kid-friendly · Recipes · Slow Cooker · Tips and Tricks

Super Bowl Ideas

I’m just going to assume everyone reading this is rooting for the Patriots like we are on Sunday … ha!

As a kid we watched football every weekend, though the Pats were pretty much abysmal until I went away to college (figures) so I struggle to imagine what it must be like to have grown up watching Tom Brady and Bill Belichick dominate the NFL for basically your entire lifetime. That said, I’ll enjoy the dynasty while it lasts. Once this particular season is over, I can focus on my favorite sport — hockey — and before you know it the Red Sox will have opening day at Fenway Park and it’ll be spring again.

Until then! Here’s what we love to cook up on game day. You know I’m going to start off with my Brown Sugar Kielbasa, don’t you?

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This one is a star for a reason. It has two ingredients unless you want to embellish it, and you just set it and forget in the slow cooker. Giving myself more time with my guests, and to prepare the rest of the game day food, works for me!

We also love to make delicious and simple Shepherd’s Pie. This one is so easy! My friends always ask for this and it is hands-down one of my husband’s favorite dinners that I make. All you need is ground beef, creamed corn and regular corn plus mashed potatoes, and somehow it all comes together and tastes so much more complex. This is a recipe I originally got from my mom, and she used to make it for me in little ramekins that I could take for lunch every day. I don’t even own ramekins!

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Another must-have for snacking is tortilla chips and salsa. I always, always make my own salsa, because it so fast and tastes approximately a thousand times better than canned salsa. I like to use Rotel, fresh tomatoes and heaps of cilantro and jalapenos, but you can very much customize things if you don’t care for the heat or the taste of cilantro.

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If you are hosting vegetarians and are in need of good chili options that involve more than just a ton of beans, I’ve got a few ideas. This recipe has literally four ingredients and very little simmering time, and can be made with ground beef or vegetarian “meat” crumbles, which I normally don’t love but end up tasting delicious here. Morning Star Farms and Gardein both make excellent veggie crumbles.

Another awesome recipe that packs a little heat with a hint of sweetness is this tasty Soy Chorizo Chili, which I usually make by shopping all Trader Joe’s ingredients, from the chorizo itself to the sweet potatoes, black beans and salsa. Serve it with some vegan shredded “cheese” on top or, if dairy is an option for your crowd, some sour cream or (even healthier) plain Greek yogurt. Yum! And spicy!

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You really can’t go wrong with food, friends and football for any game day, so no matter who you are rooting for, I hope you have a blast this weekend and that this post gave you some good ideas. As Georgia says, “go ball players! you’re doing a great job!” haha.

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Recipes

Warm Cranberry Spread (+Game Day Treats!)

Wow. I did not intend to disappear for an entire freaking month. It’s like the holidays ate me up and spit me out at the end of January with a backlog of winter recipes to share and a bunch of travel on the horizon. Last night, we got back from a trip to Florida visiting my family in Sarasota, and in 10 days I’m jetting to D.C. to present at a conference while Mark heads down to New York City for an audition. I literally cannot believe I have to get on a plane again a week from Monday. This comes right on the heels of a two-day, weekend-long professional training for women interested in running for public office (with a lunch break on Saturday to attend the Boston Women’s March in Boston) the weekend right before we left town for vacation. It was a whirlwind two days and I’m so honored to have been accepted to the program, but WHEW! Mama’s tired. And the training continues one weekend per month until June, when all 50 of the women in the program graduate. Interested to learn more? Visit EmergeMA.com.


Today, I’m sharing a yummy homemade warm dip that is perfect for your Super Bowl party! I can tell lots of you have been watching the playoffs big-time, because my website traffic these days is almost 90% for this Brown Sugar Kielbasa in the Slow Cooker and my super-simple Traditional Shepherd’s Pie — both great game-day options. And you know who I’m rooting for! #GoPats!!

I made this on New Year’s Day for a big family gathering we hosted with my in-laws and all of Georgia’s cousins. It goes great with a side platter of pita or crackers, as well as sliced  apples.  Here, I used lingonberry sauce, because I had almost a whole jar left over from Christmas dinner when I served it alongside Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes. Any berry sauce or preserve you like, particularly whole berry, would work well.  I always buy the Ikea lingonberry sauce, which has whole berries in it, and I think that makes all the difference. I also mixed in some red pepper jelly to give it a hint of heat — which I LOVE! — but you could omit it if you really don’t want the kick. I will say, though, that my spice-intolerant husband liked this, and he can’t take any heat at all.


