It’s Pickle Time

crispy, tangy and sweet

crispy, tangy and sweet

Decorating the Christmas tree is always bittersweet. Many of the ornaments were either made by my children or include “growing up” photos of them. Each one is precious and triggers a memory and a few tears. A prominently displayed holiday card reminds me to choose happiness and so I do. Like every Christmas past I hide the pickle ornament and look forward to the fun of now watching Caitlin and Sam search for the prize. It’s important to keep some holiday traditions alive.

my sparkly girl

my sparkly girl

my All-star

my All-star

finding the pickle

finding the pickle

Last year at this time I wrote,  “I don’t pickle anything”, but thanks to a dim sum dinner at a local restaurant with Caitlin and Sam that all has changed. Often inspired by restaurant dishes I was determined to re-create the most delicious Asian pickle presented to us that night. It’s fresh and tangy, sweet and crunchy; the perfect topper for your favorite burger or sandwich.

Asian Pickle

Asian Pickle

And as always my recipes are inspired by those I love. Here is one of the sweetest photos of William and the inspiration for Team Will-Bur.

The boy who inspired Team Will-Bur

The boy who inspired Team Will-Bur

My cooking contest buddies know I found myself in a real pickle at the World Food Championships held in Las Vegas last month. When Team Will-Bur stepped into the Kenmore kitchen arena we were face to face with an induction stove. Never ever having cooked with induction I was totally thrown for a loop and never quite recovered despite my sous chef’s best efforts to keep me on track. My non-stick skillet was rendered useless and so I was either burning something or it wasn’t cooking at all. Much to my surprise my first round recipe made the top 10. I am sure it did because the pickle is so darn tasty.

braised bacon and Asian pickle steam hub

World Food Championships Top 10 Asian Inspired Braised Bacon Steam Bun

Round two dish was a total fiasco, but no matter. Sometimes the best thing about creating recipes and competing in cook-offs is the memories made with friends and family. Here are two versions of my pickle compliments of Team Will-Bur and friends…

Team High Steaks & Team Will-Bur...Next year The Four Queens

Team High Steaks & Team Will-Bur…Next year The 4 Queens

Quick Pickle 

1 daikon radish, julienned (2 cups)

1 cup shredded carrot

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded, thinly sliced

1/2-cup water

1/2-cup white vinegar

1/3-cup sugar

1-teaspoon kosher salt

Place vegetables in a heat proof bowl. Bring water, vinegar, sugar and salt to a boil, stirring, until sugar is dissolve. Pour hot mixture over vegetables; let stand at least 30 minutes. Drain. Chill until ready to serve.

Quick Smoked Pickle

1 red onion, thinly sliced

2 jalapenos, seeded, thinly sliced

1 cucumber, peeled, halved, seeded, sliced

½ cup water

½ cup white vinegar

1/3-cup sugar

1-teaspoon kosher salt

2 drops liquid smoke

Place onion, jalapeno, and cucumber in a heatproof bowl. Bring water, vinegar, sugar, salt and liquid smoke to a boil, stirring until sugar and salt is dissolved. Immediately pour over vegetables. Let cool down at least 25 minutes. Drain before serving.

 

Never Forget: the Dog Gets Gifts, Too

Grain Free Dog Biscuits

Grain Free Dog Biscuits…heart shaped of course

Since William died I have a few irrational fears. One of which is that friends and family and even myself, as I age, will forget him. To help alleviate that fear, shortly after he died, I wrote a photo book about him from the time he was in high school up until the time he died. A few copies were printed and given, as gifts to those I knew would keep him safe in their hearts. It felt good to document those years. This blog is simply an extension of that book and I hope I never forget that.

My book: Gone Too Soon Forever In Our Hearts

My book: Gone Too Soon Forever In Our Hearts

Recently, a few friends have lost their beloved dogs. While I would never compare the loss of a person to that of a pet I can without a doubt say that the death of a much-loved pet is heart wrenching. It is sad and requires grieving. For some it is like losing an important member of the family. It brought to mind a “Will Story”.

