Saturday, November 30, 2013

Deluxe Thanksgiving Sandwich


As I told you in my earlier post, Thanksgiving leftovers are one of my favorite things in the world.  My favorite of all of the leftovers is the dressing (stuffing for most people).  I have no idea why.  I think it is  a very overlooked and underrated side dish.  This sandwich takes all of the great things about Thanksgiving and puts them in between to slices of buttery, toasty bread.  What could be better than that?

So I mentioned that I was disappointed in my turkey.  This was my first whole turkey ever so I should probably be a little easier on myself.  I spent weeks looking at every roasting temperature for the bird and comparing all the different cooking times.  I decided to go with the most common one which was 325 degrees.  I had a 19 pound turkey that I was planning on brining.  My brining bag had other plans when it decided to spring a leak.  That was a nice mess to clean up!  I woke up at 6 am to put this beautiful winged creature in the oven.  Everything I read on the internet said 5 1/2 to 6 hours.  A little after 5 hours I took it out of the oven to check the temperature.  Not good.  It came in at 185 degrees.  How frustrating!  I think next year I'll do a smaller whole turkey and a turkey breast.  If anyone can tell me why this happened I would love to know!

Deluxe Thanksgiving Sandwich

3 slices of bread
stuffing
cranberry sauce
turkey
gravy
mayo
butter

This sandwich is built in the saute pan.  Add 1 tablespoon butter to a saute pan and let it melt over medium low heat.  Meanwhile spread mayo over 1 slice of the bread and cranberry sauce on the other.  Heat up the stuffing, turkey and gravy in the microwave.  Place the slice of bread with mayo into the butter in the pan (mayo side up).  Lightly press the stuffing onto the slice of bread.  Add a few pieces of the turkey.  Next, place the plain slice of bread into the gravy (In an episode of Friends, Ross calls this the moist maker) and add to the sandwich.  Place more turkey and the final piece of bread with the cranberry sauce.  Add a little more butter to the pan and flip the sandwich.  Cook a couple more  minutes until the bread has turned a light golden brown.  Slice in half and enjoy!!

What types of sandwiches do you make with your leftovers?  Do you prefer mayo or miracle whip? I normally prefer mayo but sometimes I crave the tang of miracle whip.

Thanks for reading.  Come back soon!!

Aimee

Kentucky Hot Brown


Well, Thanksgiving is over and I have to admit that I'm a little sad about it.  It was such a wonderful day having a portion of my family into my home for the first time!  I have to admit I was a nervous wreck about my hosting duties.  I hear so many people complain about what a hassle it is.  I figured that with appropriate planning and spreading the preparation over a few days it would be easy as pie.  I was right.  I stayed completely relaxed and only had one minor freakout after slightly over cooking the turkey.  That's the last time I trust the internet.

Our spread was quite large--ridiculous, actually.  It always is though.  It's just part of being a member of the Pepper clan.  We had corn pudding, green beans, broccoli casserole, mashed potatoes, gravy, dressing (or stuffing depending where you're from), sweet potato stacks, cranberry salad, jellied cranberries, a warm brussel sprout salad (recipe coming soon), brownies, pumpkin bars, pecan pie and last but definitely not least, homemade yeast rolls made by my mother.  They were delicious!

I know I've been slacking with the blog over the last week but I promise to make it up to you.  I had originally planned on blogging about my schedule for my preparations but had no idea if anyone cared, so I didn't.  I'll save that for next November unless someone begs me to post it now in order to prepare for Christmas.  Anywho...

I think my favorite part of Thanksgiving are the leftovers.  I'm weird, I know.  I started thinking about everything I could make with them weeks ago.  Be prepared internet.  I'll be making at least two more posts today of how to use up those leftovers.  Some are traditional and some aren't so traditional--like this Kentucky Hot Brown.

I don't know how many of you have tasted this Kentucky delicacy or even heard of it for that matter, but if this recipe doesn't make you want to pack up the car and visit the Bluegrass state, I don't know what will!  We have lots of Bourbon and horses, too, if that helps!

Ok.  Enough rambling.  Here's the recipe!

Kentucky Hot Brown

Ingredients

2 slices of your favorite bread
Left over turkey, shredded (about 1 to 1 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups of milk
1 1/2 cups shredded swiss cheese
4 slices of crispy bacon
1 roma tomato, sliced
salt and pepper

Directions

1.  Lay the slices of bacon on a sheet tray covered with foil.  Place in a cold oven and turn the temperature to 400 degrees.  Bake for 20 minutes or until bacon is crispy.  Remove bacon from oven and place on a paper towel lined plate.

