Tag Archives: Vegetables

Simple Pleasures – English Peas

I was fortunate enough to find fresh English Peas at Harry’s Farmers Market over the weekend. They are not something we get to see very often in the big city, so naturally, I got them while I could! This truly was a sign that Spring might be just around the corner!

I often cook with lots of ingredients and make a huge mess in my kitchen, but for this particular post, simpler is better. The peas are just wonderful fresh out of the pods with not much fuss.

Now, I wanted to be clever (or try to be anyway) and call this post Peas and Their Pods, but there is a blog by the name of Two Peas and Their Pod (which is very cute, by the way), so I decided it was best to avoid that title and proceed with something not nearly as catchy!

The pictures speak for themselves. The peas were beautiful. It was fun to pop them out of their shells. It reminded me and my hubby of many years ago when we were kids (yes, unfortunately, it was many years ago!). Shelling peas was something we did all the time because this is how most of us ate peas. No cans, no bags of frozen peas…

I found a recipe for fresh peas with red onion and mint and it sounded delightful, but I decided to not muck them up with a bunch of other flavors. I was not sure if I would find them again this Spring, so I prepared them as simply as possible.

English Peas

Enough peas for two servings
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pats of salted butter

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add your fresh peas and boil for 4-5 minutes. Drain and serve with salt and pepper, to taste. Top with pats of butter.

That’s it! No fuss. They were truly delicious!

It doesn’t get any better than this!



Filed under English Peas, Spring, Vegetables

Rustic Acorn Squash Lasagna with Browned Butter Sauce

This recipe is my second entry in the Foodista Best of the Food Blogs Cookbook contest. The other one is my Meyer Lemon Sorbet. As Donkey says in the movie Shrek, “Pick me!”, if you are so inclined. Thanks!

You may have already noticed that I love squash. It is the perfect comfort food and is synonymous with Fall and Winter. I am a huge fan of butternut squash lasagna, however, it is a very rich dish that is sometimes a bit too sweet. It also makes enough for 8 to 10 people and there are only 2 of us.

I decided to create a lasagna that I could make in small portions that would also be elegant to serve for a dinner party should I want to make it in larger amounts. This also would avoid the problem of leftovers that are not always so good with butternut squash lasagna.

This is a beautiful and yes, rich dish, however, the portion is a nice size. I made the dish using Barilla’s no boil lasagna noodles which makes a square portion approximately 3 1/2 x 4 inches. You could, of course, make your own pasta, however, these are easier and are delicious in the dish.

Since there are a number of steps involved, my suggestion would be to make the fillings ahead, soak the noodles and then make the béchamel. Once you have assembled the lasagna and your dish is baking, gather the ingredients to make the butter sauce. You can then top the lasagna with the butter sauce, freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano and serve it for a romantic dinner for 2 or a dinner party for 6. I have made the recipe so that it should be easy to cut the ingredients in half (to serve 2) or add extra servings, as needed.

By the way, this dish has the major thumbs up and the ultimate hubby stamp of approval. That is generally the highest compliment (because he is incredibly picky!), so I hope you will enjoy this as much as he does!

Rustic Acorn Squash Lasagna with Browned Butter Sauce

Serves 4

Acorn Squash Filling
2 whole small acorn squash
2 Tbsp. melted butter
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash in half, scoop out seeds. Turn halves upside down in a baking dish. pour in about 1 inch of water. Bake until flesh is cooked through, about 30-35 minutes. Turn right side up and cool enough to handle. Scoop out cooked flesh, put in a bowl and mix with rest of ingredients. Set aside.

Ricotta Cheese Filling
2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese (Calabro is my first choice. It is the best I have found.)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano
1/4 cup freshly grated Asiago cheese
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. sea salt (or to taste depending on your cheeses)

Mix all the ingredients together and set aside. Refrigerate if necessary.

1 small garlic clove, minced
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
5 Tbsp. flour
5 cups whole milk
1 fresh Bay leaf
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1/8 tsp. white pepper

Melt butter over low heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add flour and cook, whisking, for 3 minutes. Slowly add milk in a stream, whisking constantly. Add bay leaf and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook, whisking frequently for about 5 minutes until thickened and reduced. Add salt and pepper. Discard bay leaf. Remove from heat and place in a bowl large enough to dip lasagna sheets. Cover with plastic until ready to use.

