Camembert and Kumquat Chutney Toasts

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by Susan Russo

kumquatcrostiniThere are some products, where the name really does matter. For me, Ile de France cheese is one of them.

I have been buying their products for years now and have never been disappointed, which is why I enthusiastically accepted their offer to review their Camembert cheese. Ile de France's Camembert is a soft-ripened cheese with a luxuriously creamy texture and mild, nutty flavor. It's ideal for cheese platters when paired with olives, fruit, crackers, and toasts.

Today's recipe for Camembert and Kumquat Chutney Toasts contrasts the pleasantly mild cheese with a tart, tangy fruit and spice chutney. I have served this appetizer for dinner parties twice now to rave reviews. To save time, both the chutney and the toasts can be made ahead of time. Then just before your guests arrive, assemble the toasts with the cheese, and you're good to go. Serve them with some chilled Riesling, and trust me, they won't be disappointed.

Cherry, Banana, and Oatmeal Breakfast Bread

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by Susan Russo

healthybreadI always crave banana bread -- moist, tender, nut studded slabs with plenty of butter on top. I don't always crave the calories that come with it. That's why I have been experimenting with a creating a healthier, reduced fat banana bread that will keep both tummy and my hips happy. I have succeeded.

This banana bread is low in fat and calories yet high in fiber, protein, and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Instead of fats such as butter or oil, I used healthier egg whites, low-fat buttermilk, non-fat yogurt, and orange juice. Instead of just plain white flour, I used protein and fiber-rich oats and whole wheat flour and omega-3-rich flax seed and walnuts.

The cherries are a seasonal surprise that add sweet juiciness to eat bite. Of course, you could substitute other fresh fruit such as apples or mangoes or dried fruit such as raisins or apricots. Oh, and don't worry. It tastes great.

24 Karat Carrot Soup

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by James Moore

24carrotsoupThis is a delicious fall/winter soup that makes a perfect first course at Thanksgiving. It’s packed with carrot flavor that’s enhanced by a double dose of ginger.

Cook’s Illustrated suggested adding fresh carrot juice to enhance the flavor of the soup which really appealed to me. I’ve been using my Hurom Slow Juicer to create all types of fresh, nutritious vegetable and fruit juices, so making fresh carrot juice is quick and easy.

If you don’t have a juicer, bottled carrot juice will also work just fine.

Smokey Turnip and Parsnip Gratin

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by Cathy Pollak

Smokey-Turnip-and-Parsnip-Gratin-a-perfect-holiday-sideTurnips and parsnips are not a taste I grew up with. It kind of surprises me as I was exposed to all kinds of different foods, heavy with Eastern European influence (not that the turnip or parsnip originated from that part of the world). However, root vegetables were a staple in my childhood household, but I don’t remember turnips and parsnips being part of the repertoire. 

Fast forward into adult life, my husband introduced me to what is now one of my favorite tastes, parsnips. Have you ever had parsnips mashed up like potatoes with butter and garlic? Or added them to soup? They are mild and sweet, and were used as a sweetener before the arrival in Europe of cane sugar. They mimic the taste of a roasted carrot, but with more complexity. I also add them to stews for a layer of unsuspected flavor.

For me, eating turnips was just a natural progression from parsnips. They are however very different in flavor from other root vegetables, more like a peppery radish with a bitter edge. Very distinct in taste but amazing when roasted, which brings on a milder flavor.

Leftover Curried Turkey Salad Sandwich

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by Cathy Pollak

Leftover-Curried-Turkey-Salad-SandwichI’m calling it…the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers that is. This was truly the end of my turkey…those last two cups of shredded meat. It is December, time to wrap up this turkey thing and move on to the next holiday. However, I do know lots of you also make a gobbler for Christmas, so this recipe might come in handy at the end of the month. You’re welcome:).

I have to say I thought long and hard on how I was going to use up these last bits of the Thanksgiving bird. For me it’s a challenge, there’s no way I’m going to serve it with gravy like the regular holiday meal. I want to make something completely different.

Since it was lunchtime and after I fiddled through the spice cabinet, I decided on this A-M-A-Z-I-N-G sandwich. I added everything I possibly could because texture in a sandwich like this is key. Is has to have crunch.

My husband had it for lunch and requested more for dinner…it was that good. This is definitely a nice way to send off the bird for another year. (Okay I’m lying, I’ve stockpiled two turkeys in my deep freeze. I know I’ll be breaking them out over the winter.)

Pasta with Sautéed Brussels Sprouts

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by Joseph Erdos

brusselspastaThere's no other month that represents comfort food better than December. Right now it's all about soups, stews, roasts, and much more. But sometimes all that rich food is just too much to handle! (Thanksgiving was for me.) So when I crave something comforting that doesn't weigh me down, I turn to pasta.

