kid-friendly · Recipes

Classic Baked Ziti

I dread the onset of winter with its cold, dark, depressing ways, and anyone with little kids can tell you the havoc daylight saving time wreaks on family sleep schedules. We had an oddly warm fall here in New England; it was 70 degrees out Monday, when I started writing this, and as nice as that felt, I’m ready for the casseroles to start showing up again — even if Mother Nature isn’t. I’ve also been ready to dig into hibernation food for months now!

In that spirit, I’ve made this wonderfully simple Baked Ziti a lot this fall, including for potlucks, Sunday dinner, and for friends with new babies.

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This makes the perfect dish for visiting a newborn: it is comforting, filling, and reheats very easily, and can be eaten with one hand while holding a baby. It can also be frozen if your friends don’t have room to eat it right away. As a bonus, little kids like it, too, which is always an implicit goal of any recipe I post! Georgia simply gobbles this up, and it’s one of Mark’s, favorites, too. Win-win.

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This recipe was inspired by Smitten Kitchen with a few adaptations to make it my own.

Cook time: 30 minutes    Serves: 4-6

Classic Baked Ziti

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound ziti, cooked al dente
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano or Italian seasoning (I like Wildtree)
  • 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • a few handfuls of baby spinach
  • 1 cup mozzarella, grated
  • 2/3 cup finely grated pecorino (or parmesan) cheese
  • fresh basil slivers
  • optional: red pepper flakes

DIRECTIONS

To start, preheat your oven to 400 F.

Heat a pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta very al dente, or at least 2 minutes less than the normal cooking time stated on the box. Drain the pasta, reserving half a cup of the cooking water.

Heat a large skillet over  medium and add a swirl of olive oil until warm, then add the meat alongside the onion, garlic, seasonings and a healthy dose of salt and pepper over medium-hihg for up to 8 minutes, or until the beef is browned, stirring often.

Add the crushed tomatoes and stir to combine, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for five minutes. Add in the reserved pasta water and then the spinach, cooking until milted (maybe another minute or two). Here, I like to add in some fresh basil, slivered, and maybe a couple fresh tomatoes from my garden if I need to use them up.

Stir in the drained pasta and mix together. Pour half into a 9×13 glass baking dish or lasagna pan, and sprinkle with half the two cheeses; repeat with another half of the pasta then top with the remaining cheese.

Bake in the heated oven for 30 minutes or until nice and crispy and browned on the edges. You can even run the dish under the broiler for a minute if you’d like it extra crispy! Enjoy warm.

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NOTES:

  • You can also use Italian sausage, casings removed, if you prefer the taste.
  • To cook al dente, shave 2 minutes off the cook time stated on the package of pasta. Taking care not to overcook is essential for this not turning mushy!
  • Seasoning the ground beef well with salt and pepper is essential; it’s less important if you opt for Italian sausage.
  • I like to serve this with more slivers of fresh basil and, if you have it, fresh ricotta. But that’s totally optional!
  • I have never tried this week meat substitutes, but it’s certainly possible. Other good substitutions to make it vegetarian would be mushrooms, beans, or lentils.

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Stay tuned for my first holiday shopping guides soon, and some inspiration for Thanksgiving dinner! I’m so excited Christmas is right around the corner. I basically live for the holidays once Halloween is over every year 🙂 Have a lovely, cozy weekend.

Grow Your Own Way · kid-friendly · Recipes

Tomato Tortellini Soup

New weeknight staple alert! This is a 20-minute meal that tastes like scratch (and mostly is), and provides delicious, warm little lunches. That is, assuming you even have leftovers. It really is that scrumptious.

We had parents night at Georgia’s school recently, and we got home that day with less than an hour to spare before we had to turn around and head back out the door. Patting myself on the back for buying fresh tortellini a few days earlier, I quickly realized I had the makings of a fast, filling dinner that would also serve the dual purpose of helping us move through our tomato stash. Which, if you’ve been following my Instagram since late August, is significant.

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Even with the cooler temperatures slowing down the ripening in our garden, I’ve put up 68 ounces (!!!) of tomato sauce, and made countless batches of creamy tomato soup for freezing and eating since September. I probably gave out 100 tomatoes to co-workers, too, and am now moving on to bringing in the green ones for folks who have good recipes for things like relish, fritters and stew. And all that came from just two plants!

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I did tons of caprese salad and homemade pizza during the weeks of late summer and early Autumn, but eventually that gets repetitive, and in the fall soup just starts to feel right. Georgia has never been a big fan of the texture of soup or stews, but I figured if anything could change her mind, it would be something chunky, creamy, and filled with cheesy pasta. And I was right.

