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Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving, Nevada Style

This year, it's just me and Kevin for Turkey Day, Christmas and New Year's Day. I guess I should have expected that this would happen, eventually. It's still difficult. We were hoping to alleviate the loneliness by skiing on Thanksgiving, but the 'wind hold' at the local ski areas put that idea to rest. Oh, well, we were fine for Thanksgiving...we ended up slowly putting up the Christmas decorations throughout the day and took a walk after dinner.

I have to say, the table looked stunning with my Spode China plates, our Rogers 1849 silver and gold wedding silverware, antique candle sticks and the lovely Tiffany wine glasses and fall gourd salt and pepper shakers and name placeholders that my daughter in law, Eleni, gave me for Christmas last year.... along with some beautiful Trader Joe's flowers...




We planned a quick dinner for Thanksgiving, since we 'thought' we would be skiing!

I did buy a beautiful fully cooked turkey breast from Trader Joe's...but I added a dry brine 24 hours in advance...here's the mix...

1 tablespoon each of dried thyme, basil and lavender, 1 teaspoon each of crushed fennel seeds and black peppercorns,1 teaspoon of tarragon and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Mix together well and use as a dry brine 24-48 hours ahead of time on the turkey. Leave uncovered in the fridge to dry out the skin. Then, rub some bacon fat on the turkey skin and cook as usual.

I also prepared the creamed corn in the crockpot on Wednesday using this incredible recipe
and reheated it in the oven for 35 minutes before dinner.

and of course, made the Laughlin Family Holiday Cole Slaw on Wednesday!


Here's the recipe for the slaw...

1/2 head of green cabbage, shaved
4 green onions, finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
2 large stalks of celery, finely diced
1 large peeled carrot, shredded
 Dressing:
2 ounces of canola or vegetable oil
2 ounces of apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (you can use less if you want-we like it spicy)
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 handful of finely chopped fresh parsley

Mix all the veggies together in a large bowl. 
In a separate bowl, whisk all the dressing ingredients together. When well combined, pour the dressing over the veggies. Toss the veggies together well with the dressing and cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap. Store overnight in the fridge. Serve cold or room temperature. 

I did submit this to the Reno-Gazette Journal for a Family Holiday Dish contest....I am hoping that others will love this as much as we do and I will will an $1800 gift card :)


I also made this delicious Mashed Potato Casserole on Wednesday and reheated it on Thursday for....35 minutes...just like the creamed corn!!

I added some roasted brussels sprouts with a homemade gremolata...simply take trimmed brussels sprouts, toss them with a little canola oil and toss them in a pan. Roast for 20 minutes at 400 degrees and toss with this gremolata...


1 teaspoon of lemon zest, 1 teaspoon of finely chopped fresh parsley, 1/4 teaspoon of dried tarragon, 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1 garlic clove, finely minced. Mix together very well and sprinkle over the brussels sprouts. This is a recipe for about 0 brussels sprouts- enough for one person (um, I mean, me) Make more if you have more people. Just sayin'. OMG it was DELISH!

Oh, and I made my best 'dressing' for the turkey... 1 loaf of bread, cut into tiny chunks and dried overnight on a tray.,,1 lb. of sage flavored sausage (Jimmy Dean sage sausage is the best!) cooked with 1 chopped onion, 4 stalks of chopped celery, 1 /2 cup of fresh copped parsley and 1 teaspoon of hot pepper flakes and mixed with 1 tablespoon of poultry seasoning and 1 cup of turkey stock (made from the carcass last year...duh!) mixed together and baked for 40 minutes, covered..last 10 minutes uncovered to brown the top. YUM!

Here's the dinner on my plate...covered with homemade turkey gravy with lots of turkey chunks in the gravy...a la (my MIL- Rest in Peace, Mom!) Mom Lee Laughlin...

This is 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted, 1 tablespoon of canola oil, brought to a foam over medium heat- then add 6 teaspoons of flour mixed in well with a whisk, until it starts to brown a bit. Continually mixing, add 3 cups of warmed turkey broth (supplement with chicken broth if you must) until thickened. You might need more broth if you over did it with the flour. It's OK. It's easy. Keep the heat low, and the whisk going strong. Then, add at least 2 cups of chopped turkey meat and mix well.  The way I get turkey meat for this gravy is to buy a couple of 'smoked turkey wings and legs' a couple of days in advance and roast them, slowly. I pick off the meat, of course, saving the skin and bones in the freezer for a later batch of turkey broth. It will be delish. Trust me.



I also made my famous and easy homemade cranberry sauce...1 bag of cranberries mixed with the juice of 3 clementines (plentiful this time of year) and the rest water to make one cup...and 1/2 cup of sugar...boil until the cranberries pop and store in the fridge until time to eat. YUM!
Kevin, OF COURSE, only likes canned cranberry sauce...it has to have the indentations of rings for it to be sauce for him...and my sons. Sigh. We had both.


It was delicious!

We went for a walk after dinner with Bridget the Pooh to look at all the other houses with Christmas lights....I still think ours was the best!


