Tuesday, November 23, 2010


This was the turkey that I made for Thanksgiving for those that were in need locally through our church. It made my kitchen smell o' so good. Simply roasted with butter, sage and thyme forever (well about 9 hours). 13 other turkeys were being roasted by others at our church for the same purpose. What a great reason to cook for Thanksgiving. So thankful for my church and to have been able to be a part of this, and not just simply stuff my gut (which I did do, don't worry; more details of that to come)! Hope ya'll had a great Thanksgiving. Check back soon and I'll tell you about my two Thanksgivings I enjoyed, and my favorite dishes from each. What was the best thing you ate for your thanksgiving feast?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

One for the Books

Last night we celebrated the birthday of, who in a short time, is someone I call a dear friend and I am so thankful for her and her family. The evening was contagiously filled with laughter upon laughter. It was one for the books......incredibly relaxing; a night out on the town to put to-do lists away and brush away the anxieties that may have been a part of our week.

To celebrate we dined in one of Louisville's must-try restaurants Mojitos Tapas Restaurant. The decadence of this restaurant is due to the dainty, elegant dishes that are ordered and then shared. For starters we had this incredible, I mean incredible guacamole with the, catch, long curling strips of plantain chips. Shortly following were seasoned, sweet potato fries with thier popular smoked honey sauce for dipping. Then out comes these plump shrimp swimming in this incredible butter and garlic concoction that you layer with a piece of fresh bread, aioli, and pico de gallo-then if your smart you dip it again in the irresistible butter and garlic. Fried calamari is next and accompanied with fried tentacles (my husband's favorite-not really), roasted peppers, and the ingenious invention of fried olives with aioli and sweet chili sauce that I wanted to chug. Now for the meaty goodness of the evening, and what the men were anxiously anticipating.....grilled skirt steak, cooked to perfection with a green chimichurri sauce that I almost had my way with and shredded potato chips. Then out comes lamb chops (not the beloved children's puppet), but grilled and served over piquillo pepper hummus-there are no words. Favorites of this dinner extravaganza for me was the guacamole and plantain chips, the garlic shrimp, and the skirt steak with lamb chops close behind.

We ended the evening in style at The Cheesecake Factory where we practically swam in organic coffee and left on a sugar high. The table was filled with a slices of ridiculously, yummy cheesecake, and what some people may call a sin, Lemoncello Cream Torte which I ordered upon the waiters recommendation, and I am so glad I did. Layers of vanilla cake and lemon marscarpone cream, topped with streusel and served with strawberries and whipped cream. It is my favorite dessert I've had there by far. As we shared bites of our desserts my friend described mine perfectly as strawberry lemonade. To me it was just that, like a strawberry lemonade cream float-airy and creamy with the right amount of richness.

We serenaded the birthday girl when her cheesecake was placed on the table and she blew out her candle; all seemed right. More laughter filled our table as we all continued to grow in friendship and love for one another. Great food, a great evening, and great friends to share it with.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mater Soup

This is definitely soup weather, so to warm up my household and my toes that's what's for dinner. Here is my simple tomato soup for you to try.
You can easily make variations on this by roasting* the tomatoes before hand which adds an endless amount of flavor. You can also substitute heavy cream for milk to make it even silkier and richer in texture. For soup without actual pieces of tomato, puree the tomatoes until smooth or to the texture you prefer.
Fresh canned tomatoes and juice from the summer would be perfect to use here.

Mater Soup

1 28 oz can good tomato juice
1 12 oz can whole tomatoes, roughly chopped or halved
1 tsp garlic
2 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 cup milk
4 tbsp butter
1 pinch of baking soda
salt & pepper, to taste
fresh basil leaves for garnish

Coat the bottom of a large pot with oil on medium heat. Add garlic. When the garlic begins to sizzle add the tomatoes immediately. Add salt and pepper to season. Stir the tomatoes for 2 minutes. Add the tomato juice, butter, and milk. Bring to a rolling boil. As soon as it begins to boil add the baking soda, this will insure that the milk does not curdle. Reduce to a simmer for at least 30 minutes. Garnish with fresh basil leaves.

