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vinegar-free vinaigrette

Last week, Chef Kevin Binkley of Binkley’s, Café Bink, Bink’s Midtown, and Bink’s Scottsdale, was the guest teacher at Les Gourmettes. Kevin is once again up for the James Beard Award for the Best Chef: Southwest. Fingers are crossed!

Everything he made was, of course, amazing! The thing that I really enjoyed though was a simple, thick, tangy, creamy vinaigrette made without any vinegar. Strange but true and truly delicious.

strawberry arugula salad

Kevin served the vinaigrette over a salad of arugula, strawberry slices, goat cheese and pistachios. I’ll be serving the same salad for our Easter dinner on Sunday.

Speaking of Easter Sunday, if you haven’t colored your eggs yet, hold off one more day because tomorrow I’m posting a new way to decorate eggs and a bunch of Easter Menu ideas.

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April 16, 2014   1 Comment

on a dare

Yesterday morning I opened my computer and did what I do each morning. I checked my email, I made sure my blog post posted correctly and then I went on Facebook. The first thing I saw on FB was a post from my high school and FB friend, Cynthia.

fbpost

Did you see that? A dare was issued to me on social media. I had to try this recipe now! I was dared! So yes, I made it. And yes, it’s pretty great. Although there were some serious omissions on the original recipe…

… such as the importance of placing the bottom round of dough onto parchment paper or a baking sheet before adding the filling. Let me tell you, it is impossible to move the dough with the filling on it from the counter to a baking sheet! But no worries, I suffered through that error and I’ve rewritten the recipe to reflect such an important detail.

sunflower spinach pie

I also amped up the filling to my liking and added other little details that were obviously done on the original recipe but not mentioned in the instructions, such as using an egg wash and placing seeds on the center section.

baked

All in all, a great recipe that just need a bit more explaining and details. And it really is easier than it looks to make. It would be perfect for Easter! Trust me, you can do it!

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April 10, 2014   2 Comments

snack attack

chipotle powder

This is a recipe from the Barefoot Contessa that I modified. These nuts are addicting… don’t say I didn’t warn you!

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April 9, 2014   1 Comment

mayo and dairy-free chicken salad

avocado chicken sandwich

Yesterday’s classic minestrone soup was quite the hit, so how about another recipe with ingredients that anyone can find in any grocery store?

avocado

This easy chicken salad has only 5 ingredients and none of those five is mayonnaise, sour cream, or yogurt… no dairy and no mayo!

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April 8, 2014   6 Comments

soup for my dad

Upstate Minestrone Soup

When I was cleaning my dad’s house last week, I came across a large envelope with a dozen copies of a page from a cookbook.

dads recipe

One of the recipes on the page was outlined. I decided to take a copy and make the soup for him for our Sunday supper.

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April 7, 2014   5 Comments

what to do with leftover mussels

leftover mussels

I don’t know if you noticed just how big that bag of mussels was in yesterday’s post. There were over 140 mussels in it! I steamed them all on Sunday and then made another meal out of the leftover 60 or so mussels for dinner on Monday. I’ll get to the recipe shortly, but first I want to share a new favorite ingredient of mine with you – capers packed in sea salt.

capers in sea salt

Most capers we see in the U.S. are packed in a vinegar brine after curing. Often the brine overpowers the wonderful fresh caper flavor. Capers packed in sea salt are more flowery, more like flower buds, which is of course what capers are. The caper plant, Capparis spinosa, can be found all around the Mediterranean Sea and spreads its long, spiny branches over rocks and open into beautiful white flowers with long purple stamens.

I used the capers directly from the jar, with the salt clinging to them, for this recipe. I didn’t use additional salt for the dish, just the salt that was already present on the capers. For a salad or another dish where not as much salt is needed, the capers need to be cleaned of their salt. To do so; cover the salt-packed capers with water. Swish to remove any clinging salt and let stand a minute to let it settle to bottom. Lift out capers with a sieve, and taste. If still too salty, repeat the process.

