Category Archives: Starters

Crash & Burn Potatoes

Crash & Burn Potatoes l Pook's Pantry
This post is sponsored by Idaho® Potatoes. All opinions are my own.

If you are looking for a new way to serve potatoes, this is it!  I made these a few days ago with the intention of saving them for dinner that night.  I have news for you, they didn’t survive the afternoon.  We ate a few and then we ate more.   We even ate them cold because they were delicious.  Normally, the phrase “crash & burn” has a negative connotation to it, but not in this case. These little spuds are smashed (flattened) and roasted until super crispy then bathed in a spicy cinnamon malt vinegar sauce.  Hence, the name Crash & Burn Potatoes.

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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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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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Swamp Monster Slow Cooker Jackfruit Gumbo

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jackfrui-swamp-gumbo

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.  

jackfruit
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

fall-recipe-roundup

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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Potato Dill Biscuits

Potato Dill Biscuits

Remember a few months ago when I went to a food conference and was assigned as brand ambassador for Idaho Potatoes?  They asked me to come up with a recipe using dehydrated potatoes and after bouncing around a few ideas, we settled on this biscuit.   Biscuits

When I was in the “testing phase” of this recipe, The Girl asked me why would I use dehydrated potato instead of leftover homemade mashed potato.  She had a good question and I figured if she was wondering that, someone else would be too.  Here’s the answer:
Other than Thanksgiving (when all of us make extra on purpose), when do you have extra mashed potato hanging around?  Not very often, I’m guessing.  Also, I don’t want to wait for the occasion to have them just to make these biscuits and furthermore, I don’t want to make them just to wait for them to get cold so I can make biscuits out of them.   All that being said, the biggest reason for using the dehydrated potato instead of leftover mashed:  THEY WORK BETTER!  I kid you not,  the biscuits are amazing.
If you’ve had potato bread or rolls, you know that sweet smell and soft, fluffy texture that can only be found by using potato. It works in breads, so it stands to reason that it would be great in a biscuit as well. And it is.

I wanted to flavor these biscuits with some kind of herb and dill was my first choice.  If you aren’t a fan of dill, swap it out for rosemary, thyme or whatever herbs you prefer.Potato Dill Drop Biscuits PP
The texture of the potato biscuit is fluffy and tender. The crust is beautifully golden and when you break them open, they smell of sweet, buttery mashed potato. You can’t beat that.

Potatoes do not have gluten (the protein that gives bread its chewy texture), so these biscuits remain tender and moist.  They are a smidge denser than regular biscuits, but are by no means heavy.  They are my new “go-to” biscuit.  They are easy as can be, because it is a simple drop biscuit, which means no rolling out and cutting dough.  I’ve made a rather big batch and froze about half of them to use in another recipe that will be coming soon!  I’ll give you a hint: breakfast.
I’m already planning ahead for the holiday season and these potato dill biscuits will be on our table this year. I can already imagine stuffing them with turkey for a little afternoon snack…
Potato Dill Biscuits PP
Thank you again, to Idaho Potato® for sponsoring this post! They are wonderful to work with and it allows me to share tasty recipes with you!

Potato Dill Biscuits
Yields 8
A simple and delicious drop biscuit.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
35 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
35 min
Ingredients
  1. 1- 3.4 oz. package Honest Earth® buttery home-style dehydrated potatoes
  2. 7 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 ½ cups)
  3. 1 ½ tablespoons baking powder
  4. 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  5. ½ teaspoon white pepper
  6. 2 large eggs + 1 yolk
  7. ½ cup light cream + 2 tablespoons for brushing on top
  8. 1 ½ sticks cold unsalted butter, diced
  9. 1 tablespoon dill
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl: combine cream, eggs and yolk. Whisk to combine thoroughly. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, with the paddle attachment: Combine flour and diced butter and let mixer run until mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about 4 – 5 minutes. Add dehydrated potatoes, baking powder, dill, salt and pepper.
  4. Mix for a few seconds until it is combined.
  5. Pour cream mixture into bowl of mixer and mix until just combined, do not overmix.
  6. Remove bowl from mixer and with a rubber spatula, fold dough from bottom of bowl to the top to make sure all of the flour mixture has been incorporated.
  7. Using a 3-ounce scoop, portion 8 biscuits onto the sheet pan. Brush tops with cream and sprinkle with coarse sea salt, if desired.
  8. Bake for 18 – 20 minutes, cool on pan for 10 minutes before moving to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Pook's Pantry http://www.pookspantry.com/
Here are a few affiliate links to items used (and loved!) in this recipe.   Your price doesn’t change, but I get a few pennies if you purchase through the links below.