*Check out Red Peppers 10 for 10 on how to roast. Make sure you keep an eye on the tomatoes as you roast, the time may vary slightly. Also add garlic and herbs with the tomatoes and your taste buds will be ever so thankful!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Perfect Pancakes with a Not-So Perfect Week

I gave in to the man…..the man of the house that is, I got weak and through my hands up without a fight. I think he saw that I just didn't have it in me to walk over to the stove or maybe he wanted pizza or maybe it was a little bit of both. Either way I could’ve easily done the spending freeze to completion; I promise you. I’m even gonna try to make some more of my staple meals that were left on the menu this week to prove it! Well that's my story today anyway; we'll see.....

So here’s the actual recap of the week on the spending freeze. I’m trying not to beat myself over this.

Here’s the actual menu just to refresh your memory:

Monday-Moroccan Butternut Squash Couscous with Raisin, Almond, Feta Salad

Tuesday-Vegetable Stir-fry

Wednesday-Pasta Tossed in Anchovy-Oil with Stuffed Mushrooms on the side

Thursday-3-Bean Chili with Grilled Cheese

Friday-Dinner at friends' house

Saturday- Cubed Steak Red Beans & Rice with Roasted Carrots on the side

Sunday-Roasted Tomato Basil Soup with Garlic Croutons and Romaine Salad with Creamy Yogurt Dressing

And here is the somewhat successful attempt (I can't call it a total failure):

Monday: Moroccan Butternut Squash Couscous with Raisin, Almond, Feta Salad (check)

Tuesday: Dinner at Gigi’s (check)

Wednesday: Spaghetti w/ stuffed mushrooms (check)

Thursday: Easy, Oozy, Cheesy Spaghetty Bake (check; still no money spent)

Friday: Laraine’s Insane Blackened Chicken Fettuccini (Still craving this from 3 nights ago; check)

Saturday: Perfect Pancakes (check), then gave into the delicious idea of bacon & mushroom pizza delivered, which we are still eating on.

Sunday: Our favorite Mexican restaurant Fiesta Time was calling our name on the drive home from church. We did have a coupon though, plus we had a ridiculous amount of leftovers which we have eaten today. I ordered what they call a Fajita Quesadilla. A flour toritilla overflowing with chicken, fajita vegetables-grilled to perfection, smothered in that famous white cheese sauce. I mean who could resist that, so good!

Now back to those pancakes I made on Saturday. You can easily make pancakes from a box mix, but you probably have everything you need to make them from staples you have at home and they taste so much better!

Homemade Perfect Pancakes*

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg & cinnamon combined
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • Butter, maple or pancake syrup, confectioners' sugar, for serving
  • 1 splash of vanilla


1. Heat a griddle or large pan to medium heat. Heat oven to warm (180°F) and place a foil-lined baking sheet inside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt and allspice. Separate eggs and whisk egg yolks in small bowl with milk, vanilla and oil.

3. With an electric mixer, beat egg whites to stiff peaks, about 1 minute. Stir milk mixture into flour mixture just until combined. Fold in egg whites in two additions, until no white streaks remain.

4. Using a ladle, drop 1/4 to 1/3 cup batter onto heated griddle. Repeat, spacing at least 1 inch apart. Cook 1 minute, or until bubbles in batter pop and remain open. Carefully flip pancakes and cook an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute.

5. Transfer to baking sheet in warm oven; repeat with remaining batter. Serve warm with butter and syrup or confectioners' sugar, if desired.

Mix, mix, mix.

Now the wet ingredients; don't forget to separate the eggs!

Stiff peaks, this makes them o' so cloud-like.

Fold in the egg whites gently.

Tiny bubbles forming; time to flip.


Mmmm! Mmmmmm! Good!

*Modified from Family Circle magazine Perfect Pancakes by Julie Miltenberger

Saturday, November 13, 2010

All Aboard the Flavor Train

My belly is still full from last night's pasta extravaganza. My friend Laraine cooked us this ridiculously creamy, spicy chicken fettuccini. She set the massive bowl of awesomeness on the dinning room table right in front of me, I took one whiff, and almost did a swan dive right in the middle of the bowl. I started to picture myself doing the backstroke and sucking up one, long noodle, letting the tail end of it hit my nose-kind of like Lady on Lady and the Tramp. I had to sit on my hands to contain myself from following through with this absurd vision; the intoxicating smell was making it nearly impossible.