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Inspiration for this recipe came from The Kitchn, but I made my own modifications and tweaks because I like more tomato chunks and a little less heft than heavy cream.

Tomato Tortellini Soup

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 TBSP butter + a swirl of olive oil for the pot
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed or minced
  • salt and pepper to taste (don’t be shy)
  • 1 TBSP balsamic vinegar
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 or 3 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 2 cans (4 cups/32 ounces) chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup light cream
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 package (about 14 ounces) cheese tortellini
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, torn
  • grated parmesan cheese, to taste

DIRECTIONS

In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, heat the butter and olive oil together over medium until warm, then add the onion. Cook until soft, then add the garlic, making sure it doesn’t burn. Season with salt and pepper.

Stir in the vinegar, then add the crushed tomatoes (with the liquid in the can) and the broth, cream and bay leaves to the pot. Add in some chunks of fresh tomato. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the tortellini and cook for about 3 minutes (5 minutes if using frozen). Remove from the heat, discard the bay leaves, and stir in the basil. Serve topped with fresh grated Parmesan. Enjoy warm!

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Notes

You can use either fresh or frozen tortellini; just adjust the cooking time up a bit for frozen to give them time to thaw by cooking in the sauce.

Subbing vegetable stock is fine; I like the taste of chicken stock better. You can also use another type of shredded cheese on top, such as pecorino.

Feel free to put that heavy cream back in there if you want it extra rich!

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For me, this kept in the fridge just fine for 5 days. I also froze two small containers of it for later. To reheat, either warm over low/medium on the stovetop or microwave for about one minute, covered.

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I hope you are having a wonderful fall getting ready for Halloween, Thanksgiving and (gulp) Christmas. I am actually already starting to shop for the holidays! Starting early is the only way I can stay on budget. We just took our annual family photos with our favorite photographer — here’s a sneak peek of one image so far 🙂 I can’t wait to get the full package so I can start designing my photo album gifts and Christmas cards.

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Blue Apron · Grow Your Own Way · kid-friendly · Recipes

Spring Fettuccine

Hmm. Where did we go for 21 days? It sure whizzed by rather mysteriously for me, until I woke up and realized I hadn’t written a new recipe all month. But I can tell you one thing — we did very, very, VERY little cooking these last three weeks, so that right there is probably the secret to why this blog went silent.

We had my mom’s 70th birthday party, the end of school for Georgia, the start of summer camp, the tail end of audition season for Mark, and annual reviews at my office, plus graduation from the political candidate training program I underwent all winter, Emerge.

I guess we were busy, huh?


You’ll notice this post has the word “Spring” in the title. That’s because that is when I started writing it! It’s probably even more exciting as a meal option now, though, because it’s just that easy — and easy is what you want in the heat (which we finally have here in Boston). And, bonus: you can use any greens that are ready to harvest from your garden now, if you’re in the Northeast.

The title of this should really be “Fresh Fettuccine with Chicken, Asparagus, Kale and Rosemary” but that is just WAY too long, so I’m leaving the flavors a bit to your imagination with a festive-sounding word like “Spring” instead. Because when I think of this season, and eating outdoors or on the porch, with something light and easy to pull together on a weeknight, those foods are for sure on my list…right next to a crisp glass of white wine or rosé.

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I originally made this as part of my Blue Apron subscription but have since redone it and adapted it for our family, and you could do the same. Chicken and Rosemary are natural buddies, but you can leave out any part that doesn’t appeal, including the chicken if you want to make this vegetarian, or the red pepper flakes if you don’t like so much heat. The greens are also interchangeable, so a spring mix or spinach would be fine here, too. Other ideas: you could add in some garlic to the saute step, or even some mushrooms — especially for a heartier vegetarian option if you omit the chicken tenders. I might even add some fresh peas if I saw them at the farmer’s market.

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Spring Fettuccine

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 chicken tenders
  • 6 OZ fettuccine
  • 1 bunch kale
  • ½ bunch ssparagus
  • 1 bunch rosemary
  • 2 TBSP crème fraîche or Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • 2 TBSP grated Parmesan
  • ⅛ TBSP crushed red pepper flakes

DIRECTIONS

Wash and dry the fresh produce and eat a medium pot of salted water to boiling. Snap off and discard the tough, woody ends of the asparagus, then cut into 1-inch pieces on an angle. Remove and discard the kale stems and finely chop the leaves. Pick the rosemary leaves off the stems, or run through an herb stripper; discard the stems and roughly chop the leaves.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and chop into bite-sized pieces, then transfer to a bowl. Season the chopped chicken with salt and pepper and toss to coat.

