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Top 13 Recipes from 2013

It is almost 2014, can you believe it?!  Like many of you, I am reflecting on the year and planning for the next (before tonight's celebrations, of course).  2013 was a pretty good year, but 2014 is already starting to look fabulous!  Starting a new job with new challenges next week, planning a European vacation (and crossing that off from my unofficial bucket list), and my little sister will be getting married!  Oh, and I turn the big 3-0, eep.

I have rounded up the top 13 recipes from this year.  Take a look at the list... have you made them too?


Happy New Year!

Buckeye Cookies - total time 1 hour

If you live in Ohio, you're probably getting excited about the Ohio State bowl game (well, as long as you're over the loss to Michigan State).  I'm sure there are other teams that get the same level of fan-demonium as the Buckeyes, but without a professional football home team to cheer for, everyone gets behind the Bucks.  

For us, game time is a great time to get things done in town... no traffic, no crowds, no worries!  But it is still fun for us to watch with a large group of friends and family with a spread of tasty appetizers and a few cutesy themed desserts!  

I'm no stranger to a peanut butter and chocolate dessert... they are definitely some of my favorites!  I love the sweet and salty mix, it just heightens the flavors.  I remember making buckeyes in my freshman dorm room with only a microwave and my desk (no fancy double boiler, or even a stove top available) for the Ohio State v Michigan game.  When you have to have buckeyes for the biggest rivalry in college football, you'll find a way.

So after years and years of making traditional buckeyes, I now try to twist that tradition into other desserts.  Buckeye BrowniesBuckeye BarkBuckeye Mix-Ins... to name a few.  Well, my favorite dessert category is definitely cookies... so this year it is Buckeye cookies for game day!

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole - total time 1 hour

Hmm, chicken cordon blue... I actually cannot recall ever having it before.  Something so infamous in the cooking world that the largest culinary school is named after it!  So it is about darn time!

I blame the ham... never been a fan (not with green eggs, in a box, or with a fox).  I don't know what it is about it though.  I am picky about bacon too.  It has to be a certain thickness and have a crunch... otherwise I won't eat it (no, bacon doesn't need to go on everything, ick).  However I haven't had a dish with prosciutto that I didn't like... but if you're making something with prosciutto, odds are you're making something special.

So let's make something special!  Turning chicken cordon bleu into a casserole takes out all of the pounding the chicken flat, rolling it all together, and then somehow securing it without having the cheese melt out.  It also takes the pan frying/searing out of the equation... so the not-so-healthy dish gets a little lighter.

Oh, and get some good swiss cheese!  The swiss cheese I have had in the past didn't have much flavor (so I usually avoid it in favor of goudas and white cheddars).  But the swiss I picked up was delicious and so creamy.  I couldn't stop snacking on it while I waited for the chicken to cook!  :)

Weekly Menu

It's Christmas week already!  We just finished watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation... hopefully none of that happens over the next seven days we will be celebrating with friends and family!

Now to get cookies finished up, wrapped presents under the tree (and kept away from Snoop who will open them if given the opportunity), and then traveling around to see everyone!  With the week off of work, I'll have some time to check some things off the never ending to-do list so we can start the new year with a shorter list.

Here is this week's menu... which will mostly be lunches since we'll be having holiday meals all week long!

chicken with creamy dijon sauce and scalloped potatoes
honey garlic chicken and salad

Oreo Cookie Bars - total time 2 hours

Eep, I still have a good amount of Christmas shopping to do... what about you?  I should really write my ideas down as soon as I have them because even a few minutes later I have forgotten and wonder around aimlessly for inspiration.  Several hours were spent going from store to store today for those last few gifts.  Inspiration was lacking even with the big sale signs covering most retailers right now.  With so many sales, it is hard to keep from buying things for myself!

I'm finishing off my holiday baking today while the weather is a little dreary.  Of course that involves more cookies, yum!

These Oreo cookie bars are kind of like taking a few Oreos and making a giant one, but the cookie part is more like an Oreo Truffle.  So, if you like Oreos, this cookie is for you!  It is so rich, I haven't been able to finish one yet.  My husband, on the other hand, has had no trouble and sometimes gets a second!   

