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Let me start off by saying this:

My mom made THE BEST potato salad, EVER! I don’t think mine will ever be like hers and that’s okay. Mom’s will stand alone in its own right and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The first time I ever made potato salad, I made every mistake possible.

I used russet potatoes, which fall apart way too easily. I also overcooked them and it turned into a mushy mess. It didn’t help that I put in each ingredient and stirred after adding each one. Too much stirring is not a good thing.

I also dressed my potatoes while they were hot and that’s a no-no when using a mayonnaise based dressing. Talk about a broken, oily disaster.

Let’s just say, it took me a while to try again, but when I did, I finally got it right.

Here are the right things to do:

Use a waxy potato… golden, red, or fingerling.

Don’t overcook. Cook until fork tender and then drain.

Let them drain and cool completely, especially if you’re using mayo.

Make the dressing with all the ingredients and spices and then add it to the potatoes. This will lessen how much you will need to mix.

Use your hands to mix the dressing into the potatoes. You can control how gently you toss the potatoes, which will keep them together.

Okay, let me show you my recipe. I keep it very simple and I don’t use a lot of ingredients.

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First, quarter a large bag of red potatoes (or other waxy potato) and boil them until fork tender. Be sure to salt the water just as you would for pasta. Start them in cold water, not boiling water. This will ensure even cooking.

When they are done, drain them, and let them completely cool.

While the potatoes are hanging out, and getting cool, hard boil 6 eggs. If you don’t have an egg cooker, I recommend getting one. They make cooking eggs to your preferred liking a cinch.

While those are cooking, dice one medium onion, and then, when the eggs are done, peel and chop them.

Now, make the dressing.

In a medium bowl, add sour cream, mayonnaise, dill relish, ground mustard, salt, and pepper. Mix it all together and then stir in the onions.

When your potatoes are cooled, put them in a large bowl, and add the dressing and the chopped eggs. Mix everything with your hands. This will help the potatoes to not break apart.

Taste.

Does it need anything?

If so, add what you’d like to your tasting.

Sprinkle paprika on top. Some people think paprika is just to make it pretty. Not necessarily. If the paprika is fresh, it will had a little flavor.

Chill in the fridge for at least six hours before serving. I usually make it a day ahead of time.

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Enjoy!!

What you’ll need:

1 large bag of red potatoes (or any other waxy potato)

6 boiled eggs, chopped

1 medium onion, diced

1 cup mayo

1 cup sour cream

2 teaspoons pepper

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons dill relish

2 teaspoons ground mustard

Directions:

First, quarter a large bag of red potatoes (or other waxy potato) and boil them until fork tender. Be sure to salt the water just as would for pasta. Start them in cold water, not boiling water. This will ensure even cooking.

When they are done, drain them, and let them cool completely

While the potatoes are cooling down, hard boil 6 eggs.

While those are cooking, dice one medium onion, and then, when the eggs are done, peel and chop them.

Now, make the dressing. In a medium bowl, add sour cream, mayonnaise, dill relish, ground mustard, salt, and pepper. Mix it all together and then stir in the onions.

When your potatoes are cooled, put them in a large bowl, and add the dressing and the chopped eggs. Mix everything with your hands. This will help the potatoes not to break apart.

Taste it and add any extra seasoning, if you think it needs it.

Sprinkle paprika on top.

Chill in the fridge for at least six hours before serving. I usually make it a day ahead of time.

Note:

Some people like to add celery. Of course, add it, if you want it.

Also, some people like it more mustard-y. If that’s the case, add yellow mustard to your taste.

 

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Most broccoli salad recipes are full of mayo, cheese, and bacon. There’s definitely a time and place for such a dish, but sometimes, you want something lighter. Yesterday, I threw together my healthier recipe, and after all the heavy Thanksgiving food, it was perfect. It’s good for a snack, meal, or side dish.

With this kind of recipe, you can play around with ingredients and the amounts. My recipe can be a guideline, but do whatever you wish. You like pecans or sunflower seeds instead of almonds? Do those instead. Don’t like grapes or don’t like fruit in your savory dishes? Don’t add them. Want more acid? Add it. Want a little cheese? Grate some in.

So, here’s my recipe:

Start by cutting broccoli in small pieces– about five or six cups. Then, chop half a red onion, and halve 20 green or red grapes.

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Put it all in a bowl and then add one cup of slivered almonds.

In a separate bowl, put in one cup of greek yogurt, two tablespoons red wine vinegar, two teaspoons garlic powder, two teaspoons onion powder, two teaspoons salt, two teaspoons pepper, and two teaspoons sugar. Whisk it all together.

Now, add the dressing to the broccoli salad and mix together until everything is incorporated.

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There ya have it! You can eat it immediately or let it chill in the fridge.

