time to kick off the holiday season

The Rockettes were just on TV so I had to go there …

And if you’d like to be able to high kick like those girls may I suggest that you don’t stuff your face silly with “all the dressings” at the dining room table. Once again I’m on the hunt for diabetic friendly Thanksgiving recipes, I’ve found a few including one that is supposed to mimic a sweet potato casserole but with squash instead. It’s all about the spices to be honest – color is the same and texture is close so if it can also smell appetizing I think it’ll be a hit. I also researched a rub for the turkey instead of brining it like we did last year. It was good but let’s try something new shall we?! I think a ham might go on the grill depending the number of guests we have. Friends will bring a green bean casserole, stuffing, and appetizers. OH! I’ve done a run through of a pumpkin pie and it’s safe to say it was a success!

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The recipe was not enough to fill my spring form pan so it will be doubled for Thanksgiving. I used a small casserole dish instead but was impossible to serve. Although after watching Good Eats last night, I might purchase a tart pan. Back to the pie, it’s crust-less and almost sugar-less! Instead of a 1/3 cup of sugar I used 4 tsp of Stevia and it tasted gooooood. It needed more pumpkin pie spice and I will add cinnamon per request from my husband. Suggested by the recipe was to crumble ginger snaps, sprinkle on top of each slice along with dark chocolate chips. That helped to add texture since there isn’t a crust. This was a huge deal and my husband was very appreciative; I do not bake… not a fan of it because it has to be precise (there’s no option to add your own twist to things) and most of the time you have to wait 2-24 hours before eating any of it. Stupid desserts need to cool down for a day … dinner is ready as soon as it comes off the stove.

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Had some favorites last week, cheeseburger pie (added mushrooms since they were leftover) and quesadillas (chicken, spinach, onions, 1 red bell pepper, and whole wheat tortillas … topped with sour cream, salsa, and a chunk of avocado).

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A new recipe I tried last week was a shepherds pie (I’ve never had it before!). It was pretty easy to make and very yummy! I had originally found a Campbells Soup recipe and as I rattled it off to my husband he said it wasn’t even remotely close so I found a new recipe and it was a success. Of course it was because it’s an Alton Brown recipe! I cheated with instant mashed potatoes (2 small packets), skipped the addition of an egg, didn’t miss it. I also used ground turkey instead of Lamb. My time and wallet are precious, do what you need to do to make dinner at your household 😉

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Staples so far this week: chicken bombs and butternut squash soup.

Monday’s chicken bombs were the best yet. I don’t know what it was but they were extra yummy… I added sides of mushroom orzo and peas, kept it simple.

The soup was almost a disaster because I followed the recipe, ha! It instructed to bake the squash for only 20 minutes (to make it soft) and I knew better, it needed at least 45-60 minutes. I was also rushed but you know the saying “do it right the first time” … yeah, I wasted more time trying to fix things and clean up a huge mess. After 20 min. I tossed the veggies in my soup pot, covered with all the liquid, attempted to mash it before using my immersion blender. Umm… nothing mashed. IT WAS SOLID AS A ROCK. Liquid flew all over the tile back splash (now I know where the name comes from 😉 ). Awesome. It’s all covered with liquid and now I must dump it in a blender. By the way, it had been simmering for 20 minutes as another attempt to soften the veggies … so not only is it hard as a rock it’s also scalding hot! Soup splattered everywhere as I transferred it from the pot to the blender, the blender was filled too high so I poured it in a large measuring cup since it was near by. More splatter. I blended everything in 2 batches, pouring the chunky/baby food textured “soup” back into the pot, it tasted good but the texture was nasty. I partially chewed the soup. I cooked it down some more and busted out the immersion blender again … that little device saved it. It was so smooth after that and the soup actually looked like soup. My husband missed an exciting afternoon! When he came home he got an ear full while cooking the grilled cheese (at 9:30pm) … I don’t do grilled cheese. I burn the bread and the cheese manages to not melt. Riddle me that. Yes, I ate that late which I know is not healthy but with our schedules we don’t get to eat dinner together often. I at least ate my soup earlier and waiting to share a grilled cheese with him ❤ .

So the rest of this week & next week will be “figure friendly recipes” that are restaurant favorites (i.e. BAKED general tso’s chicken, pesto salmon … yummmm); we must prepare for Thanksgiving … shed the last few pounds right before adding them back on, lol. Let’s all be thankful for the food we eat, the family and friends we share it with, and a lovely house to make memories in.

