If you know me at all you know that I am all about storing away food for a rainy day. I'm not sure where I picked up this trait but for some reason I feel like if the zombie apocalypse were to happen in my town, my family would need unfrosted cupcakes and biscotti to survive. There are no words to describe the mini panic attack that occurs when I open the freezer and find empty shelves. There's no rational explanation for it, but the absence of perfectly portioned containers of soup, salsa and spaghetti sauce keeps me awake at night.
I can honestly say that in my 47 years of life, I can't think of a single time when I was faced with an actual food emergency when I had to rely on my stockpile of freezer food to survive. As a matter of fact, it becomes more of a hinderance than a help sometimes. Last year when hurricane Irma came through Atlanta, I had to figure out how to keep all of that food frozen during extended power outages. (Thank goodness for coolers and ice machines.) The thought of losing all of that freezer food was scarier than losing trees in the yard. Priorities, right?
Even though I wouldn't describe them as "emergencies" I do like the fact that I have food available when I want it. When I sign up to bring a dessert to Bible study but then I run out of time to bake - freezer cookie dough to the rescue. When we get a last minute invite to a friends house for a cookout - frozen boston butt. When we decide to join some friends at the lake and I need to contribute something towards dinner - freezer macaroni and cheese. It may not save us from the zombie apocalypse but there is no question that having food in the freezer comes in handy.
Rather than try and fight it, I'm learning to try and embrace my food hoarding tendencies. These Chocolate Chip Banana Bars are the perfect freezer food. They're great as a breakfast treat or dessert. Because they're naturally soft and chewy, you really don't even need to let them defrost completely before diving in.
Chocolate Chip Banana Bars
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 Tablespoons oil
3 Tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
Serve these yummy little treats for breakfast with coffee, for an afternoon snack with tea or for a sweet after dinner dessert.
I'm super disappointed in how my pictures of this little treat turned out. (That's what I get for trying to rush through a photo shoot with bad lighting and a dirty lens.) Just don't judge these delicious Chocolate Chip Banana Bars by the pictures - in this case they really ARE better than they look.
Two turkeys, 15 pounds of mashed potatoes, 6 pounds of sweet potatoes, 4 dozen rolls, 2 salads, gravy, stuffing, green beans, corn casserole, cranberries, 2 pies, 1 cake, 1 tart, chocolate pretzels, sugar cookies and homemade ice cream. I would say that Thanksgiving 2018 was a feast of epic proportions. These are the meals that home chefs live for. Lots of food, lots of wine, pretty table decorations and plenty of guests to enjoy it all.
Before we dove into any of that scrumptious Thanksgiving fare - we kicked off our meal with a bowl of creamy lobster bisque. Inspired by the darling little pumpkin bakers that really became table decorations, I decided to start off our meal with a somewhat non-traditional soup course. Lobster bisque was the first thing that came to mind when I started to think through hearty soups to compliment our Thanksgiving meal. After all, who doesn't like lobster?
8 lobster tails
1 stick butter
1/3 cup olive oil
4 medium carrots, sliced
2 yellow onions, diced
4 stalks celery, sliced
4 Tablespoons tomato paste
8 cups chicken stock
3 sprigs fresh parsley
3 sprigs fresh tarragon
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper
Place steamer basket in bottom of a large pot and add 1" of water. Bring to a boil. Add 2-3 lobsters at a time, cover and steam 2 1/2 minutes. Reserve water in bottom of pot.
Remove tails, split tails in two and remove meat. Chop meat. Reserve shells. Refrigerate lobster meat.
Chop shells into 1" pieces.
Add brandy and cook 5 minutes. Add wine and cook another 5 minutes on high.
Add reserved steaming water and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook, uncovered for 1 hour.
Ladle bisque into bowls and top with warmed lobster meat and garnish with parsley and tarragon.
We had 21 people at our house on Thanksgiving to eat up all that delicious food, but we still managed to end up with enough leftovers to get us through at least a couple of extra meals. We did NOT have a lot of leftover lobster bisque though. I guess that means that it was a hit.
