A Menu for You to Use at Your Table

One of the things I think I do well over here in my world is cook.  I love cooking. I love the chopping, the sautéing, the sizzle and the sauce.  I like to sneak tastes and nibbles.  I love the planning and the dreaming and shopping before.  I love setting the table and thinking of each guest coming.  I love thinking how the foods will play off of each other.

I love looking through my recipes and cookbooks- the tried and true and the new and unknown.

I like having people over and saying, ‘no, don’t bring a thing’, because honestly how many times do you get to just show up and eat?  Glory! I Love doing that for others.

I like the conversation around the table and the laughter and connection and stories, and I am reminded that this is the life.  This is where I like to be.

Sometimes I get busy and forget.  Then the cookbooks call.  The grocery list beckons.  The guest list starts, and I remember how much I love this.

I love sharing with you, too. The recipes I tried; the ways I tweaked them. What worked. What didn’t.

I like thinking that my cooking is good for you.  Your soul. Your tummy.  Your mind.  I want to be the kind of friend who shares what she is cooking and hope that it encourages you to step out and try something new.  To step out and invite someone over.  To share life around the table with your family,  your friends, your neighbors.

I know for myself, that I get into a rut, and it helps to hear what someone else is cooking.  Thus my love for cooking shows.  I get so inspired and learn new things and make a grocery list all at the same time.

May I inspire you by sharing what I have been cooking around here?

Recently I wanted to host a special dinner for friends.  We wanted to do something Italian and something a little different.

I made a list of recipes and one day, when Craig and I were in the car driving, I described the different courses and let him pick the menu.

He ended up picking three recipes from our Giada cookbooks.

Butternut Squash soup

Pumpkin Sage Pasta

Salmon with Citrus Verde Sauce

I served a small appetizer of cheeses- a soft, fresh Pecorino and an aged Pecorino from Italy and a spicy Manchego cheese from Spain, all served with crackers.  I also had my favorite almonds from Trader Joe’s in two small bowls, Truffle and Rosemary.  I used my cheese board and chalk to label them so folks would know what they were eating.

While folks were munching on cheese and crackers,  I served the Butternut Squash soup with the Fontina Crostinis.  I will just have to say that the Crostinis are a must.  Sorry all you gluten free people out there,  but these are the perfect accompaniment for this dreamy, creamy soup .  I made the soup the day before and warmed it up slowly while guests were eating appetizers.  Spoiler alert: I took the sage out of the recipe because the next course had sage in it.

I served this taste of fall in my small Le Crueset Coquettes.  Here is a shot of these darlings ready to go for the party!

They are a great Sursee I found in a Lexington cooking shop when we visited Ryan in college.  I bought eight in different colors and have so enjoyed them for desserts and appetizers.  They make plain ‘ol mac-n-cheese look gourmet.

Then I snagged a guest to help me with the next course.  While people were visiting and slurping soup, we plated  the Pumpkin Sage Pasta.

I have these fantastic large restaurant type soup/pasta bowls that make anything look amazing.

I did use the sage that was in this recipe, but I used toasted pine nuts as a garnish because I had a guest who is highly allergic to Hazelnuts.  The pine nuts were perfect. The pasta was divine.

When we had finished that course, I snagged another guest to help me clear the table and we served up the next course.  See, usually I miss all the conversation while in the kitchen, but this time I brought conversation into the kitchen with me!  Thinking ahead I was.

Halibut was on sale when I shopped so I used that instead of the salmon that the recipe called for.  It didn’t take long to sear the halibut on the stove top.  This is different from the recipe which says to grill the fish.

I made the marinade earlier that day, and it was ready to drizzle over the top of the fish when it was finished cooking.  I used my white plates with a pile of arugula in the middle and set the halibut right on top Then I drizzled the citrus verde goodness all over the fish.

It was amazing.  Let me just say.

And this is not hard stuff to make, but it looked hard.  Don’t tell.

You can serve anyone of these items on their own.  As an entree or not.

Again. I have no photos.  I was in the moment which is the best place to be. Plus Giada has photos over on her site that are waaaaay better than what I could produce.

For dessert we had chocolate covered almonds, and I had some Sprinkles cupcakes cut in fourths so you could try a little piece of each. It was just the right amount of sweet for the ending of a delish meal.

