The Kitchen Prep: November 2012

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tailgate Thursday: FSU Edition!

Are we still doing Tailgate Thursday posts around here? Yep. {Just 2 more schools to go!}

Am I totally behind every.single.week and just barely manage to crank out a post by the skin of my teeth? Double yep.

I am determined to finish this project. But I am running out of steam. Especially because all I want to do these days is bake Christmas cookies and plan fun holiday meals.

::: End of whiny mini-rant:::

Today's featured team is a big deal around these parts, especially because anyone who knows my undying love for the Gators knows how difficult it is for me to promote our rivals - The Florida State Seminoles.

Last weekend was our annual rivalry game and while my Gators emerged victorious this year, playing the Noles always makes for an intense game! {Did I mention that a large number of my friends are Noles? That definitely ups the rivalry-factor & keeps the pregame trash talking ribbing quite interesting!}

As I was looking back through my tailgate posts, I noticed that I've yet to cover any breakfast tailgate recipes. Sure, beer and wings is a welcome start to the day for any true tailgater, but neither really say "rise & shine" to me.

So today, I'm featuring a make-ahead breakfast tailgate that'll let you get your beauty rest the night before a big game!

FSU Collage
1. The MimOsceola, 2. PB&J Breakfast Rolls, 3. Dill & Cheese Beer Bread,
 4. The Osceola Dress from Twelve Saturdays

FSU Menu

Any true FSU fan knows that just because it's breakfast time doesn't mean we can't get the cocktail party started. Ease into the day of festivities with these garnet colored MimOsceolas {see what I did there??}... delicious pomegranate mimosas with just a touch of orange juice & triple sec to balance out the tartness. Let's pop the bubbly!

What is more enticing that hot, fresh cinnamon rolls in the morning? Hot, fresh cinnamon rolls that are ready to bake when you roll out of bed! These Peanut Butter & Jelly Breakfast Rolls are a fun twist on a classic. The PB&J is a nod to broke college living, when those sandwiches make up the majority of your meals! ;) And they even look a little Garnet & Gold, don't they? {Is that a stretch? Oh well.}

Finally, for a little savory treat, this Dill & Cheese Beer bread hits the spot. {And gets in that game day beer requirement.} Of course, this can be baked the day before, too, requiring nothing more than slicing the day of. Made in muffin tins, it's ready for individual servings.

Well, that's all I've got for today. It took everything out of me not to shout "Go Gators!" during the creation of this post...

Oh, what the heck... GO GATORS!!! ;)

{Love you, Seminole friends!}


The MimOsceola
adapted from Epicurious
2 cups pomegranate juice, chilled
1 cup orange juice, chilled
1/2 cup orange-flavored liqueur
1 (750-ml) bottle sparkling wine or prosecco, well chilled*
1. In a pitcher, combine juices and liqueur.
2. When ready to serve, stir in sparkling wine.
* Substitute seltzer water in place of sparkling wine for a mocktail.


PB&J Breakfast Rolls Rolls with PB-Cream Cheese Icing
adapted from Better Homes & Gardens "Make Ahead Holiday" Magazine
5 to 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/4 cups peanut butter {I used the natural, chunky kind}, divided
1 egg
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup to 1 cup desired jelly {I used raspberry}
1 recipe PB-Cream Cheese Icing
For  Rolls:
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer {or a large bowl}, combine flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Mix to combine.
2. In a small sauce pan, whisk together milk and 1/2 cup peanut butter over medium heat until peanut butter is melted and mixture is warmed through.
3. Add milk mixture to flour mixture and beat together until incorporated. Add egg and mix until combined.
4. Slowly add in remaining flour. {The amount will depend on the moisture of your mixture, it should look like very thick cookie dough when it's ready.}
5. Change paddle attachment to dough hook and knead for about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth, elastic, and only slightly tacky. You may need to add in a little extra flour in order to achieve this. Eyeball it. {Alternatively, you can knead by hand on a floured board for 5-7 minutes.}
6. Spray a large bowl with non-stick cooking spray. Shape dough into a ball, and place in bowl, sealed with plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm dark place until about doubled in size {mine took an usually long time - about 2 hours - but usually it takes only about an hour.}
7. Once risen, punch down dough and let reset for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, spray a rectangular 3-quart baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
8. In a small bowl, combine 3/4 cup peanut butter, brown sugar, and butter until smooth.
9. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out into an 18x12 inch rectangle. Spread peanut butter mixture over rolled out dough, leaving a 1 inch border along the long sides. Spread jelly over top of the peanut butter mixture.
10. Starting at the longer side, carefully roll the dough into a spiral log, turning over until seam is at the bottom. Using a very sharp knife, cut into 12 even slices. {You may want to refrigerate the dough for a little while if you are having trouble cutting due to it being too soft.} Arrange rolls in baking dish, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
{If you are making them right away, let the rolls rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in size - about 30-45 minutes - and bake using the directions in step 11.
11. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees, and let rolls stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Bake for 20-25 minutes until tops are slightly golden. Remove from oven and let cool slightly before slathering with icing.
For Icing:
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 1/2 cups {approx} powdered sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons milk
1. In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese and peanut butter. Beat until smooth.
2. Slowly add in powdered sugar and beat until fully incorporated, adding a tablespoon of milk at a time until desired consistency is reached.
3. Spread onto warm breakfast rolls. Serve warm.

