Monthly Archives: December 2021

Savory Spiced Pecans

When it comes to snacking, this gal sits deep in the camp of the spicy and savory. I had about a half-pound of pecans that I wanted to spice up—without sugar, as many candied varieties include. I found just what I was looking for on, and now consider myself an addict (The Hubs too!).

While the recipe below is for a whole pound, I only made half of it, mainly because that’s the amount of nuts we had on hand. It was New Year’s Eve and we were spending the evening home alone, so I made this as one of our treats for the celebration. Well, we couldn’t stop ourselves from munching on them during the afternoon, so I had to hide them from ourselves until party time!

There is no denying the power of the pecan, and here are a few reasons why according to American Heart Association. Pecans reduce the risk of heart disease with an abundance of “good” heart healthy fats. These unsaturated fats can have a protective effect by lowering total blood cholesterol when eaten in moderation.

They contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals—including vitamin A, vitamin E, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, several B vitamins and zinc. One ounce of pecans provides 10 percent of the recommended daily value for fiber. Also, a natural, high-quality source of protein they contain very few carbohydrates and no cholesterol and are naturally sodium-free.

And if that isn’t enough, pecans, especially these, are just so dang good!

Savory Spiced Pecans

  • Servings: Yields 4 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 4 cups (1 lb.) pecans halves
  • 1/3 cup (5 1/3 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. Tabasco sauce, or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
  2. Place the pecans in a large mixing bowl.
  3. In a small sauce pan, melt the butter. Whisk in the Worcestershire sauce, salt, garlic powder, ground mustard, Tabasco, and cayenne.
  4. Pour the butter mixture over the pecans and stir until well combined. Taste a pecan and add more Tabasco or cayenne if desired.
  5. Arrange the pecans on a large sheet pan and bake for 20-22 minutes until toasted and lightly browned, stirring halfway cooking time to prevent burning.
  6. Remove from the oven and cool completely, tossing occasionally, before transferring to an airtight container.

Adapted from a recipe by Nealey Dozier for

Try on a Tuxedo No. 4

Need a new riff on a martini? Well, maybe the word “need” is a bit too strong, but why not imbibe in one of these sophisticated libations? This is a tasty twist on a Dry Martini but it has no vermouth, it uses sherry instead, so it isn’t really a Dry Martini after all… do you really care?

A classic 19th century tipple that originated at the Waldorf-Astoria Bar in upstate New York, it is bone dry and aromatic with green grape, citrus and mineral notes, and garnished with orange peel. Alternatively, you may consider dressing this cocktail with an olive, as one suits it.

recipe title=”Tuxedo No. 4 Cocktail” servings=”1″ time=”2 min” difficulty=”easy”]


  • 2 1⁄2 oz. dry gin
  • 1⁄2 oz. fino sherry
  • 3 dashes orange bitters
  • Strip orange peel, for garnish


  1. Add gin, sherry and bitters to a cocktail shaker filled with ice.
  2. Shake vigorously until very cold.
  3. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with orange peel.


Mediterranean Shrimp and Scallop Soup

In just over an hours time, you can enjoy this lovely, nutrient-packed Mediterranean soup. We substituted 8 ounces of cod for a half pound of the shrimp, giving us a trio of seafood. Typically, we would use our own homemade shellfish stock, but since we were plum out, we incorporated a mix of bottled clam juice and boxed seafood broth.

First, you’ll give the scallops a quick sear in a hot pan. Next, you’ll sear your shrimp in the same pan for about 2 minutes, you want to see some pink but don’t worry about fully cooking it yet. Remember, you will be adding the seafood to the hot soup later, so don’t overcook the shrimp. In addition to the aromatics and fresh herbs, fresh lemon juice is the perfect finishing touch.

The original recipe indicated that it would take 35 minutes from prep through to finished soup. Unless you are a samurai chef, it’s not possible. It took me at least 35 minutes just to do the prep alone. Plus, more time was needed for the liquid to return to a boil in a couple of instances. So plan on a minimum of about 70 minutes.

We served ours with toasted garlic bread nuggets and a side salad.

