This might be a record for me but I can officially say that I’ve got Thanksgiving dinner planned. Can I get a woohoo?!! It was no easy task but I also managed to get 14 additional meals organized for 7 people for next week. I'm so proud of myself that I displayed my menu on my refrigerator for all to admire.
Before you get too jealous or start to think that I’m just uber organized, I should tell you that the truth is that I can’t go to sleep at night without knowing what I’m going to feed my house guests. It’s more a matter of my type A personality taking over and my need to feel in control of the situation than the fact that I’ve just got nothing else to do but plan holiday meals.
I’ve got a running list of groceries that I'm continually adding to and mark things off of as Thanksgiving approaches. More importantly, I also made a list of foods that I can make ahead of time and put in my freezer or refrigerator to save precious time on the big day. Things like homemade applesauce, sweet potatoes, cakes and pies are all foods that I prepare in advance and put in my freezer. Crossing things off of that list in the week leading up to Thanksgiving makes me feel accomplished and better prepared.
The afore mentioned “house guests” just so happen to be my children and my parents. Every one of them are super willing to pitch in to help with meals but without a good plan in place, we all just end up aimlessly wandering around the kitchen at dinner time, running into each other in a hangry state. In an attempt to eliminate the chaos, I’ve assigned each person a specific food to take charge over on Thanksgiving Day. Everyone pitches in with meals at the Davis house. That’s just how we roll.
Coming up with make ahead meals is my secret weapon to maintaining any sense of sanity over the holidays. Meals that I can put together now and freeze and then pull out when I’ve got a houseful of guests in a couple of weeks. This recipe for Cheesy Shells is a perfect make ahead holiday meal.
Cheesy Stuffed Shells
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
28 ounce can tomato puree
2 cups water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/4 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
1 cup fontina cheese, shredded
1 cup pecorino romano cheese
3 Tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
25 jumbo pasta shells
2 cups fontina cheese, shredded
1 Tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
Remove foil from pan. Sprinkle fontina over shells. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes.
Let shells cool 25 minutes. Sprinkle with basil prior to serving.
Of course, you don’t have to store this amazing meal before you enjoy it. If you’re like me and you can’t wait to dive it - make two. One for dinner and one to put in the freezer to save for another day.
We have two children and sometimes I look at them and just wonder how in the world they ever turned so completely opposite. It's hard to believe that these two individuals could come from the same genetic makeup. They have radically different personalities and I love them both for who they are. They like to tease me about having a favorite but I we all know who the favorite really is --- the dog. (hehehehe)
I've got one child who LOVES meat. Pork, steak, ribs - the meatier the better. The other child prefers tofu, baked chicken and rice. Like I said - Opposites. You can imagine that it's somewhat of a challenge to find recipes to satisfy both of these discriminating eaters.
This Pork Ragu with Pappardelle recipe has my daughter written all over it. She is my meat lover. She also loves pasta and you'd never know it from looking at her but she loves to eat. I think that college life does that to a person.
I'm willing to bet that the intoxicating smell of this warm meat sauce simmering on the stove for an hour could turn even the most devout vegetarian into a meat eater. Maybe this could be a meal to satisfy the whole family after all.
Pork Ragu with Pappardelle
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 pounds country style pork ribs
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sliced onion
1 medium fennel bulb
8 cloves garlic, crushed
28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
2 Tablespoons anchovy paste
1 Tablespoon oregano
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 pound pappardelle
2 ounces pecorino Romano cheese
Sprinkle with cheese and serve.
Infusing pork, anchovy and fresh fennel into a simple tomato sauce is pure genius. I wish that I could take all the credit for coming up with a recipe for a thick, rich pasta sauce with complex flavors but I have to credit America's Test Kitchen with the inspiration for this one. They really do have some great strategies for creating really unique recipes. Thanks ATK.
The world of cooking and recipes can be quite overwhelming. There are really just a few basic recipes that every home cook needs to master. A simple omelet, a roasted turkey, a homemade pasta sauce, a juicy burger, a chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe and a rich and decadent chocolate cake. Once you get the hang of those fundamental recipes, you can host just about any dinner party.
Anyone can pick up a cake mix from the grocery store and bake a cake but the experience and satisfaction of creating your very own homemade cake or batch up cupcakes is unparalleled. Don't get me wrong, box mix cakes are fine and the reality is that nearly everyone I know makes cakes from box mixes. Scientists and cooks have devoted a whole lot of time into making sure that the ingredients inside that box are perfectly measured and combined to create a delicious cake. There is no denying that box mix cakes are good.
