Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Best Stuffing Ever! No, Seriously...

My mouth is watering right now!

If you are looking for a fabulous wonderful best stuffing ever, congratulations. You have found it! This comes from my Aunt Marsha's kitchen, and even if you are not a stuffing lover, I promise, you'll love this. Joe isn't really a big stuffing eater, but he agrees that this is the best stuffing out there. Most Thanksgivings he doesn't even eat the stuffing, but at Marsha's Thanksgiving, he ranks this as the second best item just after the turkey (or maybe even before the turkey). I just don't know how to rave about this enough to impress upon you the wonderfulness of this dish. It is great for any holiday meal, but it can also stand alone as a tasty post-holiday snack. It's even been known to be breakfast on an occasion or three. 

So without further ado, thank you Marsha for sharing your "famous" recipe with me and agreeing to let me share it with all of you. 

Best Stuffing Ever:

1 1/2 pounds sweet Italian sausage cooked and drained

2 Tbsp olive oil
4-6 ounces pancetta diced 
1 extra large yellow onion, chopped
7 large celery ribs, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced

6 cups, day old, finely diced French bread (this is where I used Foccaccia)
3 cups crumbled corn bread
1  cup toasted pine nuts (3/4 c. for dressing, 1/4 c. for top)

1 cup  shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup Parmesan cheese

1 Tbsp ground sage
2 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
1 1/2 Tbsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp salt
 
4-5 cups chicken or turkey broth

1/2 cup butter, cubed, cold 
large Parmesan shavings

Directions:
Heat oil in large skillet on Medium. Saute Pancetta for 2 minutes.
Add onion and celery and cook until translucent. Add garlic and cook another 3 minutes.
Mix together breads and 3/4 c. toasted pine nuts in a large mixing bowl, Add cheeses and cooked sausage to the breads. Mix together with the dried seasonings 
Add sauteed veggies with any pan drippings.
Slowly add broth and stir until mixed thoroughly. The consistency should not be soupy. but very moist, If not, add more broth.
Test for saltiness and add a dash more if needed.
Place in an extra deep 9 x 13 " greased pan. (I don't have an extra deep pan, so I ended up with a regular 9" x 13" pan and an 8" x 8" pan too.)
Dot the top with cubed butter and cover with foil. Bake at 375* for 45 min. (350 for 1 hr)
Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes or until slightly crusted on the edges.
Top with remaining pine nuts..Add shaved cheese just before serving.



I made my rustic French bread the night before. 

All mixed up!

Ready to bake.

Mmmm! Doesn't it look so delicious?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Rosemary Garlic Buttermilk Biscuits


I made some awesome Southern Buttermilk Biscuits last week, and I had some buttermilk in the fridge that I needed to use up tonight. We also had some very tasty rosemary bread at Macaroni Grill a few weeks ago that I had in mind still. And of course the garlic cheddar biscuits at Red Lobster are amazing! So, I decided to combine some elements of all three.

Ingredients:
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon fresh diced rosemary
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold cut into small pieces
1 cup buttermilk (approx)



Directions:
Preheat oven to 450˚.

Place all dry ingredients in a bowl or food processor. Add the butter and cut in or blend until it resembles a coarse meal. Add the buttermilk and mix until just combined. It should be fairly wet.

Spoon 7-8 mounds of dough on a greased baking sheet. Place in oven for 10-12 minutes.




Sunday, November 2, 2014

Peppery Oven Fries courtesy of Rachael Ray


I discovered these oven fries at the end of my new Rachael Ray cookbook, Week in a Day, a few months ago, and Joe and I both loved them. They are great because they are fully cooked and crispy too. 

Peppery Oven Fries:
Preheat oven to 375˚.
Step 1: Cut 2 potatoes lengthwise into 3/4" wedges.


Step 2: Soak potatoes in salt water for a few minutes.


Step 3: Chop a tablespoon of fresh thyme.


Step 4: Drain and pat potatoes dry. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, thyme, salt and lots of pepper.


Step 5: Lay out on baking sheet in a single layer.


Step 6: Bake for 20 minutes at 375˚. Remove from oven. Turn oven up to 450˚. Place the fries back in the oven for 15 minutes.

Allow to cool a few minutes and enjoy!




Peppery Oven Fries:
Preheat oven to 375˚.

