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Who needs a recipe for the perfect Holiday appetizer ?

Do you need an idea for the perfect appetizer to serve over the holidays?  This recipe for Mini Brie Bites is delicious, pretty, and oh so easy to make….it has been a hit every time I have made it!  The brie bites are simple to assemble and the cranberry salsa will have everyone asking for the recipe.

The lovely Chef Maria Rivera made this at a cooking class and generously shared it with us.  We love having her in our showroom and her food is always amazing!

Mini Brie en Croute

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16 mini brie (come in packs of 5 at Trader Joe’s)
1 sheet puff pastry
1 egg + 1 tbsp water

Preheat oven to 400º.

Dust puff pastry sheet with a little flour and roll out, slightly, to form a square. Cut into 16 squares. Place a brie wheel in the center of a pastry square. Pull up the four corners and join at the top and twist. (Since the brie wheels are in their rind, you do not need to seal the pastry around the cheese.)

Brush each parcel with egg wash, and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve alongside cranberry salsa (or your favorite jam or chutney).

These were baked in our Jenn-Air kitchen in the Dual-Fan Convection Wall Oven.

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Cranberry Salsa

12 oz. fresh or frozen cranberries
2 tbsp. sugar
1-2 fresno or jalapeno peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 medium shallot, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp. chopped fresh mint
Pinch of kosher salt
1/4 cup Cranberry Pear White Balsamic Vinegar (or 1.5 tbsp. honey or agave syrup or 2 tbsp. additional sugar)
1 tbsp orange zest, optional

Pulse cranberries, sugar, chile peppers, and shallot in a food processor to desired size. Transfer to medium bowl, and stir in all other ingredients. Taste for seasoning. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve at room temperature.

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This cranberry salsa is delicious served over ricotta on toast, with cheese, or with pork, turkey, or chicken. It can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

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FYI….I used a red balsamic vinegar(from the Ancient Olive) we had on hand and it worked perfectly.

Tuck this recipe away and pull it out when you are entertaining, or just buy the ingredients and make it for yourself….you won’t be disappointed.

The team at Aggressive hopes you are having a wonderful December!

 

Brown Bagging It

brownbagIn a day and age when fast food is EVERYWHERE, what is a person to do when they want quick, satisfying meals for lunch? Today is National “Pack Your Lunch Day” so to pay homage to it here are a few suggestions to get your creative juices flowing and help you come up with delicious ways to pack a quick, tasty, healthy, and easy lunch.Avocado

Avocados are popping up in so many recipes I see online. They are easy to find, easy to carry, and packed full of nutrients. Who doesn’t love the sound of “good fat”? Slice them and put them on a turkey sandwich, cube them and put them in a tomato salad, or mash them up with a hard boiled egg and make a creamy egg salad to smear on your favorite artisan bread.  Eggs

Speaking of eggs, they are another staple for a grab-and-go lunch. Hard boiled eggs are a great way to eat breakfast or lunch on the run. Packed with protein, they will also keep hunger at bay for a good stretch of time. Carrots and hummus, snow peas and salads, crackers and cheese, cut up leftover meat from last night’s dinner, cheese sticks, peanut butter, yogurt, clementine oranges, and olives are all great additions to a brown bag lunch. Heck, any fruit or vegetable can be easily added to your meal. It does take more planning and some thoughtful time to get enough quick things together to bring lunch, but your taste buds, mind, body, health, and bank account will thank you!PotSalPic

Here is a modified version of a recipe my mom used to make as a quick dinner that I now use for lunch because I like it so much! It is filling, delicious, and easy to grab and make if you have access to a microwave where you happen to be lunching. This can also be made ahead and brought in a container. I made my recipe pictured above with a steamed bag of whole green beans instead of the canned beans in my recipe below. It’s so, so good!!! Please leave some of your favorite grab-and-go ideas in the comments below for others to try. We could all use delicious, healthy options for lunch. Happy brown-bagging it! ChrissyWarmPotRecipe

Heavenly Pork Loin + Football = Smoking Sunday

PeppersPlayoffs had everyone sitting around the TV this past weekend. If you are wondering what the sonic boom was, that was my mom screaming because the Broncos won. (Hi Mom!) Since food is part of screaming at the TV while watching football in my house,  I picked up a pork loin and attempted to try a recipe verbally given to me by one of our phenomenal guest chefs, Maria Rivera. Pictured here is one of Maria’s creations…

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Here’s Maria…

MariaWhen I use the word phenomenal I mean her food brings me to joyous tears. I’m serious. Holy WOW. The kicker is Maria offers cooking classes to teach people just like me how to cook simply, yet decadently, in the comfort of their own homes with ingredients you can buy at local supermarkets. Here’s the link to Maria’s Cooking Classes

Below is the simple recipe (as told to me by Maria) that had my guests happily moaning and grabbing seconds…

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I do have a confession….I couldn’t sear it for 4 minutes on each side because I cook on a basic coil range with a recirculating 30″ hood that I’m still trying to adjust my cooking techniques around. Not only did I make a delicious pork loin, I created a ton of smoke and a lot of laughter as the smoke billowed out of all the doors in my apartment. It was heavenly in my house for about 10 minutes. Totally worth it. I baked my pork a little longer than 12 minutes to make up for the lack of searing time. I managed one picture of my leftovers I brought in for lunch because on the actual day we ate it we into a food coma before I thought of doing the pork paparazzi thing. Here it is paired with my yellow rice…..

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You may think….there is no way just slathered pork could be that tasty. Just try it yourself for the proof. It was SOOOOO good. And easy. And SMOKING! Super Yum!! Thank you, Maria!!!

Grateful Gobbling

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With Thanksgiving a week away….here are some tips, a simple recipe, and some words of comforting wisdom from our own Jim Balano.

