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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Win some, Loose some - Autumn Sausage Casserole in Crockpot

Let just start with saying - this smelled heavenly, Autumn Sausage Casserole!  In a crockpot you combine, browned sausage (I used good ole Jimmy Dean's Sage), cooked rice (Jasmine leftover from the freezer), chopped onion, chopped carrots, some raisin, chopped apple, cinnamon, allspice, a dash of brown sugar, pepper and a splash of water or broth.  I had huge hopes for it.  It was so fantastically simple.  Cooked a tube of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls.  Dished up the casserole into bowls.  Took a bite.  And it was kind of like being on a date that wasn't truly terrible - the guy/girl could make conversation - but you knew within 5 seconds, they weren't the one and were not even going to be a cool bud or friend.  A bite of spice from the sausage was good.  But the creamy rice and sweet smells and taste of the cinnamon and raisins made me want Rice Pudding, not an entree with meat in it.  It was different - not terrible but not a wow either.  As Teen put it, edible but she wouldn't be asking for it on the menu again.  So, maybe it was me (isn't that how we feel sometimes in relationships that don't work) but I hope this appeals to you and it knocks your socks off!
And don't feel bad - no one starved in this house with Crescent Rolls cooked!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Autumn Food Day 22 Pumpkin Pecan Oatmel Oh My!

I love oatmeal. Period.  Oatmeal for breakfast, oatmeal in cookies, oatmeal cookies period.  And one of my sons adores it as well.  Pancakes and oatmeal would truly be his favorite items for breakfast!  My stomach warmed up when I saw this recipe for Pumpkin Pecan Oatmeal from A Whisk and A Prayer (what a super cool blog name!)  What screams Autumn more than Pumpkin and Pecan!  And this can be like having a slice of Pumpkin or Pecan Pie for Breakfast!  What's not to love!

Turkey Hash with Red Wine Glaze

Tonight's dinner was a cinch to throw together!  I felt like a segment on Rachel Ray's show, Dinner was on the table in less than 30 minutes from start to finish!  Turkey Hash with Red Wine Glaze, Peas and Carrots, and Salads for 3 of us.
I started the dish with peeling and boiling the potatoes.  The recipe calls for roasting them on the grill along with the turkey.  The turkey I used was leftover from Thanksgiving so it was already cooked.  While the sliced potatoes were boiling, I started the wine glaze.   And as any good cook does,

I poured wine into the pan, and some into a glass for me!
This recipe was very easy.  I added my chopped onions to the wine glaze to cook down a bit along with the thyme and garlic.   After the potatoes were cooked till soft, I added them along with cubed turkey from Thanksgiving into the pan.  Stirred in some salt, pepper, and parsley.
This was a good, hearty meal!

Food gift ideas! White Chocolate and Peppermint Covered Popcorn

I love to give unique food gifts at the holidays, especially items I know the recipient would not make themselves or just will bring a smile to someone's face.  My sister makes Chex mix every year - I LOVE it!  So much, I do my best to put it in a special spot only known to me!  I could make it, she's shared the recipe with me plenty of times.  But I just never have.  So getting it as a gift is awesome!
I dip pretzels in white chocolate and peanut butter crackers in white chocolate.  Make butterscotch haystacks, No Bake Oatmel cookies, Cream Cheese Candy.  But I always like to find something new - and easy!  So here's to a week of ideas that are simple and kid friendly for little ones to help in the kitchen!
White Chocolate and Peppermint Covered Popcorn is a simple and ingenious idea!  Crushed candy canes, white chocolate or almond bark, and popcorn (popped of course) - how simple is that!  So go rush to the store and buy some candy canes.  And tell me what you think of them in white chocolate over popcorn!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Autumn Food Day 21 Cinnamon Pumpkin Pie Tart

Just because Thanksgiving is over does not mean the pumpkin must be put in the back corner of the pantry!  I looked longingly at the 3 little decorative pumpkins on my front porch and was sad they were going to clash with the red and green that will adorn the railing tomorrow!  So my heart soared when I spied this recipe on a favorite blog of mine - I "heart" naptime!  And not only did it use pumpkin but also was super easy and convenient using puff pastry. Love that!
Recipe from I heart naptime - go check out the blog!
1 Cup canned pumpkin
1/4 Cup granulated sugar
1/4 Cup heavy whipping cream
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
4 sheets (2 boxes) of puff pastry, thawed
3 Tablespoons melted butter
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
Melted chocolate for drizzling (optional)
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large bowl mix the pumpkin, sugar, heavy cream, egg, cinnamon and nutmeg until creamy and well combined.
2.  Place puff pastry onto a lightly floured counter top and cut out 4 pumpkins per sheet of pastry.  Place pumpkin cut outs onto silpat or parchment lined baking sheets.  Brush each pumpkin lightly with butter then sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.  Spoon about 2 Tablespoons of pumpkin pie filling around center of pumpkins leaving 1/4 inch border around edges.
3.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until puff pastry is golden brown on the edges and pumpkin pie is cooked through.  Let cool for 10 minutes on baking sheet then transfer to cooling rack.  Serve room temperature or chilled.  Drizzle with melted chocolate if desired before serving.
16 pumpkin pie tarts

The menu for the week!