Step 1: Cut 2 potatoes lengthwise into 3/4" wedges.
Step 2: Soak potatoes in salt water for a few minutes.
Step 3: Chop a tablespoon of fresh thyme.
Step 4: Drain and pat potatoes dry. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, thyme, salt and lots of pepper.
Step 5: Lay out on baking sheet in a single layer.
Step 6: Bake for 20 minutes at 375˚. Remove from oven. Turn oven up to 450˚. Place the fries back in the oven for 15 minutes.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Prosciutto Brie Pizza with Arugula and Walnuts


This pizza was inspired by a pizza at Cibo in Phoenix. If you live in Phoenix or you're visiting, please consider going to this pizzeria. I think that it is my favorite pizzeria anywhere! And if you can control yourself, they have amazing crepes for dessert. I know that most people want to go to Pizzeria Bianco when visiting downtown Phoenix, and they do have delicious pizza. But I think Cibo's pizza definitely rivals Pizzeria Bianco, and they are in a really great restored bungalow that just oozes charm. The biggest bonus is that you won't have to wait 4-6 hours for a table. 

Okay, back to the pizza I made. It was inspired by the La Noce which has tomato sauce, mozzarella, ricotta, arugula and walnuts. I put my spin on it based on ingredients I bought for this Skinnytaste dish that I'm going to try tomorrow night. 

I took the photos before I tasted it hoping it would be good enough to put on here. It was a huge hit with both Joe and me, and he encouraged me to put it on the blog so you might all enjoy it as well. I hope you try it, and then hop on and leave a comment letting us know what you thought of it. 



Prosciutto Brie Pizza with Arugula and Walnuts
Ingredients
Corn meal
Pizza dough
1- 6 oz. can tomato paste
4-6 slices prosciutto
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 oz. brie
1-2 cups baby arugula
1/4 cup walnut pieces
walnut oil or extra virgin olive oil to drizzle

Preheat oven to 425˚. 

Sprinkle corn meal over the pizza pan. Roll pizza dough out to your preference and place on pizza pan. I chose to do this one as thin as I could roll it. Spread a thin layer of tomato paste over the whole dough. Cover the tomato sauce with the slices of prosciutto. Sprinkle a thin layer of shredded mozzarella. Cut the brie into thin slices and place every 2 inches so it has room to melt. 

Place in oven for 12-15 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden. If you are using a thicker crust, you will either need to prebake the crust or lower the oven temperature to 400˚ and leave it in for 20-25 minutes. 

Remove the pizza and immediate top with arugula and walnut pieces. Finish by finely drizzling the oil over the whole pizza. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Cleaning up the front Door


Why, oh why didn't I take a before picture? I mean, the front door was a complete mess. The trim paint was peeling, there was a 1 inch gap above the door that needed to be filled with Big Gap Filler, and the metal lintel was quite rusted. I did get some in-progress pictures though.

This project spanned several months. The first thing I noticed was the large gap between the top of the door and the lintel. The only thing keeping the cold air out in winter was the interior wood trim. So I found Big Gap Filler at Lowe's which is just what it sounds like. It is an expandable foam that hardens in place after it is sprayed in. You can trim off the extra to make it flush with a surface.

The next step was what I thought was going to be the final step. (Oh was I wrong!) I was going to just go out in one afternoon and scrape off the old paint, do some light sanding and then paint a fresh coat of white. Oops! That wasn't happening. What seemed like an afternoon job turned into 5 weekends involving both Joe and me.


I did scrape the peeling paint off pretty easily, but along with that came the original caulking. Aw man, that wasn't good! Of course some of the caulk came off quite easily and some needed a lot of scraping. Next came sanding the wood, and we're not just talking the light sanding I was imagining. It was definitely time to pull out the trusty mouse electric sander. Joe got involved here and did a great job sanding the wood trim. You can see how smooth it came out. 

Isn't that nicely sanded?


We scraped and sanded the metal lintel so that I could epoxy and paint that too. This was in rough shape. You can see in the picture above how it looks after the scraping and sanding. I also sprayed a rust stopper and put an epoxy in a gap on the front side.

This shows the epoxy well. It was a pain to apply, but I was able to sand and paint the finished product.

After scraping, sanding, epoxying and taping, I finished the prep work with a paintable exterior door caulk. I caulked over the Big Gap Filler to provide a smooth paintable surface and an extra layer of sealant. I also caulked along the window edges and joints of two pieces of wood. Phew! The prep work was finally finished, and now I was ready to paint. It only took me 5 weeks longer than I was planning. You can see the final results below.