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What you’ll need:

5-6 cups (approx.) broccoli, cut into small pieces

1/2 red onion, chopped

20 (approx.) red or green grapes

1 cup slivered almonds

1 cup greek yogurt

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons onion powder

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoon pepper

2 teaspoons sugar

Directions:

Cut broccoli in small pieces. Then, chop red onion, and halve grapes. Put it all in a bowl and then add the slivered almonds. In a separate bowl, put in the greek yogurt, red wine vinegar, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, and sugar. Whisk and then add to the broccoli salad. Mix it all together until everything is incorporated. Eat immediately or chill in the fridge.

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Up until a few years ago, I never liked cranberry sauce, and I think it’s because I only tried the kind in the can.

I finally decided to make my own and it was a game changer. I use apple cider in place of water, which adds a nice zing. The tarty-sweetness offsets the rich, heavy flavors of a holiday meal.

The recipe is easy. It needs to set up overnight in the fridge, so be sure to make it ahead. Depending on how many people you’re making it for, you may need to double the recipe. This makes enough for four.

Put a cup of apple cider, juice of one orange, and 1/2 cup of sugar in a saucepan on med-high heat. Once the sugar is melted, add the cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, orange zest, and cranberries. Stir.

Uncovered, let simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring often. Don’t be surprised when the cranberries pop and crackle.

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One the sauce is thickened, pour in a container, and let it completely cool before putting it in the fridge to set up overnight.

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This is a cranberry sauce I think everyone will enjoy!

What you’ll need:

1 lb. cranberries

1 cup apple cider

1/2 cup sugar

2 cinnamon sticks

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 orange, zested and juiced

Directions:

Put a cup of apple cider, juice of one orange, and 1/2 cup of sugar, in a saucepan on med-high heat. Once the sugar is melted, add the cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, orange zest, and cranberries. Stir.

Uncovered, let simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring often. Don’t be surprised when the cranberries pop and crackle.

One the sauce is thickened, pour in a container, and let it completely cool before putting it in the fridge to set up overnight.

 

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What screams Thanksgiving more than dressing? Well, maybe the for the meat eaters, the turkey does, but for me, dressing is my Thanksgiving favorite.

Over the years, I’ve made it all kinds of different ways. I’ve done traditional cornbread dressing, added sausage, or added oysters, but traditional is my favorite. Last year I did a little twist to my recipe– I added sage to my buttermilk biscuits and crumbled them into my dressing. It turned out great!

Some people like their dressing dense, where you can cut it into squares. Me? I like it on the looser side, so instead of mashing all the ingredients together, I toss them with my hands, so the cornbread and biscuits are still (somewhat) cubed.

To get started with my recipe, you need to make a pan of cornbread (do not add sugar) and bake some biscuits (add three tablespoons of sage to the recipe). Do this a day before and let the breads stay out overnight. Also, set out 6 slices of a hearty white bread a day or two days before making the dressing.

Now, cube the breads, or crumble them, into big pieces and add them to a large bowl.

Chop the onions and celery and add to the bowl.

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Now, add all seasonings: sage, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Then add two beaten eggs. You’ll notice below in the ingredients’ list, I use a lot of seasoning. Trust me on the amounts. You do not want bland dressing.

Add one box of vegetable stock. If you want, use stock from your turkey or you can make a homemade veggie stock. Do whatever you wish. Also, add I cup of half and half. I know it seems a little weird, but I promise, it helps with the texture and moisture.

Mix with your hands. If you want a more dense dressing mash it all together rather aggressively. If you want it looser, toss lightly.

Now, taste it just to make sure the seasonings are to your liking.

Put in a large casserole dish or baking tin (I like using those for cleanup purposes). You can make this a day ahead of time. If you do, be sure to take it out of the refrigerator, and let it come to room temperature. This will help you not overcook it because the center won’t be so cold when you put it in the oven.

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Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Then, take off the foil and bake at 425 degrees for another 15 minutes.

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What you’ll need:

One pan of cornbread

One recipe of biscuits (add 3 tablespoons of sage)

6 slices of hearty white bread

2 medium-to-large onions, chopped

8 stalks of celery, chopped

1/3 cup sage (in addition to what you put in the biscuits)

1/3 cup of onion powder

1/3 cup garlic powder

1/3 cup pepper

3 tablespoons salt

1 cup of half and half

1 box of vegetable stock

2 eggs, beaten

Directions:

Make a pan of cornbread (do not add sugar) and bake some biscuits (add three tablespoons of sage to the recipe).  Do this a day before you make the dressing and let the breads stay out overnight.

Cube the breads, or crumble them, into large pieces and add them to a large bowl.

Chop the onions and celery and add to the bowl.

Add all seasonings: sage, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Then add two beaten eggs.

Add one box of vegetable stock. If you want, use stock from your turkey or you can make a homemade veggie stock. Do whatever you wish. Also, add I cup of half and half.