Baby Will & Colleen

Baby Will & Colleen

One of the more touching “Will stories” has to do with his love and loss of our first dog, Colleen. Colleen came into our lives as a puppy when Will was just 16 months old. The two little tykes quickly bonded and grew up together rather inseparable. Doesn’t every boy just love his dog? Fast-forward 15 years and the price one pays for the love of a good pet is suddenly realized. Colleen is too old to fetch one more tennis ball and too sick for one more swim in Lake Elise. It is decision time. We waited for William to give the okay. It was important for him to be ready to say, “good-bye”. And as always the boy had a plan.

Go fetch

Go fetch

He wrapped her in his baby blanket and carried her into the Vet’s office. He took off his U.S. Navy St. Christopher medal and placed it lovingly around her neck. He gathered her one last time into his arms and gave the Vet a nod. I will never forget the tearful scene or the boy who whispered, “we will see each other again.”

Cait, Will & Colleen

Cait, Will & Colleen

she got her name 'cause she was half Irish setter

Named Colleen ’cause she was half Irish setter

I just bet every pet lover out there has a Christmas stocking with their Pet’s name on it. Look what Deacon is getting in hers. Good thing she hasn’t been too naughty.

a gift from the heart is always welcome

a gift from the heart is always welcome

Deacon’s Grain Free Dog Biscuits

3/4 cup buckwheat flour (did you know that buckwheat is actually a fruit seed related to rhubarb—me neither, but it is true)

1/2 cup almond flour

1/4 cup canned pumpkin

1 egg

1 tablespoon peanut butter

Mix all the ingredients together adding more buckwheat flour if too sticky. Roll out on a flour dusted board to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Bake on a parchment lined cookie sheet at 300F for 30 minutes. Makes about 2 dozen.

ho ho ho...Deacon the Dog

ho ho ho…Deacon the Dog

View from Will’s Bench & Holiday Gifts

cranberry apple relish

cranberry apple relish

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, but before we head into the dead of winter lets take one last look at autumn. The view from Will’s Bench in the fall is glorious. It is the best time of year to visit New England.

Will's Bench Middlebury, CT

Will’s Bench Middlebury, CT

Who doesn’t like rainbows and a pine forest? I can’t help but think of my boy when I see the sun shining down on the water in such a colorful way. He’s out there, casting a line just happy to be. I can almost see him. There is a scent of pine still on his sweatshirt.

the rainbow shot

the rainbow shot

And to the one who always leaves flowers I wish you peace and hope always, but especially during this holiday season. Thank you.

peace and hope

peace and hope

Whew! I feel much better now that I have put the fall season behind us…and you have to believe that I really do actually enjoy the Christmas season. I miss William terribly, but I have to rejoice in the thought that I had his bright light in my life for 23 years. How lucky am I to have loved such a son. And to have so many in my life who continue to love and honor him, too. William is the gift that keeps on giving.

can't have an empty jar

can’t have an empty jar

Do you love a homemade gift as much as I do? Nothing better than a gift from someone’s heart. Homemade means someone has given you their precious time. It can’t be bought. It’s priceless. So, this recipe for cranberry-apple relish was born because I was feeling guilty about simply opening up a jar or can of cranberry sauce and tossing it on the table at Thanksgiving. Pressed for time I just didn’t think anyone would care about cranberry sauce, but the thought of not doing something homemade for such a special event got the best of me. Thankfully, I got it done. The jar was practically licked clean by my guests and my darling daughter announced it was the best cranberry sauce she had ever eaten and could I make more. So I did and so should you.

honey to your taste

honey to your taste

Cranberry-Apple Relish

1-cup water

½ cup sugar

1 (12 oz) bag fresh cranberries

1 Meyer lemon or medium-size orange, grated zest and juice

1 large honey crisp apple, peeled, grated

½ cup honey

pinch of Alaskan alder smoked salt or finishing salt of your choice

½ cup toasted chopped pecans, optional

In medium saucepan, over medium heat, combine water, sugar, cranberries, lemon (or orange) zest and juice, apple and half the honey; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring mixture occasionally, pressing cranberries with the back of your spoon against the side of the pan insuring all have popped. Taste and add additional honey to your desired sweetness. (I use the whole half-cup if using the Meyer lemon instead of an orange). Simmer until the mixture is thickened. Cool. Stir in salt and pecans, if desired. Makes about 2 ½ cups IMG_3991

For a nice gift pour into sterilized jars while still hot. Seal and wrap with a decorative ribbon.