Friday, December 31, 2010

A Rice like no other.


Rice. It seems so bland - just an after thought, hidden in a casserole as a filler or something you have to place your stir fry on. I get it for free or just cents on the dollar with my careful couponing tactics and normally give it to a food bank. It wasn't until 2 weeks ago that I had a rice dish that rocked my narrow minded rice world. I gazed upon a dish that just looked like a bland bowl of boring rice and I took a scoop out of obligation. It wasn't until I sat down and began working my way around my plate that my palate was forever altered in favor of this amazing new discovery.

My friend Jessica makes the best rice in the history of mankind. Period.

Now THAT is an accomplishment. I literally didn't want dessert - I went back for seconds on this rice and begged, literally pleaded for the recipe. She gladly handed it over and I made it for the fam much to their delight. I have to share it with you - have to. You need your rice life altered.

Sutton Rice
1 c. boring long grain rice (I used Mahatma because it was free and lounging in my pantry)
1 can of Beef Consomme (pronounced Con-SUM-May - fun!)
1 can of Beef Broth
1/2 stick of butter
1/2 onion, chopped

Saute the onion in the butter and pour it in an oven safe dish. Pour the rice and two cans of beefy business over the top and cover it. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes COVERED and then 30 minutes UNCOVERED. Watch it around the 50 minute mark as your oven may be hotter than others - you want the liquids to be absorbed but the rice to not be dried out.



Now, feast your tastebuds on this amazingness. I served it with a marinated steak and it was restaurant good. (How fun are my Sur la Table Christmas Plates?!)

Enjoy!
CC

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas...and there goes the size 4

Happy almost New Year friends! I hope you've had a a wonderful Christmas. I've spent the last few days crawling out of wrapping paper and shirt boxes, stepping over talking dinosaurs, remote controlled cars and praying that the batteries in the singing dogs and fire truck would fizzle quickly. I'm still on vacation and loving the time spent going to bed late after a Christmas movie, waking up late and making a big breakfast, and enjoying lots of fun family time. (Not to mention sneaking cookies and candy at ALL times of the day).

Christmas Eve was hosted at my humble abode with my family and I made a lasagna that truly is the best in the world. It's my great grandmother's recipe and she was an immigrant from Italy in the early 1900s. You don't get more authentic than that. Each bite made me feel as if I were walking down the streets of Venice. I can't tell you the recipe - family secret. Shh! I also attempted two desserts that were both amazing - a White Russian Pie and the Apple Danish with the flakiest of all crusts. Why eat one piece when you can have a sampler of two?

Christmas morning is a long standing tradition of Moravian Sugar Cake, heated until the brown sugar is just starting to melt and served with a side of eggs and bacon. Delish! As soon as those dishes clear, I wade through gift wrap into the kitchen to begin the meal I'm taking to my in-laws. I'm making the turkey this year! This is a life altering event for my mother in law who has made it for the last 30+ years. Popping that bird into the oven and whipping up the Cranberry Sausage Apple Stuffing, Corn Souffle and a Pumpkin Pie leaves me just enough time to blink before it's over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house we go!

I am pleased to report an exceptional meal and a WHITE CHRISTMAS! It's a first for the Carolina's in over 50 years. Of course sledding was sure to ensue.

Now that I'm catching my breath, I look forward to New Year's. A self proclaimed pajama and appetizer day! My husband and I make a list of all our favorite appetizers and we make them and watch movies. There are two that will for sure be on the list - Hot Blue Cheese and Pecan Dip & Artichoke Parmesan Dip. I made both as appetizers for Christmas Eve and could barely take a picture in enough time as it was disappearing so fast.

Here are the recipes for you to enjoy as well. The pictures are remnants of what was perfection until savage wolves came in and devoured the dips. I was able to keep them at bay long enough for a photo before the plates were licked clean.



Hot Artichoke Parmesan Dip
2 jars of marinated artichoke hearts, drained
3/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
2 pinches of salt
1-2 dashes of Cayenne Pepper
1 clove of garlic, mashed
1/2 - 3/4 c. mayonnaise

Coarsely chop the artichokes and mix all of the remaining ingredients together with them. Spread in a small baking dish and sprinkle additional Parmesan cheese over the top. Bake at 350 degrees fro 20-25 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Serve with crackers, toasted baguette bread or bagel chips. Enjoy!



Hot Blue Cheese and Pecan Dip
2 8oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
8 oz. crumbled blue cheese
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 T. butter
1 c. soft bread crumbs
1/4 c. fresh parsley
1 T. butter

Toast pecans in 2 tablespoons of butter in a small skillet over medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Keep stirring them so they don't burn. Remove them from the heat and allow to cool as you mix the cream cheese and blue cheese together with a mixer. Stir in pecans and butter and spoon this mixture into a greased baking dish (a pie plate did the trick for me).

Combine the breadcrumbs, parsley and 1 tablespoon of butter and sprinkle it over the cheese dip. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes and serve with apple slices (trust me) and crackers. OH MY WORD this is so good. If you love blue cheese, this is your dip of all dips.

I am now off to enjoy a date with my hot husband. The kids just left with Grammy and we're going to paint the town with a dinner and movie. Yahooo!

Have a safe and Happy New Year and I look forward to chatting again real soon!
CC

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cookie MONSTER!


Well, you can all stop holding your breath - I didn't place in this weekend's Cookie and Cupcake Competition, but boy did I have a great time.

The non-cake eater that I am wrestled with even submitting a cupcake recipe, but I did it anyway. After all, I've got just as good of a chance as anyone, right? I concocted a "Hint of Lime" cupcake that was a variation on 7 up cake, with a lime cheesecake icing adorned with fresh dried lime zest. It was pretty tasty, if I do say so myself. The cookie lover I am made an Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie with Dried Cranberries - a HUGE hit!

Now, let the following scene play out so you can feel like you were at the contest with me: The contest starts at two o'clock Sunday and I decide at 12:30pm as I'm clearing away lunch dishes, that I don't like my cupcake recipe that I made the night before. So I start from scratch and bake something completely different. Have I lost my mind? Yes. The icing was already done, so I figured I could just ice the cupcakes when I got to the competition to allow them enough time to cool during the car ride there.



With literally 9 minutes before I have to walk out the door, I pop my cookies in the oven so they are nice and fresh and the chocolate chips are melted bliss for the judges. In the midst of this, I freak out and tell my husband that I am completely overwhelmed and need his help. He helps pack the car with the laundry list of items I've pulled together for my display, as well as goes to work printing out labels for my entries so people know what in the world they are looking at and tasting. I've since re-named him Saint Rob.

With no time left to spare, I speed to the competition and am precariously balancing everything in my snap 'n go stroller - who said they were just for hauling children? Here is where I basically lose the contest. I didn't realize it was first come, first serve on the tables, so I grab an empty one near the back of the room.



MISTAKE! Even with two sets of judges, after eating 25+ cookies, by the time they get to me, one of the remaining 3 contestants, they are so full of cookies they can't even see straight and have all gone into diabetic comas. Clearly next year I need to get my snap 'n go into the room a little quicker to secure a better spot - all winners came from the front part of the room when the tastebuds were fresh and hadn't succumbed to diabetic shock.



I knew I had a winning cookie, and this is how: I'm enjoying a casual conversation with my mother in law and one of my girlfriends who had also entered the contest this year, when LO AND BEHOLD, a Cookie Monster of a woman sidles up to my table - my perfectly displayed table that had been untouched by human hands and was waiting in expectation for the judges. This woman loses her presence of mind and begins taking my cookies!

I cried out in utter shock and disbelief "MA'AM!!! PUT THAT BACK! I haven't been judged yet!" She turned and gave me a confused look and without missing a beat replied, "But they were so delicious looking, I wanted one. I kept walking by and I just wanted one." I told her that she first needed to ask permission before just helping herself, and secondly, she needed to put the cookie back, as I was still waiting for the judges. She merely stood there dumbfounded, so I took the cookie off her napkin and promptly entered it back into my display. Call me a miser, but there were only a few cookies on display (they require 6 to compete) and presentation is a huge determining factor!



Wouldn't you know, of the cookies on display in my lovely silver dish, they choose the man-handled one from the crazy woman. Of course! Why would they choose anything but? I had the most perfect looking cookies displayed by hand placing the chocolate chips and dried cranberries in each blob of dough so they baked to perfection and they looked worthy of a cover shot in Southern Living. I got rave reviews of how gooey the chocolate chips were (Ya think? I only made them 5 seconds ago) and the Pastry Chef said 7 up cake was her favorite in the world. Clearly it was an overdose of sugar that made them choose others - but that's ok. I was in it to have fun and it's only fair that others have a chance in the limelight.



Once the competition was over and well deserving winners announced, I was pounced on by other contestants to eat my cookies. The oohs and ahhs made me feel like a winner, despite returning home with nothing more than a good Cookie Monster Story. I had a great time and loved seeing the innovation and creativity others poured into their work. It's an inspiration to enter again next year!




