A Sparkler for New Year’s…

pomegranate-sparkling-wne

Just in time for New Year’s Eve night or New Year’s Day brunch or just a nice little something special, a sparkling wine from France. Cafe de Paris Sparkling Wine. It comes in two flavors: Pomegranate and Pear. Both are delicious. You know, since it is NOT from the Champagne region in France, it CANNOT be called Champagne. However, we call it champagne here at the Gravy Company. (did you notice the lower case C?) It’s all champagne to me!

The Gravy Guy, assorted neighbors, and I attend the monthly wine tasting at our local Hy- Vee. It is a wonderful thing. This was one of the sparklers we tried. Hello lover! I have a new favorite bubbly. This could, and I’m not saying it would, replace a Mimosa on any given Sunday brunch. It is also served regularly at The Little Cabin in the Woods.

cabin-champagneI especially love the fish stopper. Only the best at The Little Cabin in the Woods.

It is a sweet sparkler, but not cloyingly sweet. I love that word and have read the word more than I have ever used it. Cloying….cloyingly……great words! Everyone loves this little bottle of bubbles. Perfect, even for the grandmas, great aunties, and those who do not drink wine. <gasp>

The touch of pomegranate or the touch of pear lends itself well to offset the sweetness. Serve it well chilled. The best part…it is in the ten dollar range.  The alcohol content is 10%. The bottle is quite pretty and it would make a great host/hostess gift. Cheers!

pear-sparkling-wineThis is a picture of the Pear flavor. It is so good!

From the Gravy Guy and I, have a safe and Happy New Year!

 

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It’s Tomato Soup Season

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I know it’s been a while. Lots of life stuff happened over the last year. I was the caregiver for my husband’s parents for the last eleven years. This last year was the hardest for them and they required so very much of my time to insure a comfortable life to the end. They passed within six weeks of each other in the Spring. So, I have been working on finding a new normal. Rehabbing a cabin in the woods with my honey, hiking, meeting new friends, traveling, reading, painting, crocheting, hanging with the grands. I was not in the mood for cooking and baking. It was only on an “as needed” basis that I cooked. I knew, when my cooking mojo came back, I would be ready for the Gravy Company again.

Last night was a big football night. The Chiefs and Raiders….in Kansas City. They have been rivals forever.  Let me tell you, baby it was cold outside. They kept saying it was 22 degrees on the field. It was 17 degrees at my house. I was not at the game. I have many of those subfreezing games under my belt. Now, I watch the games from the comfort of my warm home. By the way, the Chiefs won.

I love tomato soup. I don’t mind the kind in the red and white can but the soup made from fresh tomatoes is pretty darn good. Since it is not the season for fresh tomatoes I decided to roast the canned tomatoes.

First of all, I used a can of Italian grown whole tomatoes and a can of good old, on sale at the local Price Chopper, American grown whole tomatoes. I wanted to figure out if the price and origin of the tomatoes really made a difference. Actually, it did not. The Italian tomatoes were bright red, a bit crushed, and not as firm as the American tomatoes. They roasted up quicker. The American tomatoes were very firm and roasted up just fine. They both tasted incredible after roasting. I would say, use any brand of tomatoes you like.

I gave measurements for the seasonings as a guideline. I always taste as I go and add my seasonings a little at a time. Waiting a bit after each addition in order to get the flavors evenly dispersed. Some may prefer more or less of the garlic, salt, pepper, and basil. Lots of wiggle room to get the soup to your taste. After all, isn’t that why we cook?

First of all, you will need to use non-reactive cookware. That means, materials that do not react to the acidic nature of tomatoes. This would be glass, enameled cast iron, stainless steel. Basically, avoid aluminum and cast iron. That is why I used parchment paper on my aluminum baking sheet. Plus, the tomatoes don’t stick and it’s easy clean up.

tom6sI drained the tomatoes and reserved the juice for later on in the recipe. Then, I cut the whole tomatoes in half, lengthwise, and squeezed out more juice. Spread them out on a parchment lined baking sheet along with the onions and carrots.

