December Top 5

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  1. December and the holiday season is my favorite time of year. It makes even simple thinks- like dare I say going to work with decorations- a little more fun. Can’t wait for it to come around again next year
  2. Holidays are synonymous with good cooking. Loved making cookies, casseroles, and lots of decadent food this past month.
  3. Also got to visit my family for the holidays. Although it was short, it was worth it!
  4. My resolution last year was to create a memory jar. Looking forward to going through all the memories tomorrow for the New Year!
  5. So this is my first winter season outside of Texas. Real winter weather is no joke (and sometimes no fun), but I am surviving (after an 8 hour drive home that should have taken one hour earlier this month #serenitynow)

Mom’s Zucchini Casserole

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This dish is a staple at Christmas Eve dinner for our family, and for many years, I refused to sacrifice plate space for this casserole. Zucchini? Vegetables? No thank you says my adolescent self.

But as I began expanding my palate and grew older, zucchini became okay. I even began to spiralize it and eat it, so it was time to try this casserole. This zucchini casserole is cheesy, bacon-y goodness. I highly recommend you don’t wait 10+ years to make this like I did.

Mom’s Zucchini Casserole
From Cinnamon Freud’s mom

INGREDIENTS

6 cups thinly sliced zucchini (or other squash)
2 eggs, separated
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2-2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Bring large pot of water to a boil. Boil zucchini slices for 2-3 minutes, until cooked through. Drain and set aside to cool slightly.

In a bowl, combine egg yolks, sour cream, and flour. Stir together and season with salt and pepper. Whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into sour cream mixture.

In a 9 x 13 pan, place half of the zucchini in a single layer. Season zucchini with salt and pepper. Crumble bacon on top. Spread half of the sour cream mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. Layer the remaining zucchini and repeat, sprinting cheese on top.

Mix butter and breadcrumbs together. Sprinkle on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Homemade Green Bean Casserole

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Let me preface this whole post by saying I don’t think I have ever had the green bean casserole with the canned green beans and cream of mushroom soup. I have definitely had those french fried onions (#latenightsnacking).

I’ve made homemade green casserole before on the blog, but I was never completely satisfied by it. One of the hardest things when first cooking what how to get sauces to thicken with a roux. I swear that I would follow recipe directly exactly but it would never thicken up as promised (I am looking at you chicken pot pie recipes…).

BUT I was determined. And I wanted to make a casserole completely from scratch to see if I could get those french fried onions to be even better than than those boxed ones.

And finally I feel like I was able to master a homemade version of cream of mushroom! Forgive the darker photo from a winter evening and make this homemade this holiday season!

HOMEMADE GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated & Pioneer Woman

For the Casserole:
1 lb green beans, trimmed and chopped
1 lb cremini mushrooms, chopped
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup half and half

For the onions:
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne
Oil for frying

DIRECTIONS

Cover sliced onions with buttermilk and refrigerate for an hour.

Heat large pan and add green beans. Cook for 2-3 minutes until sizzling. Add water until beans are just covered and cook for 4-5 minutes until crisp-tender. Drain green beans and cool with cold water (or do water bath if you aren’t feeling as lazy as I was when cooking).

Heat large pan and add butter and mushrooms. Season with salta and pepper and cook until mushrooms have released water, about 6-8 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in flour and cook for 1-2 minutes. Slowly stir in chicken stock and half and half. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer while stirring. Simmer until thicken for about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer into 8×8 casserole dish (or 9×9 if you want a smaller filling to fried onion ratio.)

Preheat oven to 425°F. Heat oil to 375°F.

In large dish, mix flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Working in batches, drain onions and dip into flour mixture, coating to cover. Fry in oil for 1-3 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer to paper towels to drain and salt when hot out of the oil. Repeat with remaining batches.

Sprinkle onions on top of casserole. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes, until bubbling and onions are golden brown.

November Top 5

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  1. Happy belated Thanksgiving! I went up to Michigan and spent the day with N’s family. So very thankful to governor of Missouri gave state employees that Friday after off so that I could go.
  2. We survived the car ride to and from Michigan. Including Quincy.
  3. I have just started bullet journaling. Let’s see if this is as life changing as people say. I am hoping it will at least help me keep track of recipes I make.
  4. Target. I seriously should not go in that store because I loose all self control.
  5. OMG CHRISTMAS IS COMING. Decorations are up and I am ready.

