Lobster on Thick Cut Idaho®Potato Chips with Spicy Saffron Aioli

17-lobsterDress up your favorite Idaho® Potatoes with lobster and saffron aioli for a special holiday appetizer! Salty, crunchy thick-cut chips are a sturdy base for buttery lobster tail.  Topped with a spicy saffron aioli and chives, it makes an elegant nibble for any party.  This post is sponsored by Idaho® Potatoes. All opinions are my own.

The holiday season is upon us, which means HOLIDAY PARTIES!  It’s a special time of year, so I don’t feel guilty about a little splurge.  The end of one year, the beginning of a new one…  It’s a time to celebrate with friends and family and it’s a time to pull out all the tricks and SHINE!  I make one or two special appetizers for parties and lobster on thick-cut potato chips is no slouch.  The saffron aioli elevates it to “high falootin’ status” and this appetizer is always the first to disappear.  It looks much fussier than it actually is, everything except the chips can be made in the morning and set aside in the refrigerator for later.  This is key when you have lots to do before guests arrive.

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Holiday Gift Guide

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We all have someone in our lives that loves to cook or bake, right?  It might even be YOU! Whether you are looking for a gift for someone you love or treating yourself,  here are a few of my favorite things.  I’ve put together a baker’s dozen of course.  I own everything on this list and use it regularly.  Some of the items are newer versions of what I have, as most of my stuff has been in use for YEARS,  which is why I chose these particular things.  They have been used A LOT and stand up to the abuse they get from your truly.

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Holiday Candy Bark

Holiday Candy Bark - Perfect hostess gift or quick treat for busy holiday schedules!

This week, Betsy from Desserts Required is doing a guest post!  I love Betsy and I know you will too!  We’ve been friends for a few years now and I must tell you, when you are around her – a good time will be had, whether you like it or not!  🙂  She is a ball of energy, a ray of sunshine and has a serious sweet-tooth just like your truly.   Betsy is a “girl’s girl”, a cheerleader & champion of her friends, the kind of friend everyone should have.

Hello Pook’s Pantry readers!

I am so excited to guest blog while Cheryl takes some much needed time to recover from her surgery. I met Cheryl at Food Wine Conference a couple of years ago and last year she was my roommate. To say that I love and adore her would be an understatement. I mean, seriously, you already know how fabulous her sense of humor is in addition to her talent in the kitchen but I got to see it firsthand. Cheryl was on team Betsy’s Balls in the Chopped competition and, holy moly, can that woman cook!

My blog is Desserts Required and I live by the mantra, “Without desserts, life would not be as sweet.” If there is a delicious dessert within reach, driving distance or flying distance, I am always up for giving it a try. That goes for candy, too.

Since Thanksgiving is two days away, I thought it would be best to offer a quick and delish option to make; Holiday Candy Bark. I love the idea of making something that is as easy to serve at home as it is to take to someone for a hostess gift.

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The key is to use high quality chocolate. I love bittersweet chocolate but Holiday Candy Bark will work just as well with semisweet, milk or even white chocolate. When I was at Whole Foods buying dried cranberries and unsweetened shredded coconut, I had trouble locating dried apricots. I was directed to a bin of very dark, almost black, apricots. I thought something was wrong with them but learned that they were Turkish apricots and, as such, did not contain sulphur, which gives that very bright unnatural orange color. Although, initially, I wanted that bright orange color, I opted for the natural dried fruit. Feel free to use whichever dried apricot you prefer.

Assembly is a breeze. It’s just a matter of adding layers of dried fruit, coconut and toasted pecans over most of the melted chocolate and then drizzling more melted chocolate over the top to keep the goodies in place.

Holiday Candy Bark - a perfect hostess gift or quick treat at home for busy holiday schedules!

Best of all, Holiday Candy Bark is great throughout this holiday season. I’ve even heard a rumor that Santa loves a batch with his milk and cookies!

Find DR on twitter, facebook & instagram!

