Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Kitchen Reveal

Welcome to my kitchen!  Penny at  Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen is hosting a Kitchen Reveal Day today.  She invited all bloggers to share their kitchens.  I was eager to participate.  I feel my house has been a bit over exposed this past year, but what the heck, it actually looks good by our standards, so let's share!

If you follow my blog or know me, you will know our house was featured on A&E's show Sell This House this past year.  Our kitchen was not one of the rooms they selected for the redesign, but they did repaint it for us so the 1st floor rooms could flow.  Our house did not sell after the show, the market still sucks.  We recently "moved back in" or rather stopped living the clutter free, staged life of a house on the market.  While the house still looks good, we don't keep up that tv-crew-ready look anymore.  We have two little boys, it was exhausting trying to keep up the designer finish.  The fridge is covered with magnets again and the living room is full of toys, but that is what makes it a home.

In the title line of my blog I state my kitchen is small; that is a bit misleading, it is quite big.  I should rephrase that to share the real truth; my kitchen is quite unorganized.  I need an organizational consultant.  Actually, I have a friend that does household consulting, she took one look in my cabinets and told me to box up all but 4 of each of the fancy glasses I have taking up an entire wall of cupboards.  Box up my wine, margarita and martini glasses?  I really had no other response to this advice but to kick her out of my kitchen.  Maybe my priorities could use some adjustment  which in turn would help my cabinet organization, but really... get rid of the margarita glasses?

This is the only cabinet reveal I will share, but it should give you the idea of how whacked my organizational process is.  Yes, this is the liquor/arts and crafts cabinet.  It remains locked at all times as we can't have the children getting drunk and playing with Play-Doh.

My dream home will have one of those cool "command centers" in the kitchen.  The desk where you can keep the family computer and cook books.  I have a tiny corner that I share with the fish, the bread box and the cookie jar.  This is where all blogs begin, they usually end on the couch after the kids go to bed.

The very best part of my kitchen is this little window into the living room.  So many of the houses we have looked at here in New England have terrible kitchen to living room layouts.  It is key to me that the kitchen have flow into the main living space so we can all be together even when cooking is going on.

Now you have seen the pictures of my kitchen all cleaned up and pretty, here is a typical day in my kitchen with a not so typical look for my husband.

That is my kitchen.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Contest Entry - Sausage Potato Canapés

Contest:  Jimmy Dean "Crumble Rumble" Contest
Entry:  Sausage Potato Canapés 

This is my second recipe entered in the Jimmy Dean "Crumble Rumble" Contest.  A pretty little appetizer, not that you can tell with my bad pictures (grrr).  In this contest you had to mention on of the ten blogs that participated in promoting the contest.  I chose www.mywoodenspoon.com.  A neat blog from a Cowboy's Wife.  If somehow my crazy recipes should win, the Cowboy's wife and I will be going to see Rachel Ray  live in NYC.  We'll have to see what the Jimmy Dean folks think of the dishes first.

Sausage Potato Canapés
Created by Stephanie Almeda

10 small new potatoes
3/4 cup Jimmy Dean Sausage Crumbles
1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
dashes of salt/pepper
1/4 cup Panko Japanese breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Scrub 10 new potatoes then slice each in half.  Using a melon scoop, scoop out each potato half leaving a nice thick rim on the potato cup.  Take about a 1/4 inch slice of the bottom of each potato to create a flat bottom so the potato cups sit up right.  Bring a quart of water to a boil.  Place potato cups in boiling water till they are just soft when poked with a fork.  Remove potato cups, drain and let cool.  Mix together Jimmy Dean Sausage Crumbles, mustard, lemon juice, chives, mayonnaise, salt and pepper.  Place about a tablespoon of sausage mixture in each potato cup allowing the mix to mound on top.  Top each potato with a sprinkle of Panko breadcrumbs.  Place potato canapés on a greased baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.  Serve hot as a beautiful appetizer.

Scooping the cups.  I used a teaspoon, but a melon baller would be best.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Contest Entry - Sausage Pecan Bisc-Muffins

Contest:  Jimmy Dean "Crumble Rumble" Contest
Entry:  Sausage Pecan Bisc-Muffin
Source:  Me!

This is a blogger contest and Jimmy Dean Sausage, love both!  You have to enter two original recipes using Jimmy Dean Sausage Crumbles; one breakfast and one non-breakfast.  The contests is being presented by10 different bloggers, to enter you must claim a blog as your host.   The winner and the blogger mentioned get a free trip to NYC to see the Rachael Ray Show.  My biggest problem was finding the product.  I am guessing New England is not a hot market for Jimmy Dean Country Sausage.  Jimmy Dean has a whole wall at the Wal-Mart by my parent's house in Houston, however here in Massachusetts there is a tiny single row of about 10 packages of sausage crammed in between all the Italian sausages.  I have been to 5 different grocery chains, asked, looked in the fresh meat and freezer department and still have not found the Jimmy Dean Hearty Crumbles.  So sad, but I can make it the good old fashioned way and brown my own Jimmy Dean Sausage to create the crumbles, so that is what I have done.  I predict the crumbles will make their way to our stores soon (especially since I spoke to so many grocery managers) and I'll be first in line to buy them!

Here is the challenge:  How do you create a new breakfast recipe using Jimmy Dean!?!  It feels like everything has been done that could be done with their breakfast sausage.  I was hung up on maple syrup and sausage, maybe a waffle/pancake with sausage combo - done.  How about sausage/egg something - done sooo many ways.  Ugh!  What could be new?  Not sure if my entry is new, but it is new to me.  I used a trick I learned from a Pillsbury finalist to make a muffin out of biscuit dough.  I tried to fit all of the best things about breakfast into this little bisc-muffin.  We'll see if it does the trick.  Hope Jimmy Dean hasn't seen anything too close to this before.

Sausage Pecan Bisc-Muffins
Created by: Stephanie Almeda 

1 can of refrigerated home style biscuits
1/4 Cup Crushed Pecans
1/2 Cup Maple Syrup
1 Package of  Jimmy Dean Hearty Sausage Crumbles
1/2 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease 8 spots in a regular muffin tin.  Pop open the can of biscuits, divide the biscuits then cut each one in half horizontally creating 16 different pieces.  Fill each of the 8 muffin cups with 1 teaspoon of crushed pecans and 1 tablespoon of Maple Syrup.  Place 1/2 a biscuit in the muffing cup pressing down firmly to mash the pecans into the dough.  Fold the dough up the sides of the cup slightly.  Place 1 heaping tablespoon of Jimmy Dean Sausage Crumbles on top of dough.  Top with 1 heaping teaspoon of shredded cheddar.  Place another biscuit half onto of the sausage and cheese.  Press down slightly around the perimeter of the biscuit to seal the dough.  Repeat with all 8 biscuits.  Place in pre-heated oven for 15-18 minutes or until bisc-muffins are golden brown.  Let cool in the pan for 2-3 minutes.  Flip the muffin pan over on a cooling rack so the muffins fall out and the maple syrup and pecans top the muffins like an upside down cake.  Eat while hot!

Served 8

Monday, November 15, 2010

OceanSpray Winner - Spicy Cranberry Chicken Sidekick Sliders with Spicy Cranberry Aioli

Contest:  OceanSpray NE Tailgate Contest 
Source:  Denise LaRoche 1st Place Winner 

I attended the OceanSpray New England Tailgate Contest live Cook Off as an alternate.  I loved the experience of talking to the 3 cook off contestants.  It was my first actual conversation with people who compete in this little world of contesting.  Denise was very nice and seemed to be a seasoned contester.  I promised myself if I ever won any money I would splurge and spend the whopping $25 to become a member of CookingContestCentral.com.  Denise and Danielle, two of the three finalist are members of this site and highly recommended it to me.  Love it so far!  In addition to listing every possible contest available in the country, It also lists all the winning recipes and provides a great community of support for contesters.  Now I can actually follow up on the contests I enter and make the winning recipes.  It is a great way to improve my entries and learn what winning recipes are made of.

My blog has been neglected the past few weeks, but it is not because I haven't been cooking.  My little test kitchen has been hopping here; I am working hard on a new contest with Jimmy Dean sausage.  I will share the my entry once it is complete as well as the misses, there were some bad ideas with this one.  

The following is a great recipe that won the OceanSpray NE Tailgate contest.  It is so so simple, it seemed too simple to be a winner until I tasted it.  Really a flavor is exceptional and more complex than the recipe would have you believe.  The whole family loved it.  I think my Thanksgiving Quesadillas could have given this a run for its money had I made the final 3, but this is truly a winning recipe.  No pictures, all came out terrible.  There is a big expensive camera, that we can't afford, on the top of my Christmas list.  I can hope!  


1 pound ground chicken
1/2 cup chopped Ocean Spray® Fresh Cranberries
2 tablespoons taco seasoning mix
Salt and black pepper
Vegetable oil
8 miniature egg knot rolls or other small rolls
8 lettuce leaves

4 cups Ocean Spray® Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon taco seasoning mix


Preheat grill to medium heat.

Place chicken in large bowl. Add cranberries and 2 tablespoons seasoning mix. Shape into 8 small patties; sprinkle with salt and pepper. 

Lightly brush grill grate with oil. Grill patties for 8 minutes on each side or until well done. Lightly brush cut sides of rolls with oil; grill until lightly toasted.

Place cranberry sauce in food processor; pulse until finely chopped. Add mayonnaise and 1 tablespoon seasoning mix; pulse until blended. Place 1 patty on bottom half of each toasted roll. Top each with a leaf lettuce and generous dollop aïoli. Cover with top halves of rolls. 

