Monday, November 28, 2011

Fruit Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, we can look forward to Christmas. That means Christmas decorations, Christmas parties, Christmas cookies, and so on. Unfortunately, statistics show that the average American gains one pound in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas largely due to the amount of food consumed at parties and cookies and treats enjoyed when at home.

To help you avoid that dreaded pound, I present to you a delicious fruit salad that would be a welcome addition to your Christmas Party spread. By cutting the fruit fresh, rather than using the canned variety, your salad will not only look fresh but you will avoid the sugary syrup that are often included in the cans. The poppy seed dressing elevates the salad to something special, more than just simply cut fruit. I hope you will enjoy this as much as I do.

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Fruit Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

2 bananas, sliced
2 apples, chopped
2 oranges, cut into slices
2 cups green grapes
2 cups pineapple chunks
1 cup white distilled vinegar
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

Pour the cup of vinegar into a large measuring cup and add the sugar. 
Add the oil and stir to combine.
Pour into a food processor.
Add the mustard
and poppy seeds.
Turn on the food processor and run for about a minute to fully blend.
Set aside.

Add the bananas,
grapes, and pineapples into a bowl.
Toss to mix.
Cover with saran wrap and set in the fridge until ready to serve. Immediately before serving pour the poppy seed dressing over the fruit, or place in mini pitchers on the table for guests to dress the fruit themselves.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Thrasher Family Thanksgiving

So, I initially thought, foolishly I might add, that I would be able to post this last night, then this afternoon, now it's past midnight and I am just now getting to write this post. I think that's just how it goes when you're home for the holidays with family: everyone else knows just how you should fill your time! This post is not about food, at least not directly, but given that Thanksgiving is usually all about food I thought I'd share how my family, the Thrashers, chose to spend our holiday.

My grandfather, Dede, in front of our family tailgate sign.

A little over 60 years ago, my grandfather, JW Thrasher (or Dede as we grandchildren call him) decided to pack up his bags in West Texas and make his way south to attend Texas A&M University in College Station. From that point forward, the Texas A&M v. Texas football game was a crucial component to the Thrasher family Thanksgiving tradition. This Thanksgiving was possibly the last Thanksgiving day game that these long time rivals will meet on the football field to battle for bragging rights of who has the better team. 
My dad, Mike, is the grill master at all tailgate parties.
I honestly feel sad as I write those words. I literally have never known a Thanksgiving where my family didn't watch or go to this game. In fact, when Robert and I married, we determined what years we would be with my family for Thanksgiving based on when the game was played in College Station so that we could continue going with my family! I still can't imagine what Thanksgiving with my family will look like in two years. I guess we'll have to invent a new tradition!
Robert and Dede making their plates.
In light of this year's game being the last, my dad decided that we would tailgate with steaks and baked potatoes and enjoy the gameday atmosphere like we do every other game rather than trying to have a big turkey lunch then get on the road when everyone else from Austin is headed that way. (Yes, I grew up near Austin. Yes, I'm became an Aggie, there are a few of us!) I loved this decision! With this game being such an essential part of Thrasher Thanksgivings past, it only seemed fitting that we would send the last one out with a big bang!

Bonfire Memorial
After our huge steak lunch, and watching a little NFL football on the TV, Robert and I decided to take a walk around campus to try to work off some of those calories. I decided to take my camera along and take some pictures of my beloved alma mater. I've chosen a few to share, although there are way too many favorites to be able to show!

Century Tree

While the game ultimately did not go in our favor, I still enjoyed getting to share the last A&M v. Texas game with my Dede ('52), my dad ('80) and Robert ('07). Oh and we let Reid, a senior at Texas and Robert's cousin join us. He was nice so we didn't make him walk home after the loss. :)

Pennies at Sul Ross Statue for good luck on exams
Today we had our regular Thanksgiving turkey dinner with all the fixins with a full house.  I've been helping prepare all day, hence the late post. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and friends. Thanks for letting me share some memories from mine.

Robert and I at halftime
Fighting Texas Aggie Band

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Butternut Squash Soup

Up until this fall I had no idea what a butternut squash tasted like. I'd heard people rave about how much they enjoyed butternut squash soup or butternut squash ravioli but had no frame of reference for what those dishes would taste like. Since September, however, almost every single produce share has included a butternut squash, forcing me to figure out how to incorporate it into our weekly meals.

