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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top 13 of 2013

Top 13 from 2013 on
Okay, it's true.  I usually don't do a "best of" post to close out the year.  I stick with my "would-be" posts instead.  But for some reason, after giving in and searching my end of the year reports, I decided that I wanted to grab the most viewed posts that were written during this year and share them.

I think I'm most surprised that of the top 13, only 1 is a dessert.  Well, 3 if you count popsicles.  But for me, popsicles are in a class of their own.  Aaaaaand, speaking of popsicles, the 2 in my top 13 were actually guest posts from two of my awesome blogging friends for The Summer of the Popsicle.

Really, there didn't seem to be any sort of pattern to what YOU liked.  Which makes sense.  It means you're like me - all over the board!  We like food and drinks and isn't that enough?  Indeed it is, indeed it is.  So, without further ado, here are the posts first shared in 2013 that got the most love, counting down to number one!
Monday, December 30, 2013

13 "Would-Be" Blog Posts of 2013

13 Would-Be Blog Posts of 2013 on
In keeping with my year-end tradition, it's time to dust off the unused photos from the past year and share some of the best recipes that never got blogged.  Every single one was worthy of the spotlight, but wound up being an understudy instead.  Now they're stepping on stage and taking a bow.

Again, it's possible that I'll revisit some of the recipes or products in the new year, but you know what they say about good intentions, right?  Let's take a look...

1. I "discovered" Licor 43 for the first time earlier this year.  There was no looking back.  With it's hints of vanilla and citrus, it makes the perfect addition to all sorts of cocktails, but I love it in place of the orange liqueur in a margarita (don't hate me margarita purists!).  Well, when Paula suggested that I pour some Licor 43 over Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, I did just that.  It's a little bowl of heaven.
Licor 43 over Vanilla Bean Ice Cream in "13 Would-Be Blog Posts of 2013" at
Sunday, December 29, 2013

Chia Seed Breakfast Pudding

Chia Seed Breakfast Pudding by
So, I'm not really the kind of person that makes resolutions.  I'd rather set goals.  Although, when you stop to think about it, they're kinda-sorta the same thing.  It must be a mental thing.  Resolutions are so... resolute.

Definition of resolute: firm, unwavering.  It's a "do it, or else" sort of commitment.  It's like you're setting yourself up for failure.  Are things really meant to be set in stone?

And then there is a goal.  Definition of goal: an aim or desired result.  It's more of a "work your hardest until you are able to reach it" sort of attitude.  It conjures up images of success and hard work.
Friday, December 27, 2013

"Green Fairy" Cakes

"Green Fairy" Cakes {baking with Absinthe} |
Okay, so I've mentioned before that I'm a bit of a procrastinator at times, right?  Well, case in point: these mini cakes.  Can you take a guess how long ago I made them?  Ten months ago. Uhhhh, yeah.  I made them in February.  So, why in the world am I just getting around to sharing them now?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Things come up.  Photos and ideas "in draft" get pushed back further and further.  So, every now and again, I have to pull up all of my drafts and see if there is anything that I really want to share after such a long period of time.  Some people may say that if a month or two has gone by, it's not really worth it.  I'm not one of those people.
Thursday, December 26, 2013

Turkey Tenderloins with Madeira Gravy

Turkey Tenderloins with Madeira Gravy |
This year, I didn't roast a whole turkey at all during the holidays.  That's a first.  Especially at Thanksgiving.  I knew that we'd be staying home, as opposed to heading to visit relatives, and my kitchen is on the small side.  Sure, I've done it in the past; sometimes in the oven, sometimes in my roaster that can be plugged in and set aside so that I still have my oven free.  But this year, I just wasn't feeling it.

I would have a riot on my hands if did not serve turkey at Thanksgiving dinner.  No joke.  So, I started researching options.  I almost always roast an extra turkey breast or two on the side when I do a whole turkey, anyway.  We love our leftovers.  But I steered in a different direction this year - towards turkey tenderloins.

Now, my daughter was a bit disappointed, because the skin of a bird is her favorite part.  But the amazing flavor of both the meat and the gravy made up for that.  Basically.

Turkey Tenderloins with Madeira Gravy |
I may just skip the whole turkey from here on out and make these turkey tenderloins a tradition.  Okay, probably not.  But I will be adding them to my menu on and off again throughout the entire year.  They are that good.  And the Madeira gravy?  Zoinks.  Oh, and you will want to make a full batch even if you're not feeding this many - it makes ridiculous cold turkey sandwiches!

This dish is at the same time elegant and home, and better yet, it's easy enough to make for supper on a weekday.

Turkey Tenderloins with Madeira Gravy
These turkey tenderloins in Madeira gravy are elegant enough to serve for the holidays, yet quick and easy enough to serve on a weekday.
Print Friendly and PDF
Turkey Tenderloins with Madeira Gravy |
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 10 minutes (+ 2-4 hours unatte
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Keywords: bake entree sauce alcohol turkey Christmas Thanksgiving American fall winter

Ingredients (serves 10-12)
    for the turkey and marinade:
    • 3 cups dry Madeira
    • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
    • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
    • 12 garlic cloves, crushed
    • 18 fresh thyme sprigs
    • 2 teaspoons sea salt
    • 4 pounds turkey tenderloins
    for everything else:
    • ~2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • 1 teaspoon sea salt
    • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 3 large shallots, finely chopped
    • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
    • fresh thyme sprigs, to serve
    Stir all of the marinade ingredients together in a large measuring cup until the salt dissolves. Set 1-1/4 cups of the marinade aside.

    Place the turkey tenderloins in a large storage container with lid or a couple of gallon-sized zippered baggies. Pour the remaining marinade over the turkey. Seal/cover, pressing out air, and refrigerate for 2-4 hours, turning occasionally.

    Preheat oven to 450° F. Lift the turkey tenderloins out of the marinade (you can discard it) and pat them dry. Rub the tenderloins with 1 tablespoons of the oil, and sprinkle all over with the salt and pepper.

