Blue Cheese Ball

Why have cheese balls gone out of fashion?  They’re delicious, pretty, interesting, and infinitely adaptable.  The next time you throw a party, surprise guests by forgoing the standard cheese board and opting instead for a cheese ball!  (And, whatever you do, do not use pre-shredded or pre-crumbled cheese!!!)

cheese ball 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/8 cup minced green onion
  • 1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped and toasted
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Method:

Combine all ingredients except pecans in a stand mixer, and blend at low speed with the paddle attachment until thoroughly combined.  Turn out cheese mixture onto a large piece of plastic wrap, shape into a ball, and wrap tightly. (Sometimes it’s easier to shape it after you’ve wrapped it.)  Chill at least an hour, and up to several days.

Mix together pecans and parsley.  Unwrap cheese ball and roll in the pecans and parsley.  Serve with assorted crackers.

Indian Red Lentils

Very flavorful and filling- great as a side dish or main dish.  Lentils are so very healthful, as are the various spices used here. In other words, everything about the robust dish is just great!

red lentils

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (1/2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ground mustard
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

Method:

Heat oil in a pan over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic and ginger, and saute until softened.  Add spices and saute until fragrant.

Add the tomatoes and broth, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove any frond.  Bring to a boil and add lentils.  Return to boil, reduce heat to low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until lentils are very tender, about 30 minutes.

Add salt and pepper to taste, and garnish with cilantro.

 

Potato Gnocchi

Tired of pasta?  Try gnocchi!  They’re very versatile, can be served in a multitude of sauces and soups, and make a great side or filing main!  Once you taste homemade gnocchi, you will never – NEVER – buy the dried or refrigerated stuff again.

gnocchi

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 pounds russet potatoes (about 3 large)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Coarse salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading and dusting

Method:

Peel and chop potatoes into large pieces.  Place potatoes in a pot a cold water, and bring to a boil.  Boil, uncovered, until the potatoes are very tender, but not falling apart (this will totally depend on how large your potato pieces are, but should be about 30 minutes).  Immediately pass the potatoes through a ricer. Spread out on a baking sheet and let cool completely.

Turn out potatoes onto a work surface, then mix with egg with one tablespoon salt.  Add flour in 1/2 cup increments, up to 1 1/2 cups. Start to work the mixture with your hands and bring it together to form a dough; then gently knead a few times, adding more flour (up to 1/2 cup total) as necessary to keep the dough from sticking, until dough is smooth.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with or parchment paper and sprinkle with flour. Divide dough into four to six pieces. Begin gently rolling each piece under the palms of your hands into a rope, then continue rolling until it is ½ inch in diameter. Use a paring knife to cut ropes crosswise into 1-inch pieces. Roll a cut side of each dumpling against the tines of a fork with your thumb (each piece will have ridges on one side and an indentation on the other). Set gnocchi in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. If not cooking immediately, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 2 hours.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add a generous amount of salt. Working in small batches, add gnocchi and cook until they float to the top, about 2 minutes. Remove gnocchi with a slotted spoon and gently shake off excess water before placing in a large pasta bowl. Top with serving sauce or melted butter.  (If not serving immediately, plunge gnocchi into an ice-water bath to stop the cooking. Once completely cool, drain thoroughly, toss with a little extra-virgin olive oil, and refrigerate in a covered container for up to 3 hours. Reheat slowly on the stove, with the serving sauce or melted butter.)

Butternut Squash Soup

I never liked butternut squash until I tried this soup.  You won’t be able to limit yourself to serving it only in the autumn!

butternut-squash-soup

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs butternut squash (about one average squash)
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 small garlic bulb
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh thyme
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half (optional)
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek Yogurt
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Minced fresh parsley

Method:

Preheat oven to 350°.   Peel squash with a vegetable peeler, cut in half, and remove seeds.  Cut squash into eight large pieces and place in a large baking dish or Dutch oven.  Peel onion and cut into quarters and add to dish.  Slice whole garlic bulb in half, and add to pan with cut sides up against the sides or the pan.  Sprinkle with thyme.  Top everything with olive oil and butter, and season with salt and pepper.  Cover tightly and bake in the preheated oven for 2 hours.  Uncover and let cool.

Remove garlic from peel (usually easiest to just squeeze it out).  In a large bowl, combine vegetables, broth and half-and-half. Puree in small batches in a blender until smooth; transfer to a large saucepan.  Add yogurt and heat through (but do not boil).  Taste for seasoning and adjust.  Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.

Alternatively, for a mashed side rather than soup, prepare through the roasting step, and then mash together with the remaining ingredients until you reach the desired consistency.

