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Shrimp Bisque

Shrimp Bisque

My family has a tradition of having soup for Christmas Eve Dinner.

Usually we have Kansas City Steak Soup (recipe from the Plaza III for those of you KC folks) but this year we celebrated early and in Florida.

To change things up a bit (which I’m allowed to do since I’ll probably still make soup on actual Christmas Eve), we made luxurious Shrimp Bisque with beautiful pink Florida shrimp.

I first had this recipe at my friends Colleen & Nikolay’s house but it comes from Ina Garten’s cookbook Barefoot Contessa at Home.

This has a few special ingredients (hello…Brandy AND Sherry) but is well worth a little extra effort. It’s also worth the effort to seek out really good shrimp. They are, after all, the star of the show!

Here’s what you need:

Shrimp Bisque Ingredients

1 pound shrimp, Leeks, Garlic, Olive Oil, Butter, Flour (GF is fine), Half & Half, Fish Stock*, Brandy (or Cognac), Dry Sherry, Tomato Paste, Cayenne Pepper, Salt & Pepper.

Click here for a Shrimp Bisque Shopping List

Peel and devein 1 pound of lovely, large shrimp. SAVE THOSE SHELLS!!! They are going in the stock for extra flavor and we will strain them out later.

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When I was making my list of Gifts for the Cook, I should have included one of those handy Shrimp Peelers. I bought mine at my local grocery store (look near the seafood counter) for a couple of bucks. Makes a great stocking stuffer if you like shrimp!

Click HERE, there’s more!

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Mexican Stuffed Peppers

Mexican Stuffed Peppers  – One of our favorite weeknight dinners.

Colorful and sweet bell peppers hold a variety of savory and spicy ingredients which you can customize to your own tastes, preferences, and what you have on hand.

I was never a big fan of traditional stuffed peppers because cooked green peppers tend to have a bitter taste. Adding hamburger and rice just really didn’t do it for me.

My husband, however, loooooves stuffed peppers so I tried to figure out a way to make us both happy.

Swapping out the green peppers for the sweeter red, yellow, and orange variety goes a long way. Adding anything with Mexican flavors, and of course melted cheese got me right on the stuffed pepper bandwagon.

Here’s what you need:

Mexican Stuffed Peppers Ingredients

Bell Peppers, Onion, Ground Turkey*, Olive Oil, Black Beans, Frozen Corn, Diced Green Chiles, Salsa, Tomato Sauce, Chili Powder, Cumin, Pepper Jack Cheese, Salt & Pepper.

Click here for a Mexican Stuffed Peppers Shopping List

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

As I mentioned, you can totally customize these for flavor or for what you have on hand. The first time I made Mexican Stuffed Peppers I happened to have some leftover yellow rice in the fridge so I threw that into the mix.

For this batch, I didn’t want to have to make rice so I just left it out and didn’t miss it at all.

*Also, feel free to use any kind of ground meat that you like. I’m using a little over 1 pound of ground turkey but ground beef, ground chicken, or even ground pork would be fine. In fact, I think you could use the filling for Tropical Pork Tacos and have a whole other delicious stuffed pepper option.

Start by browning your choice of ground meat in a large skillet. Since turkey is pretty lean, I added about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil to my pan and browned the meat over medium high heat.

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Click HERE, there’s more!

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Let's Give Cookbooks!

More Favorite Things. This time – Let’s Give Cookbooks!

Here are a few handy suggestions to get you in the gift giving AND in the cooking mood!

As you know, I am a cookbook addict. I love them. I like to read them like novels, mark the pages with sticky notes, etc. so e-books just don’t do it for me.

I like them big and hardbacked. Stackable!

Here is a short sampling of some of my favorites plus a couple of reader friendly gadgets…

1.) I think everyone needs a few good, general cookbooks for reference. Back in the day it used to be the Joy of Cooking or the big red plaid Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book. (Both of which I would advise you to scour garage sales & second hand shops for early editions.) Now we have the ginormous The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook that pretty much covers all the bases. The folks at Cooks Illustrated get seriously specific and sciency about their cooking. Sometimes they have a bunch of extra steps, but the recipes I’ve tried have ALWAYS turned out great. Another option from Cook’s Illustrated is their (also ginormous) New Best Recipe cookbook. (Best French Toast recipe ever!)