Dill & Cheese Beer Bread
adapted from Better Homes & Gardens "Make Ahead Holiday" Magazine
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons dried dill weed
3/4 teaspon baking soda
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup spicy Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1 12-oz. can of beer {a lager is best for this bread}
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, dill, baking soda, and cheeses and mix gently to coat cheese.
3. Slowly add beer, whisking until just combined. Spoon batter in prepared loaf pan.
4. Bake for about 45 minutes until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
5. Cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes, then remove bread from pan. {Bread should be thoroughly cooled before slicing for clean slices.}

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Ultimate Mix & Match Cookie

Raise your hand if you gobbled 'til you wobbled on Thanksgiving?

Did you go to bed so full that you promised yourself you wouldn't eat another bite of anything rich & indulgent until Christmas?

Did you then wake up the next day and have a slice of leftover pumpkin pie for breakfast?

{It's ok, I won't tell.}

We've been trying to eat healthily in preparation for, well... more eating for the holidays.

Especially because you know that over the next few weeks, there will be plenty of candy, cookies, cakes, cocktails, and Christmas parties to get your belly to jolly old St. Nick status. {Um, why do all the delicious things start with the letter "C" for "chubby"?}

I'm going to try to share some of my healthier recipes with you during the next few weeks so that eating things like this won't make you feel so bad... but for now, we're also going to practice a little will power.

As in, do not allow yourself to run to your kitchen and make these immediately.


Do not try out 10 different versions, even though that's part of the magic of these babies.


Do not package these up "as gifts" and then tear into said box with wreckless abandon in need of a chocolate fix.


This is THE ULTIMATE Mix & Match Cookie.

They are perfect for so many reasons: Their soft, chewy texture. Their ease of preparation. Their endless variations. The fact that they're made with Jell-O Pudding mix, which is almost never hard to come by.


In testing out the recipes for this post, I halved the recipe and was still able to make 5 different types of cookies {at least 3 of each for quality control} in under 45 minutes. Think about how many desserts you'll be asked to bring to holiday parties over the next few weeks and how quickly you'll be able to crank out several varieties of these to present to each host or hostess.


You're welcome. I love you, too.

The possibilities for these are endless {did I mention you can use different flavored pudding mix for the base, too? I know. Mind. Blown.}, but since I can't stay home and bake cookies all day {and I have limited counter space}, I'll share the five I made today and maybe share a few each week to add to your collection!

Easy Mix & Match Pudding Cookies
adapted from Kraft

1 {2 sticks} cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 {3.9 oz} package Jell-O Chocolate Instant Pudding Mix
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour

For Base Recipe:

1. Prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2 In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add pudding mix and baking soda and mix until combined.

3. Add eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated.

4. Slowly add in flour until just incorporated.

**At this point, you can add in any mix-ins {see below} and stir until distributed throughout dough. If plain cookies are desired, continue to step 5.

5. Using a small cookie scoop, scoop dough onto prepared baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches between each.

6. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until cookies are set. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheet for about 5 minutes {they will be soft and hard to move if they're too hot}. Transfer to cooling racks.



Chocolate & Sea Salt Cookies

Follow Steps 1-5. After scooping onto baking sheet, sprinkle lightly with coarse sea salt, then bake as directed.


