Sunday Stories

A cold, rainy Saturday was the perfect time to read this classic for the first time.  I also watched the brilliant, stylish Kenneth Branagh movie on my flight home on Friday night.  Loved both the book and movie!

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“The Americans” final season coming next month.  Will miss it when it wraps, but that agree six seasons is about as long as even the best series can go.

A new rule of New York City real estate: “When the designer pups arrive, rising home prices may not be far behind.”

Having started my business after age 35, some good food for thought here.

Baking these this weekend.

Now that I reflexively write in APA style for graduate work, I am firmly in the “pro” camp on the Oxford comma

More than once, I have refrained from buying a handbag or other item because it has a logo on it.  Your thoughts?

Have a lovely week!

Happy National Cookie Day!

When it comes to baking, cookies are my thing.

During the holidays, I will definitely bake pumpkin bread a few times, and once I settled on a really good recipe for cream cheese pound cake, I stopped experimenting.  I'm not really a big fan of pies, so never tried to master them.   For some reason, cookies were always easier to make, so I have spent more time over the years trying and perfecting recipes for many kinds.

Today is National Cookie Day, which seems very appropriate to fall in December!  This is the time of year I tend to bake more cookies than any other time.  Not just for guests, but I always tote several containers of decorated Christmas tree shortbread cookies (recipe to come later in the month), Hello Dollies, peanut butter cookies, and other varieties when we go to Tennessee each Christmas.  Since I don't finish my holiday TV tour until about a week before we go home, the Sewell kitchen will be a hurricane of cookie baking activity during that week. 

Here are few of my favorite recipes, some of which will find their way into my Christmas carry-on bag.

My mom made the best lemon bars, but she made only one pan each year - at Christmas.

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These chocolate chip cookies take a bit of planning to allow time to keep the dough in the fridge before baking - but trust me, it's worth the wait.

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If you're in a hurry, these are the world's easiest peanut butter cookies, and they only require five ingredients.

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Happy baking!

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Countdown: Cornbread Stuffing with Ham

This year, Scott and I are hosting two Thanksgiving dinners.  The first is actually next weekend, when a whole bunch of Sewell's are coming to New York.  Then, on the holiday itself, we will host friends who have joined us for Thanksgiving dinner the last five or six years.

I love cooking Thanksgiving dinner, so I am super-excited about getting to do two menus!  Over the next two weeks, I'm sharing a few holiday prep ideas I'm chatting about on TV shows this month.  Last week, I posted my mother-in-law's breakfast casserole recipe that is the staple of our family gatherings.  Today, I am sharing a yummy recipe for Cornbread Stuffing with Ham - or, if you're from my neck of the woods, Cornbread Dressing. 

I shared this recipe for Smithfield on a TV segment this week in Nashville.  Whatever you call it, it's savory, yummy, and has that perfect crispy crunchy top.  

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The only thing I'd add to this recipe?  A note to make an extra pan if you're hosting a crowd.  After all, it's not Thanksgiving unless you have leftovers, and stuffing/dressing is at the top of my list to enjoy the next day.

What are your favorite Thanksgiving leftovers?

Holiday Traditions: Sausage Breakfast Casserole

After Christmas last year, while we were driving to Nashville to catch a flight back to New York, I commented to Scott that we had been in Tennessee so long, I was starting to think of biscuits as a vegetable.

That is because when the Sewell's get together, breakfast is definitely the main meal of the day!  Each morning, we all gather around the table about 9 or 9:30.  After we eat, we stay around that table, talking and laughing until well after noon.  That conversation is only interrupted by kids going outside to play, or someone periodically heading back to the kitchen to pour another cup of coffee.

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The standard menu consists of "breakfast casserole," sliced fruits, biscuits, and coffee.  And it is perfect.

Breakfast casserole is a gooey, bubbly pan of sausage, eggs, and Velveeta - with crispy bread crumbs or croutons on top.  Basically, all of your major food groups.  With 14 people in the family, including four hungry nephews, my lovely mother-in-law seems to magically pull pan after pan of these casseroles out of the oven like clowns piling out of a clown car. 

Laurel and Holly

Because of these memorable breakfasts, I was super-excited to partner with Smithfield this holiday season to showcase their fresh breakfast sausages and spiral-sliced hams.  Enjoy them on their own, or cook them into a recipe like this cornbread stuffing with ham, or Laurel Sewell's breakfast sausage casserole!

Ingredients

Casserole:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 & 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup Velveeta cheese, grated (bonus culinary points if you, like my mother-in-law, can actually grate Velveeta.  I have to cut it into chunks).
  • 1 pound roll sausage
  • 1 dozen eggs

Topping:

  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 2 & 1/4 cups bread crumbs

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Melt two tablespoons butter over low heat.  Blend in flour and cook for one minute, stirring constantly.
  3. Gradually add milk.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly.
  4. Add salt, pepper, and cheese, stirring until smooth.  Set cheese sauce aside.
  5. Cook sausage and drain well.  Set aside.
  6. Scramble eggs over low heat until softly set. 
  7. Combine cheese sauce, cooked eggs, and cooked sausage, and place in greased 9 x 13 baking dish.
  8. Combine melted butter and bread crumbs.  Top casserole with crumb mixture and sprinkle with paprika.
  9. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes.

Of course, leftover ham or sausage from any meal also tastes great on a biscuit.

What are your favorite holiday meal traditions?

Sunday Stories

This Sunday Stories feature has been on a bit of an unplanned summer hiatus.  Between being on the road for work most of the summer, and hitting the books for my own graduate classes each and every day, I've fallen a bit behind on this.

As summer vacation for most people winds down - and I have a week before fall media tours and classes begin again - Sunday Stories returns this week, and hopefully for many more Sundays to come.  Instead of focusing exclusively on stories from the last week, here are a few highlights from the last couple of months.

 Alley outside Brattle Book Shop, West Street, Downtown Boston.

Alley outside Brattle Book Shop, West Street, Downtown Boston.

Do your reading habits change with the seasons?  I don't think mine depend so much on the season as much as what I need to focus on for work and school.

Books are also top of mind for colleges that distribute summer reading lists to their students.  Here are the most popular books that appeared on those lists this summer.

Did you take a summer vacation?  Scotland is high on the list of places Scott and I want to go.  If this post from Aspiring Kennedy doesn't make you want to drop everything and trek to the Isle of Skye this very minute, I don't know what will.

Srsly?  I don't know one person who will hire you if you do this.

Lemon desserts are my fave, and my mom's lemon bar recipe is one of my favorites.  But this one looks like it will become a new addition to my recipe collection.

If you blinked, you missed The Spotted Cheetah - a Cheetos pop-up restaurant.  Because we all need to eat more junk food, right?

Your guide to popular places to Instagram from in New York City.  You're welcome..

Apparently, I am not the only person who tries to figure out the floor plans of fictitious homes and offices on movies and TV shows.

Finally, you can definitely count me in the category of people who just love it when autumn rolls around.

Have a lovely week!