I started simple with the Roasted Butternut Squash with Brown Butter Sage and decided I enjoyed the flavor of this winter squash. So the next share I got an acorn squash in addition to the butternut and decided to try making a soup out of both. The result was a disaster. Robert and I each took a taste, looked at each other and immediately reached for the phone to call in take out.

At that point I don't think I had any desire to try butternut squash soup again. That was until last Saturday when some was served at a baby shower I attended. I took a taste and was pleasantly surprised at the delightful taste. So when my produce share yet again included butternut squash, I decided to try to make soup one last time, this time without the acorn squash! I also decided to use a recipe that used a little more butter and cream rather than trying to be healthy without both. This time the soup was a success!

I think the cream, cayenne pepper and sherry really bring this version over the top! The soup is quite thick, so be careful when reheating as it can bubble up like lava! But believe me, it's worth.

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Butternut Squash Soup

3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 large cloves garlic, pressed
3-4 leaves fresh sage, chopped
2 - 2 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1/8 cup and a splash sherry
4 cup chicken broth
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/3 cup cream

Heat the butter and oil over medium heat in a large pot, at least 5 quarts.
Add the onion and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic
and sage and saute for a minute.
Add the squash cubes and saute for 5 minutes more.
Pour in the chicken stock
and cayenne pepper and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 30-40 minutes until the squash is fork tender.

When done puree with an immersion blender or let cool and transfer to a food processor in batches, returning to the pot when done.
Pour in the cream and stir to incorporate.

Add salt and pepper to taste, although I forgot and the soup was just fine.

Source: The Italian Dish

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Roasted Acorn Squash

Can you believe that Thanksgiving is only 4 days away? I'm certainly struggling to believe that is the case. In fact, it was just over a week ago that I realized it was almost past time to firm up my time off from work for the holiday. In my mind I still had plenty of time. I feel like each and every passing year goes by more quickly than the one before it. Maybe that's just part of growing up.

Many of you will be tasked with cooking and planning a menu for Thanksgiving dinner in just a few short days, and for some of you it will be your first time in charge. Keeping that in mind I would like to present you with this recipe for Roasted Acorn Squash, a side dish that is relatively healthy, takes only 10 minutes to prep and leaves your hands and mind free to work on more hands on dishes during it's hour roast in the oven.

So if you've been tasked with bringing a vegetable side, look no further than this quick, elegant, and tasty dish for your choice. You will certainly impress your family and friends that you chose to think outside of the green bean casserole, candied yams, etc that, while classics, can be a bit tired and certainly rich for those trying their hardest not to gain that extra pound this holiday season.

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Roasted Acorn Squash

1 acorn squash
1 tablespoon softened butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cut the acorn squash in half and discard the seeds and strings.

Rub the butter over each squash half.

Place in a baking dish and top with brown sugar and cinnamon and add the water to the bottom of the dish.

Cover with foil and bake for 50 minutes.

Remove the foil and bake for 10 minutes more.

Remove from the oven and let cool before serving.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Chipotle Lime Chicken

Typically, when we have wanted to have grilled chicken for dinner I go to Central Market and pick up some of their pre-marinated chicken breasts. Their selection includes a variety of marinades, my favorite of which is chipotle lime. While this is still true, in the past year they have changed their recipe and it no longer carries the same kick that it once did.

So, I decided it was time that I tried making a chipotle lime marinade at home that would replace the old Central Market variety. When I stumbled on this recipe I was a little skeptical, particularly with the incorporation of yogurt, but I am so glad I decided to give it a try. The yogurt tampers the spice of the chipotle chiles just enough and also helps the marinade bind to the chicken throughout the cooking process. I served this chicken with grilled zucchini and bell peppers for a healthy meal that was also flavorful.

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Chipotle Lime Chicken

3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
Juice of 2 limes
1 large garlic clove, grated
2 tablespoons minced cilantro
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon honey
2 full chicken breasts

In a bowl combine the chipotle peppers,
lime juice,
and honey.
Wisk to combine.
Place chicken breasts into a gallon ziploc bag
Pour the marinade over the chicken.
Seal the ziploc bag and place in the refrigerator to marinate for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat a grill pan over medium high heat.
Place the chicken on the pan
Cook for 3 minutes each side to get the grill marks on the chicken.
Transfer the chicken to a baking dish and top with the remaining marinade from the ziploc bag.
Place the chicken in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.
Serve with grilled veggies and enjoy.

Source: Slightly adapted from Guilty Kitchen