Thursday, December 29, 2016

Mixed Cheese & Cracker, Crudite Platter with Fresh Dill Dip

Man oh man, the days are just flying by!

The end of the year is a few days away.  I've barely recovered from Christmas!  But I really love New Year's Eve.

For the last several years our tradition has been to go out for a nice romantic dinner at one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants. The restaurant used to be an old house and each year we sit in the front windows and watch all the twinkle lights as we eat some wonderful food.   It's typically raining which just adds to romantic ambiance of it all.

I'm sure that we will keep this tradition up this year as well.  I've already heard that rain is in the forecast of course!  However, I'm going to mix it up just a bit by having a Mixed Cheese & Cracker, Crudité Platter with Fresh Dill Dip before we leave.

Served with my Pear Sparklers this is the perfect little snack to have pre-dinner while sitting around the Christmas tree.  We keep our tree up each year through the New Year just to enjoy it for an additional week. 


This platter mixture is easy to put together.  Make the dip ahead (recipe below) and refrigerate it for a couple of hours to let the flavors blend.  Cut up some crudité like carrots, celery, cucumbers or anything you have on hand such as broccoli florets or sliced bell peppers.  Add some cheese and crackers to round it out and arrange it all on a platter to have guests help themselves. 

It's simple and easy, yet it's a good way to have some quick appetizers.  You can adjust the amount to feed a crowd or a few people for an intimate gathering.  It's all up to you.

Have a safe and happy New Year!

Fresh Dill Dip

makes 2 cups

1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon chopped onion
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

In a small bowl mix all ingredients together until well combine.  Refrigerate dip for at least 1 hour before serving so flavors will blend.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Chicken, Green Bean & Mushroom Stir Fry

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas filled with fun, laughter, and LOTS of great food! 

As I am completely beefed and turkeyed out, I thought I’d share something today that contains simple ingredients, totally non-Christmas related.  Also, because I would like to take a little break in cooking, this dinner is all in one pan!  On top of that, you can have this on the table in 16 minutes!


If you haven't noticed I love stir frys.  They are simple to make, and they a quick to cook.  I use the same formula every time.  (cook the meat, remove from pan, cook the vegetables, add flavors/nuts, add back the meat, add the sauce...done!)  Once you have this down you can make a gazillion variations of stir fry. 

Most times I make my own sauce, but on days like today where I want to save even more time, I use a bottle stir fry sauce that I find works well as a base.  I use this one here.  This sauce along with a couple of flavor add-ins works perfectly with this stir fry combination of chicken and vegetables.  I chose green beans and mushrooms, as both were on hand from our Christmas dinner.  You can certainly change up the vegetables to fit what you have on hand.  Bell peppers, carrots, celery, and zucchini, are all good ones to choose from.

So if you are trying to slow down after the holiday, do yourself a favor and forget the takeout.  Make this wonderful stir fry at home tonight.  It tastes 1000 times better than takeout, and you can control what goes in the food (mainly sodium ) and make this a healthy meal for your family. 

Chicken, Green Bean & Mushroom Stir Fry is a favorite in our house, and hopefully will be a favorite of  yours too!  Remember, another celebration weekend is around the corner.  We'll be taking a look at some great New Year's Eve ideas in the next several days.


Chicken, Green Bean & Mushroom Stir Fry

Serves: 4 servings

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized chunks
1/4 c cornstarch
2 Tbls canola oil
1 Tbls sesame oil
8 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
30 French green beans, cut in half
1 tsp garlic, minced
2 tsp minced ginger
1/4 c stir fry sauce

    On a plate toss the chicken with the cornstarch.

    Heat the canola and sesame oil in a large skillet.  Add the chicken and cook on medium-high until browned on all sides, about 2-3 minutes on each side.  Remove chicken from the pan, and turn the heat up to high.

    Add in the mushrooms and cook until they start to brown.  Add the green beans and allow to cook 2-3 minutes more. .Add the garlic and ginger and cook/stir for 30 seconds.  Return the chicken and any juices back to the skillet.  Add the stir fry sauce and toss to coat.  Serve.

    Saturday, December 24, 2016

    Merry Christmas 2016

    Wishing you all a happy and safe holiday!

    Christmas is a time for family and friends.  I hope yours is full of love and happiness. 

    Merry Christmas

    Slice of Southern

    Thursday, December 22, 2016

    Using Leftovers: Pumpkin Pie Milkshakes


    I usually don't ever have leftover pumpkin pie that I don't know what to do with!

    We usually just eat it all...

    However, there have been times when we had multiple desserts and just too much pumpkin pie to finish before it gets old.  So I have a delicious and easy way to use that leftover pumpkin pie!


    This shake is the real's made with actual pie!

    You are going to love this Pumpkin Pie Milkshakes.  And the kids?...forget about it!  This drink is really off the hook.  By putting a slice of pie, crust in all into the shake you get a chunky texture that tastes like mix-ins at your favorite ice cream parlor. 

    So if you are planning on having pumpkin pie for Christmas make sure to save a couple of slices and make these Pumpkin Pie Milkshakes.  They are soooo good!