Later that night, we had a bite of a Trader Joe's pumpkin pie and pecan pie...let's face it, I'm not much of a baker when it comes to sweets, so store bought with some whipped cream was just...perfect.
Hope you enjoyed this post!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Mushroom Cream Sauce

I have made gnocchi made from mashed potatoes served with tomato sauce and gnocchi made with butternut squash served with a browned butter sauce- but I thought I would try something different since I had 4 cans of pumpkin puree in the pantry...pumpkin gnocchi.

Did I mention that we love home made pasta??

The technique is very similar, but the flavor is all about Autumn!!

I did research quite a few recipes- I didn't want a recipe that required eggs, since I wanted a vegan option for this pasta- hey, I loved my fat free vegan (Engine 2) diet during Lent...so the best recipe I found was actually from.....Martha Stewart's show!

She featured a great restaurateur, Frank DeCarlo, who made a wonderfully easy version of Pumpkin Gnocchi with Chanterelle Cream Sauce.

I did follow most of the directions, but chanterelles are not widely available here (and pretty spendy) , and we don't use cream or shallots too often...so I made some adjustments.  I have to apologize- I didn't take any pictures of me making the gnocchi, but Frank DeCarlo does a great job explaining and showing the techniques in the video. Plus, he's a professional...I am a great home cook, but still an amateur!

I put 2 cups of unbleached King Arthur flour in a bowl. I added 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg to the flour and stirred it all together with a whisk to make sure it was well incorporated. I added one 15 ounce can of organic pumpkin puree from Trader Joe's and one cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese (can be left out for a vegan recipe). I slowly incorporated the wet into the dry, then dumped it out onto the cutting board and gently kneaded it for a couple of minutes- just to barely bring it together. You want soft little pillows, not rubber chunks :)

I cut the dough into 6 pieces and then, rolled each piece into about a 1/2 inch roll. I then used my bench scraper to cut each roll into 1/2 inch pieces. Now, you can get a very cool board to roll your gnocchi  here Gnocchi Board or use a fork to put some ridges in the gnocchi, but hey, I'm lazy like that, so I just chopped it into little pillows. It's up to you!

I made about 100 little pumpkin pillows of pumpkin goodness in 15 minutes.

Then, I did a bit of a twist that I have done in the past- there is NO WAY that Kevin and I will eat 100 gnocchi in one sitting. So, I sprayed a couple of jelly roll pans with a little spray oil, and tossed the gnocchi onto the pans. Then, I put them into the freezer for a couple of hours, and then popped them into a freezer baggie.


To prepare for dinner, I brought about 6 quarts of water to a boil and tossed in the gnocchi. They are done when they float to the top.

I made the sauce by slow sauteing 1/4 chopped onion and 6 chopped stuffing mushrooms in a little butter with 1 tsp of rubbed sage (from my garden).


I added 1 cup of chicken stock and 1 cup of fat free half and half and reduced the sauce. When reduced by half, I tossed in the cooked gnocchi and topped with 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese. I served it with a little freshly grated nutmeg.




I served it with salad and Icky IPA....yum!



These can be served with any sauce you like....they have a very mild pumpkin flavor- but remember, a little of the gnocchi go a long way!! They are very filling!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Cooking for a Chilly Day

We have had a couple of really cold days and REALLY cold (below freezing!) nights during the past week, so I have been in the mood to make yummy, oven-baked, comfort foods.
I made a delicious pot roast tonight, using Ree Drummond's Perfect Pot Roast recipe. You all might know her as The Pioneer Woman on Food Network.
This recipe was simple and delicious. Just follow her recipe, and you can't go wrong!
Notes: I did use 1 cup of red wine to deglaze and I also added 1 cup of chopped celery. I did not use rosemary since Kevin does not like it, but I did use thyme from my sadly dwindling herb pot that froze last night.  I also used 2 cups of beef broth and covered with aluminum foil instead of using a lid. I didn't have the right size pot, so I used my caphalon roasting pan right on the stove top, and transferred it to the stove, using heavy duty foil as a cover. It came out tender and tasty! I cooked a 3 lb chuck roast for 4 hours. Perfecr.



I also decided to make a recipe that I 'pinned' on Pinterest a couple of days ago...Mac n Cheese stuffed Pretzel Bites with Beer Cheese Sauce from the Food Graciousness blog...it's written by a dad who has a passion for food (his tagline). He has some great recipes- check out his blog!!

I decided to NOT use the bacon on the pretzel bites- they looked amazing as they were...so I skipped that step and just brushed the stuffed pretzels with the beaten egg and topped with some kosher salt before baking.

Also- this makes a SERIOUS amount of dough. I only made 15 pretzels and I think I have enough cheese dough in the fridge to make 2 large pizzas! I would consider cutting the recipe in HALF, at least, unless you have a very hungry gang to feed. Since it's just me and Kevin, I made 15 pretzels (OK, I thought we were hungry!) and we at...um, 4.

That's right- I have 11 pretzel bites to bring to work tomorrow for my dispatcher friends. Hope they like them!

They were incredibly good...but the beer cheese sauce was AMAZING!!!




You need to make these! They are incredibly good! They taste like a soft pretzel stuffed with creamy mac and cheese dipped in a rich cheese sauce..oh, wait. That is exactly what they are! Enjoy!