For many years Spence and I enjoyed Scallops Chambord on New Years Eve with a chilled bottle of Prosecco, a roaring fire and a great movie. We looked forward to this decadent meal with the anticipation of kids on Christmas morning.
That changed after I lost Spence in 2017. I put the tradition on pause, it felt too sad to continue it. I hoped I’d feel differently one day and this year I did. The passage of time, gratitude for good health and so many blessings in my life allowed me to embrace our tradition once again. It was fabulous!
Years ago I came up with this deliciously satisfying meat-free recipe. I made it recently when Mom was staying with me, a favorite of hers.
Until 2020, I used a Boboli (or any pre-baked pizza crust) as the base making a full size pizza. Cooking for one inspired me to make flat-bread style pizzas using mini naan or pita bread; I love that they’re a perfect meal size for my appetite. The topping keeps well for up to two weeks so I can easily bake one for a lite lunch or dinner – and occasionally as a savory breakfast!
White Spinach Pizza – makes 1 large or 2 medium pizzas or 8-10 flatbreads
8 oz frozen, chopped spinach – drained, liquid squeezed out
24 oz ricotta (NOT fat-free)
3-4 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 c shredded parmesan
1/4 t salt
1/2 t coarse black pepper
shredded mozzarella or Italian cheese blend
chopped peppers – a mix or red, yellow and orange
chopped red onion or shallot
mini naan, pita bread or pre-baked pizza crust
red pepper flakes – optional
Set the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the first 6 ingredients, set aside. Brush the crust with olive oil and place in an oven safe pan. (I use my cast iron skillet) Bake in the oven for 5-7 minutes, then remove it, flip the crust and spread on the spinach ricotta mixture, then add the peppers and onion followed by the shredded cheese and red pepper flakes. Bake for another 5-7 minutes until the cheese is melted. Let it cool for a few minutes and enjoy!
After several unseasonably hot days I decided to go a for light, chilled dinner. With a quick check of what I had on hand, I came up with this fresh, healthy and delicious twist on a Caprese salad.
Zucchini Carpaccio Caprese with Burrata
12 grape tomatoes
Fresh chopped herbs – basil, parsley & chives
1 -2 T pine nuts – toasted
1 T fresh lemon juice
3 t olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Slice the zucchini into very thin rounds and place in a single layer on a platter. Halve the grape tomatoes and arrange on top of the zucchini. Cut the Burrata into pieces and place on top followed by the herbs and then the pine nuts. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix together the lemon juice, olive oil, with a pinch of salt and pepper, drizzle over the top. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat.
1 c chopped bell peppers (I used yellow, orange & red)
1 small chopped jalapeño
1/2 c chopped celery
2 T capers
3-4 T chopped fresh herbs – I used parsley, cilantro & thyme
Boil pasta in 6 cups heavily salted water for twelve minutes. Place the Haricots Verts in a colander. When the pasta is cooked pour into the colander with the beans, draining the pasta while blanching the beans. Set aside to cool. Place the rest of the ingredients into a large bowl and stir to combine. Add the pasta and Haricots Verts to the bowl and combine. Pour the dressing (recipe below) over the mixture and stir to combine. Eat now or refrigerate for later.
3-4 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 c olive oil
2 t sugar
1 T dijon mustard
1/2 t garlic powder
red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste
I mixed this together in a Mason jar, shaking it vigorously before lightly dressing the salad.
Depending on what you have on hand, you could substitute ingredients for some of these:
basil, mint, oregano or chives
So go crazy and create your own combination- it’s all about having fun while making delicious, healthy foodright?
Guacamole is one of my favorite foods and I’ve enjoyed it countless times – both at restaurants and my own. Yesterday realizing that I had everything I needed to make up a batch, I made (possibly the best) chunky guacamole I’ve ever had. Seriously, it was so good that I wrote down EXACTLY what I’d done with the hopes of capturing the magic in the future.
3 ripe avocados
2 plum tomatoes
1 large or 2 small jalapeños
1 large or 2 medium/small garlic cloves
1 lemon, juiced
2 limes, juiced
1-1 1/2 T chopped fresh cilantro
3-4 t sea salt
Halve avocados, remove pits setting them aside for later, scoop each avocado half into a large bowl. Halve the tomatoes, seed and then coarsely chop them – place into a second bowl. To that bowl add the jalapeño first removing the seeds and ribs and finely chopping. Mince the garlic and add to the second bowl with the shallot after dicing it. Add the sea salt to the second bowl and toss the mixture together. Add second bowl to the avocados, followed by the lemon juice and half the lime juice. Used a hand chopper, do a coarse chop over all ingredients and stir to blend. Chop again until it’s the chunkiness you desire. Add chopped cilantro, stir to blend.
Now for the tip: In the bowl which you are using to serve or store, push the avocado pits into the guacamole. Drizzle the last of the lime juice over the top and press plastic wrap over the guacamole, touching it to the surface rather than the bowl. Remove the pits just before serving. These steps keep the guacamole from turning brown, I deliberately waited 24 hours to take the photos and it’s still a vibrant green.
I have often said that I could live on bread, cheese and wine (if need be). I’ve been hesitant about baking bread, in particular because I’ve had little experience with yeast.