I hope that these menu will help you this week!  Pick one thing to try.  Don’t be afraid to substitute for your own likes/allergies/sales at the store.  And please enjoy having a meal around your table. Nothing like it.

 

 

 

Sursee Gal’s Test Kitchen // Best Advice for Getting Dinner on the Table is to Start at Breakfast

 

Ahh, the dinner hour approaches, but before that comes the bewitching 5:00 O’CLOCK HOUR that was oh, so chaotic at times here.  Not always my best hour as a mom.  I had been good so long, all day in fact and then that dreaded hand hit the five on the face of my kitchen clock, and ugh, it all fell apart. Everyone was hungry, hangry and at the end of their rope.  Me, included. What to do?

I was thinking about this hour the other day as an Empty Nester, because some things never change.  I felt it all: the hangry thoughts about dinner and no idea where the time had gone.  The Five o’clock hour is still hard around here, especially when I have no idea what is for dinner. How does it sneak up on me?

I  have some advice for this little problem.  Advice that I remembered the other day and decided I needed to share it here and also remind myself!

Start Cooking Dinner at Breakfast.

What?  What are you talking about Sursee Gal?  I can’t start dinner in the morning, can I?

What I mean is,  start in the morning thinking about what you want to have for dinner.  Then the dinner hour won’t sneak up on you. You know the way it sneaks up on you- all of a sudden it is  5:00 o’clock,  and you have no idea what you are going to cook for dinner.  And the kids are hungry, and you are, too.  And there are no tortilla chips in the pantry to snack on…

I encourage you to Start at Breakfast, think about what you are having later, much later for dinner.  And take the baby steps to get things rolling that way.

You start in the morning. With something.  Maybe it is only the thought of “What AM I making for tonite?” or “Maybe, I need to go to the store to get the ingredients. Do I have a tomato sauce?”  True story:  Just the other day around 5 pm, I called four neighbors asking to borrow a can of tomato sauce. On the last call, I found the lucky winner. Maybe If I had looked in the pantry that morning before I set out the door, I would have known I did not have the can of tomato sauce that I needed for my yummy meat loaf.

Starting in the morning was especially helpful when the kids were young and under foot.  I learned that I needed to chop a little here and there.  Take the meat out to defrost.  Make sure I had the tomato paste needed for the sauce or not, so then I could work it in to get some at the store.  Or borrow from a neighbor.   Maybe I got the crockpot out at breakfast and plopped that pork in, revving up for some divine pulled-pork tacos later.

If  I waited til 5:00, dinner wasn’t going to happen.  I was tired and would reach for the unhealthy, the processed, the easy.

But, if I started in the morning, with at least a thought about what was going to be happening later,  I could prepare in chunks and break the process down.

I am also a firm believer in meal planning.

So every week I made a menu schedule and stuck to it- a little fudging allowed.

I would schedule in nights of left-overs when there was a game or a practice, and I would use the same schedule each week:
Chicken on Monday–
Pasta on Tuesday–
Burgers on Wednesday–
Leftovers on Thursday–
Pizza night on Friday.

Or some such pattern.  The pattern doesn’t really matter.  What mattered is, I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel each week.  I could use my go-to recipes for each category, but mostly I repeated.  The less decisions  I had to make, the more I cooked.  And I do love cooking- the chopping, the boiling, the  sautéing- it is all very therapeutic for me.  It is time to think and dream and memorize and reflect.

But it all started at breakfast.  Mostly.  Ok, a little.  But that little bit, that little defrost or checking the pantry or setting out ingredients was a life saver for me.  Have you tried this?  Does it help you? What does it look like for you to start cooking dinner at breakfast? I would love to hear.

xo

 

Sursee Gal’s Test Kitchen // Lady Di’s Egg Casserole

Lady Di egg casserole-2

 

Y’all this is it.  The best of the best. A great egg casserole recipe to have on hand for breakfast or for a party.  It is a great recipe to cut in half, too.  Or, you can make the whole recipe and use custard cups to make individual portions and freeze them after baking and cooling.

This is an amazing egg casserole to serve at a special shower for a bride or a mom-to-be; it is a casserole that everyone who samples- loves.

It will soon become your go-to recipe for breakfast, the most important meal of the day.