2.) The Big GREEN Gourmet Today cookbook is another good all-round resource. As opposed to the Big YELLOW Gourmet Cookbook which (what a surprise!) I also own, the green book has more contemporary recipes featuring lighter and fresher ingredients. Once again, the book is huge but everything I’ve tried so far has been a keeper.

3.) So, if you’re more of an e-reader these days or if you want to be able to access a particular cooking website (ahem) on your tablet while you cook, this Kitchen Tablet Stand is the way to go. Jim gave me one of these from Williams Sonoma last year and I use it all the time. If you want to spend the big bucks, you can get a stereo speaker to go on the bottom to play your iTunes while you’re cooking your iDinner. Or you can just crank it up from the living room like I do. Worried about splattering on your screen? There’s a handy screen protector sold separately.

Click HERE, there’s more!

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Gifts for the Cook

It’s gift giving season and for those of you who haven’t already done all of your shopping, I offer some of my Favorite Things – Gifts for the Cook!

Hey, Rodgers & Hammerstein had this idea looong before Oprah and you all know how much I like “whiskers on kittens.”

So here we have some gift ideas for the cook on your list…or maybe even for yourself!

Here we go:

1.) The Microplane Premium Zester/Grater is one of my favorite tools in the kitchen. Perfect for taking the zest off of lemons & oranges as well as grating hard cheese like parmesan or romano. Want to use freshly grated nutmeg in your next dessert? The microplane is the perfect tool for that task. Now they come in snazzy colors like eggplant/purple so I feel slightly cheated that I have the original boring black variety.

2.) You need this Lodge Pre-Seasoned 12-inch Skillet if you’re going to get on the spatchcocking bandwagon and make Smothered Chicken. Lodge has been making cast iron pots and pans since 1896! These pans will last a lifetime. I have a 10-inch pan and got the 12-inch specifically to have a smothered chicken making pan. If you are a Costco member, they have a great set of both sizes right now for about $35. If you order it on line, just be sure you get free shipping because these babies weigh a ton!

Click HERE, there’s more!

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Broccoli & Pea Salad

We’re rolling right into Thanksgiving with one more salad for your table.

Broccoli & Pea Salad would make a welcome, super green, crunchy addition to any menu.

Not just for Thanksgiving, this is a staple of pot lucks, picnics, and BBQs.

Two of the great things about Broccoli & Pea salad – the ingredients are available all year round and it is extremely customizable to suit any taste.

Don’t like red onion? Leave it out? Want to add raisins or dried cranberries? Go for it.

In Minnesota, they add bacon to this and for a reason I’ve never known, call it “Symphony Salad”.

(Wonder if the NY Times thought of that for the state salad of MN? Chances are you’ve heard of the Grape Salad Debacle. If you’ve missed it use the google and for once, read the comments. Minnesotans are nothing if not polite but also very direct.)

Here’s what you need:

Broccoli & Pea Salad Ingredients

Broccoli, Frozen Peas, Red Onion, Sunflower Seeds, Mayonnaise, Apple Cider Vinegar, Sugar, Salt & Pepper (not shown).

Click here for a Broccoli & Pea Salad Shopping List

This recipe comes from my neighbor Jody who brought it to dinner at our house. The thing that I loved about it was that it was still crisp and crunchy and not drowning in gloppy dressing.

The secret, according to Jody, is put the dressing on at the last minute. Works like a charm!

The dressing tastes best if you mix it in advance and let it rest in the fridge for at least an hour.

In a small bowl, combine 1 cup of mayonnaise (light mayo is fine), ¼ cup sugar, and 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar.

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I added a pinch of salt & some ground black pepper. Not in the original recipe but I put them in without really thinking about it and it tasted great.

