Chimmichirri Navidad Sauce + it’s not you it’s me

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Sorry I so rudely left and didn’t say goodbye, so I’m back to say goodbye. Goodbye for now. I’m taking a blogging hiatus but don’t worry it’s not to you it’s me. I want to get my face out of the screen and rather write a physical cookbook and/ do more painting and/or look at my husband and daughter more.

Here is one last recipe in honor of “Navidad”, Christmas in Spanish, and in honor of Saint Francis Xavier who has a feast day today, the boss man. Saint Francis is from Navarre, the Basque region of Spain. Chimichurri or green sauce is commonly found amongst the Basque people.

This is a perfect sauce to use on your Christmas roast leg of lamb or beef brisket, tossed amongst hot steamy mussels and clams and shrimp, or just to drink. It’s the easiest, most flavorful way to add a POW! and all you need is a bunch of fresh green stuff and a blender.

Goodbye and have a blessed Advent and Merry Christmas. Thank you for all the support! It was so fun!

Navidad Sauce

One bunch of fresh parsley ( 1.5-2 loosely packed cups) rinsed and thick stems removed
One bunch of fresh cilantro (1.5-2 loosely packed cups), rinsed and thick stems removed
4-5 sprigs of fresh oregano
1 poblano pepper, stem removed and coarsely chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, stem removed and coarsely chopped
Juice of two lemons or juice or three limes ( limes tend to be smaller)
4 cloves of garlic, paper removed
White vinegar
Olive oil

In a blender, add everything except the olive oil and vinegar. Pulse. Slowly stream in olive oil and vinegar equally while continuing to pulse until a thick but pourable sauce forms. If you have “liquefy” button on your blender, use that. Serve cold or room temp and aforementioned poured over lamb or beef or tossed with steamy mussels, clams, and/ or shrimp. Enjoy.

Gazpacho: Spain’s Cold Soup

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Cold soup, mmmmm, get me some o’ dat, so cozy and heart warming, it’s the the middle of fall, cold soup, perfect, it snowed two days ago, cold soup.

I do admit that I have a recipe for cold soup, that is Spain’s gazpacho, but it is not just a recipe for cold soup, it is a recipe for tradition, for authenticity, for awesome-ticity. Spain is awesome, though under appreciated by those traveling to Europe, “I wanted to go to Rome. I wanted to go to Paris. I wanted to go to London. Spain didn’t interest me.” Fine. Whatever. In my experience, Spain is also the most surprising and unique of those countries, our minds cannot fathom Spain until you visit, but our minds surely are able to fathom the hills of Tuscany and lochs of Ireland. Spain is Spain, you must go, kind of a gotta see to believe sort of deal.

The first meal I ate when I visited Madrid was a bowl of gazpacho, bread, salmon sauted in olive oil and crispy potatoes. The simplicity was stunning.
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Saint Teresa of Avila (pronouced “AH-VEE-LAH”) had her feast day on October 15th, a perfect opportunity to try my hand a tapas, aka Spanish appetizers, which included gazpacho. Gazpacho is a salsa-like, as I said, cold soup but without heat from chiles. It is simple, pure, and can go with anything Spanish such as fried pototoes, simple fried steak, lots of fresh bread, lots of olive oil, and lots of wine. You don’t need much gazpacho, just a few spoonfuls here and there to freshen up your palate. Warning: You must love vegetables and fruit (tomatoes) to love gazpacho.

My recipe is painfully easy. If you bypassed Spain on your trip to Europe, then congratulations, a staple spanish dish is just five minutes away to transport you there.

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Gazpacho, serves 4
1 16oz can diced tomatoes
¼ of a green bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed
½ of a largish cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 small clove garlic
1.5 tbls sherry vinegar
1.5 tbls white vinegar or red wine vinegar
salt to taste

Pulse everything in a blender until silky smooth. Taste. Add salt if needed. Eat with fresh bread, wine, meat, potatoes, and loved ones.

Easy Zucchini Gratin

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It is the Feast Day of Saint Jean De Brebeuf (died 1649), the man, the French man who journeyed to America, by ship, by ship, I cant even comprehend the discomfort, by ship, lets not forget the conveniences of 2015, by ship to share the Catholic faith with the native Hurons.

Like I said he is the man. His French heritage gives me excuse to celebrate his life of extraordinary love and service to the Hurons, which is why he is a saint; being extraordinary in love. Now you don’t want a love lesson, and that’s okay, but how about a lesson in a simple, flavorful, and fancy French dish: Zucchini Squash Gratin in Saint de Brebeuf’s honor.

