Thanksgiving Turkey Relish Tray

Thanksgiving Turkey Relish Tray

THANKSGIVING TURKEY RELISH TRAY

 

Here is a fun idea for your Thanksgiving vegetable platter or relish tray,arrange the items in the shape of a turkey. This is the one my son made for our dinner last year. It is a great project for kids, tweens, and teens and let’s them contribute to the big dinner. We used pickles, olives, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, celery and carrots. His head is actually a mini orange bell pepper. Be creative and use what you have hand.

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Oma’s Potato Salad

Oma's Potato Salad

I was not sure I would ever post this recipe here. It is kind of a family treasure. My Oma (grandmother in German) would make this for every family gathering, it was our favorite, and now my mom makes it for all the special occasions. Everyone I know who has tried it loves it, it is so simple but so good. It is not the traditional warm German potato salad, we never had that, this was the only potato salad I ever knew until I was a teen. I have tried adding some other ingredients or doing it a little different but it is just not the same. It has to be made just the way Oma taught me.  So I have been sitting on this recipe not sure if it was a sacred family secret, and then my mom asked me to share it (said it would be perfect for Summer barbecues) so I guess it is ok to let the family treasure out of the bag. Hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Oma’s Potato Salad

5 lbs red skinned potatoes

1 c mayo

1 c  dill pickles chopped, **only use Claussen or other high quality refrigerated pickles

1 cup red onion chopped

1/2 c of the juice from the pickle jar

salt and pepper

Boil unpeeled red potatoes whole in salted water until they are cooked through. Use a fork to test doneness. Drain and wait until the potatoes are cool enough to handle but still warm (very important).  Peel and cut into bite sized pieces and place into a large bowl. while the potatoes are still warm pour 1/2 or the pickle juice over the top ( 1/4 c) When the potatoes are warm they absorb the pickle juice like a sponge, much like salting fries when they are still warm. Stir in the mayo, chopped pickles and onions and rest of the pickle juice. stir until combined and add salt and pepper to taste. Chill and serve. ( Although my son likes it best when it is still a little warm)

Oma's Potato Salad

Oma's Potato Salad

Make Your Own Pizza Night: Pear, Blue Cheese, and Caramelized Onion Flatbreads

We have “make your own pizza night” every couple of weeks at our house. It’s an easy weeknight meal that gets the whole family involved, uses up some leftovers and gives us a chance to be creative. We use all different kinds of things for crust from pre made doughs, pitas, tortillas, Naan, and pre made bread crusts. Whatever happens to be on sale or leftover from the week’s dinners can become a canvas. This weeks winner was a flat bread topped with thinly sliced pears, blue cheese, caramelized onions and fresh arugula.

Pear, Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Flatbread

4 flatbreads (we used round ones found in the deli section of our supermarket)

1 sweet yellow onion sliced

2 T butter

2 c mozzarella or Monterey jack cheese

3 T blue cheese crumbled (use the good stuff here)

1 large ripe pear sliced thin

2 cups arugula

1 t lemon juice

olive oil

salt and pepper

Add 2 T butter to a med sized pan, melt over med high heat, add sliced onions and cook over med low for about 30 minutes or until onions are caramelized. This is a slow and tedious process but you will be rewarded with flavor. Pre heat oven to 400 degrees. spread about 1 tsp of olive oil on each flat bread, I used a pastry brush, but a paper towel will also work. Cover the inner circle with about 1/3 c mozzarella or monterey jack cheese. Top the flatbreads with caramelized onion, pears and blue cheese. Bake in oven for about 5  minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbling. Toss arugula with 1/2 T olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Cut and serve.

