Moderation is Overrated: Sublime Crab Dip

It was touch and go for awhile there but we did manage to pull off a simply fabulous Thanksgiving dinner.

The biggest mess occurred when I was too busy watching t.v. to notice that the Pomegranate Molasses something or other [that goes on top the turkey] was boiling over on top the stove.

In spite of it being a crispy, crunchy mess it added a terrific bit of fruity flavor to an otherwise ho-hum main course.

We went whole hog on the turkey this year. Buying a free range bird that cost a princely sum.

And, I hate to even type this... but IMHO it wasn't worth the money. Didn't taste all that great.

However! I think that might be us and not the bird. This family has never had a turkey that wasn't mass (read: mean) produced and injected with all sorts of flavor enhancers... We'll continue down this organic path and hope to get it right next year.

It may not look all that pretty but it was 2 die 4.
Our most mouth-watering delicacy of the day was conjured up by daughter, L. She concocted a super tasty and oh, so Zesty Crab Dip. (That's crab with a 'C' not a 'K', the moniker for faux crab.)

L calls this her Cheesy Gut Bomb. I refined the title to have appetite appeal for blog visitors! (If I ever get some.)

Moderation is Overrated Crab Dip
* Bake this in a 350 (F) oven until it's all ooey gooey.

  • 1 pound real deal Blue Swimming crab
  • 1 cup Mozarella cheese
  • 1 cup Pepper Jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup Asiago cheese
  • 1/4 cup light mayonnaise (Yes, light! Gotta trim calories somewhere!)
  • 1/4 cup chopped shallots
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Wasabi
  • 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
  • 4 tablespoons roasted garlic (the kind that comes in the jars.)
  • A dash of Worcestershire
  • A spritz of lemon juice
Scoop up this delightful mess on toasted Baguette slices, dripping with melted Parmesan cheese.

* Might as well butter the bread before you toast it. I mean... if we'z gonna die of a fat-induced coma, let us go out with a bang!

Here's hoping you had a simply marvelous Turkey Day. And, 3 cheers to you, if you found a way to wiggle outta doin' the dishes.


Overnight Breakfast Casserole

Living in a ski resort makes me super popular. The local hotels are ridiculously over-priced, prompting phone calls from people I haven't spoken to in years. They're hoping to score free lodging and I always say yes. Even when I don't want to. :)

'Twas all these overnight guests that inspired me to become a pro at breakfast casseroles. Egg bakes are a great skier's breakfast and super easy on the cook. (That would be me.) Just toss it in the oven and sip coffee until it's done.

That is... IF it ever gets done.

Egg casseroles, baked the normal way ~ in traditional metal or glass pans ~ don't behave very well. The edges cook way too fast. The center cooks way too slow.

That used to drive me nuts until I figured out that baking egg dishes in a bundt pan works like a charm. Evenly distributes the heat. Speeds up the whole baking process. House guests think you're a rock star. Which is great! Unless, of course, you don't want them to return.

Overnight Breakfast Casserole
* You can mix this up in a jiffy, but it should be refrigerated overnight.
  • 1 package Jimmy Dean Turkey Sausage crumbles (this stuff is fully cooked.)
  • 1 package zesty Italian croutons (I use Pepperidge Farms.)
  • 1 cup asparagus tips
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 tablespoon sweet basil
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 2 cups liquid eggs (like Better 'n Eggs or Eggbeaters.) Or, a dozen shell eggs.
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup Mozzarella cheese
Stir all these goodies together. Spray the bundt pan with buttery flavored (fat-free) cooking spray. Pour this delightful mess into the bundt pan and refrigerate overnight. Bake @ 350° (F) for 40 to 50 minutes.

* If you're in a hurry, you can buy ingredients that are good to go and prep this in about 5 minutes. The turkey sausage crumbles I listed are fully cooked, which saves a lot of time.  The liquid eggs are not as messy, plus they're half the calories of shell eggs. (So you can add more cheese! :)


Roasted Squash with Sage Cream

I am concomitantly blessed (and cursed!) with a freelance job of writing for a number of food companies. The cursed part is how they expect me to write all sorts of annoying health tips for the holidays. For crying out loud, it's Thanksgiving!

Helloooo! The whole point of the holidays is NOT to be healthy. This is the most wonderful time of the year because we finally have a legitimate excuse to buy pounds and pounds of real butter, heavy whipping cream, and bacon galore!

Jump start the feeding frenzy with this little goodie.