In a large pot, heat some olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the seasoned chicken and cook, stirring occasionally for about five minutes or until it is lightly browned and cooked through.While the chicken cooks, add the pasta to the pot of boiling water and cook 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente. Reserving ¾ cup of the pasta cooking water, drain thoroughly.

While the pasta cooks, add the asparagus, kale, rosemary, 2 TBSP water and as much of the red pepper flakes as you’d like, depending on how spicy you’d like the dish to be, to the pan of chicken; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for a couple of minutes or until the asparagus is bright green and the kale wilts.

Add the cooked pasta, crème fraîche and half the reserved pasta cooking water to the pan of chicken and veggies. Cook, stirring vigorously to coat the pasta, until thoroughly combined, just a couple of minutes. If the sauce seems dry, add the remaining pasta cooking water to reach a better consistency. Top with cheese and enjoy!

This makes about two servings, so it’s perfect for date night. Or, it doubles easily.

Buon Appetito!

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Technically summer started last week, but I think you can still safely make this “spring” pasta and be on-season with your ingredients. I know my garden is still overflowing with greens like lettuce, cabbage and kale! In fact things are growing so fast and furious after our heavy spring rains that allergies have hit in full force for me lately, and I hope you aren’t suffering too! Have a great rest of the week, and an awesome start to your Fourth of July vacation if you’re taking off soon. We are staying in town but hoping to savor the warm sun and maybe get to some boating and beach or pool time! 🍉🇺🇸☀️


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Gymboree Sale On Now!

Blue Apron · Grow Your Own Way · kid-friendly · Recipes

Summer Squash Enchiladas

With gardens getting ready and fresh, homegrown produce just over the horizon, I’m teeing up some warm-weather recipes perfect for using up the bounty of squash, eggplant, greens, peppers and basil we’ll all have handy soon. This one originally came to me via Blue Apron (read more about my thoughts on the service right here) and I’ve enjoyed making it many times over since.

We no longer subscribe to the service, but for a while there it REALLY helped us get out of our takeout rut after having a newborn. Cooking was the one thing I couldn’t handle amid scarce sleep, pumping, packing daycare bags, washing bottles and (of course) playing with my new baby, and I could always count on Blue Apron to drop fixings for three meals off on my porch every week. It was one less thing to worry about, but eventually we got our groove back and started meal planning and grocery shopping (sans meltdown) again.

I did end up with some real keepers from the Blue Apron recipe archive. A few of my favorites: this Tomato Zucchini Quiche, this Sweet Pepper & Goat Cheese Pie, this Sirloin Steak with Smashed Purple Potatoes & Green Beans, these healthy Salmon Burgers with Potato Salad & Tossed Arugula, and (mmmmmm) this Chicken Piccata for Two, perfect for date night at home.

The key to this recipe’s unique flavor comes from the Tomatillos, or “Mexican husk tomatoes,” which are the sweet-tart ingredient that gives salsa verde its flavor. Cultivated since pre-Columbian times, they are elemental to modern Mexican cuisine and also played an important role in Mayan and Aztec culture.

They’ll stay fresh in your refrigerator with husks on for a couple of weeks, or you can remove the husks and seal them in plastic bags to keep even longer. They’re easy to find in any grocery store.

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Summer Squash Enchiladas

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 Corn Tortillas
  • ½ Cup Jasmine Rice
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Lime
  • 1 Poblano Pepper
  • 1 Yellow Summer Squash
  • ½ Pound Tomatillos
  • 1 Bunch Cilantro
  • ½ Cup Sour Cream
  • 1/2 Cup Grated Cotija Cheese+
  • 1 Tablespoon Mexican Spice Blend*

+Cotija is a dry, Mexican grating cheese, similar to Parmesan. A good substitute is Feta.

*Mexican Spice Blend is equal parts garlic powder, chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin and dried oregano. You can also buy pre-mixed Mexican Seasoning from a supermarket brand such as McCormick. Carne Asada Seasoning is also a good substitute, and you can find a version by McCormick or Wildtree for a certified organic, unprocessed option.

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 475°F. In a small pot, combine the rice, a big pinch of salt and 1 cup of water and heat to boiling on high. Once boiling, cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender. Remove from heat and fluff the cooked rice with a fork. Transfer to a large bowl.