Thanks for cheering me on!
CC

Friday, December 17, 2010

Airing on the side of a cookie - TV style!


I could hardly fall asleep last night. With the combination of a successful Christmas party, eating my weight in the most divine chocolate truffles EVER and the anticipation of being interviewed and filmed for the Ballantyne Cookie competition this morning, it was a little more than I could handle.

Being the extremely health conscious mother I am, I gave my children cookies for breakfast before sending them off with my mother-in-law. This way we could tape without interruption of flying beach balls, silly bands and monster trucks (all common occurrences otherwise).

I'm putting their coats on and sending them out the door as a WBTV car pulls up to my house. My stomach jumps into my throat and I begin asking myself important questions like "Is my blush too excessive? What if my underwear shows when I bend over to put the cookies in the oven? Will anyone notice the fingerprints on my oven door from my 18 month old's cookie fingers? Will anyone notice the chocolate truffle batter from last night stuck to my Kitchen Aid when they do a close up of the cookie batter? What if I throw up?"

I think they're all valid concerns but everything fell into place as WBTV Reporter and Anchorwoman Kristen Miranda graciously took me through the shoot. I was amazed that 30 minutes of shooting would be whittled down to 50 seconds of air time. We all got a laugh at the cameraman's inability to plug in the special lighting due to my child proof socket protectors. When in doubt - use a butter knife! (Kids, do not try this at home!)

I was interviewed in the comfort of my kitchen, surrounded by cookie ingredients and a great crew. The cookies turned out PERFECT. (Praise the Lord). I didn't have any mishaps as I originally feared and the spot airs tonight at 5:30 eastern on WBTV.

Now, since I've shared the recipe for these famous Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies two days ago, I'll let you in on the magical truffles that make you fear skinny jeans. I made two kinds for the dessert last night to finish off the Italian Feast - Chocolate Cheesecake and Oreo Cheesecake Truffles.

Chocolate Cheesecake Truffles
8 oz. cream cheese - softened
8 squares of semi-sweet baking squares
2 cups of semi sweet chocolate chips
1-2 tablespoons of shortening

Beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until creamy. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate baking squares until smooth and add to the cream cheese - incorporating until it's a smooth, chocolaty consistency. Try to avoid spooning down all the batter right then - tempting, but you'll want to save it for the finished product. Chill until firm, several hours.

Melt the chocolate chips and shortening in the double boiler and have two forks ready and waiting. Using a melon baller, form truffle balls and throw them into the melted chocolate. Use the forks to dip each truffle and coat it well, tapping off the excess chocolate. Move truffle to a parchment lined plate and repeat until all truffle batter has disappeared. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Now for the Oreo Version!
1 package Oreo Cookies - crushed to oblivion
1 8 oz. package of cream cheese, softened
2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
1-2 teaspoons of shortening

Combine your crushed Oreos and cream cheese until it's a paste-y mess. Refrigerate until firm and melt your chocolate chips and shortening like you did in the above recipe. Same song and dance - form melon ball sized truffles and toss them in the melted chocolate. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Presenting these luscious bites of Heaven on a few platters after eating a sumptuous feast will have your guests absolutely forgetting their names. It's quite possibly the best little party dessert you've ever popped in your mouth. Here's a picture - a REAL picture of what a real amateur person made - they don't always turn out smooth like the ones at the Godiva counter or in the fancy magazines but they taste just as good if not BETTER. I promise - and I know these things as my sweet tooth is the size of Texas.



Have a delicious day!
CC

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I love cookies. Oh, and being on TV (?!)

I seriously might hyperventilate and pass out right this second. Remember that nifty cookie contest I wrote about yesterday? Well, it turns out it's getting some great media coverage this year, since the proceeds from the contest benefit the Levine Children's Hospital. This is the 3rd year the contest will run and it gets bigger and better each year.

I won second place last year (which completely floored me) and so I thought I'd attempt it again this year since I love cookies so much. And truffles. And chocolate. And cheesecake...oh wait, we're talking about cookies. Focus! What I would give for a milkshake right about now.

Local news station WBTV is covering the event and asked the hosting hotel, Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge, if there were any returning contestants who won last year that might be up for a television interview. HELLOOOOOOOOOOOOO! In walks The Musing Foodie. I've been booked for a 30 minute taping tomorrow morning at my home and from there it will mostly get sliced, diced and consolidated into a fun little clip that will hopefully air sometime this weekend. We'll promote the contest that runs this Sunday and I might put in a little itty bitty plug for my blog. We'll see. I might be passed out on the floor, remember?

Now in the midst of this, I'm throwing a Christmas Party tonight. If any of you have seen my cooking in action, you know the kitchen is an utter disaster when I'm done. (Which equals a late night of clean up to have a beautiful kitchen for a camera crew in the morning). I've gone for an Italian Theme this year and here is the menu to tantalize those tastebuds:

CC's Italian Soiree

Appetizers - Brie en Croute and Deep Fried Lasagna Bites
Main Course - Hot Italian Sandwiches with Marinara Dipping Sauce and a Tortellini Salad
Dessert - Oreo and Chocolate Cheesecake Truffles (and a gooey chocolate cake if I'm able to get my super woman cape to work correctly)

So there you have it - a party and a tv spot. WOW! Please pray I don't pass out.

I'm off to go make some truffles, vacuum the house and conjur up a milkshake...and maybe a Twix Bar.

Can't WAIT to tell you how the taping goes - pray for me y'all!
CC

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I love cookies.

Last night's dinner was going to be something miraculous with chicken. Seeing how the chicken was still frozen at 5:30 and I still needed to buy a book for the Preschool Christmas Party Book Exchange today, return $33 of nuts I didn't need (long story), and pull together all the teacher's Christmas gifts because there might be snow tomorrow, dinner miraculously turned into a swing through the drive through of Taco Bell. C'mon Mexican Pizza with a Hard Taco Supreme!

I currently have "Perfectly Pulled Pork" cooking for dinner and the jury is still out on how that will taste. A 6 pound Boston Butt was massaged with a homemade dry rub and it's basking in the warmth of my slow cooker. It's a new recipe as my last one was nothing short of a disaster. We might be gracing Taco Bell again tonight! Keep your fingers crossed.

I have some fun things I'm pulling off the back burner that I'm quite excited about. There is a Christmas Party I'm hosting with a snazzy Italian Theme, so stay tuned on those menu items - as well as the Ballantyne Hotel Cookie and Cupcake Challenge. I placed second on my Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe last year and I can't wait to return and compete again! I'm going to let you in on a little secret or two...for my Christmas shindig, I've asked guests to bring non-perishable food items to be donated to my church's foodbank. It takes the pressure off them to cook a dish and it ends up feeding people who really need it! My other secret? My cookie recipe! This might be my favorite ever - I get rave reviews from friends and family and a 2nd place win is a nice little perk too. Here's a shot of last year's competition - it felt very Food Network-ish!



Old Fashioned Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 c butter, softened
1 c chunky peanut butter
1 package semi sweet chocolate chips
1 c sugar
1 c firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2.5 cups all purpose flour
2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 t. vanilla extract

Beat butter and peanut butter at medium speed with mixer until creamy. Gradually add in sugars, beating well. Add eggs, beat well. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in medium bowl and add to butter mixture, beating well. Stir in vanilla and chocolate chips by hand.

Cover and chill for 2 hours. Shape into 1 -2 inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-9 minutes. This will make about 6 dozen.

Enjoy!
CC

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Fajita fizzle - Potato Panache

I'm thoroughly disappointed with a steak fajita attempt I served for dinner last night. Such lofty expectations fell flatter than a pancake. I'm still trying to figure out if it was the meat, the marinade or a combination of both. There were nifty packages of pre sliced beef marked boldly that they were perfect for fajitas - so I bought two and threw them in the freezer. The fajita mood hit yesterday and I marinated them in a new recipe, only to eat them in utter disgust. Tough and not the best flavor.

The avocados I used in the guacamole weren't fully ripened yet and literally turned into chameleons and donned an ugly shade of gray about 5 minutes after I made the dip...making the family question what in the world it even was. Not a good scene and I pouted on the couch after dinner, thoroughly irritated that it wasn't a better meal. You win some, you lose some and my husband reminded me that every meal can't be the best. But I want it to be, so I'm hoping something miraculous will take place with the chicken I'm still figuring out for dinner. Stay tuned.

Now, I DID have a winner over the weekend for a Christmas party I attended. We have a potluck style get together with long time friends every December and I signed up for a side dish - a tried and true side dish as the new recipe for macaroni and cheese I tried last year was a disgrace and left people picking at it and smiling politely as they tried in vain to make it disappear from their Chinet. Note to self: Don't try a new recipe on people before you've tasted it yourself. It saves you the heartache and embarrassment of horrible flops.

