A Fantastic Frog-Eating Thanksgiving!!!!

For the very first time EVER; I made Thanksgiving dinner for my own family. Not random people in a restaurant ordering off the menu. Not Millbrook’s “finest”, not the Kings of Stanfordville, not the pride of Palm Beach; my family, MY finest.  And it was quite possibly the best Thanksgiving ever.  Dinner was old school and basic. Turkey, Stuffing (which I can take NO credit for), Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Turnips, Brussel Sprouts, Green Bean Casserole, Roasted Veggies, Steamed Veggies, Biscuits and Crescent Rolls. I made the mashed potatoes in the morning (around 10) and put them in a crock pot to hold them till dinner (around 1), and that worked PERFECTLY!!!!! A HUGE thank you to Wendy for that AMAZING suggestion!

On to the funny stuff. So just before Danny carved the Turkey, Taylor was hanging out with me in the kitchen, and she told me she wanted to see everything. So I hoisted her up to see everything. We went around the kitchen, looking at each element. And then, we got to the Turkey……

“Aunt Jess…….It’s a FROG!!!!!!!!!!!”

Yep, she looked at the Turkey and knew right away, it was a frog. Becky and I literally laughed out loud, a lot. And then I put her down and she said, in a very sing song voice “frog frog frog frog I’m eating a frog!!!!!” Yep, that’s my culinary extraordinaire of a niece. I love that little girl. Damn proud of her too.

So welcome to our table. These are the pictures of Thanksgiving with us, all fourteen of us. Bat S%$T crazy at times, nutty as heck, outspoken, temperamental, emotional and did I mention crazy. But we love each other and we are a family. A family of the crazy kind, the nutty kind, the very best kind.  And I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world.

 

I hope your Thanksgiving was as magical as mine.

xoxo

Advertisements

Quick and Easy Caramel Sauce, An Impetuous Addition!

Thanksgiving was delicious! We ate and ate and ate…. I will post about the meal another time…but after the 14 of us had eaten (yes FOURTEEN, and that number is low because not everyone attended) put away the leftovers and rested; (did I mention it was HOURS later) we were finally ready for dessert! I made Apple Crisp, and had considered making some caramel sauce to serve over it for the past few days, but wasn’t sure (how was I not sure??) if I should make it or not.  

Homemade Apple Crisp, Caramel Sauce and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

It had been YEARS since I had made it. And by years I mean when I was on extern, so circa 2001. I have to admit, once in a while I get a little unsure in the kitchen. It has been so long since I have made certain things that sometimes I wonder if its still “in me”; if I can still make consumable magic. I threw caution to the wind and thought “why not? what is the worst that can happen? I set the stove on fire?” and with that I made it.

I love the simple beauty of sugar bubbles

It felt so good to make magic again. I had forgotten how good it feels to create something from nothing. I make dinner every night and breakfast most mornings; but somehow making caramel is different, it’s magical. It reminded me just how much I LOVE it. Transforming something like heavy cream and sugar into something as luxurious as caramel.

Beautiful Caramel Sugar Bubbles

As delicious and magical as it tastes, it is also really  simply and easy to make. And there is no comparison for homemade caramel. You can never go back to that “stuff” from the store once you try this! It’s smooth velvety texture slides off of the spoon and into your mouth as it excites and caresses every taste-bud on your tongue while you devour it.  And as far as ease of making it goes, all you really need to do is measure your ingredients and pay attention!

Sugar Strings. Fun to make!

This made a huge amount. We all had it on our apple crisp, and I still have two jars that I filled and “preserved” using inversion canning. In fact, it made such a good amount that I am sending one jar to my friend Barb over at Creative Culinary.  She likes caramel as much as I do. And with butter and a touch of bourbon in it, I think she will really enjoy this!

The finished product!

