Truth – I wrote this post weeks ago. Just posting now. A few tech issues and too much going on…but happy to share what I made that weekend and wanted to share – Trader Joe’s Mixed Seafood Alfredo (Hack Recipe). By the way, if you have not listened to the Trader Joe’s podcast that features their hacks you are missing something…but I digress.
Also for a bit more recent goings on – we have had a fun but busy fall. Both girls are in college so we have been visiting. CG2 is in the Boston area and there have been so many fun tailgates. CG1 is in Vermont and well, fall in Vermont can not be beat. Trips to the farmer’s market, hiking and soaking in the wonderful New England atmosphere made the weekend perfect. Thanksgiving is around the corner – tonight I am making homemade stock and starting to plan (see my post from last year). My one major tip is to make the stock ahead of time! It freezes beautifully and you will be so happy you do! Something about having to make stock and then do all that cooking takes some of the joy out of preparing the meal. Happy late fall and now –
Here is the post from September.
We had such a nice restful weekend that I was able to do a bit of cooking. We have been tailgating up a storm lately making favorites such as sliders and buffalo dip. These travels to see our girls in college have involved traveling too. With piles of laundry everywhere and a garden in need of some love, it was time to stay put. While I did have time to cook some more elaborate meals, I also whipped up this super easy Trader Joe’s hack – Trader Joe’s Mixed Seafood Alfredo (hack recipe alert!).
All you need is a bag of frozen mixed seafood from Trader Joes, a jar of alfredo sauce, half a lemon, some dry white wine (optional) and some dried tarragon. It is hardly a recipe! But here goes read on for Mixed Seafood with Lemony Alfredo Sauce!
Trader Joe’s Frozen Mixed Seafood Lemony Alfredo Pasta
It does not get any easier than this…tasty seafood that you cook quickly from frozen with a creamy, lemony alfredo sauce. Easy and delicious!
Course Main Course
Keyword easy, Pasta, seafood, Trader Joes
Prep Time 10minutes
Cook Time 10minutes
1BagTrader Joes Mixed Seafood (frozen) There are other brands too but Trader Joes is the one I used for this recipe
1Jar of Alfredo SauceI used Trader Joes but you can use any supermarket brand
Sauté mixed seafood in a wide frying pan. Add in a bit of white wine if using. Once cooked add the alfredo sauce. Simmer until nicely warmed through. Sprinkle tarragon and add in fresh lemon juice at the end. Serve over pasta, with a loaf of bread and salad for a delicious, super easy meal!
Summer flew by! We happily hosted friends all summer long at our club on the shore as well as at home. As I mentioned a few posts ago, Life is Meals right? My trusty blue journal has been filling up with this summer’s favorite menus. I noticed the other day, that more than a few meals had a favorite side dish – zucchini, tomato, goat cheese Provençal tian.
The dish is actually a tian, which is a French dish and really refers to the type of cookware. The main ingredients for this version are zucchini, tomato, onions, goat cheese on a bed of white rice drizzled with olive oil and a balsamic glaze. I also add in a generous handful of fresh, chopped thyme and some dried herbs de Provence.
It is a perfect side dish in the summer with zucchini and tomatoes being at their peak. That said, this dish has also graced my Christmas dinner table too. Even winter zucchini and tomatoes are still tasty prepared this way. The green and red of the dish are festive too. I also love how it is both a vegetable and starch which makes meal planning much easier.
Recipe to follow but let’s talk favorite summer menus first.
Menu #1 Short Ribs, Zucchini Tomato Goat Cheese Provencal Tian
A rundown of our weekends and favorite menus of course –
Late June, good friends of ours from business school made the trip to see us. They are also a couple comprised of a French husband and American wife so we have lots in common. J and Mr. SB are also excellent cooks and in fact J passed along the wonders of sous-vide cooking last year with some delectable lamb chops.
Mr. SB was not to be outdone so this menu features his sous-vide short ribs which are finished on the grill. I served a green salad, the zucchini, tomato goat cheese Provençal tian and this blueberry crisp with a side of vanilla ice cream. Note on the blueberry crisp I would not use as much flour as is called for in the recipe. It was a most memorable meal (in spite of the copious amounts of French Bordeaux we drank with it:)
Saturday arrived with picture perfect weather. Blueberry muffins, fresh orange juice, coffee and eggs were on the menu for breakfast. Dinner that evening included an appetizer of fresh clams and oysters (dug up by J and Mr. SB). The main course was salmon grilled on a cedar plank, grilled zucchini and eggplant, pasta salad. For dessert, well of course we had s’mores at the fire pit while we watched the sunset.