Holiday Candy Bark
Yields 48
A delicious, no-bake treat perfect for hostess gifts and holiday gatherings!
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup (141 grams) dried cranberries, chopped
  2. 1 cup (172 grams) dried apricots, chopped
  3. 1 cup (120 grams) pecan pieces, toasted
  4. ½ cup (40 grams) unsweetened shredded coconut
  5. 2 pounds (910 grams) bittersweet, semisweet, milk or white chocolate, melted
Instructions
  1. Line a 9” x 13” baking pan with heavy duty aluminum foil. Add 4/5 of the melted chocolate and use a small offset metal spatula to spread it evenly in the pan. Top with the cranberries, apricots and most of the pecans and coconut.
  2. Drizzle half of the remaining chocolate over the top. Sprinkle the remaining pecans and coconut over this. Lastly, drizzle the rest of the chocolate on top to ‘glue’ the pecans and coconut onto the bark.
  3. Place in the freezer for 20 minutes. If the block of chocolate is too hard to cut through, allow it to sit out on the counter until a knife cuts through the chocolate without breaking it into shards of chocolate. Cut in squares.
Pook's Pantry http://www.pookspantry.com/

 

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Picadillo (Cuban-Style Hash)

PicadilloPicadillo is Spanish for “hash” (or “mince”).  Essentially, this is a Cuban version of the good old American mélange, eaten on its own or used as a filling for empanadas. Spanish influences, specifically Andalusian, are obvious due to the addition of olives and raisins. Picadillo is often served topped with hard-cooked or fried eggs and is usually accompanied by fried plantains.

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Where are my fellow chile heads?!  
Although I love peppers, I’m not one of those crazy people that shoves whole habaneros in her mouth… funny story about that, actually.  
The year was 1993 and I was living in Guadalajara, México.  I was a student at the Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara and a group of us were out strolling the Mercado Libertad, which is a huge multi-level market.  It houses everything from food to shoes to flowers.  Here we are, a bunch of 20 year old kids walking around with eyes popping out of our heads.  This was the first time most of us had been on our own in a foreign country.  We happened upon this vendor of chiles.  You know where this is going, don’t you?!  A girl in our group stated that she could handle really spicy food and was going to buy a few peppers.   We tried (in vain) to warn her that these were seriously hot and she shouldn’t pop the entire thing into her mouth.  Let’s just that the afternoon took a turn… to the Emergency Room!   I guess I shouldn’t have said a “funny” story,  just “a story”.

I’m not one to eat a whole habanero, but I do enjoy a little heat.  The kind that makes your lips and tongue tingle, not the kind that feels like someone lit a match on them.   I seem to have a higher tolerance for heat than some, which means that I may not be the best person to ask if something is spicy. We burn through jars and jars of chile paste like it’s going out of style (I assure you, it is NOT). Most of the spicy food we eat happens to be Asian.  Bowls of noodles in fiery broth are my happy place.  Food from Latin America is a close second and for good reason: I’m married to a Texan, I used to live in Mexico and we currently live in Florida.  I chose this particular recipe to share because I love picadillo.  I know, I’m totally selfish.  I make big batches of this delicious filling to make empanadas.  The saltiness of the olives with the sweetness of the raisins is really good.

My very favorite thing about this book is its inclusion of food from around the globe.  I love exploring cultures through food and this book is a peek into how chile peppers really are a global ingredient.  It’s fun to try new recipes and flavors, especially when the recipes are so varied and enticing!  

