Cooking Classes


Asparagus with Orange and Hazelnuts

This can be served as a side dish or as a salad.  If you don't have hazelnuts, substitute almonds or pecans.

Asparagus with Orange and Hazelnuts      Serves 4

Steam or boil:
      1 lb asparagus, with the ends snapped off
Place a large skillet over medium heat and add:
      2 T butter
      1 1/2 T orange zest
     1/4 c chopped hazelnuts, toasted
Cook until the butter is slightly browned.  Then add:
      juice of 1/2 orange
      the cooked asparagus
Toss to coat the asparagus and remove from heat.  Add salt and pepper, to taste.
Serve warm as a side dish or chilled as a salad.

A Blogging Award from Bella

I love all things Italian, as many of you might know.  So when I found Bella's blog I was thrilled.   It is another nice little treat to feed my appetite.  And then to receive this recognition from her, well, it made my day.  If you love Italy, you will love La Bella Vita.

This award is such a different recognition in that the 'sender' asks the 'recipient' to list the reasons why he/she enjoys blogging. I am really new at this and came into blogging completely by accident, but I will list a few of the things I enjoy -

1. I started to blog as a way to share my experiences in Tennessee with my friends at home.  I didn't know I would make a whole bunch of new friends! . . . you are ALL a BONUS!
2. I love to share with others.
3. I have realized that this blog is a way to save all the ideas I have been trying.
4. I love meeting people from all over the world.
5. It keeps me occupied while I house sit.

Now, since I can bestow this upon as many of my blogging friends as I wish, this is the list of blogs that I regularly read and are MY WINNERS and that you should definitely check out -

Memoria at Mangio da Sola

Neno’s Award—-Rules and Regulations
1. As a dedication for those who love blogging and love to encourage friendships through blogging.
2. To seek the reasons why we all love blogging.
3. Put the award in one post as soon as you receive it.
4. Don’t forget to mention the person who gives you the award.
5. Answer the award’s question by writing the reason why you love blogging.
6. Tag and distribute the award to as many people as you like.
7. Don’t forget to notify the award receivers and put their links in your post.



Shoepeg Corn Salad

My neighbour, Ersie, took me to her church's Thanksgiving supper last week.  It was an array of typical southern food - baked ham, roast turkey, braised turnip greens, fried okra, scalloped corn, corn salad, two kinds of cornbread stuffing, sweet potatoes, whipped potatoes, biscuits, and an array of salads.  Ersie brought one of the salads to my attention.  It was made with shoepeg corn.  As is usual with me, I didn't understand the accent clearly so I searched the internet for 'shoopay' corn.  

The term "shoepeg corn" dates back to before the American Civil War.  The name is derived from a shoemaking term used during the 1800s. The kernels resemble the wooden pegs used to attach soles to the upper part of shoes.  The corn is characterized by small, narrow kernels tightly and unevenly packed on the cob. The corn has a sweet, mild flavor.  

Shoepeg corn is a common ingredient in salads and corn dishes throughout the Southern United States, but is relatively unknown in other areas of the country. It is on rare occasions available fresh in some areas, but it is most often canned.  This salad tastes like a fresh, crisp relish and keeps well for a few days in the refrigerator.  A good substitute would be young white corn.

2 11 oz. cans shoepeg corn
1 8 oz. can French style green beans
1 8 oz. can small peas
1 c. chopped celery
1 c. chopped onion
1/2 small jar pimientos
1/2 c. sugar
3/4 c. vinegar
1/4 c. salad oil
Drain all vegetables and discard liquid. Heat sugar, vinegar and salad oil until sugar is dissolved. Cool and pour over vegetables. Cover and refrigerate before serving.


Black Friday in Alpharetta (Atlanta)

I am in Alpharetta visiting my namesake, Sarah, for American Thanksgiving.  Today we did the rounds of the International Market, Trader Joe's and the largest wine store I have ever seen, Total Wine & More.  We came home and popped some store-bought frozen mushroom mini empanadas into the oven, had a cocktail and then I watched as Sarah and Adriana made dinner empanadas.

We had salmon with cheese, ground beef with raisins and cubed pork with vegetables.  They are not deep fried, but baked, so more guilt-free to eat.  If there was still any room in the tummy after eating all of them, there were a few dulce de leche empanadas, too.

But if you have leftover turkey, why not concoct an empanada filling.  Anything goes - turkey with a bit of stuffing, mashed potato and a spot of cranberry sauce?  Why not.  The dough can be purchased rolled and ready to fill.


