Thanksgiving Favorites for my Crew!

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Thanksgiving is finally here and the holiday season has officially begun!  I thought I would share my family’s favorite side dishes that I will be preparing this year for our Thanksgiving table.

The turkey is always the star of the show; for information on roasting the perfect turkey see my instructions at The Art of Living Beautifully, and thanks Lauren Palmer for this beautiful photo!

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Brandon wants Fontina Mac and Cheese~

1 pound Cavatappi pasta

1 ½ cups heavy cream

3 cups whole milk

1 tablespoons flour

2 cups grated Fontina cheese

1 cup grated mozzarella cheese

¾ cup grated parmesan cheese

2 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

¾ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Butter a 9×13 glass baking dish.  Cook pasta in salted water to just al dente.  Whisk seasoning and flour into cream and milk.  Add half of the cheese to the milk mixture.  Place cooked pasta into the prepared baking dish and pour milk mixture over pasta, stir to combine well.  Sprinkle top of dish with remaining cheese.  Bake 25 minutes, if top is getting too brown tent lightly with foil.  Allow dish to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Brooke wants Homemade Green Bean Casserole~

1 pound of fresh or frozen green beans thawed

1 can fried onions

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1 cup finely minced mushrooms

1 clove garlic

1 cup milk

1 cup chicken stock

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large saucepan, melt butter, add the mushrooms and cook for about 6 minutes.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute more.  Add flour and cook for 2 minutes.  Warm the milk and stock together in the microwave for 2 minutes, add salt, pepper and liquid and whisk well.  Cook sauce until it thickens, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes.  Add ½ of the fried onions and all of the green beans.  Toss well.  Pour mixture into a casserole dish, top with remaining onions and cook for 20-25 minutes until casserole is bubbling.

Mark wants Browned Butter Sweet Potatoes with Caramel and Pecans~

4 pounds sweet potatoes

½ stick butter

½ cup cream

½ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Salt to taste

Bake sweet potatoes in the oven set to 400 degrees until they are fork tender.  Let potatoes cool completely before removing them from their jackets.  In small chefs pan heat butter until melted, continue to cook over medium heat until it begins to brown.  Once brown, pour butter into a dish, if it stays too warm the butter can blacken and get bitter.  Meanwhile, mash potatoes with cream, sugar and cinnamon.  Add butter and mix well.  Salt the potatoes to taste before topping with Bourbon Caramel Sauce.

Bourbon Caramel Sauce with Pecans

1 cup sugar

6 tablespoons butter

½ cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon bourbon

1½ cups chopped pecans

In a heavy bottom saucepan, heat sugar over medium heat until it is amber in color and sugar is melted.  Do not stir pan, tip and swirl to help the sugar melt.  Whisk in butter and stir until combined.  Remove from heat wait 5-10 second before adding bourbon and cream.  Mixture will foam up but just keep stirring.  If mixture has lumps in it, continue to stir over low heat until they melt. Once smooth add pecans.

Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours, I hope it is wonderful!

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Dinner Party~Flavors from a Provençal Market

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I am thrilled to say that you are invited to a fall dinner party featuring flavors from the markets of Provence.  I’ve only been back from the heart of Provence a few days and my soul is bursting with inspiration I will soon share with guests of this magnificent event.

I have partnered with Lauren Palmer from The Art of Living Beautifully who will open her stunning home for the evening and Tracie Miller and Marcie Heneham from Unique Unique Designs who will  be styling  this glorious event.

The evening will begin with cocktails and nibbles and then a short program; I’ll share more about the menu and of course fabulous Provence! Tracie and Marcie will give you plenty of inspiration for tablescaping and centerpieces sure to inspire you for the upcoming entertaining season.

After our short program we will invite our guests to sit for a wonderful meal including wine pairings that have been graciously donated by Andy Doyle of McKinney Wine Merchant. I am particularly excited to share the splendid dessert planned for you.

I look forward to seeing you there!  Don’t delay, only a few tickets remain.

For Tickets CLICK

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Irresistible Chocolate Loaves, an All-Time Favorite

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February is the month for chocolate.  Lauren Palmer at The Art of Living Beautifully asked me to assemble a list of the very best chocolate bites McKinney has to offer.

As you know, some projects are more difficult that others and this truly was a labor of love.

If you know me at all you are aware that chocolate is my all-time favorite food.  It is the only food I eat everyday without fail.  I prefer dark chocolate that is loaded with antioxidants so no need to resist temptation.

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Nothing beats a homemade treat right out of the oven especially when it is my dark Chocolate Loaves smothered in Chocolate Ganache. Naturally this straightforward recipe made the list.

