a cherry pepper of a giveaway!

It’s over, can you believe it? Yeah me neither. It feels like only yesterday we were cheering over the first day of summer break and now ten weeks, countless day trips, endless hours spent floating in the pool and one family vacation later… and the summer of 2014 is coming to a close. I have mixed feelings about summer’s end. On one hand I’m ready to get back into a set routine; sure that means shuttling kids to and from school, soccer, gymnastics and so on— but there’s a certain comfort to be found in the routine. On the other hand I could do without another year of maddening school projects, endless video game vs. homework battles and the daily chore of making lunches. Not to mention feeling as though it goes from the first day of school to Halloween to Thanksgiving in the blink of an eye. Seriously, before you know it we’ll all be stressing over holiday dinner menus, Black Friday shopping and the impending countdown to the end of the year. Ugh.

Luckily the end of Summer doesn’t mean the end of garden fresh vegetables. Root vegetables, apples and pears, pumpkins and gourds and a variety of peppers are at their seasonal best this time of year. In fact on a recent trip to Corrado’s Market the local cherry peppers looked so good that I couldn’t pass them by. I threw a dozen in a bag and figured I’d decide what to do with them later. Turns out that inspiration was no further away than the cheese department. You see Corrado’s sells an amazing sharp provolone that my husband and I adore, but some may find too strong for everyday snacking. As I pushed my cart along I thought about that cheese and imagined the flavor mellowing beautifully if it was wrapped in a bit of imported prosciutto, stuffed inside of a cherry pepper and allowed to cure for a week or so in some quality olive oil. Oh yeah, you know what I’m talking about right? Those spicy little stuffed cherry peppers that are an integral part of every good antipasto platter and olive bar. Yup that’s right, that’s exactly what I made… and man were they delicious!

But my story doesn’t end there— You see writing about back to school and the impending holidays began to make me feel a bit stressed. Don’t get me wrong, while I enjoy all the planning, prepping and preparing of a holiday meal it seems to become more and more difficult to pull off with each passing year. Apparently the universe sensed my stress and sought to sooth me with a little retail therapy… No sooner did I think ‘Thanksgiving’ then along came an email from Pacific Merchants Trading Company offering to send me a few pieces of their gorgeous tableware to use and review! By now you know that I’m a sucker for dishware (especially serving pieces) so you can imagine how quickly I jumped at the chance to add a few of their beautiful Acacia wood pieces to my collection. But the folks at Pacific Merchants didn’t just want me to be happy, nope they wanted you to be happy too! Pacific Merchants has offered to send one lucky beets and blue cheese reader a $50 gift certificate which they can use to purchase something amazing from their website. But that’s not all, they also wanted to offer EVERYONE reading this post a coupon towards a future purchase. Simply enter “WeLoveBeets” at checkout  on www.pacificmerchants.com  for 20% off your next purchase, from now until October 1, 2014. Pretty fantastic, right? Yup those lovely people over at  Pacific Merchants really know how to talk a girl in off a ledge!

So thank your lucky stars that I start worrying about Thanksgiving in September and go enter the giveaway, make this recipe and serve it up in something beautiful from Pacific Merchants

Pickled Cherry Peppers with Prosciutto and Provolone
I never need to buy those expensive olive bar peppers again. And now neither do you!

stuffed cherry peppers

12 large hot cherry peppers
6 cloves garlic, divided
1/4 tsp. black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 cups white wine vinegar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 cup water
1 tsp. coarse kosher salt
2 tsp. granulated sugar
1/2 lb. wedge of sharp provolone cheese
12 slices prosciutto
3 cups extra-virgin olive oil

