of mine regarding my blog and all it’s recipes.  This is the best compliment anyone could give me.    I just had to share it with all of you.  “One thing I really love about your recipes (and your blog) is that you use/feature real ingredients that most of us have and use all the time or can easily buy (Hello, Kirkland brand.) Nothing is too fancy, there’s nothing I have to “google” to see what it is and, the best part, everything tastes so good!”  This is EXACTLY why I created my blog.  I want people to feel comfortable in the kitchen.  Things don’t have to be fancy or made with specialty ingredients to be good.  As long as they are made with love, inspiration, curiosity and a willingness to learn and try new things, then no matter what comes out of the kitchen, it will be a success.  

Thank you Traci.  Love you and Scott heaps and heaps.

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Happy Holidays Everyone! Come check me out at “A Jeanne in the Kitchen”. Who knows what Holiday ideas we may all come up with. You can find me at ajeanneinthekitchen.com.

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A Medley of Nuts

I love nuts.  Yes, they contain fats, but they also contain a lot of protein as well as many other nutrients, which means they are very good for us and are all around much healthier for us than not.  But just like with anything else though, everything in moderation.  Nuts of all kinds are always a staple around the holidays too.  After all, nuts and nutcrackers are a big part of the Christmas and Holiday traditions around the world.  I really wanted to make a pecan pie for Thanksgiving, but I got out voted.  So for our Holiday party, there was no one to out vote me, and I made my favorite nut tart, with a medley of different nuts as one of my desserts.  I try to make this tart at least once every holiday season.  It was a big hit, as I knew it would be, and sad to say, it all disappeared very quickly.  I might just have to make another one before the end of the Holiday season.

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Nut Medley Tart

Pate sucre or pie crust

3 cups of mixed nuts – your choice

3 eggs

1 cup honey

1/2 tsp either orange extract or grated orange peel, or both

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup butter, melted

whipped cream, optional for topping

 

I used pecans, macademia nuts, cashews, and almonds, but use whatever kind of nuts you like.

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Preheat the oven to 350* F

Toast the nuts in the oven for about 10 minutes, making sure to stir them at least once.  Remove the nuts from the oven and set aside.

Make your pie crust or pate sucre Thanksgiving Dinner – Part III – Pumpkin Pie and roll it into the tart pan.  Once the dough covers the pan, use the rolling pin to roll over the edges of the dough and it will cut off the excess dough while it is shaping it into the pan.

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Mix all the ingredients together and mix until well blended, then gently fold in all the nuts.  Pour the mixture into the shell.

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Since I had some extra dough, I used some festive cookie cutters and made some decorations for the top of the tart.  This is optional, but if you do this, make an egg wash to brush over the top of the dough cut-outs to help them brown.  Bake for about 40-50 minutes or until the top is golden brown.  Let the tart completely cool before removing the bottom of the tart pan and cutting.

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Holiday Fun

Every year, my husband and I host a fun ornament exchange.  Everyone is invited, and all are welcome.  My motto is “the more the merrier”.  There have been times when the house has been jam packed and there is barely enough room to move around and other times when we have a smaller, more intimate crowd.  Either way, whether the crowd is large or small, we always have a good time.  I tell everyone who wants to participate to bring a wrapped ornament and a dish to share.  After we have all visited and wined and dined, it’s time to let the games begin.  Because our ornament exchange is meant to be a fun game, and it is much more fun when people “steal”, so I always encourage “stealing” ornaments once they have been opened.  Sometimes, it gets pretty vicious and people get very territorial with their newly acquired ornaments, but it is all in good fun.  In the end, everyone goes home with a new ornament for their tree, and happy memories of a fun evening, shared by friends both new and old.  Last night was the day of our party for the 2018 Holiday season.  We rang in the season with food, fun and festivities celebrated with friends.  This is always the best way to ring in the Holidays.

In case you hadn’t noticed by now, I love to cook.  I make our ornament exchanges a potluck, but I still love to cook up quite a bit for the party as well.   My husband is always trying his best to reign me in, telling me “this is a potluck, you do not have to make a bazillin different dishes”.  He tries his best to reign me in, but he is never to successful at it.  Try though I may, I just can’t seem to help myself.  I think of one thing, which leads me to another, then that leads to something else, and so on, and so on,  To me, potlucks are always a barrel of fun.  I love trying all the new creations that people bring to share.  So with me making a lot of different delectable dishes, and then everyone else bringing their own delectable dishes, we ALWAYS end up with a ton of food.  And this is the season for sharing, so share we do.  Once again, there was a lot of good food enjoyed by all, there was something for everyone, from a variety of sweets and treats and savory dishes too.

