Fall = Soup and Salad

soup and salad

Fall = Soup and Salad

When the evenings start to cool, and the days have a little crisp in the air, I love to eat soup!  I’ll admit that I eat soup in the summer, but it’s not as enjoyable as in the fall. To me, it’s a signal of cooler days to come (which I love!)

Current favorites are anything chickeny. Chicken rice, chicken noodle, Italian wedding, chicken tortilla.  Pairing with a simple salad makes a perfect meal. I’ll add some cooked chicken on top of the salad, or maybe some shrimp. Store bought roasted chicken will do in a pinch!

Anyone can get this meal to the table in 15 minutes flat. Soup has to be made ahead of time obviously, but a nice Sunday afternoon soup cooking session will give you a bunch for the freezer. I’ll do another post with recipes and pictures of making soup.

Eating REAL Food

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I’m asking your forgiveness for the lull in my blog posting.  It’s been a busy couple of years, and I’ve just decided to put more effort into writing — and cooking!

My cooking passion comes from feeding the men and boys in my life. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy cooking for myself or for the women and girls in my life — it’s just that the guys truly love to eat good food, real food.

So for the next while you’ll see postings about hearty, healthy, real food that you can put on the table before 6 p.m. with minimal effort and minimal cost.  Wish me luck!

 

Home By Five, Eat By Six

This is my dad and I. I was clearly having fun playing a little joke on him. I wonder who took the picture??

This is my dad and I. I was clearly having fun playing a little joke on him. I wonder who took the picture??

I’ve met so many people who have trouble getting a meal on the table at the end of the day. Maybe it’s a lack of experience or knowledge of how to cook. Maybe it’s a need to follow a recipe. Maybe having one more thing to do at the end of the day is overwhelming. Maybe there just isn’t an example to follow.

When I was growing up, my mom made dinner every night. She stayed at home when we were really little, but then went back to work as a high school teacher. Every night, I helped her with things like peeling carrots and potatoes and setting the table. I was the youngest in the family, so it seemed the easiest place for me at that time of day was in the kitchen with my mom. I loved it, and remember having my own step stool so I could be at the same counter height. I learned funny things like how to butter bread all the way to the corners, and how to chop walnuts like a pro.

We didn’t eat the same things all the time, and there wasn’t a menu on the fridge to follow. She just decided what we were going to have and then made it. Sometimes she asked us what we wanted, but not very often. Things didn’t come out of a package. There wasn’t a microwave. I remember meals like ‘corned beef hash with an egg on top’ or ‘spaghetti with meat sauce’ or ‘creamed chicken on toast’ or ‘pancakes’. I know, we wouldn’t necessarily make those choices today, but they were all made from scratch, they all filled up our bellies, they were all tasty, and they were all on the table by 6.

What I learned, and practice with my own family, is that eating together is important. And feeding your family is a pleasure, not a chore. I also know that a lot of relationship building happens around food. My kids sit at the kitchen counter, on the laptop, while I make dinner. They play me music I’ve never heard before, and tell me stories, and read to me about crazy things they find on the internet. They see me cook, and they learn by osmosis. My younger son can make crepes from scratch without a recipe, and he’s been inspired to just try — he makes amazing pasta carbonara, or spaghettini with olive oil and capers.

The most important thing is to have confidence, and be inspired by what you know. My dinner plans come together in one of three ways. Either I start thinking about it before I get home – “man, I’m hungry…what should we have for dinner? …what’s in the fridge??”, or when I get home, I open the fridge and get inspired by an ingredient. Or if I’m particularly organized, I would have already prepared something from the night before or in the crockpot. (The third option is rare)

One way or another, there is not much time to make dinner. When I get home, everyone is starving. I’m the kind of person that just keeps going after work. I immediately start multi-tasking and getting things done. I prefer to get all those things done, then when I sit down to relax, I don’t feel guilty and I’m done for the night.

As the kids got older, many times we were rushed for dinner so everyone could get to their activities – swimming, Scouts, school plays, soccer. And when I’m hungry…or my kids are hungry…we all get pretty surly. Now my kids are older, 16 and 19 (both boys), and they love to eat. Personally, I think it’s the food that keeps them coming home on time and looking forward to seeing me.

