The Opinionated Foodie: The Love (or Not) of Food and Everything That Goes with It


The Feast of the Seven (Give or Take) Fishes: Our Family’s Progressive Dinner 2013

Ah, the annual Christmas progressive dinner. The dinner in which my two older sisters and I get to make food for our families and each other in an attempt to make a merrier Christmas while traveling around the countryside and trying not to overeat at the first stop.

It is tougher than it sounds.
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This year, our progressive dinner was at one stop only and the theme was seafood. We transformed my living room into a dining room and the dining room into the living room so all eighteen of us could sit at one table. Other than rearranging most of my house, I was the appetizer, so my job was easy.

The appetizer sister gets to sit back, serve small bites, and relax. Meanwhile, the other two sisters worry about something burning and/or not being cooked right at her house and the thought that everyone might eat too much at the first stop thus leaving a lot of food at her house with no one to eat it.

Again, tougher than it sounds.

An issue for me was that we went out of town the day before the party for Christmas with my husband’s family, and I arrived home four hours before the party started. Yikes.

Luckily, my food was easy enough to get a lot done ahead of time.
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I served shrimp with a spicy homemade cocktail sauce and pickled okra. I liked it a lot, and it was pretty festive with the red and green in a little glass. It was also dang easy. The only thing I had to do was boil water for the shrimp, mix the sauce, and assemble the little boogers.
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We also had Miss Kay Robertson’s shrimp salad from her Duck Commander cookbook. Since I was low on time, I made the decision to save all the shrimp I had for my other dishes and supplement the salad with two bags of frozen crawfish tails that I warmed up in butter before I added it to the salad as Miss Kay said to do. It was pretty good. It was creamy and crunchy.
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The last thing we passed around was The Pioneer Woman’s Skewers of Glory. Glorious might be a stretch, though. I precooked the bacon a little, used canned pineapple to make things easier, and I assembled the skewers when I got home.
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I was disappointed in the marinade, which was mostly at the bottom of the pan and not on the skewers, and the time it took to get the dish done. I cooked my skewers at least twenty minutes longer than PW said to and that’s even with the fact that I had precooked the bacon. Not fun when people are waiting for their first course.

Still, it was another memorable miracle of a dinner. Our main course was salmon served with a dill sauce that I will think about for ages, roasted vegetables, and rice. Devine. Dessert was an angel food cake.

Everyone ate too much, and we laughed too hard.

A good time was had by all.

Homemade Shrimp Cocktail
2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup pickle relish
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 T Worcestershire sauce

Combine all and chill. In a small glass (I used tasting cups), layer the cocktail sauce, then the okra, then fill to the top with small shrimp.



The Best Breakfast of the Year

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Once a year, we get to eat this breakfast. It is a favorite.

We have bacon, eggs, biscuits with chocolate gravy, pancakes, country ham, and my favorite part-fried grits.

183Fried grits are the best part of the whole deal, because they are crunchy, delicious, and this is the only meal when I get to eat them.

Why do we not make them more often? Good question.

The recipe:

Grits, cooked ahead of time-like the day before-and cooled. Store them in a glass covered in plastic wrap.

Corn meal

A pan with a shallow amount of bacon grease, extra bacon grease as needed

Using a knife, pull the grits out of the glass while keeping the shape of the glass as best you can. Cut the grits into slices of about a quarter of an inch or a little less. Coat them in the corn meal, and then fry them in batches in the bacon grease until they are slightly browned. You are not looking for a dark brown here; you want more like a tan color. Drain the grits on paper towels and eat immediately. However, these are good after they have cooled as well.

Make sure to tell someone to kiss them.  As in, “Hey, you.  Come here and kiss my grits.”  It’s a funny I get to make once a year.

I amuse myself.

There will be no leftover fried grits. Trust me. I have looked for leftover grits on Christmas morning after breakfast my whole life. They are the one thing Santa never leaves.



The Christmas Cookie Cake: I Think I’ve Figured It Out

I think I’ve got it!

To fix the recipe I tried earlier, I tried a few things differently, and it worked out pretty well.

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I divided my dough into two, and instead of baking the cookies in a cake pan, I flattened them on a cookie sheet. It was much easier to remove to cool.  They weren’t perfect, but they worked. Next time, I may bake them on the round cake pans turned upside down.

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Then, I mixed the Nutella with the sugared pecans while they were still warm. Much easier to spread.

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The best improvement was the cream cheese. I creamed two boxes of softened cream cheese with one cup of sugar. It was so smooth and creamy.

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I forgot to save a little dough to make a little decoration on the top. Next time, I’ll try it.

The cake was great, if I do say so myself.  A keeper for sure.

More details are on my post from earlier this month. Please check it out.

I hope you try it too.



Our Annual Progressive Dinner #1: Feeding the Kids

One of my favorite traditions this time of the year is the annual Christmas progressive dinner we host for the junior high girls from our church.

They are so sweet and awkward and fun. Some years, they eat. Some years, they just look at each other.  One year, they scattered all over the house and went through regions not meant for guests’ eyes. Often, they sit down at the table and don’t move.

Any way, it is a ton of work, expense, and time. But, I love it.