Below is a short list of some of the 250 recipes you’ll find in this book.  I have my eye on the Spinach and Tomato Dal next…  What would be your first choice?
– Middle Eastern Walnut Dip (Middle East)
– Castilian Garlic Soup (Spain)
– Chinese Hot and Sour Mushroom Soup  (China)
– Paella (Spain)- Tagine of Chicken with Apricots (N. Africa)
– Cuban style hash (Cuba)
– Original San Antonio Chili (US)
– Indonesian-Style Fried Rice (SE Asia)
– Cape Verde Sausage Stew (Africa)
– Spinach and Tomato Dal (Indian)
– Calabrese-Style Fried Potatoes with Peppers (Italian)
– Thai-Style Grilled Chile Salsa (Thai/SE Asia)
– Kimchi (Korea)
– Mexican-Style Tomato Juice – (Mexico)
– Chile-Spiked Chocolate Pots – (French)

Picadillo (Cuban-Style Hash)
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1 onion, chopped
  2. 1 each - red and green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  3. 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  4. 1⁄2 habanero pepper, minced
  5. 4  cloves garlic, minced
  6. 1 1⁄4 lbs lean ground beef
  7. 1 tsp. dried Mexican oregano
  8. 1⁄2 tsp ground cumin
  9. 1 piece (2 inches/5 cm long) cinnamon stick
  10. 1⁄4 cup  dry sherry
  11. 1 can (28 oz/796 mL) tomatoes, with juice
  12. 1⁄2 cup dark raisins
  13. 12 large pimento-stuffed green olives, sliced
  14. Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For Garnish
  1. 2 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
  2. Finely chopped fresh parsley
Instructions
  1. In skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, red and green bell peppers, habanero pepper and garlic and stir well. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook until vegetables are very soft, about 10 minutes.
  2. Increase heat to medium-high. Add beef and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add oregano, cumin and cinnamon stick and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add sherry and cook, stirring, until almost all of the liquid is evaporated, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add tomatoes and juice, and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Stir in raisins, olives, and salt and black pepper to taste. Cook until olives are heated through, about 1 minute.
  5. Transfer to a large deep serving platter. Sprinkle chopped eggs over top. Garnish with parsley. Serve hot.
Notes
  1. Gluten-Free Friendly!
Tips
  1. You can substitute Cubanelle peppers for the red and green bell peppers if you like.
  2. I have used a habanero here because these peppers are common throughout the Caribbean, and I like the slightly fruity flavor they impart to this dish. However, it may be more common to find picadillo made with jalapeño peppers, even though purists suggest that jalapeños are not used in Cuban cooking. Both chiles do a fine job of bringing heat to this dish, so use whatever is easiest or suits your taste. If you’re using jalapeños, you’ll need 1 to 2.
  3. Instead of garnishing the entire dish with chopped eggs, transfer individual servings to warm soup plates or deep bowls and top each with a fried egg. Garnish liberally with parsley.
Adapted from The Chile Pepper Bible
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Chile Pepper Bible

You can find Judith on Pinterest, Facebook & Instagram!

This recipe has been reprinted courtesy of The Chile Pepper Bible: From Sweet & Mild to Fiery & Everything in Between by Judith Finlayson © 2016 www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission. Available where books are sold. I received one copy compliments of the publisher. No other compensation was received. Links to the book are affiliate links. 

If you’d like a chance to win a copy The Chile Pepper Bible of your own, make sure to enter the giveaway below!  Thanks to the publishers Robert Rose for providing a copy for the giveaway. It is open to US and Canadian residents!

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Sweet & Spicy Slow Cooker Chicken

Sweet & Spicy Slow Cooker ChickenA little bit sweet, with garlic and ginger, and as spicy you’d like it, this fragrant, saucy chicken dish is made in a slow cooker. It’s super simple and requires very little hands-on time. Serve over rice with a generous squeeze of fresh lime juice.

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Baked Eggs in Mini Bell Pepper Cups

baked-eggs-pepper-cupsI had bell peppers on my list.  Not these sweet little things, but the grown up kind. When I laid eyes on these, somehow the big guys lost their appeal.   I’m a sucker for cute little things.

