The Best Sweet Potato Casserole (a.k.a My Thanksgiving Must-Have Side Dish)

If you are looking for an easy side dish for your Thanksgiving gathering, I’ve got just the casserole for you.

I know that I may be in the minority, but I’ve never been a fan of the marshmallow-topped concoctions or those syrupy, too-sweet bakes. That’s why I never really ate sweet potatoes until well into adulthood. I tweaked my mom’s recipe until I not only had a great side dish, but also look forward to it every year.

This recipe has citrus zest to brighten up the potatoes, and a spiced pecan topping to bring texture and crunch. Best of all? You can make it ahead and just pop it in the oven while the turkey rests.

The Best Sweet Potato Casserole

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings 10

Ingredients
  

Casserole

  • 3 29-ounce cans sweet potatoes, drained
  • 1/2 tablespoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 cup sugar granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons orange zest
  • 1 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons butter melted
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • additional butter for greasing casserole

Topping

  • 1-1/2 cups chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter

Instructions
 

Casserole

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place sweet potatoes into a large mixing bowl. Add remaining casserole ingredients. Using an electric hand mixer, beat mixture until fluffy.
  • Pour into a buttered 9x13casserole, spreading mixture evenly.
  • Bake casserole at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove casserole from oven, top with pecan mixture, and bake an additional 10 minutes.

Topping

  • In a medium mixing bowl, add brown sugar and all seasonings to melted butter, stirring to incorporate. Stir in pecans until they are well coated. Top casserole with pecan mixture in last 10 minutes of baking.
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Super-Bowl Recipe Brainstorming for the Big Game We Probably Can’t Watch

Y’all, I’ve about had enough of this crap.

So, my local TV station is in an epic battle with DirecTV, one that has been waging for at least five months. As such, we will not have access to the Super Bowl, because the NFL has broadcasting rights locked down tighter than a pop star’s conservatorship. I’m trying to figure out a work-around so the guys don’t riot, but in the meantime, I need to come up with some food ideas because, frankly, I’m a wee bit burnt out. Even after the holiday hustle and bustle, we’ve still had a steady stream of guests or events this past month, as well as pesky Heathens who get hungry with frustrating regularity. But alas, tradition beckons, and I need to come up with some kind of plan. So, let’s do a bit of brainstorming, shall we?

I’m 99% sure I will make my Bacon Cheeseburger Eggrolls, because they are a universal hit. As much as I hate frying crap while I’m entertaining, game day is the exception to that rule. If I go this route, I will probably serve it with some version of a “come back” sauce, similar to this one:

Bourbon Meatballs are always a good possibility, especially since I can make them in my sleep at this point:

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The Sausage and Black-eyed Pea Mini Muffins:

Looking around the internet, I found a few ideas we have tried in the past that may be worth a revisit:

These Hot Brown Party Rolls from Southern Living were a welcome change from the usual ham/Swiss concept that we usually make, and they are easy and filling. By now, everyone has also recovered from their post-holiday turkey overload, so it’s a good option.

Hot Brown Party Rolls

The Cheese Dreams were a big hit at Christmas, especially with warm marinara on the side. They are labor-intensive in prep, but can be assembled ahead of time and frozen, so it’s just bake and serve at party-time:

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve had these Crawfish Boulettes and it might be worth revisiting. If I’m frying the egg rolls anyway, might as well. But just remember, if you are frying any fish or shellfish, fry it last or in a separate oil vat. Fish/shellfish permeates frying oil, and Mom’s golden rule when catering was one fryer for fish, one of the other stuff, and DO NOT CROSS THE STREAMS. Unless you like your chicken wings with a faint fishy flavor, that is.

Crawfish Boulettes With Creole Tartar Sauce

Finally, for the Crawfish Boil last weekend, I made these Spicy Sausage Balls from my CCTT post from last year, but instead of two pounds of sausage, I used one pound of the hot sausage and one pound of ground beef. I baked the balls at 400 for 20 minutes before adding them to the sauce. I got big thumbs up all around so they may have an encore this weekend:

Well, I still need to noodle on the menu more, but at least I have some ideas, plus queso and store-bought dips and wings to consider.

