Sunday, November 27, 2011

Menu Plan November 27-December 3

Can you believe Christmas is in four weeks? Four!!! Where has this year gone?

We had a lovely Thanksgiving with friends then spent the remainder of the weekend decorating the house for the holidays. It was 70 degrees, though, so it didn't feel much like Christmas. Unbelievably, there IS snow in the forecast for Monday night/Tuesday morning. In November. In Alabama. Unbelievable! LOL

Whether it snows or not, the holidays are quickly approaching, and I need to get my plans in motion. I usually bake a variety of treats and hand out goodie trays to friends. I'll keep you updated on that.

For now, this week's menu:

Crockpot turkey and rice soup, bread

Honey mustard chicken, rice, green beans

Pizza Soup

Sausage veggie calzones, fries

Meatloaf, mashed potatoes

Wisconsin Cheddar Soup in bread bowls

West Virginia Pepperoni Rolls

If you want more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday. You'll find tons of ideas from other cooks just like you!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Great Stuffing/Dressing Debate Part Two

Yesterday I posted my first stuffing recipe using onions and sausage as a flavorful base. It was handed down to me by my husband's grandmother, a native of Michigan. Today I'm going to post a Southern recipe, chicken and cornbread dressing. It can be served as a main dish or a side dish.

Here's what you need:

2 cups cooked shredded chicken (check out my tip for easily shredding chicken)
Jiffy Mix corn muffin mix, baked according to the package directions
1 1/2 teas poultry seasoning (feel free to use less, we like ours really savory)
1 teas salt
1 teas onion powder
1/2 teas black pepper
1 egg, beaten
2-3 cups chicken broth

Start by breaking up the baked cornbread into crumbs. Combine with the shredded chicken in a large bowl. Add seasonings.

Stir in the beaten egg. Then add 2 cups chicken broth. Make sure all of the cornbread crumbs and chicken are moist. Allow to sit for 10 minutes so the crumbs can soak up all the lovely moisture. Now if you like a really moist dressing, add a little more broth until you reach the consistency you like.

Spread the mixture into a greased 8x8 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes until golden brown.

Cut into squares and serve. Around here most people make chicken gravy to pour over the top, but we prefer ours plain.

If you're cooking for a crowd, simply double the recipe and use a 9x13 pan. Your cooking time will increase slightly, too.

So, where do you stand in the Great Stuffing/Dressing Debate? Do you make stuffing or dressing? Cornbread or plain bread? Sweet or savory?

I've shared this recipe over at Blessed with Grace's Tempt My Tummy Tuesday. Head over there to check out some more yummy recipes.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Great Stuffing/Dressing Debate Part One

At this time of year, people everywhere are discussing whether they're serving stuffing or dressing with their Thanksgiving dinner. I know, this is one of those life-altering debates that could change how you view the world! Not!

But do you call the dish stuffing if you don't actually stuff the turkey with it? Should it actually be called dressing? Am I the only one who thinks about such silly things?

Growing up, my knowledge of stuffing was limited to Stove Top in a box. No one that I knew made their own from scratch. Then I moved South and found out it's a tradition to make homemade stuffing.

And that in itself is cause for debate. Some people swear that cornbread stuffing is the only way to go. Then you have people who moved here from the North bringing all kinds of weird combinations like oysters and cranberries. I've even seen people put pineapple in their stuffing! No kidding!

To sum it up, I've found that no two stuffing recipes are exactly alike. And you know what, I'm good with that. I love being able to take a basic idea and add my own flavorful twists to it.

So today I'll share with you a recipe handed down to me from my husband's grandmother who was raised in Michigan. It's a savory sausage combination that makes my mouth water! Tomorrow I'll share a traditional Southern chicken and cornbread recipe given to me by a member of my church who is renowned for his Southern cooking.

Savory Sausage Stuffing - this needs to sit overnight, so plan ahead

1 loaf of white sandwich bread, cubed
1 lb. bulk sausage
4-5 large onions, chopped
1 teas rubbed sage
1 egg, beaten
1 quart milk

Place the bread cubes on baking sheets and brown in the oven until toasted. I heat my oven to 400 degrees, so it takes 10-15 minutes. Check often and stir so all the bread gets evenly toasted.

While the bread is toasting, cook the sausage in a large skillet until no longer pink. Remove the sausage from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the chopped onions and cook in the sausage drippings until translucent and starting to brown. Sprinkle with sage as the onions cook.

In a large bowl, combine the bread cubes, sausage and onions. Pour the beaten egg and 2 cups of milk over all. With a large spoon, stir to mix well. I usually just dig my hands in there and get everything mixed together. The stuffing should be very moist. Add more milk if needed. I usually add another cup or so because we like moist stuffing.

If you plan to stuff your turkey with this, set aside as much as you need. Then pat the rest of the stuffing into a greased 9x13 pan. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

About 90 minutes before serving, take the pan out of the fridge and allow to sit for 30 minutes. Check to see if the stuffing has dried out too much. If so, pour a little more milk over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes until browned.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Menu Plan November 20-26

Thanksgiving Week is here! Yay!