Mexican Chocolate Chili Cookies

Follow Steps 1-3. Sift together flour, 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper.  Continue with steps 4 through 6.


Chocolate Toffee Cookies

Follow Steps 1-4. Add 1 cup Heath Bits 'o' Brickle Toffee Chips to dough and mix until just incorporated. Continue with steps 5 through 6.


Chocolate Mocha Glazed Cookies

Follow Steps 1-4. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of instant espresso powder to dough and mix until just incorporated. Continue with steps 4 through 6.

After cookies are cooled, combine 1/2 cup powdered sugar with 1-2 tablespoons strong brewed coffee and stir until desired consistency is reached. Drizzle over cookies and let set.


"Hot Chocolate" Cookies

Follow Steps 1-4. Add 1 cup Vanilla Mallow Bits {if you can't find these, you can use the mini-marshmallow packets from Marshmallow Lovers hot chocolate} to dough and mix until just incorporated.  Continue with steps 5, then press a few extra marshmallows into tops of each cookie. Bake as directed.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Special Edition: Sweets!

Let's have a quick recap of the side dishes I've shared so far this week, shall we?

There's Sausage, Kale, & Butternut Squash Stuffing/Dressing...

Lemon-Scented Broccoli Souffle...

Provencal Potato Gratin...

... and Caramel Apple Sweet Potato Casserole.

But I know you're all, "Yeah, yeah, that's real nice and all. What about dessert? Give me the sugaaaaaaaaarrr!"

I've got you covered. Even those of you that aren't bakers. So, tie on your apron... and prepare for a sugar rush!

You know how sometimes people make things that nobody really likes {i.e. fruitcake} because it's tradition? Well, I sort of feel that way about pumpkin pie.

I know that is a sacrilege to some of you. But if I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: I prefer to take my calories in the form of cheesecake.



I think I will make an exception for this Amaretto Pumpkin Pie with Almond Praline.


Boozy pie with cookies in the crust? SOLD.


I know some of you are already stepping quite outside of your comfort zone by cooking/baking anything at all. And I don't want to overwhelm you by throwing in something like pie... with homemade crust.

So settle down and check out these little babies:


Nutty Coconut Caramels.

Five ingredients. Done in under 10 minutes. Made in the microwave. Absolutely addictive. And perfect for sharing with your "nutty" family members.


Because let's face it... after all those fabulous sides you're making this year {and, oh yeah, the turkey}... who's going to have room for anything bigger than one of these caramels?

{Me... Oops. Did I just say that?}

I have one last thing to share that has become somewhat of a tradition in my family: Gourmet Caramel Apples.


I call them "gourmet" because I get pretty fancy with them and end up with apples that look like the ones that are sold for $12 a pop in chocolate shops & department stores... except mine cost a fraction of the price. These apples can be as involved or uninvolved as you'd like them to be: Cover them in chocolate, nuts, sprinkles or candy; make them fussy or messy; or coat them in caramel and call it a day. Whatever you do with them, I can assure you that eyes will light up when you bring them to the party.


I've given them as favors, arranged them in a gift basket, and have even made pretty tags and used them as place cards. They are always a hit.

No matter which dessert you choose to make this year, I just know it will put the perfect finishing touch on your Thanksgiving meal.

Wishing you & yours the most wonderful Thanksgiving. I am truly thankful for so many things... including you!



The Kitchen Prep

Amaretto Pumpkin Pie with Almond Praline
adapted from Food Network Magazine

For Crust:

5 tablespoons butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup crushed amaretti cookies {or any almond cookie} - about 10 cookies
1/4 ice cold water

1. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until mixture resembles grated cheese.

2. Slowly pour in cold water while continuing to process {about 1 tablespoon at a time} until a dough ball forms. {If dough becomes too wet, just add a little more flour.}

3. Press into pie dish, pushing up the sides. Poke dough with a fork, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes until chilled.