Not this year! I fixed Mrs. Goodan's Potato Casserole from my 11th grade Home Economics class. Clearly, I'm a dork to have held onto the recipe since high school, but I liked it that much. I've tried no less than 15 different versions of potato casserole and this is the one I always go back to.



11th Grade Potato Casserole
5-6 medium potatoes
1/2 c. butter
1 can cream of chicken soup
1.5 c. grated cheddar cheese
16 oz. sour cream
1 T. minced onion
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper

Boil potatoes in the skin. Cool, peel and chop them into smaller than 1 inch cubes. In a saucepan, heat 1/2 cup of butter, soup and cheese. Stir until melted. Remove from the heat and add sour cream. In a large bowl, mix potatoes, onion, salt and pepper. Pour the cheese mixture over the potatoes and fold in until it's well blended. You can top this with cornflake crumbs and a little melted butter at this point if you wish, but if you were out of cornflakes like I was, omitting is still just as delicious. I topped it with a little extra cheddar for fun.

Bake at 350 degrees for an hour and then devour. It's rich and delicious.



Have a delicious day!
CC

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sympathy Baskets


I think I should carry a box of Kleenex with me everywhere I go these days. Sentimental moments seem to hit more than usual for me this Christmas season. I'm a strong advocate for giving back and making a difference. My wonderful church has a project they roll out each year at this time to remember those families who have lost loved ones within that calendar year. It's a special way of letting people know that we understand that the holidays will be a little difficult with one less card to send, one less gift to buy and one less place to set at the table.

They create and package something called Sympathy Baskets and have volunteers deliver them all over the community. The basket is a classy package filled with savory and sweet baked goods; snack mix, brownies, Russian tea mix, cheddar biscuits and cookies. Beautifully wrapped in cellophane with a big bow and an ornament attached, it's a loving reminder that people are cared for, thought of, prayed for and loved. This year marks the fourth basket we've received and fourth ornament we will be placing on our tree as a reminder of loved ones who have gone on to be with the Lord. Every ornament evokes fond memories and sentiments that are gentle reminders of God's goodness.

This year I volunteered to help deliver some of the baskets and I had no idea what to expect as I went house to house. There was such pleasant surprise on behalf of the recipients. I shared tears and a hug with a woman who lost her sister and was having a hard time coping with the loss. With tears spilling down her cheeks she was blessed beyond measure to receive this small token of kindness. I had to pull out the Kleenex box again as I pulled up to another house and discovered it had burned to the ground. Not only was this family coping with the loss of a loved one, but their home as well. Each basket represents a story, a life, a memory.

I have one more basket to deliver and I have to tell you how much this project has warmed my heart. I see the blessing that baked goods can bring and am humbled to be part of such an amazing effort to help grieving families. I share all this to encourage you to look for those subtle opportunities to reach out to those who are hurting this Christmas season. They are all around us and something as simple as a batch of cookies can make all the difference.

Talk to you soon,
CC

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Heavenly Hash or Tomato Basil Bisque?

I'm sitting here cuddled up next to a half gallon of Heavenly Hash. Clearly it's 28 degrees outside and I've lost my mind. For some reason I thought it would have a ribbon of marshmallow flowing through it and they scammed me with vanilla instead, but who am I to descriminate against this flavor...it's not the ice cream's fault they forgot the marshmallow, right?

I'm in the midst writing the narration for my church's Christmas program coming up this weekend - a tall order that has me sitting here feeling very small and inadequate. Words can bring life, hope and encouragement and I want to get it right. Pray for me, okay?

Boy did I hear about it yesterday by not posting the Tomato Basil Bisque recipe. Shewwwweee! I have included it today for all of you just waiting to pelt my home with inflatable snowmen and candy canes. This recipe will take away the winter chill in no time.



CC's Tomato Basil Bisque
2 cups chicken broth (Or throw 2 chicken buillon cubes in 2 c. of water if you're in a bind)
1 32oz. can of diced tomatoes
1/4 cup dry white wine
4 oz. cream cheese (you read it right!)
4-5 fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 T. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 a small can of tomato paste
Salt and Pepper and a dash or two of Italian Seasonings to taste
1 teaspoon or two of sugar if you feel it needs it (taste it first though!)

Bring your chicken broth, wine and garlic to a boil. Add in the entire can of diced tomatoes, chopped up basil leaves, olive oil and tomato paste. Season with salt, pepper and italian seasonings. Whisk in the cream cheese last (immersion blenders of which I do not have come in very handy for this...you should see me with my poor little battery operated frothing whisk!). Garnish each bowl of soup with some fresh basil and serve with a grilled cheese. Delightful and Delicious!

Note: this is a chunky soup since it has diced tomatoes in it. Feel free to put the tomatoes in your blender if you want a smoother soup...I personally like the heartiness of a diced tomato. (Thank you tomatosouprecipe.net for the photo!)

Stay warm out there and have a delicious day!
CC

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chilly Me and some Cheez-It Chicken

The weatherman said it was going to be 16 degrees last night. That's a might chilly for the South. I had my kids bundled up so well you could just make out their blue eyes as I shoved and packed them into car seats for school. (Easier said than done with puffy coats on). In light of the bitterly cold weather, I'm enjoying a grilled cheese sandwich with mozzarella, cheddar and provologne cheeses and a nice cup of tomato basil bisque that I whipped up. I have a husband home sick, so grilled cheese and soup were the get-well-soon foods of choice.

I blinked and yesterday was gone, so here I am today getting caught up and I wanted to share an OH-so-good chicken casserole that is a favorite in our house. Cheez-It Chicken. My boys love it because it incorporates their favorite cracker - Cheez-Its! I've tried the store brand knock offs and none can compare to the perfection of a Cheez-It. We go through many a box in our house.

Here's the recipe - I pair it with a side of green beans and we gobble it right up.

40 Cheez-It Crackers, crushed (approx. 2 cups for those of you who don't want to count to 40)
2 T. Poppy Seeds
1 Stick of Butter
3 Chicken Breasts, cooked and shredded
1 Can of Cream of Celery Soup (I've never in my life used Cream of Celery before this recipe)
8 oz. Sour Cream
Salt and Pepper

Crush the crackers and toss in the poppy seeds. Melt one stick of butter and pour it over the cracker mixture, stirring to ensure every bit is covered in fattening delicious butter. Set aside.



Combine shredded chicken with soup and sour cream, plus salt and pepper to taste. Place half of the Cheez-It mixture in the bottom of a greased casserole dish. Carefully spread all of the chicken mixture on top of this. Sprinkle the remaining cracker mixture over the chicken and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.





Enjoy!

CC

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dipitty Do!


Good morning fellow foodies! I promised some appetizers this week and these will surely make you do a happy dance. I love dip. Chips and Dip, Spinach Dip, Mexican Dip, Artichoke Dip, Sausage Dip...shoot, give me a bag of chips and a container of sour cream and I'm happy. Dip is a fun finger food and feels oh-so-party-ish that I pull out various recipes throughout the holidays and go crazy.

I have two newbies to add to my collection and just have to share them. The first comes from water cooler conversation at my husband's office. A lady told him this was indeed fabulous and I have to indeed agree. I was scrambling for everything but the kitchen sink to dip into this recipe - my favorites ended up being Triscuits, toasted Baquette Bread and Grapes (sounds odd but it pairs beutifully with the blue cheese).

Blue Cheese Spread
8 slices of bacon
4 oz. crumbled blue cheese
2 (8 ounce) packages of cream cheese
1/3 c. half and half
2 t. minced garlic (put through your garlic press)
2 t. minced onion
Walnuts or Pecans for garnish


Cook 8 slices of bacon in a skillet and break into small pieces. Drain and cook the garlic and onion for 1-2 minutes. In a separate bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth and mix in 1/3 cup half and half. Stir in bacon, garlic, onion, and blue cheese.
Put in 2-3 large ramekins and bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes.
Sprinkle toasted walnuts or pecans on top and serve with sliced french bread, crackers and grapes.


The next recipe comes from yet another work soiree...gotta love lunchtime potlucks. My mom's boss brought this one in and the crowd went wild! We had it over Thanksgiving as one of the mandatory appetizers and it will alas, become a staple. It's got a touch of heat to it, so fasten your seatbelt and grab a box of crackers!

Cream Cheese Jalapeno Dip
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup mayonnaise
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilies, drained
2 ounces canned diced jalapeno peppers, drained
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs

Directions
Combine cream cheese and mayonnaise in a large bowl, mixing until smooth. Stir in green chiles and jalapeno peppers. Pour/spread mixture into a pie plate sized serving dish. Combine Parmesan and Panko and sprinkle over the top. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until hot and delish! How easy is this?!

My non-mayonnaise eating husband couldn't even tell it was in the mix...and I'm not spilling the beans! Live life on the edge and fix this on a weeknight. Parties aren't only for the weekend.

Have a delicious day! (and thanks foodchannel.com for the photo)
CC

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It can't be over yet?

