Moroccan Themed Ladies Supper Club!

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I am lucky enough to be part of a great little local ladies supper club. I was introduced to this club, and great group of women by my friend Erin (that’s her there in the front, striking a pose in the little dress) of The Olive Notes. I met Erin through the world of blogging, but was pleasantly surprised to find out that she and her husband Chris live about 10 minutes away from us. They have a great group of friends here in Saint Augustine, that have really welcomed Roberto and I since we moved here.

Well the ladies in this circle of friends started an awesome supper club. There are eight of us currently, and we all get together each month. It is kind of a dress up event. Sometimes people just show up in jeans and a nice shirt, which is totally allowed, but there are also party dresses and high heels. It is a very girly event – and no boys allowed!

We all take turns hosting, and each month, the hostess gets to pick the theme, then everyone brings a dish to add to the dinner. We always have a welcome cocktail and appetizer to start, which usually finds us all in the kitchen chatting, laughing and catching up with each other. Then we move on to the table and have soup or salad, and then the main course with a vegetable side and a starch side. There is always wine to accompany the meal, and of course we end with something sweet. It is always a great night and something we all really look forward to each month.

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Well this past Friday, it was my turn to host – and so I chose a Moroccan theme. For one, a lot of my table decor has a North African/ Middle Eastern flair to it, and the cuisine is one of my favorites….plus, did you know I recently got a Tagine!?? LOL! ;)

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This supper club was a huge success – the food was delicious and we ended the night by working off some of that food with a little belly dancing! I have a lot of music from this region of the world, and all of the ladies know I used to belly dance, so they asked for me to bring out all my gear and show them some moves. We all got down, and it was a wonderful time! Good music, good friends, good times.

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But I know that you are all here for the food, so here we go – We started with Moroccan Pomegranate Martinis – fresh lemon and lime juice mixed with vodka, POM Wonderful and simple syrup.

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The appetizer was a Spiced Moroccan Carrot Dip – with fresh cilantro, and green olives, served with pita bread.

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We started at the table with a wonderfully spiced Harira (traditional soup of Morocco. It is usually eaten during dinner in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to break the fasting day ).

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For the main dish, I did a Vegetable Tagine overloaded with fresh acorn squash, chick peas, onions and kale, dotted with prunes and topped with sliced almonds. There was fresh flat bread and a delicious vegetable curry to go with it, and for dessert,

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the Moroccan pièce de la résistance – M’hanncha -”The Snake” (although it kind of broke in the revelry!) – which was very reminiscent of baklava.

Everything was wonderful and I had a great time hosting these lovely ladies!
Click through for the Vegetable Tagine recipe. Read the rest of this entry »

Vegetable Tagine, Vermont Style

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This is another recipe inspired by my new favorite cookbook,
Dishing Up Vermont.

This particular tagine recipe is perfect for the winter bounty of vegetables that we are experiencing right now. I would not call this a “tagine”, technically, but more of a stew, as that is the way it is prepared, as opposed to the traditional slow roasting method in clay that tagine in known for. However, the flavors are very much reflective of this well known Moroccan dish.

I did not have all of the ingredients in the original recipe, so I filled in the gaps with things that I had on hand, and I must say it was delicious and certainly very easy to make. I would encourage anyone to try this dish with whatever seasonal veggies you have on hand, while keeping the spices the same, and you are in for a real hearty treat. Topped with a nice dollop of strained Greek yogurt and you have a wonderful healthy meal, perfect for staving off the colder weather. It is definitely a dish that I will be making again.
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Recipe: Chicken and Lemon Peel Olive Tagine and Yellow for Bri – Lemon Peels

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Today, I am dedicating this post and recipe to Bri, a fellow food blogger from Figs with Bri, and a woman fighting the long and difficult battle against breast cancer. This month’s CLICK event , hosted by Jugalbandi has a theme of Yellow, based on the Livestrong model. This month we, who are participating in this event, are dedicating our YELLOW posts to Bri, a strong woman with the heart and spirit of an Amazon! There is also a fundraiser going on for Bri – a way to help her seek the best medical care, in all areas, including holistic and experimental treatments some of which are not covered by her medical insurance. So please go here to check out the information and learn more about Bri’s cause – a little goes a very long way. The Foodblogger Blogosphere is a global village. we may not personally know everyone we interact with on a regular basis, but their stories and lives do touch us. I feel it is so important to support our fellow bloggers in good times and when they need us the most, during their trials.

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(CLICK event photo)

Everyone here knows about my love for Moroccan foods. One of my favorite restaurants when I lived in the DC area was Marrakesh. This is how their website describes an evening there “course after course of Moroccan cuisine featuring succulent meats, vegetables, and salads served against the backdrop of Middle Eastern music and decor will both excite and lull you into one of the most special evenings of your life”. No truer words have ever been spoken.

