Sunday, November 30, 2014

Spicy Country Sausage Gravy & Black Pepper Biscuits

I happen to think I make the best country gravy around.
I'm sorry, I just do.
Every time I order it some place, I'm so disappointed in what it is.
Frankly, it's too plain and boring.
Not mine, my recipe is exciting with lots of flavors.

But hey, if you like plain, go ahead and do it the basic way.
This one takes it up a notch.

Also, I'm sure some of you will comment on the fact I am using Bisquick.... yep, I got it, I'm cooking it.  While I DO make very nice biscuits on my own, nothing can beat the ease and consistency of Bisquick mix all ready to do. In your pantry, calling your name.

Also, for those who are Gluten Free, I have made this sausage gravy quite successfully using gluten free flour as a substitute, of course, you will have to make GF biscuits too.

This is our holiday treat breakfast, we don't do it that often, but it happens to be quite popular with the gang.

(The green onions are for garnish, and I didn't use the butter, but used the sausage oil instead.)
Serves 4-6
1 lb pork sausage, mild or hot
1/2 med onion, chopped small
1/2 cup celery, including leaves, chopped small
2-3 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (omit if using hot sausage)
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
2 cups milk
Salt & Pepper (if needed, I usually don't add it)

Before your start the sausage gravy, make your favorite recipe with about 1-2 tsp of fresh cracked black pepper. Make your biscuits.  I make mine in a square and cute into 9 pieces.  Saves a lot of time of rolling and rerolling the scraps with round biscuits. Just sayin.

 Cut the onions and celery into a small dice.

Fry up the sausage, breaking it into chunks as it cooks.  When it's almost cooked through, add the onions and celery and cook for another 3-4 minutes. NOTE- You should have 1-2 Tbsp of oil in the bottom, you can either drain it off and add butter to make a roux with the flour. Add the flour and stir to combine, cooking another 2-3 minutes. 

Slowly add the milk, stirring as you go.  Cook for about 2-3 more minutes until the sauce starts to thicken. 

See?  With square biscuits you get lots of nice corners and edges to get golden brown!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Turkey Tetrazzini

I'm sure that many of you are looking at leftover turkey.
What to do, what to do?
Well today is very cold and a touch of snow on the ground so something comforting is in order. Yum, this one fits the bill!

I've always been intrigued by Turkey Tetrazzini, though I can't wait I've ever had it before today! I was flipping through old magazines, trying to get rid of some things and this one from Cooking Light came up.  I simplified some things and was able to make this for lunch today in under 20-25 minutes.

Serves 4-5

8oz medium pasta, like farfalle
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
1/2 onion, chopped
1 cup whole milk
1 cup turkey, or chicken, broth
4 Tbsp light cream cheese (about 1/3 a package)
1/2 cup parmesan, grated
2 cups cooked turkey meat, chopped
1 cup peas, frozen
2 Tbsp green onions, sliced
1-2 Tbsp parsley, chopped

In a large pot, bring some salted water to boil.  Add noodles and cook until almost al dente.  Add the frozen peas, Cook until noodles are done.

In another larger sauce pan, melt some butters and saute the onions for 3-4 minutes until they start to soften.  Add the flour and stir to combine, cooking another 2 minutes.  Slowly added the broth, stirring constantly.  Add the cream cheese, grated parmesan and the milk.  Add the chopped turkey.  Salt and pepper to taste.  It should be flavorful at this time, adding more salt and pepper to ensure the sauce is to your liking now.

Add the hot, drained noodles and peas.  Add the green onions and parsley and stir to combine.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

8 Things on MY Own Thanksgiving Table

Happy almost Thanksgiving to YOU and Yours, whoever they may be.
Hold those dear to you close and tell them that you love them.
Make the most of the holiday and connect with your peeps.

It's not about shopping, or eating, or drinking, its about TOGETHERNESS.
Embrace it, embrace each other, embrace yourself.

Maybe you wondered what do I do on Thanksgiving?

Well, just like you, I get tired, stressed and I start to think of ways I can ditch this whole mess and head for the hills.... oh, but then I tough talk myself in to remembering it's about togetherness, not really about the food.
I know, I know, lots of those peeps at your table may think its about the food.
But really, it's about being together, at the same table and enjoying your  time together.

