Small Business Saturday – Buy Local

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The Saturday after Thanksgiving is Small Business Saturday, a fitting reminder to “shop small” after the Black Friday frenzy.  (I wasn’t in that frenzy, but have seen the reports.  Shudder.)

I love to head to the Tomball Farmers’ Market on Small Business Saturday and visit the vendors who have become friends during my years of “buying local” almost every weekend.

One such friend is Steve Maloof, the owner of Just Pure Flavors.  If you follow my blog, you’ve heard about his company before.  I love to cook with his fresh jams!  Steve was recently featured in the local Houston version of ShrimpTank, a podcast about entrepreneurs that the Grill-Meister occasionally co-hosts.

Click here to check out the podcast.  Steve’s story is wonderful.

Let’s all shop small – and I’ll see you around at the Farmers’ Market.

 

 

Creamy Jalapeño Dip, AKA Stephanie’s Green Dip – Great for Game Day

My colleague and friend Stephanie makes the most marvelous dip, and we pester her to bring a batch to us at least monthly.  It’s ‘formal’ name is Creamy Jalapeño Dip, but we mostly refer to it as Green Dip.  And sometimes, Crack Dip (because it’s addictive).  It’s that good!

Stephanie brings a big ol’ batch of Green Dip to work with a couple of giant bags of tortilla chips and some veggie dippers, puts it all out in a common area, and backs away slowly: then we attack it like we’ve been starved for months.

Stephanie makes the Green Dip / Crack Dip with her son Josh, and together, they won the dip category of our Halloween Dips and Desserts competition at work, a bit of team-building fun we had together last month.  Our contest was patterned after the Food Network’s show Chopped, and yours truly was a judge.  Fun!

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The award-winning Green Dip in our Halloween Chopped-style competition

A self-described “Team Mom, Stephanie is generous with her time and her Green Dip, and has provided the recipe so that I can share it with all of you.  It is PERFECT for a post-Thanksgiving football weekend (add it to your tailgate party!), and great on a turkey sandwich.  In fact, there are tons of ways you can use this dip – see the list at the end of the post.

Stephanie was the food stylist for this post, providing the photo below.  I think she might need to be a guest blogger in the Glover Gardens Cookbook!

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The “official” photo for the Green Dip

Creamy Jalapeno Dip, AKA Stephanie’s Green Dip

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1-oz. packet of ranch dressing mix
  • 1 small can diced green chilies (mild or hot, depending on your taste)
  • 2-4 fresh jalapenos (depends on pepper size and desired heat), cut into pieces; remove and save seeds and spines
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, pulled off of stems
  • Juice of 1 small lime
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 pinches cumin

Cooking Instructions

Throw all ingredients in blender and mix until smooth.  Add jalapeno seeds and spines to increase heat as desired. Serve as an appetizer with chips or fresh veggies.

And there’s more…

The best thing about the Green Dip is using the leftovers.  It will keep for about 10 days in the fridge, which is good, because this recipe makes a large batch.  Since Stephanie started gifting us with this dip (including once as a get-well gift after a hospitalization), I have used it in various and delightful ways:

  • As a spread for a turkey sandwich, chicken breast sandwich, or just about any sandwich (think Green Dip BLT)
  • Whipped into leftover mashed potatoes for a whole new take on them
  • In scrambled eggs, before scrambling – a couple of tablespoons provides a creamy richness, and just the right bit of spice
  • Swirled into creamed corn
  • As a condiment on fish tacos, shrimp tacos, any tacos, fajitas
  • Tossed with chopped chicken breast and minced red onions for a quick chicken salad
  • As a dip for boiled shrimp in place of – or addition to – cocktail sauce or remoulade
  • As a salad dressing – it’s great with romaine and crisp, brightly colored bell peppers
  • As a base for a Southwest-style white pizza
  • In potato salad, as the creamy base
  • Swirled into or dolloped on top of a vegetable soup like my Creamy Butternut Squash Soup with a Hint of Cumin
  • As a spread for my Tuna or Salmon Burgers
  • In place of mayo, plain yogurt or sour cream in a variety of other uses

The final say…

There are tons of recipes for dips like this out there on the internet, but Stephanie’s is The BOMB.  It’s the only version of a creamy jalapeño dip I need, because she and her son Josh have fine-tuned this recipe over the years they’ve been making it.  Trust me on this.

