Posted in Breakfast, Brunch, Christmas, Classic, Comfort Food, Cooking for one, Cooking for Two, Dinner, Family Friendly, Healthy, Holiday, Homemade, Leftovers, Lunch, One Pot Meals, Pantry Staples, Potatoes, Quick cooking, Turkey, Veggies, Winter

You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch!

Merry Christmas readers!

I don’t know about you but I’m pooped!  Every year I tell myself that I’m going to simplify the holidays but then somehow one party turns into three, the number of presents to wrap keeps growing, I’ll bake just one more batch of cookies, the holidays in non-profit world keep getting busier (not that I’m complaining about all the people we’re helping!), traveling gets more hectic.  And then all of a sudden it’s over and I realize I didn’t stop and remember the reason I feel compelled to do all that to start with.

I’m challenging myself over the next couple days before Christmas to slow down, enjoy time with family, remember to take a little “me” time and don’t forget to breathe.  One way I’ll do that is to relax and enjoy some of the little traditions we do this week.

One of my absolute favorite things to do during the holidays is curl up on the couch with a cup of hot cocoa (and homemade marshmallows), a fuzzy blanket, and my husband and watch classic Christmas movies and cartoons.  Each time I settle down to watch Charlie Brown, White Christmas or Claymation Christmas I feel a calm settle on me.  I get super sappy and nostalgic when I watch those things.  I remember the childlike wonder and amazement of the Christmas season and at least for a few minutes all is right in the world.

My very favorite Christmas cartoon is How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  Not only do I love everything Dr. Seuss, I love the reminder that Christmas isn’t about things and being busy, it’s about the quality time we spend with family and friends celebrating the season.

He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. Maybe Christmas, he thought… doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps… means a little bit more!

Let’s all take our queue from Mr. Grinch and Whoville and remember…

Welcome, Christmas, bring your cheer. Cheer to all Whos far and near. Christmas Day is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp. Christmas Day will always be just as long as we have we. Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart, and hand in hand.


Hash is a great way to use up leftover meat and veggies that are hanging in the fridge around the holidays.  I love to make hash and every time I do I can’t help but think of the Grinch slinking through Cindy Lou’s house stealing everything including the Who hash!

This hash combines sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts and homemade turkey chorizo for a filling breakfast fit for a Christmas morning full of opening presents!!

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 Then he slunk to the ice box. He took the Whos’ feast, he took the Who pudding, he took the roast beast. He cleaned out that ice box as quick as a flash. Why, the Grinch even took their last can of Who hash.

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The Grinch’s Who Hash

Olive oil
Garlic
1 cup red onion, diced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 poblano pepper, diced
2 cups sweet potato, pre-cooked (this is a great way to use leftover roasted potatoes)
2 cups brussel sprouts, sliced thin
Homemade chorizo (recipe below)
Fried eggs
To finish: salsa, cilantro, cotija cheese (all optional)

Turkey Chorizo
1 lb. ground turkey breast
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
Splash of apple cider vinegar

To make chorizo: Mix all spices and apple cider vinegar together to make a paste.  Mix it with the turkey until thoroughly combined.

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat. When hot, add a big glug of olive oil and let heat. Add chorizo and cook 4-5 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from pan.

Heat a little more olive oil in the hot pan. Add garlic and cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add onion, bell pepper and poblanos and cook until slightly charred around the edges. Add sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts and cook another 5 minutes or so until all the veggies are cooked through and a little crispy around the edges. Add the chorizo back to the pan and season with salt and pepper.

To serve: top the hash with two eggs any way you like them. I prefer over easy with all their yolky goodness. Top with a little of your favorite salsa, cilantro and a sprinkling of cotija cheese. Yum!

Source: Ruth’s Table

You’re a rotter, Mr. Grinch / You’re the king of sinful sots / Your heart’s a dead tomato splotched with moldy purple spots / Mr. Gri-inch! / You’re a three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce!

I bet if the Grinch started his day with this hash he wouldn’t have been so Grinchy!  🙂

What’s your favorite Dr. Seuss book?