So, besides Turkey, potatoes and gravy... here's what else is on my own table for Thanksgiving!   Here's our favorites, many of these are Gluten Free too as our daughter and a niece are GF too.

I do this with a gluten free cornbread Chorizo Chipotle Cornbread Stuffing


I have got to get a better picture of this stuff.... this has turned into my favorite Thanksgiving item. Sourdough and Sausage Stuffing


Two instant classics at our house last year, this is my ultimate favorite.

I never even knew I liked brussel sprouts!
Call it a side dish, a salad, whatever- it's delicious!

A couple people are our house are pumpkin haters!  Awful, I know, but here's what we make them: Pecan Pie with Kahlua 


New this year, eat some Cranberry bars, really I cannot stop eating these things

Eat the My sister in law's traditional Yummy Nuts.
Over 20 years, and we're still eating them. Gawd, I hope she's bringing them, I didn't make them this year.


Finally, what about a little hot toddy as you sit with family and friends?
Sing a little song, tell some jokes, play some cards, watch YouTubes of Cat videos.
I'm not saying that what we'll do, but heck, why would this year be any different?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Cranberry Bars

Such a simple recipe to make, but a chewy goodness that has a pop of tangy tartness of cranberry.
 Wow, I loved these and so did everyone who tried them.
Perfect for the holiday parties, or cookie platters. 
You could even make this in a tart pan and serve it as dessert with a little whip cream or ice cream.

I saw this recipe last year and knew I needed to try, A definite keeper of a recipe.
I think it would be good with nuts too, or blueberries or black berries. A touch of lemon zest might be a great addition too. I may try it with gluten free, or almond flour too.  I think it would work great with that too.

Serves a bunch, makes a 9x13 pan

3 eggs
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
12 oz fresh cranberries 
Dash of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Butter a 9x13 pan, if you have parchment, add a sheet at the bottom.  It helps to make removing them easier.

With a mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar until slightly thickened and light in color, about 5-7 minutes. The mixture should almost double in size. The eggs work as your leavening agent in this recipe, so do not skip this step. This mixture should form a ribbon when you lift the beaters out of the bowl. 

Add the butter and vanilla; mix two more minutes. Stir in the flour until just combined. Add the cranberries and stir to mix throughout. Spread in a buttered 9x13 pan. 

Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until very lightly browned and a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool completely before cutting into small slices, or squares

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Mexican Broccoli Corn Salad

A bunch of broccoli was chilling in my fridge, staring me down every time I opened the door. 
I have to admit I don't love broccoli.
But I do eat it because someone else loves it so much.  If I have to eat it, I wanted something different with my broccoli; something more spicy, savory, a salad.  Something that could almost be used as a light lunch, or a meatless entree.

Here's my creation.  I'd suggest making a batch of my Chipotle Sour Cream and using it in this salad, plus it's a great condiment to have on hand for chips, tacos, even scrambled eggs.

Serves about 6

3-4 cups Broccoli flowerettes
1 cup corn, fresh or frozen/thawed
1 cup chopped red peppers, fresh or roasted, (or cherry tomatoes)
1 cup sour cream
1-3 chipotle peppers, minced and mixed with sour cream
1/2 - 1 cup sliced olives, drained
1/2 lime, juiced
1 can black beans, rinsed and  drained
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated, or small cubes
Salt & Pepper 

Cut the broccoli into small bunches, something bite size.  Steam in some hot water for 3-5 minutes.  You want to soften it a bit, but have it still bright green.  Drain in a colander, and run cold water over it immediately to stop the cooking. 

In a bowl, add the drained beans, chopped peppers (or tomatoes), drained olives, chipotle sour cream, lime juice and corn.  Add the steamed broccoli and toss.  Add salt and pepper as needed. Serve at once, but also keeps for a couple days in the fridge.  Good for work day lunches.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Twice Baked Potatoes - 2 Cheese & Bacon

Twice baked potatoes are such a simple thing, however always eaten them happily, just never made' em.
So I Googled it and checked out a bunch of recipes..
Hmmmm, all the recipes were so much alike!
How could I zip this up a bit?
I had lots of goat cheese, because I buy the twin pack at Costco a lot.  It's such a great price. So my twice baked potatoes have goat cheese as a zippy little addition. I apologize I didn't get a picture of the ingredients for this.
I also have to admit, I didn't take a picture of the finished product either, mainly because they were just cheddar cheese covered ovals and we were already tucking into dinner before I remembered.

