Sunday Dinner

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Muffuletta Dip

Every Sunday after Thanksgiving is Gumbo Day. It is a family tradition that I hold close to my belly heart and it is an oh so yummy way to use up that leftover turkey. The only thing that really changes on that menu is the appetizer and dessert.

I have already talked about the origin of Muffulettas in THIS post. What I didn't talk about was the spelling and pronunciation; Muff-UH-letta or Muff-AH-letta. It's kind of like Pimento/Pimiento; both are acceptable. This Muffuletta dip, to me, it's a "clean out your refrigerator" kind of recipe.  I mean, I literally had 6 out of 8 of the ingredients in my refrigerator that needed to be put to a tasty use. It comes together quickly, but the only thing to really point out is that it needs to be made several hours in advance, or preferably overnight, for the flavors to develop. I like to serve it with NOLA French Bread crostini or, in tonight's case, just some store-bought bagel chips.  Happy Sunday!


Happy Thanksgiving

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~There is always something to be thankful for~


Mini Mushroom, Cheddar and Herb Phyllo Tarts

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There's a lot of work and time that goes into developing most recipes.  I mean, I took me years and trials to perfect my barbecue saucesFortunately, for me (and for you), this one only took me one night.

How did this come to be, you ask? Well, I had an idea.  I wanted something relatively easy with mushrooms, herbs and cheese. The easy part came to me as I passed the up the stock of Athens Min-Phyllo Tarts in the freezer section. (Actually, they were above the frozen foods because they can be kept at room temperature, but freeze them if you won't be using them within a week. I have used them multiple times, like in THIS recipe. They are the perfect "already made for you" vessel to be filled with just about any savory or sweet concoction. And, they are pretty inexpensive. One (1.9-ounce) package is $3 or under. 

Now, let's talk about the mushroom component; easy and economical, as well. Buy the mushrooms already cleaned, stems trimmed or removed and sliced for this recipe. Because let's think about it...why would you pay the same price for 8-ounces of whole mushrooms if you're going to clean off the dirt and trim or remove the stems?  I don't know about you, but I don't want to pay for dirt and stems that I won't use. Just make sure that the sliced white button mushrooms are still white and firm and the sliced Shiitakes are in good shape.

On to the cheese and other ingredients. I originally wanted to use Gruyère, but I have a ton or aged white cheddar, so I went with that. Shallots, garlic, thyme and parsley are a natural combination with just about any savory mixture. I used butter and olive oil to sauté said ingredients because of both flavors and the oil keeps the butter from browning over a higher heat. 

After taste testing, there was still something missing. In comes the crushed red pepper flakes for a little kick and a couple tablespoons of crème fraîche to make it a little creamy with a hint of decadence.

Put it all together and it is a winning combo or flavors and textures! Add this to your appetizer list for upcoming holidays or any occasion.  Enjoy!


Sunday Dinner

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Roasted Beef Tenderloin
Green Salad

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Sometimes people ask me how I am going to decide on what to have for dinner. Well, whether it's a weeknight dinner or a Sunday dinner, it usually depends on the season and the weather.  Sometimes, it's because I am in the mood, had a craving or I just feel like it. And then there are meals where the refrigerator or freezer decide for me, like tonight's menu.

I was actually in the mood for lasagna, but I needed to clear some space in the freezer before I make lasagna. (I make two batches; one to eat and one to freeze.) You'd think I would have enough freezer space since I have three freezers! Anyways, I decided to take out a beautiful beef tenderloin to free up some shelf space. As far as the deciding factor to the other components tonight, I just felt like it. And seeing how some of you might be looking for a last minute recipe for the turkey day dessert table, I thought I would share this recipe today. 

These aren't just good, they are super good! In fact, other than using extra large eggs instead of large eggs, I didn't change any ingredients or measurements. Buuuttt, I did change the technique. The original recipe suggested making the filling in a stand mixer, but I already had out my food processor to make the graham cracker crust. So, I just cleaned and dried the food processor while the crust was cooling. Less messy dishes make me a happy cooker and I think it'll make you happy too. 

*Wait a minute...Sometimes blogging is like going to the grocery store; I am always forgetting something!
Another thing I changed was the portion size.  The original said this made 24 bars and that would be the perfect size for a mini dessert buffet, but I like a more substantial bar, so I cut them into 12 squares; hence the 12-24 squares/bars. And lastly, since I serve them as a fork and plate dessert instead of a hand-held, I spoon a nice dollop of sweetened whipped cream on top. I find it necessary😋.  Happy Sunday!