Cannoli - Italian Pastry

I can't believe I left this challenge until almost the last minute.  It didn't leave much time for failure!  I opted not to buy the cannoli forms but chose to make cannoli napoleans.  I am not in my own kitchen at the moment so I am feeling a little limited.  The upside is that it forces my creativity.  The only cookie cutter I have is a Christmas tree!  How opportune!  And pomegranates are in season.  Voila!  Christmas tree cannoli with decorations.  I followed this recipe exactly and it worked - first try.  For the chocolate bits, I used some chopped up chocolates from my chocolate making class - first class chocolate and it was so good.  And I chopped up some of my own candied orange peel.  Chocolate and orange is a decadent combination with the ricotta, powdered sugar and vanilla.  I would definitely make these again.

 The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

2 cups (250 grams/16 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons(28 grams/1 ounce) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.06 ounces) unsweetened baking cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (approx. 3 grams/0.11 ounces) salt
3 tablespoons (42 grams/1.5 ounces) vegetable or olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.18 ounces) white wine vinegar
Approximately 1/2 cup (approx. 59 grams/approx. 4 fluid ounces/approx. 125 ml) sweet Marsala or any white or red wine you have on hand
1 large egg, separated (you will need the egg white but not the yolk)
Vegetable or any neutral oil for frying – about 2 quarts (8 cups/approx. 2 litres)
1/2 cup (approx. 62 grams/2 ounces) toasted, chopped pistachio nuts, mini chocolate chips/grated chocolate and/or candied or plain zests, fruits etc.. for garnish
Confectioners' sugar
Note - If you want a chocolate cannoli dough, substitute a few tablespoons of the flour (about 25%) with a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch process) and a little more wine until you have a workable dough

2 lbs (approx. 3.5 cups/approx. 1 kg/32 ounces) ricotta cheese, drained
1 2/3 cups cup (160 grams/6 ounces) confectioner’s sugar, (more or less, depending on how sweet you want it), sifted
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon (4 grams/0.15 ounces) pure vanilla extract or the beans from one vanilla bean
3 tablespoons (approx. 28 grams/approx. 1 ounce) finely chopped good quality chocolate of your choice
2 tablespoons (12 grams/0.42 ounces) of finely chopped, candied orange peel, or the grated zest of one small to medium orange
3 tablespoons (23 grams/0.81 ounce) toasted, finely chopped pistachios
Note - If you want chocolate ricotta filling, add a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder to the above recipe, and thin it out with a few drops of warm water if too thick to pipe.

1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the oil, vinegar, and enough of the wine to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and well blended, about 2 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge from 2 hours to overnight.
2 Cut the dough into two pieces. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Lightly flour a large cutting or pastry board and roll the dough until super thin, about 1/16 to 1/8” thick (An area of about 13 inches by 18 inches should give you that). Cut out 3 to 5-inch circles (3-inch – small/medium; 4-inch – medium/large; 5-inch;- large. Your choice). Roll the cut out circle into an oval, rolling it larger and thinner if it’s shrunk a little.
3 Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes (You only have to do this once, as the oil from the deep fry will keep them well, uhh, Roll a dough oval from the long side (If square, position like a diamond, and place tube/form on the corner closest to you, then roll) around each tube/form and dab a little egg white on the dough where the edges overlap. (Avoid getting egg white on the tube, or the pastry will stick to it.) Press well to seal. Set aside to let the egg white seal dry a little.
4. In a deep heavy saucepan, pour enough oil to reach a depth of 3 inches, or if using an electric deep-fryer, follow the manufacturer's directions. Heat the oil to 375°F (190 °C) on a deep fry thermometer, or until a small piece of the dough or bread cube placed in the oil sizzles and browns in 1 minute. Have ready a tray or sheet pan lined with paper towels or paper bags.
5. Carefully lower a few of the cannoli tubes into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the shells until golden, about 2 minutes, turning them so that they brown evenly.
8. Lift a cannoli tube with a wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, out of the oil. Using tongs, grasp the cannoli tube at one end. Very carefully remove the cannoli tube with the open sides straight up and down so that the oil flows back into the pan. Place the tube on paper towels or bags to drain. Repeat with the remaining tubes. While they are still hot, grasp the tubes with a potholder and pull the cannoli shells off the tubes with a pair of tongs, or with your hand protected by an oven mitt or towel. Let the shells cool completely on the paper towels. Place shells on cooling rack until ready to fill.
9. Repeat making and frying the shells with the remaining dough. If you are reusing the cannoli tubes, let them cool before wrapping them in the dough.

