Cherries!

This weekend there was a cherry festival in Marostica, Italy. It wasn’t what most would consider a true festival as there were only a few vendors selling fresh cherries and baked items featuring cherries. Even with not a lot going on Marostica is a well-known town for its living chess events and medieval castle and surroundings.

Here is the meal I made with all the cherries I bought. This pork chop dish is a crowd pleaser. I hope you enjoy!

Grilled Pork Loin Chops with Balsamic Thyme Cherries
Serves: 4 servings

Ingredients
4 large center loin pork chops
1 clove minced garlic
Salt and pepper to season
For the Balsamic Thyme Cherries
2 cups fresh pitted cherries, quartered
¼ cup balsamic reduction
salt and pepper to season
1 clove very finely minced garlic
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 or 2 tbsp honey (optional, but I always use it)

Instructions
Season the pork chops with salt and pepper ad rub the outside of the chops with the minced garlic.
Grill the chops until fully cooked. A meat thermometer should read 160 degrees F when testing the chops at the center.

Add cherries and thyme and balsamic reduction to a pan. Bring to a simmer. Let it set for about 30 min before serving over the grilled pork chops.

Dessert Lumpia

What can be said about banana lumpia? That it is so freaking delicious! My first encounter with these hand sized desserts was at Mrs. D’s house. Mrs. D is Filipino but loves to reminisces about Hawaii on a daily basis. So for one of her memories we made Turon which is also known as banana lumpia which she has offered to show me how to make and post for you all.

Banana Lumpia is so easy to make but has a great wow factor for any occasion.

Ingredients:

* 6 very ripe plantains (you want them black for the softer center)
* 2 cups light brown sugar
* 1- 2 boxes lumpia wrappers
* Canola Oil
* water to seal lumpia

Optional additions: Cinnamon or Jake Fruit


Directions:

Rinse plantains to clean outer area. Cut off ends and slice into 3 equal pieces. Peel off skins and cut in half.

Roll plantain in brown sugar then roll tight.

Heat frying pan with oil. You should have enough oil in pan to go at least half way up the lumpia. Cook lumpia until they look almost burnt. Once the correct color let cool on a drying rack.

In between batches remove sugar that floats to top of frying pan.

Yields 36 lumpia rolls

Celebrating Birthdays

It just so happens that I am exactly one month older than my husband when it comes times to our Birthdays. I am the first to get older and I allow him to call me his old lady just for that month.

This year was a bit hectic as the Hubby was not able to celebrate with me out and about due to a work issue that came up. I was pretty bummed but made the most out the New Years eve celebrations. I went with a group of people to a 50’s style diner in Padova, Italy. The diner is called American Graffiti (http://www.americagraffiti.it/). They really try to get as close to the Americana menu as they can. I’ve been finding that the Italian Americanized menu options are on the healthier side of the spectrum. Here you can get your ginormous hamburgers, but you will not have the seasonings and added flavors that one might expect. Some of the Americans that I partied with were a bit disappointed with the food, but you really can’t be too upset when there was an open bar included in the dinner.


American Graffiti had the decor down and hearing rockabilly and country music being played (my neighbor’s band, The Dusty Saddle Boys) was an added treat.

The Hubby’s Birthday was a follow up to the 50’s theme on New Years Eve. We hosted a cocktail party and had a few friends over to celebrate. I made traditional foods made in the 50’s, such as smoked salmon on cucumbers, bacon wrapped chestnuts, pimento cheese on toasts, a selection of meats and cheeses and my good friend made Lumpia.
Special double chocolate bacon bourbon and whiskey sour cupcakes were made for the Birthday Boy.

Luck & Money in the New Year

Since I was a child it has always been a tradition of having black eyed peas and collard greens on January 1st. My southern raised grandmother would require all of us to eat until we were stuffed. The trick is the more of each you eat the more luck and money you would have in the new year. As a child it didn’t really look like the most appetizing food. However being a adult who has a birthday on New Years Eve, means I am always nursing a major hangover the next day. This meal is up to the task of soaking up all the booze from the night before. But really, what about collard greens and black eyed peas with the assistance of corn bread doesn’t scream hangover cure? It truly is the only time you can’t be judged for eating too much since the more greens you eat you should have more money in the new year and if you eat more blacked peas you should have that amount of luck for the new year.

