Pear and Pecan Salad with a Ginger Dressing

Pears and pecans just seem absolutely perfect for the holidays.  They are so festive and nutritious, and they are both sweet and crunchy too, giving your taste buds a real treat.  Both pears and pecans are loaded with vitamins and minerals, as are most fruits and nuts.  They are full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, and also contain a lot of fiber, which helps in weight loss.  They also help in fighting the effects of diabetes and help prevent cancer.  And bottom line, they just taste really, really good.

We enjoyed Christmas dinner with family and friends.  My “sister” and all her kids are all vegan, and a lot of the other guests are watching what they eat as well.  One of the dishes I brought was this delicious, festive pear and pecan salad with a ginger dressing.  It was very easy to make and it was a big hit.

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Pear and Pecan Salad with Ginger Dressing

5 cups of mixed baby greens, or salad greens of your choice

1 pear, sliced thin – I used Bosc, but you can use whatever type of pear you like

2 celery ribs, diced small

1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped small

3 TBSP Champagne vinegar

1 medium shallot, minced

2 tsp ginger

1 tsp sugar

1/4 tsp dry mustard

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup olive oil

 

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Combine the last 8 ingredients to make the dressing and mix together well.  Set aside.

Toss the chopped nuts and celery with the greens and add about 1/2 the dressing or less.  Toss and combine everything well.   You do not want to add too much dressing or it well make the greens soggy and heavy.  You want just a light coating of the dressing, and just enough to add flavor.  You can always add more later if you need it.  Also, don’t mix the dressing into the salad too early, or again, it will make the salad soggy.  Toss the dressing into the salad right before serving.

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When the salad is all tossed together, plate it up and arrange the pear slices on top of the greens.  I added a tiny bit more dressing to each pear slice to wake them up and bring them to life as well, but this is optional.  This is a totally vegan dish.  If you want to make it a main salad, just add some protein of your choice.  It would go very well with either tofu, or any other vegan “meat” as well as either chicken or shrimp to make it non-vegan.IMG_4745

 

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Happy Holidays

I hope everyone had a good Christmas or a good holiday, celebrating the season however you enjoy celebrating it.  I love the Christmas season.  My only complaint is that I wish it would last longer.  I certainly wish all the good cheer and good will towards others lasted longer.   Christmas Eve was a very quiet one, with just the two of us.  It was too quiet for my tastes, but for Christmas Day we got together with friends and family and all had a good time.  We had quite the feast, with everyone contributing to the meal.   Everything was delicious too.  For me, the good will of the season continues, and I hope it does for all of you as well.

For Christmas Eve, even though it was just the two of us, I made a big ham, with an apple whiskey and brown sugar sauce.  I am sure there are a few more ham recipes and ideas in our very near future, since there was quite a bit leftover.  Don’t let the charred crusts fool you.  They were crispy and tasted just perfect with the sweet, apple whiskey and brown sugar sauce served on top.  YUMMY!

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 Brown Sugar Crusted ham with Apple Whiskey Sauce

7-10 lb bone-in ham, thawed

1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar

1 tsp cloves

1 1/2 TBSP dry mustard

5-6 TBSP apple whiskey (or bourbon or whiskey of your choice)

3 1/2 cups apple cider or flavored cider

3 TBSP maple syrup

pinch of cayenne pepper

1 TBSP cornstarch

2 TBSP water

 

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Preheat the oven to 350* F

Pat dry the ham with a paper towel and place it on a rack in a large, deep baking dish.  Remove all the excess skin and fat from the ham and discard.

Mix the brown sugar, dry mustard and apple whiskey together until it forms a thick paste.  Then generously rub all over the ham.  Pour about 2 1/2/ cups of the cider into the pan, filling it to about 1/4 inch in depth, but not touching the bottom of the ham.

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Once the ham is completely coated with the brown sugar mix, it is time to place it in the oven, uncovered.  Bake the ham for about 15 minutes per pound.   After the ham is cooked, cover it with aluminum foil and let it rest for about 20 minutes before starting to carve it.  This allows for the juices to distribute .