For Filling:
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 1/2 tablespoons amaretto liqueur
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover chilled pie dough with foil, and fill with pie weights or dry beans to weigh down. Bake for about 25 minutes.
2. Remove foil and pie weights and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until crust begins to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and cool for about 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, combine all filling ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together until smooth and incorporated.
4. Pour into pie crust and bake for about an hour or until the pie is mostly set. {It will still be slightly jiggly in the middle.} Cool completely.
For Praline:
Nonstick cooking spray, for baking mat
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/8 teaspoon salt
** Prepare a baking pan by lining with a silicone baking mat. Spray liberally with non-stick cooking spray. {You may be able to use parchment sprayed with non-stick cooking spray if you do not have baking mats, though I did not use this method.} You will need to move quickly once you are ready to pour the hot sugar onto the mat, so have everything ready.
1. In a heavy bottomed pot, cook sugar and 1 tablespoon water over medium high heat until it comes to a boil, swirling the pan every so often  instead of stirring.
2. When sugar turns honey brown, remove from heat and stir in sliced almonds and salt.
3. Pour onto prepared non-stick surface and spread with a spatula in as thin of a layer as possible.
4. Cool completely. Once cool, break into small pieces.
5. Sprinkle praline over pie before serving.

Nutty Coconut Caramels
adapted from Taste of Home Magazine

1 tablespoon butter
24 chewy caramels, such as Kraft
3/4 cup flaked sweetened coconut, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup salted peanuts

1. Prepare an 8x8 inch pan by lining with foil {overlapping from pan for easy removal} and spraying lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

2. In a microwave safe bowl, combine all ingredients and microwave on high for 30 second intervals for about 1 1/2 - 2 minutes, stirring often to combine.

3. Press into baking pan and sprinkle with remaining coconut flakes.

4. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes or until set. Remove from pan using overlapping foil handles, and cut into squares.

5. Wrap in parchment or waxed paper if desired.

Gourmet Caramel Apples

4 large apples, your choice {I used Granny Smith & Honeycrisp}
1 bag wrapped caramels {such as Kraft}, unwrapped
Approximately 1 cup dark, milk, or semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
Assorted toppings such as walnuts, almonds, sprinkles, candy, etc.

Other: Popsicle sticks or large lollipop sticks

1. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Spray with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

2. Place unwrapped caramels in medium bowl. Microwave on high for about 1-2 minutes, stopping every 45 seconds or so to stir. Remove when melted and smooth.

3. Skewer apples onto popsicle or lollipop sticks. Dip apples into caramel, rotating slowly until completely coated in caramel. Allow excess to drip into bowl and lightly scrape the bottom on the side of the bowl.

4. Place onto prepared pan and refrigerate to set, about 30 minutes.

5. Once caramel is set, place melted chocolate into a piping bag or zip-top plastic bag with the tip snipped. Drizzle caramel coated apples with desired amount of chocolate.

6. While chocolate is wet, sprinkle with desired toppings such as nuts or candy. Place back on baking sheet and refrigerate to allow chocolate to set, about 15-20 minutes.

7. At this point, you can continue to coat the apples with other drizzles or toppings as desired, repeating refrigeration process between coats.

8. When completely fully set, package in cellophane bags.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Special Edition: Sides & Sweets, Part 2

The holidays are just about the only time of year when you can get away with calling a dish made up of about 80% cheese, butter, or cream a "vegetable".

As much as I love buttery mashed potatoes and Cream of Mushroom-laiden green bean casserole, I also like to explore other ways to make "veggies" a part of the Thanksgiving menu.

Today, I'm sharing two more easy recipes that will update your side dish recipe collection. {If you missed yesterday's post, make sure to check out the Sausage, Kale, & Butternut Squash Stuffing/Dressing and Lemon-Scented Broccoli Souffle!}

The hardest part about either is the chopping & prepping, so I suggest that you get ahead of the game and pre-chop your veggies so that putting it all together the day of is a cinch. {This is a good time to bribe family members to "help out" in the kitchen! Note: Let the kiddos sit this one out, these veggies are hard to chop & require extra motor function to manage. We want all little fingers in tact for dinner!}

If you're looking for an elegant way to serve potatoes, this Provencal Potato Gratin is just the thing. It's one of those dishes that makes you look like you actually know what you're doing without having to go through too much trouble. {Aren't those the best?}

If you have a mandolin, it will make the slicing part of the prep much easier... but since I'm anti-absolutely necessary tools in my already-too-small kitchen, I don't own one. So I sliced {carefully} by hand and it only took me a few minutes more than it probably would have with fancy tools.

The dish is extremely flavorful, with tender potatoes, basil, and slightly sweet, tangy roasted tomatoes on top. And it's pretty, to boot!

