Caramelized Onions and Roasted Garlic. A saucy match made in foodie heaven.

Back in November, I made a vegetable dish for a Christmas potluck. No, I'm not calendar challenged; it was the last meeting of a Bible study before the holidays. The veggies were broccoli and cauliflower, but that's not important. The key to making this side dish divine was the sauce I used. Thinking ahead about this blog, which didn't exist yet, I asked a friend to snap a pic with her iPhone.

Caramelized onion and roasted garlic sauce. I was inspired by a Rachel Ray recipe. I had the TV on for background noise while doing some chores at nap time and happened to catch a cooking segment on her show featuring a pasta recipe using these two ingredients. I had planned to make a cheese sauce for the broccoli and cauliflower, but I think God had other plans for them and sent the word through Rachel Ray! I'm so glad I happened to be listening that day (it's very rare for me to watch/read/listen to RR, just not my favorite TV/food personality) because this sauce is amazing. The sweetness of the caramelized onions and rich, buttery roasted garlic are a terrific pair, and the sauce is great for vegetables, pasta, and probably lots of other things I haven't even considered. I even had some of the leftover sauce on a baked potato; no butter, salt, pepper, sour cream or anything else.

Caramelized Onion and Roasted Garlic Sauce
1 bulb garlic
olive oil
2 sweet or yellow onions, thinly sliced
4 TBS butter
chicken or veggie broth (water would work in a pinch)
milk, half and half or cream (optional)
grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Roast garlic: Cut top off bulb and remove any loose papery skin. Drizzle cut side with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, wrap in foil and roast at 375º for 45-60 minutes.

Caramelize onions: Melt butter in heavy pan over medium heat. Add onion and toss to coat. Stir onions frequently until they are golden brown, about 30 minutes. If they brown too quickly or get dark on the edges, reduce heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Deglaze pan with about 1/4 cup of broth.

Add garlic and onions to food processor with enough broth to make smooth.
Return to pan and add 1/2 cup of milk, half and half or cream to give the sauce some body. (This amount is really to taste and depends on what you are saucing and if you want to add dairy.) Bring to a low boil, reduce heat and stir until thickened. Add Parmesan if desired.

I can imagine this sauce would be really tasty with some sautéed mushrooms added at the end and served over rice, a healthier version of the cream of mushroom soup rice I grew up loving. I would also like to try it with ricotta added at the end instead of the milk/cream. It might be an interesting filling for a white lasagna...


Cracker Thingies

Descriptive title, huh?

Well, it'll have to do because that's what we call one of the most addicting goodies we make at Christmas. Adam actually loves them so much that Momma makes some for him almost every time they come to visit. It's like their very own tradition. Isn't is sweet? (not just because of the sugar...)

These are oh-so-easy but a bit time consuming to assemble. However, they're lots of fun to make with the kiddos, who no doubt will enjoy the fruits of their labor, not to mention licking the peanut butter and chocolate off of their fingers.

Cracker Thingies
Ritz Crackers
peanut butter (smooth or chunky, your preference)
Chocolate Almond Bark coating (or chocolate chips and paraffin wax)

Spread peanut butter on half of the crackers. Top with remaining crackers.
Melt chocolate coating per directions on package.
Dip cracker sandwiches in coating so completely covered. Let excess drip off then place on waxed paper to cool and harden.

See all those delicious layers? I'm eating them right now. The one I cut for that picture simply couldn't be put back in the container.

Cracker Thingies keep very well as long as they're kept in an airtight container in a cool spot. The crackers stay crisp, and the peanut butter doesn't dry out. They even freeze well.

With only 3 ingredients that you probably have on hand, these treats are sure to be a hit for your holiday.


Chai Spice Cookies

I love tea. I love cookies. What better way to enjoy them than to eat cookies with tea in them!

These Chai Spice cookies have become one of my favorite Christmas cookies. They have a gentle spiciness from Chai tea and pumpkin pie spice and a flavor that even the men in my family (who wouldn't go near a cup of Chai tea) love. I've been making these cookies for 3 or 4 years, and I've made some slight adjustments to suit our taste. This is a wonderful dough that freezes well if you want to have some dough on hand to make quick cookies when guests drop by.

