Leftover-Holiday-Cheese-Smoked-Salmon-PastaNow that the holiday feeding frenzy is over (well, sort of) we are left with hunks and wedges of cheese and packages of smoked salmon. I swear my cheese drawer looks like a graveyard of half eaten-half scooped items. But there is no reason to let them go to waste and they are easily re-purposed into something amazing. 

We were lucky enough to have smoked salmon around this holiday season. But don't worry, this recipe would work well with any leftover salmon or fish you have now or throughout the year.

I shredded up some wedges of cheese, about 3-1/2 to 4 cups total. I used Parmesan, Dubliner, Pepper Jack and Monterey Jack and I had about 1-1/4 pounds of leftover smoked salmon.

To make things even easier, I used a can of Progresso Recipe Starters Creamy Three Cheese Cooking Sauce as part of the base for my sauce. Have you tried these yet? They are so great to have in the pantry when you are needing a quick meal.

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grapefruitwreathFrasier Fir, boxwood, magnolia, grapevine – all traditional bases for wreaths. We can pick them up at garden centers and Christmas tree vendors and even grocery stores, but sometimes it is fun to spice up ye olde wreath with some seasonal flair.

In December’s issue of Southern Living, I took some traditional wreaths up a notch or two to festively deck our halls, doors, windows and tables with versions of wreaths donned with a bit of Holiday zest.

Rosemary and grapefruit – two of this Farmer’s favorites! From their scents to their colors and flavors, the combo of these two can be appealing to many of the senses. Sliced grapefruit and Meyer lemons combined with Savannah holly foliage and berries on a boxwood wreath is garden glam at its best!

Add fresh cut red roses in varying shades and sizes for a boost of elegance and fragrance. The jewel tones of the fruit and flowers on the deep green base are luscious!

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polentaCornmeal is a staple foodstuff in the cuisines of many cultures throughout the world, cooked in nearly similar ways. It can be found in South America, Africa, Eastern Europe, and the South where it is known as grits. Cornmeal is made from the grinding of dried corn kernels that have had the husk and germ removed, which gives it greater shelf life.

Polenta, as cornmeal is known in Italy, came to popularity in Roman times when it was eaten as a basic porridge. Its origins as a peasant dish have now been displaced by its availability in high-end restaurants. It is very versatile and can be served alongside a variety of other foods, such as meats, stews, sauces, and fish.

With a nod toward tradition, in this recipe I serve the polenta with a mushroom ragù, a combination of two different varieties of mushrooms, oyster and cremini, sautéed and then simmered with mushroom broth from dried porcinis. But any available mushrooms can be used for this recipe.

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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.

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From the LA Times

fallbeans.jpgSome people mark the start of fall with an apple pie. Others start breaking out the big reds from their wine cellars. Me? I'm a bean boy.

All it takes is the first sign of a nip in the air or the first morning that smells like ocean rain and I drag my Dutch oven out of the cupboard and start a big pot of beans simmering.

It doesn't really matter that I know the next day may be back up in the 90s. In fact, that uncertainty even makes it a little sweeter.

That week of rain we had at the end of September? A Portuguese-style stew of white beans with shrimp and clams, given a final lift by chopped pickled peppers.

A week or so later, after the 100-degree temperatures had lifted? White beans braised with dandelion greens and served as a bed for crisp-skinned duck breasts (the leftovers, without the duck, were just as good a couple of nights later, with a few tablespoons of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano stirred in).

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