Menu #2 Zucchini Tomato Goat Cheese Provençal Tian
A few weeks later good friends arrived from London. Mr. SB once again decided to cook sous-vide this time, lamb loins. Lamb (and really any meat goes well with this dish), tian Provençal and salad. I also made this peach crisp which was delicious (the pecans really add to the flavor).
Breakfast once again included: the famous Jordan Marsh blueberry muffins, along with zucchini bread, fresh orange juice, fruit salad and plenty of coffee and tea.
So enough about meals (or can there ever be enough?) and onto the tian. Years ago, we visited my in-laws, and I first tried Zucchini Tomato Goat Cheese Provencal Tian. The creamy goat cheese, sweet tomatoes and fresh zucchini and onions came together so perfectly. My sister-in-law gave me the magazine copy – it was from a French magazine (which I have since lost and forgotten the magazine name).
Through the years I have adapted it. Their version had the vegetables cooking together and as zucchini takes far less time than onions, there were a number of times when the zucchini was overcooked. She also shared a trick, take a knife to spread the goat cheese onto the zucchini coins. It is much easier than trying to cut goat cheese into slices.
I also shorten the recipe by occasionally using store bought balsamic glaze. If you are a purist (or don’t have glaze on hand), then you can boil down some balsamic vinegar for that part. I also love garlic olive oil, and I use that to coat my dish. As for the dish, I have an Emile Henry 4 quart casserole dish with a cover. You can use any 4 quart dish frankly although I do recommend a cover for part of the cooking.
So here is the recipe. Also, as it is always eaten so quickly, my photo is a “before” I put it in the oven…will try to add the cooked version at a later date!
Summer's favorite vegetables, assembled easily with crumbled goat cheese, fresh herbs on a bed of rice. Perfect accompaniment to any meal (and any season!).
Course Side Dish
Keyword French, Goat Cheese, Provencale, Side Dish, Tomato, Zucchini
Prep Time 30minutes
Cook Time 40minutes
1 4 quart dish suitable for baking
4medium zucchini or 2 large
1large onion or 2 small
1log of soft goat cheeseCostco has an excellent one that comes in a two pack
15clde vinaigre balsamique
White rice – enough to cover the base of your casseroleabout 2 cups
1teaspoonor more of chopped thyme
Herbs de Provence to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350
Wash all vegetables and dry. Slice zucchini into 1/4 inch or so coins. Spread goat cheese on top. Slice tomatoes and onions. Put onions in microwave for a minute or two until starting to cook (they should not be fully cooked as you will cook them some more in the oven).
Grease casserole with olive oil. Run a sliced garlic clove around greased sides and bottom or use garlic olive oil.
Spread rice on bottom of casserole. Layer zucchini, goat cheese, tomato, goat cheese, onion on top. I like to layer so it looks pretty. Sprinkle chopped fresh thyme on top. Sprinkle herbs de provence on top too.
Bake covered for a half hour. Uncover and bake some more until vegetables are fork tender.
If you read my last post you know that for me, memories, places and food have always gone hand in hand. Many years ago, I visited a friend’s home on Wellfleet, Cape Cod for the weekend. After making the long trip from Boston (complete with bumper-to-bumper traffic), we awoke to a brilliant, blue-sky Saturday. This house had a panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean. Breakfast, served on the deck, was comprised of some good strong coffee, freshly scrambled eggs, sausage and the most delicious blueberry muffins. My hostess shared that the recipe was supposedly based upon the legendary Jordan Marsh blueberry muffin recipe. The “secret” was the addition of mashed up blueberries to the batter.
Maybe it was the sea air, the in-season, local blueberries or maybe it really was the recipe. Fast forward many years, and I have recently found myself on a hunt to know all about these amazing muffins named after the now closed, but once famed Jordan Marsh department store.
What is Jordan Marsh?
Jordan Marsh was a department store, founded in 1841, with a flagship in Boston’s downtown crossing. The store is deeply engrained in my memory. My aunt Mae always bought my Christmas present from “Jordans” when I was a kid. Usually, the gift was a very high-quality wool skirt and matching Shetland sweater (both in a size or two too big with the idea I could grow into it:).
Occasionally my sisters, mom and I would venture into Boston to shop Filenes Basement as well as Jordans. Jordans sadly closed in the early nineties. But the lore of one of the first American department stores and those muffins lives on today.