Now, let’s just hope I can find the game somewhere, lest they suggest…gulp…a Sportsbar alternative. If that happens, well…let’s not borrow trouble yet.

 

 

Spicy Sausage and Black-Eyed Pea Cornbread Mini-Muffins: My New Favorite Party Appetizer

So, I’ve shared Mom’s Hot Sausage Cornbread recipe in the past, but I confess, it was not my favorite. The Husband (and most guys in my life) love it, because between the sausage, corn, and spice, what’s not to like? I still felt like the recipe itself was a wee bit weird. Was it an appetizer? Was it a side dish? Was it the product of too many cocktails on a Saturday night? Originally, Mom baked this in a 9×13 casserole and served it in squares, so it’s easy to see my confusion. The sausage and peas lend enough protein that I felt it never really fit into a main dish or side dish category, and serving it in squares with a fork definitely didn’t seem like an appetizer either.

However, as I was doing extensive recipe testing in anticipation of both the holiday season and the big family party, I had the idea to see if this could work as a handheld appetizer. I was worried because honestly, the filling-to-cornbread ratio made me question the structural integrity of the finished product. I rounded up the troops (i.e., the neighbors, Husband, and Heathens) and got to cooking.

Whelp, I am happy to report that we absolutely love this iteration so much more than the original. By cooking the cornbread in the mini muffin pans, we had more browning on all sides (rather than just top and bottom), which added better texture and flavor in comparison to the first recipe. If you are an edge-piece-eater of the things, you already get it.

Now, here’s the deal. This works if you follow some basic rules and suggestions:

  • You must spray the mini muffin tin with nonstick spray
  • DO NOT be tempted to try to remove muffins post-bake prematurely. They will fall apart. There’s just enough batter to hold to them together with a wing and a prayer. Letting the muffins set up is crucial to success.
  • Once you let these cool, the best way to get them out is to run a butter knife around the edges then use a spoon to scoop them out. Don’t expect appearance perfection, so refer to the picture above. I promise the taste makes up for the less-than-Instagram worthy appearance.
  • It’s better to let them cool, get them out of the tin, then reheat them in a warm oven or microwave for serving. If you aren’t too concerned about perfect appearances, go ahead and evacuate them at the 20-30 minute rest mark. They will still be plenty warm.
  • You can absolutely make them ahead. Store in the fridge, then reheat in the oven or microwave. They are best warm, not piping hot.
  • Finally, serving ideas: Mom traditionally suggested salsa and/or sour cream, but Bear swears they are better with the tiniest hint of a honey drizzle. Either way, it’s still guaranteed to be unique, tasty, and not yo mama’s cheese ball.

 

Spicy Sausage and Black-Eyed Peas Cornbread Mini Muffins

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Course Appetizer
Servings 44 mini muffins

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound hot bulk pork sausage
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh jalapenos
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup finely grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 (15-oz) can black-eyed peas drained and rinsed
  • 1 (7-oz) can cream-style corn

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees (or 350 for convection ovens). Spray two 24-count mini muffin pans with nonstick spray.
  • In a skillet, add the sausage, chopped onion, and minced jalapeno. Cook over medium-low heat, breaking up the sausage as you go (like browning ground beef). Season with salt and pepper. Cook until sausage is browned, and onions are translucent. Set aside to cool.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together corn muffin mix, eggs, buttermilk, and vegetable oil until blended. Stir the cooled sausage mixture, cheese, black-eyed peas and cream-style corn.
  • Using a cookie (aka 1-ish-inch) scoop, divide batter into 44 of the muffin tins. These muffins really do not rise much so they can be filled to the top of the cups. Bake for 30 minutes or until nice and browned (see pictures).
  • LET MUFFINS COOL AND REST 30 MINUTES or they will fall apart. Run a butter knife around the edges and lift out gently with a spoon. Serve warm with salsa and sour cream on the side, or a tiny drizzle of honey on top. It's better to let these cool completely and rewarm them than to try and evacuate them from the pan early. Store leftovers in the fridge, and reheat in a 250-degree oven or in the microwave until warm.
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Easy Bacon-Cheeseburger Egg Rolls for Game Day!

