Pico de Gallo

Pico de Gallo is easy to put together.  It’s a great addition to so many meals.  We add Pico (for short) to fajitas, tacos, omelets, and sometimes just love it by itself with chips.  The freshness of the flavors add something to each entree.  This is my simple recipe you can add to or take away.  I make it early in the day to let flavors sit for a little while.  This recipes make a lot so feel free to divide ingredients if you want a smaller batch.

20190407_1836192547342089774265721.jpg

3 white or red onions

12 Roma tomatoes

2 cups fresh cilantro leaves

2 to 3 jalapeños (soak in ice water before using)

1 lime

Salt

Chop up onions and tomatoes. I like to make sure the tomato and onion ratio is about the same.  Chop the cilantro.

Slice 1 or 2 jalapeños in half.  I always wear gloves when chopping jalapeños.  With a spoon, scrape out the seeds and membranes. (If you want it spicy, leave in some of the white membranes.) Finely chop the jalapeños.

Combine onions, tomatoes, cilantro and jalapeños in one bowl.

Slice the lime in half and squeeze the juice from half a lime the bowl. Sprinkle with salt, and stir together until combined.   Do a taste test.  You can make adjustments to your  pico de gallo by adding more jalapeños, salt, or lime.

Cranberry Pecan Baked Brie

A couple weeks ago, I hosted a Noonday Party. It was a fun evening of trying on jewelry, catching up with friends, and noshing on some goodies I had prepared. One appetizer I introduced to the group is my Cranberry Pecan Baked Brie. Let’s just say that there were no crumbs left on the plate.

The way the cranberry pecan topping plays with the brie truly makes happiness. I served the brie with a sliced baguette and crackers. And now this little number will be added to other upcoming festivities this season.

Super easy, great presentation, and a crowd pleasure for sure.

Keep Singing and Dancing during the Holidays,
Amanda

What you Need:

For Brie
1 (8-ounce) wheel brie cheese, rind trimmed
2 T brown sugar, packed

For Cranberry Pecan Drizzle

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 T honey
2 T maple syrup
1 T unsalted butter
1/4 t ground cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Place brie on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Place into oven and bake until softened. This should take about 12-15 minutes. Remove brie from oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange zest. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer. Occasionally stir, until foamy. Then stir in pecans and cranberries.

Serve brie warm topped with pecan mixture. I like to serve with crackers or a baguette.

How Do I Pick Out My Thanksgiving Turkey?

Whether this is your first time hosting Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving, the turkey situation can be scary and daunting. As soon as you enter the grocery store, you are hit with multiple options like fresh, frozen, organic, heritage, free-range…and Butterball. I mean, what does it all mean? How big of a turkey do I need?

20181107_080249

A Beautiful Turkey Cooked by Williams & Sonoma

Today, I will try to help with the decision of picking out the turkey. I have researched several types of turkeys so that you are armed when you enter the store. This does not have to be hard.

How BIG of a Turkey Do I Buy?
To make sure you feed all your guest well, your biggest decision should be the size of turkey. An easy rule is 1 pound for every person at your table. If you want leftovers, 2 pounds per person will be perfect. IF you want lots of leftovers, well, you get the idea.

Where is this Bird Going to Cook?
Now, you need to consider where you are cooking this turkey! In your oven, in a roaster oven, and the neighbor’s. You need to size-up the area you have to work with. You can see the problem on Thanksgiving day when your turkey is TOO BIG and you have nowhere to cook it. Big Fail!

Do you have a Pan to Cook your Turkey in?
This is like a dress rehearsal. I like to (days before) establish what pans and dishes I will be using for Thanksgiving. Go ahead and pull out the pan you will be cooking your turkey in. You might need to purchase one or borrow from a friend. If you are using a roaster oven, make sure your bird fits before the big day.

Heritage, Free-Range, Organic, Oh My!
When you arrive to the grocery store, you will be hit with several choices. I consulted my friends over at Food & Wine to break it down for us.
Heritage: One of the most popular birds in the past few years because of their superior flavor, heritage turkeys are purebred and generally older than other turkeys you may find at the store. They tend to be smaller, have more bone and darker leg meat. Life outdoors gives these turkeys a gamier taste than the regular store-bought varieties.

Organic: Certified organic by the USDA, these turkeys are now more easily found in grocery stores, and are Weening’s top choice. They are fed an all-organic vegetarian diet, never given antibiotics and are raised on organic pastures. They tend to be a little more expensive because the feed the birds eat is more expensive.

Free Range: No antibiotics or hormones are given to these turkeys and they have access to the outdoors (at least part of the time, according to the USDA).

Pastured Turkey: This type of turkey is raised outdoors and is pretty much free to do and eat what it wants, although they are also given feed to ensure they get the proper levels of nutrients.

