Category Archives: Winter

Pepperoncini Stuffed with Cajun Crab

Ready to add a delicious appetizer to your repertoire?  Looking for a bite sized tid bit to bring to the New Year’s Party that will stand out and make your friends swoon?  This is exactly what you’re looking for.

The recipe comes from the winners of Food Network’s first Food Network Star competition.  Dan and Steve won as a team and did a great job combining party foods with tips on how to create a fantastic event.  They were the perfect tag team kind of pair, and I loved them. You haven’t noticed them lately?  Ever?  That feeds into my theory that the Food Network competition style moves the best of the middle to the top and then is disappointed when the show doesn’t deliver.  But, that’s a gripe for another day.  Today, give these a try and watch them disappear before the ball drops on New Year’s Eve.

Pepperoncini Stuffed with Cajun Crab

from Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh on the Food Network


  • 36 pepperoncini
  • 1 lb cream cheese at room temperature
  • 8 oz crab meat, shredded  (see note below)
  • 1 1/2 TBS Cajun seasoning
  • 1 TBS hot sauce
  • 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • finely chopped fresh parsley leaves


  1. Cut the stem end off the pepperoncini and carefully scrape out the seeds.  Set aside on paper towels to drain.
  2. In a mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the Cajun seasoning, hot sauce, and thyme and mix until blended.  Gently mix in the crab.
  3. Place the mixture into a zip lock bag, cut off one corner, and pipe into the pepperoncinis. Dip the cream cheese end of the pepperoncini in the chopped parsley and transfer to a serving tray.


  • The combination of peppers and spices give this some pucker power that is balanced by the cream cheese.
  • The picture shows the dish with and extra sprinkling of Cajun spices and not the parsley as in the instructions.  Either is wonderful.
  • The original recipe calls for crab claw meat shredded.  Are you kidding me?  Who would ever shred claw meat?  We’ve made this with both canned shredded and packaged chunk meat with great results.  If you can spring for claws, use them as additional bites on their own.
  • We’ve also served the crab mixture as a dip with pita chips.  Yum!
  • They still have a selection of recipes on the Food Network website and nothing by them has ever been a dud.

Jambalaya for a Crowd

Sometimes life is like a puzzle.  Needing to make a meal for a Kaleidoscope family, no kids or teens involved, something that could be stashed in the fridge or freezer if there is an unexpected turn in the cancer treatment, and a 2 pound bag of shrimp in the freezer calling out my name.  Oh yeah, and a newish New Orleans cookbook hanging out on the shelf.  The decision became clear: should I make jambalaya or, um, jambalaya?  Jambalaya it is!

This version is truly enough for a full crowd of friends ready for a good meal.  I was a bit worried in that the ingredients and directions are so straight forward.  There was no secret ingredient, no fantastically original cooking method, nothing to show that this would be simply perfect.  This just has the perfect proportions of delicious ingredients with classic cooking techniques.  And really, isn’t that what we’re looking for in a classic dish like jambalaya anyways?

Jambalaya for a Crowd

adapted from the book Gumbo Shop: Traditional and Contemporary Creole Cuisine by Richard Stewart

Serves at least 12    |      Jambalaya for a Crowd (printable version)


1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 lb smoked sausage, sliced into ¼ inch rounds

1 large onion, chopped

1 large or 2 med. Green peppers, chopped

1 cup celery, chopped,

5 cloves garlic, diced

2 16 oz cans petit diced tomatoes

1 tsp white pepper

1 tsp black pepper

½ tsp cayenne pepper

2 tsp salt

1 cup long grain rice

3 cups stock (from step 1 below, cooking the chicken)

2 lbs peeled raw shrimp


1. Cover the chicken with water ans set over a medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove the chicken pieces from the pot and reserve the stock. When cool enough to handle, remove the chicken meat from the bones and skin and break into bite sized pieces. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, in a large heavy bottom dutch oven over a medium heat, saute the sausage in the oil until lightly browned. Remove from pot and set aside with the chicken pieces. Add the onion, celery and bell pepper to the pot and saute until just tender. Add the diced tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot.

3. Stir in the rice and mix well. Stir in 3 cups of the reserved chicken stock, bring the pot to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Add the sausage and chicken and cook uncovered 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add shrimp, stirring into the jambalaya and cook until they are just pink.


