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Thanksgiving Burgers

Three of the Most Embarrassing Moments of My Life:

1. The time in elementary school when one of my best friends took the opportunity to announce my crush to the entire class. Amy likes Anthony, my pal announced to her fully-attentive audience, leaving me red-faced and fumbling for words. If only I could have come up with some clever retort, like So’s your face or Your mama dresses you funny! Except that we all wore matching plaid uniforms… You can bet I kept my crushes to myself after that.

2. The time in high school, when, during a class exercise involving a map of Europe, I replied “Switz” in response to a question about SwitzERLAND. Hey…it said Switz on the map and none of the other countries were abbreviated. I wanted to crawl into a hole when the teacher responded, “Switz? Do you mean Switzerland?” Ummmm, yeah. The correct answer would be Switzerland…not the mysterious land of Switz; home to Switz cheese and Switz watches!

3. The time in college, when I discovered I’d been walking down Main Street with the back of my skirt tucked into my pantyhose. Yes, that really happens…to me, apparently. I only discovered my wardrobe malfunction after trying to decode the odd looks I’d received from my employer, who’d been standing on the porch of  the local bar and restaurant I’d worked at, as I passed by with my tushie on display. For goodness sake, quit ogling and tell a modest girl she’s half dressed in the middle of town!

Oh, and did I mention that I started high school with a face covered in poison ivy? Yeah, for real.

I was never meant to be one of the cool kids anyway. If I were a food, I’ve always been more of a lima bean than a cupcake. I like unicorns, cried at the end of Battlestar Galactica, and won a bridge-building contest in my honors physics class (cause I’m cool like that). I trip over my own feet with concerning frequency and somehow manage to miss my mouth while drinking, more than I’d like to admit. I’m a clutz, a germaphobe, and a neat-freak.

It’s ok. I happen to like lima beans.

Knowing what you know now, are you sure you still want to hang out with me? Would you still like me if I told you that seeing the Christmas decorations currently on display in my local Target makes me giddy with excitement? There is no too early for Christmas stuff in my book. It’s coming and I can’t wait. And somewhere in between now and my favorite holiday, there will be Thanksgiving!

If you’re having a hard time waiting for that Thanksgiving meal, try this tasty burger on for size! The patty combines all the flavors of the turkey with the stuffing. Served on a doughy potato bun and topped with gravy and cranberry sauce, this turkey burger (with a twist) gives you a burst of Thanksgiving flavor with every bite!

Enjoy!

Thanksgiving Burger

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 pound bulk breakfast sausage
  • 1/3 cup celery, finely diced
  • 1/3 cup leeks, finely sliced *
  • 1/2 cup dried apples, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 6 potato buns
  • Turkey gravy, homemade or store-bought
  • Cranberry sauce (jellied or whole berry), homemade or store-bought
* Click HERE to see my photo guide on how to slice leeks.
Directions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Using your hands, combine the turkey, sausage, celery, leeks, apples, salt, poultry seasoning, and pepper until well blended. Form into six patties. Place the patties onto a lightly greased baking sheet (a little vegetable or olive oil will do the trick). Cook for about 12 minutes, until fully cooked (internal temp of 165 degrees). Place each cooked patty onto a potato bun. Top with warmed gravy and cranberry sauce.

How to Prepare Fresh Pumpkin

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Welcome, October! Quite possibly my favorite month of the year. Well, maybe except for December.

Because December means Christmas. And Christmas makes me burst with happiness.

But October means beautiful changing leaves, my birthday, Halloween candy, warm sweaters, soft hoodies, and pumpkins; lots and lots of pumpkins!

As I write, there are a few pumpkins roasting in the oven, making my home smell like autumn. I’m working on a new pumpkin recipe today. Think fresh, roasted pumpkin with rich cream, and perhaps a touch of caramel. Oh, and it’s not a dessert! Look for it later this week.

In the mean time, I thought you may want to brush up on your procedure for preparing fresh pumpkin puree by taking a look back at my no-fuss step-by-step guide. Click HERE to begin your pumpkin journey.

