Bella’s Table — December 2015/January 2016

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English Chocolate Crisps;
English Chocolate Crisps

By Estella Tullgren • Photographs by Deb Peterson

One of my joys in coming to work on Mondays is being able to talk with one of my favorite foodies—Joan Michalek. She is always trying new recipes and, of course, willing to share them with me. If I’m lucky a sample accompanies some of these new-found goodies. We started talking about holiday treats and decided we would share some of her favorites with you. Merry Christmas Marvelous! readers—I wish you and your families a special holiday season.


Tarragon Vegetable Dip
Tarragon Vegetable Dip

Tarragon Vegetable Dip
Makes about 1 ½ cup

This dip has the best flavor—Joanie says she has been making this for more than 25 years. Once you make it you will know why. I blanched asparagus spears and green beans for this dip. I also had carrot sticks, red bell pepper slices and yellow squash spears—just use your favorites.

1 cup sour cream
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup fresh chopped chives
2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
½ teaspoon salt and dash of freshly ground black pepper
Variety of cut-up fresh vegetables

Mix and store in refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Serve with fresh veggies.



Joan Michalek and Estella with their dishes, Wonton Stuffed Shells and Roasted Cranberry and Orange Crostini.
Joan Michalek and Estella with their dishes, Wonton Stuffed Shells and Roasted Cranberry and Orange Crostini.

Wonton Stuffed Shells
Makes about 4 dozen

This is another favorite of Joanie’s. They are great reheated in the oven—Chris and I have been enjoying them. (Glad you left us the leftovers!!) They would be perfect for that upcoming Super Bowl party—it is a hearty appetizer.

2 cups cooked and drained sausage, regular or mild flavor (such as Jimmy Dean)
1 ½ cups (6 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
1 ½ cups (6 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup sliced black olives
1 large red bell pepper, finely chopped
16 ounces sour cream
1 package dry Ranch-style dressing mix (such as Hidden Valley)

1 package wonton wraps (usually found in the fresh produce area)—about 3X3 inches

In large bowl, mix the sausage and cheeses, olives and red pepper together. In another bowl, mix the sour cream and ranch dressing together. Gently mix the sour cream mixture with the other ingredients. Refrigerate up to 24 hours until ready to bake.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line mini cupcake tins with the wonton wraps. Fill shells about half full. Bake until hot and bubbly—about 10-12 minutes. Serve hot.


Roasted Cranberry and Orange Crostini
Serves 6-8

The week before Halloween I found my first bag of cranberries in the grocery store and I was thrilled! I looooove trying to find new recipes using this great seasonal fruit. A few weeks ago I ran across this recipe and ripped the page out of a magazine…so of course I had to try it. The tartness was a perfect combination to go along with these other recipes.

1 baguette, sliced into ½-inch thick slices
1 12 ounce bag fresh cranberries
2 oranges (1 for juicing, another for zest)
1/3 to ½ cup white granulated sugar
Whipped cream cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the baguette slices in an even layer on cookie sheet and toast in oven for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, squeeze the juice of 1 orange; add sugar and mix. Add cranberries and toss. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the cranberries in an even layer. Toast in oven for 25 minutes.

At this point, you can transfer the crostini slices to a ziplock bag kept at room temperature and the roasted cranberries to an airtight container in the refrigerator. Both will keep for a few days.
When ready to assemble, spread the whipped cream cheese on top of the crostini, top with the roasted cranberries and top with fresh orange zest.



Stuff Green Bell Pepper Soup
Stuff Green Bell Pepper Soup

Stuffed Green Bell Pepper Soup
Makes 8 servings

If you love stuffed bell peppers—you will flip over this recipe. Joanie brought this recipe to the office one morning and I think all of us girls have made it. It is definitely on my list of “comfort foods.” I have a tendency to like my stuffed peppers a bit on the spicy side, so I do add the Rotel tomatoes—oh my—you’re going to love it!

1 ½ pound ground beef
2 large green bell peppers, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 cups water
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (undrained)**
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
3 beef bouillon cubes or 2 tubs of Knorr’s Beef Stock
Worcestershire sauce—a few dashes
1 tablespoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
½ teaspoon cumin powder
¾ cup uncooked long grain rice

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, brown the beef, then drain excess fat. Add the peppers and onion and sauté until slightly tender. Add the remaining ingredients except the rice. Cover and simmer for about 1 hour. Taste test before adding additional seasoning.

Bring soup to a boil and add the uncooked rice. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until rice is tender. Serve with crusty bread or rolls and a fresh salad.

**If you prefer a little heat, add a 10-ounce can of Rotel mild diced tomatoes and green chilies, and a bit more rice for this addition.

English Chocolate Crisps
Makes Many

Joanie experimented with a recipe and added her own touch to these tasty chocolate treats. They are fabulous.

11.5 ounces milk chocolate baking chips
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate baking chips
Zest of one medium-sized orange
1 cup orange-flavored dried cranberries*
6-7 cups corn flakes cereal

In a large bowl, mix cereal and cranberries. In a medium-sized bowl, melt the chocolate in microwave at 15-20 second intervals, reducing the time when chips are almost melted. Stir in the orange zest. Pour mixture over the cereal and cranberries and gently fold together. Drop by large spoonful onto either waxed or parchment paper. Set aside at room temperature to cool completely. Fresh flavor and crispness can be retained very well stored in ziplock food bags in the refrigerator.

*You can use regular cranberries if you can’t find the orange. Joanie buys the orange-flavored cranberries at from Cranberry Square in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin. They carry other flavors as well. M! December 2015/January 2016

One Response

  1. Marlies

    These cookies are great I can’t wait for my husband to try them when he gets home! I made them just like the recipe; I did have to bake them for 30 min., but I live at 5000 ft. Altitude. We can have cookies for breakfast and still be eating healthy!

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