    Pumpkin Pie Milkshakes

    serves 1-2

    1 slice of pumpkin pie (crust and all!)
    1 -2 scoops of vanilla ice cream
    1/3 - 1/2 c milk
    Garnish:  whipped cream, sprinkles

    Place all ingredients in a blender.  Turn on blender and blend until all ingredients are combined, leaving a little texture from the crust.

    Pour in tall glasses and serve.

    Tuesday, December 20, 2016

    Jolly Holiday French Toast

    It's almost Christmas!

    One of my favorite times of the year.  All the excitement and joy that goes along with Christmas morning, and being surrounded by family makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

    After the flurry of unwrapping presents we will settle down to eat breakfast.  Something festive will be in order, but I also want something easy and quick to make.  (The day ahead will be filled with cooking.)


    My Jolly Holiday French Toast is the perfect solution to an easy festive breakfast.  The family will come running when they smell the aromas of nutmeg and cinnamon.  This is no ordinary French toast!  This festive breakfast is one the whole family will enjoy.  

    While this recipe serves 4 you can easily double or triple it to feed a crowd.  I made this version on a griddle on the stove.  You can easily alter this to bake this in the oven as a casserole if you would like. (Tip: Bake at 400 degrees for about 35-40 minutes)

    So get in and out of the kitchen in no time on Christmas Day with my Jolly Holiday French Toast, so you can spend that quality time with your family and friends.

    Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

    Jolly Holiday French Toast

    serves 2 or 4

    4 slices or French or Brioche bread, sliced thick
    3 eggs
    1 c milk
    1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    Garnish:  powdered sugar, raspberries
    warm syrup

    Heat a griddle on medium heat. 

    In a baking dish add eggs, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.  Whisk until incorporated.  Place bread in the egg mixture turning over so that each side is well coated.

    If necessary, spray your griddle with nonstick cooking spray.  Remove bread slices from the egg mixture allowing any excess to drip off.  Place bread on the griddle and allow to cook 2-3 minutes or until golden brown.  Flip the bread over and continue to cook until golden brown and cooked through.

    Remove bread and place on serving plates.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar, dusted over the top and garnish with raspberries if desired.  Serve with warm syrup.

    Sunday, December 18, 2016

    Cranberry Walnut Blondies


    Are you doing any holiday baking today?

    I can't believe that Christmas is one week away.  Where did all the time go this year?  Each year I make a tray of various holiday goodies for MGG and all his staff (about 100) and another for my staff at work.  It's something I look forward to each year because it reminds me of the excitement I used to get making our holiday cookies with my mom, and getting a tray of our neighbor's goodies as well.

    Each year I try and mix it up with the type of goodies.  There is always fudge, and the rest is up for grabs.  This year since time kind of got away from me I decided to make things a little easier and make some bulk items that you can bake in 9x13 pans.  That way I'll get a large quantity of a scrumptious goodies with little effort.  Sound good?  That's a big "YES!" from me!

    Being the avid cookbook collector that I am I recently purchased the cutest little book called, tiny book of Christmas Joy, by Phillis Hoffman Depiano.  This book is full of holiday goodies and gifts to give.  I was so excited when I got it I flagged a ton of recipes that I wanted to make!  As that wasn't realistic I narrowed it down to this great recipe for Cranberry Walnut Blondies.

    I don't typically make blondies but with the addition of cranberries and walnuts I knew this would make a great festive addition.  Boy was I right!  You guys, these are the BEST blondies I've ever had.  The flavor is outstanding.  I had a hard time getting this in the gift containers because I had a sample, and then another, and then another!  Wow!  These just blew my socks off, so watch out...and prepare to have your socks blown off too!


    What I did differently:  I followed the recipe almost exactly except I didn't use sweetened cranberries as stated, but unsweetened cranberries I got from Trader Joe's.  The recipe also calls for using a stand mixer.  I chose to make these by hand in a large bowl instead.  They came out perfectly, so I wrote the directions that way, but you could use your mixer if you prefer.

    Made in a 9x13 pan, these make a ton.  I decided to just cut them in traditional brownie squares, but you could make them appear really elegant by cutting them in triangles and placing them on a white platter. 

    I hope you make these really soon.  They are perfect to give away to friends and family, and make sure to hide a couple for yourself.  They go that quick!


    Cranberry Walnut Blondies

    slightly adapted from: tiny book of Christmas Joy
    makes 32 pieces

    1 c unsalted butter, melted
    1 c firmly packed light brown sugar
    1 c sugar
    2 large eggs
    2 tsp vanilla
    2 1/2 c all purpose flour
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/2 tsp baking soda
    1 c dried cranberries
    1/2 c chopped toasted walnuts
    1 Tbls orange zest
    Garnish:  1/2 c confectioners sugar

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9x13 inch baking pan with nonstick baking spray with flour.

    In a large bowl mix butter, brown sugar, and sugar until mixed and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition.  Add vanilla and stir to incorporate.

    Add in salt, and baking soda.  Add in flour gradually, mixing after each addition.  Stir in cranberries, walnuts, and orange zest.  Place batter in prepared pan.  Bake for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of the blondies comes out clean.  Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.  Cut into squares and garnish with confectioners sugar if desired.