Cake Batter Cookies - total time 2 hours

It is the season of indulgence... where calories don't count because we are going to holiday parties, doing cookie exchanges, eating holiday meals, and spending time with our families (which usually means more food and drinks)!

Okay... so calories still count no matter when you eat them...  But you shouldn't feel bad about enjoying some holiday treats... just don't go overboard!

This cookie is one you just can't pass up.  It is soft and chewy with the buttery flavor you get from yellow cake.  There is something about yellow cake and chocolate icing that even a person who doesn't care for cake (i.e. me) can't refuse a piece.  Make that into a cookie and you have a perfect dessert!

Weekly Menu

Holy crap!  Can you believe it is already December 16!?  Where did the time go!?

Yesterday was spent Christmas shopping and cookie prep (the dough is in the fridge ready to go in the oven)!  Are you done with your Christmas shopping?  Because I feel like I am not even close.  Good thing I have Friday off to finish everything up.  But tonight is for baking... better get on it!

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Aren't these pictures of Snoop adorable?  We saw the little Woodstock plush toy at Kohls and had to get him for Snoopy!  We already had the Charlie Brown tree... so the Christmas picture only made sense.

Here is the menu for this week!  Cookie recipes will be coming soon!

baked ziti
chicken cordon bleu casserole
Alley Doughs
broccoli cheddar soup
shrimp po' boys

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins - total time 45 minutes

Banana bread muffins used to be something I baked pretty frequently.  I always bought bananas and never seemed to eat all of them before a few turned "extra ripe".  Every time I would tweak the recipe... add cinnamon, mix in some brown sugar, a little lemon zest... I would bring some over to my grandma and she would tell me if it was a good tweak or if something was missing.  Then we would talk for an hour or more about random things.  She always had a good story to tell, even if I had already heard it seven times it was still fascinating.

Over Thanksgiving my dad wondered aloud where I got the cooking and baking gene from.  Definitely not from my parents; they will fully admit to that.  It is completely from my grandma who taught me so much.  Who cooked and baked from scratch nearly every day.  Who showed me how to garden and how much fun it could be.  Who inspired a craft project one hour and timed me in my math tables the next.  Who taught me how to be thrifty and appreciating what I have.  Who had a kind heart, but knew when tough love was needed.

After she passed, I didn't bake banana bread muffins for a while...  I have only made them a few times since then and it brings back those happy memories every time.  It's just one of those things that will always be connected.  I brought out my recipe card, stained with butter grease and smashed banana... and made one tweak. 

As we celebrate the holidays, do you have a tradition that has passed down over generations that reminds you of specific friends or family members?  If you are looking for a banana bread recipe, this one is pretty basic.  Maybe it could become part of your family tradition.  All I know is this recipe is grandma-approved... :)

Weekly Menu

It looks like this winter is going to be a rough one!  The past few winters have been relatively mild in Ohio... but this year, the temperatures started dropping earlier than usual... and the snow came early too.  Now we have named winter storms and we haven't officially finished autumn yet!  (Cleon and Dion... where do they get these names?  Sounds like they should have a show in Vegas.)  We got some snow, a little ice, and some freezing temperatures... but not too bad... yet.  I see a lot of soups and comfort food planned to get through a long, cold winter (there has to be a bright spot somewhere!). 

I don't know if pizza is really a comfort food, but I made one this week and I think I have finally figured out the trick!  I usually bake everything at 350 degrees (that is not hot enough).  I also like thick crust (but the middle wouldn't cook all the way through because of the sauce).  So here is the trick... while the oven preheats to 425 degrees, keep your pizza stone in the oven to get hot.  Roll out you pizza dough pretty thin (1/4" or thinner) on parchment paper (easy to transfer to your stone)...  But to get that thick crust, put a little bit of cheese all the way around the edge and fold the dough over (but don't go too crazy with the cheese, we're going for a slightly stuffed crust, not Pizza Hut).  Use half pizza sauce and half tomato paste so it's not too saucy.  And then lastly, remember to spray the crust with olive oil and sprinkle a little salt to give it a nice texture.

