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Florida, a New Nephew, and Other Reasons for Being a Negligent Blogger This Summer

I know I don’t usually do this, but it’s been so long since I last posted anything that I thought a blog dedicated to explaining my absence might be just a bit appropriate. It’s been a busy but fantastic summer, one I refuse to believe might be actually starting to wind down. I will continue to yell “NOOOOOO!!!!!” every time I see or hear anything about “back to school”, simply as a matter of principle.

Anywho… my summer started with a trip to Texas to visit family and getting to meet the newest baby nephew!!! Preston is the sweetest, snuggliest baby with the most fun and adorable older siblings. We had a blast. A couple weeks later my mom came up to visit us! Her first trip to Hoboken – we showed her the waterfront, introduced her to Bare Burger, and made cherry slab pie. So fun!

Then, insert some boring but busy work stuff, and preparations began for our two-week vacation to Florida! I had the best of serious intentions to schedule some blogs to share during our trip, but I accidentally rescued a stray cat instead. (I thought she lived in our building! I thought she was micro-chipped!)

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Two days later we left for Florida, with profuse apologies to our cat-sitter, and just got back late Saturday night!

Florida was so awesome. We spent one week in Miami Beach and the second week in Key West.

Here’s a little collage of our stay in Miami.

Honestly the only thing we really did in Miami was visit to the Zoological Wildlife Foundation of Miami. You tour the facilities then interact with some friendly animals, and have the option to play with a baby tiger! We spent the rest of the time at either the resort pool or the beach, including one day seeing dear friends that moved down there about a year ago.

Restaurant recommendations:

Y.U.C.A. – a little more upscale Cuban place with terrific service every time. They tend to overcook fish, but their meat dishes and desserts are amazing.

Cleo South Beach – Mediterranean cuisine, get their tasting menu. Cannot give enough raves about this one.

Beachcraft – Tom Colicchio’s first Miami restaurant, it is absolutely incredible. Fantastic drinks and food.

Yardbird – a place specializing in Southern food, known for fried chicken and bourbon. Best biscuits ever. Go on a very empty stomach! Also has a Las Vegas location.

My Ceviche – tiny hole in the wall place with amazing food. Octopus ceviche was incredible as was the tuna burrito.

Sushi Samba – also has locations in New York and Las Vegas, some of the best sushi outside of Little Tokyo in Los Angeles. Spot-on execution of your usual sushi suspects, plus some original creations. Both outstanding. Also, tempura green beans appetizer. Just, yes.

Here’s a little Key West picture collage, where we also had a lovely time. We rented a little bungalow one block from Duval St. which came with a very friendly cat. We did more stuff in Key West, including their aquarium (worth seeing), Ernest Hemingway’s house, some cool art galleries, and the highlight: a day trip to Fort Jefferson and Dry Tortugas! A little island about 70 miles from Key West, we took the boat trip, and it is indescribably beautiful. Worth every penny.

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Restaurant recommendations:

Caroline’s Cafe – dined there twice, they have one of the best fried fish sandwiches I’ve ever tasted. Great key lime pie too.

BO’s Fish Wagon – menu is mostly fried stuff, it’s all delicious.

Dante’s Pool and Bar – we spent part of our last afternoon here, and probably would’ve stayed longer if not for a few conditions: there’s no cover charge, but if you get a covered table or chairs, there’s a $50 minimum on food and drink. So if you are a party of two who aren’t hungry, you have to choose between getting blasted by the sun, or blasted on the alcohol. We ended up choosing neither and went back to the pool that came with our rental. The drinks are quite good though.

Glazed Donuts – a must at least once when in Key West.

Amigos Tortilla Bar – delicious Mexican food. Absolutely delicious.

Blue Macaw Island Eats and Bar – ate breakfast there one day, it is awesome. They have a make-your-own Bloody Mary bar, which is heaven for people unlike me who actually like Bloody Mary’s. The food is wonderful too.

Island Dogs Bar – food is not recommended but drinks are wonderful, especially the Key Lime Pie Martini!

Thank you for your patience, and I’ll be back with actual food and recipes tomorrow!!

Intro to #BrunchWeek + GIVEAWAY!!