So every year I invite those who are interested in coming over and eating as much luck and money as they possibly can. After years of traveling I have a quick way to make this meal because my head really can’t handle much more.

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You will want to start with the black eyed peas, I like to use the frozen option. You can use the canned kind however you will want to drain them and rinse thoroughly as there typically is a lot of sodium in canned goods. Or if you have the time you can always do the dried method, but with a ragging hangover no one has time for that. Ok, so now you will chop one medium onion finely and usually I would add a ham hock (or two depending on how many people I am feeding) but since I am unable to find that here I use a smokey bacon or pancetta. You would need to use about a pound or so of this. You will split the bacon between the two dishes, so about 5-6 slices will suffice.Since I am in Italy this year, finding smoked pork products like in the states is difficult. In a large pot add the bacon and brown, once brown drain oil. Then add the onion and the red pepper flakes (i use about a 1/4 tsp as I am a whimp). Once onions are translucent add the bag(s) of black eyed peas, cooked bacon, 1/2 cup to 1 cup of brown sugar and cover with either water, chicken or vegetable stock and simmer for about 45 min to an hour. You will need to taste the peas for tenderness.

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I usually buy the frozen greens and I like to make a mix of the collard, mustard and turnip greens to add a depth of flavor since I am cutting corners. I don’t recommend using the canned greens as they tend to take on a metallic flavor from the can. You will use the rest of the bacon so about 5-6 slices and dice them. You will brown the bacon and drain excess fat. Add some red pepper flakes (to taste) and 1 onion finely diced. Once translucent add the bags of frozen greens and about 2 cups stock and 2 tablespoons Smoked Paprika & 1/3 cup Apple Cider Vinegar. Slowly simmer for an hour or so.

While those both are simmering I make the corn bread. I really cheat and use Jiffy corn bread mix. I just say make whichever corn bread you prefer.

Once all dishes are ready yell to those it’s ready and watch everyone stumble into the kitchen still in their pj’s. You will want to have the following condiments out for people: Malt Vinegar for the greens, Hot sauce and/or Saracha just because, and Honey & Butter for the corn bread. In the past I have had fried chicken for people but that is when I feel better than I am today.

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Here is a homemade Funfetti cake I made as well, Just added sprinkles to a basic white cake mix and made Butter cream frosting.
Enjoy!

Wishing you much Luck & Money in the New Year.

Got Turkey? Make Chili

Ingredients
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Original recipe makes about 4 servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 pound of Turkey( left overs from Thanksgiving works great)
4 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth
1 (15 ounce) cans cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15 ounce) cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
2 (4 ounce) cans chopped green chiles (fire roasted is what I used)
1 cup corn (I used frozen)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin ( I added an additional tbs)
2 pinches cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, or to taste
1 Avocado diced
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, or to taste
Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions
Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook shallots and garlic in hot oil until they are soft, 3 to 5 minutes.
Cut Turkey into 1-inch pieces, and return to the Dutch oven; add chicken broth, cannellini, pinot beans, green chilies, oregano, cumin, and cayenne pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until the chicken is cooked through, 30 to 45 minutes. Taste and salt and pepper to taste.
Ladle chili into bowls and top with cilantro, avocado and cheese. Great with cornbread.

Turkey filled with wild rice & mushrooms in a tarragon asparagus sauce

2 pounds thinly sliced turkey breast (scallopini style, about 4 breasts)
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
2 garlic cloves diced
1 cup diced mushrooms
2 Tablespoons roasted pinenuts
3/4 cup wild rice, cooked
fresh ground pepper to taste

Heat butter in small skillet and add shallots and garlic, cook until translucent. Remove and add mushrooms, cook until golden brown. In another pan roast pinenuts until golden brown. Add rice, mushrooms, pinenuts, garlic, shallots and pepper together. Mix well.

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Lay out a sheet of plastic wrap and place a turkey breast on sheet, layer an additional sheet on top so you can flatten out the breast to almost 1-2 inches thick ( do not make holes in meat as it will become an issue when it is rolling time). Once thinned out fill with rice mixture, roll up and keep in plastic wrap. once all 4 are rolled up place in steamer and steam for 25 minutes until juices run clear. Once cooked slice and serve.