Kosher: Kosher turkeys are raised and processed according to strict rabbinical guidelines. Before they are packaged they are rubbed with Kosher salt, which also acts as a brine.

Brine: Some turkeys are one step ahead of you and have been brined already. Various juices, oils, seasonings, sugar and/or salt are injected into the turkey. Brining is beneficial because it can provide extra moisture and flavor to the turkey in addition to saving you some prep time, but it can dictate the flavor of your turkey and take the seasoning out of your hands. Butterball turkeys are usually brined.

Fresh vs. Frozen: Basically fresh turkeys are kept at a temperature of 27 degrees. When the temperature drops below that, the meat begins to freeze. If you’re buying a fresh turkey, buy it NO more than two days before you plan to cook it; you can usually reserve one at markets and farmers’ markets way in advance.

Screenshot_20181107-080521_Google

Check Out Local Restaurants and Grocery Stores For Cooked

Many local restaurants offer Thanksgiving Turkeys for your convenience. This is a great option and one I have used before. You usually need to order a week before. Your turkey is prepped and cooked by a professional. Then when you pick up, you are given specific directions of how to cook your turkey. This is a great option to take some pressure off the big day.

It Will All Be Fine….
In the end it comes down to what you want to pay. Turkeys can get pricey, so know how many you are buying for and be sure to take into account the leftovers you want to eat for days to come. Otherwise you got this. Feel confident in the purchase of your turkey. Your guest will LOVE it.
Looking Forward,
Amanda

Thanksgiving Pie– No More Choices

Every year we plan out our Thanksgiving menus.  Turkey, Sides, Appetizers, Beverages, and Desserts!  Oh the desserts!  We are traditional and make Pumpkin and Pecan Pies.  I have thrown in a Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie (YUM!).

When I hit the dessert table, I usually take a little bit of everything.  (It’s the right thing to do!)  But what if two of your favorites were combined.  Like Pumpkin Pie married Pecan Pie!!

Well, it happened the other night in my kitchen.  A few years ago, Southern Living introduced this little union.  And we all lived happily ever after! You need to plan to make this pie the night before serving.  It is better when it has time to completely cool and flavors will pop.  I have made a few adjustments to the recipe and it is perfection.

 20171112_201623.jpg

Preheat oven to 350°. Sprinkle work surface with powdered sugar. Roll out piecrust, and place on prepared surface. Sprinkle piecrust with chopped pecans. Place wax paper over piecrust and pecans, and lightly roll pecans into crust. Fit piecrust, pecan side up, in a lightly greased 9-inch pie plate; fold edges under, and crimp.

Mix together pumpkin  and next 6 ingredients in a large bowl until smooth and well mixed; pour into prepared piecrust.

Bake at 350° for 20 minutes.  Remove and shield edges with aluminum foil or crust protector.  This will keep your crust from burning.  Then bake an additional 25 minutes.

While pie is baking, you will create your pecan streusel topping.  This will create the pecan pie element to your pie.

For Pecan Streusel:
1 1/2 cups pecan pieces
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 t pumpkin pie spice
Mix all the pecan toppings together until well blended.After pie has baked 45 minutes,  gently top pie with Pecan Streusel Topping. Reduce oven temperature to 325°,  and bake 10 minutes. This will allow streusel to golden a bit. Then cover pie with aluminum foil.   Cool completely on a wire rack at least 3 hours.  Once cooled, place in refrigerator over night.  This will allow all the flavors to go crazy.
20171113_202303496302890.jpg

Creamy Blanco Queso

The countdown is on to the Super Bowl. I wanted to share another yummy appetizer to share at your party. Change it up a little with Blanco Queso. Yummy and you can spice it up with jalapeños. Serve it up with a side of salsa or guacamole.   Everyone loves to munch during the game!  If you still have friends keeping to their New Year’s goals, consider serving up Cauliflower Poppers or Zucchini Fries. Enjoy creating your Super Bowl menu! -Amanda

IMG_6822

Creamy Blanco Queso

8 oz block regular cream cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 lb. Monterey Jack cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 T salted butter 1 (4oz can) green chiles
1 T jalapeños, minced fine (optional)
4-6 T milk
3 Tablespoons water

In a crockpot combine the cream cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, butter, green chiles and jalapeños. Cook on high for 30 minutes. Stir the mixture until well combined and then add a Tablespoon of milk and water at a time until you reach the desired consistency. (this is all up to you on consistency!) Cook for another 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese is completely melted and combined.
Keep cheese dip in the crockpot on the warm setting until ready to serve. Check on it and occasionally stir throughout the serving. Serve with tortilla chips or warm tortilla.