Oh say it isn't so! Did Thanksgiving come and go that quickly? My refrigerator is saying yes. The last remnants of holiday meal leftovers are but a distant memory now. And what a delicious memory it was! I've received questions about what my meal consisted of...and though I gave a proposed menu on what would be fixed if I were hosting, I didn't host. We all piled in the car and headed South over hill and dale for approximatly 8 minutes until we reached my parents. It was a festive time and good food and fellowship was had by all.



My parents went completely non-traditional and fixed a smoked Beef Briskit (to die for) and a Honey Baked Ham. I went for the Briskit - for those of you in Texas country, you know what I'm talking about. And then we had traditional sides - sausage, apple and cranberry stuffing (pictured above), potato casserole, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, corn souffle, a mixed greens salad, rolls, shrimp cocktail...and an amazing new appetizer that involved jalapenos and cream cheese - oh hold me back! Dessert was pumpkin pie (pictured below), pumpkin roll, apple pie and a plethora of coffee options (my mother has to be a secret Starbucks Barista, I just know it!).



I had just about as much fun as one can possibly have this holiday. My boys are getting old enough to appreciate the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, so we piled on the couch in pj's and watched that. I operated the official "Musing Foodie Turkey 101" call center to field all the calls I got about turkeys and stuffing and other such fun - I loved getting those calls friends! I'm glad to hear your meals turned out delicious too!

We ate Moravian Sugar Cake for Thanksgiving Breakfast, along with eggs and bacon. If you have yet to experience Moravian Sugar Cake, you must indulge. It's a time honored tradition in our family for Thanksgiving and Christmas breakfast - something by husband clued me in to when we first got married. Think foccaccia bread with cinnamon and sugar in lieu of savory seasonings. Heat it up in the oven and you'll rethink your career and want to open a bakery.

I got an unexpected visit from a dear friend, my husband and I knocked out almost all of our Christmas shoppping on Black Friday and we put the tree up. I'm putting the finishing touches of decor up around the house and nothing makes me happier than turning off all the lights in the house but the tree and sitting on the couch with a bowl of ice cream or hot cocoa and just relaxing. It's the best!

The season is crazy busy and in full swing and I'm bound and determined to get the most out of each delicious moment. I have some fun appetizer recipes to share with you this week to help you ring in the merry good cheer, so stay tuned.

Talk to you soon!
CC

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Grace with a side of Apple Danish

If you saw the amount of butter, sour cream and cheddar cheese that I plopped onto my baked potato for lunch, you would probably pass out. But yesterday was just that kind of day. I had an insanely busy schedule from the moment I woke up and small little nothings seemed to attack from every angle. I found myself hitting the Twix stash, the Reece's stash, helping myself to a large bowl of Brownie Fudge Ice Cream and the generous helpings on the aforementioned baked potato while trial after trial took jabs at me. Nothing seemed to suffice until my husband, who I love and adore more than life itself, came to my rescue. (Where do I also mention that I only remembered to straighten the front part of my hair, not realizing the back was completely curly until the end of the day? And where do I also insert that I put on all my makeup but forgot the key element of mascara?)

My husband helped me put things into perspective, calmed me down and then took the kids off to play in another part of the house so I could have culinary therapy in the comfort of my kitchen. He can always tell when I've had a rough day - dinner is either frozen pizza or I have a bake-a-thon. Last night was the latter.

I baked an Apple Danish from scratch - dough and all and it was to die for. We couldn't wait until breakfast this morning, we HAD to eat it for dessert. HAD to. Will you look at that flaky buttery crust? I astounded my pre-made piecrust self!



I then moved on to a super fabulous Sweet Potato Casserole from my friend Hannah - I'll twist her arm and see if she minds me sharing the recipe with you. After that, I whipped up Shrimp Scampi that I served over Angel Hair Pasta for dinner...all while baking Chocolate Chip and Sugar Cookies for my son's Thanksgiving Feasts today at school. When the last cookie was placed in the appropriate Tupperware container and bookbag, I let out a contented sigh.

This morning I woke up completely rejuvenated and was able to hit Starbucks for all 6 of the boy's teachers for a Thanksgiving Sippable Suprise and then I skipped to my car with my bag of treats purchased from the School Bake Sale - Dinner Rolls, Pumpkin Roll and Whoopie Pies. Today is going to be a GOOD day.

I have no idea what I'm making for dinner and still have a to-do list a mile long, but with some major GRACE I will get through it all. Aren't fresh starts a blessing? Yet another thing to add to my Thanksgiving Thankfulness List.

So, if you read up on last week's posts, today and tomorrow you're working ahead making those side dishes for Turkey Day, right? I already had a delicious two-thumbs up report on my turkey recipe that was fixed last weekend for a potluck - glad you enjoyed it Jenn!

Talk to you soon friends - I'm off to munch on more of that Apple Danish!
CC

Friday, November 19, 2010

Day #4 Turkey Day Planning 101

Ok folks, it's my last day of tips and tricks for all things turkey related. You can do this! Remember, pull the bird out of the freezer this Sunday. Start on your side dishes Tuesday and Wednesday, and Thursday...put the bird in the oven and make your potatoes and GRAVY! Oh the gravy.

There are Marthas on this and there are Bettys on this. Martha Stewart would pull water from her well out back to make her own turkey stock, select her turkey from the barn she constructed herself, carefully pluck the herbs and seasonings from her organic garden and milk the cow to make fresh cream, all while churning butter and sewing an apron to wear on the big day. Betty Crocker takes her $.50 coupon and buys a jar of the stuff herself and skips all the way home knowing she's saved - not slaved. I am a mix of the two.

I like a lot of gravy as I generously douse everything on my plate with it. A bird only produces so much 'juice' while cooking so you need to help it out a bit if you have gravy lovers like me in your family. This is where Betty enters stage right. I have developed a delicious recipe that is made from scratch with a little help from McCormick.

Ingredients
All the pan drippings and broth from your turkey
Salt
Pepper
Chicken or turkey stock
1-2 packages McCormick Turkey Gravy Packets
Flour or cornstarch on standby
1/2 c. Sour Cream

Pour all the pan drippings into a stock pot and bring it to a boil. Add in 1-2 cups of additional chicken or turkey stock and 1-2 packages of the gravy packets (I'm being purposely vague on the stock and packets as you'll increase based on your bird size). With all of this boiling along, add some salt and pepper to taste. I also add in my gravy packet(s) and once that boils, remove it from the heat.

Make sure you whisk all of these ingredients together - we want a smooth sauce. I'm going for a certain thickness that's not watery and not solidified glop and that is something best defined by seeing it live. If you feel you have a sauce that's too watered down, mix a tablespoon or two of flour or cornstarch with 1/2 a cup of sour cream and whisk it all in the sauce. Putting the flour or starch in the sour cream and dissolving it first will help alleviate those blasted lumps. The sour cream adds divine flavor as well. Make sure you taste along the way and adjust accordingly - you know what tastes good! That's all there is too it.

Now for desserts...there are tons of family favorites out there and about 25 ways to make a pumpkin pie. I won't go into how to make one other than to be the #1 advocate of premade crusts. Eagle Brand Milk has a nice recipe if you wish to google it, and so does Libby's Pumpkin - it's on the can! I've done baked pumpkin pies, whipped pumpkin pies, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin roll, pumpkin squares and tarts, not to mention trifle. I like them all...but also appreciate the variety of brownies and cookies and apple pie. Banana pudding would rock the dessert buffet along with pecan pie or some lemon bars. It's nice to give your guests a few options and remember that a standard pie renders about 8 slices.

Whatever you decide - whether it's to make it yourself, assign it to a family member or send your husband to a bakery - it will be delicious. And if it's not, pull out some ice cream and make sundaes. It's the time you're spending with friends and family that outweigh the meal itself. Just relax and enjoy the process. I find cooking to be theraputic. I hope each and everyone of you has a wonderful Thanksgiving.

I can't wait to hear how your meal turns out!

Have a delicious holiday,
CC

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Day #3 of Turkey Day Planning 101

Howdy friends! I've been amused by two things so far today...finding a chocolate cupcake with white icing and candycorns stuck in it to look like a turkey stuffed half under my couch, and my 4 year old proudly declaring to me that he is in fact, a genius. Two totally unrelated instances (I think) as I have my youngest to blame for the careful cupcake placement. HA! I love my boys.

How are you coming with your Thanksgiving Planning? Good I hope - this is something fun to enjoy! I love this time of year so much. Just driving around today wearing a sweater and admiring the changing colors of Fall got me even more in a Thanksgiving-y mood. Today we're going to tackle the main course - the most intimidating aspect (in my opinion) of the entire meal. THE TURKEY. You don't want it to turn out like Cousin Katherine's from Christmas Vacation as Clark Griswold carves it and it explodes into a dry heap of char and you don't want to undercook it so that everyone goes home sick. It's a tricky bird, but with these careful instructions you can enjoy a masterpiece that will land you standing ovations.