It’s the first Saints’ game of the season, so like a lunatic, I let everyone have a pick for snacks/appetizers. Both of the boys came home this weekend, and since I’m still on the struggle-bus after sending Bear off to college, I went a little over-the-top by committing to this endeavor. Luckily, the drinks were strong and the “Who Dat” energy electric.

The Husband requested these Bacon-Cheeseburger Egg Rolls, and I made so many, the boys’ roommates will certainly be happy when they get back to campus. These egg rolls are bacon-y, cheesy, beefy delicious bombs, with a hint of dill pickle to cut through all that richness. Serve them up with your favorite burger condiments and enjoy game day. I sure did. Now I’m going to drink cocktails in the bathtub and decide how soon is too soon to decorate for Halloween. Spoiler alert: you already know the answer.

Easy Bacon-Cheeseburger Egg Rolls

Meaty, Cheesy, Bacon Deliciousness Fried to Perfection.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Course Appetizer
Servings 12 rolls

Ingredients
  

  • 6 slices bacon chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 8 ounces Velveeta cubed
  • 3 tbsp dill pickle relish
  • 12-14 egg roll wrappers
  • vegetable, canola, or peanut oil for frying
  • ketchup, mustard, fry sauce, or favorite burger sauce condiments for serving

Instructions
 

  • Cook chopped bacon in a large skillet over medium-low heat until crispy. Remove to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside. Remove all but one tablespoon of the bacon grease from the skillet, saving it for another use.
  • Add ground beef to the skillet with the bacon grease, break it up with a spoon, and cook until browned. Drain any excess fat. Season beef with salt and pepper.
  • Add Velveeta to the skillet and stir until melted and evenly incorporated. Remove skillet from heat and stir in the cooked bacon and dill relish. Let beef mixture cool to room temperature.
  • Meanwhile, heat a couple of inches of oil in a cast-iron skillet or pot to 325 degrees. Place an egg roll wrapper on a clean work surface so a point faces toward you like a diamond and set a cup of water next to your work area. Place 2-3 heaping tablespoons in the center of the wrapper, and using your finger, wet the top edges of your diamond with water. Fold the bottom section over the filling, fold in the sides, then roll it up toward the top (the wet edges will seal it up). There's plenty of tutorials online that are WAY better than these rolling instructions, FYI.
  • Fry the egg rolls in batches (about 5 at a time will fit in a 12-inch cast iron skillet with room to cook evenly), turning every 30 seconds or so until golden brown to your liking, roughly 4-5 minutes in total. Remove to a rack or a paper towel-lined sheet pan to cool.
  • Serve with your favorite burger sauces, like ketchup, fry sauce, mustard, etc. NOTE: these are like molten cheese volcanos fresh out of the frying. Let them cool off for a couple of minutes before consuming, unless you live for burnt taste buds and misery. You do you, Boo.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

 

Summer’s End and Our Italian Vacation!

Y’all. It’s been a summer, albeit a short one (thanks, school board for shaving off nearly a month of it). We started with Bear’s graduation and threw an epic graduation party at the house. That one was so big, I called in reinforcements, and had it catered. I usually can handle the big parties, but sometimes, I want to enjoy them too, rather than maintain food and logistics for over 50 guests. So, cheater, cheater pumpkin-eater, I guess. No shame in that game.

Next, the husband and I were supposed to jet off to St. Lucia for out 20th anniversary, but thanks to American Airlines cancelling our flight as we were checking our luggage, that’s pushed back until next year. Air travel is the fifth circle of hell this year, I swear.

Finally, we departed on our epic Italian adventure that was over a year in the making. Thanks to my handy-dandy travel maven, we settled on a plan that really was seamless from start to finish. She recommended the Private Tour offered by Adventures by Disney, which included our private guides in each city, all transportation, and unique activities…oh and excellent hotels. Basically, they handled everything, including tickets to venues, scheduling access times, and even put us on/off the trains so there was no way to mess up getting around. Overall, I highly recommend. They also offer a group option, but that’s not really our cup of tea.

