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What I’ll Be Cooking for Thanksgiving

Do you guys have round-the-table Thanksgiving traditions? Where someone makes you do something really lame, like making everyone say one thing that they’re thankful for? And you thought it was really lame until you had kids of your own, and now you make them do the same thing?

Thanksgiving was always memorable growing up, but more because every year seemed like an exercise in Who Can Be Most Like The Griswolds? and man, we took that shit seriously. It didn’t seem like a holiday until at least two people were crying and someone was shouting at the top of their lungs “GODDAMNIT, THIS IS A HOLIDAY!”

I say that with love and laughter, because we’re italian. That’s kind of how we do family holidays. (I am thankful for my lineage and family heritage.)

Thanksgiving now is a different deal because, well, time and all that jazz. We’ve now got lots of family, where before it was just my immediate family; we all now like to cook, where before it was just on my poor mother’s shoulders; and we’re all now actually thankful at the dinner table, instead of seeing who could be the most crass when it was our turn to give thanks.

We split up the cooking based on who is the most occupied that year, and most years, I try and bring at least three dishes. Mostly because I really, really like my own cooking. (I am thankful for my own cooking.)

This year, here’s what I’m bringing, linked to where I’ve found the best recipe:

Wild Mushroom & Sausage Stuffing – This has been my go-to for my Thanksgivings than I can count, and it always ends up GONE in the first round. It’s amazingly easy, but packs some great flavor without overwhelming you with any of the main ingredients. (Example: even if you’re not a mushroom fan, this stuffing is still delicious.)

Cornbread Stuffing with Chestnuts – I don’t have a link to this one because I found it in a flyer somewhere, except I can’t really find that now, so I’m gonna wing it. It’s your basic cornbread stuffing with chestnuts, dried cherries, and bacon. This doesn’t seem like something even I can screw up.

Sweet Potatoes – I can’t remember the last time I didn’t make these for a family gathering. I’ve linked to Pioneer Woman’s original recipe, but don’t be afraid to branch out a bit in trying new ways. (For instance, I use coconut cream instead of milk, and I top with crushed ginger snaps instead of pecans.)

Green Bean Casserole – I can’t link to this because this recipe was created when Jesus was a baby. I’m a traditionalist when it comes to green bean casserole, and I SWEAR ON ALL THAT’S HOLY YOU KEEP THOSE DAMN FRIED ONION THINGS AWAY.

Cranberry Sauce a la Slow Cooker – if you want the sappy backstory for my love of cranberry sauce (not to mention lots of great recipes!), head over to the Rocket City Mom round-up. But for now, just know that this is my favorite dish to make because 1) CRANBERRY SAUCE and 2) man, it makes your house smell like HEAVEN. I usually double the batch because everyone wants to take cranberry sauce home. (It’s AMAZING on biscuits the next morning!)

Possible Dish:

Pecan Pie Cheesecake – there is no reason for me to make this, AND YET. IT APPEARS TO BE MANNA FROM HEAVEN.

So here’s my question: Do you have any staples that are crazy easy that I should be making? Link me up in the comments – I’m especially stumped about rolls/bread this year.

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Stuff I’ve Cooked from Pinterest Lately

You remember when I used to do these? Well, pregnancy has reinvigorated my love for cooking. In fact, while you’d THINK I’d be pinning numerous baby whatnots, I’m instead filling my food boards with stuff. Lots of stuff. That I then sometimes cook and make. Let’s talk about that, shall we?

(Also, should you so desire, my family has a group board that outlines everything we’ve cooked or tried and what we thought about it and you’re more than welcome to follow along.)

Healthy Chicken Chickpea Chopped Salad

I made a big batch of this last night to lunch on during the week, and I have to admit – it’s pretty fantastic. I wasn’t familiar with a “chopped” salad – essentially where all contents are roughly chopped to the same size – but I like the idea. I followed the recipe exactly, except she roasted her corn and I didn’t, and I even really like the small bit of bbq sauce as a dressing. I also added the Hot Pepper sauce from Southern Plate as a dressing element as well.

Coconut Curry Soup

One of my comfort foods is curry. I don’t know why, considering that I hadn’t even ever tried it prior to 2005. (Bryan took me on my first trip to have curry. How’s THAT for turning the tables?) So red curry is my fave, and I also have a deep love of coconut soup, but the recipes I’ve found are incredibly complex. I found this recipe on Pinterest and YES. This is everything I ever wanted. I followed the recipe exactly (except I topped with crushed peanuts before serving) and it was perfect. I would go ahead and use the entire jar of red curry paste next time; while it was mild enough for everyone to eat, I like it a bit hotter. SO GOOD!