8 Barilla no boil lasagna noodles

Place noodles in a Pyrex dish. Boil water and pour over noodles to cover. Be sure to separate them gently so they do not stick together. Let sit about 5 minutes until pliable. Remove and place on kitchen towel until ready to use. Cover.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease a baking dish with butter that is large enough to hold assembled lasagna. Cut noodles in half. Dip noodle halves in béchamel (be sure to coat completely). Place in baking dish and top each with about 2 1/2 to 3 Tbsp. ricotta mixture. (Do not spread out completely as mixture will spread during baking.) Repeat with another noodle half, dipping in béchamel. Place on top of cheese and then spread with about 2 1/2 – 3 Tbsp. squash mixture. Dip another noodle half in béchamel, place on top of squash and top with another 2 1/2 – 3 Tbsp. ricotta. Finish lasagna with one more noodle half dipped in béchamel. You can use a bit more of the fillings, but it will weigh down the noodles. (There will be a little bit of the fillings leftover if you use 2 1/2 Tbsp per layer.)

Cover dish with aluminum foil (be sure dish is deep enough so the foil does not hit the top of the lasagna). Bake 20 minutes until heated through. Let this rest while you make the browned butter sauce. * A little of the cheese will spread out from the lasagna, but just scoop up the cheesy goodness along with the lasagna before serving!

Browned Butter Sauce
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter
12 sage leaves, chopped
Additional Parmesan Reggiano for serving

Melt butter in a pan on low heat. Add sage and stir and cook until butter is almost brown. Pour over lasagna and serve with grated Parmesan Reggiano.

Buon Appetito!


Filed under Acorn Squash, Bechamel, Cheese, Entrees, Italian, Lasagna, Pasta, Recipes, Vegetables

Buttercup Squash and Leek Soup

I found a new variety of squash in the store last week – buttercup squash. I had never seen these squash before, so I grabbed 4 of them (since they are on the small side) and went home to get online to see what I could find to do with them. The answer of course was soup!

I know that most squash are similar in texture and taste. However, these little round buttercup squash are a bit different. They have a subtle, earthy flavor and are unlike the other squash I frequently use (acorn, butternut, hubbard). They also do not have very much flesh when you cut them open (especially on the top side), so they are more difficult to work with when trying to cut them up.

The recipe that I used was from Fine Cooking. It called for peeling and chopping the squash and then boiling the squash with the leeks in chicken broth. I knew that roasting them in the oven and then scooping the flesh would be the quicker (and usually the tastier) option, however, I wanted to try the recipe as it was written. I was curious to see how flavorful this soup would be since the recipe was so basic and the ingredients so simple, so I did the preparation of the squash as it suggested. I kept thinking I was crazy the entire time I was involved in the tedious job of peeling and chopping. And several times I almost popped these little guys in the oven, but instead, I finished the task at hand!

I have made some additions and changes to the original recipe. First of all, I left out the herb butter that was to top the finished soup. Who needs all those calories? This soup is actually pretty healthy stuff! Instead, I finished the soup with a few of the same ingredients that were present in the herb butter (sherry and chives) and added a dollop of crème fraîche (that’s just a few little calories…).

The crème fraîche was a nice contrast to the earthy flavor of the squash and added a bit of sweetness. It also cut the heat of the white pepper. The recipe calls for 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of white pepper! I went with the 1 teaspoon and that definitely gave the soup a good bit of heat. My recommendation would be to start with a 1/2 teaspoon and work up from there. There was also a large amount of salt in the recipe. I cut that by more than half and added some later to taste (it is better to add it as you go than to have too much salt at the end).

The recipe calls for 4 cups of chopped leeks (they say that is 3 leeks using the white part only). Now, that would be the case if we were in France where I have seen leeks with 5 inch white sections, however, the leeks in Atlanta never have a very large white section (no matter where I shop). I happened to have 4 leeks in the fridge and I used all 4 (both white and light green parts) and I got 3 cups of chopped leeks. I do not think using the green part compromised the flavor at all, so I say go for it, unless you want to buy 6 leeks!

