“Since hunger is the most primitive and permanent of human wants, men always want to eat, but since their wish not to be a mere animal is also profound, they have always attended with special care to the manners which conceal the fact that at the table we are animals feeding.” - John Erskine

30 November 2011

M’s mash (or garlic mashed potato massacre)

As promised, I’m giving you my mashed potatoes recipe.  But let me warn you now, it was a bit of a disaster.  Quite a massacre, actually.  I don’t know where the recipe-writer is from, and I really should have known better because around here you cannot oven-bake potatoes in 20-30 minutes.  To give myself a little credit, the potatoes were small.  And I don’t bake them in the oven very often.  (Ok never ~ I’m a microwaved potatoes kind of girl.)  And yes, I used Yukon golds instead of reds.  (Love love love the Yukon golds and they happened to have some at the store where I shopped for our double-take-giving items ~ not Wal-Mart.  Stoopid [yes, I spelled it that way on purpose] Wal-Mart hasn’t had them in in forever.)  But I know from watching my mother cook a hundred billion Sunday dinners that potatoes just don’t bake in 20-30 minutes.  So if you’re going to try this recipe, please add bake time appropriate to your area and the size of your potatoes.  That being said, here’s the recipe:

Bennigan’s Garlic Mashed Potatoes
source: Copykat.com
1 pound red potatoes
3 tablespoons butter
¼ cup half and half or milk
4 cloves roasted garlic

To really get their flavor, these potatoes need to be baked, not boiled.  So bake them in a 350° oven for about 20-30 minutes.  This would be a great time to roast that garlic too.  You can either use a traditional roaster, or you may wrap a bulb of garlic in foil and roast that – be sure to coat the bulb with some olive oil before you roast it.

Remove potatoes from oven and allow them to cool.  You can leave the peelings on or off; I like to leave a few of them on.  Chop potatoes, add butter, and half and half, and mix with an electric mixer.  Add cloves of garlic, and salt and pepper to taste.  You will want to heat these potatoes in a saucepan until they warm up again.

We don’t have a Bennigan’s where I live.  From what I read on the website there isn’t a Bennigan’s where anyone lives anymore, but I had never even heard of Bennigan’s before finding this recipe.  These potatoes just sounded really good, so I thought I’d give them a try.  I even put my garlic in a little foil wrapper and put it in the oven with my potatoes.  That didn’t come out done in 30 minutes.  Did I mention that yet?  It really, totally irked me that I was so sillily stoopid.  (The word of the day is stoopid ~ it means so stupid that you cant even spell stupid, and I totally felt that way for being such an idiot.)  All of dinner was done and I went to mash the potatoes in my handy dandy fairly new stand mixer.  I put in the butter, I put in the cream, I put in the garlic.  I bent my whisky thingy on the undone potatoes and sprayed the kitchen and myself with the butter, the cream, the garlic and little chunks of potatoes.  At this point I’m feeling humiliatingly stoopid (come on, say it with me: STOOPID) in front of my father-in-law who came to share our yummy double-take-giving feast.  Dumped everything in a glass 9x13 and stuck it in the microwave for 10 minutes.  Still mostly hard.  Stuck it back in the microwave for another 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, the carrots, the corn, the TURKEY, the rolls are all getting cold.  Boo!

After 20 minutes in the microwave they still weren’t particularly soft and squishy, but they did break apart with a fork so I poured everything back in the Kitchen Aid ~ using my porcelain thingy this time, and the little plastic thingy that fits around the rim to prevent food-flinging ~ and turned it on.  Poured in more cream.  Poured in some milk.  Poured in some more milk.  Plopped in about 4 ounces of cream cheese.  Added some salt and some more milk.  By this time we were all starving, everything but the gravy bubbling happily away on the stove was cold and I gave up.  Don’t know if you can see the lumpiness of the potatoes, but they were almost, but not quite, entirely unlike mashed potatoes. 1  Before ever tasting them my husband dubbed them M-Style Mashed Potatoes, thinking, in my opinion, to tease me ever after with how horribly they turned out.  However, he decided they were quite good and actually like the lumpiness.  Go figure.

29 November 2011


Yep, we were so eager to dig in that this was the best picture I could get.  I had already buttered my roll...