This is our main tree, in our family room.  We have a very eclectic collection of ornaments.  They all weave together to tell a story of who we are and what we like to do.  We always collect ornaments from wherever we travel, the funkier and more exotic and unique, the better.  We have ornaments that express our personal interests and hobbies.  We have special ornaments that were handmade just for us.  Some are fun and whimsical and some are porcelain and are collectibles.  And some have been handed down through the generations, but all contribute to the story of who we are and how we like to live.  They are all fun and they all have a special meaning and a special place in my heart.

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Our second tree, in the living room.

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Our third tree, up in our art niche, going up the stairs.

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And our fourth tree, that was made especially for me by my friends Kathy and Lynn.

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Larry and I at the appetizer table.

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Baked pita chips with hummus.

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Cheese, sausages and crackers.

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Turkey marinated in my paprika vinaigrette Steak with Paprika Vinaigrette.   I served all these appetizers on some of my new serving platters that I received from my friend David Richman, CEO of Chefware. Presents for the Chef.  All these platters got rave reviews.  Everyone commented on how gorgeous they are.

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All the dishes above, as well as this delicious mixed nut tart and my Kissed Cookies,  Kissed Christmas Cookies were my culinary contributions to our fun evening.

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And to all of you who helped us ring in the holidays  …..

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Thank you to all my friends and family who helped make this yet another fun-filled event filled with lots of love.  All of you are what made our party so much fun.  However you say it, and however you celebrate … Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noel, Froelich Weinnachten, Mele Kalekimaka, Happy Channakah, Happy Eads, Buon Natalie, Happy Kwanza or Happy Holidays, have a good one and a Happy, Healthy New Year.

 

 

Kissed Christmas Cookies

Cookies are my absolute favorite dessert.  I love cookies.  Any kind of cookies.   I always have.  When I was a little girl one of my best friends’ mother used to bake cookies everyday.  The house always smelled so good, and it was always filled with love. Mrs. Nash would make all kinds of cookies, and everyday when we would come home from school, there would be a new variety of cookies waiting for us to gobble up and enjoy.  This is one of my favorite childhood memories.  Mrs. Nash was like my second mother.  My friend Kathy and I grew up together and are still  like family to this day, many, many years later, even though she still lives in California and I have been living in Colorado for almost 19 years.  Cookies always bring up images of love and family to me.  Maybe that’s why they are my favorite type of dessert.

The Holidays are here, and today we have our Christmas party and ornament exchange.  So I will keep this brief and short, since I still have a lot of things I need to prepare and do before all my guests arrive.  My cookie contribution for this year’s party is a fun, festive and colorful type of cookie.  I made chocolate cookies with colorful sprinkles and Hershey’s kisses.

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Chocolate Kissed Christmas Cookies

1/2 cup shortening

1/2 cup softened butter (1 stick)

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

1 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp baking soda

2 TBSP milk

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup cocoa powder

2 cups flour

Christmas colored nonparells

chocolate kisses, unwrapped

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Combine all the dry ingredients together, mixing well, and set aside.

Mix the shortening, butter and sugars together until well blended, then add the egg, milk and vanilla.   Once all the wet ingredients are mixed together, add the dry ingredients 1/2 at a time, mixing well in between.  Once everything is mixed, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it set in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before making the cookies.

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Preheat the oven to 350* F

When the dough is ready, spoon out about 1 heaping tsp of dough and roll into a ball,  then roll the ball into the nonparells and coat the whole cookie.  Slightly press the dough out to flatten it and place on a non-greased cookie sheet.  Repeat until all the dough is used.

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Bake the cookies for about 10-12 minutes or until the edges are firm.  Immediately after removing the cookies from the oven, place an unwrapped candy kiss in the center of the cookies, and slightly press it into the soft cookie.  I placed them back in the oven for about 1 more minute after I added the kisses to soften the chocolate kisses a bit.  Let cool, then remove from the baking sheet and cool completely on a wire rack.  After that, it’s cookie time!

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Honey-Chipotle-Lime Shrimp

Shrimp is one of my favorite seafoods.  I just love it.  One of the things I love about shrimp is that it is so versatile.  Like with chicken, the possibilities for cooking shrimp are endless, as was so greatly expressed by Bubba in the movie Forrest Gump; I can’t remember the full speech that Bubba gave about shrimp, but he named so many delicious ways of eating and cooking shrimp that by the end of the scene my mouth was watering and suddenly I was really hungry for something with shrimp.  Well, here is one more delicious recipe we can add to that never-ending repertoire.  Honey-chipotle-lime grilled shrimp.  It was quick and easy and very tasty.  It had just the right amount of heat and sweet to get all the taste buds crying out for more.   This meal was a bit of flavor fusion, but all the flavors fused together deliciously.