Funeral Sandwiches

First and foremost, I don’t know why they’re called Funeral Sandwiches. Every explanation I came up with didn’t make sense. But don’t let that deter you. This recipe is insanely easy and very yummy. They do require time to marinate, though, so factor that into your planning. (I think mine sat for 5 hours or so.) We followed this exactly, and took a tip from my Mom who tried to fit all the sandwiches tightly on a smaller sheet, but then the bottoms were soggy. So use a full-size cookie sheet – spread those suckers out – and enjoy! (Tip: They’re REALLY GOOD as leftovers!)

Currently in the Slow Cooker:

Slow Cooker Melt in Your Mouth Cube Steak

I am so enamored with the idea of cube steak, but no matter how I’ve soaked it and cooked it, it’s always been tough. Flavorful and familiar, but tough. I’m hoping this will prove otherwise. (Downside? Searing the meat first. Searing cube steak at 5:15 a.m. is not a great way to start a Monday.)

What have you been cooking lately? WHAT SHOULD I TRY?

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Father’s Day: What I Cooked

Father’s Day was a day of cooking for me. And don’t get me wrong, I LOVE being in the kitchen, but MAN WERE MY DOGS BARKING by bedtime. In fact, I don’t think I even said goodnight to anyone.. I’m pretty sure I just crawled into my bedroom and threw myself at the bed.

BUT IT WAS ALL PRETTY DAMN DELICIOUS. And I took not a single picture of any of it.

Here’s what we ate:

Our Main Course – Spiral Sliced Honey Baked Hams, provided by Apple Lane Farms.

Image Courtesy of Apple Lane Farms

Apple Lane Farms is a local joint and I first came to know them through their overstuffed sandwiches, and they are my HANDS DOWN favorite boxed lunch for catering work events. When I realized late Saturday that I didn’t have a main course, I called them in a panic, thinking that I’d need to give them 24 hours notice to get something ready. AS ALWAYS, they were awesome, and this was a delicious ham. Really, really good. I am drooling just remembering it.

Our Sides

Image Courtesy of Southern Plate

Collard Greens and Pepper Sauce from the Southern Plate

(You’ll see that most of my sides come from Southern Plate. If you’re not familiar with Christy Jordan, you are MISSING OUT.)

I am a HUGE fan of greens, but my boys are decidedly not. But even they ate these greens happily. (I think the ham hock helped.) And the pepper sauce included with it was good on EVERYTHING. I wish collard greens weren’t such a hassle to prep, because otherwise I’d have these at every meal.

Image Courtesy of Southern Plate

Black Eyed Peas from Southern Plate

Black Eyed Peas are another southern staple that are just a hassle to prep if you don’t have time. Because we had such a late night on Saturday, I didn’t make it to the grocery store to let my beans soak overnight. Which means I had an extra pot to watch the next morning. But you know? No big deal. I let these babies cook in the crock pot (after the soak, obviously) on HIGH for about six hours with another ham hock and they were perfect.

Image Courtesy of Pioneer Woman

Soul Sweet Potatoes by The Pioneer Woman

These are my staple dish. If there’s a family dinner, I’m asked to bring these. I’ve learned to allow longer cooking time for the sweet potatoes (honestly, I usually leave them in the oven for close to 1.5 hours), and this round I actually used coconut milk instead of whole milk. (Verdict: we liked it better. It made for a lighter, fluffier casserole.) I also crush up some ginger snaps in the topping.

Image Courtesy of The Sisters Dish

“Boston Market” Cornbread from The Sisters Dish

This was my unknown dish – the one thing my father had requested was cornbread, and I had never made this recipe. It caught my eye on Pinterest, but in reality, we don’t have a Boston Market around these parts, so I didn’t even know what it was supposed to taste like in the end. But! Hallelujah! The fates were with me, and this was delicious. It was sweet, like most southern cornbread, and made A TON. Next time, I’d like to add some corn niblets to the batter.

For Dessert

Image Courtesy of Southern Plate (AGAIN, CAUSE SHE’S SO AWESOME)

Banana Pudding from Southern Plate

When I gush over Christy Jordan, this is where I start, because this is where I started. My husband has an affinity to banana pudding, but only HIS MOTHER’S BANANA PUDDING WILL DO. So one day, I saw this randomly, and Christy was so unassuming and fun that I thought, Hey, maybe even I can manage this. And thusly, I became the NEW QUEEN OF BANANA PUDDING. Jenni totally saved my bacon here when we didn’t have any confectioner’s sugar for the meringue, and she made one out .. of .. something. I don’t know; ground up unicorns maybe. But it was very good, even though she and I were too stuffed from earlier to eat any.

