Every Day Chef Challenge – Autumn Bisque

In my last post, I shared with you my first Every Day Chef contest entry, Pumpkin Pie Parfaits. Today I will share with you a delicious holiday starter, Autumn Bisque.

Here is my inspiration for the recipe:

“I love cooking seasonally, and autumn is my favorite season. I adore the bright orange squashes that are so plentiful this time of year. We are hosting Thanksgiving this year, and I wanted to create a wonderful seasonal starter with delicious local vegetables, local beer and sharp cheddar cheese – all three things we are known for in terms of food culture here in Vermont.”

So yes, this delicious and creamy soup contains, vibrant orange winter squash, local beer, sharp cheddar cheese and BACON! So what’s not to love?

Recipe ingredients:
1 cup carrots cut into chunks (@ 2 small carrots)
3 cups red kuri squash, halved (@ 3 medium squashes)
Olive oil to drizzle
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 apple, cored, seeded and chopped (@ 1 small apple)
½ cup yellow onion, chopped (@ half of a small onion)
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced (@ 1 medium clove)
½ teaspoon sea salt
Dash of black pepper
¼ teaspoon of dried ginger
1 teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 cups Pacific Organic Free Range Chicken Broth
½ cup of gluten free ale (local is best!)
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
2 strips of bacon, cooked and cut into pieces (optional garnish)

Cooking instructions:
1) Preheat oven to 350 F. Cut the squashes in half and lay cut side up on a cookie sheet. Also place carrots on cookie sheet. Drizzle vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt and black pepper. Roast in the oven for about an hour, or until fork tender and slightly caramelized.
2) Scoop out the insides of the squash and set aside with the carrots.
3) Brown butter in the bottom of a large soup pot, over medium heat, sauté apples, onion and garlic until they browned – about 5 minutes. 3 minutes in add the salt and spices. Stir frequently.
4) Add Pacific Organic Free Range Chicken Broth, turn heat up, stir and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until apples are tender – about 5 minutes.
5) Add beer, squash puree, and carrots. Stir and heat through.
6) Add entire contents of pot to a blender. Puree in a blender; be careful not to burn yourself. Make sure the lid is on tight, and don’t do the whole thing at one time, unless you have a large capacity blender.
7) Carefully return contents to the soup pot, add the cheddar and lemon juice, and stir over low heat until incorporated.
8) Top with bacon crumbles if desired, serve immediately. Can also be reheated for later use.
9) Serves: 4 appetizer sized bowls.

Please click on this link to see the recipe and vote ! It only takes a second, you don’t need to register to vote, or anything. AND, you can vote everyday! So if you feel inspired and like both this recipe and the Pumpkin Pie Parfaits, you can vote for both, everyday until November 14th! Thank you so much!

Irish Stout Lamb Stew and Colcannon

 

 

I keep posting the last of my winter recipes in the hopes that I get them in before they are irrelevant. I think this is my last one! If you live in New England, this post will most likely hit the spot on a day like today. We woke up this morning to more snow, but now it has changed to rain. Mamma Nature sure is temperamental this time of year! She is as old as the dawn of time, so I imagine she has the right to her own ways of doing things!

This post is long overdue. In fact the meal graced our tables in celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day or All Snakes Day, if you are of the Pagan persuasion. But there were some things I needed to get off my chest before I posted any more recipes. I am still really interested in people’s thoughts on sustainability, local foods, etc. So please feel free to get your two cents in on the comments on that post.

Anyway, for me March 17 is not a religious holiday at all. It is just a day where I can celebrate Irish culture and food, with millions of others of Irish decent all over the world! I love the picture above. In fact it makes me laugh. In the photo most of my ancestries are accounted for: Irish stout, served in a stein made in Germany that says Scotland on it! Pretty funny, right!?