Mediterranean Shrimp and Scallop Soup

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 8 oz. sea scallops
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined, cut in 3 pieces each
  • 8 oz. cod, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 green bell pepper, cored, chopped
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper, cored, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled, minced
  • 3 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp. dried oregano, divided
  • 3 8-oz. bottles clam juice
  • 1 qt. seafood broth
  • 2 15-oz cans diced tomato
  • 1 cup orzo pasta
  • 6 oz. baby spinach
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 cup chopped fresh dill, stems removed
  • 1 lemon, juice of
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, optional


  1. If using scallops, pat them dry and season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a cast iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Gently add the sea scallops. Sear for about 1 ½ minutes on each side. Scallops should form a golden brown crust. Sprinkle a large pinch of dried oregano. Quarter each scallop and transfer to a dish and set aside for now.
  3. To the same cast iron skillet, add a little more extra virgin olive oil if needed. Again heat over medium-high until shimmering but not smoking. Add the shrimp; sear for about 2 minutes on both sides. You want to see some pink, but don’t worry about fully cooking it (you will finish cooking it in the soup.) Remove from the heat and sprinkle a generous pinch of dried oregano.
  4. In a medium heavy cooking pot, heat 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil on medium-high. Add the chopped peppers, onions, garlic, tomato paste, salt and the remaining dried oregano. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the seafood broth and clam juice and bring to a boil. Add the diced tomatoes. Cook on medium-high for 3-5 more minutes.
  6. When the liquid returns to a boil, add the orzo pasta. Turn heat down to medium and cook for 8 minutes until orzo is tender. Add the cod about 4 minutes after you stir in the orzo.
  7. Stir in the baby spinach, parsley, dill, and lemon juice.
  8. Finally, stir in the scallops and shrimp to warm through (about 1 to 2 minutes.) Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. Add crushed red pepper flakes for some heat, if you like. Serve with your favorite crusty bread.

Adapted from a recipe by Suzy Karadsheh

Potato, Celery Root and Leek Gratin with Gruyére

We are talking calorie-busting decadence here, but oh so worth it! Just keep in mind, a little goes a long way—think French when considering portion size; after all, Gruyère cheese is in the gratin. And it was a perfect accompaniment to our main course of sous vide, pan-seared beef tenderloin, which in of itself is very lean. Completing the plate was a lump crab meat patty, and roasted Brussels sprouts with an orange sauce.

The Hubs and I were a bit leery about the seemingly low amount of liquid, but it turned out perfectly creamy. One of our dinner guests admitted to disliking celery immensely and was concerned when he heard it contained celery root. However, he loved the gratin, even taking seconds!

A mandoline comes in real handy for uniformly-thin slices of potatoes and celery root. To aid in scheduling your dinner, this gratin can be made up to two hours ahead of time, covered with foil, then reheated for about 20 minutes.

Potato, Celery Root and Leek Gratin with Gruyere

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 sprig thyme plus 3 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, divided
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
  • 3 leeks, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise
  • Kosher Salt
  • 2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled, very thinly sliced crosswise (1/8″ thick)
  • 1 lb. celery root, peeled, very thinly sliced crosswise (1/8″ thick)
  • 2 cups grated Gruyère
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat to 350°. Heat cream, garlic, and thyme sprig in a medium saucepan just until bubbles begin to form around edge of pan. Remove from heat; set aside to steep.
  2. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add leeks; season with salt and cook, stirring often, until tender (do not brown), 10–12 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Butter a 3-quart gratin dish with remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Layer 1/3 of potato slices and 1/3 of celery root slices evenly over bottom of baking dish. Cover with 1/3 of leeks, then 1/3 of Gruyère. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and 1 teaspoon thyme leaves. Repeat layers twice more. Strain cream mixture into a medium pitcher and pour over vegetables.
  4. Set gratin dish on a large rimmed baking sheet and cover tightly with foil. Bake for 1 hour. Carefully remove foil; continue baking until top is golden brown and sauce is bubbling, 25–30 minutes.
    DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Tent with foil and rewarm in a 300° oven until hot, about 20 minutes.

Recipe from Susan Spungen for Bon Apétit

Dessert To Die For!

