Sunday, December 4, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner

What a wonderful Thanksgiving Dinner! I was hosting at my house for the first time, and my sister April was home for this holiday which hadn't happened in many years. I was so excited! Here's the menu (and I am super thankful for the family members' contributions!):

Organic Pastured Turkey from Tropical Traditions- I was thrilled to order this online. It arrived in good time and still frozen. To bake, I just rubbed ghee between the skin and the meat along with a mix of salt, pepper, parsley, onion and garlic. I stuffed the bird with an apple, onion and garlic and poured some water in the pan and baked at 325 for almost 3 hours. I made this the day before, picked the meat and let it hang out in the fridge with some of the juice on it. It reheated beautifully and saved me from all that mess on the actual holiday. Also, it takes MUCH longer to pick a turkey than a chicken. Just sayin'.

Gravy- Made with broth from the turkey.

Stuffing and baked corn- Made by my mom so we only had to heat up the stuffing in the oven and the corn kept nicely in a crock pot.

Mashed potatoes- Made by my sister, Angela, and brought in a crock pot for easy reheating.

Steamed fresh green beans- Made by my sister, April. I never thought green beans could taste so good!

Cranberry relish- Made by my mom with apples and pineapple and fresh cranberries!

Sweet potato casserole- I was super excited to get this recipe from my friend, Danette. She made it for a potluck at work and I was hooked! I made the sweet potatoes the day before and then just added the topping and baked on Thanksgiving. For some reason my topping didn't quite brown all the way round like hers, but it still tasted great! I will definitely be making this again. It was even good cold!
This is my recipe based off hers:

8 c mashed sweet potatoes (I just wash them, cut them in half and boil until soft. The skins then pop right off and they mash easily with a fork.)
3/4 c sucanat
1 1/2 c milk
1 tsp salt
4 eggs
3/4 c soft butter
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon

Mix all of the ingredients together and place in greased 9 x 13 glass pan.

1 c brown sugar
1 c flour
3 c pecans, chopped
1/2 c soft butter
dash of cinnamon

Mix all of the topping ingredients together and coat sweet potatoes. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes if using hot potatoes, it will take almost an hour if the potatoes were cold first.

Dinner rolls- This is a variation of my (well, technically my mom's) Cottage Herb Rolls recipe. I will make them this way every time now, though, as they turned out the best ever, did not even need to be heated up at all, they were great cold, and went way too fast! I did double this recipe (and I'm glad I did!).

1 pk yeast
1/2 c warm water (I used water as hot as it would get from the tap)
1 1/2 c organic whole wheat bread flour
1 c organic all purpose flour
1 T sucanat
1 c homemade yogurt
1 egg
Small amount of olive oil
Melted butter (Earth Balance)

Dissolve the yeast and sucanat in water and set aside as you prep other ingredients. Turn on oven to 200 degrees. Once it is done heating, turn off.
In large bowl mix flour, yogurt and egg. Add yeast/water mixture. If consistency seems a little dry, add a small amount of olive oil. Knead on floured surface until smooth (about 5 minutes). Place in bowl sprayed with nonstick spray, set in dough and cover with tea towel dampened with hot water and set in oven 30-40 minutes. (Best if you can wait an hour, though.)

Punch down the dough and knead lightly. I use an Auntie Annie's pretzel dough cutter to cut small amounts of dough off. I form into a long oval and fold it over when I place it in a glass baking dish. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes or until starting to lightly brown on top.Brush with some melted butter.

Pumpkin pie- Made by April. Delish!