This beauty is a Butternut Squash
Roasted Butternut Squash with a Sweet, Sage Cream Sauce:

Yummy Squash: 
  • 2 pounds Butternut squash (Here's a handy dandy guide so you don't mess up on the kind.)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Remove the icky junk inside and then slice the squash into wedges.

Brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast on a baking sheet @ 350 (F) for about an hour.

Delightful Sage Cream:
  • 1.5 cups heavy cream
  • 8 fresh sprigs of sage
  • 2 tablespoons, or 3, of real maple syrup (I add 2, taste it, and decide if it needs a bit more.)
Simmer heavy cream and sage sprigs in a saucepan over low heat for about 30 minutes. Remove the sage sprigs. Bring the cream to a boil and cook until this aromatic mess is reduced to about 2/3 cup.

Place your pretty squash wedges in a serving dish. Drizzle with sage cream. And, stay outta the line of fire. 'Cause they'll be fighting over this one...

Serves 8 polite guests or 4 ill-mannered friends.

Fun Facts to Know and Tell:
1) There has never been a study proving the association of saturated fat consumption to heart disease. (Even though the entire low fat, no fat food industry is based on this premise.)
2) The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition recently published the results of a major study on saturated fat intake and cardiovascular disease (58,453 men and women over 14 years.) They found that people who ate the most saturated fat had the same heart attack risk as those who ate the least.

Kick Ass Cookies

Gram started this tradition, then Mom, now me. Whenever we need a chocolate fix.
I'm munching on a Kick Ass Cookie as I type this. For breakfast. I wouldn't recommend that. Unless you, like me, find yourself home alone. (So nobody catches you in the act.)

I grew up on this recipe. My Grandmother made these cookies for her daughters. Mom made them for me. I make 'em for my daughter... I made her a batch just last night! Though that's a pretty lame excuse. Seeing as how she's out of town this weekend.

Kick Ass Cookies
This recipe makes between 0 and 2 dozen, depending upon how much cookie dough you eat. The order in which you combine these ingredients really doesn't matter. However! If you begin with sugary butter, you can start nibbling from the get-go!

Mix Up:
6 Tablespoons Butter
3/4 Cup Sugar

Add In:
6 Tablespoons Dutch Cocoa
6 Tablespoons Milk
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/3 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Egg

Last but not least:
1 1/4 Cups Flour

* Bake @ 350 (F) for 12 minutes.  

I'm not sure what makes these cookies so delightful. Perhaps because they're so simple? We're in the midst of a food trend where everyone is trying to out-do one another. Recipes are bigger, better, and unnecessarily decadent. (Good luck trying to find a chocolate cookie that does not include mocha, chocolate chunks + 3 kinds of nuts for good measure... But, hey! There's flax in it so it must be healthy...)

Here's the deal: I've exchanged this recipe a million times and always get the same response: We ate the whole batch!

And, the moral of this tirade? Cookies are Good Food. You should eat some every day.

Buon Appetito.

* Are you thinking about lowering the fat in this extra special recipe? Get off my blog.
** Looking to satisfy a sweet tooth? Double the sugar. This family loves chocolate, but not sweet treats.


Low Fat Stroganoff Recipe

First week after the end of our blessed daily light savings time... when it starts getting dark around 4. And, it feels exceptionally cold and miserable ~ even when it's not.. well, that's the hardest time for me to watch what I eat.

I need want heavy foods and cozy casseroles and why not add a whole stick of butter? Fat not only tastes good. It feels good! Right up until I try to hoist myself into last year's ski pants.

This favorite 'comfort food' recipe evolved out of necessity ~
1) Real beef stroganoff is so high in fat I had to kick it off the menu. Permanently.
2) I'd be lost without an oven. I rarely, if ever, have the time to monitor a stove top recipe.

Give it a shot... I don't think you'll be able to tell this is low fat. My family couldn't.*

Low Fat Beef Stroganoff Casserole
It doesn't look nearly this pretty when I make it.
* If you do this up right, the whole thing should come in at around 7 grams of fat, per serving which is about 20 grams of fat less than the real deal.
  • 1 lb. beef chuck roast cut into bite-size pieces.
  • 1 bunch, chopped green onions, tops and all.
  • 1 container sliced Baby Bella mushrooms.
  • 3 cloves chopped garlic. Or, 2 tsp. roasted garlic that comes in the glass jars.
  • 1 can fat-free cream of mushroom soup + water.
  • 3 tbs. Worcestershire sauce.
  • 1/2 package No Yolk pasta noodles.
In a teflon pan, with cooking spray, stir fry the beef, garlic and shrooms for about 5 minutes. Don't bother boiling the noodles, they'll cook in the sauce. Add the other goodies, put this mess in your favorite casserole dish, covered. Bake @350 for approximately 30 minutes.

