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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Pesto Tomato Pizza and White Bean Dip

I have yet again another new cookbook.  And, I've not even finished reading the ones I bought a couple of weeks ago.  The new one is courtesy of Jolene Ketzenberger.  She's the owner and editor of and used to be the food writer at our local paper.  In years gone by, she did a Christmas cookie contest.  Like most things fun, the Star has discontinued that.  Just another reason I prefer the New York Times these days!  At any rate, Jolene's hubby John persuaded her to put together a last minute cookie contest at a local Brewery.  It's called Bent Rail.  The noise in there was deafening.  But, the food was incredible.  We'll head that way for dinner and make sure we get there and are gone by the time the band starts!!!  Let me note here... I am NOT a baker.  Used to bake 4,000 cookies and deliver plates of them to all of my clients.  No more.  I really avoid baking.  But, because Jolene wanted to do the contest, I entered.  Whiskey shortbread cookies.  They were good but not fabulous.  Nothing I'll make again.  But, since everyone who entered got to choose a cookbook, I was a happy camper.  That and I got to talk with some other foodies.  Carolyn, this is directed at you - time to start your own blog!  Seriously Simple Holidays is the cookbook I chose.  Can't wait to dig into this one.  Just in time for the holidays too.  Chicken paillards with cranberry port sauce.  Doesn't that sound amazing?  I know there will be a dozen recipes that we'll love.

So, back to the other new cookbooks I bought.  I had to go to the Christmas Tree Shop for bows for the window boxes.  Stop.  I wanted to go.  Needs versus wants.  I'm constantly reminding my clients of the difference...  Bows on window boxes are a want.  So are new cookbooks.  Or, in my case an obsession.  One that Connie happily tolerates because he gets lots of fun food.  The first cookbook I read was Small Plates by Williams Sonoma.  They actually have a lot of very good cookbooks.  This is my 5th or 6th and I've enjoyed all of them.  In addition to a recipe for scallops over a salsa of avocado and mango that's on the menu for New Years Eve, I had my eye on a pesto, tomato and mozzarella pizza.  In the fall we always turn the last of the basil into pesto.  Then, before the cheese is added in, it's frozen.  So, I have about a dozen 1/2 cup containers of frozen almost pesto.  Makes us think of summer when we eat it.  I wanted a meal that was quick, quick, quick.  We'd spent most of Sunday at the office.  Something about our admin being out thanks to her knee being replaced.  But, you've heard that story.  We're still doing double duty.  And, I had cookies to bake.  And, and, and.  Just not a lot of time to cook.  I'd had Connie buy a Boboli crust at the grocery so I was ready.  And, it was the perfect evening.  Nuke the pesto to thaw it.  Stir in some grated parmesan romano.  Schmear it on the crust.  Cut grape tomatoes in half and cover the pesto.  Thinly slice the fresh mozzarella and layer it over the top.  Bake at 450 for 15 minutes and we were good to go.

What did we think?  There almost weren't leftovers.  This was amazing.  My prep time was about 10 minutes.  Cooking time was 15.  And, we had a dinner that tasted much fancier than that.  Here's what the process looks like:

Our second recipe from the cookbook was equally successful.  White bean dip.  It's similar to ones we've made before but with bits of crunchy sage and prosciutto, it's just a step ahead of the generic white bean dip...

White Bean Dip


2 T olive oil
1 oz prosciutto (I used two ounces,) finely diced
6 fresh sage leaves, finely minced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 15 1/2 oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 shallot, finely minced
2 t lemon juice
salt and pepper


Heat 1 t of the olive oil to shimmering in a small skillet.  Add the prosciutto, sage, shallot and garlic.  Saute until the prosciutto and sage are a bit crispy.  In a food processor, whir the beans with the other tablespoon of olive oil and the lemon juice.  Pour the beans into a small bowl and add the sautéed ingredients.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve with thinly sliced baguette, pita chips or crackers.