This year we're hosting our dear friends again since all of our family is out of state. Everyone pitches in and makes several dishes, so the burden of the whole meal doesn't fall on one person. We're going to brine and roast the turkey like we've done in the past, too. I've already got the turkey thawing and plan to stick it in the brine on Tuesday. Here's my post on brining a turkey.

Charles took this week off from work so we could do some fun things together as a family before the hectic holiday season starts. We're all very excited about the entire week, not just Thanksgiving Day.

Now on to the menu plan:

Easy Crockpot Potato Soup, homemade bread

Chicken cornbread dressing, fried potatoes

Pasta and garlic bread

BBQ Chicken in the crockpot

Thanksgiving Dinner!

Leftovers - we love to make sandwiches with the leftover turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing and gravy!

Turkey and brown rice soup in the crockpot

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Easy Blender Salsa

I love homemade salsa. The jarred stuff just tastes...well, jarred. I have a fresh salsa recipe that I love. And if you like something a little different from traditional tomato and pepper salsa, this cucumber salsa is the way to go.

But lately tomatoes have been crazy expensive around here. So I found an alternative to using fresh tomatoes. Instead I used canned fire-roasted tomatoes. And the results are just wonderful!

One of the things I love about making my own salsa is that I control the spiciness. And since my family doesn't like spicy, we skip the jalapenos and use green bell pepper instead. You, however, can use whatever level of spicy pepper you like.

Here's what you need:

2 cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes (15 oz each)
1 small can pickled jalapenos, drained (I substitute a small green pepper, chopped)
2 TBSP dried minced onion
1 teas garlic powder
1/2 teas cumin
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
lime juice to taste
salt to taste (I usually don't add salt because the chips I eat with the salsa are salty enough)

Toss all the ingredients into a blender. Pulse until the salsa has reached the desired consistency. This will probably only take a few seconds. While I adore chunky salsa, this recipe is better when it's pureed, like the kind of salsa you'd get at a Mexican restaurant

Now, a word of caution. This salsa does get watery the longer it sits. The solution to that is to eat it quickly. And that most likely won't be a problem, considering how yummy it is. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Let the Holy Spirit do His work

Letting the Holy Spirit do His work is a topic I've been pondering for a long, long time. As a mom, I want to be sure my children follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. But if I never give them the chance to experience His leading, how can they learn to follow?

Let me explain. I know parents who micromanaged every detail of their children's lives, down to the color of the clothing they wore. As the children grew, the parents continued to keep very tight control over every aspect of their lives, in the name of protecting them from the evils of this world. The children were accustomed to having someone else make decisions for them - simple ones like what clothes to wear today and difficult ones like which college to attend.

When they finally became adults and branched out on their own, they had no one telling them exactly what do to. So guess what they did....they dove headfirst into every kind of sin imaginable! Was it rebellion in their hearts all along that caused them to go down those paths? Possibly. But it very well could have been that they'd never been given the opportunity to rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit themselves. They'd never listened to that still, small voice because Mom and Dad drowned Him out with their own leading.

How can we expect our kids to exercise discernment if we discern everything for them? Sure, we need to set guidelines for them as they grow. We need to teach them to obey and respect us. But we also need to let them develop a reliance on God's guidance so when they're away from us, they make wise choices.

I know it's hard to relinquish control. But I have to let the Holy Spirit do His work in their lives. He alone can convict and lead. I can advise, pray, and set a good example. It's quite possible that they might make different choices than I would. But if they're sincerely following after God, I have to trust that His Spirit will lead them to where they need to be.

But man, it's not easy. Help me too, Lord!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Menu Plan November 13-19

'Tis the week before Thanksgiving, so meals this week will be frugal. Not much going on - a follow up with my family doctor from my chest pain experience three weeks ago. Charles was supposed to be traveling for work this week, but the project was delayed. I'm very glad he's home this week.

Now on to the menu plan:

Indian butter chicken (I made it in the crockpot - delicious!), rice

Baked spaghetti, bread sticks

Baked egg rolls

Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans

Black bean chili, sweet buttermilk cornbread

Burritos, chips and salsa

Crockpot Potato Soup

For more meal-planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Carmelized Squash

Side dishes are always a challenge for me. I have no problems with main dishes. Give me a slab of meat and I can do something with it! But I find myself relying on the same veggies - beans, broccoli, carrots and corn - to round out my meals. Oh...and potatoes. We love potatoes.

My sister-in-law shared this recipe on her blog, so I tried it and loved it! The squash was tender and sweet. The hardest part was chopping those butternut squashes into chunks, but the end result was well worth the effort!

Here's what you need:

2 medium butternut squash
6 TBSP butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teas kosher salt
1/2 teas coarse pepper

Cut off and discard the ends of each squash. Peel and cut in half length-wise, then scoop out and discard the seeds. Chop into chunks and place on a greased baking sheet or pan.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the brown sugar until dissolved. Add the salt and pepper.

Pour the butter mixture over the squash and toss to coat.