Sharing a Labor of Love: Oma’s Rouladen

Some of my favorite memories of my Oma (that’s grandmother in German) are in the kitchen. She patiently (or sometimes not so patiently) taught me how to make several traditional German family favorites. I was her oldest grandchild born to her oldest son so I was chosen to carry on these traditions. I wasn’t so sure as a young girl but now I know I was the lucky one that got to spend many a weekend learning to prepare  potato salads, crumb cake, kohlrouladen, potato pancakes, and rouladen. There were no written recipes, she just knew how to do it by feel, and taught me the same way. I admit this was difficult, but it was when I was cooking with her that I really learned that cooking was more than following a recipe, it was about making something for someone, a gift to be enjoyed by family and friends, a way to show someone you love them.

I now have a love for cooking, it is a way for me to relax, a hobby that takes my mind off the ordinary and mundane. It is a way for me to give back to the people I care about. I don’t always include my children in the actual process of cooking, it is my time, but when ever I make one of my Oma’s recipes I get nostalgic and without even thinking invite my son into the kitchen with me. It is like there is something more than food with these recipes, it is a bond that must be passed on. This week when Rouladen was on the menu he joined me at my side and I realized that even though we don’t have this dish that often he already knew exactly how to make it. We didn’t even get out measuring cups, but he just looked at the ingredients we had prepared and said we are going to need more pickles and  he went straight to work chopping up some more. I smiled and knew my job was done, he is now the chosen one, I hope someday he thinks he’s lucky.

Oma’s Beef Rouladen

1 1/2 lbs of thinly sliced bottom round steak

1/4 c dijon mustard

approx 6 strips of raw bacon cut in half

1 c chopped dill pickles (use the refrigerated kind)

1 c chopped red onion

2 T butter

2 T flour

2 1/2 c  stock or water

1/4 t pepper

Place the steaks between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet until thin but not falling apart. Spread a thin layer of mustard on the steak, place 1/2 a strip of bacon on each piece of meat. Add about 1 1/2 t of chopped pickles, and 1 1/2 t chopped onion to the top of each steak. Roll meat into a bundle and secure with a small wooden skewer or a couple of toothpicks,making sure the onions and pickles will not come out.

Preheat an electric frying pan and melt the butter over med high heat. Add the rouladen and brown on both sides.

Add 1 cup chicken or beef stock or water, reduce heat to low and simmer for one hour. Remove the rouladen from pan.

Add 1 1/2 c water or stock mixed with 2 T flour to the pan, bring to a boil and then reduce heat, cook until gravy is slightly thickened, about 4 minutes.

Serve with boiled potatoes and cabbage or collard greens if you are a southerner like me.

Buffalo Chicken Casserole

We eat a lot of wings around here. I have two teenage boys and I think if it was up to them we would eat pizza and wings every night. I saw a post awhile back from a fellow blogger, Fantastic Frugal Foods from Justa’s Kitchen for a Buffalo Chicken Casserole. What a great idea for my family. So when I was in my kitchen with some extra chicken cutlets that need to be used up, I remembered her recipe. I wanted to use what I had in my kitchen without going to the store, so I kinda of created my own version, but here is hers.

Buffalo Chicken Casserole

1 1/2 lbs boneless chicken breasts cut into bite size pieces

2T butter

1 t chopped garlic

2T hot sauce (I used Frank’s)

1/4 c chopped celery (if you are not a celery fan, try carrots)

1/4 c flour

3 cups milk

3 oz cream cheese

2 T blue cheese

16 oz box of ziti (or other pasta), cooked and drained

1/2 c crushed Buffalo flavored Pretzel Crisps

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, Add butter to a large pan and melt over med high heat, add chicken, garlic, 1 T hot sauce and celery. Sauté til chicken is cooked through, about 4 minutes. remove from heat and sprinkle chicken and veg with flour.

Place back on burner over low.for 1 minute. Add milk and bring to boiling, turn to low and add cream cheese, blue cheese and remaining 1 T of  hot sauce cook until cheese is melted into sauce and it is slightly thickened.

