November 29, 2012

Thanksgiving Bread Bowl Spinach Dip

Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours!
1 of 3 Thanksgiving posts.
Last week we traveled to Florida to see my family for the Thanksgiving holiday.
It was our first road trip with the baby. Oh, and we had a car crammed full of stuff AND 2 adorable but hyper dogs.
 Let me just say it was the longest. road. trip. ever.
But it was worth is to see my family, have Ava meet her great grandmother and some of my dear friends, and to walk on the beautiful white sand beaches in Destin, FL! 

 
 My 2 loves!
 Precious Ava all bundled up!
 I can't wait to take her to the beach when she's older and it's not 40 degrees!

 My parents with their 2 favorite girls ;)
Every Thanksgiving we rent a condo in Destin and the whole family stays together cooking, eating, watching movies, and enjoying each others company. This year it was a smaller group since my Uncle Mike and Aunt Candie couldn't make it but we still had a lovely time!
Ashton making his Hot Spinach Dip in a Bread Bowl
Check out the recipe below!

 Update: Ashton is still making this appetizer every year! Here he is making 2 bread bowls full for Thanksgiving 2014!

Ingredients

Makes 2 bread bowls full
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil, plus more for baking dish (if not using a bread bowl)
  • 1  onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 16-20 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, cubed
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 bread bowls, hollowed out
  • toasted bread, pita chips, or crackers, for serving
*You can also add a mix of cheddar and mozzarella cheese.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2.  In a deep skillet, heat oil over medium. 
  3. Add onion and garlic; cook until lightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes.
  4. Add spinach and cook until completely wilted, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a colander; drain, pressing to release all excess liquid.
  5. In the same pot, warm milk over med-high heat. 
  6. Whisk in cream cheese until melted, about 3 minutes.
  7.  Turn heat down to med low and add spinach, 1 cup mozzarella and 1 cup Parmesan; stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. 
  8. Pour into a carved out bread bowl {or a greased baking dish} then sprinkle with remaining 1 cup mozzarella.
  9. Bake until bubbly and golden brown, about 20 minutes. 
  10. Serve hot in a bread bowl with accompaniments, as desired.
Ashton is a pro at dicing onions!
We chose to use a bread bowl or round loaf from the bakery.
Just carve out the insides and cubed the bread you cut out and toast it. Serve on the side as dippers. 
We also used garlic pita chips to dip. YUM!
Tip: Add the onions first and let them cook down for a couple minutes then add the garlic. 
This way the garlic doesn't burn.
I love the gooey cheese sauce this makes!
 
Cheddar cheese makes a gooey topping for this dip too!
I like to lightly toast the chopped bread from the inside 
of the bread bowl and serve on the side for dipping.
How delicious does this look?

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November 19, 2012

Harvest Chicken Pot Pies in Pumpkin Bowls

A couple years ago, I competed in a competition called the Gourmoo Cookoff in LA, California. It was a Chopped style cook-off using lactose free products and sponsored by Lactaid milk. I cooked in 4 timed rounds and had to prepare an appetizer, side dish, entree, and dessert. Unfortunately, I didn't win the competition but I did win the entree round with my Harvest Chicken Pot Pies! So of course with the holidays around the corner I wanted to share this delicious- and fun- recipe with y'all today! I'm sure it'll be a winner in your home too!

Watch my cook-off video below and then check out this delicious recipe!

Ingredients:

Makes 4 servings

  • 4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 4 medium pie pumpkins
  • 1 large Yukon gold potato, peeled and cubed
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • ½ Vidalia onion, diced
  • 8 oz container white mushrooms, sliced
  • 6 oz bag sweet green peas, frozen
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 3 tbsp Tarragon (fresh), finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Small package frozen puff pasty sheets/squares (thawed) or 1 pack Grands Flaky Biscuits
  • Salt and white pepper to taste

Directions: 


  1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cut a large circle around top of pumpkins and remove top with stem.
  3.   Clean out the insides of the pumpkins and scoop out and discard the seeds.
  4. Roast pumpkins upside down on baking sheets in oven for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Toss chopped carrots and potatoes with olive oil and salt and pepper
     and spread on baking pan and roast for 15 minutes. 
  6. Heat a sauté pan with 1 tbsp olive oil and sauté mushrooms and onions until caramelized.
    Season with salt/pepper. 
  7.  Season chicken with salt, pepper and 1 tbsp tarragon. Add to another large skillet with olive oil. Cook until lightly browned and cooked through.
  8. Cook peas according to package. Drain and set aside. 
  9.  Heat broth in a medium saucepan until boiling.
  10. Mix cornstarch and 1 cup milk in a container then slowly whisk into broth.
  11.  Add remaining milk, stirring constantly.
    Add tarragon, salt and pepper and cook until thickened.
  12.  Meanwhile, bake biscuits or puff pastry for the required baking time on package.
  13.  Add roasted veggies, chicken, and onion mixture to soup base and stir to combine. 
  14. Remove pumpkins from oven, turn right side up, and fill with soup.
    Return to oven and cook for 10 minutes. 
  15.  Take pumpkins out, add puff pastry sheets on top of each pumpkin and return to oven for 15-20 minutes. Or you can simply add a flaky biscuit on top and serve! 
 * Try substituting leftover turkey from Thanksgiving for the chicken!
 Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cut a large circle around top of pumpkins and remove top with stem.
  Clean out the insides of the pumpkins and scoop out and discard the seeds {or bake for a tasty snack}.
Roast pumpkins upside down on baking sheets in oven for 15-20 minutes.
Toss chopped carrots and potatoes with olive oil and salt and pepper.
Spread on baking pan and roast for 15 minutes. 
  Heat a sauté pan with 1 tbsp olive oil and sauté mushrooms and onions until caramelized.
Season with salt/pepper. 
 Season chicken with salt, pepper and 1 tbsp tarragon. Add to another large skillet with olive oil. Cook until lightly browned and cooked through.
Cook peas according to package. Drain and set aside. 
 Heat broth in a medium saucepan until boiling. Mix cornstarch and 1 cup milk in a container
and then slowly whisk into broth.
 Add remaining milk, stirring constantly.
Add tarragon, salt and pepper and cook until thickened.
 Meanwhile, bake biscuits or puff pastry for the required baking time on package.


 Add roasted veggies, chicken, and onion mixture to soup base and stir to combine.

Remove pumpkins from oven, turn right side up, and fill with soup.
Return to oven and cook for 10 minutes. 
   Take pumpkins out, add puff pastry sheets on top of each pumpkin and return to oven for 15-20 minutes. Or you can simply add a flaky biscuit on top and serve! 
Serve this dish hot and dig in! You can also use leftover turkey from 
Thanksgiving in place of the chicken.
  
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November 14, 2012

Halloween Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake Mix Cookies

I was so excited for Halloween this year. We live in a family friendly, mostly military neighborhood and I love decorating and passing out candy to all the trick or treaters! Then to top off our Halloween, our little "pumpkin" Ava was born on Oct 23, so she could celebrate with us! Unfortunately it was too cold to dress her up and take her out but I did paint an Ava pumpkin and put her in a pumpkin onesie! 
The week of Thanksgiving I baked lots of treats including Peanut Butter Pudding Cookies for the EOD guys at my husband's work (recipe coming soon!) and these delicious (and super easy!) Chocolate Pumpkin Cake Cookies! They only have 4 ingredients and have the consistency of a moist whoopie pie. The best thing: they are bite size and delicious!
 Thanks to Dana for this great recipe!

My new cooking video!

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November 13, 2012

Welcome Baby Ava!

We were blessed with a healthy baby girl, Ava Luciana Hood, born on Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 3:22 PM. She was 7 lbs, 15 oz and 20.5 inches long.
The doctors and nurses at BJACH in Ft Polk, LA were amazing and I was lucky enough to have a healthy pregnancy and complication free labor and delivery. My parents came to Louisiana to visit and meet their first grandbaby and I can tell already she is going to be spoiled! Every day we fall more and more in love with our sweet princess and we thank our lucky stars that she is in our lives! 
At 11 days young Ava was asked to be a model for a couple local photographers, Tiffany Hess and Jennifer Lohrke and wear a few darling designs from Couture Prop Shop . Check out the beautiful pictures below!

 
 
 
With her Grandma (Oba) Terri
With her Grandpa John
Our first lunch out with Ava.
First time in a car seat!
She loves to stare up at us!
My little girl (and her beautiful lips) !

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