230. A Thanksgiving Story (with a Make It Monday Recipe)

Things that are awesome: getting a brand new stove

(Does anyone else read the 1,000 Awesome Things blog?  It’s pretty awesome.)

Things that are less awesome: getting a brand new stove because your stove died the night before you’re supposed to cook and host your very first Thanksgiving for your parents and your boyfriend’s parents.

My kitchen has undergone some major upgrades in the last week.  It started with a plan to refinish my countertops using Rustoleum’s countertop coating product.  We had to pull out the stove to do the counter tops (which look pretty great, by the way), and when we put it back in place and powered it back up Friday afternoon, the oven door locked.  The stove top still worked, but I was completely locked out of the oven!  This was not good the day before I was supposed to be cooking Thanksgiving dinner part II.  The boyfriend tried to fix it, but didn’t get very far since I own about two tools.  My dad came over, and the two of them worked out what was wrong.  It could have been fixed, but since the stove was probably older than I am and this is the second time it’s broken in less than a year, we decided stove shopping was the best bet.

I actually ended up getting a pretty good deal at Lowe’s (after all, it was still Black Friday.)  Thanks to their free delivery, haul away, and installation and some hard work by the dad and boyfriend in modifying the counter and black splash*, I had my brand-spankin new stove by Sunday afternoon.  In the meantime, I hosted Thanksgiving at my parent’s house.

And I’m happy to report that despite the stove debacle, my first Thanksgiving was a huge success!  The boyfriend and I executed a delicious meal and everyone enjoyed the food and conversation.  While this wasn’t the first time my parents and the boyfriend’s parents had met, it was the first time they were meeting in a place that would allow for conversation.  (Their first official meeting was at a very large, very loud benefit at a bar.)  Every one of the recipes I made has been added to my recipe files to make again.  And since there are plenty of holidays left, here’s the awesome menu rundown for you.

Smoke Roasted Turkey with Pomegranate Thyme Glaze from the November issue of Cooking Light.  I promise you this was the best turkey I’ve ever had.  We used cherry woodchips, and the flavor was absolutely phenominal.

Old-Fashioned Cranberry Sauce also from the November Cooking Light.  I made their Cran-Apple variation by chopping up a pink lady apple.  Everyone thought it was a bit tart, but I loved it.  If you’re not a fan of tart, I would suggest more sugar or possibly skipping the wine.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts from Cassie at Back to Her Roots.  Even my mom, who hates Brussels sprouts, managed to stomach some of these.  Let’s face it, bacon makes everything better.

Whole Wheat Garlic Knots also from Cassie.  I used my mom’s bread machine to make the dough for these.

Pumpkin Pie from the Brown-Eyed Baker.  I used her pie crust recipe for my pumpkin pie last year and it was great.  This year I went the canned pumpkin route so I followed her pie recipe as well.  Just be warned, I ended up with enough filling for two pies.

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes:  There’s no real recipe here: roast two heads of garlic, boil some baby red potatoes, toss the cooked potatoes and garlic into a bowl with some milk and mash with a potato masher, hand mixer, or stand mixer.  The garlic gave them so much flavor butter and gravy were total unnecessary.

Dad’s Stuffing

This is the go-to stuffing mix in my family.  The type of stuffing mix is up to you.  I went with the Trader Joe’s mix.  Personally, I think it’s really the sausage that gives it that little sumthin’-sumthin’. 

Serving Size: ½ cup | Yields: 8 servings
View and Print on Recipage

Ingredients

1 lb pork sausage
1 – 12oz package stuffing mix
1 large onion, diced
4 – 5 celery stalks, chopped
2 – 3 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon dried, ground sage
1 tablespoon butter, divided into 4 pats

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Cook sausage in a large skillet with onions, celery, and sage.  Break up and brown the sausage as you would with ground beef.  Drain grease and pat with paper towels to remove excess grease.
  3. In a large bowl, combine sausage mixture and stuffing mix.  Add chicken broth a half cup at a time and mix until the stuffing mix reaches a slightly mushy consistency.
    Note: You want the stuffing mix to be thoroughly soaked without totally disintegrating
  4. Pour into casserole dish, top with butter  and bake for approximately 45 minutes until the top begins to brown.

I suggest making any or all of these things for Christmas or New Years or Hannakuh or because you’ve got a new stove or just because it’s the holiday season and all these foods are awesome.

*my previous stove was a drop-in which seemed to average a minimum of $500 more than a freestanding range.  I wasn’t looking to spend over a grand on a new stove so we modified accordingly.

320. Make It Monday: From Around the Web

I’ve been a busy lady lately which means I haven’t been cooking a great deal.  (Remember when I ate out 6 out of 7 days in a week?!) And when I have been cooking, it’s been straight from recipes with minimal adaptations.  However, the stuff I have been making has been really tasty so I wanted to let you all in on the secret.

BBQ Beer Chicken from How Sweet It Is
Crockpot BBQ Beer Chicken from How Sweet It Is served on pretzel rolls.  This makes a ton of chicken.  I actually packaged up about half this recipe and brought it to my friends Jennie and John who just had a new baby.  I also have some in the freezer to eat at a later time. (Photo Source: How Sweet It Is)

Creamy Tomato Soup from Eat Live Run which was, of course, paired with a warm and gooey grill ham and cheese.  This has become my go-to tomato soup recipe.  It’s so quick and easy to make.