It also took all 4 of the buttercup squash to yield 8 cups of chopped squash (not 3 squash as the recipe suggested). I would not change anything that I did (other than a bit less pepper). I thought that it was delicious, quite healthy (definitely low-fat, even with a small amount of crème fraîche) and a nice change from all the known variations of butternut squash soup!

Here is my adaption:

Buttercup Squash and Leek Soup

Makes approximately 10 cups

3 cups chopped, well-washed leeks, white and light green parts only (I used 4 good-sized leeks)
8 cups peeled, seeded and diced (1-inch cubes) buttercup squash (It took 4 buttercup squash)
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
6 cups homemade or low-salt chicken broth (I used Swanson’s Organic)
1 Tbsp. kosher salt (you will need more salt at the end) (The original recipe called for 2 1/2 Tbsp. salt!)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper (more if you are brave)
2 Tbsp. plus dry sherry, to taste (I probably doused the soup with about 1/4 cup)
additional salt of your preference to taste (I used sea salt)
crème fraîche and chopped chives to garnish

Put the leeks in a large Dutch oven or stockpot (not aluminum).

Add the squash, wine and chicken broth. Cover and bring to a boil.

Reduce to a simmer; cook until the squash is fork tender, about 25 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes. Add the salt and pepper; puree in a blender or food processor in batches.

Return to the pot and cook on low for 10 to 15 minutes more (The directions said to serve the soup after pureeing, however, I prefer to cook the soup a bit longer). Add sherry and salt to taste. Serve with crème fraîche and chopped chives.

Another soup perfect for a cold and snowy Winter’s day (and we have sure had a lot of those!). Bon Appetit!

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Filed under Buttercup Squash, Chicken broth, Leeks, Low-fat, Recipes, Soups, Vegetables

Brazilian Seafood Stew (Moqueca de Peixe)

This weekend post is my contribution to the Foodalogue’s Culinary Tour 2010 – South of the Border. I decided to go to Brazil!

I chose to make a Brazilian Seafood Stew (or Moqueca de Peixe). It is a dish which originates in the state of Bahia in Brazil. Bahia is located in the northeastern part of Brazil and its capital city is Salvador. Salvador is located where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Bay of All Saints. It makes perfect sense to have a seafood stew as a representative dish from that area!

I was not familiar with preparing Moqueca de Peixe, although it sounded like something we would enjoy. I had an interesting time looking at recipes. There were many variations. Some had as few as 5 ingredients and some had a long list (of course, that is the one I chose!). I decided that this was the best combination of the recipes. I have also made several changes and additions to the original recipe.

I actually made the dish twice because I wanted to be sure the flavors were right on. We found the original seasonings to be a bit mild for our tastes, so we heated things up a bit! I find that a little heat goes really well with the coconut milk (reminiscent of Thai cooking). I used a Thai chili in place of the Serrano pepper, I threw in a pinch of saffron and also added a fair amount of Cholula sauce to the pot as well as the finished dish. We also liked additional fresh lime juice. It brightened up the flavors.

The original recipe called for scallops, however, most of the others did not, so I did not add them. I also substituted grouper for monkfish. I made my own shrimp stock to make it fresher tasting, since I had the shrimp shells to use, however, the you can use fish stock or clam juice. I think the fresh shrimp stock is less fishy and therefore, more appealing to me.

I thought finding Brazilian ingredients in Atlanta would be a cinch, however I was mistaken! The 2 ingredients that were nearly elusive were dende oil (palm oil) and farofa, however, I finally located them in a small Brazilian market. Apparently, the dende oil makes it a truly authentic Brazilian dish. I discovered that a side dish called farofa is traditionally served with the stew. It is basically a flour, that when cooked, has the consistency of couscous. It was a bit nutty in flavor. I also served the stew with jasmine rice and it was delicious as well, so do not chase all over town looking for farofa (like I did). I do think, however, that dende oil is a must and as I read online, do not substitute West African style palm oil. It is very different and much richer.

This was a delicious and light dish. It had very nice flavors, especially with the addition of a bit more heat and spice. I did check in with a native of Brazil and they said the preparation was as close to the real thing as it gets (without all the hot sauce!) . I hope you enjoy this taste of Brazil!

