Monthly Archives: November 2012

Polvorones with Pepitas

Polvorones with Pepitas

I love the Thanksgiving Holiday.  Thanksgiving is the time of year that we get to spend quality time with friends and family.  We cook, we talk much, we laugh, play games, watch football and most importantly, we simply get to enjoy each others company.  I’m so lucky to have such a wonderful family.  In my opinion, the grand feast of roasted turkey, stuffing, gravy, green peas, rolls, potatoes, cranberry relish, pumpkin pie, cakes, cookies and so many other dishes is just a bonus.  At our annual Thanksgiving dinner this year, I offered to bake Polvorones with Pepitas, Mint Chocolate Mint Chip Cookies, and Herb Rolls to share.  I also brought an antipasto platter and a couple of bottles of prosecco :).

Polvorones are little cookies that are also called Mexican Wedding Cakes, Russian Tea Cakes, Snowballs, or even Butterballs.  Whatever you choose to call them, they’re just delicious!

My Polvorones recipe is a twist on the traditional cookie recipe for I used toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) instead of walnuts or pecans.  Many people know by now that I don’t cook with walnuts, pecans or other type of tree nut because I am allergic to them and I have other members in my family that share the same issue.  Pepitas are a perfect substitute for they have a delicious nutty flavor and crunch similar to nuts.  I use pepitas in recipes all the time that list nuts as an ingredient.  Pesto, cookies, and granola just to name a few…

I like to give the little cookies a light dusting of powdered sugar before setting them out at the dessert table.   The powdered sugar reminds me of fresh fallen snow.

The dessert table at Thanksgiving…  We had quite the selection of brownies, pumpkin pie, salted caramels, apple pie, coffee cake, chocolate cookies and my little Polvorones with Pepitas.  We are so fortunate to have some amazing cooks in our family.  Everything that we prepare and share is made from scratch.  I just love it!

My Polvorones with Pepitas recipe is slightly adapted from Epicurious (Bon Appetit,2003).

Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup pepitas, toasted, coarsely ground
  • a big pinch of ground cinnamon

In a medium sized bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter until fluffy (I used my stand mixer).  Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and vanilla extract.  Continue to mix.  Slowly add the flour and pepitas.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for about a half an hour or so to chill the dough.  Mix remaining sugar and cinnamon in a shallow bowl and set aside.  Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Using a small cookie scoop (2 tsp sized) to scoop out 4 dozen little balls.  Roll each ball in the palm of your hand and place 1″ apart on a silicone lined baking sheet.  Bake for about 18 minutes or until the cookies are golden brown on the bottom and have a pale color on the top.  Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the cookie sheets for about 5-7 minutes.  Carefully roll each warm cookie in the powdered sugar mixture and place on racks to cool completely.  Sift leftover powdered sugar over the cookies before serving. Store in an airtight container for 2 – 3 days.  Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Chocolate Mint Chip Cookies

Chocolate Mint Chip Cookies

Not many things will put a smile on my face faster than the taste of chocolate.  Chocolate cake, chocolate bars, hot chocolate, hot mocha’s, chocolate sandwiches, chocolate cookies, chocolate pie, or straight up big chunks of dark chocolate, I love it all…  And what’s interesting about my love for chocolate, is that over the years I have begun to prefer an increasing higher cacao content in my chocolate choices.  Twenty years ago, the darkest chocolate I would have consumed would have been milk chocolate.  It’s funny how our tastes change over time.

My Chocolate Mint Chip Cookies are made with my favorite dark chocolate cookie dough recipe with little bits of Andes Mint chocolate pieces stirred in.  They’re easy to make, delicious and will satisfy nearly everyone’s chocolate craving.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup extra dark cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar (lightly packed)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 sticks or 1 cup  butter (softened)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp chocolate extract
  • 10 oz. package chocolate mint chips (I used Andes-Creme De Menthe)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with a silicone liner.  In a medium sized mixing bowl blend together the flour, extra dark cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.  In a large mixing bowl with a mixer, cream the butter, white sugar, brown sugar, eggs and chocolate extract.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and blend well.  Fold in the mint chocolate chips.  Drop the dough using a teaspoon or a small cookie scoop onto the cookie sheets.  Bake for about 12 minutes or until done.  Remove from oven and cool on wire racks.  Store in a tightly covered container.   Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Marinated Black Olives and Autumn along the Rogue River…

Marinated Black Olives

This year at our Thanksgiving table, one of my responsibilities is to prepare an antipasto platter to share with our family.  My antipasto platters always includes a simple selection yet carefully chosen variety of cheese, salami, olives, vegetables and bread sticks.  Those who have prepared antipasto platters before, know that good ingredients don’t come cheap.  One way to save some money is to instead of purchasing expensive store bought marinated olives, is to marinate the olives yourself!