One of my families favorite Thanksgiving dishes is Sweet Potato Casserole, which we all know is code for "dessert during dinner". This year, I'm suggesting a twist on the old favorite: Caramel Apple & Sweet Potato Casserole.

Sweet potato & apple cubes are tossed in a homemade cider caramel sauce and baked until tender. While this version certainly leaves some of that classic sugariness in tact, I feel like it's more of a subtle sweetness that brings out the flavor of both the apples and the sweet potatoes. The savory breadcrumbs on top keep it balanced and interesting with an added crunch.

Alright, so now I've given you FOUR new side dishes to try out this year... all worthy of precious dinner plate real estate.

But now that we've been good and eaten our supper, it's time for dessert! Make sure to stop by tomorrow for some sweet Turkey Day treats!

Provencal Potato Gratin
adapted from Food Network

4 large clove garlic, smashed
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
1 red pepper, peeled, seeded and diced
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes (about 4 to 5), peeled
1 cup water
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
4-5 plum tomatoes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a casserole dish by rubbing with a cut garlic clove and coating with about a tablespoon of olive oil. Set aside.
2. Slice potatoes to about 1/8 inch thickness, and tomatoes to about 1/4 inch thickness with a mandolin or sharp knife. {Watch those fingers!} Set aside.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add onion, pepper, and garlic, as well as salt & pepper to taste, and saute until tender about 4-5 minutes. Add white wine and simmer until reduced by about half.
4. Add sliced potatoes and water to pan. Cook for about 2-3 minutes until the liquid is slightly thickened.
5. Stir in basil.
6. Pour potato mixture into prepared dish, layering evenly, and sprinkle with salt. Carefully arrange tomato slices {in a pretty shingled pattern} over top of potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with about a tablespoon of olive oil.
7.  Bake, uncovered, for about 1 1/2 hours or until potatoes are tender.
8. Remove from oven and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake for another 10-12 minutes until bubbly and beginning to turn golden brown.

Cool for 10 minutes before serving,  or serve at room temperature.

Caramel Apple Sweet Potato Casserole
adapted from Rachael Ray Magazine

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup apple cider, such as Zeigler's
5 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes {approx. 6 cups}
1 pound tart apples, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes {approx. 2 cups}
cups whole wheat or favorite crusty bread {I used homemade}, cubed 
Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish {optional}
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 9x13 inch dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
2. Place sugar in a heavy bottomed pot and, withouth stirring, cook over medium high heat until it begins to melt. Once the edges begin to brown, stir slightly with a wooden spoon until a deep amber caramel forms. {Be careful, this part can burn very quickly.}
3. Remove from heat and add cider, 2 tablespoons of butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. The mixture will bubble & steam; the caramel will harden temporarily. {Use precaution, this mixture is very hot and caramel burns are no fun!}
4. Return pot to burner over medium heat and stir until caramel dissolves into a sauce. Cook until mixture is slightly reduced and thickened, about 4 minutes. Set aside to cool.
5. Combine chopped sweet potatoes and apples in a large bowl. Pour cooled caramel sauce over top and toss to coat. Pour into prepared dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake for about 40-50 minutes, uncovering an stirring about half way through cooking time until potatoes and apples are fork tender.
6. Meanwhile, melt remaining butter in a large skillet and add cubed bread, stirring gently to coat all bread cubes. Cook for about 5-7 minutes until bread is toasted and golden in parts.
7. Remove casserole from oven and sprinkle toasted bread cubes over top. Return to oven for an additional 10 minutes.
8. Garnish with chopped parsley if desired.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Special Edition: Sides & Sweets

Well, it's here.

The culminating culinary event of the year: Thanksgiving.

I realize that you've probably already decided on your menu for Thursday. I understand that you might have already purchased a small farmer's market-worth of produce and a turkey so big that it has quite possibly been pecking at anabolic steroids for the course of its existence and are probably thinking to yourself, "Thanks for nothin', chick."

I applaud you for your foresight and planning.

But I know that some of you are still sitting there, surrounded by dogeared cooking magazines with an empty fridge and sparse pantry completely overwhelmed and wondering how you're going to pull this thing off.

Not to worry.

I am here to tell you that you can do it. Really, you can. I have faith in you.

Now, take a deep breath and do not freak out about what I'm going to say...

I am not going to show you how to cook a turkey.

Why? Why, for the love of all things, am I not?

