Making the Most of Leftovers – Sweet Potato and Black Pepper Biscuits

I love, love, love Thanksgiving leftovers! The turkey, gravy, stuffing and cranberry sauce all smushed together, melts in my mouth as I ascend into a warm, dreamy haze before the tryptophan has a chance to kick in.

But, after your fourth turkey-hash induced coma in 48 hours, even the most devoted Thanksgiving Dinner disciple needs to find a way to spice it up. This year, in my quest to use all of our leftovers in new and exciting ways, I stumbled on this recipe for Sweet Potato and Black Pepper Biscuits. I’m not known for any sort of baking prowess, but these were pretty simple. I had just enough leftover sweet potatoes for a healthy-sized batch, and they were a perfect complement to my savory turkey pot pie.

My First Try at Sweet Potato and Black Pepper Biscuits

My First Try at Sweet Potato and Black Pepper Biscuits

If you want to try these for yourself, check out the recipe from the Green Crane at Allrecipes.com.

Celebrating My 100th Post

 At the beginning of 2011, I began this blog, and joined the WordPress “Post A Week” Challenge. Nearly 14 months have come and gone, and now WordPress tells me that this is my 100th post!

Hmmm, how should I commemorate this important occasion?

Should I revive some of my more memorable posts (memorable for me, anyway)? I could bring back the one I wrote about my mother last Mother’s Day – 13 Things You Should Know About my Mom. Or I could remind you of the love story I told about my grandparents around Valentines Day – Step One: Get the Girl. I could even resurrect the blog post that somehow managed to hit the Freshly Pressed Radar,  Mom, I Know Lots of Words,  about my son learning to read. Dear God, I was gushing with pride then, I’m almost a little embarrassed by it now.

Kindergarten Homework

Kindergarten Homework

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I look back at my posts, I realize that there is a lot of variety in my blog. (Translation: I have no direction!) I’ve shared some sappy stories about my kids, and family, as well as one or two Bad Parenting Moments.

Bad Parenting Moments Logo

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve thrown in a few travel posts, mostly about my family vacation. I tried, once or twice, to give some advice on SMART goals, and business skills…as if I know! I’ve even shared a few recipes, like the one for my Kahlua Chocolate Chip muffins. Those things should be illegal!

Maybe I should use my 100th post to give you a list of my blogging resolutions, or some of my plans for upcoming posts (as if I have some).

However, what I should really do is come up with some fresh material.

My Favorite Way to Make Corned Beef and Cabbage – No Crockpot Required

I cannot wait to revive this recipe this weekend. This might be the way to prepare the tastiest corned beef, ever!

Odds 'N Ends

Using my oven as a slow cooker.

I know that for all you culinary experts out there, this is probably a pretty elementary concept. But for me, it was like getting the super-secret password to big-batch cooking!

Last week, I had a cooking quandary. I was planning a Paddy’s Day corned beef and cabbage  dinner for about a dozen adults, and another 1/2 dozen kiddies, all stemming from my quaint, far-from-commercial kitchen. In the past, I prepared it on the stove stop, or in my slow cooker, but those were meals for 4-6 people. This weekend, I was planning on a houseful (and I was kind of hoping to have some leftovers to boot.) There is no way that 14 pounds of corned beef would fit into my little crock-pot.

Near panic, I decided that there is no conundrum that the Google Search engine cannot solve. Sure enough, I found several sites…

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Keeping Dinner Easy With “Happy Turkey Taco-Pizzas”

Dinner just isn’t the same when Daddy’s away. It’s hard to muster up the motivation to make a big “family dinner” for just me and the kids (especially when one of them takes the prize as a picky-eater).

Nevertheless, we still have to eat but the kids still must eat right? So, I try to keep it simple, easy, and kid-friendly. Tonight’s dinner was the perfect blend of their favorite foods –  I call it Happy Turkey Taco-Pizza.