While the ham is resting, it is time to make the sauce.    Pour the juices from the pan into a saucepan and add the rest of the cider and the maple syrup and a dash more whiskey.  Bring to a boil, then add mix the cornstarch mixed with 2 TBSP of water and add to the sauce.  Bring to a boil again, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens.  It is now ready to serve on top of the ham.  I served the ham alongside scalloped potatoes and green beans with garlic, mushrooms, shallots, and red pepper and biscuits.  I served a dry chardonnay with the meal to make it just perfect.  Happy Holidays everyone.

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A Healthy Holiday Bark

Candy barks are very popular all year round, but especially during the holidays.  They are usually chocolate with different kinds of fruits and nuts or peppermint, however there are no limits to them at all.  I made a healthy version with Greek yogurt, raspberries, pistachios and toasted almonds.  It is very colorful and very festive.  You can make it with any kinds of nuts and any kind of fruit, but this combination just looked very fitting for the season.   This bark is very easy to make.  It is not as sweet as most barks, but then it has no sugar and just a bit of honey.

I love all kinds of berries; raspberries, golden raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, etc, but blackberries are my favorite.  On a nutritional scale though, raspberries are said to be the healthiest of all the berry varieties.  They are loaded with fiber, and contain 9 g per cup, more than any other berries.  They have a lower sugar content than other berries too, and are high in Vitamin C.  I actually have a few raspberry bushes in my yard, that produce very tiny, very sweet raspberries in the summer.  Sometimes I get a large yield and other years, I barely get anything.  But either way, they are delicious and I try my best to use them all up in as many dishes and recipes as I can.  The raspberries here are from the store.  My plants only produce berries in the summer.

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Raspberry Pistachio and Toasted Almond Yogurt Bark

2 cups Greek yogurt with honey

1 1/2 tsp lemon zest

3-4 TBSP honey

1 package of raspberries or 1 cup of frozen raspberries, drained

1/2 cup shelled pistachios

1/3 cup toasted almond slivers

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Mix the honey, lemon zest and yogurt together, then gently fold in the raspberries and nuts.

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Once everything is mixed together, spread the mixture out onto a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and freeze for at least 3 hours.

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When the bark has become solid, remove it from the freezer and break it into chunks.  It melts quickly, so unless you are planning on eating it right away, place it in the refrigerator to let it thaw, but to keep it solid, until you are ready to serve it.

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Enjoy.  Have a very Merry Christmas everyone.

Arroz a la Mexicana

In the days of old Mexico, rice dishes were actually considered a type of  “dry soup” or sopa seca.  It was an alternative to the standard liquid version of soup, as we know soup today.  However, the wealthy people would serve both versions of los sopas at their parties and events, both as part of the lavish food displays that were presented to their guests, rather than only offering one or the other.  The phrase a la Mexicana, when used to describe Mexican dishes, means foods that were prepared with onions and tomatoes.  Arroz a la Mexicana is rice that has been made with both onions and tomatoes, as well as other ingredients, and is a staple that can be found in any Mexican household or restaurant.  As with any popular foods, there are many different versions.

I served my arroz a la Mexicana along side my mole enchiladas or enmoladas. Dining Mexican Style.  I love rice dishes of all kinds, and serve a lot of variations of rice all the time.

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Arroz a la Mexicana

2 cups long-grain white rice

3 tomatoes, pureed

1 jalapeno, chopped fine

1/2 cup corn

1 cup green beans, cut small

1/3 onion, chopped fine

2 TBSP garlic

4 cups chicken stock or water

1 tsp each fresh parsley and cilantro, chopped fine

salt & pepper to taste

Tobasco sauce to taste

olive oil for cooking

 

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Soak the rice in warm water for about 5 minutes.  Add the olive oil to a hot skillet, then add the rice, onions, garlic, jalapeno, and green beans.  Cook until the onions are translucent.  You can add any kind of vegetables, and as many vegetables as you like.  Peas and carrots are often used as well.

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Puree the tomatoes in a food processor, then add to the rice and vegetable mixture.  Incorporate well into the rice.

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Add the liquid, salt & pepper and parsley and cilantro mixture and mix together well.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let the mixture simmer for about 20 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked.  I used chicken broth because it gives the rice a richer flavor, but you can use vegetable broth or water which will make the dish vegetarian or vegan, if you prefer.  This is perfect side dish for whatever you are serving, whether it is a Mexican dish or not.