Sheet Pans
Parchment Paper
Kitchen Scale

Thank you for spending a little time with me today 🙂

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Potato Dill Biscuits - Pook's Pantry

Can All The Things!

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I met Rebecca Lindamood a few years ago at a food blog conference in Orlando.  One day, we were talking about trading goods with each other (local food for local food).  A few weeks later, much to my delight, a quart of Grape Pie Filling (p.31) shows up on my doorstep.  I had never tasted grape pie filling before, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.  I was in for gastronomic bliss of epic proportions. If you pay attention to things I swoon about, you know THIS is at the top of my list.  Think of the juiciest, “grapiest”,  most luscious grape you’ve ever had.  Now multiply that by 10.  That’s Rebecca’s grape pie filling.

When there was talk of this book happening, I was beyond thrilled for my friend.  Her food is amazing and creative.  It is beautiful and yet,  practical.  As a former cook and Mom of 5 boys, she knows a thing or two about feeding people.   I couldn’t wait to get this book and review it because I knew it was going to be one of my “go-to” guides for canning.   I’ve made chutneys and jams, pie fillings and pickles,  chow chow and pickled beans… and then they sit there. Sometimes I get around to actually using them and sometimes, I give it all away because I can only eat so much of it.  Here’s where Rebecca saves the day:  there is a corresponding recipe for all of the things you’ve just canned!!!  I can’t even begin to explain my excitement about that!  

After all, a beautiful jar of something sitting on the shelf doesn’t do anyone any good unless you know how to use it!   -Rebecca Lindamood

If you or someone you know enjoys canning, get this book! There is something for everyone. It would make a great present for any occasion.  Or just because it’s Tuesday. I can’t recommend it enough.  It’s written in a way that makes it accessible for beginners and at the same time, appeals to experienced canners as well.  The recipes are unique and so varied!  Everything from the aforementioned grape pie filling to cardamom extract.   Make the cherries in red wine syrup this weekend (while you can still get this little ruby fruit) and enjoy the fruits (see what I did there ;)) of your labor in the fall or winter when you use those cherries to make Filet Mignon with Red Cherry Wine Sauce!  Make a batch of Ginger Peach Butter now, enjoy Peaches and Cream Baked Oatmeal later!   The entire book is like this!!!  Can you tell how much I love that?  It’s brilliant!

My dream pantry is lined top to bottom with beautiful jars containing their jewel colored treasures.  This book has me on my way to achieving that dream.  Thank you Rebecca, for reintroducing me to my love of canning.

Here is an affiliate link to Amazon to make getting your book even easier!

Happy Canning!

Cherry Chutney

Cherry Chutney
I’m on a serious cherry kick lately.    I can’t get enough of them…  We have gone through almost 10 pounds in the last month because they always seem to find their way into my cart.  You know, just in case I need more.  I’ve been putting them in everything from cakes to oatmeal and this week, I decided to go a savory route.    If you are unfamiliar with chutney, let me give you a quick description.  It’s like a relish, it has sweet and sour ingredients, usually coming from sugar or fruits and vinegar.  It is a blend of sweet and savory.  It’s a great condiment to use with grilled meats or vegetables and this chutney went splendidly with a grilled flank steak.Cherry Chutney

This chutney was paired with grilled meat, but it can also be a great addition to a cheese board or a charcuterie platter or even as a tasty spread on a hearty sandwich.cherry chutney

Cherry season is nearly over, so don’t wait too long to grab a couple of pounds.   I’ll be making another big batch before the summer is over to put up on the shelves so I can enjoy them long after they disappear from the stores. 

Let’s Cook!

