Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Italian Sausage Surprise and Life From Scratch

We are T minus 3 weeks away until everyone arrives for graduation weekend.  Each day brings us closer to the upcoming fun moments of family, friends, and memories to be had.  Each day is also bringing us to check off things from our "to do" list, and then I find myself finding new items that need to be added and handled before our final date.


Needless to say, my family has somewhat suffered and I haven't been trying out as many new recipes as I would like.  My focus has been planning "the weekend" and finishing up "art/gift/decor" projects for their party.


In the middle of all this though, I did set aside some time and just recently finished reading "Life From Scratch" by Sasha Martin.  What a phenomenal book! I couldn't put it down.  Not only are there some amazing recipes (stay tuned for seeing posts on those in the near future), but I really related to Sasha.  There are some points in her life that I felt intersected with mine and I completely understood where she was coming from.  

The one paragraph that really hit home with me was near the end of the book.  She was cooking for a large group of family for her mom's surprise birthday party dinner. Sasha is having a conversation with her husband as they're going to sleep....

"You seem really tense, Sash.  Are you OK?"

"What do you mean?"

"All day you tried to control everything.  I think you're making everyone nervous."

I roll over without responding.  He thinks I'm pouting, that I'm mad at him, 
but what I'm really thinking is: 
I know.  That's exactly what I'm doing. And I don't know how to stop.

Ouch!  It was like looking in a mirror as I read that.  That is the last thing I ever want to happen is to make everyone nervous, and yet I know I have been guilty of it, by my own admission.  I must stop trying to control everything!


Well, unfortunately, I had already started my lists and lists of recipes, menus, grocery items, decor ideas and photos before I read the book.  I have to type them, because my hand won't write as fast as my brain is going to keep up.  (don't judge)  Oh well, there's always tomorrow to start my new ways.

This dish "Italian Sausage Surprise" (because I have no other idea what to call it), came about on accident as I was trying to whip up a quick meal during the week.  What started out as supposed to be slow cooker sausage and peppers turned into something so much better!


Italian Sausage Surprise

5 hot Italian sausage links
1 red pepper, sliced thin
1 yellow pepper, sliced thin
1 medium yellow onion, sliced thin
1 clove garlic, crushed
8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
2 cups prepared Marinara sauce (your favorite jarred brand)

In a large skillet, preheat over medium-high heat with a little olive oil.  When skillet is hot, add the sausage links and sear until brown on each side.  Remove from pan and set aside.

In same pan, add a little more olive oil and a tablespoon of butter, over medium heat.  Add the garlic and onions.  Saute until onions become translucent and garlic is fragrant.  Add the red and yellow peppers and saute until just getting soft.  Add the sliced mushrooms and cook for one minute.

Add the sausages back into the skillet with the veggies and pour the marinara sauce all over everything.  Stir well to make sure everything is coated.  Cover, lower heat and let simmer for about 30 minutes.

** While the dish was simmering, I "sauted" up some four cheese mini Pierogis with butter, because they make me happy and the creaminess of the Pierogi filling was so good with the finished sauce all over them. This also paired beautifully with Cara Mia Pinot Noir.

One Year Ago: Sweet Samoas Cake
Two Years Ago: "Un" Fried Ice Cream in Cinnamon-Sugar Bowl
Three Years Ago: White Pizza and Marky's Mark

Monday, May 1, 2017

Lemon-Blueberry Buckle

We celebrated the end of April (and "The Masters" month) by hosting a Champions Dinner and date night in for a few of our couples friends at our house.

This year's Champions Dinner at Augusta consisted of "Sunday Roast Dinner" with Prime Rib, Roasted Potatoes and Vegetables, Yorkshire Pudding and Apple Crumble.

We changed our menu up a bit and served our Traeger Prime Rib, loaded Cambozola smashed potatoes, garden salad, White Cheddar and Sage popovers and for dessert...Lemon-Blueberry Buckle. Everything was so incredibly good. 


I tried to bring my A-game for the evening and thank God it all turned out perfect...down to an intense game of Guesstures (guys against girls).  Girls nailed it, what can I say? If you've never played this game...you must get it and play...so much fun!!


