Sunday, November 28, 2010

Lobster Mashed Potatoes, Sangria, and Christmas Trees

My husband and I are lucky enough to get to celebrate 2 Thanksgivings every year.  We spend Thanksgiving Day with my in-laws and the Saturday after with my parents.  The Friday in between is "Edgar-and-Donna-do-whatever-you-want-Day"...hubby plays computer games with the boys all day and I get to go to the spa or go see a movie with friends and pull out all my Christmas decorations while watching Christmas movies.  Its our favorite weekend of the year.

So yesterday we had our 2nd Thanksgiving at my parents house which is about an hour's drive away in the woods and the mountains.  Its always an adventure.  And we usually stop at a Christmas tree farm on the way to cut down our own Christmas tree. 
My nieces enjoying the tree farm gift shop

This year, my in-laws, my brother-in-law with his wife and 2 girls, plus my parents and my uncle with their 2 dogs all met us at the tree farm so we could all get our trees together.  We used a different farm than one we usually go to and it was very nice with lots of beautiful trees in the middle of the country and was very reasonably priced.  It was called Moose Apple Tree Farm located just outside of Berryville, VA.
Hubby about to cut


Tree getting a shake down and a wrap

It was pretty cold and windy so we were all bundled up with complimentary hot cider as we wound our way through the trees to find the perfect one.  The one we found is a little shorter than we usually get but very full and fragrant.  I love it!
Our tree...decorations to come later

After the tree farm, all the in-laws went their way and we followed my parents back to their house to eat our Thanksgiving meal together.  For this meal, I made lobster mashed potatoes, baked brie with apples, and a fruity sangria.

The  lobster mashed potatoes were an inspiration from a local restaurant that serves them and last year hubby and I had lobster as our Thanksgiving entree because we weren't eating turkey at that point.  So now it seems like we should have lobster at every Thanksgiving because it was so yummy and decadent.  And technically it is very authentic to the original Thanksgiving where they would have had lots of seafood and venison.
boiling potatoes

So you make mashed potatoes like normal...peel them, chop them, boil them for 20 minutes or until tender.  Then place them into a mixer to mash them up until smooth.  Add in a small round of garlic and herb boursin cheese and about 1/4 cup of heavy cream.

Then you'll need about 1/2 - 3/4 pound of freshly cooked lobster meat.  At our local grocery store we purchased a whole lobster that was already cooked and removed the meat ourselves.  Some places you can buy just the bulk lobster meat already cooked.  Or if you have the time and patience, you can cook the whole lobster yourself.  So melt butter in a saucepan, and sautee the chopped lobster meat with chopped green onions (maybe about 1/2 cup or so). 

melting butter for lobster

When both potatoes and lobster are done, gently combine or layer them together, leaving a small clump of lobster to lay on top to make it look pretty!

lobster mashed potatoes

Sangria is a lovely, light and fruity alcoholic drink to have with a nice meal.  It's very easy to make and there are many different recipes to use that are very yummy.  For this recipe, I took little pieces from many recipes I looked at and made my own concoction.  First you need a nice Spanish red wine.  It doesn't have to be Spanish but it fits nicely with Sangria.  It should be something not too strong but not too sweet either. I used a Rioja called Campo Viejo.  An inexpensive bottle that is a mixture of 3 types of red wine with aromas of cherries, plums, vanilla, and toasted oak.
Campo Viejo Rioja wine

I poured about 3/4 of the bottle into a pitcher and mixed about an equal part (maybe slightly more) of cherry juice to it. Then I squeezed an entire lime into the mixture for a little tartness and chopped up about half an apple and placed the chunks into the pitcher.  Just before serving we added some club soda, just enough to make it nice and bubbly but not too watered down.
sangria with apple chunks

We were purposely trying not to make ours too-alcoholy since we are a group of people that doesn't drink very much and of course hubby and I still had an hour drive back home after dinner! So you can easily adjust any one of the ingredients to your own liking and tastes.

Cornbread Stuffing and Turkey Treats

For Thanksgiving this year, I got to make stuffing for the first time (other than StoveTop from a box).  I searched out many recipes until I found one that I liked at called Best Ever Cornbread Stuffing.  Actually the recipe called for a pound of sausage but I left that part out. 