My husband took the last week off for Thanksgiving.  It’s been great having him home, but I’ve discovered something I don’t much like about myself.  When my husband doesn’t go to work, I don’t either.  I don’t have a job away from home ~ my job, as many of you know, is just as demanding, if not more so, taking care of home and family.  But when my husband is home sleeping in and taking it easy, I want to be right there beside him.  So for the last week or so I have been very lax at blogging, cleaning, cooking... Ug.  The house is a disaster and I’m WAY behind on my blog.  Hope you’re just as busy with the holidays and are willing to forgive me.

That said, we just had our “second Thanksgiving”, or as Oldest has dubbed it, “double-take-giving”.  (I’m thinking that might be a great title for something more altruistic, but I’m still waiting for that idea to come to fruition.)  The reason for double-take-giving is simply that we were invited elsewhere for Thanksgiving.  While I love going to someone else’s house to eat ~ less cleaning, less stress ~ we never have any leftovers.  While most of the time the animals aren’t too keen on leftovers, that all changes at Thanksgiving.  So we were all craving more of that turkey and fixins goodness.  (I’ve learned just to plan on a second Thanksgiving meal when we’re not the hosts, and since our extended family just keeps getting bigger and our house seems to be getting smaller, it’s pretty rare anymore when we do get to have the whole gang over.)

But I know you really came to check out the recipes, so lets get to it!

I know this is odd to most people, but I like cooking my turkey in the crock pot if at all possible.  You don’t get the crispy brown outer layer, but the meat is really... I just can’t think of the right words.  Im too busy drooling.  This bird was so moist and flavorful it was literally falling off the bone.  (And I mean literally literally, not just as emphasis the way it's too often used.)  I seriously couldn’t get enough purchase to even get it out of the pot in one piece.  It was THE.  BEST.  TURKEY.  EVER.  Honestly, I have never eaten a turkey that tasted any better than this one.  I’ve never even eaten turkey that came close.  I don’t even like turkey all that well, but I couldn’t keep from nibbling as I finished preps and served it up.  And the gravy... oooohhhhh.  You really MUST taste this!  It’s really VERY simple ~ just my basic flavorful pot roast recipe.  I don’t use stuffing, since I think it would be very soggy, but dressing works just as well in my opinion.  (Not to mention I get to spend less time with my hands inside the turkey, which makes my germaphobia very, very happy.)  So heres the recipe adapted for turkey:

Flavorful Thanksgiving (or anytime) Turkey
for approximately every 2-2½ pounds of turkey use
1 envelope dry ranch salad dressing mix
1 envelope dry Italian salad dressing mix
1 envelope turkey gravy mix (I used this, it has a lovely flavor)
½ cup water

Place the turkey in a slow cooker.  If it doesn’t fit, put it in a roasting pan with a tight fitting lid.

In a separate bowl combine the salad dressing and gravy mixes; stir in water.  Pour over meat.

Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours or until tender.  (If using the oven, cook at 200°.  Yes, it is a cool oven temperature.  If it worries you, please check out the slow cooking turkey note below.)  Check often after 5-6 hours to make sure you don’t overcook.  (This is easy to do in the crock pot if you make sure you put the pop-up thingy where you can see it through the glass lid.)

When done, move turkey to a platter and use juices as-is or for gravy:

I pour the juice off the turkey strait into my largest glass measuring cup.  Then I know exactly how much liquid I have.  I usually add a can of vegetable broth too, since I like the flavor it adds, but you don’t have to.  Then for every 1 cup liquid you need to use 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons flour.

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat.  Stir in flour until smooth.  Some recipes call for you to add the liquid all at once, but I find I get lumps that way.  To prevent lumps, pour in a little liquid, stirring or whisking like mad until smooth, then add a little more, stirring and whisking again.  Keep doing this until you’ve added the juice.  Turn the heat up to high or medium-high.  Cook and stir until it thickens into gravy.  If it’s too thick, add a little more liquid (broth, water or even milk).  If it’s too thin, put 2 tablespoons of flour into a bowl.  Slowly add about ½ cup of the hot gravy to the flour, stirring like above to prevent lumps, or just stir in a little hot water.  Pour back into boiling gravy and stir until thickened.

