Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays 2011

Wishing you and yours a great Holiday Season!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Strategic Strata

I think this is technically a breakfast dish, but I served it for dinner. I would definitely suggest putting it in the lunch/dinner category as it is very rich, but equally delicious. It is a great meal to serve to a crowd on a busy day because not only can it be a day ahead, it actually needs to be prepared at least 9 hours prior to serving. I am always looking for dishes that I can prepare ahead and heat/cook just before serving when I have a large crowd or a particularly over-scheduled time in my life, like the holidays!

Asiago, Mushroom, and Sausage Strata
Adapted from Southern Living Christmas Cookbook

  • 1 lb. ground pork sausage
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 (8oz) package sliced baby portobello mushrooms
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 1 tsp minced dried thyme
  • 1 (16oz) loaf sourdough bread, cubed
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Asiago cheese, divided
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 1/2 cups half and half
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

1. Brown sausage in a large skillet over medium high heat, stirring often, 6 to 7 minutes or until; meat crumbles and is no longer pink; drain.

Melt butter in pan over medium heat; add mushrooms and shallot, and saute until tender.

Stir in sausage and thyme.

2. Place bread in a lightly greased 13'x9' baking dish.

Sprinkle mushroom mixture

and 1/2 cup cheese over bread.

Whisk together eggs and remaining 3 ingredients;

pour over mushrooms and bread.

Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover and chill at least 8 hours (I chilled over night).

3. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake 30 more minutes or until set and lightly browned. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Click Here for My Adapted Printable Recipe

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Book Club Bounty - November

I knew I had found my November Book Club recipe when I read the following excerpt on the Southern Living Website , "It is the most requested recipe in Southern Living magazine history". And to sweeten the deal even further, the recipe was super simple and required preparation steps more similar to banana bread than to any cake recipes I am used to making. It was a no brainer, extremely popular and easy! How could I not make it?!?

I whipped this cake up in no time, the frosting was a cinch too and off to Book Club I went to discuss our November read, "The Reliable Wife" by Robert Goolrick. The cake was a smashing success, the book was not. Most of the members complained about not liking the book and of its dark nature. But I must say, despite its less than stellar reviews it did make for great discussion. We found lots to ponder, dispute and elaborate on in this book.

All in all, I would say the cake is a must try and the book is a decent read if you are in the mood for something a little more heavy and seedy.

Hummingbird Cake
Adapted from Southern Living 1999

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 cups chopped ripe bananas
  • Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; add eggs and oil,
  • stirring until dry ingredients are moistened. (Do not beat.) Stir in vanilla, pineapple, 1 cup pecans, and bananas.
  • Until incorporated. Do not over mix.
  • Pour batter into three greased and floured 9-inch round cakepans.
  • Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks.
  • Cut the rounded top off of the cakes to level.
  • Spread Cream Cheese Frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake; sprinkle 1/2 cup chopped pecans on top. Store in refrigerator.
Click Here for My Adapted Printable Recipe

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sinful Sauce Showdown

This recipe is incredibly rich and sinfully delicious. It is the type of dish where you use the self-checkout at the supermarket when buying the ingredients in order to avoid the disdainful judging eyes of the cashier. It is a meal that you hope your guest don't come early while you are cooking it for fear they will see the copious amounts of bad for you components you are adding into the pan. But instead of feeling guilty for embarking on this full fat, creamy adventure I decided to go the opposite route. Knowing I don't cook like this often, I wanted to take full advantage. So what did I do? I doubled the queso sauce recipe below and decided I would serve it later in the week with pasta for Round 2 of this deliciousness.

Obviously needing to space out the number of days we indulged in this recipe, I stored my second batch of sauce in a sealed container and put it in the fridge until later in the week. I made the enchiladas on Friday and on Tuesday after work I started filling a pasta pot with water in order to boil some penne to serve with my much anticipated crawfish cream sauce. Right around the time my water started to boil Forrest sauntered into the kitchen and asked what was for dinner. I told him that we would be having the cream sauce that I made over the weekend on top of pasta. With an amazingly calm expression, he commented that we didn't have any of that left over. I explained that I wasn't talking about the few enchiladas that remained after our dinner party on Friday night, but about the very large container of sauce I placed all the way in the back of the fridge separated from everything else. Once again, Forrest mentioned that we didn't have that any longer. Certain that he was still confused, I (not so calmly) asked what had happened to it. He told me that he ate it. For some reason I couldn't believe what he was telling me. When did he heat up the sauce, cook pasta and have 6 people over to help him consume the 3 cups of creamy deliciousness laced with cheese and a full $16/lb of crawfish? This is when he revealed the true shocker. He ate it throughout the week - for a snack! with potato chips! I was livid. I couldn't believe it! I ranted and raved about how he turned a roughly $30 dish into a snack, we now had nothing for dinner, and I was looking forward to eating it again and wouldn't have the chance. Instead of apologizing, offering to go out and get us dinner to make up for it, or claiming ignorance, he looked at me and remarked, "It was so good too!"

Crawfish Enchiladas
Adapted from
Paul Prudhomme


1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 cup canned green chiles, chopped
3/4 cup finely chopped green bell peppers
2 3/4 teaspoons of salt
2 3/4 teaspoons of white pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons ground red pepper (cayenne)
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup dairy sour cream
8 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese or other white (preferably non-processed) cheese (2 pounds)
2 pounds peeled crawfish tails
2/3 cup very finely chopped green onions
1/2 cup cooking oil
20 (6-inch) corn tortillas


In a large skillet melt ½ stick of the butter. Add the onions, green chiles, bell peppers, 1 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 3/4 teaspoon of white pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper, 1/4 teaspoon of oregano and the minced garlic. Sauté over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring often.

Stir in the cream and bring mixture to a rapid boil;

then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the sour cream;

with a metal whisk, beat continuously until the sour cream is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Add 3 cups of the cheese

and stir until melted. Set the sauce aside.

In a 4-quart saucepan melt the remaining ½ stick butter. Add the crawfish, green onions and the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 2 teaspoons of white pepper, 1 teaspoon of red pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon of oregano.

Sauté over medium heat for about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cheese sauce to the crawfish mixture

and stir well. Simmer until the flavors are well blended, about 6 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

In a small skillet heat the oil to 325º. Holding the tortilla with metal tongs, dip each into the hot oil just long enough to soften, about 1 second on each side; drain on paper towels.

Spoon about ⅓ cup sauce on each tortilla

and roll up tortilla; place seam side down in a baking dish.
Cover the tortilla from end to end with a generous amount of additional sauce. Then sprinkle it with the remaining cheese.

For the prettiest presentation, place the enchiladas under a broiler near the flame until the cheese melts and begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Or, bake the enchiladas in a 350º oven until cheese melts, about 5 to 8 minutes. Serve immediately.

Click Here for My Adapted Printable Recipe

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Spread for your Spread

With the Holiday season approaching us, I couldn't think of a better recipe to add to your upcoming menus. This is a simple dish that can be prepared in advance and baked off a few minutes before your gathering starts. This appetizer is extremely delicious, hearty, comforting and rich - everything a holiday menu item should be in my opinion. Dips and spreads are so popular at parties during Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years and I love to have a variety of options that are a little different than your expected ones.


Caramelized Onion, Gruyere and Bacon Spread
Adapted from Cooking Light
November 2011

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 Tbs Butter
  • 3 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 4 ounces Gruyère cheese, shredded and divided
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, divided
  • 1/3 cup canola mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup fat-free sour cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
  • Preheat oven to 425°.
  • Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan lightly with cooking spray. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add onion to pan; sauté 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low; cook 20 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly.

  • Reserve 2 tablespoons cheese. Combine remaining cheese, caramelized onion, 1 tablespoon chives, and the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl.

  • Transfer the mixture to a 1-quart glass or ceramic baking dish coated lightly with cooking spray. Sprinkle with reserved 2 tablespoons cheese. Bake at 425° for 20 minutes or until browned and bubbly. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon chives.
  • Serve with toasted baguette slices.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Book Club Bounty - October

My friend Melanie hosted October's Book Club meeting and once again I offered to bring a dessert. The October Book Club was a couple days before Rex's 1st Birthday Bash, so I didn't want to bring something very complicated since I had a long weekend of cooking ahead of me. I remembered this recipe from a long ago issue of Cooking Light and I thought it would be a great opportunity to try it out since it seemed very easy. All this recipe required was basically measuring and stirring and the result was still a beautifully delicious dessert!

This month we read "Sarah's Key" by Tatiana de Rosnay. It was a much better choice than last month's book and the discussion was much more productive. In addition, the general consensus was that we all enjoyed reading historical fiction - especially about a topic so few of us were familiar with prior to reading the book. I recommend this book and I highly recommend this tart!

Bourbon Pecan Tart with Chocolate Drizzle
Adapted from Cooking Light November 2007

  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup dark corn syrup
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 1/2 (15-ounce) package refrigerated pie dough (such as Pillsbury)
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Combine first 10 ingredients, stirring well with a whisk.

    Stir in pecans.

    Roll dough into a 13-inch circle; fit into a 9-inch removable-bottom tart pan coated with cooking spray. Trim excess crust using a sharp knife.

    Spoon sugar mixture into prepared crust.

    Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until center is set. Cool completely on a wire rack.

  • Place chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave at HIGH 1 minute. Stir until smooth. Drizzle chocolate over tart.

    Slice and Serve.
LinkClick Here for My Adapted Printable Recipe

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Oldie But Cookie

Rex recently started a new school and had to say good-bye to his first daycare and his teachers that have known him since he showed up as a 12-week-old infant to their classroom. It was hard to part ways with all of the women who cared for him, nurtured him and loved him when Forrest and I had to work. We wanted to say thanks in a special way and I thought there would be no better way to please a large group of women than with chocolate chip cookies. After all, CCC are a widely loved treat and I figured no one would be excluded in the indulgence if I sent these their way. Once I settled on the recipes, I whipped up a batched, packaged them in a pretty way and sent them to school with Rex on his last day. Everyone was elated with their thank you gifts, as people often are when the gift is an edible one. Even better if it is a deliciously gooey and chocolatey edible gift!

I wanted to take the opportunity to re-share one of my go to recipes with my new readers. I LOVE this CCC recipe! Give it a try, you will be pleased - I promise.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

V is for Veggie

Since Rex has been off of baby food and solely on table food, I have been exploring creative ways to still get his vegetables in him. He loves carbs (can you blame him?) so I normally find myself mixing the vegetables that I have chopped into miniscule pieces in rice or pasta. After we spoon them both in, he is quite skilled at separating the starch from the vegetable and returning one back out of his mouth via his tongue. Can you guess which one he decides to keep?

Because of this little veggie rejection trick he has mastered I knew this recipe would be a fantastic way to get him to eat his vegetables. If I cooked the risotto in the squash there would be no way for him make the distinction. And I am happy to report it was a huge hit! He devoured two bowls and ate it for lunch the next day as well. No veggie objection here!

Butternut Squash Risotto
Adapted from Cooking Light
October 2011

  • 3 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash, divided
  • 3 1/2 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups uncooked Arborio rice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 5 ounces applewood-smoked bacon, cooked and crumbled

Combine 2 cups squash and 2 1/2 cups water in a saucepan; bring to a boil.

Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat; let stand 5 minutes. Place mixture in a food processor. Process until smooth.

Return mixture to pan. Stir in broth; bring to a simmer. Reserve 1/4 cup squash mixture. Keep pan warm over low heat. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add rice; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Stir in remaining 1 cup squash, 2 1/2 cups squash mixture, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Cook 2 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly.

Add remaining squash mixture, 1 cup at a time,

stirring until each cup is absorbed before adding the next (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat; stir in reserved 1/4 cup squash mixture. Top with parsley and bacon.

Click Here for My Adapted Printable Recipes