Cinnamon Roll Cheesecake. Okay, if I’m honest, no dessert is worth perishing over, especially given the fact that I rarely eat it. But when I first saw this posting on FB, it screamed “try me,” and it seemed many of you agreed. This cheesecake from is just as incredible as it sounds—a thick creamy cheesecake with cinnamon throughout and drizzled with cream cheese icing.

Now the bad news… It took an additional 45 minutes—that’s 50% longer—to come to 150° in the 200° oven, a total of 2 hours and 15 minutes! So take the timing with a grain of salt. (We think our oven is on the fritz, and we may be replacing it soon.) It is tricky trying to determine exactly when a cheesecake is done. It will still appear jiggly in the middle, but not overly so. Take a look at this quick video:

The secret to testing a cheesecake for doneness: Jiggle it. Gently shake the cheesecake. If the cheesecake looks nearly set and only a small circle in the center wobbles slightly, it’s done. Also, you can tell if a cheesecake is done by checking the internal temperature with a quick-read thermometer. Stick the probe halfway into the cake—a baked cheesecake should read 150ºF.

An underbaked cheesecake will ripple and wobble noticeably. The key to a perfect cheesecake is a subtle wiggle—not a sloshy jiggle. You might worry a runny middle means raw cheesecake, but it’s totally safe and normal. The center will firm up as it cools on a cooling rack, then sets in the fridge overnight.

The filling will reach to the top of the springform pan and might even puff over the sides a bit while in the oven. But after it rests and cools in the fridge, it will settle somewhat. Use a sharp knife to run around the inside edge before removing the pan. Then pipe on your icing creating a design or an abstract effect.

A couple of tips to remember: You are going to want to wrap the cheesecake in plastic wrap and let it chill overnight or a minimum of 8 hours.
When you go to serve the slices, always have a hot washcloth nearby to be able to wipe the knife clean after each cut, it makes for a much more beautiful piece!

Cinnamon Roll Cheesecake

  • Servings: 14
  • Difficulty: moderate
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  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 4 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 5 Tbsp. butter- melted

Cinnamon Crumble:

  • 1 cup brown sugar-packed
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 6 Tbsp. flour
  • 6 Tbsp. butter-melted

Cheesecake Filling:

  • 4 8-oz. packs of cream cheese-softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. flour
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 5 eggs, room temperature
  • ¾ cup heavy whipping cream

Cream Cheese topping:

  • 1 Tbsp. butter, softened
  • 1 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 ½ Tbsp. heavy whipping cream


  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a 9” springform pan with non-stick spray and set aside.
  2. Start with the crust by adding about 1 package + 3 sheets of graham crackers into a food processor. Pulse until you get a fine crumb. Add in all remaining crust ingredients and pulse until well combined.
  3. Pour the crust mixture into the bottom of the prepared springform pan and using a clean hand or a spatula, press down to form the crust. Be sure to take some up the sides of the pan as well.
  4. Bake on 350 for about 10 minutes.

Cinnamon Crumble:

  1. Combine all ingredients into a medium size bowl and use a fork to combine them until you have a nice crumble. Set aside.

Cheesecake Filling:

  1. Start by adding your room temperature cream cheese into the bowl of a stand mixer equipped with a paddle attachment. Cream until light and fluffy and you do not see any bumps. Add sugar and flour and mix for about 1 minute.
  2. While the mixture is on low speed, add vanilla extract and each egg one at a time. Allow each egg to combine fully before adding the next.
  3. Once all the eggs are combined, set your mixture to a medium-high speed and mix for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, add in the heavy whipping cream and mix for an additional 1-2 minutes.
  4. Pour about 1/3 of the cheesecake filling into the prepared crust. Top with about 1/3 of the crumble mixture using your fingers to crumble into small pieces. Add another layer of cheesecake filling and continue for two more layers. Add the remaining crumble to the top of the cheesecake.
  5. Place the cheesecake in the center of your oven and bake at 350 for 15 minutes then reduce the heat to 200 degrees F. and bake for an additional 1 hour and 30 minutes
  6. Once the hour and a half are up, turn off the heat and let the cheesecake sit in the oven for 30 minutes, do not open the oven door.
  7. After 30 minutes, crack the oven door and allow the cheesecake to sit for 5 minutes. Then take out and chill. (Letting it chill overnight is best.)

