Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Last Minute Thanksgiving Help

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Here we are friends - THANKSGIVING has arrived!  I am excited and ready.
My family gathers at my sisters house and we made our plan over 2 weeks ago about who would bring which dish and what time the big event would start.  I hope you all have your plan in place for a successful, happy day whether you are cooking or not.  Here's just a few helpful tips in case you are not sure about setting the table, serving a buffet or cooking the big bird.  Sending you love, positive thoughts & prayers for a wonderful Wednesday and a very Happy Thanksgiving.
How to set your dinner table and a little help with dining ~

The best way to organize your food for a buffet ~

Simple beautiful decorations that you can find in your own yard or the grocery store ~

Last but not least ~
  • If you are cooking a turkey, MAKE SURE you have meat thermometer and that the internal temperature of the turkey reads at 160 degrees.  Insert the probe into the thigh making sure not to touch the bone.  FYI, you can buy an inexpensive thermometer in the grocery store.
  • Always, always make extra gravy!  It goes quickly and is not something you want to run out of.  Don't worry if you have some left over, it keeps in the fridge for up to 2 days.
  • Have everyone take a great photo…then, PUT THE PHONES AWAY!
  • Fluff your house, put on a pretty blouse, a little lipstick and a big smile.  Hug your family and friends.  Share what you are thankful for and make some new memories.  Most of all, relax and enjoy…

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sausage & Pepperoni Stromboli

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Stromboli - that warm, meat and cheese Italian turnover, gently dipped into homemade sauce is one beautiful slice of comfort food.  Everyone in our family loves, and I mean LOVES, Stromboli.
I am always drawn to recipes that can be changed up so that my family and friends can enjoy something they  really like which makes this one a winner.  My traditional recipe combines Italian sausage, cheese and pepperoni but there are multiple ways of changing this up.
Just pick out all your favorite meats, cheeses, and a few extras
 then roll out the dough and pop it in the oven.
Make a little sauce, then in less than an hour, you've got a wonderful meal to share with your family.
 By the way…you can make a couple of different versions, keep cool in the fridge till time to bake then serve for game day or casual entertaining!

Sausage & Pepperoni Stromboli
1 ball or roll of pizza dough (homemade is great but I used store-bought)
1 lb Italian sausage
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 package sliced pepperoni
2 cups pizza sauce
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 egg
  • Cook Italian sausage in a medium skillet until browned.  Drain on paper towels and crumble into small pieces.
  • Heat oven to 450 degrees.
  • Place parchment paper on a baking pan and lightly flour.  Roll dough out to form a large rectangle.
  • Brush a thin layer of pizza sauce on dough.  Layer on crumbled sausage then mozzarella cheese.
  • Place pepperoni slices on top of cheese then sprinkle with 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese.
  • Gently roll in short sides of dough to form a seal around filling.
  • Starting on long side of dough, carefully roll into one third of Stromboli.  Using parchment, roll dough again until reaching opposite end.  Pinch together and place seam side down.
  • Mix egg with 1 tablespoon of water.  Brush egg mixture over Stromboli and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 Parmesan cheese.
  • Place in oven and IMMEDIATELY TURN OVEN DOWN to 350 degrees.
  • Bake for approximately 18 minutes.  Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes.  
    • Test center of turnover.  If dough is not completely cooked, slice Stromboli in half and bake for additional 5-8 minutes.
  • Serve with warm pizza sauce

Monday, November 17, 2014

Monday Motivations

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Hello friends!  Here we are again, on the countdown to Thanksgiving!  My head is spinning with recipe ideas and plans for decorating our house.  I thought you all might be in the same boat so I'm sharing a few motivations and ideas that I'll be using this week…you might just put them to use as well.    

I love this salad from my friend Christin at Spicy Southern Kitchen.  I think I'll make it using leftover Thanksgiving turkey.

And if we are talking turkey, here's a great Thanksgiving Calculator from Savory. 

Looking for an easy way for guests to keep up with their wine glass?  Head to the dollar store and pick up some glasses, then get creative.  I made these in less than hour ~ LOVE!

It's cold here so it's time to bundle up.  I love this creative way to tie a scarf…

And it's always good to have a little something motivating and inspiring...

Have a great week everyone!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Parmesan Salt & Pepper Popcorn

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Everybody likes popcorn, and some of us LOVE it.  It's a favorite in our house while watching a movie, as an afternoon snack or packed up to take on a road trip. 
 I have the best time in my kitchen experimenting with new flavor combinations.  This one is has become everyone's "call out" recipe and I think it's due to my sprinkle of SHAKE.  It's a spice blend that's made in the Carolina's and is great on so many dishes, you can check it out here.  
For my popcorn, I always most of the time, use popcorn kernels and pop it in my case iron dutch oven.  Friends, there's just nothing like that real deal taste of fresh hot popcorn…then add a little something special just for fun!
Parmesan Salt & Pepper Popcorn
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon of SHAKE Spice Blend
Canola oil
Popping Corn
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • Melt butter along with SHAKE Spice Blend in microwave until melted - approximately 25 to 30 seconds.  Set aside.
  • In a large dutch oven or pot, put enough oil to cover bottom of pan.  Drop 3 to 4 kernels of corn in pot. 
  • Heat on medium high.
  • After one kernel pops, add enough popcorn to cover bottom of pan in a single layer.
  • Cover and shake until completely popped.
  • Remove from heat.  Drizzle butter mixture over popcorn.  Sprinkle on parmesan cheese and toss to coat.  Taste and shake on more seasoning if needed.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Cheese Grits Casserole