If all else fails, before you get frustrated at the end of a busy day. Before you give up and go to the drive through, have a yogurt and chill out for a few minutes before getting dinner on the table. But my advice, and my modus operandi, is to just keep moving until it’s all done.

 

Labour Day BBQ Ribs

MMM, ribs. Sticky, and just plain good.

MMM, ribs. Sticky, and just plain good.

Ah…the dog days of summer. We had high temperatures, and high humidity this past weekend. There was no way I was going to turn on the oven or the stove. What’s left? The BBQ! We have, admittedly, a very old gas bbq. It’s been good to us. It’s not huge, it’s not shiny. But it does the trick. One rack of pork ribs was enough for the two of us, with a nice glass of wine, and some store bought potato salad — tasty! The pork ribs were rubbed with garlic powder, salt, pepper, and some applewood spice as well. We cooked them on super high for a few minutes, then turned it down to cook low and slow for a couple of hours. This is what they looked like before we ate them all!

Summer is just about over — it seems that it’s business as usual at work, and at home. I’ll remember this hot weekend, and those yummy ribs for weeks to come. 🙂




Easy Chicken Pot Pie – And I Mean Really Easy!

I had half a tray of boneless, skinless chicken thighs in the fridge and thought…. ‘What will I make with these?” The first half of the tray was used to make Chicken Tortilla Soup (watch for that post later). I decided on chicken pot pie. It’s a great fall dish, but I don’t eat a lot of cream or milk, so I made it with more of a gravy. Here’s my super easy version.

Put about 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs and some good quality olive oil in a frying pan which has a lid. Season with salt and pepper, cook until done which should take about 15 minutes at medium high heat. Turn often, and press down with a fork or spatula. Remember to season both sides.

In a large glass pie plate, layer in mini carrots, one tin of sliced potatoes, one onion sliced. Sprinkle generously with non clumping flour. I love this product for gravies and anything you have to add flour to make a sauce. Chop up the chicken thighs and put on top of the mixture in the pie plate, it should mound quite high. Pour about one cup of chicken stock over the whole thing, enough to pool about 1/2 inch of liquid at the bottom of the pie plate. When it cooks, the flour and stock will make a gravy. I use a frozen deep dish pie shell which has been sitting out if the freezer for about 15 minutes. Turn over the pie shell onto the mixture, cut a few vent holes. And put the whole thing on a cookie sheet and into a 350 oven for about 45 minutes. Voila. Chicken pot pie.

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Rainy Day Peanut Butter Cookies

It’s a rainy day here in Kingston. With the start of fall, I’m craving peanut butter cookies. My favourite recipe is from the original Fanny Farmer cookbook. It’s a great cookbook with all classic recipes. These ones are thin and crispy rather than dense and chewy.

1/4 lb butter
1/2 cup chunky style peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1egg
1/2tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1cup flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease some cookie sheets or line with a silpat. Cream butter and peanut butter. Add sugars. Add egg and vanilla, beat well. Mix salt, baking soda and flour. Combine butter mixture with flour mixture. Arrange by teaspoons on the cookie sheets about an inch or so apart. Press each with a Flores spoon. Bake about 7 minutes. Eat.

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Montreal Style Bagels. Oh Baby!




I’m originally from Montreal.  In fact, I lived there until I was nearly 28.  I’ve lived away for awhile (20 years, so now you know how old I am!).  But I really miss Real Bagel and St. Viateur Bagel.  Really any Montreal bagels will do.  Yagel Bagel.  Fairmount  Bagel. Bagel Bagel .  Hansel and Bagel.   Whenever I visit, I buy a few dozen, eat as many as I can, and freeze the rest.  Inevitably, there comes a time when there are no more bagels in the freezer.    I decided this week…NO MORE!  I gave it a go, and made my first batch of Montreal Style Bagels, right here in my kitchen in Ontario.   They are not the same, of course, but they are much better than the store bought bread circles they call bagels here!

This took me about an hour, and I used my Kitchen Aid.  I think it would be the same amount of time if done completely by hand.