Oh if you could only see how it looked before. 

I'm very happy that this project is done. We don't use our front door much, but I'm glad that we put in the time and did it right. I'm also hoping it will improve our heating bill this winter with the extra insulation and caulk. I'm looking forward to having a nice place to showcase some pretty wreathes in the upcoming seasons.

~Katie

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Book-themed Baby Shower

My sister Emily and I threw a baby shower for our little sister Jen. She is due with her first boy in November! Yay, yay, yay! It worked really well though, because I did most of the cooking, and Emily did the decorating. It was also at Emily's lovely house, so she had the added stress of cleaning and hosting. Thanks Emily! This really worked to our strengths which is always nice. It makes the whole process more enjoyable.



Didn't Emily make it look so adorable?

Party favors!

For the food, I found some several children's books which had some yummy food connections.


Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs: Cocktail Meatballs

Blueberries for Sal: Blueberry Muffins

Stone Soup: Thai Curry Butternut Squash Soup and Veal Dumpling Broth with Escarole

Green Eggs and Ham: Guacamole Deviled Eggs from Skinnytaste.com

Everyone Poops: Tootsie Rolls

And I'm totally kicking myself for not getting a picture of the cake during the shower. My mom made such a delicious carrot cake which I paired with Peter Rabbit. I can assure you it was delicious. 

Thanks to everyone for making it such a special day for Jen and baby!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Baked Garlic Parmesan Sweet Potato Fries



Everyone loves sweet potato fries these days, and I LOVE garlic! So when I saw Skinny Garlic Fries on my favorite food website, Skinnytaste, I knew I was on to something! She used regular potatoes which we did the first time, and they were very good. But tonight, I wanted to try the recipe with a sweet potato.

Baked Garlic Parmesan Sweet Potato Fries

1 Sweet Potato
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tsp salt
pepper to taste
2 Tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried parsley

Preheat oven to 425˚.

Cut sweet potato in half and then in half again. Cut each quarter into 1/4" thick slices. Pour the oil into a medium sized bowl and add the garlic, salt and pepper. Then add the sweet potato. Stir to coat each slice. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, remove and turn each slice over. Bake for another 10 minutes.

Once you remove from the oven, sprinkle the freshly grated parmesan cheese over the hot potatoes and sprinkle the parsley on top of that. Enjoy!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Winter is Coming: Time to Add Attic Insulation

What could possibly possess us to climb up into our little attic this fine fall weekend? This all started months ago when the man who installed the windows in the house stopped by to check how they were doing. (Tonight, we discovered the kitchen window latch is broken.) We got to talking about the crazy winter, yikes!!! Somehow he ended up climbing up a step stool and checking the attic out it see what the insulation situation was. He suggested that his company could install a fancy space blanket that would decrease our energy bills by 40% for only a $5000 investment for our 700 sq. ft. attic. Does that seem a little expensive to anyone else? Yeah, that's what I thought.


I was telling my dad and Joe about this when my dad was in town helping me with tiling some of the bathrooms which you can see here and here. He told me that he had just helped my brother-in-law blow insulation into their new house, and he had blown insulation into his own house just last fall. The way he described it, it totally sounded a LOT cheaper than this fancy blanket and something that Joe and I could really do by ourselves in just a weekend. Now, that's my kind of project! :)

Dad thought that for about $300 we could add all of the insulation that we could possibly need and decrease our energy bills by 20% and best of all, it would make the whole house warmer and cozier in the upcoming chilly months. That's the part that really sold me. I'll admit right now, I hate being cold, and I'm pretty much cold all of the time. So anything I can do to increase the chances of me being warm, well, I'm all about that. 

Yep, we have a giant tv antenna up there from some former owner.

This is what the attic looked like before we added more insulation. You might be thinking, "Katie, I see insulation up there." Yep, you're absolutely right, and here is where I'll get a little technical. Insulation is measured in something called the R-factor. It basically measures how awesome your insulation is at keeping the heat in your house during the winter and out during the summer. When a house is built, a contractor only has to put a R-factor of 19 into the house, but the recommended minimum for this climate is R-37 and the ideal is R-49. What? That's a pretty big difference. 

So how did we do this? The first thing I did after getting verbal instructions from Dad was read this helpful article: Insulating Your Home. I then used the Lowe's Blown In Insulation Calculator to figure out what R-factor we already had and how much insulation we would need to get the R-factor we wanted. The final thing I did was to actually go to Home Depot and talk to the handy people there who talked me through the whole thing and helped me pick between the two insulation options and figure out exactly what I needed.