I made cornbread from a mix the night before and let it sit out over night to dry out a little. And actually it was honey cornbread so it had a little sweetness to it.  Then the next morning I cut it up into small chunks and combined it with potato bread soft bread cubes.  In a skillet set on medium heat, I sauteed one whole red onion chopped (there were many tears) and 2 cups of chopped celery with a little bit of butter for several minutes until the onions started to become crisp tender and slightly translucent.  Then I added about 2-3 teaspoons of freshly chopped sage. Nice fresh savory piney smell.
 To the bread cubes, I lightly mixed it with 1/4 cup of melted butter to moisten, then added the onion mixture as well.  In a separate bowl, I whisked together about 14 ounces of organic chicken broth and 2 eggs, then also poured that into the bread crumbs and gently mixed together.  The entire batch of bread crumb mixture went into a 9x13 baking dish and covered with foil.  Then into a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, I removed the foil and put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes to lightly brown the top.
 My whole family loved it!! This is definitely a "keeper-recipe".  If you want to check out the original recipe go to and look up "Best Ever Sausage Cornbread Stuffing". 

I also made turkey rice krispie treats to give as gifts for a few friends and family.  They didn't turn out as nice as the ones in this picture and they were definitely a little bit of a challenge to put together.  Their recipe calls for peanut butter to attach the head to the body but in my family there are a few peanut allergies so I used chocolate frosting instead that was safe for them to eat.  They are very messy to make and to eat but they are a fun treat for the holidays!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving Turkey!!

I truly have a lot to be thankful for today.  I have an adoring husband who takes very good care of me and a big family full of moms and dads and in-laws and brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews that I get to see on a regular basis.  Plus I have several very close friends who are like family to me that I can trust and that trust me. They are all a huge part of my life and they are people I know I can rely on and I know they love me too.  I am very thankful for all of that because I know there are not a lot of people in this world that can say that. But thats the power of Jesus in our lives.
Two of my nieces and my nephew

I am also very thankful for the abundance of food we had on our table this evening as I know there are many people in this world who don't have that either.  And all the food we had was so yummy too!! I felt very honored to be able to make the turkey this year for my family. I've only made a turkey maybe once or twice before in my life. This time however, we wanted to do something a little different...a little more conscientious.  We decided to get a fresh turkey from a local farm.
My family pigging out

This local farm is called Haskins Family Farm, located in Middletown, VA.  They frequent our local farmers markets here in Loudoun County so they were easily accessible and they were very helpful as we had many questions, never having gotten a fresh turkey before and not really knowing what to expect. We ordered the turkey about a month ago and then Wednesday met them at the farmers market location to pick it up, freshly processed and packaged.
turkey still in the package

This morning I opened the package and pulled out the turkey.  If you've never gotten a fresh turkey, be prepared to still see a little blood here and there and of course you may have to pull out the giblets and the neck yourself.  Thankfully these folks did remove the giblets for us and put it in a nice little bag but the neck I did have to remove myself.  It was pretty gross I have to admit.  I don't have the strongest stomach for that kind of stuff but I just kept telling myself..."don't think about it, you have a job to do!"  And I kept trudging forward.
neck (left) giblets in bag (right)

But I then gave the turkey a nice cool bath in the sink and gently dried her off with paper towels.
just got a turkey bath

Then it was time for the actual cooking preparation.  I set the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in the roasting pan.  I then tied her legs together with twine to keep them in place and massaged her all over with extra virgin olive oil, inside and out.  It does make a difference having extra virgin olive oil.  It doesn't have to be an expensive kind but the "extra virgin" part means its already a better quality olive oil.
getting a massage

Once she got a nice oily massage, into the oven she went at 325 for about 4 hours.  I basted her with fresh olive oil about every half hour to 45 minutes or so throughout the cooking time.  When the last hour arrived, she received a foil tent to make sure her skin didn't brown too much.  The recipe and preparation was simple.  The flavor was savory and juicy.  The texture was moist and practically falling off the bone when we carved it.  Everyone was raving about it! I was so proud!  :)

Oh yeah...don't forget to support your local farms!!! Its good for them and you!

P.S This is my sister-in-law's (Heather) cherry white chocolate cheesecake pie.  It also was very yummy and looked so pretty I just had to take a picture to share with you!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Deer burgers (sorry Bambi!)

My hubby and I have been on a bit of a meat kick recently.  Not having had meat in a couple years, we've been wanting to try some different options.  Of course, only meat that we know where it comes from, know it was humanely treated, and was free-range, organic, all that.  A customer of Edgar's is a big deer hunter and apparently has a ton of venison just waiting around to be eaten and as offered to give us as much as we want for FREE!  It doesn't get more organic than that! So hubby brought home some deer burger and deer steaks for us to try.

