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Showing posts from November, 2008

Homemade French-Style Macarons - "Cook's Illustrated"

***Finally...I'm making progress with the ever-hard-to-make French Macaron. I found this recipe in the recent "Holiday Baking" special issue of Cooks Illustrated . Their recipes have never failed me...they test, re-test, and test again every single recipe...until they are almost fool-proof. I noticed that this recipe for macarons was a little different from the ones I've been using. One big difference was the addition of Cream of Tartar to the egg whites. It acts as a stabilizer and helps to stiffen the egg whites. Also I recently purchased a silicon baking mat....what a great investment! I only have one right now, so I had to make the other batches of macarons on regular parchment paper. The macarons baked on the silicon mat looked much better, seemed to bake more evenly, and even rose higher. It looks like I'll be buying a few more of those mats soon. Hmm...maybe Santa can leave a few of those in my stocking? ;) So, here's a list of some things I did differe

Thanksgiving 2008

The Spread...all made from scratch! :) Roast Turkey with Bacon-Herb Butter Sauteed Spinach with Pecans & Feta Mashed Potatoes Cider Gravy Broccoli & Cheese Casserole Cornbread Dressing Double Cranberry-Apple Sauce Honey Yeast Rolls Sweet Potato Souffle Carrot Cake French Macarons with Chocolate Ganache Walnut Brownies Cheese Ball with Pecans Cornbread Dressing with Sausage: Double Cranberry-Apple Sauce: Walnut Brownies: French Macarons with Chocolate Ganache: Cranberry Sauce & Cheese Ball: Carrot Cake: Desserts! first time hosting Thanksgiving dinner was a huge success! Everything from the amazingly delicious turkey to the yummy carrot cake turned out great. I posted my entire menu in the post below (along with links to the recipes!), but I wanted to share some photos from the big day here. This was only my second time roasting a turkey, so I was a little nervous about how it would turn out. I found THIS recipe at Bon Appetit , and let me just say...I've neve

Turkey Day is Almost Here!!!

Above Photo Courtesy of Bon Appetit magazine Here are my serving dishes...all washed and ready to go! ***I'm so excited about's my very first year hosting the big dinner. There's a 21 lb. turkey hanging out in my fridge, waiting for his time in the spotlight. I thought I would share my menu here. I'll be sure to include a post after the big day...complete with photos and all recipes. I've included some of the recipes below...just click on each menu item, and it should take you to the recipe. Appetizer: Cheese Ball with assorted crackers (I'm using my Dad's recipe) Main Course: Roast Heritage Turkey with Bacon-Herb Butter (pictured above) Cider Gravy Cornbread Dressing Mashed Potatoes Double Cranberry-Apple Sauce Broccoli & Cheese Casserole Sweet Potato Casserole Sauteed Spinach with Pecans & Feta Honey Yeast Rolls Dessert: Carrot Cake French Macarons with Chocolate Ganache Filling Walnut Brownies Beverages: Hot Apple Cider Tea Pi

Braised Fingerling Potato Coins

***This is another yummy side dish that I found flipping through the pages of Gourmet magazine (October 2008 issue). It was extremely easy to prepare, and the taste was delicious and satisfying. I served this dish with chicken, but I think it would also be the perfect complement to a beautiful steak.*** From Gourmet: "Alice Waters, founder and owner of Chez Panisse, in Berkeley, California, champions the environmental benefits of organic produce and highlights vegetables’ freshness with simple preparations. In this adaptation of her potato coins, we coax the starch out of waxy, thin-skinned fingerlings to create a silky pan sauce. The faint vegetal sweetness of this dish pairs well with just about anything. " Ingredients: 2 pounds fingerling potatoes, peeled if desired 2 cups water 3/4 stick unsalted butter, cut into bits 3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley Equipment: an adjustable-blade slicer Preparation: Cut a round of parchment paper to fit just inside a 12-

Bart & Misty Tie the Knot + The Bright Star!

Photo courtesy of My cousin, Bart, recently tied the knot with his beautiful bride Misty. The wedding was wonderful...from the gorgeous the great food...and of course, the wonderful time that I got to spend with my extended family. Brad and I had a blast hanging out with everyone. The rehearsal dinner was held at a Birmingham area landmark...The Bright Star. It's been in business since 1907!!! In fact, Gourmet magazine recently named it one of the "21 Legendary American Restaurants You Must Visit!" They ran a feature about the restaurant in their October 2008 issue. I had heard A LOT about the restaurant....and about the amazing food. I went with high expectations, and I wasn't disappointed. I had the Fresh Snapper Almondine...and it was FABULOUS! You can take a look at The Bright Star's website and menus HERE . If you're ever in the Birmingham/Bessemer area, you shouldn't miss a chance to eat here. Also, here's a link to Gour

"The Sweet 100"

***Recently, you may have seen something called "The Omnivore's Hundred" floating around on numerous food blogs. When I spotted the similar list below, called "The Sweet 100," I couldn't resist playing along...I love sweets! :) The fabulous CakeSpy created this fun list. You can visit her site HERE . The best part about this list is that CakeSpy has included links to photos and recipes. If you don't know what something on the list is, just click on the name to find out! Anything that I've tried or made is in bold...and colored purple. It looks like my magic number is 62...what's yours???*** From Cakespy's site: "Recently, a website called Very Good Taste started something of an internet fire with a list called "The Omnivore's Hundred" , which listed 100 foods which "every good omnivore should have tried at least once in their life." We liked the idea, and inspired by the vegan variation on Hannah Kaminsky's

