Foodbuzz 24×24: The Best Things We Ever Ate

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Summer officially started last Monday. However, being in Louisiana, we’ve been feeling summer-like weather since May. With the heat index hitting 110 degrees sometimes, we wanted to throw a summer party that was most definitely indoors!

I watch entirely too much Food Network. If it wasn’t for Food Network and reading food blogs, I’m fairly certain my husband and I would be living off of Hamburger Helper and take-out. One of my favorite shows lately has been The Best Thing I Ever Ate. Every show has a theme, and it features the cooks/hosts on Food Network and their favorite eats in that theme. So, when Foodbuzz emailed about this month’s 24×24 proposals, I figured it would be a fun party to feature the best things our families have eaten! Thanks so much to Foodbuzz for sponsoring this party! :)

To come up with the menu, I sent out an email to our families asking for their favorites in each category.

  • On the Grill (recipes that are done on the BBQ)
  • Dangerously Cheesy (major cheese in a dish)
  • No Utensils (finger foods/apps)
  • Keep it Comfy (comfort food)
  • Frozen Treats (any dessert from the freezer)
  • Mix it Up (a food that requires using a mixer—doesn’t have to be a sweet)
  • Louisiana’s Best (Louisiana food)
  • Cold and Colorful (like a salad or cold app with lots of veggies or fruit)
  • Under the Sea (favorite seafood dish)
  • Classic American (with 4th of July approaching, tell me a dish that screams American)

After getting many responses, here is the menu we came up with:

Drinks:
Strawberry Lemonade
Strawberry Daiquiris

Appetizers:
Cheese Fondue with Vegetables/Bread*
Bruschetta*
Boudin Balls

Entrees:
Steak Skewers with Chimichurri, Onion Cheese Sauce and Compound Butter*
Spicy BBQ Shrimp Skewers*

Sides:
Crawfish Fettuccine
Macaroni and Cheese
Vegetable Skewers*
Grilled Corn
Lettuce Greens with Honey Lime Vinaigrette

Desserts:
Strawberry Cake*
Assorted Cupcakes
Cinnamon Crumb Apple Pie
Fresh Berries with Ice Cream

* recipes will be featured in the blog in future posts

I will admit, I’m still getting the hang of entertaining for a large number of people. Despite doing a lot of prep, I felt fairly stressed in the last hour. Since the party was for family, though, I had loads of help at the last minute. :) Whew!

The fondue was an absolute hit. I was nervous to make this myself, but this recipe came together beautifully! I served the fondue with day old po’boy bread, carrots and broccoli.

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We purchased the boudin balls at a local joint, since they are pretty much my husband’s favorite. The bruschetta was a lighter alternative to the other appetizers. I was super excited to use basil from our garden for this dish!

Appetizers

I need to thank the hubs for braving the sweltering disgusting heat to cook up this magic on the grill. The steak, especially was a real winner to family!

kabobs

We made 3 sauces available for people to dip/cover their skewers in: a chimichurri, onion blue cheese (not pictured) and a worchestershire chive butter. The chimichurri ended up being a huge hit (and I used parsley from the garden for it)!

Steak Butter/Chimichurri

Here is some lovely grilled corn that survived a few flare-ups on the grill. :)

Grilled Corn

Here is a semi-decent picture of the crawfish fettuccine before everyone digged in. The hubs’ parents made this dish and it was delicious. Perfect flavor with a little Louisiana kick!

Crawfish Fettucine

This is some macaroni and cheese that is my mother-in-law’s favorite. It was definitely pretty tasty (not to mention, cheesy). :)

Mac and Cheese

After enjoying some serious eats, we waited a good while before putting out desserts and just chatted, watched TV and played some games.

I will say the desserts were absolutely amazing.

Fresh berries (and ice cream, not pictured)

berries

Strawberry Cake (inspired by a local bakery). I would have just purchased one, but I had no idea an 8″ cake was over $30. What the heck?! I guess I’m just used to baking my own cakes to realize how expensive cakes have gotten!

Strawberry Cake

This was a welcomed surprise. A local cupcake bakery occasionally has giveaways on Twitter, and I won some cupcakes! They were seriously delish! Thank you Sweet Wishes Cafe!

Cupcakes

Here is the cinnamon crumb apple pie. This is one of those frozen pies you can find in the grocery store, but has quickly become a favorite with my hubs’ family.

apple pie

Of course, our puppy was very excited to get all of the attention she got at the party, and thanks to my mom, she tried a piece of steak for the first time. I think she enjoyed it. :)

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And of course, it wouldn’t be a party without family! Here are some pictures of our family.