Posted in 4th of July, Canning, Classic, Cook out, Grilling, Pantry Staples, Patriotic, pickled, Portable/Picnic, Preserving, Sandwiches, Summer, Vegetarian, Veggies, Vintage

Summer Bounty – Bread & Butter Pickles

You all know I say I am NOT a big fan of summer.  I’m really not.  I don’t like the humidity.  I burn when I look at the sun.  The only time I “like” to sweat is when I’m working out or cleaning my apartment or something.  I’m  not a super big beach/pool person so I could kind of care less.  I know that’s sacrilege for a lot of my friends!

BUT…

The more I think about growing up in rural Ohio (I’ve been getting seriously nostalgic lately) the more I realize there are things about summer that I absolutely love.  So many of my favorite memories as a kid happened during the summer time.  And so many of those memories are wrapped up around our garden, the local farmers, spending time harvesting lots of veggies and spending a lot of time with my Grandma in the kitchen as she cleaned, prepped, and canned green beans, beets, tomatoes, made jam, and made her own homemade pickles.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I can’t stand pickles.  Well I should say, I don’t like dill pickles.  Growing up I would tolerate my Grandma’s bread and butter pickles but get anything dill anywhere near me and I would run the other way.  As I’ve gotten older and my tastebuds have grown with me I have finally discovered a love of all things pickl-y.  I’m still not a fan of dill but my world has been opened up to so many amazing ways of preservation in the last few years that I’ve been much more adventurous and have found some things I can’t live without.

One of my latest summer staples has become the humble bread and butter pickle for sure.  It’s amazing how easy they are to make and how just this simple little pickle will make a burger, or even a simple turkey sandwich something really special.

I’ve been working to perfect a new smoked turkey recipe that isn’t quite ready for the world yet but I had to go ahead and share this quick and classic pickle recipe that you can enjoy all summer!!

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I need to get my Grandma’s recipe but this one has become my go-to!

Bread & Butter Pickles

2 pounds medium Kirby cucumbers
2 cups small dice sweet onion
¼ cup kosher salt
1 pound ice
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
½ teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 cups cider vinegar
1 bay leaf, torn into pieces
3 whole cloves
½ jalapeno pepper, sliced paper thin

 

Sterilize three quart canning jars, along with the rings and lids. (I recommend checking out the Ball canning website for tips if you’ve never canned before, http://www.freshpreserving.com/canningmenu.html.

 

Cut the blossom end off the cucumbers and slice the cucumbers into 1/8-inch thick slices. To draw out the excess liquid and increase the crunch, layers the cucumber slices with onion, salt, and ice in a glass or stainless steel container. Weight with a plate large enough to cover all the cucumbers and keep them submerged when the ice melts. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

 

Drain the cucumbers and onions, put them in a large stainless steel, and add the sugar, mustard seeds, celery seeds, turmeric, vinegar, bay leaf, cloves and jalapeno. Bring the mixture to a simmer over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Using a digital thermometer to check, make sure that the internal temperature of the cucumbers reaches 180° and stays there for 90 seconds. Skim off any foam that rises to the top.

 

Divide the hot cucumbers among the sterilized jars. Ladle the remaining hot vinegar mixture over the cucumbers, leaving a ¼-inch headspace. Wipe the rims and threads clean. Place the lids and rings on the jars and tighten the rings. Cool the jars on a clean dish towel or a rack, not directly on the countertop.

 

Refrigerate for at least 1 week to let the pickles cure before eating (you can skip this step but the wait will be worth it!). Unopened, the pickles will keep for up to 6 months in the refrigerator. Once opened, they will keep for up to 3 weeks longer in the refrigerator.

 

Source: Heritage, Sean Brock

 

Posted in Cheese, Comfort Food, Date Night, Dinner, Indulgence, Italian, Mushrooms, One Pot Meals, Pasta, Quick cooking, Veggies

Happy Birthday to Me – Asparagus and Mushroom Carbonara

It’s my birthday so I can eat whatever I want, right?!  Duh.  Of course I can.  Calories don’t count on your birthday.

Today has been an awesome day filled with amazing friends.  From my staff who decorated my office with balloons and streamers, to my co-workers who conspired with them to schedule an important meeting (scheduling it a week ago so I wasn’t suspicious!) only to surprise me with cake, to all the texts,  phone calls, emails, Facebook messages, and topped off with a quiet, cozy night at home with my hubby this girl is feeling super loved!

Some people may think I’m weird for making my own birthday dinner but you know me, I love to cook!  AND I got to stay in my yoga pants, bonus!!