You may also want to check out these delicious pumpkin recipes:

Fresh Pumpkin Coconut Pie

Autumn Harvest Buns

Pumpkin Chocolate Chunk Bread

Pumpkin Gingersnap Parfaits

Fettucine with Pumpkin Alfredo Sauce 

New Year’s Eve Hors d’oeuvres Round Up

I’ve said before and I’ll say it again. I love hors d’oeuvres. In my opinion, there’s no better way to entertain, be it for a casual girls’ night in, an elegant cocktail event, or a poker game, than with a selection of tasty hors d’oeuvres. One of my favorite events to host with an all hors d’oeuvres menu is New Year’s Eve. We keep things casual around here; pajamas, champagne, and an all munchies menu. With that in mind, I thought it wise to take a look back at some previously posted hors d’oeuvres and appetizer ideas which work perfectly for a New Year’s bash!

Click on the titles for links to recipes and more info on each idea.

Petite Toasts with Smoked Salmon and Crème FraicheCold smoked salmon with a dollop of crème fraiche. Check near your grocery store’s cheese section for crème fraiche, which is similar to sour cream, only thicker and less sour. If your store doesn’t carry crème fraiche, you can substitute with a bit of sour cream or cream cheese blended with fresh dill.

Feta Cheese Mousse with Summer FruitsWatermelon and fresh figs will be more difficult to find at this time of year. Substitute with any fresh or dried fruits. Goat cheese would also work well in this recipe and pair deliciously with fruit.

Buffalo Chicken Wing DipThis one’s a crowd pleaser! Not too pretty to look at, but super tasty. Pair with tortilla chips, fresh celery, or chunks of doughy bread. It can be made ahead, refrigerated, and baked before serving.

Olive Tapenade Three WaysThree variations on a simple and delicious olive tapenade. My favorite is the sun-dried tomato tapenade. Serve with crackers or slices of baguette.

Asian Style Turkey Meatballs with Hoisin Peanut Sauce – An interesting twist on cocktail meatballs. Prepare ahead of time and reheat before serving. About 15-18 minutes in a 350 degrees oven should do the trick!

Tomatoes, Mozzarella, and Basil PestoA classic favorite! Serve with slices of baguette and let your guests construct their own little hors d’oeuvres.

Baked BrieFill with apricot preserves or your favorite type of jam. Fresh whole-berry cranberry sauce works well too!

Bacon Stuffed MushroomsOmit the bacon for a vegetarian alternative.

Shrimp with Spicy Cocktail SauceNew Year’s Eve feels like the perfect night for shrimp cocktail! Make your own cocktail sauce and serve with a few wedges of lemon.

Crab-Stuffed Jalapeño PoppersA fresh and elegant alternative to frozen jalapeño poppers! Certain to clear those sinuses.

Mini Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes with Chipotle RemouladeMy personal favorite of the bunch! Prepare the mini crab cakes exactly as directed for full-sized crab cakes, only smaller. Broil for about a minute less. Serve each bite-sized crab cake with a dollop or drizzle of the remoulade.

Blue Cows in a BlanketWhile all your neighbors are serving Pigs in a Blanket, you can stand out with these Blue Cows in a Blanket!! Think mini Bacon Bleu Cheese Burgers wrapped in puff pastry! Ummm….YUM!

Apple Cinnamon RangoonsI want to marry these little goodies and run away with them to spend our lives together in apple cinnamon bliss. (Don’t tell my husband!)

Spinach Dip with Fried Wonton ChipsA simple prepare-ahead dip. Serve in a bread bowl with chunks of bread for an even easier, and equally delicious, alternative.

Spanakopita – Recipe Coming Tomorrow!!

A Few Other Simple Ideas…

Pigs in a Blanket – People love ’em. Make your own honey mustard sauce by combining dijon mustard with honey, as desired. Or serve with a simple Sweet and Sour sauce made from ketchup, grape jelly, and a splash of Worchestershire sauce.

Dates wrapped in Bacon – I might be making these myself this year. Stuff the dates with goat cheese or bleu cheese, if desired. Wrap each date with a piece of bacon and secure with a toothpick. Bake for about 20 minutes in a 400 degrees oven, until bacon is crispy.