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Beautiful Disasters

Sometimes the best meals come to you when you’re not even thinking about … A few days ago I was getting excited about football season beginning this weekend and in the mix of things I quickly missed Pittsburgh and all of my yinzer friends. Lightbulb, peiorgies and kielbasa! Let’s pay homage to a wonderful city, beautiful friends and family, by eating a yummy meal that can be served with a side of fabulous memories. We love pierogies. LOVE. My husband will think this is silly but when we first started dating, he cooked pierogies a few times and it was ‘his thing’, no one was allowed to help. He’d be so proud of how perfectly they were cooked and would brag all night about dinner, that’s just sort of how he is but I loved watching him cook.

Another bonus for this meal, I can make a double batch and freeze them for a friend who is expecting a baby annnnnny day now (hurry up little one!!). Not all delivered meals have to be casseroles, spaghetti, or lasagna. I mean can you imagine? 5+ nights in a row of essentially the same thing. God Bless people who volunteer to bring meals over (whether there was a loss in the family, a birth, major surgery, etc.) but it’s okay to turn those offers down … I know the meals are meant to be quick and easy to reheat but real meals would be nice. Anyway, who wouldn’t love homemade pierogies and kielbasa?! I know my friend will as she’s a fellow yinzer friend, friends with benefits, HA 😉 !

Let’s take a look at some meals from the last few weeks … I had leftovers *whhhhaaaaat?!* but made sure to revamp them. There is a ‘3 hour tour’ pasta salad, it’s entertaining, just wait. My husband also made a request and over of course I couldn’t pass it up. ENJOY!

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A simple meal, smoked sausages (Oscar Mayer, they are so yummy … and better for you!), green bean salad, and roasted potato wedges.

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Chicken and spinach quesadilla and a corn/grape tomato/lettuce salad with Dijon vinaigrette.

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This was one of my revamped leftover dishes.  I made a slow cooker lasagna the previous week and had plenty leftover, I used it as a side dish and baked a quick chicken Parmesan.

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Here is the original dish – Lasagna Soup … which wasn’t soupy at all … so yeah, don’t let the name freak you out. Oh, I couldn’t find a single bottle of V8, small bottles came in 6 packs and we don’t drink that stuff so I used a can of plain tomato sauce.

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We love our pork chops! This version: honey & Dijon ‘sauce’ is the key component to pretty much everything on the plate. I coated the chop in a nice layer of the sauce, let it sit for an hour. While that was going on I pan-cooked mushrooms, bacon (already baked in the oven), and onions – drizzled more of that sauce and just let it simmer for 20 minutes until the onions were really soft. I added the chop into the pan and cooked everything for another 10 minutes, cover the pan so it steams, less splatter and faster cook time! On to the baked sweet potato which took 2 hours to bake. Really. I let my husband pick them out and of course he picked the most gigantic potatoes. As I sliced them open I went to the fridge and realized we were out of butter. Oops. No biggie, we had cream cheese and honey! Oh it was so good… think about it, what do you add to a sweet potato casserole? Usually cream cheese and brown sugar; we had brown sugar but I didn’t want the grittiness opting for honey instead.

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This is how I do corn when the husband isn’t home to man the grill. Salt, pepper, Old Bay (if you’re not from the East Coast you are truly missing out), and 3 blobs of butter. Loosely wrap each ear of corn in foil and bake for 40 minutes … I think I put the oven to 350.

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Another revamped leftover, quinoa stuffed peppers.  I served the corn with it, usually I cook Spanish rice … so just by changing up the side it appears to be a new meal. So if I didn’t tell you I used quinoa it may look like ground meat; I’ve made this one other time with white quinoa and it’s totally an image thing – using red quinoa made the meal look better, closer to using meat, it’s okay to trick the brain. The color really does help! Back story on the quinoa: we got a cute ‘thank you’ bag from a friend after keeping watch on her house while she and the kiddos were out of town and the red quinoa was included. I mean talk about a thoughtful gift, I’d say she knows us pretty well!

A few other cute items that were included was a Parmesan seasoning, add olive oil and it’s ready for bread to be dipped in it. Oh man it was sooooo good!  This shot glass was hiding as well …
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How fun is that? I’ve used it a few times already … so much easier than measuring spoons. I didn’t have to worry about spilling or pouring too much as I measured. It’s now best friends with my wine glass measuring ‘cup’. Greatly appreciated gifts! There are a few other things that I still need to use but I’m sure they will be yummy and fun!

