A Thanksgiving Message from Melissa

A Thanksgiving Message from Melissa
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The weather has turned crisp, and V shaped formations of birds drift across the evening sky. The beginning of cold weather turns the world’s thoughts to homecoming, and I am awaiting my own flock to return to the ranch.

This week will include a celebration of cooking, which for me, is the pinnacle of my year. Turkey, dressing, gravy, all of it has to be prepared just so. Variations are not allowed, as I have been waiting 364 days for these particular dishes. I think the kids feel the same way. They are already asking “Are you going to make…?”

The comment has been made often that the U.S. economy depends on 4th quarter – when our entire population goes ape in the retail stores, emotionally overspending in frenzied haste. Those big box stores concoct ploys to get us lined up outside their doors at 2 A.M for a door-busting holiday buying spree. It’s a bit much.

Thanksgiving, however, is our national day of redemption. There are no big purchases to make, no outlandish decorations, a tasteful level of glitter, and no Santa style spokesperson. We, as a nation, get together with our family, and friends, and enjoy a meal. That’s it. And it couldn’t be more wonderful.

It would be easy to drift into a rant on how the U.S. culture is politically flawed in this way or that, or debate the irony of our current immigration policies. But I would like to point out that Thanksgiving is unique to North America (you too, Canada) and that it is a national day of love and gratefulness. I think we deserve some credit for keeping this New World holiday a tradition. Being thankful is part of the American experience, and once a year, we synchronize our hearts as a nation to feel the same way, at the same time. For a day, we are all welcome at every table. This is good.

Have a lovely holiday with your family and friends. The boys will be here soon, and I am already awash in peace, and gratitude.



Shrimp Alfredo with Chile Poblano Recipe

Shrimp Alfredo with Chile Poblano Recipe

Living here on the ranch, we don’t have too many Italian restaurants nearby. If we have a hankerin’ for a lush tomato sauce, or a Mediterranean style fish dish, chances are we would have to make it ourselves. But as you may have noticed, we are really into cooking. No problemo.

The Perfect Alfredo

For years, my husband has searched for the perfect Alfredo sauce recipe. Every recipe had proven to be a disaster: too thin, too chunky (yes, chunky) or devoid of flavor. But he kept trying, and found this reliable recipe that delivered the creamy, cheesy sauce that he was craving.

The trick that he discovered was that the Alfredo sauce ingredients needed to be mixed in a separate bowl, and then poured over the pasta, so that the pasta and sauce simmered together in a skillet. Voila! Sweet success.

And then, the butt-inski wife shows up.

Of course, I always take his successes, and do my best to improve them. Yes, we are competitive cooks, but he usually lets me win. Or at least he lets me think that I won. He’s a gentleman like that.

This Time, It’s Personal

So my personal tweak on his successful Alfredo sauce find was to add roasted chile poblano. Creamy sauces, although delicious, can be a bit heavy if they are not laced with a lighter element, such as a vegetable, or an herb. Chile Poblano is a terrific, unexpected Latin twist on an old Italian restaurant favorite, giving it not only a fresh flavor, but an updated presentation.

You can experiment a bit with the meats if you like: Add swordfish instead of shrimp, or even chicken breast will do if you are hustling to get a simple meal on the dinner table. Who knows? You might find a signature ingredient that improves this dish even more.

Shrimp Alfredo with Chile Poblano Recipe


  • 2 chile poblano
  • ½ lb fettucine, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 4 green onions, minced
  • 1 lb. uncooked shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Roast the chile poblano directly over an open flame, or under a broiler. Once the chiles are well blackened, wrap them in a clean towel, then place the towel in a paper bag. Allow the chiles to sweat in the bag until they are completely cooled. Scrape off the blackened skin, remove the stem and seeds, and rinse briefly under running water. Chop and set aside.

Heat a 10” skillet on the stove. Add the butter, and allow to melt over medium heat. Add the green onions and shrimp. Cook over medium heat until the shrimp are completely pink, about 4 minutes.

While the shrimp are cooking, in a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, heavy cream and parmesan cheese. Set aside.

Once the shrimp are cooked, add the garlic, and then add the cooked fettucine. Toss the fettucine with the shrimp and butter until well combined. Pour in the cream mixture, toss well with the pasta and shrimp, and allow to simmer for 1-2 minutes, until thickened. Add the chile poblano, and toss to combine well.

Serves 4-6

Autumn Salad with Pork Belly and Pears Recipe

Autumn Salad with Pork Belly and Pears Recipe

The Beverly Hillbillies was one of my favorite after – school television shows. A short stack of Oreos, maybe a can of Tab, and my favorite place on the carpet in my grand-parents game room...every day at 4pm I would tune in to visit the Clampetts. Jed would be whittling, Ellie May would be clobbering Jethro, and Granny would be cookin’ up a mess of sow belly, much to Miss Hathaway’s chagrin. 


If only Miss Hathway had tried some...


Pork belly (Granny called it sow belly) is popping up on menus across the country, and for good reason. Yeah, as a nation, we have all geeked out on bacon, but pork belly is like bacon’s more serious brother. Heavier, meatier, porkier –it’s like a little bacon steak. When you want to amp up your bacon experience, dial pork belly for the hook up. 


If I remember correctly, Granny was always boiling sow belly, but to truly enjoy the lusciousness of a good belly, you need to track down one that has been cured, then pan fry it. Check your local high end meat market, and see if they have cured pork belly available. If not, buy an uncooked pork belly, and cure it yourself. 


Is curing your own pork belly a hassle? A bit, but so very much worth it. I will post a recipe for curing soon, as my husband is working on the perfect cured pork belly as of this writing. It’s been a real chore to be his taste-tester (not.)


I don’t think Granny would have served up sow belly over a bed of crisp greens, with pears and walnuts. But this is not a hillbilly style dish. Hmm, maybe even Miss Hathaway would have approved of this version.


Autumn Chopped Salad with Pork Belly and Pears Recipe


  • 4 oz cured pork belly or thick sliced bacon
  • 2 oz blue cheese, cut into ½” cubes
  • 6 green onions, minced
  • 1 avocado, cut into chunks
  • 2 oz walnuts, chopped roughly
  • 1 pear, cored and chopped into ½” pieces
  • 6-8 leaves of Romaine lettuce, washed and chopped 



  • 1/3 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1/8 tsp sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar


Heat a 9” skillet on the stove. Cook the pork belly or bacon until it is crispy. Remove from the pan, and drain on paper towels. Cut into ½” pieces. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine the blue cheese, green onions, avocado, walnuts and pears. Toss to combine well, then add the lettuce, and toss again.  Whisk together the dressing ingredients. Pour over the salad right before serving, and toss again briefly. 


Serves 2