2. In a 2 quart sauce pan melt butter and sprinkle in the flour.  Mix together and let it cook for about 4 to 5 minutes until it has formed a roux.  Whisk in the milk.  Slowly bring to a boil then reduce heat.  Let cook until thickened.  In total it will take 10 to 15 minutes.  Once the mornay sauce has thickened, remove from heat and stir in the cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.  This step can actually be done in the microwave as well.  That's how my mother always did it.

3.  Place the slices of bread in a baking dish.  Cover the bread with the shredded turkey.  I probably used about 1/2 cup on each slice.  Pour the mornay sauce over the open faced sandwiches.  Place under a low broiler, keeping a close eye on it.  If you trust yourself go ahead and jack that baby to high.  I don't trust myself, hence the low setting.  Let the mornay sauce become brown and bubbly.  Remove from oven.

4.  Top this delicious sandwich with slices of tomato and 2 slices of bacon.

Get at it anyway you see fit.  I like to crumble my bacon to ensure that every bite has a little bit of bacon in it.  The creamy cheese sauce with the slices of cold tomato and salty bacon is seriously a taste explosion.

I hope you enjoy this traditional Kentucky recipe!!

Aimee

Monday, November 25, 2013

Rosemary Sweet Potato Stacks


I am not a fan of most types of sweet potato casseroles.  I think it has something to do with the texture.  They're so mushy. Not only that, is it dessert?  Is it a side?  It's so confusing!  There will not be a place for a marshmallow topped anything on my Thanksgiving buffet this year unless some member of my family shows up with one unannounced.

Don't get me wrong, I love sweet potatoes--as long as they have a texture other than soft and mushy. I love sweet potato fries and chips.  I love them cubed and browned on the stove top or roasted in the oven with some chili powder and cinnamon.  I've been trying to come up with some sort of sweet potato dish that was savory and sweet.  I kept picturing a sweet potato gratin but after a couple of attempts I still couldn't get away from that mushy texture.  That's when I remembered a recipe I had come across a couple of years ago for potato stacks.  It was the perfect combination of crispy and chewy and of course my favorite, cheesy.  Surely this would be a success!

In the spirit of Thanksgiving and not quite waiting until the last minute to develop a recipe for this, my favorite of all holidays, I got to work on what I was hoping would be my last "test" of a sweet potato dish.  I used a mandolin to thinly slice the sweet potatoes and then dug out my muffin tin.  You heard that right.  A muffin tin.  It works perfectly for slices of potato and forms them into individual, stacks of goodness.

With the Thanksgiving preparations already in swing (I'm roasting chicken bones for broth and clarifying butter for my turkey), I'll keep this post short and get right to the recipe.

Rosemary Sweet Potato Stacks                                      Printable Recipe

Ingredients

1 sweet potato, thinly sliced
1 small onion, diced
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup Milk
Rosemary, dried
Salt
Pepper
1 bag of shredded swiss cheese

Directions

1.  Start by slicing the sweet potato.  I used a mandolin to ensure thin slices.  A knife will work too.

2.  Melt butter in a small skillet.  Chop onion and add to butter.  Cook over low heat for about 5-10 minutes or until soft and translucent.

3.  Spray a 12 count standard Muffin tin with cooking spray.  This is important since this dish gets a little gooey.

4.  Start layering in your ingredients.  Place a couple of slices of potato into all 12 muffin wells, making sure the bottom of the muffin tin is completely covered.  Next sprinkle salt and rosemary on top.  I only used 3 or 4 pieces of the rosemary as I think it can easily over power other foods.  Place about 1/2 teaspoon of onion mixture on top followed by a teaspoon of cheese.  Place another layer of potatoes and follow again with the rosemary, salt, onion/butter mixture and cheese.  Finally lay a couple more pieces of potato on top and use the remaining cheese.  Sprinkle with rosemary and add 1 tablespoon of milk to each stack.

5. Place in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes or until edges are starting to brown.   Take a knife around the edges to loosen the stacks.  They should come out easily after that.

I've decided that these would make a great hot appetizer for any occasion!  I'll be serving mine on Thanksgiving.  Hope you enjoy!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Loaded Potato Pizza


Ahh...  Saturday.  The day I can wake up, drink coffee, browse Pinterest and binge on the Food Network.  That's my idea of a perfect morning and it's exactly what you will find me doing most Saturday mornings from the comfort of my bed.  I normally use this time to plan my menu for the week and make my grocery list.  There is something that I find oddly therapeutic about this.  I know.  I'm weird.  You don't need to tell me.