Cream Cheese Topping:

  1. Once the cheesecake is set, add all ingredients for the cream cheese topping into a medium bowl and use a hand mixer to mix well until light and smooth.
  2. Add into a piping bag or sandwich bag with a small corner hole and pipe a design on the top of the cheesecake.
  3. Use a hot wash cloth to wipe the knife clean after each wedge.

First found as a posting on Facebook; recipe credited to

Caramelized Pear and Blue Cheese Quiche

The classic combination of pear and blue cheese comes together in an unusual twist in this decadent deep dish quiche. Like any successful couple, it’s their ability to balance and complement each other’s distinctive qualities—in this case, their flavors and textures.

Choose pears, any variety, that have medium firmness. They should give a little when pressed, but not soft enough to bruise—our Bosc pears were on the firmer side. Unfortunately, the top slices sink into the egg mixture when assembling. Perhaps they could be added after 30-45 minutes of baking when the mixture has firmed up some.

If the thought of spending three or more straight hours preparing the quiche before company arrives, you may want to considering making it the day before. If so doing, once baked, wait until the quiche is completely cooled, leaving it in the springform pan. Cover first with a layer of saran wrap, followed by tin foil and refrigerate.

If you made it the day before, remove quiche from fridge and sit on the counter one hour prior to baking. Preheat the oven to 350°. If the edges are already golden-brown, cover the crust (but not the filling) with foil to prevent a burnt-toast exterior. Start checking for an internal temperature of 165°F after 20 minutes, it may take longer because it is deep dish. Slice up and serve that savory pie as soon as possible.

A couple of hints from one reviewer suggests rolling out the dough after 20-30 minutes of chilling if you plan to bake it another time, otherwise too long in the fridge and it won’t roll out well. Add a lot of pastry over the rim of the springform pan as it may shrink a lot—ours did not. Be sure to prick the sides and bottom as well, or it bubbles. Save a scrap of raw dough to fill any cracks after baking the shell so you don’t have an egg mixture leak.

Caramelized Pear and Blue Cheese Quiche

  • Servings: 10
  • Difficulty: moderately difficult
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  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 8 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup cold water


  • 1 recipe Deep-Dish Pastry Shell (see above)
  • 3 medium firm pears, such as Bosc, D’Anjou, or Bartlett
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • ½ cup crumbled blue cheese 
  • 6 large eggs 
  • 2 cups plain fat-free greek yogurt
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground white pepper
  • ⅛ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • Crumbled blue cheese
  • Fresh sage leaves (optional) 


  1. In the bowl of a food processor combine the flour and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Combine the egg and water in a small bowl; add to the food processor and pulse until the mixture just begins to clump together. Transfer the mixture out onto a sheet of plastic wrap; fold the wrap over and press the crumbs until they hold together; shape into a circle. Wrap and chill at least 30 minutes.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll it out to a 15-inch circle. Carefully roll the pastry around the rolling pin and transfer to a 9×2 1/2-inch springform pan, pressing it into the sides. Trim the overhanging pastry to 1 inch and press it firmly against the outside of the ring to help prevent it from shrinking. Use the trimmings to fill any cracks. Freeze the shell for 20 minutes. Prick sides and bottom every couple of inches with a fork.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the springform pan on a baking sheet. Line the pastry shell with a double thickness of aluminum foil long enough to overhang the sides. Bake about 20 minutes or until the edge of the dough is lightly browned. Remove the foil and continue baking the pastry shell for 10 to 15 minutes longer, or until lightly browned on the bottom. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and let the pastry cool.
  4. In the meantime, core and cut 2 of the pears into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes. Thinly slice the remaining pear and reserve.
  5. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cubed pears and sugar; cook, stirring occasionally, for 7 to 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer to the pre-baked pastry shell and top with blue cheese; set aside. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in the skillet and add the pear slices. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes or until just softened; set aside.
  6. For the custard, in a blender combine the eggs, yogurt, milk, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Blend until frothy.
  7. Place the springform pan with the pastry shell on a baking sheet. Gently pour in the custard. Arrange the reserved pear slices in a spoke pattern on top of the quiche. Bake 1 hour 20 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes until the top is lightly browned and the custard is just set (165°F) but still jiggles slightly in the center. Let stand 30 to 40 minutes.
  8. With a serrated knife, cut the pastry shell flush with the top of the pan. Carefully remove the springform pan ring. Top with additional blue cheese and, if desired, sage leaves. Cut into wedges.