While the rice cooks, wash and dry the fresh produce. Remove and discard any tomatillo husks and dice small, then peel and mince the garlic. Using a zester, zest the lime peel then cut the lime into quarters. Dice the squash. Roughly chop the cilantro leaves and stems. Stack the tortillas on a plate; cover with a damp paper towel (or heat up in the microwave, then cover with a paper towel). Remove and discard the stem, ribs and seeds of the poblano, then small dice, immediately washing your hands and work surface.

In a pot, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the tomatillos and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for a couple of minutes or until fragrant. Add 2 tablespoons of water; cook, occasionally smashing the tomatillos with a spoon, for about 10 minutes or until soft. Remove from the heat then stir in half the sour cream and the juice of 2 lime wedges. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

While the salsa verde cooks, in a medium pan, heat 2 TBSP of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the squash, poblano and spice blend and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes or until browned and softened. Transfer to the bowl of cooked rice.

Add the lime zest, half the cilantro, half the cheese and remaining sour cream into the bowl of cooked rice and vegetables and stir to combine. Place the tortillas on a clean, dry work surface. Spread about ⅓ cup of the filling into the bottom of a baking dish. Divide the remaining filling between the tortillas; tightly roll up each tortilla around the filling. Carefully transfer the rolled tortillas to the baking dish in a single layer, seam sides down. (**A good tip here: mist the tortillas with water to keep them soft and pliant and prevent them from cracking in the pan. As you can see, this happened to me on the day I photographed these, but the trick has worked for me every time since**).

Evenly top the assembled enchiladas with the salsa verde and remaining cheese. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned and heated through. Remove from the oven and let stand for at least 2 minutes. Garnish with the remaining cilantro. Serve with the remaining lime wedges on the side. Enjoy!

If you’re ever looking for a recipe like this on a menu, they’d be called “enchiladas suizas,” which technically means “Swiss enchiladas” — so named, supposedly, for the Swiss immigrants to Mexico who brought their love of dairy to the new country’s cuisine, resulting in a range of recipes with European influence. Blue Apron filled this version of enchiladas suizas with squash, poblano pepper, and jasmine rice, topping them with a “salsa verde,” or tomatillo sauce with a dash of sour cream.

This dish pairs very nicely with a fruity, crisp rosé … perfect for summer!

Want to make this dish even more hefty? Add in some beans for a vegetarian option, or some poached shredded chicken.

If, like us, you’ve just planted your garden and can’t wait to start cooking with the fruits of your labors, pin this recipe to save for later! I have a long list of dinners I’m dying to try, and Pinterest is the only thing that keeps me organized 🙂 You can see my own recipes, plus the ones I’ve saved from other bloggers and am dying to try, on my profile.

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I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend and Mother’s Day for all the moms out there. It was crappy weather in New England, but I had an amazing relaxing weekend with my babies. We took a drive up to Plum Island and grabbed dinner at a diner on route 1, and had a nice low-key lunch with my mom on Sunday, after which Gramma helped us pick out a big girl bed for G! We think we’ve decided on the one we want, and she is so excited to move out of her toddler bed as soon as we can order the new twin. (We are also excited for her to hopefully stop waking us up at midnight to fix her too-small blankets). On Thursday, Georgia’s school had all the parents in for an adorable Mother’s Day pageant with songs and poems, followed by treats in each child’s classroom. They all looked soooo proud of all the gifts they had made, including a miniature cake baked and decorated by each child to share with their mum that morning. It was just lovely and I never, ever want her to grow up from this sweet age.


Are you local? Don’t forget the Boston Public Market @ Dewey Square Plaza opens for the season tomorrow, right on the Greenway across from South Station! Check out a list of vendors here. They’ll have a farmer’s market plus prepared foods for lunch and dinner every Tuesday and Thursday from 11:30 to 6:30, now through November 21.

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Have a wonderful week everyone!

Christmas · Holidays · kid-friendly · Recipes

Pumpkin Stuffed Shells

Happy Cyber Monday! I’m pretty much done with my holiday shopping already, so today is more like Treat YoSelf Monday in my book — I’ve got my eye on a Beauty Blender and a new work bag that is way not in the budget this year (especially since we just had to buy a new car last month). Hard to resist when the sales are this good. I hope you all had a restful, relaxing Thanksgiving. We sure did! Eating out, while not something I’d want to do every year, was extremely stress-free, and I loved not having to wash a million dishes at the end of the night. The place we went was excellent, and it was so nice getting to talk, sip a cocktail, then enjoy a movie back at home while lounging on the couch together. I did a little Black Friday shopping from the comfort of my bed before I even got up the next morning, and then spent the weekend getting our Christmas decorations out! I’ll be sharing a 2016 gift guide later this week, but for now please enjoy this easy-peasy version of vegetarian stuffed shells that is comforting, savory, and just the right thing to throw together in those frazzled weeks between Thanksgiving and Hanukkah/Christmas when your brain just doesn’t have the capacity to cook anything complicated. Adding a salad to this — even a pre-made, store-bought salad — or some simple roasted veggies would complete the meal nutritionally and make your taste buds happy.