All in all, there were many trips back to the food, and everyone left way too full and giddy from the joy of eating a meal that was cooked ENTIRELY from scratch. Which is awesome and I love that and it was perfect.

We even obliged Daddy in a Father’s Day Picture. He did request we find a way to not get a glare off of his head, though.

Only for you, Daddy.

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Breaking Up with My Boyfriends, Ben AND Jerry.

I can’t remember the last time I went on a “diet”; about two years ago, I started researching real food movements and caveman-centric eating styles and why we tried a bit of each of those, I found that – as a family – it was just easier to mix in the best parts of all of those.

As such, I found the need for “diets” to be obsolete. I was not looking for a quick fix or a band-aid or a miracle cabbage soup. (That is my FAVORITE point of reference for diets. “The Cabbage Soup” diet – did y’all ever try that? BOY HOWDY, DID THAT MAKE MY LIFE HARD AND SMELLY.)

But a longtime friend of mine – in fact, back in our early days at the company, we used to take turns ordering the newest “lose 20 lbs instantly!” products and sharing them – started a new diet that involved a high-potency vitamin/calorie dosing three times a day. And I thought, Ehh. Why not?

So these drops (yes, a three-letter-drop) are such that you take them sublingually, three times a day. And they offer you a diet plan to complement the drops – a 500 calorie a day diet.

Which, COME ON. Am I right?

Well, part of the plan is that you don’t exercise beyond walking because your body can’t take it. (While starving? NO KIDDING!) So I’m not exactly following that. But what I’ve found in the last few days is that I need the chance to detox.

Sugar? Is out. And not, like, entirely out because I am still eating fruit. (As is allowed on “the plan”. 6 strawberries, a small apple, or half of a grapefruit are permitted twice a day.) But I need to remember how sweet fruit is.  I need to remember that fresh summer berries are a decadent, luxurious summer dessert.

Carbs? No sir. I’m not bending much on this with the small exception that I may have some vegetables that are not allowed on the Atkins diet – legumes are not allowed, nor is corn or potatoes and I KNOW I KNOW THOSE ARE STARCHES ANYWAY. But I’m not saying that if I’m starving, and I have a big run ahead of me, that I’m going to avoid those things. But no more carb-loading on pasta before a measly 1 mile run and declaring it holy in the name of exercise.

Snacking? THIS MAKES ME SAD. But no, no more snacking. This is really the RESET button I needed – I needed to realize what had become habit versus me fueling my body. No more mindlessly shoving a Larabar (or two) into my face between breakfast and lunch. No more hovering around the vending machine. We are now pursuing purposeful eating.

My friend and I were talking about how the first few days went and she nailed it on the head: “It’s like you’re breaking up with an abusive boyfriend. He didn’t treat you right, he didn’t love you back, but yet, you just kept seeing him. Sneaking in a visit here, lying about seeing him there.” YES. YES YES YES. It has made me realize just how habitually I ate, not with any purpose. Because I looooove him.

So that’s where I am. I’m probably a little cranky – and a little frustrated that I have had two little bundt cakes sitting on my counter, uneaten, for three days now but who’s counting OH I AM – and I’m definitely coming out of withdrawal. But! I’m sleeping better – like, WAY better – and I’m actually tasting food again. I made Balsamic Slow-Cooker Chicken on Monday and each breast I’ve eaten since has been a got-damned flavor orgasm. How amazing ARE tomatoes, anyway? AND RED ONION? PURE BLISS.

The point I’m trying to make is this: I know it sounds crazy, but sometimes, we need to hit a RESET button. I’m not doing some 500 calorie a day diet, because HAHAHAH PLEASE. But I am tapering back and only eating natural, real foods and cutting out the crap that isn’t really helping my bottom line. (SEE WHAT I DID THERE? BECAUSE MY BOTTOM IS FAT.)

Of course, because why wouldn’t you?, I had one last hurrah. A menage e trois, if you will, with Ben, Jerry, and Jimmy Fallon. AND IT WAS GLORIOUS.

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I’ve Started to Enjoy Cooking Again.

Y’all know I’ve loved cooking things from Pinterest, but as the site grew, it became more and more unstable as far as “following pins” was concerned. People unknowingly pinned pictures with no links, or pictures with links back to a site with no info about said recipe. As a result, I stopped going there.

But even though I was no longer pinning, it was the darndest thing: my family still demanded to eat. Like, DAILY. I don’t know what that’s about. I guess I spoiled them.

I have a revolving door of recipes, obviously, but since one of us (THE COOK, no less) is dairy free, that kind of limits what we can eat together. I will still bend a little and eat recipes if the dairy is small or negligible, but things like macaroni and cheese is off-limits now. (Related, sort of: I will always always always type “diary” the first time. So if you sometimes read that I’m diary-free, you know what’s up.)

