Happy December! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend. Mine was full of all things lovely. Here’s what I’ve been up to the past few days…
Last Wednesday night I soaked cranberries in maple syrup overnight…
I also made a layered salad to take to the Thanksgiving feast.
Romaine, arugula, red onions, tomatoes, peas, red pepper, homemade dressing, cheddar cheese, bacon and chives. Here’s a link to the original recipe.
Before hitting the road on Turkey Day, I had a wake-up call at 4:20am to complete this at-home workout.
And these are why I soaked the cranberries in maple syrup overnight. On Thursday morning, I drained the cranberries while I was working out and then rolled them in sugar.
Early Saturday morning, I hit the road to go see my parents at Ocean Isle Beach. I was able to go to the parade with Haines where she was in love with the dum-dums and not a fan of the clowns. And I spy Dadom…
Two parades in one day? This was the flotilla that we watched from the end of my Pawpaw’s pier on the waterway. So cold. But so beautiful.
An impulse buy at Target. But totally worth the money. I love Christmas music!
Big Guy brought home our Christmas tree on Sunday night. Isn’t she a beaut? Clearly Christmas trees are a big deal to us – we rearranged and removed furniture.
And I’m officially in the holiday spirit. I can’t believe Christmas is only 3 weeks away (meaning only 14 work days stand between me and a two week holiday)!!!!
I swear I didn’t pick these two side dishes because they would make the longest blog post title ever.
Yesterday I shared with you our appetizers for our mini-Thanksgiving so today I’m sharing the side dishes.
Growing up Pawpaw (my dad’s dad) was always in charge of the turkey. I will always remember fingers trying to steal pieces of turkey (dark meat!) off the plate as Pawpaw carved the turkey. Because Pawpaw was in charge of the turkey, the ladies were in charge of the side dishes. Mawmaw made the dressing. Always and forever. I’m not sure I’ll ever serve dressing if I have my own Thanksgiving meal because well, Mawmaw’s dressing is the family favorite. And I don’t to compete with Mawmaw. My Momma made a lot of the sides. Cranberry and orange salad. Blueberry Jello Salad. Sweet Potato Casserole. As I got older, I wanted to bring something to the table (literally and figuratively) and I soon began to make brussels sprouts every Thanksgiving. And they’re a side dish that I will most certainly always have on my Thanksgiving table.
Crispy Brussels Spouts with Caramelized Orange Vinaigrette
The sprouts are simply roasted with salt and pepper and a little olive oil at 400 degrees for 35 minutes or so. During the cooking, I turned and stirred around the sprouts every 10 minutes. Once roasted and toasted, they were drizzled with a vinaigrette that is to die for. I’m not sure why I’ve waited this long to try caramelizing honey. Once the honey has been caramelized, orange juice and zest is mixed in. Allow the honey mixture to cool before you turn it into a vinaigrette. To make the vinaigrette – you add vinegar (DUH!) – we used the apple cider variety, salt, pepper and olive oil. So sweet and tangy. And the brussels become nutty when roasted. Flavor perfection.
Browned Butter Bourbon Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Sure, I grew up eating the sweet potato casserole that was laced with brown sugar, pecans, butter and sometimes marshmallows. But to be honest, sweet potatoes don’t need all that “stuff.” I knew that Big Guy wanted mashed sweet potatoes on the menu and so that’s what I set out to prepare. I had my eye on a recipe in Garden and Gun but it was pretty much a gut-bomb with an entire stick of butter involved. Then I remembered a recipe in Cooking Light’s Holiday issue last year that involved bourbon and browned butter. The potatoes are peeled and diced and boiled until tender. The butter (much less than one stick) is then browned over medium-high heat for an over-the-top buttery taste that makes that one stick of butter unnecessary. The butter along with a swig of bourbon add tons of flavor while a bit of half-and-half (I used 1/4 cup) adds richness but not heaviness. The potatoes are mashed to your desired consistency. Big Guy asked if I’d make these again. And that means they were incredible.
What are your favorite Thanksgiving side dishes?
At any given time, there’s usually a cookbook that’s on my radar that I want to add to my collection. As easy as it is to print recipes from the internet these days, there’s just something fun about having a new cookbook.
My current “want” – It’s All Good by Gwyneth Paltrow. I stumbled upon her new cookbook in my Self magazine month ago. Her go-to salmon recipe was featured in the magazine and I immediately tore it out. Knowing that Big Guy isn’t a salmon-lover, I wasn’t sure when I’d get around to trying the recipe. But I knew I would.