My Marinated Black Olives is simple to make and what’s so cool about it is that you can make a ridiculously dirt cheap can of black olives taste amazing!  Toss together the ingredients and make a plan to get out of the kitchen.  And while your olives are marinating, go out and visit one of your favorite places for the next couple of hours. Maybe the mall, your favorite park, or hiking trail…

One of my favorite places to visit in Southern Oregon is the Rogue River.  This a section of the Rogue River a few miles outside a tiny little town called Merlin.  This is a view looking downstream above the world famous Hellgate Canyon.

A view of Hellgate Canyon at the top of the hill.  Several Hollywood movies and television shows were filmed in this area. John Wayne and Katherine Hepburn filmed “Rooster Cogburn” in the canyon.  James Arness filmed an episode of “Gunsmoke” here.  Kevin Bacon and Meryl Streep filmed scenes from the movie “The River Wild” on the Rogue River below.

A fly fisherman along the bank of the Rogue River at Indian Mary Park.  Abundant quantities of Salmon, Steelhead and Trout are found in the river.

A view up river towards Merlin.  If you ever get the chance to visit Oregon, be sure to stop by our wonderful Rogue River.  It’s so beautiful!

My Marinated Black Olives are ready to serve.  It takes only a few minutes to prepare and about 4 hours minimum to marinate.  If you are patient, the olives taste even better the following day.  These Marinated Black Olives are bargain priced, easy to prepare and most importantly, delicious!  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 5.75 ounce can of black olives (drained, I used jumbo)
  • 1/3 cup garlic red wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 Tbs fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp fresh chopped oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • pinch of red pepper flakes (or to taste)

Mix all ingredients in a non reactive bowl.  Add to pint jar or container. Cover and place in refrigerator.  Keeps up to 3 – 4 days.

Chicken Liver Pate

Chicken Liver Pate

When it comes to food preferences and tastes, I believe that people fall into two distinct groups.  People either like to eat liver or they don’t.  I consider myself one of the fortunate people who fall in the first category.  And as for my husband Bruce, well, take a wild guess…  I learned early on in our marriage that if I wanted to elicit a strong response out of Bruce, I would simply tell him that we are having liver and onions for dinner.

It all started with a harmless trip to the butcher…  Earlier that day I purchased a pound of calf’s liver and right before I was going to prepare the meal, Bruce noticed the package of liver in the refrigerator.  I kid you not, for within minutes, I received a stern lecture on why he will not eat liver.  Meanwhile, while trying to understand his food issue, I could not help but notice the look on his face.  The look on his face was priceless.  I knew I had just pressed a button :).

The other day while shopping for our groceries for the week, I saw a half a pound of chicken livers on sale and I promptly put them in my basket.  I knew exactly what I was going to make with them.  Chicken Liver Pate!  Not only just Chicken Liver Pate, but Chicken Liver Pate all for me.  My Chicken Liver Pate is easy to make and tastes delicious.  Serve Chicken Liver Pate on toasted crostini or on your favorite crackers.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound chicken livers cleaned and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp garlic (minced)
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 1/4 tsp salt or to taste
  • pinch of white pepper or to taste
  • 1/4 cup Marsala wine

Heat a saute pan to medium high heat (Not too hot).  Add olive oil and chopped onion.  Cook until onion is opaque.  Add chicken livers, garlic, thyme, salt and white pepper.  Cook until livers are cooked completely through and no pink color is left.  Remove thyme sprig and deglaze pan with Marsala wine.  Cook until wine has nearly disappeared.  Add entire contents of pan to a food processor and process until smooth.  Taste and correct your seasonings.  Remove from processor and place in a bowl.  Cover surface of pate with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until completely cool.  Serve pate chilled with your favorite crackers or toasts.  Makes about 3/4 cup.