Anyway, this was a really hearty and delicious meal. The stew was easy to put together. I browned the lamb cubes in coconut oil (my favorite oil to brown meat in, as it has a high smoke point and it seems to brown more evenly) in my cast iron skillet. I then deglazed the pan with about 1/3 cup of stout and cooked until the liquid evaporated. Then I drank the rest of it, while I cooked! I used Murphy’s Irish Stout. I am of the opinion that it is better than Guinness. I threw the meat in my tagine along with cubed turnips, chunks of carrots, onion and some garlic. I spiced it with salt and pepper, thyme and beau monde seasoning. I added a little more stout and put a few pats of butter on top. Then I cooked it at 350 F for about 2 hours. It came out super tender and extremely flavorful.

For the colcannon, I sautéed thinly sliced green cabbage in my cast iron skillet. I then added some cider vinegar, and put the lid on. I let it cook down for about for about 15 minutes over low heat. I had boiled 2 large potatoes earlier, which I mashed and stirred in with the cabbage along with a splash of cream and a nice healthy portion of butter, salt and pepper to taste, and serve. It was a wonderful side dish, which we really enjoyed.

The leftovers were even better the next day!

Best Shepard’s Pie for Saint Patrick’s Day!

 

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to everyone out there! This year I want to share with you my best Shepard’s Pie recipe to date. This dish is common in Ireland as well as Scotland and England, and it is very quick to throw together. So if you want to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, but didn’t really plan for it, a Shepard’s Pie is perfect!

I have been working on this recipe for a while. Shepard’s Pie is one of the easiest dishes to make, and it is that very simplicity that makes it such a lure to me to perfect to our tastes. With such a short list of ingredients, the quality of those ingredients makes all the difference. The pie I made before this one was when I really understood that point. Since then, I have added a few other subtle flavors that really add something to the dish, without taking away from its intrinsic simplicity and classic taste.

This past fall Roberto and I butchered a lamb for our own consumption. I wish I had taken some pictures because I so wanted to post about the experience. But I was up to my elbows in the work at hand, and taking photos wasn’t too convenient. It was a wonderful experience and one I plan to do over and over again. I am a firm believer in educating oneself about where you r food comes from. This is why we grow our own, and buy from local farms. Butchering your own meat is about as close you can get to this philosophy.

The lamb and kidney that was used in this recipe is from that lamb we butchered. I know for me, it is hard to come by lamb kidneys, so you can omit this ingredient, but if you can find lamb kidney, I suggest you use it. It adds an amazing richness and earthiness to the pie, but it doesn’t scream OFFAL to your taste buds.

If you are looking for more recipes to celebrate St. Patrick ’s Day, please check out my Real Food St. Patrick’s Day Feast from last year, featuring Guinness Stew, Sautéed Cabbage in a Mustard Glaze, Brown Soda Bread and Guinness Ice Cream!

Slàinte Mhòr!

 

INGREDIENTS:

5 large potatoes, peeled and chopped into large chunks – I used Idahos
butter
cream
salt and pepper

2 TBS olive oil
¾ lbs ground lamb
¼ lb ground beef
1 lamb kidney, finely chopped
1 cup sautéed onions and shallot, mixed
1 clove garlic minced
1 cup chopped pickled carrots (you can use un-pickled as well)
1 tsp each dried sage, thyme and rosemary
1 tsp of beau monde seasoning http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-beau-monde-seasoning.htm
salt & pepper
1 ½ cup cup homemade gravy – beef or poultry (heat 1 1/4 cup of stock, add ¼ cup of stout beer or red wine and whisk in 3 TBS of arrowroot powder to thicken. Season with salt and pepper).
handful of corn
handful of peas
malt vinegar
extra butter to put in top before baking

 

METHOD:

Boil the potatoes until tender. Hand mash potatoes with butter and cream, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Prepare the gravy. Then set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Place ground lamb and beef, kidney, carrots, onion and garlic in a cast iron skillet. Cook over medium heat until eat begins to brown, and veggies start to soften. Then add your carrots, corn, peas, and spices. Mix together. Pour gravy over top, and stir. Dollop the mashed potatoes on top and spread evenly over the top of the other ingredients, dab with butter and sprinkle a hearty bit of malt vinegar over top for that real pub taste!

Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes or until warmed through and potatoes become golden.

This post was contributed to Simple Lives Thursday.