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This week's menu is loaded with soups and comfort food since we're not supposed to get above freezing this week...

baked potato soup
shrimp tacos
stuffed shells and salad
chicken with creamy dijon sauce and brussel sprout gratin
fish and shrimp stew

Stuffing Muffins - total time 45 minutes

So one time in high school, I made a box of Stove Top stuffing and ate the whole thing for dinner!  Ick!  Just think of all the sodium and preservatives in that heaping plate.  I wasn't even a big fan of stuffing... I was just hungry and that was the easiest thing to make.  I avoided stuffing for years afterward...

Fast forward to today and I still can't eat Stove Top... but homemade stuffing, now that is a different story.  Using artisan crusty bread with fresh vegetables and veggie stock makes this side dish stand out.  I wanted to make a traditional Thanksgiving meal this year... turkey with sage and rosemary, buttermilk mashed potatoes, green bean casserole... and of course stuffing.  I also wanted to have a bread basket, whether it be rolls or croissants... but there are already so many carbs involved in Thanksgiving.  So bake the stuffing in a muffin pan and... voila... you get both!  Stuffing in perfect individual serving sizes that can be passed around in a bread basket, no serving utensils required.

Caramel Apple Struesel Pie - total time 1.5 hours

What's more American than apple pie?  Well, a lot of things.  What's more American than apple pie on Thanksgiving surrounded by family?  Hmm... okay, now that's pretty American.

I've made traditional apple pie before... and you know, it's as easy as... pie.  Even making the pie crust from scratch is pretty easy.  Then I had a Dutch apple pie made by Amish bakers.  Can I just say, yum!  I looove cinnamon sugar in any combination I can think of... so packing even more of that deliciousness on top for a crunchy, cinnamon-y crust... that has to be the perfect pie right there!

For Thanksgiving, I wanted to incorporate that Dutch apple pie idea and add a little something to it.  I have been on a caramel kick lately after including Ghirardelli's Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt Caramel in our trick-or-treat candy bowl (one for you, two for me).  So caramel apple filling it is!

Weekly Menu

It's officially the "holiday season" now that Thanksgiving has come and gone and the sound of cash registers ringing is at an annual high.  It's time for cookie exchanges, cute holiday-inspired treats, dinner parties, and more holiday meals!  But before we get into all of that... a Thanksgiving recap...


I made way more turkey than we could ever eat in one (or four) sitting!  It's hard to accommodate for smaller or larger family meals when it is centered around a main course that only comes in 15-20 pound increments.  

I tried brining the turkey for the first time this year... which turned into a real mess!  I froze the turkey stock I made from last year's Thanksgiving turkey... put the turkey, the stock, and some seasoning in a turkey bag... and when I went to pick it up to put it on the tray to go back in the fridge... splaaasssh!  The bag broke and my kitchen, Snoop, and myself were covered in turkey stock.  Ick!  At least the turkey landed safely in the tray.  I ended up having to brine with vegetable broth.  I think brining kept the white meat a little more moist.  But in hindsight, I would have spared myself the trouble if I knew it was going to cause such a mess, emergency laundry time, and an unplanned dog bath. 

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Two new items on the table this year were stuffing muffins and caramel apple stuessel pie (recipes to come soon).  I think using a muffin pan for stuffing is really a perfect way of serving the side dish.  It counts as your bread and a side at the same time without overwhelming the table with an extra plate.  Besides, there are enough carbs to go around... who needs dinner rolls when there are better things to stuff your face with!  :)

After a whole day of cooking and baking... this week's menu includes using up those turkey leftovers and some low key meals.  Next week start the cookie making!

turkey and broccoli casserole
turkey cheddar apple panini
stuffed crust pizza
taco night
asian meatballs

Crispy Roast Potatoes - total time 45 minutes


Still trying to come up with another side for your Thanksgiving feast?  Tired of mashed potatoes?  (Although that has always been one of my favorites.)  These crispy roast potatoes are somewhere between a baked potato and home fries with soft, fluffy insides and a crunchy, buttery outside making this a perfect side dish!

