Monday, December 28, 2009

Enjoying family...

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone! I'm out of town with my family. We will be in Greenville, SC with my family and in Asheville, NC visiting my husband's family. I will not be posting again until Wednesday. On Whatever Wednesday this week, I will be posting five super easy party recipes that you can make to take to your New Year's party. I love party food! So, I hope you all have a great week! "See you" on Wednesday.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Thrifty Thursday

My dear friend, Carlyn, gave me this recipe to use for Thrifty Thursday. I haven't made it yet, but absolutely plan on it. Carlyn is an amazing cook so I am positive that it is super yummy! I am sure you will be seeing many more of Carlyn's favorite recipes on future posts. Make sure you read the entire post because there is also an easy, cheap way to make chicken broth and Carlyn's AMAZING roasted garlic bread. We had her garlic butter the other night and it is out of this world! It will absolutely be my go to garlic butter.

Lentil Soup (adapted from Giada de Laurentiis)
• 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
• 4 celery stalks, chopped
• 4 garlic cloves, chopped
• 1 large can of diced tomatoes
• 1 pound dried lentils
• 11 cups chicken broth
• 4 to 6 fresh thyme sprigs or 1 tsp of dried thyme
• 1 cup dried pasta(elbow or rotini work great)
• Salt and ground black pepper
• Shredded Parmesan for garnish

Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper and saute until all the vegetables are tender, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juices. Simmer until the juices evaporate a little and the tomatoes break down, stirring occasionally, about 8minutes. Add the lentils and mix to coat. Add the broth and stir. Add the thyme. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and simmer over low heat until the lentils are almost tender, about 20 minutes.
Stir in the pasta. Simmer until the pasta is tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle with the Parmesan, drizzle with olive oil, and serve with Carlyn's Roasted Garlic Bread.

This recipe will feed a family of four twice with leftovers. You can immediately freeze half of it for future meals. The cost is $9.01 for the whole recipe (which makes it about 4.50 per meal since it makes two meals) using chicken bouillon cubes because that is the cheapest way to make it with the amount of chicken stock.

However, you could plan a meal that week before you make this soup) that calls for shredded or chopped chicken. Then, you could buy a whole chicken or split chicken breasts and place them in a stock pot. Add 1 onion (peeled and quartered), 2 carrots (cut into 2in pieces), 2 stalks of celery (cut into 2in pieces), 1 leek (dark tops only), 3 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dry), 3 sprigs fresh parsley, 5 whole black peppercorns, 1 bay leaf, and about 4 quarts of water (water should cover chicken completely. Heat to a boil over medium high heat. As soon as it starts to bubble, turn the heat down to low and let simmer for about an hour (until chicken is done).

Remove the chicken from the pot and let cool (cont. to simmer the broth). Once cool, pull the meat from the bones and reserve for your other recipe. Return the bones to the broth and let simmer for another hour. Strain the broth into a large bowl. Place in plastic containers and put in refrigerator (can keep in fridge for 5 days - after 5 days bring it to a boil before using it) or freezer.

Carlyn's Roasted Garlic Spread (YUM!)
• 8 to 10 cloves of garlic
• Olive oil
• ½ cup butter, softened
• ½ cup cream cheese, softened
• 2 T grated Parmesan cheese
• 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
• 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Roast garlic: Two methods 1) Sit garlic cloves on a small piece of foil, drizzle with olive oil and then fold foil around cloves(kind of like an envelope) then roast in the oven or toaster oven at 400F for 20 mins. or 2) in a small skillet saute whole cloves in olive oil over medium heat until soft. Keep them moving so they don’t burn.
2. Mash roasted garlic with a fork mixing with olive oil it was cooked in.
3. In a small bowl, combine garlic mixture with all other ingredients. Mix until smooth.
Spread on your favorite bread and toast.
This spread will keep in the refrigerator for weeks.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Whatever Wednesday

Today you are going to get two recipes for breakfast. One that is healthy and one that is not but is oh so good. The southwestern breakfast casserole recipe was given to me by my friend's dad and it is SO incredible. If you need a meal for guests during the holidays, this should definitely be on the list. It is, seriously, the best breakfast casserole that I have ever tasted.