  • If you are squeamish about cutting up a chicken, this is a great place to learn since the chicken will be shredded anyways.
  • Did I mention the yum factor?
  • If you’ve never even made jambalaya before, this will still feel wonderfully familiar to you.  Its just one of those cozy meals.
  • Why is the title Jambalaya for a Crowd show this simple one person serving?  After delivering loads of jambalaya to the Kaleidoscope family and eating dinner at home, this was all I had for a photo to share.  Be lucky there was anything at all to share!

Roasted Dungeness Crab

Growing up California, Dungeness crab season has always been a favorite time of year.  It is its own season.  And having lived here my whole life, I know how crab is cooked.  Its steamed.  While it is yummy in simple foods like tacos, and disappears in casserole type dishes, the best way to eat crab is to just get your fingers messy picking apart a steamed crab. A little bread, some clarified butter for dipping, and a nice glass of wine.

In recent years, more and more restaurant reviews boast of delectable roasted crab.  Some are spicy, others garlicky, and others including with Vietnamese flavors.  But roasted crab?  Really?

This week, crab and chicken breasts sold for the same price at the grocery store.  What a perfect time to experiment with roasted crab at home.  This is certainly a departure from simple steamed crab and is scrumptious in its own way. The flavor of oranges with just a little heat from the chilies is a perfect match for the dungeness crab.  Messy?  You betcha.  Be sure to have plenty of napkins on hand.


  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1  shallot, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper
  • 3 large Dungeness crabs, cooked, cleaned, and cracked (about 4 1/4 pounds)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme, divided
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided
  • 2 oranges, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange peel


1.  Preheat oven to 500°F.

2.  Melt butter with oil in heavy large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in garlic, shallot, and dried crushed red pepper. Add crabs; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon chopped thyme and 1 tablespoon chopped parsley over crabs. Stir to combine.

3.  Place skillet in oven and roast crabs until heated through, stirring once, about 12 minutes.

4.  Using tongs, transfer crabs to platter. Add orange juice and peel to same skillet; boil until sauce is reduced by about half, about 5 minutes. Spoon sauce over crabs. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon thyme and 1 tablespoon parsley and serve.


  • The cooking goes pretty quickly, so get all of the ingredients prepared and at your side before beginning.
  • For easier cooking and serving, separate the crab into pieces before adding them to the skillet.
  • Both the flavor and aroma are amazing!


Shopping while hungry is a dangerous act, but putting together the shopping list for the week while hungry allows for a bit of reasoned thought.  Needing some warming vegetarian ideas, I headed over to the Cookbooks 101 which is always a dependable source of healthy homey foods.  She had just posted the Ribollita recipe and, figuring that was some kind of sign from the blogging gods and goddesses, the ingredients were quickly added to the shopping list.  Plus, I’m a sucker for brothy soups with kale.  It adds great texture and flavor, plus you look so healthy when buying that big bunch of dark leafy greens at the store.  Call it grocery store vanity.

The recipe here is straight from the Cookbooks 101 blog, and omitting the olives was my only alteration.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.


3 TBS extra-virgin olive oil

4 celery stalks, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 medium carrols, chopped

1 red onion, chopped

1 14 oz can crushed tomatoes

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 bunch kale, cut into long strips

2 cans white white beans

8 cups water

1/2 pound crustless loaf of bread

1 1/2 tsp sea salt

zest of one lemon

well chopped oily black olives (optional)


1.  In a dutch oven over medium heat, combine the olive oil, celery, garlic, carrot, and red onion.  Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, avoiding browning.

2.  Stir in the tomatoes and red pepper flakes.  Simmer for 10 minutes or until the tomatoes thicken up a bit.

3.  Stir in 8 cups water, kale, and 3 cups of the beans.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the greens are tender, about 15 minutes.

4.  Puree the remaining beans with a bit of water until smooth.  Tear the bread into bite-sized chunks.

5.  Stir the bean puree and bread into the soup.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the bread breaks down and the soup thickens, 20 to 30 minutes.

6.  Stir in the salt and red pepper flakes.  Adjust seasonings as needed.  Serve with olives.


  • This really does make a lot of soup!
  • For the bread, I just repurposed a few hoagie rolls that have been hanging out in the fridge for a few days.
  • This soup comes together quite easily.  Chop the first veggies while the pot warms, the prepare the next ingredients while those veggies cook, and so on.  A relaxing cooking experience to be sure.