Cannoli shell preparation, cutting out the dough circles, sealing the dough around the form, frying the shells, finished shells ready to fill
Pasta Machine method:
1. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Starting at the middle setting, run one of the pieces of dough through the rollers of a pasta machine. Lightly dust the dough with flour as needed to keep it from sticking. Pass the dough through the machine repeatedly, until you reach the highest or second highest setting. The dough should be about 4 inches wide and thin enough to see your hand through
2. Continue rolling out the remaining dough. If you do not have enough cannoli tubes for all of the dough, lay the pieces of dough on sheets of plastic wrap and keep them covered until you are ready to use them.
3, Roll, cut out and fry the cannoli shells as according to the directions above.
For stacked cannoli:
1. Heat 2-inches of oil in a saucepan or deep sauté pan, to 350-375°F (176 - 190 °C).
2. Cut out desired shapes with cutters or a sharp knife. Deep fry until golden brown and blistered on each side, about 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from oil with wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, then place on paper towels or bags until dry and grease free. If they balloon up in the hot oil, dock them lightly prior to frying. Place on cooling rack until ready to stack with filling.

1. Line a strainer with cheesecloth. Place the ricotta in the strainer over a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Weight it down with a heavy can, and let the ricotta drain in the refrigerator for several hours to overnight.
2. In a bowl with electric mixer, beat ricotta until smooth and creamy. Beat in confectioner’s sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and blend until smooth. Transfer to another bowl and stir in chocolate, zest and nuts. Chill until firm.(The filling can be made up to 24 hours prior to filling the shells. Just cover and keep refrigerated).

1. When ready to serve..fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain or star tip, or a ziplock bag, with the ricotta cream. If using a ziplock bag, cut about 1/2 inch off one corner. Insert the tip in the cannoli shell and squeeze gently until the shell is half filled. Turn the shell and fill the other side. You can also use a teaspoon to do this, although it’s messier and will take longer.
2. Press or dip cannoli in chopped pistachios, grated chocolate/mini chocolate chips, candied fruit or zest into the cream at each end. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and/or drizzles of melted chocolate if desired.
1/2 cup (123 grams/4.34 ounces) ricotta cheese, drained
1/2 cup (113 grams/4.04 ounces) mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup (122.5 grams/4.32 ounces) canned pumpkin, drained like ricotta
3/4 cup (75 grams/2.65 ounces) confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1/2 to 1 teaspoon (approx. 1.7 grams/approx. 0.06 ounces) pumpkin pie spice (taste)
1/2 teaspoon (approx. 2 grams/approx. 0.08 ounces) pure vanilla extract
6-8 cannoli shells
1. In a bowl with electric mixer, beat ricotta and mascarpone until smooth and creamy. Beat in confectioner’s sugar, pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla and blend until smooth. Transfer to another bowl, cover and chill until it firms up a bit. (The filling can be made up to 24 hours prior to filling the shells. Just cover and keep refrigerated).
2. Fill the shells as directed above. I dipped the ends of the shells in caramelized sugar and rolled them in toasted, chopped pecans.

Top row - left to right: Filling the cannoli, variety of cannoli Bottom row - left to right: Stacked cannoli, pumpkin cannoli
- Dough must be stiff and well kneaded
- Rolling the dough to paper thinness, using either a rolling pin or pasta machine, is very important. If the dough is not rolled thin enough, it will not blister, and good cannoli should have a blistered surface.
- Initially, this dough is VERY stubborn, but keep rolling, it eventually gives in. Before cutting the shapes, let the dough rest a bit, covered, as it tends to spring back into a smaller shapes once cut. Then again, you can also roll circles larger after they’re cut, and/or into ovals, which gives you more space for filling.
- Your basic set of round cutters usually doesn’t contain a 5-inch cutter. Try a plastic container top, bowl etc, or just roll each circle to 5 inches. There will always be something in your kitchen that’s round and 5-inches if you want large cannoli.
- Oil should be at least 3 inches deep and hot – 360°F-375°F, or you’ll end up with greasy shells. I prefer 350°F - 360°F because I felt the shells darkened too quickly at 375°F.
- If using the cannoli forms, when you drop the dough on the form into the oil, they tend to sink to the bottom, resulting in one side darkening more. Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to gently lift and roll them while frying.
- DO NOT crowd the pan. Cannoli should be fried 2-4 at a time, depending on the width of your saucepan or deep fryer. Turn them once, and lift them out gently with a slotted spoon/wire skimmer and tongs. Just use a wire strainer or slotted spoon for flat cannoli shapes.
- When the cannoli turns light brown - uniform in color, watch it closely or remove it. If it’s already a deep brown when you remove it, you might end up with a really dark or slightly burnt shell.
- Depending on how much scrap you have left after cutting out all of your cannoli shapes, you can either fry them up and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar for a crispy treat, or let the scraps rest under plastic wrap and a towel, then re-roll and cut more cannoli shapes.
- Push forms out of cannoli very gently, being careful not to break the shells as they are very delicate. DO NOT let the cannoli cool on the form, or you may never get it off without it breaking. Try to take it off while still hot. Hold it with a cloth in the center, and push the form out with a butter knife or the back of a spoon.
- When adding the confectioner’s sugar to the filling..TASTE. You may like it sweeter than what the recipe calls for, or less sweet, so add in increments.
- Fill cannoli right before serving! If you fill them an hour or so prior, you’ll end up with soggy cannoli shells.
- If you want to prepare the shells ahead of time, store them in an airtight container, then re-crisp in a 350°F (176 °C) oven for a few minutes, before filling.