Source: Better Homes and Gardens

Cranberry Sauce. Love It or Leave It?

Growing up, I was never a fan of cranberry sauce, probably because it was the canned jellied version that was plated as one big lump on the festive table. Not too appealing… But of course, as we age, our tastes change, and so hopefully do our desires for something more elegant, especially at holiday time.

For this variation from Serious Eats, spices like cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves as well as orange juice and zest are combined, then finished off with a bit of spiced rum. “The end result is incredible: a cranberry sauce that has a multidimensional array of seasonal flavors that fits seamlessly into any Thanksgiving meal,” according to chef Joshua Bousel.

And it couldn’t be any easier. I bet if you still are ambivalent about cranberry sauce, this time around you just might love it!

Spiced Cranberry Sauce

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 12 oz. fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. orange juice
  • 1 tsp. orange zest
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 Tbsp. spiced rum


  1. Place all cranberries, white sugar, water, brown sugar, orange juice, orange zest, cinnamon, allspice, Kosher salt, nutmeg, and cloves in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until berries start to pop, about 10 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat, stir in spiced rum, and let cool for 30 minutes. Adjust consistency with additional water as needed. Serve immediately or place in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator, reheating prior to serving.

Recipe by Joshua Bousel for Serious Eats


Garlic-Miso Butter Mashed Potatoes

In the most recent issue of Bon Appétit Magazine, the minute I saw this recipe I knew we had to make them. Then serendipitously, while deciding our weeks menus, The Hubs came across a Braised Asian-Style Pork Shank entree which we knew would pair well with these potatoes—and we had shanks in our freezer!

But back to those potatoes. The original serves eight, so we cut it in half for just the two of us (with leftovers). After rereading the recipe numerous times, and the fact that I’ve made mashed potatoes for decades—and am pretty darn good at them—I instinctively knew there was WAY too much butter and cream, resulting in potato soup. After I made them my way, I went back to the online comments and sure enough, many disappointed reviewers noted that fact.

For example, the BA recipe called for 1 1/2 cups heavy cream which I cut back by 2/3, to only a 1/2 cup. The butter was listed as two full sticks, cut that by at least 50% and use only one stick, or less, if making the full recipe. And I always like to use ground white pepper in my potatoes, but that’s a personal preference. Ground pepper of any kind is a must.

“A couple of spoonfuls of miso adds a little extra umami and saltiness to these spuds, a subtle bridge between the roasted garlic and dairy that nobody will quite be able to put their finger on. And yes: These potatoes are actually mashed. I’m not going to stop you from pulling out a ricer or food mill if supersmooth is your thing, but I personally like a bit of texture—a few bits of intact potato remind you that you’re actually eating, you know, potatoes.” —Brad Leone

NOTE: You can either make the garlic paste ahead (Steps 1 through 3), or if you already have some in the fridge, you are way ahead of the game. You’ll save an hour and a half on dinner day.

In the end, even with my diminished amounts of butter and cream, I still found the mash too loose, especially the reheated leftovers, so consider scaling back even more… although they were indeed delicious!

The silver dish on the left holds the homemade silky garlic paste.

Garlic-Miso Butter Mashed Potatoes

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 2 heads of garlic
  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 Tbsp. white or yellow miso
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 lb. medium Yukon Gold potatoes (about 8 spuds)
  • ½ cup heavy cream