I have been making these since I first saw Jamie Oliver make them on his holiday series on the Food Network a couple years ago.  I love Jamie's passion for food and food education.  It was so interesting to see on Food Revolution what is in school lunches and how easy it is to make a couple swaps without increasing the cost to make healthier meals.  And also to see how children aren't able to identify most produce.  I couldn't believe it... but at their age, my answers probably would have been pretty similar.  Now between Green BEAN delivery, our CSA, and summer garden... our kitchen is always packed with produce and I couldn't imagine it any other way.  Amazing how things change!

Back to the potatoes!  They are really easy and super customizable.  I love butter and potatoes together, but you could totally use olive oil or truffle oil... or bacon fat.  The herbs are the same way... rosemary, thyme, sage... whatever your favorites are.  Change up the potatoes too; fingerling, yukon gold, blue potatoes, red potatoes... really any potato works (my favorite are the blue potatoes, they are so pretty and are packed with flavor and nutrients).

Weekly Menu & Thanksgiving

Wow, it is already Thanksgiving week!  The one holiday centered around good food... some times causing a little bit of stress to get it right, make enough, and get it all to the table at the same time (and all of it still warm).  But of course, also a time to be thankful.  Thankful to be sharing time with those friends and family, to have good food to eat, and a nice home to gather in.

My husband's family always has Thanksgiving the weekend before since it works with everyone's hectic schedules.  So I spent the weekend this little guy and the doggies got locked up in the little man's play area (don't they look pitiful?).

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So we still have Thanksgiving to cook here.  Here is the plan for this year, pretty standard...
turkey (traditional)
brussel sprout gratin
green bean casserole
mashed potatoes
spinach salad
caramel apple streusel pie

As for the rest of the week...
crab mac and cheese with salad
spinach enchiladas
gnocchi soup
turkey cheddar apple paninis (with the leftover turkey)

What's your plan for Thanksgiving this year?

Nutella Stuffed Cookies - total time 1.5 hours

nutella stuffed chocolate chip cookies - thump print method

OMG!  I looove chocolate chip cookies!  I also love Nutella!  I have made Nutella stuffed chocolate chip cookies before and they were delicious... but really messy.  And then I saw Izy's way to stuff her chocolate cookies with caramel and I realized she had something.  I love this thumb print method... it keeps your hands clean and the Nutella stays in the center of the cookie... mmm...

So, I made these a couple weeks ago.  I am usually making baked goods for a special event or to bring into work.  In this case, we just really wanted some cookies at home.  I ended up making about ten cookies at a time and leaving the dough in the fridge for later.  That meant fresh, homemade cookies straight from the oven every other night... now that's how you make a girl happy!

Weekly Menu

Phew!  It has been a weird day weather-wise!  Warm (near 70 degrees) and occasional rain throughout the day... I got to wear sandals... which never happens in November.  Then the wind came.  It has been howling for hours. Then two separate tornado warning sirens... eep!  Snoop started howling back (which he does every Wednesday at noon) until we started pushing him toward the basement.

Now that it has moved on and the weather has calmed...  lets talk about brussel sprouts.

Do you love 'em or hate 'em?  There doesn't seem to be a middle ground on this vegetable.  I think brussel sprouts get a bad rap.   The first time I had them, they were frozen... not delicious... in fact, disgusting.  After this experience, it took me several years to try them again.  This time they were fresh, in season, and... amazing!  I don't know if they are my favorite vegetable (they're up against some stiff competition), but they are certainly ranked pretty high!

My favorite way to prepare them is pretty simple.  A pound of brussel sprouts, a tablespoon of butter, salt, and pepper... done!  Brown that butter in a pan (medium heat), add the sprouts, sprinkle in some salt and pepper, then toss until the sprouts start browning and getting all crispy.  Sooo good!  Takes about 15 minutes from start to finish... ten minutes if you're a quick chopper.

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Another good option is brussel sprout gratin.  Takes a little more time to make and requires more ingredients, but it is perfect for Thanksgiving or other large holiday meals with family and friends (you might convert some brussel sprout haters)!

So, here is this week's menu (which includes brussel sprouts of course)!

creamy sundried tomato pasta
ravioli and salad
deep dish pizza
broccoli cheddar pot pies
coq au riesling with brussel sprouts

Butternut Mac and Cheese - total time 1 hour


It is getting cold outside... bring on the comfort foods!  

