Thanksgiving Tips Part 1 – The Details of Menu Planning

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Last year I posted a series of Thanksgiving related posts discussing everything from planning to recipes. Since most of you started following my blog after that time, I thought I would re-blog some of these entries. I really enjoy the Thanksgiving meal and would love to help others learn to make a delicious meal while keeping stress to a minimum. If you haven’t already, follow my blog to see my Thanksgiving series.

Inside Kel's Kitchen


It’s probably no surprise that November is this foodie girl’s favorite month to cook. In addition to it being the beginning of soup and slow cooker season, it also means Thanksgiving is right around the corner.

I LOVE Thanksgiving dinner!!! I love cooking it and I love eating it! Because I have cooked Thanksgiving dinner numerous times over the years for groups both big and small, I think I have really developed my large meal preparation skills. Over the next few weeks, I would like to write a few blog entries highlighting recipes, strategies and techniques that you all might find helpful in preparing your own Thanksgiving meal.

My goal for the Thanksgiving meal is to serve delicious food, while trying to keep it healthy and not killing myself with the stress. This is where careful planning comes into play. My Thanksgiving days are usually pretty relaxing as I get…

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Thanksgiving Dutch Apple Pie – A Traditional Favorite

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Yesterday I was a baking fool! First I made cranberry pecan muffins. These were only so-so, so I won’t burden you with that recipe! BUT then, I went on to bake an apple pie and chicken pot pie. Now these two recipes are worth sharing! Today I’ll start with the Dutch Apple Pie. This was my first time ever baking an apple pie! I decided to keep it basic and use a frozen ready made pie shell and went with a dutch topping, instead of crust. The pie was fairly easy to make and it was delicious!!! If you’re looking for a pie to serve at your Thanksgiving dinner, this is an easy version that can fit into your busy cooking schedule. Pies even freeze pretty well, so you can make it ahead and freeze for the big day.

Now I say this was pretty easy, but this is coming from a girl who was blessed to receive a Kitchen Aid spiralizer for Christmas last year. This particular spiralizer has a spiral slicing blade along with a peeling blade, so I did not have to peel and slice 8 cups of apples! Having to do this manually would make this pie more time consuming to make. If you don’t have a Kitchen Aid mixer, but you think you might make this more if you didn’t have to peel and slice apples consider investing in an hand crank apple peeler/corer that attaches to a table. We have an antique one of these and they work great!

Lastly, I cannot take credit for this recipe. This is a Betty Crocker recipe minus the portion to make your own pie crust. I substituted a frozen pie shell.

Dutch Apple Pie

1 frozen pie shell (set out and let thaw for 10-15 minutes)

Filling

8 cups peeled and sliced apples (I used about 5 medium sized apples)

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Topping

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Preheat ove to 400 degrees. In large bowl, toss Filling ingredients. Pour into pie plate, mounding apples toward center.

In medium bowl, use pastry blender or fingers to mix butter, 1 cup flour and the brown sugar until a crumb forms. Sprinkle evenly over top of pie. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon granulated sugar on top.

Bake 45 to 55 minutes or until pie crust and crumb topping are deep golden brown and filling begins to bubble. Transfer to cooling rack to cool.

Enjoy!


Vegetables and Noodles in a Red Curry Coconut Sauce – A Quick, Delicious Vegan Meal

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I love watching cooking shows and there are several that I enjoy. On one recently, someone made a dish with red curry paste and coconut milk that looked delicious, so I picked up these ingredients and stashed them in my pantry. Yesterday, I bought some beautiful vegetables at the store and decided to try my hand at this dish. I was very happy with how it turned out! The sauce had a bold flavor without being too spicy. I know some of you may be thinking, “but I don’t like curry!” You have to give red curry a try! It has a completely different flavor than the curry flavors you find in Indian food. I really think you’ll find that you like it! So if you’re just looking for something different or needing to feed the vegans & vegetarians in your life, give this delicious dish a try!

It takes a little time to do your mise en place (prep work such as chopping, dicing, etc.), but thiis dish cooks pretty quickly. 

Funny story: Last night my husband was down at the golf course at the driving range. He texts me asking what I wanted to do for dinner (Husband code for “come down here and lets eat at the golf course restaurant!”). I responded telling him I already had something in mind and had begun my “mise en place”. He tells his buddies that we’re having Mise En Place for dinner and none of the guys could figure out what that was! Guess I better skip the French cooking terms and speak English for the golfers in my life.

Of course, you could add protein to this dish in the form of tofu, chicken, or shrimp to this dish and I think it would be equally as tasty.

Vegetables and Noodles with a Red Curry Coconut Sauce

1/2 Eggplant, peeled and chopped (Tip: To keep from getting slimy, salt and weight in caulinder to drain. I put it in a caulinder and then set a bowl on top and set a heavy jar in the bowl. You’ll be suprised how much liquid comes out.)

1/2 red onion, chopped

2 Carrots, julienned (Tip: I use the Pampered Chef Julienne tool. It looks like a wide vegetable peeler and makes this job SOOO easy!)