I bought the capers while I was in Canada last summer and have looked for them here, but haven’t run across any yet. You can find them easily on Amazon.

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April 3, 2014   No Comments

sausage and mussels

bag o mussles

Here is the second recipe I made on Sunday night with a portion of that huge package of sausage I’d purchased at Costco. I bought a huge bag of live mussels to go along with it.

mussels and chowder

Remember, I made the Corn, Potato & Sausage Chowder? We had steamed mussels too.

discard broken

It’s important to do two things with live mussels. First, pull out and discard any and all cracked or broken mussels.

cornmeal

The second thing; just before cooking,  pour a 1/2 cup or so of cornmeal into a large bowl.

add water

Add cold water and stir. Then add the mussels and let sit for about 20 minutes. As the mussels breathe, they take in the cornmeal and fresh water and expel sand and grit.

get rid of grit

Lift the mussels out of the water with a slotted spoon or spider and leave the sandy water behind.

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April 2, 2014   2 Comments

sausage to the rescue

sleep baby

I have a confession. It is really hard to get back into the swing of cooking and cleaning and real-life after nearly 3 weeks of being out-of-town and having company. I have no drive or motivation to do … ANYTHING!

Dave is knee-deep in tax season, so we are like ships in the night.

Connor works from 2:30 PM to midnight, five to six days a week, so he’s rarely home for dinner.

sleep kitten

And although I didn’t have jet-lag in the usual sense, I now realize that although I wasn’t waking up in the middle of the night…. I am tired all day long!

sleepy sloth

I mean, when 3:30 or 4:00 hits each afternoon… I’m ready for bed! It takes all my power to stay up. Seriously, I feel like I need toothpicks to hold my eyes open! I think the latest I’ve hit the sack since our house-guests left is 8:00 PM. My usual bedtime is 10:30 or 11:00.

Enough of my first-world woes. I did get somewhat inspired by a package of sausage, of all things.

aidells

It’s really good sausage! Aidells sausage from Costco. And one of my favorite flavors ~ Habanero with Pepper Jack!

I went on the Aidells website and found a recipe to zip up to our liking. Here is one of the two sausage dishes we had for dinner on Sunday night…

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March 31, 2014   2 Comments

Shrimp Canapes

entry welcome

Saturday night was our 10th annual neighborhood Progressive Dinner. The theme this time was “Speakeasy” and we had so much fun with it.

bently

We started with appetizers at Ronnie’s beautiful home, then split up to have dinner at the various host homes and finally gathered back together at our house for desserts.

wine barrel decor

This was what greeted guests when they entered our house.

lemom drops

At Joanne’s, my “dinner host” home, I enjoyed a wonderful meal where we indulged on Lemon Drops and…

chicken a la rose

… not only delicious, but beautiful Chicken a la Rose, made by Kim…

dinner

… along with Waldorf Salad and Rosemary Potatoes…

jazzy background

… all in a perfectly jazzy dining room! Pictured are Flapper Ronnie, Cool Cat Scott (with his faux cigarette) and Flapper Kim. Can you even imagine a more perfectly themed dining room than this one, with its life-sized jazz band mural?

ronnie's table

It all began at Ronnie’s and her beautifully set hor d’oeuvres table!

I made the appetizers for Ronnie’s house and she provided the desserts for mine. I made Piglets in a Warm Puffy Blanket, Bacon Wrapped Cheesy Mushrooms, Spinach Deviled Eggs, and the following recipe for Shrimp Canapes.

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March 3, 2014   5 Comments

#tbt

My life is spiraling out of control, out of my control. Others are currently pulling the strings. As a result I have nothing new to blog about so today I’m giving you a Throwback Thursday.

blackberry gin & tonic

Today is a special day for my longtime friend… who also was a bridesmaid in my wedding some 28 years ago …. today is her birthday.

meloncello

The two cocktails and appetizer in THIS POST are what I served when we had Birthday Girl Karen and her husband, Bob, over for dinner last year about this time.

Karen & Bob * G&T's

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February 27, 2014   1 Comment