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Puff Pastry Bites, Uncommon Goods and a Giveaway

 With the holidays approaching, you might want to have a few recipes for appetizers at the ready. These puff pastry bites couldn’t be easier. They freeze well too. You use packaged puff pastry dough, and in my case, leftover vegetables. I already had some roasted butternut squash, swiss chard, mushrooms and caramelized onions for the gnocchi dish I posted here. But I had more than I needed, so I transformed the leftovers into these appetizers. Use any vegetables you like – artichoke hearts, broccoli bits or spinach also come to mind. Add some cheese too, for a richer taste. For the ones below, I just cut the pastry into little squares and popped them into a mini muffin tin, then filled them with the squash and caramelized onions before baking.

For these spirals, I rolled out a sheet of the puff pastry and spread it with a mixture of the chopped Swiss chard and mushrooms. Then I added a layer of asiago cheese and rolled it up like a jelly roll, sliced it and baked it.
I served them on these handsome slate boards that were sent to me by Uncommon Goods. The company sells a variety of high quality gifts, for men, women and children. You’ll find a plethora of holiday shopping ideas on their website, including these beautiful slate boards.They’re made by Brooklynites whose family has owned a quarry in upstate New York for three generations. They’re available in both a grey slate and a terra cotta color too and they look great when serving all sorts of food.

They’re perfect for serving cheeses too, and arrive with pieces of chalk, especially useful if you’re offering different kinds of cheeses.

The company has a variety of other gifts available too, for both home entertaining or appropriate for gifting to men, women and children. Check out their site here.
Wouldn’t you like to have one of these slateboards to use for your holiday entertaining? Just leave a message in the comments on the blog (NOT on email) saying whether you’d like the grey or terra cotta colored slate, and be sure to leave a way for me to contact you – email is best. I’ll have the computer generate one lucky winner and the company will mail you the slate board a short time later. You’ll love it!

Puff Pastry Bites
printable recipe here
1 package puff pastry, completely thawed
(I used leftover vegetable for the filling, but if you want to start from scratch use the following:)
2 T. olive oil
1/2 large onion, sliced thinly
1 cup butternut squash, diced into small pieces
2 T. olive oil
salt, pepper
fresh herbs, finely chopped (rosemary, thyme)

Sauté the onions in the olive oil until golden. Remove from the pan, set aside, but cut into small bits. Add 2 T. more olive oil and sauté the squash, adding a bit of water if the squash starts to stick to the pan. Season with salt, pepper and herbs, and when the squash is cooked through, add the onions back to the pan.
Spray a small muffin pan with non-stick spray. Cut the puff pastry in small squares and push them down into the spaces in the muffin pan. Fill with a mixture of the vegetables and bake in a 400 degree oven about 20 minutes or longer, or until the pastry is golden.

For the spirals, spread the puff pastry out flat then spread with the following:
chopped spinach that’s been sautéed with minced onion, salt and pepper, mixed with sautéed, minced mushrooms (mine were leftovers). Spread some grated asiago cheese over the vegetables, then roll like a jelly roll. Cut into slices about 1/4 inch thick, then place on a cookie sheet and bake in a 400 degree oven about 20 minutes or longer, until pastry is golden.

Ciao Chow Linda Celebrates Five Years with Thanks and a Giveaway

 Has it really been five years since I typed the words “How to create a blog?” in a Google search? Yep, it is, and believe it or not, that’s how I got started back in August 2008. My first post was an easy one – an heirloom tomato salad.