It took me several tries before I got homemade mac and cheese right.  Every time I would try making the cheese sauce separately in a sauce pan and every time it would kind of curdle.  Really gross and a big waste of yummy cheeses.  Now I realize it was because everything was still right-out-of-the-fridge cold and that kind of quick temperature change does bad things to dairy.

I promised myself I would give it one more go, but I had to use a different method.  Instead of making the sauce separate... I let all of the ingredients warm to room temperature in the casserole dish, then add the steaming hot pasta and mix it together.  The cheese, cream, onions, etc combine nicely... and whatever doesn't melt will melt in the oven.  Not only does this method work, but it keeps a pot clean... and a cheese pot is one of the hardest to clean... so this is definitely a win-win.

Now that we have a base recipe, I can create variations that bring in some vegetables so the dish isn't just a pure carb fest!  Enter butternut squash!  A versatile vegetable loaded with beta carotene, potassium, and anti-oxidants.  It lends a kind of buttery texture while adding a touch of sweetness.  This mac and cheese is definitely in our fall/winter recipe rotation... especially when it is extra cold outside!

Creamy Tortellini Soup - total time 30 minutes


You have to love a tortellini soup!  They are so quick and simple... and a great meal for meatless Mondays (examples here and here).  And like most pasta dishes, the leftovers almost taste better than the original meal.

I love to stock up on fresh raviolis and tortellinis when I make my quarterly trip to Whole Foods (it is just too far away to go more often and our bank account probably appreciates the distance).  So we always have some tortellinis in the freezer to make a quick meal.  Bertolli or other frozen tortellinis work too, of course.  

Using cream cheese instead of cream in this soup make it a thicker, more satisfying soup.  While making the soup richer, you're actually saving some fat and calories, especially if you use the lower fat cream cheese... can't get better than that!

Weekly Menu

Food Network is celebrating their 20th birthday this month and they had a celebration show last night.  It was funny to see how the network started!  The idea came from the people behind CNN since there were so many news stories about food in the early 90s, so Food Network started more as a food news channel with a couple professional restaurant chefs teaching America how to cook.  Emeril came, and bam, Food Network went from strictly informative to entertaining as well.  They started adding chefs that didn't own their own restaurants and weren't widely known that the home cook could relate to... enter Rachel Ray, Sandra Lee, and Bobby Flay.  Then travel shows took over prime time (think $40 a Day with Rachel Ray and Food 911 with Tyler Florence), which transitioned to our current competition shows like Chopped and Cupcake Wars.  What a change!

Just think about how Food Network has brought attention to home cooking!  Without it, I might still think making Kraft mac & cheese still qualified as a from scratch kind of meal... haha.  Definitely a game changer teaching us how to cook a nourishing meal quickly and restaurant trick to making flavorful meals.

Part of their 20th birthday celebration is 20 days of giveaways!  Enter here for a chance to win one of the 20 trips to South Beach for Food Network's Food and Wine Fest in February!

Any way... our Thanksgiving turkey came on Friday from Green BEAN delivery (holy three bin delivery this week, Batman)... it's taking up most of my freezer!  The feast we spend the most time planning and cooking is only 17 days away... time to start planning!  

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And now to plan this week...

coq au riesling
jerk chicken tacos
creamy gnocchi soup
mini taco pies
creamy dijon chicken and brussel sprouts

Kale Chips - total time 30 minutes


Okay, so I am late to jump on the kale chip bandwagon... like, really, really late.  But, in my defense, I have tried kale before and it was so gross, I spit it out.  Things like raw kale is why most people think vegetables are gross and the better something is for you, the worse it tastes (which is totally wrong, except in the case of kale).

Add a little bit of oil, salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of parm... bring on some heat... and somehow this bitter leafy green becomes a delicious, salty, crunchy treat!  I have been meaning to try making kale chips for forever.  The longer it sits in your fridge, the more bitter it gets (I hear)... so I have delayed this experiment to avoid another bitter beer face (ha, remember those commercials?!).  But now my feelings toward kale have changed and I even adjusted my Green BEAN order to get more kale!  Consider me converted!

