Friday, November 20, 2015

Thanksgiving Recipe Ideas

In no particular order, some photos from the ghost of Thanksgivings past:

Now onto Thanksgiving future (aka next week):

Here are some of my picks for what you should make for Thanksgiving.  I'm making an apple pie, a pumpkin pie, and a pecan pie - probably the traditional recipes.  But, this sour cream apple pie and pumpkin gingerbread pie have never disappointed me.  We're not a big "appetizers on Thanksgiving" family but if you are, these two are always a big hit.  And, make a pitcher of sangria . . . because, why not?

Cranberry Jalapeno Salsa
Pumpkin Fondue

Pecan Pie
Sour Cream Apple Pie
Pumpkin Gingerbread Pie

Other Sweets
Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce
Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread
Pumpkin Ice Cream

Side Dishes
Country Bread Stuffing with Goat Cheese & Cranberries
Wild Rice Pilaf 
Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Cranberry Chipotle Dressing 


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Snacking: Fall edition

These kids . . . they keep changing and growing up so fast.  And you know why?  Because they are constantly hungry and eating me out of house and home.  One of the things I hear the most from my kids is "Mom, I'm hungry.  I want a snack."  In my pantry, I have a "snack box" - a clear plastic bin in which I keep all the pre-portioned non-perishable snacks that I buy.  It takes up way less space than all the boxes of cereal bars, fruit snacks, pretzels, etc. and when I'm packing lunches or snacks, I grab from there.  One of our rules is that those snacks are for when we're out of the house.  At home, we eat fruit, yogurt, veggies, toast, or crackers and snacks from the big boxes, not the pouches.  If you're a mom, you already know the next part of this - the constant asking and negotiating for something from the snack box.  It's a never ending cycle.

But, here are two snacks I made this fall that were a big hit.  We ate them at home and I put them in baggies to take to school & the gym. The Fall Chex mix with more ingredients actually took less time to make and the apple chips, well, they were a lesson in patience.  We finished off both batches pretty quickly. 
Apple Chips

Slice the apples really, really thin.  I used a mandolin slicer on the thinnest setting.  Because they were that thin, I didn't bother to core or peel the apples.

Place the apples in a single layer on a silicon baking mat (or parchment paper) and sprinkle with a little bit of cinnamon.  Bake in a 200 degree oven for 2-3 hours, flipping them over after the first hour.  Mine weren't crispy enough until at least the 3 hour mark. 

Fall Chex Mix (makes about 10 cups)

adapted from

4 cups Vanilla Chex
4 cups Golden Grahams
1.5 cups mini salted pretzel twists
3/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp. pumpkin spice
1 cup candy corn (if you don't like candy corn, you could do m&ms or yogurt covered raisins)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, mix the cereals, pretzels, and raisins.  In a small saucepan, melt the butter and add the honey, stirring until smooth and combined.  Add the pumpkin spice and stir.

Pour the honey mixture over the cereal mixture and stir until coated.  Spread on a large rimmed baking skeet and bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.  Let it cool for one hour.  Add the candy corn and serve.  Will keep in a covered container for about a week (unless your kids eat it all first).

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Autumn Chicken Bake

Let me start by saying that Thanksgiving is two weeks from today!  I absolutely can't believe that - this month has just flown by.  When I put this on the table last night, my husband said that it looked and smelled like fall.  I couldn't agree more and that was exactly what I was going for!  I happened to have most of the ingredients in my kitchen and it all cooks in one pan so this dinner came together easily.  The bonus was that my family loved it.  Okay, my girls ate a bite of each vegetable (one half brussels sprout each) but they loved the chicken and asked for seconds - that's a success around here!

You might be tempted to substitute chicken breasts (and you can) but the thighs were just delicious and don't get as dried out when you bake this.  The original recipe called for bone-in skin-on thighs and a little broiling at the end to crisp it up but I went with boneless skinless.

Trust me - this is what you want for dinner tonight!  Did I mention it has bacon?

Autumn Chicken Bake (serves 4-6)
from Cooking Classy blog

4-5 boneless skinless chicken thighs
2 cups  butternut squash (peeled and cut into cubes)
2 cups brussels sprouts (trimmed and halved)
1-2 Fuji apples, sliced
4 slices hickory smoked bacon, cut into 1 in. pieces
2 shallots, peeled and sliced
4 T olive oil, divided
1.5 T red wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T each chopped fresh thyme, rosemary, and sage

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Pour 2 T olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, and herbs in a large ziplock bag and add the chicken.  Add some salt and pepper, close the bag, and massage the chicken.  Leave this on the counter while you get the vegetables ready.

Spray a 9x13 pan with olive oil spray and add the squash, brussels sprouts, apples, and shallots.  Drizzle with remaining olive oil (or spray with more olive oil spray) and season with salt and pepper.  Set the chicken thighs on top of the vegetable/fruit mixture and sprinkle everything with the bacon pieces.

Roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the chicken is done and the brussels sprouts are tender. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Halloween over the years










Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Fall Adventures

Last weekend we had to drive out to Palm Desert and back in the same day.  We decided to break up the trip with a detour to Oak Glen to do some apple picking.  Unfortunately when we got there, we found out that due to the drought and low crop yield, apple picking (especially the U-Pick) was over for the season.  After being pretty disappointed, the girls got to taste some different varieties of apples, sample cider, watch the cider press, and at least get out of the car for a little while.

At $15/bag, it wasn't exactly farmer's market prices, but we did buy some apples to make Dad a belated birthday apple pie.  In the past, we've gone to Los Rios Rancho and Riley's Farm, but this trip we stopped at Snow-Line which had some yummy smelling BBQ, hard and regular cider, wine tasting, antiques for sale, and apples galore.

We also went pumpkin picking (well, picking out, not picking from the vine) at Cal Poly Pomona's pumpkin patch.  We didn't go to the pumpkin weekend which is usually super crowded but they still had lots of pumpkins left ($5/apiece for any size) and it was fun to watch the girls decide which pumpkin was "perfect" in their eyes.

Back at home, we celebrated the arrival of slightly cooler weather with making some soup.  I know I've had many versions of broccoli soup and green soup in the past, but this was a riff on a popular family recipe - roasted broccoli.  If you don't make this for your family, try it tonight - just do the roasting step of the broccoli and serve with parmesan cheese (or you can leave it off).  I added more lemon juice than the recipe calls for and wished I hadn't, so try a little at a time.  But, I liked the overall result and it's pretty clean eating.  It reminded me more of the asparagus soup I make than other creamy broccoli soup recipes I've tried and I'm sure we'll be making it again!

Roasted Broccoli Soup (serves 4)

Two large heads broccoli
1 head of garlic
1/2 onion, diced
4 c. vegetable broth
1 tsp. fresh thyme
1 T lemon juice
grated parmesan
olive oil
salt and pepper

Slice just the top of the head of garlic off (leaving the cloves still tucked inside).  Drizzle the top with olive oil and wrap in a piece of foil to make a packet.  Roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.  Separate the broccoli into florets and place in a large bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Spread into a single layer on a large rimmed cookie sheet and add to the oven after the first 20 minutes with the garlic.  Cook another 20 minutes (the broccoli will take 20 and the garlic will take 40).

When the garlic and broccoli are done roasting, put the broccoli into a pot on the stove and add the onion, broth, and thyme.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the broccoli is really soft.  Add the cooled roasted garlic cloves to the soup.  Blend in batches in a blender or with an immersion blender until smooth.  Taste and add salt and pepper and the lemon juice.  Serve with grated parmesan on top.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Greek Summer Pasta

I can't believe I'm writing this, but with temperatures still regularly in the 100s, it's been almost too hot to cook.  I made a batch of pumpkin muffins last week, and some banana bread over the weekend but in the evening, I am hot and tired and turn to some of my summer supper tricks.  This can be served warm or cold and it's delicious!

Greek Pasta Salad (2 servings)

1/2 lb bowtie pasta
1/4 c. toasted pine nuts
1/2 c. chopped kalamata olives
1/2 c. crumbled feta
1.5 cups cooked chicken
3 cups chopped fresh baby spinach

Greek Vinaigrette
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
3 garlic cloves, chopped
3/4 c. olive oil
1 tsp dried basil (or 1 T chopped fresh)
1/2 tsp. dried oregano (or 1 tsp. chopped fresh)
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
3 T lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Make vinaigrette by combining all ingredients and whisking in a bowl or shaking up in a glass jar.

Cook bow tie pasta according to package instructions.  Toss with the rest of the ingredients.  Add Greek vinaigrette until it looks moist enough.  Serve with more vinaigrette on the side.  The vinaigrette will keep in the refrigerator for about a week.

Monday, October 12, 2015

What's for breakfast?

In summer, I really slack off and let the girls eat cold cereal most mornings for breakfast.  Now that they're back in school, I try to change it up and usually make eggs once a week, pancakes once a week, and have homemade granola as another option besides cereal.  I also buy healthier cereal than what I let them get away with during the summer.

That being said, this #3 has a mind of her own.  She's obsessed with Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal.  She wants a small bowl of it every morning . . . but then usually proceeds to eat a second breakfast of whatever her sisters are having.  I found a healthier version with less sugar at Sprouts (it looks similar - squares covered in cinnamon sugar - so she's okay with the substitution).

I recently tried to change up my own breakfast routine of coffee and a greek yogurt by making a hot quinoa dish and by trying to drink a green juice before having my coffee in the mornings.  I do feel a lot better with something healthier in my stomach but it takes a little extra effort.

I made the quinoa dish when I was taking a break from sugar for awhile but I'll let you in on a little secret - it's way, way better with a tablespoon of brown sugar or a swirl of maple syrup!

Hot Breakfast Quinoa (2 servings)
from Cooking Light 6/13

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
3/4 cup light coconut milk
2 T water
1 T brown sugar (optional)
1/4 cup flaked unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup raspberries (or other berries)

Combine quinoa, coconut milk, water, and brown sugar in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed and quinoa is cooked.

Toast the coconut in the oven or on the stovetop until slightly brown.  Top the quinoa with the coconut and raspberries (or any other fruit / nuts etc. of your choosing).  Eat warm.