Last night we broke open the deer burger along with some veggies like tomato, onion, and fresh spinach, yummy gruyere and blue cheeses, sweet BBQ sauce, and some fresh cut bacon from the farmers market.  Man were they totally yumma yumma!!

Very simple to make just pan-frying and so juicy and flavorful..Some people are somewhat afraid of eating deer, even some very avid meat-lovers we know, claiming "its too gamey!"  Most people who say that either don't know what they're talking about (they just say that because thats what they hear everyone else say) or they haven't had it prepared right, either from the processing or the cooking of it. 

These burgers were muy delisioso! The crunch of the veggies, the sharpness of the cheese, saltiness of the bacon, and the juiciness of the burger all blended together in a festival of savory flavor! And I guarantee, that if we put this burger in front of many of our meat-loving-yet-anti-deer-meat friends, they probably wouldn't have known the difference between this burger and a regular beef burger! In fact, maybe we'll try that little experiment sometime soon...hee hee hee :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sweet potato casserole

Thanksgiving is right around the corner! I'm very excited! Definitely one of my favorite holidays.  Thanksgiving is one of those days where its perfectly acceptable to eat all day long lots of rich yummy foods and not feel guilty about it, even as you loosen the button of your pants (unless you planned ahead and wore elastic waistband pants!).  Not only is Thanksgiving itself a great holiday for eating and giving thanks and spending time with friends and family, its also the start of the Christmas season too! Another of my favorite holidays!  Between Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, its a month and a half of eating and partying! I love it!

"Give thanks to the Lord for He is good!"
Psalm 107:1

In honor of Thanksgiving, one of my favorite dishes my mom always made for us growing up is sweet potato casserole.  Now as an adult I make my mom's recipe myself.  I just made some this weekend for a Thanksgiving-type potluck at my church.  A lot of people do the whole marshmellow topping with sweet potatoes. For us, we skip the marshmellows and do a different type of sweet topping for our sweet potatoes.

Usually, I also use canned sweet potatoes but this year I decided to get some fresh sweet potatoes from the farmers market.  A little more time and work but a lovely fresh taste.  Here's what you'll need:

Mom's Sweet Potato Casserole

Ingredients: About 8-10 medium sized sweet potatoes (or 2 large cans in syrup, drained); 2 eggs; 1/2 cup whipping cream; 1/2 stick butter softened; 2 tsp cinnamon; For topping: 1 cup uncooked oatmeal; 1/2 cup brown sugar; 2 tsp cinnamon; 1 cup chopped pecans; 1/2 stick butter melted

Wash fresh sweet potatoes thoroughly and gently dry with a paper towel.  Place them on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for an hour.  Let them cool slightly. Then peel and mash them.

With mashed sweet potatoes in a mixer, add eggs, whipping cream, softened butter, and cinnamon.  Mix until well blended and spread into a 9x13 baking dish.

For topping, mix together oatmeal, brown sugar, cinnamon, pecans, and melted butter.  Mix until well blended and spread over potatoes.

Bake the dish in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.  The pecans topping will be lightly toasted and add a sweet crunch to the potatoes.

So for this Thanksgiving, if you're looking for a sweet potato casserole minus the gooey marshmellows, this one is sure to be a crowd pleaser!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Raspberry Mascarpone French Toast

Ok, opposite from my last post, this is not exactly a healthy breakfast.  This is something we have only occasionally on Sunday mornings before church.  And actually the raspberries and the mascarpone cheese are new additions we just added this morning.

We start with a fresh loaf of batard bread, which is kind of like a baguette but not as long and its a little fatter, so it makes nice size french toast medallions.  We slice the the bread into maybe 1/2 inch thick pieces.  In a mixing bowl, whisk together about 4 eggs and maybe 1/2 cup of heavy cream.  Hubby and I don't really measure when we make these kind of things so I'm kinda guessing.  But I'm sure you can figure it out! :)

Next we soak each piece of bread in the egg/cream mixture.  Then place the bread medallions into a hot pan on the stove that's been sprayed with PAM or something like it.  Cook the medallions a couple minutes on each side until golden brown.