Cherry Chutney
Serves 8
A sweet & sour condiment made from fresh cherries, perfect on grilled meat.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 1/4 lb. fresh cherries, pitted and roughly chopped (approximately 3 cups)
  2. 1/2 small red onion, diced
  3. 1/3 cup dried currants
  4. 1 clove garlic, minced
  5. 1 1/2 tsp. grated ginger
  6. 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  7. 1 TB whole grain mustard
  8. 2 TB light brown sugar
  9. 1 tsp kosher salt
  10. 1 TB canola oil
Instructions
  1. In a medium pot, heat oil over medium low heat then add onions and garlic. Cook until softened, but not browned (5 minutes). Add red wine vinegar and cook a few minutes more.
  2. Add in cherries, currants, ginger, brown sugar, mustard and salt.
  3. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cooked down and thickened.
  4. Cool completely then pack in an airtight container and refrigerate.
Notes
  1. I served this with grilled flank steak, but it would be a great addition to a cheese or charcuterie board!
Pook's Pantry http://www.pookspantry.com/
Cherry Chutney

Gambas al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp) #SundaySupper

Gambas al Ajillo

I was in my late 20’s the first time I went to Spain.  I remember crossing the border from France onto Spanish soil and the flood of emotion I felt.   It was as if I was coming home.  But, I had never been there before…  It was a surreal experience and I knew right then that I would be back.

I fell in love with Spain.   The food, the history, the culture… all of it.  I had been studying Spain and Latin America since I was 14 years old.  I had a degree in Iberian & Latin American studies (don’t ask me what to do with it), but I had never set foot in Spain.  (I did the study abroad program in Guadalajara, México)  It was over a decade in the making to be able to finally experience everything I had read in books.

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Honey Lemon Vinaigrette with Whole Grain Mustard

FINAL 1
The three most dreaded words in my vocabulary “Bathing Suit Season”.   It’s not that I have an issue wearing one, I hate shopping for them.   Come on, Girls out there…  Please tell me you have my back.   It could nearly be classified as torture.  I have to psych myself up for the task, give myself a little pep talk and promise myself a reward if I get it accomplished in record time.

When life gives you lemons, make a vinaigrette ~ Me.

The point is, we are eating ALOT of salads these days.  We always eat salad, but lately we are eating enough greens for a small village.   We have a few favorites, like this Butternut Arugula Salad, but I like to change it up fairly often.  One of the best ways to do that is with the dressing. Last year, we were at a family reunion and I was lucky enough to score 2 lbs of raw honey from a cousin who has bees.   That honey is incredible and makes the best vinaigrettes!   Making your own vinaigrette at home takes about 5 minutes and one of the advantages in doing it yourself is total control over the ingredients.  You know exactly what is in there.  No red dye #5,  no high-fructose corn syrup, no need for a PhD to decipher ingredients!   Just squeeze a few lemons, add in a little honey, blitz it & stir in whole grain mustard.  Easy Peasy, Lemony Squeezy.

This vinaigrette is good for more than just salad, I use it in a summer pasta salad (post coming soon) and it’s a great marinade for chicken!  This recipe makes about 3 cups of dressing and it will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 5 – 7 days.   Five minutes of work for a vinaigrette you can use all week!  That’s a pretty good deal.

Honey Lemon Vinaigrette with Whole Grain Mustard
A light homemade salad dressing with honey, lemon and mustard
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Prep Time
2 min
Cook Time
3 min
Total Time
5 min
Prep Time
2 min
Cook Time
3 min
Total Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. 6 fl. oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 4 big lemons)
  2. 6 TB raw honey
  3. 1 TB whole grain mustard
  4. 1 tsp salt
  5. 1/4 tsp pepper
  6. 1/2 cup olive oil
  7. 1 1/2 cups canola or grapeseed oil
Instructions
  1. Combine lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper in a deep bowl or container. I like to use quart containers (Tall deli containers or large soup containers from takeout)
  2. With an immersion blender (or regular blender), combine all ingredients for about 15 seconds and SLOWLY drizzle in olive oil, then canola oil.
  3. The texture and color will begin to lighten as it emulsifies.
  4. You will see oil on top and then suddenly, it will be a perfectly blended dressing that holds together instead of looking separated.
  5. When dressing is nice and thick, add in whole grain mustard and give it one last blast with the immersion blender to combine everything & Voila! Dressing, Done!
Pook's Pantry http://www.pookspantry.com/