I work out 6 days a week but I'm not an athlete. I sweat a lot but I don't workout out as hard as I can. I follow workout videos and I'm surprisingly uncoordinated. I don't run because - well, wimpy ankle issues. I ride a spin bike because I don't trust myself to stay focused enough to stay on a road bike. I'm not always excited about working out. I whine. I make excuses. I complain. I fail. I've accepted the fact that I'll probably never be able to knock out a proper pull up but I keep trying anyway. I'm recognize that I'm not going to be good at everything but I refuse to quit. I want to be fit and I know that the only way to accomplish that goal is to keep working out even when I feel inadequate.
My relationship with food is much the same as my relationship with working out. I'm obsessed with fruits and vegetables and I eat very little meat but I also know that pizza is beautiful. I have mad love for chocolate and warm chocolate chip cookies are my jam. I'm not always going to make the best food choices and if I'm being completely honest, some days it's easier to make healthy choices than others. I may fail miserably more often than not but I'm not going to give up my fight to be a healthy eater.
It's easy to get discouraged in my fitness and eating goals. There's always an excuse to skip workouts or to eat something unhealthy but that's no reason to give up on my goals. I managed to do P90X in a leg brace from the bottom of my foot to the top of my knee for 3 months so any excuse that I come up with now just pales in comparison to my struggle to workout on one leg.
It's no secret that I'm a big fan of bread - more specifically - bagels. A warm from the oven, chocolate chip bagel and a decaf latte from Einstein's Bagels is quite possibly my favorite breakfast EVER. I try and not tempt myself with bagels very often but they are one of the things that I crave the most. I love the idea of baking bagel bread. I feel like I have more control over portion size without losing any of the chewy bagel texture that I love.
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
1 teaspoons kosher salt
3 cups bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1/4 cup corn syrup
1 1/2 Tablespoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 egg, beaten
Slice and serve.
Clearly, there are some recipes that are more appealing on paper than they are when they come to fruition in my kitchen. This was one of those recipes. I was good up until the point when I had to take RISEN dough out of the pan and drop it in a pot of boiling water. I'm still not sure exactly how this was SUPPOSED to be accomplished. I did manage to figure out how it WASN'T supposed to be done. I pulled a weird ameba like blob of dough that didn't resemble anything remotely similar to a loaf out of my pot of water. I managed to squish it back into the loaf pan and then I had to let it rise for another 45 minutes to regain some of it's loaf qualities again.
My attempts to salvage my bread were moderately successful but I am looking for advice from my bread baking readers. How in the world are you supposed to boil a LOAF of bread? I recognize that the step is important in creating that signature chewy consistency that's unique to a bagel but there has to be a better way. Help me! Send me your ideas. I would love to make this recipe again - the right way.
Have you ever gotten into a muffin vs. cupcake discussion with someone who feels passionate about finding the differences between the two? I've been sucked into more of those conversations than I care to recall and there rarely seems to be any resolution.
It all very subjective but in my unscientific opinion, if you serve a sweet baked treat before 10:00 AM and you don't put any frosting on it - it'a a muffin. Slap some frosting on that same baked goody after 10:00 AM and bam --- it's a cupcake. It's all about the timing and the presence (or absence) of frosting.
Some people would think that a Double Chocolate Salted Caramel Muffin might be too over the top for a morning breakfast treat but luckily - I'm not one of those people.
I've somehow managed to avoid a morning coffee addiction but I seem to have replaced it with a chocolate addiction. (I've got to get my caffeine somehow.) ;) I can eat chocolate from the very moment that I wake up to the moment that I go to bed. My chocolate addiction does not discriminate - I can eat it ALL day.
Double Chocolate Salted Caramel Muffins
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup jarred dulce de leche
Divide batter between 12 muffin cups. Bake 12 minutes at 350.
Sprinkle the tops of muffins with grated chocolate and sea salt.
Thanksgiving is exactly one week away and I am sooooo excited. There are so many things that I'm looking forward to - not the least of these is sitting around the kitchen table early in the morning, munching on yummy muffins and talking with my sweet family. Of course, I love turkey and pie too but its mostly about the people that will be gathering around my table.
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.
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