    Friday, December 16, 2016

    Citrus Rosemary Glazed Turkey Breast


    If you're sharing the holidays with a smaller group this year, I highly recommend cooking a full or half turkey breast. A turkey breast is easy to handle and a cinch to make, plus you'll still end up with plenty of leftovers!

    My moist and flavorful Citrus Rosemary Glazed Turkey Breast is the perfect union of sweet and savory.

    For 4 people I chose a half bone-in turkey breast that was about 3 pounds.  If you have 6 or more (or love lots of leftovers) to feed, go for a full turkey breast.  The glaze is the key to this recipe and I would double the glaze for a full breast.

    You start out with a high oven temperature to get a great crispy skin on the outside and then reduce for the remaining time to ensure the juiciest turkey you will ever have!  No kidding this turkey was soooo moist. 

    I also used a new "must have" thermometer.  You place the probe in the thickest portion of the breast up front, and it stays in the turkey in the oven during cooking time.  This ensures the perfect cooking temperature is reached.  No more guessing!  After tasting this turkey I think this thermometer was the best buy ever!

    This Citrus Rosemary Glazed Turkey Breast never fails to impress in presentation and in taste.


    Citrus Rosemary Glazed Turkey Breast

    serves 4-6

    1/2 c apricot preserves
    1/4 c orange juice
    2 Tbls honey
    1 Tbls Dijon mustard
    2 tsp garlic, minced
    2 sprigs fresh rosemary
    1 c white wine
    1/2 bone-in full turkey breast (about 3 -4 pounds)
    Garnish:  rosemary sprigs, thyme sprigs, orange wedges, pomegranate arils

    In a medium saucepan over medium heat add apricot preserves, orange juice, honey, Dijon, garlic, and rosemary sprigs.  Bring to a boil and then remove from heat and allow to cool.  Once cooled discard the rosemary.

    Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Pat turkey breast to dry the outside.  Place rack in a roasting pan and spray with non-stick spray.  Place turkey breast on rack.  Pour wine in the bottom of the roasting pan. 

    Place in oven and roast for 30 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees and brush breast with glaze.  Continue roasting until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reaches 155 degrees. (depending on size of the turkey breast possibly 1 hour more)  Brush with glaze every 30 minutes. 

    Transfer turkey breast to a cutting board and tent with foil.  Allow to rest  20 minutes before slicing.  Turkey will continue to cook during this time and reach the proper temperature.  Remove the breast in one piece from the bone and then slice the breast crosswise into slices.  Place slices on a platter and garnish with rosemary sprigs, thyme sprigs, orange wedges, and pomegranate arils.

    Wednesday, December 14, 2016

    Easy Food Processor Pie Crust


    My mom has been making pies all her life.  Every kind of cream pie you can imagine along with some excellent fruit pies thrown in the mix!

    She's old school though.  She learned from her mom and went by feel when making the pie dough using a base recipe passed down from my Grandma.

    Fast forward many years as an adult and I'm making the pies, and my mom is teaching me how to make the dough from scratch.  I know a lot of you are mystified by making homemade pie crust but trust me when I say, it is REALLY EASY.

    Now I usually use my Grandma's recipe but this year I switched it up a bit.  I wanted something that had both butter (for flavor) and shortening (for flakiness) and is made using a food processor.  Off I go searching through my multitude of cookbooks where I found the perfect recipe that met all my wishes.  The King Arthur 200th Anniversary Cookbook is full of wonderful recipes.  I recommend you picking up a copy.  This cookbook is so fabulous and it has so many recipes in it that will fulfill ALL your baking needs.  They had a multitude of recipes for pie crust including the one I am showing you today. 

    So I got out my handy dandy food processor (I use this one) and the ingredients, and made this in about 5 minutes.  No kidding.  It's so EASY in a food processor.  Dump and pulse, pulse, pulse.  Then in the frig goes the dough for 45 min to an hour and then you are ready to make pie!

    Go for it!  Make your pie crust from scratch, and try this recipe.  The dough was so easy to work with, it rolled out like a dream, and held together really well when forming the edges.  The taste?  Heavenly!  The butter flavor stood out and the crust was flaky to boot!  You are sure to love this crust.

    The pie you see here is my favorite Pumpkin Pie with Orange Marmalade.  I've been making this for years and the light citrusy flavor brings an extra special something to your dessert! 


    Easy Food Processor Pie Crust

    source:  The King Arthur 200th Anniversary Cookbook

    1 3/4 c All Purpose Flour
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 T sugar (optional)
    1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold or frozen, cut into 4 pieces
    2 T solid shortening
    about 6 Tablespoons ice water

    Using the steel blade of the food processor, quickly blend flour, salt, sugar, butter and shortening.

    Slowly pour in the ice water through the feed tube while pulsing the machine.  Process only until a mass of dough has formed on the side of the bowl.  Don't overdo it.  Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for at least an hour. (You can also freeze the dough at this point.)

    Roll out and place inside pie dish.  Makes enough pastry for a 8 inch, double-crust pie or a single crust for a 9 - 11 inch pie.  This crust can be filled and baked at this point, or baked blind.


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