The end of November, the beginning of December brings the beginning of the holiday hustle and bustle!  All the fun and exciting things to go see and do with the family!  All the memories we will be making - that's one of the fun parts of the holiday season!  And with it, planning is a key to my sanity!
So here is my meal plan for the week:

Grilled Turkey Hash with Red Wine Glaze (using leftover Thanksgiving turkey)
Peas and Carrots
Rosemary Bread

Autumn Sausage Casserole in the Crockpot
Sweet Potato Fries

Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Baby Spinach
Steamed Broccoli

Chili Relleno Casserole
Black Beans

Good ole Fashion Hamburgers on the Grill
Oven Baked Fries

Feeding the Sick - Chicken Barley Soup

Last night, the oldest son woke with a slight fever.  He has been run down all day, literally just resting on the couch and getting the one pleasure of not feeling good - watching television all day long.  Big Guy doesn't feel the greatest either, combination of burning the candle at both ends and probably a few germs.  I had said earlier in the day I was not going to cook a meal - our fridge is loaded with leftovers.  BUT after looking through some of my favorite blogs, I stumbled upon a recipe for Hearty Chicken Barley Soup from Fitfoodista and thought - here is a great way to use leftover turkey and help feed my sick boys!  Chicken broth, carrots, barley - what a great combination!

Recipe from - go check out her blog!

Chicken Barley Soup


  • 1 recipe chicken stock
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 2 large ribs celery sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 3 large button mushrooms, finely diced
  • 2 cups quick cooking barley
  • Salt, pepper, and dried thyme to taste


  1. Place chicken pieces into warm broth and bring to a simmer.
  2. Add carrots, celery, and mushrooms.  Simmer for ten minutes.
  3. Add barley.  Stir and simmer for fifteen more minutes.
  4. Correct seasoning if necessary with salt, pepper, and dried thyme.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Comfort of Home Chicken Pot Pie

Years ago, I began making chicken pie.  Then I met the Big Guy and he requested veggies in his meal, thus it became Chicken Pot Pie.  It is my "go to" meal for potlucks and family gatherings.  If you plan a bit ahead, this is also a great weeknight meal in one dish.
Whenever you see whole chickens, whole cut up chickens or even split chicken breasts on sale, buy several. Then take them straight home and cook them.  Either bring out the stock pot, crock pot, whatever.  You can easily just add water to cover and cook on medium.  To go a step further, cut onion, celery, and carrots along with herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano are good), add to the chicken and water.  Makes a super yummy chicken broth that is easily frozen for later use.  Can we say cost effective??  Once cooled, pick the meat off the bone and put in freezer bags.  Don't forget to label!
Why cook the chicken before you even need them - you will have chicken on hand in the freezer at all times! 
So for Chicken Pot Pie, you would just grab 3 cups of cooked cubed chicken.  Step one complete!
Here's the rest of the recipe!  Hope you enjoy it!

Comfort of Home Chicken Pot Pie

3 cups cooked chicken
2 cups chicken broth
1 can cream of chicken soup
8 oz frozen veggies (soup veggies or peas, carrots, and corn)
1 1/2 cups allpurpose flour
1 cup milk
1 cup melted butter

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Using a 9X12 Baking dish, spread chicken to cover bottom of pan.  In separate bowl, mix chicken broth and cream of chicken soup together.  Pour evenly over chicken.  Pepper and salt according to taste.  Spread frozen veggies over chicken and broth mixture.  In another dish, mix together flour, milk, and melted butter.  Pour over veggies and chicken mixture.  Bake 35-45 min till golden brown and bubbly!  Enjoy!

Friday, November 26, 2010

What to do with all those leftovers!

So Thanksgiving is now over.  You've had your obligatory turkey sandwhich today.  Maybe you enjoyed a ham biscuit as most of my household did this morning.  Are you looking forward to another turkey sandwhich or ham sandwhich?  I could easily enjoy a turkey sandwhich for many days to come.  But my family would not.  So what to do with those extra mashed potatoes, dressing, gravy and turkey?
Here's some ideas!
Turn the turkey and cranberry sauce into an appetizer with Turkey Cranberry Pinwheels.  Our cranberry sauce made by my sister in law is chunky and would be perfect for these pinwheels.

Turkey Vegetable Soup with Stuffing Dumplings - perfect for using the turkey and stuffing!

And why not change a side dish of mashed potatoes into Potato Croquettes!

Here is the ultimate way to use complete leftovers - Thanksgiving Leftovers Casserole where you essentially layer stuffing, vegetables, turkey, with cream of mushroom soup and bake!

Have another idea?  Share!

North Carolina's Favorite Sweet Potato Pie Autumn Food Day 20

One of the fabulous things about Thanksgiving is being able to sample many and I mean MANY desserts!  I had a bite of Coconut Cream Pie, Great Pumpkin Cake, Fudge Brownies, Grape Pie, Pound Cake, Coconut Macaroons, and a super delicious Sweet Potato pie.  I love sweets!  If I could not eat sweets, I could be the size I was in high school in a heartbeat!  But I do, so I'm not.  So I take a bite of each to enjoy but not over indulge (and be miserable!).  One dessert that I did have an entire slice of was my Aunt's Sweet Potato Pie.  Technically, it could be called Pumpkin Pie as she made it with pumpkin versus sweet potatoes.  It was so good.  And just enough different that I had to ask, "What did you put in it?"  And the secret was vanilla pudding mix!  So of course, I had to come home and google to find the recipe even faster than she could copy and mail it to me!
This pie was thick and creamy, more than a normal pumpkin pie.  I'm now wanting a piece of it just thinking about it!

An original recipe prepared specifically for the North Carolina SweetPotato Commission by Marianne Langan.

