Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes

The construction continues and I'm living in a chaos of cardboard boxes, elusive dust bunnies and a constant stream of dirty work boots traipsing in and out of my house.  I've come to the conclusion that I will not have a clean house until the construction is finished.  Once I realized this, took a deep breath and put a smile on my face, life became a little easier.

Since I am done trying to clean the chaos, I have focused my attention on Thanksgiving, my absolute favorite holiday.  I cook too much (and eat too much, but we won't talk about that) so I like to get a head start.  Whatever I can make ahead, I do.  Today, I'll tell you about make ahead mashed potatoes.  Anytime you need a make ahead side dish, this fits the bill.


2 1/2 lbs russet potatoes
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup half & half
2 heaping TBS sour cream

Clean, peel and cube the potatoes.  Try to make them roughly the same size so they cook at the same time.

Place them in a big pot and add enough cold water just to cover them.  Bring to a boil, then salt them generously (If you salt them before, it takes the water much longer to come to a boil).

Boil them until they are fork tender.  You don't want them too hard or too soft.  If they slide easily off the fork, they're good.

Drain the potatoes in a colander.  Meanwhile, in the hot pot, add the butter, milk, half & half and sour cream, stirring over LOW heat until all melted together.  Don't boil this or it will curdle.  Just gently melt it together.

Place the drained potatoes in the bowl of a mixer (or just a big bowl if you don't have a stand mixer).  Mix (just the potatoes) until mashed.  Or use a hand mixer or a potato masher to mash them.

Then, add the melted butter mixture and mix until smooth.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Butter a 9x13 baking dish.

Spread the mashed potatoes into the buttered dish and let it cool a bit.

Once it has cooled, cover it with foil and put it in the refrigerator.  It will keep in the fridge for 3 days.

When you're ready to bake it, take it out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for a bit.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Dot the top of the mashed potatoes with several pats of butter and splash a little bit of chicken broth on top (this creates steam in the oven and adds moisture).  If you're a vegetarian, use veggie broth or water.

Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Then, carefully remove the foil (because the steam is hot!) and enjoy.  These are creamy and delicious.  I love this recipe.

Whether it's Thanksgiving, Christmas, or just any time you want to make life a little easier, this make ahead dish is the ticket.  One less thing to worry about the day of.  Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Taco Soup

Living in South Louisiana is like riding a weather roller coaster!  We are well into November and we're wearing shorts and running the A/C.  But, not long ago, we were in sweaters.  And from what I heard the weatherman say last night, we will be in heavy coats this weekend.  It's a never ending up and down experience.  You know how most people get to put the summer clothes away and bring out the winter clothes for the "season"?  Well, we can't do that here in South Louisiana.  We may need a sweater or perhaps a sundress.  Sometimes you can wear both on the same day!  You never know how the day is going to unfold.  This cartoon pretty much nails it:

When it does get cold around here, I love a steaming bowl of soup to warm up.  Who doesn't?  Here's a recipe that is easy to make and I usually have all the ingredients on hand.  The best part is that it's hearty, warm and delicious on a cold day.


1/2 lb. ground beef (or turkey)
1/2 an onion, chopped
1/2 a bell pepper, chopped
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 pkg taco seasoning
4 cups water
1 cup frozen corn

Brown the ground beef with the chopped onion and bell pepper.

Drain off any excess grease.  Add the tomatoes (including the juice), water, taco seasoning and beans.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the corn.

Simmer, uncovered for 5 - 10 minutes more, stirring occasionally.

I serve it with a few tortilla chips (for the hubby) or with sour cream, chopped green onions and crushed tortilla chips (for me).

This soup really warms you up and fills you up.  The meat and beans are very filling.  It has a great flavor, thanks to the taco seasoning, and a bit of sweetness from the corn.  The sour cream adds creaminess (obviously) and the chips add crunch and that great tortilla flavor.

If you live in a part of the world where the cold is constant throughout the season, make this soup to warm your belly.  If you live in South Louisiana and time it just right, it might warm you up, too.  (Or it might make you sweat.  Oh well, just crank the A/C).