So what did I choose as this year’s birthday dinner?  One of my absolute favorite pasta dishes of course, carbonara.  With the addition of in season asparagus and my favorite go-to ingredient, mushrooms, it was the perfect, creamy, comforting meal to celebrate!
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Asparagus and Mushroom Carbonara

1 shallot, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ lb. asparagus, sliced into bite-sized pieces
8 oz. mixed mushrooms
12 oz. spaghetti
Kosher salt
2 oz. proscuitto, finely chopped (about ¼ cup)
½ tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
⅓ cup grated Pecorino plus more
2 large egg yolks, beaten to blend
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over high heat. Working in batches, add shallots, garlic, asparagus, and mushrooms and cook, tossing occasionally, until charred in spots and crisp-tender, about 5 minutes; transfer to a plate and set aside. Wipe out skillet.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente (about 7 minutes). Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in same skillet over medium heat. Add prosciutto and cook, stirring often, until slightly crisp, about 4 minutes. Add pepper and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Immediately add ½ cup pasta cooking liquid to keep pepper from burning; reduce heat to low and gradually add butter, swirling skillet and adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until a thick, glossy sauce forms. (Taste as you go and switch to hot water once sauce is adequately seasoned.)

Add pasta to skillet and toss to coat. Add Pecorino; toss to combine. Remove from heat; mix in egg yolks. Add reserved veggies; toss, adding pasta cooking liquid (or hot water) as needed to thin sauce.

Serve pasta topped with more Pecorino.

Adapted from a recipe by Philip Krajek, Rolf & Daughters, Nashville – Bon Appétit Magazine, September 2013

Posted in Chicken, Cooking for Two, Dinner, Family Friendly, Grilling, Healthy, Marinade, Pantry Staples, Quick cooking, Summer, Veggies

Pantry Staples – Greek Marinade

Spring has finally sprung!  The sun is shining.  The birds are singing. My eyes itch and I’m sneezing my head off.  Darn it, I’m still going to enjoy the beautiful weather!

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Now that the weather is nice I start craving all kinds of spring/summer foods.  I want to be grilling, eating veggies, and making all kinds of fresh salads.  BUT I don’t want to spend a lot of time in a hot kitchen.  Give me quick and easy and I’m a happy camper!

My biggest tip for putting together a quick and easy dinner is to make sure you keep your pantry stocked with a variety of things to throw together a meal quickly and with very little effort.  One of my favorite, go-to pantry marinades is my Greek Marinade.  I use it on chicken, shrimp, veggies, fish.  It is so versatile and easy to put together!  Pair some chicken with a quick side dish of veggie couscous and you’re set.

For marinades I almost never actually measure ingredients.  Once you’ve done it a time or two you’ll get it just the way you like it.  My rule of thumb for a marinade is pretty simple: 2 parts oil, 1 part acid, salt & pepper, herbs and spices of your choice.  The best method though is just to taste it.  You know what you like. Trust your instincts!

Greek Marinade

Olive oil
White balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar
Zest and juice of one lemon
Salt & pepper
Greek seasoning blend (the brand I use has onion, garlic, oregano, mint)

Put all the ingredients in a mason jar and shake it up. Marinate your choice of protein or veggies for about 15 minutes.

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Other variations:

Asian-olive oil, a dash of sesame oil, orange juice, rice wine vinegar, Sambal Olek (instead of pepper), soy sauce (instead of salt), garlic, ginger, honey

Southwest-olive oil, lime juice, red wine vinegar, salt & pepper, cumin, chili powder, garlic, cilantro, splash of tequila

Greek Grilled Chicken and Veggie Couscous is one of our regular rotation meals.  It’s super simple, comes together in about 25 minutes, and is light and healthy.  You can have dinner on the table with very little fuss, very few dirty dishes, and can be back to enjoying the warm weather and extra hours of sunshine in no time!

Greek Grilled Chicken and Veggie Couscous

For chicken:
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast
Greek marinade

For couscous:
1 box couscous, cooked according to package directions
Olive oil
1 medium red onion, diced
2 medium zucchini, cut into rounds
Grape tomatoes, halved if they’re really big
Garlic
Salt & pepper

For sauce:
1 cup greek yogurt or mayonnaise
1 cup feta cheese
Juice of a lemon
Parsley, chopped
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350.