    Heat remaining tablespoon of oil in a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add turkey and sear on each side, 2-3 minutes or until browned. Do this in batches, if necessary, adding a little more oil, if needed. Transfer to a 9x13 baking dish or a roasting pan, and discard any residual oil.

    Reduce the heat to medium and add the butter and shallots to the pan, stirring until butter melts. Stir in the flour and allow to cook for about 3 minutes, or until shallots are just tender. Whisk in the reserved marinade from the first step, and bring it to a simmer; simmer until thickened, 2-3 minutes. Pour over the turkey tenderloins.

    Slide into preheated oven and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the temperature reaches 165° F. Transfer the tenderloins to a cutting board and tend with foil; let rest 10 minutes. Taste the gravy and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Transfer to a gravy boat.

    Slice the turkey into 1/2-inch medallions and serve with the gravy.

    -slightly adapted from The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern
    Turkey Tenderloins with Madeira Gravy
    Wednesday, December 25, 2013

    Angry Elf Cocktail ...inspired by Elf for Food 'n Flix

    "Angry Elf" cocktail inspired by ELF for Food 'n Flix via
    If I had to name my top 5 Christmas movies - Elf would be on that list.  We actually own quite a few Christmas flicks.  We've built up quite the collection over the years.  We have enough that I don't have the time to watch all of them every year, so I pick and choose the ones I'm in the mood for.  But no matter the year, Elf is always one of the ones that I watch.

    It's hilarious.  It makes me cry.  Really.  I've told you I'm a baby like that, right?  Plus, it definitely spreads Christmas cheer.  But is it a foodie movie?  Pssshh.  Of course it is!  Almost anybody can be a foodie movie if you "go into it" that way.  Sure, some take more imagination that others, but still.

    Elf is one of those that stokes the fires of the imagination.  From Maple Syrup Spaghetti, to a sweet-tooth (or tooth-ache) inducing breakfast, to coffee with "syrup", there are some obvious triggers.  But if you look further and have some fun with it, there are so many phrases that you could turn into a play-on-words sort of dish.
    Monday, December 23, 2013

    Acorn Squash and Chorizo Seco Tacos {12 Weeks of Winter Squash}

    Acorn Squash and Chorizo Seco Tacos via
    As usual, time is flying by.  This is already week number 8 of the 12 Weeks of Winter Squash.  I imagine many people are swamped with Christmas preparations, so I'll be interested in seeing how many squash dishes make it to the table in the midst of all of that madness.

    It's no different here, so I went with a ridiculously simple preparation.  I have a couple of squashes hanging out in the kitchen right now.  And for the most part, they're polar opposites.  One is a big, scary (but beautiful) Blue Hubbard.  Scary because I need a machete to break into it.  This just wasn't the week for that.  I have a few more weeks to decide what will become of it, I suppose.

    And the second was a small acorn squash.  Well, obviously I chose that one.  I almost stuffed it.  Almost.  Admission time - I have never stuffed an acorn squash before.  I know!  That's pretty much the first thing people do with acorn squash, right?  Well, not me.  I've always sliced and roasted it with one thing or another.  This time was no different.
    Sunday, December 22, 2013

    Who Hash (aka Roast Beast Hash), inspired by How the Grinch Stole Christmas

    Who Hash (aka Roast Beast Hash) inspired by How the Grinch Stole Christmas
    This week for Sunday Supper, we are creating recipes inspired by holiday movies and music.  Now, I have a ton swirling around in my head.  You can expect to see a cocktail inspired by Elf here in a few days.  But for today, I narrowed it down to a movie that's been one of my favorites since I was little - How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

    I love Dr. Seuss.  We have pretty much every book ever written by him hanging out around the house somewhere.  Even some old VHS tapes like The Lorax and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  The originals, or cartoon versions.  The newer remakes are cute, too - but I love the classics.

    Somewhere along the line, I bought the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas on DVD, as well.  I had to; our VCR prefers eating tapes to playing them.  Show of hands for anybody old enough to remember taking a VCR apart to rescue one of your favorite movies.
    Tuesday, December 17, 2013

    Boozy Coconut White Hot Chocolate + Spiked Banana Bread #CaptainsTable

    Boozy Coconut White Hot Chocolate + Rum-Spiked Banana Bread with Hazelnuts and Coconut #CaptainsTable via
    Round two of the #CaptainsTable challenge is underway, and the theme this time round is simply "the holidays".  My mind wandered in so many directions with this one.  I have a little list of ideas that I just add to each time something comes to mind, and it wound up being a page and a half long before I decided it was time to just make something.  As I looked outside at the six inches of snow blanketing everything in sight, my ultimate decision turned to warmth.

    So...warmth.  Bundling up against the bitter wind that can make you lose your breath.  Thawing out after a day of snowball fights, snow forts, and sledding.  Wrapped in a blanket in front of a crackling fire while a storm rages outside of your cozy walls.  Wrapping presents while singing along with the endless stream of Christmas songs being played on the radio.  That kind of warmth.

    For me, that means a mug of steaming hot chocolate and something warm and freshly baked from the oven.  I was in the mood for white hot chocolate, and I couldn't imagine how anything could tie it and rum together like coconut would.  What a combination!  It warms you from your frozen toes to your Rudolph-nose.
    Monday, December 16, 2013

    Winter Squash {cocktail} + Butternut Squash Vodka {12 Weeks of Winter Squash}

    Winter Squash {cocktail} |
    In my quest to find new and exciting ways to use winter squash, I remembered a cocktail that I'd bookmarked in Greg Henry's new book, Savory Cocktails.  Although I have a bunch of bookmarks popping out here and there, the one sticking out the highest (that means "make this first!") was on the page featuring a cocktail named Winter Squash.

    It starts out with an infusion - butternut squash in vodka.  That forms the base of a cocktail that is just made for this time of year.  And made for my self-imposed challenge.  I will use winter squash in new and exciting ways...I will use winter squash in new and exciting ways...