During the bitter cold, windy and icy winter days, I spent time on Pinterest and discovered several recipes that looked interesting. Today I gathered all the ingredients and decided to go for it. After all, what’s the worst that could happen? If it’s inedible, I can throw it out…..
Using this recipe, https://bakerbettie.com/easy-no-knead-skillet-bread/ I added garlic powder and poppy seeds to the top just before baking. The rosemary called for in the recipe was easy as I grow and dry it at the end of each summer. While Bettie’s recipe used a round cast iron skillet, mine is square and I went in the direction of a foccacia. The whole house was filled with the aroma of baking bread – reward enough for my effort.
Thanksgiving is hands-down my most anticipated meal of the year. My Roasted Chesnut Apple & Sausage Stuffing is hands down, my favorite part of the meal and I purposely make more than I’ll need. It freezes beautifully and this year I remembered a kitchen hack from Rachael Ray from early in her 30 Minute Meals days – Stuffin Muffins.
Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray, pack the cups with unbaked stuffing and freeze for three hours. Take them out of the muffin tin and place in a single layer into a large freezer Ziploc bag. When you need a single-serving and savory side dish with chicken, turkey or pork simply pop out one or more and bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes until they’re crunchy on top.
As a retiree, it’s good to have a plan each day. It’s also good to be able to pivot when plans change.
Yesterday I’d planned to run errands only to be foiled when the team who was to seal my driveway on Saturday instead showed up two days early. With my car held hostage in the garage, I decided to devote a day to harvesting my basil before the imminent first frost which spells disaster for this tender herb.
Surrounded by the sweet fragrance of fresh cut herbal goodness, I set about the tedious task of stemming and picking only the good leaves.
Luckily the sheer volume from my harvest inspired my creative side. First up I made a basil/walnut/parmesano regianno pesto then a beautiful basil oil and basil paste.
Basil paste, basil oil & 2 pestos
Love this brilliant green goodness
Feeling accomplished I quickly realized I’d used only half of the harvest. I love compound butters (check out my recipe for my Thanksgiving Fresh Picked Herb Compound Butter) so I made a luscious Basil Butter – add 4 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil to a stick of room temperature butter – blend together (I use a fork). Place on a piece of plastic wrap, roll into a log shape and refrigerate, that’s it! Easy right?
Still facing down a sizable pile of basil, I decided to make another style pesto with basil/almond/lemon pesto which yielded 2 more jars of basil goodness.
Realizing that it was nearing dinner time, it made sense to use the remaining basil in some way. I created a delicious herb-centric pasta dish that was so good I had to share it.
Fresh Herb Fusilli
1/2 lb fusilli
extra virgin olive oil
3 T chopped red onion
red pepper flakes
coarse ground black pepper to taste
1 t anchovy paste (optional but highly recommended – this is the salt component)
2 garlic cloves – rough chopped
6 T of chopped mixed herbs (basil, thyme and italian parsley)
1 T pine nuts
1/2 lemon – juiced
Cook the pasta as directed and drain. While the pasta is cooking, heat a large saute pan with a good drizzle of olive oil and add the onion. Saute for 3-4 minutes, adding the anchovy paste, red pepper flakes and pepper and stir to combine. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the pasta to the saute pan and mix with the onion and garlic. Add pine nuts and the fresh herbs and stir together for another 1-2 minutes. Take pan off the heat, drizzle the juice from the lemon over the top. Serve in a bowl and top with feta.
Ever have a day when you wake up with a craving for something savory? In a quick perusal of my fridge I realized I had all the makings of a quiche. Here’s what I created!
Savory Spinach Quiche
1 pie crust
1 c half and half
5 slices cooked bacon, chopped
12 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 c fresh baby spinach
1 T chopped Vidalia onion
1 1/2 c shredded sharp cheddar
1/2 t thyme
1 t seasoned salt
1 t cracked black pepper
Red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Using a 9 inch pie plate unroll the pie crust and press into place. Layer the spinach, covering the bottom of the crust, scatter the onion, bacon and tomatoes over the top, followed by the cheese. In a large bowl add the eggs, half and half, thyme, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes, mix together thoroughly (I used my immersion blender). Pour the egg mixture over the filling. Bake on the lowest rack of your oven for 30-35 minutes until set. Rest for 10 minutes and serve.
My latest flatbread creation, using ingredients I had on hand. And it may be my new favorite dinner for one!
Prosciutto, Brie & Apricot Flatbread
2 oz cubed Brie
1-2 t fresh thyme
2 slices prosciutto, rolled and sliced into ribbons
6-8 chopped dried apricots, cut into 3-4 pieces
Garlic Aioli (see below)
Crunchy onions, crumbled
Fresh Italian parsley, for garnish
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Brush flatbread on both sides with olive oil and place into a skillet then into the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and top with a light spread of the garlic aioli, followed by the apricots, brie, thyme and prosciutto. Return to the oven for 6-8 minutes. Remove and add the crunchy onions and parsley. Serve and enjoy!
1 garlic clove
3 T mayonnaise
1/4 t lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
Using a micro plane, grate the garlic clove over the mayonnaise, stir in lemon juice, salt and pepper. This is delicious on any number of sandwiches and burgers as well as a base for the flatbread recipe above and is even better made a day or two ahead!