Pumpkin Stuffed Shells

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 package pasta shells (the jumbo kind with 24 shells per container)
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 cups ricotta
  • 1 15-oz. can pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 TBSP chopped fresh sage
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the garlic cream sauce

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup flour (I used whole wheat)
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (I used almond milk
  • 1/2 cup light cream (or half n’ half)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 35o and spray (or butter) a 9×13 glass baking dish.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water until al dente, not mushy or overdone. Drain well and transfer to a paper towel laid out on the counter to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin, ricotta, parmesan, egg, sage and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper.

To make the cream sauce, melt butter in a skillet over medium and add the garlic, then cook, stirring, until fragrant (1-2 minutes). Whisk in the flour gradually until lightly browned, about a minute. Gradually whisk in the milk and cook, stirring continuously, until well mixed. Stir in the light cream and cheese until thickened, another couple of minutes. If the mixture is too thick, add more milk. Season with salt and pepper.

Spread some of the cream sauce into the bottom of the buttered baking dish, enough to coat the bottom. Stuff the cooled shells with the pumpkin-ricotta mixture and nestle into the baking dish, then drizzle the remaining cream sauce over the top. Garnish with some sage if desired.

Bake 25 or until lightly browned and bubbling. Serve warm.

Adapted from Damn Delicious.

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Ready to start shopping and don’t want to miss the best sales today?

Check out my previous guides: Gifts for Toddlers (especially awesome for two and three year olds), Gifts for Babies (great for infants through 18 months), Gifts for the Guys, and eco-friendly gift ideas for that brand new baby in your life (like my special little niece!) Last but not least, in honor of #MakersMonday (which is today), here’s a post featuring Locally-Made Gifts.  

If you’re in Boston, don’t forget to swing by the grand opening of Eataly tomorrow. I’ll be there, ready to stock up on Lavazza, Fig Burrata, imported Olive Oil and Brunello. I might actually explode from excitement while shopping! Ping me if you want to meet up or plan to be there yourself. Doors open at 4 p.m. in the Prudential, off Boylston.

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another sneak peak from our holiday photos. Have a great week 🙂

kid-friendly · Recipes · Slow Cooker

Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken

Inspired by a popular post on Damn Delicious (one of my favorite cooking blogs), this recipe for Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken is beyond foolproof, with no braising, marinating or prep work required — just toss it in the slow cooker, come home after work and eat. You can use any cut of chicken and it still turns out moist and delicious. The original recipe called for chicken thighs, but boneless breasts were on sale and are something Georgia prefers, so we decided to try the recipe with those instead. And it worked perfectly. Life = easier, just like that!

Honey Garlic Slow Cooker Chicken

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 Chicken thighs (or two packages of boneless breasts, which I used here)
  • 16 oz. red potatoes (half a 2.5 pound bag)
  • 16 oz.baby carrots (one bag)
  • 16 oz. green beans, trimmed (one bag)

FOR THE SAUCE

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce (preferably reduced sodium)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Dried oregano, basil, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste (about a tablespoon total)

DIRECTIONS

  • Mix the sauce together and set aside.
  • In your slow cooker, nestle the potatoes and carrots into the bottom of the pot, then layer the chicken on top. Pour the sauce over and set to cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.
  • The original recipe calls for basting every half hour, which is fine if you are home but not fine if you’re working. It turns out well either way.
  • In the last 30 minutes of cooking, add in the green beans.
  • Serve warm on a cold day!

OK, so this doesn’t photograph very well as a finished product. Trust me when I tell you it’s even BETTER as leftovers! 

This is a great recipe to pair with the Maple Dijon Pork Chops I posted about a couple of weeks ago when you’re meal planning for the week, because you can buy one bag of potatoes and use half in this meal and half with the chops; the same goes for the green beans.

