Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Spicy Pumpkin Fool

Hi, I'm back! I just got back in town late last night from my little Thanksgiving getaway.  I had a great time visiting my family in Tennessee, cooking, enjoying family time, and stuffing myself with all the yummy Thanksgiving dishes!

It was a lot of fun cooking in the kitchen with my sister, mom, and neices...making our favorite dishes and keeping family traditions alive.  I hope you all enjoyed your holiday as much as I did!

One item that screams fall to me is pumpkin.  I think I may have mentioned this before, but I love pumpkin. 

So, if you have any canned pumpkin leftover I've got a great little recipe for you.

But before that...if you have any pumpkin pie left over I have a great "re-do" for that as well.  TIP:  Cut a piece of pie and turn it over on a plate.  Peel off the crust and line the bottom of a ramiken with it.  Scoop out the pie filling and place it in the ramekin.  Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of sugar over the top. Use a mini torch or a broiler to brown the tops....and you have Pumpkin Pie Brulee!

Back to my original recipe....

So this is a "fake" fool.  A Spicy Pumpkin Fool.  Quick, easy, tasty...!

Mix pumpkin puree, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves in a  bowl.

Fold in the whipped topping.

Place in some pretty dessert bowls, and top with mini chocolate chips.  Make sure to refrigerate for about 1 hour before serving.

Light and refreshing!  You can use leftover whipped cream for the whipped topping as well!

Spicy Pumpkin Fool

serves 4

1/2 can pumpkin puree
2 T sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t ginger
1/8 t cloves
1 1/2 cups frozen lite whipped topping, thawed
2 T mini chocolate chips

In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Gently fold in whipped topping until blended.

Divide among 4 dessert bowls.  Sprinkle with chocolate chips.  Chill for at least 1 hour.  Serve.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Decorating Ideas

I'm off on a trip to visit family over this Thanksgiving week.
I hope all of you have a wonderful holiday celebration filled with family, joy, laughter, and love.

As a parting post...(I'll be back in a week.)

I found some really cute Thanksgiving Decorations to share with you.

I really love this idea...

This is what happens when your pumpkins want to get all dressed up and come to the party.
What you need:
  • Scissors
  • Fresh or silk flat flowers
  • Pumpkins and gourds
  • Glue gun and glue sticks
Make it
  1. Using scissors, trim the stems from the flowers.
  2. Glue flowers on pumpkins with hot glue gun.
This craft is not intended for children. Always supervise and assist young children when they are working with scissors or small pieces of craft materials.

Great for appetizers...so cute and unique


Carry the harvest theme one step further with bowls made from fresh squash.
What you need:
  • Winter squash such as butternut or acorn
  • Olives
Make it
  1. Cut squash so you are left with the ”bowl” of the vegetable to carve into a container.
  2. Scoop seeds and stringy flesh from the inside of each squash.
  3. Wash and dry well.
  4. Slice a small piece off the bottom of each so they sit flat.
  5. Place on a platter or tray and fill with olives.
Always supervise and assist young children when they are working with scissors or small pieces of craft materials.

This is wonderful for houses that have staircases...
I saw some cute wheat stalks at the grocery store yesterday
that would work great for this!


The harvest of grain gets the respect it deserves in this beautiful banister showcase. Make it rustically authentic by tying it up with twine, or a bit more elegant by using ribbon.
What you need:
  • Dried grains from a farmer’s market or a craft store
  • Twine or ribbon
Make it
  1. Tie bundles of grains to each baluster on your banister.
Always supervise and assist young children when they are working with scissors or small pieces of craft materials.

articles from Kraftrecipes.com

This is the centerpiece for my table.  I just took a glass hurricane sleeve and filled it with pumpkins and gourds of all colors, shapes, and sizes, and added fall colored leaves as filler.
So much fun!

Here's another great earthy centerpiece idea...

and we can't forget a great place setting...

Hope this gives you some great ideas on how to start a decorating tradition and create memories that last a lifetime!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thanksgiving Side Dishes and a Slice of Pie

While not the main event of your Thanksgiving Dinner side dishes are ever so important.

It's a tradition to have a variety of side dishes.  Some starchy, some sweet, and always delicious!

I'm sure you want mashed potatoes to cozy up to the turkey under a ladle full of gravy.  For my favorite gravy recipes click here.  For out of this world mashed potato recipes click here.

Some people like to serve sweet potatoes as a golden contrast to the potatoes.  Some people favor the savory bread-based dressing, or stuffings.  Some love the vegetable dishes and relishes that play an important role in balancing a menu.