North Carolina's Favorite Sweet Potato Pie

2 1/4 cups cooked mashed sweet potatoes
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup packaged french vanilla instant pudding
3/4 cup evaporated milk
2 large eggs, at room temperature
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 (9-inch) unbaked pie shell
  1. In a large bowl combine all ingredients and beat at medium speed until well blended. Spread evenly into unbaked pie shell.
  2. Bake at 450°F (230°C) for 10 minutes.
  3. Reduce temperature to 350°F (175°C) and bake for 40 minutes longer or until set. Cool on wire rack.
  4. If desired, garnish with whipped cream, raspberries and mint leaves.
Makes 8 servings.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Let us give Thanks! Turkey Day 2010

The big day has arrived!  Thanksgiving! This is my favorite holiday.  It's like Christmas without the pressure of the presents.  Even though we have to buy few compared to many others, I always want the recipient to love their gift.  Not just like it.  Thus bringing undue pressure and stress upon myself.
But for Thanksgiving, there are no presents.  Just food and fellowship of family and friends.  And I love all the preparing and cooking (have you noticed!).
This year we even did special napkins and cut out placemats.  Teen had discovered these adorable embroidery patterns so we bought simple muslin fabric in white (our tablecloth is white).  She has spent the past week in her spare time embroidering these cute leaves with happy faces on the napkins.  I am taking the "no-sew" path due to time constraints making good use of fuseable webbing.
Our placemats are colored burlap material that we literally just cut out a placemat using an existing one as a pattern.  No sewing as I am planning them to be a one time use.  They are fall colors to set off the napkins - deep red, brown and orange.
Adding one more touch to our table, the Boys used their fingers and printed little turkeys on placecards that will stand at each plate with the help of wine corks thanks to a sweet friend.
And our menu for the evening:

Bread Cornucopia filled with Cheeses for appetizer
Good Eats Roast Turkey
Mashed Velvet Potatoes
Smithfield Ham
Butternut Squash
Steamed Green Beans
Collard Greens
Dinner Rolls
Oyster Dressing
Cranberry Relish
Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake Pie
Fruit Pie

So far, I have the Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake Pie made, Sister in law is doing the other and several of the dishes.  Turkey is Brining!  First time ever trying this method - cross your fingers and hope over 2000 reviews are true!  Oysters in downstairs fridge - bread will be cubed and left out in the morning.

And for the faint of heart or belly - this is the second rodeo of the day!  Lunch is at my Mother's where I am supplying the Great Pumpkin Cake, Green Bean Casserole, Deviled Eggs, and Acorn Squash with Fruit Stuffing.  I truly love Thanksgiving!
Have a wonderful and thankful day!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Balls Balls and more Balls! Sausage Balls Galore!

Sausage Balls!  Why do we not make sausage balls more often!  Every holiday comes around and the Big Guy requests sausage balls.  Some of tonight's baking will head to the Big Guy's office in the morning for their Thanksgiving celebration.  The rest will be enjoyed by family and friends over the next few days.
THREE pounds of sausage - regular, hot and sage.  All blended together with Bisquick and Cheddar Cheese.  Sausage balls are definitely a "hands on" activity!  Pull off the rings and get your hands dirty to blend all the ingredients.  Roll up sausage balls a bit smaller than a golf ball.  Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.  YUM!
Here's the complete recipe -

Monday, November 22, 2010

Acorn Squash Ravioli Autumn Foods Day 19

I HAVE to find a meal to have this dish!  It just sounds so full of fresh flavor.  Acorn Squash Ravioli from The Garden Apartment.  She makes it seem so simple as well.  And you can WOW your family this weekend with this dish an appetizer or maybe for a delightful dinner after all the turkey is gone!  Ah, I am staring at these beautiful acorn squash sitting on my kitchen counter and dreaming of what recipe will honor them!

Shepherd's Pie - one of the most perfect comfort foods!

These past few days have been crazy busy for us, going here and there, add in a few little home projects I created for myself.  Top it all off with planning for extra company for the weekend and hosting Thanksgiving dinner for family.  So my menu planning has been out the window it seems!
So tonight's dinner had to be easy, fast and simple, Shepherd's Pie!  And it was all three of that plus delicious flavor!  And good for you!  I literally walked in the door at 6:00pm this evening and began cooking dinner.  We sat down for dinner at 7!  20 minutes prep time (add a few more for my little interruptions ;)) and 20 minutes for cooking time.  I added salads and bread.  All of our veggies were in the entree.
It was so yummy, here is how few leftovers we had!  Suppose to serve 6 - 2 of our 5 were little eaters tonight so truly say 4 adults eating!

Busy as a Bee!!!

I seem to be as busy as a bee with no computer time here lately!  But I vow to you, I'll be back on today with the week's menu and Thanksgiving plans!  So tune back in!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Finally made it! Chicken and White Bean Stuffed Peppers

With a change in the plans this week, painters being in the house one day ALL day, going out to eat, I finally was able to make the Chicken and White Bean Stuffed Peppers.  YUM!  A winner declared the Teen!  The boys would not stop eating it!  I was looking forward to many leftovers - not the case.  I have one lunch left out tonight's dinner! 
This meal was also super easy.  I pulled out frozen chicken that had been leftover from a previous week's meal of Herb Garden Chicken in the Slow Cooker.  Sauteed 1/2 red pepper, chopped onion, and cilantro.  Added the chicken, cumin, and Cannelloni Beans.  Cooked in broth till thick.  Stuffed my peppers - I used 3 green, 2 yellow, an orange and the tiny half of the red pepper.  Baked in 1 cup of chicken broth at 350 degrees for 40 min (a bit longer than the recipe suggested).  Top with cheese.  Allow to melt.
I cooked rice in chicken broth.   With the rice cooked, I heated thoroughly with several spoonfuls of salsa.  Not a bite was left!
Two big thumbs up for this meal!