The photo shows whole carrots. I found if you slice them in half lengthwise and place them cut side down they cooked much faster.

Drizzle all of the vegetables with olive oil.

I lightly salted the onions and the carrots since the tomatoes were canned with salt.

Bake at 350 degrees for about one hour and fifteen minutes.  Check after an hour to make sure they are not getting too done. I poked the carrots with a knife to determine if they were done.

tom7sYou want the carrots soft but not mushy. You want the tomatoes dried out a bit and a little bit of dark on some of the edges. The onions are always fine.

In a medium pot toss the roasted vegetables and add the reserved tomato liquid. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, garlic, salt, sugar, pepper, basil, and heat the mixture over medium heat for about five minutes. Stir frequently. You just want it to simmer not boil.

tomsmaller

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After the soup is heated through I used the immersion blender to blend. You could use your blender. Take care to do it in small batches in the blender due to it being so hot.

You can strain it after you have blended, if you want. Use a spatula to push the soup through the strainer. I like to strain it because I like my tomato soup a bit smoother. You may like it unstrained.

 

I took the leftover pulp and put it in a container and tossed it in the freezer. It will go in my next pot of chili or vegetable soup or tomato sauce.

Don’t forget to write what it is and to include the date. If you are like me, you won’t remember what was in that frosty container in the freezer.

 

 

Put the strained soup back into the pot and taste for any needed additional seasonings. Keep the heat on med/low. When the soup is to your liking, this would be the time to add the optional choice of creaminess.  I opted for a little less than 1/4 cup of heavy cream. Mainly because it is what I had in the fridge. You could even finish it with a pat of butter. Whatever you like. After adding the creaminess factor do not boil the soup. It could curdle. It is now ready to serve. Enjoy!

tom5s

 

Tomato Soup using Canned Whole Tomatoes

Serves 6

2  28 ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes, halved and liquid reserved

2  carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise

1  medium onion, halved and cut into 1/2 inch slices

3-4 Tablespoons Olive oil, you can use more or less

3  cups low sodium chicken stock

1  Tablespoon tomato paste

1  Tablespoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 clove garlic, minced

Optional Additions:

2  Tablespoons chopped fresh basil

a pat or two of butter

Creaminess Factor: cream, milk, half and half, sour cream, unsweetened nut milks, whatever you like

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Drain the tomatoes and reserve the liquid for later in the recipe. Cut the whole tomatoes in half lengthwise. Place the tomatoes, sliced onion, and carrots on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil.  Bake for about one hour and fifteen minutes. Checking after an hour for doneness.

In a medium/large non-reactive pot add the reserved liquid from the tomatoes, the roasted vegetables, chicken stock, tomato paste, sugar, salt, pepper, garlic, optional chopped basil. Simmer over medium heat for about five minutes. Do not boil. Stirring frequently.

Blend the soup using an immersion blender or a regular blender. Take care when blending hot liquids. If using a regular blender make sure you blend in small batches due to the heat. It may be strained at this point if you like your soup smoother.

Return the pot and taste for any needed additional seasonings.  Keep the heat on Med/Low taking care not to boil.  After additional seasonings add your creaminess factor.Remove from heat and serve. Garnish with ribbons of fresh basil or a dollop of sour cream.  Enjoy.

tomato1s

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Big Party Mix

 

During the Holiday season, we dig out the old standard recipes. You know, the ones we make over and over because they are familiar. I decided to dig out an old favorite and put it up here again.

I love Party Mix. Everybody loves Party Mix. How is it we only have it during the holiday season? It’s not just for Holidays any more, so, I’m thinking I should always have some on hand in the freezer. Kind of like a New Year’s Resolution for the kitchen.

I have adapted the recipe for quantity, taste, lack of measuring, and ease of reading.  Have you ever noticed how small the print is on the cereal box? Is there an ink shortage or what?  The only people with eyes good enough to read print that small usually are not the cookers.  They are children, pilots, surgeons, and astronomers. I digress.

 

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.  While the oven was warming up, I put the butter, seasoned salt, onion powder, garlic powder, and Worcestershire Sauce in the roasting pan.  You can put it in a small bowl and melt in the microwave, but I didn’t want to dirty up another dish.