Warm Cranberry Dip

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 package (8 oz.) of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup whole berry cranberry or lingonberry sauce
  • 1 TBSP red pepper jelly
  • a of grated cheese such as pepperjack, white cheddar or parmesan
  • assorted crackers or toasted bread slices for serving

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350. In a small bowl, mix thoroughly the berry sauce and hot pepper jelly.

In a baking dish or pie plate, spread the cream cheese evenly in one layer in an ungreased baking dish or pie plate. Sprinkle evenly with the grated cheese of your choice and then top with the berry-pepper mixture.

Bake 15-20 minutes or until the berries are just starting to bubble and the edges of the cream cheese are only beginning to brown.

And that’s not all! If you’re looking for more recipe ideas for your Super Bowl party, I’ve got a TON.

Chicken Chili

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Sweet Hot Chicken Wings

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Slow Cooker Ribs

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Pulled Pork Sliders

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Pulled Chicken Chili

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Homemade Salsa

Pillsbury Crescent Sausage Rolls

Meatball Pizza

VEGETARIAN IDEAS

Healthy Baked French Fries

Crispy Kale Chips

Vegan Spinach & Artichoke Dip

Meat-free Shepherd’s Pie

Baked Egg Noodles with Cheese

Pesto Flatbread

Soy Chorizo Chili

Fried Tofu Triangles with Peanut Sesame Dipping Sauce

Vegetarian Stuffed Shells

We are taking it easy Super Bowl Sunday instead of having, or going to, a party. We need the time to unpack and get ready for the workweek. If you’re hosting or attending a game day bash, have fun and stay safe! And Go Pats!!!


Recipes · Slow Cooker

Carbonara 2.0: company edition

A few weeks ago, we were talking about having a friend over for dinner — his wife, a colleague of Mark’s, is on tour for over a year — and Mark thought it would be really nice to hang out together and cook him a solid, stick-to-your-ribs, home-made, comfort-food dinner. And, since he really wanted to do the cooking himself, he either had to learn a new recipe or amp up the wow factor of his spaghetti carbonara, which is really the only dinner he cooks by himself. 

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And then! We saw an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives that gave us just the inspiration we were waiting for. So, after putting Georgia to bed one night during vacation, we put our heads together to start recipe testing. And I think we finally made the tweaks that will turn this weeknight staple into a creamier, more decadent dish worthy of company.

Here are the key things we changed:

  • Cooking the bacon in a tbsp of olive oil instead of relying on bacon fat to grease the pan.
  • Using a stainless steel pan instead of non-stick, which affects the drippings and the heat level you can use.
  • Smashing the garlic instead of dicing in a garlic press, which mellows the flavor; we also added it later in the cooking.
  • Adding wine to the sauteing bacon, but making sure it burns off a bit so the flavor doesn’t overwhelm.
  • Separating the egg whites and yolks, which allows the whites to impart an airiness to the sauce and prevents the risk of scrambling that arises when you add both to a hot pan. Also, adding yolks to the finished dish makes for an extremely creamy sauce.
  • Adding a dash of light cream for a thicker sauce and more fancy mouth feel.
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spaghetti carbonara: notoriously difficult to photograph.

My original recipe for spaghetti carbonara is posted here. I’ll list the new step-by-step directions below. We liked this so much that we are keeping almost every aspect except the cream for our weeknight dinner version! It really takes it to the next level.

Spaghetti Carbonara for Company

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. linguine
  • 1 package good bacon*
  • 1 cup pecorino, grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed/smashed
  • 2 TBSP white wine
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup light cream
  • 2 eggs, whites and yolks separated
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

* if using high-quality pancetta instead, you’ll need about 4-5 ounces, NOT the equivalent of a 12-oz. package of bacon.

DIRECTIONS

Start by placing a large pot of water on to boil. Meanwhile, chop the bacon into a large stainless steel saute pan and add a swirl of olive oil, about 2 TBSP.

When the water boils, add the pasta to the pot, stir to separate, and start cooking the bacon over medium heat. Cook about 5 minutes and then add in the garlic and stir for just a minute. Add the wine and allow to burn off for a couple minutes, then season with plenty of black pepper and finally pour the cream over the pan.