First stop: ROME!

After the rest day at the hotel (which wasn’t really a rest day, because I drug everyone to the Cappuccini Museum and Crypts on a whim), we ventured on a tour of St. Peter’s and the Vatican Museum.

The pictures do not do the Basilica justice whatsoever. The interior is larger (2 football fields plus) and more magnificent than you can ever imagine. I could have spent several hours inside, because there is so much to take in at every angle. Side note, I did not get pictures inside of the Sistine Chapel, because they are forbidden, but it was breathtaking as well. Photos are allowed in some areas but not all.

During our tour, our guide Simone mentioned that you can actually climb to the top of the dome to the overlook, but it’s oh, a ba-gillion stairs. Hearing a challenge and the potential for bragging rights, the Heathens demanded we take on this endeavor…in the 100-degree heat.

This isn’t even the halfway point. Those stairs lead you into the real deal. It was small, cramped, hot, and I had to use my rescue inhaler, but we made it.

Totes worth it, as they say. The Vatican Museum section of our tour was like walking through history, and though we did have access to some areas not open to the public, we still didn’t see it all. Our guide said that if you only spent 2-3 seconds looking at each piece in the museum, it would take you more than two weeks to see everything.

As we wrapped up, we did pick up several items and gifts, which were sent to the Vatican offices to be blessed and delivered to our hotel.

After a much-needed lunch break, cocktail, and gelato, we toured the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and our tour guide added in some scenic stops, with a coffee granita grab for the adults.

The next day, we our guide gave us a tour of the Coliseum before we boarded the train to Florence.

Once we arrived in Florence and made it to the awesome hotel, we had a private tour of the Pallazzo Vecchio, including the secret passages.

That night, we discovered that our hotel had a bar and terrace with the best views in the city and really good cocktails.

The next day, we visited the Accademia Gallery to see Michelangelo’s David, then the Uffizi Gallery to see incredible Renaissance artwork.

Then we basically walked all over Florence to see the sights.

Our guide, Leonardo (no joke), made sure we didn’t miss anything, and we fell in love with the city. We will definitely be back.

The next day, our driver took us through the Tuscan countryside to Fattoria Poggio Alloro farm, where we learned how to make fresh pasta, toured the farm, then had a delicious lunch and wine tasting. We ended up shipping two cases of various wines back to the U.S. while we were there. I loved everything about this day, and it gave the Heathens a little break from the very museum-heavy aspects of the itinerary. This was Bean’s favorite part of the trip, with the exception of our guide in Rome who she loved.

That afternoon, we made a quick stop to the San Gimignano for snacks and cocktails.

The next morning, we boarded the train to Venice, and hit the ground running with a tour of Piazza San Marco and the Doges Palace.

The next day, we received private mask-making lessons at a tiny local studio, which ended up being way more fun than I expected. The husband and Heathens really got into it, and our guide brought us some Buranelli cookies to try while we worked. We learned about Venetian traditions and the artists were incredibly kind.

Afterward, we took a gondola ride, which I do not recommend. There are so many of them that you basically sit in a traffic jam of bumping gondolas. We enjoyed the hotel ferry more than that, so I’d say skip it unless your heart is set on it. Another rooftop bar of cocktails later, and we were packing it up to come home.

While that is the bare bones of our tip (because I could write a book), it covers the highlights. We made it home safely and full of memories, though United did lose all of our luggage and even sent one bag to a different state, never to be heard from again…until a friend had to pick up and drive it back to Louisiana while on business.

Overall, this vacation exceeded our expectations. I think our only regret is not building in a rest day mid-trip, because every day was a packed itinerary and I wish I had more wandering time.

Now, it’s back to school and the hell that is carpool. I’m already dreaming about our next trip and counting the days till fall.

 

Our Easter Menu 2022 and a Carrot Soufflé Recipe

I finally planned out the Easter menu, because procrastination is apparently my thing this Spring. The days are flying by this year, for sure.

