Sunday, January 24, 2010

And even more Christmas recipes.....

Christmas was my first real "big" turkey dinner. It was just me & my 17 pound bird early on Christmas morning as I let my hubby sleep in a little. Of course knowing I was going to be making a turkey dinner, I knew I needed to make stuffing but I had never made bread stuffing before (well, except for from a box and no boxed stuff for the holidays!). I'd made French meat stuffing (called Forr) before but never bread stuffing, so I commenced my search for the perfect recipe a few weeks in advance of Santa's arrival.

A lot of bread stuffing recipes call for sausage. My sister-in-law doesn't like sausage so I immediately threw out any thought of making any recipes that called for such. Then some of them just didn't seem appealing to me for one reason or another. Finally after many hours of research I landed on Paula Deen's website and settled on this version of bread stuffing. Wow! I must say it came out AWESOME. I cooked it in the loaf pan as suggested and cut down the amount of celery. Next time I might cut down the celery a wee bit more as it still seemed like a good amount and my husband's only complaint was that there was a tad too much of it. I also used a good amount of turkey stock in this recipe because it took me awhile to achieve the desired level of moistness I was looking for. (I used the Kitchen Basics brand of turkey stock, very good!). But still a great recipe that I will bring out again most likely next holiday season!

Below that is a recipe I used for carrots (from my friend Pam). One of the many side dishes to our Christmas turkey dinner. Let's face it, a turkey dinner is just as much about the side dishes as it is about the turkey itself! I used baby carrots that I just steamed off in one of those convenient Glad steam microwave bags and followed the rest of the recipe (I upped all amounts since I was making a lot more carrots than the original recipe called for). They came out very tasty and just a little something extra than your run of the mill everyday carrot side dish - which was the goal!

Turkey/Chicken Stuffing


1 loaf of fresh white bread (3 for a turkey)

1 small celery bunch diced (2 with turkey)

1 large onion diced (3 for turkey)

2 large eggs (up to 8 for turkey)

1 large pinch of salt

¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

½ pound unsalted butter (add ½ pound for turkey)

¼ to ½ cup fresh turkey stock (optional)

Preheat oven to 350º F ( if cooking in loaf pan)

In large stockpot, melt butter. Stir in chopped onions, salt and pepper and cook until onions are translucent.

Add celery and cook over low heat until just tender. Tear loaf of bread into pieces and add to stockpot with onion mixture and toss well until mixed.

Turn off heat and allow to cool, 15 to 20 minutes.

Crack eggs into mixture and use hands to toss well. Make sure the mixture is wet. Add more eggs if needed.

Pack cooled mixture tightly if stuffing a bird. A loaf pan can be used. After packing dressing into loaf pan pierce with a knife and pour chicken or turkey stock over dressing ¼ to ½ cup per loaf pan.

Bake at 350º F for 30 minutes.

Notes from Paula’s test kitchen: This dressing works well in a loaf pan. We found the dressing much more flavorful if you took the time to separate the oil from the stock before adding to the pan. We also added 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh rosemary to kick up the flavor. Serves 6 in loaf pan and 12 for turkey.

Carrots with Rosemary Butter

1 1/2 Cups julienned carrot (I used baby carrots

1 Tablespoon softened butter

3/4 Teaspoon minced fresh or 1/4 teaspoon dry rosemary

3/4 Teaspoon minced fresh or 1/4 teaspoon dried parsley

3/4 Teaspoon brown sugar

1/4 Teaspoon salt

1/8 Teaspoon garlic powder

Place carrots in a steamer basket; place in a small saucepan over 1" of water. Bring to a boil; cover & steam for 4-6 minutes or until crisp-tender.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Add carrots & toss to coat.

Back to some more Christmas recipes.....

So as I mentioned earlier, we hosted both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Besides French meat pies, and the Mac 'n Cheese, I served a nice spinach salad with homemade dressing that I found on and also a savory Herbed Monkey Bread courtesy of Paula Deen's website. Both were great, something different than the usual old bread & salad! And on top of that, they were both pretty easy recipes, which was something I needed with 2 straight days of cooking!!!