I love, love, LOVE this gravy.  It’s probably my favorite part of Thanksgiving.  When I have gravy leftovers, rather than bother with mashed potatoes I just heat up a bit and eat it with a roll or a piece of bread.  (My dad grew up on a farm and passed on some of his strange farmish ways like bread-sopping.  I DO NOT EVER do this in front of company, and try not to let my boys watch me doing it either.  I don’t want to pass it on.  They have enough animalisms to overcome as it is.)

So that’s how to cook my amazing turkey.  I baked the rest of a package of Rhodes rolls I opened for Thanksgiving, heated up some frozen corn (this, it was soooo tasty) and cooked some baby carrots.  I was going to do dressing but completely forgot.  No one seemed to notice.  Tried out a new recipe for mashed potatoes (I’m planning on blogging it tomorrow if I dont get distracted) and, of course, pies, pies, pies for dessert.  (Blogging them later too.)

I highly recommend this turkey recipe, not just for Thanksgiving, but anytime.  Especially if you ever want to start your own double-take-giving tradition.

Here is some slow cooking turkey research I got from somewhere off the internet a few years ago.  If you’re still concerned after reading it, feel free to research for yourself.  But Ive been cooking turkey this way for a couple of years now and no one has ever gotten sick.

Slow cooking turkey makes perfect sense.  But, is it safe?  Recently the USDA changed their “done” internal temperature recommendation for cooking turkey from 185º to 165º.  No one seems to know why.  (In Canada it’s still 185º.)  In 1988 the University of Minnesota Department of Food Science did an excellent study on slow cooking turkey.  Four stuffed turkeys were used and two were actually injected with bacteria.  The outcome proved that if the stuffing reaches an internal temperature of at least 165º, slow cooking turkey safely spends plenty of time at temperatures lethal to all unwanted organisms.

26 November 2011

a totally shameless bid for free stuff from Chef Tess

Chef Tess Bakeresse

Have I ever mentioned how much I love Chef Tess (or as I often refer to her, my rockstar friend Stephanie!)  No, I didn’t think so.  So I’m going to take a moment and do it now.  No, not because she’s having a giveaway on her blog (which she so totally is) ~ I am far too altruistic to ever do that just so I can get something fantastic.  Im doing it because I really love her.  Really.  Ok, maybe Im telling you how fantastic Chef Tess is because she’s having a giveaway on her blog.  But just a little bit.  But mostly I’m telling you so because I really love her.  And if you’re serious about cooking, she’s the gal to take you there.  I aspire to be her when I grow up.  Ok, at this rate I may never grow up, but we all need something to work toward, right?

Anyway, I digress.  Chef Tess is having this great giveaway on her blog, and while I’d love to have the CD, I’m really in it for the mix.  Cookie, cake, fudge, I don’t particularly care.  All of Chef Tess’s stuff is amazing and I really really really want to try out one of her mixes!  Anyway, click here and go check it (and her) out for yourself.  While you’re at it, take a look at some of her recipes.  I’d love to hear about it if you decide to try one.  And if you happen to win, will you promise to share the mix with me?  Please?

25 November 2011

a day of thanksgiving

November comes
And November goes,
With the last red berries
And the first white snows.
-Clyde Watson

First, let me say that one of the blessings I’m thankful for this year is this blog, and you, my handful of lovely readers.  You have no idea how much just thinking about you reading about it inspires me and makes the drudgery of everyday cooking so much more enjoyable.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

And now, on with the bloging.  Ok, I haven’t blogged for quite some time.  It’s not that I don’t love you all, it’s not even because I haven’t been cooking, there’s just been a lot going on this month: sinus infections, ear infections, pink eye... And we changed internet providers so we didn’t have internet for several days.  I have a lot of catching up to do.

This year for Thanksgiving I was assigned rolls and sweet potatoes.  Rolls were easy.  I honestly was going to try making them from scratch, but my sister-in-law ~ who was in charge this year ~ requested the same rolls I brought several years ago using Rhodes frozen rolls.  So.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.  Here’s the recipe.

Butter Crumb Rolls
source: Rhodes
12 frozen dinner rolls
½ cup bread crumbs (or Ritz crackers, finely crushed)
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons butter, melted
Place rolls on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Cover with sprayed plastic wrap and let thaw (about 45 minutes).

In a shallow bowl combine crumbs and herbs.  Remove plastic wrap and brush thawed rolls with butter and then sprinkle with crumb mixture.  Replace plastic wrap and let rise until double in size.