While I know that ham is traditional on many a southern Easter table, we usually opt for lamb. My family goes bananas for my grilled lamb chops, and with such easy prep and a fast cook time, I’m not juggling cook times and oven space as I often am on other holidays. I also aim for dishes that I can prep ahead, then just toss in the oven or on the grill come lunch time. I’d rather be hanging out and visiting with everyone than stuck in the kitchen on a holiday.

So, here’s the rundown of the big meal:

Maple Mustard Grilled Lamb Chops

Cheesy Hash Brown Potato Casserole

Roasted asparagus (olive oil, salt and pepper, roast at 375 for 10-15 minutes)

This fruit salad

Garlic breadsticks (shaped and baked into rolls instead of sticks)

and Carrot Soufflé (see recipe below).

However, if you are hell-bent on ham, I love this Maple Orange Bourbon Ham, and this Jalapeno Honey Glazed Ham. Both of these would go well with this menu, though I’d switch out the rolls for biscuits.

As for dessert, I will probably whip up a carrot cake, assuming my lost motivation shows up sometime soon. Or maybe break with tradition and do a chocolate fondue-type spread. Now, here’s hoping that I can actually get my hands on everything I need, as the grocery store has been looking a little on the lean side lately.

Carrot Souffle

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour

Ingredients
  

  • 3 pounds carrots peeled and sliced
  • salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 eggs large
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup butter room temperature

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9x13 casserole dish.
  • Cook carrots in boiling salted water until tender. Drain and set aside.
  • In a food processor or blender, pulse the sugar and eggs until well combined. Add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, carrots and butter, and pulse to combine. Pour mixture into prepared dish.
  • Bake casserole until set, about 45 minutes to an hour. Serve immediately.
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Community Cookbook Throwback Thursday–Rotisserie Come Back Dressing

After spending a lot of time in Utah last year, my husband got really into what he calls “fry sauce.” While I usually just throw a bottle of ketchup on the table when I make fries, I decided to be less lazy and up my burger-night game.

This recipe comes from Pirate’s Pantryfirst published by the Junior League of Lake Charles, Louisiana, and was submitted by Mrs. Edwin DeWeese. It was originally listed as a salad dressing, but I modified the recipe a bit so that it ended up being a perfect sauce consistency (see notes below). This sauce offered a great balance of creamy, slightly sweet, tangy, and savory. I whipped it up, and the entire crew gave it a resounding thumbs-up.

Rotisserie Come Back Dressing

Prep Time 10 minutes

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cloves garlic pressed
  • 1 small onion grated
  • 2 tsp prepared mustard
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup mayonaise
  • salt to taste (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 6 dashes Louisiana hot sauce
  • 1/2 cup Wesson oil
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chili sauce
  • 3/4 cup ketchup

Instructions
 

  • Combine all ingredients in a blender or small mixing bowl. Will keep for weeks in the refrigerator. Serve on green salad or head lettuce.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

As always, I am posting the recipe as it was published, but I did make a few modifications to make it more fry sauce and less salad dressing.

  • I did not use the vegetable oil at all. That kept the consistency of a sauce, instead of diluting it to a thinner dressing.
  • As such, I adjusted the seasoning to about 3/4 of a teaspoon and pepper each. Even if I did use the oil, one tablespoon of salt would probably have been way too much in my opinion.
  • I only used half a small onion.
  • I think this sauce tastes a lot better after it has time for the flavors to meld, so I suggest making it ahead if you can.

Cookbook Review: “Save-It-Forward Suppers” by Cyndi Kane

Save-It-Forward Suppers : A Simple Strategy to Save Time, Money, and Sanity (Hardcover)

Ok, I have a confession to make. With the exception of post-Thanksgiving, my family will rarely eat leftovers. I don’t know what it is about this clown car of a household, but these peeps act like a “leftover night” is more of a punishment than a valid meal option. As such, I’ve gotten pretty adept at meal planning and portioning, but when I heard about the premise of this book, I was intrigued.