American Thanksgiving

I was so exhausted last night, after driving all ll morning to Atlanta, after Thanksgiving dinner and visiting that I didn't have the energy to post.  I am visiting with Sarah, daughter of Adele who was my university roommate.  It was a potluck dinner and again, way too much food.  Isn't this the smallest turkey you have ever seen?!  Not complaining, because we still had more than we could eat!

The baked brie was stuffed with dried fruits, topped with dried fruits and some hot pepper jelly and put on the barbecue.  It was fantastic.


Baked Goat Cheese and Baby Greens

I don't know why I never make this salad at home.  It is so easy and makes a lovely starter for a special meal.  Use any mixture of greens and if possible, have a variety of colours.  Fresh herbs such as sage, tarragon, or dill can be added to the mixture of greens.  This recipe suggests one round of goat cheese for each serving.  If you like, you can serve more.

Serve this with a basic vinaigrette.  David Liebovitz has a wonderful article on the French vinaigrette this month.

Baked Goat Cheese and Baby Greens      Serves 4
from The Joy of Cooking

Preheat oven to 400F.  Grease a small baking dish.  Refrigerate in a salad bowl:
      6 cups mixed baby greens or mesclun, washed and dried

Stir together in a shallow bowl:
      1 cup fine, dry, unseasoned breadcrumbs
      1 teaspoon dried thyme

Pour into another shallow bowl:
      1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Coat first with the olive oil and then with the breadcrumbs:
      4 rounds fresh goat cheese, each about 2 1/2 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick.

Place the cheese on the baking dish and bake until golden brown and lightly bubbling, about 6 minutes.  Meanwhile, prepare the vinaigrette.

Toss the greens with just enough vinaigrette to coat the leaves and divide among 4 plates.  Place a round of baked cheese in the centre of each salad and serve at once.
French vinaigrette

from David Leibovitz
Makes about 1/4 cup (60 ml), enough for one large green salad

Aside from not using balsamic vinegar in salad dressings, another astuce is to use freshly-ground black pepper, which is best added when tossing the salad with the dressing.
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon sherry or red wine vinegar
1/2 small shallot, peeled and minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3T to 4T (45 ml to 60 ml) olive oil

fresh herbs, if desired

1. In a small bowl, mix together the salt, vinegar, and shallot. Let stand for about ten minutes.

2. Mix in the Dijon mustard, then add 3 tablespoons (45 ml) of olive oil. Stir well, then taste. If too sharp, add the additional olive oil and more salt, if necessary. Romain said one needs to add beaucoup de mustard, so feel free to add more as well.

If you wish to add fresh herbs, it's best to chop and mix them in shortly before serving so they retain their flavor.

Storage: This dressing will keep for about eight hours at room temperature. If you want to make it farther in advance, it's best to add the shallots closer to serving so they don't lose their verve.


An Antipasti Plate

Antipasti is plural of antipasto.  In Italy, and now almost everywhere in North America, we love to have a plate of cold meats, cheeses, vegetables and other simple items as a simple meal or as a before meal appetizer.

So it was time to clean out my fridge.  I had bits and pieces of some good things so I decided to put them together into an antipasti plate.  I had yogurt that I drained to make labne.  To this I added shallots, garlic, lemon juice, salt, pepper and sliced cucumbers.  I had some nice smoked salmon which would go nicely with the yogurt and cucumber.  I had aged cheddar, artichoke hearts and asparagus.  I like to steam asparagus.  I think their flavour is so much nicer and then I chilled it and drizzled with Charred Tomato Vinaigrette.  To finish off, I added a piece of lavash.  This is a good way to move into Thanksgiving!