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Dining Mexican Style

Mole is a sauce found and used all over Mexico and Central America, but it is believed to have originated in Central Mexico, in the Oaxaca region.  It is a sauce made from a multitude of different spices and ingredients and there are many, many different varieties.  A traditional mole sauce has at least 20-30 different ingredients that are roasted and ground into either a paste or a fine powder.  In the past, the grinding and roasting processes were done by many different generations of the women in the family and would take a lot of time and effort to make.  Because the mole preparations were so laborious, mole was traditionally served only for special occasions and holidays, and was usually eaten over turkey.   Today, it is much easier to make mole, and it is now used in a variety of dishes.  Mole is NEVER eaten just by itself, and is ALWAYS served over something.  It is usually served over meats, including turkey, chicken, pork, lamb and other meats, but it is also served over tamales and enchiladas or enmoladas.  Each region, and many families, have their own unique versions and recipes for mole sauce, which have been passed down through the generations.  No matter what type of mole you serve, the two main ingredients are a variety of chili peppers and chocolate.  Mole poblano is the most popular and best known type of mole sauce.  It is usually a rich, dark reddish brown sauce that is served over meat, although it can really be any color.  Mole poblano has been ranked number 1 as being a typical Mexican dish and is also known as the national dish of Mexico.

Christmas is right around the corner, so it is only fitting that we had mole at this time of year.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, I made enmoladas with chicken and corn that I served with arroz ala Mexicana or Mexican rice and refried beans.  And of course, there just had to be a margarita especial to accompany the meal as well.  We had a traditional Mexican meal that is served for the holidays.  So …. Feliz Navidad y Desfruitas!

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Chicken and Corn Enmoladas

(This recipe calls far the store bought, prepared mole sauce, which is a great and tasty alternative to making it all by hand)

1 1/2 lbs cooked chicken, shredded

1/2 onion

1-1 1/2 cups corn

2 TBSP fresh cilantro and parsley, chopped

salt & pepper to taste

2 jars of prepared mole poblano sauce, such as Dona Maria or Rogelio Bueno

1/2 cup peanut butter

4 cups chicken stock

12 corn tortillas

cheese of your choice, but a Mexican queso blanco is best

2 TBSP toasted sesame seeds

creme fraiche or crema Mexicana, optional for topping

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Saute the corn, onions and salt & pepper in olive oil.  After they are cooked and the onions are translucent, mix in the fresh herbs, then combine with the shredded chicken and set aside.

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To make the sauce, combine the mole sauce and the peanut butter in a sauce pan and cook until everything is well combined, then add the chicken stock and continue to cook until you have a medium thick, creamy sauce.  Make sure to stir frequently so the sauce does not burn and the ingredients are well incorporated together.  I used the Dona Maria sauce, which was a thick paste.

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To assemble the enmoladas, heat the tortillas in either a little hot oil and cook just for a few seconds until they are soft and pliable or in the microwave for about 20 seconds.  I heated them up in the microwave.   Coat and spray a 9×13 baking dish, or a clay baking dish if you have one, and line the bottom of the pan with a little of the sauce.  Spread a little bit of sauce on both sides of the tortilla, then add your filling and cheese.  Roll loosely and place the stuffed tortillas side by side in the baking dish.  Repeat until the pan is filled.

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Once the pan is full, evenly spread more of the mole sauce over the enmoladas, and sprinkle the toasted sesame seeds over the top.  Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake at 375* F for about 15-20 minutes.

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When the enmoladas are done, serve along side your favorite Mexican side dishes and desfruitas!   !Feliz Navidad!   My cookbook was an early Christmas gift from mi amiga, Delores.  Perfect Presents  

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Have a Saintly Christmas

Most of you know I have two great big, loving Saint Bernards, Luzerne, who we call Lucie and St. Vincent or Vinnie.   We also have two cats, Otis and Nicodemus.  Otis is my tan puma and Nicodemus is my black panther.  These are all of my loving fur babies.  They bring so much joy and laughter, and we would like to spread it your way too.  So from me and all my fur babies to you, I wish you all a very Saintly Christmas,  a Happy Holiday and a very Happy, Healthy New Year.