A serving suggestion I have is to make it in individual custard cups; then pop out onto a bed of spinach. I also garnish with a half of an avocado and some cherry tomatoes, sliced on top.  Divine.  xoxo

 

Lady Di’s Egg Casserole

Lady Di’s Egg Casserole

Ingredients

  • 10 eggs beaten lightly
  • 1/2 c. flour,
  • 1 pint cottage cheese
  • 1 lb. of mozzarella cheese grated
  • 1/2 c. melted butter
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • Optional ingredients:
  • 1 lb sausage browned
  • 1/2 chopped onion
  • 1 8 oz pkg mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 5 oz box of spinach
  • You can also add any other veggies you like-

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl mix the first 7 ingredients.
  2. Brown the sausage and drain on paper towels.
  3. Sauté onion, mushrooms, and spinach and add it to the egg mixture with the sausage.
  4. Pour all of this into a greased 9x13 baking dish. Bake at 350 for 40-60 minutes.
  5.  You can also use different cheeses if you like. In the past I have used parmesan, romano, asiago in addition to the mozzarella. You can use whatever cheese you like as long as the amount is the same.
  6. I also half this recipe if making a smaller amount. You can also bake this in small, glass Pyrex custard cups for individual servings. Can be frozen after baked.
http://surseegal.com/sursee-gals-test-kitchen-lady-dis-egg-casserole/

 

Sursee Gal’s Test Kitchen // Cheesy Baked Sliders

Sursee Gal's Test Kitchen I thought of a new series I could do.  I am always finding new recipes and because I love finding things and telling you about it, I thought of a new series.

Sursee Gal’s Test Kitchen

This way when I find a new recipe or make something that is finger-licking good or I find a new way to make cooking a Sursee, I am going to share it here.

I know that when someone shares a no-fail meal idea with me, it is like winning a prize. Sometimes we get in a rut and need a little encouragement to try something new. So today, let me tell you about this most awesome recipe.

I have heard and made these dinner rolls with sandwich meat, but was intrigued when I saw that this version was actually little hamburgers.  Craig showed it to me on a Facebook post someone made about Super Bowl Sunday food and thought it looked good, so I tried it.  And it was good.  I shared it with some gals at Creative Night recently, and it was a hit with them too.

In fact the picture below is from one of my friends who sent it to me after making these yummy sliders for her high school senior’s Mock Trial Team.  Yes! SuccessCheesy sliders

Sursee Gal’s Test Kitchen was born and will be raised right here in this little corner of the blogging world.

So now and then I will share tried and true recipes I have made and throw in some new ones I find on my cooking shows,  in my cookbooks and from my gal pals.  We all need a little inspiration sometime.

 

Cheesy Baked Sliders

 Cheesy Baked Sliders

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 cup finely diced onion (about 1/2 onion or more if you like)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves finely diced
  • 1 (15 oz) can diced Cento Italian tomatoes/drained
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 12 Dinner rolls- I used the King's Hawaiian rolls, but you can use any dinner roll
  • For the sauce:
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Instructions

    For the Meat sauce
  1. Brown the ground beef in a skillet.
  2. Drain the grease off.
  3. Add the salt and pepper, cumin, mustard powder and paprika and the onions.
  4. Cook until the onions are soft and translucent.
  5. Add the garlic and cook, stirring.
  6. Add in the tomatoes and cook a few minutes.
  7. Separate the rolls and place in the bottom of a 9x13 pan
  8. Top with the hamburger mixture
  9. Sprinkle the cheese over all the rolls
  10. Place the roll tops on
  11. For the glaze
  12. Melt the butter in a small saucepan
  13. Add the mustard, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and sesame seeds and stir until melted and combined
  14. Pour over the tops of the rolls
  15. Bake in a 325 degree oven for 20 minutes until browned and heated through.
http://surseegal.com/sursee-gals-test-kitchen-cheesy-baked-sliders/

Yummy Pomodoro Sauce

 

Realized I have not written a recipe blog in awhile. So, here goes. When we were in Italia we never ate spaghetti like we had here.  It was so much better.  Real tasting.  Real tomato tasting, a silky yummy sauce that tasted so fresh.

I searched the internet for a recipe that tasted like what I had eaten and I think I found one on Bon Appetit.  Made a little change to it and voila here it is.

