Realistic Cooking Ideas

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Letchworth Park Middle Falls 20

Today I hope everyone enjoys the beauty of the Middle Falls of Genesee River in Letchworth State Park. Be sure to take a look at the previous pictures I posted in part one and in part two. Each of the waterfalls has a beauty of its own. Of the three waterfalls, I enjoyed the Middle Falls the best – I think it is just beautiful! The cover picture is the view from leaving Glen Iris Inn and taking the path to the waterfalls. I will tell you more about Glen Iris Inn and who owned this home in a later post. Right now it is an Inn that you can stay at and have dinner. It was a cold day at 54°F that felt like 48°F and there were reserved tables on the patio for dinner. Below is a picture of Glen Iris Inn so you can imagine sitting at the patio then walking to the Middle Falls!

Glen Iris Inn Side View NY

Below are pictures from different perspectives and a video that was shot along the way!

Letchworth Park Middle Falls 9

Letchworth Park Middle Falls 8

Letchworth Park Middle Falls 7

Letchworth Park Middle Falls 6

Letchworth Park Middle Falls 5

Letchworth Park Middle Falls 4
Letchworth Park Middle Falls 21

Chicken Cacciatore with a Port Wine Tomato Sauce

Today I am sharing a new recipe for Chicken Cacciatore that my husband loves to order when we go to an Italian restaurant. In a few days, I will return to our Letchworth Park series with more pictures and videos. Chicken Cacciatore is always a nice meal that can be served over pasta or rice. By making the sauce with a blend of tomato sauce, Roma tomatoes, and Port Wine gives it a rich color and flavor! I like to purchase whole mushrooms that I wash, dry, and cut into thick slices. Mushrooms tend to cook down to almost nothing so it is best to start out with them thicker. Plus do not substitute can mushrooms – they are like rubber. Fresh is best when taking time to make this recipe. It will take about an hour to slow cook plus time to cook the chicken and saute the vegetables. It is worth the time because you can make a large pot and have it for a few of days. I like to make my pasta fresh each day and serve with crusty bread.

I have made a similar recipe using Merlot Dry Red Wine and this time I used a California Port Wine from Fairbanks which is great for cooking and of course drinking! Remember when cooking with wine, the flavor of the wine will be introduced into your dish. Find a red wine that you enjoy drinking to add to this sauce.

I use my Roma tomatoes and tomato sauce from a can. By adding different seasonings, you can create a homemade sauce. Of course if you have a few Roma tomatoes from your garden that would be a great addition to the sauce!

Some of my readers do not drink alcohol and do not cook with it even though the alcohol mostly cooks out of the dish. I have read where people use balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar as a substitute but not one for one. Try adding a little, maybe a tablespoon, to see if it adds the complexity that wine adds. Other options include tomato juice, beef stock, or cranberry juice. I cannot validate any of these options since I use wine in my dish instead of a substitute.

As a tip, taste your sauce before adding the red wine or a substitute to understand the initial flavor. Add a small amount of wine such as ½ cup and let it simmer for a few minutes. Then taste again to get an idea on how the wine changed the flavor. Typically I let my dish cook for a few minutes with the cover off to reduce any water before adding the wine.

Ingredients
2 pounds Chicken breast, boneless and skinless, cubed or sliced
Olive oil
2 tsp Garlic, minced
½ to 1 cup sliced Mushrooms
3 Small sliced Red, Orange, Yellow Peppers
1 Large sliced Sweet Onions
½ cup to 1 cup Port Wine
1 tbsp Italian seasonings
1 28-ounce can chopped Roma Tomatoes
2 1/2 cups Tomato Sauce, or 29-ounce canned sauce
Basil, bay leaf – pick your favorite!
Lawry’s seasoned Salt
Freshly Ground Pepper
Your favorite pasta – consider a multi-grain pasta

Preparation
Cover the bottom of a frying pan with olive oil and heat. Then add your seasoned chicken to cook through. If there is too much liquid during cooking, carefully remove most of it to allow the chicken to brown.

While the chicken is cooking, cover the bottom of a braising pan with olive oil and heat on medium heat. Add onions and cook for about 20-minutes on low-medium heat until they caramelize – you can add a tsp of sugar for more sweetness. Add the peppers and cook for a few minutes until tender. If the pan is becoming too dry, add a little tomato sauce. Add garlic and Italian seasonings letting it simmer for about a minute. Then add the tomato sauce, plum tomatoes and cooked chicken. Cover and cook on low for about 30-minutes (longer if you want to slow-cook). Stir periodically. During the last 20-minutes, add the wine and mushrooms. Cover for about 10-minutes to start cooking the mushrooms. Then remove the cover to cook off any water to ensure a thicker sauce. If you prefer a bit thinner sauce then skip this step.

During the last 10-minutes of cooking, prepare your pasta. When everything is done, spoon the Chicken Cacciatore over the pasta. You can serve this meal with crusty Italian bread, salad, and a glass of wine! Enjoy this wonderful, gourmet meal that can easily be prepared after work or made on Sunday to reheat after work! It is a great treat after work when you do not feel like putting much effort into dinner.

