Monday, November 28, 2016

White Chocolate Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

 For ages, I've been looking for a good pumpkin cookie recipe. Not that I don't LOVE the Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies that Cathy always makes, but they're a little more cakey than cookie. What I really wanted was a COOKIE. You know, like with a crispy chewy texture. And then I happened upon this recipe on a blog called Sally's Baking Addiction. They're AMAZING! So easy to make, crispy and chewy, and just exactly what I wanted!
 Tbh, I had planned on posting the recipe in October when I usually do all pumpkin recipes, but I figured I'd save this one for the holiday season. Even though they're pumpkin, I still feel like Snickerdoodles scream Christmas, dontcha think? So here they are!
 You should definitely add them to your festive cookie repertoire. They're perfect for a cookie swap, and I just bet Santa would love them if you leave some for him along with a tall glass of milk. Oh, and one other thing... be sure to read through Sally's make ahead tips following the recipe. (Time management is always a good thing!) And definitely make 2 batches. Or three. Or four. I promise you they won't last very long! Love love love 'em!

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 Tablespoons pumpkin puree
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup white chocolate chips or chunks

 Heat oven to 350ºF.
 Melt the butter in the microwave. In a medium bowl, whisk the melted butter, brown sugar, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar together until no brown sugar lumps remain. Whisk in the vanilla and pumpkin until smooth. Set aside.
In a large bowl, toss together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix together with a large spoon or rubber spatula. The dough will be very soft. Fold in white chocolate chips. Cover the dough and chill for 30 minutes. Chilling is mandatory!
Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Roll the dough into balls, about 1.5 tablespoons of dough each. Mix together the remaining 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Roll each of the dough balls generously in the cinnamon-sugar mixture and arrange on 2 baking sheets. Slightly flatten the dough balls because the cookies will only slightly spread in the oven. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and press a few more white chocolate chips onto the tops, if desired. Allow the cookies to cool for at least 10 minutes on the cookie sheets before transferring to a wire rack.

Make ahead tips: Cookies stay fresh covered at room temperature for up to 1 week. You can make the cookie dough and chill it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Baked cookies freeze well up to three months. Unbaked cookie dough balls freeze well up to three months. Bake frozen cookie dough balls for an extra minute, no need to thaw.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Joey's Bangin' Brussels with Sundried Tomatoes

 Whenever I'm at home just doing the usual Sunday housecleaning and such, my TV is most likely gonna be on the Food Network or Cooking Channel. It's a great thing when you're not just sitting in front of the TV and you can still basically get the gist of what they're making while you're busy tackling your household to-do list. Such was the case when I saw Marcella Valladolid making a Brussels sprouts dish. It had sesame seeds and chili peppers and cream. It looked good, but I wondered what I might do to tweak it a little. So I got to thinking. I liked adding sun dried tomatoes to my Collard Greens, so what if I add them instead of the chilis? I liked the idea adding a little texture, so instead of adding sesame seeds, I decided to add pine nuts for a little crunch. I also roasted my sprouts instead of steaming them in chicken broth and I added mushrooms too, just to bulk up the recipe a bit. Basically, by the time I had finished tweaking, I wound up with a completely different recipe! And it was a HUGE hit among my friends! I kinda figured the casseroles and hearty other dishes would be a big hit, but who knew Brussels sprouts would be the stand out???? We decided they were absolutely BANGIN', so now that's what they're called! Make them as a delicious accompaniment to your fabulous holiday dinner, or even just a casual dinner with friends.
If you're not a fan of Brussels sprouts, I urge you to give this recipe a try.
I PROMISE you it will change your mind!!!

Olive or vegetable oil
2 lbs fresh Brussels sprouts, halved
10oz Baby Bella mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup sliced sun dried tomatoes, packed in oil
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400ºF.
In a large bowl, toss sprouts with oil and salt and pepper until coated. Place sprouts on a baking tray, cut side down. Place in oven and roast until golden and caramelized on the bottom, and good 20-30 minutes, or even longer.
 While the sprouts are roasting, in a large skillet, saute mushrooms in a little more oil. When the sprouts are ready, add them to the pan along with the rest of the ingredients. Give it a good toss to make sure everything is coated. Adjust seasoning, if needed.