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Cut ½” off top of each head of garlic to expose just the tops of the cloves inside. Place on a 12″-square piece of parchment paper or foil. Drizzle with oil and season with salt. Drizzle 1 tsp. water over.
  2. Bring edges of parchment up and over garlic and fold together to make a packet and seal. Place on a small rimmed baking sheet and bake until very tender, 60–75 minutes.
  3. Let garlic sit until cool enough to handle, then squeeze out cloves into a medium bowl. Add butter and mash together into a paste with a wooden spoon or stiff rubber spatula. Add miso and mix well. Season garlic-miso butter with salt and pepper; set aside.
  4. Peel and quarter potatoes. Place in a large pot and pour in water to cover by 1″; season generously with salt. Bring water to a boil over medium-high, then reduce heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are very tender (a tester or paring knife should easily slide into flesh), about 20 minutes from the time water starts to simmer. Drain potatoes and let sit 5 minutes to dry out; reserve pot.
  5. Bring cream to a simmer in reserved pot over medium-high. Remove from heat and return potatoes to pot. Set aside about 3 Tbsp. garlic-miso butter for serving and add remaining garlic-miso butter to pot. Using a potato masher (or use a potato ricer or food mill if you prefer a silkier texture), smash potatoes until mostly smooth; taste and season mashed potatoes with salt.
  6. Transfer mashed potatoes to a large shallow bowl. Top with reserved garlic-miso butter and season generously with more pepper.

Do ahead: Mashed potatoes can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill potatoes and reserved garlic-miso butter separately. Reheat potatoes over medium, stirring often and adding 1 tablespoon milk at a time to thin if needed.

Recipe loosely adapted from Brad Leone for Bon Appétit

Green Olives Sevilla-Style

From Penelope Casas TAPAS cookbook, comes this typically Andalusian riff on olives. One whiff of these spicy tidbits erases any doubt of their Arab origins. Dried or fresh herbs, or a combination of the two bring on the magic.

With an upcoming holiday finger food party on the horizon, we thought they’d make a wonderful accompaniment to the other appetizers being served. Keep in mind, these olives need several days to marinate, so it is nice to prepare one of the dishes ahead of time, then just plate them as the hot recipes come out of the oven.

Don’t be alarmed if the garlic cloves turn blue. It startled us at first until The Hubs googled the reason and found out they weren’t going bad, it was just a reaction caused between enzymes and sulfur-containing amino acids in the garlic. They are perfectly safe to consume and taste just fine.

The compound responsible for this reaction, isoalliin, is formed when garlic is stored at a cool temperature for several weeks, typically in the winter, when pantries are colder.

Green Olives Sevilla-Style

  • Servings: 1 Pound
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 lb. pitted Spanish green olives, drained and lightly crushed
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary, or 1/2 tsp. dried
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh thyme, or 1 tsp. dried
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp. fennel seed
  • 8 cloves garlic, lightly crushed and peeled
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 8 anchovy fillets (optional)


  1. Place the olives in a glass jar in which they just fit.
  2. Add all other ingredients, then fill the jar with water.
  3. Shake well and marinate at room temperature for several days, then refrigerate if necessary.
  4. They will keep in the refrigerator, but do bring them to room temperature before serving.
  5. Strain, discard the anchovies, bay leaves and garlic if desired, and serve in an olive boat with toothpicks.

Recipe from cookbook Tapas by Penelope Casas

Goat-Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

These bite-sized appetizers are a perfect addition to your finger food array. The original recipe from Martha Stewart was altered to streamline the process and add more depth of flavor with the addition of bacon, and swapping out rosemary and thyme for the parsley.

Martha instructs to create breadcrumbs using 3 slices of white sandwich bread. We had some already made from focaccia which not only saved time but added even more flavor. It is not recommended to make them ahead of time as the bread will turn gummy.

Goat-Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

  • Servings: 3 dozen
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • Olive oil, for baking sheet
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs, divided
  • 1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
  • 1 log (5 oz.) soft goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary and thyme, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. red-pepper flakes
  • 4 strips bacon, cooked and roughly chopped
  • Coarse salt
  • 24 oz. white button mushrooms, stems removed


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet.
  2. Reserve 1/2 cup of the bread crumbs.
  3. In a food processor, add garlic, goat cheese, bacon, thyme and rosemary, red-pepper flakes and remaining bread crumbs. Season with salt, and pulse filling until combined.
  4. Spoon filling into each mushroom, pressing down with fingers to firm up. Roll filled side in reserved breadcrumbs. Place on prepared baking sheet; bake until mushrooms are tender and lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes.