Mom and Sis

family

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It was a great time to be had by everyone, especially in the milder indoors. Thank you so much to Foodbuzz again for the party! Everyone had a blast! :)

Burgers and Fries

Baked Oven Fries

Oh yes, the classic burger and fries. It reminds me so much of when I was a kid. Dad would grill the burgers and Mom would fry the fries. Mom would always make sure we had a good TV show playing since we liked to usually run around the house and accidents were normal during those times. Mom didn’t want grease burn accidents, so it was either Nickelodeon or our favorite Disney movie. It kept us 4 kids quiet long enough.

When dinner was ready, we used to race to the plates and get our fix. Burger night was awesome!

Now that the hubs and I are trying to eat better, burgers and fries just weren’t on our mind. I’ve tried the whole oven fries thing before, but with tasty but mushed up results. After reading a few raves about a recipe that Annie of Annie’s Eats featured, I decided to try this technique. What would it hurt, right?

The results? The crispy flavorful fries that I remember, except, well Ore-Ida didn’t make these. :) This recipe was easy and just plain delicious. Best of all? Only 5 tablespoons of oil are used for the whole recipe! Awesome. Definitely Weight Watchers friendly. :)

Another great thing about this meal? The burger buns. These were provided to me for free by Nature’s Pride and Foodbuzz as a part of the Tastemaker program. My husband and I were sent a pack of these to sample, and we were thrilled to get something whole wheat. They were delicious!

Baked Oven Fries
Source: adapted from Annie’s Eats (originally by Cooks Illustrated)

Ingredients:

  • 3 russet potatoes (about 24 oz. total), peeled and cut lengthwise into even sized wedges
  • 5 tbsp. vegetable, canola or peanut oil, divided
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1 tsp. cajun seasoning, plus more to taste (like Tony Chachere’s)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 475˚ F.  Place the potato wedges in a large mixing bowl.  Cover with hot water; soak for 10-30 minutes.  Put 4 tablespoons of the oil onto a heavy, rimmed baking sheet.  Tilt the sheet side to side to evenly coat the pan with oil (a pastry brush can also help with this).  Sprinkle the pan evenly with the salt and pepper.  Set aside.
  2. Drain the potatoes.  Spread the wedges out on layers of paper towels or on clean kitchen towels.  Pat dry with additional towels.  Wipe out the now empty bowl so it is dry.  Return the potatoes to the bowl and toss with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil.  Arrange the potato wedges on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer.  Cover tightly with foil and bake for 5 minutes.  Remove the foil and continue to bake until the bottoms of the potatoes are spotty golden brown, 15-20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet after 10 minutes.  Using a metal spatula and tongs, flip each potato wedge keeping them in a single layer.  Continue baking until the fries are golden and crisp, 5 -15 minutes.  Rotate the pan as needed to ensure even browning.
  3. When the fries are finished baking, transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to drain some of the grease.  Season with the cajun seasoning, to taste.  Serve warm.

Mexican Rice

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I am a big time fan of Mexican food. I can eat quesadillas, fajitas, queso and rice until my stomach wants to explode. I could probably eat this stuff everyday, but if I did, I’m sure my jeans would tell me to take a hike! One of my favorite things is Mexican rice, especially at this local Mexican joint. I’ve never found an adequate at-home replacement, and I thought I would give this a shot.

I’m so sad that this stuff turned out bland bland bland. I worked on this darn side dish on a work night, only to be disappointed. Maybe it needed more salt? Anyway, I will say it was dynamite when mixed with some carmelized onions and veggies that I cooked for the fajitas.

I don’t even know what went wrong (anyone have tips?), but the search continues….

EDIT: After making this again, I realized I must not have rinsed the rice long enough. The recipe turned out spectacular!

Mexican Rice
Source: Annie’s Eats (originally from Cooks Illustrated)

Ingredients:

  • 2 ripe tomatoes, cored and quartered
  • 1 medium white onion, peeled, trimmed and quartered
  • 2 cups long grain white rice
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
  • 3 medium jalapenos, ribbed, seeded and minced
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro (optional)
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges for serving

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and move a rack to the middle position.  Process tomatoes and onions in the food processor until smooth and thoroughly pureed, about 15 seconds, scraping down the bowl if necessary.  Transfer the mixture a liquid measuring cup; you should have 2 cups (if necessary, spoon off excess or add water so that the volume equals 2 cups).   
  2. Place the rice in a large fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water until the water runs clear, about 1 1/2 minutes.  Shake rice vigorously in strainer to remove all excess water.
  3. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed oven-safe Dutch oven or straight-sided sauté pan with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat, 1 to 2 minutes.  Add the rice and fry, stirring frequently, until it is golden and translucent, 6 to 8 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium; add the garlic and minced jalapenos; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 1/2 minutes.  Stir in pureed tomatoes and onions, chicken broth, tomato paste and salt; increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.  Cover the pan an transfer to the oven; bake until the liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, 30 to 35 minutes, stirring well after 15 minutes.