Southwestern Breakfast Casserole
6 10" flour tortillas, cut into 1/2" strips
4 (4 oz) cans green chiles, drained
1 lb. sausage, cooked & drained
2 cups (8 oz) shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
10 eggs
1/2 cups milk
1/2 tsp each: salt, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, cumin, paprika
2 med tomatoes, sliced
sour cream, guacamole, salsa
In greased 9x13 dish, layer half of tortilla strips, chiles, sausage, cheese; repeat. In a bowl beat eggs, milk seasonings & pour over casserole. Cover & refrigerate overnight. Remove from fridge 30 minutes before baking. Bake uncovered 50minutes at 350 degrees. Arrange tomato slices on top & bake 10-15 min longer. Let stand 10 min before cutting. Serve w/ sour cream, guacamole, salsa.

Connie's Peanut Butter Muffins
As long as I can remember, my mom's peanut butter muffins, have been my favorite muffins hands down. My mom would make them for me every time I came home from college on the weekends. A few years back, she changed the recipe to make it more healthy for her and my dad (he is diabetic). So, here is my mom's peanut butter muffins. Don't let the healthiness run you off because these muffins (with a little melted butter) are AMAZING!

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unprocessed bran
1/2 cup ground flaxseed meal
2 tbsp brown sugar splenda or 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup buttermilk (We use the powdered buttermilk...follow directions on container. You will put the powdered buttermilk in with the dry ingredients and 1 cup of water in with the wet ingredients.)
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp canola oil (or any other oil you have)
Mix together first 7 ingredients. Cut in peanut butter until crumbly. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the remaining ingredients. Stir until just moist. You do not want to over mix or the muffins will be dry. Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes until they spring back when touched.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Bacon Crisps and Stuffed Mushrooms

I had these Bacon Crisps at a party with our community group in TN. They are delicious! Thanks, Tiffany, for introducing me to these!

Paula Deen's Bacon Crisps
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 sleeve buttery rectangular crackers (recommended: Waverly Wafers)
1 pound sliced bacon cut in 1/2

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
Place 1 teaspoon of the cheese on each cracker and wrap tightly with a strip of bacon. Place the wrapped crackers on a broiler rack on a baking sheet and put the baking sheets on the oven rack. Bake for 2 hours, or until the bacon is done. Do not turn. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot or at room temperature
Cook's note: You can also bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes if you're in a hurry!

I have been LOVING stuffed mushrooms lately! I have combined a few things from a few different recipes and here is what I have found to love.

Talia's stuffed mushrooms
2 (16 oz) packages of white mushrooms (about 2 inches in diameter)
4 tbsp EVOO (plus more to drizzle over mushrooms)
2 tbsp marsala wine
3 garlic cloves (finely minced)
1/2 cup pecorino romano parmesan cheese
3/4 cup panko crumbs
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 tbsp fresh mint (finely chopped)
2 tbsp fresh parsley (finely chopped)
2 tbsp fresh basil (finely chopped)
salt and pepper

Do not rinse the mushrooms! Simply wipe them off with a dry towel. Pull the stems out of the mushrooms and reserve. Place mushrooms in a bowl with 2 tbsp EVOO and the marsala wine. Toss to coat and let sit. Finely chop about half of the mushrooms stems. In a small skillet, place the remaining 2 tbsp EVOO, mushrooms stems, and garlic. Let cook until the mushrooms are soft.

While the mushrooms are cooking, combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Add the mushroom stems to the mixture. Combine. Place the mushrooms on a baking sheet. Spoon the mixture into each mushroom. Drizzle, liberally, with EVOO.

Bake on 400 for about 20-25 minutes or until they are golden on the top.