Adapted from Williams Sonoma Small Plates

As I type this it's Christmas Eve Eve.  Last weekend our oldest son David, his wife Kara and our grandkids, Bradley and Rosie came over to visit.  We started with Mary Poppins at Civic Theatre.  They totally hit it out of the park with that show.  I have to give kudos to a long-time friend of mine, Don Knebel, for what he's doing there.  After a long career as an attorney, he retired to spend time working with the Institute for Civic Literacy at IUPUI.  But, Civic came calling and he answered the call.  This show was so well done.  I've been singing Let's Go Fly a Kite all week!!!  Here's Rosie meeting Mary Poppins:

After Mary Poppins we headed home for ham, mac and cheese and an autumn salad with apples, sugared almonds and blue cheese.  Dessert was a decadent ice cream pie.  With bacon caramel sauce, Heath bars and honey roasted peanuts.  Makes my teeth ache just thinking about it.  But, it was fabulous!
Then, we opened presents.  The hit of the year was toolboxes.  We were a bit hesitant to get the kids their own tool boxes but I do believe Mama has a grand idea.  She's going to go to Lowe's and get some lumber and set it up in the garage so they can practice.  Here's Bradley showing his off and Grampy showing Rosie how everything works:


Wednesday, December 9, 2015


With a bunch of busy ladies, there's always bound to be a glitch.  It's not if, it's when.  So, our friend Stacy has been on the receiving end more than once.  And, as Stacy always is, she's been incredibly gracious.  THANK YOU STACY!!!  So, as you may have guessed, Stacy is this month's Blogger C.L.U.E. orphan.  When I found out, I jumped at the opportunity to once again make something from her blog.  The fact that I love her blog is no surprise to anyone, I'm sure.  I've prattled on about her muffins and loads of other yummy dishes. 

This month our word was celebration.  Now, even though you may not think of this dish as celebratory, I do.  Why?  Well, we've had a bit of challenge in our lives recently.  And, spending an evening home with just my hubby is reason for celebration.  And, this is exactly the kind of comfort food with which we love to celebrate those wonderful evenings home.

Tartiflette.  Stacy made this in honor of her time in France and in remembrance of those murdered in the terrorist shootings.  She picked such a quintessentially French dish.  And, strangely enough, one I'd never heard of.  Now, we make an amazing dish that's layered potatoes, cabbage, bacon and cheese.  Here's the link to that:   Bacon Cabbage Potato Torte.  This is similar but different.  Brie cheese versus extra sharp cheddar.  Onions versus cabbage.  One layer of potatoes versus three. 

We got home from yet another wild day at the office.  Seven appointments today.  Six each of the next two days.  Missing our right hand woman who's out for a couple of months getting her knee replaced.  Dealing with major changes to Social Security that'll cause us to have to redo a couple hundred plans.  Dealing with several clients who've been offered early retirements.  Taking over the care of some relatives who have had a rough row to hoe thanks to another relative taking advantage of them.  Yeah, you might say I am looking forward to a nap on Christmas day!!!  Because that will be my only opportunity and it will happen.  I had a list.  Prep for a dinner party on Friday.  Make and freeze chicken green bean casseroles.  Make Giada's Asian chicken salad for lunches tomorrow and Friday.  De-fat then freeze the chicken stock I made on Sunday.  Finish cleaning up the kitchen after Monday's dinner party.  I'd pretty much decided it was a pizza kind of an evening.  Then, I found out Stacy was orphaned.  And, I added to my list.  Tartiflette.  Doesn't the name just make you smile?  Me too.  So, as I was doing everything else, I halved some potatoes and tossed them in boiling water.  Bacon got chunked up and tossed in a big skillet.  Then, the bacon got drained and onions went into the skillet.  Once those were happy, white wine got added.  Then, when the white wine had cooked in, half the onions got pulled out and half the bacon added back in.  The drained and sliced potatoes were added topped with the balance of the onions and the bacon.  Then, on top of that a veritable bounty of brie cheese.  The huge wheel I'd bought for one of the Christmas Eve appetizers.  Enough that both Connie and I looked at all of that cheese and said maybe, just maybe that was over the top.  It was indeed.  But, it was so daggone good that I'd do it again tomorrow.  Then, everything got put in the oven for thirty minutes.  So the cheese could melt into the potatoes and bacon and onion.  So it would get ooey, gooey wonderful!!! 