Before I bought this house I lived in a wonderful (for the most part) apartment complex.  The neighbors would grill together on the weekends during the summer after long days spent by the pool.  Let me tell you, we ate very well.  There were some amazing cooks around that joint.  We had rib cook off's, 4th of July parties, going away parties, birthday parties-- You get it.  We had no issues finding reasons to eat.  I made a dear friend at that apartment complex named Kim and frankly I've done a lousy job of maintaining that friendship so I invited her and her daughter over for lunch.  I love cooking for Kim and Sarah because they've never disliked anything I've made.  Plus it's always nice to catch up on the old 'hood.

I was racking my brain for lunch ideas for the visit and all I could think about was ranch dressing.  Obviously whatever I ended up making would somehow involve this creamy deliciousness.  After staring off into space for a while it finally hit me!  Loaded Potato Pizza!

There are a couple of pizza joints around Lexington that have this specialty pie.  I don't know who originally invented it but it is genius!  I know this particular recipe seems to be quite involved but trust me.  It's totally worth it. Soooo here's my take on the Loaded Potato Pizza!

Loaded Potato Pizza

Ingredients

1 pre-made pizza crust (I prefer thin for this one)
1 Russet or Idaho potato, baked and sliced
3 tablespoons butter
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups of cheddar cheese (Feel free to use more and pile it on)
2 green onions, chopped
Ranch dressing (my recipe below or use your favorite store bought)
Olive oil
Salt

On a baking sheet, bake the potato in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes to one hour or until fork tender.  Before baking I rub the potato with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Remove from oven and allow to cool before slicing.
Melt the butter with the garlic in a small sauce pan. Once butter is melted, remove from heat.  Liberally brush the garlic butter onto the pizza crust of your choice. Layer the sliced potato on the crust and brush again with the butter and garlic.  Top with cheese and half of the green onion.  Bake according to crust directions.  In this case 425 degrees for 7-10 minutes.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining green onions.  You could even add bacon if your heart desires.  Drizzle with ranch dressing (recipe below).

There is just something about a piping hot baked potato fresh from the oven covered in salt that appeals to my senses.  Plus I just really liked this picture for some reason.



Ranch Dressing

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups sour cream
2 heaping tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon worchestershire
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried dill
1 green onion, finely chopped
Cracked black pepper

Mix sour cream, mayo and buttermilk in a bowl.  If you prefer your dressing thinner add more buttermilk.  Once you have reached your desired consistency add the remaining ingredients and mix well.  Let sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour for all the flavors to combine.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Andouille Cheese Grits



This week has me feeling burnt out.  I can't get used to the early sunsets, work has been somewhat draining and everyone around me is getting sick.  I'm just sitting around eating multiple oranges, taking my vitamins and drinking lots of hot tea with local honey.

Obviously, I gave up on eating my all veggie diet. Times like this call for comfort food.  I was in desperate need of one of my favorite food groups--cheese.  And meat.  Specifically a spicy, cajun sausage.  Mixed with creamy, cheesy grits.

This past spring I celebrated my best friend Jen's (told you there would be more stories) graduation from college.  I don't know how she did it. Working full time, being a full time wife and parent to two of my favorite boys ever--sorry, young men, and going to school!  Just typing that exhausted me.  After her graduation ceremony she wanted to take us to lunch as a thank you for the support.  She chose Papadeaux.  Oh. My. Goodness.  I had no idea what kind of cajun deliciousness awaited us at this goldmine!  I'm not sure what everyone else ordered because I was completely blinded by my meal of blackened mahi mahi served with andouille grits.  After my first bite of these grits, the heavens opened and angels were singing.  They were THAT good.  At that moment I made it my mission to replicate this dish.  So, here you have it!

Andouille Cheese Grits

Ingredients

1/2 pound andouille sausage, casing removed
5 cups water
1 1/4 cups quick cooking grits
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups grated cheese (I used cheddar)
1/2 cup whole milk or cream
1 tablespoon butter


In a large saucepan or dutch oven, crumble and brown the sausage.  Cook until done, about 10 minutes.  Remove the sausage to a paper towel lined plate.  In the same pan, bring the water and salt to a boil, scraping up the bits of goodness left behind from the sausage.  Once it boils, slowly whisk in the grits.  It's very important to whisk them to prevent clumping.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes or until grits have thickened.   Stir in milk or cream and butter and return the sausage to the pan.  Stir in the cheese until melted and serve immediately.   Enjoy!!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Mexican Quinoa Salad



So apparently my new thing is to wake up an hour earlier than my alarm one day a week now.  Let me tell you how much I love that.  There are silver linings to that though.  I get extra snuggle time with Dolce, plenty of time to enjoy some solitude of the early morning, I can take my time sipping my coffee as opposed to guzzling it and of course, an early morning blogging sesh.  Maybe it's not so bad!