Bake at 350° 15-20 minutes.
I stole this picture from Rhodes' website, since I was much too stressed to take actual pictures myself.
Mmm.  Hot and fresh and yummy.  I made 2 dozen for 8 people and there were nothing but crumbs to take home.  I think Littlest ate 5 himself.

 The sweet potatoes, on the other hand... Well, none of us at my house actually eat them.  I remembered seeing a post for a sweet potato recipe that sounded yum (if you’re into that sort of thing, which, as Ive mentioned, Im not) but since I didn’t think I’d be making any this year, I deleted it and couldn’t find it again.  So I went searching and came up with this recipe.  According to Heather, the recipe poster: “Once you taste this, you won’t ever go back to the marshmallow-topped variety!  (How could I resist trying them after that inspirational endorsement?)  I have peeled and cooked in the microwave, and also boiled the sweet potatoes.  They taste the same no matter how you cook them.  So, use the technique that works best for you!”

Gourmet Sweet Potato Classic
serves 8
5 sweet potatoes
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup white sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
¼ cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°.  Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.

Bake sweet potatoes 35 minutes in the preheated oven, or until they begin to soften.  Cool slightly, peel, and mash.

In a large bowl, mix the mashed sweet potatoes, salt, ¼ cup butter, eggs, vanilla extract, cinnamon, sugar, and heavy cream.  Transfer to the prepared baking dish.

In a medium bowl, combine ¼ cup butter, flour, brown sugar, and chopped pecans.  Mix with a pastry blender or your fingers to the consistency of course meal.  Sprinkle over the sweet potato mixture.

Bake 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until topping is crisp and lightly browned.
Not the yummiest picture, I admit.  It looks a bit like a weird stake to me.  But again, I didn't manage to take my own pic.  Too bad too, because they looked so very yum.
This one I did modify.  (Just when you were about to be amazed that I followed the recipe exactly!)  Why oh why would I cook my own sweet potatoes?  Ok, I probably should have cooked my own sweet potatoes, but since I knew from bringing sweet potatoes in previous years that you can buy them pre-cooked in a can, I certainly wasn’t going to cook my own sweet potatoes.  So I made a last minute run to Target to buy canned sweet potatoes.  No canned sweet potatoes left on the shelf.  Wait, did I remember reading that you mash the sweet potatoes?  Yes, yes I did.  So I grabbed the last 4 cans of pureed sweet potatoes.  (Looked for a picture to show you what I bought, but couldn't find it anywhere on Targets website.  Sorry.)  That should add up to about 5 real sweet potatoes, right?  Seemed to work out just fine.

Last week was my father-in-law’s birthday and we took him out to eat at Texas Roadhouse ~ his favorite.  I noticed that as one of his sides he got their sweet potato and it was covered in marshmallows.  I just couldn’t stand disappointing him by leaving the marshmallows off, so here’s what I did.  I made the recipe just as it’s written (using the amazing Wise Woman of the East spices that my rock star friend Chef Tess sent me. ~ Thanks again, Stephanie! ~  Oh these spices are to die for!  Kind of like pumpkin pie spice, but so much better than any pumpkin pie spice Ive ever had.  If you’re making any kind of cinnamon-spiced pies ~ apple, pumpkin, etc. ~ GO BUY SOME NOW!!!  Trust me, youll be so glad you did) but after considering the fact that my father-in-law is allergic to walnuts I decided to leave out the pecans.  No, hes not allergic to pecans, but they look so much like walnuts I didnt want to put him off the sweet potatoes.  (Hey, I needed to be sure someone would eat them so I didnt have to bring them home!) Then I baked it but after pulling it out of the oven I turned on the broiler and dumped marshmallows all over the top.  Then I stuck it under the broiler until the marshmallows started to puff up and brown.  Mmm, it looked lovely and got rave reviews from my father-in-law and his sister.  I have to admit I tasted some of Littlests (who insisted he have some when he saw the marshmallows, but refused to eat it once I made the mistake of telling him it was sweet potatoes) and was almost tempted to eat a serving myself.  I’m seriously thinking of using this recipe to make my family a pumpkin pie.

So that was my Thanksgiving ~ pretty much.  But I want to hear from you.  What did you make for Thanksgiving?  Was it something you were assigned or were you in charge of your own feast this year?  Did you stick to tried and true recipes or did you try something new?