The legendary Jordan Marsh blueberry muffin recipe was once a coveted and secret recipe. Now there are variations all around the web and dozens of other muffin recipes of course. In fact, I recently made some fresh blueberry muffins for friends joining us for the weekend.
My muffin was well received. My friend bit into the home- made muffin and affirmed that a real blueberry muffin tastes sooo good. Homemade is nothing like the overly sweet, often greasy, tinny, minimal on the blueberries sort of muffin you tend to find at the supermarket.
While my muffin was very good, it was not “twenty years later I still remember it while looking out at the Atlantic Ocean good.” I recalled how so many years ago my friend had said that the mashed blueberries made all of the difference. But there had to be more, so I decided to do some research.
Secrets from the original Jordan Marsh baker
First, the baker, John Pupek, who originally created the recipe was interviewed on TV! John explains, that yes, you want to mash up some of the blueberries. You also use a blend of flours – one is pastry flour (I found the Bob’s brand on Amazon). The interview also indicates that John likely used shortening instead of butter (or maybe a blend). I could not personally bring myself to use shortening knowing all of the adverse health effects. A good sprinkle of sugar on top gives it a crunchy dome as well.
So here is what I think is pretty close to the real Jordan Marsh blueberry muffin recipe. Grab a cup of your favorite tea or coffee, spread with some good butter and enjoy!
The legendary Jordan Marsh blueberry muffins were a treat for many Bostonians visiting downtown crossing. The recipe was a secret for years. SB researched just what made those muffins so good (hint it is more than mashed blueberries). Read on for the recipe and a bit of history.
1 Stand or electric mixer This recipe is very easy with a stand mixer outfitted with the paddle attachment. You can use an electric hand mixer if you don't have a stand version
8Tablespoonsunsalted butterroom temperature
1cupgranulated sugarplus extra for topping
2extra large eggsJohn Pupek refers to fortified eggs. These could be Eggland’s Best. I used farm fresh eggs instead and the muffins came out perfectly
2teaspoonspure vanilla extract
1¼cupbread flourspoon and leveled (substitute with all-purpose flour if not available)
¾cuppastry flourspooned and leveled (substitute with cake flour if not available)
2 ½cupsfresh blueberriesdivided
2Tablespoonsflourused to coat 2 cups of blueberries (can be any flour)
Preheat oven to 400°F, position oven rack in the center. Spray a muffin tin with non stick spray including the top of the pan. Line with muffin paper liners (due to blueberries, these muffins can stick to the pan)
In a stand-alone mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter (if you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use an electric hand mixer). With the mixer on low, gradually add 1 cup granulated sugar. Scrape the sides down then beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5-7 minutes.
Gradually add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until blended. Add the vanilla extract. Beat for a few minutes on medium until light and fluffy.
Spoon and level 1¼ cups of bread flour (substitute all-purpose flour) and ¾ cup cake flour (substitute pastry flour), 2 teaspoons baking power and ½ teaspoon of kosher salt. Sift together over a mixing bowl and whisk to combine all the ingredients.
Add the dry and wet ingredients to the creamed mixture alternating between flour and milk, starting and ending with flour and scraping down the sides as you go. Beat on low just to combined. Don’t over mix (or you will have tough chewy muffins)
Remove the mixing bowl from the stand-alone mixer and scrape off any batter from the paddle attachment.
In a small bowl, mash ½ cup of blueberries. Fold into the batter with a spatula. In a separate bowl, coat and toss whole blueberries with 2 Tablespoons of flour and fold into the batter.
Generously fill each muffin cup to the top. Sprinkle a teaspoon or so of granulated sugar over each muffin.
Note: I used 1 teaspoon of sugar as a measuring unit, but in the original recipe, enough sugar was spread over the top to completely cover.
Bake at 400°F for 5 minutes. Lower temperature to 375 and bake for another 20. Muffins may need another five minutes for a total of 30 minutes. Tops should be lightly golden.
Insert a toothpick to test for doneness. If it comes out clean, remove the muffins from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for about 30 minutes.
Remove and finish cooling on wire rack.
For me the best way to eat these is right out of the oven with some good quality butter. Enjoy!
Summer is in full swing, and we have been making the most of our beach club on the CT shore. Every weekend we eat dinner there (weather permitting) and this past weekend was no exception. We have had a steady stream of guests too, so I have wanted to mix up the sides from the usual pasta salad. Mr. SB tends to grill (this past weekend it was his famous ribs recipe) so sides are my thing…it is not quite corn season here, but I was able to find some fresh corn from Georgia at Whole Foods and dove in to make fresh corn salad with lime vinaigrette.