I absolutely must give credit where credit is due.   I  followed My Second Breakfast’s blog recipe.  She has beautiful pictures, and easy to follow instructions.   http://mysecondbreakfast.com/montreal-bagels-recipe/

Here are some pictures of my first attempt:

The final product:

 

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Portion Size vs. Serving Size – Canadian Style

Click above to see this very helpful (Ontario) link to understand the difference between portion size (as labelled on your food packaging) and serving size (how much you should put on your plate).   Can you believe that one serving of rice is equal to the size of a computer mouse?    Check out the link to see just how much we regularly overeat!  And in the case of vegetables how much we undereat!  




The Humble Onion

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Onions are so versatile.  If I had to guess, I’d say I use onions in nearly every dish I make.  It is most certainly one of the staples you need in your pantry if you are planning to make quick and tasty meals on the fly.   You can thinly slice them to put on top of a Greek salad, you can finely chop them to put them in an omelet, you can dice them to put in a tuna nicoise salad, you can roughly cut them up to throw in a stew, you can make rings to saute  until caramelized and lovingly spread over a beautiful steak.    

There are so many types of onions to consider.  I always have a bag of yellow cooking onions in my cupboard, and 9 times out of 10 I have green onions in the vegetable drawer in my fridge.  A nice red onion is always welcome and the favorite of my partner J.  Sweet Vidalia’s make great onion rings, and an amazing start to French Onion soup.   Small cipollini’s are fantastic in a chicken and dumpling stew or a Boeuf Bourguignon.

Onions are generally inexpensive.  Onions usually keep quite well.  Suffice is to say I love onions, and would not be caught without some in my kitchen!  

Fast Tacos…or Are They Burritos?

Tonight we’re having fast and homemade tacos. Actually they are probably burritos. I never know. Lets call them fast soft tacos. Brown a 1/2 lb of ground beef (I always buy lean), in a medium saucepan with a teaspoon of avocado oil. Add a few chili flakes, 1/2tsp of chopped garlic, salt and pepper. Chop 1/2 tomato into a small dice and set aside. Chops two inches of seedless cucumber (keep skin on) into a small dice and set aside. Chop 1 or 2 green onions into small rings and set aside. Now You’ll need a few soft tortillas. I like to use the 6-8 inch size, you can use any type you like. Gather some extras such as salsa, guacamole, chopped lettuce, shredded cheese, plain yogurt or ranch dressing. Now it’s just a matter of assembly. This is one of the quickest and lost popular meals at our house!!! That’s fast!! Manga manga.

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Back Cracking Visit

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I look forward to my bi-weekly visit to the chiropractor. I’m not advocating any particular method of health and wellness, but FOR ME, chiropractic saved my wellness. For years, I had relentless headaches, overall malaise, had hunched shoulders and a numbness in my neck and arm — mostly from constant desk sitting and over mousing!

I’ve been seeing Dr. Barton for three years now, and rarely take a Tylenol. I feel great. And I always look forward to visiting the clinic to see Tina’s smiling face, and have Dr. Barton’s hands on my back and neck! Thank you to Barton Chiropractic for leading me to a path of wellness! I love you guys! www.bartonchiropractic.com

Back to School Risotto

risotto

It’s that time of year — Back To School!   I have one child left at home, in his last year of high school.   Somehow the beginning of the school year has still not changed.  It’s a time of new beginnings, a time to get back to a regular schedule, and I always experience mixed feelings.   On one hand I’m excited for a fresh start. On the other hand, it’s another milestone in my children’s lives which means they are growing older and inevitably away from home. 

Risotto is one of those rice dishes which is much easier to prepare than you think.  It is also a very – read VERY – versatile.   Today I needed a warm, hearty dish which fills us up and lets us enjoy a dinner together. 

Mushroom Risotto:

Some butter for the pan

1/2 chopped red onion. Chop this quite finely, so you don’t notice it in the finished product.

2 cups of mushroom stock. I buy the cubes and dissolve in hot water.  It’s easy to make your own, but even easier to buy it!

2 cups of water

1 package of dried porcini mushrooms

1 cup of good quality risotto rice. I like anything from Italy. 

2 TB butter

Salt and pepper

Chopped green onion.