Homemade Caramel

  • 2/3 Cup Water
  • 3 Cups Sugar
  • 3 Cups Cream
  • A large pot or bowl filled with ice water
  • Combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan, stir with a spoon to combine, the mixture will be cloudy.
  • Place the saucepan over medium heat and gradually the sugar will dissolve, probably within about 5 to 10 minutes. (You CAN stir the sugar, some people will tell you it will turn to rock candy. I have NEVER had that happen. If you are scared that it might, add about a teaspoon of lemon juice. That will guarantee the sugar does not crystallize.)
  • Turn the heat up to medium-high and let the sugar cook until the sugar starts to caramelize, 5 minutes or so depending on your heat and stove.  If your heat is uneven you can stir the sugar, nothing bad will happen to it.
  • Do not walk away from the sugar, it will go from caramelized to burnt in a quick second, so watch it closely!!!! 
  • When it is caramelized to your liking (figure just a shade darker than a copper penny) quickly take it off the heat (and turn the heat off) and dip the bottom of the pan in the ice bath to shock it and avoid it cooking further
  • Return it to the burner (with the heat off) and slowly add the cream. Keep your face and appendages out of the way, it’s going to steam up and rise us as you add the cream. Don’t freak out, it’s going to look like a volcano erupting, just whisk it while you add in the cream.
  • The caramel will probably harden up a bit, again don’t freak out.
  • Turn the heat on low, and whisk constantly, after about 10 minutes (more or less depending on how much it solidifies)  the caramel will melt into the cream leaving you with a smooth velvety sauce.
  • Let it sit to thicken and enjoy whenever and however you like!

Add Ins:

  • Tablespoon of butter, whisked in just after you take it out of the ice bath.
  • Bourbon!!!! (The men drank almost ALL the Tuthilltown) There was about a teaspoon left in the bottle, so I poured it in after the sauce finished coming together.
  • Basically anything you want! It’s a great way to experiment!

I think I might toss some popcorn in it tonight! 🙂

My Next Thirty Years…. and a look back at the last 30

Today I turn 30….. wow, THIRTY…. I can’t quite believe it. I’m a bit in shock.  Not quite sure how this seemed to creep up on me, seems like just yesterday I was 17 working my first private chef job for the King’s worried about contractor’s sawdust flying in my meringues and dreaming of going to the CIA.

I dug though my old “memory box”, and pulled out some pictures from my past 30 years…..

I am blessed in the life I have lived and the things I have done. I’ve met amazing people, made even more amazing friends, and been to some cool places.  If I had to do it all over again, there isn’t much I would change. Really. Maybe one or two things I would do differently, but that’s it.

Here’s to my next 30 years…. I don’t know what’s in store, but I can’t wait to find out! 🙂

Sometimes I forget….

Somewhere along the line I forgot that this IS NOT just a food blog, it’s MY blog, about MY life. Not just what I eat and cook. Although that is a HUGE part of it. Basically I somehow forgot that I can just simply write, write about my life, what’s going on, and there doesn’t always have to be a recipe, or pictures, or anything. So here’s a brief recap…

Without my laptop I feel maimed, like I can only write posts that lack the great food pics I have on my camera, all the step by step pictures to accompany my recipes, the adventures I’ve been having, EVERYTHING! Needless to stay, it’s still being worked on, but there is an end in sight. I should have it within the next week, and I have A LOT of pictures on there for your viewing pleasure!!!!

What have I been up to? I have been busy…. I make bees look slow!!!!!! lol. Let see… I had a fantastic luncheon with some friends from out-of-town; Kerry and her husband Ron. They are kindred spirits and I am so grateful that life has worked its magic to bring them into my life. They even brought me a HUGE box of Pignoli Cookies from Boston. They were the most amazing Pignoli Cookies I have ever had in my life. Oh words cannot even describe them!!!!! Just thinking about them makes me want to convince D aka Crazypants to come visit me. (As if she needs another reason?!?!?!) She can bring Pignoli Cookies and Ricotta Pie’ from Mikes, and I will provide Ruhlman TV specials, libations, food, fun. D come visit! :-).

A few weeks ago we went Apple Picking with Taylor, it was so special and wonderful. I really love that little girl, and I can’t wait to share the pictures with you all.  It was October, but we missed a lot of the apples. But we did get plenty, and made lots of great memories that I can’t wait to tell you all about!!!!! Here’s a hint, it involves me climbing a tree!