As we were planning the dinner, I really wanted to try and replicate "The Champions Dinner" evening feel.  I looked for photos and since cameras and cell phones are not allowed at the actual dinner, each year there is always only one portrait taken with all the former winners.

One thing that I did notice that is consistent every year in the portrait photo...white linens, white china with gold accents and yellow flowers....done!


Lemon-Blueberry Buckle

1 box Butter Yellow cake mix
2 cans blueberry pie filling
1 whole lemon
1 stick cold, unsalted butter, sliced thin (16 slices)
vanilla bean ice cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray 9x13 glass baking dish with non-stick spray on bottom and sides.

Pour both cans of blueberry pie filling in dish.  Zest the lemon and sprinkle all over pie filling. Cut lemon in half and squeeze the juice of lemon all over the pie filling.  Mix lemon in with filling well.

Sprinkle the dry cake mix all over lemon-blueberry mixture.  Spread evenly and smooth out mix on top of filling (this will be your top crust - do not mix the dry cake mix with the pie filling).   Add pads of cold butter, spaced evenly all over cake mix.

Bake approximately 45 minutes, until filling starts to bubble up the sides and butter/cake mix starts to turn golden brown.

Remove from oven and let sit about 30 minutes, it will be very hot.

Scoop out and serve with vanilla ice cream.

One Year Ago: Alabama White BBQ Sauce
Three Years Ago: Taco (Tortilla Bowl) Salad


Monday, April 17, 2017

Bundt Pan Chicken and Small Town Feel

I live in a relatively small urban city.  It was much smaller when we moved here and now has grown tremendously.  I have to say though, I do love it's small town roots that it offers.  There are many "mom and pop" owned businesses here.  Simple one location business, open respectable hours, closed on Sundays for family time and no franchises.  We have a lot of those here and I treasure and support them.

We needed a specialized mechanic for our daughters' vehicle (because they are princesses).  Anyway, I met the most delightful group of people.  As I was dropping off their vehicle one day and distressed over everything that needed done, the mechanic and I were discussing Lent and that I had given up alcohol.  He said he and his wife make wine and asked what my favorite blend was.  I told him and he said, maybe when I pick up their car there would be a bottle of wine waiting for me in the seat....low and behold there was.  Pinot Noir waiting for momma!  I waited until Easter to open their gift...it was the best tasting (no label) glass of wine!


I am also in love with our vacuum store.  It is set in the heart of Main Street, owned by husband and wife.  He runs the vacuum business and she sets out homemade baked bread, cookies and a pitcher of fresh tea in their store every day!  She has even started advertising the flavor of the day on the side walk.  It just doesn't get any cuter than that! Never have I enjoyed shopping for my Kirby vacuum bags and belts so much!


Speaking of small town comforts, I stumbled on what apparently is all the rage now in home culinary cuisine...Bundt Pan Chicken.  I thought I had branched out and got creative when I started doing my Cheese/Garlic Knots in my bundt pan, but this one takes the cake (no pun intended)!


Best Bundt Pan Rotisserie Chicken
Courtesy of delish.com

2 carrots, chopped
1 onion, quartered
1 Tbl minced garlic
1/2 lb. yukon potatoes, quartered (I also used red and purple potatoes)
1 larbe bunch fresh thyme
1 large bunch fresh rosemary
extra virgin olive oil
1 (3-4) pound whole chicken, gizzard removed
1 lemon, sliced
salt
pepper
your favorite chicken seasoning mix

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and cover the hole of the bundt pan with foil.

In the bowl of a large bundt pan, combine garlic, carrots, onion and potatoes.  Toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Scatter springs of fresh thyme and rosemary on top of the vegetables.


Pat the chicken dry with paper towels.  Season the inside of the cavity generously with salt and pepper, then stuff it with the lemon halves, a few sprigs of thyme and a few springs of rosemary.  Rub the olive oil all over the skin of the chicken then season generously with salt and pepper (and chicken seasoning).


Place the chicken in the middle of the bundt pan, breast side up.  Bake until the chicken is cooked through and ski is golden, 45 minutes to 1 hour 10 minutes.  Let chicken rest for at least 15 minutes, before slicing.  Serve with roasted vegetables and extra pan juices.