Friday, November 19, 2010

A New Twist to an Old Classic Autumn Foods Day 18

Photo property of
Pumpkin Pie.  Pretty much a staple on any table at the holidays.  For years, my grandmother would make the pumpkin pie.  It was fabulous.  Teen loves pumpkin pie. 
Well, I was tickled when I found this New Twist to the Old Classic - Pumpkin Streusel Pie.  And don't be intimidated by the fancy smancy leaf pattern encasing the pie crust.  All you need is a cookie cutter and you're in business!  And if you bake it let me know what you think!

Edible Cornucopia - Who would have thought!

This is just way too cool! (although I have recently learned "cool" is very "old school" thus putting me in the OLD category).  But it is just WAY TOO COOL!  An Edible decoration.  Duel purposes!  Can it get any better than that?  Oh yeah, a Teen who wishes to make it! Yahoooooo!  Joy Joy!
Paper Plate and Plane is a blog you will get lost in - she is just so neat with her ideas.  If you do nothing else (after looking at this Cornucopia), check out the Candy Corn Harvest Treat Boxes.  Great idea, just great!
So with some butter, whole wheat flour, hot water, salt and dough, you can create an Edible Cornucopia.  Now why would you want to do this?  Well, when you start hearing "Is dinner ready yet?" or "When are we going to eat?"  Just pull out the Edible Cornucopia that you have stuffed with cheese and grapes (perfect for the budget as well), and tell your family to enjoy!  They eat the bread of the cornucopia with the cheese and grapes.  Perfection!  AND they literally eat the plate clean!  Got to love that!

Forget what the menu said! Lamb Chops instead!

Started this post Wed evening, and well between computer battery dying, painters being here (and us not), and well life!  Sorry for the delay!

We had a change of plans in our menu today.  Just happened.  But it was SO YUMMY!  Again, let me remind you, I did not grow up eating lamb.  For that matter, I would never have known how to cook it.  Lamb is primarily eaten in the European side of the world.  If you have ever visited Europe, skip ordering a steak.  Not the same as our beef here in the USA.  But think about it, when images of Scotland and Ireland farmers pop in your head, don't you see a man walking beside a collie wearing a cable knit sweater, herding sheep and lamb?  The terrain overseas is more fitting for the raising of lamb.  We here in the good 'ole US of A raise cattle and chickens historically.
So Big Guy grilled Lamb Chops on the grill, 8-9 minutes each side.  This cooked the chops to a medium rare.  Oh so tasty!  I would almost say better than say....almost.  The chops had been marinated all afternoon in a mixture of rosemary, vinegar, oil, mustard, garlic, and a bit of honey.  They were bursting with flavor!
Now the chops were great.  But my favorite dish tonight was the Rice Pilaf.  This was the first item cleared off of both boys' plates tonight.  The Two year old only wanted rice and more rice.  My favorite rice (at the moment) is Jasmine Rice.  The smell of Jasmine rice - ah, it makes the house sing!

See I love it so much I am even showing you my half empty bag!  So good!  And cooking it in chicken broth with sauteed orange peppers, garlic, and celery - perfection!  I can't wait for leftovers tomorrow with Black Bean Salad for lunch!
We rounded dinner out with steamed asparagus and hollandaise sauce.  And I'm not too proud to say, I used a packet to make the sauce.  Remember that convenience factor????
McCormick makes life easy!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mango Tango - Tropical Paradise in a Muffin!

The house smelled like a tropical paradise today as I baked super ripe mangoes into delicious muffins!  This was the perfect recipe to use the fruit.  I altered the Mango Nut Bread recipe a little.  I had two ripe mangoes and a ripe papaya.  So I peeled each, tossing them into the blender to puree.  And my pantry was missing coconut and nuts so I just omitted them from the recipe.  I did add a handful of golden raisins to the batter.  I have notice my kids eat muffins better than breads so I made the batter in muffin tins baking for about 20 minutes.  Big Guy even commented "I hope they taste as good as they smell", and they did!  I even felt better knowing I had used half all purpose flour and half whole wheat!

If you need to escape the crowds...

If you are like me and have a strong aversion to shopping in large crowds and avoid "Black Friday" shopping at all cost, here's another idea!  Hit the grocery store!  The Kitchn (yes, I spelled it correctly for their website) gives a list of the 10 Things to Buy in the Next 60 Days to Save you Money.  All of which makes perfect sense as people are baking goodies for parties, gifts, and overall eating more.  So if you are looking for great deals, hit the grocery store instead of the toy store on Black Friday!  I would enjoy it so much more! *wink*

Cilantro, Black Beans and Peppers - what a marriage!

I love cilantro.  Period.  So much I stopped at my grocer on the way on home today at lunch just to buy a bunch.  I was in the mood for some tasty Black Bean Salad.  And I needed cilantro.  We can grow cilantro on the deck for about a month during the summertime.  After that, the heat just dries it up - literally.  I have intentions of growing cilantro in these cute little terra cotta pots at my kitchen window but the plan has yet to be executed. 
And I don't think I was the only one in the house today loving cilantro and the Black Bean Salad.  I wrapped a serving of it in a whole wheat tortilla for my lunch and shared over half of it with the Two year old (who had ALREADY eaten His lunch!).  Then Big Guy enjoyed a bowl as well.
Super great lunch.  Healthy for you.  Fast to prepare.  Beautiful colors.  And leftovers are even better.  Eat with chips, as a burrito or a side. I only used yellow and orange peppers and omitted tomatoes.  It's even better if you can make it the night before and let the flavors "marry" together. Try it - you might like it!