12 November 2011

holiday peeps in a jar ~ the recipe

Since Christmas is coming up and I’ve been trolling the internet for ideas of homemade gifts I can give to friends and neighbors, and since I strong-armed you all into voting for my Halloween Peeps in a Jar (I didn’t win, by the way, but thanks for all your support!) I thought I’d share the recipe so you can make your own.  Peeps are not just for Easter (or Halloween) anymore!  If you scout around you can find both Peeps and M&Ms for all kinds of holidays, including Easter, Halloween and Christmas.  I think the cookies this recipe makes are not just cute, but really yum!  Maybe it’s all that butter.  They kind of taste like s’mores, so if you’re into that sort of thing, these are for you!  Here’s the recipe:

Peeps in a Jar
for each gift you will need:
1 widemouth quart jar [narrow-mouthed jars will work using a knife and spoon to pat down the ingredients]
1 sleeve graham crackers
8 marshmallow peep bunnies
about 1¼ cups seasonal M&Ms
1/3 cup brown sugar

Reduce graham crackers to crumbs using a food processor or a rolling pin and a gallon ziplok bag.  EITHER layer ¾ of the crumbs in a quart jar OR pour all of the crumbs into the jar.  Place 8 marshmallow peeps standing up, facing out around the inside of the jar pressing them against the glass, being careful not to squash them.  Carefully spoon any remaining crumbs and/or some of the brown sugar into the center of the peeps to support them, pressing down to keep it snug.

On top of this pour 1¼ cups M&Ms.  Make a well in the center of the M&Ms with a spoon and carefully add the remaining brown sugar in the well, pressing gently.

Decorate the jar and add a gift tag with the following baking instructions:

Directions: Enjoy eating some of the M&Ms to reduce the amount a little as desired.  Empty the remaining jar contents into a bowl.

Option #1: Snip the marshmallow Peeps into bits with kitchen scissors or a knife.  Return the Peeps bits to the mixture and mix well.  Stir 1 teaspoon vanilla into 1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter.  Pour this over the dry ingredients, mixing well.  Pat into a greased 8 or 9 inch baking dish.  Bake at 350° for 15-25 minutes.  Cool 1/2 an hour then cut into bars.

Option #2: leave Peeps whole.  combine remaining ingredients and place the Peeps on top, then bake as directed above.

Option #3: omit the vanilla, bake and serve warm over vanilla ice cream or use a blender to mix with ice cream like a Blizzard.

Here again is a picture of my Halloween Peeps in a jar.
And here is the Christmas variety.
The ribbon is coming off and needs to be retied.  I didn't notice that before I took the picture.  Doh!
Showing the directions on the back of the tag.
Showing the Merry Christmas and poinsettia details.  Please try not to notice that the wrap doesn't go all the way around the jar.  There's a reason why I didn't give this jar away.
If you want instructions on how I did the jar decorations, leave me a comment and I’ll post them.

whole grain waffle mix

I don’t know about how school day mornings work in your family, but they’re pretty crazy in mine.  Anything I can find to help them go more smoothly is always received with gratitude.  I am totally into whole grains and NO sugar for breakfast on school days.  They need something that keeps their bellies full and their brains on track.  But sometimes I think their accusing me of being the breakfast Nazi (NO sugar for you!) behind my back.  What can I say?  They want Pop Tarts and cinnamon rolls and Lucky Charms and I feed them whole grain toast with sugar-free jam and oatmeal and Raisin Bran.  I used to buy Eggo’s (the whole-grain kind) and even those Jimmy Dean egg biscuit sandwich things (they actually prefer the croissant variety) but with three of them in school now, that’s just way too expensive.  I tried making my own egg muffin sandwiches, but they are too time-consuming on crazy mornings, and the little animals didn’t like the homemade ones as well anyway.  (Go figure.)  But the homemade Eggo’s work just fine.  I’ve found that I can cook up pretty much any kind of waffles and freeze them and they pop into the toaster just fine.  This recipe is one of our favorites.  It has the added bonus of being a make-ahead mix.  I love giving mixes to friends and neighbors at Christmas time.  If using this one, just be sure to let them know to refrigerate it to keep the buttermilk powder fresh.