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This was my husbands request … breakfast for dinner! I jokingly suggested chicken and waffles and husband loved the idea, so there that is.
Here’s the waffle recipe

Beer Waffles

2 cups Original Bisquick™ mix
1 egg
1 1/2 cups regular or nonalcoholic beer (12 oz)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

The beer made the waffles so light and fluffy – usually 1 waffle fills us up but being lighter we scarfed down 2 waffles each! Please don’t judge. You couldn’t really taste the beer, we used Dos Equis which is a very light beer. For the chicken, I covered tenders in panko seasoned with cayenne pepper, not too much though, just enough for a tiny kick of flavor.  DRENCH in your favorite syrup and dinner’s ready!  Not exactly a diabetic friendly dinner but we’re allowed to cheat every now and then. I’m considering this meal for when my husband’s family visits next month, I see this being a crowd-pleaser.

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Tell me this doesn’t look yummy.  It’s a cucumber salsa. Healthy and delish. Easy to prep and even easier to enjoy.  Keep this in your back pocket for game days; nasty, greasy food is typically served up along a riveting football game. Opt for something like this! It looks like avocados but when it hits your taste buds it’ll be light and tangy.  I can’t remember what I served this with, I used it as a side for dinner one night. Yes it’s okay to use a ‘dip’ as a side.

AS PROMISED, the tale of the ‘3 hour tour’ pasta salad.

Friends invited us to their lake house for Labor Day weekend (the same friend who is STILL pregnant 😉 ) … I offered to bring a pasta salad. This wasn’t just any pasta salad, it was inspired by an Italian hoagie. We’re talking red onion, pepperoni, sausage, olives, red wine vinaigrette … the works. After making an early trip to the grocery store I slave over the counter slicing and dicing and boiling 8 cups of pasta:
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I combine everything and let it chill in the fridge:

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Beautiful, right? This is only a half serving, for photo purposes only, lol; aluminum tins don’t look pretty in pictures.

Back to the story, after everything was wrapped and ready to go, the salad was on the corner counter; my husband told me to get the lake house address … I went off to text my friend (my purse was in the car because we were pretty much ready to leave). I send the text and my husband gets in the car, we leave. Surely you know what’s about to happen. 45 minutes later we arrive at the lake house, I start walking to the house and my husband asks “aren’t you going to get the food?” OH SH*T. It was still sitting on the counter!  I got sidetracked, thought my husband would have seen the 10lbs of pasta salad to bring to the car.  Well that’s not what happened at all. He then asked if I wanted him to go back and get the salad, I said “yes” without hesitation, lol! I offered to do it since I forgot it but he’s the best and began his journey to save the salad.  Friends at the house asked if anything would go back in the salad, my response: the cheese, meat, onions …everything that made the salad cost $40. That’s right, I spent $40 on a pasta salad. D’oh. It’s not like we left behind a bag of chips. So he made the 45 min drive home and 45 min drive back to the lake house, hence the newly named ‘3 hour tour’ pasta salad. It was a beautiful ALMOST disaster of the night which is okay because it was delish and all of it went. Well thank goodness … I mean, if it were out of pity then only some of it would have been consumed but not 1 noodle was left.  In the end, I’m glad he went back for the pasta and thankful I have such an awesome husband. LOVE YOU BABE!

 

A day in my flippy floppy’s.

I’ve been asked these questions by a few of my friends and hopefully the answers will help people get in my mind (just not too much though, it can be scary 😉 ).

 

When do I plan my grocery list/weekly menu?
                  Typically every Saturday morning I watch the Food Network as my inspiration, 3 shows are my staple: The Pioneer Woman, Trisha Yearwood, and The Kitchen.  I grab ideas from Giada and Bobby Flay if I sit around long enough.  Funny how when one becomes older it goes from Saturday morning cartoons to cooking shows; I become grumpy if I miss my shows!  For the meals, I always make sure to have 1 of each if possible: fish, vegetarian, 3 different meats; leftovers happen 2x a month if I’m lucky. If you don’t have the time to watch TV (it’s ok, not everyone does – I happen to be off on Saturday’s so it’s my only time to sit down & breathe), start searching the Food Network website. The recipes are very clear and pictures are super helpful plus you can see a scale of how easy/difficult a recipe is. For the most detailed pictures go to The Pioneer Woman.