One Year Ago: Torta Rustica
Two Years Ago: Cambozola Platter
Three Years Ago: Easter Cheesecake Baskets

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Creamy Rosemary Potatoes

Easter is upon us and will be here before we know it this Sunday.  I was actually hit with the question, "You're doing Easter baskets for us this year, right?"  Gotta love kids...(even 18 year olds). "No", I responded, quite adamantly.


Well, of course anyone who knows me (including them), knows I was lying.  Of course they are getting an Easter basket, equipped with the same purple bunny and yellow duck baskets they have had forever!  Since they already received their traditional Easter swim suits early this year, due to Spring Break, this years' goodies will be more spa and dorm oriented...so excited to see their faces!

I'm thinking of bringing back this potato dish that I made for us at Christmas, to serve as a side for Easter dinner.  It was amazing and made the house smell, beyond wonderful!


Creamy Rosemary Potatoes
Adapted from Pioneer Woman

4 Tbl (1/2 stick) butter, plus softened butter, for the baking dish
5 to 6 medium russet potatoes
1 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 medium onion, finely diced
One 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup half-and-half
2 Tbl minced fresh rosemary
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

** Cook's note:  I substituted the russet potatoes with one bag of mixed fingerling potatoes (white and purple).  I also added using one 8-ounce container of button mushrooms, sliced.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Rub the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish with softened butter.

Using a very sharp knife, (carefully) slice the potatoes very thinly.  They'll cook better that way.  Place the potatoes in the baking dish and add the layer of sliced mushrooms over the potatoes and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and some pepper.

In a large skillet over medium-low heat, melt the butter.  Add the garlic and onions and cook until translucent, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes.  Cut the bar of cream cheese in cubes and add to the skillet, stirring constantly.  Continue stirring until the mixture is smooth and combined, about 3 minutes.  Pour in the half-and-half and stir to combine.  Mix in 1/2 teaspoon salt and some pepper.  Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary.  Add the rosemary and green onions and stir to combine.  Finally, mix in 1/2 cup of the graded Parmesan.

Pour the cream cheese mixture over the top of the potatoes.  Scrape out the skillet to get every last drop.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup grated Parmesan generously over the top and bake until golden brown and bubbly, at least 1 hour.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

One Year Ago: Torta Rustica
Two Years Ago: Cambozola Platter
Three Years Ago:  Mixed Berry Pavlova

Monday, April 10, 2017

Queen Elizabeth's Drop Scones and Prom

Prom weekend had finally arrived.  After months of preparation and planning, the Seniors' special day was here and they were all in full force! Nails, hair, makeup, final dress adjustments...done!


The girls had some friends stay over the night before, so we gathered around the table with our celebratory box of mixed Dunkin Donuts and toasted to a beautiful, sunny morning with our orange juice!  Another "last" in our household this year...


While the girls spent the day doing their prom prepping, I tried out some new recipes.  I saw this one on the internet as published in Town & Country Magazine, "Queen Elizabeth's Drop Scones".  Since prom is a day fit for a Queen...why not?!


Queen Elizabeth's Drop Scones
Courtesy of The National Archives

2 cups flour
4 Tbl sugar
1 cup milk
2 whole eggs
2 tsp baking soda
3 tsp cream of tartar
2 Tbl melted butter

Beat eggs, sugar and about half the milk together, add flour, and mix well together adding remainder milk as required, also baking soda and cream of tartar, fold in the melted butter.

** Her recipe ends there, but seeing as these are similar to pancakes, one can then assume the batter would be dropped into a pan by the spoonful and flipped when bubbles started to appear on the surface.

These can be served with a fruit jam/preserve on top or a squeeze of lemon and dusting of powdered sugar.

One Year Ago: Mike's Marinating Mess
Two Years Ago: Chicken with Gorgonzola Sauce
Three Years Ago: Cheesy French Dippy


Thursday, April 6, 2017

"Clinks" Spinach Salad

With prom coming up this weekend, one night at family dinner, we were discussing all the different places that everyone would be going to for prom dinner.  My husband and I started reminiscing and talking about "back in the day".  His high school had prom at a hotel and a sit down dinner was served in the banquet room, before the actual prom dance.

I was telling them about a "fancy" restaurant that we used to go to (remember this was in Alaska)...it's a mouthful, so hang in there with me on this one..."Clinkerdagger Bickerstaff and Petts".


