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What’s for Christmas dinner: Make ahead twice baked potatoes

17 Dec
Christmas Dinner: pork chop with homemade applesauce, green beans, twice baked potatoes, butternut squash

Today’s post is all about the potatoes.

ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 28, 2011

Yesterday I wrote the first part of my post about our Christmas dinner, which is a great meal for any occasion:  roasted pork chops, homemade applesauce, Twice-Baked Potatoes, sauteed green beans and butternut squash.

At the end of the post I promised that I’d be sharing the make-ahead process that Don uses for the Twice-Baked Potatoes, which also provides you with a ready-made appetizer: potato skins.

To begin, you need baking potatoes. I get mine at Aldi’s. They sell the perfect sized and shaped potatoes in a big bag so that you don’t have to hand pick every single one. I buy two bags of them.

Early in the day on Christmas Eve, they go in the oven to be baked just as you would for any baked potato. Don bakes them at 400 degrees for one hour.

After that, they cool on top of the stove for two hours.

Potato skins

You want to take off the tops, but leave enough potato on them to make a hearty potato skin appetizer. You don’t want just skin.

At that time, Don cuts the top skin off of the potatoes, putting the tops in a serving dish to be used as Potato Skins for the next day and leaving the bottoms on the tray to be used for the Twice Baked Potatoes.

potato shells

You don’t want to scrape right down to the skin, leave enough flesh on the skin for a sturdy shell.

The next step is to scoop all of the potato flesh out of the skins, and into a mixing bowl.

making mashed potatoes for twice baked potoatoes

Next, you make mashed potatoes.

Next, you make the filling. We use butter, milk or half and half, salt, pepper and cheddar cheese, mashing the mixture just as you would for mashed potatoes.

Then, you fill the potato skins back up again. They should be slightly more full than they were before because of the added cheese, milk and butter.

Wrap the entire tray with saran wrap and refrigerate overnight.

On Christmas morning, when it’s time to cook, take your potatoes out. Let them sit on the counter for about 20 minutes to bring the temperature up a bit. Bake them in the oven 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  Sprinkle cheddar cheese on top of each one, and broil for a few minutes until brown and crispy. Eat and Enjoy!

Twice Baked Potatoes

Good enough to eat!

Additionally, to make your potato skins appetizer, you use the tops of the skins from the day before, sprinkling them with any toppings you’d like. We use cheddar cheese and bacon bits. Broil them for a few minutes in the oven before serving. We serve with a side of sour cream.

Hanukkah is coming! Here’s a complete meal and craft for you!

10 Dec
Menorah clip art

Happy Hanukkah!

ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 17, 2011

We are not Jewish, but over the years we have been blessed to know many Jewish friends. When we were first married, we moved to New Jersey. Some of the first people we met there were our friends Max and Jamie, an Italian-Jewish-African American couple whose passion for good food and good times matched our own. They gave us the following brisket recipe in 1996 and we’ve been making it ever since and I think of them fondly every time we do. Accompanying the brisket recipe is a recipe for Latkes, a potato pancake, which we actually make frequently throughout the year because we love them so much. And of course, this post contains a coordinating craft to go along with it. It’s truly the whole package for you!

Max and Jamie sent this recipe to us in 1998 after we had moved back to New England. It’s not perfectly measured out, a lot of winging it, but it’s worth it! I do not have a photograph of this meal because I have not made it since I started this blog in September but I promise that the next time we make it, I will take and post photos.

HANUKKAH BRISKET

INGREDIENTS

One brisket

one medium to large onion

several carrots

a few cans of tomato sauce

DIRECTIONS

1) First chop the onion and cook it a bit in a big pot with a bit of oil (vegetable, corn, canola, whatever)

2) Put the brisket in the pot with the onion and brown it on both sides.

3) Add one can of water for each can of tomato sauce until the brisket is covered. The number of cans varies depending on the size of the can. Let the brisket cook in the liquid for one hour.