So I happened upon a site called Relish, which came highly recommended from a couple of bloggers I read. And I started browsing and the recipes met two criteria that I have for all recipes I try: 1) food sounded good, and 2) they can be whipped up in 40 minutes or less.

I decided to take the plunge because, like I said, I was out of options for cooking. I signed up for a three month subscription, and to be honest? I didn’t mind paying the money. It was relatively cheap and I thought, hey, might get a good recipe or two out of it.

One of the things that I’ve most enjoyed about Relish is the grocery list option. New recipes are available every Thursday, so Friday before I go home for the weekend, I browse through the 20 or so new recipes and pick out four or five that look good to me. You have the option of choosing how many diners you’re cooking for (2 or 4 diners), hit a button, and BOOM! It creates your shopping list for you. And these aren’t weird ingredients that will have you hunting through the store. After using the site religiously for three weeks, I’ve built up quite an arsenal and my shopping trips are becoming more and more focused.

Relish aims to keep your shopping expenses at or around $90 a week, but I usually hover above that. Then again, we have family staples that aren’t covered in the Relish arsenal – milk, oj, toilet paper, etc. I am buying fewer impulse meal ideas, though. Also, there is a focus on real food with Relish; you’ll pick up few or no boxed mixes of any sort.

Relish ALSO has a gluten-free option! If you or a family member has gluten-free needs, be sure and browse that area as well. I imagine that if you are a gluten-free kitchen, finding new dining options can be a real challenge.

Okay, enough chatter. I’m going to share a recipe with you from last week that I cooked (and we loved) and then –  A GIVEAWAY!

PAN-SEARED TILAPIA WITH ALMOND BUTTER (Feeds 2)

  • 2/3  lb tilapia filets (I used frozen that had thawed to room temperature)
  • coarse salt and ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1/8 Cup chopped almonds (I used slivered because that’s what I had on-hand)
  • 1 Tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped (I omitted this)

1. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper and sprinkle with flour. Heat the oil in a large skilled over medium-high heat, swirling to coat the bottom. Add the fish and cook for 4-5 minutes or until it is easy to move the fish with a spatula.

2. Gently turn the fish and cook for 2-3 minutes more or until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Remove to a plate.

3. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the butter to the skillet and when it begins to melt, stir in the almonds. Cook for a minute or two until the nuts are toasted; do not let the butter burn! Spoon the almond mixture over the fish; sprinkle with parsley and serve.

SKILLET CORN (Feeds 2 adults and 1 half-interested four year old)

  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon butter
  • 2 Cups frozen corn
  • 1/2 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon cornmeal
  • coarse sale and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in corn, sugar, and cornmeal. Cook, covered and stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve in individual bowls.

I know, right?! Sounds delicious. AND IT WAS. And you can try it too!

I actually love how Relish values their customers; I contacted them to see if I could post a recipe for you guys to show how awesome the site is and they responded that not only could I post it, but they would love for me to giveaway a three-month subscription! And all readers get a 2 week free trial! GLORY BE, WE ALL BE COOKIN’ UP IN HERE!

So here’s the deal to enter:

  • Visit Relish.
  • At the bottom, you’ll see the “Redeem a Voucher” link. Click it.
  • Relish has allowed my readers a two-week, totally free trial.
  • Use code “ANVIL” to redeem yours.
  • Choose a menu for the week! Cook! Enjoy!
  • Then come back here and comment with what recipe you’re most looking forward to.
  • One winner will be chosen from comments – using Random.org – on Thursday.
  • That winner will get a free, 3 months subscription!
  • (Winner MUST have redeemed a two week free trial.)
  • Two week free trial is JUST that – totally free. I asked specifically about that because over the span of a year one time, my friends all held these candle parties for an in-home based candle business, and in order to win a big candle, you had to put your name in this hat, and somehow, no one ever won a big candle, but we all ended up having to host another candle party. So literally, for almost a year, we had to visit two candle parties a month, and that was TOTALLY not free, nor did anyone ever win that big three-wick candle. So I asked, Is this “free” trial like those candle parties?  and she virtually patted me on the head and said, “No, not. I don’t think. But they don’t even ask for your credit card info.” So there you go. NO CANDLE PARTIES FOR YOU.

Alright! Let’s get cooking!

Although they are providing the free trial and winner’s prize, Relish is not compensating me for this post. I just really, honestly loved them and wanted to share it with you. I basically would’ve written most of this post ANYWAY, but it just happens to feature a giveaway on it. HOORAY!

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