Welcome to the fourth annual #BrunchWeek hosted by Terri from Love and Confections and Christie from A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures. We are so excited to have you join us this year as we celebrate Brunch and prepare for Mother’s Day. 37 Bloggers from around the country will showcase their best brunch dishes, from cocktails to cakes, breakfast breads, tarts, and quiche – there is something for everyone! Our amazing Sponsors have donated some great prizes for the #BrunchWeek giveaway. Thank you so much, Sponsors, for your generosity. We have an incredible giveaway below and we’d love if you would take a moment to read about it and what you can win!

BW Logo 2016

Prize #1 Red Star Yeast is giving one winner an amazing baking set, which includes a mixing bowl, dough whisk, bamboo spatula, rubber spatula, instant-read thermometer, measuring cup, pizza cutter, tea towel, oven mitt, bench scraper, ‘Knead to be Loaved’ apron, 6 strips of Red Star Yeast, National Festival of Breads cookbook, and The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day hardcover cookbook

For more than a century, home bakers have trusted the high quality and consist performance of RED STAR Yeast. Inspiring bakers from novice to professional, our goal is your baking success! Visit redstaryeast.com for hundreds of tried & true recipes, baking tips and how-to videos. Better yeast. Better bread. Every time.

Prize #2 Dixie Crystals is giving one winner 1 case of 2-lb Extra Fine Granulated Sugar, a silicone baking mat, Dixie Crystal’s My First Cookbook, and Dixie Crystals red ruffle apron.

About Dixie Crystals: Since 1917, Dixie Crystals® has been the South’s choice for high-quality sugar and sweeteners. Our pure cane sugar products are all natural, non-GMO and provide consistently delicious results.

Prize #3 Cabot Cheese is giving one winner $50 assortment of Cabot Cheese, one Berghoff Cheese Knife and one Slate Cheese Board

Cabot Creamery Cooperative is a 1,200 farm family dairy cooperative with members in New England & upstate New York making all natural, award-winning cheeses & the “World’s Best Cheddar.”

Prize #4 Vidalia Onion Committee is giving one winner a Martha Stewart Knife Set, cast iron fry pan, cutting board, and fresh Vidalia Onions

About Vidalia Onions: Vidalia onions are unique to a very small region. In fact, they only grow within 20 counties in Georgia (which is also why they are the official state vegetable of Georgia)!
Vidalia onions were discovered back in 1930’s, and just like back then, they are still planted, transplanted and harvested entirely all by hand! Vidalia onions are grown during the winter months, and are only available in stores between April and September, making them a true seasonal specialty. In order to grow great tasting Vidalias, and to give them their characteristic sweetness, they must be grown in a sandy soil mixture that is low in sulfur (sulfur in soil is what gives onions their hotness). Because of this sweet flavor, Vidalia onions are incredibly versatile and can be used in any sort of dish; grilling, baking, appetizers, sandwiches, casseroles, and yes, even sweet desserts. Each year, approximately 5-million 40-pound boxes are shipped out around the entire country – now that’s a lot of onions!

Prize #5 Sage Fruits is giving one winner a Ninja® Mega Kitchen System® with Slicing/Shredding

Sage Fruit Company is a premier grower/shipper of apples, pears and cherries. Not only are they focused on healthy products, but also on helping kids get excited about healthy eating through their free Kids in Force program that helps kids eat more nutrition and get more physical activity.

Prize #6 Nielsen-Massey Fine Vanillas & Flavors is giving one winner a set of their pure flavors: 2-oz each of Orange, Lemon, Peppermint, Almond, Chocolate, Coffee, Rose Water, and Orange Blossom Water.

Nielsen-Massey Vanillas has been crafting the world’s finest vanillas and flavors since 1907. Each of Nielsen-Massey’s all-nature pure flavors are crafted with premium ingredients, sourced from around the world and chosen to meet the utmost quality standards. From lemon to peppermint to coffee or chocolate, Nielsen-Massey’s pure flavors offer convenience, quality and consistency to ensure your favorite recipes taste delicious every single time. All products are gluten-free, allergen-free, GMO-free, all-natural and Kosher.