Here is my adaptation of the recipe from Food Network.

Moqueca de Peixe
Serves 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/4 inch dice
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 teaspoon salt (I used Kosher salt and found that I needed to add quite a bit more than this at the end)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 Serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded, and minced (I used Thai chilis with the seeds!)
3 cups fresh shrimp stock (my recipe is below)
1 can (14 1/2 ounce) canned coconut milk (I used the full fat version)
Pinch of saffron
6 green onions, white and light green parts only, finely sliced
1 lb. grouper, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 lb. large shrimp, shelled and deveined
Juice of 1 lime plus a little more, to taste (we liked lots more!)
1 tsp. hot pepper sauce (I used Cholula – you may want less heat than this)
2 Tbps. dende oil (see Note)
1/3 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
2 limes, flesh cut into supremes and diced
Cooked farofa (recipe below) or cooked jasmine rice, for serving


Heat a large dutch oven over low heat and add the olive oil. Sweat the onion and peppers together for about 5 minutes, or until nicely softened.

Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, and chiles and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the shrimp stock, coconut milk and saffron and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are tender. Add the green onions and all the fish, cover, and cook for 5 to 7 minutes more, stirring together gently twice during the cooking time. Add the lime juice, dende oil, and cilantro and simmer for 5 minutes more.

Serve in large heated bowls, sprinkled with the diced limes. Serve with farofa or jasmine rice.

Shrimp Stock (adapted from a recipe by Emeril Lagasse)

The original recipe calls for dried herbs. I used all fresh herbs. It makes a huge difference in taste!

2 lb. shrimp shells
2 qts. water
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 Tbsp. garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf (fresh, if possible)
Several springs of thyme
Several sprigs of fresh parsley
1/4 tsp. whole black peppercorns
Salt to taste (depending on what you are using this for)

Rinse the shrimp shells and then place them is a large stockpot with all the ingredients.

(You can tie your herbs up in cheesecloth for easier removal or just throw them in the pot along with the shrimp, like I did!). Bring to a boil and lower the temperature to simmer. Skim the stuff that rises to the top (yuck!). Simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Check for salt. When the stock is ready, strain the stockpot and cool immediately using an ice bath. Refrigerate or freeze the leftovers.

* The original recipe also called for mushrooms. I did not have any on hand and it was delicious without them.

2-3 servings

I made a small amount just to try it. You would need to make 2 or 3 times this amount to serve with the entire pot of stew.

6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 onion
1 1/2 cups farofa flour

Melt the butter in a small skillet. Add the onions and sauté until tender. Add the flour and continue stirring until the mixture resembles couscous (that would be the best description).

You may need to add a little more butter if this mixture gets too dry.

Enjoy your vacation to Brazil!


Filed under Brazilian, Coconut Milk, Entrees, Farofa, Fish, Recipes, Rice, Seafood, Shrimp, Stew, Stock, Vegetables

Baked Potato and Parsnip Puree

I am going to tell you right off that this dish is not hubby approved! My husband absolutely cannot stand parsnips, but that has not stood in my way on many an occasion to still cook up a few of these little guys and add them to soups and stocks or smashed potatoes. I actually really enjoy the sweetness that parsnips add. I do imagine that you either love or hate them, so if you do not like parsnips, you probably will not even be reading this blog!

Strange thing is that my 20-year-old son (who by the way never liked much of anything until recently, unless of course, it was in a restaurant) ate 2 heaping piles of this stuff with my short ribs and loved every bite! Go figure! He actually complimented the dish. Shocking! So, I had one fan and one begging for just the potatoes!

I originally tracked down this recipe on the Food Network site, but have made so many changes, I will just tell you what I do and you can mix it up any way you like. The original recipe called for WAY too much butter and heavy cream and we all know that is not in the food eating adjustment in January while trying to stay on a so-called “diet”. Dessert is another matter, but I am not wasting calories and fat on veggies. Besides, this is very tasty with far less fat in it.

If you want the dish to taste more like potatoes, change the proportions. Anything will work. It is just smashed veggies! The only picture I took was before we baked the dish. Things were crazy right before dinner, so I did not get to snap a photo. Just be sure to brown the top under the broiler before serving.