Whole Grain Waffle Mix
makes 8½ cups mix
4 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup toasted wheat germ
1 cup toasted oat bran
1 cup buttermilk blend powder
3 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs
1 cup water
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons honey

In a large bowl, combine the first eight ingredients.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

To prepare waffles: Place 2 cups waffle mix in a bowl.  Combine the eggs, water, oil and honey; stir into waffle mix just until moistened.  Bake in a preheated waffle iron according to manufacturer’s directions until golden brown.

When giving the mix as a gift I add these instructions: To prepare waffles: Place 2 cups waffle mix in a bowl.  Combine 2 eggs, 1 cup water, 2 tablespoons canola oil and 2 tablespoons honey; stir into waffle mix just until moistened.  Bake in a preheated waffle iron according to manufacturer’s directions until golden brown 

For the buttermilk powder, I use this.  Found in the grocery store aisle near the regular powdered milk.  It doesn’t need to be refrigerated until opened, but since you have to open it to make the mix I let those I share the mix with know to keep it in their fridge.

I don’t always have wheat germ or oat bran in the house, and I’ve replaced these items with other things very successfully.  Last batch I made had flax seed powder and Malt O Meal and tasted awesome.  You can even mix in raisins, dried blueberries or any other dried fruit.  Or add fresh fruit when you mix in the wet ingredients.

Mmm.  Gotta love a hot waffle!  I like mine best with sugar free jam and whipped cream.  Littlest and Middlest prefer butter and powder sugar.  Oldest likes maple syrup.  How do you eat your waffles?

11 November 2011

Corn Chowder

My friend asked me on the phone the other day if I had made any good recipes lately.  I know it was unintentional, but the guilt has been eating at me.  I really  have been cooking, I just haven’t been blogging.  Ug.  time to catch up!

Is there anything better on a crisp fall day than soup for dinner?  Mmm.  I’ve been pulling out my soup recipes and here’s what I came up with.

Corn Chowder
serves 6
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 red pepper, seeds removed and diced
3 tablespoons minced poblano pepper
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, washed and diced
2 cups vegetable broth
3 ears sweet corn, kernels removed – save the empty ears to put back in the pot (or 2 cups frozen or canned corn)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3½ cups milk
½ teaspoon dried thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
shredded cheddar cheese-optional, for serving

In a large soup pot, heat the butter over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic, cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add the celery, carrot, red pepper, poblano pepper, and potatoes.  Add the vegetable broth and empty ears of corn, if using, and cook until vegetables are tender.  This will take about 10 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and milk.  Pour mixture into the soup pot.  Stir.  Add in the corn kernels, thyme, salt, and pepper.  Let the soup simmer for 20-30 minutes on the stove.

Remove empty ears of corn, if using, and ladle the soup into bowls.  Garnish with cheddar cheese, if desired.

Boy did I change this recipe.  I used onion powder in place of the onion, of course.  (You know this about me by now, right?)  I chopped up the celery stalks and a handful of baby carrots in my mini food processor.  Left out the red pepper, and the poblano pepper (I’m not even sure what a poblano pepper is...) so I used some season salt to add to the flavor a little.  (I probably would have done this anyway.  I like season salt.)  I didn’t even use the Yukon golds.  (Not that I don’t like them.  They are probably my favorite potato.  I just couldn’t find any at the store.  I hate it when that happens.)  Instead I dumped in 2/3 cup (2 servings) of Potato Buds and added a little extra vegetable broth.  I really wanted to use some of the yummy corn on the cob from my sister-in-law’s farm, but I waited too long, so I used frozen instead.  I just happened to see these while shopping for something else.  Can’t help but think that it would have tasted much better with fresh.

Still, even with my changes I thought this soup was very good.  My husband didn’t like it all that well, but I think he’d eat it if I made it again.  Middlest liked it too.  His brothers weren’t feeling well, so they didn’t eat any and couldn’t weigh in.  (Littlest did manage to gobble up two rolls though.)
With a fresh salad and homemade (olive oil, vinegar and a seasoning packet) dressing.  Would you like a fresh (Pillsbury) garlic breadstick with that?  Why yes, yes I would.  Applebee's eat your heart out!

personal italian meatloaves with oats inspired by Chef Tess (rockstar!)

I’m a few (many) posts behind, so I hope no one minds that I’m posting more than one recipe today.