4 oz Mushrooms, sliced

1 Red bell pepper, chopped

1 clove Garlic, minced or pressed

1/2 tsp dried Ginger

1 tbsp Soy sauce

2 tbsp Red curry paste

1 – 14 oz can Coconut milk

6.75 oz package of Maifun Rice Sticks

I filled my tea kettle with water and put it on to boil. This is for the noodles. Meanwhile, I spray a large non-stick skillet or wok with Canola Oil. Over medium high heat, saute onions and red pepper for 3-4 minutes or until beginning to soften. Then I added the eggplant, mushrooms and carrots and continue to stir over heat until mushrooms become tender. Reduce heat to medium low and add garlic, ginger, soy sauce, red curry paste and coconut milk. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes. At some point your water should have started boiling. Set the dry noodles in a large pot, pour boiling water over noodles and allow to sit for a couple minutes. Drain and mix noodles into sauce.

Enjoy!

Pumpkin Cheesecake – I Lowered the Fat and Simplified the Process! Can’t Beat That!!!

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So first try at cheesecake with a berry topping was delicious, but didn’t set up the way it should. I would not be defeated!!! I was getting in the fall mood last weekend and decided to try again with a pumpkin cheesecake. This one was a winner!!!! It had a firm, yet silky texture and the wonderful, comforting taste of pumpkin. I’m not usually a fan of pumpkin pie, but the cream cheese ads a wonderful tang to this dessert!

Tip: In my first attempt at cheesecake I learned that you can’t cut out all the fat and expect it to set up nicely. This version is a compromise. I used the reduced fat cream cheese and used full fat sour cream.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

1 Pre-made graham cracker crust

2 – 8 oz blocks of reduced fat cream cheese, softened

1 (15-ounce) can pureed pumpkin

3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk

1/4 cup sour cream (full fat – see tip above)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg

2 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add remaining ingredients one by one while continuing to beat. I used my stand mixer for this. Pour filling into crust. You will likely have some leftover. I poured this into small oven safe bowls and baked as well. Making little custard like bowls. Place dishes on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 1 hour. Remove from oven and cool for 15 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours. Serve topped with whipped cream.

Enjoy!

Honey Mustard Chicken – Quick, Easy and Flavorful!!!

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We all have our go to foods, but sometimes you just crave something different. I’ve eaten honey mustard sauces out, but I’ve never made my own. Heck, I seem to remember that McDonalds has a honey mustard sauce for their chicken nuggets. I almost never eat fast food, so honestly don’t know if they still have that sauce or not, but they did when I worked there in high school! Anyway, the other night I had some chicken breast tenders thawed out and thought I would make some honey mustard chicken. These couldn’t have been any easier and my family loved them! They had a great, tangy flavor!

Tip: Before you start brushing the raw chicken with the sauce, set some aside for dipping with your meal. I made the mistake of diving in with the basting brush and once the sauce was tainted with raw chicken it was unusable unless I cooked it. It’s easy to make more sauce, as it is just equal parts of mustard and honey.

Honey Mustard Chicken

1 pound chicken

Salt and pepper

2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped

1/2 cup prepared yellow mustard

1/2 cup honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together your mustard and honey. Set some aside for dipping later and don’t put your basting brush in it, so it’s not contaminated with raw chicken. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray or line with parchment paper. Season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper and lay on baking sheet. Baste both side of chicken with honey mustard sauce and then sprinkle with fresh basil. Bake chicken 30-45 minutes until cooked through. Cooking time will vary based on the size of your pieces. My chicken tenders cooked pretty quickly, but full size breasts or thighs  will take longer. Serve extra sauce with cooked chicken for dipping!

Enjoy!

Italian Sausage and Spicy Cream Sauce Over Pasta – Low-fat, Easy and Delicious!!!

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For some reason the turkey Italian sausage is always marked down at my local grocery store. I can’t resist a good deal, so I have a bunch of that sausage in my freezer. I figured I better use some of that stuff! I make my marinara sauce quite frequently, so I wanted to try something a little different last night. This spicy cream tomato sauce was delicious!!! Since I used sweet sausage, the dish wasn’t overly spicy, so even the sensitive palette would enjoy it, but you could easily spice it up even more by using spicy sausage and adding additional red pepper flakes. This would be an easy dish to multiply and serve to a large group too!

Italian Sausage and Spicy Cream Sauce Over Pasta

1/2 red onion, chopped

1 pound turkey Italian sausage, remove from casing

3 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed

1 – 14 oz can diced tomatoes, not drained

1 – 8 oz can tomato sauce

1 tbsp tomato paste (Tip: Buying the tomato paste in a tube (vs. a can) is perfect for this type of recipe. You can squeeze out what you need, cap it and put it back in the fridge. Rather than using a partial can and likely throwing away the rest.)

1/2 cup fat free half and half

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 – 13 oz box of pasta (I had whole wheat rotini pasta on hand, so I used that.)