Pumpkin roll and cheese cake from Christina's Desserts and Coffee

We also had fun with a post-dinner craft. Here's how my two nephews' turkeys turned out: 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Shrimp and Broccoli Alfredo

This alfredo sauce recipe is based on the one from Heavenly Homemakers, although I have found some substitutes if you don't have cream :)

1/2 cup butter
One pint of cream or half and half or whole milk (2 cups)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 Tablespoons cream cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Bring the butter, cream, garlic and cream cheese to a boil.  Turn down the heat, simmer and stir for about two minutes.  Add the grated cheese and stir until melted.  Simmer the sauce for 15-20 minutes until it becomes “thick and saucy”, stirring occasionally. Quite often I can't wait this long and we eat it after only a few minutes of simmering. Sometimes my sauce is a little lumpy, but that doesn't bother me :) This sauce does freeze extremely well and would be easy to make a double batch and save half. Just thaw in fridge first and reheat slowly. The butter may initially separate out, but that's ok.

Shrimp and Broccoli:
thawed and peeled shrimp (about 10 per person)
1 garlic clove, chopped
frozen broccoli
olive oil

Heat a small amount of olive oil in skillet. Add shrimp and broccoli, saute until shrimp is pink and broccoli is heated though.

Make linguini noodles. My favorites are organic sprouted noodles you can buy at Central Market. Layer noodles, shrimp and broccoli. Enjoy!

Zucchini Parmesan

My wonderful friend Melinda makes amazing zucchini Parmesan, but for some reason it did not turn out the last time I made it (years ago), so I hadn't tried it again. Then this summer she made it when we were over and I knew I had to make it, but of course the night I planned on it I didn't have enough time to make it the same way. So, here is my short cut version, which finally turned out yummy :)


Spaghetti sauce (heat on stove while other items are cooking)

Spaghetti noodles (start water boiling so the noodles can cook while you are making the zucchini)

1-2 zucchini, sliced
1 c flour (in own bowl)
2 eggs (in own bowl)
1.5 cups bread crumbs mixed with garlic, onion powder, parsley, oregano, salt, pepper in own bowl
olive oil for pan frying

Heat spaghetti sauce on low. Start water for spaghetti, cook spaghetti and drain. Heat oil in skillet. Dip zucchini slices in flour, then egg, then bread crumb mixture. Fry on each side. Set on paper towels to drain.

Place noodles on plate, layer sauce and zucchini. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Enjoy! Leftover zucchini crisps up nicely in the oven when baked at 350 for a few minutes.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


I have been hankering for something with cinnamon (surprised?) and my step-son has been hankering for snickerdoodles...and I found a recipe in an old magazine, so we started out the day making a batch :)  Also made some yogurt and soft pretzels, and even tried making pretzel pockets. Tasty, but not real pretty. Check out my pretzel page to see them!

Here is the recipe taken from Cooking Light September 2007, I used all organic ingredients:

3/4 c granulated sugar
2/3 c light brown sugar
1/2 c butter, softened (I used one Earth Balance stick)
1 tsp vanilla (I'm sure I put more in than this, you know I didn't measure it out :)
1 egg
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
dash of cinnamon

To roll dough in:
1/3 c  granulated sugar (although less would work fine, we had a lot left over)
1/2 tsp cinnamon (You know I didn't measure this either and most likely put more in...but it could have used more :)

Cream together both sugars and butter. Add egg and vanilla and beat well.

Combine dry ingredients with whisk, add to sugar mixture and stir until just combined.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Use tablespoon to scoop dough, roll into ball and then roll in sugar/cinnamon mixture and place on baking sheet. Bake 8-12 minutes, cool on rack. Makes 30-32 cookies.

 My helper :)

Monday, August 8, 2011

My First Peck of Pickeled...Cucumbers

This was my first try at making my own pickles. I am still not 100% ready to try canning, as I still need a few supplies, so I went searching for a refrigerator pickle recipe that does not require canning and is good in the fridge for months. This is the one I settled on. In some flyers I received from the Penn State Extension on canning, it was cautioned to not alter the ingredients b/c the acidity level needs to be a certain amount in order to not have health issues. I wasn't sure if this also went for refrigerator pickles, but wasn't taking chances and only altered the spices since I didn't have them all. This made the liquid more cloudy than normal but did not really change the flavor.

