Pickled Jalapeño Salsa

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Come Sunday, quite a few of us will be exercising our American right to spend the better half of the day consuming good eats and beverages as we pre-game and tailgate at home or at parties for Super Bowl XLVIII.  I really don't have much reason to watch since the Bears and Saints are out of it, but I will be looking forward to watching a certain beverage commercial involving a friendship between an adorable Labrador puppy and a Clydesdale horse. (Trust me, it's the sweetest thang ever!)

Back to the grazing part-- chips and dips.  Seriously, one can never have too many of these in their recipe caché.  They are a real love/hate for me.  I love them because they are darn tasty and hate them because they sit there on the table asking you to come back for more. This recipe is a perfect example of such a relationship. It is an original recipe that I created after a well-liked Mexican restaurant in town closed its doors, bringing its wonderful salsa with it.  Their house salsa and homemade chips were the devil on my shoulder (c'mon-- just one more).

This is hands down the easiest salsa recipe to make.  Most of the flavor/heat work is done for you with the use of pickled jalapeños from a jar. You can use mild, but I highly recommend the hot.  Roughly chopped green onions and cilantro add to the flavor profile, then it is just salt to taste.  It's quite good right off the bat, but give it some time for the ingredients to mingle... and you will have the devil whispering in your ear.

Speaking of game day-- I have listed a round-up from the archives on the day's various grazing components from snacks to sweets.

Game Day Appetizers/Snacks
Game Day Foods
Game Day Treats


Poppy Seed Tart

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Mother Nature is really throwing the winter assaults on us now.  And I'm not just talking about the Midwest anymore.  The frigid temperatures, blowing snow, wintry mix, and ice storms across most of the country make for some pretty bad travel in the car and in the air.  So here's my suggestion-- don't go out.  Just stay home, put on your cozy clothes, and make this tart☺.

There's really not a whole lot to say about this recipe other than it is rather simple and wonderfully delicious.  It is essentially a rich vanilla pudding filled tart with the addition of poppy seeds.  I take it just one step further by adding a little whipped cream topping because, let's face it--much like bacon, whipped cream makes everything better☺.


Sunday Dinner

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Blini with Smoked Salmon and Crème Fraîche

Homemade Lefse

As much as I embrace my Southern roots, I am fortunate to have married into a family with a bi-cultural heritage, those cultures being Polish and Norwegian.  It brings a little more food love into my kitchen.  Like many of the foods that I have introduced to them, Norwegian fare was completely new to me.  I mean, I grew up eating big and buttery rolls, biscuits, and cornbread at the table.  I didn't even eat flat tortillas with tacos (I know-- the horror).  So this Scandinavian flat bread was a foreign concept to me.  But I have to admit that lefse is delicious while also doing a fine job of sopping up any goodness on your plate, especially swedish meatball gravy.  It also makes for a sweet snack when slathered with butter and sprinkled with sugar or lingonberry preserves.

The dough itself is rather simple to make, but the base does require overnight refrigeration, so plan ahead.  Speaking of the dough base, it consists of cooked and mashed potatoes.  (I guess you could liken these to a potatoey tortilla thingy.  Shhh-- don't tell my husband I said that.)  The unpeeled potatoes are boiled until tender, cooled, peeled, and then forced through a ricer.  Butter, half-and-half, sugar and salt are added to enrich the dough.  The flour is kneaded in the next day to form a smooth dough.  Below I have included a few step-by-steps once the dough has been made. There is just one catch... special equipment is required. 

The equipment you will need: covered lefse pastry board, lefse griddle, grooved rolling pin, rolling pin "sock", and a lefse stick.  (If you have made lefse before without such equipment, please advise, for I am no lefse aficionado.)

Once you have made the dough, divide it into two logs.

Cut each log into 10-12 pieces.

Generously massage some flour into the board and on the rolling pin "sock".

Roll a piece of dough into a ball, then flatten it onto the board with your hand.

Roll out the dough into desired size round. (Cutting the dough into 10 pieces will yield a 12-inch lefse round.  Cutting the dough into 12 pieces will yield a 10-inch lefse round.)

Slide the lefse stick under the dough and, using a back and forth motion, release it from the board and turn it over to continue rolling it out.  Add more flour to the board and pin as needed.

Using the lefse stick again, transfer the lefse from the board to the griddle.

Place the lefse on the griddle.

