Friday, December 11, 2009

Kansas Travel - Queen's Pantry

Nearly 75,000 people live in Leavenworth, Kan., the state's first city. Approximately 9,000 soldiers and their family members live on the Fort Leavenworth army base, and thousands of people call on the post each year, including international visitors.

So it's no wonder that Queen's Pantry, tucked away on a quiet block near the town's main thoroughfare, does a big business.  Open since 1999, the family owned and operated company pays homage to the founder's mother, who is British. The shop offers more than 200 varieties of British tea, from Pumpkin Spice and Raspberry Chocolate Truffle, to Spiced Pear Tart, Spearmint Herbal, oolong and white tea - the largest British tea inventory in the Midwest. In addition, Queen's Pantry sells this region's largest selections of British food and gifts.

Visitors also can purchase hot or cold to-go items from London On the Go. This small, British-inspired deli at the back of Queen's Pantry, offers such classic dishes as Fish and Chips (Thurs.-Sat., only) or Shepherd's Pie. There are plenty of luscious desserts too, including several varieties of cheesecake and baby scones.

For a true taste of Britain in the country's Heartland, Queen's Pantry and London on the Go clearly fit the bill. Not sure when you'll get to Leavenworth? You can order many items online, at - but probably not the fish and chips.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Chile Lights & Peppermint Dust

I avoid stores with Christmas decorations as much as possible, anytime before Thanksgiving. But my holiday celebration has begun the next day, for decades, when I 'install' every decoration I own except for the tree ornaments; because we still buy a live tree that happens a little later. Family members and longtime friends know that one of my favorite decorations is the chile lights that always line the entryway between our front hall and living room.

Peppermint - anything - also represents the holiday season to me, maybe because we often ate peppermint ice cream at Christmas in my childhood home. We do the same in our own home, but I've also begun to incorporate peppermint candy 'dust' in multiple desserts.

To make the dust, grab some ear plugs, pour several cups of hard peppermint candy into your food processor and crank it up. The deafening racket only lasts for a couple of minutes before this wondrous machine creates handfuls of sweet pink dust. Last year I found some peppermint ice cream languishing in our refrigerator after Christmas and created Peppermint Pie with Sugar Cookie Crust - Peppermint dust decorated the top.

This year, I dressed up some brownies with the dust, by adding it to chocolate buttercream icing, and then sprinkling more on top. After that I added dust to fudge that I made with leftover chocolate from the brownie icing. Not only does peppermint flavor infuse both desserts, but the dust also adds subtle crunchiness in every bite.

The only problem is that now I've used up all of the peppermints from my holiday candy dish. Fortunately, there's plenty of time to buy more.  :)

What are your favorite peppermint treats?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Turkey Green Chile Quesadillas

This was the first year that neither of our 20-something daughters came home to celebrate Thanksgiving, and we attended a massive potluck dinner at a friends' house. So there was no need to cook a big meal at home on Turkey Day. 

But that didn't stop us from making Thanksgiving foods during the next several days, including crockpot cranberry sauce, date pudding, pumpkin pie, and a 19-pound turkey. After we ate two meals we put half of the remaining meat in the freezer.

This week, I defrosted more turkey and dreamed of warmer weather as the Kansas City area plunged into the season's first deep freeze. I scoured the refrigerator and cupboards for ingredients and then developed this quick and easy recipe. Serve with black beans, a green salad and a margarita.  :)

Turkey Green Chile Quesadillas
Makes two large quesadillas

4 flour large tortillas (VOE - I used whole wheat)
2 cups turkey (or chicken), diced
1/4 cup red onion, minced
1 small can green chiles, pureed
1/2 cup mozzarella, grated
3-4 large Italian canned tomatoes, diced
minced cilantro as garnish

Make filling in a large bowl, combining turkey, red onion and green chiles. Heat a dry skillet to medium and lie one tortilla in the pan. Top with 3/4 cup filling and spread to half inch from the edge. Spread 1/4 cup cheese on top and then put second tortilla on top.

Cook until cheese melts, about 4-5 minutes, *flip quesadilla, and then cook 2-3 more minutes. Remove from pan and make a second quesadilla. Cut both into six pieces. Top with tomato and cilantro. Add sour cream, black olives, and fresh avocado or guacamole for more flavor.

*VOE - I used two spatulas with long 'blades' in order to flip the quesadilla, but I'm not very good at it. If you feel the same way, try making four smaller quesadillas by filling 1/2 tortilla and then flipping other half over the filling to make a half circle. This will make the flipping easier.