4) After about 45 minutes add the carrots (cut into medium sized pieces) to the pot. (Jamie wrote: I usually add about 3-4 carrots. You don’t want to add too many or the sauce will take on too much of a carrot flavor.)

5) After the hour is up, take the brisket out of the pot and slice it. Either with or against the grain works fine, whatever you prefer.

6) Put the brisket back into the pot and cook for another half hour.

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mmmmm…latkes!

LATKES

Elizabeth actually brought this recipe home from second grade in 2010 and I enjoy using it, it’s an easy one, although we’ve used several others in the past.

INGREDIENTS

3 large potatoes, grated

1 small onion, grated

2 beaten eggs

2 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon salt

pinch of pepper

DIRECTIONS

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.

Heat half a cup of oil in a frying pan.

Drop a tablespoonful of the potato mixture in the pan.

Fry until the pancake is brown and crispy on the edges.

Turn and fry on the other side.

Drain the latkes on a paper towel.

Some people enjoy sour cream with their potato pancakes, others enjoy applesauce with theirs. I am an applesauce girl all the way, and I’m including my super-simple homemade applesauce recipe below, but see which you prefer!

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Homemade Applesauce

Homemade applesauce makes a perfect topping for latkes!

HOMEMADE APPLESAUCE

There are so many homemade applesauce recipes out there, and I’ve used a few of them, including a great crockpot recipe which makes a huge amount. But, for a meal like this, I’d use my usual go-to recipe that I of course, learned from my mom when we were growing up.

INGREDIENTS

1 three pound bag of apples (like Cortland or Macintosh) peeled and sliced

1 cinnamon stick

1/2 cup water

THAT’S IT!!

DIRECTIONS

Peel them, slice them, throw them in the pan, dump in the water and cinnamon stick.

Wait til it boils, which happens quickly, and then simmer for 20 minutes. Mash them and eat!

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Menorah Craft for Hanukkah

Here are the handprint Menorahs my girls made with Caroline last weekend

HANUKKAH CRAFT FOR KIDS

Caroline recently decided to do this craft with her sisters after she saw it in a Highlights magazine. I thought it was so cute and perfect to post with today’s recipes. It’s super easy and her sisters really enjoyed it. They also went online and looked up what real menorahs looked like, while doing their own version of them.

For this craft you need:

one sheet of white paper

two hands for hand prints

one ink pad (I recommend water based ink)

one sheet of yellow construction paper for flames

scissors and glue sticks

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Baked Cheese and Broccoli Patties

3 Dec
These were so great! Definitely a keeper!

These were so great! Definitely a keeper!

On a recent school day afternoon, I received a text from one of my daughters. It was about an hour before I had to leave and she’d be arriving home while I was gone, but I wouldn’t be back for quite some time.

Her lunch had been ruined. I can’t remember the reason why or specifically what happened. My memory isn’t what it used to be. She was annoyed and she was already starving, with a couple of hours to go before she’d arrive home.

I didn’t have an after school snack planned, and she knows how to make a bagel, cereal, a sandwich, things like that, but I had an idea. I looked up a recipe I’d been wanting to try for a while,  one I’d seen floating across my Facebook page for Baked Cheese and Broccoli Patties.

Now I know that doesn’t sound like a typical yummy after school snack, it’s definitely not chocolate and not sweet, but it’s savory and my kids actually all like broccoli. In fact, this one in particular loves it, and her winning recipe that got us to the White House in 2012 was a simple broccoli and cheese omelet. Rather than let her come in and make just anything for a snack, which was now replacing her lunch, I thought maybe I could leave her these to just reheat and she’d get something a little warmer and more nutritious than a bowl of cereal.

I checked out the recipe, checked out the time and figured out that if I moved quickly, I could squeeze in the prep and cook times before I left. They’d be done and on top of the stove when she got home. It might even make her day a little better, which would be an added bonus.

They were delicious. I texted her a photo of them when I knew she was out of school, on the bus, on her way home. “Just reheat and eat,” I said.