Menu Planning Monday

Sunday - Domino's pizza (large one topping with extra cheese for 5.99!)
Monday - Easy Lasagna (This was the first lasagna that I made for Chris and I after we got married)
Tuesday - Chicken with BLT Gravy (Rachael Ray 15 minute meal)
Wednesday - leftover lasagna
Thursday - Tomato Chicken Pasta (We were supposed to have this on Saturday, but I forgot we had a Christmas party with Chris' work.)
Friday - Croque Monsieur and Tomato soup with a cake for Jesus' birthday. We are having an easy low key Christmas lunch/dinner. I want to be hanging with my boys instead of in the kitchen all day. Plus, soup and sandwiches in this cold weather will be super yummy!
Saturday - We will be on the road going to my family's house in Greenville, SC for a few days and then up to Asheville to see Chris' family.

Check out I'm An Organizing Junkie for more menu plans or to join in!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Gift Ideas for the Cook in Your Life

Food Fight: A Trivia Game for Serious Food Lovers ($12.89 @ amazon)

Copco Bag Caps ($6)

Salt (Williams Sonoma has Fleur de Sel, Truffle & salt, Finishing Salts collection consisting of Haleakala red, Kilauea black, Australian peach and Cyprus white salts.)

Pampered Chef Rectagular Stoneware ($26.50)

Utensil Pot Clips ($7.00)

A nice bottle of EVOO or balsamic vinegar is always a great gift for a cook! They can be anywhere from $15 to $40 for a good one. Good EVOO is green or dark green in color. For a good balsamic vinegar, look for the certification by the Italian Association of Tasters for Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and make sure it has been aged for at least six years.

Pampered Chef Coating Trays ($21.50)

Pampered Chef Mini Whipper ($3.50)

Microplane Zester...a MUST ($14.95 - available at Bed Bath and Beyond or Williams Sonoma)

Furi Rachael Ray Young Cooks 3-piece knife set ($29.95)

Thrifty Thursday

...meals for $10 or less for a family of four. If you would like to participate in Thrifty Thursday on your blog just write a post and link back to my blog in your post. Then, go to the bottom of this post and enter your information and link to your post so that we can read about your yummy, thrifty recipe!

Easy, YUMMY, and cheap chicken pasta with cream sauce:

3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 garlic clove crushed (Take the clove and whack it with a knife then remove the skin. Don't chop the garlic...just through it in the pot.)
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (Freshly grated tastes so different from ground. I am a little obsessed with freshly grated. You can find it at most specialty grocers...Fresh Market, Whole Foods, etc. Click here to read more about it.)
2 tbsp fresh Italian parsley
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 pound pasta (linguine or capellini)
1-2 pounds split chicken breast (roasted, meat pulled from the bones, then chopped...see Menu Planning Monday for directions)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil (for the pasta). In a small skillet or saucepan, combine heavy cream, butter, salt, and garlic over medium high heat. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (about 4 minutes). While the cream sauce is thickening, drop the pasta and cook according to package directions for al dente pasta. After the cream sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon, remove the garlic clove and add the nutmeg. Stir in the Italian parsley and remove from heat. Add the parmesan cheese while tossing with pasta. Top with chopped chicken breasts and serve.

This cream sauce is so yummy and so easy! It is also a very inexpensive meal. This meal costs around $7.67 for a family of four!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Whatever Wednesday

Hello blog world! Well, today I am starting Whatever Wednesday which is just what it sounds like...whatever. Wednesday is going to be my day to post whatever recipe, tip or thought about food/cooking that I want. Last night, my friend and I made english toffee together. I have to confess that I attempted the same recipe about a month ago and it COMPLETELY bombed! It is Paula Deen's recipe. It looked really simple and I totally thought I had a handle on it. Until...Chris and I were standing over my cookie sheet staring at a sheet of black mess. I totally burnt it. This time, we used a candy thermometer which I highly recommend...hehe. It turned out great! I was very excited. The only thing that went wrong is that I forgot to add the vanilla and the salt. You are supposed to add them after you remove the pan from heat and before pouring onto the cookie sheet. I was way to anxious to remember. Candy is the one thing that completely stresses me out in the kitchen. There is such a small window of time to either get it right or get it totally wrong. Also, I made the dough for some gingerbread cookies that are sandwiched together with orange frosting...yum! Here are the recipes for both:

Paula Deen's English Toffee
14 tablespoons butter (I used 2 sticks)
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cold water
1/2 chopped pecans (I did not put pecans in mine)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Dash salt
1 (6-ounce) bag semisweet chocolate chips or thin chocolate bars

Generously butter a cookie sheet (I lay down a piece of wax/parchment paper and then butter the paper so it is easier to remove from the pan).

Put butter, sugar, and water in a heavy pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Bring to a bubbling boil, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, about 10 minutes. Remove spoon from pan, and cook to a very brittle stage (300 degrees to 310 degrees F on a candy thermometer). Or, make a cold water test: candy will separate into hard, brittle threads when dropped in cold water. Remove from heat and add nuts to mixture. Add vanilla and salt. Pour onto prepared cookie sheet and spread to 1/4-inch thickness. Cool slightly, top with chocolate chips or chocolate bars, and spread as it melts. Cool completely and break into pieces. Store in an airtight container.

Alex Guarnaschelli's Family Gingerbread Cookies
The foundation:
1 1/2 sticks lightly salted butter, softened
1 2/3 cups sugar (I used 1 cup white sugar and 1/3 cup dark brown sugar)
1 orange, zested

The dry ingredients:
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1/2 cup additional for rolling
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground dry ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

The wet ingredients:
2 eggs
1/2 cup dark molasses
1 lemon, juiced
Easy Orange Frosting, recipe follows

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, add the butter, sugar and orange zest and beat until smooth, 5 to 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, dry ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Whisk to blend. Set aside.
In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, molasses and lemon juice.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
When the butter and sugar are integrated, lower the speed of the mixer and add the dry ingredients. Add the egg mixture and when blended, remove the bowl from the machine. Divide the cookie dough in half. Press the first half of the dough in between 2 sheets of waxed paper or plastic wrap and chill for 15 minutes. Repeat with the second half. This step will make it easier to finish rolling out the dough when it has chilled. It will also mean you only have half of the dough getting warm as you roll it.

Lightly flour a flat surface. Use a floured rolling pin to gently roll the first half of the dough about 1/2-inch thick. Lightly flour the cookie cutter(s) and cut the shapes, making as few scraps as possible. Use a metal spatula to gently transfer them, cookie by cookie, (the cookies should be similar size) to a baking sheet. Repeat with the other half of the dough and transfer them to another baking sheet. A note about crowding the tray(s): these particular cookies can spread a little. Leave room between the cookies. Better to use 3 baking sheets with fewer cookies than to crowd them on 2 trays. Bake until brown around the edges, 8 to 10 minutes.
Got scraps? Form the scraps into a ball, press it flat and chill in the refrigerator. These cookies may be a little more "tough" because the dough will have been worked a little more than the others.

Easy Orange Frosting
1 cup powdered sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
1 to 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 teaspoon orange liqueur (I used 1/2 tsp of orange extract since I didn't have the liqueur)
1/4 teaspoon light corn syrup
In a medium
bowl add all of the ingredients and whisk together to combine. If too thick in consistency, add a touch more orange juice or water to thin out.

Use a pastry bag fitted with a star tip to pipe the frosting between 2 of the gingerbread cookies. Press the 2 cookies halves gently together.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Menu Planning Monday

There is a great website that I found by visiting my friend, Terra's blog. It is called "I'm an Organizing Junkie". Every Monday, she does "Menu Planning Monday" where over 300 ladies share their menus for the week. I love this idea! My friend and I actually sit down every Monday and get our menus ready for the week so this works great for me. Last Monday, we made our menus for the rest of the month so we wouldn't have to think about anything during the busy holiday season. Then, every Sunday or Monday we go grocery shopping to get our ingredients for the week.