    Though I added the vodka to my squash while it was still warm, and I let it steep for 5 days past the recommended time (10 days total), it didn't take on that beautiful orange color that I envisioned.  It was sort of anemic.  But I could not wait any longer.  I was excited to give it a try.
    Sunday, December 15, 2013

    Mandarin Spice Mulled Wine

    This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Gallo Family Vineyards in conjunction with Sunday Supper. All opinions are my own.
    Mandarin Spice Mulled Wine |
    Growing up, family holiday get-togethers meant three generations cozied into my grandparents' house. Coats jammed into the coat closet. Boots and shoes lined up by the doors. Women congregating in the kitchen, men congregating in front of a football game, kids running from the pool table to the play room or playing hide-and-seek; each person in their stocking-feet.

    Warmth enveloped you at every turn. Magical scents wafting from the oven. A crockpot in the corner with spiced steam escaping. A candle on the corner table scented for the season. As a kid, I really looked forward to the familiarity and tradition that this time of year invoked.

    As an adult, I still look forward to it, but it's not quite the same. We now have four generations running around. My grandparents are now in their mid to late 80's; it's not as easy for them to host everybody any more. And unfortunately, none of us have the same fantastic home that they have. A home large enough for everybody to fit. Comfortably.
    Saturday, December 14, 2013

    Magimix 5200XL 16-cup Food Processor by Robot-Coupe + Dough Bowl Attachment {product review}

    I received a complimentary Magimix 5200XL food processor and the dough bowl attachment for the purpose of testing. I was not compensated to write this review. All thoughts and opinions stated in this post are my own.
    Magimix 5200XL 16-cup Food Processor by Robot-Coupe {product review} found on
    product: Magimix 5200XL Food Processor by Robot-Coupe

    price: $499.95-$600 (approximately)

    category: kitchen gadget / kitchen tool / small kitchen appliance

    appearance/design: Hefty and large, yet sleek (not bulky).  Polished chrome base with sturdy plastic bowl. Also available in white.

    • powerful, yet quiet, commercial-grade motor
    • various sized bowls and attachments for different jobs
    • Sabatier stainless-steel blades and stainless steel discs
    • extra-large feed tube
    Thursday, December 12, 2013

    Gingerbread Cinnamon Rolls {#GRAINHoliday}

    Gingerbread Cinnamon Rolls from
    A while back, I posed a serious question on Facebook. "Gingerbread: Cake or Bread?"  I mean, it's cake.  We all know it's cake.  So why is it called bread!?  It's one of life's little mysteries.  Like driving on a parkway and parking on a driveway.  It just is.  The majority of people said cake.  A few stepped out of the box and chose bread.  And I'm happy that somebody answered "cookies", because my life just would not be complete without one smart-alec in the mix.  Usually it's me, so...

    But anyway, I decided then and there that I was going to make it my mission to turn gingerbreadcake into actual gingerbread.  I'm talking full-on yeast bread, too.  A quick bread would be just too close to cake to actually be considered different, I think.

    Don't get me wrong, though - I LOVE me some good old-fashioned gingerbread.  Especially around Christmas and the holiday season, in general.  But I got it in my head to do something, so do it, I did.  That's a fun thing to say..."so do it, I did". Really. Try it.
    Tuesday, December 10, 2013

    Butternut Squash and Prosciutto Bucatini Carbonara #12WeeksofWinterSquash

    Butternut Squash and Prosciutto Bucatini Carbonara for the 12 Weeks of Winter Squash from
    A few days ago, an overwhelming desire for Carbonara came over me.  I needed that silky sauce like plant needed rain.  In the middle of a drought.  With enforced water restrictions.  I don't know what made it burrow into my psyche, but it was so deep that I knew I wouldn't feel settled until I had a big plate of it.  So, I set to work rummaging through the fridge and pantry.

    I had eggs and cheese.  Oh, and even better, I had a package of Bucatini - my favorite noodle.  There's something about that long, slender, hollow tube that I can't resist.  I think it must be its ability to trap the sauce inside.  I didn't have bacon, but I had prosciutto.  That would work.  For a good Carbonara, that's really all you need.  Maybe some black pepper to grind over the top.

    But, while I was rummaging, I found a good chunk of butternut squash.  It was a third of one that I roasted to use for infusing vodka (more on that next week).  I decided that while I'm in the throes of the 12 weeks of winter squash, I would add it to the dish.  However, I did not want to wait for the oven to preheat and squash cubes to roast, so I thought I'd try grating it instead.
    Monday, December 9, 2013

    Roasted Red Pepper, Basil, and Almond Pesto Crostini {#FreshGifts}

    This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of AeroGarden in conjunction with Kitchen PLAY.  All opinions are my own.
    Roasted Red Pepper, Basil, and Almond Pesto Crostini #FreshGifts at
    Living in the midwest, I am a "four seasons" kind of gal.  I sweat under the hot summer sun.  I welcome the rain and the tender green buds in spring.  I slog through the snow and ice in the winter.  I rejoice in the cool air and colorful leaves in autumn.  And no matter how much I complain that it's too cold, or too hot, or that a certain perfect season isn't long enough, I wouldn't want it any other way.

    That said, I do miss summer's bounty when it comes to cold weather cooking and entertaining.  Especially when the holidays roll around.  Sure, I can run to the market and pick up some herbs and veggies that have been either shipped or (preferably) locally grown in a greenhouse.  And I do.  But isn't it so much easier, and much more satisfying, to walk barefoot to the garden and harvest your own?  That would be a yes.

    Enter the AeroGarden.  It's high tech.  It's high output.  It's an indoor garden.  That means that even there's a foot of snow on the ground outside my window, I can still wander barefoot to the garden and harvest my own herbs (or veggies, or even flowers).
    Sunday, December 8, 2013

    Buttery Herb Pull-Apart Rolls

    This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Gourmet Garden Herbs & Spices. All opinions are my own.
    Buttery Herb Pull-Apart Rolls
    For us, the holidays are really the only time that we get to spend time with the extended family.  I don't have a single relative that lives in the same state that I do.   The majority live in our neighboring state.  Now, we do live in a "border" city, so it's not actually as bad as it seems.  But still, it's a drive that's not always doable on a busy family schedule.