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This year, we repeated a theme we have had before. We served the kids Italian. I made homemade fetticine with homemade Pomadoro sauce, homemade meat sauce, homemade lasagna, homemade meatballs, and one of my favorite dishes of all time, Trisha Yearwood’s homemade spinach and chicken casserole lasagna.

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It took me all day to prepare.

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I also served them alfredo out of a jar from the store and Sister Shubert’s rolls with garlic butter. Those took about two minutes.

Guess what they ate?

Well, it wasn’t what took me all day, that’s for sure.

It was still a lot of fun. They were so sweet and funny.  They talked and laughed and ate the stuff I bought at the store. Next year, we’ll have Mexican.

Probably mostly from a jar.



Our Annual Progressive Dinner #2-Fun with the Fam

The Kitchen-The room in the house that is the fastest to get dirty and the slowest to clean.

Mine is currently a disaster after last night when we celebrated our family’s eleventh annual progressive dinner.

Our progressive dinner consists of one stop at my house along with the homes of my two sisters for the three courses. The sister who has the main course picks the theme for the year. The sister who has the dessert hosts Dirty Santa and other games that follow the theme. The sister who has the appetizer takes it easy.

Every year, our themes get better and better. Our food and clothing reflect whatever our theme is. We have had a Cheesey Christmas, a White Christmas, a Breakfast Christmas, and a Paula Deen Christmas among others.

Last year was a Redneck Christmas. We ate Spam, maters, taters, and nanner puddin. The attire was awesome. My Dirty Santa gift that I won was a beer can windchime complete with Nissan hubcaps.

Classic.

This year was my turn at the main course. Our theme was “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” We ate food that was little but, luckily, everyone wore normal size clothes.

The appetizer sister is an excellent cook. We had shrimp sliders, bruschetta, mozerella bites marinated in basil, and mini spinach tarts. Delish.

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The dessert sister is a wonderful and creative cook. She made all kinds of cake balls in all kinds of interesting holiday shapes.

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This sister is the one who chose the theme and has  stressed out about it ever since. I made about ten different small foods for the main course and served them all in small cups. I focused on dishes with some sort of meat in them.

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I ended up with a lot of seafood and no chicken, so I paniced.  Most of the folks in our family love food, but several eat nothing at all, Mr. Picky being one of them. Chicken is their staple. Luckily, my husband was the sane one in the situation. He ran to Chick-fil-a and got a platter of nuggets.

Success.

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We had a wonderful time. We laughed and ate entirely too much. My Dirty Santa gift was an adorable Santa with a reindeer in a Christmas sweater. Cute stuff.

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So, my kitchen is a total disaster and will be for a while. But, it is totally worth it. Our progressive dinner is wonderful and delicious.

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Plus, I won’t be main course again until 2014.  I get the next two years off!

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Christmas Cookie Cake: A Work in Progress

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I have come up with yet another brilliant recipe. 

Of course, I am kidding. I have come up with an idea at least, and it needs a little work.

For the Christmas party we had last weekend, I made Nutella, sugared pecans, and cream cheese wrapped in crescent rolls that were split in two.  They were good, but they didn’t go very far.

After a trip to Sam’s this weekend, I had a jumbo box of sugar cookie mix to work with. Sweet. Since Tuesday was my day to take a Christmas snack for our faculty, I decided to experiment! Woohoo!

Teachers will eat anything. They make excellent guinea pigs.

My first thought was to stuff the sugar cookies with my Nutella, cream cheese, and pecan idea. That, however, would be time consuming. Not interested.

There’s a reason why I don’t make the cute cupcakes that everyone loves. They take too stinkin’ long.

Second thought-make two large sugar cookies and layer the filling like a layered cake. Simple-check. Easy-check. Not too time consuming-check.  So, that’s what I did.

I made the cookie mix as directed on the box, and then I split the mix in half.  In two round cake pans, I flattened each half of the mixture and baked them for nine minutes.

When they cooled, I attempted to the turn them out onto my cake stand. Even though I sprayed the boogers with non-stick spray beforehand, they still stuck to the pan. They messier of the two went on the bottom. 

Then, I scattered the pecans over the large non-perfect cookie and attempted to cover that with Nutella.  It was a hot mess.  The Nutella would not spread and the pecans would not stay put. What I ended up doing was scraping the pecans off and mixing them with the Nutella for a smoother spread.  I thinly sliced an eight ounce block of cream cheese and covered the whole shebang with the cream cheese slices.

Finally, I topped it all off with the second large cookie and a good sprinkle of powdered sugar to cover any character flaws.

The next day, I took my experiment to school and left it on the faculty lounge table for the starving masses. When I went back at the end of the day, most of it was gone which means it was a success.

Again, though, I don’t read too much into that. They’re not what you’d call picky eaters.

What I want to work on is the filling. It was good, but it wasn’t creamy like I like cream cheese fillings to be.  I may cream the cream cheese with a little sugar next time.

This weekend will be the next time.  We have a Christmas gathering for my family.

Oh, the craziness.
Oh, the drama.
Oh, the culinary knowledge.

It’ll all be there in spades, and I think I’ll try this cookie cake again.

Stay tuned, Foodie Friends.




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