Note:  I baked six large russet potatoes ($4.99 for a 20lb bag at Costco about 25 XL potatoes- bargain!), and cut them in half, so this makes 12 halves.  One is probably a side dish serving.... so I wrapped up the ones I didn't "twice" bake and popped them in the freezer.  An easy to have side dish in the freezer, ready to pull out and "bake again".

Serves 6-12

6 large baking potatoes
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup goat cheese, or cream cheese
1/2 cup milk
8-10 slices of cooked bacon, sliced
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup green onions, minced
Salt and Pepper

Bake the potatoes at 400 degrees for about an hour.  You want them to be a bit soft.  Cut in half and let cool.

Using a big spoon, scoop out most of the white inside, leaving a little bit attached to the skin.  Salt and pepper the empty shell potatoes and let sit while you prepare the filling.

Mash the "insides" with the butter, milk, sour cream and goat cheese (or cream cheese).  Don't worry about it being a bit lumpy... you don't want the filling too soft.  You want it have some structure and hold up.  Really mushy twice baked potatoes aren't too yummy....
Add a bit of salt and pepper.  Let cool completely.

Add chopped bacon, shredded cheese and sliced green onions.  Taste it and make sure it tastes delicious! Scoop into the potato shells (I used an ice cream scoop) and top with more shredded cheddar cheese.  Bake for 20-30 minutes at 350 until they are hot and cheese is melted and starting to bubble.  Serve at once.  Enjoy.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Lentil Soup with Carrots, Spinach & Sundried Tomatoes

I'm a bit freaky for lentils.... absolutely LOVE them!
When I saw this recipe at Taste, Love and Nourish, I knew it was a "keeper".

A hearty lunch, or dinner during the fall or winter.
Frankly this one is good any time of year.
I loved, loved, loved this soup, bright, cheerful, hearty, healthy, meatless.

While the wine does say optional, I whole heartedly recommend it*.  It adds a bit of sweetness, a bit of tang, and a bunch of flavor.

*LOL, that totally made me laugh, 

Serves about 6

3 T. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
approx. 6 sun dried tomatoes, finely chopped
1 C. dry white wine (optional- - but recommended)
8 C. chicken or vegetable stock, home made or low sodium
2 C. lentils, sorted and rinsed
3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped off and stems discarded, or 1 tsp dried thyme
2 large bay leaves
2 large handfuls baby spinach
squeeze of fresh lemon juice (I used 1/2 lemon)
salt and pepper to taste

If needed, 1-2 cups water (If it starts to get too thick)

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onions, celery and carrots just until the onions are soft.  Add the garlic and the sun dried tomatoes.  Continue sautéing for a minute or two longer.

Add the stock, white wine and the lentils. Add the thyme leaves (or dried thyme) and the bay leaves.  Give it a stir.  Once the pot comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low, add a lid to the pot and continue simmering.After one hour, check the lentils for doneness.  If you’d like them softer, they should only need another 10 minutes or so. If it seems too thick, add a cup of water.

Here's the soup before I added the spinach, very yummy then too. Heck, I think kale would be nice in this too.

Remove the pot from the heat.  Fish out the bay leaves and discard.

Add the handfuls of spinach, give it a stir, cover the pot and allow to sit for about 5 minutes.  Finally, squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the pot to give it a bright freshness.
You like soups?  Me too!!!

Here's some Fall favorites:

Albondigas, Mexican Meatball Soup
Avgolemono- Greek Wedding Soup
Bacon Corn Chowder
Bean with Bacon Soup

Beef Barley, Lazy Girl Crockpot
Black Bean and Smoked Ham Soup, Lazy Girl

Broccoli, Cheddar & Potato Soup

Cheddar Cheese & Beer Soup
Chicken White Bean Chili
Chicken Pot Pie Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup
Chicken, Quinoa & Butternut Squash Stew
Coconut Pumpkin Soup
Creamy Artichoke Soup, Fast & Easy
Curried Cauliflower Soup

Egyptian Red Lentil Soup
French Green Lentils with Onions and Tomatoes 

Hearty Sausage & Lentil Soup
Hot n' Sour Soup
Jambalaya Soup, Easy 
Italian Wedding Soup with Turkey Meatballs
Lasagna Soup with Spinach Ricotta