What ingredients do I use for Fresh Corn Salad with Lime Vinaigrette?
For last week’s version I used fresh corn (of course but you could use canned or even frozen), tomatoes, cilantro, red onion, chives and black beans. This recipe is super versatile though so you could add some red or green peppers, scallions and mix up the spices too – parsley would work just fine.
The lime vinaigrette is also so easy to make. I used a very mild olive oil (avocado would work well too), fresh lime juice, garlic, some white wine vinegar, salt and some chili powder. If you have access to a Trader Joes I love their chili lime spice (available online too), and have used that too in both the salad and the vinaigrette.
What does the salad go well with?
Most summer fare would work with this salad. We ate it one night with some burgers and then again at our fourth of July celebration. I have been known to put some tortilla chips out and serve it as a dip. It is also delicious as a salad topper. The flavors are the taste of summer!
Fresh Corn Salad with Lime Vinaigrette tastes like summer! Fresh corn combined with ripe tomatoes, fresh cilantro, black beans, and a hint of red onion with a zesty, lime dressing makes a perfect side for ribs or whatever you are grilling.
Course Side Dish
Prep Time 20minutes
Cook Time 5minutes
5ears of corn shucked and steamed or boiled.
1red pepper cut in small dice
1cupgrape or cherry tomatoes halved
1/2cupchopped cilantroor to taste
1can of black beansdrained and rinsed
1/4cupchopped red onion
Fresh lime juice from one limeor to taste
¼cupof white wine vinegar
¾cupof mild tasting olive oil
1/8teaspoonof cayenne pepper
1teaspoonof sugar or honey
2teaspoonsof Trader Joe’s chili lime spice mixor 1 teaspoon of chili powder if not available
In small bowl whisk lime juice, honey (or sugar), ground cayenne pepper, garlic salt and chili powder or Trader Joe’s spice. Slowly drizzle in olive oil; whisking continuously.
Remove corn from cobs (I angle a knife to remove kernels)
In a large bowl and add the cooked corn, diced red peppers, grape tomato halves, cilantro, black beans and red onion. Drizzle with the lime vinaigrette and toss to coat.
If at all possible use fresh corn. Either white, yellow or bi color corn. I cook corn by putting about two inches of water on the bottom. Once it boils the corn steams. I check it after two minutes (early season corn is more tender and takes less time to cook). Then I cut it right off the cob once it cools.
• In a hurry? Make the lime vinaigrette the day before. You can also use leftover corn.
• Dice and cut your vegetables small. You want all your vegetable to complement the corn.
Hi all. Not sure where winter went (although not quite done here in CT). Super busy at work but not complaining. Having a lot of fun – you know what they say when you enjoy what you do, and they pay you? #blessed. That said this poor little blog has been ignored…so today’s post is a bit of a catch up, and I am sharing what is hardly a recipe it is so easy (but so good)…Simple Artichoke Dip. It is delicious and takes all of 5 minutes to mix up and another 15 or so to cook in the oven. Read on for what may become your go-to dip for whatever entertaining you have planned.
January/February Catch Up
Winter is ski time around here and this winter was no different. We had a great time up at Mount Snow and at Stowe in Vermont. Of course, I made my famous Buffalo Chicken dip. There really is nothing better après ski! Serve with nacho or pita chips or maybe even just some thick slices of bread.
In adorable Stowe, VT, we stayed at the Green Mountain Inn. It is such a cute, historic inn complete with an outdoor heated pool and jacuzzi – nothing better after a day of skiing. Our room was spacious – it was actually two rooms and two bathrooms which worked well as we had our girls with us. We enjoyed afternoon tea and the general vibe of a cute Vermont inn on a cold, snowy day. At night we ate some yummy fondue at Swiss Fondue by Heinz. The vintage ski posters and chalet atmosphere made it a perfect place to dine. I recommend ordering the apples along with the bread to dip into the delicious Swiss fondue.
Simple Artichoke Dip
So that is the highlight of January and February…but let’s get to the good stuff – simple but delicious (as in I can’t stop eating it) artichoke dip.
Where did this begin? I seemed to recall something addictive, cheesy but full of texture that my mom made years ago. I remembered that it used a can of artichokes – yes the plain old ones that you get at any supermarket. Then you add some mayo and parmesan cheese. Mix it up. Maybe add some garlic powder and a bit of cayenne (or not). Bake it. That’s it. Sometimes life is complicated. This is not.