Yummy Pomodoro Sauce. So yummy. Can be made in larger quantities for big, big parties! Or made and frozen for later use.  So silky and tomatoey.  Tastes like Italia!

Make sure you buy good canned tomatoes like these…

new tomato can

 

Sursee Saturday :: Special Seasoning

 

Hey gals,

Gotta tell y’all about this yummy seasoning that I have been using.  Sursee Gal did not find it herself, but was introduced to McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning by a good friend.  She made this delish Salmon recipe for me, which included a generous sprinkling of this condiment on both sides of the salmon fillet, a spray of coconut Pam oil in the pan and a squeeze of fresh lemon at the end. No photos of this luncheon treat.  Trust me it was so, so good.

I have since been using it on chicken and steak and it adds such a delicious flavor.  So simple. So good.

Seasoning Sursee

I am thinking it would be good on roasted potatoes, too.

Would also be a great Sursee to take as a Hostess Gift or slip into the Christmas stocking of a college student.

Don’t just take it from me.  Try it out yourself and let me know.

xoxo

Saturday Sursee :: An Easy Appetizer- Sunflower Seed Studded Goat Cheese and Crackers

Hey gals,

Just needed to tell you that I needed to correct this recipe.  I use sunflower seeds not sesame seeds.  Ooopsy.  Below is the corrected version.  Sorry for the confusion.  

Sometimes you just need an easy, yummy appetizer.  This is it my friends.

Easy Appetizer

Sunflower Seed Studded Goat Cheese.  So easy, but so yummy.  A Sursee.

Buy a log of goat cheese, sunflower seeds and grab your honey and crackers.

Unwrap the goat cheese and lay on a piece of Saran Wrap that is bigger on all sides.  Then pour the sunflower seeds on top of the cheese and roll the cheese back and forth until it is covered.  Use the Saran Wrap to help you cover the whole log with the little seeds.  Sometimes it takes a little pressing to get the seeds to stick.  Then roll up the log in the Saran Wrap and wait till your guests arrive.

Place the log on a pretty plate and drizzle with honey.  Add the crackers to the plate and dig in.  I usually start the log by slicing off a piece with a little knife.  I say that I am doing that to help my guests, but I really am doing it because I love this appetizer and can’t wait for them to get there to start eating it.

This appetizer is so easy and so good.  Try it this weekend.  What is your go to Sursee Appetizer?Do tell.

 

What’s for Supper :: A Few Ideas to Share with Your College Kids

 

Easy recipes  college kids will use

So all the boys are in college right now or out of college and need a little encouragement for what to cook tonight.  Wait, don’t we all?

I think that is one of the main reasons I like watching cooking shows.  They talk in soft voices telling me how wonderful this tastes and how amazing that dish in the bowl is, and I believe them.  I also get great ideas for what to cook.  Sometimes even what to cook for dinner that night.

Over Christmas I wrote down some easy recipes for the boys and some meal plans for how to use them.  Easy.  I thought you might like to see what it was I shared with them.  Nothing fancy.  Just some easy go-to recipes that you might want to share with the college kids in your life.  Or maybe you might want to use for yourself tonight!

One thing I try to teach the boys is how to roast a chicken breast.

Line a baking pan with foil.  Drizzle the chicken breast with olive oil. Salt and Pepper it.  Bake in a 375 degree oven till no pink in the middle. Done.

Now you have the fixings for so many meals.  I gave them a list on a recipe card showing all the ways they could use the chicken breast meat.  Or they could buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and use for the following:

Chicken Quesadillas

Caesar Salad with Chicken

Slice and use for a sandwich

Serve the chicken breast with a green salad and veggies

Roll up into a fajita.

Sometimes you need a little jump start when you are standing there and don’t know what to fix for supper.

I know I need a jump start sometimes.  This little card gives them that.

I also wrote down how to make a smoothie.

How to scramble an egg.

How to make a breakfast taco.

I also write down a list of easy meals to make with not very many ingredients.  It will hopefully be a little kick start for them when they are standing at the frig, looking in, wondering what to eat.

When the kids are home for breaks during the summer or over Christmas, I have them cook with me and practice some of these recipes.  Or I tell them they to pick out recipes from a cookbook, and we cook it together.  Hopefully they will remember some of this when they head back off on their own and feel more confident to cook.

