Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sweet Potato Pie


Thank you, Patti LaBelle! You've given me something delicious to do with all these extra sweet potatoes!

Typical options for extra sweet potatoes include:

  1. Eating them as leftovers for lunch.
  2. Sealing them up in Tupperware, placing them in the back of the fridge, and forgetting about them.
  3. See above.
Not any more, friends! Before Thanksgiving I was watching the TODAY show at the gym and saw that Walmart was sold out of Patti LaBelle's Sweet Potato Pie due to a viral YouTube video and a sweet potato shortage. Amazing! As I treadmilled my way through the interview, I knew I HAD to make this pie. I mean, people were trying to sell it on Ebay for $12,000! 


I had never tasted sweet potato pie, as I am relatively new to the sweet potato scene. We never ate them growing up, not even the kind with marshmallows. When my husband and I were dating, I spent Thanksgiving dinner with his family. It was a good time. It turned out I liked his family a lot, and we even got laughing so hard that his brother squirted milk out his nose! (He'll not like that I told you that.) I also found out that not only did they eat sweet potatoes, but they were also my husband's favorite part of holiday meals. The preparation was simple- just baked until very soft, peeled, and then slathered with butter. 

I'm now converted to the sweet potato. I love them with melted butter, and stuffed with pulled pork. But in a pie? I'm happy to tell you, yes!  You should consider leaving the pumpkin pie behind and going straight for the Sweet Potato Pie.

Patti LaBelle's recipe is amazing. I'm not a fan of making pie crust, but her crust is simple and delicious. Flaky, tender, and easy to put together, I'd make it again in a heartbeat. I used Butter Flavored Crisco just like she reccomends, and it worked a treat! The bottom of the pie crust is coated in melted butter and brown sugar, which gives a divine depth to the pie, and then the filling. The filling!  It is moist, creamy, and close to heavenly. I love the equal parts of cinnamon and nutmeg. It almost feels like pumpkin pie, but the spices are better, and it is smoother and more satisfying. I topped my pie with whipped cream and started singing Lady Marmalde at the top of my Little Red Hen lungs. It was beautiful! 

(The pie was beautiful, not my singing. Just to clarify. And I wasn't actually singing. More smiling loudly and thinking about singing, which is best for everyone. I was also singing James Taylor's "Sweet Potato Pie" in my mind, too, because once I tasted it I was like, "Yeah. I'd write a song about Sweet Potato Pie. I get that. That much hotter than a jalapina.")

Make this pie. I know it isn't Thanksgiving, but it is still the holiday season and of course the most logical thing to do with leftover sweet potatoes is make Patti LaBelle's Sweet Potato Pie. Don't condemn your leftovers to a cold and potentially moldy end in the back of the fridge! Give them a second, beautiful chance in the creamiest, dreamiest holiday pie around. 


Patti LaBelle's Sweet Potato Pie

slightly adapted from TODAY show
Ingredients:
For the Pie Crust:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter-flavored Crisco, chilled
  • 1/3 cup ice water
For the Filling:
  • 3 cups orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, mashed
  • 8 tbs butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
Directions:
For the crust: 
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sift the flour and salt into a medium bowl. Cut in chilled Butter-Flavored Crisco with a pastry cutter or fork, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. 
  2. Stirring with fork, gradually add in enough water until dough clumps together (you may need less water). Gather dough up and press into a thick disk. If using previously baked potatoes, form the crust now. If potatoes still need to be cooked, wrap dough in wax paper and refridgerate for up to an hour.
  3. On a lightly floured work space, roll out the dough into a 13 inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. (Honestly, I think my circle was smaller.) Transfer to a 9-inch pie pan, folding the dough to a 1-inch overhang. Flute the dough around the edge of the pan.
  4. Brush inside with some melted butter and about 1/4 cup of the brown sugar, until bottom of the crust is coated. Bake at 400 for about 15 minutes, until crust is set and just beginning to brown. If crust puffs, do not prick it.

For the filling:
  1. Mash peeled baked sweet potatoes with a hand mixer on medium speed. Measure 3 cups and put into a meduim sized bowl. (You can also bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the sweet potatoes, and reduce the heat to medium. Then cook them until tender, about 30 minutes. Rinse with cool water, peel, and mash.)
  2. Add remaining melted butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, granulated sugar, cream, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix on low speed until combined.
  3. Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees. Spread filling into partially baked pie crust and bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 1/2  hours. 
  4. Cool completely on a wire rack and refridgerate until ready to serve. Top with whippped cream.
Bake the bread. Share the slices. 



Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Roasted Garlic


Happy Thanksgiving! I know you all have pies to eat and parades to watch, but just in case you still have a turkey to bake, here's a last minute tip that could change your life.

Roasted Garlic is fragrant, flavorful, and sweeter than unroasted garlic. It can be mashed into a paste which can be easily added to gravies, spreads, vegetables, and you can use it to season your turkey.

I used the recipe below to smother under the skin of my turkey this year. I also added it to my mashed potatoes and my turkey gravy has never turned out better.

So, Happy Thanksgiving, gentle reader! We are so, so blessed.