4 pickling cucumbers cut in thin slices
1/2 medium onion (I chopped mine in my new toy)
1 cup Bragg's apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons natural salt
2 teaspoons mustard seeds  (I am having trouble finding mustard seeds so I found a conversion to dry mustard and went with 4 tsp TOTAL dry mustard in the whol recipe)
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon turmeric  (after researching tumeric online, it looks like it is in the recipe for coloring and I did not have any so omitted it. I do have some now, though, for the next batch)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes  (I didn't have this either so went with the  powdered form of red pepper)
1/2 teaspoon celery seed

How to make it
Combine cucumbers, onion, vinegar, sugar, salt, mustard seeds, dry mustard, turmeric, crushed red pepper, and celery seeds; heat to boiling over high heat, stirring occasionally.

Boil 1 minute, stirring frequently.

Pour cucumber mixture into a large bowl; cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. (This is where the cucumbers lost their bright green coloring and turn more in pickle colors. It was kind of fun to watch!)

Cover and chill overnight before serving.

You can spoon cooled cucumbers and their liquid into jars with tight-fitting lids and refrigerate up to 4 weeks. Mine went first in a 1/2 gallon Mason jar and then into a quart jar once we ate some.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Garden Goodies and Losses

Here's the volunteer marigolds that just keep getting bigger!

 I was so sad to see my watermelon had turned brown :(

But more flowers mean maybe more babies are on their way!

Here's the small bed, doing fairly well.

I love the twisty tendrils!

So sad to see much of the corn had fallen over. Not sure if it was a bad storm we had yesterday or due to animals. A few of the stalks have been chewed on lately by rabbits and squirrels, grrrrr.

This one is looking good, though!

The story of the day was for sure the cukes!

10 of them! How exciting! Especially since the 4 I had in the fridge went soft already :(

Turned all but one into pickles and tried this mix this time to see if it pleases the family better (but I like the first recipe just fine, which I realized I haven't posted yet, so I'll try to get on that :)

It was supposed to make 4 pints, but it made 5!

Monday, August 1, 2011

New Gadgets Are Great!

The other week I attended/held my first Tupperware party ever. I wasn't sure how much I would use, since I am not all that fond of using plastic for everything. Little did I realize, they also have a lot of kitchen prep tools...and I found 2 that I would never want to be without!

First of all is the Quick Chef Pro:

This little guy will spin my salad greens/berries for me, then take out the basket and add the blades to chop (so far I have chopped onion and spinach). Then if you get the hankering for some cherry pie with homemade whipped cream, swap out the blades for the whipping paddles, add organic whipping cream, and go to work! Just add a small amount of sugar and vanilla slowly once the cream starts to peak and you are good to go! We stored ours in the base and used the handy dandy seal that comes with it and it was good for 2 days after initial whip.

I have been eating smoothies almost daily. I bought a large container of organic spinach and chopped it up, smushed it into an ice cube tray, added a little water, and froze for quick addition to my smoothies. I have found that 2 cubes per smoothie is a great amount and does not overtake the berry flavor at all!

Next is the Empanada Maker. I didn't realize when I ordered it, but it actually came with 2 in the set, so this is a great thing to share with a friend!

As soon as I saw it in the catalog I knew I had to have it to help with making "mock" tarts. I can't wait to try making empanadas, pierogies, pizza pockets, or mini apple pies as well!

Although I have significantly improved, it is still very difficult for me to roll out similar thickness, size, and shape dough. This little tool takes that variable out. All I have to do is roll out the dough. I roll out between 2 pieces of parchment paper so it doesn't stick. This is the kind I like:
Then I use the bottom of the empanada maker to cut my circle, place the dough on the maker, add the jam, close, and viola! Poptarts! Although we did think they looked more like turnovers. The other key is to make these with homemade yogurt. I have made 2 batches so far with the homemade yogurt and they have by far been the best. We ate them for breakfast when we were at Creation and they didn't even need to be toasted, where the batches made with store bought yogurt did need to be heated before eating. By using this I was also able to make twice as many tarts as normal!