Then at the other end of the spectrum, there was another great Moroccan restaurant where I used to live in Northampton, MA called Amanouz Cafe an unassuming place, yet serving up fresh and delicious food at very affordable prices. Both of the restaurants rate highly on my list of favorite restaurants of all time because of the education they afforded me for Moroccan food.
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Recipe: Leftover Chicken Pasta with Artichoke Hearts, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Olives and Parmesan Cheese

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I really thought twice about posting this recipe. It is so simple, but isn’t that what The Leftover Queen is all about? Simple, yet delicious meals using leftovers and ingredients you already have at home? I also decided to post this, because it is the first thing I actually “cooked” in my kitchen when we came back from our Honeymoon, and therefore it is sentimental, as am I.

We stopped at my mom’s house on the way back from the airport to say hi and pick up our kitty. She had a nice chicken dinner ready for us. I was so food-ed out from the trip and the chicken breast was so big, that when I was full, it looked like I had barely touched it! So she wrapped it up to go – just like a good mamma! :)

The next day, I was faced with a kitchen that was mine but unfamiliar after almost 2 weeks without really cooking. The fridge was empty, but luckily the pantry was still full of canned and jarred goods, including artichoke hearts and sun dried tomatoes. I love chicken with either of these, so I figured, why not both!? Now I only had 3/4 of a large chicken breast to work with, so I knew I needed to stretch it, so immediately my mind went to pasta. We had some nice whole wheat spaghetti in the pantry as well, so into a boiling pot of water it went. Roberto went to work cutting up the chicken into chunks and grating the very high quality parmesan cheese, while I opened the jars (what a slacker!).

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In a big mixing bowl we mixed the chicken, drained jar of artichoke hearts, some Kalamata olives and about 1/4 cup of sundried tomatoes with some of the oil from the jar (i love that stuff!). We added the hot pasta stirred it all together with about 1/2 cup of grated parm. Opened up a nice glass of chardonnay, left over from the wedding reception, and dinner was on the table, in minutes.

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We both really loved it. I think the main reason why is because the pasta was cooked perfectly al dente and we used a super good quality parmesan. Without these, this dish would have been just okay, but because these were perfect, this dish was heavenly and has me craving pasta again! Time to make pesto!

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Movie Night: A New Tradition – Recipes: Olive Cheese Balls, Lentil Koftas, Greek Green Beans and Mango Buffalo Wings

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I am all about tradition. Even as a young child, I always enjoyed re-occuring events based on a date, an event, or time. I don’t know what it is about me that just loves a good ritualistic event. Maybe it’s the food. Most likely…Now that I am an adult and getting older and recently married, I have started thinking more about traditions, what they mean to me and what kinds of traditions I want to start for my own family.

When we lived in Vermont, we used to have Roberto’s girls with us every other weekend, and I loved cooking special things when they were there. Especially in anticipation of Movie Night. We would rent a movie and then make fun food, perfect for watching and eating at the same time. Recently Roberto and I decided that we really need to bring back Movie Night – even if only for us. A time to get our jammies on and eat fun foods. We have done this three times so far and it seems to be sticking. We have prepared some really fun finger foods and menus that I want to share in case anyone else has Movie Night and is looking for recipes, or wants to start a Movie Night tradition of their own.

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So for our first official movie night, a few months ago, we watched Simply Irresistible. I made Lisa’s Olive Stuffed Cheese Ballsand Curried Deviled Eggs. We also mixed Greek Yogurt with Sumac, Za’atar, Sesame Seeds and Olive Oil and scooped it all up with warm whole wheat pita bread. For dessert we had leftover Key lime pie with strawberries that my mom had sent home with us after a visit. It was a great time. The movie, Simply Irresistible is with Sarah Michelle Gellar. A cooking movie where the emotions she puts in her food while she is cooking, affects those who eat it! Really cute film, especially if you are a die-hard Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan like we are, and therefore are bound to watch anything that has any of the stars from that show in it for all eternity.

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The next movie night we had was kind of themed without meaning to be. I had Lentil Koftas with cucumber salad on the menu with a side of Greek style green beans. As we were frying the koftas, I was looking for a plate to put them on, so they would stay warm. Our good friend, Tony had given us a Tagine for a wedding present that he and his partner, Jonathan had carried back with them from a recent trip to Morocco. It had a lid and looked nice, so I decided to use it as a serving platter. Plus I have really been dying to use the Tagine! Don’t worry, I just made Chicken Tagine this weekend – so you will be seeing it in its primary use in a little while!