As soon as I got them home, I started thinking about what I could do with them.  The obvious was mini stuffed peppers or filling them with dip and sticking a few veggies in them.   Then I went a completely different direction…  I love the idea of these for a brunch.   With the holidays right around the corner, these would be a perfect bite for Christmas morning or the day after Thanksgiving when any major cooking is off the table.  The evening before, slice the lids from your peppers and wrap them up for the refrigerator overnight.  In the morning, crack an egg into each pepper and slide into the oven.  How’s that for easy and minimal cleanup?!

These are also perfectly portable, just toss a couple in a container and off to work or school you go! I’d much rather eat this than a dry granola bar.  Looking for a light meatless supper?  It’s got you covered there too!  They are also a good size for little hands, no silverware necessary.  

baked eggs - Pook's PantryBack to brunch: I love the idea of a platter filled with a dozen of these, with different spices or seasonings, on a bountiful table for everyone to help themselves.  (READ: I’m not waiting on you!)

Small servings work especially well for someone like me who is perfectly content to make a meal of several appetizers.  I like to taste a few different things instead of having one entree!  This allows me to have one baked egg and also a few other treats, which is really my goal in life…  to try everything I can get my hands on.baked-eggs-in-mini-bell-pepper-cups
Be creative!  Try different combinations, different herbs, etc.  Scallions, tarragon, chives and dill are great herbs for eggs.  Curry powder, hot sauce,  HP sauce (from UK) and of course hollandaise, if you’re feeling fancy, are delicious on eggs.  Another option is putting a little cheese or bacon in the bottom of the cup, or whisking it all together and making an omelet baked in the pepper cup.  Whatever your favorite egg combination, make it delicious!Baked Eggs - Pooks Pantry

Baked Eggs in Mini Bell Pepper Cups
Yields 4
Individual Baked Eggs in Mini Bell Pepper Cups
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
18 min
Total Time
23 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
18 min
Total Time
23 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 Mini Bell Peppers
  2. 4 Medium Eggs
  3. seasonings of your choice
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Slice top off pepper and set aside. Remove seeds and membrane from pepper. Crack 1 medium egg each into mini bell pepper.
  2. Set on a baking sheet or in a glass baking dish and bake for 16 - 18 minutes, until whites are set, but yolks are still a bit runny.
  3. Season with salt and pepper, curry powder, herbs, hot sauce, etc. Whatever tickles your fancy!
Notes
  1. Small or medium eggs work best in mini bell pepper cups. Large eggs will overflow!
Pook's Pantry http://www.pookspantry.com/
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Roasted Idaho® Fingerling Potatoes with Shishito Peppers and Asian Spices

togarashi-spiced-fingerlings-ppThis post is sponsored by Idaho® Potatoes, all opinions are mine!
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Last month, I was invited to join Idaho® Potatoes on their Harvest Tour 2016.   What a privilege! I had never been to Idaho before and to be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.  I had arrived a few days before the rest of the bloggers to stay the weekend in Boise with L and her husband D.  The 48 hours spent in Boise felt like twice as long because L had planned so many incredible things for us.  We had the most incredible time in Boise and I seriously can’t wait to go back.  If you’ve never been, GO.  I know most people would think “Really?!”  “Boise?!”  Yes.  Boise.  The food was on par, we rode bikes everywhere we went and had some fantastic wines.  I may have to do a follow up post on Boise, because I loved it so much.  I’m sure that it had much to do with L, her outstanding itinerary and her wonderful husband who is such a love.
Onto the HARVEST TOUR!!!!

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Swamp Monster Slow Cooker Jackfruit Gumbo

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Halloween is fast approaching and if you are a fan of this fun holiday, you’re in for a treat (not a trick).    My friend Kathy has written a new cookbook full of fun, vegan Halloween food.   Her blog Healthy Slow Cooking is full of healthy options and is my “go to” source for vegan recipes. Whether you follow a vegan diet or not, there is something that everyone can enjoy.

I wanted to share this recipe with you because jackfruit is probably a fairly unfamiliar ingredient to most people.   I find it at my local Asian market.  Sometimes they sell the whole fruit, but more often it’s cut into pieces.  

