Cheddar Cheese Grits Casserole

It just dawned on me that Thanksgiving Day is 5 weeks and 1 day away.

Say WHAT?

Whoa. Dare I say I’m ready for it? I truly am, because this holiday season is going to be epic. J and I have a few options this year, as the posse will be away from home again. Oh, it’s ok, don’t feel sad for me, because Thanksgiving, to me, is akin to a Sunday Dinner. Which means, quite frankly, you can do it any day of the year. Everyone comes together, there’s lots of chatter, reminiscing, sharing, love, family, and of course, copious amounts of food and wine.

Wait, that sounded like my birthday week in Vegas…..

Anyway, as I said, it’s not a holiday that has monumental sentiment for me (that would be Christmas, and you can bet your last dollar they will be home with us for that!), but don’t think for one minute that I don’t get sucked into every glossy magazine showing off their finest and most delectable dishes for the season.

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With 98% of my cookbooks/baking magazines still  in storage, I’m having to exercise tremendous self control not to buy each and every one of them. Actually, I told Sabrina this morning that next week, we will break into the storage unit and start pulling out holiday lights and a few boxes of books.

Yes, I’m one of those people that starts decorating in November. Like November 1. 

Cheddar Cheese Grits Casserole – adapted form Southern Living

  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup uncooked quick-cooking grits
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350°. Bring milk just to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat; gradually whisk in butter and grits. Reduce heat, and simmer, whisking constantly, 5 to 7 minutes or until grits are done. Remove from heat.Stir in egg, cheese, and pepper. ingredients. Pour into a lightly greased 11- x 7-inch baking dish. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until mixture is set. Serve immediately.

Chicken and Tater Tot Casserole

I think, if my not-always-reliable memory serves me correctly, that this recipe was featured in the “Chopped Dinner Challenge” on the Food Network recently.

Yes, a quick check on their site confirms that my facts (and memory) are indeed correct.

alert the media. 

Anyhoo, tater tots, for the uninitiated, are ground up, formed, seasoned potatoes that are held in very high regard in this house. Very high regard. Very high. Very.

Capiche?

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This was a winner all around and will definitely be made again.

Chicken and Tater Tot Casserole – adapted from Food Network

  • 4 tbs. unsalted butter
    2 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds
    1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Fresh ground black pepper
    1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    2 cups milk
    1 cup white wine
  • 4 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 3 cups frozen tater tots, thawed
    1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 cup shredded sharp white cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat until hot. Add the carrots and onions and season with pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 6-7 minutes. Add the peas, and cook for another minute or so. Stir in the flour, and then whisk in the milk and wine and bring to a boil, whisking. Boil until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the chicken. Transfer to a greased 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle the cheese over the top of the chicken mixture.

Pulse the tots in a food processor with the thyme until medium ground. Scatter over the top of the casserole and bake until the filling is bubbling and the topping is golden and crisp, 30 to 35 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Roasted Cauliflower and Ricotta Pizza

I have a very complex and complicated relationship with homemade pizza. I have multiple kitchen gadgets (dough docker, iron pizza stone, and mini pizza oven, to name just a few) to assist me in the creation/baking process, yet I am invariably disappointed with the results. Either the crust is flavorless, underdone, overdone, lacking that wonderful crispy/chewy bite you get from restaurant style pizza, or is just plain blahhhh.

Until now. 

This recipe, from the current issue of Bon Appetit, was foolproof and delicious. The crust had the perfect ratio of crunchy edges to chewy middle, the topping was outstanding, and although there were a few steps to creating this masterpiece (i.e don’t attempt it for a weeknight dinner unless you have all the components prepped ahead of time), it was well worth every bit of time and effort to make it.

In fact, I think I’m going to try one of the other variations for tonight’s dinner.

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Roasted Cauliflower and Ricotta Pizza – adapted from Bon Appetit

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 1 lemon, cut into quarters, seeded
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Breadcrumbs

  • 1 cup finely ground breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 ounces Parmesan, finely grated (about ½ cup)

Assembly

  • Cauliflower:

Preheat oven to 400°. Toss cauliflower, lemon, and garlic with oil on a large rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper.
Roast, tossing occasionally, until cauliflower is tender but not browned, about 20 minutes. Squeeze lemon juice over cauliflower and toss to coat. Discard lemon and garlic, if desired.
  • Breadcrumbs

Meanwhile, toss breadcrumbs and oil on a large rimmed baking sheet; toast, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, 6–8 minutes. Let cool; toss with Parmesan.