On the menu for this week:

Monday - Chicken and Rice casserole
Tuesday - Mushroom Chicken with pasta
Wednesday - Giada's Baked Ziti that I have in the freezer (yay!)
Thursday - leftover Chicken and Rice casserole
Friday - Boston Butt with sweet potato fries
Saturday - Tomato Chicken Pasta
Sunday - raid the fridge

Since there are three recipes this week that include shredded/cubed chicken (which happens a lot on my menus), I prepared all of the chicken last night. I have started buying split chicken breasts for two and flavorful. So, I bought two family size packages (about 5 breasts in each pkg). I used my roasting pan and a cookie sheet and placed 5 chicken breasts on each. Then, I patted the skins dry and drizzled liberally with EVOO, salt and pepper. Roast them at 350 for 45 minutes to an hour or until the internal temperature reaches 165. I don't usually measure the temperature. I just watch the skins. Usually, when the skins are golden and crispy...they are done. After that, all you have to do is remove the chicken from the bones, chop, and separate into containers for each meal. I ended up having about 11 cups of chicken. That is a lot of chicken for $10!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sweet Sunday

Starting today, every (hopefully) Sunday, I am going to post a recipe for a sweet treat. I love Sundays because it is the day that I get to join other believers and worship my Savior. So...I thought doing something sweet on Sunday would be appropriate. I didn't get the opportunity to be in church today because Kael (my youngest boy) is sick. However, my day was still wonderful.

Today, my Sunday was sweet because I got to search out something so fun for my husband for Christmas. He is really going to be excited about it and that makes me happy. If you have a food blog (or any other blog) and would like to post a sweet recipe on Sunday, post it and then link back to my blog. Then, go to the bottom of this post and enter your information and post your link so we can check out your sweet treasures. I can't wait to taste!

The sweet treat for today is Peanut Butter Cups. These are AMAZING and great to take to parties. You are sure to impress with these! This recipe is from our family cookbook. My husband and our great friend, Barry, are completely obsessed with these little treasures. I hope you try and enjoy!

1 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter (softened to almost melted)
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 (12 oz) pkgs. semi-sweet chocolate chips
6 tbsp shortening
1 3/4 inch paper or foil muffin cups

Beat the peanut butter, butter, and sugar until well blended at low speed in a mixer. Shape into 3 (10 in) rolls and wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Cut each roll into 1/2 inch thick slices and place each in paper lined 1 3/4 inch muffin cup. Microwave the chocolate chips and shortening on 40% at 1.5 minute intervals until melted. Spoon over each peanut butter slice and refrigerate 2 hours or until well set. Keep stored in refrigerator. Makes 5 dozen.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Best Baked Ziti

Here is the amazing baked ziti I keep raving about! This is Giada de Laurentiis' (from Food Network) recipe. I add some garlic and use crushed tomatoes if they are on sale. Also, she has you completely cook the meatballs in a saucepan on the stove. I finish them off in the oven so I can begin preparing the other stuff for the ziti. I made this the other night and doubled the recipe. I was sending some to our college student's dinner for our church. It made one 9x13 and 3 8x8 pans. That is a lot! So, if you are looking for a freezer meal, you can double this and get five meals out of it by putting it in 5 8x8 pans. I hope you enjoy!

Giada's Baked Ziti with Meatballs1/4 cup plain dried bread crumbs
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons milk
3/4 cup grated Romano
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground beef
All-purpose flour, for dredging
1 pound ziti
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
5 cups tomato sauce (I have also used crushed tomatoes if they are on sale. I like the texture that they give the dish.)
2 cloves garlic (grated or very finely don't want to bite into a huge chunk since you aren't cooking it first.)
3 cups whole milk ricotta
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine bread crumbs, eggs, milk, 1/2 cup of the Romano and the parsley, and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Add beef and gently combine, being careful not to overwork the meat. Shape into bite-size meatballs. Roll each meatball in flour to coat, shaking off excess.

