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Champagne Strawberry Jello

We had this last New Year’s Eve and it was SOOOO Good!! Definitely making again this year!!

Adopted from Hello, Jell-O! by Victoria Belange
Serving: 7 – 10 molds
3 tablespoons or 3 envelopes of unflavored gelatin powder
2 cups cold water
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups cold champagne
1 1/2 cups cold ginger ale
1 cup sliced fresh strawberries

In a saucepan, sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the cold water and allow the gelatin to absorb the water for 2 minutes.

Bring the water with the gelatin powder to a boil over high heat while stirring until the gelatin is fully dissolved. Remove from the heat.

Transfer the gelatin mixture to a bowl, add the sugar, and stir until dissolved. Then, stir in the champagne and ginger ale.

Refrigerate until thickened a bit. Make sure the mixture is still partially liquid. Fold in the strawberries. Spoon into 7 to 10 individual molds or a big mold. The smaller the mold the firmer the jello will be. Remember, metal mold acquire firmer jello than glass mold. Refrigerate until firm. Unmold and serve.

To unmold, run a knife around the top of the jello and put it in a bath of warm water for 10 – 20 seconds. Flip it over and shake it or give it a light pat.




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Loaded Sweet Potato Skins

Enjoy a big plate of extra crispy, extra loaded sweet potato skins in no time! This game-time favorite is hard to resist.

Loaded sweet potato skins are so simple. The potatoes are hollowed out, leaving just enough edge, then filled back up with the mashed sweet potato. I highly recommend mashing the sweet potatoes with a little milk to make the filling smooth and extra creamy. Top the filled skins with cheese, bake, add bacon, enjoy.

Crunch, crunch, crunch. The trick for their crisp? After hollowing out the skins, drizzle them with a little olive oil. Or, as I like to call it, the “crisp maker.” Don’t leave it out! Once drizzled, bake the potato skins for about 10 minutes before filling them.

Voila! Extra crispy skins.

When I’m feeling like something a little healthier, I add a little garlicky spinach to the filling. This is how I do it: three handfuls of spinach cooked down on the stove with 1 clove of minced garlic and 1 Tablespoon of olive oil. Mash this into the sweet potato filling and fill the hollowed out skins as directed below. Then, I usually top each filled skin with 1 Tablespoon of shredded cheese. And I skip the bacon. Bake, and enjoy with a salad – makes a great, meat-free healthy meal. Try it!

Yield: 8 potato skins, may easily be doubled or tripled for a crowd


4 medium sweet potatoes
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup milk1
1/4 teaspoon salt
ground pepper, to taste
1 cup shredded cheese (I use half sharp cheddar and half mozzarella)
4 strips bacon, cooked until crispy, and crumbled
sour cream and chopped chives for serving

Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Pierce each sweet potato a few times and bake for 40-50 minutes or until soft. Allow the potatoes to cool slightly. Slice potatoes in half lengthwise.
Reduce oven temperature to 375F degrees. Scoop out sweet potato flesh, leaving a thin layer of sweet potato inside, and add flesh to a medium bowl. Place skins back on the baking sheet face up, drizzle with olive oil and bake for 10 minutes.
Mash the sweet potato flesh with milk, salt, and pepper until smooth and creamy. After 10 minutes, remove the skins from the oven. Fill each with an equal amount of mashed sweet potato and top each with cheese. Bake for 15 minutes until the cheese is melted. Remove from the oven and top with bacon. Serve with sour cream and chopped chives, if desired.
Skins are best enjoyed immediately. Cover leftovers tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Recipe Notes:
Buttermilk, whole milk, or half-and-half is best. Try to avoid low fat milks. You want a very thick, creamy mash.


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Buttermilk-Boursin Mashed Potatoes

Ditch the boxed potatoes this year and make this luxurious take on mashed potatoes with full-flavor Boursin cheese.


4 lb. medium Yukon gold potatoes
2 package herb-garlic cheese (such as Boursin)
6 tbsp. softened butter
⅓ c. fresh chives
1½ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. Freshly ground pepper
1¾ c. whole buttermilk
fresh chives

Bring potatoes and cold salted water to cover to a boil in a large Dutch oven. Boil 20 to 25 minutes or until tender; drain. Let stand until cool enough to handle and peel.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Press peeled potatoes through a potato ricer or food mill into a large bowl. Lightly fold cheese, 4 tablespoons butter, and next 3 ingredients into potatoes. Stir in 1 3/4 to 2 1/4 cups buttermilk, stirring just until smooth and fluffy (do not over- mix). Spoon into a lightly greased 3-quart baking dish. Dot top of potatoes with remaining 2 tablespoons butter and cover with aluminum foil.
Bake, covered, at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 more minutes or until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle with additional chives before serving.

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Cranberry Hoisin Chicken Rice

Make use of fresh cranberries with this easy one-pot dinner, which harmonizes sweet and savory flavors with Asian flair. Recipe courtesy of Ming Tsai, author of Simply Ming: One-Pot Meals.


2 tbsp. canola oil
8 skin-on bone-in chicken thighs
2 bunch scallions
2 tbsp. minced garlic
2 c. jasmine rice
¼ c. hoisin sauce
1 c. dry red wine
3 c. Low-Sodium Chicken Stock
1 c. fresh cranberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat oil. Brown chicken on both sides. Set chicken aside.
In same pot, sauté scallions and garlic. Add rice and sauté for 1 minute. Add hoisin and stir, then add red wine, stirring occasionally until liquid is reduced by three quarters, about 2 minutes.
Add stock, cranberries, and reserved chicken to pot and bring to a simmer; cover and transfer to oven for 30 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

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Sweet Potato Kale Frittata

A delicious and easy frittata that is perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner

TOTAL TIME: 0:30 PREP: 0:20 LEVEL: Moderate SERVES: 4

6 large eggs
1 c. half-and-half
1 tsp. Kosher salt
½ tsp. Freshly ground pepper
2 c. sweet potatoes
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 c. firmly packed chopped kale
½ small red onion
2 clove garlic
3 oz. goat cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk together eggs and next 3 ingredients.
Sauté sweet potatoes in 1 tablespoon hot oil in a 10-inch ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender and golden; remove and keep warm. Sauté kale and next 2 ingredients in remaining 1 tablespoon oil 3 to 4 minutes or until kale is wilted and tender; stir in potatoes. Pour egg mixture evenly over vegetables, and cook 3 more minutes. Sprinkle egg mixture with goat cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees F 10 to 14 minutes or until set.

