Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Shark; An Audible Book Review and an Early Weekly Menu

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This is the first of a new series, The Forgotten Files, by Mary Burton.  It is a police drama mystery series dealing with long past unsolved cases.

In this first novel, Riley Tatum, a Virginia State Trooper, finds herself eerily caught up in a murder that is somehow related to her past.

As a teenager, Riley, had fled a dysfunctional home and found herself vulnerable and on the streets of New Orleans. She awakes, drugged, on a bus in Virginia and is saved by a couple who have put their sordid past behind them and now spend their lives saving young girls who are looking for a safe haven.

Many of these girls find themselves drug addicted and forced into prostitution.  Riley, realizing that there but by the grace of God, is where she would have been, works with the couple, Duke and Maria, to save as many of these lost souls as possible.

Now, someone is killing these girls and leaving playing cards in their pockets.....the same as Riley had found in her pocket when she awoke in that bus station.

It is a disturbing story as it strikes on such truth and sadness in this world where, unfortunately, young girls find themselves in situations where they don't see a way out.  Society is quick to write off these victims as the criminals, instead of recognizing that they are just trying to survive in a cold, cruel world.

I have ordered up the next novel in the series.

I am posting my Weekly Menu today because I don't know that I will get an opportunity to spend time with it over the weekend.  Our weekend is pretty full already and it isn't even here yet.

Tomorrow, we are helping Lily move from her dorm into an apartment.  She and her Mom, Jen, will be spending the night at our house before heading back north where Lil will enjoy her winter break and the holidays with her family.  The whole family will be back down after the New Year and that is when we will have our Christmas celebration with them.

Saturday, we have a very special guest coming for lunch.  Santa will be popping in to see all the greats.  There are 14 great grandkids in this family and 10 of them will be coming to the party.   We will miss our Quinn, Jack and Molly who live in California and our little Teaghyn Lou who is not going to be attending.

Sunday we are having our family Christmas Dinner.  Chuck won't be home this year as he is heading to Amsterdam right after Christmas.  Anthony's gal, Jamie, is  unable to attend and Tingting isn't sure if she can make it both Saturday and Sunday as it's a crazy time of year for her too and she has things that she needs to finish up for the holidays as well.  Keeping our fingers crossed that she gets her errands done in time to join us for a short while.  

Monday, Kurt and Kim are coming over for dinner.  Wednesday is the Christmas Basket Distribution for the Food Pantry.  Thursday, we are hosting the Choir Christmas Party.  

Then we are at the weekend and will have Friday and Saturday to run any last minute errands and finish up any shopping before the Christ child arrives.

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed.  The Weekly Menu not only helps us to eat each day, it helps me, during this busy time, to retain some semblance of control.  Planning and writing it down, calms me and quiets my mind.

I will be posting each day and sharing recipes and photos.  I hope you find some down time for yourself to stop by and say hello.

Saturday-Santa Party
Baked Pasta
Salad Bar
Asst. Bread and Rolls
Birthday Cake for Jesus (Provided by Steph)
Christmas Cookies

Sunday- Family Dinner
Mom Klik's Mushroom Soup
White Bean Salad
Orecchiette with Butternut Squash
Roast Pork Loin
Roasted Root Vegetables
Pineapple Upside Down Bundt Cake

Monday-Friends for Dinner
Mushroom Soup (I will make extra on Sunday)
Tossed Salad (with ingredients bought for salad bar)
Pan Seared Filet Mignon 
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Steamed Broccoli
Christmas Cookies

Toddler Tuesday
Leftover Pasta

Wednesday
Dinner out after Basket Distribution

Thursday-Choir Pot Luck
Cocktails, Beer and Wine-Frank
Chicken Marsala-Wendy
Everything else-Everyone else

Friday
Who knows.....I'm tired......

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Handmaid and The Carpenter: A Book Review and the Recipe it Inspired

I love immersing myself in everything Christmas this time of year.  I watch Christmas movies.  I listen to Christmas music.  I wear my Christmas socks and earrings.  I read Christmas books.

