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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.
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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!