Put the chicken in the marinade while you’re gathering your other ingredients, about 15 minutes. Preheat a grill pan over medium high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the chicken and grill 2 minutes per side until you have some nice grill marks. Pop in the oven for about 10 minutes to finish cooking. Remove chicken when done and let rest a minute before serving.

While chicken is in the oven, preheat a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add olive oil and onion, saute until translucent. Add the zucchini and cook for a minute or two until it starts to brown a little. Add garlic and saute about 30 seconds until fragrant. Turn heat down to medium and add tomatoes and cook, stirring for another minute or until they start to pop and release a little liquid. Add the couscous, salt and pepper and toss together.

For the sauce, mix all ingredients together and serve with chicken and couscous.

To serve: top the vegetable couscous with a chicken breast (sliced to make the presentation pretty) and a tablespoon of the sauce. Garnish with a little chopped parsley and lemon zest if you want.

Source: Ruth’s Table

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Posted in Comfort Food, Cooking for Two, Date Night, Dinner, Healthy, Mushrooms, Quick cooking, Vegetarian, Veggies

Meatless Monday – Farro Risotto with Balsamic Mushrooms

I decided several years ago that I was going to give up meat for a month. I was doing it as a part of a fast with my church that asked us to give something up to refocus. I decided on meat and to focus on regaining control over my health. I’ve always been a lover of vegetables and meat is often an afterthought when I’m just cooking for myself so I thought it would be a breeze. There was only one problem. The first week of our fast included Memorial Day! How on earth did I miss that?! It also happened to be a weekend we were in Ohio celebrating my sister-in-law graduating so we were hosting a cookout! Seriously, I’m not sure how I made it but by the grace of God I did.

During that time I learned a lot of new techniques and recipes and how to adapt them so that my meat loving hubby would enjoy them too. Over the years I’ve tried to make it a habit of making the majority of our meal vegetables while keeping our meat consumption reasonable. I even thrown in the occasional meatless meal that is still packed with protein. With the increased availability of a lot cool grains and exotic veggies that makes things super easy!

One of my favorite things to make, especially when I’m going meatless, is risotto. A lot of people think risotto is difficult to make but really you can have dinner on the table in about 30 minutes start-to-finish. The only thing risotto requires is a little patience. It isn’t a meal you can just pop on the stove and walk away from. The repetitve stirring is very therapeutic after a long day though, trust me. 🙂

I have recently discovered a love for farro. It has a nutty flavor and a chewy texture which make it a great option for meatless meals. It’s a great source of fiber and protein so it will fill you up and you won’t even miss the meat! Throw in meaty mushrooms and you’re all set!
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Farro Risotto with Balsamic Mushrooms

1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup farro
1/2 cup dry white wine (a big glug)
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup water
Bay leaf
Mixed mushrooms (I get a package that includes cremini, oyster, and shitake)
Thyme
Parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
Splash of balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Asiago cheese

In a medium saucepan, heat vegetable stock, water and bay leaf until just below a simmer.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add one tablespoon olive oil. Saute shallots and garlic for about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add farro and toast about 30 seconds. Add wine and stir until absorbed. Reduce heat to medium and add one ladle of stock. Stir off and on until liquid is absorbed, add another ladle of stock. Keep repeating until farro is tender and creamy. This will take 23-25 minutes. I always set a timer and taste for texture starting at about 20 minutes.

Finish with thyme leaves, parsley, one tablespoon butter, salt & fresh cracked pepper, and grated Asiago.

For the mushrooms, heat olive oil in a pan over medium high heat (I use a cast iron pan so they get nice and brown). Lower heat to medium. Add butter, sprig of thyme, and mushrooms. Leave them alone for a minute so they start getting brown and a little crispy. Cook 2-3 minutes. Add balsamic vinegar and cook another 30 seconds until balsamic is a little syrupy. Season with salt & pepper. Remove thyme sprig.

Serve risotto topped with mushrooms and lots of shaved asiago.

Serves 2.

Source: Ruth’s Table

This is a perfect “fancy” dish to impress a date. I can’t wait to make this for my hubby on our next date night in!

