recipes


Thanksgiving meal hacks to save time

Thanksgiving meal hacks save time

pictured: OK, so this isn’t a Thanksgiving tablescape-you got me! Blogging hack-find an old photo on your phone and re-purpose it! This was taken a couple of summer’s a ago at a rewardStyle event in San Francisco.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite family holidays. I love waking up early, working out at the gym, and then helping my mom host Thanksgiving. When I was growing up, it was just my Mom and I. We never hosted Thanksgiving. We always went to my Grandmother’s house or my cousin’s house.

My family is big, so my Grandmother or my cousin had to do a LOT of work. They also had to do a ton of prep the day before in order to ensure Thanksgiving day went smoothly. My Grandmother cooked everything herself, but my cousin enjoyed a little help from her guests. We would all bring one dish to share, and to help ease her burden of hosting. She was very efficient, and had the best systems to make the day go smoothly. There were easily forty people at her house on Thanksgiving day, so I learned a few tips and tricks as a child at her house that I have brought into my adult life.

My great aunt hosted Christmas when I was a young adult, and she had a ton of tips and tricks I adopted as well. Now, as a married mother of three, I have taken my relatives tips and tricks, and incorporated them into my holiday hosting routine. I hope you like them, and I hope they help you too!

Thanksgiving Day meal hacks to save time

  • Host a potluck! Does your aunt make the best mashed potatoes ever? Does your sister-in-law make a killer green bean casserole? Ask them to bring their famous dishes to your house on Thanksgiving because you love love love them; and can’t imagine Thanksgiving without their delicious dish! They will be flattered, and you just saved yourself a ton of work. Pro Tip: If your relative or guest is a chef, cook, or works in some sort of food prep, don’t ask them to cook and bring food. Just ask them to bring their favorite wine, soda, or juice. I’m certain he or she would not want to feel obligated to cook on his/her day off from work.
  • Cheat on your dishes: Did you know that delicious green bean casserole other people always cook is actually made from green beans, Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup, and French’s crispy fried onions? Oh yeah, the recipe is on the French’s box and also on Campbell’s website. It is really easy to make, and it looks complicated. Same with stuffing. My great aunt once shared her super-secret stuffing recipe, guess what it was? Stove Top Chicken flavored stuffing in a box. It takes five minutes to make. You can add chopped apples, raisins, and/or mushrooms to make it beefier. Or, you can add anything you want to add to your stuffing! It tastes great baked inside the turkey, or served alone. Super easy right? No-one will know unless you forget to hide the box. Haha
  • Prep the house the night before: Set the table, and clean the kitchen the night before Thanksgiving. Be sure to pull out all your big serving platters and place them where you can easily reach them. Line the pan you plan to bake the turkey in with aluminum foil the night before, and empty the dish rack in order to ensure a spotless kitchen. This way, the only thing standing in your way of cooking your Thanksgiving meal will be your breakfast dishes. Those are easy to clean! -Unless you start frying things, then you’re on your own.
  • Prep the food the night before: It’s easy to do a little bit of food prep the night before Thanksgiving. You can chop vegetables and then store them in the refrigerator; you can also clean the turkey, place it in the pan, and store it in the refrigerator., You can even make casseroles the night before. I do not recommend making the mashed potatoes ahead of time-don’t even peel them early. Mashed potatoes need to be made fresh-sorry!
  • Create a buffet: It takes forever to plate everyone’s food. Use your kitchen counter or other similar space as a buffet and let everyone serve themselves. It’s easier than waiting for people to pass dishes on the table, and it is way faster than plating the food yourself. Plus, who doesn’t love a buffet? I do!
  • Clean as you go: Did everyone finish all the mashed potatoes? Quickly clean the serving dish it was in and place it in the drying rack. You can chat with your guests in the kitchen while cleaning it. Did you know it literally takes 30 seconds to wash one serving dish? If you let everything pile up during the day it could take 30 minutes to clean everything, but if you clean random pots and dishes throughout the day, your end-of-day clean-up will be minimal. If you are worried about disappearing in the kitchen to clean one dish, remember this; it takes more time to escape to the bathroom than it does to clean a dish. So don’t worry about it, no-one will even notice unless they are in the kitchen.
  • Use paper products: Are you hosting more than twelve people at your home on Thanksgiving? Since most table settings are twelve, chances are you won’t have enough dishes for everyone; or you may not want to supplement your dishes with fine china. The easiest Thanksgiving Day meal hack is to use paper plates and disposable silverware. You can place a one-time use recycling bin and one-time use compost bin in your kitchen where everyone can throw away their scrapes, plates, napkins, and plastic silverware. This will eliminate cleaning dishes after everyone leaves, and you can wrap the bins up, and put them out with the recycling and compost. You will also feel good knowing you are recycling and composting instead of filling up a landfill. Love!