Prize #7 KitchenIQ is giving one winner a Lid & Mitt, Edge Grip Quick Prep Knife Sharpener & Pairing Knife Combo, IQ Smart Wireless Nutri Scale, Edge Bug Scissor Sharpener, and Prep & Measure Tool

KitchenIQ, the new houseware branch of Smith’s Consumer Products, Inc., embraces Smith’s long-standing reputation for innovation and quality. KitchenIQ is committed to producing smarter products for the kitchen.

Prize #8 Le Creuset is giving one winner one Egg Carton in Caribbean, a Heritage 4 Qt Rectangular Baking Dish in Caribbean and a Revolution Spatula Spoon in Caribbean.

Le Creuset is focused on inspiring and empowering people everywhere to make joy through cooking. From our original enameled cast iron cookware to stoneware, stainless, silicone and more, Le Creuset has grown to offer products across a range of materials and categories that guarantees the right tool for the right job.

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Disclaimer: Thank you to #BrunchWeek Sponsors: Red Star Yeast, Dixie Crystals, Cabot Cheese, Vidalia Onion Committee, Sage Fruits, Nielsen-Massey, KitchenIQ, and Le Creuset for providing the prizes free of charge. These companies also provided the bloggers with samples and product to use for #BrunchWeek. All opinions are my own. The #BrunchWeek giveaway is open to U.S. residents, age 18 & up only. All entries for the winner will be checked and verified. By entering you give the right to use your name and likeness. The number of entries received determines the odds of winning. Eight winners will be selected. The prize packages will be sent directly from the giveaway sponsors. The #BrunchWeek Bloggers are not responsible for the fulfillment or delivery of the prize packages. Bloggers hosting this giveaway and their immediate family members in their household cannot enter or win the giveaway. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited by law.

Cod Cakes in Tomato Sauce

Cod Cakes in Tomato Sauce

It’s finally feeling like winter now, in nearly mid-February, a few weeks after Mother Nature dropped a mammoth blizzard on my northeast neck of the US woods, which was quickly followed by our temps skyrocketing up the thermometer to quite a bit warm, like in the 50’s, for days and days on end. It was strange – that’s not the usual January weather up here, but whatever. My point is, there wasn’t much excuse for the typical cold weather comfort food we all know and love.

Cod Cakes in Tomato Sauce

I mean, if you’re not even running the heat in your house, and you can enjoy the windows being cracked at night, then it’s extremely hard to justify things like beef stew, or meaty lasagna, or cream-based soups. However, it is still winter, despite what the thermometer might say, so a light crisp salad really wasn’t in order either.

Fish cakes are, I think, the perfect compromise. These are light enough that they don’t induce any guilt twinges, but a hearty tomato sauce and a soft, rich texture does serve to remind you that it ain’t the middle of the summer.

Cod Cakes in Tomato Sauce

These are some of the better fish cakes I’ve had. We love crab cakes around here, but fish cakes make fewer appearances. That might have to change! The texture on these babies was so unbelievably perfect. Soft, rich, with just the right amount of chew. Also, they were SO easy to work with. Not too sticky, not too dry, they packed together properly… oh, and they reheat well too, as an added plus! Enjoy!

Cod Cakes in Tomato Sauce

Source: Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi

Ingredients:

CAKES:
3 slices stale white bread, crumbled or blitzed in a food processor to make bread crumbs
1 1/3 lb. cod, skin and pin bones removed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbs fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 tbs fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tbs ground cumin
1 ½ tsp kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg white
4 tbs olive oil

SAUCE:
2 tbs olive oil
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground coriander
1 medium onion, chopped
½ cup dry white wine
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 tsp crushed red chile flakes
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp sugar
2 tbs mint leaves, chopped
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

Directions:
First, make the CAKES: chop the fish very finely and place in a large mixing bowl along with the bread crumbs and the remaining cod cake ingredients except for the olive oil. Mix together well, then, using your hands, shape the mixture into compact cakes about ¾-inch thick and 3 ¼ inches in diameter. You’ll have 8 cakes. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm up.
While the cakes are refrigerating, make the SAUCE: heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet or frying pan for which you have a lid. Add the spices and onion and cook, stirring frequently, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the onion is completely soft. Add the wine and simmer 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, chile flakes, garlic, sugar, ½ tsp salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Simmer about 15 minutes, until pretty thick. Taste to adjust the seasoning.
Remove the cakes from the refrigerator. Heat half the olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Once very hot, add half the cakes and sear 2-3 minutes per side. Repeat with the other half of the oil and the cakes.
Gently place the seared cakes side by side in the tomato sauce. Add just enough water to cover the cakes partially, a scant 1 cup. Cover the pan with its lid and simmer over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the cakes settle, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the mint and serve warm.