When the pasta is just under-cooked, remove from the pot and add to the pan with the bacon. Stir. Turn off the heat and pour in the egg whites and half the grated cheese. Stir gently.

Just before serving, pour the yolks over the pasta and toss until the sauce it just thickened. Serve topped with the rest of the grated Pecorino cheese!

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Ways you can adapt this: use milk instead of light cream, or continue to omit dairy as in my original recipe; serve the egg yolks on top of the pasta or in a nest and allow guests to stir in themselves; add more pepper and/or red pepper flakes to heighten the heat; and of course, you can use high quality pancetta instead of run-of-the-mill bacon to make this even better-suited to a dinner party.

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I also know sometimes people like to toss in peas or some other cooked green, like broccolini or spinach, in the same way you would with fettuccine Alfredo. In Italy, pasta is never the main focus of the meal, so my serving recommendation always includes giving each person a small portion of such a heavy pasta, and pairing it with a steamed asparagus, minestrone soup to start, toasted bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil, or fresh bright greens (mesclun, arugula, etc.) tossed with balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and salt. And of course, with a glass of wine! However you enjoy it, I hope this hits the spot.

Stay tuned for Mark’s Super Bowl recipe, coming soon! And, check out these great ideas for game day snacks in the slow cooker, courtesy of the Today Show. I also saw the following cute idea for serving veggies with dip in individual serving cups at a friend’s baby shower:

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Isn’t that clever? you put the dip in the bottom.

Have a great weekend everyone, and stay safe in the storm we are getting up here in Boston. I’ll be here Saturday, and then visiting my mom in the hospital (she is having surgery today ~ keep her in your prayers, please!)

Recipes

Superbowl Recipes!

We aren’t going to be very social this year, since we have a little bundle whose iron-clad bedtime coincides with kickoff, but I couldn’t resist pulling out some of my favorite recipes for Super Bowl Sunday to share with you all. I always aim for crowd-pleasers that folks can fill up on, have fun eating, and serve themselves as the game goes on.

First up: Homemade Salsa!

How can you have a Super Bowl Party without it? I also have a recipe for homemade tortilla chips (very, very easy) on the same page.

Next up, Vegan Spinach & Artichoke Dip!

For another vegetarian option that’s just as festive as the meat version, here’s my recipe for Shortcut Chili, which tastes great with or without ground beef:

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Finally, our favorite — Brown Sugar Kielbasa!

This one I love because it doubles (or triples!) easily, and you just set it and forget it in your slow cooker.

Need more ideas? There’s beef stew, homemade pizza, an even spicier chorizo chili, and a truly gluttonous mac n’ cheese.

My beloved Pats aren’t in it this year (again…) but that doesn’t mean we won’t watch. We’ll put this little girl to bed, pop open some a couple Sam Adams Cold Snaps, and spend a rare evening just the two of us. How ’bout you?

Courtesy Marilyn Humphries, www.humphriesphotography.com.
Courtesy Marilyn Humphries (humphriesphotography.com)
Recipes

Vegan Spinach Artichoke Dip

I have a great salsa recipe coming soon for Super Bowl Sunday (not that I’m watching, with the Pats out)…but first I have to share this great vegan recipe for Warm Spinach & Artichoke Dip by Chloe Coscarelli. You all know how much I love Chef Chloe, and she’s got another winner here. I devour Spinach & Artichoke Dip, but if you’re like me and you have issues with the heavy, cheesy nature of the traditional recipe, I think you’ll find this agrees with you a lot more. Watch the video & check out the recipe below!

Warm Vegan Spinach-Artichoke Dip

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional
  • 5 ounces baby spinach
  • 1 14-ounce package soft tofu, drained
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 14 ounces of canned, marinated, or frozen artichoke hearts, drained
  • Bread or tortilla chips for serving

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 1-quart baking dish.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat and saute the onions until soft. Add the garlic and red pepper and cook for a few more minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Then, add the spinach.

Let the mixture cook, stirring gently, until the spinach is wilted.

In a food processor, blend the silken tofu, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, basil, salt, and pepper until smooth. Add the artichokes and spinach mixture, and pulse about 15 times. Transfer to your prepared baking dish.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until lightly browned on top.

Let cool a few minutes, then serve with bread or tortilla chips. Yum!