It started with One

About two years ago, a dear friend (as well as my hairdresser) was diagnosed with Celiac Disease (CD).  I had never heard of it at that time.  Since then, it has become as common to hear as vegetarian.
Celiac Disease is an auto immune condition that attacks the small intestine when the person ears gluten.  Simple enough, right - just don't eat gluten.  Ha!  Gluten is the protein in grains - wheat.  So just avoid bread, right?  Gluten is hidden in soy sauce, soups, puddings, salad dressings, just to name a few.  Trying to figure out  what to avoid to eat is quite a bit a detective work.  Go read about it - it might just help you or someone you know!
Finding this great blog, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef (used to just be Gluten Free Girl then the Chef came along, go read about it!), I thought how great!  Not only does she make gluten-free recipes, they sound so tasty!  And then she posted a Gluten Free Thanksgiving.  These recipes sounded so scrumptious.  Scroll through to the bottom and you will find other recipes on that post that readers and other bloggers have submitted!  Wow!  I want to make these!  Chocolate Biscotti from Not without Salt.  Warm Pumpkin Polenta with Goat Cheese from Zest Bakery.  Pumpkin Strata from Kitchen Gadget Girl.  And many many more.
So take a few minutes to be tantalized with these recipes.  Learn something new today.  It might be helpful to you or someone you know.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

You had me at Pumpkin - These are two cute!!!

I really was going to bed.  Truly I was.  Like an hour ago.  But a click here, a click there and I was sucked back into the world wide web.  But I am so glad I stayed.  Even if I have to have an extra cup of coffee in the morning.  And if only I had one of these to put in it...

Photo property of fudge ripple - check out the blog!
 When I saw these Pumpkin Spice Cocoa on a Broomstick, I just stopped.  And stared.  And began drooling....  Seriously, did you see it?  Did you read how easy it was to make?  Did you dream of sticking one in your coffee in the morning as I did?  Oh my - now I have to sleep and literally dream of these all night! 
If you didn't click on the recipe above, shame on you.  It truly will make your night or day!  YUM!

Fruit Stuffed Baked Acorn Squash Autumn Foods Day 18

This recipe makes me want to leave right now - late at night - and go buy an acorn squash!  Really, it sounds so good and so easy!  And it would be another first for me. I have never eaten acorn squash.  I think they are beautiful.  But for some reason have never baked one!  Well, this year, I am changing that!  Might just add it to tomorrow's menu.  Just think I will!  I can't wait to try this Fruit Stuffed Baked Acorn Squash.  Chopped dried fruit - dates, cherries, raisins - diced apple and pear - oh my!  Drizzled with lemon juice, brown sugar, butter and cinnamon - Bonus!  Okay, dinnertime tomorrow - hurry up!

The Big Guy did it again!

Well, Big Guy did it again.  But.... it truly was okay.  One (of many) keys to happiness is to accept change.  Especially when it ultimately makes my life easier.
So, Big Guy called  around lunch and the conversation went like this:
Big Guy - "What have you fixed the kids for lunch?"  (extras would be his lunch)
Me - "Pizza is cooked, salad to be made"
Big Guy - "I'm thinking hot dogs.  So I'll stop at the grocery store for buns.  Do you need anything?"
Me - (well he did just ask, right?) "A turkey - if you spend a certain amount of money, it is super cheap per pound.  I have a few items to help add up your total."  (although the man did not need my help - he can spend money well in a grocery store).

So along with the items I requested, one additional purchase was a pork tenderloin.  And so sweetly, my dear husband requested BBQ for dinner tonight!  How could I refuse!  Especially when I still needed ground turkey (I was substituting it for the beef in our Cabbage Roll Casserole tonight) - so NO trip to the other grocery store needed from me!  Yahoo!
Quick check on the good 'ole world wide web gave me just what I was looking for - an easy recipe for BBQ in the crockpot.  Found it!  I cut about 1/3 of the tenderloin, popped it into the crockpot along with spices to make a rub, Basting sauce, and some water.  Flipped it on high and walked away!  Don't you just love the crock pot!
To round out our meal, I needed quick vegetables and thought it was perfect timing to try out this Fried Cabbage recipe.  Don't be thinking it is deep fried cabbage - more like sauteed.  I altered the recipe by sauteing the chopped cabbage for several minutes in a cast iron pan with extra virgin olive oil.  Crushed already cooked bacon from yesterday's breakfast (about 4 slices).  Tossed the bacon in the pan.  Seasoned with fresh ground pepper and a couple of dashes of garlic salt.  Totally cooking time, less than 10 min!  Delicious!
And to go with the flow a bit more, when I opened my pantry looking for BBQ sauce, I was like Old Mother Hubbard, the cupboard was bare of bottled sauce.  No fear - I found a simple recipe for wonderful tasting BBQ sauce.  I doubt if I will be buying another bottle anytime soon!
After 4 hours of cooking the pork, I removed it from the crockpot.  Emptied the liquid from the crock.  Shredded the pork using two forks.  It fell apart easily!  Added it back to the crock along with the BBQ sauce.
Added buttered corn and baked beans.  Simple and fast meal

Monday, November 15, 2010

Forget Starbucks! Pumpkin Spiced Latte right at home! Autumn Foods Day 18

I along with many others celebrate the day every year that Starbucks brings back their fabulous Pumpkin Spice Lattes.  I love them so much the Teen has found an embroidery pattern that depicts I heart Pumpkin Lattes!  all with a cute coffee cup and a pumpkin.  She is waiting for me to decide what I want it embroidered on. 
The only down side to Starbucks is the cost and the calories.  So I was quite tickled the other evening when I found how to make my own Pumpkin Spiced Latte right at home thanks to Skinny taste!  And to know it starts so easily with Pumpkin Butter made it even better!  So off to make some Pumpkin Butter of my own, if even just to make Pumpkin Spiced Lattes!