In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. You definitely do NOT want to overcook the pasta as it will continue to cook in the sauce when you put it in the oven. Drain pasta in a colander and set aside. If not using immediately, cover top with plastic wrap so that pasta does not dry out. Do not rinse pasta with water since you want to retain the pasta's natural starches so that the sauce will cling to the ziti.

In a large skillet heat the oil over medium-high heat. When almost smoking, add meatballs in batches and without moving or turning the meat, allow it to brown for about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer meatballs to a cookie sheet and allow them to finish cooking in the oven for about 10-15 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the tomato sauce, garlic and ricotta and mix well. Add the cooked ziti and meatballs and toss gently.

In a large greased baking dish, pour in pasta mixture. Sprinkle the mozzarella, Parmesan, and remaining Romano all over the top. Dot with the butter. Place baking dish on top of baking sheet covered with aluminum foil to collect any drippings from the dish. Bake until top is golden brown and bubbly, about 30 to 40 minutes

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Baked Ravioli with Chicken

This was a recipe that was submitted by someone to the first freezer swap that I participated in. So, I made it for the first freezer swap with the ladies from our church. I think it is yummy! I made my own pesto and added some homemade Alfredo sauce (about 2 cups).

2 lb. of cheese-filled frozen ravioli (I used fresh because they were on sale but frozen is usually cheaper.)
1 lb. of cooked chicken breasts in ½ inch slices
2/3 cup of chicken broth
½ cup store-bought basil pesto sauce
½ teaspoon of kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup of Parmesan cheese

Place all ingredients into a large bowl and combine. Transfer to a freezer bag.

Thaw. Preheat oven to 350F. Place contains of bag into baking dish (a 9×13 dish sprayed with cooking spray). Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour or until bubbly.

Lisa's Sweet Chili

Here is another freezer swap meal from my friend, Lisa. It is SO yummy! She sent it with some cornbread that was perfect for soaking up the sauce in the bottom of the bowl.

1-2 lbs ground beef or turkey grounds
2 16 oz. cans red kidney beans
bush's chili magic-chili starter, traditional mild
2 16 oz cans of tomato sauce
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 medium onion, chopped (cook with meat)
1 green pepper, chopped

Brown meat (with onions). Drain grease. Put into a stock pot with all ingredients, bring to a boil, and simmer for 15 minutes or longer (b/c of green peppers). Serve with melted cheese if desired!

Freezer Meal Swap

I got introduced to freezer meal swaps by someone that lives near us. She and I went to the same school for undergrad. Thanks, Terra! I absolutely love freezer swaps now. So much that I started one with some ladies at our church. Now, I get to go to two freezer swaps...yay! We had our first meal swap a few weeks ago. Here is the first recipe for Baked Spaghetti (thanks, tori). I will hopefully be posting the rest of the recipes today.

1 small box of spaghetti
1 Jar of Spaghetti sauce of your choosing (or more depending on how saucy you like your spaghetti)
1/2 to 1 pound of ground turkey
Shredded Mild Cheddar cheese, Mozzorella cheese, parmesean cheese

Cook spaghetti according to package.
Cook Ground Turkey in a frying pan until well done.
Mix spaghetti, ground turkey and sauce together in a large pan.
Pour spaghetti into a baking dish.
Sprinkle cheddar and mozzerella cheese generously over the spaghetti.
Add as much parmesan cheese as you like.
Freeze if desired.
Remove from freezer and 400 degrees for 40 minutes or until cheese is fully melted and fully cooked.

Ginger Brown Sugar Cookies

These cookies were submitted to the cookie swap by my dear friend, Tori. I spent many mornings waking up to a cup of tea and a couple of these cookies. Thanks, Tori! Warning: Do not eat the crystallized ginger by itself : )!