Add sauce to pasta and stir, pour into a large baking dish, 9×13

Top with crushed pretzels.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Pinspired: 4th of July Chocolate Covered Strawberries

This was one of my very first pins on Pinterest, I think I saw it on my sister in laws page. The original idea as far as I can tell came from Three Sisters Cafe, you can see their version here. This was an easy and fun project for me and my son and although some came out better than others, there was really no way to fail on this one. Try it for the upcoming holiday, I think I will make them for Christmas too just switch the blue sugar to green.

Wash and let whole strawberries dry completely.

Dip 2/3rds of the strawberry into melted white chocolate (we used the kind in the cup and microwaved it for easy clean up), then dip the bottom third into blue colored sugar.

Set on parchment or wax paper to dry.

60 is Nifty! A Birthday Party and Stuffed Mushrooms

My mom turned 60 last week so my siblings and I, there are a lot of them, threw her a birthday party.  As it has become tradition for milestone birthdays, I made her a slide show of pictures throughout her life, teamed it up with some of her favorite songs and showed it during the party . It’s on DVD so she will have it as a take home souvenir. My sisters and I did the decorations. I am not one for the typical black and gloomy, over the hill type parties so we went for a festive and colorful look. We made lots of tissue flower bouquets.

To make, take large sheets of tissue paper and cut into fourths. stack 6-8 sheets of the cut paper together and accordion fold the short side. wrap a pipe cleaner around the middle tightly and cut the ends into a scallop or point. then gently pull each piece of tissue apart until it looks like a flower.

Here’s a tutorial  since I forgot to take pictures of the process: http://www.firstpalette.com/Craft_themes/Nature/mexicantissuepaperflowers/mexicantissuepaperflowers.html 

We also made large tissue pom, pom flowers to hang on the porch, with some white twinkle lights. Here is the tutorial for the pom poms http://www.marthastewart.com/how-to/tissue-paper-pom-poms-how-to

So everyone could share their well wishes and memories for the birthday girl, I cut a large 60 out of cardboard and spray painted it (colored poster board would work as well)

and had bright colored post it notes and a pen so guest could write on them. I am using the post it notes and the pictures of her party to make a scrapbook for my mom.

Everyone pitched in for food and drinks, my sister-in-law made a gorgeous “sunflower” from mini cup cakes, an 8″ round cake and blackberries

60 IS NIFTY! A BIRTHDAY PARTY

There was lots of great food. One of my contributions was stuffed mushrooms

Stuffed Mushrooms:

2 pints whole mushrooms, stems removed and saved

1 T oil

1 c chopped onion

1c mushroom stems chopped

1 cup chopped spinach (I used fresh)

1 t salt

1/2 t pepper

1/4 c white wine

1 block cream cheese softened

1/4 c panko bread crumbs

1/4 c parmesan cheese grated

In a large pan heat oil and saute onion, and chopped mushroom stems until soft, add spinach and saute until wilted. add salt and pepper and white wine, bring to boil and reduce heat to low, simmer for 5 min.remove from heat.

add cream cheese, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese and cooled onion mixture to a food processor and puree.

Toss mushroom caps with olive oil and stuff with cheese mixture, bake in a preheated oven, 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes depending on size of mushrooms. Serve.

Happy Birthday Mom! and thank you to everyone who made the party a success.

Day Tripping With My Favorite Teen Age Botanist

I love to travel. Yes, I know everyone says that, but I really do. I love exotic trips full of adventure.  I love relaxing tropical vacations where I just plop my bottom down in foreign sand, but I also love a day trip to a rural town and a meal at a mom and pop restaurant just as much. Everything is an adventure to me, no matter how big or small, I just like to experience new things.