 

Stir the butter mixture every once in a while to incorporate the seasonings with the butter. By the time the oven is up to temperature, the butter will be melted and ready to pour over the cereal mixture.

 

In a very large mixing bowl, dump the nuts in the bottom,

 

then, the three kinds of cereal

 

the pretzels on top.

 

Now comes the messy part.  Take your time, using a large spoon or your hands, to mix everything together.  Go very slow and start at the bottom of the bowl and lift up.  Eventually, everything kind of falls into place and it is pretty much evenly incorporated.  Next, pour the melted butter mixture over the top and mix again.  Do not try to go fast, speed is not your friend.  Just slowly bring it up from the bottom and it will all get covered with the yummy melted butter and seasonings. There will be some spillage.  Eat the evidence.

Dump the coated mixture back into the large roasting pan.  If your pan is not large enough, use two pans.  Those aluminum throw away roasting pans work great.  I used to use those until I found this great pan on clearance at Target.  Ready for baking.

 

Every twenty minutes, for the next hour and twenty minutes, you will pull the pan out of the oven and gently give it a stir.  Eat anything that falls out…..and it will.  It gives you the nourishment you need to keep stirring every twenty minutes.

While the Party Mix is baking, get the counter or table top ready for the finished Mix.  Line the area with a double thickness of paper toweling.  I like to use my island for this.  It will require a lot of space.

When the Mix is done baking, dump it out in a heap the length of your counter.

 

Spread the mixture out evenly over the paper toweling.  I use my hands because I have super powers and can touch hot things faster than a speeding bullet or something like that.  It will be hot, so take care and use a spatula or put oven mitts on for this process.

 

It’s a beautiful thing.  I told you it made a lot.  Here’s another shot.

 

After it is cooled, put it into an airtight container or zip loc storage bags and it will keep for a couple of weeks.  It can also be frozen for a good six months in zip log storage bags.  This recipe yielded ten, one quart bags of yummy goodness.

 

Here is the recipe for a large quantity.  Use any kind of cereal you like.  I just put the cereals I like in the recipe.  Same goes for the nuts.  I used two cans of mixed nuts.  The recipe can be cut in half very easily and I have also included a recipe for the half quantity.

 

Big Party Mix                                       or                  Medium Party Mix

adapted from the Chex Mix recipe                                                           (half recipe)

3 sticks butter (1 1/2 cups)                                                                      3/4 cup

6 Tablespoons Worchestershire Sauce                                                   3 Tablespoons

5 teaspoons seasoned salt                                                                      2 1/2 teaspoons

3 teaspoons garlic powder (NOT garlic salt)                                            1 1/2 teaspoons

2 teaspoons onion powder (NOT onion salt                                             1 teaspoon

Turn oven on to 250 degrees.  Melt the above in a bowl in the microwave or toss it all in the roasting pan and melt in oven while it is heating up.

Mix the following ingredients in a very large mixing bowl.  Use a two large bowls if you do not have an extra large mixing bowl.  Stir to get it all incorporated evenly.

1-14 ounce box Wheat Chex cereal (6 cups)                                           3 cups

1-12 ounce box Crispix cereal (8 cups)                                                    4 cups

1-14 ounce box Corn Chex cereal (10 cups)                                            5 cups

2-11 ounce cans mixed nuts                                                                     1-11 ounce can

1-1 pound bag pretzel sticks                                                                     1/2 bag

Pour melted mixture over the cereal mixture.  Stir to mix and coat well.  P our into one very large roasting pan or two large roasting pans.

Bake for one hour and 20 minutes, stirring the mixture every 20 minutes.

Turn out onto paper toweling to cool.  Spread it out to cool evenly.

Store in air tight containers: Zip Loc bags or canisters.  May be frozen.  Enjoy!!

 For those of you who like a sweet version of the Party Mix, head on over to the Chex Mix website.  They are not paying me to mention this.  It would be cool if they paid me in Chex cereals!  Anyway, here is the site:

Chex Mix Recipes

 

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