First let's talk bird size - how big of a gobbler does one really need? A good rule of thumb is two pounds per person, and if you want some leftovers for sandwiches, consider 3 pounds per person. Not everyone is going to actually eat 2-3 pounds of meat, you're taking into account the bones weighing a bit too.

Pull that bad boy out of your freezer a good 4 days in advance - he needs to be completely unthawed before you throw him in the oven. So Sunday morning before church, set the bird in a pan and let him unthaw in the refrigerator. The pan will catch any condensation or juice so your frig isn't gross. (I know this from experience). When it comes time to pull the plastic and the netting stuff off the turkey next Thursday, be sure to remove the package of guts and the neck stuffed down inside the cavity of the bird. Some people love to use these parts in their gravy or stuffing. I personally do NOT and find it repulsive so I throw it in the trash as soon as I possibly can. It's just a guts phobia I have. I give him a cute little bath in the sink, rinsing him thoroughly with water and then let the bird sit for about 45 minutes on the counter to get to a good room temperature so as to reduce cooking time by alleviating the chill that may lead to uneven cooking. Nifty trick I learned through research.

Ok, so while he's resting on your counter, grab your ingredients.

Ingredients for the Best Turkey Ever
These ingredients are based on a 10-12 pound turkey - adjust accordingly based on your bird size (Thank you Southern Living!)
1/2 c. olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, minced (I put them through my garlic press)
2-4 t. fresh or dried rosemary
1-2 t. salt
1-2 t. pepper
2 onions

Combine the olive oil, garlic and rosemary. Loosen the skin from the turkey without totally detaching it. Now, forewarning: you will get messy hands at this point. If you want to be froo-froo, use a basting brush - if you want to get in and really baste your bird well, hands are key for me! Take about 1/2 of the mixture and massage it all over the bird under the skin, replace the skin and do the same thing to the outside of the skin. Sprinkle the outside with salt and pepper (and throw some underneath the skin for good measure if you desire). Roughly chop the onion and place it down in the cavity - the flavor will enhance as the bird and onion cook. You'll throw away your onion when this is all said and done.

Put the bird in a roasting pan (I have a nifty roasting rack he sits on in the pan -a sort of turkey throne for this last will and testament). Cover the entire pan - bird and all with foil. You want to keep the moisture in while it cooks so it's not like Cousin Katherine's - remember?

Bake the turkey at 325 degrees for 3 1/2 to 5 hours if you have a 12 to 16 pound bird. An 18-22 pounder will take around 4 1/2 to 6 hours. I baste twice - once about half way through cooking and the second time about 3/4 of the way through cooking. Just take all the juice in the bottom with a spoon and ladle it over the bird and recover it. Simple. Even simpler if you have a turkey baster - it's a fun little squirty gadget. Uncover your turkey when you have about 30 minutes left, so it gets nice and brown - if it starts getting crazy brown, recover it. We don't want the skin to burn, just to turn a nice golden brown like the cover of every magazine currently gracing the supermarket shelves.

How do you know if it's done? I don't trust the little pop up thermometer that some turkey companies have installed in your turkey for convenience. Mine never popped up one year. I use a meat thermometer and shove it in the thickest part of the thigh of the bird - being careful not to rest it against a bone. The temperature should read at least 165 degrees. Pull it from the oven and keep it covered in foil and let it rest while you madly shove your casseroles in the oven to heat up (remember, the ones you made tuesday?). Crank up your oven to 350 and if you've let your casseroles get to room temp, it won't take as long to reheat them.

Here is a photo of me last year, quite happy with my 18 pound bird.



Now, before you catch the last few floats coming down Michigan Avenue for the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, make your mashed potatoes and gravy. The rest of the meal is heating up and all will be done at the same time (or very close to it).

Prior to pulling the turkey out, peel and boil about 8-10 medium to large sized baking potatoes, yukons and yellows are nice and tasty. This sets the stage for the most fattening delicious potatoes ever.

Delicious Mashed Potatoes
8-10 medium/large potatoes - peeled and boiled
1 stick of butter (no substitutions - we're going for flavor)
8 oz. sour cream (again, if you say low fat, I'll have to smack you)
8 oz. cream cheese
Sea Salt or Kosher Salt to taste
Whole milk to reach desired consistency.

Once the potatoes are cooked, I mash them in my Kitchen Aid mixer (ahem, otherwise known as the pride and joy of my kitchen). If you have a large bowl and hand mixer, this gets the job done too. As they are mashing, add in the butter, sour cream, cream cheese...stop and taste it, then add salt according to your taste preference. If you're looking for a thinner potato consistency, add a little whole milk (or shoot - half and half if you've got it) and mix it thoroughly. Transfer the potatoes to your serving bowl and reheat in the oven for a few minutes if need be.

There you have it friends! Now tomorrow, I'll let you in on the gravy making secret and a dessert or two. We're a week away - yahooooooooooooo!
CC

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Day #2 of Turkey Day Planning 101

I've completed my Thanksgiving cards and placed them in the mail, ate a whoopie pie for breakfast and sit here in utter disbelief over the happenings of my life over the past 24 hours. Indulge me before we talk of casseroles. I've mentioned before that I sing in my marvelous church choir. Last night we were invited to sing for the Reverend Billy Graham at his 60th anniversary commemorating his extraordinary years in the ministry. He is the greatest evangelist of our time. I was awestruck and overwhelmed. How I got chosen to be part of this, I'll never know. It was a once in a lifetime honor and it blessed me beyond measure. I was humbled at how he takes no credit for any of the great work he's done - the millions he's ministered to and lives that have been changed. What an example of a life to lead.

Thank you for allowing me to share that. Let's transition back to our Thanksgiving planning so you can whip up a feast that will awe and inspire, all while giving thanks for the things that really matter most, to the One who matters most.

I've had you make a guest list, a food-to-fix list and an ingredient list. You're mosey-ing off to the store to get your ingredients. What's next? Eat a piece of leftover candy from the Halloween stash and I'll tell you.

Days in advance, you can set your formal dining room table with the plates, napkins, doo-dads of decor and such - just forbid the kids from playing stomp rocket, tag or basketball in that room. Involve the kids in the preparation - let them feel it's their important job so they can get into the holiday more than stuffing their faces. It's ok if they miss a butter knife or two - the kitchen is just a few feet away. If you don't have a dining room table - no worries! Take the family out for dinner the night before so you can have the kitchen table set in advance. Everyone likes the special feel of the holidays by doing special things like going out.

In setting your table, I happen to be a proponent of name place cards and decor my kids have made in preschool for my centerpiece- if that's too bumpkin for you, a beautiful floral arrangement and figurines of pilgrims will have to do.

Now to the nitty gritty. When can you start making these food items so you can at least have an ounce of sleep before Uncle Bart and Aunt Vivian arrive? Tuesday. The Tuesday before you can start cooking like a FoodNetwork Star. You saw my list in the last post - I'll break it down for you.

Green Bean Casserole - make it and stash it in the frig. Keep the French Fried Onions off until you bake it in the oven the day of, or they'll be a soggy mushy mess.

Yellow Squash Casserole - another beauty that can be made ahead! This goes for the Broccoli Casserole and Sweet Potato Casserole. Often, these flavors get better with time, so Tuesday is your golden day!

Cranberry Sauce - don't laugh at my caveman view on this, but I happen to enjoy it pulled straight from the can with the can rings still impressed on it in a tube of cranberry jello-yness. Slice it into discs and slap it on a platter. I also like the kind with orange zest that you make fresh, but the can rings take me back to my childhood.

Now, we have a few key items left - Turkey, Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes, Lettuce Salad, Fruit Salad and Rolls. They are day-of makers. No getting around it. Here's why - the turkey will get a strong game flavor over time - it's best cooked in the oven the day of. The stuffing...whether you are a stuffing or dressing fan (i.e. stuff in turkey to cook vs. in a casserole dish) it's best day of as well - the bread will otherwise get weird. Mashed Potatoes, ah yes - if you want them light and fluffy, they have to be made the day of. When they cool, they get much more dense and we all know the day after reheat in the microwave just doesn't taste the same. Lettuce salad - the lettuce will wilt, and no one wants a wilted lettuce salad. Rolls - a quick heat 'em up in the oven that is 5-10 minutes. No worries there!

Now, a few recipes to get you going, if you're stumped.

I mentioned appetizers the other day. I feel they are key. Undoubtedly, something will go wrong, cause a delay or several family members are late (surely this never happens?!). To keep every one happy and free from knawing on their shoes - have some light appetizers on hand. Hint: placing these OUT of the kitchen is key, so people aren't bothering you and getting in your way. You don't have to go crazy with apps, as you don't want everyone to fill up on them. Think block of cream cheese with pepper jelly on top served with crackers. Think mixed nuts and a bowl of cheese cubes. Think artichoke or olive tapenade from a jar with crackers (replate the jar please). Light and easy - operative words here.