Baked Potato and Parsnip Puree
Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes and parsnips (I used about 1/2 and 1/2)
1 bay leaf
3 Tbsp. butter
1/3 to 1/2 cup no-fat half and half
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese, grated
Paprika (optional)

Preheat to 375 degrees. Wash and peel the veggies. Cut potatoes into quarters and parsnips into halves. Place in a pot of water with bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Cook approximately 15-20 minutes until tender. Using a mixer, beat together and add butter, half and half and salt and pepper to taste. You may want to add more butter or half and half. That’s up to you, but this is what I do.

Place mixture in a small, buttered casserole dish. Top with grated Parmesan cheese and sprinkle with paprika. Bake about 20 minutes, until heated through. Place under a broil for a few seconds until top is browned.

This is a great dish to make ahead and then pop in the oven before dinner. Serve it to all of those folks that love parsnips. Or as my husband says – serve it to guests if you want an early night! 😉 It really is very tasty (regardless of what he thinks) and 20-year-old son approved!


Filed under Cheese, Parsnips, Potatoes, Recipes, Vegetables

Moroccan Chickpea Soup

This recipe is one that I immediately pulled out when I knew I was going with the healthier living approach. I have made it several times and it really is a great soup. It is yummy, healthy and vegan (what more could you ask for?). I love the cumin and tumeric with the chickpeas and all the veggies. It is also easy to make and you can eat it immediately (no long simmering).

I would suggest that you enjoy the soup the day that you make it. It is okay the next day, but it definitely is better the first day. The good news is that the recipe does make a smaller pot of soup.

The recipe is from a delightful book called A Beautiful Bowl of Soup by Paulette Mitchell. All of the recipes are vegetarian and many are vegan, such as this soup (or can be modified to be vegan). I have made several recipes from the book with great success.

Here is the recipe:

Moroccan Chick Pea Soup with Roasted Red Pepper Coulis


1/4 chopped, jarred roasted red pepper
1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. sugar
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a mini food processor or small blender and process until smooth, occasionally pushing the mixture down the sides. Set aside to let the flavors blend.


2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 carrots, cut into 1/4 inch dice
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (I prefer Goya)
3 cups vegetable stock (I prefer Swanson’s vegetarian veggie broth or make your own)
2 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp. fresh minced thyme or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme (use fresh)
1/2 ts. fresh ground pepper, or to taste
1/4 tsp. tumeric
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste
Chopped parsley
Additional ground pepper

Heat the oil in a small Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the carrots, onion, bell pepper and garlic; cook stirring occasionally until crisp tender, about 6 minutes. Add the cumin; stir for about 30 seconds.

Puree the chickpeas, one cup of the veggie stock, and the lemon juice in a blender until smooth.

Stir the chickpea mixture into the soup, then add the remaining veggie stock and all the other ingredients, except the minced parley and garnishes. Increase the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat; cover and simmer until carrots are tender, approximately 10 minutes. Stir in the minced parsley and adjust the seasoning.

Top each bowl of soup with a swirl of the coulis, cracked pepper and some chopped parsley.

I serve mine with Toasted Pita Triangles, as suggested. I like to make a batch of these just for nibbling as a snack.

Toasted Pita Triangles

2 6-inch pita pockets (white or whole wheat)
2 Tbsp. olive oil or melted unsalted butter
1 Tsp. dried oregano
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat oven broiler. Place the rack about 4 to 5 inches from heating element.

Cut pita pockets in half. Using a pastry brush, lightly spread them with olive oil or butter, then sprinkle with oregano and
Parmesan cheese. Use kitchen shears to cut each half into 6 triangles.

Place the triangles in a single layer on a baking sheet and broil until they are lightly browned and the cheese is melted, about 2 minutes. Watch to be sure they do not brown too much. They become crisper when they cool.

These will keep for 2 days in a container in the fridge. To recrisp, put them on a baking sheet and heat for about 5 minutes at 350 degrees.

I hope you enjoy this yummy, healthy soup. It is perfect for all these chilly winter days.

P.S. It snowed last night in Atlanta!