Saint John De Brebeuf happens to share the same birthday with Ruthie, our sweet 19 MONTH OLD,and potty trained awesome girl, and it so happens that the last time that I made a french feast was on her first birthday unknowing that Saint John shared the same day. Awesome! Enjoy!

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Serves 4
2 tbls capers, finely chopped
1.5 lbs both zuchini and/ or yellow squash sliced into ¼ inch slices
1 medium shallot, minced, 2 tbls-4 tbls
1.5 cups gruyere ( or swiss) cheese, finely grated
1.5 cups fresh bread crumbs, torn from about 3 slices of sandwich bread
1 cup fresh parsly, finely chopped
3 tbls butter melted
salt
oil for pan
Heat oven 400 degrees. Combine melted butter and bread crumbs in a small bowl. Toss in a medium bowl the rest of the ingredients (but only half the bread crumbs) and start with 1/4 tsp salt to taste but I use ½ tsp because I do not have a salt shaker at my table to add more salt so 1/2 tsp is nice. In a 9×9 greased pan dump the zucchini mixture, and sprinkle the rest of the crumbs on top. Bake for 40 minutes until bubbly and bread crumbs on top are quite browned. Easy. Yummy.

Natty Light+The OG Lounge

Taking appealing, well more than that, beautiful pictures of food becomes more difficult as the sun goes down, natural light kisses you goodbye, and the yellow light of bulb is now a omnipresent reminder of fall thus winter setting in. I mean look at this picture.
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Do I have reason to give unnatural light a one-two punch to its unnatural-ness. Yes. Natty (natural;) light is good for pictures, but dinner time is now in the realm of darkness, the time I take my food pictures. I guess I’ll deal. I need to get better at no sunlight food photography. Thanks for the challenge mother nature. Until I learn, I guess you will have to stare at slightly yellow tinted food pictures. This is real life, bro.

On a more productive and less silly note, I must say Olive Garden is a good, filling, affordable chain restaurant where butt loads of (not Italian) family can sit together to meet, eat, laugh, and smile. Don’t lie to me now. You love the unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks meals, or even better, the build-your-own-unlimited-pasta-bowl meal that also comes with breadsticks and salad. Everyone loves it. Salt, starch, iceberg lettuce, and hot soup; what more could you all’z want?

My family has always called Olive Garden the OG Lounge, appropriately but for no reason. It is fun to say I suppose. I have not been to the OG Lounge in a while though my kitchen has become a suitable substitute (say that five times fast…well its actually not that hard…just tried myself…er). Put your hands together for homemade OG Lounge Minestrone! My Minestrone is everything you want in a soup. It is hot(t). It is hearty. It is simple. It is food for the soul.
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(Snapped during the daylight prep hours, as you may have noticed)

And here is just a pretty picture out our window.
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Minestrone
½ lb bacon, cut into small pieces
1 potato, cut into little cubes
2 carrots, sliced into thin rounds
1 bulb fennel or 2 stalkes celery, small diced
½ tsp dried basil leaves
1 16oz can kidnesy beans, drained and rinsed
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1.5 cups mini shells or any small pasta
2-3 cups loosley packed spinach leaves
4 cups chicken stalk
1 160z can crushed tomatoes or tomatoe puree
salt to taste
red pepper flakes for touch of heat (optional)

In a large soup pot, over medium high heat crisp the bacon. Drain off half the grease and keep bacon in pan. Add the pototes, carrots, and fennel. Season with a bit of salt. Cook until sofftened a bit for 3-5 minutes. Add garlic, a pinch of red peper flakes, and dried basil and stir and cook for another mnute of so. Add the stock, and 4 cups of water and tomatoes. Cover the pot turn heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes until vegetable are almost tender enough. Taste broth. Add plenty of salt to taste. Add the spinach, beans, noodles. Let simmer for another 10 minutes until noodles are al dente. Eat.

Autumn’s Perfect Pear-Almond Tart

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I went on Pinterest and searched a most common search ” DIY Autumn decorations”. After a 10 second scroll, my eyes glazed over, heart rate dropped, and I mumbled to myself something like this, “maybe I’ll read some prayer books or something instead…or maybe take a nap or something…I can’t do this…”

It may be the season for pumpkin spice to be flung everywhere like it’s glitter, make it rain, and for cinnamon chai tea bags to be woven perfectly into something resembling a wreath and hung at the front door, but it’s also time for pear and almond tarts, something noninvasive for someone who hasn’t yet turned into a PSL or dirtied their fingers in “easy diy” fall crafts. It’s baking season, aka, my cup of (chai) tea.