Mexican Chicken Posole Stew
Mexican Cauliflower Soup (for the soul)

Mushroom, Fennel and Potato Soup
Pork and Chorizo Soup
Portuguese Linguica Sausage, Bean and Kale Stew 
Simple Salmon Chowder
Smoky Shrimp, Corn and Bacon Chowder 
Southwestern Seafood Chowder
Split Pea Soup
Tomato, Ginger Bisque, Maui Style
Tomato, Spicy Mexican
Tomato, Mediterranean Soup

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Spinach Artichoke Dip (with fresh Spinach)

I'm not the best with appetizer inspiration, it is always the last thing I think of when people come up. I like to plan the dinner, the dessert,  the wine.... 

So the other night about 40 minutes before people arrived I am standing in front of my fridge wondering if I can conjure something up.  Looking at a huge container of fresh spinach...
I know Artichoke Dip! Everyone likes that!

The classic dip always calls for a box of chopped frozen spinach.
I hate that stuff, it takes days to thaw and frankly, it's messy.
I'm making it with Fresh!  Here's my take on the classic dip.

Makes about 3-4 cups

2 cups Parmesan cheese, or Pecorino
2 cups chopped baby spinach
1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/2 cup sour cream, light or regular, softened
8 oz pkg cream cheese, light or regular
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons garlic, minced, or 1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp lemon zest (optional) 
Salt & Fresh ground pepper

Chop the artichokes, add the grated cheese.  Chop the spinach until you have some pieces, add to the cheese mixture. Add the sour cream, mayo and softened cream cheese.  Mix well and add the garlic, lemon zest and salt/pepper.  Add to small baking dishes (i did three small ones) and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes until hot and bubbly.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Moroccan Roasted Carrots

Yummy, spicy, exotic.
Just my flavor combination for sure!

However, on this recipe, I am going to tell you something from what I actually did.
I know, hypocrite!
Well, I am always looking for an easier way to do something, so thinking I am SO smart, I decided to toss these carrots before I roasted them
Actually, not bad at all, but I believe the recipe is better looking and tasting when you roast, toss, marinate and serve. 
Here is the original recipe... It's the one I thought I was smarter than, maybe not so much.

If you are feeling EXTRA ambitious, you might want to slice your baby carrots on the diagonal, lengthwise before tossing in oil and roasting. More bits to caramelize and taste delicious.

Makes about 4-5 cups

25 small carrots, stems removed (I used 4 cups of baby carrots)
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
1/2 c chopped walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup feta (optional, and not vegan)

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp honey
juice of 1 large orange
juice of 1/2 lemon
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp harissa paste, or Chinese chili paste, or chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon (optional)

Preheat oven to 400F. Toss carrots with 1-2 Tbsp olive oil. Arrange carrots in a single layer on a non-stick baking sheet. Transfer to oven and roast, 35-45 minutes, until tender when pierced with a fork. Meanwhile make dressing by combining all ingredients, mixing well, in a large bowl. Set aside at room temperature.

Transfer warm carrots to the larger bowl of dressing (from the step above), turning to coat well. Arrange on a serving platter. Let sit at least 15 minutes, to marinate. Sprinkle with cilantro, feta and walnuts before serving.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Limoncello- A little extra tangy

(I've got to get a better picture than this one... maybe I will update it after tonight's celebration)

A big Italian feast for a friend's 50th tonight, and what else to top off an Italian dinner, but a little limoncello?

I remember the first time I had limoncello, it was such a disappointment.
I was expecting a tangy blast of yumminess, but strangely it was just sweet with a lemon taste.
It was missing the lemony TANG.
I like the TANG. 

Every other time I have limoncello, even in Italy where I had it more than once (!) and even orangecello, I just felt it needed a bit more tang.

So, here it is.
MY version of limoncello, I know it's not traditional.
That was not my intent.  My intent is exactly what I made.

Salute, enjoy and celebrate life.  We'll be celebrating 50 years tonight.

For the record, I know those glasses in the picture above are a bit bigger than "small" however, it was what was leftover after I tried to pour the finished limoncello back into the bottle.  We were totally loving it!  Winner, I may have to make another bottle for "home use".  LOL.