-When you're cutting your sprouts, be sure to cut them vertically through the stem end. If you cut them horizontally, then the leaves will all fall apart.
-The cream is meant to just coat everything to make it richer. It's not really a cream SAUCE. If you'd like things to be a little saucier, I would add a splash or two of chicken or vegetable broth.
-Btw, if you'd like to make this a Vegan recipe, just omit the cream and add a little Futter, which is a Vegan butter substitute. Great then!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Loaded Caulflower Casserole

 Here's a recipe that I've had tucked away for ages, and I'm finally just getting around to it. I left myself a little note that I discovered it on Facebook, but I honestly have no idea where. It may have been one of those food videos that are always floating around, or it may have been posted by a friend. Who knows? Well, either way, it was definitely worth getting back to it!
 It's basically all the same toppings as you would put on a baked potato, only it's cauliflower, and it's a casserole. Clever, huh? And I mean, seriously, can one really ever have too many casseroles??? I think not! And you KNOW that's true especially when you're cooking for Thanksgiving! It's an easy do ahead, it only has a few ingredients, and it's delicious! And it just happens to be low in carbs, in case you're choosing to restrict carbs from your diet. (Yes, I know you're not supposed to be dieting on Thanksgiving, but every little bit helps, right?). But don't just save this recipe for Thanksgiving! Make it any time of year, even as a main dish! I bet it would be AMAZING if you added a little diced ham and some steamed broccoli. It's great as is, or as a great starting point for any number of casseroles. The possibilities are endless! Be creative! Enjoy!

 large head of cauliflower cut into florets
6-8 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
6 tbs chopped chives
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups Colby Jack or Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 425°.
  Place a steamer in a large pot with just enough water in the bottom. Steam cauliflower until crisp tender, about  8-10 minutes. (or if you don't have a steamer, you could just boil or microwave it). Drain and let cool.
In a large bowl, combine sour cream, mayo, 1/2 of crumbled bacon, 3 tbs chives, 1 cup of cheese, and cauliflower. Mix well. Place in baking dish and cover with remaining 1 cup of cheese and the rest of the bacon crumbles. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Top with remaining chives and serve. 

I absolutely added more bacon than the recipe directs, because ...BACON.
If you have any other toppings you'd like to add, go for it! Try adding sliced mushrooms or scallions. Or if you'd like a little spicy hit, try adding some sliced jalapenos or a little hot sauce. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Cranberry Tart

 This is an easy Fall dessert that has holiday written all over it. Thanksgiving wouldn't be the same without cranberries, but how about a cranberry DESSERT in addition to the Cranberry Sauce that you have with dinner? Frankly, I've never met a cranberry I didn't like, so as far as I'm concerned, you can never have too many cranberry dishes. This is sweet and tart, and would be perfect with a dollop of freshly whipped cream. You could even garnish it with a few white chocolate curls! It's also light and refreshing and it's just the thing to finish off a big dinner. This is the tweaked version of a Martha Stewart recipe that I made for my family last year and then tucked it away, figuring I'd share it this year. I almost forgot all about it! Whew! That was a close one.

1 Pillsbury ready made pie crust Or your own homemade
1/2 cup cold water
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
6 cups fresh cranberries
1 3/4 to 2 cups sugar, to taste
1 cup red currant jelly
2 tablespoons Cognac

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll pie crust into a 13-inch round. With a dry pastry brush, sweep off excess flour; fit dough into a 10-inch round fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Fold edges toward center to reinforce; press into sides of tart ring. Pierce bottom of tart shell all over with a fork. Cover with plastic wrap; freeze until firm, about 15 minutes. Uncover and line tart shell with parchment and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until edges are set and golden, about 20 minutes. Remove weights and parchment and continue baking until bottom of crust is dry and golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Place cold water in a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over water; let stand until softened, about 5 minutes. Combine cranberries, sugar, jelly, and cognac in a saucepan and cook over low heat 12 to 15 minutes. Do not overcook or the mixture will become too watery; cranberries should be soft but not bursting. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Stir in gelatin and let cool completely. Pour cranberry filling into tart shell and chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

I used the Pillsbury pie crust, just because it's easier, it's a time saver, and I think it's a good product. I usually don't mention brand names unless it's warranted. In this case, I've tried other brands and they're just not as good. If you'd like to make your own homemade pie crust or Pate Brisee, go for it!
Instead of using Cognac, try using Grand Marnier for a little hit of orange flavor or Chambord which is a raspberry liqueur. YUM!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Sweet Potato, Apple, and Leek Casserole