We went to friends for dinner this past weekend, and I made the dip. I prepared it at home but then put in a bowl and microwaved it at their home for a minute – just to reheat. Served with olives, pita chips, baby carrots and some hummus for a platter. There was nothing left. So, without further ado, here is the recipe for simple artichoke dip. It really does not get simpler or more delicious for a dip than this!
Hi there friends. It has been a while as 2022 has started out even busier than 2021 ended.
The SB family took a fantastic vacation to Mexico (hoping to write about it soon) and have been back at work/school catching up. I have also been making my usual new year’s effort to organize the house (ski clothes were yesterday). So, with all of that going on (plus work and school of course) it is just the right time for some super simple recipes that taste like your favorite takeout but may take even less time than it takes to dial the number (and a whole lot less money!).
Today’s post is for stir fried saucy udon noodles using supermarket ingredients that you can get at mainstream grocery stores. I have been craving noodles and some spice post holiday. I found myself staring at the pantry and freezer and realized I had some ingredients (nothing fancy) that may just suffice.
It was so nice to make a recipe from standard stuff that is easily found in the international foods aisle at my local Stop N Shop. So let’s run down what you will need on your next shopping trip because I am sure you will love this recipe. It takes all of 20 minutes to whip up (and that includes clean up) so it is great for days when you are short on time too.
The first step to making saucy stir fried udon noodles is getting your hands on some noodles. Ever wonder how your favorite Asian restaurant gets that chewy goodness? I have, and frankly what I just discovered is that you can buy it! Yes, look for Asian noodles where you find tofu in the refrigerator section. Lo and behold there are some very nice options. I tried Fortune brand’s Yaki Soba noodles. They come with a sauce packet, but I discarded that as you make a super easy (and healthier) sauce for these noodles. Other options at the market were dried noodles and packages of udon noodles in the Asian food’s aisle. I plan on testing the latter and will let you know how that goes.
The sauce and vegetables/protein for stir fried saucy udon noodles
The sauce here is very easy. A bit of dark soy sauce (or regular if you can’t find dark), oyster sauce, brown sugar and rice vinegar. Once again, all of these items are available at your regular old supermarket (as well as big box stores too). Next up on the ingredient list is a bag of stir fried vegetables. I used easily found Bird’s Eye brand. Again I did not use the sauce (by the way the store sauces are full of questionable ingredients…MSG, thickeners etc.). I happened to also have some fresh peppers which I sliced into thin strips and sauteed ahead of time, as well as some green onions and toasted sesame seeds for a nice crunch. You can easily add protein – sauteed chicken, shrimp or protein would go nicely. So without further ado, here is the recipe.
Stir Fried Saucy Udon Noodles (made from easy to find ingredients!)
Chewy, slightly spicy, saucy udon noodles are stir-fried perfection and just like your favorite take-out. They are also so easy to make (cheap too:) and use ingredients that you can find at any supermarket. Friendly for weeknights as you can have the noodles on hand along with a package of frozen stir-fried vegetables. Easy to add protein – tofu, chicken or shrimp are all delicious with these noodles. You will have this recipe on repeat!
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Keyword Asian cuisine, budget friendly, noodles
Prep Time 10minutes
Cook Time 15minutes
Total Time 25minutes
1 Wok or large frying pan
3tablespoonsdark or regular soy sauceI typically use low sodium soy sauce
1bagrefrigerator section udon noodles
1bagfrozen stir fry mix veggies
Tofu, shrimp or chicken, cooked to add if you like (or keep this as is without the added protein up to you!)
1bunch green onions (or to taste) sliced thin
1 to 2tbstoasted sesame seeds for toppingI like Costco brand – already toasted for you
Sauce: Shake up all the ingredients in a jar or stir with whisk in a bowl.
Udon: Heat your wok or pan over medium high heat. Add oil. Add the noodles and enough sauce to coat. Stir-fry and then leave for a minute or two to caramelize. Microwave your frozen veggies and drain any water (important to drain the water or it will make the sauce runny).
Add the veggies. Combine and let cook for a couple more minutes until everything is covered in sauce and nice and hot.
Phew…it has been a crazy few weeks. This blog is clearly run by a real person…what other blogger (or corporation…as many blogs are not as personal as they may seem) does not blog all of the time around the holidays? Me. My full-time work recently included an offsite. With Covid I decided to attend virtually but the work leading up to it and then the actual session was all consuming. Not to bash my male readers (if there are any) but I am struck that only men would plan an offsite right before the holidays! Nonetheless, aside from the offsite, I have been a busy elf…shopping (mostly online), cooking, decorating etc. Of course I have been baking too, and I am excited to share my basic cookie dough recipe that you can customize into multiple variations – so easy and delicious (and everyone will think you have been slaving away for days with all of the different kinds!).