I love nights like this!

Easy meals.  It is what a weeknight meal should be. Period.  Easy to make, easy to clean up after all is said and done.  Quiche, Frittata, Omletes are that kind of meal.  I had originally planned to make a Ham and Cheese Frittata this evening.  I didn't want the crust from a quiche.  Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy the buttery taste of crust.  Just wanted to avoid the extra calories. Then I thought I would just do a crustless quiche.  My Teen loves quiche.  Crazy - she doesn't like to eat eggs in the morning.  But she gets super excited when she sees quiche on the menu. 
I learned something today as well.  There is more of a difference between a quiche and a frittata than just the crust.  A quiche is a few eggs, a little cream and "goodies" baked in a pie shell.  A frittata is like an omelet, just more servings.  Starts out on the stovetop, more eggs to liquid ratio, then finished cooking in the oven.  All kinds of goodies can be added to either. Think of either meal as sort of "clean out the fridge" kind of night.  Asparagus and Ham.  Potato, Bacon, and Ham.  Spinach and Cheese.  Broccoli and Cheese.  Ham, Peppers and Cheese.  Crab and Cheese.  Tomatoes, Peppers and Spinach.  Substitute the cheeses - colby jack, swiss, feta.  See, just use what's on hand.
So tonight, I pulled out Ham, Onion, Spinach and Colby Jack Cheese.  I choose to do a quiche version instead of a frittata as I wanted the 25 min free while it was cooking to play with the kids. 
Steamed diced carrots, heated leftover rolls, and made a salad.  Super easy!
Here's how I threw together our dinner tonight:
1/4 cup diced onion
1 1/2 cup fresh spinach
6 oz deli ham, diced
6 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup skim milk
2 tbs flour
1 cup shredded colby jack cheese, divided
Seasonings - I use a small premade grinder of country herbs -rosemary, sage, kosher salt, thyme

Heat a tablespoon olive oil in medium size pan.  Saute onions till soft.  Add spinach.  Cook for 3-4 minutes on medium heat.  Mix beaten eggs, milk, and flour.  Add spinach, onions, and ham.  Mix well.  Add 1/2 cup of cheese.  Pour into pie dish.  Spread remaining 1/2 cup of cheese over egg mixture.  Add a tablespoon or two of seasonings to taste.  Bake 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Perfectly Pumpkin Dip! Autumn Foods Day 17

The simplest things are sometimes the best.  Truly, an emptied dishwasher, Big Guy going to Costco (and unpacking everything!), a good cup of coffee - all are some of the finer things in life, all simple.  And sometimes it's the simplest of meals and recipes that can make your day!  When I found this recipe for Pumpkin Dip at My Blessed Life, it sounded so simple but perfect!  What a great snack for the kids or even a fun hands on dessert!  Add some apple slices and it might even fit into my new found eating habits!  YUM!

You know the old saying....

Don't Grocery while you are hungry!  Well, don't plan the week's menu either!  I decided to take charge of my body today and let it know "I" am boss.  No more eating whatever, whenever. So I have jumped back on board of counting numbers - a system that worked well for me several years ago.  And I am having to remember, it's a good thing to be hungry every once in a while.
Of course, this just meant all the recipes I looked at for the menu this week, sounded extra tasty!  Here's my attempt to make the whole family happy!

Ham and Cheese Frittata (a crust less quiche)
Steamed Carrots

Cabbage Roll Casserole
Roasted Cauliflower

Baked Fish with Tomatoes, Herb, and Feta
Steamed Broccoli

Spinach Lasagna Rolls

Chicken and White Bean Stuffed Peppers

Enjoy!  I know we will!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I never knew this!

I still can't believe I never knew this!  Seems pretty elementary to me now that I know it.  I'm sure the rest of the world was totally aware....... but I had been in the dark for all these years.
Thanks to my wonderful friend over at South of the Fork, I was able to strike from my daily to do list early in the morning "learn something new today" the other day.  Just about first thing at that!  Keep in mind, old habit are hard to break and I have yet to actually use my knowledge this week.  But it is sitting back there in my brain, hoping one day I'll remember it.
Such a simple concept, How to Properly Cut an Onion!  The Art of Doing Stuff saved me from having to convince Big Guy to send me to cooking school for this one proper technique!  I still don't know how to properly flambe something so maybe that will get me some cooking classes where I can flip, and toss, and flambe!

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling Autumn Foods Day 16

Sweet Potato Rolls - ever tried them?  I have not.  I really enjoyed the Pumpkin Cornbread so Sweet Potato Rolls from Coconut & Lime sound delicious to me!  Bonus - sweet potatoes are a super price right now (farm stands have them $.39 per pound locally).  AND they are full of good for you stuff!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pumpkin, Cranberry, and Collards???? Autumn Foods Day 15

For most, Autumn Foods bring about thoughts of pumpkins, cranberries, butternut squash.  But Collard Greens????  Here in the South, most definitely!  Collard Greens have become a Thanksgiving tradition for us.  Even though I was raised in the South, my first taste of Collard Greens was about 6 Thanksgiving meals ago.  A friend of Big Guy's family brought them and oh my, they were delicious!  Not boiled for 6 hours but she sauteed them for about 20 minutes.  With several dashes of pepper vinegar, I was in love!  Since that time, we have had collards off and on.  We currently have several plants growing nicely in our winter garden.  There are several different ways to cook collard greens - pretty much depends on your taste.  I use bacon typically or cooked ham to season mine with as well as garlic and cooked onion.  Our family likes them cooked for about 20-30 minutes, often in a wok. Several dashes of red pepper flakes and pepper vinegar later and Big Guy is a happy man!
And Collard Greens are so full of nutrition, they are definitely worth trying!  And supposedly, eating Collard Greens on New Year's Day will bring you money throughout the year!
Check out several of these recipes and try your hand at these!
Collard Greens by Paula Deen (she only uses 1 tablespoon of butter for this dish!)
Sauteed Collard Greens
Collard Greens by the Amateur Gourmet - bonus of what to do with leftover greens!

