Home Taste Food & Spirits So Much to be Thankful For… Especially the FOOD!

So Much to be Thankful For… Especially the FOOD!

“Giardinosa” Giardiniera

November is here! The last of the leaves are blowing down the road, Christmas commercials are in full force, frozen turkeys fill the back isles of the grocery store, and the winter jackets start to make their appearance. The holiday season is building and for me, there is no better way to get my “Holiday” on than in the kitchen. This month, we are approaching the November kitchen from a few angles. It’s November, the nights are getting cold, it’s getting dark earlier, and the presence of the long winter is upon us. It is this time I long to be in the kitchen, making slow cooked meals, creating dishes rich in flavor and texture – comfort food for the body and soul. What better comfort food is there than a bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup? We have a couple great party dishes to wow your guests, and of course, the biggest part of November, Thanksgiving, with a few new side dishes to mix things up at your holiday table.

November is packed with fall activities and parties, from college football tailgating to Sunday fun-day, it is nice to add something different to the party table than chips and salsa. Here are two recipes to make you the champion of the day.

“Giardinosa” Giardiniera
As true Chicago girls, we are huge Italian beef fans. A must have for a good Italian beef, is giardiniera. Giardiniera is a spicy vegetable relish. It is the perfect combination of crisp, heat, brine, and tang. Our dear friend Espinosa shared her recipe with us. From the first batch I made, I was addicted. This caused a domino effect, and several friends made this relish; so this giardiniera recipe has been coined Giardinosa in her honor. You can play with the spice level if you are adventurous. This relish is so delightful, you will find yourself garnishing just about everything with it.

1/4 cup Kosher salt
1 cup small-diced carrots
1 cup tiny cauliflower florets
5 serraño peppers sliced in rings (less for less heat)
3 jalapeño peppers sliced in rings (more if you used less serraño)
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 stalk of celery diced small
1/2 red bell pepper diced small
1/2 cup of canola oil
1/2 cup of good olive oil
1/2 cup of white vinegar
Olive brine/juice to taste (1-2 tbs.)
1 tbs. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup of small green olives drained

Combine two cups water and the salt in a glass or non-reactive bowl. Mix until the salt is dissolved. Add all of the veggies EXCEPT the olives to the salt water and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate overnight or at least eight-ten hours.

Day two, drain and rinse the vegetables two to three times (NOTE: draining the brine may take your breath away, as the capsaicin is released in the brine, so stand back as you drain.). Once well drained, put brined vegetables in a clean glass bowl.

In a small clean bowl, mix together the oil with the oregano and pepper. Add the oil mixture to the brined vegetables, then add olives, vinegar, and olive juice and mix to combine. Cover tightly and allow to marinate overnight. Giardiniera will only get better with time, so allow it to stay longer if you can. After two days in the bowl, at the most, you can place it in air-tight mason jars and keep in the fridge for at least two to three weeks.

This recipe multiplies well and is easy to can.

Always wear protective gloves when working with hot peppers. Plastic food grade gloves should be available at most major grocery stores.

Bacon Jalapeño Cheese Ball
What is more classic at a party than a cheese ball? It was a staple party food when I was growing up, mainly port wine cheese rolled in sliced almonds. The cheese ball is making a bold return, and the ante is higher with a focus on creativity and flavor. This bacon jalapeño ball brings the party to life with the kick of the jalapeño balanced by earthy spicy, sharp cheddar cheese, and snappy green onions. Serve with crackers, kettle chips, Triscuits, or vegetables.

8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup set aside
6 slices of cooked bacon (cooked on crispier side), chopped and divided in half
2 jalapeños, seeds and membrane removed, chopped and divided in half
3 green onion, chopped and divided in half
1 clove of garlic minced (1/2 tsp.)
1 tsp. fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
Pinch of cayenne pepper

In a medium bowl, stir together the cream cheese, 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, half of the bacon, half of the jalapeño, and half of the green onion, and the rest of the ingredients until well combined. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Set in refrigerator for 20 minutes.

On a large plate, combine the rest of the bacon, jalapeño, remaining shredded cheese and green onion and spread over plate. Remove cheese mixture from fridge and mold into a ball. Roll the cheese ball in the bacon mixture until well coated.

Wrap cheese ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. Leftovers (if you have any) can be rewrapped tightly and refrigerated for up to three days.

Farro and Butternut Squash Salad
This recipe is adapted from Southern Living.

Comfort foods are what most of us are craving this time of year. There is just something about how hearty, warm, and earthy foods comfort the soul like a flannel blanket. Too often, modern day comfort foods are highly processed, highly caloric and of no nutritional value. Here are two perfect comfort foods you need to feel no guilt about.