Roasted Garlic and Garlic Rosemary Spread

Ingredients:
  • 6 heads of garlic, unpeeled
  • 6 tbs olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 tbs fresh chopped rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Chop off top 1/3 of garlic heads. Place cut side up in a small baking dish.
  2. Drizzle olive oil onto garlic. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover dish with foil. 
  3. Roast until garlic is very tender, but not brown, about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Uncover and cool.
  4. Squeeze cloves out of skins until you have 1 cup of garlic cloves. Place in food processor or blender.
  5. Add butter, salt and pepper, and rosemary. Blend until smooth. 
  6. Spread under and on top of turkey before roasting. Add to mashed potatoes, or spread onto fresh rolls.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Bake the bread. Share the slices. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Rosemary Roasted Butternut Squash


Still frantically searching for a delicious side dish for Thanksgiving dinner? No worries! Rosemary Roasted Butternut Squash is simple to make and simply amazing to eat. It will bring color to your table with hardly any effort.

You just peel a butternut squash. The absolute easiest way is to use a vegetable peeler to take off the tough skin. I used to try to hack it off with a knife, and I'm surprised I never needed stitches! Then, slice the squash into 1" thick slices. Drizzle with olive oil, garlic powder, cracked pepper, salt, and fresh rosemary and you're done! Just bake it and you've got something tasty to accompany your dinner.

I make Rosemary Roasted Butternut Squash fairly often. Most recently, I made it for our early Thanksgiving dinner last Sunday. While it is definitely delectable on its own, I've found it is perfect for smashing on a grilled turkey burger, throwing into a spinach salad, and this morning I discovered it is divine on a turkey sandwich made on my Perfect Parker House Rolls. (I knew my braces were getting tightened today, so I ate lunch for breakfast because I knew I wouldn't be able to chew later.)

A high heat for about 20-25 minutes is the best way to roast butternut squash. In a pinch you can cook it at 350 degrees for longer, which is what I had to do on Sunday, but it does tend to dry the squash out. Really though, you should make Rosemary Roasted Butternut Squash because it is awesome!

Rosemary Roasted Butternut Squash

Ingredients:
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and sliced into 1" thick pieces
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • garlic powder
  • chopped fresh rosemary
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 
  2. Place sliced squash on a cookie sheet. Drizzle generously with olive oil.
  3. Sprinkle with seasonings until lightly coated. 
  4. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until fork tender. Serve immediately.


Bake the bread. Share the slices. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Cooking a Turkey is Like Having a Baby: Thanksgiving 2015


Heightened emotions. Stress. Excitement. Family waiting in anticipation. Happy tears. Nervous tears. Tears of frustration. Reading advice. Asking for advice. Second-guessing what you already know. Spending too much. Buying stuff you don't need. Forgetting essentials that you do. Self-doubt and feeling inadequate. Over-confidence. Exquisite joy! Over in moments. Lots of mess to clean up. Exhaustion. Happy exhaustion.The best of times. The worst of times.

Sound familiar?

Yeah, sounds like having a baby, right? I experience all of those emotions over the course of pregnancy and delivery. I love giving birth, and each of my deliveries turned out to be thankfully, uneventful. Three of them were unmedicated. Still, there is always a moment right about transition when I start thinking, "This was a really bad idea." Luckily, my husband is a great coach and I can't dismiss the joy, peace, and satisfaction I feel once I've got that little person in my arms. Happy ending.

However, I was actually describing cooking Thanksgiving dinner for my family; particularly how I feel when I make a turkey.

Weeks in advance I think, "Of course I'll cook the turkey. I've done this multiple times. It'll be easy. I've got this." That sense of uber-confidence lasts until I go to the store to buy the turkey. It is amazing how rows of frozen birds can rob you of your sense of security! How many pounds should I buy? Did I read the promotional ad correctly? Will this really ring up as only $.69 a pound? Why do people buy "self-basting birds?" Do I need an oven bag? Did I buy everything I need for the brine? (Why am I doing a brine?) I hope this sucker thaws in time for baking, unlike last year...

This year we celebrated Thanksgiving early at my house because my in-laws were coming in town anyway to see me perform in my handbell group, and my sister-in-law had just had a baby. I love my house. Built in 1941, it is charmingly cozy with its dark red brick, its built in shelving in the kitchen, and its original pink tile bathroom. It isn't huge though, so guests sleep in the family room, and when all 8 chairs are around the kitchen table, there isn't really room to open the fridge, or stove, or breath too heavily.

You can eat comfortably, but leaving the table is like peeling apart tortillas that have been in the fridge too long. You know how they are all stuck together, but after some bending, plying, and perhaps irritated mutterings you can finally get the things apart without looking too bad? That's leaving the table at my house with 8 adults in the kitchen.

Really though, I love my house and maybe it is because of its age that it feels right to be crammed into a tight space with the delicious aroma of turkey, slightly burnt sweet potatoes, freshly baked rolls, and gravy simmering on the stove. I feel connected to the history of this house, and wonder how may other families made similar memories in this homey space. When my house is filled with the noise of people and holiday food, it feels most like home.

Back to the food...