About a week ago I did my usual monthly shopping at Sam’s.  About a week before that I was aghast to find that the huge supply of ground beef I bought at the beginning of October and froze had dwindled to nonexistence.  (I actually bought twice what I usually do.)  I later learned that half of what I had frozen had been shoved into an out of the way spot in the freezer where no one could see it, so now, since I again bought twice what I usually do, I have an amazingly large amount of ground beef in my freezer.  (Whew.  Good to know I wasnt losing my mind!)  What with the way grocery prices are rising, I don’t feel too bad about that.

Anyway, as I was pondering what to make for dinner last night I realized that I had only frozen half of the double amount of ground beef I bought, and half of it was still in my refrigerator.  YIKES!  Praying that it was still edible, I decided I needed to use some of it for dinner and get the rest in the freezer NOW.  My husband has been begging me for meatloaf, but I didn’t have the hour and a half it took to cook a traditional one.  Once again, my sweet friend Stephanie came unknowingly to the rescue!  (Shes saved my bacon hehe more than once.)  Heres her amazing recipe:

Chef Tess’ Personal Italian Meatloaves with Oats
makes 12 muffin-sized meatloaves
2 pounds spicy lean turkey sausage
1 cup rolled oats
½ cup vital wheat gluten
½ cup minced onion
½ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1 tablespoon fennel seed
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
¼ cup tomato paste
4 ounce part-skim mozzarella cheese
1 Roma tomato, sliced into 12 thin slices
12 green olives, pitted
6 black marinated olives
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

Preheat oven to 350°.  In a large bowl, combine turkey sausage, oats, onion, gluten, sun-dried tomato, fennel, garlic and tomato paste until completely mixed.  Divide mixture between 12 muffin cups.  (I use silicone muffin pans because they can go from the oven to the fridge/freezer and make removing the meatloaf a very simple process.)

When I’m ready to bake, I take half of the cheese and cut it into 12 cubes to go inside the meatloaf.  Then I pinch the meat mixture around the cheese cube.  Bake 25-30 minutes.

While they bake, slice the remaining cheese into 12 small slices, along with slicing the olives in half.  Take the meatloaves out of the oven and top with a slice of cheese and one small slice of tomato.  Sprinkle with parsley.  Cheese will melt slightly.  Serve hot OR for a freezer meal: Top with olives.  Place in fridge and allow to cool.  Transfer to freezer safe bags.

To serve: Defrost overnight in the fridge or place frozen meatloaf on a microwave safe plate.  Microwave on high 2 minutes for one loaf, or 5-7 minutes for 4.  To heat from frozen in the oven, place in personal ramekins or oven safe dishes, top with a few tablespoons of marinara sauce, and bake 350° 15-20 minutes, until heated through or internal temperature of 170°.

So, as you already know, I had ground beef to use up, so I swapped it for the turkey sausage.  I’m sure that this swap contributed greatly to the flavor of the meatloaf, especially since it calls for spicy sausage, and I didn’t add any additional spice to cover the missing flavor.  And I’m very grateful for the wheat gluten, which I think helped soak up some of the extra grease.  (I used extra lean, but I’m fairly certain theres still more grease in beef than turkey.)  I also used onion powder instead of real onions, as usual.  I was going to mix in a little season salt, but I didn’t, and honestly I didn’t mind.  I thought it tasted great, and so did Middlest, which quite surprised me since he doesn’t much like tomatoes.  The sun-dried made the flavor quite different that regular old tomatoes, maybe that’s why.  I also forgot to put the mozzarella on, and left out the Roma on top (I used up all the Romas I had in the house, so was lacking) and the olives, since my husband hates anything to do with olives, especially green ones.  So by the time I was done, this really wasnt Stephanies recipe anymore.  Maybe next time.

Littlest had a fever and wouldn’t eat, poor little guy, so he didn’t weigh in with his opinion.  My husband and Oldest decided that they weren’t too keen on this particular meatloaf (I think they didnt like the fennel) though the way my husband smothers meatloaf in ketchup I dont know how he could tell.  I loved the way the outside was a little bit crunchy while the inside was moist.  Mmm.  Wonder if they do that when you remember the mozza...?  I popped the leftovers in the freezer for a quick meal/snack.  I hope they freeze cooked as well as they do raw.
Here are two of the meatloaves making a happy face with some fresh green beans.  Mmm.  And yes, I admit it, I do use paper plates from time to time.  Cuts down on the stress at my house.