It’s that time of year again, the cooler days cruise by so quickly …I begin to think of all the childhood memories Fall brings with it, decorating for the holiday’s, special meals, parties and time spent with family and friends. It is, without a doubt, my most favorite time of the year.
It occurred to me that most of you who read this blog are the ones stuck in the kitchen whipping up holiday dinners and cleaning up afterward, never really getting the time to sit and enjoy your family and company.
Although I love to cook on the holidays, I won’t lie, I wish I had more time for the camaraderie that is typically happening in the living room or dining room after dinner while I am washing dishes and putting food away. I also wish I wasn’t exhausted by the time I got to join everyone. This is what usually causes so much stress for people around the holidays, too much work not enough reward.
I have been gearing up in the last few months to make this blog something that could change the way people feel about hosting impromptu get-togethers, or planned ones for that matter! Well…honestly, to change the way people feel and interact with each other. To stop texting and emailing for an evening and actually talk to each other…phones off!
This is a dream that I hold dear to my heart and would love to see come to fruition because it will make the world, mine and yours, a better place by taking this little step back. Once you realize the benefit of connecting with others, you’ll want to do this more, it’s addictive.
Life moves at such a pace we forget to take the time to relax and take in what should be our top priority….the people around us.
When you connect to others you find happiness and a calm that is unparalleled. Reach out not just to your friends and family, but to the new neighbor down the street, a stressed out coworker or the older gentleman who lives alone. These people are your Friday Night Family and are something to truly be thankful for…
I hope you are asking yourself right now, “Where do I start?”
Sometime before Thanksgiving invite a few people over that you have been meaning to catch up with. If you are booked until that week, then plan on a few days before the holiday when your company is in town and have a cocktail party.
STOP THINKING IT! I know you’re saying “that’s a lot of work!” You are talking yourself out of it before you have even started…break the cycle of stressing yourself.
Here’s how to go about doing this…You are not going to make a huge meal with all the dishes and work. Just bite size appetizers with seasonal ingredients, small plates and some drinks.
With regard to the food, don’t try to make everything from scratch, just one or two and let your grocer’s freezer do the rest. The food should not take up any more space than the size of your counter top or island in the kitchen if you have one. Purchase drinks or whip up one special seasonal cocktail ahead of time. We chose Spiced Pear cider with a shot of Apple Jack Brandy.
When it comes to “Is the house clean enough for company?” Think about and apply this line of thinking…
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter, don’t mind.” ― Dr. Seuss
Who hasn’t run around in 10-15 minutes before company and boxed up the obvious clutter and stowed it away in a closet, room or garage? Do NOT let this hinder your plan!
I’ll bet if you leave well enough alone, someone will mention what a relief it is to know they are not the only ones with an imperfect house. I am also sure that they will now feel free to invite you over to their house too.
The following are a few recipes I have concocted for my own pre-Thanksgiving gathering should you want to try them. They are made from seasonal ingredients that are perfect for this time of year. The other advantage of “seasonal” goods is they are typically cheaper due to the abundance in the market, making less of an impact on your wallet.
By the way, this is much more inexpensive than cooking dinner for everyone and by the time it’s all said and done, it should only involve 1 dishwasher load (or small sink load) of dishes and about 2-3 pans to clean.
Don’t overthink it, just wing it and have a blast!
I find it easier to pick a theme, this helps me focus on a plan. For this pre-Thanksgiving gathering, I am going with fall foods…one soup, one dipping food and something served on a slice of bread as that will be filling and satisfying.
I not only like to cook and teach but I also love to gab so if you are a visual person you can check out my first ever how-to video’s (coming soon) for two of these recipes and pulling it all together in a table arrangement that showcases the food in a special way. Keep in mind this is my first attempt at video. Think about it like putting roller skates on a Rhino if you will! LOL And forgive the imperfections.
One last thing, when you have one of these small social get togethers, please come back here and comment on it. We want to hear about your Friday Night Family gathering, everyone likes a happy ending!
I have posted YouTube link’s (coming soon) for the Creamy Roasted Butternut Squash soup and the Zucchini Squash Mushroom Bruschetta with Shaved Parmesan recipes as well as presenting the food on your table. I hope you enjoy…
Creamy Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
1 butternut squash chopped into 1 inch cubes – I used a pre-chopped 32 oz package
1/3 cup of water
1 large yellow onion
1 stick of butter salted – if you don’t like a lot of salt then use unsalted
Kosher salt and pepper
4 cups of chicken stock/broth
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons Frying Pan Pork Sausage Spice from Savory Spice Shop - use dry sage and a little nutmeg if you can’t get this
Sour cream and parsley for garnish
Large mixing bowl that can go into the microwave
Large spoon for tossing
Knife and cutting board for chopping
Stick blender, regular blender or large food processer
Ladle for serving
Small 1 cup soup bowls or mugs and soup spoons
Maybe some bibs as this recipe caused watering mouths!
Preheat oven by turning it on high broil.
Put chopped squash in a large glass mixing bowl. Add 1/3 cup of water. Put in microwave on high for 5 minutes. Remove from microwave and toss thoroughly to insure even cooking. Put back in the microwave for 5 more minutes. It may need another 5 minute round in the microwave if the squash is still tough.
