Thursday, January 22, 2015

Skillet Beef Stew

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Today I'm sharing about 2 of my favorite things - cast iron and quick, easy meals.  My guys love a warm hearty meal especially during these chilly winter months but sometimes, there are just not enough hours in the day and dinner time can be a little underwhelming.  So, I've been working on ways to bring new dishes to the table that can be made in a short amount of time, have familiar ingredients and most importantly are scrumptious.
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Well friends, I hit a bullseye! This skillet beef stew has all the essence of that wonderful dish that's been cooking away for hours but my version took about 45 minutes!  I let my big cast iron skillet do all the work by searing the beef to perfection then delivering even more flavor to the sauce.
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Of course, from time to time I'll make that traditional pot of beef stew but this recipe is one of my new go-to dishes for a busy, hungry family...

Skillet Beef Stew
1 1/2 lbs of beef stew or beef tips
2 carrots
6 to 8 baby potatoes
1/2 cup red wine
1 1/2 cups beef stock
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
olive oil
1 tablespoon parsley
  • Heat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Wash, peel and roughly chop carrots.  Wash potatoes and cut in half.
  • Layer carrots and potatoes on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat.  Roast in oven for 20 minutes until just under fork tender.  Remove from oven and set aside.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet - I use cast iron.  Place beef in pan making sure meat is in a single layer. Season with salt & pepper. 
  • Sear beef on all sides. Once meat is done, remove from pan and set aside.
  • Lower heat on skillet, add 1 tablespoon of butter to melt.  *There should be about 3 tablespoons total of fat in the bottom of pan.  Sprinkle flour in pan and whisk until mixed with fat, scraping up brown bits from bottom of pan.  
  • Using a microplane, grate garlic into pan. Cook flour mixture and garlic on low heat for 1 minute stirring constantly.
  • Slowly add in wine and whisk until flour mixture is completely incorporated. Add beef stock, stir and raise heat to a low boil.
  • Add in beef and vegetables.  Continue to cook until sauce thickens and all ingredients are heated through.  
  • Sprinkle in salt, pepper and parsley stirring gently.  Taste and adjust seasoning.
  • Serve with a green salad and warm bread.
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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Pomegranate Reduction

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Most everyone, including me, is trying to get a little healthier, by watching what we eat and exercising more. I do believe I cook nutritional dishes for my family about 75% of the time but I know I can always do a little better.  One of my goals this year is to try new ingredients that will add lots of flavor to my recipes while keeping things healthy.  
One of the ingredients that I've quickly embraced is pomegranate juice.  For starters, I love the color!  Y'all know what I'm talking about…that dark, ruby red liquid is just screaming to be used in some delicious dish.  I use 100% POM juice for smoothies or in drinks but my favorite, best, most awesome way is this - pomegranate reduction.  A reduction is different than pomegranate molasses since I don't use any sugar or spices.  I love the intense, tangy flavor of the pure juice that's been reduced.  Here's how you do it ~ 
Pomegranate Reduction
  • Pour 1 and 3/4 cups of 100% POM pomegranate juice into a small sauce pan.
  • Bring liquid to a boil and reduce heat.
  • Keep cooking liquid on a slow boil until reduced BY ONE HALF.
  • Remove from heat and let cool.  Store in a sealed container until ready to use.  Will keep in refrigerator for approximately one month.
After making your reduction and letting it cool, you can use it in a variety of ways.  I have two favorites - in a salad dressing and as a glaze for seafood & meats.  It's also great as a topping for desserts like ice cream or cheese cake. So go ahead, get creative with this interesting, unique ingredient!  FYI ~ it's vegan, gluten free and is full of antioxidants, vitamin K and loaded with potassium.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Egg & Sausage Breakfast Bake

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Hello friends!  I'm back from a nice long break and am ready for 2015.  Over the past few weeks I've been able to do lots of things that have just been "hanging out" on my wish list.  I was able to spend lots of time with my family, reconnect with old friends, purge some unwanted no longer needed items we've been storing and did some much needed house fluffing.  I also spent time reading, researching recipes, daydreaming and thinking about what I want this year to look like.  It's been wonderful to slow down a little, sometimes just letting the day take it's own course without a plan or to-do list.  
One of the things that I really enjoyed was how simple our mornings became.  During the Christmas break, the boys would sleep a little late and we'd have a nice breakfast together - most of the time in our jammies.  One of the dishes I made on a no stress morning was this egg and sausage breakfast casserole.  It comes together in no time and you probably already have all of the ingredients in your fridge.  I made it more than once and actually prepped the dish the night before just to make things even easier on myself.  
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So, now you know a little of what I've been up to.  I hope you are having a great start to this new year.  I am excited about sharing more great recipes, food & cooking tips along with some inspiration and of course, a little humor.  Most importantly, I hope to get to know you, my sweet readers a little bit better.  I love hearing from you.  Please keep your comments and emails coming…you have no idea how much you inspire me!
Breakfast Bake
Egg & Sausage Breakfast Bake
1 pound sausage - regular or hot
1 tube crescent rolls
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese - can substitute other favorites
5 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Crumble sausage in a medium skillet and cook until done.  Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.
  • Lightly coat a 9 X 13 pan with cooking spray.  Unroll crescent rolls and pinch together seams to make one large pastry.
  • Sprinkle sausage over crescent rolls.  Top with shredded cheese.
  • Whisk eggs in a medium size bowl.  Add garlic power, salt and pepper and mix until blended.
  • Pour eggs over sausage and cheese.  Bake for 18 to 20 minutes until edges are brown and eggs are set.  
  • Remove from oven, cut into squares and serve.
A Southern Soul Breakfast Bake