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Filed under Chickpeas, Diet, Healthy, Low-fat, Recipes, Soups, Vegetables

Cheese Logs to English Trifle – It was an Old Fashioned Christmas

Twas the morning after Christmas and all through the house, barely a person was stirring including me and my spouse…It will be a lazy day today, that is for sure. I was in the kitchen all day yesterday. I went all out with cooking a traditional Christmas dinner to make up for the lack of decorations. We did, however, get a wreath on the front door about mid-day yesterday, so we are not complete slackers!

Anyway, we had our two sons with us yesterday. One son was here and then gone and then back with a girlfriend at the end of the day. It was uncertain how many I was cooking for, but we always enjoy the leftovers (especially when the kitchen is closed today!). It was a nice day and actually felt like Christmas once I got to cooking and we all were together. I was having a hard time getting in the Christmas mood this year, but I finally got there yesterday.

I made a cheese log two days ago, so we had that to nibble on before dinner (along with my husband’s family’s Bourbon Slush). He will not even give ME the recipe for that one. He said he might have to kill me if that gets out…it is that top-secret! I decided to make this old-fashioned cheesy treat (the classic cheese log) since it would be perfect to prepare ahead. It is a great recipe and reminded me of something I used to make years ago. It really is quite “Christmasy” with red and green speckled throughout from the pimento and parsley. You need to know that if you make it as directed, you will be making something the size of a small baseball bat. Either prepare half the recipe or you can divide the entire cheese mixture into halves or thirds for normal size cheese logs. I am freezing the other half for another evening coming up. I still have plenty leftover from yesterday to serve for the weekend.

By the way, I have added an 8 oz. package of softened cream cheese to the recipe to mix in with the cheddar cheese. I made it without the first time (which was the original recipe). By making this addition, it helped to bind the cheese together and make for smoother slicing. Without this, the original log was too crumbly.

I used Cabot’s Black Wax Sharp Cheddar Cheese. It is a great tasting cheddar with a nice bite. You can find the 2 pound package at Costco.

Here is the recipe from Saveur’s website with my changes:

Cheddar Cheese Log

Makes one 8″ Log (NOT – try 18″ if you do it as suggested)

This retro hors d’oeuvre is among the many recipes Ella Fitzgerald marked in her copy of James Beard’s American Cookery (Little, Brown, 1972).

2 lbs. grated cheddar cheese (mild, medium or sharp), I used the Cabot sharp cheddar (yum), softened at room temperature
* 1 8 oz package Philly cream cheese, softened (my addition)
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard (I used 1 tbsp. + 1 tsp.)
1⁄2 tsp. Tabasco sauce (I used about 1 tsp. of Louisiana Hot Sauce – I think it has more flavor than Tabasco)
1⁄2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1⁄4 cup finely chopped pimento
1⁄4 cup coarsely chopped pecans (You will need at least 1/2 – 3/4 cup, depending on how many nuts you want on the log)

1. Place softened cheddar cheese in a large bowl with cream cheese. Add Dijon mustard, Tabasco (Louisiana Hot Sauce), parsley and pimento. Mix until ingredients are evenly distributed (with your hands is best), then, if necessary, correct seasoning with mustard and Tabasco.

2. Place a piece of plastic wrap about 9″ long on a clean surface. Mound cheese mixture along edge nearest you, then roll in plastic, pressing and molding to form a log about 1 1⁄2″ wide (mine was about 2 – 2 1/2″ wide) and 8″ long. (*You will need to make at least 2 logs to have a normal sized cheese log).

3. Carefully remove plastic and roll log in chopped pecans, pressing nuts into log as you roll. Rewrap log with fresh plastic and chill for at least one hour. Serve with crackers.

The rest of our dinner was wonderful as well. I made the ultimate moist ham. I glazed a Smithfield spiral cut ham with an orange marmalade and maple syrup glaze. It has an added kick with Dijon mustard and freshly ground black pepper. It stays extra moist thanks to an oven bag (good old Reynolds Wrap Oven Bags) and a slow cooking process.It truly was delicious and far better than buying a ham already prepared or one where you use the glaze packet that comes with the ham. Take the time to make your own glaze. There is no comparison.