                   I honestly keep an open mind as to how I plan on preparing any of the said main ingredients.  We became tired of fish filets so I’ve attempted fish stick a few time and they were successful, fish tacos are also fun which you can switch up for shrimp. I’ll try turkey burgers with all of the “toppings” diced into the meat with a yummy sauce and pretzel bun. Most of you know we love pork chops so I tend to keep those pretty simple and make different sides each time.  We love stuffed peppers (with OR with out meat!) and I can’t leave out my pasta dishes. Lord know I still have plenty of Dream Fields pasta from the recipe contest I won. Don’t let your slow cooker catch dust – it’s underrated in the kitchen and nothing is forcing you to cook a “casserole” or “soup” in it – I’ve done pulled bbq chicken and pork, stuffed peppers, curry chicken and rice, mashed potatoes, veggies, and spaghetti. Of course you need to think how long you’ll be out of the house, not all recipes call for an 8 hour cook time.

When do you go grocery shopping and what do you buy?
                I go shopping on Monday’s – this specific day serves a few purposes.  Most people go on Sunday’s by default, if you work weekdays it would be a tight squeeze between work/cooking/family time, plus kids need lunches for the week so going on the weekend is usually the easiest. Which ever works for you, do it. Back to my day of shopping, the store is empty and I get in/out under an hour which is all I really have time for! I allow for 30 minutes of unpacking once I’m home and then I begin to prep that night’s dinner (I have an hour between lessons and band rehearsal which is obviously only enough time to eat). So while I don’t have kids I am certainly on a tight schedule.

                 We used to belong to Sam’s for the cereal, meat, and house goods (paper towels, napkins, etc) bulk purchases.  I tried bulk fresh produce but it only lasts a week and forget about fresh bread not going bad in a few days.  So those adventures ended within the 1st year of our membership. I go to HEB, our local grocery store or Wal-Mart, it depends how I’m feeling.  I buy what I need for the week I’ve planned for and that’s it! I’ve stopped having to throw away rotten veggies/produce and if I make extra sauces I try to use it the following week. My fridge is no longer hiding 10 day old food, my counter is clear of produce and bread clutter, and my pantry is pretty organized (almost TOO organized) which makes it easy to see what I have or what I ran out of.  If your pantry is cluttered you could easily begin a collection of vinegar, spices, evoo, etc. and that stuff runs up a hefty tab if you keep purchasing it unnecessarily.   Once a week to the store also helps with our budgeting; my job doesn’t really pay on the 1st or 15th, money trickles in throughout the month and it’s not even guaranteed to be the same each week.

Here’s a few pictures of my thought process … I mean, weekly menu and grocery list:
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                   I use a standard ‘legal pad’ of paper, the back side from the previous week is used for my meal inspirations and the front side is where I break down each category of what’s needed.  Once I have 5 meals figured out then I ask my husband what his schedule is – I really should do that first and actually, I used to. It began to cramp what I wanted to create. If he worked nights I made sure something was on the menu that could be reheated quickly. We got into a rut of yucky food, ha! So I do my planning and then tweak meals if they don’t exactly fit our schedules or I’ll flip them around to different nights

                  The categories on my list consist of produce, dairy, meat, canned, frozen, and other. I go through each recipe and write down how many onions, peppers, tomatoes, etc. that I’ll need. This way I never buy too much or too little. Once I write down the main ingredients I go back and fill in the usual essentials: coffee, yogurt, cereal, toilet paper, napkins, etc.  If my husband needs something off the norm it is his responsibility to add it. Seriously. If he doesn’t write it down and only tells me, it won’t get purchase because I will forget about it. He’s learned the hard way a few times and is much better now. Oh, once the entire list is “done” i do a quick check to make sure I am actually out of everything I put down. If I happen to have it then it gets crossed out, one less thing to buy… plus I hate getting up/down to check the fridge and pantry, I do it all at once at the very end.  Also if I notice we’re low on random items I’ll add them at this time.

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So I hope this helps to give you an idea of what goes on with my planning and grocery shopping. Having it all planned on one day and shopped for on another allows me time to do other things in my minimal spare time, like buy dog food, get my car washed, fill up with gas, clean the house, take out trash, do MY laundry (husband does his own), clean up the back yard (remember, we have 3 sous chefs), etc. You can see why I don’t feel like running to the store last minute but sometimes it’s inevitable which means a text is sent to my husband asking if he can pick up ketchup or milk, luckily with him in the Air Force it’s an easy stop for him to make at the commissary.