This year, my friend suggested I brine my turkey using a recipe they've used for years. Ok, I can do this. So, Friday night I played bells and then went to Walmart at 9:30 to make sure I was set up with supplies. Saturday morning we got started around 7:45 with whole wheat buttermilk pancakes for breakfast. I roasted 6 cloves of garlic to make this amazing garlic rosemary butter to smear on the turkey. It is life changing, by the way. Then, I prepped dinner for that night while I was at another performance, Chicken Gyros with homemade tzatziki. I next moved on to making the Muddy Buddies for my No-Bake Muddy Buddies Cheesecake. Then, I made the filling, crust, and cheesecake. I was simultaneously letting the rolls raise for my Perfect Parker House Rolls. Once the rolls were complete, I pulled the turkey out of the fridge. While I let the brine mixture simmer, I started taking  the neck and giblets out of the bird.


That thing had been thawing in the fridge for 6 days. Six. So imagine my angst when I am chiseling out the neck from a frozen turkey cavity with a dull knife while my mother-in-law watches. (She's great and super helpful, by the way, but I start feeling so self-conscious at this point). I'm also wondering,"Where are the dang giblets?!" How about frozen in the neck cavity beneath that frozen turkey skin flap. Once the turkey was pried open, I got out my special brining containers-2 large white trash bags. I had bought them especially for this momentous occasion. I put the trash bags in my canning pot, put the turkey inside, poured the brine on top, (which was lovely, by the way- rosemary, bay leaves, garlic, salt and sugar), and sealed it all up. With rising levels of uncertainty, and a performance to run to, I quickly showered and sprinted out of my house at 5:00, leaving my sainted husband to mow up the leaves in the back yard, and my equally sainted in-laws to keep my darling children alive. Yvonne, my mother-in-law, also peeled and chopped the potatoes, and prepped the sweet potatoes because she's awesome.

Sunday morning came early, and with uncertain excitement. Today's the day! I got out the turkey roaster. I chopped celery, red onion, and carrots to fill the cavity. I checked the clock. 8:00! Its go time! I checked on my brined turkey. It looked surprisingly elegant, covered in bay leaves and rosemary, so I carefully put the turkey into the roasting pan, stuffed the veggies into the cavity, and then tried to spread that delicious garlic butter under the skin of the bird.

Have you tried this before? I swear all that buttery goodness just ended up on my hands and wrists and not on the turkey, like some bizarre, herby hand mask. How do you spread butter or a wet, cold turkey? It doesn't stick! Its like trying to get a two-year-old to sit still in a candy store full of open bins of M&M's. Plus, the skin didn't seem to pull away from the turkey breast at all. What? Finally, I gave up, covered the turkey foil, put on the lid, turned up the roasted to 325 degrees. and went to church. We came home to a house filled with the promising aroma of turkey success.

Around 1:00, with the sweet potatoes and dressing in the oven, it was time to open up the turkey roaster. My first tip off was the clock. My second tip was the smell. Was that a slight burning scent? Gah! I open the turkey and see what can be best described as the burnt and busted-open turkey on National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase. You know, the family is all sitting around the table in happy anticipation and then, smoke! I open the roaster and find the turkey's back bone had broken, and there seemed to be no meat anywhere! "Oh no! I've ruined it! Oh man!" Frantic, I start dousing the carcass with the broth from the bottom of the roaster. While Yvonne consoled me, I continued to groan. My only consolation was that in tasting some of the little dark meat I found, I discovered that it was really good.        -sigh-


I poured the juices from the turkey through a sieve and into a pot to start making the gravy. In a small bowl I whisked together some turkey drippings and flour to make a paste, and them stirred that into the pot of drippings. This became the MOST magical turkey gravy I have ever made, or tasted. Period. I didn't even have to season it, not even with salt. Rosemary and garlic lingered as a light background flavor behind turkey goodness. Well, I figured, we can at least drown the turkey with delicious gravy.

We also made 10 pounds, (no joke), of mashed potatoes. I used some of the garlic rosemary butter in the potatoes, and they were heavenly. Whipped up with more butter, sour cream, and whole milk, these potatoes were light, fluffy, and divine with gravy. My sister-in-law brought an amazing arugula salad from how sweet eats  pomegranates, roasted acorn squash, avocados, cucumbers, and a pomegranate vinaigrette. When the whole spread was on the table, it looked Pinterest worthy. Maybe it would be ok if the turkey was a total bust?

But the turkey...

Remember how there was no meat on that thing? Remember how it was dark and its back was broken? I could find so little meat as I started to carve it. As I turned the turkey over it hit me: (not the turkey). I had baked the thing upside down! Who does that?!?

So, there were copious amounts of white breast meat, and juicy strips of dark meat hiding where I didn't expect it to be. The turkey wasn't too dry, and it tasted wonderfully fresh and herby. Oh, the relief! I piled my serving platter high and delivered to my family the centerpiece of Thanksgiving 2015, which the kids passed up for raspberries and Martinelli's.

The best of times. Happy ending. Happy exhaustion.

With the labor pains over, and the dishes finally done, I can honestly say I'd do it all over again.

But not until next year.


Bake the bread. Share the slices.