Chicken with Creamy Dijon Sauce - total time 20 minutes


I love to cook (...obviously).  And the more fresh, whole ingredients involved in the recipe, the more time I am willing to commit to making dinner.  Kind of like a return on investment, I expect the more time put into dinner the better it should taste.  Most nights, dinner can take an hour or more to prepare (especially stopping to take photos along the way).  But some times you find those recipes that defy this logic and it is always a surprise when dinner is on the table before 7:00!

Everyone is always looking for a new, fast chicken dinner.  Something a little more flavorful that grilled chicken and steamed broccoli, but quicker then something that requires marinating, slow cooking, or a lot of extra ingredients.  This recipe is so simple, so fast, and so delicious.  The wine deglazing the pan utilizes all of the caramelized  browned butter.  Dijon mustard adds that slightly spicy complexity.  And the cream adds richness.  Finishing off the chicken in the sauce while it thickens only helps incorporate the flavors even more!

Weekly Menu


I can't believe it is already November!  The trees really look so beautiful right now.  I think this weekend was that optimal time for fall tree gazing.  Just about every tree has started to turn colors and only a few are starting to lose their leaves.  Perfect time for drives in the country or hikes in the woods (as long as your nice and bundled up)!

Yesterday was our postponed trick-or-treat night.  We ran out of candy after about 50 minutes.  This seems to happen every other year... one year we'll run out, the next we will have piles left over.  I feel like we get about the same amount of candy every year too.  Oh well.  We went inside, turned our lights off, and watched Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs while making spaghetti squash and meatballs for dinner.  Next year we will have way too much candy leftover and I'll have to bake it into something, like Take 5 cupcakes out of actual Take 5 candy bars (couldn't hide them in an empty bowl this year... they're gone too).


On to this week's menu...
baked ravioli
jerk chicken tacos
breakfast quesadillas and hash browns
peanut butter soup
quinoa and veggies (since I didn't get to it last week)

Take 5 Cupcakes - total time 1 hour

Happy Halloween!  Trick-or-treat is postpone tonight because of a big storm heading our way (it is already getting windy and rainy outside)... so we're watching scary movies tonight instead of passing out candy.

Halloween is probably the most fun holiday.  It's all about sweets and treats, being creative and dressing up, getting scared.  All kinds of cute kids in costumes and fun parties for adults.  What's not to like?!

Every year I make sure to buy a bag of my favorite candy; Take 5.  Then I hide all of them in the bottom of the bowl and act surprised when they're the only candy left after all of the trick-or-treaters have gone home.  I feel like I never see Take 5 candy bars unless it is Halloween, so I have to save some for myself!  I mean, whoever thought to combine these five ingredients is a genius!  

So it seems only logical to turn my favorite candy bar into a cupcake (I mean, I already made a Muddy Buddies version).  Peanut butter frosting is one of my favorites!  Between PB frosting and Baileys frosting, I can't decide which I love more.  These little cakes are so delish... it is really the perfect combination of sweet and salty indulgence!

Turkey, Cheddar, and Apple Panini - total time 15 minutes


We haven't had deli meat in our house for a while.  When I realized how much was added to make deli meat what it is, it made my stomach hurt.  I have always wondered why we eat things that doctors recommend pregnant women to avoid.

No deli meat certainly does not mean that we don't eat sandwiches at home!  We frequently have shredded chicken leftovers in our fridge.  This time we had some turkey leftover from a turkey tenderloin I made earlier in the week (so this would make a great sandwich for you leftover Thanksgiving turkey).  

In the past I have been wary about adding fruit to savory meals.  I never really understood adding fruit to salad (except tomatoes).  But now I rarely make a salad without some kind of fruit, whether its is dried cranberries, fresh strawberries, or sliced apples.  I felt the same way about sandwiches... I mean adding cheese to an apple didn't seem like a flavor combination I would enjoy.  But I wanted to try it, and this sandwich changed my mind!

The crispness of the apple, the creamy, sharp cheese, and the savory, tender turkey makes this sandwich the trifecta of textures and flavors!

Weekly Menu


After the frost last week, I had to take down my summer garden.  To my surprise, there were still lots of tomatoes hiding out there!  The most likely to ripen are sitting on the windowsill.