Makes 1 large bottle
Serves a small group...

750 ml bottle of vodka
6-8 lemons

1 cup sugar
1 cup lemon juice

Using a vegetable peeler, remove strips of lemon peel from the lemons.  Try to avoid getting too much of the white pith.  In a large jar, or wide mouth bottle, add the vodka and all the lemon peels.  Cover and store.

In a another smaller jar, juice the lemons until you have 1 cup.  Add 1 cup of white sugar and shake together.  Store in the fridge, give it a shake every so often until the mixture is fully dissolved of the the sugar.  You could also make a simple syrup, but this jar method works fine as you have lots of time for the sugar to dissolve in the juice.  You will add this mixture to the lemon vodka mixture in a week or so.

Shake the jar of vodka/peels every day or so for 7-14 days.  I only stored mine for 7 days.  You will see your vodka take on a nice yellow color.  After 7-14 days, strain the vodka, removing the lemon peel.  Discard the lemon peels. Add the lemon juice/sugar mixture and stir or shake to mix.  Chill and serve in small glasses, or over ice.

NOTE:  Sometimes, limoncello is stored in the freezer in order to serve it extra cold, however, this limoncello recipe does NOT freeze well as the ratio of juice, sugar and lower proof vodka allow it to freeze pretty solid.
If you used a higher octane booze, like Ever Clear, it might not freeze and stay liquid and super cold in the freezer..

Update 2016,  need some ideas beyond just sipping your Limoncello?  What about a Limoncello martini, my recipe is here: Limoncello Martini 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Elliott's Oyster New Year

The biggest oyster party on the West Coast!
You know you all had a good time if you have to Google "overdose on oysters?"
Yes, well for the record, you can get too much zinc with too many oysters but not to worry too much.  If you like fresh oysters, special fundraisers or just a good time, I might suggest you plan ahead for next year's Elliott's Oyster New Year event on Nov 7th 2015.

It sold out this year and we were packed in at Pier 66 with hundreds of other bivalve lovers. 
Over 30 separate oyster growers came to shuck them fresh just for us.
It's a good cause too!  It helps oyster growers throughout the region.
Plus, it's fun.
And there is oysters, and wine, and local beer, and local music. And it's fun and delicious too.

All proceeds benefit the Puget Sound Restoration Fund (PSRF), a non-profit organization dedicated to restoring the Sound’s water quality and native marine species and their habitats.  

Elliott's explains it like this: The oyster new year is when the cool fall weather moves back into the Puget Sound region.  It kicks off the season when oysters come into their prime—developing a crisp, firm texture and clean taste characteristics. Elliott’s long-standing partnerships with responsible growers ensure that everything they serve comes from a sustainable local resource dedicated to the well-being of our environment. 

For the record, even if you don't like oysters too much, you can still have a very, very good time at the event with lots of other heavy appetizers, desserts, wine, beer and live music.

Featuring 30+ varieties of local oysters shucked to at a 150-foot oyster bar, all from the Puget Sound (except for this picturesque Kusshi guy from Vancouver Island and maybe one from Maryland that was in the brochure (but we never saw them...)

Here's the highlights:

  • 30+ varieties of local oysters shucked to order at the 1500-foot oyster bar
  • Fresh seafood buffet
  • Over 60 wineries (!!!)
  • Local microbrews
  • Live music
  • The famous Oyster Luge
  • People’s Choice “Most Beautiful Oyster” contest (in the raw, no less!)

So many wineries, so little time.

Oh yeah, we did have a bunch of time, so we did get to try many great local, Californian, Italian and French Wines.
I just had a little sip.
A little sip here, and a little sip there.

Some of our favorites?
  • Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc (CA)
  • Januik Sauv Blanc (WA)
  • Chateau St Michelle Sauv Blanc (WA)
  • Willamette Valley Pinot Gris (OR)
  • An Austrian Winery with a "Singing  Gruner Veltliner"... maybe it was the name. 
  • Danzante Pinot Grigio (Italy)
  • Heck!  They were all good!

The Oyster Luge.

Who wouldn't want an oyster skating down an icy 4 foot slope into your mouth?

Yep, not me. 

You'd better stick your tongue out if you want to make sure to catch that sucker!

A live band, a little jazz, some rock and a lot of dancing!
A good time was had by all.