This year I made the usual suspects (sweet potato casserole and squash casserole), but I tried some new recipes. They were slightly different from what I usually make. Both were very tasty. The sweet potatoes were topped with chopped pecans and marshmallows (you cannot go wrong with that mix). There were pecans in the mashed sweet potatoes along with brown sugar. I used large marshmallows instead of the smaller ones to top the casserole. My husband said he liked it better than usual since the marshmallows tasted like they were hot off the campfire!

The squash was sauteed with butter and onions and then combined with a cheddar cheese sauce. Because the squash was sauteed and not boiled or steamed, you avoid the watery mess that sometimes occurs with a squash casserole. It was also a nice change from the egg, bread crumb and cheese mixture that usually accompanies the sometimes watery squash. Finally, I blanched some fresh greens beans and then sauteed them with butter and toasted, sliced almonds (beans and nuts, as my Dad always called them).

I did cut corners in the roll department, but I have actually used these Sister Schubert rolls for many years and they are very good. You can find them in various flavors (yeast, whole wheat, and cinnamon) in the frozen foods department (at least here in the South). I use the single yeast rolls. I brush them with some melted, unsalted butter before popping them in the oven and they are really close to a yeast roll that you would get out in a restaurant. Great in a pinch.

For the big finale, I think my English Trifle made up for the cheating on the yeast rolls. The alternative name is a Christmas Trifle and I know why. You probably don’t want to make it more than once a year. It is time consuming, but well worth the effort. Everyone was here for dessert and a movie (Public Enemy) and it was a hit. My son raved, so I know it must have been good. It also is a beautiful dessert and perfect for a larger crowd. Since we did not have a big crowd, too bad, we have lots of leftovers!

This recipe has been adapted from a couple of older cookbooks. I have changed and made additions over the years. I have tried many custard recipes and other variations on the cake combination, but this seems to give the prettiest and tastiest results. So many trifle recipes now use gingerbread or chocolate. This is the perfect original English Trifle that was so popular many years ago. The original custard recipe calls for 6 tablespoons of butter, but I always use 2 Tablespoons and it is equally as delicious and rich. Gotta cut calories somewhere (ha ha with this meal).

Old English Trifle

Serves 10-12

For the cake layers:
1 whole pound cake loaf (I use the vanilla pound cake from Whole Foods)
Seedless raspberry jam (You will need about 10 oz.)
1/2 cup dry sherry

For the custard:
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups whole milk
6 egg yolks, at room temperature
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon good vanilla extract (I use Nielson-Massey)

3 cups fresh fruit (I used sliced strawberries, blueberries and peaches, but you can use any combination you choose)
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, chilled
3 Tablespoons powdered sugar
Fresh fruit for garnish

1. Cut cake into 1-inch cubes. Split cubes in half. Spread jam on one side of half of the cube and reassemble by placing the two halves back together. This is time consuming, but very pretty.As you start to stack the cubes in a bowl, sprinkle with sherry as you go (I use a squeeze bottle). Set aside cake cubes for one hour.

2. Mix the sugar, flour and cornstarch in a heavy saucepan. Slowly whisk in milk. Cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Temper the egg yolks by whisking in a little of the hot milk slowly (about 1/2 cup), then pour the mixture back into the pot and cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in the butter and vanilla. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Let stand until cool.

3. To assemble the trifle, layer 1/3 of the cake cubes in the trifle dish. Be sure to place the cubes in the dish so that the jam shows in between the cubes. Top with 1/3 of the fruit, then with 1/3 of cooled custard mixture. Repeat 2 more times. You should have 3 layers ending with the custard.

4. Whip the cream with the powdered sugar until soft peaks form and then top the trifle with the whipped cream.

5. Refrigerate for at least 6-8 hours. Top with fresh fruit right before serving.

It was a really nice Christmas with family and great food. The dog even had a big day. I know that we are always searching for new dishes and reinventing the recipes we have. I do it much of the time myself. Many of the cooking magazines this season had features on Christmas dinners that were inspired by other countries and cuisines. While these dishes are fun to try at other times during the year, I find at Christmastime it is comforting to stick with some of the old-time favorites. They can truly be the best. Hope you all had a Merry Christmas too.

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Filed under Appetizers, Christmas, Desserts, Entrees, Ham, Recipes, Vegetables