And I finally did.
On Friday night Big Guy had steak and I had this incredibly easy and delicious salmon.
Lime juice and zest, sriracha, maple syrup and salt at smothered on the salmon and then baked to perfection.
I loved the subtle spiciness from the sriracha that was brightened by the lime juice and zest. And maple adds the perfect amount of sweetness to flavor of salmon that I adore.
(ignore the horribly lighting – winter does nothing for my photography “skills”)
On the side for us both, Wilted Kale with Coconut, Ginger and Lime. The greens I used was a mix of kale, spinach and chard.
Simple ingredients never tasted so delicious.
It’s All Good.
Some evenings call for a quick and easy dinner. And a can of black beans can be a life saver on those evenings. I always try to keep several cans of beans in the pantry in case of an “emergency.”
To make this can of beans a little more exciting than just beans, I sauteed a sliced onion along with garlic and diced jalapeno in a little bit of olive oil. While the onions were cooking, I rinsed and drained the beans and slightly mashed about one cup of the beans. Once the onions were cooked, transfer to a bowl. In the same saute pan, add in the beans (mashed and not mashed), cumin (I used quite a bit since I didn’t purchase seasoned beans) and salt. While the beans are heating up, make the slaw. Simply angel hair coleslaw, a little vinegar, mayonnaise, black pepper, cilantro and green onions. Here’s a link to the original recipe.
Heat the tortillas and dinner is ready. I served my slaw on the side but ended up adding it to the tacos as I was eating. Feta adds a great saltiness to the tacos.
If you’re not a fan of black beans, I’m sure any bean would work for these tacos. Not a fan of feta, substitute another cheese. So versatile and so tasty.
What’s one of your favorite go-to quick and easy meals?
Burgers and fries with
a twist some spice!
I served my lamb burger on top of a bed of spinach (so I could eat more fries) with an extra dollop of cilantro raita. The lamb burger recipe calls for a mix of sirloin and ground lamb. Because it’s so hard to buy specific amounts of meat where we lived, I went with a full lamb burger (it’s so nice to see our small town offering “big city” meats). The lamb was formed into patties and simple seasoned with salt and course pepper (my new obsession). Big Guy was in charge of grilling the burgers and they were cooked perfectly. On top of the burger, a spicy-cool raita which was a simple mix of Greek yogurt, cilantro, mint, jalapeno, salt, garlic and grated cucumber. So much flavor and really brightened up the burger. And on top of that, crunchy red onions. I adore red onion, if you don’t – leave it off.
How gorgeous are my Thai Spiced Fries? The best part – I used a short cut. I bought frozen Alexia fries and tossed them with the spice mixture before baking. The spice mixture: 1 tablespoon canola oil, juice of 1 lime, 2 teaspoons Thai Red Curry Paste, 1/2 teaspoon tamari (or soy sauce), 1 teaspoon brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.
After they were done baking, I topped them with fresh cilantro and coarse black pepper. The fries didn’t get quite as crunchy as I liked (probably due to the extra oil in the spice mixture) but they were still addicting. A little too addicting.
Quite the long recipe titles, eh?
These were the two “appetizers” I prepared for us on Saturday while we watched football. I got my date night out on the town Friday, Big Guy got a night full of football and football food on Saturday.
It’s all about balance, folks.
Baked Apple Butter Brown Sugar Wings
If you want a non-traditional wing, this is the recipe for you. Sweet and savory and totally “fall” inspired. I bought apple butter from a fun store in Durham called Parker and Otis. The apple butter was delicious – 3 ingredients – no funky additives. And for the dipping sauce, I used Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. I would add more Sriracha next time for a little more heat.
Crispy Brussel Sprouts with Garlic Aioli
I still can’t believe so many people don’t like (or think they don’t like) brussel sprouts. They are seriously one of our favorite vegetables. I think people just don’t know how to cook them. We eat lots of brussels in our house but these was a “new” way – appetizer style with toothpicks and a dipping aioli. You could serve them family style, however, and serve a drizzle of the aioli on top. They would taste just the same. This recipe used canola oil instead of olive oil (what I usually used). The canola oil made them a little crispier and let the brussel taste “shine” a little more. Loved the aioli sauce. So simple – mayo, garlic (lots of garlic), lemon juice, parsley and salt. Totally addictive.