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Traditional Thanksgiving side dishes are a must but if you are looking for a little something new, well, this recipe is for you!  A couple of years ago, I was on a search for a different dish to serve and finally, after several tries, settle on this golden pan of goodness.  My whole family loves grits, so combining them with milk, cheese then baking until golden brown seemed like the obvious thing to do and friends, I was right, everyone loved 'em.
This recipe is so easy and can be made a few hours ahead of time and then baked before dinner.  On Thanksgiving when it's time to serve the big bird, make sure you scoop up a big helping of these cheese grits and drizzle on some gravy.
Then again, if you are serving ham, you know that grits are a match made in heaven with a slice of the pig.  Last but not least, it's rare, but if you do have any left over, just cut into squares, lightly sauté in a little butter and serve with an over easy egg.  Welcome home to a new side dish tradition…

Cheese Grits Casserole
2 cups water
3 cups chicken stock (I use low sodium or vegetable stock can be substituted)
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
dash of cayenne pepper
2 cups quick cooking grits
2 cups (16oz) shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup butter - melted and cooled
3 eggs
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a 11x7 pan with nonstick spray.
  • Heat water, stock and milk in a large pot on medium - bring to a low boil.  Add salt, pepper, garlic and cayenne. Stir.
  • Slowly pour grits into liquid and stir.  Turn heat down to low.  Continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring mixture to ensure grits do not stick or clump.
  • Remove grits from burner and let cool for 8 to 10 minutes.  
  • Add butter, cheese and eggs mixing well to incorporate all ingredients.  Pour into prepared casserole dish.  
  • Bake for 50 minutes until golden brown.  
    • after 40 minutes, you can sprinkle on addition cheese - I use Parmesean or cheddar.
  • Let casserole rest for 10 minutes then serve.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Ham & Black Bean Quesadillas

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As an after school snack, main dish or for game day, these quesadillas are always a favorite and seem to disappear quickly!
The unexpected flavor mix of the smoky ham, creamy black beans, onions and spices is so good on their own but then add some melted cheese with a warm tortilla THEN you've got something really special.  I serve these quesadillas with a little lime sour cream and hot sauce.  Actually, you only need one thing for this ooey, gooey, delicious slice of messy…a napkin!

Ham & Black Bean Quesadillas
4 slices deli ham - chopped
1 small onion - chopped
2 tablespoon butter
1 packet taco seasoning
1/3 cup water
1 can 15.5 oz can black beans - rinsed and drained
2 cups shredded monterrey jack cheese
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
8 medium size tortillas

  • Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a medium sauce pan.  Add onion and ham.  Cook until onions are translucent.
  • Add taco seasoning and water, mix well.
  • Add black beans, stirring to incorporate ingredients, increase heat to a simmer
    and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in large cast iron or fry pan and let melt.  Gently place 1 tortilla in pan.
  • Sprinkle cheddar cheese on tortilla - enough to cover to edges.  Layer on ham & black bean mixture.  Sprinkle layer of monterrey jack cheese and cover with another tortilla.
  • Cook on low heat until bottom is golden brown.  Gently flip quesadilla and continue to cook until cheese is melted - about 1 minute.
  • Remove from heat to cutting board.  Let rest 1 to 2 minutes then slice (I use a pizza cutter.)
  • Continue to build and cook other 3 quesadillas.
  • Serve with any of these extras ~ sour cream, salsa, hot sauce, lime wedges, shredded lettuce or green onions.
    • this recipe makes 4 quesadillas that can serve 4 people as a main dish or up to 8 as a snack or appetizer.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Easy Apple Cinnamon Cake

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Friends, today is all about being real.  If you are like me, and you probably kinda are if you follow this blog, here's some things we know about ourselves - we really like to cook, we LOVE food, enjoy reading cookbooks, think it's fun to try new recipes and it melts our heart when we serve family and friends a meal that they rave about.  Yes, that's us but on most days it's hard to do any one of those things, much less all of them, yet, we've got to keep life going!
Easy Apple Cake
Well, here's a secret, I have my own personal "prepared sous chef." Sometimes her name is Ms. Betty or it could be Mr. Birdseye.  Y'all understand?  There are times in life when we just can't make everything ourselves! Please know there's no shame in such since these days we have so many wonderful prepared brands of food to choose from.  Of course, I'm quite picky about who comes into my kitchen and most often cook from "scratch" but at the end of the day, my main goal is to make great, flavorful food that brings my family & friends to the table.  So, here's a big thank you to all the helpful sous chefs located in a grocery aisle near you.
Apple Cake | A Southern Soul

Easy Apple Spice Cake
1 box yellow cake mix
4 large eggs
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup apple butter (can substitute vegetable oil)
2 cups diced apple (Granny Smith is recommended)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons milk
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly mist a bundt pan or 10 inch tube pan with cooking spray and dust with flour.
  • For spice filling, mix 2 tablespoons of cake mix along with brown sugar and cinnamon - set aside.
  • Using a hand or stand mixer, combine remaining cake mix, eggs, water, sugar, sour cream and apple butter.  Blend for 2 minutes.  Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl and continue to blend until batter in smooth.
  • Using a spatula, gently fold in chopped apples.
  • Pour 1/2 of batter into prepared pan.  Sprinkle spice filling evenly over batter.  Pour remaining cake batter over spices smoothing to edges of pan.
  • Bake for approximately 45 to 50 minutes until cake is golden brown.
  • Remove from oven and let rest in pan for 15 minutes.  Invert cake onto a plate or stand and continue to let cool.
  • Combine confectioners sugar and whisk until smooth.  Drizzle glaze over cake.  
  • Serve with additional dusting of powered sugar and fruit.
Easy Apple Cake