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Honey-Chipotle Lime Shrimp

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1-1 1/2 lbs of large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/3 cup olive oil

2-3 TBSP lime juice

2 TBSP honey

1 TBSP garlic

3-4 whole chipotle chilies with sauce, minced

2 TBSP fresh cilantro, chopped fine

 

Mix all the ingredients together well, then add the shrimp and let marinate for about 30 minutes.  Once the shrimp has marinated in the sauce, skewer them and grill for about 6 minutes, making sure to rotate the skewers so the shrimp cooks evenly and does not burn.  Reserve the marinate and cook it for about 5-7 minutes, then add on top of the cooked shrimp as a sauce.

 

Since I was grilling the shrimp, I decided to make vegetable kebabs to go with the grilled shrimp.  You can use any kind of vegetables you like.  As I mentioned in my post, Roasted Green Beans with Mushrooms and Pine Nuts vegetables contain very little if any fat, so they need to be marinated or coated in some kind of a fat when roasting or grilling so they do not burn.  The flavors of the vegetables also really pop out and come to life  when you use a bold and flavorful. acidic marinade.  I used a a variety of bell peppers, red onions, mushrooms, zucchini and yellow crookneck squash that I marinated in a zesty Italian dressing.  The vegetables will take longer to cook than the shrimp, so put those on the grill first.  When grilling vegetables, you want to cut the vegetables into large, thick chunks that will be able to withstand the direct heat from the grill and will not fall apart.

 

 

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I served the honey-chipotle-lime shrimp over some leftover rice with corn, vegetable kebabs and naan bread.   To me, the perfect wine choice would be a rich, buttery chardonnay to help cut down on the acidity of the dish from the marinades.

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Roasted Green Beans with Mushrooms and Pine Nuts

Roasting vegetables is one of the easiest ways to cook vegetables, and is really one of the healthiest ways too.  Besides being easy and healthy, it is also a very versatile way of cooking vegetables and the possibilities are endless.   All you need to do is to cut the vegetables how you want them (try to make sure they are all cut about the same size so they cook evenly.  Cut heartier vegetables smaller and lighter vegetables slightly larger when roasting different kinds of vegetables together), then toss them in some kind of fat and put them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, then place them in a hot oven to cook.  Make sure you give the vegetables plenty of room and spread them out into a single layer on the pan to ensure even cooking for all the vegetables.   Because vegetables contain little or no fat, they need to be coated in some kind of fat so they do not burn or stick to the baking dish.   I use olive oil for everything, and prefer using it to butter for coating my vegetables.  I love butter, don’t get me wrong, and I use a lot of butter too, but believe it or not, I actually use way more olive oil than I do butter, especially for my vegetables.  Aside from coating the vegetables in fat, you also want to make sure you use plenty of seasonings and flavors when roasting vegetables as well.  One of the reasons why roasting vegetables makes them so good is because roasting concentrates the flavors, “making the vegetables taste like better versions of themselves” (p. 443 – All About Roasting – A New Approach to a Classic Art, by Molly Stevens).  The dry heat of the oven allows the sugars in the vegetables to caramelize, giving them a slightly sweet flavor with a slight crunchiness that comes from the browning of the edges of the vegetables.  The result from roasting vegetables is the perfect combination of sweetness and crunchiness to make them absolutely delectable.  This sweet and crunchy combination also allows for big bold flavors to really bring out the best in all the vegetables, so using a bold vinaigrette, or a bold cheese or even something salty or citrusy, will  really enhance all the natural flavors of the vegetables.  When roasting vegetables, you want the oven to be hot.  Most recipes will call for an oven over 400* F.  Since we most often serve roasted vegetables as a side dish to a roasted meat, and we often cook them together, reduce the oven temperature to the temperature of the meat, and just cook the vegetables a little longer than you normally would when cooking them on their own.  Most meats do not require as high of a cooking temperature as vegetables.  You can roast fruits the same way you roast vegetables, only be aware that fruits have much higher sugar contents and therefore they will caramelize pretty quickly, and if not watched carefully, they could burn very easily.  So with all these useful tips for roasting vegetables, use you imagination and let the roasting begin.

 

Roasted Green Beans with Mushrooms and Pine Nuts

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1 lb fresh green beans, trimmed

2 shallots, sliced thin

1 cup mushrooms, rinsed and quartered

1 TBSP garlic

2 TBSP pine nuts

olive oil to coat

salt & pepper to taste

1 tsp thyme

your choice of red, yellow, or orange bell peppers, diced (optional)

Parmagiano cheese for topping

 

Preheat the oven to 425* F or 400* F if using a convection oven.

Toss everything together and spread out in a single layer onto a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.   Place into the hot oven and roast for about 20-25 minutes, or until the vegetables are slightly softened the middles and have a little crust and are browned around the edges.  When the vegetables are done, sprinkle Parmagiano cheese on top and serve.

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