Farro is an ancient grain dating back to the Romans. It is a member of the wheat family, a rice shaped grain that posses a beautiful nutty flavor with a whisper of spice. The grain maintains a hearty chewiness, making this little known grain a perfect late fall treat. It can be cooked and served alone, in salads, or in soups. This recipe is an easy mobile office lunch, a warm meal for one, or the perfect side dish to roasted pork or grilled chicken. Four ingredients make this dish a kitchen favorite.

4 cups farro cooked according to directions (we recommend Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods Farro)
2 cups roasted butternut squash, cut into 1 inch cubes (recipe to follow)
1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, rough chop
Lemon thyme vinaigrette (recipe featured in October issue and available on our website)
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook farro according to package directions. Once farro is cooked, drain excess water and transfer to a bowl. Drizzle with lemon thyme vinaigrette to coat, about 1/3 of a cup. Mix and allow the dressing to absorb into the farro as it cools. Set aside.

In a smaller bowl, add butternut squash and parsley and toss with two tablespoons of dressing until coated then fold into the farro. Taste and adjust seasoning and dressing if necessary.

This salad can be eaten at room temperature or slightly warmed.

Roasted squash is a staple of cold weather foods. I roast about a squash a week and keep it on hand for salads like this, soup, or pasta.

Roasting diced butternut squash is easy, and there is really no need to peel the squash, which is a daunting and arduous task. The skin, when roasted, adds a crisp deep nutty flavor and simplifies the process.

Roasting a butternut squash, all you need is:

1 medium sized butternut squash, halved and seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes.
2 tbs. good quality olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Toss butternut squash in oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on rimmed baking sheet (line baking sheet with parchment paper for easy clean up). Roasted until golden brown, approximately 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Use two cups for this recipe and store the rest in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Chicken Soup for the Soul
Fewer things in life are more comforting than a bowl of chicken soup. This recipe is adapted from America’s Test Kitchen and it is the best chicken soup recipe I have ever made. Every mouthful warms the soul.

The recipe is easy to follow and is ready with in an hour and a half. Cooked in a large Dutch oven, here are the things you need for the stock:

4 lbs. of chicken thighs, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 tbs. olive oil
2 quarts of fresh water

Add oil to Dutch oven and heat until shimmering. Add chicken thighs in batches and brown about five minutes per side. When browned, place in a glass or metal bowl and finish browning the rest of the chicken. Once all chicken is browned, place in a bowl and drain the fat off of the pan. Add chicken back to the pot, add onion, and stir and cover. Simmer over medium low heat for 20 minutes, until chicken releases juices. After the chicken has released it’s juices, add two quarts of water and bay leaves and stir. Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes to allow the flavor to build. After stock has simmered, set aside until cool and then strain. Remove chicken to be shredded for soup and dispose of bones and onions.

For the soup:

2 tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion chopped
1 large carrot sliced
1 celery stalk sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
Shredded chicken from stock
2 quarts of homemade stock

In large pot or Dutch oven, heat oil until shimmering. Add onion, carrot, and celery and sauté until starting to get tender. Add garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add stock and bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Simmer for ten minutes. Add chicken and simmer for an additional ten minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

This is where it gets fun. You can add other seasonings or spices if you like – fresh parsley or ginger, a dash of lemon juice, or zest for a pop of flavor. You can also add kale for a nice healthy addition, too.

If you like, add fresh noodles and simmer in soup for 20 minutes.

Enjoy the healthy, nutritious warm comforting goodness of homemade chick soup.

Bacon, Apple, and Fennel Chutney
Now let’s talk about Thanksgiving! The ultimate food holiday. Every family has their own traditions and food staples. We often look forward to this day simply to eat these sacred holiday foods. But sometimes it’s nice to mix things up. Here are a few show stoppers: An appetizer for the family to nosh on while dinner is cooked and a fantastic recipe for chipotle sweet potatoes that add a rich, sweet, spicy lick to your turkey tradition.

1/2 lb. apple wood smoked bacon, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1/2 medium onion, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 medium fennel bulb-halved, cored and cut into 1/2 inch dice-plus 1 tbs. chopped fennel fronds
2 thyme sprigs
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 granny smith apple-peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 tsp. ground fennel seeds
1 tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1 tsp. sugar (I never add as much sugar, but I prefer tart)
Salt and pepper
30 baguette slices brushed with olive oil and toasted

Heat a large skillet, add bacon and cook over moderate heat until crisp, about five minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but three tablespoons of fat from the skillet.

Add onion to skillet and cook over moderate heat until softened, about three minutes. Add fennel, thyme, garlic, and apple. Cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally until softened, about eight minutes. Add lemon juice, zest, sugar (if you add it), and fennel fronds. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. Let cool to room temperature. Discard the thyme sprigs and add bacon. Mix well and serve with baguette rounds.