Candied fruits

I have been on a mission to learn how to make candied fruits like I have seen in Paris and the Amalfi coast.  Whole little fruits are candied and make a nice gift for special occasions.  The process takes about 16 days in which time the sugar concentration of the syrup is increased slightly every day.

It is essentially a process of osmosis.  The water of the fruit is removed and replaced with sugar.  This renders the fruit preserved and will have a shelf life of up to a year without refrigeration.

I use a refractometer to measure the sugar concentration.  And the instructions I am following are in Jean-Pierre Wybauw's book 'Fine Chocolates-Great Experience'.

I have used Florida lemons and oranges, Meyer lemons (see picture of whole fruit) and California mandarins.  Ideally, you find small fruits and candy them whole.  Strawberries, sekel pears, miniature oranges, and pineapple rings are a few of the popular fruits used.  So far, I only have sliced Florida lemons ready.  I sliced the Meyer lemons thicker and it didn't work as well as the thinly sliced Florida lemons.  The mandarins didn't work as well as the navel organges.  I think they have a lot more water in them. 


An Award for my Blog!

Thank you to Mamatkamal at Moroccan Cuisine Marocaine for watching my blog and liking it!  She has passed on this award to me.  Quite an honour, IMHO.  Have fun on your vacation in Morocco - wish I was there.  I'll be looking for pictures!

Salmon with Dandelion Greens and Hot Olive Oil Dressing

This month of salads is fun because I am trying things I have never tried before.  Take dandelion greens, for example.  I have always wanted to try them but either they were not available or seemed expensive or I had no good ideas.  This is my opportunity.  Also, I bought some lovely house smoked salmon in Maryville.  Even though it is cooked through the smoking process, I have decided to sear it for extra flavour and to warm it to serve with the warmed greens.  I did brush the salmon with Honey Citrus Glaze from one of my previous posts.

This could easily be made as a dinner for one.

Dandelion Greens with Hot Olive-Oil Dressing
adapted from Gourmet  | April 2007

Makes 4 servings

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced lengthwise
1/3 cup sliced almonds (1 ounce)
1 orange or mandarin orange, segmented
2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound tender young dandelion greens, any tough stems discarded
4 pieces of salmon or one whole side of salmon, fresh or smoked

Heat oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then cook garlic and almonds, stirring frequently, until pale golden, about 2 minutes. Add orange segments and cook, stirring, until garlic is golden, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and add vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper, stirring until combined.

Pour hot dressing over dandelion greens in a bowl, tossing with tongs to coat.  Arrange on a plate.

Sear salmon in a hot pan and place on top of the greens.


Horiatiki, or as we call it, Greek Salad

It was time for a simple salad.  Greek salad, or horiatiki, is a rough country salad of juicy tomatoes, crisp cucumber, sliced red onion, green pepper, crumbly feta cheese and plump kalamata olives.  It can be served with or without lettuce.  Serve this as a side dish or as a light meal with some crusty bread.

Horiatiki                    Serves 6

6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano (Mediterranean is best)

1 head lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces ((I prefer Romaine)
3 large plum tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 English cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 medium red onion, cut into thin rings and soaked for 10 minutes in a small bowl of ice water to make it less sharp
1 small green pepper, cut into thin rings
1/2 cup kalamata olives
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1.  Whisk dressing ingredients together until blended.
2.  Drain onion from ice water and pat dry with paper towels.
3.  Combine all salad ingredients, except cheese, in large bowl and toss with dressing.
4.  Sprinkle cheese over and serve.


Baby Frisee & Roasted Cipollini Onions with Charred Tomato Vinaigrette

This is another winning dressing.  Very tasty.  But, I just couldn't fire up my charcoal Weber for a couple of tomatoes.  I used my toaster oven and broiled them until charred.  It wasn't as nice as grilled but it was still good.  I wish I had a gas BBQ!  I am also out of honey so subbed maple syrup.

I am going out for dinner tonight so just wanted a light lunch today.  This fits the bill.  This could be a nice light starter salad for a meal.  Baby frisee is so pretty and cipollini onions are sweet and carmelize nicely.