Hey, I’ll watch football any Saturday if the eats are this good.
And it includes going out Friday night.
Fall is here. Football season is here. And my first batch of chili is here.
All-American Chili can be made in advance (I made mine the night before) and then reheated before eating. It’s meaty and not overly spicy. I actually would add some red pepper flakes if I made this chili again.
Changes to the recipe I made: I wasn’t able to find spicy turkey Italian sausage so we used the traditional Italian sausage (hence why I needed some added heat) and instead of sirloin, I used ground bison.
Alongside the chili, Spicy Jalapeno Corn Bread. This cornbread is loaded with texture and flavor. I cooked the cornbread in a cast-iron skillet which preheated in the oven while I mixed up the batter. Because the batter is poured into a screaming-hot skillet, a fantastic crust is formed around the edges. By far, the best part was the crusty edges. Buttermilk kept the cornbread moist without needing much added-fat. In fact, there is only 2 tablespoon of butter in this recipe. Honey lends a smidge of sweetness to the bread that pairs wonderfully with the spicy pickled jalapenos. Seriously, one of the best corn bread recipes to date.
If this isn’t the perfect dinner for watching college football, I don’t know what is.
As the days get shorter and the air gets crisp, slow-cooked dinners are what I crave. Despite craving comfort food, I still want it to be healthy. Chipotle pork is the epitome of healthy comfort food.
I served this dinner after spending a Saturday afternoon watching football. Simply prepare the marinade and let the Boston butt marinate for an hour or more. Sear the meat in a large Dutch oven and then let the oven do the rest.
The pork is cooked until it’s so tender it falls off the bone. I shredded our pork and served it over rice so that none of the flavor was lost. To the rice, I added some parsley for freshness. I find that any slow-cooked dinner needs to be brightened in some way. And for some green, a side salad. Romaine lettuce tossed with orange segments and avocado.
The chipotles add smoky heat (not spicy heat) that is mellowed out by the lime juice and cinnamon. The smell of this pork cooking will have you watching the timer waiting for it to hit 00:00.
Comfort food at it’s best.
We all know I love to sip champagne but I’ve never added champagne to my chicken. Until now. And the results are simply divine.
The preparation is a bit time consuming but the result is an incredible dinner that will impress any dinner guests. The chicken tastes as though you’ve been cooking away all day long.
This chicken dish is so intensely flavored. I attribute that to the bacon drippings, the use of dark meat chicken and lots of fresh herbs. After the chicken cooks in a Dutch-oven with potatoes, mushrooms and brandy a delicious sauce is made with champagne and butter that makes ever bite feel like your eating with royalty.
Along with the hearty chicken, I served a side of brussels because the parsley wasn’t enough green for me.
A dinner fit for
a king my parents arrival.
**changes I made: instead of flour, I used cornstarch throughout the recipe. i also left out the carrots because my momma is allergic.**
I have a bold statement to make. This is the best mac and cheese I’ve ever made at home. And it’s “light.” Mac and cheese has always been a favorite of mine. Cheese was one of my best friends growing up (and it still is – my palate is just more refined now) and I loved any and every mac and cheese. The blue box? Loved it. Velveeta? Loved it. The homemade mac and cheese with crunchy sides? Loved every.single.bite.
Most mac and cheeses involve lots of butter, unhealthy amounts of cheese and perhaps even some fake cheese (blue box, what?). But this two-cheese mac and cheese will blow your mind.
Cream cheese is mixed with a milk and chicken broth mixture that makes the most luscious and creamy sauce that you’ll swear has butter in it (but it doesn’t). The top is smothered (3/4 cup) in sharp cheddar cheese that lends the flavor we’ve all grown to love and crave when it comes to a bowl of comforting mac and cheese.
This is comfort food.
Changes I made to the recipe: I used penne gluten-free corn pasta (from Trader Joes); I only used 1 tablespoon of canola oil; instead of 2% milk, I used fat-free milk; instead of flour, I used 4 teaspoons of corn starch; and instead of reduced fat cream cheese I used whipped cream cheese. And as usual, I used more garlic than the recipe called for – the recipe reads to “smash” the garlic and I minced the garlic – I think that was an error.
On the side, a simple tomato salad with homegrown tomatoes, white balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, dill and chives.
This is what my mac and cheese dreams are made of.