What they don't know what hurt them.
* 'Low Fat' is a very bad word in this household. Therefore, I never utter it out loud. No Yolk noodles are lower in fat and they can't tell the diff.


Quickie Yeast Bread

In winter, I bake a lot of bread. Because I have a fabulous track record of failing about 50% of the time.

The upside to this is all the birds who call my garden 'home.' (They get to peck away at my rejects.) Since fewer birds are migrating south these days, they're quite delighted when I screw up.

Dry air messes with my breads. High altitudes do, too. Yeast breads rise much faster at 7,000 feet. When bread dough rises that quickly, the flavor doesn't have adequate time to develop.

Here are two hot tips for tackling high altitude bread baking. And, a breakthrough recipe. I really loved the flavor of this one. So much so that the little birdies will go hungry this week.

High Altitude Bread Tips:
  • Never let your bread dough double in size. Check after 30 minutes and punch it down. If your bread dough is rising like crazy, it's okay to punch it down twice (vs. once at lower altitudes.) 
  • Salt is your friend. Worry about your sodium intake with other recipes. Salt is a yeast retardant and a cook's blessing when it comes to high altitude bread baking.
Light texture. Great crunchy crust.
Quickie Yeast Bread Recipe:
~ Stir 1.5 tablespoons dry yeast into 2 cups of warm water. Let it rest for a few minutes. Until you see some foamy action in the bowl.
~ Add 2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 cup light vegetable oil to the yeast/water mixture.
~ Stir in 2 cups of bread flour.
~ Sprinkle flour on your counter top. Rub a bit of cooking oil onto your hands to avoid the stickies.
~ Plop the loose dough onto this floured surface and knead 2 more cups of bread flour into the dough.
* Depending upon your elevation, you might want to add one more cup of flour to this recipe. Judge this by how elastic your dough feels. We don't want the dough to feel stiff.
~ Rub your dough ball with a little bit of oil. Place it back in the bowl, in a warm spot, and check it about 30 minutes. Punch it down.
~ Shape it into 2 loaves. Let it rise again. Bake @ 400 (F) for about 30 minutes.

* Bread flour, which is higher in protein, contains a little bit of barley flour. This helps the yeast work properly and provides a more delicious texture.


The I Say, You Say, Kielbasa Bake

Roasted Veggies with a Delightful Sage Seasoning
A birthday dinner (mine) with the girls last week inspired this roasted veggie concoction, created by my oldest and dearest friend, Haze.

Do you futz with recipes? I always do. For me, that's half the fun of cooking. No matter what the recipe tells me to do I'll doll it up to suit my fancy. The funny thing about this is my super silly double standard... I can't resist re-doing a recipe. But, if people tell me they've messed with one of my recipes, I get mad! :)

And, I'll bet Haze does, too. So, I thought I'd let you have her original recipe plus notes on all the ridiculous changes I made to it. Which just might inspire you to make some changes of your own..

Whatever path you choose, I can pretty much guarantee your family will love this.

Roasted Veggie and Kielbasa Bake
* Chop veggies into bite-size pieces. Chop brussels in half. Cut Kielbasa into 1/2 inch slices.
  • 4 cups brussel sprouts
    • (I did 2 c. brussels and 2 c. broccolini)
  • 1 large red onion
    • (I did shallots, sweet onions and elephant garlic cloves)
  • 16 oz. Kielbasa
    • (I did 32 oz. turkey Kielbasa)
  • 2 Yukon potatoes
    • (I did 1 Yukon and 1 sweet potato) 
  • 2 baking apples
    • (I did 3 Granny Smiths)
  • 6 carrots
    • (I used 3 carrots, not chopped, and 3 parsnips, not chopped)
  • 2 teaspoons dried sage
    • Haze! Aren't you proud of me? I did not mess with your sage! :)
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
Spread out these goodies on a cookie sheet. (You may need two.) Drizzle with 2-3 TBS olive oil. Roast @ 400 (F) for about 45 minutes.

* Kielbasa is a very flavorful Polish pork sausage. I opted for turkey kielbasa - not to lower the calories - so we could eat twice as much and not feel guilty. :)

** This recipe takes a good half hour of prep work but it's well worth the effort. The sage-y aroma coming from the oven inspired some seriously grumbling tummies. And, the whole thing disappeared in the blink of an eye, the second she placed it on the dinner table.