Skillet-Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Mustard and Brown Sugar

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Why do Brussels sprouts get such a bad rap? If you don't like cabbage to begin with, then I get it.  But if you like raw or cooked cabbage, then you really should be on the BS (that's Brussels sprouts) train.  Having said that, maybe you just haven't found the right recipe or cooking technique.  I love them shredded into thin slices and eaten raw in a salad or slaw like  Shaved Brussels Sprout Slaw with Walnuts and Pecorino or cooked in Brussels Sprout Hash with Caramelized Shallots and Pancetta. I also like them sliced in half and braised in Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Herbs. What I don't like are sprouts that are over cooked, musky, and swamp green.  Very off-putting to serve at the table and the smell...I'll refer to the swamp description.  So those are three different recipes with three different cooking techniques.  Now it's time to introduce #4. 

Before we get to the recipe and technique, let's have a quick chat.  When buying these tiny cabbages for cooking, look for ones that have tight heads and are 1 1/2-1 inch in size (the one in the middle and far right). They tend to be more tender and sweeter than the big guy on the left.  Save him for shredding in a slaw or salad. Now...

If you are serving BS (😆) at the holiday table, I find this to be the perfect recipe.  No oven is required and you can make them not he stove-top at the last minute while main event and other sides are resting. 

The sprouts start in cold oil and then they are covered and cooked over a medium high heat for just 5 minutes. This creates steam (without any added liquid) and starts the browning process on the cut side. The cover comes off and then they are cooked for just 2-3 minutes more. They are delicious as is, but take it one step further by dressing them with a Dijon mustard-brown sugar-white vinegar mixture.  This recipe is a keeper!

*Quick Note*- Dijon mustards vary in taste. I use Maille mustard 100% of the time for my recipes.


Sunday Dinner

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Shrimp Skagenröra

Homemade Lefse (Intstant Potato Version)

Chocolate Coconut Bites

This is standard Sunday dinner fare in our house when the temperatures are in the 30s° F with tiny little white things falling from the sky. 

There's not much to be said about this Norwegian flat bread because I I have already talked about lefse and shared the true homemade version. (You can read all about it HERE and see step-by-step photos that still apply to making the recipe below.)   This, however, is the easy and cheaters way to making lefse at home. My husband's ancestors might be rolling over in their grave, but I think they if they were able to taste it, they just might be won over.  Happy Sunday!


Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Snack Cake (Low-fat)

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*Two for one blog post special today! Why? Because you need to make these this weekend! Your family, friends and your taste buds will love you. Trust me.

Have you ever combined pumpkin and chocolate in a sweet baked good? Well, if you haven't, may I introduce to you this recipe. WARNING--it is sheer EVIL! I think they call it a "snack cake" as a form of mind control to keep you from eating the whole pan in one sitting! Yes, it is that good. I mean, like, super-duper yummy pumpkin-chocolate chippy awesomeness!! The best part about this recipe, other than being incredibly easy to whisk up, is that I made it low-fat! That actually might be a bad thing because you'll want to eat more than one "snack".  I subbed half of the original amount of oil with plain yogurt.  I recommend just plain (fat-free or low-fat) and not Greek yogurt.  But if you like a little extra tang, then go ahead and use Greek.

Most of you probably have all of the ingredients in your kitchen this time of year, but in case you don't, no worries.  You can make your own pumpkin pie spice and homemade pumpkin purée. And as for the mini chocolate chips...you can use standard size.  I might even finely chop up some white chocolate next time because I know from experience that that is a winning combo😋. (See Spiced Pumpkin Rice Crispy Treats recipe.)

Back to the "snack" word.  Snack in the morning? Yes.  Snack in the afternoon? Absolutely! Snack after dinner with a scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt? You better believe it!! Happy Baking!

P.S. Need to serve a crowd some "snacks"? Just double the ingredients (use the whole (15-ounce) can of pumpkin purée if you use store bought) and bake in a 9 x 13-inch metal baking pan.

Chopped Salad with Butternut Squash, Goat Cheese and Hazelnuts

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Looking for something light, but hearty for lunch or dinner?  How about something to serve your vegetarian guests during the holidays? This salad will be your answer.  It is showstopper in color, texture and, most importantly, flavor.