Perfect Parker House Rolls


Growing up, my mom made rolls twice a year- for Thanksgiving and Christmas. There was no discussion of what kind of rolls to make, or how many we should make, because there was only one recipe, and we just knew they made a lot of rolls. And it was one of the most wonderful events of the year.

Only later, like when I was nearly in my 20's, did we learn that "rolls" are "Parker House Rolls," because of the way that you shape them. But what is in a name? They still taste just as sweet! My family still just calls them "rolls." And they can be absolutely perfect for holiday meals. Most importantly, they are perfect for leftover turkey sandwiches.

Let's talk perfect leftover turkey sandwiches. I know some people swear by the butter, salt, and pepper method. I know some people add the cranberry sauce, or gravy. My brother even adds mashed potatoes. I prefer the heavy mayo, heavy mustard method, with turkey generously crammed between my mom's Perfect Parker House Rolls.

Buttery, fluffy, rich, and tender, these Perfect Parker House Rolls will make you want to pour yourself a bowl of gravy and dip rolls from now until New Year's. They are coated in butter before you bake them, so the bottom of the rolls have a satisfying, buttery crispiness, that is just barely salty. Because you use a knife to form an indentation to fold the rolls in half, you don't have to use a knife to cut them once they're baked. This is so important because it leaves your knife free to do more important things, like load up your roll with mayo (no Miracle Whip at Little Red Hen's house), and mustard.

Another perk to this recipe is that it is the same one for the Best Cinnamon Rolls. After making a few dozen rolls, you can use any extra dough to roll out some delicious cinnamon rolls for breakfast, or late night munching while searching Black Friday ads, or watching a Christmas movie.

Ok, let's talk time and quantity. This recipe is worth the work, but it takes time. Figure about 2-3 hours, start to finish. Not all of that is hands-on. The dough needs to rise twice- once in the mixer, and once before the rolls are put in the oven. How many rolls does this make? Depending on how large you cut them, plan on 4-6 dozen. Yes, they freeze well. Yes, they are good the next day, but obviously, they are most perfect right out of the oven. If you're doing these for a special holiday meal, I would reccomend making the dough and having the pans of rolls ready to pop in the oven right after your turkey comes out. My mom would always bake the 3-ish pans of rolls while she and my dad carved the turkey and made the gravy. Another great option is to bake the Parker House Rolls the day before, (which is what I did this year!).

Honestly, these rolls are so much a part of the holidays for me that I don't know where I would be without them. They have a legacy! My grandma made these rolls and she taught my mom how to make them. When I got old enough to learn, my mom taught me. Every time I make them I am grateful to my mom for teaching me how to bake, for the memories I have of cozy Thanksgivings and informal Christmas dinners with my immediate family, and for the blessing it is that I have my own family to make rolls for now.

If you have to choose, let Costco or Marie Callender's do your pies and put your time into rolls. I can't guarantee that no one will discuss politics at the dinner table, but I will bet that you could use these Perfect Parker House Rolls to diffuse any holiday tension!

Perfect Parker House Rolls

Ingredients:


  • 1 1/2 cups warm milk
  • 1 3/4 cups warm water
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 5 tbs active yeast
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 6 eggs
  • 11-13 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • Directions:
    Directions:
    Step 1: Make the Dough
    1. In a stand mixer with a dough hook, combine warm milk, warm water, sugar, and yeast. Let yeast start to froth, about 3 minutes. 
    2. Add the oil, salt, and 2 cups of flour. Mix on low until barely combined- about 1 minute.
    3. Add the eggs and 2 more cups of flour and mix on low until combined.
      Too sticky. Needs more flour.
    4. Continue to add flour one cup at a time, increasing the speed of the mixer as the dough thickens. After 10 cups of flour have been added, add the remaining flour in half cup increments.The dough should be slightly sticky so that the dough sticks to your finger when you touch it, but it leaves little residue on your finger. The dough should not pull away from the side of the mixing bowl entirely, unlike bread dough. It should be rather soft, but not runny. Once the dough reaches this consistency, continue to let it knead for about 5 minutes. 
      Just right!
    5. Cover the mixing bowl with a clean hand towel and set the bowl in a warm place to let dough rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Outside is a great option in warmer weather, on a warm stove works well in cooler months. 
    Step 2: Turn the Dough Into Rolls

    1. While dough raises, melt 1/2 cup  of butter in a small bowl. Set aside.
    2. Once the dough has doubled, return the bowl to the mixer and knead the dough for about a minute. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Get out 2-3 cookie sheets.
    3. Lightly grease a clean counter top with vegetable oil. If a larger counter space is available, take all the dough from the mixing bowl an set it on the oiled counter. If only a small space is available, start with half of the dough. I recommend handling half the dough at at time. WAY more manageable. Note: The temperature of your counter top will affect your rolls. If your counters are too cold, the rolls will not rise as well. My mom has been known to put a space heater on the counter while the dough is rising to warm things up. In the winter, I turn up the heat in my house a few degrees and preheat my oven before I even start mixing the dough just to ensure my kitchen counters are not too cold. 
    4. Roll the dough out until it is about 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Using a 3"- 4" cup or bowl, cut circles in the dough. Use the flat side of a butter knife, put a slight crease on each circle.
    5. Dip half of the roll in the melted butter. Put the butter side of the roll down on cookie sheet. Fold the roll in half and flip the roll over, so the buttered side of the roll is now the top of the roll. 
    6. Repeat for rest of rolls and all remaining dough. Each cookie sheet can hold 20-24 rolls. 
    7. Let raise until doubled in a warm place, (I let them raise on the stove), about 20 minutes.
    8. Bake for 20-25 minutes until rolls are light golden brown on top, and roll in center of the pan is no longer doughy.
    9. Remove from oven and immediately invert pan onto a cooling rack. (I put the cooling rack on top of the rolls and then flip the whole thing over.) 