Because you don't need my help. There are about 5 billion tutorials, recipes, methods, and techniques out there, most of which I'm sure you've already seen multiple times, on how to roast a turkey. Nothing I tell you is going to be so earth-shatteringly revolutionary that it will cause Martha herself to show up at your doorstep and beg you for the recipe.

Showing you how to properly prepare, or truss, or baste or slice a turkey is not going to make your mother-in-law like you any more than she does. And let's face it: No matter who shows you how to make this bird, no matter how amazing the step-by-step instructions...  several of you will still forget to defrost the bird, or turn on the oven, or remove the bag of giblets from the cavity.

That's what makes it Thanksgiving.

So, now that I've delivered this shocking news, let's move on and get to taking about what IS going to make your Thanksgiving menu stand out.

Sides and Sweets.

In my opinion, they're what can really turn a predictable meal up a notch.

So... are you ready?

I'm starting off with a controversial side: Stuffing. Or dressing. The name alone is enough to start a debate. {Which do you call, it by the way?}

Can I be honest? {Has anyone answering that question with, "No." ever stopped me?}

I don't think I ever ate "real" stuffing/dressing growing up. I'm pretty sure the only version I ever had was the kind that comes in a cardboard box and doesn't taste much different. That could be why I've never been very interested in it.

But this stuff... Oh my. So good. Like, "You can keep the turkey." kind of good.

It's Sausage, Kale & Butternut Squash Stuffing/Dressing.

I used homemade bread in mine and the results were amazing. I totally understand if you're not about to start your adventures with bread baking this week, though, and a good store bought artisan loaf should do the trick.

Next up {I'm doubling up this week since I've given myself only THREE days to share all of this incredibleness with y'all}: Lemon-Scented Broccoli Soufflé.

It's a great way to get a veggie on the Thanksgiving table without having to resort to the old standbys. Plus, the fact that it's a soufflé makes it pillowy and light, leaving more room for sampling the rest of the goods. Lemon zest works perfectly here to brighten up the flavor of the broccoli and add a fresh, citrusy punch.

Tomorrow, I've got two more sides for you to consider... and Wednesday... well, that's the day you'll really want to stop by. ;)

Now, get cookin'!


Sausage, Kale & Butternut Squash Stuffing/Dressing
slightly adapted from Food Network

4 tablespoons butter {plus extra for greasing dish}
1 pound sweet Italian sausage {I used Organic Chicken Sausage}
2 large leeks, white and light-green parts only, sliced
1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled and diced {about 2 1/2 to 3 cups}
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 bunch kale, leaves trimmed and chopped
Approximately 4 cups stale onion focaccia, cubed {Or any crusty bread. I made my own using this recipe.}
1 egg
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1  cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a large casserole dish {approx. 3 quart} and set aside.

2. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large pan with high sides {or a Dutch oven}over medium high heat, and add sausage. Cook until browned and no pink is visible.

3. Add leeks, squash, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until leeks are tender, about 4 minutes.

4. Stir in chopped kale and cook until just beginning to wilt, 4-5 minutes.

5. Add cubed bread and remaining 3 tablespoons of butter, and toss together gently, careful not to break up bread too much.

6. In a bowl or large glass measuring cup, whisk together broth and egg until combined. Add 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan and a pinch of salt.

7. Pour egg mixture over bread and cook for about a minute, or until most of the moisture is soaked up by the bread.

8. Pour into prepared casserole dish and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese.

9. Bake about 40 minutes, until top is golden and mixture is cooked through. Cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Lemon-Scented Broccoli Soufflé
Adapted from Cooking Light

3/4 pound broccoli, finely chopped
1/3 cup all purpose flour {or, to make gluten free, use rice flour}
1 1/2 cups milk {I used 2 %}
1/3 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh grated lemon zest
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs - separated, plus 3 extra egg whites {6 eggs total}
1 garlic clove, grated or minced

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare a soufflé dish by coating in non-stick cooking spray.

2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add chopped broccoli, cooking for about 4 minutes or until tender. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.

3. Whisk flour and milk together in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring constantly. Cook for about a minute or two until slightly thickened.

4. Reduce heat and add yogurt, lemon zest, salt, 3 egg yolks, garlic, and whisk until fully combined. Stir in broccoli and and set aside.