  1. Wash and dry peppers and put in a large glass jar. Peel and smash three garlic cloves and add them to the jar with the peppers. Then add the peppercorns and bay leaf.
  2. Combine the vinegars, water, salt, and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and allow to boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and carefully pour over the peppers, they should be fully submerged. Allow to cool to room temperature on the counter, then cover and refrigerate for 1 week. (The peppers will absorb a considerable amount of the vinegar. Once the level has dropped a few inches you’ll want to add something to the jar to weigh down the peppers and keep them submerged in the vinegar. I found that a small ramekin worked well.)
  3. Drain the peppers well and use a sharp paring knife carefully remove the stem. With a baby or demitasse spoon carefully scoop out the seeds, leaving the pepper hollow but intact. Place the peppers cut side down on paper towels and allow them to drain further.
  4. Cut the cheese into blocks small enough to fit in each pepper. Wrap one slice of prosciutto around a block of cheese (don’t worry if the prosciutto pulls apart), then gently stuff into a cherry pepper. Repeat the same process with the remaining peppers.
  5. Carefully place all of the peppers and the three remaining garlic cloves in a large glass jar. Cover with olive oil, put the lid on and refrigerate for at least 24 hrs. Allow to come to room temperature before serving. And speaking of serving…

*adapted from chez panisse vegetables

HIP, HIP HOORAY, IT”S A GIVEAWAY!— HAS ENDED

wood plates2CONGRATULATIONS MIMI… YOU’RE THE LUCKY WINNER!

To enter for a chance to win a $50 gift certificate to Pacific Merchants Trading Company (which can be used for any number of beautiful times including a set of Acacia serving pieces like mine), please leave a comment below telling me what you like or dislike most about hosting a holiday dinner.

Are you like me and you love the recipe researching, list making, planning and ultimately pulling together a meal that hopefully tops all others? Or do you dread everything involved with a holiday dinner including the cooking, cleaning and having your family converge on you like locusts? Whatever it is, I want to hear it!

Leave your comment between Wednesday, September 3, 2014 and Thursday, September 11, 2014. (One comment per person please, US residents only.) Entries must be left via the comment form at the bottom of this post. A winner will be selected using Random.org. on Friday, September 12th and will be promptly contacted.

So please leave a comment and then feel free to…

  • Follow @beetsbluecheese on Twitter.
  • Become a beets and blue cheese follower via e-mail
    (you’ll find the “follow me” button at the top of this page).
  • Follow @beetsbluecheese on Instagram.
  • Share this giveaway with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.

Good luck!

matzo balls + divine intervention

There’s a kosher deli not far from our house that my family loves to go to. They’ve got killer pastrami, fantastic chopped liver, an open face turkey sandwich that makes my daughter swoon and some of the finest matzo ball soup around. Just thinking about it makes me what to jump in the car and head there…PRONTO!

As you know by now we eat a lot of soup in our house. Anything from Red Lentil, Homemade Wonton or Smoked Chicken & Corn Chowder to Curried Carrot & Parsnip, Creamy Broccoli & Kale or nothing fancy but always delicious Chicken Soup. When I make chicken soup I typically serve it with some sort of noodles and a healthy sprinkle of grated cheese on top (I guess that’s the Italian in me). One recent afternoon I returned home from the store with a meaty chicken destined for the pot, only to discover a package from Cooking Light sitting in my mailbox. It contained two copies of their latest cookbook “Lighten Up, America!”. One copy for me to add to my collection and perhaps try a few recipes from and one to offer to my readers as a giveaway. Nice right?

Lighten Up, America! is filled with all the classic down-home recipes you’ve come to love, tweaked up a smidge to make them less of a guilty indulgence and more of an everyday option. Bacon and Corn Chowder with Shrimp, thickened by pureeing some of the soup rather than with loads of cream. Pound Cake that replaces the butter in the batter with canola oil that’s been flavored with a vanilla bean and Green Goddess Dressing that substitutes Greek yogurt and canola mayonnaise for traditional mayo and sour cream. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Anyway back to the soup… As I was flipping through the book trying to decide which tasty recipe to try first I discovered a recipe for matzo balls. I don’t know about you, but it struck me as a bit of divine intervention that a cookbook with a matzo ball recipe should arrive on my doorstep the very same day that I intended to make chicken soup! Seriously, how could I possibly ignore that kind of direct message from the universe… And so I made matzo balls.

I may not have grown up eating my Grandmas matzo balls (she was a tiny meatballs and pastina in her soup kinda Grandma) but I have eaten enough matzo ball soup in my time to say that this recipe was pretty darn good. The matzo balls were light and fluffy, fresh and flavorful, easy to make and a lovely change from the typical noodles. My family may still prefer to go the noodle and grated cheese route, but I’m a girl who likes variety and is quite happy to now have a matzo ball card up her sleeve!