Scalloped Chipotle Sweet Potatoes
Recipe makes 4-6 servings.

2 cups heavy cream
Plump tbs. of chipotle in Adobo sauce
3-4 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Whisk the cream and chipotle sauce together until well blended.

Coat a 9×9 inch casserole dish with cooking spray. Arrange sliced potatoes in an even layer. Drizzle potatoes with the cream mixture, about 3-4 tablespoons, and season with salt and pepper. Repeat until mixture is done.

Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove cover and continue to bake until cream has been absorbed, about 50 minutes to an hour. Be sure the potatoes are cooked through.

Remove from oven and let set for 15 minutes.

Easy Peasy Banana Toffe Pie
Need a dessert for the holidays, but not really a baker? This is one of the easiest fantastic desserts for any occasion.

Graham cracker piecrust
1 1/2 cans of sweetened condensed milk converted to toffee (recipe follows)
3-4 bananas
Whipped cream

The most time consuming part of this recipe is making the toffee. But really, it is minimal work. I wouldn’t have believed this myself had I not heard it from my friend whose grandmother taught her this trick.

In a large pot, bring at least four cups of water to a boil. As suggested to me, make several cans of toffee at a time. They keep in the cabinet for months. Take four cans (if you are bulking) of sweetened condensed milk and remove the label. Add the bare cans to the pot of boiling water, making sure the cans are fully submerged. Boil for 2.5 to 3 hours, again, making sure the cans are always under water.

After 2.5-3 hours, remove cans from boiling water and set on cooling rack and allow to fully cool. They can then be stored in the cabinet for a few months.

You can either make your piecrust from scratch, which is very easy, or grab a pre-made, as this pie screams last minute guests!

Homemade graham cracker piecrust:
1 1/2 cups graham crackers – (1 package of 9-10 crackers)
1/3 cup sugar
6 tbs. butter, melted
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Ground graham crackers until fine. Rolling over crackers in a sturdy zippie bag with a rolling pin works nicely, as does a food processor. Once finely ground, add graham crackers and other ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Add to pie pan, and press in well, being sure to work up the sides. Bake in 375-degree oven for seven minutes.

To assemble pie:
Take three to four bananas and slice them into graham cracker crust evenly. Take can of toffee and pour over bananas and let set until dispersed. Add more toffee if necessary. Refrigerate for an hour to set.

Top with fresh whipped cream.

To whip cream, add two cups of heavy whipping cream in a bowl, turn electric mixer on and mix at medium until frothy. Add two teaspoons vanilla and a tablespoon of confectioner’s sugar. Turn mixer to high and whip until medium stiff peaks occur. Serve.

May the month of November remind you to be thankful for the blessing of life and good food.

For Kids, By Kids

The cool winds of November are here. The pumpkins are grown and decorate the front lawns of many houses. The leaves on the trees are falling bringing fun for the kids. The only thing we are missing is corn on the cob.

Candy Corn on the Cobb
Almost every American loves corn on the cob, and wish they could have it year round. I too, love corn on the cob. I also love candy corn, which is in season by this time of year. So, I decided to share a recipe with you to make candy corn on the cob. It is pretty easy.

You use egg free cookie dough and candy corn. This would be a good recipe to make and share with your classmates for a Thanksgiving treat or just for a snack when you come in from playing in the leaf piles in the backyard.

Ingredients for cookie dough:
1 cup flour
2 tbs. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup margarine
6 tbs. sugar
6 tbs. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Water – add small amounts to get to desired consistency

Mix all ingredients together except the water. It helps to cream the margarine in a separate bowl then add to the other ingredients. Add small amounts of water until the consistency is right.

Dough you have made
About 1-2 bags of candy corn

Roll the dough into a cylinder shape(s). Then push candy corn into the dough only as far as the white part. Push them in so they stand up straight. It helps to chill the dough a little before you push in the candy corn. When you are finished pushing in the candy corn, you can chill it some more.

Here is a helpful website: www.instructables.com/id/Candy-Corn-on-the-COB.

Angela and Carolyn Linton-Canfield
After 18 years working in the food and beverage industries of Chicago and San Francisco, Angela and Carolyn started a private chef and catering company, Life’s a Feast, in the tri-state area. They embrace their passion of cooking, entertaining, and creating one-of-a-kind experiences for their clients. Carolyn and Angela now share their passion with viewers on their cable show Life’s a Feast, available on Mediacom and their YouTube channel, Life’s a Feast LLC. Both share their expertise on food and wine on our website, their website, as well as their Facebook page. Recipes and photos are the copyrighted and intellectual property of Life’s a Feast, LLC.


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