Letchworth Park Lower Falls cover

Today’s posting from our day-trip to Letchworth State Park is a visit to the Lower Falls. Yesterday’s tour started with arriving at the park with some initial beautiful shots of nature. The Lower Falls Trail has 127 steps to take you down to the waterfalls, Genesee River, and walk bridge – and of course you need to return by that path. The hike is not as difficult as NH but it is important to wear the correct footwear since it can be muddy and the stairs are old meaning pieces are missing. Below are a few pictures of what the stairs look like and the walk path.

Letchworth Park Lower Falls stairs 3

Letchworth Park Lower Falls stairs 2

Letchworth Park Lower Falls stairs

The bridge is pretty amazing as it fits right into the rugged nature that surrounds it and was a great place to take pictures.
Letchworth Park Lower Falls walk bridge
Letchworth Park Lower Falls surrounding area 7

Letchworth Park Lower Falls surrounding area 6

For me the Lower Falls was more rugged than the other two waterfalls. First you had a hike to get to the falls and to leave the gorge. Once you were inside the gorge nothing looked manmade – the bridge looked like it was part of the nature that surrounded the bridge. Once you got off the path you can go right to get closer to the falls or take a left, which is what we took. We did not take the path to get close to the Lower Falls – it is muddy and slippery so you do need to be careful. Just where we were walking was some mud that people were close to wiping out if they were not careful with their footing. This was not a time to be walking fast! Over the decades this falls has eroded into two small falls. Hopefully next time we will turn right once we get off the 127 steps path to get closer to this beautiful falls!
Letchworth Park Lower Falls surrounding area 1

Letchworth Park Lower Falls surrounding area 4
Letchworth Park Lower Falls surrounding area 10

There was so much to appreciate once you got to the gorge.
Letchworth Park Lower Falls surrounding area

Letchworth Park Lower Falls surrounding area 3

Letchworth Park Lower Falls surrounding area 5
Letchworth Park Lower Falls surrounding area 9

Letchworth Park Lower Falls surrounding area 8

letchword park lower falls cover picture

On Saturday Greg and I went to Letchworth State Park for a beautiful but chilly walk around their 3 main waterfalls and many smaller waterfalls. The leaves are just starting to change colors and in a week or two they should be at their peak. It was a cold day at 54°F that felt like 48°F. (That would be 8.8 °C!) It was warmer at our house since we had a bright sun that was hot. But once we got to our destination, we found that the sun was gone and there was a slight breeze. Greg dressed in his short pants and I thought he was crazy but he thought it was going to warm up. But it was colder there; though there were a few hardy souls in short pants. We stopped for lunch on our way there, which was difficult since there are very few places to eat. We both had hot tea, hot roast beef sandwiches and mashed potatoes. I am fairly particular about roast beef and the waitress said they were known for their beef. And since it was so cold we needed to start our adventure with some comfort food! The cover picture is a view of the Lower Falls and I will be sharing more pictures of that area in my next posting. The beauty of this area is a bit overwhelming because in a short distance there is so much to see! Below are the pictures I took when we first got to the park.

letchword park 1
letchword park 2
letchword park 3
letchword park 4
letchword park 7
letchword park 6

This year we are seeing a lot of acorns on the ground – to the point that you could have a smaller roller rink of slipping on them! Has anyone else seen an unusual amount of acorns on the ground?
letchword park acorns

Below are a few pictures on our way to the Lower Falls! The one picture you can see the tree that is almost falling off the edge – we notice from the erosion a lot of trees were close to falling into the water!
letchword park leaves

letchword park trees on the edge

letchword park lower falls view

letchword park lower falls view 2

The below pictures are the unique stone picnic tables and fireplaces! The slate tops had to weigh a ton to move and someone took the time to carve them and make them smooth.
letchword park picnic table 4

letchword park picnic table 3

letchword park picnic table 2

letchword park picnic table 1

We wondered if the slate picnic table tops came from the below creek.
letchword park slate

Wood Smoked Pork Tenderloin 2

I do believe that Prosciutto Wrapped Pork Medallions are better than steak!! As a disclaimer, I am not a steak fan; but so many people believe that steak is for special occasions. When I first had these at Carrabba’s Italian Grill, I told my husband these are better than any steak I have ever had! So naturally I had to figure out how to make this recipe at home. For the Port Wine I purchased Fairbanks which is from California. It is a rich, full-bodied wine and is delicious to drink. The Fig and Port Wine sauce can be made ahead and if it thickens too much you can always reconstitute it with a little Port Wine. It is best when cooked down to a thick syrup – almost to the point of a chutney – but not quite. It can be made ahead and reheated without losing any quality – in fact I think it is better the next day. The medallions can be formed with the prosciutto in advance – just add the rub before grilling. This is a nice recipe to make when entertaining since a lot of the prep work can be completed before your guests arrive – giving you more time to enjoy with them!