Are you all set for Halloween?? We are in full Spooky Swing. Last weekend was the “Boo at the Zoo” event at the same place where we hosted Georgia’s birthday party this year, and we had a blast with friends riding the kiddie rides, seeing the animals in their exhibits, dancing to some monster tunes and of course picking up some toys and (healthy) treats along the walking paths. Monday we had a trick-or-treat in my office, which was another hit, and tomorrow G has her preschool Halloween party. It’s an exhausting life when you’re three — and the actual holiday hasn’t even hit yet! I’m not sure Rapunzel’s wig will make it to Monday intact… 🙂

Have a great rest of the week everyone. 

kid-friendly · Recipes

Butternut Squash, Sage & Sweet Chicken Sheet Pan Meal

Years ago, I saw this on one of those online Trader Joe’s recipe forums where folks share the meals they make using only TJs ingredients. It took me until now to try it, with a few tweaks to suit our tastes, and it’s a definite keeper for weeknight cooking. It involves minimal cleanup and barely any prep, especially if you buy those grocery packages of chopped fresh butternut squash instead of rasslin’ with a whole one yourself. I chose to use poultry seasoning here because it’s quick to grab in the produce section pre-packaged and we like the taste of it; you could swap it for something you like better. It WILL make your house smell like Thanksgiving morning!

I’ll also point out that you can swap another kind of squash, too. This recipe isn’t fussy. We really like caramelized red onions, but again, any type will do.

Butternut Squash, Sage & Sweet Chicken Sheet Pan Meal

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 a butternut squash, cubed (or buy pre-cut; it’s much easier)
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 package chicken sausage, halved (I used TJ’s apple maple flavor)
  • 1 packet poultry seasoning (thyme, sage, rosemary)
  • 4-6 garlic cloves (peeled and left whole)
  • olive oil for the pan
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350F. Prep the squash, sausage, garlic and onion.

On a sheet pan lined with foil, lay out the squash, onions and sausage links and drizzle with olive oil, shaking to coat. Nestle the garlic cloves and whole branches of herbs around the edges for flavoring. Season the entire tray with salt and pepper to taste, then place in the oven.

Cook between 20-30 minutes, stirring halfway through, or until everything looks browned and the squash are cooked through. Times may vary depending on your oven.

Discard the sage, rosemary and thyme — it’s ok if a few pieces stay on the food — and keep the garlic and the onion if you like them. They should be softened and mellowed out in taste, and thus OK to eat. Taste for seasoning and add more if you feel it’s needed. Serve warm!

I love this because it only uses one tray, so cleanup is fast.

I actually had a whole butternut squash hanging around, so I used half of it here and then roasted the other half, cubed, in a smaller baking sheet on the rack below this in the oven and ate it later in the week with a rotisserie chicken I bought on the way home from work. Done that way, you get two easy after-work dinners out of it!

Georgia loved eating the tender roasted squash and the sweet sausage, too. Trader Joe’s has so many varieties of chicken sausage and you could use any of them here. You could also use spicier sausage instead of sweet, but it will make the dish that much greasier and a tad less healthy. The whole point, though, is that it’s customizable, cheap, and doubles well if you have a larger family. If you try it, let me know what you think!

 

kid-friendly · Recipes · Tips and Tricks

Maple-Dijon Pork Chops with Chunky Apple Topping

This dish has become a fall tradition in our house. Every October we plan a date to go apple picking as a family, usually the first weekend Mark gets off after closing his first show of the season; then, with our bounty overflowing, we get started making apple crisp and this delicious dinner that tops succulent brined pork chops with a maple-dijon glaze and a chunky apple cider sauce. It’s something we all look forward to when the air turns chilly! I made this for the first time this year just last night, and I’m looking forward to baking a sweet apple crisp this weekend, too. I can’t wait to share that with you!

These pictures are actually from the last time I made a large quantity of this for a dinner party a couple years ago (hence the Johnny’s Foodmaster packaging, for a store that doesn’t exist anymore in the Boston area!) Also pictured are some garlic-chive mashed potatoes (click here for my basic mashed potato recipe) and my balsamic roasted green beans, which is my go-to way of baking green beans in the oven so the whole family will eat them. Although there are lots of steps pictured, I actually managed this just fine on a weeknight yesterday. I threw the chops into a freezer-size bag to brine them before work with some poultry seasoning (sage, thyme and rosemary) — see brining instructions below — and then when I got home, I just set the water on to boil for the potatoes, tossed the green beans into the oven to cook, set up the apple topping on a back burner, and cooked the pork chops in the last 7 minutes while I mashed the cooked potatoes. It wasn’t hard at all!!

