Christmas Dinner 2009!

*Disclaimer: Photos in this post are from the video camera – so excuse the quality!


Christmas dinner this year was a small family affair this year – just me, Roberto, my mom and the furry babies. Again I was looking for simplicity. Having just prepared the Feast of the Fishes the night before, I wasn’t feeling like spending hours in the kitchen, again, no matter how much I love cooking! But I did want something special and delicious. So I let my beloved Tagine do the work for me. We added a quick starter and easy side dish and called it dinner!


We started with a tortellini soup. This is something Roberto loves having every year around the winter holidays, because his Mamma used to make it every year this time of year. She uses beef broth in hers, but this year I used some more of my Thanksgiving turkey stock that was in the freezer. Basically I put 2 cups of stock and 1 cup of filtered water on the boil – and added a splash of white wine, some fresh thyme and salt and pepper. Once it came to a slow boil, I added a small package of tortellini. In about 3 minutes it was done. On top we grated some pecorino dolce, and called it the first course!


For the second course, on my mom’s suggestion, we prepared my Nana’s famous stuffed artichokes. You make a stuffing of fresh bread crumbs, Italian parsley, freshly grated Parmesan cheese and enough olive oil to make it come together. Season with salt and pepper. You then stuff the first several rows of outer leaves with the stuffing. Then place stuffed artichokes in a pan with about an inch of water and some fresh squeezed lemon juice. Bring to a boil, lower the temp, put the lid on, and let steam for about 45 minutes. I hadn’t had these in years, and they were so good! I really should make them more often.

For the main course, I wanted something festive, that wasn’t turkey, since we had just roasted one a few weeks ago, for Thanksgiving. I saw some lamb at the store – which is a rarity in these parts, so I picked up a few packages of chops (and some for stew, later). I marinated the lamb chops in a healthy drizzle olive oil, splash of red wine, fresh thyme, and a splash of balsamic. I wanted to serve the chops with our favorite vegetable side – roasted carrots and potatoes! So I chopped 5 potatoes and 6 carrots in large chunks, drizzled them with olive oil and placed them on the bottom of the tagine. I arranged the chops on top, poured the rest of the marinade on top and put on the lid. I placed the tagine in a 350 F oven and cooked it for 1 ½ hours. I didn’t even need to add any liquid. The meat came out falling off the bone.

For dessert it was leftover Pandoro from our trifle the night before. We had a nice and relaxing time – a delicious and festive meal without too much time in the kitchen!

Not Beef Bourguignon (in my trusty tagine) with Popovers


Since seeing the movie Julie & Julia, and just poking around the blogosphere the past few weeks, I have seen a lot about Beef Bourguignon. All of which I like. I have never made Beef Bourguignon, and so I wanted to give it a shot with the rest of my blogging buddies. Unfortunately at the 11th hour I realized that I didn’t have bacon, or pearl onions, or Burgandy wine. Although I thought I was clever and had that part covered, I was even going to call this post Leftover Beef Zinfandel to be cute – cause I was using leftover (surprise, surprise!) veggies in my recipe! And Zinfandel instead of Burgundy. But much to my dismay and missing key ingredients, not even that was going to fly. So I turned my defeat around, and instead decided to make a fabulous leftover beef stew.


Now the popovers are a whole other good story. My mom was visiting and we were going to a kitchen outlet so I could finally purchase a Cuisinart stick (immersion) blender. How I survived this long without one, will likely never be fully understood. However, she was also thinking about purchasing a popover pan. She said popovers go really well with Beef Bourguignon (at this stage, I thought I was going to be making my cutesy Beef Zinfandel). But instead I swayed her to get a cast iron skillet.

Later back at my house, I was opening up my new baby (the stick blender) and noticed it came with a recipe book. In the recipe book was a recipe for POPOVERS! So it was a sign that we needed to make popovers to accompany this meal. Not only that, but this recipe said to make them in muffin pans! Which we had! Hooray! Something was finally going my way!

Back to the stew. I have been loving my crock pot recently, and have been using it as a receptacle for every leftover, adding broth and calling it stew. So I thought about using it to make this stew. But I felt that this needed to be special, and I really love how nice and browned everything gets in the tagine.

So I opted to use that.


I still browned the cubes of meat before putting them in the tagine – so that was my little nod to Beef Bourguignon!