The star of this salad is the butternut squash.; roasted until tender and lightly caramelized.  This squash is high in fiber, vitamin A and vitamin C.  And although is is heavy on the carb scale, it is low on the glycemic index,  making it an excellent addition to your daily nutrition.   It is also referred to as a vegan protein, but you would have to supplement with other lean proteins like...romaine!  Did you know that one head of romaine has 8 grams of protein and is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids.  Yes,  even though it is not talked about much, romaine is considered a superfood.  The other supporting elements in this salad come from an apple (an apple a day...), goat cheese (I love a good cheese), and radicchio. 

Radicchio is kind of a hit or miss for some people because it does have a strong bitter taste.  However, you can weaken that taste in this salad by cutting it into smaller pieces and soaking it in water (you need to wash it anyways).  By cutting it into smaller pieces and soaking it, you create more surface area for the bitter taste to bleed out into the water. (You can also grill or roast radicchio to tame the bitterness, but I'll save that idea for another recipe post.)

Toss all of these lovely mind and body healthy ingredients together with a simple and scrumptious balsamic vinaigrette and you have...Wait, I almost forgot the HAZELNUTS!!  Ok, now you have a powerhouse of a salad!

Some of you might ask, "Can I substitute the goat cheese and hazelnuts with another cheese or nut?" I say, "Of course you can!" 

Here are some nut and cheese combinations that work for my taste buds-
Goat cheese w/ hazelnuts or pistachios
Blue cheese w/ pecans or walnuts
Feta cheese w/ almonds

As always- Make it for you, make it your own! Happy cooking!


Kitchen Tip

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 How to Skin and Toast Hazelnuts the EASY way!

Have you ever noticed that in many recipes calling for  hazelnuts, a.k.a filberts, the instructions tell you to toast then skin the hazelnuts? Well that method requires you to rub the toasted skins off in a towel and let me tell you that is a pain in the rumpus because the skins are stubborn and don't come completely off. So, let me share with you another method which will leave you pondering- where has this been all of my culinary life?

All you need is boiling water, baking soda and raw hazelnuts. That's it! How is this possible you ask? Adding baking soda to the boiling water creates an alkaline environment that breaks down the pectin, which is acidic, in the skins.  

Preheat your oven to 350°F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat; set aside. Prepare an ice bath; set aside.

    Add the baking soda to the boiling water (the water will bubble and foam) then add the hazelnuts, stirring occasionally.

Boil the hazelnuts for 3-4 minutes.  The foam will turn reddish in color and the water will turn black-yuck!

Drain the hazelnuts in a colander and rinse well with fresh water. Immediately transfer them to a bowl filled with ice water.
Look at that water! I wonder if you could use it for an organic Easter egg dye??

And by the magic of science, the skins will slip right off! 

Transfer the skinned hazelnuts to a towel and blot to remove excess moisture.  
Don't they look like garbanzo beans?

Transfer the dried hazelnuts to the prepared baking sheet and bake until lightly browned and toasted, about 15-20 minutes.  Once they are completely cool, they should be nice and crunchy and ready for snacking or a sweet and savory recipe.

Now, how EASY was that?


A Brief Interruption in Food: A Good-bye and Hello

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If you are a long time reader, you know that I love my black labradors.  I have been loving them in my life for the last 23 1/2 years and counting. My children do not know life without them. They are truly the best companions and loyal taste testers.  Life just wouldn't be the same without a lab lurking around.  Unfortunately, there comes a point where it is time for them to leave our side. 

51 weeks ago today, my Niecey passed away peacefully at home.  She was 13 years old. I could go on and tell you what a wonderful dog, friend and family member she was, but I think that is a given. 

Niecey Patricia Kosowski 7/8/07-11/17/20 
(I love and miss her old dog face.)

As you can imagine, all of our hearts were broken, including my other lab, Ruby (you can see her introduction HERE). Everything was different and there was this huge void, especially on the kitchen floor.  So I reached out to our breeder to put my name on the list for the next black lab litter.  On March 27,  2021, the newest and fifth in line of Kosowski black labs came in to this world.  I went to visit the litter as often as I could until I was finally able to bring her home on May 22! 

As you have read in some of my recent posts, I have been a little busy with this little stinker! She is cute as a button, smart as a whip, and naughty like you would not believe (if you have a lab you probably would believe). She loves the outdoors (especially when she can "landscape" the back yard🙄), she loves to swim (she already conquered Lake Michigan waves), she loves to go berserk anywhere and everywhere, she loves squirrels, she loves people (especially when they are across the street while we are walking) she loves to ride in my truck and of course, she loves food.  Needless to say, she is awesome and my kitchen galley is full again! 