Party Wings

Who doesn’t love chicken wings?!  Few people enjoy them anywhere but from a restaurant, but I highly encourage you to cook them at home!  They’re much cheaper (unless you find one of those awesome $.50 wing deals), and really very easy to prepare.  These are baked (so much easier than frying, right?!) and still manage to have a deliciously crunchy exterior.  Enjoy!

chickenwings

Ingredients:

  • 1 package chicken wings from grocery store (about 12 wings)
  • Sauce of your choice (I recommend my BBQ Sauce!)

Method:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Place a steamer basket over about an inch of boiling water.  Add wings to basket, cover, and steam for 10 minutes.

While wings are steaming, line a sheet pan with foil.  Place a wire cooling rack in the sheet pan on top of the foil

Place steamed wings onto rack and put into the preheated oven.  Bake for 20 minutes, turn wings, and bake for an additional 20-30 minutes.

Toss hot wings in a sauce of your choice and serve with fresh veggies.

“Homemade” Barbecue Sauce

This may not compete with the stuff true pit-masters spend hours crafting, but it’s a heck of a lot better than anything I’ve found in a bottle, and is soooo easy to whip up!

Ingredients:

  • Bottled BBQ sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray’s)
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Hot sauce (I like Crystal)
  • Yellow mustard
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion Powder
  • Red pepper flakes

Method:

Start with a base of the bottled BBQ sauce, and add enough vinegar to thin/to taste.  Again, add hot sauce to taste.  Add a little squirt of mustard, a sprinkle of the garlic and onion powders, and a bit of red pepper flakes.  Taste and adjust.  Really, this is all about customizing it to your preferences!  I love a thin, vinegary, spicy hot sauce, so I go heavy on the vinegar and hot sauce – but it’s totally up to you!  Anything you do will vastly improve upon the bottled stuff :-)

Ginger Cookies

Big flavor, soft and chewy, and freezes beautifully!

ginger cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Additional sugar

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and molasses. Combine the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt; gradually add to the creamed mixture and mix well.

Roll into 1-1/2-in. balls, then roll in sugar. Place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until puffy and lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Yield: 2-1/2 dozen.

Sausage, Apple, and Cranberry Stuffing

A few years ago, my mom went on a kick where she was determined to find our family’s new “classic” stuffing/dressing recipe.  This recipe, my friends, was by far our favorite.

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Ingredients:

  • 5 1/4 cups crumbled cornbread, slightly dried out or toasted
  • 1 pound ground pork sausage
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3/4 cup celery, chopped
  • 2 1/2 tsp dried sage
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 granny smith (or other crisp, firm apple), chopped
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 tbsp butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste

Method:

In a large skillet, cook the sausage and onions over medium heat, stirring and breaking up the lumps until evenly browned. Add the celery, sage, rosemary, and thyme; cook, stirring, for 2 minutes to blend flavors.  Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Pour sausage mixture over cornbread in a large bowl. Mix in chopped apples, dried cranberries, and parsley. Drizzle with butter and chicken stock (you may need to use slightly more or less chicken stock), and mix lightly.  Add salt and pepper, to taste.

This recipe may be used to stuff a turkey, chicken, or pork loin – or can be spooned into a lightly buttered casserole dish and baked until the top is golden and crusty (bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, uncovering for an additional 15 minutes.).

 

Glorified Brussels Sprouts

This was the main Brussels sprouts recipe I grew up with at holiday dinners.  It’s sure to please kids and adults alike!

Brussels-sprouts-orange-sauce-248x300

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 11 oz. mandarin oranges in light syrup, undrained
  • 2 lb. fresh Brussels sprouts
  • 1 1/2 c. water
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground pepper
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 8 oz. can sliced water chestnuts, drained

Method:

Drain oranges, reserving liquid; set both aside.

Wash Brussels sprouts, and remove discolored leaves. Cut off stem ends, and
slash bottom of each sprout with a shallow X. Combine Brussels sprouts,
water, salt, and pepper in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat,
and simmer 10 minutes or until tender; drain well.

Combine reserved liquid from oranges, lemon juice, cornstarch, and basil in
a small saucepan, stirring until cornstarch dissolves. Bring mixture to a
boil; boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Pour orange sauce over Brussels
sprouts. Add reserved oranges and water chestnuts; toss.

Homemade Ranch Dressing

Honestly, I don’t know why anyone buys the gross artificial stuff in the supermarkets… This is so much better!

download

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 3 tbsp sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh tarragon, dill, parsley, chives or celery leaves (preferably, a combination of these)
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste

Method:

Combine all ingredients in a mason jar, screw the lid on tightly, and shake like crazy!  Dressing will keep in the fridge for at least a week.