Here's the link to the recipe on Stacy's blog:  Tartiflette.  While you're there, please take a look around.  Stacy really has some of the best food around.  I ALWAYS find something I love on her blog.  But, I do think this one takes the cake!  Thanks Stacy!!!

Here are the dishes from my other Blogger CLUE friends:

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Henri's TasTee Dressing Clone

Some things are just plain meant to be.  This month for Blogger C.L.U.E. Society I was assigned A Palatable Pastime.  Unlike a lot of the bloggers in the group, I've not been well acquainted with Sue's blog.  So, it was a lot of fun to get to stalk her and figure out what'd go best with CELEBRATE!  Yes, the theme of our December posts is celebrate.  That left out SO many fabulous posts.   Baked Apple French Toast, Mediterranean Chickpea Salad (sounds healthy!) Candied Walnut and Grape Salad, Bacon Cheddar Deviled Eggs...  Yes, several of these will find their way to our table when we're once again home often enough to really cook.  For now, we're into the easiest things we can figure out that don't involve calling Donatos...

We've had pretty much the perfect storm at the office.  First and foremost, our right hand assistant, Teresa is out thanks to a knee replacement.  That's about 24 hours a week that we've had to take back.  Into a week that stretches to seven days of work anyway.  Then, there's the fact that Social Security changed the rules of the road and I'm having to work my way back through a couple hundred plans.  Add in the fact that we've taken over the care for my aunt and uncle (ages 85 and 97.)  And, several dinner parties.  Including the entire Girls Night Out crew and their hubbys or significant others.  And, Christmas Eve for my family.  And, about 26 hours of continuing education that needs to be done by year end.  And, and, and.  I'm overwhelmed.  So, quite honestly, the idea of a major celebratory dinner was out of the question.  I was looking for something that was easy, a bit decadent, a bit festive and that would be wonderful while we decorate for Christmas.  Smoked salmon dip.  Perfect.  But, I didn't quit reading.  Then, I found homemade Henri's TasTee Dressing.  Did that ever bring back memories. 

Way back in the mid 70's I was a management trainee at Lincoln National Bank in Fort Wayne, IN.  Every year there was a gift exchange and pitch-in.  Marcie, the president's assistant, brought a dip that I absolutely swooned over.  I still have the recipe card where I wrote the recipe.  And, I still make it for parties when I can.  Oh, you know, here's the gift I got at that exchange.  It's sitting on the shelf right above the computer monitor where I'm typing this post.  The little blue and white china box. 

And, it still makes me smile to think of the good times I had back there.  Now, what I've not said is that Marcie's Dip calls for Henri's TasTee Dressing.  We can't always find it.  Needless to say I'm one unhappy camper when I can't find my Henri's.  Now, I don't have to.  I have Sue's re-creation.  Oh, yes. 

So, I made the dressing but I used it as a salad dressing since I didn't have the Buddig Chipped Beef to make the dip.  You see, I'd bought all the ingredients for the smoked salmon dip.  Now, typically I'd give you a link to the recipe on the blog but I can't find it again...  I've looked thru Sue's index and it's not listed that I can see...  So, thank goodness I printed it out!!!

Henri's TasTee Dressing Clone Ingredients

1 c sugar
1 T celery seed
1 t salt
1/4 t ground white pepper
1/4 c onion powder
1 1/2 t dry mustard
1 t turmeric
1/4 c vinegar
1-2 c mayonnaise

Whisk it all together.  This makes a fabulous coleslaw dressing.  Or, salad dressing.  Or smoosh it with 8 oz of cream cheese, a bag of Buddig chipped beef (finely diced,) some pickle relish and a bit of mustard and you've got a great dip!

So, with many thanks to Sue, I can now recreate one of my favorite dips whenever I want!!!  Here's a list of my friends from Blogger C.L.U.E. Society who also have some fabulous celebratory recipes!