French African Guinea Fowl with Maple Onion Glaze

As I mentioned in an earlier post, because of the amazing meat CSA we have with Applecheek Farm, we have been able to try a variety of meats, that we have never had the chance to eat before. Guinea Fowl is no exception. To learn more about Guinea Fowl and their status as watch-birds on the farm, please read this quick blurb from Applecheek.

I had never tasted a guinea fowl, let alone heard of one, until we were picking berries this summer , and were greeted by a flock of them, which at the time I thought were weird looking wild turkeys (hey, I am still growing into my status as a country girl)! So when I discovered that we got one in our CSA, I was absolutely intrigued.

I wanted to prepare a special “taste of Vermont” dinner for my aunt and uncle when they were visiting us for the first time back in October. So I took special care to choose a menu featuring the best local ingredients, including vegetables from our garden. I intended to save the guinea to enjoy for a special occasion, and their visit was perfect. I consulted one of my favorite cookbooks, Dishing Up Vermont: 145 Authentic Recipes from the Green Mountain State and found a recipe for Quail with Maple Onion Glaze. So I decided to tweak it to use with the guinea.

The dish was delicious, and the guinea fowl? One of my favorites. The taste is something like a cross between a chicken and a turkey – much more dark meat, which is what I like anyway. It was juicy and full of rich flavor, especially with the succulent sauce. I served it with pan roasted fingerling potatoes from our garden and a Maple Creme Caramel, which I will feature in a separate blog post soon.

This is a perfect dinner to serve to guests (probably feeds no more than 5-6 people with sides) and the leftovers and bones make a fabulous broth. If you don’t have access to guinea fowl in your area, I can suggest using quail (you will need 12 quail!) , like the original recipe, and I am sure it would be a perfect sauce to dress an autumn roast chicken or even a Thanksgiving turkey!

INGREDIENTS:

1 guinea fowl
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp dried thyme
2 TBS unsalted butter
3 TBS olive oil
1 large white or yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
½ cup or dry white wine or local light beer (which is what I did) + ¼ cup
½ cup of pure maple syrup

METHOD:

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Rinse bird inside and out and pat dry with paper towels. Season inside and out with salt, pepper and thyme. Heat 1 TBS of butter and 1 TBS of olive oil in a dutch oven until hot. Add the bird and brown on all sides, deglaze with ¼ cup of beer or wine. Place in the oven and roast with lid on for about 1 hour.
In a hot skillet, add remaining butter and olive oil. Saute the sliced onions, stirring constantly over medium heat, until onions are brown (about 10 minutes). Deglaze the pan with beer or wine. Cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Then add the maple and heat until the liquid thickens. Reserve and toss with the bird once cooked to serve. Serve immediately.

Real Food Irish Feast for St. Patrick’s Day…Better Late Than Never!

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United Irishmen Flag

Well it’s better late than never, I say. Just think of this post as a jump start to next year’s celebration!

These last few months have been very exciting for me. I recently discovered that along with my new found English ancestry (and a few other Northern European ancestries) and in the company of millions of other Americans, I may have some ancestral roots in Ireland. I am still learning about where it comes from, which has been a very fun process for me and has revived in me my love of anthropology and population migrations. I am not sure how much I will ever really know about my heritage, being adopted with no ancestry history, but it looks like there is a strong Northern Irish connection from all my research so far. So this year, I decided that I want to explore these cultures in my ancestral line through the foods of these lands, and St. Patrick’s day seemed like a good place to start, in good company.

I am not Christian, so for me, my St. Patrick’s celebration is not religious or political, but more of a general Celtic heritage and cultural celebration. It should be no surprise that I have Celtic ancestry, as I have always loved Celtic music (even teaching myself to play the fiddle) and culture, and Scottish and Irish desserts have been among my favorites for years. So I felt like even with its religious roots, this would be a good a time as any to celebrate the rich culture and heritage of Ireland with so many others!