While I was tearing down one garden, I was also planting for the next.  After seeing this idea on Chiot's Run... I bought some crocus bulbs and planted them in the back yard.  Can't wait until the little purple flowers are popping up in the Spring!

This week's menu...
fritto frittata
quinoa and veggies

Butternut Leek Soup - total time 1 hour


It is winter squash season again and we get bombarded with pumpkin flavored advertising.  Although the pumpkin is one of the unofficial mascots of Halloween, I never really understood the pumpkin craze during this time of year.  With so many winter squash options, why is it pumpkin that gets the lattes, rolls, cupcakes, and so much more.  Personally, I prefer butternut squash and the smell of it roasting in my oven filling my house with yummy smells.

Since it is always cold in Ohio when winter squash season rolls around, I end up using them in soups and pastas almost exclusively.  This recipe is no different.  After a long day outside tearing down my summer garden in the cold winds, what better way to warm up than a bowl full of creamy butternut soup?!

This soup is a little on the sweet side because of the butternut and cream.  To balance that out is some crispy sage and paprika that brings a little "Thanksgiving-y" flavor and the truffle oil adds even more richness to the soup.  The soup is bold enough to stand alone as a meal, but even better paired with your favorite grilled cheese.

Sticky Drumsticks - total time 45 minutes


Everyone likes a good chicken recipe (well, except vegetarians).  Too often we only use chicken breasts though.  Yes, it is a very meaty portion and has the least amount of fat, so in that sense it is the best cut to use.  But that only makes up a quarter of the chicken (or even less), what happens to the rest?  If we're going to eat meat, we should eat it responsibly, not just by choosing free-range chickens, but also using the whole chicken.

When I saw the Novice Chef's recipe on Pinterest using chicken drumsticks, I knew I wanted to try it.  But knowing we don't like things too sweet, I had to make some edits.

These drumsticks are kind of like a teriyaki glaze, sweet from the honey and a little salty from the soy sauce.  Perfect combination!  Don't forget the wetnaps... you're going to need them!

Weekly Menu

I made chili for the first time yesterday for a Sunday football chili cook-off.  Well, I guess it wasn't really a cook-off (although it was the most crockpots I have ever seen collectively), it was more of a as-soon-as-you-set-it-down-it's-gone kind of chili smorgasbord and there was not voting and no winner (besides the Colts).  But yeah, chili for the first time... it turned out okay.  Not sure what I was expecting.  I don't like chili, which is why I have never made it before.  But every home cook has their own chili recipe... with a secret ingredient or technique that makes it different from every other chili.


How do you make you chili?  

I don't like beans (which is part of the reason I'm not chili's number one fan), so I didn't put beans in my recipe.  My husband said the beans are what makes chili, well, chili.  I'm not sure I follow his logic.  It is the chili peppers/powder that makes chili what it is, whether its the blue ribbon winner or your uncle's secret recipe.

On to this week's menu...
Alley Doughs (calzones)
chicken with dijon cream sauce and salad
jerk shrimp po' boys
butternut and leek soup with grilled cheese
cashew chicken and potatoes

Easy Guacamole - total time 5 minutes


Have you ever been scared to try a food?  I was convinced I would not like avocados, there was no way... so I didn't even try it.  Then one day, my friend ordered some guacamole at a Mexican restaurant, I finally got curious and tried it.  I can never look at salsa or queso dip the same way... bring on the guac!  And actually, every California-style sandwich (with avocado) while you're at it!

This was one of the things I made for my cooking night on vacation, which was enchilada night.  Seconds after I put the bowls of guacamole on the table, it disappeared (it might have had something to do with my "dinner time" is two hours later than normal family dinner time).  When we got back home, I realized I have not posted the recipe yet, maybe because I thought it was too simple since it only takes five minutes and it doesn't require any actual cooking.  Then a text message last week reminded me I still have not posted the recipe!

This recipe showcases the avocado without adding too much extra.  I mean, do you really want to mask that buttery flavor?!  Because of the simplicity, you can make a big batch and use it as a sandwich spread, add it to pasta, make tuna salad, or top a side dish.  It is also perfect for game day!


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