Happy Turkey Taco Pizzas

Smile - It's Pizza Time

Here’s the super-simple recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1/2 jar of salsa
  • small can of corn
  • 8-10 flour tortillas (fajita size)
  • 1 package of shredded Mexican cheese
  • 12 grape tomatoes (cut in half)
  • Salt & Pepper (a pinch of each)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Brown the ground turkey with a bit of salt and pepper, and drain off any fat.
  3. Stir in the salsa and corn, and simmer until liquid evaporates. (No one wants a soupy pizza!)
  4. On a foil-lined cookie sheet, lay out 4-5 tortillas.
  5. Spoon a bit of the turkey salsa mixture onto each tortilla.
  6. Cover the mixture with cheese, and then top with tomato-halves (in the shape of smiley faces, of course!)
  7. Bake for about 10-12 minutes in the oven, or until cheese is thoroughly melted.

Voila! A happy dinner with the kids.

 

A Rookie Mistake in the Kitchen – Hash Browns Anyone?

I actually think that I am not a half-bad chef. I know what I like to eat (I’ve had plenty of experience with that!), and even though I’ve never taken any formal cooking lessons, I watched my mother and grandmother prepare plenty of meals as a child. I can read and follow directions, usually, so cookbooks and foodie websites are my friends.

I am not usually afraid to experiment in the kitchen. However, the adventurous spirit in the kitchen comes with a willingness to occasionally fail.

Today, I failed, for the most part anyway.

After prepping a pot roast for tonight’s dinner, I had some leftover potatoes. Since I was about to make breakfast, and had just eyed the grater in my kitchen drawer, I decided I would throw together some restaurant-style hash browns. How hard could it be? A little onion, shredded potatoes, salt & pepper sautéed in a well-oiled pan. I had everything I needed.

This morning, I should have consulted my recipe book though. Shortly after I threw my freshly shredded potatoes in the pan, I knew something was wrong. They were not cooking well, but were getting pretty mushy. The stubborn mule in me, would not give up. I diligently watched over them, turning up the heat, and stirring them around, trying to cook the starchy moisture out of them.

Hash browns gone terribly wrong

Hash browns gone terribly wrong

After about 25 minutes, I was left with this.

I learned later (when I actually looked at the recipe book), that  omitted a key step in the process: rinsing and drying the shredded potatoes. Rookie mistake, indeed!

I thought about throwing away the plate of brown mushy potatoes, but I set it on the breakfast table as a joke. Surprisingly, my husband (a notoriously picky eater) and my son (who would try nearly anything) loved them! My son kept going back for more. By the end of breakfast, the entire plate of potatoes was nearly gone!

Go figure.

My son asked me if I would make them again. I told him I would, but that next time I’d try to make them even better.  His response: “Mom, you’re the best cook ever!” If he only knew.

Kahlua Chocolate Chip Muffins, It’s What’s for Brunch!

I found a recipe for espresso muffins not too long ago on Yummly.com. I modified it a bit to make it my own, I replaced instant espresso with Kahlua, and was extra generous with the chocolate chips. The result, an awesome (just my humble opinion) recipe for Kahlua Chocolate Chip Muffins.

These have been a big hit in our house. At first, my husband didn’t believe I made them from scratch. (I am not sure if this speaks to the tasty recipe, or the clearly low expectations he has for my kitchen talents, but I’ll take it as a complement, regardless.) This is going to be a staple in my list of Sunday Brunch recipes.

So, here it is, Mary’s Kahlua Chocolate Chip Muffins

(Makes a dozen muffins)

INGREDIENTS

2 cups all-purpose flour (unbleached)

1 (generous) tbsp Mocha Flavored Kahlua

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp salt

1 cup milk

34 cup light brown sugar (packed)

12 cup unsalted butter (melted)

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

34 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (divided)

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Grease muffin cups with non-stick cooking spray or butter.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, 1/2 of the chocolate chips, and salt; stir to combine.
  4. In another bowl, add the milk, kahlua, brown sugar, melted butter, eggs, and vanilla; whisk until smooth.
  5. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients; stir just until moistened; do not overmix.
  6. Pour batter evenly into muffin cups.
  7. Sprinkle remaining chocolate chips over each muffin.
  8. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-22 minutes or until pick comes out clean.
  9. Cool on a wire rack before removing from the pan.