Here's how they turned out (The odd shaped one is what I did to use up the last bit of dough. I think it looks like a real tart!):

And just so my babies don't feel left out, this was yesterday's project, moving "Big Momma" as she is fondly called, from her smaller pot that she broke and tipped over into this much larger, chic one (but she keeps leaning over, ugh, I hope she makes it!). Yes, she is a monster, but I love her!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

One Hot Saturday Afternoon

Why I picked a day with 90+ degree heat to get ahead with my baking, I'll have no idea. Maybe it is knowing that summer is coming to its inevitable close and I would really like to have some goodies stocked up to make the school year go a little smoother. Maybe it's because I really missed making/eating baked oatmeal. Maybe it's because I've been wanting to try making PB cookies and alfredo sauce. Maybe it's because I had 2 rotten bananas staring at me from the counter for the last few days...Ok, so maybe it's a little of them all :)  But mostly it is knowing that there are only 2 weeks left before I start getting my room ready and this week has 3 days of training, therefore my summer is almost over. I wish last week would have lasted forever.

So today I made a double batch of baked oatmeal and froze it in muffin cups for a preportioned breakfast (idea courtesy of my friend, Jess!).

Then I turned those overripe bananas into muffins...only the batter was really thick (I think I accidentally got too much flour) and they were screaming "cookies" at me, so I just plopped the dough on a cookie sheet to make banana muffin cookies. I haven't tried one yet. I froze half and are letting the other half get eaten  :)

I have also been craving alfredo noodles with shrimp and broccoli and tried Laura's recipe from Heavenly Homemakers. The only change was that I used organic half and half instead of cream b/c Giant didn't have cream. It was yummy, so yummy in fact I did not take a picture. All I did was sautee the shrimp and broccoli in some olive oil and then combined it all on my plate. And there is enough sauce for another meal so that is going in the freezer as well, and next time I'll try to take a picture.

Last but not least, peanut butter cookies. I have not made them in a very long time, but they remind me of being a kid as I remember always helping my mom bake them and having the job of criss-crossing the fork pattern on top. They turned out so yummy. The batter was dry so I did have to add some olive oil to make it a better consistency. I based my recipe on this one from

Peanut Butter Cookies

1 1/2 cups King Arthur organic all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
large pinch of salt
1/2 cup Earth Balance butter
1/2 cup organic peanut butter
1/4 cup Sun Crystals
1/2 cup sucanat
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla

Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.

Cream together butter and peanut butter until well blended and smooth, adding the sugar gradually to mixture. Beat until mixture is light and fluffy.

Add 1 egg, well beaten; stir in vanilla. When well mixed, add flour mixture, stirring until just mixed. This is where I added a little EVOO.

Roll into small balls and place on parchment-lined baking sheet and press a criss-cross pattern onto the top using a
fork that has been dipped into flour.

Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 8 minutes. Do not overbake.

Garden Update Take 2

So excited to give another garden update. This week we had some rain and 2 cooler days which was wonderful, and we are now back in the 90s with humidity.

I was very excited to pick 4 pickling cucumbers and make into my first batch of refrigerator pickles. They turned out great, just a little salty for my taste.

The watermelons are still tiny, but more are popping up and there are lots of blossoms. I filled a gallon jug with water and a fish fertilizer to slow drip feed the watermelon plants. You can see the largest vine coming out of the garden on the right and then trailing to the left.

I love how fuzzy they are when they are little!

I am happy with the corn growth and you can't see it in these pictures but the tassels are starting to come on the larger stalks.

This is our small bed. The various squash plants are growing nicely (even more since I took this picture) and the volunteer tomatoes are ripening. I thought it was a roma plant, but they are only the size of cherry tomatoes...not sure what happened there! The last of these three pics is of the squash blossoms getting ready to bloom.

Last but not least, 2 more cukes that I picked this morning. The one was being strangled by it's stalk but it thankfully loosened up on the poor guy!

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