5. In a separate bowl, beat 6 egg whites to stiff peaks with a hand mixer.

6. Scoop about 1/3 of stiff egg whites into broccoli mixture, and carefully fold in without deflating egg whites. Add remaining egg whites and fold together until incorporated and fluffy.

7. Pour into prepared baking dish, smoothing top.

8. Bake for about 40 minutes until risen and slightly golden on top. Serve immediately.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tailgate Saturday: Ole Miss Edition!

So, Tailgate Thursday never happened last week... or the week before. I think maybe I wasn't ready to talk football again after the Florida-Georgia game. The Gator Nation needed some time to pout. ;)

But alas, Thursday has arrived once again, so it's time to get back to some tailgate cookin'.

Today I'm featuring the Ole Miss Rebels, which happens to go perfectly with my rebellious menu!

1. 'Sippi Sipper cocktail, 2. Rebel Raspberry Wings, 3. Ole Miss dress from Twelve Saturdays
I was on my own with creating this cocktail as Carla, my resident mixologist over at Haute Cocktail who lives in an area that was highly affected by Hurricane Sandy, was busy trying to get things back in working order. Carla, we are so glad you are ok and wish you all the best as your city recovers from the storm! Raising this 'Sippi Sipper in a toast to rebuilding and community! My cocktails aren't as good as yours, but I tried! :)
The Rebel Raspberry Wings on today's menu are a fun, fruity twist on your plain ol' tailgate wings. Who said wings had to be savory? The raspberry jam in the glaze adds a sweet and sassy flavor that will make you want to rebel from your usual wing recipe!
But the real showstopper of this tailgate... was the Mississippi Mud Dip that I shared a few weeks ago. I could probably eat an entire dish of this stuff all by myself. Served with pretzels for that salty-sweet combo, this stuff may just replace a pint of ice cream on those movie/pj/junk food nights. SO good.
 {And gentlemen, if you're trying to attract some ladies to your tailgate, this is the stuff. Like moths to the flame, y'all.}
All together, these three recipes make a great tailgate treat... but you definitely don't have to wait until gameday to enjoy them!
'Sippi Sipper
2 oz. citrus vodka
1 oz. blue curacao
1 oz. lemon-lime soda
1 oz. grenadine
1. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine citrus vodka, blue curacao, and lemon-lime soda and shake to combine.
2. In a small glass filled with ice, pour about 1 oz. grenadine. 
3. Slowly pour vodka mixture over an overturned spoon over grenadine. {Mixture should stay separate to show layers.}
Rebel Raspberry Wings
Adapted from Driscoll's
For Sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup yellow onion, minced
1 garlic clove, grated or minced
3/4 cup raspberry jam
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
For Wings:
2 pounds chicken wings
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and position oven rack to second rung from top. Line a large baking sheet with foil and set aside.
2. Arrange wings on baking sheet, and drizzle with about 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toss to coat.  Sprinkle wings with spice mixture on both sides. {You may have some left over.}
3. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until fully cooked through.
4. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a saucepan. Add onion and garlic and saute until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes.
5. In a small bowl, whisk together jam, brown sugar, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, dijon mustard, and hot sauce.
6. Add mixture to onions and mix to combine. Simmer on medium heat until bubbling and thickened, about 8-10 minutes.
7. Toss desired amount of sauce with baked wings. Serve hot.   

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

NYC Life Lessons & "Big Apple" Toffee Crumble Pizza

If it weren't for the fact that I'm pretty sure I would spend the majority of my time completely lost on the subway {I have ZERO sense of direction... throw in some letters, numbers, and fast moving trains & we have a major problem}, I think I'd move to New York City.

I was smitten with the city upon my first visit {which was actually only a few years ago}, even though it only lasted about a day. I knew immediately that I had to return.

The next time I visited, I stayed for 5 days because there was just no way that I could've squeezed in even a fraction of the things I wanted to see. I left even more in love than the first time. {And I still felt like I hadn't even made a dent on my list of things to do.}

When my little sister turned 21 this past September, I wanted to give her a special gift she'd always remember. After much deliberation, I decided on the ultimate birthday gift: A weekend trip to NYC.

Turning 21 is an exciting time. You have your whole life ahead of you and the potential is limitless. You're young enough to still have a lot to learn about the world, and old enough to have already started to figure some things out. You are getting a sense of who you are and where you belong while balancing who you've become and where you've come from.