Roughly adapted from a recipe by Martha Stewart

Warm Artichoke-and-Feta Dip

This is one of the easiest appetizers to make, thanks Trisha Yearwood! Instead of canned artichokes, we used the marinated jarred version, and we sprinkled some paprika on top for a touch of color and even more depth of flavor.

To lighten our load on the day of the party, the dish was made and put in a small casserole dish covered with foil, then refrigerated overnight. About an hour before it went into a 350° oven, it sat on the countertop to warm up. Make sure to uncover the dish before popping it in the oven.

Artichoke-and-Feta Dip

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • One 14-oz. can artichoke hearts, drained and finely chopped
  • 5 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2-oz. jarred roasted red peppers, drained and diced 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 
  • Paprika for topping, optional
  • Sea salt pita chips, for dipping 


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the artichoke hearts, feta, mayonnaise, Parmesan, red pepper and garlic until thoroughly combined. Sprinkle paprika on top, if desired.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a small casserole or glass pie plate and bake, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly browned.
  4. To serve, place the dish on a larger platter and surround with pita chips.

Adapted from a recipe by Trisha Yearwood

Sausage-Cheddar Balls

Party time! While these look amazingly like mini-meatballs, they are actually biscuits! This reinterpretation of meatballs combines breakfast sausage, cheddar cheese, and onion for a very flavorful holiday appetizer, enough for a crowd of hungry folks.

You can opt to serve them alone or with your choice of dipping sauces, such as mustard or barbecue sauce. Our opinion was that they packed enough flavor by themselves, so a dipping sauce didn’t seem necessary.

The only change we made was using one small onion as opposed to half of a large one. Unfortunately, the balls sat in the oven a bit too long while we tended to other things so the bottoms got a touch crusty—which some guests actually preferred!

Sausage-Cheddar Balls

  • Servings: 60 balls
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 cups grated sharp cheddar (1/2 lb.)
  • 1 lb. bulk breakfast sausage
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, grated on large holes of a box grater
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and baking powder. Add cheddar and toss to coat.
  3. Add sausage, onion, and butter. With your hands, mix until well combined and roll mixture into 1-inch balls.
  4. Place balls, 1/2 inch apart, on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until balls are golden and cooked through, 25 minutes. Serve warm.

Recipe by Martha Stewart Living

Slow-Cooker Sausage and Kale Minestrone

Here’s a wonderfully warming soup for a cold Winter’s day. Once you’ve prepped the ingredients, there’s not much you have to do for several hours. It’s made even easier if you buy bulk sausage, so that you don’t have to meddle with removing casings. And if spicy is not your thing, go ahead and use mild Italian or turkey sausage.

With lots of super-flavorful turkey stock leftover, we used that as the base, ramping up the overall deliciousness! Serve with a slice of crusty garlic bread toasted under the broiler.

Slow-Cooker Sausage and Kale Minestrone

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 12 oz. spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped (2 cups)
  • 1 large carrot, chopped (1 cup)
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 6 cups chicken or turkey stock
  • 2 14.5 oz. cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 15 oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 cup uncooked ditalini pasta
  • 5 oz. baby kale leaves, roughly chopped


  1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add the sausage to the skillet, and cook, stirring to crumble with a wooden spoon, 4 minutes.
  2. Add the onions, carrots, and celery to the skillet; cook, stirring occasionally, until the sausage is browned and the vegetables are lightly caramelized, about 6 minutes.
  3. Add 1 cup of the stock; cook 1 minute, stirring and scraping to loosen the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet.
  4. Transfer the sausage mixture to a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Stir in the tomatoes, beans, salt, 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper, and the remaining 5 cups stock. Cover and cook on LOW until the vegetables are tender, about 2 hours and 30 minutes.
  5. Stir in the pasta; cover and cook on LOW until the pasta is al dente, about 1 hour.
  6. Stir in the kale and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls, and serve hot.

Recipe from Cooking Light

Holiday Cheer Cosmos

An Elderflower Liqueur Cosmo and a White Cranberry Cosmo ran into each other at a bar, both spilling a bit into a third glass which exploded with Holiday Cheer—and a third Cosmo was born, a cross between the two adult libations.