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Some Irish Feast Ingredients: Fresh Organic Eggs, Organic Cream and Guinness plus Homemade Buttermilk and Whiskey and Aquavit Soaked Raisins

I wanted to celebrate by cooking some semi- “traditional” dishes, and to challenge myself by cooking with Guinness! So the menu is as follows :

*Guinness Stew
*Sautéed Cabbage in a Mustard Glaze
*Brown Soda Bread
*Guinness Ice Cream

Everything is made from scratch, including the buttermilk in the soda bread. The meal turned out great, and I would certainly make any of these dishes again, for St. Pat’s or any other day.

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Brown Soda Bread

I was inspired by several different recipes for this meal, and it all started with Jenny’s Brown Soda Bread Recipe .

As many who follow this blog know, I have been tweaking various bread recipes these past many months, so that the flour can be soaked for at least 12 hours before baking ( to find out why click here ). Jenny is a master at this kind of cooking, even recently being featured on CNN for her Real Food Challenge . When I saw her soda bread recipe, I knew I had to make it.

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Guinness Stew

From there, the idea for an Irish feast began. I didn’t have a lot of time this year to research “corning” my own beef brisket , so to speak (maybe next year). So I decided to go with something a bit more in my comfort zone – beef stew with a beef and Guinness broth.

I love sautéed cabbage, and since it was on sale at the grocery store, I decided to grab a head and figure out what to do with it later. As I was cooking the stew, an idea for a delicious spicy mustard and honey glaze was concocted in my mind! I will definitely be making cabbage this way again!

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Creamy Guinness Ice Cream without white sugar

I had also been wanting to try this recipe for Guinness Ice Cream for about 2 years. However, I did modify it, to make it more healthy by omitting the 2 cups of sugar called for in the original recipe and using date sugar and maple syrup to sweeten it, instead. I also omitted the brown bread, however I may have to add it in the future, because it sounds yummy!

This was a wonderful celebration to begin to connect with some of my ancestral roots and share it with my awesome and supportive family. Thanks Guys! :) Hope my readers enjoy this menu as much as we did! Recipes under the cut…

slainte

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Happy Valentine’s Day! : Roasted Chicken with Heather Ale & Herbs de Provence & A Delicious Way to Help Haiti

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This is a great dish to serve your loved one(s) for Valentine’s day. The flavors are unique, as are some of the ingredients which makes it a special kind of meal. Yet at the same time it is quite easy to prepare – the oven does most of the work. It is like fancied soul food.

Lately, I have been trying to familiarize myself with artisan brews. For years, like a lot of people, I thought I just didn’t like beer. But I have come to find that once in a while, I do enjoy a bit of the bubbly. I prefer unique brews, generally dark porters and stouts, and I love British style hard cider (which isn’t beer either…), but sometimes a lighter beer catches my fancy. I have always been fascinated with the Ancient world, especially in Northern Europe. The myths, stories and legends of Scotland, England, Ireland, Brittany in Northern France, and Scandinavia have always been my favorites. Of course due to my food obsession, I have also been curious about ancient feasts – the foods and cuisines.

farm-chicken-legs_ale

Years ago I found an amazing ale, the likes of which has been made in Scotland for over 4,000 years. This ale is brewed with heather flowers and Scottish malt and has a very floral flavor. It is quite refreshing and crisp, and goes really well with roasted chicken. It can also be enjoyed on it’s own, or with really earthy cheeses, like raw cow or sheep milk cheeses, which often have a grassy quality to them.

In light of recently finding out a bit more about my biological ancestry, I decided that it would be fun to start exploring more of the foods and dishes of Northern Europe (perhaps that explains my long held fascination with that area of the world, and its history). I also happened upon a pack of Fraoch, Scottish Heather Ale,and felt inspired to make roasted whole chicken legs and root veggies with a heather ale sauce. In honor of our upcoming move to Vermont, I also added some maple syrup to enhance the sweetness of the ale, and used Herbs de Provence to enhance the floral qualities. I can honestly say the result was one of the best dishes I have made in a while. If I had known how good this was going to be, I would have made it for Valentine’s Day. It is definitely special enough for that. Thank you kitchen muses for this wonderful meal! Sometimes, hobbies and interest outside of the kitchen, can really inspire us, IN the kitchen. This dish is certainly a testament to that.

valentine-spicy-mayan-hot-chocolate_in-mug

For dessert, be sure to try my Spicy Mayan Hot Chocolate . It is a recipe from my e-book The Secret Energy of Love Through Food .