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Keep those questions coming and I’m here to help you meal plan! If you want my exact recipes and list layout, I literally have my lists going back many, many weeks.  I can use it for reference but really it’s just easier to have that note pad instead of loose paper floating around.

Whirlwind Weekend

The Higby Hacienda Housewarming Weekend is complete and was a semi-success.  I stuck to my favorite finger foods and maybe those were a bit too successful because everyone chowed down on those instead of my dinner so needless to say I’ve got a ton of leftovers.  I don’t mind though, it means I won’t have to make a grocery run for this week (I’ve got some frozen chicken that I can bust out in a few days when the pulled pork runs out).

I was scared to use a new slow cooker recipe on the pork but I loved the root beer base – yes it was a bit sweet but I prefer sweeter BBQ. I had Stubb’s smokey BBQ sauce to mix in and for adding extra as you build a sandwich.  I guess I could have only bought 1 tenderloin but you know if I did that, everyone would have ate and then I would have ran out of food. So buy more and be prepared it’s the safest way to go.

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I totally cheated on the sides – went to Rudy’s BBQ for cole slaw and potato salad… got 2 quarts of each and only 1/2 of 1 quart was eaten.  I actually just had some to go along with my lunch, nom nom nom. More for me 😉  Josh’s sister had sent these cute glass ornaments filled with seasoning to make dip mixes with.  What an awesome and clever idea! They were tasty and everyone loved them; bowls were almost scraped clean. I put out 2 brands of crackers (1 gluten free rice / 1 rosemary & olive oil Triscuits). Always provide options!

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Other finger foods offered: pizza balls and zucchini bites. I’ve previously blogged about those 2 recipes, feel free to search for them 🙂

Guests brought plenty of desserts and a few other apps … beer was plentiful (got some good use from the beer drawer, lol!).  After all was said and done, belly’s were happily full with food and adult beverages.

To cure any grumbling stomachs the next morning (we had a couple guests stay the night who traveled from Austin), I prepared a light brunch recipe adapting something from Giada De Laurentiis.  That girl has more time and money on her hands so I clearly changed a few things … this is a close cousin to the classic lox and bagels.  Which is actually funny because she didn’t even mention that in the TV episode she prepared this dish on. So yeah, I purchased pre-made pizza dough, whipped cream cheese, smoked salmon, and capers. It was budget friendly, simple to make, and a 10 minute dish.

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**I felt the need to add a disclaimer – I had a fabulous time (as did my husband) with our guests this weekend.  We were so excited to see our friends … being able to catch up and just chill.  I am not calling the overall party/those who attended a “semi-success”, it is only referring to my food … the reason I blog.

We Survived the Holidays

Sort of.

I didn’t feel like cooking the day after my family had left. We decided to try out a burger place near by … it kept popping up on my dad’s phone as a place to try; that marketing sure did work.

I’ve got to give this place credit for cooking delish burgers, perfectly seasoned with a ton of toppings to choose from.  The grease on the other hand (and face and dripping down your chin) was not gentle on our tummies.  Good grief we needed a roll of paper towels while eating! I don’t understand why so much grease is needed for a freakin’ burger!  I was in pain right away and Josh was hurting the whole next day. So while we did incredibly well over the holidays we completely face planted the day after. It goes to show once you commit to a certain way of living (see, I didn’t say “diet”) your body doesn’t want you to go back! NEVER. GOING. TO. BOBBY J’s. AGAIN.

I had to get back on track this week with some healthy meals.  I kept it simple with salsa chicken, sweet potato burritos, and today will be a slow cooker kind of day with meatball minestrone soup.  It’s darn cold enough to have a hearty soup!

Salsa chicken couldn’t get any easier … chicken breasts, taco seasoning, and salsa. DONE! I made a version of this in my slow cooker once before and it didn’t turn out so great, the chicken was really dry.  I love this oven version and will definitely make it again. I picked up some Spanish rice – of course I didn’t look at the box to see it required me to add my own tomatoes. WHAT?! Since when? Thankfully I had a can of zesty green chile and diced tomatoes in my pantry. Phew.