Portobello Cheesesteaks from Back to Her Roots
Portobello Cheesesteaks from Back to Her Roots also served on pretzel rolls.  I’ve never had a true Philly Cheesesteak, but I would venture to guess these are an amazing veggie substitute. (Photo Source: Back to Her Roots)

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes from whisktogether over at Tasty Kitchen.

This Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese recipe from Cooking Light with these substitutions from The Candid RD.  I did actually make one substitution of my own on this one, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  I had several bags of mozzarella on hand so I used that instead of the gruyere.  I love mozzarella, but it just doesn’t have a strong enough flavor for this recipe.  It was good, but there was much more squashiness than cheesiness.

I suggest you go and make all of these things as soon as possible.  In fact, I just made your meal plan for the week.  You’re welcome.

258. The Runs that Dreams are Made of

You know those days where everything seems to fall perfectly into place?  I love those days.  Nothing makes me happier.  Yesterday was totally one of those days.

It started with a pretty fantastic work day.  I was busy enough that the day flew by, but not so busy I was overwhelmed.  I won a few small victories which made my life much easier.

I was armed with my new I <3 Trader Joe’s Cookbook and the new issue of “Cooking Light” for my commute home.  That’s some quality reading material right there!

Where the day really started to kick ass though was once I got home.  I backed off on my training for the last week because my knees were bothering me.  I’m pretty confident it was nothing more than stress from “too much, too soon,” but I didn’t want to push it into the injury zone.  Yesterday I needed to get in my (minimum) 30 minute weekday run.  Since I didn’t do much running last week, I decided to try and get to 4 miles which would be between 40 and 50 minutes of run/ walk intervals.

Even after making the decision to go and knock out 40 – 50 minutes, I still had to force myself to get dressed and out the door.  It was chilly and wet out.  It was a little drizzly, and there was a chance for actual rain while I was out.  I don’t have a good running jacket for wet spring weather.  The jacket I have is more winter oriented.  I pretty much have to be naked underneath it once the mercury creeps above freezing or I get too warm while running.  I gave serious consideration to blowing off the run last night in favor of doing it today, but I decided to don a singlet under my running jacket and get going.

I could not be happier that I did!  That run that I wasn’t in the mood for ended up being one of the best runs I’ve had in month – possibly ever!  This was the kind of run runners live for.  I felt amazing physically and mentally.  I had no knee pain, and while my legs were a bit fatigued by the end, it was a good feeling.  I was 110% in the game mentally.  I was coming up to the 4 mile mark and decided I was feeling so good I wanted to keep going.  I hit 4.5 and started rounding my way back home.  I ended up knocking out 5 miles in just under an hour.  Even as I was approaching my house, I still felt great.  Mentally I wanted to keep going – try and get to mile six, but I decided to call it at 5 miles.  I hadn’t planned on running that far so I didn’t bring water, and I was starting to get hungry for dinner.  I also didn’t want to push my body too far and end up with hurting knees in the morning.  I felt so accomplished and encouraged.

I have to be honest; the knee pain was really starting to discourage me.  Taking even more time off from my training was starting to make me feel like I was once again going to be under-trained when my half rolled around.  Last night’s run totally revived me.  (It also reminded me that I need to get my ass back in gear when it comes to strength training.  I’ve been slacking on legs, and I could totally tell last night especially toward the end of my run.) 

As if my fabulous run wasn’t enough dinner made the night just as amazing!  After an conversation about omega-3’s with my BFF Laura, I decided I need more fish in my life – specifically salmon.  The problem is somewhere along the line, I stopped liking salmon.  I used to like it – especially salmon patties – then one day I just didn’t.  I don’t know if I was burned out on it, or I didn’t like the way more mom started preparing it and that ruined it for me as a whole.  In any case, I decided to give it another shot.

Thanks to an old issue of Women’s Health I was reading at the car dealership last weekend, I decided salmon burgers were the place to start.  I bought some fresh salmon at Trader Joe’s this weekend, and last night, I food processored my way to fresh salmon patties.

Now, I’m not saying I love salmon again, but if I had to start over somewhere this was the place to start!  I served the salmon patties on pretzel rolls from Trader Joe’s along-side these delicious parmesan crusted asparagus spears from How Sweet It Is.  All I can say is I’m pretty damn excited for leftover!

227. The Dreaded Recipe Rut

I happens to the best of us: the dreaded recipe rut.  Despite planning, preparations, inspirations, and creativity sometimes we just get stuck. 

Aside from recent adventures in crock-pot cooking, I’ve been feeling very bored and uninspired by cooking lately.  I still love it, but my ole stand-by recipes just haven’t been cutting it lately.  I’ve been on the hunt for new recipes and new inspirations.  I’ve been turning to some really great sources lately and thought I would share them for your future recipe ruts.

Cooking Light on Girl Can Do Blog

This has become my go-to website for healthy recipes.  I actually sprung for a subscription to the magazine last week as a result of spending too much time on the site. 

Food Network on Girl Can Do Blog

This is generally where I go for slightly more indulgent recipes.  Also, I love Alton Brown.  Seriously.  The man has never disappointed me.

Rachel Wilkerson

Recipes or not you should check out this blog because it is probably my favorite blog out there right now.  She’s not a food blogger in the strictest sense, but the recipes she featues win me over again and again.

Eat Live Run

Hello, homemade Oreos?!  I made my first non-dessert recipe from Jenna’s blog on Saturday, and I was blow away by the 30  Minute Lemon Brown Sugar Chicken.

So these are the places I’ve been turning to for recipe inspiration lately, but what about you?  Where are your favorite places to go when you need to get out of the recipe rut?