Mix it all together and let it hang out for at least 1 hour.

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Click HERE, there’s more!

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Brussels Sprouts Au Gratin

I can’t believe Thanksgiving is Thursday. THIS Thursday!

If you’re looking for that one side dish to round out your Thanksgiving feast, I would heartily nominate Brussels Sprouts Au Gratin.

Rich, creamy, decadent….and a green vegetable!

I’m pretty conservative when it comes to my Thanksgiving menu. I like the things that I’ve always had – Turkey cooked the way my dad always makes it (which is practically idiot-proof), mashed potatoes, gravy, world’s best Sweet Potato Casserole, and some kind of green beans.

Last year I added Braised Brussels Sprouts to the menu and they proved to be so popular at Thanksgiving that I repeated them at Christmas.

This year we’re taking those sprouts to a whole new level…a cheesy Au Gratin level! Time to get on board with Brussels Sprouts.

Here’s what you need:

Brussels Sprouts Au Gratin Ingredients

Brussels Sprouts, Pancetta, Shallots, Butter, Flour (GF is fine), Whole Milk, Gruyere Cheese, Nutmeg, Dried Thyme, Salt & Pepper.

Click here for a Brussels Sprouts Au Gratin Shopping List

Poor Lulu. I’ve been gone so much lately that she follows me around the house on the days that I am home. I’m sure she was hoping for this dish to have chicken in it.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Rinse 2 pounds of Brussels Sprouts under cool water. Cut off the bottom of the stem and discard any tough, ugly looking outer leaves leaving a nice tight sprout.

Cut the sprouts in half and set aside.

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Click HERE, there’s more!

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Shrimp Neptune Salad

You might be looking at the best salad I’ve ever made.

Shrimp Neptune Salad!

I’m sure Neptune, being the Roman god of the sea, would have heartily approved of these luscious, fresh shrimp in their tangy dressing.

We’ve all seen those seafood salads in the deli aisle…little tiny shrimp, fake “krab” with a K, and gloppy dressing. Blech.

Put those thoughts aside and get ready for fresh and light with just a hint of zing!

I know you’re probably looking at this and thinking, Shrimp Salad in November? Right before Thanksgiving?

Well, the answer is YES! Even though it isn’t quite salad weather in most parts of the country (just like it’s rarely soup weather in Florida but we learn to get around that), I’m a big fan of dinner salads when you want to lighten things up. And pre-holiday gluttony with the turkey and all the sides is a PERFECT time to lighten things up.

Besides, this salad was way too good to keep hidden from you until the great thaw.

Here’s what you need:

Shrimp Neptune Salad Ingredients

Shrimp, Celery, Shallot, Lemon, Frozen Peas (not pictured), Dijon Mustard, Dill Pickle Relish, Sriracha Sauce, Ketchup, Mayonaise, Horseradish (not pictured), Salt & Pepper

Click here for a Shrimp Neptune Salad Shopping List

If you’re making this into a salad as shown here, you will also need assorted lettuce (I have mostly romaine) and any extras you’d like such as cucumbers and avocado.

Also, I like to take the extra step to cook my own shrimp. You can get shrimp pre-cooked at the store but they’re usually quite a bit more expensive. Cooking your own shrimp at home is quick and easy.

In addition to 1 pound of good, fresh shrimp (preferably wild caught rather than farmed), you will need celery, peppercorns, and Old Bay Seasoning.

Shrimp Boil Ingredients

This is the same way I make shrimp for Peel & Eat Boiled Shrimp that you serve with cocktail sauce so you get a bonus recipe/method here!

Click HERE, there’s more!

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Three Bean Salad

Three Bean Salad

Three Bean Salad!

Salads like this make me feel nostalgic.

I’m sure almost everyone has some sort of bean salad recipe in their family. This one came from my mom, possibly from my grandma, and most likely from someone like Betty Crocker or the Green Bean folks.

While we all try to eat fresh fruits and veggies ripe and in season, there’s something very appealing about the fact that you can open a few cans and have this salad prepared in minutes.