    So when the holiday season does roll around, road trips are planned.  Menus are devised.  Phone calls are swapped to see who is bringing what.  I've already mentioned my "Thanksgiving plan".  It involves notebooks with headings and labels and recipes popping out every which way.  Christmas is a scaled down version of that, which usually winds up occupying a few pages at the end of said notebook.  New Year's celebrations take up even less room, as my menu usually consists of only brunch, champagne, and orange juice - plus a pot of something lucky for later in the day.

    But back to the larger meal plans.  Our Thanksgiving meal has always been a sit-down.  Our Christmas meal has always been buffet-style.  New Year's is a eat-where-you-are-in-your-jammies thing.  That's just the way we're used to doing things.  And I like it.  But no matter which holiday we're celebrating, there is always bread in some shape or form on the table.  We love our bread.
    Friday, December 6, 2013

    Whipped Sweet Potatoes and Bananas with Pecan Streusel

    Whipped Sweet Potatoes and Bananas with Pecan Streusel |
    Years ago, I concluded that I am just not "that blogger".  You know the one.  They're prepared.  They cook Thanksgiving dinner a few months early, so that they can share all sorts of tasty recipe ideas for a month or two preceeding the big day.  And its not just Thanksgiving, it's any holiday or major event.  Nope, I'm not her.

    That doesn't mean that I don't want to be that blogger, because I totally do.  I just don't seem to have enough hours in my day (or dollars in my wallet).  So, while I may have share a few ideas preceeding a big foodie holiday, I wind up with the bulk of things that I have to share after the fact.  I photograph them as they sit on the holiday table.

    But really, aren't sweet potatoes, stuffing, turkey, pie, rolls, and gravy good on more than just one day!?  Yes they are.  So, I'm going to go ahead and show you a side dish that would be an amazing addition not only to your Thanksgiving table, but also to your dinner table any time during the fall or winter.  Plus, it's not like you can't save it now in anticipation of next year.
    Wednesday, December 4, 2013

    Salisbury Steak

    Salisbury Steak
    Sometimes I get a craving for a throw-back meal...something retro.  As in, a meal that no matter the time or place it is served, it transports me right back into 1984.  Or thereabouts.  I'm sitting at the table wearing leg warmers, my shoe laces are lined with friendship pins and my arms are lined with jelly bracelets.  My Walkman is a permanent accessory on my pinstriped jeans, and the headphones are tinkling with the sounds of Cyndi Lauper, Michael Jackson, and little orphan Annie.

    The sound of mom or dad calling up the stairs would tear me away from choreographing a dance routine in the mirror, or staring dreamily at the pages ripped from Bop and Teen Beat that lined every inch of my walls; I was contemplating who was cuter - Sean or Mackenzie Astin, Wil Wheaton or River Phoenix, Rob Lowe or Tom Cruise, Jon Bon Jovi or ...yeah, Jon Bon Jovi.  

    So, I'd trot down the stairs and into the kitchen or dining room and scooch in my chair.  If it wasn't pasta or a casserole, it was some form of meat on one third of the plate, a starch on another third, and veggies on the last third.  Mashed potatoes and peas were my favorite.  I liked piling my peas onto my potatoes, and hopefully having some sort of gravy or sauce with the meat to plunge into the middle.
    Monday, December 2, 2013

    Pumpkin Fry Bread

    Pumpkin Fry Bread (or Fried Pumpkin Bread)
    ...or is it Fried Pumpkin Bread?  My intention was for this to be a somewhat typical fry bread.  Flatter, chewy, utterly addictive.  I somewhat failed in that department.  Fortunately the bread that I wound up with wasn't an all-around fail.  It was actually entirely delicious in its own right.

    But really, can you go wrong with fried dough?  I think  not.

    Instead of reminding me of fry bread or an elephant ear, these fried pumpkin breads remind me of a cake doughnut.  They're sort of the same texture.  Like a cross between a doughnut and a muffin.  Have I just made the world's first fried muffin!?  I refuse to google that, for fear that I will be proved wrong.
    Sunday, December 1, 2013

    Cranberry Spiced Rum Fizz #CaptainsTable

    Spiced Cranberry Rum Fizz #CaptainsTable by
    When I think festive holiday drinks, the first ones I lean toward are FIZZES!  I don't know what it is with me and fizz, but every time I turn around, I come back with a fizzy drink in hand.  I know.  Fizz is festive!  Say it with me now... Fizz. Is. Festive.

    So, when trying to decide which alcoholic beverages to offer with Thanksgiving dinner, a fizz naturally came to mind.  I figured I'd either go pumpkin, ginger, pomegranate, or cranberry.  Those flavors are the first to spring to mind when I think Thanksgiving cocktail flavors.  I knew that I wanted it to complement the flavor of Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum.  Heck, more than complement, I wanted it to show-off the rum!
    Saturday, November 30, 2013

    Chocolate Coconut Mousse ...inspired by Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? {food 'n flix}

    Chocolate Coconut Mousse inspired by Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe for Food 'n Flix |
    This month's Food 'n Flix pick was one that I had never seen before.  An oldie, but goodie.  And one of my favorite genre's to boot - a culinary whodunit!  This film, which was loosely adapted from the novel Someone is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe by Nan and Ivan Lyons (which I just ordered from Amazon), was released in 1978.

    As the film begins, we are introduced to gourmand Maximillian Vandeveer, who is organizing a grand state dinner for the Queen.  The menu is comprised of a four-course meal prepared by Max's idea of the four greatest chefs of their region.