Think of box mix cakes as the Ford Focus' of the cake world. They're affordable, they're efficient and they're perfectly acceptable. In comparison, think of homemade chocolate cakes as the Cadillacs. They're more luxurious, they're bold and they're extraordinary. A single bite of rich, dark, homemade chocolate cake is all you that it's going to take to convince you that the extra time and effort that it takes to make a homemade cake is WORTH it.
Trust me when I tell you that you will impress your family and friends when you make these bite size homemade cakes. No one has to know they are almost as easy to make as box mix cupcakes. My Baby Chocolate Cakes have only 6 ingredients. You can master these cupcakes - I promise.
Baby Chocolate Cakes
2 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon flour
3 Tablespoons almond flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup egg whites (from 2 eggs)
1/3 cup + 1 Tablespoon sugar
5 Tablespoons butter, melted
Let cool 10 minutes in pan and then remove. Frost with your favorite frosting.
These little mini chocolate cupcakes are a great canvas for any baker/artist. You can get really creative with how you top them. A simple swirl of buttercream or a classic cream cheese icing are great choices but you could also top these with marshmallow meringue or whipped cream. Decorate them with fruit or transform them into beautiful little seasonal treats and don't forget to send me a picture. Can't wait to see what your cupcake creations.
Some people eat grapefruit for breakfast
Some people eat oatmeal
There are those
Who are sure
Granola is a very good deal
But not me
I don't go for that stuff
When it comes to nourishment
I get more than enough
Nothing satisfies my taste
Then sittin' down to a great big plate of
Cold Pizza for Breakfast
Warm Coke to wash it down (Ahhhhh)
I'm not a song writer but in my humble opinion, this Christine Lavin song is pure genius. The song is called "Some people eat grapefruit for breakfast" and if you haven't heard it - check it out - it's hilarious and enjoyable all at the same time.
I'll pass on the cold pizza for breakfast but I'd take this warm bacon and egg topped pizza with three different kinds of cheese and fresh chives any day. Now this is a morning pizza worthy of a great song.
3 Tablespoons olive oil
6 slices bacon
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (2 cups)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
1/2 cup small curd cottage cheese
1/4 teaspoon oregano
salt and pepper
1 pound pizza dough
2 scallions, sliced thin
2 Tablespoons minced chives
Transfer pizza to a wire rack. Sprinkle with scallions and chives. Drizzle with additional oil.
Now it's your turn to share your breakfast ideas with me. Send me your recipes in the comments and I'll give them a try.
It will probably come as no surprise that I was not one of those child prodigy chefs that you see on Food Network Kids Cooking shows creating complicated Mille-feuille and Kouign Amann at the age of eight. I loved to bake - but it was simple stuff and mostly out of a desire to satisfy my sugar addiction. I was by no means a child baking genius. And my mom will tell you that when I was in the kitchen - it was a MESS.
When I was young, I really saw no to reason to hone my cooking skills. My mom was an amazing cook and she provided such fantastic meals for our family and like most kids - I took it all for granted. I never bothered to pay attention to what she was doing while she was preparing meals. I guess I thought that someday, when I was older and on my own, somehow all of her culinary knowledge would be automatically imparted to me.
Coming as somewhat of a shock, when I moved out of my parents house my genetic predisposition for culinary skill was NOT automatically downloaded to my brain. I dare to say that quite the opposite was true. I was somewhat of a disaster in the kitchen. I would laboriously prepare a chicken casserole and mistakenly leaving out the key ingredient - chicken - all the while, kicking myself for not paying closer attention to what my mom was doing in the kitchen all those years.
Perhaps it's what I deserve but despite my best efforts, my children had the same apathetic attitude toward cooking that I did when I was a child. They appreciated the food that I made for them but they didn't pay a lot of attention to the process of getting the food from the frig to the table. Now that they're cooking for themselves, they've taken more of an interest in food preparation and they are becoming really great cooks.
If you happen to find yourself in the situation that I was in during my early twenties and you're accustomed to dining on great food but you have absolutely no idea how to go about preparing it - you've come to the right place. You need to subscribe to my blog so that you can get step by step, easy to follow recipes, WITH PICTURES. I can help you become a great cook. I'm not saying that there won't be chicken-less casseroles and burned toast along the way, it is a journey after all.
Start with this recipe for Grilled Steak and Elote Tacos. It's all made outside on the grill so it's a perfect Fall dish to serve. The ingredient list is short and the process is simple. A great recipe for cooks with even the most basic kitchen skills.
Grilled Steak and Elote Tacos
2 ears corn
2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound skirt steak
1/2 teaspoon cumin
8 (6 inch) tortillas
1/4 cup crumbled cotija cheese
Serve with lime wedges.
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