HOW TO BRINE

Brining, or submerging meat in salt water for tenderizing and flavor, can be done overnight or during the workday so your meat is ready to be cooked when you get home in the evening. As I wrote about in this post for Citrus Pork, brining is a simple technique that does a great job of preventing dense cuts of meat (like pork chops!) from drying out while cooking. Yesterday I just threw the chops into a double-bagged freezer Ziploc with enough water to cover them, and eyeballed the salt and herbs. In general, you want to aim for a ratio of 1 TBSP of salt for every 1 CUP of water; as long as you make sure to cover the meat completely with water and rinse them off well when you are done brining, it’s pretty hard to mess this up. You also want to use flavorings such as onions, herbs, or aromatics like ginger, lemon peel, cinnamon sticks, sugar or garlic in your brining bag. If you are hoping to brine a holiday bird, like a large turkey, or a roast, definitely make sure you give it overnight to soak. Want a more in depth guide by cut of meat? This article is a good place to start.

Recipe: Maple Dijon Pork Chops with Chunky Apple Topping

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 apples, cored and chopped
  • 1 CUP apple cider
  • 3 TBSP brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3-4 pork chops (or more for a crowd)
  • If brining: salt, water & herbs (I used a fresh poultry seasoning mix from the grocery store)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 TBSP Dijon or spicy brown mustard (I used the latter)
  • olive oil for the pan

DIRECTIONS

If you are making the green beans and/or mashed potatoes, set those up to boil and bake in the oven first, then turn your attention to making the apple sauce and finally to cooking the pork chops in a frying pan. If you boil the water then prep all your other ingredients, your potatoes will be done cooking around the same time as your apple topping and your green beans, meaning you can set those aside in a warm place and cook the chops while mashing the potatoes.

If you’ve brined the pork chops, make sure to rinse them well and discard any seasonings that brined with them.

To make the apple topping, cook the apples in a medium sauce pan with the cider and brown sugar and cinnamon over medium/high heat until tender, about 15 minutes, then set aside.

(I’ve listed out the step-by-step for both the green bean side and the potatoes below).

To make the pork chops, heat some olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat and add the chops, seasoning with a little pepper. Cook until browned, about 5 minutes per side. Then, stir the maple syrup and mustard into the pan, tossing to coat.

Top the pork chops with the chunky apple sauce and serve alongside the mashed potatoes and green beans or sides of your choice. And enjoy!

Here’s a quick recap of the green bean recipe if you don’t want to click over to my full post about it. I bought a pre-rinsed bag of cut green beans (16 oz) and added half of a sliced onion in a foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and add in a bunch of whole garlic cloves — I usually do between 6 and 10, peeled of course. Roast in the oven at 350F until browned pretty well, about 30 minutes; you want the onions to be starting to caramelize. You can also do 400F for 20 minutes, but I was timing it to be ready alongside the pork chops and potatoes here. Set aside and while still warm add a few drops of balsamic to the finished beans, tossing to coat (a little goes a long way). Serve warm.

For the mashed potato recipe you see here, I used half a bag of red potatoes (~1 pound) plus 1 stick of butter, about a half cup of milk (any kind; I used almond) and a hefty dollop of sour cream (a bit of cream cheese would also work), adding a generous sprinkling of salt to taste. I boil the potatoes, chopped in half, until fork-tender, then drain them, add them back into the stockpot and mash them by hand (skin still on) with all the ingredients mentioned above. So creamy and delicious!

I hope you enjoy this one. Stay tuned for a recap of our apple picking trip, some pictures from my recent travel to Detroit (where the food scene is bustling if you know where to look), and that apple crisp recipe I mentioned. The best part of fall is definitely the food if you ask me!

Blue Apron · Recipes

Tomato Zucchini Quiche

Boy, do I love quiche. Too bad it isn’t the healthiest thing around! What it lacks in fiber it makes up for in protein, however, and for vegetarians this can be a very good thing. Not to mention it’s a simple meal to throw together on a hot night, and if you toss a light salad alongside, you can make it a balanced dinner that’s budget- and family-friendly. I use pre-bought pie crusts when I’m crunched for time, and zucchini and tomatoes from my garden when they’re abundant. Combine that with some ricotta, eggs, and cheese, and you’re only 20 minutes away from yum.

QUICHE (1)

Zucchini & Tomato Quiche

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large, pre-baked pie crust (or 2 mini), store bought or home made
  • 1 zucchini, diced small
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup skim ricotta
  • 1/4 cup fontina cheese, grated or chopped small
  • salt, pepper & olive oil

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 425. Set the pie crust(s) out on a non-stick baking sheet to come to room temperature.