    At a doctor's visit, Max is told that his weight is affecting his health, and that immediately needs to lose a large amount of weight to extend his life. To this, Max takes offense, stating...
    Friday, November 29, 2013

    Spiced Pumpkin Rum Flan #CaptainsTable

    Spiced Pumpkin Rum Flan #CaptainsTable by
    Do you have a go-to dessert for a specific holiday?  I tend to choose lemon bars and a fresh coconut tart for Easter.  For Christmas I lean towards cookies, candies, and gingerbread.  And Thanksgiving?  Well, Thanksgiving it's always pie.  It really never seemed like Thanksgiving if there wasn't pie for dessert.  Not that it was a rule or anything...technically.  But if it was a rule, I would have broken it this year.

    Of course, this year seemed anything but traditional.  I usually spend a solid month planning and re-planning my menu.  I paste together bits and pieces to make what I think will make the perfect meal for the year.  I have a notebook.  It has headings.  If you were to glance at it, you'd see Turkey and Gravy, Stuffing (which I should technically call Dressing, because I never actually stuff it into the bird), Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Cranberries, Applesauce (the applesauce is always the same, but I still list the category and fill it in), Sides (because potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberries, and applesauce are always there in some form or another...but the sides often change from year to year), Bread, Drinks, and Desserts.

    Into that notebook also goes a shopping list, a prep schedule, and a cooking schedule.  It goes with me everywhere during the month of November, leading up to the big day.  You know, in case I have any things that need to be immediately added or changed.  Lest I forget those changes before I return home.  This was the first year that two or three pies were not listed under Desserts.  Some years, I just use Pies as the heading, as I know that's all that will be there, anyway.  But really, not a single pie.
    Wednesday, November 27, 2013

    Fast Focaccia with Prosciutto, Asparagus, and Shallots #passtheprosciutto

    This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Parma Ham - Pass the Prosciutto.  All opinions are my own.
    Fast Focaccia with Prosciutto, Asparagus, and Shallots #passtheprosciutto |
    I'll be the first to admit that when the holiday season rolls around, especially the day-before and the day-of any given holiday, I sometimes leave my family high and dry in the "normal" meal department.  Between preparation of the big meal and lack of stove/oven/refrigerator space, we eat a lot of cereal, sandwiches, and leftovers while the scents of the season linger around us.

    This is one thing that I've vowed to change this year.  I will not starve* my family in anticipation of the big meal. This will just take a little advance planning on my part.  That's where simple meals like stratas, that can be prepared the evening before and left in the fridge for morning baking, come in.  Or a tray full of assembled quesadillas waiting to be baked for a quick lunch.  Or, believe it or not, a loaf of focaccia and bag full of pre-chopped mixed lettuce leaves to go with it.

    Yeast bread?  I'm sure you're wondering if I'm being serious right now.  Who has time to make a yeast bread in the midst of the madness that is a holiday meal?  I do.  You do.  Anybody does, when it's this fast focaccia!  After a quick mix and knead, it gets stretched into a prepared pan.  After that, it's pretty hands off.  Prepare something to top it while it rises, then slide it into the oven for less than 30 minutes.
    Tuesday, November 26, 2013

    Why I'm sitting at the #CaptainsTable this holiday season...

    #CaptainsTable Challenge Announcement at
    Over the next 3 months, I will be joining 14 other bloggers in the #CaptainsTable Challenge.  We will be creating and sharing some delicious holiday food and drink recipes featuring Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum and/or Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum.  The challenge consists of three parts: Thanksgiving, The Holidays, and Super Bowl.  I will be creating one drink recipe and one food recipe for each of the three challenges.

    Chef Hugh Acheson will be reviewing the recipes and photos submitted by each blogger, and he will choose a winner each round to receive a $500 gift card to the retail store of their choice.  At the end of the challenge, an overall winner will also be awarded a trip to a Captain's Table US event in the spring where they will meet Hugh.

    But wait, here's the really cool part - each time the #CaptainsTable hashtag is used across social media channels from now through the beginning of February, Captain Morgan will donate $1 to WhyHunger!  So, if you see a post labeled with the #CaptainsTable hashtag, please share it; we want to raise as much money as we can for a great cause.
    Monday, November 25, 2013

    Roasted Delicata Squash and Tuscan Kale Pasta {Cook the Books + 12 Weeks of Winter Squash}

    Roasted Delicata Squash and Tuscan Kale Pasta |
    I first read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, 5 or 6 years ago.  I think it only took a couple of pages to kick-start the longing for my own parcel of useful land.  An area where I could plant not only row after row of vegetables to sustain us throughout the growing season (and beyond), but also an orchard with fruit trees, a few rows of grape vines tucked behind the house, and plenty of room for free-roaming hens, roosters, and turkeys that would produce not only eggs, but meat.

    I can still picture an open room with exposed beams dripping with braids of garlic and onions, bunches of herbs and flowers; heavy sunflower heads with bags tied around the end to grab the seeds.  Shelves lined with random mason jars and re-purposed tins.  A root cellar stocked with potatoes and tubers that still have earth clinging to their skins.  Bejeweled jars of jams and preserves lining the shelves of the pantry, alongside tomatoes, purees, and pickles to carry us through the winter.

    Half of me is drawn to a "simpler" (yet infinitely more satisfying, I imagine) way of life.  A life where all the food we need comes from our own hands, or the hands of those nearby.  A life where we give up the things that aren't a necessity.  A actual necessity, not a perceived one.
    Sunday, November 24, 2013

    Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

    Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake |
    What is a gooey butter cake, you ask?  And why is it called cake when it looks more like pie?  Those are both valid questions.  Let's start with the "what is it".    It's not a "cake cake", it's a "coffee cake cake".  With origins in St. Louis, Missouri, there are several claims to fame (like any famous recipe); ingredients switched...wrong filling mistakenly used...either way it seemed to come about as a happy mistake.  In it's basic form, it is the anti-diet food.  A base of a shortbread nature.  An ooey-gooey filling made from lots of butter, full-fat cream cheese, eggs (with extra yolks), and sugar.  How could it not be irresistible?