Also, since we’re using canned beans, Three Bean Salad works all year round.

I made this to go with the World’s Best Smothered Chicken but it would be great for tailgating or potlucks since it can be served cold or at room temperature.

Here’s what you need:

Three Bean Salad Ingredients

Green Beans, Yellow Wax Beans, Red Kidney Beans, Green Pepper, Red Onion, Vegetable Oil, Cider Vinegar, Sugar, Dried Oregano, Salt & Pepper.

Click here for a Three Bean Salad Shopping List

Plan Ahead:  While this comes together very quickly, for the best flavor this salad needs to marinate in the fridge for 3-4 hours.

Drain and rinse the beans well. You want to get all of that liquid from the can rinsed away…especially on the kidney beans.

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Yellow Wax Beans…why don’t I eat these more often?

Click HERE, there’s more!

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Smothered Chicken

smothered chicken

My friends, you are looking at the best chicken I’ve ever made.

Quite possibly the best chicken I’ve ever eaten.

And I’m here to tell you that we now have the recipe for “Awesome Sauce.”

I feel like I can go on and on about this chicken without seeming obnoxious since it is not my recipe. This is Craig Claiborne’s old Southern Smothered Chicken recipe.

For those who may not know, Craig Claiborne was the long-time food editor for the New York Times. If you own (and I highly recommend that you do) one of the classic New York Times Cookbooks, you already know how good, simple, and straight forward Mr. Claiborne’s recipes are.

Well, this is nothing short of a chicken miracle. Here’s how easy it is…this glorious bird is cooked in butter, salt, & pepper. You add flour & chicken broth for the gravy. That’s it.

Your kitchen will smell amazing. You will be the new hero of dinner time.

Here’s what you need:

Smothered Chicken Ingredients

Whole Chicken, Butter, Flour (GF is fine), Chicken Broth, Salt & Pepper.

Click here for a Smothered Chicken Shopping List

Mr. Claiborne recommended a cast iron skillet to properly make this chicken. Since I tend to believe him about most things, I asked for and received a 12-inch cast iron skillet for my birthday.

I’m sure you could make this in another pan so don’t let cast iron stop you from having this chicken. Choose a nice, heavy bottomed pan…not something flimsy. (If you’re the guinea pig, let us know how it works.)

You will also need something heavy to weigh down the chicken. I have a 5 pound dumbbell. You could also use 2 big cans of tomatoes or other veg.

weights

Click HERE, there’s more!

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Pumpkin Madness

So, I’m having a little trouble getting into the autumnal spirit.

Maybe it’s because we had 2 glorious days of what could be called fall weather down here only to have to turn the AC back on today.

Or maybe it’s because there is Pumpkin Madness going on everywhere!

Is it just me or has this pumpkin spice thing gone to a whole other level this year?

Trader Joes is ground zero for Pumpkin Madness. I’m not immune…I’ve had their pumpkin ice cream -tastes just like frozen pumpkin pie. Ridiculously good.

Anyway, I was feeling all grinchy about pumpkin recipes this year, then my friend Solvay posted THIS on Facebook.

If that doesn’t get you in a festive mood, I don’t know what will.

In the meantime, here are some links to Pumpkin Goodness from years past.

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Pumpkin Bread – It’s my mom’s recipe and SO good. Super moist.

Baked Pumpkin Spice Donuts – The reason that I own donut pans.

Pumpkin Bars – When I made up this recipe, I maxed out the pumpkin filling. Plus, there’s cream cheese frosting and you can’t go wrong there!

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles – Soft, chewy cookies. Best when they are hot out of the oven and almost burn your fingers. Don’t ask me how I know that.

Pumpkin Pie – Because, why should Thanksgiving get to have all the fun?

Pumpkin Colored Kitty! – You didn’t seriously think you’d get through this post without a cat picture did you?

I’m pretty sure Pumpkin Madness will strike me sooner or later. I have a couple of ideas…black bean pumpkin soup, maybe some pumpkin spice granola…

What are you pumpkin favorites? (Other than Henry!)

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