Mix with your hands. If you want a more dense dressing mash it all together rather aggressively. If you want it looser, toss lightly.

Now, taste it just to make sure the seasonings are to your liking.

Put in a large casserole dish or baking tin (I like using those for cleanup purposes). You can make this a day ahead of time. If you do, be sure to take it out of the refrigerator, and let it come to room temperature. This will help you not overcook it because the center won’t be so cold when you put it in the oven.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Then, take off the foil and bake at 425 degrees for another 15 minutes.

 

 

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Mac & Cheese…

Mac & Cheese…

Mac & Cheese…

I love Mac & Cheese!

It’s one of my favorite comfort foods. I don’t make it often, but once the holidays come around, it’s a given. I grew up having it at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and now, once the Hallmark Christmas movies begin (end of October), I start craving it.

Last weekend, Chris and I drove to Lake Willoughby and stayed in a cabin on the lake. I didn’t want to cook much while we were there, so I made ahead my mac and cheese along with my cornbread and biscuit dressing (recipe to come soon). It also gave me the opportunity to take pictures and get the recipe ready for this post… just in time for Thanksgiving.

I use four cheeses– sharp, extra sharp, monterey jack, and gouda. You can mix it up however you wish. Just make sure you have at least one or two creamy cheeses– like gouda and monterey jack. Fontina would also work. Growing up, we used Velveeta. Use whatever gets your taste buds going.

Here’s a big tip: Grate the cheese yourself. Don’t use already grated cheese; they have additives and preservatives that prevent them from melting as ooey-gooey as you want for mac and cheese.

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Oky, now we have the cheese grated and ready, let’s get to the rest.

First, cook the pasta by the al-dente directions on the box. However, it’s best to cook 1-2 minutes less because the pasta will continue to cook while in the oven. Drain the pasta and put aside.

I used Mario Batali’s pasta. I like how big it is, which allows the cheese sauce to get inside the pasta.

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Now, on medium heat, make a roux by melting 6 tablespoons of butter and then slowly whisking in the ½ cup of flour. Continue to whisk for about 3-5 minutes until the roux is light brown. It should be a creamy texture. If not, add a little more butter.

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Keep the heat on medium to medium high and slowly add in the milk and continue to whisk. The milk should never boil. Whisk until it becomes a smooth, thick consistency— it should be able to coat the back of a spoon. This normally takes 10-15 minutes. Be patient and continue to whisk. Once it’s thick, add salt, pepper, and a dash of nutmeg.

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Turn off the heat and then add all the grated cheese (you don’t want to leave it on the heat, because it would break the fats down and make your cheese sauce gritty). Keep stirring until all the cheese is melted.

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Once all the cheese is melted, add in your cooked pasta, stir, and pour into a pan.

Since we were traveling, I used a 9 x 13 tin pan. You can use a casserole dish of your choice.

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From this point, you can do one two things– cook it right away or put it in the fridge overnight. I almost always make it a day ahead. Having it chill out for a night sets it nicely and seems to thicken it up a bit. If you do this, be sure to take it out, and let it come to room temperature before baking it. This cuts down on cook time, which means you won’t overcook it.

Cook for about 45 minutes at 400 degrees.

I like a crunchy top on mine, so once it becomes bubbly hot and cooked through, I take it out, and add my topping.

To make the topping, melt butter, and combine with panko breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan cheese. Mix together with your hands until the butter is well incorporated. Spread the mixture over the top of the mac and cheese and put back in the oven.

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Once it’s browned and crunchy on top, take it out, and let it rest for about 5-10 minutes. Then, it’s time to dive in!!

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What you’ll need for the mac and cheese:

Approx. 1/2 lb. each of your favorite 4 cheeses– I used sharp cheddar, extra sharp, monterey jack, and gouda.

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup flour

4 cups of whole milk

Dash of nutmeg

1 Tablespoon salt

1 Tablespoon pepper

1 16-ounce box of pasta (You can use your choice of pasta, I used Tortiglioni)

What you’ll need for the crunchy topping:

2 cups panko breadcrumbs

1-cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ stick  unsalted, melted butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Grate all your cheeses.

Cook the pasta by the al-dente directions on the box. However, it’s best to cook 1-2 minutes less because the pasta will continue to cook while in the oven. Drain the pasta and put aside.

On medium heat, make a roux by melting 6 tablespoons of butter and then slowly whisking in the ½ cup of flour. Continue to whisk for about 3-5 minutes until the roux is light brown. It should be a creamy texture. If not, add a little more butter.

Keep the heat on medium to medium high and slowly add in the milk and continue to whisk. The milk should never boil. Whisk until it becomes a smooth, thick consistency— it should be able to coat the back of a spoon. This normally takes 10-15 minutes. Be patient and continue to whisk. Once it’s thick, add salt, pepper, and a dash of nutmeg.