Maybe I hopped out of bed so early today because of all the vegetables I've been eating.  My body must actually be getting nutrients or something.  Sooo, I'm continuing with my pre-thanksgiving "detox".  Let's be real here.  It's not a detox.  I had left over chili dip for dinner last night.  However,  I did enjoy the leftover spring rolls yesterday for lunch and they held up beautifully!  I individually wrapped them in plastic wrap and stored them in a container in the fridge.  The avocado did get a little soggy but they were delicious, nonetheless.

I'm super excited about lunch today!.  I've gotten in the habit of keeping quinoa in my pantry (by pantry I mean cabinets or cupboards since my "pantry" actually houses my washer and dryer).  I buy it in the bulk aisle at the Good Foods Co-op and it's ready to go when I need it.  I know the internet appears to be overrun by excessive amounts of quinoa recipes so I figured one more wouldn't hurt.  This particular recipe is my take on a mexican inspired salad.  I LOVE mexican food.  Who am I kidding.  I just love food.  All of it.  I actually cooked the quinoa a couple of days ago and stored it in the fridge.  That makes it so much easier to throw this recipe together!  I just had to make the dressing and chop some veggies.  Can't get much easier than that!  I wanted to make this as healthy as possible so I used kale, peppers, tomatoes and to add a little flare, roasted corn.  In the spirit of versatility you can add whatever you want.  It's completely vegetarian and possibly vegan.  I honestly have no idea what qualifies something as vegan.  I've never looked into it because I heard a rumor that cheese is not vegan.  No dice.  No offense to anyone who is vegan though.  Good for you!

Enough chit chat.  Let's get moving with this recipe!  Oh, and I'll post the link for the easy bow tutorial that I was telling you about last week at the end of today's post!

Mexican Quinoa Salad

Ingredients

2 cups prepared quinoa
1 bag frozen corn
2 roma tomatoes
2 teaspoons chopped, pickled jalapeƱo
1/2 of a yellow bell pepper, roughly chopped
1 cup kale, roughly chopped
2 green onions, chopped

For the dressing:

2 avocados
2 limes, juice of both and zest of 1
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil
plain greek yogurt, optional

As I said, I prepared the quinoa in advance.  I just combined 1 cup of rinsed quinoa and 2 cups of vegetable broth in a sauce pan.  Bring it to a boil, cover and reduce heat.  Let simmer for about 20 minutes or until the liquid has cooked down.  Meanwhile,  in a 375 degree oven roast the frozen corn for 10-15 minutes.  I placed the frozen corn on a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil.  Next, in a large bowl add quinoa and all the vegetables, including the corn.

For the dressing:  Place both of the avocados, zest of one lime, juice of 2 limes, oregano, cumin, cilantro, salt and pepper (and greek yogurt if you choose) in a blender.  Put the lid on and start to blend.  Slowly stream in olive oil until your desired consistency is reached. Taste to adjust seasoning.  I normally need to add a little more salt.  I like my dressing for this particular salad on the thicker side so I only used about 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil.

Once the dressing is prepared, mix in with the salad.  It's my humble opinion that this dish is better on the second day so I leave it in the fridge overnight and serve the next day.  The choice is yours though!!




As promised, here's a picture of the burlap bows.  I love how it turned out.  It's burlap so I think simple is best.  I couldn't have done it without finding Tidbit's and Twine's tutorial on bow making!  Has anyone else started their decorating or am I the only Christmas crazy person?  Other than my parents, of course!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Veggie Spring Rolls



I don't know about you but I have been terrible about eating my veggies lately.   With the holidays quickly approaching and the knowledge that I will continue to eat garbage until it's over, I loaded up on veggies at the grocery yesterday.  All kinds and an array of colors.  It's so much fun looking at the rainbow of colors in my vegetable crisper.  It's the simple things that make me really happy.  Like kale, carrots, peppers and cucumbers!

With it being Monday, I knew I would want a quick meatless meal so I rushed home and started slicing my vegetables for Spring Rolls.  I know what you're thinking:  Aimee,  there is no way I could make spring rolls.  You're wrong.  I actually thought the same thing but thanks to this photo tutorial from White on Rice Couple, I was spring rolling in no time and you will be too!

Spring Rolls are such a versatile light meal.  You can fill them with anything you like.  The produce section is your friend with this recipe.  I like to dip mine in an almond butter sauce.  I just grate garlic and ginger, add it to the almond butter (peanut butter works too!) with some fresh squeezed lime juice and soy sauce.  I never measure when I make this so I don't know exact measurements.  Sorry.

You're sure to enjoy any spring rolls you make!  Best of all think about how impressive it will look to your friends!!  Whatever you do, keep this between us.  Don't want this secret getting out, do we?