Cook on the first side until it is freckled with light brown spots.

Using the stick, turn the lefse onto the second side.

Cook until large brown spots form.

Remove the lefse from the griddle and place large spotty side down on a thin towel.

Fold the round in half and 

then fold in half again.

Yew take yust ten big potatoes,
Den yew boil dem til dar done.
Yew add to dis some sweet cream
And by cups it measures vun.
Den yew steel tree ounces ov butter
An vit two fingers pinch some salt.
Yew beat dis wery lightly
If it ain't gude it is yer fault.
Den yew roll dis tin vit flour
An light brown on stove yew bake.
Now call in all Scandihuvians
Tew try da fine lefse yew make.

( from scandistyle.com)

Sunday Dinner two years ago
Sunday Dinner three years ago


Oatmeal Cookies

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Back to the yum list... oatmeal.  Not exactly favorite breakfast food around here unless, that is, you ask my husband.  Me: "Honey, what would you like for breakfast this weekend?" Husband: "Oatmeal." Kids (and me): "Ugh." Once again, they do like it, just not as much as my husband.  But when you are fed foods like Italian Beef, French Fries, and Fried Chicken over the course of two weeks, it is probably a good idea to get some wholesome oats into your diet.  Thinking of my husband's need to take a broom to the ole system and my children's pity, I thought I would make everyone happy with a batch of oatmeal cookies.  Instead of "all right, Mom" I got an "alright, Mom!"

I like my oatmeal cookies on the thick and chewy side.  I also like them with coconut and toffee bits.  The coconut adds to the chewiness, the toffee lends a little crunch, and they both provide more sweetness.  Don't care for coconut? Omit it.  Trying to cut back on sugar or can't find toffee bits? Omit that too.  Want to add chocolate chips? Go for it!  Just do not ask me about raisins.  If there is one food that will most likely never make an appearance in a recipe on my blog, it is raisins.  If I was forced at gunpoint or paid big bucks (talkin' millions here) to eat them in cold cereal, I could do it (maybe).  But cooked ones? Not-a-chance.  It's not my fault though.  It is a genetically inherited dislike from my grandfather and mother that my children have now inherited.  Any other dried fruit gets a thumbs up from me (including prunes-- I know right?).  But raisins... don't even mention the golden ones.


Roasted Red Pepper Soup

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I have noticed that there has been some common subject matter on various social media in the past week or so. One is either commenting about the weather (yes, we are back in the single digits--  #whydoilivehere #imdonewithwinter) or sharing that someone in the family is down and out with fever and flu.  Well, I can't do much about the weather other than shovel snow, salt the walkways, and complain about how dang cold it is (!), but I can try to prevent that flu bug from crossing my thresholds.  

Years ago my children opted out of getting the flu shot (I can't say that I blame them), but only in agreement that they 1. wash well, 2. sleep well, and 3. eat well.  That means eating foods that aren't high on their yum list.  Red bell peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C, high in antioxidants, loaded with lots of other good stuff, and... definitely not on the yum list for the kiddos.  Don't get me wrong, they do like them.  But if you were to ask them "what is your favorite thing that mom makes", I guarantee it won't have red peppers in it.  

Not only is this soup chock full of roasted red bell peppers, there are onions, garlic, carrots, and fennel-- all of which are good for keeping the system in good health.  For a little smokiness, I throw in a dash of smoked paprika.  And for a triple pepper play, I hit the finished product with some crushed red pepper flakes.   This soup is sweet, smoky, a little spicy, and the texture is as smooth as velvet (no chunky stuff for the kids).  The smooth texture does not come from any cream or thickeners.  Just three tablespoons of Arborio rice are simmered with the other ingredients before being puréed.  It can be served warm, room temperature, or even cold (that is when it's not sub-zero outside).  And to really make the kids go back for seconds, serve it with some artisanal bread and aged prosciutto that you picked up from a recent food field trip.  (You Facebook followers know the place I am talking about☺.)


Sunday Dinner

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Shrimp Salad Cups

Rice and Gravy
Southern Green Beans
Creamed Corn (frozen from summer harvest)

Old-Fashioned Coconut Sheet Cake

After a trip down South last weekend, the only thing my son has had on his mind (or should I say stomach) is a batch of my fried chicken.  That's an inherited craving that runs deep in his veins and I will most certainly oblige to that request for tonight's Sunday dinner.  And when you have Southern fried chicken on the menu, an old-fashioned Southern dessert is the only way to end the meal.  Well that and I had a craving for something with coconut after making the sweet rolls this past week.  Sweet rolls, fried chicken, and coconut cake?? Cue the comfy pants and put salads on the menu for the week, Nicole.