New York City, while being a place of great fun and seemingly endless experiences, is also a great place to learn some important life lessons.

So, I thought I'd put together a little recap of our trip, complete with the pearls of wisdom the city has to offer...

Sometimes you will discover delightful things where you least expect them.

A tiny snowman found on the stairs in Central Park.

What's odd to some, is totally normal to others. Appreciate diversity.

Minnie, casually crossing the street in Times Square.

At times, life will seem like quite a climb...

Slipping Climbing up a rock in Central Park.

...But when you reach the top, you will realize it was all worth it.

It never hurts to be well-read.
Left: Mary with Hans in Central Park., Center: At the Alice in Wonderland statue.
Right: Hans Christian Anderson statue in Central Park.

No matter how old you get, stay young at heart.
Playing in the Eloise section of The Plaza Hotel.

Eat well.

Clockwise from left: 1. Bagels in the morning from Leo's. 2. Cannoli from Ferrarra Bakery. 3. Ferrara Bakery 4. Margherita Pizza from Caffe Napoli in Little Italy, 5. Breakfast at Katz's Delicatessen {from When Harry Met Sally},
 6. Lunch at Caffe Napoli,7. Mini Cupcakes from Baked by Melissa. Bottom: Gelato from Ferrara Bakery

Frolick often.

Mary, happy to be in Times Square.

Love much.

There's nothing wrong with having a cupcake for dinner every once in a while.

Exhausted and ready for a cupcake dinner from Magnolia Bakery.

Life will get busy sometimes. It will seem like there's simply not enough time for everything that needs to be done.

Alice in Wonderland March Hare sculpture in Central Park.

But take some time to smell the flowers... or the leaves.

In all the madness, try to find a place to be quiet and still.

It's not always necessary to win the race. Sometimes just floating along will be the true reward.

Conservatory Water, Central Park

Don't take yourself too seriously. Laugh at your mistakes.

Menu typo...  :)

There is beauty in vulnerability.

A bare tree in Central Park.

You may be pushed down, experience tragedy, and think that you can't go on. But there is always a chance to rebuild. The human spirit is stronger than we can possibly imagine.

A view of Freedom Tower from St. Paul's Chapel graveyard.

We had an amazing time exploring the city, and Mary caught the NYC bug. In our short weekend there we were able to see so much, do so much, and experience so much together, and in the end it really was the perfect 21st birthday gift.

"There is no better friend than a sister. And there is no better sister than you." - Unknown

I'm leaving you with a little memento of our trip: "Big Apple" Toffee Crumble Pizza. Apple to remind us of NYC's moniker, pizza because it's a New York staple, and sweet toffee & spices to bring back memories of the fall.

We <3 NY. :)

"Big Apple" Toffee Crumble Pizza
adapted from Taste of the South

For Crust:

1 store bought pizza dough, or homemade. I used the following recipe:

1 packet active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3 cups flour

1. Combine yeast, sugar, and warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Let sit for 5 minutes or until yeast starts to foam or bubble. {If it never does, you may need new yeast.}

2. Add melted butter and mix.

3. Beat flour, one cup at a time, into yeast mixture until a dough ball forms.

4. Change to dough hook, or turn out onto a floured surface, and knead for about 5 minutes.

5. Place in an oiled bowl and allow to rise for approximately 1 hour or until just about doubled in size.

For Toffee Crumble:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup toffee or brickle chips {such as Heath Bits'o Brickle}

1. In a small bowl, combine flour, sugar, and butter.
2. Stir in toffee bits.
3. Set aside.

For Apple Topping:

4 Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored, & chopped
1/4 cup {4 tablespoons} butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup water

1. In a large skillet, combine chopped apples, butter, sugar, cinnamon & nutmeg. Cook over medium high heat, stirring often, until apples begin to get tender.

2. Dissolve cornstarch in water in a small cup to make a slurry.

3. Add cornstarch mixture to apple mixture, and cook for another minute or 2 until thickened and bubbly.

4. Set aside to cool slightly.

Assemble & Bake Pizza:

1. Arrange dough on a pizza pan or stone. Brush with about 1 tablespoon of melted butter.
2. Bake at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes.
3. Remove from oven & reduce heat to 400 degrees.
4. Spread apple topping evenly over pizza dough.
5. Sprinkle with toffee crumble.
6. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until golden.