Before you begin, put about 1/2 cup of dried mushrooms into a bowl and just cover with boiling hot water. Heat a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Drop in the butter and chopped onion, and stir until the onion is soft.  Dump in the dry rice, and stir until everything is coated and hot.  Add about 1/2 cup of stock, followed by 1/2 cup of water, at a time. Each time you pour in the stock, stir the pot until the liquid is dissolved.  Near the end, add your porcini mushrooms with juice. It will take about 20 minutes of stirring and pouring, stirring and pouring until the rice is done.  The mixture will be creamy, not dry.  If it’s dry, pour in some more water until you get a creamy consistency.   Take the rice off the heat.  Add 2 TB of butter, salt and pepper to taste and a small handful of chopped green onion.   That’s it. You just made risotto.  

I made a garden salad with lettuce and veg that I already had in the fridge.  Topped with some lemon juice, olive oil and chopped garlic.   That’s dinner.  Easy peasy, and yummy.

 

Big Day at the Tomato Ranch

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Each year I make “chili”.  It’s really tomato chutney, but for some reason we call it chili.  I use the same recipe, and never change it.  My (ex) mother in law gave me this recipe, and she got it from her dear friend and neighbour Marg.   So this is Marg’s chili – we eat it with eggs, with tourtière, with brie cheese, with grilled cheese sandwiches.    I haven’t made this in two years, and my son who is heading back to university soon, asked me specifically.   So, of course, I obliged.

The recipe is:

  • About 35 field tomatoes. Frankly, any tomatoes will do.
  • 3 green peppers and 3 red peppers
  • 1 hot pepper, or you can use chili flakes. This chili is not spicy, but to balance out the sweetness, you need the heat.
  • 1 whole stalk (head) of celery
  • About 6 good sized onions
  • 1.5 pints of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 lb of dark brown sugar
  • 1 TB salt
  • 1 TB cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cloves (ground)
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 TB of pickling spice, wrapped and tied in a piece of cheesecloth or loose tea ball.

You’ll need your average canning equipment: food processor, big pot for cooking, big canning pot for water bath, jars, lids, rings, jar funnel, and that magnetic thingy to pick up the hot jar lids.

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I Love Sushi

This is me at a fantastic sushi joint in downtown Montreal. I’m always impressed by the food presentation, and the tiny touches of ‘extras’ on the plate. I can’t remember when I first tried sushi, probably 10+ years ago with my first California roll. Now I can eat pretty much anything, and as long as it’s a good sushi place, I’m usually in for the long haul. There’s nothing like a good hit of wasabi, and a full belly!

1970’s Boat Cruise in Style

 

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When I was a little girl, my dad worked for KLM.  We had wonderful opportunities to travel the world and experience all kinds of interesting foods.   As an adult, I have not been on a cruise ship.  Sure, they are opulent, have food available 24/7 and visit exotic ports of call.   But in my mind, they would pale in comparison to the trip we took as a family on what was, at the time, a very posh experience for a little girl.    I love this picture, obviously taken by my father, showing my sister, my brother, and my mom toasting to the occasion of being together.  I’m the little one in the middle. Check out the old style champagne glasses, and my mom’s fabulous outfit.   I do remember my brother being pretty sea-sick, I don’t think he was having a great time.   More importantly, I remember feeling really special.   This begs the question, do we take to celebrate just being together in special moments these days? 

At my house, we try to create special opportunities with our friends and our family as much as possible.  Most weekends, we’ll have some time to enjoy a great meal.  I’ve been writing in this blog about creating easy and quick meals — which for us is important during the week.  On the weekend, we can afford some extra time to prepare and enjoy foods.  

We’ll often start with some kind of cheese tray, which usually includes a few cheeses: brie, aged cheddar, maybe a blue.  We add some local smoked and cured sausage, we love the new local Seed to Sausage which is available readily at FarmBoy.  A small bowl of olives, and a bowl of almonds or other nuts round it out.  We can pick away at our tray while we pour a glass of wine, and continue on with dinner.

This weekend is supposed to be very nice weather wise. My plan is to make sure we eat outside.  There are only a certain number of days to eat outside in our climate, and I’m not going to waste any of them!    I’m heading to the butcher to find something yummy for the bbq.  Maybe some huge beef ribs from Bob the Butcher!  Wish me luck!