This is a classic sheet cake that triples down on the coconut flavor with shredded coconut, coconut extract and coconut milk.  The egg whites are separated from the yolks and beaten until stiff peaks form before being folded into the batter.  This makes for a very light crumb to the cake while keeping it sturdy enough to hold up to the frosting.  As far as that frosting goes, keep any spoons (or fingers) hidden from sight.  I think you know what I mean--there won't be any frosting left for the cake!

Sunday Dinner one year ago


Chocolate Hazelnut Coconut Sweet Rolls

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It is really hard to beat the smell of fresh bread baking in the oven.  But when you stuff that bread with Nutella and coconut... yeah, nuf said on that!  Seriously, there is really no good excuse to eat these unless you are a huge Nutella fan like I am or you have a teenage son who was taking final exams this week and needed a substantial breakfast before the start to his day.  And by substantial, I mean these things are huge (like 4 1/2 inches in diameter huge). 

This recipe is a basic white bread that is enriched with butter, sugar, eggs, and some sweet vanilla extract.  Once it has risen, the dough is slathered with some Nutella (or other chocolate hazelnut spread), coconut, and (my preference, but they can be omitted) some lightly toasted hazelnuts for further flavor and crunch. In case you didn't know, hazelnuts are rich in protein and have quite a few B viatmins, so these are good for you, right?  They are delicious warm from the oven, but they are just as good at room temperature.  You might think that with all that goodness rolled inside that an icing isn't necessary.  Well you might be right, but like I said-- there is a big fan of Nutella over here on the other side of the screen.


Broccoli and Cheddar Cheese Soup

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I was able to take a couple days off recently and vacation down South to defrost, but I am back in the Chicago area and guess what??  Yep, it's still cold and snowing .  I enjoy soup all year long, but this time of year it is on the menu at least once a week.  There's just something about a warm bowl of creamy goodness and a piece of crusty bread that really satisfies the body and helps take the chill off.  One of our favorites after a day of sledding or shoveling is Cheddar Cheese Soup.  It makes for a perfect "light" lunch with some croutons for crunch.  But come dinner time, I need to serve something a little more substantial.  

Like the cheese soup, a mixture of flour and butter is cooked with the veggies before adding the liquid.  This eliminates the need for canned condensed soup.  The holy trinity (onions, carrots, and celery) are simmered for a while in the soup base before adding the potatoes and broccoli ( I do this because over-cooked potatoes and broccoli are not good eats). Unlike the cheese soup, I do not purée the mixture.  I leave the veggies diced for a chunky, full-bodied texture.  Hit it with a dash of cayenne pepper for a kick (good for the sinuses this time of year) and grab a piece of warm bread to sop up every last bit of goodness.  Well, unless you're going back for more☺.


Braised Pork Hash

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Mother Nature really gave it to us this past week here north of Chicago (or should I say Chiberia).  First it was 48 hours of a non-stop snow storm that left us with almost 2 feet of snow.  Then came the wind, a slight thaw, ice, more snow and wind, and then... a huge plunge in temperature.  Let's just say that a -50ºF wind chill is pretty darn cold and the holiday break was extended for my children for a few more days.

Backing up a few days to Sunday when we were busy shoveling and salting, I needed a Sunday dinner that basically cooked itself.  In comes this little beauty of a recipe.  Throw all the ingredients in a large pot, shove it in the oven, and let it cook low and slow for several hours until tender and falling off the bone.  

The original recipe called for cutting slits into the meat and stuffing them with slivers of garlic and thyme, but I find that really isn't necessary when the meat is braising for that amount of time.  The recipe also called for just two onions (?). Since we love our onions, I triple the amount so that each and every bite of pork is accompanied with a braised sliced of onion or two.  The braising liquid is thickened with a cooked butter and flour mixture (called a roux).  It becomes a velvety sauce to dress and serve with the meat and onions.  It is wonderful the day is is made, but it can be made up to two days in advance.  Any leftovers are excellent when cooked in a cast-iron skillet to achieve a crunchy carnita-like texture.

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