While squash is in the microwave chop an onion to ½ inch/1 inch size pieces and set aside…don’t cry like a big baby!
Remove squash from microwave and drain water. Add in 1 stick of butter and put back in the microwave for about 1 minute until the stick of butter is completely melted.
Remove from microwave and toss the squash in butter until completely coated. Add onion and toss again. Spread out squash and onion mixture on a baking sheet.
Place the pan in the oven and broil until all pieces are slightly brown and onion pieces are getting transparent with brown edges. Anywhere from 10-20 minutes, depends on your oven. This imparts great flavor so you want a nice brown color but not burned.
Since I use a stick blender (a great investment) I put the mixture in a soup pot when it comes out of the oven (you can use your blender or food processor if that works better for you), now add 4 cups of chicken stock and using whatever method of mixing you choose (stick, blender or food processor)blend until it is very smooth. It will appear thick and slightly runny.
Now in the soup pot on the stove over medium high heat add 1 cup of heavy cream. Heat until bubbly and thickened, 5-10 minutes.
Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a parsley sprig for color and serve with a crusty bread. We ate ours with an Artisan cheese bread and it was divine…I think I heard more than a few “AMEN’S” at the table.
Fried Zucchini Slices with dipping sauces
2 or 3 Zucchini Squash
2 Tablespoons Milk
1 ½ cups bread crumbs
Salt and Pepper
Frying pan with about ¼ inch of olive oil
Paper grocery bag
Serving Platter and bowls for dipping sauces
Wash, dry and slice zucchini into ¼ inch slices and set aside. On the counter place a brown grocery bag covered with paper towels.
In a small bowl crack two eggs and add 2 tablespoons milk, mix well with a fork.
Place the bread crumbs in a bowl.
Preheat ¼ inch of olive oil in frying pan until it ripples slightly, do not allow it to smoke.
Dip zucchini slices in the egg/milk mixture and coat well with bread crumbs.
Drop the coated zucchini into the oil and fry until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes, flip and fry other side.
Drain on paper towel covered bag and season with salt and pepper immediately. I use a good bit of salt because I like the contrast of salt and sweet of the Moroccan Honey dip.
Serve as suggested below. If you are not ready to serve, preheat your oven to 250, turn off then place your zucchini on a sheet pan in the oven to stay warm until ready to serve.
Serve with cocktail sauce, banana pepper mustard and/or Moroccan Honey dip.
Cocktail Sauce –Catsup and horseradish sauce
Banana Pepper Mustard – You can buy this in the condiment isle or if you want to try making it yourself when Banana Peppers are at their peak you can use my Future Sister-in-law’s recipe at the bottom of this blog entry.
Moroccan Honey dip for a fabulous sweet tangy twist
- 1 single serving container of plain Greek yogurt
- 1 ½ tablespoons of good local honey
- 1 teaspoon Ras el Hanout (Moroccan)spice available in the spice isle at the grocery store but I prefer and used Savory Spice Shop brand as their spices are always very fresh because they grind weekly.
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon of salt (your preference here, add less first and allow to sit for a while and then taste once all flavors meld together, approximately 15 minutes to a ½ hour in the fridge)
Zucchini Squash and Mushroom Bruschetta with Shaved Parmesan
2 medium Zucchini Squash diced to ¼ inch
1 large Portabella mushroom diced to ¼ inch
2 tablespoons of finely chopped pimento or roasted red pepper to give color (I did not use this in the picture above and find it very boring to look at although it tasted great!
2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary minced
Small bunch of fresh thyme minced
2-tablespoons of good Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
Shaved Parmesan for garnish
Knife and cutting board
Tongs or fork to remove slices from oil
Serrated knife to cut bread if you have one
Chop both the zucchini and mushroom into ¼ inch cubes and place in mixing bowl.
Mince the fresh rosemary and thyme and sprinkle over the chopped Zucchini and mushroom mixture.
Slice your bread to your desired thickness and place on a serving platter
Preheat your pan on medium high heat
Pour oil over mixture and toss until everything is well coated.
Sprinkle with Kosher salt
Pour the mixture into the preheated pan and sautee for about 10-15 minutes until mushrooms and zucchini are soft and all liquid is absorbed. Add a tablespoon or two of water to the pan if it gets dry before the mixture is fully softened.
Remove from heat
Spoon onto bread slices and garnish with shaved parmesan
One last note – unbutton your waistband and enjoy this feast with your family and friends.
“Treat your friends like family and your family like friends”
Jaime Hogan’s Banana Pepper Mustard for dipping
This is a great condiment I made this year with all the extra Banana Peppers that were left from the garden. You can use it on sandwiches, glaze pork chops or dip you snacks in it.
36 peppers about 5-6 inches, use a combination of red and green
1 quart of white vinegar
1 quart of yellow mustard
1 tsp salt
6 cups of sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 cups water
Grind peppers in food processor including seeds
Mix the first four of the above ingredients in large pot, bring to a boil, stir constantly, keep scraping bottom to prevent burning.
Mix flour and water together and fold into boiling mixture. Cook 5 mins, stir constantly. Pour quickly into pint jars, top with boiling lids and rings. Boil in canner for 10 minutes.