I recently shared my review of The Christmas Cookie Club.  It was a fun way to start off the season.  And it gave me some great cookie recipes too!

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Then, I came across this novel by Elizabeth Berg, The Handmaid and the Carpenter.  It is fictional account of the birth of Christ and how Ms. Berg imagines that these events must have appeared and felt to those who were experiencing them.  It is told as seen through the eyes of Mary and Joseph. 

It was a quick, easy, enjoyable read at a mere 100 pages.  I read it in between batches of cookies that were in the oven.  

I was surprised at the vast amount of food mentioned in this novel.  From the very beginning, when Mary first meets Joseph at a wedding feast, the food descriptions had me salivating.  Of course, the fact that I LOVE Middle-Eastern food might have played a part.  There was skewered meats, olives, cheese, flatbread, grapes, figs, oranges, almonds, roasted meats, stews.

One of these stews caught my attention.  "Mary was at the stove, stirring the chickpea and eggplant stew she had made." (pg 61)



I did a google search of Eggplant and Chickpea stew and found a whole slew of recipes.  Who knew?  This version, adapted from Woman's Day, became our dinner for a Meatless Monday.  It is fragrant and flavorful and will be making another appearance soon, perhaps with some homemade flatbread to soak up the sauce....YUM.


This meal is perfect for a busy weeknight.  It takes 45 minutes from the time you start until you are sitting down to a hot, healthy meal.  I will make some changes for next time.  I will add garlic and increase the amount of onion.  


I will be sharing this recipe and book review over at Foodies Read.  Foodies Read is a wonderful link up hosted by Heather of Based on a True Story.  You will also find all the info that you need to join us as we link up our favorite food related fiction, nonfiction, biographies and cookbooks.

Eggplant and Chickpea Stew
adapted from Woman's Day

1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1 t. cumin
1/2 t. curry powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 (15 oz) diced tomatoes
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium eggplant, peeled and chopped
1 (15 oz) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans) drained and rinsed

Combine tomato sauce, cumin, curry, salt and pepper in a large sauce pot or dutch oven. Bring to a boil.  Add tomatoes, onion and eggplant.  Reduce to simmer, cover and cook for 20-30 minutes, until eggplant is tender.  Stir in chickpeas.  Heat through and serve over couscous or rice. Print Recipe.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Whole Wheat Grissini #BreadBakers

This month's Bread Bakers is hosted by Kalyani of Sizzling Tastebuds.  Kalyani asked us to share a bread from around the world made with whole grains.


I decided to make the thin Italian bread sticks known as Grissini using white whole wheat flour. I served them as part of the soup course at our first Christmas gathering with friends.


This was my first attempt at Grissini.  I did my best to roll them as thinly as I could but they were still a little thicker than would have been ideal.  I also think that the next time I make them I will add a sprinkle of sea salt or kosher salt over them.

They were still crisp and delicious.  Make sure you make these a day before you want to serve them so that they have a chance to cool completely and develop that snap and crunch you are seeking.

I don't know if they would have been easier to roll out had I used all purpose or whole wheat pastry flour instead of the white whole wheat flour.  I will have to experiment and let you know.  The nice thing is that this is a relatively simple and quick recipe, requiring only one rise, so it is easily replicated using different types of flours.

Whole Wheat Grissini

1 packet active dry yeast
2/3 c. warm water (105-110*)
1/2 t. sugar
2 c. white whole wheat flour
1 t. salt
8 or 9 turns of fresh ground pepper
1 T. finely chopped rosemary
3 T. olive oil

Place water, yeast and sugar into bowl of stand mixer, fitted with the dough hook,  and let set for about 5 minutes until foamy.

Add 1 cup of the flour, salt, pepper, and rosemary and mix until combined.  Stir in the olive oil and remaining cup of flour.  Knead at med speed for 8-10 minutes.  Cover the bowl with a towel that has been dampened with hot water and let dough rest and rise for an hour.