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A whole fruit can weigh as much as a small child, so getting a piece at the market is a much better option!  The best option when you don’t need 40 pounds of jackfruit: canned for convenience.

I love Kathy’s unique spin on this classic recipe.  If you are trying to eat less animal protein or you are curious about a vegan diet or you just want to try something new,  I would wholeheartedly recommend this and any other recipe by Kathy.   

Swamp Monster Slow Cooker Jackfruit Gumbo
Serves 4
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For the main gumbo
  1. 4 cups water
  2. 4 cups sliced okra (fresh or frozen)
  3. 3 cups diced tomatoes or 2 (14.5 ounce) cans
  4. 1 cup minced bell pepper (any color)
  5. 3 cloves garlic, minced
  6. 1 can (20 ounce) young green jackfruit in brine, rinsed with seeds removed *
  7. 2 large vegan sausages (Italian, Chik’n Apple, or Andouille), cut into quarters lengthwise and sliced
  8. 2 bouillon cubes (vegetable or vegan chicken flavor)
  9. 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning blend (see recipe at bottom)
  10. 3 bay leaves
For finishing
  1. 1 cup chopped spinach, kale or other mild green
  2. just enough water to puree, about 1/4 cup
  3. salt and pepper, to taste
  4. more Cajun seasoning blend, to taste – optional
For serving
  1. steamed rice (white, brown or forbidden)
  2. hot sauce
Make Your Own Cajun Seasoning Blend
  1. If you’re looking for a salt-free version or just can’t find it in your area, this little recipe will keep you in spicy goodness for awhile. The best part is you can make it as spicy or mild as you like!
  2. 2 teaspoons paprika
  3. 2 teaspoon thyme
  4. 2 teaspoons oregano or marjoram
  5. 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  6. 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  7. 1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  8. 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  9. 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  10. 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  11. Combine all the ingredients well and store in a lidded container. You can also use a spice grinder to make it look more like store-bought.
Instructions
  1. In the morning: Add all the main gumbo ingredients to your 4 quart slow cooker. Cook on low 7 to 9 hours.
  2. 15 minutes before serving: Add the greens to a blender with a little water and purée until smooth. Then add salt, pepper and more Cajun seasoning if needed.
  3. Remove bay leaves and serve gumbo topped with the green “swamp” purée and a scoop of rice.
  4. * shred the jackfruit with your hands – it will happen easily as you remove the large seeds.
Notes
  1. This chunky stew is full of okra, tomatoes, vegan sausage and stringy jackfruit. One of my testers, Robin Fetter of The Real Vegan Housewife, says the soup had “an awesome foamy green effect on top” when she served it immediately, but that the green became less bright after twenty minutes. She highly recommends puréeing the greens into the soup.
Pook's Pantry http://www.pookspantry.com/

Below is a link to the Kindle edition of Kathy’s book!

11 of My Very Best Fall Recipes

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Crisp fall air and leaves turning shades of red and burnished orange, the crackle of them under your feet as you walk down the street with hands snuggled deep inside your pockets.    Autumn is by far my favorite season.  The temperatures begin to cool down at night, calling for an extra blanket or a down comforter.    This is something I miss now that I live south of the Mason Dixon line.  It’s only been 3 and a half years, but I doubt I’ll ever really get used to the lack of (distinguishable) seasons.

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Food Friends

Greetings, All!  I am away in Idaho this week with my friends from Idaho Potato!  In lieu of posting a new recipe, I wanted to share some awesome recipes from my super talented friends.

I do hope you will check out their recipes, as I happen to think they are pretty great!  Besides being amazing in the kitchen, they are good humans and I am lucky to know them.  I can’t wait to tell you all about Idaho and the fun things happening there right now!  I’m updating and sharing pics on social media every day, so if you want to see what we’re up to, check out my Facebook page,  Instagram account or Twitter feed for the latest shenanigans.

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