Thankfully Laraine and Greg went into prayer mode and I snapped out of it. After praising the Lord, I gingerly placed a big pile of this madness on my plate, picked up my fork to swirl around the most perfect bite, and placed it in my mouth with intentional elegance. Well, that's not exactly how it went.....I scooped out a big spoonful, slapped it on my plate, impatiently glanced around to see if everyone else had served themselves, and then jammed the fork in my mouth. O wow! I had just gotten on the flavor train and I did not want to get off. I ferociously scooped up more pasta and proceeded to stuff it in my mouth. All that was left for me to do was to lick the bowl, but Sydney (their daughter) said they were not allowed to do this, so I restrained myself because I certainly did not want to be grounded from coming over to their house.

So the meal was pretty good, well ok, insanely delicous if you couldn't tell, but honestly the time we all spent together was even better. Seriously, we really didn't want to leave, my son's tears when it was time to leave was somewhat of a testimony to how we all felt.

Laraine's Insane Blackened Chicken Fettuccini*

  • 4 (5-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup blackening spice (Laraine uses Zatarain's)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 cup roughly chopped marinated sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound cooked fettuccine
  • Tony's Creole Seasoning, to taste (optional, but o' so good)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cover the chicken breasts in the blackening spice and place in a cast iron skillet over very high heat. Blacken both sides of the chicken and place in the oven for 10 minutes, remember internal temperature must read 165 degrees. Slice chicken to bite size pieces.

In a large non-stick skillet, add 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. Add garlic and lightly caramelize. Then add the sun-dried tomatoes and the sliced chicken. Deglaze the pan with the white wine. Add the heavy cream, increase the heat to a simmer, and reduce the cream sauce by half. When the sauce is at a thicker consistency add pasta, and stir till pasta is coated. Let sit for several minutes and the noodles will soak up some of the sauce; it will become even thicker. Add Parmesan.

*modified from Guy Fieri's Cajun Chicken Alfredo

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Easy, Oozy, Cheesy Leftovers

Because of my non-Type-A disease that I have been diagnosed with (I guess it would be clinically titled Type B), surprise, menu plan changed again! Not to make an excuse for my illness, but I just had one of those days where I didn't feel like cooking chili or anything else on the planned menu. Migraine from the moment my eyes opened, and then every little noise made the constant pounding in my head a hundred decibels louder. So after I tried to rest a bit and I threw-up (I know gross, especially talking about food, my Momma says I have no manners) it was time to figure out what I felt like cooking, if anything. Then I remembered I had this big container of leftover spaghetti from last night that was just begging to be used; so I gave in to it's plea and made another meal out of it. Thank you left over spaghetti. So now Thursday night of the spending freeze has become (drum roll please).....

Easy, Oozy, Cheesy Spaghetty Bake

Leftover Spaghetti
tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 cups cheese (I used Colby since that's all I had.)
2 tbsp dried basil
2 tbsp dried rosemary
2 tbsp dried thyme
pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp black pepper
1 egg
2 tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a casserole dish with oil. In a large bowl mix leftover spaghetti with dried herbs, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. In a small separate bowl whisk egg and milk. Place half of seasoned spaghetti in prepared casserole dish. Cover portion with 2 cups of cheese. Place rest of spaghetti on top layering it. Pour egg mixture over the layered spaghetti and top with remaining 2 cups of cheese. Bake for 25 minutes. Serve with vegetable or salad.
Just a thought; this dish would also be good layering in your favorite pizza toppings. My college roommate Jen taught me that trick.

So all in all a good ending to a not so good beginning. Saved money, time, and energy! High fives all around.

Don't forget to pour this on. I almost did it gives the dish it's creamy and rich consistency.

Time to bake.....I love cheese. I could bathe in cheese.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fungus Among Us

Type A I am not, just ask all those close to me and they will shout a big "Amen!" So here's to not being Type A and the dinner that came from it. Pasta in anchovy oil just didn't seem to mesh well with stuffed mushrooms, and I wanted to put those mushrooms to good use. Instead, to befriend the mushrooms, I made a simple tomato sauce from mashing a large can of whole tomatoes, adding, garlic, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a pinch of red pepper, fresh basil and thyme, a bay leaf, and salt and pepper; to a hot pan and simmering for a mouthwatering 30 minutes.