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We ran out of spinach, oops.  So I snacked on grape tomatoes and mini corn while I was cooking.  It didn’t spoil my dinner, don’t worry. I literally had 3 of each to get my veggies in and a yogurt thousand island by Bolthouse Farms… try it out. Yes it tastes different than what you’re used to but the calories drop from 140 per serving to 35. HELLO! Thank you Miss Chelsea.

You might be cringing at the idea of sweet potato burritos but oh man are these SO GOOD! With the combo of spices it tasted like a sweet chili. Don’t let your stomach rule how many burritos you put on your plate – 2 was plenty. Josh barely finished the 2 large burritos I served him. Success! This meal could be vegan if I omitted cheese. Tell me, how many of you would be really turned off if I started this with “I made a vegan dish last night”. It only means everything used was grown/planted… not derived from an animal! No seafood, meat, or dairy (minus my cheese). Another dish that I’ll add to my recipe rotation. **I left out the water, I didn’t make sense to me – I didn’t want soupy potatoes.**

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Yes you are seeing that right … an upside down apron, so clever! Another cute gift from my parents.  It’s your measuring chart, just look down. I love it. And I am chief of quality control … the potatoes were good on their own. I had to resist until dinner was ready.

Quit Yer Belly Achin’

I love the Facebook posts around holiday season: “Oh my God I ate too much” or “Oh my God I REALLY ate WAY too much”.  I say, host your own gathering and control the food spread. Obviously you may not be able to do this every year but it could be a start; show your friends how you can create an amazing buffet and not feel disgusting at the end of it.  Oh the other part of that is, freaking control yourself! Just because 10 trays of cookies are prepared doesn’t mean you need to sample a few from each.

Honestly sometimes I eat a light snack before going over to someones house. It’ll hold me over in case there are some bad foods offered – I won’t be hungry to eat; it can also curve my hunger in case there aren’t any finger foods and one must wait until dinner.  I don’t want to scarf my dinner down so fast that my belly hates me. It’s all about self control.

I may be blessed in the sense that my good friend Chelsea is all for eating healthy and cutting processed foods, it made Thanksgiving easy. There were no cries from the peanut gallery when I introduced my low carb/low calorie menu.

On to Christmas, my family came to town! I got to cook one dinner (Christmas Eve) for them, Chicken Marsala.  It was a bit difficult cooking for 5 adults when I’m used to only myself and my husband (even though he counts for 3 or 4 sometimes 😉 ) Dinner turned out great and they liked it.  Clean plate clubs all around. I added prosciutto this time (now that I don’t live in the ghetto, my new/fancy grocery store sells it!) and now I can taste why it’s necessary.  You need some kind of salty flavor since mushrooms are quite bland – the flavor of the Marsala wine cooks out and even using s/p on the chicken, the dish was still missing something the first time I made it.

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Everyone was in the kitchen! Josh requested ‘rusty mashed potatoes’ so he had to prepare them. They are pretty easy because they don’t require any peeling. He lucked out. My mom is a slicing and dicing machine.  She turned her nose to my mandolin and said “I’m your mandolin, give me those veggies”. Yes that’s my standard peppers, zucchini, and squash medley. It’s easy and tasty. Plus how pretty is it? So many colors!

We did have Christmas dinner at home, it was prepped and cooked by everyone.  It started with marinating a 3 lbs beef tenderloin the night before. I’m still getting used to the fact that my fridge can hold such an item – I love marinating food over night, the flavors are amazing! Easiest marinade ever, I didn’t “food process” it, just throw everything in the baggie (yes, dice the shallots and I put the rosemary branches in whole). I doubled everything since this piece of meat was extra special. Let that baby sit over night, pull out 30 minutes prior to grilling and you’re set.

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My dad braved the cold San Antonio weather to man the grill. He is the ultimate grill master; I won’t EVER order steaks at a restaurant.  He has made me expect the best when it comes to meat.  We’re slowly working on our grilling skills so hopefully Josh learned a thing or two while my family was here. I never experienced an oven cooked meat for a holiday while growing up. Even in 5 feet of snow, the grill was going.

Of course we had a theme for dinner, surf and turf! The seafood market at my new/fancy grocery store is fantastic. Obviously so is the meat market; they trimmed the tenderloin to perfection.  Seafood counter purchases: large scallops, jump shrimp, crab legs, and salmon. We kept it simple with the first three items: melted butter and threw in garlic, boom, there’s your sauce.  I used my favorite Martha recipe for the salmon.  Chelsea helped prepare a double recipe of it, brushed some on prior to cooking the salmon and then people could spoon on whatever they wanted once it was on their plate.