Here's my favorite Green Bean recipe...to die for!

Green Beans with Glazed Shallots and Lemon
The green beans can be cooked earlier in the day and refrigerated, then reheated just before serving.

2lb. small green beans, ends trimmed
2 Tbs. olive oil
6 shallots, thinly sliced
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 

Bring a large saucepan three-fourths full of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the green beans and cook until just tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain the beans and rinse under cold water, then drain again.

In a large fry pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. When it begins to sizzle, add the shallots and saute, stirring, until glazed and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the beans, increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring with tongs, until the beans just begin to brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest and juice and cook for 30 seconds more. Add the parsley, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Transfer the beans to a serving bowl and serve immediately. Serve 6 to 8.

If you love Brussels Sprouts try this great recipe...

Shiitake Braised Brussels Sprouts

By Emeril Lagasse
Serves 6


1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
3 ounces chopped bacon
1/2 cup finely chopped shallot
3/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, sliced 1/8 inch thick
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper, plus more for seasoning
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and any damaged outer leaves discarded
1 1/4 cups chicken stock or store-bought low-sodium chicken broth


Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a 5-quart saute pan with high sides over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until crisp, about 8 minutes. Add shallots, half the mushrooms, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper and cook until wilted and nicely browned, about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside. Add another 1/4 cup olive oil, remaining mushrooms, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper and repeat with remaining mushrooms.

Add remaining tablespoon olive oil and butter to pan and heat over medium-high heat until butter has melted. Add brussels sprouts, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook until sprouts are lightly caramelized, 6 to 7 minutes. Add sauteed mushrooms, chicken stock, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until stock has evaporated by half. Cover pan, lower temperature to medium-low, and continue to cook until brussels sprouts are tender, 10 to 12 minutes.

How about some Cauliflower?

Cauliflower Gratin
By Emeril Lagasse
serves 6
1 bay leaf
1/2 yellow onion, peeled
3 whole cloves
3 cups milk, whole or skim
1 large head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into 1-inch florets
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced shallots

2 teaspoons minced garlic 
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Pinch freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 cup grated Gruyere
1/2 cup coarse breadcrumbs, such as panko
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
2 teaspoons fresh parsley leaves, roughly chopped

Lay bay leaf over cut side of onion and poke cloves through bay leaf and into onion to secure leaf in place. Put onion into a 2-quart saucepan and add milk. Set saucepan over medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook without boiling for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and strain through a fine mesh sieve. Set aside until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Steam cauliflower in a steam basket inserted into a medium saucepan until just tender, about 10 minutes. Arrange cauliflower in a shallow 2-quart casserole (approximately 7 1/2 by 11 inches) and set aside.

In a 2-quart saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons butter with olive oil. Add shallots and garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add flour and stir, using a wooden spoon, to form a blond roux. (Do not allow the mixture to brown.) Add simmered, strained milk to pan and whisk until smooth. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, or until thickened, smooth, and creamy. Remove pan from heat and add nutmeg and Gruyere, stirring until melted. Strain sauce and pour evenly over cauliflower.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in an 8-inch saute pan and add breadcrumbs. Toss well to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and chopped parsley. Sprinkle breadcrumbs evenly over top of cauliflower and bake until top is golden brown and sauce is bubbly, about 25 minutes.

or some Broccoli?

Broccoli with Seriously Cheesy Sauce

By Emeril Lagasse

Serves 4


1 large bunch broccoli (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
3 cups whole milk
2 cups grated mild cheddar cheese (about 5 ounces)

Place broccoli on a cutting board and use a sharp knife to remove the tough part of the stems (usually the lower 3 to 4 inches). Cut broccoli into 4 even portions.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil with 1 teaspoon salt. Add broccoli and cook until tender, 3 to 6 minutes. Drain broccoli in a colander set in sink. Using tongs, transfer to a 2-quart casserole or serving dish.

In a heavy 4-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper and cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Whisk in milk and bring to a boil, whisking occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and add cheese. Stir well. Pour sauce over broccoli and serve.

I like Cranberry Chutney better than cranberry sauce...love the spices...try this great recipe!

Cranberry Chutney

By Williams-Sonoma

1 lb. fresh cranberries
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 cups fresh orange juice
1 cup apple cider
1 cinnamon stick
6 fresh mint leaves

Sort the cranberries, discarding any soft ones.

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the cranberries, granulated sugar, brown sugar, orange juice, cider, cinnamon and mint and stir to mix. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer until the juices have reduced and are thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 1 hour.