Roll small amounts of the dough into thin sticks (about 1/4" in diameter) and place onto baking sheets lined with parchment or silicone mats.  

Bake in a preheated 350* oven for 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned.  Cool completely before serving.  Print Recipe



More Whole Grain Breads



BreadBakers#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on this home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.

If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send Stacy an email with your blog URL to foodlustpeoplelove@gmail.com.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Chocolate Cherry Jelly Roll #BakingBloggers

This is month 2 of Baking Bloggers, a new group hosted by my friend Sue of Palatable Pastime.  We kicked off the group last month with the theme of pies.  I shared a Concord Grape Pie.  It was a great event and we had a lot of fun not too mention a ton of great pie recipes, both sweet and savory.

Each month, Sue posts a poll and we vote for the theme we would like for the following month.  This month the winner was Filled Cakes.  I was excited.  I had planned to do a Buche de Noel.

Then life got in the way and there was no way that I was going to find time to spend learning how to make a new cake.  I guess the Buche de Noel will have to wait until next year. 

I decided to make my life a little easier and make a simple jelly roll.  Our son, Anthony, loves making jellies and jams.  I love that he makes jellies and jams too because that means I always have a great selection in my pantry.

I used his Strawberry Margarita jam to make a Bundt cake.  His Raspberry/Mango jam made a great glaze for a ham steak.



I went into the pantry to see what flavors I had left and spotted a jar of Chocolate Cherry jam.  SCORE!!

I used the same sponge cake recipe that I use for my Strawberry Roll during the summer months, omitting the almond flavoring and doubling up on the vanilla.  Instead of folding strawberries into whipped cream, I added the jam to the cream before whipping.  It is to DIE FOR!!


It is like fluffy Cella Cherries wrapped up in tender, light cake.  I had to force myself not to eat this cream with a spoon.  


I managed to save some so I could add an extra dollop to each plate as I served this to my guests.  Yes, those are actual chunks of cherries in that cream.  No, I don't have the recipe for this am but I will see if he will share it.  In the meanwhile you can use your favorite flavor jam in this recipe.


Should you happen to have a jar of hot fudge sauce in your refrigerator, you can drizzle some onto the plate before adding your cake and an extra dollop of cream.




Chocolate Cherry Jelly Roll

4 eggs, separated
1 c. sugar, divided
3/4 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. vanilla
Powdered sugar
1/2 c. chocolate cherry jam (or your favorite jam)
1 c. heavy cream

Spray a cookie sheet with sides with cooking spray and then line with parchment paper.

Beat egg whites on high speed until frothy.  Gradually add 1/2 c. of the sugar beating until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

Beat egg yolks with remaining 1/2 c. of sugar until thick and lemon colored.  Sift flour, baking powder and salt over egg yolk mixture and mix at low speed until just combined.

Gently fold egg yolk mixture into egg whites just until blended.  Spread onto the parchment lined pan.  Bake at 375* for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown.

While cake is baking, place a clean linen towel on the counter and sprinkle with powdered sugar.  When cake is baked, remove from oven, turn onto the linen towel and remove the parchment paper.

Place the towel over the edge of the cake lengthwise and begin rolling the cake and the towel together until it becomes one long roll.  Let cool completely.

Whip together the jam and heavy cream until light and fluffy.  Unroll the cooled cake.  Spread the whipped cream mixture over the cake.  You will not use all of the whipped cream.  Roll the cake back into a roll and place, seam side down, onto a serving platter. Sprinkle with additional powdered sugar.  

Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Slice and add an extra dollop of whipped cream  to each serving. Print Recipe

More Filled Cake Recipes






Sunday, December 10, 2017

Getting Ready for Game Night and the Weekly Menu

Hard to believe it is already the 10th of December.  This is a tough day for me. This is the day that my brother, Dan, decided that life was too hard and he left us.  I pray that he found the peace for which he was searching and that he is celebrating this holiday season with Mom, Pops. his longtime partner, Diane, who passed away this past July, and his son, Dan Jr.