I cooked in my dutch oven, but you could also use a large skillet. Spray pan with olive oil spray and heat to medium high heat. Add onions and cook until tender. Add sausage and cook, breaking up into small pieces. When sausage is almost completely browned, add garlic and cook another minute. Add all tomato products, stir well and reduce to low. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes. While the sauce is simmering, you can boil your pasta in salted water. In the last couple minutes of sauce simmering, add the half and half and cheese and stir. Drain pasta and pour into large bowl. Spoon sausage and sauce over pasta and serve. 8 servings.

Mangia bene!!!

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie – I really need to try this!!! It sounds fantastic!!!

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This pie sounds and looks fantastic!!! I’m going to have to try this myself!!!

https://casseylouise.wordpress.com/2016/10/07/the-thanksgiving-desert-saga-part-1/

Cheesecake with Berry Lemon Topping – Not Perfect, but Delicious!!!

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So this food blogging girl had never made cheesecake before. Don’t ask why! I just never got around to it until recently. As you can see from the picture, it didn’t turn out perfect, but it sure tasted fantastic! I think this recipe is still solid and I made some mistakes that you can easily correct and make a perfectly great cheesecake! I cannot take credit for this recipe though. This was from Tyler Florence of the Food Network.

So my mistake was that in trying to keep this low-fat, it didn’t firm up as much as it should. It did still taste great and have a nice texture though, so if you care more about fat content than the beauty of your dish, you can follow my notes below.

I also cheated and used a pre-made graham cracker crust. I had one leftover from my Canteloupe Pie and that’s what inspired me to try making cheese cake. I was happy with the crust, so if you don’t have a springform pan or just want to save a little time, the pre-made crust worked just fine! I did still follow the baking instructions of adding water to a baking pan and setting the cheesecake in that.

The Ultimate Cheesecake by Tyler Florence

Ingredients

Crust: (My note: I used a pre-made crust with success)

2 cups finely ground graham crackers (about 30 squares)

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 stick unsalted butter, melted

Filling:

1 pound cream cheese, 2 (8-ounce) blocks, softened (My note: I used reduced fat cream cheese, but I think this contributed to it not setting up completely.)

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 pint sour cream (My note: I used fat free sour cream and this probably also contributed to it not setting up completely.)

1 lemon, zested

1 dash vanilla extract

Warm Lemon Blueberry Topping, recipe follows

Warm Lemon Blueberries:

1 pint blueberries (My note: I had a bag of frozen mixed berries. I thawed them out and then cooked according to this and it was delicious!!!)

1 lemon, zested and juiced

2 tablespoons sugar
Filling:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, combine the crust ingredients with a fork until evenly moistened. Lightly coat the bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Pour the crumbs into the pan and, using the bottom of a measuring cup or the smooth bottom of a glass, press the crumbs down into the base and 1-inch up the sides. Refrigerate for 5 minutes.

For the Filling:

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese on low speed for 1 minute until smooth and free of any lumps. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and continue to beat slowly until combined. Gradually add sugar and beat until creamy, for 1 to 2 minutes. Add sour cream, lemon zest, and vanilla. Periodically scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beaters. The batter should be well mixed but not over-beaten. Pour the filling into the crust-lined pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Set the cheesecake pan on a large piece of aluminum foil and fold up the sides around it. Place the cake pan in a large roasting pan. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan until the water is about halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan; the foil will keep the water from seeping into the cheesecake. Bake for 45 minutes. The cheesecake should still jiggle (it will firm up after chilling), so be careful not to overcook. Let cool in pan for 30 minutes. Chill in the refrigerator, loosely covered, for at least 4 hours. Loosen the cheesecake from the sides of the pan by running a thin metal spatula around the inside rim. Unmold and transfer to a cake plate. Using a spatula spread a layer of Warm Lemon Blueberry topping over the surface.

Slice the cheesecake with a thin, non-serrated knife that has been dipped in hot water. Wipe dry after each cut.

Warm Lemon Blueberries:

In a small saucepan add all the ingredients and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes or so until the fruit begins to break down slightly. Leave to cool before spreading on cheesecake.

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/the-ultimate-cheesecake-recipe2.html?oc=linkback

Enjoy!!!

Honey Cilantro Shrimp – Quick, Delicious and Healthy!!!

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I couldn’t resist sharing this post by another blogger! This shrimp looks delicious and is definitely something I will try in the future!
https://inbetweencoffeeandwine.wordpress.com/2016/10/02/honey-cilantro-shrimp/

Paella – My First Experience 

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My husband and I had the opportunity last night to attend a wonderful Paella event at the Hannah Nicole Winery in Brentwood, CA. It was a wonderful evening! I had never had paella before and it did not disappoint! As you can see from the photo, the cooking of it was quite an impressive event. The dish was very colorful and full of flavor! The wonderful flavor of rice, chicken, sausage, shrimp and mussels in a tomato and saffron sauce.


Not only did we get to enjoy great food and wine, but we also were entertained by a guitarist and two female flamenco dancers. The music was a beautiful background and the dances were just stunning!


Me and my hubby Mark: