Now that the haze from my weekend long food coma has lifted, I find myself inspired by my friend’s Italian creation over Friendsgiving. Well, that’s partially the reason behind this week’s recipes.
To be completely honest, I have all the Italian ingredients because I was supposed to make a pasta dish for Friendsgiving. When the menu was revised, my good friend with a case of pregnancy brain forgot to tell me the main dish now consisted of pasta. I’m not just going to let all these ingredients go to waste…
So, Italian food it is!
2 Stalks of Celery, roughly chopped
2 Carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
½ of an Onion, roughly chopped
2 Cloves of Garlic
1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil
1 lb. of Ground Beef
4 Links of Mild Italian Pork Sausage, casings removed
1 Teaspoon of Salt
½ Teaspoon of Pepper
½ Teaspoon of Dried Oregano
½ Teaspoon of Dried Basil
½ Teaspoon of Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1 Cup of Red Wine
2 Tablespoons of Tomato Paste
2 Cans of Crushed Tomatoes
2 Tablespoons of Fresh Basil, finely minced
Place the celery, carrots, onion, and garlic in a food processor. Pulse the ingredients until they are finely minced. Add the olive oil to a large stock pot and bring up to temperature over medium heat. Add the carrot, celery, onion, and garlic combination to the pot. Cook over medium until the mixture releases most of its moisture, about five to ten minutes.
Combine the beef, Italian sausage, and seasonings in a large bowl. Use your hands to make sure all the ingredients are properly combined. Raise the temperature to high heat. Add the beef and pork mixture to the pot. Break the meat apart into small chunks using a rubber spatula. At this time there will still be a good deal of liquid in the pot. That is ok, we want all that beef and pork flavor in the sauce.
When the meat is slightly browned, add the wine, and reduce the heat to medium. Using a rubber spatula, remove all the bits of meat which have seared to the bottom of the pot. Let the wine simmer for about fifteen minutes.
When the wine has reduced, add the tomato paste. Mix until the tomato paste has combined with the wine. Then add the crushed tomatoes. Simmer the sauce over low heat for about an hour to get the maximum amount of flavor from all the ingredients.
After an hour, add the basil. Remove from the heat. Let the sauce cool for about fifteen minutes before serving.
Bolognese. Not only is it fun to say, but it is also a sneaky way to get a serving of vegetables into the diet of the carnivore in your life!
This year, my friends and I decided to start a new tradition. The busy holiday season makes it difficult to get everybody together on the same date. Some of us have two to three Thanksgiving dinners to attend with family. So we figured, why not add one more dinner to the weekend of gorging and celebrate Thanksgiving with each other.
The original plan was to have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner: turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, etc. However, when talks were leaning towards a “Turducken,” we knew the menu planning got a little out of control. We snapped back to reality and realized we are not hosting our own Friendsgiving Day special on the Food Network, and decided to make lasagna.
Unfortunately, I had already cooked ten pounds of potatoes for the original plan of a traditional Thanksgiving Day dinner. Oh, well. In the grand scheme of things, mashed potatoes and lasagna sound like a perfect pairing, right? A little extra carbo-loading never hurt anybody!
There were ten of us total for the first Friendsgiving. We enjoyed a massive, seven layered lasagna filled with a blend of cheeses and a homemade three meat sauce. My contributions of homemade sourdough, a warm arugula and spinach salad topped with lemon pancetta dressing, and mashed potatoes seemed like nothing in comparison with this behemoth of a lasagna (the thing was cooked in a large roasting pan for God’s sake!).
By the time the first slices (measuring 6” W x 6” D x 4”H) were dished out our calm and low key Friendsgiving suddenly turned into a Man vs. Food challenge. The men were sweating and breathing heavily trying to finish these giant slices while the women of the group shook their heads in disgust and ate their lady sized portions.
When dinner was over, we played The Game of Things. Which if you have never played, you simply must! It is like Apples to Apples except you make up your own answers. Playing in mixed company, women and pre-pubescent man-children, definitely led to some funny and inappropriate answers.
During a round of the game, somebody’s bad handwriting was misread as U.S.S. lasagna instead of less lasagna. The nickname stuck and our first Friendsgiving will forever be known as the tale of the U.S.S. Lasagna.
The third family recipe I wanted to share with you this week is from my grandfather. Or as we called him, Dziadzia (Jah-Jah), which is the Polish word for Grandpa. He was a feisty Polish man. He survived World War II living in Poland and Germany. He loved farming, gardening, his family, and warm cans of Pepsi.
He passed away about three years ago. Holidays are tough without the ones we love, so what better way to remember them than through sharing stories and cooking the food that reminds you of them.
When we were younger, my grandfather’s house was always stocked with our favorites: small cans of Mott’s Apple Juice, the buttery sugar cookies in the blue tin, kielbasa and rye bread sandwiches, and Orange Crush.
We would go over to my grandfather’s house for Sunday dinners and holidays. He would cook his famous buttery chicken with the skin on, mashed potatoes, cucumber sour cream salad, sauerkraut, and cabbage rolls.
Any time we want to remember our grandfather, we make his cabbage rolls. They are easy to make, slow cooked, and so comforting.
1 lb Ground Beef
2 teaspoons of Grated Onion
1 teaspoon of Salt
½ teaspoon of Pepper
½ Cup Cooked White Rice
12 Large Cabbage Leaves, blanched and slightly wilted
2 Cans of Tomato Sauce
1 Cup of Water
3 Slices of Bacon
Combine the ground beef, grated onion, salt, pepper, and cooked rice in a large bowl.
Boil about 4 quarts of water. Cut the core out of a head of cabbage. Place the head of cabbage in the boiling water and cover with a lid. Blanch the cabbage until the leaves start to wilt.
Take one leaf of cabbage and place about two heaping spoonfuls of the beef mixture at the base of the leaf. Fold in the two sides of the leaf, and then roll the cabbage leaf forward to form sort of like a burrito.
As you work your way into the smaller leaves of the cabbage you might need to cut some more of the tough stem off of the leaves before you roll it.
When you have used up all the beef and made about 12 cabbage rolls, place them in a 9”x13” pan. Pour the tomato sauce and water over the rolls. You may need to add more water to ensure all the rolls are covered. Place the three strips of bacon on top of the rolls.
Cover the pan with tin foil and cook the rolls in the oven at 325 degrees for two and a half hours. When the rolls are done, remove the strips of bacon. Cut them into small pieces and place them back into the sauce.
The rolls go great with mashed potatoes smothered in the tomato sauce from the pan.
Every time we make this dish or gather together for holidays, I know you are with us Dziadzia. Love you!
I am so happy that I am not cooking a huge meal today, (cook like a champion today, for those of you that are). My husband and I are headed to Thanksgiving dinner at his parents’ house.
My mother-in-law has her menu set. So, it makes it kind of hard to contribute something to the meal. I figured I would use this day to give some attention to the somewhat neglected courses: appetizers and dessert.
The first two ideas that popped in to my mind were from other food blogs.
For my appetizer, I am making Cranberry Salsa from the How Sweet It Is blog. I love this recipe because it allows you noshing and mingling time before the main event without filling you up.
For dessert, my Everest, a homemade cheesecake. This was my first attempt at cheesecake. As you all know, I am not a very confident baker, so having the fate of dessert in my hands is kind of scary. Luckily, it was a success. Joy the Baker’s Salted Caramel Cheesecake was so easy to make that I have no worries about this being a huge hit at dinner tonight.
I just want to take a moment and express my deepest thanks to all of you, friends, family, and fellow foodies who read this blog everyday. I am so happy and thankful to be able to share my passion and dumb stories with you all. From the bottom of my heart, thank you! I wish you all and your families nothing but happiness and gratitude on this Thanksgiving Day!
The second family recipe I want to share with you this week is my mom’s refrigerator mashed potatoes.
I know everybody thinks their mom makes the best mashed potatoes. Well, sorry to inform you, that you are all wrong because my mom makes the greatest mashed potatoes, hands down!
I could go on and on about my mom. Clearly you can tell that she is a huge influence on me just from how often she has appeared in my blog. I could list a million recipes of hers that are amazing, but if I had to pick one recipe of importance, it would be this one! Every single holiday dinner, these mashed potatoes are loaded up on by the entire family and are bartered and fought over when it is time to take home leftovers.
They have cream cheese, butter, and sour cream in them. It’s like the holy trinity of all things so wrong*, but soooo right! Plus, my mom was on the right track making these the night before because it allows all the flavors to marry and saves you time the next morning.
Trust me; it’s one less thing you have to worry about tomorrow. Boil and mash the potatoes tonight. Add the cream cheese, butter, sour cream, and seasonings and let them sit overnight. A half an hour before you are planning to eat, pop these in the oven for a half an hour and you basically get the equivalent of a twice baked potato minus the pointless potato skin.
Holidays are about sharing. I hope you will share this recipe with your family on this Thanksgiving.
5 lbs. Russet Potatoes, peeled
6 oz. Cream Cheese
1 Cup Sour Cream
2 teaspoons of Onion Salt
¼ teaspoon of Pepper
1 teaspoon of Salt
2 tablespoons of Unsalted Butter
Cook the peeled potatoes in boiling water until fork tender, about 20-30 minutes. Drain the potatoes and then put them in a large bowl and get to mashing. Mash potatoes until smooth.
Add the cream cheese, sour cream, onion salt, pepper, and salt. Using a hand mixer, beat the mixture until it is light and fluffy. Refrigerate the potatoes over night. Potato mixture can last in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
The next day place the desired amount in a Pyrex dish and dot the top with the butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, until edges start to get crisp and golden.
*My mom would want me to lovingly caution you against eating too much of this dish, along with other things this holiday, because you look so good, why let it all go down the drain for one more scoop of potatoes. (Seriously, who else could get away with telling you to mind your figure?”)