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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

New Year's Dinner, Vegetable Pizza Appetizer, Potato & Roasted Garlic Soup

We were invited to a house party for New Year's Eve. I took a new appetizer and peanut brittle to the party. The weather had turned nasty with high winds, blowing snow and reduced visibility, definitely not good conditions for the increased potential of an encounter with a drunk driver so decided to stay overnight. The weather continued to worsen the following day but that didn't stop us from our New Year's Day tradition of grilling steaks. Unfortunately our plans for including lobster were dashed due to availability. Snow continued to fall most of today so I decided to modify my potato and leek soup recipe for dinner. Soup is always perfect for snowy, wintery days!

Vegetable Pizza Appetizer

Easy to make appetizers are always in high demand but more so during the holiday season. Three of the events we attended had both the layered taco dip and spinach dip in a bread bowl. These have become party classics. I wanted something different yet easy to make so poured through my cooking idea journal. A vegetable pizza appetizer was just what I was looking for.

I first came across this appetizer at an outdoor event several years ago. It was filed in my idea journal yet I had not tried it. This appetizer is served cold, travels nicely and is just a bit different. It was a huge hit! The short cut here is refrigerated croissant rolls which is what I used for the two pizzas I made. It was a real time saver but I want to tweak the recipe to use a homemade base. I was flying by the seat of the pants on this one trying to recreate what I remembered.

Vegetable Pizza Appetizer
recipe by: Garden Gnome

2 tins refrigerated croissant rolls
2 pk. 8 oz softened cream cheese
1 tbsp Herbs De Provence
3 tbsp Kraft ranch dressing
¾ c Miracle Whip

½ c finely chopped broccoli
½ c finely chopped green onions
½ c finely chopped raw carrots
¼ c finely chopped celery (optional)
¼ c finely chopped red pepper (optional)

Open refrigerator croissant rolls and carefully open the dough to lay flat. Place the first package on a large cookie sheet with silpat or parchment paper. Divide the other package in half leaving 4 croissants to be baked separately. Press the dough together to form a solid sheet. Bake at 400ºF until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Carefully remove from the pan (dough will be fragile) and place onto a tray for topping.

Mix the cream cheese, Miracle Whip, herbs and dressing until smooth on setting 4 of KitchenAid® stand mixer. Spoon the mixture onto the croissant base and spread evenly. Chop vegetables finely. Stir together to well mell. Sprinkle the vegetables evenly over the cheese layer. Cut the pizza into 2-inch by 2-inch pieces. Keep refrigerated until serving.

Grilling in Winter

Yes that is snow around the grill and yes it was snowing while the steaks were being grilled. The crisp, cleans smell of the snow mixed wonderfully with the aroma of the grilling steak. The water was calm as the snow fell softly to the ground so the sizzling of the steaks seemed to be slightly amplified. Anticipation of the first bite of a mouth watering heightened. Everything seemed magical!

We grill year round regardless of the weather. If you live in an area that experiences snow or colder temperatures in the winter and you have never tried grilling outdoors in the winter, you don't know what you are missing. True you can grill indoors and we do but grilling outdoors is just so much better. Grab a jacket and fire up the grill. It is an experience you won't forget! You will be glad you tried it.

New Year's Day Dinner

I have made several entries on how we cut our own New York Strip steaks for grilling. We like them cut thick, nicely grilled to medium rare for myself and rare for my husband. I took the New York Strip roast from the freezer before we left for the party so it could defrost while we were away. It was sliced shortly before grilling.

The steak was neither marinated or seasoned, simply grilled to perfection allowing the full flavour of the steak to shine. The star of the meal was the steak. Normally sauteed mushrooms or onions grace our steaks but not this time. Even my favourite steak sauce was kept off the table. I kept it very simple to accent the steak. Accompanying the steaks were baked white and sweet potatoes along with home canned green beans. What a wonderful meal to welcome 2008!

Potato & Garlic Soup

Soup is always a good choice when the weather is cold and snowy. Today was just begging for hot woup to warm the tummy. Tonight's dinner was a modified version of my potato & leek soup. By the time I was finished tweaking it was a very different soup. This flavourful soup was rich and creamy. Roasted garlic added a nice balance to the soup. The soup was garnished with shredded cheddar cheese and parsley flakes.

Potato & Roasted Garlic Soup
recipe by: Garden Gnome

2 L homemade turkey stock
1 medium onion
6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 bay leaf
white pepper to taste
sea salt to taste
1 roasted garlic cube (size of an ice cube)
1-2 drops liquid smoke

4 medium potatoes, peeled, diced and steamed
3 green onions chopped
½ lb side pork, cut to form small pieces, fried and drained
2 tbsp chives, chopped
1 c half & half cream
½ c instant potato flakes

This is a two part recipe. Prepare the 4 medium potatoes then steam. At the same time prepare the side pork by cutting across the strips to form small pieces. Use one full pound of bacon the remaining can be froze or refrigerated for bacon bits on salad. Set these ingredients aside to be used later. Chop the chives and green onions. Set aside.

Prepare the 6 medium size potatoes and onion then put into a large saucepan. Add the turkey stock, salt and pepper to the vegetables. Add bay leaf, roasted garlic and liquid smoke. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer until the potatoes are cooked. Remove from heat. Remove bay leaf. Using a stick blender, blend these ingredients until creamy smooth. Return to heat on low setting. Add the prepared potato pieces, side pork, green onions and chives. Slowly pour in the cream while stirring. Continue heating until soup is desired serving temperature, stirring to prevent the soup from burning. Slowly stir in instant potatoes until the soup is the desired thickness. Remove from heat. Ladle into soup bowls. Garnish with shredded cheddar cheese and parsley flakes.

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