My Top Favorite 15 Posts of 2015

Happy New Year’s Eve! In food blogger tradition, I will use today to do a semi-recap of my blogging year by listing out my favorite 15 things I made and blogged this year – in alphabetical order, of course. Here they are!

#1. Almond Short Bread Wedges with Lemon Icing

Almond Short Bread Wedges with Lemon Icing

#2. Ancho Honey Mustard Glazed Salmon over Chipotle Black Bean Puree with Jalapeno Crema

Ancho Honey Mustard Glazed Salmon over chipotle Black Bean Puree with jalapeno crema

#3. Blood Orange Tabouleh

Blood Orange Tabbouleh

#4. Breaded Tomato Casserole

Breaded Tomato Casserole

#5. Chocolate Cupcakes with Pumpkin Buttercream Frosting

Chocolate Cupcakes with Pumpkin Buttercream Frosting

#6. Corn on the Cob with New Orleans “Barbecue” Butter

Corn on the Cob with New Orleans "Barbecue" Butter

#7. Duck Confit over Bulgur Wheat with Mango “Gin-Ger” Sauce

Duck Confit over Bulgur Wheat with Mango "Gin-Ger" Sauce

#8. Foie Gras and Cranberry Sauce Doughnuts

Foie Gras and Cranberry Sauce Doughnuts

#9. Goat Cheesecake with Blueberry-Gin Compote

Goat Cheesecake with Blueberry-Gin Compote

#10. Huevos Rancheros Salad

Huevos Rancheros Salad

#11. Pork Lover’s Pizza

Pork Lover's Pizza

#12. Rosemary Honey Walnut Ice Cream

rosemary honey walnut ice cream

#13. Rosemary Maple Bourbon Sours

Rosemary Maple Bourbon Sours

#14. Tex-Mex Cheese Enchiladas with Chile con Carne

Tex-Mex Cheese Enchiladas with Chile con Carne

#15. Vanilla Bean Old Fashioned

Vanilla Bean Old Fashioned

See you next year!!

Top 15 Most Popular Posts of 2015

As per usual, since it’s New Year’s Eve Eve, I’m doing another round-up from this past calendar year – your favorite things I posted for 2015! Here they are!

#15. Foie Gras and Cranberry Sauce Doughnuts

Foie Gras and Cranberry Sauce Doughnuts

#14. Veal Stew with Springs Greens

Veal Stew with Spring Greens

#13. Orange and Dark Chocolate Chunk Scones

Orange and Dark Chocolate Chunk Scones

#12. Creamy Shrimp Dip with Elevated Saltines

Creamy Shrimp Dip with Elevated Saltines

#11. Middle Eastern Chicken with Green Harissa

Middle Eastern Roast Chicken with Green Harissa

#10. Counterfeit Duck Confit

Counterfeit Duck Confit

#9. Ancho Honey Mustard Glazed Salmon over Chipotle Black Bean Puree with Jalapeno Crema

Ancho Honey Mustard Glazed Salmon over chipotle Black Bean Puree with jalapeno crema

#8. Vanilla Bean Old Fashioned

Vanilla Bean Old Fashioned

#7. Alice Springs Chicken

Alice Springs Chicken

#6. Parmesan Pistachio Kale Chips

parmesan pistachio kale chips

#5. DIY Velveeta Cheese

DIY Velveeta Cheese

#4. Multigrain Scones

Multigrain Scones

#3. Tex-Mex Cheese Enchiladas with Chile con Carne

Tex-Mex Cheese Enchiladas with Chile con Carne

#2. Lobster Bruschetta

Lobster Bruschetta

Aaaaannnnndddd, drum roll please! The number one most trafficked post from 2015 is…….