    There are two schools.  One school uses a yellow cake mix as a base, the other does not.  This version does not.  And the original doesn't have pumpkin in it,either - but as you know, 'tis the season for me to stick pumpkin (or any winter squash for that matter) into anything and everything.
    Friday, November 22, 2013

    Flavored Sea Salts {DIY}

    Flavored Sea Salts {DIY} #HandcraftedHolidays at
    I hate to tell you this, but there is just over a month left until Christmas.  The time has come to to make a plan.   Will you brave the Black Friday madness or shop like mad from the comfort of your own home on Cyber Monday?  Maybe you've already been picking up little gifts here and there.  Maybe you're way ahead of me and your shopping is already done.  If so, you have my admiration.  I, however, am still trying to shake off the holiday denial.  Why does it always come so fast!?

    Now, as much as I love to shop, I also love making gifts from my kitchen.  Last year it was homemade extracts and all-in-one beer bread kits.  This  year it's homemade liqueurs and do-it-yourself flavored sea salt.  Next year I'm thinking do-it-yourself flavored sugars, lip balms, and sugar scrubs.
    Thursday, November 21, 2013

    Stuffed Mushrooms {vegan} #SpreadCheer

    This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of GO Veggie! in conjunction with Kitchen PLAY.  All opinions are my own.
    Stuffed Mushrooms {Vegan} from #spreadcheer
    I have always considered myself (and my loved ones) extremely lucky when it comes to eating.  There has never been anybody diagnosed with a food allergy or an intolerance to a certain food group.  There's never really even been any dietary restrictions involved for anything other than choice.

    Until two weeks ago.

    My mom and brother drove down to visit me on my birthday.  It was the first time we'd all seen each other in over a year.  We'd talked here and there on the phone or via some social media channel, but this was the first set of hugs we'd exchanged in that long.  I've been asking my mom for ages (literally) to dig out some of her old boxes filled with photos and photo albums.  Well, happy birthday to me, because when they walked in the front door, my brother was lugging a big old box with him.
    Monday, November 18, 2013

    Pumpkin Hummus Mashed Potatoes {12 Weeks of Winter Squash}

    Pumpkin Hummus Mashed Potatoes for the 12 Weeks of Winter Squash from
    I had intended to share an entirely different squashy dish with you today.  It had pasta and kale and colorful Delicata half-moons.  But it got moved to the back burner after I found a fun new way to use my Pumpkin Hummus!

    Here's how it came about:  me, two hours of "waiting room time", and a big stack of holiday food magazines.  I've saved Thanksgiving issues of magazines for years.  At least 15.  Yes, it's my favorite holiday.  Planning my Thanksgiving menu is almost as much fun as enjoying it.  And you never know what will jump out at you from the pages of the past.

    So, in the midst of ripping up the subscription cards to make bookmarks, I stumbled on one of those little booklets stuck in the center of a Food Network magazine.  Usually I take them out, but this one got missed.  It was a "50 Mashed Potatoes" version.  Out of the purse came a pencil (yes, I carry a pencil around...but it's mechanical, so my purse doesn't get all marked up).
    Sunday, November 17, 2013

    Pumpkin Hummus w/ Spiced Lamb

    Pumpkin Hummus with Spiced Lamb
    Everybody has a few dishes that they make that are miles above the same dish when made by someone else.  Don't they?  For example, I am basically in the kitchen at any given hour; cooking, baking, testing, experimenting, eating, or just thinking about food in some form or another.  It's what I do.  But that doesn't mean that I don't enjoy eating somebody else's cooking every now and again.

    However, there are two or three dishes that I make better than anyone else.  For me.  For my tastebuds.  And I know that just because I think something is the best, it doesn't mean that you will think it's the best.   But sometimes, you've just got to toot your own horn.  That's okay.  It's healthy to appreciate your talents.

    One of my talents is making hummus.  I make a seriously mean hummus.  It was actually my fourth-ever blog post, which means that I've been churning out good hummus for at least the past five years.  So yes, I like hummus in general.  I'll eat hummus if you make it.  And I'll like it.  I'll eat store-bought hummus.  I'll like that, too.  But I get silly with a batch of "my" hummus.  I scoop it up with warm pitas like it's going out of style.  I slather it on toasted bagels.  I eat it on veggie sandwiches.  I dip major amounts of roasted broccoli in it.  I eat it from a spoon.
    Saturday, November 16, 2013

    Aloo Paratha {Bread Baking Babes}

    Aloo Paratha from
    My paratha rolling needs perfecting.  To say the least.  These whole wheat flatbreads are stuffed with a spicy potato filling that was bound and determined to find its way out.  Oh, and I should probably mention that there wasn't actually any whole wheat flour in my parathas.  There was meant to be, but since I found myself attempting these very last moment (as in, this morning), I was unable to zip to the market to pick up another bag of whole wheat flour when I discovered that weevils were making a home in mine.

    So, I went through every bag of flour that I had tightly rolled, but not put inside a container or zippered baggie.  This morning I threw out 3/4 of a bag of white whole wheat flour, half a bag of regular whole wheat flour, 1/2 bag of buckwheat flour, a whole box (minus a tablespoon or so) of cornstarch, 3/4 of a bag of masa harina, a box of rice flour, and a 1/4 of a bag of cake flour.

    I was left with all-purpose flour that I have in an airtight jar, plus a bag of unopened bread flour.  I'm praying that those nasty little things didn't find their way into that unopened bag.  It seems to be sealed pretty tightly, so hopefully it's good.
    Friday, November 15, 2013

    Pizza Toast

    Pizza Toast
    For Weekday Supper, we always share meals that can be made quickly and without a lot of fuss.  But this week, we've sped things up even faster to share ways of getting food on the table in a flash!  Now, there are all sorts of ways to make lightning fast meals.
    • use pre-cooked grains (that's what the weekend is for) for a stir-fry or salad
    • slice/dice up leftover bits and bobs floating around in the fridge for quesadillas, pastas, or pizza toast
    • cook angel hair pasta - it's so thin that it cooks in 2-3 minutes
    • add a rotisserie chicken that you picked up on the way home from work to a salad that uses simply different lettuces, fruits and/or berries, and a simple vinaigrette
    • pop a roast or chicken thighs into the slow cooker before you leave in the morning with simple sauce or seasoning that you can pour over.  Pile it onto crusty buns with your favorite condiments after you peel off your coat

    Those are just a few options.  What are your tricks for getting a busy weekday supper on the meal in 15 minutes or less?
    Thursday, November 14, 2013

    #SundaySupper is Squashin' Winter!