Old fashioned spaghetti and meatballs or any other tomato sauced pasta dish is always a welcome meal around this time. But my favorite way to enjoy pasta is with simple flavors and seasonal produce. A dish like this pasta with sautéed Brussels sprouts is perfectly comforting and light, all at the same time. There aren't too many comfort foods that can be both.

This recipe is unique because the sprouts are separated into leaves and then sautéed. There's no need to worry about smelly and awful tasting sprouts since sautéing is a gentle cooking method that coaxes out all the sweet flavors of the sprouts. Red onions add additional sweetness to the dish and Parmesan cheese creates a thin sauce that clings to the pasta and vegetables. This dish is worth making now while Brussels sprouts are in season.

Valley Onion Soup

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by Jessica Harper

OnionSoup 0227I haven’t been to Paris in a while, but I’ve been to the next best place: Encino.

There are two reasons why I go to Encino, a small city (or enclave or district or borough or cluster or whatever it is) in the San Fernando Valley, north of where I live. One is that I have a superior dentist there. The other is that I know a fabulous cook who lives there, and I like to take advantage of every opportunity to eat at her house.

Last time I dropped by (“Oh, is it dinner time? Who knew? What’s cookin’?”) Suzanne offered me a sample of her French onion soup. While my memory is admittedly badly impaired, I don’t recall eating a better version of it, ever.

For those of you who do not want to go to Encino because you are too busy visiting more glamorous places like, say, Cleveland, I have managed to procure the recipe for Suzanne’s soup. If you know what’s good for you, you will make it.

Sweet Onions Bring Tears of Joy

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by Brenda Athanus

onion2I confess, I couldn’t live without onions - maybe if I was marooned on an uninhabited tropical island and there was literally ‘nothing’ to slow cook or even firewood [I suppose] I would have to adapt. No other vegetable makes me happier then local onions - it is my favorite. All the different varieties have separate flavors and I love to do different thing with each variety from Ailsa Craig to Walla Wallas.

The first onion of the season is always baked whole with a knob of butter, a few tablespoons of maple syrup and wrapped in foil or parchment paper. I slow bake the onion parcel at 325 degrees F for at least and hour and a half-you will know when it is done when the aroma makes its way all the way to the other side of your house. How is that for precise recipe writing?

After I’ve eaten my first baked onion of the season with a spoon I can relax and get a bit more creative. Did I mention I encourage my onion farmers to leave the green tops on? They think I’m a little daft to pay for the extra weight only because they have never baked one of their onions split in two, covered with a touch of stock and baked in a covered dish until it is tender and very little liquid is left. I pour a little heavy cream over the top along with its distant cousin, chopped chives and reduce the cream until thick-ish. Any variety of onion works - red onions will tint the cream a delicate rose color.

Easy Roasted Lemon Garlic Broccoli

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by James Moore

roastedbroccoliRoasting broccoli is probably my favorite method – it’s quick and easy to prepare. High heat roasting enhances the natural sweet and nutty flavor while creating a beautiful brown, caramelized exterior. People seem to either love or hate broccoli, which is a shame because few other vegetables are as naturally abundant in indole-3-carbinol, a powerful antioxidant.

President George H.W. Bush apparently disliked it so much that he never, ever, wanted to see a sprig of broccoli on his plate. According to reports he proclaimed, “I'm President of the United States, and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli!"

It seems things have changed a bit at the White House, and broccoli is back on the menu. Last year at a Kids' State Dinner, President Obama told a kid reporter that broccoli is his favorite food. He may have been exaggerating a tad, but give this recipe a try, it might just change your mind about broccoli.

Fish Chowder

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by Joseph Erdos

fishchowderI can't think of anything more American than chowder. This seafood soup is synonymous with chilly days and large family gatherings. Even though we're almost into spring, the weather has continued to be cold and dreary here in the Northeast. I've been craving hot bowls of soothing soup. There are many different recipes for chowder, including the little-known Rhode Island-style made of clear broth. But the one I'm a fan of is creamy New England-style, which was probably the first recorded chowder recipe, dating back to the 18th century. It just so happens that I'm the outlier in a family of all Manhattan-style lovers. Still for me, the fish broth enriched with cream holds the most appeal. That richness is what makes this chowder so soul-satisfying.

The recipe for chowder originally came from France ("chowder" comes from the word chaudière, meaning cauldron) and eventually made its way to England and over to the New World with the colonists. The recipe evolved according to the surroundings, availability of seafood, and the specific tastes of the region. Somewhere along the line certain recipes became more popular than others. Immigrants added their particular spin: the Portuguese added tomatoes to clear-broth chowder and invented what we know as Manhattan-style. That began the epic rivalry between New England- and Manhattan-style chowders, now typically made with clams. But the first chowders in America were made with fish.


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