Since then, I’ve posted hundreds of recipes, learned a lot more about blogging, and like many of you I’m sure, have had my share of highs and lows in life.
With the exception of a short hiatus now and then, I’ve kept blogging. Blogging about food, travel and restaurants has meant more to me than just blogging about food, travel and restaurants.
Maybe you already get it. Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about. But what I’m trying to say is that having a blog has almost been like having a therapist. No, better than a therapist, because I don’t have to shell out $100 bucks an hour, and I get to eat some pretty good food (and some failures too) as a result of all the cooking I’ve done for the blog. Writing this blog has helped keep me moving through some of those tough times, particularly when I hear from readers through comments and emails. But it’s also allowed me to celebrate some of the really happy times and wonderful food I’ve tasted too. And to share it with you.
Through the blog, I’ve met some really wonderful people that I’d never have met otherwise – both here in the U.S. and abroad. Some of you have even become friends in real life. But whether we’re friends in real life or just through the blogosphere, (and before I get too sappy) let me say that I’m really, really grateful to all the Ciao Chow Linda readers out there, whether you were with me from the start or just came on board recently.
Sooo, I’m offering a little giveaway as a way to show my thanks – a $100 certificate to purchase whatever you like through Amazon.com. Just leave a comment at the bottom of this blog post, up until the end of the day (midnight NY time) on Thursday, August 29. (if you receive this in email or through Facebook, you’ll have to actually click on the blog and leave a comment to be eligible). The computer will pick a random number. You don’t have to have a blog of your own to leave a comment, but you do need to leave me an email address, so I can contact you if you win. So go ahead, don’t be shy. No jumping through hoops or sharing on Facebook or Twitter to enter (although I wouldn’t mind if you did). Just leave a comment. Even if only to say Happy Blogiversary. Or to complain that your therapist charges $200 an hour. Or to ask a question — like “How to create a blog?”  No wait, that’s one for Google.

New Winner Chosen

Can you believe it – I can’t even give away these chocolates? The winner, chosen at random, was Katie, who writes the blog “The Summertree Cafe.” But after numerous attempts to contact her, and no response, I set a deadline for today before deciding to move on and pick a new winner.

So this morning I put all the names in a bowl a second time and the new winner of these chocolates is……… “Foodie With Little Thyme.” I’ve sent her a message on her blog too, so hopefully I’ll get an address this time where I can mail the chocolates. If not, your chances have just improved vastly…. Or maybe I’ll just dig into them myself. I mean, how much temptation can one gal take?

Bombardino Time and Giveaway Winner

I’m back …. and we have a winner chosen at random from the responses to my query about the name of the drink.
The winner is Katie of Summertree Cafe, but Katie, you don’t list your email address on your blog. So please contact me so I can send you the chocolates in the photo. Email me at mirandasmother@gmail.com with your full name and address.

I’ll be posting some recipes in the coming weeks from my visit to relatives and friends, and a week of skiing in the Italy’s Dolomite mountains.

I’ll start with the drink that several of you guessed correctly from the picture, even though naming it correctly wasn’t a requirement to winning. It’s a bombardino – great for steadying the nerves when you’re a little apprehensive about that next mogul. The drink is most popular in the winter at ski resorts and it’s made using Vov, a liqueur made with eggs, and rum or brandy or whisky, plus whipped cream on top. It’s almost like drinking a warm (and highly spiked) eggnog with whipped cream. In Italy, you can also find bottles of bombardino already mixed and ready to warm up. It’s always served in clear glass cups, sometimes with a straw and a spoon.

For those of you unable to get to Italy and enjoy a bombardino, I’m posting a recipe for the drink adapted from “Italian Kitchen Secrets.”
My aunt used to make her own Vov and stored it in a cabinet. But just to be safe, I’d recommend keeping it in the refrigerator until ready to consume.

With a foot of snow forecast here today in Central New Jersey, it might be just what you need to spur you to shovel that driveway or sidewalk.

Bombardino:
3 cups of non-skimmed milk
29 ounces sugar
6 egg yolks
1 cup alcohol (brandy or whisky) and
1 cup rum
(or 2 cups of either brandy, whisky or rum)
1 tablespoon vanilla

Boil the milk with half of the sugar, gently mixing occasionally. Lower to a simmer and cook a couple of minutes, then turn off heat and keep warm.
In a large bowl, mix the egg yolks with the other half of the sugar until creamy and frothy. Add the warm milk in a slow stream, mixing well to avoid lumps. Filter through a strainer if necessary. Add the vanilla, alcohol and rum, mix again and pour into bottles. Wait one week before drinking (if you can), shaking the bottles occasionally.

In our opinion, bombardini are best enjoyed with a slice of apple strudel, ever prevalent on the slopes in the Val Gardena, a beautiful area of three small villages in the Dolomites. The Dolomites are the mountains in the eastern part of the Italian Alps, close to Austria, and are noted for their unique, almost-stalagtite formation and rosy color. The area at one time was below sea level, and many marine fossils are still found today. So we were actually skiing in what once was a barrier reef, hard as it seems to imagine.

Recipe for strudel to follow later.