#1. King Ranch Casserole

King Ranch Casserole

See you tomorrow, when I count down my personal top 15 favorites from 2015!

A Guest Post – Creole Meatball Po’Boys

Creole Meatball Po'Boys

Hey y’all! Today I am thrilled to be guest posting for my fellow food blogger Shaina, who writes the fantastic Take a Bite Out of Boca! I met her through #SundaySupper. She’s a great gal who loves to cook, eat, and dine out in her hometown. This week she’s attending a conference in the greatest food city ever,  New Orleans! She’s having a blast and eating *quite* well, I feel sure.

Creole meatballs

In choosing what to make for her blog today, I just had to do something NOLA inspired. Of course. And since it just doesn’t get more New Orleans than po’boys, that’s what we’ll be having. These meatball po’boys are so delicious. Decidedly Creole but not too spicy, moist and tender, flavorful, messy, and just all around amazing.

Click over to Shaina’s blog for the recipe!

Creole meatball po'boys

12 Tips for Hosting a Stress-Free Thanksgiving

Holy cow, Thanksgiving is a week from today!! How did that happen?? Well, I’m hosting again this year, which I’m very excited about. I realized that I’ve actually racked up a bit of hosting experience, including major holidays, and I wanted to give y’all my top tips for making it a peaceful, stress-free, delicious day. I’ve learned a lot over the years and I hope imparting some of my hard-won (and sometimes painfully won) knowledge will help at least one person.

1)  Be realistic about your skill level and kitchen equipment.
Biting off more than you can chew is one of the easiest ways to frustrate yourself. Set yourself up for success. To me, success includes not only putting out great food but also getting to the table still in one piece emotionally speaking. The food doesn’t have to be complicated to be yummy and appreciated. If you are a novice or inexperienced cook, I would recommend perusing Allrecipes, as they have many very easy and uncomplicated recipes. And even if you are more experienced, still be mindful of not over-complicating things. Also, keep your kitchen stash in mind when meal planning. Don’t plan on popovers if you don’t have a popover pan, for instance. Make sure your roasting pan is large enough for the bird(s). That kind of thing.


Fried Brussels Sprouts with Pecans and Capers

2)  Make accommodations for guests with dietary restrictions.
Thanksgiving is a dairy-eating, dessert-scarfing, carb-loving, carnivore-friendly event, is it not? In picturing a typical Thanksgiving spread, I personally would not prefer to be someone who did not or could not fit that description. But many people do not, for one reason or another, and I definitely want to include them and make them feel welcome. Ask your guests beforehand if you’re not sure. If you’re hosting a vegetarian or vegan, you don’t have to serve up a tofu-turkey in lieu of a real bird, just make sure you have plenty of side dishes that will fill them up. Make sure your side dishes don’t include animal products; so no chicken stock in the gravy and no lard in the pie crusts. Google can be your buddy here, because the food blogosphere is full of recipes for lactose- and gluten-free desserts that still look yummy, as well as holiday-appropriate vegan dishes. I will admit to not having too much experience serving guests with dietary restrictions, but my best advice is to just talk to them and be very gracious. They will appreciate it.

3)  Test drive recipes beforehand if at all possible.
I’m sure no one’s doing this with a whole bird, and I certainly don’t blame you, but if you can test drive any side dishes, appetizers, or desserts beforehand, it will be a huge benefit. You’ll find out if a recipe just plain doesn’t work, which will save you tons of stress on the big day. You’ll also learn if a recipe needs tweaking. But I think most importantly you will learn real, actual timings of recipes. Sometimes the time listed on the recipe itself doesn’t have much to do with reality. You’ll find out how long the prep really takes and how long it actually cooks. It’s very worth it to get this experience, I’ve found. You also walk into the day more confident because you know what to expect from the recipes.