I made this: a simple, slightly sweet tart, with seasonal pears, a mildly leavened crust, and subtle almond filling. Serve it with creme fraiche or what I did; with whipped cream folded with equal parts plain greek yogurt and a bit of powered sugar for a wisp of creamy sweet tartness for the tart. I can’t do crafts but I can bake a piece of art, tart art.

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Now I don’t really appreciate recipes that call for specialized pots, pans, utensils, motorized equipment and so on. Unfortunately, this recipe is one of them. It calls for a tart pan with a removable bottom, ugh. Before you leave, let me give you a spiel about owning a tart pan:

I’m sure you own a pie dish. Great. Pies are good. Tarts are easier. They use less filling. They have pretty crimped edges. The slices are more manageable. They are cleaner to cut. The word tart is beautiful. A 5 star rated tart pan on amazon is a whopping $9. I have that one. And it takes up like no space in the kitchen. Tart. Tart. Just say it out loud. Tart.

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Pear and almond tart
Adapted somewhat from epicurious.com

The crust:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
2 tbls sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking soda
5 tablespoons cold butter
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoon buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon almond extract or vanilla extract

The filling:
1/4 cup whole dry roasted almonds
3 tbls powdered sugar
1/4 tsp almond or vanilla extract
1 large egg white
2 tbls melted butter

Topping:
3 ripe medium sized pears of any variety, skins on, core removed and thinly sliced
A couple pinches of nutmeg and a few pinches or cinnamon
2 tbls sugar
1 tbls butter

Make the pastry crust: In a medium bowl mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Add butter, crumbling it into the flour mixture with fingers until it resembles pea sized pieces. Add buttermilk and almond extract; with a wooden spoon mix just until dough comes together. Press the dough into a disk. Cover tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.

Meanwhile, in a blender, pulse together all the filling ingredients except butter. The almonds should break up but it’s okay if there are some larger almond pieces. Texture is good. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and stir in melted butter. Set aside.

Preheat oven 400 degrees.

Now it’s time to roll out the pastry dough! You can roll it out in between two sheets of parchment paper or on a heavily floured surface with a rolling pin until it is 12 inches in diameter then remove the top parchment sheet and invert the dough carefully into the tart pan. Or if you rolled it out on the countertop, lift it gently into the tart pan. Remove excess dough from the edges. If there are any holes or tears in the crust, use the excess dough to patch it up #mylife.

Carefully spread the almond filling over the crust. There is not much filling so be patient to get it spread evenly. Now arrange sliced pears concentrically from the center. You may layer them on top of each other. Sprinkle the pears with sugar and nutmeg and cinnamon and break the butter into small pieces and dollop those on top.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the crust is golden a pears are very soft. Let cool completely. Remove the tart pan bottom from the pan sides to slice the tart. Serve room temp or cold sliced into normal sized wedges with sweetened creme fraiche or with the aforementioned equal parts whipped cream and plain greek yogurt and powered sugar. Enjoy.

Sketti and Balls + 18 Month Old Ruth

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In this house, spaghetti is pronounced sketti. Meatballs are always shortened to balls. Call me rudimentary and sophomoric. I already know.

For years it seemed everyone I knew made the best sketti and balls except myself. I got jealous, almost angry. I often wondered “why me?”. I never asked for a sketti and balls recipe out of pride, “I can think up my own perfect sketti and balls, thank you very much!” I thought with nose upturned. After years of minimal success, I finally gave in and asked my good friend, Amber, for her recipe, without even trying it I might add. I trust her.

I am glad I asked. Consider Andy, Ruth, and I’s tummies happy tummies, tummies confident that a basic Italian-American dinner time staple is now perfected and oozing with all the soul satisfying qualities that it should have.
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You didn’t even need to ask. The recipe is here! It is for the balls and sauce but the sauce is your prerogative.