I first saw the White Cranberry Cosmo on a Facebook posting and thought it’d be a great “house” drink for an upcoming Winter Cheer party. Problem was, it seemed everyone else had the same idea. Two weeks prior, thinking I’d be ahead of the game by picking up the white cranberry juice at the supermarket, they were completely out!

A few days later at a big box liquor store, there were endless flavors of vodka, I kid you not. We found jalapeño, pickle, peanut butter, caramel apple, dark roasted espresso and every possible red fruit: watermelon, strawberry, raspberry, cherry, pomegranate (which was going to be my fall back), but no cranberry.

Undeterred, I followed up with a staff worker, who after consulting with the manager, was able to locate a box on the highest shelf, attainable only with a large step ladder just for employees. That guy was persistent, but so was I. St. Germain’s Elderflower Liqueur was a much easier find.

Tasty and sophisticated, these babies are a great way to get the party started!

Holiday Cheer Cosmo

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1/2 cup cranberry vodka
  • 1/4 Elderflower liqueur, such as St. Germain
  • 1/4 cup white cranberry juice
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Fresh sugared cranberries for garnish (see recipe below)


  • Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and and all all of the ingredients, except the garnish.
  • Shake vigorously and strain into two martini glasses.
  • Garnish each with a large toothpick containing 3 sugared cranberries.

Sugared Cranberries

These little gems from Yossy Arefi are a perfect garnish for the Holiday Cheer Cosmos. The recipe can easily be cut in half for a small party.


  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries

Sugared Cranberries

  • Servings: Yields 1 1/2 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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  1. Combine 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar in a saucepan. Cook over medium-high until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to a simmer around the edges. Cool the syrup to room temperature.
  2. When the syrup is cool, add the cranberries and stir to coat, working in batches if necessary. Use a slotted spoon to remove the berries and place them on a cooling rack set over a sheet pan to drain.
  3. Pour the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar into a shallow dish and roll the cranberries, a few at a time, in the sugar until totally coated.
  4. Let them dry completely, then store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.
  5. After a few days they start to soften and weep a bit. Cook them down into a sauce or a quick jam.

Jalapeño-Turkey Meatballs and Spaghetti

Intrigued with this odd combination found in a recent Fine Cooking Magazine, we were pleasantly surprised at the results. Despite two large jalapeños and some chili powder, it was only slightly spicy. Of course, if you did want to ramp up the heat, don’t discard the jalapeño seeds.

Our meatballs did stick to the foil, so we suggest using parchment or coating the baking sheet with an oil spray such as Pam. Also, to thicken the sauce, we added about 2/3 of the shredded Gouda to the cream cheese/milk mixture, then sprinkled the remainder on top.

If you have leftovers, top with some milk and/or olive oil to add moisture before popping in the microwave.

Jalapeño-Turkey Meatballs and Spaghetti

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten 
  • 2 Tbsp.s olive oil 
  • 1 Tbsp. milk
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 lbs. uncooked ground turkey breast or ground turkey
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped onion 
  • ¼ cup fine dry bread crumbs
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 14-16 oz. package dried multigrain, whole wheat or regular spaghetti
  • 6 oz. packages cream cheese
  • 2 cups milk
  • Salt (optional)
  • 4 oz. Gouda cheese, shredded
  • Fresh cilantro


  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. In bowl stir together egg whites, oil, milk, chili powder, 1 tsp. black pepper, and 1/2 tsp. salt.
  2. In large bowl combine turkey, onion, bread crumbs, jalapeños, and chopped cilantro. Fold egg white mixture into turkey mixture; mix well. Shape turkey mixture in 1-1/2-inch balls. Place on a foil-lined 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Bake 20 minutes or until no longer pink (170 degrees F).
  3. Meanwhile, cook spaghetti, with 1 tablespoon salt added to water, according to package directions. Drain; keep warm.
  4. In same pan used for pasta melt cream cheese over low heat. Add milk. Cook, stirring, until bubbly. Return spaghetti to pan; toss to coat with cream cheese mixture.
  5. Serve spaghetti with meatballs, cheese, and cilantro.

Recipe from Fine Cooking