Friday, November 13, 2015

Chocolate Fudge Cake

The renovations continue and I'm feeling a little closed in.  Since the master bedroom is under construction, I don't have my own space to retreat to.  We are, for the time being, sharing one bathroom and there are boxes everywhere.  Everywhere except the kitchen.  The kitchen has always been my favorite place, now even more so.  It's the one room in my house, right now, that I have total control over.  I can kick everyone out and cook.  By myself.

The other day I decided to make a cake just because I could.  I found a few things in the pantry and threw them together.  The results were pretty good.  Here's what I did:


1 box devil's food cake mix
4 eggs, room temp*
1 cup milk, room temp*
1/3 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 (14 oz) can condensed milk
1 (11.75 oz) jar hot fudge topping
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1 cup chocolate chips, optional

*You get better results with room temperature eggs and milk.  Let them sit out on the counter for a little while before using.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease the bottom only of a 9x13 baking dish (or cake pan).  I like to use margarine spread for this.  It works great and gives a buttery flavor.  The reason you only grease the bottom is because you want the cake to grab onto the sides so it can rise evenly.  Ever see a cake that was way higher in the middle than the sides?  Greasing only the bottom helps yield an even cake.  

Mix the cake mix, eggs, milk, oil and vanilla extract on low speed for 30 seconds, then on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Meanwhile, mix the condensed milk and hot fudge topping together until well blended.  Set aside.

When the cake is done, while still hot, poke holes all over with a fork or chopstick.

Slowly pour the condensed milk mixture over the cake.

Spread to evenly cover the cake.

Let it sit and cool a bit.  You'll see the cake soaks up the condensed milk mixture.

Meanwhile, toast the pecans.  This is super easy.  Just throw them into a dry skillet over medium heat.  Stir them often.  It just takes a few minutes for them to toast up.  You'll be able to smell when they're ready.

Chop the pecans and sprinkle them all over the cake.

If you're a choc-a-holic, sprinkle on some chocolate chips,too.

You can top it with anything you have on hand, toasted coconut, mini marshmallows, crushed Oreos, sprinkles, broken Halloween candy, whatever you like.  I had pecans and chocolate chips, so that's what I used.

This cake is so moist and delicious.  I love the crunch from the pecans.  Here's what the inside looks like:

This is a sweet treat that's easy to make and customize with what's in your pantry.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to sit in my kitchen, alone, with a piece of cake and a glass of milk and enjoy the quiet, for now.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Sausage Cornbread

Things have been super hectic here!  We are renovating our master bedroom and bathroom, which sounds exciting (and it is) but, it's mostly just a big old pain in my you know where.  We are sleeping in my son's room surrounded by baseball memorabilia and video games.  No matter how much I clean, the house is always dirty.  And the hammering, the incessant hammering that never seems to stop (did I mention we are having roof work done, too?).  It's like living in one long, dusty headache.

Anyway, I haven't been cooking much because we've been so busy moving furniture, putting things in storage, etc.  But, I did make some sausage cornbread the other night that was simply delicious.  A few simple ingredients, easy assembly, one skillet.  It's a winner!


1 (8 oz) container sour cream
2 eggs
1 can cream style corn
1 cup self-rising cornmeal mix
1 pound breakfast sausage (Jimmy Dean)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In an oven-proof skillet (I use a 10 inch cast iron skillet), brown the sausage over medium-high heat.

Remove the sausage to a plate lined with paper towel so it can drain, but leave the sausage grease in the skillet.  This will keep the cornbread from sticking and give it awesome flavor!  (I use a pastry brush to make sure the sides of the skillet are greased, too).

In a large bowl, mix together the sour cream, eggs and cream corn.

Add the cornmeal mix and stir to combine.  Try not to over mix it.

Add the cooked and drained sausage.  Gently mix.

Pour into the greased skillet.

Bake at 425 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.

Let it rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting it.

You've got one bowl and one skillet to clean.  I hate recipes that use a million utensils and mixing bowls and pots and baking dishes.  This is easy!  

I cut a small corner off to show you the inside.  It's moist (from the sour cream), a little bit sweet (from the cream corn) and savory (from the sausage).  I served it along side red beans and rice, but it could totally be a main dish.  You could even add some veggies and cheese.  This is perfect to take to a pot luck because it's yummy at room temperature, too.  A good recipe to keep on hand.  Enjoy!