Alley's Recipe Book
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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)


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