Herbed Monkey Bread


1 stick butter melted, plus 1/4 cup melted butter, plus more for pan

1 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for sprinkling

2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning

2 packages biscuits

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 12-cup Bundt pan; set aside.

In a small bowl, combine cheese and Italian seasoning.

Roll each individual biscuit into a ball. Dip each piece in the 1 stick of melted butter, then coat with the cheese mixture. Place dough into prepared pan; overlapping will occur. Bake bread, 30 to 35 minutes. Cover with aluminum foil during the last 10 minutes of baking to prevent excess browning, if needed.

Let cool in pan, 10 minutes; invert bread onto a serving plate. Drizzle remaining 1/4 cup melted butter on top and sprinkle with grated Parmesan.

Spinach & Mixed Greens Salad


1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions


6 cups torn spinach

4 cups gourmet salad greens

2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves or 2 teaspoons dried tarragon

To prepare dressing, combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl; stir well with a whisk. Stir in onions.

To prepare greens, combine spinach, salad greens, and tarragon in a large bowl; add the dressing, and toss well. Serve salad immediately.

"Whoa. This is GREAT."

Those were the exact words out of my husband's mouth upon putting the first bite of this dish in his mouth. I had to agree with him. This dish is also every easy to put together. I actually used pre-cookied frozen shrimp (that I unthawed before cooking obviously) and that made it even easier! Just delicious - no other way to describe it! This will definitely make its way into our meal rotations. Thanks to my friend Lindsay for this one!

Lemon Pepper Shrimp Scampi with Orzo

1 Cup uncooked orzo

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1/2 Teaspoon divided salt

7 Teaspoons divided butter

1 1/2 Pound peeled deveined jumbo shrimp

1 -2 dashes garlic powder

2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 Teaspoon black pepper

14 1/2 Ounces chicken broth

1 tsp for topping grated Parmesan cheese

Spray a small sauce pan with cooking spray. Add the orzo, stirring frequently until slightly toasted. Pour in the chicken broth. Cook until almost all of the broth is absorbed. Place orzo in a medium bowl. Stir in parsley and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cover and keep warm.

While orzo cooks, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle shrimp with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add half of shrimp to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until almost done. Transfer shrimp to a plate. Melt 1 teaspoon butter in pan. Add remaining shrimp to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until almost done. Transfer to plate.

Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in pan. Add garlic powder to pan; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in shrimp, juice, and pepper; cook 1 minute or until shrimp are done. Stir the orzo back into the skillet. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Speaking of the cookie exchange....

For my annual cookie exchange I usually serve other foods, depending on when I have it. This year, it being on a Sunday afternoon, I served a luncheon. I made lasagna, sweet & sour chicken, heavenly potatoes, and served that along with some fresh rolls from a local bakery and bakery pizza (it's a Rhode Island thing - pizza you eat cold & cheeseless, it's good, just trust me!). I also made a couple of dips for enjoyment - buffalo chicken dip and a new dip recipe I tried out - White Pizza Dip.

You'll never guess where I found this one - the back of a Lipton dried soup mix box! Hey, I don't care WHERE I find them, as long as they are good that is all that matters to me. This was one was full of flavor and I would definitely make it again!

White Pizza Dip

(from Lipton)

1 envelope Lipton® Recipe Secrets® Savory Herb with Garlic Soup Mix

1 container (16 oz.) sour cream

1 cup (8 oz.) ricotta cheese

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (about 4 oz.)

1/4 cup (1 oz.) chopped pepperoni (optional)

1 loaf Italian or French bread, sliced

Preheat oven to 350°. In shallow 1-quart casserole, combine Lipton® Recipe Secrets® Savory Herb with Garlic Soup Mix, sour cream, ricotta cheese, 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese and pepperoni.

Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese.

Bake uncovered 30 minutes or until heated through. Serve with bread.

Cookie Exchange!

So I just realized I never updated for my annual Christmas Cookie exchange! It is a tradition I started Christmas 2006 - each of my guests brings a big batch of cookies to share. The ladies each send me their recipes so I can collect them all and make recipe "books" so anyone can head home and make any of the delicious concoctions they just had. Oh and of course everyone gets to take home a huge tray of a variety of cookies to share (or to not share) with their husbands, families, etc.