And finally, I'll leave you with my Dressing Recipe. I'm not a turkey stuffer - I have nightmares of undercooking salmonella horribleness and like to keep it safe by baking these items separately. I found a recipe last year on Allrecipes.com and have modified it beyond recognition, so it's now completely my own - but I did want to at least give the source of my inspiration.

Step aside STOVE TOP! The real deal is comin to town!
Sausage, Apple and Cranberry Dressing (and for those skeptics out there who question the sausage - don't knock it until you've tried it! I have people clamboring for this recipe and have gotten so many ooh's and aaah's over it, I KNOW it's delish).

Ingredients:
3 cups cubed Italian or French Bread
4 cups Herb Stuffing Bread (this will be in the bakery section of the grocery store and for my loyal HT Shoppers, is B1G1 this week)
1 pound of ground sausage (Jimmy Dean = perfection)
1 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped celery
2.5 t. dried sage (fresh is fun too! - double if you go fresh)
1.5 t. dried rosemary
1/2 t. dried thyme
1 Granny Smith apple, cored, peeled and chopped
3/4 c. dried cranberries
1/3 c. minced fresh parsley (if you go dried - half this amount)
3/4 c. turkey or chicken stock
4 T. unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the bread cubes in a single layer on a large cookie sheet. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes until evenly toasted. Transfer all cubes to a large bowl.

In a skillet, cook the sausage and onions over medium heat. Add the celery, sage, rosemary and thyme (this so feels like a Simon and Garfunkle song). Cook, stirring for 2 minutes to blend the flavors.

Pour the sausage mixture over the bread in the bowl. Mix in the chopped apples, dried cranberries and parsley. Drizzle with the turkey or chicken stock and butter. Mix LIGHTLY and put in a large buttered casserole dish. You just need to heat this through - 25 minutes or so. If you want it crisp on top, leave the lid off your casserole dish. This is SOOOOO good and you'll forget you ever even saw a box of Stove Top once you've had it.

Next up - how do you cook that crazy turkey and can we put any more fattening ingredients in the potatoes? Chat more tomorrow!
CC

Monday, November 15, 2010

Day #1 of Turkey Day Planning 101

Let the countdown begin! We're a week and a half from the launch of Turkey Day and lots of Thankfulness. I can't wait! I have family flying in to town, we're getting the tree next weekend to start decorating the house, the recipes are flying like crazy and I purchased my massive turkey on sale for a mere $5. Life is good!

I promised that this week I would walk you through some of my favorite recipes, and I got a request from my friend Richelle L. to add my time line to the mix for the planners among us. It's a daunting task if you've never cooked a turkey - let alone being responsible for the entire meal. But you CAN do it, enjoy it and live to tell about it - I promise! I'm living proof. Now, eat a chocolate or two and lets get started!

My first plan of attack for a monstrosity of a meal such as this (and we're taking this from the standpoint of me hosting the shindig - I'm not this year, but for scenario sake, pretend I am). Planning ahead will save you much stress and heartache. I never thought I'd see the day that I would be exactly like my mother, but here goes: Start TODAY. Get out your notepad and make a list. My mom makes lists for lists and then adds another list for good measure. She's the most organized person on the face of the earth.

Your list #1 should contain the following: all your favorite dishes that you want to prepare. This is a task in and of itself as I have about 483 favorite recipes that I have to narrow down. I always go against the grain and try something new as well...but that's my adventurous spirit. From that, determine how many people are attending and if any of them have offered to bring something. This is where you say YES! Don't try to be super woman, this is part of you actually getting to enjoy the holiday. Delegation is an art - start practicing now. If your brother can't cook but wants to help, let him bring the rolls. If Aunt Helen will be there and makes a great casserole - sign her up! That helps defray some of the cost so you're not eating Ramen noodles for the rest of the year. (I don't have a brother or an Aunt Helen, but it sounded nice...work with me here).

You now have your master list - grab your recipes and write out all the ingredients that you need to purchase. We're on list #3...I told you I've turned into my mother. May I also mention I am a total nerd and Excel works wonders for list making? Hit the store and purchase everything non perishable first. Save the week of for your lettuce and floral arrangement and things that won't keep. That way, you're not losing your mind with the rest of America who has waited until the last minute - it's just a quick in and out for a head of lettuce and a few tomatoes.

Once you've gotten home from this shop-a-thon, put on your fuzzy slippers and heat up a mug of hot apple cider and make your way to your cupboards that have all the fun serving pieces. Match your food list to the serving dishes...just so you're not calling mom last minute for a gravy boat or turkey platter. Are we feeling on top of things or what?!

I don't want to overwhelm, so we'll stop here for today. I'll leave you with a typical Musing Foodie Menu, if you were coming to my house for Thanksgiving. Let's say this is for 12-15 people.

2 Appetizers
Turkey
Stuffing/Dressing
Green Bean Casserole
Mashed Potatoes with Gravy
Yellow Squash Casserole
Cranberry Sauce
Lettuce Tossed Salad
Sweet Potato Casserole
Broccoli Casserole
Fruit Salad
Rolls with Butter
Apple Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Cookies / Brownies
Pumpkin Roll
Assortment of Drinks (Tea, Soft Drinks, Water...)

Chat with you more tomorrow - start working on your list!
CC

Friday, November 12, 2010

Carmel Corn Shout Outs

I burned the carmel corn. Not just any carmel corn. THE carmel corn. We decided to make samples of the bake sale items for preschool so parents would taste the deliciousness of the items offered and sales would in turn, sky rocket (or that's how it works in my mind). I have a tasty recipe that I adapted from Land O Lakes Sweet and Salty Snack Mix and I can barely get the carmel on the popcorn from wanting to stick my face in the saucepan and lap it like a mad woman. You finish off this addicting treat in the oven and that was when my well thought out plan got burned to a crisp. I attempted 25 too many things at once and it caught up with me.

While wiping off breakfast faces, brushing unruly hair, zipping coats, making turkey sandwiches for lunch boxes and putting the dog in his cage, I simply forgot about the carmalicious delicious in my oven...when what to my wandering nose should appear but the horrible smell, wiping away all cheer. Plan B is to make it again next week and forgo endless multitasking. I'll go ahead and share the recipe with you if you promise not to burn it like me.

But first, I have to give a shout out to my loyal readers that have absolutely made this blog worth typing. I am amazed when people tell me they read The Musing Foodie - what an honor! I love your emails and comments and am totally wowed that you try my recipes. Just this week Mary M. made the Taco Dip for a party, Julianne M. went for the Butternut Squash Soup and branched out putting it on tortellini and Vanessa Z. tried the Pumpkin Whoopie Pies while Serena C. is currently walking through the mall enjoying the Godiva Chocolate Covered Strawberries. These types of things really keep me going. Thank you - thank you - thank you!

Now for that Carmel Corn....

Ingredients
1 Package of Microwavable Popcorn (no butter, no salt)
3/4 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 c. (1 stick) of butter
3 T. light corn syrup (actually I've used dark and it's fine too)
1/2 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. baking soda

Pop the popcorn according to package instructions (which should mean 2 minutes and 15 seconds). Combine brown sugar, butter, corn syrup and salt in a 2 quart sauce pan. Cook over medium heat - stirring occasionally until mixture comes to a full boil.

Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and baking soda. Pour carmel sauce over popcorn in a separate bowl and toss and stir to coat. Pour popcorn onto a cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes - stirring every 5 minutes. Do this and only this - do not make a turkey sandwich, wipe a face, blow your nose or go to the bathroom, lest this should burn. Now that you have a cookie sheet full of sweet crunchy tastiness, grab your spouse and kids and watch a movie together while munching away.

I would have taken a picture, but I was too frustrated. Maybe next week?

Have a delicious weekend and I look forward to sharing my favorite Turkey Day recipes with you all next week!

CC

(Side note, I attempted this again and realized the timing was off - don't cook it 15 minutes as I orginally said...let's go with 10 and you should be fine - I adjusted the recipe above so you don't burn two batches in 1 week like I did.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Betty's Quiche

You'll kick me when you hear what I ate for breakfast. Ready? Godiva Chocolate Covered Dried Strawberries. You can snag them by the socks and cufflinks at the cash registers at Macy's for a few bucks and they are worth every bite. I ate the whole box, embarrassingly so. I've never been much for traditional breakfast foods - I tend to thrive on the unusual.

It's two weeks before Thanksgiving and I am getting giddy with excitement. Be sure to tune in next week as I share some of my favorite Turkey Day recipes. For today, my focus is on my kids bake sale at Preschool and my Choir Crony Cooking Show on Saturday. I got priviledge of writing the bake sale advertisement that was sent home with each child and I hope it's a huge success! Pumpkin rolls, dinner rolls, pumpkin pie, carmel corn and whoopie pies - what's not to love, crave and devour?!