Monday, December 22, 2014

Crescent Roll Cream Cheese Danish

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Monday morning, the start of Christmas vacation and we kicked it off in style!  With everyone most everyone in their jammies, cups of coffee in hand and Christmas trees lit, we moved casually into the day.
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I made a little something special that was so easy that I actually baked 2 of these beauties.  It was a no stress morning filled with great talks, laughter and good food.  I am counting my blessings on this Monday morning…
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Crescent Roll Cream Cheese Danish
1 can crescent rolls
4 oz cream cheese - room temperature
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1  1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup white sugar
Glaze
1/2 cup powered sugar
2 - 3 tablespoons milk
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Blend cream cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar using a hand mixer until smooth.
  • Lay out crescent rolls on parchment paper in the shape of a rectangle.  Pinch together triangles to make one piece of dough.  Roll out dough with a rolling pin to about a 12 X 8  size.
  • Spread cream cheese mixture down middle of dough up to 1/2 inch to edge.  Starting on long edge, gently roll dough finishing with the last edge underneath pastry.
  • Gently move roll to a baking pan and chill in refrigerator for 20 - 30 minutes.
  • Remove from refrigerator and using a serrated knife, cut roll into 1" pieces.  Place on parchment lined baking sheet in the form of a circle, overlapping each slice.
  • Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown.  Cool slightly.
  • Whisk powered sugar and milk together.  Drizzle over warm danish and serve.

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    NOTE ~ inspiration for this recipe and more can be found at here from Pillsbury.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Party Cheese Ball

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Let's just get right to things…its' party time!  For me this means hosting a few get togethers, attending some fun parties and being prepared for the unexpected.  So, with so much going on, I always have a few things in my fridge/freezer and pantry to make sure things run smoothly.
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My party cheese ball is one of those go-to helpers that make my life easy.  This recipe is great for any holiday party and is perfect as a hostess gift when you add a box of artisan crackers.  Like I said friends, it's party time and I want to make life as stress free as possible…
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Party Cheese Ball
2 8-oz blocks cream cheese - room temperature
2 cans crushed pineapple - drained
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
2 cups chopped pecans
  • In a food processor, blend cream cheese until smooth.
  • Add pineapple, cheddar cheese, blue cheese, Worcestershire, chives and seasonings.  Pulse until blended.  Remove knife from processor bowl and place mixture in refrigerator until firm.
  • Divide cheese mixture into 4 equal portions.  Roll into a balls then in chopped pecans and place on plastic wrap.  Tighten wrap around each cheese ball. 
  • Store in fridge if serving within 24 hours.  Can be frozen and thawed 2 hours before serving.
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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Cauliflower Puree

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Over the years, I've been know to sneak different vegetables into some of my family's favorite dishes.  Sometimes it's worked and sometimes, not so much.  My goal has always been that I want the guys to try different different dishes and flavors because you never know what you might end of liking.  Even though I don't really have a picky eater, there are "issues" like - Mr. I don't like the texture of that or the King of No thanks, I'm good. So, now you understand why there are times when I use covert methods to introduce new flavors!
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When I decided to come up with a recipe for cauliflower, mashed potatoes came to mind.  Using most of my standard ingredients for mashed potatoes, I just changed out cauliflower for the spuds and added a little parmesan cheese.  I served this creamy, light puree with Salisbury steak & gravy.
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That night, there was very little dinner conversation but there was lots of scraping of utensils, umms, ahhs and at the end of the meal, clean plates.
Let me just say…success feels so good!
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Cauliflower Puree
1 head of cauliflower - about 4 cups, cored and cut into small pieces
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup milk or half & half
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • Place cauliflower in a medium size pot and cover with water.  Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil.  Cook until fork tender but not mushy.
  • Drain cauliflower and place in blender or food processor.
  • Add chicken stock, butter, milk garlic powder salt and pepper. Blend until almost smooth.  Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed.
  • Add sour cream and parmesan cheese and blend until smooth.
  • Heat thoroughly and serve with chicken, beef or sautéed vegetables.
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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Chocolate Peppermint Bark

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When it comes to the holidays, there are a few treats that have become family favorites.  This chocolate bark is on the list and I make it for my crew to enjoy and to give out as a small gift to friends.

For me, there are two special things that I love about this recipe - one is that it's made with Matzos crackers which are so easy to work with and make the bottom layer light and crisp.  Second is that you can change up the toppings to celebrate whatever season or event you are celebrating.  I happily confess that I love that crispy cracker layered with buttery toffee and covered with dark chocolate…then when you add a few sprinkles of crunchy, well…you've got the start of something special and I believe a new family tradition.

Chocolate Peppermint Bark
1 box of unsalted Matzoh
1 cup of butter - 2 sticks
3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup of chocolate chips - chopped (you can use dark, semi-sweet or milk chocolate)
3/4 crushed peppermint candy

  • Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Line one baking sheet with foil making sure to cover bottom completely.
  • Top foil with parchment paper.
  • Place Matzoh crackers on baking sheet making sure to cover fully, breaking crackers into smaller portions to make a complete rectangle.
  • Melt butter and brown sugar in a medium size pot, over med-high heat. Bring to a low boil and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Pour butter mixture over crackers and smooth out until covered.
  • Place in oven and bake for 10 minutes. Check after 6 minutes and continue to cook until golden brown being careful not to burn.
  • Remove pan from oven and sprinkle chocolate over the butter/brown sugar mixture and let melt 2 - 3 minutes.
  • Using a rubber or metal spatula, spread chocolate over bark.
  • Sprinkle with crushed candy.
  • Place in fridge for 30 minutes to chill so that bark will set.
  • Break into small pieces to serve.  Store in an airtight container.