Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hoot, Hoot

I am super, super, super excited to show you what I made for my daughter for Christmas. I sat down and worked like a mad woman on Friday night to get it done. I am pretty happy with how it turned out. I had seen the most adorable bag on the Little Birdie Secrets blog back in October and just knew I wanted to make my own version for my daughter. I can't wait to see her carrying it around with all her little treasures inside it. So here is the big unveil.....Ta Da!
Hoot Hoot
He even has a little clump of tail feathers on the back side. Heehee! Love him!

I had a good friend over yesterday for lunch. I love trying out new recipes when we are having guests. I had seen Rachael Ray make a super yummy Shepherd's Pie awhile back on her show, so I dug through her archives, found it and made it. Here is the recipe....

Stretch a Buck Ultimate Holiday Shepherd's Pie
  • 6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons EVOO - Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds coarsely ground sirloin
  • 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • Ground black pepper
  • 9 to 10 sprigs (about 2 tablespoons) thyme leaves, removed from stems
  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 4 cups beef stock, divided
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons grainy Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup chives, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons paprika

Preheat broiler.

Place potatoes into a medium saucepan with a dash of salt and enough cold water to submerge them completely. Place the pan over medium-high heat and bring the liquid to a bubble. Reduce heat to medium and simmer the potatoes until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the cooked potatoes and reserve them in the same pan they were cooked in.

While the potatoes are cooking, place a large, cast iron skillet over medium-high heat with 2 turns of the pan of EVOO, about 2 tablespoons. Add the ground sirloin to the pan and cook until browned, 5-6 minutes.

Add the mushrooms, carrots, onion, celery, bay leaf and garlic to the pan and season everything with some salt and pepper. Cook until the veggies are tender, 7-8 minutes, and then stir in the thyme leaves.

While the veggies are working, place a medium saucepan over medium heat and melt 3 tablespoons butter. Sprinkle the flour over the butter and cook for about 1 minute. Whisk 3 cups of the beef stock into the roux and simmer until thickened, 2-3 minutes. Whisk the Worcestershire and Dijon into the gravy. Season with salt and pepper and reserve warm.

When the veggies in the skillet are soft, add the remaining 1 cup of stock to the pan and stir to remove any bits stuck to the bottom and cook away most of that liquid. Remove the skillet from heat and stir in the peas. Stir the prepared gravy into the mixture and reserve.

Mash the cooked potatoes with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, milk, about 1 cup shredded Gruyere, chives and horseradish. Stir the egg into the mixture at the very end and stir well to fully incorporate it. Season with salt and lots of pepper.

Slather the mashed potatoes over the mixture in the skillet and top with the remaining Gruyere cheese. Place under the broiler to brown.

Garnish the shepherd's pie with paprika and serve straight from the skillet.

It was super yummy and pretty easy! I couldn't find the Gruyere cheese, so I used Monterey Jack and that worked fine. And I LOVED the horseradish in the mashed potatoes and might have to do that for Christmas. It gave it a yummy zing! I wouldn't add so much beef stock to the veggie/meat mixture next time. The stock didn't cook down like it said it would and it made it a bit soupy...but with the mashed potatoes on top, it was fine. I think you should all make this one soon.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Quiet Night In

We had a fun evening spent at home this evening. I made a yummy supper consisting of White Bean Chili and Homemade Cornbread. I am attaching the recipe for the chili because it was super easy, pretty cheap, and yummy! I found it on Paula Dean's section of the Food Network site. And if you have a canister of cornmeal sitting around, then you will have the cornbread recipe on the back. I do have to say that homemade is sooooo much better than any of those pre-made boxes or packets that you can buy.

White Bean Chili
  • 1 pound dried navy beans
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup diced onion
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped green chiles (fresh or canned)
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped
Rinse beans well, cover with cool water, and soak for 2 hours. Drain. Place beans in large pot with chicken stock and bring to a boil over high heat. In a saucepan, heat butter over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, and chiles and saute for 5 minutes. Add chile mixture to pot with beans. Add chicken, cumin, oregano, pepper, white pepper, red pepper flakes, and cilantro. Lower heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for approximately 1 1/2 hours. Serve with cornbread, if desired.
Christmas Goodies
I also spent some time working on some Christmas gifts tonight for some of my co-workers. I made a batch of homemade hot chocolate mix and put them in decorated canning jars for gift giving. I found the idea on Little Birdie Secrets. This site is chalked full of great ideas, if you need some. I check it daily! The hot chocolate is yummy too...hubby and I tested it out this evening.

Here are my goodies all ready to go for tomorrow.
Christmas Goodies
I feel great to have those finished and ready to go!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's Beginning to Look Alot Like Christmas

Ahhh...finally, the creative juices are flowing! I made some Christmas cards this year to send out. Now if you didn't get a homemade Christmas card, please do not fret. I only made 20 and I had more than 20 people on my Christmas list. I wanted to make more, but that box of already made cards was so tempting. The card that I made this year was this one...
Christmas Cards
The past two years I had the full intention of making cards and sending them out, but only got a few made and ended up just giving cards to immediate family members. (Sorry again!) But I had a couple extra ones from the years past that I used also this year.

Christmas Cards

Christmas Cards
That ceramic Christmas tree behind the card is a family heirloom to me. My grandma, my mom's mother, and my great-aunt made a whole bunch of them many years ago. I am so thankful to have it. It is always displayed with pride in our home.

Tonight I got busy making some Christmas goodies to give away as gifts. I hate to even tell you how to make them because they were SOOOO easy.
Peanut Candies
Peanut Candies
1 whole bag of butterscotch chips
1/2 bag of chocolate chips
1 jar of dry roasted peanuts, salted

Melt chocolate and butterscotch chips in a double boiler (or in microwave). Once melted stir in peanuts. Drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper. (I used a small ice cream scoop.) Let harden.
Peanut Candies
These are so yummy and so easy to make, such a great combination!!!!! My daughter enjoyed the taste test part of making them.
Peanut Candies
I have some fun things up my sleeve that I hope to get made for Christmas. I will post pics when I am finished.