    10. Remove cookie sheet and enjoy!


    Bake the bread. Share the slices. 


    Thursday, November 19, 2015

    Sausage Lasagna


    Thanksgiving is just a week away! I'm so excited for all the family, the colors, and the food! We're having two Thanksgiving meals, one this Sunday at my house, and one on Thanksgiving Day. I'm pretty blessed to have all my family close enough to get together with them all. (Probably even more blessed to have family that I enjoy getting together with. Haha!)

    In the meantime, while I'm dreaming up side dishes and turkey formulas, my family still needs to eat dinner. Enter this Sausage Lasagna.

    If you are looking for a meal that will feed an army, Sausage Lasagna is for you. If you are looking for a meal that will feed your family from now until Thanksgiving, Sausage Lasagna is for you. If your name happens to be Garfield, Sausage Lasagna...you get the idea.

    Sausage Lasagna was born from a delicious dinner at a friend's house and the need to improvise. Prior to a Harry Potter family movie night with some friends, we did dinner and the main dish was the amazing Pioneer Woman's Best Lasagna Ever. It was about the best lasagna ever. So when I found out there was no ricotta cheese in it,  (husband hates ricotta), I knew I wanted to make it myself!

    So, I buy what I think I need, go to start cooking and realize I'm short on time and a few key ingredients. No biggie. I'll just improvise.

    This Sausage Lasagna uses part Italian sausage and part breakfast sausage. The beautiful thing about that combination is that it isn't overly anise flavored, and the pork adds to the creaminess of the cheeses. Of course you could substitute some ground beef for the pork, but at some point it is no longer Sausage Lasagna. And lest the lack of ricotta turn you off, let me assure you that you won't miss it. I used to swear I didn't like cottage cheese in my lasagna and it tasted awful, but I've changed my tune. This Sausage Lasagna holds nothing back when it comes to cheese: 3 cups cottage cheese, 1 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan, and 1 pound of shredded mozzarella (plus more because who is measuring that, really?)

    When shopping, the price may look a bit daunting for one meal, probably $12-$15, but let me remind you that this is not just one meal, unless you are feeding 12 hungry adults. The first night, my family, (there are 6 of us here), ate just about 1/4 of the pan. We've had it for dinner 3 times, plus lunches, and I'm not sick of it. You could also divide the recipe into 2 smaller, freezer-friendly pans, or even bake the entire lasagna and freeze it in individual portion sized containers.

    I can't promise this is the most authentic recipe ever, but I can say this is the best Sausage Lasagna I've ever had, and I think you'll like it too!

    Sausage Lasagna

    Ingredients:
    • 8 lasagna noodles (yup, only 8)
    • 1 1/2 lbs Italians sausage
    • 1 1/2 lbs breakfast sausage
    • 2 tbs garlic minced
    • 1 can tomato paste
    • 2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes
    • 1 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan
    • 2 1/2 tbs Italian seasoning, divided
    • 3 cups cottage cheese
    • 1 lb mozzarella, shredded
    • 2 eggs, lightly beaten 
    • 1 tsp salt
    Directions:
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 9"x13" pan with cooking spray. Boil lasagna noodles until al dente. Drain noodles and lay them on a flat surface to cool.
    2. In a large skillet or pot, combine sausage and garlic. Cook sausage thoroughly. Drain grease.
    3. In same pot, add diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and 1 1/2 tbs Italian seasoning. Simmer for 30 minutes.
    4. In a large bowl, mix cottage cheese, 1 cup Parmesan, eggs, salt, and 1 tbs Italian seasoning. 
    5. Assemble lasagna: In 9"x13" pan, lay 4 lasagna noodles, slightly overlapping if needed. Spread 1/2 cottage cheese mixture over noodles. Top with 1/2 mozzarella, and then just under 1/2 the meat mixture. Repeat, starting with another layer of noodles. and finally topping with remaining 1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan.
    6. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until bubbly and heated through.

    Bake the bread. Share the slices. 

    Tuesday, November 17, 2015

    Slow Cooker Moors and Christians Rice

    Black beans and rice slow cooker

    What is Moors and Christians Rice? Well, according to Wikipedia Moors and Christians Rice is a Cuban rice and beans dish, its name connected possibly to the Islamic Conquest of Spain. (You know, because if it is on Wikipedia, it must be true.