Small dice the zucchini and quarter the tomatoes. Dice or shred the cheese if it comes in a block. Peel and mince the garlic and smash into a paste using either the side of a knife, a mortar and pestle, or a zester.

In a medium non-stick pan, heat olive oil over medium-high until hot, then add the zucchini and cook, seasoning with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes or until browned and soft, then add the tomatoes and garlic paste. Stir for a couple minutes or until fragrant, then remove from the heat.

In a medium sized bowl, crack the two eggs and whisk; add the ricotta and whisk again, the add the cooked zucchini and tomatoes, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper.

Pour the mixture into the pie crust(s) and evenly top with cheese.

Bake the quiches in the oven for 18-20 minutes, or until the edges are browned and the fillings are set. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes.

Serve warm, at room temp, or even cold straight from the refrigerator!

Notes: 1/4 cup cheese is about one ounce, or 4 TBSP; you can also just eyeball the amount you’d like based on how heavy you want the dish to be. Add more or less to your health and taste needs, and vary the cheese type if you like something else better. You can also add a little more garlic; I did. Don’t want to overdo it, though.

***

This recipe came to me in my Blue Apron delivery. Unlike some of their meals, this featured no hard-to-find ingredients or complex preparation steps, so it was easy for us to replicate. I’ve also made more than a few quiche in my day, but even for newbies it’s a pretty hard dish to mess up! Enjoy and stay cool in this drought-level heat wave.

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Uncategorized

Merry Christmas (+leftover ideas!)

To quote Georgia, “SANTA IS COMING!!” We started getting ready for the big day at our house by watching Christmas movies all day, finishing our wrapping, going to church at night, having dinner as a family and then making some of the food we’ll have tomorrow when relatives join us to celebrate.

Georgia_Christmas

We are sticking to the same menu we’ve had for the past few years, except that we are making turkey instead of spiral ham, and (sniffle) we’re omitting anything Italian like stuffed shells or lasagna. My mom is making the turkey, stuffing and gravy, with applesauce on the side, and then I’ll be making Corn Casserole, Swedish Meatballs with cream sauce and Lingonberry on the side (thanks Ikea!), and my in-laws are bringing potatoes. My brother and his girlfriend are making Stuffed Mushrooms and a salad, as well as apple pie cookies with vanilla ice cream. Finally, I’m making a Peppermint Ice Cream freezer cake (recipe coming shortly), and Mark is making his go-to appetizer, Pillsbury Crescent Sausage Rolls. I’m sure we’ll have lots of other snacks around, too.

SAUSAGE CRESCENT BITES

I’m pretty ready to relax with my family after going through two rounds of toddler illness recently, from that barking cough every kid seems to have caught, to the (blessedly brief) stomach bug that hit us last weekend. Better last week than on Christmas Day, I guess!

While prepping for our holiday cooking, I decided to throw together  a savory dip using leftover ingredients and a couple pantry staples this afternoon, and it came out great so I wanted to share. It’s perfect for the day after Christmas,  a New Year’s Eve party, or just relaxing on New Year’s Day. 

CARAMELIZED ONION DIP

Ingredients

  • 2 onions, sliced thin
  • 2 TBSP butter
  • 2 TBSP brown sugar
  • 1 container plain Greek yogurt such as Chobani (~7 oz.)
  • A little less than 1 cup applesauce
  • 1 garlic clove, minced

Directions

In a sauté pan, melt the butter over medium then add the onions and brown sugar and cook until caramelized. Reserve about 1/4 cup.

In a blender, combine the applesauce, yogurt and the rest of the onions and mix until smooth. Add the minced garlic and give one last pulse. Taste, and add more garlic if you feel it’s needed.

Serve warm or cold with chips, crudités or French fries, adding the reserved onion on top for guests to mix in as they dip. I also added a little bit of salt upon taste-tasting.

  


True confession: I dropped the applesauce in the measuring cup onto the floor as I was trying to carry it to the blender, so this was made with the kind of applesauce you find in toddler snack pouches (organic still, of course 😉 ). It made me think, though, that you could make this dip with lots of different types of leftover fruit sauces, chutneys or relish. Pump up the garlic if you like, too!

From my house to yours, I hope you have a wonderful, restful, peaceful, and relaxing holiday. Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night! 

Thanks to Chobani for partnering with us to inspire this post. Find more fun recipe ideas featuring Chobani Greek Yogurt here!