Spread a small amount of mascarpone cheese onto each piece of bread.  Lightly drizzle with raspberry syrup and top with fresh red raspberries.  The mascarpone is mild and creamy and the raspberries add a light fresh flavor to the soft eggy rich bread.  Yumma yumma eats!!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fake-Baked Apple Oatmeal

Ok, first let me start by saying, I have hated oatmeal ever since I was a kid.  It always tasted like flavorless, bland, sticky, grey mush that always got cold too quick which made it even grosser! Yuck! There is not enough sugar in the world to make that stuff taste edible!

I sometimes can be a texture-eater (ya know those weird people who won't eat certain things simply because they don't like the texture of the food...yeah, that's me). And I would claim that one of the reasons I didn't like oatmeal was because I didn't like the texture of it but then I always liked cream of wheat and grits which are kinda similar in texture so I guess it was just an excuse to not have to eat it.

So I don't like oatmeal...That is until earlier this week.

About a month ago I discovered this recipe for oatmeal on another food blog I follow.  And I thought, hmm, that sounds good but I don't like oatmeal.  But maybe I should give this recipe a try because it does look pretty tasty and I know oatmeal is supposed to be super healthy for you and I totally need to get more healthy foods in my diet.  So it took me about a month to get up the nerve to try it.  And now that I have...(wait for it)...I think I actually LOVE oatmeal now!!!!!! Even I can't believe I just said that!
 First of all, I figured out one reason I hated oatmeal growing up was because all I ever had was that over-processed instant THAT is gross and I still will never eat that stuff!  Especially now having had real, cooked oatmeal.  And you might think to yourself...."but instant is so much faster!"  First of all, faster does not mean better.  Second of all, instant oatmeal takes maybe 1 minute in the microwave; real oatmeal takes 5 minutes.  Ooooh, that's so much longer (sarcastic wink)!  Now I did modify the original recipe slightly but its still pretty healthy and super yummy.  I guarantee if you like oatmeal and apples, you'll love this! And if you don't like oatmeal...well, consider giving this a just might surprise yourself and fall in love with it like I did.

Fake-Baked Apple Oatmeal
(my recipe is for 2 servings because I share with my hubby but you can easily cut it back to one serving by following the directions on the oat container)
A side note: its called "fake-baked" because the apples are cooked or "baked" in the microwave!

1 1/2 cups water...1/4 cup heavy cream...1 cup oats (I use Irish-style oats)...1 medium apple...1 tbs butter (I use Brummel and Brown spread)...cinnamon and sugar (or sugar substitute) to taste
Note: if you want to keep it even healthier, skip the cream and increase water to 1 3/4 cups

 Put water in a small pot on medium heat. While the water is heating up, core apple, cut into chunks and place into a microwave-safe bowl.  

Top apples with butter and cinnamon and sugar.  "Bake" in microwave for 3 minutes.  Just as the water is starting to simmer, add the cream.  When it just begins to boil, slowly stir in the oatmeal.  Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  

The oatmeal and the apples should be done around the same time.  Divide the apples evenly between 2 bowls (for 2 servings) and top with several spoonfuls of oatmeal.  

The oatmeal, cinnamon, apples, and the juice in the bottom of the apple bowl will all mix together in a yummy bowl of sweet goodness!

To see the original recipe, check out Baked Apple Oatmeal recipe on the Foodie Nutritionist from my list of favorite food pages!! Her recipe even includes pumpkin butter...yummm!!!

(Here's the aftermath...)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Goat Loin Chops

Yes, goat.  I love goats. I think they are adorable.  And normally I would not eat one.  However, we saw these goat loin chops at the farmers market and Edgar was dying to try them. 

We looked up a few recipes and cooking methods and decided to jump in.  Let me first clarify...since these are from the farmers market, we know exactly where they came from, we know they were grass-fed, pasture-raised, humanely treated animals so our semi-vegetarian consciences were not disturbed.  We decided to marinate them in olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper for a couple hours.  Goat is a fairly lean meat so you have to be careful how you treat it.  Then we pan-fried them for several minutes on each side until almost blackened. They ended up being a little rare in the center but mostly they were cooked very nicely with a little pink throughout.

If you've never had goat, you might be a little wary.  But if you like steak, you'll like goat.  These goat chops looked and tasted very similar to steak. Very juicy and savory.  We served it with a little cheesy polenta on the side.  Mashed potatoes or some nice greens would also be nice on the side. Next time I think we'll try to opt for a thinner cut and without the bone though...just a personal preference.  If you're feeling adventurous, head to the farmers market (the Leesburg one stays open through the winter!!) and look for some goat!