Now for the Cooking Show, I'm planning on making my ultimate favorite quiche and though I've modified it somewhat, I owe this recipe's deliciousness to a sweet little lady who is long since retired. I had the pleasure of working her with one summer as I worked my way through school. She was the impetus for many amazing potlucks and that's where I snagged her recipe. Betty Deese - two thumbs up on your quiche, baby!

We enjoy this dish in our house as a dinner entree and I make a killer salad to accompany it. It's not too heavy, so you have plenty of room for the fudge brownies and vanilla bean ice cream that have been calling to you all day.

Here's the prized recipe:
1 pre-made pie crust - Pillsbury has a tasty one that you unroll so you can make people think you prepared it from scratch
1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 c. shredded swiss cheese
1 lb. cooked sausage (I have tried them all - Jimmy Dean is the man)
1 1/4 c. sour cream
2/3 c. milk
4 eggs - beaten
1 t. salt
1/2 t. dry mustard

I am the self proclaimed queen of pre-made piecrusts. They have rescued me on many occasions. I form the crust into a 9" pie plate and call it my own. After all, I did unroll it and smoosh it into the plate and attempt lovely crimped edges. Of COURSE I made it! The cooked sausage is then patted down with paper towels to remove the artery clogging oil and then placed in the bottom of the crust.



I sprinkle all the cheese on the sausage next. From there, combine the sour cream, eggs, milk, salt and mustard together and pour the mixture over the sausage and cheese. Bake for 30-35 minutes in a 375 degree oven and then let it sit on your counter to rest for 5 minutes. The fluffiness of the egg will deflate - don't be alarmed.



I'm convinced I took more pictures than this, but they have mysteriously vaporized, so you'll need to use your imagination from here. This probably happened while I was dodging a flying basketball, jumping over the monster truck filled with animal finger puppets, wiping up the chocolate milk my son decided to smear all over the floor with his feet and so much for having lip gloss on when the hubby got home! This is Mmmm Mmmm good and you'll want to eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Enjoy!
CC

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fiesta in my mouth! Chicken Nachos.

It's cold outside folks. Frost covered my lawn and roof and the kids were so excited they thought it snowed this morning. Bundled up much like the kid who licked the flagpole in "A Christmas Story" we got everyone off to school. I hope you had a great weekend. I enjoyed the extra hour of sleep and had fabulous family time. We got pizza from our favorite haunt - Brooklyn Pizza. I enjoy it so much, I secretly want to take tupperware in my purse to snag their amazing grated Parmesan cheese. Don't tell anyone...and NO, I don't do this (yet).

I spent a lazy Saturday morning making Deviled Eggs and half of them were a flop. I didn't let the 2nd batch boil long enough, so I had to start over on those, and then I got a little happy with the sea salt. I hope the poor people that got batch #2 don't hold the over-salting against me. Oops. Thankfully eggs are only $.77 this week. My husband thinks I might have salt hypersensitivity right now though, as we grilled a marinated pork loin that I wouldn't even eat - it was too salty. You'll never have to embalm me when I die - I'll already have enough salt in my system to preserve me from the pork loin. That was gross. Sorry.

Perhaps I DO have salt hypersensitivity and the eggs really weren't overly salty on batch #2. I prayed for them anyway. They were for a funeral meal.

On to a super awesome topic - we had a total Fiesta on Saturday night that was so amazingly delish, we repeated it after church on Sunday night. Earlier in the week I was craving chicken nachos. I can throw down on nachos like no other, and really wanted to make something party-like and fun, so this is necessity being the mother of invention. (I love that term - got it from the movie "Little Women").

I had a package of boneless skinless chicken breasts that I cut the yuck off of and threw in my crockpot. Can we pause right here? Why, if the chicken is boneless an skinless, do they hide mystery yuck on the chicken still? You open the package and underneath is the yuck. Please cut that off Chicken Man! Ok, I'll go back to my recipe now. Adding in about 1/2 a cup of salsa and a 1/4 cup of water with salt and pepper, I let the chicken slow cook while I went to the Metrolina Expo with the fam all day. When we got home, I shredded the chicken (please shred and don't chop - it will change your life for the better). In a big pyrex dish or cookie sheet, I layered tortilla chips, the shredded chicken and lots of cheddar cheese. I popped it into a 350 degree oven to melt the cheese and while this was happening, I got out all my fun toppings - salsa, black olives, tomato, guacamole (made this from scratch), sour cream, and put it all on the table. By then the cheese was melted and the nachos were ready.



I called the hungry brood to the table, from playing tag all over the house and let everyone top their chicken nachos with the toppings of their choice. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh, they were delicious! I got a resounding "Mommy - this is so delicious! Much better than other dinners!" - hoping he was talking about the pork loin?

It was a fiesta that was quick and easy and all I can say is Ole!

Have a delicious day!
CC

Friday, November 5, 2010

Apple Danish meets Gingerbread House all in a fit of insomnia

I have a simple confession - I ADORE Apple Danish. Whether it be at a conference, hotel continental buffet, church sunday school class or a restaurant, I am lured to Apple Danish as though there was a homing device baked in them crying EAT ME! Biting into the appley deliciousness (that is half apple pie / half apple sauce consistency) enrobed in a flaky buttery pastry crust sends me to a very happy place.

I was up until well past midnight pondering Apple Danish possibilities and constructing a Gingerbread house in my mind. I'm doing my homework and will keep you posted on how this Danish Adventure turns out. As for the Gingerbread house, well it just so happens there is a competition that I'm entering this year at a local hotel. The proceeds from the votes go to benefit our Children's Hospital. In my mind (until well past midnight) I constructed something magical and amazing that rivaled anything ever created for the National Gingerbread Competition held each year in Asheville, North Carolina. If you've never seen them, it's worth the trek to the Grove Park Inn! A family favorite tradition for sure.

So anyway, I made a gingerbread house once in my life and that was in Mrs. Goodan's Home Ec. class in 11th grade. I was so proud of that house...until my Golden Retriever ate it for dinner one night. I know I can make a replica, albeit a few years since I was in 11th grade. The creative juices are still there...so stay tuned on THAT adventure as well.

Now for my equally latest hairbrained idea, I woke up yesterday morning and had the burning desire to host a cooking show (I've been promising my friend Colleen for over a year that I would do this). Yesterday is when the urge hit, so I'm having a bunch of choir cronies over next Saturday for a breakfast extravaganza. How fun does that sound? Let's hope no one notices that I have no curtains up in my living room. They don't arrive until December 25. Bare rods can be a trend, right? Right....

Friends, I hope you have a delicious weekend - I've already started buying 'party foods' to ring in the holidays. You should do the same!
CC

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hey - I wrote that!

It's a cold and rainy Thursday morning and I'm sitting here trying to get motivated with a bowl of cranberry jello salad. My mother makes this amazing recipe that involves nuts and cranberries and jello and a bunch of other stuff and it just works. It's one of those things you only pull out at a holiday and in my case, she knows I love it so she fixed it for me in light of my latest dental soiree. Let's not tell her that all of the chopped pecans are getting stuck in my stitches. It'll be our little secret. (Love you mom!)

I discovered this morning that I have been plagiarized. I was reading an article sent to me in an email that I had already published back in July. There were my own words staring back at me - verbatim. My words are now published to an audience of literal thousands. I'm trying to decide if I should be flattered or frowny. It's a rather strange feeling. I think I'll take another bite of my jello salad.

While I ponder this, I'll mention that Super Doubles are currently taking place at my local grocery store and all of my friends are proudly proclaiming their profound savings, while I still sit here and eat jello salad. I need to get clipping...and then run out in the pouring rain over lunch and launch my efforts towards achieving equally profound savings.

Not until I finish my jello salad.

Have a great day friends!
CC

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Whoopeeeeee!


My friends at Land O Lakes sent me a few recipes to try and I picked one that looked especially delicious as it involves one of my favorite ingredients: Cream Cheese. Put cream cheese in a dessert and you pretty much have an automatic two thumbs up success rate every time.

I was asked to bake some cookies for a funeral meal at church last week and I felt like Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies were just the right choice. They are perfect for this time of year and show a little extra care in the baking and assembly, which equates to the sentiment I was trying to convey. They were a huge success and were gobbled up immediately - with not even a crumb left and the recipe begged for. So, here you go...technically Land O Lakes wants to call them Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies, but we all know they're really Whoopie Pies. I mean, c'mon - you can't live in Amish country for 14 years of your life and try to pass something like this off as a 'Sandwich Cookie'. You'd be scoffed and mocked and I want neither so they're Pumpkin Whoopie Pies. Done.

I feel like the key to these is piping the cookie dough in even 1.5 inch circles on your parchment paper lined cookie sheet. They give you uniform looking cookies. You can try to wing it with a spoon, but they may not match up as nicely when you get to the 'sandwiching' stage. Oh, and a word to the wise, you'll taste one of these cookies before adding the cream cheese and second guess yourself. Don't. It's the cream cheese that pulls this recipe together into the amazing delight that it is. So let's get started!