1. Do NOT Self Clean Your Oven. That type of extreme heat could stress your oven before the big day. Please wait until after the holidays to do it.

2. Turning the Turkey Lets It Cook Evenly. Roasting a bird breast side down for at least half of the cooking time shields the delicate breast meat from heat currents in the oven and exposes the thigh meat to direct heat. The bird will need to be turned breast side up allowing the skin on the breast to brown and crisp. Roast the turkey breast side up for at least the last hour of roasting. If the breast skin isn’t browning, raise the oven temperature slightly and baste the skin with clarified butter or oil. As an alternative to flipping, cook the bird breast side up the whole time shielding the breast with foil until the last half of the roasting time.

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3. Brining the Bird. Brining makes a bird juicy. Brining is soaking a whole turkey in a salt solution. The salt in brining breaks down proteins in the meat and exposes more bonding sites for water molecules, thus allowing the meat to retain more water as it cooks. During brining, a turkey absorbs 10 to 15 percent additional weight in water. As it cooks, the bird naturally loses 20 to 30 percent of its initial water content. Brining cuts the net loss in half resulting in a juicier, more tender turkey. Another plus, the salt in the brine makes the bird taste more seasoned. Pan drippings from a brined bird can be very salty, so be sure to use little to no additional salt in gravy made from the drippings. I use my larger cooler to brine the bird with ice.

4. Pies. Home made pies are the best if they are warm out of the oven. Place baked pies in the warm oven when you are ready to serve the meal.

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5. Letting the Turkey Rest. Take the turkey out of the oven 30/45 minutes before carving.  Tent it with aluminum foil to keep it warm.  This allows juices to resettle in the turkey.

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6. Meat Thermometer. Does your oven have a temperature probe? Set it for 165F.  It will continue to cook after you remove it from the oven. This will reduce the chance of an overcooked dried turkey.

7. Saving Tummy Room. Thanksgiving dinner has all of your family’s favorites.  Reduce or eliminate your appetizers before the meal so that you will have space in your tummy to enjoy the second helping or your mother’s pie or dessert.

8. Be Thankful. After our prayers are given, we hold hands and declare what we are so thankful for from the current year. Enjoy the company of your family and friends.

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I grew up in Massachusetts with a cranberry bog in my backyard. This recipe is so simple, but so tasty…

Cranberry Sauce

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients

1 cup sugar 1 cup water 1 12-ounce package Ocean Spray® Fresh or Frozen Cranberries, rinsed and drained

Directions

Combine water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil; add cranberries, return to boil. Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover and cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate until serving time. Makes 2 1/4 cups.

Smoked Turkey Gumbo

SoupBaby it’s cold OUTSIDE……and what a perfect time to indulge in some comfort foods like soups and stews. In November we held a soup and chili cook-off. The winning submission was made by Doug White. Below is his winning recipe and well worth the effort it took to make it.


Smoked Turkey Gumbo

½ of a 14 pound Smoked Turkey and the stock from that.

All purpose flour

Vegetable oil

Butter

1 Onion cut into small chunks

5 Garlic cloves chopped fine

1 Green pepper cut into small chunks

6 Stalks of celery cut into bite size pieces

12 – 16 oz Smoked Andouille sausage cut into bite size pieces

Paul Prudhomme’s Cajun Magic Poulty Magic, about 2 tablespoons

Paul Prudhomme’s Cajun Magic Vegetable Magic, about 2 tablespoons

Salt and pepper to taste

1 Pound okra cut into bite size pieces

3-4 Green onions chopped fine

Part of the fun of making this Gumbo was smoking the turkey on the Big Green Egg the weekend before.  You will only need some of the turkey for the gumbo, so you can use the rest for turkey dinner.  If you prefer, you could also use a whole smoked chicken.  After smoking the turkey, carve the meat off the bones and boil the bones with a little salt to make a stock.  Strain the stock.  If you do not use it all for the gumbo, you can freeze some to make soup or chili later.  The smoked stock was key to the deep flavor of this gumbo.

Heat about 2 quarts of the stock in a large stock pot.  Cook the onions and garlic in a skillet with a little butter and about 1/3 of the Vegetable Magic until slightly brown and just starting to get tender.  Set them aside and add a little more butter and cook the green pepper pieces with more Vegetable Magic.  Put that aside and cook the celery the same way with the remaining Vegetable Magic.  Set the celery aside with the other vegetables, they will be mixed in shortly.  Cut the turkey into bite size cubes.  Mix about ½ cup of flour with a couple tablespoons of Poultry Magic and coat the turkey pieces in the flour.  Heat about 1/2” of oil in the same skillet and pan fry the turkey pieces.  When they are golden brown, set them aside.  Scrape the pan bottom with a metal whisk to loosen any stuck bits, then add enough oil to equal about a half cup in the pan.  Gradually whisk about ½ cup of flour into the oil over medium-high heat to form a roux.  Be sure to use any remaining seasoned flour.  Whisk constantly while cooking until roux is dark reddish brown, 3 to 5 minutes usually.  DO NOT burn the roux.  Remove the roux from the heat and stir in the vegetables.  Stir them to completely coat with the roux then return to low heat and cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the vegetables to the stock.  Sear the Andouille in the skillet until browned then add that and the turkey to the stock.  Do not waste the last bit of fond in the skillet.  Deglaze the skillet with a little water and add that to the stock.  Bring the stock to a low boil and cook for about 15 minutes.  Add the okra and return to a boil.  You can add water to thin the gumbo if it is too thick (if there is such a thing).  Taste the gumbo and add salt, pepper or more Cajun Magic if needed.  Reduce the stock to a simmer and cook for an hour or two.  Stir in the green onions about 5 minutes before serving.  Serve over rice.

Recipe by Doug White Doug