The original recipe is for cut-out cookies, specifically girl cookie cutters (it sounds wrong to call it a gingerbread girl cutter when it's not for gingerbread). I hate using cookie cutters. I found better success using cookie cutters with these cookies than others (like sugar cookies, my nemesis), but it's probably because these are a shortbread cookie and the dough is a bit stiff. Despite the success with this dough, I still don't like the extra flour and the rolling pin. Besides, re-rolling the dough scraps makes for tough, dry or crumbly cookies, and i don't want any of this dough to go to waste. This year I made a batch of spiced sugar cookies (ho-hum - should have just made these) for a cookie swap and was reminded of my disdain for cut-out cookies; when it came time to make these beauties I treated them like slice-and-bake cookies and was thrilled with the ease and the results.

Chai Spice Cookies (adapted from Better Homes and Gardens December 2008)

2 Chai spice tea bags
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
2 TBS molasses*

Empty contents of tea bags into medium bowl. Add flour and spices. Mix and set aside.

Beat butter with electric mixer on medium-high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar; beat until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks and molasses. Beat in as much of the flour mixture as you can then stir in the remainder (my Kitchenaid had no problem with all the flour).

Divide dough in half. If too sticky to work with, chill in refrigerator until it can be handled. Roll each half into a log (circle or square, triangle if you really want). Wrap logs in waxed paper (or cover halved dough if using cookie cutters.) and refrigerate 3 hours or until ready to bake.

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or coat with non-stick cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350. Unwrap dough logs and slice 1/8" - 1/4" thick. (If making cut-out cookies, roll to 1/4" thickness and cut.)  Bake 12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on cookie sheets 2 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

*I use sorghum syrup instead of molasses for several reasons, mainly because it's already in my pantry.



Soft Sourdough

A friend shared her sourdough starter with me several months ago. I've used it to make English muffins, pancakes, waffles, biscuits and, of course, sourdough bread. I've also used it as a substitute for yeast in other bread recipes. I've been very pleased with the results, but the last batch of bread I baked knocked my socks off.

Some of the sourdough bread attempts have ended in a dry, crumbly bread with a dense crumb. I don't mind dense bread, but I like my bread to be soft and tender. I happened across this recipe from Home Joys after following a link from Pinterest for something else (who among you hasn't done that?).  I was intrigued that the recipe called for whole wheat flour in addition to all-purpose; that made me want to try it even more! The neighborhood cookie exchange party was a great excuse to make the bread, and I'm so glad I did. (Sorry there are no pictures, but you know what bread looks like, don't you?)

Soft Sourdough Bread (from Home Joys)

2 cups active starter
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup oil or melted butter
1/4 cup honey
2 1/2 cup whole wheat flour *
3 cup white flour *
3 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients except salt for 2-3 minutes. Allow the dough to rest for about 20 minutes.

After rest, add salt and knead dough for about five minutes. If dough is too sticky, add slightly more flour but dough should be soft and not dry and stiff. Place in oiled bowl and allow dough to rise for 3-4 hours or until nearly doubled in size.

Divide dough into two pieces and shape into loaves and place in two greased bread pans. If a free form loaf is desired, place on greased baking sheet. Spray with oil and cover with plastic wrap to keep from drying out. Allow to rise for 2-3 hours.

When dough has risen, slash the top of the loaf. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes. For even browning, turn loaves halfway through baking time

*Note that the amount of flour you'll need is dependent on how thick your starter is. Mine tends to be on the thin side, so I usually have to add flour.

I found the dough to be sticky even after adding more flour, but I was concerned about adding more and kneading any more than I already had, knowing that it could result in a tough loaf of bread. I also found that the dough didn't rise quite as much as I had hoped, but this is a common problem for me. (I need to do some studying up on bread baking, I suppose.) I also didn't slash the tops of the loaves before baking because I had 2 little ones hovering around me and the very hot oven. Despite all this, the bread was a success.

We've enjoyed it with just a bit of butter, toasted, and on sandwiches (it grills up so nicely on the panini press). There's still just a little bit left. But it won't last through the day tomorrow.



My birthday falls shortly after Thanksgiving and just a few short weeks before the onslaught of Christmas merriment. While I L.O.V.E. cake, I have to step back and be practical about how much cake I should eat between slices of pumpkin pie and trays of Christmas cookies. I'm able to temper my cake needs with decadent molten cakes. These single serving beauties take only minutes to prepare. There are many variations; in the past we've had peanut butter, marshmallow, chocolate, and black forest, but the kind Adam made this year may be the best I've had to date.