We ended up getting The Kite Runner as a movie and the theme of the movie really fit well with our menu. The koftas were really great, and I plan on making them again.

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I have made the green beans for ages and they were a perfect accompaniment. Recipes to follow. The movie was excellent. It is one of those films that you can’t shrug off for several days. I had read the book and felt the adaptation was perfect.

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For our third movie night we really wanted to try Elle’s Mango Buffalo Wings from last month’s Royal Foodie Joust.
I love the spicy and vinegar combination of buffalo wings, but I have never made them at home. When Elle entered the contest last month with a mango buffalo wing, I knew I would love it, so I got the ingredients to make them. They were wonderful, the perfect combination of spice and sweet that I adore with that vinegar hot sauce note. However, the movie, I Am Legend was not a big hit. There is a very bad scene in the movie involving an animal and I just couldn’t take it…I am a big wuss when it comes to these kinds of movies.

However, this one bad movie has not deterred us from continuing the tradition of movie night! Join us for movie night and let us know your best creations!
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Recipe: Polenta Lasagna with Fire Roasted Tomato Sauce

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I love polenta – it is total comfort food and a great base for a variety of vegetables and great with tomato sauce and cheese. My favorite way to make polenta is with sundried tomatoes, olives, cheese and spinach-  put it in the fridge until it gets hard, dust it with flour and pan fry in olive oil. Served with a hearty tomato sauce it is really one of the best things to eat. This time though, I didn’t feel like frying the polenta. I wanted something lighter but still comforting and flavorful, so I decided to use the polenta rectangles as a base for lasagna. It was really good and something I will certainly make again.

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This is also my contribution to Marie of Proud Italian Cook and Maryann of Finding La Dolce Vita ‘s Event: Festa Italiana. All Entries due March 22nd. Please click on either of their links for participation guidelines!
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Happy New Year everyone…and a Happy (belated) Birthday…to me!

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Every year, right around the holidays, I turn a year older (don’t I look so much older and wiser here snapping this poor green bean?!). Since most of my family has migrated to Florida over the past 10 years, we now make a point to celebrate birthdays together. Since my birthday is in December, right around the holidays, I usually save my family party for a time when most of my relatives are here – from Florida and from out of state. So in between Christmas and New Years and MOVING, we put this shindig on – nothing is getting in the way of a party with good food. So this year we celebrated my birthday on January 1st – New Year’s Day. Per tradition, the birthday person, (in this case, me) gets to choose the menu. The weather has turned a bit cold here in The Sunshine State and so I was after more hearty fare.

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I chose an Armenian Vegetable Stew, called Kharn Panchareghen, out of one of my favorite cookbooks called Secrets of Cooking: Armenian/Lebanese/Persian which is an Armenian, Lebanese and Persian cookbook, written by the sister of one of my mom’s friends. The stew was delicious. I added some Kalamata olives, dried prunes and about a ¼ TBS of ground cinnamon to the original recipe. I also opted for canned plum tomatoes as opposed to fresh, as tomatoes are out of season right now and not very flavorful. It was rich in flavor and the secret touches of sweetness really intrigued the palate. We served the stew with Rice Pilaf, Naan bread and Greek Salad.

Then there was the question of the cake. Now this next picture looks kinda weird, but don’t be scared…there is a story, rest assured.

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I am not normally a chocolate person, usually opting for spice cake or carrot cake on my birthday, but I saw Giada make chocolate espresso brownies recently. I LOVE espresso. My mom had given me a bundt cake pan shaped like a giant octopus (I know I am weird, I love octopi) and so a plan for chocolate chip espresso bundt cake with an espresso glaze came to life. My mom wanted to decorate the cake all in waves and pretty icing, but since I am not partial to icing, I requested just a glaze. Hence a pretty much unadorned Octopus cake. But it was good. :)

Now for the recipe:
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Antipasto e Panino: Holiday Goodies

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Antipasto is always a special treat for us, especially during the holidays season – Italian coldcuts like salami, capocollo and soppressata are typical meats. For cheeses – a good parmesan, some mozzarella and for us goat cheese are often featured. Throw in some olives and grape tomatoes and some good bread and it is a delicious feast for the eyes and the stomach. It is a great spread to have around for the holidays when you have unexpected (or expected) visitors, or it is just great with a glass of wine to enjoy with good friends or family. Perfect for a New Year’s Eve celebration!

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If you have leftovers, try making a panino. This one has the coldcuts, mozzarella, pesto and greens!

Buon Appetito!

*On a personal note, I will be taking a short hiatus from the blogosphere. Roberto and I are moving on Jan 2 into our new fabulous condo in St. Augustine, so I will be very tied up with all of that. I wish everyone a happy and healthy and SAFE New Years celebration!*