Cookie Ingredients
2 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
2 t. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. canned pumpkin
1/4 c. milk
1 egg
1 t. vanilla

Filling Ingredients
1 8oz. package of cream cheese, softened
2 T. butter, softened
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. vanilla
4 c. powdered sugar

Directions
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
Combine brown sugar and stick of butter in a large bowl, beat at medium speed until creamy. Add pumpkin, milk, egg and vanilla; beat until well mixed.
Drop batter by level measuring tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet (or my tried and true method of partchment paper). Bake for 9 minutes or until set and lightly browned around edges. Cook 2 minutes on cookies sheets and remove to a cooling rack. Cool completely. They will look a little something like this:


Now for the filling that turns this into a wow moment - combine all filling ingredients except the powdered sugar in a large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until smooth. Gradually add the 4 cups of powdered sugar, beating until creamy.
Spread 2 teaspoons of filling onto bottom-side of 1 cookie. Top with another cookie to make your whoopie pie. Repeat with remaining cookies and filling. This makes about 2 1/2 dozen if you make them 1.5-2 inches in diameter.

Yum! I have some leftover cream cheese filling that is calling my name so I'm off to spoon it down. Enjoy these fall treats and have a delicious day!
CC

A Hug in a Bowl - Butternut Squash Soup


It's the second day of November. I am now less 4 wisdom teeth and recovering. Today is my 8th wedding anniversary to my knight in shining armor and as luck would have it, we're celebrating tonight by him attending a mandatory work conference and me attending a mandatory choir rehearsal. Sigh. Life - I think I live for weekends. We'll have fun celebrating when I can eat more than mushy foods. I've been surviving on quiche, pudding, milkshakes, noodles, soup and ice cream. How I long for a halloween candy and a burger!

In addition to the aforementioned burger, I've been craving Butternut Squash Soup. With the Fall season upon us, Harvest Festival at my son's school and cooler weather, I've got comfort food on the brain. Nothing quite gives you a warm food hug better than a bowl of hearty homemade soup. I happen to enjoy the sweet flavor that is brought out in this soup by roasting the ingredients first. Since I am in a mushy foods state right now, I made a rather large vat of this to last me a few days. Using only one butternut squash will do you just fine for a normal family of 4 portion with perhaps a leftover bowl or two.

I've looked at many recipes on this topic and some take the skimpy easy way out by microwaving their squash. Honey, if you want food that tastes good, take the time to roast this with me - you can multi task while it's in the oven and the taste will be worth every minute of effort yout put into it.

Ingredients
1 butternut squash, halved and scooped of seeds
1 onion, cut in 4-6 large chunks
1 small potato, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 small apple, peeled and cored - seeds removed
Salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste
Olive oil
1-2 cups chicken stock
Sour cream for garnish (Yes, you want this and No, don't buy lowfat)

Slather some olive oil on the flesh of the squash, as well as the onion and potatoes. Place squash skin side up on a foil lined cookie sheet with apple, onion and potato. Roast at 425 degrees for 35 minutes. Here are some before and after shots to help the visual people like me:





The squash skin will come off much easier now that it's roasted. Remove the skin, and place the squash, onion, potato and apple in your blender and puree away until it's nice and smooth. Pour this into a stock pot with the 1-2 cups of chicken stock and heat through. If you want a thicker soup, start with just one cup of the chicken stock. If you want to go thinner, add an additional cup. Add salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste (if your soup is bland - you haven't seasoned enough) and garnish each portion with a dollop of sour cream. It adds a creamy tart zing to the dish and you'll love it. Comfort food at its finest. Doesn't this look like a hug? Love it!



Enjoy!
CC

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

More than just a Potato


I just finished the most divine ramekin of Mediterranean Potatoes ever to grace the face of the earth. A few years ago, I went to a Middle Eastern restaurant with some girlfriends and one of them ordered a side of these potatoes. I took a bite and almost couldn't stop going back for seconds, thirds, or ordering my own portion. I crave these potatoes and fix them ever so often so as not to lose total control on carb counts and end up featured on a show concerning morbid obesity.

I found the recipe on YouTube of all places, and this delightful woman of Mediterranean descent walked me through how to make them. If I knew her, I would hug her. Such a good recipe. The ingredients had me skeptical at first, as they involve fresh Cilantro of all things (which I'm not the fondest of) - but be adventurous with me and you'll enjoy an amazing surprise as the traditional flavor is transformed in this dish. Think lemony with a zing of ceyenne and have your fork perched to pounce on these beauties when you're done as they will FLY out of your serving bowl.

Mediterranean Potatoes
2 c. cubed Potatoes (yellow, red, russet, fingerling...doesn't matter, but keep the skin on for added earthy delight)
1 c. fresh Cilantro leaves
Ceyenne Pepper
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
6 cloves of Garlic, minced
1 T. Lemon Juice

Mix potatoes with 1/4 cup of olive oil and 1/2 t. salt and evenly distribute on a foil lined cookie sheet. Roast at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. In a skillet, saute more olive oil, garlic and cilantro - the leaves will wilt and cook down - you want this. Add in salt, pepper and a tablespoon of lemon juice. Add the roasted potatoes to this seasoned juicy mixture of love and make sure to coat the potatoes thoroughly. Taste one and feel free to add more ceyenne pepper and lemon juice if you prefer living life on the edge.

Enjoy!

Monday, October 25, 2010

When Mom's Away...

Well good morning to you! I'm sitting here enjoying a mug of Cranberry Cider and reminiscing on my delightful weekend in the mountains. The leaves were changing, the weather was crisp and cool, and I had a wonderful time spent with 300 other ladies from my church. Crazy good fun, but I was also happy to get back home to my boys and hubby!

I discovered what goes on when "mom is away". They ate well - I made sure of that, but there are funny behind the scenes things that took place that left me scratching my head. Instead of changing sheets, a blanket was laid down on the mattress of my son's bed. Apparently it felt more like a 'camp out' - huh? My four year old hadn't had a nap in 3 days (OH Lord). Two cereal boxes are in the pantry with no cereal in them, and a lot, and I mean A LOT of Veggie Tales Gummy candies were consumed. It could definitely be worse. I appreciate the help while I had a few days out of town. I came back refreshed (and with a tiny cold) but that's ok.

This week I am all about pureed foods as I prep for dooms day on Thursday when I am getting all four wisdom teeth pulled. I'm planning on making a massive batch of butternut squash soup and some homemade applesauce, and enjoying many MANY milkshakes. I'll be sure to let you know how that turns out after the laughing gas has worn off.

Oh, and if you're wondering about my cranberry cider...I took half a gallon of cranberry juice and added about 6-8 tablespoons of mulling spices, shook it all up and heat up a mug each morning. A great twist on the traditional mulled hot apple cider.

Have a great day and we'll chat soon!
CC

Monday, October 18, 2010

A hairy chest and the promise of FREE JELLO!

Don't tell anyone, but I believe I made the Jambalaya SO spicey, there is now hair growing on my chest. My husband clearly has a cold, because as I am blowing my nose and drinking gallons of water in between each bite, he is generously dousing his meal with more hot sauce. I'm surprised his tastebuds didn't suffer 3rd degree burns. Aren't we a pair - a hairy chested woman with a tastebud-less man? LOL.

I hope you had a wonderful weekend - we had lots of family time and I loved it. There is a store I've been wanting to discover for about 2 years now and Saturday was my lucky day. We loaded the family up and drove me to a Fresh Meat store in the town of Waxhaw, NC. I wanted to know what it was all about - as the sign just says Fresh Meat with a phone number at the bottom. It's a small retail establishment, but when we pulled up, there was a large inflatable bounce castle for kids, a vegetable stand set up alongside a cotton candy and popcorn machine...further down the drive was a Food Truck selling Tacos and a local Mexican radio station was blaring festive music as a crowd of people at least 20 deep stood in line. The excitement was about more than I could stand!

We flocked to the action with the throngs of people and as I elbowed my way inside, I was greeted by the owners. It must have been the overwhelming deer in headlights look on my face that alerted them that I was a new comer. They quickly explained we hit the store during a special that was being advertised on the Mexican radio station, and that for coming in during the special, we were going home with FREE JELLO! Oh HOLD ME BACK from the joys of free jello! The meat was fresh and local - chicken, beef, pork - and if there was a cut you didn't see, just request and they'd go in the back and cut it fresh for you. It was less than the supermarket pricing and the meat was BEAUTIFUL (if you could call raw meat beautiful). I was impressed.

I didn't succumb to the peer pressure of a sale though, as I have a stockpile of meat in my beloved deep freezer that will carry us through many moons. I will be remembering this fun place for future reference though!

We left the store to let the kids jump in the bouncing castle, enjoy the aroma of fresh tacos, popcorn and cotton candy, and ponder what one does with fresh cactus at the vegetable stand.

I say - Ole!