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Turkey-Cobb Sandwiches

Lighten up! For the salad, use only white-meat turkey and reduce the bacon and blue cheese by half. For the dressing, replace the mayo with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Total savings? 74 calories and 8 grams of fat per sandwich.

TOTAL TIME: 0:10 PREP: 0:10 LEVEL: Easy YIELD: 6 sandwiches

3 c. cubed leftover turkey
2 c. chopped butter lettuce
1 large avocado
1 large Roma tomato
1 small red onion
4 strip cooked bacon
2 oz. blue cheese
4 tbsp. mayonnaise
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. Freshly ground pepper
1 tsp. salt
6 pitas

In a large bowl, combine the first 7 ingredients. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, vinegar, pepper, and salt. Add dressing to salad and toss to coat. For each sandwich, fill each of 2 pita halves with 1/2 cup salad.

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Melting Sweet Potatoes

I almost always make a sweet potato casserole for Thanksgiving, but I think we’ll try these this year, they look super yummy.

Forget mini marshmallows! Pimp out your sweet potatoes with maple syrup and pecans.


1/2 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced crosswise into ½” coins
1 tbsp. melted butter
kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c. maple syrup
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 c. toasted pecans, choppes

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.
Toss sweet potatoes in melted butter. Lay in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, until the bottoms are starting to turn golden. Meanwhile, whisk together maple syrup and brown sugar.
Remove baking sheet from oven and flip each sweet potato. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees F. Pour maple syrup mixture over the sweet potatoes. Return to oven and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until the syrup has reduced down and is bubbly.
Sprinkle pecans on top of sweet potatoes before serving.


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Cracker Salad

I originally got this recipe from my ex-mother-in-law. At first I found it a little strange, but once I tasted it, it was great.

“Crackers are tossed with tomato, egg and green onion in the quick mayonnaise salad. This is a traditional Southern salad. Best if eaten immediately upon preparing.”

Cracker Salad

2 (4 ounce) packets saltine crackers
2 large tomato, chopped
6 green onions, finely chopped
3 cups mayonnaise
2 hard-cooked egg, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper to
1. Coarsely crumble the saltines into a medium bowl. Mix in the tomato, onions and mayonnaise. Stir in the hard-cooked egg, and season with salt and pepper.

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The 3 most important steps to making great gravy.

A Great Gravy Recipe Will Solve All Your Problems
The turkey’s resting, which means one thing: It’s gravy time. Forget multitasking—these moments are for crafting the silky sauce that brings the entire plate together. Here are the three most important steps:

Stock Answers
Good gravy begins with a long-simmered stock. To maximize flavor, we roast turkey parts and wings—along with aromatics—before they go into the pot.

Roux First
The make-or-break element of gravy is a dark, toasty roux. Take the time to cook the raw taste out of the flour for fuller flavor and the most gorgeous mahogany color.

We Like It Hot
Adding cold stock to warm roux means a trip to lump city. For smooth gravy bliss, heat your stock—as well as your reserved turkey drippings—before you add them to the pan.

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Miniature Oyster Patties

‘Tis the season to share another one of my favorite holiday recipes with you, Miniature Oyster Patties. These savory little bite-size pastries have been making the rounds at New Orleans Christmas parties and weddings for as long as I can remember. And once you taste them, you’ll understand why they’re so popular. If you’re not into oysters, try shrimp, crabmeat or crawfish instead. You can also fill the shells with a spinach and artichoke mixture or some type of meaty filling. Really, anything goes. What makes today’s finger food so unique are the mini-patty shells. The shells are actually tiny puff pastries sold by the dozen at various bakeries and grocery stores throughout New Orleans. If you’re outside the area, call ahead to see if your local bakery shop makes them (some fancy bakeries may call them vol-au-vents). If not, you can place an order for overnight delivery with several New Orleans bakeries including Haydel’s, Swiss Confectionery and Gambino’s. Pepperidge Farm sells the large ones in the freezer section of most grocery stores, but they leave you with too much filing and not enough pastry. I suggest you plan ahead and get the miniature ones. They’re more fun to serve and eat.

Miniature Oyster Patties Recipe

1 pint oysters (reserve oyster liquor)
1 1/2 sticks butter
2 bunches green onions, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons Wondra Gravy Flour
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup reserved oyster liquor (or part oyster liquor and part water)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
Salt and black pepper to taste
3 dozen miniature patty shells (puff pastry shells)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Strain oysters over a bowl to remove grit and separate them from the oyster liquor; reserve liquor. Chop oysters and set aside. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add green onions and garlic; cook until tender, 3-5 minutes. Add flour; cook, stirring constantly, until bubbly (that’s your white roux). Add oysters, cream, reserved oyster liquor, parsley, thyme and cayenne pepper; cook an additional 10 minutes. Remove mixture from heat; add bread crumbs and salt and pepper to taste. The consistency should be creamy but not runny. Place patty shells on a large baking sheet. Spoon mixture evenly into patty shells and bake until golden brown and bubbly, 10-12 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.

Makes 36 Miniature Oyster Patties.