Veggie Spring Rolls


Kale
Green Onions
Carrots
Cucumbers
Avocado
Yellow Pepper
Cilantro
Rice Paper

Julienne all of the vegetables slicing to the length you prefer.  Place on the rice paper that you've dipped in water to soften.  Place the veggies at one end.  Roll once and tuck in the ends.  Continue rolling until you reach the end of the rice paper.  Slice in half and enjoy!  I made extra tonight to take to work.  I've wrapped the whole roll in some plastic wrap.  I'm not sure how it will turn out but I'll let you know!!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Cincinnati Chili Dip




Anyone that knows me is aware of my slightly unhealthy obsession with Cincinnati chili.  I think I was raised on the stuff.  My dad went to college in Cincinnati, as did I, and he is the responsible party for introducing me to the delicious greek delicacy.  Everyone has their favorite: Skyline, Gold Star, Price Hill Chili, Camp Washington, the list could go on for days.  I've been eating this stuff for so long that I can't even remember my first bite.  All I know is that I love it.  On top of spaghetti loaded with cheese, on top of a hot dog, loaded with cheese or in this delicious dip scooped with tortilla chips and of course, loaded with cheese.

*Sidenote:  I just watched someone on food network put hard boiled eggs in their stuffing and gravy.  I'm not sure how I feel about this.

Sorry for that blog interruption.  Just felt as though I had to share.  Back to the dip...  I had experienced cheese coneys and 3-ways (get your mind out of the gutter) but until I met my best friend Jen, I had never heard of this dip. Her introduction to this heavenly creation is only one of the reasons I love her.  You'll definitely hear more Jen or Lange family stories as I continue this journey.   Most every weekend I would go to her house and hang out with her neighbors. For every gathering the "Greenacres" crew had, someone would make this.  It never lasts very long so make sure you're close to the front of the line.

Not only is this a crowd pleaser, it is super easy.  Three ingredients.  That's it. Football is about to start which means my work is done here!

Cincinnati Chili Dip

Ingredients

1 8 ounce block of cream cheese, softened
1 can of your favorite Cincinnati style chili (frozen works, too)
1 bag of grated cheddar cheese

Spread cream cheese in the bottom of a 9x13 pan.  If your cream cheese isn't completely softened you can place it in the pan and stick it in the oven for a few minutes until it's spreadable.  Cover with the can of chili and then sprinkle with the cheese.  Bake in a 375 degree oven until cheese is melted and bubbly, about 20-30 minutes.  Use as a dip with tortilla chips.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Pimento Cheese



This week has been brutal.  I'm so glad it's over!  I knew things were going a little too good when I woke up Tuesday at 5 am and felt as though I had slept for days.  By 10 am I felt awful, no thanks to the 40 degree drop in the temperature overnight.  I ended up in bed for nearly two days with a cold.  I am a terrible patient.  Luckily,  no one has to hear me whine except for my dog and I think she even got tired of it.   The worst part was that I had no energy to prepare any food which left my poor little blog all alone with no attention from me.  I'm sorry.  Alas, I'm back and completely ready for the weekend!

I felt well enough to go to work yesterday and came home (after picking up Chick-fil-a for dinner) and decided to start doing a little Christmas decorating.  I know it seems early but Thanksgiving isn't until the 28th.  That's not even a month before Christmas.  I want to make sure I have plenty of time to enjoy it since the is the first time in a long time that I actually have a house to decorate.  I just hung some garland and lights on the banister in the loft.  Then I decided I wanted to make burlap bows.  Thanks Pinterest!  Sadly, I ran out of burlap so I was only able to make two.  Never fear, Hobby Lobby is just down the street and I will head there first thing in the morning!  I'll include a picture as soon as I get them made along with a link to the site where I found this little DIY project.  I didn't really get the crafting/decorating genes in my family.  Those were given to my mom and my sister Wendy of Designed To Dwell.  They can make anything.  I make epic Pinterest fails.  Story of my life!  Lucky for me, I got the food gene.

I got home tonight after sitting in traffic and decided I just wanted a simple dinner.  I certainly did not feel like slaving away in the kitchen all night which is odd because normally I love it.  I'll be good by tomorrow, promise.  Soooo,  I opened my fridge to see that I had all the ingredients for Pimento Cheese.  I already explained in my Olive Nut post about how much we love our spreads here in the Bluegrass State.  Here's another one.  It's pretty traditional around these parts and I don't remember ever opening my mom's fridge and not finding Pimento Cheese.  This spread travels well and makes great sandwiches or a fantastic dip for crackers!

Pimento Cheese

Ingredients

8 ounce block of mild cheddar cheese, grated
1 small can of pimentos or 1/4 diced roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons sweet pickle juice (I know it sounds weird but trust me on this one.)
2 heaping spoonfuls of mayo
Pepper

This can't get much easier:  Put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix.  Tadaa!  Taste to adjust ingredients.