Now, to put those mushrooms to good use.....thankfully I had mushrooms in the refrigerator or I would've never had the idea to stuff mushrooms. If I had never had the idea to stuff mushrooms then I would've never made the mushroom, herb culmination of flavors that proceeds to explode out of these fungi. And most of that flavor comes from this creamy, sauce-like gravy that gets created before the bread crumbs and other little goodies are even added to make the stuffing. I immediately fell in love. This sauce, o my goodness, this sauce is ridiculous! All I needed were some creamy, buttery mashed potatoes to go with this mushroom gravy (ooh good idea, file away for the future) and I could have died and gone to heaven right then and there.

Burnt hand, hanging hood, broken disposal and all; this dinner was divine to cook and eat.

Stuff Mushrooms from Heaven

4 large mushrooms
1 tbsp garlic
3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp sage
1 tbsp basil
1 tbsp thyme
1/4 cup of milk or heavy cream, divided
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of Panko bread crumbs
1 egg
Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Heat a non-stick pan to medium heat. Add oil to hot pan. Scoop the inside of each mushroom out with a spoon. Finely chop the mushroom that was scooped out. Add garlic to the hot oil until you hear it sizzle, then had the chopped mushrooms. Make sure you don't crowd the mushrooms as you saute, Julia Child taught me this important little fact. As the mushrooms proceed to brown add the butter, vinegar, and milk setting aside 1 tablespoon of the 1/4 cup of milk (that's what divided means). Add quite a bit of salt and pepper, and taste, as you whisk this sauce into submission. In a separate small bowl, whisk egg and tablespoon of milk. Add egg to large bowl of bread crumbs and mix together. As soon as this crazy-good mushroom sauce thickens immediately stir it into the bread crumb mixture and add herbs, more salt and pepper, and as much Parmesan as your little heart desires. Combine well. Rub the mushroom caps with oil and place on baking sheet. Fill each one of those lonely, little caps with a glorious spoon full of stuffing until each one looks short, fat, and happy. Top with more Parmesan. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

I can hear the Hallelujah chorus right now.....I want a big spoonful so bad.

This is what happens if you get a little too excited about stuffing these delicate guys.

The mushrooms perfect accompaniment!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Change of plans on tonights menu. A great change of plan in my opinion; I don't know how you'll feel about it, but it was great to me. My plan to make Vegetable Stir-Fry transformed to dinner at my grandparents. So not to take the easy way out; I want to share my grandmother and my favorite recipe of hers with you.

Simms, my 3-year-old, lovingly calls her Gigi, and it has started to stick with me. Gigi is a special woman in my life, my daddy's mom, she has spoiled and cared for me tenderly through the years. I have learned how to work hard around the home and the importance of caring and loving for my husband and son by watching her example. She was a nurse for many years, and that is evident in her character. Eventually, she had her only child and decided to stay home to raise him. She is an incredible woman, giving and nurturing.

Not only was her character imprinted on me, but her cooking was as well. Not necessarily elegant, four-star cuisine, but the lesson that cooking and caring for your family can be incredibly joyous. I would watch her whistling and prancing around the kitchen in her petite frame, preparing food and cleaning with an elegant madness. She's the cutest thing, and if you met her you would want to be her friend; one of her finest qualities, and one she is so unaware of. Now she is not a gourmet chef by any stretch; my Momma taught me about the art of food, but the pure art of cooking and caring for my family I think partially was learned through Gigi.

This was such a special evening for us, as Gigi is losing a fight with cancer. They found it about two years ago in her liver. She no longer prances around the kitchen; rarely has enough energy to even walk out to the kitchen to get a glass of water. Tonight she was able to eat a few bites of dinner with us. A dinner that she used to cook so carefully.

So tonight we dined on Captain D's thanks to the culinary skills of chef Grandpa. "I slaved away all day on this folks," he yelled, his hearing aide never works so most of our conversation is screaming at each other as long as he's in the room. We all sat down at the round dining room table underneath the gawdy, crystal chandelier, and served ourselves fried fish and shrimp, french fries and creamy cole slaw on the good china, white doilies, and the white lace table cloth. I'm always kind of panicked with Simms, but it's not a true dinner, according to Gigi, if there's not a white table cloth.