Chocolate Meringue Pie

4)  Print any online recipes.
I’ll admit, I’m as guilty as anyone of not doing this. I just set up my tablet or netbook on the breakfast bar and get to cooking. I would highly advise not doing this on Thanksgiving though. You know that Murphy’s Law will come into play, and even though it’s never happened before, that will be the one time when your computer locks up or your tablet battery dies in the middle of cooking. And then you’re screwed. Save yourself the trouble and just print them ahead of time. That way you won’t have to worry.

5)  Organize, organize, organize.
A few days before the Thursday, take an hour to organize your dinner prep. Spread out all your recipes and make notes on timings, oven temperatures, rest times, and what can be prepped ahead. Also make some notes about how many cutting boards you’ll need and how many times you think you’ll need a clean knife. Also take into account which pots and pans and utensils will be used for each dish. Taking this step ahead of time ensures that you have a better handle on how to structure the day, the order in which to cook each dish, and this hopefully means lower stress and getting all the dishes to the table in a timely manner and at the appropriate temperatures. Also, it makes unexpected recipe steps much less likely to crop up on you. I’ve neglected to take this step before; please don’t ask how that one went.


Chipotle Pumpkin Chowder

6)  Prep ahead, prep ahead, prep ahead.
Figure out what steps can be prepped ahead, and I say if they can be done, then do them. Take the day or even the evening before, and prep prep prep. Lots of dishes can be prepared the day before and sit in the fridge until you are ready to bake them off (like green bean casserole). Dough for biscuits or dinner rolls can sit in the fridge overnight. Do your research and see what steps can be taken the night before. The more you can do ahead of time, the more relaxing Thanksgiving morning will be.

7)  Make your pies the day before.
I know the chefs and cooks on Food Network make pie crust look nearly effortless, but I can assure you, it’s not. In non-TV world, pie is harder than it looks and only gets easy with practice. I could write a whole book on my pie disasters, from the crust not cooperating, to the pie shell not fitting the pan, from the filling seeping underneath the shell, to the filling overflowing, and that’s just the cooking aspect. Part Two will be about cutting and serving the damn thing. Also, I can tell you that pies are unpredictable. One works beautifully, the next one flops, and with no rhyme or reason. I’m not trying to scare anyone, I’m just trying to stress how much I highly recommend making them the day before; that way, if you have a flopper, you can run to the store and buy one, or you still may have time for a do-over.

Sweet Potato Biscuits

8)  Make sure you’re stocked up on the basics.
Basics include paper towels, clean kitchen towels, hand soap, dishwasher soap, ice, cooking spray, butter, olive oil and plenty of chicken or vegetable stock. The last thing you want to have happen is to be in the middle of dinner prep and run out of one of those essential things. Also, please make sure you have not run out of Band-Aids, gauze, and burn salve. While it’s unpleasant to think about cutting or burning yourself, especially on Thanksgiving, unfortunately it does occasionally happen. I have definitely been there. Make sure you can take care of things quickly if it does occur.

9)  Be choosy and thoughtful when picking an extra set of hands in the kitchen.
Does your mom constantly nag and drive you crazy? Is your cousin a bossy know-it-all? Perhaps they shouldn’t be your kitchen helpers. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you know you’re going to be frustrated and emotionally spent before you even sit down to dinner. Make sure your kitchen is a calm, peaceful environment. When those particular family members offer to help, tell them they can keep the kids out of your hair, or take the dog out, or set the table for you.  It’s a win-win.  They really will be helpful, yet they won’t drive you nuts.


Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Apples, Onion, and Candied Pecans

10)  Set the table early.
I can’t stress this one enough, especially if you are using nice china and stemware. It’s very easy to underestimate the time it will take to set up a nice, fancy table, so please do yourself a favor and get it out of the way ahead of time. Or better yet, have someone do it for you while you’re cooking.

11)  Meet my new best friend, the turkey breast.
Turkey breasts are infinitely easier to cook than a whole turkey. Trust me, I’ve done the leg work. I go for a turkey breast every time now. Delicious, easy to prepare, cooks evenly, and cooks in a fraction of the time as a whole bird. It’s a win. And if you’re serving twenty people, then just make multiple turkey breasts in a roasting pan; your cook time won’t lengthen at all, and your prep time will lengthen only slightly. I love to make a compound butter and shove it under the skin. Then I place the breast in a cast-iron skillet skin side up. Roast with a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast. The great thing is that you can adjust the oven temperature as needed for your other side dishes, and as long as you keep it in the range of 350 to 425 F, you should be fine. It’ll take about an hour to an hour and a half. Then, you take it out, let it rest on a cutting board tented with foil, and make an amazing gravy with the drippings in the cast-iron skillet. Contrary to a whole bird, carving a breast couldn’t be simpler.