Cremini Mushroom Soup and Multnomah Falls

Cremini Mushroom Soup

Oregon has quite the reputation for rainy weather, especially in the northern part of the state.  When our major universities name their mascots after aquatic creatures such as the University of Oregon Ducks (Go Ducks!!!), Clark Honors College Platypuses or the Oregon State Beavers that’s your first clue about the climate…  However, there is a bright side to living in a rainy state, we have gorgeous green forests, lovely rivers and world class waterfalls.  And, if you live in Southern Oregon, it’s an even more of a bonus, you have all of the above, yet the climate is warmer and not as rainy as the northern part of the state.

Bruce and I went on a trip a short time back to the City of Portland along the beautiful Columbia River.  When we visit family and friends in the Portland area I always ask Bruce to take me to Multnomah Falls.  Multnomah Falls is located along the Columbia River about 30 miles east of Portland, Oregon.  If you ever get the opportunity to visit Portland, you have to promise me that you will go there.  It’s so beautiful!

Bruce standing at the base of one of the many falls located along the Columbia River.  There was so much watery mist from the falls that I had to stand way back to get a clear picture.  If you take a camera, be sure to bring a lens cloth…

A Brewers Black Bird on a mossy rock.

A large Rainbow Trout and a drake Mallard Duck competing at the bottom of a pond for a food source.

Multnomah Falls…  Four words to describe it.  Absolutely drop dead gorgeous.  After Bruce had to listen to me whine about wanting to visit the falls, the poor man expects to listen to me whine about taking me to the factory outlet stores on the way back outside of Portland.  Every time when we stop at the outlet stores, I smile at him, give him a big peck on the cheek and before the doors are locked on the car, I make a bee line for the Le Creuset outlet store.  I know exactly what I want by the time I hit the front door.  Before he can catch me, my prize is paid for and bagged up.  And in the rare event that he does catch me, the look of anxiety on his face is priceless. I remind him all that time that he bought his ticket :).  He’s lucky that I don’t have quite the fondness for the Coach outlet store (expensive handbags and wallets) as much as Le Creuset.

My Cremini Mushroom Soup was inspired by a bowl of soup that I ordered at a pub on our way back from Multnomah Falls.  It has a wonderful earthy mushroom flavor, a hint of white wine and savory thyme.  It’s easy, it’s creamy delicious, and without a doubt perfect for a cool day.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms (cleaned, trimmed, and thinly sliced)
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup white wine (I used my favorite pinot gris)
  • 1/2 cup onions (chopped)
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper or to taste
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

In a medium sized sauce pan add your mushrooms, chicken stock, white wine, thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper.  Cover and cook, bring to a low simmer and cook for about 20 more minutes or until the onions are opaque and tender.  Meanwhile, make a blonde roux in another medium sized saucepan with the flour and butter.  In other words, cook the butter and flour on medium low heat until the flour is lightly toasted.  Don’t brown it or let it burn.

In the sauce pan with the mushroom mixture, remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs.  Add mushroom mixture to flour and butter mixture stirring constantly to avoid any lumps in the soup.  Use a whisk if you need to.  Cook until thickened and any flour taste is gone.  Add heavy cream, taste and correct your seasonings.  If soup is too thick for your liking, then add some chicken stock to thin.  Ladle in to bowls. Makes about 4 servings.

Grilled Herb Stuffed Wild Trout

Grilled Herb Stuffed Wild Trout

There are few dishes that I can think of that tastes better than fresh Oregon caught Grilled Herb Stuffed Wild Trout. Somehow, trout tastes better when you catch it yourself just like I did over the weekend.  Simply delicious!

Early morning in the Sky Lakes Wilderness.  The air was cold, crisp and clean. We were the only people on the lake that day. Do you see the first snow of the season on the mountain?  There was one snow patch on the gravel road on the way up to the lake.  Once we saw the snow, we all knew that it was the last day of trout fishing for the year.  Within weeks or even days, access to this beautiful high mountain lake will be non existent due to snow covered roads.

Once we got out on the lake, the water looked like glass.  It was so cool to see the reflections of the clouds on the surface of the water.

A view of Mount McLoughlin from the north.  Mount McLoughlin is located in Southern Oregon in the Cascade Mountain Range.  It is a volcanic mountain peak nearly 9,500 feet in elevation.  I’ve never been to the top but, from what I have heard from others is that the view on a clear day is spectacular.  If there was anyone on the top of the mountain that day, they would not have been disappointed.

Fishing poles, check.  Fish finder, check.  Down rigger, check.  Beverages, check…  What a perfect day to go fishing!

