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November 24, 2010

The BEST mashed potatoes EVER...

I know this is sort of a lame post, especially since I won't have a picture until tomorrow, but hey...a girl has to post what a girl CAN post...

These can be made ahead and reheated in the oven or kept warm in a crock pot. I've mostly made them a day ahead and then warmed them up in a crockpot or baked them in an oven for 45-60 mn.

I promise that these are great - super delicious. I found the recipe 4 years ago and haven't looked back. I'll post a picture tomorrow, (or sometime this wkend). Seriously, make them tomorrow!

5 lbs potatoes (preferably yukon gold, but russets work well too), peeled and diced
1 8 oz container Top the tater OR 8 oz cream cheese plus 1 tsp garlic powder
1 8 oz package cream cheese
1 package  fresh chives, snipped/chopped into little pieces :)
salt and pepper to taste

Cook potatoes in boiling water until tender
Add the rest of the stuff and mash! mash! mash!
salt and pepper to taste


or...put them in the fridge and re-warm tomorrow. That's what the original recipe was intended for :)


November 22, 2010

Roasted Cranberry Sauce

Thanksgiving is coming! Thanksgiving is coming!

My favorite holiday of the year...no surprise there, but really, this is my least creative holiday...we just stick with the basics - turkey, potatoes, stuffing, etc. What I really love about this holiday is that it's just about getting together with people you love, sharing a good meal, maybe a glass of wine, and relaxing. No worrying about presents or baskets or anything else, just good old fashioned family time :)

My Mother used to always buy Cranberry sauce from this fancy grocery store around here and they were SO good - I decided this year to try making my own and I am SO glad that I did - they are delicious! ...or as my cranberry making cohort and I would say:  some kind of...AWESOME!

(I'm still working on that label!)

I was skeptical about roasting them, but I think it really makes the dish. It just adds a depth to them that you won't find otherwise. Thank you Bon Apetite for the inspiration.

p.s. We didn't have the fresh herbs so we used this blend that Shellville had in her cupboard that contained ALMOST the same stuff...or was at least close enough for us to decide that another shopping trip wasn't worth it. It was really good all the same. I think we probably used 1-2 Tbsp per batch.

Roasted Cranberry Sauce with Grand Marnier and Pecan
(Makes 2-1/2 pints)

1 - 12 oz bag fresh cranberries, or frozen, thawed
1-1/4 cups sugar
3 Tbsp vegetable oil (the original recipe called for walnut, we made 1 batch without because we forgot, and 1 batch with peanut - both were really good)
1 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary
1 tsp minced fresh thyme
1 tsp minced fresh sage
1/2 fine sea salt

2 Tbsp Grand Marnier
2 Tbsp Sherry
1 orange - zested and juiced
3/4 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 425.
Mix first 7 ingredients on heavy rimmed baking sheet and roast until the edges begin to bubble, about 15 mn.
Meanwhile, mix together Grand Marnier, Sherry and orange juice.
Remove cranberries from oven and add liquid mixture and orange zest, stirring to deglaze the pan and coat the berries.
Return to the oven and roast 10 mn more. Add pecans, toss to coat, and roast an additional 5 mn.

Fill jars and refrigerate or, if you're canning a larger batch, like we did, fill the pint jars to within 1/4" from top, process in a boiling water bath for 10 mn, take cover off pot and turn off heat and let rest 5 mn, set on towel on counter and let cool - at least 24 hours.


November 19, 2010

A Refreshing Step Forward...

Just got this email from the school...and I'm happy that they're starting to change things. This is good news!!!

Healthy Food Options for Students

At YOUR SCHOOL, learning doesn’t stop when students enter the lunch line. The food services program is helping students make healthy choices that are good for kids and the environment.
With childhood obesity rates soaring, choosing healthy meal options is becoming more important than ever before. That is just one reason YS is launching a new initiative to offer healthier foods that are lower in fat, salt and sugar while serving meals kids love to eat.
The following are some ways YS is beginning to change the way they offer school lunch to students:
  • In all six of the district’s elementary schools, the a la carte options including fruit roll-ups, baked chips, flavored water and more are no longer being offered.
  • Schools, K-12, are no longer offering 2% milk. The three choices available are skim white milk, 1% white milk, and skim chocolate milk.
  • All schools are embracing the Farm to Table philosophy of supporting locally based agriculture through purchasing apples from AppleWood Orchard in Lakeville, watermelon from Prior Lake and rice blends from Indian Harvest in Bemidji.
  • A COUPLE OF YOUR ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS have implemented a Birthday Book Club to replace student birthday treats. Instead of students bringing treats to school, they now have the option of purchasing a “birthday book” for the media center with the child’s name featured in the front of the book.
  • THE HIGH SCHOOLS AND MIDDLE SCHOOLS are reducing the portion size of cookies in their a la carte selections.
WE'RE is also working to reduce its impact on the environment.
  • All schools have switched from using Styrofoam trays when dish machines are down to a totally compostable tray.
  • YOUR HS is also using eco-friendly cleaning agents in its kitchens from Minnesota-based company, Sunburst Chemicals.
  • Elementary and middle schools have contracted with a local pig farmer who picks up the food waste after lunch. Students have learned how to separate all of their lunch trash so that only food goes to the farmer.
  • Students in every school are trying to improve their recycling efforts from last year. In the 2009/10 school year, YOUR HS recycled nearly half of its trash.