She was so happy. So hungry and so happy. I later texted again to see if she liked them and she said she loved them, that they were very similar to this recipe that we’d gotten out of our cookbook that we’d received at our White House luncheon, minus the hot dogs and pasta. When my other daughters got home from school, they too reported loving this after school snack.

So I call this a great recipe success! All thumbs up, a quick and easy recipe and it can be used for a side dish with a meal or on its own; even as an after school snack. Who knew?!

When I saw this recipe go by on Facebook, a friend was sharing it to another friend’s wall, but there was no originating information to go with it. I did an online search, saw the recipe on the Food.com site, but the photo was different than the one in the recipe I had, and this person too, reported getting it from a random Facebook post. However, someone put up a comment with the origination of the recipe, so I’d like to give credit here to the Po’Man Meals blog. Thanks for inspiring a whole lot of us!

I’m using the ingredients and directions I found on Food.com, which is the same as the one I have printed out at home, so thanks to them as well.

I encourage you to give it a try!

Baked Cheese and Broccoli Patties

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
  2. Heat the oil in a small pan over medium heat, add in the garlic and onions. Season with salt/pepper to taste. Sauté until onions are garlic are tender, set aside to cool.
  3. Add the broccoli to a kitchen towel. Wrap the towel around the broccoli and squeeze out the extra moisture. Pour the drained broccoli into a large bowl, add the onion and garlic and mix gently.
  4. To the same bowl, add the panko, the cheeses, eggs, and salt/pepper to taste.
  5. Mix together and form into patties, place on the prepared baking sheet.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Flip and bake for another 15 minutes or until browned and crispy.

 

Got leftovers? Make a Turkey Pot Pie!

28 Nov

ORIGINALLY POSTED NOVEMBER 26, 2011:

One of the best things about having leftovers from Thanksgiving is being able to enjoy the feast for days to come. Although we do not have Thanksgiving at home, the recipe I am posting today is one of my favorite ways to use leftover turkey, so I thought I’d post it here for you, in case you  get tired of turkey sandwiches.

Turkey Pot Pie

INGREDIENTS

1pkg. (ten oz.) frozen peas and carrots (or whatever veggies you like in your pot pies)

1/4 cup butter or margarine

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1/4 tsp. pepper

1 can College Inn Chicken Broth

2/3 cup milk

2 1/2 to 3 cups cut up cooked turkey (or chicken)

Pastry for two 9″ crust pie

DIRECTIONS

Rinse frozen peas and carrots under running cold water to separate. Drain.

Heat margarine in 2 quart saucepan over low heat until melted.

Stir in flour and pepper.

Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is bubbly; remove from heat.

Stir in broth and milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly.

Boil and stir 1 minute. Stir in turkey and vegetables.

Pour turkey into pastry lined dish, flute the top crust.

Bake at 425 degrees until golden brown, about 35 minutes.

Pumpkin Palooza Recipe of the Day: MaryLou’s Sweet Potato Casserole

19 Nov

This is MaryLou. She makes a kickin’ Sweet Potato Casserole!

ORIGINALLY POSTED NOVEMBER 22, 2011:

Who is MaryLou, you ask? She’s my mother-in-law and she makes the best sweet potato casserole EVER!!  She knows how much I love it, and even if it’s NOT Thanksgiving, she’s often made it when we visit. I am always sure to sit myself next to the Sweet Potato Casserole at the table, whenever she makes it.

Since 450 miles is a LONG way to go for a bite of her casserole, she let me have the recipe in November 2004. I am now sharing it with you. You are very lucky. :)

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups sweet potatoes boiled and mashed

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla

1/2 cup margarine

Mix thoroughly and pour into buttered casserole dish.

TOPPING INGREDIENTS:

1 cup light brown sugar packed

1/2 cup flour

1 cup chopped pecans (this is a 6oz. pkg. halved pecans or so my notes say)

1/2 cup margarine melted

Mix with fork and sprinkle on top

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes

“Sit down and enjoy!”

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Two weeks of meals

12 Nov
Ready for another two weeks of dinners?

Ready for another two weeks of dinners?