 

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Deviled Eggs

Deviled eggs are widely popular the world over and are usually served as a first course. The term “deviled” or “devilled” as it is spelled in the UK, was first used as a description around 1786, but was used to describe foods that were either spicy or zesty in the early 19th century, and the term “deviled” has been used ever since.  It seems almost every country has their own version of this tasty holiday favorite.  Some recipes and versions are very simple and others are quite elaborate.  Deviled eggs go by many names, most of which are translated to mean stuffed eggs.   Here in the United States, deviled eggs have many names, such as stuffed eggs, Russian eggs, dressed eggs, and salad eggs, which are all made in the traditional way of mixing the egg yolks with a combination of mayonnaise and mustard and various spices.  They are also referred to as angel eggs when they are made with lighter ingredients.   In France they are known as oeuf mimosa or mimosa eggs, because they look like the plants from the mimosa tree.  Romanians call them oua umplute.  In the Netherlands, they are known as gevuld ei.  On the island of Malta, deviled eggs are known as bajd mimli, and in parts of South America, they are known as huevos a la peruna or Peruvian eggs.  Hungary calls them either toltott tojas, which means stuffed eggs or kazinotojoas or casino eggs.  The Hungarian version of these deviled or stuffed eggs mashes the yolks and mixes them with white bread that has been soaked in milk, as well as with the traditional mayonnaise and mustard, and they can be served either as a first course or as a main meal.  If they are served as a main meal, they are baked with Hungarian sour cream and are served with French fries.  Many European countries refer to deviled eggs as Russian eggs, not because they originated in Russia, but because they are often served on a bed of macedoine, which is sometimes referred to as a Russian salad.  In Germany, deviled eggs are often stuffed with a combination of anchovies, cheese and capers.  Sweden eats their version of deviled eggs or fylida agghalvor as a traditional dish served at the Easter smorgasbord, where they are mixed with caviar and either cream or sour cream and red onions, and are topped with either chives or dill and anchovies or pickled herring.  So as you can see, there are many, many different versions of of what are commonly known as deviled eggs.  No matter what they are called or how they are prepared, they are a favorite first course or appetizer served all over the world.

I made the more traditional version of deviled eggs for my husband’s breakfast potluck.  Because it was a morning affair, he wanted something that would be more breakfasty than most dishes served at a potluck, so he asked for deviled eggs.  Apparently they were a hit.  His platter came back empty.

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Curried Deviled Eggs

1 dozen eggs

1 TBSP white vinegar

water

1 cup mayonnaise or Miracle Whip

2 TBSP Dijon mustard

2 tsp curry

dash Tobasco sauce

fresh parsley and chives for topping

paprika for topping

 

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Gently place the eggs in a large pan and fill with enough water to completely cover the eggs.  Add the vinegar and bring to a boil.  Once the eggs have come to a full, rapid boil, let them boil for 12 minutes.  If you go longer, the yolks will turn gray and will be a bit tough.   After the eggs are cooked, place them in cold after and let them rest for at least 30 minutes before peeling them.    To peel the eggs,  gently crack them on a hard surface and roll them around a bit to loosen up the shells.  Then carefully peel the shells from the eggs.  Cut the eggs in half and gently remove the yolks.  Place the yolks in a separate bowl and mash them with a potato masher until they are almost a creamy consistency.

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Once the yolks are mashed, mix in the mayonnaise or Miracle Whip (I like both, and switch them around all the time, depending on whether or not I want more or less tang to the filling), mustard, curry and Tobasco sauce.  You can either whisk everything together or use an egg beater.  Try to make sure the mixture is very smooth, and there are no lumps, especially if you are going to pipe the mixture into the egg whites.  Then fill the egg whites with the yolk mixture.  I usually pipe my yolk mixture into the egg whites.  They did not come out as neat as they usually do though.  I admit, I was doing them late at night, after a long day, and I was tired, so I still had some lumps in my filling.  The lumps kept getting stuck in my piping tip, and then it would just “spit” out the filling.  Yes, it happens even to the best of us.  C’est la vie mes amies, c’est la vie.

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After the eggs were filled I topped them with chopped fresh parsley and chives, then sprinkled them with paprika.  This is more of the traditional way to serve them, especially in the United States.  They were very festive and colorful and disappeared very quickly once they were served.