Potato Bundles

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With the Spring starting, my husband couldn’t wait to break out the grill and cook! Steaks happened to be on sale that week, so I brought home some steaks and planned on making a new potato dish for the side dish. This is a super easy side to make and a fun way to serve up potatoes.

I remember seeing this recipe on Pioneer Woman and being intrigued because foil packs = less dishes. Plus, cream and butter? How can you go wrong? The only thing I noticed is that you need to stir the contents of the bundle out of the oven before you eat it, because the creamy buttery goodness is at the bottom of the pack. :)

Potato Bundles
Source: The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients:

  • 6 whole Russet Potatoes
  • ½ whole Yellow Onion, Diced
  • 1 stick Butter
  • ½ cups Heavy Cream
  • Kosher Salt To Taste
  • Paprika To Taste
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper, To Taste
  • 2 Tablespoons Minced Parsley

Directions:

  1. Pile potatoes and onions on a square of foil. Add 2 tablespoons butter. Splash on cream. Then sprinkle on salt, paprika, and black pepper. Sprinkle minced parsley over the top.
  2. Wrap bundles tightly and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, or until extremely tender.
  3. Serve bundles right on the dinner plate. Serves 8.

Mom’s Sweet Potato Casserole

Another classic that just screams Thanksgiving for my family is my mom’s sweet potato casserole. I made it a little lighter by using products from Splenda, and wow, was it delicious!

Mom’s Sweet Potato Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 7 large sweet potatoes
  • 3/4 cup of butter (used 1 tbsp. of smart balance)
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (used 1/4 cup splenda br. sugar)
  • 1/2 cup gran sugar (used 1/4 cup splenda blend)
  • 1/2 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tbsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 bag mini marshmallows

Directions:

  1. Boil sweet potatoes until fork tender. Allow potatoes to cool.
  2. Peel sweet potatoes and place them in a large bowl. Mash using a hand or stand mixer.
  3. Cream butter, milk in with the potatoes. Add the sugars, eggs, spices and vanilla extract and mix until well blended.
  4. Bake at 425 in a 9×13 pan for 15 minutes, or until brown.
  5. Sprinkle mini marshmallows on top, turn on the broiler and bake with the oven door open until they brown.

Mom’s Cornbread Dressing

Since we were hosting Thanksgiving, I knew I was going to make my mom’s fabulous cornbread dressing. It’s so flavorful, moist and just delicious! I was afraid it wouldn’t be as good as mom’s, because the recipe she gave me was a lot of ingredients “to taste”. So, I was surprised to see that people actually gobbled (hehe..pun) it up!

I wrote ingredients down as I did it, and so this is my version of my mom’s dressing!

Mom’s Cornbread Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 bunches of green onions, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 9×13 pan of prepared and cooled cornbread (I did this using 6 packs of Jiffy cornbread mix.)
  • 1 lb. lean ground meat
  • 1 roll of Jimmy Dean reduced fat sausage
  • 2 cans of beef broth
  • Cajun spice, paprika, salt and pepper to taste (I didn’t measure these…sorry!)

Directions:

  1. Saute onions, green onions, bell pepper and celery in a dutch oven until transparent. Add garlic.
  2. Brown sausage and beef in another pot until fully cooked and drain fat.
  3. Add meat mixture to the onion mixture in the dutch oven.
  4. Cut up and crumble cornbread by hand and add it to the pot.
  5. Add beef broth about a half can at a time, until the mixture is moist.
  6. Add spices to taste.
  7. Refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to meld. The next day, place the dutch oven (covered) in the oven at 350 degrees until the dressing is warm. Serve.

Crash Hot Potatoes

This is one of those recipes that I starred in my Google Reader a while ago, and until recently, just revisited. I was planning on roasting chicken breasts for the hubs and I, so I thought these potatoes from The Pioneer Woman’s website would be the perfect side to go with it. These were so easy and an absolute hit in the house. The hubs requested them immediately afterwards for the next evening’s dinner, and that never happens with a dish I make! I guess my skills in the kitchen are improving!