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Here is a sweet way that you can give a little this Valentine’s Day – I will be giving all the proceeds for the book, during the month of February, to blogger efforts on behalf of Haiti relief.

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Half will go to H2Ope for Haiti (a way to raise funds to supply water to Haiti by BloggerAid-CFF) and the other half will go to

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Stir It  28 for Haiti

So please buy a copy today!  And please spread the word! This is a perfect cookbook  for Valentine’s Day and any day to share a delicious meal with any loved one!

You can also send a donation directly to Stir It 28 by going to Bren’s blog There is a Paypal donation box on the upper right hand side and to H2ope for Haiti by going to this Justgiving Page .

Recipe under the cut…

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Nourishing and Comforting Shepard’s Pie

shepards-pie_on-dish

Shepard’s pie has got to be one of the most comforting meals around. I love this dish, and this is THE BEST one I have ever made. The most rewarding thing for me, since I have started cooking exclusively with Happy Meat, and local and organic vegetables, is when I make simple dishes like this, that I have always loved and made a billion times before, and realize how much better it tastes when you are using the freshest and best ingredients you can find.

Ingredients really do matter – not just in terms of health, but also in terms of taste. It really does take it up to a whole new level. I can attest to this, because even Roberto, can taste the difference. He will marvel at how good it tastes, and wonder how it can be so, since I used the same ingredients – and then he will realize that it is because the quality of the ingredients have changed since the last time I have made this. Lately he has been saying that everything I cook is the best thing he has ever tasted! Now, I know I am a good cook, but I can’t take all the credit.

Making a dish like Shepard’s pie, doesn’t take much effort – and the cost is minimal – even when you use the best of ingredients. All it costs you is about 10 – 15 minutes of prep time. The rest of the work is done in the oven, or on the stovetop, where you don’t have to do anything, but smell how good it is!

This meal is less than $3 per person – and that is with a hefty man-sized portion. Less than a fast food meal, or something out of a box or a bag – way better for you too, and I guarantee a thousand times tastier. Even your kids will love this one! This meal can serve six, but Roberto and I ate half each – divided over 2 meals – and that was under $3 per serving. Seriously.

Treat yourself to something good and hearty tonight!

shepards-pie_cooking

INGREDIENTS:

5 large potatoes, peeled and chopped into large chunks – I used Idahos
water
butter
cream

8 oz. of reserved potato water
1 tsp better than bouillon, beef
(or you can use 8 oz. Homemade beef stock)
splash of wine or stout beer
1 TBS non-GMO cornstarch

1 lb of grassfed ground beef
2 carrots, peeled and cut into small chunks
1 small onion peeled and cut into small chunks
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 cup of mixed leftover roasted potatoes (sweet and white)
handful of corn
handful of peas
sage
thyme
salt & pepper
Malt vinegar

METHOD:

Boil the potatoes until tender. Reserve 8 oz.of potato water. Hand mash potatoes with butter and cream, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

If using better than bouillon instead of homemade, in a small saucepan, mix potato water and bouillon, and stir together. Heat over medium, and add a splash of red wine, or stout. Whisk in 1 TBS of corn starch, and keep whisking over heat until gravy thickens. Then set aside.

In a cast iron skillet place ground beef, carrots, onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat until eat begins to brown, and veggies start to soften. Then add your leftover veggies, corn, peas, and spices. Mix together. Pour gravy over top, and stir. Then dollop the mashed potatoes on top and spread evenly over the top of the other ingredients. Sprinkle a hearty bit of malt vinegar over top for that real pub taste!

Enjoy!

Cooking and Hanging Out with ValleyWriter and The Royal Foodie Joust Winners!

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We had a great time this fall in New England this year visiting family and friends. Thanksgiving is over, and posted, and so now the time has come to share some of the highlights in eating and visiting that we enjoyed in New England. We traveled from Connecticut to Vermont and back again. In fact we drove up to New England from Florida, stopping at my Aunt’s house in VA both on the way up and on the way back. We got to spend time with Roberto’s daughters Rachel and Gwen as well as many friends along the way. It was a wonderful time – a time I have looked forward to every year since we moved to Florida.