Dan and Diane during happier times.


I find the best way to deal with grief is to remember that my life continues and that there are still so many people in my life with whom I am blessed.



Yesterday, I attended a cookie exchange at my sister in law, Rebecca's house.  She not only fed us but she sent home leftovers for me to give to Frank.  It was a nice start to the Christmas season.

Tonight we are having friends over for dinner and a game night.  It should be a fun, relaxing evening and I'm looking forward to it.

The rest of the week is going to be spent getting ready for our Santa party next Saturdeay, shopping for Christmas gifts, and getting ready for the Christmas distribution at the Food Pantry.

I am sharing the Weekly Menu and I will be posting new recipes and photos each day this week.  Hope to see you when you take a break from your Christmas preparations.


Saturday
Leftovers

Sunday
Pork Wellington
Potato Gallette
Glazed Carrots
Bread Sticks
Chocolate Cherry Jelly Roll

Meatless Monday
Cheese Ravioli
Salad

Tuesday
Chicken Noodle Soup
Dinner Rolls

Wednesday
Out for Dinner

Thursday
Hot and Sweet Pork Stir Fry
Steamed Rice

Friday
Salmon with Orzo and Arugula Pesto



Saturday, December 9, 2017

Spreading Christmas Cheer #WinePW

Giving the Gift of Wine

We are doing things a little differently this month here on Wine Pairing Weekend.  This month we are sharing wines that we believe would make perfect Christmas gifts.  We will talk about wines we love to receive, wines we love to give and perhaps we will share some of the recipes we like to serve with these wines.

Here are the topics the #winePW crew will be covering:

Giving the Gift of Wine: #winePW blog topics


Be sure to check out these great articles! We are also holding a live Twitter chat today at 11 am Eastern Time.  Just tune into the #winePW hashtag on Twitter at that time to join the conversation. You can check out past and future #winePW topics by visiting this page.

Our favorite wine, that we have been lucky enough to receive as gifts from others is Caymus Cabernet.


We often are the lucky recipients of this wine that we first enjoyed as we celebrated our first Wedding Anniversary, nearly 26 years ago.  Whenever we are given a bottle, we hoard it for a special occasion, like the one I share in this post.

Having a wine that you love but would not buy for yourself makes it much easier for those wishing to give you something special.  That is my advice also if you are giving the gift of wine.  Know what your recipient loves.  Should you be lucky enough to know a vineyard of which they are fond you can usually find wines in different price ranges that will make a great gift and still remain in your budget.

However, it is easier if you just know what varietal they like or if not the varietal at least the flavor profile.  Do they like red or white wines?  Dry or sweet? Heavy or light?  All of these things make it much easier to know what to give.


A Cab Franc is very food friendly and makes a very nice gift.  You could include a little card with information about the winery you chose and why you chose it.  This bottle, from Raats vineyard in South Africa, was dry, smooth and medium bodied.  You can read all about it here.


Should you have a red wine lover on your gift list, you cannot go wrong with a bottle from Bordeaux, France.  This bottle of Chateau Saumen is a blend with Merlot as the dominant grape.  It is smooth and a bit spicy.  It pairs wonderfully with beef, lamb or venison.  It was part of a gift package that we received from our daughter, Nicole.  You can read about the gift here.







Another food friendly wine that is perfect for taking as a hostess gift when you know the main course is going to be turkey or pork is a nice bottle of Pinot Noir.

We received this bottle from Edna Valley as a hostess gift and it paired very well with a dinner of Raspberry/Mango Glazed Ham Steaks.

The earthiness of the wine was perfect with the fruitiness of the dish.  

This particular bottle is medium bodied with hints of black pepper and oak.







Perhaps your recipient is more of a white wine type of person.  They may not care for heavy red meats that pair so well with heavy red wines.  Perhaps they prefer lighter meals made with chicken or fish. Someone who prefers salads to chocolate....yes, they are out there!