Let’s create opportunities to celebrate simply being together.

Post Vacation Detox

 

 

 

 

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Vacation was amazing. It was great to get out of town and enjoy some great food, great wine and great friends.   Now, I need a rest!  

With so much rich food, it’s time for some detox.  This is a great link to some ‘after vacation detox”.   Time to drink lots of water and eat lots of dark green leafy vegetables!   http://livewell360.com/2012/07/how-to-detox-after-an-indulgent-vacation/

Mid Vacation Post: restaurants with MASSIVE wine cellars rock!

We have just finished a short trip to three different areas of Quebec. The Laurentians, Quebec and Montreal are all beautiful areas with amazing restaurants. A particular surprise was a small, family owned restaurant Silvio. Exceptional food, great service, and a lovely and extensive wine list. Yum yum yum. Now, back to the rest of our vacation!

Food Styling – Necessary or Not?

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I’ve been thinking about food styling lately.  Do we really need it to understand what food should look like as a finished product?  Or do we just like great pictures of food.   The ‘food porn’ industry is growing and I personally love to look at mouth watering pictures of great dishes.   

For this blog, I definately need to learn how to take good pictures of food, and a little food styling knowledge might go on a long way!

Rice Stuff – The Perfect “Leftover” Solution

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About once a month we have ‘rice stuff’.  I make it when I have to clear out my fridge of leftover meat.  This time, the leftover meat came from HUGE beef ribs which we had made on the weekend.  I had 1/2 of one rib leftover (which ended up being about a 1/2 lb of cooked meat).  I also had a large curried chicken thigh which was in the fridge from 2 days ago.   Neither of these meats would make a meal by itself for 4 people, so I took the meat off the bones and put in a large skillet with some olive oil.  I added half a dozen chopped spring onions, a handful of baby carrots, two chopped small green zucchinis, two very very ripe tomatoes chopped, and one small which eggplant sliced (no one even knew it was in there!).  

I cooked these over medium high heat, stirring for about 15 minutes.  I added salt (about a teaspoon), and a good amount of garlic (the equivalent of two cloves), as well as a few good shakes of black pepper.   Add two cups of chicken stock, and one cup of uncooked white rice. Give the whole mixtured a good stir to get everything incorporated.  It’s not supposed to look pretty. 

Then I added three nobs of unsalted butter on the top, so it would melt through as the mixture cooked over low heat for about 30 minutes.  Turn the heat down to simmer/low, cover with a tight lid, and let the whole thing breakdown, all the rice will cook and absorb the stock, and the butter will help make a nice crust on the bottom. 

We ate it with a cucumber salad (just thinly sliced cucumbers covered in Japanese rice vinegar and a scant amount of organic sugar), and some cut up cheese foccacia bread we had leftover. 

There is none leftover at all.  🙂   

 

Costco is selling snow suits. Better start Christmas baking.

snowsuits

I was at Costco on the weekend, and they are selling snowsuits and back to school supplies. Is it just me or is this WAYYY too early. If you want to get a deal on these things, wait until the season has arrived (everything will go on sale, I promise!). If you want to be the first one with a new snow suit for your little precious, you might want to consider getting a hobby different than shopping (IMHO).

That’s all. Just an indignant post about pre-winter at Costco.

Wontons = Porky Goodness

wonton pork

 Now that the heat wave is starting to ease up, I’m o.k. with turning the stove back on.  These quick wontons are a favorite of my teenage boys — they are salty and savory and you can eat 10 of them before you know what’s happened.

I like to use ground pork, but you could really use any filling you want.  It works with beef or ground chicken or turkey.  Use your imagination, it’s hard to go wrong.

For our pork wontons:

Use a very small amount of pork, maybe 1/4 of a pound for 20 wontons.  Add a few drops (not too much!!) of sesame oil, and finely chopped yellow onion.  Season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Use small wonton wrappers available in the produce section of the grocery store. The packages I buy have about 20 wrappers, that are approximately 3″ square.