We spent a large portion of the trip in Western MA. I lived in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts for over 10 years. I came to live there by way of education, and then after 4 years of college, decided to stay. I was just so enamored of the place – the quaint towns, historic buildings, and good food, as well as all the cultural activities taking place due to all the colleges in the area. I made a lot of lifelong friends while I lived there and was definitely part of a community. When I think about that time in my life, I get a warm and fuzzy feeling – and I always enjoy spending time there. I have moved away from New England twice since I lived there, once to go back to my home state of Maryland for a few years, and the other when we moved to Florida three years ago. Each time I move away, I find myself missing it, and it doesn’t take long before New England re-claims me. I guess I am a New Englander at heart, and I am proud of it! :)

People in New England are just nice. It is a very eclectic kind of place sometimes, and so it is typical to have friends from all walks of life. People are just more accepting of paradoxes, creativity and uniqueness. I don’t know how to describe it, but I always find myself gravitating towards New Englanders wherever we are, and that is how we met Valley Writer and Mr. Valley Writer.

We met them, almost 2 years ago, when we were all newlyweds, spending our honeymoon in Jamaica. We originally met them at a social for newlyweds and then ended up running into them at breakfast one morning. So we decided to sit together. We found out we had a lot in common. She and I are both writers (this was before her now famous blog), we both have black cats with asthma, and we both were practically neighbors at one point without even knowing it, in a small New England town called Hatfield. She met her husband the same way I met Roberto – online, and in the same time frame. So likely I ran across Mr. Valley Writer’s profile in my searches…who knows. But there was just so much in common (besides the love of food and cooking) that we knew we were meant to be friends. We visited with Mr and Mrs. Valley Writer last year when we were in New England . Then this year, they graciously invited us to stay with them for a few days.

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When we arrived, the first thing we did was take a quick drive to a local farm, and pick up her last CSA of the year. We picked out some nice root veggies to make some roasted roots – my favorite – to go along with dinner that night. The plan for dinner that night was to make duck. Neither of us had ever made a duck before, so we were both very excited at the prospect. We were worried about the method of cooking, we didn’t want it to be dry.

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So we decided to do it beer can style, and used a raspberry wheat beer in the preparation. It turned out really delicious – although it did make the house a little smoky – all that delicious duck fat (which of course was reserved for later use)!

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We enlisted Roberto to cut the duck – and of course he had to wear Amber’s Flirty Apron that she won a few months back from The Foodie Blogroll.

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(Mr. Valley Writer likes to keep his identity hidden….just WHO is HE?)

The food was really good that night, but the company was the best part! We all had a great time getting re-acquainted with each other and getting to know each other better – and it was a breeze. Sometimes you just really hit it off with another couple, and this was one of those times!

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Unfortunately Mr. And Mrs. Valley Writer both had to work while we were visiting. So the next night, to thank them for their hospitality, Roberto and I decided to get some extra ingredients, and cook them dinner. There was already a pork tenderloin in the fridge, so we decided to add some wild rice, glazed carrots, and miniature carrot cakes from Whole Foods (which used to be called Bread and Circus in that part of the world) to complete the meal. We prepared the pork in a fresh apple cider and dijon mustard sauce, and it was delicious. When they got home from work, we all started working together in the kitchen! What else can you expect from a bunch of foodies? This time we had Mr. Valley Writer do the honors on cutting the meat.

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Again the food was great and the company spectacular! We had a wonderful few days spending time with them, and look forward to continuing our friendship when we move up to Vermont this spring!

Thanks Valley Writer family for your hospitality and friendship! Please check out her post about our visit together on her blog, Adventures in the Pioneer Valley !

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In addition to Finest Foodies Friday, I am also phasing the Royal Foodie Joust Winners and New Ingredients posts over to Foodieblogroll.com. So if you want to read about the winners and the new ingredients. Please visit Foodieblogroll.com.

Also for more foodie fun, don’t forget to join us at my friend Ben’s blog for a Homemade Party!