This wonderful Chablis from Cotes de Beaune is reasonably priced and paired perfectly with a chicken and mushroom vol au vent.


Chardonnay is my personal, favorite varietal when it comes to white wine.  This glass comes from Joel Gott winery.  It is crisp, bright and fruity.  It can be found for less than $15 at most stores.

If you, like me, prefer an oaky chardonnay then my top pick at a reasonable price is from Kendall Jackson.  It is aged in oak and a little heavier than most chardonnays.  It is in the same price range as the Gott.

Speaking of vintners.  Once you know and love a certain vintner, you are pretty much golden when it comes to gift giving.  I know that if I pick up a bottle of Bogle, Kendall Jackson or Rodney Strong it is going to make a nice gift and stay within my budget.


One of my newest wine loves is Rosé from France, especially this Whispering Angel.  It will cost a bit more but it is a wonderful wine and pairs beautifully with appetizers and cheeses.  I would be very happy to receive this as a hostess gift.  It is bone dry, crisp and delicious on it's own as well.  You can read more about it here.

What do you do if the person you are buying for likes a sweeter wine?  You can't go wrong with a bottle of White Zinfandel from Beringer.  You can buy more expensive bottles but my sources tell me that Beringer is the very best.  I personally don't care for a sweet wine but many of those I love, adore the Beringer white zin.  Moscato's are also a great choice for those friends who love a sweeter wine and might prefer a red.


When looking for a dessert wine you will find a lot of great choices; rieslings, ports, sauternés, muscadels....the choices are vast and you can spend as little or as much as you wish.  Dessert wines make a great gift because you don't really need to know the recipients wine palate.


Last but not least.....perhaps they should be first choice....are your sparkling wines.  Champagne must come from that region in France to bear the name and there are a lot of choices from that area, however a rose by any other name......

You can find a nice bottle of sparkling wine ranging from dry and crisp to pink and sweeter and they are always received with a tinge of excitement and pleasure.  They pair perfectly with about any kind of food from appetizers to desserts and they can be enjoyed simply by themselves as well.  

This post ended up much more long winded than I had imagined.  I could keep going on and on and on but I think you get the idea.  My rule of thumb when buying wine for others (or any gift for that matter) is to get them something that I would be thrilled to receive.




Almond Snickerdoodles #ChristmasCookies

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This is the final day of #ChristmasCookies.  This has been such a wonderful and fun week.  I want to give a big shout out to Ellen of Family Around the Table for all of her hard work that made this event such a success.  

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I also want to thank our sponsor Nielsen-Massey who are hosting a generous giveaway for our readers.  Today is the last day to enter.  You will find the entry form at the bottom of this post.

All opinions in this blog are my own.  I have received no monetary compensation for this post and while I did receive product for this event, said product was not used for these particular cookies being shared today.


The final cookie I am sharing with you today is the quintessential classic, the Snickerdoodle.  These particular Snickerdoodles have been adapted to include both almond flour and almond flavoring.  I did this for two reasons. 1. I love almonds and 2. The cookie exchange that I'm attending this afternoon has a category for "A" cookies, those cookies beginning with the letter A.


I loved the addition of almond to these cinnamon spiced, tender cookies.  I think that I will always be making my Snickerdoodles as Almond Snickerdoodles henceforth.  

The rules called for the "A" cookies to be plated separately on a plain paper plate with no markings so that they could be part of a blind taste test.


A selection of the remainder of the cookies made this week were then placed onto a tray to be used for the main exchange.  I am able to share my Double Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Cookies, Chocolate Chip Mint Cookies, Frosted Egg Nog Cookies and Grandma Lily's Thumbprints.  I was unable to share my Peppermint Shortbreads because that deliciousness was gone in 2 days!!!!  They are being made again before Christmas, for sure!