Christmas Tree Tailgate
As the tradition dictates, this family goes to a darling tree farm and cuts down the freshest tree. Our girls were tots when we started this tradition, and it is my favorite day of the year (not kidding!). From the Christmas market complete with oxen (yes you read that right) to the hayride into the tree “forest” it is always so much fun. In recent years we have included a tailgate with friends complete with Mr. SB’s sliders and lots of goodies. This year was no different. It was on the cold side, but we enjoyed sliders with caper mayo (a must), seven-layer bars (a throwback), plenty of mimosas (and just plain old champagne), chili and more. Our tree is a tad smaller this year but beautiful all the same.
I have always loved wrapping gifts. It was my job way back when my mom and I would prepare for Christmas. I love having a blog as I can now see last year’s ideas! This year, I stuck with my gold and white theme – it just works really well with our decor. I included some holiday ornaments on the gifts and of course plenty of fluffy bows. Can’t wait to hand out gifts on Christmas day.
Holiday Goodies – Basic Cookie Dough Recipe
I have been baking cookies for years and frankly what I realized is that almost all cookies are a variation on one basic recipe. Today am excited to share this basic cookie recipe. It creates delicious, chewy cookies. By the way you do need to refrigerate the dough – apparently this step hydrates the flour and helps your cookies keep their shape (ever wonder why they look like pancakes…you need to put the dough in the fridge for at least two hours to avoid that fate!).
I love all of the varieties. I happened to have white chocolate chips, cocoa powder as well as dried cranberries so I made those two variations plus good old chocolate chip. Here is the recipe… Enjoy. I am signing off until the new year – may you and yours have a wonderful holiday!!
Basic Cookie Dough (with many variations)
A wonderful base to add in mix-ins for countless varieties of cookies from the classic chocolate chip to chocolate with white chocolate chips – feel free to be creative!
In a large mixing bowl add in melted butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla extract and whisk together until combined.
In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, and salt.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir with a spatula to form the cookie dough.
Chill the dough for a minimum of 2 hours. This step will prevent cookie spread!
Scoop even spoonfuls of dough onto a cookie sheet.
When ready to bake preheat the oven to 375ºF
Roughly shape the cookies back into balls of dough before placing the cookies on a large parchment-lined cookie sheet about 4 inches apart.
Bake for roughly 8 to 10 minutes or until you can still see it is doughy in the center but browning around the edge. Don’t bake for longer as you will over bake it and lose that gooey center.
Let cool on the sheet for 5 minutes then enjoy. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Cookies also freeze really well so feel free to put some in the freezer to enjoy when you wish.
Variations – Divide your dough into four sections or more (the measurements below are for four though so please keep that in mind)Classic Chocolate Chip Cookie
2 tablespoons chocolate chipsOatmeal Raisin Cookie
2 heaped teaspoons rolled oats
1 tablespoon raisinsChocolate White Chocolate Chip Cookie
2 heaped teaspoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons of white chocolate chipsPeanut Butter Cookie
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 tablespoon Reese’s pieces, (chopped)Keep going as you like – I also added white chocolate chips and dried cranberries (about one tablespoon each).
It is countdown to Thanksgiving (and Christmas really). We are so excited for a real Thanksgiving around here. Last year we enjoyed a very small gathering and while that was nice, we missed our larger get together. I have learned through the years that the way to peaceful and enjoyable holidays is for mom (me:) to prepare ahead. So, today’s post is about my Thanksgiving countdown and prep!
We always kick off Thanksgiving with a Friendsgiving the night before when we get together with my college room mate and her family. We are actually lucky enough to go to a relative’s gorgeous home for Thanksgiving day. As much fun as that is, I have to have turkey and the trimmings for leftovers so we started the tradition years ago. I have so many fond memories of Thanksgiving hosted at my house growing up. I have to have the pumpkin bread and butternut squash exactly as mom made it. Those memories and flavors are a must! So through the years I have created a Thanksgiving countdown and prep to make our Friendsgiving day go smoothly.
Thanksgiving countdown and food prep
Ok, so one of my most favorite things to do is to sit on the couch on a leisurely Saturday or Sunday and plan menus. Pinterest is my go to and I also look back on previous menus which I usually jot down post holiday. I recommend doing this one to two weeks ahead of time or if not your thing, you can make our menu from last year:). I make myself try one new recipe every year to keep it fresh and keep experimenting. This year, a leek and potato gratin is on my list. I like how it is not too fussy – chunks of potato, leeks and of course cheese all cooked up to melting yumminess. I hope it tastes as good as it sounds.