Go-To Winter Salad

Everyone needs a dish to whip up at a moment’s notice to stretch a meal for additional guests at the table or to bring to a shared meal.  Lately, this has been my “go to” salad.  It is a snap to prepare, the ingredients last nicely in the fridge for several days or even a week, and it incorporates the sweet, savory, and earthy tastes of winter.  This salad must have made it to at least three Monday Night Football social gatherings before anyone realized I kept bringing the same tasty salad week after week.  And even then, there were certainly no complaints to be heard.  The recipe as listed here is perfect for a small crowd but can be pared down as needed.   While much easier to explain in sentences, here we go in the traditional recipe format:


12 to 16 oz lettuce (spring mix or butter lettuce work best,  romaine nor iceberg do so well in this salad)

2 to 3 tart apples, cored and diced

6 oz Maytag blue cheese, crumbled

1 cup pecans halves, toasted (optional)

1/2 cup dried cranberries (optional)

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 TBS Dijon mustard

2 TBS sugar

salt and pepper to taste


1.  Prepare vinaigrette by mixing olive oil, vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt, and pepper.

2.  Place lettuce in a large bowl and add just enough vinegrette to coat the leaves lightly.  Gently mix the greens, adding vinegrette as needed.

3.  Add apples, blue cheese, pecans and dried cranberries.  Toss lightly.


  • I use a small mason jar with lid for making all of my vinaigrette.  Just add the ingredients, screw on the lid, and give it a good shake.

Turkey Salad Sandwich on Cranberry Bread

Count me in on fans of leftover turkey.  Really now, the reason for cooking a bird really is for those second and third meals.  Especially sandwiches.

Christmas dinner was a several family affair this year.  We LOVE this time together, and decided to share with a few more families which tripled the number of people at our tables.  The Big Deal of this feast is always the amazing prime rib prepared by my husband.  But, with so many at our table this year, we decided to add a deep fried turkey.  That meant left over turkey with lovely crispy skin bits.  Oh, yum!

While I wouldn’t deep fry a turkey just for this sandwich, making or purchasing cranberry bread is a must.  That cranberry bread puts this over the top!


6 cups turkey meat, roughly chopped

4 hard boiled eggs

6 oz sweet gherkin pickles, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

2TBS Dijon mustard

3/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup light sour cream

Lettuce leaves

Cranberry bread


1.  Peel the hard boiled eggs, remove the yolk from two of the eggs, and roughly chop.

2.  In a mixing bowl, mix together Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, and light sour cream.  Add the chopped turkey, hard boiled eggs, sweet pickles and celery and mix gently.

3.  Toast 2 slices of cranberry bread.

4.  Spread turkey salad mixture on the toasted cranberry bread, top with 2 leaves of lettuce and cover with the remaining slice of bread.


  • The cranberry bread was made by my mom.  Thanks mom!
  • This is based on the Annie’s Turkey Salad recipe on AllRecipes.
  • Removing the yolks from half of the hard boiled eggs is just my habit.  I like the texture of the egg whites but don’t want too much yolk to muck up the texture of the salad in the end.
  • The overall flavor profile of this is of turkey first, with a few light add ins.  Some people will prefer a more even proportion of add ins to meat.
  • With the hearty bread and meaty filling, just half of the sandwich makes a perfect lunch.

Strawberry Fields Forever

winter strawberry fieldsOverall, this is a very quiet time of year in the fields. We have dirt, dirt growing various nutrients for feeding the crops this summer, and, well, more dirt. The one bright spot in the landscape is the strawberries.

The farmers have carefully tucked the plants in plastic sheets to keep those precious little roots warm. This means one late harvest in the Fall, and strong plants ready for the new season in the Spring. The anticipation just kills us all at this point of year when we are so, so, SO ready for fresh local foods!

In a related thought, Mrs L of Pages, Pucks and Pantry was recently reminicisng about New Year’s resolutions not quite kept. Last year, I was going to finally can / jar/ put up for winter, some of our amazing harvest. In the height of any season here, fruits and veggies are sold by the flat, just waiting for this experience. I wanted to, planned to do some canning for the first time in my life. But no. On reflection, I realize that I don’t really want to can / jar/ put up for the winter much of anything. What I REALLY want is to show up at someone’s house who actually knows how to do this and have the proper equipment, contribute a few flats of fruits or veggies and some new Mason jars, and simply take orders in their kitchen. For 2009, I’ve got this clarified version of the resolution on my list. Wish me luck!