1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Heat oven to 375 F. In large bowl, beat brown sugar, butter, vanilla and egg with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with spoon. Stir in flour, baking soda and gingers.
Shape dough by rounded teaspoonfuls into 1-inch balls. On greased cookie sheet, place balls about 2 inches apart. Flatten to 1/2 inch thickness with greased bottom of glass dipped in 2 tablespoons granulated sugar.
Bake 8-10 minutes or until edges are set. Remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack; cool.

To swap or not to swap...

I would NOT swap these cookies! Not because they aren't good but because they are SO good. I would keep these all to myself. I organized my first cookie swap a few weeks ago. It was a lot of fun! We are planning to have another one in February. You should really try these cookies. You will not be sorry.


1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups finely ground almonds (put in food processor or chopper)
4 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Cream butter or margarine in a bowl, gradually add confectioners' sugar and salt. Beat until light and fluffy. Add almonds and vanilla. Blend in flour gradually and mix well.
Shape into balls (or crescents) using about 1 teaspoon for each cookie. Place on ungreased cookie sheets, and bake for 15-20 min. Do not brown. Cool slightly, then roll in the extra confectioners' sugar.

Good friends, good food

Last night we had the wonderful privilege of hanging out with our some dear friends, Tori and Jeremy. Tori made dinner and we watched the Duke game. We had an amazing time! I feel so blessed to have Tori and Jeremy in our lives. I really started thinking about the friendships that my husband and I have in our lives. God has really blessed us with some pretty incredible friends. Really...they are all more like family than friends. True friendship is doing something for someone else while expecting nothing in return. Tori and Jeremy demonstrated this last night when they came to our house and cooked dinner for us. True friends also share a desire to see one another grow and hope for each other to succeed in life. Friends also share thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment. Friends hold each other accountable. Real friends encourage one another and forgive one another. Real friends are dependable. Friends love each other no matter what and always want the best for our each other. I am so thankful to God for giving us SO many amazing friendships. I have not been as good of a friend since I moved to Raleigh. I think it has taken me this entire year and a half to come to grips with living so far away from some of our dear friends. I am going to do better and realize the blessings God has put in front of me today.

Tori made turkey burgers, sweet potato fries, and regular fries. Everything was so yummy. However, the sweet potato fries were out of this world! This recipe is my new go to recipe when I am craving sweet potatoes or fries. This is an absolute must try recipe! Next time you want to bless some of your friends, make them some burgers and these amazing fries.

Crispy Sweet Potato Fries

1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
2 quarts peanut or vegetable oil
1 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup club soda
2 pounds sweet potatoes,
peeled and cut into 1/2 by 1/4 inch lengths
(To stabilize sweet potatoes for slicing, cut a 1/4 inch piece
from one side of each potato so that it sits flat. Cut the sweet
potato in 1/2 inch thick planks. Cut each plank into 1/4 inch fries,)

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Combine chili powder, garlic powder, cayenne, and salt in a large bowl.

Heat oil in large dutch oven or large stock pot over high heat to 375 degrees. While oil is heating, whisk cornstarch and club soda in medium bowl. Working in small batches, dip sweet potatoes in cornstarch mixture, allowing excess to drip back into bowl, and transfer to wire rack.

When oil is ready, fry half of sweet potatoes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and crisp, about 6 to 8 minutes. Drain fries on paper towel-lines baking sheet and transfer to oven. Return oil to 375 degrees and repeat with remaining fries. Transfer crisp fries to bowl with spice mixture and toss to coat.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Giblets and gravy

So, here is the truth. I used to hate gravy! I always ordered my mashed potatoes with "no gravy". My whole family thought I was completely crazy. Over the last four or five years (since I have started enjoying to cook and trying new things), I have come to really LOVE a good gravy. So, here is my recipe for a yummy gravy. I am going to do it as I did for Thanksgiving this year. However, this can be done with any meat juices and broth (you would just take out all the stuff about the giblets).


juices from the gravy
cooked giblets, neck and heart from the turkey
2-3 cups of turkey stock (recipe to will use giblets, neck and heart)
3 tbsp of unsalted butter
3 tbsp of flour
salt, pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, combing the turkey juices/drippings and 2-3 cups of turkey broth depending on how much turkey juices you have. You want it to be about 3 cups total. Warm the turkey stock and juices. Do not bring to a boil. Chop up the giblets and heart and add them to the stock. Let sit on warm.