Thanksgiving Nachos

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Most people know exactly what they are going to make for their Thanksgiving meal. There are the must-haves of turkey, stuffing, and cranberries, and people have their own traditional or family recipes to include too. So why bother sharing more recipes for the day-of when likely 1) you literally can’t add any more dishes because of time, dishes, and space or 2) you have traditions to follow. But if that’s what you need you can look here.

Instead lets focus on leftovers. Now, the main Thanksgiving meal is great and wonderful. But leftovers are really where it’s at. The days after Thanksgiving are full of some of the best turkey sandwiches ever. But let me tempt you to try using your leftovers a new way: on nachos.

If you love to combine all your Thanksgiving food on your plate, this is for you. These nachos do just that but add a crunchy, salty tortilla chip and some salty cheese on top.

Now I do not advocate nachos and no turkey sandwiches, but think about these nachos when you are tired of eating your leftovers the same way day after day.

THANKSGIVING NACHOS
From Cinnamon Freud

INGREDIENTS:

Tortilla chips
Cojita cheese, crumbled
Turkey, shredded
Cranberry sauce
Stuffing, optional
Gravy, warmed

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350.

Line baking sheet with tortilla chips. Top with turkey, cheese, and stuffing. Cook in oven for 3-8 minutes, until warmed and browned. Drizzle cranberry sauce and gravy on top.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

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There are only a few recipe sources that I always trust. 1) My mom, 2) Cook’s Illustrated, and finally Ina Garten.

When I was first learning to really cook, I was cooking dinners with friends once a week, and our meals typically featured Ina’s recipes. And they never turned out bad. As the years went on, I started cooking and realized that her recipes have a higher success rate than just the typical recipe you see.

I have enjoyed watching her new shows recently and am planning to check out her new cookbook as soon as I can get it from the library (#poorgradstudent). This treat can hold me over until then with her transformation of the classic PBJ to a dessert. PBJ has been my go to lunch at work for the past few months- would I loose any professional standing at work by eating these bars for lunch instead?

 

PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY BARS
Slightly Adapted from Ina Garten

INGREDIENTS

1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
9 ounces peanut butter
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4-1 cup jelly
1/2 cup honey roasted peanuts

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line an 8 x 8 baking dish with aluminum foil and grease it.

Cream together butter, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar.  Beat in egg, vanilla, and peanut butter until just combined.  Stir in flour, salt, and baking powder until just combined.

Press approximately 2/3 of the peanut butter dough in the bottom of the baking dish.  Spread jelly evenly over top.  Dollop the remaining peanut butter dough on top.  Sprinkle peanuts on top.  Bake for 25-32 minutes, until done.  Cool completely and cut into bars.

October Top 5

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  1. Quincy’s Halloween costume. Enough said.
  2. Soup. A year ago, I would have refused to eat soup for dinner. But then last winter when I was interviewing all over the country, I craved soup. And I haven’t stopped since. So lately I have had tomato soup (& grilled cheese), gumbo, split pea soup, wonton soup, and more.
  3. Seasonal decorations. For the past several years I have tried to hold back on buying decorations since I am not living anywhere permanently. Couldn’t resist this year, so I am really looking forward to Christmas decorations!
  4. I went to the Renaissance fair here this month and had lots of fun seeing all the people be really into it. Also had my obligatory turkey leg and got stung by a bee for the first time in my life.
  5. Target’s call has been hard to resist lately, so I’ve been doing a little more shopping there than needed probably. But who can resist Targets stuff!?

Chicken, Shrimp, and Andouille Gumbo

 

When cooking there are a few dishes that I am convinced can’t be made as good in my kitchen as in restaurants. Or I’ve tried to make a dish and failed every time.

Gumbo was always one of those dishes. I was just convinced that it would be 1) too much work with making a roux and 2) just not taste as good despite my efforts. Well, one day something convinced me to try a Gumbo recipe. It was from Cook’s Illustrated, which is my one recipe source that can gives me hope that it will turn out. But then it was a lightened up/healthier gumbo, so I was skeptical all over again. Anyone who knows gumbo is that “light” is not typically a word you read to describe it.

Well, don’t be skeptical about this recipe. This is not a traditional roux in any sense, but it is so much easier and the taste is spot on. I have adapted a few things based on what ingredients I have had around