Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Valentine's Day

I know it can be cheesy, but I've always loved Valentine's Day.  Having my birthday the day before didn't hurt when sometimes I had heart-shaped birthday cakes, heart themed birthday decorations, and an extension of the celebration.  My husband and I stopped eating out for Valentine's Day years ago and used to cook together to celebrate.  In recent years (because, you know, kids), this has changed too and now I try to make a special breakfast or dinner that the kids will enjoy.

This year, Valentine's Day was on a Wednesday when I didn't have work and I had a bye for tennis, so I had a little extra time on a school morning to make heart shaped pancakes with strawberries.  For dinner, I made a recipe I've been looking at for a little while . . . it was a big hit and I'll definitely make it again.  This is a lighter, healthier version of a one-pot comfort food and the flavors were rich and satisfying.  I liked how my kids could eat the parts (read: just the chicken or maybe some sausage) that they enjoyed.  I served it with a green salad and breadsticks.

Braised Chicken with Sausage & Peppers (serves 4)
original recipe from Serious Eats

6-8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
3-4 links sweet or hot Italian Sausage (I used mild Italian chicken sausage)
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 large red bell peppers, thinly sliced
2 T minced fresh sage leaves
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup sliced pepperoncini peppers
1/4 cup of the pick line liquid from the pepperoncinis
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Season chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.  Heat some olive oil in a 4-6 qt Dutch Oven (or ovenproof skillet with a lid) over medium high heat and cook until each side is browned, about 8 minutes total.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Add the sausage links to the same pot and cook until well browned on each side, about 4 minutes total.  Remove from pan and cut each link in half.

To the same pot, add the onions and peppers.  You can add a little vegetable oil if there isn't rendered oil from the sausage.  Stir, scraping up browned bits, until the onion and peppers are soft and starting to brown.  Add garlic and sage and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Then, add pepperoncinis and their liquid, stirring and deglazing the pan.  Add the wine and cook until the liquid has reduced by half.  Add the chicken stock, give it a stir, and return the sausage and chicken to the pan.  Transfer to the oven and cook, covered, for 30 minutes.  Serve immediately, spooning the sauce over the chicken and sausage.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Holiday Snack Mix

Christmas time is here!  I love the holidays and came across these two drawings from Little and Middle the other day.  When we got out our nativity sets, Little started spending lots of time setting them up and playing with them.  The other day, one of the angels broke her wing so baby Jesus let her lay in the manger while it healed.  But, Little told me, it meant that the angel couldn't go to the beach anymore.  

Ok, this is what you want to be snacking on this holiday seasaon!  David Lebovitz has come to the rescue once again with "that thing I didn't know I wanted to eat but am now obsessed with."  My photo may not be the best here but you get the idea.  It's a little (not too) sweet, a little spicy, and salty - the perfect counterbalance to sweets, other appetizers, and would go nicely with a Christmas cocktail.

A couple of notes:  I used pecan halves and whole almonds but you can also use cashews, hazelnuts, peanuts . . . I think larger nuts (rather than sliced) work better.  My bottle of cayenne is super spicy (even for me) so I used less than the amount below.  Once it gets too spicy, it's hard to tone it down so I'd start with less and add more if needed.  I used the gluten free pretzels from Trader Joe's this time around and they were great.

Spiced Glazed Nuts & Pretzel Mix
from The Sweet Life in Paris

2 cups mixed raw nuts
1 T unsalted butter, melted
3 T dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. cayenne or other red pepper 
1 1/2 T maple syrup
1 tsp. flaky sea salt or kosher salt
2 cups pretzel twists (gluten free or regular)

Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees, stirring once. In a medium bowl, mix together the melted butter, brown sugar, cayenne, cinnamon and maple syrup.  Add the warm nuts, stirring until coated.  Then stir in the pretzels and sea salt until everything is completely coated.  Spread the mixture back on the baking sheet and return to the oven for 12-18 minutes, stirring twice.  Remove from oven and cool completely, separating the pretzels and nuts as they cool. Once cool, you can store this in an airtight container for up to a week.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Eating all the cheese . . .

Last weekend, I hosted a dinner party for some of my husband's friends and work colleagues.  It turned out to be smaller than I originally thought (6 adults) and it was so much fun!  I haven't had a chance to cook for a group like that in awhile, and I did the appetizers pictured here, a soup first course, a seafood main dish, and an awesome dessert (if I do say so myself!).  The other recipes are ones I've made before with good success.  I didn't anticipate how challenging it would be to triple the main dish (I usually only make it for the two of us) but despite leaving out an ingredient, it turned out pretty great.

So, this appetizer was delicious.  I ate.  so.  much.  cheese.   And it was worth it!  This is easy and would be great for holiday parties.  I wasn't sure exactly how to get the brie to fit inside or how to make those notches on the side, so I watched this video - it's probably clearer than my description below!

Blooming Brie in a Bread Bowl
from Delish

One boule
Brie wheel
1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
Italian seasoning
Olive Oil
Fresh parsley (to serve)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut the top off of the boule and save.  Place the brie wheel on the cut part of the bread and use a knife to trace around it and cut a whole big enough for the wheel to fit into.  Pull out the bread to make space for the brie wheel.  Slice the top of the rind off of the brie wheel.  Around the edges of the boule, cut slices about two inches deep and about an inch - two inches apart.  This is what you can use to tear pieces of cheesy bread once it's done baking.