I also always make home made cranberry sauce which is easily frozen ahead of time – not sure why canned cranberry even exists. This recipe could not be easier and the tart cranberries are such a great accompaniment to Thanksgiving fare.
Lastly, I make pumpkin bread. I usually make my own recipe, but this year, I made Smitten Kitchen’s version with some adaptations. I did not use the entire amount of sugar – 1 2/3 cup of sugar in one loaf is just too much (hello blood sugar?). I also use the prepped pumpkin pie spice which is just the necessary spices pre-dosed. The loaves came out amazing so I highly recommend the recipe! I particularly like her technique of mixing the baking powder etc. before you fold in the flour. Over mixing flour is never good with quick breads. I may need to update my own recipe.
Last year, this menu was a hit largely because the stuffing is so good. Do yourself a favor…make the stock ahead of time. If you forget, you can always use the store bought bricks, but trust me, home made stock is soooo much better and of course cheaper.
I use Alison Roman’s recipe, but I make mine in the Instant pot. After roasting some turkey parts (easy to buy at the super market or ask the butcher), I put everything in the Instant pot, cover with water, add bay leaves and spices and put on saute mode. After bringing to a boil, I simply put on the slow cooker mode and let it cook for 12 hours. So easy (but make it ahead – facing home made stock the day before or day of is a no-go for me!). I taste it after it cools. Today I decided to add some Better Than Bouillon and put it on saute mode again to boil down a bit. The result is fantastic. I froze it and can’t wait to use in the stuffing next week. Here is a photo (my photography skills are pathetic…at least you know this is a real woman behind the blog!). Those little glittery bits are what will make your gravy and stuffing divine…
The start of holiday shopping
About two weeks before Thanksgiving I ask the girls to give me their lists. This is admittedly easier now that they are older (years ago it was always last minute for Santa…). I like to buy ahead for my own peace of mind and of course to take advantage of the pre holiday sales.
Normally, I would have ordered the holiday card by now. This year, no. Why? We did not have a good photo. Good friend will be snapping some shots of the family once college girl is back. I will likely head to Costco. We send out about 75. How about you? We used to send more but cut back in recent years. It seems others have too?
Lastly, my favorite day of the year is this weekend too. We go to a local farm to cut down our Christmas tree. Hopefully I will have more time to share that with you. Here are a few notes from last year’s tailgate where we grilled some sliders which were a huge success.
So Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. I hope you enjoy cooking (if you like cooking) and eating a delicious meal with family and friends!
Hi all! How are you? I hope well. Busy as I am? Phew…it never stops. Work has been crazy, and now we are almost at the holiday season. Today I will share a favorite soup, chicken tortilla soup in the Instant Pot (but you can make in the slow cooker too) and also a quick catch up.
Fall has just flown. High school girl has been busy applying to colleges and yes, it affects parents too. Long gone are the days when I crammed 6 applications into Christmas break. The tours start as early as sophomore year and beyond. You can catch our tour of a few southern colleges from last summer. We had a few last minute ones too but closer to home. The good news is that she is into one school (IU) as it has rolling admissions.
With my eyes on Thanksgiving, I am already planning my menu and will likely cook much of last year’s menu (which was delicious….that stuffing is the best I promise) as well as trying at least one or two new recipes. This recipe for a fall, butternut, greens salad caught my eye yesterday from Smitten Kitchen (love her!). I am trying it tonight at home so will share the feedback if it is as good as it sounds. I plan to use dried cranberries instead of the pomegranate.
It is also countdown to Christmas. I have learned this is a great time of year to organize. I went through each closet and identified what to give away. Cleaning out the fridge and pantry are next as I prepare for holiday cooking. Now is the time to figure out if you have enough baking supplies and other ingredients. Trust me…am a pro at this point!
With all that is going on, something easy and tasty for dinner and lunch is a must. I adore soup especially in the fall and winter. Lentil and bean are two favorites, but I found myself craving something with a bit more heat. This chicken tortilla soup fits the bill perfectly. I think you could easily sub in chicken breasts or make it vegetarian and add another can of beans for some extra protein and staying power. You can also vary the spice too. By accident, when fiddling with my recipe, I added an entire can of chilies in adobo (fortunately I realized it and was able to remove all but two!). The toppings are optional (but are they really?). A squeeze of lime, some grated cheese, a dollop of sour cream and chopped cilantro taste so fresh and flavorful. If you want to lighten up, replace sour cream with plain Greek yogurt.
