A trip across Greene County in search of the perfect gift

Every year, Christmas shopping comes down to the final wire for last-minute shoppers like me. Trying to find the right gift for family and friends on top of the usual holiday hustle and bustle can add a lot of extra stress. Luckily, in past years, I have embraced online shopping. Sitting on my couch while scrolling through pages of potential presents is much easier than bracing the cold weather and chaotic crowds at the mall. But some gifts simply cannot be purchased with the click of a button. Shopping from local businesses not only supports the members of the community but also provides a unique gift for those special people on your list this year.

For those who know me, I find joy in giving gifts that relate to my career in culinary arts. This year, instead of searching through endless results on Amazon for “latest kitchen gadgets,” I have started my shopping day mapping out local Greene County spots to visit and buy my gifts. Our community has an abundance of restaurants, bakeries and other food-related businesses that provide a wide range of gift options.

My first stop of the day is at Thistlethwaite Vineyards in Jefferson. Thistlethwaite boasts a fantastic selection of wine. I will pick up three bottles during my trip to their beautiful wine tasting room. The Colonial Red, perfect for pairing with grilled meat, a bottle of Olde World for my brother who enjoys the off-dry wine with his seafood, and lastly, the Colonial White, which is always great to pair with a carved Christmas ham. For convenience, the vineyard also “offers an eclectic variety of items from wine-related gifts and local artist wares.”

The second stop on my outing will be to the community’s newest restaurant, Kiln to Table, located on South Richhill Street in Waynesburg. What can I say? A fabulous menu featuring daily specialty homemade soups such as vegan butternut squash and wedding soup, fresh ground coffee, and great sandwiches (their Ruben is killer!) in a relaxed, inviting atmosphere. I am sure to check off four gift certificates here in addition to some of the artisan crafted pottery they offer. Pair a one-of-a-kind mug with a bag of their house coffee beans, and you have a thoughtful gift sure to impress.

A few more stops for gift certificates from Airport Restaurant, one for Richard who loves their breakfast, then off to Mount Morris to Belly Busters and Rising Creek Bakery for some salt rising bread.

My final stop is to the Hungarian Smokehouse in Carmichaels. Time to pick up a few pounds of jerky and smoked beef pepper sticks for some friends. Don’t forget your four-legged friends, either! The Smokehouse often has dog treats available to purchase. While in the area, I stop in at the Hartley Inn to pick-up homemade apple and pecan pies for a Christmas party later that night.

For this year’s holiday season, take the time to take a spin around the community, and support your local business. Don’t forget the cookie tray under the tree for Santa from Willow Tree Farms and some of my favorite hot pecan sticky rolls from Lindaz Little Bakery in Dry Tavern for your Christmas morning.

Merry Christmas!

The Greene County Career and Technology Center will be holding its 30th Christmas Buffet Dec 13 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Linguine with genoese pesto

Serves 4

12 ounces linguine

2 potatoes, cut into thin sticks

1/3 cup green beans

For the pesto

24 Fresh Basil Leaves

2 garlic cloves, chopped

5 tablespoons olive oil

1/3 cup freshly grated romano cheese

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Salt to taste

To make the pesto, put the basil, garlic, a pinch of salt and the olive oil in a food processor and process briefly at medium speed. Add both the cheeses and process again until blended. Cook the linguine, potatoes, and beans together in a large pot of salted, boiling water until al dente, then drain. Toss with the pesto and serve.

Sweet potato soup with quinoa

Serves 6

1/4 cup olive oil

1 red onion, thinly sliced

1 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. crushed red chili flakes

1/ tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground coriander

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 1” piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped

2 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

5 cups vegetable stock

2 cups coarsely chopped fresh kale

1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained

1/4 cup almond butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook onions until slightly caramelized. Stir in cumin, chili flakes, cinnamon, coriander, garlic and ginger. Cook one to two minutes. Add sweet potatoes and stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook until potatoes are tender. Add kale and quinoa and cook until quinoa is tender. Using a ladle, transfer about 1 cup of stock from pan into a bowl, whisk in almond butter, and return to pan. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

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