Baby Frissee & Roasted Cipollini Onion Salad with Charred Tomato Vinaigrette
serves 4

Charred Tomato Vinaigrette

2 large roma tomatoes
2 T minced shallots or red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c rice wine vinegar
1 T sugar
1/2 c olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Rub the roma tomatoes with olive oil and char on a grill until the skins are black.  Put in a blender with shallots, garlic, vinegar, sugar and olive oil.  Puree.

Roasting onions
8 small or 4 large cipollini onions

3 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 T balsamic vinegar
2 T honey
1 T fresh thyme, rosemary or oregano, leaves only
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut an X on the bottom of each onion and add to a large bowl, cover with hot water and allow to sit for about 5 minutes. This is to help make peeling the onions much easier. Strain onions and peel.

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, honey, balsamic vinegar, thyme, salt and pepper until combined. Put the onions in a large bowl, pour the dressing over them and toss well to coat.

Place the onions in an oven-proof pan and put in preheated oven and roast for about 20 minutes until the onions are soft and slightly caramelized.  Turn the onions over halfway through the cooking time.

Cool to room temperature before using in the salad.  These can be made up to 3 days in advance.

Use one half a head of baby frisee person.  Wash, dry and trim the root end of each head.  Arrange the frisee on 4 plates.  Top with onions.  Drizzle with vinaigrette.


My Month of Salads - Taco Salad

OMG!  This is so good!  It isn't totally fat free but at least you know what you are eating and it isn't nearly as high-cal as it would be if you ate out.  The dressing is so good.

Taco salad is nothing new but I don't have kids.  I don't eat taco salad!  But I found this great kit for making taco bowls at the grocer.  I have never actually looked for them so perhaps they are in all of the stores.  But I thought they were kinda neat.

Layered Taco Salad                         Serves 6
For dressing
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
For beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 to 2 fresh serrano chiles (including seeds), finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 lb ground chuck
  • 1 (8-oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
For salad
  • 1 (1/2-lb) firm-ripe California avocado
  • 1 head iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced (8 cups)
  • 1 large tomato (1/2 lb), chopped
  • 1/4 lb coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 (15- to 19-oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (6-oz) can sliced pitted California black olives, drained
  • taco shell bowls
Make dressing:
Whisk together lime juice, cilantro, sugar, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper, then add oil in a stream, whisking until emulsified.
Cook beef:
Cook onion, garlic, chiles to taste, chili powder, and cumin in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is well softened, about 6 minutes. Add beef and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up lumps, until meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes, then spoon off any excess fat from skillet.
Add tomato sauce, salt, and pepper to beef and cook, stirring, until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
Assemble salad:
Peel and pit avocado, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces.

Spread lettuce over bottom taco bowl. Spoon beef mixture evenly over lettuce and continue making layers with tomatoes, cheese, beans, avocado, and olives. Drizzle dressing over salad. 


Still not winter in Tennessee

I have been walking most mornings with my 80 year old neighbour, Ersie, her Mom called her.  We take turns driving and go the short 10 minutes to a Baptist church in Vonore.  They have a brand new gymnasium with an indoor walking track.  With each lap we look out over the lake and often there will be a boat with a fisherman.  Most times the mist and fog hangs over the water until we leave around 9:00am.

The drive back home takes us past a drive-thru post office, over the bridge and past the barge loading dock, onto the secondary highway past the church I attend from time to time and under trees that meet in the middle of the road.  One pasture is a favourite spot for wild turkeys to feast.  Another pasture has 4 donkeys grazing with the cattle.  The road is very windy (long i) and the speed limit is mostly 45 mph.  Then we turn onto the small road.

We drive past simple homes, single and double wides, brick homes, tobacco barns and more pastures.  Residents decorate their post boxes and lanes for the season.  It will be fun to see what comes with Christmas.

When I reach the lane with 3 mailboxes, I turn onto a yet smaller road.  It is rutted and barely gravelled with barbed wire fences on both sides holding in small herds of Black Angus cattle.  I soon make a right turn into my housesit.  Even with the fallen leaves, the house is quite secluded.  I can now see two neighbours' houses from my yard and the neighbour farther down the lane can hear if my car pulls into my driveway over the gravelled road.

The cardinal still comes to feed.  Maybe it stays all winter, I have no idea.  There are lots of blue jays and wrens and other little birds.  And I still see yellow butterflies.

The garden is going into hibernation but there are a few plants that look like crocuses and irises that seem to be awakening.  This is all very strange to me.  Why would something begin to grow now?

So we sit here, Sugar and I, blogging, relaxing, cooking and doing a bit of work around the house.  And make the odd day trip, like to Dollywood.  Can't complain, can we!