Giada's Butternut Squash & Vanilla Risotto

***I was recently watching an episode of Everyday Italian , and Giada whipped up this dish. I LOVE butternut squash and this recipe just sounded divine....especially with the addition of vanilla, which is another one of my favorites. I made this as a side dish for tonight's dinner. I loved it! The vanilla adds such a nice, warm flavor, and the onion really balances it all out. Vanilla is one of those things that you don't necessarily think to add to savory dishes, but it definitely works here. I didn't have any vanilla beans on-hand, so I just used a splash of pure vanilla extract instead. This dish is all about would make a nice addition to any holiday meal!*** Ingredients: 4 cups vegetable broth (I used chicken broth) 1 large vanilla bean (I used a splash of pure vanilla extract) 3 cups peeled cubed (1-inch wide) butternut squash, about 12 ounces 2 tablespoons butter, plus 1 tablespoon 3/4 cups finely chopped onion (from 1 onion) 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice or me

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes

***These twice-baked sweet potatoes were pretty darn scrumpdidaliumptious!...Is that even a word??? :) I recently needed to come up with a great side for a dinner party...something pretty quick and easy. I turned to a recent issue of Kraft Food & Family magazine (Fall 2008), and what did I find?...the perfect thing. Even better....I just happened to have the right ingredients on-hand. last minute run to the grocery store was needed. Twice baked potatoes always make a pretty presentation. These were no exception. I thought it was a nice twist on the usual Russet potato variety. And plus, sweet potatoes are one of those things that just scream - "Hey! It's the holidays!!!" Also, if you haven't already signed up for a FREE subscription to this magazine, then you should! It's stuffed with tons of great, easy recipes that you'll love. You can sign up HERE ....and yes, it's totally FREE!*** Ingredients: 2 large sweet potatoes (1-1/2 lb.) 2 oz. (

Danish Braid - Revisited!

***I just couldn't resist...the Darings Bakers Challenge from June 2008 was the most fabulous thing I've ever put in my You can find my original post HERE . The first time I made the recipe, I whipped up a homemade mixed berry filling...YUM! However, the original recipe called for an apple cinnamon filling. Because that's one of my all-time favorite combinations, I promised myself that I would use the original recipe next time I made it. Well, I finally got the chance recently. My neighbors just had a gorgegous baby girl. She's absolutely adorable! I wanted to do something special for them, so I made them a Danish Braid. I made their Danish Braid with the mixed berry filling and I made the second braid with the apple-cinnamon filling (for us). I brushed the tops of each braid with a glaze made from freshly brewed coffee and confectioners sugar. I finished it off by wrapping a cute pink and polka dot ribbon around the braid...pure cuteness! Oh.m

Taco Soup

***Alrighty, here's the Taco Soup recipe that I mentioned in my Halloween post below. We had so much fun making this at our little Halloween party. It was SUPER easy to make, and you know that I love any recipe that I can use my Dutch Oven on. ;) I found this recipe on Monica's food blog, Buon Appetito! sure to hop over and check her site out also! I'll definitely be making this again in the upcoming chilly months. It will be perfect on a cold winter, it couldn't be easier to throw together. The only change that I made to the original recipe was the addition of'll see my notes below. Enjoy!*** Ingredients: 1 lb. ground beef (I use round) 1 onion, chopped 1 can chili beans 1 can black beans 1 can kidney beans 1 can corn, drained 1 can rotel 1 can diced tomatoes 1 pkg. taco seasoning 1 pkg. ranch dressing mix 2 to 4 cups water (add water until your desired consistency is reached) Directions: Heat dutch oven to medium heat. Add about 1

A Tribute to My Sweet Great Aunt Nell

My Great Aunt Nell was one of those women that you admire...that you want to be like. She was such an incredibly strong, caring, and loving person. When you were around her, her smile and loving nature were contagious! She's battled an illness for a long time now. I got the devastating news this past Thursday that she had passed away...after a long fight. I have so many wonderful memories of my Aunt Nell that I will forever cherish. I'll never forget spending time at her home in Minneola, FL when I was younger...those were such happy times. Aunt Nell always had a great story to tell... I spoke with Aunt Nell a while back, and she told me a story about how she and my Uncle Bill had gotten out all of their love letters from when they were dating. They had read all of those letters to each other earlier that day. It was just such a sweet story that brought tears to my eyes as she was telling me. Aunt Nell and Uncle Bill's love for each other was so obvious and'


I must say that Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays...I love decorating with all the fun, spooky stuff! We had planned on having a fun Halloween party this year...we had a great time. I broke out the decorations and went all out. The chocolate cake that you see is the Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Cake that I recently posted. When I made it the first time, it was for a friend so I didn't get to try it. I've been waiting for the perfect opportunity to try out all that chocolatey goodness, so I baked it again for the party. I had seen so many fun cakes and cupcakes in magazines and on the internet with the spider web design on the top, and I wanted to try my hand at it. The picture above shows my results. A cute little spider made with a jaw breaker and black icing was the finishing touch. A layer of vanila buttercream (colored orange with food coloring) made the perfect addition to the inside of the cake. We made some yummy taco chilli for dinn