Also, Ruth is 18 months old today, a mildly big milestone. She currently sleeps with her mom and dad ie. taking up ninety percent of our king bed, and last night despite some of her bed-hogging-I’m-not-very-nice-while-I-sleep habits of late, she leaned over to me in her sleep and held my hand. At that point I realized more than ever that innocence is powerful and must be protected. Thanks for the lesson, Ruth. Enjoy the recipe!

not happy to wake, not happy to have a picture taken
not happy to wake, not happy to have a picture taken

Makes enough balls for 8-12 people depending how much you eat and how big you like them

1 lb lean ground beef
1 lb hot ground italian sausage
1 and 1/2 cups dried bread crumbs
4 eggs
1 tsp dried basil,
1/2 tsp dried thyme flakes
1 cup Parmesan
1/2 tsp salt

Gently combine all these ingredients in a big bowl. Roll out into balls and pop into a giant pot of red sauce. On low, with a cover over the pot, it should take 20ish minutes to cook the balls. Do not be afraid to cut one open to see if it is done.

My sauce is as follows and will be enough for the all those balls but if you have your own sauce recipe by all means use it just make sure to make a bunch:

3 32oz cans of crushed tomatoes, or 1 32oz can of diced tomatoes and 2 of crushed
2 cups beef broth
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tsp thyme flakes
2 tsps dried basil
red pepper flakes to taste
Sugar to taste
Plenty of salt to taste
A glug of olive oil or 2 tbls of butter

In a huge pot, on medium high heat butter or oil until hot. Add onions, sauté until soft. Add garlic, red pepper, dried spices and sauté for a bit longer. Add tomatoes, and beef broth. Let simmer for 30 minutes-1 hour. Taste. Add sugar for some fun sweetness and salt to taste.

Chicken and Cream Gravy and Love

“Does your life now feel complete?”
“I want to say yes but knowing apple pie is for dessert, how can I?”
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This the Andy’s response to my galactic question as we ate a meal of chicken and cream gravy last week. I could say chicken and cream gravy is the ultimate comfort food but I must go one step further and say it is the ultimate soul food. That’s right, soul food. I prefer that phrase. After a week of mostly dry sandwiches due to moving into our new home, I am not even being funny, we healed after that meal of chicken and cream gravy. When I say healed I am mean scraping out some interior anxious gunk and soul patching.

I am catholic and the cool thing about the sacraments, like that of Confession, is that the natural world (in this case food with family) plays a part to understand the supernatural aspect ie. meeting Jesus in the confessional for all sin to become no more; food for thought. The catholic church is earthy therefore She (the church) meets us where we are. We can be met by Christ while sharing chicken and cream gravy with those we love.
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Whew! It is okay if that did not make the least bit of sense. Chicken and cream gravy, ah yes, the first time I tasted you was at my best friend Jodi’s parents house made by her mom. It was one of those moments when nothing, absolutely nothing, could snatch away the warmth and joy burning in my heart. Chicken and cream gravy is good as is, but when a North Dakotan mom of my bestie makes me this meal, it is finished with more love than cream, and that has made all the difference.

You must have love, which you do, to make chicken and cream gravy. Love is self gift, a willing of the good beyond yourself, saying hi and smiling at a neighbor even if you are pissed because your hair looks like crap. Love. It is needed to make good food.

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Chicken and Cream Gravy

1 medium onion, diced or sliced
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, sliced into chicken strip size pieces
1 and ¼ cups heavy whipping cream
2 tbls butter
1 tbls canola oil
1/4 plus two tbls of all purpose flour
salt and fresh black pepper to taste
Enough mashed potatoes for 4 servings
4 slices of soft white or wheat bread

Lightly dredge the chicken strips in the ¼ cup of flour and shake off excess. Season both sides of the chicken with some salt and pepper. Heat a medium skillet with butter and oil on medium high, once the pan is hot, add the chicken and onions on top. Cook for three minutes on one size to achieve a golden exterior on the chicken. Flip the chicken, turn heat to medium low, and finish cooking the chicken for 3-5 more minutes adding more oil to keep the pan moist if it seems dry and the chicken and onions are soaking it all up. Use a knife to cut in to largest chicken piece to see if it is done. Remove from pan and set on a plate for assembly. Keep the onions in the pan. If the onions are not browned around the edges and translucent and soft, turn the heat up to medium high to get them perfect. Now, add all the cream. Stirring frequently, bring the cream to a low boil. Add plenty of salt and pepper to the gravy to taste. In a small bowl whisk together remaining to 2 tbls of flour and 2 tbls water with a fork and stream this mixture into the cream gravy whisking so lumps don’t form. This will thicken the gravy. Contunie to stir and taste the gravy to get it to your liking both in saltiness and thickness. Add mor flour/water mixture if needed to thicken or add a touch of water to thin.

To serve:
Lay down a piece of bread on a large plate
Lay 2-3 chicken strips across the bread
Mound a big scoop of mashed potatoes over the chicken and bread
Douse with cream gravy
Amen