Thank you, Stephanie!

Copyright 2016, Glover Gardens Cookbook

 

A Gorgeous Thanksgiving Table; A Family Legacy from Strong Woman to Strong Woman

Thanksgiving is about food and family and memories and connections.  Sometimes those connections are new, with folks who would be family, only if they were near and known.

I made such a connection tonight, with a marvelous lady named Cathy,  from the land of Facebook in Pantsuit Nation.  She posted this picture and story about a table setting from her mother’s depression glass, and the legacy of strength and faith passed down from woman to woman.

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Cathy said that her grandmother collected these beautiful dishes in West Virginia during the depression on a meager teacher’s salary, and was a dedicated public servant, working at the voting polls every election in her community until her mid-seventies. Cathy’s mother inherited the dishes, and passed them on to Cathy when she turned 50.  She has followed her mother and grandmother in public service and is a special education teacher.  Cathy’s daughter, a lawyer representing workers who have been treated unfairly, will inherit these dishes one day. Cathy says:  “We will endure, we will create beauty in the midst of chaos, we represent hope.”

Cathy’s Facebook post about these dishes, her family and the legacy of strength, conviction and public service on the matrilineal side garnered 500+ likes in its first 30 minutes, and spawned dozens of comments from women who, like me, feel a connection with her story.  Family legacy objects like Cathy’s depression-era glass serve as a talisman to help us believe in better days, better people, better lives.  I have many such items from my grandmothers on both sides that remind me daily to do my best, try my best, be my best.

Thank you, Cathy, for your story.  The ladies in your family are role models for all of us.

How to Throw a Dinner Party Like a Parisian

 

Photo from the Conde Nast Traveler article.

 

Keep the activities to a minimum, and the wine and stories coming.

Conde Nast Traveler published an article that perfectly captures my philosophy about entertaining: How to Throw a Dinner Party Like a Parisian .

I think I must be part Parisian.

All Together Now! (Downtown Denver is cool.)

Thank you, Denver, for this wonderful sign.  It says a lot about you.

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The Grill-Meister and I had a very late flight to Denver, and still, my eyes slammed open super-early.  So I slipped out and picked up a Starbucks and enjoyed the early-morning quiet of the downtown that had almost been a street party when we arrived at 2:30 a.m.  What a gorgeous morning!  What a cool city!  What a wonderful sentiment on the brightly colored sign around the corner from the hotel.  My early morning jaunt was a gift that put me in a marvelous mood for our day, the beginning of a Colorado holiday.

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The streets were super-quiet outside our hotel, and the street cleaners had already removed the signs of Friday night revelry.  We only spent a few hours in Denver, but they were delightful.

Denver, you’ve got the right idea.  I’m glad to know you.  “All together now!”

Haiku: Beckoning Winter Sky

I am in love with our little cabin in central Colorado.  “Little House in the Rockies” inspires me to create recipes, snap photos, write essays, poems and haiku, birdwatch…in general, to revel in nature and absorb its beauty and regenerative spirit.

Here’s one from a winter night when I was pleased to wake up very early and witness the night sky just beginning to transform into the welcoming dawn.

Beckoning Winter Sky

Eerie bluish glow
Brightness pierces the darkness
Moon shadows on snow

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The most wonderful thing happened when I posted this haiku on Facebook at dawn on that lovely, moonlit morning. A haiku response popped up on my post within a few minutes:

Hush the still dark night
Darkness receding to light
Snow sparkling so bright

My friend’s contribution – all the way from Texas – perfectly described my Colorado experience that morning.