I also send them recipes that I have tried and liked.  Like a new crockpot recipe.  Or this amazing Chicken Lettuce Wraps.  These lettuce wraps are easy to make and super yummy and make me feel like I am at Pei Wei.

The Pioneer Woman is a great resource, too, as her recipes have those great step by step photos that document how to chop something or what something looks like when it is finished browning.  She is one of my favorite cooking shows to watch.  She can be a good friend to your college student.  I know she is to me!

If all else fails- teach ’em how to make Pigs in a Blanket!  An easy go-to that is a crowd pleaser.

It is not fancy, but it is yummy. I think you know the recipe.  Just wanted to remind you that easy is not always bad. And that comfort food is always good.

Easy Recipe for college kids

What are your easy, go-to recipes that you have shared with your college kids or that you make yourself? Do share the Sursee with us. xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

Sursees Galore :: Smoked Paprika, Alstroemeria and Snow Days

There are a few things around here that I have been digging.  I few things I wondered if you knew about or would want to know.  I often think you gals already know about x or y but was reminded this week that sometimes, Sursee Gal just needs to share her Sursees and let the chips fall.  Some of you need to hear and learn and some need to be reminded about what they already knew.  None of this stuff today is particularly earth shaking, but it is fun and will bring a smile.  Two jobs of Sursees.

So first off, I love this spice.

Smoked Paprika Sursee

Smoked Paprika.  It is Paprika with Punch.  It has a smokey scent to it that makes everything taste like you spent hours smokin’ your dish in a big ‘ol metal cooker.  It is best used in small amounts.  I use it when the recipe calls for plain Paprika.  It is also good as part of a rub mixture for your meat.  Or use it to season your pork when you make Pulled Pork tacos.  It adds a yummy depth to whatever you got cooking.  I found this one at Target.

 

Next Sursee– Alstroemeria- the Flower of all Flowers.

Alstroemeria Sursee

I love this flower.  I just buy it at the grocery store.  The first time I ever heard about it was when I was picking out flowers from this hipster florist I used when I got married.  She just brought out buckets and buckets of flowers and let me pick and build my wedding bouquet.  I used these and other flowers and I have always loved them since.  The best thing about these is they last forever. And  I mean 4 Evah! Which is great because then you have a Sursee that brightens your counter or bathroom for more than a week.  They also come in so many gorgeous shades. There is no really strong perfume smell with these which is nice.  Get some today, gal.

Last Sursee is a Snow Day.

We have had several of those these past two weeks and they are like little magical gifts.

Snow Day Sursee

 

They look beautiful.  You get to slow down and savor the morning.  Your sweetie gets to stay home.  When we had kids at home, they got to stay home.  I get a fire.  And cocoa and marshmallows.  And soup.  And a fun little day of staying in that I wasn’t planning. A day with possibilities.  Almost like an extra day in the month.  A day for adventures or movies or book reading.  AHHHH, I love ’em.

Snow Days are the ultimate Sursee because you have absolutely no control over when it comes, if ever.  A magical surprise when you  wake up and see the yard blanketed in white frosting.  I love the gift of a snow day.

What is your favorite new spice?  Or flower that you splurge and buy for yourself?  Or  the best way to celebrate a snow day?  Do tell.

An Easy Recipe for Today :: Coconut-Black Bean Rice

What to serve with your chicken?  Sometime we just need an easy recipe for a side dish.  This is it, gals. This rice recipe will be a yummy edition to your repertoire.  It came with an easy chicken recipe, but I like the idea of making the rice with any entree- Chicken, Pork, Beef.

The coconut milk adds a richness and silkiness, but not overtly coconuttiness.  Is that even a word?

Try it and let me know what you think. A Sursee Side dish that is delish.

Coconut Black Bean Rice

Coconut Black Bean Rice

Ingredients

  • 1 (13.5 oz) can of coconut milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice
  • 1 (15.5 oz ) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup sliced green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Instructions

  1. Bring coconut milk and salt to boil over medium-high heat. Stir in rice. Cover and reduce heat to low and simmer per directions on brown rice packaging. Usually about an hour or until rice is tender.
  2. When rice is done, stir in black beans and green onions. Top with cilantro.
  3. Serve with chicken or pork or beef.
http://surseegal.com/an-easy-recipe-for-today-coconut-black-bean-rice/