“Light As Air” Matzo Balls
This may not be the most traditional of recipes, but its a pretty tasty one all the same.

matza ball

1 tbsp. canola oil
2 large eggs
1/4 cup club soda
2/3 cup matzo meal
2 tsp. chopped fresh dill
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

  1. In a medium bowl whisk together the oil and eggs. Stir in the club soda, matzo meal, dill, salt, and pepper; chill 30 minutes.
  2. Wet your hands, gently scoop out a bit of the mixture and shape into 8 equal sized balls.
  3. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Gently drop the uncooked matzo balls into the simmering water, cover and allow to cook for 25-35 minutes or until matzo balls are tender and cooked through. (To test doneness insert a toothpick in the center of a ball, it should easily slide through.)
  4. Serve in a bowl of chicken soup or cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

*adapted from lighten up, america!

Now onto the giveaway… To enter to win your own copy of Lighten Up, America! please leave me a comment telling me what your favorite food indulgence is and if you’ve ever considered making/eating a lighter version of it.

lighten-up-america

What food do I find impossible to resist, that’s easy— potato chips. If there’s an open bag in the house I can’t keep my hands off them! I actually have considered trying to make a healthier baked version but honestly, I’d rather just eat a handful (or two) of real chips now and again rather than healthy ones all the time. So how about you, what food makes your resolve to eat healthy a distant memory? Is it a peanut butter and bacon sandwich? Pizza loaded with extra cheese and pepperoni? A triple scoop hot fudge sundae? Whatever it is I’d love to hear about it!

Please leave your comment between Monday, October 28, 2013 and midnight Monday, November 4, 2013. One comment per person please, US residents only. Entries must be left via the comment form at the bottom of this post. A winner will be selected using Random.org. on Tuesday November 5th and will be promptly contacted.

So please leave a comment and then feel free to…

  • Follow @beetsbluecheese on Twitter.
  • Become a beets and blue cheese follower via e-mail
    (you’ll find the “follow me” button at the top of this page).
  • Like beets and blue cheese’s facebook page.
  • Share this giveaway with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.

Good luck!

Hooray for a Giveaway!~ Has Ended

I’m one of those people who delight in the process of planning a meal almost as much as I do cooking and eating it. I truly enjoy researching recipes, making endless lists and shopping for ingredients. But, I realize that not everyone feels the way I do.

I recently posted a bit of a love letter to the Shim’on Ariche Harissa Forte that I can only find at my local Fairway. I also contacted them to request that they sell it in larger sized jars. Well that request turned into a couple of back and forth e-mails that turned into beets and blue cheese’s first sponsored giveaway!

It turns out that besides being a fantastic resource for your everyday grocery and wine needs, Fairway also offers an extensive catering menu for any size gathering or holiday meal (kosher and non-kosher). Who knew?!? The folks at Fairway Market have given me a $100 gift card to give away to one of you— wasn’t that nice of them? With Passover and Easter right around the corner a Fairway gift card would certainly buy some lovely ingredients. Or, you could cater in and pretend you cooked (I won’t tell). And not to fear if you don’t happen to have a Fairway near you, they also offer online ordering. So here’s what you have to do…

giveaway image

To enter, please leave a comment with what you love most about grocery shopping. Are you like me and you love the process of planning meals; making lists and finally selecting the perfect brussels sprout or artichoke. Is it the only time during the week that you’re actually kid-free? Or do you dread those brightly lit and jam-packed aisles and avoid it whenever possible? Whatever you have to say about grocery shopping, and even more specifically shopping at Fairway, I’d love to hear it.

Please leave your comment between Wednesday, March 6, 2013 and Wednesday, March 20, 2013. One comment per person please, US residents only. Entries must be left via the comment form at the bottom of this post. A winner will be selected using Random.org. on Thursday, March 21st and will be promptly contacted.

So please leave a comment and then feel free to…

  • Follow @beetsbluecheese on Twitter.
  • Become a beets and blue cheese follower via e-mail
    (you’ll find the “follow me” button at the top of this page).
  • Like beets and blue cheese’s facebook page.
  • Share this giveaway with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.

Good luck!