Joe and I compared the two types of blown in insulation and went with the slightly more expensive fiberglass option because it is supposed to be an overall better product and the machine that we used to blow it in was promised to fit in our cars meaning we wouldn't have to rent a truck. 

Once we had chosen, we knew that to get our R-factor of 49 we needed to add almost 9 inches of insulation on top of the existing 8 already there. But, we learned that we couldn't just start blowing. Attics are built to breathe. I'm told it's a very important feature of attics. In order to breathe, they are built with something called a soffit. Soffits are basically the vents that are part of the floor of the attic where the roof and the house meet, and you shouldn't cover them up with insulation. In order to avoid this, I built a little 12 inch wall out of cardboard with a bend at 9 inches. Then we learned quickly to tape the cardboard wall into two long pieces for each edge before we took them up into the attic. Once we had the little wall up there, Joe carefully used boards laid across the attic joists to squeeze over to the edge and staple the cardboard to the 2x4's of the roof. This was absolutely the hardest part. He had to carefully maneuver through the attic right up to the littlest space and while lying down, staple the cardboard to the wood. It was hot and messy. I was also up there handing him anything he needed and making sure that he had enough light in the right spots.

Safety Notes: Make sure you wear a face mask around insulation. Wear safety googles. Wear long pants and long sleeves or you will itch like crazy. And please be careful moving around in the attic. I don't want to hear about anyone falling through a ceiling into the bathroom below. If you aren't careful and just step on what you think is the floor, you'll end up falling through.

There is the cardboard wall protecting the soffits. You can see how there is still a gap between the cardboard and the rafters. This is how the attic will breathe properly.

Now for the fun part! Once we had the cardboard in place, we were ready to blow the new insulation in on top of the old stuff. We waited until the next day so we didn't wear ourselves out completely. Sunday took about 3 hours from start to finish. We had to go to Home Depot in our two cars, buy the insulation and get the machine that blows it. This machine did come apart, and it did squeeze into the cars. It was a really tight fit though, so if you have access to a van or SUV, use that. By the time we loaded up the machine and 11 insulation packages, both of our cars were stuff to the gills. 

We unloaded into the backyard and set the machine up. This machine takes a very compact tube of insulation and beats it apart and blows tiny pieces up the hose and into the attic. It says that it makes the one package of insulation expand 16 times its original size. We ran the hose up through a bedroom window and up into the attic. 



I stayed in the backyard and fed the machine while Joe was upstairs doing the blowing. The directions to run it are right on the it in words and pictures.


We only ended up using 6 packages throughout the entire attic. Joe added 9 inches across the whole space. It looks like it was covered in a layer of fresh snow. It did make a bit of a mess underneath the attic opening, but it was nothing that the vacuum cleaner couldn't take care of. I did wear my face mask while I vacuumed just to be safe.



In total, we spent about $180 which we should recoup within a few months this winter, and it should make the house more comfortable year round. I would call this project a home run! If you are considering this as something your house might benefit from, please make sure to do your research before you do it. It's not a hard project, but it does take some planning. I'd love to hear from you if you've done this and found it to help, or if you're considering this now.

~Katie







Saturday, September 6, 2014

Zucchini Pizzas


I was given a number of gigantic zucchini this year. It was awesome! But, at some point, what do you do when you've added zucchini to bread, enchiladas and curry and you still have an entire large container left? I decided to try making mini zucchini pizzas. They really weren't even that mini either because this was a BIG zucchini.

Preheat the oven to 375˚. Cut the zucchini into about 1/4 inch slices lined up on a baking sheet. Mix about 2 tablespoons of tomato paste with a cup of your favorite spaghetti sauce. Spoon the pizza sauce onto the zucchini. You can add any toppings you'd like at this point. We had pepperoni that I added this time. Top with a mixture of mozzarella and parmesan cheese. 

Bake for 22-25 minutes. Top with fresh basil and allow the pizzas to cool for at least 5 minutes on a cooling rack. They come out of the oven extremely hot and keep that heat for a long time due to all of the water in the zucchini. You will probably want to put a pan under the cooling rack to catch the extra liquid that will drip off.

Serve with some crusty French bread and enjoy! You can totally have the French bread since there is no crust. :) 









Do you have an alternate crust that you enjoy?

~Katie