 When I first saw this recipe, I immediately thought of my Butternut and Apple Gratin, and I wondered if it would be too similar. But then I looked a little more closely and decided: similar-yes, the same-no, worth trying-absolutely YES! So here we are!
 It's a Trisha Yearwood recipe and it has Fall written all over it. Sweet potatoes, apples, fresh thyme.. three of my all time favorite things EVER in the whole wide world. And I must say it was VERY easy to make! It's a perfect side dish for Thanksgiving, you can do it easily a day or two in advance, and then just reheat for the big dinner! It's actually even better the second day, so if you CAN do it in advance, do it! Oh, and it's a great vegetarian dish, in case you happen to have any non-meat eaters at your table! Even if you're not making it for Thanksgiving, it would be amazing with a store bought rotisserie chicken and some cranberry sauce, or even as a vegetarian main dish along with a side salad. Doesn't that sound fabulous??? Try it!

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium leeks, white and light green parts sliced lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 large sweet potato (about 1 pound), peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
1 large or 2 medium red skinned apples, such as Gala or Honeycrisp (about 12 ounces), halved, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and 2 tablespoons water; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender but not browned, about 8 minutes. Add the thyme and then the cream and cook until the liquid thickens, about 2 minutes; set aside. 
In a 2-quart shallow baking dish, arrange the sweet potato in overlapping layers. Spread the leek mixture evenly over the potatoes. Arrange the apples in an overlapping layer on the leeks. Brush the apples with the remaining tablespoon of oil and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake 40 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake until the Parmesan is golden brown and melted, about 20 minutes more. The tip of a paring knife should easily pierce the apples and potatoes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Be sure to clean the leeks very well: After you slice them in half lengthwise, hold them under running water and separate the layers in order to rinse out any sand that is between the layers. Then proceed with slicing them crosswise, as the recipe directs.
 If you don't have leeks, you could absolutely substitute a mild or sweet onion, thinly sliced.
If you don't have fresh thyme, then by all means, use about a tsp of dried thyme leaves. 

Oh, and one other thing...  be sure to really season your casserole. Like, be generous with the salt and pepper. If your food tastes bland, it's because you didn't add enough salt! If you are restricting salt from your diet, then use a salt substitute. I know it seems simple to say, but most times, when people ask me why my food tastes better than when they make it, it's because I always season my food aggressively. Taste as you go, and it'll be fabulous when it's finished!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallow Brulee

 In my quest to find new sweet potato recipes, I've decided that some of the best recipes are the ones that were originally intended for regular potatoes. Yes, yes, I still love the favorite Candied Sweet Potatoes and Sweet Potato Casserole and all the butter and brown sugar that goes with them, but sometimes I just want to taste the sweet potatoes, know what I mean? (This was the aha realization when I was making the favorite Sweet Potato Gratin!) Then I found this recipe from The Neely's. Usually a twice baked potato is done in a savory way, (perhaps with sour cream and/or chives) but this is a sweet version, so I guess this recipe is a cross between the two! It's AMAZING. And my addition of the homemade marshmallow brulee just puts it over the top and makes it even more special. You can do them way in advance too, so they're perfect for your big holiday dinner. And then you can top and brulee them just before serving! Btw, fun fact, out of all of the new recipes I tested at my Friendsgiving dinner, this one was clearly the biggest hit. So I'm pretty sure that if you make them for your family, you'll have NONE leftover! Not even kidding.

6 sweet potatoes, even in size and scrubbed
4 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Purchased or Homemade Marshmallow Creme

Preheat oven to 375ºF.
Place sweet potatoes on sheet tray and bake for 1 hour or until soft. Remove from oven and let stand until cool enough to handle. Split potatoes and remove the flesh to a medium sized bowl, reserving skins. In another bowl, add brown sugar, butter and cream cheese and the all of the spices and mash with a fork or rubber spatula. Add the butter and cream cheese mixture to the sweet potato flesh and fold in completely. Add the filling back to the potato skins and place on a half sheet tray. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
 While the potatoes are baking, make the marshmallow creme. After the second bake, top the potatoes with the creme, either with a spoon or with a piping bag, making sure to create lovely swirly designs or peaks. Place them under a broiler for a minute or two (keeping a watchful eye) until the marshmallow is lightly browned. Or you can use a kitchen torch to brulee.