This was the 4th annual exchange and my friends always continue to amaze me with the delicious goodies they make. Everyone always seems excited to come, hang out with each other, chat and celebrate the season! It is always a good time!

Per usual, I make at least two recipes. I always feel as hostess I should provide more than one cookie. Both recipes were from the Martha Stewart Cookies cookbook, which I'd received from my Aunt as a Christmas gift the year before and both recipes were delicious!!!

Gingerbread White Chocolate Blondies

(from Martha Stewart Cookies)

2 ¼ cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda

1 ¼ teaspoons salt

1 ¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1 ¼ cups (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 ¼ cups packed light brown sugar

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk

1 ¼ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup unsulfered molasses

1 ¾ cups coarsely chopped white chocolate (10oz)

Nonstick spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 13 x 9 inch baking sheet with nonstick spray and line the bottom with parchment paper and set aside.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices in a bowl.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugars on medium high speed until creamy and pale, about 3 minutes. Add eggs and yolk one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add vanilla and molasses and mix on medium speed until combined. Add flour mixture on low speed until combined. Stir in white chocolate.

Spread batter evenly into prepared pan and bake until golden on edges, about 35 – 40 minutes. Let cool completely in pan, cut into 2 inch squares. Blondies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies

(from Martha Stewart Cookies)

1 cup all purpose flour

½ cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon course salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup packed light brown sugar

1 large egg

1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

½ cup mashed ripe banana (about 1 large)

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1 12oz bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips

½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts (about 2 ounces), toasted.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together both flours, salt, and baking soda in bowl.

Put butter and both sugars into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add egg and vanilla; mix until combined. Mix in banana. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Stir in oats, chocolate chips, and walnuts

Using 1 ½ inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper., spacing about 2 inches apart. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until golden brown and just set, 12 to 13 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks; let cool completely. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Catching up

I'm going to attempt to catch up to several weeks of missed blogging. I know I'm going to miss some recipe, somewhere along the way....but here goes nothing!

First off, I hosted both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day this year for our families. I had 8 people for Christmas Eve, 9 for Christmas Day. It was a lot of work but good times.

Traditionally, on Christmas Eve, the food is pretty low key in my family. French meat pies, and then another stand-alone dish (i.e. not a "meat and potatoes" dish, more of a casserole-ish dish). This year I opted for Mac 'n Cheese. But it wasn't your grandma's mac 'n cheese, this one was kicked up a few notches in the cheese & flavor department. It was quite good! I thank my friend Janine for passing this one along to me!

Mac 'n Cheese

6 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
5 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar
2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyere or 1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) grated pecorino Romano
1 pound elbow macaroni

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place bread pieces in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour butter into the bowl with bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk. Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyere or 1 cup pecorino Romano. Set cheese sauce aside.

Fill a large saucepan with water. Bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 fewer minutes than manufacturer's directions, until outside of pasta is cooked and inside is underdone. (Different brands of macaroni cook at different rates; be sure to read the instructions.) Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.

Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar and 1/2 cup Gruyere or 1/4 cup pecorino Romano; scatter breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes; serve

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Busy day = crockpot!

I really think there is nothing better than having a great meal without slaving over it all day. This past Sunday we had big plans - we had to run and errand, put up our outdoor Christmas lights, and get our tree up and house decorated. I knew I wouldn't be in the mood to put a lot of effort into dinner so I gave this recipe I found on the Crock Pot website a whirl. Delicious!

Sweet & Saucy Pork Chops


2 tablespoons olive oil

4 pork chops, bone in

2 cups onions, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup water

1 cup ketchup

1/2 cup cider vinegar

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 cup brown sugar

Heat olive oil in nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

Add pork chops and brown for 3 minutes on each side.

Remove pork chops and place in slow cooker. Add onion to skillet and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

Reduce heat to low. Add garlic, water, ketchup, cider vinegar, soy sauce, mustard, and brown sugar. Stir until the brown sugar is dissolved. Pour sauce over pork chops.

Cook on Low for 8-10 hours.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

For the love of Pioneer Woman!