Low calorie soda alternative: I always feel guilty giving children and non-drinkers sugar heavy sodas during the holidays. So, my favorite hack, to avoid giving my guests diabetes, is to make a soda at home which ends up being under 50 calories. It’s really easy to make! You use one tablespoon of your favorite Torani syrup and add sparkling mineral water to the rest of the glass. Pro tip: I like to add a spoonful of vanilla syrup to sweeten the drink if I am using a fruit flavored syrup, it makes it taste more like soda-with a fraction of the calories.

Shop my low-calorie soda alternative and food cheats

Thanksgiving is a casual, family holiday which may include close friends. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Everyone is relaxed on Thanksgiving and ready to pitch in! Also, don’t forget the most important thing on Thanksgiving, be thankful for what you have, and have fun!

Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for stopping by!

XOXO
Cathy


Homemade Potatoes Au Gratin recipe

potatoes au gratin recipe homemade

One of my favorite types of potato dishes is Potatoes Au Gratin. I cook potatoes often at home since my husband loves them, but I never tried to cook Potatoes Au Gratin at home in fifteen years of marriage! So, over the weekend, I decided to try cooking it, but couldn’t find a recipe I liked. What do I do when I don’t like the recipes I find online and in cookbooks? I make up my own!

I tested out this recipe with my whole family, and served it with seared scallops, and fresh carrots. I have to say, carrots don’t really go well with scallops; so lesson learned! Haha That being said, they all loved the way I cooked the scallops and the Potatoes Au Gratin! Yay!

Potatoes Au Gratin is a tasty side dish, especially during the colder months. There is something comforting about them; so I will place this dish in the comfort food category!

This is a great side dish to serve at home, or to cook and bring to a family or friend gathering that is pot-luck style! It goes great paired with steak, meatloaf, pork, or a vegetable stew if you are vegetarian. It was a little overwhelming with seafood; oooops! Still tasty though! haha

Without further ado, here is my new Potatoes Au Gratin recipe! I hope you enjoy it with your family!

Tools you’ll need:

13 x 11 casserole dish

Mixing bowl.

Wooden spoon

Cutting board

Mezzaluna or cutting knife.

Aluminum foil

Ingredients:

4 russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced.

½ pint heavy whipping cream (I prefer Clover)

½ stick of butter (I use unsalted and prefer Clover or Land O’ Lakes)

1 8 oz. package of Sargento Italian Blend shredded cheese. If Sargento isn’t sold near you, this is a mix of mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, provolone cheese, Romano cheese, Fontina cheese, and Asiago cheese.

Season to taste: salt, paprika, and finely ground basil

how to make potatoes au gratin at home

Prep:

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees and make sure there is a shelf in the middle of the oven.

Melt butter, and ensure it covers the bottom of the casserole dish.

Slice potatoes as thinly as possible.

In a mixing bowl: pour whipping cream and add salt, paprika, and basil to taste. Whisk or stir to blend.

Line the bottom of the casserole with potatoes, overlapping each other. The first layer should be about two potatoes.

homemade potatoes au gratin recipe

Pour 1/3 of the cream mixture over the potatoes.

Use 1/3 of the cheese mixture, spreading it out evenly over the top of the creamy potatoes.

Layer the rest of the potato slices over the cheese. There should be about two potatoes left.

Pour the remainder of the creme mixture, about 2/3, over the potatoes, ensuring they are all covered.

Cover the top with the rest of the cheese.

Cover the casserole dish with aluminum foil.

yummy potatoes au gratin recipe

Cooking instructions:

Bake for 60 minutes at 400 on center rack.