    Whether or not that is the case, I can't actually tell you. Plus, I've never been to Cuba, so, you know, whatever. What is important is that Moors and Christians Rice is good eating! It is hearty, filling, and surprisingly vegetarian. That is to say that you will be surprised that your carnivorous family will not complain that there is no meat for dinner. The beans provide some protein power, and the flavors of roasted red peppers, cilantro, lime, and tomato are intense enough to satisfy without turning off the kids.

    Roasted red pepper is a key ingredient in this recipe. How do you roast a red bell pepper? Well I asked Ina Garten, (when I say asked I mean I checked with the Food Network because I don't know everything about cooking yet.) She has a great and simple method for roasting a red pepper. Basically, you heat your oven to 500 degrees, place the pepper directly onto the rack, and roast for 30-40 minutes, turning the pepper a couple times, until the skin starts to blacken. Then you take the pepper from the oven, cover it with foil for about 15 minutes, and then the skin just peels off. It is really simple, and the pepper looks so pretty! This is a must do.

    Moors and Christians Rice does take a little prep work before putting it in the crock pot. Every time I make it I tell myself I'm not going to do any pre-cooking, but then I do anyway because it just tastes better if I spend the extra 5 minutes cooking. Tell me if you have the same experience. I'd love to hear from you!

    This is delicious, easy on the budget, and perfect for on a chilly day.

    Slow Cooker Moors and Christians Rice

    Ingredients:
    • 1 roasted red pepper, chopped
    • 1 green pepper, chopped
    • 1 tsp vegetable oil
    • 2 onions, chopped
    • 2 tbs minced garlic
    • 2 tsp dried oregano
    • 2 tsp cumin
    • 1 tomato, chopped (you could peel and seed it)
    • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
    • 1/2 cup chicken broth (or vegtable stock if doing vegetarian)
    • 2 cups long grain rice, cooked
    • 2 tbs fresh lime juice
    • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
    • 4 green onions, chopped
    Directions:
    1. In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, and cumin. Cook for 1 minute. Stir in tomato, beans and chicken broth. Bring to a boil.
    2. Transfer ingredients in skillet to crockpot. 
    3. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 hours. or HIGH for 4.
    4. Roast the red pepper. See this tutorial, or the directions above for help.
    5. Add the red pepper and green pepper to crock pot. Cook until tender, about 20-30 minutes.
    6. Cook the rice while the peppers simmer in the crock pot. 
    7. Stir rice into crock pot. Add the fresh lime juice, cilantro, and green onions. Stir to combine. (This can also be served cold as a nice salad!)


    Bake the bread. Share the slices.

    Saturday, November 14, 2015

    Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts and Feta



    The other day I had Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts and Feta for lunch. That was all. And it was delicious. I dreamt this recipe up a bit. I had never tried Brussels Sprouts as an adult, and I had some walnuts from a carrot bread recipe I tried to make. (It flopped. I wanted it to be healthier, and it flopped. I should have stuck to the sugar filled original.) I always have feta cheese in the fridge because it is wonderful, so I thought, "Why not put them all together?"

    The Brussels Sprouts and walnuts are simply tossed with olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. They actually taste great just seasoned like that, uncooked, as my little kitchen helper and I discovered! After baking them at a high temperature I took them out of the oven, sprinkled them with a little fresh lemon juice and threw on the feta. Voila! C'est si bon!

    This dish would be a beautiful side dish for Thanksgiving or Christmas. It is light, flavorful, and easy to prepare. The walnuts give a mellow crunch, and roasting them deepens their flavor. The feta and lemon juice are pleasingly tart. In short, Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts and Feta should make it to your holiday table this season. Sophisticated and tasty, they are a beautiful addition to any dinner!


    Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts and Feta

    Ingredients:
    • 2 pounds Brussels Sprouts
    • 3 tbs olive oil
    • 1 tbs minced garlic
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
    • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
    • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
    • 1/2 tbs fresh lemon juice
    Directions:
    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    2. Trim brown ends off Brussels Sprouts. Cut larger sprouts in half. Place on a large baking sheet.
    3. Drizzle sprouts with olive oil. Toss with garlic, salt, pepper, and walnuts. (I used my hands, mixing directly on the baking sheet and saving me from washing another bowl.)
    4. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until browned and fork tender.
    5. Toss with lemon juice and feta. Serve immediately.

    Bake the bread. Share the slices.

    Friday, November 13, 2015

    Coconut Cream Pancakes

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    Weekend breakfasts should be a little bit special, and these Coconut Cream Pancakes are a little bit special. At least a couple times a week I make these Perfect Pancakes from the Baker Upstairs. Alicia put together a cookbook a few years ago of her favorite recipes and that pancake recipe has become the only one I use. I didn't even like pancakes until I started making her Perfect Pancakes because I don't love syrup and I really don't love pancakes from a box. Perfect Pancakes are light, fluffy, crisp on the outside, tender on the inside, slightly sweet, and magical.

    A couple of weekends ago I started making pancakes and realized I had some coconut milk I needed to use.  Thus Coconut Cream Pancakes were born. I used coconut milk and whole milk, which made the pancakes thicker and fluffier, with a subtle but definite hint of coconut. Then I added some shredded coconut and coconut extract. The result was smile-inducing. Perfect pancakes with a hint of coconut. They tasted like cake, especially when I was snacking on the leftovers at 9:30 that night. I liked them just plain, but they were equally lovely with warm syrup, butter, peanut butter, and bananas. (Maybe that was all on the same pancake, maybe not. Judge me if you must.)