Pumpkin Pecan Cake with Bourbon Brown Sugar Glaze

12)  Use a meat thermometer.
Do not ever, I repeat EVER, trust that pop-out thing that they’re putting in turkeys these days. Those things are worthless, in my estimation (and experience!). Invest in a meat thermometer for the turkey. And don’t worry, you will get lots of use out of it, so it won’t be a one-time use gadget that just takes up room in your already crowded cupboard drawers. But, I say even if you do only use it once, it would still be worth it. Your turkey will not be dry or underdone if you go this route.

FIRST EVER GIVEAWAY!!!

It’s officially mid-October, which means the holidays are fast approaching. For crying out loud, Target is already airing a Christmas commercial. I suppose it does serve as a reminder that the season for giving is going to be here soon, and well, frankly, it’s the season for receiving as well. Admit it, we all like getting presents. Soooo, where is this going?

Well, it’s my 50th blog post, and what better way to celebrate than my FIRST. EVER. GIVEAWAY!!!

For my first giveaway, I thought I would give a wink and a nod to the impending holidays with cookbooks, because they are undoubtedly a popular gift exchange item. I’ve given them and I’ve received them, and I’m sure you have too. 2012 has been, and continues to be, a great year for publishing cookbooks. There are so many good ones. Thus, I thought I would do a feature of 10 cookbooks that have been or will be published by the end of 2012. This list comprises books I already own and love as well as books I’m lusting after. I’ll pick a random winner, they get to pick which book from this list that they want, and I will send a brand new copy to you! Here’s the list:

1. Ted Allen, In My Kitchen (May 2012)
Ted Allen is one of my all-time favorite culinary personalities, and this has fast become one of my favorite books. I’ve cooked multiple recipes from it, despite having only owned it a mere few months. They’ve all been delicious winners. I love this book’s premise – it’s for people who love to cook and enjoy spending time in the kitchen. Well, that’s me! If that describes you too, then you need this book.

Source: amazon.com via Julie on Pinterest

2. Ashley English, A Year of Pies (August 2012)
Um, hello? Doesn’t the title of the book say everything you need to know?? As a pie lover myself, I can’t wait to get my hands on this one. There are sweet and savory pies, plus tarts, galettes, and small pies. The book is organized by season, which is terrific. I’m a huge proponent of seasonality in cooking. It’s all fresh ingredients and the classics are updated with a twist. Yummy!!

Source: amazon.com via Julie on Pinterest

3. Elizabeth Faulkner, Cooking Off the Clock: Recipes from My Downtime (August 2012)
Elizabeth Faulkner has become a familiar face on television the past few years with appearances judging Top Chef, being a contestant on Top Chef Masters, and being the runner-up for The Next Iron Chef. The unflappable and gracious pastry chef released a book of mostly savory recipes. They look wonderful and very doable for the home cook. She is also my sister’s personal fave. 🙂

Source: amazon.com via Julie on Pinterest

4. Tyler Florence, Fresh (December 2012)
I’ve been a Tyler fan for a long time now, and I’m eager to get his newest book. I’m sad he’s not making his show for Food Network anymore, but I cook from his books often. He’s become very involved in cooking for kids lately, which is awesome, and his last two books reflect that. I didn’t get them as I have no children. So I’ve been impatiently awaiting this offering for the grown-ups in the room. As an aside, I’m really digging his new look. The scruff and the glasses (unfortunately not pictured below) are kind of hot!

Source: amazon.com via Julie on Pinterest

5. Ina Garten, Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust (October 2012)
Who doesn’t love the always sophisticated, poised, ever posh, but oh so gracious Ina? Her recipes are delicious and her cookbooks are so well executed. This one isn’t out yet, but I have almost all of her books, so I’ll no doubt be adding this one to my collection. I can’t wait to see it!