    A Winter Squash Menu #SundaySupper is Squashin' Winter PREVIEW POST at
    'Tis the season.  The season for piles upon piles of winter squash.  From deep oranges to warm yellows to surprising blues to dark greens...from smooth and long to oblong and knobby...the Sunday Supper team is bringing you a whole menu celebrating winter squash in all of its many forms!

    And guess what?  I'm hosting!  If you know me, you know that come this time of year, I am always looking for new and exciting ways to conquer these fantastic beasts.  Judging from the preview of the menu below, I'll have enough to keep me busy for the whole season!  Heck, maybe two seasons.

    Take note, if you will of the awesome photo featuring a few of the many varieties of winter squash that you will find at your farmer's markets and local grocers.  It is actually a dish towel that the lovely Renee of Magnolia Days owns; how fun is that!?  So, of course I asked her if she could snap a photo of it for me to use this week.
    Wednesday, November 13, 2013

    Gram's Seasoned Chops (+ Sweet Brown Butter Cornbread)

    Gram's Seasoned Chops (+ Sweet Brown Butter Cornbread w/ Boysenberry Jam)
    One of the food "subjects" near and dear to my heart is food memory.  The way a smell, a taste, a scent, a feel, or a sizzle can send a wave of nostalgia crashing down on you in an instant?  That blows me away.  I've written many times about dishes that pull me back to a time when Sun-in and jelly shoes were all the rage.  So, that's why, when my friend Lora (aka Savoring Italy), asked me if I'd like to write a post to contribute to her Food Memory series, I immediately said yes.

    I adore the way that cooking a dish that a loved one used to cook for you, 24 years after they've passed away, makes it feel like they're at the table with you.  That's exactly how I feel when I sit down to a table loaded with a heaping plate of my Gram's Seasoned Pork Chops, a cast-iron skillet of cornbread, and some Boysenberry jam on the side.  I hope that you'll drop by and read a little food memory story that I wrote about my grandma, and some of the food that never fails to push her back to the front of my memory when I eat it, at Lora's place today - my Sweet Brown Butter Cornbread.

    But to go along with the cornbread at Lora's place, I've also whipped up a batch of the simplest, most delicious pork chops in the world (to me).  My grandma always had the absolute thinnest cut chops, which she'd season up right with Lawry's seasoned salt, and then fry in a little bacon grease in her cast iron skillet.  We could tear through a pile in no time flat.  I've never been able to find chops quite as small as I remember hers being, but when I ask my butcher sweetly, he'll slice up some really thin chops (rib or loin, bone-in, depending on my mood...heck, maybe both).
    Tuesday, November 12, 2013

    Skellig Biscuit Apple Cobbler

    Skellig Biscuit Apple Cobbler |
    Trying to eat cheese with apple pie cost me the tip of my finger.  But I've told you that story before, so I won't make you listen to it again.  I just wanted to stress the point that eating cheese with your apples is worth a little pain and suffering.

    It just so happens to be apple season.  So, you may be able to guess what went through my mind when I opened up a box to find three glorious packages of Skellig, a sweet, yet still pleasantly tangy Cheddar from Kerrygold.  Yes, apples and cheese were on the menu.
    Monday, November 11, 2013

    Spaghetti Squash w/ Apples & Pistachios {12 Weeks of Winter Squash}

    Spaghetti Squash w/ Apples & Pistachios {12 Weeks of Winter Squash} |
    Okay.  I'll be the first to say it.  This dish looks kinda boring.  But if you just give it a chance, it may surprise you.  Sit down and spend some time with it.  It's the unexpected girl that you want to take home to meet your mother.  The one who makes you want to give up all of those crazy one-nighters.

    Get my drift?  Of course you do...that was about as subtle as Miley Cyrus at charm school.

    Really what made me try this dish in the first place was an attempt to make something other than "my usual" with Spaghetti Squash.  I mean, I could probably eat THIS daily weekly, but variety is good.
    Sunday, November 10, 2013

    Cheesy Italian Sausage & Kale Quiche

    Cheesy Italian Sausage & Kale Quiche
    Ah yes, how I adore the four basic food groups: Bread, booze, garlic, and CHEESE.  What's that?  Those are not the four basic food groups?  Oh yes, I forgot - there are five basic food groups.  How 'bout I add fish?  Yes, that sounds much more complete.

    Today's Sunday Supper menu is focusing on one of those basic food groups.  Maybe my favorite one of them all.  Well, next to bread.  Bread and CHEESE are equal in my book.  Heck bread with cheese is pretty much what I call bliss.  Anyway.  Cheese  makes everything better.

    Take for example, this already stellar quiche.  It's a glorious meal; slightly spicy sausage, ribbons of kale, and piles of paper-thin shallots - all resting in a thin, crispy phyllo shell.  Sounds pretty amazing right?  How in the world could it possibly get any better?
    Friday, November 8, 2013

    Balsamic-Glazed Pork Chops

    Balsamic-Glazed Pork Chops
    These fat pork chops smothered in a rich and tangy sauce pack such a massive flavor punch that you'd never guess that they went from fridge to plate in 30 minutes.  Two types of Balsamic vinegar are reduced down with brown sugar to bring out their sweetness, until they are concentrated and silky. Although onions usually have to cook low and slow for a long period of time to become sweet and caramelized, simmering them in this reduction tricks you into thinking that that's exactly what happened.

