Roasting (and mashing) some SweetTaters

Got all of the grocery shopping finished up today and there are now two beautiful turkeys stashed away in the fridge, resting peacefully until roasting day.

But while I have a minute (or 120), I'm going to get the sweet potatoes roasted up.  I just wrap them in foil (two per pouch) and bake them for 2 hours at 300 degrees.  I wasn't even planning on doing sweet potatoes, but walking through Whole Foods I got this craving for some mashed sweet potatoes so after these are roasted, I'll skin them and mash them up with maybe a little maple syrup, browned butter and some thyme.  I'll let you know.  Creme fraiche would be nice in there too.

And I can't even tell you how good these came out.  If you like mashed sweet potatoes, you've gotta do this.  After your potatoes come out of the oven and they cool just a bit, the peels will slide right off.  Put the sweet potatoes into a stand mixer with the whip attachment and add 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 cup maple syrup, 6 tablespoons of melted butter, the leaves from 4 sprigs of thyme and 1/2 cup of creme fraiche.  Whip until everything's combined and your sweet potatoes are all whippy and you won't even believe how good.  I'm going to wish I made a lot more of these.  I'll post an official recipe in just a bit.

Smashing Some Taters!

We've got about 15 lbs of taters to peel and smash so it's awfully nice to get some help in the kitchen!  Five down, 10 to go!!!

Ella tried her best to be helpful but no, sorry, we weren't going to need the oven today.  

All 15 lbs eventually got peeled and cooked and then run through the ricer.  

Butter, salt and milk were stirred through and geez, I hope we'll have enough...

And so it begins...

Today the Thanksgiving cooking begins in earnest and I've already got a couple things finished and stashed away.  Firstly, I got the cranberry sauce done because that will keep in the fridge for like 30 years. And when it comes to cranberry sauce, I'm a purist.  When it comes to most of this meal, I have to admit to being a purist.  My cranberries must taste like cranberries, just cranberries, with just the right amount of sweet/tart balance.  So I start with a simple syrup that is equal parts water and sugar which I bring to a boil and to which is then added 1 package of cranberries that have been rinsed.

Bring this to a boil and then just let it simmer, uncovered, until the cranberries are cooked down.  I like to still have whole ones mixed in with the ones that are falling apart.  The longer you cook them the more the cranberries will cook down and the thicker they will get.  

So yeah, basically just follow the recipe on the back of the package.  Cranberries, done.

I also made some candied pecans that are going to top one of my pumpkin pies...

...in which pecans are mixed with light corn syrup (I use Lyle's Golden Syrup which is from cane sugar rather than corn), sugar, salt and pepper...

... and then baked until caramelized and ever so yummy.  You'll find my recipe HERE.

And then there's the stuffing...  I've made the croutons for stuffing eleven different ways, but when I found this stuffing from Boudin Bakery at Costco, game over.  I mean this beats all, in my book.

So I made 3 kinds of stuffing for this year.  This here one is a traditional stuffing with the onions, celery, herbs, etc.

This one is the traditional stuffing with cranberries, apples and bacon.

And this one is a cornbread stuffing with sage, thyme and my Tuscan Herb Salt.

For all of them I used homemade chicken stock and the aromas in my kitchen are pretty dang amazing right now.  Of course, they all need to get baked yet, but that won't happen until next Wednesday or Thursday morning.  Here's a link to my stuffing with cranberries, apples and bacon.

Taco Tuesday!!

It's taco Tuesday here at the Circle B Kitchen and we take it very seriously.  Corn tortillas are grilled and filled with ground meat seasoned with our own taco seasoning and topped with shredded lettuce, tomatoes, grated cheese and hot sauce (Red Devil, please).

But no taco Tuesday is complete without a happy hour of homemade chips, spicy sour cream dip and homemade salsa.  

This is how we do Tuesdays.

Herb Salt from the Garden

The garden is winding down and if I don't pick these herbs in the next week or so, I'll lose them.  I grow rosemary, sage and oregano for the express purpose of making my Tuscan Herb Salt and I use copious amounts of that for a dry rub on my Thanksgiving turkey, so today was the day.  I picked a whole bunch of herbs, washed and dried them, and then processed them with garlic and salt and spread it out on a sheet pan to dry.

I'll leave that for about 3 days or so and then package it up in jars to use throughout the year.  I made a double batch today which will last quite a long time, but the good news is that there are still enough herbs out there to make one more batch before winter sets in.  If you've never made this, you will wonder how you lived without it once you have it.  You can buy your herbs and make this any time of the year.

It's Leftover Night!

It's leftover night here which means I'm taking our leftover spaghetti and meatballs and making a spaghetti pie for dinner.  I cut the meatballs into quarters, and then mixed the spaghetti with 3 beaten eggs and a good handful of grated parmesan cheese.

After I got that all mixed together, I placed it in a 12-inch baking dish and then topped it with some grated mozzarella cheese.  Then I baked it at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  I wanted the top a little crispier, so I stuck it under the broiler for another 5 minutes and it was perfect.  Leftovers never tasted so good.