If you prefer it sweeter, just add more pickle juice.  I used sweet gherkins but bread and butter would be delicious as well.  You can also turn this into a fabulous grilled cheese sandwich.  I'm working on some variations of Pimento Cheese, also.  You'll just have to stay tuned for those!!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hashbrown Casserole



We got our first taste of winter weather overnight.  It snowed.  As someone who loathes snow (unless I can stay in bed all day perusing Pinterest with a hot cup of coffee and my dog), I find it way to early for this.  Not cool, Mother Nature, not cool.  In the spirit of Thanksgiving though, I will express my gratitude for a garage that I can actually park my car in.  It only took 37 years!  Dolce is not sure how she feels about this strange white stuff on the ground.  It kind of paralyzed her once she got into the grass.  Anywhooo....

We're having a going away breakfast for a co-worker in my department today and I signed up to bring my hashbrown casserole.  I'm not sure who actually came up with the idea of this cheesy, delicious creation but I thank them.  I'm thinking the credit goes to Cracker Barrel.  At least that's the first place I ever had it.  My parents are big Cracker Barrel fans and it was a must on any vacation or road trip we took.

I've tried several different recipes, all of which contained some sort of "cream of" soup.  Have you ever read the ingredient list on one of these soups?  Ick!  I don't understand using these when you can make your own for pennies on the dollar!  It really just takes a little flour (and yes, I buy Kentucky proud flour in the bulk aisle at Good Foods.), butter and broth.  Anytime I roast or slow cook a chicken I make broth so I always have some in my freezer.  If you want an actual creamy soup you just add some milk.  I find this recipe doesn't need that since I use sour cream.  I prefer Daisy.  Read the ingredient list on this and you'll see why.  Cultured cream.  That's it.

Shew!  I'm long winded in the morning.  The moonlight reflecting on the snow woke me up at 5am.  I attempted to go back to sleep.  It just didn't happen so I got out of bed and brewed some coffee and took a picture of the snow to send to my friend Cara.  She claims to love snow.  She lives in Florida now.  I didn't mind it either when I lived in Florida!  Ok, back to the hash brown casserole.

Hashbrown Casserole

Ingredients

3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups broth
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 bag of shredded potatoes
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 small onion, grated
1 bag of Colby Jack cheese
salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan, cook flour over medium to medium low heat for about 2 minutes.  Add the butter and cook for 5-10 minutes until the roux thickens.  Slowly whisk in your broth of choice.  I use chicken.  In a large bowl add your shredded potatoes.  Salt and pepper the crap out of this.  I never measure my salt.  I just taste it as I go.  Also mix in the garlic powder, onion and sour cream.  Once the chicken broth mixture has thickened, pour into the hashbrown mixture.  Add cheese and pour into a 9x13 baking dish.  Bake for 30 to 45 minutes in a 375 degree oven.

I make mine the night before and then bake it for about 45 minutes in a 375 degree oven.  Just a little time saving hint from me to you.  You're welcome. This is a great addition to any brunch or family breakfast.  Heck, this goes with any meal!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Hawaiian Sliders



I honestly don't know how Mondays get here so fast!  I'm hosting my first Thanksgiving ever this year and I'm so excited that I started cleaning over the weekend.  I wiped down doors and baseboards and scrubbed all of the floors on my hands and knees.  Don't ask me why I did that last part so far in advance.  That was not very smart!  So I guess that's where my weekend went.  Time flies when you're having, er, fun?

I managed to get everything done just in time for football Sunday.  I even had a little time to spare so I whipped up some Hawaiian sliders.  It really doesn't get much easier than this recipe.  I had picked up some local grass fed beef from one of my favorite Lexington staples, Good Foods Co-op.  If you're ever in Lexington you must stop there.   They carry so many local goods and their bulk aisle is to die for.  I wish they would open another store a little closer to me.  They have a delicious cafe, too! Oops!  Got a little sidetracked.  Back to these sliders.  They are a great addition to any game day buffet or I served mine with sweet potato fries.  If anyone has perfected the homemade sweet potato fry, I beg you to share it with me.  I won't blog about it or try to steal it.  Ok.  I will blog about it but it will link directly to whomever shares it.  Mine never have that "fry" consistency.  It's really frustrating.  Obviously I'm having a hard time staying on track today so I'm just going to go ahead and post this recipe.