Crash Hot Potatoes
Source: The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients:

  • 12 whole New Potatoes (or Other Small Round Potatoes)
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Kosher Salt To Taste
  • Black Pepper To Taste
  • Rosemary (or Other Herbs Of Choice) To Taste

Directions:

  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add in the potatoes and cook them until they are fork-tender.
  2. On a sheet pan, generously drizzle olive oil. (For me, I used a pastry brush to paint on 1 tbsp. of olive oil.) Place tender potatoes on the cookie sheet leaving plenty of room between each potato.
  3. With a potato masher, gently press down each potato until it slightly mashes, rotate the potato masher 90 degrees and mash again. Brush the tops of each crushed potato generously with more olive oil.
  4. Sprinkle potatoes with kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper and fresh chopped rosemary (or chives or thyme or whatever herb you have available.)
  5. Bake in a 450 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Mexican Potatoes

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My husband and I like to make our weeknight cooking as simple as possible. Just lately, we got into making tacos, but were shamefully using the kits for tacos and mexican rice.

After finding this recipe for Taco Seasoning on Allrecipes, I decided it was probably worth a shot to do this without the kit. Not only did we have all the spices on hand, but because it was a mix we made, it felt a little more homemade with not much extra effort!

For the side, I wanted to try something a little different, so I searched for ideas with mexican spiced potatoes and after looking at many ideas, I found a recipe for us to try.

These potatoes had a nice flavor, but I was hoping for more of a kick with them. So, next time, I’m going to probably adjust the spices a good bit or even try putting some of the Taco Seasoning in there with the recipe.

Mexican Roasted Potatoes
Adapted from The Nourishing Gourmet

Ingredients

  • 5 medium russet potatoes, diced
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (plus more to sprinkle on top)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon style mustard
  • 1 lime, juiced (or more to taste)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Combine all of the ingredients, except the potatoes and lime in a jar and shake to thoroughly mix ingredients (or whisk in a bowl).
  3. Pour your diced potatoes into a jelly roll pan, and toss with the oil mixture. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  4. Roast for about 40 minutes, until the potatoes are well cooked, and browning on the edges. Take out of the oven, and sprinkle the juice of one lime over it. Taste test, and add more lime juice or salt, if needed and serve.

The Skinny - per serving, serves 6

Calories 250.5
Fat 12.1 g
Fiber 4 g

Rosemary Garlic Chicken and Glazed Carrots

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I got these recipes in an email from Real Simple magazine. When I saw them, I thought they looked very healthy and tasty, so I saved the recipes and made them! The chicken was very flavorful and I think it would be wonderful in a salad, too! The carrots tasted very good and were the PERFECT compliment to the chicken!

Rosemary Garlic Chicken
Source: Real Simple

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken-breast halves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup sherry vinegar (I used balsamic vinegar)
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions:

  1.  Using a rolling pin, pound the chicken between 2 sheets of wax paper until they are of uniform thickness.
  2. Heat the oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers and the garlic browns. (Don’t burn the garlic.) Add the chicken breasts and cook until golden, 3 to 5 minutes on each side.
  3. Add the salt, pepper, vinegar, chicken broth, and rosemary. (When you add vinegar, face away from the pan, otherwise, the vinegar will clear your sinus, seriously!)
  4. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 3 minutes longer or until the chicken is fork-tender. Remove the chicken to a platter and keep warm. Increase heat to high and boil the sauce until thickened or syrupy, 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk in the butter and pour the sauce over the chicken.

Yield: 4 servings

POINTS*: 5

Glazed Carrots
Source: Real Simple

Ingredients:

  • 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch sticks
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Place the carrots in a large skillet. Dot with the butter and sprinkle with the sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  2. Add enough cold water to come halfway up the sides of the carrots. Simmer, partially covered, until the carrots are tender and the liquid has reduced to a glaze, about 20 minutes. (If the carrots are done before this point, transfer them to a bowl, increase heat to high, and cook the liquid, uncovered, until reduced. Return the carrots to the pan and toss.)

Yield: Makes 6 servings
POINTS*: 1

Garlic Fries

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This was a side dish to the oven fried chicken, and another Ellie recipe. OMG…these were fabulous! A little tedious to cut the potatoes into sticks, but wow, super super good!!

Garlic Fries
Source: Ellie Krieger

Ingredients

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 large baking potatoes, 12 ounces each
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Heat the garlic and oil in a small saucepan over medium heat for 2 minutes. Strain the garlic from the oil with a small mesh strainer. Set both garlic and oil aside.
  3. Cut the potatoes into 1/4-inch sticks. In a large bowl, toss the oil, potatoes and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and spread the potatoes onto it in a single layer. Bake until golden and crisp, about 35 minutes.
  4. Remove potatoes from the tray with a metal spatula. Toss with parsley, reserved garlic, and additional salt, to taste. Serve immediately.