More than just cooking in your kitchen!

What do 6 pair of hands and Halloween candy mean in your kitchen?  For me, it was our homeschool group activity day - "Candy Experiments!"  Cooking is science.  You follow a recipe - a procedure.  You have a hypothesis - what you hope the meal is going to become.  The result is the data and the comments could be considered the conclusion.  Right?  I have a friend who spends all day long following recipes making all kinds of concoctions for scientists.  The other day she mentioned she had even used Coconut Milk - but not in a soup recipe like the Curry Chicken Rice Soup. 
Are Sweethearts Candy an acid or a baseWill Nerds Candy dissolve faster in hot or cold waterCan you make glue from Milk?  Can you be a spy with lemon juice?  These were just some of the questions we answered this afternoon.
Bonus - the very first experiment the group conducted was baking and following a recipe.  The chosen recipe, The absolute BEST brownies!  The kids measured, cracked and stirred, learning to follow directions.  Luckily they didn't leave out the chocolate!  The results were heavenly!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Massaging the Chicken at 7 AM!!! Yikes!

This is a crock pot kind of day.  In perspective, most days are a crock pot kind of day.  Walk back in the house in the evening or finishing up activities at home with dinner complete in the crockpot!  But planning this week's menu, I knew the rush of today thus Herb Garden Chicken in the Slow Cooker was a must!  So I am prepping the bird to place into the crockpot, following the instructions  - remove the skin, rub oil and herbs over chicken.  I can just imagine Julia Child in my head speaking in her voice "Now you must massage the chicken!"
So I am super excited to walk back in the door this evening and taste this very simple dinner - ready when I need it to be!!!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cranberrylicous! Autumn Food Day 14

Cranberries.  I always think of BOGS when I think of cranberries.  And those two guys standing in a cranberry bog for that juice commercial.  Also wonder what it would be like to stand there with wade boots on with millions of cranberries floating all around?  What about swimming with cranberries???  OK, enough with my crazy thoughts...
So Teen had found a recipe she was wishing to bake.  I swear, her baking is going to keep those baby pounds on my hips.  I have NO willpower!  Oh well!  So we bought fresh cranberries earlier this week and had all the other ingredients on hand.  This evening as dinner wrapped up so quickly - got to love a fast meal! - we baked!  Well, technically the Teen and the two boys baked.  Of course that meant flour and sugar made it's way on my nice and newly cleaned kitchen floor.  Memories in the making, right?  But the Teen was very patient with her brothers as they made Cranberry Cake with Warm Vanilla Butter Sauce.  The butter sauce has not been made yet.  But the cakes are out of the oven and we even had a taste test to insure they were yummy!  Which they were!  We will be taking part for lunch with the grandparents tomorrow along with the butter sauce.  Can't wait to try them with it!

So I had this conversation.....

I had this conversation today.  With a crustacean.  A shrimp to be exact.  Tonight's dinner was planned to be Creamy Shrimp Linguine.  Therefore after bouncing our way through a 4 year old birthday party - literally - we stopped by the grocery store for the shrimp.  Walked up to the produce department ready to order.  Now let me first tell you, walking up and being decisive on WHAT and how MUCH to buy from the butcher and seafood department previously intimidated me.  They were never mean, always very helpful and friendly but it was venturing into the unknown.  What kind of cuts or seafood to buy???  Thanks to Big Guy, I'm much more comfortable with the entire process.  So I quickly found my way to the produce department. We were rushing from point D to E at this part of our day!  I knew I needed a pound a shrimp.  Ready to order but WAIT - those little shrimps are product of Thailand.  For various reasons, we went do not knowingly purchase seafood from the waters of Asia.  Quick look right and there were shrimp, wild caught, and product of the USA.  And they were priced right!
I bought a pound and went about the rest of our activities.  When I began to prep dinner, I had the conversation that went a bit like this....

"Hey little shrimpie."
No comment from the shrimp
"You're a quiet guy"
Waited for a response.
No response......
So as the Queen of Hearts said......
Off with his head!

Sorry if you don't care for seafood.... My apologies!
Once the shrimp was cleaned, I tossed a little Olive Oil and a couple Tablespoons of butter into a pan.  Heated on Medium heat.  Added some minced garlic.  Tossed in the shrimp.  Cooked on one side about 1-2 minutes.  Flipped them to cook on other side for about 2 minutes.  Shrimp is done!

I followed the rest of the recipe for the Creamy Shrimp Linguine, except I used half and half versus whipping cream as that was what I had in the fridge.
AWESOME dinner!  This is definitely a keeper.  Took longer for the pasta to cook than anything else. Great taste and very quick!  Got to love that!

Doesn't this sound DIVINE!!! Autumn Foods Day 14

Wouldn't this be great for dinner tonight?  Pumpkin Soup with Toasted Walnuts.  Add a Salad and some bread (store bought is perfectly fine!).  Dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes.  Feeling kind of like Rachel Ray and her 30 Minute meals.  Now that I have this recipe, I will be finding a meal to incorporate it for us to try.  I might just taste the advice on the recipe and use it as a starter for Thanksgiving.  Sounds fancy, starting dinner with soup.  Maybe I'll don black and white clothing and even use a tray for serving everyone..... think I'll earn a tip????
Let me know is you try this recipe.  Opposite of what I think of when one says Pumpkin - visions of pumpkin pie, roll, and muffins - all sweet.   So it sounds like a yummy change!