Dark Chocolate Molten Cake
6 oz bittersweet chocolate+, chopped
10 TBS butter
1 1/2 cups + 1 TBS powdered sugar, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 whole eggs
3 egg yolks

Heat oven to 325.
Spray 6* ramekins or custard cups with nonstick spray and place on baking sheet.
Microwave chocolate and butter in a large bowl at 50% power for 2 minutes or until butter melts. Stir with whisk until chocolate melts.
Add 1 1/2 cups sugar and all of flour. Mix well.
Add eggs and egg yolks. Beat until well mixed. Pour into prepared cups.
Bake 13-15 minutes, until cakes are firm at edges but center is still soft. Let sit 1 minute.
Place plate on top of cup, and while holding plate in place, flip cup over to unmold. Sprinkle with remaining 1 TBS powdered sugar.

+ If you don't have bittersweet chocolate you can substitute semisweet chocolate ounce-for-ounce or unsweetened chocolate (1 ounce unsweetened chocolate +1 TBS sugar) per ounce bittersweet chocolate.
* If you don't want to make 6 cakes, make as many a you want and refrigerate the remaining batter up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before baking.

Ours ending up sitting for a bit more than 1 minute (I'm just amazed it wasn't 10 minutes with 2 little ones under foot.). They were very good, just not quite as gooey in the center. If you like a really melty center, make sure you unmold and eat quickly. If you prefer a more solid center, let them sit a few minutes. Either way, I bet you'll make these again.


I'll never baste again.

The Thanksgiving turkey has come to our table roasted, smoked and deep-fried, basted, injected and rubbed. All are tasty, but I was not prepared for the just how tasty the turkey could be with a brine. I always suspected it would be too salty. I was wrong. Best of all, you can brine that turkey then cook it however you please.

I first brined the turkey in 2009 using Alton Brown's recipe. It was so tasty and moist, but there were some concerns that it was a bit too sweet, so I reduced the amount of sugar and increased the spices in the brine in 2010. I think we got the balance just right for us with that little change.

Now for a few caveats:
1) You must plan ahead for this one. Brining the bird takes at least 8 hours and the brine itself must be boiled then completely cooled before that. Plan on starting mid-day the day before you want to eat the turkey.

2) Brining might be messy. I'd advise you to do as much outside as possible so you don't end up with a brined kitchen floor.

3) You'll need a large container that can be sealed, think 5-gal bucket with lid or an ice chest lined with a large plastic bag (easier than disinfecting or pulling out a picnic smelling of the brine come July). I use a 13 gal garbage bag - no colors or scents please.

It sounds like a lot more work than roasting and basting. True, there are a few more steps and hours involved, but it's so worth it.

Nutty Barley Bake

Most of us have eaten barley before (Campbell's Beef Vegetable Soup with Barley, anyone?), but it's not a grain we serve very often. I've always enjoyed the nutty taste of barley, though my exposure was limited mostly to the instant kind from Mr. Quaker, usually in soups. I found this recipe in a Taste of Home cookbook and simply had to try it. We first had this savory dish when some friends came for supper in late summer 2009. With the first bite I knew it would be a keeper. I served this dish at Thanksgiving that same year, and it became a new family favorite.

Nutty Barley Bake (from Taste of Home)

1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup pearl barley
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup minced parsley
1/4 cup sliced green onion
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 14.5 oz cans beef broth, low sodium

Saute onion, barley and pine nuts  in butter until barley is lightly browned.
Stir in parsley, green onion, salt and pepper. Transfer to 2 quart baking dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Bake at 350 for 1 hour 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.

I haven't changed a thing from the original recipe. I can't think of a way to make it any better. I've toyed with the idea of using it as a base for a stew, but I've yet to act on it. I'll let you know what happens.


Thanksgiving Traditions in the Making

As I mentioned in the previous post about Thanksgiving, the holiday has changed a lot since we've been married. Not only has the setting for the meal changed, but we've also added some new dishes to the menu. The only bad part about adding new things is that I'm not sure any of the old dishes were taken off the table. Oh, well. I'm always up for more great food!

Over the next few days I'll be posting our family's favorite new recipes to celebrate Thanksgiving.


Cornbread Dressing

We don't stuff our bird. We dress it up with yummy cornbread dressing. I love dressing. Daddy loves dressing. Mom really likes it. My husband really doesn't like it. K-bob couldn't get enough of his first taste of dressing this year. However you make it - baked inside the bird or out - everyone has their opinion of the texture and the taste. Some like it wet, some like it dry, some like it crunchy on top. Some like it kind of bland, some like it with lots of sage. So this recipe doesn't have much in the way of measurements; those below are rough guidelines. It's different every year in an attempt to please all the palates at the table.