They were known for their complimentary brown bread, pewter dishes and Steak Pottage Soup along with their Fried Zucchini and Cheese Sauce.  I would actually pay serious money to get that Zucchini/Sauce recipes.  I have searched all over the internet and it doesn't exist.

I even worked there for about a year after high school and yes, I wore the Paul Revere uniform as shown in photo above...and I rocked it!

"Clinks", as we all affectionately called it was also known for their Spinach Salad.  I did actually find their recipe on the internet...now if I could just get my hands on their Zucchini!!!


Clinkerdagger Spinach Salad
Courtesy of Food.com

1 bunch spinach leaves
2 green onions, sliced
3 hard boiled eggs
1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded (not the grated powder stuff)
2 Tbl sliced almonds
1 Tbl bacon bits
3 Tbl cider vinegar
3 Tbl sugar
1/2 tsp prepared Dijon mustard
4 ounces sliced button mushrooms (I added this to the recipe, for our own tastes)

Wash spinach thoroughly. Spin or blot dry and tear into bite-sized pieces.

Chop egg (whites) only.

For dressing, in separate dish mash egg (yolks), vinegar, sugar, and mustard, whisk together.

Put all salad ingredients in a large bowl.  Pour dressing on top.  Toss and serve on chilled plates (like "Clinks" used to).

One Year Ago: The Masters Cheesecake
Two Years Ago: Spicy Sausage Skillet
Three Years Ago: The Masters Champions Dinner



Monday, April 3, 2017

Bobotie and Bring'n the Challenge

It's Masters Month here at our house and that means one thing...new ideas and recipes!  As you know, every year we try to recreate a new Champions Masters Dinner, based upon the last year's winner's dinner selection or even further back previous years.  When I say "we", that means my husband gets these wild ideas, challenges me, and then I bring it on!

This year as my husband was watching interviews on The Golf Channel during coffee time, they showed one of Augusta's chefs making "Bobotie" (South African Meatloaf Bake) from Trevor Immelman (2009) winner's dinner choice.  As I was watching the interview I was just sitting there and waiting for it...wait, here it comes...5-4-3-2-1..."Honey, you should totally make that this weekend!". I should be a psychic!


Bobotie...never heard of it, never seen it before.  The sound studio must have had great mics that day because their chef made it look and sound so good.  Why not?  I'll give this one a try.  Really interesting group of ingredients that is a very traditional dish in South Africa.  Husband loved it! Boom...another challenge scored!


Bobotie (South African Meatloaf Bake)
Courtesy of www.thedaringgourmet.com

1 pound ground beef, lamb, pork or combination
2 Tbl butter or olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 Tbl curry powder
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp allspice
1-1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 Tbl apricot jam or mango chutney
1 Tbl cider vinegar
2 slices stale bread, crusts removed, and cubed, soaked in about 1/2 cup milk
1 large egg
1 cup diced apple, peeled and cored
1/4 cup finely diced dried apricots
1/4 cup golden raisins
For the custard:
1 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric
For the top:
6 tay leaves
2 Tbl slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a medium 8x10 casserole dish.

Heat the butter or oil in a large frying pan and saute the onions and garlic until soft and translucent. Add the ground meat and cook until most of the pink is gone.  Add the curry, turmeric, cumin, nutmeg, cloves and allspice and cook for another 2 minutes.

Add the salt, pepper, apricot jam and vinegar and stir to combine.

Squeeze excess milk from the bread and add the bread to the meat mixture. Stir to combine.  Add the egg to the mixture and stir to thoroughly combine.

Add the apples, apricots and raisins and stir to combine.

Scoop the meat mixture into the greased casserole dish.

To make the custard, combine the milk, eggs, salt and turmeric and whisk together until blended.  Evenly pour the custard over the meat mixture.  Place the bay leaves on top and evenly sprinkle over the slivered almonds.

Bake uncovered for an hour or until the mixture is set and the top is golden brown.  Serve with yellow rice.

** To make yellow rice, prepare some white rice as normal but add 1/2 teaspoon turmeric per cup of uncooked rice.


One Year Ago: The Masters Cheesecake
Two Years Ago: BBQ Chicken Fiesta Salad
Three Years Ago: Mushroom Soup