Election Night Patty Melts

Testing out the ultimate recipe for a patty melt that will just knock your socks off.  This being election night, I totally need a distraction.  So I'm going to start by making some caramelized onions...

Onions have been caramelized, patties have been formed...

I'm making some oven fries to go with the patty melts and they're ready to get roasted...

Patties are cooked...

French fries are done...

and patty melts have been grilled.  They were beyond scrumptious and in a few days I'll have the recipe up on the blog so you, too, can enjoy some patty melt deliciousness.

Rainy Day Cooking...

It's been raining all day here and pretty chilly outside, which in knee-jerk fashion drives me straight to the kitchen.  Just pulled some granola out of the oven and it smells heavenly in here. As soon as it cools, I'll stir in some raisins and dried cranberries and we'll be stocked up for a few weeks.

Now I'm going to get some marinara sauce started and make some meatballs.  It's been awhile since I made this and the cold weather has me craving something hearty and cozy.  Spaghetti and meatballs are sounding just about perfect.

And need I say, yes, it was most excellently perfect.  Sigh....

It's Squash Night!

We're a bit up to our necks in squash here so tonight we're taking care of business.  I halved the spaghetti squash, drizzled it with olive oil, salt and pepper and then roasted it in the oven for about 45 minutes.  I'm going to shred it out of the skins and mix it with a little butter, salt and lots of cracked black pepper.

I also had this huge zucchini my daughter gave me.  It's been sitting on the counter for a week so it's time to get that cooked up too.  I sliced off the curvy end and then cut it in half, scooped out most of the squash meat and then stuffed it with a quinoa mixture I had on hand.  That was topped with some breadcrumbs, parmesan and jack cheese and a good drizzle of olive oil.

To go along with all of our squashes, I made some sausage bread which just happens to be one of our all-time favorite things to eat EVER!!

Happy Friday, everyone!!

Halloween Stir Fry

It's Halloween!  Yay!  Happy Halloween, everyone!  The grandkids are getting ready to get out and fill their buckets full of candy and we're sittin tight, enjoying the quiet.  We get no trick or treaters out here and to be honest, we don't mind a bit.  It's a perfect night for some stir fry so that's what's going down.

Tonight's stir fry features some cut up chicken thighs, red pepper, broccoli and cabbage all stir fried and then doused with my magic Asian sauce and then brown rice noodles get stirred into the mix.  The whole shebang is topped with chopped cilantro and we're calling it dinner.  We're also calling it outstandingly delicious!

Chili Beans for a Chilly Fall Day

That fall chill has definitely settled in here in the Midwest and I for one am loving it.  So to celebrate not only this awesome weather but also a quiet Sunday with nothing on the calendar, I've got a pot of chili beans simmering away on the stove.  The kitchen (and most of the house) smell exactly as they should on a cool fall day... delectable and quite cozy.

Pizza Night

It's pizza night here at the Circle B Kitchen and I'm especially excited for this one because I've set out some pizza goals for myself for this year.  Now, I've made a LOT of pizza in my day and much of it has come out of the pizza oven which makes a delectable crust and a wondrously charred flavor.

But here's the thing... I feel like my crusts are a bit too unpredictable, so I'm out to create a little more consistency in this part of my life.  Consistency is a worthy thing to which one should aspire, no?  Yes.  And I want consistency not only from the pizza oven, but from my kitchen oven too.  So to that end I've ditched my pizza stone.

Heresy!!  I know.  The hallowed pizza stone has indeed fallen out of favor with me and here's why. I can get the oven in my Aga pretty screaming hot because it's got great convection and it really is perfect for baking pizza.  The walls are lined with ceramic and the thing holds heat like a beast.  But it seems that the pizza stone just never gets hot enough, even after an hour of preheating. 

So my pizza stone is now leaning against the wall in the garage and has been replaced by a baking steel!  Yay!  I was actually thinking to replace the stone with something cast iron that would conduct heat really well, get hot and stay hot!  Well, the answer to that turned out to be a baking steel and last night I used it for the first time.  Oh, my ever lovin pepperoni!  This thing gets HOT and cooks pizza in a matter of minutes.  So yeah, I'm pretty stoked and am so glad somebody was as frustrated with their pizza stone as I was and came up with a rather brilliant solution.  That's the good news.

The bad news is that this thing isn't cheap.  Dangit.  But our pizza is worth it, you know?  Why bother to go through all the trouble to make your dough, let it rise and do all of this work if it's not going to be just right.  So I splurged and have no regrets.

The next challenge will be tweaking my pizza dough recipe so that it comes out the way I want it every time.  Maybe that's an unrealistic expectation, but I'm going after it.  I'll keep you posted!

Some Tasty Turkey Meatloaf, Twice Baked Potatoes and Sautéd Sugar Snap Peas

Well, that was fun!!  For dinner tonight I took my "Tasty Turkey Meatloaf" and smooshed it into a bundt pan and boy howdy, was that ever good!  Like a turkey meatloaf bundt cake!!  Well, in point of fact, this meatloaf would taste awesome if baked in an old boot, but the bundt pan made a fun shape and ensured that it cooked through in a bit less time to boot! (sorry).