Melt the butter in a medium to large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and whisk into the butter removing all of the lumps. Allow the mixture to cook until it is a very light brown color stirring constantly...1-3 minutes. Slowly add the warmed turkey stock/juices whisking as you add. After you have incorporated all of the stock, allow the gravy to simmer on medium-low until thickened. Season with salt and pepper.

If the gravy is not thick enough, you may add more flour. To do this (and prevent lumps), put a tablespoon or two of flour in a small bowl. Add about 1/4 cup of the gravy sauce to the flour. Whisk until it is lump free. Then, add the flour to the gravy.

Turkey Stock:
In a large stock pot on medium-high heat, combine turkey neck, giblets, heart, 1 onion (roughly chopped with skin on), 1 celery stalk (cut in 1 inch pieces), 1 carrot (cut in 1 inch pieces), 1 garlic head (cut in half), a bunch of parsley, 1 bay leaf, 3 cups of water and 3 cups of chicken or vegetable stock. Allow the stock to come to a boil. Turn the heat on low and simmer for an hour. Place a colander in a bowl in the sink. Drain the stock. Reserve the heart and giblets for the gravy and discard the rest of the vegetables and the neck. You can use this stock for your gravy or anything else that calls for a meat stock. It freezes great!

The Turkey Volume 2

Talia's Turkey

I'm back, finally. I planned on posting a lot over the Thanksgiving holiday but got caught up spending sweet time with my family. It was wonderful. I am so thankful to God for my salvation and my family.

Today I am going to post the remainder of the Thanksgiving recipes that I used and a few more recipes for everyday cooking. The turkey recipe that I did this year was a combination of a few different recipes that I have used over the last five years.


Fresh or frozen turkey (10-17 lbs) (I used fresh for the first time this year)
1 onion cut in large chunks (no need to peel)
1 head of garlic cut in half lengthwise (no need to peel)
1 carrot
1 celery stalk
2 stems fresh rosemary
bunch of thyme
stick of unsalted butter
truffle oil
salt (you will need about a 1/4 cup of kosher salt for the rub and then more the season the inside of the turkey)
2 tbsp. juice of a citrus fruit (lime, lemon or an orange...your choice)

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Place the turkey in your roasting pan. You can also use a cookie cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet as your roasting pan or place a few whole carrots and celery stalks on your cookie sheet and place turkey on top.

Then, you want to stuff the cavity of the turkey. First, take some salt (about 4 tbsp) and toss it into the cavity along with some pepper (about 2 tbsp). Stuff the cavity with onions, carrots, celery, garlic, rosemary and all but 3 stems of the thyme. Just stuff everything into the cavity. Once everything is in the cavity, tie the legs with some kitchen twine.

Starting at the cavity end, gently run your fingers between the meat and the skin. Be careful not to puncture the skin with your fingers. Take the truffle butter (recipe to follow) and massage the meat with half of the butter. Rub the skin of the turkey with the remaining truffle butter. Then rub on the salt rub (recipe to follow).

Place the turkey on the lowest rack in the oven. Cook on 500 degrees for 30 minutes. Then, reduce the temperature to 325 and cook until turkey reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Place a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the breast of the turkey. When the temperature reaches 165, your bird is done! Let the turkey rest for 15-20 minutes before you carve it. While it rests, cover it with foil.

Truffle Butter:
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 tsp to 1 tsp truffle oil (depending on your taste)

In a mixer beat the butter and oil together until smooth.
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