November 18, 2010

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

What can I say...I pretty much loathe squash but my google reader has been filled with nothing BUT squash recipes the last couple months. Some of them would appeal to me in a certain kind of way...the photography was beautiful or the chef talking about the dish appealed to me, but I never really thought about actually cooking any of them myself. Yuck! I would post all of the recipes on my sisters facebook wall or my cousin H, since they both adore squash.  Not me. Nope. Definitely not this girl.

And then they went on sale for .48/lb at my local market and my grocery budget was UBER tight that week and I had just read an article about how they last forever, so I thought to myself - Hey! Be brave! Try something new! and so I left the market with 5 locally grown, beautiful to look at (but probably not to eat), squash.

I made the acorn squash ala my mother - with brown sugar, rosemary and butter - and they were ok. My kids and husband love them. I can eat a couple bites, but it's really not something I choose to have in the house. Sort of like tuna fish. Or plain mayo. Or...salmon loaf? Yeah...that's one I'll never make. No matter how many times my husband says his Mom made it and it was good? Nope...never going to happen.

I digress...

I also bought a butternut and a spaghetti squash. The spaghetti squash is still in my basket - we'll see where we get with that. The butternut squash? Well....I sort of fell in love with this soup. The original inspiration for the soup came from one of my favorite food blogs, Simply Recipes. I knew that I would prefer it a little spicier though - and my pot is small and I thought of a couple other things to maybe give it a little more pizazz and wow...be still my beating heart! I actually love something with squash!

Not only was it delicious, but it made a TON of soup and it was SO inexpensive and SO easy...and healthy! I've been converted. And while I probably won't post a hundred new ways to fall in love with squash, I'm going to make a point to keep re-trying things that I used to hate. Sometimes I discover something great - like this soup - or how wonderful mustard is on a hot dog, or how sauerkraut doesn't make me gag anymore...

Go make this soon...while there's still beautiful butternut squash hanging out at your market.
I promise that you won't regret it.

Butternut Squash Soup (for people who think they hate squash):

1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced into 1/2 - 3/4 inch cubes.
Olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
Sea Salt (or regular - it's just what I had on hand)
2 small yellow onions, diced small
4 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced
about 1" or 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 Tbsp yellow curry powder
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne
4 cups chicken stock
water as needed (I ended up using 2 cups)

To Garnish:
sour cream
cilantro, chopped
lime wedges (DO NOT SKIP THIS PART!!! It totally makes the dish - lightens it up, whatever...I cut a lime into 16 half-wedges and 1 was enough for a cup of soup.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Toss squash with olive oil and put in shallow roasting pan. Sprinkle with sea salt and roast 15 mn, stirring/turning/tossing halfway through.

Meanwhile, melt butter in large dutch oven. Add onion and cook until translucent - about 4-5 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic, cook about 1 mn or until it releases it's fragrance - add the curry, cumin and mustard powder and stir constantly, letting it toast for just a bit - maybe 30 seconds to a minute. You'll be able to smell the change.

Add the chicken stock and make sure you scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan - add the roasted squash and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer about 20-30 mn or until the squash is tender.

Get out your immersion blender (or you can also put it in a regular blender or food processor) and puree the whole mess of it until it's smooth. At this point it's up to you to determine how thick you want your soup. I don't like soup that reminds me of baby food...or baby poo for that matter. Ishy.

I ended up using 2 cups of water and that was exactly perfect. Not too thin, not too thick.

Ladle into bowls and top with a dollop of sour cream (can also use plain yogurt), a sprinkle of cilantro and a squeeze of lime.

Serve with pita bread or whatever else your kids will try it with (mine like saltines and garlic bread!)

p.s. I feel like I must've used black pepper in here somewhere, but I can't think of where? Maybe I didn't...Hmmm....maybe I should make it again and find out!