February is here so turn on that oven and bake up a couple of Chocolate Loaves  for the ones you love.  You will be so glad you did!

Oh, and for the full list of my favorite chocolate bites, subscribe NOW to TAOLB, it will be published there tomorrow!

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Chocolate Cake Loaves with Ganache Glaze

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1/3 cup extra dark coco

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup butter

1 cup water

2 eggs

½ cup buttermilk

1 ½ teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare 2 (8-9 inch) loaf pans by first spraying with non-stick cooking spray and then dusting with flour.  In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt and set aside.  In a small sauce pan set to medium, heat water, coco and butter until the butter melts.  Add warmed liquid to flour mixture and stir till combined.    Add first buttermilk then eggs and stir well.  Pour batter into loaf pans and cook for 28-32 minutes.  Pour ganache over cooled cakes. 

Chocolate Ganache

1 cup heavy cream

2 cups semi sweet or dark chocolate chips

1 teaspoon vanilla or Tuaca

Heat cream in a heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat until it begins to simmer.  Remove pan from heat, add chocolate and vanilla and stir well.  Pour ganache over cooled cakes.

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Fabulous Christmas Dinner shared with TAOLB

It has been a real pleasure working with Lauren Palmer and The Art of Living Beautifully this year.  When she asked me for my December recipe I couldn’t resist sharing the meal that finds its way to our Christmas table every year.

Beef filets are so easy and fast to cook, making them the perfect option after the hustle of the season.

Filets are a very tender cut of meat and unlike a ribeye, have very little fat.  Since fat is what gives meat its flavor, I always do a sauce or topping on this cut of beef, and my Bacon Butter is the bomb!

I hope you will give these recipes a try this season, let me know how you like them and if you have not already, subscribe to The Art of Living Beautifully TODAY!  You will be glad you did.

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Beef Filets with Pan Sauce

6 6 ounce beef tenderloin filets

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon whole peppercorns

1 tablespoon canola or grapeseed oil

2 tablespoons butter

1 shallot finely sliced

½ cup red wine

1 cup beef stock

2 sprigs of thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Crush the peppercorns using a mortar and pestle or process in a food processor until pepper is broken but still very course.  Prepare meat by brushing both sides with Dijon mustard.  Season the meat with salt and dust with generous amounts of pepper on both sides.  Heat oil in skillet over medium high heat until it shimmers.  Place filets into hot skillet.  Sear the meat for 2-3 minutes on each side resisting the urge to move meat around.  Transfer meat to a baking sheet and place into the hot oven to finish cooking.  Remove meat when it has reached desired doneness.  Tent the meat with foil for 8 minutes before serving.  While steaks are in the oven prepare pan sauce in the skillet by melting 1 tablespoon butter, add shallots and cook over medium-low heat, stirring, until translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes. Raise heat to medium-high, add wine, and bring to a boil. Using a wooden spoon, deglaze pan. Add thyme and beef stock and bring to a boil.  Cook until sauce is reduced in half and is thickening.  Remove from heat and add swirl in remaining butter and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve steaks with a spoonful of sauce over each fillet and top with a scoop of Bacon Butter.

Sour Cream Smashed Potatoes

4 pounds Russet potatoes

1 stick of butter

½ cup heavy cream

1 ½ cups sour cream

3 green onions finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large pot full of water over medium high heat.  Peel and dice potatoes and add them to the pot.  Once water begins to boil, add about 2 teaspoons of salt.  Boil potatoes until they are fork tender.  Drain water off of the potatoes.  Add butter, cream and sour cream and mash potatoes well.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle in green onions and mix well. Serve as a bed for beef fillets.

Bacon Butter

½ cup toasted walnuts

2 tablespoons softened butter

¼ cup blue cheese crumbles

4 strips bacon

1 tablespoon brown sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

Place bacon on a wire rack over a baking sheet and sprinkle bacon with brown sugar and cinnamon.  Place baking sheet in a cold oven set to 400 degrees and let bacon cook until crisp.  Place cooked bacon and remaining ingredients into a small food processor and pulse until smooth.  Serve a single scoop on top of warm filet.  Serves 6

Tips to guarantee fillets are cooked to perfection:

Always allow meat to come to room temperature before cooking. 

After cooking, tent meat for 5-10 minutes before serving to allow juices to redistribute.  If meat gets too cool you can always pop back into the hot oven for 1 minute. 

Invest in a good meat thermometer. And follow these guidelines

Rare – 125 degrees

Medium-rare – 135 degrees

Medium – 145 degrees

Medium Well- 150 degrees

Well Done-160 degrees