Let the chutney cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature for about 1 hour before serving. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick. Transfer the chutney to a sauce boat or serving bowl and serve. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

And let's not forget the stuffing...!  This is a favorite of mine.

Apple, Cranberry and Pecan Stuffing

3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
2 Fuji or McIntosh apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch dice
1 lb. dried bread croutons
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
3 to 4 cups chicken or turkey stock, warmed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion, celery and apples and saute until tender and caramelized, 14 to 16 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, add the croutons, cranberries and pecans and stir to evenly distribute the ingredients. Add the stock 1 cup at a time, stirring to evenly moisten the croutons. Season the stuffing with salt and pepper.

Spoon the stuffing into a buttered 2-quart baking dish and cover with foil. Transfer the baking dish to the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover the dish and continue baking until the stuffing is crisp and golden, 20 to 25 minutes more.

And now for a slice of pie!

I've had a lot of pumpkin pies, some made spicy, some not, some made with pumpkin butter, or cheesecake, or even a layered pudding pie.  But my favorite, and my all time go to recipe will always be....

LIBBY'S Famous Pumpkin Pie

Prep:15 mins
Cooking:55 mins
Cooling:120 mins
Yields:8 servings

This is the traditional holiday pumpkin pie. This classic recipe has been on LIBBY'S® Pumpkin labels since 1950. This pie is easy to prepare and even easier to enjoy. Just mix, pour, bake for a delicious homemade tradition.

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 can (15 oz.) LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
1 can (12 fl. oz.) NESTLÉ® CARNATION® Evaporated Milk
1 unbaked 9-inch (4-cup volume) deep-dish pie shell
Whipped cream (optional)

MIX sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.

POUR into pie shell.

BAKE in preheated 425° F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350° F; bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Top with whipped cream before serving.
 Enjoy some really great food!!!

Thanksgiving Side Dishes: All About Potatoes

Don't you just love a potato?

Potatoes today symbolize comfort, especially around the holidays.  They are earthy-tasting, easy to prepare, and are compatible with many other foods and adaptable to all sorts of cooking methods.

There are three basic types of potato varieties: starchy, waxy, and all-purpose.

  • Starchy or mealy potatoes, such as russets, are best for baking and mashing because they cook up dry and fluffy, but do not hold their shape well.

  • Waxy potatoes, such as red or white potatoes, are low in starch.  Use them for potato salads and other recipes where you want them to hold their shape and are not relying on their starch content to thicken a soup or sauce. (Great for roasting!)

  • All-purpose potatoes have a medium starch content and are good for both uses.  Yukon Golds are among the best known.

Select potatoes that are firm, not blemished, wrinkled, tinged with green, or cracked.  The eyes, of the potatoes should not have sprouted.

Store them in a cool dark place with good circulation for up to 2 weeks. Don't put them with onions!  These two veggies together produce gases that cause rapid spoilage.  Best when used 2 or 3 days from purchase for their fresh sweet flavor and texture.

Mashed Potato Techniques

Cooking the Potatoes:  Boiling whole potatoes with their skins on keeps the potatoes from becoming waterlogged, improving the texture of the final dish, and help to prevent nutrients from being lost in the water.  If you want to boil peeled potatoes, cut them into small cubs so that they cook quickly and are exposed to the water as briefly as possible.

Courtesy of Williams-Sonoma

Ricing, hand mashing, using a mixer...it's up to you and what you prefer. 

Tips: One great tip is to melt your butter and heat some half and half or cream with it to a warm temperature.  When you add warm milk and butter as you are mashing the potatoes they will stay nice and hot. 

Another great tip (and this is my favorite!) is to make your potatoes early in the day.  Then place the completed dish in a crock pot on low.  Add a little cream on top and let them sit there until dinner time. (I would say for 5 hours at most)  Stir and serve.  You will always have HOT potatoes!

Here are some of my favorite Mashed Potato recipes.  Enjoy!

(I made these last year.....excellent!)

Mashed Potatoes and Celery Root
by Williams-Sonoma

Also known as celeriac, celery root is a knobby, round winter vegetable that contributes a subtle celery flavor to purees when cooked and a crisp crunch to salads when used raw. In this recipe, celery root is mashed with potatoes, giving the dish a lighter texture than if potatoes alone were used, and an interesting, fresh taste that matches well with full-flavored foods such as roast turkey. Both peeled celery root and potatoes discolor quickly when exposed to air and should be immersed in water if not cooked at once to prevent discoloring.