As the stew was cooking away in the tagine the popovers were being made. And you know what? The combination was indeed fantastic! Yes, I still want to make Beef Bourguignon, and I am sure I will, but a dolled up beef stew with leftover roasted veggies, and popovers is pretty darned tasty!

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Maple Glazed Chicken with Roasted Garlic and Lemon and Creamy Fennel Soup


Today I am going to share with you two recipes, each one, from my favorite cookbooks of the moment: Dishing Up Vermont: 145 Authentic Recipes from the Green Mountain State and  Nourishing Traditions . First I must apologize for the lack of “finished product” pictures. We were so hungry, and it smelled so good, that we forgot to take any pictures of the plated dishes!!!

Even though it is still in the high 80’s and 90’s here in Florida (and we have been dealing with a broken AC for almost a week), we did have a few cooler days in the past few weeks. My internal clock is abuzz with massive autumnal cravings, so on those days I know I have to take advantage of the cooler temperatures to cook up some delicious fall fare. This is my absolute favorite time of year to cook!

As my internal clock made the shift from summer to autumn, I began searching through my favorite cookbooks looking for inspirational meals, that are on the cusp of the seasons. This Maple Glazed Chicken with Roasted Garlic and Lemon Puree, definitely fit the bill. Roasted chickens and maple always remind me of fall in New England, whereas the lemon adds a summery note. I also opted for a creamy Fennel Soup – fennel has a bright anise note, yet it is also a bulb, which reminds me of hearty autumn foods.

Both dishes were quite easy to make. I decided to forego the method for the chicken in the cookbook, and instead roast it up in my tagine. If you don’t have a tagine, you can certainly use a cast iron dutch oven, or heavy roasting pan. As a last resort, you could even use a baking dish. I took a short cut with the method because I didn’t have a lot of time to brine the bird, and do all the pan sauteeing and oven baking that recipe required. Plus the tagine has never failed me when it comes to roasting chickens. Although I will be making this dish again, and according to the recipe at some point, because the flavors were outstanding – sweet, tart and garlicky, all noticeable in their own right, yet completely perfect in unison. Plus the cooking methods in the original recipe, sounds really good, so I am sure it will be excellent!


The fennel soup was also delicious. A simple combination of fennel, leeks and potatoes blended together to make a super creamy dish – without cream. I used some of the chicken stock I made a few weeks back as the base. It was really delicious. We enjoyed it for lunches for several days last week as well. With no AC I even had it several times cold, and it was really quite nice.

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Buffalo Stew…(you guessed it, in a Tagine…)


Since the Beef Stew worked so well in the tagine, I decided to do another stew using one of my favorite red meats, buffalo. I had gotten a pound of buffalo stew meat from Whole Foods and decided to really stretch it by adding carrots, frozen peas, potatoes, onions and garlic. Most of you are already familiar with my tagine cooking methods, but for those of you just tuning in all you do is throw everything right in the tagine and cook for 2 hours at 350 F, stirring once and checking for liquid about halfway through.


Again it came out perfect, the meat was super tender and the veggies were as well. Plus this method of cooking really brings out the natural sweetness in carrots, so I find myself trying to sneak them into all the tagine dishes I make! If you do not have a tagine, I still recommend making a stew with buffalo! It is wonderful and so good for you!
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Sweet and Tangy Stewed Pork Country Ribs… in a Tagine


Yes, fine, I am officially tagine obsessed. I know. But what can I say? I am one of those people who really hates doing a lot of dishes. I like to cook with as little mess as possible and so I am highly attracted to one-pot dishes and the tagine is the king of one pot meals. I can’t really say enough about this cooking vessel – everything I have put into it has always come out amazingly tender and full of flavor. I mean just look at this bone – there is not a scrap of meat left on it, and I just pulled it right out.


Tagine cooking is perfect for the busy people and families. Since Roberto and I have been on a health kick this year, we are spending many evenings out exercising and so when we get home, we want something that is healthy and filling and delicious, AND QUICK that doesn’t require a lot of slaving over the stove – because some nights, I don’t have the energy to lift a spoon!

So with the tagine, I can put everything in it, cook it for an hour before we leave, and then turn it off while we are gone. Come home turn the stove back on, and by the time we are showered and ready to eat, the food is done! It is like a slow cooker, without the chord.

So this time I decided to do some pork in there, slow cooker style, to see if the tagine would be a good candidate for making pulled pork in the future. After this experiment, I would say it is. This stewed pork dish with beans was delicious and hearty. The meat literally just fell off the bone. Perfect after working out or on a cold evening to warm up.