Gigi, who would've normally been dolled-up from head-to-toe was in her dark-purple silk pajamas, no make-up, and hair not combed. But she still looked pretty and I told her that. Sick and swollen and all, she is still my beautiful, gentle, servant-hearted Grandma, and she always will be.

Here is one of my favorite recipes that she taught me. Nothing too special, but extremely special to me.

Gigi's Easy Chicken & Rice


1 package of chicken tenders
2 cans of cream of celery soup
1/2 stick of butter
1/4 cup of fresh orange juice
1 1/2 cups of rice
3 1/4 cups of chicken broth
salt & pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in microwave. Add soup to melted butter and mix well. Add orange juice and salt and pepper, mix. Dip each chicken tender until coated. Place in casserole dish. Pour remaining sauce over chicken. Bake for 50-60 minutes. Cook rice according to package directions in the chicken broth. Serve chicken over rice.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Menu with Monday's Meal

So here's my menu plan for the week solely from my stocked kitchen. Again, fingers crossed.....

Monday-Moroccan Butternut Squash Couscous with Raisin, Almond, Feta Salad (check)
Tuesday-Vegetable Stir-fry
Wednesday-Pasta Tossed in Anchovy-Oil with Stuffed Mushrooms on the side
Thursday-3-Bean Chili with Grilled Cheese
Friday-Dinner at friends' house (I know, not fair I hear you screaming! You'll just have to get over it because I didn't find out till after my post and the plan was set into action. Plus these friends are too fun to not hang out with. If your good, and by permission, I might share the dinner/recipe we have this evening with you because she is a phenomenal cook; last time I had 3 helpings of her lasagna and then went into a deep food coma.)
Saturday- Cubed Steak Red Beans & Rice with Roasted Carrots on the side
Sunday-Roasted Tomato Basil Soup with Garlic Croutons and Romaine Salad with Creamy Yogurt Dressing

Meal #1: Never made this before; here we go....

Moroccan Butternut Squash Couscous*


4 tbsp or 1/2 stick unsalted butter OR 3 tablespoons of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil for healthier version

1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about 3 cups)

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon of garlic

2 teaspoons Moroccan seasoning**

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 cup couscous

1 1/2 cups of chicken broth

juice of 1 lemon

2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil

1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage

salt and pepper, to taste


Melt butter in a large, deep skillet or coat pan with olive oil. Add garlic and cook on medium heat until it begins to sizzle.

Add the chickpeas, squash, Moroccan seasoning, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper. Stir well to incorporate all of the ingredients. Cook on medium heat until the squash is caramelized and almost fork tender, continue to stir, about 15-20 minutes.

While the squash is cooking, in another pot add the chicken broth and bring to a rolling boil, add the couscous. Cover and remove from heat; let stand for 5 minutes. Add couscous to butternut squash mixture along with lemon juice, sage, basil and toss together.

Raisin, Almond, Feta Salad


bag of Romain salad mix

1/2 cup of raisins

1/4 cup of almonds

1/4 cup of Feta Cheese


Toss all ingredients together in a salad with a sweet vinaigrette of your choice. This salad is also great with a variety fruits like strawberries, mandarin oranges, and apples.

Making your own vinaigrette is the "pennyless" way, plus it's tastier. This one has become a McDougal family favorite:

Sweet Honey Mustard Vinaigrette***


3/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup of honey

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper


Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until incorporated. See photo of my son below for visual. Refrigerate up to 2 days.

By the way this recipe was so easy. Peel and cut the squash ahead to save even more time. How did it taste you ask? Just look at that smiling face; it'll tell you everything.

*Modified from www.abiteoutoflife.wordpress.com; check it out. Thanks Ishita!
**From what I can tell this is a mixture of fennel seeds, cumin, garlic salt, sea salt, cayenne pepper, dried rosemary, coriander, and paprika. I found actual Moroccan Seasoning at T.J. Maxx, yep that's what I said, they have a great culinary section and odd items you can't find anywhere else at great prices.
***Modified from Southern Living October 2010 edition featuring www.southernplate.com's Christy Jordan.