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Friday, December 31, 2010

Fancy Pants Salad

So you're having a dinner party but all of your time needs to be spent on perfecting your entree? Happens all of the time. Don't let your starters suffer, Missy. This salad is pretty, tasty and much more fancy pants than a Mesclun or Ceasar. We have served this at Christmas Eve the past 2 years, and everyone loves it. People even go back for seconds...seriously... seconds on salad? Who does that? It's that good, people.

1 bag (5 ounce) baby greens
1/2 large head iceberg lettuce, cut into bite-size pieces
1 large romaince heart, cut into bite-size pieces
3/4 cup pecans, toasted in a 325 degree oven, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1 cup crumbled blue cheese (about 4 ounces)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 T. balsamic vinegar

Place greens in a large bowl. Add pecans, cranberries and blue cheese. Drizzle olive oil over salad and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Taste for seasonings and adjust if necessary. Add balsamic vinegar and toss to coat again. Serve

To make ahead of time: Go ahead and toast those pecans early. The lettuces can be prepared and refrigerated, covered, for 3-4 hours.

Christmas Eve 2010

Every Christmas Eve is spent at Mamaw's in Drew with my Mom's side of the family. We meet up and visit, drink Mamaw's punch & eat her famous cheeseball, and then proceed to a family feast. The staples of the meal stay the same but in the past few years, we've tried incorporating different side dishes into the mix. After dinner guessed it, PRESENTS!

Here is a shot of the spread this year (Mom didn't want me to take a picture because we didn't use pretty serveware)

The feast menu:
Honeybaked Ham
Jezebel sauce (recipe featured last December)
Glenn's beef tenderloin with horseradish sauce
3 Green Salad with blue cheese, toasted pecans and dried cranberries
Gayla's Potatoes
Pineapple Casserole
Broccoli and Gruyere Gratin
Corn Pudding

Here is my plate:

The 2 family recipes I want to share from this meal (and the cookbook) are below:

Gayla's Potato Casserole - This recipe is created by my "Aunt" Gayla Marley, but was submitted by my cousin Lesley Smith. She told me that they have had this at a many Christmas and Thanksgiving gatherings and that it's always a crowd pleaser. I would have to agree - this is delicious and a great alternative to ordinary mashed potatoes.

5-7 big red potatoes
1 small carton cottage cheese
1 small carton sour cream
3/4 stick of butter
Garlic salt
Salt & Pepper

Peel the potatoes and cute them into chunks. Mash them with an electric mixer. Add salt, pepper, and garlic salt and a dash of milk. Add cottage cheese and sour cream. Mash it all again in the mixer. Grease a 9x13 casserole and put the potato mixture in. Melt the butter and pour it on top. Bake on 350 uncovered for 1 hour.

Corn Pudding - This recipe, submitted by Jan Burnett, might be easiest recipe in the world. Don't judge the ingredients!

2 cans (16 ounce each) creamed corn
1 package (6 ounce) Jiffy corn muffin mix
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup margarine, melted

Mix all ingredients and pour into a greased 2 quart casserole dish. Bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Hope all of you had a Merry Christmas! Here's to more eating in 2011!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Roll It Up

A few years ago, my friend Elise & I decided to borrow "someone's" fancy smancy apartment to cook a gourmet meal while he was out of town. And then we remembered that we were poor and preferred to spend our money on booze instead of fancy ingredients. After searching, we found a fun little recipe that not only looked delicious, but inexpensive and easy too. I think we were shocked that it turned out to be good - after splitting the grocery bill, I think we spent $4.00 each on dinner.

I've kept this in a steady rotation since then. It's especially enjoyed after some carb-heavy days. I always add Sriracha for an extra kick!

1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 pound ground pork
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
8-10 Bibb lettuce leaves (you could use romaine or iceberg if you want)
1 carrot, shredded
1 cucumber, peeled and julienned (i left this out)
Chopped peanuts (optional)

Dipping Sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons lime juice
Add half a garlic clove, if desired

In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, cook the garlic in the oil until fragrant, about 3 minutes.

Add the pork, five-spice powder, soy sauce, and brown sugar and cook until the pork is browned, 8 to 10 minutes.

Scoop the pork mixture into the lettuce leaves. Garnish with the carrot, cucumber, and peanuts.

Serve with dipping sauce. I've even had without the sauce, and it's still good.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tips & Tricks

Working in the Home division has its perks. First of all, I know the best time to buy Le Creuset - AND I get a discount on it! Another benefit is that I learn great tips & tricks on products all of the time. I know that thread count is just a marketing scheme, which food processor is the best (Cuisinart Elite, if you need one), and countless other little factoids that I love to bring up to people that don't care.

I read a great article in the Times today with loads of little tid-bits on how to use and care for nonstick cookware. I was going to send it to my Mom, but then I realized that a lot of people don't know these things already, so I decided to share it with all of you.

Basically, the rules for nonstick cookware:
1. Pre-season your pan (read the article to figure out how to do this)
2. Use a lower heat than you would with stainless steel.
3. Do not put in the dishwasher, even if says it's dishwasher-safe. Seriously. Believe me. Stop being lazy.
4. Don't use metal utensils...use nonstick friendly to avoid scratching off the nonstick coating.

And my two-sense for nonstick cookware?
Invest in 1 good nonstick pan for eggs. I have the Calphalon Unison, which I would recommend. For the rest of your cookware, bump it up a notch and stop fiddling with your food - it won't stick if you leave it alone. Sure, nonstick can be healthier, but oil and butter are delicious ingredients that I refuse to leave out of my cooking anytime soon.