This recipe is best if you wood-grill the meat. See my prior posting on Wood-Grilled Dinner on a Gas Grill for an approach you might want to use. I hope you try this recipe and let me know do you prefer wood-grilled prosciutto wrapped pork medallions or steak?

Wood Smoked Pork Tenderloin

This recipe is inspired from FoodTV and dinner at Carrabba’s Italian Grill.

Fig & Port Wine Sauce Ingredients
Olive Oil
1 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced

16 small dried Mission figs, stemmed or Prunes (with seeds removed) or raisins
2 1/2 cups Port Wine
1 1/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 tbsp Honey
1 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tsp balsamic vinegar, or more to taste
2 – 3 tbsp Butter
½ tsp Salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Pork Medallions Ingredients
1 pork tenderloin about 1 1 /2 pounds
Prosciutto about ¼ pound, sliced thin
Three Little Pigs BBQ Rub or your favorite rub

Fig & Port Wine Sauce
In a small frying pan add olive oil and sliced sweet onions – cook until caramelized.

Place figs and Port Wine in a large base saucepan and heat over medium-low heat for about 8-minutes. The wider the base of your pan, the quicker this sauce will start to reduce. Add broth, honey, thyme, bay leaf, balsamic vinegar, and caramelized onions to the fig port mixture. Bring to a boil and cook on low to medium heat until reduced, about 40-minutes. It is important that the sauce reduces to a “syrup” so it sticks to the meat! Season with salt and pepper. Then add desired amount of butter for that gourmet touch!

Pork Medallions
Cut the pork tenderloin into desired sizes about 1 ½-inch. We got 9 medallion from 1 ½ pounds of Pork Tenderloin. Carefully mold them into the medallion shape. Wrap with prosciutto and close with a wooden tooth pick – be sure to remove them before serving. Season both sides with Three Little Pigs BBQ Rub or your choice of rubs. Add olive oil just before grilling for additional flare up and grill marks. Preheat grill with pellets until smoking and then add the pork medallions. See my previous post on Wood-Grilled Dinner on a Gas Grill. Cook for 6-minutes on each side and an additional minute on each side to brown the prosciutto.

Chilled Melon Soup

This is a wonderful chilled soup that I had a version at Sonnenberg Gardens. I wished I had made it during the hot days of winter – but it really is good any time. Plus it is healthy with a lot of great ingredients combined together with a wonderful flavor profile! You feel a bit healthier after eating it!! For this version I used yogurt to have a thinner consistency similar to a soup. A Greek yogurt could be substituted if you don’t mind a thicker consistency. As always it is fun to experiment with different ingredients and this recipe should get you started! Enjoy and have a wonderful weekend!

1 Melon, deseeded, de-rined, and chopped
Strawberries – about a dozen and a few for garnish
2 cups Yogurt, plain
1 Half-pint light cream
1 tbsp Nutmeg
1 tbsp Ground Cardamom
3 – 6 tbsp Honey
Basil

Place chopped melon and strawberries in a food processor and blend until desired texture. Pour into a large bowl that has a cover to allow you to store it in the refrigerator. Blend in the honey, nutmeg, and ground cardamom. Then add the yogurt, light cream, and blend. Do a taste test because you might want to add more spices and honey. I like to serve with extra strawberries on top with basil. You could blend some basil into the soup or even use mint.

Chilled Melon Soup in blender

Chestnut Ridge Park Toboggan Chutes 5

Chestnut Ridge Park Toboggan Chutes sunset

Saturday night we experienced a beautiful sunset and view at Chestnut Ridge Park since we were at the top of the toboggan chutes. I took pictures of the toboggan chutes from different angles including walking to the bottom of the hill so you get the full perspective. It is good exercise walking back up that hill! They were built in 1930 and refurbished and reopened in 2010. It is a treasure to have something that old in our area that is still being enjoyed by generation after generation! The below picture provides an idea of what the toboggan hill looks like in the winter. (This is a picture posted at Chestnut Ridge Park.)

Chestnut Ridge Park Toboggan Chutes winter photo

Chestnut Ridge Park Toboggan Chutes 6

Chestnut Ridge Park Toboggan Chutes 4

Chestnut Ridge Park Toboggan Chutes 3

Chestnut Ridge Park Toboggan Chutes 2

Chestnut Ridge Park Toboggan Chutes 1

The Casino is an old building and is really rustic inside. It was locked otherwise I would have taken pictures of the inside.

Chestnut Ridge Park Casino

Chestnut Ridge Park Casino 2

Chestnut Ridge Park Casino 3

Chestnut Ridge Park Casino 4

And you never know what might be going on in WNY! This guy was building a plane and his friend was taking pictures. He was wearing a cape and looks like he has a crown on the plane!
Chestnut Ridge Park Toboggan Chutes plane

Lastly here is a bit more information about Chestnut Ridge Park! It is a great place to visit. The Eternal Flame is located here and is a fairly easy hike to get to. And last year I shared some fall pictures when we took a walk.
Chestnut Ridge Park Sign 1
Chestnut Ridge Park Sign 2
Chestnut Ridge Park Sign 3
Chestnut Ridge Park Sign 4

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