This easy recipe gives you a batch of warm, sweet, moist and flavorful muffins. They are the perfect complement to that hot cup of coffee, and Times Crossword, of a chilly Sunday morning.

Enjoy!

12 Days of Christmas Countdown – Day 9 – Potluck Preparation

The Holidays mean plenty of get-togethers, and often times, family get-togethers take on a potluck theme. I love potlucks. They relieve the host or hostess of some of the stress of preparing a big meal for loads of people. They also lend themselves to serving dinner buffet-style, much less stuffy than the formal Christmas Dinner. It also gives the guests the opportunity to contribute to the meal, and to try out some of their own favorite recipes.

Tomorrow, we are going to my brother and sister-in-law’s house for our family party. My contribution: Roasted Carrots and Butternut Squash, seasoned with a little nutmeg and balsamic vinegar. (I confess – I am adapting this recipe from one that I found on “The Perfect Pantry” blog. This blogger has some wonderful recipe ideas – please check it out!)

Roasted Carrots vie The Perfect Pantry

Roasted Carrots from The Perfect Pantry

This got me to thinking about how many great potluck recipe ideas there are out there, but when I usually need one, I find myself racking my brain for something tasty to bring.  So here are a few Holiday Potluck ideas to keep in reserve:

  • Homemade Macaroni and Cheese:  What better example of comfort food than this? Everyone has their own favorite recipe. (I like mine with a mix of several cheeses, including parmesan, cheddar, and cream cheese.) The great thing is that you can make batches that are as large or small as you want. It’s easy to wrap in foil and a casserole plan, so it travels well – and the leftovers are just as tasty the next day!
  • Tangy Kielbasa in the Crock Pot: Just throw a couple of pounds of kielbasa and a couple of cups of grape jelly and ketchup into the crockpot and heat it until the kielbasa is hot. A co-worker made this a couple of years ago and it was great! (Just about anything you can make and serve from a crock pot could be a great potluck idea – though I’d stay away from anything too soupy, unless you are prepared to bring soup bowls to the party.)
  • Chicken and Pasta Salad – I made this for a potluck baby shower last year, and I wish I had made more of it! There are so many variations of it, as well. For me, I poach about a pound of chicken and then pull it apart. After cooking pasta (rotini, bowties, take your pick), I blend the pasta and the chicken with my own blend of creamy chicken soup, milk, cheddar cheese, frozen veggies (I like broccoli), and some sauteed mushroom and onion. After adding it to a lasagna pan, I top with breadcrumbs and bake.

Of course, desserts are the staple of any holiday party. My eyes are bigger than my stomach when it comes to preparing all of those creative holiday dessert ideas like peanut butter reindeer cookies, and Santa lollipops. I so want to spend an afternoon preparing batches of these with my kids, but I never seem to have an afternoon to spare. 

That being said, there’s no shame in rolling out the store-bought sugar cookie dough, and letting the kids go to town with the red and green sprinkles and cookie cutters.  Bring those to your next potluck, and you’ll have nothing but an empty plate to bring home!

Baking Christmas Cookies

Let the kids bake the cookies!

My Contribution to Thanksgiving Dinner- Caribbean Rum Fudge Pie

I am not cooking this year. Well I am making a mini-Thanksgiving Dinner on Wednesday, for the sole purpose of having leftovers. For the first time in several years, we are not hosting on Thursday. We are heading over the river and through the woods to my sister’s house, to have dinner with my small (NOT) family. It’s going to be a great day filled with brothers, sisters and cousins galore.
I will not arrive empty-handed though. I am,p bringing one of the many pies that will adorn the table. This is a pie that my mother started making at least a decade ago, and now, no Turkey Day would be complete without it.
Here is the Very Easy Official recipe:

INGREDIENTS:
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 eggs
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
1 teaspoon rum flavored extract
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup walnut halves
1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch single crust
pie
DIRECTIONS:
1.Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
2. In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave chocolate chips until melted. Stir occasionally until chocolate is smooth.
3.Cream butter or margarine with sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add melted chocolate, instant coffee, and rum extract. Stir in flour and broken walnuts. Turn filling into pie shell. Top with walnut halves in decorative pattern.
4.Bake at 375 degrees F for 25 -35 minutes, until you can poke it with a toothpick and it comes out clean.. Cool.
I say “official” recipe, because in our house, there is simply no need for the walnuts. They just detract from the chocolate. My substitute: bittersweet chocolate chunks.
Best served a bit warm, with whipped cream and a glass of milk.

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The Most Useful Trick I Learned This Weekend?

Using my oven as a slow cooker.

I know that for all you culinary experts out there, this is probably a pretty elementary concept. But for me, it was like getting the super-secret password to big-batch cooking!

Last week, I had a cooking quandary. I was planning a Paddy’s Day corned beef and cabbage  dinner for about a dozen adults, and another 1/2 dozen kiddies, all stemming from my quaint, far-from-commercial kitchen. In the past, I prepared it on the stove stop, or in my slow cooker, but those were meals for 4-6 people. This weekend, I was planning on a houseful (and I was kind of hoping to have some leftovers to boot.) There is no way that 14 pounds of corned beef would fit into my little crock-pot.

Near panic, I decided that there is no conundrum that the Google Search engine cannot solve. Sure enough, I found several sites with easy-to-follow directions on transforming my giant oven into a slow cooker for the day.

It was wonderfully easy!

Corned Beef

I simply used an extra-large aluminum steam table pan, and laid out my brisket. I added just enough water to cover the meat and my own special spices (alas there was no spice packet included in this brisket).  I covered the pan with foil, and braised the beef for about 7 hours at 300.

After 6 hours, I drained some of the savory broth from the pan, and added it to my stockpot, where I was simmering my vegetables.

Delicious!

The Vegetables

Using the broth to simmer the veggies

The corned beef was moist and flavorful, and broke apart easily with a fork. The veggies tasted like they were boiled right along with the beef.

The best part was that the food was ready shortly before guests arrived. I carved the corned beef, and returned it to the pan after draining dome of the extra liquid. Then, I transferred the veggies to another aluminum pan, leaving just enough liquid to keep everything moist. I placed the veggies in the warm oven next to the corned beef. I had plenty of time to enjoy my company (and a pint of Guinness) before serving the meal.

When everyone was ready to eat, all I had to do was pull both pans from the oven, and peel off the foil. Voila!

Tis the Season for Irish Coffee

I plan on enjoying one of my favorite seasonal adult beverages this evening, and perhaps this weekend too — Irish Coffee.

While its origin is in dispute, many believe Irish Coffee was invented by a chef at the airport in Shannon, in the west of Ireland, during the 1940’s. Legend has it that he added whiskey to coffee on a cold, wet evening to warm some American passengers who had arrived after a difficult flight. One of the American passengers recreated it stateside at a California bar, and the rest, as they say, is history.

This is how I prepare my version:

Necessary ingredients:

1 stemmed Irish Coffee glass
1 Tbsp of Brown Sugar
1 oz shot (or more) of Jamesons Irish Whiskey
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup of strong coffee

Preparation:

Step 1: The Cream — I whip the cream by hand, and never use the stuff from the can! The trick is to whip the cream just enough, but not too much. Ideally, it should stick to the spoon, but not be so stiff that it stands on its own. (My uncle used to have me shake a pint of cream back and forth, with a slow even rhythm, so the cream would not take in too much air. This took a while.)

Step 2: Add the brown sugar and the whiskey to the glass.

Step 3: Pour the coffee, leaving about a 1/4 inch for the whipped cream.

Step 4: Gently dollop a generous spoonful of whipped cream on top of your coffee.

Voila! The perfect, or at least MY perfect Irish Coffee.

Slainte! (Cheers!)

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