Hmmm what else is going on??  Tonight I made a bangin chicken parm, sweet baby jesus it was good. So good I want more right now! Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and this will be the first year I host it in my home. I am thrilled and can’t wait to make a special meal for my family and spend time with them all! 🙂

The Hudson Valley Baking Society has been really busy! It’s great. We had a fantastic fundraiser/bake sale back in September in Port Ewen; and we will be having a Holiday Stollen Baking Workshop coming up in December. There is so much to look forward to.

I made a blog page on Facebook!!!!! Yes, I really did it!!!! So if you haven’t “liked” it yet, go and like it now to stay up to date on everything that happens in between posts. I keep things short and sweet; write about day to day activities, cooking, recipes etc. And if you have any cooking or baking questions you can always post them for a quick answer! Find me at www.facebook.com/greenskiesandsugartrips 

And I FINALLY got a new phone. I am so anti technology!!!! I would have kept that crackberry forever if it took better pics, lol. Well that and after the water incident, it just hasn’t been the same, so it was finally time to get a new one.  I’m still learning how to use it, I’m so not as tech savvy as you would think.

I think that’s about it for now. I’ll stop getting so off track, and I’ll remember that it’s not just about the food. And write more 🙂

xoxo

 

 

 

Buffalo Chicken Dip….the food that dreams are made of

Buffalo Chicken Dip….the food that dreams are made of

Years ago my friend Denise made something called Buffalo Chicken Dip, I had never had it before and it was love at first bite.  BUT there was something about it, it had blue cheese in it, something I do NOT like. It didn’t overpower it, but you could tell it was there. So I recreated the dip, but without the blue grossness. And life hasn’t been the same since……

image

image

image

image

Seriously, snacking just hasn’t been the same. The freezer section just can’t compare with this! It is a standard at the yearly Halloween party, Football Sundays, Superbowl, 4th of July, you get the idea. Its easy, and a guaranteed hit with everyone who has tastebuds, and a double hit with anyone who drinks beer.

I use a Rotisserie Chicken for mine BUT if you don’t feel like de-meating a chicken, or you are in a pinch and don’t have the time…..you can use canned chicken. I DO NOT recommend this, I do not do it; but to each his own.  Use 3 of the large cans, the ones that are either 12 or 10 ounces.  

Ingredients

  • One whole Rotisserie Chicken (from the hot foods section of the grocery store)
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened (let it sit out at room temp for an hour or so)
  • 1 Cup Ranch dressing
  • 3/4 Cup Frank’s Buffalo Sauce
  • 3 Cups shredded Cheddar cheese

Directions

  1. Take all the skin off the chicken. Eat it, throw it out, feed it to your dog or spouse; whatever you like, but it’s not going in the dip.
  2. Pull all the meat off of the chicken.  If you don’t know how, check out this video here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0eeWoLwvBo The only thing I would suggest, which she doesn’t do is I don’t use a knife for the breast, I just use my hands. Also, I take the meat off the wings and drummies as well. ALSO turn the chicken over, there is meat on the bottom of it, pull it off with your hands. (Guess that’s more than one thing)
  3. Once you have all the meat off, either tear it apart with your hands or chop it up into small pieces using a knife.
  4. With the heat on medium, put the chicken, buffalo sauce, ranch and cream cheese in a dutch oven sized pan. Stir continually (I use a wooden spoon) until everything is melted together and bubbly.  If you don’t think your chicken is broken up/small enough just a potato masher and smush it up some more. Add in 2 cups of the cheese, mix well and till just melted.
  5. At this point you have two options. You can either transfer the dip to a slow cooker, and sprinkle the remaining 1cup of cheese on top and keep on warm or low and serve it like that. OR you can put in a baking dish and bake it at 425F until the cheese is melted to your liking.  Then just set it out with some tortilla chips and enjoy!
And yes….I will be posting about the Halloween Party soon……and writing a post on how to make the most delicious snacky little rolls from this dip….and trust me, they are GOOD!