Cyndi Kane, otherwise known as Ree Drummond’s best friend, has long been featured on Ree’s blog and TV show, so I was familiar with her in that capacity. However, I don’t follow her on social media, so I didn’t realize she was venturing into her own cookbook publishing.

This book aims to provide a weekly meal plan where components of certain dishes are reimagined or repurposed into different meals later in the week.  For example, Sunday’s Ham shows up in Jambalaya and Ranch Beans later in the week. I will say that, to that effect, this book holds very true the premise. The weekly meal plans are diverse enough so that the “leftover” components appear as entirely newly imagined dishes. It reminds me very much of how I aim to transform Thanksgiving leftovers beyond the turkey sandwich. However, rather than rambling, I’m going to break down my review into neutral notes, pros, and who this book is or isn’t for.

Neutral Notes

  • This book has ZERO photographs. Instead, there are lovely watercolor illustrations throughout, but if you judge a cookbook on the photo situation, be aware that it’s 100% artwork. I know people can be damn picky on this front, so the disclaimer is important.
  • Cindi is self-described mother, wife, homeschooler and home cook. She focuses on family-friendly meals that are somewhat healthy and budget-friendly. As such, she includes an occasional supermarket shortcut like a commercial seasoning packet, jarred sauces, Bisquick, and jarred garlic. The recipes are very much aimed at a home cook. If you are averse to a few processed ingredients or are on a special diet, look this over to see if it goes against your current approach to food.
  • The author admittedly grew up in the low-fat, diet/crazed/weight watchers’ culture of the 80’s. Occasionally, this shows in some of the choices and language in her recipes.

Pros

  • This book really is accessible for home cooks. The recipes are all straightforward and approachable, with no complicated techniques or hard-to-find ingredients in the average US supermarket.
  • The meal-plan menu approach is budget friendly, reduces waste, and does lean toward a good mix of home cooking with a healthy-ish direction here and there. If you want to open a cookbook and have a week’s worth of meals planned out, this IS for you.
  • The author includes timelines, lunch ideas, and “getting ahead” tips that I appreciated.
  • Even if the meal plan approach isn’t for me some weeks, there are still some solid recipes I will be trying on my selectively picky eaters.
  • The writing is conversational and aimed toward home cooks, and the layout is visually appealing and easy to use. I especially chuckled at the way she talks about “biohazard” chicken.

This book is for:

  • Home cooks who want family-tested recipes that are approachable/accessible.
  • People starting out in their next chapter of life (newlyweds, college students/graduates, anyone jumping into the deep end of home cooking/planning with no or rusty experience).
  • Budget-conscious cooks who value using up ingredients to their fullest.
  • People interested in streamlining meal planning and prep.
  • Busy homemakers short on time and interested in a ready-made weekly game plan.
  • Really, this reminds me of the old-school Junior League/church cookbooks from my childhood. Uncomplicated recipes that are designed for busy families with supermarket ingredients.

Pass on this one if:

  • If you are into “chefy” or “authentic” or coffee-table cookbooks.
  • If no photos in a cookbook is a dealbreaker.
  • If you are a hyper-foodie and get a thrill from test-driving complicated techniques or bold flavors.
  • If you are on a specialized diet or a food philosophy, including paleo, whole 30, are a vegan, or keto. (I’d still look it over, though)
  • If you have such severely picky eaters to the point that you can only see using one or two recipes out of it.

Overall, I’m glad I bought the book, and I have earmarked several recipes to try on weeknights. Knowing that dinner will be a little easier after escaping the fifth circle of hell (otherwise known as school carpool line), made it well worth my twenty bucks.

 

Spicy Tamale Meatballs–Stupid-Easy & Delicious Party Food at Its Best

If you are looking for a new, easy, and delicious snack for your big game party, have I got the recipe for you. These tamale-inspired meatballs combine the sweetness of cornbread with the spice of enchilada sauce, while the cumin comes in to punch up the flavor. My family devoured these meatballs at the Christmas party and have already requested them for our game-day spread.