After 60 minutes, remove, serve, and enjoy! Makes about twelve servings.

Calories per serving: about 259

potatoes au gratin recipe

There you have it! A yummy Potatoes Au Gratin recipe to enjoy with your friends and family! I hope you love it for the holiday season and anytime you want a yummy, comforting side dish.

Thanks for stopping by!

XOXO

Cathy

*My apologies for the so-so photos. I took them in my poorly lit kitchen at night. 

comfort food side dishes


Cottage Pie recipe – alternate of Shepard’s Pie with beef

cottage pie recipe

Raise your hand if you love comfort food! My hand is way up! This is the time of year when warm, heavy comfort food is perfect for combating the cold weather. One of my family’s favorite recipes in the cold weather months is Cottage Pie; which is also known as Shepard’s Pie with beef.

If you are familiar with Shepard’s Pie, then you know it is a recipe made with ground lamb. I don’t eat lamb, so I created my own Shepard’s Pie with ground beef; which is commonly known as Cottage Pie. I made this Cottage Pie recipe myself over the years through trial and error with ingredients my family enjoys to eat. I hope you love my Cottage Pie recipe, also know as Shepard’s Pie with beef!

Ingredients:

1.5 lbs. grass-fed, 90% lean ground beef (for Shepard’s Pie, substitute ground lamb)

4 Russet Potatoes made into mashed potatoes

1 cup shredded mild cheddar

3/4 cup chicken broth

3 carrots chopped

3/4 lb. green beans OR 1 bag of frozen peas (my family seems to prefer peas)

2 cups sliced mushrooms or 2 cans of sliced mushrooms

4 teaspoons Paprika

2 diced or smashed garlic cloves

1/4 cup chopped onions

1 tablespoon Olive Oil

Yields: 8 servings

cottage pie recipe

How to make Cottage Pie or Shepard’s Pie with beef:

Start by boiling the four potatoes. When they are soft enough, mash up the potatoes, and mix in a half cup of milk, three pats of butter, and 1/4 cup chicken broth to help the mashed potatoes not get dry. The rest of the chicken broth will go into the meat mixture.

While the potatoes are cooking, cook the ground beef with a tablespoon of olive oil. Then, chop the carrots, onions, mushrooms (unless you use cans) and beans (if you use beans instead of peas). Throw all of the ingredients, including the garlic and paprika, into a mixing bowl. Stir until everything is mixed together. Keep the mashed potatoes separate.

cottage pie recipecottage pie recipe

Once everything is mixed together, scoop the mixture into a large casserole dish. Using a wooden spoon, smooth out the mixture so that it lays flat in the casserole dish.

cottage pie recipecottage pie recipe

Once your mashed potatoes are ready, scoop them into the casserole dish, on top of the meat mixture. You will want to smooth out the mashed potatoes on top of the mixture to make a flat top. This can be done with a wooden spoon.

cottage pie recipecottage pie recipe

When the mashed potatoes are nice and flat on top of the beef mixture, sprinkle the shredded cheddar on top of the mashed potatoes. Try to spread the cheese evenly on top of the casserole so that when it bakes, the cheese melts evenly on top.

cottage pie recipe

Cover your casserole dish. My casserole dish has a glass lid, but if you don’t have a lid for your casserole dish you can cover it with tin foil or aluminum foil.

Bake your Cottage Pie for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. After 30 minutes, remove the lid or foil and bake for another five minutes at 400 degrees. The total cooking time for Cottage Pie, from when you start boiling the potatoes, to when the casserole is done in the oven, is about 2 hours. Be sure to allow enough cooking time in your schedule. This is a dish you can always prepare ahead of time too! That is what I love about casserole-style dishes, you can prep them ahead of time, and then just bake them when you are ready!

This is an all-in-one dish, so you don’t need any side dishes. It is a complete meal! Love that! Serve with your favorite beverage, and enjoy!

If you would like to make Shepard’s Pie, you can substitute the ground beef for ground lamb, and this Cottage Pie recipe will instantly transform into a Shepard’s Pie recipe.

Things you might need to cook this Cottage Pie recipe at home:

I hope you love this Cottage Pie recipe, also known as Shepard’s Pie with beef. Enjoy!

XOXO

Cathy

cottage pie recipe