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Copyright 2016, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup with a Hint of Cumin

It’s fall!  Our local farmers’ market is laden with seasonal vegetables, and I picked up a nice medium-sized butternut squash with the intent to create a soup that even the vegetable-hating Grill-Meister would eat.  (I love the challenge presented by his picky taste buds!)  butternut-squash

If the soup turned out well, it would be a candidate for Thanksgiving and / or Christmas dinner.

I baked the squash first, with some whole garlic cloves and small boiling onions.  Then I puréed it with the garlic and onions and started adding stuff, tasting after every addition and stopping just when it was juuuuuust right.  I was really happy with it, and the Grill-Meister ate it two nights in a row.  Success!

The spices I used were simple:  nutmeg, white pepper, salt and cumin.  They were a perfect complement to the richness of the squash and the heavy cream.  With its hint of cumin, the finished product tastes slightly Southwestern, and I garnished it with a swirl of jalapeño-flavored olive oil and a handful of cilantro.  You could just as easily go with a plain olive oil and Italian parsley, or even mint.  Or get fancy with the garnish – I just saw a recipe that garnished butternut squash soup with chopped, crispy bacon.  Yum!

This creamy soup was a great main course the first time we had it, and worked really well in a soup and sandwich combo the next night.  And it definitely qualifies for a holiday meal.  We’re thinking of serving it as “soup shots” with an aperitif for Christmas dinner.

Ingredients (Serves 4 as a main course, 8 as a first course)

  • One medium/small butternut squash
  • 5 whole cloves of garlic, skins on
  • 4 small boiling onions, peeled and halved, or one small white onion, peeled and cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 3/4 cup water
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper (for the squash)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups chicken stock / broth (or vegetable stock if you want a vegetarian soup – but not water)
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Olive oil for drizzling (I like to use jalapeño-flavored oil)
  • Chopped cilantro (can substitute parsley, mint or other fresh herbs)

Note: like people, squash come in all different sizes, and the ingredient ratios in this recipe were perfect for my individual squash. Have some extra heavy cream and chicken or vegetable stock on hand in case your squash requires a bit more liquid, and be ready to adjust the seasonings.

Cooking Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cut the squash in half longwise and remove the seeds.  Cut in half again longwise.  Place cut side up in an ovenproof casserole dish, and then arrange the garlic and onion around the squash.  Drizzle olive oil over the squash, garlic and onions, then season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Pour water into the casserole dish and place in the oven.  Bake for about 40 minutes until you can pierce the squash easily with a fork, but before it is completely mushy.  Remove from oven, cover with foil and let cool slowly.  (This step can be done up to 3 days ahead of time; refrigerate until you are ready to finish the soup.)

Remove the skins from the garlic.  Use a spoon to scoop the squash out of its skin and place in a blender or food processor along with the baked onion and garlic and puree until very smooth.  Add all other ingredients and blend again until well mixed.

Transfer the soup to a saucepan on the stove and heat over medium/low heat for about 15 minutes; it will thicken slightly.  Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary.

Serve hot; drizzle with olive oil and garnish with cilantro.

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After baking
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Pureed squash, garlic and onions
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After the addition of stock and cream
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Heat thoroughly
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The result is creamy, comforting cool-weather soup (my presentation is a bit crude here, but I was in a hurry to get to the eating part!)

 

Copyright 2016, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Set the Stage with a Beautiful Table

The Grill-Meister and I had the good fortune to attend a corporate awards ceremony this weekend.

Along with the silver and crystal, the beautiful centerpieces with candles and scarlet roses signaled that the event was significant and meaningful, and the attendees were special.

The appropriate mood was set for the celebration as soon as we walked in the door.  I have a renewed appreciation for setting the stage with a beautiful table – I want guests at Glover Gardens to feel special, like we did at this event.