Recipe Notes

  • While this recipe calls for ground beef, you could use ground pork or a combination of the two. I have not tested these with ground chicken or turkey, but commonsense tells me that, should you attempt it, I think they would end up on the dry side so take that for what it’s worth.
  • If you want more spice, use the spicy enchilada sauce, or add some hot sauce. I stuck with mild to make sure the gaggle of kids at the party could eat them, but will use the medium this weekend since it’s just the five of us.
  • To make portioning easier, I use my one-inch cookie scoop, and spray my hands with a little non-stick spray, but that’s because I truly suck at eye-balling portions.
  • I whipped up a box of the Jiffy Corn Muffin mix in an 8×8 pan as a shortcut, which was the perfect cornbread portion for this recipe.

So, overall, this ended up being a stupid-easy recipe that wowed the crowd, and I’ll take that kind of victory any day (especially one that gets me out of frying some damn wings come Sunday). Whip up a batch of these this weekend and you will become everyone’s new best friend.

Spicy Tamale Meatballs

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Course Appetizer

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups cornbread crumbled
  • 2 10-ounce cans mild red enchilada sauce divided
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1-1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
  • 3 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with foil and spray it lightly with nonstick spray.
  • In a large bowl, combine crumbled cornbread, 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce, and salt, stirring lightly to combine. Add the beef and mix well, but not to death. Shape the beef mixture into one-inch balls and place onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 18 minutes.
  • While the meatballs are baking, spray a 9x13 casserole dish with nonstick spray and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine remaining enchilada sauce, tomato sauce, and cumin, stirring well to combine.
  • Remove meatballs from oven and reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Transfer meatballs to prepared casserole dish, and pour sauce mixture over them, being sure to coat meatballs evenly. Place casserole in the oven and bake uncovered for 15 minutes.
  • Top meatballs with cheese, and return to oven for 3 to 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Serve immediately.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

The Eggs Benedict Experiment–Or How I Reminded Myself That Perspective When Cooking Makes a Difference

The husband is home this week, so I finally tackled a cooking challenge that I’ve been putting off for awhile: Eggs Benedict. This is hands-down his favorite brunch choice, but since the kids and I are not fans of poached eggs, he usually only gets it when we are out at a restaurant. When a bad storm forced us to cancel our lunch date, I thought, “Why the hell not give it a try?” and headed to the kitchen.

For the recipe, I just browsed Food Network for something that looked fairly straightforward and basic (standard toasted English muffin, Canadian bacon, poached egg, and the sauce). While I think some people are intimidated by Hollandaise sauce, I’ve made Béarnaise sauce before, which is basically Hollandaise with tarragon added, so I wasn’t too worried about that.

The poached egg, however? I think I was traumatized by the egg scene in the film Julie & Julia, and convinced myself the process would be complicated and fraught with missteps. Nevertheless, I reminded myself that I can cook, and cook well. After browsing other recipes, I did up the vinegar a little bit in the poaching liquid, and what do you know? Poaching eggs is a piece of cake if you chill the f@&k out and follow directions. The husband loved it.

So, what did I learn in this impromptu cooking adventure? I think sometimes we build up certain dishes or techniques in our minds as intimidating or too difficult. Just taking the time to experiment and practice privately can transform the way you see those challenges. Would I suggest trying a new technique while your judgemental in-laws watch and critique? Of course not. The pressure to preform takes the fun out of mastering something new (hence in my Thanksgiving posts, I say that holidays are NOT the time to try out a complicated new dish). But this little experiment reminded me that I don’t need to approach every meal as if it has to be flawless or agreeable to every picky palate. I have more fun learning and exploring than repeating the same catalogue of meals endlessly.

Also, at some point, picky eaters are gonna pick. If you don’t try new dishes because you know you are gonna hear griping, then you rob yourself and them of the opportunity to learn, grow, and expand culinary horizons. As any southern mama would say, “You get what you get, and don’t throw a fit.”

Actually, that’s the nicer way to put it. Pretty sure my mom would say, “Shut up and quit your bitching.” Just keeping it real.