Almond Snickerdoodles

2 sticks butter, softened
2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1/4 c. milk
1 t. vanilla
1 t. almond extract
2 3/4 c. flour
1 c. almond flour
1 t. baking powder
2 t. cinnamon
Cinnamon Sugar for rolling (6 T. sugar + 3 T. cinnamon)

Combine flour, almond flour, baking powder and cinnamon in a bowl.  Set aside.

Beat butter in large bowl of stand mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, until creamy.  Gradually beat in sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, milk, vanilla and almond extract.  Reduce speed and gradually stir in the flour mixture.  Increase speed and mix well.

Roll the dough into 1" balls.  Then roll the balls in cinnamon sugar.  Place on baking sheets lined with parchment or a silicone mat.  Flatten the cookies slightly by pressing down with your fingers.

Bake in a preheated 375* oven for 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges.  Cool on wire racks.  Print Recipe

The Final Christmas Cookies

Friday, December 8, 2017

Grandma Lily's Thumbprints #ChristmasCookies

My children's paternal grandmother, Lily, passed away, much too young, right before Christmas of 1981.  Amy was 7 and Chuck was 5.  It was a heart wrenching experience.  My first experience with  death of someone to whom I was very close. A death that my children and their cousin had to learn to cope with at their young ages.

Lil was not just a second mother to me but a very dear friend.  She was the best grandmother I had ever met. That's saying something because my grandmother and mother were  pretty darn amazing.


I strive to be half of the grandmother that she was to Jennifer, Amy and Chuck.  When those children were at her house, nothing else mattered.  She spent time with them; reading, talking, playing games, going for walks, taking them shopping.  They were never a bother and never a burden.  Her face lit up each time one of those kids walked into a room.


Each Christmas, Lil would make Thumbprint cookies.  They were my kid's dad's favorite cookie and I was soon making them each year as well.  My kid's grew up, their dad and I separated and we began a new chapter of our lives with Frank, Anthony and Nicole.  

I continued to make Thumbprints, Amy's favorite, and Brown Eyed Susans, Chuck's favorite but expanded my repertoire to include Frank's favorite, Mom Klik's Almond Cherry Snowballs and Sugar Cookies for Anthony and Nicki.


When Amy got her own place, she took over the making of the Thumbprints and still makes them each year for her Dad.  


I hadn't made them in years but this season, my mind and heart have been heavy with the losses that always seem so much harder over the holidays.  In two day's I will be remembering my brother, Dan, who died on December 10th, way too soon. He was the same age that I am now.

December 13th is my mother's birthday, she died shortly after Christmas 2015 and my mother in law, Jane, died one month and one day later. This is our second Christmas without them.  The house is no longer filled with my Pop's laughter and my nephew, Danny, has been missed for many years now.

I was feeling pretty darn sorry for myself but then Tuesday came.  

Tuesday's I have my granddaughter.  So I made sure my face lit up when she entered the room and then I took time with her. She helped me make these cookies that hold such fond and happy memories.  I pray that, one day, these memories will help her to get through the rough spots that she will encounter in her life.


Thumbprint Cookies
adapted from Lily Moore

1 c. butter
1/2 t. salt
2 t. vanilla
1 c. brown sugar
3 c. flour
4 T. milk
1 c. miniature chocolate chips
powdered sugar

Glaze:

3/4 c. chocolate chips
1 T. shortening
2 T. light corn syrup
1 T. water
1 t.vanilla

In large bowl of stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, salt and vanilla.  Mix in the brown sugar and gradually blend in the flour and milk.  Stir in the mini chocolate chips.  

Form into 1" balls and place onto a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper.  Make an indentation in each ball with your thumb.  

Bake in a preheated 375* oven for 10-12 minutes.  Remove to a wire rack placed over parchment paper and generously sift powdered sugar over them.  Let cool completely.

In a small pan, melt together the chocolate chips and shortening, stirring until smooth.  Remove from heat and blend in the corn syrup, water and vanilla.  Place a dollop of this mixture in each indentation on the cookies.  Print Recipe

More Christmas Cookies