Hawaiian Sliders

Ingredients

1 pound ground beef (I used 80/20)
2 tablespoons pineapple juice (mine came straight from a can of pineapple)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon worchestershire sauce
2 tablespoons of your favorite barbecue sauce (I recommend Sweet Baby Ray's Sweet and Spicy)
2 teaspoons garlic powder

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until combined.  Form into appropriate sized patties.  For sliders, I normally use about 2 tablespoons of the meat and flatten it out.  Remember they'll shrink while cooking.  These can be grilled or fried on the stove top.  I also grill pineapple rings for a burger topping and I used pepper jack cheese for an added kick.  Top with more barbecue sauce or your favorite burger toppings!  Enjoy and I hope your team wins!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Spaghetti and Meatballs



I always thought making my own marinara sauce would be super difficult.  Turns out, it's not.  It takes some time to simmer but the prep is super easy and well worth it.

I love pasta so much that at one point in my life I suspected that I was born in the wrong country.  When I was 17 I was fortunate enough to travel to Europe over summer break.  That included 5 glorious days in Italy.  Rome, Florence and Montacatini.  It was so surreal.  I sat in the Piazza Navona every night drinking cappuccino while people watching.  The Italian people are so warm and friendly and their food???  Out of this world!  One day I will go back just to eat my way through that country.

I love rustic foods.  It's so freeing to just use a few ingredients to make a superb meal that feeds so many people and tastes so rich and delicious.  It took me a long time to perfect this marinara sauce.  It's my "go to" and pairs perfectly with my meatballs and a pound of spaghetti.  I'll be eating this for a week unless someone wants to come over for left overs.

Marinara Sauce

ingredients

2  16 ounce cans of whole tomatoes
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons oregano
salt and pepper to taste.
Olive oil
Flat leaf italian parsley to garnish

In a large pot or dutch oven,  pour in enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan.  Cook onions and garlic over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent.  I season my onions and garlic with a teaspoon of salt and fresh ground black pepper.   Pour the can of tomatoes in a bowl and using your hands, break the tomatoes into smaller pieces.  Add to the onions and garlic.  Mix in the oregano and let simmer over low heat for about an hour.  Taste the sauce before serving to check the seasoning.

Meatballs

Ingredients

1 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Mix the oregano, garlic powder, egg, milk, bread crumbs and parsley in a bowl.  Add ground beef and mix well.  Just use your hands.  It's the best way to ensure every thing is well mixed without over mixing.  Form into balls and bake in a 375 degree oven for 40 minutes.  After removing from the oven add the meatballs to the marinara sauce and cook for 15 more minutes.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Garlic Basil Cheese Bread



I love bread.  All bread.  I don't discriminate because there bread goes with everything.  In my humble opinion every meal should be served with it.  This has a lot to do with why I'm not two sizes smaller than I want to be and I don't even care.  Breakfast should have biscuits or toast.  Dinner should be served with yeast rolls or french bread or this ooey gooey cheese bread.

This recipe originated as a grilled side item to bring to bar-b-que's when I lived in Cincinnati.  After burning it one too many times I now stick with throwing it in the oven.  Kroger, a grocery store for those of you who don't know, carries a sweet italian loaf that they sell in their bakery.  It's like King's Hawaiian bread but a little denser.  It's delicious on it's own but when you add butter, garlic, basil and mozzarella cheese to it, it becomes out of this world!  My mouth waters just thinking about it.

My friends ask for this recipe regularly.  Normally by text messages that go something like this.  "How do you make your bread?"  My bread.  That's right.  I feel like an amazing culinary genius when I receive these messages and phone calls.  I'm FAR from culinary genius.  Far.

Garlic Basil Cheese Bread

Ingredients

1 loaf sweet italian bread (or any loaf bread you prefer)
1 stick of butter
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
4 basil leaves finely chopped
1 16 ounce bag of mozzarella cheese

Accordion slice the bread making sure not to cut all the way through.  In saucepan or microwave melt the butter with the garlic.  Once it's melted add the basil and the cheese.  Mix well and place in between the slices of bread.  Bake on a sheet tray in a 375 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until the cheese is melted.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Olive Nut Spread



We love our spreads here in Kentucky. From pimento cheese to benedictine or olive nut, these items are always part of an afternoon luncheon, tea or shower.  Whether we sandwich them between two slices of bread, spread them on crackers or put them in puff pastry it makes no difference to us.

Now, I know there are olive naysayers out there.  To you I say, just try it.  I dare you.  If you don't like it you're free to go but seriously, just try it once.   As a matter of fact, my mother hates olives but she loves an olive nut sandwich.  I know it sounds strange but it's got cream cheese in it!  What's not to like about cream cheese?  After having this sandwich at a tea room in our fine state capital of Frankfort, I was forced to change my recipe up to add a hint of sweetness to it.  In our family we add sweetness to everything.  My Cincinnati friends have always found it odd that I put brown sugar in green beans or that corn pudding is a side dish and not a desert.  Oh, sorry.  Task at hand, Aimee.  It's a simple recipe with just a few ingredients that can be thrown into a food processor.  It really couldn't get much easier!