Drizzle the bottom of the hole you made in the boule with olive oil, sprinkle with Italian seasoning, and then sprinkle with half of the mozzarella.  Set the brie wheel on top.  Over the top of the brie (where you cut the rind off), sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella.

Place the top of the boule back on top and place the whole thing on a cookie sheet or in a baking pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until the bread is browned and the brie is melty.  Remove the bread on top and slice it up to serve alongside the boule and sprinkle with parsley.  Serve warm.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Halloween 2017

I've posted family Halloween photos on here every year and it's a fun place to come back and look at what the girls were into in years past.  I keep suggesting family themed costumes for the 3 of them but they each want to be what they want to be.  I think the years of my choosing are far gone.

This year, we had Moana (a popular costume since I think the movie came out post-Halloween last year), a Corgi puppy (thank you etsy!) and Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy.  Between some Halloween parties (even a Moana themed one at Kids Court), school, and our trick or treating with friends, we got a lot of mileage out of our costumes! 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

More Pumpkin treats

Here's a little glimpse into our fall so far:
Lots of driving around in the car . . . usually listening to audio books
Lots of soccer . . . 3 night a week plus Saturdays
Lots of laughter . . . especially prompted by this silly girl!
Showing the kids the fidget spinner of my youth
And - baking!
So I wanted to use up some of my extra canned pumpkin and was looking for some healthier options than cookies.  I remembered the baked oatmeal singles I made last year (in the recipe index - blueberry ones and cranberry ones) and tried this version with pumpkin, pumpkin spice, and chocolate chips.  They did not disappoint!  My problem was that one is a healthy snack or treat but eating 3 or 4 is maybe not the best idea . . . so I took the remaining ones to my tennis friends the next day!
Individual Baked Pumpkin Oats (makes 1 dozen)
from Emily Bites Blog

2 cups old fashioned oats
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg white
1 egg
3/4 c. almond milk (can use regular milk)
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/3 c. mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray the cups of your muffin tin with cooking spray (or butter).

Combine oats, brown sugar, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, and salt in large bowl and stir until thoroughly combined.

In another bowl, whisk together the egg white, egg, pumpkin, milk and vanilla.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Evenly divide the mixture into the 12 muffin cups and bake for 18-22 minutes or until lightly browned and a tester comes out clean.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  (4 sp/muffin)

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Pumpkin Spice Everything

Ahhh . . . fall.  Leaves falling, cooler temperatures - nope.  Here in Southern California we are having 90+ degree weather almost every day and the kids are swimming on the weekends and blistering hot during their midday soccer games.  Despite this, I've been craving fall foods and flavors and made some new pumpkin cookies when my girl friends came over a week or so ago.  I had lots of help from Little who has been enjoying the one-on-one (aka not taking turns with the mixing or having to share the kitchen stool) time we get together this fall.

These cookies are sort of like a fall version of the molasses spice cookies I make at Christmas or similar to pumpkin snickerdoodles.  They were delicious!

In other pumpkin spice news, I've been loving the "pumpkin spice almond beverage" from Trader Joe's and have been putting it in my coffee or making overnight oats with it.  My PSA for the day is to stock up on the pumpkin stuff you love from there . . . it won't last all the way through the holidays!

Pumpkin Spice Cookies
from Just So Tasty blog

2.5 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup canned pumpkin

To roll the cookies in:
1/4 cup granulated sugar combined with
1.5 tsp. cinnamon

Whisk together flour, cornstarch, cream of tartar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.  In a separate bowl, cream butter until light and fluffy and then add the brown and granulated sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Turn the mixer to low and beat in egg yolk, vanilla, and pumpkin.  Gradually add the flour mixture until incorporated but do not overmix.  The dough will be very sticky.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours (or up to 2 days).

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 and take the dough out of the refrigerator.  Form into balls (about 2 T apiece) and roll in the cinnamon sugar.  Place on a cookie sheet lined with silpat mats or parchment paper and bake for 7-9 minutes or until the cookies look barely set.  Cool on a rack.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Lemon Chicken with Olives

Chicken . . . it's a healthy protein, relatively easy and readily available but controversial in my house.  It's not my husband's first choice and because I make it often, my kids sometimes groan.  But, I've landed on a couple of dishes lately that are winners.

The first isn't a new idea, I think I've posted it before, but I put boneless skinless chicken thighs in the crockpot and smear them with pesto (lately Kirkland pesto from Costco), pour a little chicken broth over, and cook it for 3-4 hours until it's falling apart.

The second is this chicken pictured here.  My kids like olives but even if you don't, you could leave them out or chop them large enough to pick out.  I used a chopped Greek Olive tapenade from Trader Joe's so the red flecks are pimentos or roasted peppers.

In addition to the family liking it, the bonus was that it's super fast to the table - perfect for busy weeknights!

Lemon Chicken with Olives (serves 4)
from Skinny Taste blog

1/2 T olive oil
4 chicken breasts
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp flour (all purpose or gluten free)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup lemon juice (fresh squeezed is best)
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
1 cup olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1 T chopped fresh parsley
4 thin lemon slices (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Season chicken with salt and sprinkle with flour.  Heat oil in a oven proof pan and sear the chicken about 3 minutes each side.   Add garlic, wine, lemon juice, zest, thyme, and olives to the pan.  Top chicken breasts with lemon slices.  Transfer to the oven and cook for 10 minutes.  Serve hot, topped with the chopped parsley.
7 sp