I served this up with some awesome Bubbly Beer Bread by Zesty Cook


Again, I mixed the dry ingredients for the bread before we went to work out, and then added the beer when we got home and threw it in the oven with the tagine. I was a delicious and slightly sweet bread. Perfect with soups and stews.
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Moroccan Themed Ladies Supper Club!


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.


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! ;)


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.


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.


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


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 ).


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,


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!
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Tomato Salad and Roasted Chicken – In a Tagine

So of course after receiving all those wonderful products from I was inspired to start experimenting with them right away.


Santa Sweet Grape and Ugly Ripe Heirloom Tomatoes

Santa Sweet, the name of the company is also the name of the seed variety of this original grape tomato. The company owns the particular seed variety along with the Ugly Ripe heirloom variety seeds. Therefore they are the first company to bring the grape tomato to the United States. Any other company who sells “grape tomatoes” and are not Santa Sweet- their seeds are a cousin of the original. These grape tomatoes are super sweet and very pop-able. Children love their shape and taste. The Ugly Ripe tomatoes are reminiscent of a delicious tomato fresh from my grandfather’s backyard garden. They may be ribbed and bumpy, but their flavor is delicious and full of pure tomato flavor. Perfect to eat like an apple, or chopped in salads.

I live with a “tomato connoisseur” who just fell in love with both of these varieties of tomatoes. So much so, that all we really did with them was make wonderfully simple salads dressed with balsamic vinegar and and extra virgin olive oil.


My favorite salad was these dressed tomatoes over a bed of spicy organic arugala, mixed with a nice ripe avocado and some smoked cheddar cheese. It was like summer in a bowl. We ate these kinds of salads for 3 days straight!

from-the-farm_tomatoes-in-box offers a Tomato Variety Pack that includes 6 Ugly Ripe tomatoes and 2 pints of Santa Sweet Grape tomatoes!


Sierra Olive Oils and Spice Packets


So everyone has been asking to see how I roast a chicken in my tagine. I love my tagine and I try to come up with as many uses for it as possible. I am a huge fan of roasted chickens, and I usually roast one or two a month and I always make soup from the carcass. So when I got my tagine as a present, I did an experiment and roasted a chicken in it. As with anything you put in a tagine, the chicken came out super tender and falling off the bone – with no basting or liquid necessary. You literally throw it in the tagine, and throw the tagine in a 350 F oven and cook for about 1 1/2 hours. That is it!


This time, I decided to rub my delicious organic roaster with Sundried Tomato and Basil Olive Oil from Sierra Olive Oils. The company had also sent me a variety of spice packets used for dips (which are not available yet, but will soon be), but I thought it would be fun to try one as a rub for the chicken, so I chose the garlic variety.


I had some leftover fresh fennel that I stuffed the bird with. It came out perfectly delicious. Served with peas, it was a delicious and homey dinner, and almost too easy to make! :)

Beef Stew in a Tagine


I love my new Le Creuset Tagine (in lime green). Roberto got it for me over the Winter Holidays, and I have found many uses for it beyond just making Tagine. For example, I roast all my chickens in it. They come out perfect, with the meat falling right off the bone. But I will save that for another post…

I had several steaks in the freezer and some fresh Brussels sprouts and root veggies from the farmers market. I was going to cook the steaks up in my cast iron skillet, but decided instead to see what would happen in the tagine. Now most of you will want to kill me when I tell you that the cut of meat that I threw in the tagine was filet mignon. But in my defense, I really prefer a flank or skirt steak to filet. So sue me…

So here’s what I did, I took all my veggies that I had cut into nice chunks (left the sprouts whole), and threw them in the tagine. I liberally drizzled extra virgin olive oil and apple cider vinegar on top, then added some sun dried tomatoes and some salt and pepper. I mixed it around. The steaks I rubbed with sea salt, pepper and coriander and placed them on top of the massive pile of veggies. Then I poured just a quick line each of Worcestershire sauce and dijon mustard on top of each steak, put the lid on and threw it in a 400 F oven. After half and hour, I took the lid off and stirred everything around. Moving the steaks towards the bottom of the pan. Then I cooked it for another hour. When it came out of the oven, the meat was so tender I could break it apart with a fork – and don’t tell me that’s because it is filet. I have had many a tough filet. So I broke it apart with the fork and stirred it all together and topped it with some Greek yogurt. It was pure bliss.


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