Cornbread Dressing
1 pan cornbread, crumbled (prepared the day before if possible)
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 tsp ground sage
1-2 tsp poultry seasoning

Sauté onion and celery until tender.
Mix onion, celery, cornbread, egg, and seasonings. Add broth so that mixture is thinner than cornbread batter.
Cook, uncovered, at 350º for 30-40 minutes, or until firm in the middle.

We usually boil the turkey neck to make some broth to use for the dressing. You can also pick off the neck meat (yes, you can eat the turkey neck) to add in. My mother-in-law used to cook a whole hen and put the meat in the dressing.

This is such a versatile recipe that it may take a few times to get it just right for your Thanksgiving table. I condone practicing several times a year in order to perfect you recipe. The leftovers work very well as a thickener for turkey or chicken soup if you aren't a fan of thin broth. I even like to eat it cold...


Potatoes. Make mine sweet.

Aside from the turkey and dressing (we'll get to those in a couple of days), nothing quite says Thanksgiving like sweet potatoes. Don't get me wrong, we eat sweet potatoes at least once a week throughout the year; they just aren't sweet sweet potatoes.

Sweet Potato Casserole is a treat we reserve for Thanksgiving or Christmas. The creamy sweet potatoes are covered with a wonderful, slightly crunchy coconut pecan topping. (In the picture above it's right in the middle next to the green beans; we failed to get an individual shot before it hit the table.) This casserole really should be considered a dessert, and it probably has more calories and sugar per serving than pumpkin pie. Nonetheless, it's a served as a side dish on our table. There are many versions of this recipe, all varying slightly in the amount of sugar or number of eggs. I think this one started out from Southern Living, and we've made a few changes over the years.

Sweet Potato Casserole

3 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 milk
1/3 cup melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract (please use the real stuff, not imitation)
2 eggs, beaten
ground cinnamon

Mix well. Spoon into greased 9"x13" baking dish. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon.

1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 to 1 cup chopped pecans

In medium bowl, mix together until butter is evenly incorporated. Sprinkle over sweet potato mixture.

Bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until topping is golden.

There really is a lot of room to play with this recipe. We use a 9"x13" dish, but if you want a thick layer of sweet potatoes and a really thick layer of the topping, use a smaller dish. Generally, we only use half of the topping if we use a smaller pan because 1) it doesn't fit and 2) it's just too much sweet on top (I really just said that...). The leftover topping is great over ice cream and works well as a kind of streusel topping (Just slice some pears or apples, throw them in a pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray and top them with as much of this yummy stuff as desired. Bake in a 350 oven until the fruit is tender, about 20-30 minutes depending on how much you're cooking.).


Thanksgiving Traditions

We spent Thanksgiving at my parent's house for the first time since Cooter was born. It was my 11-month-old son's first trip to see the grandparents, first long car trip, and first Thanksgiving. I call him K-bob for some unknown reason. I just started saying it when he was a month old or so and haven't stopped. (Sorry, kiddo.)

Our Thanksgiving has changed a lot in the past 10 years. When we first started out, there were two Thanksgiving meals, my family and Adam's family. Then we had two away from the family when we lived in Northern Virginia. We moved back to Georgia in 2005 and have had family Thanksgivings since, some hosted here and some hosted in Arkansas. This year we had our little family of 4, my parents and my father-in-law around the table. It was a great meal and a great time for us to focus on the blessings in our lives.

Over the next few days I'll be posting some of our favorite Traditional Thanksgiving recipes. These are the family favorites that are made each year without fail, are requested in advance and cause great angst if they aren't included (ask me later about the year there was no pecan pie).


The Inspiration

I've thought about blogging several times over the past few years, but it never panned out either because of time or not knowing what I'd have to say. Fast forward to October when a meal that I cooked stirred up a lot of interest following a Facebook post and some face-to-face conversations. A friend suggested I start a blog with my recipes because she's always looking for something tasty and different from her normal rotation of meals. "What's We Havin'?" was born.

Now, I normally have a very guttural reaction to improper grammar (not to say that my grammar is always perfect - please don't hold me to that standard!). Misspellings and grammar errors tend to jump off of the page and distract me from the content. Given this information, you may be wondering about the title of the blog. Simply put, I have a 3-year-old, whom I have affectionately called Cooter since he was in utero, who loves food, loves to help me cook, and loves to eat. Our conversation at breakfast often includes him asking, "Hey Mom, what's we havin' for lunch?". At lunch, or maybe after nap, he wonders, "What's we havin' for dinner?" Since my culinary adventures are the result of my desire to feed my family healthy, tasty meals that don't break the bank or take hours to prepare, it only seemed appropriate that I take that simple query as the inspiration for my blog.