Dried Figs with Goat Cheese and Prosciutto – Easy as it sounds! Cut dried figs in half. Place a small piece of goat cheese on the cut side. Wrap with a piece of prosciutto

Assorted Cheese Tartlettes – A fun alternative to a traditional cheese platter. Purchase pre-made phyllo shells and fill with a variety of cheeses and other toppings. Bake in a 350 degrees oven for about 10 minutes before serving. Try Feta with Olive Tapenade and Pine Nuts, Gorgonzola with Poached Pears and Bacon, Brie with Dried Apricots and Almonds, or Cheddar with Ham and Apples.

Post Christmas Recovery and Recap

Well, the big day has passed. The carefully wrapped gifts have been enthusiastically unwrapped. The cookies, pies and festive dinners have been prepared and consumed, with minimal leftovers to speak of. New toys have been put through their paces and new clothes have been worn and washed. Our house guests and house pets have all made their way home and all that’s left is to launder the sheets and towels. It was a beautiful holiday filled with laughter, love, and smiles.

And now, things are gradually returning to normal. We’re slowly reclaiming the house from the holidays, sweeping up the pine tree needles, and finding places to stash the new toys. As much as I thrive on the Christmas festivities, I’m looking forward to a bit of normalcy. I’m ready to pack away the cookie sheets for a while and get back to our normal day-to-day cooking and routines.

I must admit, I’ve been feeling a bit of post-holiday indulgence remorse. I ate way too many cookies and slices of eggnog pie “for the baby”, which I’m pretty sure went straight to my hips instead. The measly remainder of holiday cookies have been officially exiled from the house and I’m looking forward to some light, nutritious meals for the sake of my hips. But speaking of the baby, we found out yesterday morning that we are expecting our third boy! Looks like my husband just formed himself a foursome for golf!

I’ll be whipping up some healthy new recipes soon. But first, here’s a quick recap of some of the goodies we enjoyed with our holiday guests.

We started on Christmas Eve Eve (does that make sense?) with a request from my brother-in-law for my Steak Bordelaise Pizza. I’ve shared this recipe for you before, back in my Pizza Dragons and Chairs of Stock post. I guess you can say this is one of my signature dishes. It’s sort of a steak dinner on a pizza crust. This is definitely not your run of the mill pizza. My pizza traditionalist father would be reluctant to call it a pizza at all, but we’re all big fans of the dish around here.

On Christmas Eve, I cooked up a Chicken Parmigiana dinner, complete with spaghetti and toasty hot garlic bread. I’ve been cooking Chicken Parmigiana on Christmas Eve in this house for many years now, long before my husband and I were married and long before this house was our house. I’ll give the Chicken Parm it’s own post with a proper recipe soon, but for now, you can take a look back at my recipe for Eggplant Parmigiana. My Chicken Parm follows the same basic recipe, only substituting breaded thin-cut or pounded chicken breasts for the eggplant. It’s a delicious meal that can be almost fully prepared ahead of time. It’s definitely a satisfying crowd pleaser!

On Christmas, we started with two easy appetizers of Fresh Mozzarella and Tomatoes with Basil Pesto on Baguette and Shrimp with Spicy Cocktail Sauce. You can find my recipe for Basil Pesto back in my Toasted Caprese Sandwich post. For the shrimp, simply boil large de-veined shrimp for a few minutes until they curl and turn bright pink. Or, take the easy route, as I do, and buy a large bag of frozen, peeled, tail-on shrimp and allow them to defrost in the fridge overnight. Make a quick, delicious cocktail sauce by combining about a cup of ketchup with a healthy dose of horseradish (a few heaping tablespoons), a splash of Worchestershire Sauce, splash of Lemon Juice, and splash of Tabasco.

Our Christmas dinner featured Roasted Beef Tenderloin with two sauces. I trimmed and tied a 5 1/2 pound beef tenderloin, rubbed it with olive oil, generously sprinkled with salt and pepper, and roasted in a 425 degrees oven for about 45 minutes. Smaller roasts will cook quicker. On the side, I served a Horseradish Cream Sauce (made with sour cream, a generous amount of horseradish, dash of white wine vinegar, salt and pepper) and a Red Wine Mushroom Sauce, which was simply an adaptation of the Bordelaise Sauce used on my Steak Bordelaise Pizza; a little less wine, slightly less reduced, with sauteed mushrooms added at the end.

On the side, we enjoyed my Cheddar Garlic Biscuits, Spicy Utica Greens, Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, and Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Walnuts. Every bit was enjoyed. The brussel sprouts even managed to surprise a few apprehensive diners. For dessert, we enjoyed massive platters of cookies and Chocolate Eggnog Pudding Pie. Overall, it was a simple meal to pull off for a large group, which gave me plenty of downtime to enjoy with the kids and our guests.

It was another truly wonderful Christmas season, topped off by the revelation of our third baby boy! We are so very thankful for all of our blessings. Stay tuned for new recipes, coming up soon!

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

The big day is finally upon us! The remainder of our holiday house guests and house pets arrived a few days ago and our home is now bustling with activity. The kids (and I) are overflowing with anticipation.

Yesterday evening, Santa made an early visit to my house, dressed as a Home Depot delivery man. He brought me the gift which every Gourmand Mom needs…an extra refrigerator for the garage. Skip the faux furs, glitzy clutch purses, and other sparkly bling that television advertisements will lead you to believe that every woman desires. All this girl wanted was a fridge.

I’ll be signing out for a few days to enjoy this most wonderful holiday with my family, but before I go, here’s one more cookie recipe to add to the collection. These cookies weren’t on the agenda for this year. They were a last minute addition, inspired by those Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies I’d baked and Martha Stewart. The chocolate cookie recipe, adapted from Hershey’s was so delicious, that it left me with the overwhelming urge to bake more chocolate cookies. Then, while flipping through Martha Stewart’s most recent cookie magazine, I ran across a recipe for Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies.

The idea was irresistible to me; chocolate cookies accented with a healthy dose of cinnamon and spicy cayenne pepper. It reminded me of a Chocolate Chile Cake I baked several months ago. I had to give these cookies a try. So, I took the Hershey’s cookie recipe and combined it with Martha’s spices to create these delicious Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies. The result is a chewy, rich chocolate cookie, which tastes of fudge on the first bite, but lingers with a kick of cayenne in the background. Definitely worth a try!

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Flour
  • 1/2 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 2 teaspoons Cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 2 sticks Butter, softened
  • 1 cup White Sugar
  • 3/4 cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Stir together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, beat together the butter and sugars until creamy. Add the eggs and vanilla extract to the butter/sugar mixture. Beat for another minute or two, until well blended. Gradually blend in the flour mixture. Roll the dough into small balls (about 1″ diameter) and place about 1 1/2″ apart on a baking sheet. Bake for 9-10 minutes. Cool for a couple minutes on the baking sheet before moving the cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Makes about 5 dozen cookies

If you ask my kids, you can’t have hot chocolate without marshmallows. So, for a fun little twist, I wrapped some of the spicy chocolate dough around mini marshmallows before rolling the balls. The marshmallows melted into the cookies and added a touch of extra gooeyness in the center!

Wishing you all a Very Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season!

Chocolate Eggnog Pudding Pie

This began as a culinary experiment. As the holidays approached, and coolers filled with eggnog began popping up in grocery stores, I began pondering potential uses for this thick, festive concoction. It occurred to me that I could probably adapt my Black Bottom Banana Cream Pie into a festive Eggnog Pudding Pie. Thing is, I’ve never tasted, nor even heard of eggnog pudding. Seemed to me that such a thing could be made with a few simple substitutions and adjustments, but would it even be any good??

Eggnog is a tricky thing. Some people love it. Some people hate it. And some people are like me. The idea of a cup of eggnog is initially quite appealing, but after a sip or two, I’ve had enough to last me until the following year. It’s just so rich. Would an eggnog pudding be intolerably rich? There was only one way to find out.

My theory about making the eggnog pudding proved correct. With a few little modifications, it came together as simply and easily as my vanilla pudding. And interestingly enough, I think the eggnog works better in pudding form than as a beverage. The flavor seems a bit more mellow and the texture makes more sense to my mouth than the part liquid/part smoothie sort of texture of an eggnog beverage. Combined with the rich chocolate crust and ganache and a bit of whipped cream, this pie makes a surprisingly delightful, festive and unique holiday dessert!

Chocolate Eggnog Pudding Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 Chocolate Cookie Pie Crust, homemade or store-bought

For the Ganache

  • 2 ounces Semi-Sweet Chocolate (2 squares of semi-sweet baking chocolate)
  • 3 Tablespoons Heavy Cream

For the Filling

  • 3 cups Prepared Eggnog
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup Cornstarch, divided
  • 2 Egg Yolks

For the Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup Heavy Cream
  • 2 Tbsp Sugar

Directions

For the Filling

Combine the eggnog, salt, vanilla extract, nutmeg, and half of the cornstarch in a saucepan. Stir. Cook over medium heat for about 5-6 minutes until the mixture just comes to a boil. Remove from heat. In a bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks with the remaining cornstarch. Slowly add about 1/4 cup of the hot eggnog mixture to the eggs and whisk to combine. Add another 1/4 cup of the hot eggnog mixture and whisk to combine. (This slow addition of the hot liquid tempers the egg yolks and prevents them from scrambling when added to the hot liquid.) Pour the egg mixture into the pot. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, whisking constantly. Cook for a few minutes until the mixture thickens. Pour the filling into a bowl. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly against the filling. Refrigerate for about an hour to cool. Meanwhile, prepare the ganache for the crust.

For the Ganache

Place the chocolate in a bowl. Heat the cream, until it just begins to boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate completely melts. Pour the warm ganache into the pie crust. Chill until set.

To Assemble the Pie

Spread the the cooled filling over the chilled ganache. Refrigerate until completely cool.

Beat the heavy cream with the sugar until thick. Top the pie with the whipped cream. Sprinkle with chocolate shavings or chocolate chips, if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Sand Tarts

You’ve heard me kvetching about cut-out cookies in the past. As much as I love to bake, I’ve got very little patience for the flouring, rolling, cutting, baking, and individual decorating involved in making cut-out cookies. And all too often, I just don’t find the results to be worth the effort. But I have one big exception to this sentiment; Sand Tarts.

I found the recipe for these Sand Tarts several years ago, nestled in the back pages of an old Better Homes and Gardens A Festive Christmas cookbook. They are essentially a sugar cookie, accented with lemon and garnished with cinnamon sugar and almonds, which gives them the appearance of perfectly round, perfectly delicious sand dollars.

They are cut-out cookies. They require that floured work surface, rolling, cutting, baking, and individual decorating I have such low tolerance for. But, with these particular cut-out cookies, the end result is worth the work. I make these almost every year.

There is something about the particular combination of flavors and proportion of ingredients in this recipe which produces the most perfectly delicious cookie with the most spectacular texture. They are crisp around the edges with an excellent chewy pull to the center. This recipe is pretty perfect as is, so I’ve shared it almost exactly as it’s written in the cookbook. Give them a try. I think you’ll be happy you did!

Sand Tarts

Very slightly adapted from the Sand Tarts in Better Homes and Gardens’

A Festive Christmas

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) Butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups Flour
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon Lemon Extract
  • 1 Egg White, beaten
  • 1/4 cup Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • Sliced Almonds

Directions

Beat butter with an electric mixer for a few seconds, until creamy. Beat in half of the flour, the 2 cups sugar, eggs, and lemon extract until well combined. Stir in the remaining flour.

Divide the dough in half, wrap each half, and chill for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Handling one half of the dough at a time, roll the dough onto a well-floured surface to about 1/8 inch thickness. Use a 2-3 inch round cookie cutter to cut the cookies. Place the cut cookies onto a baking sheet about 1 inch apart. In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar. Brush each cookie with the beaten egg white. Then, sprinkle with a bit of the cinnamon sugar and arrange 3-5 almonds on top. Bake for about 8-9 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned.

Makes 4-5 dozen


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