    Who said quick weekday suppers had to be basic, because the complex flavors going on in your mouth after you pop a bite of these smothered chops in there, would tend to disagree.
    Monday, November 4, 2013

    Spiced Butternut Squash w/ Red Onion {12 Weeks of Winter Squash}

    Spiced Butternut Squash w/ Red Onion {#12WksWinterSquash} |
    Guess what time it is? WINTER SQUASH TIME!  Yes, today kicks off another edition of the 12 Weeks of Winter Squash!  You may remember last year when Joanne and I would bring you a new winter squash recipe every Monday.  Joanne had already been doing this yearly, but as an effort to incorporate more types of winter squash into my life...explore it...become one with it...I asked her very, very nicely if I could join her.  She said yes.  Love that lady.

    This year, we're expanding even more.  You may remember that we always included a linky tool in our weekly posts, so that you could share the winter squash recipes that you made during a particular week, as well.  Well, we're doing that again this year...but we've also invited a bunch of our friends to join us on Mondays.  One can never have too many winter squash recipes.
    Sunday, November 3, 2013

    Fried Cauliflower w/ Sesame Parsley Sauce

    Fried Cauliflower w/ Sesame Parsley Sauce
    When I was in high school, my favorite food to buy when the fair was in town (aside from elephant ears) was tempura veggies.  It was like the best of both worlds - veggies AND fried food.  Mushrooms, broccoli, onions, zucchini, and cauliflower all tender and nestled inside they're lightly crisp and golden coating {wistful sigh}.  I've just succeeded in giving myself a massive craving.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm under no illusion that the veggies were still healthy once they were battered and bathed in hot oil.  But I like to pretend.  I only ate them like that once a year, so I think it was relatively okay.  And sadly, when trying to think back to the last time that I had tempura veggies, I think it was around 20 years ago.  Eeeep!  My 20-year reunion was this year (I didn't go).  I don't remember a time since then that I've had them.  I need to make a batch for old times sake.
    Friday, November 1, 2013

    How to Make Basic Mexican Sugar Skulls

    Dia de Los Muertos Ofrenda + Basic Sugar Skulls Tutorial
    Every year I tell myself and anyone else who will listen that this is the year that I will be making my own sugar skulls.  And then Dia de los Muertos comes and goes, and I still haven't made them.  I know why.  It's because this is the time of year when everything gets crazy-busy.  Like, even more so than usual.  October is officially the start of the holiday season in my mind.  We have birthdays and holidays piling in one after the other from October through January, and I partially lose my mind in that space of time.  With. Out. Fail.

    This year was different.  But only by the skin of my teeth.  And I have to credit Zulka Sugar for that.  When they asked me if I'd like to partner with them to do a tutorial on how to make sugar skulls, I knew that this was the year that my declaration would be met!

    First, I want to mention how much I adore Zulka.  THIS MUCH.  Zulka Morena Pure Cane Sugar is produced in family owned sugar mills, from sugar cane grown on family owned farms that are located in tropic regions.  Since it is unrefined, it has a beautiful, light golden brown color, a slight crunch, and the lovely molasses-like flavor that I LOVE in a sugar.  You can use it in any application in equal amounts that you would regular refined, granulated sugar.  Plus, it's non-GMO project verified.

    Cinnamon-Cardamom Buns

    Cinnamon-Cardamom Buns {#twelveloaves} |
    We eat our fair share of freshly baked bread in this house (as you well know if you hang out here at all).  Everybody has their favorites, the ones that are requested on a regular basis.  My oldest prefers pretzels, potato bread, and crusty white bread; my middle child adores cinnamon rolls of any variety; my youngest is forever asking me to make pull-apart bread of the cinnamon-sugar variety or a long loaf of Italian bread.  The hubster?  Well, he's happy with anything, as long as it's not pumpernickel or something equally dark that doesn't taste like chocolate.  He firmly believes that if bread is dark brown, it should be sweet.

    Me, myself?  I have a hard time choosing.  It seems that whichever bread, roll, bun, or twist that is warm and fragrant and cooling on my counter is the one I prefer.  Most recently, these Cardamom-Cinnamon Buns.
    Thursday, October 31, 2013

    Toasted Sesame Honey Chicken

    Toasted Sesame Honey Chicken
    Lately it seems that there is just not enough time in the day.  One minute I'm waving at the kids as they hop onto the bus, and the next minute I'm trying to whip up a delicious dinner before it's time to slide into our jammies!  Can you relate?

    I find that now that my kids are getting older and have more after-school activities, I don't have the time that I used to have for prepping, cooking, and serving dinner - especially on weeknights.  For the past couple of months, there have been more times than not that we don't wind up eating dinner until 7:30 or later on a school night.  That is not ideal.  So, I've had to take a little time early in the day to map out a plan.

    That plan usually includes prepping early and sometimes even cooking early (with plans to reheat when we walk in the door at 6:30).  I won't lie, I've given in the allure of take-out now and again, as well.  But recently, I was introduced to something that makes getting dinner on the table on busy weeknights a snap - Campbell's Dinner Sauces.  With skillet sauce flavors like Thai Green Curry, Chicken Marsala, and Scampi, you could potentially have dinner on the table in 15 minutes flat.  That's from start to finish, people!
    Wednesday, October 30, 2013

    Revisiting Carrot Bread for a Bread Baking Buddies ROUNDUP

    Revisiting Carrot Bread for a BBBuddies Roundup |
    This was my first month as an official Bread Baking Babes Kitchen of the Month (aka, what we baked this month was all my doing)!  I wanted to choose something that would challenge the Babes and the Buddies, and I think that I did that successfully with this Carrot Bread!

    The original recipe has minor hydration other words, I don't think there was a single baker that embarked on this journey that didn't have to add extra liquid to the poolish.  Some even added more to the final dough.  The bread also contained a mix of flours, add-ins, and potentially difficult to source ingredients.

    I cannot tell you how much I love the fact that not only some of my fellow BBBabes rose to the challenge, but so did NINE BBBuddies!  You couldn't wipe the smile off my face as I read through their adventures, trials, and adaptations - and found myself craving the final results.  Each bread turned out a little differently; each bread looks fantastic.