Without further ado, here is the recipe for Chicken Tortilla Soup. Enjoy!
Chicken Tortilla Soup (Either Instant Pot or Slow Cooker)
A flavorful, healthy, budget-friendly soup that is perfect for supper or lunch.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Mexican
Keyword Beans, budget friendly, Soup, Supper
Prep Time 30minutes
Cook Time 6hours
2tablespoonsvegetable oilI use avocado
1medium yellow or white onion diced
2medium jalapeno seededmembranes removed, and diced
1red or green bell pepper
3clovesgarlic mincedabout 2 teaspoons
3/4teaspoonsalt plus additional to taste
1poundof bonelessskinless chicken thighs or chicken breasts (about 2 breasts if you are using breasts)
1 28-ouncecan crushed tomatoes
2chipotle chiles in adobo choppedNOTE: I purchase these in a can and save the rest for another use – they freeze well. DO NOT use the whole can in this recipe as the soup will be too hot
1 15-ouncecan pinto beans rinsed and drained
1can of Mexican style corn
4cupschicken stock or broth
Corn tortilla strips or corn tortillas or tortilla chips. I also like the tortilla strips you buy as salad toppings.
Shredded cheddar or Mexican style cheese
Chopped fresh cilantro
Limeadd a slice on the side to squeeze over
Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
Optional: Trader Joe’s Chili Lime seasoningdelicious on top if you can find it!
Turn Instant pot to saute, or if using your slow cooker heat a pan on the stove and heat on medium heat. Once hot, add the onion, jalapeno and bell pepper. Cook until the vegetables are softened, about 6 minutes or so. Stir in the garlic, cumin and chili powder and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Transfer mixture from the skillet to the bottom of a 6-quart or larger slow cooker or if using Instant pot, turn off saute function.
Arrange the chicken breasts on top of the mixture. Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, chilies in adobo and salt. Stir gently.
Turn Instant Pot to slow cooking function. Cook on LOW for 5 to 6 hours, until the chicken is falling apart tender. Dice or shred the chicken, then return it to the slow cooker. Add the canned pinto beans and Mexican corn. Let cook on low for 20 more minutes to allow the flavors to combine and everything to heat.
Taste and add salt or seasonings as needed. If the soup is thicker than you would like, add in the remaining 1 cup chicken broth until it reaches your desired consistency. Enjoy!
Hi there! Well fall is in full glory in Connecticut. Our leaves are turning and the weather has been beautiful. We have been busy with visits to Vermont which I hope to share some recommendations and up to Boston. Last weekend I finally had a chance to catch my breath and do some decorating to celebrate the season. The wreath in the picture was a Christmas Tree Shop find which I added a bow with some Michael’s ribbon (on sale now!).
Other touches around the house include pumpkins, mums and some delightful Williams Sonoma fall soap for the powder room (I typically do not like pumpkin spiced scent so the cider option is wonderful). I also found myself in the kitchen making lentil soup and these amazing pumpkin blondies with white chocolate chips.
Pumpkin blondies with white chocolate chips are full of brown butter taste and the pumpkin flavor is not overpowering. You could easily make them with dark chocolate or milk chocolate chips too. I happened to have white chocolate chips on hand and loved how the white chocolate complements the pumpkin flavor. It took me a few tries to get the recipe just right. Needless to say this dessert was gobbled up! I may even try a teaspoon of ground ginger next time to add some depth (but they are delicious as in the recipe below).
The taste of fall in an easy-to-make blondie full of brown-buttery, pumpkin spice flavors with creamy white chocolate chips. Delicious for game day or as dessert or snack anytime.
Prep Time 25minutes
Cook Time 25minutes
1 ⅓cupall purpose flour
2teaspoonspumpkin pie spice or apple pie spice
1cupgood quality white chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line a 9×9 pan with parchment paper.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Continue to cook, stirring the pan until the butter becomes a golden brown color. Watch it carefully to make sure the bits on the bottom of the pan do not burn. Remove from heat and cool slightly. It will look like the image when it is ready.
In a large bowl combine brown butter, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, and pumpkin. Stir until combined.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, pumpkin spice, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and stir until combined. Fold in the white chocolate chips. Batter will be on the wet side.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for about 25 to even 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out without raw batter on it. Oven temperatures can vary so watch carefully after 20 minutes.