The one thing I did wrong was to drizzle the glaze on top of the meatloaf before it went into the oven, which meant that, you guessed it, the glaze was on the bottom when I inverted the meatloaf onto the serving platter.  D'oh!  So next time I will cook it about 3/4 of the way through, invert it and then apply the glaze before finishing the cooking.  No matter, this came out so good and we devoured it.

...along with twice baked potatoes...

and sautéd sugar snap peas...

A great time was had by all.

Dianne Salad and Some Cheesy Beer Scones

About every 3rd Sunday of the month or 4th Saturday or maybe both, I make us a big old bowl of Dianne salad.  It's definitely one of The Husband's all-time favorite meals and certainly one of mine.  Tonight it really hit the spot, along with some Cheesy Beer Scones which are absolutely the most perfect complement to a Dianne Salad.  Over the years I've made some changes to this salad which have possibly taken me further from the original Green Street Restaurant salad, but closer to deliciousness and wholesomeness.

The beer scones, on the other hand, have remained the same over the years and always turn out perfectly scrumptious and awesome.  Although I will admit to adding a bit more cheese now and then.  Be sure to use a sharp cheddar cheese so you can taste the cheesiness!

Pasta Fagioli

This one got pulled out of the "why don't I make this every night" file.  It's fall, it's chilly, and we're wanting something warming, soothing and ever so satisfying and boy howdy, pasta fagioli turned out to be the best possible meal for tonight.  I was so wishing I could just eat like 4 helpings, but alas, this is hearty fare, my friends.  It warms and comforts, but it also fills you up. In such lovely, homey and delicious sort of way.

I made a big salad and grilled some sourdough bread and I want to eat this meal all over again tomorrow night.

Asian Pasta and Meatballs

We're down to our last day here at the Circle B Kitchen Western Headquarters and it's time to clean out the fridge.  We've been here 3 weeks and have accumulated quite the array of ingredients, condiments and leftovers which I'm determined to use up before our departure. Last night's menu turned out to be a fun surprise.  I had some ground turkey in the freezer, some rice noodles in the pantry along with some leftover Asian sauce in the fridge, some cilantro and a few green onions gasping their last breath.

So the ground turkey went into some Asian meatballs that I roasted then simmered in some of the Asian sauce, the rest of which went into saucing up those rice noodles, which I decorated with those green onions and cilantro.  Mighty delicious "clean out the fridge" kind of meal.  

I am admittedly loathe to throw away food.  I mean, I have a thing about figuring out how to use every last scrap, so tonight I will see what comes out of a block of cheese, some tortillas, some avocado citrus sauce and 2 pears.  Hmmmmmm...

Rainy Day Cookies

It's been raining all day here at the Western Headquarters for the Circle B Kitchen.  If it weren't such a welcome event in this drought-stricken part of the country, we'd be sort of bummed. Nevertheless, we threw on our parkas and went for a very long walk along the ocean in the rain this morning and didn't mind getting ourselves a bit wet in the process.  This has been a stormy storm creating an angry, tormented sea which was ever such an amazing thing to see against this rocky coastline.

And then we came home and made cookies.  What is it about wet, rainy days that make you crave a warm cookie fresh out of the oven.  That's pretty much a rhetorical question that requires no answer.  Warm, fresh cookies need no explanation.  That, a fresh pot of coffee and a good football game have convinced us that rainy days, even when you're on vacation, can be a wondrous thing indeed.

Here's the recipe!

Sausage Bread

We made it here to the Circle B Kitchen West and are totally enjoying the ocean, family and the crazy abundance of fresh seafood.  You will see the results of one of my seafood cooking adventures on my next post.  But tonight I just had to throw together a big old loaf of sausage bread for everyone.  Man, this stuff is so good, people.  

Basically, it's just rolled out pizza dough covered with Italian sausage, pepperoni, mozzarella cheese and crushed red pepper.  Then it's rolled up, baked and after you slice it, you dip it in marinara sauce and try not to eat the whole thing yourself.  I made a big salad and that was dinner.  A most exceptional meal and fun time was had by all.  The end.

Clearing Out Frittata!

We're leaving super early tomorrow for the Circle B Kitchen West (scroll down the photo page to Circle B Kitchen West photos.)  After cleaning things out all day in preparation for a 2-week stay, tonight's dinner was a "clean out the fridge" frittata.  I had 1/2 an onion, 1/2 a red pepper, 2 breakfast sausage links, some bacon, some broccoli and some provolone cheese.  Oh, yeah, I also had 8 eggs, all of which went into our frittata.  And can I just say it was amazing!!!

Oh, and I cooked up a little angel hair pasta throw in too.  Then I cut the provolone into chunks and sprinkled that on top...

...scrambled up the eggs with some seasoned salt and parmesan cheese and poured that over the top...

Then covered and cooked it over a medium flame; depending on how many eggs you have in there.  I cooked this one about 14 minutes ...

...and then I stuck it under the broiler until it was beautifully golden and cooked through and oh my ever lovin goodness, so GOOD!!!