Makes 8 servings.

Ocean Spray 2010 Tailgating Recipe Contest Winner
Denise LaRoche

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Jack O'Lantern Fun

I finally found a good use for all the excess CSA veggies.  Radishes are great in pumpkin carving and we finally found a good use for kale.  I saw the butternut squash ghosts in Martha Stewart's Halloween Magazine and loved them.  Got so many great compliments on the squash from trick or treating parents.  We had a fabulous Halloween and the whole family had a blast decorating the pumpkins.  Here are the highlights:

There is a hole in here!  We had to do some creative carving to cover the bad spots where the dang squirrels ate my pumpkin.  This big pumpkin has been sitting in the yard all month and the squirrels went to town on it.

We didn't even hollow out the little one, just stuck stuff all over him.  The pineapple top was my husband's idea.  Found use for all those darn white radish - buck teeth!  I also have a lot of old jalapeños from my salsa canning event, they made great noses and eyes. 

The oldest boy made this one all by himself.  What an artist we have on our hands.

You know as much as I really don't want to like Martha Stewart (not really sure why I want to hate her, it just seems like I should), but the lady really does come up with cool stuff (or her people do, whatever).  Loved these squash ghosts.  They look great at night.  

Fun with pumpkin guts and the aftermath.  We didn't even bother with newspaper, just swept and mopped it all up after.  

We lit the big guy's pipe and used some kale to make the little patch mustache to cover the squirrel damage.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Contest Entry - Grave Digger Cookie Cups

Contest:  Nestle Toll House Spooktacular Baking Activity
Entered by ME!  Grave Digger Cookie Cups

Let me first try to explain how big Halloween is in my family, it rivals Christmas for decorations and  excitement.  As a kid my family always went all out for Halloween.  We would brainstorm our costumes all year long and Mom would made creative costumes.  My brother was a refrigerator one year.  Dad lived to take us trick or treating, we would fill up a whole pillow case with candy, stop by the house dump our load and keep going. As an adult, I just happened to buy a house in Woburn, a block of Main Street, the location of the country's largest Halloween Parade.  The Woburn Halloween Parade brings approximately 100,000 people to our little city to watch this huge 2+ hour event on the last Sunday of October.  This year it lands on Halloween - love it!  Every year we have a huge party with more kids than we can fit in our house.  I will do a whole blog on our Halloween party and the parade this year.  I am happy to report that my young boys have already "caught the bug" and love dressing up for Halloween.  Anyway as you can see, we go all out for Halloween and I just could not miss the chance to enter a Halloween theme contest.

This recipe is a variation on a simple trifle recipe I have seen but never made. Super easy to make and can easily be transformed into a spooky Halloween treat.  Turns out I already lost this competition.  Glad I entered it anyway, it was a fun one to lose.  I will be posting more Halloween treats later this week!

Grave Digger Cups

1 36 oz Nestle Toll House Refrigerated Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Scoop & Bake Bowl
1 package of instant chocolate pudding
2 cups of milk
1 cup frozen whipped topping
1 cup marshmallow cream
1 teaspoon cinnamon 
24 gummy worms
8+ gummy bears 
1 cup Nestle Premium White Chocolate Chips
1 can white decorative icing with writing tip
8 9oz clear drinking cups

Scoop and bake 24 cookies following the directions on the Nestle package, this should use about 2/3 of the cookie dough. With the remaining 1/3 cookie dough, spread very thin in a 8X8 pan and bake for 10-12 minutes. The cookie bar should be cooked on the crisper side. Cool all cookies completely. Prepare instant pudding using 2 cups of milk as directed on the package and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Combine whipped topping, marshmallow cream and cinnamon in bowl then beat with electric mixer for 2 minutes or until creamy and frothy. When cookies are fully cooled place 6 cookies at a time in a food processor and pulse until very fine crumbs. Make crumbs of all 24 cookies. Cut the cookie bar into 8 equal sized rectangles.

Using a heaping tablespoon of each create layers in the follow order in the clear plastic cup: cookie crumbs, place gummy bear in center, pudding, gummy worm, cookie crumbs, marshmallow/cream, gummy worm, cookie crumbs, pudding, gummy worm, cookie crumbs. Gently pat the top layer with the back of a clean spoon to secure the whole cup. 

Using white piping icing from a can, spell RIP on the “tombstone” cookie rectangles from the cookie bar. Place the tombstone in the “dirt”. Using Nestle Premium White Chocolate Chips outline the “grave”.

When placing worms in the “dirt” have them wiggle through the layers. Place a gummy bear on top in the outlined grave. For a variation on the party game, put a gummy bear in only one cup, the person who find the single bear wins. 

Serves 8

Pass out spoons and start digging your grave!