Source: amazon.com via Julie on Pinterest

6. Deb Perelman, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (October 2012)
Who doesn’t know and adore the Smitten Kitchen food blog? It needs no introduction. I’m sure her book will be every bit as terrific as her blog. I’ve tried several of the blog’s recipes, and they’ve all been knockouts. I can’t wait for the Smitten in print, sitting on my kitchen bookshelf!

Source: amazon.com via Julie on Pinterest

7. Ellise Pierce, Cowgirl Chef: Texas Cooking with a French Accent (May 2012)
One of my favorite blogs comes to life in this book. Ellise Pierce moved from Texas to Paris to be with her man and her cooking is heavily influenced by both cuisines and cultures. Her food looks awesome and her story is captivating and inspiring. I’m particularly drawn to her journey as I grew up in Texas, but left it for a different culture. And Paris is one of my all-time favorite cities on the planet. I can’t wait to get a hold of the book.

Source: amazon.com via Julie on Pinterest

8. Rachael Ray, The Book of Burger (June 2012)
She’s definitely got her haters out there, but I am not one of them. I will concede that she gets too loud sometimes, and yes, she can be really corny and hokey. But, I think her cooking has matured so much in recent years, and I love her charitable causes. Besides, who doesn’t love burgers? I enjoy this book quite a bit. It’s not just burgers, but also sliders, sandwiches, hot dogs, sloppy joes, and sides, with a bonus chapter of impressive offerings from several celebrity chefs like Michael Symon, Mark Murphy, and Bobby Flay. The burgers are beef, poultry, pork, lamb, seafood and vegetarian fare. I use it often and haven’t been disappointed.

Source: amazon.com via Julie on Pinterest

9. Deborah Schneider, Mexican Slow Cooker (July 2012)
I bought this the day it came out, it looked so good. I’m not proud to admit I haven’t cooked anything from it yet; I’ll just try to make the excuse that it’s only now turning to proper slow cooker weather, and that I can’t wait to dive in. I love using my slow cooker and I love Mexican food, so win-win! The recipes are wonderfully traditional, but adapted for our crock pots. All the classics are there, like carnitas, menudo, several mole recipes, and a primer on tamales. It’s a must if you love cooking Mexican food.

Source: amazon.com via Julie on Pinterest

10. Robb Walsh, Texas Eats: The New Lone Star Heritage Cookbook with Over 200 Recipes (Mar 2012)
Robb Walsh is a James Beard award winner and the definitive go-to guy for Texas culinary traditions. He’s written several books, this being his newest. I’m really lusting after it. It contains many recipes from all over the state with background information on regions and food history. There are beautiful pictures on almost every page and the food looks amazing. If you have any interest in learning more about Texas culinary traditions or just want some solid and authentic recipes on hand, then don’t miss this one.

Source: amazon.com via Julie on Pinterest

How do you win one of these awesome books? I’m glad you asked! There are 5 ways to enter yourself.

1) Subscribe to my blog via email, then leave me a comment in this post stating you did so.

2) Subscribe to my blog’s RSS feed, then leave me a separate comment in this post stating you did so.

3) Like my Facebook page, then leave me a separate comment in this post stating you did so.

4) Follow me on Twitter, then leave me a separate comment in this post stating you did so.

5) Leave me a separate comment in this post saying which book you’ll pick if you win.

Note: If you already subscribe to my blog via email, subscribe via RSS feed, like my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter, simply leave a comment stating as such and you will be entered.

This giveaway will end on Thursday, October 18th, 2012 at 11:59 pm Eastern Standard Time. A winner will be chosen using Random.org and notified by email. The winner will have exactly 24 hours to respond, and the clock will begin ticking from the moment the email is sent. If there is no response, then a new winner will be chosen with the same method. Let’s get started, I’m so excited to do this!!!

Giveaway Fine Print:
-You must be at least 18 years old to enter.
-Giveaway idea inspired by fellow food blogger Gaby. Thank you!
-I have no affiliations with any author or company at this time. Prizes will come from my own pocket.

Congratulations Elisabeth Good! Thank you everyone for participating.