This week my kids had a day off of school and, as we usually do, my fourteen year old son and I went on a little day trip. He was once my constant companion, attached at my hip whether I liked it or not, now he is a teen, ready to start high school. I appreciate our time together more because I know we don’t have much time left. Not like this anyway. He’s not much into sports, cars, or shopping. He is a lover of nature, and always has been. Even during his terrible two’s and now his angsty teens, he is most calm and at peace on a nature trail or surrounded by trees. This is his zen. He calmly waits for bugs or squirrels to come to him,  he notices the differences in leaf shapes of various ferns, he walks quietly not to disturb the birds. We plan our trips accordingly.

This week we went to the Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, kind of a far drive from our home just to see plants, but this is what we do. We were not disappointed, the gardens were beautiful, the tower amazing.We saw the largest koi we had ever seen and a trail of just different species of ferns.

For fun, we stopped at  Spook Hill where your car is supposed to magically roll up the hill in neutral, but ours didn’t. Maybe because we had the top down so we could feel the wind in our hair, maybe because it’s a hoax. Either way the adventure was in trying and it gave us a chance to hypothesize on why it didn’t work for us.

Our next stop was a local candy factory in Dundee that makes it own chocolate and citrus candies and jellies. The sign said it was once featured on food network, how could we resist. This was my kind of place, I am a sucker for anything homegrown or made. We found a bag of candy for each of our family members, carefully decided based on their tastes. I got some jellies and local honey. This was a citrus town and they were proud of it. The lady at the counter was happy to answer all our questions, confirming all products were produced locally and even ran a catalog out to our car after we had left in case we wanted to place an order, “free shipping”, she assured us.

Time for the two hour ride home, my son ate his Fruit Pearls, another local Dundee, Fl product, I thought of different ways to use my newly purchased jellies. This is why I love to travel.

What’s for Dinner: Menu Planning 101

I just don’t have time, it’s too hard to plan a menu, I never have the ingredients I need, these are several complaints I have heard from myself and friends as to why the food in the refrigerator  spoils and we end up eating out, getting take out or relying on convenience foods. The trick is to have a system in place, only buy what you need and to know your weekly schedule in advance. This will help you save time, money and your sanity. There are several ways to do this but I am going to share what works for me.

Pre planning, This can be the most time consuming of the process but is the key. I keep a spiral notebook that I use for everything that way I only have to look in one place for all I need to know. Mine has pockets which are useful to hold important papers and recipes, sale ads, coupons etc… I start a new page for each shopping week. I like to shop on Sunday nights or Mondays after the kids get home from school. This way I am guaranteed to have someone here to help put groceries away.

During the week ahead I look for recipes, I try to only use 2 sources of recipes per week to lessen the confusion. An example would be the new Food Network Magazine and My Southern Living Cookbook. I will go through these while watching TV, or  waiting to pick up the kids and use sticky tabs or post it notes to mark the recipes I want to use. Then I make my list of the ones to use and the page number or source where they came from. Other good sources besides cookbooks and magazines are Pinterest, Epicurious.com, or the Martha Stewart  Everyday Food App, for smart phones.

The next step is to make the actual grocery list. I set up my page like my grocery store is set up.

I then go through my recipes and add the ingredients that I need in the right categories, check the pantry to see what other things I need, as well as asking the rest of the household if they need anything. Then I shop. I make sure I also have my menu with me in case I need to make any substitutions if they are out of something or something else is on sale. I find with this system that now I only need to shop once a week which saves time and money.

The Menu Board: After I get home and unload all the groceries I write the weeks menu on a chalkboard in our kitchen. I try not to put any meats into the freezer because if you forget to defrost you are heading out for takeout that night and your whole meal plan is ruined. So I check the dates on the meats and try to use the ones that expire first earlier in the week. I also try to do the easier meals on the nights when we are busy, and add in take out for the nights when cooking is impossible, or on Fridays, I never cook on Fridays, but thats my own little rule.

The menu board helps me stay organized and eliminates the need for me to answer, “What’s for dinner ?”, a thousand times each week. I got mine at Ikea. And of course the last rule is be flexible, we are a family of four and things come up and emergencies happen but that is what the eraser is for.