Olive Nut Spread

Ingredients

1- 8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup olives
3 pineapple rings or about 1/3 cup pineapple chunks
1/3 cup toasted walnuts

Place olives, pineapple and walnuts in a food processor or mini-chopper.  Hand chopping them is fine as well.  Chop until they are all uniform size.  In a bowl combine the cream cheese, mayo and garlic powder.  Add olive mixture and stir until it is well combined.  Spread on your favorite bread or serve as an appetizer with butter crackers.

Enjoy!!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Roasted Poblano Mac and Cheese



Every Sunday evening I try to figure out where my weekend went and what I did with it.  Let's see.  I cleaned a little, went to dinner, went to church, did some grocery shopping, watched 11 episodes of Dexter on Netflix (you read that right, 11)--yep, that's about it!  I did hand out some candy to trick-or-treaters on Friday night.  Dolce dressed up for Halloween this year, too.  She's probably the cutest pumpkin I've ever seen.



I've been craving mac and cheese forever.  Not just any mac and cheese though.  Roasted Poblano mac and cheese.  There is something about mixing a taste of the southwest with a traditional cheesy dish that everyone loves.   Mac and cheese is one of the reasons I couldn't stick with a paleo/primal way of life.  My soul needs pasta to survive.  I'm pretty sure I was originally meant to be Italian but at the last minute God decided to make me a Kentuckian, which is just as good in my opinion.  I also love roasted chili's.  One day I will make it to the southwest for hatch chili season.  It's on my bucket list.  For now, I have Roasted Poblano Mac and Cheese.



Ingredients

3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 quart milk
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon mustard
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 cup chopped roasted poblano peppers (you can use canned store bought green chilis)
16 ounces grated cheddar cheese
6 ounces grated swiss cheese
1 box elbow macaroni

Cook noodles per package directions.

Meanwhile, in a large pot, melt butter over medium heat.  Sprinkle in flour.  Let cook for about 5 minutes or until the roux is thick and has started to brown.  Add milk, salt, mustard and garlic powder.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until sauce thickens.  Add peppers and simmer for 10 more minutes. Taste the sauce to adjust the seasoning.  Remove from heat.  Stir in the cheddar cheese.  Once the cheese has melted stir in the noodles.  Transfer to a 9x13 baking dish and bake for 45 minutes.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle the swiss cheese on top.  Place under the broiler until cheese has melted and has started to brown.  Watch it very carefully while under the broiler.  It will burn quickly!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Sorghum Sweetened Granola



I know what you're thinking.  Granola?  It's so, well, granola.  I eat a lot of granola.  I mean, a lot!  I have it almost every morning for breakfast with either milk or yogurt.  It's the ONLY way I will eat yogurt.  It's easy to pack up and take to work, so what's not to like?  Plus, when you make it yourself you know exactly what you're eating.  Have you ever looked at the ingredients in a box of cereal?  For something so innocent and child-like it sure does contain a bunch of words I can't pronounce.

I've gone through almost every "edible" stage in life.  I tried giving up meat but, um, bacon.  Attempted a raw food diet once.  I honestly felt amazing but again, bacon.  I did primal/paleo for a while but I missed biscuits and fluffy pancakes.   Now I'm at the stage in my life where I just want to know what I'm putting in my body--at least most of the time.

One of the great things about Kentucky is the "Kentucky Proud" initiative.  I love the idea of knowing the place that my milk, cheese, eggs and meat come from.  I love that you can visit most of the farms and it's such a great advantage for the local economy.   Enter Sorghum.  It's gaining in popularity as a sweetener and you can find it all over the state.  To learn more about it you can go here.  Ok.  Back to the granola.  I found this basic granola recipe on treehugger and then Kentucky-fied it a little bit.  I make this during the weekend and I can get about 7 or 8 servings out of it.

Ingredients

3 cups oats
1 cup pumpkin seeds (or your favorite nuts)
1/2 cup flax seed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 cup sorghum or honey
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preaheat oven to 325 degrees

In a sauce pan over medium heat, mix apple juice, sorghum, coconut oil and cinnamon together until the coconut oil is melted.  It takes about 5 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, combine the oats, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds and salt.  Once the liquid mixture is ready, pour over the oats.  Combine well.  Spread half the granola on an oiled baking sheet (I brush mine with canola oil just so it doesn't stick).   Bake for 30-40 minutes stirring every 15 minutes.  After removing from the oven, let the granola rest for about 5 minutes.  Repeat with the remaining granola.  Store in an airtight container.