Bake at 400 degrees for 45-55 minutes until the squash is tender and the glaze has carmelized. Turn the squash every fifteen minutes or so to make sure all sides gets browned and toasty!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Chicken and Corn Chowder

Here's a hearty chowder to warm you up on these cool fall evenings. The sweet flavor of the corn and the chunks of chicken combine perfectly to make a filling meal. The Old Bay seasoning gives a little zip to the soup, too.

What you'll need:

1 small onion, diced
2 cups frozen Southern-style hash browns
2 TBSP flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 can evaporated milk
2 pkgs frozen creamed corn, thawed
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 teas Old Bay seasoning
1 teas dried parsley flakes
1 teas garlic powder
salt and pepper, to taste

In a saucepan, cook the onion in a little olive oil until soft. Add the hash browns and cook for a few more minutes. Sprinkle with flour to coat.

Slowly pour in the chicken broth, stirring as you go. Scrape up any bits of flour on the bottom of the pan. Do the same with the evaporated milk. If don't have evaporated milk, just sub regular milk, about 1 1/2 cups.

Now stir in the creamed corn. This was the first time I'd ever used frozen creamed corn for anything. I chose sweet white corn, but next time I make this, I'll use one package of white and one package of yellow.

Add the shredded chicken and seasonings. Bring to a low simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Garnish with cheddar cheese and bacon bits, if desired.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Emotional Rant Ahead

This week has been rough on me emotionally. Not because of anything happening to me or my family. We have our share of difficulties, to be sure. But this week is okay in that way.

I'm sure by now you've heard of the Penn State child sex abuse scandal. Joe Paterno, long-time coach who was widely respected for running a clean program, ended up losing his job. And I completely agree with the board's decision that he had to go.

Because in 2002 Joe Paterno was made aware of an assault on a child that took place in the very showers his own players used. The perpetrator was well-known to Paterno. Jerry Sandusky had been a defensive coordinator for Paterno for years. He'd also been investigated for similar allegations in 1998 involving minor boys and showers. Sandusky retired the following year, leading many people to believe that the shower incidents were the reason. So basically, Joe Paterno know he had a sexual deviant coming into his facility and bringing young boys with him.

When a grad assistant - one of Joe's former players and currently an assistant coach at Penn State - told Joe about the sexual assault, Joe reported the incident to the VP and the athletic director. Then he did nothing. Knowing that Sandusky had a history of this behavior, Joe Paterno didn't contact the police. He washed his hands of it. He thought his obligation to that poor child ended when he told some higher-ups, even though he knew that no legal steps had been taken to investigate the abuse.

So why does this bother me so? I'm not a Penn State alum. I'm not even a Penn State fan.

But I'm a mom. With a 10-year-old son. The same age as the boy in the 2002 assault. And I can't fathom how so many adults could so totally fail to protect innocent children when they knew Sandusky was a pervert. How could they turn a blind eye to the abuse?

My emotions have run from anger to sadness to disappointment to downright rage this week. I'm drained. My heart breaks for those poor boys who could have been spared if just one person had done the right thing. I can't help but think, what if that had been my child who had been abused then forgotten by people who could have helped him? And I really, really want to hurt someone. Maybe that makes me a bad person, but I want to hurt the man who violated those children, and I want to hurt the people who ignored it.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Menu Plan November 6-12

I know that "falling back" from Daylight Savings Time is supposed to give you an extra hour of sleep, but my internal clock doesn't know it. This morning instead of waking up at 7:00, I was awake at 6:00. And now I'm sleepy at 9 pm instead of 10 pm! Maybe we should just leave time alone, huh? LOL

Now on to this week's menu.

Out to eat - celebratory dinner for a friend who got a new job

Chicken and corn chowder, yeast rolls

Peking pork chops, Asian quinoa

Toscano soup, whole wheat bread

Cashew chicken

Dinner with friends

West Virginia pepperoni rolls

For more menu planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fall around the neighborhood

Fall has come to the neighborhood. Last year the leaves were kind of dull and brown because of the lack of rain. But this year, things are gorgeous! I love the color palette of fall!

Peeking through the hedge at our neighbors' yard down the street

Behind our house

Directly across the street

Of course, all that beautiful color leads to this.

And this.

But since they get paid for raking, they don't complain too much!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Cheddar Apple Salad

I love eating salads. They are so versatile. You can throw just about any ingredient in and make it work. This salad is sweet with some yummy cheese and crunchy pecans. Perfect for fall.

Here's what you need:

8 cups torn salad greens of your choice (I use romaine and iceberg)
1 cup chopped apple - tart is best, but any kind will work
1/2 cup chopped pecans
4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes
6 slices bacon, cooked and diced

For the dressing:
1/2 cup poppy seed dressing
1/4 cup balsamic viniagrette

In a large bowl, toss the salad ingredients together. Whisk the poppy seed and balsamic dressings together. Pour over the salad and toss to coat. You may not need all of the dressing, so just save it in the fridge for future use. I only used about a two-thirds of it so I didn't drown the salad.

Also, if you don't think all of the salad will get eaten, you can leave the dressing off and serve it on the side. Cause lettuce does some funny wilting stuff once it comes in contact with dressing.