Comfort food is the best way to deal with cold, rainy days. I have no explanation for how or why the weather has such power over my appetite but as soon as the temperatures begin to drop, I start to crave carbohydrates. Pastas, homemade breads and potato recipes replace the salads and grilled meats that filled our plates over the summer.
Rather than fight the carbo cravings - I'm giving in and making my very favorite potato casserole for the weekend. This is my go-to recipe for most of the holiday meals that I host, nearly all pot lucks that I have to bring food to and almost every luncheon that I put together. I serve it so often in fact that I usually make two pans of potato casserole at a time so I can keep one in my freezer. (You know, for those potato casserole emergencies.)
Why do I love this potato casserole so much? (1) It's simple to put together. (2) It's super cheesy and delicious. (3) I can put it together ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator or freezer until I'm ready to use it. (4) Everyone always raves about it. Did I mention how easy this recipe is?
2 pounds frozen has brown potatoes (thawed)
1/2 cup butter (melted)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup onion, chopped
8 ounces sour cream
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups crushed ritz crackers
1/4 cup butter, melted
Combine all ingredients in bowl.
Scoop into a greased 9x13 pan.
Combine topping ingredients. Spoon over casserole.
Bake 45 minutes at 350.
Potato casserole pairs great with ham, with chicken, with pork and beef. Or, if you're like me, you can skip the protein and get yourself a heaping bowl full of cheesy potato casserole and call it a meal.
I've been making this recipe for at least 25 years and I can't believe that I'm just now getting around to blogging it. I don't normally make recipes over and over again but this one is an exception.
I'm not sure how or when this happened but I find myself serving side dishes as main dishes now more than ever. Maybe it's because I'm cooking for 2 and I've gotten a little lazy but I've got to say - there's something to this side dish cooking. It's quick and easy and it can be really satisfying.
Macaroni and cheese with a few slices of smoked sausage stirred in, pasta with a spoonful of tuna or a cabbage salad topped with shredded chicken are all good side/main dishes. So the question is, if I add protein to a carbohydrate or a vegetable, does that make it main course worthy?
The recipe for these loaded baked potatoes called for brisket and blue cheese but Ben and are very different, and we like our potatoes different too. I loaded half of the potatoes with shredded smoked chicken and blue cheese (for me) and the other half with brisket and cheddar cheese (for him). You could really top these potatoes with anything that you like. The possibilities are endless.
Loaded Steakhouse Baked Potatoes
4 russet potatoes
1/4 cup milk
2 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1 Tablespoon oil
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 cup beef broth
2 teaspoons sherry
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
10 ounces baby spinach
8 ounces shredded brisket
1/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup crispy fried onions
Top with brisket, cheese and onions.
Have you served side dishes as main courses? Send me your recipes and your ideas. I'd love to give them a try.
Baking is a science. There's plenty of room for experimentation and trial and error in cooking but you're much better off following a recipe as closely as possible when you're baking. Trust me - I learned that the hard way!
There are so many elements that can throw off a great recipe for baked treats. The size of your eggs, the texture of the sugar, improperly measured flour, the fat content of the milk that you use, the size of your cake pans, the temperature of your ingredients, the tools you use, the accuracy of your oven or even the freshness of your ingredients. Tweaking a recipe even a tiny bit can have exponentially adverse effects on the final product.
I get emails all the time from people who follow my recipes but end up with disappointing results. Let me just say - I am not a cake doctor and it's really hard to determine the exact cause of the baking problem based on the end result. I can run through my usual check list of common mistakes but finding the exact cause of a baking casualty is exceedingly difficult. Are your eggs and milk at room temperature? Did you use superfine sugar or raw sugar? Did you use parchment paper in the bottom of your cake pans?
To be honest, major cake catastrophes are easier to pin point than things like cakes that are too dense or too dry. I recommend that you follow one of my cake recipes if you're new to baking and you want to avoid major cake catastrophes. Follow my step by step instructions for the best chances of achieving perfect cake status.
Three Layer Yellow Cake
3 cups cake flour
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
8 large egg yolk plus 5 large egg whites
12 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 1/2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Remove from pans and cool completely. Frost with whipped cream cheese frosting.
Baking is a science. Your best bet is to follow the directions. Save all of your artistic and creative ideas for the decorating. You can be as expressive as you like with the decorations. I chose to add a cream cheese whipped cream to my three layer yellow cake. It was the perfect compliment to this moist and delicious yellow cake.
My birthdays have finally caught up with me and I've had to face the tough reality that my vision is no longer what it used to be. I've been living in denial for quite a while now. I've used glasses for my near sightedness for years but now that I'm 47, apparently I'm both near sighted AND far sighted! I'm not even sure how it's even possible to not be able to see near OR far.
Growing older may equate to deteriorating eye sight but I feel like with each passing year, my taste buds have become proportionally more intense. Maybe my sense of taste is compensating for my declining eye sight. Ten years ago, I would have never been able to pick up on the subtlety of a shitake mushroom, truffle oil or an aged gruyere in a risotto dish. To be honest, I'm really not sure that I would have even eaten a risotto dish a few years ago.
There are a lot of downsides to maturity and I won't go into that lengthy list, but I do seem to gain a new appreciation for food with each trip that I make around the sun. I'll hold onto each and every advantage that there is to getting older. I love that the flavor of fruit seems more intense than it did when I was younger. Herbs are more vivid and vegetables more crisp. I can truly appreciate a really great 3 ingredient dessert like Strawberry Lime Sorbet now, even more than ever before.
Strawberries, limes and sugar is all it takes to make this really sweet and delicious frozen treat. This sorbet is absolutely bursting with fresh flavor. You NEED to try this.
Puree ingredients in blender.
I've love this Strawberry Lime Sorbet so much that I've made it multiple times this summer already. I can tell you from experience that it's equally delicious if you swap out the sugar for TruVia sweetener. I keep a container of the stevia sweetened strawberry lime sorbet in my freezer for nights when I crave a little dessert but don't want the extra calories and sugar. It's REALLY good.
I'm learning to thrive in the gray areas of eating. I'm also learning to accept the fact that not all of my daily decisions can be as black and white as I would like. Sure there are some decisions that are very clear cut: Should I get out of bed? Should I each some chocolate today? I can answer YES to both of those questions without even giving them a second thought.
The problem is that black and white rules don't apply to healthy eating. These days the rules of healthy eating are constantly changing. One diet "expert" makes the claim that we should eat salmon at least once a week while another warns us to avoid it at all costs. Eat only farm raised salmon, eat only wild caught salmon, eat coho salmon, eat only Alaskan salmon. What are we supposed to believe? It's all very confusing and quite honestly - overwhelming.
Thriving in the gray area, means finding balance in my diet. Shrugging off my guilt for indulging in something "forbidden", listening to my body and allowing myself to eat the things that are right for me and not removing sugar completely from my diet to the point where I obsess over it. Thriving in the gray area. Balancing my ice cream binge sessions with some vegetables.
Today I cooked salmon tacos for dinner. Salmon is a hot topic right now in the healthy eating world and there is a LOT of information regarding both the benefits and the disadvantages of its consumption. The fact is that I enjoy salmon and eating it makes me happy so I eat it at least once a week. These Smoked Salmon Tacos are a great way to really enjoy salmon in a delicious and healthy way.
Smoked Salmon Tacos
1 cup brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
2 pound salmon filet
1 cup wood chips
2 Tablespoons apricot preserves
1 Tablespoon water
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup spicy brown mustard
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 small granny smith apple, peeled and chopped fine
1 celery rib, chopped fine
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
12 (6 inch) flour tortillas
3 cups salad greens
Add salad greens.
I cook a lot of salmon and I don't like to repeat recipes. (I'm a food blogger after all.) I had explored what I thought was every possible way to prepare this delicious seafood - then I discovered the salmon taco. I wasn't sure about the idea of a salmon taco at first but I was ready for a new way to enjoy my salmon so I agreed to give it a shot. I am so glad that I did. This may just be my new favorite way to enjoy salmon.
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