    If you aren't a fan of shredded coconut, skip it. The coconut milk and extract will give enough flavor without changing the pancake's texture.

    These are beautiful and delicious enough for a special brunch, yet easy enough to throw together for just a Saturday morning breakfast. Honestly, I make pancakes a couple times a week for my kids because they reheat and freeze well. Plus, they are more filling than cereal. And then they leave the house smelling like syrup, which is an entire discussion in and of itself.

    If you have even the slightest inclination toward coconut, Little Red Hen's Coconut Cream Pancakes are worth giving a try.

    Coconut Cream Pancakes

    Adapted from the baker upstairs
    Ingredients:
    • 2 cups flour
    • 1 tbs plus 2 tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 4 tbs sugar (you can decrease or eliminate the sugar, but it is sure good!)
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 cup whole milk 
    • 1 cup coconut milk
    • 1/2 tsp coconut extract (almond extract is good too)
    • 1/2 cup vegetable oil 
    Directions:
    1. Set pan on stove and turn heat to just under medium heat. 
    2. In a bowl mix flour, baking powder, salt, coconut, and sugar with a whisk.
    3. In a smaller bowl, lightly whisk together milk, coconut milk, extract, oil and eggs. Add to dry ingredients.
    4. Whisk all ingredients together until just combined. Use 1/4 cup of batter per pancake.
    5. Cook in a greased frying pan over  just under medium heat until lightly golden brown on both sides. 
    6. Top with coconut, syrup, banana, butter, or strawberries.



    Bake the bread. Share the slices.

    Little Red Hen's Beefy Tomato Stew

    Little Red Hen's Beefy Tomato Stew

    Sometimes you just need a stew. You've done the broccoli cheese. You've sipped your chicken noodle. You've sopped your tomato basil. You're chilied out. Your mortal frame grows week. You, like Thor, need sustenance, as in real protein, as in red meat. But you want to eat it out of a bowl because it is cold outside. See. You just need a good, beefy, hearty stew.

    Stew is better with lots of meat. Growing up, my brothers, sister, and I would try to carefully ladle stew into our own bowls so that we could each sneak ourselves the most beefy bites. When dinner was over, we would pick meat right out of the pot as we cleared the table. It was a habit that led to vegetarian stew left-overs, but they were still tasty. Cort's Little Red Hen Beefy Tomato Stew has a lot of meat so that even the most carnivorous of tasters won't be able to pick out all the meat on the first go-around.

    Stew also needs lots spoon-sized portions of potato, carrots, celery, and onion. Sure, I'll throw in a green bell pepper now and then because that's how my mom made it, but potato, carrot, celery, and onion are essential. My mom also always made her stew with tomato sauce. I know you can  make a hearty beef stew without tomato, but it doesn't taste quite right to me. I love the consistency the tomato brings, I love the color, I love how it adopts a totally beefy aura. It tastes like home that way. Throw in a couple of bay leaves and I feel like I'm 9 again.
    sLittle Red Hen's Beefy Tomato Stew

    When I was 9 my family moved from Texas to Utah for a couple years, which was quite the thing because we moved right before Thanksgiving and arrived just in time for my birthday in December. We'd never been to Utah. We didn't really know anyone there. It was cold and white, something I'd never experienced before since I'd been raised in the humid heat! (That year turned out out to be a record breaking snow year- as in our neighbor literally plowed our street with a backhoe and the snow pile was so high it was nearly level with the roof. We had that pile of snow until about June.) It was the best to come inside after playing outside in the snow, to a kitchen wafting with the aroma of beefy, tomatoey, deliciously warming stew. Add to that a thick slice of homemade bread, and I can't think of many better ways to feel taken care of.

    Little Red Hen's Beefy Tomato Stew is hearty and easy to pull together, with a nice long simmering time. If you are looking for a slow cooker stew, try throwing all the ingredients into the crockpot after browning the beef and lightly sauteing the vegetables. Serve it in a large, cozy bowls, or bread bowls. Either way, this is a recipe sure to please! Plus, it's big enough for dinner and lunches throughout chilly fall and winter weeks. (Feel free to cut the recipe in half or freeze extras, too!)