Get a small bowl of water, your pork mixture and your wonton wrappers to assemble by the stove.  Heat up a frying pan to medium heat with a tablespoon of olive oil, and a tablespoon of butter (yes, real butter).   Lay out 10 wonton wrappers on a cutting board or the counter.  Add a small amount (a teaspoon or less) of the pork mixture onto each wonton wrapper.  Dip your fingers in the water and put water on the entire edge of each wonton wrapper (do this one wonton at a time, not all at once).  Put the opposite corners up, from each side, and press together. It will look like a cross on top.  As you finish, put it in the frying pan.  Do this to all 10 and put in the frying pan.   When you finish, turn them all over in the frying pan.  Do the whole assembly one more time so you end up with 20 wontons.

Make a simple sauce with soy sauce, and chopped green onions.  If you really like sesame oil (I find it overwhelming), add a few drops to the sauce.  Serve the sauce in a small bowl with the wontons.

It sounds like it takes a long time, but from start to finish it’s about 30 minutes.  Enjoy!  Mmmm, porky goodness!

Carlos Santana is Right – It’s a Hot One!

ImageCarlos Santana and Rob Thomas had it right in their song “Smooth”.  Great summer tunes, a kiddie pool, hamburgers on the bbq and watermelon are the remedy for a sweltering hot day!   In Kingston, Ontario we only get a few of these days a year, so I’m definitely not going to complain about the 35 degree + days we’ve been having.  The Weather Network says it’s going to be like this all week.   So yesterday, we bbq’d a dozen hamburgers on the bbq and I put them in the fridge — we can all just grab what we want and no one has to cook.

Watermelon is the best fruit, in my opinion, for hot days.  Keep it nice and cold in the fridge, cut into bite sized pieces so everyone can help themselves.

A nice chilled white wine doesn’t hurt either!  We choose the Jacob’s Creek Riesling at the LCBO and enjoyed sitting in our new fancy ‘deck pool’ while enjoying a glass (or two).

Enjoy the summer — soak up every minute of it!  Yay for hamburgers and watermelon!

Easy Pork Roast, Wine and Kahlua

Friday nights are a time to unwind from the week. At my house we’re lucky to have Monday to Friday jobs so we have ‘real’ weekends. Last night I knew we would eat later in the evening so we could enjoy some appetizers and wine on the deck. Apps were very easy, a variety of cheese and some salami on a platter (with a good cover to keep the mosquitoes away!) and a nice French bread.

When I got home I turned the oven up to its highest temperature, put a small pork rib roast — maybe three pounds — in a heavy cast iron. About 2 tablespoons of olive added added the necessary fat, I covered the roast with salt, pepper, dried garlic and an Italian spice mix from the pantry. Uncovered I put the pot in the oven for about twenty minutes. With the timer on the oven on, I walked away. 20 minutes later, I turned the roast over, added two yellow onions (skinned and quartered) and a cup of water. I turned the heat down to 280 degrees and put the cover on, set the timer for two hours and walked away.

We had our appetizers, our wine, great conversation on the deck, until the timer went off around 7 p.m. I cut up two nice fresh tomatoes, sliced two pieces of bocconcini cheese, placed these on a plate, added a splash of olive oil, salt, pepper and a drizzle of truffle oil. I served up the two dishes, followed up by some red velvet ice cream and a Kahlua and everyone was satisfied! What a nice Friday evening! I love these warm summer days!!

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Entertaining – Bivalve Mollusc Style

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Summer entertaining is about having time with friends and family outdoors. This past weekend, we had a whole group of people over for a lobster feast! We started with oysters for everyone. Most of our friends are already well versed in slurping these slippery creatures, dousing them with lemon and fish sauce, or hot sauce. This time a few friends wanted to learn how to shuck their own oysters. Oysters have to be one of the fastest appetizers — buy, shuck, serve! I like that! The live lobsters, steamed in a big pot, took 9 minutes once the water was boiling. I put a dozen cobs of corn in another pot at the same time. Within 20 minutes we were outside, cracking and dipping fresh lobster in garlic butter, drinking great wine with great friends. Don’t be afraid of seafood — if you like it, you absolutely can make it at home! Invite your friends, and everyone will love to help out in the kitchen too — a true experience.