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I know you must be dying to find out what side dish I served. Drum roooolllllllll…. Mushroom Orzo! Geeze it was delish! I went back for seconds and there was only a small spoonfull! WHAT! The chef missed out! I have officially added it to my recipe box and will be making it again.  I actually didn’t have enough orzo so I threw in some quinoa. It was so pretty!

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I went with probably 2 dozen pearl onions, I don’t even know where the creator got only 8 from. Each of us would get 1/4 of an onion? Ridiculous! You’ll have to peel these stubborn suckers. Boil them for a few minutes, let them cool, and you should be able to pop the skin right off. Do this, save your sanity. Why yes that is a wine measuring glass! An awesome gift from my parents, based on the cooking regime Julia Child believed in: “I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food I’m cooking.” One side of the glass is “sips for the chef” and the other is an actual measuring cup.

I’ll leave you with an assortment of pictures from that day – going back for 2nds or 3rds isn’t so bad when you prepare a healthy dinner! Enjoy!

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To give thanks … part 2

Thanksgiving has come and gone. Phew-wee! It couldn’t have been easier, honestly. May I suggest frying a turkey for anyone reading this blog.  My dad is cringing as he reads this, he is the ultimate grill master. I never recall a Thanksgiving where the turkey was indoors. In fact, most meats were grilled… mom was in charge of sides and dad took care of the protein.

Anyway, we set the turkey to brine on Wednesday night and just let it sit for 16 hours (Thank you, Alton Brown). DONE. Washed it off at 3pm (the next day), let it get to room temp & then off it went to the oil. 40 minutes and it was done. What? No 8 hour cooking time in my oven so I can’t cook anything else? Not this year! It was the best thing EVER!!!

You’ve already read “part 1” of this blog so you know what I cooked up.  Here’s the order it all went down.

Bake the sweet potatoes at 9am, cooled and then prepped as the recipe called for.  I opted to not do the twice baked part; I turned it into a regular casserole. I was having issues not tearing the skin while scooping the “meat” out. Hey, last minute changes are okay.

Start the green beans at 11am, cook the beans and mushrooms and prep entire casserole.  Let it cool then into the fridge it goes, it’s ready!

My only ‘last second’ dish was the grits/mushroom/cheese casserole … for fear the grits would get soggy if prepped ahead of time.

Chelsea had the mac n’ cheese already done upon arrival. She whipped up her famous crab dip for an appetizer (took 20 minutes: 5 minute prep & 15 minutes to cook, easy & yummy!!!).  Stuffing would be made right before dinner and O.M.G. was it delish!

Two cooks in this kitchen was no issue at all and having my oven turkey free, it made for a calm afternoon. As the turkey took an oil bath we started the oven for reheating.  Since the turkey would only take 40 minutes we had to add in “cool down” time, another 20-30 minutes. You must let meat sit before cutting or carving so the juices don’t run out. No one likes dry meat.  We put all the sides in the oven at 300 for almost an hour. Yes, my oven was able to hold 5 large casserole dishes. I could literally hear the heavens above singing in glory.

What do I hear you chanting…. <we want pictures, we want pictures>  HERE THEY ARE!

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(yes I carved the turkey… after all, I sat at home watching many MANY episodes on the Food Channel as to how to carve a turkey.  I did pretty good!)

I actually forgot about another appetizer that Chelsea made and it dawned on me why … we ate it so fast that our brains didn’t have time to process the info but our taste buds sure loved it.  Melon wrapped prosciutto, is there anything easier than that? Take a cheat, buy pre-cut melon and this can get made in about 5 minutes (which is what Chelsea did). No one will shake their finger at you for not buying a whole melon and if they do, then ban them from the dish 😉

Also for dessert I bought pecan tarts and sugar free vanilla ice cream. Walmart had sugar free sweet potato pies and that’s about it, made for a sad shopping trip. So I opted for personal tarts which were 36g of carbs; again personal portions means no over indulging.

Overall it was a successful holiday … minus Hines Ward saying he was thankful for the Macy’s day parade (I’ll chalk that up to him getting hit a few too many times).  I hope you had a fantastic and stress-free Thanksgiving. As tradition for me at least, I started my day with the Thanksgiving Day Parade followed by the dog show. I wouldn’t have it any other way!