It was early afternoon and the wind started to pick up.  Between the three of us, we had not caught a thing.  No bites, no bumps, no nothing.  I was starting to get a bit discouraged because I am used to catching fish.  What was so interesting, is that we observed numerous fish on the fish finder but the problem was that we had difficulty getting them to bite.  We trolled flashers, we bait fished, we tossed out a variety of lures, and we worked the surface of the lake.  We hit all depths and we threw everything that we had in our tackle boxes at them.  The fish simply were not interested.  I’m thinking it is because it was very late in the season and the water was really cold.  When the water is cold, the fish tend to slow down, they are not as hungry as they are in the summer months and in the winter, they descend into depths of the lake.  In the summer, different story.  You can catch the fish from the bank and at times have better luck than those who fish from a boat.

Finally… It happened.  It was a late bite.  By late afternoon, I was the first one to land a fish.  Woo-hoo!  By the end of the day the score was:  John – 2, Tessa – 1 and Matt – 0.  I felt bad for Matt, for he had a brand new fishing pole that he got for his birthday the day before.  Today was a perfect example of why fishing is called “fishing” and fishing is not called “catching”.

My catch of the day!  I am so glad that I did not get “skunked” and have to return home empty handed.  I probably would not have heard the end of it…

My Grilled Herb Stuffed Wild Trout is prepared with fresh caught trout, fresh picked herbs from my garden, and is brightly flavored with orange and lemon zest.  It’s easy to make, fresh tasting, quick to prepare, and most of all delicious!  Most importantly, Bruce loved it too!  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound trout (cleaned, scaled, head and fins removed)
  • 1/4 cup chopped herbs (I used mostly parsley, then, chives and thyme)
  • 1 Tbs each lemon and orange zest
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • lemon wedges
  • fresh chopped herbs for garnish

Prepare trout for grilling.  Wash and pat dry.  Set aside.  Mix together herbs, lemon zest, orange zest and olive oil.  Fill cavity of fish with the herb mixture and on the exterior of the fish.  Add salt and pepper.  Place fish on plastic wrap, tightly cover and refrigerate for an hour.  Remove fish from plastic wrap and place directly on a medium high grill or barbecue.  Cook 6 minutes on each side or until done.  Don’t overcook!  Gently remove from grill, place on serving platter.  Garnish with herbs and serve with lemon wedges.  Serves 2.

Caramel Apples

 

Caramel Apples

Do you ever get so busy with your life that you can’t seem to finish all that you set out to accomplish?  That’s where I’ve been for the past couple of weeks…  And I don’t like it one bit.  It’s not like me.  For example, a couple of days ago we had a Halloween potluck at my work and I planned to bring a veggie tray and a bunch of hand dipped caramel apples.  The only thing that I was able to complete was the veggie tray.  The apples sat in a large bowl on our kitchen counter until this morning.  Seriously?  Nobody knew that I missed the mark except me.  Oh, and of course Bruce noticed too.  Poor man.  He made the mistake of asking me why I bought so many apples :D.

What a lovely bowl of fresh picked Red Delicious Apples!  Bright red, sweet and crisp.  Aptly named.

Well, there is good news.  I am slowly but surely catching up.  Three days later and I finally tackled that bowl of apples.  I know that it is not good to always place high expectations on myself but in reality that is how I operate.  The bottom line is that my self imposed expectations is what motivates me to get things done.

These Caramel Apples turned out so delicious and without a doubt I will be making them again.  They’re so easy!  Enjoy!  Tessa

Slightly adapted from Land O’ Lakes.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 ounce)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 12 – 14 small apples (washed and dried)
  • 12 – 14 Popsicle sticks

Begin by adding brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, sweetened condensed milk to a large saucepan.  Constantly stir over low heat for about 30 minutes or until the temperature of the mixture reaches 248 degrees Fahrenheit or hard ball stage. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.  Place a Popsicle stick in each apple and swirl in the caramel mixture.  Place each coated apple on lightly greased wax paper.  Let caramel harden on the apples and serve.  And with the leftover caramel, I placed in a lightly greased pan, covered and refrigerated for later use.

***Please be careful when dipping the apples.  The caramel is really hot.***

Note: Using a candy thermometer is crucial with this recipe.  Over cooking or under cooking your caramel may yield disastrous results.  Trust me on this one… Go out and get a candy thermometer.