It's coming Soon....

Thanksgiving will be here in........ how many days??? What 3 weeks from tomorrow?  The grocery sales already have "Thanksgiving" foods on sale - but where do I store TWO turkeys for 2 1/2 weeks till they need to be thawed.  Even at $.39 a pound???? And why two turkeys (say that 10 times fast) - two turkeys, two turkeys, ok I can't even type them correctly!  We will have a Family luncheon at my Mother's for lunch then Big Guy's family will be at our home for dinner and the weekend.  This is my FAVORITE holiday.  LOVE it.  It's like Christmas without the pressure of present buying.  BUT the pressure of finding storage for TWO TURKEYS just might put me over the top this week!!!!
So are you thinking of Thanksgiving yet?  Am I the only crazy person starting to plan her menu?  Will you have a traditional Turkey and dressing kind of meal or do you prepare something different????
By the way, the above is my dream picture of my Turkey being placed on my table - doesn't look quite that good!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Today is going to be a Great day!

I woke at 4 this morning thinking ah, I get to sleep in today........ WAIT, no I don't!  The window guys would be here bright and early putting in new windows (YEAH!!!), playschool for the boys, taking the teen to a resale shop locally (so much easier to shop without 2 toddlers playing hide and seek in the clothes!), pick up boys from playschool, NAPTIME (aka laundry time), Letterboxing with a homeschool group, teen off to babysit, pick teen up from babysitting, Oh yeah - Feed the Family!!!
So for my own sanity, I HAVE to plan out our weekly menu or literally with a day like today, we would live off sandwiches or take out.  Neither of which is appealing all the time.  Don't get me wrong, I like take out but not everyday and not at the cost for a family of 5 eaters.
When I looked at tonight's dinner plans, I just breathed a sigh of relief.  You know why?  Because it is Fajita night!  Do you know how easy this meal is going to be???  Especially when the steak is frozen from a previous meal.  Believe it or not, but we had leftover steak one night.  Like a WHOLE steak (actually 2).  The boys must not have been super duper carnivores that night.  So instead of leaving them in the fridge thinking we would eat them over the next meal or two, I wrapped them up and froze them with this meal in mind!  So in 20 minutes or less tonight, we will have steak fajitas with peppers and onions, taco rice, and black beans on the table.  Super easy!  I'll cook the rice this afternoon, adding the onions and seasoning (a few dashes of dried taco mix) right before dinner.  Chop some lettuce, tomato, cut into an avocado.  See easy!
Now to enjoy the day!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Carved Squash Centerpiece Not quite Edible Autumn Food Day 13

OK - this isn't something to eat but definitely one of the neatest ideas I have ever seen with a Butternut Squash.  Paper, Plate, and Plane posted this idea for carving Butternut Squash into beautiful flowers.  This is now on my list for Thanksgiving dinner.  And they truly look so easy!  If you give them a try, let me know!!!

It was one of those meals.....

Photo from Taste of Home
Tonight's dinner sounded wonderful - at least on paper.  It was one of those meals that invoked thoughts of comfort food - Beef and Mushroom Roll with Gravy, Mashed Potatoes (change from the menu, didn't purchase sweet potatoes today), Peas and Carrots, and salad.  It even looked pretty.  But it did not WOW me like I was expecting it to do so.  The breading that encased the mushroom gravy beef mixture was eh, so-so.  As the Big Guy stated, it was a poor man's version of Beef Wellington.  (I made that once, a lot of fuss and trouble over a meal that was also "ok".)  This recipe was one I had plucked from a large assortment of Taste of Home my Mother had saved for me to flip through.  So I now have one less recipe in my stack of plenty.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Plan this Week is.... Menu for Week of Nov 8

This week, planning dinner was more centered on how busy our afternoons were scheduled vs what's in the freezer or pantry!  Remember, I plan therefore to make my life easier!

Beef and Mushroom Roll (a recipe I snatched from a magazine) sounds delish!
Roasted Sweet and Red Potatoes
Steamed Green Beans

Steak Fajitas with peppers and onions
Black Beans
Taco Rice

Creamy Shrimp Linguine
Garlic Bread

Herb Garden Chicken in the Crockpot
Steamed Broccoli

Good old Fashioned Hamburgers on the Grill
Oven Baked Fries

Saturday, November 6, 2010

It's the Great Pumpkin Cake Charlie Brown! Autumn Foods Day 13

Just put this in the oven and am so excited to have dessert tonight!  The Great Pumpkin Cake courtesy of The Sweet Life.  I spied this the other day and thought - YES!  Perfect dessert for company this evening.  It will make our meal "Pumpkin Perfect" (how cute it that!).  This cake was described as "Pumpkin Pie but only better!"  What's not to like!!!  So I just whipped this up, super easy, and slid it into the oven to bake for about an hour!  The house smells like Autumn now!
Will serve it with Whipped Cream dolloped on top!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Pumpkin Perfect for Weekend Mornings Autumn Food Day 12

The weekends should mean making breakfast with the family.  Note I said with - if they can walk, they can help - and they love to do so!  And the memories you will be making!
How perfect would it be to make Pumpkin Pancakes this weekend!  Thanks to The Sweet Life, you can!  No need for Bisquick or any other prepackaged pancake mix.  Don't have buttermilk - easy to remedy!  Add a tablespoon of white vinegar to regular milk about 5 minutes before you need to use it.