Turn off the heat and then add all the grated cheese (you don’t want to leave it on the heat, because it would break down the fats and make your cheese sauce gritty). Keep stirring until all the cheese is melted.

Once all the cheese is melted, add in your cooked pasta, stir, and pour into a pan.

From this point, you can do one two things– cook it right away or put it in the fridge overnight. I almost always make it a day ahead. Having it chill out for a night sets it nicely and seems to thicken it up a bit. If you do this, be sure to take it out, and let it come to room temperature before baking it. This cuts down on cook time, which means you won’t overcook it.

Cook for approx. 45 minutes at 400 degrees.

I like a crunchy top on mine, so once it becomes bubbly hot and cooked through, I take it out, and add my topping.

To make the topping, melt butter, and combine with panko breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan cheese. Mix together with your hands until the butter is well incorporated. Spread the mixture over the top of the mac and cheese and put back in the oven and bake until browned and crunchy on top.

Let it rest for about 5-10 minutes before diving in!

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Deviled Eggs

Growing up, deviled eggs were served with Sunday dinner and most holidays. They were a simple side-item and always delicious. My mom knew how to make THE best deviled eggs. No surprise there, right? The first time my husband had her eggs, we learned to always make extra! He will devour them.

These days, you see all kinds of fancified deviled eggs on restaurant menus, especially down south. Yes, they’re good served most ways, but for me, I like them simple, maybe with a little added topping.

The first thing to keep in mind when boiling eggs is to use eggs that aren’t super fresh. I know that sounds weird. Wouldn’t you normally want the freshest of ingredients? Well, with eggs, if they’re a little older, they peel easier.

The second thing to keep in mind is to not overcook them or cook them too fast. When you do, you’ll get a gray ring around the yolk.

The best appliance I’ve found for cooking eggs is this handy dandy egg cooker from Chef’s Choice. If you boil or poach a lot of eggs, it’s worth every penny. Plus, it will cook the eggs to your choice of doneness.

 

For deviled eggs, I put the setting just beyond medium, and after the beeper goes off, I leave them under the lid for an extra 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of eggs, and for deviled eggs, I suggest jumbo size. Then, I put the them in ice water to stop the cooking. This will also cool them down faster, so you can begin peeling them sooner.

If you don’t have an egg cooker, boil the eggs for 5-8 minutes, turn off the heat, cover, and let them sit for 10 minutes.

A tip for peeling eggs: Tap each end of the egg on the side of your sink, and peel from there. Tapping the body of the egg may tear the white part. You don’t want that, especially with deviled eggs. You want them to stay in tact and pretty.

Now, let’s get to the good part– deviling the eggs.

Peel all your eggs, cut them in half, and put the yolks in a bowl, and the halves in a deviled egg holder or a platter.

Mash the yolks with a potato masher and get them to a crumb-like consistency. Like this:

Now, add the mayonnaise and whisk.

Add sour cream and whisk. It should now look like this:

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Add just a touch of yellow mustard. Seriously, just a touch…

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Add salt and pepper and whisk.

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Now, put the bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes. This helps the mixture firm up just a bit, which will make filling the eggs easier.

After 10 minutes, you can fill your eggs by spooning the mixture into your eggs or you can use a pastry bag or a zippy bag with one corner cut. I use my pastry bag.

For added decoration, and flavor, I always sprinkle a little smoked paprika on top. I find it’s easier to put the paprika in my hand, then use my fingers to sprinkle. This allows more control over how much gets on each egg.

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I normally like to dice a green onion and put one piece on each egg, but silly me forgot the onions at the store today, so my eggs will have to go without this time.

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These are a good addition to almost any meal. Sometimes, I just have them in the fridge for a mid-day snack. They’re also good to have at a party for hors d’oeuvres or appetizers.

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What you’ll need:

9 jumbo or large eggs– boiled, peeled, halved, and yolk removed.

1/3 cup mayo

1/3 cup sour cream

1/2 teaspoon of mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Paprika (as much or as little as you like)

Directions:

Boil the eggs, peel them, cut them in half, and put the yolks in a bowl, and the halves in a deviled egg holder or a platter.

Mash the yolks with a potato masher and get them to a crumb-like consistency. Add the mayonnaise and whisk. Add sour cream and whisk. Add yellow mustard, salt, and pepper and whisk. Put the bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes to let the filling set up a little, which will make filing the eggs easier.

Fill the eggs. Sprinkle paprika on top.

Additions: 

If you’d like, you can add all kinds of toppings to your deviled eggs. Here are some suggestions:

Crumbled bacon

Sun-dried tomato

Roasted red pepper

Green onion

Chives

Pickled red onion

Smoked salmon or Nova Lox

Jalapeños (pickled or raw)

Slice of green or black olive

If you’d like a little crunch or texture inside your deviled eggs, finely dice some onion and put it into the mixture.

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