I am positive every food blogger knows about Pioneer Woman and venerates her as the top dog of the food blogging world. I've made several of her recipes in the past months or so, just been on a Pioneer Woman kick so I wanted to rave about some of the out-of-this-world goodness I have tried lately.

First up, her Baked Lemon Pasta. Run, don't walk, to your nearest store and pick up the ingredients for this! It was delicious and even better as leftovers, if you could imagine that! I actually cut this recipe down and made it as a side dish to tilapia for dinner one night. I would, however, happily make this as a main dish as filed on her site. Yum, yum, YUM!

Next up, I tried her Crash Hot Potatoes. Hello, easy potato insane goodness! Best part of this recipe? It's insanely versatile and would go with anything. I made this as a side to chicken but had extra so I saved them and used them as breakfast potatoes when I made "brinner"(aka breakfast-for-dinner) later that week.

Of course I caved and got Pioneer Woman's cookbook. I couldn't help myself. I also got a copy for my sister-in-law who is really trying to get more into cooking and baking. The pictures and the great stories make it great for someone just getting started.

So far I've tried two recipes from the cookbook: PW's Potato Skins & Edna Mae's Sour Cream Pancakes. If you have the book I highly recommend both! My husband said the potato skins were better than from a restaurant! Not a bad compliment whatsoever.

Sweet potatoes. Oh how I love thee!

I wish I could tell you why I never liked sweet potatoes up until about 3 or 4 years ago. I just didn't. Maybe it was the color, or some crazy pre-conceived notion from when I tried them when I was younger. Perhaps it was because my mother never made them, not being a sweet potato lover herself. Or even because probably most of the sweet potato recipes I'd tasted were very sweet - maybe TOO sweet?

I can't tell you when or where my love for sweet potatoes began but I can tell you my husband fell in love with them around the same time. So now it's nothing out of the ordinary to have sweet potatoes as a side dish to dinner. The other day I decided I wanted to try something a little different than my usual roasted sweet potatoes or my run of the mill mashed sweet potatoes. That's when I came across this little diddy on I love it because it can be easily put together in very little time with ingredients I already have in the house. And I also love it because it's a little sweet and a little savory. As I mentioned above, I think one thing that had turned me off to sweet potatoes in the past were those uber sweet, marshmallow topped casseroles. I'm more of a sweet and savory sweet potato gal, and so is my hubby.

This recipe was seriously delicious and will make it into my typical rotation for all of the reasons mentioned above Also to save time, I just took out my potato masher instead of putting the potatoes through my food processor. I guess that means my potatoes ended up more mashed and less "whipped" but nonetheless they were out of this world!

Honey Mustard Whipped Sweet Potatoes

1 tablespoon margarine
1/2 cup sliced onion
3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup low-salt chicken broth

Melt margarine in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and sweet potatoes; sauté 5 minutes. Add mustard and remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until sweet potatoes are very tender.

Place sweet potato mixture in a food processor; process until smooth.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Super soup!

I've never made it a secret in this blog that I love my crockpot. Nothing better than throwing a bunch of stuff in it and hours later a great meal being all ready for you.

This time of the year I also love soup so when I came across this particular recipe for a crockpot soup I couldn't wait to make it! I am so glad I did, this came out delicious. The only thing I would suggest is using bigger than a 4.0 - 4.5 quart crockpot, I used mine and the soup came nearly to the top of it while cooking, and I feel this made the cook time longer than indicated in the recipe. Next time if I chose to do this full recipe again I would make it in my larger 5.5 quart crockpot instead. But, this was still delicious! I also made bread bowls as mentioned in the recipe. Nothing better than hearty soup & crusty bread!

Hearty Potato Soup

6 potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (2 1/2 pounds)
2 medium onions, diced
2 carrots, thinly sliced
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans low-sodium fat-free chicken broth
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups fat-free half-and-half
Italian Bread Bowls
Garnish: fresh celery leaves

Combine first 8 ingredients in a 4 1/2-quart slow cooker.

Cook, covered, at HIGH 3 hours or until vegetables are tender.

Stir together flour and half-and-half; stir into soup. Cover and cook 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Serve in Italian Bread Bowls, and garnish, if desired