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted our two weeks of meals menu, and I always get great feedback from readers when I do. Therefore, I’m sharing our current menu plan with you today. Hopefully it will provide you with some dinner ideas and inspiration.

If you’re a new reader, this is how we generally try to plan out our grocery shopping every two weeks on pay day. We create a two week menu and try to stick as closely as we can to it. It almost never stays 100% on track, so we almost always have some carryover for the next two weeks of meals.

We have found that this is the best way for us to stick to a budget and to always have a (relatively) healthy, homemade meal for our family to eat together every night. It doesn’t always work out perfectly, but it’s better for us than not planning at all.

Week 1:

Sunday: Corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, carrots

Monday: Tacos  *This lends itself well to taco salad or seven layer dip with chips for lunches the next day. This time around it was the dip, last time we had them, I did taco salads.

Tuesday: Lasagna

Wednesday: Pork chops and applesauce (homemade)

Thursday: Choice of hot dogs, hamburgers or chicken burgers

Friday: Pot luck dinner at Girl Scouts

Saturday: BBQ Ribs

Week 2:

Sunday: Dinner at friends’

Monday: Shepherd’s Pie (this was a ‘cook once, eat twice’ extra Shepherd’s Pie frozen from a previous month)

Tuesday: American Chopped Suey pasta bake

Wednesday: Lemon Basil Meatballs and egg noodles (this is from the make ahead meals Pampered Chef party that I attended in September)

Thursday: Dinner out, Girl Scouts are touring a local eatery, so we’ll be eating there afterwards

Friday: Pizza

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Soup for everyone

5 Nov
Three soups that are quick, easy and can all be done simultaneously.

Three soups that are quick, easy and can all be done simultaneously.

Earlier in the school year I did quite a bit of food preparation ahead of time, making and freezing foods for future use. One thing I’d wanted to do but hadn’t had time to do, was make and freeze some soup.

Recently when I had one child home sick for an extended amount of time, I had an afternoon where I’d have a couple of hours to make some soup. The only question was, what kind of soup? Everyone has a favorite. I love cream of broccoli and creamy cauliflower soup, as does my oldest daughter, who happened to be the one home sick. But, my other daughters and my husband, they love the cream of tomato soup that I’ve been making lately and my middle daughter in particular had been asking for it quite often.

When I thought about the recipes though, they were all pretty similar. Other than the actual vegetable for each soup, namely broccoli, cauliflower and tomato, the base ingredients and instructions were all pretty similar: onion and chicken broth. The tomato soup had a few extra spices thrown in, and the broccoli soup had celery added in and some milk and flour at the end, but ultimately I realized that I could actually make all three at the same time, almost like an assembly line: cut up all the onion, divide it into the soup pots, cut up each veggie and add them in, and then simmer. If any additional steps or ingredients were needed, it wasn’t all that hard to do. Nothing was complicated, expensive or time-consuming. In an hour I’d be done. The tomato soup has an option to put in tortellini and shrimp at the end, but this time around I was doing it without those last two ingredients mostly because that is what had been requested.

Just like that...three soups, done and everyone's taste buds were happy!!

Just like that…three soups, done and everyone’s taste buds were happy!!

Although I cried a lot of tears cutting up all those onions, overall it was a great experiment and all went off as planned. I had enough soup for whoever wanted whatever kind they wanted over the next couple of days, and then using quart-sized bags, I froze the rest. We already had a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon where a few of us had soup for lunch from the freezer, and there’s still more for whenever we need it, whether it’s for an after school snack, a lunch or a dinner where someone doesn’t like what’s on the regular night’s menu.

Since these soups have already been featured on my blog, I’m putting the links below so that you can refer to them if you’d like to make any or all of them for yourself. The weather here is starting to cool down and it will be nice to have some soups for the upcoming chilly days and nights ahead!

Here are the links for you.

If you’d like to make the Cream of Broccoli Soup, click here.

If you’d like to make the Creamy Cauliflower Soup, click here.

If you’d like to make the Creamy Tomato Soup, click here.

Enjoy!

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