So, without further ado, I introduce to you Miss Hazel! Still working on the middle name, but right now it is Nutball! Hazel Nut... That just might be a good segue into my next post🤔.


Sunday Dinner

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Caramelized Onion and Bacon Puff Pastry Bites

Roast Chicken and Red Potatoes
Chopped Salad with Butternut Squash, Goat Cheese and Hazelnuts

Ok, this is the third recipe in a row that contains bacon. So, you might start wondering if I have a separate refrigerator just for bacon.  That's not a bad idea!  

I have made this appetizer in various different ways over the years, but this version is the one I always lean back on.  Bacon, onions and cheese all nestled in a bite-sized puff pastry vessel. ? Yes, please!  They are flaky from the puff pastry, creamy from the onions and a tad crunchy from the smoky bacon.  While they are still warm, I sprinkle each bite with some good Parmigianno-Reggiano cheese and some chopped fresh thyme.  Needless to say, these are blissful bites of heaven! 

This recipe is a welcome appetizer or passable hors d'oeuvre anytime of year, but I think they are perfect to put on your upcoming holiday entertaining radar! Happy Sunday!

I keep forgetting to link my Sunday dinner menus from years past. Here you go...
Sunday Dinner eight years ago


Sweet Potato Soup with Bacon and Chives

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Who is ready for a SOUPER easy, nutritious and delicious recipe to statisfy the soul on a chilly day? Well, this recipe certainly hits all points. 

Sweet Potatoes are a low-glycemic carbohydrate that are high in vitamins and minerals, low in fat and rich in antioxidants.  Their sweet and savory taste are balanced in this recipe when cooked with onions, garlic and just a touch of brown sugar. And yes, there is bacon and it lends a nice smoky taste, but you can omit it if you must.  If you still want that smoky flavor without the bacon, you might want to try adding a touch of smoked paprika. That might be an excellent combo. I finish the soup with the reserved bacon and a sprinkle of fresh chopped chives.  To gild the lily a bit more, I add a dollop of crème fraïche.  And that's it. Ok, maybe a few crackers on the side.  Happy cooking! 😋🥣🍠

P.S. Don't forget to check out my RECIPE page for some more soups that are perfect for a warm bowl of goodness, like Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup and Apple Carrot Soup.


Choucroute Garnie

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Choucroute Garnie is an Alsatian dish that literally means dressed or garnished sauerkraut in French.  You might be thinking, But isn't sauerkraut German? You are correct, but when the region of Alsace became part of French in the 1600s (I will spare you the detailed history lesson), the dish became adopted by many of French chefs. Notice that I refer to this as a dish and not a recipe?  Well, that is because there is not just ONE recipe. So, this might be the ultimate "Make it for you, make it your own" Galley Gourmet recipe.  

Basically, Choucroute Garnie is a dish made of cooked sauerkraut and a variety of cooked meats; mostly pork and/or beef meats like, sausages, pork belly, bacon, pork ribs and sometimes even ham.  As you can see, this is a very pork-centric dish, but you can choose a mixture of whatever meats your tastebuds and little arteries desire.  

For my Choucroute Garnie, I use my Braised Sauerkraut as the base (there is already bacon in that recipe). It also has carrots in it which is not a typical ingredient in Choucroute Garnie, but this is the way I like it. The carrots add a little sweetness and color to a rather neutral hued meal. As for the "garnish" of meats, I generally use a mix of knockwurst, cooked bratwurst, and beef frankfurters. I tend to stay away from uncooked meats because, to me, they often leave the dish too greasy. 

Another ingredient that many "recipes" add is potatoes. Since the dish is in the oven for several hours, that gives me time to make some Parslied Potatoes as a side (the parsley adds more color to the table), but if I am in a time crunch, I sometimes peel and par-boil about a pound or so of Yukon gold potatoes and then add them to the sauerkraut and sausages at the end to warm through. I also like to serve a good crusty Rye Bread  in the bread basket, but I think the absolute must for this dish is a variety of mustards, like a grainy Dijon, a hot/forte Dijon, or even a quality beer mustard to drag your fork of sliced sausages through.

So as you can see, this is not a recipe. It is an any-way-you-like-it dish.  Bon Appetit!

P.S. I have also been known to use duck fat in lieu of the butter in the sauerkraut. Ok, I'll stop with the almost endless possibilities of adaptions!

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