  • Assembly

Place a rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 525° or as high as oven will go.
Once dough has risen in baking sheet, top with mozzarella, dot with ricotta, and top with cauliflower mixture. Bake until golden brown and crisp on bottom and sides, 20–30 minutes. Top pie with toasted breadcrumbs and bake 1 minute longer.

Serve topped with parsley.

 

Gorditas

I’ve said this before, but today, it bears repeating:

“The best laid plans of Mice and Men……”

Translated?

We (meaning J, Sabrina and myself) were supposed to embark on a 6 1/2 hour drive to Lubbock to take a tour of Texas Tech College tomorrow morning.

Supposed being the operative word. In typical mother fashion, I had it all planned out: Alexander was to be shipped off to a friend’s house, the pups’ care was arranged, hotel rooms were booked, our route was mapped out, and the tour was scheduled.

phew...

Then, at 7:30 last night, J came home with the news that he wouldn’t be able to make the trip with us because of work. No problem.

Right about now you’re probably thinking, ok, just because J can’t go, why don’t you and Sabrina hit the road “Thelma and Louise” style?

Without the gunfire, of course.

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Do you know what my father will do to me if I tell him I made that drive?

** shudder **

Gorditas – adapted from Food and Wine

These were fun, different, and tasty. They come together really quickly, and are a nice change from tortillas or taco shells.

  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for frying
  • Shredded chicken, salsa, sour cream and cotija cheese, for serving

In a large bowl, mix the masa harina with the water and the 1/4 cup of oil. Transfer the dough to a sheet of plastic wrap and roll into a 10-inch log; cut into 10 pieces. Using a 3-inch round biscuit cutter, mold the pieces into flat disks a scant 1/2 inch thick.

Heat a large griddle. Add the gorditas and cook over high heat, turning once, until lightly browned in spots, about 2 minutes per side. Using the back of a spoon, lightly press an indentation in the center of each gordita.

In a large skillet, heat 1/4 inch of oil until shimmering. Add the gorditas and fry over high heat until golden and crispy, about 2 minutes per side; drain on paper towels. Top the indentations with chicken, salsa, sour cream and cheese and serve hot.

 

Glazed Cinnamon Rolls

Happy National Dessert Day!

side note: I love food holidays :)

Question: Do Cinnamon Rolls qualify as dessert? Or are they strictly relegated to the “breakfast/brunch” category? Considering Alexander and his friend Dale singlehandedly ate 3/4 of the batch at 1:30 pm, I think it’s safe to say that these can go either way.

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What I liked best about these rolls was that they weren’t drowning in sugar and/or smothered in frosting. Granted, cream cheese icing has its place (on carrot cake, just sayin’), but sometimes it can be a little overwhelming.

NOT! Who am I kidding? These were practically the diet version of cinnamon rolls.

ummm, not really. 

But they were very, very, yummy.

Glazed Cinnamon Rolls – adapted from epicurious.com

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 2 1/4 tsp rapid-rise yeast
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature, beaten
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 tbs. unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pan
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Vegetable-oil cooking spray

For the filling:

  • 1 1/4 cups packed dark-brown sugar
  • 2 tbs. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 6 tbs. unsalted butter, room temperature

For the glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tbs. plus 2 teaspoons whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the dough:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add flour, yeast, and sugar. Mix on low speed until well combined. Add eggs and mix on low to combine. In a small pot, heat milk, butter, and cinnamon over medium-low heat until butter is melted and mixture is between 120 and 130°F (use a thermometer).

Add warm milk mixture and salt to stand mixer. Beat on low speed 2 to 3 minutes, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl with a spatula. Beat on medium speed until smooth and elastic, 2 to 3 minutes. Dough will be very sticky.

Lightly oil a large bowl with cooking spray. Form dough into ball and transfer to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

While dough rises, line a 9 x 12 pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Make the filling:

Mix brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in medium bowl.

Make the glaze:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla.

Assemble and bake:
Preheat to 375°F and position rack in center of oven. Punch down dough and transfer to floured work surface. Roll out to 16-by-12-inch rectangle. Spread butter over dough, leaving 1/2-inch border on the long sides. Sprinkle filling mixture evenly over butter, then add pecans. Starting at a long edge, roll dough toward you into a log, pinching gently to keep it rolled tightly. With seam side down, cut dough crosswise with a thin sharp knife into 8 equal slices.

Place rolls in the baking dish, arranging cut side up; rolls will be touching. Cover baking dish with plastic wrap then a kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, 40 to 45 minutes.

Bake rolls until tops are golden, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and invert immediately onto rack. Cool 10 minutes. Turn rolls right side up. Drizzle glaze over rolls and serve immediately.