2 large celery roots, about 2 lb. total, peeled and cut into slices 1 inch thick
2 1/2 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into slices 1 inch thick
Kosher salt, to taste
3/4 cup half-and-half
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste
Put the celery roots and potatoes in separate large saucepans. Add water to cover and a large pinch of kosher salt to each pan. Bring both to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Just before they are done, place an ovenproof serving bowl in a 200°F oven. (There is no need to preheat the oven.)

In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the half-and-half and 2 Tbs. of the butter and heat until the butter melts. Turn off the heat and cover to keep warm. Drain the potatoes and celery root, then return them to one of the large saucepans and set over medium-low heat; shake the pan until the vegetables begin to stick to the bottom. Remove from the heat.

Pass the vegetables through a ricer into the warmed serving bowl. Alternatively, pass the vegetables through a food mill, or mash them in the pan with a potato masher. Stir in the warm half-and-half mixture. Season with kosher salt and white pepper. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and swirl the top of the puree. Top with the remaining 1 Tbs. butter and serve immediately. If necessary, keep warm in a 200°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or cover the bowl and set it in a pan of hot water.

And here's the all time classic version:

Classic Mashed Potatoes
by Williams-Sonoma
5 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/4 cups half-and-half, heated
salt & pepper 
Put the potatoes and the 2 tsp. salt in a large pot, add water to cover the potatoes by 3 inches and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and gently cook the potatoes until they are tender when pierced with a fork, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain well in a colander.

Place hot potatoes in the large bowl of a mixer.  Mix on medium low speed until potatoes are smooth.  Add butter and a little half and half at a time until your desired consistency is reached.  Add salt and pepper to taste.   Serve immediately. Serves 8 to 10.
Picture courtesy of Southern Living.com

Thursday, November 17, 2011

How-To: Making Gravy

Can't have turkey without the gravy!

Super simple and very tasty.  Here's a how-to that explains it all.  And here's two great recipes that will give you perfect gravy for your holiday.

Making Gravy

The perfect complement to roast turkey and dressing, turkey gravy is especially delicious when made from the pan juices thickened with roux (a mixture of butter and flour) and enhanced with turkey or chicken stock. You can also flavor the gravy with sherry, Madeira or other wine.  (this is my favorite gravy recipe!)
Turkey Gravy
3/4 cup water
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
2 cups turkey or chicken stock
2 Tbs. dry sherry, Madeira or other wine (optional) (we used balsamic vinegar the other day!)
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. Skim and discard any fat from the juices in the roasting pan. Or use a gravy separator and pour the defatted juices back into the pan.

2. Add the water to the pan and place over medium heat. Boil for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits. Transfer the juices to a bowl.

3. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter until bubbly. Add the flour and whisk rapidly for a few seconds to cook the flour.

4. Rapidly whisk in the reserved pan juices and the stock. Cook until smooth and thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the sherry and season with salt and pepper.

5. If desired, pour the gravy through a fine-mesh sieve or chinois into a warmed sauceboat or wide-mouthed pitcher. Makes 2 to 2 1/2 cups gravy.
article and pictures curtesy of Williams-Sonoma

Here's another great gravy recipe that you can make ahead...and save yourself some time!

Make Ahead Turkey Gravy
·      YIELD: Makes 4 cups
·         2 1/4 pounds turkey drumsticks
·         3 carrots, cut into pieces
·         1 large onion, quartered
·         6 fresh parsley sprigs
·         1/3 cup vegetable oil
·         1/2 cup all-purpose flour
·         6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
·         1/2 teaspoon pepper
·         Salt to taste
1. Brown Drumsticks and Veggies: Preheat oven to 400°. Pat drumsticks dry. Cook drumsticks and next 3 ingredients in hot oil in a large roasting pan over medium-high heat. Cook drumsticks 3 minutes on each side; cook vegetables, at the same time, stirring often.
2. Reserve Flavorful Pan Drippings: Bake drumsticks and vegetables in pan at 400° for 30 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion of drumsticks registers 160°. Remove from oven. Remove and discard vegetables and parsley using a slotted spoon. Reserve drumsticks for another use.
3. Whisk in Chicken Broth and Stir Until Smooth: Whisk flour into hot drippings in pan, and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in chicken broth until smooth. Whisk in pepper.
4. Cook Gravy to Thicken and Develop Flavor: Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally. Reduce heat to medium, and gently boil, whisking occasionally, 45 minutes or until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Season with salt to taste


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