In separate sauce pan make the following sauce
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
1 cup coarsely chopped asparagus
1 teaspoon Tarragon
1/3 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons cream

Heat butter and oil in sauce pan and add shallots. Cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Add chopped asparagus, wine and stock. Bring to a simmer. Add cream and let cool 5 minutes stirring occasionally.

Pour the sauce into the container of a food processor and blend thoroughly (put through a strainer if necessary for a finer sauce). Return return to sauce pan and reheat until thickened.

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Cooking with Lucas

Today Trisha (visiting from Anchorage, Alaska) and I went to a great cooking class taught by Lucas. We learned how to make from scratch chestnut pasta with butternut squash & pancetta, creamy porcini risotto made with marscopone, gorganzola and truffle cheese. We finshed the meal with wine poached pears.

Here is some of the photos of this fun cooking class. Recipes can be found at www.cookingwithlucas.com

Oatmeal Pumpkin spiced cookies with Chocolate Chips

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Ingredients
Original recipe makes 6 dozen cookies

1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups quick-cooking oats
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups miniature chocolate chips

Directions
1.Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
2.Beat butter, brown sugar, and white sugar together in a bowl until creamy. Add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla extract; beat until smooth.
3.Mix flour, oats, pumpkin spice, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl; stir into creamed butter until combined. Fold chocolate chips into batter. Drop 1 to 2 tablespoons batter for each cookie onto a baking sheet.
4.Bake in the preheated oven until the edges of each cookie are lightly browned, 10 to 12 minutes.

Homemade Mac & Cheese

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Ingredients

Original recipe makes 6 servings

1 box (about 8 ounces) uncooked elbow macaroni or another type of fun pasta
2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated smoked Mozzarella cheese
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 tablespoon garlic
1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 ground mustard
1/2 smoked papika
3 cups milk
1/4 cup butter
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup bread crumbs

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1.Cook macaroni according to the package directions. Drain.

2.In a large pot , melt butter or margarine over medium heat. Stir in enough flour to make a roux. Add milk to roux slowly, stirring constantly. Stir in cheeses & spices, and cook over low heat until cheese is melted and the sauce is a little thick. Add the cooked macaroni to the pot and stir well. Butter the large casserole dish, and pour macaroni and sauce mixture in.

3.Melt butter or margarine in a skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs and brown. Spread over the macaroni and cheese to cover. Sprinkle with a little paprika.

4.Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 minutes. Serve.

Bourbon Pork Chops with Apples & Polenta (GF)

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This will feed 5-6 people

Ingredients

8 Pork Chops (with bone in)
3 Red Apples (Sliced)
1-2 onions (sliced)
6 cups Chicken Broth
2 Cups Polenta
4 TBS Chives (chopped)
4 TBS Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Bourbon
2 TBS Salt & Pepper
2 tsp Apple Cider
4 TBS Butter (1/2 for chops & 1/2 for Polenta)
2 TBS Olive Oil
1 Pint Cream or Half & Half

Heat pan to melt 1 TBS of Butter and 1 TBS of Olive oil. Mix Brown Sugar, 1 TBS Salt &Pepper together and spread on pork chops. Once pan is heated and oil and bitter are melted togehter, add the pork chops and brown. This should take about 7-9 minutes per side. Once brown place on plate and tent with aluminum foil to keep warm. Repeat oil & butter if needed for the pan to brown chops.

While browning chops heat a large pot with the 6 cups of chicken broth, add 1 TBS of butter in the broth. Once simmering add the 2 cups polenta. Stir occasionally until all is incorporated and polenta is creamy.

Slice the onions and apples. Once all the chops are cooked and tented, add apples and onions to the pan. Scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan and cook the apples and onions in juices. Add bourbon and cook for an additional 5 mintues.

Once every thing is ready , add the cream and chives to the polenta and stir until completely incorporated. I poured the polenta on a serving plate and topped with the pork chops and topped with apples & onions. I served it family style.

If needing an extra punch of green I had a side of spinach for those who wanted additional veggies.

Enjoy!

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