Of course, you don't have to include the marshmallow creme, but it was a huge hit and it added the WOW factor!
I purposely used very small sweet potatoes and then instead of just splitting them, I cut them in HALF before scooping out the centers. If you're having a big huge holiday dinner, you don't really want that big of a portion, plus a big honkin' sweet potato takes up too much precious real estate on the plate! Then again, if you WANT a big honkin sweet potato, GO FOR IT!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Caramelized Onion and Cornbread Stuffing

Ok, I have a confession to make. I Love Stuffing. Let me say that again. I. LOVE. Stuffing. It doesn't matter what kind, from my Italian Sundried Tomato Bread Stuffing, to Mare's Stuffing, and even your basic Stove Top that comes in a box, I love it all. And I know I already did a Sausage and Corn Bread Stuffing but I saw this one and HAD to try it. And frankly, I absolutely adore Tyler Florence, so trying another one of his recipes was a no-brainer. Seriously, could he be any cuter? Wait, what were we talking about again? Oh right! Stuffing! It's an easy do-ahead and it feeds a crowd, so it has Thanksgiving written all over it, and the fresh sage just drives that home. I made this for my most recent Friendsgiving, and it was a big hit! Now I can add this to my list of favorite stuffing recipes.
I'm sure you will too!

2 tbs butter
2 onions, chopped
6 large cornmeal muffins, cubed
handful fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 egg
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes, or until soft and caramelized. Add sage and scrape into a large mixing bowl. Add the cornbread pieces, season well with salt and pepper, and give it a good toss until it's well combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, cream, and stock, and pour that over the cornbread. Stir the stuffing together and stuff the cavity of the turkey. You could also spoon it into a buttered baking dish and put it in the oven along with the turkey. Bake until hot and crusty on top, about 30 minutes.

Instead of purchasing the corn muffins, I just purchased 2 boxes of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix and baked them according to package directions. Then proceeded with the recipe as directed. SO much cheaper to do it that way!
The key to really good caramelized onions is to cook them low and slow. I wanted them to REALLY cook down to a rich deep dark color, so I cooked mine for much longer than the 10 minutes that the recipe suggests. Just bring them up to heat, and then turn it down to low. Let them saute and give them a good stir every few minutes. And be patient!! This will take a good 30 minutes or so, but it'll be worth it!
When I made it, I added A LOT of onions. I figure it's called CARAMELIZED ONION and corn bread stuffing, so it should definitely have a lot of onions. (I also added a few extra tbs of butter.) Add as much as you like!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Grandma's Corn Pudding

 When I'm looking for Thanksgiving side dishes, I want something that is easy to make, feeds a crowd, can be made in advance, and of course, it must be delicious! This recipe is ABSOLUTELY all of those things! (And btw, no, this is not MY Grandma's recipe, but that's what the recipe is called, so we're sticking with it.)
 I wanted a new something to do with corn, and I happened upon this recipe on  It's so simple! You just mix everything up, pour it into a casserole dish, and bake it! It's literally that easy. Even the cooking novice can do it. So if your family is like mine where everyone brings something, you can assign this one to someone who usually doesn't do so much cooking!
Now, I know I already have Dottie's Corn Casserole and Parmesan Corn Pudding, but this one is a little different. It's very creamy and almost custardy. (Is that a word? custardy?) It's also just sweet enough to bring out the flavor of the corn, so it's perfect for your big family holiday dinner.
 So if you'd like something new for your turkey dinner, try this one!  It's REALLY tasty!! And who knows? This just might become one of your family's new favorites!

5 eggs
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 (15oz) can whole kernel corn
2 (15oz) cans cream style corn

Heat oven to 400ºF.
In a large bowl, simply stir all ingredients together in order listed, mixing well after each addition.
Pour into greased two-quart casserole dish and bake for one hour.

 Be sure to bake it all the way through. You may have to adjust your baking time, depending on how shallow your baking dish is. It will take a little longer if your dish is a more narrow and tall, whereas a dish that is wide and shallow will take less time. You want it to be a lovely golden brown on top, and it should be set and not too jiggly in the center.
Whenever you're adding cornstarch to a recipe, it's always a good idea to add it to a COLD liquid before stirring it into whatever you're making. So in this case, stir the cornstarch into the milk before pouring it into the mixing bowl. This keeps it from clumping.
This casserole can be made a day or two in advance. Just cover it tightly with foil after baking it and store it in the fridge. Then reheat it when it's time for dinner. Your turkey should rest for about a half hour after you take it out of the oven anyway, so this is the perfect time to heat all of your casseroles and side dishes!