    Little Red Hen's Beefy Tomato Stew

    Ingredients:
    Little Red Hen's Beefy Tomato Stew
    • 2 lbs beef stew meat, or an inexpensive roast, cut into 1" cubes
    • 1/2 cup flour
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp black pepper
    • 2 tbs minced garlic
    • 4 tbs vegetable oil
    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 2 large carrots, chopped (or more if you like)
    • 4 cups potatoes, peeled and cubed
    • 4 celery stalks, chopped
    • 3 dried bay leaves
    • 32 oz tomato sauce
    • 12 oz water
    • 2- 14 oz cans beef broth
    • Beef bouillion cube, optional
    Directions:
    1. In a large frying pan heat 3 tbs oil on medium heat. In a large bowl or ziplock bag, toss beef with flour, salt, and pepper until pieces are well coated.
    2. Brown beef with flour and garlic in heated frying pan until outsides begin to look slightly browned and crispy. Transfer meat to a large stockpot, being sure to scrape any beef or flour residue from the frying pan into the pot. (That is flavor, friends!) If using a crockpot, transfer meat to crockpot.
    3. In the same frying pan heat 1 tbs oil. Sautee onion, celery, and carrot until fragrant, about 3-5 minutes. Transfer vegetables into stockpot with meat. If using a crockpot, transfer vegetables to crockpot.
    4. Add potatoes, beef broth, bay leaves, and bouillion cube if desired. Pour in tomato sauce and water. (Tip: I fill up one empty tomato sauce can with water and then pour that water into all the empty sauce cans before pouring it into the stew. That way I get all the tomato out of the cans. Another hint learned from watching my mom in the kitchen.)
    5. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Simmer for 1-1 1/2 hours, or until vegetables are tender. (Simmering longer over a low heat works equally well.)
    Bake the bread. Share the slices.

    Tuesday, November 10, 2015

    Pumpkin Bread


    Until I was about 18, this was the only Pumpkin Bread I knew. So instead of calling this Pumpkin Coconut Bread, or Coconut Cream Pumpkin Bread, (which sounds a bit dreamy), I have to just call this Pumpkin Bread.

    Why all the coconut? Because the secret factor of success in this bread is coconut cream Jell-O Pudding. It makes the bread tender, and the coconut makes it good. Not super coconutty, but you do get some added texture from the tiny flakes of coconut in the pudding mix. You still get the classic pumpkin flavor, along with cinnamon and gentle nips of nutmeg, but the coconut makes it better. In short, this Pumpkin Bread just smells and tastes great!


    When I was little my mom would make this every year to take to neighbors around the holidays. It makes 2 large loves, and divides perfectly into 4 mini loaf pans. In fact, I think this Pumpkin Bread tastes best made into mini loaves. And, I think it tastes best the day after you make it. We'd bake the miniature loaves and wrap them in green or red cellophane, (which always smelled weird to me), and then deliver them along with sugar cookies and homemade fudge to neighbors, friends, and our teachers. As I got older and learned how to bake, I kind of took over the Pumpkin Bread making. Thanks, Mom! I then carried the tradition into my own family. The holiday season is not right unless I've made at least one batch of Pumpkin Bread to eat and to share! It smells and tastes like cozy joy.

    Pumpkin Bread

    Ingredients:
    • 1 cup vegetable oil
    • 5 eggs
    • 2 cups pumpkin puree
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 2 cups flour
    • 2 small packages coconut cream pudding
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 1 tsp nutmeg
    Directions: 
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 bread pans, or 4 mini loaf pans.
    2. In a large bowl, mix oil, eggs, pumpkin, and sugar with a whisk until just combined.
    3. Add flour, pudding mix, salt, soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir until just combined. Do not over-mix.
    4. Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes for large pans, 20-30 minutes for the mini loaf pans, until toothpick comes clean. 
    5. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes. Remove bread from pan and allow loaf to cool completely on a cooling rack. 

    Bake the bread. Share the slices. 





    Monday, November 9, 2015

    Pumpkin Turkey Chili


    I love November, but I really love this Pumpkin Turkey Chili. It is healthy, hearty, and it comes together really quickly. 30 minutes and you've got a delicious, warming meal that is family friendly.

    The pumpkin adds a really beautiful color to this simple chili, and the flavor is pretty subtle. Cumin and chili powder give a classic chili flavor, but the cinnamon really adds the depth the pumpkin turkey chili needs. Don't be afraid of it! I used to be afraid of adding cinnamon to my dinners, but I tried it once and now I'm sold. I know cinnamon usually is associated with sweet flavors, but it works so well as a savory! The chili will taste fine without it, but just try it. 

    In terms of quantity, one batch of this chili could feed 6 adults. There are 4 kids and 2 adults at Little Red Hen's house, and this fed us all, plus gave me a generous helping for lunch the next day. I like my chili really thick, but if you'd like it to be a little saucier, add a cup of water. Pumpkin Turkey Chili is a wonderful way to feed your fall-loving soul.

    Pumpkin Turkey Chili

    Ingredients:
    • 1 lb ground turkey
    • 2 tbs olive oil
    • 2 cups pumpkin puree
    • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
    • 1 onion, diced
    • 1 tbs garlic, minced
    • 2  15 oz cans Mexican stewed tomatoes
    • 1 15 oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
    • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed 
    • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 1 tbs chili powder
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 1/2 tsp salt (or more to taste)
    • 1 cup water, optional
    Directions:
    1. In a large pot or saucepan, heat olive oil on medium-high heat. Add onion and sautee until nearly clear, about 3 minutes.
    2. Add ground turkey, green pepper, and garlic.Cook until turkey is thoroughly done and juices run clear.
    3. Add tomatoes, pumpkin, beans, spices and water if desired. Stir until combined.
    4. Simmer to intensify and combine flavors, for about 20 minutes.
    5. Serve with sour cream. 

    Bake the bread. Share the slices.