Posted in Autumn, Butternut Squash, Cheese, Chicken, Comfort Food, Leftovers, Macaroni and Cheese, One Pot Meals, Veggies

Weeknight Warrior – Chicken, Broccoli, and Tomato Mac

Let’s face it, all of us are CRAZY busy these days.  The thought of coming home to fix a dinner after sitting in rush hour traffic forever, or picking the kids up from school and driving them three different places for soccer, ballet, or whatever the latest phase is absolutely sends us into a panic attack.  Oh, and we want it to be something healthy and affordable.  Oh and did I mention that there will be loads of dishes to clean up after?  Yeah, I can see how that would be the last thing anyone would want to do.

I often get asked how I find the time to make all the meals I make (and post on Facebook and Instagram, I’ve become “that” person).  BUT anyone can do it.  Really.  Not kidding.  All it takes is a little time and planning.  Okay, okay, I know don’t shoot me!  Time is what we don’t have!  I get it.  I really do.  But trust me when I say scheduling in just a couple hours in your week will make things a lot easier.  Your health, your family, and your bank account will thank me.  🙂

Here’s what I do:

Friday evening – 30 minutes = I plan my menu for the next week, including breakfast, lunch, and dinners and make my grocery list. 

  • My husband works a lot of evenings so he always lets me know what nights to plan on his being there.  I think about things for dinner that will leave him leftovers that he can take with him or warm up quickly to eat before he goes or I can pack to take for lunch.
  • We do a lot of homemade frozen burritos, frittatas, and smoothies for on-the-go healthy breakfasts.
  • Soup or casseroles are great options.  Just throw together a quick salad and you’ve got a full meal.
  • I keep a notebook of each week’s menu plans so that way if I get stuck one week it’s easy to refer back to the things we’ve liked along the way.  If it’s a new recipe I always make a note of the source and if we liked it, what changes I would make, etc.
  • I double check my pantry items to make sure I don’t need to replace those.  This helps make meals quick and easy to throw together.
  • Try to think of ingredients that you can use for multiple meals in the week.  For instance, I buy the family-pack of chicken breasts and use two in a casserole on Sunday, then I grill the rest, will have a couple with some quick roasted veggies and rice one night and then use the rest in salads for my lunch.  Easy as that.

Saturday morning – 1 hour = grocery shopping.

  • I can’t express enough how important it is to have a plan and a list.  I am one of those people who has my list organized like my grocery store is organized.  I can get in and out in less than an hour (driving to and from included) and I don’t have the urge to splurge on a lot of things I don’t need.

Sunday afternoon – 1 to 2 hours = prep for the week.

  • I make a pot of soup, casserole, crock-pot meal, etc. on Sunday and usually that’s what we have for dinner that night.  Leftovers are then packed in individual containers for a quick brown bag lunch.
  • Prep our on-the-go breakfasts and pop in the freezer.
  • If I’m making anything to go with lunches (i.e. broccoli salad, pasta salad, etc.) I make it and pop it in the fridge.
  • Clean any fruits and veggies you want for snacks.

I know that might look daunting but once you get in the habit of doing it it becomes even easier.

Ok, I couldn’t have you read all that and not give you a delicious, healthy, quick weeknight recipe.  This is one that is in our regular rotation.  You’re in and out of the kitchen in about 30 minutes, there’s only one pot to clean AND you sneak in an extra serving of veggies that the kids won’t even notice.  I say that’s a winner all around!!

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Weeknight Chicken, Broccoli, and Tomato Mac

2 center-cut bacon slices, chopped

2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups unsalted chicken stock

1 cup 1% low-fat milk

1 (10-ounce) package frozen butternut squash puree, thawed

10 ounce uncooked large elbow macaroni

3 cups chopped broccoli florets

1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

5 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded and divided (about 1 1/4 cups)


  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon; cook 4 minutes or until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove bacon from pan.
  2. Add the diced chicken breast and cook until no longer pink.  Add garlic sauté 30 seconds.
  3. Add stock, milk, and squash to pan; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add pasta; cover, ­reduce heat, and ­simmer 5 minutes, ­stirring occasionally. Stir in broccoli and tomatoes; cover and cook 3 minutes or until pasta is done and sauce is thickened.
  5. Stir in salt, pepper, and 4 ounces cheese. Sprinkle bacon and remaining cheese on top. Cover; let stand 1 minute.
  6.  Dish up, serve with a salad and ENJOY!

Source: Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine, September 2015.